Riordan's news was not good. The Archdemon has shown itself and is leading the horde toward Denerim. All of our scouting reports had put the bulk of the horde near Redcliffe, so this is where we massed our troop strength. To discover that the reports had mistaken the concentration of darkspawn strength was alarming, and to find that the Archdemon was leading the advance on Denerim means that this is the main push. Denerim is a good two days away at a forced march. I have serious misgivings about the ability of the city's militia to hold the horde off for very long. We cannot leave here before morning and hope to have sufficient strength to affect the outcome, as troops are still arriving from Orzammar, the Mages' Circle and the Dalish. As soon as the army is ready to march we will be leaving for Denerim at our best speed, but I am afraid we will be too late.
Riordan had another piece of information that affected Alistair and me more directly. He asked us to meet with him in his chamber before retiring, where he told us why Grey Wardens are the only ones who can kill the Archdemon. The spirit of the archdemon is able to pass from one tainted vessel to another. Darkspawn have no souls, so the spirit of the archdemon can move freely from one to another of them should its current vessel die. However, if slain by the hand of a Grey Warden, one who by definition bears the taint, the spirit of the archdemon passes into the body of the Warden. The Warden, who possesses a soul of his own, then defeats the spirit of the archdemon, denying it a new vessel, and slaying it permanently. The catch to this is that the death of the archdemon causes the death of the Grey Warden. So whichever one of we three kills the Archdemon will also die. Riordan has asked that he be the one to strike the killing blow if at all possible, but failing that, it falls to Alistair or me to finish it.
With that cheery bit of news to help me drift into slumber, I returned to my chamber. Morrigan was waiting inside for my return. She told me that Flemeth had recorded some very old magic in her grimoire, and if followed, it would result in the death of the archdemon without any Grey Wardens perishing. All it would require was for Alistair to lay with her, begetting a child bearing the taint. At the moment of its death, the archdemon's essence would fly to the child as to a beacon. Because the babe would be so young it could adapt to the spirit entering its body without harm. What would result would be a child bearing the soul of an old god. Her price for this reprieve is to have the child completely to herself. She will leave and no one must follow her or seek her out later on. She asked me to convince Alistair to go along with this.
I struggled with it. How could I ask such a thing of the man I love when I know his morals forbid it? I also know how little he likes Morrigan - they have never done more than tolerate each other. And what of the child? Alistair loves children, and fears that he will be unable to have any of his own because of the taint. To know that he fathered a child that he will never see would be very hard for him. What if we prove unable to have children of our own? Would Morrigan's child then be the heir to the throne? And is bringing an old god's soul back into the world a good thing? So many knotty questions, and I had so little time to decide whether or not to do as Morrigan asked.
At last I grasped the only solid facts I could find. I would not leave Alistair alone to face the throne, and I could not bear the thought of his death. I went to his chamber and put Morrigan's plan before him. He went from disbelieving to revulsion to uncertainty and finally to reluctant agreement. I accompanied him to my room and then left him there. I could not stay a moment longer. I returned to Alistair's chamber and spent the next hour or so thoroughly hating myself for what I had done.
Alistair came back. He stood in the doorway for a very long moment and looked at me with an expression that was very hard to read, including as it did so many mixed emotions. I'm sure my face was no easier to interpret. At last he held his arms out to me, and I moved into his embrace. We both wept for lost innocence and wounded trust. Somehow we ended up on his bed, and slept in each other's arms. We have not spoken of it since then, but it is something we must clear away if we are to regain the closeness we had before.
We are now taking a brief rest for food on the forced march to Denerim. I have not seen Morrigan since that night, nor do I wish to. I do not know how to react to her. She is responsible for giving us both the chance to survive our encounter with the Archdemon, but she is also the one who put this distance between us at a time when we most need to pull together.
I suppose this will all be over soon, one way or another. Where are you, Fergus? What would I not give to see you once again before this final battle? I am so changed from the little sister you left behind that sometimes I wonder if you will still recognize me when we meet again. You must have changed too. So many events have passed, and the worst is yet to come, I think. I will say farewell here, in case I am not able to do so later. Know that I love you, my brother, and I have never faltered in the belief that you are alive. I know you will carry on our family name with honor.