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Someone Like You, chapter 10

Title: Someone Like You, chapter 10
Rating: R for violence, implied adult situations, character deaths, language – big, gigantic spoilers for Human Noble Origin.
Summary: “For if faith will abide, love will survive to make the world right again” – Author Unknown
Note: This was done for ten_by_ten’s “quote” prompt, the quote in question is also doing double duty as this chapter’s summary. I paraphrased a lot of the in-game dialogue, or else I left out some of it completely or swapped around which character said what. This was also one of the hardest chapters to write, not only because action scenes and I go together like oil and water, but because I’ve grown to really like all these characters and ‘the end’ is always hard for me to write. There’s also an extended author’s note at the very end.


“My lady!”

Moira turned from the weapons stand and dusted her hands off on the skirt of her leather armor. It was still warm for an early fall afternoon and she had spent the majority of the time in the training circle with some of her father’s knights. “What is it, Alice?” she asked, watching as the maid picked her way through the dirt and gravel grounds, a bundle of papers in her hand.

“Two things, my lady,” she said, handing her an envelope.

Moira smiled. “It’s a letter from Nathaniel,” she said, noticing the wax seal on the envelope. “He hasn’t had a chance to write to me in months.” She had to actually stop herself from sitting down and reading, especially when she saw the way that Alice shifted from foot to foot. “What was the other thing?”

“Your father requested your presence in the Great Hall. Arl Howe and his men have finally arrived.”

Moira’s smile dimmed and she looked down at herself. She definitely didn’t have any time to change out of her training gear and she knew that her hair looked a mess. Carefully folding Nathaniel’s letter in half, she tucked it into her cuirass for later reading. She thanked the maid and made her way from the garrison towards the Great Hall, redoing the messy bun at the base of her head as best as she could and wiping the smudges of dirt off her hands along the way.

Moira’s father turned around just in time to see her enter the Hall through one of the side doors. “Ah, there you are, my dear.”

“Father.” Smiling warmly, she gave a low curtsey. “Arl Howe, it is always a pleasure to see you again.”

Rendon returned her smile. “As it is to see you. You’ve grown even lovelier since the last time I’ve visited.”

She looked down demurely. “Are Delilah and Thomas with you?”

“No, I left them at home in Amaranthine. They do send their regards though, Thomas in particular. He has grown quite fond of you; he often speaks of last spring’s faire in Denerim. You seem to have made quite the impression on him.”

Moira tilted her head, not really knowing what to say to that. “Thomas is a dear friend of mine. I’m so glad that he remembers time we spend together well.”

“Pup, I’ve asked that you come here for a reason,” Bryce said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “As you’re aware, your brother and I are to ride to Ostagar. Rendon’s main forces have been delayed a bit due to poor weather, but Fergus will be heading out tonight with our own soldiers as well as the contingent that’s here.”

“And when are you to leave?”

“Tomorrow morning. I’m only leaving a token force here in Highever, and they shall be under your command.”

Moira’s eyes widened. “Mine? But…”

“No buts.” His hand tightened on her shoulder. “My dear girl, out of all the people here, I trust you the most to take over while your brother and I are gone. Highever will be in good hands until I return, I am sure of it.”

She stood up straighter. “I will do my best then,” she said, swallowing hard.

Bryce smiled. “That’s what I like to hear. I’d like for you to find your brother and let him know of the change in plans, but before that, I have a guest that I would like to introduce you to.” He signaled to one of the attendants to show their guest in. “Pup, this is Duncan. You do recall who the Grey Wardens were from your studies, don’t you?”

It seemed that Duncan was to be their guest for a while as he went about Highever to look for Warden recruits. Moira mentioned Ser Gilmore’s name, but Duncan had looked at her thoughtfully and said that she herself would make a good candidate. Bryce had stepped in though, saying that it was bad enough that he was already offering his son to the fight, that he would rather his daughter stay out of it. Duncan had agreed, leaving Moira feeling slightly relieved for some reason. They chatted briefly before Moira bid them farewell.

She was in the middle of heading towards her room to change in to something a little more presentable when she ran into Ser Gilmore himself. He told her that her mother had sent him out to search for her; her Mabari had gotten into the kitchen larders yet again and Nan was in the middle of a grand fit. Moira winced, hoping that Quinn hadn’t gotten into the meat supply like he had the last time. Nan had given both her and her dog the cold shoulder after that incident, especially since Quinn had attacked the smoked sausages and dried beef before he had moved onto the ham. After calming Nan down a little, both she and Roland had gone into the larder, only to find Quinn bristling and growling at enormous rats.

“Giant rats! It’s like every beginning to the adventure stories my father used to tell me as a boy,” Roland exclaimed, curling his lip in distaste after they had finished dispatching the vermin.

Moira grimaced, wiping her dagger against the fur of one of the dead rodents. “I just wish it wasn’t this messy. Who would have thought that something this size would bleed so much?”

“Well, we can’t have you going to your mother in this condition, milady. She’d have a fit, especially since she’s touring the gardens with Lady Landra and her son.”

Moira groaned. “Maker, please tell me that she isn’t trying to shove her son at me again.”

Roland laughed. “You would think that you’d be pleased to have the undivided attentions of a young nobleman.”

She rolled her eyes. “Not this one. Besides, I do believe he and his mother’s lady-in-waiting have an on again, off again arrangement. I’ll be able to tell by how much he flirts with me what their status is.” She sighed, absently scratching behind Quinn’s ears. “Lady Landra is very kind and she’s one of Mother’s dearest friends, but I do wish that she’d get the hint that I’m not interested in Dairren.” The letter resting against her breast crinkled, and Moira wanted nothing more than a chance to sit alone and enjoy Nathaniel’s words. The two of them informed Nan as to what the commotion was and headed towards one of the servants’ bathing areas.

“I look a mess,” Moira moaned, wiping blood specks off her cheek with a damp cloth.

“At least you weren’t wearing a dress,” Roland offered, wiping off smears of blood from the back of her armor. “It would have been ruined otherwise.”

She snorted. “Trust me to be appropriately clothed for one thing and entirely inappropriate for another. I had to greet Arl Howe and our guest wearing this.”

He clucked his tongue. “Not quite the look that you were going for, was it?”

“Not at all. Did you know about the Grey Warden that’s going to be staying with us?”

Roland shrugged. “I had heard something, yes.”

“He’s looking for recruits. I mentioned your name.”

Roland looked at her, opened his mouth, and then shut it again. “I…thank you, my lady. I appreciate the effort, but I don’t think that I would like to become a Warden.”

“Why not? Becoming a Grey Warden is an honor; they only take the best, or so I’m told.”

“And you think I’m the best?”

“I know that you’re the best Highever has to offer.”

Roland smiled at her. “I’m pleased that you think so, but I’d rather spend my life guarding those that I hold dear. Highever is my home; there is no other place that I would rather be than here.” He held up his hand before she could protest. “I know, I know. Wardens protect all of Ferelden, so technically I would still be protecting Highever, but to me that isn’t the same thing. I made an oath to your father and I intend on keeping it.” Quirking an eyebrow, he leaned against the washbasin. “Sorry, but you’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

Moira laughed. “Oh, like I’d want to see you leave, Rory. You’re one of my best friends here. I just want the best for you. You’re such a good warrior; others should be able to see your talents as well.”

