13 years before Ostagar
(Author's Disclaimer/Note: Bioware owns the game which provides the inspiration.
Duncan experiences strange visions while trying to fulfill a promise to keep an eye on King Maric's illegitimate son. When Teyrn Cousland and his family visit, Duncan's visions only continue and evolve leaving Duncan to wonder what if it was he was experiencing was due to the taint or something more.
Duncan put on the scribe robes and inspected himself in front of the mirror. He kept reminding himself that his name was Scribe Mathias when he was at Redcliffe. It was the only way he could fulfill the promise he made years ago. A few times a year he would travel to Redcliffe to check on Alistair; King Maric's illegitimate child. This time however, he could barely contain his anger over Alistair's treatment. Arl Eamon married a young Orlesian woman who resented Alistair's presence to the point where he was not even allowed to sleep in the servant's quarters. He was relegated to the loft above the stables. Eamon defended his actions saying it was to keep Alistair's identity a secret but Duncan also felt the Arl's common sense became blinded by his lust for that Orlesian woman. Fortunately some of the knights and Eamon's brother, Teagan took pity on Alistair and made it a point of looking out for him when he was not around. Teagan even found a chest for him to keep his clothes and belongings and Duncan was relieved when Eamon insisted that Alistair be educated by the scribes, so Duncan would come to Redcliffe masquerading as a visiting colleague of another scribe.
The visions started as soon as he first met Alistair. Duncan had called out to Alistair who was hiding behind a bale of hale and when he came out, he saw the image of a young man standing before him with the same reddish brown hair and mischievous grin. In the beginning he dismissed the vision as being an annoying effect of the taint but he remembered his mother's gift of foresight and wondered if he had inherited the trait.
The visions were brief and were mostly images of things that made little to no sense. He would see Alistair as a young man; sometimes in Templar garb or the other times he would see him in regular armor fighting darkspawn. There was even one troubling dream he had where he saw an older version of himself giving orders to the grown up Alistair and an unfamiliar young woman. What disturbed him the most in that dream was seeing that older version of himself. Duncan understood and accepted his duty and fate as a Gray Warden but the dream of seeing himself at the age where The Calling was slowly approaching was still unnerving to him.
The one consolation of these visions and dreams was how they offered a brief respite from the darkspawn nightmares so Duncan did not let them bother him and at times he even found them fascinating.
Duncan looked at Alistair and smiled. For having such a tumultuous upbringing Alistair was a kind hearted little boy who was very bright and loved to laugh. He also had a vivid imagination which Duncan figured Alistair used to compensate for being alone.
Something was happening today however that Duncan hoped would temporarily take away some of Alistair's loneliness. Teryn Cousland was bringing his family to Redcliffe where they would stay for a month while he attended to political affairs with the Arl. Redcliffe was beautiful during the summer months and the Arl wanted his new wife to get to know some of the other nobles. Teryn Cousland was held in high regard at the Landsmeet and the Arl hoped his affluence would soften the view people held toward Orlais. Teryn Cousland had two children; a son named Fergus who was a few years older than Alistair and a daughter named Marabeth who was a couple of years younger. Duncan hoped Alistair would warm up to them. He felt Alistair needed to be around children his own age and hoped this would be good for him.
"Mathias what are we going to do today?" Alistair asked him eagerly.
"How about we go the shore, make stick boats and see which one can float the furthest?"
"Okay." Alistair smiled.
Duncan sat on the ground by the shore and watched as Alistair picked up pieces of broken tree branches they would use for their boats.
He turned to see Arl Eamon standing next to man who was holding the hand of a little girl.
"I'd like to introduce you to Teyrn Cousland." Arl Eamon said. "And this is his lovely little girl, Marabeth."
"It's an honor to meet you Teryn Cousland." He bowed.
"Thank you." The Teryn smiled.
"Pup, this is Mathias." The Teryn said. "He is a scribe like Aldous."
Marabeth smiled and curtsied before him. Marabeth was a pretty little girl with dark brown hair and she had the most vibrant green eyes Duncan had ever seen.
An image of the same young woman he saw with Alistair in one his previous visions suddenly flashed before him.
"I thought it would be nice for Alistair to meet her." The Arl said.
Duncan watched as Marabeth let go of her father's hand and run towards Alistair who immediately shied away from her at first. She reached in the little basket she was holding and took out a cookie and held it out to him.
Alistair hesitantly reached out and took it from her.
"Bryce, she is absolutely adorable." Eamon said. "I just wish Isolde could have been here to see that."
"She's my darling girl." Bryce beamed.
"Mathias, I told Bryce you would not mind watching Marabeth when you're with Alistair."
"Not at all." He said. "I'm sure they will become good friends. I've been teaching Alistair about nature."
