Disclaimer and Author's Note:
This is the sequel to Dragon Age Origins: The Fantom Edit. This story takes place before the events in the third book in this series, entitled Dragon Age : Incarnations. Most of the events in this story take place roughly fourteen years after Alistair's coronation. If you have not read Dragon Age Origins: The Fantom Edit, here are the major plot points you may want to know (Spoilers!): Lyssa Cousland is the human noble who joined the Grey Wardens shortly before the battle at Ostagar that took the life of King Maric Theirin. During their journey to gather up allies to defeat the Blight, Lyssa and Alistair saved the life of Arl Eamon's son, Connor. They also saved the mages in the circle tower and made peace between the elves and the werewolves. Lyssa and Alistair agreed to perform the ritual with Morrigan in order to survive the slaying of the archdemon. Alistair became King of Ferelden, with Lyssa ruling by his side. There are a few references to events in the Fantom Edit, chapters 12, 24, and 32 specifically.
Dragon Age: Origins belongs to Bioware, along with all recognizable characters.
Dragon Age—Broken Dynasties
Chapter 1 : A Grim Message
Six months after the coronation
The deluge had followed Alistair the entire trip. He hunched forward on his horse, trying as best he could to shield himself from the fat, lazy drops of rain. His heavy woolen cloak kept most of the water from reaching his armor. Alistair found the plinking sound the rain drops made as they hit his metal gauntlets, held out and loosely gripping the reins, strangely comforting; the irregular staccato created a musical backdrop that seemed appropriate for this most unpleasant duty.
Alistair couldn't complain—it had been his idea to personally deliver the news. He forced himself to sit up straight in his saddle and really look around at the farm. They were just outside of Denerim, but the small dwelling was the only home in sight. Alistair stared hard at the well worn door of the farm house. He felt Lyssa's presence before he saw her. He turned to see Lyssa urging her horse up alongside his own. As she stopped next to him, Lyssa reached out and placed her hand on his knee reassuringly.
Lyssa had overseen the joining with Alistair, along with two Grey Wardens from Orlais. It was the first joining performed in Ferelden since the Blight. Alistair knew that it would be different, with the Archdemon dead, but that didn't stop the memories from nagging at him for weeks leading up to the ceremony; memories of Lyssa's joining. Much to Alistair's relief, three of the four recruits had survived the joining. Although everyone else thought the joining had gone as well as could be hoped, Alistair was unable to shrug off Arsan's death. He felt guilty for it, even though this time they had informed all of the recruits of the risks before they agreed to become Grey Wardens, just as Lyssa had suggested. Before the ceremony, that had assuaged Alistair's unease about officiating at the joining. But when Arsan had died, the memories came rushing back. Alistair wondered if he would be able to oversee the rebuilding of the Grey Wardens. He had already seen so much death in the war against the Blight. Alistair knew, on an intellectual level, that he should see Arsan no differently than the injured and dying he saw when touring the makeshift healing tents after the battle at Denerim- just one more victim of the darkspawn. But he just couldn't—Arsan, and his death, hovered just at the edge of his thoughts.
It hadn't helped that the recruits had been staying at the castle while they waited for the Orlesian Grey Wardens to arrive at Amaranthine. Alistair had gotten to know the recruits over the week they had been at the castle in Denerim, and Arsan was an extremely likable fellow. Arsan, a Dalish elf, had left his clan along with his younger brother to go on a pilgrimage of sorts. Arsan believed that if he could do enough good deeds, he would engender a feeling of goodwill toward elves among the other races of Thedas. Everyone who knew Arsan spoke highly of him. Arsan and his brother had lived together at this small farm house for years, ever since they had saved the farmer who owned it, and his entire family, from bandits on the highway.
Arsan never spoke of these deeds though. He spent most of his time talking of his younger brother, Gildre. Alistair had learned that Gildre was the only family Arsan had. When Arsan fell at the joining, it dredged up painful memories of how Alistair had lost all of his family to the Blight as well.
Lyssa had seen how quickly Arsan had grown on Alistair, and knew the grief Alistair felt over the death of the young recruit. She had lost many soldiers over the years while she was a commander in Highever, so she had delivered news of the fallen often enough to know that it was never easy. However, she also knew how much it meant to the surviving members of the family that the commander was the one to show up to deliver such news. She hinted to Alistair that he might feel better if he met Arsan's brother and expressed his sympathies. Alistair, although he found the prospect grim, understood the need for it for both Gildre and himself. He told the other Grey Wardens he would deliver the news personally. That decision had brought Alistair here, drenched with rain, staring at the door that he couldn't bring himself to knock on.
