Game: Dragon Age: Alternate Universe
Characters/pairing: Alistair x Cousland
Disclaimer: Dragon Age is the property of Bioware, as is Cullen and any other characters mentioned within this piece. Roselyn Cousland is my creation, under the Dragon Age: Origins player character, Cousland.
AO3 Link // FF.net Link // Tumblr Master Post</p>
Summary: Alternate Universe. Prince Alistair is the son of King Maric Theirin, second in line to the throne of Ferelden after his older brother Cailan, and he suffers from an arranged marriage. His intended? The only daughter of Bryce and Eleanor Cousland, Roselyn. A girl he last saw when they were children and who arrives in Denerim for their impending nuptials as eager for it as he is.
Helped by Alistair’s sister-in-law, Anora the two find opportunities to get to know one another and to bond. Over time, they warm up both to the idea of marriage and to each other and develop into a formidable team in the hopes of making Ferelden better under the rule of King Maric and the future rule of Cailan.
Life does not remain peaceful for long however, as unrest simmers under the surface of the Ferelden people.
Month: Guardian. Three months to the wedding.
“Just changing over the horses, My Lady. Not long then straight on to Denerim.”
“Thank the Maker,” Eleanor leaned back in her seat in the carriage, smoothing her hands across the skirt of her dress. The carriage was stuffy and uncomfortable, but it was seen as improper for ladies to ride on horseback for any length of time. Especially when travelling for a distance. “Did you hear that, darling?” She turned to the only other occupant of the carriage.
“Yes, Mother,” Roselyn said, her eyes fixed out of the window at the countryside.
“Almost at Denerim,” Eleanor was almost breathless in her own excitement, adjusting her gloves on her slender fingers. “Won’t that be lovely?”
Roselyn managed not to snort. “I can barely contain my excitement,” Eleanor’s eyes narrowed slightly but Roselyn missed the glimmer of disapproval in her mother’s gaze. Shuffling across the plush seats she reached for the door.
“What are you doing?” inquired her mother, her voice rising a notch.
“Going to stretch my legs.”
“I’ll go with you.”
“Thank you, but no.” One of the grooms caught the carriage door and held it open for her offering a hand so as support as she climbed out. “I would prefer to walk on my own for a few minutes.” Stepping out of the carriage, the sole of her boot crunched the earth while she steadied herself. As the groom shut the door, Eleanor popped her head out of the window, shielding her eyes from the sun.
“Don’t wander too far, darling.”
“I won’t.” Roselyn rolled her eyes, straightening her back.
“Take your father with you.”
Clenching her hands at her sides, Roselyn squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, calming herself. She turned to look at her mother’s concerned face and graced her with a smile. “If he can be spared.”
Eleanor smiled and disappeared back into the gloom of the carriage. Roselyn walked to where the horses were being swapped out. The ones they started with would have been back at Highever by now; beautiful destriders she had grown up with and ridden daily. She felt a sense of melancholy knowing she would not ride or see them again.
They had been on the road for nearly a week. This was the last change over of horses before they would reach their destination of Denerim. The four animals being harnessed to the carriage had been sent from the Denerim royal stable by the King. Each one was beautiful, with glossy coats and manes, skittering and eager to get going.
Every courtesy was being extended to Roselyn and her family by King Maric as they travelled the stretching road from Highever. Her mother could barely contain her excitement as years of planning were close to coming to fruition. Each mile could not pass fast enough for her.
Roselyn felt the exact opposite.
She was leaving her family to marry someone she had been betrothed to at age six. She left her brother, her nephew, and the friends she had grown up with. Denerim palace was to be her new home and the King’s youngest son was to be her husband.
She could not remember his face or his voice. They had not met again since the day the “arrangement” had been made, when King Maric had come to Highever on a tour with his household and his two young sons. Her parents remembered the day fondly, filling it with pomp, ceremony, and flourishes of how the two princes had tripped over themselves to spend time with Roselyn and that Alistair had given her flowers to win her over. Roselyn didn’t remember any of it. If the visit had been as grand and spectacular as her parents made out to be, it left little impression on her, and the princes less still.
