"Still friends, right?"
The words came out so breathlessly, they were hardly a whisper. Yet I knew I couldn't have said it any louder. My chest felt inundated with cold water, like a horde of Darkspawn stood a top it. My heart was in an impossible and hopeless race against my speeding pulse.
"Of course." He says, and his stiff voice does nothing to soothe my nerves.
My eyes lift from the floor to see a feeble smile framing his lips. Lips I had once kissed... but never again. Not now, not after the Archdemon lays dead and Fereldan stands king-less.
Alistair has a duty, a privilege I have given to him; because I knew he could do it.
How was I to know it would only come back and lash me in the face?
I am a mage; I cannot stand beside him. I had not planned on loving him, I had not thought that I would feel something like this.. this heart wrenching need to hold him. To have a man make feel whole and that almost unresistable want to kiss his lips...
I could push him. I could crumble what little resistance he upholds, the miniscule strength he has put forth for my own benefit, and I can have him take me as a mistress.
But I would not. I will not share him, and I could never force such a thing. I did not want to be the whore behind the woman who would claim the title 'wife' or 'queen'. I wouldn't stoop to such shame.
The thoughts, dampen my fighting rush for tomorrow's war. My eyes slid to the stone wall on our right. "Good." I say, my fingers tugging at the sleeve of my robes.
"I will always love you." He whispers, and I feel him stir, maybe to move towards me, but he controls the impulse and I look to his face just as he turns his away.
My heart strings tug slight, taking in the sadness that etches into the planes of his handsome features.
"And I, you." I retort, softly, feeling the war raging in my chest just knowing it is as painful to him as it's for me.
He turns away now, my lungs still struggling to expand, and I close my eyes from the sight. I listen to the clanking of his metal boots against the floor until the click of the door reaches my ears and I know... he is gone.
Chapter 1- "A Painful Decision"
"So, Tera, how does one feel being second in command here in Denerim?" Leliana teased, nudging my shoulder.
I looked over at her, raising my gaze from the wooden table top. Only slightly amused. "It's not so bad."
"Oh?" She says, raising an eyebrow. She leaned forward, an elbow supporting itself on the dining array placed in front of us. She props her face up against her hand, she turned towards mine, and her blue eyes are surveying my face with the new angle. "You look so gloomy lately, ever since I arrived back into town."
I give her an earnest smile. "Don't be silly, Leliana. It is always a pleasure to have you around again. And everyone else for that matter." Her face brightens immediately, but I make a face as my eyes slid to Oghren across the room, who is already hopelessly drunk. "Except maybe him, he could do with a few more manners."
Leliana gives Oghren a small laugh. "Oh! He is just getting into the celebration mood!" She exclaims, grinning at me and leaning closer- a strand of red hair slipping in front of her eyes. "That's why we all came back, is it not?"
There is a knowing a gleam in her blue eyes.
I suddenly can't quite meet her gaze. I turn away, surveying the feasting hall. Everyone had come back- over the course of last week; dropping all those personal and business-like things they had been up to over the last month since the Archdemon's death.
I missed them more than I thought; now that I look across the room.
Zevran was in the corner, charming every noble lady and maid in the entire castle. His golden hair shined in the candle light, his tattoo's dark and mysterious in the atmosphere. His tan skin was appealing, but I turned my gaze away. Sten was seated a few paces to the left. I had been completely floored when he showed up at the door step of the palace. He sat himself with the more adventurous lads of the kingdom. His group of missionary Qunari's that had accompanied him here were telling the boys tales of their land and religion.
Wayne sat with those few mages I've had taken from the tower. It was a boon I had asked of.. our new king. They were mostly old childhood friends and a few mentors who had trained me before I was recruited.
Shale amused himself watching the drunken humans, which surrounded Oghren.
Of course though, Morrigan was absent.
She wouldn't have come even if she could, I'm betting. Unless she wanted to rub this in my face.
Because Maker knows I need more humiliation added to my broken heart.
Leliana sat back then, as she had no doubt realized pushing me to my point wasn't a good plan. Considering what a temper I tend to have and the past few days where it has been unexpectedly exploited and snapping.
I was argumentative lately, and I've been snarling at anyone who turned their eyes in my direction; especially Alistair.
