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All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun [Complete]

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#21
To say that Alistair was embarrassed would be putting it mildly. He’d flattered himself that he had this sneaking out routine pretty well down, but a pretty face and some familiar names had tripped him up with humbling ease. If he’d been alone, it might have been easier to shrug it off, but having dragged along a guardsman whose honor would not let him allow the King to be out unprotected, he’d promptly done the one thing that would make Donal's job more difficult.

Fortunately, while Nicolette had Orlesian blood, she did not seem to be a bard who had been lurking in the city on the off chance that the King of Ferelden might present himself as an easy target for assassination. Or if she was, she was biding her time. Her look of wide-eyed surprise certainly seemed genuine, but Alistair had seen Leliana dissemble often enough to know just how easily it could be done by pretty much anybody who wasn’t him.

Donal seemed more amused than alarmed, which was reassuring … but also more than a little embarrassing. And frustrating. He’d gone out tonight because he was tired of being treated like a child who needed a babysitter, but that was just what he felt like at the moment. Bernie, astute as always, had picked up on the sudden change in currents at the table, and was watching/not watching from the corner of her eye as she chatted with a patron at the bar. Alistair didn’t want to get Nicolette in trouble with her employer; she hadn’t done anything wrong.

After a moment, her surprise softened into a kind smile that made his heart skip a beat or two. “There is nothing to concern you, James,” she told him, the faintest emphasis on his alias. “It is safe with me.” The light press of her fingers on the back of her hand was very plainly a reassurance and not an attempt at seduction, but it still added to the flutter in his chest. She was so very pretty … and she might as well have been on the dark side of one of the moons, as far as he was concerned, damn it.

“Thank you,” he told her with quiet sincerity, Donal adding his nod, a faintly approving gleam in his eyes sending a stab of envy that Alistair pushed down doggedly. Just because he couldn’t pursue anything with the lovely lady was no reason to deny the guard the chance, if he chose. Alistair was the King of Ferelden; he literally had women lined up to meet him, wanting to be his bride! It was good to be king, right?

Yeah, he didn’t think so, either. There was more intelligence and compassion in those pretty golden eyes than he generally saw in a week of entertaining countless nobles’ daughters, but that didn’t change what was.

“Leliana was well, when last we saw each other,” she answered his earlier question as though the awkward interlude had never happened. “She accompanied me as far as the vineyards in the south, at which point we had to part ways. She is an extraordinary woman, is she not? I am immensely adverse to fighting, but she taught me a few techniques with blades that would allow me to defend myself without taking a life, when I am travelling alone.”

He smiled, unable to help the wistful edge. “Yeah, that sounds like her,” he agreed, “and it’s a good idea to be able to fight at least a bit if you’re traveling alone. I’ll bet this fellow takes good care of you, though.” He looked down at Thibault, scrubbing his knuckles across the broad head in the way that Aedan’s mabari had always liked. “Don’t you, boy?”

The tail wagged furiously. Yes, yes, yes!

An idea came to him suddenly. “You like stories?” he asked Nicolette, turning it over in his head. “I know one that I could tell you … and show you where it happened.” He looked to Donal. “Drakon?” Asking, not telling. He might have blown his cover, but their agreement was still very much in effect.

The guard’s eyebrows lifted in surprise, but he cocked his head, considering. “That would work,” he agreed after a moment, the approval in his expression for Alistair now.

Pleased, Alistair turned back to Nicolette. “The roof of Fort Drakon is where the archdemon was killed,” he told her. “I can get us up there if you want to see where it happened while I tall you the story.”

“View’s nice, too,” Donal put in.

“I’m definitely not as good at telling stories as you and Leliana,” he told her, “but … I was there.” No boasting, simply stating a fact. He had been there, and he had helped bring it down, but as with the rest of that desperate year, if not for his companions, he would never have survived.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#22
Neither man bolted for the door and Donal did not draw his sword in defence of his king, so clearly both of them believed she would keep the secret. It was a source of quiet amusement to Nicolette, the idea that she could present a threat to either of them. Unless she decided to break her vielle over their heads, and she was not going to do that, no matter how good a story it might make – assuming she did not die on the spot. She caught the approving gleam in Donal’s eyes and turned her smile on him as well, before acting as though the previous conversation had not happened and filling Alistair – James – in on the wellbeing of his friend.

He looked pleased, but there was a shade of sadness to the smile. Whenever Nicolette saw that sort of smile, she wanted to embrace the wearer, if only to steady them for a moment. But not everybody welcomed such a gesture and having gained their trust, she did not want to ruin by unnerving the man.

“Yeah, that sounds like her. And it’s a good idea to be able to fight at least a bit if you’re travelling alone. I’ll bet this fellow takes good care of you, though.” Alistair scrubbed Thibault between his ears, earning a rapturous tail-wagging. “Don’t you, boy?”

“He does.” Nicolette ran a hand along Thibault’s back, gazing at him fondly. “He has saved my life on many occasions.”

She was about to share one such tale, when Alistair beat her to the punch. “You like stories?” Nicolette looked up as Alistair changed conversational direction. “I know one that I could tell you…and show you where it happened.” He glanced at Donal. “Drakon?”

The bodyguard nodded his assent as Nicolette quickly chased the chime of memory that name had set ringing. Was that not where –

“The roof of Fort Drakon is where the archdemon was killed. I can get us up there if you want to see where it happened while I tell you the story.”

“View’s nice too.”

“I’m definitely not as good at telling stories as you and Leliana, but…I was there.”

