Two of a Kind Ch. 01-05byLady_Blackhawk©
A/N: This is a fanfic telling of Dragon Age: Origins, an RPG game produced by Bioware. This interlude is moderately AU involving Fem!Cousland/Cailan Theirin and the events happening before and after the attack on Highever Castle as well as Ostagar. The timeline does jump around a good deal in this tale. So bear with me.
Highever----4½ years prior to Ostagar
A tortured scream came from the lips of the writhing female as she bore down with the contraction wracking her small body. She felt as if it would tear her in two while she labored to bring her child into the world. She gripped the bedclothes tightly, exhaling sharply, breathing as her mother told her to. She pushed for all she was worth, screaming through the blinding pain as the baby's head emerged. One more push expelled the babe from her body. She moaned in relief as the infant was placed on her belly. Thick blood coated its tiny body along with a filmy white sheen.
"It's a boy," someone exclaimed happily as the newborn let out a thin cry, drawing its first breaths.
Kainen touched her son gently with shaky hands before letting out a startled wail. Promptly the wet nurse scooped up the infant as the midwife examined Kainen once more. "You are not done yet, my lady. Your son has a twin." It only seemed fair that Kainen would produce twins since she herself had a twin brother, Kaeden.
Kainen was exhausted. She dug her fingernails deeper and deeper into the bedclothes, piercing the fabric of the feather mattress. She rolled her head from side to side, moaning loudly. The contractions assailed her mercilessly, driving her to push for all she was worth.
Twins, she mused, two beautiful little babies sired by the man she loved but would truly never have.
Another scream, another push, Kainen gathered the last of her strength. She bore down, working her way through one more mighty contraction, she felt the child's head breach her body. One more push, she told herself and this child would be born.
"It's another boy," the midwife cooed as she cut the cord and swaddled the crying child in a soft blanket. "Twin boys...you have been truly blessed."
Yes, Kainen knew she had blessed...truly blessed...to have everything she did; a loving family, a grand castle as a home and the love of a larger than life man who happened to be King. The only thing that would have made it better was if she had been his Queen.
As soon as her womb was cleared of babes and afterbirth, Old Nan helped Kainen to sit up, settling the twins in Kainen's arms, nestling them near her breasts. The nanny turned cook instructed her once young charge how to nurse her young and soon Kainen had a twin latched to both breasts, nursing greedily.
Eyes glittered with pride as she noticed his golden head entering the room. Kainen beamed, "Cailan, come meet the twins."
The young King sat down beside her on the edge of the bed, "They are beautiful, my sweet. I have decided on names. We shall call our sons Ciaran and Carrigan." Cailan leaned down, placing a soft kiss on each of the infant's heads before gazing wondrously into Kainen's eyes. "Never has there lived a luckier man than I."
Denerim----6 years prior to Ostagar
Kainen Cousland fidgeted as she stood in front of her full length mirror. She sighed impatiently as the Orlesian modiste worked on the hem to her fashionable new turquoise and gold gown that hugged her bountiful curves and accentuated the blue of her eyes. "You must simply hold still, my child. You will be the most beautiful woman at the ball. The men will be lining up for the chance to dance with you, for the mere chance that you may even throw your gaze in their direction. You will simply outshine them all."
Kainen beamed at her reflection, feeling like a princess in her elegant gown. When she had come to Denerim with her mother and father for the spring social season, she had hoped she would meet someone special, but just recently achieving the age of eighteen had never dreamed of an invitation to a grand ball at the Royal Palace. As the only daughter of Teryn Bryce Cousland, Kainen had grown up quite privileged. Her family was in fact the second most powerful family in all of Ferelden behind that of the Theirin's. The two families' long and storied history was oft intertwined, dating back four centuries when Teyrna Elethea Cousland fought against King Calenhad Theirin to remain an independent teyrnir. Yet Kainen's father had fought alongside King Maric Theirin against the Orlesian occupation of Ferelden. Dreamily, Kainen wondered if King Maric and his son, Cailan would be present at the ball. She giggled at the thought of actually meeting the prince.
"Ah, my darling girl, you look more beautiful than ever," Eleanor Cousland smiled as she entered the manor's sitting room. "It brings a tear to my eye to know some young man may win your heart at this ball and sweep you off your feet."
