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Heart of Stone

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Risa Aeducan, four foot five, dark haired, dark eyed, with a fine nose that was cute and perky and not much like the broad noses of most of her Dwarven kin, looked across the crowded and chaotic Landsmeet chamber at Alistair. His face was dark with an unfamiliar scowl, his hazel eyes narrowed, cold and hard. His sandy hair was messy, no doubt the result of his running his hands through it nervously as she'd dueled Ferelden's regent, greatest living hero, and the General of its army – and the man for whom he blamed the death of his friend and surrogate father, Duncan.

She glanced at Loghain. The aquiline-nosed, dark-haired warrior was still before her on one knee, finally at her level, his head falling forward and his wind braids hanging before him. He was breathing hard, his cold grey-blue eyes fixed on her. There was nothing in his gaze but resignation – should she decide to kill him or to spare him, he would accept her decision.

She looked back at Alistair and could see the corded muscles of his neck, and how his gauntlets were curled into tight fists, his whole body vibrating with tension - and knew what he wanted of her. She knew that he wanted Loghain slain before him. She heard the crowd too, howling for Loghain's death on the blue and gold carpet before them.

Risa was more of a pragmatist than Alistair, though.

She knew that Riordan, the haggard-looking senior Warden who'd crossed into Ferelden from Jader, would not have suggested making Loghain a Warden unless there were compelling reasons.

As a Dwarva commander, she also knew that generals were not to be discarded like yesterday's trash, especially in times of war.

She knew that as a one of the Dwarva, her time as Alistair's lover had run out. As king, he would have to father at least one heir; she, as a Grey Warden, could not bear that child. Dwarva were never very fertile to begin with given their constant exposure to both lyrium and darkspawn taint; the addition taint taken into her body during the Joining no doubt would end any children they started. And regardless of her having been a princess in her own right, these banns, so full of jealousy and racism, would never allow her to marry Alistair – which was honestly her only wish once they defeated the Blight. She could only be his illicit lover . She was a noble – not some casteless noble hunter - and here on the surface being his mistress was viewed a shameful thing, a disgrace. It would not even be seen as an elevation of status on the surface as it would back in Orzammar.

And Alistair – dear, sweet, naïve man that he was – he would not see that their relationship was of necessity over, not until someone like that bastard Eamon spelled it out for him. Better he hated her now than humiliated her later.

Oh, he'd hated her. She'd thought the words he'd spewed at the Landsmeet chamber had been horrible. What he'd said to her in the private chamber they'd been shown to….

"Be king," she'd said stonily, refusing to let the tears fall after he called her every vicious name he could think of. "You don't belong in battle, risking your life to kill the archdemon. You have responsibilities, and so do I."

"Of all people," he hissed, "I thought for one second… for one actual moment that you loved me… but you just used me, just like everyone else has used me my entire life! And the one thing I needed you to do, you took from me!"

"Because it would be wrong. Because it would be dishonorable to kill a vanquished and surrendering foe." She was immovable about this.

"You have no honor – your own people exiled you!"He had shouted it at her so loudly that she had no doubt that it had been heard loud and clear all the way back to the Landsmeet chamber.

That was a blow she never saw coming, an attack she'd honestly never thought he would have used against her. And when she met his eyes, knowing that she couldn't hide how much that had pained her, she saw only anger and… triumph.

"Live well, Your Majesty," she'd said quietly. "Try to remember the honorable, just, compassionate man you used to be when you sit on that throne, or it will not hold you long." She turned her back wearily and headed for the door.

"Where the Fade do you think you're going?!" he yelled.

She looked back at him, her face stone again.

"To die, oh human King," she said bitterly. "That was always the plan, was it not?"

And for a moment, she saw how that had taken his breath away – how utterly horrified and hurt and lost he looked, before the regal mask dropped back over his features.

She couldn't even feel satisfaction that she'd hurt him with that.

She went directly across the hall to the chamber in which Riordan was administering the Joining to Loghain. Risa stood behind the general as he sipped from the chalice – when he collapsed, she caught him and struggled to lower him fairly gently to the ground.

Riordan came over, slipped a hand between the gorget and against Loghain's neck. "He lives," he said simply after a few moments.

"Wonderful." She looked up at Riordan, then walked out of the room.

When she returned a few minutes later, she had a waterskin and a chunk of ham she'd stuffed into a roll, and Loghain was just starting to stir.

She sat cross-legged next to him on the floor. When the former teyrn opened his eyes and levered himself up painfully, she passed him the waterskin without comment. He took it, giving her a measuring look.

"Give it here," she grunted and opening the skin, squeezed it hard enough to spray a jet of water into her own mouth and swallowed it, then passed it back. "You're a warden now. I'm not going to poison you."

He took it then, swished water in his mouth, then swallowed. "Please don't give me that twaddle about being my sister now."

Risa's eyes hardenerd. "Fine. Get yourself cleaned up and fed. We're going to have a big day tomorrow." She met his gaze steadily. "And no, I'm not your sister. What I am is your commanding officer."

Good. Now the both of them hate me.

Makes things a lot easier.