• Hello Guest, the Post-Trespasser timeline is open to all characters now. If you want to play your DA:O/DA2 timeline characters in the Post-Trespasser timeline, please check out the thread below. It will give you all the information you need to get up and running in no time:

    Getting your DA:O/DA2 Character ready for Post-Trespasser!

All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun [Complete]

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#1
((12 Harvestmere, 9:32; Late night; Nicolette O'Hara ))

He was running away.

And he wasn’t coming back.

Ever.

At least, not for a few hours, damn it.

Alistair slipped into a heavy cloak, glad that it had gotten cool enough that it wouldn’t look strange. Beneath it, he wore his old splint mail with a sword lifted from the armory belted at his waist. Just for tonight, he was going to be James again. Just for a few hours.

He had to get out, get away. Eamon was driving him crazy, shoving every unmarried female under the age of thirty at him, constantly harping on his duty to marry and beget an heir (he actually used the word beget, for crying out loud). That was his chief duty, too, since actually ruling Ferelden was apparently considered beyond his capability. Eamon and his cronies on the Royal Etiquette Brigade told him what to sign, what meetings he could attend (without saying anything, mind you), who he could talk to … pretty much everything but when and how long he was allowed to go to the loo, and he was fairly sure they’d be getting around to that if they ever figured out just how much of his thinking was done in there.

So … yeah. Getting out for a while. Leliana had showed him some of the lesser used passages and exits, and he made use of them now, emerging into the chilly night air in a shadowy alcove on the east side of the palace, glancing around warily, part of him expecting assassins or some other danger to be waiting in the darkness. Even after a year of relative peace, the memories of those months during the Blight, when danger was a near-daily event, remained strong, and the absence of the companions who he had come to rely on - trust - remained keenly felt. Aedan was in Amaranthine doing the kind of Grey Warden things that Alistair was now Too Important to be risked on, Oghren with him. Zevran and Leliana were off doing things that neither of them could talk about. Sten was back among his people, Shayle gone to seek her own past in the Memories of the dwarven Shaperate. Wynne was making use of the respect that her role in ending the Blight had gained her to travel among the Circles of Thedas. Morrigan was hopefully trying to teach a fire-breathing toddler to use the privvy (a mental image that he cherished, even as he devoutly hoped that the babe was just a normal eating, sleeping and shitting machine with no powers whatsoever).

All of them off living their own lives, leaving him to live the life that had been thrust upon him, and no matter how often Alistair told himself that he was being childish, he couldn’t help feeling abandoned, resentful, even a bit bitter. Or more than a bit, some days. He didn’t like the feeling; another motivation for this outing was to try and banish it. An adventure, even a small one, would go a long way toward countering the stifling boredom that had come to define his life.

The guards at the gates were scrupulous about inspecting every individual seeking to enter the palace, but Alistair had noticed that they were not so attentive to the ones leaving. Pulling the deep hood of the cloak up to conceal his face, he started in the direction of the gate.

“Nice night for a stroll.”

Alistair did not leap three feet in the air at the voice behind him. He did not squeal like a girl.

Much.

But when he came down, twisting toward the source of the voice, his hand was on the hilt of his sword, the blade half out of its sheath and the cloak flipped back to let it be fully drawn.

“Sorry, Your Majesty.” The shadowy form stepped into the moonlight, hands open and empty at its sides, and Alistair felt his heart rate start to slow.

“Guardsman … Donal, isn’t it?” Eamon hand picked his guard detail, and Alistair suspected that they had all been instructed not to give in to his attempts at small talk. He’d given up after the first few weeks of monosyllabic responses and awkward silences - and after the one that he’d managed to coax into a bit of banter had been dismissed the next day. Donal had been his replacement.

“Yes, ser.” He was tall and broad shouldered, with curly black hair, blue eyes and a handsome, open face that likely drew the ladies like flies to honey. He was also out of uniform, in a tunic, trews and cloak, with a sword belt that looked to have been hastily buckled on. “Donal Jeffries.”

“You’re not on duty.” Alistair let the sword slide back into the sheath.

“No, ser,” the other man confirmed, “I was about to go out myself, but I saw you, and -” An awkward shrug, but the blue eyes never wavered. “You shouldn’t be out in the city alone, Your Majesty.”

“I’ve done it before.” Alistair tried not to sound like a petulant child, but it was frustrating. “I do know how to take care of myself.”

“Yes, you do.” Nothing patronizing in the tone or expression. “But things can happen, and if they happen to Ferelden’s King while he’s out alone …” He trailed off, but his expression finished the sentence for him.

Alistair could have gotten angry. He wanted to get angry, but the man was just doing his job, protecting the last of the precious Theirin bloodline, completely unaware that , barring a miracle or another bastard popping out of the woodwork, the Theirin bloodline would end in thirty years - give or take a few - regardless of whether Alistair married or not.

His shoulders sagged in defeat. “All right,” he sighed. “I’ll -”

“If I go with you, you won’t be alone.”

Alistair blinked, surprise - and a spark of hope - warring with caution. “That could get you fired,” he warned the other man. “Arl Eamon has told you not to let me wander, hasn’t he?” They were always polite about it, but his guard detail never failed to herd him back onto the beaten path if he began to stray from his daily itinerary.

“He has.” Donal’s gaze remained steady. “But I work for the King of Ferelden, not his Chancellor. Protecting you is my job, and if I get fired for doing it -” Another shrug, not so awkward as the first.

Shame washed through Alistair. He shouldn’t even be considering taking Donal up on his offer, risking his job, and maybe that was just what Donal was counting on. But that would only be a risk if they got caught, and while Alistair might be a piss-poor King, he’d spent his entire life up to a year ago being a commoner. He could go out, drink a couple of ales, listen to some music and blend in without drawing so much as a curious glance.

If he was lucky.

Surely he was due for some luck.

“You’ve got a deal, Guardsman Jeffries,” Alistair told Donal. “Shall we?”

“One condition, ser.” There was a firmness in Donal’s voice that Alistair heard from no one but Eamon these days, but there was no hint of the condescension that generally underlay his Chancellor’s demeanor, so he regarded the guard expectantly, the faintest nod indicating that he should continue. “If I decide that a situation is too risky, we leave immediately.”

A part of Alistair wanted to argue, but apart from the fact that Donal’s expression strongly suggested that the condition was non-negotiable, he knew that the guard was right. He might not like it, but he was the King of Ferelden, and he could not treat those who sought to protect him as nuisances, no matter how frustrating it might be.

