You wore the crown
You made my body feel heaven bound
Why don't you hold me, need me?
I thought you told me you'd never leave me?
Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart - Alicia Keys
Talia gazed at herself in the small hand-held mirror that was the only form of looking glass their humble home in the alienage provided. She adjusted it so she could see the gleam of her dragonskin armor and the flash of light that reflected off the sparking clean handle of Duncan's sword as it lay against her back. She had polished her armor, Duncan's sword, and Fang to the highest sheen possible. Next, she tilted the glass so she could inspect her face, looking for any traces that would reveal her true feelings about today. She knew everyone would be watching her, waiting for her reaction as the ex-lover who had jilted her so spectacularly became the king of Ferelden.
She should have expected that he would have ended their relationship, but she had been a much happier and innocent Talia just two weeks ago. She had thought the fact that they loved each other would have meant something to him. What she had never expected, could never even have imagined, was that Alistair would have given her up without a fight, as if it was the easiest thing in the world for him to do. All those promises that they would stay together no matter what must have been just words that he thought she wanted to hear with no meaning behind them. What she really felt she would never be able to forgive Alistair for was the way he had gone about ending their relationship.
After the Landsmeet, Arl Eamon had commanded Alistair's attention as he began to introduce him to the assembled nobles that Alistair hadn't met before. She had gone back to the estate with their other companions to wait for him. They had all been on a high from their victory over Loghain and finally ending the civil tensions that had torn Ferelden apart since the death of King Cailan. They were all assembled in the dining hall with an almost party atmosphere running through the room. Oghren was in fine form offering outrageous toasts to both her and Alistair. She was laughing so hard she hadn't even realized Alistair had come into the room until she heard his voice. What he had said hadn't registered with her. She had turned to him with a smile on her face and love in her eyes. When his words finally sank in, she had gone cold straight through. She had refused to believe what he was saying at first, trying to convince herself it was some form of a joke. It was only after he said something about needing to be alone and going back to camp that she realized the entire room had gone quiet. Talia had turned to see every one of her companions' eyes resting on her. Their looks were filed with pity and sympathy for her, but pity was the one thing she had never been able to swallow. The even worst part was that there were four or five of the arl's servants also present. Their gazes held everything from curiosity to compassion. Wynne had started to move toward her, but Talia knew any attempt at consolation would only make thing worse. She had hurriedly plastered a totally fake smile on her face and excused herself from the room.
Talia had barely made it out of the arl's estate before the tears started. She had fled to the alienage, the only refuge she had now, blinking and wiping away tears the entire way. Her father had looked at her sadly, but had seemed to understand what had happened and wisely allowed her to closet herself alone in her room. She had spent that whole night huddled into a ball, cursing herself for a fool for ever believing in Alistair. She had thought about just not showing up the next morning, but her pride and the demands of duty refused to let her take the easy way out. Shortly before dawn, she had dragged herself up, washed her face, kissed her father goodbye, and headed back to the arl's estate.
Of course, since the servants at the estate had seen the entire scene play out, the story was soon flying around the entire alienage. Before a day had passed, it had spread throughout the city. After all, there was nothing juicer than gossip about the soon-to-be king, and the story had only grown worse through the various retellings. Talia had never been so glad to leave Denerim as she had been that morning as they rushed toward Redcliffe.
The companions all tried to make it easier for her. They would often run interference between her and Alistair in the days that followed so she only had to speak to him when absolutely necessary. Even Wynne, who frankly adored Alistair, was short with him. Of course, fighting required her to be near Alistair, but at least it was bearable as they knew each other's moves so well they didn't have to speak. She and Alistair had always fought as a team. He would draw the attacks, and she would dance around behind their enemies taking them unawares. It was the only thing she and Alistair had left between them now.
Even when she had to coerce him into performing the ritual with Morrigan, the bitterness and anger had never left her. She had just done what needed to be done, like any good little Grey Warden, and used his guilt over how he had treated her to save their lives. Eventually, he had seen reason and done as she wished.
So, here she was today, getting ready for Alistair's coronation. There was no way she could miss the event as much as she would like to. She knew as many eyes would be on her as there would be on the king, and she desperately hoped she had the strength to present an unruffled appearance through the entire affair. Talia certainly had no intention of letting anyone see just what this day would cost her.
Talia was living back with her family once again, although the house seemed so quiet without Shianni. Her wedding day, which had put so many things into motion in Talia's own life, had also had implications for Shianni as well. Her rape at the hands of Vaughn and his friends had resulted in a pregnancy. From what Talia was told, Shianni had spent most of it cursing the child. Once it was born, however, she had quickly fallen in love with her little red-haired daughter. As the child was human, the elves closed ranks to try and keep secret the fact that Shianni had borne a human baby. Somehow, as always seemed to happen, the Chantry became aware of the situation. They sent templars to the alienage to "remove the child for its own good." The Chantry's policy was to take any human babies born to elves and have them raised in one of their orphanages. This loss had pushed Shianni over the edge, and she had become a ghost of her former self. After a month of her barely speaking, Cyrion had arranged a marriage for her in the Gwaren Alienage. He hoped the change of location would help Shianni to eventually heal. Talia understood and was horrified at what Shianni had endured, but she wished desperately her old fiery cousin had been able to be here for her now.
