Four Ways to Avoid Exile
Way One: Avoiding Miscommunication
Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Age.
Prince Trian Aeducan was understandably disgruntled to be awoken at three o'clock the morning of the big expedition to the Aeducan Thaig. The main purpose for the outing, of course, was to start off his sibling's career as commander. Knowing Aunn, her time as a commander would go either very, very well or very, very badly and he was rather hoping for the latter. Partly this was because Aunn's success as commander would move her ever closer to the Aeducan throne while her failure would surely hurt her position and partly because she had just picked his lock and was shutting the door behind her.
"What are you doing here at this Ancestor-forsaken hour?" Trian hissed.
"I had a question," Aunn replied innocently, moving closer.
"And this couldn't have been addressed earlier or waited until morning?" Trian demanded irritably. Aunn was fully dressed and her long blonde hair was done up in its usual braided double bun while he was still in his sleepwear and so at a clear disadvantage. At least he had a weapon or two at easy reach if it came to that, although he didn't see why it would given later that day she'd have a much better opportunity.
Aunn shook her head. "If I had waited until morning there may not have been time and I could not guarantee that Bhelen wouldn't find a way to hear about this and that would ruin everything."
" 'Ruin everything'?" Trian echoed. Bhelen had thoughtfully informed him that Aunn was planning treachery and today at the Thaig would be the perfect time to pull it off. At least one of his siblings understood their place. "So, what? Do you intend to kill me now? It would have worked better had you not woken me first."
Aunn drew back, surprised. "Do I intend to kill you now? Of course not! For one thing the guards are all well-trained and loyal so it would have had to have been an inside job and so that would just be careless…"
"I'm not hearing anything about how you would never even remotely think about killing me," Train noted dryly.
Aunn's smile was mocking. "I have no intentions of killing you, big brother, nor have I ever or will ever be so inclined. Do you feel safer now?"
"Oddly enough, no," Trian replied. "So if it's not blood you've come for then why are you here?"
Aunn rolled her eyes. "I told you. I needed to talk to you before the expedition and I needed to do it without Bhelen hearing about it."
"Fine. Talk," Trian ordered. He didn't trust this but he'd be a fool to send her away without attempting to see what she was planning, especially given her newly revealed fratricidal intentions.
"I'm sure by now that Bhelen has told you that I mean to kill you," Aunn began. It wasn't a question.
Trian wasn't quite sure what to make of that. Yes, Bhelen had indeed come to him with his suspicions and given his own growing paranoia over his sister's ever-rising popularity it had seemed a legitimate possibility. Aunn outright admitting it, while he wouldn't be able to prove it and their father would never believe it of his favorite child, greatly lowered her chances of succeeding…unless she intended to act now. As strange as it may have seemed, he was actually inclined to believe her when she said her intentions weren't murderous at the moment. After all, she had a point about the guards and unless she intended to slaughter a few of them as well to make it look like a very skilled assassin had been sent from outside…well, it could conceivably be done but waiting until the expedition seemed both easier and more practical. Unless, of course, she was counting on that so people wouldn't think she was involved. Still, all of this was so very complicated and it was far too early so it was best to just keep his guard up and find out where Aunn was going with this. "Do you?"
"I certainly told him that I did," Aunn declared. "And even though you've been half-suspecting that of me for weeks, the fact you don't seem surprised means that he went running straight to you, which is definitely interesting."
"Why would that be 'interesting'?" Trian asked, wishing she would just get to the point already. By the Stone, he knew he wouldn't be getting back to sleep anytime soon after this conversation but there was plenty to do before the expedition anyway.
"Are you at all curious as to why Bhelen and I were talking about me killing you?" Aunn shot back. "And yes, we were talking about it as I certainly would not be so careless as to discuss something like that where he or anyone else could happen to overhear it."
