And here is the sequel to Righteous Vendetta. Though it is not required to read Possession and RV to understand this story, as it centers upon Awakening, I would recommend doing so as I plan on tying the three stories together quite a bit. To fully understand the nature of some of my protagonists (and to not reveal one of the biggest spoilers in my stories), you'd need to have read my last two stories. However, if you simply don't care, then don't bother. I'm sure you'll enjoy Legendary anyway.
This time I am using a different style than my last story. I like experimentation, so I'll be messing around with the way I tell this story until I get comfortable with a certain type. Also, upon request of one of my readers, I will be involving companions POV much more than I have in the past. Basically, all the Awakening characters will have a POV, their own feelings, emotions, etc. all based upon who they are in the actual expansion pack. I hate going out of character, so I'll be sure not to do so.
This is my own novelization of events in Awakening, with my own twists and sub-plots added in for good measure. I have considerably less time for myself than I used to, but I can still promise one or two chapters a week, each about 4000 words long. Anyway, this is Legendary, the story of Darius Caron, Warden-Commander of Ferelden. I hope you enjoy it.
Humans were so amusing.
It was fair to say the same of dwarves and elves, but nothing fascinated him like the minds of these strange, varied creatures known as humans.
Maybe he was bias? He used to be human, after all. No longer, however. He couldn't think as they do, act as they do, live as they do. For he had touched the mind of demons, he had seen the other side. He had found truths so profound none other had even discovered the need to search for them.
Adrian curled his lip, smirking as he gazed into the valley below. A small caravan struggled in the storm against the muddy road, tiny figures shouting orders, heaving and cursing, falling and swearing. A mother with a baby sat inside the wagon, slightly worried expression adorning her face.
To think he used to be one of these insignificant creatures! He used to care as a human did. Love as a human did. He used to find death so terrifying, but now it was simply an inconvenient impossibility.
Sometimes a human would impress him. One in particular, a tanned man who appeared to be from Orlais, had readily taken charge of the group, issuing orders to excavate the struggling wagon efficiently. A deepstalker followed him obediently, like a trained dog. The other members of the band kept a cautious eye on the creature, yet trusted it enough not to be scared. The owner, that tanned man, was a powerful person, Adrian knew. Despite being Orlesian, despite owning a dangerous animal, these Ferelden men still followed him. He was a man born to lead, a man born to do great things. Birthright seemed to do so much, these days.
Of course, then Adrian would be reminded it was humans that had pushed him down for being a mage. They had denied him the power of a god out of fear. What fear should they even possess? They were insignificant – some even readily admitted it was so – yet they struggled to make their lives mean something. That was why they were interesting.
Humans relied upon hypocrisy. Lies. Falsehoods. Unnecessary niceties formed the basis of their civilization. They asked for respect despite the utter uselessness of such a trivial notion. They eagerly preferred comfort in life over basic survival. Why? What use was grandiosity in the shape of men fighting men for control of land, or power, or wealth? What use was a soft bed when you'd need a sword in the heart to use it?
And so Adrian watched, confused. He had once been such a creature? He had once thought as they did? No. He had been a mage once, a human evolved beyond normalcy. He had always been above them, yet he was kept below by their insecurities.
That was before he found The Demon. Through The Demon's death, Adrian had found truth. He had found peace. He had found power – true power, capable of leveling cities, of leveling mountains, of leveling continents!
He had spat in the face of god and had been rewarded.
Adrian laughed, clapping his hands together as the wagon wheel popped free of the mud, as a man fell face first into the dirt as a result of the lost tension. These people were miserable, yet they pressed forward, onward to a human settlement known as Amaranthine. Why? Adrian cared not, but he would follow these intriguing creatures for days yet.
He looked at their campfires, their conversations. He listened to their stories, to their drunken chatter. Adrian would smile gleefully as the one woman would laugh occasionally, a voice elegant and light. It gave him memories of a time not spent, a life not led. An existence without The Demon.
But he had no regrets. A life not lived was better than a life lived in misery and weakness. Those with power, abominations like Adrian, would rather be slain than be weak. Power was all that mattered, yet still he was drawn to these creatures. He could watch them for hours, silently gazing from a hidden perch in a tree, or looking up from below rushing water, or staring down as he sailed the skies as a hawk.
It was irrational, but Adrian knew it must be so. Without irrationality, these creatures would have nothing. They would not be so tight knit or distant. They would not love or hate. They would not vilify or accept. They would only gaze from a distance, watching irrationality and being amused.
