Actions

Work Header

Dragon Age: Origins

Chapter Text

A Year before the Battle of Ostagar

Ciara Trevelyan had joined the Order rather late in life, having been given over to the Templars by her parents when she proved too unruly to find a match for. Each suitor would 'mysteriously' suffer an humiliating fate, either created by herself or her youngest brother. Her elder brothers disapproved of her actions of course, but no matter how many times they raised a hand against her to 'teach her a lesson' and 'her place', she had refused to bow.

Thankfully she had excelled in her training and became a Templar at the age of fifteen, one of the youngest members in Ferelden. Ciara had always been a quick learner, she could read a book and memorise it the first time while her brothers struggled to remember it's contents. She could work out problems quickly, sorting out documents that sometimes even her father struggled with.

Nobody had liked that though. Her 'gift' should have been left to her eldest brother, the heir of their house, according to her parents and her elder brothers. Thankfully Dexter, her youngest brother, had loved it however and when he had heard of their brothers hitting her, rushed in to defend her. A little boy however, no matter how brave he was, could not fight a nearly grown adult.

Becoming a Templar had been the best thing to happen to her. She had met her true family, apart from Dexter of course, he would always be her little brother. Lawrien Amell, the blonde girl with messy, long hair and warm brown eyes had ambushed her the first day of Ciara's arrival, along with her little sister Myra, who was the complete opposite in looks with her icy blue eyes and short, straight, light blonde hair. Immediately to follow suit was Anders, a flirty spirit healer while Jowan had stood anxiously behind them, warming to her slowly.

Lawrien and Myra were the most interesting of the group however. The Amell bloodline apparently had a special trait as Knight-Commander Greagoir had explained to her. Some of the Amells were empaths, able to feel whatever emotion you were experiencing. It almost gave them an open door to all your thoughts and feelings.

Ciara had thought she would hate it but the four mages were what she had needed. They had buried their way into her heart and she loved them all dearly, even when she became twenty years old nothing had changed. Well, apart from Lawrien and Anders being full fled mages. They had passed their Harrowing.

Now today was Myra's day.

Lawrien was heading straight up the tower stairs, Ciara on her heels. She could have easily overtaken Lawrien and tried to stop her but that was just a stupid idea. Lawrien was determined to speak to First Enchanter Irving after all. Heads swirled their way the moment Lawrien pushed open the doors, heading straight for Irving.

“What is the meaning of this?!” Knight-Commander Greagoir howled. “Ciara! Get her out of here!”

“She has some important news to share.” Ciara reported, not even taking a glance at Myra's limp form lying on the floor, Cullen hung nearby nervously.

That was cruel. The Knight-Commander knew that Cullen had a crush on Myra. He must have been testing the poor boy to make sure he hadn't become too attached, just like she had been when it had been Anders' Harrowing.

“Irving! What demon did you summon?” Lawrien shouted, hurrying over to her mentor's side who blinked.

“A Rage demon. Don't worry, we made sure that Pride demon who went after you remained distracted.” Irving reassured. “We were more cautious given Myra's situation with the Spirit of Hope.”

“Who is distracting Mouse?” Lawrien asked fretfully. “Because something doesn't feel right! I've got that nagging feeling whenever Mouse in lingering in the Fade nearby!”

“Orsino from Kirkwall's Circle. He's a powerful mage with a strong mind. He can keep it at bay for-” A strangled cry cut them off, Myra sitting up with a panicked look on her face. Cullen full on flinched while Greagoir gaped.

“That was fast! By the Maker what-”

“I got out of there as fast as I could!” Myra breathed out, eyes wide. “Two demons! The Rage was fine, I simply froze him but a Pride demon of all things-”

“Pride?” Irving froze, and his and Greagoir's eyes met.

Ciara tilted his head, curiously. Mouse went after Myra as well then? Ciara had hoped that the demon had only been after one of the Amell sisters. Not the pair. How did that even possibly work?

“I told you!” Lawrien threw her hands up in the air. “I knew he was lingering about!”

“Mouse wanted me to greet you by the way.” Myra sighed, running her hand through her hair. “So, is that the Harrowing over? Did I pass?”

“Considering you aren't possessed then I believe you are.” Ciara announced, holding out a hand.

Myra took it gratefully, letting Ciara pull her to her feet. Myra dusted off her robes and sighed, stretching out her back. “Well that's certainly a relief. I have far too much to do and possession would only get in the way of all of that.”

“That demon is a concern.” Greagoir scowled. “Miss Amell, you said it told you that it had been following your family for years.”

“Yeah.” Lawrien nodded. “It didn't say why though.”

“Supposedly our family has always had extremely powerful mages in our lineage.” Myra explained. “He told me that he has staked a 'claim' on our family. Mouse even had a deal with the Rage demon already, that they 'shared' the meal. Although I feel like Mouse was just playing along in that regard.”

“He was.” Lawrien sighed. “Did that to me too during my Harrowing.”

“We will need to sort out this Pride demon. Perhaps if a group of us went in at the same time we could overpower it.” Irving pondered while Greagoir scowled.

“It needs to be dealt with quickly.”

“Agreed but first, young Myra has passed her Harrowing. That is a cause for celebration.” Irving smiled, looking absolutely pleased.

“I still think we should have waited a few more years. Lawrien Amell as well.” Greagoir frowned. “They are both young.”

“It's done now either way Greagoir.” Irving hushed, placing his hands on Myra's shoulders. “Let us go to my office child, where I will present you with your official robes and ring.”

“That sounds good.” Myra smiled softly, looking pleased and Ciara watched as Irving led Myra away, Lawrien throwing them a grin before their eyes met.

Greagoir gestured for her to go, scowling deeply. “Please leave. I have to discuss matters with Ciara.”

Lawrien touched her shoulder. “I'll see you soon, alright?”

“Of course.” Ciara nodded, patting her hand and waited patiently until the mages were all gone before turning to her leader. “Knight-Commander?”

“Mages aren't meant to disturb the Harrowing Ciara.” Greagoir frowned. “There is a reason it is kept private.”

“I know but due to the circumstances with that Pride demon I felt it was best to be cautious.” Ciara admitted. “We cannot have such a dangerous demon running amok, especially if it managed to turn a Spirit of Hope against us.”

“Agreed.” He nodded approvingly before looking away and sighing deeply. “I high suspect you are curious about Jowan's situation right now.”

Ciara frowned. “Not exactly. Currently Lawrien and Myra have exceeded expectations in completing their Harrowings but most apprentices need plenty more time before they are expected to join their fellow mages' ranks. I know his peers are currently succeeded him but Jowan has always been a slower study.”

“Harsh but accurate.” Greagoir snorted. “However there is another reason his Harrowing has been held back. Tell me, do you know where he wanders off too at night?”

Ciara tilted her head, baffled. “He's been in a relationship with someone. I've not exactly looked into it however considering most of our people in the tower have such couplings. Why? Is something wrong? He hasn't gotten a mage pregnant has he?”

Greagoir sighed heavily. “I wish that was all there was to it but he has been caught practising blood magic.”

Ciara's heart skipped a beat. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me Ciara.”

“But the boy is harmless, he's a mage who just gets by with his marks. Not too high and not too low. Why in the Maker's name would he be a blood mage?” Ciara shook her head. “Is there not possibly some mistake? As I mentioned he has been seeing a lady.”

“This is why you cannot let yourself get close child.” Greagoir sighed, placing a hand on her shoulder, the other hand holding a dagger. “It only hurts more.”

Ciara closed her hands and breathed. “What are my orders Knight-Commander?”

“If he shows any sign of blood magic you will kill him immediately. Meanwhile I will sort out this mess with Irving. He's still trying to meddle despite the proof.” Greagoir frowned deeply.

Ciara took the dagger from his hand and eyed it, gazing at it's sharp edge. She nodded and buckled it's sheath on to her belt. “Understood Knight-Commander. I won't let a blood mage remain loose in the tower.”

“Good. Now you should be off.”

“Of course.” She bowed her head and turned on her heel, heading straight for the stairs. She met Cullen on the way though who looked nervous still.

Ciara smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You did well Cullen.”

“Thank you. I am glad miss Amell did not fail.” Cullen admitted softly. “Not that I ever thought she would have.”

“Myra's a fantastic mage.” Ciara smiled. “I have no doubt in my mind that she will end up a Senior Enchanter soon.” She then sighed. “I must be on my way Cullen. Perhaps we shall speak later?”

“Of course.” He nodded. “I'll see you around.”

She slipped out and slowly trailed down the stairs but the moment she found a quiet corner she pressed herself up against the wall and sighed. Her eyes trailed down to the dagger at her side and she reached up to clutch the sheath. It felt so heavy in her hand.

She had to prove that Jowan was not a blood mage. That this was simply a mistake. It was rare that Greagoir made mistakes of course but this time he had to have.

Jowan would never become a blood mage. Not her brother. None of her family would be so foolish.

.::.

Ciara was in turmoil. Lawrien could feel that as clear as day so she stayed firmly by her side as they met Jowan. Ciara kept redoing the messy bun her brown hair was in, letting the long hair down plenty of times before doing it back up again, looking more and more disgruntled as time went on. Whatever Greagoir has said to her must have disturbed her, it was rare to make Ciara this anxious after all.

Jowan stood next to a lady in front of a statue in the Chantry. Lawrien wasn't religious, she didn't believe in any Gods but she understood why others did and wouldn't argue with them on it, not unless they were crazy and trying to force their beliefs down others throats. That gave her the urge to punch people in the face.

“We can't have a secret meeting in front of the Chantry lady Jowan.” Lawrien grinned, beaming even brighter when Jowan gaped at her, his thoughts scrambling to try explain.

There was something soft and sweet held between the pair, something Lawrien felt whenever Cullen lingered near Myra. It made her grin soften even as Ciara snorted.

“You do realise that you just revealed a secret meeting in front of someone who wasn't apart of said secret meeting?” Ciara mused, eyes glinting, she was joining in on the teasing. “Not so secret now is it Lawrien?”

Lawrien could feel Ciara relaxing, the turmoil settling a bit and beamed once more. That was good, she didn't like feeling Ciara hurting. Ciara should be happy.

“Lawrien she's part of the secret meeting!” Jowan hurried to explain and Lawrien nearly flinched at the full on panic and dread that hit her.

“So, this is the lady you've been seeing.” Ciara noted, raising an eyebrow. “Are you going to finally introduce us to her?”

“You knew about Lily?” Jowan gaped.

“We all knew you were seeing someone.” Ciara pointed out. “Although it's usually shared between mages, not chantry folk who have taken their vows.”

“Jowan and I love each other.” Lily said, smiling warmly at Jowan and Lawrien felt the sweet, warm feeling embrace her again, almost washing away Jowan's panic.

It still lingered though.

Jowan frowned, looking around. “Where is Myra?”

“She's still with Irving, they were talking to a Grey Warden whose visiting.” Lawrien revealed, grinning. “He's really nice too, though he must be from somewhere quite far, he doesn't look anything like a Ferelden man.”

“She can catch up later.” Jowan hurried on, and his dread shot right up when he met Ciara's eyes. “Look Ciara, whatever they told you about me isn't true!”

Lawrien blinked, startled at the sudden outburst but it was the feeling of despair that slipped out of Ciara that hit her hard. Despair and disbelief and almost fear. Why was Ciara afraid?

“I don't know what you mean.” She lied, actually raising an eyebrow, her face the picture of bafflement.

Lawrien winced but thankfully no one caught on to it. Jowan looked taken aback. “You truly don't know? They didn't say anything?”

“Who Jowan?” Ciara frowned, crossing her arms.

“What's going on?” Lawrien asked, torn between who to look at, her head going back and forth between Jowan and Ciara. “Why are you so upset Jowan?”

It was Lily who spoke up, sounding grave. “I saw on the Knight-Commander's desk that they had approved forcing Jowan to go through the Rite of Tranquillity.”

Ciara knew. Lawrien could feel it. That's what Greagoir had told her. Lawrien saw the fire lighting the chapel burn brighter and forced herself to calm down, taking a deep breath, realising her magic was reacting to her own terror. They couldn't do that to Jowan. Jowan was her brother, they couldn't take away all his feelings, all his hopes and dreams.

She wouldn't let them.

“Lawrien...” Ciara murmured to her, laying a hand on her shoulder.

“I'm fine.” Lawrien sighed, taming the fire back down, forcing it back under control.

Lawrien specialised in elemental magics, fire being her easiest element to control. Myra's was in ice. Although they did have their other talents. Lawrien was a Force Mage while Myra was a Spirit Healer, one of the best here in fact. Myra was so talented.

“So you really believe they are going to make Jowan Tranquil?” Ciara frowned. “Why?”

“I saw the documents myself on the Knight-Commander's desk.” Lily insisted.

It was the sudden sharp anger that sprung out from Ciara that made Lawrien tense. “And why were you snooping?” She asked coldly. “A chantry initiate has no business going through the Knight-Commander's desk.”

“Ciara!” Jowan protested. “It doesn't matter, look she was only trying to help me!”

“I was handing out messages.” Lily admitted, and it was in honest, there was only pure truth seeping out of her. “There was no one in the room, I just couldn't help myself...”

“So we should just ask what's going on right?” Lawrien suggested. “I'm sure this is just a misunderstanding. It's not like Jowan's tried to escape nine times or whatever count Anders is on now.”

“What was the bet this time? How long he would be away for?” Ciara pondered. “I think I was on two months.”

“Five months.” Lawrien grinned. “Jowan had one and two weeks and Myra had six.”

“Anyway!” Jowan cut in, ringing his hands nervously. “They've just assumed I've been practising blood magic when I've actually been meeting Lily.”

“And you can't tell them that because Lily would get into serious trouble.” Ciara mused, sighing heavily. “Jowan you're really pushing me into a dangerous corner here. If my Commander finds out I'm keeping such serious secrets from him I could be sent to off to start my Templar hunting duties.”

Lawrien frowned. The only reason Ciara was assigned to a Circle right now was because she was still rather young. That was why Greagoir was keeping her nearby and not allowing her to be sent off for proper mage hunting training, right now Ciara only knew some basics and was learning more in her spare time.

“How about I just go set the paperwork on fire? We've done that plenty of times to Irving.” Lawrien suggested.

“They won't just forget who they want to make Tranquil, Lawrien!” Jowan protested. “I'll just be a husk and I don't want that. I don't want to lose my love for you four or my love for Lily! You're my family!”

Jowan's terror grew. “I need to escape. I need to destroy my phylactery!”

Ciara meanwhile went numb. Lawrien flinched when she felt it, then flinched harder when Ciara's emotions burst in a raging turmoil, her face remained calm throughout it all, even though her eyes revealed her stress.

“Jowan why did you ask me here? Of all people?” Ciara hissed softly.

“Because I'm scared and you're my sister.” Jowan pleaded, reaching over to grab Ciara's hands who stiffened, looking more and more alarmed. “Please Ciara.”

Lawrien tilted her head and grinned. “Let's do it!”

“Lawrien this isn't like one of our daft pranks. This is serious.” Ciara whispered.

“I know. Jowan's family though.” Lawrien reminded her.

“I know that.” Ciara sighed heavily, her shoulders slumping. “By the Maker I'm such a fool. Fine but let's not involve Myra. She's only just passed her Harrowing.”

“Agreed.” Jowan nodded, relief pouring off him.

Lawrien felt a dark resolve linger out of Ciara though, her eyes growing hard. She wanted to help, Lawrien could feel it, she wanted to redeem Jowan in the eyes of the Templars. Lawrien smiled. Ciara had known the entire time but played dumb.

Ciara didn't truly believe Jowan was a blood mage. She couldn't. It would ruin what they shared between them.

.::.

Myra watched from across the library as Lawrien babbled out a ridiculous research project about what was basically just burning plants to Torrin who looked baffled. Lawrien's relief turned to horror though when he asked her to present to him a proposal and nodded, laughing nervously as she left.

“A proposal? Why?” Lawrien groaned despairingly.

“Having trouble dear sister?” Myra asked, completely amused as Lawrien yelped.

“Myra!” She beamed once she got over her shock. “You're studying already?”

“Just a bit of light reading.” Myra mused. “So, what are you up to this time?”

Lawrien blanched, much to Myra's bemusement. “Um, nothing?”

“Right.” Myra drawled. “So this rod of fire-”

“I just want to burn things?” Lawrien offered, wincing.

“You, a fire mage, want to use the rod to burn things instead of your magic?”

“Exactly!” Lawrien laughed but it was nervously.

“You know, this is a good day so I won't bother trying to interfere and make sure you're being reasonable. Just don't get into too much trouble, alright?” Myra asked, relieved when Lawrien nodded.

“Thanks Myra!”

“Mr. Sweeney's over there.” Myra pointed in the direction, watching as Lawrien eagerly rushed in that direction. “I better not regret this.”

“Something wrong?” Her table partner asked as he approached once more, the Grey Warden carrying more books as he sat down.

“My sister tends to cause trouble.”

Duncan chuckled. “That sounds familiar. That was Lawrien Amell, was it not?”

“Yes, how did you know?” Myra felt her brow furrow.

“Irving told me about you as well as her while Greagoir spoke to me of Ciara Trevelyan. Greagoir also told me of the great deal of trouble the five of you get into.” Duncan looked thoughtful. “There was you, Lawrien Amell, Ciara Trevelyan, Anders and Jowan, is that right?”

“Correct.” Myra smiled. “Anders and Lawrien are the worst for it while Ciara tends to follow along for the amusement. Jowan and I have so far been unsuccessful in stopping them throughout the years.”

“So I have been told.” Duncan smiled, looking far too amused.

.::.

Ciara heard Jowan's heavy sigh as they made their way to the library where Lawrien apparently was. She had been taking ages to get the form so they went to check up on her but they both froze though when they saw Lawrien in the hallway with Irving. Lawrien was looking more and more nervous as they spoke.

Lawrien couldn't lie to save herself. She was too honest.

“So you had Sweeney sign off your form for the rod of fire because you want to burn a hole in Anders clothes?” Irving raised a brow. “While he's away off on one of his escapees?”

“E-Exactly!”

“And what else?” Irving asked knowingly. “You're far too nervous for it just to be that young lady.”

“And Ciara's?” Lawrien asked hesitantly, earning a heavy sigh.

Ciara smirked happily. “Head back to Lily, Jowan. We'll meet you there.” She whispered before storming over Lawrien's way, hissing loudly. “My clothes? Seriously Lawrien?!”

Lawrien squealed and dashed off, deftly avoiding Irving's hand who tried to grab her when Ciara began chasing after her, yelling at the top of her lungs.

“Get back here!” Ciara screamed.

They continued the chase until they got to the stock room and long out of Irving's sight. Thankfully Owain handed over the rod of fire and they made their way back to the chapel once more.

Lawrien sighed in relief. “Thanks Ciara. I managed to get the form signed by grandpa Sweeney but Irving caught me on the way out.”

“And considering what Anders did last time with the rod he must have been instantly paranoid about what you were going to do.” Ciara smirked.

“I did burn a Templar's butt on the way out though.” Lawrien sniggered.

“That one always scowling at Sweeney? Good.” Ciara agreed, following Lawrien back into the Chantry and to the exact corner Jowan and Lily were hiding out in. Jowan looked instantly relieved.

“You both okay?”

“Just fine. Irving didn't have anymore time to interrogate Lawrien.” Ciara said. “We got the rod first, just in case Irving decided to confiscate it.”

“Then we can be on our way to freedom.” Lily smiled. “Let's go then.”

.::.

They had tried to burn their way through the second door. Ciara had warned them the moment they tried it that the idea would fail but Lawrien decided to try it anyway, rather eagerly too. Now Lawrien was tossing the rod between her hands, bored as Lily and Jowan fretted, Lily suggesting the other door which made Ciara grimace.

“They're supposed to be guarded by who knows what.” Ciara recalled Greagoir telling her, trying to warn her to never let her group wander down here.

“As long as we get our magic back I'm happy. I hate when it's suppressed.” Lawrien huffed, tossing the rod up once more as she headed for the other door.

Ciara had to tackle her out the way when one of the statues became animated, swinging it's mace at Lawrien's head who yelped. Jowan yelled for them, sounding horrified while Lily expertly disarmed one of the statues, swinging it's own mace at it. Ciara leapt up and slipping round, dragging her daggers across it's back before plunging them it, she ducked, barely avoided a mace before throwing herself back as Lawrien lit it on with fire.

Ciara's daggers were suddenly on fire, Jowan summoning his magic as he got away from the door, grinning happily. It took a fair amount of time to make it to the repository due to all the fighting but finally they made it.

“Becareful. This is where the First Enchanter and the Knight-Commander store their most powerful and dangerous artefacts.” Ciara urged, grimacing when Lawrien immediately headed for a staff. Ciara smacked her hand away the moment the blonde reached over to pick it up, earning a pout.

Lawrien instantly brightened up though. “Oh look! That's the funny statue! Hi Eleni!”

Lawrien was instantly by the old Tevinter statue's side. Lily flinched and tried to urge Lawrien away who began to babble to the statue, brushing off the dust on her shoulders. Ciara ignored the pair and began to look around, spotting Jowan admiring a wall strangely enough.

“Jowan?” Ciara frowned.

“This wall seems pretty weak. I bet we could break it down with the rod of fire.” Jowan said, beginning to tug at the bookcase. Ciara leant him a hand and together they pulled it aside.

Lawrien beamed as she went over to the statue. Jowan explained about amplifying the rod's magic and Lawrien's grin grew brighter at the thought of exploding something. Ciara decided to stand well back out of the way, tugging Lily and Jowan along with her as the wall exploded, Lawrien letting out a cheer.

“That was fun!” Lawrien laughed, racing through the door, Lily on her heels.

“We shouldn't have given her that rod.” Ciara groaned, following after them slowly. She stopped though when Jowan gently grabbed her arm.

He smiled warmly. “Thank you Ciara. You have no idea what this means to me.”

“Just... Stay safe okay? The world is dangerous out there.” Ciara said firmly, reaching up to clasp his hand.

“I know. Don't worry.” Jowan smiled. “Lily and I are going to get married and get far away from all this. I'll never use magic and I'll stay away from lyrium. It'll be a good life.”

“Just make sure she doesn't hurt you otherwise I'll have to hunt you both down and deal with her.” Ciara squeezed his hand, earning a grin that nearly rivalled one of Lawrien's.

“She won't ever hurt me. We're in love.” Jowan beamed as they walked into the chamber, the pair instantly shivering at the cold.

Only Lawrien seemed happy to walk around it in. Lily was standing close by her, rubbing her arms as she searched eagerly for the right phylactery. Jowan left her side immediately, their hands separating as he joined in on the search. Ciara sighed and looked down at her feet, feeling more and more resolved.

Jowan hadn't resorted to blood magic. It would have been the easiest thing to do too. She was satisfied then. He was just a normal mage. Her eyes met Lawrien's when she looked up and her sister threw her a happy grin.

Lawrien must have felt her settle back down then. That was good. Ciara hated worrying her and Myra. It was a hard burden after all, being an empath.

"We have to hurry! We're running out of time!" Lily cried.

Ciara agreed as Jowan went up the stairs to the other set and Lawrien glanced around. "I wonder if Myra's is still here."

"I doubt it. They would have moved it to Denerim where yours is once she passed her Harrowing." Ciara sighed but whirled around when Jowan gave a victory cry.

"I found it!"

Ciara's turmoil came running back with a vengeance. “That was fast...”

“Well that's good.” Lawrien grinned. “Now let's smash it and go.”

“It's amazing how something so small stands between every mage and their freedom. So small and fragile...” Jowan whispered in wonder, staring intently at the vial before releasing it, letting it smash into the ground.

Ciara winced but chanted to herself that this was right. That Jowan was innocent. He couldn't become a Tranquil after doing nothing wrong.

“And I'm free.” Jowan sighed in relief. “Let's go, quickly now!”

They rushed out of the repository, Jowan and Lily holding hands the entire time. Lawrien laughed happily and Ciara couldn't help but smile too. Her family was important to her. Always but there would be repercussions for this. They wouldn't get away with this. Ciara hung her head, knowing she would have to choose her side at that point. Honestly she had already chosen though, she had helped Jowan.

Greagoir was going to be pissed.

They reached the stairs and slipped out of the repository, Jowan looked beyond relieved, happily patting their shoulders before wrapping his arm around Lily's waist. “I can't thank you both enough. Now Lily and I can live in peace-”

“We should be quiet. We're still in the Circle.” Lily hissed, she was completely tense now, her eyes darting all over the hall.

“Well you two better be going.” Lawrien grinned. “Make sure to make a kid after me right?”

Jowan flushed. “Lawrien!”

“Let's go. Now Jowan.” Lily pleaded softly, his gaze turning soft when their eyes met.

“Alright Lily. Let's-”

Ciara flinched at the heavy footsteps approaching them and whirled round, horrified to see First Enchanter Irving and Knight-Commander Greagoir approach. Greagoir's face was full of fury as he stormed up to them. “So what you said is true Irving. An initiate conspiring with a blood mage.”

Lily froze under his gaze while Jowan pushed her back protectively behind himself. Greagoir simply sneered at them. “I am disappointed in you Lily. The Chantry will not let this go unpunished.”

“Jowan isn't a blood mage!” Lawrien snapped, stepping in front of her brother, eyes burning with protective fury. The Templars around Greagoir tensed up, ready to fight back but Greagoir ignored her, too busy examining Lily.

“Shocked but within control of her own mind. I had thought she had been a thrall.”

“Knight-Commander I have seen no use of blood magic.” Ciara reported immediately. “He possesses the same basic skill set he had demonstrated this year. There have been no sudden lurches of power even when his life and his loved ones lives were put into danger.”

“You and I will speak more on this later Ciara Trevelyan but right now I don't wish to hear another word out of you.” Greagoir barked. “You've disappointed me twice today.”

Ciara bowed her head, cursing mentally. She decided to obey for now, hoping to ease the growing tension.

“Don't tell her to shut up!” Lawrien snapped.

“Lawrien.” Irving scowled, earning a flinch. “I'm disappointed in you child. You could have come to me with this.”

“You don't care about us!” Jowan snapped, pushing Lawrien gently aside. “You just bow to the Chantry's every whim!”

“Enough!” Greagoir barked. “As Knight-Commander I sentence this blood mage to death! And this initiate has scorned her vows! Take her to Aeonar!”

“Aeonar?!” Ciara choked.

That was a brutal punishment. If Greagoir was this pissed off then Ciara had no idea what was going to happen to her. Lawrien's hand grabbed her arm, clenching it tightly. Lawrien looked just as nervous as she felt. It was Jowan who snapped when Lily began to whimper softly, pleading to be spared as Ciara's fellow Templars began to approach Lily's cowering form.

“NO!” Jowan screamed and out of nowhere he pulled out a knife. Ciara froze, shocked before the hurt sunk in. “I won't let you take her!”

The knife swung down and Ciara watched in terror as he stabbed the knife straight into his hand, blood splattering out everywhere. The blood slammed into everyone, including herself. Ciara hit the ground and everything turned black.

.::.

“Ciara!” Lawrien cried out, jerking away from Jowan's side to check on Ciara's limp form.

“Sh-She'll be alright...” Jowan stammered nervously. “I only knocked her out. I-I'm sorry Lawrien but she would have killed me... I didn't hurt her too badly...”

“No Jowan. You did.” Lawrien could feel the despair pouring off him but she remembered the pure hurt that had burst open in Ciara the moment Jowan had stabbed his own hand. It had reminded her of her brother's, those two monsters beating her. The absolute betrayal she had felt. “You lied to us.”

“Blood magic!” Lily cried, backing away from them, her face growing more and more paler by the second. Disgust and anger rolled off her. “By the Maker how could you Jowan?! You said you'd never-”

“I admit I dabbled!” Jowan rushed to explain. “I thought it would make me a better mage!”

He was covered in his own blood and waves of distress leaked off him. He still tried to plead with Lily but it was the footsteps that rushed towards the doorway that attracted Lawrien's attention. Myra's horrified, wide eyes met hers' though before they went to Jowan. Lawrien saw her look over all the blood Lawrien flinched. She had never seen Myra look so disappointed and afraid in her life.

She was afraid of Jowan of all people. Their brother.

"Blood magic is evil!" Lily protested. "It corrupts people! Changes them!"

"I'm going to give it up! I'm going to give it all up!" Jowan cried out desperately, holding out his hand. "I just want to be with you! Please Lily come with me!"

"I trusted you... I was ready to sacrifice everything for you..." Her voice broke and Lily nearly caved in but she shook her head and turned away. "I don't know who you are blood mage! But stay away from me!"

Jowan flinched, as if slapped and stumbled back, glancing over her and Ciara who stirred, groaning softly, making Lawrien tense. "I-I am so sorry..."

With that he ran, making Lawrien nearly cry out at the sight of another brother running, leaving them behind. She clutched Ciara tighter though as she struggled to wake up, just as Myra ran over to Irving, hands shaking as they glowed, alight with healing magic.

"Myra?" Irving groaned as he struggled to sit up. "When did you get here child?"

"I-I overheard that they got into trouble. I thought it was just the usual and I wanted to lecture them but this?" Myra gritted her teeth. "I should have turned him into a bloody ice statue!"

"None of us expected this." Irving reassured as he stood up, Greagoir, who was beyond pissed, marching over to him. "Are you alright Greagoir?"

"As good as can be considering the circumstances!" He spat. "If you had let me act sooner this would not have happened and now we have a blood mage on the loose!"

"Can't you use his phylactery?" Myra suggested as Ciara groaned, sitting up shakily.

"D-Did Jowan just use blood magic?"

Lawrien nodded. "Yep."

"That bastard lied to us. To our faces." Ciara cursed, a rare sound which nearly made Lawrien laugh weakly. Lawrien did glance up though at the Knight-Commander when he came over, yanking Ciara to her feet who winced, holding her head.

"Jowan broke it." Lawrien admitted and the Knight-Commander's frustration built up even further. He looked ready to snap.

“Commander? May I?” Myra raised her hand, glowing with healing magic.

“Please look after my men first miss Amell.” The Knight-Commander ordered, sighing deeply but some relief slipped out of him when Myra began to treat his men, her soothing magic gently healing their wounds.

Ciara sighed. "I doubt he got very far. There's a lake outside after all, unless he did an Anders and decided to try swimming across."

"You're his friends! Did any of you ever suspect anything?!" Greagoir demanded, glaring at herself, Myra and Ciara.

"I would have turned him into an ice sculpture if I had." Myra glowered.

"I would have killed him." Ciara said.

"I had no idea!" Lawrien grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head. "I wonder when he started that up?"

"I thought he was only sneaking about to meet up with Lily." Ciara sighed. "I'm sorry Knight-Commander. I had hoped to find proof that he wasn't a blood mage. I was a fool.”

The Knight-Commander growled softly. “I warned you not to get close. I told you so many times. We will speak privately about your future after I've sorted this out.”

“I understand.” Ciara felt numb, her emotions locked up tightly and Lawrien flinched.

“It wasn't her fault. Jowan tricked us!” Lawrien pleaded.

Irving placed a heavy hand on her shoulder. “Enough Lawrien. You're in enough trouble as it is.”

“We will use every resource we have to capture him but first...” The Knight-Commander frowned deeply, staring intently at Lily with a cold anger. “You assisted a blood mage. Look at all he's hurt!”

Myra had healed quite a few of them already, now working on Ciara's head wound. Lawrien frowned. “But that's not fair. She didn't know either-” Lawrien began, ignoring Irving's hushing. It was Lily's eerie calm that silenced her, confusing Lawrien completely.

"No save your breath. I can speak for myself." Lily's eyes hardened, as if overcoming whatever had terrified her before. "Kn-Knight-Commander I was wrong... I was accomplished to a... A blood mage... I will accept whatever punishment you see fit... Even... Even Aeonar..."

"Get her out of my sight!" Greagoir spat out as Myra's magic now washed over him. Myra was beginning to grow tired though, breathing a bit more heavier than before. “Now what am I to do with you Lawrien Amell?”

“Did you take anything out of the repository child?” Irving asked tiredly.

“No. I did dust off Elani though.” Lawrien admitted. “There was a cool staff but Ciara wouldn't let me touch it.”

“Well at least you did something right today.” Knight-Commander Greagoir eyed Ciara who kept her eyes down, not meeting his gaze. “What am I to do with you?"

"Please don't send them to Aeonar." Myra pleaded. "I beg of you not to Knight-Commander. These two are idiots but they don't deserve Aeonar.”

“I doubt that needs to happen.” Irving agreed, he felt truly distressed at the thought and he tugged Lawrien closer to his side, keeping a firm hand on her shoulder.

"Knight-Commander if I may?" Lawrien recalled the Grey Warden, he was the one Myra had been escorting to his room earlier. "I am looking for Grey Warden recruits as of right now. Irving spoke highly of both Lawrien and Myra Amell, and you spoke highly of Ciara Treveylan as well-"

"They are very young still Duncan and highly reckless." Irving admitted, resting his other hand on Myra's shoulder. "And really Myra is only just about to become fourteen-"

"You promised him Grey Wardens?!" Greagoir yelled, alarm pooling off him.

"I agree on young Myra's behalf, and yes, Lawrien and Ciara are both still young as well but they would flourish well with us I believe. We all know their talents are wasted within the Circle." Duncan said, looking fondly over them both, making Ciara instantly weary and confused while Lawrien grinned at the warm feeling. "Besides, worse things plague this world than blood mages and we need all the help we can get in fighting the Darkspawn."

"Does this mean we're going to the Deep Roads?" Lawrien asked, confused.

"There are still sometimes attacks on the surfaces but yes. It means you get to come help Orzammar too with the Darkspawn." Duncan explained before looking firmly over Irving and Greagoir. "I take these young women under my wing and will bare responsibility for all their actions."

“I did warn you about how much trouble they get into right?” Myra reminded Duncan, smiling lightly. Duncan chuckled in return.

“They will surely keep me busy.” Duncan mused.

"How can they be rewarded for this?! This is a mockery!" Greagoir protested.

"You know Duncan can just easily conscript the two of them Greagoir. It is out of our hands now." Irving hushed him, earning a grumble.

“Sounds pretty fun, huh Ciara?” Lawrien grinned, laughing at Ciara's sigh, how exasperated she felt.

“A Grey Warden? I seem to be going through multiple organisations at this rate.” Ciara replied, shaking her head.

It was Myra who pulled them into an embrace though, hugging them close. “Please try to stay safe.”

They both hugged back, Ciara's numbness growing warmer, but it was still lingered with hurt. Lawrien and Myra both tightened their grips on her, trying to reassure her that she wasn't alone.

“We'll keep each other safe.” Lawrien grinned. “Promise.”

“Good.” Myra buried her head in their shoulders, letting out a shaky breath. “Good.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Torph Brosca had been in Beraht's employment for a very long time. He had met Beraht when he had been a skinny kid who had mugged some stupid sod who had been wandering around Dust Town late at night. Beraht had seen the entire thing and instead of reporting him, hired him instead.

They had a strange relationship. Torph was given endearing names like 'little shit' and 'brat' while he acted like one towards Beraht and got away with it. Beraht had been using his family for years, his sister was one of Beraht's girls and Rica hated it when Torph was involved with her and Beraht's conversations.

Right now Rica was sitting on her bed, trying to fix one of her braids as Beraht skulked around her, sneering. Torph strolled over and batted her hands out the way, fixing the braid himself.

“I can't keep gambling on you forever precious.” Berhat scowled. “You got a sweet look, something to light a man on fire but you gotta make it count. I've not paid for you for nothing.”

“Please Beraht. Not in front of my brother-”

“The brat knows the works, don't you Torph?” Beraht raised a brow.

Torph scratched at his ear. “Don't like you talking to her like that but I understand. Whatever it takes to get out this shitty hole.”

“Think I care what you want brat?”

“It's alright Torph. Just leave it.” Rica pleaded softly.

“Urgh, fine. What you got for me today old man?”

“Old man? Watch your tongue brat otherwise you don't get to eat tonight.” Beraht warned him, again, for what was probably the thousandth time.

“You call me a brat and I call you an old man.”

“Torph-” Rica complained.

Torph nearly groaned. He had been trying to distract the old git from Rica who seemed to be on loose sand with him right now. Rica really needed to learn to shut up and let him handle things, he was the now Beraht had taken a bit more of a liking to after all.

“My investment in you isn't proving very valuable right now precious.” Berhat growled, waving a warning finger his way. “And you keep your mouth shut. I'm doing the talking.”

Torph remained quiet, realising his boss meant business. Rica looked more and more uncomfortable as time went on.

“You go find yourself a patron or you'll be back to sweeping the streets. I want you to have a belly full of prince soon.” Beraht sneered.

“I... There is someone interested.” Rica admitted, making Torph blink, startled. She hadn't mentioned that before. “I didn't want to make any promises but he seems very curious about me.”

