It definitely made for an interesting exercise -- I always had a pretty good handle on Sereda's character, but this gave me more specifics and insights, and some thoughts on other characters as well: Alistair, Gorim, other members of the Aeducan family. It's not a fast project, but I recommend it if you're working with a character and want to do a deep dive on their past and psyche.
This interview transcript was found in the personal papers of Sister Madeline, a researcher at the Amaranthine Chantry, in 42 Dragon. The sheets were folded into a book with a scattering of notes relating to Sereda Aeducan, Hero of Ferelden, and King Alistair Theirin, but not corresponding treatise has ever been discovered. Although the interview is not dated, contextual clues suggest that it has to have occurred in 37 or 38 Dragon, shortly after the destruction of the Kirkwall Chantry but before the Hero's sudden disappearance in 41 Dragon. Sister Madeline was killed in the early days of the Mage War, so her intention in holding this interview will never been known. We reproduce the transcript here in its entirety with minimal editing.
1. What is your real birth name? What name do you use? If you have a nickname, what is it and where did you get it?
My birthname is Sereda Aeducan, and I've never really used any other, although I avoid using my last name because I technically no longer have any right to it. Since coming to the surface, most people have taken to calling me either "Warden" or "Commander", and that suits me fine.
2. Age? Birthdate?
I'll be 28 next month. As surfacers reckon dates, I was born 24 Bloomingtide in 10 Dragon.
3. Are you right-handed or left-handed?
Right-handed, although like most anyone trained to dual-wield I can do most anything with my left, except write.
4. Describe what you look like: height, weight, body type, hair, eyes, skin, apparent age, distinguishing features, tattoos, scars.
[laughs] That's a long list! Let's see... I'm about average for a dwarf in height and build, 4"9' tall. My eyes are brown, my hair is dark auburn, and I've worn it shoulder-length for about ten years, ever since I got serious about my military training. My skin is pale, although not as pale as it used to be -- I tend to freckle in the sun. I'd say I look my age, more or less, maybe add a couple of years for the toll being a Grey Warden takes on your body. No tattoos, no visible scars.
Well. No one fights as long as I have without picking up a scar or two. The only ones worth mentioning, really, are from some deep arrow hits I took at Ostagar, on my chest, and a particularly nasty bite from the archdemon. You can see the toothmarks right there, on my upper arm.
Impressive, right? Let's just say I'm lucky that was the only lasting damage.
5. Do you have any allergies, diseases, long-term injuries, disabilities, or other physical weaknesses?
None that I'm going to tell you about. [sits silent for a long time, as if waiting for the next question, then shifts in her seat with a frown] Look, there are things I can't tell you, that I can't tell anyone. I'm not giving up secrets the Grey Wardens have held close for a thousand years just because future generations might be interested to hear them. I have oaths to uphold. Got it?
--Yes. My apologies, Warden-Commander.
No problem. Next question.
--Right. Going on...
6. Describe how you are dressed right now? Is this your preferred mode of dress? If not, why are you dressed as you are right now?
I'm wearing standard issue Grey Warden light armor, which is what I typically wear when I'm on duty. And if I'm here at Vigil's Keep, and not asleep or otherwise taking downtime, I'm pretty much always on duty.
7. How do you “dress up?” How do you “dress down?” What do you wear when you go to sleep?
I have a couple of dresses that I've been known to wear to state functions, if I'm not officially representing the Wardens. When I'm serving in that capacity, I wear my dress uniform: a dark blue armored jacket with the griffon signaling my office on the back, dark blue pants lined with silver. For casual wear... [laughs] well, like I said, I'm pretty much always on duty. But I have a tunic and pants that I'll wear on the few occasions I get to lounge. It's also what I wear to sleep most nights.
8. Do you wear any jewelry?
I have an amulet that I received the day I became a Grey Warden, and I wear it most of the time, along with a locket given to me by a close friend. Otherwise not really, not unless I need a ring that bears a specific enchantment -- I've picked up rather a collection over the years. Too much jewelry gets in the way.
9. In your opinion, what is your best feature?
What, I can't like the whole package? [grins] I'm told my eyes are striking, and I suppose they are unusually large for a dwarf. We can go with that.
10. What do you think of your physical appearance? Is there something about it that you want to change? Do you alter your appearance in any way on a regular basis (make up, hair dye, etc.)?
No, I'm pretty content. I put on light makeup most days, but I'm too busy to bother with anything else.
11. What social class do you belong to?
Being a Grey Warden puts me outside the usual social order in many ways, although I suppose as Arlessa of Amaranthine, I'm also technically Ferelden nobility. Among the dwarves... well, that's pretty complicated. [frowns, lost in thought, then sets her hands on her desk and looks straight forward] Okay. I don’t usually like to talk about this, but since I have a feeling I'm going to be dodging a lot of your other questions, I'll give you this one. So. How much do you know about the caste system?
--Not much. Just that the dwarves have one, and that it's fairly strict.
True enough. [leans back in her chair] All dwarves are born into a house and a caste. Your caste determines who and what you will be, and moving beyond those boundaries can be very difficult. I was born into the noble caste, into a very influential family, but then I was betrayed. Framed for a crime I didn't commit. As a result, I was stripped of my family name and my caste rank, and sent into exile.
[shrugs] It was hard, and it was frightening, but it's also what led me to the Grey Wardens and the life I have now. So I can't regret it too much. Besides, after defeating the archdemon, I was named a Paragon -- do you know what a Paragon is?
--Isn't it a sort of living god?
Close enough. I didn't really want the honor, but it's not the kind of thing you can turn down, either. One thing a Paragon does is found a new house, and since my accomplishments were in battle, they invited me to join the warrior caste. But as almost the last living member of House Aeducan, I choose to fold my new house into the old one, continuing the Aeducan name and retaining the old crest. So, there you have it. Either I'm a noble, or casteless, or a warrior, or something entirely of my own creation.
12. How would you describe the way your voice sounds? What kind of accent do you speak with? Does your accent say something about who you are?
I speak with the standard accent of the Orzammar upperclass.
13. Where were you born? Where are you from?
The city of Orzammar, largest remaining remnant of what was once the dwarven empire. I suppose it's still where I'm from, even though I go back as little as possible.
