In the Lion’s Den


 
CONTENT:
Rating: Teen
Flavor: Drama
Language: mild
Violence: none
Nudity: none
Sex: none
Other: none
 
Author’s Notes:

This may not be the Loghain you expect. I’m not a big Loghain fanatic, but I like his character a lot. This may not be the Anora you know; I am so not followng the wiki on her — especially concering her mother.

I have also taken liberties with the Arls, arlings, Banns, bannorns, and the Bannorn. I have MUC (made up crap) in an effort to create some more detail. Bann Teagen does not appear here, since it makes no sense (even in the ephemeral timelessness of the Dragon Age world) for him to be there now and to get back to Redcliffe ahead of the Wardens.


 
In the Lion’s Den
 
Denerim

 

Loghain paced the length of the balcony like a lion surveying his territory as he dictated the requirements of Ferelden’s army to the assembled nobles. The one hundred and thirty-one banns of the Bannorn milled on the assembly hall floor. Loghain raked them with a stern gaze. “And I expect each of you to supply these men!” The banns chafed under the levy he set.

Arls and Teyrns, the high-ranking nobles, controlled several districts of Ferelden, but the vast heartland of the country was made up of a conglomeration of small holdings. The banns refused to be united under any arling, stubbornly intent on going their own way. Thus they formed the Bannorn with a capital ‘B.’ And bickered and feuded, allied and intermarried, and all-around represented the independant spirit of Ferelden. Normally, Loghain admired that. But someone had to bring this unruly pack to heel. He had to make them see the dire peril the nation faced.

“We must rebuild the army lost at Ostagar, and quickly,” he said, his military voice filling the hall. “There are those who would take advantage of our weakened state.” He waved, gesturing towards the west. There was no doubt he meant Ferelden’s old enemy, the neighboring country of Orlais.

The Orlesian Empire had occupied Ferelden for over two decades, until Loghain and King Maric, Cailen’s father, had led the uprising to overthrow them almost thirty years ago. Freedom had been hard-won, at the cost of many lives. Some of the younger nobles didn’t seem to understand this. Cailen had even once called Loghain paranoid. That foolish boy didn’t understand. Maric had only told him tales of glory and triumph, becoming a golden hero in the boy’s eyes. Cailen never understood the sweat and blood shed by desperate freedom fighters.

They’d only bloodied the beak of that great vulture, Orlais. It was sitting on its perch, eyeing Ferelden, waiting to see it stumble. Waiting for the opportunity to swoop in and finish it off. With darkspawn clawing at her flanks, Ferelden looked poised to fall.

Loghain would not let that happen — no, not while he still had blood in his body or sweat on his brow. “We need to defeat this darkspawn incursion, but we need to do it sensibly and without hesitation.” He stopped pacing and looked down at the assembly.

They muttered and whispered amongst themselves, drawing into different knots. One man stepped towards the balcony. He was young, about Cailen’s age, with his blond hair tied back in a warrior’s queue. Loghain recognized him as Oswyn Sighard of Dragon’s Peak. “May I speak?”

Loghain nodded once, and the crowd moved back to give Bann Oswyn room.

“Loghain,” he boldly addressed the general; “you have declared yourself regent to Queen Anora, and you have insisted we must band together under your leadership for our own good. But what about the army lost at Ostagar? Your withdrawl from battle was… fortuitous.”

There was a gasp from the crowd. Loghain heard Anora’s intake of breath from behind him to his left. The banns growled protests, some against the slander of Ferelden’s greatest hero, some… not so supportive.

“I have only said what is foremost in everyone’s mind,” Bann Oswyn said boldly.

Loghain leaned forard on the balcony rail. “Everything I have done,” he thundered, “Has been to secure Ferelden’s independence. I have not shirked my duty to the throne.” He straightened, looking over the entire hall. “And neither will any of you!”

“The Bannorn will not bow down to you simply because you demand it,” Oswyn cast back at him. The boy was tenacious. And the Bannorn was rebellious in the best of times. Loghain remembered Maric always saying that no king had ever gotten anywhere with the Bannorn by using an iron fist. Loghain had always thought him simply a weak king. Perhaps he had misjudged his old friend.

Perhaps sensing more support for his outlandish ideas, Oswyn said, “If my father were here… Or Arl Eamon, or even Teyrn Cousland, they would not stand for this!”