“Agreed,” he replied with a nod, and Donal fell into step beside him, drawing the hood of his own cloak up to match Alistair’s. Alistair felt himself tensing as they approached the gate, but the guardsman exchanged brief greetings with the pair on duty, and then they were through an on the streets of Denerim. Free, for a precious few hours.

“Where to, Your Majesty?” Donal inquired in an undertone.

“James,” Alistair responded, glancing around and fighting the urge to dance a jig from sheer glee. “Call me James, please.”

“Understood … James.” Donal sounded as though he expected lightning to strike him down. “Where to?”

“Not the Gnawed Noble,” Alistair mused. He’d risk being recognized at that establishment. “Maybe the Dragon’s Flagon?” He, Aedan and the rest of their companions from the Blight all had pewter tankards on the shelf behind the bar at the Flagon. Bernie’s eyes were sharp; she’d almost certainly recognize him, but she was also smart enough to recognize from his attire that he was incognito and play along. “Get a table in the corner, listen to whoever she has playing tonight, maybe a game or two of darts?”

“That’ll work,” Donal agreed, and they set off in the direction of the Market District, Alistair feeling the soaring exultation of a bird escaping the confines of a cage.
 
Last edited:

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#2
It was Nicolette’s first night performing at the Dragon’s Flagon, and she rated it highly. Not only had she secured a room at an agreeable rate and in considerably better condition than the one she had been occupying, and an excellent line of drinks, but the clientele consisted of her favourite sort of crowd. They had little of the reserve of the noble haunts, and let her know when they enjoyed a song, and she was less likely to be grabbed than when she was performing at the dockside taverns. It meant keeping some of her sailor’s stock of songs back for tonight, but she had plenty of pieces that she could still get away with in this crowd. And so far, her pieces were going down well.

There was a small dais for performers and she made full use of the space, spinning and flitting from side to side in time with her music. Thibault stood sentinel off to one side, accepting admiring glances, pats and occasional scraps as they were thrown his way with his typical amiable expression.

Her current piece came to an end and she curtseyed for her applause before picking out her next piece, one that started out a little slow before bursting into a much faster pace that invited her audience to clap along. The door swung open but Nicolette was in the middle of a spin too quick to make note of the faces beyond the fact that they were male, plait whipping around behind her. This was a Fereldan piece, learned in Highever, and although she had only played it two or three times for an audience she had quickly learned it was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. No singing, this time, only the stamp of her feet, the jingle of the bells at her ankles, the Vielle at the center of it all and the audience’s roar of approval. When she finished she was gleaming a little from the effort, but smiling so broadly that her face ached.

It was another musician’s turn now, and Nicolette bent to quickly scoop up the few coins that had been thrown her way. She definitely required a drink before she followed up with her next set.

[[OOC: Nicolette is playing this piece by the Corrs -
]][/MEDIA]
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#3
Alistair could hear it as he approached: the lively tune, stomping feet, clapping hands and shouts of approval, and he felt his lips tug into a grin. A good night at the Flagon, it seemed.

Inside, his eyes were drawn immediately to the dais and the musician there. Not just playing, but dancing, whirling and dipping about the stage in a swirl of bright skirts, the bells on her anklets tinkling a merry counterpoint to the notes that she called from the veille that she played. She was as pretty as she was talented, but it was the expression of delight that she wore as she played that held his attention. Her eyes shone with joy, her smile was wide and completely unaffected. She plainly loved what she was doing, and Alistair felt a twinge of wistful envy. The last time he had felt anything remotely like that had been in the days between his Joining and Ostagar. Being King certainly never put a smile on his face.

“Donal!” Bernie’s greeting brought his attention back around and reminded him that he was gambling on her discretion. His stomach knotted as the Flagon’s owner rounded the bar to greet the guardsman with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She was a handsome woman, her red hair piled atop her head in a gravity-defying arrangement with a few artful curls escaping at the nape of her neck and her ears. The blue eyes shifted to Alistair, and he felt the knot immediately loosen as her expression shifted to one of polite welcome. “I don’t think I’ve met your friend?”

Thank the Maker. “James,” he said before Donal could lie for him. “James Aberdeen, milady.” He bobbed, and her smile widened.

“No ladies here,” she confided with a wink. “Call me Bernie, and welcome to the Dragon’s Flagon.”

“He’s new at the palace,” Donal supplied, and the twinkle in her eyes grew faintly wicked for a moment. Oh, she knew, and she was going to tease him a bit, but he wasn’t really worried. She’d been an ally from the first time they’d been in Denerim, hiding them upstairs when Loghain’s men had been hunting them and helping them sneak out of the city under cover of night.

“Is he now?” Sympathy touched the blue eyes now, as though she understood what had driven him out incognito. “First drinks on the house, gentlemen,” she announced briskly, her eyes shifting behind them. “Jake! Good to see you!”

Leaving her to greet the new arrival, Alistair headed for a corner. “Been here before, I take it?” Bernie was always hospitable, but she didn’t dole out kisses to everyone.

“A few times.” Donal gave him a sideways glance, smiling faintly. “You too, I take it?”

“Yeah.” Alistair shrugged. “Not since … you know.”

“Yeah.” The guard nodded, glanced toward the bar. “She caught on quick; maybe you can keep coming back.”

“Maybe.” Donal took a seat with his back to the wall, facing the door. Which would have been Alistair’s choice, but he’d trusted the other man this far, so he settled into another chair, shifting it just slightly so that he could see the stage (and, not entirely coincidentally, the door) better, just as the minstrel finished with a flourish and a beaming smile. Enthusiastic applause and whistles rose as she moved to pick up the coins that had been tossed, and Alistair dropped a hand to the pouch at his belt; he’d brought coppers and silvers for just such things.

“Show us yer tits, girlie!” The man sat alone at a table near the bar, his beard and the front of his tunic damp with spilled ale (or maybe drool) and his eyes all but rolling in their sockets as he leered in the woman’s general direction.

Bad idea. Behind the bar, Bernie’s eyes were flashing dangerously, but it was Giovanni who was in motion: three-hundred pounds of solid muscle wrapped in blue and yellow vertically striped tights beneath a red and blue particolored satin doublet with - Maker help his eyes - cloth of gold in the slashes on the chest and sleeves. The drunk screwed his eyes shut as the dwarf approached, peeling them open as he arrived, staring in disbelief.

“You don’t talk to a lady like that,” Gio rumbled.

“Wha’ th’ fuck’re you s’posed to be?” the drunk demanded. “Th’ beer fairy?”

Worse idea. Next instant, the drunk was hoisted over Gio’s head in a single beefy fist and borne aloft toward the door, the applause for the minstrel changing to hoots and jeers. Gio got to the door, opened it with his free hand and pitched the drunk unceremoniously out into the night.

