Tall for a woman at 5'10”, Cauthrien appears formidable when in armor, which is her preferred state of attire. Out of armor, she can seem slim from a distance, but a closer inspection reveals a tautly muscled frame without almost no fat on her bones. Wide-shouldered, small breasted and narrow hipped, she could easily be mistaken for a young man if not for her slender neck and the undeniably feminine features of her face: full lips, a slim nose and large, blue-grey eyes framed with thick lashes. Any potential attractiveness is mitigated by her perpetually serious expression, however. Her face is tanned, her body marked by a wide variety of scars, and her hands are strong and callused from years of wielding a variety of weapons.
One scar is more prominent than the rest: a thin, pale scar across her throat that extends around to just over half the circumference of her neck. She makes no effort to hide this scar, which is plainly visible whenever she is not in armor.
Clothing: When out of armor or Warden blues, she wears simple tunics, trews and calf-high leather boots. She owns a single red dress that she has no intention of ever wearing again.
The Summer Sword - A two handed blade almost as long as Cauthrien is tall, its distinctive design includes a hilt that extends almost a third of its length. The quillions and pommel are ornately cast in bronze, the silverite blade razor sharp and etched with lyrium runes (novice Hale & Barrier), and engraved in the center of the crossguard is the mark of Vercenne of Halamshiral, believed to be the greatest smith in the history of the Orlesian Empire. The blade was taken from a defeated Orlesian lordling by Loghain Mac Tir, who gifted it to Cauthrien when she became the commander of Maric's Shield. It was lost at sea in 31 Dragon, recovered by fishermen and returned to her by Nathaniel Howe in 34 Dragon.
She also carries a simple red steel mace at her right hip for unexpected close encounters, and a steel dagger sheathed on the left, primarily for eating and other mundane uses. Her armor is Wade-made silverite heavy chain and plate that is always well maintained.
Born the fifth of nine girls, to a woman whose husband kept her constantly pregnant in hopes of a son, Cauthrien was seven when she saw her mother die giving birth to her youngest sister. Her father waited barely a month before taking a second wife who was barely three years older than his oldest daughter. After she presented him with the first of two sons, his interest in his daughters narrowed down to getting as much work as possible from them on his farm and marrying them off as soon as they reached the age of fifteen, for as high a bride price and low a dowry as he could manage. They were not beaten or otherwise abused, but treated as livestock: a commodity to be worked, bought and sold.
Cauthrien grew up accustomed to the hard labor of farm life; taller and stronger than even her older sisters after the age of twelve, she was given many of the tasks that would normally have been assigned to a son, such as chopping wood and driving the oxen that pulled the plow. Ignored by their father (his new wife was kind enough, but was largely preoccupied with the care of her own children), the sisters took care of each other, and Cauthrien's older sisters told them tales of Calenhad and Dane, and of the heroes of the war with Orlais: King Maric and Loghain Mac Tir. She told other tales, too, but it was the stories of valor and honor that fired Cauthrien's blood.
In the autumn of her fourteenth year, Cauthrien was in the forest cutting wood when she saw an armored man being set upon by bandits. Brandishing her axe, she ran to the stranger's aid, and actually managed to wound one of the brigands before being knocked to the ground. Before her opponent could follow up on his attack, the armored stranger swept his sword from its sheath and ran the man through, then turned on the remaining bandits with a controlled fury that swiftly convinced them to abandon the attack to seek less dangerous prey.
After they had fled, the stranger helped Cauthrien to her feet, and she was stunned to realize that she had come to the aid of Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir, the Hero of River Dane, and one of those whose deeds her sisters had told her of. Impressed by her courage, he offered her a favor, expecting a request for coin from this girl wearing threadbare clothes and no shoes. Instead, she asked to be allowed to go with him, to be trained as a warrior. He tried to dissuade her, but Cauthrien knew that her father was already arranging her betrothal to the neighbor who had married her second oldest sister, who had died birthing twins that spring. She told him in no uncertain terms that she would rather take her chances on the field of battle than in childbirth.
Loghain agreed, visiting her father's farmstead and, after a brief discussion, agreeing to give him the equivalent of what he would have gained from her bride price (a courtesy that contributed to the rumors regarding the nature of their relationship over the years). She returned with him to the barracks at Gwaren, where he initially thought to let her serve as companion and guard to his daughter, Anora. The two girls were close in age and got on well at first, with Anora teaching the farm girl things like court etiquette and dancing, and both girls training together with weapons. Things changed when Cauthrien's innate talent in combat became evident. Declaring her potential wasted as a noblewoman's companion (a sentiment that was not well-received by Anora), Loghain put her in with the other recruits and pushed her hard, first out of curiosity and interest, to test her limits and then to push her beyond those limits, molding her into the soldier who would become his right hand and most trusted lieutenant.
Cauthrien pushed herself every bit as hard, quickly outpacing all of the other women and a good many of the men with her weapons skills, and distinguishing herself with her quick grasp of strategy, tactics and military theory. When Loghain discovered that she could not read or write, he taught her himself, and once she had learned, she eagerly devoured any and all books on military history, particularly that of Ferelden. She advanced quickly, earning her first command by the age of twenty, but her quick rise, combined with Loghain's obvious favor, gave rise to any number of rumors regarding their supposed 'affair', something that never occurred. To her, he was father, commander and mentor; to him, she was an incredibly gifted recruit that he could train up in the values that he found increasingly lacking in the generation that had not had to fight for its freedom: duty, honor and loyalty.
