Okay. So I thought I should put a few introductory notes here before you read this thing. Yes, these are my characters' real in-game names and (a slight exaggeration of) their real in-game personalities. Yes, there will be m/m and m/f and f/f pairings (well, probably. It's not like I plan out this thing or anything) for all your Alistair-lovin' needs later on. But you know, me being so terrible at romance you probably won't even notice any mushy stuff anyway. No, the self-insert will not be appearing again. At least, not for a long time. No, Duncan does not act like that in the game, and I know it. And yes, I do find it practically impossible to be even remotely serious.
You Said What Now?
We meet our heroes.
Kalamari Tabris was not having a very good day. In theory, this was supposed to be the happiest day of her life, marriage and all. Unfortunately, the whole idea of random human nobles gatecrashing the party, getting herself kidnapped and witnessing Valora's death was a bit of a downer, even for someone as bright and as cheerful as Kalamari.
Not to mention the cake fiasco. (How hard could it be to get a peaked cream icing design, anyway?)
"I'm never going to trust you with the cake arrangements again, Soris," she muttered, awkwardly swinging the unfamiliar borrowed longsword that he had given her. (She wasn't really one for the one-handed weapons, even if this one hadn't been made for human arms.)
He looked at her with some confusion. "What are you talking about?"
She sighed. "Never mind. Let's just find Shianni and get married. Er, not to each other. You know. This killing-guards-business is getting old really fast."
Soris raised his eyebrows, but followed her as she led the way into a corridor filled with angry guards.
"Wait," said Kalamari, stopping dead in her tracks.
"What?" said Soris, frantically trying to defend both himself and Kalamari from the onslaught of furious human guards. "Why have you stopped fighting?"
"Why am I leading the way? Shouldn't you be? Since you know how to get in and out?"
"Kala!" Soris almost howled in desperation. "There's a man trying to behead me and you're worried over who's walking in front?"
After a few more dead soldiers, a dead husband-to-be and more squelches and blood than Kalamari had ever wanted to see in her life, she vomited onto an unconscious guard's shoes and fell over. "This is such a bad day," she moaned. "... Soris ..."
"We need to keep going." He poked her with a foot. "Shianni is still in there!"
"Bleurgh," said Kalamari, wiping her mouth. "Yuk. I don't think I like killing people. How am I meant to get this blood off me?"
Soris sighed deeply. "Let's move."
A few minutes later, they had found Shianni and that irritating Bann. Kalamari was still worrying over what kind of scrubbing action would be needed for such a drenching of blood and whether it would be bad for her skin, and so was too deep in her thoughts to take in what the Bann was saying.
"Er," she said, noticing that everyone was looking at her for an answer. "Please can you die now?"
SacredBob Cousland – known as Bob to his friends – was similarly not having the best day of his life. His talents were more in how many handmaidens he could get into his bed in a week and how many idiotic jokes he could crack in two minutes rather than fighting. His technique with a sword had much to be desired, although he did think that he was rather good at bashing people with a shield. There wasn't really that much to it. Smash, whack, thump. It was embarrassing, really, but his dog FlowerPower beat him more often than not in their combat training sessions.
He looked down at Iona and wondered if he should lay her body to rest on the bed, because that seemed more respectful than leaving her sprawled across the floor... then he realised that his mother was probably also being attacked by insane Howe guards, and he rushed out to clobber a couple more of those idiots. FlowerPower barked happily and disembowelled another guard.
Well, this was just jolly, thought Bob a few moments later as he surveyed the grisly scene. He was never, ever going to say the words, "You'll see a sword up close soon, don't worry!" to a little boy again. That joke was just in such bad taste.
"Come on, Bob," said his mother, suddenly looking up with a steely expression. "We need to find your father."
"Yay," said Bob, not really feeling it. He was probably going to need huge amounts of therapy and counselling after all this familial-slaughter stuff.
They did find Bryce Cousland in the end, which would have been wonderful except for the fact that he was bleeding to death on a dirty kitchen floor. Bob's thoughts of "Damn it, of course it would have to happen like this," were interrupted by that Grey Warden from earlier striding into the room.
