Warning: Do not read this story if you can't stand bad things happening to children.
The Little Prince in the Tower,
Woe to the Child Who Inherits a Kingdom
Anora produces a son with a second husband, but does not live to raise him, Dragon 9:36
Lorcan hid under the bed.
Lorcan's world up to that point was one of gentle-voiced women, good order, and lavender-scented linen. He had a mother whom he loved almost as much as he feared her; a distant, weary, golden figure to whom he was presented nearly every day. Those events were not particularly pleasant, as he was arrayed for them in a miniature noble's doublet, itchy from the fine golden threads embroidering the wrists and throat. Nana pushed him forward to pay his duty to his Lady Mother Queen: to bow to her and to ask Her Majesty how she fared that morning. He was then deposited on an elaborate silk rug with a number of toys, and ordered to "play," while his mother drooped in her chair of state and watched him in silence.
Her ladies watched him, too; some of them like cats at a mouse hole. They all wanted to pet him and kiss him, and Lorcan had learned early which perfumed hands had sharp claws when they clutched at him. Some—the ones he liked—were like Nana: soft and safe. Not that Nana wouldn't raise her voice to him when he was sulky or inattentive at his lessons. Future kings had a lot to learn. He had once thought that Nana was his grandmother, but she wasn't: she was his great-aunt, and her name was really Lady Niamh—or at least that was what everybody else called her. She was the most important person in his everyday world. The next most important was Mother Berenthy, who taught him his letters and to revere Andraste and the Maker.
Very rarely, he saw his grandfather, Bann Stronar, a stern old man who had little to say to small boys. Lorcan had another grandfather, but he was dead. The Queen his mother was sad about that.
"If my father Loghain, the Hero of River Dane, were still alive," she said, her blue eyes hot with anger, "you'd have nothing to fear!"
No one ever spoke of Lorcan's father, except for Mariel, the maid who had told him that his father was dead. Mariel was an elf, bright-eyed and noticing, and was charged with bathing Lorcan and slipping him into his starched white nightshirts.
"Gutted like a pig," the elf whispered one night, with a certain frightening relish. "Proved the Queen could quicken, he did, but he didn't live to see you born. They said it was the Crows. Take care they don't get you, little prince, with their sharp, long beaks!"
She pinched at him playfully, at his belly and bottom, in places that hurt, not putting his nightshirt on him until he whimpered in fright and pain. It was scary to be wet and naked like that, but everyone in his world was bigger and stronger than Lorcan.
Ever since then, Lorcan feared the black birds outside the nursery window. For some reason, Mariel was sent away not long after.
Things were different tonight. Nana was in and out of the nursery apartments, hardly paying attention to him. The maids hissed out their gossip and the nicer ones looked pityingly at him. Long, anguished cries sounded from down the staircase, from the direction of the Queen's apartments, and voices were raised. The cries stopped, and the voices grew louder, and then there was the tramping of heavy feet, and the maids began twittering with fright when the tramping came up the steps toward the nursery.
The door burst open with a crash. Maidservants screamed as big, fierce, armed men invaded the sweet-scented nursery, shoving the maids aside, knocking over the furniture.
A roar rose up.
"For the King! For the King!"
Lorcan froze briefly, and then scrambled under the bed.
A cracked, stern voice cut over the shouts.
"Odar, fetch His Majesty out. We must pay our homage to him."
A huge, bearded giant dropped to the edge of the bed and grinned ferociously. Lorcan shrank back from the bloodshot blue eyes and the stink of his breath. The giant, like a nightmare, stretched out corded arms and dragged Lorcan from under the bed, guffawing. He swung Lorcan up, up to the ceiling with hands like boulders, waving him like a trophy. Lorcan turned his head from the other smells: strong drink and oiled steel, smells for which as yet he had no name.
Nana tried to take Lorcan from the giant, but the men laughed heartlessly. She appealed to Grandfather Stronar.
"My lord brother, you are frightening the child!"
"Get back, woman!" Grandfather snapped. "A King of Ferelden's got no business being frightened of his loyal guard!"
Drunken warriors bellowed their approval.
The giant grinned at Lorcan again, and set him on his feet, keeping tight hold of his head to preclude any escape attempt.
Grandfather bowed to Lorcan, which was startling in itself. The rest of the terrifying men did, too.
"The Queen is dead. Maker defend the King!"
"The Queen is dead. Maker defend the King!"
Lorcan stared at them, bewildered. In a small voice he asked, "Is my mother dead?"
