Anora Mac Tir had always been special. She was the sole child of Teyrn Loghain, the Hero of River Dane. She was one of only two daughters of Teyrns in the whole of Ferelden. She was betrothed in the cradle to the Crown Prince of the realm - she was unique as well as special and it set her apart.
"Anora, dear, don't do that. Oh look now, you have made your dress all dirty. That is not how future Queens should behave." Her mother scolded as an elven servant was sent to get her changed. Elenne was meek but kind and five-year old Anora went with her as bade by her mother. She twirled in her muddy dress when they were alone in her room for the serving woman.
"I think the mud improves the pattern," she joked and Ellene chuckled.
"As do I, child, but I would not let your mother hear of it."
"I don't know why she fusses so much." The girl's petulant words were muffled by her dress being pulled over her head.
"She fusses because she cares. You have a great task ahead of you and she is trying to make you ready to face it."
"I don't want to marry Cailan. Why should I have to? I want love like in the tales you or Father read to me."
"We don't always get what we want, girl." Ellene told her more sharply than usual, but she was too young to understand why.
"She wasn't just a servant, she was my fr-friend." Anora sobbed in to her handkerchief.
"She was a servant, one who had the nerve to die on us and give us the need to find a replacement."
"She was my friend! She asked me to find her niece before she died. I want to bring her here as the replacement."
"Not this again," her father sighed, home from Denerim and mourning Queen Rowan in private. "I will not have an Orlesian in my household staff. We can find a replacement in Gwaren."
It took weeks, Anora cycled through tactics until one finally worked. She had cried, raged, broken expensive items and threatened to run away from home until she found that none of those things made the slightest impression on her parents, not even on her father who usually ended up giving her whatever she desired. She had to bury her feelings and she began to try to hold herself like the Queen they kept telling her she was going to be. It took a while, but eventually, her newfound poise and natural skill for debate won them over and Erlina was brought from Orlais to replace her deceased aunt as Anora wished, as Ellene had wished.
Her father always took pains to avoid the Orlesian serving elf but Anora adored her. She had personally attended to her servant in secret away from her parent’s eyes. She had showed her Gwaren, how to do the duties her aunt had done before her and in return, Erlina had taught her the little ways she knew of the Orlesian Court and their Grand Game. Anora became far more attached to Erlina than her parents would desire but she had also stopped acting like a child and more like a Queen-to-be and so, they let the elven girl stay.
Anora held more feeling for Erlina than any but the two of them knew and, one night, first kisses and first fumbles sent her heart soaring. She refused to be parted from her and they spent their time together, attending the duties her mother, Celia now started to assign to her to practice the running of the household, and later Gwaren itself in preparation for her nuptials and coronation.
One day, her father informed her that he was taking her to Denerim to spend more time with Cailan. He forbade Erlina from accompanying her and only because she knew how much her father disliked Orlesians did she acquiesce to the request. The travelling was not so bad, she got to spend more time with her beloved father, who had spent little time in the last few years at Gwaren, always waiting on King Maric in Denerim as his advisor.
Cailan was as he had always been, kind and sweet if thoughtless on occasion. Even when he had done something unintentional to offend, he worked very hard at winning her over again. She ignored his fumblings with the serving girls and a few minor noble ladies, until one day when she walked in on him, had merely raised an eyebrow and said
“I don’t care as long as you do not get her with child,” before walking out again. She did notice afterwards, that he was much more discreet with his liaisons than before.
Erlina was summoned after this incident as even Loghain Mac Tir could see that she needed the friendship the Orlesian elf brought to his daughter and for the first time in his life, he overlooked his prejudice in order to keep his girl happy. After that, Anora began to view Denerim as her home and her future Queenship with more interest and devotion.
She and Cailan were wed and she began the task of filling the role of Queen to the best of her ability, smoothing the ways for the nobles in the court, gently massaging any offence her cheerfully oblivious husband might give in error. She knew that she was keeping the country together all by herself and she had Erlina - and Ellene - to thank for that. After she had studiously learned diplomacy to charm her own parents in to going against their wishes for her sake, she could do anything.
Life was pretty good for those five years, she had a husband whom, while she did not love him, she liked him very much as a friend and she had Erlina and her father. She had her role as Ferelden’s Queen to occupy and sustain her and it seemed to the woman who held the country on her shoulders that there were worse fates.
She was not the only special woman housed within the borders of Ferelden, though and her happiness was not to last. Darkspawn had been sighted in the south and ever since the moment Duncan and his fellow Grey Wardens had come to the palace to deliver the news, she had a peculiar feeling on her gut that nothing could rid her of.
She used all of her considerable powers of persuasion on her husband, but he was too enamoured of the Wardens and their legend from the tales his late father had told him to listen to her or her father’s entreaties to remain where he was.
“Cailan, you have no heir,” she finally pleaded in his bedroom, trying to make him see sense.
