This story is something of a "spinoff" from my other story "Missives," which details post-game events through letters the characters write to each other. Some of the scenes I mention in that story were too fun to leave alone, so I decided to expand on them here. It will make a lot more sense to you if you read that story first, but I'll include the excerpts these chapters are based around and hopefully there won't be any confusion. :)
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!
From chapter 1 – Cousland to Cousland
You'd laugh at me if you saw me right now, Fergus. I'm drowning in an ocean of wedding invitations and fabrics and charts and plans and no less than four dresses different tailors insisted on designing. It's a mess. Alistair came in and almost died laughing at me. I feel like I'm back at home with mother and the other ladies, stuck in a sitting room and wishing I was out sparring with you and father and Ser Gilmore and the other knights. As much as I hated being stuck inside so often, being a "lady" again just makes me homesick.
"Irien? Can you hear me?"
For once, Alistair had a few minutes to himself, and he intended to spend that time with his lovely bride-to-be, Irien Cousland... if he could find her in this Maker-damned enormous castle, that is.
"Irien, if you can hear me, yell back," he called down a hallway, hoping to hear an answer from one of the myriad of doorways, but he got no response and headed toward the next one.
The two hadn't gotten to spend much time together in the three months since his coronation; after fighting the Blight and being together constantly, it felt odd to see her so little during the day. While he was always happy to come back to her and fall into their bed in the royal suite, he'd like it much better if she could be with him a little more often. Like, say, all the time.
It'd be nice to have her around for when the nobles won't stop talking, he thought with a wry grin. She intimidates them so much that they usually shut up when she walks into a room. That would definitely be useful. Why don't I have that ability? We should've made her the king instead!
For once, he'd finished his long day of meetings, audiences, and paperwork early enough that he wasn't ready to collapse. Though Irien wasn't technically queen yet, she certainly wasn't going to be a "proper" lady and sit around, so she'd been busy as well. She had a new position as the commander of the royal armies – and because of that, she was the commander of all the nobles' armies, as well – so she was doing what she could to organize and reunite all the noble houses that had been divided by Loghain and his treachery.
Of course, she also had other things to do, he reminded himself. Things like planning their wedding, a task he'd managed to guilt her into doing on her own. She'd grumbled half-heartedly at his request, but she'd agreed, and he thanked the Maker again that she was still feeling guilty about pushing him into accepting the crown. He didn't mind it so much anymore, despite the long hours, but if it meant he didn't have to do any of the planning himself then he was grateful for her guilt, he thought with a grin.
He was looking forward to spending some time with her – if he could figure out where she was.
"Irieeeeeeeeeen," he called out again. A servant poked her head out of a doorway, looking confused. I sound like a whiny child, he realized as she approached. Whoops.
"Your Majesty, is there something I can help you with?" she asked, curtseying and looking up at him hopefully. The look of... worship in the elf's eyes startled him a bit. He'd only just started getting used to people calling him "your majesty" or "your highness" or "my lord" or really even anything but "hey you big dumb lout." But having servants making sure his every whim was fulfilled immediately was even more strange.
"Er, no, that's really all right, I'm fine," he said, starting to reach out to pat her on the shoulder before he realized that would be even more awkward and stopped himself. He paused a moment, looking thoughtful – and got sidetracked for a moment, wondering why it was he always had to look like he was thinking when he was thinking, instead of just thinking – and the elf peered up at him expectantly, waiting for him to figure out what he was trying to say.
He found his thoughts again at last. "Actually, if you have any idea where Irien is, that would be exceedingly helpful."
She nodded. "Of course. If you'll follow me, my lord?" He tried not to wince at the title. She curtsied again and started off down a hall, and he obediently followed.
He wished Irien was with him already; she was always helpful and kicked him when he tried telling people not to be so formal around him. It always made him feel like he was impersonating someone important – they couldn't possibly be calling him "your highness" and bowing and everything. Didn't they know who he was? Just a royal bastard, he thought without bitterness. "Don't worry about what they call you," Irien always told him with a grin. "I'll be here to remind you of all the stupid things you've said, to keep your ego from getting more inflated than it already is." He grinned to himself.
He followed the servant down a few hallways, up a staircase, and around several corners. He still marveled at the size of the palace, and idly wondered if it would take all 30 years he had left it to learn where everything was.
The servant finally stopped at a closed door, identical to all the other doors in the hallway, and knocked lightly. "Lady Cousland?"
"What." She made it a statement instead of a question, and sounded rather annoyed. What's she doing in there?
"You have a visitor – His Majesty, King Alist-"
He sighed and walked past her to open the door himself. If I have to wait for her to announce me with all my damn titles, I'll never get inside. "Irien, it's me, what are you-"
He stepped inside the room – or tried to, before he realized that every inch of floor and wall and furniture was covered by papers and fabrics and a million other things. He spotted three- no, four! white dresses in varying shapes and styles that he assumed were for the wedding, along with other fabrics in every color of the rainbow, elaborate plans, long lists of names, notes and envelopes...
"-doing," he finished lamely, looking around in awe, and shock. This was the wedding planning?
Irien sat in the middle of the mess like the eye of a hurricane... but as he looked at her for a moment more, he realized that was a terrible comparison. There was no calmness in her wrinkled clothes; no peace in her messy hair; no air of serenity in the scowl she was currently gracing him with. She was the hurricane, and the messes of books and fabrics and papers were the damage she'd caused.