"How did you get in?" Bob asked him.
"Never mind that," said Duncan. "I'm here to conscript you for the Grey Wardens."
"Er... no. Just no," said Bob. "My parents are dying in front of me and you didn't even help me one little bit in fighting off a bunch of murderous traitors and I'm probably going to be emotionally scarred by this traumatising event for life and now you want me to abandon them to saunter off with you into the sunset to join your disgraced secret society of I don't know whats?"
"Pretty much," said Duncan.
Bob stared in bewilderment.
Princess Tim Aeducan, unlike Kalamari and Bob, was actually having a rather nice day. She had recently won a Proving in his own honour, humiliated an upstart member of House Dace by killing his eldest son when he had dared to attempt to make her a fool, watched a merchant faint at the sight of her noble presence... and today, she had managed to obtain this precious family heirloom.
She just hoped that Bhelen, that irritating younger brother, hadn't got under her nose and laid some sort of devious plan to trap her. Trian would be no problem, she thought, but that Bhelen was always up to something...
Half an hour later, she was locked in a prison cell and wondering where her spies had gone wrong.
"Gorim, get me out," she ordered. "Escort me back to the palace."
"Er... I can't," said Gorim a little sheepishly. "We're both disgraced prisoners..."
This was the last straw for Tim. "What do you mean, disgraced prisoners? I will not be a disgraced prisoner. I will never be a disgraced prisoner. I am still a princess of House Aeducan and by the Ancestors is that little bastard Bhelen going to pay for this! I'm going to make sure he dies a horrifyingly painful death and be given a casteless's burial if it's the last thing I do!"
"But," said Gorim, "our sentences have been decided. Lord Harrowmount let me in to tell you-"
"Sentences? They'd dare to sentence ME? Why, those little th-"
"I'm to be exiled to the surface, and you're to walk the Deep Roads," explained Gorim before his lady could launch into a full stream of threats and indignation.
She narrowed her eyes. "So Bhelen has persuaded my father against me? Pah. Well, there are exits to the surface through the Deep Roads, are there not?"
"Well, yes. Plus, Duncan and the Grey Wardens are still in the Deep Roads, in tunnels connected to those you are to be left in. If you survive long enough to find the Grey Wardens, you may be able to escape with Duncan."
"Hmm," said Tim, thinking about this. "Well, there are worse ways to win glory than by killing darkspawn, even if I must seek help from these humans. How nice."
The Deep Roads were every bit as long and as seemingly pointless as she had noted them to be on her first visit today. She distractedly stabbed another gunlock and wandered through yet another rocky tunnel. These darkspawn were hardly worth fighting against if she could dispatch them so easily, she thought, and wondered how far away the Grey Wardens were. She was still thinking that thought when she almost ran into Duncan.
"Take me to the surface," she commanded. "Now."
Duncan looked at her, confused. "Er... I think I'm supposed to be the one in charge here. Join the Grey Wardens and I'll let you out?" He beamed in a rather scary manner.
Tim was a little disconcerted.
"You want me to help you and your illegal girlfriend to blast through the cellar door and destroy your phylactery so you can escape?" said the mage incredulously. "What were you thinking? That I'd say yes?"
"Be quiet!" hissed the elf next to him. "Someone might overhear us!"
"Thank you, Hosomaki," said Jowan. "Look, they're going to make me Tranquil! They've signed the papers and everything! Guys, I really need your help here!"
"I haven't even spent one night in my nice new mage quarters!" said the other human mage, flailing his arms wildly. "I don't want to escape! This is just stupid, pointless and we are all going to made Tranquil if we go through with it!"
"Actually, we can't be made Tranquil if we've passed the Harrowing," said Hosomaki quietly. "So stop waving your arms around and calm down."
"Fine! We'll be executed! Hanged! Dead!"
"Please," said Lily. "You three are best friends. Surely you can find someplace in your hearts to help us?"
"I can't let you be made Tranquil," said Hosomaki staunchly. "I will help you!"
"Oh, now you're being an idiot too? It's one thing to brainlessly escape because you're in danger, but pulling your much-too-easily persuaded friends into helping by telling their soft brains that it's the right thing to do, Jowan? That's just bad."
