The dawn of the new day began over Denerim with streaks of purple and pink as fireball orange chased the remnants of the night away. The top of the sun peeked over the line of the horizon. Alistair had prayed the night through, he was tired and thirsty and above all else, he really needed to relieve the pressure on his knees. No revelations had come to him during his prayers to Andraste nor from the Maker. Not that he expected any. He shifted on his knees once again, the heavy plate digging into his flesh. The Grand Cleric was at the other end of the altar, also kneeling in prayer. She’d remained with me during the whole night offering up her own prayers to the Maker. The Chantry walls were lined with Templars and my royal guards, that also had kept vigil with us over the night. They also shifted with the soft clank of metal as armor moved, trying to relieve stiff sore muscles from standing so long. Alistair grinned, he wondered how many of them had fallen asleep on their feet. I’ve done that a time or time myself while on duty. A Templar wasn’t move a muscle on duty.
Alistair’s eyes stared up at the colored glass windows behind the stature of Andraste. The sun’s rays heightened the color of the glass and made the images shine with vibrant colors. He could hear the birds outside and the murmur of people as the crowds were still outside the Chantry. He knew most of them had remained, waiting to see if he keep his vigil all night long. Which he had. My father and brother had done the same thing before receiving their crowns.
The Grand Cleric came to stand before me. “Prince Theirin, do you need more time?” Alistair shook his head no, he was still kneeling on his knees before Andraste.
“Have you gained any insight into your role as the future King of Ferelden, and what have you learned or what do you wish to say to me?”
“I will always strive to rule my people with justice, Your Grace, being honest and fair. I also know I must not make rash decisions but only come to decisions with knowledge I must gather myself. Many will try to trick or take advantage of me because I’m King; I never grew up in the palace nor was I raised since my birth to be schooled to rule. They will try to use me for their own gain. I do know that my education at the Chantry will help me and I will always listen to my advisers but all decisions are mine in the end.”
“Even your decision regarding Bellavalia Cousland?”
“Yes, your Grace, even that decision. I agreed with the Wardens because she is too valuable to them and their centuries old traditions and the reason for our order. Until the last Arch Demon rises, and all the blights done and over with – The Wardens need people like Bellavalia Cousland. Therefore I had to let her go, even though my heart said something totally different.”
“This is your first sacrifice in your personal life for your people Prince Theirin, there will be many more during your life. The weight will be a heavy burden, are you willing to make these sacrifices on behalf of the people of Ferelden?”
“I’m aware Your Grace, and gladly accept on behalf of my royal line, the duty of my ancestors.”
The Grand Cleric stood for several moments in silence thinking on what he had said and looking down at him. “So be it my son.” Then the Grand Cleric blessed me and said a prayer over me for Andraste and the Maker to watch over me and guide me during my reign and bless me with issue.
“Arise Prince Theirin, go to receive your crown and may the Maker watch over you.”
Alistair rose on his shaking legs, his aching knees, the pain shot down through his legs as the blood flowed back into them. He was sure his knees were bruised with small cuts from the heavy plate.
He bowed to the Grand Cleric and she to him. It was over, I’ve received her blessing.
“You can refresh yourself in the Templar quarters Your Highness, food and wine have been brought to the Knight Commander’s quarters and the other armor you requested is there for you to change into along with your personal manservant Roland. He waits for you there to assist you. I’ll freshen up and meet you at the entrance for our departure to the Landsmeet Hall, you have one hour Prince Theirin.”
Alistair bowed to the Grand Cleric once more than followed the Knight Commander of Denerim’s Chantry to his private quarters. The man didn’t speak and the rest of his royal guard was behind him. They had also remained inside the Chantry during his long night. All of them where Templars after all. There were the best and most highly trained of Ferelden’s Templars.
