- "Nothing is forbidden to a Grey Warden, not even blood magic. The Blight... changes everything. We do whatever we must to win."
- ―Aedan to Levi Dryden
Warden-Commander Aedan Cousland, commonly known as the Hero of Ferelden, is the second son of Teyrn Bryce Cousland of Highever and his wife, Teyrna Eleanor. He is Fergus's younger brother, Oren's uncle, and the main protagonist of Dragon Age: Origins.
On the night his brother took Highever’s troops to war, the Cousland’s ancestral castle was betrayed from within by Arl Rendon Howe when he launched an unexpected surprise attack and slaughtered most of the inhabitants, including the teyrn and teyrna. Aedan witnessed the massacre firsthand and was able to escape with his life due to Warden-Commander Duncan's intervention. However, the experience made him more bellicose and continues to weigh heavily on him. In exchange for being led to safety, Aedan joins the Grey Wardens where his training in both combat and diplomacy were put to the test.
As the Fifth Blight began devastating Ferelden following the disastrous battle at Ostagar, Aedan evaded assassination attempts to assemble a coalition to combat the Archdemon Urthemiel’s forces. By utilizing ancient treaties, he enlisted the aid of the Dalish elves, dwarves, Circle mages, Templars and Redcliffe soldiers. Upon ending a bloody civil war and uniting the country under a single banner, Aedan led the coalition forces into battle against the darkspawn at the siege of Denerim, where he killed Urthemiel and was proclaimed the "Hero of Ferelden".
Six months after ending the Blight, Aedan assumed the fallen Duncan’s mantle as Ferelden’s new Warden-Commander and rules over the arling of Amaranthine as its Arl. Yet while stationed at Vigil’s Keep, several new challenges arose during the Thaw period: when reports of two warring factions of highly intelligent darkspawn led by the Architect and the Mother engaged in a civil war over ideological differences threatened the security of his lands, Aedan initiated a strike team to lessen the darkspawn threat and destroyed the Mother, effectively changing the darkspawn's fate. He returned to rebuilding the Wardens’ presence and oversaw reconstruction efforts to Amaranthine while consolidating his control over the arling, serving with honor until his disappearance several years later.
Shortly before the War against the Elder One, Aedan traveled deep into the western lands to find a cure for the Calling. With a renewed determination to save all Grey Wardens from its effects, Aedan intends to prevent the Calling from further afflicting the Order by any means necessary. His efforts were proven to be difficult yet successful, and he soon made his return to the known world where he has since retired to a private life with his family.
Born on the seventh day of Wintermarch in 9:05 Dragon, Lord Aedan Sarim Cousland is the second and youngest child of Teyrn Bryce Cousland, ruler of Highever and one of the most powerful nobles in Ferelden, and his wife Teyrna Eleanor Cousland (née Mac Eanraig). For countless generations, the Couslands have stewarded the lands of Highever dating back to less civilized days before the crowning of Ferelden’s first king. As a child, he rarely left his family’s ancestral lands other than to accompany his father to the capital city of Denerim for a Landsmeet.
Not much is known about Aedan’s early education, other than that he studied within his grandfather’s private library. His tutors, Aldous and Mother Mallol, described him as "one of the most determined and brightest" students they have ever taught.
His academic grades soon caught the attention of Orlais' ambassador to Ferelden, Marquis Gaston de Boissonade, who sponsored Aedan to the University of Orlais where he proved himself an amateur scholar and patron of the arts—showing talents in history, literature, politics, economics and mathematics. It was during this time he became acquainted with Chantry scholar Brother Ferdinand Genitivi. Hailed as a prodigy by nature, Aedan was praised by his tutors as one of the best of his generation. While in Val Royeaux, he learned to speak fluent Orlesian and studied the arts of the Grand Game. After his graduation, Aedan returned to Highever to serve in his father’s court as seneschal.
At some point in time, he attended Fergus' and Oriana’s wedding to congratulate them.
It is believed that Aedan held his first sword when his father sent him to the Arling of South Reach to train as a squire under Arl Leonas Bryland on his fourth birthday. He also participated in the Grand Tourney in Markham when he turned 16 and defeated opponents such as Dairren, his brother, and even his father.
Despite Fergus’s martial skill, however, many speculate that Aedan is more likely to be chosen to take over as the next Teyrn of Highever instead of his brother. From then on, he was known as the young scion of House Cousland—living up to his family’s proud heritage.
- Main article: Siege of Castle Cousland
After being tasked with instructing Fergus to depart immediately to Ostagar with the bulk of Highever’s army, Aedan is intercepted by Ser Roland Gilmore, a knight in Highever’s service; Teyrna Eleanor Cousland, Aedan’s mother, wishes her youngest child to collect his mabari dog. After finishing both tasks, the young noble heads for bed.However, Arl Howe took advantage of Highever’s weakened defenses and launched an unexpected surprise attack with his "late" troops in the middle of the night. The attack saw the Cousland’s ancestral castle burn, and the teyrn and his wife slain. A quick search reveals Fergus’ son and wife murdered as well, along with the other guests. Before the death of Teyrn Cousland, Duncan fights his way in the pantry and asks him to recruit Aedan. Bryce relents, wanting his youngest child to tell Fergus what has happened. Duncan offers to bring the teyrna too, but she refuses to leave her husband’s side as the teyrn is too injured to travel. True to his word, Duncan helped Aedan escape to a new life with the Wardens.
- Main article: Battle at Ostagar
Aedan and Duncan traveled south to Ostagar to meet with King Cailan and Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir to defeat the darkspawn threat. In order to do so, the noble and two other recruits, Daveth and Ser Jory, are tasked with gathering three vials of darkspawn blood for the Joining by venturing into the Korcari Wilds under Grey Warden Alistair’s supervision. The group find a cache of treaties, as well, but finds them missing. A Witch of the Wilds named Morrigan invites them to meet her mother, Flemeth, who has safeguarded the treaties.Back at camp, Duncan reveals that darkspawn blood must be consumed during the Joining. When Daveth dies to the taint upon drinking the blood, Jory refuses to follow and draws his sword at Duncan, who executes him. Aedan eventually survives the Joining, however, and went on to become a full-fledged Grey Warden.
