The Blood Red RoseMature

A piece of Fanfiction originally posted on another site but I wanted to share it with others. Set in the Dragon Age: Origins Universe which is owned by EA/Bioware and David Gaider. I claim nothing as my own other than a few OCs, plotlines and the original dialogue.
Rose Cousland, Flame of Highever, Moody &!##@, Grey Warden and Expectant Mother. Imagine the blight beyond Nightmare difficult and add a lot of AU elements.

Rose Cousland snuggled deeper into her bed. She was too happy for words and it translated into her cuddling the pillow and shutting her eyes tight while she thought. Ser Roland Gilmore had finally proposed to her. Almost two years of hiding behind her parents backs and meeting in the dead of night, and they had come to an 'agreement' that neither of them could stand the charade any longer. It had all transpired mere hours ago but Rose felt like it was still happening as she replayed the event in her mind's eye. Maker! She felt just like a love-stuck teenager and not the lady of twenty three years she was.

***

He wiped the rat blood from her face and gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek. "How can you be so beautiful even covered in the blood of vermins!" She stuck her tongue out at him and he laughed. Both of them knew that it wasn't a relationship borne of lust and looks. They'd come together out in the forests, hunting rabbits and sneaking in late to the pantry to find something to eat. Of course the blame for missing food was given to Aegis, her mabari hound. It was during those dark raids for bread and butter, that they discovered something more than friendship with each other. After their first kiss in the shadows of the grain cupboards and between sacks of potatoes, they'd almost made any excuse to be near each other. But they somehow had avoided suspicion.

"Well my dear Rory. I happen to have this strenuous beauty regime that actually uses the blood of rats to purify my skin!" And they'd laughed, the tears forming in the edges of their eyes at the thought of the youngest Cousland with any beauty regime at all. She always scraped her hair into a high ponytail out of practicality and wore no make-up, complaining when her mother would dress her up and parade her at salons and dances. As if she was a prize for the highest bidder.

"Oh Rosie, this is why I love you!" They hugged in the dark, rat strewn pantry. Leather to scale armours, completely oblivious to the outside world. "Marry me Rosie. We'll could live on a farm and raise chickens for all I care but marry me!" But he looked at her in that darkness with the most serious expression she'd ever seen grace his face. And she froze solid for that moment in time. "Rosie?"

She answered him with a kiss, uncaring to the blood splatters on his or her lips. "Of course you daft, daft man!" She gave him her brightest of smiles. The one reserved for him only that flashed her teeth and wrinkled her nose, the one that her mother thought was unbecoming for a lady. He returned with a brush of his gauntleted hand over her hair, pulling the loose tendrils back and off her face.

Unfortunately, the moment didn't last much longer as Aegis decided it was the perfect time to barrel over and knock his mistress to the floor, removing the blood from her face with a slobbery kiss of his own. "Get off me you big lummox!" She whelped as Aegis backed off and she stood up, removing the stray hairs that accompanied her dear mabari's kisses.

***

Outside her bedroom door she heard a clatter and Aegis jumped from the bed, barking wildly at the door. She scolded the dog whilst she was still half asleep. It was most probably a cooling metal sconce falling from the wall and landing on the stone. She pulled on a pair of boots to save her feet the cold floor and draped a bathrobe round her practically naked body. Suddenly, a scream and a cry rang out in the relative quiet and it seemed the whole castle awoke with noise. Aegis growled at the door and she slid her hand under her mattress to grab a dagger. Not her preferred weapon, but useful enough if something was happening outside her door that required screams.

Keeping deathly silent she moved to the door, her grip tight on the dagger and she looked pleadingly at Aegis to calm down. Not that it had any use. She leant forward and locked the door, finally breathing. Not a moment later the door shifted in it's hinges, the bang startling Rose and if she could have, the dagger would have been embedded in the palm of her hand. She jumped back in time as the door crashed open, ripping splinters into the air. An arrow pinged next to her face and found purchase in a wall hanging. The dust and splinters cleared and she saw the face of a man, bow and arrow to his face, ready to aim and not miss this time.

She pulled back to the wall, hoping she hadn't been spotted as of yet and moved along it. The man stepped into the room, weapon still poised to fire and Aegis tackled him the to floor. His bow sent flying as the dog ripped into an exposed neck. She gasped at the brutality of her animal as the man gurgled his last and bled out onto the floor, his blood seeping down the cracks in the flagstones. The dog backed off the corpse and took a cautionary glance at his mistress. Rose was still stunned and peeked out the ruined door for more people like the man who has stormed into her room.

Two men were hammering on her parent's bedroom door and she caught sight of the shield on the shorter of the two's arm. The brown bear - the Howe crest. Surely these men were using his shields as a ways of separating the friendship of the two families. They can't be her 'uncle' Rendon's men! She dashed over to the bow on the floor and turning the body on the floor over, notched an arrow. She kept her back as close to the wall as possible and let the arrow fly.

