A/N: My heartfelt thanks to Lisa who was always there, always awesome and a tremendous help with the story. I don't know how I managed before you became my beta. Thank you, my dear friend.
And Baby Makes Three...The Epilogue
2 weeks after the end of the Blight
Wedding notice appearing in the Denerim Inquirer's society section:
Fergus Cousland, King of Ferelden, married Anora Mac Tir Theirin in a brief ceremony performed by Grand Cleric Zelda and attended by close friends and family.
The bride wore a sculpted silk gown in periwinkle blue and was given in marriage by her father, Loghain Mac Tir, the Teyrn of Gwaren and general of the combined Ferelden armies.
King's Fergus's sister, Elissa Cousland, was the king's only groomsman.
Also attending: Bann Teagan Guerrin and his wife Josslyn Guerrin, Hero of Ferelden; Alistair Theirin; the king's former traveling companions, and his bodyguard, Zevran Arainai.
A private reception in the palace followed the ceremony.
3 weeks after the end of the Blight
Border crossing between Ferelden and Orlais
Border Guard: The border into Orlais is closed for the night. Please come back in the morning. Our hours are posted on that sign right beside you.
Redhead: Oh but you must let me through. I am a lay sister returning home after traveling with the Hero of Ferelden.
Border Guard: Listen, lady, it's late and I'm ti – lay sister, you say? Fine, I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Reason for visit?
Redhead: Oh, you're such a nice man. I am returning to Val Royeaux. Bymbeau Caron will vouch for me.
Border Guard: Very well, come with me. I'll show you my nice big entry stamp.
Redhead: Ooooh, you are such a nice man. Shall I start reciting the Chant of Light now?
Border Guard: Sister, you can recite anything you want, as long as you show me just how good a lay sister you are.
Redhead: Oooooh, you are such a nice…wait…what?
6 weeks after the end of the Blight
Shipping Manifest for the Flying Fereldan, bound for the Tevinter Imperium:
10 barrels wheat flour
7 barrels salted mackerel
25 board-feet pine
1 sarcastic stone golem
1 white-haired know-it-all
7 weeks after the end of the Blight
Letter sent to the First Warden:
Dear First Warden, whatever your name is,
I am taking an extended leave of absence, not that it's really any of your concern because Maker knows you couldn't be bothered to actually be of help during the Blight. However, just because you can't be bothered to get off your moldering arse and behave with any courtesy, common or otherwise, doesn't mean I have to do the same.
While you and your fellow decaying ghouls (and really that's more an insult to ghouls than you) were hiding in Weisshaupt, the Grey of Ferelden were busy gathering an army and kicking the Archdemon's arse, thanks in part to the only Orlesian Grey Warden with the bal - backbone to aid their brothers and sisters of Ferelden. Senior Warden Riordan, of Jader, died killing the thing. He deserves a statue in his honor. Enclosed you'll find a sketch of him. I expect monthly progress reports.
Just so you know: there are a number of your secrets that are no longer secrets. You'd best find a new secret handshake, for instance. Oh, and the whole keep the reason Grey Wardens are needed to end a Blight secret thing? Not terribly smart and so not a secret here. I dare you to come down here and reprimand me in person, although given your penchant for ignoring your brothers and sisters, I doubt you'll manage it.
The Grey Wardens of Ferelden are making their home in Soldier's Peak. Any Warden-related matters can be addressed to the acting Commander of the Grey, Senior Warden Randal.
Oh! We found a two-hundred year old abomination living at the Peak, no doubt a friend of yours. He created an enhanced Joining that tastes like raspberries, has a higher success rate, and, judging by his age, lets you live longer. Too bad you'll never see a drop of it.
Josslyn Winifred Amell Guerrin
Warden Commander, Ferelden
2 months after the end of the Blight
Now let it be known: For his services to the Crown, the Grey Wardens, and all of Ferelden, it is hereby decreed that the lands once owned by Rendon Howe, and the title attached thereto, shall be granted in perpetuity to Teagan Guerrin and his heirs. Teagan Guerrin, Bann of Rainesfere, Master of the Hunt, and Hero of Denerim, will henceforth and forever after, be known as the Arl of Amaranthine.