“Yes!” Nicolette's face lit up - there was no hesitation. Of course, they could be running an elaborate scam and she could be about to make a terrible mistake going off with two strangers, but she took a risk every time she travelled alone rather than with a caravan, every time she struck up a conversation with somebody new. If she did not take the chance she would be kicking herself each day until she died. “Of course, I would love to hear that story. And to see the Fort – I do not think I have ever been up so high.”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#23
Nicolette definitely got a bit wide-eyed at having her suspicion confirmed, but she didn’t panic, didn’t blow his cover, and - most importantly as far as Alistair was concerned - went on to tell him about her time with Leliana. He could well remember the first time he and Aedan had met her in Lothering, going on about the Maker’s will as she cleaned the blood from her daggers; she’d definitely seemed an archdemon shy of a full Blight.

But hadn’t that been true one way or another of most of their companions? An apostate that could turn into a spider, a Qunari that had murdered an entire farmhold, an assassin who had been sent to kill them, a giant animated statue that had killed its former master and a drunken, berzerker dwarf. Wynne and the dog had been the only ones he’d been inclined to trust at first. And yet, somehow, trust had grown between them all, even (he’d thought) Morrigan. To go from having that solid presence of trusted companions at your side to being alone in a crowded palace … it sucked.

Which was why he was pleased when Donal didn’t immediately shoot down the idea of a visit to the top of Fort Drakon, which would accomplish two purposes: repaying Nicolette for the kindness she had shown and getting out of there just in case she (or he, for that matter) accidentally let something slip in the hearing of someone who might not feel like being kind to a king in disguise. Alistair had heard more than enough on previous excursions to know that supporters of Loghain Mac Tir lingered, others just didn’t care for having a bastard on the throne, and still others just didn’t like royalty, period … or much else, from the sound of it.

Nicolette beamed at the offer. “Yes!” she exclaimed immediately. “Of course, I would love to hear that story. And to see the Fort – I do not think I have ever been up so high.”

“There’re lot of stairs,” Alistair warned her, though he doubted that would curb her enthusiasm. He looked to Donal. “Shall we?” The guard nodded and rose, going to the bar and speaking to Bernie in a low voice. She gave the minstrel an appraising look, then nodded.

“I told her we’d get you back safely,” he reported with a grin as he returned, draining the last of his ale and pulling his cloak back on, giving her time to do the same.

Outside, Alistair turned them toward Fort Drakon; he’d have known the way even if the fortress hadn’t towered over the city. The path they’d taken a year ago was etched into his memory. “Have you eaten anything?” he asked Nicolette. There were still a few stalls open selling meat pies, bread twists, skewers of lamb and beef. And well, he was hungry … as usual. "My treat." What good was a date with the King of Ferelden if he couldn't tat least catch dinner?

“They’re going to recognize you at the Fort,” Donal remarked, keeping his voice low enough not to carry, “and they’re gonna wonder about any woman who is with him.” He looked Nicolette and Thibault over speculatively. “How would you like to be the Orlesian ambassador and her rare Antivan deerhound?”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#24
Alistair warned her that there were many stairs up to the roof of the Fort. Nicolette would not have minded too much if he had announced they had to climb up there. She loved a good story but being in the same setting as the one evoked in a tale was even better. Her imagination would be able to run riot up there.

If she had been entertaining reservations about going off with two strange men (and given that she had not long previously been entertaining the idea of inviting them upstairs, she had not given much thought to the risk), Donal would have put them at ease. He approached the landlady, who after a moment gave her a nod to indicate she had made note of their faces.

“I told her we’d get you back safely.”

Nicolette smiled broadly. “I appreciate the gesture, Donal. If you did not, she would send Gio after you, and I do not advise tangling with him.” Colourfully clad the dwarf might be, but they had already seen a demonstration of what he could do.

They donned their cloaks, and headed out into the evening. The air was laced with the smells of sizzling meat as the stalls catering to those just heading home from work now plied their trade. “Have you eaten anything? My treat.”

“A skewer of lamb and peppers would be very welcome, thank you.” The woman who ran the stall they approached was from Rivain, which meant most likely her food would be seasoned. Some of the skewers just had bare cubes of meat, some had a light dusting, and down the far end were two that were caked with sizzling red paste. Nicolette, having long since learned her lesson about appearing tough when it came to food, selected from near the middle.

Donal was murmuring to Alistair; Nicolette kept an ear open to them. “They’re going to recognise you at the Fort. And they’re gonna wonder about any woman who is with him.” Of course, some people were going to leap to conclusions. Given that Alistair had come out this evening in disguise to avoid attention, causing gossip with her presence might ruin it for him. Fortunately Donal had a plan. “How would you like to be the Orlesian ambassador and her Antivan deerhound?”

“I think I can work with that.” Nicolette arched her neck and tilted it back slightly. Her accent became heavier, a little more flavour of Val Royeaux to it. “Am I looking down my nose enough?”. She chuckled, dropping the voice for a moment. “Do I need an alias? My surname is fairly distinctly Fereldan.”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#25
Donal allowed Nicolette to think that his consultation with Bernie was to assure the tavern keeper of her safety with them. There was no need for her to know that Bernie, Gio and most of the other staff knew the true identity of ‘James’ and busted their asses to ensure that Alistair remained both anonymous and unmolested on these outings. He’d even had Gio ‘throw him out’ a couple of times when someone was getting that ‘don’t I know that nose?’ look. Nobody would haul the King of Ferelden out of a bar, right? It had worked so far, anyway.

