Bioware owns Dragon Age and the characters, etc etc etc, not me.

I had a real bee in my bonnet for Anders after starting Awakening so I decided to write this. I'm so not abandoning my Jowan story, though. My love for everyone's favorite blood mage is still strong. (I even had to happily ever after him here.)

I had come to a decision: I hated the royal palace.

At first I was enraptured. People to cater to my every whim, huge soft beds, meals cooked by people who actually knew what a kitchen was, a library almost as impressive as the Circle's at my disposal, clean clothes every day and a hot bath every night. The first few months were like a fantasy. I had nothing whatsoever to do and no one expected anything of me beyond the occasional "smile and wave" public appearance.

Never mind that I was only staying because Eamon originally guilted me into it, I thought I would never leave. Alistair didn't have more than three words to say to me after the Landsmeet, so I originally took a room at the Gilded Noble. They were happy to have me, if only to tell people the "Hero of Ferelden" had been there. As for us, Zevran and I were happy to be had, finding drinking contests among the staff almost as challenging as those we had with Oghren once upon a time. After less than a week a retinue of maids and guards, accompanied by the Arl himself, showed up to escort Zev and myself to the palace. It was, apparently, something of a minor scandal that I had been staying in a tavern instead of being put up at the palace like a proper hero deserved.

I did my best to avoid Alistair at first, making sure to eat in my room or at odd hours. I hunted around the library late at night, long after he would have been asleep. It was, after all, his new home (thanks to me, my mind always added), and I wasn't welcome. He had become a brother to me in all but name during our travels and my heart ached for his absence, but it was my own fault. Nearly a month passed like this, with Zev occasionally trying to make overtures towards reconciliation that went nowhere. At one point he threatened to carry me to Alistair's study on his back and block the door until we spoke, but I only laughed. He was one of the finest fighters I'd ever seen, true, but I stood at least a hand taller than him and weighed more. He could lift me if I was willing, something he had proven many times, some more memorable than others, but not if I fought back. Alistair was the angry one, after all. If he wanted to talk he knew where I was. Imposing my presence on him wasn't about to help matters.

I remember the first words he said to me after the disastrous Landsmeet. It was at a formal banquet, celebrating a month since the ending of the Blight or some such nonsense. Being the great hero I had been seated to the right of the King. Zevran talked incessantly, trying to fill the silence so no one would notice, while I sank lower into my chair, wishing I could enter the Fade without lyrium if only to escape. Alistair looked over to me during a lull in conversation and muttered "Can you pass the salt, please, Maggie?"

I was so surprised I nearly spilled it all over myself.

He found me in the library the next night, curled up in an oversized leather chair with a copy of the Ballad of Ayesleigh.

"So answer one question for me," he began, startling me enough to drop the book. I decided to treat him like a skittish wild animal. Not wanting to scare him off and end this conversation I looked over, silently waving my hand to the chair beside my own. Alistair dropped into it and stared forward. "I understand why you let him live. I don't like it, but I see your reasoning. But why, after everything, did you let him make the final blow? Why give Loghain the glory?"

I blinked. Oh Maker, I thought, he didn't know! He doesn't know! "Alistair," I started slowly, "the night before the final battle Riordan met with us to explain. When a Warden kills the archdemon the spirit seeks them out, it's drawn to the nearest sign of a taint and since the Warden has a soul, both die. That's why only a Warden can do it; the archdemon would just leap into the nearest Darkspawn otherwise. That's why Loghain died. If I made the blow he would be here, and my body entombed at Weisshaupt."

He was silent for a long time. Taking a deep breath, he only said "I had no idea."

"Neither did I, but I figured Riordian had some reason for his suggestion. I mean, he was tortured by the man, after all." He nodded.

I thought back to that night on the roof of Fort Drakon. The archdemon was defeated, screaming in agony on the ground with a call that reverberated through my head. Without thinking I moved towards it, grabbing my sword Spellweaver. Loghain stopped me, pinning me in his hawk-like glare. He demanded to make the final blow, to earn his redemption. I knew it was the right thing to do, but still chafed at the memory. The idea of anyone dying so I could live didn't sit well.

"I'm sorry, if I had known… can you forgive me?"

I glanced over at him. Alistair looked like someone had punched him in the stomach. "Alistair, if you had known I'd have a reason to forgive you. You didn't know, so as far as I'm concerned, there's no offense to forgive."



We sat in silence for a while before he spoke again. "You know, this place has a wine cellar like you wouldn't believe." I laughed.

At that point living in the palace became fun. Zev, Alistair and I would stay up late, playing cards or talking, just as we had on the road. We took meals together, and I even let him drag me along on a couple royal visits so the Banns could have the double honor of the King and the Hero of Ferelden all at once.

But, nothing lasts, especially not pretending to be royalty. Zevran disappeared one night some months later, leaving me a brief note about returning to Antiva to take control of the Crows on our nightstand. I was heartbroken, but not surprised. The Chantry began asking questions about when I would return to the Circle since I had no official reason to be outside the tower anymore. Even Weisshaupt sent me a dispatch asking if I would return to the Wardens and saying I could be Commander of the Grey in Ferelden if I so chose.

I had changed rooms once Zevran left, not wanting to be reminded of him. My new quarters were not far from Alistair's, but I rarely saw him. He was busy with running the country now that the initial joy of surviving the Blight had worn off. Balls were held almost every weekend, with the eligible noble ladies of Ferelden paraded before him like prize pigs so he could get about the business of making an heir. I went to one, hoping I could at least find someone to dance with me, maybe flirt with that adorable Bann Teagan, only to discover Alistair was just about the only man present who wasn't showing off a marriageable daughter. Leliana had gone to Haven to work with the Chantry on the ashes, Sten was back in the stoic and hopefully loving embrace of the Qun, that backstabber Morrigan disappeared before the final battle, Oghren was off with his new bride, and Wynne took Shale to Tevinter looking for a way to reverse the Gollum process. I was bored.

Alistair figured this out soon enough after the maids began to complain about singed curtains in my room from errant fireballs I cast absentmindedly while reading. He provided me with a horse and riding lessons so I could spend a week in Highever, visiting Jowan. I desperately missed spending time with other mages, and that mage in specific.

Jowan had fallen head over heels for one of the refugees he protected during the blight, and they were expecting a child by winter. Sitting around their small kitchen table, talking and laughing into the night, without having to play the part of hero or acting properly meek as any mage should, left me feeling revitalized. Jowan's even joked about naming the baby after me if it was a girl. I returned to Denerim feeling wonderful, finally having something to do after months of inactivity. My mood collapsed before long, though, as I sat through another boring state dinner, freezing and unfreezing the water in my glass while nobles talked about their own importance.

When I began to miss the excitement of the blight I knew it was time to move on.