Disclaimer: I don't own DA:O or any of its characters.
A/N: This is somewhat A/U, so bear with me please. =)
"Read it and weep, boys! Time to pay up!"
Several groans are heard around the table. I laugh heartily, gathering the cards together. "That's what you lot get for underestimating her," bellows the bartender.
"How were we to know that a whore would be such a savvy card player?" grouses one of my opponents.
"Tut tut, my good man. I am not a whore, I'm afraid. Just a simple woman seeking simple pleasures. Not all women that frequent the Pearl are ladies of the night," I nod in Isabela's direction. "Take the captain, for example. Fine lass indeed." Isabela winks at me and turns back to argue with some poor slob that's challenged her to a duel. Will they never learn?
"Now, I believe my total winnings are…a hundred silvers," I grin widely, savouring the winces of each man at the table. Lucky for them, they don't argue and simply pay up. I pay no mind to the fighting that's broken out behind me. Isabela can handle herself. I'm not surprised when she slides into the chair across from me, appearing only mildly piqued from her duel.
"Gathered yourself quite a bit of silver, sweet thing," she smiles. "Would you like to go below deck and celebrate?"
I chuckle softly, shaking my head. "Lovely as you are, I'm afraid that you lack the proper parts that I need in order to be satiated." I wink at her.
She grows serious after sparing a glance over my shoulder. "There's someone asking for you," she mutters. I shift my weight slightly and turn in my seat. I recognize the man she's referring to immediately. He's obviously out of place with his perfectly trimmed grey beard and high quality clothes. I would have thought him smart enough to at least dress the part of a commoner. Though in all of the years I've known him, Eamon Guerrein is hardly the subtle type.
I'm a wanderer, a traveller of sorts. Before the Blight I had spent my time studying in Orlais. When I received word that Ferelden was in danger, I had gathered my belongings and travelled home. It was a long and arduous journey. Upon arriving in the Frostback Mountains, I learned of my family's fate. Hope sprang anew, however, when I heard that Aedan Cousland, conscripted to the Grey Wardens, had stopped over in Orzammar and was rallying an army to fight against the Blight. My heart swelled at the news. Darling Aedan. The dwarven folk allowed me to stay in their land for a time. After undergoing their Proving, I was a welcome addition to the Diamond Quarter. King Bhelen set up living quarters in his palace. I was happy to stay in his home, and he asked for naught in return. Perhaps he knew of my relationship with Aedan, I'll never know for sure. I wanted to join in the fight against the darkspawn, I hungered for battle. Life in Orlais had been dull, and I was chomping at the bit. Bhelen felt this would be too risky, however, and advised me to stay in Orzammar and assist in the battle by fighting the darkspawn from below the surface.
News came of the fall of the archdemon. Ferelden had been saved. The one responsible for slaying the beast, however, had perished. My heart hammered in my chest as I was told that the Warden in question had been Aedan. I was broken. I wept for days, damning myself for not joining him in his quest. I loved him, yet I had failed him. A funeral was to be held in his honour. I would never make it to Denerim in time. No matter. I would visit his grave. Before leaving, I travelled to Dust Town and received my first and only tattoo. The mark of the casteless. It marred my features, but I wore it with pride. My own personal joke.
It took six months to travel to Denerim, and much had changed. A new king ruled the lands, no Teyrns had been put into place to replace the ones that had died. Amaranthine was now home to the Wardens. I asked after Fergus Cousland, just to be sure. As I had suspected, he had fallen soon after the great battle, overcome by grief. One more regret to add to my list of shortcomings. I visited first Fergus' grave, then the memorial that had been created for Aedan, Hero of Ferelden. It was so odd to think of him in such a way. I had always known that he was special. During our playful sparring sessions as children he'd often told me that he'd do great things when he grew up. He got what he wanted, I suppose. It wasn't long before I met Isabela. She recognized a good recruit when she saw one. She used my skills as a rogue to her advantage. With my quick hands and cunning mind I took to her card scam easily. We travelled from port to port, hustling idiots when we could find them. We had just returned to Denerim when Eamon walked into the Pearl.
I stand and face the old nobleman. "Eamon," I smile easily. "What brings you to the Pearl? I don't think the Arlessa would approve."
"I'm here to see you, actually. I saw you when you first arrived in Denerim. I saw you visiting…the memorial. I heard that you left with The Siren's Call, and knew that you would soon return. I hired someone to keep an eye out for you." his gaze flickers over my attire. He masks his shock at seeing me in Chasind robes quite well. I fold my arms over my chest, pressing my bosom up and out. I want him to be as uneasy as possible. He's the intruder here, after all.
"Is that so?" I ask, inclining my head slightly. "Well, what can I do for you, milord?"
"Can we go somewhere a bit more…private?" he asks.
I sigh exasperatedly and catch Isabela's attention. "Mind if I go below deck for a moment? I have some…things that need sorting out."
Isabela raises an eyebrow but knows better than to ask questions. "Go right ahead, sweet thing." I lead Eamon through to the ship, and below deck. We find an empty room with a small table in it. I gesture for him to have a seat in one of the chairs, and I sit across from him.
"What do you want?" I ask bluntly.
"First I must offer my condole-" he begins. I hold up a hand to stop him. He clears his throat. "Very well. Then I shall get to the point. As you are no doubt aware, Ferelden has a new king." I grunt by way of reply. "He's not used to the ways of the court. He was raised a commoner. A Grey Warden. He was very good friends with Aedan. Did you know that?" I shake my head. "Regardless, Aedan had begun to show him the ropes once it was decided that Alistair, that's his name in case you were unaware, was slated to be king." As he's speaking I've extracted one of my daggers. I twirl it idly, something I've been known to do when I'm nervous or deep in thought. Eamon doesn't seem too put off by my twirling.
"What does this have to do with me?" I ask.
Eamon inhales deeply. "I was hoping that perhaps you could reclaim your title and continue to tutor the king. You've always had a very good head for politics, and-"
"No," I say simply.
"I know that you and Aedan were close-"
"Close?" I say incredulously. I feel my ire beginning to rise. "Close?! I felt the exact moment that he died. It felt like my heart had been ripped in two. He was a part of me. We shared a soul. Do you know how it feels to be a part of someone your entire life only to have them ripped away because of some foolish sense of duty? Aedan was the blood of my blood. I was born only minutes before him, but I was still the eldest. I should have protected him!"
"My lady…Elissa, please. You must understand. Aedan would have wanted you to reclaim your place in Highever. He would have wanted-"
"You know nothing of what my brother wanted. He would have wanted me to be happy. I don't want any part of your twisted politics. Look where it got my family. They're all dead." I growl.
"But Elissa, you are the last surviving Cousland. You have a duty-" Eamon stammers.
"Do not speak to me of duty, old man. Go back to your king and tell him I'm not interested in titles." I spit maliciously.
"He does not know I'm here," he says sadly. "He doesn't even know you exist. Though I can imagine he'd be quite happy to know that his fallen brother at arms has a surviving twin sister."
"I'm sure the king has more important things to worry about," I snort.
"Very well," Eamon stands and turns to leave. "I do hope you'll reconsider, my lady."
"Don't hold your breath," I say acidly.
I sit and twirl my dagger for a time, lost in thought. I almost don't hear Isabela enter.
"Elissa? Are you alright?" she asks. I look up at her. She must be worried if she's referring to me by name.
"I'm fine," I reassure her.
"Who was that man?"
"No one," I reply. "No one at all."