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Title: What Lies Behind The Throne. Chapter 2/???
Author: blustersquall
Game: Dragon Age: Alternate Universe
Characters/pairing: Alistair x Cousland
Disclaimer: Dragon Age is the property of Bioware, as is Alistair and any other characters mentioned within this piece. Roselyn Cousland is my creation, under the Dragon Age: Origins player character, Cousland.

AO3 Link // FF.net Link // Tumblr Link

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Month: Mid-Guardian. Two and a half months to the wedding.

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It was agreed their wedding was to take place three months from the date of Roselyn's arrival; in Bloomingtide on Summerday, to mark the changing season. There would be a procession through Denerim from the Chantry to the Palace after the ceremony which would allow Maric's subjects to catch a glimpse of his youngest son with his new bride. A banquet would be arranged for them with dancing and merriment, and there would be jousts and tourneys to mark the occasion during the following weeks ending with a grand masquerade which would also mark the departure of Roselyn's parents back to Highever.

Everything was arranged over Roselyn's head. All she was told when she asked about it was that it was in hand and that the day would be one to remember. She would be the most beautiful bride Thedas had ever seen, or so her mother and the ladies of her newly appointed royal apartments said. But if they were not careful, she would easily become the most irritated bride Thedas had ever seen.

Ever since she arrived in Denerim two weeks ago, she had barely seen or spoken to her future husband. They saw each other at dinner where they were seated at opposite ends of the elevated top table on the dais with Maric, Anora, Cailan and her parents. All the other members of the court ate at long tables in the hall able to look up at those on the dais.

Roselyn suspected that every effort was being taken to keep them away from each other and prevent them from getting to know one another before they took their vows, She grew more and more frustrated with each scuppered attempt to speak to the prince. Whenever they had a chance meeting in a corridor or greeted each other before dinner Alistair would be ushered away or Roselyn would be reminded of something dreadfully important she just had to do.

It was infuriating! She had enough reservations about this marriage as it were. She did not want to go to the altar and make her vows before the Maker and their families knowing nothing but what she was told. And she was told much.

She learned that Alistair enjoyed hunting and hawking with his brother and was an accomplished rider. He took great care of his horses and enjoyed spending time in the stables. He was also a skilled swordsman, supposedly even better than his brother, and he could also handle spears and polearm weapons in combat. He participated in jousts and melee tourneys alongside his brother for glory and for fun. They both placed well, but Alistair always just piqued Cailan to the post.

Yet his physical prowess was not his only admirable trait. He was well-read and educated, particularly in history and theology where he excelled. What was more, he was, by all accounts, charming, kind, pleasant and capable; all positive traits which should have quelled any doubts Roselyn still maintained.

They did not. In fact, they made her doubts worse. Sleep was elusive for her as her mind swirled with thoughts of what her life was to be once she married this total stranger. She was fearful that he would be like Cailan or Maric, who on the surface were both as charming and amiable as Alistair was being made out to be, but underneath that thin façade... she worried what was hidden.

Whenever she found herself sick with worry she would think back to their first meeting outside the palace. How he fumbled for words and was too shy to offer to escort her inside. She hoped that his behaviour had not just been for show. She prayed that was not the case, that he had not deceived her in that first instance. While their initial meeting could have gone better, it had not been a disaster - at least not in Roselyn's mind. His stumbling was sweet, though she had hidden her true feelings behind a mask of indifference as she had been taught to do since a young age. She heard whispers from her ladies and gossiping servants that Maric shouted at Alistair for almost an hour after that first supper, berating him for being a fool and making not only himself appear stupid, but Maric also.

Knowing that he had been verbally beaten for being shy only made her want to speak to the prince more. She wanted to assure him that she had not been insulted or found his behaviour problematic. They needed to spend time with each other and get to know one another before their wedding, or the whole thing would be a fiasco for the ages. Stories of a stammering groom and a nervous, unwilling bride would be spread throughout the centuries. More than that, she was bored.

Since her arrival, she had been allowed nowhere without an escort. She was confined inside to either her apartments with her mother and the ladies or to one of the "approved" rooms such as the library or the hall. There she set to do needle work or read - something that made her sit still all day.  At Highever, she had had the full run of the castle. She could go where she wanted, and better yet she could run - something she was not allowed to do here. She was even permitted to ride alone in Highever. Go beyond the castle to the town, to the fields, farms and woodlands that stretched for miles. She used to ride for hours with no one's company but her own and Roo. But in Denerim she was given no freedom and it was stifling. She missed home. She missed her horses. She missed practicing her archery. She missed her things, the familiarity of it all. This palace was to be her home for the rest of her days and it already felt like a prison.

