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That One Time Where I Died and Got Reborn into Another World

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She hummed confusedly looking around a pure white space, with Mochi at her side. She squats down and ran her fingers through Mochi’s fur in an attempt to calm herself down. It worked, just like always, her doggo, her roommate, her bestie, anxiety dealt with, she tapped the side of her head with her left hand as she leaned her head on her dogs while patting at her side.

And so she began trying to remember what happened, and where she was…

She was… Wait… She immediately turned to look at her dog, as realization dawned upon her. Mochi had died, and she’d felt the loss so completely that she hated being in her own house. Everything reminded her of her, when she woke up, she moved to go let her out and feed her but had to constantly stop herself. Every time she went to the kitchen, she couldn’t help but expect to see her walking up to the door to be let in. It had hurt, and every time she tried to stop herself, she couldn’t help but remember finding her dead, and how her body felt as she pleaded for her to wake up. It still hurt.

“Were you… were you waiting for me?” she asked hugging her dog to her, moving back, she pinched her dog's cheeks, just like she’d always done in life.

“Indeed she was,” a voice said, causing her to jump out of her skin.

“So, I’m dead?” she asked.

“Yes,” the woman in front of her replied, “ah, sorry, white spaces like this are annoying to look at, let me populate the room a bit.”

“Then, what now?” she asked as the room changed around her. They were in an annoyingly extravagant looking room, with stained glass windows

“The circumstances in which you died were… unique… to say the least.”

“In what way?” she asked, “I was sick for a pretty long time.”

“The thing is… you shouldn’t have died from being sick in the first place.”

“…The hell is that supposed to mean? I was sick for two years!” she scratched her dog behind her ears.

“You were supposed to get better.”

“Clearly, not, since I’m, y’know, dead… Ah, well, everyone dies eventually.”

“Well… you see,” the woman said sheepishly, “we borrowed your soul from another world… you were needed, at the time… we should have sent you back after that iteration, buuut we were kind of busy, and forgot.”

“…Seriously? For how many iterations?”

“Well, don’t worry about it, that’s the past, and this is the present…”

“So? What now?”

“Your soul was demanded back, so we’ll be sending you back,” the woman explained brightly.

“Well, then wipe my memory and send me over,” she sighed waving a hand around.

“Yes… about that… it was kind of an abrupt demand so…” the woman was refusing to look her in the eyes, “there’s not enough time.”

“Are you telling me I’m going to remember everything?”

“In exchange, we’ll send Mochi’s soul with you,” the woman confessed, “and… well, your fated one isn’t in this world anyway, so there’s that.”

“…Word … So? What kind of world is it?”

“It’s called Thedas,” the woman replied brightly, clearly happy to move on, “there’s Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and stuff… Like magic and stuff! Though you won’t be able to cast any spells.”

“Fair enough.”

“And you’ll be an Elf, though that world is nowhere near as technologically advanced as the one you’re coming from… So have fun with that! So try not to seem too smart or they might lynch you!”

She felt her eye twitching in annoyance, was she being punished for something that she didn’t know about?

“Can I pass?” she asked, “you can obliterate my soul, that’s good with me.”

“It was demanded, so no,” the woman replied, “and wouldn’t you feel bad leaving your destined one alone?”

“…I see,” she sighed scratching her dog under her chin, “don’t forget me in our next life, ‘kay?”

“She’ll be joining you in eighteen years, so away you go!” her surroundings began violently glowing. The colored light streaming in from the windows increased in brightness and she covered her eyes in reflex.

“Wait! Isn’t th—”

“Sorry, can’t hear you over the sounds of me reincarnating you,” the woman said with a lilt.

“Hey! Wait! Li—”

And then she was born.

Chapter Text

She missed Great Uncle Google, he was really smart, and she had a lot of things she wished she could ask Google right now.

Such as: when is it expected for a child to speak their first word?

And: what is expected behavior for a three-year-old child?

So at current, she was keeping her silence, as she watched her parents fussing over her. She had already learned to crawl, and to stand up on her own as well as walking. Figuring out motor skills was simple enough, it was simply the extent of what her body could accomplish.

There was another question: when is a child supposed to learn how to read?

Inwardly, she sighed, she would truly have to play dumb to keep people's expectations of her low and to keep her true intelligence a secret. This world was severely behind the one she’d left behind, and she had yet to see anyone cast any sort of spell. Well, she supposed that she should probably consider how she wanted to live her life here. Well, keeping peoples expectations of her low was pretty much her plan anyway.