“Better but not enough.” Berhat growled, finally turning to him. “Now you, outside. Your buddy Leske is waiting and I swear if you screw this up you'll be locked in the dungeon for a week!”

“Oh no. Not the dungeon.” Torph sighed lowly, his voice of complete disinterest.

The dungeon was quiet and somewhat peaceful. Nobody bothered Torph there but this time instead of looking annoyed Berhat looked pissed off.

“It won't be just you in there Torph. “ Beraht hissed at him. “Your whole family is on loose terms with me right now so you better fix that.”

Beraht yanked on his arm and dragged him outside, shoving him at Leske who looked stunned. Torph easily steadied himself though and glowered at his boss who stormed off, sneering at Dust Town's residents as he went. Torph sighed and shook his head.

“Alright. Let's go. Give me the run down Leske. Before I hit someone.”

“And here I wanted to see if that sexy sister of yours was in-”

“You want me to hit you salroka? I'm willing to.”

Leske chortled. “Alright, alright. Let's go. I'll tell ya everything as we go.”

.::.

Torph sat down on the seat in the tavern, grinning as Leske cornered Oskias in his seat. Oskias paled and desperately looked around but everyone ignored them. Beraht had everyone here under this thumb, which was mighty handy in these kinds of situations.

“L-Look... I-I've always been loyal to Beraht...” Oskias stammered. “He's real good to my family...”

“Uh huh.” Torph gestured to Leske. “Mind searching the bag?”

Leske smiled. “My pleasure.”

Oskias paled. “Wa-Wait! I do have some lyrium in there. It's just ore! I made a side deal with one of the mining families-”

“Tsk, tsk. Side deals huh?” Torph grinned.

“I was going to bring Beraht his cut! I'd be crazy not too!”

“Suicidal, one might say.” Leske smirked.

“How much this all worth?” Torph frowned.

“Just a little. Maybe about twenty-five sovereigns worth.”

Leske and Torph both choked. “Seriously? Twenty-five?”

“M-Most of that's with my buyers on the surface. I just picked up a few nuggets down here...” A look entered Oskias' eyes and Torph internally sighed. “If I were to... Maybe give you a piece that would be a lot of coin. Could you uh... Forget to mention this to Beraht?”

“How long has this been going on for?” Torph raised a brow.

“Not long! Th-This is my first time...” Oskias whimpered. “Please don't kill me... It's worth so much money... I just took it and ran... Ri-Right back to Beraht of course!”

“You really think I'd take a bribe?” Torph snorted. “Berhat has friends everywhere. You should have known that. Leske?”

“Could everyone who isn't about to die turn around for a moment?” Leske drawled. “This might get unpleasant. Thank you.”

“Y-You can't do this!” Oskais cried. “Call the guardsmen! Get help! Someone! Anybody!”

Torph nearly laughed when the barkeep piped up. “You two let me know if you need anything! I'll be round the back!”

“I-It's just a bunch of rocks! A-Are you really gonna kill me for that?” Oskias pleaded.

“Am I going to kill him?” Torph asked, tilting his head at Leske who snorted. “I mean I've just gotten comfy.”

Leske rolled his eyes but quickly finished their newest buddy off with a dagger slicing open his throat. Oskias collapsed, choking and coughing up blood before finally going limp. Torph sighed and slipped off the chair as he scooped up the bag.

“Right then. Time to pay the boss a visit.”

.::.

Torph had to admit he was a bit curious about Beraht and Jarvia's conversation but he ignored it and wandered over instead as the pair turned to face him.

“About time you showed up brat. What happened to Oskias?”

“He had a side deal going on for lyrium. All I found was a nugget.” Torph mused, tossing said nugget in his hand up and down, catching it each time. Beraht threw him an unimpressed look.

Beraht snatched it off him, eyeing him. “And Oskias himself?”

“Dead.” Torph scratched his ear.

“Excellent.” Beraht smirked. “I'll get someone to handle the clean up.” He wasn't finished yet though, Torph could see it. “Not you though brat. I've got another job for you.”

“Someone else pissing you off? That's a lot of folk in one day.” Torph whistled.

“The warrior caste is holding a Proving today as a welcoming for the Grey Wardens that just arrived. They're hoping to impress them with a new recruit. It'll be filled with all the best fighters, last man standing, you know the drill.”

“Ah.” Torph clicked his fingers. “Betting again boss? Who this time?”

“Everd is a long shot so I put a lot of coin down on him.” Beraht said. “You know what to do brat. His match is with Mainar who is the best in the line-up.”

“Got the drugs?”

“Right here. Here's your pass to get on the grounds.” Beraht handed both over. “Make sure you aren't caught or else.”

“Me? Getting caught?” Torph grinned. “I've done this plenty of times.”

“Don't get cocky brat. Remember, when I say I have coin on this I'm not talking about a little thing like the value of your life.”

“Ouch.” Torph smirked.

“Shut it.” Berhat scowled. “If I don't see Everd's name on that winner's sheet then you'd better make sure I don't see you or your sister again.”

“Alright boss.” Torph bowed his head, smirking at the irritated look he got in return. He quickly turned on his heel and left, Leske right at his side.

Once they were safely away Leske snorted. “Salroka I can't believe you kept a nugget for yourself.”

“Not just myself. Want a piece of the profit?” Torph winked.

“You bet I do!”

“Then let's go see your girl and get back to work.”

.::.

“I really can't be bothered with all this crap.” Torph complained as he followed Leske into the Proving grounds. His old friend froze, looking purely amazed. Torph frowned. “Leske?”

“Look Duster! Those are Grey Wardens over there!” Leske cried out before smirking wickedly at him. “Hey, I dare you to go over and talk to one of them. Say 'Welcome to Orzammar, Grey Warden. May I drink your bath water?'”

“What would I get if I do it?” Torph asked.

“I'll give you half of my pay of the nugget.” Leske offered.

“Deal.” Torph smirked. He began to approach the young girl with long blonde hair wearing a Grey Warden robe. She blinked down at him before grinning.

“Hey. I'm supposed to greet you and wish you and your House well right? Ciara told me it was something like that.”

Torph choked on his laughter. The bloody kid thought he was a 'normal dwarf'. That was adorable and almost sad.

“Well where I'm from we just say 'hello', kid.” Torph grinned.

The kid laughed. “That's much easier. I'm Lawrien Amell. I just joined the Grey Wardens about a year ago.”

“I'm Torph Brosca, of well... Nobody?”

“That's a weird House name.” Lawrien remarked, and he wasn't quite sure if she was messing with him or not.

“I'm casteless kid. We're a bunch of 'nobodies'.”

Lawrien raised a brow. “The caste system? That's the fancy name for being rich or poor right?”

“I guess? Kinda?” Torph shrugged.

“Well it's stupid. I was told you guys aren't allowed to fight.”

“Yup.”

“I bet you can though.” Lawrien's eyes gleamed knowingly, as if she knew about his hidden axes. “I bet you could beat most of those warriors down there.”

“You're probably overestimating me here kid. I'm just a poor piece of castless scum you could get arrested for harassing you.”

“Why would I want you arrested?”

“Because I'm a stain in your sight? Something like that?” Torph shrugged. “I don't know. You don't really need a reason to be fair.”

Lawrien tilted her head, her eyes narrowed. “I don't like many of the nobles here. They are full of lies and most of them feel horrible. Nara's nice though. All she wants to do is protect people from the darkspawn.”

“Nara?” Torph frowned.

“You know her. Probably haven't met here though.” Lawrien grinned again. “I doubt Princess' tend to wander about often after all.”

Narascha Aeducan?! The kid had given the Princess a nickname?! And said it openly?! Torph gaped, too shocked and horrified to even respond to that one. She merely laughed at him, eyes bright with mirth.

“Lawrien! We're about to go inside!” A brunette female Warden called out.

She had daggers belted to her back and he could point out all the hidden ones on her, there were probably up her sleeves and down her boots.

“Coming Ciara!” Lawrien called back, eyes still on him. “You might meet Nara one day. I bet you'd be fun to work with.” Lawrien turned on her heel and waved as she walked off. “Well, see you later Torph!”

“Uh, bye?” He blinked, baffled as he returned to Leske's side who was laughing.

“Sodding hell you actually did it!”

“That was too much.” Torph shook his head, numbly patting Leske's arm who chortled and followed after him as they headed for Everd's room where he should be getting ready.

Instead of a fierce warrior though they were greeted with a sodding drunk who was lying useless on the floor. Torph groaned at the sight and scooped up a bottle, drinking the left overs. Leske went pale, nudging the warrior before the panic settled in. Torph moved on to the next bottle which Leske soon snatched out of his hands.

“Beraht's going to kill us if we slip up here. He's already jumpy enough after Oskias.” Leske cried out.

“Better be drunk for the murdering then.” Torph reached for the bottle and Leske chuckled it aside.

“Now ain't the time Duster!” Leske snapped, but then he started eyeing him thoughtfully, glancing between him and Everd. “Huh... You're about the same size... Alright listen. I think we need to put those ass kicking skills of yours to use. We're gonna dress you up in Everd's s armour and then you could fight in his place!”

“Like fuck!” Torph laughed. “What do you think I am? Crazy?”

“You need to for Rica's sake!” Leske insisted to his poor, bleeding heart. “And also yeah. You're completely insane salroka.”

“Dammit.” Torph groaned. “Fine. Help me out with his armour...”

.::.

"Ah, greetings Princess. I hope we aren't intruding." Duncan bowed as Narascha Aeducan joined them in the Royal booth, Ciara followed his example, beckoning Lawrien to do the same thing. Narascha nodded gracefully at them.

 "Greetings to you too Commander Duncan. I hope you have been enjoying your stay so far." The sandy blonde haired woman smiled, gesturing for them to sit back down. "Please don't be alarmed. I only wished to see how the contestants were holding out for the last bout."

 Narascha Aeducan's hair was short with two braids woven back to twist together at the back of her hair. She wore armour, though this looked to be more ceremonial that practical. Her eyes were a cloudy blue colour.

 Lawrien grinned. “So far Everd seems to be doing the best.” Ciara frowned, there was a look in Lawrien's eyes, it was the look that usually ended up with them both in trouble. “It looks like so much fun. I wish I could join in. I bet you do too Nara!”

 "Don't just nickname the Princess!" Her second protested, looking appalled.

Princess Narascha thankfully laughed as she sat down. The Proving Master was eyeing her wearily. He was probably worried about her trying to join in, as the rumours went the Princess of Orzammar did that often, showed up randomly and joined in much to the Proving Master's and Lord Harrowmont' dismay.

 “It's fine Gorim.” Princess Narascha looked amused. “The matches are good fun. It's also nice to be able to smack around the Lords that Lord Harrowmonth keeps trying to impress me with.” The Princess then glanced over at Everd curiously. “So, do you think you might offer Everd a place within the Grey Wardens, Duncan?”

 Duncan smiled. “He seems like an excellent warrior. I think that-”

 A commotion interrupted them from down below. A man came stumbling drunkenly out into the middle of the field and this earned an alarmed cry from the opponent who was just beaten. Ciara frowned, glancing over at Lawrien who now looked a bit more nervous.

 Ciara's eyes narrowed. She knew what was going on and Duncan obviously came to the same conclusion because he sighed.

 "Wait I know him! That's Everd! But then who did I just fight?!" The dwarf cried out, glaring at the dwarf, fully armoured before him.

 "Remove your helmet warrior and let us see your true face!" The Proving Master ordered as the guards began to surround the man, all five looking weary.

 The helmet was reluctantly removed, revealing a dwarf with a long, dark brown beard and a shaved head looking completely done with everything. Ciara frowned, recognising him and eyed her sister who was grinning brightly, looking awfully pleased with herself. The joy was hidden by all the enraged screams mixed with anger and disgust that filled the hall.

 "Casteless scum! You insult the very nature of this Proving! Guards! Guards take this filth away!" The Proving Master howled.

 Princess Narascha frowned curiously. “He defeated all our warriors?”

 "Hold your men, please I implore you." Duncan implored, baffled. "This warrior has defeated the best of have to offer! Does that not mean he is your Champion?"

 "We are honoured by your presence Warden but this Proving is not just for you. We have laws that have been governed for a thousand years!" The Proving Master explained, disgust dripping from his tongue as he glared at the casteless dwarf who was being led away, hands chained together and his armour already getting stripped off. "That thing is no warrior! He's casteless and his very presence here pollutes the Stone!"

 “Well your Ancestors favoured him in this match.” Lawrien replied, turning on her heels and striding out the doors. “I'm heading after him Duncan!”

 “Lawrien wait-” Duncan called out but sighed, the blonde was long gone. “Why does she never wait?”

 Ciara snorted. “She's never been all that patient.”

 “She hasn't realised yet that I'm needed to recruit someone?” Duncan grumbled to himself as he strode out, offering a nod and fair well to the Princess who nodded back.

 "Thank you for your hospitality but I believe we may have just found who we're looking for." Ciara curtsied and quickly followed after her Commander, the Proving Master following behind, stammering protests in their wake.

 The Princess was still staring out thoughtfully into the Proving grounds as they left.

 .::.

 Leske had been fretful for a while now while Torph lay on the ground, trying to get comfortable. He knew this cell, it was a cell he had been in a few times. They were back with Beraht which would not end well, all because Leske had been too busy gawking at his fights to tie up Everd.

 “You know... This cell has a lot more bloodstains than I'm used to...” Leske said softly, almost wearily.

 “It's Beraht's.” Torph sighed and he heard Leske curse, sounding terrified.

 “You're awake. Good. Beraht will be glad to hear it.” Jarvia strolled over. “You two really caused a lot of trouble today. Beraht lost his bet to Lord Vollney. The whole Proving was declared invalid.”

 “Jarvia it was a mess to begin with. Everd was so drunk he would have lost to a dead man.” Torph tried to explain.

 “Save it. You've risked exposing him to the entire Warrior caste. Now they've opened up an investigation.” Jarvia said, shaking her head. “You're lucky the boss likes you Torph. You're death will be quick. Your buddy though? Not so much. Neither will your mother and sister's.”

 “Leave Rica and the old bat out of this. They ain't done nothing wrong.” Torph hissed.

 “Too late Torph. You screwed up and badly this time.” Jarvia almost looked sad. “Enjoy your last night together. Torph will be dead after it.”

 Torph groaned and laid his head back down once Jarvia left. He couldn't help but think of Rica though, his sister smiling so gently at him, caring for him even after their dear old mother bet them. He scowled and stood up but smirked in delight when he realised who was guarding them. It was the idiot who had gotten his head kicked in one too many times. Torph grinned wickedly and couldn't help but cackle. He could hear Leske shifting and could see the growing horror on his face.

 “Torph? What are you doing?”

 “OH NOTHING!” Torph yelled, earning two alarmed yelps. “JUST MAKING NOISE!”

 “Why are you yelling?” Leske cried.

 Torph grinned. “WHAT?!”

 “Dammit Duster! Why are you yelling?!”

 Torph could see their guard groaning, holding his head. “WHAT WAS THAT?!”

 Leske snapped. “I SAID, WHY ARE YOU YELLING?!”

 "Leave off with your noise." Their charming guard groaned out as he approached. "You're giving me a headache.”

 Torph smirked. "Oh yeah, that's how it started out for me too. It's why I have to yell at Leske."

 "What do ya mean?"

 “Well the headaches of course!” Torph cried dramatically, but the grin kept slipping on his face. “You start to get dizzy, sometimes yell due to a lack of focus. It's confusing. Oh and then you start hearing voices. I always hear Leske's voice.”

 “Thanks salroka.” Leske grumbled.

 “See! There it is again!” Torph gasped.

 The guard jerked back. “I hear it too!”

 Torph nearly gave into his laughter. “It's horrible right? Anyway it's all signs of this plague going about. Y'know the one yeah?”

 "But I've got a headache! And it's hard to focus!"

 "Damn mate. This ain't good. See I was in the same state but I got passed it." Torph examined his nails, pretending to be disinterested. "But ya know it's all hush, hush. Kinda secret stuff."

 "I'm good at keeping secrets I am!"

 "Right, then you gotta lean in close mate. Can't have Leske's voice overhearing and spilling the goods to everyone. He's terrible for that."

 "Hey!" Leske protested, though he looked so amused.

 "Okay, yeah I can do that. Just help me please?" The guard whimpered, leaning in nice and close.

Torph grabbed the back of his head and smacked it off the bars, knocking the poor sod out cold. He searched the pockets and grinned when he found the keys, unlocking his cell before releasing Leske for his, tossing the keys in hand.

 "Well, now what? Go home?" Torph raised an eyebrow.

 "If we wanna get away with this we can't leave one man alive to tell Beraht what we've done." Leske said sternly, quickly stomping on the guard's neck, breaking it instantly.

 "Why do we always get the fun jobs?" Torph sighed, following his friend out, finding their armor and weapons stored at the entrance of the prison.

 "Maybe 'cause we've always stuck together?" Leske smirked, patting his shoulder as he wandered past. "We've always got each other's back remember Duster?"

 "Yeah Lesk'. Always." He nodded, hiding the warmth he felt growing with a lazy grin as they headed off.

They kept to it, slaughtering their way through the entire base, as exhausting as it was, until they came to the back rooms. Torph nearly groaned in relief and leaned against the wall when he heard Berhat speak. Beraht's voice muffled by the door though. "...If that turncoat brother of hers can't keep his head down then I have no use for precious Rica either. I'm cutting the whore free."

"Rica?" One of Beraht's thugs asked, sounding eager. "That the one you got all done up in lace? Ooh, I've been wanting to get my hands on that!"

The other guard's chuckling cut his thoughts off though. "Heh, I know what you mean."

"She's yours if you want her boys." Beraht offered. "And let me tell ya, tastes as good as it looks."

 Torph froze. Beraht was going to have his sister gang raped and he had fucked her before too. Torph saw red and nearly booted the closed door down. He forced the urge back though and took a deep breath. He wasn't the nutter who ran in blazing and screaming. He was the trapper. Leske shot him a concerned look but he ignored it. Torph grinned sharply instead, he felt it though, it wasn't nice and relaxed, it was nasty and twisted. He grabbed one of his old explosives from his belt and Leske grimaced when he saw it. It would release an explosive oil that would go up as soon as Torph lit even a flame.

Torph opened the door and immediately threw the glass vial at the three standing before him. He saw Beraht's eyes widen and he tried to stumble back but the oil got him first, glass shattering over the floor. Torph himself smirked darkly at the sight as he lit the match, letting the small flame brighten his face.

“So, which one of you wanted a shot of my sister again?” Torph asked, his voice turned bored and disinterested.

 “Dammit brat-” Beraht growled. “Alright. You can stop. You've cost me a lot and you know what the punishment is for that but you're good. Too good. I'll let you live. You can work for me again. Just like old times-”

Torph could see it. Beraht was lying. Beraht would kill him the moment he thought Torph had turned docile. It was just the way of things. He had failed his job and it had cost Beraht a lot. It would also cost Torph a lot too.

He was an ass though and asses dragged others down with them.

“As soon as I step out of here I'm gonna get swarmed by the nobles' pet guards up there.” Torph chortled. “I know how this shit ends but fuck it. I won't go down alone. So how about you go first boss?”

“You little shit-”

“Nah. You won't go down Torph.” A vaguely familiar voice piped up and he couldn't help but gap at the sight strolling out from the side tunnel that led up to the armour shop. The blonde Grey Warden was back, the brunette Grey Warden at her side. “Hi Torph!”

 Beraht and his minions gaped, along with him and Leske. “What the fuck Duster?” Leske cursed.

 “A Grey Warden?” Beraht choked. “What the hell Torph-”

 “I'm here to invite you to the Grey Wardens!” Lawrien Amell beamed. Her grin was huge and her eyes so bright and cheerful as she strolled on past Beraht, dismissing him completely. “So how about it?”

 “Lawrien. You can't do that without Duncan.” The brunette sighed. “Besides, he's clearly in the middle of something.”

 “Oh right.” Lawrien waved a hand and Torph's heart just stopped when Beraht and his two minions flared up in fire, the flames smothering them instantly thanks to the oil. Leske gave a little cry and jumped back, eyes wide with horror while Torph kept himself in place.

Reluctantly.

"What the fuck?" Torph cursed as Beraht collapsed, still screaming as the flames suddenly vanished with a pale light. The fire swallowed up the other two though.

"Ciara! I was burning him alive!" Lawrien glared at the brunette.

"That is your friend's kill Lawrien. Not yours." Ciara replied, tilting her head at him, considering. "Unless you want Lawrien to finish him off?"

Torph shook his head, torn between shock and horror. “Uh, no. You can go ahead kid.”

 What was going on? Why were there two Grey Wardens down here trying to help him and trying to offer him a position within their ranks?

“Okay!” The kid grinned and instantly Beraht was on fire again, his screams echoing. Leske looked sickly but Torph blanked out the smell, only watching at his former boss burned into ash.

He felt oddly satisfied. Torph did like Beraht once, when he had been a kid and Beraht hadn't gotten such a rock up his ass, so there was a little regret. Rica was safe from Beraht though, and that was the main thing.

He paused when he saw the blond beginning to go through Beraht's stuff, adding them to her bag and whistling happily to herself. The brunette joined in, going through chests and drawers without shame and he and Leske couldn't help but stare at them.

“Are they looting Beraht's stuff?” Leske blinked, he looked just about done with today.

Torph nodded. “I think they are... Huh... Alright. We need outta here. I need to make sure Beraht didn't do anything to Rica and the old bat back home.”

“True.” Leske grinned but it was weaker than usual. “And I'd love to get an eyeful of Rica!”

“Three guys just got burned alive because they wanted Rica.” Torph reminded him, but there was no threat to it.

Rica would kick Leske's ass if he ever tried anything.

“True.” Leske grimaced. “Least it would be a lovely sight before my death.”

Torph snorted. “I'd just prefer a nap to be honest.” He then glanced over at the kid who was pocketing some money. “Oi kid! How did you find me anyway?”

“I felt you.” Said kid replied and he and Leske shared a look.

“Felt me? Y'know that sounds wrong right.”

Lawrien frowned thoughtfully. “I'm what people call an empath. I can basically feel you're emotions so I just followed you.”

“It was not as simple as that!” The brunette sighed heavily. “You had to run back and forth all over the place before you could even feel his presence!”

“Still did it though.” The kid stuck out her tongue.

Torph sighed. “Alright. I just want to go home now. Can we go home now?”

Leske spoke up, grinning in relief. "Well fortunately if Beraht's got the guards trained the way he has it should be a good long while before any of them show up."

"I hope you didn't just jinx that Duster." Torph grunted as he began to head out the tunnel, Leske on his heels and the Grey Wardens following behind.

.::.

"There they are! Seize the fugitives!" A guardsman instantly cried out the moment they got out the door.

"Dammit Leske!" Torph cursed, ignoring the kid's laughter from behind him.

"Drop your weapons and walk down slowly. We will use force if you resist." The Proving Master growled at them before eyeing Lawrien and Ciara, baffled. "Wardens?"

"Hellllloooooo." Lawrien sang out cheerfully.

"Greetings again ser." Ciara said with a curtsy.

Torph couldn't help but glower at the pair. What was wrong with them? They were so damn relaxed despite the fact that they were surrounded by guards, all armed and ready. Torph instead sighed. He could see Rica and the Grey Warden-Commander in the crowd, Rica looking terrified and anxious. It was difficult to ignore her.

“I got bloody kidnapped y'know.” Torph complained instead, scratching his ear. “Me and my buddy.”

“Quiet! You do not speak until the Shapers have judged you!” The Proving Master barked.

"One moment my friend." The dark haired guy armed to the teeth approached, voice warm and soothing. "Did you not suggest that this Beraht might have arrange their convenient escape?"

"Regardless, the penalty for impersonating a higher caste is death."

"Fuck." Torph cursed.

"If this Beraht is as influential as you say, perhaps he also masterminded Everd's impersonation?" The Commander of the Grey Wardens suggested.

"Well then it might come as relief to you that Beraht is dead." Ciara said smoothly as she strolled easily down the stairs. "Your fugitive executed him."

"The casteless killed him?!" The Proving Master balked. "But he had many powerful allies-"

"Berhat would have butchered us if we hadn't killed him first!" Leske protested, stepping up to his side.

"Once again your friend has demonstrated his courage." The man nodded approvingly.

"Or insanity." Torph muttered under his breath.

"We Grey Wardens travel far and wide in search of those with the potential to join our ranks. It would also seem that I've found one here, in Orzammar." The man smiled.

"Uh, what are you saying?" Torph tilted his head, confused as fuck.

"That I have found what I was sought out." The man's smiled grew even warmer. "Let me make my offer formal then. I, Duncan of the Grey Wardens, invite you to join our order."

Torph instantly choked at that while the Proving Master went red with anger."This man is wanted for treason! You can't do this!"

"I can and I am." Duncan insisted, eyes back on him. "It would mean leaving for the surface world and thus leaving your people but it does offer you the chance to strike a blow against the Darkspawn and the Blight that is beginning in Ferelden."

"Curse those nasty Blights." Lawrien chuckled but choked when the brunette, Ciara, elbowed her in the ribs.

"What's the trick?" Torph asked suspiciously, knowing this deal was too fucking good to be true.

"It's not a trick but it is a dangerous life. I cannot guarantee your safety nor anything in return in these hazardous conditions. In joining us, you leave behind all you've known." Duncan told him honestly.

He couldn't help but respect the guy for that honesty. It was a nice change.

"Well it's either take a chance with you and maybe live longer or die down here and lose most of my body parts during their 'justice'." Torph mused. "Fuck it. I'm in Warden."

Duncan chuckled at that. "Then before all these witnesses, I hereby recruit you into the Grey Wardens. Know that you are most welcome within our ranks."

"Look at you, you Duster! A Grey Warden! And to think we met when stealing bread together!" Leske laughed, clapping him on the back.

"You gonna be okay down here Lesk'?"

"Aye I'm good. Don't be too sentimental now, you'll bring tears to my eyes." Leske smirked at him. "And don't you worry. I'll look after Rica for ya."

"And that's what I'm worried about." Torph grunted before wincing as Rica dived for him, locking him into an embrace. "Rica! You're gonna get covered in blood-"

"I can't believe you're leaving! Oh I wanted to kill you when I heard about what you did at the Proving but it's turned out for the best thankfully!" Rica cried out in relief. "I almost fell over when Ser Duncan said he wished to recruit you."

"Will you be safe if I leave Rica?" Torph asked, staring straight into his big sister's eyes, desperate for some relief for her sake.

"This has been a lucky day for both of us." She beamed. "I spent the afternoon with my patron. If everything turns out I might be able to greet you as an equal if you return."

"This the guy you spoke of earlier? He won't let you starve?"

"He calls me his 'ember rose', isn't that sweet? He has a voice like a poet." She smiled, looking so much more relaxed than she had in a long time. "And don't worry, he has already promised to move Mother and me into better lodging, where he can find me more quickly when he wants me."

"You're gonna be happy with this?"

"I am. If I can bare a son who makes his House proud that's all I can ask." Rica said, stroking her hand over his cheek. "Now go. I'll tell Mother you said goodbye. She's too busy being passed out drunk right now."

"Typical." Torph snorted, kissing her brow and heading for Duncan's side.

"Said your 'goodbyes'?"

"Yeah, I'm good." Torph nodded.

"Right then, Ciara, will you take our newest recruit to go get fitted for proper armour?"

"Of course Commander." Ciara smirked, jerking her head. "Follow me Torph. I bet we can get something nice for you."

"That'll be a sight." Torph sniggered, following after the brunette. “Holy shit. I'm a Grey Warden.”

Ciara chuckled. “Well, life isn't written in stone. The most unexpected thing could come and take you by surprise at any moment.”

“That sounds about right.” Torph shook his head.

He couldn't believe it though. He was a Grey Warden. A casteless piece of scum was an honoured Grey Warden. He cackled, delighting in the horrified looks he got from the 'real dwarves' in return as he and Ciara made their way down the street.

Chapter Text

"My lady? You're contemplating again." Gorim called out to her, he was looking over her armour's weapon set, unable to find the matching dagger he had picked out a shield and longsword.

She was eyeing her double handed axe though, her old and trusted friend as she fixed the braids in her hair, trying to smooth the strands out enough to satisfy her father.

"Just thinking about the Proving last week." Narascha murmured thoughtfully.

"Still? You've been looking thoughtful ever since that Casteless was revealed during the matches." Gorim frowned at her.

“I've been contemplating about wherever or not I should approach Father in regards of recruiting them into our forces.” Narascha finally admitted, seeing Gorim actually drop her Grandmother's ceremonial weapons in shock. His stared at her, wide eyed before staring down at the weapons and she nearly chuckled. “Look, before you begin shouting. I'm still contemplating. It's just the fact that one man, all by himself, defeated most of us best warriors in that Proving match and impressed three Grey Wardens, one of who is the Commander of Ferelden. He impressed them so much so that they actually searched for the casteless man in order to recruit him. Brosca was the name right?”

"My lady your father would go crazy. Nevermind the Warrior caste!” Gorim protested. “The laws-”

"Our laws are foolish and out of date." Narascha scolded as she picked up her axe, sliding it into place in the brace of her back. "You know I've not believe in them since I was a child."

Gorim snorted. "Not the longsword or shield then my Lady?"

"No thank you." Narascha smirked, stepping down from her weapon's mantle and towards her old friend. "So, what's today's agenda then?"

"Well the King expects you to make an appearance at the feast, but there's no rush. The Noble family heads will no doubt spend hours boring your Father with petitions and petty grievances."

"Sounds fun." Narascha snorted.

"What sounds even more fun is the other events. Permits were auctioned off to members of the merchant caste who wish to sell wares in the Diamond Quarter and only the best got in, so you might be able to find something nice for yourself. Lord Harrowmont also opened up the Provings again for young warriors to test their mettle before tomorrow's battle. Of course Lord Harrowmont is using it as an excuse to try and find someone who might be able to sweep you off your feet if a young nobleman wins the Proving in your honour."

"Urgh." Narascha made a disgusted noise. "Why hasn't he given up yet? I'll find a man in my own time. One less stuck up his own ass. Let's go check out the Proving then, see if anyone 'can sweep me off my feet'."

Gorim chuckled at that and followed her out. They accidentally ran into a beautiful red haired lady who was branded with the casteless mark and Narascha recognised her as Bhelen's lady companion. She rushed back into Bhelen's room and Narascha couldn't help but become curious. Narascha smiled pleasantly once she was inside her brother's room, hoping to sooth the red haired woman but she was fretful.

“I... I'm sorry... I thought you were Prince Bhelen coming down the hall...” She stammered. “Please forgive me...”

“No need to apologise. I'm the one who followed you into my brother's room.” Narascha tried to reassure, adding on a little lie. “I was hoping to speak to Bhelen but he must already be out attending the feast.”

The woman flinched. “Yes... Of... Of course... It was presumptuous of me to think he would return- I... Please forgive me...” She managed to calm herself though and bowed her head. “I will show myself out with your leave my Lady.”

“No need. I'm just heading back out anyway.” Narascha smiled. “I'm sure Bhelen would be happy to see you're here once he returns. He might just be a while with the feast.”

Narascha didn't wait for a reply, she turned to headed out, trying to recall the lady's name. Bhelen had told her about his 'amber rose' and her name but Narascha couldn't remember it. Hopefully it would come back to her soon enough.

.::.

"House Vollney are such troublemakers." Narascha grumbled at they made their way down the main street. "Thanks for dealing with that loose end Gorim."

"Of course my Lady." He nodded. "That mess should be tied up within the hour."

"Fantastic." Narascha smiled, but she restrained a grimace as she noticed her brothers' approach, Bhelen looked exhausted as Trian glared at her.

"Atrast vala big sister!" Bhelen greeted her cheerfully despite how fed up he looked. "How surprising it is to run into you out amongst the common folk."

"Especially since duty requires that you attend our King Father at the feast today." Trian growled, trying to loom over her. "Have you so little respect for him to disregard his wishes on a day set aside for you?"

Gorim spoke up, trying to defend her. "Lord Harrowmont told me we wouldn't be needed at the feast for hours at least-"

"Silence!" Trian barked. "If I want the opinion of my sibling's second I will ask for it!"

"Yes your Highness."

Narascha scowled. "Don't speak to Gorim like that Trian."

"I will speak to the lower Houses and castes as they should be spoken to little sister. Now do as I say."

Narascha glanced over at Bhelen, shrugging. "Mind offering a helping hand here Bhelen?"

"You're on your own. I've been dealing with him all afternoon." Bhelen shook his head, wincing.

Trian instantly glared at him. "What is that supposed to mean, little brother?"

"Nothing Trian. I've been having a great time. That speech you gave to that legless boy about hard work and making something of himself was fantastic." Bhelen said dryly while Narascha groaned, shaking her head.

"Seriously?" Narascha muttered to herself.

"As heir to the throne is it my duty to impart wisdom and judgement upon those who need it." Trian nodded, apparently not picking up on their little brother's sarcasm. "Now then you! Get to the feast!"

“Wisdom huh?” Narascha mused, before sighing. “Look, I'm pretty busy trying to scare off some Lordlings who Lord Harrowmont has lured in to woo me.”

“Again?” Bhelen smirked.

“If the man is of a high house hold then the match would be reasonable.” Trian scowled. “So watch that cheek of yours dear sister. Father will not live forever and when he's gone I'll be in charge of you. I won't tolerate you're wild behave like he does.”

“What a horrible thing to say.” Narascha rolled her eyes.

Trian snarled and finally stormed past her. “Come Bhelen!”

Bhelen threw her an apologetic look before rushing after their big brother.

"That was fun. Nothing like being talked down to by the next King." Gorim complained.

"You get used to it. I'm just surprised he didn't say anything about my usefulness as breeding stock." Narascha shrugged as she walked off. She vaguely heard Gorim mutter some kind of curse words behind her before following.

There wasn't much of interest, except the noble hunters. Narascha had nearly laughed at Gorim's face when they began to flirt with him, only to find he was of the Warrior caste. Narascha bided them a good day before she left, Gorim at her side once more, looking red cheeked.

It was the dagger that had been of most interest and of most risk in the market. It was beautifully crafted but Trian had thrown the messenger who tried to deliver it to her out. It made her frowned thoughtfully. If she accepted it and Trian recognised it then he would be offended, and not matter how much of an arse he was she didn't want to get into a full on argument. Although it might just save her in a pinch too.

“Unfortunately I will not be able to accept it.” Narascha finally admitted. “However, I suggest you present it to the Grey Wardens or the champion of the next Proving.”

“Ah, thank you my Lady.” The merchant murmured, disappointed.

She ignored it and left. He would have wanted her to wear that piece in public and gossip about it after all. It would make him more gold and publicity and she couldn't risk hers and Trian's fragile balance by pushing him too far.

That would just be foolish.

.::.

"Whys the Princess out in the Proving Grounds?" Ciara heard Torph snort out from their private stand, far away from the Proving Master. "Ain't she gonna sit back and watch?"

"She seems to prefer joining in the bouts." Ciara told him as he fiddled with one of the leather cuffs on his wrist, a dagger hidden within it. "Stop playing with it."

"It feels funny against my wrist." He complained.

"You just need to get used to it. Rogues needs hidden weapons in case we get disarmed. We don't have heavy armour to take damage for us and mages, well, are mages who can shoot magic out of their hands." Ciara chided, smirking at the disdainful look she received. "We need to be walking armouries."

The cheer from the crowd interrupted them. Lady Aeducan easily tore through the men around her, the four warriors were no match as the Princess swung her axe, knocking them all down in nearly one blow. She then surprisingly began to point at their feet, positioning herself in the stance that she apparently have been taken. Torph watched it all curiously, surprised at how unlady-like the Princess was.

“Ain't she meant to be a Princess?” Torph tilted his head. “Like, showered in gold? With long, flowing dresses. That kinda stuff?”

“Lady Aeducan had been fighting the darkspawn since she was fourteen from what I've found in the Memories. This Proving is to celebrate her commission as the newest Commander of Orzammar.” Ciara explained.

"How was she not a Commander earlier?"

"I think she might have been considered 'too young' by her peers." The brunette offered quietly. "Finally she's turned twenty-four and her father, the King, is ready to support her in claiming such a high rank.”

"Ain't that still pretty young?" Torph snorted.

"Yes well I believe when you have a giant axe welding warrior who seems to be able to take down four seasoned warriors at the same time your perspectives change." Ciara noted, amused.

Torph shrugged, lazily sprawling on his seat again, feet up against the railings. "Well I bet she's still a snooty Princess either way."

"I have my doubts on that."

Lawrien wouldn't want to be Princess Narascha's friend so much if she was after all.

.::.

