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A Life Most Ordinary And Wonderful [Closed]

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
99
#1
((Justinian 5, 9:38; Afternoon, Denerim Marketplace; Nicolette O'Hara ))

Alistair still found himself testing reality at odd moments: waking up in his own bed, walking in the gardens with Constance, reading to the children at night. A quick, surreptitious pinch of the tender skin on the underside of his forearm, a brief jab of pain, and he would relax with a sigh of relief. Constance knew what it meant; he had told her everything that had happened, and her blue eyes would watch him calmly and with no hint of censure, her hand squeezing his lightly … or occasionally giving him a pinch of her own elsewhere if they were alone, the shock of it and her faintly teasing smile further proof that he was awake and home, thank the Maker.

What dream might Titus have used to ensnare Constance? He didn’t ask. Even with the friendship and affection that had grown between them, he harbored no illusions of being the love of her life, but it was enough when combined with the awareness that she had indeed become every bit the queen she had hoped she would be when he had proposed. The queen that Ferelden - and he - had needed far more than any romantic fancy.

She had deftly maintained order while he’d been gone, enough of the palace staff knowing just enough to help her reinforce the fictions that she used to explain his absence: he was ill, busy elsewhere in the palace, traveling in Ferelden, traveling abroad. By the end of the six weeks that he’d been gone, the excuses had begun to wear thin and the rumors had begun to swirl, and him showing back up gaunt and shaggy probably hadn’t helped, but he was alive and after the doubters had determined that he was in his right mind, they had accepted his return. They’d been less accepting of his refusal to disclose where he’d been and what he’d been doing, but he had not given them any choices in the matter. Constance knew the whole truth, and he would tell Teagan, once he figured out just how, but for the rest of Ferelden, the news that the King thought lost at sea more than a decade earlier had been alive and held prisoner by a Tevinter magister who had drained his blood a drop at a time for years to tap the power - real or imagined - of Calenhad’s legacy would cause nothing but an upheaval that the nation was not ready to withstand. And that was leaving out the Qunari and the Crows.

Alistair himself hadn’t yet fully unpacked everything that had happened in that short span of time … and he wasn’t yet feeling any real need to. The most important memory: his father’s acknowledgment, and his blessing, along with the knowledge that he’d freed Maric from years of torment, was enough to infuse him with the calm surety that had been sorely lacking for most of his life. He was Ferelden’s King, Maric’s son, of the blood of Calenhad, and whether he truly believed that blood to be dragon-touched was immaterial, because the true inheritance of that line was this Kingdom and the duty to keep it whole.

He’d decided to keep the shaggy look, though he’d had the shoulder-length hair neatened a bit and the full beard trimmed back to a goatee; what had begun as an attempt to alter his appearance (with limited success) had become a look that he liked. Reviews had been mixed; Constance kept her own counsel, as she tended to do on low stakes issues. Donal had gotten used to seeing him like that, while Ingram had accepted it with an air of martyrdom (after he had been trimmed up, of course). Bran and Peter liked it, Elena and Arwen did not approve, but more than his changed appearance lay behind their reproach.

He hadn’t lied to them about why he was leaving. He refused to do that, but he hadn’t told them why, either. Only that he had to go and that he would be back, and it hadn’t been thoughts of Constance that had helped jar him out of the dream that had once been everything he’d wanted. It had been the memory of four children waiting for him back in Denerim who had already known more than their share of loss, and the promise he had made to them.

The three younger ones had forgiven him quickly after he had returned, though they clung to him fearfully, worrying every time he was out of their sight. Elena remained aloof, keeping him at a cool arm’s length … but at the same time staying close, brown eyes watchful. Seeing the pain and worry he’d caused them distressed him; someday he would be able to tell them why. For now, he focused on making it up to them, with bedtime stories, games and plenty of hugs. Material things had long since stopped mattering to children whose every need - and a good many of their wants - were seen to, but taking the time to take them out to select a special treat had always been a favorite activity.

Which was part of the reason why they were out and about in the Market District today, the other reason being a final quelling of the rumor mill that had him the latest husband to fall victim to the Carringstone Curse. Constance had remained in the palace, as indifferent as always to the whispers of speculation. Peter and Bran wanted to visit the weapons shops and Arwen had requested a toy shop that specialized in Orlesian dolls. Lena had declared that she didn’t need anything, but she had accepted Alistair’s request to come along, and he was hoping that the dress shops might soften her resolve.

