Now her hand is raised

A blade to pierce the sun

With iron claw, she defends the people

Let chaos be undone


Throne and Balcony


Two hours before Talia awoke, Aedan found himself in the throne room.

Looking around, the only sign that there had even been a siege on the city was in the room's inhabitants. The expansive chamber itself was untouched, and still as pristine as it had been during the Landsmeet. The dark wooden panels and alcoves still hung above the main floor, and the thick carpets still covered the central path from the doors to the throne. The only actual indication of just how close they had come to losing were the weary faces of the people around him, and the scars some had accumulated.

He had been lucky, and only a scar down the top of his right shoulder reminded him of the fighting. Others had been less fortunate.

Ser Gilmore and Ser Jory stood at the side of the room, somewhat in the background but still visible, with the latter with his arm in a sling. Ser Jory had taken a blow aimed for Roland, and paid for his determination with a shattered arm.

"Have you slept well enough, little brother?" Fergus approached him at the base of the throne, his limping gait and the sound of metal on tiles giving him away even before he spoke. Fergus had not been in the battle, but still looked worn enough that he might as well have been. He didn't know where their mother was, but considering Anora was absent as well, and that he knew Rhea to be around somewhere, it was not a difficult thing to guess. Blinking, he turned back to his brother and rubbed some sleep - or perhaps rather the lack of it - from his face. That Fergus actually blanched told volumes; "...you look...good?"

"...wow, that's the best you could do?" he mocked, not a shred of irritation in his words; "I've...slept well, I guess. You?"

"Hah, not a chance." His brother chuckled mirthlessly; "Anora and mother - and now Teagan as well - they won't leave me alone for a moment, just one moment! I swear, either it's Teagan wanting to discuss...well, everything, or it's mother being on me like a hawk over my health and my diet and if I remember to wash and soak my ankle often enough...Maker's Breath, give me the Darkspawn rather than this..."

"And...Anora?" Aedan prodded, wondering why his brother suddenly seemed to go so still; "You said she was on your case as well? That bad?"

"She..." Fergus paused, hesitation rare enough for him that it was something to notice; "...little brother, you remember those days, when we were kids, and Nan asked us what we'd like to do the most as grown ups?"

Did he? Those years were long past, and the memories with them too hazy and sore for him to focus on. But, he did recall parts and pieces here and there, the occasional scene playing out in his mindscape. But not of whatever Fergus was speaking, and he shook his head in response.

"Oh...well, you wanted to go sail the seas and explore, Andraste knows only why..." Right, that...did sound a lot like what he'd been back then; "Nan laughed, I remember. Not at your wish, but...something else, like a joke? Then she grew all silent and solemn and it was really weird to see you trying to figure it out. You were five, I guess it's understandable."

"And you?" Right, because remembering what he'd lost that night was a sure-fire way of lightening the mood. Even if there was a chance Nan was alive still, since they had never found her body, he doubted he would ever see her again.

"I...may have agreed to a certain...proposal from her side." Fergus sighed. Aedan frowned, his mind wrapping around what Anora could have...offered...him...Far from reeling with shock, a smirk grew on his face in rough proportionality with Fergus' face sinking into tired folds. Aedan's eyes weren't on his brother, however; "...I absolutely knew you'd be like this. In my defense, she made the offer. I did not intend on-"

"On what, Dearest?" three simple words, a mere question, and yet the way Fergus went still as the grave was testament to their impact, and the fact that he hadn't realized Anora was right behind him. Aedan gave a small bow to the Queen, just to be safe, but otherwise watched with great amusement as his brother palmed himself and sighed again. Aedan caught the Queen hiding a smirk; "I'm sure you were just about to unveil to your brother how elated you are at the prospect of marriage, were you not?"

"I...yes, Anora."

"Good." The Queen nodded, a smile creeping over her face. There were still hints at her stay at Howe's Estate, but more and more Aedan had seen her come back to a regal, powerful posture. She turned towards him as if his mind had been spoken; "Fergus speaks the truth, Aedan. We are to be in-laws, and...I suppose I would like your approval."