“If you’re so interested in speaking to this Duncan on my behalf, then why haven’t you said a word about joining yourself? If you think that I’d make a good Warden, I happen to think that you’d make a decent one as well.”

Her smile fell. “Father forbids it. Besides, I’m not certain that I would want to be one. I mean, if any more of Mother’s friends keep on throwing their sons at my feet, what’s to say that they would even want a Warden for a wife?” The thought had briefly crossed Moira’s mind, but then she remembered that she had the rest of her life planned out already. In her opinion, marriage to the man she loved and a future in Amaranthine outweighed becoming a Warden any day.

“If any more of your mother’s friends keep throwing their sons at your feet, I think I’d like front row seats to the temper tantrum that would be sure to follow.” He rolled up the cloth he had been using to wipe his own face and smacked her arm with it. “I’m sure that it would be entertaining.”

“Hey! I haven’t had a temper tantrum since I was a little girl!”

“Which means that you’re far overdue for one.”

She turned her nose up. “Ladies do not throw tantrums.”

He snorted. “Since when have you ever acted like a lady?”

Moira rolled her eyes. “On that note, I think I’m presentable enough to inform Mother that Quinn is out of the larder and that he’s quite sorry for causing such a scene.” She knelt down in front of her dog. “You are sorry for causing such a scene, aren’t you?” The tone she asked the question in was stern and Quinn lowered his head and gave an affirmative sounding whine, his ears flattening across his skull in a defeated manner.

“Then I shall see you later. Rumor has it that you’ll be taking command while your father and brother are away. Is that true?”

“It is.” She still couldn’t believe that her father would put such trust in her. She just hoped that she wouldn’t disappoint him.

“Then tell me, do acting Teyrnas still make their morning sparring matches, or are they too high and mighty to mingle in with the common folk?”

She shoved at his shoulder good-naturedly. “Acting Teyrnas are often seen in the sparring ring, but it’s a social faux pas to allow them to get their asses handed to them. Very unseemly for the knight who does it, I might add.”

“Perhaps if you practiced more with a shield instead of two blades then you’d be able to stand up to me better.”

Moira stuck her tongue out at him. “Perhaps if you’d let me win one of these times, then I’d consider it.”

“What’s the point of letting you win?”

“All these years and I still keep getting bruises in strange places whenever we fight.”

Roland steered her towards the door. “And as I keep on saying, you need to learn how to move faster! Now go see your mother before she sends out a search party. I shall see you tomorrow morning, bright and early. I like to get my ass kickings in before breakfast.”

Moira shook her head and whistled for Quinn to follow. The Mabari went a few paces ahead of her, his little stub of a tail wagging. “Keep out of places where you know you’re not supposed to go and I promise I’ll find you a nice, tasty ham bone. What do you say to that, Boy?”

Quinn tilted his head and barked. “I know, I know. You were just trying to protect the larder from those awful rats; and you did a good job at that, I might add, but could you at least get me or Rory instead next time? You know how Nan gets.” Moira stopped in her tracks when she heard her mother’s voice. “Maker, Dairren is with them. Okay Quinn, you know the rules: no barking, biting, or slobbering on our guests. I don’t care how much you don’t like him; we have to keep up appearances.”

Quinn let out a low growl. “Oh, don’t be like that,” Moira said, her tone exasperated. “Play nice and I promise you not only a ham bone, but a fresh length of rope first thing tomorrow. Do we have a deal?”

Quinn barked in reply and ran around his mistress. Moira smoothed the sides of her hair one last time before straightening her shoulders and taking a deep breath. Thankfully, the pleasantries that she had to endure were short; Lady Landra quickly excused herself for a nap before dinner and Dairren and Iona retired to the study.

“I worry about Father,” Moira confessed once she and her mother were alone.

Her mother’s brows drew together. “As do I, my darling. Bryce forgets that he isn’t what he once was when he last went to battle; his mind might still be as sharp as the day that I met him, but his body isn’t that of a young man, no matter how much he keeps up with his swordsmanship.”

“I wish that I could go with them.”

“And leave Highever alone? No, your place is here.”

Moira’s eyes flashed defiantly. “I’m as good with a blade as Fergus. I could…”

“I know how skilled you are. It is one of the reasons your father decided on putting you in charge while he was away.” Eleanor reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind her daughter’s ear. “You’re as strong mentally as you are physically. Our knights and the rest of Highever listen to you just as they would to your father. We need that sort of continuity to see us through until Bryce returns.”

“I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”

“My dear, you’ve never disappointed either of us before. You’ll do fine.” Eleanor gave her a wistful smile. “I love you very much. You know that, don’t you?”

“And I love you too.” On impulse, Moira stepped closer and gave her mother a hug. “Whatever brought this on?”

“I guess I’m in a sentimental mood. My babies are all grown up; Fergus joins your father in battle and you’re taking over the teyrnir. You’ll understand how I feel once you have children of your own. One minute they’re barely learning to crawl and the next they’re taller than you and living their own life.” She smoothed her hand over Moira’s hair. “It seems like just yesterday I was scolding you two for running about the castle in bare feet and being caked in mud.”

“That was yesterday. Oren and Fergus had just returned from playing in the woods.”

Eleanor laughed. “Fergus does so well with Oren. My grandson couldn’t wish for a better father.”

“Speaking of Fergus, do you happen to know where he’s at? Father wanted me to give him a message.”

“What was the message?”

“It seems as if we’re to have Father with us for one last night. The Arl’s men were detained. He wants Fergus to get a head start with our men and what few Arl Rendon brought with him.”

Eleanor frowned. “That seems odd. Did Rendon mention why they were detained?”

“He said that the roads are horrible between here and Amaranthine. He’d kept his forces working on fortifying his own borders too long and wound up getting caught in the poor weather. He said that they were only a day behind, so once they arrive, he and Father will lead them to Ostagar.”

Eleanor squeezed Moira’s hands. “You’d better let your brother know then. He should be up in his room, spending some last minute time with Oriana and Oren.”

Moira left her mother and went up to the family wing of the castle. She paused at the doorway to her brother’s room when she heard her sister-in-law sniffle.

“Dry your eyes, my love,” Fergus was quietly telling her, tilting his wife’s chin up so he could look her in the eye. “I’ll be home before you know it; this doesn’t sound like a true Blight, merely a small raid.”

“I’ll miss you,” Oriana said, smoothing her hands over his chest plate. “We’ve never been apart before.”

Fergus stroked the side of her cheek with the backs of his fingers. “I swear we won’t be apart for long. And who knows, I might find a pretty necklace or something else on my travels to bring back to you.”

She shook her head. “I’d rather have you back safe and sound than all the jewels in the world.”

“Will you bring me back a sword, Papa?” Oren piped up.

Fergus laughed and crouched down to his son’s eye level. “Of course. I’ll get the best sword I can find, just for you, my boy.”