Alistair hadn’t corrected the Grand Cleric, Roland was Eamon’s manservant. Eamon was in the process of hiring all new staff for the palace which would also include a new manservant for me. Eamon had felt too many of them still remained loyal to Loghain and Anora for them to remain employed. Many from Redcliffe and people from their other allies would soon be employed at the Palace on his behalf. They would be weeded out little by little with Zevran and Leliana making sure they didn’t pose a threat to my safety. They would return to their towns and villages with new people arriving to take their place.
They walked along the massive halls in the Denerim Chantry complex until they came to the Knight Commander’s private rooms and quarters. Alistair knew exactly where it was, he had been in here numerous times to get chewed out for one reason or another during his training as a Templar Hunter. The Commander opened the door bowing as Alistair passed him. The man had his helmet on so Alistair didn’t know if it was the same man who had been Commander during his time as a novice in training, not likely he thought.
Roland grinned at him as he came inside with the others following him. It was a fairly large room, they wouldn’t be cramped for space to badly. Roland pointed to the privacy screen and Alistair made a beeline to relieve himself. Maker that felt much better. The other Templars all took their turns behind the privacy screen and they too were much relieved. They didn’t remove any of their armor except for their helms and gauntlets. All of them were sweaty even though the inside of the Chantry was fairly cool, this still hadn’t prevented them working up a sweat with all the underpadding under the heavy plate.
All of the men gathered around the massive table at one end of the room, enjoying a hearty breakfast together swapping stories of their own time while training and living here. Alistair mused as he took a spoonful of the warm oatmeal seasoned with honey and butter that some things at the Chantry never changed. I’ve eaten this same breakfast for years while training here, day in and day out. He finished his meal with toasted bread with honey and mead to wash it all down. After today I’ll never have to eat oatmeal again. He hated oatmeal.
When it was time Roland helped him swapping out his good swords and shield. He’d still hung onto his old armor from Ostagar and his simple Warden issue sword. Bell had wanted to sell them for supplies but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to part with the bloody battered equipment. It seemed fitting to carry a simple sword and shield into the Landsmeet hall. Since his life changed course at Ostagar. He’d wear this to be crowned in a simple wooden kite shield with a new designed painted on it. The new shield representing that he was a survivor of Ostagar. Only those who had survived that battle would ever have the honor of wearing it.
His new staff at the palace would have their work cut out for them trying to get the records straight on any survivors so they could be entered into the archives of the palace and also at the Chantry. The records of the Wardens would be dealt with by Bell and her seneschal at the Vigil and a copy of those records sent to the archives at Weisshaupt. He wondered if his own name would be included within their records?
He was finally ready to meet up with the Grand Cleric and begin the march to the Landsmeet hall. I wonder where Bell is he thought.
Bell was standing on her balcony once more already dressed and ready. Watching the sun rise over the city and the chantry especially. Knowing Alistair and her brother were still at the Chantry. She was sure the rest of her companions would have splitting headaches this morning with Wynne right along with them. They’d all had a good time at the Pearl last night. No sooner had the thoughts entered her head when Leliana staggered through her door, shielding her eyes against the bright sun.
“Wynne sent me to see if you need healing magic this morning. She has a concoction all prepared for hangovers this morning. Oghren told her he’d not be drinking the vile stuff.”
I walked back into my room, “not for a hangover no, but my leg, yes.”
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, for the most part, it’s only slightly red this morning. Scabbed over, I think some elfroot will do and Wynne’s cool healing touch should put me to rights. I put on fresh salve this morning to the wounds on my chest and legs rubbing it all the way in. I didn’t want to wear bandages on it today. The salve will help against chafing.”
“You didn’t drink very much last night.”
“I still had a good time Lei.”
“Zevran is an excellent dancer, so light on his feet.”
“Sten also, which really surprised me.”
I laughed, “you’d never know he was drunk and walked back here in a straight line. Nor, have I ever seen anyone drink that much ale and still be able to walk. I think it was the first time I’ve ever seen anybody out drink Oghren.”
