Author: Uilleand PM
My first non-smut! DA:O fic! Written for the Livejournal DA:O ficathon. My request was "Female Warden/Alistair - any origin. Going back to the Warden's home/people in the course of their travels, Alistair learns to see the Warden in a new light."Rated: Fiction K - English - Drama/Angst - Alistair & Surana - Words: 2,183 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 5 - Published: 03-28-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5850003
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
She probably thought she was getting away with it. But she hadn't accounted for the rattle and creak of the drake scale armour, which allowed for much less stealth than the soft robes she was used to.
She hadn't accounted for the unrelenting eyes of the king of Ferelden.
Even in midst of the organized chaos of an army on the move, Alistair's gaze was zeroed in on Brianne Surana's escape. He saw her intention long before Zevran's warning tap, meant to alert him to the mage's small figure fading into the red dust kicked up by thousands of booted feet on the West Road to Denerim.
They hadn't spoken more than a dozen words since the Landsmeet, and half of those had been during their oh-so-cheerful chat with Riordan in Redcliff. There was still at least a day's hard march before the amassed armies of Ferelden would reach the capital – Maker grant that they arrive in time to save the city from the Darkspawn. Alistair shifted in the saddle, but Arl Eamon caught his eye.
"Alistair…" The Arl managed to keep his tone both low and commanding, despite the clash and noise around them. "This is not the time to be running after some elf like a lovesick squire."
The king flushed, but didn't meet the Arl's gaze for fear of losing sight of the retreating mage. "We can't just let her go, Eamon. We already lost one mage when Morrigan disappeared. We need her. Bree's a Warden."
"So are you. And you are King!"
Arl Eamon moved to grab the reins of Alistair's horse, but a sudden motion beneath his mount's hooves startled the animal and it danced sideways. Alistair grinned at the darting shape of a Mabari hound, and moved his own horse into the gap the dog created. The king spurred his mount forward without disturbing the orderly lines of militia.
"You're right, Eamon. I am king, and some responsibilities are for my shoulders alone."
A quick glance over his shoulder assured Alistair that Paso, Bree's gigantic hound, was close on his heels, and Sten and Oghren were keeping any well-meaning bodyguards from following. He leaned low over the horse's neck and disappeared into the thick, red dust.
He feared he'd lost her, but he spied Paso darting ahead along the banks of the Drakon River and followed from a distance. Even after the Mabari disappeared into the bushes, Alistair wasn't worried.
"Bless her heart, she's no ranger," he sighed, and marked her trail even from the back of his warhorse.
He could have caught up to Bree and Paso in moments, but instead he dismounted and followed on foot, leading his mount. Keeping a good distance between them, he echoed her unerring path as she looped back to the river and north, ahead of the advancing army.
After the Drakon forked, Bree found a narrow spot to cross. He expected her to angle east to the last place they'd seen the Dalish camp, but she hooked south again, toward the land nestled at the junction where the two smaller tributaries emptied into the Drakon River. There, a small cluster of stone houses lurked in shadows of their own making.
It was empty, like all of the other settlements they'd passed on their way from Redcliff, evacuated ahead of the Darkspawn hordes. But as Alistair neared, he realized these homes had been empty for much longer. Solid-looking walls had late-summer flowers peeking from the crumbling mortar, and somehow the stillness went deeper here, despite the rush of water on both sides. Across the river to the east, the Brecilian Forest waited with a sense of looming anticipation.
Alistair dropped his reins, leaving his horse to munch contentedly on the long grass. He tried to soften his steps in his cumbersome armour, but he needn't have bothered. Bree was waiting for him, crimson hair catching the late afternoon sunlight in a fiery dance. She sat cross-legged, her back to a stone well that had mostly crumbled in on itself, her sword across her knees and Paso resting beside her.
She smiled up at him. It was a sad, creaky excuse for a smile, he thought, but he'd take it.
"He let me know you were coming," she said, nodding toward the huge Mabari. "The king should be at the front of his army, Alistair, not traipsing over the countryside with an elf. You shouldn't be here."
"Don't even start on that with me. Eamon's bad enough." Alistair closed his eyes at his own petulant tone. "Besides, where is here, exactly? Where are we?"
"I don't know the name of it. My parents called it Dar'sin, I think. It's hard to remember."
Alistair straightened and took another look around the tiny village, taking in the remains of the smithy, scattered wooden slats beside the river that may have once been sheds for drying fish, a village square complete with a communal bonfire pit for celebrating the harvest, or Yule, or the first day of spring.
"I…I never thought about where you came from," he admitted softly. "Which is mad, because it's not like you were born at the tower." Alistair scuffed his toe over a small, grass-covered mound, stepping back when it collapsed under his foot. "Is…is this where you're from? Where are your people?"
Bree stood easily, smoothly, even in the unfamiliar weight of her armour.
"I'm a mage, Alistair. I don't have any people." She sheathed her sword with a dull thunk. "And if I did have people, it sure as sodding wouldn't have been this lot."
"I don't understand, Bree. Why are we here?"
But she didn't seem to hear him.
"Maybe this is where I was born. Nothing that came before matters, that's certain." She dragged her fingers through her close-cropped curls. "I thought I had forgotten it all. Shartan knows, I tried to."
