Here goes my first Dragon Age fanfiction. On my third playthrough I will take notes and make a story out of it, dialogue will partly as it is in the game, but in later chapters much less so. I will try and not be too slow. All mistakes are mine. Please review!
Sitting on a stone bridge in Ostagar, Núria tried to collect her thoughts and failed miserably. Yesterday she'd thought she was going to marry. She had been insanely happy, Soris had even noted that his bride was not so bad either, and Nelaros … He had been so handsome, and the way he had looked at her … She had always trusted that her father would find someone not only suitable but caring, and he had. Now Nelaros was dead, as well as the son of the arl of Denerim, the latter at her hands.
Everything that had happened was in a haze. Was it before or after the arl's son had come the first time that she had given Nessa the ten silvers that would help her stay in Denerim? And even worse, had that been a mistake? But wherever they would have gone, they would be kicked around by shemlen.
What had happened then, she remembered vividly. How Vaughan had returned, taking four of them with him. Killing one of them before her very eyes and practically dragging Shianni off … Lively, resolute, strong Shianni. On her more than desperate attempt to escape she had met Soris, who had helped her unearth the other two. On the way they had found Nelaros, killed in the attempt of saving her. They had also found Shianni. She would never forget the look on her face as she lay at the feet of Vaughan. She would never forget that something was and would forever be missing in her eyes, had died forever at the hands of her raper.
And then there was Duncan.
She had met him a moment before all that had happened, he had offered congratulations. He had called hahren Valendrian his friend, and the elder had obviously regarded the human as such. Now Duncan had … what was the word? He had saved her from the men who wanted to punish her for killing the arl's son … She would be a Grey Warden … And to tell the truth, she felt much more relieved to be shot of the alienage than honoured.
She had also met the King. She could have strangled him for his very existence and his unawareness of what was going on under his very nose. When he asked what life was like in the alienage, she had answered, 'I killed an arl's son for raping my friend.' Duncan had reminded her very patiently who she was talking to, but the King didn't seem to mind her harshness very much. Núria would have preferred if he had hit her, then she would have been able to really hate him along with all the other shemlen. Although, there was Duncan … And even though he definitely was human, she failed to see him as such.
Slowly, she rose. She was supposed to find a man named Alistair. Before she would, however, she wanted to get a good look at this camp.
The first thing Núria noted after she had crossed the bridge were two tents with guards before them. She assumed one of the was the king's. Just before she had made up her mind to talk to the guards, she saw something in the corner of her eye and turned around quickly. Her heart was racing up in her throat, and she scolded herself for that. She wasn't some foolish little girl that scared easily! She knew how to fight, and bloody well too. As long as there were no rules limiting her creativity …
What had caught her eye, though, was not something to fight, really. They were – had to be! – mages. Slowly she approached, until a man in what she thought might be a Templar uniform stopped her and told her that the mages were not to be disturbed as their spirits were in the Fade …
Still wondering about that, she stumbled into the next person, who did not seem at all perturbed, brushed away her apologies, and introduced herself as Wynne. This woman, who appeared to be a mage too, explained to her that there was a connection between darkspawn and the Fade, the dreamworld in which spirits and demons dwelt. Núria's head was swimming, and she decided for a more mundane conversation with the guards. She wanted to know who else needed such security.
Whenever she thought of her first day in camp at later times, she found she had learned a number of things that should have been an indicator for the immediate future. One: The second tent belonged to one Teyrn Loghain. Two, said Loghain was having quarrels with the king, who didn't seem to like Loghain's advice. Three, she didn't want to cross Loghain, for something told her she might not live to see the end of that. Those facts she was pondering while she walked past an angry looking man.
'You there! Elf! Where's my armour? And why are you dressed so preposterously?' Núria turned with narrowed eyes.
'How dare you address me so, human?' That tone had usually been Shianni's rather than hers, but since she may have lost it over the events, someone should uphold it for her.
'What? Oh. You're the one who arrived with the Grey Warden.' The man before her looked stunned. 'P-please, forgive my rudeness, there are so many elves running about and I've been waiting for … it's simply been so hectic! I've never thought … P-please, pardon my manners! I am … just a quartermaster, a simple man, no one special.' Núria worked hard on not hitting the man.
'What kind of supplies do you have?' she asked instead, and, still trembling, he showed her the armour and weapons he had.
From that unfortunate incident, Núria moved over to a man standing beside a box and looking absolutely bored. She wondered how that was, everyone else seemed busy enough, but no one was resting, let alone bored. She approached the box and examined the lock attached to it. 'That cause of action is inadvisable,' the man said without deigning to look at her. His speech was drawling, and he didn't seem to have heard of the concept of intonation.
'And you are?' she asked coldly.