"It's yours." He answered honestly. Maybe too honestly, considering the slight widening of the Queen's eyes at his words.

"Thank you." Her voice lowered, and a shoulder nudged Fergus' side, a more or less veiled message to bugger off. Well, maybe not in those words, but it was clear she was sending his brother away, and that Fergus didn't seem to mind it. With a weak chuckle, he limped off, the metal around his left foot clinking against the tiles until he reached the carpet. Anora, suddenly, seemed apprehensive, leaving Aedan in momentary thought. They hadn't actually spoken since the battle ended, which in itself was no small feat considering it had been four days, and the Imperials had taken care of hunting down the Darkspawn faster than even the Grey Wardens could have. It was also one reason they were gathered here today...and he just realized the context messing with those words; "...I am sorry for what happened to Alistair. While he...was not what I had hoped for, he was a good man. Better than most of his position."

They had lost Leliana too, but he knew Anora might not even know of her, and chose not to speak of it. Right now, he...he didn't know where they stood. Where he stood with the nation's queen, who suddenly was also becoming his sister in law.

"He was." a long, steady breath of air, and his head was level again. The grief still stung, hard enough to take away his balance. The battle had...more or less allowed him to focus on something else, but whenever there'd been a lull in the fighting, Alistair had popped into his mind, uninvited and unwanted; "He was pretty excited for the chance of Fergus and you, you know, happening."

"I know." Anora nodded; "I neither am nor was blind to the feelings of others, much as the contrary is probably common knowledge. He loved...damn it, what was her name...Lilly?"

"Leliana."


Anora wasn't quite sure where she stood with Aedan, not yet at least.

In the days since the battle, and the battle between Talia and the Archdemon on what was already now commonly referred to as 'Victory Hill', he hadn't been around the throne room much, and she herself had refrained from intruding into the quarters of his betrothed. As a result, today was actually the first they had spoken, and she had...been uncertain as to how she was going to handle it. Certainly they were not familiar enough for her to simply approach him as kin, but at the same time it had felt wrong to address him as a subject. Fergus is really going to pay for not telling him before now...

She knew her unease wasn't solely because of the novelty of the situation with Aedan and Fergus. For three days now, foreign...airships, had controlled the skies of Denerim and the surrounding countryside. Queen Rhea had repeatedly assured her of their good intentions, and the fact that they had arrived when and how they did demonstrably was a gesture of good will, but neither changed that a foreign military effectively controlled the area around Denerim, and that because of this General Belisarius' insistence on cleansing the countryside of Darkspawn, she had yet to even meet with the man.

And that made her uneasy, far more so than any awkwardness between herself and the youngest of the Couslands ever could.

It was also the cause of today's meeting, small though their gathering was. She had requested just for Rhea to attend, but had not objected when the rest had followed. Eleanor Cousland seemed to go almost wherever Rhea went, though understandably the two seemed to share a friendship through the bonding of their children. Aedan's presence was more or less guaranteed as a result of the rest of his family being here, and the household knights of Highever attended as a result.

Her thoughts were interrupted as the doors to the grand hall opened.

"My...apologies for being late." Bann Teagan Guerrin entered the room, panting and exhausted as if he'd come straight from the battle. If one overlooked him being dressed more as a noble than a soldier, of course. He stopped where he was, seemingly surprised; "I...Your Majesty, the General has not yet arrived?"

She turned to Rhea for answers. The elven Queen frowned for a moment, as if uncertain of how to reply, yet Anora was certain she would know her...countrymen? better than any of them.

"General Belisarius is...not the most timely of commanders." Grey lips pressed thin, red eyes closed for a moment in thought before continuing; "He will come when he feels certain work is left in capable enough hands for him to disengage."

"...is that why we've waited for the past three days?" Anora mused, her voice clipped.

"...he's not overly confident in unknown forces." Rhea argued, though she herself seemed to know the response was weak; "Rather..."

When the doors opened again, Anora half expected it to be Bann Teagan leaving already. Instead as she turned, the man entering was decidedly not a noble. Rather it was a guard, one of the few to have remained at the Fort with her throughout the battle. Quick steps took him towards her, and he dropped to a knee, holding his breath.