All she knew of the princes were the rumours she heard from merchants who had travelled the Kingsroad toward Highever to sell their wares and restock.
Cailan was the oldest set to inherit the throne when Maric died. At twenty-six, he was reported to be fair of face and tall, broad across the chest. He wore his hair long, a style preferred by his father in his younger days.
He was married at twenty-one to Anora Mac Tir, the daughter of Maric’s military general and close friend, Loghain. Despite five years of marriage they had yet to produce a child to carry on the royal line. The blame naturally fell to Anora, despite the hushed gossip that Cailan was a known philanderer; a commonality he rumoredly shared with the King.
As the oldest Prince and potential future ruler of Ferelden, Cailan’s duties were to provide protection to those in need of it, such as those living in the slums and the Alienage of Denerim, and learn the art of ruling from his father. He was expected to take an interest in the welfare of the people he would one day rule and learn the business of government, as well as military movements and combat.
Yet for all his tutors, all Roselyn ever heard of Cailan was that he enjoyed hunting, hawking, and whoring rather than learning the task of ruling a country.
She heard considerably less about Prince Alistair. Aside from being told he accompanied Maric and Cailan on tours each year, tours for which Roselyn was always conveniently absent at her parents behest, she knew little of him. Not even how he wore his hair. Her intended husband was little more than a mystery, and she did not like leaving all she had known to marry a mystery.
Roselyn jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Something wrong, pup?”
Her father, Bryce, smiled down at her; kind eyes, kind face, concerned, and yet somehow able to put her at ease.
“I was going to stretch my legs,” she told him. “Mother wanted you to walk with me. To make sure I don’t try to make a run for it, I’m certain.”
Bryce laughed heartily at that, taking her small, gloved hand and sliding it into the crook of his elbow. Roo, Roselyn’s mabari hound, who had been running alongside the carriage since Crestwood, came to heel and started walking with them.
“What’s on your mind?” Bryce asked once they had walked far enough away from the carriage and the grooms to not be over heard.
Roselyn squeezed her fingers into the material of her father’s travelling coat while dropping her shoulders in an effort to make herself appear more relaxed. “Why should anything be on my mind?” she asked, evasively.
“Come now, pup,” Bryce glanced at her from the corner of his eye, “I am not your mother. I know when there’s something amiss with you.” He patted the top of her hand. “What’s wrong?”
Debating for a few moments whether or not to unburden herself to her father, Roselyn came to a stop. She swept her fingers through the loose rings of her hair which tumbled down her back and dropped to pick up a stick on the ground which she threw for Roo. The dog chased it, kicking up a cloud of dirt and stones in her wake.
“Must I marry the Prince?” she asked her father, trying hard to keep the tone of whining out of her voice.
“Ah.” Bryce tucked one hand behind his back. He retrieved the stick when Roo returned it and tossed it again. Roselyn got to her feet and began to walk once more in tandem with her father. “He’s very nice.”
“It’s a very advantageous match for our family,” Bryce explained. “Any children you have will be candidates for the throne of Ferelden.”
“After Cailan and Anora’s children.”
Bryce clucked, “If they have any.”
Arching a brow, Roselyn nudged her father, “That’s treason, you know.”
“Will you turn me in?” he teased, smiling. Roselyn held his arm again, watching Roo’s body disappear into the golden fields of wheat around them. She could track the dog only by the birds that flew from the grasses, disturbed by the boisterous hound.
“I have… reservations. I know nothing about him. I’ve only received a handful of letters from him in the thirteen years since everything was arranged. Fergus didn’t have an arranged marriage, why must I?” Roselyn thought back to her brother who would be taking care of Highever in the absence of its Teyrn, their father. She thought of his pretty Antivan wife, Oriana, heavily pregnant with their second child. She thought of her nephew Oren and how someone else would take over his riding lessons now she was no longer there to show and guide him.
“Fergus…” Bryce sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Fergus did have a match. He made his own choice without the approval of your mother or myself.”
“And yet it worked out well,” said Roselyn. “Oriana comes from a good, noble family in Antiva and there was no civil war. Why can’t I have the same treatment? Why must I be subjected to this archaic procedure and not be allowed to find my own husband?”
