All was white that morning over the banks of Lake Calenhad, heavy fog lying thick in the undergrowth and between the trees. Everything was still in the early dawn light, sound muffled by the hazy mists until it was dead quiet all around. It smelled of damp and rot and fish, but it also smelled of freedom.
Something moved in the mists, a cloaked figure appearing from the depths of the forest to walk along the bank of the lake. The gentle lapping of the water on the shore guided her steps, the face inside the deeply shadowed cowl alert and always searching her surroundings. A predator on the hunt, or perhaps prey on the run. She was ready for anything; the staff in her hand looking to be no more than a walking stick of mediocre craft but in the hands of a mage was so much more. No, not a mage. Apostate.
Despite the ugly color the Chantry had painted the word, she rather liked the ring of it. Apostate. Fled from the Circle. Object of fear for the majority of the citizenry. A Templar's greatest fear and most hated thing. Utterly free.
Though weary from traveling for a day and a night in her flight from the Circle, mud splattered from running and wet up to her thighs from trying to lose the Templars by taking a detour in the river, she couldn't help but to smile. Mages were an oddity, feared, hated, and respected in equal measure. Yet for all of their powers, they had been corralled as a whole into a giant stone fortress, cooped up with anti-magic-warding meatheads and had their wings clipped lest they have any notion of freedom.
But she was no pretty canary to be gawked at through gilded bars. For the first time in her life she had done something truly significant because she wanted to and without any sort of supervision. She left her tethers behind and was in the process of learning what it was like to truly fly.
Freedom had been scary at first. Full of too many unknowns and too many uncertainties. Leaving the Circle had been unavoidable. Jowan had provided the perfect means of letting them escape, his surprising display of blood magic knocking the Templars that had confronted them clean off their feet. She really only had two choices at that point: stay and face the wrath of the First Enchanter and Knight Commander for helping a blood mage destroy his phylactery, or flee with the fugitive and become one herself.
Getting across the lake was tricky business, seeing as Templars were patrolling the docks. But between a blood mage and a fully harrowed mage, the two managed to convince the Templars that there was no need for them to draw their swords as the two calmly made their escape. Afterwards, she had made sure to send a fireball across the lake and destroy any boats within range.
That had kept them off her tail for a little bit, but by now she was sure that word had been sent about her escape to Denerim. No doubt any day now they would go and unlock her phylactery from whatever Maker be damned vault they kept it in to track her down with. That was the final fetter that kept her chained to her past life. One vial of blood stood between her and not having to look over her shoulder all the time. One tiny vial of blood…
Once the Circle Templars retreated she would go to Denerim and try and destroy the thing herself. Then hop on the first boat out of Ferelden and be done with it all.
Memories were fuzzy and painful to recall, so he tried not to anymore. Not to think, only to act. His goal was to lose himself in doing, lest he lose himself in remembering.
Fleeing from Cousland Castle had been the hardest thing he'd ever done. All in a rush of fire and blood the place that had defined him went up in smoke. He could still smell the acrid stench of burning bodies, could hear the clash of swords and the screams of men as they died. Every time he closed his eyes to sleep the ashen face of his father loomed up at him out of the Void. Pleading with him, telling him to run as dark crimson blood pooled around his body.
A familiar weight settled into his lap and absently he dropped a hand onto the broad Mabari head that had settled itself on his leg. "Good boy Keran." He murmured, the dog whining worriedly, his brown eyes focused on the face of his master. The dog could sense his pain and intuitively wanted to comfort him as best a dog could. At least something good of his past had lived on past that bloody night.
Aedan Cousland supposed that he was the sole heir to his father's title of Teyrn and everything that went with it. But titles meant very little when there were no men left to fight for your name, which was precisely the predicament he was in. A handful of soldiers had come with him during his escape from the castle, but they had all fallen in time. Howe's men had been prowling all over the place looking for refugees around the forests and hills of Highever. They hadn't escaped without a fight. The last one had succumbed to his mortal wounds just a day after the initial flight, leaving Aedan by himself with his own copious amount of wounds.
The men he had lost fought bravely along side him, and he honored their memory by staying alive and swearing revenge against the man who'd done this to him. After three days of running with snatched hours of rest in between he had to stop. Or rather, he practically collapsed from battle weariness and the score of injuries that had been inflicted despite his armor. Keran had watched over him as his master succumbed to a fever and spent a handful of nights stranded in the woods before some farmer's children had found him.
