Swingin' Saturday: The Swing of Things, Chapter 6

The next morning Kaidan made time between his normal training duties to dig around the extranet for some information about the ambassador. It seemed Udina had a reputation for being rather more rabid in pushing for human recognition and inclusion in galactic politics than one would expect for a theoretically diplomatic position. The representatives of the other non-Council species pushed for their own gains, of course, but none had drawn as much ire or derision from the pundits and analysts that covered Council matters as Udina.

When Kaidan arrived at the practice room the next evening, Joker and Jenkins were kicking around I’m in the Mood for Love and looking relaxed. Jenkins seemed particularly mellow, doodling with the melody in a way that belied his normal hesitance. Good for him, thought Kaidan. Apparently the success of the night before had finally convinced the young man of his talent.

The two broke off when Kaidan entered, greeting him warmly. He’d no sooner put the mouthpiece in his trumpet than Anderson opened the door. The big man waved a hello and began setting up his bass.

Frustrating Fridays: Frustrations, Chapter 6

What awaited me at the keep was nothing less than an urgent plea to turn around and make all haste back to Amaranthine. It seemed a horde had been spotted making its way overland toward the city and our Darkspawn-killing talents were required. There would be no restful evening around the fire tonight.

Regardless of my personal feelings I knew that we would need both the healing and the rather explosive magic that Anders provided so I tapped him, Ohgren, and Sigrun to accompany me back the way we had just come. I visited Wade first and, while we distributed the rest of the things we had brought back to the others and hunted down what clean underclothes we could find, he completed the wonderful pieces he’d been making for the Wardens between bouts of sword crafting and armor making.

These, too, went to those who could use them best and the four of us turned back to the city with all haste. Anders joked that he felt like a giant in the company of three dwarves but a sharp kick from Sigrun shut him up pretty quickly on that subject. He maintained a running patter, however, mocking companions and enemies alike. We camped for a scant nap on the way, not bothering to do more than roll ourselves up in our blankets with our heads on our packs. Luckily it was mild out and, aside from the lack of a hot meal, we did not miss having a fire.

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 6

I had much to do when we returned to the Normandy and Thane had plenty to occupy his mind for a time. I finally made time to visit him on the crew deck two days later. I wondered how he was dealing with the difficult emotions our escapade with Kolyat must have brought. Thane showed me in and placed the ever-present cup of coffee on the table. His time alone seemed to have done more than restore his usual calm. He looked even more serene, having had the weight of some of his guilt lifted by recent events. I toyed with the cup as I asked, “How are you doing?”

He took my hand in both of his. “I cannot repay the kindness you've shown me, siha” he said. I realized how much Thane touched me and how little anyone else did. He would brush his fingers across my back when he ushered me to the door after a talk, put a supportive hand on my shoulder when I had made a difficult decision on a mission, or simply tap his fingers on my wrist to draw my attention to a tactical issue during one of the many battles we'd fought. There was never anything inappropriate about these small contacts but I had never before noticed how often they'd occurred.

Feeling his cool hands on mine brought home to me just how much they'd meant. I may have been in charge and in control but how could I not crave physical contact after the intimate months Kaidan and I had enjoyed after defeating Sovereign? A rush of guilt tore at me but I fought it back, telling myself that Thane meant nothing more than to express his friendship. I tried to remember if I'd seen him do the same with any other members of the crew. Surely there had been instances where he'd placed a hand on Garrus’s shoulder in combat or shown Miranda through a door so chivalrously. I just couldn't call any to mind at the moment.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 4

While my family struggled to maintain even our humble place in Lowtown Aveline had joined the city guard and moved into the barracks in the viscount’s palace at the very top of Kirkwall. Her skills and integrity had quickly brought her up the ranks but I avoided visiting her much for fear of dirtying her reputation.

She threw jobs our way when she could, however, and had remained a fast friend that joined us for evenings of cards and carousing at The Hanged Man from time to time. She acted more as a babysitter on evenings when we got snockered on cheap whiskey; losing control and looking like an idiot in public held no interest for my straight-laced friend. But she clearly enjoyed seeing us act like fools and seemed at ease fostering our banter and restraining us from joining the not-infrequent fights that erupted there.