"...well?"

"Your Highness, the leader of the newcomers requests an audience. He has...just flown in." the guard seemed to doubt whether his own words could even be true; "He...awaits your beckon in the forechamber."

"Oh." For a moment she wasn't sure what else to say. That people now flew through the skies was a thought she had yet to fully get accustomed to, though something told her it was a phenomenon with staying power; "...very well then, wait a minute and then show him in."

The guard had barely stood before she turned to Rhea. The elf watched the man leave with faint bemusement, though those red eyes soon enough turned towards her. Eleanor Cousland, who had kept herself quiet, also watched from the side, her expression set in an uncertain frown.

"Will you two stand beside the throne when I receive him?" she felt uncertain asking, in itself an unusual sensation. She was Queen, and had damn well not felt like this whenever addressing the nobility of a filled Landsmeet even once before the Blight. Why was now different? She knew, of course, why, but did not wish to admit to it, unprepared as she had been for the arrival of the Empire.

"Of course, your Majesty." The Teyrna answered. Rhea did not answer verbally, but simply nodded. Somehow that was enough to convey the same impact as Eleanor's words. Anora closed her eyes for a moment, breathed in and walked to her throne.

She had barely sat before three short knocks on the doors signaled the newcomer's arrival. I swear that was not a full minute...

Thoughts of admonishing the no-doubt overeager guard were dispelled once the doors opened, and the room fell into heavy silence. Striding into the throne room with two heavily armored men at his back - so heavily armored in fact that even their faces were concealed behind close-knitted chainmail with but holes for eyes - a man of absolute authority and experience emerged. Anora found her own breath withheld as she watched him, a figure clad in steel from his toes to the top of his balding head. Each step carried him forward with a sense of right and belonging, so confident and determined that for a moment, she thought it her father returning from the grave.

Each step echoed with the rattling of plate against plate, until he finally came to a stop before her throne, and Anora was forced to realize that whilst this man was not her father, he warranted the same respect, and knew it himself.

And still, helmet under the crook of his elbow, the General of the Imperials knelt before her, not a movement nor motion out of place nor decorum. His bodyguards, for that had to be what they were, did neither bow nor kneel, but remained instead as statues of steel and iron, the illusion made all the more complete by even their arms being covered by bands upon bands of steel. What in the world am I dealing with...

She knew, of course, exactly what and who she was dealing with. Rhea, standing to her left in dresses far less warlike than her typical garments, had made very sure she was informed. To her right, Eleanor seemed to be fixated on the General's guards, a fascination in her eyes not unlike when a child would for the first time seeing a grown mabari.

"General Belisarius Cecium, Commander of the Seventh Legion of the Empire." His eyes did not betray surprise at her addressing his titles and ranks; "You may stand, for you are welcome here beyond words."

"Your words honor me, your Majesty." When he stood, it was with his free hand clasped over his heart. Rhea had explained it to be the salute one offered those of equal or higher ranking, and she found herself appreciating the gesture; "It brings me great relief to see you unscathed of the battle, as does it to see Queen Rhea of Bankorai, safe and unharmed."

"Your concern is appreciated, General." The elven queen offered a curt nod. Anora waited to see if more would come, then when Rhea did not speak, she turned back to the General, now watching her intently.

"If I may, Your Majesty, it has been bestowed upon me to not only defend your city from the Blight, but Ferelden as a whole. The Empire views your nation as potential allies, and as such would like to ensure your survival in what is no doubt a weakened state after such a conflict."

Anora was not new to the intrigues of politics. Rather, she had been the one steering Ferelden around most of it throughout Cailan's rule, and had learned well from both tutors and her father. She knew well that little if nothing was ever given freely, and the General's offer sounded...good. Almost too good to be true, but in a time such as this, the Empire had more than earned their trust.

That Rhea represented part of their royalty, and that Eleanor trusted the elf, also did a lot to reassure her.

