He cannot possibly betray Rowan like this.
That was the thought that blazed in Loghain’s mind as he took the stairs two at a time up to the floor with the royal rooms. The news of the babe’s arrival in the wee hours of the night had brought him out of his bed when one of Maric’s pages had come knocking at his door. Now, after a day of being fairly relaxed, he was outright furious.
From what he’d forced out of the page boy, who had been there when the babe had been brought to the King, the child was Maric’s. Maric’s and who’s though? Had he gotten some by-blow on a random common woman? On a Bann’s daughter?
Or, worse still, was it that elf Warden from that fool’s escapade of his months ago?
Loghain gritted his teeth and stormed down the hall to Maric’s door, slamming it open so hard it bounced off the wall. Instantly a babe’s thready wail struck up and a woman with wild looking hair on the other side of the room bolted to her feet, eyes full of terror and her arms full of screaming child. Maric, standing in the middle of the room, waved her back into her seat then turned towards him.
“Whose child?” snarled Loghain.
The King just looked at him for a moment then held up a folded letter he had clasped in his right hand. “Fiona’s. The Wardens apparently allowed her long enough to give birth and a week to find a wet nurse before sending him and her on a horse.”
Him. A boy. Of course the bastard child of his – dare he still call him friend – King had to be a boy.
If the Orlesians heard about this and found out that his mother was not only one of their own, a Warden, elf, and a mage, they’d be seeing the chevaliers at the border so quickly every head in Ferelden would spin so fast they’d fall off.
Loghain sniffed then spat viciously, “You know you have to hide him. Get him out of sight.” It would be political suicide to keep the boy as well as an affront to Rowan’s memory.
Then again…Maric had never cared for Rowan the way he had.
Maric looked stunned at the statement. “You can’t possibly think I’ll send the boy and his nurse away again in the dead of night. She’s exhausted and he could die on another such journey so soon.”
All for the better, was all but on Loghain’s tongue but he didn’t say it. Instead he drew in a steadying breath and said, “To keep the boy means acknowledging him. It means lying successfully about his mother. It means possibly alienating the Guerrins and the whole of the bloody Bannorn, Maric!”
“You think I don’t know that!” Maric finally shouted back at him, his blue eyes furious, and the babe started to wail again just as he’d settled down. The King flinched and looked apologetically towards the frantic woman as she hushed the child and whispered words in the heavy Anders dialect to him. Regaining control, he continued, “I know what the response will be, Loghain, but who could I trust to raise him? You?”
Loghain snorted and Maric smiled.
“Exactly. I dare say I can’t trust any of the Banns to do it without raising him as a contender to Cailan.”
“What of the Arls?” pressed Loghain. “What of the Couslands?”
The King shook his head and looked up towards a spot high on the wall that Loghain couldn’t see from his spot by the door. He knew what was there though and he had avoided looking there since Rowan had died. Seeing her looking back at him from a painting and smiling falsely was too hard on his heart.
“Do you really think Eamon would be able to treat the boy fairly? Teagan I could trust, perhaps, but he’s still young and would likely fall prey to too much advice from his brother.” Maric looked at Loghain again as he added, “And the Couslands have a new baby boy to deal with according to the news coming out of Highever. I can’t thrust another mouth on them.”
Everything he said made sense but Loghain still did not want the boy under the roof Rowan had lived and died under. “What about Howe?”
Maric’s eyes, flashing disbelief and anger, told him everything he needed to know about the response to that before the words were spoken. He had known what it would be but he had asked anyway.
“Give a child of mine over to Rendon Howe? I barely trust him with the children he has!”
Loghain pursed his lips then growled, “Then it seems you’ve already made your decision to keep the boy no matter what.”
With a heavy nod, the King looked towards the painting again then at the Anders woman who had managed to finally quiet the babe once more. Then he looked down at the letter, grasping it in both hands as he breathed, “He’s my son, Loghain.”
“He’s a bastard, Maric.”
“Andraste’s bloody Grace, man, it’s not his fault!”
“No!” snapped Loghain, stalking forward to shove a finger in the other man’s face. “It is yours and that damn Orlesian bitch’s fault that he was born with that title. And if he lives here, I will remind him of that every day of his life, I can promise you that.”
The hurt in Maric’s eyes almost made him take back those words but Loghain remembered Rowan’s hurt and his resolve steeled. Maric might have been his friend before he was King but Rowan was the woman he’d loved, the woman his rank hadn’t allowed him to have. And he hated himself every day for convincing her that she had to be Maric’s queen.
Then the pain faded in the King’s eyes and he said coldly, “The boy stays.”
Loghain nodded curtly with a muttered, “So be it,” and left, not wanting to look at the man or the woman or the bundled form of the babe any longer.
I’m sorry, Rowan, he thought as he angrily stormed back towards his own rooms in the Palace. I tried.