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Lessons I Learned From Loving You Alone

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Act One: The part of the story where they’ll never see it coming.

History is a funny thing, mostly because no one is ever sure when they’re making it and when a moment will simply remain as such. Certainly, history feels intense, overbearing, like the world is standing still just for the moment to complete. Then it’s into the next breath the world has calmed down, and a new way of life has begun.

But Celia, proud and bold as she ever was, does not feel the world halt for her as she enters Castle Gwaren. In fact, all she feels is the shudder running through her bones as she takes in the desecrated palace. Broken tiles and stone litter the ground, she is certain at one point this palace was the height of civilized culture in the area. However, looking around at the main hall, more light streaming through the crumbling cracks in the walls than the foggy windows, and the grime covered… well everything, Celia is certain her father’s workshop could be more suited for that title than this.

Still she gathers herself and presses forward, heading towards the courtyard, determination overriding her initial disgust. Maker’s Breath, to repair the palace will take more effort than anyone had realized, having been left to the elements since the beginning of the occupation. But this is a new era, a new time for Ferelden to show all of Thedas she is strong and capable.

When her eyes land on the pitched tent her hands clutch instantly at her skirts, this is not happening, the lord meant to restore Gwaren is living in a tent? Her face grows hot, immediately losing all sense of pity for the man, feeling only anger in its place.

She doesn’t exactly make her presence known, instead she lifts one of the tent flaps and walks in, there’s a small makeshift desk and an even smaller bed. Other than those two bits of furniture, if they can be called that, just a trunk and a man with a sour expression plastered to his face.

“Yes, what is it?” He asks, hardly sparing her a glance.

“A-are… Are you supposed to be Teyrn Mac Tir?” She asks practically incredulous.

He lifts his eyes from whatever parchment is so enrapturing and stares at her with furrowed brow. “Unfortunately.”

Celia imagines that if the man were to smile he’d be handsome, strong features, pale grey eyes, and dark hair falling effortlessly around his face. But as she now stands, she’s far too angry to notice anything other than the squalor surrounding him. “What do you mean by that my lordship?”

He winces at the title before offering a sigh, “It means that I have the dishonor of being the man you seek, now, how can I be of help?”

Taken aback by his statement, Celia tries swallowing to avoid lashing out, with minimal success. “So, you intend to berate those beneath your station then. You are our Teyrn no? Do you have any intention of cleaning up your own home? How can we hope for our city if you can’t even repair your own castle, leaving alone the fact that you insult the first person who’s met you face to face since your arrival? Which mind you was a month ago now.”

“I did not ask for anyone to question my authority, woman.” He sneers.

“And I did not come to be spoken down, I came to ask when you intend to abandon us.” She raises her tone, sharpening her words as skilled as a craftsman whittles an arrowhead.

“What are you talking about?” He asks, voice raising to match hers.

“When do you intend to abandon us? How long will you squat here before you give up and go home?”

“Did you just decide that in your own head? I’m not going anywhere, woman.”

“Do not call me woman!” She spits, “And everyone in the city is convinced you intend to leave, just as every lord has.”

“I’ve no intention of leaving, where ever did you get that idea?” His voice has grown into something quite scolding.

“From your living conditions perhaps? Andraste’s sake you’re living in a tent of all things and you’re meant to be our Teyrn? Not to mention we’ve not heard from you in a month!”

“I have been sending for supplies to fix the harbor! Fixing this slum is the last of my concerns!”

“This city, this castle is your new home, whether or not you like it is another matter I don’t particularly care for, but you will not insult my home! Your home no less!”

“And how welcome she has made me feel!” He scoffs.

Celia practically growls, “Perhaps we would have been more forthcoming if the lord of our lands were not such a vile man determined to live in filth!”

“And perhaps I would have been more inclined to attend to you people if my introduction to them were not a shrew of a woman!”

“I was not aware that our new Teyrn was a callow child!”

“Well, thank you for the introduction to Gwaren, nothing has been so outright in the past month and I appreciate the honesty of your people!”

“Have you forgotten that we are the ones that you are working for, my lord? That it is for the betterment of us and Ferelden that you strive for!?”

He slams a hand on the table, “I understand completely, I doubt however that you do. Now I ask that you leave immediately!”

She does not allow the harsh sound to startle and halt her, instead she uses it as a catalyst. Approaching the desk in the silence that is only filled by his bated breath, she too slams the desk, face mere inches from his. “I do understand, my lord, but what you do not understand is this. Unless your freeholders swear fealty to you, you won’t be Teyrn of anything at all. If you so choose to leave this palace crumbling at your feet, we’ll only ever be able to see the desecration that Orlais left in its wake. So, either you rebuild this palace to what it was before the occupation and help us see that Ferelden can move passed this, or pack up and go home, because we won’t want you here.”

The cut of her voice mingles with the venom of her tone, even she is taken aback at the aggression she has just exuded. However, unwilling to show this ‘Teyrn’ just how affected she is, she straightens up and waltzes out of the tent, not sparing a glance back until she is far down the hill and nearing the city walls. Maker… what came over her?

Truth be told, Celia has always been brash, with the mouth of her father that could send even the most skilled orators home with their tail between their legs. Never before had she ever yelled at a nobleman quite like that, suddenly embarrassment takes over, now he’ll surely leave and Gwaren won’t receive the help she desperately deserves. Andraste’s ass what a fool she’s made of herself, he’ll likely run back to Denerim and tell everyone of the wild woman who stormed in and scolded him like a fishwife.

Celia picks up the skirts of her dress, the only one she owns, and runs back to her home. Mother had made her dress up for the occasion, an audience with the Teyrn, and all that. Yet here she is only able to think of getting this clothing off of herself. She feels disgusted, wants to forget any of this has happened.

When she gets back home she storms upstairs and begins to tear herself out of the dress.

“I suppose that means it didn’t go so well?” Katherine, Celia’s sister-in-law, has walked into the bedroom, a smirk on her lips and gentle hands begin to help her with the laces.

“He’s infuriating! Rude!... Ugh, Maker, Katherine he’s a ripe ass that’s what he is!”

Katherine chuckles, “Well considering half the Teyrn heard you shouting I’m hardly surprised.”

“Don’t jest with me.” Celia thrusts her arms out of the dress.

“I’m not, your voice is quite piercing, Celia.” Katherine takes a seat on the bed. “So, tell me, what is the Hero of River Dane’s grand plan, hm?”

“He hasn’t one, he’s an absolute ass, like I said! Kept calling me woman! Can you believe it?!” Celia quickly changes into trousers and a working shirt.

“Hardly, at least he knew you were a woman this time. Or perhaps he mistook you for a young boy traipsing around in a dress.” Katherine chuckles. “Did he say anything else?”

“No, but I doubt he’ll still be here come tomorrow… I’ve really done it this time.” Celia buries her face in her hands, skin burning with flush.

“Come now, I’m sure one harsh woman won’t scare him off. After all, the man won a war, while you are quite the force to be reckoned with, I doubt he’ll go so far as to leave. Unless of course he was already planning to do so.”

Celia shakes her head, “It’s done now, nothing I can do I suppose.”

“Now there’s my headstrong Celia. Welcome back love, now get going your Papa said he wanted you back in the shop as soon as possible.”

“You won’t tell my mother, will you?”

“Of course, I will! I’m just dying to get back down to my embroidery, so I can tell her everything.” Celia shoves Katherine enough to elicit a loud laugh. “Get going, you’ve no time to waste.”

“And you’ve got gossip to spread, evidently.” Celia says leaving the house in much the same whirlwind she entered. The streets of Gwaren are open and so loud the Maker can hear them wherever he is now, Celia loves it.

Entering her father’s shop, she is greeted with the same commotion as always, the racket of building cabinets and the like overwhelming her senses. Her brothers Matthias and Dillion look at her the moment she saunters in.

“You’re back, how did it go?” Matthias, the eldest smiles at her from behind his work.

“I’d rather not discuss it.” She sighs, “Where’s papa?”

“Just took a new order, he’s in the back.” Dillion tells her, “You really don’t want to talk about it?”

“I bet she already told Katherine everything.” Matthias says.

