Frustrating Fridays: Frustrations, Chapter 11

I stayed at Vigil’s Keep long enough to put things together again. Anders wandered off one day with no explanation. He’d been increasingly strange since we’d returned to the stronghold and spent most of his time alone. I was sad he had left without even a farewell but hoped he could find happiness somewhere. He’d seemed to take the loss of Justice especially hard so perhaps a place that reminded him less of the spirit that had become our friend would do him some good.

A messenger sent with a report to Denerim returned to say that the king had not yet returned from whatever trouble he’d gone to the Bannorn to address. I knew that Alistair fought with Bann Teagan at his side and that the pair of them would be just fine. With nothing more to hold me on the surface at long last I turned my feet to my underground kingdom.

Sigrun accompanied me to Orzammar. Though she’d loved our adventures she wanted to return to the Legion of the Dead and hoped that her Warden taint and training would help them. I reminded her that there may be more Darkspawn looking to continue The Architect’s work and she promised to capture any creature she found capable of speech and bring it to me. We parted amicably at the entrance to the Deep Roads and I watched her walk cheerily into the dark.

The Assembly was far less happy to see me. They’d been ruling Orzammar just fine on their own, thank you very much, and tried to block my input at every turn. The political intrigue and accompanying assassins occupied me most of the time but every human visitor that failed to bring word of Alistair left me less and less sure that my memories were more than a sweet and unlikely dream.

Suitors lined up to court me but I was more interested in organizing expeditions to the thaigs we had uncovered while fighting the blight. We retook them all, in time, and fight to clear the halls far beneath the earth that connected them. In those early days the disorganized darkspawn were still retreating to the Dead Trenches and deep stalkers and spiders overran the corridors to the east and south. I pored over maps with the heads of the warrior caste and instructed them to raise to their ranks whatever casteless desired training. I would need every last one.

Finally one day I looked up from the table in my throne room to see Alistair standing like a mirage in his golden, kingly armor. He’d asked not to be announced just to see the look on my face. I didn’t quite burst into tears before all of my advisors but it was a near thing. We retired to my rooms, scandal be damned, and I sobbed in his arms. A joker as ever, he said he’d thought I’d be happy to see him. That helped me calm myself.

“I’d begun to think you were dead or that I’d dreamed you. This is just relief,” I said, waving a hand at my own face.

Though we shared a tender night together we both knew he could not stay. In the morning we met in the Hall of Heroes so that he could see my statue. “They’ve made you a bit stern, haven’t they?” he asked, looking up at my graven image.

“I’ll have to be,” I said. “If the ancestors bless us in a few years I’ll be married and queen of an empire that stretches beneath your own from the wilds to Amaranthine. And you’ll have a wife and a brood of your own.” We smiled sadly at one another. Our idyll had lasted longer than we’d dared hope but the night before had been the last we would share together unless we met in the Deep Roads at the ends of our lives. Then we could fight Darkspawn together until we either died or became ghouls and were struck down in turn. For now we had kingdoms to run.

Alistair and I remained allies and came to each others’ aid more than once over the following decade. We each married and raised children. Word of other events around Thedas reached me and I know he travelled all of the way to Kirkwall once to meet with a woman known for the sorts of exploits we’d once shared. He sent word that he had seen Anders there, looking unhealthy and haunted. It seemed the mage not found what he needed even so far away. But Alistair’s and my lives grew ever more apart and I saw little of my companions from those heady days with the Grey Wardens.

Ohgren wandered off into the mists of time, leading an expedition into a distant thaig and never returning. His body was never found, however, and rumors of sightings continued long after the likelihood of his survival had diminished to nothing. For all I could ever prove he might be down there swinging his axe, still.

Velanna stayed at Vigil’s Keep and became a respected member of the order, known as much for her sharp tongue as the strength of her magic. She made peace with her sister’s strange alliance and death but could never return to her clan. I suppose the options of living in a alienage somewhere or travelling alone as an outcast made staying with the humans she once so despised fairly attractive.

Dear Nathaniel spent some years traveling as a Warden-at-Large, as he called it, delivering messages and reports among the various outposts of the order. He made time to visit Orzammar when he passed nearby and regaled me with tales of the austerity of the Weishaupt fortress and the excesses of the Orlesian Wardens. At some point he made yet another trip to Orlais and stayed there.

He, too, had seen Anders in the Free Marches and reported that our friend seemed to have made some fast friends at last. The newly-named Champion of Kirkwall had captured his heart but Nathaniel said that something ate at the mage, hollowing his eyes even as they followed his love. Little did either of us know that the pivot of Thedas’s history had moved from my shoulders to Anders’s. At the time I merely wondered if we would ever clear the Deep Roads so far as the ancient thaig they’d found there.

Wynne had been caught up in the debate raging among the mages and spent the last of her years at the college trying to talk moderation into angry and rebellious people. I lost track entirely of Zevran, the assassin with the heart of gold whose blades I could have used to protect my back more than once. But as my kingdom grew and prospered the Assembly did as well, finding much to do in recovering dwarven history and treasures and spreading out to occupy the thaigs we cleared. Without the entirety of dwarven society living atop one another tolerance and a cooperative spirit once again flourished.

My history could not leave me to rule and pass on in Orzammar. Events wholly unforeseen transformed my future as unexpectedly as Duncan’s recruitment had done so many years before. But those events must wait for another tale to be told.

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