Their first stop had been the bakery, and Alistair munched happily on an apple and cheddar scone while the children downed their chosen sweets. Music floated on the air, and Arwen perked up, listening to the lively sound of a veille.

“Can we go listen? Please?” she wheedled, the playful gleam in her brown eyes suggesting that she already knew the answer. His youngest niece loved music and dancing, and the other three seemed more than agreeable, as well, so with Ari on point, Drake lumbering at the rear, and the rest of the guard spread loosely around them, they moved in the direction of the tune.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
195
#2
It had been quite some time since Nicolette had been in Denerim. The layout was much the same, but there were changes throughout which interested her as she passed through; new buildings, fresh faces. She was happy to see that Josephine’s bakery was still going strong, and that Shaara’s tailor shop was flourishing. It was a pleasantly sunny day, and what made it even better was that this time she had Celeste at her side.

Theoretically speaking. Right now, she was in the basement of a nearby house, and Nicolette was serving as the distraction. It was a Red Jenny contract, and the owner of the house, despite being what Celeste would refer to as a ‘prick’, enjoyed music; playing nearby was a ploy to draw him out long enough for Celeste to have a good rummage through his belongings and find the piece of paper she needed. She would probably leave a gift or two in his wine store, too.

And it was such a good day in which to play. The marketplace was crowded, but not so much that people were concentrating on shoving past each other rather than pausing for a moment, and more than one passerby stopped in their tracks to listen. The songs she chose were light, summery pieces, and she skimmed on her toes within the small circle she had staked out for herself, plait swirling. Oscar and Thibault had taken up residence at her sides in case of trouble, but none seemed forthcoming - moreover, she spotted a man who matched the description of their target on the edges of the crowd, so there was no need to worry about whether Celeste would be out in time. She could give herself over to the music for the time being.

The crowd flowed a little in front of her, allowing four children to push their way to the front. One, a girl with sparkling brown eyes, was almost dancing on the spot, and Nicolette addressed a passage or two of the piece directly to her. As she straightened up, she noticed two guards had also joined her audience, as well as a vaguely familiar-looking man with long hair and a beard.

Before Nicolette could place him, she noticed a flash of blonde hair and a bright bandanna off to one side, which meant that Celeste had finished her task; it would be suspicious to cut off mid-song, though, and Nicolette was too caught up in performing anyway. She led her audience on a lively dance through the notes, and by the time she finished she was a little breathless, but her eyes were shining.

She might have been showing off for her lover a little, but it was worth it.

As she bowed to the smatter of applause, she caught the gaze of the bearded man again, spotted the dark-haired guard by his side, and this time memory clicked into place. An even wider smile replaced the first. “Alistair? Donal? Is that you?”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
99
#3
It had been some time since Alistair had seen Nicolette, and while her letters to him had arrived sporadically for the first couple of years after their meeting, they had become fewer and farther between as time went on. But he recognized her at once: the long braid, the brightly colored blouse and skirt, the delight that shone on her face as she played and danced.

And Thibault, of course. The hound sat at the edge of the circle that had sprung up to watch her performance, and in spite of his outwardly indolent pose, none tried to pass beyond the boundary that he had set. The burly head turned toward them as the crowd parted to let them draw closer; the tail thumped twice on the ground, but he did not move from his station.

“Is that … ?” Donal’s grin suggested that he already knew the answer, but Alistair responded anyway.

“Yep.” He'd worried over the years that something might have happened to her. It was good to know otherwise.

Ari had stepped aside enough to give Arwen a good view while staying close as the rest of the guard formed a loose semicircle, relaxed but vigilant. The minstrel took notice of the girl prancing in place and gave her a warm smile, holding her gaze while she played an especially lively measure, the bow flying over the strings of the veille. Arwen grabbed Bran’s hands, tugging her brother into a twirling dance. Well … she twirled; he loped about on gangling adolescent legs that were in the midst of yet another growth spurt, his smile tolerant. There was little he would not do for his little sister.

Elena, meanwhile, had grown curious enough to defrost a bit. “You know her?” she asked Alistair.

