What was left when the fire was gone?
I thought it felt right but that right was wrong.
All caught up in the eye of the storm.
And trying to figure out what it's like moving on.
And I don't even know what words I've said,
My mouth kept moving but my mind went dead,
So picking up the pieces, now where to begin?
The hardest part of ending is starting again.
Linkin Park- Waiting for the end.
Alistair took a deep breath of clammy Ferelden air that didn't help the throbbing in the back of his head. She was leaving in a few days and he was reluctantly stuck in bed. He wasn't in bed now, but he wasn't far from it. Alistair leaned on the cold, stone wall that stopped him from carelessly falling to his death. That was the last thing he wanted, so he stepped away from the wall and headed back into his chambers.
The room was undeniably messy; Cameron's clothes were scattered carelessly across the floor. He feared what her room must have looked like while she lived in her estate in Kirkwall. He was just as bad though; his clothes were in an untidy heap in front of the dresser. Well maybe not as bad. He thought, as a small smile played on his lips.
A feeling of dread entered his mind as the thought of this room being tidy again when she left. What would he do without her? She had only just started opening up to him again, even if she did tell him it had been her birthday three days after it occurred. When he calculated that the three days ago had been the first time they made love, he felt instantly better.
Now it was over a week later and Alistair was getting restless. Cameron was leaving for Antiva for Maker knows how long and she was going by herself. As the king he shouldn't allow this, but if he couldn't go with her who would? He was the only person she talked to, except some in the guard, but they had no experience in anything expect guarding the castle walls. Of course there was Tomas, he had shown a great liking to her, yet it was clear even to him that Tomas liked her more than he should. Cameron, in her current state of mind, didn't seem to notice, or didn't care. This made her so much different from Riona. Memories of Riona flirting and tempting men she knew fancied her proved his point.
Alistair smoothed the back of his hand across his forehead before deciding he had to see her. Walking down to the sparring ring took him less than five minutes and he was just in time to see Cameron enter the ring, looking stronger and healthier than she has in months. Her dark red hair had been pulled into a braid that fell down her back. She wore armour that he had specifically ordered from Master Wade; made of silverite steel with a tint of red. On the back was the same engraving that was on the front of the journal he'd given her. It was fitting to her womanly frame and showed off her slender hips. She held two Finesse blades in either hand that glowed with enchantments. In her firm stance she looked like a fine rogue.
Alistair pulled his gaze away from her to find Tomas also looking at her. Alistair took this chance to confront him. As he approached, he was already prepared for the hesitance and nervousness in Tomas' eyes as he realised a king wanted to chat. These sort of looks he saw often in his guards, which he felt was the worst part of being king. As part of the Grey Warden's he was accepted and had always felt as part of the group. These days, he didn't have many 'true' friends.
"You're majesty." Tomas bowed.
Alistair couldn't help but sigh. "Please." Tomas lifted his head sceptically.
"You're majesty wishes to speak to me?" This man was clearly bemused by that fact. Tomas wasn't a handsome man; Alistair knew that straight off. His eyes were like slits under large bushy eyebrows. His lips were thin, and Alistair could see they were chapped. His hair was a lot longer and scruffier than when they set off for Cumberland, seven months ago.
"Yes, privately. If that's alright?" Alistair couldn't believe he was doing this. Even with the ache to get back to bed he knew this had to be done. He motioned for Tomas to follow him across the courtyard and into one of three kitchens. This one in particular was for the guards. He could hear someone scuttling round in the small larder off to the side but it didn't matter.
Alistair turned to Tomas who watched him eagerly. "I need you to do something for me because I know you and Cameron have become more than just acquaintances." He hesitated.
"As you must know, Cameron is leaving in a few days for Antiva. I must ask you to go with her." As soon as he said the words, the glow in Tomas' eyes, when he registered what Alistair said, had been enough for him to want to take back his words, however Alistair also realised that he could trust this man, with every inch of his soul, to keep her safe.
So he didn't say anything as Tomas reached out his hand to shake Alistair's. "I'd be honoured."