“I want to go with you, Papa. I could carry your armor in camp.”

“No doubt you’d be the most capable squire I could have, but I need you to stay here at home.” He ruffled his son’s hair. “Mama needs you to be brave and strong and protect her while I’m gone. Can you do that?”

“I can! Will you beat a lot of dark…dark…”

“Darkspawn, Oren.”

“Yeah, those! Will you beat a lot of them for us?”

Fergus nodded and stood up. “I will beat a million of them, all for you.”

Oriana wrung her hands. “I worry about you, Fergus,” she said.

Moira decided to come to her brother’s rescue. “Don’t worry, Oriana; no darkspawn could ever defeat Fergus.” She wrapped her arms around her brother’s waist. “His skull’s far too thick for them to injure.”

“Ah, there’s the Moira that I know and love. I’ll miss you, little sister.”

“Father sends word that you’re to go without him and Arl Rendon. They shall catch up to you and our army tomorrow.”

Fergus groaned. “The Arl’s men are delayed again? You would think that they were walking backwards.”

“I wish that I could go with you.” Moira quirked an eyebrow. “Here you go again, leaving me behind while you go off an adventure. I’m almost jealous.”

“I wish you could go as well. It would be fun to fight side by side.”

Oriana shook her head. “In Antiva, a woman taking up arms is practically unheard of.”

Fergus raised an eyebrow, his expression mirroring his sister’s. “I don’t know, Love. I was under the impression that Antivan women were quite dangerous.”

“Only with kindness and poison, husband. We tend to leave the less subtle methods of aggression to the men.”

He grinned. “And here I’ve been letting you bring me tea for the past six years!”

Oriana smiled back in return. “Don’t worry, caro mio. We only poison the ones we don’t like.”

Fergus wrapped his arms around his wife. “Then I’m glad that I’m on the list of men that you do care for. At any rate, I wish that these darkspawn had better scheduling; think of me while you’re here warm and snug in the castle while I trudge around in freezing conditions.”

Oriana rolled her eyes. “I’m so pleased that you’ll be miserable. Just come back safely to us.”

“And with a sword! Auntie, will you teach me how to use one?”

Moira laughed. “You bet! Then we can both take on Ser Gilmore and the other knights.”

“There are times that I don’t know about your family, Fergus,” Oriana murmured, her head on her husband’s shoulder as she watched her son play with his aunt. “The next thing I know, I’m going to be raising a heathen while you’re away.”

“Oh, it’s not so bad. Look at the two of us; we ran about like hellions all the time and we turned out all right.” He sighed and bent his head to hers. “In all truthfulness, I am going to miss the both of you dearly. I don’t know how I’ll manage to sleep without you there at my side.”

Oriana took something out of her pocket and pressed it into Fergus’ palm. “Here, I wanted to give this to you before you left. It will keep you safe.”

“This is your locket. I can’t take it.”

“Yes you can. I had it enchanted with several protection spells. I’ll sleep better at night knowing that there was something I could do to help you while you’re away.”

Fergus thumbed open the catch and glanced down at the miniature portrait of his family inside. “Then I shall never take it off.” He slipped the chain over his head and tucked the pendant underneath his armor. “I love you. I’ll count the days until I can come back home.”

“Eeew, Papa! Kissing is awful!”

Fergus smirked, hugging Oriana tighter. “Don’t be so quick to judge, Son. One day you might not find it so repulsive.” He bent and scooped Oren up in one arm, landing a smacking kiss on his son’s cheek that caused Oren to fall into a fit of giggles. “Well, I’d best be off then. So many darkspawn to behead, so little time to do it in.”

Their parents came in a little while after, and as a family, Moira bid Fergus farewell. “Everything will be all right,” she said, holding onto Oriana’s hand.

Oriana leaned against her and wiped at her eyes with a handkerchief. “I hope that you’re right.”

***

“Tell me another story about the Black Fox,” Oren said, settling in his bed.

Moira put the book of stories away. She smoothed her hand fondly over the leather cover, remembering how she used to ask her own father for just one more story before bedtime when she had been a girl. “Not tonight. We all have a busy day tomorrow; you need your rest.” She tucked the covers in around Oren’s shoulders and ran her fingers through his hair. “Little knights-in-training must get a proper amount of sleep if they want to do well in the practice ring.”

“Are you really going to show me how to use a sword and a shield just like Papa does?”

“Maybe not just like your father. Don’t you want to learn how to use a sword and dagger instead?”

Oren shook his head. “No. I’ve been asking Ser Gilmore to teach me how to use a shield.”

Moira smirked. Ah, so now I understand what Rory was talking about when he said he was being pestered by someone even more persistent than me. “And what have you learned?”

“I learned that I can’t lift his shield.”

“Well, the thing is almost as big as you are. Truthfully, I can’t lift it either. It’s far too heavy.”

“But he and Papa make it look easy!”

“It might be easy for them, just like two blades are easier for me.”

“But only girls use two daggers.”

“Nathaniel isn’t a girl and he uses two daggers whenever he’s not using his bow.”

Oren frowned. “Who’s Nathaniel?”

“He’s a very special friend of mine. He’ll be coming home in a few years; you’ll be able to meet him then.” She stood up from her seat at his bedside. “I think you’ll like him.”

Oren made a face. “You look like Mama does whenever she looks at Papa. You don’t kiss this Nathaniel, do you?”

She laughed. “Your father was right; once you get a little older, you’ll understand what the big deal all this kissing stuff is.” Leaning over, she kissed her nephew’s forehead. “Good night, my sweet boy.”

“Auntie?”

“What is it?”

“What if the castle is attacked while Papa is away?”

Moira sat down on the edge of the bed. “Why would you think that?”

“I don’t know. Anything can happen. Dragons can come swoop down and burn us all up.”

Moira reached out and held onto Oren’s hand. “If dragons attack the castle, I will keep you safe.”

“Do you promise?”

“I’ll keep you safe no matter what, I promise. I’ll fight them all myself before I let them get you.” She smirked. “I’ll even let you keep a tooth or a claw from every dragon I kill, just to prove that I did.”

“I’d rather have dragon scales,” Oren said, yawning. “They’re shiny.”

Moira blew out the candle at the bedside. “Then you shall have all the dragon scales that I come across. Sleep well.”

She stood at his doorway for a while, watching as Oren rolled over onto his side. She left his door open just a little crack so that the torchlight from the hall would spill in and give his room a bit of illumination. At five, Oren was still in the phase where he was afraid of the dark, but he was gradually growing out of it.

Moira went to her own bedroom where she found Quinn already lounging on top of her bed, chewing happily at the new hank of rope that she had promised him. He gave her a cursory glance as she went behind her painted changing screen to get out of her dress from dinner and into a nightgown and robe before giving his new toy his full attention. She sat down at her vanity and ran a brush through her hair before plaiting it into a thick braid over her shoulder, eyeing the envelope she had put on her vanity earlier that evening. Finally alone, she worked her fingernail underneath the red blob of wax on the envelope until she broke the seal. She was about to start reading when someone tapped at her bedroom door.

