Chapter 1: The Calm
The bards would surely sing of it one day. They would tell the tale of that dark night upon Fort Draken, when the armies of Ferelden gathered to cut down the Blight. They would sing of the ranks of men, mages, dwarves and elfs. They would sing of the noble party that fought to the top of the tower to challenge the evil that waited there. They would sing of courage. They would sing of glory.
Some would sing of the Elf, foreign and feline. Some would sing of the Dwarf, gone Berserk in bloodlust. Some would sing of the King, noble and brave. All would sing of the Grey Warden. They would sing of the mage, who with her last ounce of strength, took up the Kings' sword and struck down the Archdemon. They would sing of the thunder and lighting that followed. They would sing of the quake and the tempest that shook Denerim to its core.
They would sing of the Grey Warden, dead upon the tower.
"Solona…Solona, wake up."
With grey eyes still closed, Solona Amell smiled to herself. She was held tightly to Alistair's bare chest, his arms wrapped securely around her. She did not wish to awaken quite yet.
She had been exhausted for so long now. They had crisscrossed Ferelden thrice over in their quest to rally support against the Blight. They have battled demons, parlayed with spirits, vanquished a Paragon, and much, much more. This brief moment of peace was well earned. With a soft sigh, Solona burrowed in closer against her lover's neck. Gentle fingers brushed over her dark hair, and were caught briefly in her braids. She sighed once more; Alistair did try so very hard. The edge of the Veil flickered lightly across her; she could step back into the Fade so very easily…
She frowned. Surely Alistair knew that she was tired. Why wouldn't he just give her this moment? It was soothing here. So warm… hot even. Sweltering, more so. There was suddenly no comfort to be found. Disquieting sounds began to seep into Solona's ears. The dull thud of marching footsteps. The rattle of chains. The shrill echo of a scream.
Solona shook herself awake. This was not their quiet camp outside Denerim. She tried to jump to her feet but was stilled by Alistair's careful embrace. Together they sat in only their small cloths upon a blackened stone floor. With panicked eyes, Solona scanned the surroundings. Orange light from dying torches flickered across a filthy cell. They were obviously in some sort of prison. Through the bars she could see a torture chamber on the landing below. Solona fought a sudden wave of nausea; there was corpses piled high in every corner.
"What? Where are we?" she gasped.
"Welcome to Fort Draken, love" replied Alistair with a grim smile. He furrowed his brows "You were asleep for so long, I thought … well, I was worried. You're alright?"
Solona was suddenly sore from head to toe; her whole body ached and whined in protest when she attempted to move. Most of all, her head sang in agony. It felt as though the very archdemon himself was trying to break loose from within.
"Bleh" she muttered, "I could use some lyrium."
"Ah, as good as ever then," jested Alistair, as he placed a light kiss upon her forehead.
A memory in the back of Solona's mind finally broke through: the circumstances of their arrival at Fort Draken. Queen Anora had betrayed them. After flying to her rescue, she had turned upon the Wardens and handed them over to Ser Cauthrien.
"I'm going to throttle Anora," Solona hissed.
"No, no!" replied Alistair, "We should roast her on a spit and feed her to your hound. No? Boil her in for soup then?"
Solona would only raise a questioning brow to him.
"No? Fine, you can just do your crispy-fry spell thing if you want…" Alistair relented.
The sound of nearing footsteps sobered the pair. "We need to get out of here," Solona whispered. Their cell was sparse - no benches or chains to fashion into weapons. She rose to touch the tempered iron bars surrounding them. They were old, but still strong and sturdy; it would take her hours to melt through them. No, magic alone would not save them - they would need subterfuge too. Solona dropped to a heap on the floor and began moaning and writhing about, just as the patrolling guard rounded the corner.
Alistair blinked for a moment before understanding her plan. "Uhh… we need help in here. Help! Sick prisoner, over here!" he called.
From her mound on the floor, Solona rolled her eyes. Love him though she may, Alistair was an awful actor.
The guard dredged over to their cell. "What's all this, then?" he growled.
"She's dying!" exclaimed Alistair, "And defenceless! And really, really vulnerable!"
