Chapter 1: A is for Alistair
It was rare for Teagan to disagree with his brother, but Eamon looked anything but pleased about the news Alistair would be brought home by Anora’s hand. She had promised safety, and maybe it was the result of his time with and affection for- Cauthrien, but he believed the Queen would do what she said she would. He could admit that just months before, his opinion would have been much different, and the conversation he was having with his brother might have been for a small army and not... permission.
Eamon was silent for several moments an then said, voice gruff and eyeing him from a creased brow, he said, “He won’t be happy when he returns.”
“Yes, well. Happy or not, you want him home just as badly, Eamon. You can doubt the Queen’s methods, but it will be good to know he’s in Ferelden and not drinking himself to an early grave across the Marches.”
Eamon raised a bushy brow and crossed his arms over his chest. “You make a point, Teagan. I am pleased to see him come home, even if I doubt the reason for it. Or the person making such a promise. But you know that is not the thing I was addressing, there is another.” His head lowered and his voice took on a tone that Teagan could swear was straight from their Father across the Veil. “I will not tell him for you.”
As he often did when faced with something that sounded like an order, or his father, even after all his near forty years, Teagan rankled, nose scrunching and his eyes rolled as he turned his head away from Eamon’s steady gaze. He inspected the stone wall nearby as though it had become suddenly fascinating.
“Teagan,” Eamon said with clear exasperation in that one word. “You may have to face the truth that he could know before he even arrives. It’s better he hears it from you.”
He sighed, feeling like a child and doing it anyway. “Yes, of course Eamon, I’ll just write him a letter, shall I? Good news Alistair, you’re to be an uncle! Oh,and do you remember Ser Cauthrien? Well, she’s about to be my wife. Now do hurry home in time for the wedding. Love from your uncle, Teagan.”
That at least brought a chuckle from Eamon and his head shook. “It wouldn’t even be the worst letter you have written in the last month, if the rumors from court are to be believed.” Eamon was jesting, but it wasn’t far from the truth. “Just tell him.”
Chapter 2: B is for Bann
Teagan had never really striven for more than the Maker had set in his path. It was only by virtue of timing and birth that had placed him where he was. He knew to be thankful for the time he had served the bannorn, that the people of Rainesfere were loyal to him - more loyal at times than he thought he had any right for them to be. The few dark fields that no one had returned to farm, sat barren - ever a reminder of a pointless war. It had worked out in the end; the Wardens had come to settle both Loghain and the Blight, and in the end, he had been on the right side.
It had brought him fallow fields, a starving bannorn and little else. It brought him work and nightmares, and heartache until Ser Cauthrien came to Rainesfere. For her, he might have to give it all away, not because he wanted to, but because he didn’t know that the bannorn would stand with him, if he stood with her. She had burned those fields, her army had fought against them, intimidated them. When he had stood against her, his people had stood and fought with him.
That was the trouble with love, he supposed. Sometimes it gave you tough choices, not the kind of earth-shattering decisions that saw generations changed at the outcome, but smaller ones that still found men like Teagan awake when the sun rose, wondering if love was worth the possibilities.
Chapter 3: C is for Cauthrien
In the weeks Teagan waited for Cauthrien’s first letter to reach him, Teagan started no less than ten letters back to Cauthrien. He didn’t know what her letter would say, how her trip back to Denerim would fare, or what kind of welcome she would receive on her return. In each letter – before it the ink was scrubbed from it, or the parchment was tossed out completely – he forewent any assumptions about her trip or her return or the state of the Queen (he knew more about that than he wanted to anyhow) and simply wrote.
Dearest Cauthrien, I miss you. My Cauthrien, I love you. Cauthrien, I cannot wait to see you again.
I miss you.
I love you.
I cannot wait to see you again.
They didn’t all start that way. Sometimes he wrote first about the state of Rainesfere, often he began simply with the state of himself: I’ve spent some time in the training yard. Hilde and Jaron say I might not be completely useless with a sword someday soon. I don’t think they’re having me on completely. Perhaps there might be hope for me yet.