They knew him from his armor; the Cousland crest on his shield was well known where the Teyrn had ruled. They thought him a soldier of the castle. He kept letting them think that. If the Arl's men came looking for him, he didn't have a doubt in his mind that they would slaughter these innocents upon finding out that they had harbored the former Teyrn's son quite by accident.
As soon as he was able, he left them and kept heading South toward Ostagar in hopes that he could get there before any assassins or like-minded ilk found his brother. By the time he got to Redcliffe, the word of the tragedy that befell their King at the hands of the Grey Wardens had reach the ears of everyone that frequented a tavern. He knew the Fergus would be standing close by the king. The Couslands always presented their hand in full with honor and nobility. Such was their way. There was to be no hope of trekking further south into the gaping maw of the Darkspawn horde to find his brother. Only more death waited for him there.
And so had Aedan become not only an orphan, but an only son as well.
Keran whined again at his master's distress and nudged his leg harder. Aedan scratched the dog behind the ears and finished what was left of the slightly warm ale he had ordered and looked up from his musings to observe the room. The tavern was a lot like any other, packed to the gills with common men and women in from a hard day. Smoke from pipes and candles gathered in the rafters that loomed overhead, the smell of old ale and the burning pipe weed the major dominating scents here. The place was well kept at least, the barkeep a large man who looked like he could handle keeping order by himself without the need to call the city guards.
It was a balmy evening and men were coming in by the droves now to share the woes of the day. The darker it got outside, the louder it got inside. A bard was present tonight, and the crowd cheered loudly when he pulled out his instrument and started up with a lively tune. As soon as the first verse started, the patrons started banging their mugs on table tops or whatever other flat surface they could, singing along in a slightly off-pitch way that drunk tired people had a way to do.
Aedan was in no mood for it, content to sit back and watch the normalcy go on around him. He was just another traveler here, and nobody paid attention to the haggard looking man. Though barely an adult, he had the look of someone much older, a result no doubt from being road weary and world-weary. He was starting to grow something of a beard, the dark stubble coloring the hard set of his jaw. Curiously hollow eyes looked out at the world, a sullen combination of grey and blue that only seemed to further the look of melancholy that hung over his broad shoulders with excess. And he wasn't clean either, his studded leather armor flecked with dirt from the road and darker splashes of what was probably mud, which was probably the only thing that kept people from realizing that it was of a fine quality despite the dirt.
Watching the merry making going on before him, he had to wonder; had nobody heard of the fate of his family? This far south, did they even care? He supposed that Howe was keeping the whole thing quiet as he could given the nature of the attack. It was more or less a clean sweep after all, a skeleton guard caught unawares by a much larger force from inside their own keep posed little threat for the Arl's men. How long would it be until it became public knowledge, then? And when it did, would the treacherous Howe be punished for his actions, or rewarded for taking out one of the most powerful men in the country?
His thoughts were dragged out of their dark mire when he felt Keran stiffen slightly under his hand, the dog issuing a low warning growl that Aedan felt more than heard. Immediately he was on alert, looking around for signs of danger. Nothing immediately seemed out of place, there was no sudden influx of Howe's soldiers or some other tiding of bad things to come, and yet Keran continued to warn him. He looked down to the dog, saw that his eyes were locked onto something from his place under the table and followed the canine's gaze.
Someone seemed to have entered the tavern that he didn't like, though she certainly looked normal enough. Perhaps she was a minor noble or a sister of the Chantry, for she was far too pale to be a farmer's daughter. Brilliant blue eyes practically shone out from beneath the hood of her cloak, errant strands of brown and blonde hair falling around her face when she ducked her head to avoid meeting the eyes of others in the tavern. Another cursory glance over the woman's person had him re-thinking his assumption of minor noble or Chantry sister. She wasn't wearing the livery of any Chantry maiden he'd ever seen, and her clothes were spattered all around the bottom with mud and who only knew what else. Interestingly enough, he did see a corner of the pattern that often adorned things that Templars wore, a sword with the four leaves around it. 'Bit small and not quite intimidating enough to be a Templar.' He mused with a small smile to himself.
Keran quit his warning growl though didn't ease up any, keeping alarmingly alert with his gaze centered directly on the woman. Intrigued by his hound's curious response, Aedan ordered himself some food next time the waitress came around, planning on sticking around to see what precisely was going on. He didn't have to wait long.