"Mother, you shouldn't hitch the cart in front of the horse," the younger Cousland female impishly grinned. "I look forward to this ball, even though my stomach is somewhat tied in knots. But is it true that Prince Cailan will be in attendance?"
Eleanor chuckled warmly, stroking her daughter's unruly dark curls. "It is rumored that he will make a brief appearance, but don't hitch your hopes to that star. He's been promised to Lady Anora Mac Tir since they were both children."
Kainen pouted impetuously, "Is that because General Loghain was King Maric's right hand man during the war with Orlais?"
"That's Teyrn Loghain, pup. You must remember his title."
"But mother, our family is much more important to Ferelden than theirs. Teyrn Loghain was a commoner before King Maric gave him his title. Our family has been always been nobility. Father should be marrying me to the prince," Kainen placed her hands on her hips, pouting as prettily as she could manage. "I have more nobility in my pinky finger than Anora has in her whole body. Anyway, Father really doesn't like Loghain anyway. He told me so."
The teyrna's brow furrowed as a cross look blanketed her face. "Pup, this is not an appropriate discussion to be having at this moment. You must always mind what you say and how it will reflect on your father or I should it be repeated," Eleanor reprimanded soundly.
"I still hope to be presented to Prince Cailan. Our family's stature should demand it. Therefore I must look my best. I think I shall wear the jeweled blue topaz tiara and matching earrings along with my new dress. Won't that look stunning, Mother?"
"Yes, I believe it will look beautifully stunning on you, and hopefully will attract a young man not already spoken for," Eleanor insisted, fully disliking the fool notion that had crept into her only daughter's head. The elder Cousland woman had heard tales of rivals who attempted to sway Cailan's affections in another direction. The daughter of Bann Augustine had the misfortune of finding herself upon a panicked horse when someone struck the beast's flank with a sling bullet. The usually calm and gentle horse threw its rider, breaking her neck instantly.
"Yes, yes, mother," Kainen sighed. She knew she'd end up with a lecture from her father at some point if she continued to irritate her mother over this topic. "Who else would Father see me married to that would bring something of merit to our family? It is obvious that Fergus married Oriana for love, not connections. There's also the matter of Kaeden as well. My dear twin seems to think no woman is good enough for him. I don't see why Father allows him to fool around with the stablehands."
Eleanor shook her head, "Never mind your brother. Your father has made a match for him with Delilah Howe. As for you, there are numerous good matches out there, pup. Both are Arl Wulff's sons have not married as well as Arl Howe's oldest son, though not much has been heard of him since Rendon sent him off to the Free Marches. There is Arl Urien's son, Vaughan. Or if we go a few years older than you, there is Teagan, Bann of Rainesfere. He is brother to Arl Eamon and Queen Rowan, Maker rest her soul. There are many, many choices for you. I would say most of them will be at this ball, except for Howe's oldest. Any of them would count themselves lucky to have you as their bride."
Kainen returned to her reflection, sighing dreamily. She looked forward to the ball and whatever it may bring. "Rumor has it that Vaughan Urien has a thing for elves and that Bann Teagan avoids court like the plague."
Eleanor shot a knowing smile at her daughter, "Teagan is here in Denerim at the moment. He's staying at Eamon's estate."
"May that it be, Mother, but who says he'd be interested in me?" Kainen retorted. "Besides who says I'm interested in some fool match? I just would like to meet Prince Cailan, not settle down and have a passel of babes." Kainen stuck her tongue out at her mother then jerked away from the modiste. "Have done, woman. I'm not a pincushion."
Eleanor sighed from exasperation, placing her head in her hands. Her darling brat had resurfaced again and would seem to be on a tear.
"Introducing Lord Kaeden Cousland and Lady Kainen Cousland, son and daughter of Teyrn Bryce and Teyrna Eleanor Cousland," Kainen nearly pranced down the stairs of the royal ballroom after she'd been introduced to the crowd. She strutted and preened, tossing her saucy dark chocolate curls over her shoulder. Kaeden walked beside her with his hand on the small of her back, guiding her down the stairs, ever vigilant in his duty to catch her in case she fell.
At the bottom of the grand staircase, Kaeden leaned over to whisper in his twin's ear, excusing himself as he caught sight of someone he knew. Kainen smiled in the direction her brother had walked away in, noticing as well that Dairren, the son of Bann Loren, was the reason her twin had abandoned her.
