Alistair stood up and went and gave Wynne a hug.
“I’ll see you later,” he said.
Wynne gave him a squeeze and Alistair walked over to Bell’s door.
“The Warden Commander is expecting you Your Highness.” “Let me check to see if she is ready for this meeting.” “Wait here if you will Your Highness.”
Alistair watched as Warden Kristoff knocked and went inside Bell’s room.
Wait here? What the heck, this was his fortress. He had the right to walk into any room that he wished. He was also a warden himself.
Kristoff opened the door to Bell’s room. “The Warden Commander will see you now, Your Highness.”
Alistair raised his eyebrow at Kristoff as he walked by him. He walked into her room and Kristoff closed the door behind him. Alistair walked slowly over to her bed; he smiled at her as he approached her. She was sitting up and reading a scroll of some kind. When he got nearer to her bed it showed a Grey Warden seal. She rolled the scroll back up and laid this in her lap. She looked up at him. Her face had several bruises and she was bandaged all over. She had a sleeping shift on and he could see the bandages wrapped around her chest and shoulders through the shift. The covers were pulled up to her waist and there were a couple of pillows behind her back propping her up. He could also see pillows which her legs seemed to be elevated on under the covers, probably to keep them from swelling. Her hair had been washed and was brushed and braided like she always wore it. Wynne had been correct; she was very thin and very pale. She also had two very black eyes. Her eyes were slightly bloodshot.
Alistair took a seat on the stool next to her bed. He looked at her and she at him. She didn’t speak. She finally looked away and down at the scroll in her lap. She had placed her hands on the scroll in her lap. Say something you idiot instead of just staring at her.
“I’m glad you’ve finally woken up.” “You had us all worried.” “I was afraid that we’d lost you.”
She didn’t say anything just nodded her head. You were afraid your little night with Morrigan and her ritual wouldn’t save my life. This is what you were thinking.
He is alright, no major injuries that she could see. Thank the Maker for small favors.
Maker this shouldn’t be so hard to just talk with her. He wanted to gather her in his arms and never let her go. She was safe, she was alive. That was the only thing that mattered. He wanted to strip his armor and clothes off, getting into bed with her to hold her never letting her go. It suddenly dawned on him that they had never made love in a bed before. They had always slept inside her tent or had some stolen alone time when traveling near woods. He’d never forget the time they had done it in the waterfall in the Brecillian Forest. That had been so erotic. She had felt uncomfortable sleeping together at Redcliffe when they had slept there on occasion. She had always kissed him goodnight and went off to her own room.
She finally spoke.
“Your Highness, it is kind of you to take time out of your busy day to visit.”
She was being so formal, so cool, and so noble. She wasn’t giving anything away to how she really felt and she was keeping her eyes down.
Bellavalia, will you look at me please?
She inhaled sharply. She looked up at him and there was anger in her features.
“I’m sorry, your Highness, but you need to address me as Warden Commander or Lady Cousland.”
He blinked at her.
“What?” “Your name is Bellavalia, why wouldn’t I address you by your name?”
Alistair drew his eyebrows together. Confusion caused his feature to draw in. He didn’t understand this attitude of hers.
“It’s not proper for Your Highness to address me so.”
“That’s crazy, you’re my friend.” Alistair waved his hand in agitation.
Friend, am I, no I used to be the woman you said that you loved.
“No, Your Highness, I’m a noblewoman of this realm and the new Warden Commander of Ferelden.” “I will be once you sign the agreement between the Wardens and Ferelden.” “You need to address me properly or this meeting is at an end.”
There was a stubborn lift to her chin, daring him to contradict her.
“You’re my friend Bellavalia; therefore I can call you by your name.”
She held up a bruised and battered hand.
“I beg to differ, Your Highness, as the new King of this Realm you need to remember your chantry upbringing and the proper court address, which I’m sure the Chantry taught you.” “As the future king of this realm you may not address me with my first name unless I give you leave to do so or you ask me my permission.” “The same applies to me toward you.”
“Alright then, may I address you by your name?”
“No, Your Highness, you may not.”
