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Rina Tabris, born in Drakonis 9:09

Mother: Adaia Tabris, daughter of the Denerim alienage's just-tolerated apostate healer. Far more daring than her identical twin sister, her sneaky, self-serving exploits caught the attention of the young Grey Warden Duncan who was disappointed both that she had no interest in 'carking it in some shitty blight-ridden cave' and that she was happily engaged.

Father: Cyrion, a mild-mannered miner, until the dust disabled him. Though he loved his wife dearly and had a lot of respect for his eccentric, Elvish-speaking, Chantry-shunning mother-in-law, he only ever wanted a quiet life.

By the time of Rina's first wedding in 9:30 Dragon, her only known living relatives were her father and her two cousins Soris and Shianni, her aunt's children. Having grown up in the same house, and for the past fifteen years having had only Cyrion apart from each other, all three considered themselves siblings. Shianni and Rina were extremely close - closer than their own twin mothers had been, as they'd never been able to see eye-to-eye.

Rina Tabris had wanted to get married, but not to some strange man of her father and the matchmaker's choosing. Her father insisted that it would be better to marry than to continue wilting under the strain of supporting the family as a servant, midwife, and pickpocket. (Though he didn't mention the thievery, because, despite all the evidence, he saw his daughter as future Elder material.)

But her lover succumbed to familial pressure, and left to marry in Highever, and a year later - half a dozen other women later; several extremely ill-advised bar fights with humans later; a serious drinking problem later - Rina gave in, too.

As if things couldn't get worse, her former lover decided to accompany the wedding party on their visit from Highever.

Things then got immediately even worse.

Not wanting to settle down to life as a married woman didn't mean Rina wanted what happened instead: watching first her lover, then her new husband, cut down by humans. After avenging them, Shianni, and herself, she was ready, perhaps eager, to hang. And to spit in the face of the useless human who'd invited himself to her wedding and then watched the horror that unfolded, drinking the wine she'd scraped and saved for. But her father ordered her to go with the Grey Warden, so she did.

Just as she made herself get used to the idea of fighting alongside humans - on par with humans - everything changed, again. And somehow she found herself leading a daughter of Asha'bellanar and a former templar who casually namedropped arls on a quest to save Ferelden, perhaps Thedas. How could she be the leader when they had to lead her - the clueless city elf, who'd left Denerim for the first time a week ago - through swamps and other rough terrain? Perhaps it was her experience keeping the peace at home between Soris and Shianni that kept Alistair and Morrigan from each other's throats.

Not only did they never agree with each other, they rarely agreed with Rina. They respected her decision to free Sten, but couldn't understand why she was so happy to invite Leliana to accompany them - especially when she spoke more viciously against the Chantry than either of them. Her decision to head first to the Circle baffled the entire group. And when she not only spared but sought the friendship of a man who tried - very hard - to kill her, Wynne wondered if she hadn't missed a head injury at some point.

Rina showed bravery and mercy in the Circle tower, as well as in sparing Zevran, but it was in Orzammar she learnt about politics. And this time, the darkspawn couldn't best her, no matter their number or skill. And Alistair must have learnt something about bravery, too - either that, or he had the same appreciation for seeing Rina covered head-to-toe in darkspawn blood that Zevran did, which seemed unlikely. Whatever the reason, he confessed his feelings for her as soon as they reached the surface - and she returned them.

Despite the best efforts of both Loghain and the archdemon, Rina's successes continued almost undaunted - until they approached Redcliffe, and Alistair shattered all her dreams for the future. She fought all night to defend every last survivor of the village from the undead; slept only a few hours before leading their party through a haunted slaughterhouse; and wanted so badly to believe she'd misunderstood. That Alistair somehow still intended to marry her. That she could be Ferelden's first elven queen!

But there was no pile of lyrium big enough, no risk on Morrigan's part great enough, to allow them to escape their heritage. And the deep, and deeply shared sense of duty - one of the things that had made them so attractive to each other - drove them apart.

