The Seven Heavenly Virtues of Alistair-Humility
Of Being Worthy
The song that inspired this piece and which the dedication refers to is a motet by the English renaissance composer William Byrd, Domine secundum altum meum, which was arranged and adapted by David Hirschfelder for the movie Elizabeth under the title Night of the Long Knives. I would suggest to seek it out and listen to it while reading if possible: YouTube has several versions.
I also changed the time and location of when Bryce Cousland appears to his daughter...it just makes more sense for me this way dramatically.
Domine secundum actum meum noli me iudicare nihil dignum in conspectu tuo egi ideo deprecor maiestatem tuam ut tu Deus deleas iniquitatem meam."
"Lord, do not judge me after my deeds; I have done nothing worthy in your eyes. Therefore I beseech You in Your majesty to deliver me from my sins."
He knows this chapel way too much. The Sisters scatter as he strides in, in his full battle armor, all of his thought written plainly on his face. He knows this chapel way too well, and his knees almost fit into the grooves in front of the huge statue of Andraste as he lowers himself to the marble floor, donated by the Arl upon the occasion of his marriage all those years ago.
She has her arms outstretched towards the sky; her neck tilted back, eyes half-shut and lips partly opened as the Prophetess of the Maker lifts her song towards the sky of her heavenly beloved. A good artist made this statue, Alistair contemplates, as his body settles heavily down… he clearly intended to convey the joy and ecstasy of the Divine descending and the Mortal accepting. It still makes him uncomfortable that the expression on Andraste's face is so close to the one he now knows from the face of his own beloved in their most intimate moments together.
He understands it better now, though…much better than that terrified eight-year old boy, better than the confused Templar novice disturbed by the turn of his fate, better than the grateful and excited chosen of the Warden-Commander of the Grey in Ferelden…all of whom knelt here on this marble floor in front of this statue—all of whom had been him once.
He lifts his arms in the gesture of supplication: old habits die hard. The words of the prayer come to his lips easily, too, learned by rote, but tinged with new meaning and memories as he recites them, echoing in the empty chapel of the Redcliffe Chantry.
"Lord, do not judge me after my deeds; I have done nothing worthy in your eyes."
He breathes in, and out, in and out…slowly and evenly, relying on the old practices from his Templar training to soothe the boiling anger that raged in him all day. He stormed out of the Arl's study yet again, like all those years ago, hurling insults to the man's head even more vile than back when he was told that it was time for him to join the Templars—after all, he's a grown man now, a seasoned warrior, with a vocabulary to match. He left his companions standing there, looking at him with a mixture of awe, surprise, bemusement and hurt—yes, he left even the love of his life, standing there with her hands on her hips, ready to take Eamon's head off for not letting him a moment of peace…
Or at least that's what he thought she was doing at first.
"I can't." The Arl's mouth is set in a grim line; he sits in his chair still slightly trembling from weakness. He scarcely came to from his coma caused by poisoning an hour ago, revived by a pinch of the Sacred Ashes of Andraste herself…and Alistair already wants to strangle him. "You of all people should understand it, young Cousland."
"The Cousland." Giovanna's chin is lifted at an angle Alistair knows all too well by now. He flinches slightly, knowing that the expression on her face usually is followed by bloodshed. Alistair is surprised: she is asserting her claim as the second most powerful noble in the Kingdom of Ferelden, claiming the title her father used to wear. "With the death of my father and my brother Fergus missing in action, I am Teyrna of Highever. Especially since Loghain attempted to assassinate me several times, I would think there can be no doubt that he at least knows I am not a mere Grey Warden and neither is Alistair." Her sapphire eyes stare at the Arl without an ounce of mercy or compassion. "And that is the reason, Eamon, that you will not mention this again..."
"See reason!" Eamon's hand slams the armrest of his chair with a force that must have cost him dear; Alistair sees him pale. He is not used to being called by name by full plate-clad female Wardens still wearing their traveling cloak and the dirt of the road to here from Haven. "There's no other way to prevent Loghain from continuing with his madness. Alistair must be king, and it must be with the Landsmeet's support as soon as possible! Don't you see? The threat, both from a Blight and from civil war is too great to discount Theirin blood just because of…"
"You didn't let me finish." Giovanna stalks closer to Eamon, with that lethal grace that Alistair saw the first time at Ostagar and which still makes his heartbeat speed up. She leans closer to the Arl, so their faces almost touch, and continues, her eyes never thawing. "I said you will not mention this again…until Alistair had a chance to rest, recover and had something to eat. We came almost straight to Redcliffe from the Temple in which we found the Ashes… you'll pardon him for his outburst at your suggestion and will bring this up again when cooler heads prevail." She lifts a hand, forestalling whatever Eamon wanted to interject again, and there is lightning in those sapphire eyes now. "At which point I will present my reasons for supporting his claim to the throne of Ferelden as well and we can discuss our common strategy to neutralize Loghain's threat for once and for all."
