I opened my summons from our Prince, already knowing what the vellum said. I read, then folded the vellum closed.
“How do you feel about this Fergus?”
I watched as my brother rubbed his hands over his face mussing his hair in the process. “I think what we’ve done is the right thing.”
“Others won’t see it that way.”
Fergus shrugged his shoulders in an uncaring manner.
“Alistair had her examined by Wynne and Irving, with the Grand Cleric in attendance.”
“We really didn’t give him much choice, he would’ve sent her to the Chantry in Amaranthine. She has to die Fergus for our own safety.”
“Its hard Tink, Anora is my best friend’s wife.”
“I know Fergus, but she allowed your best friend’s massacre on the field at Ostagar. You weren’t there Fergus, it was awful seeing Cailan die the way he did. Alistair and I watched from the tower, it was horrible.”
“Alistair lit the signal for Loghain’s troops to charge onto the field, it was unbelievable when they marched away, we watched in stunned horrified silence. I still have nightmares about it and I’m sure Alistair will never get over what happened, he’ll never forget. Anora changed the course of all our lives Fergus. Yours, Alistair’s and mine. Oriana and Oren would still be alive today, so would our parents, if not for her.”
Fergus squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, shaking his head. “I still can’t believe she did this to us – to our country.”
“I know Fergus, it’s hard to accept.”
“Tell me Tink, why did she grow to hate you so much?”
I shrugged my shoulders
“She resented the fact I was Cailan’s spy master when he traveled on state business; I think more than anything she was jealous I spent so much time with him, especially when he was in Orlais. She hated this while she was stuck at home ruling the country when he was gone. I think Anora knew about his infidelities, and of course I knew about them, and this injured her pride more than anything.”
“You’re sure there isn’t more to it?”
“What are you suggesting brother?” The tone of my voice sounding with a clash of steel.
“You and Cailan were just friends, like he was with me?”
I looked my brother right in the eye. “Cailan regarded me as a little sister Fergus, nothing more. Why do you ask?”
“Because he changed his mind on your marriage to Christian and I still don’t know why Tink. I’d like to know what happened in Orlais and why Cailan denied permission.”
“He didn’t deny permission, it’s what I wanted.”
“Why? You and Christian have known each other since you both were in nappies. You’ve loved him your whole life Tink.”
Turning my gaze back to the view off of the balustrade I was sitting on, I thought, big brother you have no idea how dangerous this topic is.
“He was unfaithful to me after he asked me to marry him Fergus.”
Fergus laughed. “Is that all?”
I turned a look of scorn on my big brother. “Go ahead, make light of my hurt Fergus.”
“I’m sorry, sis. Tink, you weren’t married yet?”
“That makes what he did alright?”
“Err, No, but…”
Right answer big brother. I crossed my arms over my chest looking at my brother with scorn. “How would you have felt if Oriana did that to you before you married?” Fergus’ expression gave me my answer. “Why should I have settled for anything less?”
“You shouldn’t but how do you know this is true?”
“I walked in on them.”
“That will do it.”
“I’m sorry Tink. “Did you know her?”
“Yes, I knew the person, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore Fergus. Is everything ready for this evening?” I was hoping to distract my brother and get off this dangerous topic.
“For the most part, just a matter of time ticking down. Do you have everything you need?”
“Just waiting on the weaver’s circle to deliver my gown for the ball tomorrow.”
“What time do you have to leave to escort Alistair?”
“Two hours before sunset. I’ll have to get our men ready and inspect them before we march out of the gate for Redcliffe Estate with less men than I would like.”
“It will take time Fergus to rebuild the troops, be patient.”
“I know, not exactly the way you envisioned being the Commander of Highever troops.”
“They would have been a sight, escorting Alistair to the Chantry.”
“Aye, they would have with Alistair staying here with them.”
I just nodded.
“Is the Landsmeet Hall and the Palace ready?”
“Most of the rubble has been cleared and the halls set to rights, banners flying. Alistair will be able to move into the palace tomorrow afternoon before the ceremonies and ball. He’ll greet his guest later that evening. His private suites didn’t take too much damage. The palace staff has been boxing up Anora and Cailan’s things. He’ll be comfortable enough.”
“The palace ballroom is being decorated at this moment with Andraste’s grace flowers, roses, lilies, and ferns all over the place with juniper garlands hung anywhere there is empty space.”