14. Where do you live right now? Who else lives with you? Give a brief tour of your residence with introductions?
I live at Vigil's Keep, the primary Grey Warden base in Ferelden as well as the seat of the arling of Amaranthine. Also living here are the other Grey Wardens stationed in Ferelden -- there are a few dozen of us now -- the arling's militia, and my administrators: Varel, the seneschal; Mistress Woolsey, who manages the finances; and their staff. We're in my office, here, and my private quarters are next door. So I either live with a small village worth of people, or alone, depending on how you define it. I believe my second gave you a tour of the premises when you first arrived?
--Yes, and he did a thorough job of it.
[smiles] It was his childhood home, after all; he's quite proud of the place.
15. What is your most prized possession? Why do you value it so much?
The locket I mentioned before. [Her hand creeps up around her neck, and she pulls a chain out from beneath her breastplate; the locket is a ruddy gold hexagon with the letter "A" inscribed on the front.] Instead of a picture, it holds some dried rose petals. [Her smile softens as her eyes look far away, over my head and into the distance.] It reminds me to look for beauty in dark places.
16. What is your occupation? Do you like it? If you do not have an occupation, where does your money come from?
I suppose you could call being a Grey Warden an "occupation". It's certainly how I spend most of my time. And I'm also the arlessa of Amaranthine. As such, I live mostly off the rents of the Banns and other landholders who are sworn to me. Some of those funds go back to the Wardens, the rest cover the costs of running the Keep, and then I take a small stipend from whatever is left. I'm not getting rich off it, but... [shrugs]. As for whether I like it, I do. Being a Grey Warden suits me very well -- in my previous life, in Orzammar, I was training to take command and to serve my people as a soldier and a diplomat. As Warden-Commander here, I can do that for the Wardens and for the people of Amaranthine. It's what I was raised to do, and I like to think I'm good at it. It's not exactly the future I envisioned as a girl, but it's close enough, and in some ways, it's better.
17. If you have an occupation, what is your boss or employer like? What are your co-workers like? Do you get along with them and, if so, which ones? Who don’t you get along with? Why?
I report to the First Warden, who leads the Order from Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels. The current First is a decent enough fellow, we get along all right. His predecessor, though... [shakes her head] We didn't see eye to eye on much. He second-guessed many of my decisions, and meddled in a couple of personnel issues, that... [pauses, then lets out a heavy sigh] Well, let's just say a lot of things might have turned out very differently if he'd stayed out of them.
18. What is the most useful skill your occupation has taught you?
Developing my leadership and negotiation skills, no question. There are so many competing factions I have to balance here, every single day: the needs of Amaranthine, of Ferelden, of the Grey Wardens. Keeping everyone happy is no easy feat. I don't always succeed, but I get better at it all the time.
19. Do you tend to spend money or save money? Why?
I save up for large purchases, so I often end up spending a lot of money at once. This is true of both my personal funds and the finances of Amaranthine, although I trust Woolsey to deal with the day-to-day. I didn't have to worry about money much growing up, and I still prefer not to fuss with it.
20. Where do you see yourself in five years?
[long, awkward silence] If I'm still alive in five years? Which the odds are against -- Grey Wardens aren't known for their long lifespans. Here, probably, unless the First Warden assigns me somewhere else. That's how it goes when you're a soldier. [shrugs] And that's okay with me, really.
Childhood and Family
1. Who are your biological parents?
[Interrupts] So, we're on to the family now? Are there are a lot of questions about them?
--Yes, but if you'd prefer we didn't...
No, that's all right. I already said I would, and I will. Just... give me a moment. [sips from the mug on her desk, then sets it down.] All right. Continue.
--Your parents. What were they like? How was your relationship with them when you were young? How is your current relationship with them?
I believe it's fairly well known that my father was Endrin Aeducan, king of Orzammar. My mother was named Keda, and she died when I was quite young. I don't really remember her at all. Father and I had a good relationship; I was widely considered his favorite, and I suppose it was true. I certainly loved him, and I never questioned his love for me. That all changed, of course, when I was exiled. He's dead now, too, died shortly after the start of the Fifth Blight. The fact that we never reconciled is one of my greatest regrets.
2. Were your parents married? If so, what was their marriage like? Did your parents have other romantic involvements?
Like most dwarves of the higher castes, their marriage was arranged. My mother came from one of the minor noble houses -- picked mostly because their bloodline hadn't mingled with the Aeducans for several generations. I suppose they cared for each other. At least, my father never remarried, and if he took a lover after her death I didn't know about it. Which is somewhat unusual, among the dwarves -- many nobles, especially men, take lower-caste lovers because our birthrate is so low, it's almost a duty to attempt to have as many children as you can. But my father didn't. Whether it's because he truly loved my mother or for some other reason, I don't know.
3. Are there people you think of as social (non-biological) parents? If so, who are they and what are they like? How is your relationship with them?
My father's closest friend, King Pyral Harrowmont, was something of a father figure to me when I was growing up. Maybe more like a stern but well-loved uncle. I don't know that I'd say we were close, exactly, but Father trusted him, so I did, too. I used my influence as a Grey Warden to put him on Orzammar's throne because it's what I thought my father would have wanted. Unfortunately, a good man isn't always a good king, and he's gone now, too.
4. Do you have siblings? If so, who are they and what is your relationship with them like? What is the worst thing you have done to them? What is the worst thing they have done to you?
I had two brothers. [long pause] One older and one younger. I never got along well with my older brother, Trian. He was the heir, but I was the favorite, and he resented me for it. There were rumors that Father would give me the throne, but I never believed them. I suppose Trian did, though. [looks at the floor, sighs] I can admit now that I would have liked to rule, or at least to have been seriously considered. I... would have been a good queen, I think. But I'll never know.
I'm sorry, I got sidetracked there. So, Trian and I barely exchanged a civil word from the time I was eight and he was ten -- it was all sparring and snarking and snapping. He tried to act superior to me, and I was a snotty brat in return. But I would never have done anything to move against him, until Bhelen got involved.
My younger brother, a year younger than me. We got along well enough. I saw him as my ally against Trian, and so ineffectual that he would never be any kind of threat to me. Little did I know. He told me that Trian was going to have me killed, eliminate me as an obstacle to his rule, and he planted the idea that I should beat Trian to the punch. I didn't think that was a great plan, though; better to talk to Trian, try to reason with him. I couldn't believe that he would hate me enough, fear me enough, to actually see me dead.
