We glared at each other.
I broke off eye contact first. I was trying my best to get untangled from the skirts of this gaudy dress, get out of this bed, and get to my feet, so I could face His Highness head on.
He had come over to the bed and taken my hands to help me up. His griped tighten on my hands. I was finally untangled and I slipped my legs off the side of the bed and stood up.
He looked at me with concern and worry in his eyes.
“Bellavalia…why are your hands so cold?” “They have been like that since you killed the Arch Demon.”
I snatched my hands out of his. Alistair took hold of my hands gently once again. With his thumbs he rubbed over the back of my hands like he used to do all the time. Both of us watched as his thumbs drew circles on the back of my hands. He raised my hands to his lips and kissed both of my hands.
I just sighed deeply. I really didn’t want him to touch me. At times I was cold all over – like my hands since killing the Arch Demon, and I didn’t know why. It disturbed me.
“Bellavalia, you’re a Warden and heat should coming off of you in waves, this is not the case any longer is it?”
I looked down at my hands in his and I shook my head no. I couldn’t explain to him or any other warden that the taint was different inside of me now. I had no words to describe it and I didn’t know if it was due to the babies I carried.
I jerked my hands and he let them go. I walked away from him over to the other side of the room in front of the fireplace, and stared at the fire before me; I was very far away in thought on that battle in the fade. He came up behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders and drew me back against him. Before becoming accepted at the Landsmeet as Maric’s son, he would have wrapped his arms around me. “Why don’t you tell me what it was like, I think it’s time that you told me.”
“I can’t, there are no words to describe what it was like.” I said it softly and very sadly.
He turned me to face him and he looked deep into my eyes. Then he did take me in his arms and held me tight. “I would have taken the blow for you and spared you.”
“I know, but you’ve spared me already with”…..I couldn’t say it. “Maybe it was a mistake to ask of you what I did.” “I’m sorry and I think now I should have never brought you her offer.” “I’ve caused you so much hurt and pain because of it.”
“Don’t ever say that, I don’t think I could ever go on knowing you died in my place if I couldn’t do something….anything to save you.” “I knew when you left me at the gates if it came down to it and Riordan failed you’d take the blow, why Bell?”
“Ferelden needed you more than me.”
“Ferelden will always need you, don’t ever doubt it.” I as her king need you more he thought.
I laid my head on his chest and placed my hand on his chest piece over where his heart should be. I closed my eyes; his arms had ever been my protection; my only safe place in the world. He had saved me more times than he even knew from the nightmares of the darkspawn and the slaughter of my family. His arms had been the only thing to drive the dreams back into the fade where they belonged.
Just as a piece of me was forever in the fade, the piece of me that was gone forever that the ritual had taken from me to free Urthemiel. I just couldn’t tell him. He’d never stop until he found Morrigan to explain and most likely kill her, and the kingdom needed him too much for that. No, I would have to be the one to find Morrigan and the answers that I needed and why I was changed now as a Warden. I was scared and afraid to admit it. He was the last person I could tell.
Just a minute in his arms in private with nobody around was perfection. I stepped out of his arms and walked away from him again. Bittersweet I thought, forever bittersweet was my life.
“Am I free to go now Your Highness?” I knew before asking he would say no.
As if right on cue his eyebrow went straight up and that frown that he could get returned to his handsome face. I chanced a look at him over my shoulder and my heart did a flip like it always did in seeing him. Being this near to him was dangerous.
“No you may not,” was his reply.
“I’m still waiting for an answer Commander.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you’ll be waiting for a very long time for one.”
I looked at him over my shoulder again for his reaction to my sassy words.
“You know Bellavalia; you are the only one that will ever get away with talking to me, in such a fashion.”
“Well it’s nice to know I’m in an exclusive club all of my own.”
His lips twitched. He was trying not to laugh.
“I want to know why you defied my orders for you to remain safe inside Fort Drakon.”
I sighed deeply and I hoped he got the message my sigh implied.
“You’re not going to allow me to leave until I tell you?”
He makes his point by walking over to the bed and started taking off his armor.
I watched him and raised my eyebrow.
