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Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
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#1
((18 Cloudreach, 35 Dragon – Late morning; @Constance Theirin ))

Alistair had eaten breakfast alone, slaking his hunger thoroughly before his scheduled brunch with Constance. It was a habit he'd gotten into quite early in his reign when he knew he'd be dining with normal people. They might not say anything to his face, but the sight of Ferelden's monarch bolting down his meal like a starving wolf would have tongues wagging in parlors across the kingdom.

A couple more weeks would be needed before dining outside before midday would be comfortable, but the solarium remained a pleasant alternative. He rose from his chair as Constance arrived with her escort of guards, moving to greet her and lifting her hand to his lips for a kiss. He still had no idea what the tenor of their physical relationship would be (and no real notion of how to broach the subject), but that gesture seemed to convey an appropriate degree of respect and friendly affection.

“You look lovely today,” he remarked as he escorted her to her chair and pulled it out for her. Small talk had never been his strong point, but Donal had assured him that compliments about a woman's looks would always be well received, particularly when she had put an effort into her appearance. And Constance always made it a point to never look less than her best.
 
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Constance Theirin

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#2
Living within the palace required a certain level of adjustment for Constance. She was not in the habit of requiring guards to travel about her estates in Gwaren or Denerim. With a building as large and public as the palace, though, required certain precautions be taken. Those privacies she enjoyed in her other homes were exceedingly less available to her. A minor convenience, she supposed, considering all she had to gain. If such was the cost she was required to pay to become Queen of Ferelden and place Peter as the throne’s heir, she would find a way to persevere.

The previous night she had a final dinner at the teryn’s estate in Gwaren to inform Nathaniel of her engagement. He had taken the news about as she expected - with an expression cast in stone. In the eyes, however, he showed his displeasure. Constance had come to understand the nuances of her ex-brother-in-law’s mannerisms. The slight narrowing of the eyes, the press of finger and thumb against the bridge of his nose, Nathaniel had many different ways of betraying his upset.

After her dinner with Nathaniel, Constance returned to the palace for her first night within her new rooms. Her suites of rooms including a bedroom, dressing area, and private parlor. Though elegantly decorated, there were details she would need to see to changing. All in good time.

Alistair extended an invitation for her to join him for brunch in the solarium her first morning as the palace’s newest resident. With her new guards in tow, she made her way to the solarium and her brunch date with her soon-to-be husband. She resolved to not laugh again in front Alistair, at least about their engagement. He looked so horrified the last time.

As Constance entered the glass room, Alistair rose in greeting. Her chair pulled out for her, he paused to kiss her hand lightly before helping her into her seat. “You look lovely today.”

Blue eyes lifted, taking in the whole of Alistair as she gracefully sat upon the offered seat. “As do you as well,” she replied, mirth touching both her tone and smile. Women were not the only people to enjoy hearing their appearance was appealing.

Her hands folded atop her lap. Their relationship flipped from professional to personal in the span of an evening. Constance hoped to avoid some of the awkwardness that accompanied such sudden switches and opened their conversation with a question, “How did the children take the news?”
 

Alistair Theirin

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#3
“You can thank Ingram for that,” he replied in response to her compliment on his appearance. His valet was an extortionist – albeit one with a keen sense of fashion – and keeping his favorite lazy-day tunic and trousers after being caught wearing them in the presence of guests had required concessions that closely resembled those offered by a conquered nation to its vanquisher. He had drawn the line at tights, however, and beyond that, having his wardrobe chosen for him each day was one more headache off his plate, since his selection seemed to grow larger every time he looked. “He has some ideas for my wedding garb that he'd like to discuss with you; I'd imagine he'll request an appointment soon.”

“How did the children take the news?” Constance asked.

