Brenna's face held a pensive expression when he glanced at her. Alistair nudged her quietly and whispered, "Smile, love, you're supposed to look happy today."
He brushed her cheek with his lips and an appreciative noise rippled through the assembled crowd that stood at the foot of the stairs to the palace.
"You are happy today, right?"
She turned her head quickly, her expression contrite. "Yes, I am, I really am. It's just all these crowds, Alistair. Aren't you worried about assassins?"
"No." He answered firmly. "Nothing is going to spoil my wedding day."
Alistair took Brenna's hand and the city of Denerim cheered the royal couple. The Chantry bells had been ringing all morning, a joyous sound that faded beneath the combined voices of the gathered crowd. He gazed out over all the fresh scrubbed faces and felt a tug of pride toward his kingdom. Every stone of the city appeared to have been polished. Windows displayed boxes of flowers and doors had been newly painted. Ribbons and garlands festooned rooflines. He found it hard to believe this was the same city that had suffered such devastation at the end of the Blight. He took an experimental sniff. Though he'd never thought Ferelden smelled like wet dog, he did have to admit the weather did tend towards…damp. But he detected nothing but the tang of mulched leaves, fresh flowers and the scent of his betrothed.
Alistair moved his eyes from the city to his betrothed. There were no words to describe how beautiful she looked in her gown and he to content himself with simply gazing adoringly and admiringly at her. She correctly interpreted the look, thank the Maker. Soon they would be husband and wife and Ferelden would have a new queen. If his heart filled anymore it would burst. While that certainly would make his wedding day memorable, it would be highly inconvenient. Dragging his thoughts from the absurd, he took a deep breath and practiced his templar focus while maintaining his smile.
"Alistair, it's time." Leliana's clear voice, though soft, carried above the clamour rising from below the palace and he turned toward his chancellor. She and Aedan were beaming at him and she had a hand at his elbow, indicating it they should move inside the Landsmeet Chamber for the ceremony.
The chamber looked just as it had the day he'd been crowned king and Alistair felt the memories of that day and the past two years stirring as he led Brenna through the assembled nobles to the dais where the Reverend Mother waited. Isolde stood alone toward the front and Alistair nodded quietly to her, hoping the brief gesture acknowledged not only her presence, but the absence of Eamon.
The ceremony, while lengthy, seemed to pass in a blur and Alistair required a poke from Aedan to find his voice when it came time to exchange vows. He'd been staring at Brenna, lost in her eyes, and had not heard the Reverend Mother clear her throat, twice.
Vows done with, Alistair kissed his new wife and a wave of dizziness made his vision swim briefly. A combination of the 'moment' and a skipped breakfast that morning, no doubt.
After the brief formality of confirming Brenna's appointment as Queen with the Landsmeet, the next ceremony began and the Reverend Mother placed a delicate circlet over Brenna's dark hair. Alistair swallowed his relief at seeing the circlet had been finished in time. He'd ordered it only two and a half weeks before after ordering Anora's destroyed. The thought of a traitor's crown resting on his wife's head had been too awful to contemplate. Though eyebrows had been raised and eyes had questioned, the work had been done, swiftly and remarkably well. One of the perks of being King.
He took her hand and together they turned to face the Landsmeet. The nobles cheered and a uniform joy shone from every face. Even those who had not been entirely enthusiastic over his coronation seemed to have mellowed. Arl Wulf wiped a tear from his eyes and stepped to his daughter's side, enclosing her in a tight hug and then grasped Alistair's arm. Brenna's mother dipped him a curtsey. A very quiet and shy woman, her looks hinted at what Brenna might look like in thirty years. Arl Wulf took his wife's arm and escorted her away.
"Are you numb yet?"
Alistair turned toward Aedan and smiled. "Dizzy, hungry," he tested his fingers and toes, "and yes, I do believe I am starting to feel numb."
Aedan clasped him in a strong hug. "I'm so happy for you, Brother."
"Why didn't you tell me it felt like this?" Alistair started to feel the sting of what Brenna would call happy tears and he sniffed as inconspicuously as possible.
