They say it's never too late
To stop being afraid
And there is no one else here
So why should I wait?
And in the blink of an eye the past begins to fade
So have you ever been caught in a sea of despair?
And your moment of truth
Is the day that you say "I'm not scared"
Maddie took another stitch and smiled over her work, there was something comforting about mending, especially when it was Alistair's tunic she was working on. She was in a comfortable chair, wearing a gown for once and enjoying good light while she took careful even stitches. It was a nice good feeling. Alistair was meeting with Eamon and Cogburn so she was keeping to her 'role' of non interest in politics. The gown was the one Alistair had chosen for her, a simple creation of wool with laces on the front and sides that it might be tightened or loosened according to the wearers needs. It was a gown such as she might have worn in Highever, a pretty color of grey blue, like the shadows on snow, with belled sleeves and a flattering scooped neckline. She could almost pretend she was sitting in the solar at Highever, mending Cogburn and Fergus' shirts until Oriana could join her. They would gossip and share secrets, laugh over men and Oriana would tease her about the possibility of a husband soon. She would tease Oriana about giving her a neice to match her nephew and her sister in law would blush and look hopeful.
"You look very peaceful," A low elegant voice observed, and Maddie looked up to see Queen Anora standing nearby.
"I haven't had a chance to sit and sew in more than a year," Maddie offered the queen a smile that touched her lips but not her eyes. "I've been repairing armor, tents and boots, but simple sewing isn't easy by a campfire."
"I can't imagine," Anora shook her head and took a seat across from Maddie. "May I ask you a question?"
Maddie smiled slightly, "You can ask." She took another stitch and smoothed the fabric with her thumb. "What did you want to know?"
"Merely how involved you are with Alistair FitzTheirin," Anora asked quietly. "He's quite good at acting the fool." Blonde braids spilled down her back as she undid the twin chignons at her neck.
"He's a dear friend," Maddie smiled in what she hoped was a fond matter. "As the Senior Grey Warden he's been so helpful to Cogburn and I." She tilted her head, "And he's very fond of making jokes, something we've sorely needed. Morrigan calls him a fool but I find his silliness hides a surprising amount of wisdom. He's a very good man."
"Still, he doesn't seem to take anything seriously, not even the Blight," Anora shook her head her braids dancing. "If I may say, you two seem to be a bit close."
Maddie regarded the woman with cool grey eyes and tilted her head, "What precisely are you asking me Anora?"
"I know Eamon wants Alistair on the throne," Anora replied regally. "But while Alistair is biddable and amiable enough, he has no experience with ruling."
"Was that a question?" Maddie looked down at her work and took anothere few stitches. Deeming the mending of the tunic done she knotted her thread and snapped it off before picking up another garment.
"Do you truly believe he is capable of being anything more than a puppet ruler?" Anora asked disbeleif coloring her voice, "No matter how helpful Eamon may be, Alistair is not a king."
"Are you asking me about Alistair's capabilities? Or was it something else you wished to know Anora," Maddie looked up from the set of breeches whose leg she was stitching back together.
"I want you opinion on whether or not Alistair could rule did the landsmeet rule in his favor," The Queen said finally. "You seem a sensible woman and surely you're aware of his many shortcomings, biddable though he may be. You also seem to be attracted to him and you must know that if he became king he would never be allowed to marry you."
Maddie felt her temper rise and with an effort kept her voice mild and even, "I believe that Alistair doesn't want the throne." She said finally, "No one is more aware of Alistair's shortcomings than he is."
"Then you agree that I am the only candidate capable of ruling Ferelden," Anora smiled condescendingly.
"I didn't say that," Maddie shook her head, a gentle smile on her lips. "Don't read more or less into my words according to your wishes Anora." She tilted her head, silver blonde hair drifting over her shoulder, "I dislike games. But that doesn't mean I'm unaware when someone is playing with me." She pointed out softly. "All I've heard said is that Alistair is reluctant to take the throne. I do not know from what his reluctance stems."
"Perhaps he is aware that should he become king he will have to give up that which he values," Anora murmured regarding Maddie suggestively.
"And perhaps you could be more clear in your meaning?" Maddie finished repairing the seam, "I've served Ferelden with Alistair FitzTheirin for over a year now Anora. He is stalwart, loyal, brave, strong and intelligent. He is a true knight." Dark grey eyes met Anora's limpid gaze, "I have trusted him with my life, with my safety and with the future of Thedas. For if we do not defeat the Blight it will not matter who claims the throne."
"What is your interest in Alistair?" Anora asked bluntly, "It's rumored you share his bed. Its actually rumored that you do more than that with he and the Antivan. I cannot speak to that."
