He was furious. No, furious didn’t quite cover the storm of emotions raging through his chest right now. And he wasn’t even sure who he was angry at.
Was it Riordan for waiting so long to tell them how an Archdemon had to die? Morrigan for bringing up her ritual? Flemeth for coming up with the whole mad scheme in the first place? Carina for wanting nothing more than for both of them to survive?
Or was his rage for further back, for Eamon and how he’d shoved away the boy his King had entrusted to him? For Isolde and her bitter dislike of him, her distrust that he wasn’t her husband’s?
Was it all of them?
Was it anger at himself for even dreaming of agreeing to Carina – Morrigan – Flemeth’s plot?
Alistair snarled, the noise low and harsh, and leaned against the wall halfway between his room and Carina’s. He knew Morrigan was waiting and wondered if too long a time would make the mage give up her plan. No, no, he chided himself, she and Carina were too close for that, even he knew.
She would wait. Because the witch he still disliked loved her in her own way.
Maker’s mercy, must I really do this?
He closed his eyes and slowly slumped into the embrace of the age worn stones, remembering only moments ago when Carina had come into his room. That someone was wrong had been evident but he hadn’t expected what she’d said. Hadn’t expected her to ask him to lie in bed with Morrigan, to do what he did with her with Morrigan, and bring an Old God back into the world. If it had been him in her place, he didn’t think he could have borne through the asking, not to someone he loved.
Heaving a sigh, Alistair lifted his hands to press the heels hard against his eyes, trying to figure out some way out of this. He’d agreed, oh yes, because he didn’t want to die, didn’t want Rina to die, but he didn’t want to do this. Part of him wanted to scream that Riordan would take the final blow, that they wouldn’t have to worry about it…but that was the boy of over a year ago. The dreaming boy who hadn’t been all that different from his half-brother despite their all too different upbringings..
What did that make him now?
Grey Warden and nothing more was the first thought but then that brought up Senior Warden. Technical Warden-Commanderof Ferelden because he had six months on Rina but he’d never wanted the position. Not after a childhood spent hearing that he could have no thoughts of designs on the throne, no flickering of command over anything.
After what Rina had orchestrated this past year, the First Warden was likely to officially name her to the position of Commander if they survived. He’d run from the duty that should have been his but no matter how much he’d wanted to, how much the shade of Duncan lurking in his mind might have expected him to, there were far stronger shadows in his mind that had kept him from it.
Maric, who’d abandoned him.
Cailan, who’d never given him a second glance.
Isolde, who’d called him a dog in Orlesian behind Eamon’s back (and he knew she had because one of the stable boy’s had taught him the language to spite her).
Eamon, who’d allowed his wife’s blindness to stain him and driven a boy first to the stables and then into the arms of the Chantry.
A handful, dozen, thousand more who’d taunted him for being bastard, who’d told him he’d amount to nothing, who’d filled his head with the idea that he would never be anything worthwhile.
Only Duncan and Rina had ever really believed in him and one of them was dead. And the other had asked him to do something that went against almost everything he believed in.
Alistair opened his eyes then and straightened from the wall, steeling himself as he moved towards the door Morrigan waited beyond as a thought struck him.
He had proven them all wrong, hadn’t he? He’d become a Grey Warden, had survived Ostagar when so many others had died, had helped garner the aid of the dwarves and Dalish and mages, had fought darkspawn after darkspawn and won, had found a place to be and to belong with someone who loved him and who he loved in return.
The boy in the stables had been left in the hay loft of Redcliffe.
The templar initiate had been left in the dust of the tourney field where Duncan had recruited him.
The young Grey Warden had been left at the top of the Tower of Ishal with darkspawn arrows lining his side, his King and half-brother, his Commander dead below him on the field.
The would-be boy King had been left standing lost after the Landsmeet had ended.
Who did that leave?
That left Alistair, free to choose what he wanted to do, who he wanted to be with, a life utterly open underneath his feet with all the choices ready to grasp. It left only a man of the Wardens wanting to stop the Blight. Left a man wanting to protect what he loved most and willing to do anything to save it.
Wardens do as they must. He remembered Duncan saying something like that once. And maybe it was selfish, maybe it was wrong and a sin in the Maker’s sight, a disappointment to the man who’d been more a father to him in six months than anyone had ever been before but he would do Morrigan’s ritual. Rina had helped free him and by everything sacred and holy he wasn’t about to throw away the only thing that could save them both.
Maybe it would damn his soul, maybe not.
But if he was to lose Rina one day to both the Calling and to her soul going to the Stone, well, Alistair would rather be dragged into the Black City grinning for a sin that saved his love just that bit longer now than mourn at the Maker’s side without her forever and knowing he hadn’t tried.
He pushed open the door then and Morrigan turned, her golden eyes sad and having none of their normal sharpness in them that was usually directed towards him. “I did not think she had convinced you,” said the witch. “Twould have been a disappointment for her skills of persuasion.”
“I had to persuade myself more than she did,” answered Alistair as he closed the door then bolted it. He then looked at her and asked, “Can I ask one question, Morrigan?”
She released a heavy sigh that was all annoyance then nodded.
“This child…you aren’t planning on using it to come after the throne, are you?” As the witch bristled with outrage, he lifted his hands. “I may never have wanted the crown but it’s still my blood that many believe should be on it.”
Morrigan pursed her lips for a moment then said, “You truly would believe my word on this?”
“Rina loves you like a sister and I know she didn’t ask me to do this lightly. So, yes, for her, I’ll believe you.”