Narascha had won the tournament but had handed to prize over to Frandlin Ivo who had looked extremely grateful. Narascha had spotted it though, the nervousness behind him, lingering in his eyes even as he tried to hide it. It was the same look that Narascha had gotten from those who were about to try and out play her in politics but did not wish to. It made her want to sigh but instead she kept up her smile and quietly warned Gorim.

Now they were in the throne room, greeting her fellow nobles. She nearly laughed when Lord Dace tried to trick her but managed to refrain from commenting on it. He had lost a heavy investment on an expedition and trying to get that money back would put her family and House Helmi in quite a predicament. Lady Helmi tried to intervene before Narascha could approach the throne, calling her a fool but she whispered to Lady Helmi her plan who looked finally relaxed.

It was the blonde Grey Warden who caught her attention though with a wave. She was grinning brightly and Narascha couldn't help but smile as she wandered over.

“Hey Nara!” Lawrien greeted cheerfully, she was munching on a plate of food, as hungry as most Wardens usually were.

"It's Lady Aeducan." Gorim pointed out with a grimace.

Narascha knew laughed. Gorim had been trying to get Lawrien Amell to use Narascha's 'formal title' for days now. Her old friend was persistent, she would give him that at least.

"Greeting Warden." She nodded respectfully.

Lawrien huffed though. "Call me 'Lawrien'! We're friends right?"

"We barely know one another." Narascha pointed out.

"You're a good person. I like you." Lawrien grinned, startling her.

"Thank you?" Narascha frowned, confused but the blonde kept up her grin. "But for all you do know is that I could be truly evil."

"You aren't completely honest about your feelings but you don't feel so full of anger and hate like many of your fellow nobles do." Lawrien insisted firmly. "You're too good for them. You should join us. I bet you like fighting Darkspawn better than ruling over people."

Narascha laughed. It was a full on, hearty laugh that earned several started stares from her fellow nobles. She ignored them though and smirked at the cheeky woman before her. No other Grey Warden would have dared ask her to join them, not outright at least. The rest would have talked around it.

"Sadly I have my duties to attend to." Narascha admitted, earning a frown.

"Let your brothers do that. Join us."

Gorim gaped. "Don't just demand things of the Princess!"

Poor Gorim, he was going to have a heart attack soon due to the human girl.

She managed to speak with Duncan too, who explained to her about the beginning Blight. It nearly made Narascha pale but she regained herself quickly. They spoke a bit more on it but while Narascha wished she could help she admitted that she wanted to help her family more, earning an understanding agreement.

Her father happily greeted her once she approached the throne, ending the debate between Lords Bemot and Meino.

“Atrast vala my sweet daughter. How fine you look in your grandmother's armour.” Her father smiled fondly, his eyes softening as he looked over her. He then chuckled. “I hear you were declared Champion of the Provings! I suppose you were never one to sit idle while something more exciting is going on.”

“So Narascha, anyone take your fancy at the Provings today?” Her father asked, nearly grinning when he caught Lord Harrowmont's hopeful look.

“None today father.” Narascha smiled at Lord Harrowmonth's dismay. “Perhaps another time.”

“Still not considering anyone of House Harrowmont? I hear Renvil is still looking for a bride.” Her father hinted but she merely raised an eyebrow. “Alright, alright.” He chuckled. “Are you ready then dear daughter? To be presented to the noble houses as Orzammar's newest Commander?”

“Yes father.” She bowed her head.

He smiled. “So dutiful. Very well, let us begin.” He stood up, gesturing for everyone's attention, his voice nearly booming across the hall. “Lords, ladies. Grant me moment of your time. We are here today so that I may present to you my second eldest child as the newest Commander of Orzammar! Who would pose a question to the prospective Commander? Who seeks to know the prospect better?”

“I have a question!” Lord Dace spoke up. “I seek to know the prospect better.”

“Lord Dace of House Dace. Speak.” Her father gestured, but she could see the look in his eyes, it was a protective look he always threw at her whenever he disliked something.

“Lords, ladies. My question concerns the plight of our wayward kin. The so called surface caste.” Lord Dace began, almost smirking. “What does the Commander prospect think of the proper place for these lost souls?”

“They should be respected but no more.” Narascha smiled coyly.

“Are you satisfied Lord Dace? Do you feel you have learned something about the prospect?”

Hopefully he had. That she would not be so easily tricked.

“Yes, my King.” He grumbled.

“Then if there are no other challenges.” Her father smiled. “I give you Orzammar's next Commander!”

The crowd began to cheer and she smiled happily as her father continued on about her mission. How she would be leading a mission to strike the blow against the darkspawn. He spoke of access to the mines and helping Duncan, the head of the Grey Wardens of Ferelden and their honoured guest, to head far down into the Deep Roads.

She was then tasked by her father to go find Trian. A most joyous job.

.::.

“So, being sent to bed early are we?” Narascha couldn't help but tease her little brother when Trian finally left. It was with a few choice words to her of course. Her older brother was always so pleasant.

Bhelen groaned. “All day I've had to put up with that. He can really grate on the nerves.”

“You're doing better than me. I gave up on acting like I'm his follower.” Narascha sighed. “Hopefully he mellows out when he is King.” She then smirked. "Besides, maybe you can have an early night with your sweet 'ember rose'."

Bhelen choked. "Sister!"

"I saw her today. She's as pretty as you described." Narascha grinned but she paused when his embarrassment grew into a more serious look.

“I just wish Trian wasn't risking his own family as he becomes King.” Bhelen frowned, his eyes looked almost desperate but Narascha could see that small piece that showed he was spinning a tale. It nearly made her frown but she made sure to look baffled instead.

It was ridiculous that Bhelen thought he could hide his feelings from her. His plans, sure. Bhelen had been cautious since he was a child but his feelings were something Narascha understood better than most. She had pretty much raised him after their mother died giving birth to him after all. Narascha had introduced him to the political world just as Trian had introduced her.

“What is it Bhelen?”

“I never thought his proclaimed honour would allow him to act on his jealousy. Narascha, Trian is going to try kill you.” Bhelen whispered softly.

“How do you know?” She asked, just as quietly.

“I overheard him giving orders to his guards. I couldn't believe it at first but it makes sense. He believes you're a threat to the throne after all.” Bhelen murmured.

“Trian keeps conveniently forgetting that I just want to fight back the darkspawn. I'm a fighter not a politician.”

“I hear you're not bad considering how you dealt with Lord Dace earlier.” Bhelen smiled. "The servants were gossiping about it."

“That was because I heard the rumours about his failed expedition.”

“Trian won't see it that way. He will believe that you're trying to show that you're a better candidate. You're much more personable too. Trian fears that father will soon replace him with you as his heir, or that the Assembly will betray him as soon as father passes.” Bhelen winced. “You know his pride will never allow him to step aside.”

“The problem is if I become Queen I'd have to take on a husband and finally become the useful breeding stock Trian sees me as.” Narascha smirked, but she knew it didn't look amused, it felt too forced.

Bhelen actually looked genuinely upset about that. “That comment was cruel.”

“He's always cruel.” Narascha sighed but decided to test the waters a little. “You'd make a better King, little brother.”

Bhelen looked baffled but laughed it off. “Oh sister, I'm honoured you think so but me? The King? That's an amusing idea.”

“Why not?” Narascha pressed on, earning a startled look from Gorim. “Trian we both know won't be a good King and I only wish to help protect our people from the darkspawn but you aren't like either of us. You're clever and you seem to understand people.”

“I'd think more about yourself right now Nara.” Bhelen held her shoulders, looking more desperate. “I don't want to lose you. You've always been there for me.”

“If Trian attacks me I'll fight back Bhelen.” Narascha sighed and Bhelen smiled in relief.

“Thank goodness. Please, stay safe sister. I'll be acting as father's second tomorrow so come to me if you need any help.” Bhelen planted a kiss on her cheek, something he rarely did before he left.

Narascha watched his back at he left, the door closing behind him. Her soft gaze darkened and she eyed Gorim who looked confused. “My lady?”

“So my dear baby brother is plotting away.” Narascha snorted softly. “Alright. I'll play. I just hope it doesn't get me killed.”

“You really believe Bhelen is plotting against you?” Gorim frowned. “Truly?”

“Everyone seems to think he's hopeless at politics but he's not.” Narascha sighed. “And I'm way too soft on him, otherwise I'd be smart enough to turn this around on him.”

.::.

Narascha leaned back heavily against the wall of her cell, thankful the cuffs were gone and that she wasn't chained in place. She hadn't wished Trian dead, despite their tense relationship. Bhelen had hired the mercenaries to kill Trian so clearly he hadn't cared about his death, nor hers considering she was probably due to be executed.

Her little brother knew how to play Orzammar's political game. That was for sure. Framing her for Trian's murder and getting both his older siblings out the way was clever, and annoying, considering she was now stuck in a cell instead of fighting back the Darkspawn.

"You have a visitor!" A guard barked out but the moment she glared at him the harsh tone disappeared.

"Thank you guardsman." Narascha grimaced, glancing over said baby brother now who was approaching her cell, his own eyes narrowed on her. "Hello Bhelen."

"Hello sister."

"Why are you here?"

"To look into the eyes of the woman who murdered my brother and find out why she did it." Bhelen said, his tone strong and filled with 'righteous' anger, making her nearly snigger.

"Don't play coy." Narascha chided instead, crossing her arms over, earning a raised eyebrow. "You're clever, I admit but you do realise you've just made a lot of enemies now right? How do you plan to deal with that? Bribe everyone?"

"I have it handled Narascha." Bhelen replied, voice cool.

"So, you knew exactly how much of a failure Trian was going to be as a King and so you set me up to be his murderer." Narascha sighed, twirling a strand of blonde hair. “I wonder how long you've been planning this for. I suspected you of course considering your tells-”

“Tells?” Bhelen frowned.

“You get a look in your eyes sometimes but I doubt anyone else will notice it. Father wasn't around much when you were a child due to his duties and by the time you were born Trian was dabbling in political intrigue. I might be the only one who would notice it.” Narascha shrugged.

"I have a lot of things planned sister. This was not personal, I swear it Narascha." Bhelen swore, eyes hard with determination. "This is the best for Orzammar."

Narascha hummed at that. "Alright, so what will you do? Follow the old ways? Stick to Father's rules?"

"No." Bhelen snarled, his nose actually wrinkled. "They are out of date. We have so much potential but we waste on on 'tradition'. It's such a waste."

Narascha fiddled with her ring, the ring Gorim gifted her when they were younger as a sign of friendship. She had given him one as well. Bhelen tilted his head at her, noticing the shifting.

“You're playing with your ring. What are you thinking about?” He asked, crossing his arms.

She met his eyes, thoughtfully. “Bhelen. Do you think it is a waste for the casteless not to fight with us against the darkspawn?”

Bhelen blinked at that, clearly taken aback. "You've been thinking as well?"

"I know it is meant to be 'unspeakable' but ever since that casteless won the Proving it's one of the main things on my mind. I rarely got to see the casteless because of Father's protectiveness but if many of them can fight like that, can defeat most of our Proving fighters who are all highly trained, then perhaps we have been doing something wrong all this time."

Bhelen nodded. "I have a lot of changes to make sister and I intend to do them. I am sorry though, that I've had to sacrifice you like this."

"Yeah, I would have preferred to have stood at your side as your Commander after all." Narascha snorted. "But such as it is I guess.”

“Actually I'm here to deliver you something.” Bhelen murmured, pulling out a necklace. Narascha frowned at the sight by accepted it, looking at the small vial curiously. “It's poison. If being out in the Deep Roads alone proves too much then I want you to drink it.”

“Poison myself? Seriously? Honestly I'd prefer my axe.” Narascha grimaced. “Bloody Stone you're actually sending me out alone into the Deep Roads.”

“To do what you do best. Fight back against the darkspawn.” Bhelen mused. “But I will get you your axe Narascha.”

“You can have this back then.” Narascha held out the necklace but he shook his head.

“Keep it. Just in case.” Bhelen sighed. “It won't hurt you. It will just be like falling asleep. I swear.”

Narascha groaned but slipped the necklace on. “Fine Bhelen. I swear though if it turns out this poison it something that makes me die a slow, painful death I'll find a way to haunt you.”

Bhelen's gaze darkened. “I already swore to you it wouldn't.”

“I know. I can see it in your eyes.” Narascha replied, looking down at the vial.

He nodded. “Then this is goodbye Narascha. I'll miss you.”

"Goodbye brother." Narascha said as he retreated back out of the prison, his eyes much harder than she had ever seen them before.

Orzammar was in for quite the change it seemed. Too bad she would never get to see it.

.::.

"Wait." Lawrien called out, startling them all.

"Lawrien? What's wrong?" Ciara asked as Duncan finished off the last Darkspawn that had attacked them.

Lawrien frowned, confused. "Why is Nara here?"

Ciara was about to question that when she heard the sound of clunky footsteps. Ciara reached for one of her throwing daggers but paused when Lawrien stopped her, eyes still wide with confusion as a strangely armoured Genlock or dwarf, it was hard to tell, stepped out of a tunnel.

"Well, I finally caught up with you then." Lady Aeducan called out, removing her helmet to reveal sandy blonde hair and bright blue eyes, making Torph instantly choke.

"My lady!" Duncan rushed over, his eyes quickly searching her. Ciara saw him take in the mismatched armour and how she was all alone. “Where are your men? And why are you all the way out here?” He asked, alarmed.

"I have been cast out and made to walk the Deep Roads." Lady Aeducan announced, startling them all.

"So Orzammar's politics have struck again." Duncan sighed, shaking his head.

"Fucking hell ain't you the favourite royal kid?" Torph choked out, still looking alarmed. "What happened?"

"You don't need to answer that." Duncan reassured, eyeing Torph. "Our friend's past is none of our concern."

"My brother Bhelen had me framed for murdering our elder brother Trian. To avoid a family scandal I believe my Father has decided to leave me to my fate and has locked himself away." Narascha sighed, looking dejected before glancing at Lawrien and then Duncan. "Lawrien offered me a place within the Grey Wardens earlier-"

"Actually I told you to join us-"

"Lawrien stop trying to order people you like to 'join us'." Duncan chided, making Ciara snort.

"I was actually hoping that I could still join your Order?" Narascha asked, bowing her head.

"My Lady, your skill is amazing but this is a dangerous life we lead. I will be more than happy to escort you out of the Deep Roads-"

"I still wish to fight for Orzammar." Narascha stated firmly. "I was hoping to either run into you or the Legions of the Dead, either way I want to help my people still. Even if many of them currently dislike me for what they believe happened."

Duncan smiled warmly at that. "Alright then Lady Aeducan. I would like to formally welcome you to the Grey Wardens."

"Please, call me Narascha." The blonde smiled back, looking relieved.

"Nara's joining us!" Lawrien beamed instantly, earning a snort.

"Jeez, first you guys picked up a casteless and now a Princess? You Grey Wardens are weird." Torph snorted.

Ciara only shrugged in response. Narascha however smirked back playfully, eyes gleaming. “Worried I'll take your place as the favourite dwarf Duster?”

Torph instantly perked up and happily joined in on the teasing. “I'd be more worried about you Princess. We ain't got anyone to wash your feet and feed you grapes after all.”

Ciara sighed as the pair continued on as they began to move. Lawrien laughed heartily at the exchange and even Duncan began to smile, looking more and more amused.

“This is certainly going to be a lively trip.” Ciara mused.

“There's no need to be serious all the time.” Duncan chuckled at her, patting her shoulder.

“You're just happy we got two recruits already.” Ciara rolled her eyes, smirking up at him. “I don't blame you either.”

“We need as much help as we can get against the darkspawn.” Duncan simply said, smiling as he left her behind to join the front of their party. Ciara chuckled at that and decided to enjoy the simple quiet of the back.

 

Chapter Text

"I wonder if those shemlens were telling the truth." Tamlen pondered curiously as he and Epona Mahariel approached the dark caves that three bandits had spoke of when they had run into them screaming.

Epona had killed them. They would have told their people where their clan was and the shemlens would have came to drive them out and cause them harm. They had promised not to tell but frankly, Epona refused to believe that.

Humans were never trustworthy.

"Perhaps we should tell the Keeper these ruins are here? She would wish to study them." Epona remarked, mesmerised by the sight before her.

"She might be interested in it but let's discover more before we head back." Tamlen insisted, heading into the ruins, making Epona sigh and follow her beloved.

The further in they got the more confusing the ruins turned out to be however. They seemed to be a mixture of human and elven and she felt herself go straight over to the carvings along the wall, taking out her sketchpad to draw them out with a piece of charcoal.

Perhaps showing them to the Keeper would prove useful?

"See anything interesting Epona?" Tamlen asked curiously while she frowned.

"I am unsure. I am more curious though as to why you wished to come down here so badly? Telling one of the older hunters would have been better, we could have gathered a search party." Epona mused.

"Aren't you curious? We could be discovering our history! Our people may even write songs about us!" Tamlen beamed, excited but she saw straight through her lover.

"You aren't fooling me so easily Tamlen." She chided, frowning at the shemlen made statue.

She took a note of it and sketched out the shape as Tamlen sighed.

"Well the Keeper might forgive me if I brought back something good? For... Well you know..." He shifted uncomfortably.

"You always get into trouble." She smiled, glancing over her lover who snorted.

"I don't mean to. Trouble just seems to always find me no matter where I go. I could go do my private business and get jumped by a bear knowing my luck!" He complained.

"Well you did have your legs swarmed by ants a few nights ago when you tried to go about your business. I heard your screeching from the other side of the camp." Epona reminded, earning a groan.

She tensed though at the sound of rustling and carefully put away her sketchbook, fingering her bow instead, Tamlen drew his swords, tensing up when he noticed her stir.

"What do you hear Epona?"

A groan reached their ears as these strange corpses staggered off the ground at the end of the hallway. Epona tensed and released an arrow, alarmed at the sight. The undead were here, guarding the ruins.

This was a dangerous place. Something always terrible had happened when there was this many undead but even after they were done Tamlen strode on, seemingly determined.

"Tamlen the Keeper would want us to go back!" Epona insisted, following after her oldest friend, her lover, into this large room with a strange mirror that stood tall within the centre of the room.

They were greeted by a large monstrous creature that resembled a bear. Epona cursed and released an arrow, aiming for it's eye and thankfully hitting it, earning an enraged snarl. Tamlen charged, plunging his sword into it's chest but got swatted away in the process. Epona gasped as it lunged for her and ducked and rolled away, drawing a dagger to swipe at it's side, earning a roar and a swat from a set of claws.

Thankfully her armour took the damage and she got back to her feet, only to see Tamlen back on his feet, whistling to draw it's attention off her. Epona rushed over, jumping on to it's back and releasing an arrow into it's skull, earning a dying groan as it collapsed, leaving her to roll off back on to the ground.

"What the hell was that thing?!" Tamlen cried out.

"It looked like a bear." Epona mused, shaking her head. "Tamlen this is too dangerous. Let's leave, get a full search party-"

"But look at this Epona!" Tamlen beckoned, startling her as he rushed up the steps to the mirror, looking so eager. "Isn't it beautiful?"

"I'd advice against touching it Tamlen, or standing too close in fact, this ruin isn't safe and this mirror could be anything." Epona cautioned, feeling suddenly weary at the sight of the mirror and how entranced Tamlen seemed to be.

"It's so clean, not even a scratch or a lick of dirt-" Tamlen jumped, sounding startled. "Woah! Did you see that?!"

"Tamlen. Get away from it. Now." Epona ordered, feeling a sudden creep of danger flooding her senses. "This isn't right. Something is wrong."

"I just need a closer look! Hold on a moment!" Tamlen insisted and she shuddered as he traced his fingers over the glass. "It's showing me a city... I think it knows we're here! It's underground..."

She saw another ripple from the mirror and approached cautiously, reaching out so she could grab Tamlen and drag him back. They needed to get out of here. This was wrong.

Tamlen cried out, scared. "It saw me! Help! I can't get away!"

"Tamlen!" Epona screamed, lunging for him only for a blinding, bright light to flood her vision and overwhelm her senses.

.::.

"Did you feel that?" Lawrien cried out, alarming Duncan as she took off.

"Lawrien wait a moment!" Duncan called out, rushing off after her. "Everyone stay here! We'll be back in a moment!"

Ciara huffed at that, watching the pair take off into the woods. Torph looked a bit disturbed, clutching one of his hand axes.

"Is there something wrong with this forest? Are we gonna get attacked?"

Torph really hadn't liked the forest so far, especially when one of the Wardens, she wasn't sure who, had apparently told him and Narascha ghost stories about some of them in Ferelden. Duncan had lectured them on it after Torph had started screaming when he heard a wolf howl in the middle of the night, Narascha armed and alert had leapt out of her tent, palming her double handed axe.

It had taken them nearly an hour to settle the dwarves back down and to kill off Lawrien's laughter.

"We're fine. I believe Lawrien and Duncan sensed some Darkspawn? Though it does feel off..." Ciara noted, frowning as she tried to figure out what the corrupted feeling was and where it was coming from.

Lawrien's senses had always been better. They were all still in debate wherever it was because it was a Lawrien thing or if it was too do with her empathic abilities.

Hopefully whatever was out there wouldn't be too much trouble though. If it was, Duncan could probably handle it.

It was Duncan after all.

.::.

"How much do you remember child?" Marethari asked, voice calm as ever as Epona asked what had happened.

She had awoken up in the Keeper's aravel and been told by Fenarel that she had been terribly sick for two days and that there had been no sign of Tamlen still. That was the part that concerned her the most. She needed to know where he was and if he was safe or not.

"I remember nothing after Tamlen had touched that damned mirror." Epona hissed, pissed off that her lover had not listened to her before pausing, recalling something. "No... Wait there were two people... I think I remember seeing the forest and two shemlen were there... A dark haired man and a blonde girl..."

"They were the two Grey Wardens who brought you back here." Marethari informed her. "You were lucky Duncan brought you back when he did. I do not know what dark power held you but it bled the life out of you. It was difficult for even my magic to keep you alive."

"Then Tamlen could be sick as well?!" Epona cried out, alarmed but the Keeper urged her to settle.

"He may very well be. You were found outside of the cave, unconscious and alone by the two Wardens. His charge said there was some kind of old corruption leaking out from within, that seemed to be like that of the Darkspawn taint she told us. Do you remember seeing any Darkspawn da'len?"

"I am unsure Keeper." Epona admitted. "The ruins were strange, I sketched out some of the carvings but didn't have time to sketch out the beast I encountered."

"I got your sketchbook. I'm unsure what is within that ruin myself, considering the mix of human and elven history within both." She shook her head. "But you mentioned a beast?"

"Yes Keeper. It was like a bear but monstrous."

"No then. The bear might have been corrupted itself but it was not a Darkspawn. They look like corrupted men, dark and tainted with evil."

"I saw nothing like that Keeper." Epona replied. "There were spiders, walking corpses and that bear."

"Dark magic, walking corpses." Marethari sighed. "And you also mentioned a mirror?"

"Yes. It didn't feel right but Tamlen seemed entranced by it." Epona insisted.

"A mirror caused all this? I have never heard of such a thing in all of the lore we have gathered." Marethari frowned, shaking her head. "I was hoping for more answers when you awoke but instead it has only led to more questions. Will you be able show us where it is da'len? Without you I doubt we can find these ruins."

"Of course Keeper." Epona nodded, climbing to her feet while the Keeper gave her a quick check over.

"Merrill will be with you-"

"Keeper Marethari! I wish to go to!" Fenarel pleaded as he rushed over to them. "I wish to assist in finding Tamlen!"

She frowned. "Are you sure? I'm already risking Merrill and Epona. I do not risk wish to lose you as well."

"It'll be worth it if we can find Tamlen and bring him home." Fenarel insisted.

"Very well then. You have my permission, and thank you for asking for it." Marethari said, looking grateful. "We'll be leaving when you all return. Be swift and stay safe. All of you."

"Yes Keeper." Epona nodded, intending that nobody else would get hurt.

.::.

She felt sickly, they had fought against those corrupted creatures that sounded like Darkspawn, if she recalled the Keeper's description on them correctly. Epona stumbled, leaning against a tree while Merrill fretted, questioning what they are and where did they come from. Epona grimaced and forced herself to voice her opinion.

"I think those were Darkspawn." Epona grunted as Merrill approached, concern written all over her face.

"Are you okay lethallan? You look pale."

"Now that you mention it, she isn't looking so well." Fenarel agreed, his expression just as concerned as Merrill's.

"I'll be fine. Don't worry about it." Epona breathed out, clutching her bow tighter, frustrated at the worry her clan, her family, were all showing her.

She was still too weak. She needed to get stronger, smarter, better.

"We'll keep an eye on you." Merrill suggested as they continued on, the girl sticking close.

They got to a small bit of clearing where the remains of a camp site were.

"This wasn't here before." Epona frowned, glancing over the remains, confused.

"Perhaps the Wardens are investigating?" Fenarel suggested.

"Well none of them are here and we've seen no sign of Tamlen..." Merrill tilted her head, seemingly puzzled as she looked around. "Wait... Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Feneral asked, startled.

It was too quiet. "There's no forest creatures. There's nothing here."

"There is something in the air... It's not quite right..." Merrill noted, eyes wide with worry.

"It feels like the mirror..." Epona shuddered, hating the weakness that drew more concerned glances from her family.

"It's like that mirror has unleashed some kind of sickness." Merrill remarked, shaking her head as they continued on. "We need to hurry, find Tamlen and get out of here."

"Agreed."

.::.

Epona ducked a blow from a Darkspawn before stumbling back as the thing was suddenly thrown into a wall then set on fire. A vaguely familiar blonde was at the end of the corridor, leading towards the mirror. She offered a wave as Feneral's sword finished off the flaming Darkspawn.

"Hey! You're that girl we found in the forest!" The Grey Warden, who seemed like merely a human child still, beamed.

"'Girl'? I'm twenty-one!" She protested.

"I'm glad you're still alive." The shemlen child grinned at her before turning away to walk back into the room with the mirror. "Duncan's in here with that mirror if you were looking for him?"

"We were looking for our friend!" Feneral was quick to rush after her, looking distraught. "Have you seen him?"

The girl shook her head. "Nobody else is in the ruins. I've searched after we found your friend outside it. There's only been Darkspawn. Everything else has either ran or died from the corruption."

"Um sorry... But what is this 'corruption'?" Merrill asked wearily.

"It's the 'Taint'." The shemlen child replied, shrugging. "It's not any good news. Your clan needs to get away from it fast."

They made their way back into that Creator forsaken room where the mirror still stood, only this time with a tall man standing before it, stroking his beard thoughtfully.

"I thought I heard fighting." He mused, turning to face them though his eyes widened when they glanced over her. "You're the elf Lawrien and I found in the forest aren't you? I am surprised you recovered."

"You heard fighting? Why didn't you come assist?" Epona frowned, crossing her arms.

"Lawrien left me on my own to deal with my own share of Darkspawn." The Grey Warden said, amused as he pointed towards the defeated monsters littering the floor.

"Sorry!" Lawrien laughed.

The shemlen child as laughing at this? What was so amusing? Why wasn't she taking the situation more seriously?

"I am Duncan, of the Grey Wardens. I am pleasure to finally meet you. Last time we spoke you were hardly conscious."

"Andaran atish'an, Duncan." Merrill greeted nervously. "I am Merril, the Keeper's First."

"Epona." Epona informed him gruffly, glancing around the room, searching for any signs of her beloved.

There was no sign of him. That would have been too easy, she would need to search the ruins further and if that didn't work she would need to search the forest.

"I am Fenarel, did you two come here by yourselves humans? There was a lot of those creatures." Fenarel asked, looked amazed.

"For now it's myself and Lawrien but some of my other Wardens and my recruits are camped further away. We would have came here together but Lawrien ran off when she felt the mirror's corruption leak out." Duncan explained. "May I ask why you are back here? It is dangerous."

"We're looking for our brother, Tamlen." Merrill told him.

"There's nobody else here apart from us." Lawrien said, though she did tilt her head. "I did feel something... Strange? Yeah strange a few days ago."

Merrill frowned, curious. "Um, I'm sorry but what do you mean by 'strange'?"

Duncan spoke up though, clearly trying to get out of that conversation which put Epona on edge. "You and Tamlen entered this cave together? And you saw this mirror?"

"Yes. Tamlen touched it and he said he couldn't pull away. That something saw him and before I could go to him this flash of light just appeared from nowhere and I blacked out." Epona explained, eyes narrowing on the Grey Warden shemlen. "Do you know something?"

"I see. This is unfortunate." Duncan sighed. "The Grey Wardens have seen artefacts like this before. We believe it's Tevinter origins, used for communication but overtime some of them seem to break? This one was corrupted by the Darkspawn taint and when your friend Tamlen touched it, it must have been released."

"It made you sick." The shemlen child insisted, staring intently at her. "In fact you're still sick."

"She is?" Fenarel frowned. "She went pale when we met the Darkspawn earlier..."

"Lawrien. Not now." Duncan hushed.

"But she could join. She's a good person-"

"Not now." He insisted. "They are still looking for their friend but I fear he must also be sick too."

"Then we take the mirror back to the Keeper? Perhaps she could study it? Find a cure or some sorts?" Epona suggested as she brought out her sketchbook, determined to at least draw it for memory's sake.

She wanted to keep a detailed record of her own history. To share with future generations of her family and friends.

Her clan.

The shemlen child spoke up, concerned apparently. "The Darkspawn are drawn to the mirror. If you take it back to your clan they will attack them. Corrupt them too."

"I do not fear this sickness. The Keeper can cure it." Merrill said, proudly.

"She may have weakened it but she cannot cure it." Duncan said sternly before glancing over her, making Epona frown. "I'm sorry but your cure is only temporary. I can still sense the sickness in you and it is spreading. You can feel it, can't you?"

She had been feeling weaker. Her bones heavier. Her aim wasn't as true anymore, something was corrupting her from within and it hurt.

"I... I believe there is something to what you say..." Epona agreed, hesitantly.

"No! This can't be true!" Merrill cried out in alarm, eyes wide with horror.

"You may confirm it with your Keeper if you like but for now we must deal with the mirror." Duncan said as he approached the mirror, drawing his sword and shattering it within one, single blow.

There was another light and Epona covered her eyes, stumbling back. When it cleared Duncan returned to them, his sword sheathed again. "It is done. Let us leave this place. I must speak to your Keeper immediately regarding your cure."

"What about Tamlen?" Fenarel demanded, his tone harsh.

Duncan's tone was solemn. "There is nothing we can do."

"I'm not leaving without him." Epona snarled. "There must be at least a body that we can bury if he isn't alive and if he is alive we must search for him!"

"Let me be very clear. There is nothing you can do for him." Duncan said firmly. "He has been unattended for three days now with the Taint running through his veins. Your Keeper's healing arts and your own willpower helped you survive but Tamlen has no such chance-"

"You don't even know him." Epona insisted. "He can be stubborn-"

"Epona. I am sorry but your friend had no chance of survival. Trust me when I say he's gone. Now let us return to your clan." Duncan tried to hush her but she was loyal to her family.

Loyal to Tamlen.

"Then at least let me recover the body!" Epona hissed, she was trying to keep calm but her temper was starting to get the better of her.

Merrill must have noticed because she felt her hand on her shoulder, squeezing while the shemlen child shared a glance with Duncan.

"The Darkspawn would have taken it." He said, voice deliberately calm.

"Oh Creators... Not to eat I hope..." Fenarel whimpered.

"Fenarel!" Merrill protested sharply.

Epona shoulder's sagged, defeated. "Then there's... Nothing... Truly?"

"The Darkspawn are evil creatures... It's best to leave it at that. I'm sorry." Duncan apologised.

"Can we come back here? Study the ruins?" Merrill asked.

"If your people must return cleanse it with fire. The cave is still unsafe however so it is best we move on." Duncan said, gesturing them to go first, the shemlen child already strolling out the door, humming a tune under her breath.

.::.

"I am relieved you have all returned." Keeper Marethari smiled but paused at the sight of the shemlen child and Duncan. "Though I did not except to see you or your young charge again so soon Duncan."

Duncan nodded in agreement. "I was not expecting to return so soon either."

"Dare I ask of Tamlen? Did you find anything of him?" The Keeper asked.

"The Warden says we will find nothing." Epona said bitterly.

"I see." She sighed softly. "And Merrill? Did you bring anything of the mirror back?"

"Epona drew it but-"

"I can answer that one." Duncan interjected gently. "I destroyed the mirror."

She found herself cringing at the Keeper's frown, Merrill actually squeaking in alarm and trying to shy away even though it was aimed at the Warden.

"I was going to try and find a cure with it. I trust you had a good reason to destroy it?"

"There is much to discuss Keeper. I have learnt much since I was last here." Duncan told her.

"Let us speak privately in my aravel then Duncan. Your young charge can sit outside it and wait." Marethari said and strangely enough the blonde who seems to be impatient and easily bored, considering she kept running off to fight things, sat down immediately outside the aravel. "Merrill, warn the hunters. If there are Darkspawn out there I want the hunters to know and be aware."

"Yes Keeper." She nodded and left their side.

"I will need you to tell Hahren Paivel about Tamlen's fate Epona. He will need to prepare for a service for the dead." Marethari sighed softly, beckoning Duncan to follow her.

She desperately hoped that the Keeper could get the cure. Then they could move away from this dreaded place and try recover. Epona sighed though, knowing it would never be that easy.

She had just lost her lover.

.::.

"I will not join out of pity!" Epona snarled as she stormed out of the Keeper's aravel, barely an hour later after Duncan went in.

Marethari and Duncan followed her but the shemlen child only watched quietly from her seat on the grass.

"It's not simply charity on my part." Duncan insisted. "I would not offer this if I did not believe that you had the makings to become a Grey Warden. You will likely never be able to return here once you have joined us. There is to be a battle. A large scale one against the Darkspawn. We need people like you and others to win."

"This is my family." Epona pleaded, her eyes meeting Marethari's who looked away, much to her frustration.

"And we don't wish to see you die. Epona please, if what Duncan says is true we will only be able to watch you waste away."

"So you would rather I die alone surrounded by people I do not know on a battlefield? Instead of with my family? With those I love?"

"This is your duty. Your salvation-" Marethari insisted but that only made her angrier.

"What duty?! These people have done nothing to ever help me!" Epona snapped and stormed off, fighting the urge to hit something.

She walked into the forest, ignoring the calls for her. Epona went out and climbed into one of her trees to rest. To think. Give herself a moment. Tamlen was gone and she was dying and was being sent away to die with strangers.

She was only twenty-one. She had expected her life to be with the clan, growing as a hunter, helping to find out their history and carry it on.

"You can still do all that." A young voice interrupted her.

The shemlen child was staring up at her, much to her confusion.

"You followed me?"

"Yep!" The blonde grinned. "I'll come up!"

"It's too high." Epona chided but watched wearily as the blonde ignored that and began to climb up, nearly slipping a few times.

Epona found herself reaching out, grabbing a wrist and yanking the girl up the rest of the way, earning a relieved laugh.

"Thanks! I was going to slip soon!" Lawrien beamed, sitting at her side, swinging her legs off the branch. "It's nice up here. I can see why you like it so much!"

"I wished to be alone." Epona scolded. "You shouldn't just follow after strangers like that."

"But you felt lonely."

"And how do you even know how I feel?"

"I'm an empath." The shemlen child shrugged, as if it was hardly a surprise. "Duncan tries to hide it, he gets a bit worried sometimes but I like my gift."

"An empath? So you can sense my emotions?"

"I feel them. I can feel why you're angry. Why you're sad. I can feel your warmth when you think of your friend, your lover? It's a new thing though right?"

"Yes." She sighed. "It was a new relationship and now it's gone. It is also none of your business shemlen child."

"My name is Lawrien." She corrected cheerfully.

"I don't care."

"But you care about your family. There is a Blight coming and it will swarm all of Thedas unless we stop it." Lawrien told her, eyes filled with pure honesty, which surprised her, considering she was still a shemlen. "If we don't stop it here it will come for your family, your clan. It will do the same to mine and Duncan's and nobody is safe from it. Lands, animals, people, everyone will be corrupted them if we don't stop them. We need to fight and kill them."

Epona sighed. "What are they?"

"There's the Chantry version and there's the our version."

"I have heard of the Chantry's version. What is this 'our' version?" Epona asked, curious.

"We don't know. We know they came swarming out of the Deep Roads one day but that's it." She shrugged. "I know this is all you've ever known and it's scary, leaving a place you've been in for so long but when I left that tower I was also happy because I was going on an adventure."

"An adventure?"

"Yep! I've been stuck in in the tower for years. I hated it. I would have ran off immediately but I had my little sister to look after and then my family grew bigger so I was happy for a time! And it's even bigger now that I've joined the Wardens."

"So you seek adventure?"

"Just like you seek history." Lawrien pointed out. "I saw your sketchbook. You dropped it when you passed out on us out in the forest but I picked it up for you. You're good at drawing."