Conversation overheard between the King and his personal bodyguard after the proclamation was read to the public and posted:
King: Do you suppose she'll make me a toad for this?
Bodyguard: Ah, my dear king, if you are lucky, you will be a toad.
King: Will you still protect me should the worst come to pass?
Bodyguard: I will protect and defend you in all situations, your majesty. This I swear. Although, should you wish to send the party in question a gift of apology, I believe she might be persuaded not to harm you.
King: A gift, you say? What do you get a woman who appears to have everything?
Bodyguard: Perhaps a boon.
King: You are ridiculously awesome. Now, allow me to show my gratitude.
3 months after the end of the Blight
Found in an unsent letter to the king:
Teagan insists I put this in writing, but honestly, it would be much easier for me to talk to you in person when you come around for our weekly card game. All right, here goes…no laughing you wretched man.
I would ask that the Crown establish a commission, comprised of mages, templars and citizens, for the development of a strategy to foster communication and understanding between mages and the citizens of Ferelden.
(Oh Maker's holey smalls, I don't even sound like me anymore! I hate you, Your Majesty.)
No one is more surprised by this request than I am. I have always believed in the necessity of the Tower and the templars. But I discovered, on my recent jaunt around Ferelden, that mages are feared by many because little is known about them, other than rumors and speculation.
I also discovered that mages are woefully ignorant in the most basic skills of living outside the tower. If we are to aid our nation in times of war, we must know how to get on in the world. I had no idea that the sun could burn my skin, nor how to light a fire without using magic. Warden Commander Duncan paid a heavy price for my inexperience. Or rather, his very well-groomed beard did.
I don't expect attitudes to change overnight, or even quickly, but they need to change. Citizens need to be educated in how magic works, how completely normal mages are - present company excepted - and how mages can be of benefit to any community. Mages need to learn that the people outside of the Tower are not pitchfork-wielding mobs, but normal, everyday people who have been taught to fear mages.
Set up small circles in every town where there is chantry. Allow interaction between mages and the townspeople. Allow visitations between family and mages. It's time that parents stop fearing their own mage children. Education is key, and working around...with…I meant with…the chantry is the only way this can happen.
I know this will be a huge headache for you, should you decide to go forward with the proposed boon. Perhaps if you stopped cheating at cards, I'd ask for something a bit more rational, like my very own castle or something. Oh wait, thanks to you, I now have several. Arlessa? Seriously? So, consider this payback, my friend.
I'm sure Grand Cleric Zelda will have a fit if you grant this, which would make this a win-win situation for me.
So, let's get together and discuss this in person. Bring Zev.
4 months after the end of the Blight
"My feet have disappeared!" Joss wailed, looking down and seeing nothing but her distended belly. Teagan chuckled, helping her sit on a chair before kneeling to slip her soft-soled shoes onto her feet. When he was done, he leaned in and kissed her.
'You are beaut –" he began, but she pressed her fingers against his mouth.
"If you say one word, I'll make sure you hop to the palace," Joss hissed. "I'm not anything except huge, or possibly colossal, and most definitely behemothic."
She was as big as a barn and just as unwieldy. Her pale green gown had no doubt once been a pavilion tent of some kind, judging by the amount of material used in it. She wondered if her ankles were as swollen as they felt, but as she couldn't see them, she had no idea.
Glaring at her husband, who was looking trim and impossibly sexy in his black doublet and matching leather breeches, she was tempted to singe his goatee off. His white shirt was crisp and bright, and opened at the collar. His glossy brown boots could double as a mirror, and his smile was nauseatingly cheerful. Bastard.
"My dear, you know that's not true. You feel that way, but you look nothing but beautiful," he claimed, helping her back onto her feet.
"In the words of Alistair: I hate you. I look like a walking barn."
"No, you do not. You look radiant," he chided, pulling her close, or as close as the baby allowed…which was to say not very.
After struggling to get back up, Joss rolled her eyes and decided arguing with a blind, crazy person just wasn't worth the effort. She snatched her fringed shawl and sailed out of the room. Or rather, mentally she sailed, physically she waddled. A pregnant barn that waddled like a goose. What was not to love about that? Oh, right. Everything. But she'd already filled her crying quota for the day, so she complained instead.
