Part 2: What Came After

Alistair strode swiftly through Fort Drakon, and those men who had taken up stations on the lower levels were quick to get out of the way of their new king.  They knew why he was here, why he strode with such purpose towards the higher levels.

Ages ago, in the time of the Tevinter Imperium, mages built this tower fortress on top of a mountain as a symbol of their power and might.  The city of Denerrim grew up around it, and it was used as a Tevinter outpost until the fall of the Imperium.  Since then the fort had seen various usages as garrison, dungeon, and palace, depending on the tastes on the current leader of the loud, sprawling city.

Late every morning Alistair left his quarters on the top floor of the fortress, and early every evening he returned to her, watching over her as she slept, waiting for her to wake; Lurianna, the Hero of Fereldan.

After the battle with the Archdemon, Alistair had commandeered the top two floors for himself, Lurianna, and the rest of their companions, although with Wynne and Leliana dividing their time between the Chantry and the Arl Eamon’s estate, they only needed the one floor.

Lurianna was in the first room at the bottom of the stairs leading to the top of Fort Drakon, where the final battle was fought.  When bringing her broken body down, they thought only to get her settled somewhere quickly and that was the first room they saw.  The others had taken quarters around her, and her room became the lynchpin that kept them together those first few days despite their various duties putting the shattered pieces of Denerrim back together.

The second floor was empty, on Alistair’s orders.  Although he had not had his coronation ceremony yet, he has still taken on the duties of an active king.  And with being so new to the throne he feared retaliatory attempts on his beloved’s life while she slept.  At least this way if something happened, anyone spotted entering that floor who was not a companion would be suspect.  That was why he did not leave her those first few heart wrenching days.  He ignored the duties that clamored for his attention, opting instead to sit by her bedside, hold her hand, watch the slow, even rise and fall of her chest.  And pray to the Maker every second for her to open her bright, beautiful green eyes, look at him, and smile.

It was also why he had asked Zevran to care for her when he wasn’t there.  Alistair didn’t like the elf much.  He had seen the way Zevran looked at Lurianna, and didn’t trust him with her one bit.  But he did trust the man to keep her safe.  Who better than an assassin to protect her from assassins?

Alistair stopped and braced himself against a wall as he remembered Lurianna lying so pale and still in that bed.  Her bright red hair, kept so neat and clean even on the road and always pulled up into a tidy tail at the back of her head that nevertheless managed to let a few wisps of hair escape, was dark and matted with the blood and gore of battle.  Her skin, once so fair and darkened to a dusky olive tone by their days traveling Fereldan, was pale as porcelain from blood loss, making the slender tattoos curling over her right eye and left cheekbone stand out even more.  As tall as he was, as slender as an elf and stronger in will than the most stubborn dwarf, she seemed so small and frail, lying in that bed.  He was so sure she would die.

Scrubbing his face with his hand as if he could wipe away the very memories themselves, he straightened himself and moved on.  He was near his rooms now.  He would drop everything there and go to her again, hoping something had changed.

The first week she was unconscious, all they had was hope.  The third week they worried, but still had faith that she would wake up, and soon.  In the fourth week those hopes slowly started to drain away, bit by bit, day by day.  And now here they were, six weeks since that fateful day and the hope was draining away faster than ever.  Even he was starting to think she may never wake up.

But a small part of him still believed every night when he came to her, that this would be different.  This time, she would wake when he opened that door, and reach for him with that warm, brilliant smile of hers.

Reaching her room at last, Alistair placed one hand on the handle and took a deep breath to brace himself.  This was always the hardest part, this moment before not knowing, the inevitable hope as he pushed down on the handle, and the crushing disappointment when the door swung open and he saw that nothing changed.

Opening the door this time, Alistair stepped into the room and froze at what he saw.

Zevran was sitting on the bed beside Lurianna, and he had lifted her so she was leaning into him with her head cradled on his shoulder with their arms wrapped around each other.  She was naked except for the bandages around her chest and the sheet that he saw was barely covering her modesty.  He felt cold and hot all at once and something inside him, something primal, wanted him to roar out in anger and denial.

But Alistair was not a man who often gave into what little temper he had and he tamped it down now.

“Well.  Isn’t this a lovely surprise?” he drawled instead.  Lurianna’s head shot up from Zevran’s shoulder at the sound of his voice, and her emerald green eyes grew wide in surprise.