"I had assumed that you were attempting to seek his support," Trian replied. He hadn't believed she had been that careless but Bhelen was very good at remaining unnoticed. It was rather surreal that they were discussing her plot to murder him so calmly in the middle of the night after she'd broken into his room and could still decide to put her plan into action before leaving. Not, of course, that he'd make it easy for her and if he died now Bhelen would know what happened. If she silenced Bhelen as well then even their father couldn't deny what happened. Not, most likely, that it would be for lack of trying.
"And he promised it to me," Aunn confirmed. "Which isn't to say that he meant it and as it happens I'm certain that he didn't."
"If you didn't think he'd support you and you clearly suspected he would warn me, why broach the subject at all?" Trian asked reasonably. "Or did you expect his support and realized when you confided in him that you had been mistaken?"
"That's just it," Aunn said triumphantly. "I didn't bring it up. He did."
That was unexpected, to say the least. "Are you honestly trying to tell me that Bhelen outright asked you if you were planning to murder me?" Trian asked incredulously, raising an eyebrow. "That seems a little risky, don't you think? And hardly the sort of behavior one would expect out of someone who has spent years avoiding trouble."
"That would be because he didn't ask me about my intentions," Aunn clarified. "At least, not at first."
Trian waited for her to go on but clearly she was waiting for him to ask her about it. Sighing, he complied if only to move this rather unconventional meeting along. "What happened at first?"
Aunn practically beamed at him. "So glad you asked. Our little brother told me he was worried about me."
"And more to the point he was worried about your fratricidal tendencies?" Trian couldn't resist adding.
Aunn shook her head, a little amused. "As it happens, no. He was concerned about yours."
That stopped him. "Mine? I am the heir here so as long as you remember that and don't try to usurp the throne we won't have problems."
"He said that you felt threatened by my popularity and that since you had no intention of stepping aside and just letting me rule-" Aunn went on as if she hadn't heard him.
"Which I don't," Trian cut in.
"That you might take…aggressive measures," Aunn finished. "Which is why I'm here."
"Do you believe him?" Trian asked, not entirely sure that he believed her.
Aunn shrugged. "I'm not sure yet but I did know he'd go running to you, which is why I told him I was planning on striking first and it's why I'm here now."
"What made you think he would tell me what you said?" Trian challenged. "And if you knew he would, why tip your hand?"
"Because I didn't tip my hand," Aunn revealed. "He did. I asked him why he was telling me this and received an unbelievable response."
Trian snorted. "What did he say? That he loved you and wished we could all just get along?"
"That could very well be true but it wouldn't mean that we would," Aunn replied. "Reasons I could have plausibly accepted include his belief that your plot would fail and he wanted me to know he wasn't involved, his belief you would make a horrible King and I a decent Queen and he was thinking of Orzammar, or the fact that if he were going to lose one sibling he would rather it be the less condescending one."
"I am not condescending," Trian insisted.
Aunn actually laughed. "Tell yourself that if you want to, Trian, but the two times I ran into you yesterday alone you basically told Gorim he wasn't worthy to speak unprompted in your presence and made it quite clear that Bhelen and I were barely worth your notice. Gorim I can understand since as a Warrior he does have a lower status but Bhelen and I are your siblings. If you don't feel a Prince and Princess of Orzammar are worth your time, that kind of means you're condescending. That is, by the way, a large part of the reason so many people have decided they'd rather see me rule than you."
Trian didn't respond to that, although it was something to consider. While being the heir to the Aeducan throne made him superior to virtually everyone by default, it might benefit him to be more subtle about that until Aunn's support died down and the crown was safely on his head. Assuming, of course, that Aunn's upcoming power play didn't leave either of them dead or exiled. "What was the reason he gave?"
"He told me that if you killed me he was concerned that he would be next," Aunn answered.
Trian scrunched his forehead. "That seems like a perfectly legitimate reason to bring my supposed fratricidal tendencies to your attention."