“Yes. Tis little someone such as me could do with a throne.”
“Rule a nation?” questioned Alistair, thinking of all the things he knew you could do with a crown. All the things Loghain had done came to mind right off.
The witch cocked her head to the side like a bird. “And have to deal with being tied down to a dredgeful of meaningless drivel from Arls and Banns? Tis not the sort of power I seek, Alistair.” Then she smiled – a real, honest smile – and said, “Tis not the sort of power any of our company seeks.”
Her words rang with a truth that Alistair couldn’t deny.
He then sighed and jerked his tunic and shirt off, letting them drop to the floor as he looked expectantly at Morrigan. “Well,” he said roughly, “let’s get this over with.” As he started in on the laces of his trousers, trying not to look at her, her hand touched his and drew his attention to her.
“Alistair,” she intoned softly, honest kindness showing uneasily through her face, “I could make this easier for you, as a gift to her. Let you see me as her.”
For a wild moment he thought about taking the offer then he shook it off. Alistair turned his hand over to grasp hers, calloused fingers exploring a hand that was smoother and larger in some ways, smaller in others than the ones he’d grown used to holding. Part of him wanted to shout at her for even offering but another appreciated the gesture. That she cared enough about Rina to try and offer him what comfort that she could said more about the witch than anything else ever had.
Lifting her hand in his, Alistair pressed his lips against Morrigan’s fingers and did. Not. Shudder. The thought that they were both doing this for Rina comforted him and allowed his mind to finally settle.
“That would be a disservice to her,” he said just as softly as she’d voiced her offer. “But thank you.”
She inclined her head slightly then freed her hand, moving towards the bed as she began to strip and talk at the same time. “I shall give you warning now that the magic involved in this ritual will consume us body and soul. Submission to it is part of what is required to create the proper bond so do not fight it.” Her golden eyes locked with his as she turned half towards him and sternly stated, “Using your templar abilities could destroy any hope of it working.”
“Noted. So…how do we start?”
Morrigan chuckled as she flung the last of her clothes to the side and then turned to face him. Even a blind man would call the witch of the Wilds beautiful but Alistair preferred a difference sort of beauty. Oh, he could appreciate hers and Leliana’s but…there was something in Rina that just called to him as surely as the Archdemon called to the darkspawn.
“First,” she said with a wry smile, “you shall need to be without those.”
Instantly he remembered his trousers and flushed before finishing undressing, dropping them and his smalls onto his other clothes. Then he stood nervously in front of Morrigan and fought against the urge to cover up his indecency with his hands. Her cat-with-the-cream smile as her eyes roved up and down him didn’t help his battle either. Nor did the sly comment: “I see what she appreciates in you.”
Then she was crooking a finger at him and he moved woodenly forward, following her instruction to lie down on the bed awkwardly. Alistair’s eyes then went wide as she climbed onto the bed and crawled upward to kneel next to him as she leaned over to pick up a potion bottle from the bedside table. “I take it we drink that,” he said, a high pitched squeak in his voice.
Morrigan just smiled down at him and nodded before she downed half the potion. Then she extended the bottle to him and said, “Quickly. I do not think you wish to experience the potion taking its effect upon me without it in you.”
He took her at her word and downed the potion, grimacing at the bitter taste. Then, as Alistair sat up slightly to set it on the table, she moved to straddle his waist with a sorrowful smile that was mixed with amusement as he blushed even darker.
Just as he was about to ask if the potion had worked, magic snapped together around them so swiftly that even his long trained templar senses barely caught it and his words dissolved as raw, feral need hit them both like a punch to the gut. Alistair remembered his hands reaching up to drag Morrigan down, his mouth claiming hers as her hips rolled over his, then everything else was blessedly lost within a sea of black.
When he woke later in a tangle of pale, slim limbs, Alistair groaned and rolled away until he found the edge of the bed. As his feet found the floor, he registered movement behind him and then Morrigan’s hand touched his bare back. To his credit, he didn’t flinch despite the shame lurking inside, and he felt the cool touch of a healing spell roll over him. It brushed aside the headache he hadn’t even realized was forming and made him feel refreshed instead of to the point of exhaustion.
“Twould be a good idea to eat,” said Morrigan as she rose and paced across the room, brazenly naked in the firelight as she went for her clothes. “Magic pulls from its recipient as well as its caster, as you should recall well from the old woman’s preachings.”
“And a bath,” grumbled Alistair as he rose and moved towards his own clothes. As he pulled his trousers back on without bothering to lace them as he’d soon take them off again, he asked, “Did it work?”
“Tis a working I can barely sense.”
“So yes so far as you know.”
He nodded at that then picked up his shirt and tunic, nose wrinkling as the scent of their coupling wafted around him suddenly. Then he turned, saw she still bore the same mournful look as she wrapped her arms around her belly, and forced a smile. “Thank you, Morrigan.”
The witch’s head jerked up at that, golden eyes wide, and she breathed, “You would thank me for this…what is the common word…infidelity?”
Alistair flinched at the word, at the reminder that an act similar to what they had just done had created him, and he’d sworn once to never help spawn a bastard child. That was before Rina though, before the Blight, before Morrigan looked at him like a lost child.
“I would thank you for trying to save someone you care about,” he answered. “And someone that you don’t. Good night, Morrigan.”
With that he turned and left, leaving the witch behind but not before her final words drifted to his ears.
“For her I will care for you, Alistair. Tis my hope you shall do the same.”