He glared at her in disbelief. He gritted his teeth. Why was she behaving like this?
“Alright, will Warden Commander do?”
She nodded her head yes and looked back down at the scroll and crinkled her own brow.
So, His Highness won’t even address me as Lady Cousland. No, he can’t do that can he? That would acknowledge the fact that I’m a woman of noble birth and should have been on the short-list to become his wife. I can’t be his wife because I’m a Grey Warden. What rubbish I thought.
They sat in total silence for a few minutes.
He had never been this uncomfortable in her presence before. They had always been at ease with each other from the very start when they had first meet at Ostagar. It had always been her that put him at ease. He didn’t realize ending their relationship would put such a strain on their communication. Think of something to say you idiot.
“How do you feel?”
“Wynne tells me I’m healing and doing well under the circumstances, thank you for asking.”
Short, and to the point, very direct of her. Well so much for that avenue of discussion.
Maker, she is making this unbelievably hard. In another time and place she would have voiced a wise crack to joke and laugh with him. They would have discussed the battle and how she had killed the Arch Demon. What it had been like, what she thought and how she felt about it. The whole experience of fighting through the city and what both of them had experienced. How the taint affected her and him both being so close to the Arch demon. They would have teased each other. Well he would have teased her, after he got through voicing his opinion of her leaving him at the gate.
She still hadn’t looked up at him.
“I’ve good news for you.”
She didn’t even raise her head to look at him. She just sat in the bed with her hands on that damn scroll.
“You’re brother is alive.” “I guess I’m late with the news since Wynne said she already told you.”
“Yes, Your Highness, I’ve heard.” “I’m sure since I’m awake he will be coming before long.”
He sighed softly to himself. She won’t even use my name now. He felt regret course through himself. If you hadn’t made me king, we could have been together. He didn’t think the First Warden would have separated them.
“I’ve already restored Highever to him.” “It will be announced officially at my coronation.”
“On behalf of my brother Your Highness, thank you.” “I’m sure he’ll do well for you in training your troops which he has been trained to do all of his life.” “He’ll always have my full support and those of my wardens in the future for Ferelden’s security.”
If he hadn’t ended their relationship he could have seen her running and jumping in his arms with glee at this good news. He’d had a fantasy of this happening. He couldn’t lie to himself about it. He would have swung her around and been just as excited to see the joy in her face that this news would be for her. Instead he was getting a very cool, calm noblewoman in the place of the woman he had once called his lover. He couldn’t even tell that she was happy that her brother was alive. Well this is strange, this reaction from her.
“I’m happy you’re going to become the new Warden Commander of Ferelden.” “You deserve this post and you’ll get to remain here in Ferelden and fairly close to your brother.”
“If I could reject the command I would; I don’t want this command but it seems I have little say in the matter.” “I’ve already been ordered by the First Warden, this is to be my post.” She indicated the scroll in her lap.
She had said this with venom in her voice and she had raised her head and looked at him with fire in her eyes.
“Why don’t you want this command?” “I thought you’d be pleased.”
“Well I’m not pleased at all.” “All of this was decided without any input from me.”
“Ferelden needs you here as its Commander of the Wardens.” “You are the logical choice and as the future ruler of Ferelden, this is also what I want.”
“Frankly, Your Highness, I could care less what you want.”
He sucked in his breath. He knew why she was answering this way. She did want to leave Ferelden, just as Wynne suspected.
“If not here in Ferelden, then where would you like to be stationed?”
“In Orlais, Your Highness.”
“Are you out-of-your mind?” Alistair asked in shock. “Why Orlais?”
“My family has close family friends there and I don’t want to be a commander.” “It’s as simple as that.”
I need to get out of Ferelden she thought, and I have to get to Orlais or get word to my contacts in Orlais.
“Friends?” “Who are these friends that you are so eager to see?”
He knew that a hint of jealously crept into his voice, he couldn’t help it.
“People that my father used to trade with on behalf of Ferelden and various ladies that I went to school with in Orlais, in case you’ve forgotten that I told you that.” “I know a lot of people in Orlais and I think this would be the best place for me in the Wardens.”
