Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Age.
Note: The idea for this one-shot came from Arsinoe de Blassenville's list of Plot Mabari Puppies number two: "At the Landsmeet, both the PC and Alistair are declared ineligible to duel (or even to choose a champion) due to being underage. Arl Eamon has to fight, and loses."
Riordan wasn't surprised when the Orlesian Warden-Commander requested to meet with him the night before he was to set off for his Calling. Riordan had put off going for as long as he possibly could but there were days now when he woke up and didn't feel human. He wasn't entirely sure what happened to Grey Wardens who never went to their Calling but he certainly didn't want to find out. He hadn't wanted to leave in the middle of a Blight, however, as that had felt too much like cowardice given that Blights – rare as they were – were the entire purpose of the Grey Wardens. If it weren't for the Archdemon only being able to be killed by a Warden then the Order, while still useful for dealing with darkspawn in general, would not be as absolutely essential as it was. Now that the Blight was finally over and things were finally getting back to normal, he could seek his end with no regrets.
"Warden Riordan," the Warden-Commander Daphné greeted him. She was a stern-faced woman in her mid-thirties with short dark hair and solemn brown eyes. "I understand that you are leaving us?"
"I am," Riordan confirmed. "I hope to be in the Deep Roads this time next month."
"Yes," Daphné nodded. "You stayed quite a bit longer than I would have expected and that is something to be commended for. They say it's not easy to resist the Calling. Before you go, I wonder if you might enlighten me about something."
"Yes?" Riordan prompted, feeling that he already knew what was coming. "Is this about what happened in Ferelden?"
"Indeed. Weisshaupt is quite curious about the events there and, as you know, we've never had an entire country completely wiped out before. We've sent inquiries to the dwarves in Orzammar but they haven't seen fit to answer and except to bemoan the stupidity of humans. The Dalish who were present then were even less helpful. I'm hoping that, as a human yourself, you might have a more…unbiased tale," Daphné told him. "Or at least a more informative one."
"Very well," Riordan agreed. "I can tell you the story of how the nation of Ferelden destroyed any hope they might have had against the Blight. Maker knows it was unlikely that they would have pulled off a victory at that point anyway but they weren't satisfied with that and made sure that they had no chance of surviving…"
As you may recall, I was actually born in Highever and spent a portion of my childhood in Ferelden before coming to Orlais. As such, when the regent Loghain rescinded the recently deceased King Cailan's invitation for the Wardens to assist in dealing with the Blight, I went anyway. I thought my heritage would be enough to convince them that I was sincere in my desire to help them. I thought wrong. My accent, it seems, was all the proof that Loghain needed that I was there to single-handedly re-conquer his home.
Now, while I wasn't quite clear on just how anti-Orlesian Loghain was, I knew that he had been against King Maric reestablishing diplomatic ties with Orlais and allowing the Grey Wardens back into Ferelden. I had underestimated his paranoia and his dedication, however, and fell prey to a poisoned chalice shortly after my arrival. I was taken to the Denerim estate of the title-collecting nobleman Howe (whether he was an Arl or a Teyrn I can never quite remember). I was there for some months languishing in one of the dungeons but finally the estate was attacked by the only two surviving Ferelden Wardens.
The boy was Alistair Theirin, the bastard son of King Maric and (I've recently learned) a Grey Warden by the name of Fiona. She left for Weisshaupt before your time, I think, but the former Ferelden Warden-Commander Duncan always spoke highly of her. Alistair was the one being used to challenge Loghain's regency. The girl was Ahria Tabris, an elf from the Denerim Alienage who had slaughtered her way through that particular estate once before on her wedding day when she and several others were abducted to be raped by the estate's former owner. They were good people. They didn't always follow or even understand Warden policies – I'm not sure they even knew why Wardens were necessary – but they were young and new to the Wardens. They were both firmly committed to ending the Blight and accomplished a remarkable amount for mere recruits.
The king of Ferelden had fallen at Ostagar, of course, along with a great deal of the Ferelden army. What remained of it was engaged in a messy civil war over succession and old grudges. Still, the ancient treaties we had with the dwarves, Dalish, and mages had been successfully called upon and a Landsmeet had been called to unify the nation under one ruler. The Landsmeet was called at least once a year and all nobles, while not technically required to attend, always did if they wanted a say in the important issues of the day.