It took him a few minutes. Then he walked over to the pitcher and bowl on the small dresser and poured out some water and he dunked his head in the water rubbing his face with his hands. He grabbed a towel and wiped his hair, face, and hands to clean off. Ever the Templar I thought. He walked over to the bed and sat down and removed the lower parts of his armor and took his boots and socks off. Then he climbed on the bed fluffing the pillows where he settled in and got comfortable. He crossed his legs at the ankles and put his hands behind his head waiting for my answer.
“I have all night to wait, but I don’t believe that you do.”
Well at least he left his shirt on, that was a blessing. I was getting very warm just being this close to him again.
“I’m sure your noblemen waiting to talk with you won’t like being kept waiting, so no, I don’t think you have all night like you suggest.”
“I’m sure they will wait or seek an audience with me on the morrow if they think an heir is in the works and I’m in here creating one.” “They all saw me carry you in here.”
I crossed my arms over my chest and turned to face him fully.
“Yes, and I’m sure your enemies will say the child is not of legal issue and they will fight you on it.”
“I’m sure with your brother, Arl Eamon, The Hero of Ferelden, and soon to be Arlessa of Amaranthine and several others on my side supporting me will make them think twice.”
“Don’t fool yourself Your Highness, unless your children are legal issue they will fight you.”
“I also don’t see you wanting your children to be born as bastards; I got the impression that would be a sticking point with you.” “And let’s not forget I’m a Warden the same as you and according to you I can’t give you a child.”
“Is there something you want to tell me?”
I looked him square in the face and shook my head no.
Disappointment crossed his face. Even if I told you the truth I thought, they’d never let me stay with you. They would separate us even if we did marry and you already knew this. Once again he was saving me all over again. He knew when it came to him I wouldn’t have the strength to leave him.
“Has Kristoff told you that you could give me a child and you’ve learned something new that I don’t know, since you’ve been around other Wardens now?”
“I don’t believe it’s a topic I care to discuss with anyone that I can’t ever have children now.” “Imagine how I felt learning that I never could in the manner in which you told me.”
He had the good grace to look away.
He looked back at me. “I’m sorry, you’re right, I should have told you sooner.” “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
He looked away from me again when he answered. “Duncan was going to after the battle that night; he meant to explain about all of the changes that would happen in your body as a Warden.” He moved his head to look at me again. “In honesty, I didn’t know how to tell you something like that?” “Not being able to produce children is the only thing I don’t like about being a Warden.” “I’ve dreamed of being a husband and father my whole life Bellavalia and when Duncan recruited me into the order….I wasn’t told the truth either Bell when I was recruited into the Wardens.”
“Well with or without your approval or the First Warden’s, I’ll never recruit any woman into the order unless she knows that.” “I won’t discuss the joining except to tell them their ability to have children will stop once they become a Warden and they have to think carefully before they decide to accept my offer of joining the order.”
He laughed, “leave it to you to find a loophole.”
“So you won’t mind then that I tell new Wardens this?”
“No, were not facing a blight and I don’t see the harm in it as long as you follow the rest of the tradition.”
I smiled and nodded.
“This is why you were thankful to Duncan for saving you from the Chantry?”
“Yes, Bell, it was.” “I was told all of my life I would never have my father’s throne because of Cailan being the legal issue and it didn’t matter to me about the whole royal thing. I flat out didn’t give a damn being a royal, it’s brought me nothing but misery in my life being Maric’s son.” “I would have changed my name and faded into the sunset.” “What I wanted was the chance to marry and have a family of my own.” “That has always been my deepest desire.” “I’ve told you all of this before.”
“You thought being a Warden would give you that opportunity?”
“I was so blissfully happy when I left the Chantry with Duncan.” “I do understand how you feel, I felt the same way in learning I might never have children.”
“Duncan did tell me that my father never meant for me to take Holy Orders and this is all that Duncan ever told me.”
“Did you ever stop to think, your father didn’t want you to take final Holy Vows as a Templar so you would remain one of his heirs?” “Yet he still had to protect you as his son from Orlais.” “Tell me that has not crossed your mind?” “Did you ever stop to think it was your own Father who sent you to the Chantry to begin with, to keep you safe and for you to be educated and learn to be a Knight, trained by some of the best warriors in all of Thedas?”