"Dead?" Stronar pursed his thin lips. "Aye, lad, she's dead."
"Likely poisoned by those Orlesian bastards!" shouted one of his men.
"Or by that old fox Guerrin!" grunted another.
By this time, Nana had got past the front rank of warriors, and stared at Odar until he backed off, grinning. She did not shame Lorcan by sweeping him up in her arms, but took his small hand in her soft, wrinkled one, and stood close, so he could be strengthened by the warmth of her.
Lorcan did not know what they wanted of him. He was sad that his mother dead, though he had never seen her alone that he could remember. He hoped he was a good boy and a dutiful son like Mother Berenthy said he should be, but tears did not come.
"I'll try to be a good king," he said, feeling very small.
"A fine little lad," declared one of the men, drunker—or more sentimental— than the rest.
"I'm sure you shall be," said Grandfather Stronar. "There will be a Landsmeet, of course, to confirm you, and I shall be your Regent, by the late Queen's will. That means I'll do the work until you're a man and can do it for yourself. Until then, you are to mind your elders and learn your lessons."
"A health to His Majesty!" bawled out an archer, holding a brimming cup of ale. It slopped over onto the floor. Lorcan was shocked at his behavior, and more shocked that Nana did not scold him for it. The world would never be the same.
Grandfather and his guard finally left, and Lorcan was put to bed. He lay wakeful and wide-eyed, listening to the scratching of the crows at his windowsill.
Two days later, his mother was put on a big pile of wood and burned up, on a dark afternoon when the sun never shone. He cried a little then, wondering what would happen to him. He was tired, watching the fire, and sick at the smell of roasting meat. Nana had dressed him in black velvet, and Lorcan hated the high, tight collar. People came to offer their condolences. He was instructed to answer "I thank you for your kindness," to each and every one.
"They've come to look you over, lad," growled Grandfather, "so stand up straight."
A big man with dark hair and a dark beard came up to speak to Grandfather. Lorcan could tell that the he and Grandfather did not like each other, but the man gave Lorcan a slight smile.
"And this is Prince Lorcan. I remember your naming day, Your Highness, and I know that Her Majesty loved you very much. I am sorry that you have lost your mother so young."
Grandfather gave Lorcan a nudge. "Thank Teyrn Cousland, lad."
"I thank you for your kindness, my lord," Lorcan parroted dutifully.
Endless people came be to be presented. Lorcan grew tired and sleepy, and sleepier still when Odar slipped him some sweet wine. Everyone else was drinking, so Nana could not make a scene here in public when she discovered that Lorcan was red-faced and swaying. Grandfather and his men thought it funny. Lorcan was only too glad to be carried home.
Things went on much as they had before, though Lorcan thought Nana looked grey and strained. Sometimes she was sharp with him, but she never let the maids imitate her. They would whisper, though: about Teyrn Cousland and Arl Guerrin; about the Bastard Prince and the Empress of Orlais; about the coming Landsmeet. They looked sidewise at Lorcan while they whispered, and he wondered what those people had to do with him. Finally, he gathered his courage and asked Nana.
"Why is Teyrn Cousland important, Nana? Is he our friend?" Lorcan thought he seemed nice. He had smiled, and did not smell bad, like most men Lorcan had met.
Nana looked like she wanted him to be quiet, but Mother Berenthy was there, and shook her head.
"Truth is best, Niamh."
Nana only shook her head, and gestured to the priest.
"All right, then," said Mother Berenthy. "A prince should know these things. Your mother did not take you to the Landsmeet because you were too young, but to the coming Landsmeet you'll certainly go. Everyone wants to see you. After the naming and presentation in the Chantry, we don't make children attend most public events until they're old enough to get something out of them. Even King Cailan of blessed memory never attended a Landsmeet until his was ten years old—officially, that is." She smiled briefly at some fond memory.
"As to your question: Teyrn Cousland is a very great noble, and I think he's a good man. He is highest in rank after the King or Queen, and he is of the ancient blood of Calenhad—"
"Berenthy—" Nana protested.
"Of the ancient blood of Calenhad," the priest repeated. "He has a good claim to be king himself, but that's for the Landsmeet to decide."
"Grandfather says I'm King now," said Lorcan, rather put out to have rivals.
"You are a Prince of Ferelden, and the son of Queen Anora," Berenthy said, with an uneasy look at Nana. "Bann Stronar took perhaps too much upon himself to acclaim you as king before the Landsmeet can confirm it. It has never been the Ferelden way to choose a ruler just because he was the first child of the last King or Queen. The Landsmeet looks at all those of royal blood and chooses among them."
