You find the parchment in the remnants of an old campsite, laying close to a pile of ashes, long since cold. Somehow, the letter has survived the wind and the rain and the fire. Picking it up, you uncrumple the aged, faded parchment to see an unaddressed, unsigned letter, although it's obvious who it's being written to. The handwriting is careful and precise. Toward the end, a few paragraphs are slightly obscured, the ink running as if drops of salt water had been dropped on them.
My parents never really understood who I am. They never could understand why I was never interested in the girls and women they introduced me to. Oh, that endless line of young things, many of them half my age. Some even younger. I guess I didn't understand then, either, why all their large, batting eyes and carefully displayed skin failed to do anything more than make me feel ill. I tried, I really did, but it just felt so... wrong. Like I was lying to them. Like I was lying to myself. I didn't understand why, though, and so I thought that I was broken. One day, when I was young, no more than fifteen, I asked the Chantry, carefully. I felt like I was confessing to blood magic, and the priestess' response... I may as well have been. I guess that was the day I lost my faith in the Maker. I don't know. I couldn't make myself worship a god who thought that I was... something wrong.
When my brother got married, I was hopeful that this would be the end of my parents' attempts to marry me to some young girl who's father controlled some piece of ground they wanted. I told them this, and they lectured me on duty and honour, and that even though Fergus would continue the line, it was my duty to strengthen it. Don't think they didn't love me, nor I them. My parents were brave and strong in both battle and politics, but also merciful and wise. Fergus was my best friend as well as my brother, and Max, my malibari war-dog, my steadfast companion. I did not grow wanting for friendship or compassion. Father taught me to fight, Mother taught me how to read anyone and just the words to use to make them see things my way. I did my best to learn to be a leader, and I like to think it worked.
That said, I never liked Bannon Howe. I should have seen it coming, really, I was such a fool to have been taken by surprise. Of course he would wait until Mother and I were alone in Castle Cousland. I but a wet behind the ears pup who fancied himself a warrior, Mother an old and seemingly frail woman. If it had not been for she and Max, I... probably would have died in Howe's coup. I don't like to think about it, not really. I tried to protect her, convinced myself in my young pride that I was the one in charge. But it was truly she who led the way as we cut our way through Howe's soldiers, trying desperately to find Father, for he had not left yet. Oh, I was so afraid. I didn't know if Fergus had escaped. Oh, my brother! They killed your wife, slaughtered your son. He was so young! I wish I could have stopped them. We found father - your Duncan, Alistar, had draged him to the servant's exit in the larder and left him there, while he went to find me. Father was... badly hurt. I was so scared when I saw him, laying there, barely alive. His legs were wounded, pouring blood, I think his right knee had been bashed in with a club. I can still see him, when I close my eyes. I can still see the way Mother tried so hard not to cry, the way he sounded so brave and noble even then. Duncan returned, and Father pressed me to join him. I wanted to stay and fight. I didn't care about the Blight or the Grey Wardens and their silly little quest then. I furious and terrified and so confused. I wanted to hunt down Howe and watch as Max tore him apart. But Father's dying wish had been for me to go with Duncan, to become a Grey Warden. I... could not refuse, reluctant though I was. Mother would not come with me. She refused to leave Father's side, she would stay and guard him to the death. But you know this. You know she would not listen to me beg for her to come. She stayed, she fought, I am sure she died, while Duncan and I fled like cowards to Ostagar. I wish you didn't know that.
At first, I hated Duncan. Misplaced though it be, I blamed him for taking me away on some quest I didn't even care about. Perhaps if we had met under different circumstances, this would have been different. In retrospect, he was a wise man, and had I not gone with him, I would surely have died. Even still, I traveled to Ostagar only reluctantly. It took three days, the three of us, on foot. Max, Duncan and I. The whole trip I was a royal pain to Duncan. I would not eat, nor answer his questions, nor listen to his warnings about the Darkspawn. Eventually, he stopped trying to talk to me, until we got to the front lines.
The first man I met upon arriving in Ostagar was King Cailas. I had heard the stories of his father - the handsome yet naive man before me did little more than annoy me. But I think that was less his fault, and more another misdirection of the self-loathing I felt at the time. King Cailas reminded me of myself, circa a week ago. It's funny, isn't it, how a mere three days can change a man so much.
That was where I met you, too. I was so angry, then, and I was outright refusing to get along with anyone. Call me spoiled if you must, I probably was, but I felt so alone and resentful then that I really did not care. But you came up to me and you told me a joke, and for the first time, I felt like I could relate to someone. I think I worried you when I laughed so loud at your jokes, but I needed it. I did. I still hated the place, yes, but you made it less of a hell. I liked you, then, I really did. And no, not that juvenile "like-like" that children in the courtyard equate with love. I genuinely felt comfortable and relaxed around you. When you grow up groomed as nobility, a friend like that is a rare one indeed.
Do you remember my Joining? When I needed to go get the blood and the scrolls with the others, with Daveth and Ser Joris. I don't know if you remember, but you saved my life that day. I had been backed into a wall by three hurlocks. I thought I was going to die. But then you came running in with that shield of yours and you knocked them aside, and you killed them. Just like that. You saved me. You helped me up. And off we went, carving our way into countless Darkspawn. I must admit, I took some satisfaction in it. A part of me, the angry, scared part of me, was soothed with every time my sword and dagger carved into Darkspawn flesh. With every blow I struck, I felt that much lighter.
But oh, the Joining. I still wear the amulet Duncan gave me, you know. I felt a little better, but somehow seeing Duncan again made me angry again. I still resented him, I guess. He reminded me of home, of being taken away. If I could go back, Alistar, and change things... I wouldn't have gone with him, Right of Conscription be damned. Even after meeting you and having all these adventures. I feel bad for it... But oh, when Duncan handed me that goblet, after seeing Daveth and Ser Joris killed... For the first time since I was a boy, I prayed to the Maker. I prayed for it to kill me. I didn't want to survive. It tasted so horrible, and as it poured down my throat, it felt like fire. I really thought I was going to die. I blacked out, and fell to the ground.
