A/N: For Crisium.
He is fourteen, but his brother is already talking of marrying him off. He has been Arl Eamon for fifteen days, and Teagan has been Bann of Rainsfere for only twelve, but already there are marriage proposals from third-and-fourth daughters of nobles, begging an audience with him. As Eamon sighs as the latest batch of names gets thrown on the fire, Teagan sulks.
"Not even a fortnight," he mutters, and his brother rolls his eyes.
"It is a responsibility you have now, you know. To provide an heir to make the Bannorn strong." He looks up at the youth, barely two weeks into the duties that he himself had held not long before. "Your life is no longer yours, but Ferelden's to command." Teagan turns towards the fire, watching the name of a noble house - it could be Cousland, but he is unsure - go up in flames.
"I never asked for it."
"And I never asked for Father to die in aid of freeing this country from the Orlesians and leave me in charge of you, but life goes on," snaps Eamon, thoroughly annoyed. "You'll do as is asked of you, brother, and mind you don't sully the name of Guerrein whilst I'm gone." With that, he sweeps out of the room in a manner that his father would have been proud of. Teagan sighs, running a hand through his auburn hair. Eamon was to leave tomorrow, his first official posting as Arl of Redcliffe - a mission of peace and goodwill to Orlais. And he, not twelve days into his new life, was to look after Redcliffe, greet an envoy from their brother-in-law, Maric, and.. entertain ladies. Maker preserve us, he thinks, and never more fervently has he prayed.
They giggle and swoon and he tires of them far too easily. Not one amongst them thinks for herself, he realises, as he escorts the fourth daughter of Sighard out of the castle. A girl who has her own opinions and thoughts - is that too much to ask for? Apparently so, he grouses, as he waves the lady on her way. Turning on his heel, he stops at the sight of a woman leaning against the archway, a small smile on her face.
"My lord," she says, inclining her head. He is stunned to silence at her appearance. Wearing tight trousers and a loose-fitting blouse with curled hair bundled up behind her head, she looks every bit the rogue and nothing like any female he has ever seen. At her hip lies a sword, from first glance a quick flighty blade, probably of Antivan origin. Her stance is tense, and he recognises a fighter behind those steely eyes, but.. he can barely believe it. He has not seen a strong woman since his sister left to fight the good fight, and he can scarcely believe that one stands in front of him. She grins suddenly, performing a perfect courtier's bow, and he feels a strange sensation creep across his skin - a desire to know this woman, to fall into an adventure and barely survive, and to run forever with this woman's hand in his - and he smiles back.
They fence, him slightly breathless and her laughter filling the courtyard. He invites her to dine, and she has perfect table manners. He feels like there is a dance and that he is one step out of sync, but then she asks him a question and his footing is all lost.
"So, Master of Rainsfere, why all the pretty ladies at your doorstep?" He splutters for a moment, before she laughs. "I merely infer, Ser, that you are still but a babe, and yet you act as though you seek a wife. It is most perplexing." He blushes deeply. "Why, I wager you've never even felt the breath of a woman upon your cheek!"
"And is that a bad trait to have? All that proves is that I am nothing if not a gentleman, surely," he insists, and she smiles kindly.
"To be a gentleman, one must first be a man," she quips, biting her steak with relish. He avoids her gaze at this, thinking hard.
"I.. do not much care for the idea of marriage. I have not even been Bann for more than two weeks." She scoffs.
"Oh, my sweet little master, do you think that it is something you are best trained for?" She leans forward, and he cannot help but mirror her. "The best rulers of men I have ever known were thrown in at the deep end. Borne of war and death, unwilling to wield the power over men that has been given to them - it is a terrible burden to bear, I know." She cups his young face. "Your power may be given through peace, but it is potent nonetheless."
"But I cannot take their lives in my hands. I should not be given such power."
"And yet you have it."
"Enough, Bann Teagan of Rainsfere." She is whispering now. "You must shed your innocence here. You are a ruler now, and there can be no room for fear in your heart. We are on the cusp of a peaceful time, but do not falter. You must be a man. And you must make your own choices," she adds, grinning suddenly, "and let your dear Arl know of this." He can feel her breath on his cheek and his body betrays the fact that he has never known a wanting like this.
"Who are you?" he dares to ask. She says nothing, but leans forward and presses her lips to his. The touch is like lightning on his skin, all heat and raw power coursing through his core, and he wants to breathe in, breathe a fresh gasp of air in a brave new world, but the minute he opens his mouth she is there, swallowing the innocence from him in soft, moist moments, her tongue encouraging him to fight back. His fingers are clumsy as they reach out to stroke her hair, but the soft fibres part underneath his touch and her breath hitches slightly. He trembles beneath her, afraid to open his eyes in the fear of a dream. And then she pulls away from him, murmuring some unknown chant, and his brain is plunged into darkness.
He awakens suddenly, his head full of uncertainty and smog. It is minutes before he realises that she is not at his side, and he scrambles to his feet, gasping for breath. In the empty hall he is alone, save for an elderly woman by the door. She smiles gently at him as he gapes.
"She is gone, boy."
"Bu-but I don't.. I don't understand. Who was she?"
"She was someone who was here when you needed to be strong, nothing more. A dream, if you will. But she is nothing now. The dreamer is done." She bows to him. He takes in her appearance, finally, eyeing the ragged clothes and messy hair that signify a life of wilderness - a Chasind, he recognises. Half-remembering murmured words, he opens his mouth to ask another question, but her eyes – her eyes, oh Maker, he will never forget them! They were her eyes!
"Wait!" She does not, striding out of the room with a wry smile, and as he reaches the door to give chase he sees only a bird take flight, leaving him alone. He sinks to his knees again, the dream of a woman's kiss still fresh on his lips, and he wonders what the woman wanted from him in the first place.
Strength, his memory reminds him. There can be no room for fear in your heart, Teagan. He nods suddenly, wiping the tears forming in his eyes.
And so it came to pass that, five months after their return to the lands of Redcliffe, Teagan truly became a Bann. As Eamon sweeps into his study, dust from the road billowing in his wake, his brother puts forward his case.
"You may be the arl to which my allegiance is strong, but I will choose my own bride in my own time."
"What? Oh, yes, of course." He is distracted, visibly shaken, and Teagan reaches out to touch his shoulder lightly.
"Oh, Teagan, did you ever see such beauty?!" he bursts suddenly, face aglow with a fresh innocence that has not been seen since before they were sent away in the Occupation. "Such grace! Such charm! Such.. oh, such passion!" His brother sighs, settling into a chair and folding his legs over each over with a resigned smile on his face, a brief thought spared for the Chasind mage who gave him strength.
"And does she have a name?"
"Isolde.. but she barely knows I exist. I must return – at once! I must make her see me!"
But Eamon was not to return this day, nor the day after, for Maric had come at last, and in his wake he leaves news of the heir, Cailan, and there is merriment in the town of Redcliffe for the security of the Theirin name.