Author's Note: There are significant original plot differences between Lily's story and the game story though some parts are the same (the plot differences happen more as the story progresses). This is meant mainly to focus on the human side of defeating the blight as Lily Cousland tries to cope with the loss of her family. She also runs into some Origins characters who do not become Grey Wardens. I am telling their individual stories in other fics, but just as a preview, there you go. I hope you enjoy and I'm open to suggestions and helpful criticism.
Some people claim that nobility live easy lives. Maybe that's true, it was mostly true for me. I had responsibilities and the constant "you need to get married" pressure placed upon me but I could deal with those things. Those thing were small compared to what others had had to do. My father had fought in wars to keep his lands, he had suffered, even as a noble, so that Ferelden would be independent once more. My brother and I grew up together and unlike most siblings we knew, we got along great. We teased each other but it was always light and we knew what subjects not to get into. My father was a kind ruler and taught us to value every person you ruled over. My mother taught me that a man was not the only one who could wield a sword. My mentor told me of our family's grand history. For the most part, there was peace and contentment in Highever. Until that night, my biggest problem was how to get my mother to stop pestering me about marriage and even that had seemed solvable for a brief moment before it was gone.
I remember going to bed that night, nervous about what lie ahead for my father and his knights, saddened by the prospect of never seeing Gil ("Ser Gilmore") during morning practices anymore, but overall happy. I shut the door behind me and felt his arms snake around my shoulders and sighed contently.
"Gil been teasing you again?" Dairren asked and without looking I knew he was smiling.
"As always," I said. "It's so much worse when you come."
Gil hadn't let up teasing me since I had come of age and the marriage proposals had started coming in. Dairren hadn't asked, but we'd close for a long time as friends and he knew that wasn't what I wanted right then. Also, everyone in Highever knew it was the greatest hope of our mother's to see the match made. So, naturally, we kept the romance a secret from the start. It wasn't like they needed to know they were right all the time (even if they were).
"Perhaps I should come less often?" he suggested as I turned around to face him.
I pretended to think on it a moment. "No. Maybe you just shouldn't leave."
He laughed quietly. "I think I'd like that."
"Oh and there blows our secret," I said, smiling.
"I was thinking about that," Dairren said and went to sit on the bed. I walked over and sat beside him. "We will have to tell them eventually…right?"
"Yes," I said. "It seems that if they haven't figured it out by now they never will."
He put his hand over mine. "Three years. And they think they're observant."
"It is possible they've noticed but said nothing," I said.
"Where's the fun in thinking that?" he asked and kissed my forehead gently. We sat in silence for awhile before Dairren said, "I love you Lily."
I grinned so hard my face actually hurt a bit and I was glad Dairren was the only one to see how ridiculous it must look. "I know. I love you too."
"Good," Dairren said then took a big breath and continued, "I…I have something…"
He took another deep breath before sinking to the floor, on one knee and grabbing my hand. I was suddenly very glad that I was already sitting on the bed as a rush of dizziness came over me.
"I...I've already asked your father because I know that's what you'd want, even if you did enjoy it being our little secret. The look on his face…" Dairren began and grinned as I blushed trying to picture the look of shock my dad would have had at hearing it all. "Sorry, I'm…I'm just nervous and getting off topic. I…I love you. Will you marry me?"
Then he pulled out a ring. It was at that moment I realized with horror that my voice was absolutely gone, my throat had locked up. My heart raced and for a second I thought I might be having some sort of hysteria I had seen in some noble ladies. Then in the next second my brain kicked into gear and I realized the reason was because I was happy, scared, but overjoyed. I nodded as he slipped it onto my finger and rose in a swift motion.
We were in love, we were engaged, and the world was spread out before us, beautiful. In that moment I didn't think about my brother riding to war, the impending dark spawn fight, the possible recruitment of Sir Gilmore, or even having to figure out how to put up with my sister-in-law by myself for the next few months. None of that mattered during that glorious evening as we made love for the last time.
There's something unreal about the entire night looking back on it now. When I just try to picture it it's as if there's no sound in the memory. Just silence, the silence of death, of ending. The silence plaguing my memory is worse than the real sounds that night, almost.
