sagacious_rage: (Loghain)
[personal profile] sagacious_rage
Title: Prodigal, Chapter Three: The Third Betrayal
Canon: Dragon Age
Genre/s: Family, Adventure, Romance
Characters/Pairing: Alistair, Maebh, Morrigan, Flemeth, Ser Bryant, Leliana, Sten, Sal (dog), Oghren
Rating: Chapter: T for violence Story: M, for consensual het sex
Warnings: none
Word Count: Chapter: 3,031 Story: 71,100
Story Summary: A mage with a terrible secret attempts to survive the Blight and the powerful people who would like nothing better than for her to disappear for good.
Chapter Summary: Maebh's world is destroyed with the army at Ostagar. Half-crazed with grief and left vulnerable in a world suddenly full of enemies, she heads to Ostagar.


The Third Betrayal

Kocari Wilds

One day after the Battle of Ostagar



"No."

Morrigan tilted her head, curious. ""Tis true, however much you may not want it to be so."

"Why are you lying. You liar." Maebh started to get up, and winced at the pain in her shoulder. Think straight. Focus. Her head spun.

Morrigan sighed. "Since I cannot show you the bodies myself, perhaps you would like to speak to your dimwitted friend outside? I am sure he would appreciate your convictions."

"Friend?" her brow furrowed as she tried to think. "You mean Alistair?"

"Yes. You will find him significantly more blubbery than normal, but still intact."

Maebh stood up slowly and pulled her robes over her head. Why was this woman lying to her? The Teyrn would never betray Cailan like that. Duncan isn't dead. This is all some horrible trick. But to what end? She tried to reconstruct the events of yesterday. The tent. She blushed. Duncan. Denerim. Alistair lying to her. She clenched her fist. The bridge. She shuddered. The tower. The darkspawn. The ogre. The beacon. More darkspawn.

She felt light headed. It didn't make sense. She stumbled outside, anxious to see Alistair. He would tell her the truth. Not this horrible lying apostate. Backstabber. Liar. Betrayer.

At the sound of the door opening, Alistair turned to her with a look that told her that Morrigan was not lying. It really happened. She felt faint. "Thank the Maker you're alive," Alistair breathed, relief working its way across his grief-stricken face.

"Why are they lying to us?" Maebh didn't want to let this hope go. She couldn't.

The grief returned. "They're not lying, Maebh. I'm... I'm sorry."

She bit her lip and shook her head. "It doesn't make any sense. Why would the Teyrn do this?"

"I don't know. I do know we were lucky that Morrigan's mother found us in time or we would be..." his voice trailed off and he looked down.

"Do not speak of me as if I were not here, boy," the woman snarled. Alistair turned his attention to her and Maebh turned her attention inward. It was true. Cailan was dead. The Teyrn had killed him.

Her sadness washed over her like a wave. She wrapped her arms around herself to calm the shaking. Concentrate. Focus. Her grief was a palpable thing. She took hold of it and wrestled it into manageable form. It coalesced, hardened, burned bright with cold fire. She was going to kill him. But not yet. As seductive as the idea of a direct confrontation was, it was not a sensible course of action. No, she was not strong enough yet. She could not trust anybody. She would have to gather forces. But how?

"The treaties," she said quietly.

"That's right, the treaties!" Alistair enthusiastically agreed. "We can call upon dwarves, elves, and mages!"

He and Flemeth were talking quickly. Their words ran together. Alistair was upset about something. So was Morrigan. She is to come with them? No. No more liars. No more backstabbers.

"If she doesn't want to come, she doesn't have to."

More talking. Why would they not stop talking. Morrigan packed her things. She led them out of the Wilds. Maebh followed, retreating back into numbness.

~*~


The dog looked at her.

"Shoo." Dog go away. Stop looking. Stop hoping. Stop trusting.

"He's imprinted on you. Mabari are like that," Alistair said gently.

Stupid Alistair. Stupid dog. "I don't want a dog." Don't want Alistair, either. Or Morrigan.

Want Cailan.

The dog followed. Cailan remained.

~*~


The bandit in front of her called her "the pretty one". She strangled him with her bare hands.

~*~


"There it is, Lothering. Pretty as a painting."

Maebh hated it. Hated all the people swarming the small village like vermin. Eating. Sleeping. Shitting. Living. Behind her, Cailan lay dead on the cold ground. Cailan's body lay corrupted, blackened, eaten, tainted, Blighted.

She turned, knelt down, and vomited.

"Oh, come now. It's not that bad," Alistair patted her on the back.

~*~


Not just Bryant, but Knight-Commander Bryant. His face concealed by a beard, maybe he was trying to look more like Greagoir? Maebh remembered his departure, reassigned because of rumors of impropriety with an apprentice. With her.

More lies.

He did not recognize her at first. "Don't tell anybody what you are," he says, once he remembers. "Loghain has been spreading lies about the Wardens. He says you betrayed the king." He presses a key into her hand. "I cannot help you directly." He gestures toward a cabinet in the back.

