This is my first fanfic and I hope you will all enjoy.
My plan is to follow the story arc of the game pretty closely. I may have changed the dialogue and events a little but that is simply because I can't fathom playing this game for the fourth time in a row. Ideally, this fanfic will begin with the opening of the City Elf story and continue through the events of Origins.
Anyway, all characters and locations are the property of Bioware and its associated writers. I make no profit from the writing or distribution of this story.
Chapter 1: Make War
Life is bristling with thorns, and I know of no other remedy than to cultivate one's garden. - Voltaire
The woman might be beautiful.
It's a little difficult to be sure with her face shifting and blurring every time Kallian tries to look directly at her. She is smiling though, that much is for certain. Light streams from her, the sole illumination in a place that is otherwise dark. It is a glorious vision, but the woman seems so very far away.
Kallian steps forward to close the gab even as the figure raises her hand.
No, not yet.
"Hey sleepyhead, time to get up. Today is the big day!"
Only one person in the world is capable of being that obnoxiously cheerful in the morning. Rubbing sleep out of her eyes with a groan, Kallian forced herself into a sitting position at the edge of the bed. There wasn't any point in trying to go back to sleep anyway, once Shianni set to a task, she locked on like a Mabari. When she spoke, Kallian made a special effort to voice her displeasure.
"I was having a very interesting dream"
Shianni raised a single eyebrow and leaned forward slightly. "A dream, you are seriously concerned about a dream on today of all days?" She frowned slightly, "you do know what today is right?"
"It's the day I get married to a complete stranger without any say in the matter." Kallian pushed herself to her feet and engaged in a very satisfying stretch to shake off what remained of her grogginess. "Or is it laundry day? I do get the two mixed up every once in a while."
"Fine, be a smartass," Shianni smiled thoroughly unaffected. "There are plenty of girls in the Alienage that would love to be in your position. Not everyone gets to marry someone prettier than they are."
Flicking her cousin an amused glance, Kallian set about washing her face and arms in a basin by the window. For an Alienage residence, she supposed her house was actually pretty spacious. Unlike many others, her family had separate rooms for the kitchen and for sleeping. Some of the other girls, who worked as maids for rich humans, spoke of rooms dedicated solely to bathing. She didn't believe them of course, but the idea certainly was appealing.
"So this husband of mine is as handsome as they say?"
Shianni leaned against the wall and crossed her arms. "Oh yes, from what I understand he is the Maker's gift to all woman. Soris is waiting outside to take you to meet him." She smiled and began to make her way towards the door. "I left your wedding dress on the table. Try to keep it nice for a few hours."
Kallian rolled her eyes as she heard the door open and then close. It wasn't like she was some sort of savage beast or something. She was just a little harder on clothes than most. Moving over towards the table, she quickly divested the dress from its brown paper wrapping. Flicking it to unfold the material, Kallian held her wedding gown up to the light.
It was one of the loveliest things she had ever seen.
The pale cream fabric was trimmed in dark brown, while small polished stones were embroidered around the hem and sleeves. It had to be handmade in the Alienage; there was no way Shianni could have possibly had the money to buy something like this. She felt an abrupt surge of affection for her cousin. This wedding may not be her choice, but she appreciated Shianni's attempts to make it special for her. Maker, but she was nervous.
"It will look marvelous on you."
Kallian jumped, and whirled around to see her father watching her with an odd look on her face. Cyrion was no longer young, but he still carried himself like a man half his age. The deep lines creasing his eyes and mouth spoke of a man who laughed often and well. Since her mother's death, he had raised her by himself to best of his ability. In her opinion, he had done a fine job all things considered.
"Yeah, Shianni outdid herself," she set the dress down gently. "It might be the only good thing about this day."
He sighed. "You are being unnecessarily dramatic. Our people have engaged in arranged marriage for centuries." He stepped towards her and raised his hands to clasp her shoulders. "It is part of our culture, and part of becoming the woman you promise to be."
She bit her lip. "Maybe, but that doesn't mean I have to like it."
Cyrion gave her a faint smile and then drew her close to embrace her. The familiar gesture made her feel even more anxious somehow.
"I know it seems overwhelming and frightening right now, but I'm certain that you will grow to love and trust this man in the same way that I loved your mother."He pulled back and smiled at her in his patented "good father" way. "Also, I cannot imagine the type of man who would not fall in love with a girl as beautiful and talented as you."
