For those of you familiar with the game series, this is my non-canonical idea of the Warden taking a vacation in Kirkwall with an old friend. For all of you who have been kind enough to have followed along all this time, I hope you enjoy!
*To read all the previous tales in their entirety, please visit my A03 page.
The journal that held all the stories – the triumphs, the defeats, the friendships, the romance, the laughter, and the tears – had grown tattered throughout the year. I’m not certain when I started writing in it I had any idea of how much I would have to tell. In the end, I discovered I had lived quite the adventure. So how was it I was now sitting alone, hiding in the shadow of a great tree, to avoid being seen?
My lover had become king.
And I was now known as the Hero.
I didn’t feel like one at the moment. I hadn’t even felt like one when I sunk my blade into the archdemon, thereby ending The Blight. What was it to be a “hero” anyway?
I could imagine at the top of a list identifying such qualities, running like a coward was not among them. And yet, that was exactly what I was doing. At the end of a yearlong journey to end a terrifying threat and unite a country, I found myself alone and without purpose.
Ensuring he became king was a decision I would never regret, but the consequences of those actions separated us emotionally, and to ensure his legacy, I had to separate myself from him physically. It was beyond rational thought to expect me to stand by and watch him marry another in the hopes their union would produce an heir, and it would be cruel to flaunt our bond before his future wife as his mistress.
I had been making decisions for the welfare of my companions for a year, and this was just another decision that had to be made. He would never ask me to leave, but in time, his nobles may have had their sway. It was best to leave him while he was buried within all his new responsibilities; when it would be easy to distract himself from thoughts of me.
It was a kindness. Or so I kept telling myself.
I felt rather guilty that I was leaving him alone in his new role, but I had to trust that his advisors, especially Eamon, would offer him sound advice. He would learn to trust his instincts.
This was all that consumed my mind the first night I traveled from Denerim. I had decided to only travel at night, to avoid rumors of sightings of the Hero. I found myself thinking of some random thing and turning to talk to Sten or Zevran only to shake my head at such forgetfulness. I hummed Leliana’s tunes as a way to break the silence. At daybreak, I found refuge in an abandoned house. As I drifted off to sleep, I realized how difficult it would be to learn to sleep alone. I missed his warmth and comforting embrace, although the weeks prior to my desertion disappearancedeparture I had already distanced myself from him. I found such a predicament to be a lonely place.
I awoke at dusk, the wisps of sleep still blurring the edges of my mind, and reached out for him. I would not weep for the loss, but the first sting of tears burned the corners of my eyes, and so I admonished myself for the yearning. I had made my decision, and I had to live with it.
For three days I traveled like that – longing for my friends and their conversation, and waking up each morning missing him even more. Perhaps it was the knowledge that I was only a few days’ journey from his arms that made the pain of our separation so acute. When I was across the Waking Sea, out of arm’s reach, maybe then I could see beyond…this.
In the week’s that led up to his coronation, I had made quiet inquiries in regards to passage to Kirkwall. Cullen was there, and outside of my companions and those in the Circle, he was the only other person I knew. It would be good to see a friendly face, although his last letter to me had held notes of bitterness and anger. He had not recovered fully from his imprisonment at the hands of Uldred and his followers, and it seemed as if his new commanding officer, Meredith, was continuing to fan the flames of his fears.
I had no idea what sort of reception might be waiting for me, especially since I hadn’t announced my arrival. By the time I had everything in order for my travels, I realized that I would arrive most likely before a letter, and as I did not wish for any trail to be discovered of my whereabouts, I did not write him. Hopefully, given his state of mind he would still see me as his friend and not rouse the Order against me.
Although my Grey Warden status did exempt me from their rules, I still wanted to keep my presence secret so that I could figure out what it was I was supposed to do next.
I arrived in Amaranthine in the wee hours of the fourth morning and made my way to The Crown and Lion, an inn where Isabela said she would find me. I ordered a small meal and made my way to a corner table that would allow me the best vantage point of the place. I hid myself behind the hood of my cloak and waited for the pirate. Luckily I did not have to wait long.
Isabela sauntered in before I had made it halfway through my breakfast. She took long, assured steps across the inn, her hips swaying in a teasing manner. She had changed some since our first meeting. Her hair was longer, darker, her skin more golden, but her voice still held that mischievous tone. “Well, look at you. When my men told me we had an unexpected guest, I never would’ve guessed. I’d like to say the year’s been good to you, but, my sweet thing, you look terrible.”
“Is that how you welcome an old friend?” I stood up to shake her hand.
Her grip was strong, and she smelled of spices and the sea. “What is there if not the truth between friends? Was saving the world ever so rough?”
“It’s all been…rough.” I sat back down heavy.
“Hence the need for all this hush-hush business.”
“Aye. I do not wish to put you into a compromising position…”
“Compromise away, love.” Her soft laugh came as a welcome respite after the last few days of solitude, and I had to laugh myself.
“Given the current situation…”
“That situation being your lover on the throne of Ferelden and you being a mage.”
I shook my head solemnly, tears burning to be set free. I swallowed hard.
“Ah, I see. So you need a little quiet retreat into anonymity?”
“Then why Kirkwall?”
“I have a friend there.”
Isabela smiled a knowing smile. “Mm hmm. Well, it is a bustling city full of Ferelden refugees. I’m certain you’ll blend right in.” She stared at me for a long moment. “And then what? Do you think it will be that easy to slip away?”
“No. I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“Perfect! Meet me on the docks when you’re ready.” She winked and sauntered out of the inn.
Keiko and I just looked at one another sort of confused.