I really didn’t give a damn about the floral decor. On other hand Alistair might, he seemed to have a thing for floral arrangements. I snorted, thinking of his joke to me once.
“All in place, why are you so worried about this?”
“I worked hard getting him on the throne; I don’t want this to be for nothing.”
“He’ll be fine Tink.”
“I know he will, you know me.” I turned my head back to viewing the distant clouds.
“You plan for everything and you feel out of the loop with Eamon in charge.”
“Yes and no, Alistair put me in charge on the road, and it’s hard not making decisions for his safety. Hard to let go and see him move on, not being a Warden with me anymore. It’ll be strange, him not being with me.” I was still sitting on the balcony swinging my left leg back and forth in agitation.
“You’ll still see him Tink.”
“It won’t be the same.”
“Come on, we’ve got to get ready, the time will be here before you know it.”
“Aye, I’m starved, you coming down to the dining room?”
“No, I’ve got things to do with the Wardens. Kristoff and I need to go over the plans for the Vigil. I’ll come down when you get ready to leave with the men.”
“How is your leg?”
“Better, I’ll be fine.”
“Alright sis, I’ll see you later.”
Fergus dropped a brotherly kiss on my forehead, waving goodbye as he left my chambers. I continued to sit, enjoying this beautiful day and made my plans, not for the Vigil like I’d told my brother. I was planning for another trip. After a short time, I walked back into my room sitting down at my desk. I opened the center drawer and placed the summons inside. I took out Duncan’s journal continuing to read. Arial brought me some lunch and told me my gown would arrive in two hours, and the weavers would be here tomorrow when Leliana and I got dressed for the ball.
I asked Arial to send a message down to our armory to see if my equipment was ready that I’d sent down to be repaired. Arial informed me I needed to go through the carts with all of our equipment that had arrived from Eamon’s. I’d told her to just leave all of it for now until after the ball. We’d get started the day after tomorrow. Until Kristoff got the carts or wagons that we needed, this could wait.
I closed Duncan’s journal and placed it back inside my desk. I wasn’t in the mood to read anymore. I’d just finished the part where King Maric, Duncan, and the other Wardens had fought a battle in the deep roads, and they’d found a lake underground and washed up. One of the Wardens had a Mabari war hound with him. I was missing mine at the moment. Duncan’s journal had already mentioned this Fiona elven Grey Warden, and Maric were getting close. Kings and Elves, go figure. What was I thinking reading about kings today? Everyone else was busy getting ready for this evening. I realized this was why I felt out of sorts. I’d received a message from Arl Eamon asking me not to be in the Highever escort. I was…hurt and wished to lick my wounds in private.
I’d given the household staff permission to go. It would just be me and the Wardens here and of course a small amount of our estate soldiers, few that they were. Maybe it was for the best. I’d see Alistair tomorrow. Eamon had sent me instructions that all of us were to be at the Landsmeet Hall early in the morning and to wait in a private room off the hall until called.
I really needed something to do, even Thor wasn’t here keeping me company. My companions had taken him with them, they were out and about in the city seeing to their own affairs enjoying themselves. I’d wanted to give Thor a bath. I walked back outside settling back on the balcony and continued to watch the masons rebuild our walls. The thought came to me that I could go to the Pearl and work out arrangements with Sanga. No, that would just cause crowds in the city to gather around me. Looks like I was just stuck here with nothing to do. It felt odd. I spent the rest of the afternoon on my balcony cooling my heels. Out of sight, out of mind. When it was time, I went back inside and changed into my armor. I wouldn’t send my brother and our troops off in a bloody dress.
Alistair was soaking in a tub with sandalwood scented bubbles up to his chin, finishing the last few drops of the wine he was enjoying. He took his fingers and popped bubbles. Wish I could get drunk he thought as he drained the last and set the glass down on the window ledge next to the tub. The time was fast approaching, faster than he wanted.
