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Return From Darkness

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“Well, shit,” Varric cursed when Elisabeta had disappeared, taking Dorian with her.  Then the rift reopened and both were back.  “Never mind,” he grinned.

            Alexius backed up as Elisabeta marched towards him, rage in her every step.

            “You’ll have to do better than that,” Dorian declared.

            Alexius sank to his knees.  As Elisabeta stood over him.  “Did you really think that could stop me?  I have already returned from the dead once.  I have faced an archdemon and you think a time vortex could stop me?”

            “You’ve won,” Alexius conceded.  “There’s no point in extending this charade.”  He looked to his son, who was once again himself.  “Felix.”

            “It’s going to be all right father,” Felix assured him.

            “You’ll die,” Alexius’ heart wrenched just saying the words.

            “Everyone dies,” Felix declared.  Alexius just closed his eyes.

            “You don’t have to yet,” Elisabeta informed him.  “There may be a way to extend your life.  We just have to find the Grey Wardens.  Their Joining might give you a few decades.  You’ll spend them fighting darkspawn, but they will be years of life to spend.”

            “Unfortunately, they’ve disappeared,” Blackwall reminded her.

            “We’ll find them,” Elisabeta assured him.  “I’ll let you know when I do and get your decision then.”

            Felix nodded. 

            “Thank you,” Alexius stood and allowed the Inquisition soldiers to lead him away.  Felix followed.

            “Well,” Dorian watched them go.  “I’m glad that’s over with.”

            As if to mock his words, the sound of metal boots marching in order filled the hall.  The soldiers wore silver armor with orange trim.  Their helmets had the most ridiculous orange ribbons painted onto them.

            “… or not,” Dorian had a bad feeling about this.

            At the end of the soldiers, Alistair walked in with Anora at his side.  They both wore the same shade of brown with white fur trim.  Elisabeta felt her nausea well up.  It mixed with the myriad of other emotions that were welling up at seeing Alistair again.  She was sure that Anora was responsible for both the bad fashion and the ridiculous Ferelden uniforms.  At the end of the hall, far from danger, was Arl Teagan.  Teagan’s eyes widened, recognizing her, but Alistair’s full focus was on the woman he blamed for Redcliffe’s predicament.”

            “Grand Enchanter Fiona,” Alistair addressed her, as Anora folded her arms in what she thought was an intimidating manner.  “Imagine how surprised I was to learn you’d given Redcliffe Castle away to a Tevinter Magister.”

            “King Alistair,” Fiona approached him.

            “Especially since I’m sure Redcliffe Castle belongs to Arl Teagan,” he continued.

            “Your Majesty,” she began.  “We never intended…”

            “You pose a wonderful question,” Elisabeta stepped forward.

            “Beta,” Alistair took a step back.  “I… what are you…”

            “What,” her mouth dropped open.  “You didn’t see me standing here?”  She let her anger boil, it was the only emotion that wasn’t confusing her and tearing her apart.  She’d been trying to deal with the loss of Alistair in that dark future and he was before her.  He wasn’t alone; Anora was at his side, in a position that she’d once thought would be hers.  Not that of queen, but Alistair’s partner in life.  There she was, the evidence that he’d broken a promise to her.  She also noted that Starfang hung at his side.

            “I… Fiona…”  He stammered and then told the truth.  “I don’t know what to say to you, Beta.  There are millions of things I want to, but not with all of these people standing around us.”

            “Well, I have plenty to say to you.  The first thing I want to know is how Fiona could give away Redcliffe Castle when it is Arl Teagan’s responsibility to protect it,” she challenged.  “Did he give it to Fiona at some point and go on vacation?  It is his job to protect Ferelden’s first line of defense, not hers, and a Tevinter Magister seems to have easily taken it from him.  Not one villager mentioned any battle, just people being thrown out; including Teagan.  Was he cowering in the chantry, expecting others to do the fighting, again?”

            “That’s beside the point, Beta,” Alistair’s voice was firm, but his hand reached out to touch her. 

            She took a step back.  “No, it isn’t.  You can’t lay all of the blame on Fiona.”

            “She supported the magister and turned the mages over to him,” Anora spoke up.  “We wanted to help the mages, they’ve made it impossible.  Fiona and her followers are no longer welcome in Ferelden.”

            “Shut up, Anora,” Elisabeta commander.  “Don’t worry, Fiona’s my newest ally and the Free Mages are now part of the Inquisition.  Believe me; none of us want to spend a single moment more in your company than is needed.  The last I saw of you, you were being escorted to a tower.  You were supposed to be executed after the Blight.  How did you manage to live?  Did you seduce Eamon?  Did you seduce a bloodmage into bespelling Eamon?  I know he has an undue influence over Alistair.  I would hope your Templar training would have been enough to protect you from any blood magic influences, Alistair.  Alas, it appears that no one could protect you from bad advice or your own bad decisions.  I thought Templars took their vows seriously, I guess it’s a good thing Duncan saved you from that life then.”

