Language: a bit
Bet you didn’t see this coming. ;P
The road to Redcliffe was lined with vast boulders of the sandy-reddish stone that gave the arling its name. It picked its way through great rock outcroppings until it opened up on a flat-topped hill overlooking the lakeside town. The ground sloped down sharply towards the vast lake. A small river ran down the steep hillsides, falling in a pair of cascades. The road into town criss-crossed the river with two wide stone bridges as it made its way down towards the shore. An old fieldstone wall edged the hilltop, and the companions moved near it to get a look at Redcliffe itself.
Although the arling held sway over several bannorns south of Lake Calenhad, Redcliffe was not a grand city like Highever or Amaranthine. It was, in fact, more of a really large fishing village. The river ran swiftly under the millhouse waterwheel. The companions could see the timber buildings crowded together on the shore, and the large Chantry that seemed to gleam amidst them.
Alistair looked down on the rooftops of his home town. His heart lightened to be somewhere so familiar, but his stomach grew heavy with dread. Sometimes, it wasn’t so good to be in a place where everyone knew all about you. His companions turned and headed for the road while he lingered a bit longer. It wasn’t making his burden any lighter.
“Wait!” he called out, a bit more sharply than he intended. The others turned back; Leliana and Bannon with concern on their faces, the witch and the qunari merely annoyed. “Look, um…,” he said, walking closer to them so he didn’t have to raise his voice. “Before we go into Redcliffe, there’s something I have to tell you.”
“What’s wrong, Alistair?” Leliana asked gently. Her sea-grey eyes were soft with compassion.
“Nothing’s wrong, exactly,” he said. Uncomfortably, he shifted his weight from foot to foot. He rubbed his forehead with the heel of one hand, then brought it down firmly and clasped it in the other one. He interlaced his fingers and twisted his gloves against his skin. “All right, there’s no really easy way to go about this, so I’ll just say it: I’m a bastard.” He dropped the words like a crate of nails. “And before you start in with the jokes,” he added quickly, shooting a glance at Morrigan, who had just opened her mouth, “I mean the fatherless kind.”
That shut the witch up. Leliana nodded in sympathy, and Bannon folded his arms and looked down. He almost looked bored. Sten simply said, “That is not physically possible.”
The bard explained to him, “He means his mother was not married to his father. In our society, it is important to have official family ties.” Alistair dug the side of one foot into the soft dirt. He really hated this. Leliana turned to him. “It is nothing to be ashamed of, Alistair. You haven’t done anything wrong.” She placed a hand on his forearm, and he looked up at her gratefully.
“So Eamon is your father” the elf said impatiently. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“What? No!” Alistair blinked in surprise. Why did everyone think that? Oh, well… he supposed it made sense; his mother had been Eamon’s servant. “No, Eamon isn’t my father.”
“Well, who is, then?” Bannon asked.
“Uh…,” Alistair ducked his head and scratched his nose, somewhat deflecting his mumbled words. Even the elf, with his sharp ears, had to lean forward and ask him what he’d said. “Maric,” Alistair confessed miserably. “King Maric. Um, Cailen was my half-brother.”
Leliana’s eyes widened. Bannon threw his arms up in the air. “Oh, I see! You’re not nobility, you’re royalty!” He turned away in disgust.
Now it clicked — Bannon was annoyed at him because he’d told the elf he wasn’t of noble descent. Oh, this was not going well. “No, no! Look, I didn’t lie to you! I’m not of noble birth or royal descent or any of that. My mother was a servant. I was a kennel-boy!” he insisted desperately.
Leliana tightened her grip on his arm. “But you are a descendent of the Theirin line. Alistair, you’re the king,” she breathed in awe.
“I’m not!” Alistair’s stomach clenched. “I’m not the king! I was never meant to be king! Cailen was king; I’m nobody!” He pulled his arm from Leliana’s grasp and ran his gauntleted hand back through his hair. “It was drilled into me, very clearly, that I was never to be eligible to take the throne.”
“Then why are you bothering us with this?” Morrigan asked, her annoyance quite clear.
Alistair released his breath with a huff. “It’s just… with Loghain seizing power and this entire mess, Arl Eamon might try to use this. He might suggest putting me forth as rightful candidate for the throne to strengthen our own position.” Especially if Eamon were still very sick. Alistair felt a chill. He honestly never had wanted power and glory and the responsibility for an entire nation. He certainly didn’t want it now! The thought made him queasy. Didn’t he have enough problems figuring out what he wanted to do with his own life? The mere thought of having to direct this rag-tag band as it went about the Grey Warden business was enough to make his stomach eat itself alive with worry. Thank the Maker he wasn’t the last Grey Warden left. “I just… didn’t want that to come as a shock to you all,” he finished lamely.
There, that was over with; for what it was worth. Sten couldn’t care less, for which Alistair was grateful. Even Morrigan’s opinion hadn’t shifted one way or the other, she still hated him. What a relief. Bannon was pissed, but Alistair was sure he’d get over it. The other Warden certainly knew Alistair wasn’t a pretentious oaf. If anything, he was a humble, common, hard-working, bumbling oaf.
It was Leliana that had him seriously worried. She fixed him with her open grey gaze, seeming to see something beyond him. “Alistair, by the right of succession, you are the king.”
“No, I’m not!”
“What about the prophecy?”
“The–? What prophecy?” he asked, but he had a sinking feeling he knew the answer to that.
“The one that says Ferelden will never fall, not so long as a descendent of King Calenhad’s bloodline rules the nation?” Oh, yeah; he was afraid it’d be that one. Her stare was making him feel very uncomfortable. “You must take the throne, or all of Ferelden may be lost.”
“That’s just… nonsense,” he insisted. “It’s not a real prophecy. It’s just a saying people made up.” He edged past her to follow the others, who had returned to walking down the road.
“It is your destiny, Alistair,” Leliana said quietly, sending a shiver up his spine. He sincerely hoped that wasn’t the Maker speaking through her.
He hurried to catch up with the others, and hoped that other uncomfortable things between him and Eamon wouldn’t also come up. Yes, it was always good to come home… until your ugly past reared its head and embarassed you in front of your friends.