The door to his hotel suite in Hightown was pulled open, and the sharply dressed General almost found himself stepping on a lengthy tube on his way out the door for dinner. He paused and lifted a scrupulous eyebrow, unknowing of the package’s contents and uncertain whether or not he even wanted to touch the suspicious gift. The note caught his eye however, and he proceeded to pick it up and read it in silence.
A rare smile pulled at the corner of his lips, one that graced his face only when he found himself pleased, content, or even grateful. This was such a case, as he found himself reeling back into his suite to examine the contents of the parcel—all of which would be mounted and framed during his stay in the city of chains, and brought back with him to Ferelden when it came time for him to depart. How thoughtful. The gift he planned on giving her at some point didn’t seem all that uncomfortable now.
My hope will guide me through the days without you,
and love shall carry me when hope is broken by pain!
kill the messenger set
Solona was no fool. She had spent hours every day training with her fellow Wardens to figure out how to take down opponents of different skill sets. She was a mage, and she never mistook her capabilities as such. But with the use of her mana, and laborious hours of training, she had figured out how to fight. Not just the setting a man on fire kind of fight, but the good old fashioned bar brawl. And really the one thing that all Wardens agreed on is that, Solona Amell was best suited to taking all opponents down quickly and with whatever means possible. So no, she would never be the fair dueling type. She wouldn’t use her magic, but she wasn’t above biting or hair pulling. She was no noble, she didn’t have to make a proclamation before slapping him with her silk glove. Wardens learned to kill quickly and precisely, not how to properly wrestle so as to not muss the generals braids.
He finally managed to get a good angle on her, and maintain his position above her. She knew it the moment she lost the leverage to move. Fuck, this was about to get messy. “You realize I am a Grey Warden, right? I have no country anymore, and I sure as hell don’t give a flying fuck about being disgraced. I am not one of your nobles to be given titles, pet, and sent on their way. I do what needs to be done to keep people alive. That is clearly not your mission.” She elbowed him in the jaw when he reached for her hands. No, she was not going to let him pin her down. Hopefully he lost a tooth and learned his lesson.
"And in that dusky gilded cage, I was able to read all about what happened. But it is through the Wardens that I know why Maric was fond of Wardens. I was in Orlais you know, after you allowed for all the remaining Wardens to be slaughtered." Her words came out as more of a snarl, and she found herself pressing forward a hairs breadth from Loghain’s face. It might have been romantic if she hadn’t considered biting off his nose. "I am a very smart girl, General. I know where to look for information when it benefits me or my cause." Then she head-butted him, and hard enough to disorient him thoroughly.
It was not entirely intentional, she had planned on using the weight of her frame to push him up, but he had been so close that there was no way to do it without contact. Well, that was a bit more contact than expected. She could heal almost all of wounds immediately, and that meant a slight concussion. He on the other hand would need her help to fix whatever damage she caused. Solona knew she was in trouble when she felt blood drip onto her forehead. She didn’t think she had broken his nose, but she had caused a bloody nose at least. His grip on her sides weakened and she managed to lift them both onto their sides. Her breaths were harsh and she was feeling a soreness in her bones from their tussling. ”You are just as childish as everyone else, just as easy to corrupt and influence. You just don’t want to admit it.” Maker she had made herself a nice grave.
"Maric was never fond of the Wardens, you ignorant little shit,” he spat back having been more offended at the realities of a history terribly told rather than her insults on nobility. Loghain had no love for the upperclass, and instead identified himself with the workers and agricultural labourers. He was a military man yes, but only through necessity. If he had been left to his own devices instead of stumbling into Maric all those years ago, he would have still been out in the hinterlands living off of what the earth provided.
"Your self-proclaimed intelligence is clearly lacking, girl,” he cut in, “your facts are wrong—” but his own words thereafter ground to a halt as a sudden, splitting pain lanced through him from the crack of her forehead against the bridge of his nose. Bloodied, yes, but considering his own history of broken noses due to similar scraps in the past, he knew a fracture when he felt one. In that lapse of weakness however, Solona proceeded to claw for higher ground by successfully tossing him onto his side, though he would not give her the upperhand. He refused to be bested by some little rat the Wardens pulled into their fold and made feel special when no one else would. If she wanted to roughhouse, then he would roughhouse.