Loghain raised a hand sharply, almost as if to strike the boy from the balcony. “Enough! We do not need political in-fighting at a time like this. The safety of Ferelden and her people are paramount! I will brook no threat to this nation’s sovereignty,” he warned. “You will all do your duty!” By the Maker, he’d withstood a company of Orlesian chevaliers at the River Dane, he could keep the unruly banns in line long enough for them to defend their own country! He turned and stalked out, nothing more to say. This assembly was over. He’d given the banns their orders. If they disobeyed, they would be dealt with.

 

 

Anora approached the rail as her father and his loyal arls and guards departed. “Bann Oswyn,” she called down.

The nobleman turned and bowed. “Your Majesty. Forgive my bluntness,” he said as he straightened; “but your father risks civil war.”

“My father is doing what is best for Ferelden.”

“Best for Ferelden, or best for himself?” His face softened. “Your Majesty, you are Queen of Ferelden –”

Anora folded her hands. “I am a diplomat, Bann Oswyn, not a warrior. My father is a great hero of war. He knows what he is doing. Please, you must follow him to victory over the darkspawn.”

“Like the army at Ostagar?” Oswyn’s face grew cold and clouded once more. “Did he do what was best for Ferelden then? Did he do what was best for your husband?”

Anora flinched. Her father would never commit treason! What reason would he have? Cailen was his best friend’s son, and his daughter’s husband. “Your allegations are wrong,” she said firmly. “My father is a true patriot. The Bannorn would do well to heed him. Once the darkspawn are vanquished, he will step down.”

“I admire your conviction,” Bann Oswyn said. “But I’m afraid not all of us share it.” He turned to go. “By your leave, Your Majesty.”

Anora nodded and set her own feet towards her chambers. She scanned over the crowd as she turned. How many would oppose her father? Would they be so few that the others could sway them? She fervently hoped so, before Ferelden was torn apart by war.

 

 

Loghain put aside his heavy plate mail. With careful efficiency, he settled the pieces on the armor stand. The substantial weight of the armor had become such a part of himself lately that he felt almost disembodied without it. Like a spirit barely tethered to the earth, he might drift away at any moment. Then he frowned down at his clothing that had been rumpled under all the padding. He crossed to the wardrobe and pulled the doors open.

Though his rank of teyrn was second only to royalty, he eschewed having a valet. He was, after all, only a simple farmer at the core. Though he didn’t mind having servants to cook and clean the vast keep at Gwaren he rattled around in, the day he was too old and feeble to manage his own armor and clothes was the day after they put him in his grave.

Attired in a suitably somber grey, he went to the door of the Queen’s chambers. A glance at the guards posted outside was sufficient to send them to the end of the hall. Loghain rapped his knuckles on the door. “Anora?” He was met with silence. “Anora,” he tried again, raising his voice slightly. “I dislike having a conversation through a door.” He stood back and waited.

After a minute or two, when Loghain had to decide between yelling and walking off, the door opened. One of Anora’s handmaidens bowed and stood aside to let him in. It was that dark-haired elf from Orlais that he didn’t like. “I will need to have a private word with my daughter,” he said, dismissing her.

Anora came to the door of the inner chamber. “I will ring if I need you, Erlina.”

The handmaiden bowed towards each of them and left silently.

“Are you coming to dinner?” Loghain asked his daughter. He had raised her to be strong and independent, like Queen Rowena, Cailen’s mother. His wife had other ideas, however. Celia had seemed to think noblewomen should be more like Orlesian ladies, fine and delicate.

“No,” Anora said harshly. She came into the room, her porcelain brow marred with a firm line, her blue eyes sparking. “I will not have that toad Rendon Howe sizing me up like a prized heifer at auction! I will not marry his Thomas or Nathaniel or anybody! I am the Queen of Ferelden, and I’m tired of being treated like some war trophy! My husband is dead scant weeks–” She broke off and seemed to rein herself under control. “Oh, Cailen,” she whispered sadly.

Loghain moved to her and gently touched her chin to comfort her. He opened his mouth to say something, but she turned her head, breaking contact.

“Did you kill Cailen?” She looked up into his eyes.