The situation in Denerim - the locked alienage gates - did nothing to help Rina. Did the evening spent on the Siren's Call? Maybe. Leliana ended up regretting it, and the feelings that she'd thought had been obvious until she'd directly confronted Rina over them. Zevran's only feelings were friendly, of course, both for Isabela and Leliana. His feelings for Rina were not only non-existent, they were irrelevant. As she'd steadfastly had nothing to do with him the whole night (somehow, on the one bed...) Only because she equally had no feelings for him, of course, and was merely tolerating his presence.

On the pilgrimage to find the Sacred Ashes, Rina found she couldn't deny what she wanted any more. And the less likely it seemed that she'd survive the blight, the less she cared that Zevran had all but directly told her he was going to break her heart. After all, could you truly break what was already in pieces?

Their travels eventually brought them to the Brecilian Forest, which not only brought Zevran back to his Dalish roots, but Rina to her Elven roots. And to the way things had been at the beginning of her improbable stint as Commander of the Grey, when everyone, even Zevran, was dismayed at the way she threw her whole support behind Zathrian.

Knowing Howe had been responsible not only for so much of the civil war but so much of what had happeed in Denerim, Rina was only too happy to kill him. And Cauthrien, and anyone else stupid enough to get in her way. And she was so happy to try out a special poison she'd been saving on the magister who'd tried to enslave her father, even Morrigan and Zevran were impressed.

Alistair had followed Rina's every command with little more than grumbling. So when she refused to execute the Hero of River Dane after besting him in a duel, she was as surprised as Anora to watch his head tumble from his shoulders. Far more forgiving, though, and far more able than Alistair to turn this turn of events to their advantage. So, Alistair's royal wedding was off, but his own head was secure, and the battle against the blight would continue.

It wasn't like she had no sway with Alistair any more. Despite Zevran's proposal and simultaneous declaration of his own love for Rina, the two Wardens were still deeply in love. They tamped down their feelings as well as they could, and pretended all that bound them was the battles they'd fought side-by-side. And there was more to Alistair's agreeing to Morrigan's scheme than his stubborn feelings for Rina - just as there was more to her proposing it than her own affection - but whatever it was, it definitely wasn't the sexual tension. Which didn't exist. Because they were just friends. No, wait. They weren't friends!

Rina ended the civil war and then the Fifth Blight, and was mired in her attempts to rebuild Denerim's alienage when Anora asked for more. Rina was loyal to her country as well as the monarch she herself had all but crowned, and accepted these honours readily, though they tore her away from her home once more. Was it still her home? Could it have been? Vigil's Keep became home, as did Amaranthine, but she was lonely.

Everyone had scattered. Everyone bar Oghren, who had his own demons to contend with. The only person more lonely was Morrigan, and that wasn't the only reason Rina desperately wished to be by her dearest friend's side. At least there were letters, from everyone but her. And they weren't enough, but they were something. But everyone was so busy. And it seemed that even letters were fewer and further between.

And from Zevran? They got shorter and vaguer and then stopped. It cost all of Rina's personal wealth to ascertain that he hadn't gotten himself killed in Antiva. And then it cost every ounce of both her self-control and her self-respect to not commandeer the fastest ship in Amarathine's harbour and confront him as soon as possible. She wrote one final letter expressing her heartbreak, and cried the contents of the Vigil's cellars on to Anders' shoulder over a few long nights. And that was the end of that. The third man she'd thought she'd marry, the third person she'd wanted to - well, he'd survived, but she couldn't work out if it was better or worse that he hadn't said to her face that he'd never really wanted to marry someone like her.

And then he appeared in her tower window. She lowered the crossbow she'd aimed at the intruder before changing her mind and pointing it straight back at him. She wasn't sure she believed his grovelling about how he wasn't good enough for her. She hadn't believed it the first time, when he'd insisted that he no longer wanted to assassinate her. But she was willing to believe he'd realised he'd made a mistake, and willing to believe he wouldn't repeat it. And, besides: she loved him.

He never did do anything that stupid again.

He had to return to Antiva alone another few times, but after that, he never willingly left her side. Not for any longer than it took to buy her gifts and torture her enemies, at least.

Rina continued in her duties as the south's Commander of the Grey, Arlessa of Amaranthine and General of Ferelden for several years, never publicly complaining. What would it look like if an elf had to announce themselves unworthy of one of these honours? She knew she couldn't keep this pace up forever. Her shortened lifespan started to seem like a comfort; then it started to seem far too long.