“It’s different for daughters.”
Growing frustrated, Roselyn furrowed her brows. “Why? It shouldn’t be. I should be allowed to make my own choice!”
“Roselyn…” He tried to pat her hand but she pulled it away. “The Prince is kind and, from everything Maric has written me of him, the two of you will make a fine match. You will be the sister-in-law to the King of Ferelden and aunt the future Kings of Ferelden. You will have more power and influence than our family has ever had. You will be happy.”
“Will I?” Roselyn bit out. “Can you swear to me I will be happy? Because Anora is married to a Prince of Ferelden too, and all I hear of her is how miserable she is and how Prince Cailan mistreats her. Favoring the company of whores over his own wife. Who is to say his brother is not cut from the same cloth?”
Bryce closed his mouth looking down at her, his expression drawn into a frown. She stared back, challenging him to tell her she that would indeed be blissfully happy. To promise it to her that the prince would make her the happiest woman in Thedas as Calian was supposed to have made Anora. For several seconds neither of them spoke and Bryce quickly looked away from her, turning his attention to the carriage.
He noted the final horse was being harnessed and Roselyn saw him relax.
“The horses are nearly ready,” he told her, offering his hand. “We must get back.”
“Yes,” Roselyn replied with a tone like ice, “I suppose we must.” She turned in a flourish of her skirts and marched back towards the carriage. Climbing in, she slumped in her seat, trying hard to fight off her anger and the sting of tears.
Alistair paced across his brothers chamber from one wall to the other and back again. He was walking the same path for what must have been hours, unable to quell his nerves. On any normal day, he would have left the palace and gone for a ride. Or done some sword work. Or work with a pole arm. Something to distract him.
But this was not any other day. His father had forbidden both him and his brother to leave the palace lest they be late for meeting their guests. Cailan took this imposed house arrest as he did everything - as an opportunity to languish in luxury, drink, eat, and flirt with the different courtiers who had come to petition their father.
Alistair envied him. Cailan was so calm and collected. He took everything in his stride and nothing phased him. He could recall Cailan’s attitude to Anora before their wedding: cool, controlled, charming, and familiar. He should have expected nothing less considering they had grown up together.
Cailan was everything Alistair was not.
Cailan had most people at court wrapped around his finger, and those that were not Cailan could delight with a handful of pretty phrases and witty comments which turned them to putty. Alistair envied his brother and the ease with which he sailed through life. He was the prince their father wanted, the prince their country deserved. Alistair was grateful for being the second son, especially when he thought of what would happen if his father and Cailan ever perished, leaving him to rule. He was a bumbling fool, as Maric told him often, and would run Ferelden into the ground. Still, he wished his brother would be more supportive than he was being now.
“Did you see the Pirate Queen in court today?” asked Cailan, smiling over his goblet in an unnerving and wolfish way. He licked his top lip. “She can hoist my sails any day.”
“Do you even know what that means?” snapped Alistair, ruffling his hands through his hair. “You’ve never even been near a ship!”
Cailan laughed, the same laugh their father had. “So what?” He took a long swallow from his cup. “It’s an expression, brother. I think she’d at least appreciate the attempt at pirate talk.”
Alistair arched a brow, folding his arms. “She would eat you alive, Cailan,” he stated, watching his brother pluck a grape from the bunch and turned it over between his thumb and forefinger. “You know she would.”
“That’s half the fun,” Cailan grinned, popping the grape into his mouth.
Sighing, Alistair resumed his pacing. He would get no help or words of confidence from his older brother. He was foolish to expect them, but he was grateful that their talk had not divulged into every reason Cailan was amazing and every reason Alistair was not, as they often did. Their father took most every opportunity to point out his faults, he did not need his brother to do the same. Especially not today of all days.
“Stop pacing,” barked Cailan. “You’ll wear a hole in the rug.”
Coming to a stop in front of a mirror, Alistair rubbed his hands across and down his face, groaning into his palms. He should have been excited. He was meeting, for the first time since he was eight, the woman he was going to marry. They had been betrothed by their parents and aside from a handful of approved letters, had not spoken or met again since that day.
