BioWare owns...The Fereldan Scrooge...

CMDA Secret Santa fic for anglarite, enabled by Suilven.

Happy Holidays!

The teenager heard the barely stifled groans from his cohorts as they caught a whiff of the feasts being prepared a few feet below their hiding spot. Each stomach rumbled in empty protest. Every mouth watered as the aroma of roasting meats and freshly baked breads wafted tantalizingly up to them, challenging their determination. A curt tip of the young lord's head announced the need to quickly and silently depart the rocky outcrop. With great relief, the group obeyed; the ledge they'd been crouched on was covered with frost, and the cold from the stone had steadily seeped into stiffening arms and legs. Studded leathers and frayed cloaks provided little protection from winter's breath this close to the White River. As they made their furtive descent, the lad momentarily cringed at the thought of the stale bread and hard cheese awaiting him. Campfires and hot meals were luxuries that could not be afforded when there was a bounty on one's head - something he'd not thought of when joining the rebellion.

Stooped close to the ground until the sanctuary of the woods was reached, he cursed the clear night - the bane of all covert activities. Thankfully, the moon was a mere sliver, allowing the stars to sparkle and wink in the cold, inky sky. Maker-made candles flickering to a secret song that mortals could not hear nor comprehend.

Like the others, he found himself glancing at the Frostback Mountains again and again. Word had spread of flaring lights over the western side of the range. Many of his companions believed the unnatural illumination to be a sign from Andraste, a promising portent of changes to come. Not willing to belittle a fellow fugitive's need for faith in something, the idea of Andraste taking sides seemed highly improbable to him. Their certainty did give him cause to reflect on his own beliefs, though; or rather, the lack of.

Why was he here on this side of the law? What was he fighting for? Had he joined the struggle to preserve the time-honoured lineage of an unproven king-to-be? To reunite a war-torn kingdom? Bring an end to the reign of a tyrant? Confusion was a way of life these days, even when he slept.

The journey back to camp, though fraught with tension brought on by the sheer number of soldiers patrolling the roads, was uneventful as the cold winter's night kept most of the Usurper's men tending to their own fires. The rebel's campsite, concealed within the caves, was reached within the hour with no delays. Too tired to partake in the meager meal offered, he immediately went to find refuge beneath the furs on his bedroll. Once the warmth crept back into his body, he closed his eyes, inviting slumber to clasp him in her soothing embrace, allowing him to escape into the calming consistency of his dreams. No matter when or where he slept, they were always the same.

Countless nights in countless sleeps he'd walked the same route, and would continue to do so until he'd made a choice; something too subtle, too unclear to fully grasp in the light of day.

Rising from a warm, down-filled bed, he can feel a gentle yet urgent tug on his soul, pulling him through hallways, and down the well-worn stairs of the ancient fortress. After crossing the throne room to the egress, he walked quickly to the entrance of the dungeon to make his way through the basement. Upon reaching his destination, he opened the last door…

Three figures stand on the other side of the door, two bearing the gift of volition. The third, as always, remains silent and faceless.

On the right, a tall golden man draped in furs, a giant bear skull over head and shoulders. To the left, a shadowy figure avoided the light radiating from the former. Between the two, yet furthest away, a man wearing a winged helm groped at chinks in the wall, obstinately searching for a way past the stony barrier.

The golden one spoke first. "Once again, lad, I show to you what can be yours."

Shimmering forms appeared to float, kneel and dance around him. Some he recognized, others he did not. A proud, majestic young woman…Esmerelle?...with a babe at her breast, a smile of pure contentment curving her lips.

A small boy's lucent silvery eyes…are you to be my son?...gazed up at him with love and adulation.

A gaily bedecked banquet hall, filled with music, merriment and laughter as all within celebrate the occasion of two historic families becoming one - loud, boisterous, and much more carefree than was the norm for such gatherings. The dark-haired groom, features strikingly similar to his own (except for the long hair and braid), has eyes for none but the vivacious Lady at his side. Breaking away from a group of revelers, his aged young lord…Bryce?...called out. "Now we are truly as brothers, my friend! Welcome to the family! May our children and grandchildren bask in love and…" A rasping voice interrupted his Lord's speech.

"What has love or fanciful dreaming ever done for you, boy?" Tarleton? Aren't you dead?..."I offer you power, wealth and glory - all yours by right! Kissing lordly rings, brides, and babies will never give you what I have! It can all be yours if you but heed my counsel!" The shadowy figure finally stepped into the light, tilting his head back to the winged-helmed figure behind. "Your father may have loved you, but being a Warden was all he'd ever wanted. His dream was an obsession - look at him! He's still searching for the damned Deep Roads, the fool!" The shadow spat with contempt. "I took you in as my heir to follow my dreams. Choose now, or don't come back. I'll find someone else who'll gladly take up my cause."

The teenager hesitated, and took in a deep breath. He glanced once more at the golden man's vision of family and friendship, stared longingly at the winged-helmed man's back, before turning left to follow the shadowy Shade of Theurge, wearing the mask of Tarleton Howe, as it led him deeper into the darkness of the dungeon...

Young Rendon Howe woke with a start.

The choice had been made.

He prayed he'd made the right one.

Q.Q

Dragon Age Wiki: Rendon Howe – '…Although he was decorated for valor by King Maric, Howe's abrasive manners earned him almost universal dislike among his peers. Bryland implied that Howe's personality altered after the battle [of White River]' - inspired this… O.o