Title: A Child Unexpected (Part 15)
Characters: Fem!City-Elf PC (Kallian Tabris), Zevran, Alistair, Sten, and Morrigan (the overall fic is Zevran/Tabris with Sten and some others tossed in. Liberally, at times. References Alistair/Tabris, Alistair/Anora, and Zevran/Other.)
Word Count: ~5100 this chapter (~65500 in total)
In this bit: A final visit with our family, and catching up with some old friends.
Spoilers: Through end game. References to a character/plot from "The Calling", and hints at "Dragon Age: Awakening" (though no real overt spoilers for either).
Author's Note: First off, again, I am SO SORRY that it has taken so long to get this Epilogue up, folks! This story has been a long time in the works for me. I first got the prompt (for a DRABBLE NO LESS) on January 31, 2010, and started on this monster about a week later. And now, AFTER A YEAR, this fic is DONE! *does happy dancing jig* I want to take a moment to thank EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU for reading, adding to favorites, commenting, adding to alerts, whathaveyou. You kept me going on this, when I thought at times I should just shelve the whole thing. *cough*screwing up canon qunari lore and being unable to fix*cough* Seriously, you people all ROCK. And, OF COURSE, I'd like to thank pennydreadful for the wonderful beta she has done on this whole thing. This fic is undoubtedly light-years better because of your help. Thank you! And now...here it is! I truly hope it was worth the wait...
Denerim Palace: Eight Years after the Fall of the Archdemon
Alistair was bored. To put it bluntly. Bored. Out. Of. His. Skull. And he shouldn't have been. Preparations were well underway for the anniversary celebration of the defeat of the Archdemon. People arriving from all over, filling up the castle, and all of Denerim. Exciting times.
He even had it on good authority that a small group would be arriving from Seheron that night - an unprecedented event. While a contingent from Orlais was expected that afternoon, and the Wardens from Amaranthine had arrived just that morning.
Along with several well-missed friends.
Not that he'd gotten to see them yet. Oh, no. No matter how hard he tried, he never seemed to be able to shuffle off all the paperwork required of a King to someone...well, better suited for paperwork; and the current pile on his desk was reaching lethal proportions. And somehow, someway, Anora had wrangled a promise out of him to complete his daily tasks before he went swanning off to play.
Well, okay, if he was honest, he could perhaps recall how she'd manage to secure such a declaration. One he'd been all too happy to give at the time. He let a smile twist his lips as he thought about dwelling on that one later. With perhaps a more practical, hands on reminder as to why he'd enjoyed giving it so much.
"Duncan Maurice Theirin!" At the sound of said wife's very controlled, not-quite-yelling voice, Alistair's ears perked up. It was rarely a good thing when Anora's ire was raised, and typically, it was even less of a good thing when that ire was directed at their six-year old son.
Of course, it was usually much, much worse when it was directed at Alistair himself. He felt a little guilty for being thankful that it wasn't currently him on the receiving end.
As quiet as he could, Alistair moved out from behind his desk (gingerly avoiding the precarious pile of paperwork) and edged around the room until he could spy on his wife and son out in the hall. Thankful that he never closed the door - the room was too stuffy when it was shut.
"Stop. Turn." He watched as his son did just that. Dark golden locks caked with brown, and dripping with something decidedly...pink, flopped into his eyes as he dropped his chin. Trying to shield his face from his mother's inspection. But it was a vain attempt, seeing as how Anora had bent at the waist, hands braced on her knees, to get a better look. "What happened?"
"I can see that. Into what?"
His son fidgeted, a moist, suctioning sound following the movement of his feet; hands tugging at each other in a move very reminiscent of his mother. Despite the situation, the action brought a light smile to Alistair's face. "Uh...um...a trough?"
"Are you asking me, or telling me?"
"In that case, a trough of what?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Again?" Anora sighed, exasperation showing plainly in her stance. "How many times do we have to go through this Duncan?"
"Umm..." Alistair watched as his son gave the question some thought. His face all bunched up: lips pursed, and nose crinkled. Just like his mother's. Alistair found it as adorable on their child, as he did on his wife. "Two more times, Mother?"
