It looked just like her.
That was his first thought, and it was a ridiculous one, of course. The dwarven style of sculpture was a stylised one and not meant to be realistic. But the statue was enough like her- in the stubborn set of its jaw and the shape of its deep-set eyes- that it made the ever-present grief and longing well up in his throat. It was a good thing he wasn't required to make a speech; he didn't think he would have been able to manage a word. He was barely listening to Harrowmont, far too lost in his own memories as the dwarven king dedicated the statue and declared her to be a Paragon in front of all the same people who had once reviled her and exiled her as a traitor.
Alistair couldn't find it in himself to be angry at them, though. If it hadn't been for her people's utter stupidity they would have never met. And no matter how much it hurt him now, he would never, ever, be sorry for that.
It felt like a lifetime since he saw her last, but in reality it had been less than six months. Six long, lonely months while he fumbled around learning how to be king. Fortunately, Wynne had stayed with him, and prevented him from both moping around and putting his foot in his mouth as often as she could.
He missed her, every day. Somehow, everything reminded him of her, and everything just felt less… fun because she wasn't there to share it with him. He felt less in himself because she wasn't at his side. He would give anything to see her again. There was so much left unsaid between them. He'd hurt her, even though he hadn't meant to, and even though she had understood. After all, she knew the duties of royalty far better than he did.
He'd thought he would have time to fix it. He'd been such a fool.
Harrowmont finished his speech, to muted cheers and applause, as Leliana began to sing the song that had made her famous. They were all there, well, almost all. Morrigan had disappeared shortly before the final battle. He didn't know or care why, although she had been oddly reluctant to discuss it with him. Sten was absent too, after paying her honour in his own way; he had left to return to his own people. But the rest of them were all there. Oghren was even holding the hand of another dwarf. For a moment, he thought of what she would have said to him, the smart yet encouraging comment she would have called over and he smiled. The smile faded as he stared back at the statue. It might look like her, a little. But it couldn't talk.
He remembered that last day so vividly. Leliana's song brought it all back to him. She had left him at Denerim's gates, claiming that he would need to warn the Wardens if she failed. He'd known the real reason though, after all, people had been protecting him because of his blood his whole life. She hadn't even said goodbye to him, just looked at him for a long moment before hurrying away.
He had stared after her, desperate to think of something to say. "Good luck!" sounded trite, and he didn't feel like he had the right to tell her he loved her anymore. By the time he'd settled on "Be careful!" she was already out of earshot.
Although he had been concentrating on protecting the gates, part of his mind had been with her, worrying about her, throughout that whole long fight. And then a pillar of light burst upwards from the tower at Fort Drakon. As the light faded away, the soldiers around him started to cheer. They knew what it meant: the archdemon was dead. But they didn't know what it meant: that she was dead too. He'd hoped though, even though he had known it was foolish. But she had survived against the odds so many times before, what was one more?
He'd met the others outside the gates of the Fort, his heart beating nervously in his throat. Sten had carried her down from the tower. She'd looked like a tiny broken doll in the arms of their massive qunari companion, and the expression on his usually expressionless face had crushed any lingering hope he had that she had survived. One glance at Zevran and Wynne, trailing behind, had confirmed it. The shock and grief on their faces told him far too clearly. She was dead.
Something inside him had died then, too. The emptiness she had left in her wake still echoed within him.
When Alistair came out of his thoughts, he realised Harrowmont was standing beside him. "Oh, I'm sorry! I was just thinking…"
The elderly dwarf just sent him an understanding look. Although nothing had been explicitly stated to him, he had probably already deduced that he felt more for her than just grief for a comrade. The two kings had met before, to discuss the defence of Orzammar against the darkspawn, and it had probably been Alistair's eagerness to hear stories of her childhood that had caused the dwarven king to issue his invitation to witness the unveiling of her statue. As far as he knew, he and his friends were the first non-dwarfs to watch this ceremony.
"The statue was finished more quickly than I expected," Harrowmont commented. "There were so many volunteers to sculpt it we were turning away help."
"It looks like her," Alistair said, somewhat lamely, and Harrowmont chuckled.
"It does, doesn't it? She was always as stubborn as the Stone itself. The best of the Aeducans." He sighed. "She would have made an excellent queen."