Each of his attempts, however they began, ended the same:Thinking of you always, Teagan.
He could think of little else in truth, even as his seneschal prodded him to work, even while he worked, while he slept, and most especially- while he dreamed; she was there. Before it had happened to him, he might never have understood the grand difference a month could make. How his bitterness might slide away, his anger, his fear – not all gone, not forgotten – but changed, and he hoped for good.
He wasn’t sure how he could believe that one person, could be both the reason for many of his fears and also, the reason those fears were fast fading, and the woman he loved. And it was love. He was convinced of that long before her first letter arrived. Though it was only by the second week, when he knew she would be nearing Denerim, that he feel free enough to admit it to himself. Free enough to think that yes, Cauthrien: strange, beautiful, loyal, dutiful, Cauthrien, had become the woman he loved.
Chapter 4: D is for Dinner
The first meal he had with anyone that wasn’t Cauthrien after she was gone, was with his brother and his wife, on his way to Denerim. Raud brought him food a few times, but it was never a meal they shared together, and for those few weeks, he wasn’t sure he was ready to see someone on the other side of his dining table that wasn’t his favorite knight with her hair down, and a glass of wine in her hand.
A meal with Eamon and Isolde, was dinner, at an elaborate table with a spread that would’ve fed far more than the three of them, and a place set at the far end of the table for a boy too far away to attend it.
“Teagan, Eamon tells me you’re going to Denerim, to see that... woman , that knight,” Isolde said, breaking the long silence as they sat and then filled their plates.
He nodded as he finished chewing his first bite. He rested his hands on the table, knowing that once Isolde had started her questioning, it was likely to be longer than the space between bites.
“I am.” He shot Eamon a glare, but his brother only gave a small shrug, one that clearly said, of course I told her .
“And that you have... intentions towards marriage?”
He tried not to smile, or laugh, though both threatened at his lips with Isolde’s heavy tone of disbelief. Was it so difficult then for her to imagine him finding a woman he wanted to take as a wife? He took a sip of his wine to keep from asking that specific question. He wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the answer.
“Do you imagine that this woman will say yes?”
At that, he could do nothing but laugh, for he had no earthly idea if Cauthrien was going to take him seriously. Especially not a pregnant Cauthrien, who had so clearly indicated that her duty lay in Denerim, with Anora. He spared, but nearly, his dinner from a spray of wine, with his laugh and then was caught in a long bought of coughing. While he coughed, Eamon and his wife shared an amused glance and he heard his brother’s own faint chuckles between breaths.
“Teagan? Are you alright?” Isolde looked as though she might stand and then only waved her hand at a servant in the far corner of the room. The elven man filled a mug with water and handed it to Teagan, and waited, hovering at his side until he drank it.
“Yes, I think I’ll be alright,” he said once his breath returned. When Isolde said nothing, but stared at him with an arched brow he added, “No. No, Isolde, I have no idea if she’ll agree. But, I still plan to ask.”
Chapter 5: E is for Eamon
Teagan sat with his feet propped up on the desk in Eamon's office. In his lap rested a book and he flipped through the pages with little interest. His brother sat on the other side of the desk, quill in his hands as he set ink to parchment, writing a letter to the Queen. Eamon stopped, hand hovering just where his signature should go and his lips moved silently as he re-read his own words.
When the scratching sounds of Eamon's writing ceased, Teagan looked up at his brother, shifting in his chair to put his feet on the floor again. He reached out and writing a small token on the table - a tiny statue of Andraste - that had tipped over with the movement of his feet. Teagan's fingers wrapped around the statue, still holding on even after it was returned to its watch over Eamon's desk. He looked at his brother's hands, the way his grip on the quill tightened as he read the letter.
"Something wrong, Eamon?"
