Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 2

I flicked through the dossiers on my data pad, considering our fuel-to-credit ratio and how much time each step might take. The missions thus far had been unpredictable in the extreme, ranging between merely picking up Zaeed on my way into the Omega station to then fighting half of the mercenaries in the galaxy only to discover my old friend Garrus at the other end disguised as a vigilante. I didn't trust any of the scenarios presented to be as simple as they appeared but I had hopes that we could execute at least one more pick-up without leaving a trail of corpses behind us. Well, maybe a small trail but how hard could it be to simply retrieve someone who had been purchased to join my crew?

I decided that this Jack character sounded like a good bet and we weren't too far from Purgatory, the prison ship from which we were supposed to retrieve him. If The Illusive Man had already arranged things with the warden it should be quick and easy and I could do some mining of the system to calm Doctor Mordin Solus's concerns about materials with which to continue his research. Of course, more probes would cost more credits, too. I was going to have to look for opportunities to pick up some work along the way.

All of this accounting and administrative work gave me a headache but I could hardly go crawling back to Cerberus for my allowance every time I needed cash for upgrades or trinkets. Having been reinstated as a Spectre meant that I was drawing a salary again but it wasn't enough to pay for everything that Cerberus hadn't thought to fund. The Illusive Man may have thought he'd covered everything but he had completely forgotten to set up accounts at the fuel depots near each mass relay. I wasn't about to add another reason to be indebted to the xenophobe but it did make my planning more difficult.

Dear David Gaider: Thank You

Last week I posted a furious response to the romance arcs with Sebastian and Anders in Dragon Age 2. I was just starting a run in which I would romance Fenris and threatened violence against David Gaider if he wrecked that one as thoroughly as the others had been.

I’d like to officially announce that Mr. Gaider is safe from me, still. He writes my favorite Mass Effect and Dragon Age characters and Fenris is no exception to this rule. I admit that I had my doubts in Act 2, though it was nice of Mr. Gaider to let us deflower another grown man. When Fenris bailed out of my Champion’s bedroom and didn’t mention it again for three years I was pretty miffed at him. But I persevered and ended up with such a lovely, passionate finale for that romance that it swept away all of the disappointment. I hardly even minded executing Anders once again!

The friendlier you are with the lyrium-infused elf the more fun he is to have in your party. And I may be imagining things but I could swear that, as my character was an archer, Fenris spent more time leaping to my defense when I was swarmed in that last act than flying around slashing bandits or darkspawn into bits all over the battlefield. I didn’t set his tactics for that!

I’m going to try a rivalry romance with him next and I’m very curious to see how it goes, particularly if I let Anders live this time.

As a bonus tidbit for those of you who don’t visit the Bioware social boards, the woman who wrote Sebastian has specifically said that our erstwhile prince’s story has not yet finished. I’ll get that boy out of the Chantry yet!

Tidbit Tuesday: The Commander Takes a Shower, Part 1

The away team had returned to the Normandy bedraggled and exhausted, with a defiant Jack in tow. Despite my usual morning clean-up, our trip to the grungy prison ship—and dealing with the sleazy turian who ran Purgatory—had left me feeling even more filthy than the bloodstains on my clothes and in my hair would suggest. All I wanted was to toss my armor in the scrubber and take a long, hot shower. I got Jack settled into the “basement” below Engineering and headed up to my quarters.

Among the many improvements Cerberus had made to the new version of my beloved ship had been relocating my cabin to its own deck, accessible only by elevator, and tripling the size of my space. My old quarters had been converted to an office for Miranda Lawson. That self-aggrandizing bitch actually made me miss Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, who had been sweet despite her wrong-headed prejudice against aliens. I liked to think that she would have come around, as Pressley had, had she lived long enough to finish the mission with our rag-tag crew and see how we all worked together to bring down Sovereign.

Miranda may have brought me back to life but being forced to bring her on my ship rankled badly. What had she done for me lately, besides question my judgment in front of my crew? Between Miranda and Jacob Taylor, I was getting pretty tired of Cerberus lackeys undermining my every decision. At least I could leave them on the ship while I went out with more-loyal team members and got some work done on yet another attempt at saving the galaxy.

Double Monday - The Double, Chapter 1


Once upon a time I died. Let me tell you, that hurt. What hurt even more was coming back to life. When a scary-smart, cat-suited, mad scientist woman reconstitutes you from dehydrated space debris and screws ninety percent of your bones back together, that should come as no surprise. To be fair, that part didn’t hurt because I had no working nerves or brain function. It was the part where I was alive and awake, with holes in my skin and my bones still knitting, that really killed me, so to speak.

I woke up in a blinding white room with some woman on a loudspeaker telling me to get up and grab an empty gun. Except for a few crazy glimpses, the last thing I remembered was my ship getting sliced to bits by unknown parties. I’d shoved everyone into the escape pods, been slammed into a bulkhead, and then floated out into open space with two blown seals in my suit. Needless to say, waking up was the last thing I expected. I presumed that I was in some Alliance facility, as that’s for whom I was working when I died. I presumed wrong.