At that, Kallian realized that she would get married today if for no other reason than to avoid disappointing this man. She smiled weakly and tried to feel better about what was to come.
Smiling in response, her father turned and strode into the kitchen to begin tending to a pot over the fireplace. Resigning herself to her fate, Kallian quickly shed her sleeping clothes and stepped into the ornate wedding gown. It fit perfectly, and Kallian indulged herself in a few moments of grooming by pulling her mother's old comb through her hair. She had neither jewels nor makeup, but she briefly wished she had a mirror to make sure she was presentable.
Deciding on the next best thing, she walked in to the kitchen and stretched her arms out to her sides. "Well, how do I look?"
Her father turned his head to regard her. "You look ready…and so very much like your mother." Cyrion blinked his eyes a few times and turned back to his cooking. "She would be so proud of who you have become."
Kallian took a deep breath and opened the door to a refreshingly brisk autumn day. Before she could leave however, her father's voice floated from inside the house.
"No need to mention the knives and swordfight my dear," he paused. "At least not for a few months…give him time to get to know you first."
Kallian chuckled as she closed the door.
Outside, Kallian drew her arms close and shivered. Even two months from the solstice, Denerim was showing all the signs of a cold winter. Still, the sky was clear and the sun gleamed brightly despite the slight chill. Across the street, a thin red-haired elf pushed off the wall he was leaning against and hurried over.
She favored her other cousin with a grin, and started forward to meet him halfway into the street. His choice of formal wear was a rather atrocious combination of red and yellow that she was certain Shianni had no say over.
"Cousin," he gave a short, jerky nod to acknowledge her. "I don't suppose you are ready to meet our future spouses?
"Hmm…" she hooked her arm in his and began walking towards the center of the Alienage. "You don't sound very excited Soris. According to the Elder we are embarking on a glorious journey to bring others to our little community."
"Glorious huh? Easy for you to say I suppose." His face twisted. "From what I hear you fiancé is something of a dream. I on the other hand, am engaged to a woman who could easily be mistaken for a particularly homely mouse."
Kallian found herself laughing despite her nerves. Soris shared his sister's acerbic sense of humor even if he wasn't quite as pleasing to the eye. "Behave, that is the future mother of your children that you are talking about."
"That may be the most disturbing way you could have phrased that." Soris shuddered theatrically and steered her around the Vhenadahl tree. "Anyway, do you mean to tell me that you don't have any doubts about this?"
"Of course I have doubts," she glanced briefly at the ceremony stage where the wedding would be held. "But I'm also well aware that there is nothing I can do but go through with it. We don't have a choice, so we might as well go ahead and enjoy the celebration Shianni has planned for us"
Soris frowned. "Humph, maybe you haven't noticed, but Shianni has already started celebrating without us."
She sighed and gently pulled away from his hold. She had smelled the wine on Shianni's breath earlier. Soris always expressed displeasure about his sister's drinking, but Kallian knew that everyone had their own ways of coping with hardship. As far as she was concerned, it wasn't her place to judge another's vices.
She opened her mouth to change the subject, but aborted the attempt when she felt Soris go rigid beside her. The cause for his tension soon became evident, the Alienage had visitors.
Shianni and several other elvish women stood facing a group of human nobles, and their body language suggested that the conversation was anything but pleasant. Frowning, Kallian tugged Soris closer just in time to catch the words of the foremost human.
"…having a party and we're up for some company." His voice was an unpleasant drawl that crawled with a sense of entitlement. Kallian instantly disliked him.
"Leave us alone, we've done nothing and we are preparing for a wedding." Shianni glared up at the shem.
Soris urgently tugged on her sleeve. "Let's just go, there is nothing we can do."
As she watched, the shem grabbed Shianni by the arm and yanked her close. "Alright, grab a whore boys, plenty to go around!
"I will not allow this to happen." Before she could really think about what she was doing, she had shaken off Soris and loudly whistled. It seemed to get everyone's attention.
"Can't help but wonder why a couple of big and powerful shems end up looking for company in the Alienage." She walked closer. "One might think you were slumming."
If the human was at all frightened by her sudden appearance, he hid it well. He released Shianni and gave Kallian the sort of smile that should result in immediate imprisonment.
"Well well, another pretty one." He took a step towards her, and Kallian forced herself to stand her ground. "Maybe you are volunteering in the other slut's place?"
