She could hear the voices on the other side of the door as they waited. Her two guards held onto her arms no matter how many times she attempted to shrug them off. She did not want to be here. She did not want to be a part of this. If Loghain thought she would work with him willingly, he was wrong. None of her previous training mattered to her. She did not want to become the queen. She would not steal this day from Alistair. She wanted the man to get his vengeance after what Loghain had done to Fereldan and the Wardens. Yes, Loghain was in for an unpleasant surprise. She suppressed a snicker as she heard Anora denouncing her father and siding with the Wardens. She was excited to turn Loghain's secret weapon, herself, against him.
"My lords and ladies, I wish to present a third alternative. I have invited one who shares the Theirin bloodline, but who has been trained in the arts of politics. She was raised to be a queen, and I believe that she is the rightful heir to the throne!" the Teyrn cried. Her guards released her arms and opened the doors, allowing her to stride proudly into the Landsmeet chamber. A collective gasp sounded as the nobles realized who they were looking at. She glanced at Alistair, her half-brother, whose handsome face held a troubled look.
"Kierrai?" he whispered. Her brown eyes met his, and she gave him a quick wink. Loghain approached her and stood by her side.
"Lady Kierrai Theirin, daughter of King Maric, should take the throne, not this untrained bastard." He said, gesturing to Alistair. Kierrai raised a dark eyebrow.
"I believe I can speak for myself, Loghain." She said coolly. The general gave a short bow and stepped away from her, a mischievous grin on his hard face. Kierrai brushed away a stray lock of dark auburn hair before speaking again.
"Lords and ladies of the Landsmeet, you all know who I am. You know that I was whisked away as a child to be trained as a monarch in the event of Cailan's death. I know all there is to know about being a queen, so in truth, I am the perfect candidate for the position." She explained. Many people were nodding their heads in agreement. "However," she said, causing a few people to gasp, "I do not believe that I am the rightful heir."
"What!?" Loghain sputtered. She raised a hand to silence him.
"Loghain thinks that my brother, Alistair, is some upstart bastard, but let us be honest: Am I not the same thing? I am just as illegitimate as Alistair is, and he has a far better cause than I to take the throne. I believe that Alistair, and his fellow Warden, are the ones that you should be listening to. As Anora said, Loghain is not the man you once knew and respected. His hatred has twisted his mind to the point of destruction for our country. Listen to Alistair! Listen to Zeriah! I am throwing my lot in with the wardens, and you should all do the same." She declared. Many cheered her speech, and she saw that her brother had his usual goofy grin on his face again. Loghain was giving her a glare that would terrify the most seasoned of warriors, but Kierrai held her ground. He scoffed in disgust before turning to the nobles in the room.
"My lords and ladies, our land has been threatened before. It's been invaded, and lost, and won times beyond counting! We Fereldans have proven that we will never truly be conquered so long as we are united. We must not let ourselves be divided now. Stand with me, and we shall defeat even the Blight itself!" he shouted, triumph leaking into his voice even in the face of his defeat. Kierrai stood by Alistair, watching and waiting for the reaction of the nobles.
"The Warden! I'm with the Warden!" one noble called.
"One." Kierrai murmured to Alistair under her breath. He nodded slowly, anxiety creeping over his features.
"South Reach stands with the Grey Wardens." Another said.
"Two." Kierrai whispered.
"Waking Sea stands with the Grey Warden!" Bann Alfstanna shouted proudly from the balcony.
"Three." She murmured, hands trembling with excitement. Zeriah Cousland, Alistair's fellow Warden, was nodding rapidly.
"Dragon's Peak supports the Warden!" a man yelled.
"The Western Hills throw their lot in with the Wardens. Maker help us." Arl Wulff called in his gravelly voice.
"Four, five." Kierrai hissed, nudging Alistair. His face wore a small smile now.
"I stand by Loghain! We have no hope for victory otherwise!" Bann Ceorlic said stubbornly. Kierrai sighed softly. All eyes turned to the last Bann, waiting for his vote.
"I stand with the Warden! The Blight is coming! We need Grey Wardens!" he cried. The Landsmeet erupted in cheers.
"We actually did it." Alistair whispered. Zeriah threw her arms around him affectionately before turning to Loghain.
