This story is an idea that popped into my head and refused to leave. In DAO, conversations and banter with Alistair reveal what his childhood was like growing up in Redcliffe. A lot of people, myself included, find what was done to him, especially the emotional and mental abuses, to be pretty horrific. What makes it worse is when we try to understand and justify how and why Maric allowed it to happen. Given how much he seemed to care about the baby at the end of The Calling, and I believe that baby is Alistair, it's difficult to reconcile the two different Marics we see. I'd like to believe Maric was ignorant—willfully so—of almost all the details of Alistair's life because the alternative—knowing everything and still not doing anything—is so much worse.

This story is a look at what I like to think would have happened if Maric had learned exactly what Alistair's life was like in Redcliffe. That being said, this story is AU and is wish fulfillment on my part.

Thank you to Ravenia for beta reading for me!

Enjoy! And if you do, please review!

Disclaimer: All characters and story belong to Bioware.

Chapter One

The late afternoon summer sun was streaming through the window-like opening above the loft in the stables. Alistair lay on his stomach in a clear patch of the loft. He was playing with his golem doll—figurine, he mentally corrected himself—and some of the other figures Arl Eamon had given him over the years. Right now, the golem was trying to kidnap an innocent princess who was being defended by a brave and honorable knight.

Alistair brought the figures of the golem and knight together—somewhat gently so as not to scratch the paint or chip the little statues—and mimicked what he thought the sounds of such a battle would be. The fight was long and epic, each side giving and retaking ground until finally the weary, wounded knight stood victorious over his foe.

Dropping the golem to the worn wooden planks, Alistair grabbed the figure of the princess and rushed it towards the knight. "My hero!" he whispered in a high, breathy voice, his best approximation of how he had heard maids in the castle speak to the knights and guards. It certainly wasn't any way he'd ever head Lady Isolde speak. He shuddered at the all too well known memory of her voice and turned back to his game.

Now, at least according to all the stories, the princess was supposed to kiss the knight. Alistair hesitated. Kissing was…gross. He'd spied on enough of the maids in the castle and the thought of doing that, of wanting to do that, made him gag slightly. He settled for having the princess give the knight a peck on the cheek. There, a kiss and none of that icky stuff.

His game done with for the moment, Alistair rolled over onto his back, pushing his long hair out of his face and wincing as a jagged nail caught on a snarl, and stared out the window. He'd finished his chores early today and been told the rest of the day was his to do with as he pleased. Quickly evaluating his options, he'd run back to the loft that served as a bedroom. Hopefully, no one would come looking for him and he could play in peace for several hours before getting some supper and maybe going for a quick swim in Lake Calenhad.

Squinting into the sunlight, he tried to judge what time it was. It was hot and he wanted to go for a swim, but if he went too early, he'd only get sweaty again. He sighed. Still too early for a swim and he was tired of playing with his toys. Maybe…. Maybe he could sneak down to see the mabari pups. The kennel master liked him and the pups were old enough now that he could play with them.

Just as he was resolving to get up and enact this plan, he heard the stable door creak open, and he froze. Booted footsteps resounded against the plank flooring, coming closer to the ladder that led up to his loft.

"Alistair? Are you up there?"

Alistair poked his head over the edge in surprise, a small grin lighting up his face. "Bann Teagan! I didn't know you were here! Do you want to come up and play with me?"

Bann Teagan, Arl Eamon's younger brother, had always had a soft spot for Alistair, playing with him like no one else did. Alistair thought that having Teagan around might be like what having an uncle was like. The bann certainly didn't treat him like anyone else did, not looking down on him as a commoner and not reviling him for being a bastard. Alistair loved it when Teagan came to visit Redcliffe. Out of everyone he knew, Teagan was his favorite person and he loved the older man.

But Bann Teagan shook his head, looking very serious and worried. A cold sweat broke out over Alistair's body. The only time he'd ever seen Teagan look that way was when Alistair had accidently caught Arl Eamon and Teagan arguing over his…father. Whatever reason Teagan was here now, it couldn't be good.

He swallowed hard, trying to keep the quaver out of his voice. "D-Did you need something, Bann Teagan?"

Teagan nodded. "Aye, lad. I need you to come with me."

Alistair nodded and shoved his figures into the small chest that held the few possessions he owned, and edged towards the ladder. Teagan frowned as he got to the top of the ladder, taking in his sleeveless smock and the ragged trousers that ended at his knees.