Roselyn's royal apartments were temporary. Once she and Alistair were married, they would share his chambers which were supposedly bigger and more spacious. Yet these apartments dwarfed her own room at Highever, which only had bedchamber and a small reception area where people would wait to see her if she was not presentable. These apartments not only had a bed chamber and a reception room, but several other rooms attached to them. There was a small private chamber that came off from the bed chamber, but it was more like a box room with a window seat barely big enough for two people. There were three other rooms which opened onto each other: one area was for dining and the rest for entertaining. The rooms were beautifully ornate, but a bit on the grand side for Roselyn's tastes.

While they were spacious, her apartments were not private. Her mother had a room which led into her bedchamber and there was a door connecting the two which Eleanor refused to let Roselyn lock. She could come and go as she pleased, and she did - regularly. Usually it was to wake Roselyn before dawn and make sure she was presentable and as pretty as she could be when they went down to breakfast.

Aside from her mother, who was her constant companion, Anora was also almost always close at hand. She bought her own ladies in waiting, and Roselyn had several of those who had been chosen for her by her mother; women closer to Eleanor's age who gossiped like fish wives down at the market. Yet Anora's presence was the only one that did not put Roselyn's teeth on edge. She was clever, witty, and had a sharp mind. Roselyn found her company engaging and the two of them found common ground over history and debate. Yet Anora was also sad. Roselyn would sometimes glance at her up from her book or from her sewing and see the blonde woman let her guard down. She had the appearance of a woman worn in and tired of life; of a husband who was inattentive and loving only for show.

She was what Roselyn did not want to become - to be another Anora five years down the line. Childless, getting older every day, and married to a man who had no interests but himself. Who cared about no one but himself. If anything, Roselyn hoped she could be a friend to Anora and Anora a friend to her.

Putting her needlework to one side, Roselyn almost jumped up from her chair. "I want to go outside."

"I want does not get, darling." Eleanor cooed, returning to her needle and thread. "And you can't."

"Why not?" Roselyn bristled, crossing her arms over her chest. "Why am I being kept in these rooms like a prisoner? This palace is to be my home, is it not?"

Eleanor lifted her head. "Do not shout at me, Roselyn."

"I am not shouting. I am asking questions. Questions I believe deserve to be answered." Her arms tightened. She felt tension in her shoulders and the eyes of those assembled on her though they tried to hide it. Anora was the only one who watched openly.

"What questions are those, sweetling?" asked her mother, her tone dripping with a sweetness Roselyn's recognised from her childhood. It was a tone her mother would use to speak down to her. To baby her.

"Why am I am not allowed to see or even speak to the Prince?" demanded Roselyn, narrowing her eyes at the way her mother stiffened and how her expression shifted ever so slightly. "Why am I being kept locked away like I am some delicate flower? I would like to explore the palace which I will soon be calling my home. I would like to get to know the man I am expected to marry, whether I wish to or not. I would like to have my freedoms returned to me."

"This is not Highever." Eleanor's voice was waspish, her brows low over her eyes. "You cannot-- I will not allow you to go gallivanting around the palace like a wild girl. You are to be married into the royal family and you are to behave in the way you are supposed to. Quietly, demurely and treating those around you with the respect and gratitude they deserve."

"I am--"

Eleanor cut her off, speaking quickly and with a firmness that left no room for argument. "The freedoms you were allowed at Highever do not apply here." Her nostril's flared. "Now sit down."

Roselyn remained standing, digging her fingernails into her upper arms. She wanted to fight back. She had to fight back. "I-"

"I said," Eleanor snapped, "sit." Her final word was a fierce hiss, contorting her face into a snarl.

Roselyn dropped into her chair, her cheeks hot with anger and tears simmering behind her eyes which she refused to shed. Retrieving her sewing, she punched the needle through the fabric over and over, imagining the sharp point as arrows being loosed from her bow meeting their mark every time.

She imagined Fergus at Highever, running the castle and making time to help Oren with his studies, sword fighting, and teaching him how to ride. She imagined the rolling fields around her home, the wood and parkland she had ridden over and over again. The does would be getting ready to birth their young soon, so would the wild boar sows. She would miss the fawns and the piglets all snuffling around in the undergrowth. She would miss Highever, and that more heavily weighed on her than any of her other woes.