I can't help it. I just couldn't believe he is putting me through this in the first place and then inviting all our friends too. It was so selfish of me to blame him when I knew it was on me. I had forced him to this position, I had pushed and supported his uprising and yet- I resented him for it.
Though I'm pretty sure I hated myself more then him, I just liked to take it out on those around rather then resorting to other drastic things.
I couldn't blame anyone but myself for the wedding that would be happening tomorrow
I cringe on the outside, even thinking of it. This had been a event in my head since the time me and my companions had been fighting our way through Orzamar. It was what kept me going, it had – for a time – kept my fierce temper under control and made me almost as giddy as a child. Too bad the fantasy had been long ago murdered on this path I've taken as my life.
My hand instantly reach out for my goblet. When you're sitting in this noisy place, trying to ignore the glaring mistakes of your past- a little liquid courage is needed.
Just in case my mind decided to take an even longer walk in memory lane I took long draught of the this 'liquid courage'.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Leliana shake her head. I avert my face from her direction; I do not need to hear what she has to add to my already impending self hate.
When half of the goblet is empty I set the glass back against the wood, but my eyes slid upwards. I suppose I meant to be discreet, but I failed. They instant zoned in towards the head of the hall.
Alistair sits there, his golden blonde hair tussled as ever. With the lanterns brighter up towards the front rather then in my darker corner, I could make out the reddish undertones in it. Those swoon worthy blue eyes of his are the brightest I have ever seen them... in such a very long time. There is a grin splitting his face in half as he looks down at his bride; a human noble. Kina is her name and she is by far the prettiest girl in all of Fereldan, and that only makes it worse.
Her cheeks are flushed a deep red against the tan skin of hers, something I do not possess, for mine is like porcelain it is so pale. Her eyes are a shimmering green, easy to get lost in. While mine are only a bright blue, about as captivating as a thrashing and stormy sea.
I couldn't help, but compare myself to her. She is living the life I had longed for. Kina is taking my place as Alistair's wife and as the queen.
Her hair is a glorious blonde, pulled back in an elaborate style. She is sitting tall and her straight shoulders are proud; she is nothing less then a queen.
My legs are propped up on the bench opposite mine, under the table, and my shoulders are hunched forward in defense. My hair is messy, haphazardly twisted into a side braid, hardly holding a golden hew within its bright auburn locks.
She is full figured, her bosoms all a man can desire. I am petite, having spent all my days running across Fereldan, carrying overflowing packs, covered in heavy armor a sheen of sweat laying across my flesh, and fighting my way through darkspawn... while all she has done is sit around and be papered, fed glorious meals, and given pretty gems.
It wasn't fair. Why couldn't I be there, beside Alistair?
I knew a month ago I would be giving that up, and I knew I did it because I thought Alistair would be better off this way.. yet this doesn't seem to be the best option now. It just felt wrong... yet..
I couldn't be his queen, because I was a Grey Warden. They say I can't have a child with him, for the kid would be twice bred with the Darkspawn blood within them. Society wouldn't allow me take the title because I was a mage and technically I shouldn't even be out of my confinements of the Circle. Apparently mages are still feared, even though I have just spent every last piece of my will to save them and their home land.
I just didn't understand. I just couldn't stand it. I-
"Ogling Alistair still, I see."
My eyes snap to the man across the table from me and my cheeks flush a rather telling red.
"Am not!" I hiss, defense rearing to the surface almost in an instant. My expression hardens, as my minds registers Zevran's voice and his face.
He's smirking, and he slips into the bench across me and Leliana. I try not to gasp and let my surprise show when his warm and expert hands plucked my feet on that bench and sat them into his lap.
"Pending up your lust like that isn't very good, you know." He says.
His eyes have that familiar spark in them. He throws me an irresistible look, those enticing and foreign facial features of his softening tenderly for a moment. "Why not take out all that pent up passion on me for the night?" His hands expertly slip the soft, slipper-like palace shoes from my foot. Instantly his hands make to massaging my aching feet. "I can promise you, you will not even think twice about this old flame of yours, after one night with this-"
"No. I'd rather not." I deadpan, pulling my feet from his grasp, though he pauses me to slip my shoes back on.
His expression doesn't falter for confidence, but I don't miss the glance him and Leliana share. I instantly dive for the goblet of wine, but the stupid Maker devoted red head beat me to it and placed it out of my reach, both of them giving me pitiful looks.