“Alistair!” she cried out happily, one arm reaching for him as a smile lit up her face.  Alistair felt the rage drain away at that, although he wanted to by angry with what he saw.  He wanted to charge in, rip Zevran away from Lurianna and throw him out of the room, but he didn’t.

He was the one she was looking at.  He was the one she cried out for.  He was the one who made her face light up with the joy he saw on it now.  And despite the fact that she still had one arm wrapped carelessly around the elf’s shoulder, he was the one she reached for.  And how could he stay angry when he was so relieved that she was awake at last?

“Alistair!  So good of you to see you my friend, I was just about to come and let you know the good news,” Zevran said as he lowered Lurianna down and stood up from the bed, turning to the Grey Warden-turned-king with a smile.

“Were you now?” Alistair asked sarcastically as he made his way over to Lurianna’s side, drawing the sheet up over her breasts and glaring at the elf as he did so.

“Yes!  Of course!  Well, after I got Wynne first, as we agreed,” Zevran prattled on merrily as he picked up the tray again and moved towards the door.  Pausing to look back at Lurianna on the bed, he caught Alistair’s eye and assassin and king stared daggers at each other from across the room for a few moments before a tired voice sighed and interrupted them.

“Are we really going to do this here?” Lurianna asked wearily.  “I’m tired and not in the mood to deal with all this male territorial dominance right now.”  She knew it had always been like this between them, each vying for her affection, but Maker’s breathe, couldn’t they do it somewhere else this time?

Alistair broke eye contact first and had the grace to look abashed.  “You’re right love, I’m sorry,” he said as he sat down beside her and gently took her hand in his.  Lurianna looked pointedly over at Zevran standing nonchalantly by the door, until he sighed and inclined his head in apology.  Lurianna nodded back.

“Thank you both,” she said as Zevran turned to leave.  “Oh, and Zevran?   Could you take Kiché with you when you go?   He needs to get some exercise and being put to work would be the best thing for that.”

Kiché’s head shot up from where he had been lying at the foot of the bed and he gave an indignant huff, licking his jowls at her.  “Now none of that mister,” Lurianna chided.  “You have been lazing about here with me, and now that I’m up if not exactly about, you can start doing your fair share to help this city.”  Kiché lowered his ears and whined pitifully.  All in the room couldn’t help but laugh.

“Ah, come along now my furry friend,” Zevran chuckled as he opened the door for the pair of them. “You like digging yes?  Let us see if we can find you some holes to make.  Maybe you’ll uncover a nice bone or two while you’re at it.”  Kiché barked happily at that and led the way out of the room, tail wagging.  Zevran nodded to the couple and closed the door behind him as he followed the hound.

Lurianna and Alistair barely paid heed to his passing, their attention focused instead on each other.  She studied Alistair, taking in the familiar lines of his strong, handsome face.  His blue eyes, already so bright, were brighter still now that they saw her awake, and his fair blonde hair had a slightly shaggy look to it, as if he hadn’t been able to properly tend it for several days.  And his cheeks and jaw were shadowed with the first hints of a growing beard.

“Blessed Andraste,” Alistair breathed as he took in the welcome sight of Lurianna awake and well before him.  “I was beginning to worry you’d never wake up.  How do you feel?”

Despite having been asleep for months, she looked little different than when he last saw her passing through the gates of Denerrim with Wynne, Zevran and Oghren, heading to the fortress to take on the Archdemon.  There were dark smudges under her eyes, and her skin was still paler than normal from lack of sunlight, but aside from that she looked well enough.

She left him behind at the gate with the rest of the army, saying that Fereldan could not afford the risk of losing its king so soon after finding him.

You need to stay here love, her words from that day echoed in his head.  It will bolster the strength of the army, seeing their king fighting beside them and we cannot risk the throne falling back into Anora’s hands so soon after we freed it from her.

As much as it had galled him to be left behind and as worried as he was for her, fighting without him, he had to concede her point.  They had not come this far only to have it all lost by a stray arrow or lucky blow from a Darkspawn blade.

So he stayed with the main force, clearing the city of the invading Darkspawn, doing his best to keep his mind off of Lurianna and what she might be facing, when there was a great roar from the tower and a great pillar of light, followed swiftly by a blinding flash.  Defenders and invaders alike were stunned by the display and once they had regained their wits, Alistair had left orders to carry on the fighting while he gathered the rest of the companions and headed to the fortress.  He, if no one else, knew what those signs meant.  The Archdemon was dead.  They had won.  The only question at the time that had spurned him on was what had befallen Lurianna and the others.

