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Fanfic / Shadow and Rose

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Art by Aimo, used with permission
Shadow and Rose is what happened when Lady Norbert decided to tell the story of Dragon Age: Origins from a different point of view. Because this is a narrative of the events during and after the game, there are spoilers here.

Alistair, bastard half-brother of King Cailan of Ferelden, records his thoughts and experiences beginning with his becoming a Grey Warden. The story utilizes the Human Female Noble origin, thus introducing Alistair to the Lady Elissa Cousland, with whom he falls in love.

The entirety of Origins is laid out in the narrative, including all of the additional DLC campaigns (e.g. Warden's Keep) which can be played during the course of the adventure. Party banter is expanded on to create greater relationships between the non-player characters, and while some parts of the actual game are truncated for the sake of the narrative, others are fleshed out. An effort is made to incorporate the Dragon Age franchise as a whole, including references to the novels and a comic strip authorized by David Gaider of a deleted scene from the game.

Tropes present in this fanfic include:

  • Adaptation Expansion/Canon Welding: A form of it. The majority of what takes place in the stories also happens in the game; but in some cases, rather than choose one option or the other, the possibilities are merged. Details from the non-game aspects of the acknowledged canon are often utilized.
  • Alternate Continuity: Slightly. Although the story largely follows the game proper, there are points where it goes off on its own tangent.
  • Amazon Brigade: Whenever the party splits up, the group led by Elissa consists of all females (apart from Toby the dog). This leads to a bit of head scratching among the companions when she leads the group to rescue Queen Anora from Arl Howe's estate, until Eamon explains that there's a reason (the required armor wouldn't have fit any of the men).
    • Real Life Writes the Plot: The author explains that on her first playthrough, she misunderstood the directions for this particular quest and thought that she was supposed to have an all-female party. The mistake amused her, so she used it in the fic.
  • Arranged Marriage: Arl Eamon attempts to make one for Alistair and Anora. Worse, he tries to get Elissa - Alistair's actual Love Interest - to persuade Alistair to go along with it.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: At Orzammar as in the game, and then a second and third when Alistair is crowned king, and some while afterward when Elissa is crowned queen following their wedding. They each receive a Cool Crown as a wedding gift.
  • Badass in Distress: Elissa, when imprisoned in Fort Drakon, although this is not actually shown since Alistair isn't there.
  • Battle Couple: Alistair and Elissa
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Alistair is pretty quick to figure out that this is the reason the other companions are so attached to Elissa, but it takes him a little longer to realize that it's his own case as well.
  • Berserk Button: As in the game, Loghain is very much this to Alistair. So is anyone disrespecting Elissa, as first seen when Goldanna calls her a tart; it's later a button he shares in common with the entire party, particularly Zevran and, later, Oghren. And Maker help you if you have any ideas about actually harming her.
    • Elissa has one in the form of anyone trying to hurt her companions, or harming innocents for their own selfish gain.
  • Best Her To Wed Her: Elissa remarks to Alistair that she once told her father she could never love a man who could not defeat her in honorable combat.
    Alistair: How did his lordship respond?
    Elissa: I believe his exact words were, "I look forward to your spinsterhood, pup."
  • BFS: As in the Warden's Keep DLC, Starfang, the longsword forged from star metal. Alistair notes that it's almost as long as Elissa is tall. Regrettably, it's destroyed when she uses it to kill the Archdemon.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: Alistair has a tendency to hear this whenever the Grand Cleric is speaking during the last few chapters.
  • Bling of War: The gold armor Alistair acquires during the Return to Ostagar DLC quest. Upon seeing him wear it afterward, Sten inquires if the quest was actually a shopping trip. It's the hereditary armor of the Theirin kings.
  • Bridal Carry: How Alistair brings the barely-conscious Elissa out of Fort Drakon following the final battle.
  • Buffy Speak: Alistair is given to this periodically, usually as an indication that he can't find a better way to describe something. He refers to Wynne doing "mage-y stuff," calls the patch of land where Shale is located "garden-y," and observes that Elissa at one point "looks very thinky, if that's a word."
