Disclaimer and Author's Note:
This story takes place after the events of Dragon Age: The Fantom Edit and Dragon Age: Broken Dynasties. This is the third story of that series. Most of the events in this story take place roughly 20 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.
If you haven't read Dragon Age: Broken Dynasties, then know that Gildre, a new companion to Lyssa and Alistair was introduced in that story, as well as Duncan, Lyssa and Alistair's child.
This story makes many references to the history of Thedas. I used the Dragon Age Wiki for a great deal of the background information. Thanks to everyone who worked on that Wiki.
Dragon Age: Origins belongs to Bioware, along with all recognizable characters.
Chapter 1: Revelries and Revelations
500 years before the Divine Age
Urthemiel's pale skin glowed beneath the flowers and vines that were woven about him. The phosphorescence altered the play of light and shadow under the vibrant greens and reds and yellows of his scant covering. He reached languidly forward and took the small red fruit from the tray that was being offered to him. He contemplated it, sniffing it indulgently for a few moments before placing it in his mouth. He bit, delighting in the feeling of the firm flesh, chewing slowly, contemplatively, before finally swallowing.
"Simply wonderful," Urthemiel said. He looked at the exposed meat of the fruit for a moment, and then placed it back onto the tray. The tray was whisked away as soon as he released the fruit, the mortal that had been holding it having never once raised his gaze to look upon either of them.
"I do not know how you can stand it, brother," Peitho said disgustedly. He turned from Urthemiel to look down the stairs of the temple. Peitho could make out the details of each mortal's face in the crowd that pooled out from the base of the temple's steps far below them. They teamed about on the ground in mindless feasting and revelry.
"And I do not understand why it bothers you so, Peitho. They merely wish a reason to celebrate. What is so wrong with that? I see nothing evil in their actions." Urthemiel looked down at the masses beneath them, and smiled as he heard laughter floating up from below.
They said nothing, and stood motionless at the top of the grand staircase, the huge white marble temple looming behind them. The stairs that led down from the temple were still white only at the far edges, years of use having worn most of their surfaces down to a dull gray color. They considered the crowd in silence for some time, unmoving as statues. Peitho finally stirred first. He turned from the stairs to the temple. The structure was open-aired, and from its center a towering statue grew up into the sky, reaching above even the tops of the highest parts of the temple's walls. He craned his head back slowly. He looked up at the statue, and it was Urthemiel's face that stared back down at him from far above. Although the likeness was obvious, despite the masterful artistry that had wrought it, it failed to capture Urthemiel's beauty. Its scale and grandeur seemed wan and uninspired when the God it represented stood before it. Peitho turned from the statue to examine his brother; the dark straight hair, the amber colored eyes, the pale unblemished skin, the firm muscles playing beneath, the softly defined places where the muscles met. He shook his head.
"You do not understand. This is just how it starts." Peitho waved an arm out over the stairs. "You should try to disguise yourself at least. You should not show the mortals your true body. When they come to truly know you, that is when they will come for you, and this," he whipped his arm in the opposite direction, indicating the temple behind him, "is how they will be able to track you down and bind you," Peitho finished. He leaned against a pillar and crossed his arms.
"Peitho, you think so ill of the mortals. Wasn't it you who convinced us to stay all those years ago, even though it meant parting with our brothers and sisters? Wasn't it you who told us we could help the mortals move on as well, that we just had to be patient?"
Peitho kicked away from the pillar. He walked down the first few of the temple's steps and then stopped. He watched the mortals, his head slowly panning across the crowd. "I was a fool. The mortals will never be able to pass the barrier between worlds. We have all seen what happens when we try to help them. The Magisters have proven this well," Peitho said bitterly.
Urthemiel walked down the steps to stand behind Peitho. He put his hand on Peitho's shoulder and then looked down at the people as well. At the base of the temple stairs a tight crowd of mortals had appeared. They began to sing. Urthemiel raised his arm out over them, encompassing the singers in his gesture. "They do not look so bad to me, Peitho. They do not all lust for power as the Magisters do. These, at least, are happy and free. They celebrate the gift of life." He turned his gaze away from the chorus and back to Peitho.