Anora breathed a sigh that Alistair knew was filled with genuine affection. The slight tilt to her chin, and the softening of her eyes gave proof to that. (Anora was highly proficient in sighing. Over the years, Alistair had cataloged several dozen styles, and this one was his favorite - well, almost his favorite. He tamped down on thoughts of his real favorite, no good could come of having his blood rush to his face and other body parts. Not at the moment at least.) "Duncan - sweetheart - is there a reason you always see fit to cause trouble when we have guests arriving?"
"No, mother. I was just...excited?"
"Duncan, once more. Are you telling me, or asking? You need to be decisive."
"Telling! Definitely telling." And now his son's voice was taking on the honest tenor of excitement, chin up, and eyes wide, lips moving a mile a minute. All thoughts to propriety gone out the window. "It's just – the Wardens have brought a new pack of mabari with them! Seven pups, Mum! Seven! I've never seen so many little ones before, and I thought, maybe I could get one? Like Adaia has, and, and-" He huffed out a breath, seeming lost for a minute. "Can I have one, Mum? Please?"
It was on the tip of Alistair's tongue to say: 'Yes! Yes of course!' But he managed - barely - to keep quiet. Eavesdropping might not get him into any hot water, but agreeing to let their disaster-prone child have a warhound as a pet, without discussing it first, certainly would.
With more than a little fondness, he watched as Anora reached out to stroke their son's messy head - only for her to pull back before she could make contact with the muck covering him, like she had somehow forgotten it in the wake of his exuberance. "We'll see, darling. Now, off you go. Up to your chambers and get cleaned up. I'll send Lucine up after you with a change of clothes, and a warm basin."
"Do try not to get in any trouble along the way."
Alistair waited until his son had scurried off, before he crossed through the doorway, and leaned up against the brick. One leg crossed in front of the other, a smile on his face. "You took that all rather calmly."
If Anora was surprised at his arrival, she gave no indication. She made her way over to him, back straight, held head high. That little bit of perfection she liked to show the world. "Hmm. Not that it matters. He's just going to find his way into a pile of manure, or a nest of vipers the next time he goes outside. I'd lock him in a tower if I thought it would do any good. At least I have the consolation this time of knowing there are likely two other children covered in just as much muck, running amok in the Warden encampment." She shook her head, lifting a hand to rub at her temple.
"Headache, my dear?"
"Just a bit."
Alistair darted a glance around, noting only the typical guards posted by his office chambers, and reached out to Anora, tugging her by the hand and pulling her into him, and through the doorway. She stiffened for only a moment, before she melted into his embrace, allowing him to press a kiss to her brow.
"Yes, my love?"
She tilted her chin up, capturing his gaze with crystalline eyes. Her hand trailed a path along his back, stopping at the spot where his shirt met his trousers, so that nimble fingers could toy with the hem. "Have you, by any chance, managed to complete this morning's tasks?"
"Weeell, that depends on your definition of complete."
With a burst of disappointment, he felt her pull back - though she didn't let him go entirely - at looked at him with accusing eyebrows. (Alistair hadn't known it was possible for eyebrows to exhibit emotions, until he'd married Anora.) "Have you completed any of this morning's tasks?"
He thought back to the seal of approval he had given to the royal...whoever...in charge of celebratory accommodations for their out-of-town guests. It had required a stamp, and a signature. Very official...looking.
That counted, right?
"If by any, you mean one, then yes. Yes I have."
She pursed her lips, and gave him an assessing stare, before giving off sigh number three on his list of favorites. "Yes. Yes I think that will do."
The hand that he had previously grabbed, locked with his own once more, as she tugged him further into the chambers, the door that he never bothered to shut, clanged loudly behind them.
More than one way to make use of that desk, after all.
Kallian loved Zevran, she truly did, but sometimes she couldn't take him anywhere.
Take for instance, the Royal Castle in Denerim. Wherein Zevran had marched, free as could be through the various halls, winking at maids and butlers as they went on by. Unmindful in the slightest of the small girl perched on his shoulders, who was laughing at every little flirtation her father made.
Completely ignoring the warning of the guard posted outside the King's official chambers, he'd burst on in, door slamming open, like he'd been invited by the Maker to do so.
