Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, but the thoughts are mine. Please do not publish this elsewhere. This follows events in Dragon Age Origins: Awakenings and may contain spoilers from the first game as well as the expansion. This is working within the frame of a female city elf warrior who chose to save Loghain, thereby alienating Alistair but saving both of their lives.
Theoretically, she wasn't even his type.
Soft girls, round girls, statuesque amazons, and even the occasional naughty nobleman's daughter… Those were the types of ladies he generally preferred. They rarely put up a fight, or if they did, it was a pleasant, giggling resistance that crumbled after a few well-timed compliments. An hour or two of flirting and they'd be all but leaping out of their small clothes. He enjoyed easy women. They reaffirmed what he himself had learned beyond any doubt: life was hopelessly short and made to be filled with pleasures.
So it was inconceivable then, that he was mooning over a seasoned warrior. Anders wasn't familiar with army regulations, but he was pretty sure it was a bad idea to fraternize with your superiors, or even your equals. But love – ugh, love – certainly moved in mysterious ways…
Especially considering that he was convinced somebody had taught her the ways of the Templars. There was no mistaking the sound of mana being sucked out of a body. He could recognize that awful whistling shriek in his sleep. Not that she had ever drained his mana, but the possibility lingered…
And that was just the beginning of her… irregularities. She was an elf, and he had never seen the appeal until now, and she was petite - almost half his size - and she could wrench his head clean off if the mood took her. And she was so damn brooding. But maybe that was why she fascinated him. All these factors he would have previously placed in the con column – they combined together to make one confusing, enchanting and terrifying woman.
Anders coughed. Something had whacked him hard in the chest. Andraste's elbow, I've nodded off again. And he had. Right in the middle of their walk through Amaranthine.
"Still with us, fancy feet?"
Bloody dwarves. Why couldn't they just stay below ground with the nugs and the Darkspawn where they belonged?
"Well done," Anders grunted, "I didn't even know you could reach that high."
He patted the place where Oghren had thumped him and watched the dwarf growl and belch and sidle away. It was almost too easy. Height was the one true indefensible soft spot for Oghren.
"Next time it'll be your ankles," the dwarf continued, "and I'll be using my axe."
"Dully noted and subsequently ignored."
"Children, can we focus?" Nathaniel piped up. He was such an insufferable suck-up. Anders had watched, flabbergasted, as the Howe son ingratiated himself with their fearless elf leader. The woman had personally killed Rendon Howe and still managed to win Nathaniel's trust and, inexplicably, his admiration. Anders might have liked Nathaniel if he wasn't such a doormat. That, and Nathaniel had been given every opportunity in life – a rich family, conquest, lands… Sure, Rendon Howe had dashed all those blessings on the rocks, but it sure beat growing up in a prison like the Circle Tower. He and Nathaniel were close together in age, shared an appreciation for fine liquor and also shared, unfortunately, the same taste in women.
Anders narrowed his eyes at the way Nathaniel kept close to Tavia. Tavia? When had he started thinking of her by her first name? Before it was always Commander. Yes, Commander? Seriously, Commander? A dwarf, Commander, are you sure that's wise?
He knew it must be short for something. Octavia, maybe, or no, that wasn't much of an elf name. Durotavia? Maker, no, that was worse.
"Sorry," Nathaniel was saying. He had just nudged the Commander aside, helping her to narrowly avoid a deep mud puddle. "Not sure where that one ends," Nathaniel said with a chuckle, peering down at the bottomless hole, "Orzammar maybe."
The Commander nodded, and thanked him with a brusque smile. Ha, Anders thought, that'll teach you. Don't manhandle the Commander. Puddle or no, the woman could take care of herself. She had already marched them through sheeting rain to reach Amaranthine in a timely manner. Anders had vaguely wondered if walking through a lightning storm was smart when you were covered head to foot in steel armor, but Commander Tabris didn't complain and he wouldn't either, not aloud anyway.
Then something happened. He noticed a face, a familiar face, hanging around near a dilapidated fence outside the chantry.
Without thinking, he pushed past Nathaniel and the Commander. He laughed incredulously, opening his arms for a hug he was sure he wouldn't get. Ah well, didn't hurt to try. Namaya glared, as usual, and tapped her foot impatiently.
"You know her?" the Commander asked, raising one shapely eyebrow.
"Do I ever," Anders replied. "Any luck?"
"I found your cache. You were right, it's here in Amaranthine, at an old warehouse on the other side of town." Namaya gave him a little shove, one he was certain he didn't deserve, at least not from her. "That's it, Anders. I'm out. You're on your own." She turned to Commander Tabris. Oh bother. "You with him? Watch out for this one. Don't listen to a word he says, even if it comes out charming."
"Namaya, I… that hurts."
"Sure it does, Anders. Sure it does."
All eyes turned to Anders, who coughed into his hand to break the silence. Inside his pack, a plaintive meow echoed his embarrassment.