Alistair's stomach lurched, guilt bitter in his mouth. "Yes," he managed to reply, before realising that there was no accusation behind that comment. Harrowmont appeared exhausted, almost on edge. Alistair could sympathise. He was just learning that being a good man wasn't the same as being a good king. It was much harder than it looked.
Harrowmont excused himself to speak to an Assembly member, and left Alistair to contemplate the statue and relive his bittersweet memories.
He was interrupted by a loud half-sigh, half-belch. "Just sodding talk to her already," a loud voice advised.
"Hello, Oghren," he said. "Talk to who, exactly? Your girlfriend?" he drawled, trying to wind his friend up, and to forget his own dark thoughts.
"No, nug-brain. Your girlfriend." He indicated the statue with a wave of his hand.
"Um, Oghren…" Alistair began, but was cut off by another wave of his hand, angry this time.
"She's not just a statue. She's a Paragon. She's gone back to the Stone and the Stone ain't deaf. Course, it don't usually listen to cloudheads, but I reckon she'll make an exception for you."
"Talk to her?" he repeated, slightly confused. He'd never quite understood the dwarven religion, despite the several attempts she'd made to explain it to him. She'd confessed once that his belief in the Maker was just as bewildering to her, but then their attempt at a theological debate somehow developed into a play fight that led to …
Oghren cleared his throat noisily, jerking him abruptly back to the present. "That old witch says you're moping around worse than the mabari. Just talk to her!"
"Don't let Wynne hear you call her an old witch," Alistair replied, already moving towards the statue. He didn't know if she could really hear him or not, but what harm would it do? And if by any chance she could hear him, well, there were so many things he wanted to tell her.
For a moment Alistair wished he had brought flowers, but then he remembered that flowers weren't exactly common underground. It was no wonder she had looked so bemused when he had presented her with that rose. Leliana had pulled her aside afterwards to explain what it meant when a human man gave a woman flowers. The memory brought the first true, if weak, smile to his face that he could remember in a long time.
The statue was tall and a little imposing, smooth and slightly warm beneath his fingertips. "Hello," he began tentatively, feeling a little foolish. But not foolish because it looked like he was talking to himself, foolish in the clumsy, tongue-tied, ungainly, head-exploding way he had always felt around her, uncaring of how stupid he was being because he had managed to make her smile.
There were other statues of her, and countless portraits (a few even drawn by people who knew what she looked liked), but none of them felt like her, not like this one did. Suddenly, he could easily believe that she could hear him from wherever she was.
"I'm not used to having to look up to talk to you," he said with a smirk. "But I guess I'm going to get a crick in my neck, either way." He paused, easily imaging the unimpressed look on her face. She had always been a little touchy about her height. "Right, right, sorry. You've missed out on a lot, you know. Being king's not much fun but I'm trying to be a good king. I owe you that, at least."
It gushed out of him then, a dam breaking, all his guilt and sorrow and regret spilled at her feet. It was probably incoherent, and after a while he found himself apologising for small things, like sneakily eating her share of the cheese and taking up most of the bed roll. His words came to an unsteady halt then.
"That's just what I wanted to say. Oh, and I miss you. And I love you. And… that's it." He kept his hand on her stone one as he spoke, wanting to keep up this tentative connection as long as he could. If he closed his eyes, he could practically see her wry smile and the fondly exasperated eye-roll.
Alistair, it's alright. And I kind of figured about the cheese.
He felt lighter, he realised, as if she really had heard him, really had forgiven him. His grief hadn't gone away, it probably never would. But it would be easier to carry.
Half turning at the sound of his name, he saw his friends and the milling dwarfs waiting to go into the feast that was the next part of the ceremony.
He rolled his eyes at the statue. "Duty calls, it seems." He slowly removed his hand and whispered "goodbye" before joining his companions. Oghren seemed smug, Wynne relieved that he had come to some sort of resolution.
He turned at the door for one last glimpse before they headed out of the Hall of Heroes. It was probably just the flickering torchlight, but her statue almost seemed to be smiling gently down at him.
A/N: I was interested in the idea of the dwarven Ancestors and Paragons being able to hear people who pray to them... it made me wonder what Alistair would say to Lady Aeducan if he had the chance.
Does anyone else think she would have made an excelllent queen? Stuipd specieist humans.
Let me know what you think.