"Did you know I had my own mabari back home?” She asks, scratching behind his ear. He cocks his head; a small growl eliciting from his throat. “He died saving my life,” she tells him. He whines.
She remembers, a tear falling from her cheek. A hand comforts her, followed by a tight embrace. “We’ll have a proper funeral for him, darling,” Alistair whispers into her hair.
She stifles back a sob. “It’s stupid. I’m the Queen of Ferelden, the Warden-Commander and here I am –” She is cut off by a sob that racks her body.
“You are human, Rina.” He reminds her and kisses the top of her head. “I’d be worried if you weren’t upset. Too much time spent with Sten and Shale, I’d wager.”
She suppresses a giggle in between her sobs. His arms are strong and soothing around her like they were made for holding her.
“Would you like to put our duties aside today and focus on planning the most extravagant funeral Ferelden has ever seen held for a mabari?”
She breathes in deeply, re-centering herself, focusing on the man holding her, her King; her home. “That sounds lovely,” she says, wiping away the tears that stained her face. “I would like to write to our friends. They should know.”
“As you wish, my love. Shall we go inform Eamon of our new schedule for the day? I’m sure that’ll twist his panties up.” She groans inwardly but Alistair knows her too well and shakes his head at her. “You know, they’re going to tell tales of the dog king that always gave in to his queen.”
She rolls her eyes. “We’re not shirking our duties and we’ll have double the workload in the coming days. We’re simply prioritizing.” She wriggles around in his arms until she is facing him and his brown eyes. “Thank you,” she says, leaning in to kiss him.
She scans the crowd looking for her friends. A bard, an assassin and a drunk dwarf. How hard could they be to find in a crowd of predominantly humans? She thinks she sees a redhead in the crowd but there are too many faces and she can’t tell. Why did they decide on Redcliffe for the funeral? She was doubting herself again and she knew Alistair would scold her if he heard her say that. After all, she did save Ferelden from a Blight, but she made the tough decisions no one else would. The faces of those she couldn’t save still haunted her dreams.
She knew his face would be in her dreams. “Sarina, it’s time. Are you ready, my Queen?” Alistair reaches out for her gloved hand and grasps it in his armored hand.
“As ready as I’ll ever be, Ali.” She says and holding his hand feels as surreal as this moment. She can’t stop thinking about what she could have done differently. She doesn’t want to think about all the faces bowing to Alistair and her, expecting a king and queen. Maybe they would have their King, but their Queen was a broken woman.
Alistair leans in as they walk down the procession. “I believe I saw a certain dwarf passed out by the casks earlier,” he whispers into her ear, chuckling softly. “At least it’s the thought that counts.” He comments, noticing her tremble as they progress closer to the pyre. Closer to her best friend. His eyebrows furrow as he glances at her. “Rina, are you positive you’re well?”
She takes a deep breath, remembering who she is supposed to be. “I will be,” she replies, lifting her head up as they finally approach the pyre. They removed his old Kaddis, replacing it with golden plate armor that covers his chest and back. She thinks she sees a griffon etched on the chest and she feels her heart stop beating. He looks so peaceful.
They take their place next to the pyre, overlooking the crowd that has come to watch. She notices Alistair lets go of her hand and steps forward, but her mind blanks out. She can’t stop staring at him, wondering where he is. He must be with the Maker, right? That should overjoy her but instead, a feeling of despair settles in her stomach.
“Sarina, would you like to give the eulogy now?” Alistair asks and blinks a few times focusing on him. His face is etched with concern, frown lines stressed, and eyebrows furrowed. She realizes everyone is looking at her, waiting for her.
She clears her throat. “Of course.” She moves to stand beside Alistair and skims the crowd, knowing she will need to address them because they didn’t come for the funeral, they came to see the royal couple. She glances at her hand shaking at her side, and she presses it against her thigh, hoping to control it and she looks back up at the crowd. “Citizens of Ferelden, I thank you for being here during this solemn hour.” She begins, finding the two faces she’s been looking for since they arrived, and her nerves seem to calm at their presence. “He was the best friend a woman could ask for. A hero in his own right. He protected me from enemies during the Blight but also protected me from the nightmares that plagued me during and after the Blight. It is a sad day to lose such a hero, but I do not want this day to be a day of mourning. Today, we celebrate his life, for he lived a good life.” She steps back, stumbling, but a strong hand supports the small of her back, steadying her.