"Well it would," Aunn conceded. "If it weren't for the fact that this is Bhelen claiming that you might see him as a threat. I'm not stupid and I see how you two interact. You act like you have to stop him from eating the paste; there's no way he could ever believe that you would see him as a threat."
Trian had to admit that the idea of Bhelen, of all people, being dangerous was rather ridiculous. Still, he had to ask. "What are you suggesting?"
"I think that he intends to screw me over," Aunn announced. "Or you. Probably both of us."
"Bhelen?" Trian really couldn't help the incredulity in his tone. He could more easily imagine Lord Harrowmont attempting to usurp the throne than their unremarkable little brother. "Really?"
"Really," Aunn confirmed. "You know what they say, right? That it's always the quiet ones? That's because if it were easy to believe that Bhelen would pull something like this then it would never work."
She kept dancing around the issue. "Pull something like what?" Trian pressed.
"He told me that he suspected you would try to kill me and then once I made mention of killing you first he ran and told you. He obviously thought I was amenable to the idea or else he never would have risked approaching me. Now if both of us think the other one is going to try and kill us, our interests seem to be mutually exclusive, and we've never been all that fond of each other in the first place what happens when we're virtually alone in the Aeducan Thaig later today?" Aunn might have phrased it like a question but they both knew the answer.
"One of us will probably die," Trian supplied.
"Which of us probably doesn't matter but you know I'm better in a fight," Aunn declared. "Then, when Bhelen's reasonably sure that one of us has killed the other, he tells Father something about how he thinks that the two of us – or maybe just me – are going to settle our differences violently. If he can reach us in time then he'll have one of us dead and the other exiled for kinslaying."
The annoying thing was that that did sound plausible…if the supposed mastermind was anyone but Bhelen. Honestly, he was still a child not even a year ago! "So you think Bhelen's trying to manipulate us into taking ourselves out of the way and leaving him a clear path to the throne? You seem to be forgetting, sister, that Bhelen's not the type. He's far too interested in pleasure and childish tricks than in pulling a political coup of that magnitude."
"I'll admit that his behavior in regards to that casteless girl – Rica, if I'm not mistaken – is rather unusual," Aunn said slowly, "but that's really more his allergies than anything else and should his plan succeed he'll be King and he can be as obvious about her as he wants."
"He'll outgrow that 'allergy' to tradition soon enough," Trian theorized. "His lack of appreciation really speaks more of his immaturity than any defining character trait."
"I'm not so sure," Aunn disagreed. "But that will really only come into play if we allow ourselves to be manipulated so easily. That other point you brought up, about his being more interested in childish tricks? Do you mean tricks like informing that messenger that the quickest way to get something to me was through you?"
Trian's eyes narrowed. "How do you know about that?"
Aunn shrugged. "I ran into that merchant earlier today and he told me that you threw his messenger out. Oh, and when you left Bhelen and I alone in your room after my feast which you couldn't be bothered to attend despite chastising me earlier for taking too long to get there-"
"I had more important things to do than listen to Father and the others fawn over you," Trian interrupted.
Aunn stared at him. "You were just talking to Bhelen in your room!"
"Like I said, I had more important things to do," Trian repeated wryly. "But you were saying?"
"Right. After you left and Bhelen 'warned' me about your intentions, I totally read your journal before leaving," Aunn told him shamelessly.
"…Why?!?!" Trian demanded.
"Why not?" Aunn asked rhetorically. "I am rather nosy, in case you didn't notice. How else do you think I knew who Rica was? I ran into her when I was snooping around Bhelen's room and despite the fact that she had his permission to be in there and I had no right to be, she apologized for her presence and left. I found a love letter from her – or at least I think it was her – and it was really disturbing. It mostly consisted of her talking about unworthy she was and how amazing Bhelen was for even noticing she existed."
"Well, she is casteless," Trian pointed out.