I dreamt I heard a scream but I continued to sleep. I'm not sure what woke me up, whether it was Dairren removing himself from my arms or Stark growling at the door. I just knew I was awake and uneasy. Dairren and I pulled on clothes in silence for a moment. His shirt was unbuttoned as he reached for the door.
"Wait," I said. "Your gear is still in your room. If…Stark's a good dog, he'd know if this was a false alarm. It could be rats or…"
This time I heard a scream that wasn't dreamt. I picked up my belt, buckled it, and unsheathed my sword. I opened the door and was pushed back so hard the sword flew from my hand. All my training was useless as the man raised his sword, ready to end my life in one blow as I lie defenseless.
Dairren shielded me, his body blocking the blow and going straight through his chest, inches from my own. I couldn't even scream as he collapsed on top of me, still, dead.
Somehow through the tears and terror I managed to get up by pushing his body to the side as Stark ripped into attacker. I pulled out my second sword and beheaded the man. It was a move I had practiced over and over again, one swift motion, graceful, almost like dancing. I had never used that one on anything but the occasional practice dummy. I didn't think I wanted to see anyone beheaded, even bandits, but when the murder's head fell to the floor I stomped on it hard before collapsing to the floor.
I must have sat there for three minutes, too stunned to move, too numb to be sure I was even breathing. Stark whined and I petted him without thinking, mechanically. My loyal dog tilted his head and I looked where he indicated and saw Dairren, blood soaked and still beside me. Stark howled, displaying all the emotion I couldn't. That was broke the dam. I sobbed hard, sinking my head into Stark's neck.
A few seconds later mom was there.
"Are you alright, darling? I heard the screams and locked myself in and then I heard Stark and I rushed here and…" she said, and then she likely took in the room.
"He's dead," I said, finally lifting my head from my mabari. "Dairren…"
"Honey I'm so sorry…but…we're under attack. We have to find your father," she said.
I got up, somehow, despite feeling too heavy to lift. I moved the bandit's body to the corner and kicked his head into the hall, past my mother. I tried to lift Dairren onto the bed but my arms seemed to be failing me, useless. Mom helped and together we got him up. I took the sheet and draped it over him, looking into his now lifeless eyes one last time before I covered his face.
I put on my armor then, and mom then asked, "Are you ready dear?"
I wanted to tell her 'of course not' but I nodded. She headed toward the door and I spotted the ring on the bedside table. Tears falling silently, I picked it up and slipped onto my hand before following.
After Dairren I thought nothing could phase me until I saw my six-year old nephew dead in his mother's arms. I think I screamed as mother wept on her knees.
"How…why?" she cried.
"How…Howe, Howe did this," I said, my voice sounding dull to my ears. "He's taking us over. No one -"
"Is meant to live. No prisoners…but why?" she asked, getting up from her knees from when she had collapsed at the sight.
"It doesn't matter. He dies, that's all that matters," I said and tightened my grip on the sword.
Dairren. Oren. Oriana. I said, making a list. I wasn't going to forget them, not a single one who died because of Howe. It became a chant in my head as I thought them over and over again. Dairren. Oren. Oriana.
I added nine more that I recognized to the list before we were able to make it to the Great Hall. We had retrieved our family's belongings. I held the sword that had been passed down for generations. Dairren. Oren. Oriana. Landra. Aldous. Emery. Fallon. Jacob. Iona. Nan. Mila. Corin. I gripped our family's sword hard as I thought of plunging it into Arl Howe's chest.
"Teyrna Eleanor! Lady Lily!" Sir Gilmore said once we'd fought through the group of men that had attacked there.
"Sir Gilmore you're alive!" mom said.
"Gil…" I said, my voice so small and exhausted-sounding I was surprised he heard it. He smiled sadly at me and wrapped me in a quick hug before releasing me to get down to business.
My mom asked the questions. My father was, as far as we knew, still alive. Gil. Dad. Mom. Me. Still alive. The list was too short but at least there was a list. Apparently the Grey Warden was alive too, Duncan.
"Do you think he's with Howe?" mom asked Gil.
"Howe didn't seem think much of him," I said. "But then again…"
"Yes, well, we'll be on our guard, thank you Sir Gilmore, for everything," mom said earnestly.
She started to leave but I didn't move. "No! You have to come with us Gil."
"I have to man the gate, if they get in…Lily you will die, we all will," Gil replied.