During the war meeting with King Cailan and Teyrn Loghain, Aedan and Alistair are ordered to light a beacon atop the Tower of Ishal while the rest of the Wardens fight on the front line with the king and the royal army in the valley below. The two battle their way to the top of the tower, where an ogre guards the beacon. But valor turned to despair however as Loghain, upon seeing the signal, withdraws his troops. Cailan and Duncan were slain, the army was almost annihilated and the south was lost. The tower itself is soon overrun by darkspawn, who strike down Alistair and Aedan.
Interlude: Flemeth's Hut
Following the disaster at Ostagar, Aedan survived with the aid of Flemeth and regains consciousness in her hut. He soon discovers that Alistair is the only other Grey Warden remaining besides him and that Flemeth is the one who rescued them. In a discussion, Aedan comes up with the idea of using the treaties to build an army and continue the fight against the darkspawn threat. Joined by Flemeth’s daughter, Morrigan, Aedan and Alistair set out to build an army strong enough to abolish the Blight.
- Main article: Lothering
Traveling to the nearby town of Lothering to resupply and gather information, the group finds the town in chaos, with refugees crowding the area and bandits preying on them as all present flee before the advance of the darkspawn horde. After dealing with a group of bandits that greet them upon arrival, the party proceeds into town. As they move to do so, Alistair stops the group to rethink about their plans and goals. Rather than trying to lead the new Warden, Alistair makes it clear that he would prefer it if Aedan carried out the burden of leadership instead. Once this is cleared up, the party moves into town.
Upon stopping at a local inn, the party finds a local Chantry sister named Leliana who helps them fight a group of Loghain’s men who accuse them of being the ones to have caused the king’s death. After this she asks to join them due to a vision she believed she received from the Maker. Also of note is a Qunari named Sten who is locked in a cage for murder. Aedan manages to convince the local Chantry mother to release Sten into his custody, at which point he joins them.
- Main article: The Arl of Redcliffe
With the traitorous Loghain now seated on Ferelden’s throne, Aedan sought help from the influential Eamon Guerrin, the powerful and respected Arl of Redcliffe and the elder of King Cailan’s maternal uncles, upon Alistair’s recommendation. It is at that point when the party learns that Alistair is the bastard son of King Maric, making him a potential candidate for the throne and hence why Eamon brought him up. However, the party arrived in Redcliffe to find the town under siege. With each passing night, undead rose in waves and assailed the battered village. They are taken to meet Teagan Guerrin, Bann of Rainsfere and Eamon’s brother, who reveals that the arl lying at the edge of death and his court had fallen into madness.
With the help of Aedan and his companions, the people of Redcliffe stood fast against the undead horde. After the attack has passed, the Wardens meet up with Teagan once again and he provides access to Redcliffe Castle via means of an underground passage. Once inside they find a prisoner named Jowan, a mage who claims was brought in to tutor Eamon’s young son Connor in secret so that Connor could learn to hide his magic abilities and thus avoid being disinherited and sent to the Circle of Magi, but Jowan had a sinister motive for taking the position: he reveals that he was the one who poisoned Eamon on the orders of Loghain. However, it was Connor who has brought the undead. To save his father’s life, Connor had made a deal with a desire demon and quickly fallen victim its possession, resulting in a weakening of the Veil. After battling through several floors of undead, the Warden reaches the throne room of Castle Redcliffe, where Isolde (Connor’s mother), a possessed Connor, and Teagan await. By this time Teagan is mind-controlled by Connor. A battle cannot be avoided, but the attack does rid Teagan of his mind-control.
Aedan intervened once more, freeing Connor from possession and breaking the demon’s hold over Redcliffe. But deals with demons were never straight forward: the group learned that the demon agreed only to save Eamon’s life, not restore him to health. Arl Eamon needed a miracle to recover. Isolde later points the Wardens to Denerim to seek the aid of Brother Genitivi, who has been researching the location of an urn containing the sacred ashes of Andraste, which were said to cure any ailment.
- Main article: Urn of Sacred Ashes
Yet, when the group arrives at Genitivi’s house he is nowhere to be found. A man claiming to be his assistant Weylon suggests that Genitivi may have traveled to Lake Calenhad, but Genitivi is not there either. When pressed, the man claiming to be Weylon attacks. Upon exploring the back room, the disturbing truth is revealed: the real Weylon has been murdered, and the only sign of Genitivi is a journal which points to the village of Haven as his likely location.
Haven is a remote village, isolated from the rest of Ferelden. Aedan receives a frosty welcome from the town guard, but he does reveal that a Revered Father, rather than a revered mother, leads their local community. Upon exploring Haven, the party discovers several unsettling things, such as a bloody altar and the body of one of Arl Eamon’s knights. Eventually the Warden discovers the village Chantry and the Revered Father Eririk, who has no intention of allowing the party to stay and attacks. Once he has been defeated and his medallion retrieved, Brother Genitivi is rescued. Although he has been tortured, he is eager to continue on in order to find the urn and points Aedan to the Temple of Sacred Ashes that he believes holds the urn.
The urn was protected by ancient traps, tests of will, and a dragon worshiping cult that wanted to twist the urn’s power to its own ends. After moving across the mountaintop, Aedan faces the Gauntlet. Looked over by an ancient Guardian of Andraste’s, it begins by asking Aedan and his companions a question about their respective pasts. After passing several trials, the party approaches the urn containing Andraste’s ashes. Taking but a small pinch, the urn remained pure, but mysteriously disappeared after the group departed. Only the temple dedicated to it still stands. Genitivi became enthusiastic at Aedan’s findings, even contemplating publishing a book about this religious find.
Using a pinch of the ashes, Aedan restored Arl Eamon to health. Informed of Loghain’s treachery, Eamon swore his political and military support, and sends an emissary to the party’s camp to act as liaison. He begins laying the necessary groundwork to call a Landsmeet with the purpose of placing Alistair on the throne. In the meantime, Eamon recommends that Aedan and his companions use the Grey Warden treaties to gather allies.
