There's a time for everyone if they only learn
That the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn
There's a rhyme and reason to the wild outdoors
When the heart of this star-crossed voyager beats in time with yours
And can you feel the love tonight It is where we are
It's enough for this wide-eyed wanderer That we got this far
And can you feel the love tonight How it's laid to rest
It's enough to make kings and vagabonds Believe the very best
Maddie was pacing, her hands twisting against each other nervously. She was aware of Morrigan watching her with amusement but she still couldn't calm herself, "Morrigan what if he's angry?" She whispered to the witch. "What if I misunderstood..."
"Madelaina Guinne Cousland, you have misunderstood nothing and you know it," Morrigan folded her arms and speared Maddie with a dark green gaze. "That man is tail over top in love with you and the world knows it."
"The look of shock on his face hardly bespoke of passion and affection's wish granted," Maddie shook her head. "I just...Morrigan what if he doesn't actually want to marry me? He's stuck with me now."
"Enough of this madness," Morrigan shook her head, "Firstly, he'll be king. If he doesn't wish to marry you the betrothal could be disolved I'm certain. And he was shocked because contrary to all expectations instead of being killed he was made king."
"He only had to become betrothed to me to do it," Maddie sighed. "And I notice my twin has made himself scarce, as if he has had nothing to do with all of it."
"I believe he is waiting in the hallway," The Witch shrugged slightly. "Keeping all the well wishers and those who would begin ingratiating themselves with the future queen at bay."
Maddie sighed and shook her head, "I never..." She looked at Morrigan, "Morrigan you know I never wanted the throne, no more than Alistair did. But I..."
"But you want him," The other woman smiled slightly, "The throne is the price you pay to have him."
"Exactly," The noblewoman turned rogue sighed again. "But is he willing to pay the same price to have me?"
The door opened then and Alistair walked in followed by Cogburn who closed the door behind him. Maddie turned and regarded her king and lover. He was half smiling but she couldn't be certain it was for her, "So...strange story," He began whimsically. "Tell me if you've heard this one: fellow gets made king and gets engaged all on the same night..."
Maddie took a half step towards him, hesitant in a way she hadn't been in over a year, "You aren't," She took a deep breath. "You aren't angry are you?"
His gorgeous blue eyes crinkled as he smiled and took her hands drawing her closer, "I'm not thrilled with the idea of being king." He admitted quietly. "I never wanted it, I told you that...yet here I am. Not much to be done now. And we did talk about how much Ferelden needed a king. And how much I wanted to live." He paused and Maddie felt his hand squeeze hers gently, looking down into her eyes. "I suppose I'm more curious about...you know the betrothal. I like the idea, but..." He rested his forehead against hers, "Maddie, love are you sure?"
She couldn't help nodding, "Never wanted to be queen, but I will be if it means you're my husband." Maddie pressed a small kiss to his lips. "So really the question is, am I sure I want to marry you? Yes."
Alistair grinned down at her, "Oh, I guess that saves me from having to ask then. Whew!" He teased. "They'll expect an heir you know," His eyes slanted towards Morrigan. "With the taint in our blood, it's hard enough for a Grey Warden to have a child on their own. For two of them..." He shook his head. "Every Grey Warden I knew who had children had them before they took the Joining. Having an heir... might not be possible...not without help."
"Which is why, when Alistair decided he wished to have you as his bride and queen he approached me," Morrigan explained stepping forward. "I have crafted potions for you to take Maddie, they will enable you to conceive and carry a child, protected from the taint."
Maddie leaned against Alistair and smiled at her friend, the witch who had become closer than a sister to her, "Well then if I do not conceive it won't be for lack of help or lack of trying." She would hug Morrigan firmly later, "Thank you my friend."
Alistair's attention had been fixed on the first part of her speech and he chuckled, "That's an excellent point. Good thing we got started when we did, hmm?" He kissed her forhead, "We'll let Eamon and Teagan worry about that for a while before we start using those potions. We're both young yet, so we can deal with an heir a little later. My coronation isn't going to happen for some time yet…and we've still got the Darkspawn to fight."
Maddie nodded her agreement and pressed one last kiss to his lips before Alistair began to explain what was going on with the troops and their allies. "Arl Eamon has left for Redcliffe, and he says the armies have almost finished gathering there. We should go to Redcliffe as soon as possible." He sent them all a grin, "If we don't deal with the Archdemon soon, it'll get cranky. And nobody wants that."
"One cannot have a cranky Archdemon," Cogburn agreed. "We'd best get moving."
Maddie cast an eye around the room. Zevran sent her a wink from where he had been flirting with Wynne and Leliana effectively distracting them from her pacing and worrying. Sten, Shale, Oghren and Rooster were examining everyone's armor, with the dwarf and Sten making repairs while Rooster nosed at it and occasionally wagged his tail. "A few preparations and we'll be ready I think," She agreed. "I want no patchy armor or dull swords when we reach the horde."