  • Canine Companion: Toby, Elissa's Mabari warhound. Humorously, she claims to leave him in charge when she has him stay behind at Soldier's Peak while she's away.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: It takes him a while.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Both Sten and Morrigan (much like in the game) express their annoyance over the fact that Elissa seems to have this. She responds by calmly giving them the option to wait in the camp if they don't want to help. Eventually they just start swallowing their irritation out of their friendship for her.
  • Combat by Champion: As seen as an option in the game, Elissa chooses to have Alistair duel Loghain in her stead at the Landsmeet. She points out that she's avenged her family's deaths, and now it's Alistair's turn to do the same.
  • Completed Fic
  • Convenient Escape Boat: Used in Haven, to get Brother Genitivi away from the cultists as quickly as possible.
  • Daddy's Girl: Elissa describes herself as having been this, in so many words.
  • Dances and Balls: Arl Eamon hires musicians to entertain the companions when they stay at his estate in Denerim. The author likes to refer to this as the "Fereldan dance party" scene.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: It takes Alistair quite a while to realize that Morrigan has become this toward Elissa; for a long time, he assumes that her words of friendship are part of some ploy. Then he sees her panicked expression when Elissa almost dies in the Deep Roads.
  • Dork Knight: Alistair, of course, and to an arguably greater extent than in the game, since here he's the narrator.
  • Due to the Dead/Meaningful Funeral: Seen in Ostagar and at Redcliffe; Alistair ruminates on both instances.
  • Everyone Can See It: During the period where he Cannot Spit It Out, it's made clear at different points that Bann Teagan, Morrigan, Wynne, Leliana, and Zevran are all very aware of Alistair's feelings for Elissa.
  • Face Palm: Elissa does one when Alistair gets caught leaving her quarters at Soldier's Peak in the morning.
  • Family of Choice: Since Elissa's entire family is murdered prior to her introduction, she grows to view the companions this way. Leliana even comments on it during her Rousing Speech; see True Companions, below.
  • A Father to His Men/A Mother to Her Men: What Alistair originally proposes for the future with Elissa after their relationship becomes official. Once the Blight is over, he wants them to rebuild their numbers, essentially becoming father and mother to a new generation of Grey Wardens in Ferelden. It doesn't work out that way, but they both enjoy the idea for a while.
  • Flirting Under Fire: Alistair gets in a bit of this when they're clearing the undead out of Soldier's Peak. Morrigan tells him to do it later and keep moving.
  • Foreshadowing: When the party spends the winter at Soldier's Peak, Elissa throws herself into overseeing all the renovations to the old fortress and actually seems happy, despite everything she's been through in the past few months. Wynne confides to Alistair that she thinks it's all just a massive distraction, and she's worried about what will happen when the Warden finally has to face all of her pain. Cut to an incident later in the spring...
  • Friendless Background: Morrigan, as in the game, comes from this. Because she and Alistair don't like each other, he doesn't pay much attention to it usually, but it comes up at one point on the way to Orzammar. When Elissa and Leliana are sitting by the fire talking and giggling, he notices Morrigan watching from a distance looking as though "she wanted to be part of what she was watching but she didn't dare. Or maybe she just didn't know how."
  • Good Counterpart/Evil Counterpart: Elissa and Anora are sort of set up to be this. They are both beautiful, intelligent young noblewomen, the only daughters of the only Teyrns in the whole country (and thus the highest-ranking women in the realm). Wynne comments that she's surprised they weren't raised as playmates or, at the very least, introduced to each other at some point in the past. The trope is at least partially subverted, however, because while Elissa is very much good (being a scion of the Couslands, who are the Big Good of Ferelden), Anora isn't evil; she is, however, shown to be manipulative, shrewd, and self-preserving. Of course, the reader is reminded that Alistair isn't the most objective narrator about either of them.
  • Good Is Not Soft: After Alistair is crowned, Elissa persuades him to release Anora from the tower, and to allow her to inherit her father's title as Teyrna of Gwaren in exchange for her oath of fealty. Anora is then sent back to Gwaren with an escort of two dozen Templars... who, under the direction of Knight-Commander Greagoir, are very loyal to the Commander of the Grey and who have been privately commissioned to quell any potential rebellion from Anora's supporters.