He began to reach for her, and Kallian shifted her weight in preparation for a fight. As it turned out, she needn't have bothered.
The human's eyes rolled upwards just before he crumpled and slammed into the ground. Behind him, holding the jagged remains of a wine bottle stood Shianni.
For a long moment, there was silence.
"You stupid knife-eared bitch, do you have any idea who you just hit?" One of the other shems had come up stare at his fallen ringleader. He pointed towards Shianni and sneered. "This is Vaughan Urien, the son of the Arl of Denerim!"
Shianni's face drained of color and she staggered back with one hand over her mouth. "I d-didn't know…I swear I didn't know." She looked faint and Kallian decided that now was the time for damage control. She grabbed the sneering shem by his shoulder, and did her best to bring him down to eye level.
"Look, you don't mention this to the guards, and we don't go about telling stories about how the Arl's son got taken down by an elf girl." The man brushed her off as he and his friend picked up Vaughan motionless form and hurried off.
As she watched them leave, Kallian sensed that this wasn't last time she would be seeing Vaughan and his cronies.
That will have to wait till tomorrow though
She tried to smile encouragingly as she placed a comforting arm around Shianni's shoulders. Right now, all that mattered was to get through the rest of the day with as little drama as possible. After a few rushed condolences, she turned around to find Soris; only to see him talking to a pair of elves she had never seen before.
It wasn't difficult to make the connection, and Kallian inhaled sharply in recognition. Steeling herself, she moved towards them with a slightly sick feeling in her stomach. As she approached, the three stopped talking and turned towards her. Rather than meet their gazes, she chose to become intensely interested in the cobblestones.
After a few moments of truly memorable awkwardness, Soris cleared his throat and waved an arm to encompass the two elves. "Um, cousin I've told you of my lovely bride to be Valora; and of course this fine fellow is Nelaros." He then shoved her forward hard enough to cause her to stumble. "Valora, Nelaros, this is Kallian."
She righted herself quickly and flicked a quick glare back at Soris. Schooling her expression into something more pleasant, she turned back and offered a hand to shake. "A pleasure to meet you both"
"The pleasure is all mine," Nelaros smiled and leaned down to kiss her hand. Surprised by the gesture, Kallian felt heat rise in her cheeks. She couldn't really think of a good response, so she remained silent.
After a pause, Soris cleared his throat.
"Right, well I think Valora and I will leave the two of you to get to know each other." Soris tossed a wink at her and proffered an arm to lead his bride away.
This left her alone with the man she would shortly be marrying.
"I saw what you did back there; I was impressed that anyone would stand up to human nobles like that." He smiled shyly in a manner that she found endearing. "To be honest, I was a little surprised when Soris said that you were Kallian. From your father's letters I had assumed you would be more…delicate."
Choosing to take that in the best way possible, Kallian favored him with a crooked grin. Objectively speaking, she supposed she could understand why everyone sang his praises. With his blond hair and strong jaw, he might fit anyone's description of handsome. Personally, Kallian liked the fact that he had kind eyes. "Well, I suppose I could take up needle work if it would make you feel any better."
He laughed just like she hoped he would. After a moment, rocked back and forth on his heels and glanced at her. "Tell me, are you nervous about what is to come? I confess I had my doubts until I laid my eyes on you."
The compliment felt good and she relaxed a little. Shifting her feet, she tried to force some of the lingering tension from her shoulders.
"Maybe a little, but I'm sorry to say that you aren't nearly as frightening as a human noble." She gave a genuine smile. "I feel like I made this out to be a whole lot worse than it really is."
Nelaros took both her hands in his and gave her a look that bled sincerity. "I'll spend every waking moment learning to make you happy."
No one had ever said anything like that to Kallian and she was momentarily speechless.
She was saved from thinking of an appropriate remark by the timely arrival of Soris and Valora. Kallian returned Valora's smile and gently removed her hands from Nelaros's grip. "The two of you probably need time to prepare, Soris and I will be waiting for you down by the ceremony stage."
Nelaros inclined his head and excused himself politely. She watched him go feeling significantly lighter than she had before. At the very least, she knew that her future husband would be the kind of man she could be respect.
If she was lucky, affection might someday follow respect.
"Uh-oh, looks like we just can't catch a break today," Soris gripped her shoulder and pointed past her. "Another shem, and this one looks a lot more dangerous."