"That was… interesting." Tavia was looking at him closely. Normally he would've welcomed her attention, but those dark blue eyes could be menacing when she put her mind to it. "Care to share with the class?" she asked.
"Someone's in trouble."
"Hold your tongue, dwarf," Anders spat, not appreciating Oghren's singsong tone. "The um, well the cache Namaya so eloquently spoke of is where, Maker willing, my phylactery is being stored." Nathaniel stared blankly. "Phy-lac-ter-y, you know, the little glass tube thing with my blood? It's how the Templars keep finding me."
"You sure it isn't the smell?" Nathaniel returned.
"Maybe they're sensitive to cat dander," Tavia added.
"Ha. Ha. Yes, very funny. Hilarious, actually! Let's all have a good laugh about my misery. How sensitive of you all. I appreciate it."
"So it's here in town?" Tavia went on, ignoring his ranting. "Should we go get it?"
By the Maker, there really was an understandable reason he was falling for her.
"A woman of action," Anders blurted out, wincing even as he said it, "I'm all a-tingle."
"It's on the list then," she said.
Oghren grumbled something about getting sidetracked and scratched at his neck. A weird rash had started there and Anders made a mental note to keep his distance. Between the sour smell of old booze and that developing rash, proximity to Oghren was about as appealing as doing a striptease for a Templar. Which reminded him…
Anders shouldered Nathaniel aside, ignoring the little whining noise he made.
"Could I ask you something?"
Commander Tabris stared straight ahead, her armor rattling as they made their way through the streets. She nodded, just a little. That was major for her. Usually she brushed off his questions with some tosh about Darkspawn and needing to stay focused.
"I was thinking… I mean, outside of town you used, well you sort of reminded me of a Templar," Anders said. "The way you held your sword, the stances, the um, mana sucking thing. Am I wrong?"
"What exactly are you accusing me of, Anders?"
Ser Pounce-a-lot mewled. Even he could tell Anders was flinging himself into scalding hot waters. Anders glanced at the two enormous swords strapped to her back. How she wielded them without falling over onto her face, he would never know.
"It's not an accusation," he replied. He was sweating now. Badly. "I'm just intimately familiar with their habits and… Well, I could have been imagining it…"
Back away slowly, he thought, don't ruffle the touchy woman with razor-sharp blades. Her shoulders seemed tighter than usual, bunching up around her face. And her expression… storm clouds were more cheerful. He had touched on something raw, poked her right in an old wound, that much was clear.
"You weren't imagining anything," she said flatly. "I've traveled all over Fereldin, Anders. I've picked up a few things."
That wasn't much of an answer, he thought. It also did nothing to address the not-so-subtle rumors that the Commander of the Grey had once been the right-hand and possible lover of King Alistair… Which made her deflection perfectly understandable, if the rumors were true… Especially when one considered that the King was a former Templar. Andraste's ass. Suddenly, it all made a dizzying kind of sense. Anders swallowed hard, regretting his misstep. He had hinted at something painful for her, and only seconds after she had agreed to help him destroy his phylactery.
What an impressive dunce you are, Anders.
Messy, messy, messy. Politics and love never mixed. Suddenly, he felt his heart twinge. What was this new and strange feeling? Compassion? Empathy? He was going soft. Anders cleared his throat in what he hoped was a very manly fashion.
"Of course, Commander," he said. "That makes sense."
"Yes," she said coldly, closing the subject with an ominous kind of finality, "It does."
Anders skulked back to his position several yards behind the Commander. Oghren chuckled, but didn't say anything. Of course. Oghren would know. He had served with the Commander throughout Fereldin, followed her on suicide missions and, in all probability, been privy to the relationship between the Commander and King Alistair. Sodding dwarf had let him stick his foot directly into a gigantic pile of mabari shit.
"I know where you sleep, dwarf," Anders hissed under his breath.
Commander Tabris paused to discuss something in whispered tones with a helmeted man near the northern city gates. Anders parked himself on a nearby fence, letting Ser Pounce-a-lot out for a wee and a snack. The tabby was quick to return to Anders's lap. The cat cleaned itself while Anders stroked its stripy orange back. He couldn't help it, his mind wandered again, directly back to the Commander. He watched her from a distance, negotiating with a thug, her face set with grim determination. Maker, she was lovely, and intimidating. No wonder even the King had fallen prey to her charms. Charms wasn't the right word… It's not that she wasn't charming, she was, she had a keen, dry sense of humor that surprised even Anders. And she could sweet-talk Seneschal Varel into just about anything. And she was physically alluring, although Anders had never glimpsed her out of armor, it was just… Strange, the way she led men older and bigger than her without so much as breaking a sweat. It was in her blood, her destiny, to be greater than a slum elf with a strong sword arm.
