When the rain started to fall on Ostagar, she wept.
Alistair was at her side, commanding a sense of urgency, but she could not help it. Could he not understand? In Dust Town, people would fight and kill over sips of water that trickled their way down. Water was more precious than food or gold.
And on the surface, it fell from the sky? Did they not see what a blessing it was?
When the human finally got fed up, he leaned down and got in her face, ready to shout. But he did not speak when he saw her. She did not know if he could tell the difference between her tears and the rain. She couldn’t. She was drenched in both and smiling for the beauty of it.
She tore her eyes away from the sky and looked at him. His normally blonde hair had darkened from the water and was plastered carelessly to his head, too soaked to maintain its normal position. His kind eyes look at her with concern and confusion and she shook her head.
“I know; we have to go. I’m sorry. It’s just… don’t you find it beautiful?”
“What? The screams of the dying and clashes of battle? You find that beautiful?”
She smiled again, “No. The rain.”
“The rain?” Alistair shrugged. “Right now it’s more of a hindrance than anything. It doesn’t matter; we need to get moving.”
She shook her head. He didn’t get it. People on the surface were too spoiled by it. She decided the day she stopped believing the rain mattered would be the day a part of her soul died.
After Ostagar, she spent months on the road. At the Brecilian Forest she talked to the elves, solving their werewolf problem by convincing Zathrian to lift the curse. After that, she needed something familiar. Trees (especially the talking ones) and elves were very foreign.
“We could go to Orzammar next.” Alistair suggested when she told him this. “We have a treaty from the Dwarves too.”
The thought of talking to King Endrin and the Deshyrs made her nervous. She was a brand, would they even agree to talk to her? She unconsciously touched the brand on her cheek as she thought.
“You’re a Grey Warden.” Alistair said, noticing her hesitation. “You’re beyond the prejudices of caste now and if they don’t like it, they can shove it up their sodding arses.”
She smiled. He always managed to say the right thing to calm her nerves and she appreciated his support. She had been ready for him to take the lead, but she wasn’t at all displeased that he allowed her to be in charge. It was nice to have her opinions valued.
So she brought her companions (there seemed to be more and more of them every time she turned around) to the mountains and took them underground. Finding the old king dead and a potential civil war if the matter of ascension wasn’t settled soon, she settled the dispute (and helped her sister, who had become the Prince’s consort) by putting Prince Bhelen on the throne.
She’d had to kill her old friend Leske to do it however, when he betrayed her to Jarvia and the carta.
She wept that night and wished for the rain that could hide her tears. Again, it was Alistair that helped her regain her strength. He made her laugh instead of cry and she thanked the Ancestors for his friendship.
It rained on the way south to Redcliff. She delighted in the look on Oghren’s face and laughed until it hurt. The surly dwarf was not as amazed as she had been, but his surprise was enough to put smiles on nearly everyone’s face. Leliana, in high spirits, pulled at her hand until she joined the bard in her dancing. Even Morrigan joined them, though hers was a more primal celebration than revelry.
She guessed it was the heavy armor that the menfolk were wearing that prevented them from joining, though she supposed it could be that they simply did not enjoy dancing. Either way, their loss.
She did not see how the men watched. For them, the enjoyment was in seeing the three women lose themselves in the thrill of the storm.
When Alistair told her of his royal bloodline, she took it in stride. He was still the same Alistair. She assured him that she did not care who had sired him, though, since he seemed to think that she would start treating him differently once she knew.
“So there you have it. Now we can move on, and I’ll just pretend you think I’m some… nobody who was too lucky to die with the rest of the Grey Wardens.”
She was hurt that he believed she thought of him as a nobody. “You don’t really think that, do you?”
“Well… no.” He said, apologetically. He added, seriously, “What I really think is that I was lucky enough to survive with you.” Then he turned and continued walking down the road.
She stood there, a little surprised. It took Leliana walking passed, giggling, before she snapped out of it. She shot the bard a dirty look but hung back, for once letting Alistair take point, as she thought.
The way he’d said it… how many times had she told herself how lucky she was that Alistair was with her? How many times had he been the one to make her laugh? Was there anyone she enjoyed talking to more? The answers were many, many, and no.
But… was it even possible? She was a castelss dwarf and he was a human prince, probably heir to the throne whether he liked to admit it or not. Could they, should they even…? She didn’t have answers for those. For all she knew she could be looking too much into what he’d said.
She caught up with him as they reached the bridge. She would have asked him about it, but there was someone waiting for them.
Taking back Redcliff village was the easy part.
The hard part was deciding how to save Connor. If he could be saved at all.