Lurianna saw him studying her, and smiled.  “I’m fine love,” she said, squeezing his hand reassuringly.  “I’m in pain no matter what I do, and all I want is to sleep, but that will pass in time.”

“Wait, Wynne said she had done everything she could for you.  You were healed, aside from that gash on your chest.  Why do you hurt so much?” Alistair asked frowning.

She sighed.  “Alistair, I’ve been practically torn apart and sewn back together then lay unconscious for months.  I may be healed, but my muscles haven’t moved for so long, it hurts when they do anything! That’s all.  I doubt Wynne could do much more than give me a few potions now.”

“So Zevran told you what’s been happening since you fell?”

“Mostly,” Lurianna admitted, and went on to recount what had happened since she woke to when he came into the room, omitting the kiss.  She would tell him, she just did not have the strength to deal with the consequences right now.  “That’s why Zevran was so…hands on…with me.  I can’t really move much on my own right now, I need a lot of help my love.  Or is it ‘my king’ now?” she asked with a mischievous smile.

“No, not yet,” Alistair said with a chuckle.  “I’ve taken on active duty, but haven’t been officially crowned yet.  Eamon thought it was best that we wait for you to wake up, that it was better for the people to see their Hero at the coronation, and…you know…the wedding…” his voice trailed off as he blushed furiously.

Now it was Lurianna’s turn to frown.  “Hero?” she echoed.

“Yes, that’s what everyone’s been calling you, and I was planning on giving it as an official title at the coronation,” Alistair explained.  “And besides, isn’t it true? You did just save Fereldan from a Blight, and killed an Archdemon practically single handily.  Wouldn’t that qualify to make you a hero?”  Lurianna waved the notion away weakly, noticing that it hurt a little less this time than it did before.

“I did what I felt was right, nothing more,” she said dismissively.  “I won’t said I didn’t do some amazing things, but what kind of person would I be if I sat back to watch it all?”

“You wouldn’t be the woman I fell in love with,” he said simply.  “By the way, you’re still okay with all this right?  Me being king, us getting married, I wouldn’t want to make you do something you don’t want to.”

Lurianna started to answer but stifled a yawn instead.  The excitement of seeing Alistair was wearing off and her weariness was returning full force.  Her eyes heavy and half closed, she somehow found the strength to answer him through the fatigue that was clawing at her.  “Yes Alistair, I’m sure,” she said wearily.  “A couple knocks to the head and lying supine for months isn’t going to change my mind.  I remember what you told me, about it being difficult for Wardens to have children, but we’ll find a way to make everything work.”

“I love you Alistair,” she said, looking him straight in the eyes.  “And for me, that’s all I need.”

Alistair couldn’t speak for a moment after hearing such a simple declaration from her.  All he could do was squeeze her hand in return and smile some more, and marvel at how lucky he was to have such an amazing woman by his side, and how lucky Fereldan would be to have this Grey Warden hero as their queen.

“Well, I err…uh…” Alistair found himself tongue tied.  Coughing to clear his throat, he tried again.  “I think it best if I let you rest now,” he said.  He hadn’t missed the signs of growing weariness in her face, and he wanted her to get whatever she needed to heal as fast as she could.

Leaning forward and placing a kiss on her forehead, he made to stand up but found himself held fast by a surprisingly strong grip.  Looking down in surprise, he saw Lurianna’s hand clamped down on his own.

“Please don’t go,” she asked when he met her eyes.  “Stay with me?”

“Lurianna, I don’t think you’re in any shape to…” Alistair trailed off with a smile in his voice.

“Not that and you know it!” she exclaimed, blushing.  She dropped her gaze and her hand, letting it fall back to the bed.  “I just don’t want to be alone.” Alistair crooked one finder under her jaw and lifted her chin to look at him.

“Now how can I say no to that?” he asked.  Lurianna smiled, and watched him as he walked around to the other side of the bed, peeling off his tunic and breeches as he did so.  She admired the play of hardened muscle beneath the smooth skin on his hard frame.  Muscles developed in Templar training, and honed battling Darkspawn, abominations, and demons.

She thought back through all their trials, tribulations, and battles, to the first time she met him at Ostagar almost a year ago, when he was a new Grey Warden recruit.  He was giving some agent of the Chantry a hard time, and she became endeared to him right away.  He was handsome, funny, and boyishly charming.  And as they traveled together, she saw that he was also brave, honest, loyal, and like her, willing to do what he thought was right.