And in so doing, catching her former lover - the King of Ferelden - in a rather compromising position with his wife - the Queen - on the desk.
On a list of ways to start the afternoon, it was not amongst Kallian's preferred.
"What in the Maker-!"
"Wha-? Who-? ZEVRAN! OUT!"
"Mama, what were they doing?"
"You see, little one, when a man-"
"Zevran, we have discussed this! Not until she is older!"
"Ohhhh, is it like what you and Mama do, when I'm supposed to be sleeping?"
"Heh! Excellent observation, little one."
"What? Clearly your plan of keeping her in the dark has failed. Might we try my approach now?"
"You mean the approach that includes introducing her to the workers of the nearest brothel?"
"Worked fine for me."
Kallian really did love Zevran, it was just...sometimes she couldn't take him anywhere.
The events of the afternoon - burned in her brain for the rest of her life though they may have been - really weren't that big a deal, in the grand scheme of things. Kallian knew that. Knew that they were all adults. And that getting past such a little...indiscretion, shouldn't be a big deal.
Maker's breath, but she lived with Zevran. There was really no excuse for any aspect of sex making her blush any more.
Still, when Zevran oh-so-indiscreetly brought up the earlier 'event' in mixed company (she would never hear the end of it from Oghren, she was certain) before dinner that evening, tossing out the least subtle invitation she'd ever heard to the King and Queen, she managed to find a way to blush right on down to her toes.
It didn't help matters that while Alistair may have sputtered, and the Queen may have pretended not to hear, neither one had flat out said no. Which of course, Zevran had been quick to point out, once she'd gotten him aside and yelled at him for it.
She needed to remember to coach the two of them in the appropriate response to Zevran's come-on's from now on. One would think that after nearly a decade of knowing him, Alistair would be a bit better at it.
Her only consolation was that Leliana had not yet arrived at that point.
"You have a daughter? Ohhh, let me see her! Oh she is beautiful. She has your eyes, Zevran. And such gorgeous hair. You know, your mother never let me braid her hair for her. Would you mind if I braided yours? There is this special twist we do in Orlais that I think - oh...oh where did she go? Zevran? Kallian? Why are you laughing? ! Your daughter just disappeared!"
Once they managed to calm Leliana down, and explain that no, Adaia had not vanished, honest, the bard had performed a most beautiful ballad; telling the tale of the fall of the Archdemon in a way that was almost too poetic for Kallian's liking.
Kallian couldn't have imagined a better opening for the evening's festivities.
Dinner, amazingly enough, was uneventful. Aside from the few minutes following all of the formal introductions. (She had never seen her cousin dressed so well, Shianni was simply made to be a Bann.) It took nearly a half-hour to get through all of the Banns, Arls, and Arlessa's in addition to the military leaders in attendance. The entire event culminating with the presentation of the King, Queen, and Royal Heir; after which everyone was given leave to eat.
Which is when a small, dwarven child - flame-red hair pulled back in two, messy tails - had stomped her way through the hall, straight up to Duncan, and poked a finger at the Prince's chest. "Why'dya run off earlier? I got in trouble, ya know."
The boy had blushed, and stammered, while the girl tapped her foot, and the crowd had gaped - giving Felsi time to scamper up, swat her daughter on the back of the skull, and drag her back to her seat. Quiet admonishments for her inappropriate behavior ringing out through the silent hall.
Kallian had listened, a smile on her face, as Alistair had leaned over his son, whispering, "So, I take it Nalre was your accomplice from this morning, hmm? Did she fall into a trough of feed too, or was that just you?"
At least Zevran and her weren't the only one's causing scenes around the castle.
After dinner, the children were released to Duncan's play room. Which was more than a bit of a relief for all parties: keeping three energetic children just aching to play with one another apart for any length of time was taxing on any parent.
Of course, that meant dealing with the aftermath of three energetic children being left alone in a playroom for an hour. Only a single guard was left to keep an eye out, and he was shortly completely charmed by the lot of them.
Somehow, Kallian had drawn the short straw, and was the one sent to check on the children. Surveying the damage left in the wake of the three sleeping terrors, she was floored by what they had managed to accomplish in such a short period of time. "It looks like Redcliffe after the Seige in here."