Lorcan tried to picture a Landsmeet, and managed only a vague image of a many-headed creature, or a room full of stern old men like Grandfather.
"So if they like Teyrn Cousland better, he would be King? Would Grandfather let him do that? What would happen to me? Don't I have ancient blood?"
"A little," said Berenthy, with a gentle smile. "A little from your father. But Teyrn Cousland has more, and he's a grown man. The others being put forward are grown men, too, from the high noble houses of the kingdom. The Landsmeet may not like the idea of a child becoming king. It's never happened before, not in all our history."
"So I'm the first," said Lorcan, liking the idea, not noticing how sad Nana looked.
Berenthy stroked his hair. "Even if you were not chosen king, my child, you would still be a great man in Ferelden, since your claim to be Teyrn of Gwaren has no possible challenger."
Lorcan frowned. He did not know where Gwaren was, but he had heard it was cold there, and full of forests and forests and forests. He hoped he would not be sent away from home and have to live in the woods. Since they were answering his questions, he essayed another.
"Nana…what's a bastard?"
They devised a doublet for him of white and gold velvet trimmed with pearls for the Landsmeet, and found a little gold coronet that pressed down uncomfortably on his ears. Grandfather made Lorcan learn a speech by heart, reciting it over and over again, every day.
Nana had cried and pleaded, but Grandfather was firm that Lorcan must speak at the Landsmeet, and speak well. He stripped the leaves from a thin branch of willow, and told Lorcan that if he did not know his speech by heart in three days time, he would be whipped until he did know it. Lorcan did not know what a whipping was, but he learned.
For the first time he faltered, Grandfather scowled like a thundercloud, and sent all the women out of the room.
"Drop your breeches, lad, and lean over that stool there."
When Lorcan hesitated, Grandfather was up and pouncing on him like a grizzled old bear. The breeches were yanked down and Lorcan flung face-first onto a needlepoint footrest. Heraldic creatures in blue and red stared up at him incuriously. The cane whistled like a flute as it slashed across his bare bottom. Lorcan shrieked, and shrieked with each of the following four blows, each hot as fire.
Grandfather turned from him in disgust.
"Wipe your snotty nose, and take it like a man. If you think I'm hard on you, wait until the Landsmeet has a go at you. If they think you're weak, they'll flay the skin from your bones! You'd better know that speech tomorrow, if you know what's good for you."
The old man stamped away, and Lorcan was left shocked and sobbing, blood welling up in long delicate lines from the welts on his bottom. Nana rushed in and took him in her arms. Lorcan had never seen her cry before.
The Landsmeet was huge and echoing. Lorcan tried to remember his training, and kept his back straight, thinking about his speech, over and over, until his stomach hurt.
The people at the Landsmeet were not all old men like Grandfather. There were women there, too; some of them young and pretty; some of them old and wise-looking. Men were bearded and clean-shaven and some were young, too. Some wore elaborate armor, rather than velvet garments. Many greeted Lorcan with hard, hungry stares, but not all of them. Some looked at him with amusement, and some with kindness.
"His Highness, Prince Lorcan of Ferelden!"
Grandfather growled. He wanted the heralds to announce Lorcan as King, but they hadn't. Lorcan hoped Grandfather would not lose his temper. Terrible things would happen, and most of them to Lorcan himself.
Trumpets sounded, and then the people started talking. A man called a seneschal talked about Lorcan's mother dying, and then called Teyrn Cousland to speak, which made Grandfather terribly angry. Teyrn Cousland had a good loud voice, and sounded friendly. He said they should make their decision by reason and tradition, and not be swayed by Orlesian gold. He wore shiny armor that Lorcan liked. A nice-looking lady stood by him. She was dressed richly and her stomach stuck out, and with her was a little girl with curly hair.
Lorcan tugged at Nana's hand.
"I thought there wouldn't be other children here."
Grandfather answered in a low growl. "Wants to show he can breed, the sneaking Northern whoreson. Wants to show he's got heirs, with his brat and his woman about to pop out another."
"Ssssh, brother!" Nana murmured anxiously.
Then an old man with a grey beard stood up: Arl Eamon Guerrin of Redcliffe. He smiled at Lorcan, too, but in a way that made Lorcan shiver. And when he started talking, Lorcan knew the man was no friend.
"Woe to the kingdom whose ruler is a child!"