He nodded. “We met a few years ago,” he explained. “She’s a friend of Leli’s. Not a bard,” he added quickly as he saw curiosity spark to interest. Goldanna’s eldest had taken to Leliana’s teachings like a duck to water, determined to be able to defend herself and her family should the need again arise. Alistair had made it his own mission to ensure that moment would never arise, but as the children grew older, he was realist enough to know that he couldn’t expect to keep them sequestered forever.

And he took more than a bit of satisfaction in knowing that Lena was quite capable of handling an unruly suitor on her own, though as yet she had shown no real interest in the nobles’ sons who flocked around her at every ball or state dinner.

The tune ended in a flurry of notes, the bare feet of the musician dancing over the cobblestones, skirt flaring out as she spun in joyous time with the music that she called forth, ending with a flourish, then bowing to the applause. Alistair clapped; Donal whistled his approval, then grinned when the amber eyes turned their way, recognition dawning.

“Alistair? Donal?” Her smile broadened in delight. “Is that you?”

Alistair could hear the murmurs of surprise running through the onlookers. He wore no crown, but even those who might not have recognized his changed appearance knew his name, though none of them would have called him by it so openly. But it was worth the rumors that would no doubt be started up to see a friend after so long. “None other,” he replied with a smile, a nod to Aribella indicating that it would be safe to let her past.

Celeste was off to the side, enjoying her minstrel’s performance. The intercepted love letter, which this particular prick had been using to blackmail one of his suppliers to sell him wine at a massive loss, was safely in a pocket of her vest, and she’d liberally dosed the sampler bottles in his shop with fart juice. Nico’s distraction had been perfect, and Celeste was quite ready to allow her lover to set the itinerary for the remainder of the afternoon, exploring old haunts and seeking out old acquaintences.

Except it seemed that one had found her first. The bearded chap was decent looking and nicely built, but the protective way that he was watching the kids suggested that they were his, while she sheer manpower surrounding him indicated that this was not your run-of-the-mill noble on a family outing. She hung back, watching curiously; then the name that Nico had called registered, the sudden ripples of conversation running through the crowd confirming it.

No sodding way …
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
195
#4
Perhaps she should have not said his name – while the presence of the guards suggested he was not striving for anonymity, it was clear that quite a few in the crowd did not register his presence until Nicolette spoke. But nothing occurred beyond a bubbling murmur, and when one of the guards shot a questioning look at Alistair, he nodded and the woman stepped aside. Nicolette placed her vielle back in the case and left it for the moment, secure in the knowledge that Thibault would guard it, and stepped forward to catch Alistair’s hands and press them, smiling in delight at seeing her friend again. Their correspondence had slowed a little recently, but she had enjoyed every letter he had sent, and she was always happy to run into people who had been nice to her once more. “It is so good to see you!”

She would have gone in for a hug, but even though the guards had been warned away, a strange woman hugging him – or indeed, kissing him on the cheek in the Orlesian style – might start rumours Alistair probably did not need.

He was looking well, and a few wide-eyed children of varying ages were clustered around him. Possibly he had been making best use of his time since they had first met, although Nicolette had heard he had adopted children rather than having any of his own, which caused varying amounts of consternation. Nicolette firmly did not care; she was simply happy to see him well. “Who are your companions?” She smiled at the smaller of the two girls, a bright-eyed young thing who had been dancing as she played.

She had not forgotten her lover, and she turned towards her. “Celeste! Come and meet Alistair.” When Celeste was close enough, Nicolette kissed her cheek. “Alistair, this is my captain-” saying ‘lover’ did not seem quite prudent in front of the children – “Celeste. Celeste, this is Alistair. A friend.”

The grin she now wore was a touch cheeky, as she was currently savouring the expression on Celeste’s face. She had not mentioned that Alistair was one of her correspondents, and she was glad she had not, because she did so enjoy surprising her.
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
99
#5
There would be talk. There was always talk, and if there was nothing to talk about, someone would make something up. Alistair wasn’t about to let the incipient rumor mill keep him from acknowledging a friend, but when Nicolette simply caught up both of his hands in hers and squeezed, he let that boundary stand. Undoubtedly, within an hour, even this chaste greeting would be translated into a torrid affair by somebody - he had no idea if the Trestlebridges were in town or not - but Constance was not one to put stock in gossip. The trust she had in him had been hard won; he’d done more than his share of paying for the sins of other men, but she would believe him when he told her the truth. Nicolette was a friend, and nothing more. He’d even let her read the letters, if she wanted to. Maker knew, there was nothing even remotely titillating to be found. Nico’s letters to him had been delightful stories of adventures in faraway lands, lyrics to songs she had heard, descriptions of the people she had met. His to her were light snippets of happenings at court, stories and songs he’d heard and events in his life. Nothing confidential, certainly no state secrets or intimate details of married life, but he had cherished the correspondence all the same, and seeing her now was most welcome.