"Hey!" said Jowan. "Stop it! You're making Hosomaki cry."
"Am not," said Hosomaki, wiping his eyes.
The other mage looked at him. "Fine. I'm sorry. But this is over the top stupid, here. Aren't you a blood mage too?"
"No!" said Jowan, a little too quickly. "I'd never do anything like that. Ever. Never."
"I believe you," said Hosomaki. The other mage rolled his eyes.
Some time later, the group of four were lost in the basement of the Circle Tower.
"I knew this was a Stupid idea with a capital S," muttered the other human mage.
"Shh!" said Hosomaki. "It's wonderful that you came, but you really don't have to be so pessimistic..."
"Did we really have to destroy all those doors and walls?" said Lily as they stepped through into what looked to Hosomaki's eyes to be a phylactery chamber.
"Great," said the other mage. "Smash the glass and let's go."
Apart from the 'getting lost' part, everything had gone quite smoothly. Hosomaki was almost beginning to plan their victory march when a large group of templars brought a sinking feeling to his stomach.
After the initial shock of being splattered with Jowan's blood had passed, the shock of having been betrayed and lied to started to sink in.
"Hello?" said Duncan, waving a hand in front of his face. "I said, I would like to conscript you into the Grey Wardens. Are you in there?"
"What about me?" said the human mage.
"You don't even have a name," said Duncan, shrugging. "You're only here because I felt that the Amells were unfairly underrepresented in my schemes, so you're really just a token mention. Sorry about that."
Greagoir, Irving and the templars all gave Duncan baffled stares. Hosomaki was still busy giving the spot where Jowan had been a baffled stare, and so didn't really register what Duncan had just said.
"Whoops! I don't think I was meant to let that slip. Almost blew my cover!" said Duncan. "Anyway, Hosomaki, you're coming with me. Let's go!"
"Irving, are you sure that that was the Grey Warden Duncan? He seems a little... different," said Greagoir after they had left. The mage Amell still had his "what the hell?" expression on his face.
Irving looked after them and shrugged his shoulders. "I think it best not to ask too many questions."
Mahariel was not happy.
In fact, this particular Mahariel elf was never happy. Tamlen had long since gotten used to her dangerously unpredictable moods and frequent threats of killing the whole world and then herself, but he had never expected her to go the extra distance and do it. So it was probably a good thing that he was lost in the forest, since Mahariel in her current state was more likely to chop his arms off and beat him with them for funsies rather than save him.
"Piss off, shem," she growled at Duncan.
"That's just rude," said Duncan, sighing. "Look, you're going to turn into a darkspawn in about six months and then that would be bad, so why don't you just do the sensible thing and come with me?"
"Like I would trust you? I'm an elf. You. Are. A. Human. Piss off." She coughed. She was not used to talking so much – her usual conversation was more along the lines of, "They should die," and in her more crazed moments, an evil cackle. (That high-pitched scream-like noise was probably what had damaged her throat so.)
Duncan sighed again. "Look, I have just you and the dwarf duster to go, so can you do me a favour and just come? You'll probably die at Ostagar anyway. Believe me, I'm not doing this to help you. I just need a Dalish elf."
"Need? What for?" she said suspiciously.
"It's... a long story. Never mind. Come with me or I'll magically teleport you there."
"Like you could."
And he did.
"Billybob! This way!" called Leske as they ran through the tunnels of the Carta.
"Let's just hope Beraht and Jarvia aren't at the end of this..." said Billybob, struggling to keep up. It was alright for some, he thought a little bitterly. Leske and his light leather tunic. Stupid rogues.
"Oh, nugshit," said Leske, abruptly coming to a halt. Billybob narrowly avoided crashing into him. "What was that you were saying about Beraht and Jarvia?"
"Real funny, Leske."
Beraht had only just gurgled his dying gurgle when Duncan, the Grey Warden they had noticed earlier, strode into the room pointing a finger at Billybob.
"You! I need you. Come with me and be a Grey Warden?"
"What's that you said?" said Billybob, still in the let's-kill-people mindset. Leske shook him.