And it turns out I was right, probably, although I'll never know. It wasn't Trian who was working toward my death. It was Bhelen. He hired mercenaries to kill Trian and frame me for the deed. That was the crime for which I was exiled. And so there you have it: the story of the worst thing my brothers ever did to me. [long pause] When I came back to Orzammar to secure the dwarves' aid against the Blight, part of the price was putting Harrowmont on the throne. When I named Harrowmont king, Bhelen attacked us both. I didn't shed any tears when I put a dagger through his neck. So I supposed that's the worst thing I ever did to him.
--My condolences. That sounds like a difficult time.
[snorts] To put it mildly. Anyway, so that's the story. Bhelen or Trian might tell it differently, but they aren't here to share their versions, so I suppose that makes mine the truth now. History is written by the victors, or so they say. [almost too soft to hear] I'm not convinced I won any victory, though.
5. When was the last time you have seen any member of your family? Where are they now?
As far as I know, my only living relative is Bhelen's son, Endrin. Since I'm unlikely to have any children of my own, I named him my heir, and he's being raised by his mother on our family estate. He's a good kid, just turned eight. I haven't seen him for several years -- as I mentioned before, I don't get back to Orzammar much. But his mother is a good woman, and I trust her to raise him to be a worthy heir to the Aeducan name.
6. What is your fondest childhood memory?
Sneaking away to the lava beds with my best friend, Gorim, and tempting fate by walking along the edge. It's a rite of passage for anyone from Orzammar, and I remember it fondly.
7. What is your worst childhood memory?
This is probably where I ought to talk about my mother's death and how much it affected me, but in truth I barely remember it. I remember how sad Father was, and how Trian walked around punching walls for weeks afterward, but me, personally? [shakes her head] I was sad, but I didn't know Mother well enough to feel it deeply when she died. She was always sickly and distant, spent most of her time in her chambers. I was mainly raised by servants anyway.
No, my actual worst memory is the time Trian locked me in a storeroom and left me there for almost a day. Father didn't think to look for me, because Trian told him I was with my friend Gorim. If a house guard hadn't heard me yelling and let me out, it could have gotten very unpleasant.
8. What did you want to be when you were growing up? What did your parents want you to become?
I never wanted anything other than what my father wanted for me: to hold a command, and advise him on military and diplomatic matters. It's hard to say, looking back, whether I might have wanted something else if I hadn't been pointed in that direction since birth.
9. What were your favorite activities as a child?
Training with Gorim. We would spend hours on the training grounds, his sword against my knives, or taking archery practice together. He was warrior caste, fairly high-ranking -- his family served ours for several generations -- and so we started playing and fighting together almost as soon as we could walk. I also enjoyed reading: novels, history. That's how I spent most of my downtime.
10. What kind of education did you receive while growing up? What did you enjoy most about it? What did you enjoy least?
Like most of the noble parents in Orzammmar, my father employed a series of tutors for myself and my brothers. I also sat in on council meetings and negotiations with my father, who wanted me to learn as much about diplomacy as I could -- I think he hoped that I could serve Trian in much the way that Lord Harrowmont served him.
Personality, Psychology, and Interpersonal Relationships
1. What is your Myers-Briggs Personality Type and/or Enneagram Type? Is it an accurate representation of you? Why or why not?
Oh, that test you had me take? I was an ENFJ. Reading the profile, it sounds like that makes me a people person -- definitely true -- as well as charismatic, good at diplomacy... yeah, this is pretty true to who I am. I was pretty close to an ENTJ, as well, and that looks like a natural leader, which I'm told I am.
2. Do you have any debilitating or irrational fears?
Not really. It would be hard to do my job if I were afraid of something like spiders or the dark. I enjoy seeking out new experiences and trying new things.
3. Do you have any personality quirks, strange mannerisms, annoying habits, or other defining characteristics?
Even after all these years on the surface, I still don't much care for extreme weather. Especially not rain. At least snow is pretty. Rain has absolutely nothing to recommend it, and I've been known to go to great lengths to avoid it. And thunder. Ugh, I hate thunderstorms. It's like being caught under a bronco stampede. What's the point?
4. In general, how do you treat other people (politely, rudely, by keeping them at a distance, etc.)? Does your treatment of them change depending on who they are or how well you know them?
I try to be respectful, polite, and kind to everyone I meet who isn't actively trying to kill me, and sometimes even when they are. Why not? It's just as easy as being rude, and you never know when you might need someone's help down the line.
5. What kinds of people do you feel the most comfortable with? The least comfortable with? Why?
I like to think I can get along with almost anyone. The only people I reflexively dislike are bullies -- people who use their strength to hurt other people -- or people who seek power for the sake of power itself, rather than because they have a drive to serve others.
6. What do you think strangers and acquaintances think about you? Do they like you?
I think I come off fairly well. I make friends easily, and it's rare for me to get off on the wrong foot with someone.
7. Can you get people to do what you want them to? If so, how?
[smiles] I've been told I could sell water to a fish. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but I do find that I can usually persuade someone to do what I think is best. In part, that's because I pick my battles. Usually, when I negotiate my way through a situation that others thought was difficult or even impossible, what I'm really doing is talking everyone into the solution they actually want, but think is too scary or too hard or whatever. If I have to talk someone into something they really don't want to do? That's a lot harder. Usually, I try to find an angle of self-interest -- if they do this, what's in it for them? What will I do for them? What will they get? Enlightened self-interest is a powerful motivating tool.
8. Do you feel comfortable taking leadership roles or are you a follower in social situations? What about in occupational situations? Why or why not?
I've always been more of a leader than a follower, in most kinds of situations. I know how to follow orders, of course -- what kind of a soldier would I be if I couldn't? -- but I prefer to be in charge. Mostly because if I'm in charge, if anything goes wrong, I know where to place the blame.
9. Were you popular when growing up? What clique were you associated with?
People liked me, and I got along with most everyone I knew with a few exceptions -- my older brother being the most glaring. But my standing as princess did enforce a little bit of distance with most people. It's hard to develop casual friendships with people when a word from you could make them -- or destroy them. Not that I ever used my power like that. But I could have, and it made people nervous. So my only real close friend was Gorim.
Gorim... I call him my best friend, but he was more than that -- he was my right arm, the person I could tell anything, who always knew what I was thinking. When I received my first command, I named him my second, and I wouldn't have had any other.