X X X
Picking up speed, I rolled away from Trainer Grady's blade as it sliced into the air My body fills with adrenaline as he regains his composure and turns on me. No training for months was showing as I hesitated before lunging towards Grady. The odds, however, were against me as Grady tackled me. If he didn't cradle me against him, I would have surely knocked my head on the ground.
"You need more training." His tone was serious and very different from the playful taunting from when we first began.
"I'll try harder." My hands tightened on the swords against my waist. Grady still hadn't let go, which made me fell uncomfortable. I wriggled my hips to signal to him, which must have worked because a frown creased onto his forehead, and he jumped to his feet.
"What? I don't understand." And I didn't. Was he saying I was useless? That there was no point trying harder if I couldn't do the simple basics anymore?
"You are in pain. Every thing you threw my way caused you agony. Didn't it?" He said this as he was helping me to my feet.
"Yes, but I can work through that." I squeezed the swords tighter to me afraid he was going to snatch them away.
Grady sighed. "No." He said again, but carried on before I could argue, "Have you ever tried archery?" This question caught me off guard. When I was a teenager, Archery had just been a hobby of mine, a secret hobby, because of my age, mother never would have approved.
"Yes I have. Why?"
"It's time to put them away." He gestured to the daggers in my hands.
That was how I found myself only five minutes later with a quiver of arrows over my shoulder and a bow I held loosely in my hands. In truth, I wasn't happy to give up my daggers for a bow and arrow because it meant coming out of my comfort zone. Yes, I had done it as a hobby, but that was nearly twenty years ago, there was a lot to catch up on.
Grady set up targets for me around the small empty field. The ground was still wet from the previous few days of rain. And the air smelt musty against the cool heat of the sun. In the corner of my eye I could see Alistair watching me, like he has been doing all day, yet not once has he tried to speak to me.
I notch an arrow. Sucking in my breath, I pull back the tight string and take aim. My hands shake from the intense, gut-wrenching fear. Grady is right beside me, pushing up my elbow and patting in my stomach. But his presence unnerves me. He whispers to me to relax but I wish he'd just leave me alone. I send the arrow soaring towards the dummy target but it misses. Aggravation grips me, so I move away from Grady, who seems to get the hint as he crosses his arms.
Grabbing another arrow I slide it into place and take aim. This time I hit the dummy in it's side. I keep going until I've hit the dummy several times on in its heart. Smug, I turn towards Grady and raise my eyebrows. "Well?"
The impressed smile on his face pleases me. "Feel any pain?"
"Not as much as earlier." It was hard to admit this, because I knew it meant that I couldn't use the swords again, but it was a sacrifice I had to make.
"I thought so." Unexpectedly, he turned on his heels and walked away from me.
"Where are you going?" I shouted.
He stopped and looked at me over his shoulder. "Our king wishes to speak with you." Then he was gone.
Finally, I thought. All day he hadn't said a word. I even saw him walk off with Tomas earlier. What had that been about? Of course, I knew why Alistair wasn't talking to me: he believed that he'd only get in the way while I was training. Yet, I'd rather he'd have been helping me instead of Grady.
Alistair strode towards me looking paler than when I left him this morning. He also looked nervous about something; he was even twiddling his thumbs. Shrugging the quiver of arrows from my shoulder, I waited till it hit the ground before I walked towards him.
"You were good." The smile was forced, which rose suspicions in my stomach.
"What's happened?" I asked, bluntly.
He sighed. "I've asked Tomas and Grady to go with you when you leave."
What is weird, though I know it would have been a rational response in my mind, I couldn't feel angry, not with him.
Instantly I smiled. "You didn't have to do that, you know." Shock registered on Alistair's face; obviously he hadn't expected my reaction.
"You're not mad?"
Stepping towards him, I reached out and took his left hand in both of mine. "I could never be mad at you."
Letting out a slow whistle he said. "Thank god for that. I was preparing myself for a spanking."
A slow seductive smile spread across my lips as I smoothed circles on the back of his hands. "Well, if you say it that way, I am quite mad." I stepped in closer to him till I could feel the warmth of his breath. "I might just have to spank you now."