I guess there isn't a Maker, though, because I woke up. But not before those... dreams. Nightmares. Visions, you said. I didn't think about it too much, didn't want to. I guess I was still scared. No, no, I was definitely scared. Either way, I didn't get a long time to rationalize what was going on, because Duncan and King Cailas were ready to start the next stage of the battle. I... will not force you to relive the battle, Alistar. Your memory of it is, doubtless, just as sharp as mine.
If you've grasped where I'm going yet, then perhaps it may surprise you to learn that my first thought upon waking up at Flemeth's hut was not for your safety, nor for Duncan or Cailas. When Morigana woke me up that morning, all I could think about was Max. I'll never know how Flemeth managed to rescue him as well, and I don't really care. I woke up in a cold sweat, and poor Morigana could not sooth me until Max nearly broke down her door. Oh, I had never been so happy to see him, I don't think I could have gone on much further if.... something had happened to him.
I don't think I truly understood Duncan until I saw you grieve for him. You were so hurt. I wished so much to take you in my arms and hold you until the pain went away, but... that would not have been proper. So instead I feebly used my words, and I think, for the time, it helped. At least, it would have, had Morigana not been so... callous. Oh Alistar, I don't think I could describe my initial anger towards her to you. I took her aside and spoke her, a little later, but I think that just made it worse. I said... some unfavorable things. As much as I regret it now, at the time it felt so necessary. I never have been good with dealing with my anger.
Seeing you in such pain... I think that was when I fell in love with you. It... sounds foolish, I know. But I felt such compassion for you, then. I still didn't think of it as love, but looking back, I don't know what else to call it. And it hurt me to see you so upset. You blamed yourself, but I wish you wouldn't. It's not your fault, Alistar. There was nothing you could do. Even had we both been on the field fighting with Duncan, he would have died. Oh, but it should have been you, you say. Dear friend, I am infinitely thankful it was not. I do not think I could have survived losing another friend.
Our rag-tag little team grew larger. Morigana, then Leliana, then Sten. Zevran would not join us until later. As we traveled, I ham-handedly attempted to get closer to you. Usually I am much better at getting along with people, but you... maybe we just were not compatible. Maybe I was trying too hard. No matter how hard I tried to make you return my feelings, you drifted farther away. I think you resented me. If it had been anyone else... but no. When I was around you, it was harder to say the right thing, or tell the right joke. I would usually fumble it and sometimes my careless jokes would only offend you.
You had suggested we go first to Redcliffe, to seek the aid of your adoptive father, Arl Eamon. Once again, I will not bore you with the details of an event you were there for. Fighting to protect Redcliffe Village, fighting our way into the castle... saving Connor. Please, let me defend my actions to you. I did not want to let the blood mage help, I really didn't. But Alistar, what other choice had we? I would not, will not, allow a child to suffer or be harmed, and Lady Isolde... she volunteered. Had she not, I might have myself. I know you do not understand. I tried to explain at camp that night, but.... you ended up blaming yourself again. I hate it when you do that, you know. But at that moment... I think you hated me. I deserved it, perhaps, but that realization hurt almost as much as Father's death. Perhaps you will come to understand my reasons, and come to forgive me, but for now, I would simply be satisfied if you would not hate yourself for it. It was not your decision. It was mine.
And then... Zevran. Oh, I should have slain him then and there, but there was something about him. He was so clever and charming. Even laying there, begging for his life, he made me laugh. That exotic accent, his scent, of old leather and crisp spices, his beautiful, soft blond hair, those eyes, that smile. He drew me in like a lamb to the slaughter. Seeing him I believed myself to be in love. Perhaps... perhaps it was merely lust. You still wouldn't talk to me, and so I felt so... so alone. I never made anything of it until, oh, two weeks later. Over those two weeks I became completely infatuated with him. His confident smile and biting wit was like honey to me. To say I came to him, though, would be a lie, because over that time he had come to me. Or had been coming to me, I suppose. He called me handsome, and for the first time, I felt like someone understood me. Oh, he showed me much. I learned much about myself, and much about him. One of the things I learned about him was that he did not love me back. "Who has time for love?" Those were his words. When he said them, I was a fool. I thought I could fix him, change what he had grown up to be. I spent more and more time on him, lavished more and more gifts upon him.
When we returned to Redcliffe, after surviving Haven and collecting Andraste's ashes, I saw him as I was coming out of the palace. He and Morigana. Together. They did not see me, the were so caught in one another. I felt my heart breaking, and quietly left for someplace more private before they saw me.
Two days. For two days, I was silent. If Zevran noticed that I was suddenly not all over him, he made no effort to discern why nor explain himself to me. In fact, on the second day, he began to flirt with Morigana again. At the campfire. Right in front of me. I excused myself, went to sit with Sten. On the third morning, when I was taking the watch over from Zevran... I told him we needed to stop. He said he understood, but I don't think he really did.
It has been a week, now. I still can't look at Zevran. I think... I think I was never meant for this "love" thing. I love you, Alistar, I realize that. But if you will not and cannot love me, then I will settle to have you for a friend. I hope you will have me as one. We need each other. The last two Grey Wardens in Fereldin... I cannot do this without you, and you have said yourself that you could not do this without me. Zevran was never willing to give me the relationship I needed, I understand this now. I don't think I'll ever be able to get what I need. But I shall do what I must, and Alistar, together we can save Fereldin. We can remake the Grey Wardens. We can slay the archdemon.
Just please don't leave me alone.