Poking at the dying coals of the fire with a long stick, Natia quietly noted, “Your King isn’t going to make it.”
“No,” answered one of the men around the fire who had a fresh scar across his cheek from a darkspawn blade and wore the emblem she had been told represented Highever.
“There’s nothing you Wardens can do for him?” piped up another, this one wearing a badge she didn’t remember. Probably one of the minor Houses, she thought. No, Banns, the long legs call ‘em Banns.
“Only give him a merciful death,” answered Jarriad, the white-haired elf looking even more somber than he usually did.
Silence followed that statement then one of the men dragged a hand over his face before speaking up. Natia struggled to remember his name but could only recall that it started with a T. He was a Bann, though, she remembered that and he’d come with the Redcliffe men who’d shown up only hours before the battle as the one in charge of them.
“I’ll do it.”
“Bann Teagan,” began Jarriad – that was the name! – as he leaned forward, “there is no need for you to do such a thing.”
“He’s my nephew,” answered Teagan sharply and Natia leaned back in her seat, more than a little surprised. Obviously Alistair and his brother weren’t the only decent nobles that the humans had. No deshyr that she’d ever heard of would do such a thing for their family. Not unless they had something to gain. “It shouldn’t be a stranger.”
“But can you really do it?” asked Natia, tilting her head curiously. Holding up her hands as several hard looks came her way, she continued, “Just saying, it’s not easy killing someone you care about and even harder if it’s a relative.”
One of the men snorted and snapped, “What do you know, dwarf?”
“I know I have a sister that I’ve killed for. Folks I liked too.” Flashing her most menacing grin in his direction, she finished, “And I’ve considered once or twice putting my drunk of a mother out of her misery.”
“Enough, Natia,” hissed Jarriad, his tone deadly serious, and she knew good and well when to shut up. He then rose from his seat to frown seriously across the fire at the Bann. “It would be a noble gesture for you, yes, Bann Teagan, but the matter remains that the King is tainted. We Grey Wardens are better prepared for dealing with such.”
The red-haired man looked distraught at the words then nodded despite the mutters that went up from the men around them. Lifting a hand, Teagan barked, “The Wardens have the right of it!” He then took a step forward, blue eyes narrowed as he hissed, “I will be there, however. Not to get in your way but so someone is there in the end that cares.”
Natia started to open to her mouth to say that she cared a little from the short but kind little introduction Alistair had managed to give her to the King but Jarriad’s face said she should still be keeping her mouth shut. Shrugging, she poked her stick deeper into the fire and prodded a few of the coals back into life.
The Bann’s blue eyes shifted towards her then he tiredly lifted a hand to rub his eyes before saying, “We should be done with it as soon as possible. To spare Cailan any further pain as he can’t possibly survive the trip.”
It was a nice thought but she didn’t imagine there was any chance of that. Tainted, wounded, betrayed by his wife’s father, and his brother blamed for it. The King wasn’t going to die alone but he was going to die not knowing if those he loved would survive the certainly inevitable civil war.
“And what are we to do, Bann Teagan?” piped up the scarred Highever man. “Half of us will be killed on sight for being traitors of one kind or another and the other have nothing to go back to!” Harsh murmurs sounded from the other gathered men at that and Natia cautiously reached for one of her daggers. She’d seen far too many crowds turn to violence in her life – a few of them spurred onward by herself or Leske at Carta orders – and wasn’t about to die in one.
Teagan raised his hands and loudly called out, “I can promise nothing to any of you men. You know that. I can, however, give my word that if we reach Rainesfere safely, there will be safety for you there.”
There were still a few dark murmurs but the words seemed to settle most of the men and Natia relaxed slightly. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Jarriad was still sitting tensely nearby and asked softly, “It’s enough for now, isn’t it?”
“For now,” he answered soberly. “But who knows what tomorrow might bring?”