This four shot story was written in response to the pride prompt for the Seven Deadly Sins Challenge on the Loghain Live Journal community. It is also is the third of a series of loosely related shorts featuring a m!Amell, that starts with Fallen Companion and continues with Aftershocks. This fic should be able to stand on it's own, but if you are wondering why Loghain is still alive to his and Amell's great surprise, it is answered in Aftershocks.
In his long and varied life, Loghain had never experienced anything as undignified as sitting in his shirt and small clothes on a bed in Denerim's most notorious brothel with a pair of meddling women inspecting his flesh. As they clucked like hens, he couldn't decide which of the pair was worse: the fussy mage with her brisk hands and sharp tongue or the Orlesian spy with her useless romantic nattering.
Leliana clapped her hands together as Wynne pealed back one of the bandages. The jagged wound ran from his ankle to his knee and was still red and puffy, but it looked much better than it had after the battle with the Archdemon. "Oh now that's a nice scar. Very dashing!"
"Yes," Loghain drawled, wondering if there would ever come a time when Leliana would string two words together that were not complete nonsense. "Perhaps I should thank the Archdemon for giving me a limp for the rest of my life."
Wynne clucked her tongue. "Oh now really, there's no reason to overreact," she said as though Loghain were an unruly boy and not a man who had seen five decades. "It is quite likely your leg will heal by the time you leave for Amaranthine, but only if you rest the way I told you." She wagged a finger at him. "You should be grateful this was your only wound, or that you even live."
Loghain grimaced, more from Wynne's admonishment than the tingling sensation of her healing magics. "More surprised than grateful, madam."
According to Riordan, Loghain should have died from dealing the killing blow to the Archdemon. It would have been a fitting way to end his life, allowing him to atone for his past mistakes and redeem himself in the eyes of both the daughter and the nation that he loved. The last thing Loghain had expected was to wake up after the battle. It must have been the last thing Amell had expected too, as the mage's shock at Loghain's continued existence had mirrored Loghain's own chagrin.
And yet, here he was.
Loghain had no idea what had gone wrong, but he suspected the new warden commander did from the dark look on his face whenever the subject was broached. But whatever had happened, Marcus Amell remained tight-lipped. No amount of pushing would convince the man to take Loghain into his confidence, and being kept out of the information loop was deeply galling for the man who had been the center of Ferelden politics, strategy and defense for the last thirty years.
"The Maker must have further plans for you," Leliana said.
"More likely the Maker was having a good laugh at my expense," he grumbled.
That cynical thought actually seemed to disturb the girl. "Oh, no! The Maker loves all of his children."
She drew breath, no doubt to in order to fuel more of her cheerfully pious heresy, but Loghain was no mood to listen to her prattle. He cut her off before she could speak. "You must have more important things to do than preach to me, like taking care of your ridiculous nug."
Leliana waved a dismissive hand, but thankfully rose. "Oh, Schmooples is fine. The girls are taking care of him for me, but I should go see if Sanga needs more help with the crowds."
The relief the bard's exit brought was marred by the irritation of the situation they were currently in. Loghain's frowned as door closed behind the bard. "People are still requesting to see the Warden Commander?"
Wynne nodded. "There's a line out the front door and around the block. Sanga and the girls are doing what they can to control the chaos, but the crowds grow every day."
Once word had gotten out that the grey warden who'd saved Ferelden was staying at the Pearl, crowds had started appearing. Some brought gifts. Some wanted the Warden Commander to bless their children or hoped his magics would cure their diseases. Others wanted him to help them sort out their petty squabbles. Many came to volunteer to join the ranks of the grey wardens. Unfortunately from what Loghain had seen, very few were actually skilled enough to be useful.
Loghain scowled. "This wouldn't be a problem if we were in the keep where we belong."
Which was impossible as the very first order of the newly minted king was to bar Loghain from setting foot there ever again. Amell had commandeered the Pearl as their base of operations out of necessity, since after the battle for the city there weren't many buildings left standing in Denerim large and sturdy enough to for a makeshift headquarters. Loghain wondered how much gold Amell had paid Sanga to keep her and the girls relatively happy. Probably a small fortune.
"True." Wynne fixed him with the pointed glare she sent his way every blasted day. She discarded the dirty bandage and applied a clean poultice and wrap to his leg wound. "But then I cannot say I blame Alistair for his decision."
"Of course you can't," Loghain snapped. As far as Loghain could tell, Wynne was incapable of blaming Maric's bastard for anything. "But I can. He is acting like a sullen child and now my daughter is forced to humiliate herself by visiting her father at a brothel."
Wynne's voice was both wry and unsympathetic. "Anora is quite resilient. Besides, it is good you are not at the keep. Alistair and Anora need time to learn how to live and work with one another. Your presence would only drive a wedge between them before they even get married." Wynne rose and smoothed out her robes. "Now as for you, you need to keep off that leg as much as possible, or I will be forced to pay you another visit, and I don't believe either one of us wants that."