"Bryant, what's going to happen to you."

"We will stay until ordered to leave."

The caged giant stared at her. His eyes bore into her soul. His grief mirrored her own. "I will free you. Then you will come with me."

The Revered Mother refused. Alistair had to physically hold her back from beating the woman. "You cannot leave him!" Maebh cried. The casual cruelty of the clergy.

Alistair told Morrigan to take Maebh outside. She avoided the look of shocked disapproval on Bryant's face.

Alistair emerged some minutes later, unhappy.

He had the key.

~*~


In the tavern, some men confronted her. "This traitor murdered the king!"

A chantry sister tried to restrain her, and Maebh almost killed her, too. After the slaughter, the sister asked to join her. Maebh was so startled by the request, and the woman's bizarre story about talking to the Maker, she consented.

~*~


Finally at camp, a day's journey from Lothering, Maebh retired to her tent to clean darkspawn blood from her robes. She heard whispers from her companions, sitting by the fire.

"...Unstable. Unfit to lead," growled Sten.

"I know she hasn't been the most stable, but she usually isn't like this. At least, I don't think she's usually like this. Morrigan, you saw her before the battle."

"Yes, I met her for a few hours. And in those few hours she seemed an intelligent, prudent person, possessed of remarkable manners. However, she did suffer quite a blow to the head..."

"She suffers from no physical wound," Lelianna said softly. "She suffers from a broken heart."

The dog scratched at her tent flap. Her companions fell silent. She admitted the dog without looking at them. The dog flopped down on her bedroll. "You need a name," she said to him.

The dog wiggled, delighted at receiving the attention he craved. Maebh sat, cross-legged on the ground with her chin in one hand, scratching the dog's back with the other.

"Cuchulain?"

The dog simply panted and looked around.

"No. That won't do. Finn?"

No response.

"Brian?"

Nothing. She thought harder. Focused on the dog, who had turned and was trying to climb into her lap. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She closed her eyes and buried her face in his fur as the tears began to fall.

"Sal."

~*~

Frostback Mountains


The small group slowly made their way up the mountain, the gates of Orzammar looming above, the bodies of the recently vanquished assassins Loghain had sent after them below. Maebh was sandwiched between Alistair and Sal, huddled together to cut the wind. "You don't have to do that," Maebh said to Alistair.

"Do what? Honestly, there's a few things I'm doing right now that I don't really want to be, so if you could be more specific that would be helpful."

"Defend me. From the wind. From them," she gestured at Morrigan, Sten and Leliana behind them. "From your own grief," guilt welled in Maebh's heart. Alistair had lost more than she had, and yet she had been leaning on him.

He sighed. "Well, that's a relief. I've never been too good at the strong, manly role. I don't know how buggers like that," he jerked his head toward Sten, "do it really."

"I can hear you." Sten grumbled.

Alistair blanched and cleared his throat. "Anyway, that's very kind of you to say but actually I do have to."

Maebh pushed her hood back far enough to look him in the eye. "Why?"

"Well, you see, it's just us two now, isn't it? Us against the world," he paused and reconsidered. "Or rather, us against the darkspawn horde."

They walked in silence a while. Maebh spoke up first. "I'm glad you're with me."

Alistair grinned sheepishly. "Me, too. I mean, I'm glad I'm with you and not some of the other Grey Wardens. I mean, I'm not glad that they're...gone, you know..."

She smiled. "I understand." She continued to look at him while they walked. She examined his face, trying to place it. Why did he look so familiar?

Alistair glanced at her, uncomfortable. "What is it? I'm not dribbling out my nose, am I?"

"Oh!" Maebh tore her gaze away. "No, it's just... you look so familiar to me, and I can't figure out why. Were you ever at the tower?"

"I was present for one Harrowing, yes." His eyes grew haunted. "The apprentice, she didn't make it. It was...horrible. I didn't take it well. Greagoir said he didn't need one like me and so I was sent back to Denerim."

"Oh. That must be it, then. I must have seen you about."

"Yes, I imagine."

"What's going on up there?" Leliana gestured toward the gates.

They paused and listened. A messenger from Denerim was trying to enter the city, and meeting with bullnecked resistance from the guard. Maebh gasped.

"What is it?" Alistair strained to hear.

"That man just said 'King Loghain'." Her face twisted and her grip tightened on her staff. "I don't care if I get in or not, I'm going to kill him."

~*~


"Why are you playing these games," Sten growled.

"Sten," Maebh pressed her palms against her temples. "Please, I know what I'm doing."

"You cannot possibly expect to juggle all these alliances simultaneously. Make a choice. Choose a candidate and support him."

"And how would you have me decide, hm? Shall I go with whichever one has the prettiest beard? How about whichever one lives closest to the door to the Market District, and thus is more convenient? Shall I force my own tradition of a monarchial bloodline on them because it's what I'm used to?"

"I like the beard option..."