“It isn’t my fault you married her. At least she’s pleasant to be around, can’t say as much for you.” Celia says walking between her brothers to reach the back room.

There she sees her father, sat before his leger smiling behind his work, “Afternoon, my dear.”

“Afternoon, papa.” She returns the smile, “You’ve work for me?”

“Of course, but first tell me of our new Teyrn.” Her smile turns sour at his words, eliciting a laugh from her father, “That bad?”

“Maker’s Breath, papa, he’s absolutely insufferable.” She relays the story in full, much more detailed than the story she told Katherine. Her father, Samuel Garrison is practically her equal, from whom she inherited her abrasive tone and proud demeanor. Even with the grey in his hair and the wrinkles littering his features, he remains complacent to be loud and at times quite boorish. During the occupation he was one of the loudest voices of rebellion, thank the Maker Orlesians thought little of a man who builds cabinets.

Celia has always been closest to her papa, until Matthias married Katherine nearly three months ago, while they’re still in the process of building their new home, they’ve remained in the Garrison family home. She and Katherine have become akin to sisters in the short months since the union, she might go as far as to say she and Katherine are closer than any of those she shares blood with. Except perhaps her father.

Samuel permits her leave once her tale is concluded, out of breath and riled up once more Celia goes to help her brothers. Truth be told she’s not exactly the best at building, in fact she should be married by now, moved on to her own family instead of still working in her father’s shop. Yet, Celia has taken no hand and it seems no one has been particularly interested in her either. She is completely content with this fact, she’s no reason to marry, should she require it, her brothers would not throw her out on the street.

It’s not as though she isn’t a beauty, in fact that might be why she has remained unwed for, so long. Celia Garrison is likely the most beautiful girl in the province, long blonde hair always tied pristinely in the back of her head, bright blue eyes that put the sea to shame, and practically porcelain skin. Beauty coupled with the fury of an archdemon is not something any man seeks in a bride, as beautiful as she is many think it is only when she keeps her mouth shut that she is at her most desirable.

So, Celia works in her father’s shop, balances the books and helps with the building where she can, never a worry in her mind about her lack of husband. Only the remnants of anger in her mind as she begins to balance her father’s books.

When the shop is locked up for the night, and the family begins to head for home, word has spread of her shouting match with the new Teyrn. People are talking loudly and animatedly about the situation, everyone stares at the cabinet maker’s daughter as the family walks home for the evening.

At home things are no less active, when the door opens the youngest siblings rush the group.

“Celia is it true that the new Teyrn is leaving?” Felicity asks, the nine-year-old girl’s voice lilted and almost excited.

“Is it true that you slapped the new Teyrn?” Philip asks, both of the children practically bouncing with excitement and questions.

“Katherine and mother have been filling your heads with nonsense.” Celia chuckles, aggressively ruffling Phillip’s hair, he’s too big for a twelve-year-old, almost taller than Celia herself.

“I’ve done no such thing!” Katherine tilts her head back with a laugh, “Martha will kill you for speaking ill of her you know.” Katherine chuckles her way into Matthias’s arms.

Celia rolls her eyes, “I’d welcome it.”

“Celia don’t say things like that, the Maker will hear you and strike you down where you stand.” Her father chuckles.

“Dinner is on the table and if I must eat by myself I will!” Martha calls from the dining room. The family piles into the small dining room, all eight chairs squeezed in to fit at a table likely only meant to fit four at the most. Martha and Samuel share a kiss as the family talks animatedly to one another, Felicity sat on Matthias’s lap while Dillion and Philip start loading up their plates.

Just as things start settling down, a loud knock rumbles at the front door, halting everyone’s movements. All eyes fall to Samuel, expecting him to stand and answer the door, however, Celia is the one to scoot out her chair and maneuver her way to the door.

There stands a guardsman of the Teyrn holding out a letter to her. “Celia Garrison?”

“Uh… Yes.” She says tentatively grasping the note, “What is this?”

“Missive from Teyrn Loghain.”

She opens the letter and begins skimming the lines, Andraste Preserve her. “Are you serious?” She asks.

“He is entirely.”

“I… Very well.” She nods to the guard, “I will report tomorrow morning.”

The guard nods to her, “Good evening.” And then he’s gone.

Celia turns the letter over in her hand before closing the front door and looking back towards her family. In silence she returns to the table, Matthias ripping the letter from her hands the moment she returns.

“Hey! Matthias, give that back!” She demands reaching for the letter, his hand stills from keeping it out of her reach.

“Maker’s Breath Celia what did you say to the man?” Matthias asks as she rips the letter away.

“I haven’t a clue.” She admits roughly returning to her seat.

“What does it say, Celia?” Her mother asks, voice commanding yet gentle.

“He wants her to lead the rebuilding of the Teyrn.” Matthias blurts out, to which Celia turns and smacks him upside the head.

“Is this true Celia?” Her father asks.

“Yes, papa, I’m to report in the morning.” She stands back up and hands the letter to her father.

After a moment of silence, her father smiles up at his daughter, “Only you, Celia, could ever yell your way into getting what you want.”

Before the sun is up enough for the sky to turn blue that next morning, she’s assembled a team for construction and clean-up of Castle Gwaren. She and Teyrn Loghain begin appraising the castle, trying to determine what needs to be entirely rebuilt and what can be salvaged. When he’s not trying her patience, he’s amiable enough, though Celia will never admit even that.

Once construction is finally underway, the process is relatively quick, with increased trade since the end of the occupation the whole city seems to be working at record paces. As if they can rebuild just the little bit faster, the remnants of Orlais will finally well and truly be gone from Gwaren.

It isn’t long before the palace is practically functioning once more, and Celia is showing the Teyrn his study. As she’s discussing plans to update the guest wing, she can’t help but notice a humor in the air about him.

“Your study, my lord.” She opens to door to the newly furnished study, the room Teyrn Loghain had wanted her to initially begin with. To which she had said ‘I know you’re so unused to the concept, but civilized people use beds.’

As he steps inside there’s a sense of relief that fills her, she can see the Teyrns shoulders drop, like he’s finally taking a moment to breathe. He walks around the office for a short while, perusing the shelves of books and knickknacks before settling down in his chair. Grey eyes landing on her, she is taken aback by the ease that has settled in his gaze.

“How much longer until the castle is fully restored?” He asks.

“About another month, my lord.” She says folding her hands together.

Nodding he pulls out a drawer where she happens to know parchment sits for him. “Maric has asked we hold a ball, part of his ‘restoration of Ferelden tour’ or something to that effect.”

“The king is coming to Gwaren?”

“And why not? We’re one of two Teyrn’s in the country.”

“I… suppose you’re right.”

“Anyhow, the guest chambers need to be finished by then, we’ll have high nobles from all over Ferelden coming to stay with us.”

“When will this be exactly?” Celia feels like her heart is about to stop.

A sly smile followed by a snicker comes from the Teyrn. “A month from now, I’m sending word to Maric as soon as we’re done here.”

“Oh…” She says softly, breath high in her chest as she thinks about all the preparations she’ll need to make for the king’s visit. The king in Gwaren…

“Try not to look so terrified, Celia, it’s unbecoming.”

“Try not to be so cold then.” She says, voice firm yet threatening to falter.

“I expect preparations to be made as soon as possible.”

“Of course, my lord.”

“And make sure to wear something pretty.” The glint in his eye infuriates her.

“This from the man who was content to live in his own courtyard.” She rolls her eyes, something like a laugh emitting from his lips. “Was that all you required, my lord?”

“For now, yes.” In the past month she has spent working with Teyrn Loghain she’s seen glimpses of softness, bits and pieces that when put together could be a smile. Yet everything has an edge to it, a sharpness that she can’t help but collide against. Two personalities that cut and clash at every turn, and somehow, they’ve managed to rebuild a city together.

She finds him infuriating, in a way she sees weakness and a bitterness she can’t name, like he has suffered a lifetime before this one and is still suffering from it. But she cannot deny that once he gets to work he’s committed, that he cares more than he’ll let on. Still, she’ll deny all the hours they’ve spent alone together, how much collaboration went into building a city back up. Even more than that, she’ll deny the attraction she feels for him.