The city swarmed with corruption, dock officials and city guards taking bribes and involving themselves in even the nastiest business in Darktown much less the more affluent sections of the city. Aveline was shocked every time we uncovered another scandal, unable to believe that everyone who served the city did not do so with her commitment to the public good. I found her naiveté adorable and teased her mercilessly every time she hired me to recover goods from a sleazy dockmaster’s assistant or to corral criminals that had bribed a guard to look the other way while they looted someone’s home. She kept her ear to the ground and had paid me to thwart many a criminal enterprise but there was always another brewing.

Tidbit Tuesday: The Commander Takes a Shower, Part 5

He sounded so defeated that I squeezed him close for a moment. I hadn’t considered how hard it must have been for him to not only believe that I had died but that everyone he knew was under the same threat and refused to see it. While I’d lain, unconscious and drifting, he’d spent two years butting his head against the Council’s brick wall. He’d been walking a fine line between brutal honesty and insubordination, not wanting to lose the position he’d worked so hard to obtain but unwilling to allow our desperate battle to ultimately mean nothing.

Despite my long career with the Alliance, my loyalties lay not with any organization but with my mission and my crew. I owed them my loyalty and my every effort, as so many had become outlaws and renegades to join me for this mission. I didn’t trust Cerberus or The Illusive Man any further than I could drop kick the lot of them but I couldn’t deny that they alone had given me the opportunity to pursue the threat against which I had been fighting when ambushed by the Collectors two years earlier. While the Council and the Alliance had swept Saren’s betrayal and Sovereign’s real intent under the rug, Cerberus had returned me from the dead to continue my fight.

The Illusive Man’s lies and manipulation had made it clear to me that this was, indeed, the same organization Kaidan and I had both grown to despise for Ferros and the other experiments we’d uncovered but they had provided me with the tools to continue fighting the Reapers. I had a new crew with a few old friends, a new and improved ship (with the exception of those damned bathroom doors), and information that would have been out of our reach in the Alliance.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 5

Jumpus Interruptus

Unfortunately, it was not time to go home. No sooner had I left the bridge than Kelly cornered me by the galaxy map and told me that I had messages on my private terminal. I must have looked confused, probably because I was trying to figure out why the hell she was checking something labeled “private”, so she explained again that it was part of her job as my personal assistant. The simpering way she kept emphasizing personal in that phrase promised that I would be finding myself locking her in a room with Miranda at some point in the near future to keep from lining them up for a double slap. The only personal assistance I wanted involved Kaidan and breaking in my new quarters.

I opened my messages to find that TIM had sent me more dossiers on possible recruits including the minor detail that he had purchased a convict named Jack for me from a prison ship. I already distrusted his choices after meeting Zaeed and now he wanted me to bring a violent criminal on board. Maybe I could lock him up with Miranda and Kelly. That ought to solve some problem or other and I'm sure Joker could pick up some extra credits broadcasting video of the results. Then again, a man long deprived might be susceptible to their feminine flaunting and they'd all survive the encounter. I derailed that train of thought before it could reach its repulsive station. The warden of the prison ship, some Turian named Kuril, had imposed a time limit on our pick-up which meant that my wool-gathering would have to wait. I fed the coordinates to Joker and he changed course accordingly.

Swingin' Saturday: The Swing of Things, Chapter 5

Kaidan worked his way through knots of beautifully-dressed party goers, accepting praise and answering questions as he went. He tried to appear aimless but worked his way toward the grim-faced gentleman at the edge of the crowd. His curiosity had been roused by the sort of superior satisfaction the man had shown at watching a group of aliens enjoying human music. Why on earth, so to speak, would he care?

Finally, Kaidan drew near enough that someone in the group with whom he was chatting thought to introduce the man. “This is Ambassador Udina,” the Asari said with visible, if restrained, distaste. “He represents you Humans to the Council.” The ambassador appeared to be looking down his hawk-like nose at her and the Asari beat a rather hasty retreat, leaving Kaidan alone with him.

“The aliens appear to have enjoyed your show,” Udina said, his somewhat nasal voice surprisingly rich from such a pinched-looking mouth.