The guard peered with lecherous eyes through the bars. The prisoner on the floor was a beauty. They didn't get many lovelies in the Draken...
"Stand back," the guard warned Alistair as he withdrew his keys.
Alistair raised his hands and backed to the far corner of the cage. "Right, right. No trouble from me," he faked a stammer.
The guard licked vilely at his lips as he placed the key in the lock ... and then hit the ground sound asleep before he could turn it. The impact seemed to have left him unharmed; the guard snored softly to himself in a deep, dreamless sleep.
Alistair stared at the sleeping guard. "Bad call not having a templar on duty here," he mused.
Solona could only shrug in response.
They found their armor and other supplies conveniently stored in a chest nearby. With rushed fingers Alistair secured his armor, while Solona tried not to look at the torture devices below.
"Do you think they would have…to us?" she asked in a low voice. Solona did not fare well in stone towers at the best of times. Alistair avoided her question.
"Are you ready?" he finally asked. Solona nodded in reply.
Taking in a deep breath and pushing Solona gently behind him, Alistair drew his sword and readied his shield. Prepared for anything, he delivered a sharp kick to the waiting doors, and… discovered Morrigan and Leliana disguised in Chantry robes on the other side.
Leliana immediately sprang forth and grasped Solona in a crushing hug. "Ma Petite! We were so worried. Are you alright? Look at your hair!" she exclaimed.
Alistair stared at Morrigan, dressed primly in Chantry robes. He opened his mouth to laugh, but was immediately silenced by Morrigan's deathly warning, "Do not speak, Templar, lest I scorch your tongue from that dribbling hole of a mouth."
It was practically a warm embrace.
The Grey Wardens and their companions had escaped Fort Draken with relative ease. But now in Arl Eamon's study, all hell had broken lose.
The Wardens and their companions had returned to find Anora sitting comfortably in the Arl's study, enjoying a steaming cup of tea. Without a word, Solona stepped towards her, the start of a hex forming at her fingertips.
"Apprentice Amell!" shouted Wynne, and Solona dropped the spell. Old habits were hard to break.
Alistair was less forgiving as he drew his sword. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't cut you down here and now," he breathed.
Anora sighed. "It was necessary," she began, sounding more like she was addressing her court than the livid fellows before her. "If I had told Cauthrien the truth, she would have insisted that I return to the palace. Maker only knows what my father would have done."
"You're her queen!" exclaimed Solona. "You could have ordered her to do anything you bloody well wanted."
Alistair placed a soft hand upon Solona's shoulder, and drew her behind him as he stepped forward.
"They could have killed her," he seethed, taking slow steps toward the Queen. "They were going to torture her."
"It was necessary!" Anora shouted in turn.
"Enough!" interrupted Eamon in a mighty roar. "Alistair, you and the Warden are fine. We all know that Fort Draken guards would hardly be an issue for either of you." He turned to Anora. "But you have hardly done anything to earn our trust."
Anora scowled, "I have come to you because my father has gone mad. We can help each other: you seek support at the Landsmeet, and who better to speak for you than the Queen?"
"And…?" Solona questioned.
"And, I have information that may help you," Anora claimed, grasping for straws, "The Alienage! There has been unrest there since Ostagar, and very few elves followed the army into battle. It must have something to do with my father and Howe."
The queen scanned her audience. Although they had backed down, they were clearly not completely convinced. "Please," she requested, "Consider it." With a sharp turn, Anora faced Solona "Warden, I would like a word with you in private." And with that, she departed.
Alistair giggled to himself. This is an excellent idea. Probably the very best that he had ever had. Compounding the Landsmeet with the Blight, things had been rather dire for far too long. He had seen the way that the stress had worn upon Solona. With dark circles under her eyes and a lyrium potion constantly in her hand, Alistair knew she was wearing thin. It seemed like a lifetime since he had heard the sweet ring of joy in her laughter.
Alistair had hidden himself within the dressing closest of Solona's room at Arl Eamon's estate. Using an old templar skill, he felt along the Veil for the slightest disturbance that would signal the approach of a mage. She should not be long now. He could hardly imagine Solona spending hours chatting away with Anora, as she could with Leliana.
