*Author's Note: Hello to all of my fellow Dragons Age fans! First of all, I do not own the rights to any of the Dragons Age characters, nor am I in any way linked to Bioware or any of its brands. Now with that being said, let me go ahead and give you all a quick summary of what to expect from this story. This is an "Awakening" retelling (slightly AU). *Disclaimer: If you have not played the Awakening expansion and do not wish the plot spoiled for you, do not read any further. On a further note, I will be using some of the in-game dialogue, but I do not intend to rely heavily on it. No, this story is not intended to be canon. There will be sections that I will be going on my own tangent for my own twisted amusement as well as for yours…hopefully.
As we begin our story a little over two years has passed since the end of the blight (yes, I am aware this is not canon, but this timeline better suits my purposes). Alistair slew the archdemon and thus, sacrificed himself to end the blight and to save the life of the woman he loved. Alyxandria Cousland (or Falcon as she is known to her friends) is the newly appointed Warden-Commander of Fereldan, and unaware of the major changes that are about to unfold in this new chapter of her life. This introductory chapter is set the day after she arrives at Vigil's Keep. She has already met and conscripted Anders and Oghren.
Two last notes and I swear we'll get on with the story! The second half of Bryce Cousland's thoughts on taking care of the land is sadly not my work to claim. It is a quote from the late and great Leonardo da Vinci. Also, my ideas often-times come from music… strike that. MOST of the time. I am especially inspired by movie scores, as they're intentionally meant to round out and/or create the emotion of a scene. I will be adding these "Muse Tunes" to each chapter for those who might be interested. This first chapter was wholly inspired by Hans Zimmer's "Progeny" from the "Gladiator" soundtrack. I hope, dear readers that you enjoy this humble retelling and please do not be shy about telling me what you think! ~Prose
CHAPTER 1 – The Falcon's Flight
The courtyard of Vigil's Keep was teeming with life as the sun began its languorous descent across the horizon, casting an otherworldly light over the crumbling walls of the ancient stronghold. Soldiers bustled back and forth, their booted footsteps echoing off the stones to mingle with the ringing of the armor-smith's hammer and the insistent cries of street vendors still plying their wares despite the lateness of the day. An ever-growing pitch of jovial voices spilled from the windows of the nearby tavern, adding to the momentary sense of normalcy in a less than normal time. No one noticed the small cloaked figure observing all of this from within the gloom of a darkened alcove.
Alyxandria Cousland slipped the hood of her cloak over her head, casting her features in heavy shadow before stepping from out of her hiding place. She had been watching the activity in the courtyard for some time now, trying to predict the right moment to make a move without being noticed. She chuckled dryly to herself as she imagined how she must look, creeping around the keep like a thief in the night. Wouldn't my Mother have a laugh if she could see me now, she thought grimly. The high-and-mighty 'Cousland Spitfire' resorting to sneaking in the shadows for a bit of solitude.
Alyx snorted softly to herself as she picked her way across the courtyard, doing her best to appear as nonchalant as possible to any onlookers who bothered to glance in her direction. Nevertheless, she kept to the outskirts mainly, avoiding heavily populated areas until she was able to skip down a set of stairs and out the portcullis that led to the barricades. She pulled the heavy folds of her cloak a little tighter as she continued down a small stone path that ran along the curtain wall until all but the soaring turrets of the Vigil had disappeared out of sight. Only then did she allow herself to stop and breath.
Sighing, Alyx quickly mopped at the sweat beginning to form upon her brow and the back of her neck before readjusting her hood. She longed for a cool gust of wind but knew the chances of a passing sea breeze were capricious at best, and would afford little relief from the stifling humidity that hung in the air like an invisible fog. She had forgotten how unforgiving Amaranthine's weather could be, from its hot, sultry summers to its long, brutal winters. Summerday had only just begun and yet it already felt like mid-Solace to her (though that was hardly surprising. Highever, after all, had always been a more temperate climate). Despite her discomfort, Alyx couldn't force herself to retreat back inside the relatively cool confines of the Vigil. Not yet at any rate.
After a long, disturbing night followed by yet another long and straining day, she had been desperate to get away…at least long enough to collect her thoughts. She had glimpsed an opportunity, the first since her arrival at the Vigil the night before, and had seized it before it was too late. Her new recruits were in their respective chambers recovering from the Joining and Senechal Varel was overseeing the building of the biers they would use come sundown to burn the bodies of the dead, both men and darkspawn alike. It was unlikely he would return to the keep until the job was done to his liking, and as the man seemed to be nearly as particular as she was, she figured that gave her approximately an hour or so to disappear. Alyx had grabbed her cloak and slipped out of the building before anyone could remark on her absence.
She cherished the immediate sense of freedom that had washed over her the moment she stepped outside. As if she were a prisoner liberated after a long stint in a dungeon she inhaled the moist air and looked up at the sky, noticing the clouds rolling in from the Waking Sea. It would rain before the night was out; not an uncommon occurrence in this part of the country if she remembered correctly. Maybe then it would cool to a more manageable temperature…though given her luck of late it was more likely to get hotter still.