At times she feels as though she does not even like him, the man is an utter vice in her life. No one lights a fire in her quite like Teyrn Loghain, for good and for ill. He makes her want to fight, and also makes her want to prove a sense of worth in herself.

When the day draws to a close, and preparations for the king’s arrival have been made she hurries out of the castle and back towards the city. Then suddenly as she‘s dining with her family, it hits her, Loghain was inviting her to his ball, the gall of that man… She’s to be attending a ball with the king? Madness.

“Celia!” Katherine snaps her fingers in front of Celia’s face.

“What?”

“Martha has asked a question, three times now.” The Garrison table has fallen silent staring at the oldest daughter.

“My apologies mother, what did you ask?”

“I asked if you were feeling well, might I assume you are not?”

“No! No, no, I’m fine I assure you.”

“Liar, liar.” Felicity teases.

“Hush.” Celia says turning back to her plate.

“What’s gotten into you sister? Could it be that something has finally shut you up?” Dillion chuckles, getting a chortle out of Matthias.

“Dillion, watch your mouth.” Martha scolds the boy.

Celia places a hand to cover one of her burning cheeks, when Katherine leans over. “Does this have anything to do with the Teyrn?”

At the very mention of the man Celia’s face burns brighter and she becomes angrier with it. “Leave me be, Katherine!”

“Oh, it is the Teyrn then, tell us what happened Celia.” Dillion chuckles. Gritting her teeth Celia shakes her head.

“Alright that’s enough of that, leave your sister alone.” Martha says, “And all of you need to start eating, I didn’t slave away in the kitchen all day for it to go to waste.”

Celia tries to eat but can’t bring herself to have a little less than half of her meal, suddenly more nervous than she’d thought herself capable. Maker help her, how is she, the cabinet maker’s daughter, supposed to go before the king? How dare he tell her to wear something pretty!?

After dinner she helps her mother and Katherine with the washing up, distracted and pensive in her musings.

“Maker’s breath, Celia, just tell us what’s wrong.” Katherine says firmly.

“Nothing is wrong.” Celia shakes her head as she washes down the countertop.

“You’ll go to the void for that lie, same as stealing.” Her mother says with a smirk.

“I just… Don’t know if I should be discussing it yet.” Celia says nervously.

“Well, you’re in safe company.” Martha says approaching her daughter, “What’s bothering you child?”

Eyes darting to Katherine and then back to her mother, Celia tells them of the king’s visit, and the Teyrn’s invitation to the ball.

“Oh Maker, Celia.” Katherine breathes heavily.

“It’s probably not even a proper invitation, and even if it is he means nothing by it!” Celia claims, embarrassed to have spoken the words aloud.

“Of course, he means it, Celia! Perhaps he intends to court you.” Katherine’s got that gossip’s gleam in her eyes.

“Don’t be ridiculous, he means nothing by it at all. I’ll be there as the one who rebuilt the palace and-”

“Child, listen to yourself.” Martha says with a laugh, “We’ll have to set aside time to go to the seamstress.”

“No, absolutely not. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“You are meeting the king, Celia, you need to be looking your best.”

“I won’t be meeting the king, I’ll be at a party where the king happens to be attending.”

“Teyrn Loghain and King Maric are good friends no? It’s likely you’ll be meeting him.”

“No, it isn’t… I just-”

“We’re going to the seamstress by the weeks end.” Martha says resolutely as she pats her daughter’s cheek and waltzes out of the kitchen.

“You’re going to meet the king Celia, aren’t you excited?” Katherine asks genuinely worried.

“That abhorrent man told me to look pretty for him, Katherine. I am most assuredly not looking forward to this.”

“Not even a little bit?”

“Not even a little tiny bit.”

“Hm… Well, at the very least, make the most of the situation, won’t you?”

Celia shakes her head and follows after her mother. By the end of the week, Celia’s ordered a dress for the ball, something far too expensive to actually wear. The very next day, a festival is announced for those remaining in town, the higher standing families have been invited to the ball, and of course the Garrison girl.

Teyrn Loghain does not bring up the matter to her again, unless to ask about the progress of the guest wing and the city. She prefers it this way, prefers the way he talks to her when it’s business as usual. Every now and then a biting comment she quickly retorts, the ease of this is frightening to her. In the span of two months she has come to be accustomed to the short quips they share.

She comes to realize that he may actually be comfortable around her, that this is him relaxed. Maybe this back and forth game of insults is just that to him, merely a game. This time, she may have been the only one defensive.

The day of the king’s arrival, Celia is as busy as she’s ever been, buzzing around the castle ensuring servants are doing as they’re bid. The first to arrive is the Teyrn of Highever, and Celia only catches a glimpse of Loghain greeting his guests. The two men hug, an odd thing for Loghain, she notes but does not dwell on it, she has far too many things to do.

Then the Arls from Redcliff, West Hills, Amaranthine, and South Reach. The Arl of Denerim arrives with the king, but the sudden influx of guests has Celia so flustered she can’t rightly name every person in the palace. She is practically at the beck and call of each need of the lords and ladies.

As the day draws to a close and supper is about to be served, Celia prepares for home; she has to pick up her dress on her way so she knows that she must hurry. She’s already spent far too long at the palace today, but as she’s about to head out, a hand on her arm pulls her back.

Turning sharply, she smacks her captor as hard as she can, only to see it’s the Teyrn himself.

After the shock falls away she says, “Don’t you know not to grab young ladies? Where in the void were you raised?” Despite the strong words coming out of her mouth she feels hot embarrassment creeping up on her.

“My apologies, I merely meant to ask if you’re ready for tomorrow.” He’s got some strange airy… could that be humor in his tone? Is he humored by the fact that she’s just attacked him?

“Of course, my lord, everything has been prepared precisely.” She’s almost insulted that he’d doubt her.

“Not that, I mean you, you are coming tomorrow yes?”

“I… am, of course.” She nods to him.

“Good, then I’ll see you tomorrow night.” He releases her arm and walks away back down the corridor. She finds herself lingering for a moment longer before rushing out of the castle. A worry rises in her gut, the effect he has on her is terrifying. Making her nervous and angry… and something else she does not know how to name, all at once.

She hurries to the dressmaker’s before finally returning home, dinner long since over, and the usual evening activities have begun. Until Celia walks in, the family’s attention is immediately on her, asking after all of the fine lords and ladies she’s seen.

With laughter and a bit of flourishing, she answers every question thrown her way, before managing to excuse herself to bed. Tired and nervous she escapes up to her bedroom, sleep finds her, despite her initial fear that her nerves would keep her up all night.

Morning comes with large celebration; the rest of town has taken to holding a festival in celebration for the revival of Gwaren. Merriment has already filled the streets of the city and the Garrison household is loud as it ever was. The two youngest children eager to get out of the house, Matthias and Katherine are charged with taking them, Dillion has already left with his friends, out to look for a woman to harass no doubt.

Martha and Samul are taking the day to sleep in before the nightly festivities, and Celia has decided to spend the morning and afternoon resting as well. She’s never been to a ball before, doesn’t even fully know what it entails, but she does know that these types of things last long into the night, sometimes bleeding into the next morning.

So, she rests for the morning, Katherine returns some time just after noon, bringing with her meals for Celia and her parents. While Celia eats, Katherine begins to help her ready for the ball, tells her not to say a word. “You’ll hardly recognize yourself in the best way possible.” She says before taking Celia’s hair and brushing through it.

Celia begins to protest when she realizes Katherine intends to leave her hair mostly down, “It’ll be far too hot, Katherine, it’s summer.”

“Not a word I said.” Katherine chuckles, “You’re going to look soft for once my dear, Celia, whether you like it or not. Now stay silent or I’ll leave you to your own devices”

“And we can’t have that can we?” Celia folds her arms over her chest with a false pout on her lips.

“Absolutely not! You’d go in work trousers and a tunic if you had your way.” Katherine laughs continuing her braids.

Celia hates to admit – and so she won’t – but there’s never been a time she felt so pretty, in a new green velvet dress so dark it’s nearly black. She rarely has clothes so new or so beautiful to wear, and she isn’t entirely sure how she feels about wearing a dress like this. Still, she turns and hugs her sister-in-law, thanks her for all she’s done and readies to leave for the castle.