Outside, they approached one of the meat vendors, and Nicolette selected a skewer of seasoned lamb and peppers. Donal took the two at the end that were liberally smeared with an ominously red paste, chewing with great relish and no hint of discomfort. Alistair - after a brief struggle with the desire to show off for a pretty girl - selected his two from the more gently spiced end of the spectrum. His palate was not quite as bland as it had been (the food that the Chantry provided its templars in training having been designed to support physical exertion, rather than expanding culinary horizons. ‘Grey’ and ‘greasy’ had been the predominant characteristics), but he’d had an adventure with some bright Antivan peppers, courtesy of Zevran, that had left him acutely aware of his gut’s limited tolerance levels. Spending the next few hours with his belly sounding like a pair of wyverns were fighting it out inside - to say nothing of spending the balance of the following day locked in the loo with whatever reading material he had time to grab - was not what would be termed a desirable result.

The ones he selected tasted just fine, anyway, and he ate contentedly while Donal pitched his proposal to Nicolette: instant promotion to Orlesian ambassador.

“I think I can work with that,” she agreed, lifting her head into a haughty pose and adding a few extra layers to her gentle accent. “Am I looking down my nose enough?”

“Perfect,” Alistair opined with a grin, the feel of an adventure - even a small one - making him feel almost giddy with anticipation.

“That’ll do nicely,” Donal added approvingly.

“Do I need an alias?” she wondered, returning to her normal speaking voice. “My surname is fairly distinctly Fereldan.”

“Make something up if they ask,” Alistair advised you. “They wouldn’t remember it anyway.” And chances were, he wouldn’t be able to pronounce it. Better to just call her ‘The Ambassador’ and leave it at that.

As they walked, the moon drifted from behind the clouds, hovering behind the towering spire of the Chantry, and he stopped, staring upward as memory stirred to life.

“Right here,” he murmured. “This is where we were when we saw Riordan jump onto the Archdemon’s back.” He lifted his hand, pointing to the Chantry. “He had climbed up there somehow, all the way to the top, and when it swooped low, he just … jumped.” It had been the most crazy-brave stunt that Alistair had ever seen in his life. Still was, in fact, no matter that it had been doomed to fail. “He was actually riding it for a few seconds. Riding the sodding Archdemon.” How had that felt, to be so close to the song that had made Alistair want to run screaming and fall to his knees in wonder at the same time? “He was stabbing it between the wings; we just stood there watching - I could see it.” He still could, if he closed his eyes, could still remember that wild and desperate hope that had churned in his chest that maybe he or Aedan wouldn’t have to be the ones to die - and the shame for having that hope.

He lowered his hand. “But it went crazy - I doubt it had ever had anything on its back before. It started twisting and thrashing. He couldn’t hold on; nobody could have." He turned his head, his gaze moving instinctively to the spot where the tiny figure had separated from the larger form and plummeted down until it was lost to sight behind the rooftops. “They never found his body.” Burnt beyond recognition in one of the buildings or lost in the river, most likely. “He crippled it enough that it had to land on Fort Drakon, though. Without that, it might have flown away; it might have been days, weeks before we got close enough to kill it.” Weeks in which the darkspawn ravaged Denerim and Ferelden unchecked and people died.

“He was a brave man,” Donal said softly.

“He was a hero,” Alistair replied, turning his gaze from the sky to meet Nicolette’s eyes. “He was a hero, and nobody remembers him.” It wasn’t right. It was all Aedan this and Aedan that, honors heaped on the Hero of Ferelden, who had taken a handy loophole to avoid the fate that Riordan had literally leaped to embrace. And Alistair couldn’t tell anyone; Aedan damn sure didn’t want to discuss it. “He deserves to be remembered. Honored.” And he couldn’t even get his so-called ‘advisers’ to listen to him on that. Some King. At least he could tell her this much, and maybe she would tell someone else, and they would tell someone else. That was how it worked, right?
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#26
Alistair gave her licence to make something up. Nicolette smiled. Making things up was her forte, and by the time she had recited her pseudonym if she was asked for it, the guard asking would have forgotten the first name.

They were passing the Chantry when Alistair paused, gazing up at the sky. “Right here. This is where we were when we saw Riordan jump onto the Archdemon’s back.”

The name did not ring a bell for Nicolette, and she had heard quite a few different accounts of the battle of Denerim over the years. She had never put together how the Wardens had managed to keep the Archdemon on the rooftop long enough to kill it; she had assumed that it had been downed by a siege weapon of some description. Now she heard the full truth of it, and the bravery of the man who had brought it down.

“He was stabbing it between the wings; we just stood there watching – I could see it. But it went crazy - I doubt it had ever had anything on its back before. It started twisting and thrashing. He couldn’t hold on; nobody could have." Alistair’s head turned, his gaze following a memory that Nicolette could not follow. Although she could guess what he was seeing. “They never found his body.”

Riodan’s bravery had potentially saved hundreds of people from dying as the darkspawn horde laid waste to the city and surrounding areas. “He was a hero. He was a hero, and nobody remembers him. He deserves to be remembered. Honoured.”

Nicolette nodded, solemn now. Although she had yet to meet anybody else who matched Riodan’s feat, she had heard some variant on this a few times over the years. He did so well, and nobody remembers him. She was so brave, but nobody will know.

“There is a saying I heard, long ago. That nobody is truly gone, as long as their name is still spoken. Riodan.” She met Alistair’s gaze. Her views on what people were doing on earth and what happened after they died did not match any particular established credo, and it sometimes made people a little uncomfortable when they realised she was not Andrastian. But sometimes her thoughts could offer a little comfort. “I will add his name to my litany. He will be mentioned every time I tell the story, from this point on.”

She looked upwards again. “May he be in a place of peace.”

