"Your father is a powerful man."
She knew. She knew. It was part of who he was. It was why Emperor Reville had granted him lordship here, where the nine who came before him had failed. How she had prayed to the Maker and Blessed Andraste to deliver her from his tyrannical rages and fickle passions.
Though the Maker saw fit to have her remain in her father's household, she was not wholly unprotected. Small signs of His grace were found everywhere. Her younger sister, Quiterie, dropped a stitch in her needlework and was beaten mercilessly. Were Isolde to commit the same transgression, she was merely forced to watch while he tore her work to pieces before ordering her to do it again, this time doing it properly.
Small mercies. The Maker was protecting her. For no matter how powerful her father was, the Maker and His Bride were stronger still.
There were no suitable prospects for marriage among the Orlesian nobility here in Ferelden. Her father would never stoop to allow one of his children to wed a mere chevalier, and the idea of marrying one of them off to a Fereldan was unthinkable. He often declared he would sooner arrange for his daughters to marry a Mabari than a Bann.
Isolde was often afraid that he would actually do such a thing, and was careful to always show the proper disdain for the hulking war hounds.
Marielle, her older sister, did not show the proper disdain for one Fereldan man. It soon became clear that she was in love. Their father never spoke to her again. He locked her in her chambers and forbade anyone to speak to or about her ever again.
Isolde covered her ears with her fists and whispered prayers by night to drown out her sister's weeping. She dared not even glance at her sister's door by day, no matter how hard Marielle pounded on the walls or how desperately she pleaded through the keyhole.
Marielle was not under the Maker's protection the way Isolde was. She despaired, and hanged herself with her bedclothes.
Nobody ever breathed a word implying that her father could possibly have been to blame. He was a powerful man.
In time, Isolde fell in love with a Fereldan man. Impossibly, dreadfully, terrifyingly in love. He was the one man who dared to try and stand up against her father, leading his rag-tag forces in rebellion against their Orlesian overlords. She was consumed by fear and passion. She could not bear to live without Eamon. But if her father discovered, not even the Maker could save her from his wrath. She stopped eating and tore at her own skin, so great was her anguish.
It was a test. The Maker was testing her faith. Did she truly believe the Maker was more powerful than her father? She had to prove that the grace of His protection had not been wasted on her.
She would live up to the task the Maker had given her. Her reward, should she succeed, would be a lifetime with her love, her soul's song, Eamon Guerrin. Her punishment, should she fail...
She packed a needle-sharp dagger in her pack. She had great faith in the Maker, but no desire to endure her father's retribution.
The fog of war and the Maker's grace shrouded her as she trekked from the castle her father had been granted in this foreign land to where the rebel army made its camp in the nearby hills. She was safe. She was free. She was with her love.
But her father was still a powerful man.
Eamon never asked why she would wake in the night, trembling and unable to fall asleep again until she had personally ensured the doors were locked, the shutters shut tight, and there were no intruders lurking in the shadows or under the bed. He had asked her once if the rumors of her father's brutality were true, if the things he had heard her whisper in her sleep were because of him. She told him only that rumors were just that, and her mumblings were just nightmares. But he still never questioned her night time vigilance.
By day, Isolde was happy and secure. After a lifetime of bottling all the love in her heart, afraid of becoming attached to somebody or something lest her father discover and destroy it in a fit of jealousy, she bubbled over with joy and affection for everything she laid her eyes upon. Eamon remained the bright-star center of her love, but she also loved his brother, Teagan, and her horse, and the dogs, and the people, and the child.
Isolde had always loved children, especially happy children. It gave her pleasure to see youth untarnished by terror, like hers was. Isolde longed to pour her affection over the child. He was always smiling, always on a lark, always dirty. Isolde often found herself smiling at him, longing to hold him like his mother would have, had she survived the birth. She loved him all the more because she was so sure he was part of Eamon.
She had planned to bring it up with her husband, the possibility of acknowledging the child, of raising him as a legitimate son next to the children she was sure she was soon to bear him. But then something dreadful happened.
Somebody murdered her horse.
Eamon found her, white faced and trembling, in their chambers. He told her that between the soldiers coming and going, the merchants traveling through town, and the fact that any number of servants had access to the stables, it would be impossible to discover who had done such a foul thing. Isolde agreed.
It didn't matter who had actually slit the beast's throat. Isolde knew the truth, for all that there was no evidence left behind. It had been done by order of her father. She loved the horse, and she did not love him. And he was a powerful man.
Eamon hired new guards to follow her at all times. It was a dual-edged sword. She was grateful for the extra protection, but wondered if they were not somehow in her father's employ.
She began to bottle her love up again. To not do so would make her responsible for painting a target on the objects of her affection. She resumed the mantle of proper disdain when dealing with the servants and the townsfolk. She stopped riding with Teagan, even after Eamon bought her a second horse.
Most of all,she did not dare show the child any affection. He was in far more danger than she. Her father would never directly kill her, of this she was sure. He may wear her sanity to the breaking point, but it would always be up to her to take that final step. He would see her affection for the child as an affront, even more so than her rebellious marriage. To accept the natural-born as if he were worth something, the by-blow of her own husband, would be to debase herself in his eyes. Escaping to a brothel would have been preferable to such a thing.
She turned the child out of the estate and into the stables. She refused him any smiles, any caresses, any hint of the love surging for him deep within her breast. Even so, he was still a happy child, a child full of laughter and games and curiosity and a child she loved very, very much. Too much to endanger him. Too much to try to explain.
Sometimes in the dead of night, she would creep from her chambers and into the stables just to watch him sleep. He was so quiet and beautiful then. Sometimes, she couldn't help herself, and she would brush the hair from his forehead and kiss him lightly and pray to the Maker to protect him the way he protected her, and to forgive her for being so cruel. Sometimes, she would leave a small figure, the kind she knew he liked to play with when he thought nobody was looking. She hoped that somehow, deep inside his heart, he knew that she loved him.
The years passed, and her father still lived. So long as he did, she remained the same. It mattered not if he were in Ferelden or Orlais or on the moon, she was a danger to those she loved. Because he was a powerful man. Her heart sickened from being so constrained, and she found herself half-believing the hurtful things she said about the child.
It frightened her. She prayed to the Maker for forgiveness, and to preserve the child in His care, and her own heart.
Finally, she was granted another measure of the Maker's favor, and found herself with child. Her own child, one her father would not threaten, one to whom she could show the love she so carefully bound. But her delight was tempered by the knowledge that the other child, whose name she did not even dare to think, was in even more grave danger than before. For her to love him would be a folly in her father's eyes. To have a bastard in the same household as his grandchild would be an intolerable impertinence. The practiced coldness would not be enough. Her own child would love him as surely as she did, and not understand why they had to hide their feelings.
If he were to survive, he had to go.
It took her months of discussion and arguments and pleading and tantrums but finally Eamon gave in. The boy was sent away. To the Chantry, where he would be safe, where he would come to know the Maker's love as she did.
As she stood at the window of her chamber, great with child, watching as the weeping boy was led away by the Templars, she swore to herself and to the Maker that someday, when he was older, she would explain everything. He would understand. He was a loving child, he would understand that what she did, she did out of love. He would forgive her. When he was older, when he could understand.
When her father was dead.