Matthias has returned, both of the children asleep on the sitting room furniture. Martha and Samuel are beginning to prepare for their own excursion to the festivities. Celia’s mother brushes back a few stray hairs before holding her daughter close, Samuel similarly embraces his daughter before kissing her forehead.

“Don’t come back married.” Matthias teases.

“In that case I wouldn’t come back at all.” She retorts. He drags her into an almost aggressive hug, which his wife scolds him for.

“I didn’t spend three hours getting her beautiful for you to ruin it.” She smacks his shoulder.

Just as Celia is about to leave, there’s a knock at the door, when Samuel answers it, they find that the Teyrn has sent a carriage to bring her to the palace. Maker forbid she ever do anything for herself, she thinks bitterly, nevertheless she climbs into the carriage nerves returning as she rides to the castle.

Breathing in deeply, Celia reminds herself that the world is still moving, that time is still real. Even as the sun is just about gone from the sky, time is still flowing around her.

Arriving at the palace she is able to observe her work in the pale twilight; the castle is something to be proud of. Tall, imposing, and practically indestructible, this is what Ferelden deserves to see, that she can rebuild.

The main hall is loud and filled with guests milling about, socializing and dancing just as she’d always pictured. Many of the guests she recognizes as the highest merchants and other nobles from Gwaren, the musicians are also those she recognizes. Then there are the noblemen and women that she barely glanced at the other day.

She is quickly overwhelmed with all of the commotion going on around her, feeling almost stupid she decides to busy herself with work. Approaching the nobles, she recognizes as guests, asking about their lodgings. They’ve nothing to say but sing her praises, that Gwaren has really taken the lead in rebuilding Ferelden.

As she is speaking to the Bann of West Hill, she spots Teyrn Loghain, sees his head tilted back with laughter. He looks so at ease and calm, well perhaps not calm, but definitely in his element. A thought passes through her mind, that she was right upon their initial meeting, he’s much more handsome when he smiles.

She continues to weave in-between the crowd, shaking hands and ensuring that everyone in attendance has been received well.

She feels his hand before she sees him, turning around to look at the Teyrn she sees his mouth hanging open ever so slightly. A wave of nervousness rolls in her stomach as she locks eyes with him.

“You look lovely.”

Celia’s hand reaches up to play with the end of her thick braid, “I aim to please.” The words feel foreign and perfect all at once, as he shakes off his trance, raising her hand to kiss the back of it.

“Would you dance with me?” He asks, she’s never heard his voice hushed, but that is the only word she can find for what this is.

“You dance?” She asks skeptically.

“I never said that…” He says, “I just… Would you?”

“Of course, my lord.” She bows to him before he takes her onto the dance floor. Unable to quell the anxiety in her gut, she tries to clear her mind of any thought other than dancing. Once the music begins she finds her eyes locked with his, Teyrn Loghain is not a captivating person, but in this instant somehow, he has taken over all of her.

“Is everything to your liking, my lord?” She asks trying to fight off the buddle up nerves inside her.

“Oh yes, now if only we could rid ourselves of all these self-righteous noblemen.”

She finds herself chuckling, “You look quite comfortable among them.”

“Do I?” He asks with a familiar smirk.

“You were laughing.”

“Ah yes, Maric has that effect on people I suppose.” He seems embarrassed by her statement, nevertheless she persists.

“These are your sort of people are they not? You’re Teyrn after all.”

“Believe it or not, Celia, when I was born I was far beneath your rank.”

“I’ve heard, but you’re among them now. Is it strange?”

“It’s… something for sure.” He says hesitantly.

“What does that mean?” She asks so gently she doesn’t recognize the words coming from her own lips. The song ends and the two of them bow to one another, just as she’s about to turn to leave the dance floor, he grabs her hand and pulls her back into his arms. A thin gasp escapes her, eyes wide as her gaze remains on him. He’s got a smirk more confident than he must feel.

“We aren’t done, not yet.” He says.

“We aren’t?” She asks.

“No. I’ve yet to answer your question.” He starts as the next dance begins, “I mean this; noblemen and common men, don’t have to be all that different. Maric is meant to be the best of all of us, and while he is the best man I’ve ever known, he views me as an equal.”

“Perhaps that’s what makes him such a good king.” Celia suggests.

“Perhaps.” He falls silent, looking around her features as if searching for something. The scrutiny confuses her, what could he possibly be looking for?

Their dance soon ends, and Celia prepares to disappear back into the crowd, but Teyrn Loghain tucks her hand into the crook of his arm.

“What are you doing?” She asks.

“Escorting you from the dance floor, what else?” He says with a raised brow, “Who were you speaking with earlier?”

“I was speaking with the nobles staying in the palace to ensure their lodgings are suitable.”

“You’re here as a guest, Celia.”

“I…” She’s nothing to say to that, instead she stares at the Teyrn incredulously.

“Come with me, I’ve someone to introduce you to.”

She knows instantly that he means the king, trying to step back and away she says. “Oh, I couldn’t just-”

“Why not?” He asks, brow furrowed.

“I just, I couldn’t… I can’t… I’m just a cabinet maker’s daughter, I’ve no place meeting the king.”

He looks at her in a sad almost tender way, taking her hand, he says. “You know that Maric hasn’t a care in the world what anyone’s station is.”

“And how exactly would I know that?”

“Because neither do you, obviously.” He laughs. “You yell at me constantly.”

“That’s not true.” She says with a blush crawling up her cheeks.

“No, I suppose not… But you and I just had this conversation, did we not? Just come with me, I promise you’ve nothing to fear.”

“I…” Taking a deep breath she nods, following him back towards the entourage she’d seen the Teyrn in before. Two women and four men, Celia’s heart clenches in her chest as she realizes, these people are the most powerful people in the country.

“I thought you’d never come back you old ninny.” One of the men laughs.

“And why wouldn’t I, Maric? With generosity such as that.” The Teyrn laughs along with the king. Maker help her, the king.

“And who exactly is this, that’s caught your attention?” Another man beside the king asks.

“This is the woman who rebuilt Gwaren, Celia.” He puts a hand on the small of her back to present her.

King Maric laughs, “Did you really? Splendid work, it was no easy task I imagine.”

“I-… Thank you your majesty.” She bows to him.

“Celia this is King Maric and his wife, Queen Rowan.” The hitch in his voice brings many a question to the front of Celia’s mind but she curtsies to the couple despite this.

“A pleasure to meet you.” The queen’s voice is hushed as she nods her head. Queen Rowan is a picture to behold, dark hair and sad eyes. She looks akin to the sculptures of Andraste, so beautiful she’s almost divine to look at.

“This is Teyrn of Highever Bryce Cousland and his wife Eleanor, Arl Eamon Guerrin of Redcliff, and Arl Rendon Howe of Amaranthine.”

“It is an honor to meet you all.” She keeps her voice even, albeit softer than she thought possible.

“You look lovely, Celia, where did you have that dress made?” Teyrna Eleanor asks with a sweet smile.

“Uh… Here in Gwaren, my lady.”

“Oh, I take it you’ve always lived here then?” She asks.

 “Yes.” Celia feels her voice lodged in her throat, eyes wandering between the high lords and ladies. Queen Rowan is looking off with a sort of longing Celia can’t quite pin point, King Maric and Teyrn Loghain seem to be having a conversation without words.

“I am to assume that you are the seneschal’s daughter then?” Arl Eamon asks.

Celia looks at him unsure of how to go about explaining Gwaren’s particular situation. Teyrn Loghain intervenes before she can muster so much as a thought with, “No, there is no seneschal here just yet.”

“No seneschal in a Teyrn as large as Gwaren? How strange.”

“We’ve had to build up from scratch.” He responds with ease.

“So, you are interim seneschal then?” Teyrn Cousland asks, “I’m merely curious as to how you rebuilt the castle.”

“Oh well I…”

“She smacked some sense into me, that’s the truth.” Teyrn Loghain says with a laugh.

“I did no such thing.” She turns to look at him sharply.

“Half the Teyrn heard you scold me.” He chuckles.

“And you probably deserved it.” Eleanor says.

“That’s beside the point, my lady.” Teyrn Loghain laughs.

