tagCelebrities & Fan FictionThere and Back Again Ch. 087-088

There and Back Again Ch. 087-088


Hey everyone! Thanks for the lovely reviews and scores. You guys rock!

I thought I should point out that there are some 'companion pieces' to this story that I'd sort of forgotten to publish here – there's "Strange World", which is written from Zevran's POV about the threesome he shared with Aedan and Isabela, as well as "Consequences", which is written from Alistair's POV after the fight he and Sierra had – somewhere around chapter 66 or so. I hope you all enjoy!

Also, I have published a separate piece called "I'm not here for love." It's not written in the "There and Back Again" universe, but is a stand-alone one-shot about 30 years post-Origins. It was written before DA2 or Inquisition, so it's obviously canon-divergent. Just my take on what could have happened after the Blight with a male Cousland Warden.

Alright, on to the chapters!


Chapter Eighty-Seven: *Right to Assemble

I went down to the dining hall, finding Solona, Leli, Duncan, and Zevran sitting around chatting. They looked up in surprise as I came through the doorway, armoured and armed.

"Duncan, is there somewhere here to spar?"

He stood, walking up to me, a puzzled look on his face. "There's no need to train today, Sierra. We just got back-"

"It's not for training. I need to prove a point. Actually, I'd like to have everyone there for this, if I could. So where? Is there a training yard somewhere?"

"We usually use the space reserved for the Royal Guard, but I don't relish the idea of going there. I think there's a practice ring at the Proving Grounds, and since there's no Proving today, we might be able to use that."

"Great. Can you all spread the word? I'm taking any challengers in single combat." I scowled at Duncan, who took a step back in surprise. "But Alistair is first."

I headed to the Proving Grounds and managed to find someone to give me permission and access to the practice ring. And then I took a few minutes to warm up, stretching and walking around, getting used to the space. It was in the bowels of the island the Provings sat upon, and was a dusty, echo-filled chamber with a roughly staked circle.

I was nervous; I definitely was not the best fighter in the group. I was likely the worst, with the possible exception of Jowan and Anders, whose magic I could neutralise. But I needed this. I didn't need to win, but I needed to gain some respect, and stop the group from treating me like a very clever, but helpless child. I concentrated on my breathing, trying to keep the panic at bay.

Aedan was the first to find me there when he arrived, with Zevran in tow.

"What's this about, Sierra?"

I noticed neither man was in armour, and couldn't decide between being relieved or offended. "Just making a point that needs to be made." I shrugged off further questions until everyone else arrived. They trickled in, in ones and twos, a few in armour, most not. Sereda and Gorim wore armour and full helmets, but I knew they had to whether they planned to challenge me or not, just so they could arrive unnoticed.

Finally everyone seemed ready. Alistair was the last to arrive, expression adorably confused, shoulders drooping, but armour, weapon and shield ready. I cleared my throat.

"I've decided I am finally sick of being treated like a child, or worse, some fragile, breakable toy. Today is all about breaking everyone's illusions about that. To that end, I will take on any challenger who wishes to spar with me. Alistair has won the privilege of going first."

I stepped into the ring, walking up to Anders, who, we had discovered, knew a spell to blunt weapons. He blunted my daggers, and I turned, getting into a defensive posture. I risked a glance at Aedan to see his jaw clenched, muscles twitching; Zevran just looked amused. And then I noticed Oghren taking bets, and I laughed.

Alistair allowed his sword to be blunted, then reluctantly turned to face me. He held his sword up in a salute, and I grinned, rushing him before he could drop his arm. I slashed the underside of his upper arm, spinning to end up behind him, jabbing him once in the kidneys as well. He grunted, in pain and shock, I assumed, and then turned, readying his shield.

I'd had problems with shields since I'd started my training with Duncan, but I'd learned, and learned well. Shields were something the darkspawn made good use of. I feinted high, then tucked low and rolled, trying to take Alistair's feet out from under him. He blocked, but it was a close thing, and I allowed myself to huff a brief laugh. Maybe I can do this. I backed off, waiting for him to make a move.

He made a weak swing at me, which I easily deflected with my crossed daggers, then jabbed at his armpit with my off-hand. He was wearing his heavy dragonbone, and just couldn't keep up with my speed in light leather. I spun away again. The next time he came after me, I leaped out of the way and clipped him in the jaw with the back of my hand, sending him reeling. I realised, to my dismay, that he was going easy on me.