Aedan raised a brow and a mischievous glint entered his eyes. "You never asked?"
Alistair aimed a playful punch at his friend's arm. "You've been waiting a long time to use that line on me, haven't you?"
"Indeed I have. To answer your question, you and I don't generally sit around and have mushy conversations. Warriors don't, as a rule, much to Leliana's never ending despair." Aedan glanced at his wife, his love for her clear in his eyes. He continued in a softer tone. "It's just not something that can be put into words, Alistair, this thing between a husband and a wife. It's another gift from the Maker and one we are lucky to share."
Leliana saved them from their very un-warrior-like moment by stepping up to claim her hug from Alistair. Besides Aedan, his chancellor counted as his closest friend. He patted her back fondly before letting her go and she took his hands and shook her head, uncharacteristically lost for words. Then she kissed his cheek and said simply, "Congratulations."
"Thank you, Leliana." Alistair knew he'd be saying those words repeatedly over the course of the day and tried to convey the genuine warmth he felt with his smile.
Aedan slipped an arm about his wife's waist and led her away.
The next hour stretched into an endless parade of greetings, congratulations and gratitude as one by one Ferelden's nobility stepped forward. Brenna's face had paled a little and his smile has started to hurt when finally they exchanged a look of relief. He took her hands and they laughed together at their mirrored expressions.
"I wish we could just sneak away. Can you imagine the looks on their faces if we missed the banquet?" His stomach rumbled.
Brenna laughed and stretched up to kiss his cheek. "Come on, let's feed you before you pass out. This day is for all Ferelden. We'll have the rest of our lives together, my love." A brief shadow passed her eyes as she spoke the words only to be quickly replaced by warmth and humour.
The banquet held in honor of his nuptials required the largest dining room in the palace. They had never used this room in the two years he had been king and Alistair gazed about the cavernous space in wonderment. What had they had in mind when they designed such a large space? Even crowded with all of Ferelden's nobility the room still echoed. It would be the perfect place in which to host ball, he decided, like those Celene had described for Brenna.
Though probably the most lavish occasion Denerim had hosted since the wedding of Cailan and Anora, Alistair found himself relieved that the empress had departed before his wedding. He smiled as he imagined the reaction of the Orlesian nobility to his assembled guests. Nearly a quarter of the long, long table was occupied by Grey Wardens, including a dwarf and three elves. And of course there was Oghren who had obviously indulged before the banquet and now entertained startled nobles with belches and lewd remarks.
Alistair took Brenna's hand and leaned over to whisper quietly to her. "You know, it's true we do things a little differently here in Ferelden, but I don't necessarily think that's such a bad thing!"
Leliana giggled merrily from her seat beside Aedan and leaned across her husband to whisper, "I heard that, Alistair."
After their collection of chuckles and snickers Brenna whispered, "I don't think we're supposed to be snickering up here, we're getting odd looks from some of the nobility."
The meal concluded and Leliana rose from her seat to call for the attention of the assembled guests. Time for speeches and gifts! Alistair looked forward to neither, really, the first would likely drag on and the second would require yet more gratitude and kind words. Not that he didn't enjoy gifts, or appreciate the time and thought that went into the words of praise, he just wanted to escape this day and spend time with his new wife.
Philippe stood first and two of the wardens disappeared only to return two minutes later, their arms laden with shiny new armour. Grey Warden armour. Alistair took a deep breath, an expression of confusion sweeping across his face. Philippe cleared his throat.
"Though you may never use this armour, Alistair, and Maker pray you never have to, this is our gift to you. It is to remind you that you will always be our Brother."
"Philippe, thank you hardly seems appropriate, but thank you, this is a most thoughtful and unexpected gift." Alistair grasped Philippe's arm and the senior warden clapped him on the shoulder.
Alistair did not miss the few raised eyebrows among the seated nobles as he turned his attention to Oghren who stood next. Aedan laughed as a familiar bottle appeared on the table and Alistair groaned deeply and shook his head. Oghren looked slightly hurt as he regarded the bottle fondly. "Well I can always drink it for ya, you pansy."
