First, I'd like to thank Bioware for creating this wonderful game that has so sparked our imaginations. Second, I'd like to thank them for letting us play in their sandbox. I've not written fan fiction before, but I love all my characters and this way I can keep them 'alive' until their next adventure.

The final battle is just the beginning of my story. I will follow Aedan along afterwards as he rebuilds the wardens and considers his decision to participate in Morrigan's ritual. This story will include Aedan's romance with Leliana, will contain plot spoilers from the game, and is rated M for violence and suggestive themes.

Our starting point is the arch demon is down and it's time to decide who will take the final blow:


The Arch Demon

Alistair started toward the downed dragon, dropping his shield to grip his sword in both hands. Aedan must have heard the clatter of his shield hitting stone because looked up from tending Sten's wound and froze. Leaping to his feet, he whirled, two steps bringing him to Alistair's side. He reached out, grabbing his shoulder, yelling as he did so, "Alistair, no!"

Alistair turned to look at him, tearing his eyes away from the arch demon with a great effort. His gaze focused on Aedan then and he shook his head as if to clear it. Aedan's hands had reached for the sword, wrapping his fingers about his upon the hilt. Aedan sank to his knees before him and looked up, his blue eyes wide, full of fear and despair.

"As commander of your army, this is my duty to you. Let me be the one…for Ferelden," Aedan said, his voice hoarse from battle, cracking as he faltered over his words. "For you, my King…my Brother,"

Alistair blinked, his eyes filling with tears and for a moment his grip on the blade slipped, then strengthened. "Isn't this what a King would do for his people? End the Blight in a single stroke?"

"A King must rule, and to rule, he must live..." Aedan pleaded. He bowed his head over their interlocked hands, "Command me, please..." he breathed.

Alistair stood there a moment longer, eyes closed, mind reeling. This mere year had brought more pain, yet more joy than he had ever known. How could he command his dearest friend, the man who had followed him loyally to the brink of death and back to die for him? Aedan had believed in him when others would not. This man had made him King!

He heard a shout and opening his eyes caught a glimpse of mage fire as more darkspawn began to pour out onto the top of the tower from below. This had to end, now.

He pulled Aedan to his feet and the warrior gasped, tightening his grip on Alistair's hands. Aedan then set his feet, ready to wrest the weapon from his hands and looked up. Alistair grimaced through his tears as he loosed his fingers. He croaked "Aedan…" and stopped.

"My Brother…my friend," he drew himself up, finally letting go of the sword, "As I command, you shall have the honour of this final blow." He took a deep breath and raised his voice, "End this Blight…for Ferelden, for the Grey Wardens!"

Aedan straightened and resettled his grip on the sword. He stepped back and nodded his head in a final bow, before looking up and meeting Alistair's eyes. "Take care of Leliana for me," he whispered, turning and running toward the dragon.

Alistair had a single moment to watch the tall warrior lift the sword high above his head, roaring, and run toward the arch demon, before he felt a blow upon his own shoulder. Stepping back, his armour-plated elbow driving into the gut of the genlock behind him, he stooped forward to pick up his shield, one foot taking a light step forward, allowing him to spin, slamming the shield into the face of that same genlock, downing it. Stepping over the body, he picked the axe from its lifeless fingers and swung at the next darkspawn bearing down upon him.

--=0=--

Aedan had run directly at the arch demon, sword raising sparks off the scales of the dragon's neck as the arch demon attempted to raise its large head for one final roar. Blood began to fly behind the trail as the sharp dragonbone blade at last encountered the relative softness beneath the throat. Aedan drew the sword to the side and up with a spray of blood that hissed and steamed as it hit his armour, raising welts upon his exposed skin.

As the great head dropped once more Aedan again took the hilt with both hands and lifting the sword above his head, he closed his eyes, his lips forming a single word, "Maker", before thrusting down with all his strength, sending the tip of the sword between the dragon's eyes, through the head, every crunch of bone and cartilage rippling up his arms until the shuddering jolt that told him the tip had driven into the stone below. He was engulfed in light.