The arrow implanted in the neck of the shorter man with the shield and he fell to the floor. She'd been lucky and managed to hit something vital in his neck. The taller one followed the path of the arrow and caught sight of her and advanced to her position, a sword and dagger unsheathed. Not thinking straight she reached for another arrow, notching it quickly and trying to aim for that same spot on this man. But she was too fast and not accurate enough. The arrow hit him in the cheek, tearing off a chunk of skin and muscle as he pulled the projectile out and snapped it in his fingers.

"Maker's balls! You're going to pay you little wench!" He snarled and the blood poured freely from his open wound but Aegis dashed forward, grabbing tightly to his ankle in a bid to halt him. The man tried to shake the mabari hound off and wildly swiped with his sword at the beast, grazing the animal's behind and shearing off a fair deal of fur. Trembling, Rose drew another arrow from the dead man's quiver and notched, firing at the soft patch of flesh just above his collarbone.

The arrow caught it's target and impacted deep in his throat. He stumbled slightly before falling face forward into the ground. Rose looked at her hands, they were violently shaking and she dropped the bow to her feet. She'd killed someone! She was a murderer! She let a singular tear fall and shook herself. She'd nearly been killed! It was kill or be killed here! She went to her wardrobe and pulled out her leather armour. She pulled the boots of and slicked the trousers on, buckling the belt a she slipped the boots back on. Rose let her bathrobe fall and shoved on the cuirass, adjusting the straps so it was tight to her skin. Finally she slipped the two daggers she owned into the holsters on the belt and picked up the fallen bow, throwing the remainder of the arrows in the quiver onto her back. She put her set of lock-picks into her pocket and checked her drawers for her signet ring, slipping it onto her finger.

Aegis stood guard while Rose was vulnerable and she treated him to a pat on the head as she passed him. He fell to heel and she walked light footed to the door of her parents room. She knocked gently; whispering, "The raven flies clockwise round the spire." The door unlatched and her mother fell into her arms. Looking from her position on her shoulder, Eleanor Cousland gasped.

"Those are Rendon's men! That's Tomas! And Gavin!" Rose pulled slightly from the frantic embrace and looked to where her mother pointed.

"Where's Papa?" She tried to remain calm but her voice hitched over the words.

"He didn't come to bed. He said he was staying up with Rendon for some drinks in the main hall..." She trailed off, looking into the distance. "Are you hurt Rose? I have some health poultices stored in my room."

"I'm fine Mama. But grab them in case we meet more resistance on our way." Her mother dashed into the room and came back out a few minutes later while Rose and Aegis guarded the door, in full leathers with a sword and dagger in their holsters and a bow and quiver strapped to her back.

"I wore these during the Rebellion. I never dreamed I'd need them again." She patted the leathers like an old friend.

"I was woken by a scream. We should check on Oriana and Oren." Rose dashed over to the room opposite hers and opened the door, finding it unlocked.

The room had been trashed, bookshelf emptied onto the floor and in the bed, Oren had been beheaded. His blood was soaked into the covers and Rose felt her stomach knot and the bile rise to her throat. She went to back out of the room when her mother charged in behind her. "Oh Maker no! My poor little Oren!" Rose held her mother back with an outstretched arm.

"I'm going to be sick. Don't look." She turned her face away but instead of seeing a messed floor caught sight of her sister-in-law, naked and crumpled in a bloodied heap. She felt her food heaving up he throat and she pushed the burn back down.

"I'll look. I want Howe to know how he'll find his own family." The words were softly spoken and Rose looked back to her mother in tears. A chill went down her spine.

"We need to go. Howe will pay, mark my words." She hissed the words between her teeth and pulled her mother out into the hallway, closing the door. She didn't notice her own tears that had stained her face until a caring hand wiped them off. She sniffed and the three of them made their way through the estate to the main hall.

***

Rose almost fell into the door of the main hall. She pulled the small dagger from her side and wiped a handful of the red health poultice into the wound, feeling it close slightly and the pain disappear. The blood on her leathers dripped and she wondered how much of it was her own now.

"Keep them back men! Don't let them through the gates!" She stopped dead in her tracks hearing Roland's voice. In the hall, six men were strained on the doors, pushing against them with all their might. She searched them until she saw the familiar red hair and ran over. "My lady! Are you alright?" He changed his stance to leaning on the door with his back, feet firmly planted into the ground.

"I'll live." She didn't have time to say much. Her father wasn't in the room and she needed to know where he was.

"Ser Gilmore! Do you know where Bryce is?" Her mother and Aegis stumbled into the hall together.

"He was in his study when Howe attacked your Ladyship." He huffed, the door getting harder to hold. "The Grey Warden helped him to the escape hatch in the pantry."

"Come on Rose. We need to get out of the castle. Your father should be safe. Thank you Ser Gilmore." Her mother tugged at her arm but Rose stayed still.

"Rory, come with us! You can escape!" She pulled away from her mother and to the man she loved.