"Fight me, damn you."

"I'm trying," he whined.

"No, you're not. You're a better fighter than this." I stopped, straightening up, walking to the centre of the ring slowly. I dropped my daggers at my feet and turned my back on him, looking at him over my shoulder. "Maybe you can hit me now, Princess?" I echoed his words from the last time we'd sparred while angry, and I saw his face redden as everyone around snickered.

And then he was moving, graceful and strong, and made to strike at my unprotected back. Aedan looked furious and scared; I winked at him as I dived out of the way of Alistair's swing, grabbing my daggers as I went.

The fight was far more serious after that; we chased each other around the little arena for a half hour. He managed to nail me with a couple of solid shield bashes, which I rolled out of, winded; I made him drop his sword twice with strikes to his wrist and arm. He finally knocked me over and put his sword to my neck.

"Yield," he panted.

I grinned. "Never." I lashed out with my feet, wrapping my legs around his knees and knocking him down, batting his sword away at the same time with my dagger. He fell and landed, half on me, half off, and I shouted with pain as I felt a rib crack. He groaned and rolled off me, collapsing onto his back beside me.

"Tie?" I offered, breathless with pain.



He sighed. "Fine. I'll stop treating you like you're fragile."

"And you're going to stop worrying about hurting me?"

"No, probably not. But I'll shut up about it unless you tell me otherwise."

"That will do. Hey, Alistair?"

"Yes, beautiful?"

"Could you get Anders for me? I think I broke a rib."

Choking on a laugh that bordered on hysteria, Alistair climbed to his feet and gestured; I felt healing magic roll over me as I laid there, and my chest slowly stopped aching. When I smiled, Alistair offered me his hand, pulling me to my feet and into a bear hug.

"I love you, Sierra."

"I know." I kissed his nose. "Now let's see who else wants to kick my ass."

He laughed.

The rest of the afternoon was actually sort of fun; I sparred with Leli, Duncan, Bel, and even Sten. I didn't win any of the fights, but I made it at least a reasonable challenge, and I didn't make a fool out of myself. When there were no more takers, a few of the group went up against each other in the ring, and the betting continued. By the end, everyone was laughing and chatting, heading back to the estate in the Diamond Quarter in good spirits.

"Hey, Oghren?"

"Yeah, Toots?"

I grimaced, but ignored the irritating nickname. At least he isn't angry anymore. "Who won the bet? The first one, on me and Alistair?"

Zevran spoke up from behind me. "I did, bella donna. Oghren bet that Alistair wouldn't fight at all; everyone else bet against you."

"But you wagered on me?"

"I've told you, cara mia – you scare me far more than any Crow. I know, or at least suspect, what you are capable of, when you put your mind to it." He winked and jogged ahead to catch up to Aedan.

When we arrived at the estate, Alistair pulled me by the hand to our room, helped me out of my armour, handed me a clean dress – not one I'd seen before, and I wondered whether Leliana or Mistress Leta had been shopping – grabbed my toiletries, and dragged me to one of the bathing chambers. He picked me up and lowered me into the bath, then knelt beside the tub to gently wash me. It was sensual, not sexual, and I purred under his tender ministrations. When he washed my hair, I was so relaxed, if it hadn't been for Alistair holding my head, I'd have drowned.

Finally Alistair climbed in, and I got to return the favour. His skin was smooth and slick under my hands, and I probably washed him more than necessary, but he didn't complain. His face was flushed, though, and his engorging length told me he'd noticed.

When I was done playing, he pulled me to sit between his legs, my back against his chest, and he just held me.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to condescend."

"I know. It's not just you, either. My brother needs to seriously take a breath sometimes. And I know I'm not some warrior princess – I have no illusions of becoming a wandering hero or something. But I can pull my weight, at least, and I need to be allowed to do it. I love you, and I love that you care about me, about hurting me, but I also need to live my life without someone constantly second-guessing me."

"It matters that much to you? That I don't hold back when we're..." he blushed, "together?"

"Not only then, but yes. I love how I feel when we're together. I love the feeling of total openness, of being more than just me, but as part of us. I don't want to lose that because you're holding back. I even love the stiffness after. And just because my skin has trouble keeping up with my stamina doesn't mean we have to change – I just have to take care of it after."

He scoffed. "How can you love the stiffness?"

