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tragic and true ([personal profile] i_paint_the_sky) wrote in [community profile] peopleofthedas2014-02-06 08:32 am

The Mistress, chapter 10/? (Rated R)

Crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] swooping_is_bad, [livejournal.com profile] dragonage_fic, and [livejournal.com profile] fandomfic

Title:
The Mistress
Rating: R
Pairings: Starts with Cailan/Elissa, eventual Alistair/Elissa.
Summary: Elissa Cousland, the favourite of King Cailan, finds herself thrown from the political arena into something completely different as the coming Blight changes her world forever.

Previous chapters can be found on AO3.


Chapter 10: Into the Valley of Death


The world was darkness.

Elissa ran, even though she knew running was futile. It would find her, of that she was certain, even if the who or what it was remained a mystery.

She stumbled suddenly. A man lay at her feet, making a terrible noise, and she knew that he was dying.

“Do not listen, Pup,” her father told her, “you are strong. You can face this.”

There was another man nearby, begging and pleading. “You ask too much. There is no glory in this!”

A hand stroked her cheek. “Elissa, my dear girl,” her mother said, “you carry the hopes of the both of us now.”

“No,” she told them, “please, do not ask this of me. I am afraid.”

“Elissa,” said yet another voice, that sounded like two. “Wake up. It's just a dream.”

She opened her eyes and immediately closed them, shielding herself against the light of a single flame that seemed to her as bright as the sun.

“Shhh, darling,” Cailan said, pulling her close, “you're safe.

“Cailan,” she gasped, her throat dry. “Thank Andraste, it was just ...”

“A nightmare,” he finished, stroking her hair slowly. “But it's over now.”

Elissa took a deep breath, leaning into his body even more. “I'm not sure if it will ever be over now,” she whispered, more to herself than to the king. Cailan frowned but didn't say anything, only holding her closer and pressing his lips against her temple. She took another breath, and then another, until finally her heart began to steady and she began to actually feel awake.

She pushed herself up into a seated position and faced him. “Thank you,” she murmured, before kissing him softly.

“Do you want to tell me about it?” Cailan asked.

Elissa thought clearly about what she had seen, then shook her head. “No, I ... I can't.”

“Ah, then it has to do with this mysterious Joining ritual.”

She replied with silence and finally he shrugged. “I'll get it out of Duncan one day,” he told her. “When all of this is over.”

She smiled. “Good luck with that."

“Doubt all you want. I am the King and I will have my way,” he said, smiling back and in that moment, he was absolutely handsome and beautiful, more so than ever before. “And now,” he added, “do you think you'll be able to sleep again? We have a busy day ahead of us.”

“I know. That only makes it harder, knowing that tomorrow could –”

“You don't need to worry about tomorrow, Elissa,” he said, his voice firm. “I will do everything I can to make sure you and Alistair are safe.”

“Alistair?” she said, startled. “Why would you worry about him?”

Cailan didn't answer right away, instead getting back under the covers before looking at her with an unreadable expression. “Alistair is ... well, let's just say I see a lot of myself in him and so who better to protect you?”

Elissa had no response for that other than to shake her head in bewilderment as she settled down beside the king. His arm wrapped around her, pulling her close as she tried, with mixed success, to fall back to sleep.

*


It stormed all day, as if the sky itself realized that battle was drawing near. Elissa spent most of the day inside Cailan's tent, Barkspawn at her side, trying to rest as well as remember all she had heard about the battlefield. The more she remembered, the more she clung to Cailan's promise of protection.

As evening fell, she could hear the sound of armour being donned and quickly strapped hers on. Once she was ready, she went outside and headed for Duncan's tent. She was nearly there when she spotted Alistair heading towards her.

“There you are,” he said as he drew near. “I've been looking all over for you.”

“Well, here I am,” she replied, not answering the unasked question. If Alistair didn't already know where to look, that was his problem, not hers. “What do you need?”

“Duncan asked me to find you. Apparently the King wishes us to attend some sort of meeting.”

Elissa's heart gave a tiny leap as she realized this was it. “Then we should not keep his Majesty waiting. Lead on.”

Alistair frowned. “You aren't curious about why the King would ask for us?”

“No, I'm not,” she replied. “But if you wish to know why, then wouldn't the best way be to go and find out?”

He thought about it for a minute, then chuckled. “I suppose the lady is right. Let's go then.”

As they walked through the camp, Elissa could not help but look left and right, trying to spot anyone from Highever, perhaps even Fergus. It was disappointing, though not surprising, when she failed. If any of them had reached Ostagar, she would have been told. Not that she held out much hope that any of them lived, not anymore. It had been far too long without any signs.

“Are you looking for someone?”

She was startled enough by Alistair's question to answer without thought. “My brother.”

“Oh,” he said with a slow nod, “I see. I didn't know you had a brother.”

“I might not ... not any more.”