“It is so good to see you!” the minstrel exclaimed, beaming up at him.

“Likewise,” he replied with a smile. “You look good.” More than rote flattery; she looked lovely. Traveling on a ship, which according to her letters she’d been doing for the last few years, clearly agreed with her.

“You look great,” Donal corrected him, looking the minstrel over with open admiration. His guard captain and best friend had served as go-between in their correspondence, as no one thought anything of him communication with yet another woman. Alistair had never asked him if they had ever met up for more than an exchange of letters; none of his business.

“Who are your companions?” she asked, smiling warmly at Arwen, who clearly already adored her.

Ladies first. “My nieces, Arwen and Elena.” Arwen dipped a curtsy; Lena offered a polite nod, brown eyes curious. Clearly, she hadn’t yet let go of the bard notion. “My nephew, Bran.” At fourteen, Bran had been aware of the opposite sex for a couple of years, though his heart was still fixed on dreams of honor and chivalry. He blushed a bit, but dipped a perfect courtly bow. “And my son, Peter.” There was no real difference in the quiet pride in his voice as he introduced each one. The decision not to adopt his sister’s children had been for their protection, rather than any lack of filial emotion toward them. They would be in enough danger simply because of how fiercely he loved them and how well that was known; to put them even seemingly in the line of succession would only increase the number of people who might wish them harm. It had been easier to protect them when they were younger, but Lena was beginning to rebel at the limits he sought to place, and he knew that he would have to find a balance to strike, a compromise they could both live with.

Peter, still young and obedient and as yet uninterested in girls as anything more than playmates, mirrored Bran’s bow without the blush. “A pleasure, m’lady,” he offered solemnly. In private, he could just be an eight-year-old boy, buy Constance had schooled him on public comportment since well before he had been the heir to Ferelden’s throne, and while the lad could be a bit more formal than Alistair preferred, he deferred to his wife on this and cherished the time when it was just him and his children, and he could hear his son laugh and see his bright smile and feel as though his heart might burst in his chest with pride and love.

Nicolette’s expression grew even brighter, and she turned to gesture to a blonde woman at the edge of the crowd. “Celeste! Come and meet Alistair.” The woman approached, and the minstrel kissed her cheek affectionately before turning back to him. “Alistair, this is my captain-” the faintest hesitation there, but the look on her face made her meaning quite clear, “Celeste. Celeste, this is Alistair. A friend.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” he greeted the newcomer, extending a hand, “Nicolette has told me about you in her letters.” Alarm bells were going off in his head; Lena’s attention had shifted to the sailor, who wore a dagger at each hip and walked as though she owned the whole of Denerim, and her eyes were bright with interest.

“You look shorter than I imagined,” Celeste quipped, shaking the proffered hand firmly. Damned if she was going to admit that Nicolette had never told her about him … but did Nico know that her pen pal was the sodding King of Ferelden? The guard brigade should have at least been a clue, if not a dead giveaway, and she was careful to keep her hands well away from her daggers, while offering a grin to the dark haired one who’d been looking Nicolette over. He had the look of someone who could be fun. The older girl put her more than a little in mind of Addie when they’d first met, though it didn’t seem likely that her home situation was anywhere near as dire. She recognized the look of yearning, though - and the worry in her uncle’s eyes. She was no more a cradle robber now than she’d been back then, but she gave the girl - Elena - a smile and nod of acknowledgment. “Ever been on a ship?”

“A few times.” The girl’s voice was quiet, but she met Celeste’s eyes without getting flustered. “I enjoyed it very much. You have a ship?”

Celeste nodded. “The Wicked Grace,” she replied. “You’re welcome to visit her.”

“I’d like that.” Elena looked to Alistair, who nodded after a moment.