Lurianna wasn’t sure how it happened.  But along the road, through their conversations, and the small, meaningful gifts they would give each other, they had fallen in love.  And Lurianna had decided long ago that she would not let him go.  She had already lost her family; she refused to lose him as well.

So when the lords of Fereldan asked her to choose a new ruler for the kingdom, King Cailan’s widow Anora, daughter of the traitor Loghain and just as ambitious and power hungry as her father or Alistair, she chose swiftly.

Alistair will be king and I shall rule beside him.  She remembered her voice echoing out with such strength and conviction over the assembled lords and ladies of the Landsmeet, and she never regretted her choice.  Alistair had not been raised to be king, but he was the son of king Maric, half brother to King Cailan, and he had many qualities that would make him a good ruler.  And with her being the last surviving daughter of a noble house, she gave him that tie to the nobility that he needed to help cement his claim to the throne.

Lurianna came back to herself as Alistair drew back the covers on the bed and slid beneath them, naked except for his small clothes.  Lying next to her, he slid his arm under her shoulders and gently rolled her onto her side so she could curl into him.  Nuzzling into the crook of his neck, Lurianna slid one arm across his chest, and wrapped her leg around his, effectively pinning him to the bed.

“Goodnight, love,” she mumbled into his neck, sighing in contentment as she closed her eyes and let her body relax.  Alistair kissed the top of her head, holding her close with one arm around her shoulders, holding her hand in his.

“Sleep well my dear,” he whispered, but her body had already fallen into that boneless state that indicates deep sleep.

Rest was more elusive for Alistair.  Instead he watched the play of light of the setting sun across the room, content to hold the woman he loved in his arms and let his mind wander, free of any real worry for the first time in months.

A few hours later, before the sun had fully set, he heard voices out in the hallway outside the room.  Alistair watched the door, bracing himself.  He knew it was most likely one or more of the companions returning to their own rooms for the night, but it was also not uncommon for them to drop in to check on Lurianna before they retired.  And he could only assume that word had spread by now that she was awake.  His concern now was that no one coming in to visit would wake her.

Alistair saw the handle on the door press down as it swung inward, and a familiar, matronly face peered around the door.

“Oh my,” Wynne said softly when she saw Alistair in bed with a sleeping Lurianna. “Are you sure you two should be so…vigorous with her just woken up?” Wynne smiled as she walked into the room.  Zevran followed bearing another tray with two mugs, a bowl and some fruit, and Kiché bounded in behind them both, circling round to Alistair’s side as Wynne bent over Lurianna.

“She just didn’t want to be alone,” Alistair explained in a whisper.  His free hand dropped down to stroke Kiché’s head when the hound sat beside him on the floor, one paw placed questioningly on the bedspread.  Wynne made a non-committal sound as she reached to gently turn Lurianna on her back.

Wynne was a mage of the Fereldan Circle of Magi.  Alistair and Lurianna had made her acquaintance when travelling to the Circle Tower to ask for help, and had found the circle in ruins.  One of the senior mages had gone mad, calling for others to break free of the yoke of the Templars, knights of the Chantry trained to fight mages and stationed in every mage tower everywhere to keep constant watch on those living and working magic from within.

The Chantry said it was to keep mages from taking over the world again, like in the days of the Tevinter Imperium.  But many mages simply saw it as a way to keep them imprisoned for most of their lives.  And while for the most part those mages living –some would say imprisoned –in the tower lived and worked alongside the Templars peacefully enough.  But there were some who balked at the ‘oppression’ of mages, and the fact that once a child is seen to have magical talent they are ripped from their families and thrown into the circle, never to live a fully ‘normal’ life again.  And sometimes they chose less than ideal methods to express their displeasure at the status quo and pressed for change in destructive ways.

Wynne had spent most of her life in the Circle of Magi, and when the senior mage Uldred went mad, unleashing blood mages and abominations on the tower, she gathered the younger apprentices on the lowest level of the tower and did what she could to protect them from the terrors roaming the halls of the higher levels.  At the beginning of the crisis the Templars had closed the doors leading into the tower, sealing in those few mages who remained.  They were waiting for Chantry reinforcements to invoke the Right of Annulment when Lurianna and Alistair appeared.  The Right of Annulment would have granted the Templars leave to slaughter any mage they found, on the bases that they ‘could’ be an abomination or a blood mage.