That was what anybody would hope for after a life of fighting, yes? Somewhere where the fighting was all done.
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#27
There was no flicker of recognition in Nicolette’s eyes when Alistair uttered Riordan’s name. There had the obligatory ‘He was a brave man,’ speeches at the celebrations after, but no one had really wanted to dwell over much on it, and after all, they had a living hero to celebrate! A king to crown! Business as usual to get back to as soon as possible! The dead were burned and forgotten, the living moved on, and the Blight - and the unity that had made the victory possible - quickly receded into memory.

But the minstrel listened attentively to the tale that he told and, more importantly, seemed to understand why he was telling her.

“There is a saying I heard, long ago. That nobody is truly gone, as long as their name is still spoken. Riodan.” Her pretty eyes regarded him steadily, her expression kind. “I will add his name to my litany. He will be mentioned every time I tell the story, from this point on. May he be in a place of peace.”

“Amen.” Something loosened in Alistair’s chest, and at the same time, something in his throat tightened. “Thank you,” he told her softly, feeling a decided pang of yearning that he knew he would not act upon. Beautiful and compassionate, talented and intelligent, she put most of the simpering and vapid nobles’ daughters who had been thrown at him to shame, but he’d never in a million years be permitted to court her, and he would not permit himself to engage in the kind of dalliance that had brought him into the world.

“Come on,” he told her with a smile, ignoring the encouraging look that Donal was giving him over her shoulder. The guard meant well, but he didn’t understand; he would be the far better match for her, as long as he treated her well.

The debris from the collapsed and burned structures had been cleared away for the most part, but construction took longer, and partially completed buildings stood next to vacant lots; some blocks reminded Alistair of the mouth of a brawler: whole teeth next to broken ones next to empty sockets where they’d been knocked clean out. Which was depressing.

“The walls held for a while,” he remembered as they walked, “but then the Archdemon blasted through in a few spots, and the darkspawn just poured in.” Too easy, if he let his eyes go a bit out of focus, to see the ghosts: men, dwarves, elves, locked in battle against a foe whose numbers seemed endless. “Once we saw the archdemon land on top of Fort Drakon, Aedan and I took Leliana and Wynne and started fighting our way toward it; we’d gotten separated from the others in the battle.” All the tactics they had honed over months of fighting together had not long survived the confusion of a battle of that scale. Alistair had been amazed later that all of them had survived.

The guard at the gates of Fort Drakon stepped forward to challenge them. “State your - Your Majesty!” His eyes widened, and he dipped a hasty bow, then snapped to attention, his fellows in the guardhouse behind him following suit.

“At ease, soldier.” Donal smoothly took the lead. “The Orlesian ambassador wished to see the place where the Archdemon was slain, and the King offered to escort her himself.” He nodded graciously to Nicolette, leaving it to her to introduce herself.

Alistair braced himself for the questions: at night? With a dog? And only a single guard in attendance? But evidently, rank was all that mattered here, because the guard simply saluted with a “Yes, Your Majesty. Shall I assemble an honor guard?”

“That won’t be needed,” Donal assured him. “The Fort is secure, and I think the location can be best appreciated with a minimum of people about.” He tipped the guard a wink, and Alistair turned all his will to not blushing.

“Of course, ser. You won’t be disturbed.”

“You do this often?” Alistair asked him in an undertone when they were far enough away.

“Often enough,” Donal replied, unperturbed. “Act as though you are supposed to be somewhere and most people will never question you. You have the additional advantage of being King: nobody is going to tell you where you’re supposed to be.”

“Nobody?” Alistair quirked an eyebrow at him. “You haven’t met Arl Eamon yet, I take it?”

“I have,” Donal responded. “He’s an Arl. You’re the King.”

Alistair opened his mouth to retort. Closed it. It wasn’t that simple. Was it? At any rate, it wasn’t a discussion that he wanted to have in front of Nicolette. “The darkspawn had filled the place by the time we got here,” he told her as he led the way to the steps. “They killed all the guards. The prisoners …” He shook his head slowly. “They never had a chance.” A couple had hidden beneath bunks and survived, but most had been slaughtered in their cells.

Conversation ceased as they climbed the stairs. Since the Blight had ended, Alistair had been allowed precious little time to train. It was all lessons and etiquette and appointments and ‘You have guards to fight for you, Your Majesty’. He wasn’t out of shape. Exactly. And he would have made it to the top without stopping, but when Donal paused them halfway up to see if Nicolette needed the rest, he certainly didn’t protest. Donal wasn’t winded at all, he noted enviously. He had to start getting out in the practice yard again. Just a couple of times a week.

At last, the hatch was thrown back, and he climbed out onto the roof, holding out a hand to assist Nicolette. There was a bit of a breeze aloft that hadn’t been felt at ground level, but it wasn’t too bad. The wispy clouds parted here and there to display the stars, and both moons were out on the eastern horizon: one nearly full, the other a waning crescent.

“I haven’t been up here since that day,” he remarked, glancing around curiously. “It’s a lot different with no one trying to kill us.” Peaceful, and rather pretty. Below, the city of Denerim spread out before them, torches and lamps and lights from windows marking the lines of the streets and the ships in the harbor illuminated by moonlight. Beyond, darkness reined to the west, except for the occasional lights from a farmhouse, while the moons reflected in the ocean to the east.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#28
“Amen.” Alistair paused. “Thank you.”

There was a tightness in his voice with which Nicolette was familiar, and she pushed the subject no further. At the same time, she felt a twinge of sorrow for him, not something she ever would have expected from speaking to a king. Something about him screamed of loneliness. It could not have been easy, going from a wandering Warden to the trappings of royalty. Skies knew that if anybody ever tried to place a crown on Nicolette’s head, she would run.

