Alistair's words stunned everyone into silence as they stared at him in disbelief. He did not return anyone's looks, and continued to focus on a spot on the bed. Leliana opened her mouth to start assaulting him with questions, and Kila opened her mouth to defend him.
It was Anora, however, that beat them both. Angrily, she shoved his hand off her knee as she scrambled to her feet. She clutched her chest with one hand and pointed at him accusingly, "You already have an heir to the throne? And with that swamp whore no less? How could you do this to me? You mock me and all of Ferelden!" Anora shrieked at him.
Alistair's pained expression said it all, but he mumbled, "No…it wasn't like that…"
"Well, one thing's for certain," Anora cut off his words. Her voice had lowered considerably but took on a very sharp edge, "We won't have to worry about me seeing Cailan when I look at you anymore. He may have done things that were a bit naive and fool hearty, but he would never have done anything so despicable." She turned her back to him and crossed her arms. "I can't even look at you," she said more to herself than to him.
With his cheeks flushing bright red, Alistair dropped his gaze to the floor. As Kila watched Alistair's heartbreak, something in her snapped. Heat rushed through her body as she felt the urge to fly out of the bed and react. Quickly, however, something else stilled her. She was no longer the kid from the Alienage with free reign to act out with a chip on her shoulder. She was no longer the disgruntled new Warden who had no choice but to grudgingly carry on forward. She was no longer even the hero of a country, filling shoes she wasn't sure she deserved. She was the head Grey Warden of Ferelden, with a responsibility of leadership, maturity, and respect. It was clear to her now that the unity of Ferelden must start in this room.
Kila took a deep breath, and spoke in a tone that commanded authority. "Anora…I have come to regard you as a friend. It was only moments ago that you spoke of how you trust me. If that is true, then I ask you to trust me now. Please sit and let me explain."
"Queen Anora. Mind who you are speaking to," Anora growled.
Kila kept her gaze even, "I know very well who I am speaking to - a friend. One that I am hoping chooses not to throw everything away without at least hearing all the facts first."
Anora stood for a moment with her arms crossed over her chest. Again, everyone was staring at her as her lips pursed tightly together. Finally she relented, and sat back in the chair. "Unbelievable," she muttered. Alistair didn't dare look over at her and instead he looked to Kila who offered him a resigned half smile. Anora hadn't stormed out, so there was at least a glimmer of hope.
Carrying on, she spoke to everyone, "Truthfully, no one in this room has the right to judge Alistair on this. He disliked Morrigan as much…if not more…than the rest of you. He did what he did to save me and I am the only one who deserves your scrutiny on this."
This caught Anora's attention. Snapping her focus to Kila, she broke her anger-filled stare into the distance. The others also subconsciously turned their bodies towards Kila, but remained silent.
"The entire time we traveled together, rallying the country to face the Blight, we did so blindly. Alistair was not brought into the order much earlier than I was, so we were at a very serious disadvantage with the knowledge we lacked. He knew many things, and we at least knew what needed to be done, but even so it was a blessing from the Maker for us when we found Riordan at Denerim. Unfortunately, the knowledge he brought was bleak." Finally, Kila sighed. This was not the story she had intended to share, and talking about something she tried so hard to forget was difficult. But she knew she was unable to stop now. Clearing her throat, she confidently continued. "Without going into too much detail and giving away all of the order's secrets, Riordan had informed us that a Blight can only truly end when an arch demon dies at the hands of a Grey Warden. But the warden dies as well."
"In death, sacrifice," Alistair recited part of the warden's creed.
Kila solemnly nodded, "It was only then that we understood. Riordan insisted that as the Senior Grey Warden, the responsibility would be his. But somehow I knew…I just knew it would not turn out so idyllically. So because of that, I already planned to send Alistair to a battle away from the arch demon and…"
Alistair eyes widened, hearing this for the first time, "Wait, what?"
Without hesitation, she replied, "Ferelden needed its King did it not? What do you think it would have done to the country to have Cailan's brother fall that day?" Alistair mulled over her words silently, letting her push on. "At any rate, it was…awful. Maybe it makes me a coward, but…it left me feeling an all new level of desperation to know the next day would mean certain death. Of course, outwardly I remained calm, but…it's one thing to face battle knowing I will possibly die if I make a mistake. But to know it's completely certain? To know that we will only have victory if I die? I'd like to think I've grown enough to handle it with dignity now but…" Kila's air of confidence grew quieter until she finally shrugged.