Dinner had been one of the best I’ve had in a long time, the beef had been excellent. Eamon’s head cook was a marvel. She’d made me a berry tarts for dessert topped with clotted cream. They’d been so good I ate two of them. I won’t get to eat until after I’m crowned in the morning. Better fill up now, thus my snack, sent up by Eamon’s head cook. Alistair picked up a slice of white sharp cheddar and popped it into his mouth, enjoying the flavor, he next tried a sample of the special baked crackers. Yummy, they had a buttery taste. Popping a few grapes in his mouth he continued to indulge himself trying to relax. It wasn’t really working. Hell with this, I’m not a rich bastard that wastes his day in a tub of water, this isn’t me.
I grabbed the soap in the dish, then dunked my head below the water wetting my hair, taking the soap and rubbing it in, forming a lather. I replaced the slippery bar back into the dish then washed my hair. I was reaching for the pitcher of fresh water to rinse when Roland saw me and came rushing over.
“I’ll do that Your Highness.”
As if I couldn’t do it myself.
Roland took the pitcher pouring the warm water over my head rinsing the suds out. Wiping the water out of my face I stood up and Roland handed me a large towel, stepping out of the wooden tub onto a towel. I dried myself off. Giving my hair a vigorous rubbing with the towel. Roland handed me new small clothes, I put them on. Sitting down on the stool I put on my knee socks, paper thin linen trousers and a linen shirt. Alistair walked over to his bureau, picking up his brush working it through his hair styling the way he liked it. He’d had it trimmed last night.
Roland was working in the background getting my armor pieces ready, removing them from the stand. I cleaned my teeth with pumice dust, rinsing my mouth and spitting in the dirty bath water, then I walked over to the bed sitting down reaching for my new highly polished, knee-hi black leather boots, wiggling them on. Roland handed me a piece of mint to chew on and my newly crafted golden hued greaves to put on over them, helping me screw them into place.
I stood up and walked to the windows looking out. The crowds were already gathering, filling the market district. This time tomorrow I’ll be King and living at the Palace. I shook my head, this is surreal. I’m going to have my own home, a palace no less, with servants. My thoughts triggered a conversation I’d had with Bellavalia. We’d talked about the blight being over and what to do next. We’d go home or find a new one or go on being Wardens. I figured her and I would have gone to Highever. I never thought I’d have a home without her. She’d said, ‘as long as it’s with you’ had made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. That was the first time she’d given me any indication how she really felt about me.
“Your Highness, we need to finish.”
I just nodded and continued getting dressed. I’m not in the mood to talk and Roland seems to have noticed. The elf-servant continued to work, remaining quiet. We’d spent a good deal of time together, laughing and joking. I just didn’t feel much like joking at the moment. Thinking about her caused a pain to form in my chest.
Next came all of the under padding before the major armor pieces. “Maker, we forgot the under padding.
“I guess we did.”
I sat back down and Roland helped me unscrew the greaves. We found the special under padding for my legs. They came up to my thighs all brand new. How could I have forgotten? A few scratches to my new boots – not to noticeable as I ran my finger over them. I stood up, Roland tying the padding into place. The extra thick under padding for my chest, back, and arms came next. I was already sweating and the actual armor wasn’t even on yet. I pulled my hauberk over my head, if I was going into battle or out on the road I’d add the matching neck piece. Roland pined me back into the greaves, adding the poleyns and fan plates at the knees. Next the cuisse covering my thighs decorated in the front with the royal crown, followed by the tasset and the fauld, my lower half was nearly done. My arm pieces were added next, my vambraces, and rerebrace with the couter cover over my elbows were finally pined and screwed closed. The heroic cuirass plate – chest piece came next; I held the front while Roland added the back screwing and pinning them together. My chest piece was decorated with the face of a dragon on the front. The eyes of the dragon over my chest muscles. Next Roland added the pauldrons over the cuirass over my shoulders with the special rondels to cover my armpits. I had to sit down on the bed for him to fit and pin to my shoulders.
I wasn’t using my shield, so both pieces were needed today. If I was going into battle the second wouldn’t be needed so I could use my shield for protection. A lot of warriors didn’t add the rondels on the shield arm, because of the added weight, some favored the addition, and others didn’t. I was a warrior who didn’t favor the added piece. Sten, nor Oghren favored them. Which was unusual given they were trained as great sword warriors. Eamon also a great sword wielder wore his.
Teagan had helped me dress before we stormed the gates. Memories swarmed in my mind, deep in thought I realized that Bell had helped me for the Landsmeet, giving me Duncan’s shield before we left. That seemed so long ago when it had been just over a month.
