Disclaimer: Dragon Age is owned by Bioware, I own nothing and receive no compensation for fan fiction related to the game.
Authors Note: This story starts right after Duncan rescues Aedan Cousland from Highever when Howe attacked. Each chapter will be based on a different characters perspective of the story. A story between (M) Cousland and (F) Amell has been on my brain for a while and I was finally inspired to start writing it out. It will follow the basic storyline of DA 1 but will take a few left turns at Albuquerque here and there.
Chapter 1 – To the Circle
Aedan was numb and tired. It was all he could do to follow Duncan down the path through the woods. It had been two days since Highever was overrun by Howe's men and his family murdered. He had just shut down the night they fled, barely saying a word to Duncan, just blindly following him. Duncan had tried to talk to him a few times. He let him know they were stopping at Kinloch Hold to pick up another recruit before heading south to Ostagar. He also told him at the next town he would try to send word to his brother Fergus and the King of Howe's betrayal. Aedan just nodded, barely making eye contact. He felt so empty inside and the guilt was consuming him from the inside out. Aedan had never been the social brother. Fergus was the heir, he was just the spare. He was groomed to be a soldier more than a ruler. While Fergus was out with Nathaniel Howe chasing skirts, Aedan was at the Keep with his mabari practicing his dual blade techniques and reading about past battles. His mother had been worried about him; afraid he was too focused and tried her hardest to get him to socialize with the other nobility. She was constantly badgering him to date more.
It worsened after Fergus married Oriana. Eleanor wanted her youngest to find a nice girl to settle down with as well. She had set up many small social events and invited several eligible girls from the land that were high enough rank for the second son of a Teyrn. The more his mother pushed the more creative Aedan became at avoiding these events. Hunting was always a good way to escape his mother's 'wife finding' events. If he even caught wind that she was planning something he'd pack his gear, convince Roland Gilmore to join him and he'd be off for days. He was not interested in listening to some silly Ban's daughter talk about her dress or other irrelevant things. None of the women his mother had produced interested him. Whores had more interesting things to talk about than any woman his mother had thrust upon him.
He was viewed as an exceptional soldier but complicated by his father Bryce Cousland. He had been very proud of his sons, both were exceptional fighters and Fergus was shaping up to be the heir he expected. Aedan was just a thinker he would tell his wife. He had recommended she back off and let he boy find his own wife. Bryce knew his son better than Eleanor; he knew he wouldn't just want a pretty face at his side. He also knew he would make and exceptional Captain of the Guard or maybe even find a place high in the Kings military. His ability to wield his dual blades with such grace and ferocity had earned the respect of many of his men. It was quite the sight to watch him fight multiple opponents and over power them easily. There were more things in the boy's future than a wife and babies. On several occasions he would give Aedan warnings that Eleanor was planning events, which his son was grateful for. Bryce would chuckle every time his son managed to dodge a party or visiting nobility and Eleanor would be furious wondering how the boy knew they were coming.
It was on the fourth day of travel that he started to talk to Duncan. Duncan had known the man was grieving and did not push him to talk. Aedan had started to ask him questions regarding what it meant to be a Grey Warden. Aedan knew of darkspawn, he had encountered them on his hunting trips before but never more than a few. They were horrifying; he couldn't manage the hordes of them that Duncan was describing during a Blight. This gave him more to think about than the tragedy that occurred in Highever.
"You feel that the frequent attacks and sightings are another Blight don't you?" Aedan asked Duncan as they walked to the tower. Aedan was very perceptive to how Duncan described things and got the feeling of urgency from the man when Ostagar was discussed. Duncan didn't look at him; he didn't respond at first but then said "Yes." Duncan looked at Aedan, "As a Grey Warden you can sense things and because of that I feel this is no small uprising. There is an Archdemon; it has not exposed itself yet. I have tried to warn the other nobles and the King that this is more serious than they think, but I have been unsuccessful in my efforts."
Aedan knew King Cailan since childhood. He was only a few years older than he was but still very immature. Before Fergus and Cailan married they were the biggest rouges in the kingdom. No woman escaped them. Aedan often wondered how many bastards the two of them along with Nathaniel Howe produced. While Fergus cleaned up his act and stopped the debauchery and Nathaniel Howe was sent to the Free Marches to squire; Cailan never stopped. A part of him pitied his wife Queen Anora. Out of all the noble girls he had met she was at least intelligent, a little dry personality wise but not dumb. If anything she was too smart, Aedan knew who really ran things in Denerim. While Cailan was out playing King, Anora really did the job. Her father Loghain had been trying to rein Cailan in for years after King Maric died.
"Whose idea was it to rally at Ostagar? It doesn't seem like the most defendable locations. "Aedan commented as they rested near a stream. "I've known Cailan most of my life, he was never one to study anything other than what was under the nearest skirt, military history and strategy were not his strong points." Duncan chuckled at that.
"Actually it was Loghain's idea. He is not convinced this is a Blight and he seems to have personal issues with Grey Wardens. Nothing I say has an impact on him and Cailan follows his lead where the military is concerned. Cailan hopes this is a Blight so he can go down in the history books as a king that defeated an Archdemon." Duncan sighed.
