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A Warden's Spirit

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Silvhen stood, staring at the magister, listening but not listening as he spoke of what was to come. The man didn't feel right to him, but Clarel trusted him - or rather it seemed Clarel answered to him. His brain felt fuzzy and loud. He didn't quite trust this man... and yet, at the same time, he did completely. It just felt so wrong.

 

“Get ready,” Clarel had said before leaving. Despite not really listening to them, it seemed he just knew what to do. Something was screaming in his head that this was wrong, something… no, everything about this was wrong. His head hurt when he fought it. But fought what, exactly? What was he fighting? He could hear himself in his head, screaming - but he had no idea what he was saying. Silvhen picked up his staff from where it leaned against the table and left the room, heading to the courtyard where the ritual was to be held. The screaming became louder than anything he had ever heard before, making his head ache more and more by the minute.

 

The Calling. It had to be. He was so sure, and yet... he couldn't help but think he was forgetting something. An image of a giant darkspawn glaring down at him flashed through his mind, but it was too quick for him to even register it properly. Even so, he knew what it was. He had seen it in his dreams since the Blight had started calling for him.

 

Too soon, it all went to shit.

 

He stood with his hand out in front of him, palm facing the green smoke. His hand shone with green light; each crack the magic made felt like he was losing his hand. Perhaps he was - at this point, if it made the pain stop, he couldn't care less. Even if it made his job as a healer harder. Though if the Inquisition made it through the walls, he supposed his healing wouldn't be of much use, anyway. He would be dead.

 

"Wardens," Clarel called out, gathering everyone's attention, "we are betrayed by the very world we have sworn to protect."

 

He found himself nodding, scowling, but his head felt so jumbled, the only thoughts he could make out were wrong, wrong, wrong . He watched as the magister all but stormed up to Clarel. Silvhen had no idea what he said, but it had clearly angered Clarel. She pointed to him and his fellow wardens. An older warden walked up to Clarel and the magister, and Silvhen lowered his head. He just couldn't watch as one of his brothers sacrificed himself for them.

 

It all just felt so wrong. It felt like he was there, at the back of his own mind, screaming, bellowing, shrieking that this was not what they were meant to do. This wasn't right. But he kept his hand up, the glowing green making his dark skin look ill.

 

"Stop them! We must complete the ritual!" The magister’s words burned in his ears. The Inquisition was here. Didn't they know this was important? Didn’t they know how many lives were at stake here?

 

He so desperately wanted to turn his head, to look at the Inquisition, but he found that he couldn't. It was like his head was frozen in place, staring into the mass of green smoke. Each slight turn of his head was met with the feeling of his cheek being struck, as if someone with a heavy gauntlet had backhanded him across his face.

 

"Clarel, if you complete this ritual, you're doing exactly what Erimond wants!" a feminine voice bellowed. That must be the Inquisitor , Silvhen thought, and Erimond must be the magister. He realised that, this entire time, he hadn’t remembered the magister’s name.

 

"What, fighting the blight? Keeping the world safe from darkspawn? Who wouldn't want that?" Erimond responded.

 

He's right, of course, he's right… right?

 

"And yes, the ritual requires blood sacrifice. Hate me for that if you must, but do not hate the Wardens for doing their duty.”

 

If it is my duty... then why does it feel so wrong? Silvhen's mind raced for an answer, but every time it tried to supply him with one it felt like his voice in his head was caged off - as if something was barring him from realising something. But what was it?

 

"We make the sacrifices no one else will. Our warriors die proudly for a world that will never thank them,” Clarel added. She was right, and yet Silvhen didn’t feel pride for doing this. He felt pain and a giant sense of wrongness that had no longer just settled in his stomach - instead, it had grown like a thorny vine, twisting itself around his very core.

 

"And then your Tevinter 'ally' binds the mages to Corypheus!" a voice he knew well retorted. Stroud.

 

Corypheus was supposed to be dead. He... he couldn't think. The screaming in his head had become a loud drum of voices, all his own, almost vibrating against his skull. This was it, he thought, this was wrong. But, try as he might, he couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't stop the magic pouring from his palm. What was happening to him? Why was he doing this? Deep in his tortured thoughts, he missed Clarel's reply and also Erimond's. Erimond was too far away for him to hear his hissing words either way.

 

From where he stood, he could see the doubt in Clarel's mind. Yes, his mind begged, help us, Clarel… please. But his hopes were soon shattered violently when Clarel shouted for them to bring it through. His arm shot up higher without his permission. It was as if his body had strings and was being pulled left, right and center by a master he couldn't see. His magic pulsed harder, louder, and his mana burnt as it rushed through his arm and helped create a giant virescent crack in the air which exploded in size in an instant. A gateway for 'it'.

 

The inquisitions party had moved to where Silvhen could now see them. The Inquisitor was an elf, and her party included a lar- no, a ridiculously large qunari, a dwarf, and three human men. Two of which were Hawke and Stroud. Stroud's eyes made contact with him, and he hoped, prayed, begged the Maker that Stroud could see the pain in his eyes. He didn’t want this. Stroud knew him, he would know he didn't want this, surely. He could have cried in pure relief when he saw the slight nod Stroud gifted him before he spoke.