"That it does, Kadan."
At the sound of that long-missed, familiar voice, Kallian whipped around.
"Sten!" She cried before she flung herself, with rather a lot of force, at his person, wrapping her arms around his thick middle.
For his part, Sten only rocked a little, a perfectly rooted tree - as always - and let one hand fall to her shoulder in an awkward pat. She allowed herself to enjoy the near embrace before pulling away, a flush of heat in her cheeks that she didn't mind in the slightest.
"When did you get here?"
"I arrived an hour ago." He shook his head, a deeply set frown on his face. "There are too many halls in this place. It is a maze."
She laughed. Loud, happy. Not caring that little ears might hear, and awaken. Someone else could have the job of getting them back to sleep.
"I'm surprised you were given leave to attend - a celebration such as this doesn't seem like the sort of thing the Arishok would care about."
"It is not."
"Then how is it you're here?"
"The celebration was of little concern to the Arishok; however, the converging of so many military powers on Denerim at any given time was."
"So you're basically spying on us? Making sure that we aren't all up to no good, meeting like we are, and just using the party as an excuse?"
Violet eyes blinked down at her, with perhaps the slightest hint of a smile on his mouth. "I am no spy, Kadan."
"No, my friend. You may be many things, but you are certainly not that." She shook her head, taking in the unmovable mass of her once companion, and finally decided that the too brief hug she'd given him earlier wasn't nearly enough. She launched herself at him again, holding him tight around the middle as best she could. "I missed you, Sten."
A minute passed before the hand from earlier returned to pat her back once more. "It is good to see you as well, Kadan."
By the time midnight fell, Kallian was too wound up after the whirlwind of the day to do anything but wander the halls. She needed the act of pacing to help soothe her, so used to it had she become while leaving in the Keep at Amaranthine. Zevran, recognizing that she was still a bit angry after his actions earlier, had volunteered to get Adaia ready for bed, allowing Kallian the freedom to wander.
The man did know her well, she had to give him that.
That the wandering had somehow led her back to the King's occupied office, wasn't that surprising. Unlike earlier, however, the door was ajar, and the King quite alone. And deep in thought, if the fact that he didn't hear her push the door open wide was any indication.
"Sovereign for your thoughts?"
"A sovereign for your thoughts."
"That's a mighty generous offer. I suspect you'd be hoping for a decent return on that investment, but I'm afraid I'd disappoint."
"Really? So then what is it that's keeping you up so late, and away from your lovely wife?" She hadn't meant for it to come out the way that it sounded, but the blush that stained Alistair's cheeks was one she knew quite well. "Sorry - that wasn't - I didn't mean..."
He held up a hand to stave off any more attempts at backpedaling on her part, for which she was eminently grateful. "It's quite all right, you live with Zevran. I suspect innuendo is as typical as breathing in that household."
She bit her lip, and felt a blush rise in her own cheeks. "A little bit."
He smiled wide, that boyish charm of his still in place, despite the small lines that had etched themselves around his eyes. Laugh lines, she'd heard them called. She thought they suited him.
"Please, come in, sit. I don't bite." The coughing fit those words caused in Kallian was in no way a proportional response. She really needed to get sex off the brain. Judging by the three shades of crimson that Alistair had turned, he probably agreed.
Once she managed to get herself under control, she slide herself into the chair across the desk from Alistair. Who, despite the kingly attire, seemed wholly unsuited for the piece of furniture. Like a little boy playing dress-up. The thought made her smile once more. "So, then, if it isn't something worthwhile keeping you here..."
"Now, I didn't say that, exactly. More like..." He rolled his hands in front of him, like he as trying to spell the best word to describe what he was thinking of into life. "More like...it is all just so dreadfully dull, and monotonous that it sometimes makes me wish I'd just taken the blasted vows and became a Templar."
He sighed, heavily, and leaned his chin on one hand, propping it up on the desk. "Paperwork, mostly. They don't tell you just how much paperwork a King has to do when you're being raised in a stable as his illegitimate heir, you know. And it's an awful lot of paperwork. I sort of...failed to complete today's list of tasks, and am just trying to finish them now. Before tomorrow's pile shows up, and I'm left a shriveled-up corpse beneath their combined weight."