            “Beta,” his tone grew a bit impatient.

            “You promised!”  She realized that her voice was growing higher and louder.  “I asked one thing of you.  Do you remember that?  I made you promise one thing if I died.  One thing!  You couldn’t even keep your word to me.  Did you ever love me or was I just some fling that you decided to marry because my family is so highly ranked?”

            “I do love you, Beta,” he insisted.  “I never meant to…”

            “To what?”  She cut him off.  “To get caught?  I was dead so promises to me no longer mattered?  It was hard enough to…”  She shook her head, aware that tears were welling up.  “Are there any promises to me that you have kept or was everything a lie?”

            “I’ve never lied to you,” he insisted.

            “Alistair…” Anora interrupted.

            “I told you to shut up, you vile snake!”  Elisabeta shouted at her.  “One more word from you and I will cut your tongue out myself.”

            “You can’t let her talk to me like this,” Anora looked to her husband.

            Alistair ignored her, his eyes on Elisabeta.  His heart was breaking as tears began falling down her beautiful face.  Each one tore at his soul.  “Beta, I never meant to hurt…”

            “Of course not, I was dead.  According to Morrigan, my soul had been destroyed,” she let the tears flow, too angry to bother fighting them.  Not that she had any luck in that area lately.  “I’m sure you thought what I didn’t know couldn’t hurt me.  Well, guess what?  I know, you idiot!  I can’t believe that all that time I spent in the Void I was clinging to…”  She shook her head.  Then she reached up and pulled the chain from under her shirt.  Their engagement rings were there, side by side.  She unclasped the chain and slid the blue and silver ring he’d given her so long ago from it, the token of his love and devotion.

            “Elisabeta, I still lo…”  His words were cut off as the ring hit his nose.  It hurt!  He reached up to rub it and the ring fell into his hand.  He looked down for a moment.  “Beta, I…”

            “You what?  You’re sorry you brought your whore of a wife to Redcliffe?  You’re sorry that you couldn’t keep your promise to your dead fiancée?”  The tears were beginning to obscure her vision.  She restored the chain and turned, she had to leave.  She couldn’t stay.

            “I had to do what is best for my kingdom,” he stared at the ring still.

            “Except you didn’t do that,” she assured him.  “You did what…”  She realized that arguing with him about Eamon was futile.  She hoped it had been Eamon’s idea.  She didn’t know what she’d do if Alistair had decided to break his promise to her on his own.  She took another step away from him.  “Oh,” she glanced back.  “I want Starfang back.”  When he just placed his hand on the hilt of the sword, but didn’t remove it, she shook her head and forced herself to continue walking.  Fine, he’d keep her sword.  It wasn’t worth trying to scuffle with him for it. 

            “Beta!”  Alistair called after her.  “I…”

            Her legs buckled, but Dorian moved to sweep her up.  She wound her arms around his neck as he carried her from the room.  “Fiona is coming with us as full partners, yes?’  He asked.  She nodded. 

            “Get your people together, Fiona,” Dorian called.  “We’re going home.”

            Alistair closed his hand around the blue and silver ring he’d once slipped onto the left hand of the only woman he’d ever loved as he watched another man carry her away.

 

 

            Dorian didn’t go far; he just went to the grand entrance of the castle and found a stone bench to sit on.  He kept ahold of Elisabeta as he sat down.  She curled around him, bathing his shoulder with her tears.  He gently rubbed her back.  “Do you want to talk about it?”

            “She used to be engaged to King Alistair,” Varric came and sat beside him.

            “So I gathered,” Dorian sighed dramatically, to think that the dwarf would not realize his vast intelligence had allowed him to quickly assess the situation.  “I take it he gave you the ring you just threw at him, Lissa?”

            “Engagement,” she managed.

            “What?”  Dorian wasn’t sure he’d heard right.

            “It was a ring to mark their betrothal,” Varric enlightened him.  “Tempest made the king in there promise that if she died, he wouldn’t marry Loghain’s daughter.  That was his wife, Loghain’s daughter, standing beside him.”

            “Ouch,” Dorian shook his head. 

            Blackwall quietly slipped into the room.  “Fiona is gathering her people together.  She will meet us at the Crossroads in two days’ time.  Then we can return to Haven.  I think it best we leave after the Herald just told the Queen of Ferelden to shut up.”  He ignored the wild gestures that Varric was making towards him.  “Josephine isn’t going to like that.”

            “Is féidir le Josephine mo asal a phóg,” Elisabeta muttered in native Highever.

            “What?”  Blackwall had no idea what she’d said.

            “You don’t want to know,” Varric assured him.  “How many languages do you speak, Tempest?”

            She didn’t say anything more, but held up three fingers.

            The door opened yet again and Arl Teagan walked in.  “Lissa…”  He hesitated.

            “Don’t worry, now that the Magister is in our custody, we’ll get our men out of your town,” Blackwall assured him.

