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My thanks to the anonymous reviewers Dragon Age Fanatic and Aurelis for their wonderful reviews and encouragement.
Also thanks to everyone else who reviewed. I have tried to respond to them as they came in.
One can never have to many reviews and more attract more people to read the story so carry on and I hope to hear from you and new reviews again after this chapter. Right Onward!
Chapter Twelve: The Calm Before the Storm
Ostagar – The Kings Encampment
Alistair held the body of someone who had been one of the best friends he had ever known, despite only knowing him for a few days.
"I am sorry Aedan." Duncan said, true grief intoning his voice. "You would have been welcome amongst us and I personally will miss you."
Alistair didn't hear him. He clung to Aedan's cold body as if he could bring him back to life through sheer force of will.
"Alistair. Alistair, he is gone. You have to let him go now." Duncan said gently prizing Aedan out of Alistair's arms.
Had it been anyone else Alistair would have hit them. As it was he watched as Duncan gently laid Aedan down and closed his cold dead eyes.
Alistair let out a soul destroying scream
The vision changed smoke billowing and transporting the young Warden somewhere else. Alistair franticly looked around, he was surrounded by an army and yet he felt completely alone, the city they were in was destroyed fire ravaged the buildings. Fames consumed the city and thick black smoke billowed overhead as, overwhelmed by Darkspawn the tattered remnants of an army destroyed by civil war broke and ran in their hundreds
Alistair turned and readied his sword as an ear-splitting scream ripped through the evening sky in joyous victory. Alone and without support the Archdemon swallowed him whole.
Alistair awoke and promptly smashed his head on one of the tent supports as he bolted upright.
Holding in obscenities Alistair quickly pealed off the thin blanket which had stuck to his chest due to the cold sweat and rushed over to the main bed of Duncan's tent that the Warden Commander had donated.
Pale and drawn Aedan looked incredibly fragile in the evening light but he was still breathing and a weak pulse fluttered under Alistair's fingers.
Breathing a sigh of relief. Alistair tiptoed back to his own cot to dry his torso and hair which were matted in the cold sweat from his nightmare.
He never got the chance. No sooner had he started drying his hair with the towel then the flap was quickly lifted and King Cailan ducked into the tent.
Startled and facing one of the few people he wanted desperately to and not to see Alistair was thrown on to the defensive. He crossed his arms and stared at the King. "Your Majesty, is there something I can do for you?" Alistair asked with barely contained hostility.
"I've come to see how he is." Cailan answered quietly choosing to ignore Alistair's anger He has plenty of reason for it after all.
"Come to see Aedan? Or come to see your spare Therin?" Alistair asked disbelievingly.
"Both." Calian answered truthfully stunning Alistair into silence as he moved to check on Aedan. Kneeling down the King found the same things Alistair had, deathly pale complexion, shallow breathing and a weak, fluttering pulse. "How is he?"
"The Joining is often fatal your majesty, it was fatal for the two other recruits. Aedan is fighting valiantly but his reaction to the ritual was still one of the worst that has been seen that has not resulted in almost instant death."
Cailan's left hand tightened into a fist as he leaned in, his right hand however was gentle and caring as he brushed Aedan's hair to the side, clearing the matted mess out of his eyes.
Jealousy and anger flared in Alistair. He has had everything! Is he going to take my friend from me as well? "One of your conquests?" Alistair sneered making sure he directed the contempt in his voice at Cailan and not Aedan.
Cailan whipped round anger etched on his features but he swiftly regained control. "No." the King answered shortly using his best intimidating stare.
A stare that had absolutely no effect on Alistair. "So if any of the knights in the army fall ill can they expect a royal visit as well or just the ones who have royal bastards as guards?"
Cailan simply gave Alistair a weak smile as he moved to check on Aedan once more. "Aedan's mother Eleanor Cousland was the only person who could comfort me on the death of my own mother. His father was a good friend and a loyal advisor. I owe them both but I failed to protect them from Arl Howe when they needed my support the most. I will not fail them by letting their son and the last of their line die while I live."
The passion behind the Kings words left Alistair in no doubt of their truthfulness and he felt a little of the anger drain out of him. "If he makes it through the night he will recover."
Cailan nodded. He ran a hand over Aedan's forehead one last time before standing and looking sheepishly at Alistair. "You know this is the first time we've spoken when both of us know we are brothers." He said awkwardly.
Alistair's fury returned full force and this time he let it out. "HOW DARE YOU!" Alistair screamed as loud as he could throwing whatever came to hand at Cailan. "HOW DARE YOU STAND THERE AND SAY THAT! YOU TOOK EVERYTHING FROM ME!" Inside the burning desire to be cradled and loved that had been with Alistair all his life exploded as if oil had been thrown on a camp fire.
I am so glad that I told the guards not to enter no matter what happened, they might have thought he was trying to kill me and arrested him. Cailan thought to himself as he ducked and a washbowl flew past his head. Cailan simply took the accusations and objects that Alistair threw at him, they were all deserved and he didn't hold any of them against his little brother.
Alistair finally slid down against the wall of the tent, physically and emotionally spent. His eyes were misty as he was barely holding back tears.
Cailan crouched down and sat next to him. "Alistair." He began quietly. "All of what you said was true. But I do love you and I've done my best to help you over the years." Cailan pressed a worn leather bound diary into Alistair's shaking hands. "Everything I've ever thought or done that has something to do with you is in here. If you want you can read it and then we can talk more after the battle."
Alistair looked down at the diary in his hands. His mind told him that it was just going to be yet another disappointment but his heart screamed for even the barest shred of love that may be hidden within its pages. He nodded slightly to Cailan.
Cailan sighed. "I have to go before I am missed. I love you Alistair, if you believe nothing else believe that." Cailan squeezed Alistair's shoulder before slipping out of the tent. He wanted nothing more than to take his baby brother in his arms and let him sob his heart out but he recognised that Alistair wasn't ready for that yet. When he is though I will be there and I will try to make up for the rest of our family. The more I see of him the more I think I would have broken under such a life. Father do you know that if you were hoping for a strong leader you discarded the wrong son? No matter. I will show Alistair the love he deserves. He is my brother and nothing and no one will change that, not even your wishes father. You may have been right in most things but you were wrong in this.
With Cailan's departure Alistair reluctantly got up and put the diary in his pack, despite his hearts pleading and desperate desire for Cailan's words to be true he just wasn't ready to face it just yet. Straighting up he looked over at the cot and started when he realised that Aedan was awake.
"Well the view's brilliant but the pain I could do without." Aedan coughed out weakly.
Alistair was confused until he looked down and realised he was still wearing his leggings and nothing else. He fled to his chest and franticly pulled on the first tunic he could find blushing madly.
"Why Alistair I never knew that your blush went that far down." Aedan teased gently.
Alistair growled good naturedly and pushed Aedan's head back down onto the pillow. "You need to rest, your still very weak."
Aedan nodded as his eyes fluttered closed. Even the short bantering session had drained him. "You should read it." he whispered so tiredly Alistair almost missed it.
"Read what?" Alistair questioned
"The diary, you should read it." Aedan repeated.
Alistair blushed but realised that he wasn't to upset that Aedan had witnessed his breakdown. "I guess it was a little difficult to sleep through." He joked before turning serious again. "I'm not sure I can, not alone. I can't take another disappointment."
"Well then. I'll read it with you, then we can be disappointed together."
Alistair never told Aedan how that simple offer of support and friendship had finally overwhelmed him and turned misty eyes into full blown sobs of both pain and happiness. Aedan had finally fallen back to sleep and in the evening light Alistair finally dared to hope that the total of people who loved him had advanced from one to three.