Fiction on Other Websites

This was written for, Silent Winter, a Dragon Age roleplaying campaign in september 2009. Portrait by Jennifer Snow. Coat of arms by Dennis Goller.

Lothaire Séverin Valère de Tourrin

The afternoon sun hung high in the mostly clear blue sky while sparse snowflakes danced to the tune of a chilling wind. Lothaire slouched in his saddle, absently wondering when his lame horse would fail and force him to walk, but that was the least of his worries. Every day he was in a foul temper, a state of misery exacerbated by the stream of pleasant memories contrasted with his now bleak life. The monotonous sloshing of the hooves in the slushy snow bringing back his days riding a powerful destrier, the weight of his panoply reminding him his previous station as a chevalier of Orlais. His mail armor now barely fitted his portly frame, while his sturdy reinforced wooden shield, bearing the heraldry of his family, was now dented, chipped and battered. Resting on his shoulder was a large axe, the sword symbolizing his previous status laid shattered somewhere in an Orlesian field, only the hilt and part of the blade remained, always at his belt.

Once he had a better life, a life he was proud of. He was a chevalier of Orlais and he was set to inherit the town of Tourrin from his father. Now he was stuck wandering barbarian lands, lending his skills in the art of war for a price, a despicable mercenary. Every day he was unsure where the road would lead him, every day he recalled his better life and every day he wanted to end this wretched one. Yet in all the months since his disgrace, his exile, he never followed that thought through. Perhaps he was a coward or perhaps there remained some thin sliver of hope. There was still one person in Thedas he cared for, someone that made this pitiful existence somewhat bearable. His wife, Oriane, hadn’t abandoned him like the rest, she had still loved him even after he became a nobody. Lothaire couldn’t possibly drag her through this misery though and so he left her behind, to spare the pain he said. The ring he had worn in symbol of their union for the past few years hung around his neck, a memento of better days and a reminder of why he needed to continue living on.

There was another who had not abandoned him when the fortunes had shifted from under him. A retainer of his family, a mage by the name of Simon had remained with him up to this day. In truth, Lothaire would not have been able to survive long without Simon. In his despondent state, the once proud chevalier had sunk to bouts of drinking, preferably large quantities of wine, but whatever was at hand became more and more acceptable. It was not the only bad habit he had picked up, his once neatly trimmed graying dark hair had were now below shoulder length and unkempt. Similarly, his gruff features overgrown with a thick beard, also graying, which gave a wild look more reminiscent of the barbarians he despised than of a civilized Orlaisian. For all his recent failings though, Lothaire still knew how to fight and with Simon arranging his employment, he eked out a living. Now it was this very way of life that was leading them farther and farther from civilization and into places he had only barely heard of.

Maker willing, perhaps Lothaire would finally find redemption in this forlorn land.  


One Year Ago

Lothaire strode at a hasty pace through the dimly lit hallways of the mansion, dressed in full battle regalia, the clatter of his hard leather boots muffled by the rich rugs covering the polished stone floors. So intent was he on his own swirling thoughts that he almost collided with a silhouette blocking the doorway to the stables.

“You are leaving.” Lothaire recognized at once the flat tone as belonging to his wife, Oriane.

Groping for words, he cursed under his breath, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

“I left a letter.” He simply replied, in the same matter-of-fact tone as his wife.

“I read it.”

“It was meant for later.”

“I know.” Oriane cringed, unable to maintain her stoic facade anymore. “Maker’s breath Lothaire, what in the fade are you doing?!”

He lowered his eyes, was it shame? “I need to do this.”

“You have a choice. There is always a choice.” Her reproachful gaze bore through him. “You are running away, like a coward!”

Lothaire shook his head slowly. “Its not…” He started.

Oriane cut him off, her voice still rising. “You are running away!”

He shrugged. “Perhaps.” His bitter voice now tinged with sadness. “I cannot fight this Oriane. I am not willing to sacrifice my charges, my responsibilities…” His head rose and his eyes locked with hers. “And those I love.”

“Why?” She queried, her voice now calm as a placid lake.

“I killed a man.” Lothaire’s head dropped once more. “A boy really.”

“Who?” Oriane asked slowly after an awkward silence.

“One of the Empress Celene’s nephews, Alphonse.” There was a small surge of resolve in his words. “I will not let Tourrin bear reprisals because of one man’s mistakes.”

“The battle earlier…” Her voice trailed off as she recalled her husband arriving at Tourrin earlier, bloody and wounded.

“Yes. Alphonse, Gervais d’Armagnac and Yvon des Saults; they attacked me on the road home.” She moved her hand to gently caress his bare leathery cheek and spoke in comforting tones. “You only defended yourself.”

Lothaire simply gave a mournful smile until she lifted his chin with her forefinger and stared at him with teary eyes.

