Title: The Warden's Rose
Summary: Just a little story that came to me while practicing on my Wacom tablet. I drew a rose and instantly a story idea I had just took off and completed itself. So I had to write the little bit of plot bunny into a quick story! Warning: There are spoilers for the end of the game here.
Disclaimer: I don't own Dragon Age Origins, or Grey Wardens, or Alistair. They're all copyright of Bioware/EA Games...lucky bastards.
"No! I won't let you die either, Alistair!"
"You say that as if I was giving you a choice."
Keita reached for Alistair's hand, her Majesty, her love, and her confidant. Even if he had ended their romance, even if they were no more, she could feel that spark between them despite the full plate that separated their skin. It was almost unbearable to touch him, eliciting an ache in her that she did not want to acknowledge or feel. She shook her head no, words failing her.
He only smiled, his eyes saying everything she wanted to hear, but he could no longer say. Tears piled up behind her eyes, a silent scream of protest, and that was where he dropped her hand.
Zevran threw another few pieces of dry wood on the fire, glancing over at his companion who tossed and turned in her sleep, face twisted in a grimace. For the last four months, the nightmares had plagued her. He only knew little about a Grey Warden and their nightmares, but he knew enough to know these weren't like those. They had defeated the Blight, but in turn, she had gained another demon entirely.
There was no doubting that Keita had loved Alistair, all had known it. They had been pretty open about it as well, and though Zevran had put his eye on the female Dalish, she'd made it clear to him who her heart had belonged to. Still, a strange bond had developed for the Antivan assassin, and he'd grown rather attached to the woman. It wasn't love, or if it had been, he was sure he wouldn't be none the wiser. But, he simply felt more at ease when around her, and a need to defend her.
Would he have sacrificed himself to a Archdemon were he a Grey Warden in attempt to save her life? Probably not, but he would find an alternate means so they could have spent their remaining days in ecstasy.
Still, the lady was ailing, and in a place where he could not follow her to battle.
"I picked it in Lothering. I remember thinking 'How could something so beautiful exist in a place with so much despair and ugliness? I probably should have left it alone, but I couldn't. The darkspawn and their taint would just destroy it. So I've had it ever since."
Keita looked down in her hands at the rose he spoke of, amazed that the little thing had survived through their perils in Redcliffe and The Circle of Magi. It had been a long time since they were in Lothering, and yet even as inexpertly picked as this flower had been, it flourished with life. It was a wondrous thing, the fight it had, and the Dalish woman did not overlook that.
"And what do you intend to do with it?" She questioned then, looking back up at Alistair, preparing to return the rose. Something in his eyes convinced her to hold it a little longer though, before he even spoke.
"I thought that I might...give it to you, actually. In a lot of ways, I think the same thing when I look at you." As soon as the words had left his mouth, Alistair blushed straight up to his ears. Still, though, he continued. "I thought maybe I could say something. Tell you what a rare and wonderful thing you are to find amidst all this...darkness."
It was her turn to blush, and the confident warrior found her gaze adverted as she did so. For all that she had been, a leader of her people's defenders and hunters, and still she found herself feeling a strange insecurity when it had come to the Grey Warden. But after this, after his words and this rose, she felt empowered, like she could take on the entire Blight with one hand tied behind her back. Human as he was...she found her heart's will quickly overrunning her mind's protests to preserve her people.
Keita awoke with a start, sweat covering her caramel skin, her green eyes attempting the focus in the light. Instinctively, she reached for her pendant around her neck, thankful to feel it's cool metal within her warm grasp. This one rested beside her Grey Warden pendant, and held a similar purpose. While the former held the blood from which she drank at her Joining, this little one contained two sets of ashes.
One belonged to a King, the other a Grey Warden's rose.
She had been surprised that the little flower held out for such a long time, even upon entering Denerim it still retained it's healthy red tone and luster. She had worn it in her hair since he gave it to her, surprised as it always escaped battle unscathed. But after defeating Loghain and putting Alistair on the throne, it had left her hair for the first time...and found its way to a seal jar within her bag. "No offence, but you're not of noble blood."
