Kya was pacing again. If Loghain had learned nothing else in the last few months, it was that when Kya Amell, now Warden Commander of the Grey and vaunted Hero of Ferelden started to pace, then things were going to go downhill. Soon. And Loghain was all out of brilliant distractions.
They'd spent the last week, or had it been two, of their journey towards Denerim through the gently greening hills of Bannorn in some sort of strange trance. They didn't argue, only smiled. They professed love and made love at every opportunity. But the entire time had felt fragile, like glass blown too thin. Loghain knew that they had both spent much time swallowing ego and biting back stubborn remarks. Eventually their true selves were bound to reassert themselves, and rather viciously he expected.
All this waiting was about to be the last straw that broke the haycart. Of that, he was completely certain.
He knew this dance of course. How many hours had he sat waiting? Even Maric loved to leave him to stew in his own juices, especially when he knew it would exhaust him to the point that whatever argument he'd come stomping in with would have fizzled before it even began. Somehow Maric still usually gave in to whatever Loghain suggested, but sometimes he imagined that his old friend got a thrill out of frustrating him until he was spent.
Apparently it was right in the blood, because Maric's boys were no different, not even this one raised entirely without his influence. Right in the blood indeed.
But Maric's bastard son hadn't learned something that Loghain had, it seemed. Loghain had only been in Kya's company for months. Alistair had shared her camp, and her bed, for nearly a year. Yet the boy hadn't learned that she was not one to be put off. Unlike Loghain, and most men, who's tempers would flare and fade quickly if left to their own devices, Kya's fire burned hotter if left too long. This boy King was about to get seriously singed, if he left them waiting much longer.
Luckily for Alistair, and himself, Loghain thought, the door swung open. Kya's furious pacing stopped short and she spun on her heel. She had feverish looking eyes and those bright spots of color high up on her cheeks that she always got when she was angry. Loghain thought she was rather fetching in her fury. He resisted the urge to grin.
Then, he saw the smug look on Alistair's face, and whatever humor he had fled. If he'd took the time to consider it, he would have realized how odd it was for the King to come to them alone. As it was, he was riveted to the expression on his unpleasantly familiar Theirin features.
"Warden Commander Kya," Alistair said first, breaking the thick tension that had rose up the moment the door opened. "Loghain." He nodded curtly in begrudging greeting.
"Your Majesty," Kya replied, crossing her arms across her chest and offering him a half bow. Her words were distinctly venomous.
"I am glad you are here," Alistair continued. "There are messages for you here, from Weisshaupt."
"Oh?" Kya replied. The nonchalance of her tone made Loghain proud.
"Yes," Alistair replied smugly. "Orders for Loghain, in fact."
"Do you intend to share or simply stand there looking like the cat that ate the . . . ," she paused for a moment, and a little smirk slid into her expression. "Pigeon?"
Alistair's ears flushed a bit at that. Loghain had no idea what that was about, but he expected it was best that he didn't think about it. Clearly, he was about to have enough problems without adding jealousy for a thing that was dead into it.
Alistair cleared his throat. "Yes, I will," he said. His voice lowered. "But I do expect this will be more bitter coming from my mouth. But I assure you, I had nothing to do with it. When I walked away from the Grey Wardens, I meant it. I reminded the messenger quite vividly of that when he tried to press the issue."
He took a step into the room and closed the door behind him. It made a soft snick as the wood slid into the frame. Alistair turned back to them slowly and leaned back against the door. He gestured to Kya with a twist of his head.
"Sit," he said. Loghain almost expected her to balk at that, but she said nothing. She settled down onto to bench beside him, blatantly putting her hand on his leg just above his knee. If Alistair noticed, he didn't mention it.
"The orders from Weisshaupt are quite clear. And final," Alistair said finally. "Loghain is to report to the Grey Wardens . . . in Montsimmard. In Orlais."
Loghain saw Kya's mouth drop open out of the corner of his eye. His own teeth clenched and he could feel the muscle in the crook of his jaw twitch.
"Why?" Kya managed finally.
"They say they are concerned that he will interfere in Ferelden politics. They feel that the Wardens of Ferelden are already far too tied up in things as it is." Alistair said bluntly. "And I happen to agree."
"Is that so, your Majesty?" she spat at him. "That's a funny thing, coming from you. Considering."
"I'm sure it is," he said. His face softened. "Look, are you actually surprised by this? You should be glad they didn't try to reassign you as well. I imagine the only reason they did not is because you are the one who led the defeat of the Archdemon. You will attract what they need."
"I suppose I will at that," Kya sighed, resigned. Her fingers tightened where they sat on Loghain's leg. "Being the hero that I am, I'm sure."
Loghain almost expected him to make some comment, some snide remark at Loghain's expense when Alistair eventually turned his eyes to him. Instead, the bastard King just stared at him, and swallowed. There was still a great deal of anger in that look, but perhaps a bit of pity was creeping in at the edges. But surprisingly, that compassion didn't send bolts of aggravation through him.