"Zevran is...a loyal companion and a friend who sorely needed a cause, someone who would trust him," Maddie said quietly controlling her fury. "These are his breeches I am mending, he took this wound when he was guarding my back. The tunic was Alistairs, torn when we fought our way out of the Arl of Denerim's estate. He took a knife to the ribs when he and Cogburn fought Sir Cauthrien." She picked up another tunic, a smaller one this time, "This belongs to Leliana, someone snuck up behind her when we were fighting the darkspawn and she took a knife to her kidneys."
"I'm afraid I don't take your point," Anora wasn't giving an inch of warmth with her words and Maddie barred her teeth in a grin.
"We've been on the run from your father's men since Ostagar," Maddie said quietly. "In that time we've all had brushes with death. We are all dear to each other, care for one another and stand each for the other, regardless of the quarrels we may have amongst ourselves," She speared Anora with a glance. "I have never known such depth of friendship before I joined the Grey Wardens. I don't expect you to understand. We are bound by a purpose that goes beyond the throne of Ferelden Anora, we are bound to save the very world from this evil."
"But you need the throne to unite Ferelden or you won't be able to stop the Blight," Anora pressed.
"That's true," Maddie shrugged. "But I've never claimed to have a head for politics. According to rumor I'm merely the bedwarmer of Marics bastard son."
"You admit it then?" Anora blinked in surprise, "I wouldn't have expected..."
"I repeated a rumor," Maddie corrected the queen. "I admit nothing. I've no need to do so. Where ever I may spend my nights I don't consider it to be the business of Cailan's wife."
"Cailan's Queen," Anora corrected her coldly.
"I don't see it that way Anora, and neither do you or you wouldn't be trying to inveigle my support," Maddie replied as she began to mend Leliana's tunic. "I know who you are. I know to the meanest degree what your rank is and how precarious your position is. I don't like politics, that doesn't mean I don't see what goes on."
"You just told me you don't have a head for politics," Anora retorted with some confusion. "Now you're telling me you do?"
"Anora you've been playing a very silly game with me," Maddie told her with a mild calm that in no way matched the fury inside her. "Poking here, prying there and all the while seeding the conversation with rumors and slings and arrows. I would be a fool to tell you anything of worth."
"Then you believe me to be your enemy?" Anora's voice had grown chilly.
Maddie put down her mending and regarded the blond woman with her rich gown and regal airs, nearly a decade older than herself and filled with righteousness, "You are not my enemy. But you are not my friend. You are a contender for the throne and that makes you a potential power," One white hand tucked a battle braid behind her ear. "My hands...from the back, look like that of a highborn lady's wouldn't you agree?" She held out her slender hands for Anora to look at, waiting for the woman to nod. The she turned her hands palms up and displayed the scars and calluses only knife and sword work could create, "But my palms disagree, I have the hands of a warrior, no matter how they may first appear."
"You re speaking in riddles now," Anora sounded impatient, shaking her head so her braids danced.
Maddie lifted her shoulders in an elegant shrug, "You are Loghain Mac Tir's daughter. You have been nursed on politics and intrigue," She resumed her mending. "I found it strange that your father, who values his daughter so highly that he would kill her husband to preserve her seat on the throne, would risk your life by letting Howe imprison you." She said quietly. "I found it even more unlikely when Ser Cauthrien was awaiting us the moment we freed you." Maddie regarded the would be queen of Ferelden coolly, "I do not play the game of thrones Anora. I am far more interested in stopping the Blight. Cogburn supports your claim as far as I know and I have chosen to remain uninvolved. Eamon supports Alistair, but he wishes to be the power behind the throne."
"Alistair is such a biddable young man Eamon wouldn't have much difficulty with that," Anora agreed.
"Had you met Alistair before this?" Maddie asked curiously, "Did you know aught of him prior to meeting him with Eamon?"
"No, I knew nothing of him beyond that he was raised by the Chantry and trained as a Templar before joining the Grey Wardens." Anora shook her head, "Cailan rarely spoke of him."
"Then perhaps you should retake his measure before you continue to call him biddable," Maddie suggested mildly. "As someone who has stood toe to toe and argued with his stubborness I believe I'm more qualified to judge the man as biddable or not." She finished Leliana's tunic and nodded in satisfaction before she tucked the clothing back into her work basket.
"But he is nothing to you beyond a friend and companion," Anora tilted her head. "You speak passionately when you speak of him."
"He saved my life," Maddie offered that truth amidst the half truths she'd uttered. "He has earned my loyalty and support for his wishes. Regardless of what Eamon wants for him." She rose and curtseyed politely. "My lady."