It turns out that some psychos whose nefarious experiments I'd repeatedly foiled had gotten hold of my body and resurrected me. If you don't think that's creepy you try it once. They figured I'd be so grateful not to be orbiting junk any more that I'd happily go to work for them. The kinky mad scientist was named Miranda Lawson and she worked for these goons as part of an organization named Cerberus. How a three-headed dog made sense as the name for a bunch of freaks who wanted humanity to rule the galaxy is still beyond me.

Swingin' Saturday: The Swing of Things Chapter 1

Lieutenant Commander Kaidan Alenko shifted his trumpet case nervously. He'd never met any of the people with whom he was supposed to play here on the Citadel and he wasn't sure if they'd know or care about his other rare abilities. But he'd been blowing the horn since he was four and he supposed in the end that was the only skill that would matter to the others.

He opened the door to the rehearsal room and found a beefy older man tuning an upright bass. A keyboard sat empty several feet to the right. The man introduced himself as David Anderson and offered his hand. Kaidan had heard plenty about Captain Anderson before but no one had ever mentioned that he was a musician. “An honor to meet you, sir,” Kaidan said.

He took out his beloved trumpet, set aside the case, and began warming up with some scales, tuning as he went. The two were doodling around a bit, each getting a feel for the rhythm of the other, when the door again opened and a young man entered hesitantly. He carried a saxophone case his right hand and a beret in his left, the scrub of dirty blond hair on his head showing that he'd recently been wearing the latter. A reed poked from one corner of his mouth. Alenko and Anderson broke off and introduced themselves. “Corporal Richard Jenkins,” he offered, speaking around the reed from long practice and looking intimidated at the rank of the two men with whom he was intended to play.

Frustrating Friday: Frustrations Chapter 1

It wasn’t so very long ago that I found myself exiled from the royal house of Orzammar to fight for my life in the Deep Roads, having been framed for the murder of my beloved brother by my remaining brother. Moments later, it seemed, a Grey Warden named Duncan recruited me into his order and suddenly I was in Ostagar planning to face a massive army of ghoulish Darkspawn with the king of all Ferelden, who was promptly killed. A whirlwind of slaughter, betrayal, happenstance, and problem solving led me into the arms of the new king and to the bewildering moment of slicing the length of a dragon’s throat to save the country from destruction.

In the months since I had lounged about court indulging myself with King Alistair, had my exile rescinded, been named a paragon of my people, and elevated to dwarven queen when my brother’s loyal idiots finally drove King Harrowmont, whom I had placed on the throne in his stead, to an early death. My life had spun around me, seemingly something I could watch but barely direct. Yet the crew we had assembled in our travels had ended a civil war and brought to heel the fourth Blight. We had pulled together elves, dwarves, and humans alike and changed the course of Ferelden’s history by restoring a son of storied King Maric to its throne.

And now I find myself embarking again on a seemingly impossible mission and leading a hastily-assembled crew of misfits. This new mission as Commander of the Grey at Vigil’s Keep has been a sort of sweet torture for me. Much about both my companions and our activities reminds me of my earlier travels. Instead of Zevran, the erstwhile Crow assassin, I have Nathaniel, a rogue that no one expected to prove useful but who has shown himself more loyal and stronger than any would have thought. My insistence on recruiting the son of traitorous Rendon Howe shocked everyone nearly as much as my prior decision to bring the elf who had just tried to kill me. Yet the results have been similar.

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 1

After another crazy day of demands coming at me from all directions, I found my feet turning to the familiar door of the life support equipment room. Despite my best, captain-like intentions to maintain professional distance Thane Krios was such a calming presence that I found myself returning again and again to talk with him. How such a dashing figure could have survived so long as an assassin, a trade in which going unnoticed was critical to success, I would never know. Not only was he a Drell, an exotically rare race, but he dressed stylishly and turned heads almost everywhere we went. He'd spent almost his entire life killing for others and yet not a drop of suspicion was attached to his name. That made it much easier to take him on missions to the Citadel and civilized worlds like Ilium where a suave companion was definitely an asset, but it seemed very strange that he'd so long escaped attention.

I was chagrined to realize how often I had been including him on missions of late. Certainly, his sniper and hand-to-hand combat skills came in handy but as I found myself knocking on Thane's door once more I had to admit that they seemed more like rationalizations than reasons. Before I could turn away, embarrassed that I was acting like some fascinated schoolgirl, he opened the door and greeted me warmly. I knew that he had been lonely for a very long time and I was glad to know that my visits were welcome. Certainly he had quickly become a friend, as much as Garrus Vakarian and Tali'Zorah were despite my having known them for so much longer. But, while I often talked to Garrus and exchanged messages with Tali about technical issues and strategy, we never discussed my personal issues.

Fanfic Publishing Schedule

Because I have so much already written I’m going to start a schedule for moving the stories here. My first step (tomorrow) will be to institute Thane Thursdays, on which I will publish one chapter from one of my few long and finished stories. Losing started as something else entirely. I’d intended it to be a frothy romance between Shepard and Thane but then, well, it got serious. It took a long time for this one to really get going and much of the last half was hard to write but I quite like how it came together.