"That won't be necessary. I'm certain my daughter will have more important things for her newest adviser to do."
"It puts Anora at ease to know that her father is well, which considering how much is resting on her shoulders is not an inconsiderable thing." She straightened as she finished her work, resting her hands on her hips. "Unfortunately her father is the worst and most irresponsible patient I've ever had. You are not a young man Loghain Mac Tir. Your body needs rest in order for your wounds to heal properly. If you do not stay off that leg, next time I shall bring your daughter and you will have three women to deal with instead of two."
Loghain grunted and Wynne's lips slid into one of her irritating half serene, half self satisfied smiles as she turned and walked briskly out of the room, no doubt to nag some other poor bastard entrusted to her care.
She was gone for less than a minute when he could stand the inaction no longer. With a hiss he swung his legs over the bed and reached for his trousers and boots. Laying about for the good part of the last two weeks had nearly driven him mad, and he had no intention of following her instructions. But when his leg buckled when he stood and put his weight on it, he reached under the bed for the walking stick he'd hidden under the bed.
Satisfied that he wasn't going to embarrass himself by falling on his face in the middle of the hallway, he half stomped, half hobbled out of the room and down the corridor to where the new warden commander had set up his study.
By the time Loghain had reached the end of the hallway his indignation with the pair of women and irritation with his own physical weakness had reached boiling point. Loghain didn't bother to knock, he simply burst through the door and bellowed, "Amell, I swear if those women of yours won't stop nagging me to rest, I'm going to-"
He stopped short, in both his words and his footsteps when he realized that Amell wasn't alone, and genuine pleasure twisted his scowl into something that was not quite a smile because she had finally come to see him.
"Cauthrien! They should have told me you were here."
Ser Cauthrien gaped up at him, brown eyes wide. All of the color seemed to drain from her striking face, but before Loghain could demand that she tell him what was wrong, Amell spoke. "They didn't because I was having a private meeting with her."
Amell's voice didn't rise, but it had the effect of snatching Loghain and Cauthrien's attention to the large man hunched over a too small desk. A desk stacked with such a daunting pile of vellum documents that it almost made Loghain grateful he was not in command.
But even though he owed his life to this man, even though Amell had tried to give him an honorable death, Loghain couldn't help but burn with resentment. His pride smarted as though stung by a whole swarm of wasps. Being a subordinate after being in command of so much for so long made even the most reasonable requests difficult to tolerate.
Worse, he was being put in his place in front of Cauthrien. There weren't many whose opinion he respected; Amell could have dressed him down in front of the entire Bannorn and it wouldn't have been as aggravating. Still, Loghain couldn't blame Amell; he would have done the same if a subordinate burst into his study uninvited.
Loghain frowned at Amell, but the warden commander merely looked back. After a long, awkward silence, Loghain cleared his throat and ground the bitter words out, grimacing as he spoke. "I'm afraid I'm rather accustomed to being the one behind the desk, instead of the one waiting outside the door. I will go if you wish for privacy."
Amell didn't answer. He merely turned his questioning gaze to Cauthrien, leaving the decision up to her. She hesitated, which told Loghain that she really did want to send him out of the room. A better man, a better friend, a better commander would have respected her privacy, but the worry eating at his belly from the odd way she was acting kept him rooted to the spot. He glowered down at her, silently willing her assent.
Her loyalty to him won out in the end, the way he knew that it would, the way that it had all times but one.
"No," she said, never taking her eyes off of her former commander's face. "He should stay. He would know soon anyway."
Cauthrien's words affirmed that he'd made the right choice forcing the issue. Bushy dark brows lifted over intense blue eyes as he made the demand. "Know what?"
The stubborn line of her jaw was something he'd seen countless times as she'd earned her way up the army's ranks. But having that determination directed squarely at him was an entirely new and disconcerting experience. "I've asked to join the Grey Wardens."
Loghain's eyes widened and then narrowed as his hand sliced through the air. "Absolutely not. I won't allow it."
"What I can and cannot do is not your decision anymore."
The words were quiet and spoken without malice, but nevertheless they were worse than a sword to the gut. Bitter bile clawed up the back of his throat making it difficult to speak. Loghain gestured to his new commander and growled the words out. "Then he cannot allow this!"
Amell frowned. "Why not? I know from personal experience that she is capable in a fight."
"Capable?" Loghain bristled, pulling himself up to his full height as best as he could with a weak leg. He punctuated his words with jabs from his pointing finger. "She handed your backside to you at Howe's estate, young man. Cauthrien is the best blade in Ferelden."
The mage's eyebrows rose towards the ceiling. "I'm well aware of that, Loghain."
