Three months had passed.
Ferelden had come together, men, women, children, elves and humans, nobles and beggars...all had joined in rebuilding. Only now able to count their loss there was much grief, for the entire country had felt the touch of war. But Fereldians didn't give up, they rebuilt...and nearly every subject had contributed in some way to rebuilding Denerim...as if its rebuilding somehow would heal the wounds the war had caused them.
Three months and the city had been rebuilt from the ashes, larger and more lustrous than before.
Standing in the royal palace of the city Lynn noted it had been built to resemble the old one...yet it wasn't the same...the ceiling was higher, the throne room larger...the throne itself a massive thing of dark mahogany that was large enough to seat two people.
The nobles assembled before her were the same as in the landsmeet...yet not...there were less of them, more women among them, many young faces, the same as the old ones, yet not. Nearly all of them had lost the head of the family, a sign of how vicious the battle outside Denerim had been... Yet they all stood there, proud, happy...hopeful of the future.
"And so now we come together..." Anora's voice rang out, clear across the room...but Lynn didn't listen, only watched, waiting for their queen to finish the no doubt touching speech.
It hadn't been difficult for Anora to seize the throne in the aftermath of the battle. She was the only one left with both a claim and a wish to have it. She had not seen the destruction as a deterrent, she had seen an opportunity...and had wisely taken it. Ferelden was to be reforged, more centralised stronger then before...and there was none to oppose her.
Eamon had tried, finding the vulturous nature of seizing the throne like that abhorrent, wanting to honour the Theirin name..
But Anora was still known as a queen among many nobles, nobles desiring stability and growth after a war. And right now the people needed symbols, heroes...and Anora's spirited defence of the dungeon in Fort Drakon was already being sung alongside that of their martyred king. Perhaps a few of the singers were sponsored by the queen herself...but it made no difference, people loved their queen. She had been clever, she had led her defence using both fellow prisoners and jailers...all of whom had been knighted in the aftermath, another set of heroes, a proof of the queen's kindness and love for her people.
Even now, dressed in the royal blue as always, Anora sported a heavy bandage across her left arm, despite the scratch there had most likely healed by now... But it was a symbol, a sign of her heroism that she had shed blood alongside that of her subjects...and it worked.
So Eamon had tried to get Lynn's help in stopping Anora's ascent, the 'hero' of Ferelden.
But the Theirin blood was gone...and for all Lynn cared Anora was welcome to the throne, a strong leader and capable administrator would be needed...and with her status as both warden and 'hero' of Ferelden Lynn did not fear any vengeance from Anora for the death of her father and Lynn's betrayal. Even without those titles she wouldn't have cared...she was beyond petty fear.
Three months had passed...and this was the first time since the battle that Lynn was within the city walls.
She had stayed in Redcliffe, grieving, trying to heal...and failing.
She had thought her soul had died atop Fort Drakon, that it had been slain along with the archdemon...died with Alistair.
Fate had not been that kind.
It had only been broken, wounded...dying.
So she had hidden away in Redcliffe castle, what friends remaining coming with her, vainly trying to help...for three torturous months...
For a month she had wept. Wept for her losses. For all the death. For all the pain along the road. For all the fear. For all the worry. For all the hate. For all the love. For Marby. For Zevran. For Leliana. For Soris. For Shianni. For her father. For Alistair...
But it wouldn't stop, the pain had just continued, for a month it had poured out of her...as if all the months of struggles had finally caught up with her, as if it all had been stored away...and only now crashed through the walls she had put up. It had hurt...and didn't stop hurting.
So she had tried anger.
For a month she had wailed at the sky, cursing the Maker with body and what little remained of her soul. For where he had placed her. For what he had put her through. For allowing it all to happen.
She had cursed herself. For her fear. For her doubts. For her weakness. For not having taken Morrigan's offer. For that moment where it all came crashing down, where she had failed.
She had cursed Alistair. For his kindness. For his caring. For that foolish nobility. For his love of her. For his selfishness. For his cruelty.