“Bran and Arwen were delighted,” he replied with a smile that turned wistful at the edges as he went on. “Elena reacted...much as I thought she might, but I think I managed to allay her fears, and I may have even made a bit of progress with her.” She'd let him hug her, which was rare, and she'd hugged him back, which was unprecedented. The walls weren't gone yet, but perhaps they had begun to come down. “I was wondering about allowing her to attend the ball at Redcliffe. Is thirteen old enough, do you think?” He knew nothing about adolescent girls, but Lena was mature beyond her years.

There were matters beyond the domestic that he wished to discuss with her. “The Council meeting is in two days' time,” he told her. “Now that the announcement has been made, I would like you to attend in your capacity as the future Queen, if you are willing.” He was sure that she would be more than willing, but it seemed polite to offer it as a choice.
 

Constance Theirin

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#4
“Bran and Arwen were delighted,” Alistair began, his smile turning contemplative. “Elena reacted...much as I thought she might, but I think I managed to allay her fears, and I may have even made a bit of progress with her. I was wondering about allowing her to attend the ball at Redcliffe. Is thirteen old enough, do you think?”

Constance had attended balls much younger than that. She had been raised noble, however, and was trained from birth for such events. Marina would not be quite so prepared. Still, if Constance wished to make inroads with the girl, and she did, helping her attend her first ball was a fine way to go about reaching that goal.

“It is a wonderful idea,” she replied. “She will need a new dress, of course.” And there were other things the girl would need as well, but seeing Alistair’s difficulties with his own wardrobe, Constance was quite sure speaking to him of the items that should be in a young woman’s trousseau would only befuddle him. “I would be happy to help her get all she needs if she wishes at attend."

He had not asked, but Constance offered all the same, "Peter is quite happy with the news."

“The Council meeting is in two days’ time.”
Alistair moved to domestic talk of a different kind. “Now that the announcement has been made, I would like you to attend in your capacity as the future Queen, if you are willing.”

Constance imagined the faces of Alistair’s council at her presence. Without fully realizing, perhaps, Alistair already knew the best gifts to give to his soon-to-be queen. “I would be willing,” she said with a polite dip of the head. A more business-minded mien graced her features. “Is there an agenda for this meeting?” She wished to come prepared.
 

Alistair Theirin

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#5
Not only did Constance agree that allowing Elena to attend the ball was a good idea, she actually volunteered to help her prepare. Alistair could have kissed her ... but though that bridge would definitely need to be crossed eventually, there was a chat they needed to have first, and not one he had worked himself up to just yet.

He settled for a smile, saying, “Thank you. I'm afraid I'd be more hindrance than help in that area.” Arwen giggled when he mixed his purple doublet with the green and red particolored pants; Lena simply shook her head in resignation.

He'd suspected that Peter would welcome the news, but he was a bit chagrined at not having asked before she offered the information. Adjusting to the addition of three children to his life had taken time; hopefully a fourth could be integrated more smoothly. The process had already begun, after all.

As he had thought, she was quite willing to attend the Council meeting at his side. “Is there an agenda for this meeting?”

“There is,” he confirmed. “It is generally ready the day before the meeting, and I'd like to go over it with you that evening. I know that we will not agree on all issues, but I would prefer that we present a united front to the Council.” He paused briefly, meeting her eyes before adding, “Unless it serves good purpose that we appear to be at odds.” The gambit she and Roderick had played at the Landsmeet had angered him at the time, but it had been well executed and likely cut short any argument that might have ended with Fergus being denied permission to marry his elven lover at all. He needed Constance's political acumen, needed to learn a measure of it himself, if he was to rule Ferelden in the climate that was brewing.
 

Constance Theirin

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#6
“There is,” Alistair informed. “It is generally ready the day before the meeting, and I'd like to go over it with you that evening. I know that we will not agree on all issues, but I would prefer that we present a united front to the Council.” He paused just long enough to manage eye contact, “Unless it serves good purpose that we appear to be at odds.”

People did not realize until the votes had been cast what Constance and Roderick had done that day at the Landsmeet when they garnered Fergus the support he so desperately wished so that he could marry his elf love. That day, Constance and Roderick proved to the whole of the Fereldan nobility that they were not to be underestimated and were a force to contend with. The number of requests for meetings more than doubled after that day.