“Come on.” Alistair found his smile again – it was a sweet smile – and they continued their journey towards the Fort.

It rose above their heads as they approached, and was…intimidating to say the least. The tower was larger than many others she had seen, and there was something Fereldan just about the bulk of it. Nicolette gazed up at it, trying to imagine climbing to the top after what had to have already been a long and draining battle. Some evidence of it still remained in the houses that had yet to be repaired. “The walls held for a while, but then the Archdemon blasted through in a few spots, and the darkspawn just poured in.” They had become separated from most of the other companions. How had they been able to keep their minds on the fighting, not sure if their friends were dead or not?

As Nicolette’s imagination wrestled with the image of these streets on fire, darkspawn everywhere, and kind-faced Alistair wielding a sword, they reached the gates. A guard immediately stepped forward, and recognised Alistair on sight. Within moments everybody in the vicinity was bowing.

“At ease, soldier. The Orlesian ambassador wished to see the place where the Archdemon was slain, and the King offered to escort her himself.”

None of the guards asked why this time of night, or why the king and ambassador had turned up wearing clothing distinctly not that somebody of their respective stations might wear. There was likely to be some gossip in the guardhouse after this. Nicolette, amused by this, smiled in the most regal fashion she could manage, and dipped a small curtsey. “Marquess Alienor Ealisay de Quatreville.” She was gambling on the fact that not one of them would remember a word of the name. Besides, if any of them spotted her in the tavern later, she could always claim she just bore a remarkable likeness. “A pleasure.”

She was just about managing not to giggle.

Donal turned down the offer of an honour guard, and in so doing threw some fuel on the gossip fire. “The Fort is secure, and I think the location can be best appreciated with a minimum number of people about.” He then winked. Nicolette bit the inside of her mouth to try and hide a smile at his cheek, not altogether successfully.

As they passed through the gates, the men conducted a brief conversation in an undertone. Nicolette caught enough to get the gist; Alistair did not quite appreciate the doors that could be (literally) opened for him because of his position. A good trait, in a king.

They returned to the reason for being here. Alistair had a grim addition to his tale; Fort Drakon was a prison, and had successfully kept prisoners inside – but not kept the darkspawn out. Many people had died in here.

It did not feel right to say anything, so she nodded somberly and they started the ascent. The stairs were designed to minimise the strain of climbing to the top, but even for somebody who danced every day, raising her foot at such an angle was an unnatural one and she was grateful when Donal offered a chance for them to pause. Glancing to the side, she noticed Alistair did not appear too upset about the pause either.

Fortunately she did not slow them down much, and before long they had reached the ladder leading to the top of the stairs. Nicolette took Alistair’s hand and emerged onto the roof.

Off to one side, the sea perfectly reflected the two moons, and stars glittered against the black velvet of the sky. Out around them spread the city, and almost every window had a candle or light from a fire in it. In the other direction lay the quiet countryside. Nicolette had never been this high up in a city at night before, and the sight stole her breath more effectively than the climb had. “Ouah.

“I haven’t been up here since that day. It’s a lot different with no one trying to kill us.”

“I imagine there was not much time to take in the view.” She would be distracted if darkspawn were ambushing her and a giant dragon was trying to fry her as well. “It is beautiful up here.”

She wandered towards the edge, taking in as much of the sight as she could. She wanted to stamp it on her memory as firmly as she could – but they were not in a hurry, and she wanted to hear more of Alistair’s version of events. She turned back to him. “So when you reached the top – what happened next?”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#29
The string of gobbledygook that Nicolette rattled off for her name would have tied Alistair’s tongue in a knot, had he tried to reproduce it, and the uncomprehending expressions on the faces of the guards suggested they would be in a similar predicament. Word would undoubtedly get back to Eamon at some point, but it wouldn’t be tonight, and that was enough for him.

He didn’t remember the climb being as long as it was, and without any adrenaline (all right, sheer terror) surging in his blood, it was considerably more arduous (though admittedly, the lack of exercise and ready availability of all he wanted to eat undoubtedly played a part, as well), but the awed sound that escaped Nicolette when she stepped out and looked around, and the wondering look on her face as she approached the edge with him, was more than worth it.

“It is beautiful up here,” she breathed, her gaze sweeping the panorama that spread out below them.

“It is,” Alistair agreed softly. The view from the upper windows of the palace was pretty enough, but was mostly limited by elevation to the Palace District and a bit beyond. Up here, he could see the city in its entirety and beyond, the horizon stretching out to the unseen portions of his realm. He’d walked the length and breadth of it as a Grey Warden, but since becoming King, he hadn’t set foot outside of Denerim, though the decrees that he signed affected folk from Gwaren to Redcliffe to Highever. It didn’t seem right.

Nicolette turned her attention from the view back to him. “So when you reached the top – what happened next?”

He turned away from the edge, scanning the broad stone roof, letting his memories overlay the present. “The Archdemon was … right there,” he said after a moment, pointing at a spot currently occupied by a ballista. “It was - huge.” He shook his head slowly at the understatement. They had killed two high dragons at that point, but the Archdemon had dwarfed even Flemeth’s altered form. “And it was really angry.” Another understatement. “But it was afraid, too.” Crippled and unable to fly, it found itself facing the ages-old enemy of its kind years earlier than any other Archdemon had; had it known that?