A knee lifted to increase the distance between them; a stark contrast to the aggressive albeit borderline intimate moments before. With a shift of his hands to her shoulders and the stretching of a strong leg, Loghain shoved Solona off the high bed and onto the suite floor before leaping up from the mattress himself to stand over her. She’d reach for any weak point, he noted, so the position didn’t last long.
“Do not lecture me about crooked politics!” He bellowed as a strong hand grasped at the front of her blouse to lift and shove her up against the nearest wall. He was tired, body sore from their desperate acts for supremacy, but he would not fold. The blood dripping from the split in his nose was ignored due to the fury that pumped through him—fury at her ignorance. What did she know about tyrants and politics when she had been so lucky to avoid the Orlesian rule? How dare she point accusing fingers and spout garbage of her superior point of view from her roost in a country filled with nothing but self-entitled hypocrites—from the ranks of charlatans that flashed pretty smiles with teeth like daggers as a façade to get what they wanted. Orlais was called the masked empire for a reason, and it was because of of the games they played; its royalty’s hidden agenda and cloak and dagger tactics. It was because they were pompous, greedy globetrotters who had no love for anything but how pretty their faces were, and how many precious material things they had at the end of the day. He was not easily influenced by such baubles, nor was he in the same vein as their crooked diplomacies. He fought for Ferelden for over thirty years to free it from such clutches, how dare she accuse him of the tyranny he fought so fervently against.
"You live in a world where everything is handed to you, where you can live without fear of foreign tyrants helping themselves to everything you love—to everything that is yours! I fought for that right, Solona!" He shouted, strong arm pulling her away from the wall before throwing her back against it to punctuate his words and drive these facts she so blatantly ignored into her head. "I fought for your right to live as a human being without being subject to rape, abuse and murder if you did so much as look at an Orlesian the wrong way. Do not tell me that I am corrupt, when it is the very fucking thing I kept you from!”
Suddenly, his grip relaxed and he released her. A hand finally flew up the cradle the damage that had been done to his already-disfigured nose with a dissatisfied grunt. With a swift but heavy step, Loghain turned away from her sore and no doubt bruised body as she gathered herself to hurl whatever inaccurate bullshit she deemed applicable, but he had already shut her out in his own overwhelming anger.
Happy Anniversary, Papa Loghain.
Loghain’s struggle with snacks:
- String cheese.
Murky brown held crystal blue for what felt like an indefinite stretch of time. Only after a tidal wave of emotion crashed through Duncan did he break gaze and notice the chain now dangling around Loghain’s neck.
Standard-issue Ferelden Military tags with…something else beside the plates of thin yet sturdy stamped metal.
A Warden-Commander’s ring.
Duncan watched with numb, exhausted fascination as Loghain slid accessory from chain and passed it into his fallen comrade’s waiting hand. The familiar, heavy weight dropped into its owner’s palm, warm from Mac Tir’s chest. He’d been expecting the contact, and yet it somehow felt foreign. To feel anything felt foreign, now.
How long had he been sleeping?
"You’re late." Or perhaps he was the late one now, depending on how long he’d been unconscious. A few days? A week?
The very edges of Wolfe’s lips pulled upward. Even to smirk felt taxing, but the effort was well worth it. Loghain hated the ever-present neutrality Duncan showed him. He’d earned something else this time, hadn’t he? Wolfe could hardly imagine the old warhound sitting bedside for however many days, hiding his sleeping peer’s ring inside his shirt.
But was it concern which kept the Ferelden military hero by his side, or was it…something else?
The brutality of Ostagar had not been erased from Duncan’s memory, but he was alive with Loghain at his side, no less. The general had kept his promise. They hadn’t failed.
The fact that he had managed a smile rather than stare blankly up at him hurt more than it should have. Surely he wouldn’t have been so accepting of his presence if he recalled what had happened and exactly why he was stuck in a hospital bed to begin with, would he? No, Loghain knew that well. He was to blame for the delay and the eventual retreat of his troops. If Duncan remembered, then there really was no reason to smile. How ironic it was that he was given such an opportunity to witness something other than a blank canvas, and all it did was make his stomach drop.