Another round of raised eyebrows from the nobles made Aedan laugh harder and Alistair fought to keep his composure. Yes, it was a good thing Celene had departed early.
Zevran gifted them with a pair of matching rings he'd had inscribed with their names and the date of their wedding. They were exquisite and of course, sized perfectly. They put them on immediately and the rogue submitted himself to their hugs of gratitude with good grace. His manner had been unusually subdued since his return from Antiva and Alistair hoped he would have the chance to talk to him properly soon.
The speeches and gift giving proceeded more soberly after that as the nobles all paid their respects. Finally only Leliana and Aedan were left.
Leliana gave Brenna a harp. It was a beautiful instrument and Brenna wept at the sight of it. She loved to hear the bard play and had begged for lessons. Leliana had indulged her and the time spent together had only strengthened the friendship between the two women.
Leliana said only a few words, her trained voice reaching all corners of the room. She made an effective chancellor for many reasons, but her ability to command attention without striving for it numbered among his favourites. People listened when she spoke.
"Alistair, Brenna, may you always be as happy as you are today," she concluded and sat down.
Aedan rose next and cleared his throat. He smiled at Alistair and spoke to him directly instead of addressing the banquet as a whole. "I don't have a title and lands to give you, Alistair, though you know you're always welcome to one of mine. But you are my friend and my cherished Brother and that is a worthy title, is it not?" He paused and glanced at his wife, taking her hand before continuing. "This is a happy day for Ferelden, certainly, but happier for me as now you share in what I have already found. But I do have a gift for you, something other than my ramblings."
Oghren had walked the length of the table with a long package and at a gesture from Aedan handed it to Alistair. The box had a significant weight to it and Alistair guessed from the shape it might be a sword. He put it on the table and pulled away the lid. Maric's sword lay nestled next to its sheath, both cushioned by soft velvet. He had seen Aedan plunge this sword into the archdemon and he'd seen the sword afterwards. The hilt had softened and the blade had been blackened, the runes completely burnt out. He looked up at his friend. "How?"
Oghren answered for him. "There is nothing dwarven ingenuity can't fix, your Majesty!'
Alistair smiled at his Commander and thanked him for his part in the gift.
Alistair took his turn at making a speech. He said only a few words, thanking everyone for their attendance and wishing all of them well. He took Brenna's hand last and raised her to her feet beside him. "Thank you, Brenna, for agreeing to be a part of all this."
She blushed prettily and he kissed her. Applause swept up and down the table and everyone rose to their feet to give one more cheer for their king and queen.
Everyone sat down again and he turned to Aedan. "You went back to the roof for the sword? I had thought it lost."
"As did I. I found it by chance, Alistair. I had gone to the roof to escape Wynne and Taren and wandered over to the spot where I landed after the explosion. The sword was there, along with my helm." Aedan shrugged lightly. "I didn't know if it could be restored, but I wanted to try. Garin worked on it for over a year. Now something of your father is with you on your wedding day." Aedan put a hand on his shoulder and smiled. "Besides, it's a king's sword. You should carry a king's sword, not some old relic I pulled from a skeleton in the Deep Roads."
"As you well know, I am proud to wield 'the relic', it is a fine sword. But this, Aedan," Alistair ran his fingers long the blade reverently. "This is stunning. I will treasure it as something from my father and my brother."
Aedan nodded. "Good."
They exchanged a long look before both men blinked and looked away. Alistair gazed at the blade and marshaled his thoughts. He had come a long way from the bastard who had been shipped off to the chantry at age ten. Though he had lost much, he refused to dwell on the past and considered instead all he had gained. He had a family. He had a man to call brother and now he had a wife. Alistair blinked rapidly again, cursing Brenna's happy tears, and reached for her hand.