"I wish Fergus had waited until after Romulas was born."
"Romulas? Are you back to that name? I thought we agreed it was on the same list as Rhemus, Atticus and Finch?" Teagan asked, studying her with what she called his 'Maker preserve us' look.
"Just seeing if you're paying attention, Marmalade," Joss snickered, taking his arm.
The ceremonial hall of the palace was crowded with every noble in Ferelden, much to her dismay. She stood at the back of the hall and waited to be announced, wishing she was somewhere else. Maker's dimpled butt-cheeks! Did she have to parade her gargantuan self before all the nobility of Ferelden?
What had she done to make Fergus want to punish her? Well, aside from that whole frog incident but she'd apologized for that, and explained very kindly that if he'd just stop cheating at cards, she would be happy to leave him alone. For a short time he'd been dubbed Fergus, Ferelden's first frog king and even Zev had teased him. Still, payback was staring her in the face now.
"If I close my eyes so I can't see them will they still see me?"
"I'm afraid so, my love. However, if it will put you at ease, please do so," her gallant husband said with an amused chuckle.
"Baratheon is not impressed with his papa laughing at his mama," Joss muttered, lowering her head to hide her smile.
"Banned," her husband replied as they waited for the herald to announce them, which he was waiting to do until Arl Eamon was seated.
Isolde had moved out of the castle in Redcliffe and into a small bungalow in a town near Kinloch Hold in order to be near Connor. Petra had instituted visiting days at the Tower, twice a month, an initiative that was well received by all save the Grand Cleric, who felt it was too dangerous a practice. Sure, because happy mages were more likely to become abominations than miserable ones.
"Teagan Guerrin, Arl of Amaranthine, Bann of Rainesfere, Master of the Hunt, Hero of Denerim! Josslyn Winifred Amell Guerrin, Arlessa of Amaranthine, Commander of the Grey of Ferelden, Hero of Ferelden!"
"Bollocks, I spent the entire battle of Denerim in a brothel. Hardly heroic," she muttered as an aside to her husband.
They started down the aisle at a stately pace, tipping their heads at first one noble and then another in a solemn ritual that made Joss want to bark at the moon. Instead, she whispered, "Lannister?" glancing at Teagan with wide-eyed innocence.
"If I agreed to that name what would you do, Lady Josslyn?"
An inelegant snort of laughter caught her by surprise. "Call him Lanny?"
Teagan stumbled and Joss tightened her grip on his arm. "Well, look at you, all light and lively on your toes," she snickered.
Teagan smiled, covering her hand with his and squeezing gently. "You won't get the chance to call him Lanny; it remains on the banned list."
"Ungh," she replied, trying to lower her bulk into a thoughtfully provided chair.
"Pardon?" Teagan asked, levity leaving his voice.
"Apparently Inglebert isn't happy today."
"At the top of the banned list," Teagan replied.
"That's enough out of you, Abelard," she whispered to her swollen middle as another twinge caught her attention.
"Also on the banned list," Teagan whispered.
"When did you become such an old stick in the mud?"
"When did we meet?"
Her elbow accidentally collided with his ribs and he gave a grunt of surprise, a smile hidden behind a cough.
"Harley, perhaps? Or maybe Davidson? That's a very strong sounding name."
"I believe we settled the matter some time ago," he whispered.
"You two stop that twittering and cooing thing you do. It's nauseating," Jowan complained, leaning over her shoulder. He, Cathair and Randal were down from Soldier's Peak where they were trying to put things to rights and take an accurate head count of the Dryden clan.
They were also sorting through a long list of Grey Warden candidates, including the young woman Shayle had carried from the battlefield, Mhairi. She was extraordinarily enthusiastic about joining the Grey Wardens. Even after Joss had pulled her aside and explained why it was a bad idea for women to join the Wardens, the young woman had not been deterred.
Privately Joss thought it might be that the young woman was under the mistaken belief that they still rode griffons, or something equally as romantic and nonsensical. Joss worried that Mhairi would never make it through the Joining, even with Avernus's super secret raspberry surprise Joining recipe.
"Aye, hold it down, I'm takin' a nap," Oghren agreed, snorting loudly as he shifted in his seat.