  • The Good King: Alistair, once he accepts that the kingship of Ferelden is his destiny, determines that he will strive to be this. With Elissa as The High Queen, they become a very popular Ruling Couple.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Alistair has moments of this, such as when Bann Teagan flirts with Elissa. When the party meets Zevran and he offers to warm her bed, Wynne has to restrain Alistair from drawing his sword.
  • The Heart: Elissa becomes this for the rest of the companions. It's especially noticeable when she's captured by the enemy.
  • Heroic BSoD: Elissa has one in Orzammar, when she purchases a souvenir for her nephew Oren only to belatedly remember that the child was murdered along with the rest of her family. It takes her at least half a day to move past the breakdown.
  • Hero's Muse: Alistair invokes this when confronting Father Kolgrim in Haven; he considers pretending to agree to the madman's terms, but then thinks about what Elissa would do in his place and chooses that course of action instead.
  • Hidden Backup Prince: Alistair wonders in his journal, at one point, if this being his position in life is the reason that Cailan chose him to accompany Elissa to light the signal fire on the Tower of Ishal - if he was specifically being kept out of the fighting in case Cailan died.
  • Home Base: Soldier's Peak, once cleansed of its demons and animated corpses, becomes this for the party. They spend the winter there, rebuilding it into a home for future generations of Grey Wardens.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Somewhat surprisingly, not used in a romantic way. As the companions are exchanging farewells at the Battle of Denerim, Alistair is so at a loss for what he should say to Wynne that he resorts to this instead.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each chapter title is the name of an object found in the game, such as a weapon or piece of armor. Usually they have some connection to what happens in the chapter (e.g., "Wilhelm's Special Brew" is the name of the chapter where Shale joins the party), but sometimes they're chosen more randomly.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Oghren, in his role of Papa Wolf, delivers this warning to Alistair regarding Elissa. Alistair thinks it's fair.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Elissa has them, of the Heavenly Blue variety; Alistair comments on this more than once. As his attraction starts becoming more pronounced, he notes that they're "almost like lyrium."
  • Lady and Knight: Knight in Sour Armor Alistair behaves very much like this toward Lady of War Elissa, even though she's at least as competent a warrior as he is (if not moreso).
  • The Lady's Favor: Gender flipped with Alistair's rose; played straight with the white runestone Elissa gives him before they separate for the first time since meeting.
  • Lap Pillow: Alistair and Elissa have a moment like this, while he recovers from a concussion during the purging of the mage tower. He refers to the incident as "the nicest head injury ever." After the battle with the Archdemon, they have an extremely similar moment but with their positions reversed.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: The party separates a few times into smaller groups for various reasons; for example, only Elissa, Alistair and Wynne go on the mission from the Return to Ostagar DLC.
    • This is utilized later in the story to cut down on the writing time somewhat. At one point, Alistair leads half of the companions into the Frostbacks to find the village of Haven, while Elissa leads the other half to the Brecilian Forest to meet with the Dalish. In Orzammar, they do it again so that one half of the party can appeal to Bhelen for his support, while the other half can work with Harrowmont.
  • Like a Son to Me: Alistair's relationship with Wynne. This is indicated in party banter in the game, and expanded on in the fic. She invokes the trope word for word at the Battle of Denerim.
    • Gender flipped with Oghren and Elissa. Oghren concedes to Alistair that he thinks of Elissa like his daughter, complete with Papa Wolf threats toward her Love Interest.
  • Love Epiphany: Alistair realizes that he's in love with Elissa at one of the most inappropriate possible moments, but it's treated with reasonable gravitas and does make sense in context. His earlier epiphany, when he first realizes he has romantic feelings for her, is almost Played for Laughs.
  • Male Gaze: Alistair is annoyed early on by Daveth, who "enjoys walking behind Elissa" for obvious reasons. This is before Alistair has any serious attraction to Elissa of his own; he apparently just dislikes the lack of courtesy.
  • Marry for Love: What Alistair wants to do, eventually. Eamon, however, thinks he should concern himself with other matters.
  • Membership Token: As shown in the game, Grey Wardens receive the Warden's Oath, a special pendant, as a token of their membership in the order. It has a much more pronounced usage in the fic than in the game; among other things, it's tied into a spell used to defend Soldier's Peak in the absence of the companions.