"Oh my daughter loves nature alright." Bryce laughed. "She loves it so much that she picked up this odd ability to attract animals so don't be surprised to see some of the wildlife around here follow you around."
"How intriguing." He said.
"My daughter's ability is source consternation for my wife however." Bryce chuckled. "So please don't mention it when you meet her."
"Yes your Lordship." He said. "Don't you have a son as well?"
"Fergus is with Teagan." Bryce explained. "I suspect that you won't be seeing him that much as this trip will be an opportunity for him to not be around his sister so much. Marabeth does enjoy pestering him."
He looked at Alistair and Marabeth. She had divided her cookies with him and they were laughing. It warmed Duncan's heart to see Alistair look so happy.
"Would you look at that Bryce?" Eamon laughed. "Six years old and already one young lad is enraptured by her."
"Don't remind me." Bryce chuckled. "I'm already dreading the moment when she stops calling me Papa and starts calling me Father and thinking of all the future noblemen who will want to gain my favor to court her is another nightmare altogether."
The next morning during breakfast, Duncan watched with amusement as Isolde made conversation with Teyrna Cousland. It was quite obvious by the Teyrna's curt replies that she did not care for Isolde. And she absolutely detested the Orlesian designed little girl dresses that she presented to Marabeth.
"This dress is not appropriate for going outdoors." The Teyrna said. "Its far too…elegant. It will be saved for special occasions."
She turned to see Isolde smile. "Of course your Ladyship.
Duncan smiled at the Teyrna. She was different than most of the noblewomen he encountered and could honestly say he liked her.
"So what are you doing today Mathias?" She asked him.
"I was thinking of having a picnic with Alistair and Marabeth where I would teach them some history about the area."
"Marvelous." Teyrna Cousland said. "I must thank you for allowing Marabeth to come along. She can be a handful."
"It is no problem your Ladyship." He told her. "Alistair enjoys her company and it appears she has an eagerness to learn."
"If you start to see any….creatures of the woods follow her around, please tell her she is not to do that. " The Teyrna said.
"I will your Ladyship." He promised.
Duncan was secretly eager to see Marabeth do this. He knew many rogues who could exploit nature to their advantage. If she possessed the ability at such an early age then she was truly gifted.
That afternoon as Duncan walked along the wooded path with Alistair and Marabeth, he saw some raccoons in the brush,
"Marabeth; can you show me how you talk to the animals?" He asked her.
"Papa and Mama will be mad." She frowned.
"I promise not to tell them." He told her. "It will be our secret. Wouldn't you like to show Alistair?"
"You promise?" She asked him
"I promise." He smiled at her.
He watched as Marabeth slowly crept towards the raccoons. Duncan was amazed at how quiet her movements were. She sat on the ground and held out her hands toward them, a few moments later one of them slowly approached her and sniffed her hand. Marabeth got up and the raccoon followed her.
"Wow!" Alistair was amazed by what he saw. "Its like magic."
An image suddenly came to Duncan's mind; it was of that young woman fighting alongside a wolf.
"Why don't you two go off and play for a bit." He said
Duncan took out his book, his quill and some ink from his pack and wrote Marabeth's name down.
"This taint has either affected my mind or you are an incredible little girl Marabeth Cousland."
Duncan knew he would eventually be recruiting and as he watched Alistair and Marabeth play, there was just something about them that gave him this feeling he could not explain. Perhaps he was wrong but there would be no harm in remembering to look up Marabeth when she reaches adulthood.
"Alistair." Duncan said. "Don't you want to say goodbye to Marabeth? She is leaving today."
"No!" Alistair angrily threw his clothes across the loft instead of putting them away.
Duncan felt sad for Alistair. Marabeth and her family were returning to Highever today and Alistair would be alone again. This past month brought the most joy Alistair has ever seen in his nearly nine years.
"Alistair, its not Marabeth's fault she is leaving. Its simply time for her to go home with her family."
"Alright." Alistair said grudgingly. "I'll say goodbye."
"You're a good boy." Duncan told him.
As they came out of the stables, they saw Marabeth running towards them; her father trying desperately to keep up.
She stopped in front of Alistair and looked at him.
"Goodbye Marabeth." He said sadly.
Duncan watched as a sweet smile formed on Marabeth's face as she curtsied before him and suddenly without hesitation, she kissed Alistair on the cheek then rushed back toward her father who picked her up.
Bryce chuckled at his daughter's sudden bashfulness.
"Goodbye Alistair." He said. Bryce then turned to Duncan. "It was a pleasure to meet you Mathias. If you ever happen to venture to Highever please do not hesitate to visit us, you will be more than welcomed."
"Thank you your Lordship." He bowed.
Duncan watched him as he headed back in the direction of the coaches. He then looked at Alistair who was touching the spot on his cheek where Marabeth had kissed him. He would definitely be visiting Highever one day.