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Family Man [Complete]

Adelaide Orland

DAO/DA2 Timeline
[[OOC: Morning, 28th Haring]]

Despite having only returned from the previous night’s adventure a few hours before she was due to get up, Addie was in a good mood. The loss of sleep had done little to dent her optimism for the future of her projects; her plan, after breakfast, was to attend to her studies for a while and then turn to her drafting, plotting up yet another building on the site of the current slums. The idea had engaged her utterly since first Celeste and then Eddie had taken so well to it, and while she knew her schematics still had holes in them, she was still learning. Fortunately, it had not been hard to hide her practice in the pretence of ladylike sketchings or practice accounts.

She had planned on doing the same today once left to her own devices, but before her tutor had even finished bidding her good morning, there was a knock at the door. Without even waiting for an answer, it was then pushed open. Fairbain, her father’s seneschal, was on the side, sporting an expression that was grim even for him.

“Lady Adelaide. Lord Orland requests your presence. Immediately.”

Addie had spent too long practicing at being the obedient daughter to hesitate, although every hair on the back of her neck stood up. Father rarely summoned her except to give her briefs about the people who she would be in charge of entertaining on a given evening, and even then he never summoned her from her lessons to do it. A variety of ideas flitted through her brain as she followed Fairbain to Father’s study, each of them only adding to her fears. Had Father learned something? Had he found out that she’d been squirreling away money, or was engaging in hobbies he hadn’t specifically arranged for her to take an interest in? Or how she’d manipulated her way out of previous potential betrothals?

Maybe it was none of those things. Or it could be all of them. By the time she reached the study, it was taking most of her effort to maintain her composure. Fairbain knocked. “Your daughter is here, my lord.”

“Send her in.”

Fairbain opened the door for her, and then shut it behind her as she entered. Father was behind his desk, with a decanter of some alcohol or another set on the surface. In front of him were two glasses. It was not one of the ones she had spiked some time ago, fortunately.

Addie took a seat at Father’s gesture, letting her worry show openly on her face. She’d selected a reason for her agitation; even somebody as unworldly as she pretended to be would have realised this was an unusual situation. “What is it, Father? Has something happened to Mother?”

Father smiled. Thinly. “Nothing has occurred since her last letter home, to my knowledge.” He poured out a measure into each glass, and gestured for her to take one. She did, but turned it slowly in her fingers, waiting for him to take the first sip. “No, there is no cause for alarm on that front. Ladies first.” He indicated her glass.

Addie did not want to drink. She wanted to know what was happening. “It’s…your special brandy. Why are you giving some to me?”

“It’s a celebration, my sweet girl.” Alarm bells started ringing in Addie’s head, but she forced herself not to react. Father raised his glass in a toast. “A toast to your merits. Which means that you drink first.”

“I would rather not-”

“Drink. It.”

His voice had turned hard so fast that Addie shrank back in her chair. Her fingers trembled as she brought the glass to her lips, and took the tiniest gulp she could get away with. Apparently satisfied, Father downed a solid measure from his own glass before turning that unsettling smile on her again. “Amazing. For somebody who has only had watered wine all her life, that brandy barely made you flinch.” He poured himself out another measure. “But I suppose you got some practice during your little expeditions to the Hanged Man.”

The glass dropped from Addie’s suddenly nerveless fingers. “What? I’ve never been to the Hanged Man. Why would I want to-”

“Exactly.” Even the thin veneer of humour was gone now, and Father slammed his palm against the tabletop. “You’ve had every advantage here. You’ve had lessons, you’ve met some of the most prestigious people in the Marches and beyond, you’ve never had to worry about a hungry belly or a torn seam. You’ve had everything you could possibly want, so why the flames would you sneak out at night to go to that pit?!”

He’d never shouted. In all this time, he’d never yelled at her. Sterling had been happy enough to do that for him, but Father had preferred an icy tone. “Father-”

“Silence. You’re a spoiled little brat, and I’ve been far too lenient with you. I don’t know how you got out, but it’s not happening again. Not until you go to meet your betrothed.”

“Betrothed?” The word slipped out as a shriek of fear. Addie had been scared before, living as long as she had standing on a knife’s edge and hoping she could avoid being married off for as long as possible, but the possibility of house arrest followed by being forcibly wed to whoever her father had chosen behind her back was overwhelming.

“Yes. Your future husband.” In that slant on the word, Addie realised that Father had known. The cold fear in her stomach started to curdle into nausea. “Not to worry, you won’t be in reduced circumstances, although for all your gratitude I should marry you off to a pig farmer. But I have a chance to make some good connections with this match, and I’ve looked into it myself. He’s a little – ah – I believe your lowbrow friends would call it sketchy – but he is rich, and willing to share his influence with our family for a sweet-faced bride. And to be honest, it would be hard to find a Tevinter who does not have some shady connections.”