“We could do that.” Refusing would simply add the allure of the forbidden. Lena’s sea voyages to date had been short - Gwaren being the furthest - and blessed with good weather. His concession got him the first real smile he’d seen from her since he’d returned; for that, he’d have agreed to far more.

“My bed is a pirate ship!” Peter let formality slip a bit in his enthusiasm. “So is Bran’s; we have battles and everything!” Bran flushed even deeper red; he pretended that he kept his bed for Peter’s sake, but his soaring imagination cherished the furniture as much as he had when Alistair first had it made for him.

“And mine is a hippopotamus!” Arwen burst out eagerly. That commission had gotten Alistair a strange look from Master Edwin, but the craftsman had delivered, and Arwen had been over both moons with joy.

“Have you ever seen a hippopotamus?” Celeste asked her.

“Not a real one,” the girl admitted, “but I’ve got a book that has pictures of all kinds of animals, but I like hippos best.” Why, Alistair had no idea; the pictures of the ungainly beasts were unattractive enough, but he’d encountered live specimens on his recent foray north. They lived in the swamps of Antiva around Seleny, and the locals feared the foul-tempered creatures very nearly as much as dragons, and with good reason - for all their bulk, they could move fast, and their tusks could punch through plate armor. Arwen had been delighted with his firsthand accounts, and now regularly rode her bed into battle, declaring it more than a match for her brother’s ship.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
195
#6
The ripple of murmurs confirmed both that Alistair’s identity had been revealed to those in the crowd who had not already known, and that more than one person had been startled by her familiarity with the king. Alistair was not reserved in showing his pleasure at seeing her, and was echoed in kind by Donal. “You look great.”

“As do you both. As well as I remember.” Not mere flattery - on one occasion she had come to Denerim and encountered Donal separately from Alistair. It had been an enjoyable evening, the bodyguard’s good looks far from the only fetching trait about him. The smile she shot him was a touch more cheeky than the one for Alistair, and wholly different than the one of cheerful curiosity now aimed at the children.

They seemed intrigued rather than suspicious, and she paid them full attention, returning their greetings with a curtsey of her own. “It is a pleasure to meet you all.” Related or not, there was no hiding the fact that Alistair loved them all. It was as he deserved - king he might be, but the stories they had shared showed he had been dealt a hard hand at the beginning of his life, and he deserved the happiness he could claim.

Speaking of happiness, Celeste had made her appearance. Nicolette had many correspondents, and as such when saying she was writing to Alistair, had neglected to refer to him by title. It would have felt like bragging. Now it afforded her a golden opportunity to savour the look on her lover’s face as Celeste immediately realised who he was. Alistair shook her captain’s hand - doubtless he remembered Celeste from her letters.

Celeste, with her usual display of respect for authority, immediately commented on his height, and Nicolette stifled a giggle behind her fingers. Elena had immediately noticed Celeste, in a keen fashion, and rather than ignoring it, the captain asked her if she had been to sea before. No matter where she was, Celeste always seemed to know how to talk to people. Nicolette was not bereft of that gift herself, but she always enjoyed watching Celeste use it. Now she offered Elena a visit to the Wicked Grace, and the hope glowed in the girl’s eyes as she looked up at Alistair.

“We could do that.” Alistair earned himself a smile with that, but it was not only Elena who had been intrigued by the prospect of a sailor in their midst. Peter, apparently, had a bed in the shape of pirate ship, as did Bran, who blushed at having this revealed. Nicolette chuckled, addressing her next comments to Bran.

“I have never seen a themed bed before. I think I would like a pirate-ship-shaped one very much. Although we might have a little difficulty wedging it into the cabin.” She grinned at Celeste. There was certainly enough rope lying around to make up some rigging, but she was not going to mention that here.

Arwen had a theme of her own, which was a...hippopotamus? Apparently she liked them best. Nicolette could not imagine why - they were powerful creatures, certainly, but terrifying in size, and could move incredibly fast. “It is incredible how big they get. Especially when you consider how small the babies can be.” She held her hands apart, indicating a general size of the smallest ones. “They are sweet at that age.”

Arwen’s eyes stretched. “You’ve seen them? My uncle’s seen them too!”

