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Those We Cherish

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Arven Lavellan was a simple elf with simple priorities: to protect his twin sister Ashanne from the judgment of others and do everything he could to stop being a disappointment to his older brother Cyrril, the First of Clan Lavellan. He spent his days training for hours with whatever he could, despite his preference for a bow or two daggers. He looked after his older twin sister. She was a mage training to be a healer, one of few professions the Dalish had for skilled mages. Arven’s bond with his sister made it easier to ignore the clan members that constantly looked down on him for not being like his brother. In the same way, he knew that his sister could ignore the stares of the close-minded elves who still feared mages, and in turn feared her.

 

Everything changed when the Fifth Blight began. Arven and his sister Ashanne were fifteen at the time. Their clan traveled to the western edge of the Brecilian Forest to assist a sister clan that was troubled by werewolves. About two months after meeting up with the sister clan, Arven and Ashanne began to wonder about the conflict with the werewolves.

“Do you get a feeling that Keeper Zathrian is hiding something?” Ashanne asked one evening after supper, turning on her bedroll to face her brother. The two had retired to their tent for the evening, speaking in hushed voices to avoid the notice of any passersby.

Arven wasn’t surprised, in face he’d had similar suspicions, “I know what you mean. Do you think it has something to do with the werewolves?”

“Of course it has to do with the werewolves,” Ashanne stated as if it were obvious, “Not only does the man seem to skirt around the topic of any retaliation – which I know the Keeper has brought up more than once from overhearing Cyrril – but…”

“Keeper Zathrian seems to be the only person that has a history with the werewolves, right?” Arven had similar curiosities as well.

Ashanne nodded, “Exactly! Have you noticed that many of the injured are higher-ranked and all of the victims are from Keeper Zathrian’s clan even though our men have gone with them more than once. Then there’s also the matter of his age. Lanaya told me herself that Zathrian is older than any of the elvhen she knows of.”

"Maybe it has something to do with the old tales of elvhen immortality?"

Ashanne shakes her head, "I don't think so. Elves haven't been immortal since before the Tevinter Imperium. If someone had discovered any of the old ways - not just immortality - then elves other than Zathrian would know of it."

“Do you think we should look into the situation?”

“Let’s wait a little while longer da’len, see if we can dig anything up around camp. We don’t exactly know these forests very well.”

“Very well, you are the older one here.”

 

A few weeks passed and the twins hadn’t been able to make much progress. Ashanne was pulled away constantly to look after the elves who continued to succumb to the werewolves’ curse and Arven was constantly training with other hunters.

“Shemlen are not welcome here,” a voice rang out one day, causing many of the elves to turn their heads. Arven traced the movement of the Dalish guards as they argued for a few minutes before guiding a group of strangers towards the Keeper’s tent. The group looked a bit odd to the young elf. There was a red-headed woman garbed in Chantry robes – the religious institution of most shemlens – followed by a man clad in Grey Warden-branded armor and a dark-haired mage with a sour expression painted on her face. All three seemed to be led by a woman with long, pale blonde hair and a set of daggers. She held herself like a shemlen of noble breeding, yet something felt familiar about the woman.

Apparently, Ashanne felt the same way because not a day had gone by when she approached the woman – apparently a Grey Warden – and struck up a conversation before Arven could pull her away. He didn’t have anything against the woman – in fact Arven was amazed at how helpful she’d been since arriving. He’d overheard some of the Warden’s conversations with different elves and she offered to help in several situations from gathering supplies for the craftsman to helping a hunter apprentice win the heart of a young woman. Arven was just worried about the Grey Warden’s reaction to Ashanne's somewhat brash nature.

“You don’t seem like an ordinary shem, Miss Warden,” Ashanne remarked after a conversation about the halla that the shem had been able to save mere moments earlier.

The woman chuckled, her eyes bright, “Please, call me Lyra. I may have been raised a noble, but I’ve never liked formalities.”

Arven cocked his head at her words, “A noble that doesn’t want to be treated as a noble?”

Lyra turned her head to him with a smile, “As your sister said, I’m not an ordinary noble, my father would often joke around about how spirited and unlike a typical noblewoman I was,” she gently glanced between the two, as if contemplating something, “Can I tell you two something?”

Arven and Ashanne exchanged looks.

“Sounds important,” Ashanne finally replied, “Is it something wrong that you can’t tell your friends?”

Arven was impressed. His sister always noticed when something was wrong – it was this natural intuition that guided her to study healing magic in the clan. In addition, she could befriend almost anyone and many confided in her. It made Arven feel almost as inferior to her as to their older brother.

Lyra chuckled, “Smart girl,” she paused for a few seconds, “It’s not that I can’t tell them – hell, Morrigan knew from the beginning. But if I did, it might complicate things further down the road, especially with Alistair.”

Alistair was the armored man amongst Lyra’s party, as Keeper Zatharian had told them. The twins had gathered that something was going on between the two of them, as Alistair stood very close to their new friend when she was speaking to Keeper Zathrian, as if challenging everyone not to mess with her. Not to mention Arven had noticed the young man glance over towards the trio more than once, smiling at Lyra as she and Ashanne chattered away. He’d caught Alistair’s eyes the fourth or fifth time – causing the shemlen to quickly look away in what Arven assumed to be embarrassment at being caught.