If her past life had taught her anything, it was that normal is best, and a happy, simple life was preferable. Ask for too much, and you set yourself up for disappointment and heartache. The same was with trying too hard. All that ever did was set her up with crippling mental health issues, anxiety, and such…

Hopefully she’d be able to avoid such pitfalls in this life. The worries of her past life were now non-existent, so this would be a bit of a cathartic experience, a new shot at life… And decidedly not Asian and therefore having that social expectation that she should be amazing at absolutely any and everything, and she wouldn’t expect that from herself, wouldn’t be disappointed in herself for being less than that…

There was a reason she was Taoist, and all of that was the reason. Though since she was third generation, her parents didn’t expect her to be perfect at everything, it was her own fault, really. She kept her expectations for herself too high, and she was the one who unmade herself.

Idly she remembered that she once read something about how intelligence is positively correlated with mental illness and suicide and that people with depression score higher on tests of realism… If the mind understands too much about reality, it tries to destroy itself. Wonderful, she’d always thought that knowledge was a double-edged blade, that could either make you or break you.

If there was something nice about this life, it was that apparently, she was now a redhead, though her red hair was kind of the color of blood, or was it more scarlet? Well, it was still pretty sweet, she’d always wanted to be a redhead, but getting there was a pain since it was expensive, and there was no way she trusted herself with her own hair because she was very, very particular about her hair.

“There must be something wrong,” Mother said worriedly, “she’s already three, and she has yet to speak her first word.”

“Sometimes these things take time, Adaia,” Father replied soothingly, “let’s just be patient.”

Oops, she should probably say something.

“Don’t worry, Mother dearest, I am okay,” she said.

Both her parents turned their gazes on her, and she simply went back to playing with the toy Mabari she had yet to name. She missed Chi-chan… Fifteen more years to go. Oh man, she should be twenty-six right now… Well, at least they would be reunited in this life, and that was already the best part of this life.

“Kallian?” Mother asked in awe.

“Yes?” she asked looking up at her Mother.

“Apparently, she was waiting until she could speak a full sentence,” Father laughed picking her up and spinning her around, causing her squeal and laugh.

Seriously, though, when does a child learn how to read?

Her Mother and Father often read her stories from picture books, and since displaying her ability to speak, she began pointing out words and repeating them, much to the excitement of both of her parents. With her being able to speak now, she began to spend time with the Elder of her Alienage and the other children around her age, it was something like attending preschool.

The Alienage itself reminded her of Japan before the black ships… Or was it more like the segregation era? Or maybe it was more like the concentration camps? The whole place was filled with a squalor that made her skin itch, and she realized just how spoiled she had been as a person who lived in a first world country.

She missed daily showers like crazy. There was so much of her past life that she had just taken for granted, not knowing just how privileged she was. She also missed the many different styles of clothing in her past life… How was a girl supposed to be fashionable here? Well, probably sew it herself, that’s how.

She'd recently realized that she’d still inherited personality traits from both her new parents, that she had not had in her past life, honestly. Which was actually a pretty interesting discovery: she’d suddenly become someone only capable of extremes, and for the life of her, could not be anything in between. And that made it significantly harder to be mediocre. So much for normal is best, she was already humongously abnormal.

She was also now right-handed, which was pretty neat, it would make writing with a quill and ink easier. Well, hopefully with more experiences she would be able to put that life behind her. To be completely honest it was a weird feeling, if she had to compare it to anything, it was like adding flavor into water.

Her Mother had told her that next year, she’d be teaching her how to be a rogue, while covering up some of her skills with other skills, which sounded pretty cool. Though, her Mother excelled in dual-wielding, which was super cool, because the romance of dual-wielding always spoke to her on a personal level.

She was out grocery shopping with her mother while her Father was at work in Bann Rodolf’s estate.

“Mother, why is there a Human in the Alienage?” she asked gesturing to the armed dark-skinned Human, and her Mother immediately hid her behind her skirts as she turned her sights on the man.

“Head home,” Mother said ushering her home, “and wait for me, okay?”

“Are you sure?” she asked worriedly.

“Yes,” Mother nodded, “now go.”

“Okay,” she replied before quickly and quietly leaving.