The words rang in Lorcan's head like an awful threat. Everyone went silent and listened to Arl Eamon, as he talked and talked about what a terrible thing it would be if Lorcan were king. He described people slaughtered and the land laid waste; everyone miserable and unhappy and hurting. Lorcan felt himself turn red with shame, furious with Arl Eamon for thinking that Lorcan would do things like that. Arl Eamon had never even met him!
And he talked about how Queen Anora, Lorcan's mother, had not had a drop of royal blood, and how her grandparents had been peasants. He had nothing against a honest family of minor nobility like the Stronars—
Lorcan heard Grandfather's breath hiss between his yellow teeth.
—but he, Eamon Guerrin, did not see that they had any right to the throne.
Then he talked about the Blood of Calenhad, and Maric the Savior, who was an old-time king that Lorcan had heard of.
"—And I present the rightful King, Alistair Theirin, son of Maric!"
Some scattered applause and lots of chattering. A blond man in golden armor stood up by Arl Eamon and waved and smiled. Then he started talking, but it was short, and it sounded something like the speech that Grandfather had made Lorcan learn.
"My lords and ladies of the Landsmeet. I have never before addressed you, but I take great pride to stand before you to defend my rights as the last of true Theirin blood…"
Lots of other men spoke, and Grandfather interrupted, furious that he was being passed over. The seneschal talked back about "precedence," and that Grandfather would get his turn. Everybody got very tense. Lorcan was bored, frightened, and very, very tired. He hoped they would all go home, and he would not have to try to remember his speech in front of all these people and in front of his terrible Grandfather, who was so angry that he was grinding his teeth.
At last it was Grandfather's turn, and he went up to the speaker's platform, gripping Lorcan's hand so hard it hurt. There was a rail in front of them, and it was just at Lorcan's eye level, so he had to either duck down or stand on his toes to see. Grandfather wasn't having that, so Lorcan had to stand there, straight as straight, unable to see people's faces. Once Grandfather got talking, he was glad of it.
Grandfather talked about Lorcan's mother, Queen Anora, and what a good queen she was. He had a paper that was her will, and he shook it in his other hand as he talked. He talked about Lorcan as her heir and about Lorcan's right to the throne, and how Grandfather was named as Regent. Other people tried to interrupt, talking about common birth and blood rights, and there was a lot of shouting.
Grandfather had more to say.
"Eamon Guerrin's put his own boy forward, putting words in his mouth and telling us he's King Maric's, though Maric isn't here to give him the lie. Eamon says this Alistair is the son of Maric, but there's no word about the mother! Who was she, then? A servant? An elf? A mage? How would such a one know who fathered her brats? No one can doubt that His Highness Prince Lorcan is the son of a Queen!"
Another man put in, "Stronar raises some sound points about Alistair, Eamon. What I principally remember about him is how he deserted Ferelden just as the darkspawn horde was marching on the city!"
There was a huge uproar, and the blond man Alistair turned dark red. Grandfather shouted, waving his parchment again.
"The fact is that this boy here is the son of the rightful Queen, chosen by the Landsmeet, for all Eamon's huffing and puffing about Loghain not being noble enough to suit him. Loghain saved us from the Orlesians, right enough! Killed the Archdemon and saved us from the darkspawn, too! This is his grandson, and a fine lad he is. If Alistair can stand up and make a speech, then you can listen to the true son of your Queen and the grandson of the Hero of River Dane!"
And with that, Grandfather grabbed Lorcan and swung him up on the rail, holding him so he wouldn't fall. His angry fingers dug into Lorcan's sides.
"Now speak your piece, boy!" growled Grandfather.
Squeezing his eyes shut, Lorcan tried to remember it all. He made his voice as big as he could and the speech burst out of him in a panic.
"Lords and Ladies of the Landsmeet! I stand here before you, the only son of Queen Anora, who ruled you with wisdom and justice. She it was who saw the darkspawn danger defeated. She it was who gave you peace and plenty. I hold..."
For a terrible moment, Lorcan almost forgot what it was he was 'holding.' Grandfather's grasp tightened, and he hissed low, "to my rights..."
"... to my rights, and... I summon you to your duty to uphold me as her heir!"
A burst of applause and some laughter.
"Brave lad!" approved Teyrn Cousland. "We all like a man who'll speak up for himself!"
"Since when," another man asked, acidly, "are children permitted to speak in the Landsmeet?"
"I'd say since today," laughed another. "It's done, Ceorlic. Leave it."