"He wants you to be a Grey Warden! Didn't you hear him?"
"Yes! Exactly!" said Duncan, rather excitedly. "And yes, I know I'm not really supposed to be down here and I should wait for you to come out, and yes, my time travelling may have got things in the wrong order, but I was getting so impatient for my sixth Blight-queller that I simply had to get you as soon as possible."
"You what now?" said Billybob. Time-travelling? Blight-queller?
"Ahem. Never mind all that. Well, the thing is that you're probably going to be executed by the guards waiting outside as soon as you come out, so I'm here to offer you a place with the Grey Wardens instead. Very impressive Proving today, I must say."
Leske clapped him on the back. "There you go! Nice one, salroka."
"That's right! Come with me. We're going to Ostagar!"
"Ostagar? Wait, what?"
Billybob was still just as confused by this sudden fast-forwarding of his life when they finally reached Ostagar as when Duncan had first dropped by Beraht's hideout. Considering the amount of time it took to traverse the whole of Ferelden, that was saying quite a bit. The appearance of five other Duncans at the exact same time, each of them with another confused-looking elf, dwarf of human tagging along behind them, pushed Billybob's mind right into the 'will never ever recover' category of confusion.
"What in the sodding Stone...?"
"Don't worry," said Duncan. "All just as I expected!"
There was a bright flash of light and a whiff of dirty socks. By the time Billybob's eyes had gotten over the shock, all six Duncans had disappeared. In their place, standing in the middle of the ruined stone road, was a large werewolf that towered over Billybob's dwarfish height.
"Die, werewolf scum!" shouted someone – presumably the elf woman who was now throwing herself at the werewolf with a knife in her hand.
"Oi!" said the werewolf, sounding a little affronted. It reached out a clawed hand and picked up the elf. "How rude. I come in peace."
"You... tricked me!" she said, struggling in the air. "I knew I should never have listened to a shem!"
"Oh, be quiet," said the werewolf. "I picked this form because I thought it would be big and impressive and thus would cow you all into submission... damn it. Oh well. As you may have gathered, all of you, I'm not really Duncan. Sorry about that. However, I am a Fade spirit with immense power over this entire world, so I'd advise you to stop trying to kill me."
It shook the elf a little more. The other five winced a little (except for the dwarf woman, who merely looked contemptuous).
"Ahem! Anyway. So there's a Blight, and I wanted to write a brilliant biography of the brave hero who defeated it – I mean, will defeat it. But then I realised that there were six wonderful heroes who could potentially be the protagonist of this biography, and I just couldn't choose which one... so here you are! All six of you! Isn't this fun?" It paused, obviously expecting someone to say something.
"Yes, so fun," said a human man. The werewolf-spirit evidently chose to ignore the sarcasm dripping off his words.
"Isn't it? So I rewrote a bit of history, knocked Duncan out before he could go wandering off on his let's-find-a-Warden missions and recruited you all myself." It grinned. The sight was more terrifying than reassuring. "Not to mention the fact that I've been watching over you six your entire lives... well, only the past few days, really, or weeks if you include the time travel, but you don't need to worry about that... in fact, I was the one who named all of you at your birth! You are... the Chosen Ones." It laughed jovially (or at least, Billybob assumed that was the intended effect). Four out of five people and a dog backed away. The sixth one glared at it with hatred as she dangled from a claw.
"... why are you telling us your life story?" said Billybob, now very very confused. Oh, how he missed the underground where there were no meddling Fade spirits (or at least none that he had encountered) pretending to be big furry monsters or Grey Wardens.
"Er... because I thought you guys would just get much too befuddled by it all if you realised that there were multiple Duncans running about?"
"I'm befuddled right now," said a second elf woman. "So... what?"
"Well now, squid-girl, you are all going off to wake up the real Duncan, tell him that I sent you and ask to do the Joining as soon as possible. All six of you. Don't let the spoilt princess and this insane elf here to get away, okay? All good?"
"Er..." said the woman.
"Great! Well, have fun defeating the Blight. See you!" There was a bright tinkle of bells and a puff of pink smoke, and the werewolf disappeared. The elf woman dropped to the ground with a flump.