Frustrating Fridays: Frustrations, Chapter 5

I don’t know how she found out we were coming, but the first thing we found inside the gates of Vigil’s Keep was Kristoff’s wife, Aura. Ohgren swears he didn’t tell her so I can only assume she tracked her husband to the inn in Amaranthine, discovered we had been there first, and gone after him. We’d been gone only a few days and Ohgren’s return the previous evening would have perhaps given her reason to expect us. Had I been prepared I would have spoken to her before she saw her husband’s body, looking decidedly the worse for wear but walking and talking still.

As it was Anders barely managed to catch her as she fell fainting. He looked absurdly proud of himself, standing there holding an unconscious—but admittedly attractive—woman in his arms and I squelched a ridiculous stab of jealousy. Was I really so badly spoiled that my affections leapt to the nearest available man who happened to remind me of Alistair?

When Aura stirred Anders set her delicately on her feet once more. She thanked him absent-mindedly, her eyes devouring the somewhat dessicated face of Kristoff’s body. The moment she understood the situation she stormed off, seeming to believe, despite the stricken look on all of our faces at the accusation, that we had purposely inflicted Justice on the conveniently-deceased body like some sort of twisted necromancers.

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 5

As soon as Sergeant Bailey heard the name Mouse had given us, he buried his face in his palms

"Of all the…" he began. "Look, I can help you but you have to keep me out of it. Kelham and I have an…understanding. I don't bust him for petty bullshit and he 'buys tickets to the policeman's ball' from me. I really need to sell those tickets. I got kids to get through school," he said.

I rolled my eyes and Garrus made a disgusted noise. Not only was Bailey overly impressed by me, a ghost with a shadow title, but he was crooked as well. I supposed the important thing was that we get Kelham into a position where we could quickly extract the name of his target. Bailey's little foibles could make him more pliable. I had a feeling we'd need that leverage before the day was out.

Bailey agreed to have his men pick Kelham up and let us use a room at the security office. He made the call and made himself scarce. I was tempted to rat him out anyway. So far the only humans I had gotten to know in C-Sec were corrupt. That sort of thing pissed me off, especially when so few of us were accepted onto the force in the first place.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 3

But I didn’t want to tell you about that. I wanted to tell you how I came to know Sebastian. After his dramatic display at the chanter’s board and the generous terms of his request, signed Prince Sebastian Vael of Starkhaven no less, I was intrigued. I doubted a man of such obvious means and training would deign to join my merry band of outlaws and apostates but perhaps he could be persuaded to invest in us for the Deep Roads expedition should we display sufficient talent and resolve in avenging his family.

That would certainly beat scrounging for smaller jobs and running errands for a few coppers at a time. Certainly Uncle Gamlen couldn’t be counted on to provide for us. He spent most of his time drinking at the brothel and gambling away what little he could get.

Gamlen and my mother fought often, mostly about the fact that he lived in an apartment in Lowtown, the sprawling slum just above the docks. The building sat not a hundred feet from entrance to the Alienage. I had known that elves in the large cities of Thedas nearly all lived in Alienages and every one of them was a place of punishment for a race that dared to no longer be slaves, though few humans would phrase it quite so bluntly.

Tidbit Tuesday: The Commander Takes a Shower, Part 4

Kaidan and I dripped our way across my cabin to the linen closet and playfully rubbed each other dry. I pulled my now-clean armor from the scrubber and tossed in his sodden clothes before I joined him in my bed. We lay close under the covers and listened to the bubbles in the aquarium, recovering our breath and letting our heart rates slow. It dawned on me that no one had come looking for me for more than two hours, an unprecedented event on either the original or my new Normandy and one that made me very suspicious. “You never did tell me how you found us,” I said.

“You didn’t answer my message,” said Kaidan, “and, well, someone told me that you’d been upset since we…'spoke' on Horizon.” Joker, I thought, you nosy little wonderful weasel. “I knew that we had to really talk, not write notes back and forth. Anderson helped me to arrange leave and borrow a shuttle from the closest space port to wherever you happened to be.”