"The Landsmeet is against you, Loghain. Step down gracefully." The Warden said in her strong, soothing voice. Loghain practically growled.
"Traitors! Which of you stood against the Orlesian emperor when his troops flattened your fields and raped your wives?" he roared. He angrily turned to Arl Eamon. "You fought with us once, Eamon. You cared about this land once! Before you got too old and fat and content to even see what you risk!" he taunted. Kierrai watched as something in the general's eyes snapped. He turned to the nobles, a bloodthirsty gleam in his eye. "None of you deserve a say in what happens here! None of you have spilled blood for this land the way I have! How dare you judge me!" he growled. Loghain turned back to Kierrai, advancing on her furiously. "And you! You betrayed me! You betrayed everyone who ever raised you! This isn't supposed to end like this!" he screeched. Kierrai raised her chin stubbornly.
"Did you really think I would go along with your plans when you practically kidnapped me just to thwart my brother? You spoke of Zeriah being a puppeteer, and yet you wanted to be the one to pull my strings and make me dance! I will not have it!" she yelled back. Loghain raised a hand to her, and Zeriah grabbed him by the wrist. Loghain's guards began to swarm in on them.
"Call off your guards and we'll settle this honorably." She ordered. The general sent his men away.
"Then, let us end this." He said quietly. "I suppose we both knew it would come to this. When we first met at Ostagar, I would have never thought so. But Ostagar seems like it happened in another lifetime, to someone else. A man is made by the quality of his enemies. Maric told me that once. I wonder if it's more a compliment to you or me." He pondered. The man shook his head. "Enough. Let the Landsmeet declare the terms of the duel." He called. Bann Alfstanna stepped forward and cleared her throat.
"It shall be fought according to tradition: a test of arms in single combat until one party yields. And we who are assembled will abide by the outcome." She explained. Kierrai turned back to the Warden and the General.
"Will you face me yourself, or have you a champion?" Loghain asked. Zeriah raised her chin.
"I will fight you myself." She declared. Kierrai stifled a gasp.
"Will she be able to do this, Al? I haven't seen her fight in years, and never against someone of Loghain's skill." She whispered nervously. Alistair's face was pale.
"I have faith in her. I would rather it be me, but I believe in her abilities." He hissed back. Kierrai nodded as Loghain went on.
"It is you or me the men will follow, so let us fight for it. Prepare yourself." He said sternly. Zeriah nodded, determination etched on her pretty features. The nobles on the floor quickly backed away, creating a circle around the two duelists. Zeriah pulled her helm over her head and drew her blade as she crouched into a deadly stance. Loghain mirrored her, but Kierrai could not help but think of how large the man was in comparison to the female Warden. As if someone flicked a switch, the battle began. Zeriah managed the first strike, cutting deeply into Loghain's right shoulder. He groaned in pain, but swung his greatsword with impressive speed. Zeriah barely jumped back in time before darting in again, cutting him lightly across the abdomen. Loghain hit her with the pommel of his sword, causing the Warden to stumble backwards. He then struck at her leg, creating a deep gash that instantly began to seep blood. Zeriah did not let this stop her, however, and she threw her entire body into Loghain, causing him to tumble to the ground. The small Warden leapt upon him and held her blade at his throat. The man coughed in surprise.
"I underestimated you, Warden. I thought you were like Cailan, a child wanting to play at war. I was wrong. There's a strength in you that I have not seen anywhere since Maric died. I yield." He said, kneeling before her. Zeriah glared at him.
"You'll die for what you've done." She said icily. At that moment, someone burst through the door.
"Wait! There is another option!" Riordan said quickly. Kierrai raised an eyebrow, her expression mirroring Alistair's perfectly. The elder Warden cleared his throat. "The teyrn is a warrior and general of renown. Let him be of use. Let him go through the Joining." He explained. Kierrai let out a bitter bark of a laugh as Zeriah blinked in surprise.
"You would make this man a Warden? Why?" she asked, incredulous.
"There are three of us in all of Ferelden. And there are…compelling reasons to have as many Wardens on hand as possible to deal with the archdemon." He said in a strange tone. Anora stepped forward, eager to save her father's life.