My eyes flicker back up to Zevran and I don't have the energy to yell at him now; plus I know this was his way of offering me some sort of comfort, it is all he knows, and it was an attempt to distract my mind- at the very least.
I try not to let my eyes look back to the front of the hall, but instead, I just stare down at my lap. I couldn't really find it in myself to go and talk to anyone. Sten wouldn't amuse me, Shale and I couldn't share a laugh when watching Oghren fall over and I've already been tarnishing Leliana all evening. Now Zevran was getting in on the abuse..
This is why it was worse for them to be back.
For one, I'm not being a good friend, and I'm failing to uphold any of my old cheerfulness. The second reason was worse, because as they pretended to put on smiles for Alistair's new bride - who was quite a stick in the mud - they are following me around trying to cheer me up.
It was a weak attempt and it only added more guilt onto my list of emotions to ignore.
Without looking at anyone, I push my hands up against the table top as I stand. Many people across the hall glance over to me as I do, but I only murmur a small excuse to Zevran and Leliana before I retire early for the evening.
They don't even try to stop me.
The walk to the door was long, slipping through over enthusiastic nobles and waving away concerned inquisitions. Once I'm out of the crowded and noisy hall I feel like I can breathe again.
I can only hear the silence now. The sounds of night echoed from outside, into the castle wall, as I slink down the main hall. Crickets, howling dogs, and a soft bristling wind sighing across the stones of the structure.
I was heading for my bedroom. Dim, flickering candles led my path, but it only seemed to make the stone palace gloomy. It reminded me of the Circle for a few minutes, as all I could hear were my footsteps and old childhood memories of me wondering around at night on those lower levels were brought up by this familiar echoing.
It was surprisingly empty, considering what it is usually like; I only pass a few maids on my trek to the second floor. Most of everyone was gathered for the engagement feast downstairs, in the drunken haze of a dining hall, anyway.
Once I entered my room, I felt like all night would be torture to pass. I change out of my casual clothes to more familiar and comforting clothes of my magi robes. They were a simple emerald green, the ties laces down the front of it, to the waist where a belt held it in place. The skirt of it wasn't thick and impossible to move in, but it had a slit on the right side, making it possible to avoid physical fights – which I usually don't engage in.
By the time I've changed and taken my hair from the braid, the wine's affects has worn off. I'm starting to feel the chill of night and I walk over to the fire place. I throw some wood in the dying embers, but it doesn't seem to have any effect.
I stand by it for a long while using the poker and trying to make it roar with heat, but of course I only grow impatient and I toss the metal stick aside.
I don't know how to explain it, but every since that day just a month ago when Alistair and Arl Eamon told me that I couldn't be queen because I was a mage, I felt sensitive. I'd never been so underrated because I was mage before that. I had never thought people to be so prejudice, especially the man I love! But recently, after that criticism and with Kina's normal-ness, I've been trying to do things without magic.
It was all useless though, because how long can you deny something in yourself?
Giving up, as always, I instead call forth the familiar surging energy that I can feel pulsing through my blood. I close my eyes, forming the image of a fire in my mind- as if willing it to be there. Opening them again, I can see the flames dancing over my fingers, its heat licking across my skin.
I toss it into the fireplace and watch with satisfaction as the small sparking ember turns into an inferno.
"That never ceases to amaze me." Someone murmurs behind me, from the doorway.
I resist the instinct to jump or squeak. The Hero of Fereldan shouldn't be jumpy. I keep my eyes trained on the fire, but a small piece of my heart is screaming for me to turn around.
"Alistair..." I murmur. (Of course I would recognize his voice.) "You should be downstairs.." Was it just me or had my voice dropped to a growl for a moment? "You should be enjoying the feast."
Why must he torture me like this? Coming to me. Standing in this room, with me, alone. Then using that voice! That joking, loving one that is like a soft caress to my nerves.
I hear him waltz closer to me, I waited for the familiar clanking of his armor, but I forgot that he is wearing Nobleman clothes now. It saddened me further; the reminder that this isn't like those days we had been together nearly every second of the hour.
Maker give me strength- as he steps closer, I draw up my eyes to look at him.