She had been ready! Ready to do what was right! Ready to slay the beast! Ready to save him and make him king! It had been her duty! Not his! They had both known it! Yet she couldn't hate him for it. He had done it for love, for the duty it entitled him...for hope, hope that she would live, heal...find happiness.
He had always found hope when she didn't...only this time he had been the one wrong...his hope misguided. The only thing his sacrifice had done was to stop her from ending herself, for she could not bring herself to end things, to make his sacrifice meaningless. So he had shackled her to life...to the pain...and she still couldn't hate him for it.
So she had tried drinking.
It had only lasted a day, the next day Oghren of all people had marched through the castle and taken every bottle of spirits....marched down to the village and taken every bottle there as well...and dumped it into the lake.
She had wailed at him, cursed at him...and Oghren had said nothing.
So she began to weep again.
Wept for the future that would no longer be. For the future that would be. For the thirty years she had left, the thirty years Alistair's cruelty had shackled her to. Yet she couldn't hate him for it. She couldn't...and that hurt more then anything else. She could only accept it...and weep.
Then she had stopped.
The tears stopped, the wails stopped...all stopped. She could still feel the grief, the pain, but it was a distant echo somewhere deep within her...dead and meaningless.
So she had returned to Denerim, finally heeding Anora's insistent calls.
Her entrance had been triumphant, cheering citizens all around, a city glowing with health and hope...and Lynn hadn't cared. Her, the elf, loved by people that once would have spat at her as she passed them by...and it had meant nothing to her. She could understand the importance of such a thing, of how great that would be for the future, just as well she understood Anora was only bringing her back to further unite the people... Yet she couldn't care, the frivolity only kindling an echo of disgust within her. Were people's memories really that short? Did their grief just disappear when relief struck them? It was an insult to her pain, to Alistair's sacrifice...yet she had raised her hand, made the people cheer...and not looked at them, finding every time she did so that they looked away...in shame or fear she couldn't tell.
And now she stood in the throne room, last time to kill Anora's father, to put Alistair on the throne...and now to stand next to Anora, silently supporting the queen's continued hold on the throne. The irony of it burnt her...and she only shrugged it aside.
If Anora felt any glee over her victory she didn't show it, then again she was right in front of the nobles, to act gleeful or try to be cruel against their 'hero' would have been counter-productive to Anora's desire to strengthen the kingdom.
She had tried though, in a private audience, before the celebration...but it had fallen flat. Nothing the queen could have said could have hurt Lynn, not anymore...and Anora hadn't even tried when she had seen the other woman. In fact the queen hadn't really been able to look at Lynn, not as one should.
Even now, when turning towards Lynn atop the small rise next to the throne, Anora was looking at Lynn's face, yet not meeting her eyes...unable to do so...as all others so far had been. Lynn didn't know why, what they couldn't endure to see, nor did she care. "Is there some boon the great hero would wish of the queen?" Anora spoke loud and clear, her voice kind, her eyes looking at Lynn's mouth, trying to make it look as if she of all people could at least meet the warden's gaze.
A boon? Lynn felt an echo of surprise, then realised it would improper not to offer such a thing, Anora was trying to reforge the country, as such she must show that its heroes were rewarded for their service. A boon...
She could ask for her people to be recognised, for Anora to help them. But to what purpose? Her family was gone, many of the alienage elves dead, they were not her people anymore. And even if they were...what purpose would helping them serve? They would squander it, no rise of social status or power was of use if one didn't earn it. They'll earn it on their own, or not at all.
She could ask for another statue of Alistair. The service of the warden-king had been a thing of beauty...and Lynn had only endured it for a minute before she had been forced to leave. Even now there were statues of him sprouting up all over the place, in honour of their saviour. But what was the point of one more? It would just be another symbol of Anora's to use to unite the country, another pale reflection of a man none who honoured him really knew...a lie. No, none of them deserves more of him...not even those pale reflections of him.