10. Are you still in touch with friends from five years ago? Ten years ago? More?
[Raises an eyebrow] If this is a subtle way to ask about Anders, it's not very subtle. You may recall that one of the terms of this interview--
--No, no, not at all. I was thinking more of the Blight companions, friends and family from Orzammar, and so forth.
All right. I'm sorry, I don't mean to come off as suspicious, but if you knew how many people had come around asking about him... [sighs] All right. It's still off the table for discussion, but just to get it out of the way: no, I'm not in contact with him. I don't know where he is, I don’t know why he did what he did, and I certainly didn't know it was going to happen. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
Okay, so, your question? My life doesn't change much, really. People tend not to come and go from it very often. So my friends among the Wardens -- those who haven't been killed in the course of duty -- remain my friends, and I'm still in touch with many of my companions and acquaintances from the Blight days -- Zevran, Leliana, King Alistair of course, Teagan Guerran, Shianni. The only person from Orzammar I've made any real effort to stay connected with is Gorim, who lives in Denerim with his family. I visit him, sometimes, when I'm there, although we aren't as close as we used to be.
11. As an adult, do you make friends easily? What kinds of friends do you have right now? Many friends or few? Do you have a best friend?
Just like being a princess, holding a command position does impose a little bit of distance with people. Not to mention the title "Hero of Ferelden." That intimidates people, especially at first. And, as mentioned, I don't meet many new people in my work, either as a Warden or an arlessa. But when someone does break through those barriers? Sure, I can make new friends, although not usually close ones. I have a circle of close friends and a somewhat larger circle of acquaintances. If I had to call any one person my best friend? It would probably be Nathaniel Howe. He's been my second almost from the day I set foot on Amaranthine's lands, and I trust him with everything.
12. Who would you turn to if you were in desperate need of help? Do you trust anyone to protect you if you were in trouble?
Nathaniel. Some of the other long-time Wardens -- Oghren, Sigrun. My administrators, Varel and Woolsey. And the king.
13. If you died or went missing, who would miss you?
Everyone whose name I've mentioned above, I should hope.
14. Do you tend to argue with people or avoid conflict? Why?
I wouldn't call myself argumentative, but I don't avoid conflict, either, because that's not healthy. Better to get differences of opinion out there and talk through them. How else are you supposed to find solutions?
15. Is it okay for you to cry? To get angry? When was the last time you cried? Last time you lost your temper?
I'm pretty even tempered. I don't usually let things get to me to the point where I would need to cry or blow my stack. I suppose it helps that I have lots of opportunities to release my emotions in other ways -- killing darkspawn, fighting bandits and wild animals, sparring with the other Wardens. I don't know that I've truly lost my temper at anyone since the day I killed Bhelen. But I suppose that was an extreme situation.
Intimacy and Partnering
1. Do you consider yourself straight, gay, bi, or something else? How do your experiences rate on the Kinsey Scale? How do you describe your gender?
I consider myself to be a bisexual female with a preference for men. I've found more than a few women attractive, and gone to bed with a couple of them, but most of my experiences have been with men: a few humans, more dwarves. I've never been intimate with an elf, although I certainly wouldn't rule it out.
2. When and with whom was your first kiss? Where did it happen? What was it like?
My first kiss was with Gorim. We were young, maybe 13 or so, I was curious, and he seemed like a safe place to start exploring. As well... I knew he had feelings for me, that he'd cared for me as more than a friend for some time. And although I didn't think I returned his feelings, I thought kissing him might be a good way to be certain.
--And did you change your mind?
No. It was nice, I liked it, but... no. I wished I could care for him, because I hated hurting his feelings, but it just wasn't there for me. But it made it easier, too, because having a strictly platonic friendship meant that I wouldn't have to give him up as a second when I entered into my inevitable arranged marriage.
3. Are you a virgin? If yes, how do you feel about your virginity? If no, when and with whom did you lose your virginity? Where did it happen? What was it like?
[laughs] Not hardly. I was fifteen the first time I had a sexual experience -- with a young male dwarf, son of a high-ranking merchant family, on whom I'd had a terrible crush. It was nice, if not particularly stone-shattering, and we remained involved for some time.
4. What was the wildest thing you have ever done sexually? With whom and when?
I think I'd better decline that one. [smiles] It would compromise some other people who probably ought not to have their sex lives discussed for posterity.
-- I understand. There are a few more questions along these lines -- would it be better to skip them entirely?
Ask them, and we'll see!
5. What are your sexual turn-ons? Sexual activities or practices you particularly enjoy?
I like someone who knows what they want and isn't afraid to ask for it. But it's also fun to give the order sometimes, too.
6. What are your sexual turn-offs/activities that you will not do under any circumstances?
Nothing that takes me out of control, please. I know that, done right, those sorts of games really put the submissive partner in control, but I find even the illusion unappealing.
7. Do you currently have one or more sexual partners? Their name(s)? Describe your attraction to them. How is your sex life like with them?
I suppose it's an open secret these days that King Alistair and I have been involved since we fought the Blight together, and he gave me permission to confirm it with you. So, there you go: your juicy revelation. We don't see each other as much as either of us would like -- the distance, and we're both busy, but we remain committed to one another. Certainly I am attracted to him -- have been pretty much since the day we met. And we maintain healthy sexual relations, again within the constraints of distance and discretion. The Queen is very aware of our relationship and has been since before they were married. I... wouldn't say she approves, exactly, but she's been more tolerant of it than I had any right to expect, and she and I get along well. More so, now that their daughters make her position more secure.
8. What is your deepest, most well-hidden sexual fantasy? Would you ever try it?
Mmm, I probably ought to decline that one as well.
9. Have you ever been in love? How do you fall in and out of love? (Easily? Devotedly? Rarely?) Have you had many romantic relationships or few?
I had a handful of romantic relationships before leaving Orzammar, mostly with higher-ranked military and merchant caste: the one with the boy I mentioned, a few others. But I would say that Alistair was the first man I truly loved, and so far he's the only one.
10. What do you look for in a potential partner? What kind of person is the “perfect” partner?
[grins] Would it be too unbearably cheesy to say Alistair is the perfect partner? If nothing else, after eight years, it's hard to imagine being in a partnership with anyone else. Flaws and all. He has them, of course, but even his flaws make us well-suited.