"Thanks shemlen child." She thanked gruffly, earning a big grin.

Why does this child laugh and grin all the time? It was frustrating!

"And for what it's worth I am sorry."

"I don't need your sorrow nor pity." Epona snapped back, but her voice didn't contain the same heat it usually would. "I will never return to my clan then?"

"Maybe one day? I think it's always better to have faith than say 'no' to everything." Lawrien grinned.

"Fine then. I suppose I will join you Wardens and protect them from the Darkspawn."

"And get cured?"

"And yes, for the cure." Epona huffed. "Besides, my clan apparently won't let me die at their side so they will probably kick me out and leave me to fend for myself."

"That seems harsh."

"Probably true though." Epona growled as she eyed the girl. "Now, can you get back down without injuring yourself?"

The shemlen child eyed the tree and shrugged. "Maybe?"

"For Mythal's sake... Fine, I'll show you shemlen child." Epona huffed, reaching over to begin to demonstrate.

"I can jump-"

"Don't you dare!"

.::.

"I brought her back!" Lawrien called out cheerfully, she was clutching Epona's hand, swinging the archer's hand who felt completely distraught and desperate.

So Lawrien tried to distract her, hand swinging only seemed to annoy her though, which was still funny to see.

"I was surprised to find you were right Duncan. I thought Epona would try murder your young charge for disturbing her solitude." The Keeper remarked, looking momentarily amused before sighing. "Oh Da'len, I am so sorry."

"I am going Keeper. You do not wish me here and I have no where else to turn." Epona said sternly, glancing over at Duncan. "May I still join your order?"

"Of course. It would be a pleasure to have you, Epona." Duncan said, trying to keep his tone settled but Lawrien could feel how pleased he was.

Not at how it happened but the fact that he gained another recruit.

"Da'len take this. I know you will do us proud." Marethari said, pressing a familiar, old ring into Epona's palm but Epona only frowned, her eyes dark and anger beginning to flare within her again.

Lawrien ignored it easily enough. Epona had that fire inside her, something untameable and angry, only held back by Epona's sheer stubbornness.

"I don't believe I want this Keeper. If I am to go then I do not wish to be reminded of what I am losing."

"It is your heritage and it will protect you from the darkness. Please Epona?"

Epona sighed but took it, immediately shoving it into her belt's pouch. She didn't want to see it at the moment. She was too upset and angry, at herself and at the Keeper.

She didn't want to leave. She was scared and she was sick.

She just wanted her family.

Chapter Text

Faren had learned to love money the day his mother died. His father had been in mourning and hadn't been in the condition to work so Faren took his place. He had been an errand boy in Arl Urien's household before so Faren had worked to get noticed and he had been. Unfortunately by the Arl's son, Vaughan.

He became Vaughan's personal servant at the tender age of twelve, when he still looked like a skinny girl with long brown hair and big. Vaughan had enjoyed teasing him over it and sometimes his hands had wandered to place Faren had not been comfortable with. Thankfully Faren grew into his body about a year ago, finally looking more like an elven male which finally got rid of Vaughan's lustful looks.

Faren was good at his job though and Vaughan surprisingly seemed to enjoy his company, especially when Faren acted like a clumsy, shy thing. It made him seem so docile.

What Vaughan didn't know was that Faren had been robbing him blind for years. The gold kept being spent on the kids at the orphanage because Faren had a tender heart for them and thankfully nobody had noticed when things went missing in the estate.

He knew better than to touch the precious things after all.

Currently Faren was singing away in his cell, after having been caught once again by Kylon pickpocketing someone in the street. Kylon had hawk eyes, and they always seemed to be trained on him, or Daveth.

“Faren. I know you have a pretty voice but stop singing. For the love of the Maker. I'm trying to take a break in peace.” Kylon sighed, glancing over at him with baggy eyes.

“You need to sleep more.” Faren chirped.

“You need to stay out of trouble more. I swear I spend most of my days chasing you or Daveth about.”

“I'm keeping you fit and healthy.” Faren beamed.

“You're just lucky you don't get into as much trouble as Daveth. You don't pick fights or steal anything valuable.” Kylon continued lecturing away. “You're going to get your hand cut off one day and I won't be able to convince the Captain that you're harmless forever. Why steal anyway? You work for the Arl of Denerim of all people!”

“You know how he treats people.” Faren reminded him, leaning back against the wall with a huff. “His son is a nightmare and the Arl ignores it.”

“I'm not high enough in rank to stop it. Not yet.” Kylon grimaced. “But one day-”

Faren snorted. “You know you'd just get demoted immediately, or fired, or murdered by a mysterious circumstance, if you spoke up.” He then pressed himself up against the bars, tucking his arms through them. “Now, can I go? I have a wedding to go to tomorrow morning.”

“Then why steal anything?” Kylon cried in frustration.

“I can't help it. I do it half the time without even realising it.” Faren groaned. He did do it too, he kept taking stuff and most of the time he didn't even notice that he was doing it. He had accidentally did that to Vaughan once but thankfully he hadn't notice that Faren had been wearing one of his fancy shirt embellishments that day.

“I'll let you go early tomorrow morning.” Kylon offered. “As long as you behave.”

“Oh joy.” Faren groaned.

“Why can't you just act cute again? I preferred you when you were shy. You never tried to talk my ears off.” Kylon complained.

“Ah, well then I'm sorry.” Faren apologised, earning a scowl.

“You're only sorry you're in a jail cell.”

“Yeah. I prefer my bed.” Faren shrugged.

“I like mine too.”

.::.

Faren slipped out of his cell that morning. He had been too impatient for Kylon to get the keys so he had simply picked the lock and strolled out, earning the most annoyed glare Kylon could muster at him.

He had simply sang cheerily as he left, dancing his way out he door.

Faren bought some flowers as usual off the little girl trying to sell them to help her mother feed her family. He then went and bought some old bread and fruit leftover from a few days back.

He walked back into the Alienage quite happily, whistling as he avoided the bustle of folk setting up the wedding. The Alienage was filled with happy cheers and laughter and it made him beam as he made his way back into the house. He climbed up the broken steps and slipped through the door, nudging up one of the wooden panels to cover a gap in the door. He would have to remember to fix that later, he didn't want the cold to start seeping in and hurting his dad's bones after all.

He sat the bread and fruit on the table before going over to the old sketch one of his mum's friends made on the side table. He sat the flowers in the pot, taking care to swap out the day old ones. He would twist them into some flower crowns later for the kids.

Faren didn't like the flowers going to waste after all, but he was also determined to bring his mum fresh flowers everyday. It was to a drawing of her but it felt good to do it.

“Faren? You weren't out working late were you?” His dad came through, frowning tersely. “I told you, your mother's friends aren't the best to work with. She got into a lot of trouble with her crowd.”

Faren grinned happily. “Aw but dad. They're so nice to met.” He said, patting his dad's shoulder before twisting round him to get to his wedding clothes. They looked so neat. Of course it was nothing compared to what a human would probably wear on their wedding day but Faren appreciated how much his dad wanted to make him presentable for his future wife.

“I put some fruit on the table!” He called out, hoping to distract his dad. Once he heard his dad walk away with a 'thank you' he began to take his shirt off, wincing with every shift.

His back was burning. Vaughan hadn't been happy that he was leaving his services for two weeks, even with Arl Urien's permission and the moment the Arl left was when Vaughan struck. Faren had been locked up in the dungeon for days, he had only managed to tell one of his fellow servants to tell his family that he was working late but not at which job. Sure, he worked for Arl Urien but he also worked at the Golden Eagle tavern and ran with the thieves' guild in Denerim. Not that Kylon knew about that last one.

It had been an accident. He hadn't realised he was walking away with one of the guildmaster's shopping bags until said man tackled him into an alley. The man had also been one of his mum's friends and recognised him rather quickly.

Faren glanced into the broken mirror, relieved that the whip marks were healing. He hurriedly shuffled on his shirt, grimacing at jarring his wounds as his dad's footsteps began to head back. Faren changed his trousers quickly, ignoring the cuts on his legs and began to fasten his boots at his dad appeared, smiling brightly at his look.

“You look so handsome Faren!”

Faren wanted to snort but he smiled shyly instead. “Thanks dad.”

He had three nasty looking scars on his cheek that Vaughan made him cover with make-up. Vaughan said he looked hideous when they were on show. The other scar was on his lip and that had to be covered up too. Faren nearly winced at the thought that his poor fiancee would have to kiss him, kiss the scar and perhaps see them up close.

He quickly got out his make-up, Vaughan had ordered one of the girls to hand their make-up over to Faren to cover up the scars, and began to apply it. He made sure they were completely concealed before smiling happily at his dad who frowned at the make-up.

“I wish you didn't hide your face son.”

“And traumatise the poor lady?” Faren forced out the joke.

He slipped the braces on his wrists the moment his father looked away. It hid the nasty bruises on his wrists even though they screamed in pain when Faren tightened the braces. His wrists had been held up in shackles for the three days he had been in that tiny cell. Cold, exhausted, hungry and alone. Apart from when he was getting whipped of course, Lord Vaughan yelling between each lashing.

He had remembered Vaughan kissing him one point during those three days, completely drunk to the point where he probably wouldn't remember it. His hand has tangled into Faren's hair while he tried not to choke on his alcohol soaked breath. There had been a few lingering touches over his ass but thankfully Vaughan didn't do anything else except stumble away back to his room while Faren was left to freak out in his cell.

“I wish you stopped working for that horrible boy.” Dad murmured, gazing at where Faren's scars where hidden. “He always hurts you.”

“I'm fine Dad. I told you ages ago, the wounds are due to some disciplinary actions from the head server. It happens to everyone.” Faren sighed.

“You look tired too.”

“These three days have been very busy, especially at the estate due to Arl Urien's trip to Ostagar.” Faren lied, again.

He lied often for his family's sake. It kept them safe and happy so he didn't feel guilty over it.

“You think she will like me?” Faren asked nervously, he didn't really know any women outside of the staff back at the estate and his fellow elves within the Alienage.

“Of course Faren. You're a handsome young man. You've a good heart and you're hard-working too.” Dad smiled warmly, eyes wistful. “Oh how I wish your Mother could be here.”

“I wish Mum was here too.” Faren squeezed his dad's shoulder gently.

“My boy, all grown up. Getting married.” Dad chuckled sadly. “I wish I could have protected you more.”

Faren shook his head. “You did great Dad. I love you.”

“I love you too.” Dad smiled. “Now, you just make sure you don't tell that girl of yours anything about that training your Mother taught you right? We don't want to seem like troublemakers here.”

“I've never even had to use that training.” Faren dismissed easily, earning a raised eyebrow in return.

“And those extra things from the estate you've been selling are from 'nothing' then?”

“Vaughan has plenty of things.” Faren admitted, his hear racing as he began to wonder if Vaughan really did notice his thievery. No. He didn't, if he had then Faren would be torn apart in the dungeon by now. The thought didn't stop his stutter though. “I-I don't think he would notice... He never does... And the kids in the orphanage could use the food...”

“I know you want to help...” Dad began, reaching up to squeeze his shoulder gently, not knowing he was pressing his fingers against one of Faren's many bruises. Faren ignored the pain though and listened to his dad. “But sometimes you just have to look after yourself, alright son? So please, after you marry this girl, resign. Keep to the nice job at the local tavern.”

“You know the estate pays better.” Faren chided. “And Arl Urien has been good to us-”

“His son ain't no good to anyone. Especially not you.”

“I told you. He hasn't hurt me.” Faren fibbed. “I just don't always do my job correctly and it frustrates the head server.”

“They shouldn't be hitting you at all.”

“It's a belt over my wrists. That's all Dad.” Faren lied again and again.

“Faren!” An alarmed voice called out.

His dad frowned. “I hope nothing has gone wrong with the set up.”

“I'll handle it Dad. You make sure you eat something alright?” Faren patted his shoulder, heading right over to the table and chucking an old apple at him.

His dad caught it easily. “Have you at least eaten yet?”

“Of course!” Faren was surprised his nose didn't start growing yet like in that old fairytale his mum had told him about when he was little.

He strolled out the house but froze the moment he took a step out the door. He quickly shut it, hoping to not alarm his dad as he hurried down the steps, his heart hammering. Vaughan was here with his friend, Jonaley and Braden. Faren's eyes darted around, taking in the situation and he winced when he saw the bridesmaids.

He put two and two together and cursed under his breath. He rushed over when he saw Nora being dragged, the youngest of the lot.

“Stop! Let go of me! Please!” Nora cried out desperately, managing to wriggle free and run to Soris who was standing a few feet away, looking horrified.

“It's a party though isn't it? Grab a whore and have a good time!” Faren nearly choked on his breath as Vaughan chuckled darkly. “Savour the hunt boys. Take this little elven wrench here...” He was gesturing to Shianni whose eyes were blazing with rage. She didn't understand though. He would kill her. He had killed girls before after he was finished with them and had them tossed into the sewage.

“So young and vulnerable.” Vaughan purred while Jonaley and Braden looked over her lustfully. They were all drunk, they had all had too much to drink.

“Touch me and I'll gut you, you pig!” Shianni snarled, pissed.

“Please my Lord!” Faren couldn't see who had cried out but Vaughan's expression darkened as he stormed over. “We-We're celebrating weddings here!”

“Silence worm!” He snarled, batting the man across the face.

“Lord Vaughan!” Faren cried out, immediately bowing his head when Vaughan glanced back at him.

“Ain't that your personal servant Vaughan?” Lord Jonaley asked, confused.

Vaughan ignored him though and approached. “Ah, Faren. Here to welcome me to your wedding personally? Your fellow groom tried to greet me earlier but he seemed to be a bit scared.”

He nearly grimaced as Vaughan's arm slid around his shoulders, giving him a good squeeze. “So, which one of these beauties is to be your wife?”

“I'm not sure yet my Lord. We haven't been introduced.” Faren offered quietly.

“Not been introduced!” He laughed. “Well at least most elven girls look beautiful so hopefully my personal servant has gotten someone nice to play with.”

Faren fought the urge to squirm when Vaughan said 'play'.

“Speaking of which.” Vaughan murmured quietly to him. “How did you get out of the dungeon?”

Since Lord Vaughan had, had no intention of letting him go Faren had been forced to break out. It was only by sheer coincidence that he had been taught pickpocketing by Kylon a mere half an hour later.

“I needed to get to the wedding my Lord.” Faren murmured softly, knowing that Vaughan liked his soft tones. “But I'll be back early tomorrow to attend to my duties.”

“You better if you know what's good for you. You're already in a lot of trouble.” Vaughan threatened before sniggering and ruffling his hair as he shoved him away. “You must be ready to have some fun tonight then eh Faren? Why not share some of that fun?”

“Heh, we're here for a good time with the ladies after all.” Braden smirked, eyeing Nora again who whimpered, trying to hide behind Soris even more. “You would think a good servant would share.”

“Perhaps the Pearl would be a better time, my Lord?” Faren couldn't help but suggest, earning a snort from Vaughan.

“And not get the pick of these poor, innocent flowers? For shame Faren. I already told you, the best is always found right under your nose.” Vaughan smirked at him before he suddenly flinched, glass shattering over the back of his head.

The girls all gasped and backed away as his eyes rolled back and he collapsed. Faren froze, shocked at the sight of Shianni standing behind him, a shattered bottle in her hand and her eyes murderous as she glared down at Vaughan with fury.

“Are you insane?!” Braden yelled, horrified as he glared at Shianni. “This is the Arl of Denerim's son!”

Faren stared. He had no idea what to do or say. Shianni had completely fucked up. Faren could only stammer along and try to keep some form of composure. “T-This seems to have gotten rather out of hand-”

“You've got a lot of nerve knife-ears!” Lord Jonaley barked as he stormed over, looming over him. Faren had to fight off the urge to grab his dagger, the one hidden in his brace. “I'll be surprised if he doesn't beat you within an inch of your life! This will go badly for you elf!”

“Well that seems unfair. He started it.” An unfamiliar voice spoke up. They all turned as one to meet the eyes of a blonde human girl wearing a Grey Warden uniform. She grinned brightly at them. “I think all three of you deserve a bottle over the head in fact.”

“Yes but unfortunately life isn't fair.” The brunette standing at the blonde's side offered, her face buried in a book.

“Shemlens.” A redhead scoffed, Dalish markings covering her tanned face, much to his amazement.

There was a Dalish elf in the Alienage of all places... This day was turning out to be eventful, that was for sure.

“Grey Wardens!” Lord Jonaley scowled. “You should be seeking justice for us-”

“For you shemlens? Don't make me laugh!” The redhead spat. “Leave before I slit all your throats and offer you up as a sacrifice to the great deer beast!”

Jonaley and Braden were quick to gather up Lord Vaughan and drag him off, faces full of panic, while the brunette snorted. The blonde burst out laughing, the joyful laugh echoing.

“Epona is that something your people actually tend to do or are you simply messing with us again?” The woman asked, sounding vaguely amused.

“She's messing with us.” The blonde beamed. “She just made that up on the spot.”

“It worked did it not?” Epona snorted. “Besides, more them the fools who believe such a thing.”

“Fair enough.” The brunette glanced over all of them though her green eyes lingered on him. “None of you are hurt are you?”

“We're alright. Thank you my Lady.” Faren bowed his head.

“You're Grey Wardens?” Shianni asked, she was beaming, her eyes wide and bright.

The blonde nodded. “Sure are! Well Epona's a recruit right now but Ciara and I both are. I'm Lawrien Amell, what are your names?”

“Shianni, and these are my cousins.” She gestured to both Faren and Soris.

“Faren Tabris.” Faren greeted.

“I'm Soris.”

“I'm Ciara Trevelyan and this is Epona Mahariel.”

Epona scowled, brown eyes glaring. “I can introduce myself shemlen.”

Ciara only smiled sweetly. “I'm so glad you're letting me know I'm human. It can be so difficult to tell sometimes.”

“I'm going to kill you and burn your corpse.” Epona scowled, crossing her arms but her voice surprisingly lacked any heat.

“Ah thank you, I did want to have my ashes scattered after all.” Ciara cheerfully replied.

Faren only stared, bewildered at the pair while Lawrien only laughed harder. “You guys are funny!”

“We try.”

Epona snarled. “No we don't! I don't know why you're laughing all the time, we're in a serious situation here!”

“Oh yeah! Duncan's missing!” Lawrien clicked her fingers.

“No you ran off again and we got lost chasing after you!”

“I can't believe you both got lost.” Lawrien chided, voice filled with disappointment.

“It's your fault!” Epona screeched. “By Mythal why do I have to put up with this?!”

Faren only watched as the pair began to wander off, Ciara only offering a small wave as she followed after the two.

“I didn't think Grey Wardens were ever going to be so lively.” Soris commented, looking stunned.

“Yeah me neither.” Faren agreed, amused as the three disappeared into the crowd still preparing for the celebrations. “Shianni, are you okay?”

“I'm more confused than shocked right now but I'll be alright.” Shianni sighed, running a hand through her hair. “That was your Lord?”

“Yes.” Faren nodded. “But we'll discuss him later. I'll probably be dealing with whatever happened tomorrow-”

Soris tensed. “You can't seriously be considering going back still! You've been away working for days!”

“It's a busy job.” Faren insisted. “Now Shianni go get cleaned up please. Dad will get stressed out if he sees you looking so upset.”

Shianni groaned, massaging her forehead. “I really messed up didn't I? I just couldn't stand the thought of that jackass treating you like that.”

“I doubt he'll tell anyone a elven woman took him down.” Soris reassured her. “Right Faren?”

“I'm not sure. He won't let it go but he's also very prideful.” Faren admitted. “I'm sure we'll be fine. I'll handle this tomorrow when I go back in, try and settle things back down.”

“Okay... Right I'll go get cleaned up...” Shianni sighed, heading off quietly.

“What was that all about?” An unfamiliar woman asked, looking extremely nervous as she approached.

Soris laughed nervously. “I think the Arl's son started drinking too early. So, um, let's not let this ruin the big day! This is Valora, my betrothed.”

“And you must be Nesiara.” Faren greeted, bowing his head. “It's a pleasure to meet you.”

“A pleasure to meet you as well Faren. I am happy to finally get to meet you.” The blonde smiled warmly.

“I'm... I'm sure the two of you have a lot to discuss.” Soris added in, hastily leading Valora away.

“Well here we are... Are you nervous?” His betrothed asked.

“I have to admit I am.” Faren confirmed, he felt all jittery. This was a girl he had never met before, he could mess up so badly.

“I thought I'd stay calm but now that we're here... Now that I've met you I'm not...” She admitted too, a small blush colouring her cheeks. He smiled in relief.

“Come on cousin.” Soris muttered to him, trying to catch his attention. “We should let them get ready.”

“We'll see you in a bit.” Valora giggled softly as she walked away. “Don't disappear on us.”

“Or we'll hunt you down!” Nesiara laughed as she followed.

“Because that ain't creepy.” Faren said under his breath as Soris nudge his arm. “What's wrong?”

“Don't look now but we have another problem.” Soris sighed, sounding tired.

Faren followed his gaze to where three new people stood across the centre of the alienage. A tall guy with dark hair wearing shiny armour. He looked a bit intimidating actually, like a real warrior. Two dwarves stood at his side, a bald one with a long, dark beard and a tattoo on his face while a sandy blonde female with a giant axe on her back stood on the other side of the human.

She looked kinda scary, wearing big, heavy armour that seemed oddly unfitting. There was also a giant axe on her back.

“Do I have to go see them? The dwarf woman looks like she could tear out my spine and beat me with it.” Faren complained. “I doubt they'll cause trouble anyway.”

“It's our boys I'm more worried about. Wine is flowing and I don't think we want another incident.”

“Then how come you can't deal with it?”

“Because they all scare me?” Soris said honestly.

Faren sighed. “Fine. Let's go talk to the scary people and hope they don't stab us. On the positive side though, if I'm murdered at least I won't have to go back to the estate tomorrow.”

“Way to look on the bright side of life cousin.” Soris remarked, bemused.

“I try.”

.::.

“Jeez, where did those three go?” The Princess frowned, eyes glancing over the elves' home wearily. “I'm half expecting to find Lawrien up a tree again.”

“She likes to try keep Epona company.” Duncan mused while Torph eyed the wooden houses, a lot of the wood was rotten and broken apart.

It was starting to remind him of Dust Town. Home sweet home. Except this was still better. At least these guys had some rights unlike his people.

“One day she's going to fall off and crack her head open. Those trees don't seem easy to climb at all.” The Princess grimaced, eyeing the huge one in the middle of the Alienage as if she expected the kid to come flying out of it.

Honestly he'd expect the same thing from the kid at this rate. She kept doing reckless shit like climbing over fences to go into fields with those weird things called bulls then getting chased by them. Or throwing herself out of trees to try ambush Ciara or just throwing herself out of trees and into rivers and lakes. Or rolling herself down the snow covered mountains for giggles.

He was starting to wonder if she had been dropped on her head once too many times as a baby.

“Greetings.” Duncan suddenly bowed, startling him into glancing over at a pair of elves approaching. “I understand congratulations are in order for your impending wedding.”

The elf in the back was cowering but the kid in front of him blinked, as if seemingly surprised before bowing back, spilling long, brown hair over his shoulder. “Thank you ser. I was just wondering if you had business here?”

“I do.” Duncan's eyes were examining to kid, that gleaming look in them again. “But I believe I have already found what I was seeking.”

The kid tilted his head, green eyes curious. “Then will you be leaving? The Alienage isn't the best place for humans to be. I'm sure you might seek better things in the main market?”

“I'm sorry, but I have no intention of leaving.” Duncan smiled, his tone polite but also firm.

“Perhaps I can assist you then?” The kid offered.

“He keeps his composure, even when facing an unknown and armed human. A true gift, wouldn't you say Valendrian?” Duncan said suddenly, confusing Torph but he jumped as a sneaky old elf seemingly appeared from nowhere.

Nara had froze two, just as startled.

“Where the heck did that old bastard come from?” Torph muttered to her. “He scared the shit out of me.”

“He's certainly sneaky. That's for sure duster.” Nara grimaced.

“I would say the world has far more use of those who know how to stay their blades.” The old bastard smiled warmly but his eyes seemed a bit weary. “It is good to see you again my old friend. It has been far too long.”

The elf kid's cheeks instantly flushed and he seemed to shrink a little. “Ah, I'm sorry... I had no idea?”

“I was hardly forthcoming and for that I apologise.” Duncan nodded, smiling reassuringly at him.

“Faren I would like to introduce you to Duncan, Commander of the Grey Wardens here in Ferelden.” The sneaky elf introduced.

“Grey Warden?” Faren blinked. “There was three others here earlier-”

“Aha! So they are here!” Nara blurted out, startling the kid into nearly jumping. “They weren't in that big tree over there right kid?”

“Um, nope?”

“Dang, I was gonna throw a few rocks at them too.” Narascha huffed. “See which one fell out first.”

Torph cackled at that. “How cruel Princess!”

“I have to ask. Why are you here Duncan?” The old elf spoke up, eyes questioning.

Their Commander sighed. “The worst has happened. A Blight has begun. King Cailan has summoned the Grey Wardens to Ostagar to fight the Darkspawn horde alongside his armies. I am currently searching for more recruits to join us. Speaking of which, allow me to introduce to you two of my three that are currently travelling with me. This is Narascha and Torph. Narascha, Torph, this is my old friend, Valendrian.”

“Hey.” Torph offered a small wave.

“Greetings.” The Princess said all formally, even bowing her head.

“A pleasure to meet you both.” Valendrian smiled warmly at them before grimacing at Duncan. “This is rather terrible timing Duncan. There is to be a wedding. Two in fact.”

Duncan nodded. “By all means, please continue with your celebrations. I'm stilling seeking out my fellow Wardens anyway.”

“Hopefully we find Lawrien before she breaks something. Or someone.” Torph sniggered. “Hey she ain't daft enough to jump off a building right?”

Duncan only groaned, making him cackle at the distressed noise. It was glorious.

.::.

Valendrian and Mother Boann were beginning the ceremony while Faren tried to not let his thoughts drift. He was terrified of what was going to happen when he returned to the estate tomorrow after Shianni bloody bottled Vaughan over the head. He didn't want to think about it yet though. Faren would just be left panicking and worked up for the rest of the day when it was still so young.

There was plenty to celebrate. He needed to enjoy it.

He had to leave the worry for tomorrow.

When he looked up though his heart stopped. Vaughan was marching towards them, his guards behind him, shoving elves out of the way without any care. Faren couldn't believe he was back so soon. He must have been pissed off!

“Milord? This is... An unexpected surprise.” Mother Boann said wearily.

“Sorry to interrupt Mother but I'm having a party!” Vaughan said, fake cheer coating his words before they turned dark as he stepped behind Valora, eyes examining her. “And we're dreadfully short on female guests.”

“Milord this is a wedding!” The Mother snapped, glaring disapprovingly at him. Not that it would help.

“Ha! If you want to dress up your pets and have tea parties that's your business.” Vaughan sneered as he loomed over her. “But don't pretend this is a proper wedding.”

His tone changed instantly to that false cheery tone which made Faren want to back away. He remained still though, pleading to the Maker for help. “Now, we're here for a good time. Aren't we boys?”

Braden laughed. “Just a good time with the ladies that's all!”

“Let's take those two.” Vaughan gestured to Nola and Verna who were snatched up by the guards. “The one in the tight dress... And where's the bitch that bottle me?”

Faren froze. Oh fucking no. Not Shianni.

“Over here Lord Vaughan!” Jonaley smirked darkly as he grabbed Shianni and twisted her arms behind her back.

“Let me go you stuffed shirt son of a-” Shianni snarled, struggling frantically.

Vaughan laughed. “Oh I'll enjoy taming her!”

“My Lord!” Faren cried out, stepping forward smoothly in one stride. He tried to keep the fear out of his voice. “Really I suggest that you go rest my Lord. You must have taken quite the blow to your head during your tumble.”

“Ah yes. My 'tumble'.” Vaughan mused, eyeing Nesiara who went pale. “Ah, so is this your pretty bride Faren?” He crooned. “You'll be kind enough to let us borrow her won't you? I promise she'll be back in time for your 'honeymoon'.”

“Might I suggest the Pearl again? They are so much more effective at pleasuring you.” Faren suggested more urgently. “Or how about a few more drinks instead at the tavern?”

Vaughan waved him off dismissively. “Nonsense Faren. I already told you earlier about how these little flowers would be the best.”

“My Lord this is my family.” Faren said through clenched teeth, trying to reign in the urge to draw his damn dagger already. Vaughan looked a bit surprised at him before he rolled his eyes.

“Bah! You and your 'family'.” Vaughan sneered, leaning in closer. “I told you that they were a waste of time and effort. Why are you bothering them when all you need to do is serve me? I am your master. I am worth all your time and effort.”

“Jealous, my Lord?” Faren accidentally murmured out, cursing himself the moment the words slipped out. That was beyond stupid and silly. The situation was bad enough as it was without him being cheeky.

“Be silent Faren.” Vaughan hissed quietly. “Be silent or that pretty face of yours will get a bruising. Got it?”

Again, he couldn't help himself. “Which one is it my Lord? Am I ugly or am I pretty?”

Vaughan's face darkened and immediately he swung his fist out, slamming it right off the side of his head. Faren collapsed immediately, his head slamming off the wood below him, a nasty pop echoing before he blacked out admits the screams. Shianni's cry of fury being the last he heard.

.::.

Lawrien flinched. “Why would he do that?”

“Lawrien?” Ciara frowned, glancing over at her sister. She had been trying to keep Epona back, whispering everything that could go wrong if they intervened while the redhead raged. Epona was now pacing as Lord Vaughan strolled away, the girls screaming as they were dragged off.

It made her shudder.

“He loves Faren.” Lawrien shivered. “But not like Cullen loves Myra. It's cold and cruel and twisted and hurtful and it angers Vaughan and scares Faren.”

“He's hiding that he likes the look of Faren so his peers don't reject him.” Ciara said coldly. “He forcing those girls only because of his own ego and desires.”

“Then we need to rescue them.”

“How Lawrien? We're supposed to be neutral. You know what got the Grey Wardens banned from Ferelden the last time they acted out against the nobility.”

“I don't care. They need help and I refuse to leave them behind.”

Epona glanced at the both of them, looking more relieved but also doubtful at the same time. It made Ciara sigh. “Alright. We will need to be careful however.”

Lawrien grinned. “Of course.”

“You will help them?” Epona frowned. “Both of you?”

“Of course. Will you help us?” Lawrien asked.

Epona smirked. “Oh definitely. I would love to put an arrow in that shemlen.”

.::.

“Faren what are you going to do?! You just got knocked out and the girls were all taken!” Soris cried out as he followed him back into his house, he stumbled a few times while Faren smoothly made his way up the steps. This wasn't the time to be bumbling about like a buffoon.

He went to the beds and yanked them out, prying the floorboards underneath open. He pulled out his old pair of daggers, the ones he kept hidden that had belong to his mum. The blade curved from side to side elegantly and was still as sharp as ever. He remembered his mum calling one of them The Rose's Thorn. The other had no name yet but it looked similar to The Rose's Thorn, both of them made with dragonbone.

He had no idea what his mum had done to get such blades. The thieves guild members who had worked with her tried not to mention her too much, only telling Faren that she had been the guildmaster's right hand woman.

“I'm going to go in and rescue them.” Faren scowled, giving the blades an experimental twirl. “I don't care what any of the others say. Vaughan doesn't treat people kindly, especially not elven woman. He'll rape them and probably throw them in the sea to get rid of the evidence.”

“How can you know that?!”

“Because he did the same with the blacksmiths daughter. He's gotten bolder because his father is away and not there to keep him somewhat in control!” Faren hissed as he changed into his leathers, quickly. “Not that he ever did.”

“And you think you can stand up and fight him and all his guards?” Soris asked, horrified.

“He can do whatever he wants with me after this.” Faren said coldly, ignoring his cousin's choked noises. “I'm going into work early.” He said, putting all his hidden blades in place. “The estate needs a serious clean up.”

“I'll come with you.”

“I don't want Vaughan anywhere near you.”

“I'm coming. I'm good with a bow, I can help you fight.” Soris insisted sternly, with was an odd tone to hear from him.

Faren sighed as he adjusted his daggers, hiding them within his cloak. “Fine, alright. Just don't get yourself killed okay?

Lastly he grabbed his old scarf, his mum's old companion and wrapped the giant thing around his shoulders, concealing quite a fair bit of the leather. “Let's go.”

“R-Right.”

Faren didn't manage to get out the house though. His dad was blocking the way, looking ready to try convince him to stay but his dad froze immediately, staring at him as if seeing a ghost. Faren let out a small smile and his dad choked on a breath.

“You look so much like her.” Dad breathed out. “Your mother would have been so proud of you.”

Faren pulled his dad into an embrace, letting his dad tuck him in close. His dad shook against him, choked off sobs escaping him.

“Please don't go.”

“I'm sorry.” Faren whispered out. “I'm so sorry Dad.”

.::.

Epona stormed off after the two grooms, beyond furious. Her bow was armed and ready while the two shemlen behind her followed quietly, the shemlen child for once silent. Her eyes were sharp and hard, a gaze Epona had never seen in them so far and right now she really appreciated it.

“Shemlens are such pigs!” Epona spat, glancing over at the grooms. “We cannot let this insult stand against our people.”

“I don't appreciate being called a 'pig' Epona.” Ciara mused.

“Besides, it's just those three.” Torph, one of the stone children, pointed out.

“And all their guards! Strangely enough it was the Chantry woman who tried to defend them. I was pleasantly surprised by the action.” Epona admitted. She hadn't expected the woman to stand up to a noble.

“Okay. So how long can Nara distract the old man for?” Torph asked.

“She was discussing the Archdemon and it's Generals so hopefully that will take a while.” Ciara replied.

They had left the female stone child to distract Duncan while they all snuck off out of his sight to follow the grooms. Epona thought it would have been better just to tell him what they were doing but Ciara admitted that he might have tried to stop them, depending on how much he wanted to follow the rules. She did say that as long as they were careful they shouldn't get into too much trouble.

“Good. Now all we need to do is get rid of that waste of space.” Epona felt her lips curl into a smile, it wasn't pleasant though.

“We can't.” The younger elf, Faren, spoke up, his eyes were tired when they met hers. “Vaughan is a minor Lord, sure but if he dies his father will seek retribution.”

“His father should have taught him better manners.”

“Yes. He should have.” Faren agreed. “Unfortunately he didn't though. Arl Urien will take out his anger on the Alienage and the Grey Wardens if he finds out you were all involved in his son's murder. No. We'll have to placate him or break out the girls and just suffer the consequences later.”

Epona scowled. “My people wouldn't stand by and let him rape our own.”

“We could just make sure he cannot rape anyone again.” The brown haired shemlen drawled, her eyes glinting. “I have a few sharp knives.”

All the men blanched and the shemlen child winced in response. Ciara gave her a small, apologetic smile in return, Faren however sighed. “Look, I appreciate the help but we're just going in there to rescue the girls. The worst I want to happen if maybe a knock out. That is all. I don't want to have to clean up any dead corpses tomorrow.”

“You would still work for him?” Epona frowned.

“After this? I'll be lucky if I'm not getting hanged.” Faren muttered.

.::.

“Well, that's one less elf breeder in the world.” A familiar voice chuckled just as Faren opened the door to one of the lounges.

“A shame though. Nice body on that one.” One of the guards leered.

Faren blanked when he saw Nora, the youngest of all the bridesmaids, lying dead on the floor. Her eyes were wide and filled with terror, blood spilling out her mouth and out her chest. She was only a girl. Fifteen. Her father loved her, she was his treasure and now she was dead.

“She's still warm. How picky are you?” Another guard commented.

He recognised the voices but he couldn't place the names right now. His mind was empty, he could hardly think of anything to say or do. All he could see was Nora's eyes.

He could hear them talking about raping her corpse too.

Epona howled behind him. “MONSTERS!”

He held up a hand, hoping it would silence her. He needed to think. He needed to breathe. When was the last time he took a deep breath? Everything smelt strong and metallic.

“What's this? Some elven girl-” One of the guards began.

“Faren?” The guard Captain glanced up at him, startled. “Wait, why are you dressed like that? What are you even doing here?”

“I'm running late.” Faren murmured. “I should have cleaned out the trash hours ago.”

“C-Cousin?” He heard Soris call out, alarmed.

Faren ignored the arrow flying past him as well as a dagger and dove in himself, nimbly diving over Nora's body and whipping out a dagger to slash the guard Captain's throat. Faren's mind remained blank though, it was his body doing all the work and he knew in the back of his mind that his mum would be displeased.

He just couldn't care less right now.

.::.

“My, my. What have we here?” He heard Vaughan croon as Faren stepped into the familiar room.