"If you stay here you'll die," I said.
He didn't deny it. "Yes, but these men need me. I cannot leave them."
"Then I'll stay too."
"No," he said, an order like he would give to any of the men under his command.
"Please Gil, I can't…no one else…Gil…"
"Come Lily, please," mom said, standing over by our exit.
Gilmore looked at me, concern in his eyes. Then he came over, hugged me tight before pulling back and literally carrying me by the waist to my mother.
"Forgive me my lady," he said softly as he pushed me out and slammed the door shut, locking it behind him.
I screamed and banged on the door like a child and felt the panic creep up again, felt the world threatening to stop. Mom tugged on my clothes but I barely comprehended it. Stark let out another howl and I looked at him, the sadness in his eyes drawing my attention. He tilted his head to the secret escape and I nodded, finding the ability to move somehow.
When we got to the larder I saw him before mom did. At first I thought he was dead too, the blood was thick on his clothes and the stone floor about him. It took me a moment to see that he was alive, propped up, and breathing heavily.
"I knew you'd come," he said to us and we ran to him.
I couldn't breathe. They talked and I heard the words come from their mouth. I was aware when the Grey Warden came and spoke with him, discussing something I couldn't even comprehend at the moment. All I could think about, all I could see or feel was my father lying there, holding himself together by nothing more than his will and his own two hands.
"You have to go with Duncan," was the first thing I understood out of my dad's mouth.
"What?" I asked.
"You need to go with Duncan, pup. You need to live," he continued.
"What about…what about you…mom?" I asked, my voice higher than normal.
"I am not leaving him," mom said.
"And I won't survive the standing I don't think," dad said.
"I can't leave you. Let me stay with you, I'll defend you. If you won't leave, don't make me go," I begged, crying for the first time since the madness had gone into full swing.
Mom put her arm around me and dad put the hand supporting himself over mine.
"Cousland's have always done our duty. The world needs Grey Wardens and you need to live. If you die, Howe wins," dad said.
I lowered my head and closed my eyes. "Please…"
"Lily, you have always made me proud," dad said and he didn't need to finish the thought for me to know what he left out don't stop now.
I nodded. "I will and I…I love you."
"And we love you," dad said.
And mom finished like they had when I was a child and they tucked me in for the night, "Always."
Duncan seemed to realize that I wasn't going to be able to tear myself from the spot without help and he yanked me up by my waist and I stumbled to stay on my feet.
Through the passage Duncan stayed close behind me. It was dark and I knew the way, even without the dim light his torch provided. We ran hard and fast and the singular objective of getting through the dark enclosed space kept me from breaking down or worse, turning and running back (even if it meant fighting off the Grey Warden to do so).
When we got out we found ourselves not in the bulk of the attackers but still with a good number. I got a glimpse of the man who belonged to the legendary warriors fight from time to time as we fought our way through the number. It was amazing and I could have watched him practice for hours just admiring it. For a second the thought of watching him test Sir Gilmore was exciting to think of and then I realized that was stupid. Of course that wouldn't happen, even if Gil survived. That was yesterday and what had been the future then would never come now.
Only when five more skilled attackers came at Duncan at once did he seem thrown off. Engaged with two of my own I couldn't help at first. Down to three he had been tripped to the ground somehow though he took one down in the fall. Two left.
I got out and threw my dagger which sunk into one's neck at the same time I forced my sword through the back of the other man. He fell down dead and I stared at Duncan and offered him a hand. The fighting, for now, seemed to be over and I tried to organize my thoughts into something coherent as Duncan got to his feet:
I was Lily Cousland. I was the daughter of Eleanor and Bryce Cousland. My family had been slaughtered at the hands of a "friend." My brother was likely dead or to be ambushed shortly. I had no choice but to become a Grey Warden and fight with the King's army against a darkspawn horde.
And I was going to make Arl Rendon Howe pay for what he had done.
Dairren. Oren. Oriana. Landra. Aldous. Emery. Fallon. Jacob. Iona. Nan. Mila. Corin.
A.N. I realize that the Nan and some others might have been found after they were found in the fic in the game version. Also, the names Emery and Fallon are for students. Mila and Corin are elven servants. In case you were wondering about the OC names. Please review, pretty please?