A sick feeling settled in the pit of Maebh's stomach as she stood outside Alistair's door. She squared her shoulders, stood up straighter, and knocked.
"Just a moment!" he called from the other side. "Wait, who is it?"
She cleared her throat, tried to settle the jangle of nerves in her blood. "It's just me."
The door opened, Alistair smiled bashfully. "I'm sorry Eamon put us up in separate rooms. I guess, you know, propriety and all."
Maebh hugged herself. "Do you mind if I come in?"
"No! Not at all! Please," he stepped aside and she entered. She noted ruefully that his room was furnished in a much grander fashion than hers. Was this what she had to look forward to? Always being handed second-best and sneaking away to enjoy the finer things? She saw Duncan's shield propped up against the wardrobe. She wandered over to it and started rubbing a spot off of the edge.
"Hey," he said softly, standing behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. "What's wrong?"
Images flashed through her mind. Cailan lay on the cold ground. Father bled out on the Landsmeet chamber floor. Anora hauled away in chains. "Morrigan came to speak to me."
He kissed the top of her head. "Really?" he said, nose buried in her hair. "What did she have to say?"
She took a deep breath. "She wants to lay with you tonight."
His arms stiffened and he lifted his head. "That's... unexpected. Wait, this is some kind of test, isn't it? You're testing me. Well, I'll have you know, those flying dogs didn't raise any fools. I won't fall for it. No, love, I would not lay with your friend, no matter how beautiful she is. There. Did I pass?" He tightened his hold on her waist.
"No, it's not a test, Alistair. She wants to because... she says it would save our lives."
He released her and she turned around. "Sometimes I really don't understand your sense of humor."
She wrung her hands. "I'm not joking, Alistair." She began to pace. "She says that... she will conceive a child and the soul of the Archdemon will be drawn to it and, and the child won't be hurt but it will be born with the soul of an untainted old god."
Alistair grabbed her wrist. "Please, Maebh, calm down."
She pressed her hand to her mouth to choke back a sob. "I can't bear to lose you. Not after..." Cailan lay on the cold ground. Father bled out on the Landsmeet chamber floor. Anora hauled away in chains. "Not after everything."
Alistair turned away and rubbed his head. "So, this child, what does she want with it? She wants a claim on the throne? Is that it?"
Maebh shrugged. "She says she wants to take it away and raise it as she sees fit. I truly don't believe she has any design on the throne."
"So Morrigan would bear and raise my child, alone?"
The words hung in the air, swollen with hurt, before they thudded to the ground. Morrigan's offer provided a guarantee of the one thing Maebh could never do for him, even if he could convince the Chantry to allow them to marry.
Maebh looked down, eyes stinging. "Yes."
Alistair sank into a chair, looking older than he had when Maebh walked in. "I don't know if I can do that," he finally said, his voice small.
Maebh went over to him, sat in his lap, and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I need to ask you something. If it were reversed, if, say, the Teyrn had died five years ago and it was Good King Maric who had somehow... if everything were reversed and it was your father instead of mine. Would you have let me do it? Would you have stood by while I killed him?"
He leaned his head against hers and held her tightly to him. "I don't know, Maebh. Sometimes I wish..."
The wound was deep, Maebh knew from personal experience. They were cast-offs, the forgotten. "I wonder if it's easier for orphans." She mused, almost sorrowful. "Maybe they can imagine that their parents actually wanted them."
She watched as the fine muscles in his jaw twitched. "I don't care about that. I don't care about them and what they wanted or didn't want. If he wanted me to care about his wishes, then he could have given a damn about me when he was still alive."
A suffocating silence settled over them like a thick blanket. "I don't want to lose you," he said.
"Ferelden needs a king," she replied.
"Maybe I should go through with it."
Again the silence returned. Maebh turned her face away from him. "But, you can't. You can't do to your child what our fathers did to us."
He took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply. "Are you sure? Absolutely?"
She looked him dead in the eye. "Well, no, but could you live with yourself? I don't think I could bear it."
And he kissed her again, and she clung to him, pushing memories of Ostagar out of her mind. She was jealous of the girl at Ostagar, the girl who believed in happy endings and family reunions and possibilities now forever denied her. They made love slowly, drawing out the movements and sighs as if delaying the inevitable release could prevent morning from arriving. And when they were finally spent they remained, arms and legs entangled.
Maebh stared at the ceiling until the sun finally brushed its fingers into the room. Cailan lay on the cold ground. Father bled out on the Landsmeet chamber floor. Anora hauled away in chains. And Maebh screamed as the Archdemon burned her from the inside out.