11. Do you have a spouse, partner, or significant other right now? If yes, describe this person. If no, are you looking? Why or why not?
Alistair is as close to this as it gets, or ever will. This might be hard to understand, but I don't actually mind so much that he lives far away and has a wife who isn't me. It makes it easier to live my own life, focus on my work. I have a level of independence that most women with husbands can never even dream of. Do I miss him? Of course. But I find it's worth the trade-off.
12. Briefly describe your prior partners. Who were they? What was the nature of your relationship with them? How long did the relationship last? Why did it end?
I don't even know that I could dignify any of my previous lovers with the word "partner". I did care about the boys -- and the one girl -- I took as lovers in Orzammar, but I could never let myself get too serious about any of them. As I mentioned before, I expected that Father would arrange a marriage for me eventually, and I didn't want to raise any of their expectations regarding our long-term prospects.
13. What is more important to you: sex or intimacy? Why?
Oh, intimacy, no question. Sex is fun, but it pales in comparison to really knowing someone, who they are and how their mind works. That's part of why Gorim meant more to me than any lover I ever had before Alistair.
14. How important is the institution of marriage to you? If a legal marriage is important, how would you (or did you) evaluate someone as a potential spouse?
If getting married were important to me, I wouldn't be carrying on in my current relationship, now would I? [smiles] No, marriage among the noble caste of the dwarves is very much a business arrangement, it has very little to do with love or romance. Another reason it doesn't really bother me that political considerations required Alistair to marry someone else.
15. How important is sexual fidelity to you? Under what circumstances, if any, is it okay for someone to keep a mistress/lover?
Well, my current circumstances, for one. [chuckles] Since I am, essentially, the king's mistress, I'd be a damned hypocrite to get at all uptight about sexual fidelity. The king has his wife; I've taken the occasional lover over the years, although not recently. As long as everyone is upfront about whose loyalties and responsibilities lie where, what does it harm?
16. Describe the perfect romantic date or getaway with a partner?
The Theirin estate, not far from Redcliffe, is a lovely place to get away from politics and responsibilities for awhile. We aren't able to go often, but we try to visit at least a few days a year.
17. If you have a partner, how well do you get along with their family and friends? How important is this to you? How important is it to them?
[smiles softly] Alistair's daughters are delightful. They call me Auntie and treat me like one of the family. I don't know that I could love them more if they were my own children. It was... a little awkward, at first, when Mara was born, but once we figured out what role we would all play in each others lives, things settled down beautifully. That was important to work out -- if I couldn't have developed a relationship with Anora and their children, I don't know that our relationship could have continued. They're such an important part of his life. I don't see them often -- Alistair keeps his connection with me separate from his life with his family as much as he can. But a total separation would have been impossible, so I'm glad we didn't have to try.
Otherwise, neither of us has much family, and our circle of friends largely overlaps, so that's never been an issue.
18. Do you have children? If not, do you want children? Under what circumstances, if any, do you see children happening?
No children, never will. There are a lot of reasons it's a bad idea for a Grey Warden to have children, especially with another Warden -- and although Alistair officially resigned his place in the order when he was crowned, he's still a Grey Warden. Plus, if I bore Alistair a child, it would cause all kinds of complication with the succession. Not that I seriously think that anyone would try to put a half-dwarf child on Ferelden's throne. But better not to give anyone the opportunity. Anyway, short answer: No. And I'm okay with that -- children really wouldn't fit into the Grey Warden lifestyle.
19. What is the worst thing you have done to someone you loved?
Some people might say that it was putting him on a throne he wasn't sure he wanted while maneuvering him into a political marriage with the daughter of his worst enemy. At times, some of those people would have included Alistair. I stand by what I did at the Landsmeet -- it was the fastest way to end the civil war without further bloodshed and unite the country against the Blight -- and I don't think anyone would claim that Alistair and Anora haven't made an excellent team as Ferelden's rulers. But looking back, I can admit that Alistair wasn't very happy with me that day. Especially not as regards the arranged marriage. It wasn’t a future he'd ever envisioned for himself, and it took him a little time to reconcile himself to the idea.
20. What is the worst thing that someone you’ve loved has done to you?
Shortly after Mara was born, Alistair tried to end our affair. From the day Anora announced her pregnancy to him, he started feeling guilty about us, about "carrying on" with me, as he put it. I was hurt and angry, and I didn't speak to him for a little while. But we both got over it, and the negotiations that followed strengthened our relationship a lot. I think it's safe to say that, barring really unforeseen circumstances, we'll probably stay together until the day we die.
-- You seem very certain of that.
Very certain. I can't tell you why -- Grey Warden secrets, you understand. But yes, it's very likely that when the time comes, we will face our deaths down together.
Morals, Beliefs, and Faith
1. What serves as your moral compass when making decisions? Do you have a specific moral code that you adhere to? What religion, if any, do you follow?
I believe in bringing the greatest amount of good to the largest number of people whenever I can. I believe that maintaining order is usually, but not always, the best means to that end. My religious beliefs, such as they are, have very little to do with my moral code; I think it has more to do with having been raised to be a good leader for my people.
2. To what extent are your actions dictated by this moral code? When do your actions come into conflict?
I feel like I've usually been able to live by those beliefs. Maybe the time I've broken from it most sharply was when I killed my brother. I can dress it up in the claim I was protecting King Harrowmont and carrying out my father's wishes all I want, but I can never be sure what Bhelen's death truly served besides my own need for vengeance.
3. Do you believe in a God or Gods/Goddesses/Higher being of some kind? Do you believe in an afterlife? Superstitious? How do these beliefs affect your actions?
The dwarves don't really worship a god. We believe in the paragons, and we believe that the stone sustains us and makes us strong, but that's not quite the same thing. I... I'm not really sure what I believe anymore. It's hard for me to believe that my ancestors are watching over me, or anyone else I know. It's especially hard for me to think of the paragons of anything special -- of the two I've met, one probably deserved his status, but the other was mad with power and craved even more, destroying her house and everyone she loved toward that end. And the only other paragon I've known is myself. I've... done some good things, but to be made a living god? [lowers her eyes, shakes her head] I don't think so.
As for an afterlife, dwarves believe that we return to the stone, becoming a part of the earth. It's as good an end as any, I suppose, and better than most. I've been to the Fade, twice; I don't have any desire to spend eternity there.