“I have! In Antiva, and there were some in Rivain. They have some good stories about them, there. Taming a hippopotamus is considered the act of a hero-” small wonder, considering how dangerous it was to even get near them, and had Ferelden been a land in which they resided, she might have thought twice about mentioning this to Arwen - “and there was one mighty warrior who legend has as riding one into battle. The hippo was called Tarawet, and she had her own armour; gold plated, and her rider Amun always rode towards the sun so the light reflecting off Tarawet’s armour dazzled his enemies. Today Tarawet is celebrated more than her rider; there is an astonishing statue of her in Kon-Tarr.”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
99
#7
From the looks that Nicolette and Donal exchanged, he’d been more than a go-between, but it seemed he’d kept things amiable with his usual deftness; the smiles that the pair exchanged held only friendly affection. The expression on the minstrel’s face when the blonde sailor joined them was something else entirely; she positively glowed, and while her captain gave Donal an appreciative once over, once the green eyes turned back toward Nicolette, it was plain that the rest of them were very much a secondary consideration.

Which pleased Alistair. Nicolette’s letters had made her feelings for her seagoing lover quite plain, but she deserved someone who loved her back just as much, and that definitely seemed to be the case. To his surprise, he did not feel the wistful twinge that had nearly always before made itself known when he was observing two people in love and happy. It had persisted even after his marriage to Constance, though he’d always taken care to not let it turn into brooding over what he did not have. He’d been fortunate that a marriage of political expedience had grown, if not to a blazing passion, to a mutual affection and regard that might well outlast the fiery affairs that he’d often seen burn to ashes. And evidently, his recent adventures had finally convinced his heart to be content with what he had, which was more than he had ever hoped for.

Celeste wasn’t much for formality, but Alistair didn’t really mind the handshake or the quip about his height; he’d had a lifetime of experience in knowing the difference between someone who was mocking him and someone simply making a jest, and the sailor definitely seemed the latter sort. He wasn’t quite so sanguine when her attention turned to Lena, though that was less to do with her manner than his niece’s obvious fascination with her. Not that he didn’t want Elena to be an independent woman who could look out for herself, but he didn’t want her getting the idea that running off to sea was the way to go about it. Nicolette did not seem concerned, however, so Alistair let his misgivings slide and accepted the invitation to see their ship (and he was curious himself, after reading the minstrel’s descriptions over the years).

Talk of ships led to talk of ship-shaped beds, and talk of ship-shaped beds quite naturally led to talk of hippopotamus-shaped beds; Alistair had long since become accustomed to the meanderings of conversation whenever children were involved. Truth be told, he found talking with most adults to be boring by comparison, since most of the adults he talked to these days were so bound by propriety and etiquette that any subjects that might be even remotely interesting were off limits. So was farting, though that wasn’t really a surprise. Bran and Peter considered that and belching to be a competitive sport - when Constance was well out of earshot, of course. Arwen tried, but didn’t quite seem to have the knack for it yet, but Elena, after being pestered incessantly by her siblings one day, had produced a sonorous belch that rattled the glass in the panes and very nearly made poor Ingram - who had chosen that moment to make an entrance - pass out on the spot. Having proved her dominance, she had steadfastly refused an encore. Alistair, of course, never participated in such shenanigans (that was his story and he was sticking to it), so of course, he couldn’t have gotten so inured to it that he came this close to letting one fly in the middle of a state dinner and spent the rest of the evening with his ass cheeks clenched tighter than a miser’s fist on a sovereign. Never happened.

Nicolette had also seen hippos, as it turned out, even babies, which sounded a great deal cuter than the fully grown specimens, but also meant that Arwen would now be wanting a hippopotamus for her birthday instead of the mabari that she’d had her heart set on. And the legend that the minstrel related threatened to add Bran and Peter to the list of would-be hippopotamus riders, elevating the beasts from oddities to the mounts of heroes, and Arwen’s weren’t the only wide eyes as she described the hippo’s golden armor.

Well, maybe he could convince his niece to name her mabari Tarawet.

“Can we go to Kon-Tarr to see the statue?” Arwen burst out eagerly as soon as the story was done, turning to him with big brown eyes that were going to get some unsuspecting young man - or young woman - in trouble in a few years’ time.

Reprieve came from an unexpected source. “That part of Rivain is a bit dangerous,” Celeste told the girl. “Kon-Tarr is a Qunari settlement, and they don’t tend to welcome outsiders.”