The rough pads of Loghain’s fingers brushed against the palm of the bed-ridden Warden’s hand as the ring was passed from one to the other. They lingered, though withdrew in unspoken fear as he swallowed thickly and leaned back into the chair. His own hands worked fervently to smooth the unprofessional creases that wrinkled the many layers of his suit, but the attempts were futile, though worth the effort if only to keep up with appearances.
"I know," came a choked response, though he held his composure to the best of his ability. He was often a sturdy, unreadable wall that few understood and even less knew how to read—Duncan, like Maric, being one of the very few that knew how. "Forgive me."
He almost regretted asking for pardon, especially when his plea was far more loaded than he lead on. The hands within his lap folded and his fingers laced together as he kept his eyes low in search of the correct words to articulate, but he could find none. He was left exposed and vulnerable in a time that he should have felt relief, but there was anything but dismay coursing through him.
In a way, there had been victory. Many lives were saved from Cailan’s inevitable death march. He would not listen, and instead offered up the lives of many men and women at a chance for glory in which Loghain assumed to take the brunt of the force for. But in reality, the battle didn’t play out the way he planned, and very few understood let alone sympathized with his actions. There was little hope that Duncan would as well.
But that made his rare optimistic efforts that much worse, and the General almost feared he’d never see it again.
“Bitter? Oh honey.” Her laughter held no joy. “We’ll be two peas in a pod if that’s the case.” She drank directly from the bottle of scotch, fully intending on finishing it before the night was up. There was no hesitation as she swallowed. Over the past months the Don had learned that, though cliche, alcohol was a decent way to dull the senses.
There was not much else she could say lest he proved himself to be a non-threat. Instead of giving away anything else about herself she took a far less enthusiastic swig of her scotch before glancing at her own watch. It wasn’t that late, at least not for her. She’d still have to call the Ministro once she got home.
"Overstaying—please. I fall asleep here far too much. If anyone is overstaying, it is myself." She waved a hand at him as if to dismiss the very though. After all, it was a ridiculous notion. Especially when she had invited him to stay with her for a while longer. "Though you seem to have much weighing on your mind. If it is anything that you would be willing to speak of, I can be a good listener."
Listening to his own problems seemed far more pleasant than listening to the scathing voices in her head that she never could quite drown out. Plus, the guise of a motherly and airheaded cook became tiring. Especially when she had failed being motherly to her own children. Despite her own thoughts being grim, she looked over to him and smiled warmly.
A kind offer, but one he couldn’t accept. He had many problems—longterm ones, and others that showed face on a daily basis, though none of which were things he could speak of, mostly because he didn’t know how. Plus considering his line of work and knowing absolutely nothing about the voluptuous woman who squeezed into the chair next to him, speaking to her about military-related things other than his own battle scars was a hazard to Ferelden’s militia. He’d have to politely decline after a mouthful of potent scotch.
"Such is life," came a rumbling reply after the amber spirit was swallowed. It burned going down, but it was pleasant. The liquor warmed him from the inside-out, and it always had a way of setting his mind at ease. How fortunate he had company, and was willing to entertain the idea of spending a bit of time alongside another for a drink. No less, he did not return the smile she had offered, quite simply because he was unable to do so. Smiles for him had always been rare, especially now that the country he loved was going to hell.
The thick tumbler was set down and his eyes scanned the documents that sat out in the open before him. Nimble fingers gathered the sheets and slid them into the crisp manilla envelopes that sat beneath, string wrapping around the plastic latches in a figure eight for some papers while others simply slipped into folders. A neat stack was made before the pen was plucked from the table and pushed into the innermost pocket behind his vest where it was stashed away for easy clean-up (and in case of the documents, confidentiality) when his evening was said and done.
"Though I must apologize, I am not one for casual conversation." It wasn’t a recent development either—Loghain never was. He spoke when necessary, not simply to fill the empty void. It was a waste of time, he found. But sometimes a distraction was needed every now and then to refocus and get back on track. At least, that’s how he felt currently. Another half an hour at maximum though, and he would return to the Grail to get a decent night’s rest before rising at the crack of dawn to do it all over again.