“I’m really surprised we even made it back here in one piece and all of us are not waking up in a gutter somewhere.”
“Thor really raked in the goods.”
“Aye he did, everyone giving him bits of meat for the Hero of Ferelden’s war dog.”
“I also think he pick-pocketed many, he was already burying his stash in his favorite hiding places this morning. That dog, I shook my head and laughed.”
“Are you going to be alright today?”
I nodded, “I’ll be fine Leliana.”
“Come on, let’s get everyone together we’ve got to leave, I want to be at the Landsmeet Hall and be able to see Alistair come in. He should be on his way there now.”
“Oui, the crowds are already gathering from what I could see out my window. Wynne and I watched them for a time this morning while she brewed up her hangover remedy.”
Leliana and I left my room and went downstairs. Everyone was already sitting at the dining room table in my family’s private dining room. Sten, Oghren, Zevran, and Shale who was standing telling Thor dirty jokes. It was impossible for Shale to sit at the table. Cousland Court didn’t have a stone chair big enough for her to sit in, actually I don’t think we had any. All of them were having their breakfast and had served themselves. Molly had provided us with a nice breakfast. Oatmeal, sausages, pancakes, eggs, toasted bread. I filled my plate with eggs, sausages, toasted bread dripping with butter. Molly served me with milk and hot tea with a jar of rich golden honey on the table. None of my companions seemed in shabby shape all sporting hangovers this morning.
Kristoff and the Wardens came inside and joined all of us. They reported no trouble during the night while all of us had been at the Pearl arriving back for a few hours sleep. They filled their plates and joined all of us.
“Oghren, really,” fussed Wynne.
“I told you I won’t drink that vile stuff.”
With that said, Oghren took a long pull from his homebrew and belched. “This is all I need, so stopped trying to order me about.”
Wynne just huffed.
“Do all of you have everything you need for the ball tonight?”
“Sten still refuses to wear court attire.”
Sten glanced up shook his head with an emphatic “NO.”
I smirked. “Go easy on him Leliana, he isn’t used to Orlesian nor Ferelden customs.”
“Aye, well if I had my way, I’d do the same said Oghren with a forkfuls of eggs on the way to his mouth.”
“Damn me, these are good.”
“Molly is a good cook, Oghren. “
“She makes a mean homebrew, not as dark as my family recipe but good enough.”
“After all the work I put into your attire you better Oghren.”
“Alright lass, just this once, I didn’t even do this in Orzammar,” he groused.
“I’m all set Mi Bella.”
I nodded. I guess everything was all set.
Wynne was wearing new mage robes, Leliana in her armor of carta blue. Zevran in the ancient armor of the Dalish that I’d found in the Brecilian Forest and a few pieces just outside of Lothering. Oghren in red armor from Orzammar, and Sten in the Juggernaut armor set I’d given to him. All of us were ready to go and once we finished eating we made our way to the Landsmeet Hall.
The market district was so crowded, with barely enough room to walk through. We took the alleys where we could to avoid the mass of people. Finally crossing over into the other side of the city from the docks, the walk had taken us around a half hour.
Banners snapped in the wind with their Mabari war hounds flying high on a yellow field with two dark red Mabari war dogs back to back in the centers at intervals outside the Landsmeet hall and just as many within it. Alistair’s throne sat on the dais with a Chantry altar in the front of it draped with a pristine white cloth which looked like damask and bordered with gold. A very large embossed copy of the “Chant of Light” was on a gold stand in the center with a purple pillow in front of the book which held Alistair’s crown. Numerous sized candles and a small clear crystal vial of oil was also placed next to the crown. The Grand Cleric would bless Alistair with the oil after accepting his oath to the people of Ferelden, then she would crown him.