"She's better than the grey wardens. She's to take my place as the head of the king's army. I have been training her for that since she came into my service."
Amell's brown eyes narrowed, betraying for the first time the irritation that Loghain knew must be simmering underneath the calm surface. "Not everyone is conscripted into the wardens the way you were. Some of us volunteer. It is an honor to become one of us."
Loghain's fists clenched as his frustration mounted. He groped for another strategy, one based on the common ground the three of them shared.
"She has risen through the ranks of the king's army solely on skill. You were born a commoner just like we were. You must know how talented she is to have gotten that far on merit. With me gone, she is the next in rank to take my place. To toss everything she has worked and sacrificed for aside to become a grey warden out of some kind of misguided sense of loyalty would be a complete waste."
"It's already been done," she said.
He spun to face her. Anger at Cauthrien for being so foolish and at himself at not being there to force her to make the right decision seared through him. "You resigned?"
"No, m'lord. I did not."
With her words the situation became crystal clear. Still, he didn't want to believe it – couldn't believe it. "You can't mean -" He broke off as he choked on his words and outrage. "Anora would not allow that."
The sorrow and resignation in her voice matched he twisted look of pain on her face. "The Queen did not have a choice. The King has insisted the military be under the command of someone who is loyal to him and not you. The Bannorn has agreed with him. Bann Teagan will be confirmed as the new commander on the morrow."
"Teagan? That pup isn't worthy to polish your boots, let alone lead Ferelden's army! This is outrageous!"
Cauthrien held Loghain's gaze. "Teagan will be a fine commander."
"He is not as good as you."
"No, he's not," she said. "But he is a hero and a nobleman and I am a disgraced lowborn commoner."
The pain her words caused was what Loghain imagined an arrow through his heart would have felt like. He had cost her this opportunity. She was sitting here, stripped of her rank and everything she'd worked twenty years for because his damned hubris.
Loghain snarled, so furious with Maric's bastard that he wasn't able to form words, but resentful resignation followed quickly because he knew there wasn't a damn thing he could do to make it right. With no other options left, he dropped down on the chair next to hers and lapsed into brooding silence.
Cauthrien pulled out the vellum letter sealed with the queen's royal crest. She stood and handed it across the desk. "The Queen asked me to give you this."
Her armor creaked as she sat back down on the chair. It was the only sound in the heavy silence that seeped from Loghain to fill the room. Amell picked up the gold rimmed dwarven spectacles lying on his desk, settling them on his plain face before reading the letter.
The delicate instrument was an odd contrast to the man's sheer size and muscle and yet it seemed to suit him. But then everything Loghain had learned and observed about Marcus Amell had been a study of odd contrasts. He was a mage who used a sword and wore armor. An educated man with ink stains on callused hands that looked like they should be grasping a plow and not a slender quill.
When he was finished, Amell removed the spectacles and put the letter down carefully, covering the vellum with the flat of his hand as he looked away, obviously deep in thought. Loghain had no doubt about what the letter contained. He knew Anora would do what she could for his most loyal retainer, and he knew Amell loved his daughter enough to do this for her.
This was confirmed a few seconds later when Amell said, "The Queen asks that I find a place in our ranks for her. I can see no reason not to allow her to join. You know that we need her blade."
"This is not right," Loghain said. "She should not have to pay for my misjudgment." He turned to face Cauthrien. "There must be a better place for you. There are still some who are loyal to Mac Tir-"
"And what? They take me in out of pity?" Cauthrien shook her head. "I couldn't bear that. Besides, I don't think any of them will have me anyway. My name has been blackened in the eyes of the new king, and no one wants to risk his displeasure." She sighed and looked down at her strong, callused hands. "Teagan offered me a place in the King's army, but I refused."
Loghain wondered if Teagan had offered to marry her again. The pair had been on again off again lovers for years until Loghain had arranged for Eamon's poisoning.
Her hands tightened into fists. "My only other option is to become a sword for hire, but I wish to serve Ferelden. Joining the Grey Wardens would allow me to do that."
"That damned Bannorn! They wouldn't dare do this to you if you were of noble blood. You proved your loyalty to Ferelden when you let Amell into the Landsmeet." Loghain turned his ire to the Warden Commander. "You must act."
Amell's brows moved skyward. "And what would you have me do?"
"Talk sense into Maric's bastard. He will listen to you."
"It is not my place to decide who will lead the Royal forces."
"It wasn't your place to decide who was going to rule Ferelden either and yet you were the one everyone looked to. You made that decision, Amell."
Amell's irritation leaked into his voice. "Only because you gave me no choice. It was either unite Ferelden or be overrun by the blight." He turned his attention back to Cauthrien. "I'm not without sympathy for your predicament, but even if I disagreed with the King's decision, which I don't, the Grey Wardens have already become too intertwined in Ferelden politics. We need to keep our focus on rebuilding. So I am sorry..." he said, ignoring Loghain's glare. "...but I will not interfere."