His brother let out a huff and leaned back in his seat. "Never thought I'd be writing a letter like this," he grumbled.
"...Never thought I'd be asking for one."
Eamon nodded and his gaze rose from the letter on the desk to Teagan. His eyes were bright, if shadowed by a creased brow, and Teagan met his brother's concerned gaze with a crooked smile.
"It's the Queen's prerogative to still say no to this arrangement," Eamon said. He laid the quill on the table and then rubbed at his hand, thumb pressing against his fingers to massage them. He returned his brother's smile. "You know that, Isolde thinks the Queen is the least of your worries?" Eamon's grin widened.
"Oh?" Teagan lifted the statue from the desk and leaned back again, turning Andraste over in his
His brother nodded again. "She thinks Ser Cauthrien will turn you away."
"Does she?" Teagan shook his head and asked, "Is that what dinner was about? She thinks I'm not worthy of Ser Cauthrien's affections?"
Eamon let out a rumbling laugh, sharp and loud, and it echoed against the stone even after his brother had quieted. "You'll have to ask her yourself," Eamon said. "But, I believe it's less about the woman's affections and more about yours. It's an uneven match, Teagan. Surely you see that?"
He shrugged and glanced down at the statue in his hands. "It's what I want. She is." He pressed his lips together and nodded as if to show he approved of his own words. "I know it's... unexpected-"
"I should say so," Eamon interrupted. "Even if it weren't for the war, I wouldn't accept you to make such a choice. When you add everything that transpired, the things that she did, that she must have supported-"
"It's the past. And where I'd like to keep it, Eamon. What I want is this. Her. Please just sign the letter."
Eamon shook his head and as he picked up the quill again, Teagan looked up. "You should talk to Isolde, brother," Eamon said as he applied his signature. He dusted the page and then handed it to his brother. "Your letter."
"Thank you, Eamon." Teagan exchanged the letter for the statue and sat back again to look the page over.
"I am serious about Isolde, Teagan. Talk to her, I think there might be some foundation to her insights and you may find yourself with more to consider."
Teagan rolled the parchment together and looked at his brother, who stared back with an intent seriousness that was unexpected. His lips turned down, but he nodded. "I will," he said and then lifted the parchment in acknowledgement, "and thank you, for this."
Chapter 6: F is for Family
There were few things in the world that Teagan counted as truly his. Almost everything he had came by virtue of his birth: the time, the place and the family he was born to. Even his freedom, for whatever it was, was owed in no small part to family; to a sister that was little more than a faded memory.
The things that he had, the things that were truly his- they were little more than thoughts, intangibles that could not be held or touched. For most of his adult life, he had been content with those things. And while in a time... in his life before Cauthrien, before the Blight, before he’d had to stand up for his land, for his people - he rarely needed to spare a thought for for the blessings that came to him from birth, in the time after, it was nearly all he could think of.
Eamon, over the years since Connor’s birth, had consistently tried to convince Teagan that there was something missing in his life. That without a family of his own his life was somehow incomplete, but Teagan never really believed it. Yet, a single month with Cauthrien had changed all that. Just the thought of it explained all Eamon’s words about blood, about family, the reason he’d fought so hard for Alistair to take Anora’s place, and why it was still dangerous for Alistair to come home. Teagan viewed it all in a different light with the knowledge that in the next year, he might have a family of his own.
He wanted to ask his brother if it had been like this for him too, to know that his child was on its way in to the world. But, the subject of Connor was still a sensitive one and the boy had only gone to Kinloch a handful of months ago. Reminding his brother that his only child was a mage and had nearly succumbed to the wiles of a demon was nothing he wanted to bring up at all before he made his way to Denerim, if ever again. He had no one else to ask, no one that he was likely to find and he wondered if Cauthrien felt the same way. The tone of her letter, was like she: reserved and discreet.
