I love it when my brain makes me a liar about being done with a story… Nothing epic, just something that came to me and screamed in my brain like a neglected toddler until I put it in writing. And now I'm obligated to post it – I think there's a law or something…
She sat at her writing desk, her quill poised absently over blank parchment. Ferelden's new queen had thought it would be an easy tale to write. Scholars and historians had of late been clamoring at chance to draft the account, inundating the palace with requests for the details of the journey of Ferelden's heroes through their battle against the Blight. One by one she had reviewed and dismissed the requests, finally choosing to put the adventures to ink personally. It seemed only fitting after all.
Yet sitting here, intentionally pulling to mind stories so dear and yet still so raw to her… brilliant green eyes filled and she blinked quickly before the tears could escape and ruin the parchment beneath her fingers.
Maybe it is still too soon.
"Your Majesty?" Like a soap bubble her thoughts burst and she raised her attention to the man before her. At the appearance of her visitor, she was able to smile in earnest again.
"Ah, my dear Senior Enchanter," she stood and held out her hands for her guest to take up; "I heard you have arrived earlier. How wonderful to see you again!" The strapping mage cleared his throat and released her fingers to fidget at his fine robes, his usual whit blatantly absent.
"Senior Enchanter," he mused with a smirk, "it still sounds so odd… especially coming from you. Would you mind leaving off of the title whenever possible?"
"Only if you'll do the same," she sighed and gestured to the chair before her desk, returning to her own seat, "I admit being addressed as Your Majesty seems so…" she grimaced.
"Of course. Forgive me I didn't think-"
"No, Connor," she sighed. "It's alright. I… they warned me the time was coming. I didn't believe it, I suppose, or perhaps I just didn't want to consider it. I was happy in my ignorance…"
"I'm so sorry, Roselle," the mage whispered, his hand closing around hers upon the desk, and the queen felt her eyes begin to burn again.
"One night, they just… came to my chambers; gave me their instructions to the Landsmeet along with the key to the chest holding Uncle Fergus' sword, The Rose's Thorn, and all of their precious gifts…" she could feel her chin quivering at the memory of those final embraces, kisses to her forehead and tender touches of her face and hair. She could still hear their whispers telling her how proud they were of her; of how much they loved her – how they would always love her. She felt her composure slipping and the heavy press of the sob building within her chest. Tucked away in the study she had inherited from her father with only Connor to bear witness, Roselle let slip the persona of Queen Regent and became the lonely daughter her heart knew her to be.
"It was so… hard… to let them go… to watch them walk out of my chambers… they were so healthy. So alive. If not for the taint…" The parchment beneath her puckered with mutinous tears, and Connor's fingers gripped her hand tightly; his free hand finding hers and holding to her sympathetically until she could regain herself. With minimal effort, the young woman swallowed down the sob that tried to strangle her. She was becoming better at quieting her misery, though she had not yet mastered her rebellious tears.
Hoping for a quick distraction, Roselle freed a hand to wipe at her cheeks and tuck a stray lock of sandy-brown hair behind her ear.
"I'm recording their struggle against the Blight," she said in a bright voice that she knew was clearly forced, though her dear friend said nothing, "or trying to. I couldn't bear the thought of letting some stranger write the account. Mother and father told me many stories of their adventures. I was hoping you could help fill in the gaps they left."
Connor shrugged feebly, "I'm afraid all I remember of their journeys came after they sent Wynne into the Fade for me; and even then, most of what I know is only from hearsay. My mother kept me tucked within the castle for as long as she could afterward, until Wynne and Irvine came to collect me. By then it was all over." He thought for a moment. "Have you thought to ask Ser Oghren?" At this Roselle laughed mirthlessly.
"Oghren was drunk during most of their adventure," she revealed. "And mother advised me to not question him regarding anything of their journey together – apparently there were times she did not want him to recall for me." Connor's expression became puzzled.
"You don't think he and your mother-" Roselle recoiled in disgust.
"Andraste's flaming sword, no!" She cried, and Connor chuckled at her very un-ladylike epithet; a habit she had acquired from her father, much to her mother's disapproval. "Oghren found Felsie early on, remember. Besides, I think it's something a bit more shameful. Oghren asked me once if I had my mother's tolerance for ale. Then he laughed the most wicked sound I'd ever heard from him. Mother's face flushed six different shades of red and father threatened Oghren with a skinning if the dwarf ever tried to test that query on me."
"Of course." Connor chortled and Roselle glared at him until he regained his composure. With a sigh and a resigned shake of her head, the young queen retrieved a fresh piece of parchment and gazed at it blankly for a moment.
"I could try to find Leliana, or Zevran," she mused, "or even…"
Connor's mirth evaporated like water before dragon's fire, and his face fell into a scowl. "No. You wouldn't dare. Roselle, they told you not to. They made a promise – you made a promise." She sighed.
"I know. I just wonder…" she shook her head. "What if you had another sibling out there somewhere? Wouldn't you want to-"
"Not if she was the mother," Connor bristled. "You never met Morrigan, Roselle. Though I only met her a few times, the impression stuck. She was the only one who voted to kill me when I caused… when my status as a mage was discovered." Though it was decades passed, Connor still had trouble speaking of the incident from his youth that had killed so many. "I can't imagine anything raised by her to be worth knowing; not even with your father's blood in his or her veins. I know your mother cared for the witch but, Maker smile upon her, she was the only one."
With a rueful chuckle, the queen shook her head. "This is exactly why I need you here, Connor. You're so much wiser than I. I need you here to give me a level head." At this her friend's smile returned.
"Well the First Enchanter wasn't exactly thrilled with your request, but she understood. A mage advisor is not uncommon - Wynne was advisor to your father until she passed. And I must admit; it's nice to be away from the templars."