“And have you been keeping in touch with many of my crew?” I asked archly, intending it as a joke.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 4

Take Two of These and Call Me from Orbit

I had a few more rounds with Joker while we trashed Cerberus, commiserated over how much we missed the old days (from about a week ago, as far as I was concerned), and worried about Garrus. I came back to find a message that he was resting and I should leave him alone for a few hours. Despite my reservations it was a relief that someone who knew both of us as well as Dr. Chakwas was taking care of him.

Next to Kaidan he’d been my closest friend. He’d left his job with Citadel Security, the police force for the heart of galactic government, to join my ragged little band in chasing Saren, the rogue Spectre who turned out to be a lot more than we’d ever anticipated. In the months that followed we’d bonded over sniper rifle chat and backed each other up on dozens of missions, both official and personal. How he’d gotten from sentient robot patrol with me in the outer reaches of the galaxy to super-vigilante on a black market piece of crap like the Omega station was a story I wanted to hear.

I took a nap and a hangover pill before I headed down to talk to check on Garrus. As I rounded the corner to the med bay I saw him step out, wearing his wrecked armor but otherwise looking much less dead. I danced a little jig right there in the mess hall for which Donnelly, who was enjoying a snack at the time, offered a round of applause. “Garrus!”

Swingin' Saturday: The Swing of Things, Chapter 4

After a quick stop at home, Kaidan grabbed a cab for the open park in which Dr. Chakwas's birthday party was being held. He stepped out, trumpet case in one hand and tux draped over the opposite shoulder, eying the stage visible in the distance with Joker's keyboard standing on one side. Deep blue curtains had been set up to create a small backstage area.

As he walked over he eyed the crowd, drinks and hors d'oeuvres in hand or talon, groups mixing and reforming as everyone greeted or introduced each other. It seemed the good doctor had friends of many races. A few dozen colorfully-dressed Asari chatted with white-clad Salarians and face-painted Turians in muted tunics. He saw a few enviro-suited Volus and even a Quarian standing with a trio of enormous Elcor. Humans circulated as well, most in Alliance navy but a few in civilian clothes. He hadn't expected such a crowd. The butterflies of excitement grew a little more frantic. Kaidan increased his pace and ducked behind the stage with relief.

He found Anderson already there and half-changed. “Quite a gathering out there,” he observed. Anderson grunted in agreement. It seemed Kaidan wasn't the only one intimidated by the size of their audience. As he pulled off his shirt Pressly stepped through the hanging cloth with a whistle.

Frustrating Fridays: Frustrations, Chapter 4

Blackmarsh proved to hold werewolves, Darkspawn, and a haunted air, indeed. Though the village had fallen to ruins the manor house remained, brooding and mist-hidden. We found Kristoff’s abandoned camp and then, unsurprisingly, his body.

It would have done my heart good to find one member of the Order who had Joined before the Blight. Every time a more-senior member of the order comes to Ferelden something horrific happens to him or her. All of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden died in the betrayal at Ostagar, Riordin fell to (or, more literally, from) the Archdemon, and the dozen who came from Orlais after the Blight ended were lost to The Architect’s machinations. I never had a chance to know any of them, outside of a few days’ travel with Duncan and three conversations with Riordin.

That Alistair and I persist in being the longest-term members of the Grey Wardens in the whole country strikes me as a cruel joke of the ancestors at this point. It had been so long since anyone had heard from Kristoff that I held little hope of finding him alive if he still remained in the bogs. Yet I had still clung to that wish that one time fate would have paused in conspiring against the Wardens here long enough to bring me this small bit of solace. I should have known better.

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 4

I asked Garrus to join us when we went to the Citadel. Thane and I had discussed strategy and agreed that having a third sniper was the best plan. If the worst happened one of us would take the shot to keep Kolyat from doing so. Garrus still had contacts in C-Sec, as well, and could help us find the boy in the first place.

No one outside of my team knew that Garrus had for a time been Archangel, vigilante extraordinaire, but I thought that the three of us had enough in common to make a formidable trio no matter who the contract target. My whole team had been trained to kill in one way or another but I thought we three were the most stable of the group. I should probably have found that frightening but having reliable firepower had repeatedly been critical to our success. These were my two closest friends, now, and I wanted to do this right for Thane.