The tactic, when applied appropriately, was a good one. That Alistair wished to possibly employ such strategy in the future spoke well to his growing political acumen; something Constance would need to be mindful of in the future lest the student learn too much.

She nodded in agreement, "Yes, a unified front would be best. Though, you are aware that some may think you nothing more than my mouth piece?" Some were already saying as much, in fact. Even if it was something she desired, she did not want people spreading rumors of the kind. Her best plans were those that no one knew her responsible for.

"Perhaps a display of differing opinions should occur sooner rather than later," she suggested. A small smile lightened her expression, "Give the hens something juicy to cluck about. My humbling would spread like wildfire." Or via Trestlebridge.
 

Alistair Theirin

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#7
If Constance was surprised by his oblique reference to the Landsmeet, she gave no sign. "Yes, a unified front would be best. Though, you are aware that some may think you nothing more than my mouth piece?"

He shrugged, unconcerned. “Most thought I was Eamon's mouthpiece. I've spent most of my life being underestimated.” By himself, most of all. It had not been until he'd been forced to stand on his own, with the weight of a kingdom teetering on his shoulders, that he had begun to realize what he might be capable of ... both good and bad. "I've found that it tends to give me an advantage."

"Perhaps a display of differing opinions should occur sooner rather than later.” She seemed almost amused by the notion. "Give the hens something juicy to cluck about. My humbling would spread like wildfire."

“Undoubtedly,” he agreed with a faint smile. He hadn't missed that she intended to engineer her own 'humbling'. He was willing to go along with it, but he wondered how she would respond to genuine differences of opinion. As Teyrna to Monarch, she had advised him and accepted his decisions, even if they did not coincide with her advice. He suspected that she would be more open about her opinions as Queen, and he mostly welcomed the prospect; whether or not she would attempt to undermine him on such matters remained to be seen.

“There are a few matters that will not be on the agenda,” he added. “At least not yet. Nathaniel visited a few days ago to report that the Chantry performed the right of annulment on the mages circle at Ansburg.”
 

Constance Theirin

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#8
“Undoubtedly," Alistair agreed. Of course, the timing would need to be appropriate if the farce was to be believed. Constance supposed that might depend upon the agenda items for the council meeting. The wrong topic for them to disagree upon and the ploy would be transparent.

Perhaps sensing her thought patterns, Alistair referenced the agenda once more, “There are a few matters that will not be on the agenda. At least not yet. Nathaniel visited a few days ago to report that the Chantry performed the right of annulment on the mages circle at Ansburg.”

Constance regarded Alistair with a pensive tilt of the head. The right of annulment was not exercised often by the Chantry. Constance heard there had been talking of exercising the right at Kinloch during the Blight, but Aedan Cousland managed to change the Knight-Commander's mind. Perhaps he smiled and his tattoo danced on his face to the Knight-Commander's amusement. Either way, the annulment did not occur. To hear one had happened in the Free Marches was curious.

"Why was the right invoked? I have not heard of the right actually being put into practice in my lifetime." The right was an extreme measure to Constance's knowledge could only be authorized by a country's Grand Cleric. None of her agents in the Free Marches had reported anything to her that spoke of mage rebellion or abominations on the loose.

A frown deepened the lines above her eyes and mouth. Nathaniel made no mention of the annulment to her during the dinner the previous evening. Of course, she supposed that was hardly surprising. They rarely if ever spoke of politics or his life as a Warden-Commander. "And how did Nathaniel come by this information?"
 

Alistair Theirin

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#9
"Why was the right invoked?” Constance asked in response to the news from Ansburg. “I have not heard of the right actually being put into practice in my lifetime."