She refused to kill the child. Abomination or no, he was a child and she couldn’t do it, not if there was another way. Jowan suggested blood magic; Alistair disagreed. The only other option was to go to the Circle and beg for their help. If they could help, if they were willing, if the tower wasn’t in total chaos as the rest of Ferelden seemed to be, and if they got back in time… there were a lot of ifs in that plan.
One look at Alistair, though, decided her. She would risk going to the mages if it meant avoiding blood magic.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right.” She told Teagan. “We’ll go to the mages and get them to help us.”
Teagan also appeared relieved, though he did voice concern that Connor would not remain passive forever. She promised to hurry back as swiftly as she could, which meant traveling light.
She’d leave the majority of her companions in Redcliff in case they didn’t return in time, including Morrigan, so that if they had to, Jowan could still do the ritual. She warned them not to do it unless they absolutely had to, though, and made everyone swear not to assume the worst if they took longer getting back than they planned.
She took Oghren, Zevran, and Alistair, confident that they could handle anything in their way, and left setting a grueling pace to reach the Tower as fast as possible.
The Fade was an interesting place, but not one she cared to spend a lot of time in. And she was not pleased that she’d been separated from Alistair and the others. She moved through the realms with savage speed, killing demons and abominations that got in the way of her trying to find her friends. She found Oghren first. Wynne second. Finally she reached Alistair, dreaming about his apparent sister. She almost felt bad for forcing him out of his dream, but she had no time for demons or their tricks. When he, too, disappeared as the others had, she screamed in frustration. She activated the runes on the pedestal and quickly took care of the last demon guarding the realm of Sloth.
He died just as the others had and she woke up feeling very annoyed. Taking the Litany from Niall’s body, she stormed up to the Harrowing chamber. The Templar that was trapped there wanted her to kill all the mages within. She refused.
“I’m here to save an innocent, I will not do so by spilling the blood of other innocents.” She cut him off in his protests. “You’re objections are noted, now let me do my job.”
She had no patience for Uldred’s ranting. She forced him to shut up by throwing one of her spare daggers into his chest. He assumed his demonic form after that and the fight began. She had all of them take turns speaking the Litany to prevent Uldred from gaining control of the mages, and she made sure whenever it was her turn that she was close enough to Uldred that the Litany’s affects caused him pain.
He was dead soon enough, and the mages were alive and free of his control. She spoke to Irving about Connor as they descended the tower, and he promised to send the required mages and lyrium to Redcliff. She waited to discuss the treaty with him until they had made it back to the Knight-Commander. Irving also acknowledged the treaty and promised her the support of the remaining mages, though their numbers would be few.
She accepted what help they could offer and gathered her people to head back to Redcliff. Irving and the other mages would meet her there once they assembled what they would require.
The mages actually beat them there, since they chose to take a (magically guided) boat across the lake instead of walk.
The ritual was done, Connor was saved, and no one had to die.
But the Arl was still ill. She’d have to find the Urn of Sacred Ashes, which meant going to Denerim to talk to Genitivi.
For now, however, she allowed her companions a few days in Redcliff with good food, warm beds, and a few days rest from fighting.
She’d gotten used to the outdoors though, and she spent a lot of time in the courtyard. Alistair found her there, lying barefoot in just her tunic and breeches in the grass beneath a shady tree. She patted the ground next to her and he sat, awkwardly.
She chuckled. “Relax Alistair. Take this rare chance to enjoy the view.”
He did relax a little and laid down on his side, head propped up on one arm so he could look at her. In his other hand, he fiddled with something, but she couldn’t see it well enough from her current vantage point.
Finally, he held it so she could see it, “Here, look at this. Do you know what this is?”
She didn’t. She’d never seen one before, but it was beautiful. She decided to be funny though, since she didn’t want to admit to not knowing. “Your new weapon of choice?”
He laughed. “Yes, that’s right. Watch as I thrash our enemies with the mighty power of floral arrangements! Feel my thorns, darkspawn! I will overpower you with my rosy scent!”
She laughed too, he was being overly silly again, but it was always good to see him smile.
He continued before she could speak. “Or, you know, it could just be a rose. I know that’s pretty dull in comparison.”
Dull? No one had ever shown her anything like it before. It was remarkably lovely; she wished she could touch it and see if the deep red petals were really as soft as they looked. She turned on her side as he was to face him and looked into his eyes. The emotion there was as breathtaking as the rose and she knew that she hadn’t been mistaken earlier.
She smiled. “Sentiment can be a pretty potent weapon.”