"It was in this frame of mind that Morrigan came to me - I hadn't even had a chance to return to my room. She was eager to inform me that she not only knew of our necessary sacrifice, but she had a way to outsmart this fate. Sure, it would leave her with a child, but at the time it did not seem important to her. It was merely a byproduct of helping me…helping her friend. She did not want to see me fall anymore than I wanted to. It took a lot for me to convince Alistair, but ultimately he did it because of me. Keep in mind, Alistair only came into his own after the Blight, until then he followed orders. My orders. Morrigan promised she would leave the country with the child and we would never see her again, never mind have her threaten the throne. Maybe it was foolish of me to believe that she did this only because she wanted to help me but…"
As Kila's voice trailed off, Leliana added, "I didn't mind Morrigan really, but it's hard to deny how manipulative she could be."
Zevran suddenly broke his silence, "That night, Morrigan offered tears, but no lies. Being raised by the Crows, you learn to ferret out deceit, so I feel confident in my assessment."
Kila frowned as she turned to Zevran, "You weren't there."
Softly, Zevran snorted as he replied, "That you knew of my Ki. You did not hold me to it, but I still strove to honour the oath that I made to serve you. Letting you disappear into the web of the spider seemed counterproductive to that oath no? Little did I know how much Morrigan had come to care about you. I admit, it was a bit of a surprise…" Turning from Kila, he addressed the group, "You are concerned that Morrigan used Kila for her own purpose yes? Perhaps it might be wise to consider this - until Morrigan met Kila, all she knew of love and friendship was what Flemeth taught her, which is to say it was hollow and pointless. It was Kila that changed this as she fought selflessly to free Morrigan from the threat of her mother, and willingly gave to Morrigan without a second thought. She, like the rest of us, came to deeply care for our leader. However, unlike the others in this room, Morrigan did not have any experience with love and loss. If you think of it, she was a mere child in that respect, yes? And with Kila being perhaps the only person she ever truly cared about, was it not too much to ask for her to watch Kila die? Especially when she could prevent it - for the first time be able to give back to Kila when she needed it? The fact that she would end up with child was a consequence she would deal with later, and on her own. I do not believe she would even allow us to claim that it belongs to Alistair in any way."
Zevran gently took Kila's hand as he stared deeply into her eyes, "If Morrigan had not convinced you, I certainly would have tried. But…it is only now that I truly understand what motivated Morrigan that night. The thought of losing you…I…one does not consider the consequences, one simply acts."
The room grew quiet as Kila reached up to brush the wetness from her eyes and wipe her hand on the blanket, trying to be casual. Zevran looked to his companions who were all silently watching the pair. With a weak laugh, he added, "And now this is the part when someone else talks I should think…"
With her natural grace, Wynne cut in. She had been carefully watching everyone's reaction before speaking, "While I agree that it is not fair to judge Alistair, I do not think it would be fair for us to judge you either my dear. It is hard for anyone to know what they would do until they are faced with that situation. I'm not sure any of us can say we would act differently…"
Anora finally spoke up again, and although her words were still slightly harsh, they were not directed at Alistair, "But, despite of all this and her promises to leave, you were told in the Fade that both Morrigan and her child will threaten Ferelden were you not?"
Smoothing out the blanket under her fingers, Kila was quick to seize control of herself as she shook her head, "Not exactly. The spirit implied that she and I would be on opposite sides of the conflict yes. But I cannot believe that Morrigan would betray us, and I said as much to the spirit. It admitted at that point that it was unable to say what her intentions were. So, it's entirely possible that Morrigan will find herself tangled in something that she can't break free from and that maybe it's not by her own will that she breaks her promise to me. Until it is proven otherwise, that is what I choose to believe."
Anora did not press the issue further, "Very well. Then what does this mean for us?"
"Right, back to the point," Kila agreed. "Please then, pardon my bluntness but Ferelden will need strong leadership to see it through. The best way to secure your position and unite the country under the rule of you both is to produce an heir."
The group was stunned by her directness. Before Alistair could protest, however, Anora waved her hand to quiet him. "No Alistair…she is correct." With a drawn out sigh, she slumped ever so slightly in her chair. "People were already starting to question when Cailan was alive and now…that I'm nearing the end of my child bearing years…I daresay my position might very soon be rather precarious at best."
Again, before Alistair could comment, Kila took over the conversation, "As I said, Ferelden will need strong leadership. It will need a smart, capable, and strong woman to rule alongside Alistair as he faces the challenges of keeping his country at peace." She paused as her face momentarily crumpled. Deepening her resolve she finished, "I am so sorry Anora, for the position I have put you in because of my choices so long ago. While Alistair does not shoulder the blame, I will understand if you cannot move past this with him. But…if that is the case…it will be a devastating loss for all of Ferelden."