Alistair looked down at his horse. Lyssa waited patiently for Alistair to be ready. She knew these things couldn't be rushed. Alistair had never delivered this kind of news before.
Alistair loved that Lyssa had offered to come with him. She had been by his side throughout the entire process of restarting the Grey Wardens. Lyssa had quickly bonded with all the recruits. Her rapport with the soldiers was so immediate that for a time Alistair had envied it. But as he spent more time among his men, Alistair had come to realize that, despite how he might see himself as more the jester than the king, he had a connection to the men not so different from Lyssa's.
Alistair reached down and took Lyssa's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze for a few moments. He let it drop and slowly lowered himself off of his horse. Lyssa hopped down and stood beside him as he knocked on the wooden door, nervously waiting for it to be answered.
Gildre knew his brother Arsan had attended the joining last night. His heart had not left his throat since last night. With every sound that drifted into the small warm house from outside, his breath caught. But each time, it was nothing. Gildre found himself pacing back and forth wearing a path into the wooden floor.
He busied himself, making a stew and stoking the fire to keep the house warm. The chilly rain had been pouring for hours. Gildre tried not to think on the last time he had seen Arsan, but the memory surfaced anyway.
Arsan had brought home a particularly nice bottle of wine. They had finished the bottle before Arsan told Gildre the news. Arsan had been chosen as a Grey Warden recruit. One of the first to be recruited, Arsan had said, ecstatic at the news, energetically walking around the house as he talked despite the half bottle of wine. He was particularly excited that the King and Queen themselves had invited him to come to the castle.
"This will really bring good will to our people! Think of it Gildre, a Grey Warden personally chosen by the King and Queen, the heroes who saved us all from the Blight. And I, an elf!" Arsan had shouted out.
Gildre looked into the bottom of his cup and tilted it so the small amount of red wine that still remained shifted, coating the ceramic cup with a thin layer of red liquid. He smiled and shook his head.
"Sounds great," Gildre said a little half heartedly, "I don't suppose they mentioned what happened to all those Grey Warden recruits that were never heard from again."
Arsan had been looking out the window at the farmlands beyond. He turned to Gildre and pulled a chair close to him. Arsan sat down and took Gildre's hand.
"Actually, they did. Amazing, isn't it? After all these years of secrecy surrounding the Grey Warden ritual, they just out and told me. I got the feeling the Orlesian Grey Wardens were none too pleased about it, but... the queen herself told me. We have to drink the blood of darkspawn, and a little bit of the archdemon's blood as well. My life will be shortened, and should there be a Blight, I may be called upon to make a further sacrifice. But both the King and Queen said another blight so soon was unlikely. Anyway, it is dangerous... but Gildre, I still want to go through with the joining. You understand, right?" Arsan looked into Gildre's eyes.
Gildre sighed and pulled his hand away from Arsan. He placed his elbows on the table and rubbed his face with his hands.
"I know well enough not to try to stop you. You've spoken of nothing but the Grey Wardens for the last six months..." Gildre said. Gildre felt his stomach lurch as he turned to the wall so Arsan couldn't see his face.
"I am happy for you, Arsan," he said as he surreptitiously wiped away a stray tear. I'm just not happy for me, Gildre thought bitterly.
That had been a week ago, just before Arsan had left to stay at the castle. Gildre knew that even should Arsan survive the joining, Arsan would be duty bound to go out into the world and fight darkspawn wherever they appeared. But he could not stop his brother from his quest. It was too important to Arsan.
I am nineteen, soon to be twenty, thought Gildre. I need to grow up. I will never find my way in this world if I continue to follow my brother around like this.
So now he just prayed to Mythal that Arsan would come knocking on the door flush with excitement.
When Gildre heard the horses approach, he ran to the door, his hand falling on the latch. But he paused, concentrating to hear through the thick old door the sounds of the party, straining to pick out the sound of his brother's voice. He pressed his ear against the door, waiting for it. The horses stopped outside, and no one called out. The riders did not immediately come to the door. When the seconds drew out into minutes, he knew, and he wept.
Gildre had no idea how long he stayed, frozen against the door, weeping. When he began to rouse himself, he found the wood pressed against his cheek had soaked up the water from his tears. Gildre desperately tried to remember every good moment he had ever had with Arsan. He wanted to burn every little memory of his brother permanently in his mind. Eventually he heard one of the riders dismount. He must have been wearing heavy armor, because as he approached the door, Gildre could hear the muffled grinding of metal shifting on metal.