She was fair, probably from spending so much time beneath a helmet, and built like a hare, wiry and strong and sleek. Ser Pounce-a-lot nipped at his fingers as if to say, "You're staring." Anders gave him another bit of dried mackerel and hoped it would be enough of a distraction. Now she was rubbing her fingers across her forehead, exasperated by what the thug wanted in payment. He wondered what she would look like without all that steel encasing her. Small, he guessed, and strong. She kept her pale hair short, very short, in a kind of warrior's Mohawk. It worked to her advantage when, in the heat of battle, she yanked off her helmet and screamed bloody murder at a foe. The sight of her wild hair and blood-spattered face was enough to send you jumping down the nearest rabbit hole.
Then they were moving on. Negotiations finalized, it was time to hit the market. Anders felt his stomach tighten with nerves. They were nearing the spot Namaya had mentioned. He hoped his little blunder about Templars wouldn't influence the Commander to change her mind. He really did need that phylactery, and he wasn't going to be getting it on his own.
The Commander stopped near a merchant's stall, his table crammed with trinkets and jewels and all kinds of wondrous potions. Anders browsed, one eye on the table, the other on the warehouse door just inches away. Was he being needy if he asked to go in? Maybe he was, but there was only one way to find out.
"This is it," he said quietly.
The Commander looked up from the jeweled necklace she had been admiring. Anders glanced down at his feet sheepishly. He hadn't meant to interrupt. She put down the jewel absent-mindedly and turned to the warehouse. It was a grubby building, long-forgotten and seemingly built as an afterthought. It didn't look anything like some of the nicer, more elegant stone garrisons in town.
"So it is," she replied. Reaching over her shoulder, she grabbed the helmet dangling from her sword pommel and put it on. "Shall we?"
"You're expecting resistance?" Anders asked.
"I'm always expecting resistance."
In they went, the Commander first, then Oghren, then Nathaniel and finally Anders. He hated taking up the rear, but it made sense. He was the most vulnerable, clad only in his mage's robes. In the back, he was less likely to take a stray arrow and he had a better sense of his comrades' needs. Nathaniel stood watch near him as they stopped just inside the door. It was lit with candles. Odd, Anders thought, for an abandoned place to be so well-lit.
The Commander made a sweep of the room, riffling through crates and chests, taking what she wanted. No sign of any phylactery. She moved into the far room, her two long swords poised and ready.
"Ah Anders," a droll voice said, "We've been expecting you. Fell into our little trap, did you? Typical. You'd do anything for that phylactery, and I'd do anything to stop you."
Templars. Brilliant. Should've seen that one coming.
Commander Tabris wrenched off her helmet, glaring at the Templars and their smug, self-satisfied expressions. For a horrible, fleeting moment, Anders wondered if this was it. Maybe the Commander would be sick of saving his skin and just turn him over. It would certainly make her life easier.
"What is wrong with you?" Commander Tabris demanded.
Be still my heart.
"Don't you have anything better to do? Maleficarum to chase? Helmets to shine? I've conscripted Anders. What part of Right of Conscription do you not understand? Shall I draw you a diagram?"
"This man murdered Templars," Rylock replied. She placed a hand over her sword pommel. Maker, he hated that woman. How on earth did one get their eyebrows to do that? "He must be brought to justice. You have no idea… the depths of this man's crimes."
"You are seriously getting on my nerves," Commander Tabris muttered. Rylock shrugged, standing her ground. "Let me rephrase that for you: you are getting on my nerves. Mine. The Hero of Fereldin. Do you have any idea how many Darkspawn have fallen to these swords? Do you really think I'm going to hand over a fellow Grey Warden?"
"He's no Grey Warden," Rylock muttered.
"Believe it or not, up to now he has made an excellent Grey Warden."
"I can see you're not going to cooperate," Rylock continued with a sigh.
"Oh? What gave you that impression?"
And then her head was on the floor. Rylock. Head. Floor. It happened so fast Anders hardly had time to process it. One minute Rylock was giving that signature bitch-faced glare, and the next her neck was spurting torrents of blood and her head was rolling towards his feet. He picked up the hem of his robe and took a giant step back. Surgical, the way the Commander worked. She had popped the woman's head off like a chef carving a turkey. It took a moment for the other Templars to react. And once they did, they were too rattled to be much of a threat.
Anders sidestepped the growing puddle of blood to search Rylock's breastplate.
"She doesn't have it, Anders. It was a trap. Your phylactery was never here."
Nathaniel and Oghren stood silently in the doorway. One look from the Commander and they turned away, falling on the Templars to scavenge what they could. The Commander took him by the arm and pulled him aside. Anders forced back a scream of frustration. So close, so sodding close…
"You don't understand," Anders sputtered, "The Templars… they… they won't let you get away with that."
"You're my friend, Anders. Friends stick up for each other. Besides," she said, kicking Rylock's limp ankle, "She had it coming. You alright? Do you need a moment?"
"Me? Bah, no. Let's just… get on with it."