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In the months since I had lounged about court indulging myself with King Alistair, had my exile rescinded, been named a paragon of my people, and elevated to dwarven queen when my brother’s loyal idiots finally drove King Harrowmont, whom I had placed on the throne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.

What proof of his father’s treachery and cruelty we’ve uncovered has gone a long way toward convincing Nathaniel that I was not overreacting when I killed his father. Though he’s stopped believing I had some irrational grudge against the old Arl here in Amaranthine, he does miss his family. He, too, asked me to find his sister when we discovered she still lived. That reunion went decidedly better than Alistair’s but then she and Nathaniel had been raised together here at Vigil’s Keep, unlike the bitchy and grasping Goldana who never even knew she had a brother until we showed up on her doorstep.

Ohgren is with me again and I’ve found another dwarf to join our sorry band. Sigrun is no golem of stone as Shale was but her training with the Legion of the Dead gives her a decided edge when we face these mysterious bands of Darkspawn. She’s young but having lost so many to them adds fire to her fighting. As the monarch of Orzammar, absentee though I am, it’s wonderful to have explored so much of the Deep Roads and even a lost thaig with the two of them. Should we discover the source of these troubling developments I see hope that we can reclaim some of the abandoned ancestral homes and the roads between them. The dwarven population need to grow rather than dwindle as it has for centuries. And the proof that the casteless fought as fiercely as any warrior lends credence to Harrowmont’s idea of eliminating the concept entirely and easing the divide between Dust Town and the Diamond Quarter.

I regret that I left my fearsome Mabari hound at court. He was a powerful ally in battle, to be sure, but he was more than that. I’d never had a pet before and I find myself looking for his wagging rear when we make camp. That time we spent in play each evening allowed a welcome break from the serious nature of our tasks. Sadly, Ohgren shows little interest in playing fetch and I have no desire to rub his belly. I found a lamb bone at the bottom of my old pack the other day and surreptitiously wiped a tear from my cheek before I found someone from the keeps’ guard with a dog that would appreciate it. I hope that he’s not too lonely, with all of our companions now scattered. At least he has the other war dogs for company, presuming Alistair did not take them all to the Bannorn where he has gone to fight, again.

While the apostate Anders has shown himself to be a more-than-capable mage I sorely miss Wynne and her motherly ways. I’m the closest thing this group has to a parent, I am sad to say. You can imagine how often we get around to such niceties as laundry. Truly, our socks are in deplorable condition. It was lovely to see her again in Amaranthine, if only for a brief conversation. I wonder what will come of the mages’ meeting. It would be a curious thing to see the Circles shake off the yoke of the Chantry and thus the Templars. Such an expansion of the lyrium trade could well benefit my people but how can I forget the abominations we fought at the Circle by Lake Calenhad? With luck they will strike some middle ground between the rigid control now exerted over all mages and the freedom that may allow the summoning of demons to become all too common. Only time will tell.

I find it maddening that Anders, in every way Alistair’s precise opposite, so reminds me of him. Perhaps I miss my lover so much that I am seeing a likeness where none exists. He jested often, certainly, deflecting every personal inquiry when we first met, but he never was this sarcastic. Yet Anders makes me laugh like Alistair so often did.

Certainly I’ve never seen Alistair flirt so boldly as Anders does with me and any reasonably-attractive woman we pass or bent crone from whom we need something. But some of Alistair’s charm underlies Anders’s brash manner, making it more effective than I would have thought. I find hints that his façade hides an insecurity that his apostate status probably feeds. In that, too, I see the man I love. Alistair certainly was as unsure at the start of our time together, unable to believe in himself personally or as a Warden, much less as the rightful king. And it wasn’t as though he had left a string of girlfriend’s behind at the monastery, much less one he’d angered so badly she’d betray us to the first Templar to come along. It seems Anders has licked a lamppost or three in his numerous escapes from the clutches of the tower.

Perhaps some of the resemblance comes from the fact that Anders’s voice is so like Alistair’s. They have similar accents and that endearing tendency to babble. Some nights in camp I close my eyes and pretend it’s Alistair talking, just letting the sound wash over me. I find myself asking Anders questions just to keep him chatting. So here I am, getting to know a hunted apostate in part because he reminds me so much of a Templar. Truly, my life takes some strange turns.

After so long at court, such a span of satiation, I find myself decidedly uncomfortable with Anders’s more ribald jokes. It was much the same when I lost Gorim and joined the Wardens. I have discovered that being suddenly deprived makes me surly. Had Zevran not been more than willing to fill in the gaps I’d have frightened Alistair away by leaping on him at the first sign of interest, I’m sure. Unfortunately, Nathaniel does not appear to share that aspect my favorite elf’s free nature and I am left with increasingly vivid dreams about Alistair and an approximation that is driving me to distraction.

Anders shares Alistair’s complete disinclination to shave cleanly, as well. With such similar hair colors the patches they so often miss have that same blonde-red tinge to them. I caught myself yesterday staring at Anders’s jaw while he spoke to a merchant, remembering how I ran my hand along Alistair’s face where such stubble showed when I saw him so briefly at Vigil’s Keep just a few weeks ago. My fingers fairly itch to do so again though I cannot convince myself that I will ever have another opportunity. Our parting at the gates of the keep seemed so final, somehow. I can but hope that the feeling is less premonition and more my own fears talking. I know that we will have to part eventually. We both have kingdoms to administer, now, and our people will not wait forever for heirs to stabilize our respective thrones nor would they accept a child of ours on either even if we could conceive one.

And so what is a Warden to do? I try hard to concentrate on the puzzle of the Darkspawn so suddenly having changed from mindless beasts to speaking and planning like people, albeit ones with the most incomprehensible of motives and aims. Every step of the way I find more hints that one of their own is behind the transformation and that it ordered the capture of the Wardens missing from the battleground at Vigil’s Keep. Such a disturbing turn of events does occupy my mind, if not my body.

The biggest change has been the camaraderie I’ve found with this new group. Rather than a motley band assembled by chance and kept together largely by the enormity of the Blight, each of these companions has become a fellow Warden. We share our murmur-filled dreams and discuss how the taint affects us. I wish that Alistair were here. When he joined the Wardens it was the first time he really felt he belonged anywhere and then Loghain decided they all had to die. I think the survivor’s guilt would ease for my darling king, seeing the order growing again at the keep. I know that mine has.

We head now to the forest roads supplying Amaranthine. A mysterious force has beset travelers and caravans, cutting off supplies and eliminating any chance of reinforcements. Could it be that the one behind the newly-changed Darkspawn is involved? Playing such long odds has paid off for me before and, as the de facto ruler here it’s my job to make certain the people have the food and protection they need. Regardless of the cause, as Warden Commander I must clear the roads.

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