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K is for King

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There was something about Redcliffe and their meetings with Arl Eamon that always seemed to cause the most of their arguments. She knew he hated it here; hated walking through the castle and the memories it brought back, and she doubted he missed the way Lady Isolde looked at him.

And then there were Arl Eamon’s plans.

She hadn’t meant to agree with the arl outright, not in front of every single person in the hall. She’d planned to talk with Alistair about it first, to carefully introduce the plan she’d been formulating since their first visit to this place. But Eamon, Maker damn him, had pushed her — he’d put her on the spot, and how she disliked him for it.

She knew Alistair was furious with her. He’d barely spoken a word to her since their meeting with the arl, and even hours later on the road he walked ahead by himself with a stiff posture and a cold silence that was impossible to miss.

Not a good sign.

Eilin jogged ahead of the others to catch up to him, calling out his name. He didn’t look back; scowling, she grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him to a stop.

He turned quicker than she expected, forcing her to take an awkward step backwards. Her first instinct was to laugh it off, but the expression on his face startled her.

"I don’t want to talk to you right now."

His tone was clipped and terse, and it made the struggle to keep her temper all the more difficult. She kept a light pressure on his wrist; not that he would feel it through the armour, of course. It was purely force of habit that kept her fingers on his pulse point.

"I know you’re angry—"

"Am I?" he snapped. "I can’t imagine why.”

Eilin gave him a withering look. “Uh-huh. Just…listen to me for a moment. I know this is about what happened with Arl Eamon. I’m sorry, but —”

"Oh, you’re sorry! Well, isn’t that good to know. Really, I feel so much better."

Well. Evidently Alistair’s sarcastic streak wasn’t just for his jokes. Eilin stepped a little closer to him, shooting a quick glance over her shoulder. The others were fast catching up, and they didn’t need to see this.

"I didn’t want to just announce it," she said quietly. "The arl left me no choice."

"No choice?" Alistair scoffed, and finally pulled his hand away. "No, I’m not accepting that. You could have spoken for me, or— or told Eamon that I don’t want to be king." His face twisted in anger. "Instead you supported him."

"In his own hall along with his brother and men in attendance!" she responded heatedly. "What else was I supposed to say? You know we need his support."

"But not to make me king!" He was shouting now, voice raised loud enough for the rest of their party to hear. "I never wanted that. You know I didn’t, so don’t pretend otherwise!"

"You think this is all about you?" Eilin shot back. "Grow up, Alistair! I’m trying to do what’s best for everyone. And as you made the decision to let me lead-"

"Yes, well, that’s one thing I’m starting to regret," he said quietly.

She could never hide her emotions from him, nor he from her - they knew each other far too well. She knew he regretted the words the instant they were out of his mouth.

They still hurt.

She lifted her chin, lips pressed into a hard line and brows in an angry frown, stepping back from him. “I see.”

Regret and stubbornness warred on his expression, but finally, he reached for her. “Eilin, I’m-“

"No," she interrupted. She swallowed hard, biting back the impulse to lash out with harsh words. "Don’t. You’ve said it; don’t think you can take it back."

This time she was the one who turned away.