This will get me far away from you, this was her current thought.
This would take her away from me, away from Ferelden. Never, I’m not going to allow that to happen and I’ll do whatever it takes to stop you. This was his thought.
“You’re going to become the Warden Commander of Ferelden, Lady Cousland; this is my command of you as the future monarch of this realm.” “That is finally.” Alistair knew he sounded a bit harsh, there was no way she was leaving Ferelden and he’d do anything to stop her.
They stared at each other. She had crossed her arms over her chest in frustration. She winced slightly he guessed from the pain. He knew if she was standing that all of her weight would have come to rest on her left foot and with her right foot out in front of her, she would have started to tap her foot. She did this when she was angry and also crossed her arms.
“If this is your wish, then so be it.”
“It is my wish.”
They stared at one another once again. He broke contact first. He was getting frustrated.
Now what he thought?
Oh, so I’m Lady Cousland now. How quaint. She was seething with fury inside. Remain calm, just stay calm don’t allow him to see your frustration. Focus, on your rouge training. Breathe, that’s it, slowly, in and out. I really want to slap the fire out of his face. Not a good idea with him being the future king and all. She’d sure like the opportunity to risk it.
Alistair cleared his throat and shifted on his stool.
“Is there anything that you need or anything that I can do for you?”
She nodded her head yes. She didn’t reply right away. She seemed to be considering her request.
“Well,” Alistair gently prompted her, when she didn’t answer right away.
“I’d like for you to take Zevran, Leliana, and Oghren into your service, into service to the crown.”
“Why?” He gently asked searching her eyes. So bloodshot he thought so filled with pain and hurt.
“Because you’re going to need their skills until the kingdom is secured.” “They will be your unseen eyes and ears.” “They will have contacts that you’re going to need, and be able to keep you appraised on what is going on within the country and in other countries.” “Face it, you and I will have enemies over our decision in making you King.” “They can get information for you that others won’t be able to do.” “It’s vital that you do this.” “Also, because those three have nowhere else to go, they don’t have any homes here or any family.” “Don’t allow others to know that they will be in your employ, not even Arl Eamon.” “They were your traveling companions and close friends.” “You’ll have to have access to funds to pay them privately out of sight of prying eyes.”
So I know that you’re safe was her thought. The only people she could depend on to keep him safe were her companions, since she wouldn’t be able to be at his side now. Wynne was a given, Leliana and Zevran she wasn’t so sure about. She hoped they would accept an offer from Alistair to work for him. Please, she thought. Oghren would go along for something to do.
“Alright, if this is what you want.” “I’ll find a place for them.”
“Thank you, Your Highness.’
He started to reach for her hand. She withdrew her hands away from him.
So she won’t even allow him to touch her. He just wanted to hold her hand to touch her.
“Isn’t there anything I can do for you personally?”
“Yes, there is something that you can do for me?”
He grinned. Finally he thought I can do something for her – just her, maybe there was hope for them to remain as close friends. So he could prove to her that she still mattered to him.
“What do you wish?” “Tell me, I’m to be king after all.”
He almost said, you’re wish is my command my lady. He was certain that wouldn’t please her, even in a joking manner.
“I wish our next meeting and all future meetings that we have together be held with a chaperone.” “I’d also like a new healer to give Wynne a break and some needed time for herself.
The grin on his face fell.
“No, absolutely not,” he had declared this with a shake of his hand.
“No to what?”
“No to getting a new healer and primary care giver.” “Wynne will continue to be your care giver until I say otherwise.”
She looked furious. Why would she make this request? He thought her and Wynne always had a good relationship. “Are you and Wynne having problems?”
“No, of course not.”
“We do need a chaperone for any future meetings.” “Your ruling Sire,” she hissed at him with gritted teeth.
“What for, why would you ask this of me, we’ve always had trust between us, we don’t need a chaperone, that is…why do we need one?” He was hurt. They were well past the need for a chaperone. They had been lovers, for Maker’s sake.