“Play stupid games, collect stupid prizes,” Donal opined with a smirk.

“Amen.” The man had to be a new arrival to Denerim; everybody knew that you didn’t start that kind of thing in the Flagon.

“Nice playing.” It took Alistair a moment to realize that Donal was speaking to the minstrel, who was passing their table on the way to the bar. “Can we buy you a drink?” Ignoring the warning look from Alistair, the guard nudged a chair away from the table with an inviting smile.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#4
Nicolette had had a lifetime to practice ignoring leering comments. She was deft at dodging groping hands, too. For a long time she had let the sort of words that the bearded man now yelled at her get under her skin, upsetting her and bringing her down from the high of her performance. Did such men seriously think that she would acquiesce? Now, she knew better. Unless he was so drunk he had been aiming for the Pearl and ended up in here instead, he would know full well that she would do no such thing, and called out merely to unsettle her. Nicolette’s response was to turn her head archly from him and smile at somebody else who was passing her a coin. Refusing to acknowledge them was usually a good way of annoying such people.

As it turned out, in this tavern, they had more of a hands-on approach. A dwarf, dressed in the flashiest style this side of Val Royeaux, made straight for the drunk and admonished him. Nicolette paused to watch this interesting version of events. “You don’t talk to a lady like that.”

The drunk let out a rumbling slur that Nicolette could not decipher at all, but appeared to be the final straw. He was hoisted up in the air and then out through the front door to general hollering of approval. Nicolette could not hold back a grin; it was rare to see hecklers dealt with so directly, and refreshing for it. She made a mental note to buy a drink for the bouncer, and then resumed her journey towards the bar, although her attention was distracted again by the two men who had come in while she was playing, and were now discussing the recent departure.

“Play stupid games, collect stupid prizes.”

“Amen.”

“Nice playing.” The dark-haired of the two men had turned towards her now. “Can we buy you a drink?”

Nicolette looked them both over, a pleasant if non-committal smile on her face. Just because they were better-looking than the man who had gone out of the door did not necessarily guarantee better behaviour, but neither dropped a gaze openly to her chest or made a grab for her skirt, and the one who addressed her had a nice smile. She returned it more broadly as she made her decision, and took the seat. “My thanks. That is a much more welcome way of getting my attention.”

She turned her head to whistle for Thibault, who came bounding through the crowd to take up his usual place at her side, sniffing at the strangers curiously. “I hope you do not mind if my hound joins us. My name is Nicolette O’Hara – it is a pleasure to meet you both.”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#5
Alistair wasn’t looking to meet women on this outing; he wouldn’t be allowed to marry a commoner, no matter how nice a girl she was, and as much as he yearned for the companionship, he couldn’t bring himself to take a mistress. The risk of siring a bastard was almost nonexistent; that wasn’t it, though it made a handy excuse that Eamon understood and approved of. No, it was the thought of his mother dying in childbirth at Redcliffe with the father of her child nowhere near and the daughter turned out to keep a secret that haunted him. His birth had destroyed lives; he would not chance doing that again for a night’s pleasure, would not tell some nice young woman that she was good enough to bed but not good enough to wed.

But no reason why Donal couldn’t meet a pretty girl, though the one in question at the moment took her time sizing them up, the joyous smile that had lit her entire face while performing replaced with a polite variant that never reached her eyes. When neither of them asked her to show them her tits - and Alistair was careful not to even glance below her neck - she seemed to decide that they were worth taking a chance on, her smile growing warmer as she accepted the offered chair. “My thanks. That is a much more welcome way of getting my attention.”

“And much less likely to get us pitched out the door,” Donal quipped with an easy grin that Alistair envied. “Donal Jeffries, m'lady. This your first time playing at the Flagon? I haven’t seen you here before.” He was a regular then, which explained Bernie’s congenial welcome, and Alistair doggedly reined in another twinge of envy.

The woman’s whistle took them both by surprise, but as they were exchanging bemused glances, a massive hound rose from where he had been laying beside the stage and wove with surprising care through the tables to her side. “I hope you do not mind if my hound joins us,” she told them, “My name is Nicolette O’Hara – it is a pleasure to meet you both.”

“I’m James.” Pretty girls might be a problem, but dogs were another thing entirely. Alistair dearly missed Nu, and had been considering getting a mabari of his own, but Eamon had pointed out that he had too much to attend to, as it was. “Hey, fella,” he said softly, shifting in his chair and holding out a hand for the hound to sniff. He was as tall as a mabari, but lighter and lankier in build, with a shaggy coat. “What’s his name?”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#6
The two men who invited her to the table were fairly different. One was dark-haired and light-eyed; the other softly coloured in all aspects. One confident, one a little retiring. She approached them cautiously, then with more warmth when it became apparent she was not going to be subject to either of them grabbing at her. It seemed wise to confirm this was the foundation on which she joined them, and the dark-haired one chuckled, admitting this way was less likely to get them barred.

“Donal Jefferies, m’lady. This your first time playing at the Flagon? I haven’t seen you here before.”

Nicolette nodded. “Oui. I have been going around the various taverns since I arrived, but I have only been here a couple of weeks. I will be staying at the Flagon for at least a week or two, I think; I like the atmosphere here.”

So did Thibault, who she summoned with a whistle before turning her attention back to the men for introductions. The younger-faced man introduced himself as James, and to her amusement was immediately distracted by her dog, holding his hand out to Thibault.

“Hey, fella.” Either his tone or his scent won Thibault over; the hand was given a thorough licking before Thibault pushed his head into James’ hand, whining for a scratch. “What’s his name?”

Nicolette chuckled at Thibault’s easy affection. “Thibault. After a legendary Orlesian hero. He likes petting best in the scruff just under his chin.” Her hound was a fairly reliable judge of character, and she had been warned off people who she personally had liked before once Thibault took against them. With his thorough approval of James, she was happy to let him know how to earn even greater affection from the dog, whose back she stroked as she talked. She smiled at the men with almost the same brilliance now that her performance had brought. “Are you both lifelong residents here?”

Both of them wore clothes of reasonably good condition that suggested not much travelling occurred in them, and of course Donal’s reference to being a regular implied that he had been in the city some time.
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#7
“Oui.” The soft lilt of the Orlesian accent in Nicolette’s reply had Alistair thinking wistfully of Leliana. Makr but he hoped she was all right, wherever she was. “I have been going around the various taverns since I arrived, but I have only been here a couple of weeks. I will be staying at the Flagon for at least a week or two, I think; I like the atmosphere here.”

