This is where we met, once upon a time.

This spot exactly, overlooking the ruins of Ostagar, surrounded by ancient pillars worn smooth by time. But it was summer then, warm and bright. And it was spring in my life. A new life, perhaps one I wouldn't have chosen, but a new life in spite of itself. It was a time of beginnings.

Now it's all ash and snow and black blood on the stones. And your brother hangs like a broken puppet, strung up and dead. Your eyes look as cold as his do.

You thought knew who you were, and I thought I knew who I was. But we were wrong. I am different now, molded by death and fighting. Made into something new by the heat of battle, the heat of your lips, the bleak ending that I know awaits us. You are different too, though you fight with even yourself trying to deny it.

For a moment, in the between time from when we met, anxious and curious; and now when I know your skin as well as my own, I was born anew. Squalling and shivering into a world that was far colder, more devious, more wanting than I ever imagined when I was safe and miserable in the closed shell that was my beginning. But I found too that there is more heart-wrenching beauty than I ever imagined. And love.

Love more devastating than any sword.

I stand here beside you, your hand, warm and large, in mine. I think of that day, in what seems like another lifetime, when your eyes were still full of possibilities. Now, it's duty and anger and vengeance that drive you.

It makes you more handsome somehow, this new found strength. And less so as well, because the boy I fell in love with has been replaced by a man I hardly know. By a King.

I would have been willing to do anything to see that boy again, if only for a moment. But I know that time is past. And the slow march of days only moves forward, not back.

One day, duty and death will part us.

I will have to let you go – the boy, the man and the King. But not today. Today I'll hold you here, our feet in the sooty snow with the sounds of our enemies still raging in the distance. I'll hold you when we give your brother to the flames, and as we ponder over a pair of mismatched, well-loved blades. I will be proud and horrified while you refuse to shed a tear; not one more for Cailan, Duncan or even yourself.

Today we take a last breath before the plunge into our doom, and to our destruction.

I read storybooks as a girl, as all little girls do. I dreamt of my knight in shining armor, my prince, and my happy ending. I have known the adventure now, one worthy of the darkest tale. I found my knight too, who was a prince in disguise.

When you told me you loved me, I was the most beautiful woman in the world. I thought nothing could ever come between us. Not duty, not politics, not blood, not anything.

I thought we were going to live happily ever after.

But I know that's not meant to be, not for us. You know it too; I see it in your eyes. You don't want to believe it, but the world has given you no other choice. We will do what has to be done, no matter the cost. Because someone has to do it.

So there will be no happy ending here. No matter how we fight it, no matter what we choose. The ending is written in blood. If not now, then in the darkness below the earth, where the sane and even tempered would never venture.

But for now, I will leave the ending where it is; in the future we are barreling towards with frightening speed; the future we are fighting to protect even if we might not live to see it. For now, I will just stand here beside you. You will be my hero and I will be your love. And together we can save them all.

Today, I will be happy with once upon a time. It will have to be enough.