Before the woman had even managed to finish the bread and cheese she had ordered things dissolved into chaos. The door to the tavern was suddenly slammed inwards, a handful of heavily armed men pouring in through the door with their swords bared. Keran stood and barked at them, his hackles raised and ready for a scuffle. Aedan restrained the Mabari with a hand on the hound's collar, on his feet as well and ready to jump into action if things got out of control. That's when he realized that they were bearing the emblem of the Templars, and the pieces clicked together. They were after her. And there was only one type of person that Templars went after.
"Remain calm!" The Templar in charge yelled over the clamor that had started when the Templars made their abrupt entrance. The man came forward from his fellows, hawk-like eyes set in a face of stone scanning the crowd with an intense searching gaze. "We have reason to believe that there is a dangerous apostate among you! Stay out of our way and no harm will come to you. Give the mage up!"
Silence reined as the Templars started to spread out, searching feverishly for their lost apostate. Aedan's gaze slipped to where the woman had been only to find that she had disappeared. No… not disappeared. Slowly but surely she was creeping away from where she had been at the bar, ducking behind the backs of people to avoid the gaze of the Templars and making her way in Aedan's general direction. A little belatedly he realized that the door to the kitchen was literally right next to him and she would have to creep right past in order to slip out the back and avoid the Templars. His gut reaction was to alert the armored men to her presence and be done with it. If they were looking for an apostate, he certainly wouldn't be the one to let her get away.
All those good intentions stopped however when she looked up. Their eyes met, brilliant blue to dull grey, and he felt something shoot through him. Probably magic, because he felt paralyzed and unable to move, his body frozen against his will. He watched silently as she walked past him, their eyes never breaking contact until she turned to open the door, and then he was free again.
"Hey!" Aedan yelled, following out the door after her as she ran for it, her cape billowing behind her as she ran at full tilt, knocking over a cascade of dishes as she went.
He jumped over the shards of broken pottery as he went, nearly skidding on the floor and banged out the back after her. Keran's barking and the disgruntled cries of the alerted Templars could be heard out the door behind him, and soon enough he could hear the rattle of the Templar's armor following in his wake.
Whatever he had assumed of her physical abilities before, he was quickly rethinking. Though considerably shorter than he was, the woman could run fast, her lithe form disappearing around corners just as he rounded them, chasing after her shadow in the dark of the night.
Aedan skidded around another corner and suddenly found himself ducking to avoid being hit in the head with a flying staff. He very nearly lost his balance and tried to get his sword unsheathed only to have something barrel into him and shove him fully against the wall.
The woman had pressed her staff to his neck, her hands glowing with magic and chest heaving frantically, those eyes of hers locked onto his own again though without the curious paralyzing effect this time around. She was scared out of her wits, her eyes huge on her face and looking terribly frightened, but there was resolve there too. "If you want to live, I suggest you be quiet." She hissed in a voice cold as winter, pressing her staff against his neck harder to emphasize her point.
Aedan raised his hands in a gesture of peace and remained still as she asked, listening to the street as the Templars ran past them in a hurry and several villagers followed in their wake. They spent another moment in silence; the mage woman pressed fully against him to keep him still, her breath still coming quickly. She gasped when Keran turned the corner, braced for battle and barking ferociously. "Call off your dog!" She whispered, drawing her gaze away from Aedan to look at the dog. "By the Maker, he's going to bring those damned Templars back!"
"I don't know, having them come back seems like a pretty good outcome for me." Aedan replied quickly before he could think about the response, not particularly liking being held up like this by a mage, woman or no.
She narrowed her eyes and the glowing of her hands increased in intensity. "I can make you wish you'd never been born."
The two stared each other down for a few seconds, then Aedan turned his head slightly. "Heel Keran." He said calmly, and the dog quit barking, though didn't relax his stance any. "Back down before the nice apostate mage kills me." That got him to quit growling all together. Smart dog.
The woman sighed in relief and took a step back, looking like a cornered rat deciding whether or not to fight or flee. "I'll have to knock you out." There was something like an apology in her voice as she said this in a trembling voice, raising her staff slightly. "I've been running from those Templars for days now, I'm not getting caught tonight. Sorry."
"Wait! Why are you running?" It seemed like such a dumb question in retrospect. What apostate mages didn't run from Templars? But it was a knee jerk reaction. He had no love of magic, especially when it was being performed on him.
