Alistair was angry.
Life certainly hadn't turned out the way he had planned. Liara, The Hero of Ferelden, once his best friend, had completely betrayed him. Loghain Mac Tir, murderer of Duncan and countless others, was still alive, Liara insisting on sparing his life. Both of them had survived the slaying of the archdemon, a feat that was supposed to be impossible.
Liara wouldn't tell him how they had survived, though with Morrigan's sudden disappearance he suspected she'd had something to do with it. He had no idea how though, and Liara denied Morrigan's involvement, attributing her rapid departure to her selfishness and the completion of their mission. Regardless, it was clear Liara no longer trusted him, just as he no longer trusted her.
But who could blame him? She'd forced him into this situation! She'd advocated him for the crown, and she'd arranged for the marriage of him and Anora, widowed Queen to his half brother, Cailan, and daughter of the betrayer of the armies at Ostagar. Worse, Alistair was certain Loghain had passed his ruthlessness onto his offspring.
Did Liara think he would be happy about it? Did she think he'd make the best of it all? True, he had wanted the crown - Liara had even held a part in talking him into it. But he had imagined it with Loghain dead, Anora exiled, and Liara . . . well, it certainly didn't matter what he had imagined. Things had turned out very differently, and he had no reason to trust his friend anymore.
Alistair steadied his shaking hands on either side of the small table in front of him. A decorative vase sat in the middle of the table between his hands. It was probably worth a small fortune, and he wanted nothing more than to smash it. But he restrained the urge. He had to compose himself for the banquet.
His stomach churned at the thought. He didn't want to sit at the head of the table next to Anora, pretending to be happy while countless nobles offered their congratulations at their marriage. His friends would be there too, and he didn't even want to see them.
Didn't they realize this was his life? Didn't they realize they had ruined it? Worse! He had let them talk him into this! Something about responsibility and bloodlines and the future of Ferelden. He wanted to storm out and throw up his hands at it all, but it was too late. He and Anora were married. If he had ever had the opportunity to back out, the moment had passed.
Once the archdemon had been defeated, Arl Eamon had insisted on their marrying immediately. The ceremony had just ended. The wedding had been short, probably due to the not unjustified fear that Alistiar might back out at the last moment. He had been fuming at his friends and loved ones all morning. Now he and Anora were married, and the anger hadn't subsided.
After the ceremony, he and Anora had been led back to their chambers to change for the banquet. Servants were supposed to assist him with the change, but he had requested they remain outside while he tried to regain his sanity. At least he wouldn't have to wear this stupid groomsman outfit any longer. He ripped open the buttons that fell down from his left shoulder across his chest and flung the ornamental jacket, dressed in the country's colors and the royal crest, to the floor. In earlier times and in love, when he had thought of marriage, he had never imaged it would be like this.
After he had thrown off his trousers and thoroughly abused his wedding uniform, he let the servants in. They exclaimed at his trampled garment and muttered in foreign languages about his behavior. He had expected all of this and stood silently as they dressed him anew.
In too short a time, he and Anora were thrust together once more to pose as a happy couple. He didn't so much as glance at her as they walked from their rooms to the banquet hall. Various nobles and important persons were seated around the table, some of which he didn't know and others he wished he didn't have the pleasure of knowing.
His friends were oddly scattered. He found Liara and Zevran seated with Shianni and Cyrion who had been welcomed from the alienage, much to the dismay of some of the nobles. Wynne was seated with the First Enchanter and a few others from the Circle. Oghren had found his way out of his assigned seat. Already drunk, he was attempting to form comradery with a few disgruntled nobles.
Alistair actually smiled. A little disorder and unhappy noblemen? What better scene to reflect his mood? He dared to turn his face to Anora and saw she also looked displeased at Oghren's antics. Excellent!
Returning to his search, he found Shale standing against the wall aways from where Wynne sat. The golem stood as still as a statue, and Alistair wished the figure might decide to become as friendly as the disruptive dwarf and scare all the noblemen away so the banquet could end.