It is Alistair. If there had been any hope or doubt of it, that vanished as I looked him straight into his face.
He is so tempting in the light of the fire. There is no other light in my room and the window does not even let the moons ghoulish glow come sprawling across the stone. I burn to just touch his face... to cradle it between my hands, so I may press my li-
No. Tera! Maker! Oh Andraste, give me strength. I need strength!
I banish the thoughts as best as my memory allows. I stand straighter, my knuckles whitening as my hands ball into fist.
Alistair notices and he pauses in his approach, there is concern in his eyes now, and he decides he is close enough with two feet still laying between us. He leans into the nearby bed post, unknowingly torturing my mind. His form is lean and his muscles tense beneath the embroidered fabric of his shirt.
There was a short awkward silence where I couldn't quite draw my eyes to his face.
Finally though, he speaks. "I saw you leave and... so abruptly. I-I thought maybe something was the.."
"The matter?" I ask, my tone strenuously calm.
He nods, closing his mouth and I have an urge to hit him, but only because his stuttering reminds me of those days before we had admitted our love for each other and he was always turning into a mess in front of me.
"Nothing is the matter. I'm just dandy." I replied short and to the point. I bury the resentment and guilt, I try not to blame him but there is a burning anger in my blood- and it is so hard not to blame him. It is so hard not to rave to his face how much I hate him... not him.. but this.
I turn away, so her can't see my face and I look down into the fire. "Go back.." I resist the instinct to add a begging please.
There was silence and I waited – prayed – to hear his retreating footsteps. The sound never came llike it had all those nights ago, and there was suddenly a strong hand grabbing me by the elbow.
His fingers glide upwards, running up to my shoulders; fingering the rims of my robes where there is white fur compromising with the sharp green. His fingers skim the back of my neck, they are warm and undemanding.
I could almost feel him silently pleading for me to turn back around.
No, Tera. No- I can't tell you who gave in first, because at the same moment my body turned, his hand turned my body to face him.
I find myself looking up into his face; it was a mixture of emotions and conflicts, but mostly pain.
"I hate this." He whispers and it is like a physical blow. I'm snapped back to the reality by this, his fingers have fallen away from my neck and I can think clearly again.
This is bad. He is getting married! I'm not his mistress and I won't be that whore.
I try to pull away, I could not handle this closeness. His sweet breath was mingling with mine and the heat of his body was reaching out to me, like a promise of comfort.
I step back, but I am met only with the wall, with the fireplace on my right and his arms suddenly propped up against the wall on both sides of me, I have no escape.
His eyes catch my frantic ones and they are so conflicted – I couldn't tell you if he would be running from the room anytime soon either – and yet they were captivating. They were just like the clear, soaring blue skies I had glimpsed when we had climbed the majestic mountain looking for the Ashes of Andraste.
I suddenly felt my panic fall away, his words from before were working themselves to the forefront of my thoughts.
"I do too." I say, agreeing with his claim. I did hate it, I hated the guilt and the endless blame game. I hated this war between my heart and brain, whether to stay or flee.
"You should be queen." He says, staring into my eyes. One of his hand raises to brush the back of his knuckles along my cheekbone. "You deserve it. I-I wish it so."
I take a shuddering breath, and shake my head. "It is far, far too late for that."
He leans closer and I cannot remember the last time he has been this close. We have always been able to control ourselves before this, why can't I do it now? Why can't he just.. maybe I didn't want him to. Maybe I wanted his strength to fail him..
Right now, I didn't feel the guilt or the regret, all I could feel was his soft touch, his sweet breath, and an intense warmth spreading through my chest. He was pushing down my walls, peeling them away easily, and I do not think his resistance will be coming along anytime soon.
"I..." He begins, and the sudden intensity in his eyes gives way to the words he wanted to say. I had to close mine from the sight of it.
"Please- don't." I beg, but I know it is a lost cause.
"I still love you, Tera, just as strongly as before. Kina... she is-"
I could not allow him to finish the sentence, so I pressed my lips to his.
At first it was just a soft, simple thing to stop the flow of his words, but as soon as I realized what I was doing; once he noticed what I've done, all semblance of resistance – if there had been any – shattered.
His hands slid down the wall and gripped my hips, his body came crashing against mine. My own hands found their way around his neck, my fingers crawled up his scalp tangling into the thick strands of his hair.
