A.N.: I've kept the Warden generic here purposefully. Any sex or origin will work.
The morning that was to change everything for Anora started out as it normally did. The sun shone weakly with winter's faint heat, making patterns on the floor, as she moved to the window after arising from her bed. The lingering frost from the night before still rimed the edge, sharp as a dagger's edge. As she stood there, she wondered about Cailan, her father, and all their brave soldiers whose absence from the capitol left a hole in their wake, like a song that was missing one of its parts. Life went on, but differently than it had, as those who remained tried to hide their fear and worry behind the mask of everyday life. She wondered if the darkspawn had been defeated yet and when her loved ones would return to her in Denerim.
She turned from the window when Erlina entered the room to help her dress. Afterwards, Erlina then brought in her customary light breakfast of tea and toast, which Anora ate while she went over any paperwork she needed to address before the day's business began. This morning's item of interest was a water source, which two of the banns were both claiming rights to. She was just reading the summary of the surveyor she had sent out to assess the site when a knock sounded on the door.
"Your Majesty?" called one of the guards.
"Yes," answered Anora.
The door opened and the guard stuck his head in. "There's a messenger here from your father," he said.
"Show him in," said Anora with interest. Was this news from Ostagar? She would have expected a messenger from Cailan before her father.
"Greetings, your Majesty," said the messenger with a bow. He was a tall, younger man with light brown hair and blue, careworn eyes. He looked tired, grim, and definitely the worse for wear. "I bring a message from your father, the Teyrn." He extended the message scroll to her.
Anora reached out and took it from his hands. "Thank you," she said. "You should be able to get something to eat in the kitchens and check with the guards for a place where you can take some rest. I see you have traveled hard to get the message here. Your diligence will be rewarded." Anora made a note to herself to make sure the man was given some compensation for his hard trip before he left the palace.
"Thank you, your Majesty," said the man bowing his way out of the room.
Anora took the scroll and resumed her seat at the table.
Brace yourself, my child. I have bad news for you, both as queen and wife. The King is dead. He was killed by darkspawn during the battle of Ostagar, along with half the army. I am on my way to Denerim with what remains of our forces and should arrive a few days after this message.
Hold firm until I can be by your side. You know what has to be done.
Loghain Mac Tir
Anora's eyes filled with tears as she buried her face in her hands. Cailan dead! How could this be? Ostagar was supposed to have been a glorious victory for him. Why had he led the fight himself? She had begged him to stay safely in the rear and let other, more experienced commanders, lead the battle, but no, the King of Ferelden had to be in the forefront. What would she do without him? How could she bear it knowing he would not return to rule at her side?
Could she hold the throne on her own? Would the banns support her? She had been the de facto ruler for the past 5 years while Cailan had played at kingship. Surely, she would have the support she needed to carry the votes of the nobles of the Landsmeet. She would have to move carefully and thoughtfully (as in everything she did). She would have to balance a show of grief for Cailan with her strength as a ruler if she wished to keep the throne. Really, what choice did she have? Who else was there? Arl Eamon would be the strongest opponent, but he was currently out of the capitol.
She dried her tears, composed herself, and left her room to seek out Darach. He was her primary assistant and kept track of her schedule. When she found him, she had him arrange to have the Revered Mother from the Chantry and various other upper level people from the government called to the palace. She then proceeded to break the news to them that their king was dead. She assured everyone that she would remain in charge until the Landsmeet was called, and that her father would still be the commander of Ferelden's armies.
The next few days flew by as she not only had to accept sympathy calls from the nobles as the word about Cailan began to get out and also run the kingdom, but she made time to walk through Denerim at least once a day. She wanted to assure the common people that they still had a monarch, and that she would continue to govern. She occasionally even spoke spontaneously to the crowds that seemed to gather when she appeared. She was careful to always be highly complimentary of the brave men and women who had gone to Ostagar to fight against the darkspawn.
The nights, though, were hard. She missed Cailan so much. They had loved each other, and even though Cailan had a roving eye, he had always returned to her. It was the nights, when she laid alone in the dark and scenes from their past came back to haunt her, that she truly grieved for him. The memory of the gentleness of Cailan's touch the first time they had made love, his laughter after some silly joke the two of them had shared, the questioning look he gave her over some official matter she had handled and then had to explain to him, but somehow even more painful than all the others, was the smile he had given her as he left for Ostagar, promising to return; all these images and many more from over the years crowded her brain and lost her untold hours of sleep.