  • Memento MacGuffin: When Alistair first meets Elissa, she wields the ancestral sword and shield of the Cousland family. Although she does later upgrade to a better sword, she refuses to use any other shield. Ever.
    • Although Alistair doesn't initially understand why she does it, Elissa cuts off one of King Cailan's braids before they give him a funeral pyre. He later learns that she thought Queen Anora might want a token of remembrance of her husband.
    • Later still, as in the game, Elissa retrieves Duncan's shield from the Grey Warden warehouse and presents it to Alistair.
  • The Men First: Although it's made pretty clear that the entire party will go to great lengths to protect Elissa, she doesn't hesitate to put their safety ahead of her own. When the women of the party go to rescue Queen Anora from Arl Howe's estate, Ser Cauthrien recognizes the Queen, who claims she's being kidnapped. Elissa realizes that her companions are massively outnumbered, and surrenders peacefully rather than risk them being killed.
  • Missing Mom: Alistair has never known his mother, a fact which crops up in the narrative now and again. Eventually, Eamon reveals that he has no idea who she was; readers who are familiar with DA lore most likely do, however.
  • Nice to the Waiter: And everybody else she meets. Alistair notes that Elissa's habit of being polite to everyone seems to save them a lot of trouble; he also observes that a lot of people are surprised by it and wonders if Ferelden has "really fallen so far as a society".
    • The night before the Battle of Denerim, Alistair asks Morrigan why Flemeth saved Elissa's life at Ostagar, since - being female - she couldn't participate in the dark ritual. Morrigan says that the only reason Flemeth ever gave was the fact that Elissa was very polite to her on their first meeting.
  • Oblivious to Love: Alistair takes a bit of time to figure out that his feelings for Elissa aren't as one-sided as he assumes, even with Leliana trying to tell him as much.
  • Offered the Crown: Not so much "offered" as "told that he has to take it or the country is pretty well doomed."
  • Orphaned Series: Shadow and Rose is a Completed Fic; however, it was intended as the first in a possible series, with the immediate sequel to have been called Crown and Quill. This was to have been an epistolary fic, composed largely of letters exchanged between Alistair and Elissa during Dragon Age: Origins Awakening. Due to assorted difficulties with the writing as well as increased commitments to other projects, the author has canceled the sequel, and Shadow and Rose leaves the reader with the impression that everyone lives Happily Ever After.
    • However, several of the unused ideas which were intended to appear in the sequel were instead recycled into her Inquisition fic, All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird.
  • Peerless Love Interest: How Alistair sees Elissa, whom he describes at one point as "the most magnificent woman in the world, possibly the most magnificent woman (except for Andraste) who has ever lived." Not that he's biased or anything.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Set up at the Landsmeet and launched in the final chapter.
  • Perspective Flip: The story is told from the point of view of Alistair, who is the game's Deuteragonist.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Right before the final battle, Elissa makes a point of telling all of her companions that they have essentially become her new family and she loves them.
  • Prince Charmless: Morrigan calls Alistair this in one scene.
  • Proper Lady/Silk Hiding Steel: Outside of battle scenarios, Elissa is very much this, as befits the daughter of a Teyrn.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: As in the game, Alistair has known this about himself for a while, but has to find a way to confess the truth to Elissa before they go to Redcliffe. Later, Eamon springs the reveal on the rest of the party.
  • Reluctant Ruler: And Eamon worries that the Landsmeet can see it.
  • Rightful King Returns: Eventually.
  • Sad Clown: To a lesser extent than in the game, because in his private writings Alistair doesn't feel as much of a need to hide his pain behind silly one-liners. He's still shown being this in the company of the others, but it's made pretty clear that most of them (as in the game) don't enjoy it. Only Elissa finds him genuinely funny; in fact, Alistair is usually the only one who gets her to laugh at all.
    Morrigan: 'Tis the wonder of our age, Alistair. Of all the women in Thedas, you have somehow managed to light upon the one who finds you more amusing than annoying.
  • Scrapbook Story: The story Is told in the format of Alistair writing in his personal journal.
