Denerim 9:32

One Year Anniversary of the End of the Fifth Blight

On another day, in another lifetime, Maebh would have found the silence soothing. The soft glow of the candlelight, the warmth of the fire, the lovely smells wafting from soup tureen and chafing dish, the fine wine making her head swim. She felt an odd pressure on her ankle, and realized it was Alistair's foot. She started and jerked back, pulling away.

There was a thunking sound under the table and Alistair grunted. Maebh looked up from her overloaded plate and caught Anora's cool gaze. Her stomach curdled and she bowed her head.

"So, tell me, Warden, what did you find in Ostagar? Is it able to be reclaimed?" Anora raised a dainty spoonful of soup.

Maebh shrugged and stared at her plate. She pushed a hunk of rapidly-cooling potato into a puddle of half-congealed gravy.

"Actually, my dear," Alistair cleared his throat. "I was considering granting Ostagar and the hinterlands to the, uh, the Dales."

Maebh looked up to see the hard line set in Anora's mouth as she glanced at Alistair. "Really. Whatever for?"

Now it was his turn to look uncomfortable. "Well, they helped us and all..."

The silence was solid, like a thick pane of glass. Maebh wanted to smash it.

"I see." Anora sipped some mead. "So is your plan to hand off chunks of our land to all those who assisted us?"

Alistair frowned as he chewed on a bit of beef. Maebh took a gulp of wine, then another, then refilled her goblet. Loghain helped himself to more bread.

"Which holdings do the dwarves desire?" Anora continued, her irritation visibly rising.

Alistair sighed. "The dwarves have exclusive dominion underground. They have no interest 'Topside', you know that."

"Well, who else assisted us?" Anora continued, her anger as cold and inexorable as an iceberg. "Is Arl Eamon now feeling crowded in Redcliffe?

"Eamon," the name turned to ashes in Maebh's mouth. "He can barely provide for what he has. Even he is not so foolish to try to grasp for more."

Alistair looked at Maebh, brow furrowed, eyes questioning. Maebh refused to answer his gaze, refused to explain her sudden disdain for the Arl.

Anora tapped her fingers on the table. "And the mages? Do the mages plan to expand the Tower grounds?"

Maebh slammed her goblet down, splashing wine on the lacy tablecloth. "Dammit, Anora. They were there. They were at the very top of Fort Drakon with us!" She looked to Loghain for help, but he only concentrated more intently on the meal and ate in stone-faced silence.

Anora turned her icy glare on her sister. Maebh steeled herself. "Yes, Warden. It appears that you have already decided what reward is to be given." Anora's tone was cool, even, deadly calm. "It is perhaps rude of me to expect my husband to discuss such decisions with me."

Maebh picked at a turkey leg with her fingers, shrinking under Anora's wrath. "They earned it. They are willing to work to reclaim the land from the Blight. They only ask for what is rightfully theirs."

Anora sneered. "And you would know, as you have proven once and again how well you are at determining who deserves what."

Alistair held up a hand to Anora. "My dear, please..."

"Do not patronize me, Alistair. Do you really think me such a fool? Do you really think I am so blind as to not see what is going on in my own home?" Anora's voice raised, a faint blush of anger appeared on her face and a shine of tears in her eyes. She was furious.

"Yes," said Maebh, covering her shame with anger. "You know what? Yes! I am good at determining who has who has earned what!" She pointed at Anora. "I let you keep your ass on the throne, didn't I? I spared Father's life. I planted a crown on Alistair's head and then saved the lot of you from a Maker forsaken Archdemon so don't you dare lecture me on knowing my place, Nora. You owe me!"

"Yes, about that!" shouted Anora.

"What about that?!" spat Maebh.

"Ladies, please..." Alistair tried.

"How did you survive?" Anora demanded in a ringing tone. "I have received correspondence from the Anderfels asking if it is true that you yourself took the final blow. They seem to be under the impression that you should have perished."

Maebh stared Anora dead in the eye, afraid to risk a glance at Loghain. "I'm sorry to disappoint you," she gritted out between clenched teeth.

"You must have used some manner of forbidden magic to save your own miserable life. Some kind of blood magic, perhaps? Or perhaps something taught to you by that demon-eyed apostate you found under some rock?" snarled Anora.

Maebh jumped to her feet, knocking over her chair behind her. "I refuse sit here and be accused of such crimes. I am no blood mage! You can ask your honored husband." Maebh turned to Alistair for support, but he just looked down. "Or our own father." Loghain still refused to meet her eye. This just fueled her anger. "They have both fought at my side and know my worth. Even if they are too... too cowardly to admit it to you. You should be ashamed of yourself for even suggesting..." she chocked on her fury, turned, and went for the door.

"You betray the truth with your own actions!" Anora trilled triumphantly. "No innocent would protest so much. Maleficar!"

"What would your subjects think of their honored queen!" Maebh raged as she flipped the wine table, Alistair flinched as bottles and glasses went flying before crashing to the floor. Anora did not even blink. Loghain took a bite of an apple. Blood red wine ran and pooled across the floor and stained the carpet. "Making such baseless accusations!"

"The other Grey Wardens do not seem to find such accusations baseless. Why else would they be asking me?"

Maebh paused, gripping the door with a white-knuckled grip. "A year ago you were begging for my assistance," she growled. "A year ago you were trapped in a guest room at the mercy of Arl Howe. A year ago you faced certain death, or worse…" Maebh's gorge rose at the memory the Broodmother and she swallowed before continuing, "…at the hands of the darkspawn. It is good to see how far back the royal memory reaches!" she hissed.

"I hope you realize your selfishness has doomed us all," Anora said, icy composure regained.

Maebh slammed the door behind her as she stormed out.