The thought darkened Alistair's mood for a moment. He liked Leliana – he really did - but he did not like how she touched Solona. At first, she had just played with the mage's hair. Then it was the occasional shoulder rub and later the overly long embrace. Now, Maker's breath, Leliana practically clung to his lover day and night. More than once he had snuck across camp, intent upon worshipping Solona from top to bottom, only to find the pair curled up and asleep together. Alistair scowled. Sure, hot, right? But that came as small comfort when he was forced to relieve himself, alone and ashamed in his own tent. Solona shrugged off his complaints, claiming they were just sisterly friends. Sisters did not cuddle like that; Alistair was sure of it.
And then there was Zevran. The Crow had the decency to be honest about his intents, but that really did nothing to assuage Alistair's ire. The elf had propositioned Solona, Alistair, Solona and Alistair, and Solona, Alistair and Wynne on more than one occasion! Of course Solona just laughed it off as impish teasing. Maker, was the girl so naïve that she did not realize that Zevran would happily leap into bed with all three of them?
The Veil trembled, interrupting Alistair from his thoughts. A mage approached. Footsteps and the soft creak of a door opening and closing soon followed. His lover had arrived. Alistair grinned, waiting for her to come just a bit closer…
Alistair let forth a sustained Cleansing Aura, briefly blocking any spells from being cast. With a flash of adrenaline, he burst forth from the closet, grabbed the mage behind the knees, and threw her over his shoulder. Sprinting forward, he deposited her onto the waiting bed.
"Fool!" came a shriek.
Alistair looked down. Maker's mercy, it was Morrigan upon the bed. His mouth fell open in horror.
"No," seethed Morrigan. "Do not speak. Do not move. If it were not for the Warden, I would gut you in your sleep!" she exclaimed as she rose twitching in fury from the bed.
She marched towards the door, stopping only to point an accusing finger at him. "Sleep well, Fool. Tomorrow you will do so from a pond!" Morrigan hissed, before slamming the door behind her.
Oh sweet Andraste save him. He was a dead man.
"So, you understand my dilemma?" asked Anora.
Solona nodded dumbly, wanting nothing more than this meeting to be over. She had delayed visiting Anora for over a day, but at the Arl's badgering had finally gone to face the Queen. Maker, but Anora was the least personable human she had ever met! Every word the Queen spoke sounded like it was meant for the ears of a simpleton. Solona wanted nothing more than to stand up and declare that she was a Circle Mage and a Grey Warden, not some common fool. Yet, she held her tongue and nodded like that common fool instead.
The matter was much simpler than Anora would have had her believe. The Queen wanted to keep her crown, but her father was a raving lunatic. Thus, Anora wanted Solona's support at the Landsmeet. It was really that simple. The fact that Alistair had a stronger claim never even broached the conversation.
Alistair. He was the heart of the problem, wasn't he? The man who should be king. The man who would give anything to not be king. Solona rubbed her brow and gave a wistful thought to the lyrium potion awaiting her in her chambers. There was no doubt in her mind that Alistair would be a brilliant king; his sense of justice was unparalleled and his loyalty was unending. He would do what was right for the people, at the cost of all else.
Solona looked up to regard Anora as she prattled away about how she would be best for the nation. Solona raised an eyebrow: the queen fiddled with her fingers like a hapless Circle apprentice. How very… unregal. With a sigh, Solona continued to nod as Anora carried on and on. Ferelden seemed to run well enough under Anora's rule. Supposedly it was she, and not Cailan, who had run the country for the past five years. And yet Anora had a ruthless streak - there was no denying it. She also had the faint glint of vanity and self-interest in her eyes. Was she a perfect queen? No. But was she good enough? Yes. Anora would do what was best for Ferelden … even at the cost of its people.
"Yes." Solona finally spoke up, interrupting Anora's speech. "Yes, I will support you at the Landsmeet."
"Oh. Very well then," replied Anora, clearly relieved but still picking at her fingers.
With a nod, Solona rose and departed for her chambers. A voice of guilt began to rise within her heart. Had she done it in the interest of the nation? Or had she done it to keep Alistair for herself?