“Bernie takes good care of the people she hires,” Donal assured her, taking the mug of ale that the server brought him and lifting it in salute to Gio as the dwarf returned to his post near the bar. If they’d been alone, he might have come over to chat, but his shyness around pretty girls was evidently unchanged, and he simply nodded and looked away bashfully before he made eye contact with the minstrel.

Alistair wasn’t quite that bad, but he remained acutely aware that dalliances were very much out of the question in his present (and depressingly permanent) circumstance, so the appearance of the dog gave him a welcome place to turn his attention.

The woman plainly approved of him fussing over the pooch and readily supplied his name. “Thibault. After a legendary Orlesian hero.”

“Thibault.” Alistair tried the syllables cautiously, finding no hidden traps for his tongue. “Are you a hero too, boy?” He scratched at an ear, and Thibault leaned into the touch with a happy groan. "I'll bet you are."

“He likes petting best in the scruff just under his chin,” she informed him, and Alistair readily obliged, sending the whip of a tail at the opposite end into a frenzy of wagging that threatened to sweep the mugs off of the next table.

“Are you both lifelong residents here?” she asked. Alistair felt a faint twist of apprehension; he’d not yet adjusted his cover story to include Donal, but the guard didn’t hesitate.

“Ferelden, yes,” he told her. “We’re guards at the palace. I was born on a farm outside Highever, but I’ve been in Denerim since the Blight.”

“Me too,” Alistair put in. That it was partly the truth made it easier to sell the part that wasn’t; a lesson he’d learned from Leli and Zev. “I’m from Redcliffe originally … haven’t lived there in a long time, though. You’re Orlesian?”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#8
Donal assured her that she had made a good choice in her selection of working establishment. Nicolette had liked Bernie immediately; she had the air of a born barmaid, friendly but with a definite sense of brooking no misbehaviour. Something which had been proved by Gio’s quick intervention. Nicolette was used to having to tolerate catcalls and hooting – normally it took a physical altercation before the bouncers became involved. She smiled warmly at Gio as he walked past, although he quickly turned his head away. Oh well. James had taken an interest in Thibault, and Nicolette was happy to indulge the young man’s curiosity about him.

“Thibault. Are you a hero too, boy? I’ll bet you are.”

Nicolette directed him where to focus his attention to get the best response from Thibault, nodding proudly. “He has saved my life on more than one occasion. I could not ask for a more dedicated guardian.” Nor would she. If a person followed her around with the same persistence as Thibault she would have run away from them long ago.

Curious about her new drinking companions, she asked if they had always lived here.

“Ferelden, yes.” Donal spoke first. “We’re guards at the palace. I was born on a farm outside Highever, but I’ve been in Denerim since the Blight.”

“Me too.” James appeared to have settled a little. “I’m from Redcliffe originally…haven’t lived there in a long time, though. You’re Orlesian?”

“By country of origin, yes.” Nicolette smiled. “By blood I am half that and half-Fereldan. I only came here for the first time a few weeks ago; I was curious to see the land my father hailed from. He and Maman met in Amaranthine, before eloping to Val Chevin together. She always says she loved that he was not as prone to double-talk as Orlesian men.” She had found that a soft jab at her fellow countrymen usually raised a smile from a Fereldan audience, and she did not mind doing it considering she was largely of the same opinion. “I like it, so far. I landed at Highever – which I enjoyed very much, by the way,” she added to Donal, “and spent a couple of months there first before coming here. Although the nights I spent on the road were very cold!”

She had been talking for a comfortable length of time; now it was time to turn the attention on Donal and James once more. She tiled her head curiously at James. “What drew you away from Redcliffe?”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#9
“He has saved my life on more than one occasion,” Nicolette confirmed fondly as Alistair scratched Thibault beneath the chin. “I could not ask for a more dedicated guardian.”

He smiled at her. “I traveled with a friend who had a dog like that,” he said with a wistful smile, missing Aedan, missing Nu. Missing them all, damn it. “I’ve thought about getting one, but -” he lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “I wouldn’t have time to give them the attention they need.” That was what Eamon had said, anyway. He scratched the shaggy ears with both hands. “A hero deserves attention, doesn’t he, boy?”

The tail wagged a joyous, Yes, yes, yes!

Talk turned to their pasts, and Alistair settled for part of the truth, making note to himself of Donal’s Highever origins. Had he been caught up in Howe’s conquest of the teyrnir? Lost family? Eamon didn’t think chatting up the hired help was appropriate, but out from under his watchful eye, Alistair was determined to learn more about the guardsman who seemed a potential ally in his minor rebellions.

“By country of origin, yes,” Nicolette replied with a pretty smile when he asked if she was Orlesian. “By blood I am half that and half-Fereldan. I only came here for the first time a few weeks ago; I was curious to see the land my father hailed from. He and Maman met in Amaranthine, before eloping to Val Chevin together. She always says she loved that he was not as prone to double-talk as Orlesian men.”

He and Donal both chuckled at her jibe. “Well, we’ve some men in Ferelden prone to that, too,” Donal warned her in a teasing tone, “but fortunately, we’re not among that number.” Alistair immediately felt a jab of guilt, because was he not lying to her right now? Or at least, not telling the whole truth? It wasn’t like that, though, right? He wasn’t lying to get anything out of her, and he wasn’t going to lead her on. He just wanted to talk to somebody normal for a while.

“I like it, so far,” she declared. “I landed at Highever – which I enjoyed very much, by the way,” this directed to Donal, “and spent a couple of months there first before coming here. Although the nights I spent on the road were very cold!”

Alistair could sympathize. Memories of setting up a tent in icy rain and diving inside to spend the night shivering and miserable still had him sending up a prayer of gratitude every time he climbed into a bed beside a blazing fireplace on such nights. “It’s easier if you have someone to travel with, though I’m guessing Thibault is good company,” he observed, scratching down the dog’s spine.

Yes, yes, yes! agreed the tail.

“If you thought it was cold before, winter’s coming on,” Donal cautioned her. “Most of the minstrels and traders hunker down in the cities or stick to the main roads until spring. Blizzards can blow in without warning, dump three feet of snow overnight. Stay on the North and West Roads, and you’re generally never more than a few hours’ fast walking to an inn or settlement. Get caught on a back road, and they may not find you until spring thaw.” He spoke lightly enough, but the warning was a sincere one.

“What drew you away from Redcliffe?” Nicolette asked Alistair.