“No, I never thought about it like that, I have always been too busy being angry about it for years, not being acknowledged.”
“And because of how Isolde treated you?”
“Yes.” He was deep in thought for a few minutes.
“You think it was my own father who had me sent to the Chantry?”
“I do, yes.”
“I don’t know, maybe, it makes sense.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“Your father ordered what he wanted done and Eamon was given the order to carry out Maric’s wishes.” “I’m sure your father found out about Isolde’s treatment of you.” “I’m sure if your father was alive the woman would be shaking in her shoes for the things she did to you.”
“Then my father disappears and is declared dead.”
“The spare hidden away safe in the Chantry in case something happened to Cailan.”
“The Grand Cleric didn’t want to release me because of who I was.”
“Yes, and I’m sure she didn’t want to see your father’s gold taken out of the Chantries coffers for housing and educating you.”
“How do you know all this, Bell?”
“My father, he told me.”
“But I thought Eamon was the only one who knew.”
“No, my father, Loghain, and Cailan knew about you for years.”
Alistair raised his eyebrows.
“My father told Fergus and Me about you when he got the call to prepare Cailan’s troops at Highever and I had to know in case Cailan died at Ostagar who the real heir to support would be.” “I was left behind at Highever in case: Cailan, my father, and my brother died and for a Cousland to vote in the Landsmeet – to vote for Maric’s true son, you.”
“Howe murders my family and the next thing I know I’m on my way to Ostagar to become a Grey Warden.” “I had no idea you where Maric’s son until you told me.” “I thought you still in the Chantry.” “My father told me to support you, the true Theirin Heir next to Cailan.”
“Did he?” Alistair was totally shocked at this news.
Alistair already knew what Anora had tried to do in bribing Bell to side with her. Eamon’s estate was full of people devoted to him and the Theirin’s; Anora had been a fool to talk with Bell inside Eamon’s estate.
He smiled at me. “Don’t you think Anora chose a bad place to have a private meeting with you….inside Eamon’s estate?”
“Yes, I thought that was foolish of her and once again established for me her lack of judgment once again.”
It also proved to me, your answers to her, that you Bell, did truly believe in who I was, and you would support me no matter what. I’ll love you forever for it too. I’ll find the loophole I need Bell to make you my queen, until I can rid my kingdom of my enemies; I need to keep you near and as safe as possible.
“As nice as this chat is that we are having, may I go now Your Highness?”
“What is so important that you need to leave the protection of the Fort?”
I sighed in frustration.
“I can’t tell you.”
“Bell you have to tell me something or I can’t allow you to go.”
I looked down at the floor thinking of a way to get him to agree to let me go.
“Will it help you in knowing that I’ll be back in a few days time?” “I have to go tonight, the arrangements are made and I have to leave now.”
“No, still not enough information.”
Think Bell; give him something so he’ll let you go.
I looked back up at him and said, “I stood with you in seeking justice against Loghain and what he did.” “You stood with me regarding Howe.”
“What does this have to do with you leaving Denerim?”
“You not allowing me to leave Denerim is stopping me from fulfilling an oath, I gave my word.” “The murder of my parents and the detour of Ostagar and becoming a Warden has stopped me from fulfilling this oath I gave to a dying person, that I’d see their last wishes fulfilled.” “I go now to do as they asked of me.” I couldn’t tell Alistair this promise had been given to Cailan and to do what I needed in stopping Anora from reclaiming the throne. I’d sworn my oath and fealty to Maric and Cailan both, just as I would swear my fealty to Alistair in a few weeks time. I just couldn’t tell Alistair.
“Where are you going, what will you be doing, and who is this promise too?” “These aren’t unreasonable questions Bell.”
“No they aren’t unreasonable, however, I still can’t tell you.”
“Then I can’t allow you to leave.”
I wanted to scream in frustration. I had to get out of this room and away from him and his guards. Think Bell.
“Why do you find it so important to keep me locked away just now?” “I can take care of myself and you know this?”