The sound of footsteps broke through her thoughts, causing a moment of panic. Pulse racing, she dove behind some nearby scaffolding, squeezing as much of her small form behind the heavy oaken frame as was humanly possible. A few guardsmen turned the corner and ambled in her general direction. She held her breath as their voices drew closer, then faded as they passed by her hiding place and continued through the open portcullis. She waited a few moments to make sure they were gone before moving back onto the path, heading in the opposite direction.
Alyx wished it was unnecessary to take such dramatic actions in order to get some alone time, but it had become unavoidable. Everyone wanted a piece of the newly appointed Warden-Commander or the "Hero of Fereldan" as they so foolishly called her these days. Hero, she snorted to herself. She was no hero…true, she had the tainted blood of a Warden and a certain amount of skill and luck on her side, but a hero it made her not. The true hero had come and gone. He had been the one to make the ultimate sacrifice in the end, not she. Pain lanced through her heart at the thought and she immediately scrubbed it from her mind. She had no wish to experience the all-too familiar ache that usually followed such remembrances.
Instead Alyx began rehashing the events leading up to her arrival at the keep the previous night. She and a young recruit, a former soldier named Mhairi, had marched directly from Denerim, only stopping to rest when it was too dark to continue. The woman had valiantly tried to engage her new Commander in conversation, but to no avail. Alyx rebuffed most of her questions about the blight and largely ignored her grandiose speeches of honor and glory. Disappointed, Mhairi had fallen silent for the duration of the trip. Alyx had felt a pang of guilt for brushing her off as she had. Such honest enthusiasm should be commended, but the woman's obvious youth and naiveté had grated on nerves already stretched to their limit. It was clear that Mhairi desperately wanted to earn her place in the Order and Alyx hardly found it fair to crush her spirit. What would it serve to ruin her glamorous delusions of fighting darkspawn at this point in time? She would know the reality of it soon enough…if she survived that long that is.
By the end of the last day of their journey Alyx had decided to push through to the Vigil despite the waning light. Both women were exhausted and in no mood to stop when they were so close to their final destination. So they traveled on, reaching the keep only a few hours after nightfall.
All she had wanted was a hot bath and a real meal…perhaps even an ale or two to take the edge off before falling into (Maker willing) an uninterrupted sleep. Instead the two women had found a handful of frightened guards, a crumbling estate filled with dead (or missing) Wardens and a talking darkspawn as the cherry on top. How lovely, Alyx thought, just as she had then. A talking darkspawn. Impossible! And yet…she had seen it with her own eyes; heard it with her own ears. Nothing that she had learned of the darkspawn up until now had prepared her for that. But what does it mean?
If only one of the Orlesian Wardens had survived the darkspawn infiltration… perhaps then she would have her answer. Not for the first time, Alyx wondered at the irony of her current situation. No army of Wardens at her back. No simple solutions to her steadily growing list of troubles. No answers…only death. Not even Mhairi had survived in the end, poor lass. She had made it through the battle to regain the Keep only to fall during the Joining. Instead she had been blessed with a drunken dwarf and a wise-cracking mage, though she was grateful that they at least had survived the ritual.
The Maker must have a truly wicked sense of humor, she mused wryly.
It was all she could think of to explain the obstacles that so frequently jumped up in front of her. Three Wardens against a horde of strangely, horrifyingly intelligent darkspawn…hmm…at least her odds had gone up since this time two years ago. And as if that were not enough for her to contend with, it seemed that she would have to play Arlessa as well.
Leave it to Anora to forget that little detail, she snorted in disgust. When she had agreed to be the Warden-Commander it had been with the impression that the Arling had been given to the Order of the Grey itself, not to her. She hadn't given a moment's thought to the ramifications behind the title or the inherent responsibility that came with it. It wasn't until the queen had paid her a visit earlier in the day that it truly dawned on her what she had become. And here she thought herself shed of nobility, only to find herself right back to where she started.
Alyx crouched down and scooped up a bit of earth, absentmindedly rubbing her hands together to let the soil crumble and siphon through her fingers. She closed her eyes, memorizing the texture, breathing in the heady scent of the earth within her hands. It was something she had seen her Father do on countless occasions in her childhood.
"You must care for the land as you care for the people that toil it, Pup. Even the richest soil, if left uncultivated, will produce the rankest weeds," he would say as the soil cascaded from his hands. It took her years to understand the true meaning behind those words. How she missed him in these moments.
Her father had been a good man. He had a respect for the common man that few other nobles ever held and ruled his lands with a firm yet fair hand. This rarely won him favor at court, though it had garnered a great deal of esteem from those who worked and lived for him. Alyx recalled the few times in her youth that her parents had brought her to Denerim. At the Landsmeet the nobles would treat Bryce Cousland with the deference due to a Teyrn …a title shadowed only by the King himself. Yet they would call him an idealist and a fool behind his back.