We waltzed through security despite being heavily armed. My name and Garrus's connections eased the way. We stopped at Sergeant Bailey's desk just inside the checkpoint. I'd met him on my first stop here. I had been declared dead a couple of years earlier, probably because I had been, and Bailey had been thoughtful enough to notify the computers that I was not after all. He'd waived the red tape for me out of respect for my title and my history, which made him a weak point in the bureaucracy no matter how much I appreciated the help. He glanced up from his paperwork.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 2

Aveline and the Dragon

Varric has told this story in so many ways with so many embellishments that I find even my own memory wavering. Since I alone was involved in every step and helped make every decision along the way I feel obliged to set the record straight. It may be that no one will read this but at least I can remind myself that, Champion though I may have become, my experience in Kirkwall was not all glory and easy power. Yet there were moments when things came together perfectly or when magic blocked my path in ways so unbelievable that even Varric cannot convince people of the truth.

Once upon a time I lived in a little village in Ferelden. My father was an apostate mage and my mother a noblewoman from far away who had defied her wealthy family and run away to marry him. They’d put half of Thedas between themselves and her parents, settling in Lothering and raising three healthy, powerful children. My sister Bethany took after my father, both in dark-haired good looks and in talent, while her twin, Carver, was the ugly duckling just coming into adulthood. Perhaps in a few more years he’d have grown into that chin but he never got the chance.

My father was killed before we even got clear of our small farmhold near Lothering when the darkspawn horde, the one that should have been turned aside at Ostagar had that bastard Loghain not betrayed poor King Cailan, overran the countryside. It was a brown and struggling place even before the taint poisoned the land. We farmers worked hard and many of us were trained in weapon skills, trap making, and—secretly—in magic because the predators and vermin fought back and often were bigger than we were. But we had been proud of our whitewashed cottages and even had our own Chantry, humble though it had been.

Tidbit Tuesday: The Commander Takes a Shower, Part 3

NOTE: If you are under 18 or at work or otherwise uncomfortable with somewhat-explicit topics please do NOT read this.

With his eyes still dutifully shut, Kaidan spun and pressed me against the door. He kissed me deeply and suddenly I was glad for the trusty metal because my knees would no longer support me. I rarely thought of myself as a woman, no more than I did as a redhead or as tall. It was just another adjective to help people pick me out of a crowd. With Kaidan, though, I was aware of my body every moment and constantly reminded that those parts had much better uses than inconveniencing me when I was putting on my armor.

Kaidan's hands swept up my sides and I gasped, first with pleasure and then in pain as he encountered the inflamed scar across my ribs. He opened his eyes in concern but I shook my head and gently closed them again. I wanted him to love me as he remembered me, to be that same person. The last thing I was interested in at that moment was his sympathy. I pulled his head back down and kissed him hungrily. With a growl, he moved his hands to my breasts, stroking and tweaking with equal parts passion and tenderness. We were both panting by then. I ran my hands over him but kept encountering wet cloth instead of the skin I so desired to feel.

What Fenris Sings When Dancing in His Mansion

Whenever I see Zinoodle's chibi Fenris dancing around the entry to his mansion this is what I hear in my head. He’s in pain, I tell you, and he’s trying to dance Hawke out of his system because she’s been flirting madly with Anders since he ran away that fateful night when their rivalmance brought him to her. So he sings this to Ander at the top of his lungs and the neighbors pretend like they can’t hear a thing because, well, he’s killed more than one guy right outside their front doors.

I see you walkin’ Darktown with the girl I love and I’m like
Fuck you (oo oo ooo)
I guess one night in her mansion wasn’t enough so I’m like
Fuck you and fuck her, too
If my will was stiffer I’d still be with her
Now ain’t that some shit? (Ain’t that some shit?)
But though there’s pain in my chest I still wish her the best with a
Fuck you (oo oo ooo)

Double Monday - The Double, Chapter 3

Something Old, Something New

Aria, of course, was a power-mad freakazoid who honestly thought that her handful of armed guards could keep me from killing her and living to tell about it. I wasn’t about to disabuse her of that notion because she’d convinced most of the station to believe her delusions. That made her a valuable contact, at least in the short term. I could always take her out later if she kept telling me how important and amazing she was. That sort of thing got under my skin: nobody loves a braggart.

