Chapter 1: A is for Armor
Teagan knew as soon as he finished dressing that he might have been making a huge mistake. None of the other Banns would be so vocal and Loghain was freshly returned from the battlefield. Going in to the castle so heavily guarded was certain to make a statement, and with Eamon miles and miles away in Redcliffe, Teagan wasn’t sure it was a statement he could afford to make.
The armor was dark and heavy on, clinking chain and loud metal footfalls on the stone floor announced his presence among the waiting bannorn and people of Denerim. When Logain appeared, it was no surprise to see him and Ser Cauthrien armored, and it actually made Teagan happier for his. Loghain, was fighting, and it wasn’t the Orleasians. Teagan could see that much on the man’s face. Watching his pronouncements settle a giant weight in his chest, something that matched the feel of the metal he wore.
His people would suffer. They would starve. They would die.
Teagan took mental note of those that might stand with him if he fought back. The number was frighteningly few, and not even his elder brother would make up the difference. Cailan would have stood against this nonsense, Anora too, if her husband were alive and Teagan could see the uncertainty in her every movement. With Anora, thumbed in place by her father, and with support of men like Rendon Howe, and the Cousland’s unaccounted for- the Maker would need to send a miracle to fight Loghain and the incoming Blight.
If the armor could have kept the chill of that thought from his bones, he would have been more grateful for it. What he settled for was the look on Anora’s face, the anger that settled in where the fear should have gone, and the knowledge that somewhere in Redcliffe, his brother would have a plan.
Chapter 2: B is for Bella
It was rare for Teagan to spend time in Redcliffe and not spend most of his time in the castle with his family. But when he arrived to find the creatures attacking, and access to the castle blocked, he had little choice. Most days he spend his time in the Chantry, working with Murdock to devise a way to keep the city safe.
But, if he had been force to spend every waking moment in the Chantry, or the practice yard, he might as well have given himself over to the creatures in the evening, for fear of going insane. To stave off dark thoughts, he found himself sitting in the corner at the tavern. It was a short walk up the hill, and an hour of drink surrounded by no one but the silence, was a blessing.
The attractive barmaid only sweetened the hour away. Teagan found himself given over to thoughts of a different kind to occupy his mind with something other than battle and worry over Eamon, while he had his drink. He wondered if Eamon would approve of such a match, a common woman with a common name, a common employment.
“Can I ask your name?” he asked when she brought his second drink and something more substantial than broth and bread to eat. “And why you’re not down at the Chantry with the other women?”
If he’d expected her to flush pink with embarrassment or shame at his question, it didn’t come. Whatever curiosity he felt was quickly overridden with surprise when she quirked up her chin, and her shoulders went back. She stood up straight and Teagan wished he could see the color of her eyes as they flashed with pride and met his own.
“There’s work to be done here, isn’t there?” She looked down at the plate she’d just served him. “Besides, it’s safe enough here, isn’t it? No one else to watch Lloyd if I leave, and no one to watch you lot if he does.” Her eyes narrowed as she turned and jerked a thumb back towards the bar.
Teagan chuckled. The bartender was near drunk himself, perhaps she had the right of it after all. She could probably run the place in his absence with her eyes closed. He smiled and dropped an extra coin in her palm.
“And your name?”
He thought that might have brought some pink to her cheeks. Or at least she shied the coins away to a pocket with a downcast gaze and the barest hint of a smile.
“It’s Bella, my lord.”
Chapter 3: C is for Connor
When Eamon told Teagan the good news, he could barely contain himself. After all, Cailan was king by then and Alistair, well, it was best if they tried not to think about Alistair. It hurt less to know that he was just barely family and too shut away to know much more about him. It had stung, having Alistair sent away, but Teagan hadn’t really been of the right age or disposition to take in his wild nephew. Time dulled it a little. And then, the news that Isolde was pregnant with Eamon’s heir?
That changed things.
The young toe-headed boy was their future – their hopes and dreams. He was their opportunity to do things again. To do things right and to have a family that was strong and close, and Redcliffe was not so far away that Teagan found himself with many reasons to visit his young nephew. His brother changed too. Eamon, with a child was a much different Eamon than the one of their youth. Different than the Eamon that had taken a young Orleasian woman as his bride – not for politics, but for love.
Eamon doted. He was a father and Teagan more than once heard his father’s words on his brother’s lips. Eamon, however was not their father and he treated young Connor with love and the advantage of years.
In addition, Teagan’s own lack of wife and family did not seem so prominent while they all had young Connor to attend. Then Connor was sent off to the Circle and at first, no one talked about it. He had been with them and gone, just like Alistair- for less time and with a much more serious departure. He tried to hide it each time he noticed. But, he did notice it- each time Eamon or Isolde looked at him, the way their eyes sank and their lips turned, and how their voices turned wistful when they talked about him going home to Rainesfere.
When Eamon suggested he follow after Alistair, he agreed- though perhaps too readily.