Anora dropped a handkerchief into Roselyn's lap, coming to her side and dropping low in the guise of looking over her sewing. "Don't let them see your tears," she warned her, her voice low. "There are people here appointed by the King. It will get back to him."

Realising she had failed in her efforts not to cry, Roselyn mopped her eyes as neatly as she was able and swallowed several gulps of air to fight off any further ones. Her face was still burning, her cheeks still flushed, but she had regained her composure. She handed the piece of cloth back to Anora.

"Thank you."

The blonde woman's lips twitched into a small smile. She tucked the handkerchief away in a pocket in her dress. Roselyn felt her stroke her hair, an act of unexpected but not unwanted comfort. "With respect, Lady Cousland," Anora spoke rising to stand at her full height. At being addressed, Eleanor lifted her head. The other ladies continued their work, "Roselyn has a point."

"A point?" Eleanor queried.

"She is to live here," Anora stated, speaking with a clear resonance that demonstrated years of carefully finding her words and knowing what to say. "Unlike myself, who was raised as much in the Palace as my father's own castle, Roselyn has never been to the palace. If she is to not insult the King or the Princes by getting turned around or turning up late all the time, she will need to learn her way around."

"She can do that once the wedding--"

"She can do that now," Anora said, squaring her shoulders. Roselyn bit back her shock. Her mother was not used to being cut off mid-sentence, let alone ordered around. At home, anyone who showed such rudeness and impertinence would be punished. But here it was different. Anora out-ranked Eleanor. If the Princess-Consort wanted something or demanded something, Eleanor would not refuse for fear of insulting her. "She will do that now."

Roselyn saw that her mother recognised that. She saw a glimmer in her eyes, one that spoke of relinquishing power she did not want to give up. Giving into Anora here was the first step of a very steep and slippery slope that meant her hold over Roselyn would gradually slacken. Soon she would not have a pawn to control. Yet refusing her was an insult and she could not abide that. Even a small slight could spell an end for this match which had been so painstakingly planned.

Roselyn watched her mother lower her eyes in begrudging resignation and hid her mouth behind her hands.

"I..." Eleanor swallowed, her face contorting as if she was drinking poison. "I suppose you have a point, Your Highness," she agreed. "If she is to live here then she should learn the layout."

"I'm glad you agree." Anora's smile was openly triumphant. She turned to Roselyn and gestured toward the door. "Come along. I'll give you the full tour which, I believe, you were not given when you first arrived."

"Yes." Roselyn almost leapt out of her chair. She did not try to keep the excitement from her voice. "A full tour!"

Anora grabbed her hand almost dragging her out of the rooms. The other ladies all rose to bob into small curtsies as she left. Once the door was closed behind them, Anora tucked Roselyn's arm around hers and began to walk at a slower pace, not speaking until they were down the hall away from the apartments. "I will probably get an earful from Cailan for that stunt."

Roselyn frowned. "On my account? I'm sorry. We can go back."

"We can. But do you want to?"

"No."

"Good." Anora smiled. "Besides, I can handle Cailan. His bark is worse than his bite."

"And the King?"

"Oh, Maric won't say anything against me." Her smile increased. "Being the daughter of his life-long friend and general has its..." she pursed her lips, thinking, "It has its perks." When she laughed, her eyes crinkled at the corners and she looked younger. Roselyn found herself smiling, feeling at ease for the first time since her arrival.

"So, where does this tour begin?" she asked, eager to explore and find the hidden niches that she hoped Anora would exploit.

"The gardens." There was a mischievous glint in Anora's eye that Roselyn did not miss, but she did not ask for clarification. Instead, she fell in step with the other woman while excitement bubbled in her chest.


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Grunting under the weight of his brother's blade as he swung it down, Alistair clenched his teeth against the jolt that rushed up his shield arm from where the blow hit. Steeling his arm and his body, he dug his feet into the earth of the tilt yard and shoved his weight behind his buckler to heave Cailan away.

Cailan went staggering a few steps, drawing his two-handed bastard sword back. The both of them were panting and dripping with sweat, unwilling to back down and allow the other victory. A sparring match between the two of them never stayed friendly for long, and while they fought with blunted practice weapons, they both fought with every ounce of their strength.

