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As usual, Bioware owns all things Dragon Age

"You two wanted to do what?" I cannot believe the garbage that just came from the king's mouth, "You can't make me an arlessa Fergus, Grey Wardens aren't allowed to hold any titles, remember?"

Fergus massages his forehead like our father used to when dealing with a difficult bann, "Yes I did happen to remember something along those lines Lex, which is why you haven't had the damn thing dropped in your lap already! I've spent months busting my arse trying to find a solution to this, ever since Anora spontaneously decided to gift Vigil's Keep-and the surrounding arling-to the Wardens in the middle of the anniversary celebration."

"Why can't Lex stand in as a caretaker or something until you can appoint a new Arl to Amaranthine?" Alistair offers while struggling to free his foot from under Cheddar's slumbering bulk.

"That might work actually," my elder sibling's face lights up as he sits forward and begins rifling through a large stack of papers, "I could have the seneschal oversee most of the goings on, leaving only the really big things for you, and it would give Anora and I more time to find a suitable candidate. Once we have them narrowed down, we can send them up to you one at a time-to see how well they can handle the Wardens being so close-just try to send the ones you don't like back in one piece. Alistair, you are a genius."

"I wouldn't go that far," the former Templar mumbles though the corners of his lips curl upward at the king's declaration.

Fergus starts to say something else, but there is a light knock on his office door before it opens to reveal a servant who is leading in a striking young woman.

"Your Majesty, Commander, Captain, I apologize for the interruption," the knight bows to each of us before removing her helm, "But the emissary from Weisshaupt has arrived and wishes to speak with your or the Captain at your earliest convenience."

"Thank you Mhairi, please tell her that I will be down shortly," Alistair instructs, then leans over to kiss me as the Warden recruit snaps a salute and retreats from the room, "That girl reminds me of Cailan sometimes, with her head filled with fairy tales and dreams of glory."

"Mayhap, but we are not in a position where we can turn someone as talented as she away simply because they're overeager," I admit, peppering chaste kisses up his scarred cheek and over the black leather patch covering his right eye, "It's hard enough already, with Zevran trying to bed them all when they go up for their training at the Peak."

"Isn't that the truth," he agrees and pats his leg for Cheddar to follow, "Hopefully this glorified messenger won't keep me too late, I'll be very upset if I spend my last night here in damn meetings. I love you."

"As I you," I smile and steal one last kiss before he leaves me alone with my brother.

"He forgot that today is your birthday, didn't he?" Fergus pries once his brother-in-law is out of earshot, then shakes his head when I refuse to answer, "How could he forget your twentieth birthday Lex? You've been married nearly three years now! I swear he has forgotten every single one..."

"It's not completely his fault Fergus," I rush to defend my husband, "We were still recovering from our battle with the archdemon when my eighteenth came around, then last year he was in Weisshaupt while I helped Zev with his Crow problem in Antiva. Also, these past few months have been spent getting ready for the move to Vigil's Keep, so this one is technically your wife's fault. Why do you care Ferg? You know that it's just another sodding day to me."

"You are such a liar baby girl," he tries to sound annoyed, but his soft smile diffuses it as he hands me a package, "Happy Birthday."

Our muted disagreement forgotten, I slowly untie the ribbon and peel away the gold fabric to unveil a wooden box, a pair of stylized griffon's carved into its lid. Gingerly I pry the gift open and a familiar tune begins playing.

"I forced Leliana to write down the music to her song before she left for Orlais and had it custom made for you," Fergus elaborates over the music, "I recalled you telling me once that it was your favorite song. I had the two griffon's put on the top because, well..."

"Thank you Fergus, I love it," I tell him after moving around the desk and giving him a hug, "I will cherish this always."

Yet another knock interrupts our moment, reminding us that we still have our own duties to attend, so I bid him a good day before Havoc and I flee from the line of couriers and indignant nobles who are awaiting an audience with the king.

Hours later-after testing the ten recruits from Soldier's Peak who will be traveling to the Vigil for their Joining-I find myself alone in my rooms, listening to the music box's tune again and again as I wait for Alistair to arrive.

"This is where Zevran would come in handy," I tell no one in particular, then close the box with a sigh, "Or Leli...or Oghren...even Sten..."

But ever since the archdemon had been slain, the winds had slowly carried my adopted family away. Wynne and Shale had traveled to Tevinter for a time-before the senior enchanter had become a liaison for the crown-while Shale-now all dwarven and squishy once more-opted to go to Orzammar upon their return in order to learn how to be a breathing, living person once again. I never even had a chance to see her in her new body before she disappeared under the mountain.

Leliana, always the free spirit, elected to make her way back to her homeland after rumors of a mysterious black haired, golden eyed beauty in the court of Empress Celene found their way to Denerim. Oghren, though still in the city itself, caved to my brother's pleas after marrying Felsi and joined the army in order to train those patriots who had came to replenish the military's depleted numbers. Even Sten had finally returned to his people, leaving this past spring, after spending the winter writing a detailed report of the Blight and his time in Ferelden.

Then there was Zevran Arainai, assassin extraordinaire turned Grey Warden. My wayward elven brother that I had to send away for his own good.

After the Orlesian songbird flew the coop in search of the witch, my sneaky sibling had grown more and more restless until I practically forced him to take up a position training the Warden hopefuls up in Soldier's Peak. I honestly don't think I'd ever seen someone pack so fast in my life. I've only seen him twice since, both times at Joinings that failed and left eight people dead.

"Commander, you must come, there's been an accident!" I'm startled to awareness by Mischa's panicked shouting as she bursts into the room.

Without a thought, I reach for the dagger hidden under my pillow and pull it out as I spring to my feet, "What's happened?"

"The captain has been injured," she explains in a calmer tone after taking in my defensive posture, "He's in the infirmary now. According to the emissary from Weisshaupt, a crossbow misfired when he was showing it to her and the bolt lodged in his eye...the blind one!" she calls after me as I begin sprinting through the castle.

None of the other occupants I come across dare stop me as I careen through the doors and rush to Petra, the newly appointed court physician. "Where is my husband? I want to see him now."

"Fiona and Wynne are working on him as we speak," she assuages me in that soothing tone of hers and lays a hand on my trembling shoulder, "I was told to relay to you, when you arrived, that the emissary had the eye with her and they plan to implant it while they have the chance."

Some of the mind numbing fear recedes when the girl mentions Wynne, Fiona, and the false eye. Some of the reason the emissary was here to begin with was because while in Weisshaupt last year, Alistair had inquired about a magical eye that would give him the ability to see traps, glyphs, and wards if it could not give him full sight. It was the elven mage Fiona who had told him that she would personally oversee the research and would come to Denerim when she had anything useful to share.

"How long do you think this will take?" I finally ask her.

She blows out a weary sigh and shrugs her thin shoulders, "I truthfully do not know, since it is not a common injury, nor is replacing a damaged eye with a magical false one an ordinary procedure. What I can do though is have a cot made up for you so you can be right here when I get any new information. How does that sound?"

"That sounds like a damn good plan," I breathe a little easier now that I won't have to force the woman to let me keep close, "Could I perhaps get a cup of tea to go with that offer?"

"Of course you can," Petra smiles and moves off to have one of the servants fetch my drink while I sit down in the nearest chair and drop my head into my hands.

Not long afterwards, after downing two cups of tea, I find myself growing more and more drowsy.

"Damn you Wynne," I mumble, falling over as the sleeping draught finally wins out.

Questions? Comments? You know what to do :-)