“I will come to no danger with the Wardens at my side, Anora. Do not fret. We have many years yet to secure the Theirin line.” She had failed, she walked almost in a daze to her own rooms in their apartments and sat heavily on her bed. Erlina came in, announcing her father and then withdrew. Anora looked up at her father, her hero and begged him as she had once done as a child to do something.
“Cailan is set on his course, Anora,” he had told her, holding her gently “There is nothing I can do that you have not already tried.”
“We have no heir. If he should fall...”
“...you will become Queen in your own right.” he finished for her. She could not deny that the idea had some appeal, she was already running the country as it was and Cailan’s absence would certainly help her in many of her endeavours - but he was still her friend and she had pledged her hand to him if not her heart.
“My dear, I may not approve of the girl being an Orlesian, but I know where your heart truly lies.”
“He is the King.” She reminded her father. She had stood up on the battlements and watched the Army set off, due to grow and swell in numbers as they reached Ostagar. Duncan of the Wardens had said he was off to look for more Grey Warden recruits. It was the last time she was to ever see her husband, a man who had loved her as she had loved him - a childhood friend. His passing was still to be mourned but she refused to dress in black, stating that she refused to go in to mourning until the darkspawn were defeated and the country once again made safe. Then they could mourn and rebuild.
Many courtiers returned to the palace with tales of lost troops and demands, her father hot on her heels and she knew she had to do what might prove to be the fastest talking of her life to set things as aright as they could ever be. She had no way of knowing that her face had passed before her father’s eyes as he saw the beacon at the Tower of Ishal being lit. That love for her had been his overriding concern when he left her husband to the darkspawn horde and turned away with his troops.
Bann Teagan’s words had cut through her like a hot knife through butter and the first seeds of doubt began to sprout in her mind. She recalled the conversation they had had in her room with a swooping dread in the pit of her stomach and she had immediately sought out Erlina for emotional support. She would still be Queen though, despite her father claiming the regency and she refused to just give up. Something was desperately wrong and Arl Howe’s tale of the treachery of the Couslands did not sit right with her. He had gained far too much far too quickly and she had always thought of him as a bit of a grasping, greedy man. How her father could let such a toad in fine clothing advise him, she knew not. Erlina was dispatched to the elven networks, gossip spread even faster through servants than courtiers and she soon learned that the residents of Highever did not believe the words of Howe, now their Arl.
Even more troubling were the rumours flowing through Denerim like wildfire of Elissa Cousland - it was said that she had survived the purge of her house, had joined the Grey Wardens and had even survived the massacre at Ostagar. Each day brought worse news, her father was avoiding her, Rendon Howe was trying to cosy up to her and then word flood out of Redcliffe that the illegitimate son of former King Maric had been found. She saw her crown, her life’s work slipping away from her and she did not have any idea if it was partly her own fault. Dalish elves, dwarves, Redcliffe and their allies, all pressured the crown and it managed to simultaneously feel heavier and slip from her grasp at the same time.
It finally came, the day when Rendon Howe tried to press his suit. He had invited her to the former residence of Arl Urien Kendalls - somehow having found way in to Howe’s hands as well as Highever - and upon her rejection of him; he had locked her up. She sent Erlina to the Warden Cousland to free her, both the only daughters of Teyrns, now brought together in need - Anora for freedom and Elissa for her support in the coming Landsmeet.
Elissa was more sympathetic to her plight than she had first imagined, but Anora could not miss the looks of adoration that passed between the girl and the illegitimate heir. There could be no mistaking who he was - he looked so much like Maric and Cailan that there was no question. Her breath caught in her throat when she first saw him, as if her husband had one last smile for her. She may not have been in love with Cailan but she loved him dearly nonetheless.
The Landsmeet came and the bottom fell out of her world when her father was proclaimed a traitor and he lost his head to Alistair-now-Theirin’s blade. He was more clement towards her than she would have supposed, more so than she would have been to him considering the threat he posed to her. She wondered if that was just his nature or if the Cousland girl had something to do with it. Either way, she was imprisoned and lost her crown, only to be reinstated should Alistair die facing the Archdemon.
He did not, but her shackles were removed and she was allowed to go free. She initially was filled with thoughts of vengeance, of reclaiming her crown, until she got in to her carriage and found none save Erlina inside. She drew the curtains as they headed back to her seat in Gwaren and Erlina soothed her gently.
“This is better,” Erlina told her “You never have to put the realm or other’s wishes before yourself any longer.”
“Everything I ever worked for has been lost and my father has been branded a traitor. I suppose I never was special after all.”
“You are the most special person in all of Thedas.” Erlina scolded and yet complimented at the same time, sealing her words with a passionate kiss. Anora reciprocated and drew the elven girl to her and as she melted in to the kiss and followed the path out of Denerim, she realized that she did not have to be Queen, did not have to be the daughter of the Hero of River Dane to be special. All she needed was the love of Erlina.