"Have you spoken to her yet?" Cailan asked, raising his blade to block Alistair's lunge. "You're getting sloppy."

"Shut up." Alistair fended off a blow from his brother and jabbed through the gap in Cailan's arm. "And no."

Cailan huffed, he danced out of reach lifting his blade ready to strike, a look of confidence and cockiness marring his face. A look Alistair was only too familiar with. He peeked up over his shield, blade primed to attack, muscles tight ready to move. His brother was a slow fighter. He had stamina whereas Alistair had speed. Cailan could wear down opponents over time until they were tired and made mistakes. Alistair was quick and agile but would tire if a fight went on too long, making him an easy target. Their fighting styles could not have been more different, and as a result their practices were long and left them both aching afterwards.

"Why not?" Cailan swung his blade in an arc, creating a deadened thud on the earth as it went wide and Alistair deflected. Quick to recover, Cailan thrust with the blade again. This time Alistair blocked it. "Don't you like her?"

"I haven't had a chance to get to know her." Alistair grit his teeth in the effort it took to hold Cailan off. "Every time we come close--" He gained ground and Cailan slipped. "Every time we meet there's something that prevents us from talking." Rolling his shoulders, he twisted his blade in his hand. "You're dropping your elbow when you attack. Blade too heavy?"

"I am not dropping my elbow." As if to prove a point Cailan rushed him. Alistair rose his shield in time to fend off his first swing, then the four that followed. Each one sent a sharp pain ricocheting up his arm from his wrist. The sound of metal clunking on his wooden shield so close was deafening and made Alistair's ears ring. "What's preventing you from speaking?" grunted Cailan as he lifted one hand and signed for a break. He beckoned to a servant who stood a safe distance away and approached the sweating prince with a cloth. "Aside from you being... well... you."

Alistair returned Cailan's mocking grin and rolled his eyes. He took a cloth when it was offered and began to mop his brow and his neck. "She's not allowed to sit near me at dinner for one," explained Alistair, putting his shield to one side on the ground. "And when I've tried to go and talk to her someone's stopped me."

Cailan handed his cloth back to the attendant and called to another who carried a water skin. "You can hardly talk well over dinner. And you're seated apart because you look like a pig when you're eating."

"I do not," Alistair snapped and tossed his cloth into Cailan's face. His brother laughed and dropped it onto the floor.

"I'm only teasing you, Alistair," Cailan nudged him. "You have to be kept apart at meal times. It's not proper for the two of you to sit together while you're unmarried. Likewise, it's not right for you to be left alone together."

"I understand that," he growled a little, his frustration at the situation raising his temper and his hackles. "But when we've met in the hallway she gets  ushered off to do something by someone even though she wants to talk to me. I know she does." Raking his hand through his hair, he kicked the dirt before lifting his gaze back to Cailan. "And I know the old adage of not seeing the bride before the wedding. But this is ridiculous. I don't want to just know her name and that her journey to Denerim was long. I want to know... her favourite colour. What her childhood was like. Did she have friends? What does she like to do? What books does she like to read? I want..." he sighed and felt foolish under the gaze and arched brow of his brother. "I want us to have a friendship or... or something like that. I don't want us to be strangers."

Cailan looked over his head, lifting his brows. "Well, now's your chance to start building that friendship." He gave a quick nod. "Here she comes."

Alistair whirled around dropped his blade in nervous excitement while his heart lept into his chest. At first he saw no one, then a moment later he felt his feet kicked from underneath him and landed unceremoniously on the ground. Above him, Cailan barked with laughter, clutching his stomach and doubling over. Alistair spat earth from his mouth, wiping his chin and his face.

"I can't believe you fell for that," Cailan howled. "You're so gullible!"

Getting to his feet, burning with embarrassment and annoyance at his brother, Alistair snatched the water skin and a cloth from a servant. He took a mouthful, spat on the ground and wiped his face and mouth with the cloth, glowering. Cailan's laughter was uncontainable; his face had turned scarlet and there were tears streaming down his cheeks.

Resisting the urge to grab the back of Cailan's head and lift his knee into his face, Alistair shoved him roughly with his body as he marched towards the gate of the sparring ring. "Grow up, Cailan," he snapped, ignoring Cailan's shouts for him to stop and come back.

He had been an idiot to think Cailan would offer any real advice or help him in any way. Stupid to think Cailan would take his concerns seriously. Cailan took nothing seriously and yet he was still their father's favourite.