“Oh of course it is.” King Maric shakes his head, “Might I have the next dance Celia? Perhaps save you from anymore of Loghain’s blundering.”

“I’d be honored your majesty-” Just as she’s about to rattle off a list of reasons why she shouldn’t dance with the king, he whisks her away and onto the dance floor. Andraste preserve her, this can’t possibly be happening, none of this is real...

But Maric has a firm grip and a bright smile on his face as they begin to dance.

“Loghain never told me he has a sweetheart, tell me about yourself.”

“Oh, Maker’s Breath I’m not his sweetheart, your majesty. I’ve been leading the reconstruction efforts, nothing more.”

“Ah, I see, forgive me my lady, Loghain’s not exactly the most forthright with his intentions. I can tell what he’s thinking even when he doesn’t know how to express it. Unfortunately, he has the same penchant with me.”

Her face is so warm she’s afraid she may faint, Maker help her. “I’m sorry but I don’t see anyway that you could think we’re involved.”

Maric keeps the humor in his tone and his smile, but shakes his head, “Well then, for your own records, Loghain has this tendency to um… well to keep things even from himself, he’s a good man but not necessarily a kind man.”

“I have noticed that, I suppose.” Celia feels her chest tightening at the thought of Loghain being interested in her. She’s not blind, nor stupid, Loghain has taken an interest in her but she assumed it was all a part of their game. Perhaps there is no game at all, maybe that’s just who he is? That can’t be…

“Ah, Loghain seems to know I’m speaking of him. He’s got that funny little scowl he gets when he knows I’m tramping on his toes.” Maric gives a laugh.

“You do this often I take it.” Celia chuckles with him.

“Oh yes, have to keep men like him in line, remind him there’s a brighter side to things.”

“I would have never guessed that you took that role.”

“You do a lot of silly things for the people you care about.”

“How strange for a man of your station to think.”

“Is it strange for a king to be willing to do whatever it takes for his charges? Even if it means acting a little bit silly from time to time?”

“No, when you put it that way I suppose not.” The song ends and the two bow to one another.

“Thank you, my lady. You’re an excellent dancer.”

“You flatter me, your majesty.”

King Maric laughs, “I tend to do that, yes.” He leads her back to the much smaller group of nobles, only Arl Rendon and Arl Eamon have remained.

“Ah, Celia, there you.” Arl Eamon smiles at her, drink in hand, “I want to hear about Gwaren from a native’s perspective.”

Arl Rendon scoffs a bit, “Get on with it Eamon, you want to know if she has noble blood, you prick.”

“Rendon, bite your tongue around the lady, would you?” Maric gives a sigh that still sounds jovial.

“I would if Eamon would shut his trap about how it’s improper for a lady of her standing to be dancing with the King and the Teyrn.” The Arl folds his arms over his chest.

“You mistook me Howe, I merely meant that I know so little about her, that I’m uncertain how she came to know our Loghain so well.” Arl Eamon looks taken aback.

“No, I did not, you said, and I quote, ‘She’s beautiful for sure but who know what kind of blood courses through her veins.’ Exactly.”

“I said no such thing.”

“Silence, the both of you, have you forgotten that the lady is right here?” King Maric says in a voice so deep and resolute she sees him less a joking boy and more the king he is.

“Perhaps the lady should answer, no?” Celia finds her courage from somewhere inside of her, “It’s true I’ve not a drop of noble blood in me, I am merely a cabinet maker’s daughter. But I am also the one who rebuilt this Teyrn, when our lord was resigned, nay content, to living in a pitched tent in the courtyard.”

“Maker’s Breath, did he really do that?” Maric turns to her.

“He did, it was quite the sight.” She chuckles, nervousness creeping back up on her. “Despite that, we’ve managed to rebuild, and at the end of the day isn’t that far superior to blood?”

Arl Eamon doesn’t answer, instead Teyrn Cousland returns with his wife, and a silence falls on the group of nobles. Realizing what she has done, Celia quickly excuses herself and starts to hurry away. She’s just sassed the Arl of Redcliff, what in the name of the void is wrong with her?

She catches the gaze of Teyrn Loghain, panic rising in her throat she turns swiftly away, lifting her skirts she hurries towards the nearest door. Outside in the courtyard, the air is cool and refreshing, she’s tempted to run away. To leave this place and perhaps never return, but the panic makes her knees far too weak to run. Instead she sinks down onto a cold stone bench and cradles her head in her hands.

“Andraste’s ass, Celia, you’ve truly out done yourself. Sass one noble sass all of them why don’t you? Oh Maker, why don’t you ever learn to bite your damned tongue? Why couldn’t you have been born mute?”

“What happened?”

Celia gasps at the sound of Loghain walking up behind her, “Maker’s Breath, don’t startle me like that.”

He says nothing but sits beside her, she barely manages to gather her skirts her hands are shaking so terribly. He seems to notice this as well, and takes one of her hands in his own, voice as sure as ever. “Why are you trembling? What happened?”

“It was… Nothing, I’m being sensitive.” She says without looking up at the Teyrn.

“I’ve never seen you panicked before.” He says.

“That…”

“Don’t tell me that wasn’t panic, you were white as a sheet. I’ve never seen you talk to yourself either, so something must have really troubled you.” He’s much closer now, just close enough that her body can react to the closeness without him touching any part of her but her hand.

“Thank you, for your concern.”

“What happened?”

“I told you, I’m just being sensitive. It’s something I’ve got to work on.” She takes her hand back before glancing up to see him, he’s much closer than she had initially thought. His body mere inches away from hers, head craned down to look right into her eyes.

“Are you certain?”

“I- am. Yes.”

“You’re so nervous, Celia.”

“You’re very close, my lord.”

He says nothing, looks at her with a softness she does not feel deserving of, or maybe she’s afraid of something else she does not understand. “I’m sorry.” He says, “I did not intend to make you uncomfortable.”

“What do you mean?” She asks.

“I mean exactly as I’ve said.”

The two of them stare at one another eyes locked, together as if this contact is a necessity. The nervousness in Celia’s chest feels too tight, like the strain will cave in on her heart.

“Celia…” He says again voice lilted and gentle.

“Yes?” She whispers.

“I how do you feel about me?” He sounds as resolute and sure as ever, even asking such a ridiculous childish question.

Was King Maric right? Does Teyrn Loghain see her as a sweetheart of sorts?

“I…” He’s taken a hold of her hand once more, the trembling even more prominent than before. Mind completely empty, all she feels in the warmth and the roughness of his skin against hers. “You’re positively infuriating, and-and you make me feel foolish and absurd. Like everything I do is wrong, or as if I’m such a trial to be around… And it’s… Then I suppose…”

He says nothing, just looks at her expectantly, silently begging her to continue. But she’s afraid to, doesn’t know if the words will manifest correctly, is there even a word for what she feels for him?

“You make me feel dizzy, like I’m sick or… No not sick, nervous perhaps?... Oh Maker, what am I saying?” She asks, taking her free hand to cover her cheek. In the silence his other hand has lifted to hers, resting just overtop gently guiding her gaze back up to his; as her eyes lift from her feet back to his face, she notices the croocked angle of his smile. Why in the name of the Maker is he smiling?

“Marry me Celia.”

Her eyes grow wide at his statement, this can’t be happening, this is not real. Is it? “What?”

“I want you to be my wife.”

His hand still rests on her cheek, she’s lost all ability to think, lost any sense she once had in her head. “Why?”

“I think you love me, and I think I love you too. Aside from that it’s no secret you’ve been running the show here, rebuilding and such. You’d make an excellent Teyrna.” Suddenly he leans down, presses a kiss to her lips, brief and chaste in intention, yet the shock weighs heavily in her gut. Everything Celia’s ever known has just been twisted, turned upside down, and still she finds herself unable to be angry. Why isn’t she angry? Where is her anger? What is happening to her?

“I leave for Denerim in a week, and return in two months, time. I’d like an answer by the time I return.” His voice is hardly above a whisper, and soon he’s walking away, leaving her stuck in her shock. Once the initial jarring statement has washed over her entirely, she feels the sickness rising in the back of her throat. Feels anxiety and stress welling up in the back of her eyes, all at once she feels everything. Anger at him for making her act like this. Then the fear of being asked to wed creeps up on her. She’s only known the bloody man for two months how can he just ask her to marry him?