It had been as easy as that, he breaking up with her in front of the entire Landsmeet, in front of all of Denerim's nobles, and making her feel as worthless as a meaningless palace servant. She had fought tooth and nail to get him on the throne, to defeat Loghain in his honor, and defend him every step of the way. And no, as he stepped up in place of where he should rightfully be...they were over.
A hole in her chest throbbed suddenly, and she closed her eyes to will it away. She could feel Zevran's eyes on her though she knew he was only watching from his peripheral. Such was the way of a rogue, of an assassin; always painstakingly aware of every little detail that happens around them.
In any event, the rose had continued to thrive though, living in that jar until the night she returned to her camp after the battle with the Archdemon. The night that Alistair had died.
At first, it had only been a single petal that fell, but by morning, it had wilted and dried until there was nothing left. So with the funeral pyre burning of Ferelden's King, and her best friend, she had waited long after all the sad words had been said, waiting for the flames to finally die as he had. With a quick hand, she had gathered a few of his ashes and put them in a vial.
It wasn't until she returned to her guest room bed in Redcliffe Castle that she took the rose and added it to the mix, and the additional pendant after that was no harder to find. She would keep him, and the rose, near her heart forever. They had been the reason her heart had beat and never stopped, and they would be the last thing on it when she finally was laid to rest.
"It is a wondrous night, is it not?"
Zevran's voice had called to her, bringing her the rest of the way out of her dismal fog. "It is," she replied lamely, her voice conveying that she had not even so much as noticed it was still night at all. Still, she stood and found her way over to the fire next to her friend. It was only a mere moment of silence before she spoke up again, this time sounding remorseful. "I am sorry, Zevran. I have not been fair to you since we left Denerim. Here you elect yourself to keep me company as I travel to rebuild the Wardens, yet I haven't been much of a friend."
He smiled to her, a very well trained smile though she could tell that at least part of it was genuine. It had bothered him some, but he understood and welcomed the apology all the same, despite the fact that he would brush off the formality. "I am here to be your assassin mascot, you are well within your right to act as you please. You do not bother me."
She shook her head, loose strands of midnight falling into her heart-shaped face. "No, I mean it. I just..." Keita looked at him then, surprised at first to find him gazing back at her. "Does it get any easier?"
It took a moment for the fellow elf to catch her meaning, a few seconds passing before recognition quickly followed by a saddened look flashed over his features. "It does not, at least, it has not for me. But you are not the murderer here, my friend. He sacrificed himself, and was well aware of his actions."
"I had a feeling, Zevran. Ever since I put him on the throne, to the very moment that I chose him to accompany us into Denerim. I kept telling myself 'I should put him at the gates. No reason to bring all the Wardens this far in.' It was like...I knew he'd sacrifice himself when I had been prepared all along to do it myself."
A warm tear slid from her will's grasp to paint a wet trail down her cheek, but she did not reach up to brush it away. "I feel like I condemned him. I had the shot, I could have taken it. But instead I froze and I let him do it."
She felt a welcome and uncharacteristic hand on her shoulder, as Zevran reached out to her. "I want you to listen to me. I may not be well versed in love having been raised by whores, but he has done what any good assassin would have done. We go into a job knowing full well we may not come back, and we take them prepared for the worse. You were worried he no longer loved you, were you not?"
Keita hadn't been aware that he'd picked up on that. Perhaps rogues were even more intuitive than she had even begun to realize.
"I believe--though foolish as it he was--he was in the belief that he was acting admirably, so that you go on living. Do people in Ferelden not believe one lives on in another's memory?"
He was, as she realized now, always full of surprises. Welcome surprises, she could admit, but surprises none the less. A man who dedicated his life to killing for money seemed to understand a selfless sacrifice better than she--a woman who lived strictly by honor--could. Laying her head against his shoulder, she allowed her guard to drop and she cried. Zevran did not protest to her actions or placement upon his shoulder, and sat there faithfully for her.
Even if she thought she had no one left in this world, she had him.