  • Secret-Keeper: Elissa is the only one to whom Alistair confides the truth about his lineage, mostly because he's afraid that she'll hear it from someone else while they're in Redcliffe. Wynne also becomes this later, when she guesses his secret and Elissa confirms her suspicions (because she knows Alistair trusts Wynne); both women then do an admirable job of keeping it quiet until Arl Eamon blows the secret wide open for everyone else.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Played straight and gender flipped; the party members are expected to dress for dinner at the Arl of Redcliffe's estate in Denerim. Arlessa Isolde sends formal clothing for each of them to wear. The trope specifically comes in when Morrigan, of all people, acknowledges that Alistair looks "decent."
    Alistair: That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me.
    Morrigan: Do not grow accustomed to the phenomenon.
  • Shipper on Deck: Leliana seems to be this for Alistair and Elissa from a very early point. Wynne becomes one too, eventually.
  • Spare to the Throne: The trope is name-dropped early in the narrative, when Alistair ponders his role as the King's bastard half-brother.
  • The Stations of the Canon: Because the fic is a retelling of the events of Dragon Age: Origins, it at least touches on every significant quest and several side quests present in the game.
  • Take a Third Option: As is an option in the game for the female Human Noble, Elissa does this at the Landsmeet, regarding the future of Ferelden's crown.
  • Take That!: Alistair gives a minor one to the Beautiful Dreamer trope.
    Alistair: I probably shouldn't watch her sleep, it's a little creepy.
  • Talented Princess, Regular Guy: Alistair's commentary in his journal suggests that this is how he sees Elissa and himself. He does grow more confident as time passes, however.
  • Team Mom: Elissa is something like this for most of the crew, although Wynne (Team Grandma?) takes on the role for Alistair and Elissa herself.
  • True Companions: As in the game. Leliana points this out during her Rousing Speech in Denerim, when everyone is bickering about Elissa being taken prisoner.
    Leliana: We may not always get along, and that's okay, because - well, families are like that. And whether any of you want to admit it or not, that's really what we are.
  • Undying Loyalty: Elissa, much to Alistair's consternation, not only demonstrates a great deal of kindness to her companions, but also places a lot of trust in them even when he doesn't. Fortunately, The Power of Trust plus The Power of Friendship equals them developing this for her.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Alistair, to an extent. Most of his detailing about events is accurate, but he records very few flaws or criticisms concerning Elissa. Considering his feelings for her through most of the story, it's possible that he just doesn't see any flaws in her.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: It happens - Alistair just doesn't know it. At various times, he notes the presence of what he assumes to be a random animal, such as a dog or a crow. This only happens at moments when Morrigan is not in the group. The observant reader may figure out what's really going on; Morrigan changes shape in order to follow Alistair and Elissa without their noticing. She needs to protect the former because of the dark ritual, and wants to protect the latter because that's her only friend.
  • Warrior Princess: Elissa; since a codex in the game indicates that Highever is actually a principality within Ferelden, she technically holds the rank of princess even if it's never used formally.
    • Informally, Oghren occasionally calls her "Princess" both as a mild taunt and as an Affectionate Nickname. Marrying Alistair, of course, promotes her to Badass Queen, and once they're engaged, Oghren upgrades his pet name for her to "Queenie."
  • Web Serial Novel: Shadow and Rose clocks out at 125,000 words in forty chapters.
  • Wedding Finale: The final chapter ends with the royal wedding.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Among its other goals, the fic tries to work out what became of certain characters following the Battle of Denerim. It explains why Bodahn Feddic departs for Kirkwall (setting up his presence in Dragon Age II) and provides explanations for the future activities of, among others, Brother Genitivi, Sergeant Kylon, and even Goldanna.
  • When She Smiles: The first time Alistair sees Elissa smile, he thinks that he could "stand to see it more often." He does note, however, that she has good reasons for not smiling much.
  • The Wise Princess: Elissa has many of the trope's attributes.
  • The Wrongful Heir to the Throne: Alistair spends a bit of time in his journal lamenting that he sees himself as this, but that he's got no choice about becoming king if he wants to get Loghain out of power.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: In a way. While the group is in Orzammar, Elissa realizes that Dagna's description of how long it would take to reach the mage tower isn't quite right, and comes to the conclusion that a day in Orzammar is roughly equal to two days above ground.