For all her bluster she didn’t hesitate to blab about the scientist and the other guy I was looking for, a turian vigilante that everyone called Archangel. A quick circuit of the bar revealed that Joker had stood me up so there was nothing for it but to head straight for our objectives.

Naturally, neither the good doctor nor Archangel could be reached directly. It seemed that a plague and a confederation of mercenaries stood in the way of my respective recruitment efforts. Since every mission I’ve undertaken since becoming Commander on the old Normandy had gone this way I was wasn’t in the least surprised. My only concern was taking the wonder twins into combat. If their style of dress was any indication Miranda and Jacob would probably shoot each other instead of the bad guys. I had to hope that the forces with which Jacob had trained hadn’t been the kind of special that involved remedial toilet training.

Swingin' Saturday: The Swing of Things, Chapter 3

The group ended up getting together every two or three days, each time pretending indifference but leaving with smiles on their faces. Chakwas had put together a fabulous set, upbeat tunes and fun songs all, classics sure to get toes tapping and hips moving. The mix of featured instruments allowed each of them to shine without anyone being overshadowed. They enjoyed showing off in the safety of their practice room, getting inventive with their solos and throwing in key and tempo changes to keep each other on their toes. Kaidan couldn’t remember a group with which he’d so quickly clicked. He hadn’t had a migraine since their second rehearsal and his staff had caught him humming in the halls on-duty more than once.

As Dr. Chakwas’s birthday drew near their nerves began to show, however. Everyone started making mistakes more frequently and Kaidan thought Jenkins might break down altogether when they met for a rehearsal the night before the party. “I’ve never played in front of strangers,” he confided afterward when he, Kaidan, and Anderson had stopped for a drink. “I mean, the families of my friends or the crew on-board, sure, but no one who wouldn’t have clapped no matter how badly I squeaked my reed.” He looked positively nauseous.

Frustrating Friday: Frustrations, Chapter 3

One Warden from the keep appears to have been absent during the attack into which I walked upon my arrival. Kristoff thus was not among the dead in The Architect’s terrifying pit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until recently that I tracked down someone who could tell me where he had gone. It seems he followed a lead into the Swamp of Despair or some such place and has not been seen since. Now that I’ve reestablished trade and wiped out the bandits who were terrorizing the streets I finally have time to pursue him.

It seems the Blackmarsh, as it is truly named, holds some special fascination for the people of Amaranthine. The village there was mysteriously abandoned years ago and I have found widespread superstition about the place. Nathaniel seems keen to go on this trip and so he, Ohgren, Anders, and I set off in the morning. I would have preferred to stay in the city of Amaranthine one more night rather than trek all of the way back to Vigil’s Keep, well out of our way, but Seneschal Verel sent word of some urgent matters that required my attention.

Along the way I asked Anders something I’d long wanted to know. He’d told me stories about his time hiding from the Templars on each escape and how nasty they were on the way back to the Circle tower each time. But I’d never inquired why he kept escaping in the first place. “I was a child like any other,” he told me. “My parents told me I could do anything and I believed them. Then I got hauled off to the tower.” He made a sour face. “Before my harrowing I understood the watching, the guarding. None of us had proven ourselves and we were a bunch of scared kids taken from home and locked up together. I hated it but I understood.” His eyes narrowed in anger. “But once I’d passed my harrowing and shown that I could resist the demons that the Chantry seems to think pursue us every moment nothing changed. Templars stared and kept their hand on the hilts of their swords as though I would burst into flames and tear out their throats at any second.”

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 3

As the days passed I avoided Thane as much as I could. I spent a great deal of time debating recruitment priorities with Miranda and Jacob, both of whom seemed to consider themselves my second in command and neither of whom I trusted as much as I did my hamster to decide what was best for the galaxy as a whole. They were too focused on Cerberus and on being right for their arguments to carry much weight. They would insist on buttonholing me in corridors to make them, however. If it wasn't an argument over who should be on my crew it was a plea from Mordin to find more resources or a message from The Illusive Man asking for another favor. Despite my attempts at planning a sensible route we ended up hop-scotching across the galaxy after all.