The light seared like holy fire and Aedan felt as if it were flaying the very skin from his bones. He yelled with the pain of it, and though every instinct told him to let go of the blade, he held on. The light was too bright and he closed his eyes, but instead of darkness his life was there, rolling backwards before him. From the battle to the top of the tower all the way back down to the gathering at the gates. He was able to call the face of each companion before him.

Alistair! The man had become his truest friend when Howe had conspired to take everything he held dear. His king and his Brother-in-Arms, Alistair would be a great and fair ruler, a man whose faith and loyalty had never wavered, even when the odds were against them. Leliana, his light and his heart, she had crept inside him unawares, capturing first his interest, then his love. Feeling his heart would break he instead turned his thoughts to Sten, the proud Qunari warrior whom he had redeemed and restored. Wynne, the ever wise and gentle Wynne who had always been there to listen when he'd felt small beneath the weight of his burdens. She'd set him back on his feet more times than he could count, sometimes with hard words, but always with patience.

Zevran, the cocky, self assured assassin had become a true ally, an asset and a friend. Shale, the unfathomable golem was one of his short life's biggest surprises. Oghren would be alright, the gruff dwarf had a way of looking at life Aedan could only envy. Morrigan…Morrigan, the maleficar who had promised him Alistair would not die. Had she left already, Aedan's babe quickening within her womb, ready to receive this demon's soul? Had he made the right choice? But if completing the abhorrent ritual would save the king he had spent a year driving toward the throne, then he could accept his fate. It was supposed to save his life also, but this light, this pain…this felt like dying.

The images before his closed eyes began to blur and fade, moving faster so as he could barely pick out faces and memories until the final frame. His family, his father, mother, Brother and his wife, their child were arrayed before him as they had been that night, the night of Howe's treachery. His heart stopped and his fingers fell from the blade. Before he could fall there was a loud clap like thunder and his body was thrown from the head of the arch demon, flying up before sailing down to skid across the stone floor.

--=0=--

For what felt like an eternity the battle raged about Alistair, as thick and furious as before and he lost sight of Wynne and Sten in the rush. What he mistook for mage lightening flared so suddenly he had to squint for fear of losing his sight. Shading his eyes, he dared a glance at the source and beheld Aedan standing at the head of the arch demon, both hands upon the sword, which was thrust to the hilt through the dragon's head, fairly pinning it to the ground.

The thunderous noise rang in the eardrums of the companions. They each had to turn their gaze away from the sight of Aedan as the light surrounding him became bright enough to eclipse their vision. The surrounding darkspawn, standing as transfixed as they, howled as the light melted their eyes and burnt the flesh from their bodies. Limbs, weapons and mismatched armour all dropped to the ground with muted thumps and clangs, joining the wave of sound gathering toward a crescendo until that deafening thunder that had stunned them all.

The companions found themselves lifted upon that wave of sound and air and thrown clear of the arch demon. Alistair witnessed Aedan's body also being thrown away, limp and lifeless, coming to rest against a low stone wall. He attempted to gain his feet then simply crawled toward his friend, having to shield his eyes once again as the brightness and the thunder gathered to an almighty roar. The column of light that had transfixed Aedan now reached the sky and had spread in a nimbus below the swirling clouds. Alistair's ears were ringing and just as he steadied himself against the buffeting wind it died down and he fell to Aedan's side.

Suddenly Wynne and Sten were there also, looking disheveled and bleeding from many wounds of their own, but alive. Wynne immediately began chanting, her hands hovering over Aedan, her eyes closed against her own weariness. She swayed and Sten caught her as she fell forward. She opened her eyes, tears rolling down a face stained by battle and she looked at Alistair, a sob catching in her throat.

"He's there," she whispered, "I can feel him, but only just. I have not the strength remaining…I'm sorry." She broke off, wrapping her arms about her shoulders to hug herself, rocking forward again, "Oh, Aedan I'm so sorry."

Alistair put his arms beneath Aedan's ribs and tried to lift him, grunting in pain as the man's armour thumped against his bruised shoulder. His burden was lifted and he looked up to see Sten take Aedan from him, cradling the man in his arms as if he were a mere boy, conferring a gentleness Alistair would not have suspected.