“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” her father asked, cautiously poking his head in the doorway.

She put the letter aside. “No, of course not.”

He gestured towards the folded pages. “I see that young Nathaniel is still in the habit of writing you.”

“Yes. He hasn’t had a chance to write often, but I’m glad that he still keeps in touch.” She couldn’t help the way that her cheeks reddened. All this time, she’d never told her parents of her relationship with Nathaniel and it was eating at her to continue to omit certain truths from them. “It’s been several months since his last letter.”

“Rendon has spoken to me in great detail about his sons recently, Thomas in particular,” Bryce began. “Both of them are fine lads; a girl couldn’t find a better man to marry.”

“Thomas? Father, I love him as if he were the little brother I never had. I could never see him as someone I’d marry.”

Bryce sat at the foot of her bed, his hand scratching behind Quinn’s ears. “And what of Nathaniel? Do you love him the same way?”

“I…” she swallowed. “No, I don’t love Nathaniel as if he were a brother. Truthfully, I’ve never seen him as such.”

“But you do care for him, don’t you?”

She worried her bottom lip with her teeth. “I do, very much. He’s a dear friend of mine.” She turned in her chair until she was facing him. “What’s brought all this on, Father? You’ve never taken an interest in my suitors before.”

He shrugged. “There’s a large difference between holding my tongue and not taking an interest,” he said. “For example, I could have said a great deal of things tonight during dinner.”

Moira sighed and slumped in her seat. “I do wish that you would have. One more false compliment out of Dairren and I swear I was going to stab my dinner knife into my ears just so I wouldn’t have to hear anything else.”

“Back to the matter at hand,” Bryce said. “Besides being a friend of yours, do you think that you’d ever have romantic feelings for Nathaniel?”

Moira got up and went to go sit next to her father. “Why are you asking me this?”

“Darling, you’re twenty-four years of age and unmarried. Your mother and I have done the best that we can to fend off suitors who we know you wouldn’t be happy with as a husband, with the exception of Lady Landra’s son. That woman is tenacious to a fault and won’t take a hint either of us give.” He reached out and slung his arm over Moira’s shoulder, gently tugging until she was leaning against him. “There will come a time when we can’t fend off marriage arrangements any longer. Our family is friends with the Howes. Amaranthine is a prosperous arling, one where I hope that you’d be happy living in. Nathaniel is a fine young man and I’ve seen over the years what good companions the two of you are. He’s to return soon and I would like to take this opportunity while I’m together with his father to speak of an engagement contract between the two of you.”

Her heart felt like it would beat out of her chest. “How long have you thought of this?”

“Oh, for some time. Yet I won’t say a word to Rendon if you tell me now that you’re against this match.”

“No!” She cleared her throat. “I mean, I have thought of the possibility of being matched up with Nate once he comes back. I’ve thought of it often. And I do have very strong feelings for him.” Loving Nathaniel with all her heart was her definition of having strong feelings for him. “How can you be certain that Nathaniel will share the same sentiment?” She knew that he did, but she was aware that her father was in the dark when it came to their relationship.

“How can he not? You’re a beautiful, smart, capable woman. Any man would be lucky to have you.”

She giggled. “You’re biased.”

“That I may be, but I also speak the truth.” He hugged her and pressed a kiss against the crown of her hair. “I want only the best for you. Marriage is not something that should be entered into lightly, nor should it just be a political statement. Your mother and I were paired for similar reasons and I was fortunate enough that while we might have had an arranged marriage due to my standing as Teyrn, Eleanor and I were also a love match. There is no one else in this world that I could ever think of spending my life with other than your mother; I want you to have that same feeling with whomever you decide to marry.”

“You two have completely spoiled me when it comes to marriage. I’ve grown up watching you both and I don’t want to settle for anything less.” She snuggled closer to her father. “I think that it would be very easy for me to love Nathaniel and I hope that after all the years that we’ve spent together that he could say the same.”

“Then it would please you for me to speak with Rendon?”

She broke out into a brilliant smile. “Yes. It would please me greatly.”

“I know that we still have some time before Nathaniel comes home, but I’m going to miss you once you’re gone. In a way, I’m glad that you said yes; Amaranthine is only two days’ travel from here. We’ll be able to see you often.” Bryce pulled back a bit. “I love both you and your brother very much, but it’s no secret that fathers often care more for their daughters.”

Moira grinned. “Is that your subtle way of telling me that I’ve always been your favorite?”

He grinned back. “Don’t say a word to Fergus, but yes.”

“My lips are sealed. Do you really think that I can take over the teyrnir while you’re away?”

“I don’t see why not. You and Fergus have both been taught over the years what it takes to rule over Highever; I have the utmost confidence that not only will you do fine, but should something actually happen in my absence that you’ll be able to see to the matter in the same way that I would have.”

“Knowing the rules and acting them out are two entirely different things, Father.”

“Yet knowing how to run a teyrnir and knowing how to run an arling are exactly the same, just on a larger scale. Nathaniel is to eventually become Arl; he’ll need a strong Arlessa at his side. Think of this as practice. I remember our Nate having a level head on his shoulders. He would be wise to seek your counsel in certain affairs.”

“I’m going to miss you so much while you’re away,” Moira told him.

“Just as I’m going to miss you.”

“Make certain that you use liniment on your shield arm; you know how your shoulder aches after a good practice session. And change your socks often; with the way that the weather has been and all the walking that you’re bound to do in the south, you’re likely to develop blisters otherwise.”

Bryce laughed. “Now you’re starting to sound more like your mother.” He hugged her again. “I promise that I’ll keep my creaky joints well medicated, routinely change my socks, and eat at every meal. Does that make you happy?”

“Just return safely to us, Papa.”

He tapped the tip of her nose with his finger. “Moira, I do believe that’s the first time I’ve heard you call me that in years.”

“I must have caught the sentimental mood Mama’s been in.”

“Well, I had better let you get some rest. You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow, Pup.” He winked at her. “Since you’re back to calling me ‘Papa’, shall I tuck you into bed as I used to when you were a little girl? Are there any armoires that need checking for ghosts? While I’m here, should I look under your bed for monsters, ruffians, and the other sorts of villainy your imagination used to conjure up?”

“No, that’s quite all right,” she said, smiling up at him. “I think that I’ll stay up just a little while longer to read Nate’s letter, but then I’ll head to bed.”

“I have a few things I’d like to talk to Rendon about before turning in myself.” Bryce kissed her forehead. “Good night, then. I love you, my darling girl.”

Tears sprang up unexpectedly, making her throat tight. “I love you too. Good night.”

“Did you hear that, Quinn?” Moira asked, hopping up on her knees once she was certain that she was alone and her father was out of earshot. Quinn looked up at her questioningly but panted happily when she rubbed the sides of his face. “I’m to officially marry Nate! I can’t wait to tell him!” She jumped off the bed and spun on her toes to her vanity, not even bothering to smother the happy, girlish squeal that spilled from her lips. She was halfway tempted to put the letter aside for further reading, to write the news to him instead while it was still bubbling around inside of her, but she thought against it.