He stopped walking suddenly, looking at her when she eventually paused as well. When he remained oddly silent, Elissa found herself needing, and perhaps even wanting, to explain. “Before I came here, my home was attacked, all my family ... murdered. My brother and his men, though, they had already left, gone to fight by the King's side. Except they never arrived here. Maker knows what happened but it cannot have been good.”

Alistair's eyes were wide but somehow solemn. “I'm sorry,” he said softly.

“Thank you,” she told him. “Now, we should get to this meeting.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence, soon arriving at the meeting spot. The King was already there, and with him were Duncan and Teryn Loghain. Cailan's voice carried clearly as they drew close.

“Loghain, my decision is final! I will stand by the Grey Wardens in this assault.”

Loghain's hand hit the table before them with a clang. “You risk too much, Cailan! The darkspawn horde is too dangerous for you to be playing hero on the front lines.”

Elissa and Alistair came to stand beside Duncan, while the King and Teryn continued to argue, not seeming to notice the new arrivals.

“If that's the case,” Cailan said, “perhaps we should wait for the Orlesian forces to join us, after all.”

Elissa couldn't help but cringe at that. She knew Cailan had grown up with just as many stories about Orlais as she had. Given how many of those stories had also included Loghain, the Hero of River Dane, she couldn't imagine bringing an Orlesian army onto Ferelden soil would win any points now.

Loghain's voice was low when he replied. “I must repeat my protest to your fool notion that we need the Orlesians to defend ourselves.”

Cailan turned towards him, his face determined. “It is not a fool notion. Our arguments with the Orlesians are a thing of the past ... and you will remember who is king.”

Loghain turned away and was suddenly looking directly at Elissa. “How fortunate Maric did not live to see his son ready to hand Ferelden over to those who enslaved us for a century,” he said softly, eyes locked on hers.

Cailan also turned aside, looking for Duncan, and also noticed Elissa and Alistair's arrival. “Excellent, you're all here,” he said. “If we cannot wait, then our current forces will have to suffice. Duncan, are your men ready for battle?”

“They are, your Majesty,” Duncan confirmed.

“Excellent,” Cailan said, nodding. “With the Grey Wardens on the front line, battling the horde, then our victory is all but assured.”

Loghain scoffed. “Your fascination with glory and legends will be your undoing, Cailan. We must attend to reality.”

The King met her gaze and smiled, shaking his head. “Fine, speak your strategy. The Grey Wardens and I draw the darkspawn into charging our lines, and then?”

Loghain leaned over the table, where Elissa now saw a map of the battlefield lay. “You will alert the tower to light the beacon, signalling my men to charge from-”

“To flank the darkspawn, I remember,” Cailan interrupted. “This is the Tower of Ishal in the ruins, yes? Well, who shall light this beacon?”

“I have a few men stationed there. It's not a dangerous task, but it is vital.”

A smile spread slowly over Cailan's face. “Then we should send our best,” he said. “We will send Ser Alastair and Lady Elissa to make sure it's done.”

Alastair shifted beside her, his mouth opening to protest, until a stern look from Duncan kept him silent. Meanwhile, Loghain eyed them both, then grimaced.

“Very well, the Grey Wardens will light the beacon,” he said before turning and walking from the table.

“Thank you, Loghain” Cailan called after him. “I cannot wait for that glorious moment! The Grey Wardens battle beside the King for Ferelden to stem the tide of evil.

“Yes, Cailan,” came Loghain's reply, barely loud enough for Elissa to hear, “a glorious moment for us all.”

“I must also take my leave now,” Cailan said to them, “but I wish all of you well in the coming battle.” He walked passed them, pausing for a moment at Elissa's side. “Good luck,” he murmured, before walking away.

Duncan turned to them a few moments after the King left. “You heard the plan. The two of you will go to the Tower of Ishal and ensure the beacon is lit.”

“So,” Alistair said, an edge of bitterness in his voice, “he needs two Grey Wardens up there holding the torch, just in case.”

This earned Alistair another stern look. “That is not your choice,” Duncan told him. “If King Cailan wishes Grey Wardens to ensure the beacon is lit, then Grey Wardens will be there. We must do whatever it takes to destroy the darkspawn ... exciting or no.”

“I get it, I get it,” Alistair said with a dramatic sigh. He glanced over at Elissa. “Just so you know, if the king ever asks me to put on a dress and dance the Remigold, I'm drawing the line, darkspawn or no.”

She stared at him for a moment, then shook her head. “I think I might pay to see that.”

It was dark but she was certain his cheeks were suddenly quite a bit redder. “For you, maybe. But it has to be a pretty dress.”

It was Duncan's turn to sigh now, drawing their attention back to him. “From here, you two are on your own. Remember, you are both Grey Wardens. I expect you to be worthy of that title.”

“Duncan,” Alistair said, his voice suddenly serious and full of more emotional depth than Elissa thought he possessed, “may the Maker watch over you.”

“May He watch over us all.”