'I am one of the Tranquil, my friend', he explained. Núria had half a mind of telling him that she was certainly not his friend, but he kept on talking, and she wondered how often exactly he had uttered those same words. 'I'm of the Circle of Magi, but instead of casting spells and reading tomes, I spend my time enchanting.' Núria had heard of enchanted weapons, but somehow she had never imagined the people doing that work were … like … that. 'It is a time-consuming process, but invaluable. Enchantment provides the circle its wealth. Certainly, we would not get by on charity.' His flat tone made it hard to pay attention to him. Núria had never been one to beat about the bush when she wanted to know something, so she decided to call him on it.
'You speak very strangely. Why is that?'
'Allow me to put it this way. Do you know why those with magical talent are feared?' A counter-question. How great.
'The Chantry claims magic is sinful,' she offered.
'Not sinful in and of itself,' the self-proclaimed Tranquil contradicted. 'They claim it leads to sin. And there is basis for that argument. Those with magical talent attract demons and spirits. We can be possessed easily, and thus become horrors known as abominations. Even those with minor talents attract hungry spirits. Anyone with the power may learn blood magic from these demons. Hence we are considered dangerous. This is our curse. Thus, I was made tranquil. Stripped of emotions and talent, I am no longer dangerous.' Núria thought of the mage Wynne she had met earlier and imagined her, speaking in that weird slow manner. The thought scared her slightly.
'I should go,' she said and did her best not to run away head over heels.
On her almost-flight, she stumbled into the infirmary, where she met a scared man named Jory, who was also a recruit, and a man in a cage, whom she approached cautiously. 'Heh … someone finally comes and talks to the lone prisoner? I don't suppose you've come to sentence me?' the man asked. He was wearing something that couldn't pass as much more than a loincloth.
'You haven't been sentenced?' she asked, slightly confused.
'No, they put someone like me in a cage until someone important has time to decide what to do with me.' There was a distinct bitterness in the man's tone. Núria couldn't blame him. 'I don't suppose you have a bit of kindness in you? All I want is food and water. They haven't fed me since I was locked up, and I'm starving.' Núria felt anger bubbling in her stomach, and she couldn't even tell why.
'Tell me why you're in there, first,' she said harshly.
'I'm a deserter', the man said miserably. 'Or so they think. I bet there is no arguing them out of it, though -- armies are funny that way.'
'And I bet you're as innocent as they sunrise,' Núria snarled.
'I wasn't deserting, but when you catch someone sneakin' around camp in the middle of the night, what else are you gonna think? Does it matter? All I want is a bit of food and water.' Núria had never felt less sympathetic.
'If you weren't deserting, why sneak around the camp?'
'Oh, I would have deserted eventually, just not then,' he answered, and Núria felt her rage growing. How could anyone be so annoying? 'I was stealing, not sneaking out of the camp. I got one of those wizards drunk and took his key. It belongs to a chest they got here, full of magical treasures. In fact, I still have it. I can't use it from here, but I'd trade you for some food and water.' Núria looked him up and down. They had stripped him, but missed a key?
'They didn't find the key when you were arrested?' she asked.
'I swallowed it,' he replied, and Núria would have shut her ears to what had to follow if it hadn't been too pathetic. 'But … it's … uh … come back into my possession since then, so to speak.'
'I'll take that,' Núria said bluntly. She eased a dagger from its sheath.
'What?!' Anger was boiling inside her. The man in the cage had suddenly turned into Vaughan. 'But … you can't do that! Guard!' With one quick movement Núria shut him up for good and took the key out of the man's hand, making a mental note to leave it when she'd used it and to wash her hands very thoroughly indeed. Her heart was pumping and a mad kind of contentment filled her.
'What?! What in Andraste's name did you do that for?' Apparently someone had heard the man scream. Núria couldn't care less. 'Just because you're a Grey Warden doesn't give you the right to go and kill anyone you please! Explain yourself!'
'He spit on me. He got what he deserved,' she lied unblushingly.
'Well, maybe. But I wonder if someone else will disagree. You got some nerve, Grey Warden or no.' Núria heard him muttering behind her as she left him standing there. Some of her anger had subsided. Unfortunately there were no more prisoners about.
Before she finally decided to meet that Alistair, Núria encountered the other recruit, a man named Daveth, who, like Ser Jory, seemed more than apprehensive concerning their Joining ritual. She wondered why exactly she wasn't scared. A low whining caught her attention, and she saw a man by a kennel, trying to calm a mabari inside it. 'Hmm. This isn't good. I'd hate to waste such a promising member of the breed.' Only now he registered Núria looking into the kennel. 'Are you the new Warden? I could use some help.' Núria raised an eyebrow.
'Why would I help you?' she asked with contempt. Her anger was slowly returning. Humans. Why did everyone here have to be human?
'This beast is in the king's service, just like you and I,' he explained. 'This is a mabari. Smart breed, and strong. His owner died in the last battle, and the poor hound swallowed darkspawn blood. I have medicine that might help, but I need to muzzle him first.' He offered her the muzzle. She took it with hesitation.
'Why do you think I could muzzle him?' she inquired.
