He stared down at the letter in his hands, disbelieving that the words that were written on it had come from his brother’s hand.
Do not ride with Fergus to Ostagar. I don’t care if you’ve been serving as his squire at Highever – I don’t want you involved in this, Alistair.
“Honestly!” exclaimed Alistair as he tossed the letter aside onto the nearby end table. Looking down at Aedan’s mabari, Dane, who was lying next to his chair. “You’d think he didn’t know I could handle myself!”
“Who?” asked Aedan himself as he entered the sitting room. His eyes then flicked to the thicker parchment sitting on the table that had been wrapped around the letter and obviously noted the broken royal seal. “Ah. The King.” As he sank down into the chair sitting on the other side of Dane and leaned down to scratch the mabari behind the ears, he continued, “What’s it about this time?”
Alistair sighed as he sank grumpily down in his chair and answered, “He doesn’t want me riding out with Fergus. Like I’m a child!”
That made the other young man laugh. “He’s doing his job as your big brother and being overprotective,” Aedan said warmly. “I know. Fergus has been doing the same thing to me for years.”
“I know,” groaned Alistair, “and I don’t blame him for it. But, Maker, I’m tired of being treated like I’m made of glass! He’s been like this since Father died.”
“I imagine he doesn’t want to lose you as well,” said Aedan soberly. Lifting a hand, he pointed at Alistair as he said, “Not to mention succession might fall to you if he died.”
Alistair then ran a hand through his hair and made a low growling noise that made Dane perk his ears up and let out a sharp bark. As Aedan patted the dog, the blond young man sighed and said, “I don’t want to lose him either, Aedan. That’s why I want to be there. I mean, this is darkspawn, not just some normal foe. Anything could happen!”
“I know,” replied Aedan, his tone serious. “My brother is riding out right into it tomorrow, remember?”
Both of them stared at each other then, starkly sober, and Alistair swallowed hard before he spoke again.
“Neither of us is going to Ostagar, are we?”
“Not unless we end up with the Maker’s own luck,” answered Aedan as he went back to scratching his mabari’s ears. “Way things are, something serious would have to happen for us to end up there.”
“I almost want it to,” muttered Alistair as he reached out to pick the letter back up and fingered it nervously. As Aedan started to open his mouth, he hurriedly added, “Almost.”
“Yes,” said Aedan with a slight nod, “but as Mallol liked to tell me when I was little and wishing for things, be careful what you wish for.