Alistair nodded and Cogburn looked around, "All right." The male rogue agreed, "Let's take one last look at the armor, sharpen up the blades. Morrigan, you and Wynne, set aside your differences and make sure you both are covered for spell components and ingredients for healing."
Zevran bowed to Leliana and Wynne before coming over to speak with the Grey Wardens, "I think perhaps before we leave the city, we check with a few sources, shall we say, and make certain we have all we need in the way of ingredients and components ourselves. The roads will be well traveled and the waysides plucked bare."
"Also a sound thought," Maddie nodded. "It's quite a walk out of the city, we'll stop in the shops we know are good along with way. We can also make a stop at that depot Riordan told us about, there might be supplies we can use. And certainly it would be well thought to carry as much as we can to the armies."
"Well we've got Bodhan and his cart at the gates so we won't be overly encumbered if it comes to a fight," Cogburn nodded.
Maddie looked at Zevran and tilted her head towards the rear of the group. Cogburn was scouting ahead, Leliana was hurrying forward, and everyone else was walking as quickly as they could towards Redcliffe. "Can I talk to you a moment Zev?"
"What is your wish my friend?" Zevran gave a gallant and somehow humorous bow of his head as they dropped back to guard the rear of the party.
"Before we entered the Landsmeet, Riordan drew me aside," Maddie said quietly. "He said something that I...did not... relish at the time."
"And what was that?" Zevran looked at her quizzically. "I have never seen you doubt your decisions in regards to politics or strategy."
"And I don't normally," The noblewoman shook her head. "He said... we might want to think of sparing Loghain's life if we could. That he might be valuable. That more Grey Wardens were always needed."
"And you wonder if you should have told Cogburn and Alistair of this? Perhaps schemed to keep Loghain alive?" Zevran surmised, "Did Riordan not say in Howe's dungeons that much of what is needed to make new Grey Wardens was lost? How then could Loghain serve as a Warden to help end this Blight?"
Maddie shook her head, "I wondered something similar, and that was part of why I discounted his words. But it wasn't the larger part," She looked at Zevran. "It was because of Alistair."
"You knew he would not be pleased," Zevran's voice was thoughtful as he regarded her.
"I thought if there was anything Alistair could not forgive...it would be if we spared Loghain's life and added insult to injury by making him a Warden," Maddie whispered. "He's been forced to associate with thieves, Qunari, malificarum and take on all manner of madness in order to deal with this Blight but he's done all of it with a smile on his face and a joke on his lips."
"But the man who abandoned your brethren on the field of battle, who attempted to have you assassinated, used his daughter to lure you into a trap," Zevran listed Loghain's sins. "To have that man, the ultimate traitor, who left your king to be murdered by Darkspawn, made a Warden, made equal to Alistair's lost brothers..."
"I couldn't do it," Maddie shook her head. "I couldn't just... let the man live. Cogburn got to kill Howe. I had the satisfaction at least of knowing the man who'd betrayed us was dead. How could I deny Alistair that same peace?"
"You could not," Zevran shook his head, "Not and be the woman he loves." The elf spread his hands in surrender, "Perhaps it would have been more politic to allow Loghain to live. Perhaps it might even have been more practical...but I think my dear that you are right. It would have been asking too much of Alistair."
"I don't know what he would have done," Maddie whispered. "But it would have been something drastic. Something to make clear to us all that he would have nothing to do with Loghain. I couldn't risk it."
"He would not have raised a hand to you Maddie," Zevran was attempting to be reassuring, she could tell. "He loves you so completely that he could not harm you. But I do not doubt he would have abandoned us...as he would have felt we abandoned him had you decided to spare Loghain."
"I couldn't risk it," Maddie shook her head again. "I didn't talk to Morrigan about it. I didn't tell my twin. I spoke to no one. I decided and I said nothing about Riordan's words. And now to fight the entire Darkspawn army and the arch demon we have all of four Grey Wardens."
"Ah, but you are the four best Grey Wardens I know," Zevran smiled at her.
"We're the only Grey Wardens you know Zev," Maddie reminded him with a half smile.
"True, but I am a Crow. I know quality when I see it." Zevran paused and studied Alistair's tall figure striding ahead of them with the main group. "And for what its worth, I think you made the right decision, for him and for Ferelden. It is the only one you could have made if you wished to save both Thedas and Ferelden."
"But is that why I did it Zevran? Or did I choose to let Loghain die at Alistair's hands so that I wouldn't lose the man I loved?" Maddie asked the question that haunted her.
