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Alisara was hearing reports from the Seneschal in the hall while all manner of Keep business was being discussed around the grand hall, in huddled two’s and three’s, in corners and by the hearth. There is a sense of oneness and purpose. She had earned the respect and even adoration of the subjects of Amaranthine over the year and more since she was given the post of Commander. The people had found her to be fair, decisive, and an adept strategist. She worked hard to unify her people, secure the city and the farms, and stabilise trade. And despite the hard times her holding had grown and prospered, her army was well equipped and trained, and the ranks of the Wardens were slowly increasing. There was a lot to be proud of, but she never became complacent. Her drive pulled them ever out of the aftermath of the Blight and toward success, and it was this single mindedness that won her their allegiance. But still her heart was heavy. She worked long days and deep into the night, keeping herself too busy to think and too exhausted to dream was the only thing that kept her together. Seventeen months. Seventeen months since she’d last seen him, touched him with her own hands. Kissed him. Been held in his arms. Of course they wrote, but the distances were great and the work neverending. The darkspawn were a constant threat, never quite getting out of hand but never truly supressed. And they both had their tasks. Duty dictated their roles must be more important than their need to be together. She knew he would be steadfast in his duty and she wouldn’t shame him by being anything less herself. But, deep in the night, when the candles were long snuffed out and the fire in her chambers had burned to a low glow of embers, only then would she give in to the weight she carried and allow the dark empty void in her heart to swallow her and, in time, drag her into dreamless sleep on silent tears. Here, at court, no trace of weakness would she show. Only strength. Only mettle. And so she was, deep in conversation with a landholder regarding the digging of a new well when, like a wave receeding from shore the room began to fall silent. The warm hum of her house hushed, but still it took the trio a moment to notice, so intent was she on negotiating cost and manpower for the well with the holdings Lord. Her scribe touched her sleeve gently,

“My Lady…” she said softly. Alisara, her attention now disrupted, frowned at the sudden quiet. She looked to Varel over the table in askance, who only shrugged with a single shake of the head. Then the crowd by the back of the hall began to part, and the murmer of their whispers held an edge of anticipation. Her frown deepened and she stood to better see what was so disrupting her usually bustling court. The guests suddenly moved aside and she could see, moving through the passage they made, he was striding toward the head of the hall. Her breath caught in her throat as their eyes met, and he stopped by the hearth at the foot of the platform, knelt and saluted her.

“Varel,” she began, already in motion, “ postpone, everything…” she was halfway down the wide stone stairs, her voice trailed off into a breathy whisper, “until…”

“As you wish Commander,” he replied with a tolerant smile that lifted the corner of his weathered face and warmed his eyes, he knew she didn’t hear him. Alisara tried to maintain her public decorum but the overwhelming need to fling herself down the stairs and into his arms was barely containable, and her care to do so a fine thread that was swiftly fraying. The best she could manage was not to lift her hems and bolt, so she settled for a hurried half run and dignity be damned! His smile was like the sun rising, his eyes twinkled in the fire light with delight and joy. He stood in time to brace one foot back as she lept and collapsed all at once into his waiting embrace. Her body wanted to melt into him, through him. Her arms clasped around his neck she buried her face in his shoulder as he wrapped his strong arms around her and held onto her as if for dear life itself. He breathed in the purfume of her hair, his eyes tight shut as if just the feel of her would overwhelm him. Everything else but they two receeded from their awareness, there was nothing else but the feel of each other, like the parched finally tasting the sweet lifegiving water that they’d only been able to dream about until that moment. It was the tittering and the rustling of the crowd that brought them back to the room. Though the mood was one of good natured resignation while the court began to disperse, figuring no more audiences would be held for the afternoon.

“Take me to our rooms, ” she breathed softly into his neck, “before I discrace us both.” She felt more than heard the low deep chuckle in his chest as he lowered her to the floor and took her arm. She smiled up at him from his side, and they made an almost dignified exit of the throne room. Once in the private halls that lead to the Lords’ appartment he took her hand and they flew down the long carpet to their suite. They burst into their room laughing and flushed, eyes glittering with mirth, and leaned back against the heavy doors as they clicked shut. He reached behind and turned the heavy key in the lock, not that anyone would come knocking today. By now the whole keep would know, and they would happily go about their business and stay away. He smiled down at her and wrapped one arm around her waist, pulling her around in front to lean her body full length against his. Makers breath, how he had stayed away from her for so long was a mystery. Her cheeks blushed prettily and her mouth so soft and full… he lowered down to meet them, brushing his own lips along her upturned face, over her eyes as her lashes fluttered against them, along the soft line of her neck. He kissed her. Her sweet lips tasted to him like heaven. She raised up to press into his as he was drawn down to hers, it was like gravity. He kissed her like it was his last moment alive. He kissed her in long, hot, slow, deep rapture. Like he would drink her down and fill himself with her. There was no thought, only their hunger, only their mouths being together like they were made for no other purpose but this kiss. Finally they parted, but a mere inch only for that’s all they could bare to be apart. Her chest, still hugged firmly to his, rose and fell rapidly with her breathing and his answering heartbeat thundered through her. Their arms still locked about each other as though they never intended to be any other way. He spoke softly, his hot breath into her slightly parted lips

“My love…” Her heart squeezed with the sudden rush of all the long months of unfulfilled need to hear those words from those lips. Her breath caught as she looked up into those warm brown eyes that mirrored her love and desire and want, and finally like a drowning woman gasping for air she let herself believe it. He was real, here, and in her arms, and she exhaled,

“Alistair” as she kissed him again