"The Joining itself is often fatal, is it not? If he survives, you gain a general. If not, you have your revenge. Doesn't that satisfy you?" she said, getting as close to begging as Anora ever would. Kierrai rolled her eyes at the icy blonde. Alistair's face was beginning to turn red with fury.
"Absolutely not! Riordan, this man abandoned our brothers and then blamed us for the deed! He hunted us down like animals! He tortured you! How can we simply forget that?" he blurted angrily. Zeriah was nodding in agreement.
"No, Loghain has to die for his crimes." She said coldly. Anora shook her head.
"No! You can't do this! My father may have been wrong, but he is still a hero to the people!" she cried in desperation. Loghain, for his part, sighed in acceptance.
"Anora, hush. It's over." He said calmly. The beautiful blonde shook her head.
"Stop treating me like a child! This is serious." She replied stubbornly. Loghain chuckled.
"Daughters never grow up, Anora. They remain six years old with pigtails and skinned knees forever." He said fondly. Tears welled up in Anora's blue eyes.
"Father-" she sobbed, putting her head in her hands. Loghain turned to Zeriah.
"Just make it quick, Warden. I can face the Maker, knowing Ferelden is in your hands." He said graciously. Kierrai was impressed that he was taking his fate so well. Zeriah turned to Alistair, her green eyes meeting his brown ones in a silent conversation.
"Alistair, you should be the one to do this." She said quietly. Alistair nodded solemnly.
"I will. I owe that to Duncan." He replied sternly. He gave Kierrai and Zeriah a quick nod before pulling out his greatsword. He approached the kneeling general and swiftly beheaded him, splattering blood all over Anora's delicate silk gown. The former queen threw herself to the ground with a cry, holding her father's body in her lap. Arl Eamon cleared his throat.
"So it is decided. Alistair will take his father's throne." He declared. Alistair jumped.
"Wait, what? No! When did this get decided? Nobody decided that, have they?" he said nervously. Kierrai groaned. Her hard work would be for nothing if Alistair did not accept the throne. Anora stood, a devious gleam in her eye.
"He refuses the throne! Everyone here has heard him! I think it's clear, then, that he abdicates in favor of me." She said haughtily. Kierrai groaned. She had never liked the woman.
"Shut your trap, Anora." She snapped. Anora gaped at her.
"How dare you? You little-" she began.
"Silence!" Eamon shouted. "I hardly think you're the appropriate person to mediate this, Anora. Warden, will you help us?" he asked. Zeriah nodded slowly.
"I want to speak to Anora first." She said. Anora nodded.
"Certainly." She replied. Zeriah approached her.
"What makes you a better choice than Alistair?" she asked softly. Anora scoffed.
"Surely that's not a serious question. I have been the ruler of this nation in all but name for the last five years. I can lead Ferelden. Alistair can't. If you give him the crown, then you've only bought us a brief pause in the civil war. It will resume again at the first opportunity, and it won't end until a new dynasty holds power!" she argued. Zeriah rolled her eyes.
"You don't know that. He'll have my help, and Eamon's!" she pointed out. Anora groaned.
"And he'll need it! He can't hold the throne on his own, and every soul here knows it. Opportunists will forever be watching him, waiting to grab power." She retorted.
"Why should I trust you after what you've done?" Zeriah asked. Anora glared.
"Because I will always do what is necessary for my people. Doubt anything else about me, Warden, but not that." She hissed. Zeriah turned from her.
"I'd like to speak to Alistair as well." She said.
"Strange, I feel like I'm back at the abbey, trying not to get chosen last for sparring teams." Alistair joked awkwardly. Kierrai snorted in amusement, earning her a glare from her older brother. Zeriah sighed.
"What do you think I should do?" she asked. Alistair straightened.
"Make me king. Anora is not an option." He said firmly. Zeriah raised an eyebrow.
"You seem so certain." She observed. Alistair nodded.
"Shouldn't I be? You're the one who convinced me to take a stand after meeting Goldanna. I can do this." He assured.
"What makes you a better choice than Anora?" Zeriah asked. Alistair blinked, but Kierrai realized what the Warden was doing. She was testing him, making sure that he wanted this. She nodded in approval.