"Haven't you ever been a little sore or chafed after sex? Every time I move the wrong way, I get a vivid mental image of exactly what it was we did that gave me that ache. I feel deliciously naughty all day."

He laughed, but his erection, which had been flagging, indicated his arousal at the thought. "I am going to make you feel deliciously naughty right now, if you'll let me."

"Like I'd ever say no to that?"

He picked me up, turning me to face him, and as I straddled his legs, I sank down on his length, both of us groaning at the contact. I rode him to completion, and he didn't seem to be holding back; I flopped against his chest after in the cooling water, sated and exhausted.

After washing up again and getting dressed, we had supper as one big group; sixteen people, a mabari, and a handful of golems take up a lot of space. We agreed to go to the Assembly in the morning, all fully armed and armoured, with full helms so Sereda and Gorim could remain incognito. Caridin was going to ask both candidates to come down to the floor, where it was Zevran's job to get close to Bhelen, preventing him from getting into a fight with a blade to the neck and paralysis poison, if necessary. Everyone else would defend against Bhelen's toadies who may or may not attack even after the Prince had been taken out of the fight.

"I want him alive, Zevran. Please, don't kill him unless absolutely necessary."

"It's not my usual sort of assignment," he drawled in his thick Antivan accent, "but I'm sure I'll manage to contain myself somehow."

We all broke out laughing. Sereda blushed, muttering apologies.

That night Alistair and I slept, tangled together and peaceful, still contentedly stiff from our earlier exertions.

Mistress Leta had apparently had all of our armour cleaned and oiled, and our weapons sharpened, while we slept. That woman is amazing! I wondered if she ever slept. Even Oghren, short fluffy beard finally starting to grow out again, looked clean, well-dressed, and impressive. He was even sober, for a change. We formed up as Caridin's honour guard, following the enormous golem through the streets of the Diamond Quarter to the Assembly Hall. There were plenty of people out and about – rumours of the Paragon's existence had spread like wildfire, as we'd intended – and many of them pointed in shock as the armoured golem stomped along. A ripple of amazement went through the crowd, followed by cheering for their long-lost Paragon returned home at last.

We waited in the foyer as the Deshyrs were seated in the hall; several of them had tried to sidle up to Caridin, or even some of the rest of us, probing not-so-subtly to try to pry out who the golem would choose. We all just pointedly ignored them, to their obvious disappointment. Finally everyone was seated, and Steward Bandelore announced us.

Caridin strode forward, the rest of us on his heels, and the Deshyrs all rose and bowed to the Paragon as he descended the steps to the central dais where invited guests were allowed to speak.

When everyone settled again, Caridin raised one hand. "I am Caridin, a Paragon of Orzammar. I have been alone in the Deep Roads since the Anvil of the Void was used to force me to become like this." He gestured at his armoured, stony arm. "The Paragon Branka is dead, killed in the Deep Roads trying to find me. These Grey Wardens completed her task. The Anvil has been destroyed, at my request; never again shall it be used to enslave dwarven souls."

A murmur rose in the chamber, everyone reacting with shock and surprise at the news. Caridin paused to allow it to settle again.

Steward Bandelore stepped forward, bowing low to Caridin. "Does anyone here deny that this is, indeed, the Paragon Caridin?"

No one spoke. Bandelore bowed again and stepped back. "Please continue, Paragon. You know what the Assembly is waiting to hear."

"You have proven yourselves incapable of ruling over Orzammar. This should never have been allowed to continue. I will break the impasse so Orzammar may finally move forward. Prince Bhelen, Lord Harrowmont, please step down." He gestured to a spot in front of him on the dais.

Surprised, the two men rose uncertainly while everyone else fidgeted impatiently. Harrowmont stepped down first, followed by a rather sulky looking Bhelen. Harrowmont bowed deeply to Caridin when he arrived on the dais; Bhelen's bow was perfunctory and somehow mocking.

Caridin turned to Shale, who carried a small box; at his nod, she handed the box to Bandelore, who opened it.

"I have forged a crown for the next leader of Orzammar." He reached out and lifted a golden hoop from the box where it sat. It was sparkling with gems, a slender golden circlet with an intricate design at the front; it looked like something a jeweler would have made, not a smith. It was beautiful, catching the light of the torches within the Assembly chamber and refracting them out to form tiny rainbows on the walls.

