Shadow and Rose
by Lady Norbert
A/N: And here we are at the end of Origins! My thanks to all of you who have joined me for Alistair's journey. Special thanks to my friend Katie, who helped me figure out the wedding clothes. I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I have! (By the way, if you were wondering about the title of this chapter - the tiara is a gift item that can only be acquired by pickpocketing a specific noble in Denerim's market district. Since I never play rogues, I only discovered its existence while browsing the DA wikia.)
Update March 2017: There was to have been a sequel story which would cover the Awakening expansion, but there were so many other projects demanding my attention that I had to abandon the plan. It also just wasn't materializing properly - what little of it I did write pleased me, but I couldn't make the dots connect as well as I'd hoped. However, at the request of my best friend/self-appointed bodyguard, I did give Inquisition a run. It's called All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird and it's on its way to beating this story as the longest thing I've ever written. If you liked this, you'll probably like that too, so please do check it out!
A golden tiara adorned with a single gem.
It's been a few days now since Elissa and her entourage left Denerim. I've got people out assessing the damage in the different parts of the city. The Chantry is the one building in the market district that's more or less pretty much intact, although the Gnawed Noble Tavern didn't fare too horribly. We've had some monstrously huge funeral pyres, and my arm about fell off from signing letters of condolence to the next of kin of every fallen person who could be identified (which is why I haven't written in this journal). But I felt it was important.
One person who survived, and I'm sure Elissa will be happy to hear it when she returns, is Sergeant Kylon. He took up a position near the Chantry with some of his more competent soldiers, and they were partly responsible for how well the darkspawn were kept clear of it. I've arranged for him to be promoted to lieutenant, as a reward for that. I also offered him a post, and he accepted it - to be in charge of security in the Alienage, because I want someone trustworthy there to keep order.
Speaking of the Alienage, I had an audience with Valendrian, who was an Elder we met when we were settling that mess with the slavers. From what I understand, he's more or less to the Alienage elves what a Keeper is to a Dalish clan. Anyway, he's going to be my main contact with his people in the city. He seemed pretty surprised that the new king of Ferelden would take a personal interest in their situation, although when he saw it was me and realized that I'd helped get him out of that cage, I guess it made more sense to him. I even invited him to the wedding as a gesture of good faith.
Elissa wants pretty nearly everyone at the wedding. Brother Genitivi won't be there, of course, since he's at Soldier's Peak (or will be by that point), and probably Levi Dryden and Avernus won't be coming either. Obviously Morrigan is long gone. But our companions and all the nobility aside, we've sent invitations to Keeper Lanaya, First Enchanter Irving, Knight-Commander Greagoir, Sergeant Kylon, and - purely for the sake of formality - Empress Celene, King Bhelen, the kings of Antiva and Nevarra, Viscount Dumar of Kirkwall, the sovereign Prince of Starkhaven, and Divine Justinia. I don't really expect any of them to show; as you can see, I don't even remember all their names off the top of my head. Teagan did most of the addressing of the invitations for me, I just told him where they went.
The Grand Cleric will preside over the ceremony, of course. Leliana will serve as Elissa's bridal attendant, and Teagan will stand up with me. I offered the job to both Zevran and Sten, but they both declined; Sten was uncomfortable with the idea of being anything more than a guest, and Zevran didn't want to attract any undue attention that might still be lingering from the Crows. Oghren has a pregnant wife to look after, so I didn't even suggest it.
I feel like I'm constantly busy. It's helpful; I don't get bored and I don't have much time to mope about Elissa not being here. It's tiring, though. Interview this farmer, read a letter from that bann, figure out who gets how much money, so on and so forth. In between I've been trying to do some more reading. I had a letter from Anora saying she arrived safely in Gwaren with her escort, so I wrote back and asked her to recommend some books I could study on governance. I'm sure she'll fall over when she reads that, but hopefully she'll humor me.
Speaking of letters, it's been a little over a sevenday since Elissa left, and her first letter arrived this morning. It's short, so I'll copy it here.
We've arrived at Soldier's Peak, and Fergus and Brother Genitivi are both in awe. Genitivi has made himself quite at home; this is one place he says he has often wished to study and was never able, for reasons I'm sure you understand. He's camped out in the library most of the time, only really leaving it to minister to those in need of guidance. He even takes most of his meals there. I can't blame him, though, as his leg has never properly healed and he doesn't like to walk any more than is necessary.
I had a short meeting with Avernus; he seems to have made an interesting breakthrough since last we saw him. I'll tell you more about it when we can speak in person, as it's a bit much for a letter. Levi and his family are well and send you their felicitations. My only regretful piece of news is regarding Bodahn. He's overjoyed to have Sandal back, but informs me that with the dissolution of our party, he feels it necessary for them to seek their fortune elsewhere. He once told me that he was separated from his wife, who lived in Denerim, and he's sadly had word that she was killed in the darkspawn attack. So he feels there's no real reason to stay in Ferelden any longer. They're returning to the Deep Roads and in that manner traveling to the Free Marches. There are more surface dwarves there, and also plenty of adventurers, so he thinks they might be able to fall in with another company like ours. I wished them both well, of course, and urged him to send us a letter now and again with word of how they're faring.