“Would you like to sit down?” He asks and she squints at him, the sun burning bright behind him.
“No, I’m fine. It’s almost over.” One of the guards approaches the pyre with a lit torch and she looks at him one last time. Is he just sleeping? She lunges forward, determined to stop the fire from reaching him, but arms reach around her waist and pull her in. She flails against them. “He’s not dead!” She shouts and watches as the guard startles, freezing with the torch hovering right above his pyre and stares at her.
“He’s gone, Rina.” She hears Alistair whisper as he hugs her tight. The guard continues with the torch and soon the pyre is engulfed in flame. A sob escapes her lips as she falls to the ground on her knees. Alistair doesn’t interfere and she doesn’t know how long she stays like that but soon she smells burnt fur and flesh and she thinks she might throw up. “Come on, let’s you get some fresh air,” Alistair says, heaving her up from the ground and they walk far enough away from the flames she can barely smell it anymore. She shuts her eyes, thinking of all the memories she would always hold dear. “We will never forget him, Rina.” Alistair reminds her. She knows she won’t.
She removes the black lace gloves from her hands and sighs, looking to see where her friends went and she notices Eamon impatiently tapping his foot, glaring at the two of them. “I think Eamon would like to speak with you.”
“Why must he always be hovering over us?” He groans. “Very well, I will be right back.” He kisses her cheek and leaves her alone.
“He was a fierce warrior,” her best friend comments, approaching her. She’s cut her red hair back just below her ears and is wearing a long blue dress with the shoes she gave her as a gift some time ago. “The fiercest,” she adds.
A smile forces its way through her frown, and she embraces Leliana, feeling the tears dry up somewhat. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to come.”
“Oghren and Zevran are here somewhere, too.” Leliana says before releasing her from the hug. “How are you feeling?”
“I will be fine; eventually,” she responds. “It’s so silly to be this upset over this.”
Leliana lightly smacks her head. “No, it is not. I would be a mess if I lost Schmooples.” This made her breathe easier, knowing that someone understood. For all the support and comfort Alistair provided, he just didn’t feel the same way and it made it impossible to share her feelings about her loss. It made her feel a little guilty, too because he confided in her when he lost Duncan. “But you are right, Sarina. We must celebrate his life, not mourn his death.”
“Always the pragmatist, Leliana.”
“It was not always such,” Leliana replies softly, drifting off in thought. She knows she’s thinking about Marjorie. “Never mind that, let’s go see if we can find our friends.”
She makes eye contact with Alistair before following after Leliana and he nods subtly as Eamon is arguing with him over something again. They find Zevran and Oghren, who is awake now, in the tavern. They have already started drinking, to no one’s surprise. She can smell the liquor before they sit down at the table and her chest feels warm and fuzzy at the sight. Nothing has changed and she realizes she’s missed this.
“Ah, our fearless leader!” Zevran raises his mug to them, sloshing some of the liquid onto the table. Oghren just mumbles incoherently and downs the rest of his drink. “How goes it?”
She takes a deep breath. She knows she will be asked this question a hundred times more before the day is over. “I am—"
“We are ready to make a toast!” Leliana says jovially, having somehow grabbed two more mugs for them when she wasn’t looking. She pushes one of them into her hands. “We toast to a life lived to the fullest.” As they raise their mugs for the toast, she sees Alistair enter the tavern.
“Hold on a moment,” she shouts to them as she runs over to him. “Please tell me you’re here to knock some sense into those two,” she begs. “They’re already drunker than sailors.”
Alistair snickers. “Ah, it’s okay, love. They’ll sleep it off.”
“Alistair come over here! We are making a toast!” Leliana calls them over. She glances at Alistair, muttering an ‘I told you so’ as they approach the table. Leliana has managed to procure another mug and shoves it into Alistair’s hands. “As I was saying, we toast to a life lived to the fullest. May he have all the mabari crunches by the Maker’s side!”
Sarina can’t help but grin at her friend’s toast. He did love those mabari crunches.
She wonders if he left because he completed his duty. Similar to the Warden’s when they hear the Calling. She shakes her head, not wanting to think about that. She needed to find a cure. She wouldn’t lose Alistair or Oghren, anyone she cared about to the Calling. She already lost too much.
“May you stay by the Maker’s side until I join you,” she whispers into her mug as she takes a sip.