Alistair was a lucky, lucky man. It had been nearly an hour since the disaster with Morrigan and he was still alive and well. He had resumed his position within Solona's closest and was smiling once more. If at first you don't succeed…
A ripple on the Veil and the sound of footsteps alerted him to an approaching mage. Alistair, learning from past mistakes, had left the closet doors cracked slightly ajar. He peered out from within the shadows. Success! It was Solona entering the room. Maker's breath but she was beautiful. From the dark braids that twisted through her hair, to the soft grey of her eyes, to the blue tattoos that skirted her right eye, to the sweet pink of her lips. Alistair was enraptured by her.
She closed the door gently behind her and walked straight to the desk on the far side of the room. Alistair strained to see as Solona opened the top drawer and removed a small bottle. With an unceremonious flourish, she raised the bottle to her lips and consumed its contents in a single pull. Lyrium. Alistair frowned. She had really been drinking too much of it lately; he would speak to her about it when he got the chance. But not now. Now he had other plans…
Once more, he cast a Cleansing Aura, burst from the closest and threw his beloved over his shoulder. She gave a panicked shout as he threw her onto the bed.
Solona blinked in disbelief. "Alistair? What in the Maker's name are –"
She was cut off as her fellow Warden leapt into the bed next to her and silenced her with a kiss. The taste of lyrium was still upon her lips.
When they broke apart Solona tried again. "Alistair?"
"Shhh," he whispered as he began working the dreadful clasps of her robe free. "I'm not the incredibly dashing and handsome Alistair that you know. I'm a dastardly rogue come to have my evil way with an innocent maiden."
"Oh really?" Solona asked with a smile.
"Mhmmm" was Alistair's reply as he reigned light kisses along her jaw and down her neck. He had given up on the clasps and contented himself with running his hands up beneath Solona's robe and along her soft thighs.
"Maker preserve me!" Solona exclaimed in a sweet tone. "If only there was some strong, brave, handsome knight to rescue me." Alistair smiled against her neck as she played along. Maker's breath he loved her.
"Sten! Save me!" she shouted.
Alistair froze and then looked up to glare at his beloved. "That's not funny," he glowered.
"Oh? I thought it was funny," Solona replied with an innocent smile.
"Well it isn't" Alistair pouted, "Now I have to ravish you twice over in punishment."
Solona leaned forward until her lips brushed against Alistair's ear. With a warm breath she whispered, "Promises, promises…" and traced his earlobe with the tip of her tongue.
When they found their breath once more and their hearts had finally calmed, the lovers curled up beneath a blanket. Solona lay upon her side with Alistair curved in against her back. His arm held her snuggly against his chest. His breath flickered lightly across her cheek.
"I've agreed to support Anora at the Landsmeet," Solona whispered, half hoping Alistair was already asleep.
"What?" Alistair asked, sitting up.
Solona swallowed hard. She had hoped that perhaps he would be pleased with the news. She turned to look into his puzzled eyes. "I told her I would support her bid for the crown."
Alistair did not answer. Nor did he give any sign of approval.
"You said you never wanted to be king."
"No." Alistair finally replied, "You're right. It's best." He could see that Solona was still worried about his reaction. Settling back down on the bed, he tucked her against his chest once more. "Go to sleep, love. Tomorrow will be a long day."
Alistair remained awake for many hours after he felt Solona drift into sleep. He watched silently as his lover murmured in her sleep, moving only to brush away the hairs that fell across her brow. He could not help but feel that something was very wrong about Anora taking up the throne. She had proven herself to be a competent ruler, and Maker knew he did not want the crown himself; yet something boded ill.
Solona tossed suddenly, and whimpered gently against Alistair's chest. He worried about her dreams of in the Fade; even sleep could be dangerous for mages. Alistair pressed a gentle kiss upon her brow. With Anora on the throne, he would be free to live his life with Solona. Yes, this must be the right course of action.
"Shh," he whispered, as he curled in closer to her. "I love you. Always."
A/N: This is what I hope to be the start of a fairly long series that extends far past the end of Dragon Age: Origins. You may have noticed that some of the dialogue does not match the game exactly… but oh well.
Edited: 12/12/14: The more explicit version of this story is now available on A03.