Eamon Guerrin broke in, his voice smooth. "As we all agree, very well spoken. No one wishes to deprive this boy of anything he rightfully owns. The separate issue of the teyrnir of Gwaren can be broached at another time. However, the heart of the matter is who will rule Ferelden. To give the kingdom to a small child who is the son of a woman of common birth who briefly ruled only by an accident of history would surely be foolish beyond example!"
"As foolish as giving Ferelden to you and your puppet?" shouted Grandfather. "I've learned you raised him in your stables as a servant, and that all Redcliffe, including your wife, knew he was your own bastard!"
"How dare you! I have letters from King Maric himself—"
"—Letters you never showed the Landsmeet before!"
Another man shouted, "I don't care if the boy is made king or not! What I object to is Stronar being made Regent. The great nobles of Ferelden will never submit to the rule of a backwoods bann from Gwaren!"
Men blustered and clutched at their sword hilts. Women snarled in each other's faces. Lorcan, balanced precariously on the rail, wanted to run away, but was afraid to move, lest he fall. Grandfather was hurting him, his hands taut and shaking in a rage.
The trumpets sounded again, ringing through the lofty chamber, cutting through the noise. The seneschal said they would recess for the day, and come back tomorrow with cooler and more reasonable heads. There was angry muttering
"I think you should call for a vote here and now!" shouted Teyrn Cousland. "No one's going to change his mind now—unless he's slipped a bit of Orlesian gold overnight!"
Arl Eamon smirked. "All this talk about 'Orlesian gold' sounds like that tyrant Loghain Mac Tir before he went down to defeat!"
"Loghain Mac Tir saved this country, which is more than you can claim! And anyone who thinks the Orlesians are our friends is a fool or a traitor!"
The trumpets rang again.
"My lords!" bellowed the seneschal. "The Landsmeet is over for today! Take up your cause tomorrow, and may the Maker guide you in the path of wisdom!"
Grandfather grabbed Lorcan down from the rail, and stalked away. Lorcan had to run to keep up with him.
Lorcan slept restlessly, waking up from time to time, and then was happy that he would never have to say his speech again to Grandfather.
He woke again, when it was very dark, and realized there was noise outside the door. It reminded him of the faint scratching of the crows outside. Then he turned his head on the pillow and saw that there was a red glow reflected in his window. Was it dawn?
No! A fire! People were shouting, far away downstairs. Once again, the shouts were coming nearer, along with marching feet and the clank of metal. Some of the maids stirred on their pallets on the floor, whispering questions.
"Halt!" shouted a guard outside. It was Odar. Lorcan knew that deep rumble. "These are the Prince's apartments!"
"Stand down!" ordered a man in a clear, commanding voice. "We are here to see to the child's safety."
"I've had no orders to admit anyone, Bann Teagan."
"I'm giving you new orders. Stand down."
"Back off, my lord!"
With that shout, there was a huge crash, and the sound of something big hitting the door. There were grunts and the sound of metal against metal, and metal against flesh. There were shouts and a wild shriek of agony. Lorcan sat up in bed, his blood turned to ice. Nana clambered out of her own narrow bed, and shrugged on a robe.
"Oh, my lady!" whimpered a maid. "What's going to happen? What's going to happen?"
"Lorcan!" cried Nana. She turned to run to him, but at that moment the doors burst open, and armed men flooded into the room, fighting. Nana was knocked down, and lay moaning.
Lorcan slipped under the bed and held his breath.
More men flooded into the room. "Save the King!" shouted the ones in Gwaren livery.
"Get the boy! Get the boy!" shouted Bann Teagan, sword up to fend off a blow. "Search the rooms and don't hurt him!" Some of his men carried candles and lanterns, looking this way and that. The maidservants squealed and shrank back against the wall. The firelight cast dancing shadows behind them. A man fell, spurting blood, and the women screamed out in one voice.
Odar was still fighting, swinging his big axe. A man went down before him, but another attacked from behind and stabbed Odar in the back. The big man jerked up, head thrown back. A warrior in light leathers grabbed at his hair and cut his throat with a dagger.
Odar fell heavily, trying to crawl toward the axe he'd dropped. His distorted face turned toward Lorcan, hiding under the bed. His lips stretched in a terrible grin, and he jerked again and lay still, blue eyes open and staring.
Lorcan stared back, pressed hard against the wall, heart beating so loudly that surely everyone could hear it. Wet trickled between his legs. He curled himself into a tight little ball, and prayed to be invisible. Someone was searching the bed above him.
"The boy's not here!"