4. Do you ever have thoughts or feelings that disturb you? What are they? Why do they disturb you? How do you cope with these thoughts or feelings?
I'm... not as sorry as I would like to be that I killed Bhelen. He deserved to die for his crimes, but there's a part of me that feels like I ought to feel more remorse. I've killed a lot of people, a lot of creatures, both more and less deserving, but Bhelen weighs most on me, in part because it doesn't bother me as much as it should. I cope with it by not ignoring it. Whenever I try to pretend that conflict isn't there, it only ends up eating at me even more.
5. What is more important: faith/instinct or analysis/reason? Why?
Analysis and reason, for sure -- I prefer to think through all the angles and possible outcomes of a situation before I take action, and to know as many of the facts as I can, including what other people think I should do. That's not to discount the importance of instinct, of course, especially when a swift and sure decision is called for. Fortunately, I feel like my examination of a situation is usually in harmony with my first instincts.
6. Are you more likely to act for the good of the one or the good of the many?
Of the many, as mentioned above. That's one of the lessons of rule -- you can't put yourself, or what you want, above what the people need from you.
7. How comfortable are you with people who hold religious, spiritual, or moral beliefs that are different from yours? Are you respectful or confrontational? Do you seek out such people or do you try to avoid them? Why?
The more points of view, the merrier. If you surround yourself with only people who think and believe like you, it's really easy to stagnate. That was King Harrowmont's problem, I fear. He wasn't ready to open himself to change, and his rule was a disaster as a result. At this point I think the best they can do is avoid a civil war.
8. Is redemption possible? If so, can anyone be redeemed or are there only certain circumstances when redemption can happen? If not, why do you think no one can redeem itself?
Redemption is possible, but you have to want it. It can't be forced on you. Although I suppose the opportunity can be forced. But you have to choose to walk through that door, and you have to accept that not everyone is going to be willing to see the change in you.
9. Under what circumstances do you find killing to be acceptable or unacceptable? If you have killed or you are legally able to kill, how do you feel about it? Is revenge ever justified?
Every soldier is a killer, and any soldier that tells you otherwise is in some sort of denial. Grey Wardens more so than most, because our primary enemy -- the darkspawn -- is one that will not listen to reason. You can't negotiate with them, can't make treaties and concessions to live in peace. Or-- well, the potential exceptions are so rare that they aren't worth getting into here. All you can do is kill them before they kill you. That's the first reason I find killing justified: to protect innocent lives, and that's the reason most likely to see me leading Wardens or the arling's militia into battle. I also believe that some crimes are so heinous that death is the only reasonable punishment, which is why I executed Loghain. He was a traitor and a kinslayer, and he exploited innocents when he sold elves into slavery to fund the civil war he caused. I carried out the sentence myself, and I have no regrets.
Do I feel guilt about killing? Sometimes, when the person on the other end of my blade wasn't there by their own choice: a conscripted soldier, or someone serving their lord, or under some sort of magical compulsion -- those are the worst, because it seems that those folks have the least opportunity to avoid their fate. But I still do it when I have to, because if I hesitate, even more lives could be lost.
10. Who or what, if anything, would you die for (or otherwise go to great extremes for)?
I would have died to stop the Blight. No question in my mind. I'm glad I didn't have to, but if I'd been called to that sacrifice, with so many lives at stake? Yes, I would have done it. And someday I will die at the hands of a darkspawn, thereby serving much the same purpose.
11. What is the most admirable trait a person can have? How often do you express that trait?
The desire to serve others, in whatever form that takes. I like to think that I've taken that path in my life, more often than not.
12. What is the most important social and/or political problem right now in your world?
As a Grey Warden, I am not allowed to express opinions or take sides regarding politics. We protect the world from darkspawn; all else is secondary. As arlessa of Amaranthine, I've received special dispensation to vote in the Landsmeet on domestic affairs that affect the arling, but I have to sit out everything else. And you know, I truly believe that the work we Wardens do is more important than any of the petty issues that consume most of your days. Templars and mages, nobles and casteless, humans and elves and Qunari: all will fall alike in the face of a darkspawn invasion. I know, because I saw it happen here, eight years ago. As long as there are still darkspawn breeding beneath our feet, that will be the most important issue facing Thedas.
13. Is there anything you pretend to feel strongly about just to impress people?
No. If anything, it's the other way around: because of Warden neutrality, I've been known to avoid discussing things I do feel strongly about. Of course, because of that same neutrality, I can't tell you what any of these things are.
14. What act in your past are you most ashamed of?
Not saving Trian from Bhelen. I should have made more of an effort to warn Trian that our brother was up to something.
15. What act in your past are you most proud of?
Convincing the peoples of Ferelden to stand up together against the Blight. That was no small feat, I can tell you. Of course, I couldn't have done it without a lot of help.
Likes and Dislikes
1. What is your favorite color? What does that color remind you of?
Red. Rubies have always been my favorite stone.
2. What are your favorite hobbies, pastimes, and modes of entertainment?
I spar with my Wardens every day, not just to keep up my skills but because I genuinely enjoy doing it. I still like to read, too, although with all the reports that cross my desk, it feels more like work than it used to.
3. Reading any good books? What are they? Which would you recommend? Which are the guilty pleasures?
These days, when I do read, it tends to be escapist -- Antivan romances, especially. I like those best because they include a good dose of adventure -- more fighting, less swooning and palace intrigue. I've had enough palace intrigue to last several lifetimes.
4. What do you seek out for comfort food?
Dwarven fare, which is harder to get on the surface than you might think.
5. Do you drink, smoke, or use recreational drugs? Does it cause problems for you? Do you want to quit?
I'll drink ale from time to time. Although it's hard to get the good stuff on the surface.
6. Do you have any phobias? How debilitating are they?
Nothing like that, no.
7. What makes you laugh? What do you do to have fun? What do you find most relaxing?
My friends make me laugh, especially Alistair and Sigrun. If I want an escape from the world, to kick back and relax, there's nothing much better than sending for Sigrun, Oghren, and a few pints of ale. In the field, I usually sit by the fire and chat with whoever happens to be along; in Denerim, I'll catch as much downtime with Alistair as I can. That's the hardest thing about our relationship, the fact that we don't get to spend much time just being together. Unless we've made specific plans otherwise, if we see each other, there's usually some kind of crisis on. Catching a few minutes with him just to relax is the most precious time I have.