“Is it that easy to see through me? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.” He handed her the flower then and she gently brushed the velvet petals with her fingertips. He kept talking while she examined the flower. “I picked it in Lothering. I remember thinking, ‘How could something so beautiful exist in a place with so much despair and ugliness?’ I probably should have left it alone, but I couldn’t. The darkspawn would come and their taint would just destroy it. So, I’ve had it ever since.”
She wondered briefly how he’d managed to keep it looking so alive for months, but she guessed he’d magicked it somehow. However the means, she was glad that she’d gotten the chance to see it. “That is a nice sentiment.”
“I thought I might… give it to you, actually. In a lot of ways, I think the same thing when I look at you.”
She looked away from the rose and back to him. He thought she was beautiful? Rica had always been the pretty one, that’s why she’d been the one dressed up and sold to the highest bidder back when they worked for Beraht in Dust Town. She didn’t really know what to say.
“Thank you Alistair. It’s a lovely thought.”
“I’m glad you like it. I was just thinking… here I am doing all this complaining, and you haven’t exactly been having a good time of it yourself.”
“To be fair, I think Morrigan does more of the complaining.” She teased.
She got the smile she was looking for, but he had more he wanted to say. “You’ve had none of the good experiences of being a Grey Warden since your Joining, not a word of thanks or congratulations. It’s all been death and fighting and tragedy. I thought I could say something. Tell you what a rare and wonderful thing you are to find admits all this… darkness.”
She felt overwhelmed. She’d never allowed herself much thought as to how much more Alistair meant to her than friendship. It hadn’t seemed possible, yet here he was, telling her all these lovely things and she was so… happy. Happier than she had ever been.
She brushed his cheek with her hand and smiled. “I feel the same way about you.”
He caught her hand and twined their fingers, “I’m glad you like it. Now... if we could move on past this awkward, embarrassing stage and get right to the steamy bits, I’d appreciate it.”
She grinned mischievously, “Sounds good. Off with the armor, then.” Ignoring, of course, that he wasn’t currently wearing his armor any more than she was.
He laughed, awkwardly, “Bluff called. Damn! Saw right through me.”
“You’re cute when you’re bashful.”
“I’ll be… standing over here. Until the blushing stops. Just to be safe. You know how it is.” He tried to get up, but she pulled him back down.
“Oh no, you’re not getting away that easily.”
They tussled playfully as he tried to get away and she wouldn’t let him. It ended with her straddling him. It was a good thing she was flexible, because her short legs would have had trouble with the position otherwise. The rose was safely tucked in her hair and she had him pinned, though he could easily break her hold if he really wanted to. She was strong but he was a lot stronger and had a significant height advantage.
He let her pin him down, however, and laughed when she stuck her tongue out at him, victorious. The rumble did interesting things, perched as she was, but she managed to keep a straight face.
“So,” he said—definitely not making the rumble stop, “all this time we’ve spent together… you know: the tragedy, the brushes with death, the constant battles with the whole Blight looming over us… will you miss it once it’s over?”
“There will always be more battles to fight somewhere.”
“But that doesn’t mean we would necessarily be fighting them together.”
She blinked. Considering what had just happened, that had not occurred to her. Why wouldn’t she be fighting by his side?
“I know it… might sound strange, considering we haven’t known each other for very long, but I’ve come to… care for you. A great deal.” She remembered then, that he was very new to this. He may not understand what her straddling him as she currently was with his token of affection in her hair meant. She let him continue though; it would be interesting to see what he said.
“I think maybe it’s because we’ve gone through so much together, I don’t know. Or maybe I’m imagining it. Maybe I’m fooling myself.” She quirked her eyebrow and smirked at that. “Am I? Fooling myself? Or do you think you might ever… feel the same way about me?”
Still with the grin on her face, she teased him, “I don’t know. It might be too soon to say.”
“Well, is it… too soon for this?” He sat up quickly, managing not to dislodge her, and kissed her sweetly.
Seated as she was, their bodies were very close. She felt the hard plane of muscle through his shirt against her chest as he wrapped one arm around her waist and brought the other up to cradle her head. She wrapped her arms around his neck to bring him even closer.
When they broke the kiss she was grinning from ear to ear. “I don’t know. I need more testing to be sure.”
He laughed softly. “Well then, I’ll have to arrange that, won’t I?” He kissed her again, softly.
They broke apart when it suddenly started to rain. A cloud burst had unleashed a downpour. She laughed joyfully and leaned a little back to allow herself to be drenched. She so loved the rain.
“Maker’s breath, but you’re beautiful.” He said quietly, bringing her attention back to the man in front of her. “I am a lucky man.”