The rumors never completely died away, however, and they served to isolate the young soldier from many of her peers. Her friendship with Anora had been one of the earliest casualties; Loghain's daughter resented the time that her father devoted to Cauthrien, and seized on the rumors of the affair between them as the reason for her hostility. Cauthrien made a few friendships among her peers, even had a handful of affairs with partners of both genders, but the latter never lasted long or ended well. Loghain demanded of her the same dedication to duty that he observed, leaving little room in her life for anything else; the last of those brief relationships ended nearly a decade ago.
Despite the rumors, her competence was undeniable, and she earned the respect of those under her command by being demanding but fair in her dealings with them, fearless but not reckless in combat, and never ordering anything of them that she did not do herself. The year before King Maric died, Loghain promoted her to his chief lieutenant and the commanding officer of Maric's Shield, an elite unit meant to fight beside the King and Loghain in battle. It was at this time that he gifted her with the Summer Sword.
After Maric's death, she shared Loghain's frustration with Cailan's lack of maturity, as well as his treatment of war as a great and glorious game, but she continued to serve faithfully, keeping her opinions to herself. At Ostagar, she and the rest of the Shield fought the darkspawn alongside Cailan for the first three skirmishes; while not the first time she had fought such creatures, it was the first time that she had encountered them in such numbers. She found the Grey Wardens to be courageous and capable fighters, but Loghain's dislike of the order colored her perceptions with a suspicion that deepened to resentment when she learned that she and the rest of the Shield were to accompany the Teyrn and the bulk of Ferelden's forces while the Wardens fought alongside and protected the King in the next battle.
She watched in stunned horror as more darkspawn than she had ever imagined could exist covered the battleground outside Ostagar, coming between herself and the King that she had sworn to defend with her own life. She was prepared to give the order, prepared to lead the charge that would likely end in her own death, along with those who followed her, when Loghain spoke the words that marked the beginning of the end of the life she had known:
"Sound the retreat."
She tried to protest, to argue, but Loghain silenced her with a look, and in the end, Cauthrien obeyed her commander, turned her back on her King and left him and the Grey Wardens to be slaughtered by the darkspawn. She assuaged her own guilt by repeating the explanation that Loghain later gave: the Wardens had goaded Cailan into a false sense of invincibility, led him to abandon reason, ignore Loghain's counsel and commit his forces against vastly superior numbers that would have decimated them, leaving the lands to the north unprotected. What had been done was for the greater good of Ferelden, and would not have been necessary but for the manipulations of the Grey Wardens. So said Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir, the Hero of River Dane, and his lieutenant believed him, trusted him.
That trust became ever more strained in the months to come, as it became clear that Loghain's obsessive hatred of the Orlesians ruled his thoughts, and Arl Rendon Howe became his closest advisor, manipulating that obsession to his own ends. Choice after choice, made 'for the good of Ferelden', methodically shredded all that the Teyrn had built over the previous years, from using an assassin against the remaining Grey Wardens, to selling elves from the Denerim alienage to slavers from the Tevinter Imperium.
The few that she called friends were lost in battle over those months: against darkspawn, against rebellious nobles in the Bannorn, against bandits who took advantage of the chaos to prey on whomever they could. Honor was dead, her duty tasted like ashes in her mouth, and all that was left was her loyalty to the man who had made her all that she was and taught her all that she knew.
Even that reached the breaking point when the Wardens released the prisoners from the dungeons of the Arl of Denerim's estate and the full extent of the crimes that Howe had committed with Loghain's tacit agreement became clear: a templar secretly imprisoned, a blood mage used to attempt to kill the Arl of Redcliffe, the son of a dissident noble taken and tortured.
No longer could she justify it, even to herself, and when the Grey Wardens and their companions confronted her outside the Landsmeet, she sank to her knees and let them pass. She did not see the fight, or Loghain's execution, but she heard the shouts from the Landsmeet chamber, heard as Alistair Theirin was chosen to succeed his half brother as Ferelden's King, and she waited for someone to come and mete out to her the same punishment that had been dealt to her commander.
No one came. She left the Landsmeet alone, left Denerim, only to return when she realized that the darkspawn horde was bearing down upon the city. She fought in the final battle like one possessed and surprised herself by surviving. She left the city again, and embarked on the life of a sellsword. She fought with a number of mercenary companies; the aftermath of the Blight left behind pockets of darkspawn and the ever present bandits, and many small towns and holdings turned to hired swords when their own forces proved inadequate. She never stayed with any longer than a few weeks, however, collecting enough pay to supply her basic needs and moving on, and more than one traveler told a tale of being saved from bandits or genlocks by a lone woman wielding a massive blade and fighting with an implacable fury.
Chance placed her in the service of then Bann Teagan for a time, a service interrupted when the ship that she was traveling on sunk in a storm. Picked up by an outbound cargo ship, the soldier spent the next several months learning the trade of a sailor until spring weather allowed her return to Ferelden. After being dismissed from the Bann's service, Cauthrien accepted an offer from Warden Commander Nathaniel Howe to join the Grey Wardens and dedicated herself fully to that duty, earning the rank of Warden-Constable.