Everything in his mind told him he was over thinking and worrying for nothing. He was a prince after all and, aside from his brother, one of the most sought after men in Ferelden. Yet he felt nothing but a sense of dread since waking this morning. He had been unable to eat; his stomach twisted and clenched so violently that even a tiny morsel of food had made him want to be sick. Cailan tried to get him to drink wine or ale in the hopes it would give him some courage, but both drinks had only made the tempest in his gut worse.
Being trapped in the palace did not help. Everywhere he turned there were signs of the impending arrival of the Cousland family and his bride-to-be. In every room the servants paused when he walked through, giggling and whispering to each other. The whole palace had been cleaned until every candle stick shone and Maric had ordered decorations to be hanged in the colours of the Cousland house, dark navy and silver, in welcome. Some of the best horses from the stables had been sent out to wait along the road to make the journey swifter for them.
“What if she doesn’t like me?” Alistair asked, peering at his face in the looking glass.
He was not an unattractive man by any means. His hair was cut short and dark blond where both his brother and father preferred longer styles and their hair was the same light blond shade. Many told him his eyes were his best feature, almond shaped and a warm honey-brown colour. He disagreed and believed it was his nose. Long, straight, the Theirin nose shared between himself, Cailan, and King Maric. Alistair rubbed the faint scruff on his chin. “Do you think I should shave? What if she doesn’t like beards?”
Cailan draped an arm around Alistair’s shoulders, sharing the mirror with him and grinning like a fool. “Brother, what is there about you that she could not like? You are a prince. You are handsome and you live in the best city, the best palace in Ferelden.” Alistair struggled a little under Cailan’s weight as he hung off him.
“That might not matter to her…”
“What else should matter?” chuckled Cailan. He examined his reflection in the glass. Alistair saw the similarities in their appearance. Both of them had high, noble brows and square chins. Alistair’s face was softer, not so weathered by frivolity and drink. Their eyes were the same shape, Cailan’s a little smaller and a darker colour. And where Alistair preferred to have something of a beard, Cailan did not, keeping his facial hair trimmed down to stubble. There was so little about them that was different, their father’s blood ran strong in them both. There was no doubting they were the sons of Maric Theirin.
“You don’t need a shave.” Cailan clutched Alistair’s chin and squeezed, puckering his lips for him. “You need to relax. Stop fussing.”
Alistair shook his head and pushed his brother, laughing. “Easy for you to say,” he remarked, massaging his jaw. “You’re already married. And you’d known Anora since childhood when you did marry.” He smoothed his hands over his hair. Cailan released him, the mention of his wife souring his mood. “I’m meeting this girl for the first time today, really. A short visit when we were children doesn’t count for much.”
“Seems strange that father never let you meet her before now.” Cailan shrugged refilling his silver cup with wine. “What’s her name again?”
“Roselyn…” Cailan repeated, letting the name roll off his tongue slowly. “Sounds stuck up.”
Alistair stared at him in silence for a beat, then chuckled through his nose. “You get that just from a name?”
His brother shrugged. “Names are telling,” he replied. “If it was just Rose, then that would be better. But Roselyn screams of haughtiness and being shrewish.” He prodded Alistair’s upper arm with his forefinger hard. “Mind yourself with her.”
“Because you’re so knowledgeable with women.” Alistair sighed feeling a need to defend his future bride from his brother’s words. “Your track record is astounding after all. Five years married and no children.”
His slight touched a nerve, for he saw Cailan’s demeanour change instantly. His jaw tightened and his brows dropped, while his shoulders tensed. Glaring at Alistair, he swallowed from his cup and dropped it to the table, letting it clatter to the flagstone floor.
“Sorry, Cailan. That was–”
“At least I’ve been with a woman, little brother,” sneered Cailan, his tone losing its playfulness and becoming malicious. “It’s no fault of mine that my wife is as barren as a Blighted field. Perhaps you should spend more time worrying about your performance on your wedding night and your mysterious bride-to-be than my marriage.” He gave Alistair’s cheek a condescending pat and smiled unpleasantly. “Hm?”
