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Chantry And State [Solo, Complete]

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
((OOC – 17 Justinian: 35 Dragon, midafternoon, Denerim Cathedral))

Common knowledge held that Grand Cleric Elemena had begun losing her hearing some twenty years before the Fifth Blight (having been born sometime around the end of the Fourth, the less reverent would add), and was currently as deaf as a post.

Since assuming the throne, Alistair had developed his own suspicions, but he'd always played along: bellowing and repeating himself in their conversations, both public and private.

He was in no mood to play today.

“Put that away, please,” he said in a polite but firm voice as soon as the doors to the Grand Cleric's office had closed behind him, leaving the two of them alone. “We both know you don't need it.”

Clear green eyes regarded him calmly for a long moment before Elemena set aside the ivory horn that she normally brandished at one ear. “His Majesty honors me with this visit,” she told him in a level voice that was only slightly elevated. She did not rise from behind the massive desk, though she did set aside the quill she'd been holding, folding her hands together atop the parchment in a gesture that may have been intended to obscure the writing upon it … or may simply have been intended as a bit of misdirection to keep him from focusing his attention fully upon the conversation. Leliana had schooled him in such tactics before she had left, but he'd have given much to have her here now; she couldn't have accompanied him into this meeting, but she likely would have had some information on the goings-on within the Chantry. The intelligence service that he was building with Constance's advice was in its infancy, and where the Chantry was concerned, he was as blind as a bat.

Another time, he might have felt a bit of glee at having scored the first point. Not now. “You know why I am here, Your Holiness,” he said, electing to ignore the chair before the desk and remain standing. Flawlessly polite, perfectly formal. He'd been rehearsing with Constance in anticipation of this meeting; he would not let his anger over the ignored letter and the news he'd received from Nathaniel goad him out of his composure. Eamon had sought to control him thusly, through benign neglect and redirection, but at the end of the day, Eamon had been Arl and Alistair King. Elemena might in theory be a Fereldan citizen, subject to his rule, but in actuality, she was as autonomous as Nathaniel was, and with the might of an institution that spanned the southern kingdoms, dwarfing the military capabilities of his kingdom. He could ill afford to provoke an Exalted March upon Ferelden.

But neither could he – would he – allow the Chantry to completely ignore the laws and customs that they claimed to support whenever those laws and customs were deemed inconvenient.

“I received your missive,” Elemena responded. “The incident in the Alienage was tragic -”

“It was criminal,” he countered flatly. “Two people died, a house was destroyed, and a child was shot with a crossbow and kidnapped.”

“The child was a mage,” the Grand Cleric informed him, showing no annoyance at being interrupted. “The deaths and the destruction of the house were the direct result of that magic. The child's injury has been treated, and he has been taken to Kinloch Hold, where he can learn to control his magic. He will be safe there; if his family had entrusted him to the Chantry when his magic first manifested, everything that took place could have been prevented.”

“And you think that hiring Tevinter thugs to do the job that your templars should be doing is going to make people trust the Chantry?” He couldn't quite keep the heat out of his voice. “With all due respect, Your Holiness, what were you thinking? You know what the residents of the Alienage went through at the hands of the Tevinters!”

“We did not hire the Tevinter,” Elemena replied, a hint of annoyance creeping into her voice. “A notice was placed on the Chantry board offering a reward for information on apostates. Routine patrols by templars had detected the unauthorized use of magic in the Market District. No authorization for apprehension by outside agents was given or implied, and had the fool approached us directly, we would have forbidden him from doing what he did. The notice did bear fruit as it was intended to, by the way. Several days after the event in the Alienage, we received information that led us to an apostate – another Tevinter, unfortunately – residing in Denerim under the guise of a curator of a museum.” One silvered eyebrow arched slightly. “I'm told you visited the establishment yourself; it seems that you have let your skills atrophy.”

She was trying to nudge him off balance; he didn't let her. “I'm quite certain he didn't use magic while I was there, so there was nothing that my skills would have noticed,” he countered, keeping his voice as level as hers now. “And since your templars required outside information to apprehend him, it seems that their skills weren't quite up to the task, either.” He didn't ask what had happened to the man; he didn't care. He'd tolerated the presence of a Tevinter on Fereldan soil because he had done nothing to warrant his removal. “But I will not tolerate you turning my people against each other. If you want people to trust the Chantry, you need to give them something to trust.”

Both eyebrows lifted now. “We protect the people from the dangers of uncontrolled magic,” Elemena told him firmly. “Untrained mages are a danger to everyone around them, to say nothing of maleficarum and abominations.”

“Your Holiness, I was trained as a templar,” he shot back, trying for patience, “and the first time I ever encountered an abomination or a blood mage was in Kinloch Hold!”

