I'm not calling you a liar, just don't lie to me
I'm not calling you a thief, just don't steal from me
I'm not calling you a ghost, just stop haunting me
And I love you so much, I'm gonna let you kill me
There's a ghost in my lungs and it sighs in my sleep
Wraps itself around my tongue as it softly speaks
Then it walks, then it walks with my legs
To fall, to fall, to fall at your feet
"Alistair won't what?" The knight repeated the words his blue eyes gleaming. "If you're going to talk about me, at least do it to my face."
"Not in the hall though," Cogburn agreed and nodded at Maddie's room, "Let's talk in there."
Alistair backed up, pushing the door open behind him. Maddie blinked as she saw her twin and Morrigan enter the room behind Alistair but set down the blade she'd been sharpening. "What is it?" Her voice was low but no less alarmed and the knight turned to look at her.
"Nothing I hope," He tried to reassure her. Alistair would give anything to see Maddie's grey eyes not haunted with grief or worry or fear. Right now she was filled with a mix of all three and a lot of mad on top of it when she thought of what they'd seen in Howe's dungeons. "I was leaving when these two came down the hall and they were speaking of me and saying something about how I won't... I just asked what they meant." He regarded the male rogue and the witch. "I'm hoping they'll explain."
"Bah," Morrigan rolled her eyes and sat in the chair beside the door. "We were merely speaking of Eamon's ambitions. And you won't care for them one jot."
"Yes?" Alistair folded his arms and regarded Cogburn. "And what are Eamon's ambitions?"
"To place you on the throne, as well you know," Cogburn's voice was steady. "And to be the man to whisper in your ear and guide your rule."
The knight sighed heavily and looked at Maddie who nodded slowly, "And all of you thought I was totally ignorant of his plans for me and for his future?" He asked, a trace of disappoinment stealing through him that Maddie thought he was so stupid.
"Of course not," Maddie frowned, her pretty face angry at the thought and part of him relaxed. "But I knew you don't like to think of dealing with the throne. You've known since our first night after Eamon's recovery that he wanted to be in line as one of your advisors."
Alistair looked at Cogburn and wasn't surprised to see that Maddie's twin had believed him to be at least partially ignorant of Eamon's aims. A glance at Morrigan showed only the witch's normal mocking mask of an expression. "Eamon wants me on the throne only because he believes he can control me," He said quietly. "How dangerous will he become to our cause if he learns he cannot?"
"If he does not think you are loyal to him, the friend of your father, the man who took you in, raised you before giving you to the chantry, I fear he will support Anora's bid for the thone." Cogburn kept his voice low so it could not be overheard through the door or walls but his words were no less adament for all their stillness.
"And if I persist in saying to him that I do not want the throne?" Alistair asked with a slight grin, "Isn't that what he's expecting? That I'll whine and plead and argue like a boy? Railing against my fate?"
"So that at the Landsmeet he'll be the voice and declare you king," Maddie said softly. "And he'll be the one they'll all listen to."
"What if someone else were to speak on our behalf?" Alistair suggested, "Loghain is going to try and crucify the Grey Wardens, no doubt he'll lay the blame for everything that's happened the country at our feet, including his daughter's abduction. The Wardens should defend themselves from the Landsmeet floor. Just as Loghain will be defending his actions."
"He's going to accuse us of betraying Cailan," Cogburn pointed out.
"And if we accuse him right back it completely puts us where he wants us. We need the Landsmeet to be about the Blight, about what Loghain has done to Ferelden, to the citizens, to that poor Templar, to that boy being tortured, not about Cailan." Maddie shook her head, "And we need more in our quiver than those few arrows."
"Then we'll begin by letting Anora think we're on her side," Cogburn suggested. "And we'll continue to listen to what's going on in Denerim. Zevran and Leliana will certainly have put their ears to the ground."
"Then you'd best be convincing," Alistair suggested. "I'll play least in sight and act the fool when I'm around her. Maybe I'll comment on the decor or something." He grinned. "Just don't keep me in the dark all right?"
"Have we been?" Maddie asked softly.
"I've been playing the fool for a long time," Alistair smiled at her, "You're the one person who always saw through it. Don't ever stop."
"I don't intend to," She retorted with a wry tug of her lips. "But you'd all better go. Eamon will be waiting for you. And I've already made my excuses."
"I was going to ask about that," Alistair nodded at Cogburn and Morrigan and watched as the two of them left. "Since when do you abandon me to Eamon and Isolde's devices at table?"
"Since Eamon and Isolde very pointedly said that our continued association looks bad," Maddie frowned. "I have no intention of leaving your side, but I can give the appearance of acceding to their wishes."
"Looks bad," Alistair frowned. "You mean because we're both Grey Wardens? Or do they mean because you're a Cousland?"
"I don't believe they see me as a Cousland," Maddie shrugged. "I think they seem me as someone who's in the way."
Alistair felt his fists clench as fury pounded through him. In the way, in their way, she meant really. They wanted her to leave him, to go off and be killed gloriously so he couldn't have her by his side. He shook his head. That was never going to happen. Never. He'd give up the throne to the Orlesians before he'd rule without Maddie at his side. "I need you with me Maddie," He told her, keeping his voice low with an effort that had him breathing hard. "I need you. I will never rule Ferelden if you are not with me."
Maddie looked up at him and smiled, her grey eyes luminous. "Then...at the Landsmeet it will be decided," She told him quietly. "But if we are to stymy Anora as well as Loghain and Eamon I should not be seen with you as a woman, not publically. So not at table or in the Hall. I should be seen only as a Grey Warden."