All these goodbyes are a bit of a strain. I'm so glad I'll be returning to you permanently. Wynne and Leliana both send their love. We'll stay here another day and then set out for Highever, which I'm sure will be only too glad to have its rightful Teyrn again.
I love you, Alistair. I'll see you as soon as I can.
Eamon and his family arrived today. I didn't expect them so soon, to be honest, but maybe I should have. He'd sent word to Teagan's bannorn to have Isolde and Connor meet him in Redcliffe, rather than wait for him in Rainsfere, and the Queen Rowan sailed into port bright and early this morning, carrying pretty nearly everything they own. Stonemasons are already at work tearing down his Denerim estate, so I've set them up in the east wing of the palace. There's a couple of templars on hand, just in case something goes wrong with Connor, but I hope it doesn't come to that.
One thing they brought that took me by surprise was our wedding gift. A porter came down the wide gangplank of the boat leading two magnificent grey yearlings - two of the most beautiful horses I've ever seen. The Redcliffe horsemaster, Dennet, raises some of the finest horses to be found anywhere in Thedas, and these two are perfect examples. "They were too young to be sent with the knights searching for the Sacred Ashes of Andraste," Eamon said, "so they've been in Dennet's stable all this time. As soon as I saw them, I thought they were the perfect wedding present for Ferelden's Grey Warden king and queen."
"Elissa will love them," I said. She's fond of animals in general, and I know she's got a particular liking for horses. I've taken the liberty of naming hers, mostly because I know exactly what she would call it. Mine is Aegis; hers is Griffon. The Warden-Commander of Ferelden will ride a Griffon.
A special arrival today! I had no idea the weaver crafthall was capable of producing such things on so short a notice, but a representative came to the palace today with another wedding gift. I can hardly wait for Elissa to see it. It's a new heraldic banner for the throne room, designed specifically for the Hero of Ferelden. (I called her that on the roof of Fort Drakon, but I didn't expect it to stick. But apparently, this is the official title the Chantry has given her.) It's a beautiful combination of mabari hounds and Grey Warden griffons and the Cousland laurel leaves, all on a snow white backdrop with gold edging. I had it hung right away.
More gifts have been arriving, but what really needs to arrive is my bride.
King Bhelen had his forges craft a pair of crowns for us. Ferelden royals don't really wear crowns, unlike some countries; I guess we're just not that fancy, or something. But since he won't be coming himself, he sent us these. They're pretty, although not terribly useful in the way of hats. They're gold circles, inlaid with silverite, and have eight crenellations which are each tipped with a tiny diamond. They'll do for the ceremony itself, but I imagine we'll be leaving them at home most of the time.
There's a smithy here in Denerim which hasn't done too well since the battle. Wade's Emporium - it's near Goldanna's house. Anyway, the proprietor also came with a wedding gift, one of the few things which survived the destruction of his shop. What a diva he is - Zevran thought he was hilarious and they had a long conversation about leather. Wade said he heard that the queen-to-be lost her sword while slaying the Archdemon, so he wanted to gift her with a new one. "It's not nearly what it should have been," he wailed. (His partner Herren kept rolling his eyes.) "The haft is all wrong, and I wanted something more elaborate in the design of the blade. Please tell Her Highness that it's an absolute travesty that I couldn't craft something more fitting to her station and her sacrifice, but I'm afraid it will have to do."
I don't know why he was upset. It's a spectacular sword, almost as impressive as Starfang was. "I'm sure she'll love it regardless."
"There, you see, Wade?" asked Herren. "The Queen will love your gift. Come on, we've got to get back to clearing out the rubble. Maybe we can find something else while we're searching."
"Oh, I hope so!"
They were barely out of sight before Zevran, Oghren and I all kind of fell over laughing. Even Sten seemed amused.
The inquest was today.
I won't say a whole lot about it, because to be honest I wasn't in the room for large parts of it. Eamon did most of the talking about my upbringing anyway, testifying that my father had brought me to him as a baby and told him my name and what my mother wanted in the way of hiding her identity. There really weren't too many people interested in arguing against my claimed ancestry, which was a plus. Apparently I bear a strong enough resemblance to Maric and his mother that those who can remember both of them find my claim believable. Eamon confessed to having the castle records doctored; it seems there really was a serving girl in the castle who had a baby and died in childbirth, and the child really did die. That was Goldanna's mother - but the records made it seem like it was my mother too. She's not my sister after all.
She was there, of course. She actually testified at the inquest, telling them how her mother had died along with her baby brother and how she'd been cut off with a coin when she tried to say that the baby was the king's. Whether it was or not, I don't know; Eamon didn't seem to think so, but I suppose it could have been. I felt sorrier for her, knowing that, because she's had a rough life. At least she and her family survived the battle - they were among those who managed to flee the city, it seems, and though their home was destroyed, they're alive.
She saw me after it was over. "So you're not my brother after all."