He caught on quickly. "Oh… now I'm scared." He gulped; a tremble ran through him as my tongue flickered across his collarbone.
X X X
I slurped furiously at the hot brew in my hands. Beside me, Alistair was spread out across the bed, his feet hanging loosely off the bottom. His head was turned toward me; a desperate feeling rose in my chest to kiss him…but I didn't. He looked so peaceful and the colour was finally filling his cheeks again.
A nightmare had woken me during the night; I hadn't thrashed around like usual. It was just paralysing terror. It was the same nightmare as before, but I had seen it through more of a haze than I did before. I had wandered out into the hall looking for a servant and when I found one she had been more than happy to get me a nice hot brew.
The brew quickly became cold so I placed in onto the bedside table. Wriggling back down on the bed, I pulled the covers back over me and snuggled close to Alistair. He must have sensed me because his arm moved up and enveloped around me. "Nightmare?" He asked sleepily.
"Wasn't to bad." I whispered. Alistair reaches around and smoothes a strand of red hair from my face, his fingers brush against my forehead feeling more like a caress as he moves closer to me. I didn't want him to stop and he doesn't until I fall asleep.
I know it's mid-morning when I wake up because shadowa from the sun were still long. Alistair is already awake; I can hear him sipping a drink beside me on the bed. Slowly moving into a sitting position, I lean my head back on the wall and look straight ahead. "It's my last day today." I sighed. Alistair carried on drinking, pretending not to even notice I spoke. "Alistair?" Nothing. "What's wrong?" Worry clearly in my voice now.
"I want to go with you." His voice was emotionless.
"We've already talked about this Alistair. You can't desert Ferelden again." I said in a matter of fact.
"I could just follow you. I know where you're going." He says.
"Don't talk like this Alistair, you have to stay here." I can't help but feel frustrated.
"Say's who?" He turns to look at me, there are circles under his eyes.
I glare at him. "I say so."
Alistair glares back at me with such ferocity, that my own was put to shame. I knew what this was doing to him, and if our places were reversed I'd want to follow him too. "What if you die? What will I do then? At least if I go with you I can protect you."
"I have Tomas and Grady for that."
"Don't give me that! You and I both know you'll ditch them the first chance you get." I wasn't prepared for the shouting, so I winced. His face softened but the intensity of the situation didn't.
Shuffling forward I said. "I promise I won't ditch them."
He didn't look convinced but he seemed to have given up. "Just promise me you won't do anything stupid or reckless without reason."
"I promise." And I meant it too. My main plan was to get back safely, no side quests.
Alistair leaned towards me so that his lips hovered close to mine. I found myself wrapping my arms around his neck. Kissing his mouth. Smoothing his soft brown hair through my fingers.
A low groan escaped my lips as he pulled himself away from me. "I've got a surprise for you." He says.
Leaning back, I raise an eyebrow. "What sort of surprise?"
"It wouldn't be a surprise if I told you now would it?" He asked rhetorically. He moved away from the bed giving me a glimpse of nakedness. Blushing furiously, I threw the covers from my fully clothed body and hurried over to my mound of clothes.
"What clothes should I wear for this… surprise?" I shouted back at Alistair. Peaking a glance I saw he had already pulled on undergarments.
"I've ordered it to come in an hour so. Why don't you get cleaned up, and I'll go and get us some brew." He was out the door before he was even finished.
X X X
The servants scuttled nervously behind Alistair as he boiled the water on the stove. A smile played on his lips as he heard them whispering to each other. Beside him the kitchens main chef was kneading dough for early morning breakfast, in the corner of his eye he could see her sneaking curious glances at him. When he first came down she had insisted that they would make the drinks for him, she hadn't argued when he said of his reason.
Alistair's plan for today was to make this day perfect for Cameron in every single way. This wasn't going to be a day of luxury but exactly the opposite; he was going to take her on horseback into the Bannorn to a spot he had encountered during the Blight. It was a field of brilliant flowers encircled by vast woodland. He found the field with Riona whilst they had been searching for signs of darkspawn. It had been before he had realised his feelings for Riona, so he thought it to be the perfect place.