 

"Please, I have seen more than my share of blood magic! It is never worth the cost! I trained half of you myself! Do not make me kill you to stop this madness!" Stroud's words hurt his ears.

 

Please, save us. The thought of more of his brothers and sisters dying for this mess made his chest feel like it was going to cave. But his soundless prayers fell on deaf ears. What didn't, however, was the echoing screech coming from the green mass in front of him. The sound terrified him.

 

"The Grey Wardens have a proud history!" the Inquisitor called out. "You stopped the Blight at the Silent Plains. At Starkhaven... and Hunter Fell. At Ayseleigh... and Denerim. The world owes you a debt it can never repay. I would not stand against you if I did not know you were being misused." The elvhen woman's words clearly struck a chord with everyone around Silvhen - except the mages. Their minds and bodies were still shackled to whatever was controlling them and him. He could see in the eyes of some that they were at the same point as him: body still detained, mind aching to be in control once again. His eyes followed the magister as he stepped forward to challenge the Inquisitor.

 

"My master thought you might come here, Inquisitor! He sent me this to welcome you!" Erimond banged the bottom of his staff on the ground as he spoke, a bright blood red crackle of magic beginning to surround it. An enormous dragon flew through the air, its mighty voice sending tremors of sheer terror through Silvhen’s body. The dragon - Silvhen refused to believe it was an archdemon, he couldn't - spat out red flames at the Inquisition’s party but - to Silvhen's relief and surely their own - they managed to jump out of the way in time. The beast was a disgusting black, wings torn and burnt like someone threw parchment into the fire and quickly changed their mind, and its scales were deformed. Silvhen started to doubt the mere "dragon" theory. His gut called out to him to heal the others, but he was still tied up in whatever magic was being used on him and the mages. The dragon flew right into a statue, which crumbled to the ground, and it was just sheer luck that no one was underneath it. It landed on a tower and roared, the sound shrill and earsplitting.

 

Clarel stepped back in shock, and Silvhen couldn't see her anymore. What he did see of her, however, was her purple lightning shooting forward and hitting Erimond in the back. He felt a sharp crash in his mind, a flash of green, and then suddenly... there was nothing. Not even a heartbeat.

 

"Hello, Silvhen," a soft and gentle voice whispered comfortingly. He felt it - a warm essence surrounding him, as if wrapping him in a blanket.

 

"One of the mages is alive!" a voice he didn't recognize shouted as he felt himself being carried.

 

Silvhen gasped violently for air.

Chapter Text

The muddy ground around him was worn and matted with age and the tree branches were suffering the same, they twisted angrily around each other as if they were fighting a war for whatever little light shined above. It was eerily silent. He was alone and yet… something pulled him forward gently, like someone had wrapped an expensive dressing gown cord around his middle and softly lead him down the path.

 

“Silvhen…”  A voice he knew started to whisper along the gentle breeze of the wind. It uttered his name again and again, encouraging him forward, while a low unintelligible growl tried to coerce him back.

 

Ignoring the growl, he continued forward. Whatever it was, it certainly didn't deserve his time. He noticed the originally abused ground becoming more alive with little bits of grass here and there until the pathway was completely green with a few pink and white flowers dotted about. The civil war of the trees had been settled peacefully, the white flag of clouds floated above and the warmth of the sun casually washed over him. It felt wonderful. He found himself in a meadow full of flowers of multiple colours. A little ahead was a spirit, their whole being glowing with a captivating gold that shimmered each time they moved. They were a qunari with horns that curled around their head like a ram’s crown  and framed their cloudlike hair. They were… divine, ethereal, sublime. There were so many words he could use to describe them. The spirit’s smile grew large and playful as if they had heard the words on his mind and lifted a hand gently to usher him closer. He stepped forward, but there was nothing for him to stand on anymore. The meadow had vanished and he was falling.

 

“It’s okay. You’re waking up.”

 

Waking up, he felt like he had drowned, violent gasps forcing their way through his mouth. His head felt different, heavy, more crowded but also...warm. Gone was the earthquake of drums, the pained screams and gone were the yanking and pulling of the puppeteers vines that had previously had him caged like a prisoner in his own body. He could move on his own accord again which he was very thankful for.

 

Looking around he saw he was still outside, dirt and debris had ruined the fort. He had called the fort home for 18 years, half his life really, it was a ginormous shame to see it in such disarray.

 

Closer to the gate he could see the Inquisitor and her party looking to be in some sort of argument, an air of extreme anxiety surrounded them and wafted its way around the whole fort. Bhala and her brother Bhalen were also in his line of sight, they were talking far away. Their faces also showed worry. It was strange to see the older dwarf siblings so anxious and stressed.