Apparently she was just as astonished by the dumb question as he was, because she paused with a profound look of confusion on her face. "Why wouldn't I run? If they catch me they'll kill me. Or make me Tranquil. Neither of which I'm willing to suffer because of you."
"You can't outrun them forever."
"Watch me." She narrowed her eyes. "You're stalling. I'm not going to kill you, you know. I may be an apostate, but I'm not some murdering Witch. Just calm down and think happy thoughts. It doesn't hurt." She raised her staff to cast again, and Keran got ready to pounce.
"They have ways to find you."
Apparently, she was finally frustrated enough to abandon trying to send him into a magical sleep. The butt of her staff cracked on the cobblestones, an exasperated look on her face. "Yes, you think I don't know that? That somehow I'm not excruciatingly aware that the Templars have been able to dog my every step because they have a way to track me down unto the ends of the earth and beyond the threshold of eternity? If I could just get to Denerim I-"
"Denerim?" Aedan couldn't help interrupting her little rant, and immediately she shut up, looking very much like someone who had just said far more than they meant too. He wasn't paying that much mind at the moment, suddenly lost in his own thoughts. "I could take you to Denerim."
It was the mage's turn to be incredulous. "What?"
Yes, if he weren't the one saying it, he would have thought he was crazy too. But last he heard a certain Arl was prowling in Denerim, licking the boots of his newest master. If Aedan were to have revenge for his family, then it would be by taking the fight to Howe, not waiting for the man to track him down first. "A favor for a favor. We can hammer out the details later when the Templars aren't so hot on your heels. But it seems like you need my help, and I think that I'll need yours. Do we have an agreement?" He held out his hand, waiting to see if she'd take it or spell him asleep.
The mage woman spent a long moment looking at his offered hand, her brows scrunched up in concentration as she tried to puzzle out this latest oddity. Finally, she reached out and took his hand in a firm shake; power sparking from her hand when the contact was made. "You have a deal."
Yeah, I know, I'm hopping on this bandwagon really late. Sorry. I've been wanting to make a Dragon Age: Origins fanfiction for a really long time, but I never had a good idea. Plus everyone had already done one about their warden so...
Now, before anybody starts complaining, here's the basis of this: I'm using the origins that are *most likely* to survive their origins sequence.
But Seroph! The Cousland estate is razed! And yet with Duncan's help you can still escape. I simply replaced Duncan with a hand full of wall guards and a mean mommy that saw her son out the door with a little more force than what we see if Duncan is present.
But Seroph! The Circle would never let a rogue mage across the lake! And yet Jowan ends up in Redcliffe castle. After Jowan mind-blew everyone with blood magic, the future-warden-mage just stands there like an idiot and watched him escape. Dude, if it were me, I'd run for it with him, blood mage or no. There's no saving face after that. If you decided to help Irving it would make sense that you'd stay, but if you didn't then running for the hills is a logical choice.
But Seroph! Why didn't you save *insert X-warden here* instead?
Here's the scoop of it: I just didn't feel like having a Mage-Elf escaping the tower. Might get mentioned by Solona when we meet mystery 3rd character later, but really... I just like the Mage/Human better because of ties to DA2. Dalish Elf warden **WOULD DIE** if Duncan didn't come around. There's no debate about it. He/she being infected from the taint would either keel over and die in the woods or else become a ghoul and then be a pincushion for target practice. The City-Elf origin would get locked up and probably executed. Male or Female, doesn't matter. Without Duncan's weapons, it would take the elven rebellion to set them free if they hadn't been killed by that point. Duncan is absolutely essential to survival.
Noble-Dwarf would probably die in the deep roads trying to either A) get to the surface or B) reach the Dead Trenches. With no weapon, no armor, and probably no shoes, he/she's not making it very far when wading through darkspawn and corrupted spiders. Commoner-Dwarf is likewise S.O.L., and we all know that if you aren't Commoner-Dwarf origin, then what is likely the body of what would have been the Commoner-Dwarf is in a cell rotting. For both of them, it is remotely possible that they could survive, escape, or whatever, but more likely than not, Duncan is essential to survival.
However, there does need to be a Warden, because as we all know, Alistair can't lead the group to lunch if left to his own devices. So, one of these origins WILL pop up later on in the story as a warden. Another of the origins will make an appearance as well, because of mystery 3rd character there, so I'll leave you to figure it out.