It's cold in the Frostback Mountains and the wind doesn't make it any easier on either of them. The Avarr mountain fort looms out of the blizzard like a beacon, a last respite before the final push towards the gates of Orzammar.
"Smells like wet dog." Alistair mutters as they stand in front of the gate, half-supporting each other. "I bet it smells like wet dogs in there."
"Shouldn't be too difficult to you, then." She shrugs. 'You were raised by them, after all?" The wind catches the edge of her cloak and tugs at it. "After you, Majesty."
The sentry sees the griffons emblazoned on their cloaks and admits them without much fuss; apparently the Grey Wardens are known to these people. Inside there is stone-paved little paths, and earth-packed ramparts and small stone houses huddling against the walls, and not too many people out in this weather. They are heading to the little inn, as directed by the sentry, where lodgings might be had for the night. Lodgings, and food, and some warmth, Alistair reflects, as they negotiate their way across the fort and through the snow and into the warmth and damp smelliness and relative friendly atmosphere beyond the inn's heavy oak door.
Who knew the Avarr had such things? He thinks and winks at his wife, the love of his life and final and only companion on his last journey—their last journey—as they stretch out their legs in front of the fire. And rather passable ale, too… Maybe from living so close to dwarves…
"Nah, this is better." She says, as if to answer his unspoken thoughts, and he narrows his eyes.
"Listen, I know there's this Warden thing going on between us, and we're married for almost thirty years now, but still… spooky, woman. How?"
"You're easy." She grins at him as she smoothes slowly drying red-grey tresses out of her face and straightens the sword belt strapped on her hip once again. "You had a sip of the ale, smacked your lips, so you liked it. The you glanced up, towards that group of Orzammar merchants there in the corner, and had a thoughtful expression on your face while lifting the tankard again, so you clearly were thinking about whether this was better or the one we had in Bhelen's palace all those years ago." She leans forward and pats his right leg, gently and carefully, just above where the old wound bothers him every time there's a northern wind. "Like I said: you're easy."
"But not cheap." Alistair grins, putting the now empty ale tankard on the table. "More of this, please." he says to the serving woman who arrives at their table with bowls of stew from the large pot over the roaring fire that takes up the middle of the wall. He winces as he shifts his weight on the bench and wishes that age wouldn't creep up on him with all those little aches and pains that seem to assault every joint and bone in his body. A tad of ow here, a bit of owie there, a slight touch of gout when it's turning cold or a bit of rheumatism when it's damp. Alistair watches his wife fuss with the clasp of her cloak as she spreads it on the bench next to her, her once graceful fingers now all cracked up and slightly gnarled from arthritic fever, the bane of soldiers, and thinks… No, let it just be one searing, gloriously white-fire bonfire of pain blossoming and consuming one's entire being into nothingness. Let it all end at once, when we are still mostly limber and can lift the sword and dance the killing dance. Let us die as the warriors we were.
And they sit, and eat the stew, and sip on the ale, talking only in half-sentences like old, grizzled veterans of campaigns unnumbered, fought many years ago but still living in legend. They look at the others in the inn, locals and travelers alike, thrown together by the capricious weather, huddling as close to the fire and their stew bowls and ale tankards as possible, and wonder briefly about where do they go, and where did they come from, and where will they be when the two of them disappear down on the Deep Roads?
Ferelden will be just fine. The King leans back and empties the last tankard, feeling his Queen's fingers between his, reassuring. Just fine.
From the thyme-scented depths of the kitchen two pairs of raptor-gold eyes watch them intently.