“I do know; but, because you are the only remaining Warden of Ferelden and until you are fully healed and until I find out what is happening at Gwaren and Highever, I’d prefer to keep you close.”
“What, that is crazy!” I huffed out.
“No it’s not crazy; you are the only Ferelden Warden left Bell.”
“That is not true, there is still you.”
“I can’t exactly continue being a Ferelden Warden now can I?” “In theory, yes, I’ll always fight darkspawn, yet my duty now lies with my country and my people.” “The Kingdom won’t like an Orlesian Warden in command of the Wardens here in Ferelden and you should know this without me telling you.”
“If I had died then they would have had to accept an Orleasian Warden.”
“You lived, therefore they won’t.”
Oh Maker, I have to get out of here. Think Bell, think.
Alistair could see the wheels churning in her mind. Why won’t she tell me? Is she planning on meeting some man or flat out running away from the Wardens and me? I’ve always been afraid I’d lose her and it was happening just as he feared. I have nobody to blame but myself.
“Would you mind if I change Your Highness and I’m sure you’ll have an escort for me to get me back to Fort Drakon or do you plan on taking me yourself and locking me in a cell?”
She didn’t say this with venom in her voice but he knew it simmered just under the surface, because he knew her. He needed a joke to defuse her anger.
“Hmmm, I kind of like you in a dress, actually, I’ve never seen you in a dress, I like it.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Well don’t expect me to dance the remigold for you.”
A low throaty chuckle slipped from his lips.
“Why not, I think, I’d enjoy that.”
She narrowed her eyes again ever so slightly. She could have the most expressive eyes and usually she hides what she was thinking. She was skilled enough to hide her thoughts from others but not him, he knew her body language well enough to know what to look for.
“Well you missed an opportunity to dance for me in one at Ostagar if I remember correctly.”
He barked with laughter, he couldn’t hold it back this time.
“A missed opportunity,” he smiled.
No, the rose you gave me and the way you did it was all I ever needed was my thought; I didn’t voice my thoughts.
He got up off the bed and walked to me. “I’ll get your things you’ll change in this room.”
“Don’t defy me Bell.” There was a touch of steel in his voice. He meant what he said.
“I can get my own things I don’t need you to do it for me.”
“Fine but I’ll come with you.”
“So?” He said this as he looked down at his feet.
“Let Ser Allen go with me, my things are in the room just across the hall.” “What about Leliana?” “Her things are there too.”
“She’ll be able to get her things and one of my own guards is on the door.”
I looked at him with anger in my face. “You knew all along that was me and Leliana out there?”
“You knew we were here, didn’t you?”
He crossed his arms and stood his ground. “Yes, I knew you left Fort Drakon and I expected you to do what you did.” “The guard who stopped you on the docks is one of personal royal guards Bell.”
I clinched my teeth in anger. Great I thought, the bloody royal guard probably thinks I’m a harlot…another blow to my virtues.
“I went to the Fort to stop in too see how you were doing on my way here, and Kristoff told me you didn’t wish to see me and he wouldn’t allow me into your room.” “We did have an exchange of words.” “I knew right then that you were gone.” “Commander Rader also allowed you to leave on my say so since I knew what you’d do when I told you that you had to stay inside the fort.”
Anger sizzled inside me. He knew me to well. I’d never let anyone get as close to me as I’d had him to know me as a person. The only other three people in the world that had truly known me was my parents and my brother.
“You can’t go outside in the hall without your armor on, this is a tavern, and bordello and you don’t know who might be here.”
“I can handle myself.”
“It’s not a question of you handling yourself, you’re the King remember.”
“Yes, I know, everyone reminds me at all hours of the day and night.”
I raised my eyebrows “night?” “You mean you’ve had to get up and protect the cheese in Eamon’s larder.”
He shook with laughter.
“Will you please stop that?”
“What?” “It’s a fair question.” I held my hand up, “oh I know the cheese in the larder is only in danger from you.”
“True and you should have seen the look on the cook’s face the next morning at breakfast when she apologized that there was no cheese for my breakfast.” He smirked.
“She had no idea the thief was you?”
“None whatsoever, I learned a thing or two from a famous rogue.”
“Did you?” I said in a whisper looking at him.
He walked closer to me and looked down at me and his eyes smoldered. “Many, many things… some of which would be most ungentlemanly of me to discuss, those things are better shown.”
He had come so close I could feel his breath on my face. I was so hot, not cold now at all. He reached out his hand and slide it in back of my neck and inch by inch drew me to him, he never took his eyes from mine. He took his other arm and placed it around my waist and held me tight against him. I could feel every inch of him, every manly inch of him.
I placed my hands on his chest to push him away but he wasn’t having it. He tightens his grip on my waist and held me more firmly against him. I looked up into his eyes. I knew that look and what it meant. I watched as he brought his lips to mine and he kissed me softly, slowly savoring my lips with his own. His tongue demanded entrance to my mouth seeking entrance. His tongue was asking a question, will you or won’t you? Why did he need this answer? The thought trickled through my mind.
I acquiesced to his wishes and allowed his tongue entrance. He deepened the kiss and I moaned and he responded the same. He backed me up to the wall. My hands slide up and around his neck, drawing him closer. He took his hand from behind my neck and slowly worked his hand down the length of my body and it came to rest on my bottom and he drew me closer to him. I could feel the hard length of him pressed against my belly. He had been careful of my injuries on my breast and under my arm. My left leg slide up around his hip and he answered with kisses to my closed eyes, my cheek. His mouth made its way down to my throat and he placed sweet kisses against the pulse in my neck. He lightly nipped my neck and then slowly kissed the hurt away. I moaned once again. His lips came back to mine and he kissed me deeply once more.
I couldn’t allow him to do this. He would notice the changes to my body, the firmness to my belly and the fuller roundness of my hips and thighs. One look at my naked body and he would know and I couldn’t allow that to happen. It was better for the both of us if he didn’t know. I didn’t want him to marry me just because I was with child. I wanted him to marry me for the right reasons and for whatever reason he had changed his mind. I wanted him to marry me because he loved me.
I brought my hands back down to his chest and I gently pushed. I lowered my leg back to the floor and stood on my feet. He still held me in his embrace. I wouldn’t meet his eyes. I knew he was looking at me. He let me go and he stepped back from me. He had sensed the change in my mood. I felt the cool air from the room swirl between us. The heat from our bodies cooling as the atmosphere changed around us.
He titled my face up to look at him.
“I’m sorry, we can’t do this,” I whispered.
“I love you and always will.” “I still want you.”
“I can’t become your mistress, that isn’t fair to me or the wife you’ll one day take.” “You said that yourself.”
“I can’t seem to stop myself being this near you.”
“You’re going to have to try,” I whispered.
“I need to get my armor and other gear.”
I walked to the door and Alistair followed me. I stepped out into the hall. Ser Allen with the rest of his men was guarding the King’s door. I noticed as I looked to the door and room that Sanga had allowed Leliana and me to use was the same guard that had escorted me and Leliana to The Pearl. He was beet red when he realized that I recognized who he was. Another guard was with him. Actually the hall was full of Alistair’s guards.
“The Commander is going to change Allen then see that she is brought back to my room. “
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Arl Eamon was wondering if you’ll be seeing the nobles soon.”
“Inform him in about another hour or so.”
“I want to see the Commander back to the Fort.”
“As you say, Your Highness.”
I walked forward to the other room and one of the guards opened the door for me. I looked back at Alistair over my shoulder.
“Twenty minutes to change Commander and no more or I’ll be in to see for myself what is taking you so long.”
I didn’t reply or acknowledge what Alistair said. I walked into the room and the guard closed the door behind me. I shoved the chest out from the boards that Leliana and I had hide most of our gear in the floor. I got everything out and put the boards back and moved the chest back. No small feat since the chest was so heavy. I opened the lid of the chest and grabbed my gear and changed into my armor. I laid Leliana’s armor out on the bed with her packs. I got down on my hands and knees and got our tent out from under the bed, as I did so I heard a noise. I looked to the door; it wasn’t coming from the door. I stood and listened for a second. I looked up and a large smile split my face. Zevran was smiling down at me.