Cauthrien nodded. "Truly, I did not expect you to intervene on my behalf."
"Loghain is right though. You've proven you're willing to put duty first, and I already know that you're skilled." He nodded towards the closed door. "Most of volunteers are refugees looking for a way to get a roof over their heads and three meals a day, but the grey wardens are not a charity. A few show promise, but they'll need training and discipline from someone like you."
When Amell rose from his chair, both Cauthrien and Loghain stood as well. "So I would like to perform the joining as soon as possible, unless you have a compelling reason to wait." When she shook her head, the Amell continued. "Good. I will prepare the ritual and hopefully Ferelden will have more than two grey wardens tonight. Meet me upstairs when you are ready."
The silence lasted only until the door closed shut.
"Is it true that I could die from the joining?" she asked, turning back to face him now that Amell was gone.
"You won't die. I've sent you into much worse than this. You're too strong to be defeated by their pathetic magics."
"If I do, please tell my family that I died an honorable death."
Loghain's hand tightened around the knob of his walking stick. "If you are going to insist upon this course of action despite my objections, you will have to find someone else to make that pointless oath."
She looked at him for a moment before shaking her head with a sigh. Loghain thought he'd triumphed until she said, "Then you will have to excuse me, m'lord. I need to write a letter the Warden Commander can deliver for me."
He reached out and grabbed her wrist to keep her from walking out of the room. Her breath caught at the skin to skin contact and a frisson of heat spread through his belly, but Loghain didn't let go and Cauthrien stood her ground.
"Young lady, you will listen to me," he barked in the tone that he once used to command an army.
Her spine stiffened. Years under his service had conditioned her to stand at attention when addressed in such a way, but it was her newfound insubordination that fell from her lips. "I am not your lieutenant anymore."
"Yes," he drawled. "You've already made that point perfectly clear."
She looked up at him with eyes both dark and sad. "Do you think that this is how I wanted it to be? What happened at the landsmeet, the way that I betrayed you and stepped aside to let Amell pass…" Her free hand tightened into a fist that she pressed against her armored heart. "…it weighs on my heart like a stone."
"Don't," he demanded. His fingers tightened around her wrist hard enough to leave marks on her skin, but she didn't pull away or flinch. "I could not see where the true danger lay but you did, and you did your duty. Ferelden comes first, always, no matter what the cost. I hold no grudges for that."
Her gaze flickered down to where he was still clutching her wrist. "But you are furious with me for this."
"Your stubborn determination to throw yourself to the wolves is quite maddening."
She jerked her chin up. "I am what you taught me to be."
He snorted his indignation. "I did not teach you to be this insolent."
Her brows lifted towards the ceiling. "On the contrary, I've watched you rage and bully and argue with Ferelden nobility for nearly twenty years. I've learned insolence and independence from the best." Her face darkened. "Though perhaps not well enough. If I had objected to your orders more forcefully -"
"I would have dismissed you from my service, as you well know. The fault is mine and the consequences should be mine alone to bear as well."
"That's not true. I have my own sins to atone for which is why I deserved to be stripped of my rank and title." For a moment her raw grief for what was lost was laid bare on her face. And then it was gone, replaced by something softer and far more dangerous. "Perhaps it's for the best. I don't think I could bear choosing between following duty and following you again."
"Cauthrien," Loghain growled, "You are loyal to a fault."
Brown eyes searched his face. "This is not just loyalty. You must know that."
Of course he knew. He was the one who'd realized what burned between them first. It was not by choice, the awareness having been thrust upon him years ago in one devastatingly painful moment of clarity. Cauthrien had remained ignorant for much longer, and in truth Loghain wished that it had stayed that way. What sparked beneath the surface was much easier to ignore when it was confined to one side. But awareness had crept up on her too, despite his wishes, until each glance or touch or silence thrummed with everything unsaid.
He pulled her closer until they were eye to eye and growled the words out, determined to make her listen. "What I know is that a talented young woman is throwing away her future to follow a broken and disgraced man. I will not allow you do that for me."
The maneuver was a gross miscalculation. She was much too close. He could feel the grip of desire, as strong as the tide, pulling them together.
"You're wrong. I'm not doing this for you," she said as she closed the small distance between them. "I'm doing this for me."
And then her lips were on his. Sensibility and prudence were swept away by the ache in his chest that was too strong to allow anything other than crushing his mouth against hers.
To his chagrin, it was Cauthrien who found the willpower to pull back first. "As much as you hate it, I am taking this path." She jerked her wrist away. "You will have to accept it."
"I won't," he bellowed at her back as she turned and strode out of the room. Loghain took a step forward, his injured leg buckling under his weight. By the time he scrambled for his walking stick and managed to limp out of the hall, she was nowhere in sight.