- Main article: Broken Circle
While travelling to the Kinloch Hold’s tower at Lake Calenhad to seek the Circle of Magi’s assistance, they offered little help. The Warden discovers that the Circle is under attack by a group of abominations and the Templar Order under the command of Knight-Commander Greagoir are considering the Right of Annulment which permits them to kill all the mages in the tower. After agreeing to end the threat the demons pose, Aedan finds a group of mages who put up a magical shield and have managed to hold out against the abominations and demons. Amongst them are is Wynne, a well-respected senior enchanter who Aedan had met prior to the Battle of Ostagar. Although Petra (another mage) is concerned for her health, Wynne asks to join the party so long as their goal is to save the Circle.
After battling through several floors of monsters, the group encounters a powerful sloth demon who sends them to the Fade. Aedan wakes alone, and encounters a mage named Niall who has been seeking the Litany of Adralla which would allow him to prevent the blood mages from using mind control. However, he was trapped by the sloth demon before he could put it to use. Niall reveals that Uldred had attempted to persuade the Circle to ally with Loghain in exchange for greater freedoms, but when Loghain’s treachery at Ostagar was revealed, the Circle would have no part in his plans. At this point, Uldred first tried to explain away Loghain’s actions, then attempted to escape, but First Enchanter Irving would not allow it. Uldred then attempted to summon a demon; however, he become possessed by a pride demon and was twisting other Circle mages into abominations, unleashing the chaos that engulfed Kinloch Hold.
Before the Warden can escape the Fade and confront Uldred, he first mounts a rescue mission to save his comrades from their nightmares and confronts the sloth demon, killing it in combat. Once it is dead, Aedan tries to convince Niall to return with them, yet he refuses the offer as he has been in the Fade too long and cannot return to the land of the living, though he encourages the Warden to take the litany from his body to aid in the fight against Uldred. With the help of the mages, the group fights to the top of the tower and defeated Uldred, saving the remaining mages. Grateful for their lives, the mages joined Aedan’s army. With order restored to the Circle without the Right of Annulment being invoked, the Warden continues their battle against the Blight. The allies gained at the Circle were not the only soldiers to join the Warden’s forces, however.
- Main article: Nature of the Beast
Dalish elves don’t usually make alliances, but even deep hatred can be set aside in the face of oblivion. Deep within the Brecillian Forest, an ancient curse was destroying one of Ferelden’s largest wandering Dalish clans – leaving many of their hunters cursed and nearing death or transformed into mindless, ravening werewolves, and therefore are unable to support the Grey Wardens until this problem is resolved.
Zathrian, the clan’s Keeper, claimed that the cure required the heart of the great wolf Witherfang. After proceeding into the nearby forest for a way, the Warden is suddenly intercepted by a group of werewolves led by Swiftrunner, and learns that things are not quite as Zathrian has portrayed them – Swiftrunner is a werewolf who thinks and speaks like a man, not a mindless beast. After trying to shoo Aedan’s party off and failing, Swiftrunner and his companions attack but quickly realize they are outmatched and break off.
It is revealed that years before, Zathrian himself had afflicted a group of humans with a curse that now ravaged his clan. As long as he lived, the curse endured. Aedan freed the werewolves from the longstanding curse and the Dalish joined Aedan’s forces.
At some point during the Blight, Aedan and Leliana became lovers.
- Main article: A Paragon of Her Kind
Blights may happen hundreds of years apart, but the dwarves who live below the surface of Thedas fight darkspawn every day. No one is better schooled in battling darkspawn than the warriors of Orzammar, except perhaps their allies of old—the Grey Wardens. Aedan and his companions traveled through the Frostback Mountains and arrived in Orzammar in the wake of King Endrin Aeducan’s death to find political factions fighting for control of the dwarven capital. Only the vote of a venerated Paragon could break the deadlock to elect a ruler and order the dwarves to honor their Grey Warden treaty and join the battle against the new Blight.
He set off to find a Paragon named Branka, who had disappeared into the Deep Roads in search of a legendary artifact: the Anvil of the Void, created by the renowned smith Caridin to forge mighty war golems. Aedan helped Caridin destroy the Anvil of the Void, along with the dark secrets that could trap a living soul inside a mechanical construct. He emerged from the Deep Roads with a master forged crown to bestow the Paragon’s favor upon whichever rival candidate would be crowned king: Prince Bhelen Aeducan, the youngest son of King Endrin who was suspected of foul play, or Lord Pyral Harrowmont, the aging traditionalist backed by the dwarven Assembly. Lord Harrowmont claimed the crown of Orzammar, his traditionalist values keep dwarves first in all things and safely as far underground as possible.
- Main article: The Landsmeet
With the dwarven strength now bolstering his army, Aedan turned his attention towards Loghain so Ferelden could stand unified against the darkspawn before the Blight swallowed the world. However, the kingdom stood divided. While some nobles supported Loghain’s regency, others condemned his inaction against the darkspawn. Civil war brewed, and Arl Eamon called a Landsmeet in hopes of curtailing the conflict and removing Loghain from power.
At some point, Aedan was informed by Queen Anora’s elven handmaiden Erlina that she was being held prisoner at Arl Howe’s estate and seeks aid in escaping. During the infiltration mission, he rescued Riordan, a senior Warden from Orlais. The pursuit finally led him to Howe, who mocks Aedan about how he made his parents suffer before he killed them. Furious and overwhelmed by his anger, Aedan viciously attacked him and the two engaged in a heated battle. It was during this battle that Aedan received a vertical scar which ran above and below his left eye from Howe’s blade. Despite being painfully blemished, Aedan quickly gained the advantage, and, utilizing his newfound Power of Blood abilities, overpowered Howe and fatally impaled him through the chest with his sword. As Arl Howe slowly died in a puddle of his own blood, Aedan gave a small satisfied smile. He had finally achieved his revenge.
After freeing the prisoners from the dungeons and releasing Queen Anora from captivity, the party made their attempt to leave the estate. However, they were confronted by Loghain’s top lieutenant Ser Cauthrien and a sizable contingent of soldiers. While his companions dealt with Loghain’s guards and Anora escaping in the confusion, Aedan faced off against Ser Cauthrien and, despite being exhausted and wounded from his previous fight with Arl Howe, managed to gather enough strength to overwhelm Cauthrien and decapitate her.