"Oh. I see. Well, that is quite boring, isn't it?"
She watched as he dropped his head to the desk, letting it thunk loudly on the wood. "I know."
A minute passed with his head still on the desk, with no sign of it lifting. She thought that maybe he'd fallen asleep. "I guess I shouldn't keep you then. It was good to see you again, Alistair." Gingerly, she raised herself half-way out of the chair when his desk-muffled voice stopped her mid-lift.
This time he raised his head fully, eyes that she has once adored locked onto hers, holding just as much warmth as they ever had - if not quite the same kind. "I said: We never talk anymore, why is that?"
She slowly lowered herself back to sit. "We talk."
"We discuss business; or your daughter, or my son. But we never talk anymore."
"But that is talking Alistair. Just because our topics of conversation aren't as..."
"I was going to go with inane, but fine. Aren't as friendly. Then that's just because we have a lot going on in our lives. Hardly time to just sit and yammer like we use to all hours of the night."
A smile flitted across his face, made him look as young as she remembered. Still handsome as ever. "You mean back when all we had to worry about was stopping a blight? Silly me, here I thought we had loads of time on our hands, in comparison to that. What with Archdemons and darkspawn no longer knocking on our doors."
She laughed, leaning back in a full sprawl in the chair. "I see your point. All right then. Talk."
Alistair's mouth opened once, presumably to bring to life whatever topic he had been itching to discuss, only for his jaw to snap shut a second later. A crease, one that Kallian had never seen before, formed down the middle of his brow. Unable to come up with anything that didn't directly involve any of the taboo topics, she waited on him to start; her fingers quietly plucking at the upholstery of the chair as
the silence stretching between them became increasingly uncomfortable.
"You'll be stepping down as Arlessa then?"
"What happened to not talking business?"
"It was all I could think of!"
"And besides, I am curious. The last I heard you were enjoying your post, and now you're prepared to had it over to Declan?"
"Declan knows Amaranthine as well as I. He is the logical choice to replace me as Warden Commander, and as Arl."
"I don't dispute that. But, where will you go?"
Kallian sighed, and ran a hand through her hair, tugging at the knot at the base of neck, undoing the messy strands and letting them fall to her shoulders. Her fingers stopping to linger on the small ring piercing her ear. "Antiva. Zevran has spent so much time weaving tales of the place for both Adaia and I, that I think we are both half in love with it already. Seems only fair that we should at least visit it once. And it's been long enough since Zevran was there that his legend is sure to have dimmed a little."
An affectionate smile found its way to Alistair's face, and she realized with a small pang, that she had missed seeing it. Missed her friend. "He makes you happy, doesn't he?
Just the mention of Zevran, the tiniest thought of him placed into her mind, made Kallian's whole body feel warm. Made a smile split her face wide. It was an understatement to say so, but...yes. "He does."
This time, the gap in conversation was much less awkward, and filled with something resembling understanding.
Kallian hadn't meant to stay up quite so late, really she hadn't, the night had just gotten away from her. Which is why she was both slightly surprised, and not even remotely shocked, when a hand darted out to grasp her around the wrist as she crossed into her family's assigned chambers. She yelped at first, before giving into Zevran's ploys, and let him advance her backwards towards the bed.
After all, she was the one that had been gone all hours of the night.
"I do believe that you snuck off this morning without a single word of explanation, mi amor. The sheets were quite cold when I awoke."
"I had duties to attend to, Zevran, you know that."
"Hmm, yes. Yes, I do recall. But then after dinner, you left me, all on my lonesome, so that you could wander the castle. And now look, the moon has nearly set! A lesser man might think you were avoiding him."
"Mmm, lucky for me that you aren't such a man, isn't it?"
"So true, mi cara. So true." Kallian could feel the heat in her cheeks skate on down her neck and into her limbs, until she felt positively flushed all over. The way that he situated himself on the bed – knees spread just wide enough so that she could stand between them, with his hands tracing patterns on her hips – did not help matters in the least. "We shouldn't…" One stray finger slipped beneath the band of her pants, touching the sensitive skin of her lower abdomen before she found the strength to push a few inches away. "Adaia is staying just next door, Zevran. Not down the hall like at home. Need I remind you of that?"
