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This is War

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[[ ... The Good ..... Wynne ... ]]

It was endless. The waves of abominations and demons flooded the halls, and no amount of magic could keep them at bay forever. She was old, weakening; the children wouldn't be safe for much longer, no matter how desperately she struggled to keep the barrier up. Soon, it would fall, and they would be exposed; it was only a matter of time.

Help was coming, she reasoned, she whispered it to herself, wanting to believe it; willing it to be true. Greagoir wouldn't leave them-- he wouldn't leave her in here, to be torn apart by the demons. First Enchanter Irving was somewhere in this blood and chaos, and Greagoir would sooner cut off his own hand that abandon the First Enchanter. He was rallying his men-- the templars would be scared-- and then he would be back, all blazing vengeance and flashing swords to protect them.

In her heart though, she knew: they were all as good as dead. Kelli's whispered prayers kept catching her attention-- the barrier flickered-- and she was screaming, but no one was reacting so she must have actually still been silent, concentrating on her task. It was draining, feeling herself slipping away to keep something so flimsy up, but she had no choice-- it was this or allow the demons access to the children.

A tiny hand caught her skirt, made her look. Old as she was, even she didn't mistake the sounds of armored footfalls coming down the corridor behind them. Her concentration divided, she quickly herded her charges behind her, placing herself between the newest threat. If the Templars were coming, let them come.

[[ ... The Evil ..... Flemeth ... ]]

The child was sweet-- charming, even. Her silky black hair already poured over her shoulders, glossy as a raven's wing, and she was reaching up, reaching for her.

"That's right, dear," she murmured, taking the toddler in her arms. Years of looking for the perfect child had left her quite good at it. She knew how to look at a child's face and see, see what they would look like as they got older. This one would serve nicely for her purposes. "Come to your mother."

There was no confusion, only acceptance; no understanding, but that would serve just as well. It wouldn't do for her little girl to be scarred by this. She needed to know only her new mother, with no recollection of the past. The heavy weight of the toddler against her hip was ... comforting, strangely enough. It had been many years since she'd taken a girl, and she found that she had almost missed the slapping of tiny, bare feet against the wood floor, missed the affectionate smiles and light giggles.

She would enjoy those for a shorter amount of time with this one, she decided. It appeared to weaken her when she indulged in such ways. She needed to shape this girl more forcefully than she had the previous one. This one would be her most important, now that all of the players were in the game. A smile curved her lips, and she made a soft noise to the girl, reaching up to touch that little nose with one finger. "Morrigan," she whispered, and she left the little shack.

Blood trailed out behind her, running over the threshold and into the dirt. Bodies were still inside, a man and a woman. The blood was every where, even splattered over the shattered remains of a mirror, clearly one of the more prized possessions of such a household. It's brass finish glittered dully, slowly turning copper as the blood dripped onto it.

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[[ ... The Soldier ..... Sten ... ]]

Shok ebasit hissra. Struggle is an illusion.

Twenty six days. He drew a breath. He had been soulless now for twenty six days. Strange, but he didn't feel any different, besides the discomfort that came from his present state. No sword in his hand, in a cage that he had allowed himself to be put in, no food and only rainwater to drink. He blew out the breath, feeling his chest slowly relaxing with the motion.

Meraad astaarit, meraad itwasit, aban aqun. The tide rises, the tide falls, but the sea is changeless.

Soldiers had already come and gone; there were whispers of betrayal. The Grey Wardens had killed the king; the Blight was advancing. He needed to take care of this so that he could--

But he couldn't, could he? No matter what happened, he could not return home. He missed the sweet scents, the jasmine, the tea. He ached for Seheron, for the warmth and the salty breeze. Ferelden smelled of dogs and mud and filth. Its people were confusing, never happy with anything they had.

Maraas shokra. There is nothing to struggle against.

His hand clenched around a sword that wasn't there, he felt a tightness in his chest that had persisted for the past four weeks. Sunlight glinted off of something shiny, and he scowled as he raised his hand to prevent it from blinding him. Foolish humans, so loud--

Armor. More soldiers? His eyes narrowed, then widened for just a heartbeat as they approached his cage. No, there was something different about them, about two of them, at the very least. The whispers around them confirmed it. Wardens.

Anaan esaam Qun. Victory is in the Qun.

