“Of course I would find you here,” grumbled Loghain as he stepped up next to where Cailan stood. The King merely nodded in acknowledgment, his eyes never straying from the line of wagons and people that were moving away from Ostagar below the wooden battlement he stood on. “I take it the boy is leaving with them?”
“He’s in the same wagon as the Couslands.”
Loghain blinked at the plural then he remembered – one of their scouting parties had brought a wounded Fergus Cousland back in with them during the night. Teyrn Cousland now, he noted mentally.
“And why is it exactly that we are sending away two able-bodied fighters?” he asked because the question had been licking at his thoughts since he’d guessed that Cailan would be sending both boys away from the fighting.
Cailan didn’t look at him as he answered, “Because neither of them have recovered from what happened at Highever.” He then paused before he added quietly, “And Alistair is my heir if I die here.”
Loghain’s eyes widened and he whirled on the younger man, snarling, “No!” A thousand things went through his mind at that, foremost being the identity of Alistair’s mother. If anyone looked too closely at the servant girl story that Maric had concocted with Eamon’s somewhat unwilling aid, the duplicity would be discovered. Fiona’s identity in particular wouldn’t but it would call into question everything about the boy.
He might have expressed some pride in the boy for getting out of Highever but he certainly didn’t have enough faith in him to see him as Ferelden’s King.
“It’s already in writing,” Cailan said stonily. He then finally turned his head slightly to look at Loghain. “And Anora agreed to back him.”
It was like an arrow to the heart. His own daughter, willing to back the bastard son? Hadn’t he taught her better than that?
“There are things you don’t know,” began Loghain.
“Then by all means, enlighten me,” snarled Cailan, blue eyes narrowed. “I certainly should know all of the secrets you and Father knew about my own brother.”
There was bitterness there, old but still sharp enough to cut. Loghain met his gaze and said shortly, “If you were to know, you would regret this decision.”
“Let me be the judge of what I will or will not regret.”
They both fell silent then, Cailan waiting and Loghain wondering whether this was truly the moment to reveal this. He had sworn to Maric that he would keep the boy’s mother a secret. But what use were promises given to now dead men?
As the wagons rolled on below them, he said, “The Warden mage from that incident when you were young.” He could see Cailan’s brow furrow as he tried to remember and supplied, “The elf.”
“Ah. Fiona. Father spoke well of her.”
Loghain snorted. “He would,” he grumbled, recalling Maric’s obvious penchant for elves. First Katriel and then Fiona, both painfully Orlesian and neither the proper companion for a King.
He watched as realization struck and then Cailan grabbed his arm as he said flatly, “Fiona is Alistair’s mother, not that Redcliffe servant girl.”
“How many more might figure that out if he were to take the throne?”
Unexpectedly, Loghain found himself flung backwards against one of the wooden supports for the battlement, Cailan following to shove him back against it. “You dare threaten my brother?” he snarled.
“I simply point out the possibility,” he answered as he lowered his hand from where it had automatically jumped to the hilt of the dagger at his side.
“And who would think to look too closely at Alistair’s background without being pointed there? Who else is there to point there but you?” Cailan’s hand closed over his throat above the neck of his armor as he spoke, his thumb pressing up against the soft flesh underneath his chin. “If you threaten my brother, Loghain, you threaten me. Father-in-law or not, I will not stand for it.”
Despite the ache in his back and the uncomfortable feeling of the thumb digging into his jaw, Loghain managed to shrug nonchalantly. “I would not threaten him unless he threatened Ferelden.”
Cailan’s eyes seemed to burn then and he growled, “Your idea of a threat is far different than mine. And you’re lucky I need you and your men right now, Loghain.” He then pushed himself away, turning his back to watch the last of the wagons, and Loghain lifted a hand to touch his throat, certain there would be a bruise where the King’s thumb had been.
As he turned to leave, this new information roiling through his head, Cailan called his name. Loghain turned and found the young man staring coldly at him, whatever affection he’d previously held seemingly gone.
“If you touch my brother, I’ll kill you. That is a promise.”
The words caused a pang of sadness at the obvious break between them – he did care about the boy. However, Loghain merely inclined his head and murmured, “Your Majesty,” before he left, heading back towards his own tent. Cailan was far too close to Alistair to see the obvious danger of having him on the throne.
Obviously there would have to be a change in plans.