Aedan briefly spent some time alone away from his comrades to calm down. After a moment of self-contemplation, Aedan realized that his own hatred and suffering was turning him into someone he wasn’t. Remembering his childhood of how Bryce and Eleanor were loving, attentive and caring to him, he was finally able to let go of his hate and mourn the loss of his loved ones. Aedan later returned to the Arl of Redcliffe’s Estate and apologized to everyone for his actions, much to their relief.
After Aedan obtained proof of Loghain's involvement with the slavers in the Alienage, Eamon convened the Landsmeet. He denounced Loghain, claiming he had turned against everything Fereldan was built upon. In turn, Loghain claimed that Eamon was plotting to make Alistair a puppet ruler. As Aedan and Alistair arrived, Loghain accused the former of being an Orlesian spy. Aedan refuted his accusations and revealed the regent's crimes: selling the alienage elves to Tevinter slavers to fund his war, allowing Howe to torture nobles who spoke out against Loghain, and snatching a blood mage from Chantry custody to poison Eamon. The evidence presented to the nobility discredited Loghain's ability to lead. Opinion swayed in Aedan’s favor and he won the support of the Landsmeet and demanded that Loghain step down. However, Loghain refused to abide by the decision and attempted to stage a coup d’état. The situation escalated into a duel between Aedan and Loghain, with the latter emerging victorious. In the end, Loghain was found guilty of treason and Aedan carried out his execution in Denerim’s palace.
Before the final battle, Aedan learned from Riordan that when an Archdemon is slain, its essence will pass on to possess the nearest darkspawn, making the archdemon essentially immortal. To end the Blight, a Grey Warden must strike the fatal blow, which would cause the essence to be drawn into the Warden and killing both. Upon learning this disturbing new information, Aedan retired to his room to rest only to find Morrigan waiting for him. There she offers Aedan a choice to avoid his fate: according to Morrigan, she believes a ritual performed on the eve of night would ensure the essence of the Archdemon is lured into an unborn child conceived by Morrigan and a Grey Warden without the sacrifice of a Grey Warden’s life. Aedan agreed to undergo the mysterious dark ritual with Morrigan, resulting in him fathering one illegitimate son, Kieran.
As Aedan’s united army massed in Redcliffe, the darkspawn overran Denerim, laying siege to Ferelden’s capital city. The coalition forces fought valiantly and broke through the darkspawn siege. On the top of Fort Drakon’s highest tower, Aedan and his strongest allies fought in a final heroic battle against Urthemiel and the massive Archdemon was killed.
With no Archdemon to lead them, the darkspawn horde scattered. Most darkspawn fled underground still teeming in number and always searching for another Archdemon to awaken.
- "My friends, we are gathered to celebrate those responsible for our victory. Of those who stood against the darkspawn siege of Denerim, there is one in particular who deserves commendation. The one who led the final charge against the Archdemon remains with us still, an inspiration to all he saved that day. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the Hero of Ferelden, Lord Aedan Cousland, the first Grey Warden to defeat the Blight since Garahel four centuries ago."
—King Alistair Theirin, addressing the nobility
The shattered kingdom embarked on the road to recovery. In the aftermath of the Blight, new leadership emerged. Alistair and Queen Anora forged a powerful, if somewhat distant, political alliance with their arranged marriage. Together, they ushered Ferelden into a new era. For people across Thedas, legends of the Hero of Ferelden remain the nation’s brightest beacons of hope during its darkest times.Aedan returned to Highever with Fergus to help the reconstruction efforts. They did a proper funeral for their parents and all who had perished when Howe attacked. In time, the teyrnir was once again restored to its former glory; however, Aedan grew melancholy in the empty halls of his home and left Highever for good, leaving behind a note to his brother apologizing for his absence.
On Alistair and Anora’s coronation, Aedan was appointed as Chancellor of the Realm as a reward for his service to the crown and ending the Blight. Additionally, he served as King Alistair’s chief advisor, assisting him with political and social measures. He was often seen at court—at least for a time, accompanying the king and queen in the royal progresses around Ferelden. With both Alistair and Anora actively involved in running their kingdom, the need for an advisor diminished with time. He continued to enjoy great popularity, however, and maintained considerable influence at court with only slight disagreements.
As well as his chancery duties, Aedan sat on the Privy Council along with Ferelden’s influential nobles to advise the royal court. At times he acted as head of state while both Alistair and Anora were absent, during which time he arranged a meeting with Warden-Commander Alisse Fontaine to negotiate an agreement with the Orlesian Grey Wardens to assist their Fereldan counterparts in rebuilding the Order in Amaranthine.
With plans for reconstruction underway, Alistair and Aedan have taken up the cup of their predecessors, and have set about seeking the most capable individuals to protect a weakened Ferelden from harm.During the summer, Aedan was present with Goldanna during a royal inquest at Denerim which heard a complaint about determining Alistair’s true parentage. In the end, the resulting investigation proved to be inconclusive.
- Main article: Amaranthine Conflict
Nearly six months after the conclusion of the Fifth Blight, the First Warden summoned Aedan to Weisshaupt Fortress in the Anderfels, where he was reportedly "questioned" about his apparent survival. Regardless of his actions, Aedan was made Warden-Commander of Ferelden and assigned to Vigil’s Keep―formerly the seat of Arl Rendon Howe―as a home base to rebuild the Order.
- Main article: Battle of Vigil's Keep
Even though the archdemon is dead, the darkspawn have not departed (as was natural following prior Blights) and there were reports of a new, highly intelligent breed of darkspawn. Aedan left the royal court to combat this new threat. Upon his arrival, he discovered that the Orlesian Grey Wardens who had been posted to Vigil’s Keep had been killed or were missing, and that a talking darkspawn was responsible for the attack. Aedan was thrust simultaneously into the investigation of the events and the political upheaval of Amaranthine. Not only did he need to fill the role of Warden-Commander, making decisions on how best to rout the new darkspawn threat and deal with the Architect, he also needed to employ all of the training he learned in politics to keep peace in the region.
The Withered and a contingent of darkspawn troops were sent by the Architect to negotiate an alliance with the Grey Wardens at Vigil's Keep. Presumably they entered through the Deep Roads below the basement of the keep. Since Aedan wasn't present at the beginning of the assault, Varel, commander of the defensive forces, ordered an immediate attack upon the darkspawn.