“Promise you will return.” Oriane nearly choked on the words and he moved closer to give her a comforting embrace. A few silent tears ran from his eyes, he knew he could promise no such thing. Lothaire lovingly kissed her on the forehead.

“I promise, Oriane. I promise I will return.”

She pulled away from him and save for her red eyes, she had regained her composure.

“I will help you ready your horse, and you will need provisions.”

As Oriane left to see to those things at a busy pace, Lothaire could only mutter a brief “Thank you.” He felt anything but thankful at the moment.

Earlier that day

Lothaire took in a deep breath of the sweet countryside air, it smelled like home. The trip to Val Royeaux had not been unpleasant, but he was eager to return to Tourrin, spend some time with his wife and his people. He had been away too long for his tastes, about a month, but one had to make the occasional trips to the capital to pay his respects, among other, less pleasant, things. Tourrin was an out of the way locale and so Lothaire was surprised to find a small party other than his on the small dirt road.

Without hurry, both groups approached each other, clustered together due to the dense tickets on either side. A dozen or so pace away, Lothaire recognized the boy leading the small group and oddly, for someone of his station, he didn’t have his colors visible; more odd was that he seemed to have come from Tourrin, yet there was little of interest there. Immediately, Lothaire felt there was something wrong about the whole situation, but as custom would have it, he advanced alone to meet his opposite number.

“My lord, you do me honor by visiting my lands.” The greeting was spoken in a reserved but respectful tone.

“Ser de Tourrin, I did not think you would return from the capital so soon.” The words came out with a snide undertone that convinced Lothaire the boy was lying about the second part, but no matter what his instinct told him, he had to follow protocol; it was what was expected of him after all.

“Please allow me to escort you out of my demesne.”

The boy became suddenly nervous and glanced errantly at the thicket at their sides.

“That will not be necessary.” His voice attempting to become commanding, he continued. “I ask that you cede me and mine passage.”

Lothaire also gave an errant glance to the thicket, now convinced that his men and him would perish if they acquiesced the boy’s request. Nevertheless, there was little he could do, except perhaps stall for some time.

“My lord, I must insist.” This time Lothaire’s voice was thickly coated with a veneer of concern. “I would be remiss if harm would to come to a blood relation of the Empress on my lands.”

A twig snapped and Lothaire turned, his hand already on his sword hilt when a bolt grazed his neck. As his naked blade came out accompanied by shouts from his men, he noticed the boy, Alphonse, had brought to bear a heavy mace. The first powerful swing would have completely crushed his thorax if not for a timely intervention from his shield arm, blocking the potentially fatal blow. The devastating weapon broke through the shield, cracking the bones in his arms as it sent him careening off his mount.

Lothaire tumbled in the dirt, his damaged arm hung useless at his side, sending waves of pain. As he struggled to rise, his remaining good hand found his blade. Kneeling, he barely had time to bring the sword to bear before Alphonse, now also dismounted, attacked him with a two-handed overhead swing meant to shatter his skull. The boy, in his prime was fast, but Lothaire had reflexes honed by a score of years spent fighting and training. The mace was blocked by the blade, but to Lothaire’s dismay and Alphonse’s glee, it snapped the blocking weapon in two, sending the older man reeling to the ground.

A snide smile was etched across the young noble’s face as he slowly advanced to land a killing blow on his victim.

“Who would have thought that killing a chevalier would be so easy? No wonder we lost against those Ferelden barbarians.”

Without a word or warning, Lothaire lashed out with an armored boot which connected with the younger man’s knee. There was a moment where Alphonse struggled to regain his balance, but in the end his heavy panoply of war played against him. He tipped over, arms still outstretched trying desperately to grab something and his eyes wide as he realized he was falling on Lothaire’s outstretched broken sword. The jagged metal went through Alphonse’s neck up to the hilt. There was a wet gurgle, blood started to pour from the boy’s neck and mouth, but Lothaire’s mind was elsewhere. Casually, he pushed off the dying body and grabbed the reins of a panicked horse, after having absently sheathed the remains of his blade.

All Lothaire could think about as he galloped away, his dying men buying him precious seconds to escape, was how he had just doomed himself. He remembered spotting Gervais and Yvon in the ambush and they would surely report a different story than his. Tourrin, his people and his loved ones would potentially suffer a great deal because of this and at the very least, there would be great shame. Better he had died, even if it would have enabled whatever scheme those two had planned. Then he realized he could still die, in a sense. If he simply disappeared with little explanation, no one would blame those he cared about, but that would mean the only side of the story would be Gervais’ and Yvon’s. He could live with that lie, if it meant protecting everyone he cared about.

With each stride of his horse, Lothaire grew more determined. He would go away and perhaps one day he would be able to return, but that was not the most important. Others would not have to face the fallout of this. It was his problem, his mistake and it was his duty to suffer the consequences.