"We are grateful." She replied, carefully choosing her words; "And intrigued. Would you care to elaborate?"

"Certainly."

She noticed among her guards more than one hand edging closer to a weapon when the General reached within his cloak. Surely, there was no need for such paranoia, but all the same it was good that they remain alert, so that she need not be. When all that was revealed was parchment, she sighed with unexpected relief. Stop thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong, damn it. Show some dignity and handle this like father would have.

Her father, now that she thought on it, might just have thought the whole thing an Orlesian ploy. Maybe it was better to not use him as the example, then. General Belisarius seemed somewhat aware of her apprehension, though likely not of its cause, as he stepped forward. His guards remained behind, unmoving as the golems they resembled. When he reached the stairs to her throne, he stopped and placed only a foot before himself for support as he handed her the scroll.

She should have realized the error before she even opened the scroll, but still managed to somehow find herself surprised when not a single letter within was known to her. In her conversations with both Queen Rhea and her daughter, as well as Brelyna Maryon, it was easy to forget that they only shared the spoken language, not the written one.

"I am...afraid we do not share the written language, General." She felt no shame in admitting as much, but still turned to Rhea. She trusted the elven queen to read things as they were. She hesitated only for a moment when Anora extended the scroll towards her.

"...By Imperial Decree, and in the eyes of the gods, I, Titus Mede the Second, Emperor and Liege of the Empire of Tamriel, hereby do declare the extension of Praesidium Imperatoria to the nation of Ferelden." Anora blinked, unsure of how to react to the incorporation of Tevint in the message;"It means Imperial protection."

Anora nodded, her hand gesturing at the elf; "Go on."

"May it be so that henceforth, any act of hostility towards the nation of Ferelden and her subjects and citizens, be they human, elven or other, will be treated as a direct act of aggression against the Empire itself, and responded to as such. Until such a time that Ferelden finds herself capable of protection and maintaining her own sovereignty, the Empire will maintain such for her, in her name and in her will. Under Lex Imperatoria, the rights of her citizens will be upheld, their faith respected and remain uninfringed upon, their daily lives undisturbed and their work unhindered'...Bearing the seal of Emperor Titus Mede, this document is a binding agreement between nations." Rhea looked up, glancing first at her, then at the General; "...when was this written?"

"It was among the orders I received upon arriving in Daggerfall." General Belisarius replied. Anora wasn't entirely sure what was going on, or what was even being said. Her head swam, mind abuzz with confusion and exhilaration. There...there was almost no way such an agreement could actually happen, it was simply too one-sidedly good for Ferelden. How vast and powerful was the Empire, that it could extend such gestures across the seas? Did it dwarf even Orlais, perhaps even Thedas as a whole? "I was not aware or their precise wording, though I did receive a briefing much of the same nature before my departure."

"Am I correct to assume this document suggests an alliance?" Anora asked, straightening in her seat. The General blinked, holding her eyes for a moment before offering a nod.

"In due time, once Ferelden has recovered to the point that she no longer requires Imperial protection within her own borders bar times of war." His face betrayed not a shred of emotions, and she found herself unable to read him at all; "Until then, the Emperor offers you the protection of a pseudo-tributary state, a protectorate, if you will."

Anora felt unease gnaw at her guts. Rhea had fallen silent at her side, her posture not one of comfort. It didn't instill much in herself.

"...and what would that status entail?" Fergus inquired, nearly startling Anora from her composure. He had remained so silent she had almost forgotten he was present. She would thank him later, for asking what she had dared not.

"As stated, the full protection of the Empire's Legions. The Emperor would very much like to see Ferelden restored, and assume the position of a valuable ally. However, the Elder Council does not entirely trust in your ability to recover under your own might, especially considering the ravages of the plague-like infections the Blight has no-doubt left behind." The General paused, tilting his head forward just an inch; "For the moment, the offer of becoming a Protectionate of the Empire remains extended to you. Should you choose not to accept it..."

Maybe her father hadn't been entirely wrong about distrusting everything as a plot to take over Ferelden. Surely, this smelled of just such an attempt, even if every word was genuine and honest. She knew very well what a Protectionate really was, much as the name implied elsewise.