The human in question stood watching the final preparations for the wedding ceremony with a faint smile. His skin and hair had a dusky complexion that suggested at some Rivaini ancestry in his blood. However, Kallian was mostly interested in the swords and plate armor that he wore with the ease of someone long used to them.
If she were a smarter elf, Kallian might have decided to leave him be.
"Let's make sure that he moves along peacefully." She started towards the shem without bothering to check if her cousin was following. As she approached, the shem turned towards her and regarded her with an inscrutable expression.
When she reached him, Kallian inclined her head and spoke in measured tones.
"Hello friend, I don't know what you seek in the Alienage, but I know you that you will not find it here today. We are preparing for a ceremony, and you would be better off coming back another day."
The human quirked a brow, "I thank you for the advice, but I am afraid that I have no intention of leaving." His voice was warm and unruffled by her bluntness. "From what I understand, the two of you are to be married today. Allow me to congratulate you on your impending nuptials."
How nice, maybe we should be discussing your impending beating…
Taking a deep breath, Kallian forced herself to avoid picking a fight. She had no love for shems, and the day's drama was beginning to take its toll on her nerves. But fighting with humans was a lose-lose scenario thanks to the biased legal system. Besides, something told her that this shem would wipe with floor with her.
"Thank you," she said stiffly. "I appreciate it, but this really isn't the place for humans right now. Surely you have someplace better to be than an Alienage."
The man crossed his arms and regarded her with dancing eyes. Kallian felt her ears burn hotly as she realized that he was more amused than anything else.
"She maintains composure even while facing a superiorly armed adversary." His eyes were now focused on a point over her head. "Diplomacy isn't what I would have expected out of Adaia's child."
"Oh I assure you, she's been more than a handful for us over the years." Elder Valendrian's voice was light as he came up beside her. "She has plenty of her mother in her, for better or for worse."
The leader of the Alienage gave her a kindly look as he clapped a hand onto the human's shoulder. "Allow me to introduce Duncan, a Gray Warden and a very old friend of mine. I trust you weren't being too impolite my dear?"
"No no, the young miss was simply trying to prevent me from causing any trouble. If she knew just how difficult that is, I'm certain she wouldn't have even bothered." Duncan said mildly.
Kallian ducked her head slightly and murmured an apology. It really was her luck that she confronted a personal friend of the Elder. Still, something he had said something that begged a question…
"You knew my mother?"
For the first time, Duncan's composure slipped slightly. "Yes…once I considered her to be a close friend." He paused. "I offered her a position in the Wardens, but she had other considerations that superseded my wishes."
Valendrian stepped forward, "Duncan belongs to an old and very prestigious institution. The Grey Wardens have been heroes for Ferelden for many years. I briefly considered joining myself during a rebellious phase in my youth."
"How very interesting" Kallian nodded, already bored. "But if I may Duncan, I have some more questions about my mothe-"
"Not now I think" Valendrian interjected smoothly. "If I'm not mistaken, a very important ceremony is about to begin."
Soris, who had spent the entirety of the encounter nervously twitching in the background, cleared his throat loudly. "Yeah c'mon Kallian, we wouldn't want to be late for our own weddings right?"
Frowning, she allowed him to steer her away from the two older men. She couldn't help thinking that Valendrian had gone out of his way to keep her from speaking to Duncan.
Ah well, there would be all the time in the world for that after the wedding.
Thirty minutes later, atop of the stage in front of what seemed like the entire Alienage, Kallian felt like she was about to vomit. Whatever reassurance she had felt from meeting Nelaros had fled when faced with the implications of marriage. No matter what anyone said about growth or glorious journeys, she couldn't shake the feeling that the entire thing was wrong.
Gamely swallowing the urge to run screaming from the platform, Kallian fisted her hands at her sides and let out a shaky breath. Across from her, Soris had turned a delicate shade of green that made his outfit look all the more unappealing. As he met her eyes his expression contorted into a shape that desperately wanted to be a confident smile.
"…and so before the eyes of the Maker, these young people will be joined together through life and death."
She tried to listen to what the Chantry sister was saying. A nice woman, the sister was one of the few who were willing to make the trip into the Alienage to lead chants and perform important functions. Never having had much use for the Maker or his chant, Kallian struggled to recall her name.
"…will stand together through both feast and famine."