No longer could he laugh amongst them. No longer could he feel their touches. No longer could he see through their eyes. No longer could he be ignorant and blissful. No longer could he joke as they did, hope as they did, lust as they did. No longer could he love as they did.
Yet Adrian could not pull his eyes from these creatures, elegant and beautiful that they were.
He had spat in the face of god and had been punished.
Darius shrugged the cloak onto his shoulders, still trying to empty his mind of the events of the day before. Tez trotted beside him, gazing about cautiously. Both were too wary to risk another ambush by the darkspawn.
"We got too relaxed, eh Tez?" Darius glanced down at his deepstalker companion. "No more drinking before battle. For either of us."
Tez chirped back in what seemed to be an annoyed and someone disappointed tone. Tez liked drinking, after all. Darius couldn't blame him.
"They're all dead..." Darius said softly, staring up at the sky as he walked, unsuccessfully trying to clear his head. Tez chirped sadly in response. "It's not like we had known them for incredible amounts of time, but they were just beginning to trust us. They liked you from the beginning, though."
Tez chirped again, running ahead slightly. Darius fell back into his thoughts, his memories of the battle with the darkspawn. They had ambushed them in the night in a strangely coordinated attack. Darius could hardly keep one or two pinned down with their unconscious strategy, leaving all too much room open for the rest to slaughter Darius' companions.
"Maybe it would have been better if we stayed in the Warden's Keep?" Darius wondered absentmindedly. Tez chirped angrily, drawing a faint chuckle from the Orlesian. "You're right. The others would be dead whether we stayed behind or not. The only difference would be that I would not have known about it. Maker, I wish that Vigil's Keep was not as far away as it is."
The two kept walking in silence as Darius reflected on the ambush wearily. All of Darius' fellow members of the caravan had been killed by darkspawn. He had failed in his duties as a Warden, which was not a good start for his new commission as Warden-Commander of Ferelden.
"You think the First Warden made a mistake in appointing me?" Darius muttered to Tez, who was busy sniffing the ground with its odd, worm-like head. It popped to attention at the question, gazing backwards. "You're right again. I shouldn't be so hard on myself. There was nothing I can do."
Darius surveyed the land about him. Now that he left the valley behind him, along with the charred and mutilated corpses of those he called his traveling companions, he could finally see the landscape of Amaranthine, the land he'd be spending more time than he thought necessary in.
But the First Warden cannot be denied. When Darius was called to serve as Warden-Commander of Ferelden – despite being Orlesian, Darius thought grimly – he didn't complain. He had to repay his debt to the country somehow, considering he didn't even fight in the Blight.
It should have been him who died in the final battle, not Riordan. Still, Darius knew there was nothing he could do about it now. Considering the mysterious nature in which the Archdemon died, there had been rumors that it was Riordan who struck the final blow instead of Adrian, despite eyewitness reports of the contrary (of Arl Eamon in particular).
Tez chirped, driving Darius from his thoughts. The deepstalker pointed towards a distant cloud system. Another storm was coming hot on the heels of the last. Wonderful.
"We're not getting a peaceful night tonight, Tez." The deepstalker made a low growling noise, signaling his disapproval. Both knew of the inconveniences of the open road well, however.
This wasn't shaping up to be the best of journeys.
Darius sat near the entrance of the make-shift shelter. Tez coiled up against him, sleeping soundly. All around him nature roared in protest at the torrential rains. Thunder resounded from above as Darius stared into the blackness outside, hoping he wouldn't sense any danger. Despite this, he had his weapons ready and his armor on. You can never be too careful.
The lean-to he had built was shabby at best – a life of living in Orlesian luxury can do that to a Grey Warden, Darius thought – yet he dared not move from it. Water pooled in the most inconvenient places, but luckily it didn't flood. Tez didn't seem to mind, but he was a hardy creature. Tez would adjust to anything, Darius knew. It made him proud to be one of the few, if any, humans who called a deepstalker a pet. They were dangerous animals, after all. Dangerously useful, at least.
Darius leaned back, putting his hands behind him as he stared outside. He thought of his time as the commander of Warden's Keep, which had been reclaimed after a Warden had repaired the veil. Avernus, despite being a subject of much controversy among the Wardens, had been left in charge after Darius accepted the position as Warden-Commander.
Darius' hands slipped on the wet ground when he shifted his weight. Falling back, Darius accidentally pushed his deepstalker pet, who growled in protest. As Darius regained his position, however, Tez stared into the darkness, its gaze focused on a single point in the night, though Darius could not see anything.
"What is it, boy?" Darius patted its head softly, but the deepstalker only began to growl. Then he felt the taint.
