Waking as the first true rays of sunlight broke through her tent, Teiran grumpily began packing her camp. Sighing, she chewed on a quick breakfast of jerky and a hard biscuit. Being up this early was never her idea. However, she couldn’t sleep any longer without being late. Looking up at the sky, she figured they should be reaching the Temple soon. Teiran tied her hair in a high bun and heaved her daypack, bow and quiver onto her back.
She stowed the rest of her camping supplies in a high tree. She would return for them after the council ended. Rationally, it might be a good idea to leave her weapons there too—after all she was never completely helpless—but she indulged in the illusion of safety they provided. Staff in hand, she picked her way through the snow, avoiding the main road and traveling up towards the mountain’s summit.
After an hour of snow crunching underfoot, the sound of a large number of people gathered in one place reached her ears. She paused. Teiran scanned the area looking for the hollow in the tree she had scouted out the day before.
"Ah ha. There you are," she thought at the tree near the shaded ledge of a huge boulder. Walking towards the hollow tree, the voices greatly increased in volume, the tension in those voices plain.
Teiran stowed her pack and bow then took her staff in both hands. She ran her hands over the worn and nicked wood fondly, tracing the faded pattern. Taking a silent, deep breath, she took a leather cord out of her pocket and threw one half over the nearest branch.
Holding her staff against the branch, she twisted the leather cord around them both, securing it with a knot at both ends. Teiran stood back and surveyed her belongings with her hands on her hips while she listened to the strained voices.
Teiran crouched down and moved towards the snow-covered ledge. The voices were decidedly divided. Teiran’s sharp, elven eyes bounced between the Templars, Chantry priests and mages waiting outside the Temple of Sacred Ashes: a gleaming boulder of armor on one side and a flowing river of robes on the other with a red and white wall separating them.
The elf settled in to wait, ears straining to make out individual words in the nervous babble. After several tense minutes, the doors to the temple opened. The wall of priests parted sparingly to allow the feuding factions to enter simultaneously while retaining the buffer of red and white robes.
Teiran anxiously eyed the disappearing crowd while throwing glances at her planned route down from her ledge to the Temple. When the last of the Templars, mages and priests had clearly turned their attention to their long-awaited turn to walk into the Temple, Teiran rose and left her ledge.
The sound of the large temple doors closing reverberated in the air as Teiran smoothed her servants’ outfit. She already missed the familiar feel of her travel-worn light armor. Completing her descent to the Temple, she swiftly approached the back of the Temple where the handfuls of mage and Templar guards were greatly outnumbered by the swirling mass of elven servants. The large number of elves moving rapidly from place to place with near-silent footfalls contrasting the clanging of pots and pans and shouting kitchen staff.
Teiran blended with the other elven servants, following their lead into and through the Temple’s back entrance. She grabbed a silver tray of beverages and snacks from the kitchens before slipping into the quiet line of elves streaming into the Temples' carnivorous main room. Teiran painted a small, blank smile on her face, keeping her gaze trained on the rough stone floor and her steps light.
Upon crossing the threshold of the main room, the elves divided into two lines to glide behind each side of the long rectangular table where the feuding factions sat. Ironically, Teiran ended up on the Templar rather than the mage side of the table.
Following the lead of the servants on either side of her, she placed the contents of her tray in front of the Templars nearest her. Keeping in step, Teiran moved away from the chairs to the back of the room, standing in line while the debate continued. Teiran spent the morning attempting to memorize anything that seemed significant, wearing her blank and deaf smile while periodically replenishing drink and food.
“Both sides have suffered and both are responsible for this year of chaos!” The Divine’s voice rose above the bickering, silencing them. “The mages did vote to dissolve the Circle of Magi, but the Templar Order had abandoned their duties in protecting them with the restrictions they put in place after the unfortunate events in Kirkwall. And I must ask you,” the Divine looked over at the Templar side of the table, “What other choice did they have?”
The majority of the mage’s side of the table agreed loudly, fists pounding the tables making the spirits ripple inside their goblets.
The Divine turned on them, “And after a thousand years in which the Templars’ sole purpose was to be the keeper of mages, could they do little else but try to shepherd their lost charges back to the safety of the Circles?”
A mage broke the brief silence, “We are not going to be locked up again, Most Holy. We are through with our Templar overlords” At this, half of the mages roared in approval while the other half remained silent and stone-faced.