"Do you have any better clothes than that, Alistair? And maybe a towel? If not, I'll go find you some."

"No, I-I do." Alistair scurried back to his chest and rummaged around. Teagan's manner right now was scaring him and his heart was beating painfully in his chest. Good clothes and a bath—Teagan was almost certainly bringing him to see Arl Eamon. He shook slightly. There'd been talk recently that the arl was planning to send him away, probably to the Chantry to become a templar.

That thought scared Alistair more than he wanted to admit. Redcliffe was the only home he'd ever known and he didn't want to leave. He also didn't want to be a templar. There were templars in the Redcliffe Chantry—stern, dour men whom he'd never seen laugh or smile. Alistair didn't want to be one of those men.

Casting his gaze about the loft frantically, he sought a way out. But short of throwing himself out the window, which would no doubt result in a very painful landing, there was no where he could go. He sighed in resignation. Even if he did run, where would be go? No one else would take him in. He grabbed his best tunic and trousers out of the chest, along with the small, worn linen sheet he used as a towel, and made his way glumly down the ladder.

Teagan put his hand on Alistair's shoulder when he reached the bottom. "Come on, lad. Let's get you cleaned up."

"Teagan?" Alistair asked as the left the stable and began the walk towards the castle. "Am I in trouble? Whatever I did, I'm sorry! I won't do anything bad again, I promise!"

With a heavy sigh, the bann stopped walking and dropped to one knee before Alistair so he could look him in the eye. "No, Alistair, you're not in trouble. You haven't done anything wrong. I'm afraid the fault here lies with grown men who should have known better. I won't lie to you—this is a very serious situation. But I want you to remember that no matter what happens none of this is your fault. Do you understand me?"

Alistair nodded, unable to speak and blinking back the shameful prick of tears. Boys didn't cry. Especially not a parentless boy who'd grown up hearing himself called "bastard" as often and easily as his own name.

Teagan shook his head and twisted his lips. "Come on. Best we not tarry."

They entered the castle through the kitchens. "Gertie," Teagan said, speaking to the head cook, "do you have that hot water for me?"

"Aye, my lord, here 'tis in this bucket. I added a bit a cold water to keep the boy from burning 'imself. And some soap and a rag. I expect the scamp'll be needin' it." The plump woman threw a fond smile in Alistair's direction. She'd always been kind to him, ready with a soft word or tasty morsel when he needed it.

"Thank you, Gertie. This way, Alistair." Teagan led him to a small room and deposited the bucket on the floor and handing him the soap and the cloth. "Get cleaned up as best you can, and quickly."

Alistair shed his clothes, dipping the rag into the bucket and then rubbing the soap on it. The water was hot, the soap strong and the rag rough. By the time he was done and hastily wiping the water off him with the thin sheet, it seemed like every inch of his skin was pink and tender. Shivering, he pulled his clean clothes on and opened the door.

"Bann Teagan? What do I do with my old clothes?"

"Don't worry about them, Alistair. Gertie will take care of it."

Teagan frowned as he looked him over and Alistair wondered if he'd forgotten to wash something. "Maker, I should have gotten you boots or something. Never mind, we don't have time for that now. We're already late, but I wasn't going to let you walk into that room without at least that much of a bath."

Teagan led him up into the castle proper. There were a lot of guards here, far more than usual, and the halls were very, very quiet. So quiet, in fact, that as they approached the arl's study, Alistair could clearly hear the sound of raised male voices shouting at each other. He recognized Eamon's voice, but not the other two—although one tugged at a vague memory.

His eyes widened in shock and he stopped dead in his tracks as that half-remembered voice suddenly rose above the others.

"The Fade take you, Eamon, that is not what I asked you to do with the boy!"

Oh, holy Maker! King Maric was here in the castle. The king, his father, was here and angry about him.

"Please, Bann Teagan," he whispered through numb lips, "don't make me go in there!"

The look Teagan gave him was full of concern and pity. "I'm sorry, Alistair. I can't do that. Just remember what I said and you'll be fine."

And pulling the boy gently by the arm, Teagan opened the door to the study and ushered him in. The arguing in the study stopped abruptly as the door opened and three very large, very angry men all turned to look at him.

"My lords," said Teagan, his voice unnaturally loud in the sudden silence, "I've brought Alistair."