Dearest Moira, his letter read. Forgive my lapse in writing to you; I’ve been away these past months on a scouting mission on the borders of Antiva. There’s not much that I can openly report about, save that the weather was beautiful. I often caught myself wishing that you were there with me to experience the sun and sandy beaches. To think that fall is beginning to arrive and it still feels like a summer day! Once I return, we must visit the land. The language is strange and difficult to understand and many people are either assassins or involved with some political cell or another, but there is a fierce beauty there that takes one’s breath away.

“Perhaps we can go on our honeymoon,” she murmured, tracing his letters with her fingertips as her cheeks began to ache from smiling so wide.

How are things at home? You said in your last letter that your nephew is beginning to take an interest in the Black Fox. Now where have I heard that name before? Tell me, do you still run about the forest pretending to be him or has the tide turned and you’ve found yourself as Karolis instead? No doubt that whatever the role, Fergus is likely to wind up getting hit with a rock by either you or his son. Speaking of Fergus, even after all these years, I still can’t wrap my head around your brother being a father; it boggles the mind.

I have good news. In my last letter to you, I said that my commanding officer wasn’t certain that I’d be able to leave when I was originally scheduled to, that he was contemplating on lengthening our stays for several years. My group wound up completing a task – again, I wish that I could explain further, but I don’t trust the mail – that would have taken us into those years and we are back on schedule. This means that I’ll only have two more years to serve before I can come home for good. Twenty-four months makes it sound even closer. As soon as I step foot back in Amaranthine’s harbor, I intend on heading straight to Highever that same day. I can’t wait to see you.

I think of you often. I had to stop myself from purchasing a vial of perfume the other day based on the fact that it was similar to what I remember you wearing. I miss hearing the sound of your voice, I miss seeing you smile. Rose, the tavern owner’s wife that I’ve written to you about before, calls me a lovesick mooncalf when she catches me daydreaming. She assures me that she’s the only one aware of my condition and that she finds it quite comical that thoughts of you are the only things that can crack my usual behavior.

I can’t wait for the day when we’ll finally be together. After so long away, I swear that nothing will ever keep us apart again. I love you.

Yours always,

Nathaniel


Moira wiped at her face with her fingers, catching a sentimental tear that had slipped past her eye. “Oh, love. I can’t wait to see you again either,” she breathed, holding his letter close to her chest. She blew out her candle and climbed into bed. As was her habit whenever she received new word from the Free Marches, she folded up the letter and placed the square of paper inside her breast binding so that Nathaniel’s words could be that much closer to her heart while she slept. Sighing contentedly, she hugged the spare pillow, wishing for the millionth time that it was Nathaniel she was holding.

***

Moira’s eyes snapped open at the sound of Quinn growling next to her. He normally slept curled up behind her knees with his head on top of her hip, but he was sitting at full alert and staring at the door. “Quinn?” she whispered, “what’s wrong?” Her dog didn’t pay her any attention, his eyes focused at the closed entryway.

Fully awake now, Moira could make out what sounded like battle sounds coming from the courtyard below her bedroom. She stifled a scream when she heard pounding at her door, Quinn leaping from the bed to stand directly between whatever was on the other side and his mistress. Grabbing the dagger she always kept at her bedside, Moira rolled off the mattress and scuttled underneath the bed’s frame. The heavy fringe from the edge of her coverlet slid down with her, hiding her position from whoever was intruding.

“The castle is under attack!” she heard one of the servants scream as the door finally burst open. Moira put a hand to her mouth when she saw the man fall to his knees, an arrow protruding from his back. Quinn leapt over the body, snarling as he attacked someone in the hall.

“Damn bastard mutt will keep the lot out there busy,” someone was saying, the bedroom door shutting. Moira heard the sound of her lock engaging and her hands began to sweat as she held her dagger tightly. She could see the feet of her weapon stand from her spot and she wished that she had thought to grab her sword.

Two sets of boots rounded the bed. “She ain’t here,” one set said, his feet tapping impatiently.

“Where else could she be? The rest of the castle has already been taken,” the second set told the first.

Set One sounded angry. “We could be lootin’ the good jewelry and silver like the rest instead of playin’ seek an’ find with some spoiled brat.”

“But I want to have a bit of fun with her,” Set Two argued. Moira finally placed the voices as the two guards from Amaranthine that she had spoken to in the Great Hall. She didn’t think it was possible, but her eyes grew even wider. Why would Howe’s men attack the castle? “I want that sweet piece of ass underneath me before I go and slit her throat. I want her to scream for me just like that Antivan whore did.”

Moira lay perfectly still, her eyes narrowing. She waited, listening as the second guard opened and closed her armoire, shoving her clothes aside. The first guard could be heard rifling through her jewelry box, exclaiming about how much each piece would sell for. She knew that it was only a matter of time before the second guard looked under her bed, and with a silent prayer to the Maker for strength as the guard’s boots came within striking distance, she lashed out. Moira personally sharpened each and every one of her knives as a rule, keeping them all razor sharp. Her dagger went through the leather of the guard’s boot and sliced through the tendon at the back of his ankle. He let out a pained shriek, his body hitting the ground with a heavy thud. He crawled a little bit away, inadvertently bringing himself face to face with Moira. He had enough time to open his mouth before Moira plunged her dagger directly into his eye. He twitched once, then went still.

“Oi, you. What do you think…” The man didn’t even stand a chance. Moira grabbed the fallen guard’s sword out of his slack hands and rolled out from underneath the opposite side of the bed. Earrings and strings of necklaces spilled out of the guard’s hands as he fumbled for his own weapon. Moira charged at him; her dagger sliced at his right arm and she put all her momentum into ramming the sword in her right hand underneath the well padded portion of his armor and through to the other side. She stood there on shaking legs and felt the man’s blood soak into her nightgown. Gagging, she tore the offending piece off and hurriedly threw on the training armor she kept on a stand next to her weapon rack as well as a pair of boots.

“What’s going on?” Eleanor said, rushing into the shared hallway, a bow in her hands. “Are you all right?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Moira told her, taking in the scene before her. Quinn had mauled at least two of the guards. Another lay there with arrows sticking out of his chest. “These are Howe’s men.”

Eleanor’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “That traitorous bastard. He meant to attack when we were at our weakest! His troops were held up by the weather, my foot. I’ll cut his lying tongue out myself!”

“Have you seen Father? We need to get everyone out of here!”

“He never came to bed.” Her mother’s hand flew to her mouth. “You don’t think that…” She shook her head. “No, I don’t want to think that. Come on, we need to get Oren and Oriana before we go look for him.”

Oren’s bedroom was Moira’s first priority. She kicked the door open all the way, holding her blades out at the ready. Quinn ran in before her, sniffing everywhere while Eleanor stayed outside to guard the hallway. “He must have gone to his mother’s room,” Moira said, once she and Quinn both looked in every area of the room that a little boy might hide himself in. Then she thought back to the first guard’s words. “Oh Maker, please let her be alive.”