“My uncle is friends with a Qunari!” Arwen protested, never one to let go of a good idea … or one that she thought was good.

“That wouldn’t matter to the other Qunari,” Alistair informed her. “Remember what I told you about Sten and his people?”

“That … they believe the good of the many is more important than the good of the one?” Arwen’s face scrunched up in puzzlement. It was a reasonable enough philosophy … unless you happened to be the one that the many outweighed.

“And they believe it’s their duty to convert everyone to the Qun,” Peter added gravely. As the future King, that was the factor that concerned him the most. Maker willing, it would never be more than a subject of discussion in any of their lifetimes.

And you have to be whatever they think you should be,” Elena put in, quite aware of what Alistair was trying to do and willing to assist. “What if they decided that you should be cleaning chamber pots?”

“Ewwww! Arwen wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Sten wouldn’t do that, would he?” She looked to Alistair indignantly. Sten, like his other companions during the Blight, had acquired a near-mythical status among the children.

“If he thought that was what the Qun required you to do, he would,” Alistair confirmed. They didn’t know the part that Sten - now the Arishok - had played in his recent adventure, but the memory added the weight of certainty to his words. Sentiment hadn’t kept his old comrade from imprisoning them for weeks or persuaded him to aid their quest. Alistair had to defeat him in single combat for that (and he could still scarcely believe he had managed it). “Perhaps we could visit your ship, Captain?” he inquired of Celeste, deciding that a distraction was in order.

Celeste in turn looked to Nicolette. “Anything else you need in town?” She had the letter safely in pocket; she could deliver it to her contact later, but her minstrel was fond of browsing the dressmakers and bookstores ... and the pastry shops, of course.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
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Posts
195
#8
Nicolette loved encouraging anybody’s imagination, but especially in children. They were not bound by the sense of duty or responsibilities that adults were, so their flights of fancy took them so much further. It also meant that she might be encouraging thoughts a bit beyond the reach of some of them, but she hoped she had inspired others beyond what they might have otherwise been. At the very least, she had kindled an instant urge in Arwen to go to the northernmost tip of Thedas.

Possibly not the best idea for any child, let alone one belonging to a royal household.

Celeste decided to be the voice of reason, which possibly got Nicolette out of a sticky situation. “That part of Rivain is a bit dangerous. Kon-Tarr is a Qunari settlement, and they don’t tend to welcome outsiders.”

Arwen protested; Alistair was friends with a Qunari. Nicolette chased the itch in her brain until it settled on the conclusion that this must be a reference to Sten. She had met many of the Warden’s companions in her times wandering around Thedas, but never Sten. From the sound of it, she was glad she had not. She doubted he would approve of her. Although they might have found a place for her talents in the Qun, it would probably be a great deal more restrictive than her life now. Alistair was explaining their philosophy, with additions from the various other children scattered around him.

Arwen seemed a little deflated by the idea that she might be assigned to scrubbing chamber pots under the Qun; fortunately, Alistair had a distraction in mind, somewhat closer to home. “Perhaps we could visit your ship, Captain?”

The girl immediately lit up again, as did Bran; both younger children turned pleading looks on Celeste as the captain turned to Nicolette. “Anything else you need in town?”

The younger children were, by this point, almost vibrating with excitement – Nicolette chuckled. “Nothing I need. I can attend to wants later.” One of the nice things about sharing a cabin with Celeste was that she could occasionally act on her urges to purchase bright, shiny things; she did not have to factor in carrying them around in her pack. But she still tried not to get carried away, and this seemed a worthwhile distraction.

Speaking of distractions, she had just noticed a man heading into the house that Celeste had previously been liberating some paperwork from, and it would be a good time to leave the vicinity anyway. She grinned and squeezed Celeste’s hand, before whistling for Thibault who came lolloping up to investigate their new friends. “This is Thibault, by the way,” she said for the benefit of the children, as they turned their steps towards the docks. “My longtime companion. He has fought bandits for me before now – and is a bit of a sausage thief, on occasion.”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
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DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
99
#9
Celeste readily agreed to a visit to her ship, and Nicolette summoned her hound with a whistle. “This is Thibault, by the way,” she introduced him to the children as he loped over with tongue lolling out in a doggy grin. “My longtime companion. He has fought bandits for me before now – and is a bit of a sausage thief, on occasion.”

