“You shouldn’t have ridden here alone, Bann Teagan,” commented Fergus from where he sat in the Cousland rooms, his left leg propped up in a chair with an obviously needed cane propped nearby. Other than his heavily wrapped wrist, the leg was the only remaining sign to show that the new Teyrn of Highever had been injured at Ostagar.
Smiling, Teagan sank into the chair placed opposite of Fergus’ and said, “I am wise enough to know better than that.” Glancing at Aedan who stood behind his brother and then towards the door, he asked, “The men at your door are trustworthy, yes?”
“They are,” answered the younger Cousland, his tone clipped and sure. “They’re a part of the Royal Guard who were left, good men that Captain Bernard assigned to us himself before he left with Alistair.”
“Good,” said Teagan as he reached into his tunic, drawing out two carefully folded letters. Extending them across the table to Fergus, he continued quietly, “These are the last correspondence the King wrote. I am here to deliver one of them.”
The Couslands just stared at him for a moment then Aedan leaned forward over his brother’s shoulder as Fergus flipped the letters over to reveal the names written on the front. Then the younger sucked in a breath and intoned softly, “It’ll be a long time before Alistair gets to read that.”
“Hopefully not too long. I also have this to give to him.”
Tugging at the thin chain around his neck where he’d hung it upon reaching Rainesfere, Teagan drew the heavy ring out from where it rested against his skin. Fergus’ mouth fell slightly open in surprise and Aedan gasped, “Is that…”
“The King’s signet ring,” Fergus confirmed quietly. He then leaned forward, grunting as he had to shift his leg to do so, and Teagan extended the ring for him to get a closer look at the thick silver band that bore a russet stone engraved with the Theirin arms. The younger man’s eyes then widened and he caught the elder’s gaze. “That isn’t the new ring.”
“No,” confirmed Teagan.
Aedan frowned and looked between the two of them and the ring before asking, “Do either of you care to tell me what you’re talking about?”
Fergus cocked his head to the side and Teagan smiled before leaning back in his chair, moving his tunic aside to drop the ring back out of sight. As it settled back to the spot that was now familiar to him, he spoke.
“When Maric drove out the Orlesians, a great deal of the wealth the Theirins had gathered was found gone. It was either destroyed by Meghren when he had possession of the Palace or taken by him and his followers. One of the things that was thought lost was the original Theirin signet ring.”
“Stolen?” Aedan asked.
“Truly lost,” replied Fergus. “It was thought that it was lost with Vanedrin. Brandel, Cailan’s great-grandfather, had a replacement cast at some point but it was shoddily made and was subsequently lost when Moira was killed. Maric, if I recall, had another made sometime after Cailan was born but it was a gold band with a blue stone.”
Nodding at the adept explanation, Teagan said, “Several years ago Cailan and Alistair managed to find their way into a sealed off section of the Palace so long unused that it had been forgotten. Someone had been using the section as their own personal hiding space over the years, though we were never sure who as there were both Orlesian items as well as several things we’d thought lost. Cailan actually discovered the ring while the boys were helping to dig through the items and when he was crowned, he switched to the original ring and had the other reset into a smaller ring as a gift for Anora.”
“I remember when he gave her that,” the elder Cousland murmured. “He actually sought me out when Father and I were in Denerim, ring in hand, asking if I thought it was a good gift.” Shaking his head, he said, “I take it you have more information to share, as well? With all of us?”
Frowning, Teagan bowed his head and replied, “Yes. So far as I’m aware, Anora is going to call a small personal council soon with us, her Captain of the Guard, and the captain of the City Guard so I can relate all that happened during and after Ostagar, though none of them are to know of the ring. With two scribes there to make a physical copy of my words as well as her housekeeper as a witness.”
“Osanna,” said Aedan with a firm nod. “She’s Alistair’s old nurse. Though I’m not sure having her there is a good idea as Loghain’s been trying to have her in shackles since he arrived.”
“For?” asked Teagan, confused as to why the older man would want to arrest a woman who obviously didn’t have any involvement in matters.
“We,” answered Fergus, “have assumed simply because she’s connected to Alistair. I know that Anora told her where Alistair was so they could have a quick goodbye before he had to leave the city but other than that none of us were aware of his or Captain Bernard’s plans.”
Aedan nodded solemnly. “Better to have deniability,” he stated firmly. Then he wrinkled his nose and added, “Maker, I hate politics.”
Teagan just smiled at the younger man and noted, “So do I, lad, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to play the game to the best of our abilities and hope that Loghain doesn’t stack the board.”