This one began with Eamon making a fairly dull speech about how he didn't want to live in a world where their freedoms were taken away by Loghain. It didn't really seem to have much of an effect on the crowd as they would rather live in that sort of world than not live in one at all. Loghain accused Eamon of fear-mongering and attempting to use the Blight to seize power and put a puppet on the throne. That's when Alistair and Ahria showed up.
Alistair didn't have much to say but Ahria gave a surprisingly eloquent argument for why Loghain should step down from the regency. Her mention of the mistreatment of nobles at the hands of Loghain and his allies was of particular interest to the Landsmeet, of course, and Queen Anora herself arrived not two minutes after Loghain demanded to know where they had taken her…and on the Wardens side. Once everyone was present, the Landsmeet voted on the issue. The son of the man who had killed King Maric's mother sided with Loghain and the rest were for Ahria. That should have been the end of it. It wasn't.
Loghain refused to accept the vote and insisted that everyone who disagreed with him shouldn't get a say in setting Ferelden's policy. While I'm sure many people with power have often felt like that, most have better sense than to outright say it. Loghain pulled out his weapons and gestured to his soldiers and an all-out battle broke out within the Chambers of the Landsmeet.
Alistair was just pulling his sword back to decapitate Loghain when Denerim's Revered Mother managed to make herself heard about the noise. "In the Maker's name, stop!" she cried out, sounding absolutely appalled. "We will have order!"
Eamon quickly nodded. As his side had won the vote, this was hardly surprising. "Agreed. Let there be no further bloodshed in the Landsmeet."
For a moment, I thought that Alistair was going to ignore this request and take Loghain's life anyway. It might have been better for Ferelden if he had. He may have suffered the consequences but Ahria and I would likely have remained unpunished for this and could have possibly created a Warden to replace Alistair. Looking very much like he'd been forced to drink something bitter, Alistair sheathed his sword.
"Alistair's right to the throne is challenged, his challenger's honor is in doubt: In the past, such disputes were settled by duel," the Revered Mother declared grandly. "Will the Landsmeet agree?"
Bann Alfstanna of Waking Sea answered for them all. "Yes, if it will avoid further bloodshed. But it must be fought according to tradition: by strength of arms only, in single combat, until one party yields."
"Do you accept the terms?" the Revered Mother asked, turning to my fellow Wardens.
Ahria and Alistair exchanged glances. "We do," Ahria replied, stepping forward. "I will-"
"Pardon," Bann Ceorlic interrupted. "But Warden: how old are you?"
For some reason, no one ever seemed inclined to learn Ahria's name or, if they had heard it, use it. As a Warden she was greatly respected but she was still an elf and people could be very prejudiced. And furthermore, she was from an Alienage instead of the Cirlce or a Dalish clan. Mages might be hated and Dalish might be viewed as little more than savages but there is a certain respect born of fear there that city elves simply aren't afforded.
Ahria looked a little confused. "I'm nineteen."
"I see," Ceorlic said, a triumphant smirk forming on his face. "And you, Alistair?"
"I'm twenty," Alistair replied, just as confused as Ahria.
"The age of majority in Ferelden is twenty-one," Ceorlic declared dramatically. "It would be an insult to have mere children decide the fate of our great nation."
"I'll be twenty-one in three weeks!" Alistair protested.
"Good for you," Ceorlic deadpanned. "If the Landsmeet had taken place three weeks from now then that might have been relevant."
"Bann Ceorlic has opposed allowing the Wardens to fight this duel themselves on account of them being underage," the Revered Mother announced just in case somebody hadn't been listening. She called for another vote. It was close, but the Landsmeet ruled to not allow anyone who wasn't twenty-one yet to fight.
"Can we at least choose a champion?" Alistair asked. Ahria appeared to be too enraged to speak.
"I'm afraid that that would be the same as having you participate," the Revered Mother said apologetically. "And the Landsmeet has already voted against that."
"If the Wardens cannot fight or even choose a champion, then who will duel Loghain?" Eamon demanded.
All eyes turned to him.
He paled. "But…I haven't touched a sword in years!"
"We could always forget the duel and have them all executed as traitors," Loghain suggested.
"But we won the vote!" Eamon snapped.
"Considering that the women arguing is underage…" Loghain trailed off.
