Epilogue – The Calling
It had been just over forty five years since the two most famous Grey Wardens in history had defeated the archdemon at the Battle of Denerim.
Their eldest son, Duncan, now King, was married with three children of his own. Alistair and Elissa had stepped down after thirty years of rule, at a special ceremony after their son's twenty-ninth birthday.
They still lived in the palace but enjoyed the luxury of free time that retirement was able to afford them. Some nobles still constantly tried to bend their ear to gain favor, but it was easy to wave those off the further removed they got from the throne.
Although it caused an outcry amongst some of the nobles, their daughter Eleanor had refused all offers of marriage from those of noble birth. Instead, she had fallen in love with her brother's best friend Bryden; who was also one of her father's young knights. He was the one that had always taken Eleanor seriously when she wanted to learn to swordplay, and despite Duncan's protests never excluded her from their sparing. The young man reminded Elissa greatly of Roderick, in personality only. In looks he was as dark haired as Eleanor herself.
Eleanor had shown no interest in the young man, except as a friend and brother. Things became interesting once a visiting dignitary's handmaiden had shown interest in Bryden, and for the first time, the young man seemed to show interest in someone else when he offered to take the young woman on a tour of the castle.
This irked Eleanor to no end though she did not know why. She thought the women he had gone off with that evening was an overdressed, stuffy airhead. A very confused and upset Eleanor was her parents' bedroom that evening, crying on her mother's shoulder and not fully understanding why. By the time she left however, Elissa had helped her realize that she was in love with her best friend, and this sickening feeling she was experiencing was because he was with someone else.
Things must have worked out to Eleanor's liking though, because the next day both Bryden and Eleanor were walking around with their heads in the clouds. Within a month the poor lad nervously approached Alistair for his daughter's hand in marriage, fully expecting to be turned down. Had Eleanor been their only child or even just one of two, they may have needed to force the hard reality of duty. The Therin family had may eligible young princes, so Alistair was always adamant their daughter have the freedom to marry who she chose.
Eleanor and Bryden spent a lot of time at Highever after their wedding. Fergus had never remarried or had more children, and had always gotten along extremely well with his niece. Two years after their wedding, Fergus had named Eleanor as his heir, and the couple moved permanently to Highever castle.
On this morning, the retired couple were sitting on their balcony enjoying the morning sunshine. Elissa admired the striking profile her handsome husband made. His hair had turned grey many years ago, and the lines from years of both worry and laughter were etched permanently now into his face. She loved him more today, than the day they married and she had been avoiding this conversation with him for a while now, but could not put it off any longer. She reached across the table and took his hand. "Alistair, can we talk a moment?" she asked.
Alistair looked up from the letter he was writing and put the quill down, "Of course my love."
Elissa took a deep breath and looked at him in the eye. "I have begun having the dark spawn nightmares again," she confessed. "I have for a few weeks now, and I am no longer able to block them," her eyes filled with unshed tears. "Also, the taint is spreading, I have these bruise like marks that won't go away.
Alistair's heart constricted painfully as he stood and took his wife into his arms. He nodded, not really surprised and showed her his own matching marks. "I have been having the dreams also. I was trying to keep it to myself for as long as possible, but it seems we will see our Calling at the same time."
His wife cast him a look that spoke volumes. "As if either of us would have gone alone."
He grinned. "True," he kissed the top of her head. "At least Avernus did something right, we've been truly blessed. I have no regrets."
She rested her head against his chest. "Orzammar then?"
He nodded. They often found words were not always necessary between them any longer. "How are we going to tell the children?" he asked in concern. "You should invite Amaranthine also." A shadow passed over his wife's face as she automatically thought of Kaitlin. Kaitlin had died during childbirth twenty years ago now. Elissa had made sure her daughter, a bright inquisitive soul like her mother, had been taken care of. The girl later inherited her mother's position and had been the new Queen's attendant for many years.
She nodded her agreement. Elissa considered her former handmaiden among her closest friends. "This is not something we should leave in a letter. We should tell them truth in person about why we are leaving," Elissa commented. "We have always been honest about this with them, so they should all be expecting it to come someday."
"How long will it take to get everyone here do you think?" he asked.
She frowned in concentration. "Three weeks? We can leave for Orzammar on the fourth week. We don't have to travel fast, so we can take our time to get there."
They couple been expecting their calling for quite a while, even if it did take its sweet time in coming. They lived each day of those extra fifteen years as if it were their last. They enjoyed each other, and their family as much as they could, taking time to enjoy the simple things. Each day they took as a blessing, as they had not expected to live this long, each any every day after the thirty years was a beautiful gift.
The couple would travel to the deep roads, as per Grey Warden tradition. Although they were not involved in the Wardens any longer, nor in peak fighting form; the couple had always continued to spar and train, to keep active and also for enjoyment. Being a Grey Warden was something they also were, and never something either of them had truly let go of, even if duty had taken them elsewhere. Had the need called for either of them again, they would have both willingly answered, as they were now.
This would be their final battle, the one that they had no intention of returning from. It did not matter if they were in fighting shape or not, the only difference would be is how many darkspawn they would take down with them.
Messages were sent, and within two weeks Alistair and Elissa's children along with their spouses and grandchildren all began to arrive at the palace. The letters did not say exactly why they were being summoned, but most of their children had a good idea, so they came with heavy hearts, hoping they were wrong. Their eldest son Duncan, confronted them the moment he got his, and greeted his brothers and sister as they arrived with concern in his eyes. The look confirmed what they had been dreading, even though their parents refused to say until everyone arrived.