Dismissing such musings, he turned his attention to telling the tale of the fight, trying hard to do it as Leliana might have, painting a picture with words. The way the Archdemon had flailed and roared, crippled but still dangerous, with fangs and claws striking out at anyone in range and gouts of flame reaching across the distance. The way he and Aedan bobbed and weaved, striking with their swords, then ducking behind their shields and backpedaling. The way flames had washed around the edges of his shield, the metal heating against his arm until Wynne’s protective magic had wrapped around him like a cool breeze, the next spell healing the burns and cuts. Despite her age, the mage had never wavered, keeping up with them all the way up the stairs (a feat he was only just now truly appreciating, with his thighs still burning from the climb) and casting spell after spell, protecting them from the flames, healing their wounds, hurling conjured stones at the Archdemon to distract it, giving them openings to attack.

The way Leliana’s hair had shone in in a stray sunbeam that pierced the gloom as she stood on the ramparts firing one arrow after another, her song of encouragement helping him to find reserves of courage he’d not known he had when darkspawn had begun pouring onto the roof in answer to the Archdemon’s summons. How his heart had leaped into his throat at the sight of flame enveloping her, and the relief when Wynne’s magic met the fire and countered it, leaving the bard unharmed.

“We never would have done it if not for them,” he told her. “They’re as much the heroes of Fereldan as Aedan.” And they hadn’t taken a loophole that promised them survival, although to be completely fair, Aedan had known that he could die before he ever reached the Archdemon, could be killed by the Archdemon, and hadn’t flinched from it.

“And then, while I was fighting an alpha hurlock, a genlock hit me with a maul and broke my leg,” he reported with a grimace at the memory. “Leli killed the genlock, but Wynne couldn’t heal the leg with magic in the middle of combat - she explained it later and all I got out of it was that my leg might have wound up like this -” He held up his hands together at an obtuse angle, “- for good, but that was plenty for me. I couldn’t walk.” He shook his head, his expression bleak, the remembered frustration only slightly less keen that it had been in the moment. “The Archdemon was down, really down now, but it was still alive. Aedan charged in without his shield, raised his sword up in both hands,” he pantomimed the motion, “and drove it down through its skull.

“Then it exploded.” He assumed a droll aspect briefly before growing serious. “I thought we were all dead for sure. I was out for nearly a week, and when I came around, I thought at first that I was the only one who had survived.” He drew a deep breath, let it out and smiled at Nicolette. “Maker, it was a relief when I found out they were all alive. Felt like a miracle.”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
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#30
Nicolette had heard many people reliving their adventures before, but never in the same setting in which the adventure had occurred. As Alistair gazed around the rooftop, pausing over different points, she wondered if he was seeing it as it had been; ablaze, siege weapons at the corners, darkspawn everywhere, and right ahead of where he now faced – “The Archdemon was…right there. It was – huge.” Nicolette’s imagination supplied the scale. It was capable of summoning up something so vast it was insane to imagine that humans could take it down – but they had. “And it was really angry. But it was afraid, too.”

How had he known, in the chaos of that battle? Could dragons ever truly be afraid? Nicolette did not ask, as Alistair continued the story for her, pointing out where his friends had stood, how they had fought, how close they had come multiple times to everything just ending. An arrow two inches to the left or a poisoned sword striking flesh instead of armour, and the only two hopes for Ferelden might have died there. But they had not, and it was owed at least in part to people who had not been Wardens, but had fought bravely nonetheless. “We never would have done it without them. They’re as much the heroes of Ferelden as Aedan.”

“And you yourself,” she offered, softly. From what she had heard so far, Alistair seemed like the sort of person who gave himself very little credit for anything. Interestingly, now she thought about it, people generally did not give him much credit in the retellings of the stories she had heard so far. Everything had been so about Aedan – how he had slain Loghian, avenged his murdered family, killed the archdemon and set Alistair on the throne – that the now-king seemed to take a backseat to it all. But they had fought alongside each other, every step of the way. It could easily have been Alistair who landed that final blow.

But his leg had been broken, just as the Archdemon was crippled, and Aedan took the final blow.

“Then it exploded.” Nicolette started, not having expected that, but then smiled in response to the amused grin on Alistair’s face. “I thought we were all dead for sure. I was out for nearly a week, and when I came around, I thought at first that I was the only one who had survived. Maker, it was a relief when I found out they were all alive. Felt like a miracle.”

“Your whole tale seems to have been that. From the scraps of the stories I have picked up so far, it is incredible you all survived from Ostagar clean through to the end.” Her smile gentled, and she touched his arm. “Thank you for showing me. I imagine reliving it cannot be easy for you.”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
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Posts
97
#31
Nicolette was an attentive audience as Alistair unspooled the story of that last, titanic fight, and he realized that Donal was listening intently, as well, his expression respectful. Which felt a bit awkward. He wasn’t trying to brag, or inflate his own deeds just to impress a pretty girl. His own memories of himself in those chaotic moments centered on how sodding afraid he had been, while he remembered the deeds of his companions and how brave they had been, and so that is how he told it.

“And you yourself,” Nicolette reminded him when he spoke of how the victory belonged to Leliana and Wynne as much as Aedan.

He nodded and shrugged at the same time, crouching to scratch at Thibault’s ears to give the blush time to subside. “I don’t know that we would have even made it out of the Korcari Wilds if Aedan hadn’t stepped up,” he admitted candidly. “When I woke up in Flemeth’s hut and found out that the rest of the order was dead … I wanted to be dead, too. It seemed hopeless, even with the treaties, but he never gave up, and the others stayed with us: Leliana, Wynne, Zevran, Sten, Shayle, Oghren, Morrigan.” He made himself include her, even though it left a bitter taste in his mouth, because she had helped, even though she’d had her own reasons for doing so from the start and kept them hidden while she wrapped Aedan around her little finger. “I just remember being afraid.” Even his desire to be the one to strike the killing blow on the Archdemon hadn’t been borne of courage, but the glum certainty that being dead would be better than being King … for Ferelden, as well as himself. And so far, he hadn’t experienced anything to contradict that judgment, but he was stuck with the hand he’d been dealt.