"Well I must admit; it's nice to have family in the castle again." Connor smirked.
"You know we're not actually family," he said, teasing her again in a private joke from her early childhood. "Our fathers weren't-"
"Mother always said family is not about blood." Roselle interrupted with a raised hand. "It is about who you keep close to your heart." It was not an admission of love born out of attraction or romance. It was deeper. The man was like an elder brother, or a beloved cousin. When she looked at him she never saw a potent mage, or the son of the arl who had helped to heal the country. She saw Connor – just Connor – the young man who had cleaned her scraped knees and wiped her tears as a child. From across her desk he smiled at her with sincerity.
"Thank you, Rose," he said softly. "It's good to know you hold me as dear as I do you."
"Father and mother cared about you, too," Roselle admitted, glancing down to the paper once more, "he never said it aloud, but I believe father thought of you as family. He never had anyone… just that troll of a woman he once considered 'sister'. But the way he would speak of you to others, it was almost as though he was a proud elder brother or uncle." She chuckled. "He would have made a terrible templar, for all his boasting of you – a mage." No response came, and when Roselle looked up she was surprised to see Connor's eyes sparkling.
"I…" his voice was soft and heavy, "I cannot tell you what it means to hear that. Your father… he was a great man; one of the greatest I ever knew. And your mother was equally as admirable. Thank you Rose, for giving me such a gift."
The queen said nothing, but stared silently back at the parchment before her for a time.
For nineteen years Roselle had been blessed with the finest parents in all of Thedas. Never did she question their love for her, or for each other. She had always known how fortunate she was – her father's sad upbringing had taught her the value of her family. Together they had shared laughter and joy and trust that could have come from the happily-ever-after of one of her story books.
And now the loss of two such indomitable figures from her life left a hole she doubted would ever fill. Absently she trailed quill tip against parchment;
Alistair Valeria Father Mother Alistair Valeria Roselle
A warm hand reached out and stilled her fingers, and Roselle looked up into Connor's sympathetic eyes.
"They loved you, Roselle, just as they loved one another." He said softly. "They loved each other so fiercely that when it was time for one of their Callings, they went together. Never fault them for such devotion. Instead pray to the Maker that someday you can find such a deep connection with someone."
"That doesn't sound like something a practical mage or royal advisor should be recommending," Roselle muttered. She was fully aware that many of the court advisors thought the king and queen's emotional attachments would impede their judgment, though her parents never once gave validity to their beliefs.
"You're right, it's not." Connor replied. "It is the wish of someone who knew and cares for your family. I wish this for you because it is how you were raised – to love fiercely and with all of your soul. I wish it because I know that such love will not hinder you as some would believe – it will inspire you, just as it inspired your parents."
Lost in thought, Roselle did not notice when her lips parted slowly, as reflection blossomed into idea.
"Of course," she said softly, "it inspires." She dragged a clean page before her and dipped her quill into ink, pausing to think for only a moment. She had been trying to write a historical account worthy of any scholar – one based on fact and timelines and reason.
Yet the story of her parents' lives together had been something else entirely. It had revolved around their love, their beliefs, and the spirited will they had held fast to despite the madness crashing down around their ears.
She smirked to herself; a lopsided smile that echoed her father's, set within round lips that mirrored her mothers.
Reason had nothing to do with what her parents had done during the Blight. They had been ruled by emotion.
"Will you stay for a while?" She asked softly. "It helps to have someone here." Connor leaned back in his chair and propped his boots up onto the other fine stuffed chair before the desk; intent on getting comfortable.
"That is why I came to Denerim, Roselle," he said affectionately, "to be here for you." Her eyes rose to him and she smiled gratefully to the man she considered family.
Slowly, deliberately, Roselle placed quill to parchment once more and began to write.
She wrote of playful taunts and hidden glances; of a single rose and the love that bloomed from a simple gesture. She wrote of struggles and heartache and choices no man should have to make; choices that fell upon the shoulders of two Grey Wardens too new to their order to know what lay before them.
Roselle wrote of a bond so strong that not even death could break it – for her mother had died once; and only her love for her betrothed had brought her back.
The daughter of the Grey Wardens wrote of all of the things they had told her and poured into it every scrap of the emotion that they had displayed. It was the only way to tell their story properly.
And when the lamps had all but run dry and her fingers cramped, Roselle set aside her quill and peered down at the sheaf of parchment before her.
There is so much left to tell.
"Connor?" She breathed and the chestnut-haired man stirred, blinking drowsy eyes at her, "I have to find Leliana and Zevran. And I'm sending for Oghren." She smiled softly, remembering how her mother had blushed so furiously when Oghren had spoken of her tolerance for ale.
Roselle didn't need historical accuracy or factual accounts – she needed to hear of their time together as it truly had been; full of the trivialities that made their tale that much more incredible. Because the pair of heroes who had brought down the archdemon and the Blight hadn't been god-like as those scholars and writers would have spun them to be. They had been a jumble of human imperfections, illogical emotions and unlikely strengths.
They had proven that anyone with the drive and the will could accomplish great things, if only they set themselves to the task. Roselle believed firmly that her parents would have liked to have been remembered in such a way.
With reverent fingers, Alistair and Valeria's daughter reached up to the thin gold chain around her neck, where her father's mended pendant and her mother's enchanted ring hung close to her heart.
Forever her inspiration.
This just came to me, as I was trying to write a story about Fergus. I know I had said I was leaving off with Chapter 16, but when an epilogue smacks you in the face, you don't just ignore it. :o) And in writing it this way, it doesn't feel like I cheapened Alistair and Valeria's ending.