We stumbled over unanswered distress beacons and derelict ships often in the out-of-the-way corners we traveled. The salvage fees and reward money kept our enterprise afloat, for now. We must have enjoyed a fair amount of sympathy on the Citadel because the rewards for completing search and rescue missions seemed out of proportion with the actual rescuing that we did. Mostly what we found was a lot of dead bodies and an answer to the question of what had happened to them.

I suppose that these answers meant a great deal to the loved ones left behind but I doubted that the government generally paid so much for them. Joker must have been getting information on the last known vicinities for some of these ships because he never seemed surprised when we happened upon yet another in a system of which I'd never heard. Then again, little seemed to surprise my sarcastic pilot.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 1

A Shining Example

I first saw Sebastian Vael arguing at the chanter’s board. He had a stumbling, lilting accent like none I’d ever heard and piercing blue eyes that flashed as he insisted his point. And when the Grand Cleric tried to remove his request he almost pinned her hand to the board along with it, sending an arrow so quickly I hardly saw him draw the bow. I knew I had to have him.

I didn’t want him for myself, you understand. I was drawing together some people to help me effect a change in this most melancholy of cities, the former slave trade nexus, Kirkwall. Namely, that change involved me making a lot of money on an expedition to the Deep Roads with a dwarven crew so that I could move my family into some decent quarters. The altruistic, helping-my-fellow-man part came much later.

I’d fled Ferelden with hundreds of others, escaping the blight of darkspawn that was poisoning my home. Instead of welcoming and helping those of us who had already lost everything the citizens of Kirkwall had relegated my countrymen to slums and former slave pens. We were disdained and spat upon, treated like leeches, and hired for only the jobs that no resident wanted.

Tidbit Tuesday: The Commander Takes a Shower, Part 2

“Please, I need to talk to you,” came the voice again.

“Kaidan?” I called, trying to sound less hopeful and confused than I felt.

“Yeah,” he answered, sounding a little sheepish. Without pause, he launched into what sounded like a prepared speech. “I’ve been thinking about Horizon, and about us. I know I was over the top, that I never gave you a chance to explain anything. I was so shocked to see you standing there, despite all of the rumors that you hadn’t died. There you were, riding to my rescue again like nothing had happened and I was so angry that you could be so strong after being gone for two years. I’d just watched you solve the problem I’d been struggling with for weeks and then mop up the very creatures who’d left me lying on the ground, helpless. I felt like an ass and that’s how I reacted. I’m sorry.”

I was thankful that he couldn’t see me. Blood rushed to my face and tears spilled from my eyes. That he still felt deeply enough for me to find me this way, to put himself out so far in the hopes that I still loved him, moved me beyond words. I opened my mouth but couldn’t think of a thing to say. My silence must have made him doubt me, and he continued. “I’ve had some time to think about what you said and I realize now that you must have been as stunned as I was. I never thought about what you might have had to go through but now I understand that you might as well have been dead for most of that time, for all that you could have done. Cerberus held you prisoner, drugged unconscious almost the whole time and only let you go when the base was attacked.”

Double Monday - The Double, Chapter 2

The Love Boat

I was sad to discover that the catsuits concealed not throbbing libidos but a woman pissed at not being in a charge and a gung-ho, ex-military guy who’d apparently been very impressed with my past exploits.  That meant that they stuck their noses into my business constantly.  I had barely met the crew and toured the ship when they hauled me off to the briefing room to argue that we our first recruit should be a salarian scientist on the Omega station.  Since I agreed with them, I didn’t see the point of all of the convincing but saying “duh” every time one of them spoke would never earn me the respect I’d need to trick them into trusting me.  I held in all of the sighs and eye-rolling that they inspired until they’d had their say and then I headed over to see Joker.