Soon Kainen found herself swept away, dancing with various noble sons. She rolled her eyes as the young men pawed her while complimenting her beauty. She squirmed out of the tentaculous embrace of Vaughan Urien, threatening to break both his arms after the lecherous young man promised to have his father send a request to his that Vaughan be allowed to court her. Storming away, she sought someplace quiet where she could gather her emotions. She knew her mother would be horrified if she challenged the Arl of Denerim's son to a duel while the ball was going on.
So lost in her thoughts was she, Kainen did not notice the balcony she'd stepped out onto was already occupied. She cursed loudly, pacing to and fro, under the watchful eye of a shadowy figure standing at the balcony's railing. She pulled off her delicately beaded blue heels, sending them flying at a wall. One ricocheted, veering wide before striking the figure at the railing.
A startled yelp brought Kainen out of her revelry. She spun, finally noticing someone else was there. Her mouth went dry as recognition hit her. Even in the dim light of twilight, she knew who was holding her shoe. Rushing forward, Kainen bobbed a curtsy, mentally cursing herself for her folly. What a wonderful first impression she had made. "Your Highness, forgive me, I... I never would've thrown my shoe if I knew you were present." Kainen stayed in a supplicant position until the man before her spoke.
"I like to see fire in a woman. Besides no harm has been done," he replied with a chuckle as he helped her to her feet, handing her shoe back to her. "Something must've riled you up. Pray tell what that was."
Kainen knew who stood before her. As much as she had desired an introduction, she cursed the Maker for it happening like this. Therefore she chose her words carefully, relying heavily on the diplomatic training her father had been trying to instill upon her. "Bann Vaughan thought he could paw a teyrn's daughter. Forgive me for my unseemly behavior, your Highness. It was better to release my frustrations in private than behead the fool before a captive audience. My parents would be scandalized."
Recognition surged within the young prince, "You are Bryce's youngest. I have heard many things about you from your father. He speaks highly of you and now I see why. How does your father fare these days? And your brothers?"
"My father is quite well, Prince Cailan. They are in attendance tonight as well as my twin brother, Kaeden. I had hoped to be introduced to you, my prince, but I never imagined it to be this way. Might I beg a question, Your Highness?"
"Only if you drop the 'your Highnesses' from your every sentence," the golden prince smirked, "'Twould continue to be unseemly after the assault with a shoe." Mirth sparkled in his tawny eyes, setting her at ease.
"Very well, your ...err... Cailan," Kainen stumbled then cleared her throat. "Why have you not made an appearance at the ball so far? I'm sure most of your subjects eagerly await you to grace them with your presence."
A rich laugh spilled from his lips, "Ah, you are your father's daughter. Bryce must be proud of you indeed. Civilized hatchet parties like these bore me with everyone seeking my favor. I'd much rather be out in the field, not stuck in the palace. Father insists I be here, but that doesn't mean I have to cater to the sycophants fawning over my every move."
Kainen let loose a throaty laugh, "It must be hard being the prince when everyone wants something from you."
Her statement garnered a cocky grin from him, "And it must be equally hard to be a beautiful young woman when it's well rumored you'll be your father's heir instead of either of your brothers. No wonder so many are 'pawing' at you this evening. As for young Vaughan, I could discreetly send a message that your attentions are spoken for." His words were bold. "Dance with me." Cailan's voice purred as he moved closer with a slow sensual step that made Kainen's heart beat all the faster.
Being swept away into the arms of the golden prince far exceeded any of Kainen's musings on how the night might fare, yet she was far from complaining. He caught her arms then slid them up around his neck. His voice had dropped an octave lower. Deep, slow, sensuous, like the hands that, instead of holding her correctly, slid around her, against her bare back where the low cut of her dress left it vulnerable.
Kainen gasped, her mind spinning in circles. This was what she had dreamed of. Cailan moved gracefully to the music, drawing her along with him. The feel of him this close, the brush of his warm hands against her silky skin, made her tremble. As he felt her body quiver, he pulled her infinitely closer. Kainen shivered helplessly while his hands slowly caressed her, his lips nuzzling her hair, her forehead, as he made the languorous effort to move her to the lively rhythm the orchestra played. It wasn't as much dancing as it was making love to music. She felt his broad chest dragging against her breasts with every step, his long powerful legs brushing against hers at the thigh. As much as she wanted this, as good as it felt, Kainen pulled back. She must not seem too overeager to him, especially after her little shoe throwing episode. Her actions, though, did not go unnoticed by Cailan.