[[ ... The Civilian ..... Shianni ... ]]

Blood was still in her mouth-- the coppery tang sharp and sweet all at once-- and as the hand struck her again, she couldn't stop the cry that escaped her. She was shuddering, sobbing, scratching and being hit all at once. The pain was unbearable. She was screaming, struggling, her arms ached from being held back, from the fingers digging so deep into her--

Then the weight was gone, and she was in the floor, sobbing and whispering and trying to find something; some measure of comfort in the world of pain and tears that she found herself in. They were all dead, slaughtered by her kin, her blood. Like dogs.

She stood in front of the mirror, studying herself, trying to see how much of it had been permanent. She was damaged, ruined, broken goods that couldn't be bartered for anything now. Not because of her virginity-- that was never the problem. The problem was her. She couldn't stand to be touched, for someone to look at her for too long. She knew what they saw, knew they could see the blood and bruising that no amount of water or time could erase.

She could still feel the fingers in her arms, feel the sharp pain as she was destroyed, piece by piece. He had taken everything from her, everything that she had not been prepared to give. And now, now there was nothing left. Soris was in jail; Valendrian and Cyrion were gone, taken because of a plague that clearly wasn't real. No one was listening, not to her, not to Shianni. After all, no one trusted someone who had been so badly broken and battered--

She was yelling, and then someone was in front of her, defending her, protecting her. Her breath caught, her vision swam. Vaughan flashed before her eyes, and she barely caught herself before she stood her ground. Someone was trying to help; they weren't looking at her as though she were shattered or broken. She swallowed.

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[[ ... The Victim ..... Cailan ... ]]

The sword was heavy in his hand, sweat was rolling down his back under the heavy armor as he swung the heavy blade. It sank, over and over again, into the flesh of the darkspawn before him, behind him, all around him. They were hopelessly outnumbered, out manuevered, out done. The beacon wasn't lit yet, which was impossible. Surely they had been fighting for hours now, as many as they had managed to cut down?

The bodies were piling up, darkspawn and human alike, and still they pressed, wave after wave of charges met and deflected, chaos errupting each time they managed to form another line and try to press the darkspawn back. He spun on his heel, looking up at where he knew Loghain stood, waiting with the other men, watching the tower for the beacon. For the signal that two Grey Wardens had failed to deliver. He cut down one more darkspawn, blood splattering everywhere.

He could feel it on his skin, burning and stinging, and he was certain he had swallowed at least a little. It was impossible not to, shouting orders and trying to maintain some degree of order in the heat of battle. He pushed the fear down, couldn't let it master him now. He had a war to win, men to lead. They needed him. He swung back around, his eyes widened as a beast lumbered up the field, moving faster than anything that size ever should. It reached for him, caught him around the middle. For just a moment, he couldn't breathe, and he knew. He knew what was coming.

[[ ... The Martyr ..... Duncan ... ]]

Everything slowed to a stop when the beast grabbed the king, and Duncan felt his heart stop. He should have felt it sooner, should have known what was coming. His eyes widened, and he felt the intention, the decision just before he heard the cracking of Cailan's ribs. No, that wasn't right. He couldn't have possibly heard that; not over the roar of the battle, the clanking of metal blades on armor, the screams of the wounded. He couldn't have heard the king's final gasp, didn't actually see the blood that came out of Cailan's mouth. It was just his mind, filling in the details he knew would be there.

He felt the weight of the dagger in his hand, his calloused grip tightening around the warm metal, his eyes focusing on the creature that was roaring, standing over Cailan's limp body. He let himself go, let the rage of the darkspawn pressing so hard around him consume his body, fuel his own anger. He broke into a run, shifting his grips on the blades as he prepared to leap, as he landed on the ogre, digging the entire length of the steel into it. He gasped for a breath, pulled one out, and stabbed again, using any force he could muster. He couldn't see, couldn't --

Then he was on the ground, staggering over, drawing the king to him. He was shaking, touching Cailan's face, understanding slow in coming. There was something important, he knew that. Something he wasn't grasping as he tried to shake the golden king, tried to tell him to get up. He glanced around, and watched as men and darkspawn alike fell, but more darkspawn flooded in to replace those who had died. No more men came to replace the fallen foot soldiers. He leaned back, settling his weight as he glanced up. The beacon was lit, he could see it. And still, only darkspawn came. They had been betrayed. No one was coming.

