Disclaimer - not mine.
This story will, at least at first, follow the human origin story line. But I will be changing some major plot points within in the first few chapter. Let me know what you think.
Chapter 1 – Out of the Pot, Into the Fire
"Ah! So this is the promising new Grey Warden recruit I've heard so much about!" Cailin Therin's voice tore Ailee Cousland out of the shocked stupor she had been walking in for the past few days. She looked up, noticing the once mighty fortress for the first time. The king was standing in front of her, smiling as always. Ailee tried to smile back, but it didn't quite reach her eyes.
"Yes, Your Highness," Duncan began, "This is…" But Cailin cut him off.
"No need to stand on formalities, Duncan. I've known Ailee for quite some time." Duncan raised an eyebrow, the only sign of his shock, but said nothing. "Where's Bryce? I would have expected him by now." Cailin asked. He looked about the square as if Ailee's father were about to round a corner with Arl Howe and his men. Ailee felt the same way. But from the eager, expectant look on Cailin's face, she knew that word of what happened had conveniently not reached Ostagar.
"You haven't heard?" Ailee asked. Her voice was only just above a whisper.
"Heard what? Ailee, what's happened?" Worry could be heard in Cailin's usually calm, confident voice. The lips of the nobility, which were so often wagging over nothing, had been silent on the one matter of importance. Ailee had assumed that Cailin would have heard about Arl Howe's treachery at Highever and now that he hadn't she wasn't sure where to begin.
"Howe, he…After Fergus left…" Ailee took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Howe came and said his troops were delayed. Father sent Fergus up ahead with all his men. In the morning Father was supposed to march with Howe and his troops as soon as they arrived. That night we were attacked. Howe, he betrayed us." Ailee's voice wavered as she tried to maintain her composure.
"What happened?" Cailin asked, even though Cailin's eyes betrayed that he had already figured out the answer.
"Father was wounded. We made it to the Great Hall, we thought he would be there. Ser Gareth was holding the doors for us as long as he could. Mother and I ran to the pantry. Father was hurt too badly though and Mother decided to stay with him until the end."
"Did Oriana and Oren…" Cailin didn't finish the question.
"I was woken up by their screams." Ailee's voice broke. The tears which she hadn't yet shed began to pour down her face. A hard look came across Cailin's face which Ailee had never seen there before.
"Once this battle is over I will immediately turn my forces North and march on Highever. Never did I think that Arl Howe would betray us so." Ailee tried to show her gratitude, but only began crying harder. Cailin's face softened. "I'm so sorry, Ailee. Truly I am."
Ailee wasn't quite sure how it happened, but a moment later she was buried in his chest plate, crying. Cailin's arms were wrapped around her small body, made even smaller by the fact that Ailee was still in her nightclothes with Duncan's long cloak draped around her shoulders. Duncan had mentioned stopping at a town to purchase some new armor for Ailee, but she had disagreed. Ailee wasn't ready to face anyone yet and Duncan had wanted to get to Ostagar as quickly as possible, fearing that the battle would begin without him. So they had kept walking, with the idea of finding new armor when they reached Ostagar.
"Come on," Cailin said, thumping Ailee on the back. He seemed to forget that she was not wearing armor, which would have softened the blow somewhat, or that she wasn't Fergus and the force which he put behind it stung. Ailee couldn't help but think back on her mother's words when she found out that her only daughter had convinced her elder brother to teach her how to fight, who in turn convinced his father it was a good idea. It was because of this that Eleanor Cousland always said that her daughter was more comfortable in armor than a dress – which wasn't completely false.
Cailin had quickly changed the subject after that to the upcoming battle. Duncan had chimed in and Ailee knew that they were both trying to interest her in something other than what happened at Highever. It wasn't until Duncan asked Ailee to repeat what he had only just asked her to do that she was snapped completely from her train of thought.
"Oh, um, find this Alistair, I think." Ailee said. Duncan looked at her quizzically for a moment and the nodded his approval.
"Very well. Just know that the Darkspawn aren't as forgiving of a wandering mind."
Ailee only nodded and headed off. Find a Grey Warden named Alistair in a camp full of people dressed in similar looking armor. Suddenly Ailee wished she had been paying attention to what Duncan had said about the Junior Warden.
As she rounded a corner, now thoroughly lost, Ailee was confronted with an angry mage who all but threw her aside in his hurry. Ailee only stared after him, thinking of how no one had ever dared do that at Highever.