Gildre went to the larder and pulled out a pitcher of water and a rag. A knock finally came as Gildre was wetting the rag to wipe his face clean of tears. He set everything down and walked to the door, steeling himself. He put his hand on the doorknob, but found it impossible to open. He stood there for some time before he heard a soft female voice call out his name. The voice reminded Gildre of his dead sister.
"Gildre," the voice said, "I know you are standing there, and I am truly sorry. But you cannot close your door to this news. Please, let us grieve with you. You are not alone."
At these words, the truth came home to Gildre. The reality hit him hard and the tears flowed freely again. He wanted to shout at the voice, to scream at the voice for taking his brother from him. He wanted to strike down the Grey Warden standing just outside his door. Without thinking he whipped the door open, his face covered in grief and rage.
Gildre's anger transformed into shock. Before him stood not only one Grey Warden, but two. And these were not just any Grey Wardens, the King and Queen themselves had come to see him. They looked so tall and beautiful to him. He had only seen them from afar before, at the coronation and wedding. The King was ruggedly handsome up close. Gildre tore his gaze away from those brown eyes, so full of sympathy and kindness. Gildre did not want kindness right now. He wanted to lash out. He turned to the woman. Gildre always found it easier to lash out at women.
As Gildre's eyes met the queen's, he found his anger fading away. Her face showed genuine anguish and grief. Gildre's mind flew to the memory of his sister, Amaaro—there was something about the queen that reminded him so deeply of her besides her voice. His anger spent, the pain resurfaced, and he found himself falling against her, hugging her as he sobbed.
Alistair was taken aback at the reaction. The young elf had looked so angry when he first opened the door. He had almost stepped between the elf and Lyssa, but Lyssa seemed to sense the young elf's mood and her arms opened up to embrace him. Lyssa held Gildre like a mother would a child, gently rocking him and stroking his hair. The king's guard had come forward to intervene, but Alistair held up his hand and waved them back.
Alistair hesitantly put his hand on Gildre's back. "I am so sorry. I cannot express how truly regretful I am at the loss of Arsan."
Gildre held onto Lyssa for dear life. He didn't know what he would do next. His whole life he had followed Arsan. After Amaaro had died, he had followed Arsan without question, even when he announced he planned to leave the Dalish camp. Although the Keeper told them both they were being foolish, Gildre stood by his brother. Now, he had nothing. The home he lived in was there because of the deeds Arsan had performed. Gildre was unsure if the farmer's generosity would extend to him, and he could not afford to pay him.
Lyssa looked into the small house that Arsan had shared with Gildre and remembered the stories Arsan had told them about his brother. She knew the young elf would likely end up in the alienage if she did nothing to help him. The Dalish camp might not take him back after he had been gone for so long. Lyssa looked over the top of Gildre's head at Alistair. Alistair looked back at her, and an unspoken thought passed between them.
"Come, Gildre. Come back to Denerim with us. As long as I rule, there will be a place for you in the castle," Alistair said gently.
Gildre stepped back from the queen and looked down at the floor angrily.
"Just because I am an elf does not mean I wish to be a castle slave. I fought alongside my brother for many years. I was a warrior of my clan. I am no manservant," Gildre said glaring up at Alistair.
Lyssa smiled at the gall of the young elf. Alistair was a little shocked, but not displeased. Ever since he had become king, so many people treated him as if his word was the word of the Maker himself.
Lyssa leaned in close to Alistair and whispered into his ear, "You were complaining that you couldn't find a decent Steward... and Arsan did speak very highly of his brother."
Alistair smiled and nodded.
"You would be no servant, Gildre. I have been looking for someone who is unafraid to tell me off should I do something foolish. The people around me, I cannot trust them to be honest. Last week I left a smudge of gravy on my face and no one said anything until my lovely queen pointed it out. And the week before that I apparently had put my formal attire on inside out. The whole day everyone at court was rushing off to turn their tunics inside out so I wouldn't look strange. I think a man such as you would make a valuable Steward. If... you would accept this position I would be happy to offer it to you," Alistair said.
Gildre looked up at Alistair a little puzzled, "The King's Steward?"
Alistair nodded and smiled gently. Lyssa took Alistair's hand and squeezed it.
Gildre looked down at his feet. He knew what Arsan would have thought of this opportunity. The King's Steward was second only in power to the Regent. Such a high position awarded to an elf was unheard of. And this King was giving Gildre the opportunity after having just met him.
Gildre looked up at the king and wiped the tears from his face. He straightened his back and spoke evenly.
"I think your majesty has perhaps not fully recovered from the shock of facing down the archdemon. But I would be a fool not to take advantage of this offer, even from a still addled king. I would be honored to accept the role of King's Steward," Gildre said bowing.
