“Arthur!” The sharp cry comes from Hazel.
Ally looks up in time to see the nightmare toss Arthur to the side and into a stone crevice. He falls to the ground and remains prone. Hazel rushes to her brother’s side.
“Get him out of here!” Ally yells.
Hazel nods and maneuvers her brother’s arm so that it was laying over her shoulder. She attempts to stand, but the weight of her brother in armor was too much for her to carry. Ally glances back to the Nightmare which seemed content to wait, it was probably feeding off their fears. She looks behind her to where Hawke and Alistair are still arguing about who should stay behind. She bit her lip.
“Hawke,” she whispers.
The argument pauses after a second, “go help Hazel and Arthur.”
Hawke blinks and is about to protest when the Nightmare let out a long scream. She inclines her head to Alistair and rushed towards the siblings. Ally waits until she was sure they were out of the Fade. Alistair looks at the spider grimly.
“It’s always spiders,” he mumbles.
“Alistair,” she begins but loses the words.
Alistair cradles her head, “Ally, my love.”
She doesn’t cry, hasn’t sobbed since the day her parents died. Instead, she pushes up into Alistair’s embrace.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers, “I wish there were another way.”
“In death, sacrifice,” Alistair reminds her.
“Hawke still has a lot to live for,” Ally is desperate to explain her choice, “we’ve had years, Alistair.”
Alistair presses his forehead to hers, she’s not entirely sure he’s blinked since she sent Hawke ahead.
“The Maker smiles sadly on his Gray Wardens,” Ally says barely above a breath.
“For no sacrifice is greater than theirs,” Alistair echoes, “we took the oath, it’s our duty. I don’t blame you for your choice.”
“We were going to be happy,” Ally can feel tears now, “once this was over, we were going to find the cure, raise a family.”
Alistair smiles, “we already were happy, we had years more together than we should have, and I will never regret those years.”
Ally feels herself smile despite everything, “those years are the best of my life.”
“I love you,” Alistair leans down and presses a kiss to her lips.
She returns it and then deepens it. Alistair tangles a gauntlet in her hair, and if they were less experienced with kissing in armor she’d be worried about her hair being caught in the joints of the armor. These are their last moments together. The screaming of the Nightmare breaks them apart.
Alistair pulls himself away, caressing her face as he moves away. They catch each other’s eyes and share one last smile.
“I love you, always,” Alistair says again.
“I love you,” she offers him the warmest smile she can muster.
He turns and runs towards the nightmare, “for the Wardens!”
Ally watches him for a second longer and then mouths, “I’m sorry.”
Once the monster is fully distracted by Alistair, Ally runs to the rift. She doesn’t look back as she jumps through the rift. For a second, she’s weightless, and then she’s dropping to the ground. Ally pauses for a second, enough to regain her composure. Her throat and eyes burn, but she can’t let her emotions run wild yet.
Instead, she stands and closes the breach. It was easier with the emotions swirling around her. She eyes the crowd, most of them are inquisition forces. Hawke is moving towards her.
“She was right. Without the Nightmare to control them, the mages are free, and Corypheus loses his demon army,” Hawke sends her a grim smile, “though as far as they’re all concerned the Inquisitor broke the spell with the blessing of the maker.”
Ally frowns deeply at that, “they’ll have to learn the truth.”
“Let them have this,” Hawke says
She holds back her tongue. Alistair deserves better than to be chalked up to the Maker, but for now, she’ll let it go. It’s been a trying night.
“Inquisitor, the Archdemon flew off as soon as you disappeared!”
That was… something. Ally nods at the scout.
The scout continues, “the Venatori magister is unconscious but alive. Cullen thought you might want to deal with him yourself.”
Ally truthfully didn’t want to deal with anything after today. She knows she has to, but sometimes she wished problems would just fix themselves.
“As for the Wardens, those that weren’t corrupted helped us fight the demons.”
A Warden she didn’t know walks up and salutes, “we stand ready to help make up for Clarel’s… tragic mistake.”
There is a pause and Ally dreads the question, “where is Alistair?”
Hawke’s face fell. Ally ignores it and makes eye contact with the Warden.
“Warden Alistair… died to strike a blow against a servant of the Blight,” Ally says.
She’s surprised her voice is so even, but her anger finally catches up, “if not for him you would all be dead or a servant of the Blight. You repaid him by branding him a traitor. He who exemplified the ideals of a Gray Warden!”
The Warden seemed taken aback by her speech, “Inquisitor, we have no one left of any significant rank, what do we do now?”
“You stay,” Ally says, “and do whatever you can to help.”
Ally closes her eyes briefly, “Alistair died thinking that the Wardens were a force for good.”
She lets the statement hang in the air, “there are plenty of demons that need killing.”
Hawke moves closer, “while they’re doing that, I’ll inform the Wardens at Weisshaupt, best they not get caught off guard.”
“No,” Ally shakes her head, “I’ll contact them, I have a more reliable way of reaching them. You’ve done enough Hawke.”
“If you say so,” Hawke dips her head.
Ally knows that she needs to get out of the public eye. She can feel her chest burn with the effort not to scream.
“Thank you, your Worship, we will not fail you.”
Not any more than I have failed myself. Ally thinks.
It’s Varric who finds her first. He sits next to her, they’re away from the main fire and everyone is too lost in celebration to notice their Inquisitor has sequestered herself away from them. Tomorrow it’ll be a different story, but for tonight she’s grateful for the reprieve.
“I’m sorry,” Varric says.