When the entire royal family visited, the castle was filled to the rafters. There were twenty seven of them including spouses and grandchildren. Alistair always loved the holidays, when everyone came to the castle for the traditional family celebrations.
Once everyone had arrived, there was a private dinner with just their children and spouses. It was then they confirmed what everyone had been dreading. Alistair stood at the head of the table, and holding Elissa's hand announced that the time had finally come, the taint was finally starting to spread in both of them and the following week they will be leaving for Orzammar to answer their Calling.
Many their daughters in law immediately burst into tears. Eleanor, who always sat close to her father, embraced him with her head resting on his chest, like she used to when she was younger and sobbed. "It's too soon," she protested.
"Princess…," he smiled and kissed his daughter's head. "We've had almost fifteen years longer than any other Grey Wardens," he stroked her head reassuringly. "We've been truly blessed with each and every one of you, and could not have asked for a better life."
"Can we come to Orzammar, with you?" Carter asked. Alistair and Elissa were sorely tempted. They had discussed this and though they loved their family dearly, this last journey was one they wanted to make alone.
They shook their heads sadly. "This is something your mother and I need to do by ourselves," their father tried to explain. "It is difficult enough for us to leave you all behind as it is. It will be easier to say our goodbyes when we leave here."
Duncan's eyes glistened with unshed tears, "What do I tell the Landsmeet? You are both national treasures as far as they are concerned. They would want some sort of ceremony or formal escort…" his voice trailed off as he realized how utterly horrible that would be for them.
"Which is exactly why you will be telling them after we are already gone son," Alistair said with his familiar dimpled grin. "We'll just say we are leaving to stay with Eleanor in Highever for a while. We simply wanted an excuse to get the family together before we left. People indulge us now we're old," he winked.
Their mother grabbed their father's hand and looked at him lovingly. "We'd like to spend that last time travelling, alone together. Just the two of us, the same way we started our adventure," Eleanor and Duncan's wife both started crying harder at that.
Little did their children know, that dinner was their parents goodbye. Everything had been packed and ready for days now. Their parents were leaving as soon as they retired for the night, leaving under the cover of darkness. It was best that they leave now, and quickly. Delaying it further now would just make it more difficult.
As the youngest of all their original companions, sadly, they were also the last of the group still alive. With their passing, all the companions personally responsible for the victory at the Battle of Denerim would be no more. The couple had already decided to take a scenic route to Orzammar, and traveled at their leisure through the same journey that took them or Orzammar in the first place.
They lay in each other's arms each night by the campfire, recalling stories both funny and sad of how they met and their adventures together. They discussed old friends and family. Gone were the elaborate sets of armor, and now the two wore simply designed, functional protective gear with the Therin family crest.
"Now I know why Wynne hate being on the road so much," Elissa laughed. "I ache everywhere. But I am having fun," she took Alistair's hand in hers. "I am so glad we decided to do this."
Their arrival in Orzammar caused little fuss. Trade with humans had started again a long time ago and they found they were just one of many visitors to the underground city. The only difference was that this time, they had come to Orzammar to die.
Everything felt different this time. They had been to Orzammar since the Blight, but that first time they were here the couple found it ominous that they were travelling through the same tunnels they would be heading to in order to die in the future. Now neither one of them were apprehensive, they simply embraced their fate.
The darkspawn had been pushed back over the years, and the dwarves had retaken some of the closer Thaigs. They traveled deeply into the deep roads, fighting small pockets of darkspawn with relative ease. It was not until the second week of travel that the older couple looked down into a cavern home to at least forty genlocks and hurlocks. Alistair and Elissa looked at each other at the same time, their hands gripped each other's tightly as their hearts started racing in time.
This was it.
They slowly got to their feet and smiling drew their swords. They did not bother hiding, but simply made their way directly down into the mass of darkspawn below.
Duncan, Eleanor and Bryden ran to the top of the cavern to watch their parents below. It was with every fiber of their being that they did not go in to help and save them. They had followed their parents against their wishes for one reason alone. They would let them die with dignity in battle as they wished, but they would not let the darkspawn defile their bodies.
Elissa grinned at her husband as they ran into the fray. His shield bashed out in familiar form, knocking those darkspawn that had rushed in back off their feet. His wife spun around, daggers flying, sending limbs and bodies flying. The savagery of the Wardens attack surprised the creatures, but they soon recovered and they were able to overwhelm the couple through sheer numbers.
Alistair saw Elissa fall first. She was facing him, and a sword appeared through her stomach. Blood foamed out of the corners of her mouth and eyes glazed over. A soft smile played across her lips as she fell forward off the creatures sword.
He ran forward and decapitated the creature that had killed his wife, but missed the hurlocks that had circled around and were coming at him from behind. Alistair looked down in surprise at the knife that was now sticking out of his side. He looked down at the blood on his hand, his knees buckling, and the former King of Ferelden fell next to his Queen as darkness overtook him.
When Alistair woke up, everything around him was a bright white. He squinted against the light until a shadow passed in front of his face. He opened his eyes to see Elissa standing before him, her long black hair flowing softly around her. She was wearing a simple blue dress, her hand outstretched toward him. Behind her, their friends and Elissa's family that had been here waiting to greet them.
"Hi," she said smiling, and she stepped into his arms.