“It was almost done here in Ferelden,” he replied grimly. “When we arrived at Kinloch Hold, seeking the help of the mages against the Blight, we found that the templars had locked the tower and were awaiting word to perform the annulment.” He pushed his chair away from the table and stood; the bright sun and flowers in the solarium offset some of the memories, but the old anger still simmered.Annul. Neutralize. Cleanse. Easier to use words like that than to say 'We're going to kill every mage within these walls, whether we know they've done wrong or not,'but that is exactly what it means.”

He looked away from her, walking to a grouping of Antivan orchids that bobbed gently in response to the air stirred by his approach. “Aedan convinced the Knight-Commander to let us try to resolve the situation. He and I went in with Wynne and Morrigan. And Aedan's mabari,” he added, glancing back at her with a thin smile. “They locked the doors behind us.”

“Two mages, two Grey Wardens and a dog destroyed the abominations, the demons and the blood mages responsible for it all, while the templars cowered behind their locked doors,” he said, scathing contempt in his voice. “And on every floor, we found mages: men, women and children, some no older than Arwen and Peter. Innocent of any wrongdoing, terrified and waiting for a rescue that was never intended to come.”

He turned back to her, his expression serious. “The Chantry holds a power over the mages in its control that any tyrant would envy, but it does not provide the protection that should accompany that control. If we were able to deal with the threat in the tower, the templars could have, but they did not wish to. I believe the Chantry's true goal is to see all mages who will not blindly obey its edicts either killed or made Tranquil. And I can all but guarantee that whatever reason is given for the Annulment of the circle at Ansburg, the truth of the matter would be no justification for what was done. Men, women, children,” he reminded her. “All slaughtered, the innocent alongside the guilty ... if any were guilty of anything at all.”

"And how did Nathaniel come by this information?" Constance wanted to know.

“A report from a Warden in the Free Marches,” Alistair replied. “Evidently, templars there have also taken to harassing Warden mages, ignoring the fact that they are not under the jurisdiction of the Chantry.”
 

Constance Theirin

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#10
Alistair was with Aedan at Kinloch Hold and went on to give Constance the details. The templars had simply chosen not to act and chose the path of least resistance, certainly a decision Constance could understand. The idea of children, however, even magical ones being put to the sword was not one she was as comfortable with as she was prior to Peter's birth. There were lines she simply would not cross, not anymore. Riane Cousland was one lucky little girl.

Alistair turned from the orchids to look at Constance. Manner grave, he added, “The Chantry holds a power over the mages in its control that any tyrant would envy, but it does not provide the protection that should accompany that control. If we were able to deal with the threat in the tower, the templars could have, but they did not wish to. I believe the Chantry's true goal is to see all mages who will not blindly obey its edicts either killed or made Tranquil. And I can all but guarantee that whatever reason is given for the Annulment of the circle at Ansburg, the truth of the matter would be no justification for what was done. Men, women, children. All slaughtered, the innocent alongside the guilty...if any were guilty of anything at all.”

Constance showed an appropriate amount of displeasure at the story, her mouth rounding in a pronounced frown as she asked how Nathaniel came by his information.

“A report from a Warden in the Free Marches,”
Alistair responded. “Evidently, templars there have also taken to harassing Warden mages, ignoring the fact that they are not under the jurisdiction of the Chantry.”

She had no trouble at all imagining how Nathaniel might respond to similar tactics practiced in Ferelden. Given Alistair's demeanor in recounting the tale of Kinloch Hold, she had a fair measure of what his response would be as well.

"And you fear the Chantry may try to something similar in Ferelden," she offered, more statement than question. Such was a reasonable concern. Ferelden was not the Free Marches, though. City states made far easier targets than a country united under a monarch. "I would be curious to hear what Grand Cleric Elemena would have to say about this." If she could hear the question at all, that was. Talking to the woman was an exercise in patience and voice straining.

"There was a templar from the Free Marches that I met here in Denerim recently when I was out shopping for book with Peter." Now was not the time to tease Alistair about what book Peter found that day. She restrained the urge to smile quietly and instead maintained a more somber and serious expression. "I found her peculiar and wondered why she might be here in Ferelden rather than her native land."
 