She was in her study when she heard the familiar footsteps of her father echoing down the hall. No one else's stride caused the ringing tones his armored boots did. It was a sound she had always recognized. She arose from her desk and had just come around it when she heard him knock. She threw the door open and beckoned him in, quickly closing the door behind him. "Oh Father," she began before the tears began to flow, and she collapsed into his embrace. The cold, hard edge of his armor against her cheek seemed to reflect the coldness that emanated from him.
"Hush, Anora," he said as his strong arms came around her and held her close. "Hush now. I'm here." He pulled away from her to look at her. She could see what she took as concern in his eyes as he pulled a gauntlet off to trace a finger under her eye, catching her tears. "Why don't you go rest now? I can see how difficult this has been for you. I will handle things for you this afternoon."
Anora wiped her eyes and sniffed, "I'm fine, Father. I'm still the queen and will do my duty."
"I rushed back here to so I could help you, Anora. Let me help. Let me take some of the burden off you," he said persuasively. "You look so tired. You need some rest."
Anora dropped her head before him. "Very well, Father," she said. "I think a small rest might not be amiss."
Loghain smiled, "That's my girl. Come." He led her out of her study and all the way back to her quarters. He didn't leave her side until Erlina was there to take his place. "Take care of her, girl. She is the embodiment of our country now."
"Yes, your Grace," said Erlina with a curtsy. "I'll take good care of her."
With that first smooth move in taking advantage of Anora's grief, Teyrn Loghain was able to slowly and persuasively stake his claim as Queen Anora's regent. Just like water breaking against rock, with honeyed words and caring gestures, he wore her down and diverted her attention from matters of the kingdom to matters of the heart. For one time in her life, her intelligence and drive submerged under the weight of emotion as she mourned her husband. The Teyrn subtly encouraged her grief, allowing him the opportunity to draw the reins of government from her hands into his firm grip. With his sycophant Arl Howe whispering in his ear at every turn, decisions that should have been Anora's became his.
By the time Anora realized what had happened, it was too late. Everything was being handled by the regent. Anora cursed herself as she realized that first confrontation with the bannorn when Bann Teagan had raised questions against her father should have alerted her. She was too dulled with misery and trusting of her father's love and guidance to see what he had become and what he would steal from her, his only child.
Her second clue was the fact that he refused to discuss what had happened with Cailan with her. Even when she was more insistent and had interrupted a meeting between he and that snake Arl Howe, he still refused to discuss exactly what had happened at Ostagar and just why her husband was dead.
She tried to talk to her father about the situation. He explained that he was only fulfilling his duty to Cailan by being her regent until the Landsmeet confirmed her as Queen of Ferelden in her own right. Once that happened, then he, of course, would just be her commander and nothing more. It all sounded so reasonable and right as the words were dropping from his lips. Why then did it seem so wrong once she left him, and why didn't she do something about it? Why did his mere presence make her revert back to an 8-year-old desperate for his affection and approval?
The civil war ground on. She had heard the words "Grey Wardens" more in the past few months than she had ever heard from Cailan's lips. She found it highly amusing that her father, who had always considered Cailan's fascination with them childish, was now stymied at every turn by the remaining members of the order.
With her father still refusing to discuss what had happened at Ostagar, Anora made her decision to go and talk to Arl Howe. He had a habit of running his mouth, like a child eager to show how much he knew, and she was sure she could trick the information she was seeking out of him. Things went fine until Anora pushed the Arl a little too forcefully and a little too disdainfully. With his pride pricked, the Arl ordered Anora's imprisonment, and so she sat, waiting, either for Howe to kill her or some type of rescue. She had expected her father's men to come looking for her at first, until she figured out that he must know where she was and was content to have her safely contained under lock and key. When Anora heard from Erlina that the Grey Wardens and Arl Eamon had arrived in Denerim, she knew this was her chance. She sent her maid to request their help, offering her assistance in exchange for her freedom.
How surprised she was when the Wardens allowed themselves to be captured and sent to Fort Drakon rather than let Anora be caught. Once the guards had secured the two Wardens, they lost interest in the rest of the party, and Anora was able to escape and make her way to the Arl's estate. Perhaps there was more to these Grey Wardens than she had always thought.