It looked...delicate. For one moment, my rare, well-hidden girly instincts kicked in – I wanted to try it on. Badly. I shook my head and focused on Bhelen and Harrowmont. Zev had wormed his way behind Bhelen, who was staring at the crown like it was poisonous. Harrowmont had a sardonic smile on his face; he made eye contact with Duncan, and the two exchanged barely perceptible nods. Caridin continued to hold the circlet aloft, silent.

Finally Bhelen broke the silence. "But who will wear it?"

That was our cue. As one, we all reached up and removed our helmets. Sereda, standing directly behind Caridin, handed hers to Gorim, and then stepped around the golem, shaking out her long red hair. Several gasps could be heard from nearby Deshyrs.

"You didn't think it would be you, did you, dearest brother?" she whispered, quietly enough that only those of us on the dais could hear. She stepped between the two contenders for the throne and turned to face Caridin.

"I have revoked the exile of Sereda Aeducan from Orzammar, on my authority as a Paragon."

Bhelen sputtered, face turning an alarming scarlet colour. "You can't do that!"

An old, white-haired, almost skinny dwarf in lavish noble clothing stepped out of a small alcove near Bandelore and cleared his throat. "The Memories confirm that a Paragon may indeed revoke political exile, Prince Bhelen. From the time of Paragon Lantena-"

"Thank you, Shaper Czibor," interrupted Bandelore, with a roll of the eyes that indicated he'd had to interrupt just such a diatribe many times before. I had forgotten that the Shaper attended the Assembly as well. "Does anyone have legitimate grounds on which to appeal the revocation of Sereda Aeducan's exile?"

No one spoke, yet again.

The Shaper glared at Bandelore, and then stepped down to the dais as well, taking the crown from Caridin and looking up at the golem expectantly.

"Then I, Paragon Caridin, to whom the task of choosing a King for Orzammar has fallen, instead choose a Queen. All hail Queen Sereda Aeducan!"

Harrowmont immediately dropped to his knees, as did many of the assembled Deshyrs. Bhelen, however, shouted out, "No! This will not be allowed to stand." He drew a sword, but Zevran stepped up behind him and held a dagger to his throat from behind.

"Call off your associates, brother dearest, or I'll have my friend there kill you. Your choice."

Dwarves all around the gallery had drawn weapons, an impressive display of maces, swords, and axes; but there were nineteen of us, including two golems and a mabari, and several of the other Deshyrs were armed as well. All of them hesitated, weighing the odds, and looked to Bhelen for a response.

He tried to move, and Zevran gripped him tighter, the tip of his dagger just barely digging in. "This dagger is coated with a powerful paralyzing agent, Your Highness," Zev said quietly, sneering on the title, "so if you move any further, I will stop you. All it will take is one little cut. Already you feel weaker from just a puncture, no?"

Bhelen looked around frantically, seeming to realise that no one would come to his rescue; his sword dropped to the stone with a clang, and everyone else who'd drawn weapons followed suit.

Bandelore called for guards, and those who had drawn weapons were bound and taken away; Bhelen remained on the dais, his hands bound behind him. Harrowmont was then asked if he would step down as a contender for the throne, and he did so with grace.

Sereda was crowned, and a round of cheering went up in the Chamber. When everyone had settled, Sereda took her place on the throne, leaving Bhelen still standing. Bandelore banged his staff to get everyone's attention.

"Lords of the Assembly, my friends," she smiled and nodded to us, "we have much work to do. If everyone would find seats, we can continue. Unless you have other places you need to be," she continued, clearly aimed at us.

We quickly deliberated. Aedan, Duncan, Faren and I wanted to stay for the discussion, Leliana appeared fascinated by it all, and Alistair and Zev had no intention of leaving me or Aedan alone. Gorim wasn't going to leave Sereda there either. Caridin was given an honoured place at Sereda's side, and Shale stood with him. Everyone else was going to be bored; Duncan suggested they go shopping for new packs, clothes, runes, and other supplies, since so much of our stuff had been destroyed in the Deep Roads. They left, and the eight of us remaining found seats. Kardol, who'd been standing at the back unobtrusively, joined us.

"First, the matter of Prince Bhelen. I would like to declare a vote that he be exiled to the Deep Roads, and spend the rest of his life fighting darkspawn until his death. Unless someone would like to speak on his behalf?"

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byElyssaCousland© 3 comments/ 6653 views/ 3 favorites

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