“You and every other soldier that’s ever gone into battle,” Donal spoke up. “I think you’re selling yourself short, ser. If I am never as afraid as I was at Ostagar, I’ll count myself a lucky man.”

“But aren’t you supposed to get used to it?” Alistair asked him, rising from his crouch. “I felt just as scared fighting the Archdemon as I did at Ostagar.” Ostagar had been his first real battle; he’d expected to be afraid. And admittedly, encountering smaller groups of darkspawn had come to feel almost routine after a few weeks, but -

Donal snorted. “You were up against a sodding Archdemon, ser,” the guard reminded him. “If you hadn’t been afraid, you’d be a damn fool. The things you faced in a year, the typical man-at-arms doesn’t see in a lifetime. Darkspawn, werewolves, undead … I miss anything?”

“That about covers it,” Alistair replied. The broodmother was not something he wanted to talk about, or even think about. It hadn’t just been frightening … it had been so bone-deep wrong that he’d spent nearly an hour scrubbing himself in the underground river they had camped beside after the fight.

“But you didn’t run.” Steady blue eyes met his. “Courage isn’t not feeling fear; it’s feeling it and fighting anyway.”

Alistair drew breath, let it out, nodded. Maybe Donal was just saying what he thought his King wanted to hear, but it didn’t feel that way, and hearing the words from another soldier meant more than all the toadying words offered by courtiers and nobles bent on currying favor. He’d spent most of the Blight in Aedan’s shadow, uncomfortably aware that he was the senior Warden, but quite sure that he’d make a mess of things if he took charge. He’d been doing what he was told, following orders his whole sodding life, and if anybody had thought he was capable of giving them, maybe his father would have acknowledged him, even privately. He was only King because there was no other choice; Aedan would have been a possibility, but he didn’t possess the precious Theirin blood, and he was smart enough not to want it besides. But maybe he wasn’t quite as inept as he had gotten used to thinking he was … or at least, not a coward.

He’d cursed himself as he’d watched Aedan raising Starfang for the final blow, believing he’d killed his best friend, but when the Archdemon had exploded (and since every other sodding demon they fought had gone out that way, they really should have been expecting it), his last thought had been gratitude that he would be taken along with Aedan and regret that Wynne and Leliana would be lost, as well.

Nicolette’s eyes went wide when he mentioned the exploding part, then she smiled in relief when he assured her that they had all survived in what had felt like nothing less than a miracle.

“Your whole tale seems to have been that,” the minstrel told him. “From the scraps of the stories I have picked up so far, it is incredible you all survived from Ostagar clean through to the end.” She placed a hand upon his arm with a smile that tugged at his heart. “Thank you for showing me. I imagine reliving it cannot be easy for you.”

“It was easier knowing how it all ended,” he quipped with a smile that concealed the wistful yearning. He’d gotten used to knowing what he couldn’t have, and this sweet girl being anything but a friend definitely fell on that list. But a real friend was not a bad thing to one surrounded by handlers and fawning lackeys.

His relief when he woke to find that Wynne - bless her - had used the last of her mana to shield them all from the blast had been great enough to displace his anger over the discovery of the bargain that Aedan had struck to keep both of them alive, but in the months since, the secret had taken a toll on their friendship as Aedan refused to even try to search for Morrigan and his child - who might or might not be the next Archdemon. The Warden-Commander seldom visited Denerim any more, and Alistair had not been to Amaranthine.

“Thank you for listening,” he told her. “People should know how it really happened.” All right, not that part, but Eamon and his cronies were all too eager to put the past behind them and move forward, crafting a shining narrative of the Blight that swept the less-shiny parts beneath the nearest handy rug. Already, Alistair had heard assertions - quickly hushed when he came within earshot - that ceding parts of the Brecilian to the Dalish had been a mistake, and how much help could the city elves really have been in the battle of Denerim, anyway, when everyone knew that they could barely take care of themselves, let alone fight?
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
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Posts
186
#32
Alistair demurred over his importance, claiming that Aedan had been the driving force behind their success. “When I woke up in Flemeth’s hut and found out the rest of the order was dead…I wanted to be dead, too. It seemed hopeless, even with the treaties, but he never gave up, and the others stayed with us: Leliana, Wynne, Zevran, Sten, Shayle, Oghren, Morrigan.”

Nicolette did not miss the twist to Alistair’s mouth at the last name. All the companions had achieved almost mythological status, but other than the Wardens, none more so than Morrigan. For a woman who had been apostate all her life to join and fight alongside people who could have turned her into the Chantry at any time had sparked curiosity, and the reasons for her joining were shrouded in mystery. What was possible to know was that Alistair had not cared for her, and Nicolette resolved to stay any questions she had about the woman.

Particularly when it was clear that Alistair needed some care of his own.

“I just remember being afraid.”

Donal spoke up then in Alistair’s defence, arguing that he would have been stupid not to be afraid. Nicolette nodded her agreement. “Had it been me waking up there to learn that Ferelden’s fate rested on me, my heart would have failed on the spot. You may have been scared, but yours did not.”

“But aren’t you supposed to get used to it? I felt just as scared fighting the Archdemon as I did at Ostagar.”

Which made perfect sense to Nicolette, considering she remained as scared of falling into the clutches of bandits or slavers as she had been as a child. That fear had not diminished with time, although it had not prevented her from leaving as freely as she was able.

Donal listed off the other things Alistair had fought, and Nicolette’s ears pricked up at ‘werewolves’. She wondered if he knew Aerion. But it sounded as though those had been the least of his worries.