It took him sometime to find Leliana. She had decided to join the musicians hired to play for the hall. She caught his eye and smiled encouragingly. He turned his gaze from her, remembering she had been one of the most supportive of his marriage to Anora. Remembering that he was angry with all of his former companions, he turned his attention to the nobles, many of whom he had no real reason to dislike just yet, though he was certain he'd find reason soon enough.
He would have liked to have remained seated the whole banquet, but this was not allowed. He and Anora were expected to move around the hall and converse with their guests. Oddly, the experience wasn't too terrible. The worse he had to put up with was the constant stream of congratulations. Any questions of children or the future of Ferelden were headed off by Eamon, who insisted such queries could wait and that the newly wedded couple should be allowed to enjoy their first few hours of marriage.
The real hardship of the night came when his former companions rose at once to wish him farewell, off to whatever adventures lay in store without him. It was Liara who approached him first. She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, uncertain.
"There's nothing I can say, is there?" she said finally.
"No," he responded coldly. Their last conversation had mainly consisted of him yelling at her, which he had no issue repeating. But if she were to remain civil, then he was willing to try the same.
"In that case . . ." she gave a nod. "Goodbye."
He turned to follow the back of her head as she walked away, but at that moment Zevran clapped him on the shoulder.
"Alistair, my good man!" he cried as though this were a truly joyous occasion. "You are quite the lucky one, no? She is a beauty." He gestured at Anora who was thankfully too far away to hear.
"Yes," Alistair said because he could think of nothing else to say. His relationship with Zevran had always been slightly strained. There was their first meeting where Zevran had tried to kill him and the rest of his companions. It had taken Alistair a long time to trust the assassin wouldn't slaughter them all while they slept. And then, just when he had started to consider Zevran a good man and maybe even a good friend, Liara chose Zevran over himself.
Zevran bowed. "Maker keep you, as they say." Then he headed after his fiancé.
Not that Alistair held any hard feelings on the matter at this point. It wasn't as though he and Liara could have been together, not with the whole ruling the country business. And it was clear that he and Liara were not so common minded as he had thought. No one who could have possibly been right for him could have betrayed him like this.
No, Alistair held no hard feelings as far as relationships were concerned, just with Liara's decisions on Anora and Loghain.
"I know it may look bleak now." Alistair jumped at Wynne's words as she came up beside him and clasped his hand. "But try to make the best of it," she told him. "It may turn out better than you think."
"I'll try," he said. But they were just words. He didn't really care about whatever wisdom Wynne was trying to impart upon him. He was bitter, and soon he wouldn't have her or Liara to lecture him about it.
"Young man," Wynne said. "One of these days, you will realize my advice is valuable to you."
"When that day comes," he told her, "I'll eat my shoe."
"When that day comes," she chuckled, "I hope you will still have all those teeth in that pretty face of yours." She patted his hand before taking her leave.
Alistair almost smiled. There were moments, very brief ones, where he almost missed his friends . . . until he remembered they had betrayed him. They had made the decision to leave him here with this life he didn't want or cared for. They had all insisted this was for the best. None of them had thought to rescue him as he would surely have rescued them.
Anora had asked herself a number of times since their meeting if Alistair could be any more frustrating. Today, she finally discovered the answer was yes.
Did he not realize this marriage was less than agreeable to her as well? Did he not know that she also felt betrayed by her friends and loved ones who would not support her rule as an unmarried queen? She wasn't happy with the situation either, but she was at least willing to try to be civil.
While she put on a smile and attempted to act pleasant, Alistair appeared determined to remain in a sour mood and impress it upon everyone else. She separated from him when they stood to greet their guests. He would need to learn how to behave properly at functions such as this, and she refused to babysit him.