Alistair Theirin

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#11
"And you fear the Chantry may try to something similar in Ferelden," Constance said when he told her of Ansburg and the harassment of Warden mages in the Free Marches. She didn't seem overly surprised ... or overly distressed. Like most other people, mages were a distant concern to her, nothing that touched her own life, and unless Peter one day manifested magical ability and the templars came for him, that perspective was unlikely to change.

“They'll get around to it,” he replied, “but the Grey Wardens have greater standing in the eyes of the populace in Ferelden, so they're not as likely to be so brazen about it ... at least, not at first.”

"I would be curious to hear what Grand Cleric Elemena would have to say about this," she observed, a hint of rueful amusement in her expression.

“I intend to have a discussion with her the first time I hear of such an incident taking place in Ferelden,” he said, giving her a crooked grin as he added, “A polite discussion, mind you ... though it will be loud by necessity.”

"There was a templar from the Free Marches that I met here in Denerim recently when I was out shopping for book with Peter." The words were casually spoken, but the word 'book' sent his stomach plummeting, and it took a few seconds for the actual subject to register as she went on. "I found her peculiar and wondered why she might be here in Ferelden rather than her native land."

“The Warden-Commander in the Marches has sent several mages here to protect them,” he managed. Had she seen the book? Read it? Her demeanor gave no clues, but he could feel the blush trying to rise, fought it off, turned back to the orchids to give his face time to cool. “It's possible that the Chantry is sending templars to keep tits – tabs on them.” Maker, had he really just said that?
 

Constance Theirin

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#12
“The Warden-Commander in the Marches has sent several mages here to protect them,” Alistair informed as he turned look at the orchids once again. Constance had not thought the man to be one to have such a fondness for flowers. “It's possible that the Chantry is sending templars to keep tits – tabs on them.”

A slip of the tongue and one that drew a smile from Constance. If he was embarrassed, and she was quite sure he was, there was no need. Constance owned a shipping company and had heard far worse in her company throughout the years. She sought to diffuse some of his discomfort. Without skipping a beat, she commented lightly, "A tit for a tab, if you will?"

She shook her head, letting the humor fade away and allowed the current topic of conversation the weight deserved. "It is quite possible that is exactly what the Chantry is doing. I know they have increased their presence in Amaranthine over the last two years." The Chantry was allowed to flex power within its confines. When the influence began to spread in other directions, however, the delicate balance of the status quo would falter. Constance had no intention of seeing that happen. She was quite fond of the status quo and what it would soon provide her.

"I cannot imagine Nathaniel will respond well to bullying by the Chantry should it occur here." Her lips pressed together thoughtfully before she added, "He is a rather proud man. But if he is taking in mages from other lands, I am sure the sights of the Chantry will be more focused on him than ever."
 

Alistair Theirin

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#13
"A tit for a tab, if you will?"

Her tone was light, making no attempt to hide her amusement, but not rubbing it in too hard, either. He'd walked right into it, so he offered her as game a smile as he could manage. "Something like that."

Her smile faded and she returned to the matter at hand. "It is quite possible that is exactly what the Chantry is doing. I know they have increased their presence in Amaranthine over the last two years."

He nodded. “According to Nathaniel, the Knight-Commander in Amaranthine holds a personal grudge against him.

"I cannot imagine Nathaniel will respond well to bullying by the Chantry should it occur here." Constance observed. "He is a rather proud man. But if he is taking in mages from other lands, I am sure the sights of the Chantry will be more focused on him than ever."

“Undoubtedly,” Alistair agreed, “and I've little to no idea what is going on in those other lands.” He ran a hand through his hair, his expression rueful. “If Ferelden had any foreign intelligence service before the Blight, I've yet to find mention of it. There were ambassadorships, of course.” Political plums given to those in favor with the Crown - or out of favor, if the post was an undesirable one - with little consideration to ability. “But very little to provide any real information.”
 