This conflict ended up as a massacre with no apparent explanation. Captain Garevel's predecessor and all Orlesian Wardens were slaughtered, except for those not present at the keep, while all darkspawn including the Withered were slaughtered by Aedan and his companions.
Rebuilding the Order
As Warden-Commander of Ferelden, he had his commitment to protect the nation from the new darkspawn threat and worked to recruit as many new Wardens as he could. The team he compiled was just as skilled and diverse as his companions during the Blight, but he never achieved the same sense of closeness, no doubt due to his status. He recruited his old friend Oghren; Anders, a mage desperate to escape the Circle of Magi; Justice, a benevolent spirit of the Fade trapped in a dead Grey Warden’s body; Sigrun, a dwarf from the Legion of the Dead; and Velanna, an angry Dalish mage determined to get revenge on the darkspawn.
Perhaps his most unlikely recruit, however, was Nathaniel Howe, who snuck into Vigil’s Keep with the original intention to assassinate Aedan in retaliation for the death of his father, but in the end, asked only to be allowed to take some of the Howes’ treasured possessions. Aedan acquiesced, after trying to explain what Rendon Howe had done but realizing that Nathaniel was not ready to comprehend it, let Nathaniel go, only for him to return a short time later asking to join the Grey Wardens as a way to redeem the Howe name. Aedan hesitated, but knew he needed all the help he could get, and Nathaniel proved to be an invaluable part of the team as they fought against the new and strange darkspawn threat.
During the investigation, Aedan discovers that the darkspawn have broken into two warring factions: one led by the Mother and the other by the Architect, and it is their conflict which is behind the ongoing troubles.
Governing the lands of Amaranthine
- Main article: Oaths of Fealty
- See also: Defending the Land, A Day In Court, Trade Must Flow, A Brewing Conspiracy and The Peasant Revolution
When the Wardens were given control of the Arling of Amaranthine by the Fereldan monarchy, Aedan, in his capacity as Fereldan's Warden-Commander, acted as its Arl. He sent soldiers to protect the farmlands and the city while working to secure a safe route at the Pilgrim’s Path for economic trade to flourish again and reinforce the Vigil’s defenses—though he was forced to respond to a mob of angry peasants threatening to start a riot due to food shortages.
Smugglers in Amaranthine were dealt with swiftly and harshly, deserting soldiers were punished, and Aedan invested silverite armor for the soldiers of the Vigil’s soldiers, eventually becoming to be known as the Silver Order—one of Ferelden’s most revered military forces. Sometime later, when Aedan heard of a conspiracy against him by a group of nobles still loyal to the late Rendon Howe, he employed the Dark Wolf’s services to handle the situation efficiently before apprehending and executing the nobles for treason.
Attacks at Wending Wood
Upon receiving reports of an elven attack at Wending Wood, Aedan traveled there to investigate and uncovered the truth of the conflict between Velanna and the humans. After resolving the conflict, the Warden-Commander and their allies pursued the darkspawn culprits to the local Silverite Mine. There the commander walked into a magical trap and was abducted by the Architect and imprisoned, but later escaped with Seranni's help.
Aedan then proceeded to cut his way through darkspawn troops and the Architect's ghoul lab experiments and dragon thralls during their escape from the mines. After watching the Wardens butcher its thralls, the Architect's magic brought down part of the mine to prevent further pursuit, and escaped with Utha and Seranni.
Battle at Kal'Hirol
The Grey Warden team arrived to Kal'Hirol due to the intelligence report received from Captain Garevel and remained neutral during the engagement. After learning about the existence of the broodmothers, the Warden-Commander decided that the best course of action was to destroy them.
The Grey Wardens arrived just in time to see the Architect's forces invading the fortress and facing the Lost's forces in battle, something that startled the Wardens and made them aware of the ongoing civil war between the two factions. The Lost's forces were prepared to withstand a siege, and eventually destroyed the Architect's forces. The Lost, however, wasn't expecting Grey Warden intervention, and was killed alongside his Inferno golem and most of his forces by Aedan's team. Afterward, he destroyed the broodmothers by dropping a lyrium well onto the nest.
Investigating the Blackmarsh
Kristoff, an Orlesian Grey Warden and leader of the Orlesian Wardens in Amarathine during the Thaw Hunt, was overwhelmed and executed by their leader, the First. Kristoff's disappearance was used as bait to lure Aedan into a trap orchestrated by the Mother. Unbeknownst to the First, the magic used to seal Aedan, and the team he assembled to search for Kristoff, in the Fade, also sealed him and his forces in as well.
Both, the Wardens and the First, were trapped in the Fade and both eventually became involved in a conflict between a spirit of Justice and the Baroness. After Aedan defeated the First, the Baroness used blood magic to sacrifice the First and used the power accumulated to return to Thedas. A few demons also left the Fade through Fade tears.
Justice was also expelled from the Fade, and due to the Baroness' machinations, was also trapped in the dead body of Kristoff. Justice joined forces with Aedan and helped them to defeat the Baroness, who had transformed into a Pride demon, and to repair the tears in the Veil and exterminate the other demons that had left the Fade.
- Main article: Assault on Amaranthine
The Mother launched a preemptive attack on the City of Amaranthine while simultaneously advancing on the Wardens' stronghold at Vigil's Keep. The city came under attack from the standard darkspawn infantry as well as heavily-armoured ogres. Constable Aidan was charged with the city's defense.
Aedan initially went to the defense of the city and wiped out the initial attacking party. However, the Architect sent the Messenger to warn the commander of the incoming attack on Vigil's Keep. This knowledge of the surprise attack on Vigil's Keep may have changed the Warden-Commander's mind to stay in the city.
While recuperating at the temporary base of operations at the Chantry of our Lady Redeemer, the Herald's army caught up to engage the Warden. Within the city, the darkspawn engaged in a form of guerrilla warfare operating from the smuggling tunnels beneath the city. The darkspawn forces were ultimately defeated in the ensuing battle.