 

Bhala was fearless, the way she wielded her two handed sword like it weighed nothing, despite being bigger than her, stroke fear in her assailants whereas Bhalen never took anything seriously-a fact that would constantly get on Bhala and Silvhens nerves- he'd laugh as he'd bash his shield into whatever had the misfortune of fighting him. Seeing the two who had become family to him made him feel slightly calmer and in turn his breathing relaxed too.

 

A voice said his name, gently. Silvhen turned to them, surprise settling on his face.

 

“Hawke” said person sighed at the mention of his name, red hair swaying slightly as he turned his head.

 

“I'm here to… are you alright?” his words were full of guilt. Why?

 

“I… I don't know. What happened?” He truly needed to know. Had he died? Yes . A voice said in his mind but he didn't want to believe it, whatever it was. Hawke told him of corypheus, of the Inquisition and his time working with them and… what happened to Stroud.

 

“In a way… I'm not even surprised. Stroud would do that again and again if he could. The man knew self sacrifice like it was his mother” he snorted sadly, though his chest hurt with grief. He turned to face Hawke properly and he noticed the look on hawks face. There was something he wasn't saying, he knew it.

 

“Robin, what is it you’re not telling me?” Silvhen almost pleaded.

 

“Well… you died Silvhen”

 

He had known it was true and in his denial he had ignored it. But hearing Robin Hawke say it was, like a punch in the gut.

 

“H-how am I here?” His voice cracked.

 

“A spirit found you and brought you back.”

 

“I did.” It was the voice again. He knew the voice, they had spoken to him after...he died and again in the fade.

 

“How do you know?”

 

“The elven mage with the Inquisition said so. Fuck what was his name? Solvin? Whatever.” Robin shrugged, “He dreamwalks apparently. Bit of an invasion of privacy in my opinion but he wanted to make sure you were no longer under the power of Corypheus which I understand I guess.”

 

“Am I?” The thought made him feel sick.

 

“Traces, but, fuck what was his name? Well ‘whatever his name was’‘whatever his name was’ said it's not strong enough for him to do anything right now.”

 

He was still connected, could it become stronger? How long would his mind stay his own? Silvhen felt like he was going to faint…

 

And he did.

 

A sudden SLAP and a hot pain in his cheek woke him up. He rubbed his cheek and glared at grinning Robin.

 

“You weren't waking.”

 

“...Thanks” the words almost dripped with sarcasm. He had missed Robin while at Adamant but he certainly did not miss ‘The Hawke Slap’. The man couldn't fight with a sword to save his life, much less in a fist fight but his slap was aggravatingly sharp. All the experience of fighting with Carver he always said though he’d never mention that it was often Carver who won.

 

Robins face was suddenly serious again.

 

“He said you would need to see him again once The inquisitor deci- well, The Inquisitor is having to decide whether to exile the wardens or have them join the inquisition.”

 

“Shit… I guess that's what they’re arguing about then,” he sighed, “how many of us are even left?” His question made Hawke begin to cringe slightly.

 

“Nineteen. You're the only mage left, the rest died during the ritual or afterwards when they became demons... I'm sorry. Most of them were good people.”

 

“Right… lots of recruiting to then” the words were meant to maybe make it better somehow… but they didn't. Of course they didn't, why would they? The loss of over half of his brothers and sisters will always weigh heavy, he knew. “Thats if we're not exiled.”

 

“The Inquisitor knows that the Wardens were being controlled. Stroud could see it, he said so in the fade, he could see it in your eyes and in some of the others. I… didn't at first but I do now. I'm sorry I doubted you, Silvhen.” He placed his hand on Silvhens shoulder and squeezed gently. It felt only right to return it.

 

He wondered how Stroud felt sacrificing himself for the Inquisitor and her party, how he could do so for people he didn't know for very long. But he knew Stroud, he was a strong and selfless man and he always knew what to do, if he thought it was the right thing to do, then it likely was. It didn't stop him from missing his friend already.

 

The men let go of eachother and continued to watch the inquisitor bicker with her party and her advisors. He could see from here that some agreed with her while the others really didn't. The Inquisitor's face scrunched up in annoyance though he couldn't hear a word of what they were saying due to the fort being full of noise. People in pain, people helping those in pain and those who were neither, simply discussing amongst themselves or training for whatever reason they had.

 

“Do you remember how it happened?”

 

“I remember standing in front of... him but after or how it came to that? Not a clue. The latest I can remember before that is writing a letter to my Mother.” He rubbed his head as he tried to remember.

 

“Oh. How is she these days?”

 

His shoulders sagged as he thought on her last letter. The words so perfect a font, and always so formal now. She was the same as usual, same as she’ll ever be. Though he remembered she had wrote that she gained a new position as a scribe recently.

 

But before Silvhen could even tell Robin of Mahallas recent letter from the circle, the inquisitors commander shouted for everyone to become quiet. His voice boomed across the fort and almost instantly the noise died down and people gathered. With helpful hand from Robin, Silvhen stood on shaky legs. Coming back from the dead did nothing for anxiety.