Constance Theirin

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#14
“According to Nathaniel, the Knight-Commander in Amaranthine holds a personal grudge against him.”

That was good information to know and Constance filed away that tidbit, or titbit as she quietly mused to herself in honor of her betrothed, for later use.

Keeping the topic on Nathaniel, Constance mentioned the Chantry's eyes would be more focused on him than ever given recent events.

“Undoubtedly,” Alistair agreed, “and I've little to no idea what is going on in those other lands. If Ferelden had any foreign intelligence service before the Blight, I've yet to find mention of it. There were ambassadorships, of course. But very little to provide any real information.”

Cailan had not seen the need. too wrapped up in his pursuits of glory and extra-circular fun. That did not mean Ferelden was without an intelligence network. There were many in Ferleden with birds that whispered both domestic and foreign news in receptive ears. Constance had her own network to draw from, having placed people in all the great houses of Ferelden including the palace. This was not something she was prepared to share with Alistair, however. People never responded well to learning they were spied upon. She certainly had not when Roderick threw her own proclivities in her face.

Her hands rose from her lap to clasp atop the table. "Eamon had a personal network that he made available to the crown," she informed, no mention of her own made. "But I agree, information is important and makes for the best decisions. Did you have something in mind?"
 

Alistair Theirin

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#15
"Eamon had a personal network that he made available to the crown," she commented, maintaining an expression of polite interest. "But I agree, information is important and makes for the best decisions. Did you have something in mind?"

He did, but presenting it was a bit of a challenge. “I understand you have spies,” was hardly the most politic of openings, even though he and Leliana had concluded more than two years ago that this was indeed the case. The Yoraths had been just a bit too well-informed and adept in their political maneuverings. The bard had done a bit of delving, and the tales she had brought back of the courtship rituals in Gwaren – eunuchs and rumors of the clap being the dubiously titled highlights – had suggested that both of them possessed a highly competitive nature and the willingness to go to great lengths to gain an advantage. They had also left him aghast, amusing Leliana to no end.

Leli had offered to gather more information, but then Roderick had been killed at sea, and Alistair hadn't been able to bring himself to spy upon a widow.

“I don't have a great deal of experience in foreign affairs,” he began, “but it occurred to me that someone with an extensive trading business would need to know how to gather information abroad. Perhaps not always the same type of information that would be required politically, but – well, it puts you several large steps ahead of me, in terms of experience.” He paused, then continued. “Would you be willing to oversee the development of a foreign intelligence network ... and teach me a bit about it in the process?”
 

Constance Theirin

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#16
“I don't have a great deal of experience in foreign affairs,” Alistair explained. “but it occurred to me that someone with an extensive trading business would need to know how to gather information abroad. Perhaps not always the same type of information that would be required politically, but – well, it puts you several large steps ahead of me, in terms of experience.” He paused in that way he did whenever he had a question to ask. Constance remained quiet and waited. She did not have to wait long. “Would you be willing to oversee the development of a foreign intelligence network...and teach me a bit about it in the process?”

He was asking Constance to use her network for the good of Ferelden in a far more subtle manner than she would have given him credit for prior to this conversation. She nodded, "I do have ways of getting information abroad." There was no use denying what they both knew true. As to his proposal, Constance agreed to that as well, "Of course I would be willing to oversee things and..." A small smile crept upon her mouth, "teach you along the way."

The teacher would instruct the student in a great many things if rumors were to be believed. That topic had yet to be broached by Alistair and Constance certainly would not mention it herself.

"Was there more business to discuss or might you..." She lifted her hand to motion to the seat at her side. All this watching him stand and stare at orchids was becoming tiresome. "...please, join me." Both hands folded atop one another again. "There is much about each other we do not know." More that he did not know about her, she suspected. "I do not expect us to learn everything in a day, but perhaps we might," warmth touched the curve of her mouth, "start?"
 