"With you my dear, its always the hard questions isn't it," The elf chuckled. "I think it is a blend of all three reasons. You are a complex woman my friend. You do not accept easy answers and you never ask simple questions. Your motives are frequently multi-layered and your morals are as complex as your skills. But I do not doubt that your underlying reasons...they are rarely selfish."
"You have a great deal of faith in me Zevran," Maddie shook her head. "I don't know why."
"Because of the faith you put in me," The assassin shook his head. "Without you, I would not be fighting for such a worthy cause. Without your friendship, I might have turned on you when Taliesin found us. But you and your twin to an extent, but you and Alistair most especially, you spoke with me as an equal. You asked me questions about my life, you cared about the answers and most of all you believed in me. You believed I could be a better man than I was. All I wish to do is to prove you right. You gave me a second chance to live, as a free man this time. You of all our companions know how important that is."
"I do," Maddie nodded thoughtfully. "I know all too well." She smiled, "Thank you Zevran Arainai. Your counsel is valued highly."
"As is your company Madelaina Guinne Cousland," Zevran gave her a wicked little smile. "Now...about the noises I heard from your room the other night..." He laughed evilly as she felt her cheeks begin to heat in a fiery blush.
"Bad bad man," Maddie knew her face was flaming red. "The most wickedest evil man."
Maddie took a deep breath and took what she'd found out of the back of Bodhan's cart before she hurried up to Alistair's side, "Alistair." She smiled up at him.
"My beautiful and beloved Lady," The knight grinned at her, his words adoring and laced with humor. "How may I help you as we trudge along the delightful dusty roads of our native land?"
"My Lord," Maddie teased back knowing he'd hate the title.
"Argh, oh no," Alistair groaned. "No I'm not having that," He shook his head and mock glared down at her. "I'll have to take my lording and sers and graces and all that from everyone else, but I won't have it from you Maddie."
"I should call you my King?" Maddie grinned up at him.
"You should call me Alistair," He sighed. "Please promise me Maddie, my love, you won't ever..."
"Unless we are in formal company and protocol requires it, such as a Landsmeet or similar situation," Maddie nodded seeing he truly did find the idea upsetting. "Know that even if I am required to call you by your title you'll always be my Alistair in my heart," She smiled and was rewarded with his expression relaxing slightly. "And if I think you need reminding, I'll simply call you 'My King', so you'll know that I still see and love my Knight Alistair who adventured with me and kept me from death's door, you know you'll always be mine, my love."
"Thank you," His words were heavy with sincerity. "I worry about it you know? That no one will ever see Alistair again."
"Not if I have my way," Maddie shook her head. "I know too well what that's like remember? Everyone who saw Teyrn Cousland's daughter and never saw Maddie. I won't let that happen to you my love."
"I trust that you won't," Alistair murmured. "I trust you in all things my Maddie." He offered her a hopeful smile, "Now you're carrying something around with you and that's not usual. You like to travel light, unencumbered."
"Well, I've something for you," Maddie smiled. "I hope you'll like it. I found it in the Grey Warden's cache." She handed him the heavy object she'd slung over her arm, removing the burlap that protected it. A shield with a crest upon it.
"This…This shield. It's Duncan's isn't it? That's his crest," Alistair looked at her in amazement.
Maddie nodded, "I thought maybe you might want it."
"Thank you," Alistair's voice cracked slightly as he held the shield, "Truly, I had no idea his shield wasn't with him. This is perfect." His dark blue eyes regarded her with such warmth she felt her skin turning pink. Gently he pressed his lips to her cheek, "I don't know how else to express my gratitude. This mean's a great deal to me. I can't believe you remembered it at all…"
She tilted her head and wished they were alone, not walking as quickly as possible on the road to Redcliffe, "Of course I remembered," Maddie spoke as quietly as she could and still be heard. "You wished you had something of his to carry with you. I have one of his daggers, as does Cogburn, it seems only right that you carry his shield. Were it not for Duncan we, all three of us, would be dead. It's right that we honor him by using his weapons against the Darkspawn."
Alistair nodded his agreement, "I'll treasure this." He told her softly. "Thank you again, my love."
"You are most welcome," Maddie smiled. "I'd better go and relieve Cogburn at the scout's position. I'll see you in a few hours love."
"Take care," Alistair pressed a quick kiss to her cheek before she left. Maddie grinned as she saw Zevran detatch himself from Wynn and move forward to speak with Alistair.
Author's Note: So we get a little further and we're on our way to Redcliffe. Hope you all liked this because now we're coming up on the difficult stuff. I don't think the battle and Riordan's news is going to put a smile on anyone's face.
I'd love to hear what all of you think. I had fun writing this chapter with all the conversations and before we get to the heavy stuff we'll see a little of that in the next one too.