Nana drew herself up, her grey hair wild and straggling, and faced the big man in armor, Bann Teagan.
"These are the Prince's apartments! How dare you show violence here, Bann Teagan?"
"We are securing the boy for his own safety. Bann Stronar is under arrest for high treason."
Nana stared at him, mouth open. Then she licked her lips. "On whose authority?"
"By the authority of King Alistair! Lady Niamh Stronar, you are under arrest as well, as a member of an attainted family. You will be taken to Fort Drakon, and there your degree of guilt will be ascertained. Take her away."
Some of the men grabbed Nana by her arms. Lorcan darted out from under the bed, scrambled to his feet and ran to her, pummeling at the men with small fists.
"No! Leave Nana alone!"
One of the soldiers grabbed him up, laughing.
"He wants his Na-na!" he mocked. "Poor little pisspants!"
"Silence there, Catesby," ordered Bann Teagan. "Lady Niamh, I advise you to go quietly, unless you wish the boy put in further danger."
"May I at least be permitted to find my shoes, my lord?"
A snicker. "Won't need shoes where's she's going..."
"Hold your tongues!" snapped Teagan, quieting the chuckles. "You there, girl, give Lady Niamh her shoes."
"Nana!" whimpered Lorcan, squirming in the soldier's grasp.
"Be brave, my little Prince," whispered Nana, "I'll be just fine, and I'll see you soon."
"That's likely true enough," snorted one soldier to another, who then looked away at Teagan's glare.
She was taken away, turning for a last look at Lorcan, before the men yanked at her arms and hurried off.
Teagan looked Lorcan over, and gave him what he no doubt thought was a warm smile.
"Lord Lorcan, I mean you no harm. I am here to keep you safe from traitors and schemers. My brother, Arl Eamon, as Chancellor of the realm, will stand as your guardian himself."
"Like he did for Prince Alistair?" Lorcan asked, remembering something he'd heard at the Landsmeet.
"Er..." Another smile. "Yes, of course."
"Will I have to go and work in a stable, too?"
An awful silence, broken by a faint snort and some secret grins. Bann Teagan's face turned to stone.
"I'd advise you, my lord, to show respect for your elders. You will be taken to comfortable quarters in the North Tower, since the Royal Apartments are needed for the King's use. You men, with me. Catesby, keep close hold on his lordship."
Lorcan squirmed again, hating the grinning man who clutched him, pondering the subtle change in his name.
How is it that Nana calls me Prince Lorcan, but this Bann Teagan calls me Lord Lorcan?
They marched and marched, down the long corridors and up, up, up winding stairs; passing rooms that Lorcan had never seen before. Men ran up giving Bann Teagan messages.
One said, his voice low, "Teyrn Cousland escaped, my lord. Your lord brother has men searching the other side of the river."
"Very well." To himself, Teagan muttered, "I told him he should have left that to me!"
The room in the high tower Lorcan was taken to was not very nice: nothing like home. It had a narrow bed with a blanket. The mattress was straw and crunched under him. Bits of the straw poked at him through the rough linen. Two big men were left with him in the room, to guard him. None of his things were here. Nana was gone. Lorcan turned his face to the wall, and the tears ran hot.
The next days were long and frightening. Lorcan had nothing to do and nothing to play with. The window was too high to look out of, though Lorcan could see birds soaring and wheeling against the sky. Some of them were crows.
He was still wearing his soiled nightshirt, and his feet were bare on the cold stones. Big men came and went to his room, all wearing Redcliffe livery, watching him, but mostly playing cards. A few took notice of him.
"That's Teyrn Loghain's grandson, that is. Wouldn't guess it to look at the little lad. Favors his dam, more like."
"Well, even Teyrn Loghain was a babe himself, once."
Some of the men even taught him to play cards, though Lorcan had nothing to wager. Food was brought, but it was different, and in different bowls, and the wooden spoon they gave him was big and splintery. Instead of a close stool with a seat, he had to use a bucket, and the men watched him do that, too.
At night he cried, until one of the men threatened to give him something to cry for.
A few days later, Mother Berenthy came to see him. She was angry, but apparently not angry with him. She brought him fresh clothes and shoes, his cup-and-ball, his top, his clay horse on wheels, and his letter blocks. She gave him a hug, and looked him over, fire in her eyes.
"This is a disgrace," she told the guard. "This is an outrage. This child is the rightful Teyrn of Gwaren, by anyone's reckoning, and Arl Eamon is treating him like a dangerous criminal. Don't think that the Grand Cleric won't hear about this!"