"You cannot see that anymore, can you?" Urthemiel watched Peitho, who was in turn still watching the crowds below. "Perhaps Dumat was right… you've spent too much time in the deep places… studied too closely for too long the evil that pools there." His brow furrowed—it had been sometime since he had thought of Dumat. "I wonder where he is. He never misses one of my bacchanals." Urthemiel paused. "I haven't seen him since my last feast, and until last season I was beginning to think he had moved on from this world. But then I caught a few a stray thoughts from him…"
Urthemiel closed his eyes and became completely still. The space around him was suddenly quieter. After a minute, he opened his eyes. He looked out beyond the crowds to the horizon. "I know he is still here."
Peitho turned suddenly and looked at Urthemiel. His gaze was penetrating, taking in every detail. He paid special attention to Urthemiel's face, the minor play of the muscles beneath the skin, to Urthemiel's posture, to gestures so minute, so subtle, that no mortal eye could have discerned them.
"No." Peitho began. "Dumat has not left us. It is obvious why he is not here. He is not here because he can no longer stand the sight of the mortals. He has hidden himself away from them. He does not wish to remain here, to see what will come—what I have known for years. These creatures, they breed and mass now, and will certainly soon spread across this world. But then what Urthemiel? It will not change how they act, what they are at their very core. It will not diminish evil—it will just multiply it. There is nothing so good that it is worth saving from this world, save the warriors of light," Peitho said confidently.
"I do not believe it." Urthemiel turned to Peitho. "And Dumat would never believe such a thing, either. We are not omniscient Peitho. It is not for us say they are beyond redemption, to say that these beings cannot become more than they are now. It is not for us to pick our favorites and discard the rest."
It was clear Peitho was unmoved by Urthemiel's argument. Urthemiel was hesitant to continue, but after a brief internal debate, he said, "I know of your plans of late, Peitho. Maker some call you. I know you are behind it. And Peitho, the things they are saying, invoking your new name… You should be ashamed. Is this what we have become? Shall we debase ourselves, becoming tyrants like the Magisters? We are Gods, Peitho, but we are not all knowing. We cannot say without a doubt that the mortals will never rise beyond this life. The warriors themselves are mortal. Surely this means something?"
"All it means is that the warriors of light are meant for a higher purpose. These mortals," Peitho said gesturing out over the cavorting crowd, "you say they mean no ill, yet look at those who serve them. The Elves, a people of peace, a people who were once ageless, enslaved by these humans you say are worth salvaging. While you're revelers are here, drunk and well fed, others are destitute—starving while they live amongst these very revelers. They die because not one among these will ever care enough to help. And that is just normal for these creatures—this is how they are at their best. The Magisters, they are even worse. They do everything they can to try to enslave even the gods who gave them their power. They summon demons, Urthemiel, they willingly summon them into their own bodies," Peitho stopped for a moment, recognizing that he was finally getting through to Urthemiel. "It is disgusting what they do to themselves. You can see it, surely. They are not worth helping to the next world if they cannot even save themselves in this one."
Urthemiel looked back down on the crowd, his appetite leaving him as Peitho's words sunk in. He turned from the crowd below, a frown on his face.
"There is truth in what you say, Peitho, as there always is. Perhaps... perhaps I am ready to leave, to move on to Plenarius. But I cannot do so without Dumat. He is our brother, and... his thoughts are troubled. I fear he may be trapped somewhere, I know not how or where, but I feel it. And he is in danger." Urthemiel wrapped his arms around himself as if to ward off a chill.
Peitho walked up beside Urthemiel. A satisfied smile spread across his face for just a moment before he recomposed himself, putting his hand on Urthemiel's arm. "Then you and I shall find him. Let us go. We can begin looking tonight. And we shall all depart for Plenarius together."
Two years before Duncan's coronation
Duncan looked out at the people swirling around the ballroom floor. The colors of the gowns clashed garishly with each other. It was as if each woman vying for a spot on the throne tried to stand out by having an even brighter colored gown than the next. The effect nauseated Duncan with sensory overload. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall.
Duncan was unfazed by the attention he was getting. Every young woman in the room took any chance they could for an excuse to speak with him. Duncan scanned the crowd for something that might call him away from the girls. He saw his mother, Lyssa, carrying on a conversation far across the room, but keeping her eye on him the entire time, carefully observing him.