The only relief to him was that Roselyn had not been witness to Cailan tripping him up. Though that was something he would not have put past him if she was around. Cailan took any opportunity he could to upstage him -  it was his way. Alistair tried not to take it personally. Teagan told him it was normal sibling rivalry and that he should get his own back from time-to-time. Alistair had considered tightening Cailan's armor the night before a tourney so he could not compete. Or putting itching powder between his brother's sheets. He had even considered spiking his wine with a powder meant to loosen bowels, but he never did. He did not have it in him to play pranks or to inconvenience anyone, and he knew the pay-off would not be worth the punishment he would receive from his father. So he endured Cailan's "friendly" sibling rivalry with grimaces and smiles, taking the brunt of it because he was the younger brother.

He hoped when Cailan and Anora had first married that he would be able to escape from Cailan more often and not be subjected to his ire. He also imagined that when they eventually had a child, Cailan would mature and take on the role of a father; not a spoiled prince who enjoyed tormenting his brother. Yet there was still no child, so Cailan's pestering was set to continue with no foreseeable end.

Not concentrating on where he was walking, Alistair turned a corner from the tilt yard and into the gardens. His stomach growled and he considered walking all the way to the kitchens and grabbing something to eat before supper.

"Alistair!"

He stopped to the sound of his name being called and recognised the voice as Anora. Glancing around he spotted her beyond a line of yew trees. He smiled and took off towards her, freezing when he realised she was not alone - Roselyn was on her arm. Caught between intense fear and the desire to run away, he stumbled and grabbed one of the trees to balance himself. Each time he saw her he was struck with the same feelings as he had been on their first encounter. His heart rate increased, colour and heat rose in his cheeks, and he felt his skin prickle, his nerves coming alive. She was as radiant now as she had been climbing out of the carriage, wearing a dress of pale violet and cream while her hair was contained in a pretty net encrusted with small pearls. She curtsied to him, dropping her gaze politely. Alistair bowed his head, trying not to grin when they locked eyes for a few moments as she rose.

"You're filthy," Anora remarked, walking towards him with Roselyn on her arm. "What have you been doing?"

Alistair looked down at himself and saw that front of his cotton shirt and leather breeches were covered in dirt after Cailan shoved him to the ground. He blushed and tried to brush the soil away, but only succeeded in making it worse as he smeared it it across the material.

"I was..." he glanced at Roselyn who's eyes had not left his face. "I was with Cailan. Sparring. I got clumsy." He did not want to admit he had fallen for one of Cailan's guiles and ended up with a mouthful of dirt.

"I see..." Anora lifted a brow and pursed her lips. Alistair wanted to shrink under her clever, cool gaze. He liked Anora but could never always tell what she was thinking. Her expression never betrayed her feelings or her thoughts. She guarded herself carefully. "I managed to sneak Roselyn away... I thought you might like the opportunity to talk."

"Oh!" Roselyn's eyes widened. Clearly Anora had not made mention of her plot and had caught her complete off guard with this surprise. "Anora, no."

Alistair felt her words bite into him. His fingers chilled and his stomach dropped. Of course she did not want to spend time with him. He looked more like an urchin or a farmer than a royal prince. And she... well, she was a work of art. Of course she would not want to speak to him.

"It's fine, Anora," Alistair tried to keep his tone light. "I should wash up anyway." He smiled weakly, nodding his head to Roselyn. "I'm sure I'll see you at supper." He turned, wanting to hide from his humiliation. He would walk all the way around the palace to get to the kitchens if it meant avoiding bumping into them again.

"No, your Highness.," Roselyn interjected and caught him mid-step. He was certain he felt the ghost of a touch on his fingers. Turning back to Roselyn, he saw she was standing free of Anora's hold, hands clutched before her and head bowed. "I apologise, I realise how that may have sounded," she began. Alistair watched her clench her fingers and it dawned on him, she was as nervous as he was. She was shaking too, terrified of offending him or saying something wrong. He almost wanted to take her hands and tell her he knew exactly how she felt. "I meant... I would very much like to talk to you." She lifted her head, her cheeks darkened in colour while her voice shook slightly. She still held her head up with her chin risen and her eyes on his, unfaltering. "I'm... I'm just concerned, I don't believe we're supposed to be left alone... So... So, I--"

"That's why I'm here," Anora interjected breezily. "Consider me your chaperone. I'll walk a few paces behind you, but you're not alone so you're not breaking any rules." She turned to Alistair and asked, "Does that suit Your Highness?"