It wasn't like she never took a day off. It certainly wasn't like no-one around her was trying to help save her from herself. It was at what should have been the end of a trip to Rialto that her despair got the better of her. Even with the best efforts of a spirit healer Zevran was lucky enough to find, it took her several weeks to recover enough to return home. Neither Rina nor Zevran will ever be able to truly forgive one another for what they did that day.

She couldn't go on that way, but she couldn't retire peacefully, either, much as her husband begged. Though she had no more hope for her own life, she decided to dedicate whatever was left of hers to finding a cure for the taint, for all other Grey Wardens. She and Zevran travelled west, and some of their friends wondered if they'd ever hear from them again.

Over the years, Zevran realised his wife was an exceptionally skilled apostate. It wasn't anything she did. It wasn't even the things she said - he was in full agreement with her on every mage-related issue, despite possessing absolutely no magical talent himself. No more than all elves truly did - a shield Rina often hid behind. And this sensitivity to particularly weak patches of the veil was all she ever displayed, even in front of him; even deep in the west, with no-one else to see. No-one who would attempt - and fail - to drag her off to some wretched Circle, certainly.

Sometimes he doubted his assumption. If she were truly a mage, why had she never used her abilities, even fighting the Blight? Why did she not tell even her dear friends and fellow apostates Morrigan and Anders? But then, trapped by spiders in a cave they'd both underestimated, she asked him to 'look over there' - the woman who'd outsmarted demons and kings alike asked the terror of the Crows to look over there - and suddenly, the eluvian she'd been desperately molesting had opened wide for them.

Maybe he could have believed that their elven presence alone had had some effect on the ancient device. If she hadn't done exactly the same thing a few minutes later after dragging him through the Crossroads.

But he'd kept his mouth shut, through the reunion with an inquisitive Kieran, a delightfully suspicious Morrigan, and the entirety of Skyhold. Including her long lost cousin, who Leliana had apparently been forced to present as a new prophet of the Maker, in Rina's absence. And though Adaia Lavellan shared not only facial features, family names and a penchant for trouble, but a strong magical heritage, Rina still pretended she could only kill people with blades, bolts, and poisons, and not by exploding them with her mind. Which perhaps would have killed Zevran, eventually, itself.

Adaia also shared her cousin's taste for Antivans, though the similarities stopped there. Unless Lady Montilyet had been driven to extreme unprofessionalism during some tiresome diplomatic dispute or another, and worse, no-one was telling Zevran.

Just as Rina had feared, the Wardens of the South had nearly destroyed themselves in her absence. Her closest underlings, still more loyal to her good example than to any sense of blind obedience to either authority or fear, had survived. They were eager to reunite under her banner, which she planted firmly at Skyhold. Inquisitor Lavellan was grateful to have her official support as well as that of the surviving Wardens who'd already pledged themselves to her cause. She was also grateful for her guidance, as another elven woman thrust into improbable, though thoroughly deserved, greatness.

Zevran had great affection for Adaia, and not only because she so resembled his wife and his sister-in-law. She was an admirable woman, as well as gregarious and charming. And she didn't have to disclose what kind of shit Alistair had been talking behind his commander's back, but it was gratifying to watch Rina confront him over it.

Rina was forced to reveal her magic to save Adaia's life. Denying what had just happened to the Inquisition members who witnessed it didn't get her very far; neither did threatening them, more remarkably. Admitting that she could use magic but wasn't a mage, because she didn't know any spells was a little more successful - in that people understood that she had very rarely used magic before that day. She tearfully confessed her deceit to Zevran, who didn't care, and seethed over the incompetence of the Inquisition that had led her to supposedly incriminate herself. Zevran wasn't sure if it was more this lingering fear of magehunters or her transposed perfectionism that saw Cassandra bear the brunt of this secret onslaught.

One day I'll finish writing the complete version of this story. Will I beat Bioware? Place your bets now. Or in a couple of years probably you will still be fine.

Illustration credits: elf dollmaker | DAO template can be found here