Chapter Two
One Last Night

Riordan's words fell on deaf ears as Alistair's heart pounded, sounding like thunder crashing in his head. His eyes turned immediately to Cerys who stood, silently and rigid, at his side. She nodded to everything Riordan said and, finally, excused herself. Alistair stood a long moment in the guest room, blinking dumbly as she left him there.

In the hallway, Cerys' breathing increased and her heart flew to her throat. She was always quiet, stoic, and reserved. She spoke little and when she did, people listened. She had found everything odd after leaving her clan; the smells in the cities, the way people spoke, the interactions between her motley crew. They had become her clan, effectively; it was impossible to believe that everyone would always get along, whether or not the same blood ran through their veins.

What Ashalle had told her about her family, she had felt it had mattered little when she was told. She had never known her parents and so they could not harm her with the pain of their death or abandonment. But the idea of Cerys' mother being unable to continue on with the grief of her murdered love, that she could identify with.

She had known since the moment she had seen the mirror in the ruins with Tamlen that her world would never be the same. She had lost her best friend to the Blight, the man that would have been her husband. She had not been in love with him, although she believed he might have felt such things for her. The clan had accepted for years that they would marry when they came of age and Cerys had never seen a reason for anything else to occur. She loved him and that was enough, or so she had thought.

And then Alistair had sauntered, laughing, into her life. He was such an odd being, human or elf; he was everything she wasn't and she liked it. He was adorably sweet and, after some time with him, she knew that marrying Tamlen would have been a mistake. The love she felt for Alistair was something unlike anything she had ever known she could feel.

And that was exactly why she had never told him, why she had never verbally reciprocated his sentiments. She had loved him since before he had ever uttered such words; perhaps since Lothering. She had no idea when it actually happened, but she had decided he could not know. If she told him, there would be no going back. If he knew that she felt the same way, she was sure he would do something silly like throw himself in front of a sword for her.

But now, there was no way out. Someone would die – maybe both of them, but definitely one of them. Riordan, she knew, would not do it. He would try, but the Maker or the Gods or whomever, they were not so kind – not to say that she wished Riordan to die, certainly not. But she would do whatever it took to save Alistair. King Alistair.

Steps echoed in her head and she started, seeing Alistair emerge from Riordan's room. His face was ashen and he stopped short of her, beyond the door's threshold.

"Cerys," he whispered breathlessly, feeling as though he would faint.

"Alistair," she responded with a weak smile that did not reach her wide, brilliantly blue eyes. She was shaking like a leaf; she could not hold it in, not any longer. He could see the effort she was putting in to not doing or saying whatever it was that she wasn't letting out. Finally, quiet words escaped her lips, "There is something…I must give to you. Wait for me, in your room. I will be there as soon as I am able."

Alistair was relieved that she intended to come see him; he wanted to ask her to spend the night with him, if only to talk. He wanted his last night on Earth to be with the woman that he loved.

Cerys returned to the room that she had taken up in for the Landsmeet and jumped a little, not having noticed Morrigan before she closed the door.

Instead of speaking, Cerys acknowledged the Witch of the Wilds with a nod before she continued on her quest.

"Cerys, I overheard what the elder Warden said. And I think we both know that it is unlikely that he will succeed."

Cerys' shoulders tightened and she clenched her jaw as her fingers found the silverbark links of her father's necklace. She pulled it up as she turned to face the other woman, folding her arms across her chest as the metal-carved halla and green gem dangled from her hand.

"I know of a ritual that, if performed tonight, will assure that neither you nor Alistair have to die."

"You are being far too secretive for this to be something that you believe I will agree to."

"Alistair may be thick enough not to notice your feelings, but I am not. I know that you do not wish to watch him die for this, Cerys; and I can helpyou."

"But why, Morrigan?"

The dark-haired witch balked a the question and folded her arms across her chest, affronted, "Because you have helped me. I thought we were friends."

"And if we are friends, you would be honest with me – what is it that you wish me to agree to, Morrigan?"

"If you can convince Alistair to lay with me – do not give me that look, I am as repulsed by the idea as you are – it will produce a child with the darkspawn Taint. The soul of the Old God will be able to inhabit the child rather than you or Alistair, so that the Archdemon may be slain without the loss of life."

The idea struck Cerys; no one would have to die. But this child? Children are not born evil, so perhaps the Old God would have a chance at innocence. After a long moment, Cerys shook her head.

"I cannot, Morrigan. I appreciate your concern and your effort, but Alistair would never agree to leave a child fatherless in this world and I could not ask him to do so."

Morrigan's face darkened and she glowered at the elf, "You are a fool. I am trying to save your life."

"My life doesn't matter any more; it hasn't for quite some time, Morrigan. I appreciate what you tried to do, but there is something that I must do. If you still wish to help, I suggest that you speak to Riordan."

Cerys held no doubt that Morrigan could kill her as she left the room; the elf was unarmed and dressed in a simple shemlen court dress. Besides, she would not draw her dagger on a friend.

Morrigan did not try to kill her, nor did she seek out Riordan. Cerys did not believe she would see the witch again, at least not outside of the Fade.

It was not something she wished to think about; she fought with herself over whether or not she should tell Alistair but she decided that it would do nothing but hamper their evening. And it would be her last, so she would make it count.