'You're a Grey Warden, or soon will be,' the man said sagely. 'All Wardens are immune to the darkspawn taint. The most you have to worry about is some tooth marks.'
'Just how smart is this dog?' Núria asked carefully.
'Centuries ago, a mage bred them to be smart and understand what they're told. They can remember and carry out complex orders. Most valuable dogs in the world. Trouble is, they generally imprint to one master; re-imprinting them is very difficult. But without the medicine, re-imprinting won't be an issue. Will you help?' Núria gazed at the dog and nodded.
'I'll give it a shot.' Carefully she stepped into the kennel. The dog recoiled as she knelt before it, stretching out her hand as far as she could and waiting. Slowly, the beast inched closer, sniffing her hand. Núria took her chance and approached with the muzzle. The mabari responded with a low growl, but its stance was submissive. Carefully but firmly, she muzzled the dog. It looked thoroughly unhappy.
'Well done! Now I can treat the dog properly -- poor fellow. Come to think of it, are you heading into the wilds any time soon?' Núria shrugged.
'I might be. Why?'
'There's a particular herb I could use to increase the dog's chances,' the man said. 'It's a flower that grows in the swamps here, if I remember. If you happen across it, I could use it. It's very distinctive: all white with a blood-red centre.'
'Where in the wilds would I find this flower?' Núria asked.
'It usually grows in dead wood that collects at the edge of ground pools. There should be plenty this time of year.' Núria told him she'd keep her eyes open and walked up a few stairs to where two men were obviously fighting over something.
'Your glibness does you no credit,' one, a mage it seemed by his attire, said through clenched teeth. His face was slightly flushed with rage. The man opposite him, on the other hand, faced him with an open stance and without any outward sign of anger.
'Here I thought we were getting along so well,' he said. 'I was even going to name one of my children after you … the grumpy one.' Núria decided in that instant that she liked him.
'Enough!' the mage said with his fists balled in fury. 'I will speak to the woman if I must.' With that he walked away, looking as though he'd rather hit the other man. Or curse him into oblivion, as it were.
The eyes of the other man were still resting on the retreating mage. 'You know, one good thing about the Blight is how it brings people together,' he said solemnly.
'You are a very strange human,' Núria told him coolly.
'You're not the first to tell me that,' he replied, still looking rather absent. 'Wait, we haven't met, have we?' Only now he looked at her, obviously shaking himself. 'I don't suppose you happen to be another mage?'
'Would that make your day worse?' Núria asked with a slight smile.
'Hardly. I just like to know my chances of being turned into a toad at any given moment.' He blinked. 'Wait, I do know who you are. You're Duncan's new recruit, the elf from Denerim. I should have recognised you right away, I apologise.' Núria frowned slightly. He actually sounded excited.
'And you must be Alistair,' she reasoned. Alistair raised his eyebrows.
'Did Duncan mention me?' he asked, sounding mildly surprised. 'Nothing bad, I hope. As the junior member of the order, I'll be accompanying you when you prepare for the Joining.'
'I can't prepare on my own?' Núria asked. She didn't like the prospect of having to wander around with the two oafs she had met previously for a longer time.
'I know,' Alistair said gently. 'I felt the same way when I did this.' Núria doubted that very much. 'Unfortunately, they don't give us much choice. You know … it just occurred to me that there have never been many women in the Grey Wardens. I wonder why that is?'
'How about you stop thinking of me as a woman?' Núria said a little more harshly than she had intended, but Alistair took it in stride.
'Yes, ser!' he saluted. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. It felt strange and wrong after all that had happened in the alienage. Alistair talked to her for a few more minutes, informing her that he had been a templar, and that this might have added to the mage's annoyance. Núria felt she quite understood the mage after all. She knew that templars hunted and killed mages that fled their tower.
She followed Alistair to Duncan. The other two recruits were already standing next to him. 'You found Alistair, did you?' Duncan said. She wondered whether he had heard of the incident with the prisoner and was going to scold her. 'Good. I'll assume you are ready to begin preparations.' Duncan's brow furrowed, and Núria braced herself. 'Assuming, of course, that you're quite finished riling up mages, Alistair.' Núria relaxed. If he considered this an issue, he would have given her a talking to first, if he knew.
'What can I say?' Alistair sighed. 'The revered mother ambushed me. The way she wields guilt they should stick her in the army.'
'She forced you to sass the mage, did she?' Duncan asked with raised eyebrows. 'We cannot afford to antagonise anyone, Alistair. We don't need to give anyone more ammunition against us.' Alistair looked at his feet like a boy.
'You're right, Duncan. I apologise.' Núria thought that this would do more good if he said it to the mage, but kept her mouth shut for once. Duncan explained to them that they had to gather three vials of darkspawn blood, and that they were supposed to find an abandoned archive with some sealed scrolls in it. They left the camp at once, and Núria felt excitement welling up inside her. It was good to have a purpose.