An Orlesian bitch drove me off was not the answer he wanted to give. “Hated working in the stables,” he replied with a sheepish grin. Hisfingers found a ticklish spot on the ribs, and one of Thibault’s hind legs came up to scratch, and he let that distract him for a moment. He actually hadn’t minded working in the stables all that much, but sleeping in then - “Turned out I was a fair hand with a sword.”

“More than fair,” Donal corrected, and Alistair felt his ears heat at the compliment. He knew that he was pretty good, but he’d never had much opportunity to gauge his skill against anyone else’s since the tournament where Duncan had Conscripted him. Nor was he allowed much time to practice now, apart from a few stolen minutes here and there against the practice dummies in the yard. He missed the sparring sessions they’d had in camp at night when the day’s fighting had been light, as rare as those times had been.

“We were both at Ostagar,” Donal went on. “Got screwed along with the Grey Wardens when Loghain turned tail.”

“You were at Ostagar, too?” The words slipped out before Alistair could censor himself. He could count on one hand the survivors of that slaughter that he’d met, and he’d had no idea that Donal was one of them. And it wasn’t a lie told for present company; the tightly controlled anger in the other man’s voice was very real.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#10
Nicolette felt sorry for people who could not have dogs. She spared a sympathetic glance for James. Guards seemed as though they would actually have a lot of time for dogs, taking them on patrol and so on, but she imagined that one poorly-trained animal could be more of a distraction than a help. Skies knew that when Thibault had his mind set on mischief, it usually ended with her apologising to an irate butcher and paying for the wares that Thibault had enjoyed. Thankfully right now he was enjoying James’ ministrations too much to run off.

They went into her background and she shared a brief version of her parents’ history. She had a much longer version for those who seemed interested in listening, but she tended not to spill all of it on meeting people for the first time. She did give enough to earn a chuckle over the follies of Orlesian men versus Fereldan ones, then mentioned that journeying on the roads had become more uncomfortable of late.

Donal had some advice to that end. Wintering in a city was something she already practiced, but she took note of his comment on the snow, as well as that of the roads. “Stay on the North and West Roads, and you’re generally never more than a few hours’ fast walking to an inn or settlement. Get caught on a back road, and they may not find you until spring thaw.”

“Thank you.” Nicolette smiled in genuine gratitude at him for the advice. “I think at the moment my plan is to stay in Denerim until the thaw, but if something draws me away I will be sure to follow your advice.”

Anything could put her back on the road again, but it was usually an intriguing tale she wanted to follow. And speaking of intriguing tales…she asked James why he had left Redcliffe. If it had been recent, she could guess some of the reasons. The town sounded as though it had been cursed.

James had thankfully avoided darkspawn by the simple fact of hating his job in the stables. “Turned out I was a fair hand with a sword.”

“More than fair.”

Adorably, James’ ears turned red at the compliment. Was Donal his mentor, perhaps? Nicolette did not see anything to infer any romantic feeling between the two, but he evidently cared what the other man thought of him. It was quite sweet.

Then the conversation took a turn. “We were both at Ostagar. Got screwed along with the Grey Wardens when Loghain turned tail.”

He had not evaded the darkspawn, then. “Oh, that is awful! How lucky you both survived…”

Then James fanned the flames of her curiosity. “You were at Ostagar, too?”

Nicolette looked between them, thoughtful, wondering if she should voice the question that came to her mind after James’. “How is it that you-” she gestured at Donal, “knew that both of you were there, and you-” this to James – “did not?”

This was said with no tinge of judgement. Perhaps Donal had noticed James on the battlefield, and had simply neglected to mention it until now. Nicolette certainly could think of no other explanation, unless they were lying about something, although she could not imagine why they might do that.
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#11
“Thank you.” Nicolette responded to Donal’s advice with a pretty smile. “I think at the moment my plan is to stay in Denerim until the thaw, but if something draws me away I will be sure to follow your advice.”

Good for Donal, Alistair told himself, trying hard to mean it. Just because he was stuck with the near certainty that he would marry the woman who Eamon felt would offer the greatest political advantage and broodmare potential didn’t mean that nobody else could try to impress a pretty girl, right?

Right?

He was distracted enough by his brief bout of self pity that he didn’t think to censor his surprise at discovering that Donal had been present at Ostagar. Their tablemate was sharp enough to pick up on it, and her brow furrowed slightly in puzzlement.

“How is it that you-” she indicated Donal, “knew that both of you were there, and you-” meaning the decidedly poor at deception king-in-disguise – “did not?”

Maker. He could hear Zevran laughing at him, see the reproving shake of Wynne’s head.

Donal didn’t miss a beat. “James is new at the palace,” he answered smoothly. “Captain Grissom told me about his experience. It’s always handy, knowing who you can count on not to turn and run when things get dicey … and they don’t get much dicier than darkspawn.” Blue eyes shifted to Alistair. “Sorry I didn’t mention it before,” he apologized. “A lot of the ones who survived Ostagar don’t like to talk about it.”

Damn, he was good. A convincing explanation and a gentle discouragement of further curiosity in one breath. They’d definitely be talking more later, but for now - “It … wasn’t fun,” he agreed, turning his attention back to Thibault to mask his discomfort. He, Aedan and Nu had been spirited away to safety by Flemeth, leaving the others on the field behind to fight for their lives … a fight that far too many had lost. “I got lucky, is all.”

“That’s the way battle works.” Donal’s voice was sympathetic. “I saw better men than me fall. Only thing to do is to live your life in a way that honors their sacrifice.”

“Yeah.” His throat was tight, and he took a couple swallows of ale to loosen it up. “Just sometimes …” He trailed off, shrugging weakly. Duncan and the other Wardens who had died. The half brother he had never been allowed to know. They were dead and he still lived. It was hard to wrap his head around some days. “Sorry,” he told Nicolette sheepishly. “Didn’t mean to get maudlin on you.” That was one way to drive off a pretty girl, he supposed.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#12
When animals were startled, common wisdom had it that there would be two responses. Fight, or flight. Nicolette knew this to be nonsense, as she had seen the third reaction more than once, and was prone to it herself when utterly afraid; freezing in place. She was reminded of that by the way that James did not react at all to her question, although Donal was quick to fill in the gaps.

“James is new at the palace. Captain Grissom told me about his experience. It’s always handy, knowing who you can count on not to turn and run when things get dicey … and they don’t get much dicier than darkspawn.” It was a reasonable explanation. And it would make sense that neither of them would talk about Ostagar for their own amusement. While accounts of the battle had been muddled, enough had made it through for Nicolette to be unsettled by the thought of being one of those soldiers on the battlefield, fighting monsters, seeing the beacon lit, waiting for deliverance by the fresh surge of soldiers, and then…nothing.