She was a three-year-old child, what else was she to do? If she’d stayed, she’d just have gotten in her mother’s way, and then she would have to protect her as well as herself. She would be her Mother’s weak point, and he’d go for her and render her Mother defenseless for herself. So, all she could do was wait, and hope.

Chi-chan would be an amazing comfort right now, though she could also attack the Human for them. She was getting worried and began wringing her hands on her dress, she stopped her pacing and sat down to stare at the door. Did she just get her mother killed? And now she was praying to every god she knew, and also Buddha, granted the chances of them hearing her in a world where they don’t exist is basically zero. So to that end, she put in a prayer to the ‘Maker’.

Finally, the door opened with her mother walking into the house, and she leapt up practically tripping over her own two feet as she hugged her Mother, while breathing a sigh of relief.

“Sorry,” Mother apologized kneeling down to get on eye level with her, “I worried you, didn’t I?”

She could only nod wildly in the face of that vast understatement.

And so she thanked the Maker. Andrastian sounded like an Abrahamic religion, and while that was all well and fine, she, herself, could never really get behind it. Shinto and Taoism weren’t religions that locked you into only one belief, though, most East Asian religions. Not only that but East Asia approached religion differently than Europe and America, in that they changed religions to suit their situations. In Japan, people were Shinto for auspicious occasions, dabbled in Christianity for weddings, and then died Buddhist.

She could never really get down with religions that snuffed the life out of other traditions and religions. Even Buddhism has a bloody history, they also warred against other Buddhists and even killed both children and babies so that they’d be reborn as the correct type of Buddhist. Christianity has a terrible bloody history as well, the crusades were hell on everyone involved… It probably said something about her that she liked learning the shitty sides of religious history.

Ah, well, whatever, she didn’t know the history of this world, and she was only three.

She just hoped it didn’t involve the massive subjugation and attempt to control others as Christianity once had… Call her old fashioned or weird, but she just couldn’t handle the past of Christianity, the amount of cultures that were lost because they were considered barbaric… Hawaiian culture had suffered terribly… Much that made Hawaiians Hawaiian had been lost…

Traditions and languages shouldn’t be banned to suit the tastes of others. The bits of their culture they had recovered were thanks to the collective efforts of the Pacific Islanders. It was a nice thought, that despite everything, they still endured. Though, she knew her own… her old ethnic heritage was guilty of such as well, but she knew that.

“What did the Human want, Mother?” she asked.

“Just to have a chat,” Mother replied.

There was no blood on her Mother, meaning there wasn’t a fight.

“About what?” she asked.

“Nothing important,” Mother answered, “so don’t worry about it.”

“If you say so,” she replied.

“If you ever see that Human again,” Mother warned, “keep out of his sight. Understood?”

“Okay,” she nodded.

He probably wanted something from them that her Mother didn’t want to risk her for.

***

She was five years old now, she’d been learning everything her Mother had to teach her for the past year and a half.

“Like this?” she asked mimicking her Mother’s movements with the training daggers she’d been given.

“Yes,” Mother cheered, “just like that.”

“Okay,” she replied continuing through the movements her Mother had taught her.

“Just… make sure to be safe,” Father sighed watching them, “not just while training. Make sure no one finds out.”

“Okay,” she nodded, “I won’t do anything unless absolutely necessary.”

“Good,” Father replied, “just… remember to be wise.”

“Of course,” she said.

It wouldn’t do to draw unwanted attention to herself and her family. Her actions could have serious ramifications on those around her, and that would not be good. She would do well to hide this from everyone; though she wanted to practice her wushu and parkour eventually.

Both were always fun, and not only that but learning hand to hand combat was a must if she might actually get into a fight: she wouldn’t always have daggers on her. So to that end, she should make her body the weapon that she knew it could be. Even if she’d probably never actually get into a fight, there was no harm in learning how to defend and rely on herself; especially if she could use those techniques to also protect others… They had also given her a sense of inner peace that her past life had sorely needed.

“Okay, let’s call it here for today,” Mother said stopping her.

“Alright,” she nodded, “will you read me that story again?”

“Of course,” Father replied ruffling her hair, “after dinner. Go wash up.”

In her past life, she’d never gotten her hair ruffled, a ticklish feeling, she simply nodded and bounced off.

***

When she was six, her Father left her, with her Mother as he journeyed out to one of the Freeholds. Her Aunt was sick, and her Uncle had left years ago to find the Dalish. Chances were slim that her Aunt would make a full recovery. Her Mother was already making preparations just in case her cousin, Shianni, would have to move in with them. Luckily, Bann Rodolf wasn’t in Denerim, and wouldn’t been in Denerim for a while, and thus he allowed her Father to take leave to care for her Aunt.