Just as quickly as the onslaught of emotion came, they’re all gone, numbness replacing all of those things. The numbness comes fast and hits hard, the night air feeling just as hot and stuffy as inside the castle, and Maker’s Breath what is she to do? In the distance, she can hear the happenings at the festival in town, she could have been there instead of being trapped at Castle Gwaren. What kind of sick game is the Maker playing at?

Deciding that numbness she can handle, when compared to the previous messiness of emotion, Celia gathers herself and walks right back into the party. Things are just getting exciting, the dance floor full, people are drinking and laughing. The sight of all these beautiful men and women making merry, fills Celia with a sense of pride. Of establishment, she has done all of this, it’s bloody time she starts enjoying it.

She spends the rest of the evening introducing herself to noblemen asking after their accommodations, and Gwaren as a whole. By the time the last song of the night is played, and the serving girls begin to tidy up, the morning sun is rising.

Exhausted from the festivities, Celia sets out for home still full of jumbled thoughts as she goes. She walks in just after breakfast, the men preparing to head out for their workshop.

“Celia’s back!” Felicity shouts jumping into her sister’s arms. “The festival yesterday was so much fun Celia! Did you have fun too?”

Celia smiles at her little sister, “Yes, of course I had fun, but I’m very tired right now.”

“Oh, you must be, look at you. The suns up and you’re hardly staggering home, like any fine lady should.” Katherine chuckles approaching her with a hug.

“You’re not engaged to some nobleman are you sister?” Matthias teases.

Despite the catch in her throat Celia glares at him, “No of course not.”

“How unfortunate, that was probably the last time you’d be able to find a suitable husband. I suppose now you’re an old maid.” Dillion laughs before being swatted from behind by Martha.

“You have to tell us everything Celia! What was the palace like? What was the party like?” Katherine speaks quickly almost as if she’s a child.

“It was…” Celia shakes her head trying to think of a word for what that was. “Exhausting.”

“Alright, I get it, go take your nap, my lady. Tell me more when you wake up.” Katherine giggles squeezing both of Celia’s hands. Celia walks past her parents, allowing them to kiss her cheeks before hurrying up the stairs and into bed.

For the next few days, Celia mulls over Teyrn Loghain’s question, she stays clear of the man when at the palace, which proves to be quite easy. Perhaps he is just as confused by the notion as she, or maybe his remaining house guests require all of his attention. Whatever the case, she’s grateful.

Then one night after supper, instead of spending the evening doing embroidery with her mother and Katherine, she seeks her father’s council. Their house, while big for their status, only has so much room for the family of eight, Celia still shares a bed with Felicity after all. But there’s a small room just off the kitchen that Samuel has claimed as his office, the only room with books and the like.

There Celia tells her father everything of Teyrn Loghain’s proposal, and by the time she’s finished speaking he nearly has tears in his eyes.

“He does intend to ask me for your hand, yes?”

“I think he’s waiting for my answer.” She says, both hands on either side of her face.

“And how do you feel about this?”

“Too many things, papa… I don’t know what to do.”

“Do you not wish to marry the Teyrn?”

“I don’t know… Oh Maker I don’t know.”

“And what is keeping you from it?”

“I’m not a noble, papa. He’s Teyrn, he should marry an Arl’s daughter. Not me.”

“Why not you? He chose you Celia.” In the silence her father stands up and grabs a book from off the shelf. It’s a worn book of fairy stories, Celia and her siblings learned to read from this book, her hand runs along the worn cover as her father places it before her. “You know your answer, Celia. It’s just not the one you’d like to hear.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You don’t like people ruining your plans. And he’s just ruined everything.” Shaking her head, she looks at the book beneath her fingers. “You know what’s right Celia, it’s time you start trusting your heart.”

Silently she takes the book and stands up, “I’m surprised you didn’t say how mother would never forgive me if I turned him down.”

“She’d never know.” He winks at her. “Now go.”

Slipping out of the house she races down the roads back towards the castle feet flying beneath her as if she’s trying to outrun her fears. Soon the castle is under her feet, and she’s not even knocked on Loghain’s door before entering. Praise Andraste he’s alone, and looking quite startled at her sudden appearance.

“Celia, what a surprise.” He says, having stood from his desk in his shock, pen still slightly in hand.

She closes the door behind her squeezing her book to her chest.

“I’m surprised to be seeing you, I thought I wouldn’t have the chance.” He says rounding his desk to approach her, she meets him halfway staring up at him without an inkling of what’s to come. Thousands of thoughts filter through her mind, what if he’s decided to retract his proposal? What if he was joking?

Her voice takes over, sure as ever, “I have your answer, my lord.”

He chuckles, closing his eyes and shaking his head, “Why do I feel as if I’m about to be scolded, or given a firm talking to?”

“I accept your proposal.” She says, and for the first time sees his ever cool and composed demeanor falter; Like he was expecting her to deny him her hand and part of her thinks perhaps she should have. Then she remembers just how little time they’ve spent together and she realizes the weight of what she’s done. His eyes are wide and shock registers across his face. Before she knows what she’s doing, she’s pushing the book into his hand. “I will be your bride.”

He looks down at the book in his hands, wild eyes and breathy tone. “What’s this?”

“In Gwaren, we have this age-old tradition, the bride to be gives her intended a gift that is invaluable… It’s a bit silly, I’ll admit, but I’m giving you my childhood book of tales. Knowledge is invaluable, and all that, the lessons we learn as children give us more than we ever fully realize… What I’m saying is take this, it’s yours now.”

He looks at the book and then looks back up at her, “That’s… sweet.” The shock of this all seems to be hitting the man full force, “To be honest I didn’t mean to be so forward with you… I wanted to ask to court you but… I suppose that’s unnecessary now isn’t it?” He chuckles a bit placing his hand behind her neck he pulls her into a kiss. A nervous kind of kiss that’s tight and trembling.

“I should ask your father for your hand… And the wedding preparations must begin immediately.”

“I can handle that.” She says.

“Right… Let’s go.”

“Where?” She asks.

“To ask for your father’s blessing.”

“Right now?” She asks incredulously.

“You’re the one barging in here in the middle of the night.” He laughs, actually laughs.

“Well I-… I…”

He kisses her again smile still gentle on his face, “Let’s go.”

She doesn’t hesitate to follow him, until he realizes he does not know where exactly she lives. In fact, this is probably the first time he’s been into the city of Gwaren. Slipping her hand in his, Celia takes lead of her soon-to-be-husband… fiancé, Loghain Mac Tir is her fiancé, Andraste preserve her, she’s getting married.

They’re at the door to her small home in almost no time at all. She pauses, breath stuck in her chest, Loghain’s retained his grip on her hand, and she can’t fight the nervousness inside of her. Opening the door, she sees her family gathered in the living room, just as she had left them, her father leaning against the kitchen door, eyes glinting as they land on her flushed face.

“I expect you’ve a reason as to why you’re running out of the house at this time of night, Celia.” Her mother says shortly, not looking up from her work.

Celia opens the door turning back to face Loghain, “Come in… Please.”

He says nothing, but for a moment hesitates to walk inside, Celia’s face tinges pink as the two walk inside. Loghain’s eyes dart around the home before landing on her father, he wastes no time approaching him, determination in his gait.

“Might I have a word, sir?” He asks without ceremony; Celia’s face burns brightly now and her heart absolutely thunders in her chest.

“Of course, my lord.” Her father gestures for him to follow, the two no-nonsense men disappear just as Celia closes the front door.

“Maker’s Breath Celia what did you do?” Matthias asks.

“I didn’t do anything!” She lets out the pent-up breath in her chest.

“Then what in Andraste’s name is the Teyrn doing here?” Dillion asks in a harsh low whisper.

“Isn’t it obvious? He’s come to ask for her hand!” Katherine is up from her seat and grasping Celia’s hands. “He has, hasn’t he?”

“Stop it Katherine.” Celia is breathless and far too warm, never in her life has she ever felt so… well felt so much.

“I thought you weren’t engaged.” Matthias says standing from his seat.