It was a harrowing idea, and she had not experienced anything akin to it. James confirmed the thought. “It…wasn’t fun. I got lucky, is all.”

“That’s the way battle works.” Donal’s words spoke of experience. “I saw better men than me fall. Only thing to do is to live your life in a way that honors their sacrifice.”

“Yeah.” James’s voice was clipped. “Just sometimes…sorry. Didn’t mean to get maudlin on you.”

It was hardly the first soldier’s regret Nicolette had ever heard. Survivor’s guilt hung heavy on most who had seen full battle, and those who had opened up about it had needed several ales in order to get there. Nicolette touched James’ hand gently. “If you wish to talk about it, you can do so. I will not be able to say anything of use, I am afraid, as I am somewhat of a coward when it comes to combat. But I can listen.”

She quirked a soft smile at him and Donal. “Or I can provide distraction with a story. I once broke into a chevalier’s house with a lover of the time in order to regain the boots he had left there, for example.”

Now that her irritation over the heckler had subsided, she was feeling solicitous, and would provide either a listening ear or a distracting tongue (of a sort) as the men appeared to need.
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#13
Despite the sudden bleak turn in the conversation, Nicolette did not seem put off, listening sympathetically enough that Alistair felt guilty for deceiving her.

“If you wish to talk about it, you can do so,” she told him kindly, patting his hand. “I will not be able to say anything of use, I am afraid, as I am somewhat of a coward when it comes to combat. But I can listen.”

He shook his head. “Thanks, but you don’t need to do that.” It wasn’t just that the more he talked, the more he risked slipping up. Ostagar had been bad, yes, but he and Aedan had been saved from the slaughter through no skill or courage on their part, and sitting next to one of those who had been forced to fight their way free and seen their friends killed, talking about it as though he’d been one of them felt wrong. Donal was the one she should be fussing over.

“Or I can provide distraction with a story,” she suggested with a hint of a smile. “I once broke into a chevalier’s house with a lover of the time in order to regain the boots he had left there, for example.”

“That … sounds interesting.” And odd. But anything that wasn't Ostagar would be just fine as far as he was concerned.

“Yes, it does.” Donal leaned back in his chair, blue eyes twinkling and a knowing grin teasing at his mouth. “Just where did he leave those boots, pray tell?”
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#14
James did not feel like talking about it. Veterans of battles could be divided fairly cleanly into three categories; those who needed to confess the horrors of the battle, and those who pushed those memories deep down inside themselves, trying to forget as much as possible. The third were those who revelled in the fight, whether it had been won or lost, and Nicolette tended to be a touch wary around those at first. Some were simply flush with their victory and the pitting of their skills against each other, and those ones Nicolette could stomach. The ones with the bloodlust, though…fortunately neither man at the table showed any indication of that.

With that in mind, she offered one of her many varieties of distraction, less loud than her music and less likely to shock the younger man into unconsciousness than one of the others. She baited her hook with a pair of chevalier’s boots, and the pair bit. “That…sounds interesting.”

“Yes it does.” Donal was grinning already. “Just where did he leave those boots, pray tell?”

“In the bedroom of another woman he had been paying court to.” Nicolette chuckled. “Only she was not supposed to be receiving male visitors, and had neglected to inform him of the fact. When they heard her husband approaching, he jumped out of the window, remembering his clothing a moment too late. He had to return to his tavern with only his hands to give him grace. That was how I met him, as it happened.”

He had taken all attention from her performance when he walked in, and Nicolette had not minded in the slightest.

“We got to know each other better over the next few days, but he was terribly hurt by the loss of his boots. He was Antivan, you see, and the boots were real Antivan leather. I am told it was deeply important that he get them back. So we concocted a plan; the chevalier who owned the house, besides being a horrible bully, was also deeply superstitious. I was to disguise myself as a Rivaini seer with the intention of distracting him for long enough that my companion could scale the outside of the building and retrieve his shoes, and then we intended to run for it. Things did not quite go as planned.”

She had descended into a version of the truth so removed from reality there were only bare threads of the original clinging to it, but enough that she would not lose her place.

“The chevalier was one I already knew. He had kicked my dog, and I had flown at him; he would have known my face for certain. When I realised this, it became apparent we had to swap roles. My companion veiled himself as the seer, while I climbed the outside of the building. The chevalier was in the middle of a party, and misunderstood the intent; he thought a dancing girl had arrived, and Tullio was pushed into the middle of a very excitable pack of men.”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#15
Alistair was more than willing to have the attention turned from his slip of the tongue to just about anything else, and fortunately, their new tablemate was both too polite to pry and quite willing to provide a tale.

“In the bedroom of another woman he had been paying court to,” was her response to Donal’s query about where her lover had left his boots. “Only she was not supposed to be receiving male visitors, and had neglected to inform him of the fact. When they heard her husband approaching, he jumped out of the window, remembering his clothing a moment too late. He had to return to his tavern with only his hands to give him grace. That was how I met him, as it happened.”

“Only his hands to -” Alistair felt his ears reddening, but a grin spreading across his face. He could empathize with the poor bloke in a way; Nu had made off with his clothes one evening when he’d been bathing in a river, and he’d had to scurry back to his tent with only a leafy branch as cover … until Morrigan had zapped the leaves off of the branch with that creepy laugh of hers and he’d gone from scurry to sprint. This was better, because it wasn’t happening to him. “I can’t believe he went into a tavern like that!” He hadn’t come out of his tent for several hours … and that was after he’d put his clothes on.

“We got to know each other better over the next few days,” Nicolette went on, “but he was terribly hurt by the loss of his boots. He was Antivan, you see, and the boots were real Antivan leather.” Alistair opened his mouth to ask, closed it again. Surely it couldn’t be Zevran; Thedas wasn’t that small of a world, right? And yet, he could well remember the elf rhapsodizing over the delights of real Antivan leather, and how pleased he had been with the pair of Antivan leather boots that Aedan had found in that shop in Haven, and it was Zevran’s face that his imagination now put upon Nicolette’s lover. Zevran certainly wouldn’t hesitate to walk naked into a tavern. “I am told it was deeply important that he get them back. So we concocted a plan; the chevalier who owned the house, besides being a horrible bully, was also deeply superstitious. I was to disguise myself as a Rivaini seer with the intention of distracting him for long enough that my companion could scale the outside of the building and retrieve his shoes, and then we intended to run for it. Things did not quite go as planned.”

“Do they ever?” Donal wanted to know, kicked back and sipping on his ale, thoroughly enjoying the story. He probably would have walked into a tavern naked, too, Alistair reflected, a bit enviously. “Makes for good drinking stories, though. What happened?”