"Wait," Anora rose. "I don't believe I have ever heard your name."
"You have never asked for it," Maddie arched an eyebrow as she regarded Anora. "I didn't believe you cared to know it."
"I am asking now," Anora lifted her chin regally and Maddie wondered what was wrong with this woman that she used every gesture to proclaim herself queen, "Who are you that you speak to me thus, that you dare to address your queen in such a fashion? Some upstart child of the Bannorn, well schooled and thus thinking herself equal to her betters?"
Maddie couldn't help herself, she giggled. She really hadn't thought Anora could be so ignorant of who Maddie was. After all, she'd recognized Cogburn as the younger son of Teyrn Cousland, several of the Banns gathered for the Landsmeet had also recognized Cogburn, but not her. She had expected better of Anora, better of Teyrn Mac Tir's daughter. "You do not know me Anora? Not at all?"
"I have asked for your name, I would not, did I know who you are," Anora replied coldly. "Your insolence is not amusing. What is your bannorn? Who is your family?"
Maddie looked up to see Cogburn and Alistair leaning in the doorway, both of them highly amused by the situation. "I am Lady Madelaina Guinne Cousland, second child of Bryce and Eleanor Cousland, and rightful Teyrna of Highever. I am the eldest of the eldest name in Ferelden barring my older brother Fergus whose fate at Ostagar is unknown." She regarded Anora coldly, "I believe you have met my younger brother? Lord Cogburn Doyle Cousland." She gestured to Cogburn who stood beside Alistair.
"Your younger brother?" Anora looked at Cogburn who bowed politely.
"It's a family joke that we don't know who was born first," Cogburn chuckled as he moved forward to offer Anora his arm. "Maddie doesn't have the patience for politics or the interest so I tend to assume the forward role. She's much better at observing and remaining quietly in the background." He raised a dark eyebrow at Maddie as Anora accepted his asstance and swept away with Cogburn at her side.
Alistair smiled, "Sister," He bowed to Anora as she passed and moved to take Maddie's work basket. "She seems a little put out."
"She's a bitch," Maddie ground the words out from between her teeth. "Calling you biddable and me loose all the while implying you're too much of a fool to take the throne."
"Well that is what we want her to think, isn't it?" Alistair offered her a smile and Maddie sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder.
"You're right, and I haven't said anything to contradict that, if anything I've reinforced it. But she set my teeth on edge all the same." Maddie murmured, keeping her voice low so no one could overhear. "Let's talk privately."
"War council in my room?" Alistair suggested, casting an admiring glance at Maddie in her grey blue gown.
"I'd prefer a council of two, if you don't mind," Maddie suggested softly.
"That is the best council I could have," Alistair grinned and quickly steered her towards his room.
Maddie grinned as Alistair barred the door behind her and took a deep breath. "I just...wanted to say something to you Alistair, before..." Her grin faded to a smile and she met his gaze. "I've been so afraid of losing you, to the crown, to the Blight, even to the Wardens eventually." She took his hand and set it on her heart, "I...I'm not afraid anymore. If I lose you it won't be because we didn't fight with every fiber in our beings."
"You're the bravest woman I know," Alistair's hand slid up to her cheek. "You won't lose me, not if I could help it."
"Would you mind...reassuring me as to that...physically?" Maddie rubbed her cheek against his hand, extending her hand to trace his collarbone above his tunic.
"Would I mind," Alistair grinned at her, "I think I'll have to insist."
Author's Note: So when I was thinking about the twins I really had to think about their childhood and their own natures. Maddie is something of a workaholic, she's reserved and doesn't trust easily. I never liked that every freakin' noble at the Gnawed Noble Tavern recognized you as Bryce Cousland's youngest child and this was my way of combating that. I think of the two of them Cogburn has always been more outgoing so he'd be remembered whereas Maddie was the quiet one who watched and people didn't notice her as much unless she deliberately put herself forward. I also picture the last Landsmeet as being when the twins were around eleven or so, so they'd have good reason to believe that neither of them would be recognized. That every Bann in the city is saying hello to Cogburn contradicts what Maddie and Cogburn told Duncan when he smuggled them away from Highever so I wanted to explain that a little bit.
Our chapters are going to get a little out of order with the viewpoints and I can't promise that they'll get a lot longer but I do have a few more written and we're in the home stretch. I'm writing the battle against the Archdemon now but I'm also getting sick so bear with me. I've got to edit and go over the chapters before hand and that takes time.
But for all your patience and support I'm truly grateful. Be patient with me a while longer. I'm hoping to go past the coronation and into Awakenings a little bit and then hopefully we'll have a brief report on Witch Hunt.