Darius had barely rolled out of the lean-to when an ogre's fist smashed into it, shattering the shelter. Tez barked as it barely escaped, rushing into the darkness at their assailant.
Drawing his sword, Darius could only tell the ogre's location from the taint within him. Still, it was only a rough estimate. Tez would be more accurate in gauging where it was, as the creature could see in the dark, but Darius knew he could not rely upon a deepstalker to take down an ogre.
"If only I'd adopted a bronto." Darius sarcastically smirked, not truly meaning it, drawing his second sword. He rushed ahead, following Tez's chirping. Through the occasional lightning strike, Darius saw the Ogre, fearsome creature that it was.
Standing over 10 feet tall, the massive creature swung at Darius in still-frame, its blows barely missing Darius as he tried to attack in the darkness. The Ogre was oddly inaccurate, its blows barely even reaching the Warden as he jumped away from its blows. Darkspawn were supposed to be able to see in the dark, which would have given this thing the advantage.
The Warden-Commander struck out as the next fist came down, slashing straight through. The darkspawn withdrew quickly, roaring and taking the sword with it. Swearing, Darius charged forward, slashing at where he though its legs were, yet missed.
The Ogre's fist nipped his shoulder, sending Darius to the ground. Before it could finish him, Darius heard Tez growl and the ogre shriek. Knowing Tez was in danger of being dashed against the ground, Darius threw his second sword in the direction he had last seen the Ogre.
Its scream showed he had been accurate. Another flash of lightning and Darius saw the blade stick from its chest, Tez running towards safety with no injuries. The Warden-Commander darted forward, jumping onto the chest of the creature, desperately grabbing for his sword. Luckily, he found a hold, drawing the sword out and again in its chest, driving it deep into its torso.
The Ogre roared, its fist batting Darius off its chest. The Warden rolled as he hit the ground, retrieved sword in hand. The darkspawn charged, a flash of lightning revealing its killing intent, but also its injuries. In addition to Darius' sword wound, an unknown dagger stuck out from its thigh, and its eyes were scarred white. It was blind.
"It's been wounded before..." Darius mumbled, recognizing the dagger as the fancy weapon the only women in his caravan had carried. The ogre was one of the darkspawn that ambushed his party!
Anger rising in his stomach, Darius rolled forward, between where he thought its legs were, stabbing upwards. He felt blade strike flesh and drive through, blood squirting on the Warden as he stood, turning, stabbing into its back before it could turn.
The Ogre roared again, dropping to its knees. Darius drew his blade from its back, aiming higher. Blade broke flesh again and again as Darius stabbed it, the Ogre weakening with every strike. Finally it fell, its massive form stumbling into the muddy road. Darius, knowing the regenerative powers of these Ogres, drew his second sword from its hand, feeling for the creature's head.
He chopped, cutting into the creatures neck. Blood flew out as the ogre shuttered from the blow. Darius sawed through skin and bone, eventually severing head from body. Satisfied, the Warden threw the head as far to the side as he could, hoping Ogres couldn't regenerate heads... or that heads couldn't regenerate bodies.
"We're no longer safe here, Tez." Darius shouted as his deepstalker pet approached. The Warden stood, sheathing his swords. If there was one darkspawn, there was bound to be more about. Unluckily for the Orlesian, that meant traveling in torrential rains and little light.
Darius swore as he marched in the direction Tez chirped from, using the deepstalker as a guide in the impenetrable darkness. Hopefully he wouldn't get trench foot from the wet.
Night wore into dawn slowly, too slowly for the tired Warden's taste. Warden's Keep had made him complacent, he realized. Back in the army in Orlais, he was trained to be able to march for two days straight. Grey Wardening had actually decreased his endurance. Probably the Taint's fault.
Oh, how he wished he was in Orlais again. He thought Ferelden was a bad idea. No. He knew it was bad. Nobody here would like him, the darkspawn were everywhere and, even in the middle of nowhere, it smelled like wet dog.
Darius again wandered into his thoughts, finding them considerable more interesting than the empty scenery about him, only now becoming bathed in the faint light of pre-dawn. Suddenly he missed the caravan, with their jovial laughter and incessant storytelling. Even their suspicion of him for being Orlesian seemed alluring now. But one cannot simply turn back the clock. One cannot simply bring back the dead.
Tiredness filled his limbs, his strides becoming shorter and shorter. Eventually he stopped altogether, Tez chirping in protest.
"It's all right, boy. I just need a bit of rest." Darius smiled faintly as his eyelids started drooping. He wandered past the edge of the road, examining the countryside around him for any sign of danger. Seeing nothing, he lay on the grass, closing his eyes slowly.