"Thank you Sten, I would not leave him here…with this…" he cast a glance at the body of the arch demon. Alistair bowed his head. He should tell Wynne that there was nothing she could do, that no power could heal Aedan. He didn't know if she could live with the guilt of thinking she might have saved him, he could ease her conscience with the knowledge he possessed – that Aedan had taken the arch demon's life knowing it would also take his own. The secrets of the Grey Wardens were a cruel knowledge to possess.

Picking their way through the gruesome remains of darkspawn, the companions made their way to the doors leading down. It felt like the longest walk of Alistair's life. The darkspawn beneath the tower roof had not disintegrated like those above, their bodies remained where they'd been cut down. Every so often a shadow moved and a footstep echoed, but they were not challenged. The darkspawn were broken, mindless and fleeing. As they came down the stairs to the first floor they met with the remains of the Legion of the Dead. The hardy dwarves, still numerous, were heavily stained with darkspawn blood. A commotion near the entrance died down as the soldiers quickly dispatched two more of the fleeing darkspawn and the way cleared. As one, the dwarves bowed their heads, not to Alistair, but to the man lying in Sten's arms, his distinctive Warden Commander Armour, battered as it was, marking him clearly as Aedan.

Alistair approached Kardol and they exchanged a few quiet words, Kardol raising his head to two nearby legion and calling, "a cart, for the Warden, be quick about it." His voice was gruff with concealed emotion. He turned back to Alistair, "So it's done."

Alistair could only nod at that point, not trusting himself to speak. A cart had been rounded up, but no animals were found. The dwarves lent themselves to the task. Sten laid Aedan into the back before helping a protesting Wynne up to kneel beside him. She sank wearily down, picking up Aedan's lifeless hands in her own, and taking up a constant low murmuring that near broke Alistair's heart. He bit his lips together, put his head down and walked on beside their odd procession – the Dwarves, the few remaining mages, the companions.

Denerim, jewel of Ferelden, lay about him in ruins. He could barely recognise the streets and they lost their way more than once. They found the rest of Arl Eammon's men before the river. Thankfully this bridge, unlike the one the arch demon had smashed behind the elvenage still stood. As they neared the centre of the bridge, Alistair looked up and forward, his view of the city gates now unobstructed before him. He could see many elves had survived to hold the gates and recognized Oghren's bright red hair among them as he shouted orders to the remaining companions. A crowd surged out to overtake a band of fleeing darkspawn, then looked up to see their king step down off the near side of the bridge. A cheer was taken up that turned into a full throated roar that nearly rivaled the thunderclap of the arch demon's demise as more and more of Ferelden's armies saw Alistair approach.

He held up his hands, a wave and a gesture of acceptance, his face grim and tired. There was so much that needed to be said to these good people and so much he could never tell. He dropped his arms and his head, as if bowing and the crowd fell silent before him. The only sound was the wheels of the cart as the dwarves finally pulled it down off the bridge and laid it to rest, then all was quiet. He looked up, his eyes catching those of Oghren, Shale and Zevran as they maneuvered forward through the crowd. There was a question in each of their faces and he gave a slight shake of his head, not realising that they had assumed Wynne had also fallen, she was hidden in the cart with Aedan.

Clearing his throat, he shored up his last reserves of strength and called to the crowd, "The arch demon is slain! The blight is ended!" Making sure his gaze sought that of as many of the folk gathered below him as possible, he added, "It is thanks to you, Ferelden, for allying in order to rid this country of the darkspawn. I owe you my gratitude. But the sacrifice of a single man guaranteed this victory and I would have it known from this day forward that Aedan Cousland, commander of my armies, my fellow Grey Warden…my friend, shall be known as the Hero of Ferelden!" His voice cracked on those last words, but none heard it as the cheering swelled up again. Finally Alistair's eyes found Leliana in the crowd, she had been crouched next to Aedan's mabari, her arms wrapped about the dog as if for support. At his last words, she looked up too, tried to stand, and fainted.