They nearly tripped over the body of a Howe guard sprawled in the doorway. The room was completely dark save for the moonlight that came in from the windows and Moira closed her eyes as she caught what lay on the bed. “I’m so sorry,” she said, gently smoothing Oriana’s dress back in order from where it had been rudely bunched up at her hips. Tears made her vision blurry as she passed her fingers over her sister-in-law’s eyes, erasing some of the fear that was frozen on her face. There was a dark stain of blood underneath her head from where the guard Moira had killed had slit Oriana’s throat.

“Auntie?” Moira whirled around at the sound of Oren’s voice. She’d passed over him at first, the shadows next to the bed making his little body look like a pile of rumpled fabric. “Is that you?”

Moira fell to her knees beside him. “My little Oren,” she whispered, gathering him up in her arms. She winced when he made a pained noise as she moved him to where she could see his injuries better.

“Have the dragons come?” he asked, his voice sounding very faint.

“No, my love. Just men. Very, very bad men.”

The blood that was already seeping underneath her fingerless gloves was starting to cool. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t brave or strong enough.”

“No, sweetheart. You’re my brave boy, you know that.” In the moonlight, Moira could see the light in Oren’s eyes start to dim. Her fingers felt the clean edge of the stab wound on his chest and the ragged tear at the back of his tunic.

“Auntie, it hurts,” he said, his voice shaking as he started to cry. “I want my mama.”

She could tell that he was fading fast. “I’m here,” she whispered, tears making her voice thick as she spoke to him in Antivan like his mother often did. “Don’t cry, my love. Everything will be fine.” She ran the backs of her fingers over his cold cheek and hummed one of Oriana’s favorite lullabies she would sing to him when he had nightmares. Her shoulders shook and she let out a loud sob when she felt Oren’s breath puff against her knuckles. He smiled up at her once, and then went still.

The sound of her mother weeping in the doorway made her turn. “Howe will pay for this,” Moira said between clenched teeth. Red clouded her vision and she stood up to place her nephew on the bed next to his mother. She kissed Oren’s forehead one last time, horrified when she realized that her fingers had left bloody marks over his pale cheeks. Eleanor softly closed the door behind them, her back straight and her eyes showing a steely resolve that gave Moira enough strength to go on.

Fire had erupted in the outer corridors, archways that would have led them straight to the castle gates collapsing and forcing the three of them to take the long way around. Servants were either dead or running for their lives. Everywhere they went, they encountered a great number of Howe’s men. The small amount of guards that Fergus hadn’t already taken with him was clearly outnumbered, but it didn’t stop them from defending the castle as best as they could. Moira bit back the urge to vomit as she cut down one soldier after another. This was completely different than what she had spent twelve years of her life training for. The closest thing to a person that she had ever put her sword through were the practice dummies that lined the garrison training hall and while her instructors had taught her how to defend herself well, none of them had actually meant to hack off her arms or run her through. She said a silent prayer of thanks to Roland for urging her to learn to move quickly, her agility enabling her to dodge the majority of the blows she faced and give her enough time to sneak behind several guards in order to stab them in the back. She even employed a few dirty fighting techniques she had picked up from the boys in the stables, stunning men and giving her an opportunity to attack that she probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. She and Quinn were able to wade into the main part of the fray while her mother watched her back, picking off enemies at a safe distance. The smoke from various other fires made Moira’s eyes sting and she could tell that she was going to need to find a place to safely catch her breath pretty soon.

“Wait, we’ll hide in the treasury for now,” Eleanor said, unlocking the door with a key she kept around her neck. “The Cousland family blade and shield are here; I don’t want Howe to get his filthy hands on either.” They made their way inside the treasury where Moira exchanged her training armor for a more durable suit made out of leather and chainmail. Now that there was enough time for adrenaline to wear off, she could feel the burning marks along her legs and arms where she hadn’t been quick enough to completely dodge a blow.

“Take this, darling,” Eleanor said, handing her a sword and scabbard. “This blade has been in the family for generations. It should be used to cut that murderous fiend’s head off his shoulders.” Surprisingly, the shield wasn’t as heavy as Moira thought it might be. She slung it over her back for safekeeping, finding out that she was still able to move both of her arms freely. The shield also served a dual purpose – while it was on her back, it protected her from any errant blows that she might have otherwise gotten hit with. Better armed, the three of them, along with several Highever guards that they had come across, made it towards the Great Hall.

“Thank the Maker you two are safe!” Roland said after they had encountered a number of men already fighting. Moira had been busy taking down a mage – Moira thought it highly hypocritical of Rendon to employ one after years of listening to the Arl loudly voice his disdain for the Circle – who had seemed to be hell bent on striking Roland with lightning. It had felt extremely satisfying to cut her down, especially after having to dodge a fireball the woman had lobbed her way. The smell of burnt hair told Moira that her braid hadn’t fared well, but she was past caring about that at this point.

“Have you seen my father?” Moira asked, limping over to him. Her calf was screaming in agony where a Howe archer had grazed her with his arrow.

“I have. He was badly hurt and making his way towards the kitchens.” He wiped at his brow to keep blood from trickling into his eye.

Eleanor drew a sharp breath. “He must be headed towards the servant’s exit in the larder. We must find him.”

Moira pulled on Roland’s arm. “Come with us,” she pleaded.

Ser Gilmore shook his head. “I gave an oath. Staying here is the only way I can protect your family now.”

She shook her head, realizing what he was planning on doing. “You’ll protect us far better if you’re with us!”

“No, my lady. The Hall’s doors will not hold for very long. There is but one way to the kitchens now; the fire has cut other paths off, so you should be relatively safe from Howe’s forces. If this door fails, then you won’t be safe for very long.”

Moira jumped when the door shook, the braces that the other guards were holding up beginning to buckle. “Don’t do this.”

“You and your mother need to get out of here before it’s too late.” He took Moira by the elbow and led her towards the door where Eleanor and Quinn were already waiting.

She dug her heels in, holding onto his hand until her knuckles went white. “Rory, please.”

The grim set of Roland’s mouth told her that he knew the chances of him surviving this attack were slim to none. “You’ve always been one of my closest friends. This is the last thing that I can do for your family, and I intend on doing it well.” He gave her one of his smiles, the kind of smirk that had always signaled brewing mischief back when they had been children. “As I said earlier, I like to get all my ass kickings in before breakfast.”

She threw her arms around his neck and squeezed. “I’ll never forget you,” she whispered, kissing his cheek.

“Nor I you. Remember: move quickly and protect your flank. The real reason I always bested you is because your left side is weak. Now go!”

Moira ran out the doorway, listening as Roland threw benches and tables that hadn’t been used to bar the main door on the other side. “Maker watch over you, my friend,” she whispered, drawing her blades when she heard the sound of people approaching from ahead. Between the three of them, they were easily dispatched. Moira’s ribs ached from where she had taken a hammer blow from a man wearing the armor of Rendon’s personal knights, but she had won, striking him with three fast, consecutive blows and then pivoting, the Cousland blade lopping off his head.