His eyes didn't leave hers as he stood, lips soft, and breath warm against her ear when he spoke. "Ahh, yes. But she did confess earlier today, that she already knows what it is we do when she is sleeping. So it's not as if we would be corrupting her, now is it?
"And besides, I've always had a...fantasy, shall we say? About taking you in this castle."
Kallian swallowed. Her breath coming in shorter bursts, and her heart rate rising in anticipation. "Really?"
"Mmm. Yes." An arm snaked around her middle, pulling her tight against him, as he maneuvered them towards the door. "Would you like me to show you where?"
"This wouldn't involve a desk, would it, Zevran?"
"Please, my Warden Commander. Do you think I would stoop to something so...plebeian, when there is a Royal Throne Room available?"
Kallian laughed until she moaned, both sounds drowned out by Zevran's kiss.
The truth of the matter was, that while sometimes she couldn't take Zevran anywhere, she really didn't mind it one bit.
Love was funny like that.
The Woods Outside the Gates of Denerim: Eight Years after the Fall of the Archdemon
The city of Denerim had amassed spectators from all over Ferelden, and from even the farther reaches of Thedas, if the markings on some of the caravans were anything to go on. Crowds like these were perfect for maintaining anonymity, if that is what one was after. A person could blend seamlessly into one of the larger groups, and skirt off once they had reached the markets – sight unseen.
It was for these very reasons that Morrigan had waited until just such a time to approach the city. She had wanted the assurance that she could be just another face among thousands, until the moment came for her to announce her presence. A celebration such as this, was the perfect opportunity.
And yet, she hesitated. She could see, down below, a sizable contingent of soldiers, armor ablaze with the Grey Warden crest, and it made her stomach churn in an unfamiliar way. Made her remember questions and queries from a woman she'd once called friend.
The only friend she'd ever known.
A tiny bird, perched upon a branch a stone's throw away caught her eye. A little trill of song escaping its beak reached her ears while she watched. Another reminder. And an omen if ever there was one.
Thick, tiny fingers tugged at the hem of her skirt, drawing her attention downward. She felt the tension in her body slacken, just at the sight of the young boy by her side. Round, yellow eyes shone up at her out of a face the exact miniature of his father. "Mother? I'm hungry."
Morrigan ran a hand through the child's hair, smoothing down the unruly locks. "What say you to rabbit for dinner?"
"Again? I thought we were going to the city – you said there'd be bread, and pastries, and cheese there!" Morrigan found it absolutely amazing how annoying she found that whine when the child's father had done it, but how much more endearing it was now, coming from her son.
"I know, my love." She bent down, so that she could meet him eye to eye, and smoothed her hands down from his shoulders to hold his tiny palms against her own. "But 'twill not be long before we reach another city."
His lower lip stuck out in a pout, "But what's wrong with this one?"
"Why, 'tis too full. Just look at those crowds! 'Tis a circus, and I am certain that the markets are all sold out." Placating. She was placating her son. Something she'd sworn never to do. But, she refused to feel one iota of disgust at herself at the action. Not while looking into that face. That face that threatened to crack her resolve, and wear through her very sound logic. That could cause her to act rashly, and storm the gates of Denerim just to get him dinner.
Desperate times and all.
"You promise we'll stop at the next one, Mother?"
"Yes, my child. I promise."
He huffed out a breath, whipping the hair that had fallen from in front of his eyes, out of his face, and smacking her with it in the process. "Fine. But no more rabbit. Can't we have something exotic? Like weasel instead?"
Morrigan laughed, and raised herself to her full height, before wrapping her son's hand in her own. "What a wonderful idea! Weasel for dinner. Come now, best to change into something good at hunting weasels then."
"Like what, Mother?"
"Hmm, I think that a wolf should do nicely. Don't you?"
A bark, followed by an excited yip was her only response. With an indulgent smile, and a sparing glance at the ominous bird at her back, Morrigan too shifted form, and joined her child in his hunt.
She'd just have to return to Denerim later. When it was safer.
Her child was still young after all, her plans could wait.