Tez coiled up next to him, head extended to survey the surroundings about them, ready to alert Darius to any sign of danger. In seconds, the Warden was asleep.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the audience, our next fight will have you on your toes, hanging to the edge of your seats, salivating at the very thought of the mystery of who will emerge victorious!" The announcer started, exciting the crowd into a frenzy.
"He really knows how to appeal to a fool's need for bloodshed." Darius remarked dryly to his trainer. "You know anything about my next opponent?"
"Only that he was kicked out of Orzammar for killing so many men the guards became scared of him." The coach grinned back, handing Darius his swords. "No sweat, eh?"
"Right. Championship rounds are always easy. Don't let me forget that." Darius rolled his eyes, sheathing the blades.
"Raje Kader and Darius Caron! Two of the strongest fighters of the age will be pit together in a mortal lock for their very survival!" The announcer shouted. Darius sighed as he stood, knowing his cue. "Both will enter this ring and only one will leave alive! Who will it be? Place your bets now, for betting time is over as soon as the match starts!"
Darius walked slowly towards the tunnel leading to the ring. His coach patted him on the back, encouraging him relentlessly. 'You'll wipe the floor with him!' he says, but Darius knows it will not be so easy.
He walked into the sunlight, temporarily blinded by the bright sun. The crowd cheered at the sight of him, and again as the dwarf emerged into the light across from him. His opponent was a dark skinned dwarf with tattoos covering the entirety of his face. The rest of him was covered in heavy plate armor, a vicious and scarred greataxe gripped in his hands.
"And we have our champions! Before you stands two mighty men, yet only one will leave alive! Who will it be?" The announcer shouted, riling up the crowd into a crazed frenzy. Darius drew his swords, gesturing at the dwarf across from him.
"Your a pretty one, ain't ya, girl face? Your a noble, I bet. I'll cut that damned pretty neck straight through, human." Raje laughed, a horrid gurgling sound, only adding to Darius' growing revulsion to the man. "Feed your sparkling eyes to the crows, that I will. Just you wait."
"Can't resist the opportunity." Darius would have rebutted, but then the bell rang, signaling the start of the fight.
The dwarf charged forward, greataxe raised. Darius parried his strike easily, deflecting the weight of the blow to the side. Two slashes from Darius' blades impacted the dwarf's armor, but didn't so much as scratch it.
"It's white steel, pretty boy." The dwarf laughed, swinging his axe towards Darius, who nimbly dodged backwards. "Those tiny blades won't do anything to the finest metalwork in all Orzammar."
The crowd cheered every time a blow was readied, only to fall silent as the two fighters retreated from each other, glaring fiercely in search of an opening. Darius knew there was no way to get through this dwarf's armor, but it also probably weighed an incredible amount. If he could hold out for long enough, hopefully the dwarf's constitution would slowly wear down, eventually allowing Darius to make a killing blow.
Such was the nature of tournaments, Darius thought as he parried an overhead axe strike with both his swords. You ruthlessly slaughter your opponent in order to move yourself forward. Phallus-enhancing activities indeed, but Darius found he rather enjoyed it.
There was a thrill to facing uncertain death. Whether it was on the battlefield of war, a tourney, or a simple expedition into the unknown, Darius loved to flirt with death. He reveled in it. There was no point if there wasn't a challenge, and he hadn't killed so many people just to waste a spectacular fight with a blood-crazed dwarf.
"Stand still, boy!" Raje shouted, echoing the frustrations Darius knew the dwarf felt. "I can't be separating any limbs if you're jumping about!"
Darius parried a swing, dashing forward and to the side, slamming his swords into Raje's dominant hand. As the white steel armor rung from the impact, Raje yelled, temporarily stunned by the pain. Hopefully, Darius had broken his arm, but luck usually wasn't on his side.
All the better, then.
The crowd still cheered, a wall of noise Darius found himself descending away from, his senses becoming muted until all he saw was the dwarf, his axe, all the deadly blows that could be and had been. He didn't simply see Raje. He felt him. He thought him. He knew him.
Darius parried a strike with his off hand, pivoting while swinging his right sword as a distraction. He sprinted to the other side of the field, pivoting again to see the dwarf come on in attack, placing his back to the cement boundary wall.
"Damned human! Die like you're supposed to!" Raje yelled as he charged, his short legs not giving him much speed, but his frame allowed for plenty of power. The dwarf raised his axe overhead, but Darius recognized the feint. The dwarf was going to swing through the side, not over his head.