“Hello my Lord.” Faren said pleasantly, even as the sudden rush of nerves struck him, twisting his stomach into knots. He wanted to be sick.

“Ain't that your personal servant? Heh, not to worry, we'll make short work of him and the other elf.” Jonaley smirked.

“Quit you idiot! They're covered in enough blood to fill a tub! What do you think that means?” Vaughan snarled back, eyes ablaze. “Since when have you fought back Faren?”

“Today appears to be the exception.” Faren admitted softly, struggling to keep his voice from wobbling, from breaking. “I don't like people messing with my family. You of all people know that my Lord.”

“You stupid little shit!” Vaughan snarled. “Haven't you realised it yet? You're only useful to me and only me! I can do what I like with you and all the rest of you dirty little elves because I am a Lord! You should just be grateful that you work for me in a respectable position unlike the rest!”

“F-Faren!” He heard the sudden sob, a sob that tore at him. “Please just... Just get me out of here... I want to go home...”

He hadn't wanted to look down and look properly at the faint glimpse of red hair he had saw moments ago. He knew what had happened to Shianni. He was too late again. He had been too late for her and for Nora. His hands tightened on his dragonbone daggers, anger swelling up in him.

He did though. He looked down. Her dress was torn and her legs were clenched tightly together, her whole body shaking on the cold, concrete floor. Her eyes were wide and full of fear, pleading him to help.

“Think for a minute Faren.” Vaughan crooned, earning his gaze once more. “Kill me and you ruin more lives than just your own. By dawn this city will run red with elven blood. Think about it. You know how this ends. We can easily talk this through instead, now that you have my undivided attention.”

Faren bit his lip, agitated. He had no idea what to do. He has never stood up like this to Vaughan. This was never supposed to happen.

“If you have something to say my Lord. Then say it quickly.” Faren swallowed, trying to settle himself. That, apparently, wasn't happening just yet though. His heart was pounding in his chest, his blood racing and his head was thumping.

“Here's our situation. You are skilled Faren, something I've never known about.” He chuckled, seemingly amused. “You still manage to hide such things from me even after all these years.”

“Can I shoot yet?” Faren heard Epona hiss.

“No.” Ciara hissed back.

“So, we fight here.” Vaughan continued on, his voice now velvet. “And you might just kill us, but we both know my Father won't let that go. Your pigsty of an Alienage will be burned to the ground, or you turn and walk away. Forty sovereigns added to your purses.”

“That's quite a hefty sum.” The dwarf, Faren thought it was Torph?, whistled.

“You will return to work tomorrow morning of course, as you already promised. Your friend however will leave Denerim tonight. No repercussions and he can go wherever he likes.”

“And you'll let the women go?” Faren asked, already knowing the answer.

“The woman stay. They'll go home tomorrow, slightly worse for wear, and you'll return to work.” His soft, smooth tone turned hard. “That's the deal. Now take it. You're not that much of an idiot.”

Faren took a deep breath being releasing it, earning a frown from Vaughan while his friends sniggered. Vaughan had realised it though, his eyes widening even as his friends began to mock.

“Aw look, he's about to panic-”

“Perhaps I'm more of an idiot than you thought my Lord.” Faren interrupted grimly. “Because it's no deal. I'll have everyone die with me as long as I can get to slit your throat once and for all.”

“Damn you-” Vaughan lunged for his sword but suddenly an arrow was embedded into his hand, making him cry out in pain.

“Finally!” Epona snarled, drawing another arrow, firing it off at Lord Braden while Ciara swept in, her dagger slashing right across Lord Jonaley's arm, disarming him.

“Grey Wardens?!” Vaughan spat, cradling his hand to his chest. “You're meant to never interfere! My father will have your heads for this!”

“I'm not a Grey Warden just yet. I'm just a simple recruit as the stone child says.” Epona smirked.

“I'm a Grey Warden though.” The blonde girl, who was apparently a mage, approached, hands burning with fire, the fire swarming around Braden who yelped. “And I'm here to kick your ass.”

“No Lawrien. We're here because we saw our recruits being attacked by guards.” Ciara corrected, ducking under a hand axe that embedded itself in Jonaley's chest. He collapsed with a cry, blood spluttering everywhere.

Lawrien huffed. “That's a lie and you know it.”

“Of course not. That's just the reasoning we're going with if anyone asks.”

Faren smoothed back a shaky handy through his hair, seeing Vaughan glaring right back at him even at he tried to reach for his sword once more. His sword however was thrown across the room by an unseen force.

“Oops.” Lawrien grinned, unashamed. “Did I do that?”

“Faren. Stop this. I order you to stand down.” Vaughan barked out but he was backing away, eyes wide with terror. He had never seen that expression in them before. It was almost satisfying.

“My apologises my Lord. But I think you've done me enough harm for one day.” Faren mused, keeping his stride smooth even as his heart hammered away, his mind still strangely blank.

His slashed out with The Rose's Thorn, his dagger slicing through Vaughan's neck,. He collapsed with a choked gargle. Faren's throat burned with the bile that threatened to be puked up but he managed to force it back down even as his body shook.

He killed Vaughan. Fuck. Oh fuck.

“H-He's dead... We did the right thing... Didn't we?” Soris asked but he couldn't speak, his throat was tight and he couldn't breath.

He didn't know. How could he know? It shouldn't have been left to him. They had too much history together, him and Vaughan. It was way too much.

“Your feelings keep changing.” Lawrien was suddenly there, blocking his view of Vaughan, her hands on his shoulders. “You have no idea what you wanted. Did you?”

“I wanted my mum.” Faren admitted freely.

She would have known what to do.

.::.

Faren kept his cloak wrapped tight around him as they made their way through the streets. Shianni was in a stolen cloak, trying to keep calm while Faren slipped back into his numbed state. Ciara had managed to calm Shianni down thankfully while Lawrien had helped him up until he went blank again. She tried to help him out of it but Faren didn't want to leave that state at the moment. They arrived back in the Alienage rather quickly, Valendrian looking very concerned while the Grey Warden, Duncan, frowned at his Grey Wardens heavily.

“What happened?” Valendrian asked softly while Faren looked towards the ground, he felt exhausted.

The calm was threatening to slip away. It was Ciara's hand however that steadied him by holding his shoulder, her eyes held a strange respect in them that he had no idea how he earned.

“The man and his men are dead.” Lawrien answered for them, eyes hard.

“Lawrien. You were not meant to get involved.” Duncan scolded.

“We did not willing.” Ciara cut in smoothly. “Our recruits were attacked by the guards so we had to step in to keep them safe.”

“And is that the official response?” Duncan raised an eyebrow.

“Indeed it is Commander. Our apologises for the mess. If it is any consolation however Faren here killed most of them. It was certainly interesting how one trained rogue could slaughter through an estate with an untrained bowman.” Ciara answered, that sweet smile still on her face while Duncan sighed, massaging the bridge of his nose.

“When your sister told me you two get into trouble a lot I did not expect all of this...” He grumbled to himself before glancing over to Faren. “Anyway you have little time lad. The garrison could already be on their way.”

“Perhaps we should leave Denerim for a time? Come back when things have calmed down?” Faren suggested softly.

“The guards are here!” Someone yelled hysterically as they hurried past.

“Don't panic.” Valendrian urged even as Faren tried to calm his racing heart. “Let's see what comes of this.”

The Denerim guard Captain approached, voice cold. “I seek Valendrian, elder and administrator of the Alienage!”

“Here Captain.” Valendrian called out calmly. “I take it you have come in response to today's disruption?”

“Don't play ignorant with me elder. You will not prevent justice from being done. The Arl's son lies in a river of blood that runs through the entire estate! I need names and I need them now!”

“Typical shemlens. Not even bothering with the real crime here.” Epona sneered but Duncan hushed her, earning a scowl.

Faren struggled not to whimper, to keep breathing as he mustered his courage. The courage he had apparently gotten from his mum though he didn't truly believe that. If he had been as strong as her they would never have been in this mess.

“It was my doing.” He finally announced. His voice was quiet and weak. He was a dead man. He would be leaving his dad all alone and it was all because he couldn't handle things properly.

“Fuck kid they'll kill you.” Torph, the dwarf, hissed, horrified. “And it won't be fast either!”

He knew that. It would be slow, slower than any pain Vaughan ever did him. Faren would be torn apart, piece by piece and it terrified him.

“A brave man.” Narascha, the female dwarf, bowed her head respectfully.

“And suicidal!” Torph snapped.

“You expect me to believe one boy did all of that?” The Captain raised an eyebrow.

“We are not all so helpless Captain.” Valendrian said sternly.

The Captain frowned at him curiously. “You save many by coming forward. While I don't envy your fate I applaud you for your courage. This elf will wait in the dungeon until the Arl returns! The rest of you, back to your houses!”

He closed his eyes and bit his lip. He just needed to keep breathing. In and out. Shianni and Soris were safe. The Alienage was safe. Faren managed to do something right and protect them all. He wasn't useless. Not in this case. He paused though when both Ciara and Lawrien moved in front of him, earning several startled looks, Ciara's hand on her dagger at the small of her back while a charming smile played on her face.

“A moment of your time Captain.” Duncan interrupted, looking almost amused and almost as if he was remembering something.

“What is it Warden? As you can see the situation is well under control.” The Captain glanced over Lawrien and Ciara. “As soon as your Wardens move of course.”

“Be that as it may, I hereby invoke the Grey Warden's Right of Conscription. I remove this young man into my custody.”

“I-Huh? What?” Faren stammered, astonished.

“Ha! Can't touch the kid huh?” Torph chortled.

“I thought I was 'kid'?” Lawrien asked.

“Eh, you're both kids?”

Faren ignored that in favour at staring at Duncan who squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.

“Son of a tied down...” The guard grumbled. “Very well then Grey Warden. I cannot challenge your rights but I will ask one thing. Get this elf out of the city. Today.”

“Agreed.”

“Now I need to get my men out on the streets before the news hits. Move out!” The Captain ordered, the group of guards storming off.

Faren let out a shaky breath, leaning into the hand on his shoulder to try steady himself. Duncan glanced down at him and nodded. “You're with me now. Once you've regained yourself you can go say your goodbyes. You will not wish to see them in such a state.”

“I really have to leave? It's all I've ever known.” Faren grimaced. He had only ever been in Denerim, running with the thieves or serving at the tavern or assisting Vaughan. He hadn't known anything else.

“Think of it as an adventure.” Lawrien grinned. “Don't worry about it either. Nara, Torph, Epona, they have no idea what's out there. This is all new for them two.”

“Narascha.” Narascha corrected.

“Heh, two of us have been under the mountains for all our lives. We've only just gotten used to snow and grass.” Torph sniggered, ignoring Narascha who sighed.

“Urgh, I cannot imagine living beneath all that rock.” Epona shook her head.

“It's cozy and full of dwarven tradition. You'd love it there Dalish.”

“Perhaps if it was Dalish tradition.”

“Holy crap, did you just tell a joke? Fuck. That was scary!”

Faren choked back a laugh at that, the Dalish woman already glaring at the dwarf while Lawrien laughed. Duncan urged him to stand up properly and Faren did, feeling a bit more in control now.

“Go and say your goodbyes and meet us here when you're done.” Duncan urged. “We will need to leave immediately.”

.::.

Faren quietly approached his cousin, Shianni sitting on his bed, a frail smile on her face. “You took all the responsibility for what happened. You're amazing, you know that?”

“How are you holding up?” Faren asked as he leaned against the wall, glancing over Shianni, thankful to see her cleaned up.

“I'm... I'm alright. As far as the others know Vaughan just roughed me up a bit. I didn't want them treating me like some fragile doll.” Shianni sighed, meeting his eyes. “Has he done this to you before Faren?”

“Thankfully he never took it that far.” Faren sighed, fiddling with The Rose's Thorn. “He would beat me silly and many nights I was locked up in the dungeons. He would often wander in drunk and mutter vague thoughts about me but he never acted upon them.”

“All those cuts and bruises... It wasn't from running with the thieves guild.” It wasn't a question.

“No. It wasn't.” Faren muttered. “But don't you go telling anyone that.”

“I won't cousin.”

“I think this might be good for me.” Faren murmured, glancing over at the sketch of his mum, sitting peacefully on the table. “I've been torn between who I am for years because of everything Vaughan has said and done to me. This 'adventure', as Lawrien called it, might finally help me clear my head. Help me find out who I am.”

“I hope so cousin.” Shianni agreed. “I love you Faren. Make us proud out there.”

“I love you too Shianni.” Faren said and hugged back when she lunged herself into his arms, burying her head into his neck.

He never thought saying goodbye would be so hard but he had to go. He had to move on.

 

Chapter Text

Cobian Cousland was struggling to dodge the onslaught of servants rushing about frantically. One of the girls nearly tripped and dropped everything if it hadn't been for Cobian steadying her. She did flush a little before straightening herself back out, thanking him and hurrying off once more. Cobian smiled at that as he entered the main hall, spotting his uncle Rendon and his father chatting away, the pair laughing heartily.

His father spotted him first. "Ah, hello pup! I didn't see you come in there."

"Hello Father, hello uncle. It's good to see you again." Cobian smiled at Rendon who nodded back.

"It is good to see you too lad. It has been a while, I feel like you've grown again." Cobian grinned when his uncle ruffled his hair, smirking. "Delilah asked after you, perhaps I should bring her with me next time?"

"After that incident last time with Calenhad and Oren I'm not sure how pleased she would be to see me again." Cobian joked softly, earning a chuckle.

"That dog does have a mind of his own. He also really dislikes it when he feels his master is being taken away." His father laughed while Rendon shook his head.

"I doubt Delilah blamed you for that Cobian." He looked amused.

"At any rate I summoned you here for a reason pup." His father said, smiling gently. "While your brother and I are away you will be in charge of running the castle."

"Of course Father. I'll try not let Calenhad take over." Cobian joked.

"Do keep an eye on him." His father played along. "One day he will try and conqueor Highever, we have to be ready."

Cobian chuckled. "Nan already has his sacrifical treats ready to bribe him into good behaviour."

"Good, we'll need all the help we can get. Now then, with that sorted pup I would like to introduce you to someone." His father beckoned the guard nearly, who looked as grim as ever. "Please, show Duncan in."

The man nodded, thumping his chest and set off to do it. Cobian quickly glanced over himself, making sure he was presentable to their guest. He thought he recognised the name 'Duncan' from somewhere but he wasn't entirely sure who mentioned it. It wasn't long before the guard came back though, a group of people behind him.

The one who caught his eye most was the tall man in silver looking armour at the head of the group. Cobian frowned curiously but then he noticed the Grey Warden armour on the other two behind the tall man who looked as if he was from Rivain.

"It is an honor to be a guest within your hall, Teyrn Cousland." The man in silver armour bowed as did his companions, the blonde girl of the group looking confused for a moment before copying her companions.

"Bryce! You didn't mention a Grey Warden would be here!" Rendon gaped, making Cobian frown, puzzled at the horror on his uncle's face.

"Duncan just arrived here recently. Unannounced. Is there a problem?" His father asked, looking concerned.

"No, just a bit caught off guard. I hate being at a disadvantage."

"I believe we all do." He chuckled back. "Pup, I do hope Brother Aldous has taught you about the Grey Wardens."

"Aldous said many things." He murmured to his father whose face turned immediately into a scowl while uncle Rendon snorted. "But from what I have learned myself the Grey Wardens are heroes."

"Indeed. Duncan here is the Warden-Commander of Ferelden, and these must be your comrades Duncan?" Father smiled warmly at them. "Welcome to Highever."

Duncan thanked him as the others once again bowed their heads, all except the blonde who grinned brightly, offering only a nod. She seemed the happiest of the lot. The blonde wore a mage's set of Grey Warden armour, though the staff was the biggest giveaway of her magical powers. The woman that stood beside the blonde was taller with brown haired tucked into a messy bun, strands hanging loosely from it. She wore a set he didn't see often, a rogue's while the young elf at her side wore plain leather. He looked rather uncomfortable, his hands twitching and grabbing his belt often.

Cobian noticed that the female brunette seemed to nudge the elf every so often, rather subtly. The pair seemed to be communicating with each other quietly and sometimes the elf looked stressed out while the woman rolled her eyes, looking oddly amused.

"Lawrien and Ciara are junior Grey Wardens." Duncan introduced. "Faren is one of my newest recruits however."

His father smiled at Faren, the young elven man who kept his gaze lowered. "Congratulations young man, you must have impressed to catch Duncan's eye."

"Thank you my Lord." Faren bowed.

"My apologises for cutting this introduction short my Lord, but perhaps we should discuss the upcoming situation in Ostagar?" Duncan said.

"Of course. Although I am curious. I thought there had been more of you heading this way?" Father tilted his head.

Duncan nodded. "I sent the other Wardens back to Ostagar apart from my new recruits. One of my recruits however aren't as comfortable indoors and the other two decided to stay outside and keep her company."

"That makes sense. Would you like me to send them food and blankets? We should have something to spare for them." Father offered.

"They shall be fine but thank you for the generousity."

"Alright, well then Cobian, I'm sure the Wardens are weary and hungry from their travels. How about you show them to the dining hall?" Father looked oddly amused, sharing a look with Duncan while the blonde and brunette girls perked up.

The elf, Faren, on the otherhand, stared in a mixture of horror and fascination at the Wardens as Cobian nodded.

"I shall father. It was nice seeing you uncle Rendon, you as well Sir." Cobian nowed his head to Duncan before turning away. "Please, follow me Wardens."

They left the hall quietly, the three thanking him as they went. It was the blonde who spoke up first though once they were out, looking puzzled. "So, who were those two again?"

Faren gaped. "You don't know? Which one do you think Teyrn Cousland was?"

"There was the guy with the funny nose, was that him?" Lawrien blinked.

Cobian chuckled softly, unable to help himself. "That is my Uncle, Rendon Howe."

Her grin instantly brightened. "Is he friends with the who's, the why's and the what's-"

"Please don't make an Anders' joke. They're horrible." Ciara groaned in despair.

"Anders?" He couldn't help but ask.

"A friend back in the Circle." Ciara explained.

"You're both from the Circle?"

"Yes, I was a Templar and Lawrien was one of my charges."

"Ciara's a weird Templar, she uses daggers..." Lawrien frowned.

"You do realise some of my former colleges were rogues yes?" Ciara asked, looking amused.

Faren shook his head. "It's rare to see a Templar with rogueish skills. I think you're the first Templar I've seen with them."

"So you were both recruited to become Grey Wardens?" Cobian inquired.

"Yep! We were both picked together!" Lawrien grinned.

"You both must be very skilled to catch a Warden's eyes."

Ciara chuckled lightly as Lawrien began laughing. "We were kind of caught trying to sneak a friend out of the Circle before he could be made Tranquil... I don't know how 'skillful' that was exactly..."

"The Grey Warden who recruited you caught you?" Cobian frowned, surprised they had been involved.

"Unfortunately it was Irving and Greagoir who did." Ciara mused. "They weren't really happy. It was certainly good timing Duncan recruited us."

Cobian nodded at that and smiled politely over at Faren. "How about you Faren? Any exciting circumstances for your recruitment?"

Lawrien and Faren grimaced while Ciara's face remained perfectly neutral. It was Lawrien who answered him though. "His was rather complicated. Faren's boss kidnapped the ladies at his wedding so we went in together and killed him. He deserved it."

"Lawrien!" Faren gaped.

"What? He did!"

"Lord Cobian does not need to know we murdered one of his fellow Lords!" Faren hissed.

Cobian couldn't help but stare, unable to piece together what happened. "My apologises but might you repeat that?"

"Bann Vaughan came in during Faren's wedding and kidnapped the women of the ceremony. No one was doing anything so Faren and his fellow groom went to the estate to rescue the women from Bann Vaughan. Lawrien and I accompanied our three recruits who are currently camping out in the wilds." Ciara explained.

"I am glad you managed to rescue the women from Vaughan but aren't Grey Wardens meant to be neutral in such matters?" He couldn't help but ask, curious.

Lawrien laughed. "Ciara and I tried really hard not to get involved!"

"You looted his bedroom!" Faren yelped. "How much gold did you even take off him?!"

"Plenty." Ciara offered.

"I found the forty he offered you and your cousin." Lawrien beamed, before she frowned. "Then it went missing..."

Faren shifted. "I think that might have been me? I found it earlier in my pouch."

Cobian wanted to comment on that. How in the world did the boy think it 'might' have been him? Shouldn't he know when he stole something? Instead Cobian simply listened to them banter, smiling in amusement as they went along. Once they reached the dining room though he opened up the door for them and gestured to one of the quieter tables.

"This is the dining hall, my apologises if things are more limited in choice, the army will be taking quite a bit of the food for the travel to Ostagar and supplies for the other soldiers."

"Thank you." Ciara bowed as did Faren while Lawrien grinned at him.

"I shall need to leave you here. Please if you have any questions feel free to ask any of the staff or come find me." He offered before turning around and slipping out, heading straight for the family quarters.

He was intercepted by Roland however, asking him to come collect his mabari as he registered the sound of Nan's angry screams. He immediately obeyed, not wanting to witness Nan storming out the kitchen to come find him and drag him in by his ear. That would be embrassasing.

Also rather terrifying.

"You!" He nearly jumped at Nan's hiss as she whirled around to face him. "You get that dog under control already!"

"Sorry Nan." He couldn't help but chuckle nervously at the glare she leveled him with as he headed for the larder.

He was back out after a few minutes, his mabari happily following after him. Nan's glare was instantly on the pair of them. "Look at him! Escaping after having his way with the food!" Nan scowled.

"Calenhad is a good boy. Really." He said, already rubbing Calenhad's head who nuzzled in happily.

Nan scowled at him. "Don't reward him Cobian!"

"Mistress! There are rats in the larder!" He heard the young assistant cry out in fear, sounding terrified. "Big ones!"

"Well clean it up then!" Nan snapped before sighing. "You dealt with that didn't you? Why didn't you say something boy? Too quiet for your own good."

"Sorry Nan."

"And I suppose you didn't go eating anyone's dinner then." Nan smirked at Calenhad who barked, already sitting down at her feet. "Right then, some scraps for a treat but you ain't getting anything else you hear me?"

Calenhad barked, trying to argue back but Nan told him off, earning a hurt whine in response. Cobian smirked at that, knowing how truly manipulative Calenhad was.

"Alright, come on boy." He called down gently to his mabari, who lazily growled but followed after him.

"Wait Cobian." Nan called him back, making him pause at the doorway. "You don't overwork yourself now. Remember we're all here to help you."

He smiled at that. "Thank you Nan."

"Now off you go terroise someone else." She dismissed him, turning her attention back to her cooking as he wandered off.

It wasn't long before he ran into his mother and her guests, he offered a brief few words, gave a kiss on the cheek to his mother and marched off to his brother's room. He still hadn't handed over his father's message and needed to do that soon before anything else could interuppt him.

He knocked on the door and smiled at the sight of his brother opening the door, grinning brightly at him. "Hey you! Is this you coming to say 'goodbye' as well?"

Cobian followed his brother into his room, where little Oren and Oriana stood, Oriana looked exhausted while Oren seemed a bit confused with how the day was going and why it was so busy in the castle.

"I've come to give you a message from father." Cobian said as Oren charged for him with a delighted squeal, clinging to his leg. "Hello Oren."

"Uncle! Daddy's going to bring me back a sward!" Oren grinned up at him.

"That's 'sword' Oren." Fergus corrected, smiling fondly. "And what was the message Cobian?"

Cobian reached down to ruffle Oren's hair. "Father wants you to go tonight with the army, he will wait behind and ride with Uncle Rendon tomorrow."

"So they are late?" Oriana frowned, surprised.

Fergus snorted bitterly. "You would think they were all walking backwards."

"Are they? That's silly! But fun!" Oren chirped, trying out the idea for himself with a giggle.

Fergus sighed softly. "Unfortunately I don't think 'fun' relates to 'hurry up and get here'. Anyway, I better get going, Cailan will wonder where we are and will complain if I don't show up in time for the 'fun'."

"He's milking the 'happy-go-lucky' personality isn't he?" Cobian asked, smirking lightly.

"Oh yes." Fergus groaned. "Knowing my luck I'll arrive and it won't be the Darkspawn that are fighting but it will be Cailan and Uncle Loghain."

"Have fun." Cobian grinned.

Oriana frowned, cupping Fergus' cheeks gently. "Oh how I wish you didn't have to go."

"At least I know you will be nice and warm here while I freeze outside." Fergus teased.

"I'll make sure to enjoy the fire on your behalf." Cobian retorted, Calenhad barking in agreement.

Fergus grumbled. "Such a dear, sweet little brother I have, tormenting me with such joys. Anyways I best be off. Plenty of darkspawn to kill and then I'll probably have to deal with a new found war between Uncle Loghain and Cailan."

"I hope you aren't leaving just yet." Their father walked into the room, their mother by his side.

"Oh Fergus!" Mother went and hugged Fergus, clutching him tightly to her. "I will pray for you everyday while you are gone."

"I will as well." Cobian nodded. "I'll also pray that Uncle Loghain doesn't strangle Cailan."

"If you get yourself hurt I will never forgive you." Oriana threatened, clutching Fergus' arm firmly who laughed nervously.

"Now that's incentive!" Fergus laughed, hugging everyone once more before heading for the door. "Farewell, Mother, Father, and Oren you will behave for your Mother won't you?"

"Yes Daddy!" Oren grinned, clutching Cobian's leg tighter. "I will watch Uncle too!"

"I love you." Oriana called out, smiling as Fergus kissed her once more and left.

Oriana's eyes immediately began to water but she composed herself quickly and hugged Oren close, kissing his brow. Oren made confused noises but accepted the tight embrace as mother ushered both Cobian and his father out, saying she would help Oriana. Once the door was shut father sighed heavily.

"This will be a long night." Father admitted wearily.

Cobian slipped his hand on to his father's shoulder, smiling weakly. "We'll handle it. We always do."

Father grinned, his hand reaching up to pat his own. "We always do. We're family after all. Besides, if the Couslands couldn't handle it then would would happen to this kingdom? A Theirin needs a Cousland after all." He added with a playful wink.

"Cailan has Fergus." Cobian agreed, laughing softly.

"And he has you too, even if he tells everyone you're his 'adorable, baby brother'." Father teased.

Cobian groaned. "It's so embrassing."

Father only smiled in response before his words grew serious. "I know you're nervous about this Cobian. I know you've been putting on a brave face-"

"You're the ones who are going off to war Father. You're the one who needs the support." Cobian frowned.

"Sometimes it's worse for those left behind." Father replied. "I love you Cobian. You won't ever be alone either, you will always have someone to turn to. Nan, Brother Aldous, Mother Mallol and Oriana will all be here just in case you need them. They will help you if you ask for it."

"I will Father." Cobian smiled weakly, he was scared, for him, for Fergus, for Cailan and Uncle Loghain. For all of them but he knew he had to manage here, at home while they fought down South.

"You will do me proud. You always have." Father reassured.

.::.

Ciara had been unable to sleep. The beds were too soft and comfortable and her body simply wasn't used to it so instead she went for a wander, happy in her armour rather than the casual clothing she had packed away. The pack she had left with Narascha and the others. It wasn't long before something got her attention though, a cry that was suddenly cut out.

She quickly rounded the corner, keeping to the darkness even as she saw the mess before her. There were three armoured men with blood soaked swords and one of them was now towering over a young elven lady who was pinned to the floor, a hand clamped over her mouth.

"Shut it girl!" The man hissed. "Ain't needing a fuss, just lay there and I'll be quick. No need for you to be like the dead Lordling there."

Ciara drew her daggers and snuck up on them, her steps careful and light. The moment she was at one of the further back guard's side she slit his throat, carving through it like butter before throwing her dagger, her timing was just a bit off as the man turned, slicing through the side of his throat rather than landing in it. Ciara dashed forward, shoving her other dagger into his eye before yanking it out and slashing is across his face before kicking him down.

Ciara rolled beneath a swing of a sword, twisting her dagger round so she could stab it into the back of the knee, she jerked the blade in and out of his knee as fast as she could before jumping back, avoiding his sword once more. He was using a double-handed sword and while he swung it quickly it was sloppy and reckless. It left him too open. He also wasn't wearing a helmet.

Ciara managed to dive between his legs and whirled round just as he began to raise his sword again. He wasn't on time though, she stabbed her dagger right into his skull, through his ear and twisted it.

Blood splattered everyone and Ciara was forced to release her dagger as his heavy weight collapsed, hitting the ground with a loud thud. Ciara cursed softly and worked on trying to yank her dagger back out his head, ignoring the elven woman's whimpers.

They all wore bear emblems, making Ciara frown. Those were the marks of Arl Howe's men.

"Th-They killed Dairren-"

"What is your name?" Ciara asked suddenly, tracking down her other dagger in the barely lit hallways.

"I-Iona-"

"You're Lady Landra's lady-in-waiting. Do you know what's happening?" The brunette asked, trying to stay as friendly as possible to not startle the girl further. Ciara had been talking to the staff during dinner, finding out who was in the castle and how important they were. She liked to know what important things were going on around her after all.

"They've been killing the servants! And said something about Teyrn Cousland-"

"The Teyrn?" Ciara frowned as she approached the woman, helping her to her shaking feet.

"Y-Yes, I-I'm scared. I want to go home... Back to my daughter..." Iona whimpered.

She grabbed her hand, tugging her along. They needed to move. "If we stay still we're dead. We'll head straight for the Teyrn and hopefully we might get some answers. Now, what's your daughter's name?"

"A-Amethyne-"

"That's a lovely name." Ciara smiled back at her, relieved that the woman was getting distracted by the conversation. "Does she look like you?"

"She's prettier. Lovely long brown hair oh a-and she has my eyes! I miss her so much."

"I'll try get you out of here. First we should warn the Teyrn and get the guards notified. Try to stay close to me okay?"

"O-Okay. You're a Grey Warden aren't you?"

"Yes." Ciara nodded.

"I thought you would be warning your comrades?"

Ciara smiled at that. "Oh they can handle themselves. Trust me, Duncan can easily kill anyone here. He's the one to be scared of."

Iona shuddered at that as they headed closer to the study where she had last seen the Teyrn going through plans with the Arl. Ciara heard the sound of fighting though, fighting that swiftly died down and drew her dagger once more. She lowered it once she spotted who had been fighting though and smiled.

"Hello Duncan." Ciara greeted as she approached, spotting the wounded Teyrn leaning against the wall with Duncan protectively standing in front of him.

"I'm glad to see you're safe Ciara. You didn't return to your room." Duncan noted, lowering his sword as well.

"Couldn't sleep and it seems to have served me well this night." Ciara sighed, hearing the screams echoing throughout the castle now. "So, Howe has betrayed the Teyrn then?"

Teyrn Cousland groaned painfully. "Unfortunately."

"What do we do now Duncan?" Ciara asked, crossing her arms.

"I'll escort Teyrn Cousland to the main hall. I'll take your new friend with me." Duncan began, gesturing Iona over to his side who hesitantly went. "I need you to keep an eye out for Ser Gilmore, Lord Cousland and Faren." He did pause. "Just in case try to find Lawrien too."

"It shouldn't be too hard, finding her. Just look for the largest fire." Ciara smirked as she backed away. "May the Maker watch over you Duncan."

"May he watch over us all."

She turned around and disappeared back into the shadows, knowing Duncan would be fine. He was there Commander after all and these were simply humans they were fighting. They weren't tainted, monsterous beings like the darkspawn.

.::.

Cobian awoke to a scream and to Calenhad barking angrily at the door. Cobian immediately threw himself out of bed, knowing Calenhad only got that angry when there was something dangerous about. He barely had time to grab his sword when the door slammed open. Cobian gave a pained cry when his arm was sliced but managed to parry the next blow with his sword. Calenhad jumped at the man immediately, biting deep into his throat and tearing it out admist the strangled screams.

Cobian lunged for his shield as the next man ran in only to scream when he was sent flying off his feet and slammed back into the ground. The armoured man was then dragged out the room by an unseen force. Cobian followed it more cautiously, knowing he didn't have time to pull on his armour, he was only in his nightwear trousers and shirt.

He spotted the blonde Grey Warden, her eyes murderous and hands burning with flames as they devoured the man before her in a wave of heat, another raced towards her but she merely twisted her staff round and slammed it into his side, shoving him back before a fist made of rock was sent flying out the ground, crushing him into the wall.

The third man remained on the floor where he must have been thrown, cowering fearfully. Cobian approached slowly, wincing when the blonde stormed over to the last man, hands alight once more.

"You fucking piece of filth-" Lawrien snarled.

"Wait! We need to interogate him!" Cobian called out, trying to hault her.

"There's no need. He's one of Arl Howe's men." Lawrien barked back and with a wave of her staff one of the shields ended up at Cobian's feet.

It held the bear enbelm.

"No way..." Cobian whispered weakly. "...By the Maker... Uncle Rendon ordered this... The late army, staying up late with Father for planning..."

"I'm sorry." The Warden apologised, shaking her head desperately. "I am so sorry..."

He didn't have a chance to speak as his mother rushed out of her room, armed with her old bow and a fierce look in her eyes. Aldous had told her about his mother being a fierce warrior during the war and while Cobian never really saw it before, probably because she was always so warm and kind, he could see it now.

"What happened?!" Mother demanded. "Sweetheart are you okay?"

"I'm fine Mother." He winced though when Calenhad whimpered, seeing him at Fergus' door. "No..."

Lawrien's shoulders shook and he heard her weep. "I'm so sorry... I felt them... They... They actually did it..."

Cobian raced for the door and shoved it open but the moment he did it he slammed it shut. He couldn't even process it... Oren's body... Oriana's... They were lying so still and bleeding and Oren was just a boy-

Cobian puked, the bile spilled out of his mouth and on to the floor and he could hear his mother sob. "Oh no! Not my little Oren!"

"W-We had to... Our orders..." The man whimpered and Cobian looked up at him, horrified. "No survivors... We were to kill them younger Couslands quickly... By the Arl's orders..."

"Fuck the Arl's orders!" Lawrien snarled, and then with a wave of her staff the man was alight, screaming painfully. "He was a child! And killed him before his mother and she had to watch him die! WHAT KIND OF MONSTERS DO THAT?!"

Cobian, finally having empty his stomach, stumbled over to Lawrien's side. He ignored the roasting, hot heat and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Lawrien. Lawrien how do you know all this? Were you with them?"

"I wish I had been... I would have saved them..." Lawrien ran her hand over her eyes, brushing the tears away. "I'm an empath. I can sense emotions and I felt theirs. I felt so many people dying while I slept and it was overwhelming and when I woke up it was the boy and his mother and I was too late... I ran up the hall but..."

Cobian shook off the absolute terror that threatened to make him crumble and took a deep breath in, just like Uncle Loghain instructed him to do whenever he got overwhelmed. He simply breathed for a few moments until his mind cleared. It seemed to startle Lawrien because she straightened up, meeting his eyes and looking almost relieved.

"We need to leave. Quickly." Cobian said firmly, glancing at his mother who was wping her eyes. "Where is Father?"

"He was still in a meeting with Howe- Oh that bastard!" Mother swore, her eyes burning intensily with rage. "I'll skin him myself!"

"And the rest of the Wardens?" Cobian asked as he went back into his room, slipping on his armour. Calenhad stuck close to his heels, growling softly.

"Ciara couldn't sleep so went off for a walk. Faren wanted to watch the cook bake and Duncan and I had split up when the fighting started. He told me to come here." Lawrien answered with a shrug. "They'll be fine."

"I can't believe Howe's soldiers got this far into the castle." Mother hissed.

"I can hear the fighting. It sounds like it's everywhere." Cobian muttered as he finished his armour, hurrying back out.

"Let's go then." Mother urged. "We need to get you out of here."

Cobian grimaced. "We have to find Father too."

.::.

Faren stared down at the dead attackers before turning to face the two servants in the corner. They were hidden underneath the table while Nan, the elderly woman held on to a butcher's knife, now covered in one of the attacker's blood.

"We should head to the Main Hall. That might be our best chance to find people who can help." Faren said, glancing back out the door to make sure it was safe.

"We need to keep the kitchen clear." Nan stated, scowling at the dead bodies.

"I don't think we can-"

"No we have to." Faren was puzzled when she grabbed his arm, tugging him closer. "The family's escape route is right behind us. We need to protect it."

"We don't know if they're alive-"

"Don't underestimate them. They're strong. They always have been." Nan scolded. "I raised no weak children. I raised warriors."

"So we just wait here?"

"Yes. We wait."

"Uh, alright I guess?" Faren agreed hesistantly. "Neither of us are in any armour though so we'll need to trip people up at the very least."

.::.