“I wasn’t… yet.” Celia steals her hands from Katherine to cover her scorching skin, how long have her hands been sweating like this?

“Is Celia getting married?” Felicity asks her mother.

“I didn’t know the Teyrn intended your hand, why didn’t you say anything?” Her mother looks shocked, perhaps angry to an extent.

“I… I didn’t… Maker’s Breath.” Celia walks over to the door her father and her intended walked through and leans against the wall.

“I thought you weren’t ever getting married Celia.” Phillip says.

“I wasn’t! I just… ugh.”

“What changed?” Matthias asks, “Is he forcing you to marry him?”

“Oh dear, don’t be ridiculous nobody could force her to do anything.” Katherine says waltzing back to her sister-in-law. “Did he ask you? At the ball?”

A choppy nod sends Katherine into a giggling fit, as Matthias folds his arms, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Celia wants them all to stop talking, her head is already spinning, the world is all kinds of out of sorts. Could this be love? Could this be fate weaving itself together? She feels ill, is this a sickness? Nervousness? Excitement? Maker what is this?

The barrage of questions ceases as soon as it becomes abundantly clear that Celia is not answering anymore of them. She stands by the door quivering, confused, holding her own arms tightly. Nauseated and terrified, she hears the door open.

First her father and then Loghain, the two lock eyes the moment he finds her. Not a word is said before he places a gentle kiss on the crown of her head, her body finally relaxes at his touch.

“You’ll begin preparations… Yes?”

“Yes.” She responds, eyes wide and boring into him.

“Good… Thank you, Celia, you’ve… you’ve made me a happy man.” And with that he walks out of the house, not even acknowledging the presence of her family.

She feels Katherine’s arms around her, feels the presence of her entire family surrounding her. Yet inexplicitly, Celia wants to cry, wants to be afraid, feels like she’s sold herself but to what she isn’t certain.

There is a whirlwind of time that passes her by, and in the blink of an eye she’s getting married. The day of her wedding has arrived, and she cannot breathe she’s so nervous. Her trembling body feels like it is not her own, the sounds of joy and merriment from the street sound muffled, perhaps she’s still in the fade. Not sitting for the last time in her childhood home, not in her stone-grey wedding dress, not already near tears.

Her mother comes to get her, Martha’s dawning her finest and smiles at her daughter brightly, like the rest of the world isn’t waiting for her. Celia has played hostess to every noble in the country once again, this time however, with much more weight. While before she was no more than a facilitator, now she is engaged to the Teyrn. She has so much more responsibility on her, now more than ever.

There’s mobs of people outside the small cabinet maker’s home, applause rippling through the tide of well-wishers. There’ll be festivities well into the night, a wedding of this proportion warrants constant celebration, or so she’s been told.

The open carriage awaits her, her father’s hand extended to help her in, her siblings are already enroute to the chantry. Loghain must already be waiting by now, and her stomach is twisted up in knots at the very thought.

The carriage halts at the chantry doors, Celia’s hands grip her father’s arm, panic surging through her body. Maker’s Breath, for a good minute she can’t do anything but hold her breath, waiting for the coachman to open the door, for her mother to walk out of the carriage and finally herself. In total, she’s known the Teyrn a year, while not surprising for a noble, Celia is used to weddings between people who have known each other for the entirety of their lives.

She knows there’s music, is aware of the chatter filtering through the nobles as she walks into the Chantry, but she hears nothing. The world is silent, save the beat of her heart, because Andraste’s ass she’s getting married.

Loghain’s got a smile on his face that she cannot begin to decipher in her current state of near panic. He takes her shaking hand to present her to the Revered Mother, his fingers tracing a line across her skin before halting to give her hand a firm squeeze.

The Revered Mother gives a traditional wedding sermon, speaks highly of the Teyrn and his great accomplishments. Bestows blessings on them both, that their marriage be fruitful, and the Maker guide their actions, until they return to his side. Every word building up the tightness in her chest, the practically crippling anxiety she cannot quell no matter how much she tries.

Then he says his vows, not to her, not their audience, to the Maker himself, like this vow is worthy of their Maker’s attention. Celia’s heart leaps at the notion, that he could take all of this so seriously, that he loves her that much. Maybe love isn’t the right word, perhaps it’s respect, that he holds her and their marriage in the same regard as their Maker.

The tightness in her chest fades into loose fluttering, the way a childlike infatuation dances in one’s chest, it’s with this feeling their hands clasped tight, that she speaks her own solemn vow.

Then before she knows it, two sisters are handing the couple glass plates. When she’d told Loghain about the tradition he’d balked at her, said it was a ridiculous notion to break anything on their wedding day, despite the local tradition. Even now he looks at her wearily, her smile playfully stretched across her face as the Revered Mother explains the sentiment to their non-native visitors.

“As the glass shatters, it will never be the same, broken into hundreds of pieces. May your marriage and your happiness last as many years as there are shards of glass.”

Celia throws her plate first a laugh falling out of her lips, Loghain soon follows suit, the crashing seems to echo as the Revered Mother proclaims them married, “Salute your bride.”

He kisses her harshly, with a pressure that sends her back into his waiting hand. The throng of guests laugh above their applause, she’s the one to break apart. Blushing at the thought of her parents witnessing such an act of intimacy, Loghain kisses her forehead before they turn to face the crowd.

Loghain leads the way out of the Chantry back into the carriage, they host a parade of sorts, having the Teyrn show off his new bride. Celia’s tingling feelings of tenderness don’t fade, as they ride around the city, their hands remain intertwined him raising their hands to his lips every now and then.

Immediately following the parade, the reception begins, all manner of nobles arriving to present the new couple with congratulations and good tidings. Maric hugs the two of them, teasing Celia just a bit.

“I haven’t a clue how you could think we’re sweethearts. Ha! For what it’s worth, I’m terribly happy you came to your senses.” He laughs.

“I’m afraid I’ve actually lost my mind more, Your Majesty.” She chuckles.

“Ah because marrying a dolt like me is such a terribly thing, my wife?” Loghain draws her closer to his side.

“That remains to be seen, husband.” Hearing him call her wife sent such a strange chill down her spine she could only think to retaliate likewise.

Queen Rowan tugs at her husband, having stayed silent for the duration of their visit. “Congratulations. To the both of you.” She dips her head and leads King Maric away.

Once every noble has blessed the couple, feasting and general merrymaking ensue. There’s dancing, feasting and drinking, Celia almost doesn’t notice that she’s surrounded by nobles, doesn’t recognize that she should feel terrified. For the first time, Loghain is just a man, a man giddy with drink and the joy of being wed to his new bride.

It’s all over much quicker than she anticipates, the ladies of the court separating her from her husband. Lady Eleanor chuckling as she says, “I know you’ve scarcely been apart this evening, but you’ve other activities to attend to.”

Celia laughs nervously at the thought as she is led to her mother and sister in law. She leads them, more or less down to the Teyrna’s chambers, a simple set of rooms, when Celia had commissioned them she’d never dreamed she’d be the one inhabiting them. A small number of maids begin helping her undress, taking down her hair and washing her face.

Katherine smiles brightly at her, presenting the thin sheath she’s expected to dawn in Loghain’s presence. Celia’s nerves return as she’s dressed up, or down rather. The fabric is soft and so thin she’s practically shivering as the night air touches her skin. Arms and back plainly exposed in a way she’s never envisioned for herself.

Her mother grasps her daughter’s hands and kisses them lightly. Katherine wraps her arms around Celia’s shoulders and whispers a good luck, before the two women of her family lead her out into the hall. She’s never felt so indisposed, as she does approaching Loghain’s bedroom door, her husband’s chambers. Where she’s about to… Andraste preserve her.

Her mother and Katherine take their leave, as Celia decides she’s not about to spend a second alone practically naked in the hallway. With her luck Maric would show up and start hassling her.

Loghain looks surprised at her sudden entrance but says nothing as his jaw steadily drops. Gazing at Celia with such a profound type of interest she feels practically faint. His appearance shocks her too, his bare chest and loose trousers, such a state of undress Celia has never encountered.

“Maker’s Breath Celia, you’re gorgeous.” He says when he’s put his composure back together.

She smiles at him slightly approaching him despite herself. “Are you speechless husband?”