Lyssa watched her son. At the age of sixteen, Duncan was nearly as tall as his father, Alistair. He had the same fair hair she and Alistair shared, and had her deep blue eyes. The boyish look of his face was fading fast. He was quickly becoming as ruggedly handsome as his father. He was still a little on the reedy side, as many boys his age were, but his muscles held the firm definition of years of training. She was sure that did not go unnoticed by the palace butterflies flitting about her son. Lyssa felt a swell of maternal pride, thinking on her son's wide renown for his skill. She had trained with him so often, and had since he could stand and hold a weapon. Duncan had picked up Lyssa's style adroitly and uncannily quickly as a child. Now he was better at melee combat with his daggers than just about any of the knights, regardless of the weapons they chose to wield. In two years, when he became King, Duncan would likely be as formidable a fighter on the battlefield as any of his men.
Lyssa noticed her son's disinterest in everything that was going on around him and felt a bout of empathy overcome her. She herself had attended many such balls when she was his age. Her parents thought it was the best way for her to meet suitable nobles. Lyssa was just relieved the Landsmeet had bowed to the pressure from Alistair about how soon their son should marry. After the Grand Cleric fiasco, Lyssa and Alistair had taken advantage of the nobles' unsteady footing and managed to get them to back off the strict schedule they had laid out for Duncan's life. Abandoning the prearranged marriage was the first concession they managed to force. But to placate the nobles, they agreed to have these functions where Duncan could meet eligible women, one of whom, they hoped, he might be willing to woo. The idea that Duncan might be like other noble boys his age, and want to attend balls to court girls was yet another example, in a seemingly endless procession, of how little the nobles understood her son—the man who would soon be their king.
Lyssa excused herself from the small knot of conversation she was ensconced in and made her way across the room. When she reached Duncan, she grabbed his hand firmly and then yanked it as she marched briskly away. Duncan was caught by surprise and nearly off-balance for the first few steps he hastily took to catch up with Lyssa. She dragged him out of the large room, down a hallway, not stopping until she had pulled him all the way to the courtyard. She had started laughing the last few steps before she let him go. She was still laughing as she turned to Duncan. They stood close to a tall row of thick hedges lining one edge of the courtyard gardens.
"I'm sorry, Duncan. I know how you must feel about these things, but the absurdity of it… they do not understand." There was a small stone bench right up against the hedge. Lyssa sat. "You know your father and I do not wish it for you."
Duncan sat next to her and looked up at the stars.
"I understand their motivations. They wish me to father an heir. That I cannot do," Duncan said. He was looking at the sky, contemplating the stars. As always, he was calm and stoic.
Lyssa considered for just a moment, and then realized his statement wasn't one of preference, but of fact. She was caught unawares by this, and looked shocked as she asked Duncan, "What do you mean? How do you know?"
Duncan looked away from the sky. He held up his hand, fingers gently splayed, and looked at first the back, then the palm of his hand, then back at his mother. "This body... I am too damaged... the taint. I have borne it too many years. It would be futile to even try, even if I had the luxury of the time to attempt it, which I do not. There is much to be done."
Lyssa looked at Duncan. Her shocked look was fading, revealing a sad, concerned expression. "I suppose you are right. But the nobles will not like it."
"No," Duncan said pursing his lips, "but I will find a way to distract them. Once I am King, I will go through all the proper motions. By the time they know the truth... well, it won't really matter anymore. I will have accomplished what I have set out to do."
"You still haven't told us what you've been planning. Alistair wonders if perhaps you've been sitting up in that office of yours cackling away as you draw up plans to take over all of Thedas," Lyssa laughed.
"No," Duncan said with complete seriousness, failing to see the joke, "But, I do have important things to do. Do not worry mother. Everything will fall into place."
"Well, I just hope you are living life to the fullest while you can. It still pains me that you must assume the crown so young, but they would not have it any other way. I know they still hope everything will magically work out and the Theirin line will be sustained. Either that, or one of those not so unobtrusively eying the throne themselves will wait for you to prove incapable of siring offspring and play the Landsmeet to replace you," Lyssa said.