"Why do you recoil? Is there something to be afraid of?" He whispered against her brow, holding her firm.
"'Tis unseemly to allow such forward behavior after my outburst over the prior offense," Kainen whispered, knowing she must hold something back if she were to truly garner the attentions of the prince. Play hard to get, make him work for it before allowing him a sample of her fruit. Kainen was no fool. She knew she had intrigued him, hence she was now being cradled in his arms, he was holding her quite intimately, touching her. Part of her could barely hide her pleasure or her need for more of this exquisiteness.
"My lady," he bent closer, his mouth tempting hers into lifting, his eyes dark and sultry and intent in the stillness that surrounded them. He ceased their dancing, but his hands smoothed lazily up and down her slender back. He watched the rapt, uninhibited need color her face then part her lips. Cailan wisely eased her into a small alcove, hidden from the rest of the balcony, moving her until she was against the stone wall. His hands rested on either side of her head against the rough stone, his body shielding hers, and then covering hers, trapping her between his heat and the cold chill of the granite in a slow, sensual movement.
Cailan captured her mouth, taking it a succession of slow, brief, tormenting kisses. Kainen writhed spasmodically, shaking from the pleasure of his kiss and the thrill of being this close to him. He tasted of heaven and expensive brandy, his ministrations drugging her senses with aching desire. Kainen clung to him with something akin to desperation, so out of control that she couldn't begin to hide the emotions he brought to life within her. Her smaller form burned with want of him, throbbed and trembled as a pool of heat gathered deep within her, threatening to devour them both.
But the nasal whine of a familiar female voice acted like a bucket of ice cold water, effectively cooling their ardor. "Cailan, where are you? Are you hiding out here again?" Tapping heels on the tile floor grew louder, threatening to expose their rendezvous. Both held their breaths for fear of any noises would give them away.
As soon as the sound of the clip clop of footsteps receded, Cailan let loose the breath he was holding. He rested his lips against her brow, "That was close. I want to see you again. I'll send for you soon. We'll go for a ride in the countryside. Now I suppose I must make an appearance," he sighed, "before Lady Anora sends out a more vigilant search party."
"I... should freshen myself, I suppose, so I don't look like I've been thoroughly mauled," Kainen could scarcely keep the disappointment out of her voice, but knew appearances had to be kept up.
Cailan let her out of his embrace, "Keep a dance open for me, my sweet. It 'twould look unseemly if the prince didn't dance with his favorite teyrn's daughter." The golden prince winked at her, straightened his clothes and hair before disappearing out of sight.
Kainen sought the nearest powder room, fixing her make-up, before returning to the ball. She quickly made her way over to Kaeden, despite being surrounded by a bevy of beauties, remained at Dairren's side. She absconded upon them, quickly cajoling Dairren into a dance, before the tentaculous Vaughan could whisk her away again. She reveled in a slew of several more partners, dancing gaily to the Remigold, until Vaughan captured her once more.
Relief came almost immediately in the form of a smiling Cailan, interrupting the pair, "Pardon me, Bann Vaughan, but I believe I have not had the pleasure of a dance with Teyrn Cousland's lovely daughter yet." The golden prince offered his hand to her, escorting her a few paces away where he engaged her in an invigorating waltz.
Kainen felt like she was floating on air again. Such wonders the breadth of his strong arms beheld, keeping her safe from harm. She knew all her prayers had been answered; her dreams would become a reality. Surely this must be what floating on cloud nine felt like. Surely there was no other luckier woman than she.
Ostagar---after the assault on Highever Castle
The ox drawn wagon drew ever closer to the ruins of Ostagar, one more mile in fact before they reached the main camp. Despite the wagon, it had still taken them nearly two weeks to make their destination. Travel was slow going at best and nearly nonexistent at worst during certain days when the horrors of what had happened in the castle forced Kainen into a near stupor. Grief overwhelmed her. The loathsome man who practically dragged her kicking and screaming with her children in tow out of the larder where her father lay in a pool of blood, dying from the horrific wounds she had scarcely glimpsed, managed to keep food in her children's bellies. It was all she could manage to take care of the twins.