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Not One In Ten Thousand Knows Your Name [Solo, Complete]

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
241
#1
((Satinalia, 34 Dragon; Evening))

Cauthrien had never paid much attention to Satinalia, except to be aware that a good number of those under her command would be celebrating well into the night and waking with tender heads. She'd never been one for giving gifts, wasn't sure what to make of the one Nathaniel had given her. On the one hand, it was thoughtful, and only one among the gifts he had given to the others in the order. On the other, it was a reminder of those weeks when she had thought it might be possible for her to move beyond friendship with him. She'd thanked him, of course, and she was fond of blackberries; she might need to have a word with Velanna, see if the mage could give them a little nudge along the way come spring.

For now, she moved through the crowd of celebrants in the Market District carrying a covered basket and a lantern. She wasn't in uniform, but she had become familiar enough to the folk of Denerim that some called greetings as she passed, which she responded to with polite nods.

The tiny shack lay at the end of one of the smaller side streets, with no shops or taverns to draw people from the parties on the main streets. She'd found it more than a year earlier, shortly after being given command of the Denerim compound, following up on a rumor passed on to her by the city guard.

She knocked. When she'd found the place, the door had been a flimsy affair of nailed together boards hung on a couple of canvas straps that flapped open whenever the wind made it down the narrow street. She'd replaced it with a proper door with hinges and a latch, patched the holes in the roof, gotten waxed paper for the one tiny window to let in a little more light.

“Come in.” The gruff voice, at least, had changed little from her early years in Gwaren. She pulled the door open, stepped inside.

Beorlic Gunnarsen sat at the rickety table where he spent nearly all his time, simply because there were few other options apart from the narrow bed. He turned his head toward the door, the light from the lantern illuminating the burn scars on his face, the milky cast to both of his eyes. He'd taken an acid flask full in the face during the final battle against the darkspawn. Cauthrien had believed him dead, along with so many of the others who had followed Loghain Mac Tir, and perhaps it would have been better for him if he had died.

He'd been aging even then, the once dark hair and beard gone iron grey and more than a shade slower when he fought, but still powerful and with more than enough canniness to make up for the loss in speed. The years since had ravaged him, leaving clothes hanging on his gaunt frame, and it was more than the injury, more than being reduced to begging that had brought him down.

He'd been a Mac Tir loyalist, heart and soul, following Loghain without question, just as Cauthrien had, and he'd not been pleased when she had first showed up at his door, and as a Grey Warden to boot. 'Traitor' had been the kindest term he had used. But loyal as he had been, he was no fool, and when he had finally listened, when she had told him all that she knew, she had seen him wither before her eyes. He'd accepted her presence then, and her assistance, though he remained sullen for some weeks still, even after Fang had accepted her without question.

The mabari rose now from his place at his master's side and padded to greet her with a low chuff and a friendly headbutt that would have knocked her sideways if she weren't expecting it. Hound had aged better than master: still burly though his brindle muzzle was liberally touched with grey and the single canine tooth in the markedly undershot jaw that had given him his name jutting out past his nose. 'The ugliest mabari in Ferelden', Loghain had called him, adding, with equal amounts respect and affection, 'and the deadliest'.

Cauthrien scratched his head now, then reached into the basket to take out the marrow bone she had brought. He took it and retired to a corner; seconds later came the first crack as powerful jaws began to pulverize the prize. In both size and appetite, a mabari was a poor choice of companion for a destitute man; most of the meager coin that Beorlic had gotten before had gone to buy offal to keep Fang fed. Cauthrien kept them both fed now: the grocer, baker and butcher both delivered every couple of days.

“Happy Satinalia,” she told Beorlic as she seated herself at the second chair and set the basket on the table.

He grunted, taking a swig from the earthenware jug that sat before him. Easier to drink his ale straight from the bottle than trying to pour it into a mug. “Too damn much noise,” he grumbled.

“It'll get quiet come morning,” she predicted, and a sly smile touched his face. “Good time to come through with a cowbell, eh?” It had been one of his favored tactics when the soldiers under his command had overindulged the night before: roust them before dawn with a cowbell, sit them down to a hearty breakfast of salt pork and fried potatoes, then make them run three miles. Few made that mistake more than once.

“Maybe,” he said with a rusty chuckle, “but it'd likely get my throat cut here.” Folk knew who he was, but largely left him alone … likely because of Fang's protective presence. There had been incidents: bags of flaming horseshit tossed at his door, threatening notes nailed to it. They had decreased in number since Cauthrien had become a regular presence, but hadn't vanished entirely. He'd fought bravely in the rebellion against Orlais, been no less a hero than Loghain then, but he had been content to stay in his general's shadow then, and now he was overshadowed entirely by Loghain's deeds, known only as a follower of one considered Ferelden's greatest traitor.

“Heard we had darkspawn in the city,” he said as she began placing the contents of the basket onto the table. “You involved?”