Lurianna managed to convince the templar commander to let her and her party through the doors, determined to cleanse the tower and save what mages they could to join her army.  Wynne and the apprentice survivors were the first ones she met entering the tower.  Wynne offered what help she could to help Lurianna save the circle and once the tower was cleared, she stayed by their sides afterwards.

An accomplished healer and teacher, Wynne was in the twilight of her life.  She constantly referred to herself as an old woman but many looking at her would see she had quite a few years left in her yet.  Her eyes, though lined with age, nonetheless glowed with an inner youthful light.  She had a kind face which was softened by her pale white hair and was always ready with a word or two of wisdom for a pair of young Grey Wardens, often unsure of themselves and the path they walked.

“We’ve told the others that she’s woken up,” Wynne explained as she pulled back the covers that Alistair had drawn up over Lurianna.  Her fingers swept swiftly and surely over Lurianna’s ribcage, seeking any change in form or temperature that could signal underlying troubles.“I’ve also taken the liberty of telling them that they’re to leave her alone tonight, so the two of you shouldn’t be disturbed once we leave.  There will be plenty of time to coo over her recovery in the morning.”

“Yes, and our lovely indomitable healer has pressed me once again into indentured servitude, bringing more food and drink for our fallen leader,” Zevran lamented, indicating the tray he had set on the desk.  “Tsk.  Who would have known that such a beautiful face would hide such a harsh taskmaster?”

Wynne sighed at Zevran’s antics.  “You should know very well by now Zevran, if you come to me I will put you to work.”  She nodded at the door.  “But I think it best you leave for the moment, I need to remove her bandages.”

“Ah!  And so I go again, to keep watch over our leader and her king in their sleep.”  And with a wink and a flourish, Zevran bowed and left the room, closing the door behind him.

“Alistair, can you help me with these bandages?” Wynne asked when he was gone as she began unwrapping Lurianna.  Alistair complied, and together the two of them carefully made short work of the now-soiled wrappings, trying not to wake her.

“Ah good,” Wynne breathed as she saw the wound on Lurianna’s chest.  Still the deep red of healing flesh, the wound no longer looked raw or angry, and neither did it weep pus or fluid of any kind.  “We can leave the bandages off now.  All that’s left is for the red to fade to silver.  Tell me Alistair, did she say anything about how she was feeling before she slept again?”

“She said she was feeling tired, and that her whole body ached,” Alistair reported, pulling her back into his arms and drawing the sheet over her again, covering her bare breasts. “She said she felt so weak she couldn’t do much of anything under her own power.  And when I suggested we get you, she said there probably wasn’t much to be done except to get her up and moving.”

Wynne nodded absentmindedly as she rolled the old bandages up.  She would take them with her to be boiled and reused for those few who still needed her ministrations at the Chantry.  “I’m afraid she’s right about that.  Nothing more can be done for her except to make sure she gets plenty of food, exercise, and rest.  Her body will regain its strength soon enough.”  She smiled reassuringly at the young king.

“Should she be sleeping like this, so soon after waking?”

“She wasn’t asleep before Alistair,” Wynne explained.  “I told you I thought she suffered some damage to her spirit when she killed the Archdemon, and that’s what kept her from waking.  Whatever has happened these past months, her spirit is healed now, and it’s her body that needs the rest.”  She stood up from the bed and reached into one of the many pouched hanging on the belt that cinched the mage’s robe she wore closed around her waist.  Pulling out several vials of red, glowing liquid, she placed them on the desk next to the tray.

“When she wakes, tell her she can eat, drink, and move around as much as she likes so long as she doesn’t push or overexert herself,” Wynne instructed as she made ready to leave the exhausted couple to their rest.  “The harder she pushes herself, the longer it will take her to heal properly.”

Alistair nodded as Wynne opened the door to leave.  She looked back on the couple lying in each other’s arms in the bed.  Alistair had his arms wrapped around her again and had closed his eyes, seeking rest to rejuvenate himself for what promised to be a busy day the following dawn.  Kiché had circled round to his mistress’ side, and though he was lying down and his eyes were closed, his ears were perked for the slightest noise indicating danger to his beloved master.

And even in sleep, Lurianna looked happy to be reunited with her love, and through the new lines of age that pain had etched on her young face, Wynne sensed a calm in the young woman that had not been there before and looked forward to speaking with her about it in the coming days.

“Sleep well, your Highnesses,” Wynne whispered with a smile as she left them alone and gently closed the door behind her.

Part 4: Battle on the Tower