Glancing between Anora and Roselyn and back, he noticed for the first time in a long while that Anora had a colour to her cheeks. She was smiling, and it was a genuine smile; not one reserved for court or for the sake of appearances. She had decided to take Roselyn under her wing and befriend her. To what end, Alistair was not sure, but it was a kindness and he appreciated it.

"Yes," he nodded, "very much." He turned his attention to Roselyn. "I won't offer my arm because... well, I'm covered in dirt and I don't want to dirty your dress. But if you're content to walk in the gardens I can show you around?"

Glancing back at Anora who nodded, Roselyn managed a small smile. "If it please Your Highness."

"Alistair." He prompted, clasping his hands behind his back. He began to walk. "Please call me Alistair."

"That's a little too informal," Roselyn replied walking at his side a small distance between them. "F-for now, at least." She amended. "Perhaps... when we know each other better?"

"That's fair," he agreed. "I do very much want to get to know you." As soon as he said the words he wanted to take them back. That was too much information. Too eager. Too forward. Worry trickled down his spine when he saw Roselyn peer up at him. Like Anora, she kept her expression carefully guarded and still. It made her unreadable and it unnerved him.

"I would like that too, Your Highness," Roselyn replied.

They walked in silence for a minute or two, Anora keeping a reasonable distance behind them. From the corner of his eye he watched Roselyn's face, her eyes taking in the expansive gardens of the palace. Of all the greatness of Denerim's royal palace, the gardens were Alistair's favourite part of it. They stretched for acres and each garden had a different theme, yet they intertwined with each other. They were walking around the hedge maze, a place recalled getting lost a few times as a boy. There was also a rose garden which was planted for and favoured by the late Queen Rowan, and a herb garden close to the kitchens.

Clearing his throat, Alistair grimaced while struggling to find something to say. "I..." he scratched the back of his head when Roselyn turned her head to look at him. Her eyes flashed for a moment and he felt his chest tighten. "How... how do you like the palace?" He asked, wanting to groan at the lameness of his question.

"It's... big," Roselyn remarked. "I used to think Highever was big, but the palace dwarfs it." Her voice softened at the mention of her home castle. Alistair glanced over his shoulder at Anora who was pretending not to listen. "I'm sure I'll become accustomed to the palace once I know it better." Roselyn smiled.

"I don't remember much of Highever from our visits." Alistair explained, clutching onto the fondness he had heard in her voice. "Do you miss it much?" She hesitated. She tried to hide it, but he saw. She didn't want to insult him or her new home by admitting the truth. Of course she missed it. "It's alright to tell me," his lips turned upwards in a warm smile. "I won't rat you out."

Roselyn looked at him for several seconds, her lips drawn to one side. He could feel her weighing him up with her eyes. Trying to sense if there as any ulterior motive beneath his questions. "I do miss it," she said with finality. "But I'm sure I'll learn to like the palace."

"What do you miss?"

"My room. My apartments here are lovely, but... I'm not used to having such a large space. I miss hearing the guards talking while on patrol and the sound of Nan in the kitchens. I miss hearing my brother and Ser Gilmore spar in the tilt yard..." They kept walking as she spoke. Alistair could see her gaze was far off, recalling the castle. "I miss the land around Highever. The parks and the woodland... I could ride for miles and never see another soul."

"You like to ride?"

"Mhm-hm," she nodded, "and hunt. I'm quite handy with a bow."

Alistair grinned. The air between them was calming, tension beginning to fizzle the more they talked. "You'll have to show me."

"You... don't know how to use a bow?" Roselyn lifted a brow.

Chuckling, Alistair shook his head. "I think it requires a certain... finesse. I don't have the skill or the grace to fire a bow."

Peering up at him again, he watched Roselyn narrow her eyes. "You're flattering me, aren't you?"

"Maybe. A little." He watched as a flush flooded her cheeks. The space between them crackled, the easiness of before beginning to dissipate. He decided to change the subject. "Do you like it here at least? Do you think you'll be happy?"

"This is the first time I've had a chance to explore... I think, given time, I could like it here. Denerim is rather foreign to me." They turned a corner, Alistair lifted a straying branch out of the way. "I've only been the capital a handful of times and each time I was kept close to my parents. I've not had a chance to explore or take in the sights."

