“Send him back to Highever for his safety?” repeated Cailan, staring in concern at his father’s oldest friend. His future father-in-law – Maker, was that idea terrifying! – had never made it a secret what his thought about his half-brother, so it was more than a little disconcerting now to find him speaking up for Alistair. He really wanted to ask Loghain if he was getting sick but he withheld the urge.
“There have been uncomfortable rumors on the wind,” intoned Loghain seriously.
From her seat in the chair next to his father’s desk, Anora arched an eyebrow. “What sort of rumors, Father?”
“The treasonous sort.”
Cailan frowned at that and closed his eyes, lifting a hand to rub at his forehead as he thought over all that short sentence contained within it. Treasonous rumors meant certain members of the populace weren’t happy that he was taking the throne so early. Not that he hadn’t known that already – he’d overheard it personally thanks to Habren not having the good sense to keep her voice down.
Would that he could simply shout from the Palace rooftop that he didn’t want the job right now. He’d had plans to simply get married and spend the years up until he took the crown doing as many aimless things as he could and possibly dragging Alistair along on them. Now the weight of the crown had been forced upon him and it was a nearly buckling force.
He couldn’t help but wonder if that feeling was how Father had felt after he had watched his mother die.
After a moment, Anora broke the silence that had fallen by scoffing and saying, “And they think to use Alistair? They do recall that the Landsmeet never accepted him into the succession, do they not?”
“I don’t imagine they intend to take the crown without a fight using that method,” answered Loghain. Cailan then opened his eyes to meet the older man’s darker gaze as he continued, “Or they intend to force the issue by having only one heir of Theirin blood to succeed the throne.”
“Surely no one would be that serious about this, Father!”
“Perhaps not. Nevertheless…better to be cautious.”
Better for whom? Cailan wanted to ask. Father’s sudden death had flayed both his and his brother’s hearts open, exposing them to harsher elements. Anora was a shoulder for him to lean on, yes, but she wasn’t Alistair. He wanted to keep his brother at his side where they could keep an eye on each other, not on the other side of Ferelden under the care of someone else.
And who did Alistair have besides him?
Loghain pursed his lips and said, “There is no family more trustworthy then the Couslands.” As Anora nodded her head in agreement, he continued, “And the eldest was fostered with you at Redcliffe, I recall.”
Cailan nodded slightly, remembering those days with both fondness and not. He had enjoyed the lessons he’d learned alongside Fergus – most especially from his uncle Teagan – but he had also hated being away from his brother. And then when his time at Redcliffe was done, he had returned home to find his brother was already on his way to Highever.
After a moment’s thought, he looked up, first catching Loghain’s gaze then Anora’s. “Alistair’s safety is one of my greatest priorities. Not only because if I die, he’s the only Theirin claimant to the throne, but because he’s my brother.” The expression on his future father-in-law’s face at his words was one of disapproval but Cailan found he didn’t care. Loghain might have never cared for Alistair but he himself had been ecstatic to become a big brother, no matter what his origins were. “Tell me, honestly, do both of you believe it best for him to go to Highever?”
“Yes,” answered Loghain almost immediately.
Cailan turned to look at Anora and she smiled back at him. Reaching across the desk for his hand, she said, “I’ve come to care for Alistair as well, you know.”
“I know,” he answered, even as he remembered younger days when she couldn’t stand him. That, however, was mostly because a much younger Alistair had ruined one of her dolls.
“And I know it will hurt you both to be apart.” Ah, yes, she saw to the heart of him. “Sending him back to Highever will keep him the safest possible without sending him away from Ferelden entirely. Bryce and Eleanor will not let anything happen to him.”
Nodding, Cailan sighed and said, “Alistair will go back to Highever with the Couslands.”
Loghain nodded. “I’ll send a page to inform the boy then,” he said and that brought Cailan to his feet.
“No!” Meeting the older man’s frown with one of his own, he continued, “I owe it to him to explain why he’s being sent away at a time when otherwise he knows I’d keep him close.”
“As you will,” ground out Loghain even as Anora squeezed Cailan’s hand and smiled at him.
Squeezing hers in return briefly, he left his father’s office where they’d had their little meeting and went to his brother’s room, knocking politely and waiting for an answer. As Alistair opened the door, still hurriedly swiping at reddened eyes that told Cailan he’d been crying, he said, “We need to talk, little brother,” and watched painful realization dawn on the younger features so similar to his own.
And very quietly, in the back of his mind, Cailan damned every single soul that stood against the crown to a painful fate for what they were doing to his family.