"If I chose not to accept?" She knew she could not afford to turn the offer down, no matter the costs. Ferelden was too weak now to even stop incursions from mere pirates. If the Empire didn't help maintain her territory, Ferelden would likely end up torn apart. And then what would the battle even have achieved? "Hypothetically speaking?"

"The Empire has no interest in occupation, nor of souring relations." Yet again, not a shred of emotion from the man. He might as well be a golem for all the humanity he showed, yet she couldn't fault him on a single thing. He showed not a trace of disrespect nor arrogance, and behaved with all the dignity expected before a monarch. And yet terrifies me... "Should you turn the offer down we would still extend trade and friendship to your country, but your security and integrity would be managed by your own armies...such as they are."

And Orlais's new leader was not a man of peace. He would jump at the chance of Orlais controlling Ferelden once again, and without the Empire it would not even be a fight. There was a choice here, between a known evil...and a leap of faith.

Fergus glanced to her, eyes filled with uncertain wariness. She knew there could be only one choice.

She chose to leap.


Irregular tappings of wood against stone alerted him to her arrival.

Honestly, she'd never thought the sound of a cane would be something she'd end up accompanying. Talia pressed on, desperate to get out of the bedroom she'd lingered in for the past five hours. She only knew it'd been that long because the healer responsible for her using a cane in the first place had insisted on making sure she waited for at least that long before leaving the room. It's only for a week. It's only for a week. Today included. So, six days again. Then I'm setting this thing on fire.

It wasn't like she couldn't walk without it, but still, she supposed it did have some merits when it came to stressing out her leg as little as possible. And the only reason it was the cane betraying her attempt at sneaking up on him was because Two-Sock didn't make a blood sound when he padded along, his pace slow and matched to hers. Gods help me if people start thinking I'm a cripple...

Dressed in deceptively civilian clothes of a woolen cloak and the robes of a noble, she couldn't help but grin at how...un-Warden-ish Aedan looked, even as he turned to face her. His expression lit in a smile, one she felt herself mirroring despite trying her damnest to look moody, being forced to use a cane and all.

She hadn't been prepared for him to assault her, hands grabbing behind her back - apparently that was sore too, damn it - and lifting her into the air. She didn't so much protest as she squealed, half delight and half surprise, before he silenced her with his lips. She damn near melted on the spot, hugging against his broader form as she returned the kiss with a passion. Gods, she'd missed this!

When he finally set her down, breaking the kiss, she was out of breath. He wasn't, and the toothy grin on his face told her he very much knew how much that annoyed her. That things had changed from her dominating their relationship with her experience, to this now, where he could just...do things, like this, and she didn't have a fucking clue what to do about it.

Okay, so maybe it didn't annoy her that much.

"You...have no idea...I'm just...You're awake." It was almost odd the way people always defaulted to that. And that he sounded so goddamn relieved. At this point, shouldn't he have realized part and parcel of their relationship - and probably their marriage too - was going to involve her doing stupidly dangerous things?

"I am?" She paused and looked down herself, taking greater pleasure than she probably should at his sigh; "Huh, I didn't even realize that."

"Talia..."

"I mean, maybe that I was just annoyed by a healer for four hours should have given it away?" she shrugged, turning up to find his face one of weariness; "...what?"

"What you did..."

"Was stupid, dangerous, insane, outrageously risky and beyond unlikely to actually work?" the look in his eyes betrayed that yes, those were more or less his thoughts on the matter. He didn't even flinch, which probably meant he really had been pretty fucking scared; "...sorry."

"...what if it hadn't worked?"

"Well..." She knew the right way of dealing with this. But honestly, she'd just killed the Archdemon in single-fucking-combat, with her own two hands...claws...things. She'd earned the right to at least be a little sassy. Even if it wasn't smart; "...we'd be dead? Pretty sure I would have, at least. Wardens have killed Archdemons before, so you'd probably have managed...You would have managed...I had to try it."

"Why?"

