So much food. Loghain slurps eagerly at his bowl of stew, mopping up the gravy with black bread and gulping down fresh milk. His appetite sated, he wipes a dribble of milk off his lip with the back of his hand. "Aren't you hungry, Ma?"

His mother smiles, and her elbows are on the table, her chin resting in one hand, the other bent on the table in front of her. But Loghain knows that if he corrects her, she will be cross with him. Even though were he to do such a thing, he would surely be scolded. At four years old, there are certain things he is sure of. And one thing he has determined is that the adults who make the rules very rarely seem interested in following them.

"No," she says softly. "You eat your fill, my darling. Don't worry about me."

"Then," he looked down into his bowl. He wasn't hungry, not exactly, but his belly had not yet reached that stretched-out, overfull feeling that was so pleasurably uncomfortable. "Could I have seconds?"

"Of course you can," she says softly, and takes his bowl and refills it from the pot on the fire. She returns it to him with the heel of the loaf of bread. While he generally doesn't care for the ends he eats it anyway, slurping and chewing and gulping with gusto.

"Have you eaten enough?" she asks as he scrapes the bowl clean.

He thinks a moment, and realizes it's a silly question as there is no more food. "I suppose," he says scratching his ear. "When is Da coming home?"

His mother gathers him onto her lap and rests her cheek against the top of his head. "He should be home already, sweet one. Perhaps later tonight?" Her voice is far away, and Loghain knows, even though he can't see it, that she's looking out the window at the patrol of chevalier that have camped outside in what had been their field of winter wheat, before their destriers grazed the sprouts to the roots.

Loghain sighs happily, nibbling on the last of the crust of bread. "When I grow up, I'm going to be big and tall like Da."

His mother chuckles and kisses the top of his head. "With that appetite I have no doubt. But you'd do best to endeavor to be so wise as your da. That's why the other freeholders asked him to speak to the Bann on their behalf, mind. All who know him mark him well as a man of sound judgment, not prone to exaggeration or baseless claims."

He nods seriously and yawns so wide his jaw aches.

"Ah, but you've been up far too late already, bairn," his mother lifts him down off her lap and swats him. "Off to bed with you, then."

"But, Ma, I want to wait for Da to come home!" he protests the injustice of being sent to bed while she gets to stay up.

"There's no guarantee that he'll even be home this evening, and I am certain sure that if you stay up much later you will be a right bear come the morning. Off to bed," she repeats, and though her eyes are still soft, her tone has grown hard and he knows that further protests will fall on worse than deaf ears.

He scowls as he climbs the ladder to the loft. He has his very own loft, something Ma reminds him is a great luxury whenever he grows sad watching the other children play with their brothers and sisters. She says he should be grateful, but he does not feel grateful at this moment. He grumbles as he crawls under the quilt and sulks as he lies abed, steadfast in his intention to stay awake until his father's return. But he is soon distracted by the patterns the fire makes on the ceiling, and lulled by the sloshing of milk and stew in his belly, he eventually drifts off to sleep despite his most stubborn intentions.


When he awakes, the fire has all but gone out. The moon is full, and shining bright through the window. He blinks and rubs his eyes.

"...utter nonsense. The man is a fool." Da says from below.

Loghain wants to scramble down the ladder and greet him, but something in his da's tone makes him think that maybe that wouldn't be a good idea. He recognizes the tone as the sort of one adults use when they're talking about something they don't want him or the other children to hear. And as soon as it is discovered that they are listening, the conversation changes to something far less interesting. He would outsmart his parents this time. He lies very silent and still, making sure to breath deep and even so they don't suspect him.

"It's by the Grace of Andraste that he saw fit to give you some provisions at least," his mother says, her voice calm. Loghain recognizes that tone, too. It's the voice she uses when she thinks he's being unreasonable and is trying to soothe him. "Though we'll have to hide them."

"How long have the Orlesians been here," Da demands, and Loghain hears his heavy boots stomping to the window.

"They arrived the day after you left," Ma replies. "I told them we had some grazing pastures but they said this had a more pleasant view. I managed to hide enough to make dinner for Loghain but," she sighs.

"Those wretched horses have eaten the entire crop," Da grits out between clenched teeth. "This is insufferable. If I had a few good men, I could route the lot of them and- Eilidh!"

And Loghain peeks over the edge of the loft to see his father catch his mother before she faints. "Oh, forgive me," she says weakly.

"The food," he says, "you had enough for him but have you eaten anything?"

"I had breakfast," she reasons with him. "And he was so hungry, Gareth. I think he's growing again."

"The boy needs to learn, Eilidh. You do him no favors by doing without yourself."

"He won't understand," she protests. "And what kind of mother steals bread from her child's mouth." Her voice catches. "After I lost the others, Gareth, I just can't..."

His father smooths her hair. "That's not your fault, Eilidh. And, besides, he's old enough to understand. We will all suffer so long as these fools control our fate. Or do you plan to starve yourself for an entire winter?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," she laughs softly. "Oh, Gareth, I remember going to bed on an empty stomach and swearing to the Maker that I would do never let my own children suffer so. I don't think I can bear it... if..."

As she begins to weep, Loghain's meal sours in his stomach.

"Dear Maker," he whispers, "I won't ever let my ma go hungry for me again."