She seemed unmoved by the irony. “Uldred's uprising is a prime example of -”

“Of what?” he cut her off, heat rising in his voice again. “How well your templars can control mages? The Grey Wardens reclaimed Kinloch while the templars cowered behind a locked door!”

“An example of why magic must be closely monitored and controlled,” the Grand Cleric went on as though he had not interrupted her, icy calm meeting his heat. “Procedures at Kinloch had grown lax; that has been corrected. The Chantry is grateful for the assistance provided by the Grey Wardens -”

“So grateful that your templars murdered a Grey Warden on her way to the Deep Roads?” He didn't expect that the news would be a surprise to her, and it plainly was not.

“I just received a report on that incident this morning,” Elemena replied, her expression settling into stone. “The templars claim that the Grey Warden in question attacked them without provocation.” A pause, then, “You know her history, do you not?”

He did. Aedan had given him one of the first headaches of his reign when he had conscripted a mage arrested and sentenced to death for hurling a fireball into the sodding chantry, killing one templar and injuring numerous people. Just one more impetuous act by the Hero of Ferelden that others had to face the consequences of.

“I do,” he admitted, knowing that he was giving up any chance of redress on that issue with that admission. The surface dwarves who had witnessed the end of that fight had not seen the beginning, and even if they had attacked first, seeking revenge for the years-old incident, there was no one alive to dispute their account.

But you had to pick your battles, if you had any hope of winning at least some of them. Maya was dead, likely at least in part because of her own actions (and for all he knew, she had attacked them), but there were others: Anders and Mysaria. Mages who might yet be recruited into the Wardens, children whose magic had not yet manifested. That was the battle he needed to win … or at least fight to a draw.

“She had indicated her intent to Warden-Commander Howe to seek her death fighting darkspawn in the Deep Roads,” he said now, measuring his words carefully. He hadn't had the chance to rehearse this part with Constance. “Given her history of hostility toward templars, however, their account is plausible.”

“I'm so glad that you realize that,” Elemena observed coolly.

Damn it. Maybe he should have let Nate have this meeting. “Given recent tensions, however, I am sure that you can understand Warden-Commander Howe's concern over the incident. Grey Wardens are autonomous of both secular rulers and Chantry authority. Whatever her actions may or may not have been at the end, Warden Turan fought valiantly alongside the others of her order to defend the people of Redcliffe against darkspawn.”

“That is their duty, is it not?” the Grand Cleric inquired.

“It is,” he agreed, “and they sacrifice everything to that duty, even their lives. Two Wardens died at Redcliffe; one of them was a mage. They would not have succeeded at all, had it not been for the other mages among them. They do their duty without the compulsion of a templar presence, even at risk and cost of their lives, and in every other nation in the southern kingdom, that dedication is acknowledged by the Chantry.”

“Acknowledged?” Elemena's expression was one of polite curiosity. “In what way?”

She was good; he'd give her that. “The phylacteries of circle mages who join the Grey Wardens are given to the Warden-Commander of that nation's order,” he told her, wondering how long she'd been aware of that fact. She'd never seen fit to enlighten him, and evidently, it was such a long-held custom that the Wardens in other nations had never even thought it needed mentioning.

“I see.” She regarded him for a long moment before going on. “You do realize that such a request coming on the heels of an unprovoked attack by a Grey Warden mage on templars is not the best argument for such a trust?”

Why had he wanted to be King again? Oh, right: he hadn't. “The acts of a single mage with a history of hostility to the Chantry should not be given undue weight against the selfless acts of the others. Warden-Commander Howe has made every effort to respect the bounds between the order and the Chantry.”

“With the exception of conscripting a roomful of individuals under Chantry authority?” Elemena inquired, the eyebrows doing the arch thing again. “Including two templars and an apostate?”

“The circumstances of that incident are known to us both,” he replied, resigned to the fact that she was going to make him work for it. “He did not do it lightly, and has been at pains since to avoid any chance of a repetition. Grey Warden secrets must be protected for the good of the order. Grey Wardens are our best defense against darkspawn, and the only ones who can kill an Archdemon.”

“The Blight is ended, Your Majesty,” she observed. “Maker willing, it will be a century or more before the next.”

“Maker willing,” Alistair agreed, not adding that the Maker might not have any say in what Morrigan and Aedan's bastard eventually did … or did not do. “Or it could begin tomorrow. There is no knowing when another Archdemon will be awakened. And in Ferelden, the thaw will continue for many years, until the last of the darkspawn are dead or sealed beneath the ground. But whether a day, a year or a century, the Grey Wardens will rise to the defense of the rest of Thedas, and do so with no expectation or demand of recompense. They deserve whatever aid we can give them in their endless vigilance.”