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[[ ... The Prophet ..... Leliana ... ]]

I don't know how to explain, but I had a dream...
In it, there was an impenetrable darkness... It was so dense, so real.

The prayer was whispered, hurried as she knelt in the dirt, her robes gathered around her knees, her hands clasped in front of her. The wind blew around her, sent her red hair, her Fereldan heritage fluttering over her face, made it sting against her eyelids. Her lips moved in quiet words of thanks, of blessing, and when she was done, she stood slowly. The weight of the dagger was heavy on her hip, unfamiliar after so long of not needing it.

And there was a noise, a terrible, ungodly noise...
I stood on a peak and watched as the darkness consumed everything...

She glanced over her shoulder at the Chantry, at the building she had called home for so long. She was all at once glad to be leaving and terrified of the world around her. She would miss Lothering, miss all of the time she had spent here, tending the sick and contemplating on her relationship with the Maker.

And when the storm swallowed the last of the sun's light, I...
I fell, and the darkness drew me in...

But she had a duty. She couldn't stand by while such darkness, such ugliness covered the face of Thedas. The thought of how many lives would be lost to the Blight was frightening, far more so than any fear for her own safety. She checked the small belt holding her dagger again, ensuring that she still had it, that it was handy if she would need it. It had been so long--

It was as though the Maker stretched out His hand to say: "Even in the midst of this darkness, there is hope and beauty. Have faith."

She headed to the tavern first, deciding that it would be the best place to start. The drink was flowing even more freely than normal, and when the door swung open, she felt her heart stop. The Wardens had arrived, and it was the same face she had seen in her vision, in her dreams. Those eyes, those features... she knew them.

In my dream, I fell, or... or maybe I jumped....
I'd do anything to stop the Blight.

After the fight, she stood, covered in blood, awaiting the judgement. It was coming, and there was very little that she could do to ensure that they understood her, that they knew what she was really trying to say. The dagger was still heavy in her hands, and as her eyes flicked from face to face, she saw it all: the hope, the disbelief, the sheer disgust. Her breath caught, and then she lifted her head again. She would not deny herself. She had seen it.

I know that we can do it.

[[ ... The Messiah ..... Generic PC ... ]]

It didn't matter who I had been, where I had come from. The moment that I had looked up at Duncan, the instant that I had clasped my hand around his forearm, accepted his help, I sealed away my past. I lost it all.

I could have been anyone. An elf from the Alienage, a Dalish. A Duster or a noble from Orzammar. I could have been a noble from a good Fereldan family. I could have been a mage for all it mattered. It was all gone now, locked away now behind a wall of blood. There was only one place to go, one way to look.

It didn't matter what I had done, who I might have killed or might have betrayed. It didn't even matter if I was just and noble or a dirty cheat. The Wardens didn't care. All that counted now was whether I could hold my own in a fight, whether I could fend of hordes of darkspawn. As angry as I've been? I suppose the answer would have to be yes.

It's time to paste a smile, to square my shoulders. The show had to go on. Ferelden was... is counting on it, counting on me. The crowd is screaming; they've been whipped into a frenzy by the death of their king, by the betrayal of the Grey. Now, it is my choice that will shape the future.

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[[ ... The Liar ..... Alistair ... ]]

How could he live like this? How was he supposed to keep going, day in and day out, knowing that with Cailan's death, he was next in line for the throne? He couldn't eat, couldn't sleep. The waves of nausea just kept coming, piling up in his stomach until it finally rebelled, unable to stand it any longer. He was glad that it mostly happened while he was on watch.

It was when he sat, alone in the dark, looking out for any sort of movement, that he really had time to think. It was then that he couldn't shake the feeling, that he knew he couldn't escape himself, his very blood. The only way out of it was to never speak of it, never let on that anything was wrong.

That was easier in the daylight. In the daylight, on the road, Morrigan nagging him and Leliana's stories in his ears, it was easier to pretend, to believe his own lies that he was a nobody, just some fool lucky enough to survive Ostagar. He lied through his teeth until his head ached, laughing and joking and deflecting, unable to take it, unable to shoulder the burden weighing so heavily on him.

It wasn't until he stepped foot in Redcliffe, could see the castle from their vantage point, could smell the lake air that he knew he couldn't do it any longer. They had to know. They had to understand before someone else told them. He swallowed, felt the bitter taste in the back of his throat. Surely, telling the truth would be easier than another lie.