Remembering the Landsmeet made her think of the hoops she would have to jump through in the coming days and months. Reflexively she shuttered. She had never wanted anything to do with court life. The petty gossip, the endless hours of preening followed by endless hours of frivolity that hardly masked the ever-present unscrupulous games the politicians so loved to play. As a child she had run from it as fast and as far as her legs would carry her…until her Mother got a hold of her and forced her to act like the 'Lady' she was 'meant' to be. It seemed she still had the urge to flee; only her Mother wasn't there to stop her this time.
Another wave of sadness swept over her as she thought of her parents. It had been three years since their death and yet she still missed them with her whole heart. How she longed for her Father's guidance…her mother's strength…
The sound of a screech and flapping wings nearby interrupted her musings. With a flash of movement a falcon landed on the top of a tumbled-down wall, no more than a stone's throw from her crouched position. Sharp yellow eyes met steel blue as Alyx and the falcon stared at each other intently. Slowly, carefully, so as to not scare the beast away, she reached inside her cloak and found the small leather pouch tied at her waste. Her fingers pulled free a bit of raw meat she had saved for her mabari, Hector. With a sharp flick of her wrist she tossed the offering to the bird, which gracefully snatched it up mid-air. With a couple of quick clicks of its sharp beak it swallowed the meal whole, clucking at her in appreciation. Its large, predatory eyes gleamed intelligently in the low light as it turned its head back and forth in contemplation. Alyx tilted her own head as she watched the bird curiously. She recalled a time in her travels that one of her comrades had decided on a lark to call her 'Falcon'. Although it had been meant as a joke in the beginning, the others had caught on quickly, and eventually the nickname had stuck.
"But why should they call me Falcon?" she had pouted to Alistair one night as they lay in each other's arms. She recalled how his big hands gently traced patterns across her back, leaving goose bumps in their wake. "I hardly see the resemblance."
"Ah, but it's a perfect comparison, my love. A falcon is sleek and beautiful…and just as deadly," he quipped with a chuckle, his honeyed voice low and full of warmth. "The falconer at Redcliffe used to say his best hunters would remain loyal to the same master for the span of their lives. I wonder if that is true of all falcons?" he had continued teasingly, though she had noted a hint of earnestness within the depths of his hazel eyes.
After that she was quick to warm to the epithet. Nowadays it was rare for someone to call her by her given name, though she could admit that most never knew it to begin with. She supposed the fact should bother her more than it did; rather she found she preferred it that way. It was only fitting after all. Her old life had died the day she agreed to be a Warden, why should anyone think of her as anything else?
"I do you no justice, my friend," she murmured to her namesake.
The falcon bowed its head once as if in acknowledgment of her words before leaving in a flurry of feathers, just as swiftly as it had first appeared. She watched as it glided across the sky, letting out a long cry before diving into the tree line.
Alyx snapped her head around, surprised at the sound of the voice behind her. Garevel, the Captain of the Guards here at the Vigil, stood at attention just at the edge of the path. She quickly turned away before he could see the chagrin in her expression. How had he known how to find her? Must be losing my touch, she thought with a grimace. After a moment of pause she wiped all emotion from her features and turned back to the man with quiet determination.
"What is it?" she said in a clipped, commanding tone.
"There is a…matter…which Seneschal Varel would like for you to look into," the Captain replied diplomatically.
"Can it wait?" she asked.
"Certainly…though I think it best for all involved if it is taken care of sooner rather than later."
"Cut to the chase, Garevel." Alyx snapped, her patience already wearing thin as her cerulean gaze drilled into his. She saw the subtle flinch and the uneasy transfer of weight from one foot to the next. He was not the first to falter under her scrutiny, though she was admittedly impressed with his recovery time.
"There is a man…a criminal that has been in our custody for several days now. By rights, as Arlessa, it is left to you to pass judgment on his crimes. The Senechal asked that you question him at your first convenience."
"What has he done?"
"He was caught within the walls of the Keep, stealing trinkets left over from the Vigil's former owners. Whether or not this was his sole objective is as of yet unclear. One thing's for sure…he is a dangerous man, Commander, and needs to be dealt with immediately."
Alyx pursed her lips in thought and then nodded as she finally stood and brushed any remnants of dirt from her hands and legs. With one last look at the sky she glance back at Garavel and shot him a courteous smile.
"Alright, Captain. Let's go see this dangerous criminal of yours."
*Author's Addendum: In a fit of writer's block I decided to go back and re-edit all of the chapters I had already posted, giving them a face-lift if you will. Author notes that were necessary at the time but are no longer will be taken out (save for callouts and muse tunes – which I have added to in some cases), so nothing integral will have changed from the original. This is a continuing process, leading up to the release of the newest chapter once I've sorted out my muse. Also, I wanted to take the time to note before we go on that I started writing this story long before DA2 was even announced. I have an intended direction, so I do not plan to use any part of the DA2 plot for this particular story. Thanks for reading, and kindly review! ~Prose