"I can do this. I may not know politics the way she does, but I know what needs to be done. I can get our armies marching toward the Blight. She's already betrayed us once. Who knows if she'd even truly help us now? She could have us banished as soon as you hand her the crown." He said confidently. Kierrai smiled proudly at him.
"Do you think you're ready to be king?" Zeriah asked finally. Alistair sighed.
"As ready as anyone ever is, I suppose. Which is to say yes—I'm ready." He confirmed. Zeriah turned to Kierrai.
"You are certain you have no desire to rule? You have the proper training, and I trust you, Kierrai." The Warden said. Kierrai laughed softly.
"I have never wanted to rule. I am not a fan of the whole fancy noble thing. Honestly, I would rather spend my time drinking ale and taking a tumble with a handsome stranger." She said, giving Zeriah a cheeky grin. Zevran, who had been aloof for most of the Landsmeet, snapped to attention. After giving Kierrai a quick look over, he tossed her a wink and a seductive smile. The warden's lips twitched in a smirk.
"I am ready to choose." She said powerfully.
"As the arbiter of this dispute, what is your decision? Who will lead Ferelden?" Eamon asked. Zeriah looked at the candidates a final time before answering.
"Alistair will be king," she began, "And I will rule beside him." Kierrai looked at Alistair to see a blush creeping up his neck.
"Really? You will?" he asked incredulously. "This is where I wake up, usually. Or everyone points and laughs because I have no clothes on…" he mumbled. Kierrai snickered in amusement as Eamon addressed the former queen.
"Anora, the Landsmeet has decided against you. You must now swear fealty to your king, and relinquish all claim to the throne for yourself and your heirs." He ordered. Anora scoffed.
"If you think I will swear that oath, Eamon, you know nothing of me." She replied haughtily.
"You'll have to do something about her, Alistair." Zeriah said calmly. Alistair nodded.
"I suppose that's true." He agreed.
"We cannot have Ferelden in a state of civil war. We must have unity. If she will not swear fealty to you, Alistair, and renounce her claim to the throne, she's a threat to us all." Eamon sighed.
"Put her in the tower for now. If Kierrai and I fall against the Blight, she can have her throne. If not… then we'll see." Alistair ordered. Kierrai grinned. She would finally get some fighting action.
"You would give me a chance for the throne, after all this?" Anora asked excitedly. Kierrai groaned.
"I said if we fall, Anora. If both of the Theirin's fall, the throne falls to you. I won't kill you while there's still a chance that could happen. Somebody has to treat this Blight seriously." Alistair said sarcastically. Anora raised an eyebrow.
"That is uncharacteristically wise of you." She noted. Alistair rolled his eyes.
"Yes, well, don't let it get around. I have a reputation." He drawled. Kierrai laughed out loud, bringing a smirk to Zeriah's face. Eamon called for the guards to escort Anora to the tower, and the focus returned to the new king, expecting him to make an address. He looked around for a moment before realizing what they wanted.
"Oh… that would be me. Right, umm… I never knew him, but from all I've heard of my father, what defined him was his commitment to protecting this land." He began. Kierrai groaned softly.
"Shut up and put on the damn crown." She hissed. Alistair blinked.
"Maker's breath." He mumbled. "I may be Maric's son, but I am also a Grey Warden. I took an oath: I swore I would stand and fight the darkspawn, no matter the cost to myself. I cannot break that oath just to wear the crown. I have to go with my fellow Warden to face the Blight. When the Blight is over, I'll come back and take up my duties…whatever they are…as king. Until then, I think Arl Eamon will have to be my regent." He declared. Eamon nodded his acceptance of the position and gestured for Alistair to continue. "My fellow Grey Warden will, I hope, take Loghain's place as the leader of my armies. Shall we finish this thing together?" He suggested. Zeriah raised an eyebrow and grinned.
"I could do no less, my king." She said humbly. Alistair nodded and faced the Landsmeet.
"Everyone, get ready to march. It's going to take all of Ferelden's strength to survive this Blight. But we will face it! And we will defeat it!" he shouted, causing the crowd to cheer fanatically. "We'd better get going. Ferelden is depending on us." He said as he turned back to his friends. Zeriah smiled and took his hand, and the group returned to Arl Eamon's estate, Kierrai tagging along at the insistence of a handsome elven assassin.