Title: "The Cold Stars Lighting"
Postgame and post-Awakening.
Kind of pointless tragedy. But hey. Who doesn't love a good deathscene?
Death was only ever a matter of time. If she's honest with herself, she never expected to live this long.
Three times she survived that which should have killed her: once in Denerim's alienage, with Vaughan's blood still sticky on her hands. Once at Ostagar, with a tide of 'spawn pouring through the splintered doors to the Tower of Ishalle's topmost floor. And once on Fort Drakon's dizzying roof, Alistair's sword in an archdemon s neck and a dead god singing - screaming - through her veins.
To count all the times she might have died will take more hours than she has left.
She presses her cheek to the windowbars of her cell, the sun's warmth and a freshening breeze a benediction on her brow, and waits for jangle of keys in the lock.
Not long now.
She had never expected Anora to thank her. No one thanked their father's killer. Nor the woman who tried to put a dead king's bastard on their throne.
Alistair would have made a good king. Anora is a canny queen, but any heart she ever had died with Cailan.
She should have expected the treason charge.
A burned city, a ravaged arling, rumours of talking darkspawn and deals in the dark. All that was needed to complete the ruin of her reputation was the whisper of intrigue with Orlais and Tevinter, and this, too, the Queen produced.
Packets of documents wrapped with a neat blue ribbon, bearing a damning seal.
Marjolaine, Leliana said when they had been read into evidence before the Landsmeet, bleak and hopeless as a Frostback winter. And when Anora, coldly satisfied, pronounced sentence: she will regret this, Warden.
So quickly does a hero fall.
Anders and Nate Howe, the Wardens will protect. The alienage will hide what's left of her kin.
But someone has to pay the piper when the tune's been called. Someone has to take the fall.
The sun is descending.
Her execution is to be an evening affair, invitation only. Anora has too much sense to risk stirring the memory of the mob. Her lips quirk, half in irony, considering the formal banquet to follow.
The Queen has been gracious enough to forgo drawing and quartering.
A simple beheading will hardly put even the least hardened off their food.
Keys grate in the stiff lock. She straightens, puts a soldier's familiar stiffness in her spine. She did not flinch from the Joining, or the hot beat of tainted blood in her heart. She did not flinch from the dragon.
She will not flinch from this.
Forward, Warden. One last time.
The crowd about the scaffold is quieter than she expected, and the stars, brighter. Ser Cauthrien is her escort through the silent ranks, up coarse-grained steps to the waiting block.
The knight has never given her other than courtesy. So it is to Cauthrien, and not to Anora on her dais amongst the dignitaries, that she says, "I did my duty. Only that."
"I know, Warden." Cauthrien gives her a soldier's nod, respect leavened with something like regret. "And I do mine."
Their eyes meet in mutual understanding. Bloody stupid way for a soldier to die. "I guess I'll see you in hell, then," she says, and finds the words come surprisingly easy, "with the rest of the damned," and kneels for the blade.
The stars are shining. The sky is clear.
I did my duty.
Really, it's a cleaner death than she deserves.
"I saw his round mouth's crimson"
I saw his round mouth's crimson deepen as it fell,
Like a Sun, in his last deep hour;
Watched the magnificent recession of farewell,
Clouding, half gleam, half glower,
And a last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek.
And in his eyes
The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak,
In different skies.
- Wilfred Owen