"I'd be happy to show you around." He blurted out, not quite thinking on what he was saying. "I mean," he faltered, "if you'd like. Maybe."

She nodded, eyes softening. "Yes. I think I would."

"And what about here in the palace? Do you like living here so far?"

"Well," Roselyn shrugged her shoulders. "Yes. It's lovely. Although, I was..." She trailed catching herself. Alistair watched her bite her bottom lip. "Never mind." She began to walk faster, speeding ahead a few paces.

Alistair grasped her hand before thinking about it. His flesh trembled under her touch. Her skin was smooth and so soft, unblemished. She had long, slim fingers that seemed dwarfed in his own hand. And her skin was so pale by comparison to his. He liked how her hand felt in his, the way she clenched her fingers a little before hurriedly tugging her hand away.

"I--" choked Alistair, dropping his hand and feeling as though his skin was on fire. "What was it you were going to say?" He hoped that if neither of them mentioned his gesture they could both just skip over it.

"I shouldn't," Roselyn shook her head. "I don't wish to make a fuss."

"You're not making a fuss." He stood at ease and chuckled, hoping it would make her feel more comfortable too. "Please tell me," he urged when Roselyn said nothing. "I don't want to have to pull out the Prince card this early in our acquaintance."

"Oh?" Roselyn laughed and Alistair puffed his chest out, swelling with pride that he had amused her. He saw when she laughed that dimples appeared in her cheeks. "Am I to expect the Prince card to be played often?"

"Not without cause," he retorted, still playful. Roselyn touched her fingers to her mouth, concealing her smile. "Please?" Alistair asked again.

She sighed this time, but it wasn't a sigh of frustration or resignation. "My mabari, Roo," Roselyn began, "she's being kept in the kennels. I've been told she's not allowed in the palace and I understand there are rules, but Roo has barely left my side since she imprinted on me when I was fourteen." She clenched her hands in front of her turning her knuckles white. "I don't wish to cause problems or be impertinent but would it be possible for an exception to me made? She's not a boisterous dog, not aggressive or noisy. She's really more an over grown lap dog if I'm being honest." She turned her head, looking up at Alistair. "Do you think it would be possible?"

"Consider it done." He smiled, nodding. "I'll speak to my father. I'm sure he'd allow it."

"You think so?"

"Yes. And if not, I still say you should have your mabari with you."

"You'd disobey your father's wishes?"

He cocked his head. "I do it more than you would think."

"Thank you," Roselyn smiled, "Your Highness."

Alistair guided her down another path and beneath another archway. They were some distance from the palace. Anora still tailed, gradually putting more distance between herself and them. The smell of earth and gravel were smothered by the scent of the rose garden. It was too early in the year for them to be in full bloom, but over the last month there had been unseasonably warm weather which caused a handful to bud and come into flower early.

"This is Queen Rowan's rose garden," Alistair informed Roselyn, noticing her eyes light up at the sight of the flowers. "My father planted it for her while she was carrying Cailan. According to him she would sit in her window and look out over the garden, humming to Cailan before he was born."

"And what did she do while she carried you?"

He blushed and swallowed hard at the weight which had appeared in his stomach. His throat closed a little as he gulped and glanced around. Crossing to one of the bushes, Roselyn followed him. "The garden is really quite impressive when all the flowers are out." He told her, ignoring her question and hoping she would not press the matter.

He watched Roselyn slide her fingertips over the velvet red petal of one flower. "We struggle to grow roses at Highever. Something about the soil being too hard or... something." She shrugged. "It's why I'm called Roselyn. My father liked the idea of me being the only rose able to bloom in Highever."

"It's a good name," Alistair admitted, his tone low and his eyes on her face. Roselyn offered him a small, shy smile and walked further towards another bush with a few pink roses. Holding his breath, Alistair plucked the flower she had touched from its stem. He bowed to her back holding it out to her in a grand gesture. "A rose for a rose?" he asked, grinning to himself.

He watched Roselyn as she turned. The blush crept up her neck and darkened her face. The surprise in her gaze eventually grew quieter and calmer until it was almost a look of fondness. She took the flower from his fingers in tentative hands which she fought to stop shaking. "Thank you," her voice cracked the tiniest bit when she spoke, "Your Highness."