I walked over to the altar and looked at his crown. Yes, it would do, the design perfect for him. A gold circlet, two inches in width, with one major point in the very front with the emblem within an oval of metalwork of the eternal flame of Andraste. It wouldn’t tower over Alistair’s forehead and would most likely sit just at his forehead and right above his ears on the sides. It was a plain design with the royal crest of the Theirin’s in the other points guarded by mabari war dogs on each side of each point. The mabari being made out of black onyx and I also realized toward the curves at the back of the crown two Grey Warden griffons one on each side. There were small marquise cut rubies within the crown nicely spaced along the base and these would go well with his amber-colored eyes. I smiled, so like him I thought. It represents everything that makes him who he is. I had also noticed that Anora’s throne had been removed from the dais.
“It’s so simple, yet beautiful,” said Leliana.
“Yes, it will look good on him.”
“This way Commander.”
It was a Denerim guard waiting to show us to the room where we were to wait. Which was through the double doors just to the right of the dais across the hall. All of us took a seat in the chairs in the room or on the sofas. Each of us leaving our weapons in the room. I could hear the crowds cheering. I knew the nobles were making their way into the Landsmeet Hall. The noise outside our door grew louder as the people gathered inside. After a time I got to my feet.
“Come on, I’m not going to sit in here and not see him.”
“Aye, I was wondering what you were waiting on.”
“Arl Eamon, can just go spit.”
“That’s the spirit lass. About time you got your backbone back.”
I led the way up to the balcony, when people saw us they made room and greeted us cheerful giving us room at the balcony. We were positioned just above the entrance of the Landsmeet hall. We’d all be above Alistair as he came in having a grand view of his long walk down the hall to the Grand Cleric. Many nobles giving a wide berth to Shale, the balcony had shaken when she walked onto it. Hopefully, it would hold her and all the rest of us.
The hall was full. It seemed to take forever for all of the nobles to enter. Finally, the trumpets sounded and the massive crowd grew quiet as the Grand Cleric led by Templars led her to the dais with nobels bowing as she passed. She came to the dais bowed to the book and turned to wait for Prince Theirin to enter. Arl Eamon was next with the honor guard from Redcliffe. He made his way to the dais and bowed to the Grand Cleric taking his place off to the side in one of the alcoves. My brother came next with his honor guard of Highever Knights. Once Fergus reached the dais he also bowed and took the opposite side against the wall in the alcove on the right. The only person viewable on the dais was the Grand Cleric as she stood waiting for Alistair.
The trumpets sounded again and the doors opened. There he was. The look on his face was humble. I was taken back in time – finding him arguing with a Circle Mage and his wise crack after the mage had walked away. I’d laughed, my first since the massacre at Highever. I hadn’t been able to help myself. He was so handsome. I’d loved his voice the first time I’d heard him speak, honest and open. His eyes and his red twinned cheeks from being sun and wind burned. Then his comment that he wasn’t a leech or anything when he mentioned I was a woman and soon-to-be a Grey Warden. He’d fumbled all over his words and was embarrassed by them. I’d found him charming right from the beginning.
I watched as Alistair made the long walk down the aisle. Everyone watching him as he passed. Not a sound could be heard. He finally came to the dais with Denermin guards bowing to him as he climbed the steps to face the Grand Cleric. He knelt on one knee before her and bowed his head. I was too far away at the other end of the hall to hear their words. The Grand Cleric accepted Alistair’s oath. She anointed him with oil, then placed his crown on his head. He rose, the Grand Clerk bowed to him and he bowed to her. Then he turned to face his subjects and guests. The crowd roared their approval greeting their new king, as he greeted them. I had a lump in my throat. Its done Cailan, I got him here.
“Come on, we have to get back the room.”
We’d all just made it back in time when the guard opened our door telling us it was time. We all stood up and walked out into the Landsmeet Hall with Alistair and Arl Eamon on the dais. There were only a handful of nobles left in the great hall. We filled in and stood before the new King of Ferelden with Arl Eamon at his side. He looked down at me smiling. He’d removed his crown.
Fergus had moved and was standing behind me to my left as I stood in front of Alistair in front of the steps leading up to the dais with our companions to my right. Alistair began his speech.