"Then I won't be seen publically either," Alistair shrugged. When she sent him an exasperated look he shook his head. "You know I don't have courtly manners and graces. Better I be a mysterious figure than an uncouth lout."
"Fine," Maddie chuckled and rose from her seat to kiss him fondly. "But you'd best go attend Eamon so Anora can see you acting the proper fool or all our planning will be for naught."
Alistair chuckled and forced himself to put her down after he'd kissed her hard on the mouth. "I'm going my love, I'm going."
"They've changed the dining room," Zevran teased him as they trotted through the streets to the Alienage. "Masterful."
"Well they did," Alistair pointed out. "It was the most foolish sounding thing I could think of at the time."
"Judging from the look on Anora's face it sounded that way too." Cogburn chuckled from behind him.
"She has a nasty glare," Maddie giggled from up ahead. "You should have gone on the stage my knight."
"Yes, a virtuoso performance," Alistair shook his head. "Now let's find out what's wrong with the elves and the Alienage, because I don't think that they're so upset about Cailan's death that after more than a year there would still be trouble."
"You never know my friend," Zevran chuckled. "By the way, the Grey Warden Riordan, he looks to be improved."
Alistair nodded, "He is much." He slanted a glance at the elf. "He and Duncan were contemporaries, friends." The knight explained quietly. "We talked about him for a bit. He and Maddie and I, while Eamon was busy with Cogburn and Anora. Riordan was at my Joining the way I was there for Maddie and Cogburn's."
"He seems a good man," The elf offered. "It is a fine thing that you have someone else who knew your mentor. Someone who was also a friend to him and knows what it is to miss him. From all you had said of Duncan it is we who did not know him who are unfortunate."
Alistair smiled and nodded, the more he and Zevran spoke the more he liked the elf. It hadn't been too long ago that the Antivan Crow had spoken to he and Maddie about the reason he'd taken the contract on the Grey Wardens. Zevran was doing better and the cause they were fighting for was the first noble reason he'd had in his life. Alistair wondered if it was that and their friendship that had turned the tide of Zevran's life or if it would have happened eventually.
He still wasn't certain he could believe what he'd seen and heard. The hero of River Dane had sold Ferelden citizens into slavery. He'd done nothing to help the elves or anyone else in Denerim. It was one thing to leave Cailan to die, or to insist the Grey Wardens were traitors, but how could he claim to want what was best for Ferelden and yet do nothing to help the citizens of Ferelden?
Saying as much merely got a sad sigh from Maddie and a twist of Cogburn's lips. "Remember Teagan said he thought Loghain was mad with paranoia of Orlais." Maddie said after a moment. "Perhaps thought of Orlais consumes him beyond all other considerations."
"Well I don't know what it's like for him," Alistair said quietly as the reentered Eamon's estate. "But I do know that what he's doing is wrong." From the expression on Maddie's face she didn't disagree. "Who was that child you and Cogburn were talking to?"
"When Highever was taken..." Maddie spoke quietly as they walked along the hall. "Cogburn had spent the night with Lady Landra's lady-in-waiting Iona. She was killed when she left his bed and heard a noise in the hall." Her grey eyes were dark and sad when they met his gaze and Alistair knew that he wouldn't like where this was going. "Iona had spoken to my twin of her daughter, how Landra's estate in Denerim wasn't as large as Highever and so she and her daughter lived in the Alienage."
"That was her daughter," Alistair realized. "Another child orphaned by Howe and Loghain's treachery."
"Yes," Maddie sighed and one white hand pushed her helmet off to dangle loosely in her fingers. "That was part of why I made certain to speak to Shiani before we left. I wanted to be certain that the child was provided for. Her name is Amethyne. She looks very like her mother and seems just as sweet natured."
Alistair couldn't help but smile, this was such a large part of why he loved her, why Cogburn was a good friend as well as brother Grey Warden. Anyone else might have simply forgotten about the child. These two remembered and made certain she was taken care of. "Perhaps once they make me king I'll be able to do more for her, for she and the rest of the elves."
"I would be very grateful," Maddie gave him one of her warmest smiles. "I hate to think of her starving or turning to criminal enterprise in order to survive."
"A child shouldn't have to worry about where her next meal comes from," Alistair murmured. "I can't let that happen to any child, let alone one orphaned due to the treachery of our enemies." He looked around, "I suppose I'd better go see Eamon and act whining and foolish."
"Hmm...and I'll change into something more feminine," Maddie smiled. "I have quite a bit of mending to do and little enough time lately to do it in." She looked towards her door, "I'll see you this evening for dinner?"
"Try and keep me away," Alistair grinned at her.
He lay in bed with Maddie that night, his fingers tracing patterns on her skin as she dozed after they'd exhausted themselves with each other. They'd both been avoiding Anora but apparently she'd cornered Maddie when they'd gotten back from the Alienage and Alistair had gone to talk with Eamon and Cogburn. It had not been a pleasant conversation apparently. Maddie had spent some time railing about it and how condescending Anora had been. Strangely enough, at least to him, Maddie hadn't much cared about Anora's attitude towards her. She'd been incensed by Anora's opinion of him. Apparently the word the queen had used to describe him again and again had been biddable. Maddie hadn't cared for that to put it mildly.
Author's Note: So did that go how everyone expected? Its not super long but I'm finding shorter chapters work better at this point. I wanted Alistair to be a little more aware of what was going on, not so caught off guard by what Eamon and Cogburn were doing. And I really wanted him to be thinking long term, that if he was going to be railroaded into this that he wasn't going to do it alone. That it would be on his terms. Alistair may have been a little naive when he started out but he was never stupid and I'd like to think that traveling with the twins, Zevran and Morrigan would have sharpened up his awareness of how he could be used by other people.