Everyone was in such a panic. It was a rush of emotions and Lawrien had to hold them off and not let them overwhelm her. There were so many people though, all terrified and angry. Right now she was with the two Couslands and the dog and they were in the armoury, trying to get into the Cousland vault. It made her fingers twitch, just like Faren's had this morning when they had arrived in Highever. His did it unknowingly most of the time though while Lawrien happily looted dead bad guys of their posessions.

She wouldn't loot the Couslands though. They were nice and they felt so warm and kind unlike the funny nosed guy. He had felt strange, like slavering something sweet on top of something bitter. Lawrien hadn't realised what he was up to though, if she had she would have warned Duncan.

"Take whatever you need!" The Teyrna called out as she rushed past, anxiously grabbing a longsword and shield. Lawrien couldn't help but stare at them, puzzled.

They felt like the Couslands. It was the same with Faren's fancier dagger, it felt his but not his. Lawrien couldn't explain it, especially not now when her senses were so delicate and sensitive with all the terror and anger hitting her from everyone in the castle, even if the feelings were being cut off sharply, one by one.

It made Lawrien shiver before she froze, her hand tense on her staff. There was a strange tingled, quiet, almost muffled and she noticed the dog begin to growl, prowling carefully towards the vault door, his teeth bared. Cobian tensed, his face tight as he faced the door while the Teyrna stiffened.

Ciara, Torph and Faren could both blend in to their surroundings. Duncan could do it too. They were sneaky like that. Lawrien tried to keep her eyes peeled, hoping to spot some kind of tell of a person in the shadows but it didn't work.

It was Cobian who acted first, a hand suddenly shoved her forward and she saw Calenhad rush at her, leaping above her just as a cry got cut off, another echoing it. Lawrien barely caught herself on the floor and twisted over, seeing the mabari tearing out the assassin's throat while Cobian clung to his own, coughing up blood, choking on it.

"NO!" The Teyrna screamed, lunging for her son and Lawrien flinched at the full on despair coursing through her, the hopelessness. The dog wandered over too, whimpering softly and trying to nuzzle Cobian's side who continued to choke, breathless.

In a spilt second Lawrien tried to pull out whatever healing magic she had seen Myra do, tried to steady her magic like she did but Lawrien was hopeless at it. Her magic tossed and turned and refused to listen and she could only see it heal a little of his wound, the deeper, worst parts of it, the part killing him.

"I-I don't know what to do!" Lawrien admitted, horrified. He had saved her, this would have been her if he hadn't pushed her out the way.

"Lawrien!" She heard a familiar voice cry out and Lawrien jerked back in relief.

"Ciara! Ciara help!" Lawrien begged, watching as Ciara raced into the vault, her daggers out and dripping with blood. The Teyrna nearly threw herself at her bow before steadying herself while Ciara dropped down to her knees at Lawrien's side, pressing her hands against the wound to try stop the blood flow.

Lawrien's head was throbbing and her hands continued to shake as well as her magic. "Ciara please! I don't know what to do!"

.::.

Ciara grimaced. The youngest Cousland son was choking on his own blood, trying to clutch his own throat but Ciara batted his hands away and pressed her own down firmly. The Teyrna looked anxious, eyes desperate as they met Lawrien's.

"You're a mage are you not?! Can't you heal him?!"

"I'm not a healer!" Lawrien's eyes were wide with terror, sweat dripping down her head. Ciara ignored the signs of her sister's panic, too busy trying to keep her own thoughts steady. "I usually just burn my wounds shut!"

"You've healed the deepest wound from what I can feel. All you may be able to do now if burn it shut like normal."

"Please! Please just do something!" The Teyrna pleaded. "I can't lose him too!"

"It might not even work. The shock alone could kill him-" Ciara tried to cut in but the fierce gaze the Teryna levelled her with made her pause.

Ciara had heard rumours about the legendary Cousland gaze, people had told her that it showed a hidden strength behind each and everyone of it's family members. Lawrien seemed to see it too because she nodded grimly, despite her eyes being wild with fear. It made Ciara's chest tighten. She rarely ever saw Lawrien look so lost and scared, she was usually such a happy, care-free child.

"Burn it shut Lawrien." Ciara said firmly, moving her fingers away to clasp Lawrien's shoulder, hoping to steady her. Ciara braced herself for the burning smell.

.::.

Duncan was now carrying the Teyrn throw the halls of the castle, heading straight for the kitchen. Everyone who tried to get in his way was cut down, Duncan refused to show mercy at this point. He liked the Cousland family, he liked how honourable and kind they were and how they were always generous, no matter how wealthy or not a person was. He knew the Teyrn was dying though and he started to wish that he had gone back to the Circle and recruited Myra Amell.

She was a very skilled healer after all, nearly as good as those who had taught her, or better. Ciara boasted about her all the time but Duncan had been hesitant. Myra was young still and he had already made a gamble by taking in both Ciara Trevelyan and Lawrien Amell. Especially since Lawrien had a tendency to get into trouble, and Ciara seemed to encourage it by somehow not saying anything, just looking amused.

The eleven serving girl that Ciara had handed over followed closely behind, shaking all the way. She definitely wasn't used to this kind of situation but he had no way of comforting her at this time.

Duncan opened the kitchen door cautiously, unsure if any of Howe's men were there when someone snarled at him. He raised his sword, ready to slice down the next person to run at him only to pause when he saw an angry, elderly lady blocking the way with a large, butchering knife.

"Commander!" Faren peaked his head out from behind the wall. Duncan smiled thinly at that, he must have been waiting to ambush someone. "Mind your feet, I've soaked the floor in oil."

Duncan chuckled at that and carefully moved him and he Teyrn over it, helping the girl behind him over as well. The elderly woman was already gripping the Teyrn tightly, her face pale as she led him to a spare chair. Duncan spotted the several corpses already in the room, Howe soldiers lying dead with facial and neck wounds.

"I've had to use up a lot of oil." Faren admitted. "Was starting to run out too."

"You did well Faren." Duncan smiled, patting the young elf's shoulder who gave a small smile at that, looking relieved.

"Too bad half the traps I left for that damn mabari were dismantled." The elderly woman grumbled, trying to tend to the Teyrn's wounds despite his attempts at brushing her off.

"Have any of my family arrived here Nan?" Bryce asked instead, voice heavy.

"Not yet my Lord."

Faren frowned. "Any sign of the others Duncan?"

"I saw Ciara earlier helping this young lady-"

"Iona?!" Faren gaped when he registered her properly.

"Faren?!" The blonde gasped. "What are you doing here? Is everyone okay?!"

"There was some trouble but your daughter's fine. I didn't know you were here." Faren rambled, looking horrified. "Are you okay?"

"Oh Faren this is terrible!" She sobbed.

"You have to remain quiet." Faren urged. "We can't risk any of Howe's men finding us. If they do they will kill us and you'll never see Amethyne again and she'll be alone."

"...Maker protect us..."

"My Lord I'll search for your family." Duncan said, already heading for the door. "Faren, bar the door, keep yourselves safe."

"Um, will do?" Faren offered, and much to his amusement, even threw in a cheeky salute as he began to push to table over to cover the door, careful not to slip in the oil.

"Thank you Duncan." His old friend nodded wearily, pale from blood loss.

He nodded back, aware that this might be the last time he saw his friend alive and left, feeling the sudden urge to cut down everyone that stood between him and the rest of the Couslands.

His two Wardens should be perfectly fine as long as they didn't get overwhelmed.

.::.

"Hey." Ciara greeted, spotting Cobian finally opening his eyes. "You passed out for a bit but you're alive."

She saw him open his mouth but a choked noise only escaped his throat, making him frown in confusion before he tried again. He only coughed at the effort, looking uncomfortable making her frown.

"I'm not sure if we can give you water or not yet." Ciara admitted. "Lawrien isn't a very good healer. I'm kind of surprised you're still alive."

"At least you're honest." Lawrien laughed, it wasn't happy though, too nervous and stressed to really be.

"Shields and Healing have never been your best abilities." Ciara scolded the blonde. "You rarely practise them."

Lawrien huffed at that. "I hate them! I'm terrible at them!"

"You can use Force Magic, that's a complex type of magical skill."

"It's different though! It plays and bends and works with me! Healing never does and shields always bounce back on me!"

"Cobian darling?" The Teyrna stroked her son's face, nearly sobbing in relief as she planted kisses on his face, hugging him close afterwards. "Oh thank the Maker you live!"

Cobian leaned over and kissed her forehead at that, he did struggle too though, his limbs shaky and trembling against his weight. He had lost quite a bit of blood.

"I'm sorry to interrupt but we have to move." Ciara said, not feeling sorry at all as she struggled to help Cobian to his feet, the warrior heavier than her, Lawrien tried to help but she was still shaky too from her nerves.

It seemed Ciara was the only collected one at the moment then. She would have to take point in that case.

"True. We must get out of here." The Teyrna frowned. "I doubt we'll find anyone now. We must escape through the secret passage."

The brunette tilted her head. "A secret passage?"

She nodded. "Yes, in the kitchen. Let's go."

They had run into a few of the Highever soldiers on the way there, where the Teyrna ordered them to evacuate and to get out alive. The Teyrna tried to convince Ser Gilmore to come with them and Ciara mentioned about him having the potential to be a Grey Warden recruit but he only offered a small, grim smile in return and she understood it at that moment.

He was loyal to the Cousland's first. It made her smile and bow her head in return before following the others out. They headed straight for the kitchen and Ciara cut down everyone who got in her way, trying to keep the younger Cousland out of the fighting as much as she could. Between her and the dog nobody managed to get past htem away which was handy. Unfortunately though the door to the kitchen wouldn't open. It must have been bolted shut.

"Dammit!" Ciara cursed, kicking it in frustration. "Right, Lady Cousland are there any other exits out of here?!"

"I-"

Ciara whirled around when she heard movement behind the door, as if furniture was being shuffled. She pointed her dagger at the door before lowering it at the sight of a familiar face looking relieved at her.

"It's good to see some more friendly faces!" Faren smiled, ushering them all in. "We've been hiding in here since the fighting started-"

"Byrce!" The Teyrna cried out, rushing towards her husband as they struggled to seal the door again, though they paused at the sight of their Commander approaching, looking beyond angry and frustrated.

Once he was through they piled all the furniture over the door again, Ciara even grabbing boxes to stack up on the furniture. Her and Faren tried to block off the door as much as possible, Lawrien however leaned against one of the walls, head in her hands.

Ciara winced at that. Lawrien must be overwhelmed by all the fear and death. Her emotions and trying to heal had probably drained her out.

"That should hold for a bit. We need to get out of here though." Ciara murmured, eyeing the Teyrn who was still bleeding out.

"He's dying. Ain't he?" Faren asked her quietly and she nodded.

"Oren and Oriana. They didn't make it?" Teyrn Cousland frowned, his eyes wide when his wife shook her head, stifling a sob. "I'm so sorry love..."

"Oh poor Fergus!" The Teyrna cried. "I'm sorry Bryce. I couldn't protect them nor could I protect Cobian! Our baby!"

"Pup?" The Teyrn wheezed out, reaching out with his free hand to catch his son's who fell to his knees at his father's side.

Cobian was probably going to pass out soon. He had lost a lot of blood and was probably emotionally drained. Ciara wouldn't be surprised if he went into shock soon. The burn marks across his throat looked bad. Thankfully the small amount of healing magic Lawrien did manage to apply stopped them from blistering but they were scarred an angry red instead, right across his throat.

She could also feel the faint magic lingering off them. It would probably stay there for days, perhaps weeks even with the amount of magic Lawrien tried to pour into healing him.

The Teyrna shuddered. "An assassin slashed his throat, I couldn't stop the bleeding so I had Miss Lawrien seal it shut by burning the wound closed."

"Eleanor it wasn't your fault." Teyrn Cousland hushed.

"I'm sure you did the best you could my lady." The elderly woman, Nan, said sternly.

"I'm glad to see you alive my old friend." The Teyrna smiled weakly in her direction.

"I'm sure without the boy here I would be dead my lady." Nan nodded in Faren's direction. "He's been keeping me and these two useless elves alive."

The chatting stopped the moment they heard a loud bang, echoing throughout the castle. The Teyrn and Teryna went pale as did their son. Nan however, snarled. "They've gotten through the bloody gates! Damn that Howe bastard! If I get my hands on him..."

Her hands twitched, as if they held Howe's throat in them already.

"Darling you need to go! You need to go right now!" The Teyrna cried, kissing her son's forehead lovingly, letting her husband do the same before ushering their son back to his feet. Cobian wavered on them for a moment, the blood loss probably making him woozy but Duncan steadied him.

"Duncan!" Bryce coughed. "Please get my family out of here!"

"I need something in return from you." Duncan said sadly. "This, I'm sorry to say, pales in comparison compared to what the Darkspawn are capable of. I need more recruits for the Blight. It demands that I leave here with one."

"...I understand..." Bryce had looked up at Cobian before looking away again.

Ciara watched as the Teyrna handed a key over to Faren who rushed towards the larder exist with Nan right on his heels. The three elves followed after them. Lawrien lingered for a moment, looking hesitant and their eyes met as she stood in the doorway.

Ciara waved her away, hoping Lawrien would get far enough away from the castle or at least deep enough into the tunnels to not feel the Cousland family's anguish anymore. Her sister had suffered more than enough. Lawrien seemed to agree too because she finally turned and rushed out after Faren. Ciara would stay with Duncan for now though, keeping an ear out for any footsteps that drew near. She could hear the fighting dying off.

"Cobian, I would like to formerly offer you a place among the Grey Wardens." Duncan said gently, aware of how confusing and horrifying things must be right now. Ciara knew though that he would be ready to drag Cobian out, even if he had to toss the young Lord over his shoulder.

He would refuse to leave without another recruit for the Blight.

Cobian made a frantic noise, looking between his parents and Duncan.

"Shh, it's alright love. We'll see Howe pay for what he's done but right now we have to fulfil our duty. Go my darling." Eleanor pleaded.

"You're strong Pup, you will survive this and become even stronger for it. Now go, protect the world from the Blight. The Grey Wardens need you and Ferelden does too." Bryce said, ruffling his son's hair.

Cobian kissed both of them one last time before nodding at Duncan and following him. Ciara headed for the doorway and turned back, seeing the Teyrna draw her bow once more, aiming it right at the blockage with a hard look in her eyes. Ciara couldn't help but bow her head before turning away, yanking the larder door shut behind her. She followed Duncan down the dark tunnel of the escape route, making sure the close the hidden door behind her so no one followed them.

.::.

Faren kept his daggers out. He wasn't able to comfortably let them go now that he was so alert. He was worried that some of Howe's men would come chasing after them to finish off the younger Lord Cousland who was resting rather heavily against Duncan who had his arm wrapped around his shoulders. His looked really pale and weak and that wound on his neck looked really bad. Hopefully he didn't get sick.

"Perhaps we should stop at one of the nearby villages. Hide for a while." Nan suggested, she was at Cobian's other side, surprisingly looking somewhat calm, her hands' shaking gave her true feelings away though.

Ciara shook her head at the idea. "They will expect us to hide with them. It is better if we press on, not give them a chance to harm any villagers in case they do find us hiding there."

"I doubt we can continue on like this." She gestured to Cobian urgently. "He lost a lot of blood and he's barely keeping on his feet!"

"Quieten down." Ciara hissed, searching the forest wearily. Faren couldn't hear anything though and shook his head at her. "No shouting alright? We're still not far enough away. Perhaps after an hours travel but we can't afford to draw attention yet..."

"I left three of my other recruits at a nearby campsite. We will head there and collect them then be on our way." Duncan said as Faren paused.

He remembered that Torph and Narascha had been in the middle of a debate while Epona tried to tune them out as she perched in a tree as they had left for Highever. Faren really hoped they hadn't all murdered each other by now.

It didn't take too long to reach the cave were they had left the three with their supplies. What did raise the alarm though was seeing Narascha outside the cave, sitting on a boulder and cleaning blood off her axe. She eyed them sharply before frowning.

"So, I take it these guys aren't friends of ours?" She gestured to the corpses and Faren choked at the bear emblem on their shields.

"They attacked here too?"

"Probably wanted all the potential witnesses gone." Ciara frowned, crossing her arms. "Are you alright?"

"We're fine. Epona gave us a warning." Narascha smirked, slipping off her perch. "So, politics?"

"Politics." Duncan sighed.

"Sounds fun." Narascha drawled.

"Where are Torph and Epona?" Duncan asked.

Narascha sighed, glancing into the cave. "Torph's napping while Epona went to scout the forest. She wanted to make sure there were no more men with the bear emblems."

"We best wake him up. We need to move." Duncan said but Cobian nudged his shoulder, gesturing to Nan and the other servants. "Ah, true. There is no need for them to go to Ostagar."

"I'm not leaving his side." Nan said sternly, glancing over at the Lord Cousland who shook his head, trying to speak, it only came out as a croak though.

"Use the dirt." Torph said, yawning into his palm as he strolled out the cave, surprisingly already to go.

Narascha smirked. "Oh, so you're awake now?"

"You people are noisy." Torph grunted. "But yeah, new guy? I got a friend who can't speak, uses the dirt to write when he can."

"Didn't know a duster could write." Nara teased.

"Yeah well snobs like you guys hardly notice anything so I'm not surprised."

Faren swiftly ignored their banter, grinning as he watched Cobian kneel down, already using a stick to write.

"I want you to go warn Anora in case Un- Howe decides to go to her first and try to lie about what happened tonight." Cobian scribbled the beginning to an 'Uncle' out and Faren winced. He had looked so happy this morning with his uncle and father. He couldn't imagine what Cobian was thinking now. How much pain he was in.

He couldn't even speak anymore.

Nan scowled. "And you really think the Queen herself would speak to me?"

"She knows my hand writing. Give her a letter from me."

"A good thing I carry the parchment with me then." Ciara mused, already heading for her pack to collect her paper. Faren ignored her though and watched as Lord Cobian and Nan kept arguing. She wanted to stay at his side.

"You can't go to Ostagar. What help do you think you would be there? Please Nan. Go to Anora."

Nan sighed heavily. "Alright. I'll go. But you make sure you return to us safe and sound, alright?"

"I'll do my best."

"I'll take these two and the other girl with me. We can act as a group of poor travellers." Nan grumbled and Faren offered a weak smile when Iona threw him a nervous look. "We'll head straight for Denerim."

"Thank you Nan."

Faren turned away from the pair, leaving them to their goodbyes. He went to Narascha and Torph instead, the pair bickering light-heartedly with one another still. He had no idea how they managed to keep it up.

"So, the silent guy is with then eh?" Torph asked.

"Yeah. The silent thing is new so please be nice?" Faren said as he sat down on the rock, his legs heavy from the run from the castle.

"May I ask what happened?" Nara inquired, looking over the exhausted warrior curiously.

"His uncle betrayed and murdered his family, only he got out in time. The rest of his family are gone." Faren offered quietly. "One of Howe's assassins slashed open his throat but Lawrien isn't good at healing, so she burned the wound closed while trying to use what little abilities she had to keep him alive."

"Well, shit." Torph cursed, looking stunned.

Narascha flinched. "By the Ancestors..."

Ciara approached them with smooth steps, her hands still rested on her daggers but they were sheathed on her belt. "It's time to get moving. Cobian's said his farewells."

"What about Epona?" Narascha frowned.

Faren glanced around, trying to spot the long fiery red hair he was growing used to seeing but couldn't spot it nearby. Ciara pointed behind them however, looking amused as Faren decided to look behind him.

The Dalish elf was resting on the top of the cave, already geared up and ready to leave. She glanced down at them, looking as cold as ever as she easily leapt off the top of the cave and landed gracefully on her feet.

"I'm here." Epona marched past them, heading straight for Duncan's side. Duncan was remaining close to Cobian's side, keeping him on his feet as they headed off, the opposite way from where the elderly lady went.

Faren could see the distress on the young Lord's face before he took in a deep breath. Faren nearly gaped at how Cobian's face smoothed out, leaving him looking much calmer and almost regal.

Chapter Text

Torph's legs were aching. He and Narascha lingered at the back of the group, slowly trudging along, trying in vein to keep up with the tall folk as they continued on to Ostagar. He groaned loudly, nearly grinning at the few glares he got in return, mainly from the Dalish girl. She was so far up her own arse it was hilarious. The city elf was the complete opposite, shy and anxious most of the time, the poor kid was, especially after the whole thing with that noble bastard.

Nobles. They always thought they were big things that could do whatever they wanted. He was just waiting for Narascha or Cobian to do something stupid so that they could fit in with their class but nothing yet. They were the honourable kind apparently.

"Tired duster?" Narascha smirked at him and he chortled.

He could see how haggard she looked. Must be rough in all that crappy armour too. Duncan had tried to get her better equipment but so far the topside didn't have much for dwarven warriors, especially not for females. Duncan had been hoping to get something crafted for her at Wade's Emporium but they hadn't been in Denerim long enough to wait for it. Torph had been lucky his had been purchased in Orzammar, no matter how much the armourer hated crafting it for him.

Nobody said no to the Grey Warden-Commander though.

"Duh. You look just as bad as I feel Princess." Torph smirked.

Nara snorted. "Ass."

"Jeez, that's some horrible language Nara. Didn't think you'd fall to my likes so quickly."

"It's Narascha."

"Nara's easier to say."

"So you put the thought and effort into giving me a nickname despite how lazy you are in the first place?" The Princess arched a brow, disbelief written all over her face.

He grinned. "Put the effort in now and make everything else easier in the long run."

"That's fair enough. Still don't like the nickname though." Nara scowled.

"How sad. Too bad."

"I can't believe you two only met recently!" Faren remarked, a cheeky grin on his face as he walked backwards. "You sound like an old married couple!"

"Watch it kid, I like the growing cheekiness but I can still punch you." Nara warned, scowling up at the elf who instantly flushed while Torph cackled.

.::.

It was starting to get dark so they were now setting up camp. Epona decided to go out and see if there was anything to hunt, hoping to bring forward some food, she also wanted to enjoy some peace and quiet to herself. The forest was good for that, all she could hear was the wind rustling the trees and she couldn't help but close her eyes for a moment and enjoy it.

Of course the peace was disturbed by a familiar pair of voices. Not the children of the stone's bickering thankfully but by the two junior Grey Wardens. They were walking past her, not too far away, hidden by all the foliage.

"It was horrible Ciara! I woke up to all that fear and terror and that little boy's and his mother's and then she just broke. She broke when he died and he was so young and confused and wasn't sure what was going on. He thought his mother was going to make everything all better when he went." Lawrien cried hysterically. "I don't get it! How can someone do that?!"

"Monsters do that." Ciara replied grimly and Epona finally spotted them, she could see the shemlen child's head buried into Ciara's shoulder, her whole body shaking while the brunette held her, her face twisted with pain.

"Duncan was furious! The moment he realised what was happening, the moment those guards rushed through our door he was slaughtering them! And they deserved it too!" Lawrien spat. "They murdered the guest across the room, the nice, laughing lady who kept trying to flirt with Cobian at dinner and she was shocked and horrified and worried about her friend the Teyrna as she went."

Lawrien pulled away, shaking her head. "And she died too! Her and her husband! It's only Cobian left and some servants and he's so scared Ciara! He can't talk and he's so exhausted and scared and weak-"

Ciara grabbed her shoulders firmly. "Lawrien. Breathe."

"I-I-I can't- I can't I can't I can't I can't!" Lawrien sobbed, burying her face into her hands. "It won't leave! My head feels so full and heavy but everyone is so tired tonight and Duncan's upset and Cobian is devastated and Faren's still mourning and I don't know what I'm feeling!"

Epona quickly slipped away, realising all too slowly that this was a private affair. That she had lingered too long. After she snuck away she realised that the shemlen child was perhaps not a child at all, perhaps in looks but in feelings she was probably older and overwhelmed.

She had made her empathy sound like a gift but Lawrien must have came across scenes like castle Cousland before as a Grey Warden. The darkspawn were cruel and nasty creatures after all.

.::.

Cobian stared out into the forest, feeling rather useless as Epona, the Dalish elf, and oddly enough Torph argued about how to cook the catch. Duncan thankfully had taken over while the pair hissed at one another, the dwarven lady, Narascha kept escalating the argument by adding in her own comments, a shit-eating grin on her face which was shared with her fellow dwarf.

Calenhad shifted against him, grumbling at the lack of pets so with a weak smile Cobian scratched his ear again. He still felt exhausted, the blood loss kept him weak and woozy but Duncan kept him on his feet and had him drink plenty of water.

The loneliness he was feeling was much worse anyway. He wanted his parents so badly, his mother to sooth him, to tell him everything was alright and his father to reassure him that everything would get better with hard work. Uncle Loghain would have had him working like crazy on drills to keep his mind off things and if Uncle Maric had still been here he would have kidnapped Cobian and dragged him on to some kind of fun adventure until Uncle Loghain marched in to strangle him and drag him back to the palace.

Cobian smiled thinly at the thought before burying his face into his hands, trying to suppress a violent sob that threatened to escape him. It never should have happened. His father had trusted Howe with his life, with their lives. If anything had happened to his parents when Cobian had been younger then Cobian was supposed to be left in Howe's care.

They had trusted him that much and in return he back stabbed them.

Calenhad whimpered at his side as Cobian seethed. He clenched his fists tightly and took in a deep breath, struggling to compose himself. He didn't know any of the people around him, they were complete strangers. Now definitely wasn't the time to break down crying.

He had to get to Ostagar. To Fergus and Cailan and Uncle Loghain. Tell them what happened, beg Cailan to help if he had to. They wouldn't betray him. Uncle Loghain wouldn't do that. He wouldn't.

He had to be strong.

"You're scratching your neck." A voice pointed out quietly.

He looked up, seeing the young elven boy, Faren, holding two bowls of stew and staring down at him with worried eyes. Cobian yanked his hand away from his neck, realising what Faren had meant, there was bits of dead skin under his nails and Cobian winced at the sight.

He gratefully accepted the bowl from Faren and was even more thankful when he saw that his stew was more akin to a soup. Cobian wasn't sure if his throat could handle food going down it, drinking water sometimes made it ache already.

"How are you holding up my Lord?" Faren asked softly.

Cobian automatically opened his mouth to speak before grimacing and stabbing his stick into the ground, a little more violently than necessary. "I will be alright. Thank you." Cobian then frowned. "You do not need to call me 'my Lord' either. I am Cobian."

Faren winced. "I'll try get used to that my Lor- Cobian..." He smiled weakly before glancing down at Calenhad with a bit of excitement in his eyes. "So, he's a mabari."

Cobian smiled at that and nodded, running his hand over Calenhad's fur once more who barked happily, nuzzling in.

"Yes. He's been at my side for a very long time." Cobian offered.

"I heard mabari are very smart." Faren said. "Can he really understand everything we say?"

"He's certainly very clever. He always manipulates everyone into doing his bidding." Cobian chuckled, though it wasn't smooth like it usually was, it was a harsh almost strangled sound and it made him wince.

Faren surprisingly didn't react to it and Cobian had to admit that he was relieved. This was hard enough without people staring at him. He didn't realise he was scratching at his neck again until Faren pointed it out once more with a wince. It turned into an awkward quiet after that before Faren perked up.

"Wait. I might have something that will help!" Faren beamed and went back over to his pack, leaving his bowl of stew behind. Calenhad sniffed at it curiously and Cobian had to yank him back by his collar before he started to eat it, earning whines and a squirm.

Faren came back holding a long, red scarf which made Cobian frown, curious. He already had that very long scarf around his neck, it hung all the way down to his belt. "I hope this helps. You can wrap this around your neck and hopefully when you touch it you'll remember not to scratch your wound."

Cobian smiled at the enthusiasm before pointing at Faren's bowl then gesturing to Calenhad who was greedily trying to lick the bowl with his tongue, even though Cobian had him held back by his collar.

"You might want to eat your food before Calenhad does." He wrote.

Faren nodded, passing him the scarf and began to eat, tossing some scraps of meat towards Calenhad who happily gobbled them up. Cobian sat down his soup and began to wrap the scarf around his neck, feeling the fabric brush against his neck.

"Why do you have two scarves?" Cobian couldn't help but ask, earning a shy smile.

"The one I'm wearing right now isn't very thick. I had a spare just in case it got colder as we travelled." Faren offered, he seemed to be going to speak again but footsteps began to approach them, Duncan nodding at them both.

"I wanted to check up on you both." Duncan said, glancing down at Cobian's untouched bowl of soup. Cobian winced and picked the discarded bowl up again, trying to eat. His stomach churned though and he felt queasy, his throat burning in protest. "Don't rush yourself Cobian. You're still recovering from your wound."

"Is there any way to heal his wound properly?" Faren asked softly, fidgeting with his spoon.

"There will be mages at Ostagar. I'm hoping to find a Spirit-Healer, although they are rare to find." Duncan admitted. "If we're lucky Myra Amell was sent to Ostagar, despite her age her healing abilities are on par with the Senior Enchanter who taught her from what I've been told, perhaps even better."

"Myra Amell?"

"She is Lawrien and Ciara's little sister."

"I thought family didn't get to stick together in the Circles. Aren't they all kept separate? There was a family in my alienage whose daughter was taken years ago and they never get to see her." Faren frowned.

"Ciara isn't blood related to them both." Duncan revealed. "From what Lawrien has told me her little sister was very powerful even when her magical abilities first emerged, this came with her empathic abilities. Trying to separate Myra from her family put a great stress on her and she sensed it was doing the same to her family and her magic became too wild and nearly destroyed the city's area she had been in. It was only Lawrien who managed to calm her down. The Knight-Commander and First-Enchanter both agreed to keep them together to ease Myra in case she lost control again."

"It must have been scary." Faren muttered.

"Even worse when the Templars couldn't subdue her." Duncan remarked.

Cobian choked at that as did Faren. His throat burned in agony at the motion but he ignored it in favour of staring in horror at Duncan.

"Kirkwall's veil between our world and the Fade is much weaker than most places. It must have heightened her magical abilities." Duncan offered lightly.

Faren swallowed down the rest of his food before he whipped his mouth. "So is Lawrien just as strong as her?"

"Lawrien swears her little sister is more powerful than her but I'm not sure. Lawrien's magic has been proven against the darkspawn more times than I could even remember anymore throughout the year." Duncan mused. "She is strong and she hates the darkspawn."

"She hates them?" Cobian asked, surprised. She shouldn't have a personal history with them if she had been raised in a Circle.

"Her empathic abilities. She can only feel the corruption from them." Duncan revealed. "There is no emotion in them from what she has told me. Only the urge to destroy and corrupt the world."

Cobian tried to digest what he had just been told but before he could he heard Narascha cry in in horror, staring right at Torph who was fiddling with something.

"You are not tinkering with one of your bombs so close to camp are you?!" Narascha gaped.

"Why not?"

"Are you trying to explode us?!"

"Maybe just me and you."

"It's 'you and I' dammit!"

Torph scowled. "What's wrong with me and you?"

Duncan sighed at the bickering began anew, running a hand down his face in clear exhaustion. Faren tried to smother a laugh at the look with his hand but it leaked through while Cobian watched in amusement as Duncan, clearly reluctant, started to head towards the pair.

"I think they're going to drive him insane." Cobian mused.

"Probably before we even get to Ostagar." Faren grinned.

Lawrien rushed out of the forest, laughing as she threw herself down to sit by Torph's side who continued to argue with Narascha. The pair were both amused though, Cobian could see it in their eyes as Duncan grew more and more exasperated. It was Ciara that had Cobian more curious though, she was leaning against a tree barely in sight, her head covered by a hood. He could see the deep frown on her face and swore that Ciara was staring right at Lawrien. He didn't see Epona staring at Lawrien either with a puzzled look upon her face.

.::.

Narascha twitched when she heard something splatter against her tent. It was getting dark now, and they were all trying to settle for some sleep. Duncan had said he would take the first watch, sitting up straight against the boulder he had perched himself against.

"WHY IS THERE WATER FALLING FROM THE BIG BLUE THING ABOVE US?!" Torph's screaming startled Narascha into climbing out of her tent, only to be attack by the same water the duster was screaming about.

Narascha scrambled back inside her tent with a strangled yelp. Hastily she looked over herself, searching for the damage. There was nothing though. It appeared to be ordinary water. Water wasn't supposed to fall from the sky though was it? The surface world was so strange.

"Torph it's just rain!" Duncan called out, already heading for the dark haired dwarf who was cowering under a tree.

"What the heck is 'rain'?!"

"It won't hurt you, I promise-"

She ignored the pair, climbing out of her tent instead. The giant hole the surfacer dwellers called the 'sky' was all dark and grey looking now, with plenty of clouds. The droplets of water fell from the sky and splashed against her, bouncing off her shoddy armour and running down her hair. She chuckled. It felt like a shower from the fountains in Orzammar.

"Is this how surface dwellers take showers?" She asked, just as Epona jumped down from her tree, looking just as soaked as she felt.

"I usually use a lake, most shemlens use baths."

"But there's so much water!" Narascha couldn't help but add.

"Yes but not all water is clean." Ciara added as she approached from her and Lawrien's tent. "Lawrien is usually helpful for showers though."

"How?"

"She uses a mixture of her fire and ice magic to create a fountain whenever we go to clean up." Ciara offered. "The boys usually just jump in the lake if we're travelling."

"So the sky leaks water? How strange." Narascha remarked, smiling at the strange void above them. "I wonder what else this world has to offer."

"There is always something to see." Ciara smirked just as Torph approached, hiding beneath Duncan's cloak now. "You don't look too happy Torph."

"I'm not. This 'rain' thing sucks. My beard's soaked!" Torph complained as Lawrien ran around behind them, laughing and playing.

Narascha couldn't help but smirk. "Huh, and here I thought it was a good look for you."

"Yeah well the 'soaked look' looks fine on ya too princess." Torph sniggered, tugging Duncan's cloak firmly to ensure he was completely covered. "Wanna come hide under here? Plenty of room."

"The Commander is much taller than you." Epona noted, before she headed back over to her claimed tree and climbed back up it.

Narascha only hummed. "I think I like this rain. It feels nice, so no, thank you though Torph."

"Yeah, no problem." Torph grunted, though he did stay next to her while she relaxed and just let the rain wash over her.

So far, she was enjoying the surface world.

.::.

"This place is huge." Narascha couldn't help but stare at the ruins of Ostagar, stunned at the sight.

"And old." Epona murmured to herself, fascination alight in her eyes. "I wonder what secrets are here."

Narascha tilted her head at that. "You think there might be something hidden here?"

She was stunned at the small smirk that formed on the usually irritated elf's face. "In my experience, there always are."

"Ho there Duncan!" Narascha flinched, vaguely recognising the voice as she looked over to see a group of armoured men approaching.

She instantly recognised the golden armour and blonde hair, though the face of the King of Ferelden looked older now, compared to when he was a teen visiting their halls back in Orzammar.

"King Cailan!" Duncan seemed startled, clumsily shaking the King's already outstretched hand as the guards in silver stopped just behind their King. "I wasn't expecting-"

"A royal welcome? I was beginning to wonder if you would miss all the fun!" Cailan smiled, his grin so positive and cheery.

Completely different from her father's usually grim expression.

"Fun?" Epona repeated, scowling. "Great, the human King is a moron."

Ciara coughed politely from behind. "Epona? Manners please."

"Fine." Epona crossed her arms, growling lowly and muttering in elvish under her breath.

Narascha highly suspected that it was curse words and by Ciara's amused smirk the rogue probably thought it was the same too.

"So, are these the new recruits?" Cailan asked, beaming at them before his eyes met hers, he looked immediately puzzled. "Pardon me but you seem rather familiar my lady..."

Torph snorted somewhere behind her, making her nearly scowl, but she managed to keep it suppressed and settled for a small smile.

"It's quite a story your Majesty." Duncan answered for her, thankfully.

There was no point for her new comrades to know about her history. It would just stir up too much trouble and Narascha was enjoying the newfound freedom being a Grey Warden brought her.

"One I shall be love to hear if you would allow it my lady." Cailan grinned, but he then eyed Cobian, clearly bemused. "And what might you be doing here little brother? I thought you were supposed to stay in Highever? Where it is safe?"

Cobian flinched and Narascha saw the happy confidence fade from Cailan immediately. He was instantly concerned, especially when Cobian only offered a very weak smile and a shrug.

Cailan sounded amused but he didn't look it. "You don't know why you're here? I'm sure Fergus and Loghain will both be impressed with that."

Cobian grimaced, opening his mouth before shutting it, looking almost desperately at the blonde. Cailan's amusement faded completely at that and he quickly laid a hand on Cobian's shoulder, another on the back of his neck, earning a flinch. Cailan pulled his hand away but Cobian latched on to the one on his shoulder.

"What happened?" Cailan's eyes were on Duncan's immediately before they moved to Cobian. "Cobian please. Why aren't you speaking to me?"