“My friends we are gathered to celebrate those responsible for our victory. For those who stood against the darkspawn siege of Denerim. There is one in particular who deserves accommodation. The one who led the final charge against the Arch Demon remains with us still, an inspiration to all she saved that day.” That was my cue. I walked up the steps of the dais and bowed to Alistair. He smiled and continued his speech. “Ladies and gentlemen may I formally present Grey Warden Commander of Ferelden, Bellavalia Cousland. The small crowd cheered us. Alistair waited for their cheers to die down.
“My friend. It is hard to imagine how you could have aided Ferelden more. I think it only appropriate that I return the favor, as a reward, I offer you a boon of your choice.” I was struck speechless. I had no idea he was going to do this. What do I ask for? What does he wish me to ask for?
I finally find my voice and went with the response I knew he’d prefer above all else. “I wish for the sacrifice of the Wardens to not be forgotten again.”
“Now that’s a very good point. I think we can begin with a monument here in Denerim dedicated to the Grey Wardens who have fallen. Duncan, Riordan…all of them, and it is high time some scholars were collected to learn more about the darkspawn. We’ll face them again with the dwarves as well as here.” Alistair turned to face those left in the hall.
“Let it also be known that the Arling of Amaranthine once the land of Arl Howe is now granted to the Grey Wardens where they can rebuild following the example of those who went before them. It is also hereby declared that Highever is fully restored to the Cousland Family and Fergus Cousland will accept his father’s title as Teyrn of Highever.” Alistair turned back to face me and with his new commanding voice he said. “Let it also be known Commander Cousland that you will also become the Teyrna of Gwaren as my personal gift to you.”
No, no, no, I thought. I don’t want this. He knew I didn’t want Loghain’s home. It was a command. I had no choice, I had to accept it. Damn you Alistair, damn you. All I really wanted was Highever returned to my brother which had been granted. I bowed to him to accept. “Your Majesty is most gracious.” His eyes twinkled. He knew I was mad. Alistair asked me “what are your plans?”
What I was planning was how to kick him in the shins and get away with doing it.
“I plan to go with my brother to Highever and help him until taking my command at Vigil’s Keep.”
“I’m relieved, you’ll be nearby.”
“Uh, there is a group of Ferelden citizens waiting outside to get a look at their hero. I suggest you make at least a brief appearance before they storm the gates,” he said with a chuckle, “just tell the guards when you are ready.” Alistair’s public speech came to an end and it was now just him and me on the dais. Those left in the hall making their way outside. My brother and companions stood around waiting for me.
We walked back toward his throne so we wouldn’t be overhead for our private conversation.
“So we made it. I’m impressed aren’t you? I was so scared I might lose you, but here you are, and here I am. Not bad, right? I bet this has something to do with that night, with Morrigan. Why you’re still here I mean I’m not that dumb.” Alistair what in the world? He doesn’t remember that night, how can that be? Why is he saying these things? I’d told him everything he needed to know that night.
“The rest of the Grey Wardens have sent questions, what should I tell them?”
Why is he asking me this? He knows we can’t tell them anything? What is going on here?
“You need to lie to them.”
“Right,” he said. “Yes, all you need is a maleficarum willing to have your demon baby. Who knew? No, I suppose I’ll just keep that to myself. I can shrug and look stupid – it’s a talent.” He’ll never get over what happened or what I asked him to do. He is never going to forgive me.
“Speaking of Morrigan do you know where she went? I’m told she vanished right after the battle no goodbyes or anything.”
“I don’t care where she went?”
“I don’t believe you Bellavalia. Morrigan is carrying my child and I don’t think you’ll let that slide; I don’t want to let it slide, she left with my child in her belly which might possibly be a demon. There it is was, how he really felt, his child that he would never see and he would not stop until he tracked her down. Morrigan might kill him if he tried it. He was a Templar and he had ways of tracking her that I didn’t have. I’m also carrying your child I wanted to shout; but, I couldn’t do it. Tell him my concise urged me.