“But you didn’t run.” Donal faced Alistair, meeting his gaze evenly. “Courage isn’t not feeling fear; it’s feeling fear and fighting anyway.”

“I run,” Nicolette offered, honestly. “Every time I am scared.”

True, a Warden-King measuring his courage against that of a travelling minstrel was always likely to come out on top, but it was all she could think of to comfort him, along with offering praise and thanks for telling the story.

“It was easier knowing how it all ended.” Alistair’s mouth curled in a gentle smile. “Thank you for listening. People should know how it really happened.”

“I will pass it all on every time I tell the tale.” She paused, considering her next words for a moment. Even with Donal around, she could feel the weight of Alistair’s loneliness, and while she could not help relieve it much, she could offer to listen. “And if there is anything else you wish to talk about – well, I am not always in Denerim. But when I am, I would be happy to be a listening ear. And if you feel like receiving the occasional letter full of chatter, I would be happy to write to you.”

She kissed his cheek gently. "Friends?"
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
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Posts
97
#33
Logic argued that fear had been an expected - even rational - response to much of what Alistair had found himself facing during the Blight. Even Aedan had admitted to fear, but he seldom showed it openly, and Alistair had often found himself contrasting his fellow Warden’s brash confidence with the constant churn of apprehension in his gut. He always came up on the short end of such self-evaluations, and while the months since the end of the Blight had revealed a few things that suggested that Aedan’s boldness had its downsides, it hadn’t made Alistair take a better view of his own shortcomings. The simple fact of the matter was that he’d been scared shitless for most of those months: afraid of the Blight, afraid of failing, afraid of dying, afraid of living and becoming the King that no one had ever intended he be.

It wasn’t something that a man should probably admit to a pretty girl, or a King to one of the soldiers sworn to protect him, but months of hearing Eamon and his cronies puffing up Alistair’s supposed heroism in public while treating him like a child behind closed doors had worn thin. He was tired of pretending, tired of feeling like a fraud, tired of being alone. The last couple of hours had been the closest thing to real companionship he’d had in weeks, and he owed them honesty.

Neither of them seemed put off by his admission; Donal surprised him by admitting to feeling fear himself, then pointing out that he hadn’t fled, which was true enough, though he’d never really felt it was an option. If he had bolted, one or more of his friends might have died, and that possibility frightened him far more than thoughts of his own death. Still, it was heartening; maybe Donal was just telling him what he thought he wanted to hear, but the blue eyes held a frankness that Alistair rarely saw these days.

“I run,” Nicolette told him. “Every time I am scared.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Alistair assured her, and meant it. He’d seen too many people die during the Blight when they should have been alive and going about their lives, simply because they hadn’t run until it was too late.

She thanked him for telling her the tale, and he tried to explain that she’d done him the greater kindness, just by letting him tell it as he remembered it, without judging or doubting that his recollections were right.

“I will pass it all on every time I tell the tale,” she promised him, and that would have been more than enough, but she hesitated, then went on. “And if there is anything else you wish to talk about – well, I am not always in Denerim. But when I am, I would be happy to be a listening ear. And if you feel like receiving the occasional letter full of chatter, I would be happy to write to you.”

“I’d like that,” he said immediately, then realized that it would not be so simple as that. His mail was brought to him, and no attempt was made to hide the fact that the wax seals had been broken on most of them. Letters from an Orlesian minstrel would cause an uproar, and quite possibly put Nicolette in danger.

“Send them through me,” Donal spoke up, adding with a wink and a crooked grin, “I’ve got a few lady friends; one more won’t draw any attention. Just ask for Donal Jeffries. I can pass her letters from you, too,” he added, as though he wasn’t talking about something that could get him fired or worse if Eamon caught him.

Alistair hesitated briefly, weighing the risks, then nodded. “Thank you,” he told the guard gratefully, feeling happier than he had in ages with the realization that he had an ally in the palace.

“Friends?” The kiss to his cheek took Alistair by surprise, but he managed not to blush.

“Friends,” he agreed, smiling at her, carefully packing the wistful what-ifs away. “And if you ever need anything, just send word through Donal.”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
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Posts
186
#34
The look of shy pleasure on Alistair’s face when Nicolette offered to write to him confirmed that he would enjoy it. She harboured no illusions that anything that was sent to him would be read beforehand, so she might have to pick her words very carefully before she actually wrote them down, but Donal divined the trace of her thoughts. “Send them through me. I’ve got a few lady friends-” Nicolette could well believe it, the bodyguard was very handsome – “one more won’t draw any attention. Just ask for Donal Jeffries.” He offered to pass letters from Alistair to her back the other way as well, which seemed to cause Alistair some concern, although he did accept. Nicolette smiled.

“Thank you, Donal.”

She then kissed Alistair's cheek, and he blushed sweetly. Nicolette would not be surprised if there would be a few noble ladies at court who were taken as much by Alistair’s gentle disposition and his smile as much as the temptation of being queen. She hoped that when he married – and chances are he would have to make that choice some day – it would be to somebody who liked him for his sweet nature as much as his position. More than, hopefully.

“Friends,” he agreed. “And if you ever need anything, just send word through Donal.”

“I will.” She turned to kiss Donal on the cheek as well, earning another grin. Despite the risks in going with them, she was glad she had taken the chance; earning both a new slant on a familiar story and the memory of the view. There was also the fact that Ferelden seemed to have the king it needed, following everything Loghain had done during the Blight. “Now, perhaps we should go? Given the sense of humour the universe has, I would not be surprised if the real Orlesian ambassador would show up unexpectedly for a tour.”
 
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