"At least you don't have to be of age to hold the throne," Eamon muttered. "I didn't bring a sword."
"Here, use mine," Alistair volunteered immediately, handing the bright blue sword he was holding to Eamon. "If you kill him with this, I will love you forever."
"Thank you, Alistair," Eamon said, reluctantly accepting the sword and clearly choosing to ignore the latter part of his statement.
"So it is decided," Alfstanna claimed. "Loghain vs. Eamon in single combat. We will follow whoever wins."
This was, perhaps, the most important duel that Ferelden had ever had. I really wish that I could say that it was a grand one. It really wasn't. Eamon wasn't as fat as Loghain had implied at the beginning of the Landsmeet but he was also rather out of shape. He had been comatose for most of the past year and so that was, perhaps, understandable but it really didn't help him here. Loghain ran circles around him and had Eamon disarmed and on his knees within five minutes without even looking like he was trying.
"I…yield," Eamon said, breathing hard. He couldn't meet Loghain's eyes. I couldn't blame him, personally. As horrified as I was by this outcome – not that I was in much shape to fight a little over a day since escaping from the Arl's estate – I also was a little embarrassed by how pathetically Eamon had fared.
Anora quickly ran over to her father and began to whisper urgently in his ear. He frowned deeply for a moment before sighing resignedly. "That is a very good point. Eamon, we're facing down a Blight and – despite your treason – you have the second-largest fighting force in Ferelden. I am giving you one chance to swear fealty to your Queen and to relinquish any claim to the throne you may possibly have for yourself and your heirs."
"You have my oath," Eamon said curtly.
Loghain nodded. "Very well. Now guards, take the Wardens away to await their execution."
"What?" Alistair burst out, looking shocked. "You can't just kill us! We're trying to stop the Blight!"
Beside him, Ahria stood silent. There was a terrible lack of surprise on her face.
"Then I'm sure you'll see why we're doing this," Anora told him, sounding mournful. "Ferelden needs stability, Alistair, and you and the Warden threaten that stability."
"We can defeat this Blight on our own without any aid from Orlesian agents," Loghain concurred.
"We're not Orlesian!" Alistair practically shouted. "Ahria was born in Denerim and I was born in Redcliffe! We've never even left the country!"
"It's no use, Alistair," Ahria said, sounding lost. "They won't listen."
"How can you be so calm about this?" he demanded, turning to her.
"I don't know," Ahria replied. "I guess I always knew that it would come to this. Humans killed my mother, you know, and I've always been too damn like her. Maybe I didn't expect the regent and queen themselves to be calling for my head but it's basically the same."
"Guards," Loghain called again.
As he was led away, Alistair turned to glare fiercely at those assembled in the crowded room. "One day I hope you get what's coming to you. All of you."
"I went to see the Teyrn and Queen after the Landsmeet was over to try and convince them not to execute them," Riordan said, winding down his narrative. "I didn't want to have to start getting into anything sensitive in front of every noble in Ferelden. When I couldn't tell them why a Grey Warden was needed to stop the Blight, they told me frankly that my word meant nothing to them and that they couldn't trust Orlesians or the order. Or rather, that was Loghain's position. Anora wasn't about to blindly accept what I said if I wasn't going to give her any more than that."
"You did the right thing," Daphné told him firmly. "The Grey Wardens cannot afford to let the knowledge of our taint get out."
"And so Ahria and Alistair died for our precious secret," Riordan said bitterly. "Loghain wanted to kill me, too, but Anora was concerned about how it would appear to the rest of Thedas and so they brought me to the border and told me not to come back. Once the dwarves and elves found out that the Wardens were gone, they went back to Orzammar and fled Ferelden respectfully. The mages stayed."
"And within weeks Ferelden was completely overrun by the Blight," Daphné concluded. "I was most impressed that Loghain managed to kill the Archdemon twice but in the end he wasn't a Warden and so he could have killed it two thousand times for all the good it would have done. Thank you for explaining what happened, Riordan. Hopefully, Ferelden's sad fate will be a reminder to other nations about why they need us."
Riordan nodded but said nothing. He had wanted so badly to save Ferelden and in the end he had failed not only that nation but the two young Wardens that had saved him as well. The Blight have been over in record time but it didn't feel like a victory to him.