[[ ... The Honest ..... Zevran ... ]]

There was nothing left, he realized, spitting out the dirt clinging to his tongue. He shot a glance to the armored figure standing so close to him, and for a moment, he considered his options. He could reach out, grab the ankle and pull the guard down, possibly making a run for it. But no, he'd seen the magic bolts and the arrows flying over the battle field earlier, and he knew that the best he'd get would be one of those in the back. Instead, as he felt himself being pulled to his feet, he decided on the one thing that had served him best his entire career.

The truth, contrary to popular belief, did not always make you feel better. It couldn't, when you were freely admitting to attempted murder, to murder for money, which made him lower than a dog in this country. Ferelden had no appreciation for the finer things, he supposed with a little sigh. He was completely frank with them; no reason to hide it now. He was a dead man.

And so, when they turned and exchanged glances, he'd whispered one last prayer to the Maker, bracing himself for the feel of steel ripping through soft flesh. But it never came. He frowned for just a moment, and suddenly realizing what was going on, he threw himself on the mercy of the Warden. He didn't want to die, not really. Not like this, face down in mud made from his own blood.

Somehow, the deal was struck, and he was with the Wardens, for better or for worse. He got the strangest feeling that it wouldn't be the first time that they turned his life upside down, and he didn't like how it seemed to hang over him. But what was done was done, and he had a promise to uphold. He sighed, reaching up to fix his hair. Wouldn't do to meet one's death looking this awful.

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[[ ... The Leader ..... Anora ... ]]

She was reeling, splattered with her father's blood, unable to breathe. It wasn't supposed to happen this way, she realized slowly, foolishly reaching up to touch the cooling red fluid on her face, her eyes wide and her mouth slightly parted. She was gasping softly, unable to catch her breath. Was she screaming? No, not out loud anyway. Her blue eyes darted around the room, locking in on each person there, looking for other horrified expressions. There were precious few of them.

It hadn't been fast; Alistair had to swing three times before her father's head had finally been completely severed. A testament either to her father's stubbornness or to Alistair's lack of decapitation skills; she wasn't sure which. Her hand fell from her face, her fingertips stained a dark red. She composed her face, looking out over the Landsmeet, the nobles she'd been skillfully conducting most of her life. It was a shame that the symphony had veered so wildly out of control, all due to a certain pair of instruments that didn't follow their composed parts.

She glanced back at them now, watched as they whispered among their group, as they decided the fate of her country. No matter what, Ferelden would still have her; she would be there to defend it, or they would kill her. Anora bowed to no one, least of all a pair of rogue wardens who couldn't even behave properly in the court. Her eyes closed for just a moment, and she felt Cauthrien's heavy hand on her shoulder. The last thread connecting her to her previous life as Cailan's wife, she realized slowly, and she couldn't held reaching up and touching the hand for just a moment before she steeled herself and received her answer, her fate.

[[ ... The Pariah ..... Morrigan ... ]]

She had watched them for hours, as they trampled through her wilds, stepped on her plants, slaughtered her wolves. She had run alongside those packs, encouraged them into attacking, and then watched as they were killed, studying how they worked. Three of them, at the very least, were complete fools. One though... one of them seemed to have a working brain. It was this one that she focused on.

A bitter taste was in her mouth, and she didn't know it's source. She wasn't certain if it was the plan she knew her mother was concocting, or simple intuition, knowing that there was so much more going on here than she knew. Her mother concealed much, and Morrigan knew that. She knew better than to trust the batty old woman.

She sneaked around the trees, letting her form slip down into something low and shaggy, a wolf that could run for miles. She watched them as they scuffed around the stones, looking for something, looking for those blasted pieces of paper that her mother coddled so. She slipped around them then, heading into the ruins once she was certain that they weren't going anywhere. She eased out of the wolf's body then, back into her own, and she dressed quickly, taking only a moment to prepare herself.

When she walked down the walkway to where they were all four looking into a ruined chest, she had the perfect smile on her face, derisive and arrogant. She wasn't some scared apostate, looking for forgiveness. She was Morrigan, daughter of Flemeth and a powerful witch of the wilds. She stepped slowly, letting her body swing seductively, as though it were natural, instinctive. In some ways, it was.

"Well, well... what have we here?"