His lips were so soft... so warm. They were bliss. They moved against mine, hard-pressed and when his tongue deepened the kiss, skimming across my bottom lips, begging for entrance, I let him.
My body ached to be closer, and I tightened my arms about his shoulders pressing myself firmly against every aspect of him. He moaned into my mouth, his hips rocked against mine once, then twice. My nerves were tingling. His leg brushed the bare skin of one of my thighs, from the slit in my robes and I felt a shiver of desire run up my spine.
It was like we were back at camp again; I could just hear the dog barking in the background. The crackling fire beside us only made it more realistic. I lost myself to this fantasy, it was a dream yet this was only a weak moment. Every dream must end though and sometimes in nightmares.
The sound sent a thrill of terrorizing emotions through me. I tore myself away from Alistair. His hands fell away from my body. We both whirled around to the open door and I felt the guilt burning in the pit of my stomach as Arl Eamon's worn and strict face bore straight into mine from the open doorway.
Alistair looked between us and his hands were shaking slightly as one raised, running through his hair nervously. "A-Arl Eamon!" He exclaimed, and I felt pity for him.
My rushed emotions were shot dead and I tried to hide from the other ones that came over me. The guilt, the shame, and the humiliation.
I should have known better... we both knew better.
"Alistair." Arl snaps, his voice harsh and instantly silencing the king. I stared at the two, for once words have failed me and an intense need to flee was eating away at me like a ravenous hunger.
Never in all my days as Hero of Fereldan have I ever felt so small, or meek as I stood here under the Arl's forbidding glare. "You two have-"
"Do not blame him." I interrupt. It comes out breathlessly, my mind was reeling for a minute as the waves of glee and lust rolled away and the worse ones came to take their places. "Please, I have been terrible these past few days. With the others.. and then... i-it's with me where the blame lies." I conclude and Alistair looks ready to speak against it, but Eamon gets to it first.
"I do not care where the blame lies." He says, and even though he is upset I can see him softening some. "This just cannot be happening around here. Alistair is king and he has a new queen on the way. We do not need mistresses-"
"I am not his mistress!" I object, the line hitting a particularly sensitive spot. Indignation reared its ugly head and it is not becoming of anyone.
There are rumors of me being the king's whore and I do not tolerate them. Even though this scene only makes me seem even more like it... Maker, I'm pathetic.
Arl doesn't seem to notice the sudden dispirited, hopeless look that flits across my expression. "I know you aren't, Tera, and I'd like to keep it that way, as I'm sure Kina will too."
I try to come up with a reasonable reply. "It won't. I would never. I-I... It was a weak moment only."
He gives me a hard look. "We cannot afford weak moments."
The guilt is burning through me like the magic now, they are intermixing and they slowly ebb into anger. I could hardly bare it. I had just kissed the to be married man, who is a king. I have just inspired those rumors about me, I have made Eamon's job harder and no doubt I have just broken Alistair's carefully built barricade against me.
Who was I to ruin everyone's happiness?
I look up and the two seem to be having a silent conversation with their eyes. I'm dis-included and I do not wish to know what it is they both are thinking. I could guess, but it doesn't mean I wanted to know.
"Go." I say, my voice sounds hallow. They both snap their gazes to me, but I turn back to the fire. "Go, leave! Please."
Unlike last time, Alistair does leave. Maybe it was the please, or maybe it was the anger that made my voice shake and the sadness that had my shoulders slopping downwards. I didn't care which one, as long a I can still hear him walk out the door.
The Arl stays behind for a minute to lean into the room and murmur. "Brighten up, Warden. You are so gloomy, it gives a bad impression. I have already received messages about it. They are asking if you disapprove of the choice in queen. Let's not raise further questions... okay?"
I sneer slightly. Of course, yes, let's take away my right of expressing how I feel. What next? Shall I have to be the one to bless the marriage at their ceremony? Shall I sing the union song?
"Get out." I snap and I hear him sigh, the door closing behind him with a sharp snap.
I stand by the fire for hours after that. Listening to the castle settle back down and the guests returning back to their rooms. I watch the wood being devoured by the fire and just before the flame dies I toss in more fuel. I feel as though I have stared at it for so long that the impression of flickering orange and faint reddening yellows have burned themselves into my eyes.