In their month together, they had not talked much of her family, though it had been clear from their investigation into Edlyn’s disappearance, that much of her life before Loghain was still there beneath her battle-hardened surface. The differences between their upbringings: hers one of fields and work and need, and his of protection and privilege, were vastly different. Had her life varied in some way, perhaps she wouldn’t be the woman that he loved and wanted, but that knowledge did not keep him from marvelling at the differences in their parentage. Would it be enough to bring a child home, to Rainesfere, to take Cauthrien away from Denerim? Would he be enough - with all that his own birth had granted him, and the place in the world he’d been born to?
There was no way to know for certain, and no one to ask but the Maker. And for once, Teagan wished that he was a little more dedicated to the Chantry so that at least the Sisters could give him some peace of mind.
Chapter 7: G is for Grave
It was a simple thing: her name and the year, and hard, cold stone. "The Light shall lead her safely through the paths of this world, and into the next."
Teagan wondered if years from then, people would find the headstone of a young woman, dead in the year of the Dragon and assume she was another causualty of the war. Or if Edlyn, who everyone said had lived with her head in the clouds; if perhaps she would like to be remembered that way. A victim of the Blight: something large and courageous and not just the wayward dreams of a young girl. After all, not many people could afford a headstone at all. Just mounds of earth, and a prayer.
Maybe it wasn't much, but it was something Teagan could do, a small provision for the family. He visited them twice before he left, once to make sure all the arrangements had been taken care of, once to see the stone had been placed and to offer his own respects. They had her braid tacked to one of the walls just inside their house, were quiet and reserved, and served him tea as though he were any other visitor. The haunted look in their eyes had not left, but the edges were softer, they spoke- even if their words were quiet, reserved. Teagan could not stand to stay with them for long, or to return after the stone had finally been placed.
Death, and the remembrances of the Blight were everywhere, no matter how much the cheer in his heart blocked out the worst of his memories. In the courtyard at Eamon's, his brother had commissioned a memorial, something to remember the men and women from Redcliffe that had lost their lives to the Blight and the protection of his family. It was no small thing, but no amount of stone and prayer would replace what had been lost. Families like Edlyn's knew that just as well as any survivors of the Blight.
"The Light shall lead her safely through the paths of this world, and into the next."
Chapter 8: H is for Honor
Perhaps it is wrong of me to admit this, but I had considered not writing you back. It was not because I was unhappy, because I am indeed thrilled by your news. It was not because I was not eager to respond, because daily I curse the miles between us. It was only a moment, albeit a small one, where it occurred to me that you might be more content were I not to interfere.
There are not words enough, nor indeed the ink to write them will, to express how happy I -
was- am, to know what our month together has brought us.
Currently, I am in Redcliffe with Eamon and Isolde, trying to explain to them, what I cannot even explain to myself- that I want nothing more than to come to Denerim and see you with my own eyes. To hopefully convince you, if you have not already made your own decision, that there is and will always be a place for you and for our child in Rainesfere.
I know that duty and honor keep you bound to the Queen and I -
would- could not ask you to do any less than what your heart leads you to do. I am writing in the hopes that this letter reaches you before I do, that you know my interest and intentions and that they can better inform the decisions you make.
When my visit here in Redcliffe is complete, I hope to ride for Denerim. And though that means there are still weeks between us, I am eager to put them and the miles behind me.
With my deepest regards,
He signed his letter when a brief hesitation, regards no matter how deeply he could state them in a letter, were not enough. With his signature and then a seal added to the parchment he pushed away from the desk and made his way to find a messenger. Barring trouble in Redcliffe or Rainesfere, he intended to arrive within a few days of the letter. It was better than sending nothing at all, and by now, she had to be expecting some word from him.
Teagan could only hope this would suffice in his absence.
Chapter 9: I is for Isolde
It was hard to forget Eamon's recommendation that Teagan should talk more to Isolde before he made a decision. He could see the wisdom in it, Isolde, permanently an outsider just by virtue of her homeland, could have a different perspective. His mind was made up- he wanted Cauthrien, more than he'd wanted any other person in his life- nearly more than he'd wanted anything at all. As thrilling as it was: Cauthrien, a child, a family; it was frightening as well.