"Your majesty?" A voice broke into his thoughts. "The water has boiled." Alistair blinked a few times then looks towards the chef then at the boiled water.
"Sorry… I was lost in thought." Alistair said as he went to pick up the pan, the pan fell instantly from his hand as he felt a tinge of burning agony. Boiling water spilled over the marbled floor engulfing the air in liquid steam. Nearby servants squealed as the water spilled over their clogs. Alistair cursed silently thrusting his already blistered hand into his mouth.
The chef sighed beside him. "No, your majesty, that won't help. Here." She reached out; lacing her fingers around his wrist and pulled him away from the steaming pool. With a wet cloth she dabbed cold water onto Alistair's blistered hand in which he took this time too really look at his staff. He knew her name was Milena and that she was the oldest but most experienced of his kitchen staff. This close up he could see the laughter lines creased into her cheekbones. She had long, dark eyelashes highlighting bright sapphire eyes. With thin pink lips over a row of yellow teeth which he noticed when she smiled. Strangely, this did not disgust him. Her grey hair was wrapped in a cotton cloth with black patterned embroidery.
When she looked back up at him he said. "Maybe you should do it." Giving her a small shy smile. She reminded him of Wynne by her knowing eyes and wise aura and made him instantly respect her.
Her tone serious, as she filled a pan with water. "I won't repeat this to Lady Hawke."
"I'm sure she'd find it hilarious." Alistair was certain on that in fact. Cameron found everything funny lately. This almost made him want to tell her every detail 'till he remembered his dignity was still intact. "You're right. Don't repeat. Good idea."
Ten minutes later Milena handed a tray of two cups of brew to a young elven servant instead of Alistair, giving him a stern look as she did it. He couldn't blame her. The elven girl followed quietly as they walked back up to his chamber. Cameron would be almost ready if his calculations were correct.
When they approached the door he knocked loudly. Instantly, the door opened and he turned to take the tray from the young elven girl. Muttering a thank you as he did it. She gave him a strange look before scuttling back down the hall they had come. He didn't think further of it because he heard Cameron call his name from inside the room. Stepping through the door he was hit by a pang of desire. Cameron was dressed in a black, hip length tunic with a golden leather belt around the middle. Slacks fitted around her waist revealing a touch of skin on her hips. Her red hair fell in neat curls over her breasts framing her porcelain face. Alistair wanted to kiss her plump lips right then and there, but was stopped by the sheer beauty of what he was seeing. He didn't think he could turn his eyes away, even if he wanted to. She wasn't the exotic beauty that Riona was but she had sweetness to her face that would break any man's heart. Her face glowed like the sun, whilst Riona's was sharp and defined. Alistair instantly felt ashamed to be comparing his new love to a woman who had broken his heart. He had long since forgiven her, but the feeling would never truly go away.
X X X
Alistair stood gaping at me, almost drooling.
Awkwardly, I spread my arms out to strike a pose. Whenever I tried to look nice, even for Alistair, I felt like an idiot. He didn't help the situation by letting his tongue slack from his mouth.
The heat was instantly in my cheeks, exposing my embarrassment which, of course, Alistair noticed instantly.
"You look fantastic." He burst out, trying to ease the awkwardness. I thought he was lying since I wasn't in formal clothes. But the way he returned to staring got my hopes up. Clearly, he doesn't think I look horrid.
"Really?" I asked, fingering the slack bottoms. These had been what I usually wore as a farm girl in Lothering. When I first saw the clothes I knew instantly that we weren't staying in the castle, my suspicion instantly changed to a mix of excitement and relief. The desire to leave this castle was even greater than kissing Alistair these days.
Alistair walked forward slipping his arms around my waist. "You are the most fantastic, beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on." He said as he bent down and kissed my lips. A feeling of shock and exhilaration spread through me as he slipped his hand over my bottom.
A warm feeling passes through me as he placed kisses along my jaw. I sigh in relief as he pulls me closer. His gentle kisses send pulsing currents down my throat, tingling my very soul. In those seconds I forgot about everything, all I could focus on was his lips and his hands that gripped my bottom tighter with every kiss. A groan erupts from Alistair's throat as his memory assumingly came back to him. Slowly he releases himself from me and steps away.
