Universe 1: Alistair is never sent away to the Chantry; the Howes never betray the Couslands; the Blight never occurs. All is well in Ferelden--except that Elissa Cousland is 25 years old and still not married.
The Bann's Fiancée
Elissa Cousland did not want to marry Bann Teagan.
It was not the fact that he was a horrible man: far from it. Knowing her father, he was probably polite, kind, utterly gorgeous, and charming to boot.
It was just the principle of the thing. The thought of arranged marriages left a sour taste in Elissa's mouth even when she wasn't the one getting married.
The fact that he was just a Bann, too, made it seem so insulting.
He's the King's Uncle. She could hear her father whisper in her mind. Since her mother's untimely death, getting Elissa married seemed to be her father's only concern. Should Calian and Anora fail to produce an heir, Teagan is most likely to inherit the throne.
And if they did manage to have a child? Well, she didn't mind spending the rest of her days in some backwater village, barefoot and pregnant, did she?
…She needed to get the hell out of here, now.
Which was why she was in Redcliffe's stables, somewhere close to midnight, trying to saddle up a horse in darkness.
"Careful there, Miss."
Oh, it was just a stable boy.
Well, stable man, more likely. He looked to be her age, with shaggy brown-red hair and a face full of stubble. In the low light of his lamp, he seemed quite handsome, his eyes twinkling in the firelight. He was well-built, too, for a stable boy, with toned arms and a gentle smile.
"Bessie's a bit stubborn," he explained to her gently, resting a hand on the black mare she tried to saddle. "And she's likely to kick you in the stomach for waking her in the middle of the night."
Elissa blinked at him. "Who are you?"
"I'm Alistair." He laughed at her charmingly. "The better question is who are you, dear lady, sneaking into the Arl of Redcliffe's stables in the middle of the night like some sort of sneaky…witch-thief."
She couldn't help herself: she smiled back at him. "I'm Elissa, and I'm, ah, running away."
He laughed. "That makes sense. I ran away once myself. Or I was going to, anyway. I ended up locking myself in a cage on accident."
Elissa giggled. "How did you manage that?"
He grinned. "Funny story..."
Elissa didn't run away that night. She stayed up talking with Alistair instead. And when she tried to run away the next evening, she ended up staying up talking with Alistair again. The same thing happened the next night, and the next, and the next.
Three weeks before her wedding to Teagan, Elissa finally managed to run away. That time, Alistair went with her.
When he received a letter from his daughter informing him of her wedding and the arrival of his future grandchild, Teyrn Cousland just smiled, and figured there were worst things to have as a son-in-law than a stable boy and a bastard prince.
A/N: More AUs coming. I already have one half written.