Battle at Drake's Fall
He would later meet the Architect, a sentient darkspawn emissary and the first to develop a will of its own. It explained that it wanted to end the conflict between the darkspawn and the world, offering Aedan the opportunity to work together for the greater purpose of preventing future Blights. Aedan reluctantly trusted the Architect’s word and worked with it to destroy the Mother, though he later learned that the Architect’s botched attempt at making Urthemiel into a disciple caused the Fifth Blight.
After the Mother was defeated, the Grey Wardens stood victorious with Vigil’s Keep badly damaged but remained standing. Having successfully put down the intelligent darkspawn incursion in Amaranthine, Aedan decided it was time to move on after believing that the Blight was truly over. He returned to Denerim to resume his duties as Chancellor and was greeted with a hero’s welcome. Some claim he reunited with Leliana. A year later after the Blight’s end, the pair was spotted in Denerim.Despite the rumors, Aedan never returned to Vigil’s Keep.
Not long after the Amaranthine conflict, Aedan arrives at Orzammar at the request of Jerrik Dace. Jerrik’s brother, Brogan, was part of an expedition led by scholar Darion Olmech into the Deep Roads to find Amgarrak Thaig and the long-lost secret of the research on golem construction that took place there. The rediscovery of such a method would bring great wealth, power and prestige to House Dace, but the expedition did not return and is now feared lost. Jerrik, along with his trusty bronto, Snug, join Aedan in search for his missing brother.
Jerrik asks Aedan to search Amgarrak Thaig for the expedition his house sent to investigate the area. He, like his peers, is keen to salvage Amgarrak and use it to their advantage. Brogan convinces him to search for Darion, the leader of the failed expedition. Together with the Warden and his brother, Jerrik finds the remains of Darion as well as the final page of his diary, at which point Brogan begs him to destroy the Forge in the deepest part of Amgarrak to make sure that the experiments and subsequent mistakes within could not be repeated. Realizing the chaos that Amgarrak’s research into Caridin’s research work has wrought, Jerrik reluctantly obliges, and then sets off to kill the Harvester, the creature responsible for the destruction of both the expedition and the thaig. Once the Harvester is defeated, Aedan, along with Jerrik and Brogan, are shown fleeing the crumbling thaig.However, it is revealed that the Harvester they killed was not alone.
Sometime after Aedan’s disappearance, it is later revealed in a conversation between Inquisitor Maxwell Trevelyan and Leliana that he is currently searching for a way to prevent the Calling. Leliana remarks that Grand Enchanter Fiona was able to remove the taint from herself through means unknown to her, and that Avernus was able to prolong his life to unnatural lengths through experimentation. Aedan is currently following leads that may allow him to find a cure for the Calling, and grant him a longer life. He eventually contacts the Inquisitor when the latter sent agents to search for him.
He sends the Inquisitor a letter which reads:
- Your Worship,
- As I have little useful information to offer, please accept the accompanying gifts instead. If, in my quest, I find anything that may be of use to you in your fight against Corypheus, I will send it to you immediately.
- I have also included a note of a personal nature for Leliana.
- I was not there for the death of Divine Justinia, but I know it will have hurt her terribly. While her wits and her skill are amazing, Leliana's greatest strength lies in her faith, and to have Justinia die strikes at her very core. I beg you, if she is faltering, help her find her way back into the light.
Aedan eventually finds a cure to remove the Calling and reunites with his wife and son. He was surprised to learn his wife succeeded Justinia as Divine Victoria and is often seen at her side. They continue their public relationship, and eventually Leliana decrees that members of the Chantry can openly engage in romantic relationships.When a rebellion to renounce Leliana arose, it quickly faltered as it began. While most agreed that the rebellion collapsed due to infighting, some whispered that Aedan himself engineered its failure. The rebellion fractured into a number of separate cells, some of which limped on for several months before disappearing into obscurity.
List of characters Aedan killed
The following is a list of characters actually killed by Aedan:
- Sophia Dryden (Possessed) – Aedan encounters Sophia Dryden at Soldier’s Peak, but quickly discovers that she was possessed by a demon and kills her after refusing to make a deal.
- Arl Rendon Howe – Aedan desired to exact revenge on him for betraying and murdering his family. He encounters him in the Arl of Denerim’s dungeon and kills him.
- Ser Cauthrien – She is killed by Aedan while trying to arrest him for the murder of Arl Howe.
- Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir – Right after losing the Landsmeet to Aedan and Arl Eamon, Loghain refused to abide by the decision and tried to stage a coup d’état. He was defeated in single-combat and summarily executed.
- Urthemiel, the fifth Archdemon – During the final battle of the Fifth Blight at Denerim, Aedan fought and killed Urthemiel by sinking his blade deep into the Archdemon’s head.
- The Withered – When Aedan reached the top of Vigil’s Keep, he encounters the Withered attempting to break Seneschal Varel's will. He subsequently defeats the Withered to save Vigil’s Keep and its inhabitants.
- Olaf (Out of Mercy) – Learning that he was infected by the darkspawn taint, Aedan put Olaf out of his misery by slitting his throat.
- The Lost – He and his inferno golem were killed in the ensuing confrontation with Aedan at Kal’Hirol.
- Lord Guy – After discovering that Lord Guy was part of a group of nobles conspiring against his rule over the arling of Amaranthine, Aedan tracked him down and killed him along with his fellow co-conspirators.
- Lady Liza Packton – After discovering that Lady Liza Packton was part of a group of nobles conspiring against his rule over the arling of Amaranthine, Aedan tracked her down and killed her along with her fellow co-conspirators.
- Lady Morag – After discovering that Lady Morag was part of a group of nobles conspiring against his rule over the arling of Amaranthine, Aedan tracked her down and killed her along with her fellow co-conspirators.
- Ser Timothy – After discovering that Ser Timothy was part of a group of nobles conspiring against his rule over the arling of Amaranthine, Aedan tracked him down and killed him along with his fellow co-conspirators.
- The Mother – Aedan impaled the Mother through her stomach, chest and finally ran a sword through her mouth.
- Bann Margaret Harling – Before leaving Ferelden to travel to the uncharted western lands, Aedan learned of Margaret's plot to overthrow him and seize the arling of Amaranthine for herself following an anonymous tip. He arrested the treacherous noblewoman and had her executed for treason.