Alistair waited for the door to slam closed before he breathed again. He forgot sometimes how changeable Cailan could be. Laughing and joking one minute, then dangerously unkind the next. He had always been that way and Alistair had paid for his brothers mood swings more times than he cared to count. The air in Cailan’s room grew stifling, the scent of his wine lingering in the air. Or perhaps that was just the venom Alistair had heard in his brother’s departing words.
He left, not quite sure of where he was going. His own room would have made sense, but he had no desire to spend time alone. If he did, he would spend time thinking and dreading the impending meeting of this woman and what would go wrong. Because something would go wrong. It always did.
Luck and company found him in the form of his uncle, Teagan. The youngest brother of the late Queen Rowan, he was the only member of the royal family who did not see Alistair either as a glorified fool or a pawn to be moved across a chess board. One of the few people Alistair trusted and could feel at ease with.
“Your Highness,” Teagan caught himself from tripping and Alistair stopped in his steps.
“I’m sorry, Teagan,” he spoke, “I was miles away.”
“Quite alright, Your Highness.” Teagan smiled his easy smile, “His Majesty sent me. Bryce Cousland has arrived with his entourage. You’re to go and meet them outside with the King and your brother.”
Alistair felt his body go cold. A chill rose up his spine and his limbs seemed to grow solid. He stood dumb for a few seconds, aware of Teagan’s mouth moving and words being formed, but unable to hear them over the blood thudding in his ears and the screaming terror he just managed to conceal. He had not thought they would arrive so soon. He wondered if they had galloped the horses the whole way. Poor horses.
“Your Highness?” Teagan’s face was drawn into concern and through his own fear, Alistair was barely able to hear him. “Your Highness, are you quite well?”
“Ye–” Alistair cleared his throat of its tightness. “Yes.” He rubbed his hands on his breeches, they had started to sweat under the weight of his worry. “I’m fine, Teagan.”
“Are you certain? All the colour drained from your face.”
“I’m fine.” He repeated, forcing a smile. “I’m…”
Teagan patted his shoulder in both a friendly and comforting gesture. “You have no reason to be worried, Your Highness. The Lady Roselyn is a very lovely young lady.” They began to walk along the hall at a pace that was deliberately slow.
“You’ve met her?”
“Several times,” explained Teagan. “Her father, Bryce has dealings with the Bannorn and Redcliffe. I’ve stayed at Highever Castle before. She’s charming.”
Alistair tried not to sound too interested and eager. “Oh?”
“She’s well-read, clever, educated. Graceful, quick-witted…”
“Is…” he hesitated. “Is she pretty?”
They paused in the hallway. Teagan grinned, and patted Alistair’s shoulder. They stood at the top of the main staircase which led to the entrance hall and the door outside where Maric ordered them to congregate when they arrived.
“You’ll see for yourself, soon enough, Your Highness,” Teagan told him.
Concealing his pout, Alistair jogged down the stairs and outside, Teagan following close behind. An evening breeze had whipped up and made it chilly, but there was still sunlight as it disappeared behind the trees. It made for a lovely evening, if nothing else.
Already outside was Cailan, Maric, and Anora. Cailan and Maric were talking, jostling, and joking, barking with laughter at one thing or another, while Anora stood stoic and away from them.
“Good evening, Anora,” Alistair greeted her with a polite smile. She nodded, dropping her eyes for a moment before standing straight once more, not a single blonde hair out of place.
Alistair stood beside his father, opposite to Cailan and Teagan to Alistair’s left. Noticing the arrival of both Alistair and Teagan, Maric straightened himself and smoothed down his surcoat.
“Excited?” he asked, Alistair, a familiar glint of amusement in his eye. A glint that always put Alistair on edge. It was a look that had become synonymous with a joke being played on him.
“No– yes. Yes. I mean, yes,” answered Alistair, fighting the rising fear in his stomach and the butterflies that felt more like a herd of horses trampling through his body.
