clariana: (Default)
Title: The Eremons
Characters: Minor, Alistair, Neria 
Rating: T no overt sex or violence
Word Count: one shot, under 2k
Summary: The relationship between the heirs of Waking Sea, Alfstanna and Irminric

The Eremons

Alfstanna was the younger of the two potential heirs to the bannorn of Waking Sea, by barely a year. Irminric, her elder brother, would have delighted and pleased any other family, even a noble one, with his skill, wit and presence. However, exceptionally in Ferelden, among the Eremons of Waking Sea it was traditionally the females who inherited the title. It soon became obvious that Alfstanna was unusually favoured, excelling her elder brother in almost every field and endeavour.

Nonetheless, their parents wanted to be fair to both of them and so when Alfstanna was 15, and Irminric barely 16, they set them several tasks in order to establish, once and for all, who was the better. Whereas Irminric overcame his sister with sword and shield, Alfstanna surpassed him in bow, riding, prose composition and rhetoric.

It was therefore settled that Alfstanna and her line would be inherit the Bannorn and Irminric was displaced. In a fit of pique at this decision, Irminric quit the lands of his ancestors and undertook various enterprises, eventually enlisting with the Chantry as a Templar, being fully admitted to the order at the age of twenty.

When they had been living in the same household relations between the siblings had never been entirely cordial, there had always been too much proximity and competition between them for that. However, the two had always shared a deep mutual respect and understanding, and, it went without saying, love. When she heard that Irminric had become a Templar, Alfstanna wrote to him at Kinloch Hold and told him how proud she was of him. From that point onwards, there was a definite thaw in their relationship, and the two wrote to each other regularly and would occasionally, their duties allowing, pay each other a visit.

Since Alfstanna had been unable to find a suitor that was up to her high standards and Irminric, because of his vocation, also remained single, following the deaths of their parents they became even closer. Paradoxically, they become so close, that Irminric was unable to confide in his sister that he suspected he had become addicted to lyrium.

The commencement of the Blight in Dragon 9:30 disrupted communication between the siblings at first and then severed them entirely.

                                                                              ~~...~~

Umbralis 9:31 found Alfstanna in Denerim attending the Lands meet called by Arl Eamon. She was one of the few noblewomen with a vote in the assembly and the youngest. As with everything else, she took such responsibility very seriously, although she had a natural antipathy towards Loghain and his supporters, distrusting the intentions of the aged general, she was careful to keep this personal inclination under wraps and to canvass all views before finally making up her mind.

It was during one of these informal meetings at the Gnawed Noble tavern that she was approached by a motley group of adventurers, for want of a better word, with which to describe them. Their apparent leader, a tiny female Elven mage with white hair and large, dark eyes, asked very politely if she could have a word with her in private and Alfstanna could find no good reason to refuse. In those days, Denerim was a turmoil of displaced persons and refugees and it was all but impossible to determine by appearance alone, friend or foe, noble or peasant.

Once they were alone, the elf who introduced herself as Neria Surana produced from within the folds of her robe a heavy signet ring, which she handed to Alfstanna. Alfstanna could not conceal her expression of surprise and when she looked up from the ring that lay in the palm of her hand and bore her family's shield, sable stellate ship's helm in or, barré six wavy sable and azure, she found her gaze meeting that of the elf's apparent second. This was quite a handsome young man with wide shoulders and very pretty hazel eyes, who looked strangely familiar, although Alfstanna could not, for the life of her, understand why.

"What is the meaning of this?" she exclaimed, "This is my brother's ring, how did you come by it?" Her voice came out much sharper than she intended and she immediately regretted it because, after all, these motley strangers had just returned the ring to her.

The elf called Neria, glanced quickly at the young man and then turning to her said, "Howe is dead…"

"Howe?" Echoed Alfstanna uncomprehendingly.

"Rendon Howe," the young man explained, his accent was rather common, but his face… "The erstwhile Arl of Denerim…"

Alfstanna suddenly noticed that his fine suit of silverite armour was lightly speckled with blood and flecked with… She did not want to think about it, but shuddered involuntarily. Then she noticed a rust brown stain on the hem of the elf's robe. She looked up again at the young man's face; it was open, honest and somewhat apologetic.

"Your brother lives…" He said, "But… He is… the worse for wear and, and, he bade us give you this ring." He seemed to seize his courage with both hands, "If I were you, I would go to him, Milady, he must be still at the Arl's estate… He needs you… He is a good man…"

For some reason Alfstanna found herself nodding.

"Come Neria," said the young man putting one of his hands gently on the elf's shoulder, "Eamon awaits us…"

As they turned to go, it struck her. Alfstanna had heard rumours that Maric had a bastard, no real surprise there, and that he was currently in Denerim, a protégé of Arl Eamon. She had not yet got round to speaking to Eamon but now she realised who that the young man reminded her of, Cailan: the late king Cailan, albeit, Cailan with shorter hair, insecurity and a plebeian lilt to his words.

