“…But there is a flaw in my coal, Hespith. I will not tell them. They will not admit it. Instead, they will one day make a Paragon not out of whoever proves me wrong, but in who ‘improves’ it.”
Your lungs draw in a sharp breath automatically, though Branka is no warmongerer; she has nothing but passive scorn for the Assembly, a low-level bile that sees no need to purposefully stir up dissent. She will not walk the floor, call out publicly what she sees as heresies – though they would tolerate her, if she did. They must. It makes you afraid of what would happen if they did not.
You touch her arm.
“Hespith.” She makes your name sound like a snake. She hisses against your ear. You imagine her tongue to be as cool and dry as a serpent’s belly, but she is far more moist than that. “I am your Paragon,” she whispers. “Say it.”
You do. You say it, again and again. Everything she wants. All for her.
Sometimes, when in search of a certain type of fic, it’s easy to get swept up in the fanon instead of appreciating what’s already in canon. So, as much as I love reading about femslash that would probably be dubious at best in its canon, this week is about giving a little love to a canon pairing that I forgot about completely. I blame Orzammar.
For “wardens” who have played through Dragon Age: Origins, naming this home of the dwarves brings up almost as many bad memories as The Fade simply for the fact that it’s horridly long and, after those hours among the underground tunnels, the entire environment becomes boring to look at. However many bad memories exist, though, Orzammar houses one of the most complex choices the player can make during the game. This decision, much like this fanfiction, revolves around one person: the Paragon, Branka.
Survivors of Orzammar’s Deep Roads already know the ultimate fate of Branka, driven mad by her research and possibly killed by the very golems she so desperately wanted to bring back to the city, but we know nothing of Branka before this. Even what we learn from her husband, Oghren, and her lover, Hespith, explains very little. And while Luc Court’s Faultlines doesn’t give us an in-depth look at the past life of Orzammar’s newest Paragon, what it does give us—a beautifully written exploration of Branka’s motivations before the events of DA:O—really is just as good.
On a very basic level, Faultlines clearly shows how well its author understands the characters; Branka is eternally unreachable, forever beyond everyone’s’ understanding, so it’s only fitting that Branka’s spiral into madness is shown entirely from the eyes of the woman who wanted to understand her more than anything, Hespith. And Hespith is no fool blinded by her love. She understands completely that Branka is losing herself more and more each day, but also understand that there is nothing she can do to stop Branka’s obsession—as a woman from a lower caste, she has no right to stop it. Yet, even in futility, Hespith cannot stop trying and forms her own type of madness in trying to please her beloved Paragon.
On a technical level, Faultlines is essentially flawless. Both Orzamaar and its Paragon are given new life through Luc Court’s masterful descriptions. Even if you’re not exactly a fan of similes, the ones in Faultlines are incredibly evocative. Seriously, I kept getting chills while reading through it.
Before reading this I would recommend having some prior knowledge of the source material—wiki pages, YouTube videos, whatever works—if only so that Luc Court’s words can paint that much more of a vivid image. While not long, in its 3k words Faultlines packs a punch that will remain with you long after you leave the stony halls of Orzammar.