Darius stood still, longswords held at ready as the dwarf came on, shouting a slightly incomprehensible and thoroughly dirty war cry, much to the dismay of the ears of the sensitive noble ladies sitting outside of the arena.
As Raje finally neared enough to swing, Darius rushed forward, going inside the swing. Not expecting that move, Raje tried to counter, but only found Darius' fist slamming into his face. The dwarf stumbled backwards, stunned, but Darius did not let up.
Striking Raje's hands, Darius knocked Raje's greataxe out of them. Raje swore in pain as he regained his senses, only to realize that he had no weapon and Darius' sword was at his neck.
"Kill me then, pretty boy." Raje grinned, exposing his dirty and holey set of teeth. The crowd had gone silent, waiting in anticipation for the final blow. "These Orlesians all wish it. They want to see my head roll across this ground. So do it."
"I expected more." Darius said unemotionally, leveling his second sword in front of Raje's neck as well, forming a sort of gruesome scissors. "Are you truly a legendary murderer who escaped justice in Orzammar, or is that just publicity?"
"What is true, pretty boy?" Raje cackled, smiling still. "What does truth in the face of death? Your blade is at my neck, so follow through. End my life. Do the right thing."
"Are you so eager to die?" The crowd was starting to murmur now, wondering why Darius hadn't yet struck Raje down.
"I've seen many things in my lifetime." Raje finally stopped smiling, staring into Darius' eyes. "I've seen a village fall to darkspawn and undead, I've seen wives beaten and raped. I've seen all that makes this world a vast pile of your Maker's shit. Dying is a relief."
Darius paused, glancing into the stands around him, the faces of eager, confused nobles wishing to see the death of this dwarf. They wanted to see a man die to satiate their own blood lust.
"No." Darius slowly pulled his swords away, walking away from the dwarf. Raje's expression was one of shock and horror, a face a man gets when denied the greatest pleasure. In a way, Darius felt guilty. Guilty for saving his life.
"Damn you, human!" Darius turned as he heard the axe come down. He parried the blow instinctively, knocking the axe aside again, swinging his sword forward before Raje could retract his weapon. Without meaning to do so, Darius' sword sliced into and through his neck cleanly, sending a spray of blood to the side.
The crowd erupted into cheers at the sudden event. Darius stared in shock at the smiling dwarf's head as it flew into the air, coming to rest a few feet away. The body wavered for a second, unable to support itself without control of its muscles. It slumped forward, blood squirting on Darius' leather armor, onto his face.
Darius just stood, shocked at what he had done. Raje wasn't a blood-fettered warrior of legendary renown. He was a fake seeking his own death, a death Darius had given him purely out of instinct. This wasn't battle. This wasn't uncertain death. This was murder.
His coach gave empty words of congratulations as he ran out, hugging Darius and patting him on the back enthusiastically. Darius didn't hear them, brushing his coach aside, sheathing his bloody swords.
He walked out of the arena, not even bothering to claim his prize. He walked into the streets of Val Royeaux, ignoring the stares of those around him, of curious or frightened people wondering why a bloodstained man in armor was invading their privacy by being near them while so dirty.
These people, Orlesians just as Darius was, did not understand life or death. They played petty games with each other, unknowing or uncaring of the consequences upon others. They struggled for power, always for more power, without first understanding the requirements for managing such a transient and ephemeral thing.
"Darius Caron?" The blood stained man turned, unsure why this voice out of so many had broken him from his concentration. A man stood there, a Rivaini if looks were to be the judge. He looked strong, capable, confident, but also quite a few years older than Darius was.
"What?" Darius snapped, folding his arms in front of him.
"My name is Duncan, of the order of the Grey Wardens." Duncan said slowly, seriously, measured. "I have an offer, one which I will force upon you whether you choose so or not."
The Warden-Commander of Amaranthine opened his eyes slowly, cursing himself for sleeping so long. Tez was growling beside him, staring towards the road. Turning, and startled by what he saw, Darius drew his blades, gesturing them at the woman who had appeared before him.
"Peace, friend." The armored woman said, glancing back and forth between the deep stalker and the Grey Warden. "I come from Vigil's Keep, I was supposed to seek you out and guide you."
"Peace, huh?" Darius sheathed his blades, nudging Tez to get him to stop growling. "You a Grey Warden?"
"No. Not yet." Mhairi shook her head, gesturing down the road. "We should get moving soon, so as to get to the keep before nightfall. There are a large number of people waiting eagerly for your arrival."
"Right." Darius grabbed his satchel, nudging Tez as he walked towards the road. "Not like it matters. Nothing's going to happen to the Keep just because I'm a little late, right?"