"...because if we'd waited, if I'd waited...everyone would be dead. And the odds would still be the same on beating Urthemiel." The desire to be sassy was somehow gone, all of a sudden. Maybe it was because she'd realized there was an extra few lines under his eyes. She laced her hands with his as she spoke; "It'd mean I'd have to worry about you all the time. I couldn't do that...and yes, I know it meant you were worrying your ass off about me all the time. I'm not an idiot, despite of evidence to the contrary."

She was, though, honestly. And she knew that too. She'd risked more than just her own life against Urthemiel, and hadn't even realized it until afterwards. It made her insides churn, bringing up feelings she really didn't want to have right now, because if this was how much responsibility she was going to show...Oh gods, I'm going to absolutely suck as a parent...and it's not even been a week.

"...I honestly don't even know how to rebuke that." Aedan sighed, leaning back against the masonry of the railing. She took the distraction where it was offered, eyes going out to the city. They were high up, and she could see the smoking ruins of...well, pretty much everything north of the river. Not a whole lot remained, and she wondered if the Darkspawn had just torched the city as they went, or if the Empire had done it to get rid of whatever remained in the city.

To the west, beyond the walls, the entire area in front of Denerim was just one massive brownish splotch. Snow covered the landscape everywhere else but there, and she had a sinking feeling it wasn't mud coloring the ground as much as it was bodies. Pyres burned around the battlefield, burning the bodies as quickly as they could be sanctified and tossed on. Had Leliana been thrown on one of those?

"So...what now?" It felt like it was the only real thing she could ask. He wasn't okay with what she'd done, she knew that, and knew he was in the right to be annoyed with her. And he was relieved that she hadn't gone and actually committed suicide by Archdemon, getting herself and their child killed.

"I'm not sure." He admitted softly, turning just enough towards her that she saw the invitation, and leaned against his chest. It wasn't the first time she realized just how much broader and taller he was. He was warm too, especially against the cold winter air. She was still warmed up herself, from the indoor heat, but her breath came out as clouds; "I didn't really think we'd get the chance to ask."

"Didn't expect the Empire, basically."

"Yes, that..." he sighed, and she smiled as his arms went around her, reaching down to her abdomen. Was he just embracing her, or was he...well, there wasn't anything to feel, not for a long time yet at least. Putting her hands over his, she rubbed at the doeskin surface, the leather smooth and cool to the touch; "...did you?"

"I didn't even know Ferelden mattered to us...to the Empire, I mean." She admitted, because honestly she was still struggling to accept that yes, there was an Imperial Airship hanging in the skies over Fort Drakon. It was apparently the only place they'd be able to moor it without landing, because landing required some sort of specialized docks and she really didn't understand how it worked, just that it did. The workings of the Imperial Military had never really been her subject of interest.

Maybe it should have...

"You know the General though?" he asked; "Your mother mentioned his Legion was stationed in High Rock."

"At Daggerfall." She corrected him; "Which is technically also High Rock but different kingdom...and I know of him. A bit. I've never met him, obviously...why?"

"He met with Anora and our mother's earlier."

"I heard." She nodded, rubbing the back of her head against his chest; "How'd it go?"

His sigh wasn't a content one, which really was enough to indicate it hadn't been as smooth as he'd hoped, since she knew he'd been present for it.

"Go on." She prodded with her skull against him; "Spill. He's Cyrodiilic, you're free to smear him in my presence."

"The Empire proposes an Alliance..."

"...that's good." She mused, trying to figure out why he wasn't jumping on the spot. Well, aside from the fact that she'd step on his toes if he did so with her where she was; "That is good, right?"

"...Eventually." he continued, and she felt like maybe his mood wasn't entirely unwarranted. There was probably some disappointment there; "Until such a time that Ferelden is a stable power again though, meaning we can protect ourselves, the proposal would make us a de-facto protectorate."

"...oh."

Great.