“Oh, Nan,” Eleanor murmured, crouching down to put her hand against Moira’s former nanny’s throat to check for a pulse. Moonlight shone off the arrow shaft protruding from Nan’s chest as well as the wicked looking fillet knife still clutched in her hand. The end of the blade was bright red, and there was a Howe soldier lying next to her, his hand toppling over the basket of potatoes nearby. “At least you took some of them down with you.”

Moira shoved the door closed and barred it with a table and a heavy barrel of grain. Quinn was already pawing at the door to the larder, whining in distress. It was dark, which was why Eleanor hadn’t seen the dragging bloodstain, catching herself with the doorframe as she slipped before she pitched face first on the ground. “There you two are,” Bryce wheezed. There was even less light in the larder, but Moira could still make out her father’s figure as he lay there amongst the pantry staples, a dark and growing puddle of blood collecting underneath him.

“Bryce!” Eleanor cried, running to her husband’s side. Her hands fluttered over his body, almost as if she weren’t sure where to touch to staunch the bleeding first. “Maker’s breath, what has happened?”

“Howe and his men. I hadn’t expected…” Bryce coughed, blood spilling from his mouth.

“We have to get you out of here!” Moira said, prying at the panel hiding the back exit.

“I don’t think I would survive the standing,” her father told her, shuddering as he tried to push himself up on his elbow.

“Bryce, no. We’ll find you healing magic. Things will be fine.” Eleanor was crying in earnest now, her hands cupping the sides of his face.

“If only you could make it so.” He grimaced again.

“If you can’t walk, then we’ll have to drag you,” Moira told him, throwing goods out of her way as she looked about the larder for something to pull her father on.

“Only if you’re willing to leave pieces of me behind.”

Eleanor frowned. “This is not the time for jokes.”

“You’re right. Howe’s men haven’t found this exit yet. You and Moira need to leave me behind.”

“He’s correct,” Duncan said, appearing in the doorway. Blood marred his clothing. “This exit has yet to be discovered. We’re going to need to leave soon before that changes.”

“How did you get here?” Moira looked up from where she was cutting pieces of burlap into makeshift bandages. “The Hall’s door was barred.”

“They have broken through.” He caught the horrified look that Moira gave him. “I am sorry.”

“Duncan, I beg you. Take my wife and daughter to safety.”

“I will. In return, I will need something from you.”

“Anything.”

“I came to Highever seeking a recruit.”

Bryce glanced at Moira and nodded. “I understand.”

She recoiled. “What? No! My place is with you two!”

“You fought your way though Howe’s soldiers. I’m looking for someone of the same caliber to join the Wardens.”

Eleanor looked at her husband. “Bryce, are you sure?” she asked, running her fingers over his cheek. He nodded. “Darling,” she told Moira. “Go with Duncan. The two of you will be faster without me and I can buy you some time.”

“Mother, no!”

“Please, Moira, do as I say.”

“Eleanor…”

“I’ll kill every one of those bastards that come through that door, but I refuse to abandon you, Bryce.”

Moira knelt beside her parents. “Don’t ask me to leave you behind,” she begged, holding onto their hands. “I can’t. I…”

“You must live, Pup,” Bryce told her. He shook as he slipped two rings off his fingers. “He may get the castle and the land, but I will be damned if Rendon gets that which means the most to me. You must find Fergus and tell him that he is Teyrn now.”

“Papa…” The rings were familiar to her. One was her father’s wedding band, the other his signet ring that bore the Cousland crest. “I will. I swear to you, I will get vengeance for this.”

Bryce nodded, his eyes closing. Moira held her breath, fearing that he had died from blood loss. “Vengeance…”

“I love you both, so very much,” Moira whispered, hugging her mother.

“Then live, my darling girl. Make your mark on the world.” She pressed her own wedding band against Moira’s palm. “They belong together. I want you to have them.”

“We need to leave now,” Duncan said, opening the back door wider. Sounds of soldiers were coming closer.

“Moira,” Bryce called out right before she slipped out the door. “Don’t let him win. You are a good, decent person. Don’t let anger poison you. Don’t let Rendon destroy that part of you.”

Moira nodded, not knowing what else to say. She followed Duncan into the door and turned to close it. Right before she did, she caught one last glimpse of her parents that would be forever burned into her memory.

“I love you, Bryce,” Eleanor said, standing over her husband, her bow drawn and aimed at the larder door.

“And I love you. Always.”

***

Moira and Quinn ran alongside of Duncan through the forests surrounding the castle and away from the city. Every tree was familiar to her from her childhood days of running barefoot under the leaves, pretending to be all sorts of things. Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined that she would be fleeing from her home, having left her parents to die.

“We’ve broken past where they might find us,” Duncan said. “We can rest for a moment, my lady.”

Moira stared at the flames coming from the castle. “There’s a stream nearby,” she told him quietly. “If you’re injured, we can see to your wounds there.”

“Are you hurt, my lady?”

“In a few places, but nothing that a potion or two can’t cure.” She had thought to snatch any potions and healing poultices that she had found during their escape, just in case they would need them. Why hadn’t I thought to give them to Father? The answer made her waver on weary legs. Because you knew as well as he did that your meager supplies wouldn’t have been enough to save him. Quinn followed close beside Moira as she made her way to the water’s edge. Kneeling, she scrubbed at her hands, thankful that while the full moon gave them plenty of light to make their way through the forest that it wasn’t enough for her to make out the way that the blood on her hands clouded the water.

Quinn whined near her ear, his tongue licking the side of her face in an attempt to help with the cleanup. Her throat tightened, but still, no tears fell. It shocked her; after everything that had happened that night, it seemed as if she had left her tears in the room with her sister-in-law and nephew.

The stench of burnt hair was more than she could stand. Taking her dagger out, she grabbed one end of her long braid and sawed away until she was left with a rope of hair in her left hand. It felt so strange to feel her hair end almost above her shoulders after having it so long for years. She quickly braided up the sides in an attempt to keep her view clear, knotting the ends at the back of her head together to keep it in place.

A jab at her breast made her fish around to investigate what had poked her. Her breath stuttered out when she pulled Nathaniel’s letter, folded and forgotten, out from underneath her armor. She stared at the words in the gloom before folding it back up the way it had been.

I should be crying, she thought numbly. I should be feeling something. She guessed that she was in shock. She didn’t feel anything; no sorrow, no fear, not even the burning anger that had consumed her and fueled her attacks during their escape. She had half a mind to drop Nathaniel’s letter into the stream along with her hair, which was currently floating down with the current. It seemed as if the girl he had written to had died alongside her family there in the castle and Moira was nothing but an empty shell. Letting the letter float away almost seemed poetic at the time, but she stopped herself before she could let go. She pressed her lips against the folded pages and slipped them back underneath her armor. Everything she had once known had been taken away from her in less than an hour. All she had left of her past was a sword, a shield, her parent’s wedding rings and the signet ring she would eventually give to Fergus. If anything, she wanted to cling onto Nathaniel for as long as she possibly could.