Perhaps it was the fear that drove him to seek Isolde's council after all.
He found her sitting quietly, hands moving with the repetitive motions of a needle and thread, even stitches on something that looked like one of Connor’s shirts. Teagan considered turning back, finding her another time... or not at all, but at the moment he would’ve turned around, she looked up. Her smile was sad, but she did not seem to begrudge the intrusion. Instead, she waved a hand at a nearby chair.
“Teagan, sit. I could use the company.” Her voice betrayed her a little further, cracked around the words and he understood the pleading her request masked.
He pulled the chair she’d indicated away from the wall and closer to hers, then sat as she’d directed. There was a low fire built in the hearth across the room and he let his gaze be drawn to it instead of to the needlework in Isolde’s lap.
When he spoke he kept his voice low, and his eyes on the quiet flames. “Isolde, I wanted to talk to you.”
“About Cauthrien,” she said and there was no hint of a question in her voice.
He nodded. “About Cauthrien.”
Chapter 10: J is for Judicious
All things considered, talking with Isolde wasn’t awful. At least not as awkward as he thought it would be. In light of the situation, she understood his instincts: “You’ve picked a strong woman, Teagan,” she said. “If she says yes to your proposal, your people aren’t going to take it well. Neither will your brothers.” She said it and her cheeks flushed with color and Isolde pressed her lips together until they were white.
She didn’t have to explain what it had done to the people of Redcliffe when Eamon had announced their own engagement. No sooner had their freedom had been won from Orlais and Eamon was bringing an Orlesian woman into his house, into his bed and making her an Arlessa. It was a scandal. People had been both scared of and awful towards Isolde during their long engagement and Teagan didn’t wave off her concern.
“I understand that, Isolde. I know it will be difficult. I’m not expecting people to accept her right away. And a month with us at Rainesfere wasn’t enough to undo people’s memories of her actions during the war.” He shook his head. “But I can’t just ignore what I feel about her, or the state she’s in.”
His sister-in-law smiled at him, like a mother might- sad, but humoring him. “I know, Teagan and I’m not asking you to. I’m making sure you understand the type of-”
“I know who she is. I haven’t forgotten.” He held up a hand when it looked like she was about to cut him off. “Isolde, I appreciate your concern and your counsel. Believe me when I say this is not an easy decision for me. And I know that it will be more difficult for her, there’s not a way I can make any of it better. I can only show my support.”
Isolde nodded and looked down at the stitching in her hand. She jabbed her needle through the work and drew the thread through to the other side. With a sigh, she found the next entrance and pulled the need through again before she looked back at Teagan.
“Brother.” She frowned. “My intent is not to convince you. I do understand.” Isolde sighed again and set her work down in her lap.
“When do you leave?” she asked softly.
He sat back, wondering at her change in tone and tactic. He bit the inside of his lip and thought about the letter he’d sent to Cauthrien. He’d need to leave soon if only to be there before she made an official decision.
“The next day... or two. If there’s no more I need to discuss with Eamon, or messages from Raud before I set out.” He tapped his fingers on his chair, counting out the days he’d arrived if he left tomorrow.
“And will you stay there? In Denerim if she says yes?”
“As long as I need to,” Teagan says. He sees the look on Isolde’s face, the doubt, the concern. She knows, but he has seen what she and Eamon have, what they’ve been through and the similarities and their success is enough to give him hope.
He shrugs and shakes his head. “I really do hope that you understand, Isolde. I could use the support, no matter what happens.”
“You shall have it. But I can only caution you against hope. What you need is not the fancies of younger men, brother. Instead. Remember what the past year has taught us. Remember the strength of battle, conviction against corrupt leaders. You will need that determination.”