Chapter 4: D is for Darkness
The nights that Teagan kept watch in Redcliffe with Murdock and the few guards and knights left in his brother's service, were long and loud and it was only the fierce heartbeat and quick breaths of battle that kept him awake through the night. They kept the fires lit so that the roads were bright and the center of the town could be seen from a distance in case the creatures attacked. They had few warriors armored and battle-ready and the longer and more dangerous the nights became, the less men they had to protect those that were left and those that couldn't protect themselves.
The Chantry overflowed with people and protections, bedrolls in the aisles, food and weapons stock-piled in front of bookshelves. Where there should've been the Chant of Light and dedications to Andraste, there were the loud cries of frightened children and whimpers in the night. He stayed with them, because a house alone or the tavern were no better, and to find his way into the keep meant leaving them all with one less sword. At least, he thought, Eamon had stone walls to keep him safe.
Weeks after the attacks were over and the Warden was gone, with the promise to return with help and the ashes, for Eamon - the fires stayed lit in Redcliffe below. Teagan could not fault them, he too was awake in the long, dark hours of the night - unarmored, but alert and ready, even from behind keep walls. Those little bits of darkness held too many nightmares for too many days, even long after he returned home to Rainesfere, the long way through Denerim and Fort Drakon, the biggest of battles left behind.
Chapter 5: E is for Eamon
It was rare for Teagan to sit anywhere for very long at all without fidgeting or moving, or talking. So, sitting at Eamon's bedside for any length of time took a great deal of willpower, some of which, he didn't think himself capable of. If he didn't sit there, then Isolde would. And Isolde would come away weepy-eyed and mourning for a husband she had not yet lost. So Teagan sat with his hands in his lap, and watched his brother struggle against whatever sickness lingered in his body, whatever darkness hid behind his closed eyes.
His fingers tightened around themselves, wending familiar paths between each other, rough fingertips over knuckles and the thin, faint cover of hair over the back of each hand. He was paying little attention to anything more than the fel of his own hands and the sight of his brother's chest rising and falling. He breathed but it was so shallow that if he moved and the chair creaked beneath him, Teagan could not hear it at all.
His mind was a constant repetition of, The Warden will return. He did not question that she could, that the ashes were merely a legend. Somewhere, beyond the tightness of his heart and the steady wardrum it beat behind his ribs, he knew she would return. He knew it like he'd known that Loghain was wrong, that Cailan was dead, that his nephew would be taken to the Circle. There was little he could do about any of it, other than pray.
All of it, none of it, how any of it should matter to him while Eamon lay dying, made little sense. And when Isolde came to relieve from him, to let him sleep, he smiled and held her hands in his and said a prayer, not for Eamon or for the Warden, or for Connor, but that the Maker would ease the pain he could see in her face. He did not sleep, but took his time away to see to the workings of Redcliffe; Teagan would not return an Arling in shambles to his brother.
He could sleep again when Eamon woke. One brother’s sleep for another seemed a decent trade and Eamon was sleeping enough for the both of them.
Chapter 6: F is for Father
It was rare that Teagan prayed, rarer still that he prayed outside of battle when the the stakes were not quite so high. But at Eamon’s side, after the Warden was long gone and there was little left but Isolde and a Warden’s promise, Teagan prayed.
And when praying became too much or too hard -- because what was left to pray for that he hadn’t prayed for already? -- he held his brother’s hand and talked as though Eamon could hear him. In his sleep and suffering, his brother looked so much like their father, gray hair turning whiter with every passing year.
“Do you remember the time...” he would begin. What would follow were stories of their childhood, like the time they broke into their sister’s room and Teagan had stolen Rowan’s hairbrush.
He would lose himself in the stories, in the memories. Once, he stopped talked for an entire hour because the way his own voice sounded rebounding from the stone, reminded him of their father. And wasn’t Eamon supposed to be the older one? The wiser one? The one that gave him advice and told him that it would all be okay? The one that sounded like their father? He certainly looked the part. That alone was telling enough, that hour of quiet where even his most pressing thoughts went still, and all he could remember was the word, father.
Perhaps he had trusted in his brother for too much, and for too long. Eamon was not his father. It wasn’t Eamon that shipped him off to the Free Marches to sit out a war he was far too young to fight. It was not Eamon that short, vague letters about the war efforts. It was not Eamon that had died too young and with no words for a son in need of guidance. Their father had been a hard man, set in his ways and ever vigilant for the needs of a broken country.
Eamon was like their father in a lot of ways. Maybe, too often, Teagan relied on that, made promises to himself that he might not be able to keep, all for the sake of an older brother with the strength of a name and a war their father and sister had fought to bolster him. Without Eamon it would fall to him, and he wasn’t sure he had any such strength.
Chapter 7: G is for Gloaming
Teagan often found himself outside just around evenfall, when the sun was just pink on the horizon, and most nights the moon was already in view. The battlements were a familiar site, and if he looked out behind the keep, to where the mountains sat just close enough to make out snow and trees, it was almost like he was home. His home, Rainesfere, not Redcliffe. Though the latter he should have considered near enough home as the former, for all the years he spent there, it wasn't.