A Templar rose from her chair, “I suppose we are conveniently forgetting about all the Templars slain at the White Spire! The Chantry in Kirkwall obliterated! What proof do you have that mages can control themselves without the Templars?” The Templars responded with raised voices and grim expressions of agreement.
The argument dragged on without resolution until the sun was high, heating the room to an uncomfortable degree. The servants padded back into the kitchen to retrieve a proper meal.
Before Teiran could pick up her new tray of food and drink, a Templar corralled her and a few other elves, motioning outside while instructing them to fetch some fresh water from the nearby river. Teiran grasped the pail being shoved in her direction and followed the small group leaving the Temple.
Once out of earshot, if not sight, the elves in the small group broke into a subtle but energetic flurry of conversations, seeming to continue rather than begin their gossip. Teiran listened intently, knowing that this could be just as vital as what she gleaned from the debate table. However, besides the impression that the debates were not going to be successful despite the evident passion for a peaceful resolution radiating from the Divine, Teiran did not seem to be learning more than idle gossip.
She bent down to search the wet ground for a sharp rock to break the sheet of ice over the river when an explosion rent the air, knocking her and the other servants off their feet. An ear-piercing barrage of green light enveloped the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Teiran recovered her feet and instinctively moved closer to what her eyes were already trying to make sense of. She kept her eyes trained on the disturbance at the Temple while still perceiving her surroundings: the servant’s heavy footfalls were fleeing in all directions, the light poured from the Temple windows and the faint sound of screaming metal and voices reached her elf-sensitive ears.
Simultaneously questioning her sanity but also knowing that she would regret never discovering the source of the disturbance, she ran back to the Temple of Sacred Ashes.
Stepping cautiously through the servant's entrance in the back of the Temple, she realized the green light was no longer pouring from the main room of the Temple. Glancing quickly about the kitchen, she noticed the armored guards were now nothing more than scattered corpses drowning in blood or mounds of burnt flesh. And the servants and kitchen staff had simply vanished.
Teiran moved to the closed door separating the kitchen hallway from the main room. She pressed her ear to the door, but couldn't hear properly. She frowned and considered going out and around to one of the giant windows that showed the main room when she heard a voice saturated with authority, "Now is the hour of our victory. Bring forth the sacrifice."
The elf jumped at the clear sound of the ominous voice. "Uh oh. Sacrifice?" She thought, frozen with indecision, “I am no match to whatever killed all the guards so quickly. What should I do? What can I do?”
"Keep the sacrifice still." The voice resonated with the command even though the volume remained even and conversational.
Teiran's breath quickened and sweat dampened her palms as she scowled at the thick door. "Running out of time."
"Someone! Help me!!" A familiar voice cried out.
Teiran's scowl changed to surprise. She recognized the voice of the Chantry advocate for peace that had so frequently called for resolution and understanding during the debate. The Divine was the sacrifice.
She clenched her hands into fists, sparks of lightening magic crackling between her fingers, "No more time to come up with a better plan." She pushed the door open.
In the room stood a tall figure with a glowing orb in its hand held out towards the Divine who was suspended midair to match its great height. Red bands of magic encircled the Divine's arms holding her close to the green magic emitting from the orb in the towering creature's hand.
Hands flaring with magic, Teiran entered demanding, "What is going on here?!"
Divine Justinia and the creature were not alone, Teiran soon discovered, eyes tracing the red magic holding the Divine aloft to a group of Grey Warden mages circled around the Divine.
The Wardens and the creature turned to stare at her. The creature’s gaze bored and fleeting while the Grey Wardens stared with glassy rage.
Teiran plotted her attack, turning her focus to the Wardens first. The small group was close enough for her lightening magic to bounce between them although she felt the creature would be the greatest threat.
Before either side could attack, the Divine jerked, taking advantage of her captors' distraction. The green magic was still writhing along the surface of the sphere as it flew from the creature’s hands, through the air and in Teiran's direction. Instinctively, Teiran darted to her left to catch the orb.
The tall creature advanced murderously upon the elf, following the orb that had escaped his clawed grasp.
As she reached out with her left hand, Teiran hoped this orb would help her survive this encounter. Her fingers closed around the orb and chaos ensued.
Pain obliterated all thought. Her torment originated from the orb. It seemed to weld itself to the bones in her left hand. Magic crackled through the air. Electric-green magic and the swirling dark clouds of unconsciousness dominated Teiran’s senses. The ground shifted under her feet and changed from the level floor of the temple to something irregular and brittle. Teiran abruptly lost her fight against the agony and pull of unconsciousness as they enveloped her.