"A little promotion and it goes straight to your head," Joss sniffed, tossing a smile in his direction. He was General Oghren now, in charge of the newly formed Queen's Army, the first dwarf to hold a rank in any of the human armies of Ferelden. Or so the Ferelden Inquirer claimed. Anora was not pleased. At. All. That made it a win-win as far as Joss was concerned.
"Alistair Theirin, Teyrn of Highever, Hero of Ferelden, Defender of Denerim and Grey Warden! Elissa Cousland Theirin, Teyrna of Highever and Royal Advisor!"
Elissa and Alistair entered the hall and made their way to the raised dais, taking their seats quickly. Even from a distance, Joss could see the fine sheen of sweat on Alistair's brow. He was having a difficult time sitting still, but Elissa, resplendent in a watered silk gown of bright blue, sat beside him, occasionally patting his arm.
"Teyrn Alistair looks a bit green around the gills," Randal remarked with a smirk. "Of course, he's looked that way ever since he married Elissa and was given the title. I still say Teyrn Theirin sounds better."
"Teyrn Theirin sounds like something you say after you bite your tongue," Joss argued.
"His Majesty, King Fergus Cousland the First, Protector of Ferelden, Savior of Denerim! Anora Mac Tir Theirin Cousland, Queen Consort!"
The king's boisterous laughter could be heard as he made his way up the aisle, exchanging greetings with most of the nobles. He was very good at the whole king business, Joss gave him that. Anora, looking cool and aloof, not unlike her father, walked beside him, her chin tilted at such an angle that it gave Joss a stiff neck just looking at it.
After a week of round-the-clock negotiations, Anora had finally signed the marriage contract. The wedding had been a week later. And now it was rumored that she was expecting their first, and quite possibly only, child. They were cordial with each other and Fergus accepted her counsel in some matters, but he was more apt to seek her father's council than hers.
Loghain entered from a side chamber and made his way to the dais. Sitting down on the opposite side of the raised platform from Alistair and Elissa, he looked out at the crowd and caught Joss's eye. A slight sneer presented itself to her and she returned it with a wink. He scowled and she winked again. He lowered his head. She still hadn't made him blush, but she had a bet with Zevran and she wasn't going to lose, damn it. She also wanted to know how he had avoided the parade of fools that she'd been subjected to. Bastard.
A low hum of voices rose as Loghain and Fergus seemed to be discussing something of great import. Fergus was nodding and glancing around the hall. Using the opportunity to visit with her friends, Joss leaned back in her chair.
"Has anyone heard from Shayle? Did she and the High and Mighty One arrive in Tevinter yet?" Joss asked, not because she missed Wynne the Wizened, but she did miss her pet rock, who'd gone in search of a way to return to her squishy dwarven self.
Joss had asked them to look for anything that had the same design as the amulet Styx had found and that was now swimming in lava somewhere in the Deep Roads. Shayle had promised to forward any information they discovered. Joss wasn't really sure she wanted to know, but forewarned was better than the alternative. She'd also recommended that Wynne look for a way to get rid of her abomispirit while she was there. Wynne had huffed and folded her arms across her chest, but had been strangely quiet. It almost made Joss believe in the Maker.
Leliana had decided she missed Bymbeau Caron and she'd left for Orlais shortly after the death of the Archdemon. When Teagan had asked where Joss wanted to go on their wedding trip, she'd replied, "Anywhere but Orlais."
She blinked, surprised to realize that the king was speaking. Fergus was an excellent orator, but there was a steady parade of people being called forth and granted favors and boons, and the occasional title, and her eyelids began to insist on closing. And then they snapped open because the little twinges she'd been having since breakfast had suddenly decided to become a bit more serious.
"Aghhh," she hissed, gripping the arms of her chair.
"My dear, is it time? Shall I fetch a healer?" Teagan asked, his voice just slightly on the wrong side of calm. The cramping pain had passed and she took a deep breath.
"No worries," she lied, wondering how soon the ceremony would end because she thought she might be about to give birth, and, though she wasn't normally a modest person, delivering a baby in front of a roomful of nobles was not something she relished. At. All. A quiet bubble of laughter spilled from her as she pictured their reaction to such an event.