Lyra twiddled her fingers a bit, looking back to make sure her companions weren’t looking before pulling her hair behind her left ear, causing the twins to quietly gasp: though it was barely there, her ears had the pointed shape of an elf’s. She cautiously explained that she was half-elf, but nobody knew because her mother had hidden their heritage ever since she got married.

“Fereldens would overreact if they found out that a nobleman had an elvhen daughter, especially the high-ranking Teyrn of Highever. My brother Fergus was lucky enough to be born without any elvhen characteristics, so we just kept it hidden. While technically I could fully embrace my lineage now, I’m afraid to.”

“Because of Alistair,” Arven cautiously interjected “Are you afraid he’ll leave you if he finds out?”

Lyra stiffened slightly, “How did you know about-?”

“You and him?” Ashanne snorted softly, “The man’s looked over here six or seven times already with eyes that just scream ‘I’m in love with that woman.’ It’s adorable.”

“You took the words right out of my mouth, dear sister,” Arven sighed with a teasing smirk, “Don’t forget his eyes whenever you and our dear Warden start giggling over something, they remind me of a halla fawn.”

“Maker’s breath, would you two stop!” Lyra covered her face with both hands, the tip of her uncovered ear turning a faint pink.

After a few minutes of the twins giggling and Lyra’s mortification settling down, Arven returned to the original situation, “So, are you afraid?”

Lyra shook her head. “Not quite. It’s a bit more complicated than that.”

 Arven and Ashanne listened closely as she recounted her journey up until then. After the tragedy at Ostagar a few months back, she had traveled to a human village called Redcliffe where she and her friends defended the town from undead corpses unleashed by an untrained mage. They saved the boy named Connor after gaining help from the Circle of Magi, but couldn’t wake Arl Eamon, the reckless mage’s father. That led them to retrieve the Sacred Ashes of Andraste from a temple in the Frostback Mountains guarded by dragon cultists. After they revived the arl, it was decided that a Landsmeet would be held amongst the human nobles in attempt to dethrone Loghain, the father of Queen Anora and the man who betrayed the Grey Wardens at Ostagar. Arl Eamon had every intention to put Alistair on the throne, as he was the half-brother of the late King Cailan.

“Alistair would refuse the crown if it meant giving up on me,” Lyra gave a tired smile, “If I keep my elvhen lineage a secret, we can stay together because I’m a noble. I don’t want to tell him, not yet at least. It doesn’t help that I don’t know if my brother is still alive or not. He was supposed to be at Ostagar fighting on the front lines, but I didn’t see him at the camp or in the Korcari Wilds.”

The twins could tell that Lyra had given the matter serious thought. After all, relations between humans and elves were tolerable at best. Some elves would kill any shemlen who entered Dalish territory armed and unannounced, and humans still treated city elves like slaves and saw the Dalish as barbarians. To make matters worse, Lyra’s family had recently been killed by a human called Rendon Howe.

“What will you do if he becomes king?” Ashanne asked curiously.

Lyra shrugged, “I have no idea. First, we have to take care of the conflict between your people and the werewolves. Then, we have to secure an alliance with the dwarves in Orzammar and hope that it's enough to survive the Blight. Don’t even get me started on hunting down Howe, the traitorous bastard.”

Arven jumped back in, rewording his clever sister’s question, “I think Ashanne was wondering what you would do when – not if – you become his queen. Will you keep your identity a secret then?” He was wondering too. If there was any hope for Ferelden, it would be in this woman’s hands as the future ruler of the kingdom.

Lyra was silent for a moment, then chuckled softly. “Who knows? I could hardly stand being a nobleman’s daughter, much less the wife of a king. I think Alistair already knows I’m hiding something from him. He’s bound to find out soon. If he takes me as a noble after learning the truth, I’ll only wish that the people can think of me not as a half-elf, but as a woman prepared to stand by their king’s side.” A faint blush painted Lyra Cousland’s cheeks at the thought of marrying her beloved.

Arven and Ashanne tried to go with Lyra and company to resolve the werewolf conflict. Unfortunately, they did not succeed. They were stopped by Cyrril, who was in a very sour mood after learning that a good friend of his had recently disappeared and was presumed to have died from the blight. The twins barely had the chance to warn Lyra and company about their suspicions regarding Keeper Zathrian before Cyrril pushed so many duties on the twins that they missed both the success and departure of their newest friend.

It came as no surprise to the twins that Lyra Cousland’s hopes eventually became reality. Only one year later, it was known that the Blight had ended and Ferelden had a new king. Not only that, but King Alistair would soon have a queen. 

Lyra became known as the Hero of Ferelden after personally slaying the Archdemon, and her title was enough for her to rule by King Alistair’s side without much opposition concerning her half-elf nature (at least, no opposition that had reached the ears of the Dalish). Some of her first actions as queen included improving conditions in the Elven Alienages, beginning with Denerim, and attempting to quell the ill-founded rumors cast upon the nomadic Dalish elves. She also gained the trust of the elves and the dwarves as races, a feat unprecedented by past rulers of Ferelden.

Progress was being made on the relations between the different races. It did not happen quickly, but it was certainly there.

It seemed like life was returning to normal. There was no fear of curses or darkspawn attacks, so Clan Lavellan returned to their land in the Exalted Plains. Arven was deeply affected by Lyra’s actions. She was brave, despite judgment from elves, dwarves, and humans alike. It inspired the now-sixteen elf. He tried even harder to catch up to his brother than he had before. However, his goals were put on hold when Ashanne learned something that would change the twins’ lives.