"I can't Rosie. I can't leave here while you both are still in danger." He looked up to her with that daft smile he wore when he was lying though his teeth. She didn't care any more, she didn't care what her family would think of her and the son of a farmer who'd only learnt to fight because her brother and he were friends. Truth be told she never did care what they thought. The tears tumbled from her, creating shafts in the drying blood.

"Rory, I'm asking you politely. Come with us." She pleaded with him, her voice cracking and leant in brushing her lips to his. But he pulled away and turned so he could push with his shoulder.

"I'll follow when I know you're safe. Go now before we can't hold the door!" He strained against the thick wood and Rose allowed herself to be lead away to the pantry.

***

She knelt over her father, in the same place she'd been only a few hours ago as the happiest girl she could have imagined being. Except it was as if someone had purposely done this to her, caused her to feel completely helpless and alone. The blood was pooling around her knees and she felt frantically at his wrist for a pulse. Her fingers were quivering but she felt the slow thrum of his heart. Fiddling with the cork on the vial, she poured the contents of her last health poultice down his neck.

"Please Papa. Please don't be dead." She sobbed into the velvet of his tunic and was startled when his breathing became less laboured. Her mother clasped a bloodied hand to his tightly, as if willing him back to life.

"Rose... my little girl." She removed her face from his chest and stared at his ghostly pale face. "You're alive."

She bit back the ironic tears forming under her eyelids. "I am. We need to get you out of here Papa." She looked over at her mother. How were they going to carry him?

"I won't survive the moving. Take your mother and escape." His eyes fluttered and she looked on as her mother gave him her own last poultice.

"Bryce, we can get you to a healer. We got hurt more in the Rebellion, we'll live Bryce - don't do this." Rose looked on as her mother desperately pumped his broken body into breathing again. The door to the pantry darkened and she grabbed tight to her daggers her arrows all expended.

"Lord Cousland!" She relaxed slightly at the deep voice. Recognising it as Duncan of the Grey Wardens.

"They made it here on their own Duncan... Please... make them see sense... take them to safety." He coughed a glob of blood onto his lips.

"I won't leave you to die Bryce!" Her mother turned her voice soft to him.

"I shall do so my Lord. However... I ask one thing in return." Duncan shifted on his feet, as if suddenly unwilling to ask of his favour. "What is happening outside this castle will effect the entire land-"

"I understand Duncan... Rose... I'm sorry... Go with Duncan and live. Tell the King at Ostagar of what has happened. But live." His eyes widened as he said 'live' and he grasped her hand. She felt her heart sink. She swallowed back the lump in her throat.

"I will Papa. I will for you." She stood up from him, biting tight on her lip lest she start to cry again. She felt the hand lead her down the escape hatch under the potato sacks and heard the bolt slam tight. But she couldn't feel anything any more.

***

The hand lead her through the winding tunnel and out into the cold night air. It was the screams from within the castle that allowed her any grip on reality. She turned her face to her home and saw the flames licking the stone. The wooden ceilings were on fire. The main hall had a wooden ceiling. She heard the crackle and collapse and the hand pulled her away.

Castle Cousland was a smouldering figure in the distance. Rose looked ahead in the dense brush but wasn't watching where she was going any more. The whole night crept up on her and she stopped moving, falling to her knees. The figure that had lead her this far away from her home stopped beside her, it's hand on her back as she started heaving, the tears falling thick and fast.

Her dinner burned back up her throat and spewed from both her mouth and nostrils in a powerful hurl. For a moment she wasn't sure which was hurting more, her physical or mental pains. She fell face first into the vomit and couldn't keep her eyes open any longer.

***

Rose awoke wrapped in a rough blanket. Aegis was curled in the crook of her arms and she felt as if her face has been scrubbed with a wire brush. She wiped the sleeping dust from her eyes and looked up to the sky. It was a vivid blue and dotted with white clouds. It almost seemed too clear for the setting in her mind.

She felt the physical pains first though. The bruises forming under her skin where she'd been bashed by shields, the pinching of scabbed over skin where she'd been nicked and ripped at by daggers, swords and arrows and the raw bloody feeling in her throat, nose and mouth from her vomiting.

The emotional pain crept up on her. She'd lost her entire family. She'd seen the beheaded body of her nephew Oren, the crumpled heap of her sister-in-law Oriana, the twisted broken neck of Nan - stuffed half into a sack, her father laying in a pool of his own blood, dying. She'd been unable to save any of them. Her own mother had watched over the body of her father, swearing to kill anyone who dared follow her and Duncan out of the escape hatch. She'd given her life so they might live. She'd had to leave Rory. She could have kept that one small thing from her life with her but he had been too stubborn. Now he was most probably dead under the fallen in roof.

She pushed off the blanket and stretched out. Duncan was by the fire, a small hand-held spit turning in the flames with a fish charring on it. The smell was strong and Rose reached out for Aegis to hold her in place while the world was spinning. Then she repeated her actions of last night and threw up whatever had been left in her stomach.

The End

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