Chapter 79: A Promise Kept
Marcail stood in the middle of his mother's house holding his baby sister while she grieved. He looked around the house where his mother and Zevran lived for almost two decades. A few months earlier Zevran did the unthinkable for an assassin. He died peacefully of old age. Linelle was devastated, much as she loved her mother she doted on her father. He was her best friend and taught her the many ways of his craft. She was such a delicately beautiful combination of her parents. She had Zevran's amber eyes with their wicked gleam, his lithe build and devious intelligence. From Starr she had hair of moonlight lightly kissed by the sun, a warm smile and a more slender version of their mother's curves. Fortunately for every man in her future, she also had their mother's compassion, integrity and lack of vanity.
And now Starr was dead. Her ashes smoldered in the workshop down the hill away from the house. Marcail could see the words from his mother's letter painfully and forever engraved on his mind:
No mother could be prouder of a child than I am of you and your brothers and sisters. I needed to make sure you understand how very much I love you all and how blessed I am that your fathers were good men. You see, when you read these words I will already be dead. . . ."
Her letter went to talk about darkspawn washing up on the beach and she killed them but not before getting cut and contracting the Blight disease. Her life had been full and few women ever loved as she had been by Alistair and Zevran. She asked him to watch over his baby sister, even suggesting that Linelle live in the house left to her by Sanga and Oskar. The last words she wrote were that she loved them all and that they shouldn't forget to take the time to be happy and to embrace life. Lessons she learned from the two men she loved and married.
Marcail kissed the top of Linelle's head much as he might comfort his own daughter and then opened the brandy. He poured glasses for all of them and handed them round, "To our mother. A woman of courage and strength, who touched many lives and was more loved by more people than I think she realized. Her husbands adored her and their love was returned by her tenfold. To Mom." They all had tears in their eyes as they drank to an extraordinary woman.
Duncan pulled up some chairs while Aaron lit the fire laid in the hearth. Their mother's journals were already packed up for the trip back to Denerim. None of them felt like reading them yet. Eleanor spoke next, "I used to envy her when I was young; she was so incredibly beautiful. During one of our arguments when I was still a girl, I told her a boy I met was more interested in her than he ever could be in me. She looked at me as if I had two heads. Even though Dad and Zevran, among others, told her so, I don't think she realized how beautiful she was. Beauty just radiated from her." Her brothers and sister nodded in agreement. Eleanor looked at her little sister and thought that possibly the same thing could be said of her.
Marcail started to snicker, "I remember at some of the Court functions Dad looked like he had a headache coming on. So many of the men would surround her and try to monopolize her time, dancing and flirting with her. He said Teagan told him it was one of the dangers of being in love with a beautiful woman. He was very proud of her and said they had no idea just how beautiful she really was because they didn't know her, they just saw the surface."
"I don't think many people realize the Ferelden Messenger Service was actually her idea instead of Dad's," Aaron spoke up. "Fereldans were happy enough that she was a good queen. She gave them, not Dad mind you but Ferelden, heirs to the throne, she supported Dad, she wasn't a spendthrift or a shrew, and she fought for Ferelden. And she gave Fereldan women an identity other nations could admire. In my travels, I've seen many women from other nations adopting her look. It's a bit harder to dismiss our women for being different or too masculine when their women are dressing like our queen."
"Don't forget the troubles with the Circles. Dad told me she read the entire Chant of Light while she was pregnant with us, even the Dissonant verses. I bet even you would have found that boring, Eleanor," Duncan teased his sister. "Neither the templars nor the Chantry could quote the Chant to support their position without her being able to counter or question the meaning. Dad may have trained as a templar before he became a Grey Warden but he never felt the mages were fairly treated. It's so much better for mages here in Ferelden than almost anywhere. I don't see why other countries don't see the connection between our treatment of mages and the lower incidence of blood magic or mages run amok. Thank the Maker that disaster in Kirkwall didn't spill over here, at least not too much." Duncan, now the Commander General of the Ferelden army, thought how much better prepared his troops were with at least one healer and one other mage assigned to each platoon. Of course that meant a templar or templar-trained warrior also had to be assigned, but even the First Enchanter insisted on that precaution.
Silence once again fell over the brothers and sisters as they struggled with their grief and their memories. The fire was subsiding into embers when Eleanor broke the silence, "One of my favorite stories is actually about you, Linelle. Anders loved telling the story of how the great assassin fainted dead to the floor when he found out Mom was pregnant."
Linelle laughed in disbelief, "You've got to be kidding, my father fainted? The man who taught me poisons and the most efficient and silent ways to kill with a dagger? He fainted?"
"Oh yeah, I'd forgotten about that. Whenever Anders brought it up Zev would say it was a ruse in order to be in the mage's magically muscular arms and then Mom would poke him in mock-jealousy," Aaron smiled at the memory. Soon they were all telling their favorite stories of Starr and Zevran and Alistair.
The evening wore on and the siblings dozed off at different times. At one point Marcail wandered outside and looked up at the sky. He heard crying and looked around to see Linelle. He went to her, put his arms around her, and let her cry, "What am I going to do now, Marc? I miss them so much." She sobbed into his shirt.
When her tears slowed and she was calmer Marcail pointed to the sky, "See that star? It's our star. When Mom went to fight at Ostagar and later to help the Wardens she picked out that star. Every night, wherever she was and wherever I was we would search the sky until we found it. She called it starmail. She told me when I saw that star I would know she loved me and was thinking of me and that she missed me. I believe that somewhere, maybe in the Fade, her spirit knows and she is sending her love to us. Even though I'm not a little boy anymore, if I'm upset I look for our star and I feel better. So when you're missing her or Zevran, he and Alistair also knew of the star, just look up into the sky and remember how much they love you." Linelle smiled at the thought and kept her gaze on their mother's star.
Marcail finally made a suggestion, "Why don't you come to Denerim? You have a house to live in and Aaron thinks you might be a good roving investigator for the FMS1. You're smart and can think quickly on your feet. Certainly all the skills Mom and Zevran taught you are a great background for the position. You would have to stay in Denerim while you trained and a partner was found for you, but then you would be traveling and meeting all different sorts of people. Aaron has a strict policy of no new investigator going out alone. He says all the training in the world can't completely prepare you for working in the field. Some investigators eventually work alone and others are more effective in pairs. You can decide what you want to do about your home here later."
Linelle considered the possibilities he was offering and then looked up at her big brother the king, "I think I'd like that. Mom always said I had my father's desire for adventure. Maybe it's time to find out." The oldest and youngest siblings stood companionably in the cool night air thinking their own thoughts.
He was in a field picking flowers for his best friend and lover. This time, she wasn't met by grey mist all around her; she saw a beloved figure with sun-gold hair approaching her. He handed her the bouquet of flowers and gently caressed the side of her face, "I promised I would wait for you, emma lath." Smiling, she took his hand and together they walked away towards whatever came next. Gradually the meadow faded.
For just a minute, Marcail thought he heard his mother's laughter mixed with that of Alistair's. He shook his head and wondered.
1 FMS = Ferelden Messenger Service