My mind was mauling over what happened earlier, for nearly half that time. I reviewed my terrible lack of restraint, my inability to watch this wedding through and to sit by my companions of war while I do it.
The guilt is too much; I do not even think I could look the Arl or Kina in the face again. The anger and pain is overwhelming and I'm tired of this; of the want I cannot soothe.
All those days I had spent! All those careless, laughing times where me and Alistair were traveling along a dirt road. I had slunk up to his side, I had slipped my hand into his and though Morrigan made a sound of disgust and Shale pretended not to understand- I knew they could see it too. The wedding, the happiness.. the future.
A future that will never exists.
After I worked over this ancient painstaking realization, new pangs worked their way into my chest. How long can I stand back? How long will I have to watch Kina and Alistair before I break? How long until my companions leave and can no longer keep me in a state of passiveness? How long.. until another weak moment passes, and there is no Arl around to stop it..?
So I reach a decision.
I remember just after the rush it was killing the Archdemon I had claimed I wanted to travel. I recall the relief that was sweeping through me like a giddy high, I remember boasting about seeing the world.
I could do that now, couldn't I?
I can't actually go freely. They need me here, Alistair wanted me to help him command the kingdom, though not as his queen, but as his second and also I am the Commander Grey Warden. I have duties here, Noble people to take care of and land to watch.
Hadn't I done enough? Haven't I given them more then they already expected! I ended a Blight, they could at least give me this.
It truthfully didn't matter to me if they would give it to me, because it is what I will do either way. I can lay low for a couple years, surely. Explore new places with a different name. Somewhere my face is unrecognizable. I'll come back, after this fades. Maybe all I need is to be free of Alistair and I can learn to move on.
The plan builds easily in my mind and I scribble out a note saying exactly that; I've gone traveling, I will return soon – though soon refers too, as soon as I've forgotten what you look like – I place it across my bed linens and I pack up my supplies. I pick up my staff, and as the castle sleeps in silence, I sneak passed the guards.
Once I'm outside the castle the night is infinite around me. A cool breeze played across my face and it is refreshing from the constant heat the fire had been. As I walk out into the Denerim's streets my eyes are constantly casting upwards towards the throngs of burning silver stars. Even those bring back memories of the past year.
My hair gets tugged at in the wind and I twist it into that side braid I had been using whenever I travel. The chill of the night sneaks up my robes, but I don't shiver. It is numb to me, and I suddenly feel ten times better then I had in the castle. I feel like myself when I'm outside.
I've always hated being cooped up... since my years in the Circle of Magi. Being here was no different. Trapped within stone walls, forced to listen to the infuriating sound of my footsteps echoing back at me, and of course, forced to obey rules.
Now I've claiming back my freedom.
I smile and it's my first real smile in days. I feel my shoulders relax and the knot of emotions in my chest and stomach loosen. The further I continue down the street towards the city's gate the less the emotions haunt me.
I tighten my robe about myself and I tuck a hood around my face when I reach the gate. The guards let me slip through without a second glance.
When I'm passed it, I take a moment just to stand there.
I try to let go completely of what I'm leaving. I try to shake myself of the old status 'Hero of Fereldan' and I embrace the commoner in me.
Fereldan will be fine without me. Alistair has Kina and I need my own life now. This is not my life, this is not some fairy tale I wanted; watching some other girl get the life I have wanted.
I will find my own life. Far more simple and far easier then hers. Or so... I was planning it to be.
A/N: This has been rewritten. It is post Dragon Age:Awakening, as it begins only a month after the end of Origins. NOTE: Concerning the progression of this story, I will be flipping from the present to the furture. The next chapter may confuse you, but I promise if you keep going along and reading you'll see that it'll get easier to understand; in time. Tera isn't actually my Warden, mine was a girl named Serena and she was mage also- but so different it is not even funny. (But she and Zeveran were the top, so yeah.) You will get to see EVERYONE from Dragon Age 2, except Sebastian. (Sorry, I've never played his added gameplay. I don't know him.) This story will be quite angsty, but also revolve around romance too. (TO THOSE WHO READ THE OLDER VERSION: I've not changed very much from what you knew, so don't give up on the story.) Well thanks for reading, ask questions in a PM or review, sorry for typos. Please review. -Taryn(: