Dragon Age: Origins
Disclaimer: Dragon Age belongs to BioWare and EA Games; it's their sandbox - I'm simply destroying the sandcastles.
Title: Broken Hearts
Author's Note: I've been playing through the female dwarf noble story line lately and the Gorim story line struck me as one that should have played into the dialogue from the rest of the characters - especially if one chose the option to call him a jerk and curse him and his new wife upon your reunion.
As always, when inspiration strikes, I couldn't resist. A 'missing moment' if you will with spoilers for the female noble dwarf back story :P
I used the default dwarf female noble character name for the purpose of this fic; Sereda.
Sereda returned to camp with Alistair, Dog and Sten on her heels, smarting from the confrontation in the Denerim market so much so that she didn't even find a nod of greeting for Leliana and Morrigan. Striding angrily to her tent, she tossed down her pack at the doorway and made a beeline for the small pond they'd been pulling water from for the last two days.
Sten, tending to Dog, didn't so much as glance her way, but the rest of the party did - they watched as she disappeared into the trees by the pond on a small pathway they all knew led to the edge of a cliff. She felt their eyes on her back and she didn't care.
Right now she couldn't face them, couldn't stand the thought of their… their pity. It was bad enough that Alistair and Sten had been there to see her fall apart at Gorim's declaration. Her eyes smarted and she spun, slamming one gauntleted hand into a fragile sapling. It toppled with a snap venting her anger in a single punch and her shoulders sagged.
She'd fought her way out of the Deep Roads, through Ostagar and out of Lothering with the single-minded determination that she would see him again; he'd been her beacon, her guiding light as his solid and dependable presence had been for her whole life. She couldn't imagine a future without him in it somewhere. Be it as her second or, in a rare forbidden moment of whimsy, as her husband. Her exile had made it possible - and it was all for naught.
Her handsome Knight, protector and advocate; a man who'd sworn to love her forever, that had vowed she was his very heart. A man of principal and dedication, self sacrifice and devotion - all for her.
And he'd betrayed her.
Unseeing, she sank down next to the stream that fed the small pond near their camp - not making the cliff - and put her back to a tree trunk, her thoughts inwards, completely unmindful of the tears that shimmered in her eyes but refused to fall. Wrapping her arms around her legs, she placed her chin on her knees and stared into nothingness, wondering if it was normal to feel this… this numb when your heart had been broken.
For it had been.
Gorim hadn't waited for her.
For all his professions that he'd never believed she'd died in the Deep Roads; for all he'd kept the shield that now graced Alistair's arm during battle but bore her house insignia along with a letter from her father; for all he'd professed to have loved - and still loved - her, he hadn't waited.
No Gorim, her Gorim, had married someone else and was expecting to soon be a father.
It was as if someone had reached into her chest with a gauntleted fist, wrapped steel fingers about her heart and was slowly pulling it out. It was agonizingly painful and had caused a momentary lapse in judgment when she'd cursed him and his new wife before spinning away in a temper. She'd seen the hurt on his face and hadn't cared; he couldn't be hurting half as much as she'd been and continued to.
Gorim wasn't the one who'd been betrayed by the one person he trusted implicitly.
Lost in thought, she wasn't sure how long she'd been sitting there before she became aware of a presence having joined her, sitting next to her on the ground.
Her head came around and she was irritated to note her gaze swam in a funny kind of pattern. Blinking away the tears she focused on the blurry image and found Alistair sitting quietly at her side. Her brows drew together and a frown crossed her lips, but before she could ask him what he thought he was doing, Alistair asked a question of his own.
"So... should we be calling you Lady Aeducan?"
"Do it," she retorted on a growl, "and I'll make you eat your teeth."
He didn't look her way, and for that she was grateful. Human men were strange to her, stranger in a lot of ways than elves, and Alistair was no exception. It didn't help he was almost twice her height - though sitting and slouched the way he was now, he wasn't nearly so imposing - with a sense of humor that would make any sane person groan.
"I take it there's a history there between the two of you."
A short laugh without mirth preceded her answer . "You think?"
"I try not to," he admitted, flashing a smile despite still not looking her way. "It tends to muddle up my life."
"Better to think than to feel," turning her head on her knees, she regarded him with a dark look. "What do you want, Alistair?"
He was silent for a long moment, selecting a blade of grass and proceeding to shred it without really looking. "A week ago you cornered me in camp and offered to let me talk about Duncan," he inhaled sharply, but forged ahead, pushing past the obvious tender spot. "You were a friend when I needed one so very badly; how could I do any less after what I saw today?"
Staring at him, she realized she'd misjudged him; or rather, judged him to be like a multitude of other human males she'd met. "What is it you think you saw today?"
A faint smile crossed his lips. "You lost your temper."
"Really," he insisted, finally meeting her gaze.
"And because of this you thought I needed a friend."
"What gave me away; the shrewish shrieking or the threat to his life?"
"You don't have to joke about it," he told her quietly. "I do that because I hate a serious conversation when it's centered on me; you're not me."
"Thank the Paragons." Sereda managed a small smile but it faded almost immediately and she sighed, looking back to the running water and this time seeing it. "You don't have to do this, Alistair. I appreciate the gesture, but… I'll be okay."
Or she would be after she'd had a chance to rail at life for the unfairness of it all. To be denied her love after everything she'd endured was just one more nail in her coffin. It was as if the world and the Paragons wanted to take away every reason she had for fighting. First her brother, her homeland, Duncan, her father and now Gorim.
There was only so much a person could take.
Alistair was quiet for a long moment before he exhaled softly. "Will you? You don't seem okay."
"I'm fine," she insisted, closing her eyes against the continual ache in her chest and throat. "Just fine."
"Can I ask a question - and not get hit for it?"
"Since when do I hit you when you ask questions?" irritated, she opened her eyes to look at him only to find him looking at her so very seriously. "What?"
"You don't have to do this, you know."
"Be strong with me; I was there - remember? I saw what happened, I heard what was said."
Exhaling she tilted her head back against the trunk and stared into the branches above her. "I know; I'm trying to forget it."
"Do you wish you'd gone alone?"
"I wish I hadn't gone at all," her voice cracked. "Ever do something you wish you could change?"
"That's a loaded question."
Her laugh broke before it ever gained full life. "No kidding. "
Silence descended between them, the gurgle of the stream complimenting the soft rustle of the leaves above them. Somewhere back towards camp they heard Morrigan's voice snapping orders they couldn't understand and Sereda was glad they were far enough away to avoid the mage. Morrigan had her moments, but at this moment, she couldn't deal with the shape shifter.
Swallowing against the lump in her throat, she continued to stare into the branches above her, seeing Gorim's expression as she'd hurled her hate filled words at him, refusing to accept his explanation. Only now, hours after the fact, was she willing to see that he was right. She'd been a Princess and he a Knight for too long together for them to ever have a chance. No matter how they felt about one another, their relationship would never have been equal.
It didn't help soothe her broken heart or mend the shattered dreams of a future with him, but it was a comfort on a level she didn't yet understand. "He was right you know."
Her soft words made Alistair glance her way - she caught it from the corner of her eye. "Right about what?"
"All of it," exhaling a shuddering breath, she blinked back tears that threatened again, wishing him gone so she could give them free reign but hoping he'd stay. His presence was surprisingly calming.
"You mean about you being a Princess or was there something more that I missed?"
"That too," she allowed, finally looking at him and knowing - but not caring - he'd see the hurt in her eyes. "Gorim was my second; a bodyguard and loyal soldier, assigned to the position by my father; King Endrin Aeducan of Orzammar."
Alistair sucked in a sharp breath. "You mean…"
"The princess is a literal title; I was born to it." She shrugged as if it meant nothing - and it did. She'd had the title stripped from her anyway. "When I was exiled, I was… expunged from the family records. According to Orzammar, I was never born into the family even though I killed my brother. Figure that one out."
"You killed your brother?"
"No," a firm shake of her head accompanied the denial. "But our youngest brother, Bhalen, made it look that way. It's what brought me to Duncan in the Deep Roads and eventually Ostagar."
"And Gorim was a part of this."
"Gorim…" it took a moment for her to organize her thoughts, unbending her knees and lacing her fingers about their tops as she looked back to the stream. "He was there when I was accused of murder, his ardent defense dismissed because of his proven loyalties to me. They sentenced us both; him to the surface and me to the Deep Roads for exile and death among the Darkspawn. He wanted to come with me; to die with me. He was a loyal friend and servant."
"He was more than that and you know it."
"He was forbidden fruit; a man I wasn't supposed to want or have, but could if we were careful. And we were always careful. At first it was to prove we could, you know, just enjoying one another's company and then it evolved. Gorim became… he… he was more important to me than my reputation - but he wouldn't let me show it. He was always so proper, so careful. I wish…"
She'd trailed off, a pained expression on her face.
"You wish what, Sereda?"
"I hear love sometimes is."
She smiled a sad smile. "I wish he'd called me by my given name, Alistair; like you do."
"You heard him today," she laughed harshly, trying to hide how much Gorim's formal greeting and language had hurt; not just today, but through the years. "I was his 'Lady Aeducan' or 'my lady' - he knows my name, but he's never said it. Not once in my hearing, not even when-" she choked, stopping and lifted one hand to brush the tear that had escaped from her cheek. "I'm sorry; you probably don't want to hear this."
"Actually, I do."
Surprise, her gaze turned to his and he shrugged - and she swore his cheeks were redder than before.
"You listened to me about Duncan; it's only fair I listen to you about Gorim. He's not dead but he's as lost to you as Duncan is to me."
"I doubt Duncan ever shared your bed, Alistair."
This time he did go bright red. "I should hope not! I just… he was important to me; Gorim is important to you. On a different level, maybe, but I do understand the loss."
Reaching out, she surprised them both by grasping one of his hands in hers and squeezing. "I know you do and I appreciate what you're trying to do. I'm innocent of the crime that brought me to the surface and if I'd been proven innocent, Gorim would still be mine in Orzammar."
"And we would have never met and I would probably be dead on top of that blasted tower. Cheery thought."
"Flemeth would have rescued you."
"Except I'd be alone. I can't do this without you, Sereda; I'm no leader of men."
"No kidding." She released his hand, lacing hers back together over her knees. " Have you ever been in love, Alistair?"
"I can't say I have, no. The Chantry isn't exactly the ideal place to meet a nice young woman who appreciates a gentleman - and then capitalize on it."
This time she laughed and it held a small vestige of real mirth. "So I hear. You make it sound positively appalling."
"Not nearly as liberal as your upbringing I fear. Completely and totally sheltered; probably why I wouldn't trust myself to lead us to lunch, let alone in forming an army to defeat the Blight."
"You're selling yourself short, I think; but for what it's worth, I wouldn't trust you to lead us to lunch right now either." They shared a grin which was quick to fade as Sereda turned her attention back to the stream. "Everything's changed so much in such a short time. Everything I thought was a steady and constant as the stone has turned liquid like that stream. What do you do when you feel as if you've been cast adrift without a lifeline?"
"You rely on your friends to help you," this time, Alistair touched her, placing a hand on her shoulder and squeezing. "You don't have to be strong all the time, you know; some of us like being leaned on too."
"If I lean on Leliana I'll crack her in half."
He laughed softly. "Me too, probably; but that doesn't mean we can't support one another. It's what friends do, I hear."
Covering his hand with hers, she squeezed. "Thanks, Alistair."
He nodded, smiling, before removing his hand. They sat side by side without touching as she continued to watch the stream. It was a long time before she spoke again, Morrigan's tirade back at camp all but a memory.
"We never would have lasted, you know - Gorim and I."
"The caste gap; it's not supposed to matter here on the surface, but talking to Gorim today just proves he'd never be able to see me as me. He'll always see me as his Princess; the unattainable perfection for his affections." Her sad words were resigned, her voice cracking as she admitted to what she'd known for some time deep in her heart. "No matter what I said or did, it never changed in Orzammar; I don't know why I thought it would be different here."
"I'm sorry, Sereda."
Lifting her head, she looked without seeing the trees, the last image she'd had or Gorim in Orzammar before her exile flirting through her mind and she held it tight to her heart. Gorim, her Knight Gorim, was gone. He was now a merchant, married to a surface dwarf and soon to be a family man. Swallowing back her tears, she managed a bittersweet smile even as she forced herself to say goodbye deep within the recesses of her heart. Goodbye to a man that never should have been hers - but had been for a short and glorious time; goodbye to a dream that never should have been dreamt; goodbye to a love that never should have blessed her life.
Goodbye to a chapter in her life as a new one opened - without him.
"So am I."