She could ask to stay by Anora's side, the queen would not be able to refuse. It would not only calm Eamon down but make sure Lynn had a viable income for the future. Or she could simply ask for the riches she no doubt deserved, for land and wealth...Anora wouldn't deny her. But what is wealth when there's none to share it with? What is land with none to live on it with? Money is worthless, Anora cannot give me true wealth.
If she could Lynn would have scoffed. From such humble beginnings, beginning with such a desire to earn every sovereign she could get her hands on, to help her people...to this. Her voice came out, a dead whisper that somehow reached every corner of the silent room.
"I desire nothing."
"That is..." Anora hesitated even as whispers of surprise ran through the crowd of nobles, then nodded, smiling weakly as she kept looking at Lynn's mouth, still unable to meet her eyes. "...commendable. A true hero!" She turned her head at the last words, smile widening for the sake of the gathered nobles, drawing a cheer from them, honest, happy, celebrating Lynn's 'heroism'.
Lynn turned her head, looking down at where her friends had been given a place of honour in the crowd, in front of yet separate from the rest of the crowd, all of them politely smiling...but not there, minds elsewhere, unable to watch the celebration.
Wynne. The old mage who would stay in Denerim, advisee the throne and try to further the cause of mages, doing her duty. Lynn could do nothing but silently approve...despite it being Anora, not Alistair, on the throne.
Oghren. The man already looking quite drunk, who had taken up Teagan's offer to train his soldiers, who would do his duty in strengthening the land he was now part of. And Lynn approved.
Sten. The qunari who would soon leave and head for his homeland, to give his report, to do his duty...and Lynn could do nothing but approve.
They would all leave...and Lynn would then be alone.
Mostly she saw those that weren't there though.
Marby. That would have showered her with the unrequited love only a dog was capable of. Who had died doing his duty...
Zevran. The assassin who had perfected the art of sleazy yet charming comments. That had died for her, doing his duty...
Leliana. The bard that by all right should be here now, to sing the great tale of their quest, who would bring a blush to Alistair's cheeks as she sung of the great dragon-slayer and his love for his fellow warden. Leliana that duty had torn away from them...
Alistair. A small sigh escaped Lynn. Oh Alistair...
Duty, I despise you.
"What will you do now?" Anora's question was honest, curious, as much worried for what Lynn might come up with as it was eager to know what the queen might use the great 'hero' for.
Lynn hadn't given it much thought, too occupied with her grief...yet she knew there could be only one choice, despite everything...
She could leave, leave Ferelden, find a land where none knew of her...and live out her life in silence. It was a tempting thought...but she would never do it, it went against everything she and Alistair stood for. She would remain in Ferelden.
She could hunt down Morrigan...the betrayal of the witch was tinged with as much bitterness as it was with anger..but all were just distant echoes, meaning nothing to her. The witch had left, and it was for the best. There had been enough death...Lynn would leave the woman be, her friend.
She could leave with Sten, help the qunari back to his homeland, he would not refuse it. But while such a journey might bring some peace to her...Lynn thought it best to let Sten go on his own. It was best not to linger with the friends of old...they only reminded her of times she wanted desperately to forget.
No, there was only one option.
Duty, I embrace you.
"I will remain with the wardens, rebuild what was lost." Lynn's voice was not her own, it was flat, devoid of her...unfeeling. But perhaps that was her now?
If she could Lynn would have grieved.
Anora smiled, a small, victorious smile. Ah. "That is well, the wardens need rebuilding." She turned to look at the nobles, standing straight, regal. "May all know that from now on Amaranthine, the land once belonging to arl Howe, now belongs to the wardens, where they can rebuild. A torch in the night!"
Cheers, applauds, approval.
Lynn couldn't care less.
Stepping down from the rise near the throne Lynn moved to leave, tired with the games and politics, tired with...everything. The nobles before her kept applauding, cheering...and split before her, looking at her, yet not...
They only saw the hero.
For Lynn was gone.
A heartfelt 'thank you' to Abydos Jackson for having done so much work, that she of course would claim was no work at all, in order to make this work better then it could have ever been if I had been on my own. She has truly helped me strive to greater heights.