The guard shrugged, not wanting to argue with a priest. None of it was his doing anyway.
"I'm just here to do for the boy, my lady."
"Well, Arl Eamon can do better than this!"
The next time she came, a maid was with her, and the bed was changed. A little featherbed was laid over the straw, it was made up with fine linens, a fur coverlet, and a plump goosedown pillow. Lorcan's little table and chair were brought up, and some of his lesson books.
And later that day, while he was having his noontime porridge, the big blond man, Alistair, came to see him. Lorcan stared, his spoon halfway to his mouth.
"Well!" said Alistair, looking around the room. "This isn't so bad! I don't know what the Chantry was fussing about!" He looked at Lorcan. "And so you're Lord Lorcan. You gave a good speech at the Landsmeet."
The guard yanked him to his feet. "Bow to His Majesty!"
"Grandfather said I was King! Are we both Kings?"
The nervous guard cuffed his head. "Bow, you little bastard!"
"Hey!" Alistair protested. "No need for that!" He waved his hands, looking embarrassed. "You, leave the room. I want to talk to Lord Lorcan alone."
The man grumbled, but obeyed. Lorcan hoped he was not in for worse when Alistair left. He rubbed his hurt head and watched the blond man warily. All the same, he did not bow.
"I'm not a bastard!" he muttered.
"No. I guess you're not. I don't suppose you have anything to drink here?"
Lorcan pointed to the water pail and dipper.
"Oh. Never mind." Alistair seated himself on the guard's stool and waved Lorcan toward his own small chair.
"Only one of us can be King," he said, "and right now that looks like me. A lot of people say you should be Teyrn of Gwaren, and I don't have any problem with that. Somebody's got to be Teyrn of Gwaren. You're just a boy, now, and so somebody will take care of that for you and act as your Regent."
"My mother said Grandfather was my Regent. She wrote it down in her will."
Alistair blew out a breath. "Well, that's not going to happen. Er..." He paused, thinking something over. "No. No need to tell you something like that. Anyway, Arl Eamon thinks that Bann Teagan would be a good regent for you."
"I don't like Bann Teagan. He hurt my Nana."
"My Nana. She took care of me, and they dragged her away and said she wouldn't need shoes anymore. Bann Teagan had Odar killed, and he's mad at me."
"Why would he be mad at you?"
"'Cos when he told me Arl Eamon was looking after me, I asked if it was like when he took care of you, and if I'd have to work in a stable, too."
Alistair's eyes bulged briefly, and then he burst out in a roar of laughter. Lorcan was alarmed, and huddled down in his chair.
"Did you?" Alistair sputtered, not able to stop chuckling. "Did you really? That's... great. I mean... of course... No. That's great. That was a good one. Don't say it again, though," he added hastily. "They don't like to talk about that."
"Why did they do it, if they don't like talk about it?"
"Point taken." Alistair still grinned. "Don't make them mad at you. Just saying."
"What about Nana? I want her to come back."
"Er... well... I don't think that will happen any time soon. Arl Eamon doesn't like the Stronars. We'll see. Mother Berenthy comes to visit you, doesn't she? Do you like her?"
"She's nice. She brought me my clothes and toys and my table. And my bed was poky straw until she fixed it."
Alistair slumped on his stool and rubbed his chin. "So you like Mother Berenthy. You like the Chantry? Would you like to be a Templar, maybe? They're pretty amazing, and they have the best armor in Thedas!"
Lorcan shrugged. He was supposed to be King or Teyrn of Gwaren or something like that. He didn't know any Templars.
Alistair got to his feet. "Well, you take care of yourself, Lorcan. I'll make sure Mother Berenthy can see you whenever she likes. We'll figure something out." He paused, awkwardly, about to say something else.
Then he left.
More days passed: days and days and days; nights and endless nights. Mother Berenthy came every day to give Lorcan his lessons. Guards watched them the whole time, and if Lorcan asked about Nana or Grandfather, Mother Berenthy would give her head a little shake.
"I'm not permitted to talk about that, my lord," she said.
She wasn't calling him "Your Highness," anymore, either. Lorcan filed that away for consideration.
Once Arl Eamon came to see him, speaking to Lorcan like he was something beneath him. Bann Teagan was with him, face stern. He said nothing to Lorcan at all. The two men looked around the room, talking quietly to each other.
After they left, bars were put on the window.
"Why are they there?" Lorcan asked his latest guard.
"To keep you from falling to your death, my lord," the man said, chuckling.
