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The Hard Road of Our Present

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 She stared down at the letter in her hands for a long moment, quietly acknowledging the fact that it had been crumpled and then flattened out while she read the words again and again. “Visit to Ferelden?” she murmured. “Permanent alliance?”


Looking up at her husband where he stood across the room, his back to her as he leaned on his father's desk, Anora breathed, “Cailan...what is this?”


“Celene being particularly Orlesian,” he answered and the tone he said Orlesian in was almost exactly the same half-sneer her father always said it in. Turning to look at her, Cailan's face was open, desperate, his blue eyes wide. “I wrote nothing of the like to her, Anora.”


She remembered the earlier letter that had been sent by the Empress, talking of the Blight, of the darkspawn he was about to be leaving to fight. It had been polite, a simple offering of men, and Cailan had sent back an answer thanking her for the offer and that he would send word if the Orlesian forces were needed. Anora knew every word of the letter because she had been sitting in his office when he wrote it.


And she trusted her husband.


Turning, she threw the letter into the fireplace and then moved to lean against Cailan's back, the palms of her hands flat against his waist. “I believe you,” she murmured.


The tenseness in her husband evaporated and he turned, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. His hands found her face and cupped it as he kissed her, gratitude and love radiating from him. Anora slid her hands over his just as the kiss ended and he opened his eyes to meet hers.


“Thank you,” said Cailan quietly and she smiled. Then he nodded towards the roll of parchment on his desk, sealed with the royal seal as well as her own, marking her agreement. “And you...”


“I will support Alistair,” she confirmed. Anora then trembled, unable to keep the fear at bay, and she leaned further into him. As Cailan folded his arms around her again, she breathed, “Be safe.”


He pressed a kiss into her hair and murmured, “If I can return to you, Anora, I will. You have my word.”


She nodded then tilted her head back to kiss him. A different kiss altogether, this had them moving from his office to the rooms beyond, where their bed waited. And as they fell into each other for what might be the last time, memorizing each other with hands and mouths, Anora prayed that she would see him again.