Aedan clasped Leliana's hand, entwining his fingers with hers. They gazed down at the two sleeping children. Riordan did not seem to mind sharing his crib with Grace and the pair looked quite sweet together, he dark and she light. Though they'd never be sure of Grace's exact age, Leliana guessed about six months. They'd chosen a date to use for her birthday when they had registered her adoption papers with the chantry the day before. Another advantage of having the king's chancellor for a wife: speedy paperwork and little red tape. Aedan pressed a kiss to Leliana's temple and she leaned gently into him a moment before tugging on his fingers and pulling him from the darkened room.
They flopped onto the couch together, and Aedan laughed as they both nearly deflated with a gusty sigh.
"Though I know you'd be a wonderful queen, tell me you are grateful we're not royal."
Leliana nodded quickly. "I'm grateful, my love, believe me. What a day!" She grinned slyly at him before continuing, "It's a good thing they've already shared a bed, they'll be too tired to do anything other than sleep tonight!"
Aedan raised a brow. "Are you trying to tell me you are tired?"
Leliana pushed his shoulder softly. "You are incorrigible, Aedan."
He winked in reply.
"I couldn't help but remember our wedding today, it's hard to believe it's only been a year and a half, and already we have three children! You won't be bringing home any more babies soon, I hope."
Aedan chuckled and put his arm around her, pulling her against his side so that her head rested on his shoulder. "I sincerely hope not."
"I hope they are blessed with a child of their own soon," Leliana said wistfully. "We are so lucky to have Riordan."
"That sort of pressure makes my whining about being Warden Commander pale in comparison, doesn't it?"
"Aedan, you don't whine, you growl."
Aedan growled softly in response and she laughed.
"Alistair seemed very touched by your gift, Aedan. The sword was beautiful, by the way. Garin did a wonderful job."
Aedan remembered something then, a gift he had bought for Leliana and he loosened his hold on her, sitting forward on the couch. "Wait here," he said and went to rummage inside his pack.
The wrapping had torn and looked a little grimy and he grimaced at it before turning around. Leliana still sat on the couch and he took a moment to appreciate her beauty. They were both still in their formal attire, though he'd loosened his shirt buttons at the first opportunity. Leliana's dress was gorgeous.
"You look beautiful, love, just as you did on our wedding day."
Leliana smiled and held her hands out to him and Aedan walked back to the couch and sat next to her again. He kissed her softly before murmuring, "I love you."
"I love you too, Aedan." She smiled and then looked pointedly at the scruffy little package in his hands.
Aedan felt a twinge of nervousness. He'd given Leliana gifts before, but never anything like this. He'd given her flowers, a pet, boots, weapons, and trinkets he'd found along road. Sweet and practical things and she'd loved them all. But he'd never given her jewelry before. She wore only the amulet Alistair had gifted them with at their wedding.
A flush took his cheeks as he spoke. "I never gave you a gift at our wedding, Leli." He frowned. "And I always give you such practical things. I had this made for you in Orzammar as well, um, I hope you like it." He thrust the bundle of wrapping at her.
He watched as she removed the folded paper to find a velvet pouch. She reached two fingers inside and pulled out a gold bracelet. The surface had been polished to a high gloss and inlaid along the gold were little silver flowers, Andraste's Grace. She sat with it in her fingers, not saying a word and Aedan's heart fell. She doesn't like it, he thought and he bit his lip.
When she turned to look at him, her eyes were filled with tears. "Aedan, it's the most beautiful thing you've ever given me. Thank you."
He smiled in relief and joy and hugged her tightly. "You like it then, it's alright?"
"I love it." She slipped it on her wrist and they both admired how the gold looked against her creamy skin.
Aedan lifted her hand and kissed it, and then kissed her lips again. He drew back and murmured softly, "So, are you still tired?"
She laughed. "No, my sweet warden, I'm not tired, let's go to bed."
I am going to change the name of this story to simply 'Gifts'. Though I always intended it to be about gifts of all sorts, the working title Wedding Gift kind of stuck! If you made it this far, thank you for reading my story! I hope you had as good a time as I did. This was a much slower story than 'Hero' and included a lot more dialogue and emotion I think, which isn't what I originally intended. I didn't set out to write seventeen chapters, either. I do tend to get carried away…
Thanks again for all the kind comments and reviews throughout!