I have two other stories underway that are utterly different but may turn out to be vaguely related. The Double is a goofy, sarcastic romp in an Alternate Mass Effect Universe in which double agents have infiltrated the SR-2, fighting to use Cerberus to their own ends.

The Swing of Things takes place while the original Normandy was being built and strives to find a relationship between some of the crew members and explain how they ended up on the ship together. Shepard may make a cameo at the end but it’s written from Kaidan’s point of view.

I have a Dragon Age story, too, though not for Origins. I wrote Frustrations before I had played DA2 and so it’s an exploration of how things may have developed between my female Aeducan and Anders, off-stage. That one is a mere eleven chapters but some of it will be all-new material as I never published the whole thing.

And so I’m instituting Swingin’ Saturdays and Double Mondays, Tidbit Tuesdays, and Frustrating Fridays. Tuesdays will be for the one-shot stories I’ve written for Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I’ll be linking each story to the Stories page linked above as they are published.

I’ve got a start on a FemHawke story, The Champion’s Side, but every time I get to the end of a romance arc with her while playing it ruins what I’ve written. I keep shifting my focus. I’m about to meet Fenris in my third run so we’ll see if he gets to win her heart or if I’m going back to an alternate universe to brighten up this dark chapter in Thedas’ history.

I’ll also be working up a link list to other fantastic authors on the many places you can find fanfic published, both other blogs and writers on and deviantart. Maker knows when that will get ready. All this and Mass Effect 3 still to come? Who could ask for anything more?

Bioware Fails at Romantic Men in DA2...So Far

Is it too much to ask that one of my first two romance attempts in Dragon Age 2 culminate in a happy ending? Here my husband has characters whiling away their time in an Alienage and on a pirate ship, respectively, while my poor ladies have had to execute a lover or agree to a “chaste marriage”. C’mon, now, writers!

I understand Anders. The second time through I saw all of the clues and the hints he dropped. I hate it after how much fun he was in Awakenings but I get it. But Sebastian?! My hot lady Champion can’t lure someone who adores her—and who has been celibate for at least seven years—away from his already-renounced vows?

Actually, that might not have bothered me so much if he hadn’t responded to my direct order to go invade Starkhaven by suggesting that we take vows and live in the Chantry in chaste and beautiful religious love. The conversation gave me whiplash. I kept going back to talk to the Grand Cleric in hopes she would tell him he was an idiot and order him to my bedroom. Then she exploded.

And there went another piece of fanfic down the drain. After almost 10,000 words I had to toss the concept. Yet again the man my champion loves isn’t the one she fooled herself into believing he was and she clearly lacks the feminine wiles that the Warden enjoyed.

I’ve been saving Fenris for last and all I have to say is this: if he turns out to be a eunuch I’m going up to some corporate offices in Canada with a stick.

Bioware Nails Cameos in Dragon Age 2

I hate to have a game spoiled so I avoided any on-line discussion of Dragon Age 2 for a month or so before it was released. I played that first run wide-eyed and thrilled with the ride, exploring every alley and cranny and eager for more. And thus I flew through the game, playing obsessively so that I could see what happened. I knew there were cameos in store and I couldn’t wait to uncover them.

I laughed at finding Sandal and the adoptive father I’d presumed dead at the end of Origins. My shout when I bumped into Gray Wardens in Kirkwall who sounded just like the dear, departed Riordan brought my husband from the other room fearing I’d hurt myself. I loved the foreshadowing, even if they did leave me to fight the Qunari alone. And my kids and I did a happy dance when Nathaniel showed up for a short adventure in the Deep Roads (with no Ohgren, thank the Maker).

Leliana was very much herself, sweet and lovely and ruthless in her new role as she always had been in Origins and as I played her in Leliana’s Song. Zevran looked strange with the new elven aesthetic, but there was one shot in profile that revealed my favorite assassin lurking inside the new face. He was as flirty and cocky as ever and I thoroughly enjoyed the little sideline.

And then Alistair arrived with Bann Teagan in tow. I believe I squeed loudly enough to make the dog howl. My Lady Hawke was already snarky as could be and the two shared some delightful banter. Sadly, both men looked much the worse for wear and Teagan must have had a bad cold that day. But just hearing that familiar, sexy Valentine voice made up for everything.

While I mourn what the writers did to poor, pivotal Anders I still appreciate the care they gave to the wonderful snippets and the hints they gave about where the Dragon Age franchise is heading. Orlais, anyone? I can hardly wait to see Val Royeaux.

Would One Happy Ending Kill You, Bioware?

[Note: I started an Anders story while I was playing my first run through Dragon Age 2. Then I finished the game. I deleted the wholly wrong-headed predictions. This ultra-short is all I of the story I can write for now. At some point I’ll do an alternate plot for DA2 with a happy ending for Anders and Lady Hawke but right now I’m too angry.]

The Last Time He Told the Truth

“I am going to break your heart,” he told me at the very beginning, gently stroking my cheek. There was a haunted sadness in his eyes I’d have given anything to ease. If only I had listened maybe I wouldn’t have had to execute him. It turned out that was wrong: I could not give everything to stay by his side. But if he’d been who I thought he would never have asked.