8. What causes stress in your life? How do you deal with stress or counteract the effects of stress?
[smiles] If you have to ask that, you’ve never been in charge of anyone. So many things pile up, small and large, every single day. I'm not complaining, mind you -- really I love it, I thrive on some amount of stress. Otherwise, I'd get bored. But when it gets to be too much, that's when I call for that pint of ale, or that trip to the Theirin estate.
9. Are you spontaneous or do you need to have a plan? Do you make plans for others or do you rely on others to create plans for you?
You've probably figured out now that I like to be in charge. [laughs] And yes, I do prefer to have some sort of plan. Sometimes you have to be flexible and wing it a little, but given a choice, I'll take a plan, some structure.
10. How much do you care about what your clothing and environment looks like?
When you spend as much time as I do covered in dust and blood, tramping around the countryside sleeping in whatever place is the safest to pitch your tent, you learn not to fuss to much about that sort of thing.
11. What would be the perfect gift for you?
A vacation. Time to get away from the daily responsibilities, not think about the cares of the arling and the Wardens for a little while. Preferably with Alistair or a couple of friends, but a break alone would work too.
12. What is your favorite time of day? Favorite kind of weather?
Ever since coming to the surface I've been a morning person. I prefer to get up early and start taking care of whatever needs taking care of, rather than lazing around late. As for weather, can I say none? [laughs] The surface has many excellent features, but the constantly changing climate is not one of them.
13. What is your favorite animal and why? Do you have any pets? Do you want any?
I'm not so much of an animal person -- they can be fun to watch, but on the whole, I prefer people. I do have a Mabari warhound that I acquired during the Blight, and whom I graced with the stunningly creative name of "Dog". He's been with me ever since, although he's getting a little old to fight now. His main duties these days are sitting by the fire and being put out to stud, poor thing. I wouldn't have chosen him, but he chose me, and I do love him dearly. When he goes, I probably won't replace him.
14. What kinds of situations embarrass you?
I'm not easily embarrassed. I care what other people think of me, of course, but I'm usually able to roll with the punches and shrug off difficult situations.
15. Do you like yourself?
Sure. There are pieces of myself I don't care for sometimes, but overall? Yeah, I think I do pretty well.
1. Do you have a professional qualification or an occupational specialization, or are you a generalist? Do you have professional skills or knowledge that you are known for? Describe.
I employ a fighting style that emphasizes stealth, speed, and tactics over brute force, and I've trained in these skills for almost my entire life. Whether that counts as "professional qualifications", I don't know. As for leadership and command, I mostly learned that by watching my father and the various commanding officers I've had over the years, but you never really know how to do that until you have to.
2. Do you have any hobbies that have given you specific knowledge, skills, or expertise? Are you a beginner, intermediate, or expert? Are you recognized by others for your knowledge, skills or expertise?
Lockpicking. I have natural flair for it, and honed my skills a great deal during the time of the Blight -- lots of opportunities for practice, you know. [laughs] But I use my powers only for good, I promise.
3. How many languages can you read and/or speak? If more than one, under what circumstances did you learn the other language(s) and in what situations do you use them?
I grew up speaking the native language of the dwarves and also the common tongue of Ferelden. Most Orzammar dwarves actually communicate in Ferelden, but my father thought it was important for me to know the old tongue as well. I can read Orlesian and Tevinter, and I can speak a bit of both, too. My Orlesian has gotten better in recent years, thanks to our constant exchange of Wardens with Orlais. I've learned more of the colorful words, anyway.
4. How well do you know your way around your local area? How often do you get lost? Do you know of places in your local area that most people do not know about?
I know Amaranthine pretty well, thanks mostly to all the forays I have to lead against darkspawn. I don't know it like a native, though.
5. Can you name the political leaders in your area? Leaders elsewhere in the world? Can you name major conflicts? Is this knowledge important to you? Why or why not?
[laughs] When you're the leader of an arling, a commander in an international force, and involved with a king, knowing politics becomes pretty important. Not only can I name all the political players, I'm on a first-name basis with most of them.
In all seriousness, though, I do keep up on politics, and not only because I have to. I find it all fascinating, sometimes frustrating.
6. Something in your home needs to be repaired. How do you go about fixing it? Do you know approximately how much it costs to replace flooring or to repair the roof?
I make sure Varel knows, and he has one of his people take care of it, or hires someone from outside if it's beyond what they can do, and then Woolsey deals with making sure it's all paid for. Sure, I could take care of all of these things myself, but having an effective staff means I don't need to. Varel and Woolsey are worth their weight in gold.
7. What do you know about preparing food? How well can you do it? Would other people want to eat what you make? Do you know the current market price for a dozen eggs?
I... can cook in the field if I have to. Oatmeal, biscuits, stew if someone else butchers the meat, things like that. But would I advise someone to eat something I'd cooked? No, probably not. Fortunately, this is why I have a kitchen staff. And junior Wardens to order around. [laughs]
8. Do you know how to buy or sell items in the black market? Smuggle illegal goods? Launder money? Discretely dispose of a dead body?
Not only do I know how to do all of those things, I've actually done them all at least once. Mostly during the Blight and right after, when circumstances could sometimes force dire choices. I prefer to live within the law when I can, though, especially when you consider that, in Amaranthine, I am The Law.
9. Do you know how to invest and manage your money and other assets? What kinds of investments have you made? What assets do you own? Is all of it legal and declared in your taxes? Do you pay or accept bribes? To you feel comfortable haggling?
I know the theory but have never done much in practice. Woolsey handles all the finances for both Amaranthine and the Wardens, and I'm comfortable leaving it in her capable hands. It would be pretty embarrassing for both Alistair and the Wardens if I were caught playing games with the taxes we pay to the Crown, so I keep it all aboveboard, both in my personal finances and with the arling.
I don't own any personal property in Ferelden. I suppose you could say that Aeducan Thaig is mine, or at least my family's, as well as the estate in Orzammar where my nephew lives. It'll all become his when I'm gone.
10. Do you know how to survive in the wilderness? Could you make or find shelter? Hunt or gather food and prepare it? Stay warm and dry?