Alistair Theirin

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#17
"I do have ways of getting information abroad." Evidently, admitting to having spies was as gauche as asking about having them. "Of course I would be willing to oversee things and ... teach you along the way." The hint of a smile that touched her lips made his stomach do a nervous flip-flop. This was new to him – virgin territory, if you were the type who couldn't resist a pun. He'd spent the entirety of his reign keeping women at a proper arm's length. Trouble was, he wasn't certain if she was flirting with him or not.

“That seems like a sound plan,” he said, deciding to play it safe and go with the innocent interpretation.

"Was there more business to discuss or might you..." She reached out, patted the chair beside her. "...please, join me."

That...was a bit more direct. But still potentially innocuous. “Yes, I...can do that,” he replied, not quite succeeding in his aim to not sound like a total idiot (all right, not succeeding at all, not even a tiny bit), but at least managing to not trip over his own feet before he could settle into the chair.

"There is much about each other we do not know,” she told him. "I do not expect us to learn everything in a day, but perhaps we might," that faint smile again, "start?"

All right, definitely getting less innocuous, and he knew that if he attempted some witty innuendo that Donal could toss off with a wink and a smile, he'd look like an utter fool. He drew in a breath, decided to gamble on honesty. “I don't have a great deal of experience with women,” he admitted, adding with a slightly sheepish smile, “but I'd imagine you've already begun to suspect that.”
 

Constance Theirin

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#18
Alistair took a seat next to Constance and she let off a small nod of approval. “I don't have a great deal of experience with women,” Alistair admitted, smiling a touch embarrassed, “but I'd imagine you've already begun to suspect that.”

He really was becoming quite adept at surprising Constance. While saying nothing she did not already know herself, Alistair shocked her by outright admitting his inexperience. Unlike with his wedding proposal, though, she did not laugh in his face. Rather, she smiled softly and placed one of her hands atop his. "I do not have a great deal of experience with kings. I would say that puts us on equal footing."

While Constance preferred men with more flavor, Alistair's inexperience came with a very large benefit; there were no bastards lurking in his past. She would not shame him for his lack of know how, though she might laugh from time to time in private.

"I do not wish you to be uncomfortable, Alistair."
Her head canted to the side and her fingers gently squeezed his hand, "...this will only work if we are open with one another. I want you to feel that you can ask me anything and I would hope the same would follow for me with you." Would she tell the truth always? Perhaps not. Nor did she expect him to be entirely truthful either. That was the game.

He opened the door and she stepped inside, testing the waters to see how honest he was prepared to be. "This inexperience. How inexperienced are you?" There was no judgment or mockery in her tone. She regarded him with a interested and kind expression and awaited his response.
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
83
#19
The thing was ... he knew that it was an act. At least in part. The understanding expression, the soft smile, the gentle hand on his own, the reassuring words. Of course, she wanted him to feel that he could ask her anything, and, conversely, to feel as though he could tell her anything. He harbored no illusions that he would likely ever know if she decided to lie to him.

But the other thing was ... he didn't care. He was so damn tired of being alone, of having no one at his back. Aedan was gone. Leliana gone. Wynne off doing magey things. Oghren being a Warden. Eamon had turned out to have no better scruples and less competent lackeys than Rendon Howe ... and he was dead besides.

He knew what Constance wanted, and he wasn't fool enough to think it was him. She wanted the throne ... less for herself than for her son ... or their child, should that unlikely miracle occur. She loved Peter, and she had been a responsible steward of the lands that she held. Those two facts had been the final weights that tipped the balance in his mind when he had been considering his present course. His 'advisors' wanted him to marry some sweet, biddable girl who would keep her mouth shut and pop out heirs. And most likely, for Maric's bastard to follow his father's example and get lost at sea, leaving them with a biddable Queen Mother and an impressionable child to raise up as they saw fit.