Twenty Seven Years Ago, Or a Lifetime.

The roomy tavern in Val Royeaux bustled with noise, the wooden floor creaking with the heavy steps of patrons, the clanging of goblets and the drone of incessant conversations. Seated at a table next to a wall, three young men were busy filling their goblets with a thick red wine. One of them, Gervais, raised his cup. He had hawkish features, an angular jaw line and sharp grey eyes. His dark hair, short and neatly trimmed, was accompanied by a thin moustache of the same coloration. Gervais strained his voice to be heard over the ambient din.

“To the soon to be greatest chevalier in all Orlais!”

The man next to him, Yvon, had a bare round face with full reddish cheeks and curly brown hair, his light hazel eyes seemed naïve and yet had a twinkle to them, as if they saw more than other eyes could see. Mimicking Gervais, Yvon raised his cup.

“Hear, hear!”

Sitting rigidly face to them, Lothaire could not help but chuckle.

“You’re really making a big fuss out of nothing.”

“Nonsense!” Yvon interjected. “Your joining of the chevaliers is as good as a cause to celebrate as any.”

“Especially these days, with everything so bleak.” Gervais continued.

Lothaire stiffened, and studied his friends’ face which were now sullen.

“Things are going that bad?”

Gervais nodded. “We don’t know how long it will be until we lose our land to pay off the debts. You know I couldn’t join the chevaliers because of that, had to stay with my folks. Well, its gotten worse. Without money we can’t protect our lands and the last payment we sent out was intercepted.” He took his head in both hands, his voice growing desperate. “I don’t know what we can do, I just don’t know…”

Yvon continued after his friend trailed off. “My family is better off, but even they had to sell off some land so I could go to the university in Val Royeaux. They hope I’ll land in some plum assignment in the court after that, but I have my doubts. How is Tourrin faring Lothaire?”

“Tourrin is fine.” Lothaire looked both of them over. “As fine as it can be in these times at least. We sure aren’t having the problems your families are facing. Tell you what, I’ll talk to my father, ask him to lend some money to both of your families.”

Yvon shook his head almost instantly. “We can’t impose on you like that.”

“Yes you can.” Lothaire was equally quick to cut him off. “We took an oath, remember?”

This time it was Gervais who replied, with a laugh. “You don’t mean that stupid thing we swore when we were ten? Come on Lothaire, we won’t hold you to that. We were just boys then, we knew so little about the world.”

“Nevertheless I will uphold that promise. We said we would look after each other like brothers and I intent to uphold that, I still see you as my brothers and I do not think that will ever change.”

Gervais and Yvon smiled fondly, partly in nostalgia of those better days but also in appreciated. They knew Lothaire owed them nothing and yet he had given his help freely. Lothaire soon also smiled.

“I will talk to my father, I will make him understand your need.”

“Thank you.” They both replied in a mute voice as shame marred the joy on their face. They had both been raised to be proud and here they were counting on their friend to save them, nevertheless, there was little they could do but swallow their pride and be thankful. All three of them fell into an uncomfortable silence, which lasted for quite a while before Gervais finally broke it.

“I hope we haven’t ruined your last night here. This was supposed to be a night of celebration for you.”

“Think nothing of it.” Lothaire replied offhandedly.

Yvon looked around, seemingly for something specific. “Tell you what Lothaire.” He said with a great gulp of wine. “Go talk with Anne-Marie over there, I’m sure she’ll be glad to share your bed. I promise you, you’ll have a memorable night with her.”

Lothaire was about to reply something, but as he caught sight of the eagerness of his companions, he paused and shrugged. “You know what? I think I’ll take you up on that.” Rising, he continued. “Thank you for the fine evening.”

Gervais grinned. “No, no. Thank YOU. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of everything here and pay the tab, you just go and have some fun.”

Lothaire also gave a grinned but his was forced and as he walked away, he immediately realized he would not follow through with their suggestion. He would not bed Anne-Marie, probably paying a small sum to ensure she kept up appearance, all for the benefit of his friends. Worse, he knew that they expected him to act this way, that they had sent him off because they thought they had poured enough of their misery on him. Truth to be told, everyday they were growing more and more apart. All three knew it, but they each kept up a façade, it was much easier this way, it was much easier to pretend nothing had changed. While Lothaire had grown more rigid, more duty bound, Gervais and Yvon had indulged themselves more and more and Lothaire couldn’t find it in him to blame them. They had little to look forward to, he had everything to look forward to. They had to find some way to find at least some measure of happiness; women and wine seemed to kept them afloat, so who was he to judge even if he disapproved of such conduct for himself.

With all his heart Lothaire wished that when he would next meet them, in a few years, things would back to how they were. With all his reason, Lothaire knew that when he would next meet them, in a few years, things would have changed even more.