As he moved wearily down the hall towards Alistair’s room during the final hours of the night, Maric rubbed a hand over his face. He grimaced as he felt the stubble that had grown out over the past few days as worry for his youngest son had consumed him.
Loghain’s stark reminder that young children often didn’t survive winter sicknesses certainly hadn’t helped any.
Pushing open the door, he smiled as he caught the strains of Osanna’s voice humming what sounded like an old Ferelden lullaby. He hadn’t been too sure of himself two years past when he’d offered her a permanent position in the Palace as Alistair’s nurse but now he was happy he’d made the decision and that she’d accepted. She was a good woman and he couldn’t fault Fiona’s choice.
Moving across the room, he asked quietly, “How is he?”
Quietly trailing off her humming, she answered, “The fever is gone.” Leaning forward, Osanna brushed the hair back from Alistair’s face and then pressed a kiss to his forehead. “He is strong, as I told the young Prince.”
Maric stilled at her words. “Cailan? I told him he wasn’t to come.”
“He overheard harsh words,” said Osanna, her voice sharp now with hard enough edges that he could hear them. “Between you and the Teyrn.”
Cursing under his breath, Maric lifted a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. Of course Cailan had heard Logahin’s damnable words! His eldest had been just as distraught as himself since Alistair had fallen ill and likely those words had sent him on that same careening spiral of worry. Enough worry to make him disobey and come where he’d been ordered not to go.
Knowing now that he’d come, he knew where Osanna would have pointed the boy. Turning to look across the room, Maric smiled as he saw Cailan asleep in the overlarge chair he and Alistair liked to share. It was one of the few pieces of furniture he’d kept from the Orlesian occupation of the Palace as it had been built by a Denerim carpenter attempting to impress Meghren according to one of the maids from the time. Given that the chair hadn’t been of the style Orlesians seemed to prefer, it had ended up in a storage room until they had retaken the Palace.
It had been a favorite of Rowan’s and she’d often read to Cailan while sitting in it with him in her lap, though he doubted his son remembered. After her death, he’d moved it from where it had been in their shared sitting room to Cailan’s room. And then Cailan, at a mere five years old, had offered it up when he’d happened to overhear Maric discussing furniture for Alistair’s room with his seneschal Cedric and the most senior and trusted of the maids, Margery.
“He shouldn’t have heard that,” he said after several moments of just standing there watching his eldest son. Looking back towards Osanna, Maric asked, “Was there trouble getting him to settle down?”
Shaking her head, she answered, “Little. He was afraid. I soothed as able.”
“Thank you, Osanna.”
She waved a hand almost flippantly – a motion that surely would have set a few of the nobles into a fit if they had seen it – and said, “I need no thanks.” Smiling at him briefly, she then turned towards Alistair and leaned forward to run her fingers gently through his hair. “Fiona asked and I came to serve. Owed her my life and she gave a second chance.”
Second chance at caring for a child after you lost your own, thought Maric, remembering that detail well from the letter that had accompanied Osanna that night. That had been the reason he’d been wary of keeping her on but it was also what made her an excellent nurse to Alistair.
Moving to the other side of the little bed, he dropped to one knee as he reached out to rest his hand on Alistair’s chest. He closed his eyes as he listened and felt the deep breathes his youngest was now taking instead of the shallow, ragged ones of days before. After a moment he moved his hand upwards to cup the tiny face, fingertips tracing gently across a warm cheek.
Maric met Osanna’s eyes across the bed as he said, “Let me thank you for your service to her then. Without you I wouldn’t have him.”
She was silent for a moment then inclined her head. “That thanks I accept.”
Nodding slightly, Maric then turned his attention back to Alistair and bent down to kiss his forehead. “Sleep well, son,” he murmured, before he rose and crossed the room towards the chair.
Cailan moaned as he lifted him up, shifting him carefully so his eldest’s head rested against his shoulder. Turning back to Osanna, he quietly ordered, “Get some sleep now that his fever’s broken.”
“I shall,” she assured and rose as he moved towards the door, holding it open so he could keep his grip on Cailan. “Goodnight, Your Majesty.”
“Goodnight, Osanna,” intoned Maric with a smile before he headed down the corridor, making the turn that led to Cailan’s room. Thankfully the door had been left partially open – probably when the boy had crept down to Alistair’s room from his own – so he only had to nudge it aside to enter. Carefully, he laid his son down on the bed and pulled off the soft boots he wore before drawing the covers up to his chin.
Impulsively, Maric brushed the long hair back from Cailan’s forehead then bent to press a kiss against it as he had done with Alistair. When he leaned back, blue eyes were blinking at him blearily.
“Shh,” he said. “Go back to sleep, Cailan.”
Smiling, Maric assured, “Alistair is safe.”
Cailan blinked slowly at that then nodded as he rolled over and burrowed into the blankets. As his eyes drifted shut, he breathed, “Promise?”
Maric smoothed the blankets over Cailan’s shoulder as the boy finally dropped back into sleep then turned to leave the room, shutting the door firmly behind him. As he made his way back to his own rooms and collapsed tiredly into bed, he couldn’t help but smile because both of his sons were safely ensconced in bed and all – for now – was right with the world again.