"Are you alright?" said another elf, this one in mage robes. The one sprawled on the ground looked at him with disgust and didn't answer.
"So," said the human man, patting the dog beside him. "Shall we go and find the real Duncan?"
"What in the name of Paragon Aeducan was that?" said the dwarf woman, looking absolutely furious. Billybob looked at her in surprise. He recognised that voice...
"Princess Aeducan?" he said. He belatedly remembered that she had executed the last unfortunate non-noble to address her without being spoken to first. Whoops.
"Ah. A casteless. Is this some sort of spirit trick to rub my supposed 'exile' in my face, hmm?"
"You're both Grey Wardens now, and we're all equal here," said the human man, clearly anticipating a fight.
"Actually, we're not," said the second elf woman – the one who had not been picked up like a doll – "we haven't actually joined the order yet. But that's why we should get moving! Oh, and my name's Kalamari. Nice to meet you all!" She beamed at them. Lady Aeducan pursed her perfect lips and haughtily sheathed her dagger, glaring at the others with undisguised disgust.
"Moving on is good, yes?" said the man, ushering Billybob to walk next to him as Kalamari skipped happily ahead . He left Lady Aeducan well alone. The other two soon followed.
"What?" said the real Duncan incredulously as SacredBob explained to him their situation. "You say a talking werewolf brought you all here and wants you all to become Grey Wardens?"
"That's what he, uh, it, said," said Kalamari, trying to be helpful. "Apparently we have to do a joining or something? Is that right?"
"Yes, yes, the Joining ritual," said Duncan, rubbing his head. "A talking werewolf? I may be going mad, but that does sound familiar – almost like a dream I just had. But all of you to be recruited at once? I am not sure that that is wise."
"Er..." said SacredBob. "My whole family was slaughtered by that bastard Howe, and the fake Duncan conscripted me and stopped me from defending my dying parents. I'd kinda like to put that guilt to some use, you know."
"Do you realise that there is no turning back in becoming a Grey Warden? Even the Joining ritual is dangerous."
"If you don't make me a Grey Warden, I'll probably be hanged," said Kalamari. "And I really don't want that."
"Same here," said Hosomaki. "All for defending the cause of a false friend..."
"Er... I want to kill darkspawn?" said Billybob, because everyone else was looking at him and it appeared to be his turn to speak.
The attention was turned to the two girls remaining. The Aeducan exile spoke first.
"I do not want to be a Grey Warden. Let me go my own way," she said, managing to look condescendingly upon the rest of the group even though she was the shortest there.
"Hey!" said Kalamari. "The spirit said that all six of us have to take this Joining! You're not allowed to just leave!"
"I don't think angering a spirit that can rewrite history and change time is really such a clever idea," said Bob. "You should probably stay..."
"Exactly!" said Kalamari. "It told us especially not to let any of you get away. We all need to be Grey Wardens."
"We should do as it asked," said Hosomaki. "Isn't that the wisest thing to do?"
"I'll do no-one's bidding, even if they happen to be a spirit from the Fade! It dared to trick me! It deceived all of us!" replied the Aeducan woman. "I've not quite stooped to that level."
"You've lost your title and your rank, from what I hear," said SacredBob fairly. "You're pretty darn up yourself for a disgraced surface dwarf, aren't you? The other Duncan was telling me all about it. You're no better than the rest of us."
Kalamari felt that that was a bit uncalled for, not to mention likely to cause an explosion, so she stood back and waited for the dwarf's reaction. She was a little surprised when the dwarf seemed to calm down.
"Fine. I admit that I am casteless – for now. I suppose I shall have to keep my oath to that false Warden that I shall stay."
"Great!" said Kalamari, patting her on the shoulder. It was greeted with a look of shocked horror – no-one dared to touch the Princess – and a quick slap.
"If I had my Gorim with me still, you would all be dead from poison by now," she muttered.
"And what about you?" said Duncan to the other elf. She still had not spoken a word to any of the others in the group, and she made no response now except to give Duncan a rather rude hand gesture.
"We'll... persuade her," said SacredBob, shrugging. "So what do we have to do?"
to be continued...