"You what?" Alistair bursts out, head cocked sideways like a befuddled puppy's—he hates how he sounds and must look. "You agree with him? You…you…" He runs out of words, and just stands there, stammering, staring at this woman he trusted with everything, whom he loves, for Andraste's sake, and who now seems to be coolly and rationally deciding to throw him to the wolves…
Nobles... They are all the same. He hears the echo of his own voice from two years' distance, telling his life's story to Duncan... and almost laughs at the irony of it.
"They have you, my friend." Zevran's quiet chuckle never sounded more mocking in his ear. "The bastard prince Warden, hero of the people, favored of Andraste, dragonslayer, bearer of his father's sword…Of such stuff legends are made, no?"
And that's when he marched out of the room, slamming the door behind him with a force that left the elaborately cast bronze handle half-broken in his hand. And he didn't stop until he reached this chapel here, down in the village.
Because they had him—Zevran was right. They had him by the short hairs, as Oghren would have put it extremely crudely as usual, but very aptly, nevertheless. Everything fits, everything is there, this is the culmination of everything in his life, and he can even see with the calm and rational part of his mind that this is the best way for Ferelden, the way Cailan himself prepared, even...
"Andraste." He sighs now as he looks up at the statue, feeling the heavy weights of reality setting around his heart. "I didn't want this…I've never wanted this. Hell, I ran from it all my life. I am just a stableboy… I am just a bastard, unwanted and unloved, always set aside as a 'just-in-case' afterthought. I was always a follower, never a leader… how could it be otherwise now? How could I be King? How could anyone think that I am worthy?"
He stares at that marble face, with its secret smile and half-closed, heavy-lidded eyes… and the memory strikes him like an arrow, straight and sharp… the memory that he never should have forgotten.
That other statue. That other place…behind the burning altar, behind the wall of fire, the ruined sanctuary with its gigantic image of Andraste and how tiny and insignificant they all were in its shadow, as they finally reached their destination in the ruined temple beyond the tiny village of Haven. How small everything seemed in comparison: even the fact that all four of them were stripped of their garments, almost-naked in the sight of the Maker as they approached the ashes of His Prophetess. The reverence and joy mixed with awe on Leliana's face; the odd mixture of curiosity and contempt on Morrigan's, coupled with something he couldn't quite place, something almost uncomfortably human, something he wasn't used to seeing the witch at all, something that nagged a corner of his brain to pay attention to, to remember later... but all of that was forgotten as his eyes alighted on his beloved, and the way she knelt in front of that statue and the urn at its feet. Her face was ashen white, her mouth moved soundlessly and her eyes stared at something only she was able to see right there, a little bit to the right of the Urn.
Alistair still remembers how he almost rocked back on his feet from the expression of grief he's seen on her face. He stepped just a little bit closer, trying to make out the words she was whispering...
"...not worthy..." she was breathing into the chilly mountain air. "Never was..."
"No." She shook her head forcefully as if answering to something, eyes fixed to that point at the right of the Urn at about a man's height. "Maker, I miss you, Daddy..."
Alistair squinted; if he looked just the right way from the corner of his eyes, he could see a slight shimmer in the air right where Giovanna was looking. His Templar senses trembled with warning: there was so much magical energy in the sanctuary it almost made him dizzy.
Daddy? Was Giovanna talking to...her father? Her father's... ghost?
"I do; every day. If I could go back..." Giovanna said on that tiny, broken voice he only ever heard from her after particularly awful nightmares a handful of times, and he knew then that he was right. "I don't know why I am still alive and you and Mother and Fergus and Oriana and little Oren aren't. I don't know why I am still going and fighting and trying... I am tired, Daddy. I do not want this. I do not want to carry the responsibility. I do not want to be all of these things people want me to be. I feel myself changing. I feel myself go harder and more distant and remote and brittle every day, and the only was I can keep going is that I am telling myself: it's for them. It's not for me, it's not for fame or glory or riches or anything like that. I am doing it because it needs to get done. Because it is the right thing to do."
"Because it is the right thing to do."
Alistair feels those words reverberating across his heart like the sound of a large bell tolling slowly and deeply now, kneeling in front of Andraste's statue in the Redcliffe chantry, and he knows that he came full circle. He didn't know then, but knows now—this is his path as well, and Giovanna spoke for him as well back there.
He knows now, and his shoulders, neck and head bows as if under heavy weight, as if his brow would already bear the crown that was so loathsome to him just an hour ago.
"Maker, forgive my pride." he murmurs as he lifts a gauntleted hand and beats at his chest as if a penitent paying for his sins. "I didn't see how I wished to be rid of this out of selfishness and the desire to run from responsibility not only as a Warden but as my father's son and someone who's trusted by the one who was seen worthy to recover Your Chosen's ashes to this world again. Grant me Your Prophet's humble heart so I can accept the burden that is given to me. Lord, do not judge me after my deeds; I have done nothing worthy in your eyes. Therefore I beseech You in Your majesty to deliver me from my sins."