Title: "Like Carrion Men"

Spoilers: Potentially through to the end of the game.

Disclaimer: Not mine. There's no doubt on this issue.

Notes: This is one of the more interesting rpgs out there, I think, and certainly the one with the deepest level of world-building I've come across. And I find the Dwarven Noble character origin story one of the most interesting things in the whole game, so I'm going to play with it for a bit, possibly to the extent of a reasonably lengthy set of chapterlets. It annoyed me a little, lo these many moons ago, that there was never a sense of closure regarding the Aeducan exile at the end of "A Paragon of Her Kind".

ETA: I suppose I should be honest here, and admit to playing rather fast and loose with in-game chronology. What makes sense in terms of playability doesn't ring true to me when I try to think of it in real-world terms.

So rather than detouring all over the map, this particular brave band has an itinerary that looks like Ostagar-Lothering-Mages' Tower-Redcliff-Haven-Redcliff-Orzammar. I realise, in the game, that in order to complete the Urn of Sacred Ashes quest, one has to go to Denerim. On the other hand, assuming that Ferelden is a country larger than, say, the Isle of Man - how many times can one expect to be able to cross a country without being eaten by an archdemon, really?

Yeah. I'm handwaving all over the place.


1.

It was mid-afternoon in the Frostback Mountains, ten miles from the gates of Orzammar, when Aud of the Grey Wardens called a halt.

"Not that I'm complaining," Alastair said as he dropped his pack onto the hard earth with a dull thump and sank down on top of it, jingling mail and creaking leather, "But why are we stopping? We could make Orzammar by dusk, no problem."

Grey light slanted through the high clouds. Aud shaded her eyes, staring up towards the snow-covered peaks and the curve of the road through the pass. Spring. She'd never been in the Frostbacks in spring. It had been winter when Duncan led her out of the Deep Roads and - nameless, an exile, dishonoured - out of Orzammar. Forever, or so she'd thought.

If Duncan had ever told Alistair she'd once been an Aeducan, Alistair'd never shown it, not by a hair. She didn't think he knew. Lelianna could not know. As for Morrigan - well, she was Flemeth's daughter. But what were the Aeducans to the Korcari Wilds?

Ancestors' bollocks. I have to tell them, don't I?

"I'm not certain of our welcome," she said, and turned.

Sten had taken a bad wound in their last encounter with roving darkspawn, five days ago, a week out from Redcliff. The big qunari's usual silence hadn't broken until it became clear the slash - a great ugly curve down the side of his thigh - was badly infected. She'd found a farmstead whose folk were willing to take in a qunari giant and a Circle mage until the one could manage to heal the other: Wynne was good, but darkspawn-inflicted injuries were troublesome to treat, even for a mage.

The mabari hound had stayed with them. Reaver would serve well enough to defend them both, until the qunari healed enough to catch up. So it was only Alistair, Morrigan, and Lelianna who watched her from the scant shadow of the roadside boulders.

All of them were frowning.

"I know rumour has it King Edrin's dead," Alistair said, slowly, "but that can't have changed so much, can it? We're Grey Wardens, for the Maker's sake!"

"The dwarves of Orzammar have always honoured the Grey Wardens, no?" Lelianna's doubtful look matched Alistair's. "At least, so I heard it said in Orlais..."

Morrigan said nothing. But the quirk of her dark eyebrows was knowing, amused.

Infuriating. But Aud had come to expect that with Morrigan. You could rely on her sardonic wit - not to mention her utter pragmatism - if nothing else.

No. Not nothing else. When choosing a friend, daughter, bear two things in mind. Can they use a weapon? And will they use it on your enemies? Her father's wisdom, that, on one of the few occasions he had actually offered her advice.

A pity one couldn't choose one's brothers.

"Then let me say that it's my welcome I doubt." Aud's voice was harsher than she intended, and she grimaced. "Sorry. Let's get a fire going, and I'll tell you my reasons over roast barleycake and rabbit, all right? It's cold in these damn hills, and someone," she glared at Alistair, forcing humour into it, "left me no cheese at breakfast."

"It wasn't me!"

Morrigan snorted. "Of course it was you, Alistair. You cannot blame your bad habits on the mangy dog when he is not here, now can you?"

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