“Hey, fella,” Alistair greeted the dog, scratching his ears affectionately. Arwen threw her arms around Thibault in delight, and the boys reached out to pet him. Lena, still a cat person, kept back, but smiled her approval at his friendly demeanor.

“Bran and I have mabari,” Peter informed Nicolette as they began walking, the guards falling in around them. “So do Captain Donal and Sergeants Hudson and Hicks.”

“And I’m getting one for my birthday!” Arwen announced, the look that she shot Alistair proclaiming as loudly as words that, as far as she was concerned, it was several years overdue.

“Sounds like quite the pack,” Celeste agreed amiably. “I’d have to get a bigger ship … there she is.” She nodded toward a sleek looking two masted ship tied up to the docks, cupped her hands to her mouth and roared, “Company coming!”

Alistair blinked as a massive shape emerged on deck, and Arwen’s eyes went wide. “A Qunari!” she announced in awe. The boys looked similarly impressed, while Lena was visibly wary, but her eyes yearned toward the lines of the ship.

“Gideon’s a Tal-Vashoth,” Celeste corrected her with a lopsided smile, “and my first mate. Go up first?” she suggested to Nicolette as they reached the gangplank, her eyes conveying the unspoken request that the minstrel alert the crew to just who was coming aboard, then, “After you.” She dipped a bow, gesturing to the ship.

“Stay here,” Donal instructed the other four before following Nico up the ramp. Alistair motioned for the children to go next, then went up himself, with the ship’s captain bringing up the rear.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
195
#10
While Thibault was usually quieter than his mistress, they had an equal enjoyment of attention, and his tail went nineteen to the dozen as most of the children gathered around to fuss over him. Arwen was gifted with a lick on the cheek before Thibault sniffed happily at boys. He was starting to show a few white hairs in his muzzle, but his energy hadn’t diminished at all yet, and Nicolette watched over her dog fondly.

“Bran and I have mabari.” Peter fell into step beside her as they began walking. “So do Captain Donal and Sergeants Hudson and Hicks.”

“And I’m getting one for my birthday!”

“That is quite impressive. Mabari are the most intelligent dogs, are they not? And I hear they imprint on those who have earned their loyalty and love.” She remembered Aedan Cousland’s mabari, a stocky creature with an amiable face. He had clearly adored his master, and at the time she had been taken aback by how he had seemed to follow the thread of their conversation.

“Sounds like quite a pack. I’d have to get a bigger ship...there she is.”

As Celeste announced the arrival of their party, Nicolette gazed up at the Wicked Grace. Every now and again she remembered it as it was when she had first met Celeste, masts missing and splintered railings. Even then she had thought the ship was rather lovely, and it lifted her heart every time to see it as it was now. She also could not repress a grin as Gideon appeared, looming over the edge and drawing gasps of astonishment from the children.

“Gideon’s a Tal-Vashoth, and my first mate.” Celeste’s eyes met hers. “Go up first?”

Nicolette nodded and scuttled up the gangplank, motioning for Thibault to go up alongside the children. Gideon was looking out at their company with mild amusement. “Did you and Celeste decide to do some active recruiting?” His red eyes scanned the group; he was a smart man, and his brows went up a little at the sight of the armour-clad people surrounding the knot of children and Alistair. “Looks like an important one.”

“You could said that. I met him a few years ago and we ran into each other in the marketplace just now.” Nicolette was failing completely to repress a grin as she lowered her voice. “He’s the king. Pass it on.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“No merde here, Gideon.”

He let out a roar of laughter. “Of course you’ve just happened to casually be an acquaintance with a royal. I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me one day you’d shared a cup of tea with the Divine.”

The rest of the crew were gathering around now and had got the gist of the conversation; Donal came up the gangplank and into a circle of intrigued eyes. “Everyone, this is Donal.” Nicolette proceeded to introduce everyone as they came up the gangplank, almost all the children saucer-eyed, although Peter was doing his best to keep his composure. Alistair came up, and Nicolette touched his arm. “And this is Alistair.”

“Welcome aboard the Wicked Grace, Alistair.” Nobody was going to start bowing and scraping on this vessel, or use titles unless it came up, but they were all capable of being courteous unless somebody was rude to them in the first place.

“You’re so tall,Arwen said, gazing up at Gideon.
 
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