Not having an answer, Anora quickly broke eye contact and chewed her lip. Giving Alistair a quick side-long glance, she remained silent.
Finally, Alistair was able to get a word in, however he knew better than to press Anora just yet. Besides that, he had a feeling they would have more than a few words over the topic in the weeks to come. Choosing to break the tension instead, he asked in his usual cheeky manner, "So…other than that little task…what is it that you need from us?"
Kila smiled, feeling the mood in the room lighten slightly. "Well, I can't help you with that. It's the King's place to serve his people and keep the country from falling into civil war. But…you are a good man Alistair, and you are already doing well. I have faith in you. We all do."
"Oh, that's helpful," he commented. "So all I have to do is keep an entire country happy. And what is it you will be doing exactly?"
"I have to do what I should have been doing all along. I was told in no uncertain terms I must rebuild the order and recruit Grey Wardens." Turning to Wynne and Leliana she continued, "Which is why I am hoping you both will consider remaining at the estate, or at least in Denerim. I need to be free to do this, and even go on recruiting missions when necessary so I would like my current recruits to be in good hands."
Without hesitation Wynne nodded and Leliana spoke for them both, "Of course. How could I say no? I do not believe it was an accident that I returned to Denerim when I did."
Kila reached over to squeeze Leliana's hand in thanks. "And I would like to ask Zevran to help me recruit new Wardens," Kila turned to Zevran.
Zevran raised an eyebrow in confusion. "I am afraid I do not understand my Ki. Only Wardens can help and clearly I am no Warden."
"This is something I cannot do alone and with Alistair unable to help me, I think it is fitting to have a founding member of the estate help instead. I should have asked for your help from the beginning but…I was too caught up in…well, anyhow, I get it now at least," she smiled at him. Despite how much she argued with him in the past, he was correct - she had been treating the bond of the taint as though it were more important than the bond of life. That would change. "I know because you are not a Warden, that Grey Wardens from other countries may take issue over concerns of secrecy. But that's fine if they choose to question me…"
Alistair cut her off, "No. Actually it's not fine." Kila looked at him in surprise. "As King, I may have no authority over Grey Wardens from Ferelden or any other another country. But Kila, don't forget…Grey Wardens are charged to defend the world against the darkspawn by any means necessary. So don't let anyone question you as the head Grey Warden of Ferelden."
"You have come so far," Kila chuckled as she felt grateful for the devotion of her friends. That left one thing to discuss, "Whatever events are to come, I believe it will heavily involve our next generation." This was enough for Anora to look back up. Kila nodded, "We will take these steps to prepare, but there is one more element that will be key, as shown to me by the Fade spirit. Apparently…I will have a daughter. I know it seems unlikely that a Grey Warden should naturally be able to conceive once, much less twice but…"
"I think," Wynne somberly interjected, "At this point it would be folly to assume everything surrounding you is entirely natural."
"Fair enough," Kila agreed. "If what the spirit showed me is true, she will become very important, but like everything else, the specifics were vague." Shrugging, she settled back on her pillows, her exhaustion finally catching up with her. "My friends, that is all I know, and it is not to leave this room. It's not much to go off of, and I can't blame you if you do not believe, but I suppose if I do conceive a daughter soon, that will at least be some proof. And of course, Zevran, I'll need your help for that too."
He gave her hand a squeeze as he laughed, "Work, work, work!"
Even Anora couldn't help but smile.
And so it was. Without expressing as much in words, each person knew things would never be the same. Even as they carried on with their day-to-say lives, a dark future would always be looming ahead. And despite how much they laughed, smiled, cried, and lived on, until the first strike came this afternoon would sit in the back of their minds, leaving them anxiously waiting.
Author's Note: And so it is with mixed feelings that I have officially brought my first story project to a close (sorry, this last post look longer than I thought...I drove myself insane with tearing it apart and rewriting it, so the promise of a couple days turned into a week!). Thank you so much for reading and for all the supportive comments - they really helped me to see this through. Being that this was my first project, I really love any feed back I can get, so if you have any suggestions, ideas, or anything you are more than welcome to send me a message/post a comment. For now, I'll just be focusing on my short, stand-alone stories until the next bit of inspiration hits, so feel free to check my page for my short-story postings from time to time. Thank you again and take care!