Spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Origins – Awakenings.


It would always surprise people when Lourdes informed them that most of the time she had spent saving Ferelden had been spent on the road. They didn't seem to realize that there was no instantaneous way to travel from Orzammar to Denerim. If there had been, the journey of the small group of people would have taken only a month or two instead of the year and a half it had taken.

"So… for eighty percent of the time you were working to save the country… you were just walking?" One of the guards in the Denerim palace had asked her incredulously. "Just walking? What did you do?"

To tell the truth, there wasn't a whole lot to do while walking around Ferelden, Lourdes had figured out. She and her companions had learned to pass the time by talking or thinking or (in Leliana's case) singing while walking or running or marching across the country on their own two feet because they had been too stupid to buy a horse.

Sometimes, during these long walks from Orzammar to Redcliffe or from the Circle to the Brecilian Forest, the Cousland warrior liked to imagine how she thought her life would pan out once the Blight was behind her. Worst case scenario: dead. That wasn't very cheerful to dwell on, so she liked to think of the good scenarios.

In the ideal dream, she and Alistair would settle down someplace once all the darkspawn had retreated back to the Deep Roads. Which they would, of course. That was what darkspawn did when they didn't have an Archdemon to coax them from their underground lair. Lourdes would be quite happy with spending the rest of her thirty years of life in luxury. After all – she would have saved Ferelden by this point. All that excitement and heroism was all that was expected from her for the rest of her life, right?

Right?

Of course not.

Did her vision of her perfect life pan out perfectly?

Of course not.

Was it remotely close?

Of. Course. Not.

Instead of earning a lifetime of relaxation, she had earned herself some large shoes to fill. She had recently been appointed to become a Grey Warden commander. Great. Her task? Rebuild the force of the diminished Grey Wardens and become the new overseer of the legendary Vigil's Keep. To top this responsibility, as if it wasn't enough, there were still darkspawn littering the country. They were supposed to be retreating underground by now, not lingering around to see the occupants of the country into the Maker's hands.

Lovely.

"I was hoping I'd get some sort of early retirement," Lourdes confessed to Alistair one day while she was waiting for her escort to be prepared. It was a bit awkward; they were both alone in her quarters as they chatted and Maker knew what the gossips would say about that. Though they had been lovers up until his coronation, their relationship wasn't that anymore… she had felt it in her bones when she had been forced to decide who to put on the throne. Alistair was the right choice for the throne… but she was not the right choice for Alistair. She was meant to be a Grey Warden. Though it broke her heart because she had still clearly been in love with the king, she couldn't put herself on the throne next to him. Lourdes couldn't do it. She was supposed to be a Warden, she knew it.

The feeling of right that she felt when she had been working to stop the Blight or when she saw the heraldry of the Wardens emblazoned on her armor was the only reason she hadn't down right refused the position of commander. And, okay, the more time she spent at court in Denerim, the more she realized that maybe she wasn't suited for a life of normalcy and quietness. Her vision of living quietly with Alistair had faded. Having to stay within the walls of the palace lest she be mobbed by those that wished to meet her was driving her insane. Lourdes felt useless and she quickly realized that the quiet life she had dreamed of with Alistair would not suit her at all.

So maybe traveling to Amaranthine and getting busy with solving the problems they faced there was for the best. She sure hoped so, anyway. Idle hands weren't a good mixture with Lourdes.

"Early retirement for the Hero of Ferelden?" Alistair questioned, shaking his head slightly. "It's never going to happen. You're not some merchant or weapon smith who can just decide to lay down their craft and quit."

"I know. I'm a Grey Warden. I can't ever stop, technically," she agreed, wondering if she should remind him that he had stopped being a Warden and was instead the king. Probably not. She didn't want to anger Alistair right before she left for Amaranthine. "I sometimes feel like I just want to stop and take a breath and step away from the swords and the battles and the darkspawn."

"Do you?" he said, raising his eyebrows.

"Yes," she said with a dramatic sigh, rising to touch a tapestry that had been hung on the wall of her room. "But then I start feeling useless and restless and my fingers itch for my blades. And I remember that I have more important things to do than sit around knitting or… whatever it is women that aren't covered in blood half the time do."

"Baking, maybe?" he suggested, rising to stand next to her. It was hard for her to control the urge to brush his hand with her fingers or kiss his cheek. But Lourdes did, holding herself stiffly as a servant appeared in her doorway.

"Warden-Commander?"

It was a moment before she responded. "Oh, right," she said after Alistair cleared his throat meaningfully. "That's… me. Yes?"

"Your escort awaits you in the stables," the messenger said, before disappearing as Alistair gave the mousy haired teenager a curt nod of the head.

"Stables?" she questioned, sheathing her sword on her belt. The king walked with her down the hallway toward the stables. "Well, I've figured out one good thing about being appointed Warden-Commander."

"Just the one?" Alistair asked with a grin, picking invisible fuzz off of the fine silks and velvets of his complex and brightly colored tunic. It was odd to see him without a spattering of blood or to have the metallic sound of armor accompanying his footsteps.

"Yes. I don't have to walk everywhere this time."