Her father was to accompany her to the coronation. Evidently, Alistair had sent a special invitation for him. Talia felt an almost physical jolt of pain on entering the Landsmeet chamber. Alistair's coronation would take place in the same room where they had confronted and eventually defeated Loghain. Talia could only hope that didn't bode ill for Ferelden under its new king.
As Talia entered the room, she was surrounded by her friends who had helped and supported her and Alistair during the Blight. She pasted a small smile on her face that she truly hoped no one would see through. She chatted pleasantly with them as they waited for the main event. When the ceremony started, she barely heard a word as she was concentrating so hard on keeping her breathing even and her face blank. She trained her eyes in Alistair's general direction but refused to let them settle on him. There were some things that were just too painful. She clapped and cheered at the appropriate moments, and it was only her father's nudge and sharp hiss of her name that sent her forward at Alistair's words about her. Talia had dreaded that he would make some sort of gesture of acknowledgment of her part in ending the Blight. She would have given almost anything to be able to just watch as one of those assembled today. Instead she found herself making her way through the crowd and climbing the stairs to stand stiffly at Alistair's side. Talia kept her eyes trained on those before her, refusing to look at the man beside her as he spoke.
"…that you might request of Ferelden's king? If it is within my power, I will grant it."
Talia's mind went blank. Somehow she didn't think a request for him to take a flying leap from the top of Fort Drakon would be well received. Suddenly, she blurted out, "I wish to see my people treated fairly, for once."
"An excellent idea. What would you say to becoming the new Bann of the Alienage…a voice for the elves in the Landsmeet?"
Talia was so surprised she actually met his eyes. She hadn't expected this. "I would be willing," she answered softly with a small bow in his direction, breaking the eye contact.
Alistair had moved on to other things then, but Talia had stood on the step with her thoughts racing. The elves would have representation in the Landsmeet of Ferelden? She could never have dreamed of this. Of course, she would be trapped here in Denerim where she would inevitably run into Alistair. Maybe though, for the good she could do for her people, it would be worth it.
As soon as Alistair had finished speaking she had hurried down the steps, spoken with her friends about their future plans, and then made an appearance as the hero of Ferelden. She certainly didn't feel like a hero, but she supposed people needed them so they didn't lose hope during the bad times.
Talia had spent the next few days in a whirlwind of activity. She met with Chancellor Eamon to learn exactly what her new duties would entail and receive the paperwork that elevated her officially to the nobility of Ferelden. She could scarcely believe it, she was the first-ever elven noble. Thankfully, Alistair hadn't been anywhere in evidence, but she knew the chancellor would hardly have told him he was meeting with her. He had never approved of her and Alistair's relationship. As bann, Talia was now a member of Alistair's council and would make her public vow of fealty to him at the first council session she attended.
Talia had also attended the official coronation ball. There were so many people there she had easily been able to elude Alistair as everyone, and most especially the single ladies of the court, pressed for his attention. She told herself repeatedly that the sight did not bother her in the slightest and that Alistair was free to take his pleasure with any of the oh-so-willing women that surrounded him. At least the rumors about her and the king were slowly dying a natural death as there was nothing new to report that would interest the gossips, and with all the nobility in town, there were plenty of others to talk about. Slowly as the days passed, the raging anger over the entire situation was becoming less. She knew there would undoubtedly be times where it would flare back up again, but the first burning flash had dissipated.
Once the pain became less immediate, there was room for other worries to occupy her mind. Talia began to dwell more and more on what she had set in motion in accepting Morrigan's offer. She wished she had asked Morrigan more questions about the child, but as she thought about it, Talia began to fear that as the babe grew to adulthood it could be a real threat to Thedas. That night at Redcliffe, Talia hadn't really considered just what the potential cost could be. If this child was as powerful as she feared with the strong magic of Flemeth on its mother's side and the soul of an old god, would anyone be able to contain it? And just what would it do with all that power?
All in all, Talia knew she should be content with her life. She had a respected position, people who looked up to her, and most of all she had survived the ending of the Blight. So what if her heart was broken and the entire city of Denerim knew it? She could only hope that the old platitude was true and that time truly did heal all wounds.
A.N.: Thanks go out to my two betas, melismo and ladyamesindy; without their help, this story would be much the poorer.
For those that were following my other story, What Follows Next, I promise to get back to it.
Bioware owns all the usual characters and places….