The nobles hid their disapproval of her behind their smiles and congratulations, but she knew what they truly thought of her: that she had been eager to marry Alistair, desperate to maintain the throne; that she was unfit to rule, blemished by her father's betrayal; that she was barren and thus doomed Alistair to an heirless rule. To them, she was an unneeded addition to King Alistair's rule.
Nevermind how obviously impulsive, quick to anger, and inexperienced their favored new king was. Nevermind how Anora had ruled singlehandedly and successfully during her marriage to Cailan. No, those details were not important. What was important was that she was a woman with no blood ties to the throne.
Yes, thoughts of how easily Eamon and the other nobles would have cast her aside drove her to anger, but she would keep it to herself. She would remain cordial. The nobles' approval of her and Alistair's union was paramount - something her new husband seemed unable to grasp. Could he at least force the tiniest resemblance of a smile?
The largest embarrassment of the night came when Oghren had to be forced from the hall. Any damage he had done to the reputation of his people was easily made up for by the extemporary nature of Bodahn and Sandal. Any damage done to the nobles' view of her and Alistair as King and Queen . . .
It was The Hero of Ferelden who stopped her as she was making her way to apologize to the noblemen Oghren had drenched in the dwarven ale he had smuggled into the hall.
"I wish you the best," said the blonde elf.
"I . . . appreciate it," Anora admitted. "You'd be the first."
"Don't let Alistair give you too much trouble." The tone in her voice suggested she had experience in the matter. "He'll come around. It just takes him some time."
Anora nodded, unsure she wanted to ask exactly how much time.
"Maker bless you both," Liara bowed and took her leave.
Anora spun around to look for the ale-drenched nobles when another of Alistair's former companions caught up with her.
"A bit of motherly advice from an old woman," said the mage.
Anora sighed. She didn't want advice. She wanted to find the nobles. But a queen is always curtious, and she smiled.
"I know it may be hard at times, but exercise all your patience with your new husband. You may find the two of you have more in common than you think."
That caught her off guard. Her and Alistair have something in common? At best Anora would carry out her rule and her marriage in the same manor she had done with Cailin, singlehandedly without the other's assistance or interference.
But Wynne did not stay to elaborate. She hurried on her way, pulling along with her an Antivan elf who blew Anora a kiss as they passed. It seemed that Wynne knew Anora would not want to converse with the elven gentleman.
Anora spun around again and searched in vain for her disgruntled guests. She assumed they had left to find drier clothing. Anora sighed again. She seemed unable to head off disasters today. Perhaps the wedding ceremony had unsettled her more than she had originally admitted to herself. She was sure tomorrow would be easier.
But the night wasn't over. Once all the guests had left, Anora and Alistair had said their thanks and goodbyes to everyone, and the servants were left to clean the hall, the King and Queen were ushered back to their chambers - more specifically his chambers.
Alistair was flabbergasted. "I, uh . . . um . . ."
"It's tradition, Alistair," Anora explained once the servants had taken their leave and shut the door behind them. "It's our wedding night."
He looked horrified. "But! But, I . . . they don't really expect us to-!"
Anora let out a groan of frustration. "Of course not, Alistair!" She fled from the room, opening the side door that led from his chamber to her own.
She flung her wedding veil to the ground. In truth, she was relieved he would not be taking advantage of her, though through tradition and as King, he would be well within his rights to do so. No, she was upset at his ignorance of everything.
How were they supposed to rule together when he didn't know the simplest things! Cailan had stayed out of ruling, but he at least had understood propriety and tradition. Alistair contained no background and no understanding. Even if she got her wish and continued her singlehanded rule, there would still be events like today where they would have to appear together. If he was unwilling or unable to appease the nobles or uphold kingly duties . . .
Anora sat down on her bed with another sigh. She'd been doing that a lot lately.
He would receive training, she reminded herself. Alistair had not yet proven himself to be a complete idiot. He would learn. But the future of Ferelden hung on him doing more than just learning. He would have to understand that being king or even queen did not mean getting what you wanted. Sometimes you had to things you didn't want to do.