Fandom: Dragon Age: Origins
Characters: Anora, Alistair
Pairings: Alistair/Anora, Alistair/Aeducan
Spoilers: Mild, through just before the Landsmeet (and hints of some things that happened afterwards)
Notes: This has been poking at my brain ever since Anora spoke the line below, after various negotiations were completed. (I may not be remembering the line exactly word-for-word; corrections are appreciated! But that is the gist of it.) My take on how the conversation might have gone.
Anora: I have... spoken with Alistair. Perhaps I will not hate this mad betrothal as much as I thought.
Anora was growing weary of visitors to her guest room. First a parade of Arl Eamon's servants to check on her comfort, followed by the lady Warden for a lengthy and difficult negotiation, then Erlina coming for instructions; more servants; the Warden again, to finalize their plans for the Landsmeet; and lastly the arl himself, ostensibly to invite her for dinner but in truth to take her temperature regarding this ridiculous marriage notion. Although she had assured him of her cooperation, the very idea was giving her a headache, so when yet another tentative rap sounded against her doorframe, she was tempted to send whoever it was away. But proper training overrode good sense, as usual, and so she raised her voice, projecting a calmness she did not truly feel. "Yes?"
Her misgivings were fully realized as the last person on earth she wanted to see stuck his head through the door, a wary look in his eyes. "Your Majesty?"
Go away, oh please, just go away. "Alistair," she said, keeping her disdain in check. Barely. "Do come in."
He did so, closing the door behind him. Then he approached her, sidelong, as if he were an animal trying to avoid a trap. She allowed herself a silent sigh; fear on his part and antipathy on hers was no way to begin this relationship, such as it was. So she stepped forward, dropping her crossed arms and trying to look as non-threatening as possible.
"You seem to have recovered from your misadventure at Fort Drakon," she said.
He responded with a single stiff nod. "Well enough, Your Majesty."
She looked him over and noticed no obvious injuries. Doubtless he had endured far worse in the field. "I'm glad you came to no serious harm."
"Thanks to Leliana and Sten," he replied. "And-- I appreciate the help you provided to get them inside."
"It was the least I could do." She saw him shifting from foot to foot; time to bring the small talk to a close. "I suppose I can guess why you're here."
He ducked his head, rubbing at his neck. "Well. Er. Yes, I suppose you can. Majesty."
"Anora." She said it through gritted teeth, and he flinched; she took a deep breath. "Anora," she repeated, more carefully this time. "Please. If we are to be-- to go through with... this, you might as well get used to calling me by my name."
"Yes-- Anora." How could she have ever thought this callow boy was a near-twin to Cailan? Similar around the eyes, perhaps, the same nose and strong jaw and broad shoulders, but on Alistair, the shoulders slumped and his eyes -- darker than Cailan's, a muddy hazel -- were too full of uncertainty. Cailan would never have let other people arrange his life for him like this; he would have taken control of the situation. And, she had to admit, possibly bungled it beyond repair, but he would have at least tried to take a hand.
"Well, Alistair." She started to cross her arms again, then thought better of it. "Say what you came to say."
"Right." Alistair took a breath and pulled his shoulders back. "So... I don't imagine a marriage between us was your first choice. To be honest, it wasn't mine either. But I have been, ah, convinced. This is the best compromise to end the civil war, a viable alternative to offer the Landsmeet."
Anora couldn't help a wry smile. "Convinced by your friend the Warden?"
Alistair nodded. "By Sereda, yes." His posture relaxed as he spoke her name, eyes softening as he looked into the distance. "She can be quite persuasive. Perhaps you've noticed."
"The fact that we are even having this conversation is proof positive of that," Anora replied. "I assure you, I would never have thought of this scheme on my own."
"Nor I," Alistair said. "Nor even Arl Eamon, although he was quick to come around to the idea. But I didn't come here to talk about that." He paused and took a moment to think. When he spoke again, his voice was softer, but somehow more confident. "As I said, this was not the first choice, for either of us. But if this is the hand fate deals me, I intend to make the best of it. I don't know anything about how to be a good king, and I know even less about being a good husband. But I will do my best to learn." As he spoke, he had come closer, and he reached out, taking Anora's right hand in both of his. His hands were huge, perhaps even larger than Cailan's, and rough from a life of fighting and manual labor. "I promise, Anora, I will not keep you from your rule. I have no desire to take that away from you, and I have much to learn from you and your experience. I hope you are willing to teach me. In return, I offer what little I have, beyond my parentage: my service, my loyalty, my protection, my heirs."
Anora was surprised by this speech, and even more surprised that she found herself touched by it. "Good marriages have been built on far less."
"Perhaps so." He dropped her hand and lowered his eyes. His next words were so soft she had to strain to hear them. "There is one thing, though, that I cannot give."
"I understand," she answered. "In truth, it is just as well. My first marriage was arranged, but we also married for love, in the end. In my own way, I do still grieve for Cailan. It is... easier, perhaps, to know that you have no great expectations for me to transfer my affections."
"You have my word, I will not shame you," Alistair said. "I said I would be loyal, and I mean it."
Anora hesitated before the next question, but she found she had to ask. "And does that include giving her up, if I ask it of you?"
A knife of pain slashed across his face, and he turned away. "I... I do not know. Please, don't ask me to make that decision. Not yet. Let's just get through the Landsmeet first. Then-- I'll think about... that."
Should she tell him? Perhaps she would regret this, but she needed to know the truth. "When I asked her the same question, she seemed disinclined to leave."
"I'm not surprised," Alistair said, eyes still averted. "She's as stubborn as she is--" Abruptly, he fell silent, clearly rethinking what he had been about to say. He looked back to Anora, face more composed now. "And matters are different among the dwarves, or so I gather. They have different traditions, regarding... that sort of thing."
"I see." Anora raised an eyebrow, tempted to ask for more detail, but she forbore -- time enough for that later. "Regardless, I will respect your request, for now. And... thank you, Alistair, for coming to me. As you say, this was not my first choice. But if it will bring unity, I am willing. And your honesty makes it an easier prospect to face."
"I am glad to hear it." Alistair brought a fist to his chest and bowed. "Thank you, Your-- Anora. I will see you tomorrow, at the Landsmeet."
"Indeed." She inclined her head in a friendly nod. "Go and make whatever preparations you need. And... good luck."
"Thanks." And with that, he left, door left ajar behind him; Anora watched him go. Perhaps this wouldn't be such a terrible match after all.
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