"My King... I am so sorry..." Duncan tried to explain but Cobian merely tugged down the scarf Ciara had given him some time ago, revealing the burn marks and a long, jagged scar, making the blonde pale instantly.

"Who did this to you?!" Cailan spat, instantly cradling Cobian's face with his hands, searching his neck properly. "I'll have their heads on a spike! I swear by the Maker!"

The human King looked so concerned and upset. It was completely different from the last expression Narascha saw her brothers give her. Bhelen had been cold but Trian's had just been full of anger as usual before he was murdered. She was still unsure if the regret she had seen in Bhelen's eyes had been there or if she had been making it up for her own sanity.

"Arl Howe attacked the Cousland family while their army was away. We barely got out alive. If we hadn't, he would have killed us and told you any story he would have liked." Duncan explained tiredly, gazing at Cobian's neck sadly. "I couldn't protect their youngest son either..."

Cobian tapped his shoulder, shaking his head and opening his mouth before frowning in frustration.

"Don't try to speak. You might hurt yourself." Ciara scolded.

"I'm sorry." Lawrien stepped forward, her face strained. She bowed her head, apologetic. "I barely know any healing spells. I really could only burn his wound shut. I'm sorry you have to see him like this, especially at such a stressful time."

Most people would waver, speaking to their ruler but Lawrien didn't even hesitate. Narascha couldn't help but smirk at that, proud. Although she didn't agree with the apology, Lawrien managed to save the young Lord's life after all She did better than most.

Cobian tapped her shoulder and Lawrien gave him a confused look when he paused, hesitant. Torph was the one to remind him to use the ground. Cobian pressed his already mucky stick back into the dirt, looking almost annoyed.

Narascha peaked at it unlike Torph who yawned into his palm and began to pick at his ear.

"You saved my life. You owe no one an apology Lawrien. If you hadn't done that I would have bled out and died. I'm still recovering from what blood I lost after weeks of travel." Cobian reminded them.

He still was pale and there were shadows under his eyes from lack of sleep but he seemed to be returning to his normal colour thankfully. Duncan had been insistent on having Cobian drink plenty of water to recover from the blood loss.

"He is right. Thank you for saving my little brother's life. I will be forever grateful." Cailan agreed, though soon eyed Cobian thoughtfully. "I have my papers with me Cobian. It might be better if you had them to write on instead."

"We were hoping to maybe find a healer while we were here." Duncan admitted.

"That is a marvellous idea! Of course! Perhaps they can help you recover!" Cailan beamed, grasping Cobian's shoulder who instantly relaxed. "And Cobian I swear to you, once this threat is dealt with, I will turn my army around and we will march straight into Highever and put Howe's head on a spike!"

She was happy for him, but she also felt jealous. He had a 'brother' figure that loved him, while neither one of hers had given a damn what happened to her.

.::.

Ciara led the way to the Circle's camp, Lawrien and Cobian at her side. Ciara was hoping that it was Wynne who was around, even if Myra might have become a better healer. She did not want her little sister anywhere near the battlefield. Anders wouldn't be joining them, not while he was once again in solitude, confined deep below the Circle where they had broken Jowan's phylactery.

Ciara's fist clenched at the memory. Her own brother had been a blood mage. He had lied and used them and abandoned them-

She cut the thoughts off with a quick dismissal. Jowan was long gone and there was no point in dwelling on him. Instead she focused on finding Wynne, hoping that she could heal Lord Cousland's throat. Lawrien waved cheerfully at all the mages she recognised in the camp while Ciara nodded respectfully at her former Templar colleagues. It wasn't long before they found Wynne resting beneath a tree, looking rather content.

"Wynne! Hi!" Lawrien instantly screamed, racing to her side and dragging her into an embrace. Wynne thankfully her braced herself the moment she saw Lawrien and didn't go flying off her feet.

"Hello Lawrien." Wynne laughed, patting her head. "As enthusiastic as ever aren't you? While I enjoy the enthusiasm my poor body can't take you lunging at me like that."

"Sorry." Lawrien grinned, not sounding sorry at all.

"I must admit my surprise Senior Enchanter. I didn't think to find you on the battlefield." Ciara admitted as she strolled over.

"I wished to help in defending the people from monsters." Wynne offered.

"Well since you're feeling helpful I'm hoping you can assist our friend here." Ciara smiled pleasantly, nodding towards Cobian who slowly approached, looking unsure.

"Oh? What appears to be the problem young man?" Wynne smiled kindly, already unlatching herself from Lawrien's embrace.

Cobian eyed the ground before eyeing her, so Ciara assumed that he wished her to speak instead of wasting time.

"He received a recent injury that Lawrien was forced to burn shut." Ciara told her, watching the dark haired man tug off his scarf carefully, revealing the scar and burn marks sealing it closed. "We were hoping you could heal him? Maybe bring his voice back?"

Wynne carefully ran her fingertips over the burn, frowning softly as her magic sparked, gently seeping into the wound. Ciara felt it flutter though and die away, only a piece lingering, soothing the noble who seemed to relax a little bit more.

"Lawrien, what did you do?" Wynne frowned, glancing down at the blonde who shifted.

"I burnt it. Like I do whenever I can't heal my wounds." Lawrien mumbled, looking uncomfortable. "I manage to do a bit of healing, but I'm not really good at it."

"Yeah, she's still terrible at it." Ciara shrugged.

Wynne sighed softly. "I'm sorry young man, but I'm afraid I cannot do anything for your voice."

Cobian made a strange, distressed, strangled noise, his eyes widening in horror while Ciara fought against the urge to flinch. To suddenly lose the ability to speak must have been frightening, especially when she knew that most nobles used their words as a weapon, to convince people to do what they wanted. She knew how valuable words were and it would hurt to have that ability yanked away so suddenly.

He looked away and she heard a deep breath being taken before the darker haired man finally turned back, his face carefully blank as he nodded to Wynne.

"I can ease any pain you are in but that is the only good news."

"But Wynne, you're an amazing healer!" Lawrien pleaded, looking desperate.

"Your magic is lingering and if I force my magic into yours who knows what damage that could do? The way you have tried to develop your healing abilities is far different than from how I developed mine. I'm not sure if it is because how freely you use your magic or not but unfortunately I cannot fix his voice."

She paused when Cobian knelt down, writing in the mud. "Thank you for taking the time to look over me my lady."

Ciara raised an eyebrow. "You know Cobian I doubt you need to add the comas and full stops whenever you write now. We would understand."

"I prefer to write this way."

She shrugged at that, figuring she couldn't argue with that. "Suit yourself."

Wynne did manage to ease any pain he was in thankfully, so at least they got something done with that whole trip. Cobian unfortunately looked terrible still as they walked back to the Grey Wardens camp, close by the King's and Teyrn Loghain's.

"I heard that you had gotten into trouble young man." A voice called out. "I thought you were meant to be the careful Cousland."

Ciara watched as Cobian froze, his eyes drawing towards an older man wearing fancy silver armour with a stern look in his eyes, although they seemed to soften a bit at the sight of Cobian oddly enough. Cobian smiled, looking so relieved while Ciara finally recalled the armour and the warrior before them.

"Teyrn Loghain." Ciara murmured as Cobian made his way over to his uncle's side hesitantly.

"I heard what happened to you. I'm sorry Cobian." Loghain apologised, his hand on the Cousland's shoulder who slumped a little bit.

She looked away, wanting to offer the pair some space when she caught Lawrien staring at Loghain, a strange expression on her face.

"Lawrien?" She called, nudging the blonde.

Instantly the blonde was smiling brightly at her, laughing softly. "It will all work out fine."

"Huh?" Was Ciara's intelligent reply.

"He's a good man." Lawrien acknowledged, nodding thoughtfully to herself. "I like him, though he does have a lot of things to heal from."

"Teyrn Loghain?"

The blonde nodded, enthusiastic. "Yep."

"Is this an empathy thing? Or is it more like an animal's instinct?" Ciara laughed softly.

Lawrien simply smiled back and grabbed her hands, eyes bright. "Let's go Ciara."

"And leave Cobian behind?"

"Teyrn Loghain can keep an eye on him." Lawrien grinned.

"Thanks for volunteering me young lady." The Teyrn mused, while he looked grumpy though there was a small, teasing glint in his eyes. Lawrien laughed and rubbed the back of her head.

"He's your nephew. You love him but you don't know wherever or not to be calmer that he is here since he's so close to the battlefield." Lawrien mused, before simply tugging Ciara away, not even bothering to wait for a reply.

Loghain watched as they left, looking deep in thought much to Ciara's concern. They weren't meant to be antagonising the nobility so hopefully he took no offence to Lawrien's honesty. Most people were baffled by it so hopefully he was one of those types.

.::.

"A friend of yours?" Uncle Loghain asked dryly, raising a brow.

Cobian smiled and nodded, bending down to write once more into the dirt. "Her name is Lawrien Amell. She saved my life."

He would probably have to find another stick soon. His was caked in muck and would probably break soon.

"I take it she's new as well then?" Uncle Loghain mused.

"No. She's a Junior member of their Order." Cobian confirmed.

"I'm surprised. She looks young." Uncle Loghain murmured, he didn't seem put off at all by reading off the ground. He probably had no idea how much that relieved Cobian.

He was glad Cailan went and spoke to Uncle Loghain first. Hopefully he had done the same for Fergus, wherever he was right now. It was exhausting having to explain everything to his loved ones but it wasn't even the beginning. Cailan and Uncle Loghain had probably guessed that Oriana and Oren were dead but it was Cobian who had to break the news to Fergus.

He wasn't sure what would happen. Cobian would accept any blame Fergus placed with him however, he should have protected the heir to the Cousland line but Oren died in front of his mother. Cobian winced at the thought, the memory of Lawrien so upset and angry, burning Howe's men alive.

"Cobian. Take a deep breath." Uncle Loghain suddenly instructed and Cobian obeyed, knowing his Uncle was only seeking to help. It took a moment but Cobian's thoughts slowly began to clear. "That's it. Regain yourself." Uncle Loghain urged, his hand settling on the back of his head but Cobian flinched.

Uncle Loghain quickly withdrew it and settled it on his shoulder instead while Cobian threw him an apologetic look. Uncle Loghain held up his free hand though, shaking his head. "Don't look at me like that. I should have known better."

"I don't know what to do."

"I doubt most of us do Cobian. All we can do is try." Uncle Loghain said, his gaze somewhere a bit more distant.

Cobian nudged his arm, drawing him from his thoughts, or more like memories. "I missed you."

"Aye, it's been quite a while since we saw each other last." Uncle Loghain replied gruffly, he was never really one for emotional greetings or goodbyes. "This mess at Ostagar has kept us busy and even before that I was forced to keep an eye on Cailan. He's reckless."

"That's his personality when he's our King. A bubbly, happy man."

"The idiot wants to fight with us in the battle tonight."

Cobian only tilted his head, frowning.

"Yes, I know. It's a foolish notion."

Cobian smirked. "You look as though you are contemplating knocking him out and stuffing him in a wagon back to Denerim."

Uncle Loghain snorted at that. "I have half a mind to, yes."

"Unfortunately you cannot. Uncle? Cailan didn't say anything but is my brother here? I wanted to see if my throat could be healed first before I told him the situation but it cannot be."

"So you visited the healer?" Uncle Loghain sighed, massaging his forehead as he winced. "Fergus went into the wilds to scout for us. I doubt he will be back until tonight to give us a report."

"Why was he scouting?"

"Cailan wanted someone he trusted to help out in that area. It seemed like a good idea, unfortunately this was before we learned happened at Highever."

"I'm not sure if that is good news or bad. I don't want to have to tell him but I know it is my burden. Oren and Oriana are dead too. Howe took no prisoners." Cobian admitted reluctantly. "Some servants got away but he killed my family and most of our guests."

Uncle Loghain sighed. "It is not your burden alone Cobian. Don't put all that pressure on your shoulders."

A bark distracted him and both of them watched as Calenhad wandered over, panting softly. He laid down at their feet and rolled over, offering his stomach which Uncle Loghain snorted out.

"A fierce warrior indeed." Uncle Loghain remarked dryly but he reached down and rubbed Calenhad's belly anyway. Cobian couldn't help but smile at the sight, Calenhad's tail wagging away happily.

"Cobian, I can take you into my personal guard instead of you being forced into the Grey Wardens-" Loghain tried but Cobian shook his head.

"It is my duty. Mother and father both agreed."

Uncle Loghain only sighed. "You Couslands and your 'duty'. It drives the rest of us up the wall. Maric was always worried about you lot."

"You seem to be of the same mind."

"As is Cailan. He used to kidnap Fergus whenever he thought your family's dedication to 'duty' was getting too out of hand before Fergus married that Antivan girl." Uncle Loghain smirked, amused before he shook his hand. "But you're a grown man now, I doubt you need me to nag you into taking care of yourself."

His Uncle paused thoughtfully though before looking down at Calenhad whose tongue was sticking out as he happily panted. "You'll keep an eye on him, won't you boy?"

Calenhad licked his palm in reply while Cobian debated how bad he must be at taking care of himself if his Uncle asked Calenhad to keep an eye on him instead.

Chapter Text

"I wonder if we can pick pocket Duncan." Torph drawled, staring at Duncan who was resting at the campfire, staring into the flames with a thoughtful look. "He's distracted."

"It's trying ta out run him that's the problem." Daveth, a fellow thief, and apparently a good friend of Faren's, smirked. "The old man's fast."

The two had ran at each other the moment they saw one another. The elf tackling Daveth into the dirt and crying out happily after the human had been turned down by a woman. It had been rather amusing for Torph to watch a full grown human getting tackled.

"I can't believe you tried to rob a Grey Warden." Faren scowled. "I've been looking for you for weeks, nobody knew were you went to."

"Not even Slim?"

"Slim ain't been at the main market. He's been doing some deep work from what I've been told. Can't disturb him at all right now." Faren shrugged, the Thieves Guildmaster had sent Slim off to secure some information for him. Something about valuable ashes. "But yeah, got worried when the girls said you weren't at the Pearl and even more so when Kylon said you weren't in jail."

"My two usual hangouts." Daveth grinned.

"Okay, whose gonna do it?" Torph cut in, raising a brow. They had to do it now, while the boss was distracted.

"Rob Duncan? Oh I can't wait to see this." Nara laughed as she approached, she was wearing slightly better armour but it still wasn't a set that properly fitted her. He could see her neck getting rubbed red by the collar of the suit and winced in sympathy.

Torph finally decided to take the fall, before he showed any of those feelings. He was the sarcastic jerk and they enjoyed their banter. He didn't want to mess that fun up. "Alright. I'll try it out."

"You will?" Faren gaped.

Torph jumped to his feet and smirked. "You might be a better thief than me elf but I've been doing it for years longer than you have."

Daveth grinned. "Make sure you run fast. Duncan's quick on his feet."

"I just need to make sure he doesn't notice me robbing him."

.::.

Narascha watched as Torph strolled off, not going directly towards Duncan but circling him instead so he was at his back. Narascha glanced down at the pair of thieves sitting on the grass at her side and smirked.

"Want to place a bet? Two silvers Duncan realises what Torph's up to before he even gets a hand in his pocket." Narascha offered.

"I bet two that he robs him but doesn't get away in time." Daveth laughed.

Faren hesitated. "I'll try to have faith then in him. But Duncan probably already knows he's coming."

"So you're going to pretend to have faith in Torph?"

"I said I'll try to have faith in him. Try." Faren insisted, grimacing.

Narascha snorted, amused at that as she ruffled the kid's hair, earning a squawk. They spotted Torph sneaking up on the Commander's back, carefully slipping his hand into his pouch, trying to draw out some coin without disturbing Duncan who smirked.

Faren squeaked when he saw the smirk.

They saw Duncan open his mouth and speak, not even looking back at Torph who choked and withdrew his hand without anything in it. Then Duncan pointed Torph to his side who groaned and sat down by the fire. Duncan then turned to face them and gestured them over too. Narascha shrugged and walked over, surprised at how amused Duncan looked.

"So, who won the bet?" Duncan asked.

"She did." Daveth jerked his head down at her, handing her over the two silver. Faren joined in too.

"I had a feeling you would know what Torph was up to before he even slipped a hand in your pocket." Narascha shrugged.

"If it had been Faren he might have gotten away with it." Duncan mused, eyeing Faren thoughtfully. "Though I doubt you would attempt to steal from me due to your nerves, even if it was just for some fun."

Faren smiled weakly at that and lightly shrugged his shoulders. Torph nudged his arm, grinning at him. "Next time kid we'll get the boss down. You'll go for the gold and then we'll run for it."

"Live like Kings eh?" Faren grinned.

"I don't think I have enough for that." Duncan mused but then he straightened up when Ser Jory appeared, Epona storming off ahead of him. "Epona? Everything alright?"

"One of those Chantry witches!" Epona spat, crossing her arms and standing, all stiff and angry, at his side. "I barely held myself back from punching her teeth out!"

"You shouldn't have argued with her my lady." Ser Jory winced.

"She called me a heathen!"

"I know you feel insulted Epona." Duncan began. "But I'm glad you acted the better and took no action against her. Your actions will give the Grey Wardens a good or bad reputation depending on what you say and do. That goes for anyone."

Epona perked up a little at that compliment but Narascha wouldn't have minded if she punched a preachy priest in the face to be honest. She had already ran into a couple herself before she discovered Torph and Faren and the other thief with them.

"I don't understand why the Wardens seem to be held in low regard in Ferelden." Narascha admitted and she could feel her face turning into a scowl. "You're heroes. Your protect these fools from the darkspawn. Without any of you those monsters would have torn the world apart by now."

"Due to the amount of darkspawn that died during the Fourth Blight people seem to believe that the darkspawn have depleted and that there will be no more Blights." Duncan sighed. "There was also an incident where a Warden-Commander tried to seize the throne of Ferelden and due to her actions our Order was thrown out."

"It's like the Archdemon knew to attack here." Narascha grimaced. "Ferelden obviously has the lowest amount of Grey Wardens due to that incident."

"You seem to be deep in discussion!" Ciara smiled as she approached, Lawrien and a sandy blonde haired male human followed behind her, the blondes pinching one another behind her.

"Ah, there you are Alistair. I take it you've finished sassing the mages?" Duncan tutted, looking unimpressed.

Lawrien laughed. "Oh that guy is always cranky! He never smiles!"

Ciara smiled. "He has always been rather angry, however you were both deliberately antagonising him."

"I-I'm sorry Duncan." Alistair winced. "The Revered Mother told me to deliver a message. The way she wields guilt she should be stuck into the army."

"It could work." Ciara noted, amused.

"Be that as it may, we cannot afford to antagonise anyone here, our position is weak enough as it is." Duncan warned. "It was only King Maric's generosity that allowed us back into Ferelden."

"Good thing too, with the Blight and everything." Alistair chuckled. "So, what now Duncan?"

"Now? You are going out to the Kocari Wilds with the new recruits." Duncan said. "You will need to gather vials of darkspawn blood, one for each of the recruits. Lawrien will be accompanying you."

Daveth cried out, face pale and sickly. "Holy shit! But that's where the witches are!"

"That's the home of Asha'bellanar!" Epona hissed, looking horrified. "We cannot disturb her!"

"What the heck's a Bellarar?" Torph blinked, baffled.

"And what am I to do Commander?" Ciara frowned.

"You will be assisting me. I need messages run to the others at camp." Duncan answered her first before glancing over the rest of them. "You need those blood vials and you need a chance to test yourselves against the darkspawn before tonight's battle."

"It's not the darkspawn I'm worried about." Epona winced and Daveth nodded with her, growing more and more alarmed which in turn, made Faren more and more nervous.

Narascha sighed. "If we run into trouble we'll fight through it."

"Not witches though! They can turn you into a toad!" Daveth cried.

Ciara sighed. "Shall I go retrieve Cobian?"

"Please do." Duncan nodded.

.::.

Torph had to admit, he was a bit worried now too. The boss had managed to ease Epona and Daveth but it made Torph worry how the angry elf of all people seemed nervous. He really didn't want to go into that forest now and from the tension in their group it seemed most of them didn't.

Except Lawrien apparently, the kid didn't seem the care. She looked more excited than anything. Though she grew puzzled when Cobian arrived with Ciara, the nobleman looking absolutely baffled at Alistair who looked almost terrified when Duncan introduced them.

"Do I know you ser?" Cobian wrote, his brow furrowed.

Alistair threw up his hands, panicked. "No! Definitely not! I was a former Templar!"

Ciara chortled. "Why are you panicking?"

The panic subsided a bit, replaced with sarcasm instead, though Torph could see the deep nervousness inside his eyes. "Maybe he's another sneaky mage. That's always worth a bit of panic."

Lawrien looked baffled. "But you're worried that he thinks you look like-"

It was Duncan who managed to silence Lawrien with a gesture, everyone else missed it except Torph and Ciara, Ciara who now looked curious. Torph had a feeling that she was the type of girl who liked to be in the know too and with both Duncan and Alistair hiding something it would only make her want to know more.

Torph sniggered at the thought, earning a weird look from Narascha before she peered at Alistair thoughtfully.

"I have to admit he does look vaguely familiar." Narascha shrugged. "But I don't know that many humans so I'm probably just getting muddled up."

"You probably want to head out before it gets dark." Duncan interrupted them as Alistair sweated. Torph wanted to laugh, the poor guy looked so horrified as the two nobles studied him thoughtfully.

"The forest will be difficult to navigate in darkness." Epona agreed, grimacing at the wilds. "We best hurry. I do not wish to run into Asha'bellanar."

.::.

They hadn't even gotten twenty minutes into the forest when Faren heard a blood curling scream. Everyone tensed as Lawrien took off running, letting out a battle cry as if she were a warrior. Instantly Alistair rushed after her with Lor- Cobian.

"Watch out for their blood!" Alistair yelled.

Faren however was too busy staring at the chaotic magic flaring about as the blonde mage raged. The darkspawn were being thrown about by what looked like symbols on the ground while fire exploded around them. Arrows flew past him as Daveth and Epona got firing and Narascha charged into the fray with a roar. She slaughtered the smaller darkspawn, not showing any mercy before locking blades with one of the taller ones.

Faren slipped in behind a darkspawn that tried to take Narascha from behind, stabbing it's back and slicing it's throat, amazed at how tough it's skin was. He could still cut through it but he had to concentrate on putting quite a bit of strength behind his attacks.

The battle was over rather quickly but it was Torph's hissed curse that made Faren look around before he shuddered, cold sweat slipping down his back. A whole patrol of soldiers lay before him, torn apart and bleeding all over the grass. There were slippery patches that made him want to vomit. Poor Ser Jory was dry heaving away from them while Daveth patted his back. Narascha however didn't seem much troubled, as if she was used to the carnage.

Her eyes were hard as she marched about, looking around before nodding, satisfied. "There are none waiting to ambush us."

"Not yet. The rest are further out." Alistair agreed.

Faren heard a whimper and spotted an injured soldier crawling their way, blood trailing along the ground behind him. Epona who was strangely wavering on her feet and far too pale for her tanned skin, stumbled to his side and dropped to her knees beside him.

"I've found a shemlen." Epona called out, her voice hoarse, her hand shook around her bow. Alistair rushed to her side, pulling out his medical pack as Faren helped him treat the man's wounds.

He was used to patching himself up too. Although he had never had as many wounds as the soldier now did.

"Who...Is that...?" The man croaked out weakly, still trying to push himself forward, even as Epona's hand stilled him, all while shaking away. "...Soldiers...? Grey Wardens...?"

"Well, he's not half as dead as he looks now is he?" Alistair drawled, trying to lighten up the tension.

Epona grunted. "Shemlens."

"What happened?" Faren couldn't help but ask.

"The darkspawn came out from the ground." Lawrien was approaching them, her eyes dark as Cobian followed, shaking his head wearily. "Ambushed them during their patrol. You can see the tunnels where they dug out of."

"There are... Tracks in the mud..." Epona noted, her body wavering.

"Quite the ambush." Nara frowned as she approached as they finished fixing him up, being as gentle as possible. "Was this a big patrol?"

"Please... Please help me..." The soldier slurred, sounding so weak and helpless. "...I...I'm scared... I-I need to report..."

"I believe it was." Alistair offered before eyeing Epona. "I suggest some of us go back, help get this guy back to the camp."

"...Don't give me... That look shem..."

"You're getting worse." Alistair frowned. "You should take the vials back to Duncan."

"I'll make sure her and the kid get back safely." Daveth volunteered, already helping the young soldier up as Epona shakily got to her feet.

"Heh, that scared of the forest?" Torph teased, looking far too amused.

Daveth grinned sheepishly. "Well I'm not planning to get turned into a toad by a witch."

"Sure, fine. I'll go with these three then, make sure no one collapses or finds a witch." Torph snorted.

Nara rolled her eyes. "You just want an excuse not to walk."

"Well I hate walking princess, too used to Orzammar's simple streets. Not these stupid hills."

"You stay safe, alright Faren?" Daveth said, eyeing him firmly.

Faren smiled weakly. "I'll be alright."

The four began to head off, Epona stubbornly refusing any help as Daveth mostly carried the soldier along who seemed too weak to walk on his own.

"I know that man..." Ser Jory mumbled out, looking much paler than he had been than when they had left. "He left with a squad of seasoned soldiers and they were all killed? By darkspawn?"

"Calm down Ser Jory." Alistair urged. "As long as we're careful we'll be fine."

"These men were careful and they were still slaughtered." Ser Jory shuddered.

Lawrien remained quiet, instead she was looking over the soldiers much to his surprise, her hands digging through their pockets. Faren faltered, she wasn't really... He saw her do it to the next corpse and gaped. Alistair seemed to notice too because he groaned.

"Again Lawrien?"

"What? They don't need their stuff."

"Stop looting people! Especially the darkspawn! You don't know what they've done to that stuff."

"I'm selling it."

The pair continued on but it was Narascha who drew Faren away from the bickering pair. Nara was trying to calm Ser Jory down who was growing paler and paler by the second.

"This is our test, to see if we can handle the Darkspawn." Nara scolded, her eyes narrowing. "You topsiders are lucky, this is pretty much an everyday occurrence for us in the Deep Roads."

"Are things that dire?" Ser Jory asked, paling further. Faren had no idea how he hadn't passed out by now.

"These beasts die like any man on a sword." Nara stated. "And I suppose by any mage's magic, Lawrien seemed to be rather effective at burning them."

"I think she was just angry." Alistair shrugged, having given up on trying to stop Lawrien. "She really doesn't like darkspawn. Never have found out why, they seem so nice."

"I'm no coward." Ser Jory swiftly interrupted, his expression tense. "But this is reckless and foolish, we should go back."

"I doubt we can go back and tell the Commander we were too scared to continue. He will not accept that from Grey Wardens." Lor- Cobian wrote down on his new sheet of paper, probably curtsey of King Cailan, frowning lightly.

"There's a whole army in these forests!"

"That's why Lawrien and I are here. We can sense the darkspawn and will continue to warn you whenever we get approached, or Lawrien will warn you when she sets something on fire. That's her kind of thing." Alistair reassured, his voice growing soft.

"See? We'll be fine." Narascha replied, gesturing deeper into the forest. "Can we go now?"

She headed off without another word, her axe tightly gripped in hand. Lawrien followed along after her, her satchel full.

.::.

The scrolls they had been looking for weren't there. Faren sighed at the wasted effort and looked around. He spotted Narascha lifting up broken down book shelves, dragging them aside and gazing through the rubble but it was Lawrien who caught his attention. She was staring deep out into the forest, looking almost nervous. Alistair went over to her side, frowning heavily.

"Lawrien?"

"There's something..." Lawrien hesitated before shaking her head. "No... Someone powerful out here..."

"Uh, is that the Asha woman Epona mentioned?" Faren asked softly.

Lord Cobian looked weary but he drew his sword in a flash once they heard a chuckle. It came from a beautiful smirking lady with dark haired who descended the leftover stairs. She strolled their way, oozing confidence while Faren paled.

She came out of nowhere. She was probably a witch like Daveth had said. Faren stumbled back and paused when Cobian strolled out in front of him, his eyes hard. Narascha stepped up to his side along with Lawrien who looked surprisingly weary too.

"That magic is lingering off of her." Lawrien muttered to them. "The power I feel..."

"Is she the one you mentioned?" Alistair asked quietly.

"No."

"My, what have we here? Are you vultures coming to rummage through corpses whose bones have long since been picked clean? Or are you merely intruders? Coming to these darkspawn filled wilds of mine in search of easy prey?" She asked, a coy smile on her lips as she simply walked through their gathered group, seemingly unbothered by the weapons aimed at her.

Faren couldn't help but wonder how she wasn't cold, he was cold. He was cold and wearing lots of leather while she only wore old, torn rags.

Narascha had her axe drawn, a hard look in her eyes. "Who are you?"

"I asked first. Scavengers or intruders?"

"No one answer her." Alistair murmured to them, his sword partially drawn, his eyes remained steadily on her. "She looks Chasind, and that means other's could be nearby."

"Chasind are bad I take it?" Nara asked.

"They never travel alone."

The woman chuckled. "Do you fear barbarians will swoop down upon you?"

"Yes, and swooping is bad."

"She's here to help." Lawrien suddenly announced, lowering her staff.

"What?" Alistair gaped. "The sneaky witch thief?"

"Please don't make her mad. I don't fancy being turned into a frog by a witch of the wilds." Ser Jory winced.

"My, such idle fancies those tales are." The mage shook her head, seemingly amused. "Have you no minds of your own? You there, do you not speak?" Faren followed her gaze to Lord Cobian who still looked weary. "Cat got your tongue?"

Cobian yanked down his scarf, looking completely unimpressed while the woman faltered, looking startled at the scar and the burn marks. It was Lawrien who interrupted though, shaking her head.

"I'm Lawrien Amell and these are my fellow Grey Wardens." Lawrien introduced herself.

"You may call me Morrigan." The woman replied, still studying Lord- Not supposed to be called Lord- Cobian's scars.

Her golden eyes finally left him. "Now, shall I guess your purpose? You are searching for something that is here no longer, aren't you?"

"Here no longer?" Alistair repeated, drawing his sword with a hiss. "You stole them didn't you?! You're some kind of... Sneaky witch thief!"

"That's not it." Lawrien cut in. "Her mother has them."

Morrigan was taken aback. "How did you-"

"I'm an empath." Lawrien offered, glancing over at Alistair whose frown deepened. "She's here to lead us to her at her mother's behest."

"And you want to follow her?"

"Yeah."

"Then would you please led us to her, my lady?" Lord Cobian wrote, showing her the already written on piece of paper, a strange look in his eyes.

"You're a sensible one, of course I'll led you to her. Wherever you come back alive or not is another thing however." Alive?! "Come, follow me."

"Be careful, first it's 'I like you', then it's 'zap' and frog time." Alistair deadpanned.

Faren blanched. He didn't want to be a frog.

.::.

Lawrien tightened her grasp on her staff as they continued through the forest. Narascha remained at the back with Ser Jory, the dwarven lady struggling with the forest ground. Cobian wasn't comfortable walking over it either but he pushed himself to keep up with Lawrien and Alistair. He wanted to be ready to use his shield in defence of their group.

Although a shield will probably be of little use if this woman was the same one that Uncle Maric told him about all those years ago. Uncle Maric had told him once when they were hiding from Uncle Loghain about how he met his closest friend, a more child-like version as Cobian was only a shy bit out of childhood. Uncle Maric then proceeded to tell Cobian about the Witch of the Wilds and it had made Cobian's heart pound with anxiety. It did so now as well, as he was sure that this Morrigan was leading them to the same witch.

He hadn't expected the small, almost run-down, wooden hut with an elderly lady standing outside of it. She looked like any other human but it was the eyes that gave her away. They were more cunning than anything he had ever seen.

"Greetings mother." Morrigan called out. "I bring you Grey Wardens who-"

"I see them girl." Her gaze went to everyone, but seemed to linger the longest on both Alistair and Lawrien. "Hm, much as I expected, despite the few who are missing."

Alistair sounded amused. "Are we supposed to believe that you were expecting us?"

"You are required to do nothing, least of all believe." The woman snarked. "Shut ones eyes tight or open ones arms wide it does not matter, either way, one is a fool."

"I believe her." Lawrien said through clenched teeth, her voice strained. "She's strong. Very strong and angry. She's always angry and wants revenge."

"Lawrien?" Alistair frowned, Cobian noticed him stepping closer to the teen. "Are you alright?"

"Ah, an Amell, and one of the empaths. Tell me, little one, what exactly do you feel from me?" The old woman asked, her eyes gleaming.

"You're angry but you love people so much." Lawrien's eyes flickered from Morrigan back to the old woman, it was so quick, but Cobian had caught it. "I'm sorry."

The elderly woman seemed to soften a bit at that. "Do not be so child."

"You hurt and you want your friend back but... It won't be a happy reunion... It'll be sad..." Lawrien murmured, bowing her head.

"And what about your companions?" The elderly woman changed the subject.

"My friends?" Lawrien blinked, perking up once more. "They feel confused right now, mainly about you."

The woman laughed. "I would be surprised if they weren't child!"

"Careful my lady, don't make her mad if she's a witch." Ser Jory warned the blonde.

"Are witches any different from mages?" Narascha asked, raising an eyebrow.

The woman only laughed again. "A Witch of the Wilds? Oh Morrigan must have told you that! How she fancy such tales!"

"Mother." Morrigan growled softly, her cheeks flushed. "They did not come for idle tales, or your questions."

"Ah yes, they came for their treaties did they not?" The older woman smirked as she slipped her hand into her bag, pulling out a set of scrolls. "And before you begin barking, I have been protecting these."

Alistair instantly closed his mouth at that, stunned. "Oh... You've been protecting them?"

"And why wouldn't I?" She laughed. "The wards fell so I took them under my care."

She handed them to Alistair who carefully accepted them and placed them into his pack, eyeing the scrolls for any damage. Cobian couldn't see any from his distance, so hopefully they were alright after all these years.

"Thank you for doing that my lady." Cobian offered, since no one else did.

"Ah such manners!" The woman smiled, having read what he wrote, which surprised him. "How rare to see! You are a Cousland aren't you?"

"You know of me my lady?"

"Perhaps, perhaps not." She dismissed, her eyes back on the scrolls. "Give your Commander a message with those. This Blight's threat is greater than they realised."

"I'm sure he will be eager to act on that." Narascha said.

"Indeed, tell me girl, are you satisfied with the way you left things back home?"

Nara tilted her head. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"Do you not wish revenge on your brother? On your father? The pair who threw you away like you were mere dirt? Or are you satisfied with your place now?"

Narascha faltered. "How-"

"I know many things."

Narascha shifted, clearly uncomfortable before sighing heavily. "I believe I can do more as a Grey Warden... But I regret how it lead to this point..." Narascha then raised her eyes to the old woman's, suspiciously. "Why? What is it to you?"

"Oh nothing at all child. You have your answers!"

"One's you probably already know my lady." Cobian couldn't help but add in.

He looked over his sheet, finding it was getting filled rather quickly much to his frustration. He used to able to speak so easily.

"And how much did former King Maric tell you young man?" Cobian kept his face carefully blank, to be honest his uncle hadn't said much about the Witch of the Wilds.

He had kept quiet about most of it.

"I believe you might have already guessed." He vaguely replied, unconfident in his answer.

She laughed. "We all have our guesses young man! It is wherever they are correct or not is the real question!"

"But you know the answers already." Lawrien tilted her head, baffled. "You're just playing. Testing us..."

Alistair interrupted by clearing his throat, eyeing the blonde with a frown. "We've got to head back now Lawrien."

"Indeed, that Dalish lady needs the cure for her sickness." Ser Jory added in reluctantly, already inching away.

"Yes! Yes! Don't mind me!" The old woman purred, already waving them off with a hand. "You have what you came for."

"Time for you to go then." Morrigan smirked.

Her mother huffed though. "Girl these are your guests."

"Very well then..." Morrigan sighed, already stomping towards them with a huff. "Come along then Wardens."

Chapter Text

Ciara had been waiting for them at the gates. She looked as if she were asleep, slouched against the wooden pillar with her eyes closed, breathing deeply. Faren did see an eye slip open, landing on the spot Morrigan had been in before she left them, a curious look in her eyes before the brunette approached.

"Good to see you're back. The others told me you were off to collect the scrolls." Ciara said. She indicated them to follow with a jerk of her head. "The Joining is ready to undertake. Epona has already gone through it but the others offered to wait on the rest of you."

"How is she?" Faren asked, Epona hadn't looked at all well. It had been a worry.

"Resting right now." Ciara led them straight back to Duncan who stared gravely into the fire, his eyes growing slowly hard. Lawrien however walked by them all, throwing them a wave as she headed towards the main army camp where most of the soldiers were.

"Where is she going?" Narascha frowned, baffled.

"She is going as far away as possible." Duncan sighed. "Did you manage to get the scrolls?"