It was her turn to blush.
He pushed gently on her hip to request his freedom and she got up, taking the opportunity to throw her head back and fully absorb the sensation of falling water. His hand in hers pulled her attention away again.
“We should get inside before we catch cold.”
“Still unappreciative of the rain?” She asked with a smile.
He grinned and blushed, “Oh, I’m beginning to appreciate it more.”
Confused as to why he was blushing, she looked down at herself. The rain had started to soak through her shirt, making it rather more clingy and transparent than it used to be. Embarrassed, she crossed her arms over her chest and laughed. “Oops.”
“I wasn’t complaining.”
She bumped him playfully as they made their way inside. The day was ending and they would set off to Denerim at dawn; they needed to gather their supplies and get what rest they could, so the two departed with a quick kiss to go to their separate rooms.
She wanted to get in to the city, get the information they needed, and then get out without being noticed. But she couldn’t deny Alistair the chance to meet his sister, and the assassins would keep coming for Leliana if she didn’t confront Marjoline.
Once the bard was dealt with, Leliana returned to the camp just outside the city. She said she wanted time to clear her head and left.
Goldanna’s house wasn’t too far, so that was the next stop. It did not go at all according to plan and she had a strong desire to slap the woman silly for being so… odious, but she restrained herself for Alistair’s sake. The conversation outside the house was not easy. Alistair had been crushed by his sister’s rejection and it was up to her to tell him that everyone was out for themselves. It was a lesson she’d learned the hard way many, many years ago, and it saddened her that Alistair had to learn it the hard way too.
Once she’d procured the information they needed from Genitivi’s home, she set out for the city of Haven, making a quick stop along the way to help Levi Dryden clear out the old Warden keep.
The city of Haven was not easy to find, but she was not to be dissuaded. She’d found Asala, Sten’s lost sword; Alistair’s mother’s amulet; Wynne’s old student, whom she’d believed dead; Flemeth’s Grimoire for Morrigan (both of them); Oghren’s… friend; and Andraste’s Grace, a fragrant flower that reminded Leliana of her mother. She would find this Blighted city and she would get Andraste’s Ashes for Arl Eamon.
Stubborn determination paid off. She found the city and the Urn and took down another High Dragon.
“Think of it as practice for the Archdemon.” She’d told Alistair gleefully right before hitting the gong.
With Eamon cured by the Ashes, they prepared for the Landsmeet. It was Eamon’s plan to put Alistair on the throne, as she suspected it would be. Civil war had almost erupted in Orzammar because someone not of the Aeducan line had tried to seize the crown; she imagined things would have been no different on the surface if Eamon had tried to do the same thing.
She decided that she would try to convince Alistair this was the right thing to do, without the looming pressure of the Landsmeet. She asked for a little time from Eamon and took Alistair, Wynne and Sten to Ostagar. She hoped finding Maric’s sword would inspire him to take on the responsibilities of King. She had not imagined what else they would find, however. After reclaiming Cailan’s armor from the darkspawn and Duncan’s sword and dagger from the field where he fell, they gave Alistair’s half-brother a proper, respectful pyre and left.
The shared a tent that night. She didn’t know if it was being reminded of how wrong things could go or the idea of being King, but Alistair asked her to join him for the night and she agreed. Maybe she was feeling a bit like mortality was close at her heels too, because she didn’t want to wait anymore for the right time or right place. Perfect timing didn’t exist in Thedas and she wasn’t going to risk never sharing this with the man she loved. And she did love him. He was now as much a part of her as the Taint, but far more welcome.
They shared a tent every night after, too, though some nights were more about sleep and less about sex. Some.
When they returned to Redcliff, Alistair was wearing Cailan’s armor and wielding Maric’s sword. She herself had taken ownership of Duncan’s blades, passing Starfang to Zevran upon their return. The sight of Alistair in such Kingly regalia impressed Eamon, and even Alistair himself seemed more set on the plan. They left for Denerim the next day.
So they talked to the nobles, for all the good it did them, and took care of a few minor quests that came their way. She did manage to get three very fine sets of armor from the Drake and Dragon scales she’d procured courtesy of Master Wade, though, so she wouldn’t call exploring the city a total loss.
She even ended up helping the Antivan Crows with some jobs, much to Zevran’s unease, and became known as the Dark Wolf after pulling a few heists for fun, much to the assassin’s amusement. He had become a good friend, despite his initial attempt to kill her, and she was happy that he chose not to return to the Crows when Taliesin showed up.