“I’m a single woman and you’re the future king of the realm.” “It’s improper for you to visit with a single lady in her bedchamber, in this manor, if you choose to keep your reputation.” “It just isn’t done; you need to learn this as King.” “You can’t be seen to be alone with someone you’re not involved with, uh even if you are involved, it just can’t be done out in the open.” “This is important for your sake and that of the realm.” It was killing her to say this to him. He had to learn this. It was very important for him especially. So he wouldn’t become compromised as king.
“Oh, so this doesn’t have anything to do with your reputation?” He was angry and his voice indicated this. He was getting red in the face. “Let me get this straight, I have your permission to sneak around with other ladies?”
“I don’t think you being involved with other women will be any of my business.” She huffed out.
“Yes, mine as well, reputation that is.” “How do you think my brother will react to finding out you slept with his sister?” “He won’t like it I assure you.” “He will pummel your face if he finds out and I don’t want him arrested for treason in punching your lights out.” “I don’t want you and him having a strain on your relationship given your positions within the realm.” “He is your highest ranking noble under you, he will be a tremendous help to you.”
“I assure you I can hold my own in a fist fight.” Wait, she didn’t include her sleeping around with other men. Fury shot through him. Was she planning on jumping in the sack with somebody else so soon? Was this her reason for wanting to go to Orlais?
She frowned up at him and her eyes darkened with anger. Her eyes always did that when she was mad, they became really dark blue.
She had a point. She deserved for their relationship to remain a secret if this is what she wanted. It wouldn’t do for her brother finding out, so he guessed she was right. She was always right. It still hurt him. He guessed he had hurt her more. He didn’t care if all of Thedas knew he loved her. It would keep the…noble hunters off of his back.
“If you wish, then it will be so.”
“Thank you.” She hesitated for a moment.
“Is there anything else Your Highness that the Grey Wardens can do for the realm?”
“I’ll be sure to let you know if my realm will need any assistance from the Grey Wardens,” he said dryly. “I’m a Grey Warden myself in case you’ve forgotten.”
“You won’t be for long Your Highness.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m sure you’ll be leaving the Grey Wardens.” “You can’t be a king and a Grey Warden both.”
No, he guessed he wouldn’t and Eamon would throw a fit if he tried it.
“Unless you have more Grey Warden business to discuss with me, then I guess this meeting is at an end.” “Thank you for coming, Your Highness.”
She was dismissing him. Him, just like that, he hadn’t even been here less than a half-hour. Wasn’t that supposed to be the other way around, shouldn’t he be the one doing the dismissing?
He was hoping to spend the morning with her to talk and become friends once more – to salvage their friendship. He wanted to talk with her over his plans for the kingdom. He wanted her advice and input on his decisions. She was the only person whom he truly trusted to offer advice.
Anger shot through him. He stood up from the stool. He almost bowed to her. He caught himself. He was the King; he didn’t bow to anyone now.
“No Commander, just get well, so you’ll be able to take your Command of the Vigil in six months time.”
He walked to the door of her room and opened it with a bang. He walked out and didn’t even look back or say goodbye.
I watched him go realizing how broken inside I would become without him. I saw Kristoff glance inside my room as he shut my door. Don’t even think of trying to intimidate me she thought as her and Kristoff made eye contact. She was getting the impression some of these Orlesian Wardens really didn’t like the idea she had been named Warden Commander of Ferelden or that she was even alive. Not on my life will I tell any of you how I survived. Never. I owe Alistair that much.
Wynne watched as Alistair left and she realized it had not gone as he hoped it would. He was upset and she wondered what Bell had said to him. He had been upset enough to bang her door open on his exit. No he wasn’t just upset, he was mad.
Maker, take her. His thought as he made his way swiftly out of the fort. He was so mad and angry he didn’t realize where he was even going. He stopped and pinched his nose. She hadn’t acted improperly to him, just cool and indifferent. She had acted with proper court etiquette. Just like the chantry had taught him and yes she had been right about that.
She just wasn’t at ease with him anymore. She had hurt him in what she said. He was hoping for more since they had defeated the blight, he wanted everything to go back to being how they were before they fell in love. Damn you Bell, I still love you. I always will.