Kallian rubbed her forearm, unconsciously checking for the small blade she had slipped into a sheath earlier. She took a small measure of comfort just knowing it was there. It wasn't like she could stab her way out of commitment, but everyone had their own ways of coping with hardship.
"…and live every day only for each other."
Shit…father was wrong, there is no way I'm ready to be married.
Maker, I wish someone would stop this.
As she had always suspected, the Maker was something of a bastard.
The crowd parted abruptly and the sister fell silent in the middle of her speech. Standing with a very unpleasant look on his face was Vaughan. This time, the Arl's son had brought half a dozen retainers.
And they carried swords at their hips.
Kallian clenched her teeth hard enough to make her jaw ache. She had known that Vaughan wouldn't let this rest; but she had hoped they would have time to prepare for his next visit.
Next to her, Shianni gave a moan of distress as the nobles began to climb the stairs leading to the stage. Surprisingly, the Chantry sister barred their path with arms outstretched. "Please my lord, we are celebrating a wedding."
Vaughan gave an ugly laugh. "You can play dress-up with your pets some other time Sister. Besides, I won't be here for long." With that, he forcibly shoved sister off the stage and into the mud.
The action surprised her more than it should have. No matter how bad a person might be, no one in Ferelden raised a hand to the Sisters of the Chantry. Vaughan wasn't playing by the rules.
Foolish, she thought bitterly. What does the son of an Arl care about some social worker with a soft spot for knife-ears?
"Now then, I'm having something of a party tonight." Vaughan was addressing the assembled elves like some sort of grotesque politician. "And it seems we are in need of some… entertainment."
Kallian saw several elves in the audience flinch at the innuendo. There weren't many who didn't know what that would entail. But it was Vaughan's next words that sent a chill down Kallian's spine.
"Right, where's the bitch who bottled me?"
"I got her right here sir!" The sneering shem from earlier had his arms wrapped around a struggling Shianni.
"Ah, wonderful," Vaughan was tapping his chin thoughtfully. "Let's see, how about those two, the blond…and the plain one in the fancy dress."
Kallian tried to step forward only to be firmly stopped by Nelaros. "Wait, now is not the time. We will help them, just not here."
"Well well, look at the pretty bride." The slight motion had apparently drawn Vaughan's attention towards them. He strolled over with an air of exaggerated admiration. "All dressed up and looking nice for me." He gripped her chin between his finger and thumb to tilt her head back.
"Oh yes, you are definitely coming with me.
Kallian realized that she hated this man more powerfully than anything else in her life. Abruptly, all the anxiety and stress of the day coalesced in a tight ball that burned deep in her chest.
She hated him for the lust in his eyes, and the horrible power he held over the cowering elves.
She hated him for making her feel afraid and helpless.
But most of all, she hated him for being human. For proving every horrible thing she had ever thought about him and his kind.
In a crazy moment, she considered unsheathing the knife and opening his throat in front of everyone. He was too arrogant to think of her as a threat, and she knew she was faster than he could ever hope to be. With him gone, the other shems could be overtaken by sheer numbers and then…
…Then the Alienage will burn, and everyone I know and love will die slow deaths at the hands of the torturers. Vaughan would die, but so would most of the elves in Denerim. It just isn't an option.
Speaking softly, Kallian resolutely held his gaze. "You are going pretty far just to soothe a bruised ego. Do you really think you can prove you're a bigger man by beating up on a few elves?" She narrowed her eyes, "I'm not going anywhere with you."
Then she worked her jaw and spat directly into his face.
Vaughan released her and staggered back in surprise. A gasp of horror arose from the crowd, and one of Vaughan's retainers leapt forward to restrain her arms from behind. At that, Nelaros began to struggle with the two men closest to him. "Release her you villains!"
One of the men swung a heavy fist into his stomach, and he fell retching to the floorboards. Kallian turned her eyes away from the scene as Vaughan began to recover his composure. Wiping his face with one hand, the lordling regarded her with a very cold smile.
"Oh but I will enjoy breaking your spirit." He smiled wider, "and I assure you that you will be accompanying me to the party. All you need is a little convincing." He turned to a shem on his right and motioned towards her.
"Edmund, please convince her."
The other man started for her and cocked an arm back to throw a punch.
Thank you all so much for reading.
I would greatly appreciate anyone who would care to review.
Constructive criticism is my favorite thing in the world...aside from music and the Chargers.