Ally nods and hopes that’s the end of the conversation. Minutes pass, and she sees that it was the end, but Varric isn’t leaving. She grits her teeth against the surge of words, but the dam breaks.
“Why?” She doesn’t scream, but the word is as harsh as one, “why is it always me?”
Varric tilts away for a second, his eyes were wide, but he leans forward, “I don’t know.”
“We were so close,” Ally forces out, “to not having the dammed Calling hanging over our heads. We wouldn’t have to worry about how much time we had left!”
Tears are falling faster, “I give and give and give and all this world ever does is take from me. The one thing I want in the world and- damn it.”
“Life isn’t fair,” Varric’s hand is on her back, “but if it hadn’t been Alistair it would have been someone else.”
Ally hears it would have been Hawke, Varric means it to be, “I know. I wish it could have been me. I’m so tired of this; the world coming down around my shoulders.”
“People need you.”
“People always need me,” Ally laughs bitterly, “ever since Howe murdered my family.”
Varric breath hitches.
“I never got to mourn them, you know, not properly,” Ally presses a hand to her eyes, “Duncan only saved me to make me a Gray Warden, and then the battle of Ostagar happened the next day.”
Ally breathes in sharply, “Alistair has been my only constant since that night. I was trying to save him when I was asked to attend the conclave.”
“If you hadn’t been there-”
She shakes her head, “Hazel would have been the Herald, I was just the one that grabbed that damned orb.”
“The Maker or Andraste-”
“The Maker knows what fate his Gray Wardens face. All Wardens do,” Ally says numbly, “and yet Andraste begged for hers to be the last sacrifice.”
“Alistair wasn’t the first good man to fall to Corypheus, he won’t be the last,” Varric’s voice is rough, “this story is no good for heroes.”
Ally gazes up at the stars. Where does that leave me? What will that leave me?
“At least Hawke survived,” Ally sighs.
“I’ll write to Fenris, I’m glad I’m not doing this in person.”
Varric falls silent. Ally turns to him, the bile bitter in her throat. Hawke gets a happy ending. She should be happy.
The world gets its happy ending, and she’ll eventually be a legend too great to be true.
“Please. I just want to be alone.”
“Of course, Inquisitor.”
Ally doesn’t try to hide the wince.
She cries whenever she’s alone. On the journey back to Skyhold, she’s left mostly alone. The awe once again seizes the troops, and those that would typically approach her are distracted by other things. Cullen organizes the march and camps in between his trailing after Hazel who is fretting over Arthur. Dorian is typically next to Hazel during those moments, and Arthur is still heavily injured from their trip in the fade.
Ally can’t bring herself to check on him, she knows it isn’t his fault, but if not for the desperation of his situation she can’t help but think she would have made a different choice. Its that thought that makes her hate herself more than anything, she knows it was either Alistair’s or her duty to stay behind and since she’s the one with the glowing hand it was her that lived.
Varric also stays away from her, she’s unsure of what that night did to their relationship, but he’s also sticking close to Hawke and Ally can’t fault him for that.
Leliana corners her the second they’re past the Skyhold gates. They move away from the crowd since it is Sister Nightingale no one protests the arrangement. The second they’re alone on the battlements, Ally sags against her.
“I killed him,” she isn’t sure she’s saying the words aloud, “I did everything to keep him, us, alive, and I killed him.”
“There was no choice,” Leliana whispers, “someone had to stay behind. Alistair knew that. He loved you and wouldn’t want you to blame yourself for this.”
“I chose to leave him behind,” she mumbles.
“He could have ignored your order,” Leliana points out.
Ally shakes her head against Leliana’s chest, “he wouldn’t. He hasn’t before, not even when I told him to stay behind in Denerim when we didn’t know if Morrigan’s ritual would work.”
Leliana places a hand on her head, “I was not there, so I cannot say with any authority, but I doubt there was a better choice.”
She pulls away from Leliana finally and leans against the battlements, “maybe there was.”
“Do not torture yourself with maybes,” Leliana stands next to her, “and do not lose yourself to the grief. Harder battles are on the horizon, you cannot let Alistair’s death be for nothing.”
Leliana is called away by a scout. Ally stares out at the mountain range. Alistair liked it here, for the brief time he visited before going to the tower. She clenches her fist and then slowly sinks to her knees.
“Should dirges all sages and histories replace? By gods forsaken, fate emptied of hope, Wounded I fell then, by grief arrow-studded, Never to heal, death for me come.”
She pressed her forehead to the stone and mouths the question she is too afraid to ask, “is this what you wanted? Must I give you everything?”
Codex Entry: Final Letter
I can’t think of a single person I need to write to, and those I think of I can’t reach. How could you mean so much to so many, but not have anyone that cares? Both Leliana and Morrigan know. Wynne has been gone from us for some time. I don’t know how to track down Sten or Shale. Ogrhen and Zeveran would only send platitudes and bawdy condolences.
I’ve been thinking about something Varric said. This story is no good for the heroes. He speaks the truth, heroes should inspire, be unconquerable.
What are we but two Gray Wardens that had no choice? We survived because we ran from our duty. Heroes don’t run, they face their deaths with courage and pride. Us, we were young and hurting and all we had was each other.
I suppose the truth is I am still hurting, but no longer young. I was never afraid of death, but I wasn’t ready for it. What fool is prideful that they’ll die and people will write stories of them?
In the end, I am tired, my love. So tired of hurting and saving only to do it again and again and again.
My story will end here, I will be the Inquisitor and I will be the Hero of Ferelden, but not at the same time. They are two different people.
You are my heart,