“Spoken like a true Grey Warden,” Elemena said wryly, but there was no real malice in her face and voice. “It was unfortunate that knowledge of this custom was lost after the Wardens were exiled from Ferelden during the Storm Age.” Trust her to get in that dig, but Alistair didn't react, just waited until she went on. “It is an oversight that is easily enough rectified, however. I will send orders to Kinloch Hold to have the phylacteries of all Grey Wardens from Ferelden's circle delivered into the custody of Warden-Commander Howe … or would you prefer to have them brought to you?”

“I am King of Ferelden,” he replied. “I will always be a Grey Warden, but Nathaniel commands the order in Ferelden, and he should get the phylacteries. I simply offered to mediate in this matter to expedite an equitable solution.” Perhaps 'offered' wasn't the right word, but it would do for the current conversation; he had little doubt that Nate would have another term for it, but by the time that chat took place, hopefully the phylacteries would be in his possession, and he would have to be content with that.

The Grand Cleric nodded decisively. “I'll see it done, then, Your Majesty,” she said, the second time she'd addressed him by title in as many minutes. He took it as a positive sign.

“And the incident in the Alienage?” he pressed.

Her lips thinned. “The Tevinter acted without the knowledge or consent of the Chantry,” she told him. “If the templars had been involved, they could have suppressed the boy's magic and prevented the subsequent events. Do with him as you see fit when he is apprehended. It should be made clear that the Chantry had no part in the methods that the mercenary employed.”

Another win, but he wasn't quite done yet. “That would be more easily done if you rescinded the notice encouraging neighbor to betray neighbor for coin.”

“You offer rewards for information leading to the capture of those who commit crimes of a non-magical nature, do you not?” Elemena wanted to know.

Damn. “I do,” he admitted.

“Order must be maintained, Your Majesty,” she told him, not without sympathy. “Uncontrolled magic is every bit as dangerous as darkspawn. Templars are trained to deal with it in a manner that protects both the mage and other people, but as you correctly pointed out, they cannot find what has been well hidden. I cannot in conscience refuse to use any method that may help us identify a mage and bring them under Chantry control before they can bring harm to themselves or others. But,” she lifted a hand, her manner becoming somewhat conciliatory, “I will make it clear that the notice applies only to providing information, and that anyone outside the Chantry who attempts apprehension of a mage will be subject to the King's justice.”

He nodded slowly. “Good enough.”

She cocked her head, as though in thought. “Perhaps a joint proclamation, with both royal and Chantry seals, to demonstrate our unity on the issue?”

Which would by extension suggest royal support on the bounty for information on mages. Oh, she was good. “Good idea,” he agreed. Give a little, get a little.

“I'll have it drafted and sent over immediately, then.” She offered him a pleased smile that might have seemed grandmotherly to the unwary. “Was there anything else, Your Majesty?”

There was, but he was out of things to trade. He'd fought this battle to a draw, and he'd have to be content with what he'd gained. “No, Your Holiness.”

“I'd invite you to stay for tea,” she told him, “but I'm sure that you have a great deal to do to prepare for your wedding.”

“I do,” he admitted, though in truth, there was little about the upcoming ceremony that Constance didn't have in hand. It made for a good excuse, though, because tea with the Grand Cleric ranked only slightly above brunch with the Archdemon on his list of ways to spend an afternoon. “I should go.”

“Give my regards to Teyrna Yorath,” Elemena said warmly.

“I will,” he promised her, turning to go. “Good day, Your Holiness.” It could have gone better, but it could have gone worse … a lot worse.

“And Your Majesty?”

Warned by the light tone, he was already bracing himself as he turned back around. “Yes?”

“Sister Hortense sends her greetings.”

“She's still alive?” The words escaped him before he could censor them.

Elemena chuckled. “Yes, and her mind is as sharp as it ever was, though joint-ail has limited her activity greatly in recent years. She remembers you quite clearly; she says that she always knew that you would do well.”

She'd certainly never mentioned it to him at the time. There was not a hint of irony or amusement in Elemena's face or voice, but she knew. He knew she knew. And she knew that he knew that she knew. Alistair could feel his cheeks heating. “I remember her, too.” More than he would ever admit to a living soul. “Give her my best, and tell her that I hope to see her at the wedding.”

“I beg your pardon, Your Majesty?” Elemena's voice was suddenly quite a bit louder than it had been, and she took up the ivory horn, holding it to her left ear. “I'm afraid I didn't quite hear you.”

He heard her, though. Loud and clear. He could have pointed out that blackmail was beneath both their stations, but it would have been a waste of time. His secrets were safe with her so long as hers were safe with him. “I said, give her my best and tell her that I hope to see her at the wedding,” he repeated, obligingly raising his voice to the customary bellow.

“I'll do that,” she told him with a serene smile, allowing him to beat a semi-dignified retreat to where his honor guard waited to escort him back to the palace.