So for now, her Mother continued training her. She was learning so much, she wondered if she had been born into another Asian family. She was learning how to pick locks, sew, knit, cook, and all sorts of things, though her Mother made learning them so much easier, a lot of the skills she was learning tied into each other… Not only that, but growing up in a poor family required her to know how to make a lot of the things she needed. Most Elves in the Alienage were multi-talented in this same way.

“You’ll make a far better rogue than I ever will,” Mother smiled as she picked a lock.

“I hope I won’t have to be,” she replied frowning in concentration.

“Still it wouldn’t be terrible for you to be,” Mother replied.

“I suppose,” she replied, still trying to get the lock open, it was a rather difficult lock to pick.

“You’re so much like your Father sometimes,” Mother chuckled.

“I did it!” she exclaimed happily, before turning to her Mother with a giant smile on her face.

“Good work,” Mother smiled.

“Ohh! Cookies,” she said opening the box to find a small bag of cookies.

“Just for you,” Mother said ruffling her hair, “I’ll go get started on dinner.”

“Can I help?” she asked tilting her head to the side.

“Of course.”

“Mother, why can’t I understand why I’m bad at some things?” she asked as they worked through dinner preparations.

She was the same in her past life, actually. Practice makes perfect… Unless you can’t understand what you don’t understand and then you get confused and then can’t understand why you can’t understand it. She thought she’d be better about it in this life… But that didn’t seem to be the case.

She had many traits that weren’t ones she had in her past life, so surely she should be able to understand it in this life. She’d also lost many traits that she had, anxiety was a terrible dream, she wasn’t as shy as her past life…

“I’m the same way,” Mother sighed, “I can’t tell you.”

“Oh, I see,” she giggled, “then I guess I’m a lot like you too!”

“Yes, it would appear so,” Mother giggled.

A few days later, they received a message from her Father. Her Aunt had, indeed, passed away. He was returning to Denerim, and he would be bringing Shianni with him.

And Shianni, did not like being in the Alienage. Though to be fair, she didn’t blame her, she had moved from a freehold to the Alienage. Even she could see why she’d hate moving to the Alienage.

“Shianni.”

“Go away, leave me alone,” Shianni glared.

“But Shianni,” she whined, “I just wanted to give you something.”

“Go away.”

“Here,” she said ignoring her and handing her a pouch of cookies from another box she lock-picked.

“I don’t want it,” Shianni said slapping her hand away, causing the cookies to scatter across the floor of their home.

“Sorry…” she apologized before going to clean up the mess.

All Shianni did was huff in anger. What could she do to help her adjust? What could she say? She had never lost her parents in either lifetime. Sure her parents had a divorce, but she still saw her Father, he didn’t up and leave forever. This experience was completely new to her, and she had no idea what she should do…

Oh no, she was starting to cry from being frustrated with herself; at how she didn’t know what to do, couldn’t relate in any way, shape, or form. She had no idea what to do or say. What should she do? Should she keep trying? Leave her alone? What should she do?

“Let’s just give her some time,” Mother said quietly helping her clean up the mess.

“Okay,” she replied dejectedly.

Dejectedly, she moved on to stew in her own thoughts after they’d finished cleaning up the mess of cookies. Chin in hand as she absentmindedly drew on a piece of paper. She missed pencils, crayons, and let’s not forget: erasers. Instead, she was stuck practicing her letters with an ink and quill, and sometimes she wrote so fast she blurred the letters as her hand moved on. She threw a thank you to the gods that she wasn’t born left-handed this time if she had been… That would have been the worst thing ever.

“…I’m sorry,” Shianni mumbled sitting next to her at the table.

“No, it’s okay, it’s my fault,” she replied, “I should have left you alone.”

“No…” Shianni said trying to keep herself from crying, “I just—”

“It’s okay,” she said hugging Shianni, “it’s okay.”

“I just—” Shianni began wailing in her arms and she began crying as well.

They cried together until there were no more tears; until both had relieved themselves of the emotions that they’d been bottling up. Her frustrations at herself for not knowing what to do to help Shianni, and Shianni not knowing how to adjust to her new living arrangements.

“Here,” she sniffed handing her her stuffed Mabari, “you can have her.”