Bree turned and walked away from him. Paso followed, looking back at Alistair long enough to give a low whine. The king's hands clenched at his sides as his eyes followed her small form through the afternoon's deepening shadows. He kicked at yet another grassy mound.
"Sooooo, this is a charming piece of landscaping, though. After we defeat the archdemon, I think I'll designate it a park for small children and …" Alistair trailed off as the small knoll disintegrated under his boot, freeing a yellowed skull that rolled, teeth grinning, through the tall grass.
The mage had wandered closer to the village square.
"I don't suppose you know what happened here…?"
"You know, I was really hoping for a different answer," he muttered.
He dodged another mound, realizing with a growing despair just how many of them there were scattered between the buildings. The lumps and bumps filled the spaces between the houses, grew out of one another, with long, seeded grass and brittle flowers waving from their peaks. "Maker's breath … Bree … what happened?
She didn't turn to him, but her voice raised slightly, barely enough to be caught by the air on the river and carried to his ears. "I killed them."
"You…yes…I suppose I knew that. Why?"
"They killed my parents. Well…they killed my father, and then my mother killed some of them, and they killed her, and then I came. But they caught me."
"Sweet Andastre. How old were you, Bree?"
"I don't know. Too tall to duck under a halla anymore. Still too small to draw a shortbow."
"You were a child and you…you did this?"
"I came for them with my mother's knife. I planned only on taking as many of them with me as I could when I followed my parents. But they caught me…"
Alistair stood stock still, watching the setting sun illuminate the dust motes that swirled around her like a drunken maelstrom, creating a blood-red halo around her.
"I should have been dead then, but they bound me. Talked about how much I'd be worth in Tevinter. Mother told me about Tevinter, about slavery." She turned then, caught his eyes, and held his gaze. "I didn't want to go."
"I don't blame you."
"Alistair. I did not want to go."
"Bree … I …"
"I told them to let me go. I told them I'd come back and feed them to the crows. I told them I'd leave and never come back. I told them I'd come back for them from the fade. I screamed and cried and cursed and begged. And then, when I thought my voice had finally deserted me, I felt my heart grow cold and still and I burned them all with ice. All of them, Alistair. Grandmothers. Infants."
She walked toward him, down a smooth path that wound delicately through the bumpy ground. "I didn't die."
Alistair's eyes narrowed.
"And I didn't die at my harrowing. And I didn't die at Ostagar." Her trailing fingers wrapped around the long, waving stalks of grass and ripped them from the ground as she walked. "When we arrive at Denerim … I … we … are very likely to die."
Alistair's mouth opened, then snapped shut. He only nodded.
"I feel like I'm full of ice again. Like everything is frozen. Like I'm dead."
She halted a few steps from him and looked up, her blue eyes reflecting the last light of the evening.
"I thought maybe there'd still be a village here, that maybe something could have grown here since then." Bree's head tilted her head back and stared up at him. "I was wrong."
"Bree … don't do this. Please … "
"I need to tell you something, Alistair."
He reached for her, but she stepped back across a chasm that tore the space between them.
"I never wanted to save Ferelden."
She formed another creaky smile. It made the hair on the back of Alistair's neck stand on end.
"I never really cared for it. And it certainly never cared for me…and I never meant to care for you…and I'm losing you to Ferelden."
He closed his eyes against dusk's last stand on the horizon.
"How did you get so warm, Alistair? With your childhood, your life, why didn't you freeze?
"I had a hard childhood, Bree. Not a nightmare."
"You'll be a good king." She smiled again, and this one thawed the lines of her face in the gathering shadow.
He shook his head helplessly. "I don't want this," he rasped. "I can't do it."
"You've been doing it all along."
"Oh yes, I've been the very model of kingly, what with the bleeding, and the moping. However did Loghain not recognize my ruling potential at once?"
"You put the decisions in my hands, Alistair, but you were the one making them. I wasn't born to lead. I wasn't even born to be a Warden. I only ever did what I thought would make you happy. The decisions were all yours, even if I gave voice to them."
"As a child, my parents watched my actions. In the tower, I had the Templars to enforce my behaviour. When Duncan sent you to the Wilds with us, I followed your lead … and I never stopped." She inhaled the night air. "The only thing I'd ever done by myself is this village."
Paso, moving on silent paws, moved alongside Bree and leaned heavily on her leg. Her small fingers smoothed over his small, soft ears. "OK, you smelly thing. Maybe you count on my plus column."
Alistair had never envied a dog so much.
"So you see? I'm not your hero. I'm sure as hell not Ferelden's hero."
The edges of Brianne's armour began to blend in to the creeping gloom of night as they stood in that tiny, ruined place. To Alistair's eyes she faded a little more every time he blinked. Suddenly terrified, he reached forward. His long legs closed the gap between them, and he pulled her against him.
"You are mine, Bree. I need you."
She softened in his grasp. "No you don't. You would have to compromise everything you are to be with me. I would ruin you."
"Take me away from this place, Alistair. Warm me up again before we face the end. After tomorrow, you will be king, and I will be … I will leave. But let me be warm tonight…"
He pulled her up, hefted her into his arms, ignoring the scrape of scale on metal. Burying his face in her hair, he inhaled and breathed out, "Your wish is my command."