"You know, the one good thing about the Blight is how it brings people together." It was a young man in armor who spoke. He had reddish blonde hair and bright blue eyes.
"I know exactly what you mean." Ailee said.
"We can all hold hands and sing. Now that would give the Darkspawn something to think about." Ailee smiled. A curious look crossed Alistair's face. Ailee could feel a blush coming to her cheeks and fervently wished that it wouldn't show. Her she was, a young girl wrapped up in a large black cloak in a camp full of men. Maker only knew what this man thought of her. "Do I know you? Wait, I do know you! You're the new recruit Duncan was talking about. I'm Alistair, by the way, another Grey Warden. But what are you doing in Duncan's cloak? Where's your armor?"
"Ah, yes, about that…" Ailee trailed off. Alistair was watching her expectantly. Whatever Duncan had said in the message he had sent ahead of him to Ostagar must have skipped the part about Highever being attacked. "It's sort of a long a story. One I don't particularly feel like reliving at the moment."
"Right. Shortened version?" Alistair asked hopefully, sounding oddly cheerful.
"My family was betrayed by a friend who sent his army to attack us, Duncan got me out and here I am."
"I'm sorry. That must be why you haven't got any armor." There was sadness in Alistair's voice.
Ailee nodded. "Still have my sword and shield though. Or, rather, the family heirloom sword and shield."
"Right. To the camp merchant then. We'll just have to buy you some new armor. Though it'll never fit as well as your old set." Alistair led Ailee back down the stairs she had just come up, around a corner and down another flight of stairs. Down at the bottom was a man trying much too hard to proposition a women warrior Ailee was sure would give her a run for her money. The woman walked away disgusted.
"What about you, sweetheart?" The man turned to Ailee, openly leering, trying to get a peak at whatever was under the cloak.
"Don't. I'm not in the mood for this." Ailee warned the man, her eyes narrowing.
"I'm sure I'll be able to fulfill a dream or two for you."
Ailee, who had already been at the breaking point, lost what little control she had left. Balling her hand into a fist beneath her cloak, she punched the man square in the nose. His eyes began to tear in pain as he clenched a hand over his bloody – and probably broken – nose. Ailee's eyes widened.
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to hurt you." But the man was already gone. Ailee looked sheepishly at Alistair.
"That would be another one of the new recruits. Daveth I think his name is." Ailee's mouth formed a small o. "And I can see why Duncan lent you his cloak." Ailee looked down. The cloak had fallen open to reveal the once white nightgown adorned with lace her mother's seamstress had made for her only the month before. Now it was torn and muddy from the forced march down to Ostagar, not to mention the blood which had stained a large section of the hem. "Maker, are you wounded?" Alistair's voice had genuine worry in it.
"No." Ailee quickly pulled the cloak closed. "It's not mine."
They looked at each other for a long moment. Alistair wasn't sure what to say. Without another word he turned to the merchant who was looking at them quizzically, not wanting to run them off in case either one had come to purchase his wares, but not wanting either one to begin any more brawls in front of his shop.
"A full set of armor please. And… well, whatever it is a woman wears beneath armor." Alistair asked a bit awkwardly. The man began pulling various pieces of armor from the many trunks and stands surrounding him.
"Alistair," Ailee asked. "How am I to pay for all this? I haven't any money."
"Don't worry, m'Lady." The merchant spoke. "His Highness came round himself earlier and told me to send the bill to the palace."
"Wow, really? I knew he liked the Grey Warden's but I didn't know he liked them that much." Alistair said.
"He said to put any of your brother's purchases on the same tab. But, forgive me, I dunno who you or your brother are," the merchant said embarrassedly. "Only way I know you is by your attire."
"Ailee Cousland." Ailee said. "My brother's Fergus Cousland, of Highever. I think Cailin said he and our men were out in the Korcari Wilds, though."
"Really? You are?" Alistair asked, his eyes wide.
"Why? Does that change anything that I'm royalty?" Ailee asked, growing a shrinking into the cloak a bit. She had always been proud of her heritage and family name. Now that Howe had attacked she no longer knew who was friend or enemy, or if any of it really mattered at all. She no longer had lands or money. She was Teyrn in title only, with naught else to her name.
"Of course not." Alistair looked a bit hurt.
"Sorry," Ailee tried to apologize for snapping at him. "I didn't mean to…"
"No, I understand." Before Ailee could ask how he had gathered up the armor, gave a nod to merchant and began heading off to the huge bonfire in the center of camp where Duncan was waiting for them.