In those eyes that were all the wrong color, Loghain saw a little piece of Maric looking at him.
"I'll, ah . . . leave you two to speak in private," Alistair said. "But there are other things I will need to discuss with Loghain, before . . . ." His voice trailed off. "Things left from your regency still need to be dealt with. And I am sure Anora has words for you as well."
With that, Alistair nodded and stood away from the door, opening it and slipping out in one fluid motion. Not a regal exit, that. More of a grateful disappearing act. Really a Maric action if he'd ever seen one. It was a bit unnerving.
Then they were alone, sitting in sullen silence, Kya's fingers still flexing against his leg. She was staring at the closed door woodenly.
And here it was at last. This thing that they had both spoken of, but he knew at least on his part, had hoped would not happen. Duty was calling now. But he knew he couldn't deny what was now in his blood; he still wasn't sure how Alistair was managing it. The taint was part of him now. He was a Grey Warden and for better or worse, there was no turning himself away from it.
Loghain Mac Tir had been a creature of duty since the day his father stole him away into the night after ending the lives of a half dozen Orlesian officers. He was who he was, and he was far too old to change now. If the Senior Warden at Weisshaupt said he was to go to Montsimmard, then there he would go until the Calling drove him underground and to his end. Just as Kya said, in that accidental wisdom of hers; We're Grey Wardens, Loghain. It trumps everything else, even love. And so it did.
He thought that darkspawn blood was the last poison he'd have to drink.
There were loose ends. More than he had expected. Loghain knew that Anora was adept at politics, but he had to admit that the tangled mess that he had left behind was nearly beyond deciphering. The worst part of it was how much of it he himself was having trouble translating. Rendon Howe had his fingers deep into everything it seemed. It was a twisted ruin of political promises and threats that would take time to unravel. It would be some time before he was able to leave Ferelden, orders or not.
Loghain was reminded, as he sifted through the mounds of crypt letters and missives, how truly grateful he was for Kya's intervention. If Rendon had his way, it appeared there would have been poison to drink, even without the darkspawn blood. He had his sights set higher than Loghain even imagined. Being the Teryn of Highever and Arl of Denerim hadn't been enough for Howe. He'd intended to put himself on the throne.
Ferelden had a debt to the Commander of the Grey that was larger than they'd ever realize.
This duty however; it was irksome. He'd hoped that while he and Anora, and reluctantly Alistair, managed to determine how to resolve all these unanswered questions, he'd at least have the one bright spot. He'd be able to crawl into bed beside Kya in the dead of night, once his brain could no longer manage, and he'd have some bit of comfort. And a slow dance of ending, instead of an abrupt crack between them.
But there were orders for her as well, and an escort in the form of an overly enthusiastic Warden Recruit who had not yet undergone her joining. If the fool girl had any idea what was about to happen to her, he doubted her eyes would be glimmering so hopefully. But either way, she was a creature of duty, as much as Loghain and Kya were. She was chomping at the bit to get them underway.
He thought somehow that it would be easy now. There was this calm, serene place inside of him that had never been there before. It wasn't Kya herself that put it there, but he knew it was in part because of her. She had cleared away the debris of a lifetime and left him scoured clean and whole again. Even with this new acceptance, this was Rowan all over again.
But just like with Rowan, Loghain would let her go, because he had no other choice. This time, would be different, nonetheless. He would not see Kya become as they became; shells of themselves, living for nothing more than what they had to be, but inside dead and cold and bitter. Eventually, Rowan's bitterness ate her alive. He would not see that happen to Kya.
They'd had one last night together, after Alistair had let them be. They had not said one word to each other. Kya had folded her hand in his and he let her lead him to the quarters they'd been offered, guest rooms where honored nobles were kept in a silent wing of the castle. The hallways were deserted, or at least he remembered it that way. She'd been like a candle in a dark room on a cold winter night, and just as wordless.
Loghain remembered only one word from her, whispered quiet and hushed as she fell asleep finally, her back curled up against his chest, her skin still damp with his sweat.
She said his name. And that was all.
Today, she would leave for Amaranthine without him. Tonight, when his eyes refused to stay open any longer and he was forced back to that room, he would be alone. As much as he wanted to have more time, there was none. He was still trapped behind mounds of paperwork with Rendon's hateful scrawl on it as she packed her things and prepared to leave.
Kya appeared out of nowhere, like a ghost, appearing from around the corner of the bookcases. Loghain looked up, surprised that he had not heard her. She'd discarded her robes once more and wore her Dragonbone plate, no doubt left here for her by the other Wardens that traveled with them to Ostagar as they made their way back north. As if they knew this was coming, and Loghain wasn't entirely uncertainly that they had not known.