"We did, although I have to admit. I'm far more curious about this Joining." Narascha mused.

"Then let us begin." Duncan nodded. "Ciara, Alistair, led them to the others. I'll be along soon."

"Right..." Alistair looked very uncomfortable now and that made Faren twitchy.

.::.

"The more I hear about this Joining the less I like it!" Jory was pacing, looking beyond frustrated and tired. "Haven't we proven ourselves already? Why all these tests?"

"Maybe it's tradition." Daveth smirked. "Or maybe they're just trying to annoy you."

He was leaning against the wall with Faren sitting by his feet, the pair idly throwing knives back and forth between one another. Torph had been leaning against a pillar but the moment Narascha came back, looking deep in thought, he couldn't help but wander over and sit down by her side.

"The Joining has the capability to make you all Grey Wardens. It isn't something we put our recruits through lightly." Ciara said as she approached.

Ser Jory looked hesitant. "I just don't like the idea of an enemy I cannot engage with my blade."

"Sometimes we gotta do things we don't like." Daveth pointed out.

Ciara chuckled smoothly. "It is nice to hear someone say something sensible."

Alistair remained quiet though, he stood back within the shadows, out of the way and Torph grimaced when he saw it. This was going to get nasty and Alistair wouldn't like it, Lawrien had also disappeared.

Narascha met his eyes and she looked just as strained as he felt. That was when Duncan arrived, looking withdrawn, his eyes were no longer warm or amused and Torph felt a cold chill rush down the back of his neck. That was the Grey Warden-Commander.

"At last, we've come to the Joining." Duncan held a large, silver chalice but Torph couldn't see what was in it, being too damn short. He scowled at that. "The Grey Wardens were founded during the First Blight when humanity stood of the verge of annihilation. So it was when the first Grey Wardens drank the blood of their enemies and mastered the Taint."

It all went silent for a moment. Torph swore he could feel his hear his own heart beating it was so quiet. Narascha leapt to her feet, horrified. "But it's poisonous! Many dwarven warriors have fallen to their blood alone!"

Torph blanched. It wasn't a joke? They were going to actually drink darkspawn blood? That was disgusting!

"Y'know, it really doesn't sound healthy." He agreed with the Princess. A nasty shock that was too, having something to agree on.

.::.

Ser Jory's face had gone white. "We're going to drink the blood..." He shuddered. "Of those creatures? Poisonous blood?"

"Yes, just as the First Wardens did." Duncan repeated, his voice monotone, as if he was blanking himself out from the situation. Cobian tensed at that. He was, Duncan was distancing himself and it was what probably helped him keep his sanity.

They could die doing this.

"Uh, can I not be first?" Faren asked quietly.

Cobian didn't want to die. He had promised his family to go on, to do his duty. His duty now was to become a Grey Warden and he had to become one. He was a Cousland. He could see Narascha at Torph's side, Torph looking horrified while the fear lifted from Narascha's face and she nodded to herself, looking much more determined now. She placed her hand on to Torph's shoulder who looked horrified at her.

The pair began whispering to one another immediately.

"Those who survive the Joining become immune to the Taint." Alistair finally spoke up, a grim look on his face. "We can sense the Darkspawn and fight back with that ability at hand."

"Those who survive?" Faren winced.

"Not all who drink the blood always make it." Ciara shrugged, as if it was a light-hearted situation. "We aren't sure what the reasons are for those who fall and those who live. Epona lived, but she has been carrying the Taint for quite some time as well."

"So this is a random process of elimination?!" Ser Jory cried out.

"No. You were all picked because of all show the most skill and potential to survive. Let me be clear. I do not just pick whoever I can to undertake this task, only the best." Duncan stated cooly, his eyes glancing over them all. "Now, we only speak a few words during the Joining, Alistair, if you would?"

Alistair lowered his head, as if he was either praying or unable to look any of them in the eyes anymore. "Join us, brothers and sisters. Join us in the shadows where we stand vigilant."

Faren stood up and Cobian was surprised when Faren's hand latched around Daveth's. Daveth gripped it back, a wordless communication passed between the pair of them when their eyes met.

"Join us as we carry out the duty that cannot be forsworn." Narascha stood straight, her eyes growing firm while Torph looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but here. "And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten. And that one day, we shall join you."

Duncan eyed them all but he paused when Narascha stepped forward, bowing her head. "Allow me to go first Commander."

He nodded and handed her the chalice. Narascha took a hold of it, taking a deep breath but she paused when Torph spoke up, they all did.

"So, if you choke and die does this mean I get to sell your stuff?"

Narascha scowled. "I'm going to live just to spite you. You do realise that right?"

"Don't be mean. Your coin could keep my belly full." Torph smirked.

She rolled her eyes at that but her shoulders visibly relaxed. "Ancestors guide me." She murmured.

Narascha took a drink and handed the chalice back. The dwarven warrior gasped, stumbling back and when her eyes opened they were white and then her eyes closed and she collapsed. Duncan caught her and moved her aside, laying her down carefully with a small, relieved smile.

"She made it."

"Damn." Torph huffed but Cobian could see the relief in his eyes. Everyone else must have too because no one remarked on his curse.

Duncan eyed them all once more before his gaze landed on Daveth who nodded back, letting go of Faren's hand. "Daveth. Step forward."

Daveth patted Faren on the shoulder who nodded, smiling weakly as the human stood with his back straight and proud in front of the Commander. Daveth took the chalice and drank from it, handing it back to Duncan who stepped back, Alistair frowning from the side.

Daveth thrashed violently. Alistair looked devastated at that and hung his head low while Duncan seemed to blank out again, his gaze cool and calm. Choked gargles escaped Daveth as he clawed at his throat. He hit the ground hard, desperately pawing at it as Faren yelled, trying to rush to his side but Alistair caught him, holding him back.

"Daveth!" Faren cried.

"Sorry." Alistair apologised, his face clearly torn. "I'm so sorry."

The cries from Daveth died off and he went limp. He must have completely rejected the Joining unlike Narascha. Faren was crying, trying to pull away from Alistair who finally released him now that Daveth was still. Faren raced to his side, carefully wiping the blood from Daveth's face and closing his still open eyes. Cobian looked away, meeting Duncan's gaze who stared down at Daveth and Faren solemnly.

"I'm sorry Daveth." Duncan apologised, his voice still cold though, as if he was trying to push away all his feelings. It would make sense for him to do so. He must have done this so many times and each time must have hurt him.

Ciara knelt by Faren's side and began to speak quietly to him as Duncan's gaze met Ser Jory's. Ser Jory was pure white, his eyes wide with absolute terror and disgust. He stared at Daveth and Faren, terrified before his eyes flew up to meet Duncan's, before landing on the chalice.

"Ser Jory, step forward." Duncan called but Ser Jory backed away, shaking his head.

"B-But... I-I have a wife! A-A child! I-If I had known..." Ser Jory whimpered.

Duncan began to move towards him. "There is no turning back."

Cobian clapped his hands, gesturing to himself, hoping to give Ser Jory a moment to calm down by putting himself through the Joining first. It would be better to simply get it done and out of the way with anyway. He was ready. He had to be.

But Ser Jory drew his sword and Cobian's heart hammered when Duncan's eyes grew even colder. Cobian shivered, chilled to the bone and Torph looked as horrified as himself. Faren wasn't even looking at them.

"You ask too much!" Ser Jory yelled. "There is no glory in this!"

"You idiot! He's the Commander for fuck sake!" Torph snapped. "He'll pull out your spine and beat ya to death with it!"

Cobian paused at that. That was a creative description. Alistair looked just as curious as Cobian felt on that comment too. That was the moment Ser Jory was cut down, Cobian had barely any time to follow, Ser Jory managed to block a blow or two before he was cut down, quickly and probably painlessly. The chalice hadn't been once spilled much to Cobian's shock, not even after the sudden movement.

"Well... Shit..." Torph summarised the situation perfectly.

"The Joining is not yet complete." Duncan said, his eyes searching.

"Duncan-" Ciara called out as Faren leapt to his feet, holding out his hands with an almost wild look in his eyes, they were filled with terror.

"For-Forgive me! I-I may I go next?!" Faren cried out hysterically, actually taking the chalice out of Duncan's hands who looked almost baffled as Faren drank from it and passed it back in a hurried, almost clumsy movement.

Duncan didn't even get to save anything as Faren pressed his back against one of the pillars, breathing heavily, in sharp, panicking inhales.

"Uh, is he having a panic attack?" Alistair looked stressed out at the sight.

Ciara tutted as she stalked past him. "Of course he is Alistair." Her hands landed on Faren's shoulders and her body hid his face from sight. Cobian only saw Faren's legs go limp and his body collapsed. Ciara barely bracing him in time.

She carefully lowered him so he could lie down and Cobian was surprised to see a trail of blood running down his chin. "He's fine. He just bit his lip." Ciara offered. "I was going to suggest Faren go next after seeing all that but his panic kind of took over first." She looked almost amused.

"I suspected he would survive it. He's just like his mother." Duncan murmured before he turned to face him and Torph. "Step forward Torph."

"Ah crap." Torph sighed as he reluctantly made his way over. "If I die I swear I'll become a ghost and haunt you all. I'll screw you three and Narascha over big time."

"Narascha too?" Ciara smirked.

"Have to get her too don't I?" Torph shrugged, grabbing the chalice and taking a drink. He handed it back before closing his eyes, tensing up completely. Torph bit his lip and shook for a moment before his whole body loosened up, relaxing completely as he dropped.

Alistair caught him, lifting him up and laying him down out the way, closer to where Faren lay. Alistair looked relieved. "He's alive too."

"Quite a few survivors so far hm? That's good." Ciara mused but then all their eyes met his.

Duncan approached him and Cobian held out his hands, taking the chalice into his own. "You are called upon to submit yourself to the Taint, for the greater good." Duncan continued the last of his speech as Cobian drank.

He handed the chalice back and strengthened his resolve, silently praying to Andraste to guide him through this ordeal. He saw a dragon, roaring loudly and a beautiful song filled his ears, a song he desperately wanted to follow. It was enchanting indeed.

.::.

Ciara watched as her fellow Wardens, Senior Wardens, arrived. Each of them bared their new Warden comrades in their arms, Alistair scooping up Faren and carried them away. Duncan dismissed Alexor, the old warrior who had went to pick up Cobian.

"The King wishes for Lord Cousland to be returned to his tent. Help the others care for Daveth and Ser Jory. Have them burned." Duncan ordered, setting the chalice on the table before going to pick up Cobian.

"Two more deaths. Wasn't so bad." Ciara mused. "A shame Ser Jory's fear won over him though."

"I had more hope but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be." Duncan agreed, looking so much more tired than he ever had before. "I think this will be my final batch of recruits Ciara."

Ciara winced at that. "So, the time has come then?"

"Unfortunately. I will stay for the Blight but afterwards..."

"Depending on how long it lasts there maybe no afterwards for you but I understand what you mean." Ciara sighed. "Have you told Lawrien?"

"She knew the moment I did." Duncan nearly smiled. "She came to my room and held my hand through the nightmare. I awoke to her staring down at me, with that fire in her eyes."

Ciara shifted, recalling the memory. "Yes, she's rather upset about that. She came to me afterwards."

"And now you'll be going to her?" Duncan suggested and Ciara smirked.

"Of course." Ciara chuckled, turning away to the main camp. She knew where the other Wardens were staying, probably all getting drunk with the soldiers or in preparation. Lawrien would have went there to keep her empathic abilities far away from the Joining.

Chapter Text

Ciara carried the tray of food, food that was piled high, straight into Duncan's tent. He stood before a table with a map laid out with notes surrounding it, their Senior Warden mage stood at his side, the raven on her shoulder cawing at Ciara, making her grimaced. That raven was aggressive at the best of times, nipping at everyone besides it's owner.

Ciara laid the tray down on Duncan's side, avoiding the raven which was trying to bore holes into her head with it's eyes. "...What do we do about the Teyrn's distrust of us? He's been trying to have the King ignore our input in all the strategy meetings." Yegrettie was clearly unimpressed.

"We can only try offer as much help as we can and rely on the Teyrn's plans." Duncan sighed.

Yegrettie frowned at that, crossing her arms. "That doesn't feel right... We should be on the same side."

Duncan only grunted in acknowledgement before meeting Ciara's eyes. "How are the recruits?"

"Epona awoke much earlier than anticipated." Ciara admitted. "Startled Alistair and I when we saw her up and about too. She was surprised by Daveth's death but not Ser Jory's. Something about expecting it after the way he cowered before the Chantry lady calling her a heretic."

Yegrettie and both Duncan shared a sigh. "This was the Dalish recruit you found Duncan?"

"Yes, she has been tainted for months now. I am glad my hunch was correct and that she survived the Joining." He eyed Ciara again. "And the rest?"

"A messenger ran round saying that Cobian is awake, he remains at the King side, which is good, we now have a Warden who is close to both the King and Teyrn Loghain." Ciara smirked.

"I didn't select Lord Cousland because of his social connections."

"He's a good warrior and intelligent. I know." Ciara agreed. "The dwarves wandered off a while ago, Narascha seems to be sparring with the soldiers and giving them tips on handling the darkspawn, many are eager to hear her words too as a 'warrior of Orzammar'."

"She isn't telling anyone who she is I take it?" Yagrettie raised a brow.

"Seems to be keeping hushed about it." Ciara offered before wincing. "Faren Tabris, he's with Lawrien. He and Daveth were apparently good friends..."

Ciara winced at the thought. If they had been brothers she couldn't imagine how Faren would handle it. The thought of Lawrien going through the Joining only to see her choke to death on the darkspawn blood would have killed her. If Lawrien had died Ciara wouldn't be here, it would be awful on Anders and Myra but Ciara would have went to the Deep Roads and gone for an early Calling.

She shook off the thought. Lawrien was here and so was Ciara. They were alive.

"That is the youngest recruit right?" Yegrettie winced, looking almost fretful. Ciara wanted to chuckle, it was probably her motherly instincts coming into play. She had two kids, not that Ciara knew too much about them though. "Why did you bring him here anyway Duncan? I understood Lawrien, while I was reluctant I knew she was powerful but he's-"

"He's just as strong as Adaia Tabris-"

Yegrettie tensed. "Wait, the woman you said was Denerim's 'Dark Wolf', the greatest thief in Fereldan?"

"She worked for the Thieves Guild and her son seems to have followed in her footsteps. I don't believe he's high up in the rank but he did balance out working in a tavern and being a servant for the Bann of Denerim." Duncan explained while Ciara looked baffled at the pair. She heard vague rumours about the Dark Wolf but not much else.

"A Princess of Orzammar, the son of the Dark Wolf, a member of the Carta, a Cousland and a Dalish elf." Yegrettie shook her head. "That's quite the group you found this time Duncan."

Duncan almost smirked at that but he glanced back down at Ciara. "How is Lawrien?"

"She's fine. She got far enough away from the Joining." Ciara said, earning a few sighs of relief. Lawrien couldn't handle the Joinings, feeling the life snapped out of someone always took a heavy toll on her, sometimes spiralling her magic out of control.

"That's good news. Don't worry too much about Faren, it will be stressful on him but he will pull through." Duncan said firmly. "Ciara, the King has requested that Narascha joins the war counsel tonight. Will you deliver the message to her?"

"I will do Commander." Ciara bowed her head, smiling as she left, she narrowly avoided a nip from the raven by putting her tray between it and her before her escape.

.::.

Cailan and Uncle Loghain were still arguing away while Cobian dozed on Cailan's cot, trying to rest before the meeting tonight to discuss the battle plans. Ser Cauthrien was watching over the argument quietly while Cailan's personal assistant, Laythor, a taller human who wore rich, quality clothes and was clearly neat and polished, served them all tea.

"My lord, do you feel well enough for tea?" Laythor whispered to him and Cobian nodded, sitting up and rubbing his throbbing head. He could still see the dragon, it's roar ringing through his ears.

He didn't have a way to explain it though, not without Uncle Loghain thinking he was a lunatic and needed shipped to Denerim for his own safety. Cobian couldn't explain the Joining after all, not with it being a secret, so hidden that it cost Ser Jory his life because he tried to flee.

"Thank you Laythor." Cobian sighed, staring out at the growing argument, Ser Cauthrien growing more annoyed with their King by the passing second. Cobian pushed away the blankets and slipped out of bed, he had no armour on, just his shirt and trousers and wondered who had changed him while he slept. He shrugged it off though and slipped on his boots before approaching the pair with his tea.

"Still arguing?" Cobian mused, tapping Cailan's arm.

Cailan threw him a smile and reached over, ruffling his hair. "Glad to see you awake again. Becoming a Warden is that tiring huh?"

"Quite a bit." Cobian wrote. "I can't say much though."

"Yes, Duncan did say that." Cailan laughed. "Such a shame though, I'm really curious!"

"Cailan." Uncle Loghain was glaring daggers and Cailan groaned. "You don't have an heir." Uncle Loghain insisted. "Risking your life like this is foolish when you haven't secured Ferelden's successor."

Cailan glanced at Cobian. "Hey Cobian, want to be my successor?"

"Ah yes, a mute King would be perfect." Cobian pointed out, hoping they would understand the sarcasm.

"Bah! You're no fun!" Cailan dismissed him.

"Cailan!" Uncle Loghain snapped.

"I can't just leave!" Cailan threw up his hands in frustration. "If I do what's to stop everyone else following me? I'm the King! Their example!"

"Exactly. You're the King. Order them." Uncle Loghain spat. "Besides, there hasn't been any signs of an Archdemon-"

Cobian interrupted this time, snapping his fingers for attention before writing. "Uncle the Wardens know more about Darkspawn than anyone, there would be no gain in lying about an Archdemon of all things."

"Exactly!" Cailan grinned smugly, only to pause when Cobian scowled. "...Sorry..."

Uncle Loghain sighed before glancing over at him and Cobian tilted his head, puzzled at the look he was getting. It looked so sad but it wasn't pity. "Cobian, how are you handling everything?"

Cobian looked away immediately, down at his feet.

Cailan winced. "Have you even managed to mourn?"

Cobian shook his head. "Now isn't the time. If I think about them all now..." He remembered Oren and Oriana and flinched, hard. "Oren was just a boy... Unc- Howe murdered him. Murdered him and Oriana and mother and father and everyone."

Cobian shook off the memories, taking in a deep breath despite how it hurt his throat to do so. "No. If I think about them all now I'll break down and I won't have enough time to put myself back together before the battle tonight."

"We could send you to Denerim, to Anora as a messenger on behalf of the Grey Wardens-" Cailan tried but Cobian shook his head.

"No. My place is here. After this... After Howe is dead then maybe..." Cobian lowered his papers, staring down at his boots once more but looked up when a hand settled on to his shoulder, Uncle Loghain nodding.

"I understand Cobian. You're doing well."

Cailan nodded eagerly. "Yeah and just you wait. Fergus will be back soon and the darkspawn will be beaten here and now. Once that's done we'll go to Highever and take it back. Howe's head will go on a spike."

Cobian pulled away from Loghain's hand and embraced Cailan. Cailan flinched, clearly startled but his arms then wrapped around Cobian. "It'll be alright Cobian. We'll fight tonight, together on the battlefield and we'll beat them."

Cobian took a bit to pull away and then he wrote on his papers again, smiling, a better smile than usual. "Thank you Cailan."

.::.

Torph cackled as another warrior landed in the dirt. This was a kid with a giant double-handed sword with dark hair and blue eyes, blue eyes that were hard and focused as he tried to fight back the former warrior Princess of Orzammar. Not that many people on the surface knew that little fact. He did have to give the kid some credit though, he had lasted longer than most of Nara's other challengers.

She had announced herself as a former warrior in Orzammar and offered tips against the darkspawn and funnily enough the humans leapt at the chance. Torph had been expecting some snarky remarks but so far there had been hardly any, and those that had had landed in the dirt quicker than you could say 'oh shit'.

"Carver seems to be enjoying himself." The woman beside him laughed softly. A tall, dark haired woman had leaned against the railings at his side the moment the probably male version of her started fighting.

They had the same hair colour and the same eyes. They looked alike unlike he and Rica. Her eyes were a little brighter blue in colour, nearly shining prettily, like a gem. Torph wished he could sell them but he had a feeling the woman would probably punch him if he tried to take her eyes. She had the muscles to do so and was armed with a sword and shield.

"Are you a warrior of Orzammar as well ser?" The woman asked, her voice was soft and calm but he didn't let that fool him, he could tell she was no push-over.

Torph cackled though. "Hell no! Just an everyday street rat. Name's Torph."

"A pleasure to meet you. I'm Hawke." The warrior bowed her head.

Torph snorted. "Did your parents hate you too?"

She laughed. "No but I prefer it to Alriya."

Alriya, or Hawke, looked up as Ciara strode through the crowd and right into the ring like she owned the place. Narascha instantly stopped fighting and Carver did the same, Carver looking absolutely baffled but also glancing over their fellow Warden before his cheeks turned pink.

Torph sniggered. "Oh no, is he developing a crush?"

"There aren't many woman here and she is pretty." Hawke pointed out, clearly just as amused.

"Ciara?" Nara tilted her head.

"My apologises for interrupting your spar but your presence is requested at the war counsel." Ciara said, smile still on her face.

Nara frowned. "Why would they want me at the war counsel? I'm not from here."

"They believe you will have some insight, considering your dealings with the darkspawn in the Deep Roads." The brunette explained. "We best not dally, the meeting will begin soon."

"Right, let us go." Nara nodded, though turned back to Carver and bowing. "Thank you for the spar."

Carver seemed to stammer for a moment before regaining himself and bowing back. "Y-Yeah, thanks mi' lady."

Nara smiled and retreated, following after the brunette as Carver approached Hawke who smiled.

"How do you feel brother?" Hawke asked.

"That felt good actually. I enjoyed it." Carver grinned, looking surprised and almost relieved. "She really knows how to use that axe."

"Would you like to practise some more before the battle tonight?"

He clapped her shoulder. "Might have one moment for a spar before the battle, warm ourselves up!"

"Sounds good." Hawke smiled down at him next, bowing her head. "Good day ser."

He waved her off. "Later."

His eyes did catch the youngest recruit wandering about. Faren looked like an anxious ball of energy, yet tired at the same time. It was a weird combination. Torph whistled, earning a few looks, including the kid's who came over.

"Hey kid." Torph greeted, keeping his tone deliberately dull and soothing. "How you holding up?"

Said kid fidgeted. "Alright I guess?" He sighed though as he sat down. "Just... Upset about Daveth... He was a close friend..."

"Seemed like a decent enough guy. Would have made a good Warden too." Torph offered. "Better than the Knight at any rate."

"Ser Jory was a good guy..." Faren trailed off, looking away and Torph couldn't help but smirk knowingly.

"But?"

"But he was a push over..." Faren said quietly, grimacing as he did.

"So, Daveth teach you how to steal?" Torph grinned.

Faren grinned slyly back, effectively distracted. "Me? Steal? It wounds me that you accuse me so Torph!"

Torph snorted. "You're the best thief I've ever seen. Better than even me and I'm bloody well good at it."

"Daveth didn't teach me, though he did teach himself." Faren revealed. "I got taught by a crowd that my Mum and I ran with."

"Your Mum?" Torph blinked, taken aback. His mum had only been good for birthing him. Not teaching him shit. That had all been Rica.

"Yeah. Taught me how to use her daggers too." Faren held them up and Torph was struck by how beautifully carved one was, a piece that should have been worn by a noble, not a common thief. "It served her well."

"And you too I bet." Torph grinned. "Would love to sell that."

"I won't let anyone take it from me." Faren grinned but there was a warning in his eyes. Torph nodded, hoping the kid understood he wouldn't take the blade.

"Well, don't die around me or Lawrien and neither of us will loot ya." Torph teased.

Faren laughed. "I still can't believe it! She does it all the time!"

"Even right in their houses too. Damn girl's a thief and not a very subtle one either."

.::.

The meeting was chaotic. Servants were scurrying around, making sure drinks were filled as was the food. Cobian was eating slowly, trying not to agitate his throat as he worked his way through his dinner, taking every noted detail of what his Uncle said. Calian was still insisting on fighting on the main front with the men, despite having no heir, which was completely frustrating Uncle Loghain.

Duncan remained strangely silent during the exchange, staring with a faraway look at the map. Narascha was the opposite, her eyes were completely focused on the map, her eyes hard.

Uncle Loghain's growled. "Cailan, this is foolish."

"Oh dear Maker." Cailan groaned, throwing his head back. Cobian raised a brow while their Uncle scowled. "Loghain my decision is final! I will stand by the Wardens during this assault and there will be no changing my mind!"

"You risk too much Cailan." Uncle Loghain growled and surprisingly eyed Narascha. "I highly doubt the Princess would agree with you either."

Narascha looked taken aback. "You recognise me Teyrn Loghain?"

"You were the tiny dwarven girl who attacked Maric and I's knees when we came to visit Orzammar." Uncle Loghain snorted, looking oddly amused. "I believe you were trying to protect your father from the 'giants'?"

An odd noise escaped Cobian's throat, instantly earning a glower from the Princess who then shook her head and sighed. "I am surprised you would ask me such a thing my Lord-"

"Last I heard you were going to be named a Commander within your ranks." Loghain noted, eyeing Duncan distastefully. "A shame you were dragged away from it."

"Enough of your conspiracy theories Loghain!" Cailan snapped. "If you do not wish me in the frontlines then perhaps we should wait for the Orlesian forces to arrive instead?"

Cobian groaned. They had been through this argument countless times already and Cobian had hardly been in Ostagar a day. Narascha was openly gaping at the pair, shocked.

"Wait. We have reinforcements?" Narascha choked.

Uncle Loghain growled. "Orlesians are not reinforcements. They would enslave us the moment they get far enough into our lands."

"This is a Blight. Surely everyone topside allies together to defeat the darkspawn." Narascha insisted. "It can't be allowed to spread otherwise it'll just be the same situation up here like it is down below our feet in the Deep Roads."

Cobian tapped the table, drawing her attention. "It's politics."

"Bloody politics again?!" Narascha snapped. "By the Stone!"

The priest nearby scowled at her but Narascha dismissed her. Cailan actually grinned at Narascha, looking relieved. "Ah, a fellow hater of politics I see!"

"Just because you refuse to become more responsible-" Uncle Loghain began.

Immediately Cailan began to bite back, the pair once more in a hated discussion and Cobian tried to click his fingers to get their attention. It didn't work. He slumped, rubbing his head before rolling up a piece of parchment, earning a baffled look from Narascha. He smacked the parchment over his King's and Uncle's head and the horrified looks he for thrown in return all over the table was almost satisfying. The King's guard however looked as unfazed as ever, even though everyone kept looking at them as if excepting them to attack.

"Ah, sorry Cobian." Cailan laughed sheepishly, wincing. "Forgot to give you a moment speak."

"What do you have to say?" Uncle Loghain huffed, raising an expectant brow.

"I believe you have had enough time to bicker. We have no more time to summon Orlais' help, not unless we wish to recall for a retreat now and risk the south being overrun. Now, you are both going to stop bickering and focus on a plan." Cobian lectured. "Cailan. Uncle Loghain is right on the fact that you are risking too much being apart of the frontline."

Cailan groaned. "Not you too little brother. See Uncle? What you've done to little Cobian over the years?"

Cobian smacked him with the parchment again. Cailan raised his hands in return, offering a surrender with a sheepish grin.

"Alright, alright." Cailan laughed softly before growing serious. "I must be out there though. If our men see their King retreating to safety then how can I except them not to follow me? I cannot ask them to put their lives on the line and not offer any support in return. My father would do the same-"

"Your father would heed my advice." Uncle Loghain grumbled.

"Or you would make sure he did." Cailan snorted.

"I'm persuasive."

"The plan." Narascha interrupted, scowling darkly. "May I ask what it is?"

"Right, sorry." Cailan leaned over the table, pointing at the map. "Let's work on your strategy. So myself, the Wardens and the soldiers will draw the darkspawn to us."

Narascha frowned. "There are quite a few hillsides. That will make it more difficult for the darkspawn to navigate I suppose but also for us as well. You wished to plant the main force at the main entrance to Ostagar yes?"

"Indeed." Uncle Loghain nodded. "It is a good cut off point."

"But it also works the same way for us since we're in front of it. Not behind it." Narascha noted. "What have the scouts said about numbers?"

"This will be the largest battle yet, but we should be able to handle it as long as we are careful." Uncle Loghain answered.

Cobian was baffled when Narascha looked who at the sky, her brow furrowing. "Is it going to rain? That's what the droplets that fall from the sky are called right?"

"Pardon me?" Cailan blinked, looking startled while Loghain nodded, looking pleased.

"Seems like your learning about the surfacer world."

Narascha shrugged. "Your rain startled me the first time I encountered it. I slipped on the grass multiple times. The Genlocks, the smaller darkspawn, can be rather clumsy at times, they will be more likely to fall, so you should be able to take advantage of that. Some of the other darkspawn are clever though, but usually they are easier to spot."

"How do you spot the stronger ones?" Cailan asked, full attention on her.

"Younger darkspawn tend to fight among each other until the strongest proves themselves. They are the 'alpha' darkspawn, the tougher and clever ones, they wear better armour and are usually a bit taller than their kind." Narascha paused. "Emissaries are the darkspawn's mages. They are highly intelligent, especially an alpha one. If you see one kill it as fast as you can, you cannot let them control the battle, that also slots in with an alpha Hurlock. They are tough, insanely tough. I've only ever fought one and it nearly killed me and my whole squad. If Bhelen hadn't reached me in time..."

She seemed lost in thought for a moment before firmly shaking it off. Her eyes hardened. "The rain should help but I wouldn't rely on it for long. They will learn quick enough."

Uncle Loghain nodded. "A short advantage is better than nothing. Now, to continue on, once you have drawn the darkspawn's attention you will light the tower to signal my men to charge and-"

"To flank the darkspawn! Yes I remember!" The King nodded, looking pleased.

Cobian frowned though, Narascha's eyes met his and they both realised the same problem. Uncle Loghain had probably realised it already too, hopefully he already had a plan to counteract it.

"The biggest problem is timing. It has to be perfect otherwise the main bulk of the army will be overwhelmed. We might need a back up plan." Narascha grimaced.

"Who is station at the tower?" Cobian asked.

"A few of my men." Loghain answered. "It isn't too dangerous but it is vital."

"Your Majesty?" The mage approached cautiously. "Such things are unnecessary. We could use our spells to-"

"We will not risk our men's lives on your spell mage." The odd looking woman sneered, making Narascha bristle. Cobian tensed as well, this was religious politics entering the battle plan. It didn't belong here.

"Seriously? What the hell is she even doing here?" Narascha snapped, jerking her thumb at the woman who gaped. "She hasn't been offering up anything to this war counsel yet she's blabbing her mouth away."

The priestess spluttered before her face went red with pure rage. "How dare you dwarf-"

"Enough!" Uncle Loghain snapped, pushing away from the table. "The plan will suffice!"

"Sorry but I think we could do more." Narascha said firmly and Uncle Loghain actually blinked at her, startled before nodding. People at the table looked at Narascha as if she were insane but what most didn't seem to get was that Uncle Loghain actually liked people contributing to plans if the idea made sense.

"What did you have in mind Lady Aeducan?"

"The charging point. We need to clear as many darkspawn away as possible before we intercept them. So basics, catapults we have but we also have mages and I must ask if we have oil or explosives? We could lay those down, there's a Grey Warden in our ranks who is a very skilled trapper."

"We could lay explosives at the halfway mark. We are trying to lure them in but it is good not to let our men get overwhelmed." Uncle Loghain agreed, pointing at the map. "I have a few trappers as well, we get them to lay explosives here and then the oil further back? Have the archers light it on fire once the explosives are out?"

"Yes, then maybe we could have the mages release some strong magical spells, like those elemental spells I've seen Lawrien Amell, our Grey Warden mage, use. It might help slow them down." Narascha offered. "If we had time there would have been plenty of ideas we could have done but-"

"Yes, it's always timing that's against us." Uncle Loghain agreed, grimacing.

"We should also have a retreat planned out in case things become dire." Cobian wrote, beckoning his Uncle's attention who nodded.

Cailan blanched. "Retreat? We cannot just let the darkspawn go-"

"I had been giving it a thought." Uncle Loghain noted, bringing out a scroll and laying it out over the map. "The trouble is getting the message to everyone at the same time, and the issue with the gates as you mentioned earlier."

"Horns will not work?" Narascha frowned.

"The storm and battlefield will be loud. We have horns but they are smaller, more personal to whatever Lord brought them. I would suggest using beacons but again, the chaos of a battlefield-"

"Magical flares then. Have the mages and Templars in as many units as possible and if necessary have them light up the sky with the signal to retreat." Cobian explained.

"Then we can make traps throughout the entrances. Like the obvious ones, some boiling stuff above the archways to pour down on the darkspawn or giant rocks to chuck at them. Anything to distract them and buy the men time to escape and regroup would be excellent." Narascha said.

"We only have a few hours left." Uncle Loghain reminded them.

"Then we do whatever we can to win." Narascha replied.

"Actually, I would like to mention the Tower of Ishal again." Cailan brought it back up and Cobian groaned. "It'll be quick Cobian, I swear!"

"What is it?" Uncle Loghain sighed heavily.

"I believe we should send our best to light the signal." Cailan interrupted, a strange look in his eyes as he met Loghain's. Cobian frowned, eyeing the pair of them curiously but neither of them looked his way.

"Who do you suggest?"

"I think a few Wardens would be good to have up there." He cut off Loghain's beginning protest, staring firmly at him. "Cobian should be one of them."

Cobian choked. Immediately he tapped the table, trying to regain their attention but the pair ignored them. Uncle Loghain actually nodded in agreement, looking almost pleased.

"Agreed. Cobian and a few of my guards-"

"Alistair as well."

Cobian stared at them in complete horror, stunned into silence, despite being unable to speak anyway.

"Can you spare them Duncan?"

"Of course Your Majesty-"

"Actually our youngest recruit might be an asset as well. Faren's elven eyes can see a good distance away, he should be able to see the battlefield clearly from the tower. Just in case circumstances change." Narascha offered.

Cailan tilted his head but nodded. "Alright, I see no harm in it. So Alistair, Cobian and their fellow Grey Warden Faren will go to the tower."

Duncan nodded, his gaze seemed focused on the map. "Your Majesty you should consider the possibility of the Archdemon appearing."

"There have been no signs of any dragon in the wilds." Uncle Loghain grunted, shaking his head.

"Besides, isn't that what your men are here for?" Cailan asked, a grin on his face.

Duncan hesitated before nodding. "Ah... Yes your Majesty..."

"Right, the Wardens will light the beacon once the signal is given." Uncle Loghain sighed, looking so weary.

"Thank you Loghain." King Cailan nodded. "I cannot wait for that glorious moment."

"Yes Cailan... A glorious moment for us all..." Uncle Loghain murmured as he walked away, Cobian stared blankly at the table for a moment but Cailan patting his shoulder urged him from his shock.

He followed after the pair immediately, grabbing their arms the moment he caught up. He wrote frantically on his parchment even as they walked on once more. Cailan looked almost amused.

"You've stuck me in a tower?"

Uncle Loghain nodded. "It's the best place for you."

"I'm a Cousland. I'm sworn to defend the King with my life and you're both trying to keep me out of the way. I'm not a child-" His writing was cut off by Cailan grabbing his hand, his eyes growing softer.

"Cobian, Fergus hasn't returned." Cailan murmured lowly.

Cobian's heart fell. His grip loosened and the pencil clattered to the ground. Uncle Loghain picked it back up for him while Cailan yanked him into a hug, Cobian clung back, his fingers digging into the golden armour.

"I'm sorry. You might be the last Cousland we have Cobian." Cailan breathed out heavily, sounding pained. "So you have to stay alive. Us Theirins need a Cousland after all. What would Ferelden do without one?" He chuckled but it was dry and sharp. "Probably go crazy."

"So this is my order, as your King." Cailan pulled away, forcing their eyes to meet. "You live. You don't get to die until you're old and grey. Do you understand me?"

Cobian nodded and mouthed a 'yes' and he was torn between crying and smiling when he saw the pure relief in Cailan's eyes.

"Thank the Maker." Cailan breathed out, running a hand through his hair as he stepped away.

Cobian shook his head as he accepted the pencil back from his Uncle, writing once more, though it felt more subdued. "You're a hypocrite. You're the last of your bloodline too."

Cailan and Uncle Loghain both gained an odd look on theirs faces before nodding along. Uncle Loghain nearly glaring daggers into Cailan's back.

"Exactly why he should be staying out of the battle field."

Cailan groaned. "Not again."

The bickering didn't distract Cobian though, he was really curious. What were the two hiding now? He let it be however, knowing neither of them would ever give him an answer.