Alistair chuckled a little before stepping forward and placing his hand on Gildre's shoulder. "Well then, the job is yours," he said, pulling Gildre upright, "but only if you stop all the bowing and your majesty nonsense. It is Alistair to you, as it ever shall be. And far be it from me to speak for my wife, but I am sure she would prefer it if you called her Lyssa."
Gildre smiled at the queen who came forward and embraced him.
"I am sorry about Arsan. He was a great man. I have no doubt he would have brought honor and glory to himself and the Grey Wardens," she said softly to him.
Alistair turned serious as he spoke, "Come. We can send for your things if you like. But we have one last decision to make regarding your brother. It is up to you to let us know where you would like his final resting place to be."
Gildre nodded and followed them to the door. He grabbed his own cloak, tugging it on as he stepped out into the rain. The King and Queen mounted their horses. Gildre paused to take one last look into the small house he and Arsan had shared for the last five years. He closed the door slowly. It was the last time he ever saw the house.
Alistair came into the royal bed chambers exhausted. He felt himself grow relaxed all over when he saw Lyssa on the bed running a brush through her hair. He could smell the sweet scent of the Highever grasses wafting his way. Lyssa turned to him and smiled. Alistair felt his heart quickening as he pulled off his boots, eager to hold Lyssa against him.
He tried to tug his shirt off without unlacing it, still managing to mumble, "You know, I'm all out of Stewardships, so I don't know what we are going to do about all the other family members we will likely have bad news for over the years."
Lyssa laughed, "Well, we can always make up new positions. Gentleman of the West Wing, Lady of the Nightstand."
Alistair laughed and he slid into bed pulling Lyssa to him. He slipped his hands under her dressing gown and pulled it off, tossing it on the floor. He grew excited as he pressed against her, inhaling her scent and kissing her neck. Lyssa laughed and pushed him back a little.
"You're in a rush tonight!"
"I can't help it. You were in your armor today. I think I should make you wear it more often. It might even be fun if we pitched a tent in here. Just like the good old days," Alistair said while his hands explored Lyssa's body.
Lyssa placed her hands on either side of Alistair's face and made him look into her eyes.
"I have something to tell you," she said leaning in to give him a soft kiss.
"I hope you're not going to tell me how excited a man in armor makes you, because that armor is really uncomfortable. I don't know how Cailan wore it so long," Alistair said joking. He pulled Lyssa against his body and leaned his forehead against hers. "But I think not. You have that serious look in your eyes."
Lyssa smiled and her face lit up. Alistair saw joy there and couldn't help but feel the anticipation inside of him grow, "What is it? Don't keep a secret that good from me."
Lyssa laughed a little nervously, "Okay, calm down. I just got confirmation today. I... We are going to have a child."
Alistair stared at Lyssa for a moment, confused. Then his eyebrows disappeared into his hairline.
Alistair moved his hands to Lyssa's and he cupped them and brought them to his mouth. He kissed her knuckles gently. The smile plastered on his face was full of delight. Lyssa nodded and flushed with happiness at his response.
"I didn't think we... I mean we've certainly been trying hard enough, but I hadn't really hoped…" Alistair said laughing as he pulled Lyssa into an embrace and let a few tears of joy escape into her hair.
"Well, I suspected for a couple months, but I had a mage check for me. She says the life sign is there, and it is strong," Lyssa said happily.
"You kept this secret for a couple months? You've more strength of will than I. Teagan will be so relieved. The nobles have been pestering him about an heir for a while now. I told him... it might not be possible. Actually I asked if it was possible my father had any other bastards, but he just scowled at me," Alistair said cheerily as he resumed kissing Lyssa.
Lyssa laughed, "You probably half scared him to death. After everything they went through to keep a Theirin on the throne."
"Yes well... it wouldn't have mattered to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled. But I've no interest in having a child with anyone else. To hell with the nobles," Alistair said softly and he kissed Lyssa deeply.
Lyssa let her hands run through his hair as he maneuvered himself against her.
"So... I'm not real clear on this... can we still..." Alistair began to ask blushing a little at his own awkwardness.
"Oh you had better still! If I'm going to have to carry around a child in my belly for the next six months, I better be attended to quite regularly," Lyssa said laughing. Then her voice fell to a soft whisper, "You've nothing to worry about, Alistair. I'll make sure nothing happens to jeopardize this. I know you weren't expecting it. But I also know how much you wanted it. I saw your dream in the fade, remember?"
"Yes," Alistair said kissing her softly, "you did. And you still haven't told me what your dream was. I call that trickery, trickery most foul."
"Yes, it is simply unfair, isn't it?" Lyssa said as she reached up to put out the candle.