"I know, but still. I can't imagine ever even thinking I'm that far beneath anybody let alone communicating that," Aunn countered, shaking her head in bewilderment. "But I do have to ask you: if you were that impressed by Gorim's loyalty than why in the world were you so rude to him earlier?"
"Because he spoke to me when I was talking to you," Trian replied as if it were obvious. "I am the heir to the throne and even if he is your second, he's still just a warrior."
Aunn rolled her eyes. "No, not condescending at all…"
"Did you have a point about the messenger?" Trian asked tiredly. Aunn never did like to say on topic.
Aunn started. "Oh, him. Yes, Bhelen telling him to take the matter to you might have just been his questionable humor or it might have been something more. I understand why the messenger presuming to ask you to pass something along to me pissed you off; it implied that I had a higher status than you and given the way people have been talking lately about making me Queen it would be doubly offensive. Bhelen's been doing that a lot lately, I've noticed, subtly trying to convince you that I'm a threat to you."
"Are you saying you're not?" Trian asked skeptically.
Aunn snorted. "I've been a threat to you from the moment I was born no matter how I turned out."
"So you think that Bhelen's been trying to turn our…difficult relationship murderous so he can get us both out of the way and become King after Father passes?" Trian summarized. "That sounds highly unlikely, especially considering it involves Bhelen being a ruthless mastermind."
"I know you're having difficulty believing he's capable of that," Aunn acknowledged. "I've been saying he was an evil mastermind for years but no one else seems to have noticed. Are you really willing to risk it either way?"
"I suppose not," Trian conceded. "Why are you telling me this? You know that putting me on guard against Bhelen won't lessen my suspicion of you and surely if you are correct about our little brother you could find a way not to be implicated in my death. Don't you want to be Queen?"
Aunn laughed. "What I want is to run off and be a Grey Warden but Father would never allow it – and believe me, I've tried my hand at convincing him – and I am not willing to give up House Aeducan and Orzammar in order to join them like allowing myself to be exiled would require. Since I am not willing to make that sacrifice, I simply cannot sit back and watch Bhelen's plan come to fruition."
"But surely with me out of the way-" Trian started to say. He thinks her mind is already made up to try and kill him or else he wouldn't risk talking her into attempting fratricide; he just wants answers.
"He wouldn't do something so bold if he wasn't absolutely certain that he had all the variables covered," Aunn cut him off. "Everyone's pretty much agreed that unless something unthinkable happens either you or I will take the throne. If one of us dies, it will naturally fall to the other one. Surely Bhelen must have taken steps to avoid this. If he hasn't been planning this for some time and managed to bribe the right people, I would be shocked."
"So that's your interest," Trian realized. "It's not that you're opposed to killing me, you just don't want to get caught and exiled to further Bhelen's plans."
"There's no point in telling you I'm not out to kill you," Aunn said exasperatedly. "As no matter how sincere or insincere I was you'd never believe me. And yes, that's exactly it. The responsibility for keeping you alive falls to you and if you can't manage on your own that it's a pretty clear sign that you wouldn't last long as King. Still, I will not allow myself to be manipulated by my younger brother and so believe what you will about me or about him, just for the love of all that is good in this world be careful today. Don't trust Bhelen without reservation and fully expect someone, anyone, to try and take you down." With that, she turned to go.
"I can hardly believe any of this," Trian confessed. "But say you're right and you really have no intention of seeing me die today. What then?"
Aunn stopped with her hand on the doorknob. "What then?" she echoed without turning around. "If you listen to me and we both make it through the day unscathed then we go back to the way things have been and just see what happens when Father dies."
With that she was gone and Trian was left pondering what to do. The very idea of Bhelen being a threat was laughable but when it came right down to it he wasn't willing to stake his life on it. He didn't trust Aunn, had never trusted her in fact, but if she truly did believe her own story then he supposed she would react like this and decide to take care of the obstacle he represented later.
When it came right down to it, the details didn't matter. There was really only one thing he could do. One thing he did do.