It All Comes Down to This: Epilogue

wedding invite

My Dearest Friend,

I received the invitation to your wedding today, and cannot begin to express my joy. Not even darkspawn could keep Nathaniel and me from attending your nuptials next month, though truth be told it’s been a while since we heard more than the barest of darkspawn whispers so I don’t think that will be a problem.

Nathaniel frets he will be unwelcome among the nobility after the havoc his father wrought. It has been two years since Rendon Howe paid for his crimes with his life, but the stain he left on his family’s name will linger on for years to come, I fear. It is my hope that Fergus’s good word will be enough to lift away some of the slander Nathaniel faces everywhere he goes. It’s a strange thing when I think about how connected all our lives are. Nathaniel’s rescuing Fergus from those bandits on the way to give him our news five months ago saved us both a lot of pain. I am fairly certain my brother would never have accepted our union had things not turned out the way they did.

Alas, we are both eager to finally meet Kaitlyn in a more formal capacity, though I suspect Nathaniel hopes your nuptials will finally stop his own wife from burning oil into the small hours penning letters to her dashing nobleman from Redcliffe. Or maybe he believes they will strike a similar friendship and attempt to make us jealous by writing letters to one another, all the while complaining of our scandalous closeness.

I jest, of course. He adores you, almost as much as I do, and thanks his lucky stars every day your powers of persuasion fell short in the winning of my heart. He knows that had you not been a part of my life, things might not have worked out the way they had.

You kept me sane (or as sane as someone like me could ever hope to be,) and on the straight and narrow during the most difficult time in my life. I don’t think there are words enough to thank you for being my friend, but do know that I am grateful for you every single day, Teagan. I honestly believe you saved my life when I wasn’t sure it was worth…

“Belle,” he moaned from the other side of the room, exasperation straining his voice, “please turn down the lantern. Finish your letter in the morning and come to bed.”

“I’m almost finished,” she insisted.

“Why don’t I believe you?”

“Have I ever lied to you? I thought we agreed long ago that lies were bad.”

Returning her attention to the parchment in front of her, she lowered the quill and finished her thought.

…saving.

You kept me honest with myself and showed me that one could come back from losing everything and find reasons to smile again. I truly never thought I would, but you were right.

I still dream of Alistair. I miss him all the time, but I know there was nothing I could do to change his mind. For a long time that was what I struggled with the most. I believed there was something I could have said or done, but he credited me with giving him the strength to finally stick up for himself and make bolder decisions. Sometimes I regretted that, but it was the man he was always meant to be. I know that now.

I once could not imagine my life without him in it, even though it was a strange and impossible time that held no hope for any kind of future. Nathaniel was my future. I really believe this was the Maker’s plan for me all along, that maybe the little girl who fell in love with that shy and noble archer glimpsed the future somehow and wanted what she already knew was meant to be hers before her time. Maybe that’s a silly thing to think, or maybe it’s not. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

All that matters now is that I am on the right path, and so are you.

I knew you would find her. A man like you… it’s a wonder you managed to remain single as long as you did. I firmly believe that has far less to do with you than with the lacking quality of the women of Ferelden. Not a one of them was good enough for you, but now you’ve found her and I know she will give you the life you so deserve.  

I am fortunate to call you friend, and cannot wait to celebrate in your much deserved happiness.

Eternally Yours,

Belle

“There,” she blew across the ink to encourage it to dry, then plucked the weight from the edge of the parchment. She watched it roll in upon itself, then pushed her chair away from the desk. “I told you I was almost finished.”

“You lied actually. It’s been nearly fifteen minutes,” he droned into the pillow he’d pulled across his face to block out the light, they husky sound of his voice muffled. “Almost finished means two or three more words. A sentence at the most. You wrote him an entire novel.”

“I was writing about you. Gushing about how wonderful you are and how much I adore you…”

“How sweet of you. Now come to bed for Andraste’s sake,” he grumped. “It’s cold tonight and you know I have trouble sleeping when the lantern’s burning.”

“Flames, you get cranky when you’re tired.”

“Just imagine how cross I’ll be come morning if you don’t damper the lamp.”

“Perish the thought.” She rolled her eyes and grabbed the lantern from the edge of the desk.

Padding across the cold stone in her slippers, she lowered the light onto the bedside table and peeled the blankets downer. Stepping out of her slippers, she climbed up into the bed beside him. She leaned and turned down the lantern, watching blue flame swallow the orange and yellow before flickering white and darkening the room. Wriggling below the sheets and the quilt, Nathaniel reached for her, bringing her in to rest against him and lowering his arm across her back.

She snuggled into him, wiggling around and evoking several perturbed sighs from him until she finally found the perfect position and settled in. They were quiet, his chest rising and falling as his breath steadied and grew longer and more relaxed.

All was silent within Vigil’s Keep. The darkspawn were silent, the Mother was gone and they were slowly rebuilding the damage the keep had suffered during the attack nearly a year earlier. All of their fellow companions were gone, save for Oghren. There seemed to be no getting rid of him, but she suspected it wouldn’t be long before his own little family called him home too. Felsi was nothing, if not persistent, and her visits to the keep were growing more and more frequent.

She would miss him when he went, almost as much as she missed Anders, who’d made his way across the sea and hidden himself in Kirkwall’s under city. He didn’t write often, but when he did his letters frightened her. He’d taken Justice with him, but never spoke of the Fade spirit in his missives. Sometimes she worried about them both, but it was out of her hands.

There would be other recruits, slowly but surely, though without the threat of a Blight driving people to panic, she suspected recruitment would be more slow than sure for some time to come. Oddly, she was fine with that. She and Nathaniel were both exactly where they were meant to be. For the moment everything was right with the world. She knew it wouldn’t always be quiet, and it certainly wouldn’t be easy forever, but she was content with the way things were. The First Warden didn’t care what they did, so long as they kept up the fight when it reared its ugly head, and they were both happy to do it so long as they could do it together.

Realizing he was probably on the verge of sleep when she lifted her head and thought to whisper, she hesitated before she said his name. “Nathaniel?” When he didn’t answer, she prompted him again with a gentle nudge. “Nate?”

“Belle?”

“I love you.” Tilting her face upward, she brushed her lips across his cheek.

He turned into her, found her waiting kiss and murmured, “I love you, too, my lady.”

About erica

Erica North is the fanfiction pseudonym for fantasy/romance author Jennifer Melzer.
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