"Shut up, Alistair!" she spat and turned back on the giant, "Sten, I refuse to make a commitment until I fully understand the character and capabilities of both men. I'm not doing this just because I need allies. A strong Dwarven state is good for all of us. They cannot effectively fight the darkspawn above or below if they're fighting each other."

"If the dwarves are so weak they cannot unite to defend themselves, why are you wasting time and resources to do it for them. Better they be wiped out than to weaken us with their foolishness."

"We need all the support we can dredge up. I can't afford to reject potential allies out-of-hand! If you want to go fight the horde alone, be my guest. I hope your Arishok isn't holding his breath in anticipation of your return." Sten glared at her, silent. She sighed. "Let's go, Branka isn't going to find herself, is she?"

~*~


The dwarf stank. And grumbled. And leered. And spat. And was quite useful. Maebh was confused. "Why are you so interested in Branka, anyway?" she queried.

"She's my sodding wife, isn't she? And she's been down in the Deep Roads for two sodding years. If you're going to find her, you'll need me."

Maebh sized up the dwarf, his eyes held a haunted look that mirrored her own. "Sten, go back to camp."

The giant clenched his fist. "Why? Surely a larger force is preferable."

"Because we don't have enough supplies to support a full expedition." And she certainly didn't need to be constantly on guard for another betrayal.

Sten cursed in his native tongue as he turned and stalked off, his back blazing disapproval. "Are you sure it's a good idea to make him mad like that?" Alistair asked quietly.

"He can be mad all he wants back at camp. Or elsewhere, for that matter, I'm not forcing him to stay with us. Besides, if I spent all my time worrying about making people mad I would have turned myself into the Teyrn by now."

"Good point."

~*~


Maebh didn't understand the Deep Roads. How could a place feel so open and empty and yet make her feel claustrophobic at the same time. She knelt by the fire they made in what they hoped was a protected alcove and twisted the ring on her finger. Alistair was asleep. He had volunteered to go on permanent late watch until they got back to the surface, as he was able to sense the darkspawn better than Maebh. She could see it taking a toll on him. She pushed the guilt aside. This was not easy on any of them.

She felt the need to talk to somebody. Oghren muttered to himself as he sharpened his axe. He was not interested in conversation. He was so close to his goal, any distraction would be treated with contempt. Maebh burned with sudden jealousy. Branka was still alive while Cailan was still dead. She heard a step behind her. She turned to see Leliana looking at her with such compassion that Maebh turned away, unable to accept.

"You need something?"

"No, but I thought you might want some company. It is hard for me to fall asleep down here as well. I miss the stars."

Maebh twisted the ring. "I miss the sun."

Leliana nodded, and they sat in silence together for a moment. Maebh looked at her sidelong. "How did you know?" she asked.

"Know what?"

Maebh thought while she measured her words. "When the others were... concerned about my ability to lead. You stood up for me. How did you know?"

"About your broken heart," Leliana said softly, placing her hand on Maebh's shoulder.

Maebh nodded, afraid if she tried to speak she would loose all composure.

"I know because I have had my heart broken, too." She was quiet for a moment. "Would you like to talk about it?"

"What's there to talk about. He's dead. Talking about him won't change that."

"To share sadness is to lighten it by half."

"That's a terrible proverb."

Leliana giggled. "It sounds better in the original Orlesian."

Maebh frowned. "I just feel so guilty. I never really told him how I felt, never admitted it to myself. He told me he loved me every chance he got, but I was afraid to believe him," inside her, a wall cracked. The words poured like water. "He was this, this anchor with the world that kept me alive while I was in the tower. I feel so lost. He was always so sure of everything. He never doubted himself, never doubted us. The night before he died he told me he was indestructible. I believed him. It's not right," she clenched her fists, fighting the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. "It's not right that I should live. Everything would be so much better if I had died instead. I wish I was dead..." she bowed her head and dug her fingers into her hair. "Everything would be so much better if I was dead."

Leliana made shushing sounds and rubbed her back. "I don't think he would agree."

"You don't even know who he was," Maebh held the secret tight. The only other person left alive who knew was Alistair.

"You don't need to tell me. What you say about him, what he gave you, that tells me. If you had been with him, he would have died to protect you," Leliana's clear eyes plumbed the depths of Maebh's grief, searched out its core.

"What he gave me...What do you mean?"

"That ring," Leliana took her hand and held it up to the firelight. "Moonstones are not very precious, no matter how lovely they are. They are quite fragile. But somebody put this one in a princely setting a long time ago," Maebh's hand twitched at the word "princely" and it did not go unnoticed. "Somebody took very good care to preserve it for many years. And the way you've been abusing it lately I cannot imagine that person was you."

Maebh clenched her teeth. "I put a ward on it. I know I shouldn't be wearing it, but..." The dam broke. She lay her head on her knees and wrapped her arms around herself. Her shoulders heaved with silent sobs. Leliana held her tightly.

"But you aren't ready to let him go."


~*~


Previous Chapters:

Prologue, Chapter One, Chapter Two

May 2012

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