“I was,” she replied, and told him of the incident while she prepared a plate for him. The food that was delivered during the week was simple and easy to eat without further preparation: meat pies, bread, smoked meats and cheeses. On her visits, she took food from the Grey Warden kitchen; Tobias and Cressa had never asked where she took it, but made sure that she had what she asked for. Baked eggs wrapped in sausage, apple turnovers, chicken skewers, shortbread cookies; Beorlic refused to fumble with a knife and fork, eating everything with his hands.

“Howe,” he spat when she mentioned the Arl of Denerim's cellar. “Likely they scented the blood and shit soaked into the damn stones.” Like her, he blamed Rendon Howe for Loghain's downfall, had been as stunned as she had been at the discovery of the house of horrors beneath the Denerim estate.

“Very possible,” she agreed, pulling the stopper from the bottle of mead, pouring it into a tin mug and pushing it across the table until it touched his hand. He picked it up and drank as she continued.

“Sloppy,” he growled at her account of the fight. “Why haven't you taught them to switch between bow and blade?”

“They're new,” she replied ruefully, accepting the rebuke as her due. “I haven't had as much time to work with them as they needed.” That she'd been injured, then sent on a recruiting run, was nothing she would mention; Beorlic had never had patience with excuses. “That's being corrected now that they're on the mend.”

He accepted this with a grunt, and then they both lapsed into the silence that was customary between them while he ate and drank. Neither of them had ever been much for talking.

“Take Fang for a walk?” he asked her after a bit.

“All right,” she replied, remembering that he couldn't see her nod. “C'mon, boy,” she said, coming to her feet. The mabari rose and accompanied her, staying obediently at her heel as they moved through the streets. He'd known her since Beorlic had gotten him as a puppy, and if he didn't obey her as fully as he did his master, he obeyed her, making his toilet near one of the refuse piles. He didn't need as much exercise as he had in his younger years, and within half an hour he was leading her back to the shack.

Beorlic had found the bottle of mead and drained it. He refused when she offered to guide his steps outside; she always offered, he rarely accepted. He had always been vigorous, but now his world had dwindled down to the tiny space in these four walls. She had tried to convince him to move to they Grey Warden compound. Fewer than a score of Wardens occupied a space meant to house dozens; space was not a problem, but he had refused savagely, his bitterness toward the order lingering even after he'd been forced to acknowledge Loghain's guilt.

“Anything else you need?” she asked him.

“Can you see to Black Beauty for me?” he asked, his reluctance obvious. Cauthrien couldn't blame him; caring for her own weapon was a point of pride, but he had not adjusted to his blindness sufficiently to tend the red steel greatsword that he kept stowed beneath the narrow cot that he slept on. She took it out, drew it from the scabbard, the blackened blade just another shadow among many in the dimness of the shack. Only the razor-thin sharpened edge gleamed blood red in the lamplight, and even that had been covered with soot when he had engaged in night sorties against the Orlesians, decades ago.

As she did on every visit, she cleaned the blade, checking for any sign of rust from the damp, tended the edge with the whetstone. It needed little attention; it had not been used since the end of the Blight. “She's good,” she announced when she was done.

He grunted, then surprised her by holding out his hands. He usually simply let her replace the sword in its sheath and stow it back beneath the bed. She placed the hilt into his grasp, stepped back as he held the blade, watching as the once powerful hands trembled, the knuckles beginning to show the swelling of joint-ail.

He closed his milky eyes, pain washing across his face. “I always thought I'd die before I got to this state,” he said roughly. “I always thought I'd rather die -” Pain gave way to shame.

“You're too stubborn for that,” she told him, getting another rusty chuckle.

“Mayhap I am, girl,” he conceded. “Mayhap I am, but damned if I know any reason that I'm still around. If I cross the Veil, at least I could give him a swift kick in the arse.”

“He'll be there when you get there.” No need to ask who 'he' was.

“Aye,” Beorlic agreed with a heavy sigh, passing the sword back to her. She returned it to the scabbard, then to its place beneath the bed. “What was he thinking, damn it? Trusting that snake over his own?”

“I don't know.” It was far from the first time he'd growled that question, and she'd never been able to give him a different answer. “I doubt we'll ever know.” She'd been offered a glimpse into Loghain's thoughts once, when Nathaniel had offered her the letters that he had written to Rendon Howe; she didn't regret burning them, but she couldn't help but wonder sometimes, at moments like this, if she would have found anything that would make sense of the insanity.

“No,” he conceded wearily, scrubbing a hand over his face. “I suppose we won't. You'd best get back; you've got recruits to train.”

She knew a dismissal when she heard it, came to her feet. “Shall I leave the lantern?”

“What for?” he asked gruffly, unable to quite hide the bitterness beneath.

She sighed. He could discern light and dark, vague shapes, but the choice was his, though she didn't relish the idea of leaving him in the dark. “I'll see you next week then,” she told him, taking the lantern and the empty basket and leaving him with Fang.

((Title inspired by "MacDonnell On The Heights" by Stan Rogers))
 
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