While waiting for the Wardens to be rescued, Anora spent her time rehearsing her plea for the support of the Warden for her throne. Once the Wardens had escaped and returned to the Arl's estate, she had requested that the Warden come speak with her. Anora presented her case as well as she was able, but she still was taken off guard when the Warden suggested Anora marry Alistair. How could she marry her love's half-brother? How could she take him to her bed? Why must she forever have to rule under the banner of an unfit male? Her frustration level with the situation was high, but she supposed if Alistair agreed she would have to accept the situation, as uncomfortable as that made her feel. She wondered if Cailan would consider it a betrayal or just that she was doing the best she could to ensure Ferelden had a competent ruler? She was surprised when the Warden returned and said that Alistair would agree if she did. She had expected him to throw a temper tantrum, like a child being put to bed against its will. If only she had been born a man, she could have ruled in her own right without interference from bumbling boy kings. Reluctantly, she agreed to consolidate their power and marry Alistair.
She had realized her father was not the man she had known, but even she was surprised that he had sunk to selling elves to help finance the war. They were Ferelden citizens, and he was shipping them to Tevinter into lives of unimagined misery. The father she had known and loved would never have done such a thing. Anora wondered what demon drove him that would make him do the things he had done. The more she thought about it, the more she became afraid that Bann Teagan had been right, and her father had purposefully abandoned Cailan at Ostagar.
Finally, the morning of the Landsmeet had arrived. Anora craftily hid herself away in the palace until the best time came for her entrance. She sprang from hiding, decried her father's actions, and supported the Wardens as she had promised. The Landsmeet fell in line behind the Wardens, and so her father lost his bid for power.
Of course, it came down to swords. She had expected her father to win, after all, he was the Hero of River Dane. When he offered his surrender to the Warden, she felt the first pang of anguish for him. Regardless of what he had done, she had sprung from his loins, and she and he were more alike than not. Anora pleaded for her father's life and thought she may have made an impact until Alistair spoke against her. She could see the death sentence forming in the Warden's eyes as Alistair raved, and then a sword flashed once again.
Anora stood frozen as her father's blood coated her face and dress. Memories of younger days flashed through her mind in an instant, her memories as a young girl who watched her father train sure that he could defeat anything and anyone, her father holding her by the hand as he instructed her on the finer points of governing, the pride in his eyes the day she married Cailan. All the good her father had done for Ferelden for most of his life was now ended as his body lay growing cold on the floor of the Landsmeet chamber. It was not quite the hero's end Anora had expected, with no one to mourn him but herself.
Over his body, his killer decreed the future of Ferelden. Alistair and Anora would marry. She would remain in Denerim as regent while the future king went with his fellow Warden to face the Archdemon. It was a relief. It gave her some time to begin to come to terms with the future and face the fact that Alistair would shortly share her bed and her throne. The flashes of will she had seen in him made her think that this young king may not be as easy to manipulate as the last one had been.
They had a few hours' warning that the darkspawn were on the way to Denerim, long enough to evacuate some of the population of the city. Anora knew it wasn't enough to save everyone. She and Erlina were some of the first people out of the city, as her guards almost physically carried her away. She wanted to stay and help with the evacuation plan, but knew her duty was to ensure at least one of Ferelden's new monarchs survived. She wasn't sure if Alistair would make it through the battle, so it was up to her. They moved only a couple miles away from town, heading down The West Road. It was the same road that Alistair and his Warden companion had departed for Redcliffe on just a few short days ago. They found a small manor house where she was able to take shelter, and so they waited. They waited for news or for the darkspawn to find them. Days passed and she heard rumors that the Grey Wardens were coming and bringing all the allied forces with them. The news she heard out of Denerim wasn't good. The darkspawn had arrived and had started killing everyone who hadn't made it out of the city. They were burning and looting at will through the entire city. Some of the elves who had been locked up in their alienage were trapped between pockets of darkspawn.
All seemed lost until, just like the stories that her Cailan had so loved, the Grey Wardens came. The allied forces flowed past in a rush desperate to engage and stop the darkspawn. Anora heard later about the battle; the initial clash, the hunt through the city for the Archdemon's generals, clearing out the alienage, the palace, and then Fort Drakon itself where the Archdemon had claimed its territory. Anora wasn't sure in her heart whether she wished Alistair to survive the battle or not, but in the end it was his companion, the other Grey Warden, whose sword was embedded in the Archdemon's head and was lost to the world.
And so, here she was today, about to be re-confirmed as queen and rule with a new king, a new husband. Anora looked at herself in her dressing room mirror as she contemplated the future. She wasn't sure exactly what Alistair expected of her, but she knew that no matter what happened next, she would endure. She was the daughter of the Teyrn of Gwaren and was the Queen of Ferelden. She was Anora Mac Tir Theirin, and she would survive whatever life threw at her.
A.N.: Thanks to melismo for the beta! All reviews appreciated.