His father was an overbearing, giant of a man. Imposing and loud, he was not cruel by any means, but he was not a warm or loving father. He never was, either to Cailan or Alistair. He took interest in them both now they were adults, and Cailan was his favourite, being the eldest and the next in line for the throne. But he never treated them as beloved sons; more as acquaintances when they had been children and now more as friends. He had spoiled them, but not loved them. As Alistair saw it, there were worse ways to grow up.
“Stand up straight,” Maric told him, and Alistair obeyed like a dog being brought to heel. “You want to make a good impression on the girl. First impressions matter more than anything, my boy.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Alistair swallowed, trying to dampen his throat as he heard the sound of hoof beats approaching the palace gates. The air felt heavy and when the carriage came into view, laden with trunks and grooms with a mabari running alongside. He felt like he might faint.
The horses were steaming and lathered. Servants ran from their places around the royal family to help with the animals and with unpacking while greetings and introductions were made.
Bryce Cousland had travelled with a small guard of about fifteen men all on horseback, also with a driver, footman, and two grooms who had been clinging to the carriage as it had pulled into the wide courtyard. The mabari sat waiting patiently by the carriage doors for someone to open them. Servants wrestled with the horses, and Alistair knew Teyrn Cousland from the house sigil on his travel coat.
While not a young man, he swung out of the saddle with ease and landed safely on the ground, handing the reins to a waiting elf. Maric approached, arms wide open in greeting.
“Bryce,” boomed Maric.
Bryce dropped into a low, gracious bow. “Your Majesty.”
Alistair watched as Maric embraced him, grinning at the familiarity of an old friend. He peered beyond them to the carriage, waiting for the doors to open, almost bouncing with anticipation.
“How was the journey?” asked Maric conversationally.
“Very fine, Your Majesty. The horses you provided made it pass much faster.”
“I expected no less. Sent along the fastest horses in my livery,” Maric’s tone dropped to a conspiratorial tone, “eager to get my future daughter-in-law here.”
Bryce laughed and guided the way to the carriage. “Allow me.” He ushered the footman away from the door, content to open it himself.
The first woman to appear was clearly his wife. Her hair was grey but her face was bright and intelligent, eyes like a hawk scanning the faces of each person as they bustled around going about their tasks and chores, gauging them. Bryce took her hand to help her down the carriage steps and then Maric took it to kiss.
“Eleanor,” he smiled at her while Eleanor Cousland dropped into a curtsey. “You’re looking lovely as ever.”
She laughed, “Your Majesty is as always the flatterer.” She rose gracefully to stand, reminding Alistair of a swan with the movement of her body, so fluid and collected.
“You and I will have much catching up to do,” Maric told Eleanor, leading her towards Cailan. “My son, Prince Cailan.” Eleanor curtsied, Cailan took her hand to kiss it and made a short bow.
“My Lady Cousland,” Cailan smiled up at her, eyes glittering. “If your daughter is as beautiful as her mother, my brother is a lucky man indeed.”
Alistair suppressed his desire to gag. Typical Cailan, laying it on thick to get everyone on his side straight away. Cailan caught his eye while Maric introduced Eleanor to Anora. He offered his most sardonic grin, poorly disguised as one of support and completely ignored by Maric and Eleanor as the King brought her to Alistair.
“And this is Prince Alistair, your future son-in-law.”
Well rehearsed in this duties, Alistair took her hand as she offered it and briefly touched his lips to the fabric of her glove which concealed her skin. “Lady Cousland,” he straightened. “I’m very excited to meet your daughter.” And terrified. He wanted to add.
“She’s very excited to meet you too.” Eleanor told him. “I can’t believe you’re the same young man. Last I laid eyes on you, there was mud all down your jerkin and you had the most apologetic look in your eyes while handing me a poesy of wildflowers.” She smiled fondly, a faraway look gleaming over her eyes. “Now look at you, all grown up.” She nudged Maric with a playful fondness, “they’re the spitting image of you, Your Majesty.”
“Strong family blood,” Maric explained with a rueful sigh, as if it was a regrettable fact when it was something Maric was most proud of. That his two sons took more after him. He led Eleanor back to Cailan, handed her to him, and then returned to Bryce and the carriage.
