Summary: I was once Cousland and then a Grey Warden. I have known all sorts of betrayal. Now my body becomes a pyre, fuel for my vengeance. This is a metamorphosis, of sorts.
A/N: A series of short glimpses into fem!Cousland's journey. There are end game spoilers.
I used to be a simple girl. Or as simple as the daughter of a teyrn could be, with a dagger in my hand and a mabari at my side. I knew simple things: the hallways of the Highever castle, which servants were kind, which guards looked the other way when a young girl and a dog slipped out a side door. Father has always treated me like another son, efforts that Mother tried to thwart at each opportunity. Although Mother was a fighter herself, adept with bow and arrow, but she would hold my hand and brush her fingers over my calluses, sighing.
I was a simple girl who knew simple things, like the balance of a blade in my hands, the smell of supple armor, and how to tread lightly without a sound. My legs were strong from scaling trees, and my arms muscled from throwing apples at an unlucky passing knight. The other nobles had names for me – headstrong, wild, spoiled. Father's advisors said – spirited, bright, and knew that I was doted upon by the entire household.
I remembered the smell of the spring after winter's thaw, the feel of Rabbit's fur under my fingers as he led me chasing after his namesake in the underbrush. I was taught Ferelden history, the Chant of Light, of herbs and poultices, poisons and traps. A proper warrior upbringing, Fergus would say proudly, even my little sister can stand tall against the Blight. Fergus was the one with all of the dread responsibility, the boring tomes of household accounts and figures of the harvest collected this autumn. He was responsible for riding with father to the banns and the villages, or on trips to Denerim for councils with the king.
I supposed there were worst things to be than the daughter of a teyrn, even with Fergus' wife always reminding me of how a lady should behave, that I should be taught the proper ways of nobility. How to hold my dress in a certain way, how to curtsey or wear those ridiculous shoes that were more like torture contraptions designed to cripple a foot. She would wrinkle her nose at me whenever she saw me after the afternoon's sparring session, disgust evident on her face that I smelled like Rabbit and dirt fermenting in the sun.
She would have hated for the others to see her like how she fell in her final moments: dress rumpled, skirt stained, and hair tousled in wild ringlets. Oren was tossed aside like a doll, a broken vessel of what he used to be - tagging after Fergus eagerly, the world so new to one so young.
The training that Oriana protested against amounted to something because I slashed and parried and danced the intricate steps of battle, the repetition that resonated in muscle and sinew, stretched and taut. And she was dead and I was not. It was a bitter realization.
They were all dead. Servants both kind and harsh. The guards who would laugh as I swung from the trees, the branches carrying me nimbly away from the knight who shook an apple towards me, disapproving of my antics. Ser Gilmore's face as he spoke of his death, laying his life on the sharp edge of duty. I would remember all of this.
But then through the fire and the screams, the castle stones watching a slaughter, the soil drowning with the blood of those loyal or once loyal to Highever... Father was at the larder door and I was not a rogue fighter and Mother not a warrior archer. I was seventeen and young and I left what remained of my family there to die while my ears rang with the terrible song of vengeance.