Duncan and Lyssa sat in silence for a while. The sound of the minstrels who were playing inside the ballroom filtered out through the night air and mingled with that of the crickets and frogs. Lyssa thought the music sounded more pleasant with the natural accompaniment of the night creatures. They both turned as they heard heavy footsteps approach. Lyssa smiled, recognizing the sound of the gait. As a warrior, Alistair was never very good a sneaking. He rounded the thick shrub grinning.
"I thought so," he said bowing to Lyssa and reaching out for her hand. Lyssa giggled taking it. He pulled her out of her seated position and danced with her. Their bodies were touching as he slowly danced Lyssa in circles.
"You know, if anyone saw us dancing this close, it would be quite the scandal. I believe we're supposed to keep at least six inches apart," Lyssa joked.
"Well if anyone tells us so, I'll just let them know that the dancing instructor from my templar training days was sadly lacking," Alistair said pressing his cheek to Lyssa's, "not to mention uncomfortable. Imagine dancing this close to an old man in full armor."
Duncan watched them for a moment, a small uncharacteristic smile on his face. Alistair turned to him, catching the smile. Surprised, Alistair stopped dancing. Lyssa turned to see what he was looking at.
"I don't get to see that enough," Alistair said wistfully as he resumed dancing.
Duncan realized his father was talking to him and looked down at his hands.
"I'm sorry, father," he said.
"Don't be sorry, Duncan. I love you no matter how you are. You could have horns and pointy teeth and chase nobles around all day biting them in the backside and I'd still love you," Alistair said smiling, "You're my son."
"He'd probably love you even more with the biting though," Lyssa said teasing.
Alistair made a face at Lyssa and tickled her. She laughed hard and pulled away from him.
Duncan shyly watched them play around, still smiling.
A pity, Duncan thought to himself, that we must leave them so soon.
They all turned to the sound of Teagan clearing his throat.
"Well, apparently the party has moved outside. Not that I mind, but... the ladies all expected a chance to dance with the young prince. I do believe a few wanted to wish him a happy sixteenth birthday as well," Teagan said putting his hand on Duncan's shoulder.
Duncan nodded and stood.
"Oh Teagan, must he? He has been in there all night with those women pawing at him. Some of them are almost as old as I am," Lyssa said.
Teagan smiled at Lyssa. "If I had been pawed at by a lady such as yourself at that age, I don't think I'd be hiding out in the gardens."
Teagan suddenly blushed at his uncommon bluntness. Over the years he had remained admiring of Lyssa from a distance. He had his own wife and children now, but he had never managed to get over his fascination with the queen.
I must have had too much ale, Teagan thought.
Lyssa giggled at the compliment and Teagan turned to hastily apologize to Alistair for his breach of etiquette.
"Oh don't even bother," Alistair said waving away the inevitable flustered apology from Teagan. "You've been biting your tongue all night. I see the dress she's wearing. I can't blame you."
"What is wrong with my gown?" Lyssa asked looking down at herself, "Hannah said everyone in Orlais is wearing this style. You know I don't know anything about this stuff."
"Oh yes, it is quite fashionable in Orlais. We here in Ferelden just aren't used to seeing something so snug, dear," Alistair said giving Lyssa's backside a squeeze.
"Oh!" Lyssa cried out and hit Alistair on the back of the head, "You are a weasel, you know that? In any case, thank you Teagan, you are most kind. But I still don't care for all these women trying to bed their way to a crown. If Duncan was at all interested, I don't think I would give it a second thought. But it is clear he uncomfortable with all this. I was just trying to give him a little space to breathe."
"It is okay mother," Duncan said giving Lyssa a light peck on the cheek. "I will go back. It will make the nobles happy. You stay here with father and enjoy the night. That will make me happy."
Teagan waved to Lyssa and Alistair and followed Duncan back into the ball. Alistair wrapped his arms around Lyssa and kissed her forehead.
"At least he understands diplomacy," Alistair said.
"Oh he'll do fine. You didn't have the luxury of all the teachers he has had over the years, and look at everything you have accomplished. He'll be a wonderful King, just like his father," Lyssa said looking into Alistair's eyes.
"Well," Alistair said leaning in to kiss Lyssa, "when you put it that way."
They swayed in slow circles to the hazy music that drifted out into the night.