These are all skills you learn real quick as a Grey Warden, if you don't already have them. Also in Orzammar's army, although survival in the Deep Roads is pretty different from the surface -- staying warm and dry isn't so much of a concern, and for the most part you don't want to eat what lives down there. So it was an adjustment, but I got pretty good at it. Just keep me out of the rain!
1. Describe your normal, daily routine. How do you feel when it is disrupted?
I don't know that there is such a thing as a "normal" day in the field. One of the things I like about my life is how unpredictable it is, how I never know what might be coming next.
When I'm here, I do have a routine: get up early and finish up my paperwork for the day, training in the afternoon, meetings with Wardens and anyone else who needs my attention over meals and later in the day. But I don't mind a little disruption. Keeps me on my toes.
2. Are you a procrastinator or do you get things done in advance? How do you feel about deadlines?
Get things out of the way. The more I put my duties off, the worse I feel about having to do them. Deadlines are a useful way to organize my time, but if I have to miss one, it's not the end of the world.
3. Are you organized or messy?
I always have to know where everything is. Other people messing with my stuff makes me tense. I keep my office door locked mostly for this reason -- only Nathaniel gets to have a key, because he knows how strongly I feel about it.
4. Do you prefer to work in silence or with sound? Alone or with others? Describe your most productive environment for getting work done.
Administrative work I do best alone, in a quiet office. If there's anything outside louder than chirping birds, I have to close the window. Out in the field, though, I'd much rather have a team with me. Even just two or three other people can mean the difference between a successful mission and disaster.
5. Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you sleep well or do you have trouble with sleep? Do you sleep on your side, front, or back?
Time of day is pretty much meaningless in Orzammar. We sync our timepieces with the Ferelden surface for convenience, but we don't develop the same kinds of internal body rhythms that you do. When I came to the surface, it took me a little while to get used to the idea that the light levels change with the passing of the hours. I tend to get up early in the morning for convenience, but I'm also comfortable at night, because it feels more like what I grew up with.
I don't usually have much trouble falling asleep, but I have nothing on Alistair -- that boy can sleep at the drop of a hat. Doesn't matter if it's hot, or cold, or if the ground is lumpy, or a herd of brontos are stomping around outside. Once he lies down, he's out. I'm pretty jealous of him, actually.
Once asleep, I sleep pretty soundly. Although I do have nightmares, sometimes. [pauses] Not as bad as they used to be. [opens mouth as if to say something else, then sits back in the chair, the subject clearly closed]
6. Are you ticklish? If so, where?
Nope, never have been. Not even Alistair can tickle me. I don't really know why.
7. Are you athletic? Dexterous? How far and fast can you run? Swim? Climb up a rope?
I suppose athletic is a fair description. Can't be much of a lock-picker without good fine motor control, or wield two weapons without good hand-eye coordination. I suppose I'm fast enough for a dwarf, but I can't outrun a human. Or a hurlock. Short legs, you know. My endurance is good, at least. I can just barely swim enough to keep myself from drowning if I fall out of a boat, but I prefer to stay away from water, given the choice. I can do a slow and steady climb, but again I'm not winning any speed races.
8. How well can you defend yourself in a physical fight? Would you try to avoid physical conflict? If so, how?
Oh, I'd say I do pretty well. [smiles] That is what I do for a living, after all. And sure, I'd rather avoid a fight if I can, assuming we're talking about other people rather than wild animals or darkspawn.
9. How well can you verbally defend yourself in an argument? What tactics do you use to win or end arguments?
[laughs] Power of persuasion, remember? If I want to win an argument badly enough, I do. Marshaling logic, calling on their emotions. Some might call me manipulative. [shrugs] I can live with that.
10. If you knew you were going to die in 24 hours, name three things you would do in the time you have left.
Write letters to young Endrin and, if they weren't with me, Alistair and Nathaniel. Then I'd find the nearest entrance to the Deep Roads and take out as many darkspawn as I could in the time I had left.
11. If someone close to you suddenly died tomorrow, how would your life change? How would it make you a different person one year from now?
This has already happened to me more times than I care to count. My family, of course, and among the Wardens as well. When you make your life as a soldier, your friends die. That's just the way of things. People I care about die, I grieve for awhile, I carry on with my life. I'd do the same if Alistair died, or Nathaniel, or any of my other friends. Does that sound callous? Maybe it does. But it's the truth.
12. What is the most frightening handicap or disfigurement that you can imagine? What makes it so frightening?
Being overcome by the darkspawn taint.
--I thought Grey Wardens were immune to the taint.
We are, but it's a... somewhat limited immunity, let's say. If we get exposed to enough of it, it will eventually take us down. And the effects of taint poisoning aren't pretty. Ever seen a ghoul? Trust me, you don't want to.
13. If you found a genie in a bottle, what three wishes would you ask for?
[holds up hand and ticks off fingers, as if enumerating items on a list] A steady stream of recruits to the Ferelden Grey Wardens for as long as there are still darkspawn in the world. A good, strong leader for Orzammar. And-- anything?
An end to Blights. No more archdemons to be loosed on the world to wreak death and destruction. That's what I want.
14. If you were to gain an obscenely large sum of money, what would you do with it? How would your life change?
Money is really the last thing I need. House Aeducan has plenty of wealth, so my heirs are set. The Wardens take care of my daily needs, large and small, and my lover is a king. So... I don't know. Perhaps I'd donate it to one of the areas of Ferelden still rebuilding from the Blight. Or to Kirkwall. There's a place sadly in need of some help.
15. Right now, what words do you most need to hear from someone you respect or someone you are emotionally close to?
I'd want to hear from my father, I suppose. I wonder, all the time, what he would make of me now, what he would think of the choices I've made since my exile. Would he be proud? Would he be disappointed that I decided to stay on the surface rather than reclaiming the place that was offered to me among the dwarves after the Blight? Would he be pleased with Alistair, or horrified that I fell in love with a human? I'll never know.
A few months after coming to the surface, when I reunited with Gorim in Denerim, he had a letter for me that my father had written, in the hopes that I had somehow made my way to the surface. In the letter, he said how much he regretted letting me go, not fighting Bhelen to stop my exile. It gave me strength and broke my heart, all at once, to realize that he was dead and would never know that I survived, and that I forgave him. That's what I would tell him now, if he lived: that I don't regret my exile, that I'm happy with how my life turned out, and that he shouldn't blame himself for anything. I hope that would be enough.
[record of the interview ends here]
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