Personality and traits
- "You’re the best friend I could ever have asked for. I would be dead if you hadn’t saved my life a dozen times over by now."
―Alistair to Aedan
As a child, Aedan was a very kind and cheerful boy. In his youth, he had a desire to be acknowledged as the greatest teyrn Highever had ever seen. Even as an adolescent, Aedan was noted to be wise beyond his years and spent much of his time in libraries researching the history of Thedas from ancient writings.
As an adult, Aedan’s most prominent traits are his sharp wit, patience, cunning and intelligence; as such, he displays both great maturity and a sense of responsibility. A politically astute man, Aedan has been a master of court politics and intrigue his entire life. Unlike the vast majority of the nobility, Aedan was not politically ambitious nor was he interested in personal gain; he cared not only for a separate class of citizens but for everyone around him—regardless of their race. To his family, his ideals represented everything the Couslands stand for: justice and temperance, but knows when to be stern and strict in serious situations. Along with his older brother Fergus, Aedan dearly loved his parents, his sister-in-law Oriana and his nephew Oren. However, when Arl Rendon Howe betrayed the Couslands and launched a brutal coup d’état against that resulted in the murder of almost the entire family, Aedan was completely devastated as he witnessed the heinous act as he irrationally tried to protect people close to him despite the fact that Highever was already lost, only stopping when Eleanor manages to talk some sense into him. Duncan described Aedan as a man "who lost everything except his life." After the fall of his family’s teyrnir, Aedan’s personality was altered: his mind was clouded by loss, grief and suffering, developing an unsated hunger for vengeance, never forgetting who wronged him or his friends and dedicated his life to killing Howe, to the point where Alistair, Leliana and Wynne are shown to be very worried about his well-being.
Apparently being emotionally scarred from the trauma he experienced during the Highever massacre, Aedan was portrayed as an aloof, melancholic, and serious man. He is willing to take risks for those he cares about, but is willing to let those who wronged him suffer for it, as shown when he brutally killed Howe for what he did to his family and when he personally executed Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir for crimes committed during his regency. In a way, Aedan slowly began to regain portions of his morality when in the company of his companions, but antagonists seeking to harm them force him to remain hardened and has developed a talent for giving people an icy-cold death stare when unimpressed with something. He ultimately comes to terms with his dark nature which he thought he has put away for good. Nonetheless, despite this change in mindset, Aedan’s main drive does still appear to be carrying on the Cousland legacy and honoring the sacrifice of his parents by staying alive and doing what is right, even trying to let go of his hatred and desire for vengeance as he realized it threatened to consume him.
He has also shown to be rather selfless towards his companions as demonstrated when he offered to help them with their personal quests. Furthermore, he adores his lover Leliana very much and thinks of her dearly, showing genuine affectionate towards her and will not hesitate to put himself in harm’s way in order to protect her. This mutual affection with Leliana led to several months of courtship that eventually led to the two getting married and having a son. Since then, Aedan became very caring and protective of his family. Despite the fact that his duties as Warden-Commander make it difficult for him to be a family man as he wanted, Aedan always tried to make time for them, proving himself as a loving husband and father. However, Aedan also acknowledges his mistakes and is willing to apologize for them. While he is happy in his marriage to Leliana, Aedan enjoys teasing her after she becomes Divine Victoria.
Titles, styles, honor and arms
Commonly known as "Warden" and "the Hero of Ferelden" to most, Aedan was given many titles over the years, including, but not limited to:
- Lord of Highever
- Seneschal to the Teyrn of Highever (to Bryce Cousland)
- Acting Teyrn of Highever
- Grey Warden
- Champion of Redcliffe
- Champion of the Dwarven Provings
- The Conciliator
- General in the Fereldan Royal Army
- Hero of Ferelden
- Chancellor to the King of Ferelden (to Alistair)
- Qunoran Vehl
- Conqueror of the Fifth Blight
- Vanquisher of the Old God Urthemiel
- Commander of the Grey in Ferelden
- Arl of Amaranthine (ex officio)
- Dark Wolf
- Savior of Kal'Hirol
- Dragon Slayer
Through his father, he is a lineal descendant of Bann Sarim Cousland who founded the family branch after the reigning family of Conobar Elstan became extinct during the Towers Age. Aedan’s ancestors can be traced to early Alamarri nobility before the Unification of Ferelden. He is first in line to succeed his older brother, Fergus Cousland, as Teyrn of Highever.
In the beginning of the Storm Age, several of Aedan’s ancestors conspired with Warden-Commander Sophia Dryden in the Grey Warden’s attempted rebellion against the brutal and tyrannical King Arland Theirin. However, the king executed the Cousland Teyrn and a number of others to ensure their loyalty. His paternal great-grandfather Teyrn Ardal Cousland was slain during the Battle of Lothering while defending King Vanedrin Theirin during the Second Orlesian Invasion of Ferelden; his paternal grandfather, Teyrn William Cousland, died of illness during the final stages of the rebellion against the occupation.
His maternal grandfather, Fearchar Mac Eanraig, was Bann of the Storm Coast Bannorn and a famous raider known as “the Storm Giant”. From his mother’s side, he had three unnamed Mac Eanraig relatives.
The name Aedan was a 6th-century king of Scotland. The Ancient Irish equivalent is Aodhan, a form of Aodh, which means "fire".
- "You look familiar. Have I seen you at the Landsmeet?"
―Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir to Aedan
Aedan has blue eyes and chin-length dark hair with bangs parted down to frame both sides of his face; his hair and bangs grow longer over the years. During his early childhood, Aedan wore a long-sleeved white outfit containing golden embroidery with a family pendant containing the laurel sigil, and navy blue pants.
Arl Eamon Guerrin once mistook Aedan for his father Teyrn Bryce Cousland, whom he greatly resembles. Other nobles such as Bann Sighard of Dragon’s Peak and Bann Alfstanna Eremon of Waking Sea recognized him as Bryce and Eleanor’s son due to their stark resemblance as well. As stated by Lady Landra, Aedan is considered quite handsome and good looking as he attracted many suitors. Before the beginning of the Fifth Blight, Aedan’s clothing consisted of the traditional Cousland clothing: a navy blue, long-sleeved shirt with golden embroidery and a pendant once more containing the green laurel sigil and dark violet pants. When his parents were killed during the siege of Castle Cousland, he took possession of his father’s signet ring and wore it for some time, only to return it to his brother after defeating the Archdemon.