“The chevalier was one I already knew,” the minstrel confided. “He had kicked my dog, and I had flown at him; he would have known my face for certain.”

“Served him right!” Alistair exclaimed indignantly, giving Thibault’s head a good scratching by way of consolation, which was plainly appreciated, though the hound didn’t seem to be in need of comfort.

“When I realised this, it became apparent we had to swap roles,” she went on, her eyes beginning to dance with merriment. “My companion veiled himself as the seer, while I climbed the outside of the building. The chevalier was in the middle of a party, and misunderstood the intent; he thought a dancing girl had arrived, and Tullio was pushed into the middle of a very excitable pack of men.”

“Oh, Maker!” He could totally see Zevran in such a situation; the elf would be completely unruffled and come up with some clever ploy to get out of it, as he and Oghren had when they had busted Alistair and Aedan out of Fort Drakon. “What happened next?” He leaned forward eagerly, well and truly hooked.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#16
She had them, and Nicolette amused herself gauging the pair’s differing reactions. Donal was entertained, as was James, but the latter was far more saucer-eyed than the former. Nicolette directed her tale between them evenly, warming even further to James over his appalled reaction to the chevalier kicking Thibault. It was part of why she liked Ferelden, for all it was cold and damp; she found it hard to hate a people who treated their dogs with reverence.

Now for the part that was utterly fiction. The chevalier had been nowhere in attendance when they had broken in, as they had done together; the wife had been there instead, and it had become rapidly apparent that she employed far more guile than Diago had originally given her credit for. But being given permission to leave with the shoes after a slightly threatening conversation did not make for so interesting a tale. So instead, ‘Tullio’ became a dancing girl.

“What happened next?”

“Well. He knew it would not take me long to find the boots, if they were still in the place where he left them, but he needed to stall – if he fled right away, the chevalier would surely expect a distraction and have the house searched for accomplices. So, he danced. Very slowly and seductively, he informed me, although from the roars I heard through the floorboards everybody was already so drunk that he could have been stamping on their feet for all they noticed. Then one of them made a grab for the veil covering his face.” She paused, chuckling.

“Tullio was a fastidious sort, and took great care of his appearance. He was also quite slender, so it is conceivable that to a group of drunk men, he could have passed for a woman for a few crucial seconds. Apart from the presence of his immensely well-trimmed beard. With only a second before they could react, and the chevalier welling up like a bullfrog with rage, Tullio broke a plate over his head and fled for the door. I poked my head out of the upstairs window just in time to see him fleeing up the street, silks trailing prettily behind him. Fortunately, the entire mob followed, and I was able to make my exit at leisure.

“When I returned to the inn, he had managed to shake off his pursuers before his return, but as it was the second time that he had turned up in revealing attire, I am fairly certain that the landlord had developed some unwarranted ideas about what he got up to in his spare time. We were gently encouraged to leave the next morning. But on the positive side, Tullio got his beloved boots back.”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#17
During the Blight, nights in camp had been something that Alistair looked forward to through the unpredictable blend of drudgery and sphincter-clenching terror that made up each day. Assuming it wasn’t pouring rain, or snowing so hard you couldn’t see, or there weren’t enemies that might be drawn by the light of a fire and the sound of voices, or they weren’t so sodding tired that they all crawled straightaway to their tents, there would be a campfire and food and companionship. Maybe one night in three, then.

His favorite had always been Leliana’s songs and stories. The bard had possessed an unerring instinct for knowing what they needed to hear, be it a stirring ballad of courage, a toe-tapping shanty or a humorous story, the gentle lilt of her accent adapting perfectly to whatever effect she sought to convey.

Nicolette’s accent was not quite the same, but her sweet smile was familiar nonetheless, and missing Leliana meant missing the rest of them, missing the feeling of having people that you trusted at your side and at your back and having no more momentous decisions to make in the moment than where to camp and what direction to set out the next morning. Tomorrow, he would be back to being King, with eligible women being paraded before him like brood mares and things to sign that no one would fully explain and lessons in everything from silverware to Orlesian to make sure he didn't embarrass Eamon in public, but for now, he just let himself be James and let her draw him into the story.

It was all too easy to picture Zevran as the boot loving Antivan in the minstrel’s tale, and it would be just like the elf to try to bluff his way through with a veiled dance in the middle of a bunch of drunken, lusty men. The revealing of the beard ruined the illusion somewhat, but this Tullio’s reaction was no less bold than Zev might have done: breaking a plate over his hapless host’s head and leading the whole lot of them on a merry chase that left his lovely accomplice free to retrieve his boots.

“That was great!” he exclaimed delightedly when she was done. “That sounds just like something Zevran would have -”

He broke off as he caught Donal’s warning glance, remembering - perhaps a bit too late - that the companions of the Hero of Ferelden had attained fame of their own.

“I mean,” he amended lamely, dragging a hand nervously through his hair. “I knew an Antivan like that once. Long time ago. Would you like another drink?” He hastily downed the contents of his half-full mug, barely managing not to choke in the process, and lifted his hand. “Three more ales, please?” Had he just squeaked? Maker, he thought he had.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#18
An audience responding to music with cheers and dancing was the best kind. But one that laughed at her stories ran a very close second, and Nicolette basked in the attention as she drew her tale to its conclusion with both men chuckling at the mental image of ‘Tullio’ fleeing up the street in his silks. While she had ventured deeper into fiction than intended, she had not strained the bounds of plausibility too far. Donal seemed as though he might look a little sceptical, but James was clearly too entertained to give the reality any thought.

“That was great!” Nicolette beamed at him. He really was quite sweet-faced, despite the sharp cut of his jawline. She imagined more than one person had sighed over those gentle brown eyes. Either that or they had been taken by Donal’s equally appealing soft blues. She entertained the ambitious thought of coaxing them both upstairs, but abandoned it for the moment; James was still rhapsodizing. “That sounds just like something Zevran would have-”

Nicolette’s ears pricked up. She knew that name from somewhere, and James’ immediately agitated reaction to his own words only fuelled her curiosity. The strange detail of both he and Donal being at Ostagar without being aware of each other was easily explained away; the army would have been huge. But something about the name and James’ attitude scratched at her brain. That and the way Donal had just glanced at him.

“I mean. I knew an Antivan like that once. Long time ago. Would you like another drink?” James proceeded to almost drown himself with the remains of his tankard, and waved at the waitress. “Three more ales, please?”

