Dying felt like almost drowning when he’d been dared to dive into Lake Calenhad. Every breath was hideous agony and he couldn’t tell which way was up or down, which was the way to safety and survival.
Of course, there wasn’t any safety or survival now. There was only the wound in his side, infected and feverish, and the taint in his blood. Even with a healer, he would never have a chance.
Outside of the makeshift tent, Cailan could hear talking and closed his eyes in agony as he heard his uncle say that he would kill him. Honestly he would rather drive the blade into his own heart than let someone he loved do such a thing. He couldn’t bear to have them live with that on their conscience, even if it would be a mercy. Thankfully, however, the elder Warden Jarriad spoke up and dashed that happening.
The elf had been the one to explain to him the fullness of his situation when they had gotten their ramshackle little camp settled. He had quietly but firmly ordered everyone within out and sat down on the floor next to the cot Cailan was lying upon. When he had begun speaking, Jarriad’s first words were an apology. His next were confirmation of what Cailan had suspected since they’d begun staggering away from Ostagar.
He was to die here, wounded by treachery, poisoned by darkspawn, and utterly betrayed by men and women he’d believed loyal.
Outside, he heard his uncle swear to the gathered survivors that Rainesfere would hold safety for them. Eamon wouldn’t like that at all, would probably even try to convince Teagan otherwise. Knowing his older uncle, however, he would likely say something to push his younger brother even moreso towards his chosen action. It was the way with them.
Wearily, Cailan closed his eyes in a vain attempt to fight back sudden tears. He could not protect his own men nor the men and women of his country.
He could not protect his wife.
He could not protect his brother.
The agony of that reality was overwhelming and he involuntarily sucked in a breath, letting it out in a choked gasp that was half sorrow and half from pain lancing up his side. He was drowning again and again and Uncle Teagan could not merely drag him out of the lake by the scruff of his neck this time.
In the back of his mind, a tiny voice reminded him that he was supposed to be a King, to be an example for his men. He could not break down now, despite his own pain, when they needed him. But there was a memory there too, of Anora and him on that terrible night when he’d both burned his father’s effigy and agreed to send his brother away. A night when she had opened her arms and welcomed him to grieve without judgement, to be his solid ground in the storm that had become his life.
There would likely be no judgement now but were no warm, loving arms and never would be again.
Cailan lifted both hands to cover his face as that realization hit harder than the reality of dying and he could no longer hold back a broken sob. Another tore its way out of his throat almost immediately after and he gave in to the sorrow as pain wracked his body, wishing vainly for a way back home.