Sometimes the guards talked among themselves. Apparently, there was a war going on. Teyrn Cousland was in the north, and had an army, and the guards were happy to be safe guarding Lorcan here in Denerim, far from the fighting.
"If the darkspawn can get into the city," one predicted gloomily, "then I don't think the walls will keep a Cousland out!"
The other agreed. "Aye. And to think of those rabble from Gwaren making common cause with them—" He glanced at Lorcan."—because they want their Teyrn. It's a wicked world, my friend."
A pair of crows made a nest up on the sill, against one of the bars. They peered into the room with black, beady eyes, their heads cocked in curiosity. Lorcan wondered what they thought of it all. He did not try to make friends with them, since he remembered what they did to his father.
After dinner one night, the guard told Lorcan to use the bucket and go to bed.
"Don't forget to say your prayers," the man added, gruffly.
Lorcan did as he was told, slipping gratefully into the comfort of his small bed. The man stood over him, looking at him with an inscrutable face, and then blew out the candle by the bed. After a few minutes he left the room, dousing the lantern by the door as well. The room fell into utter darkness.
Lorcan was curious about that, and a little frightened, since he had never been left alone before. Why had the guard gone away? Why had he put out the light? He lay quietly, trying to work it out. Slowly, his eyes adjusted to the dark, and he could make out of the distant stars, glittering between the bars of his window. Everything was silent. Even the crows on the ledge were asleep. He was up so high in the tower that no sound from the city drifted up, and he wondered if he was the only person left in the world. Then he heard a faint rustling outside his room, and the door creaked open very slowly.
His hair prickling, Lorcan tensed. Why was the guard sneaking back in?
It was not the guard. Two black shapes slipped into the room, their footsteps nearly noiseless. One carried a dark lantern.
"Be careful!" whispered the other, with an excited laugh. "We must leave no marks!"
Lorcan shuddered, and slipped down from the bed, crawling to safety underneath.
Swiftly, the two figures crossed the room, and made for the bed. the bedclothes were thrown back, brushing the floor.
"Braska!" one hissed. "Where is he?"
A dim light kindled in the room, as the man with the lantern pushed back a little door in the lantern's side. The two assassins were briefly flummoxed. There was a long pause, and then they dropped to the floor by the bed and stretched out their arms to grab their prey. The lantern tumbled away, and the light went out.
He shrieked, shriller than a bird, kicking out with all his strength.
"Help! Nana! Help!"
He gasped for breath and shrieked again, tangled in the sheets, while strong hands gripped his ankles and dragged him out. A hand clapped over his mouth and Lorcan bit down hard.
The assassin swore, and slapped Lorcan away, grazing his cheek with a heavy ring. Lorcan stumbled against his table, and his toys were scattered. The other assassin, less easily distracted, snatched up the little boy and threw him onto the bed, grabbing up the soft, soft goosedown pillow and pressing it into the small, terrified face.
Muffled by the pillow, Lorcan faintly heard their business-like chatter.
"Hold his legs, fool! If you marked his face we will not get the extra gold!"
Lorcan fought frantically, trying to push the pillow away, but he had no breath left. His struggles grew weaker as the pillow pressed down harder. He hoped Nana was coming soon. After a little while, everything was soft and dark.
The crows on the ledge, startled by the noise, flew away, abandoning their nest.
Notes: "Woe to the kingdom whose ruler is a child" is from Ecclesiastes 10:16, and was simply too true for debate. Historically, it's generally not a very pleasant experience for the child, either, and sometimes very short.
I'll pass over the whole Richard III controversy, about which I have views that are too lengthy to discuss here.
If you think I'm being too cruel to Lorcan, I know of many more dreadful cases. If you don't mind your heart breaking with horror, read in detail about the hideous fate of Louis XVII, the little son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Thanks to karinfan123 for the idea of Anora having a child with a subsequent husband. I did not use the second part of her concept, which would have led to a happier ending.
Of course there are heaps of possibilities with this theme. A child of Cailan and Anora would be a valuable pawn, and no doubt potential Regents would be killing each other off like the guardians of James VI of Scotland (later James I of England). If Loghain were still alive in the universe above, certain issues would play out very differently as well. Anora would also be much safer to choose a foreign husband (with a powerful foreign alliance), or a powerful Fereldan husband (Fergus or Teagan), even if her own power were somewhat eclipsed thereby. In the current situation, she's much too isolated and vulnerable, and all the high nobles of the kingdom would have their reasons to unseat her child.
No update next week, as I'll be on vacation.