I was reading some more mini-snapshot pieces (Suilven's A Year Of Dragon Age and Snarkoleptic and Frayed One's Manifesto Destiny) after writing The Alternative, and the mini-story bug bit me again.
So here it is, something I've wanted to do for a while (it's more than a little irresistible, given the amount of game epilogues) - eight endings for Morgana Amell and Alistair; some are happy, some are sad, some rest in neither category comfortably. Enjoy.
He hates every moment of it, of the cold soaking into his boots, of the frightened eyes staring at him when they're found. There's also the fact that he's made to wear a skirt, a fact his wounded manly pride will never recover from.
He finally picks up the apostate's trail again somewhere in the Wilds (a mixture of discarded lyrium vials and Veil tears), and it doesn't take him long to find her.
She looks up at him, hair matted and greasy, eyes even more blue than they should be naturally, her breathing heavy and a sneer on her lips.
He hates the lyrium most of all, the lyrium he sees in her eyes and knows is on his breath, the symbol of what they are.
Her fists curl; he sees the dagger at her hip and reaches for his sword. She makes no move to cut herself or even draw the blade, however, just looks him levelly in the eye, almost like she's waiting. Her lip curls, and she grinds out a single word. "Templar."
They know her as the Hero of Ferelden, the woman who stopped the Blight and made the ultimate sacrifice for her nation. A heroine, even though she was a mage.
They're all wrong. They know nothing, have been listening to too many tales.
She's simply Morgana, and he is hers, even now.
She remembers his worry, his fear for them both. We... we could die tomorrow. I'd like to say I threw caution to the wind at least once.
She'd smiled, shaken her head, laid a hand on his cheek. We have all the time in the world.
Leliana puts a hand on her shoulder, but the touch barely registers. She still stands there, unable to move, hearing quiet words close to her.
"Thirty years, give or take, you said. A couple of months to sort out the politics. Three to make the journey to Rainesfere. Buy a farm?"
Something hot and wet drops onto her neck, but she ignores it, still listening to the voice near her ear.
"No. Maybe not. Maybe we could just ignore them all, just stay on the road, keep walking. Keep walking until our feet bled." A pause, an inhaled breath. "You're right. Maker, you're right. I'll miss... I'll miss the tents, the constant threats of death. I'll even miss your stew, if it means I'm with you." A long, shaky exhale.
She notices somewhere at the back of her mind that her sword has dropped to the ground, her fingers shaking too much to hold it.
"Twenty-nine years. We still had twenty-nine years."
It's only when her knees buckle slightly and Leliana has to steady her that she realizes the words are hers, and the liquid running down her face isn't blood.
He'd thought that maybe it didn't matter, that maybe, just for once, he could be himself, and it would be enough.
She'd looked at him, told him time and time again that his blood wasn't important. That it was him she cared for.
He begged her until he was hoarse not to make him do this. Did their time together mean nothing, did she never listen to him?
She looks into his eyes, raises her chin, and slips on the mask of the Grey Warden. "I understand. An heir is needed, and a mage..." She looks away briefly, and the front slips. "Never a mage."
He swallows, has to suppress the urge to reach out to her.
She looks up, trying to mask the hurt in her eyes. "You are my king. You are my friend. That will be enough."
A few muttered words between them about how Ferelden will be better this way, and he walks towards the door. He stops at the gentle words from behind him. "I'm sorry, Alistair. I... I think I always will be."
Still standing in the doorway, he nods once, then closes the door behind him, not looking back.
It's only later, in his room, that he sits in the darkness, head in his hands, struggling to breathe. He looks up at a soft noise that sounds like something being knocked over in the corridor, footsteps pausing outside his door.
When he looks, there's no-one there, but there's warm magic in the air, and it smells like grass after rain.
The Warden-Commander visits Denerim a few times every year; good friends with the King, apparently, though there have been some... unsavoury rumours suggesting otherwise.
This time, once again, she strides into the palace, in Warden armour and with magical wards around her.
The King has an arm around his queen, whispering something in her ear that has her blushing, but stops abruptly when his former comrade arrives before the throne. She smiles broadly, embracing him and his wife, and then they depart, as usual.
The Queen is pregnant, apparently, and both of the royal couple are pleased by the news; when she is told, some say that the Commander's smile wavers for a moment, though that would only be rumour.
The announcement is greeted with much celebration, and the mage stands in the corner with a small glass of wine - apparently, she is polite and interested to all around her, but quiet.
This time, once again, the Commander leaves. This time, once again, she looks back at the palace, and her smile fades.
Those in the palace are disappointed when they receive the polite but firm messages of important business at Vigil's Keep that needs tending to.
She knows that voice, will do until the end of her days.
This time, however, the sarcasm is inlaid with a slur, the words blind and bitter rather than wry and teasing.
Nathaniel looks at her in concern as she hears from across the room the words of "betrayal" and "thoughtless" and... much worse besides. He opens his mouth, but she shakes her head. "I have to do this. All I can hope to do is tell him the truth."
"And if he won't listen? If he hurts you?"
She swallows, praying her words are true as she says them. "The man in there is still Alistair, somewhere inside him. He'll listen."
It's only in the aftermath of the celebrations for the Wardens that ended the Blight, the endless avoiding of nobles and embarrassing ballads sung, that the two Wardens actually manage to find each other in the quiet.
They each hold a glass of some sort of Orlesian wine neither of them intend to drink; they stare into the claret liquid instead of at each other, each trying to break the silence.
She finally looks up. "Alistair..." She looks away, swallows. "They're transferring me to Amaranthine, they're saying. Anora wants me to be..." She suddenly takes a gulp of the wine, her nerves failing her and her hands shaking. "To be Warden-Commander."
Something crosses his eyes, something else besides shock, and then it's gone as quickly as it came, and he's looking down into his own glass. He smiles, but it's unsteady. "Wow. That's... that's great. They're saying something about Weisshaupt, though, for me..." He runs a hand through his hair, physically unable to look at her, his throat clogging up at the prospect of never seeing her again, after all they've been through, after all he's felt. "Maybe they'll transfer us both. After all, we did stop the Blight together."
She smiles at him, looks at him properly. "Yes. We did." A pause. "Thank you. For everything, all that you've done... I probably wouldn't be alive if it weren't for..." She trails off, looks back at the wine. "I'm sorry. It's just all been so... strange."
He nods. "Yes, I suppose it has." The words ring in his head; they're on the tip of his tongue, but he clamps his mouth shut, refusing to release them. Please don't leave. You said we'd do this together. I don't know what I'll...
She clears her throat in the sudden silence. "I should be going." She places her wine glass aside, offers her hand.
He does the same and shakes it, then, unable to believe he's doing it, pulls her into a hug. There's a brief flicker of something warm from her hands, some kind of magic, and he hears her inhale sharply. Then it's over, and she's stepping away, looking at the floor. She finally meets his eye again. "See you, Alistair. Fare well." She begins to walk away from him, and there's a pause, her steps halting. She looks back at him. "I need to say... Look, I think I might..." She swallows, waves a hand. "Never mind. It doesn't matter. It's... too late now, anyway."
He watches the first and only woman he's ever loved walk out of the room, wonders what she wanted to tell him, and thinks of the rose, still lying untouched in his pack only metres away.
The new Grey Wardens are not sure what to think about their commander.
She's polite and quiet, but one of the recruits swears that he saw her run out into a thunderstorm and laugh, dragging her second-in-command with her.
The older ones all know it's true. They simply smile, and ask why he would imagine such strange things of the leader of the Fereldan order.