Two more pieces, the sollerets which covered the tops of my feet joined the rest. Hiding my boots underneath. I stood patiently as Roland screwed them into the greaves with two tiny screws and pins.
I walked back to my dresser with my looking glass, and checked my hair, giving it one last brush. I was ready and by the sounds outside the crowd had grown even larger. I walked out on the small balcony trying to cool off. I was so hot. The sun was going down on the horizon and the lamp lighters in the city were busy. One by one small dots of light appeared in the market district.
“Thank you Roland.”
“Arl Eamon will be pleased, Wade did a wonderful job on your new armor.”
I just nodded, it was the finest suite of armor I’d ever owned. The suite was very similar to Cailan’s armor and had been the whole point of its design. Roland handed me a damp cloth to wipe the sweat off of my face which had been scented in sandalwood. I nodded thanking him.
I walked back to the bed, looking down at Duncan’s shield with the Grey Warden Griffon emblazoned on it that Bell had found and given to me, along with father’s sword. The shield more valuable to me. I reached for the sword inside a scabbard and attached them to my back with Roland’s help. Besides my shield, gauntlets, and great helm I was ready. Damn, better relieve myself it’s going to be a long night.
I walked behind the privacy screen adjusted the various layers of armor and their slits and pulled my member out. “I know exactly how you feel” I told my most precious part all flaccid and just hanging there.
“Did you say something Your Highness?”
I heard Roland laugh. He didn’t believe me.
Embarrassed, I grabbed the chamber pot waiting patiently for my water to pass. I really didn’t have to go, this was the last chance I’d get until my Vigil was done. I thought of the water flowing over the falls at Redcliffe to help. Finally, a steady stream started to flow. I shook off the excess when I finished tucking myself back inside then readjusted my armor. I walked out from behind the privacy screen and Roland was tiding up my room. I walked to the wash stand and washed my hands with Roland anticipating my need and handing me a towel.When I turned around he had a fresh soft white cloth and started wiping off our fingerprints on the glossy metal.
“Is there anything more I can do for you Your Highness? Good luck tonight.”
“Thanks Roland, I guess this is it.”
“As you say Your Highness,”and I watched him gather up my clothes, then he bowed leaving me alone, taking my dirty clothes with him. Which really weren’t that dirty, I could have gotten at least another weeks wear out of them. I walked back to my bed and looked at Duncan’s shield once more, then I picked it up. Continuing to stare at it. “I hope you don’t think less of me today. I’m not going to be a Grey Warden anymore and I hope if you can see me from the fade you understand. I’m sorry Duncan.” I wanted to wear the shield as a reminder to everyone and for Bell. I placed the shield on my back, picking up my gauntlets, I put them on. This is it. I left my room going to meet Eamon, and Teagan downstairs.
Fergus was putting the finishing touches on his heavy plate silverite armor, the chest piece emblazoned with the Highever blue insignia. Highever had two, the blue or the green. Father always wore the blue for ceremonies. I’d decided to continue the tradition. Our officers below me wear the green. Doing a last minute polish to remove his fingerprints when a light knock sounded on his door. “Come in.”
My sister walked into my room all decked out in Dalish green armor. Not the color she usually wore, but it looked great on her. He noticed it brought the green of her eyes out. Normally she wore a blue dyed leather and if she was working for Cailan she always wore black with the Theirin royal crest on the front.
“Well look at you, all spit shined up.” She walked all around me nodding in approval. “Very nice.”
“You don’t look bad yourself, where did you get Dalish armor? That stuff is hard to come by.”
She grinned at me. “I’ve friends in high places.”
“So I hear, think they can get me a suit. That would be great to wear in Highever?”
“I’ll make inquiries.”
“See that you do.”
“Here I have some things for you.” I reach over on my bureau and took a square dark blue velvet case and handed it to her. Fergus watched as she opened it. She looked up at me. “They are lovely Fergus.” She ran her finger over the Cousland signet ring and her brooch for the ball nestled inside a field of white velvet.
“Try the ring on, I want to make sure it fits.” I took the case from her hand and lifted out the ring handing it to her. She slide it on her ring finger on her right hand.
“How does it feel?”
It was snug, since my hands had gotten bigger from the joining. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t want to ruin this for Fergus.
“Just fine, perfect,” I said. I held out my hand for him to see.
“Like the Mabari in the center?”
“I do,” she said.
I handed her the case back.
“Wait turn around, you’ve a screw and pin lose.” I turned my back to her.
She tighten the screw, closing the section with the pin. “There all done.”
She took the case from my hand. “Father would be so proud of you today Fergus, you look like our grandfather.”
“Father always said I looked like him.”
“Well are you ready?”
“Just need my helmet.”
“Nice plume.” She gave me a cheeky grin. I rolled my eyes at her. She knew I hated plumes, they were so Orlesian.
“I’ll meet you downstairs. I need to put this case in my room. I’ll be right behind you.”
Fergus gave me a kiss on the cheek, “hurry, we’re running late.”
I walked back to my room in double-time dropping off the case and picking up my daggers. The Orlesian Wardens following behind me. I walked down the stairs of Cousland Court for the first time in nearly two years. I came down the stairs and walked down the corridor to the Great Hall. Everyone was inside. The best people I’ve ever known. I saw Thor and he ran over to me his tail going a mile a minute. I squatted down to pet him.
“Wow, you look nice and shiny too, who in the world cleaned you up?”
Thor’s coat was clean and had been brushed, with a new Kaddis applied. The white with the Highever Laurels on his sides and designs around his eyes and his hind legs. This Kaddis was used for cold spells.
Sten walked over. “Kadan.”
“You did this?” The massive Qunari warrior just nodded.
“Thank you Sten.”
He just nodded. Sten a man of few words. The rest of them gathered around us. Everyone looked great. “It’s time everyone,” called Fergus.
We followed him through the estate laughing and talking with each other, exchanging barbs here and there all in good fun. Finally we stepped outside and there before us were our troops, all in their finest, all five hundred of them. A far cry of the thousands we’d once commanded before Ostagar. The Knight Lieutenant called them to attention. Fergus and I walked out to face them with Molly and her large staff following. My friends and the Wardens went to stand off to the side of the training field. Molly waited with Fergus and me while her large staff went through the crowd passing out very tiny glasses of wine. The servants when they finished joined my friends. Molly served me and Fergus filling our silver goblets then she joined the others placing her tray on a nearby table that had been brought out for the occasion. Facing our troops, Fergus raised his goblet, saying. “Prince Alistair, may the Maker bless his knees,” and everyone laughed. Fergus finished the Cousland motto. “Honor, Justice, Duty” this was our family motto, Fergus then drained his goblet. The rest of us repeated the oath and cheered when we finished our wine.
While Molly and her servants collected the tiny small glasses, Fergus introduced me. I’d only spotted eight men that I recognized. The rest of them were new. “Knights of Highever, I have the pleasure of introducing my sister. Teyrna Bellavalia Cousland, Grey Warden, and defender of the fifth blight and Denerim. Maker Bless her.”
They all bowed to me in unison and I returned the warrior’s acknowledgement with my arms crossed over my chest and bowed to them. Then they cheered. Shouts of ‘thank you my lady’ echoed in the training field. I held my hands up for them to quiet down.
“I wish to thank all of you in agreeing to enter into service with the Cousland family and helping my brother rebuild the King’s troops of Highever. Maker watch over all of you in your duty.”
“Maker watch over you as well, was their reply.” I bowed to them once more and they did the same to me. I hurried over to my companions while Fergus gave them their last minute instructions.
“This is so exciting,” giggled Leliana. We’re all going to the Pearl once Alistair enters the Chantry, you’re coming with us.”
“I’m sorry Leliana, I can’t.”
“Bah, why not?” demanded Oghren. “You look fit as a fiddle to me.”
“Eamon asked me not to attend.”
“Did he now,” said Zevran, crossing his arms over his chest.
“What did he ask exactly?” demanded Oghren again.
“I wasn’t to join our troops to escort Alistair to the Chantry.”
“We’ll just see about that,” said Wynne.
“Please everyone, its fine and probably a good thing, this is for Alistair not me. It’s fine.”
Before any of them could reply. Fergus gave the order and I turned in time to see him do his about- face. Calling for our troops to march. The gates opened and they all marched through. All of us cheered them as they marched out of the gates of Cousland Court.
“Come on we’ve got to get to Redcliffe before Fergus does,” called Leliana. Before I knew it, Oghren grabbed me by the hand nearly jerking me off my feet trying to drag me behind him.
“Ye’re coming with us. We’re all getting drunk tonight.” I tried to pull away but his grip was to strong. “Eamon said you couldn’t be in the escort, he didn’t say you couldn’t join us.” I thought for a split-second. Oghren was right.
“You’re right he didn’t.”
“Ha, that’s the spirit. Come on commander, let’s all get drunk.”
I saw Kristoff and the Wardens running to follow us. We traveled the hidden alleys and tunnels we all knew about avoiding as much of the crowds as we possibly could, and just made it to the backside of Redcliffe where we saw Master Dolan waving us into the back of the Estate. “This way Commander, I’ve got a special viewing room all set up for you and your friends. Hurry. We didn’t know if you’d be here or not.” Running up the stairs we made it the room in the front, as Fergus and our troops marched in from the North gate. Marching to the entrance to Redcliffe where they finally halted at Parade rest. Our viewing window was just about them.
Eamon’s estate faced the Chantry, it wasn’t a very long walk. The route had been roped off and people were everywhere trying to get a look at their Prince. The Chantry bells range and the doors opened. The Grand Clerk came outside flanked by Templars. She was singing from the ‘Chant of Light,’ calling the Prince to his vigil. The crowds grew quiet so they could hear. The massive doors of Redcliffe opened and the crowd started cheering again. I noticed bowman step up on the roofs in Denerim livery.
“Maker please,” I prayed under my breath.
We couldn’t see Alistair or Fergus just yet. Highever troops split their columns into two rows, with the stamp of feet back to attention. Alistair, Fergus, and Arl Eamon came into view with about fifty Highever knights marching behind them.
“There they are,” giggled Leliana.
“Nice armor.” grunted Oghren.
Sten grunted that he agreed with Oghren.
“Nice gold color,” said Zevran.
I chuckled, “you thinking of stealing that armor Zev?”
Zevran shrugged his shoulders at me with a grin on his face, “I might,” he replied to me.
“Look he is carrying a Warden shield,” said Leliana.
Duncan’s shield I thought. Wynne and I looked at each other. He did this for you Bellavalia she seemed to say with her eyes. Thor barked his approval and we all laughed. All of us watched as Fergus escorted Alistair before the Grand Cleric. They came to the bottom of the Chantry steps. Alistair removed his helm and the crowds went wild and he turned raising his hand acknowledging the crowds. Alistair’s helm had a purple plume because he was royalty. He handed his helm to Arl Eamon, then he took his sword out and laid it across Fergus’ outstretched arms. Eamon and Fergus both bowed to him and stepped back. The Grand Cleric walked forward. She bowed to Alistair and him to her.
“Alistair Theirin, second son of King Maric, are you willing to do your penance and vigil to the Maker, before accepting the crown to lead Ferelden’s people? What say you Sire?”
Alistair knelt before the Grand Cleric.
“I come willingly to the house of the Maker to offer my confession, so that I may prepare to accept the crown, beginning my rule as Ferelden’s King with a clean conscious and a pure heart seeking The Maker’s guidance for myself and my people.” Alistair’s words had rung out loud and clear.
“Let it be, my son. Come enter the house of The Maker so you may prepare.”
Alistair came to his feet and followed the Grand Cleric inside. A hush had fallen over the crowds to hear them. The Templars parted allowing the Grand Cleric and Alistair to pass by, then they closed ranks and stood guard at the entrance of the Chantry with the doors remaining open. After a moment, the crowds cheered. It was done till the morning. Fergus and our troops would stand guard along with the Templars until Alistair left the Chantry in the morning and then march to the Landsmeet Hall for his crowning. All of us stood for a few moments in silence.
“Off to the Pearl, I’m for a drink and a pretty wench,” spoke Oghren.
“I think we’ve all earned a drink,” said Leliana.
“Yes we have, come on, last one there has to pay for the first round.”
“Hey, no fair now, I’ve shorter legs than the rest of you.”
“Not true Oghren, Thor has shorter legs than you do?”
“Does he have the coin if I beat him there?”
“I’m sure he does and if he doesn’t, I’m also sure he’ll pickpocket folks along the way until he does.” My companions laughed and Thor barked his reply that he would do just that.
We made a beeline for the Pearl thanking Master Dolan for the best view in Denerim. The streets were packed and the Pearl also. When we arrived Sanga saw us as we came inside, showing us to our private room, the biggest one in the Pearl. A few nobles were coming in behind us. The place was packed. My companions and I got started on drinking and we all settled to play cards with each other. We ate, and drank enjoying our last few nights with each other. Leliana and Zevran both vowing to learn how I always won at Wicked Grace. The rest of the wardens returned to Cousland Court.
Alistair knelt before the altar in front of the statue of Andraste within the Chantry. I’ve done this many times as a novice Templar, except back in those days I’d been in the pews, the back pew where he liked it best. His knees connected with the cold stone floors and he waited for the Grand Cleric to finish her traditional chant before the altar and offering up incense on my behalf. When she was finally done she came to stand before me. She looked down on me with genuine affection in her old eyes. She’s been here in this Chantry for as long as I can remember, she’d been the one that Eamon had left me with all those years ago. She’d been hard on me during my time here. Yet, without her, I wouldn’t be a good Templar and have the education that I have now. She’d seen I’d done my best. Placed me with the hardest training masters of the Templars and I’d been knocked on my ass during my training more times than I could count.
“I have a few confessions of my own Prince Theirin before we get started.”
“You’re Grace?” I asked her unsure where this was leading.
“There are a few things I need you to know Prince Theirin that I was never allowed to tell you before and I never expected to get this chance.”
I just nod at her and waited politely.
“Before you ever arrived with Arl Eamon back when you were 10 years old I had a special visitor and he would often come to the Chantry in the dead of night, he was a sad lonely man because his duties as a ruler were heavy on his heart at times. I also knew he wasn’t a very religious man, but he did his duty to the Chantry and to the Maker. I’m sure you can guess who this person was?”
“Yes, Prince Theirin, you’re father. He came here often to check on your progress and to get a look at you from time to time, in secret of course. I’ve often thought he had you sent here so he could see for himself and keep track of your progress. He would watch you during your training sessions with your instructors.”
“Yet he never acknowledged me as his son.”
“He had his reasons, even though I don’t know what they were, he never discussed this with me; but, I’ve always felt it was because of Orlais or who your mother was. I think you should know he was proud of you and checked on you more than you ever realized. I was never allowed to acknowledge you as his son, he told me never to do this. He also informed me you were to never take Holy Vows to become a full-fledged Holy Templar. I think he had other plans for you and your life.”
“Yes, I’m sure he was proud, since I was the best pot-scrubber in Denerim’s Chantry.”
The Grand Cleric chuckled, one of the few times Alistair had ever heard her do so.
“Is this why you fought Duncan over my conscription?”
“Yes, this was the reason, I knew you were King Maric’s son, and I don’t think he meant for you to become a Grey Warden either.”
“Yes, well to late now.”
She just nodded, “so it would seem. Yet, here we both are again, me preparing a Theirin for kingship before the Maker and you about to become that said king.”
A twinkled appeared in her reamy eyes.
“The reason I was so hard on you and disciplined you as often as I did was to make you into one of the best critical thinkers our Chantry has ever educated, and into a good Templar warrior – to prepare you for kingship encase your brother died. We both know this has now happened. I did all of this and was so hard on you because you’re father told me to be.”
“I’m not so sure Prince Theirin, you weren’t just the best pot scrubber – you were also the best student this Chantry has ever produced and I think with your Chantry education you’ll be one of the best Kings Ferelden has ever had. I lied to you on many occasions making you retake your tests, doing them over and over so you wouldn’t pass your finals – making you eligible for Holy Vows. I’m sorry and I hope one day you can forgive me, because you passed them on the first pass every time and without error.”
A small smile split Alistair lips. “I did that well?”
She nodded, “yes you did and I was so proud of you.”
“When Duncan conscripted you and your father was already declared dead I didn’t know what to do. I asked your brother, and he said, if you wanted to become a Grey Warden to allow this.”
“My brother came here?”
“Yes, after your father was declared dead, he also came here to check on your progress.”
“You may not have been acknowledged Prince Theirin; but, you were not forgotten by your family and I wish I had an answer for you on the reasons for your father’s actions. I knew this bothered you when grew up here and the ribbing you took from the other nobles in training here.”