            Elisabeta lifted her head.  “You don’t speak for me, Warden Blackwall.  What do you want, Teagan?”

            “I… you’re alive,” he managed.  “Can I not come and say hi to my friend and tell her how happy I am to see her again?”

            “Happy?  Friend?”  She glared at him through her tears.  “You’re just happy I’m here to fix your messes again.  Did you have anything to do with that unholy union in there?”  She jabbed a finger towards the throne room, where she assumed Alistair and Anora still were.  “Did you back it or was it just your brother?”

            “Eamon felt…” He began.

            “Eamon felt,” she cut him off, her voice rising.  Dorian kept his grip on her, half in support and half to keep her from ripping out the arl’s throat with her bare hands.  “Eamon has wanted to be the power behind the throne as long as I’ve known him.  Your father thought he was that to Queen Moira, didn’t he?  He made sure your sister was betrothed to Maric, a convenient little arrangement for the Guerrins.  How long has your family been trying to wrestle true control of Ferelden from the other noble families?  Does Eamon openly call himself the King Maker now?  That’s what you’ve all wanted for generations.  Well, know this.  The Couslands will not stand idly by while you play games that would make the Orlesians envious.  I’m declaring a feud against the House of Guerrin here and now.  We aren’t friends and never will be.  I will use everything within my influence to stop your family’s continued rise to power.”

            “Are you sure this is such a good idea,” Blackwall couldn’t believe he was witnessing the Herald of Andraste declaring war on a family.  “Aren’t we supposed to be better than this?”

            “Clúdaithe, Blackwall,” Elisabeta snapped at him, not caring that he didn’t understand the ancient language.

            “Very well, my lady,” Teagan bowed.  “The Guerrins accept your challenge.  After all, we are the ones in positions of power now and you have been dead for ten years.  Do your best.”  He swept out of the room.

            “Did he just forget that your brother is still a teyrn?”  Varric wondered.

            “I’ll write Fergus and let him know I declared a family feud,” Elisabeta leaned back against Dorian.  “He never liked Eamon or Teagan, anyway.  Eamon married an Orlesian and Rendorn was an Orlesian sympathizer until Moira convinced him to join the Ferelden Rebels.  Father always suspected they were more power hungry than truly in it for the cause.  Rendorn sent Eamon and Teagan to the Free Marches when he began fighting; they weren’t part of the effort to regain our freedom.”

            “They could cause trouble for the Inquisition,” Blackwall objected.

            “It doesn’t look like they were exactly helping us before,” Dorian pointed out.

            “Still, Lissa has told the Queen of Ferelden to shut up and now declared a feud on the rulers of Redcliffe,” Blackwall didn’t want to be the one to try to smooth over matters between Ferelden and the Inquisition now.

            “I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as you fear, Blackwall, relax,” Dorian had seen the way the King of Ferelden looked at Elisabeta.

 

 

            Alistair continued to stare at the ring in his hand for several moments.  Then he took a leather binding from his own clothing and slipped the ring through.  Then he tied it around his own neck for safe keeping.

            “You aren’t going to keep another woman’s ring, are you?”  Anora demanded an answer.

            “Yes, I am,” his voice was cold.  Elisabeta had thrown the ring he’d given her, the token of his love and devotion back at him.  What did Anora expect him to do with it?  He would keep it, just as he was keeping Starfang.  The sword had been with him since he’d lost Elisabeta.  It was like always having a piece of her by his side.  He wasn’t giving that up, not even to her.  “Oh, look, your boy toy’s back.”  He noted as Teagan marched back into the room.

            “Is the Inquisition going to get their soldiers out of Redcliffe now?” Anora asked Teagan as he strolled to them.

            “I’m not sure,” he looked back at the door.  “Elisabeta seems to have gone insane.  I don’t know if it has something to do with dying and coming back or if this Inquisition really is made up of a bunch of crazy seekers and washed up Chantry Sisters.  Probably, both.  She is being unreasonable and we should make an effort to disband the group.  They are obviously under Orlesian control and a threat to us.”

            “I believe the large Breach in the sky is the real threat,” Alistair disagreed.  “Is Beta all right?”

            “She was wound around that Tevinter Magister that she keeps by her side,” Teagan sneered.  “I have no doubt they are lovers.”

            Alistair blanched.  What was he supposed to do with that knowledge?  He wanted to challenge the other man to a duel.  He was sure that no one, much less a Tevinter Magister, was worthy of Elisabeta.  But she was a strong, smart, beautiful woman and he was a married man.  He had married out of duty to his country and now he was ready to hang it all and chase after her.  What kind of man would that make him, though?  Not one that deserved a woman like her.  Maybe one who deserved a wife like Anora.  He tried to reprimand himself for the last thought, but couldn’t.  “Well, her taste hasn’t improved much then.”  He turned to Anora.  “Let’s go home.  Teagan, try to take better care of your castle from now on.”