He sighed. “I told you everything that happened,” he said softly. Everything except Cailen’s collusion with the Empress of Orlais. The empress had urged Cailen to put Anora aside in favor of a political marriage to none other than herself. If only Anora knew of Cailen’s treachery… but those documents had been lost at Ostagar. “Cailen’s death was his own doing. I told him it was too great a risk to fight alongside the Grey Wardens. If he had remained at my side, he would still be alive now.”

Anora dropped her gaze. This time, when Loghain put a comforting hand on her shoulder, she did not pull away.

“Are you sure you won’t come to dinner?” he asked again. “Rendon Howe is our strongest supporter.”

That was exactly the wrong thing to say. Anora’s eyes flashed. “Then you get in bed with him!” She turned and stalked back into her bedchamber. “My husband is dead! I’m in mourning!” She slammed the door.

Loghain bit his lip. It pained him to see her like this. He loved her dearly, but it was this type of temper tantrum that Celia had instilled in her. He heaved a sigh and turned to go. He had Howe to deal with. That man was coming dangerously close to overstepping his bounds.

 

 

Rendon Howe wasn’t much to look at. He’d never been very tall nor very broad, his nose was to strong, his chin too weak, and age had only shrunken and hardened him. He didn’t look like much, true, but underneath he was all sinew and steel. He’d fought under Loghain and Maric in the war to oust Orlais, and he was a ruthless butcher. Case and point was his crowning achievement — murdering his best friend’s family in order to take over the arlship of Highever. Such an act would never have been tolerated in a time of peace. But in-fighting amongst the nobles was not unheard of in Ferelden, and that arling was his, as long as he was strong enough to hold it. If any of the banns of the Highever arling had any objections, they hadn’t voiced them anywhere.

The fortunes of war had smiled again on Rendon when the arl of Denerim had perished at Ostagar, and the man’s only son and heir had been murdered. Howe had been the de facto ranking nobleman to step in and take that situation in hand, and with the Blight, there hadn’t been time for politicking. The arlship of Denerim had fallen into his lap.

Howe was dressed in slate blue, idly buffing his manicured nails on his shirt. He looked up as Loghain entered. “Will the Queen be dining with us?”

“No,” Loghain said, gesturing for the butler to begin serving. “She is still in mourning.”

“Ah, I see.” Howe approached the table. “I’m afraid I have bad news, sire.” Loghain grimaced, but was hardly surprised. He had a feeling he knew what it would be. “Though you have the support of the southern arls, and of course, the entire northeast –” the territory Howe controlled — “many of the independent banns will not accept your regency. They are already gathering their forces, as are your allies. I’m afraid it’s to be civil war.” Howe sounded perturbed, but he couldn’t quite keep the undercurrent of antcipation out of his voice. More war, more killing, more dying — more chances to glean power.

Loghain cursed softly under his breath. “Don’t those fools realize the threat the darkspawn represent?” He poured his own wine, not waiting for the servants. He took a gulp and sat down. “If only more of the old guard were alive, we wouldn’t have to deal with such petty bickering.”

Howe took his seat, fastidiously arranging his napkin as the food was laid out. He froze at Loghain’s words and looked over. “Is that a rebuke, sire?” He narrowed his eyes. Loghain wrinkled his lip. Pointedly, Howe said, “Bryce Coulsand was also a teyrn; the only man powerful enough to threaten your position. It could be argued that a general should not also –”

“Yes, yes,” Loghain growled, cutting him off. He knew the politics.

“As it is,” said Howe, “Arl Eamon has the only other claim to the throne.” His voice became dry as he efficiently sawed at his meat. “And I understand he has his own concerns occupying him.”

Loghain grunted noncommittally. He tended to his own plate.

After a few minutes, Howe casually broached another topic. “There is another concern, sire. There have been reports of Grey Wardens who may have survived Ostagar.”

“Nonsense.”

“Possibly. But the reports still keep coming in. I wonder if there couldn’t be something behind them.”

Loghain frowned in thought. Cailen had insisted on a Grey Warden to man the Tower of Ishal and light the beacon. Loghain had pulled the cliff patrols to give the darkspawn access to the tower. And yet, the beacon had been lit. Someone had been up there, not on the battlefield. “Damn.”

“Would you like me to handle it, sire?”

Loghain wondered a moment what Howe could gain from such an assignment. It seemed harmless enough. He shrugged and resumed eating. “Yes. Keep me informed.”

“By your leave, sire.” Howe bowed his head humbly.

 

 


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