“I am going to kill your father, Nate,” she said quietly, her voice flat and emotionless. “How did things ever come to this?” Several hours ago, she had been rejoicing at the thought of finally being able to publicly say that she was betrothed to the man she loved. Now she was plotting his father’s death as repayment for the crimes committed against her family. Even if by some miracle she did manage to avenge her parents and survive, what then? Surely Nathaniel wouldn’t want anything to do with her. She curled her hands into fists and closed her eyes tightly. Rendon Howe had found a way to take everything away from her. Her world had been turned on its ear and she was helpless as to what to do next.

She took a deep breath and stood up. Digging into the sack she had tied to her belt, she pulled out two health potions and gulped down the contents, feeling the burning paths on her arms and legs vanish. The pain at her calf had lessened to a dull throb. It wasn’t completely healed, but it would do for now. At least it would make travel easier. “You are going to go Ostagar with Duncan,” she told herself. “You will find Fergus and tell him what has happened, then the two of you will see Rendon brought to justice. Things will never be the same, but you will make them right again.” Straightening her spine, she walked back to where Duncan was sitting. She had to make things right.

She was a Cousland, after all.

-end

Author’s Note: And we’re done with this one! I want to thank everyone who took the time to read my story; this has been one of the most enjoyable things that I’ve written in a really long while. I’m planning on doing some minor editing A Rush to the Start to incorporate little bits of Nathaniel and Moira’s past that came up in this story as well as fixing some grammar and punctuation that have been bugging me for a while. After that, I’ll more than likely be looking at this story again to do the same types of edits after I’ve let it sit for a while. I am planning on writing at least one last in-game story involving these characters that will tie this story and its sequel together, but that won’t be until November for National Novel Writing Month. Thanks again!

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
phoenixblaze
Oct. 2nd, 2010 07:14 am (UTC)
Man, I've played the Cousland origin so many times, and you still managed to make it more heartbreaking. Oren dying in Moira's arms was an amazing touch. And I love seeing her reactions to Rory and Duncan, and finding Nate's letter again after.

I love the way you write these guys. When I play through Awakenings I keep wanting Nate to say things you've written. XD
iceprincessd
Oct. 2nd, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)
This was tough to write. Usually I get a chapter done in about 2-3 days, but this one took the entire week. I kept on skipping around the attack scenes until I couldn't skip any more. :(
annikainen
Oct. 2nd, 2010 10:46 am (UTC)
Oh dear. *wipes away tears and blows her nose* Realistically, I knew I'd be blubbering at the end of this, but man did you make it hurt. Also, as appalling as it is what those Howe soldiers did, it made the story less of a fairytale and more piece of what really would have happened.

I'm really bad at giving any proper feedback when I'm still all wibbly, but the way you write is incredible. And you had me crying all the way from Oren to the end. :´( I will be interested to see what you come up with in November!
iceprincessd
Oct. 2nd, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I do have something a lot more lighthearted in mind planned out for Nate and Moira in the meantime that I'll probably post soonish.

I'm planning on doing my Blight playthrough for November, so expect a healthy dose of our favorite Antivan assassin. I took him everywhere I went in-game. XD
annikainen
Oct. 3rd, 2010 05:06 am (UTC)
Yay! As usual, can't wait :D You've easily made the top of my favourite writers ever. And that's counting in published ones. Lady, you should really publish something! (Then you'll tell me that you actually have and I just didn't know?) :D
arysani
Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
Oh damn. I should've expected this chapter would make me tear up.

I love the letter - it's not shmoopy, just...content, confident in the affection the writer and reader share so there's no reason to be shmoopy.

Now, clearly, I'll have to re-read "Rush". It's quickly becoming personal canon since I think there are few fics I've re-read more than once :o)
iceprincessd
Oct. 2nd, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
Nate didn't want to get too sentimental when he wrote. His buddies were probably looking over his shoulder and teasing already. ;)
reconnoiterer
Oct. 2nd, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
This is such a great tie-off into the game and your other fic! I'm more than a little sad there won't be any more of it to read.

After having read so much about Nate and Moira's history, and the backstory of everyone else, it makes the Origin-story events all the more heartbreaking. It's not just a bunch of random people you've never even really heard of in a place you aren't really familiar with - now there's all this actual (instead of implied) history between the families and all of the happy memories of Castle Cousland... so sadddddddddd sobsobsobsob! Now I should really go back and read your other fic to relive all of the prison-cell meeting angst.

I liked her quiet little moment by the river and her dual reaction of still caring for Nathaniel and this new, deep set hatred for his father. Perfect for what's going to happen later on! I'm not sure if my f!Cousland would have had the same reaction - I think she might have had more of a 'and if you knew anything about this I'm going to have to kill you too' moment.

And also - tanned, roguish Nathaniel all hardbodied from those scouting missions... what are you trying to do to me?!
iceprincessd
Oct. 2nd, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
First, tanned, roguish Nathaniel all hardbodied....hmmmmmmm Now that's a thought. *grin*

now there's all this actual (instead of implied) history between the families and all of the happy memories of Castle Cousland... so sadddddddddd sobsobsobsob!

Exactly! I wound up getting all sniffly while playing the Origin portion just to refresh my memory because I've fallen for all these characters and I didn't want anything to happen to them.

Prison-cell reunion angst is more than likely going to get a rehaul. When I started that story, I hadn't really developed their backstory at all and now I want to embellish and add a lot more to it. I've got an entire month to edit, because I'm spending all of November writing the next bit that's going to be mostly Moira + Alistair = BFF with a big hint of Moira/Nate in the background.

And I also want to write something for that "Girl Saves Boy" ficathon that I compltely missed sign-ups for sometime this month. Zevran might make an appearance just because. :)
silksieve
Oct. 4th, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
I'm sad this is the end, too!! You have written an incredible (and realistic imho) Cousland/Nathaniel pairing. Awesome Cousland and AMAZING Nathaniel depictions, too! :D Looking forward to your redux reunion and game-time story! (Love f!Warden + Alistair BFF stories. :)
silksieve
Oct. 4th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)
Ha, and totally didn't comment on this chapter, which was fabu. I love watching Fergus the Family Man and the attack scene was heartbreaking.
bossy_muses
Nov. 13th, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! (sorry for not replying earlier!) I have everything edited and ready to be posted for this story and A Rush to the Start, and the in-game story is written enough that I can start posting some if it too.

Papa!Fergus tugs at my heartstrings. I love him to pieces.
kaispan
Nov. 18th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
I just started reading this---and ended up tearing through the whole thing in one sitting, so sorry I didn't comment on each individual chapter; I couldn't stop!! xD I really love how you brought these characters to life and you did such a great job of progressing their relationship over time... it was really just lovely and emotional and I'm very glad you've continued following Moira's character arc through Awakenings--I can't wait to see what happens! Really a wonderful story. <3
iceprincessd
Nov. 21st, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
liltxangel83
Nov. 28th, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
*le sigh* I'll never be able to look at the Human Noble Origin story the same again lol

“And what have you learned?”
“I learned that I can’t lift his shield.”

This made me chuckle! So adorable, the relationship between Moira and Oren, which of course made his death all the more unbearable. :(

Now I'm off to read the other two stories... can't get enough lol
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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