“Tonight we mourn the loss of our father, King Maric Theirin, lost at sea in this year 9:25 Dragon. May his soul find peace in the Maker.”
Loghain watched the two boys – yes, boys still even though one had seen twenty years now – as they each grasped a torch and thrust them into the pyre. The fire blazed high almost instantly, orange and yellow tongues flaring up through the dry kindling to lick at the overlarge ragdoll stuffed with straw that had been placed on top in Maric’s place. With no body, it was all they had to burn.
As they stepped back, Cailan bowed his head and Alistair hurriedly swiped a hand at his face in an effort to hide his tears. For some reason the light of the fire made the younger boy look all that much more like his father and Loghain had to turn away then, a choking knot in his throat suddenly.
Despite everything that had happened in recent years to fracture their friendship, he and Maric had maintained it. Even broken as it was, it hurt to lose.
Anora moved suddenly from her place next to him to stand beside Cailan and he was reminding that their already impending wedding had been hurriedly moved forward to take place before the impending coronation. As she stepped up, Alistair stepped away – giving his brother and his betrothed a moment together, he supposed.
He watched the boy as he stepped away and arched an eyebrow as the younger Cousland – Aedan, was it? – stepped up and swept him into a hug. Alistair latched onto the other boy and Loghain abruptly remembered that Maric had fostered the lad out to the Couslands three years ago but had wanted him back at the Palace in the months before he’d left. The plan had been to return Alistair to them at some point so far as he was aware.
A presence at his side suddenly had him turning away from the two youths and Loghain found Bryce standing at his elbow. The other man inclined his head slightly in greeting then asked, “I assume you’re to have some charge over the lad?”
“I imagine Cailan will be his keeper,” answered Loghain sharply, even as Maric’s parting Take care of my boys rang in his ears suddenly.
Bryce made a noise that said exactly what he thought of that and Loghain couldn’t help but agree. Cailan was little ready to be his younger brother’s keeper let alone take the Ferelden throne. “Perhaps you can suggest to his Highness that Alistair would be better away from Denerim and all it’s machinations.”
He caught onto the ‘machinations’ and turned to scowl at the other man. “Speak if you’ve heard something, Bryce. I’ve no patience for political games.”
Cousland smiled thinly and replied, “And that is something I appreciate about you, Loghain.” Turning his attention back to his youngest and Alistair, who were now speaking quietly, he continued, “I’m sure whatever sources you have in the city have told you the same but there’s unrest. A great deal of the Bann’s aren’t too keen on seeing Cailan coming to the throne so soon. There are a few, I hear, that are trying to raise me up as a claimant.”
Loghain arched an eyebrow at the last. Bryce was certainly well-liked amongst the Bannorn, he knew that much from his own sources, but he knew the man as well. Given the support the Couslands had given during the Rebellion, it wasn’t likely that Bryce would go against the Theirins no matter how unprepared Cailan was.
“What does all of this have to do with the boy?” he grumbled.
“I’ve no names but there’s talk of trying to convince Alistair to go against Cailan. Young and impressionable lad like that, they say, able to twist him in whatever way he needs to be.”
If he had been anywhere else, at any other time, Loghain would have laughed at the idea. “I may not like the boy,” he said shortly, “but he’s almost painfully loyal.”
“Aye,” agreed Bryce, “Fergus has compared the lad to Aedan’s mabari once or twice.” He paused before saying, “You may disapprove of Alistair but I doubt you want to see the lad used so. Particularly if it would mean civil war.”
“No. Won’t your mysterious they, however, think you’re taking the boy under your wing to attempt your own uprising?”
“Let them,” answered the other man. “If they think I am handling it, perhaps it will keep them from other attempts at changing leadership.”
Loghain made a humming noise and nodded his head in quiet contemplation. If Alistair went back to Highever, it would take him out of the immediate hands of those in Denerim who were likely some of the primary plotters. As Bryce had pointed out too, it would place him in the hands of their would-be claimant and that might have a good few of them relax, thinking that all their plans will eventually fall into place. Plus, his favorite, the boy would be out of his sight again.
Looking at Bryce, he said, “I will make the suggestion to Cailan tomorrow.” As the other man nodded, Loghain thought of something else. “How long will you be remaining in Denerim?”
“Only a few days.”
“It would probably be best if the boy traveled back with you.”
Bryce nodded then said, “I’ll take my leave of you then, Loghain. When you have news, you know where to find me.”
Loghain nodded absently at the other man’s back as he turned and focused his attention on the youngest Theirin. Maric’s parting words rang through his head again and he sighed before muttering, “This is all the help I’m to give him. After that, he’s on his own.”