Her hair was tied back practically at the nape of her neck, but those same errant locks of hair as always had already worked their way loose, one on either side of her face and a few clinging to the soft skin of her neck. She wore her sword and shield strapped to her back already, as if she was heading directly into battle, not just on the long road back to Vigil's Keep.
"It's time," she said softly, her voice cracking with the effort. Loghain frowned as she swallowed.
He nodded and stood, coming around the desk to stand beside her. "We come to it at last then," he said.
"Are you sure I can't try to intervene on your behalf?" she asked. She asked him a thousand times the night before without speaking; she'd asked with her eyes and her body and eventually with her tears as she fell asleep with his name on her lips.
"No," he said. "They are probably right after all. I would interfere, if only with my mere presence."
Kya nodded. "I know," she sighed. "I do." It looked then as if she was about to leave, without another word and disappear. Loghain grabbed her arm as she started to turn.
"Wait," he managed. His voice sounded strange to his ears. "Before you go, I have a promise to make and a promise to ask."
She swallowed hard again, but did not look at him. As if she couldn't look at him.
"Please Kya," Loghain whispered. "Look at me."
Hesitantly, she turned back to him; this time he could clearly hear the odd dull clink of the plates of her armor moving against each other. She met his eyes, breathing hard, as if it was the most difficult thing she had ever done. This woman had faced the Archdemon and hadn't wavered. Loghain's heart thudded helplessly in the cage of his ribs.
"Before I leave for Orlais," he began, sliding his hand down the cold plate of her armor and happy to find she had not yet put on her gauntlets. "I will come to Amaranthine. To say goodbye. I promise this to you," he said.
Kya nodded sadly. Her gaze slid down to where his hand now held hers for a moment before her eyes met his again. "I'd like that," she said, equally quiet.
"But I also need you to promise me something," he said. She looked uncertain for a split second, but then squared her shoulders and gave him the best smile she could muster.
"For you," she said. "Anything."
Loghain smiled, despite his heart telling him otherwise. "Then promise me one thing; don't be like me. Don't let this do to you, what it did to me." She looked almost puzzled but didn't speak. "Because I can't bear to think of another life wasted on my behalf," he continued.
Kya opened her mouth to speak then, but he shushed her with his fingers across her lips. She kissed his fingers and he closed his eyes for moment, drinking in the sensation.
"I spent most of my life pining for what was not to be. I became a thing that was only bitterness and regret," he explained. "Because I was weak, and because I didn't know what love was." He paused, sliding his hand from her lips to cradle the side of her face. "But I know now. Love is not about possessing what you love. And it is not painfully doing your duty in spite of it. Even when things are not to be, love doesn't die."
He leaned forward and kissed her once and then twice on her cold, tense lips.
"We don't have any more time," he continued. "But that does not make the time we had mean any less. It will only be lessened if as time goes on, it becomes a bitter thing, instead of sweet. All my life I thought love had made me weak. Love makes you stronger; I know that now."
Loghain looked at her closely. Of all the bits of wisdom he'd acquired in his life, this was the hardest lesson. One harshly fought battle indeed. He only hoped she could learn with less years and hardship than he had. He smiled at her and she echoed the expression. It was a sad smile for them both, but a true one.
"So promise me," he said. "When I come to see you before I leave, I want to know that my loving you made you stronger, not weak. I want to know that loving me made you less bitter, not more. And if when this old man barges in and kisses you, if there's an irritated young man looking on . . . ." Loghain grinned. "Then all the better."
Kya bit her lip and it made her smile crooked.
"I promise," she said. "I love you Loghain." Despite her smile, a tear spilled down her cheek.
"I love you too, Kya," he smiled. He wiped away her tear and kissed her again, just this one last time.
When he saw her again, it could only be an echo of this moment. They could profess love and make love, and certainly they would, he had no doubt. But this moment was the last of that time he'd asked for.
"What I want to know is if you are? For what little time that we might have, I want to know if you are mine."
And so she had been, both body and soul, the blood and taint of Kya Amell had belonged to Loghain Mac Tir for a time. A better time than he'd ever expected to have in this over long life of his. Finally, he could say with no uncertainly that he had deserved it after all.
A/N This is the end of Sensible Creatures.
But it is hardly the end of Kya Amell. The Commander of the Grey is a stubborn woman, and she has things to do yet. And Loghain? He does have a promise to keep, after all.
I want to thank everyone who read and commented, and even those that just were moved but didn't let me know about it. I hope that you enjoyed the redemption of Loghain Mac Tir. After a lifetime of service and sacrifice, I thought he deserved more than death on the floor of the Landsmeet.
He deserved some peace at last.
Loghain once said, "Peace just means fighting someone else's enemies in someone else's war for someone else's reasons." But even he can be wrong, and he is usually willing to admit it.
I think finally, even he knows better.