"Cailan's a fool," Aedan muttered. "What I don't understand is Loghain, he should know better than this." "My father had grown concerned about his Orlais obsession. It was as if the war had never stopped for Loghain. Orlais had been the source of many arguments between the two of them at the Landsmeets over the years. He didn't even make an honorable appearance at Fergus' wedding because he was marrying an Orlesian."
"As a Grey Warden we cannot involve ourselves in the politics of the situation. I have sent word to other Grey Wardens throughout Thedas. I am hoping that they arrive before things become worse." He stood up and grabbed his pack. "Come, we have another day and a half walk before we get to the Circle Tower"
"So what's this other recruit like? Have you met him before and are they a Templar or a mage?" asked Aedan.
"I have not met this recruit before. I received a letter from the First Enchanter Irving saying it was of utmost importance that I come to the circle to evaluate this recruit. The letter was rather vague but it sounded like there were issues with a specific mage and Irving is trying to get the mage out of the circle." Duncan reached into his pack and pulled out the letter and handed it to Aedan.
"Hrm, you are right it is rather vague but this last line is rather interesting… 'I believe this mage has a power unlike anything we've seen before.' What is that supposed to mean? "Duncan shrugged.
"We'll find out when we get there. There have been mages in the Grey Warden's before, it is not that uncommon but this is the first time a Circle has contacted us directly regarding one of their mages. Normally we pick up apostates here and there, rarely Circle mages." Duncan took the letter back from Aedan and tucked it in his pocket. "It has me intrigued; a powerful mage can turn the tides of a battle. Irving is an old friend; I trust his judgment on this."
"If the mage is truly that powerful won't the Chantry interfere? Maybe that's why he wrote you, there are issues with the Chantry and this mage." Aedan said. "My father used his influence as Teyrn to improve the situation the few mages that were at Highever. We had no Circle there but we had a couple mages that were known by the local Chantry that worked for my father. Nan my nanny as a child was one of them. Another was a healer that had a small clinic and shop in town who would sell healing potions. It was very difficult to keep the Templars away; he had to pull a lot of strings for them to be able to live free." Aedan shrugged, "They were healers, and maybe that is why the Chantry allowed them to stay."
"Aye," replied Duncan. "Templars become much more reasonable to mages when they need to be healed. " Duncan point to some hills in the distance. "We will camp there for the night, I know of a good spot there. If we make good time we might make it to the Spoiled Princess at Calenhad's docks before night fall tomorrow."
After a night at the Spoiled Princess and a bath Aedan was feeling more like himself. He tried not to think of the events in Highever and focus on becoming a Grey Warden. He understood just how much of a danger a Blight is, he would get vengeance for his family by taking down Howe but that would have to wait. If Ferelden was overrun by darkspawn revenge for the murders of his family would mean nothing. He had to focus he told himself, he could not let grief or vengeance take him over. So he pushed those feelings down deep inside of him.
They boarded a ferry to get to the Circle of Magi. Kester the ferryman was a chatty fellow and rather nosey at that. He was very curious why Grey Wardens needed to go to the Circle tower.
"We haven't seen Grey Wardens around these parts for many years. What brings you to the tower if ye don't mind me asking" Kester inquired. "You're here for the girl aren't ya?" Duncan merely responded that the First Enchanter had a recruit for him to evaluate. Kester went on though. "Yup it's probably that girl. Things haven't been the same since they brought her to the tower 12 years ago." Aedan was curious at that point.
"Really? How so?" he asked Kester. This man was an open book just waiting to be read.
"Well I shouldn't say, it's just all talk ya know but they say she's not normal, her magic ain't normal. She don't need no spells and such, she just does things. Old Gregior is at wits end with her, they say she immune to the Templars." Kester whispered that last part even though it was just the three of them on a boat in the middle of the lake. Both Duncan and Aedan stunned just looked at him. "Yup they try to smite her and nothing happens… or so I've heard. They ain't sure what to do with her, kill her, send her to the Seekers in Val Royeaux or keep her locked up here."
Well that explains the letter thought Aedan. This definitely has to be the mage the First Enchanter mentioned. He wondered what Duncan would do. If everything this ferryman said was true it could be very dangerous to have a mage like that around. Kester kept on talking, "I saw her a year ago, pretty thing she is, she fixed my back for me. All of the other healers told me that there was nothing they could do but Irving brought her to me the next day and before I could ask her name she smiled at me and patted my hand and my backs been as good as it was 30 winters ago. Never seen nothing like it, no wonder why the Templars are jumpy," he chuckled. "She ain't never hurt no one, I don't know why they are so scared. Maybe they are afraid they'll lose some Templars to her, I told ya she's a pretty thing didn't I?" Aedan nodded. "A young man like you better watch yourself around her, if I was 30 years younger I would have smuggled her out of there years ago," he laughed. "Never seen a beauty like hers, I reckon she's even more fair than the Queen and I heard she's quite a looker." Aedan turned his head and rolled his eyes at Duncan who smirked.
They drifted up to the dock in front of the Circle Tower and Kester tied the rope to the dock as they gathered their belongings.
"Well here we are gentlemen, I wish ya well and I hope you are here for the girl. It'd be such a waste for a pretty thing like that to meet the sword." He pointed to the path leading to the doors. "Just tell the Templars there you are here to see Irving."
"Thank you sir, for the ride and for the information." Duncan stated and handed Kester some coins. Kester thanked him and hopped back in the ferry as Duncan and Aedan headed for the large double doors flanked by two well armored Templars.