Alistair felt his heart beat quicken in his chest and his ribcage contract, almost smothering him. This was it. This was the moment he would see his future wife for the first time and he could hardly draw breath, he was so nervous. His palms grew clammy and he tried to wipe them on his breeches.
A hand extended from inside the carriage. Bryce took it, speaking to Maric.
Noise thudded in his head, drowning out voices and all sense. He dared not to blink, afraid he would miss something. Miss her face, or her hair, or miss her all together. That she would see him and disappear inside the carriage to hide.
What if she didn’t like him?
What if she thought he was repulsive?
What if he fainted?
What if…? What if…?
The woman who stepped out of the carriage was … slight and willowy and… beautiful. The air sped from Alistair’s lungs on a fast exhale.
She was fair skinned, pink cheeked with cascades of dark brown hair falling in ringlets down her back and over her shoulders. He watched Maric lead her first to Cailan and Anora, taking in the way she stood, straight and unafraid, unwilling to cower in the company of the unknown. She was not tall; he could see she stood an inch or two shorter than Anora, but she had a certain presence in the way she held herself. Shoulders down, chin up. Not dissimilar to the way Anora presented herself. Her travelling gown was dark crimson, slashed with bolts of silver. The colour complimented her skin perfectly, and Alistair felt colour rise in his cheeks when Maric brought her to him.
“Alistair,” Maric’s voice sounded soft and very far away. He was barely listening, examining her face, the contours of her cheek bones, her nose and the slight curve of her mouth. “This is Roselyn.”
She dropped into a curtsey, her eyes falling demurely. When she looked up at him, he saw her they were grey, stormy, like clouds before a thunder storm. Her expression stayed still, betraying nothing of her inner feelings or her impression of him. Her gaze remained on his face, locked on his eyes as she ascended smoothly to stand.
Taking her hand, Alistair swallowed hard and bowed. As with her mother, her skin was concealed by a glove, but his own flesh tingled at how close she was to him. All his fear and trepidation had left his body and he fought with every ounce of him not to grin. He kissed the back of her hand, lingering perhaps a moment or two longer than he should have before standing up straight.
“I’m pleased to meet you again, Roselyn.”
“And you, Your Highness,” she spoke, dropping her gaze again. Alistair released her slender fingers and watched as she clasped her hands before her. “I’m very glad to be here.”
“I’m glad… you’re… glad.” Alistair answered, awkwardly. He saw his father shake his head, a small smile of amusement twisting his lips. “Did…” he cleared his throat, trying to recover, “your journey, was it… uh…”
“It was long.” Roselyn told him curtly. “I’m eager to change and eat something.”
“R-right,” Alistair scratched the back of his head.
“An excellent idea,” Maric agreed, leading the way into the palace, “Bryce, Eleanor, you and I have much to discuss about the wedding plans over dinner. I’ll show you to the guest wing, let you change, and then we dine.”
Cailan followed after his father and Roselyn’s parents with Anora on his arm. Roselyn lingered, and Alistair hesitated before Teagan gave him a gentle shove in the back.
“Could I…” Blushing, Alistair rolled his eyes at himself, “I would, that is… May I–”
“I believe the Prince would like to escort you inside, My Lady.” Teagan explained helpfully.
Roselyn lifted a brow, glancing between the two men. Alistair offered his arm and she took it gingerly, holding her skirts to climb the steps. Alistair tried to smile, tried to find something to say but found nothing. His was head utterly empty of words or stories to break the rising tension.
He had fumbled his first impression, and he was sure he would pay for it. He led her inside, Teagan following behind. Already Maric was leading Bryce and Eleanor towards the guest apartments and Roselyn needed to follow.
She dropped his arm and smoothed out her skirt. “Thank you, Your Highness.” She bowed a little. “I imagine I will see you at dinner.”
“Yes.” Alistair flushed. For a moment or two Roselyn looked at him shrewdly before turning with a graceful sweep to follow her parents.
Once she was out of view, Alistair rubbed his face in his hands and groaned. Teagan patted his shoulder.
“That could have gone much worse, Your Highness.”
This is my first long fic in a very, very long time. I hope you enjoyed this first chapter.
Please let me know what you think! :3
Comments gratefully received and appreciated! <3