"Joss?" Teagan asked, frowning with concern.
"I'm fine, really. Maker's brass balls! What is Fergus nattering on about?" she growled. All right, fine might have been an exaggeration.
"It is with great pleasure that I call upon Arlessa Josslyn to kneel – or perhaps stand would be a better alternative – before me."
Joss climbed out of her chair with the grace of a drunken bear, not that she'd actually ever seen a drunken bear, but she suspected it would look very similar. Teagan moved to her side, and his firm grip on her elbow reassured her that if she fell, he'd come with her.
"Josslyn Winifred Amell Guerrin, you stand before your humbled king, who wishes to grant you a boon of your choice. Your courage and dedication in ending the Blight saved countless Fereldans. We, as a nation, and I as your friend, are indebted to you. Name your wish and it will be fulfilled if it is within my power."
"Remember that we are in mixed company, my dear Warden," Zevran added in a whisper, standing just to the right of the king, wearing dark leathers and a pair of daggers.
"Well in that case, I may as well go and sit back down," she retorted.
"I'd be willing, regardless," Fergus deadpanned.
"Maybe in a few months," Teagan intoned, looking at Joss's swollen belly.
"Spoilsport," Joss said.
Her heart, suddenly deciding it was time to do a lively two-step, bounced around in her chest as she cleared her throat to ask for her boon. She must be crazy. Well, of course she was, but today maybe a bit crazier than normal. That was hardly reassuring. Teagan gave her an encouraging smile.
Joss closed her eyes and gripped Teagan's arm tightly as the earlier twinges gave way to full-blown cramping pain. Her thoughts scattered to the four winds, her carefully rehearsed speech chasing after them. Once the pain eased, she tried again. "Maybe – ungh – perhaps if we establish a presence of mages and templars in the chantries throughout Fereld- aghhh!"
"My dear?" Teagan asked, anxiety running rampant in his voice.
"I'm fine, really, just a twinge," she reassured him, only to feel a rush of warm liquid. "Or, you know, not."
"Uh oh," Fergus interjected, which made Joss's nerves snap to life and go leaping about. "Teagan, take Joss into the king's chamber. Zevran, fetch our healer."
And that was the end of her trying to ask for a boon. She gave Teagan a faint smile. "I think Bharimannilo is trying to ask for his own b-ouch!"
"Also on the banned list," Teagan replied calmly, his anxiety apparently on hiatus. He supported her as they made their way to the small chamber off the main hall where a very inviting divan called her name and she waddled to it. With Teagan's help, she lowered herself with a sigh, amazed that it didn't break under her weight.
She wasn't sure if she wanted to laugh or cry. While she hated public speaking, she had been serious about her boon, a state she was not at all used to.
"I'm sure you're shocked that I've made a mess of this," she said glumly.
Teagan knelt beside her. "My dear, I wouldn't have you any other way."
"You're just saying that because I'm about to give you a son. You'll sing a different tune afterwards."
"No doubt, dear wife, no doubt."
And that was the last intelligent conversation she had for quite some time. She was aware, in between bouts of insanity, of people coming and going, of Teagan bathing her face with a cool cloth, of someone using the most colorful language she'd ever heard in a voice that sounded remarkably like her own, and of contractions that seemed to go on forever. When it was over, and they handed her the baby, her mouth hung open and she began to laugh.
"You are a wretched brat, Brin, and you're no doubt having a laugh at my expense, wherever you are."
4 months and 1 week after the end of the Blight
Birth Announcement posted on the Chanter's Board and various other locations throughout Denerim:
The Arl and Arlessa of Amaranthine are proud to announce the birth of their daughter, Annwyl Rhosyn Guerrin. In lieu of gifts, they ask that you donate to the Rebuild Lothering Fund.
A/N: Annwyl Rhosyn is of Welsh origin and means: Beloved Rose.
And there it is; the end of a very long tale of an irreverent mage who lived in a tower and the handsome noble who rescued her…or perhaps she rescued him.
I will never be able to express my gratitude and thanks for all those who put the story on their favorites, who PM'd me, the lurkers, and those who read and reviewed. I am grateful beyond measure. Thank you.