Addie pulled herself up to standing. “You are not sending me to Tevinter. You can’t force me to marry against my will. The moment anybody else hears of it-”

“They won’t.” Father had not risen with her. “You will remain here, without contact with any of your friends or associates. He’s sending a delegation to pick you up, which will happen at a reasonably discrete time soon, and you’ll be handed over by some of my delegates. You’ll be out of Kirkwall with no fuss at all.”

“I’ll tell him. The moment I get there, I’ll tell him he’s not having me for a wife, and your arrangement will collapse.”

“Oh, Adelaide.” Now Father got up and circled around the desk. “He’s well aware that you’ll be reluctant. Thankfully, they have measures for that sort of thing in Tevinter, so I’m told. You will be a good, docile wife for him. Otherwise there’s no telling what might happen.”

“You’d rather risk me dying than staying here?” Addie edged towards the fireplace as Father moved towards her. She had to keep him distracted, at least for a few moments and then she could make a break for it. Hopefully. She had no other plan, but she couldn’t just let him do this. Nonetheless, her panic on her own behalf was interrupted by what Father said next.

“It’s exactly what I did with Rupert.”

She hadn’t expected him to admit it so openly to her. He truly didn’t care what she knew anymore, and she froze. Briefly. He took another step towards her and she moved away from him again.

“He wasn’t the son I needed. Neither is Sterling, truth be told, but he knows where respect is due and pays it. Rupert had to go, otherwise he’d have bankrupted this family with his charitable little schemes.”

“His name is Eddie.”

“So you know he’s alive, then.” Addie nearly bit her tongue off. “Maybe that’s the reason for all this misbehaviour. Well. He’s a loose thread I can cut at a later time.”

Addie’s heel clonked slightly against the brass container by the fire, and she tried to reach behind herself discreetly. “Please – don’t hurt him. I’ll go…I’ll go quietly.”

“You’re going either way. Although I prefer that you don’t kick up too much of a fuss.” He reached for her arm. “Now come along-”

Her hand closed on the poker. All the training that Eddie had arranged for her came to the fore and she whipped it forward before Father could react, smashing him on the temple as hard as she could. He fell to the side, catching himself on the desk with a roar of pain, and Addie fled for the door, flinging it open.

Fairbain wasn’t on the other side. Instead, there were two guards, ones she didn’t recognise and she ran right into their grip. Vice-like hands tightened on her and the poker was ripped from her hands. “Ser! Are you all right?”

“Get that witch into her room, and fetch me a healer!”

“Get off me!” Addie employed every trick she had learned, jabbing, biting, screaming. The guards had a struggle holding on to her. “Let go!”

The pair seemed unmoved by her cries. Inexorably she was dragged down the corridor and along to her room. No servants were in evidence.

He’d prepared for this.

On the outside of her bedroom door there was a new, shining bolt. The guards flung her through the threshold and then slammed it behind her, and she heard the bolt slam into place. The scrape had barely finished than she was already making her way to the wardrobe. The dress was abandoned, more practical clothes and her cloak pulled on. Father had shown his hand and damned if she was going to stay here one more second. She headed for the doorway out to her balcony.

Locked. But not bolted. Thankfully, Father didn’t appear to have had her room searched. The lockpick set was in the same place as usual, and it didn’t take long to shift the tumblers. She was out on the balcony within moments.

The trellis was gone, and at the bottom, there was a single guard posted, a cocked crossbow at his shoulder.

That wasn’t going to work now, not in broad daylight. And Addie wasn’t gambling against being able to figure out a way past this before she was dragged off to be handed over to this merchant’s men. Grabbing a scrap of paper and a weight from her desk, she scrawled a message in the short cipher Celeste had taught her, with the words ‘take to the Wicked Grace’ the only part in Common. She tied the message to the weight, and then crept out onto the balcony. The guard had to look away eventually.

It didn’t happen for a long, long time, but he did, and Addie threw the weight with all her strength. It hit the top of the estate wall, and then bounced into the alley beyond.

Now she just had to hope it got there.

She had done all she could do for now, and with that, all the adrenaline went rushing out of her and left her shaking. She staggered her way to the bed and curled up, holding on to her knees, trying not to let the panic completely overwhelm her. She had not thought Father would go so far, not even when she first found out what he’d done to Eddie. Handing her over to a Tevinter merchant to do with as he pleased was slavery, no two ways about it.

Although she was scared, although she could not prevent the tears from spilling, she was determined. She was not going to make this easy for him.