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Alphabet of the Sten

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He was imekari, but not for much longer. The boy had just turned twelve, the age when a Qunari begins to master his role—and he’d just fallen in love.

She was long, straight lines and clean, sharp edges. She was a blade that gleamed like a full moon. She was a grip that sat snugly in his graceless hands, as if she were made for him alone—though she weighed heavily in hands still partly-trained.

“She is yours now,” said the Arishok. “Do you know where this blade comes from?”

He turned the greatsword once in his hands. How could he not? The styling of the hilt, the patterns in the blue steel, the shape of the blade: all of these spoke of Tevinter. This was a weapon of those who hounded the boy and his people for the simple reason that they existed.

“It is an enemy blade,” he answered, and the Arishok gave him A Look. It told him his answer was that of the boy he was, and not…whatever he was soon to become. No soldier he’d seen wielded a blade quite like this one. Qunari blades were more simple in form, more elegant. More brutal. He had seen vaarad who fought with dragon-jaws, weapons with terrible, tearing teeth. The Tevinter called them ‘saw swords’. 

“Even kabethari may become enlightened,” the war-leader said. “Everything under the Qun has its purpose. Long before us, our people have been under attack. This was a blade taken from our first victory against Tevinter. One day, this land will be enlightened; she and her kind are the proof we will endure against them.”

The sword felt that much heavier in the boy’s hands, then—the weight of history and meaning understood. But he squared his shoulders and lifted the blade shoulder-high, pressing his lips lightly to the blade in acceptance. The metal was nicked and scarred here and there, yet showed not a fleck of rust or dirt. Her grip had known a slew of hands before his, and he felt that it would know many more after him.

The sword was as much a part of the Qun now as he was.

The Arishok continued to speak. “Serve her well, imekari, and she will guard your life. Keep her strong, and you will be made stronger. You see this sword has been wielded by many of the beresaad before you. She will be your soul.”

The boy’s heart skipped a beat. The vanguard was not a name trotted out lightly, if at all. He knew some of his ability—but understood then what it could be. ”As it is to be, Arishok,” he replied.

“You will be the eyes and ears of our people. And you and your brothers will answer directly to me, or he who comes after me—one day. But for now, karasaad, you will train.”

He entered the Arishok’s presence a child. Karasaad left it as a man, a soldier, with his asala on his back: his soul, purpose and role forged into the blade. Except for a brief, dark period in his life, she never left his side again.