“You are a disarming sight, my dear wife.” His hand weaves into her hair and grasps the back of her neck. “Tell me, am I the first to see you as such? Are you untouched, wife?”

His words are hot on her lips, she can practically taste the sweet wine on his breath, and Maker she wants to. “You are the first to see me as I am, are you surprised?”

“It is only a pity that such beauty be for one man, but I will gladly reap the benefit.” He does not divulge if this is his first encounter of the like, Celia notes. Not that she cares any, it’s common to bed before marriage, to have multiple partners even, and she’s actually quite relieved. At least one of them will know what they’re doing.

He kisses her just as he did on the alter, harshly and with a passion she has been unfamiliar with until now. She doesn’t stumble this time, she places her hands on his chest instead, fingertips grazing the skin beneath. She’s never been so close to any other person, never had the desire in her gut for touch, but right now it’s all she wants. He is all she wants.

He grasps at her rear then drags his hands to her hips, roughly breaks their kiss and has a moment of laughter. “Lay down on the bed for me.”

Breath stuck in her chest, she does as she’s bid feeling his presence linger as she goes, he’s not even a step behind. When she turns to take a seat on the bed he’s right there, smirking and observing her every movement.

“What is it?” She asks, inching back onto the bed, him not far behind, akin to a wolf stalking his prey.

“You are a wonder to behold, and I will not waste a moment that you are in my presence.” He says, the words dissipating on her skin the moment she’s laid before him, he ravishes her with kisses. Parts of her body she does not so much as bear a passing glance, are met with his lips and she is quivering. Quaking beneath his hands and hot breath, hands on her thighs rucking up the fabric of her sheath.

So much heat and closeness like she has never experienced, never craved before. He smiles at her a devilish kind of smirk that makes her want to die, to stop breathing so that the flush of her cheeks will cease. Whatever game they’ve been playing all along, he’s winning, and she’s never loved and hated him more. Kissing her stomach as his hands dance across her thin small clothes, she wants to kill him; the tease.

“Already so enticed, Celia?” He chuckles.

Breathlessly she manages a laugh, “You are such an ass.”

“Your smallclothes say otherwise, dripping for me, and we’ve barely begun.” He’s back at her lips, warm and starting to swell from use, or overuse perhaps. “Turn for me.”

The cage of his arms lifts so she can roll onto her stomach, his hands gathering her hair, the moment he stalls she knows he’s seen it. The hesitation passes quickly, soon his hands run along the rutted skin of her back, the scars she’s been ignoring for so long.

“What in Andraste’s name, Celia?” He asks, concern and worry evident in his tone.

Closing her eyes tightly before pushing herself up; tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, she smiles nervously. “Orlesian bastards.”

He’s at a loss when he realizes, his features drawn together scared and full of sorrow. “What… What did…”

“You’re not the only noble I was stupid enough to bad mouth.”

“Why?”

“He wanted to marry me.” She says hand rising to her now husband’s cheek, “Well, probably just to fuck me to be honest.”

“And you…”

“Spat at him.” She chuckles, the crack of the whip still loud in her ear. “Called him godless and all manner of vile things. Turns out Orlesian nobles don’t take kindly to insults… I’m only lucky he didn’t keep me after that.”

She’s in his arms before a thought can pass through her mind. Loghain kisses the side of her head, “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not, he was a right bastard and deserved every syllable, you’d have enjoyed it I’m sure.” She says, tears stuck in her eyes. His hand practically encompasses her head, she takes the opportunity to nestle into the crook of his neck, breathing in his musk and soap. She feels so safe in the arms of the man she has wed, it’s impossible that she could feel so loved by a man so infuriating. It’s impossible that she’s finally named the feeling she has for him as love.

But she’ll be damned if she doesn’t, because she loves him. She loves him so much she practically hates herself for fighting the feeling for so long.

“I’ll die before I let another damned Orlesian back into this country, Celia. Let alone allow one to even lay eyes on you. You have my word, you’ll never suffer at anyone’s hand ever again.”

“You don’t have to promise me anything, Loghain.” Celia says softly, though her heart lifts at the thought. “You are my husband, you’ve given me the dearest promise I will ever receive, you owe me nothing else.”

She pulls back from him, and places a hand on his chest. He kisses her forehead, “I should find him and kill him.”

“He’s dead now I’m afraid… and you shouldn’t be talking of death, not today.” She’s swallowed her tears as he shakes his head.

Taking her hand, he kisses her knuckle, “What else am I supposed to do then?”

“Make love to me, take what he could not and treat me better than he ever could. Help me atone.” Her voice trembles, she feels positively selfish. Wants him to take her despite what she’s just told him.

“You’ve nothing to atone for, don’t ever think you do.” He says, voice harsh yet tender, “And I will kill every last Orlesian should I get the chance, but that can wait… For now…”

“I- love you.” She says, her lips met with a kiss as the words barely make their way into the air. He’s smiling against her, pressing her back into the mattress. Just as quickly as she’s realized her feelings, she needed to cement them in his ears, needs him to know immediately. This is love, no other name will suffice.

“I love you.” He responds in kind, eyes bright and gentle. No sooner has he spoken, that he is back to ravaging her body, showers of affection between them. Her fingers twisting up in the lengths of his hair, him grinding hips against hers.

His hands are back on her hips, more gentle this time as they hike up her skirt. His hands are everywhere, hips, thighs, stomach, anywhere his skin can be in contact with hers. She’s at his mercy, tremors shooting out of her as he finally discards the bit of clothing separating the two of them.

His fingers dance across her, sending waves of something, pleasure perhaps, through her. There are a hundred questions in her head, but all of them revolve around the man worshiping her.

“Maker, you’re so wet.”

“Is that good?”

“Mm.” He hums softly into her stomach, leaving kisses in his wake, a finger easing into her body. The sensation is strange, uncomfortable in a way. But he takes every opportunity to explore her depths, and is tender in each movement.

Not long after he’s begun his exploration she’s writhing beneath him, something like a mix between a whimper and a moan emits from her lips and he laughs.

“Do you want me, Celia?” His voice is low and needy.

“Yes.” She gasps, eyes scanning his features. He’s enraptured by her; his hands guide the rest of her night dress off of her body leaving a trail of kisses behind until he’s back to her lips. She arches to let the fabric slide off of her effortlessly.

“Tell me you want it.” He says as her hands instinctively poise to remove his trousers.

“I want you.” She breathes eyes locking with his, he is unravelling before her. Soon enough his trousers are gone and they’re both exposed to the other. He’s cupped each of her breasts, her hands on the skin of his waist.

He enters without warning, without flourish, and she cries out at the contact. Maker have mercy, she thinks as her center stretches with his languid movements. The two of them making sounds and love that neither thought possible. He pushes into her and she scratches his back, desperate for closeness.

“You’re mine, now and forever. Mine.” He says it in a constrained voice, tight with his reaching the height of pleasure.

She doesn’t know what possess her, but she responds. “I’m yours, forever. Only yours.”

He releases inside of her gasping for air and mercy, she’s got a smile on her face that threatens to never leave. This man is in the palm of her hand, and she in his.

He rolls off of her, leaving kisses on her jaw and cheek, despite the mess they’ve made, the couple lays out beside the other. All bated breath and whispered promises, Celia truly doesn’t know what to do with herself but stare at the man who calls her wife. The man she’s married and proclaimed her love to, two things she’d never imagined for herself.

Loghain stirs from his tiredness first, walks over to the wash basin left in the room and cleans himself. Just as Celia’s about to join him, he brings a wash cloth to her and cleans her up. This type of caring from the Teyrn would typically startle her, but now all she can think is how much she loves him.

“Are you intending to take me again?” She asks before she can think the question through.

He laughs, tossing the cloth back towards the bucket, “Mercy, woman. Give me at least another twenty minutes.”

“Okay.” She whispers, unsure if she wants to wait, while also unsure if she wants to do that again so quickly.

They don’t have one another again, not for the rest of the night, instead they lie naked under their bed covers holding each other close. He’s still warm as he holds her, his hands running along the impossible lines of her scars.

Celia slips into the fade first, succumbing to the gentle thrum of his heart beat and the quite promise that will never leave her.