I handed up the tent to him, he took it. I knew I didn’t need to get Leliana’s gear, she’d be in to get it herself when she had the chance to slip away from the main bar room and to get back into our room when it was safe for her to do so. I gathered the rest of my gear and got my daggers. I knew that Zevran had a way for me to get out. We had to hurry before Alistair checked on me. I attached my cloak back to my shoulders.
Zevran slide a rope down through the roof and thatch with a small loop on the end. I slipped my foot inside the loop and looked up, taking a hold of the rope and held on. He and someone else started to pull me up. I smiled up at them. They hauled me through the ceiling. I grinned as I realized it was one of the other Orlesian Wardens. “We’ve got you Commander,” he whispered, as they dragged me through the opening. Zevran replaced the thatch in the ceiling and I saw him set a smoke bomb, I giggled.
“This way whispered Zevran, watch your head because of the beams.” I nodded. I followed Zevran on my hands and knees across the ceiling brushing cobwebs and mice droppings out of our way as we went. The other warden was right behind me. We finally came to the far side of the roof. He removed another ceiling tile of thatch and handed down our tent to someone. Zevran got himself into position and he jumped down from the ceiling. I was next and looked down before I jumped. Kristoff and another warden were there to catch me. I sat on the edge of the roof with my legs dangling out of the opening. “Jump we’ll catch you,” they whispered up to me. I scooted forward and fell through the ceiling and landed right in Kristoff and the other Warden’s arms. They set me on the floor and I got out of the way quickly as they helped the warden behind me down out of the ceiling. I watched as the smaller warden with the help of Kristoff got on the other Warden’s shoulders and the smaller Warder replaced the thatch tile in the ceiling. He jumped off of the Wardens’ shoulders with ease.
Zevran was dusting himself off behind me. He reached up and picked cobwebs out of my hair.
“Are you ready to go? Zevran whispered.
I nodded. He walked to the armoire in the room, he pushed on the panel in the back and a door swung open. Zevran went through and the rest of us followed. We were in a dark hidden passage. “This way,” he whispered. I heard the last warden close the armoire door and the panel behind us.
I heard Alistair shout my name. I smiled to myself.
“How did she get out of this room?” “Find her, now.” I heard the feet of his soldiers rushing to find me. Unless they could see through walls, they were out of luck. We’d be out of luck if they found the hidden panel in the armoire.
Zevran motioned all of us forward. We went through a very dark tunnel and we had to use our hands on the walls for purchase. I imagined I was filthy dirty by now. We came to a hatch which was open for us. We all climbed through and found ourselves inside the haul of a ship. Zevran closed and locked the hatch.
“Here put these on.” He had handed me fake elf ears and a kerchief. I put them on, he handed me a large bundle of dried herbs. “Carry this on your back to hide your weapons and bow your back forward, hunch over; this will disguise your height.” “Keep your head down and don’t look at anyone.”
“We’re going to look like stevedores unloading the ship.” “The fake elf ears should disguise you enough so they won’t look at you too hard.” He put on a kerchief to hide his blond hair and hefted up a small cask of ale. We followed him up several wooden ladders until we came to the deck of the ship. I saw Isabella giving orders to her crew and she turned and winked at me. I winked back and followed Zevran off the ship with the other wardens carrying some of the ship’s cargo and their heraldry of being wardens was also hidden. We walked off the ship and onto the dock and Zevran keep going leading me toward the western side of the city. Several of Alistair’s guard passed us, the other wardens separated from us and headed back to the fort. The city watch and Alistair’s guards stopped every human they saw. My wardens keep to the shadows as they made their way back to Fort Drakon. I’m sure they’d gain entrance through the elf servant entrance and be back on the second floor before Alistair and his guards went to check to see if I was at the Fort.
We finally came to the Dalish encampment and the Keeper was waiting for us. She motioned for me and Zevran to the aravel nearby. Zevran and I climbed inside and she shut the door behind us.
I sat down on a small stool and Zevran fell to the floor. We looked at each other and started laughing. We’d done it, outsmarted Alistair.