"It looks that way. I'm sorry I barged in on you, claiming that I was."
She sighed. "I just don't know what to do now."
"I have an idea," said Teagan. He'd come to the proceedings, naturally, as my companion, and we both looked at him. "If you're not opposed to going back to Redcliffe, my brother has asked me to take over as Arl. You could work in the castle, and have a home in the village."
"Best offer I'm likely to get," she mused. "I guess I'll go pack up my children - not much to pack."I gave her a few sovereigns, to pay for the hire of a wagon to take them to Redcliffe, and off she went. So that's one thing off my shoulders, I suppose; I haven't turned my back on a sister I don't have, and she hasn't turned hers on me.
My wedding day isn't getting here fast enough. I had another letter from Elissa, letting me know that they're in Highever now and all the funeral proceedings are complete. Things are quite a mess there and Fergus will have his hands full, but she's confident he can handle it. She's been immersed in the task of going through her mother's personal effects, such as weren't raked over by Howe's men, and was delighted to find that the dress she wore when she married Teyrn Cousland is still there and in one piece. She's going to wear it for our wedding, and Leliana's got something pretty to wear from Elissa's old wardrobe too.
They're starting to get the Chantry ready for the ceremony. All the nobles who are planning to attend are slowly trickling back into the city, and those who aren't are sending gifts. The Divine sent a bottle of her favorite wine (I didn't know the Divine was allowed to have a favorite kind of wine) and a formal declaration of blessing. The market district has been cleaned up enough that the bulk of the festivities will be held there; the whole city will be encouraged to mingle and eat and dance and celebrate.
Haven't had much time to write. Between all those kingly duties, I've been getting fitted for a new doublet for the wedding, and still tackling my reading. Or I'm sleeping, since this is all pretty tiring.
I'm searching for an artist to make Elissa's wedding present for me. Just in case she would ever see this, I'm not writing what it is until it's ready.
She's asleep or I wouldn't be bothering to write this, but my beloved is back in Denerim and I'm never going to let her out of my sight again, except when her Grey Wardening means I have no choice. Tomorrow is our day, and I finally get to call this woman my wife. I feel like I've been waiting forever - like my entire life has been leading up to this. I guess it has.
I've got to leave off here, because Teagan has decided I need a little party to celebrate the end of my bachelor life. He, Fergus, Oghren, Zevran, and even Sten are waiting for me in the wine cellar. This can only end badly but I'm too happy to care.
Well, that was one of the worst decisions I've ever made. Ugh, my head. Elissa's going to kill me if I don't get some sleep before the ceremony.
We set out this morning on a grand tour of Ferelden. We're going everywhere - we're escorting Fergus back to Highever, where I'm planning to set up a memorial for Duncan, and also escorting Teagan (who is now officially the Arl) back to Redcliffe. We also want to stop in a few other places from our travels, and let the people get a good look at their new king and, more importantly, their queen.
But I have to write down how my wedding went. What better way to finish this journal?
Teagan had me up at a horrible hour of the morning and poured some kind of medicine down my throat so I'd stop feeling so poorly from the wine. The wedding was set for ten, so that the people could have almost the whole day to celebrate, so he and my other friends hustled me over to the Chantry. I had my new crown on and Elissa's was brought along so she could be crowned as soon as we were married.
Here's what I remember: I remember standing up at the altar, with the big figure of Andraste looming over us and templars lining the walls, and all the wedding guests waiting for her to enter. And then in she came, with one hand on Fergus's arm. In the other hand was a bouquet that Keeper Lanaya brought from the Brecilian Forest as a gift from their clan, a huge collection of Andraste's grace and elfroot and a few other leaves and blossoms I didn't recognize. Her mother's gown was a dark ivory, almost a gold color, split open at the front to reveal an under-panel of lighter fabric adorned with dark grey pearls arranged in a pretty design. Her beautiful hair hung loose down her back, and her eyes... I spent the whole ceremony looking into her eyes, I barely remember saying the vows. Leliana walked behind her with another bouquet, wearing a simpler dress of silver-blue material, and as they came up the aisle, all the guests bowed for their queen for the first time. When they reached the altar, Elissa and Fergus and Leliana all bowed to me before Fergus put her hand into mine.
The Grand Cleric made some lengthy speeches about the sanctity of marriage, the blessing of the Maker in the form of children, may our reign be a golden time for Ferelden, blah blah blah. I don't know. I don't much care. I had Elissa - have Elissa, for good and all. The most wonderful gift I have ever been given. And she promised to be mine, and I promised to be hers, and the next thing I remember hearing clearly was "You may kiss the bride." I most certainly did.
After the cheering died down, Elissa knelt for the Grand Cleric to crown her. The wording was similar to when I was crowned a few days ago, only this time there was an actual crown. It nestled snugly on her head, and then she stood up and took my arm, and we filed out of the Chantry with our friends behind us so everyone could see us. The sun was bright and it glared off of her crown, leaving me half blind even as I waved at the people.
Which is entirely appropriate, I think. I was, and am, completely dazzled by my queen.
By the Maker, I'll never let anything take her away from me again.