However, the group were already through the door, the last one, another elf, but male with long blonde hair and tanned skin, seems to be trailing them. He turned, caught Alfstanna's eye, winked and stuck out his tongue insouciantly at her before exiting the room.

Alfstanna stared at the ring in her palm for a few seconds; attempting to work through the things, she had been told. Then she slid the ring over her left thumb and headed hastily outside.

                                                                                    ~~...~~                

About an hour later, she approached the Arl of Denerim's estate with a five-guard escort. It was chaos, even for Denerim in those days of unrest. There were remnants, the irate remnants of a traders' protest, stunned soldiers many of them nursing injuries, servants running amok. The Bann and her men made their way determinedly through the crowd but when they entered the palace entrance hall, Alfstanna had to stop, there was blood and bodies everywhere, and, surprisingly, scorch marks and pools of water, tinged with crimson.

Obviously, some kind of ruthless battle had recently taken place there. The stench of blood and fear made her feel a little faint and she lifted her right arm to cover her mouth and nose, struggling to suppress her nausea.

More out of instinct than judgment, they made a right turn almost bumping into a young red-haired male elf who appeared to be making a quick exit. Alfstanna gestured and two of the guards caught him before he could flee.

"I am looking for my brother, Irminric, someone told me he could be found here…," she asked very politely.

The elf looked at her utterly blankly with limpid blue eyes and then suddenly reacted. "Irri, do you mean Irri?" He asked.

Alfstanna blushed, embarrassed that a mere city elf as this one appeared to be, knew her brother's nickname. "Yes," she replied, "That would be him…"

An apologetic expression similar to that of the young bastard's briefly crossed the elf's face. "He is that way," he said, pointing behind him. "I think you will find him in the late Arl's bedroom. With Ozzie…"

"Please take me there," said Alfstanna, the elf sighed, aware he had no choice.

"Very well," he said, "follow me."

Alfstanna was glad that she had conscripted the help of Soris, as he introduced himself, because making their way through the Arl of Denerim's estate was far from straightforward.

Eventually, they came to an exquisitely decorated bedchamber presided over by a very large four-poster bed.

A young man dressed only in some makeshift breeches sat on it clinging helplessly to one of the posts.

"Ozzie," said Soris gently addressing him. "This lady is looking for Irri… I believe she is his sister…"

The young man glared at them through dirty, tousled hair and for the second time that memorable day, Alfstanna had the impression of familiarity. However, this thought was immediately swept from her mind when he gestured briefly towards a figure lying on the bed and then clung back to the post as if he were afraid to let go of it.

Alfstanna rushed forward. The figure on the bed had his back to her and was groaning softly and mumbling incoherently. Alfstanna put her strong arms around him and turned him towards her. "Irri," she cried, "Irri, it's alright now, everything's going to be alright… I'm here…"

His ravaged face was thin and wasted as was the rest of his body, it bore marks of combat and mistreatment, his wrists were raw and skinned, his dark beard overgrown and messy and although he did not appear to recognise her, he gripped her tightly as if she were familiar.

"What happened here, by the Maker someone tell me what happened here!" Alfstanna was by no means prone to hysteria or panic but something about this day's strange developments had shocked and unbalanced her beyond anything in her previous experience.

She looked at Ozzie but he just stared back at her with empty eyes clutching the post even tighter. She noticed the same marks on his wrists as on her brother's. Then she turned towards the door searching for Soris only to find that he had slipped away in the meantime. Finally, she turned to her elder brother, heaving and now sobbing at her breast. "It's me, Irri," she said stroking his tangled hair, "Alf. What happened here, tell me what happened here…?" But her brother merely quaked and wept and Alfstanna felt as though her heart would break.

She held Irminric for a long time like that as if he were her child and she his mother, speaking to him quietly and more affectionately than she had ever done before, caressing the back of his head and neck, comforting him as best she could.

Eventually, Ozzie let go of the post and in turn lay his head on her shoulder. She briefly clasped his arm to reassure him and then turned her attention to her brother once again. After a while, Ozzie spoke, "Pain," he said, "There was a lot of… pain. None of us thought we would ever get out…"

                                                                        ~~...~~                        

Two days later, she stood on the balcony of the assembly hall staring with haughty indifference at the face of the old general as he sneered up at her following her impassioned speech against him.

The young bastard stood at the back of the crowd below, just opposite her, towering over them in his silverite armour. Gone was his previous gentleness and contrition. His hands appeared to be moving convulsively. Their eyes met briefly, he nodded to her in recognition, and she saw in his expression a perfect reflection of her own: Loathing and contempt.

Half an hour later, Maric's bastard, Alistair, was sheathing his sword, as the old general's daughter screamed wordlessly drenched in the shower of her beheaded father's blood.

A new Ferelden had been born.

THE END

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December 2010

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