“Your Highness are we still going to the Alienage?” It was Ser Allen asking him where they were going. He had forgotten about his guard when he stormed out of Bell’s room. He had been so angry that he didn’t even realize they had automatically fallen into step behind him.
“No, I’ve changed my mind.” “I’m going back to Arl Eamon’s.”
He headed back to the other bridge and made his way to the market district. He entered Arl Eamon’s estate and made for his room. When he saw Master Dolan he requested a carafe of wine with cheese and crackers. Comfort food is what he wanted and to be alone. He also left instructions he didn’t wish to be disturbed until further notice. He was so mad and angry he didn’t want to talk with anyone. He was mad at himself that he had hurt her so badly to the point that she would only discuss official business with him. Not as his friend either. He still needed her, didn’t she understand that. He couldn’t do this without her.
Wynne had warned him this would be her reaction and he didn’t think this would be the case. More the fool I he muttered to himself as he took his armor off. He finally got it off and lay down on his bed with his arm over his eyes. Maybe a nap would set him to rights and help him get over his anger. He shouldn’t have stormed out of her room either. A child’s behavior, as a King he couldn’t act like that. He had never been able to control his emotions where she was concerned.
There was a knock on his door. He knew who it was, Eamon of course come to check on him. He was the last person Alistair wanted to see. One thing he was going to do was study up on the succession. If there was a loop hole he would find it if possible. He wanted her and not some woman he wouldn’t be able to relate too. Damn it.
It was Eamon and he was bringing gifts too.
His wine and snacks he had requested.
“Are you alright Alistair?”
“Yes,” he said as he got up off the bed.
“Do you want to talk about your meeting with the Warden Commander?”
“How is she?”
“I believe she will be fine and able to take her command of the Vigil in six months.”
He grabbed the wine carafe and poured himself a glass. He also grabbed a piece of cheese and popped this into his mouth.
He didn’t offer any other conversation as Eamon eyed him critically. He finally finished chewing his cheese.
“Is there something else that you wanted Eamon?”
“No, not really, I just wanted to check on you.” “Master Dolan commented that you seemed angry on your way back and neither I nor he expected you back so soon.”
“Are you sure there is nothing wrong?”
Nothing I’m going to tell you about thought Alistair.
“No, I’m just getting a headache is all.”
“Eamon if you don’t mind, I’m going to delve into more law books and study more and I’d like to be alone to do this and I will take a nap before dinner.”
“Also, Master Wade will be here this evening to discuss our deal.” “Send for me and I’ll meet with him this evening.” “I’d also like a dinner tray sent to my room.”
The meeting with Bellavalia apparently didn’t go to Alistair’s liking. It was just going to take time, he knew this. Bellavalia had been raised a noblewomen and he knew she would behave herself where Alistair was concerned. It was Alistair that he had to worry about. He knew Bryce Cousland’s daughter and she would do the right thing and stay away from Alistair. She wouldn’t need to be told, as always she knew her duty.
He was going to keep Alistair busy with the business of the Kingdom. Tomorrow he had a series of meetings with the Grand Cleric to prepare him for his coronation which would actually follow with rehearsals in the Chantry. He also had other lessons coming which would start to fill his time: dance lessons, riding lessons, and studies on how to receive a Head of State and that sort of thing. Next week they would begin with the daily business of the Kingdom along with individual meetings with all nobles. Each noble from lowest to the highest would be able to meet his Highness one-on-one in a private meeting. Eamon had to prepare Alistair for these meetings. They had a lot of work to do.
If only Bellavalia Cousland hadn’t become a Grey Warden. His heart broke for his future king. The boy had so little in life to be happy about. Hopefully, a new lady would catch his eye. Eamon couldn’t push Alistair, at least not yet about a wife. Once Bellavalia Cousland took her command, then his campaign on getting Alistair married and with luck heirs for the kingdom to follow.
“Eamon, I really want to be alone right now.”
“Of course Your Highness, I’ll leave you to study.”