He hadn't realized what a big job it was when he'd delegated it to her – but judging from her expression, she knew exactly what a big job it was.
The look on her face was too much, and he couldn't contain his amusement. He laughed harder than he had in months, and since Irien's pout was completely fake, he continued laughing guilt-free. Eventually she gave in and started laughing too.
"Nice to see you too," he finally said after they'd both calmed down a bit. He examined the mess of papers and fabrics in front of him, hoping to find a path through to her. "Looks like things are going well!"
Irien ran a hand through her hair, messing it up even further, and chuckled tiredly. She looked exhausted. He couldn't blame her – this looked like a huge bother, and, somewhat selfishly, he was glad he didn't have to do it. "At least everything's together," she said. "Unfortunately, now I have to organize it all. Do you have any idea how complicated planning a wedding is, especially when I don't know most of the guests? And how I have to figure out who's the most 'important' and organize their seats by that? And how much worse it is when they'll all be terribly offended if I have them sitting by the wrong people?"
"Afraid I haven't a clue," he said cheerfully. He aimed carefully for a small empty space on the floor and hopped over a stack of books that looked to be about royal weddings and noble lineage and flower arrangements, all things he knew Irien probably couldn't care less about. But she cares for my sake, he thought with a smile.
His jump had put him right next to one of the white dresses. He picked it up carefully, looking pointedly at the other dresses thrown around the room, and he gave her a questioning look. She shook her head with a smile. "I promise you, I did not order four wedding dresses," she said, sighing overdramatically and making him grin. "Four tailors just delivered them out of nowhere, without me even asking for them. I guess they probably thought it would be good for business if the new queen got married in one of their dresses."
"Have you decided which one you'll wear yet?" he asked. The one he was currently looking at was huge, with many layers and a skirt so big he doubted she'd be able to walk through the door with it on. "This is definitely the one for you," he told her with a grin. "We could hang your swords on this giant frilly belt, maybe? And all these shiny silver parts would match the greaves you wore when we fought the Archdemon, if we scrubbed the blood and rust off. I'm sure the clanking of metal would be covered up by everyone laughing at how ridiculous this outfit is," he offered helpfully.
Irien laughed and shook her head. "I've barely looked at them, to be honest," she admitted. "The servants brought them in here hoping that I'd make a decision, but I've been trying to avoid them. I've got too much else to do to be worrying about the dress right now." She grinned up at him. "You know you're not supposed to be looking at these. Not until the wedding anyway."
"Bit too late for that," he smiled. He hopped closer to her and held out a hand to help her stand up from where she'd settled on the floor. She stacked the papers on her lap in a messy pile and set them to the side before accepting and standing up next to him. He leaned over to kiss her on the cheek, then pushed the huge dress at her. She laughed and tried to shove it away. "You are trying this on," he told her in his best tone of authority. "I'm the king and you have to do what I say. And I want to see how you look in all of these dresses."
"Oh is that so?" she asked, her eyes twinkling with laughter. "Well, your majesty," she said with an exaggerated bow, "I guess I have to now, don't I?"
He nodded firmly and crossed his arms, and she laughed at his serious expression and took the dress from him, jumping over piles of books to find some open floor space near the now-closed door. While she pulled off her breeches and tunic and put the dress on, he waded through the messy room to gather up the other three dresses for her.
They both knew the first dress wasn't the one for her even before she tried it on, with its enormous skirt, puffy shoulders, and long white sleeves, but Irien was a good sport and flounced around in it for a minute as they laughed. The second was only a little better, with a skirt covered in lace and a train so long he had to hold it up for her all the way across the room. The third was covered in white feathers and came with long gloves that clearly weren't meant to be worn by a woman with muscles like Irien's, because they bunched up at her elbows and wouldn't go any higher, no matter how she tugged at them.
Fortunately, the last one was much better. Irien's eyes lit up when he handed her the dress, and he looked on with a smile as she tried it on. He was surprised that the tailor had sent it – it didn't look much like a dress for a queen's wedding, but he couldn't help but wonder if whoever had made this had heard a bit about Irien's personality, or perhaps realized that the Hero of Ferelden might not want to wear something as overwrought as a "normal" queen might.
Compared to the other three, it was extremely plain and simple. The dress was a soft white fabric and flared out slightly at her waist, with some tiny beads sewn in a subtle swirling pattern around the waist, but had no other decoration.
She twirled in place a little. The skirt twirled with her, and a smile lit up her face. It was obvious that she loved it. He'd never seen anything so beautiful in his life.
"What do you think?" she asked. He knew her well enough to know she was trying to hide her enthusiasm. "It's a little plain, but-"
He stepped towards her, knocking books and papers and fabrics aside, and swept her up in his arms to kiss her. She wrapped his arms around him and returned the kiss passionately. It had been so long since they'd had free time together, to talk and joke and flirt like they had before they'd moved in to the palace. I've missed her so much, he thought.
The kiss finally ended, and she looked up at him with a smile and shake of her head. "What was that for?" she asked breathlessly.
"Perfect," he told her, touching her cheek gently. She tilted her head and looked at him curiously. "You asked what I think," he replied with a smile. "I think you're perfect."
"Don't be too nice, I'll think you like me or something," she teased.
"Like you?" he said doubtfully, then smiled. "I love you." He leaned down to kiss her again. "Especially in that dress."