“It hurt me my whole life and I’ve hated being King Maric’s bastard son all of these years, it was a hardship?”
“I’m sure it was Your Highness, and I hope you find it within your heart and during your confession to the Maker, you’ll forgive your father and your brother.”
“I forgave them, when I became a Grey Warden.”
She nodded and smiled at me. “Is there anything else you’d like to confess?”
“A few things…”
“Go on then.”
“Right after I saw my brother and Duncan die on the field at Ostagar, I wanted to die too.”
“Why, Prince Theirin? The Maker spared you for a reason and as you see now it was to become Ferelden’s King.”
“Guilt mainly, because they died, and I didn’t. Not being acknowledged and wanted all of these years….and in part because Cailan and Duncan were needed where I wasn’t. All I’ve ever yearned for Your Grace was to be an ordinary man.”
“Do you still feel this way?”
“I hope you don’t feel this way any longer, the Maker has chosen you’re role for the future.”
“Bellavalia Cousland made me king, not the Maker.”
“Yet, the Maker set her in your path Prince Theirin to get you here. I’m sure of it, and without her you’d likely not be alive today.”
“In moments of catastrophic upheaval we don’t always see or chose our rightful paths or understand the reasons for them. Many times they are not revealed to us until much later, why things are the way they are or why they turn out the way they do. All we can do is trust in the Maker.”
I just nod, not wishing to say more.
“What other confessions do you wish to make Prince Theirin?”
She waited for me to think and reply. “I lied to someone I love and hurt them.”
The Grand Cleric nodded. “Do you plan to make this right?”
“I can’t make it right and I’ve hurt someone I love.”
“Why not Prince Theirin.”
“Becoming king prevents this?”
“Why should becoming the monarch make it so?”
“Her duty is as important as mine is to Ferelden?”
“So this is a woman you have wronged?”
“Yes, you’re Grace, Bellavalia Cousland.”
The Grand Cleric knew, he was sure.
“You slept with the lady didn’t you Prince Theirin?”
“I….yes, yes I did.”
“She isn’t with child is she? If she is, you need to marry her with all due haste. This is not what the Chantry taught you young man,” she said sternly.
“No, it’s not that, well it is….partly.”
“She is with child then?”
“No, no she isn’t, she can’t have children not as a Grey Warden.”
“I don’t understand Prince Theirin.”
“I told her for the sake of the Wardens, they told me to lie to her and I did.”
“You still love her?”
“I do, the Wardens asked me to do this and I’m not sure I made the right decision.”
“You realize Prince Theirin you do have a duty to marry and produce heirs.”
“Yes, I realize this, I told her my duty as king must come first and her duty as a Warden.”
“Can you live with this Prince Theirin, marrying someone else, knowing you love another?”
“This is what you’ll pray about before the Maker?”
“Yes, I’m unsure if I’ve made the right decision.”
She nodded. “Hopefully, the Maker will reveal to you His desire, if not, then perhaps in time a way will open. Is there anything else Prince Theirin.”
“One other thing you’re Grace, I’m afraid to become King.”
She nodded in understanding. “I think most monarch’s feel this way, at least the ones who really feel and wish to do well for their people. You didn’t grow up as your father did during the time of the Orlesian occupation. It was a horrible time while Orlais ruled Ferelden. The Maker heard the pleas of the people and finally your father won our independence, it was the Maker’s will. Your father was afraid and really didn’t want to rule either, yet he did his duty and was a good King. Becoming the best that Ferelden has ever known, and at great loss and hardship to His personal life.”
“He didn’t want to rule?”
“No, he didn’t, yet he did his duty, he was an only child and our only true Prince of the Blood. He felt exactly as you do now.”
“I see, I’ll do my best Your Grace.”
“I know you will Prince Theirin. I think you’re more like your father than you really know.”
“Are you ready Prince Theirin for your prayers to begin?”
“Yes, you’re Reverence.”
“Very well, my son.”
“Once your vigil is over and when the dawn lights the sky, we’ll discuss any revelations you might have received and then I’ll give you my blessing or withhold my blessing for your crown. May the Maker guide you in your prayers and offer you wisdom.”
The Grand Cleric blessed me at the altar of Andraste. Alistair bowed his head and began with his own chants out of the “Chant of Light” as he’d been taught since he was a child. The long night had begun.