He’d already told me that he’d left the Alliance because they had grounded him.  That made perfect sense to me because flying was Joker’s life.  He had Vrolek’s Syndrome which meant that his leg bones could barely hold him much less allow for things like running, dancing, and kick boxing.  He could have gone for a desk job but he was a pilot at heart and aced every test they’d set him. Knowing how impulsive he could be I hadn’t been too surprised to find him working for anyone who’d let him in a cockpit but Cerberus had sweetened the pot by telling him they had me and were going to bring me back to life.  I’d have thought the cynic would have asked when the flying pigs were going to dock in response.  He must have felt worse about getting me killed than I’d thought to buy that story, even if it did turn out to be true.

“What a pair of idiots!”  I stomped onto the bridge, the wry smile on Joker’s face enough to break my mood.  “Seriously, Joker, if they’d have just shut up and let me do my job we’d freakin’ be at Omega by now.  If these are supposed to be Cerberus elite…”

New Fanfic to Start Next Week

I’m not quite ready to start publishing The Champion’s Side, recounting femHawke’s version of the events of DA2, just yet but I’ve decided that I’m deep enough into it that I really will tell the story. It took me a long time to find the door to this one but I think I’ve finally settled on a plot arc.

In part it was so hard to settle on a Dragon Age 2 story to tell because the game kept taking these horrible left turns every time I thought I knew where I was going. I was blindsided by Anders, stunned by Sebastian’s response to our “romance”, and every time I thought Fenris might be starting to settle down I’d say something nice and he’d start screaming at me.

Isabela lied to me and betrayed me over and over again, Merrill refused to quit slitting her wrists for a mirror I knew would bring no good, and Aveline got mad when I brought her a present. The first two trips through the game were fascinating, yes, but frustrating in the extreme for the writer in me.

That's why I avoided spoilers, so that I could come at them all with fresh eyes. Now I’m on my fourth run and I believe I’ve got a pretty good handle on motivations and characters. Naturally I’m taking this one off into left field a bit, following the general arc of the DA2 story but embellishing it with explanations and conversations that the game lacked. And you already know how I feel about Fenris.

So next Wednesday I’ll start Sideline Wednesday with Chapter 1 of The Champion’s Side. I hope there are some surprises and entertainment in store for everyone. I just have to fix some spelling issues with these names...Petrice? Really? Dang.

Swingin' Saturday: The Swing of Things, Chapter 2

She was an older woman, in her late 50s but very fit. Her chin-length silver hair shone and she looked casually elegant in tan slacks and a navy blouse. “Dr. Chakwas,” Moreau exclaimed, still playing a counterpoint to the melody. “I told you I could find you a band.”

“Indeed you did, Jeffrey.” The doctor smiled. “However did you recruit them all?”

The music jangled to a stop. “Recruit?!” Jenkins spun to look at the others. “You mean we had a choice? I thought these were my orders!” Moreau's grin became decidedly shifty. Kaidan chuckled a little, despite a flicker of anger at the trick. He would have volunteered to join a jazz combo anyway but Moreau's message about the first rehearsal had seemed like an authentic assignment right down to the tone and return address. He'd have to watch the tricky keyboard player.

Frustrating Friday: Frustrations, Chapter 2

It seems the ancestors insist on my bringing an angry mage on my journeys. We did find much of interest regarding our Darkspawn dilemma but we also found a furious elf who went from trying to kill us all to becoming a Warden the better to join us in bringing down The Architect, as he calls himself.

Velanna has definitely proven herself adept in battle. I only hope that she does not harbor some secret agenda, like Morrigan, that will require so painful a decision. Thus far she seems focused solely on saving her sister. We encountered some of her clan mates and discovered that she had been exiled, much as I once had, but apparently she has no mythic mother that needs destroying. Her sister certainly does not seem able to turn into a dragon or crush us with a glance, though I fear she must be tainted and on her way to becoming a ghoul after so long in the company of the Darkspawn.

It turned out that Velanna had been the one terrorizing travelers along the trade route. She’d believed false evidence planted by the Darkspawn and thought that humans had kidnapped her sister and slaughtered her friends. Not only did the idea that Darkspawn could bait such a trap stun me but her inability to see through such a near-obvious ploy made me concerned. I’ve come since to believe that her guilt and grief that everyone else who had joined her in exile had died had made her easy to fool. Though curt and quite private she has shown intelligence enough to counter that first impression.