Beaming, it took a few seconds for him to realise Anora was speaking to him before he broke out of his reverie. "We should go back inside and finish our tour," Anora told Roselyn, tucking her hand around Roselyn's elbow. "I hope you don't mind, Alistair."

"Must we?" Roselyn asked.

"Yes," Anora chuckled. "I'm sure you and the Prince will find other opportunities to talk before long."

"Absolutely. Definitely," Alistair could not hold back his foolish grin. "Without a doubt."

"Very well," Roselyn agreed. She dropped into a curtsey, lowering her eyes. "Thank you for the walk, Your Highness. And for the rose and... your company."

"I should be thanking you." He nodded his head in a quick, polite bow. "I'll see you both at supper." He watched them leave, noticing how Roselyn's gaze lingered on him as she disappeared behind the yew hedges. Pushing out a long breath to settle the butterflies in his stomach, Alistair set off at a run a few seconds later in the direction of the kennels.
-------------------

I really hoped you guys enjoyed this chapter, let me know what you think! <3
Title: What Lies Behind The Throne. Chapter 2/???
Author: blustersquall
Game: Dragon Age: Alternate Universe
Characters/pairing: Alistair x Cousland
Disclaimer: Dragon Age is the property of Bioware, as is Alistair and any other characters mentioned within this piece. Roselyn Cousland is my creation, under the Dragon Age: Origins player character, Cousland.

AO3 Link // FF.net Link // Tumblr Link

:bulletred:First Chapter
:bulletred:Next Chapter

Second chapter! I hope you guys enjoyed it! Let me know what you think. <3

- Massive credit to my beta readers, razerathane and bluvixen Who are both magnificent, beautiful tropical fish.

- Chapter Rating: T

- Summary: Anora manages to snatch Roselyn away from the over bearing grip of her mother long enough for her and Alistair to have their first supervised conversation.

- Cover credit to Pri0r

Add a Comment:
 
:iconseaspirit88:
SeaSpirit88 Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2015
The writing is well done, an excellent mix of descriptive passages and internal musings and spot on dialogue. I am thoroughly enjoying your writing! Keep up the good work!
Reply
:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Well thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying the story so far! And my style! 
I don't like to rely on one particular thing to tell the story. I'm glad it's not over the top with how it chops and changes. :]
Reply
:icondreamdrifter91:
DreamDrifter91 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
:squee: so adorable!!
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:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you! I'm glad you're enjoying the story! 
Reply
:icondrking7:
drking7 Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2015
Nice work!:) (Smile)  on chapter 2
Reply
:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you! Chapter 3 is now up, if you're interested in reading it. :]
Reply
:iconcattlecat:
Cattlecat Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2015
Oooohhh this is so cute! I´m really addicted to your writing. Can´t wait to read the next part ^^
Reply
:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Thanks! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! Third chapter should be up soon! ^^
Reply
:iconsoldiermom1973:
soldiermom1973 Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015
I really didn't care for Anora in the games, but if this new & improved Anora stays like this, then I'd love her to pieces.  I'm really looking forward to more!
Reply
:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
I was never a huge fan of her in the game either, but I really respected her for her strength and conviction. Given that this is an AU, I wanted to have Anora as a driving force, especially in the early development of Roselyn and Alistair's relationship, wanting to perhaps live vicariously through Roselyn and her growing fondness for Alistair. She will be sticking around, I have big plans for Anora in the future chapters. : D 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! I appreciate it a lot. :D
Reply
:iconqueen-scribbles:
queen-scribbles Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2015
OH MY GOD THEY'RE ADORABLE. And that's about the only coherent thing I can think to say at this point through all the squee. :giggle: Another great chapter!
Reply
:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Haha, there's... a lot more of that coming up, I assure you. I hope you'll be as coherent when it gets to those parts to comment. :D
Thanks for reading! Appreciate it a lot. :]
Reply
:iconqueen-scribbles:
queen-scribbles Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2015
OHBOY. I hope my brain can handle the cute. :eager:
Reply
:iconjust-cruising-yo:
Just-cruising-yo Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
I love this sooo much!
Reply
:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Thank you so much. I'm glad you liked it. :]
Reply
:iconhirukafox:
Hirukafox Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
Ahhhhh!! The feels are so much!! Another beautifully written chapter! Thank you so much!! :iconomgsocuteplz:
Reply
:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Heehee! Love all them feels!
Thank you! I'm so pleased to know you enjoyed it. ^^ Thank you so much for reading! :3
Reply
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