Because nothing said 'we want to be your friends' as effectively turning a country into a tributary state, and not even a province proper with representation in the senate. Whatever the Emperor was thinking, she hoped damn well he was thinking hard. Could the Empire even afford that, in terms of resources? Hammerfell and Morrowind were still independent, after all, so how the Hel could they start thinking of colonizing? The Emperor pulled the Empire together before, and got us through the Great War. Damn it...I really hope he knows what he's doing.

"...I don't know what'll happen to Ferelden." Aedan admitted, and she could definitely tell now why he wasn't jumping up and down.

"Titus Mede isn't a warlord, nor a conqueror." She said. Those, she knew to be true, at least. The Empire was only stable because he favored holding on to what he had, and not grabbing for more; "I don't know what he's planning, but...he's the Emperor. My Emperor..."

"You trust him."

"It's pretty much been in my upbringing since day one, so yeah." She wasn't even ashamed to admit that. The Empire was good for High Rock, and for Bankorai in particular. The Redguards weren't fucking with their territories much lately, after Titus had started cracking down on it, and the trade kept the kingdoms alive and flourishing enough that no one really seemed keen on ruining everything by starting new wars. Stability was good for the Empire, and the Emperor knew it; "But it's not just that. He's competent, and he's got people's best interests at heart. I'm sure."

"Maybe..."

"Honestly, even if he wanted to, I don't know if the Empire...really has the resources for an actual takeover." She didn't even know if she was allowed to admit to that much, but being a Grey Warden should afford her some leniency...damn it, would she actually have to stay in the Order now? "I...may have given off a different impression, but dedicating an entire Legion, that's a sizable investment for the Empire, especially these days."

"So...you don't think it'll be an occupation."

"I'm pretty sure we'd know by now." She shrugged; "Mostly because Anora wouldn't be Queen anymore, and there'd be a magistrate or a governor in place...so, no, I don't think so. It's really far more likely the Emperor just wants to make sure Ferelden doesn't tear itself apart in a civil war." Now that most of its armies had been wiped out, but for good reasons she allowed that to remain unspoken. She pressed herself a little more into him, her lower back in particular; "Besides, the Empire churned me out, and I'm pretty goddamn amazing, right?"

She made him chuckle, at least, so that was something.

"You are." He conceded fondly, and she felt his arms press a little tighter around her; "And you're mine."

She closed her eyes and allowed him to wrap his cloak around her, heavy furs that smelled of warmth and of him. He hummed something, a melody she didn't know and frankly didn't have the energy to ask on. It wasn't worth it if it meant breaking the moment, and this was one she wanted to last.

The Blight was over, and Ferelden was, for all sakes and purposes, saved. They'd completed their task, despite everything Mundus had thrown at them. And she'd actually managed, she'd like to think, to fulfil the pledge she'd made to the gods, so many months ago.

Maybe now, they could finally have some peace.

At this point, she was fairly sure she'd earned that much.


And it is done.

Talia's first book, a work that has taken three long years of my life, is done.

I find it hard to comprehend, actually, and harder still to really grasp that suddenly, I'll have to start something the next time I write. Talia has been such a constant in my life over the past few years that I really can't imagine not being able to sit down and write about what she gets up to. It'd be like...I'm uncertain, but like the people who follow Game of Thrones when it one day comes to an end? ...then again I'm one of those so maybe not the best example. A better one might be that I feel the way I did when I read the final page in Harry Potter, and realized that it was over, and the story had now been told.

Naturally, this isn't actually the end, but it is the end of the first book. I'm not doing an epilogue, though I suppose you could say this chapter was one, and then not, because honestly I wouldn't know how, or what to write in it. I might do one on the day I'm actually done with Talia as a story overall - which if my pace with this book is any indication will be roughly around the time Firefly gets a continuation. If desired, I will be temptable to write up a codex of sorts on the Empire's military, since one such is rather lacking on the internet.

I hope you have enjoyed this first book as much as I have enjoyed writing it. It has been an experience beyond words, both in getting the chance to tell a story, and knowing people have enjoyed and taken pleasure in what I had to tell. It's a feeling that really doesn't have a word in the English language, at least as far as I am aware, nor does it have one in my own.

And so, I will simply say this.

It has been a privilege, and it will not be the last.