When she was asked to recue the Queen, she did so, freeing a fellow Grey Warden, a Lyrium-withdrawn Templar, a crazed Ostagar survivor, a nobleman’s tortured son, and an elf and killing the Arl of Denerim in the process. When she was arrested, she went willingly and broke out almost as soon as she was put it. It certainly hadn’t been the first time she’d escaped from a prison.
The Queen gave her a lead about unrest in the Alienage and asked to speak with her privately. Anora wanted her support in the Landsmeet. She wanted to remain Queen and not give up her title to Maric’s bastard heir. Manipulative, power hungry, ice-queen that she was, Anora had been a good ruler for Ferelden, and Alistair had voiced objection to becoming King. She wanted to talk to Alistair first before deciding anything, though. To her surprise, he was warming up to the idea of being King. And he did not trust Anora. She was Loghain’s daughter and he believed her to be as manipulative and deceitful as he was.
She told the Queen no.
She took care of the slavers and demons in the Alienage and had condemning evidence against Loghain to show for it. Eamon was pleased.
The Landsmeet went in their favor, despite Anora’s attempt to sway the crowd in her father’s favor, and the duel between herself and Loghain was over quickly. She gave Alistair the honor of delivering the final judgment, declining Riordan’s insane offer to turn Loghain into a Grey Warden.
She took care of one or two other tasks, including recovering Duncan’s shield from the Warden storage warehouse, before following Eamon to Redcliff to face the amassing hoard.
Which was absent.
A few stragglers were terrorizing the town. She eradicated them. But this was not the main body of the hoard and there was no Archdemon here. When she reached the castle and demanded to know what happened, Riordan explained that they had been wrong and that the hoard was now almost to Denerim. They would need to take what soldiers they could from the gathered armies and do a forced march to the capital, but before that, Riordan needed to speak with her and Alistair privately to discuss Grey Warden matters.
So it was that she learned why the Grey Wardens existed and why one of them must die to end the Blight. Riordan said he would be the one to take the final blow since he was the senior-most Warden. If he failed, it would fall to her. Alistair objected, but she would not be swayed. He was to be King, not dead, and that was that. If it even came down to it. Riordan was capable enough to deal the final blow himself.
She told Morrigan no.
She would not force Alistair to perform her dark ritual so that she could produce a demon offspring. She was confidant that Riordan would succeed, and even if he did not, she did not fear death. She had done far more than she ever dreamed and she had gotten to know real happiness with Alistair. She would gladly give herself to save him.
The witch left.
She spent the night with Alistair, ignoring Eamon’s pointed hint of giving them separate rooms. Alistair was going to be King and could damn well be with whom he wanted to be with. It had been a little annoying that she’d had to point this out to Alistair when he tried to end it after the Landsmeet, but he was making up for it rather aptly.
They made it to Denerim.
She led a small group (Alistair, Oghren, and Zevran) through the city to take care of the darkspawn generals as they made their way to Fort Drakon. Seeing Riordan fall to his death after wounding the Archdemon, she felt as if her heart were plummeting with him. She had prepared herself for this possibility, but facing it was a bit harder. She shared a significant glance with Alistair and fought very hard not to cry. One way or another, these would be their last hours together.
She composed herself and continued on. She had an Archdemon to slay.
She did not see Alistair converse quietly with Zevran.
Once she reached the top of the tower, she quickly surveyed the area. The dead were everywhere and the Archdemon was roaring mad. She split the group into two teams. She and Alistair took the South ballista while Oghren and Zevran took the East. Each team had a rogue to operate the damn thing and a warrior to protect them. The Legion of the Dead that had followed them up through the tower gave their lives keeping the Archdemon distracted.
It was relentless and both teams had to move to the other two ballistae before it was done. When it was obvious the thing was weak enough to finally effectively use smaller weapons (and they’d run out of bolts), the four charged the dragon, keeping in mind what had and had not worked against the other two they’d fought.
At last, the time came. She steeled herself for the inevitable and charged. Two strong arms wrapped themselves around her person, however, effectively lifting her off the ground. She recognized Zevran’s voice in her ear apologizing as Alistair walked in front of her.
“You can’t do this!” She screamed.
“You can’t stop me.” He replied calmly.
“You’re supposed to be King; Ferelden needs you.”
He got very close and gently touched her cheek. “I won’t live in a world without you.” He kissed her with a fierce passion and then whispered, “I love you” before charging off to end the Blight.
The crack of thunder and lightning mingled with the tremendous roar of the clashing souls when Alistair sank his blade into the Archdemon’s skull.
When the rain started to fall on Fort Drakon, she wept.
For the rain did not matter.