Alistair had other plans. Plans that might well come back to bite him in the ass, if he had read Constance wrong, if there really was nothing to her but her ambition. He didn't know what she'd been like before she had been given to Rendon Howe as a political pawn; she spoke infrequently of Roderick Yorath, but not at all of Thomas Howe or his father. He didn't know if her first marriage had been what had shaped her, or if she had been this poised, this controlled, this cunning from the beginning, and he strongly doubted that she would simply tell him if he asked her, regardless of what she might say.

But if she was using him, he was using her, as well, to achieve his own end: Ferelden under the rule of a strong monarchy that would not be easily swayed by outside influences. He needed her as an ally. If he could maintain and strengthen the friendship that had formed between them, he'd take that, as well, but he would not get that with bluff and bluster. He was no Roderick Yorath, but neither was he the drunken wreck of a man that the youngest Howe son had been reputed to be, and if he played the game, he would play it as no one but himself. How she responded would be up to her.

All these thoughts chased through his mind as she spoke, and now she was regarding him expectantly, with an expression of kind understanding that he thought might be at least partly sincere as she waited for the answer to a question that three years earlier might have had him blushing like a schoolboy. Three years ago, he'd had no idea that his closest advisor might lie baldly to his face and sentence his only blood relations to exile or death. Three years ago, he'd had no idea that the friend whose strength had gotten them from Ostagar to the roof of Fort Drakon could walk away without so much as a backward glance and leave everyone else to clean up the mistakes he'd made. He'd learned much about human nature in three years, most of it knowledge that he had never wanted, but he'd also learned that his days of averting his eyes from what he did not wish to see were over, if he wished to survive and keep the ones dear to him alive as well.

“I've never been with a woman,” he admitted in a level voice, meeting her eyes as he spoke. They sang songs about it in the taverns, for the Maker's sake. Denying it was ludicrous. “Or a man,” he added as an afterthought, deciding to leave out the 'anything else' part as something that would hopefully be obvious. “Not for lack of interest,” he went on, “or opportunity, but -” he shrugged, one side of his mouth slating upward ruefully, “-there's really no other sure guarantee against siring bastards.” At least, none that he would employ.
 

Constance Theirin

Queen of Ferelden
Noble
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
53
#20
And the confession came.

“I've never been with a woman,”
Alistair confessed with an unflinching gaze. “Or a man. Not for lack of interest or opportunity, but -” His shoulders topped in a shrug. With a rueful angling of the mouth, he continued, “-there's really no other sure guarantee against siring bastards.”

Bastards were a blight upon the nobility. Shake a noble family tree in Ferelden and a bastard or two was liable to fall out. Existence did not necessarily mean acceptance, however.

Constance never feared for bastards from Thomas. He barely managed to give her Peter. Roderick, on the other hand... She had made it quite clear to him that she would not entertain any of his bastards.

And still, she found herself surrounded with them all the same. Nathaniel had his bastard. Arl Teagan recently raised the fruit of his overeager loins to the status of bann. Then there was Alistair, the bastard King and soon to be husband. He was proving to be an exception to many rules.

Not once had she considered what living life as a bastard was like. Perspective came with Alistair's confession. He would not put more bastards into the world.

No laughter followed nor would any follow later behind closed doors. Constance felt no amusement at hearing the rumors confirmed. Nor did anger come. Something else all together touched the gentle tilt of her mouth and the soft squeeze of her fingers.

Respect.

There was always the chance he was telling her simply what he knew she wanted to hear. Constance did not think that to be the case, though. Alistair was not nearly as cunning as that. He was no Roderick, nor did Constance wish him to be. If there had been a love in her life, Roderick was that man. He was her partner in every sense of the word, but also a reminder of the weakness inside her. There would be no more Roderick's in her life; she would not allow it.

A gentle gesture, her free hand pressed against Alistair's cheek. If he expected her judgment, he received none. "That cannot have been easy for you." Men and their needs were why so many bastards existed. That he restrained that part of himself took great willpower. "Have you ever kissed a woman," her eyes traced the line of his mouth before her own quirked ever so faintly and she captured his gaze once more, "..or a man?"
 
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