"I'm guessing it's time to leave?" I asked smiling.
"It was time to leave five minutes ago." A small grin played on his lips.
X X X
There was only one secret that I still kept from Alistair, one that I couldn't even tell myself on this particular day. Just the thought of it made my eyes blur with tears. Thirty-two years ago today my sister and brother screamed an entrance into this world; it had been the greatest day of my mother's life, one she had buried into my mind since before I could even talk.
But I didn't want to remember it.
Not when Alistair had made this day so special for me. How could I ruin this day with tears when it would be our last for a very long time?
We rode on horseback for miles only stopping when we needed a break when the need to to empty our bladder's. We rode hard into the Bannorn only coming across the native wildlife. Darkspawn weren't a big problem anymore since Riona slayed the last dragon and miraculously survived. She had refused to tell Alistair how she had survived which was the last time they had spoken for years.
As a former Grey Warden, Alistair could sense the darkspawn; he was on high alert for any sign of danger. Even with over a dozen guards riding behind us, I felt safer with Alistair there. Being a recently kidnapped king, he had no chance of refusing protection and I had no problem with that. I wanted him to be as safe as possible even if it meant we could only ever truly be alone in his chamber.
Alistair seemed to be slowing down so I pulled up, to remain along side him. When he came to a full stop he jumped from his horse and tied the reins to a nearby tree; I did the same, tying my horse to the other tree. He turned towards the guards and raised his hand to signal them; they split off in two different directions.
Inching towards him, I waited silently as he watched them leaving. "Where are they going?" I asked after a long silence.
"Oh…" I said, letting it ring out. Alistair looked over his shoulder at me apologetically.
"It's a precaution; this place isn't as safe as it used to be."
The silence returned and a quiet sigh escaped me. This I hadn't anticipated. Waiting for long lengths of time hadn't been on my agenda for the day.
It had been over half an hour by the time a lone guard returned to us. "It's safe proceed, Your Majesty."
Alistair thanked the guard, then turned to me and slipped a cold hand into mine. "I'm sorry that took so long." Was all he said before we entered a field of beauty. A lump formed in my throat from the sight of such exquisiteness. Flowers of all colours covered the ground creating a forest of its own. A rich, sweet, smell filled my nostrils. I felt overwhelmed and dizzy just being in such a wondrous place. My grip tightened on Alistair's hand as he led me to the centre of the field, to a majestic oak tree. Underneath the tree someone had laid a brown blanket and a woven basket.
"You did this for me?" I whispered, as we were halfway through the forest of flowers.
"Yes, but also for myself as well."
"This place is so beautiful, how did you find it?" I asked as we sat down on the blanket in the shade of the oak tree.
Alistair hesitated before he answered. "It was during the blight; I and Riona had stumbled upon it." His gaze didn't meet mine as I considered him coming here with Riona. What they must have done? I couldn't deny a jolt of jealousy had swept through me.
"Oh…must have been…nice." He sensed my discomfort and instantly snapped up his head to look at me.
"Nothing happened. It was before we even…" He began.
"Stop!" I interrupted, holding up my hands. "I don't care. It's now that I care about."
Alistair stared at me at long length. My heart thumped loudly in my head as he stared me down. Under his gaze I felt exposed, a blush formed quickly on my cheeks. Alistair reached out entwining his fingers through mine; lifting the back of my hand to his lips, he kissed it lightly Shivers ran through me making me tremble, as he went further up my arm. By the time he was at my elbow he was already kneeling in front of me.
Impatiently, I gripped his chin and pulled him up so my lips could capture his. The sweet taste of his lips was so intoxicating that I bit down on his bottom lip. He jumped but didn't end the kiss even when I tasted the salty blood dripping from his swollen bottom lip. Alistair smooth's his finger along my jaw sending an irresistible wave of desire through me that I have to fight to stop myself from pulling him down onto me. Through the kisses I send a whisper of 'I love you's' into his mouth.
I couldn't have been any happier than I was in those moments.