For that matter, Kirkwall could've been home. Or Ostwick. Or any number of other cities in the Marches that he and Eamon had bounced between in their younger years, safely ensconced and very far away from war.
The air was nearly always cool in the evenings when he found himself wandering along the stone, hands drifting lightly over crenellations. He would watch the wind push the water over Lake Calenhad, or the pine trees sway in the distance and he could spend a lifetime up there, away from the worries of an srl. It was like a pretend game that he and Eamon had played when they were very small.
"We can both be Arls! And we'll tell those nasty Orleasians to get out of our house!"
"Yeah, and never come back!"
Their fists would pump in the air, little wooden swords directed at dummies in the training yard, or at each other-
"But I don't want to be from Orlais! You be from Orlais and I'll fight you."
The stories would always end with their father, proudly telling them they could go home. Rowan would be there, and they would each get an arling to themselves. The thought of which had made them scrunch up their noses, not as keen on the idea of girls and marriage and babies- but pleased enough at the thought they might be related to a king. That had been alright to think about.
But, father didn't come until much later. And there wasn't an arling a piece, though Rowan and Maric had married. Then, Eamon had married too, and an Orleasian at that. Teagan tried not to think about what their father would have had to say about that.
What they'd never once thought about, more used to being from Ferelden, rather than in it, was what an Arling would bring them: politics and freedom (of a sort), a people and responsibility to them, and more- a home. A night to walk free along stone walls, even if the safety to do so was fleeting and the worries were plenty.
Teagan would happily give Eamon back his arling when the time came. He would return home to Rainesfere and was eager to walk the halls of his own keep, to stare out at the lake in the distance, to feel the cool breeze down from the mountains, to enjoy an evening safe from the monsters of war and blight and responsibility.
Chapter 8: H is for Honor
His first scar came in the form of a broken training sword to the arm. The wooden sword had shattered with too many strikes but it had not stopped the other boy from completing another swing. Teagan had returned the strike with one of his own, and the boy had been knocked to the ground; the fight ended there. His arm was bleeding, but he looked as it as a badge of honor, hoped it would scar so when his father returned for him he has something to show for his years away.
Eamon had merely laughed when the wound finally healed and all that was left was the tiniest of red lines. Teagan had nearly cried. Of course, he couldn’t cry- wouldn’t, it was only one scar and there was plenty of time for more.
Most of his boyhood scars were gone, or too small to be of any notice once he was gone. By the time he returned to Ferelden, the Orleasians were long gone and the only fighting Teagan had to do was political - fought with words, not swords. There weren’t scars, at least not physical ones involved in political maneuvering and thankfully as a Bann what little of that there was, it was Eamon that dealt with it.
The largest scars he carried with him were far more subtle, less badges of honor than those earned by experience, by life. The death of his father when he had so little time to know him better and then death of Rowan: a sister he had worshipped but from afar- from the relative safety of a city across the sea, were the deepest of the wounds. The would never heal, despite the additions and changes they had provided to his life: safety, comfort and relative wealth, family- a nephew.
It was only the most recent, that he would forget if he could; the residue left in his nightmares, the haunting, tugging feeling that he was not quite free of an intruder. He had been told there was nothing to fear, that the effect of Connor’s demon was not lasting. At least not for him. Even if it had been minutes at most, he couldn’t help but wonder how much damage could have been done in those few minutes. He’d been told later what he’d done, felt the stiffness in his joints after his fight with The Warden, would likely have a real scar to show for it once it healed up.
But at night when he has no escape from his nightmares, he remembers what it’s like to lose control, to not even have the chance to regain it.
Chapter 9: I is for Isolde
Isolde was a dedication. She sat at Eamon’s side all the hours that he could not. She rarely slept, or ate and without Connor to attend, or occupy, she neglected all else but the chair that had been arranged at Eamon’s beside. Sometimes he found her stretched out beside Eamon in the bed, those were the times she slept... when she was pressed to her husband’s side even though he did not stir or wake; she worried enough for them both.
Her prayers could be heard from the hall in the dim light of evening when the people of Redcliffe would be congregated below in the chantry. Eamon’s bedroom became a holy ground in her eyes, a place for prayer and contemplation, where his name entwined with pleas to the Maker and Andraste. Teagan rarely joined his voice with hers, but her prayers went with him throughout each day they waited for the Warden to return.
Isolde had always been an oddity to Teagan. A Orleasian girl that had spent more time in Redcliffe than she had in Orlais. A woman younger than her brother by many years which was not in itself odd, but that had something- a closeness, a bond- something Teagan had never really experienced. He wasn’t jealous of his brother or his wife’s affections, but it shed a light on Isolde that he’d never seen before. She was beautiful in the firelight at his brother’s bedside. It was the intensity of her dedication, of her love.
Teagan could only hope to know what that was like someday. To find a woman that would sit at his bedside if he was sick, that would prayer for him and with him, that would love him so completely.