As a Grey Warden, Aedan has grown noticeably more muscular and slim. He was first shown wearing a Warden recruit’s armor with a high collar, cladded with silverite armor and blue cloth and chainmail, along with an argent griffon heraldry on the front of his chestplate. He also wore brown boots from halfway up to his knees and brown gloves that covered his forearms and stretched up to reach past his elbows. He also wore a black cloak with this to conceal his identity during the Fereldan Civil War. While at camp during off-duty hours, he wears a sleeveless grey shirt with a red belt sash around his waist. His gloves were also removed, and he wore bandages on his wrists. Another noticeable trait is that along with this new outfit, Aedan grew a beard and allowed his hair to grow to shoulder-length as well with his bangs hanging to the right side of his face. During his fight with Arl Rendon Howe in the arling of Denerim’s dungeons, Aedan obtained a small vertical scar running over his left eye.
Six months after the Fifth Blight, now as Warden-Commander of Ferelden, he wears heavy Grey Warden armor and has cut his hair shorter to chin-length. He dons a navy blue cape decorated with white motifs on the edges and wears a locket containing a small portrait of his family around his neck. The hilt of his sword also has a blue fabric tied around it, a folklore entailing a maiden’s favor to bring her champion victory in the coming battle.
- A landmark of Aedan Cousland, alias the Hero of Ferelden, stands in the Hinterlands near Redcliffe.
- A shrine of the Warden and those who died defending Ferelden during the Fifth Blight stands in Lothering outside the local Chantry, though it bears no plaque.
- "It shall be done."
- "I will help however I can."
- (escaping from Highever) "Arl Howe will pay for what he’s done to my family."
- "We have much to do, and little enough time to do it."
- "I swear, when this is over…"
- (to Leliana) "You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am grateful, Leli. I am truly blessed to have you here with me, at my side."
- "Perhaps we should take the time to review what we’ve learned?"
- (fighting Arl Howe) "You’re not going to get out of here alive, I assure you."
- (to Ser Cauthrien) "Get in my way and I’ll kill you, too."
- (to Loghain) "The Blight is the real threat here, not Orlais."
- "It’s alright. This is the path I’ve chosen. I am a Cousland after all, and we do what must be done."
- "Our differences are many, but our cause is one."
- (conscripting Anders) "As a matter of fact, I do have something to add to this, Your Majesty. As Commander of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden, I hereby invoke the Right of Conscription on this mage. Effective immediately, Anders is to be placed into my custody."
- (to a group of nobles conspiring against him) "Bann Esmerelle, along with Lady Liza Packton, Lady Morag, Lord Guy, and Ser Timothy, are charged with plotting to kill a duly appointed arl with right to high justice in this land. You will be arrested and held until such time that your sentence can be levied upon you all for your conspiracy against me."
- (to Velanna) "No one deserves to suffer at the hands of the darkspawn."
- (to Nathaniel, about Arl Howe) "The only failure was your father."
- (to Seranni, about the taint) "You’re infected. You’ll die if you don’t get help."
- (to Rylock) "I warned you. I told you that if you pressed this you would suffer the consequences. But you did it anyway. Now you must pay for your incompetence."
- (to the Architect) "Don’t make me regret my decision to spare you."
- (to Jerrik) "You’re being secretive."
- "If you aren’t afraid of me, you should be."
- (upon seeing a Harvester for the first time) "By the Maker! What is that thing?"
- Maxwell: "You have a history with the Warden who ended the Blight, don't you?"
Leliana: "He is always in my thoughts, even when we're far apart. My love is on a quest of his own. When the Inquisition has no further need of me, I will join him. For good, this time. I have lost enough. I will not lose him as well."
—Maxwell and Leliana about Aedan
- "I was with the Hero of Ferelden when he defeated the Archdemon. With him by my side, anything was possible."
—Leliana about Aedan
- Maxwell: "How are things between you and the Hero of Ferelden?"
Divine Victoria: "We see each other whenever we can. There is gossip, of course. People who call me inappropriate. But love is one of the Maker’s greatest gifts and nothing to be ashamed of. Start and end with love, and everything else falls into place. As Divine, I have tried to spread this message. It’s taken some time, but I think people are listening. Especially now."
—Maxwell and Divine Victoria discussing the latter's relationship with Aedan
- Despite the traditional lines of succession, many outside Highever speculate that Aedan would be more likely to become Teyrn of Highever than his older brother Fergus himself. However, this did not happen as Aedan was instead recruited into the Grey Wardens.
- He is right-handed.
- After Alistair and Aedan survived the disastrous battle at Ostagar, the two leaders soon became good friends and considered each other brothers. Lately, it seems the friendship between Aedan and Alistair has been compared to that of King Maric and Teyrn Loghain.
- Aedan’s hobbies are reading and taking walks.
- Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir, Arl Eamon Guerrin, Arl Gallagher Wulff, Bann Sighard, Bann Teagan Guerrin and Bann Alfstanna Eremon have compared him to his father Teyrn Bryce Cousland, at least in physical appearance.
- He is the first Grey Warden in 400 years to defeat a Blight and the only one in history to ever survive the slaying of an archdemon.
- Sten views Aedan as a fluke like "some sort of ambulatory pair of paints or talking horse," since a competent and honorable person outside of the Qun appears impossible to him.
- Aedan once slept with Niamh (his elven childhood friend), Isabela (a libidinous pirate) and Iona (Lady Landra’s elven lady-in-waiting), implying he was once a womanizer.
- He hates insects.
- His favorite animal is the mabari.
- Aedan’s mother was nicknamed the "Seawolf" while his father was famed as the "Soldier" and their first meeting went so badly it was immortalized in the famous sea shanty called "The Soldier and the Seawolf". During the Thaw, most locals in Amaranthine called him "the Dark Wolf".
- According to Nan, Aedan’s favorite drink is Rivaini spice tea. Some of his favorite foods are galantine of pork and brie tart.
|Warden-Commander of Ferelden|
|Arl of Amaranthine|