A thread of suspicion started to unravel in Nicolette’s brain. Zevran had been the name of one of the Companions during the Blight. Of course, there were many Zevrans in Antiva. James might have met a sailor in Denerim who shared the name. Perfectly plausible.

“Thank you.” She smiled at James, giving little indication that she thought his reaction had been strange. “I like the sound of this Zevran. He and Tullio would have got along well, I imagine.”

The drinks arrived quickly, and she sipped. “I am glad you liked my tale. Of course, I pale in comparison to the skill of some of my compatriots. I am lucky enough to have befriended Leliana, of the Warden’s companions, a few years ago, and the tales of her abilities are not unfounded. I travelled the sound of Ferelden with her for a few weeks and I do not think I ever heard her repeat a story in all that time, even though we traded them freely throughout the days. She has had an extraordinary life, even outside of the Blight. She told me quite a bit about the Zevran who travelled with them, as well.”

With the appearance of perfect innocence, she continued, although for all she knew she was edging along a plank towards danger. Or she might make a fool of herself, if she was wrong. “Would it not be funny if that was the Zevran you met? The legendary assassin, before the Blight?”
 

Alistair Theirin

King of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
97
#19
Alistair never would have made it as a bard. Obviously. He could barely handle a drink with a pretty girl while staying incognito. It had been such a little slip, but a slip nonetheless. They weren’t in a life-or-death situation; Nicolette wouldn’t suddenly pull out a dagger upon realizing that she was drinking with the King of Ferelden and attempt an assassination.

He hoped.

But he’d still slipped, something that he suspected that Donal did seldom if ever, and he dropped his eyes from the guard’s mildly reproving expression, ready to slink back to the palace and resume his efforts at trying to learn to be a half decent king: something he at least had a chance at pulling off.

Fortunately, the minstrel didn’t seem to have noticed his lapse.

“Thank you,” she told him with a sweet smile that tugged at something in his chest. “I like the sound of this Zevran. He and Tullio would have got along well, I imagine.”

Three mugs were set upon the table, and Alistair took up his, intending to drink it at a more leisurely pace. Two beers was well under what it would take to get him drunk; he was no longer the lightweight he’d been when he first joined the Wardens, but on these excursions, he didn’t want to risk even the slightest lapse in his judgment or reactions. He made enough mistakes cold sober.

“They probably would have,” he agreed. Zev had gotten on well with just about everybody in their group. Except Morrigan, but that didn’t really count since she was an insufferable bitch. He had paused in scratching Thibault when he’d made his little gaffe. A burly head nudged its way under his free hand, and he obligingly resumed his attentions, taking comfort in the warmth and smell of the hound.

“I am glad you liked my tale,” Nicolette went on, taking a drink from her own mug. “Of course, I pale in comparison to the skill of some of my compatriots. I am lucky enough to have befriended Leliana, of the Warden’s companions, a few years ago, and the tales of her abilities are not unfounded.” Alistair perked up in spite of himself. “I travelled the sound of Ferelden with her for a few weeks and I do not think I ever heard her repeat a story in all that time, even though we traded them freely throughout the days. She has had an extraordinary life, even outside of the Blight. She told me quite a bit about the Zevran who travelled with them, as well.”

She had met Leliana. And no, Alistair could not remember her ever repeating a story, except at his request. She had enjoyed telling stories and singing songs as much as he had enjoyed listening to them - and sometimes it had seemed that he was the only one in their little band who did like listening. He had nursed a schoolboy crush on the Orlesian throughout most of the early weeks of their travels. She had known; she would have been hard pressed to miss it, but she had given no sign, continuing to treat him with warm friendship, and eventually his affections had settled into those of a brother for a sister. But he still missed her. Missed all of them, so damn much that it hurt sometimes. And Nicolette had traveled with her.

She paused, then continued with a studied casualness, “Would it not be funny if that was the Zevran you met? The legendary assassin, before the Blight?”

He swallowed his ale and nodded. “Yeah, it would be,” he conceded. Then he couldn’t help it. “You … met Leliana? How was she?”

“James.” Donal’s voice held a note of quiet warning, but Alistair didn’t care. Almost as bad as feeling so damned alone while being surrounded by everyone in the palace was the awareness that his friends were out there where he couldn’t help protect them as he had during the Blight, that he might not even know if something happened to them, that one day the sporadic visits might stop, the occasional letters stop arriving, and he’d never know if it was because they were dead somewhere or if they had just forgotten about him.

“It’s all right,” he told the guardsman. “I think she knows.” He quirked a rueful smile at the minstrel. “Don’t you?” The intelligence in those pretty eyes was another thing she had in common with Leliana.

“We’d appreciate you not making it general knowledge.”
Donal’s posture was still relaxed, his tone easygoing and the new mug of ale in one hand, the other resting on his knee, but Alistair knew that they were one wrong word from the conditions of their agreement being invoked, and he held his breath.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#20
James was doting on Thibault, but he was distracted by the notion that the Zevran he had known and the legendary companion had been one and the same. Nicolette might have left the topic there, passing off her notion as a fanciful one, had he not followed it up. “You…met Leliana? How was she?”

“James.” The other guard’s voice was quiet, but there was no mistaking the tone. He was indicating that James should watch his words. Which meant there was reason for James to have to be careful. Nicolette joined him in rubbing the back of Thibault’s neck as she wondered how to react to the realisation that had crept into her brain. It was a startling one, and yet, he would hardly have been the first member of the companions she had met.

He was definitely the first royal, though.

‘James’ evidently saw it in her eyes, as he told the guard – presumably his bodyguard – to relax. “It’s all right. I think she knows.” His mouth quirked, a little sheepishly in acknowledgement of the fact that it had been his slips which led to her conclusion. “Don’t you?”

“We’d appreciate you not making it general knowledge.”

Well. She was sitting a table with a king. It would make a good story…someday. But not right now. Especially since she was not foolish enough to do something to annoy two quite tall men on purpose. Her gaze shifted back to him again, the king. What struck her was how remarkably young he looked, for somebody who had endured the trials he had. There was something of it in his eyes, though.

She smiled, gently, and touched the back of King Alistair’s hand lightly with her fingertips in a gesture of reassurance, careful to not make it seem as though now she knew his secret, she was making a play for him. “There is nothing to concern you, James. It is safe with me.”

She had always had a soft spot for ‘royal in disguise amongst his people’ stories, anyway.

“Leliana was well, when last we saw each other. She accompanied me as far as the vineyards in the south, at which point we had to part ways. She is an extraordinary woman, is she not? I am immensely adverse to fighting, but she taught me a few techniques with blades that would allow me to defend myself without taking a life, when I am travelling alone.”
 
Top