“Why would I do that when I gave her my word not to follow her, she doesn’t want to be found, and you gave her your word, you also agreed.”
He sidestepped my question.
“Well I guess I’ll let you get to your adoring public, I’ll see you this evening.”
My adoring public? Not bloody likely. Once I left Denerim I’d become a speck in the annals of history and nothing more to these people. Doesn’t he understand this? I can’t go back to being who I’d been born to be – Teyrna of Highever. I was angry, instead becoming Teyrna of Gwaren replacing Loghain. Alistair got a whole new life out of the deal and I’d lost the most important aspects out of mine. I couldn’t go back.
I was dismissed. I couldn’t stand there any longer trying to force his answer, like in the past. I’d be dragged off the dais and put in chains if I tried it. He was the ‘King’ now. It was his say, not mine any longer. I bowed and left the dais walking straight toward my brother. If I had my way I wouldn’t be at the ball. This was so hard, his tone in front of the others was one of a dear and honored friend, and in private, his anger directed toward me. How could he not remember that night with Morrigan and the purpose of it all? It has to be a spell and one of Morrigan’s making, but Alistair’s Templar abilities wouldn’t let it fully succeed. Some of the things that he’d said didn’t make sense. Unless there had been Templars or Wardens outside Kristoff’s group listening that might be standing behind the banners that I’d not noticed. If so, Alistair and I just discussed what really happened on why I was still alive. Maker, please don’t let it be true. I couldn’t go behind those banners to check behind his throne.
Fergus smiled as I approached. “Well little sister, the King rewarded you very nicely.”
“I don’t want it Fergus.”
“It makes sense Tink.”
“I’ll rule in the north and you in the south. Allies of the King firmly in place of any rebellions.”
“That won’t stop them and the bannorn smack in the middle of us.”
“It will make them pause with you as their overlord, you’ll hold their lives in your hands.”
“Just my name Fergus, I won’t be there, I’ll be at Vigil Keep.”
“I think you’re name and reputation will be enough.”
“Thank you for your confidence but I doubt it will be enough. I’ll have my hands full rebuilding the Wardens and bringing Amaranthine to heel.”
“Those in Gwaren will also watch and keep track of what you do in Amaranthine then decide yay or nay for rebellion. The majority of them did love Cailan and Alistair is his brother.”
“Anora was their Queen, and rightful ruler of Gwaren, they aren’t going to like what will happen.”
“They will give Alistair time to see if he is like Cailan, and if he is, then it won’t matter.”
“I hope you’re right Fergus.”
“I am, you’ll see.”
“We’ll I’m off for Cousland Estate and a good nap before tonight. You coming?”
“I wish I could Fergus, I’ve been ordered to appear before my adoring public out on the balcony.”
Fergus laughed, “better you than me.”
I rolled my eyes at him.
“Want me to leave some Highever Knights with you?”
“No, I’ll be alright, our other war heroes will see me home safe and sound.”
“Alright Tink, I’ll see you later than.”
I’ll talk with my companions tonight at the ball, this would help me avoid as many nobles as possible. I’d give my fealty to King Alistair, dance one with dance with him at the ball and with luck slip away back to Cousland Court and the safety of my room.
I walked to the balcony entrance of the Landsmeet Hall. The one Alistair had come in. “My lady are you ready? The crowds outside are getting restless.”
“Restless? What am I supposed to do?”
Nobody had warned me I had to do this. This had been another reason to keep me hidden out of the public’s view these last few weeks.
“Just put in an appearance, so I understand it. The people just want to see their hero in person. I’m supposed to take you to your escort…full brigade, their armor all shined up and everything. They’re really honored let me tell you.
“Let’s go then.”
Alistair watched her leave the Landsmeet Hall. Walking out of his life just like she had walked into it turning his world upside down.