“What’s her name?” Shianni asked sniffing.

“Castella,” she sniffed, mochi wasn’t a thing here, so she couldn’t name her that. She suddenly really missed eating mochi. But when she got her, she felt like eating castellas so, there was that.

“That names stupid… I’m gonna call her Diana,” Shianni said after a bit of thought, “her name is Diana.”

“Oi… Okay fine, Diana, it is,” she sighed, acquiescing, it was an oddly normal name… She, herself, didn’t like giving animals normal names and usually named them after food. Like Latte, Waffles, and Castella.

“Kallian,” Mother called, “it’s time for your lessons.”

“Okay,” she replied and moved to grab her daggers and other implements for her training. She was becoming quite proficient in all the aspects that went into being a rogue, though she never knew what her mother would train her in next. She never told her in advance, so she never knew what to grab in preparation, keep her on her toes, her Mother had said. She wondered if Shianni would be joining her in her lessons, granted it would have to be only if Shianni showed an interest in it.

***

She was adjusting better now that she and Kallian had gotten on better terms. She gradually began opening up to her family, Kallian’s parents, and her other cousin, Soris and his parents. It quickly became clear to her that the house occupied by Kallian and her parents was the best kept and maintained, likely because Uncle Cyrion’s job was more lucrative than the other Alienage residents.

“Shianni,” Kallian said, “don’t worry, Elder is not scary.”

“Why are you lying to me?” she accused, “he’s really scary!”

“But he’s really nice,” Kallian said reassuringly.

“Mmmmm,” she grumbled, “if you’re wrong we’re not going to be friends anymore.”

“Okay,” Kallian replied easily, did their friendship mean nothing to her? Did Kallian secretly hate her? Why would she lie like this? She said she’d protect her, so why?

Kallian was right, Elder wasn’t scary at all, he was kind and gentle, like a grandfather, or at least what she imagined a grandfather would be like. She should have had more faith in her cousin; but it was hard, especially after she’d lost so much…

Part of her was afraid of losing the family she had now. The connections she had now, before she’d moved here, her father had left them, her mother had died, what would she do if she lost her family now? Would she be able to handle it? She’d already lost so much. She was learning archery from Aunt Adaia. This time, she would protect those she cared for with her own hands. This time she wouldn’t lose her family.

Though, watching Kallian interact with the other children, and even with the adults made her jealous, she seemed to be the center of the Alienage, people were naturally drawn to her. But she was her cousin, well, whatever. Besides her parents, Kallian loved her most, even more than Soris, a fact they both argued over behind Kallian’s back. But she was growing to love the Alienage, despite everything.

Currently, her cousin had disappeared, and neither she nor Soris had any idea where she’d gone, granted, Kallian disappeared quite easily. Sometimes she physically wandered away from a conversation, leaving the other person looking like an idiot while talking to air.

“Shianni,” a barrel called out to her.

“Huh?”

“Shianni, it is I, the barrel of destiny.”

“…Kalli …What are you doing?”

“I’m stuck.”

“How?”

“I fell off the roof and somehow landed in this barrel.”

“What were you doing on the roof?”

“Taking a nap, the weather’s nice and there’s a good breeze.”

“What are you? A cat?”

“Meooowwww, save me, myaaaaaa.”

“Maker’s breath, Kalli… I‘ll go get your mom.”

“Thanks, nyaaaa.”

***

When he was three years old, he gained a new cousin. She was quiet, and pretty like a doll, she was someone he felt that he had to protect. Though, honestly, she ended up protecting him more often than not.

When he was nine, his other cousin, Shianni, moved into the Alienage. The two had quickly become friends and he was starting to feel left out; despite the fact that they included him whenever they could catch him.

Still, he couldn’t help but feel displaced by Shianni. Up until Shianni had moved in, he was Kallian’s only cousin. He had to keep it to himself though; Shianni had lost both her parents, whereas he still had both his parents. He couldn’t even imagine what it’d be like to lose both of his parents, so he ended up acquiescing his spot. Don’t get him wrong, he loved Shianni dearly, but he couldn’t help feeling as if he’d been replaced.

“Soris,” a crate called out to him.

“What?”

“Soris, help.”

“Why are you in a crate?”

“…I don’t wanna talk about it, help me out.”

“Kalli…” he sighed, using another box to give him enough height to reach into the crate, “how do you end up in these situations?”

“It’s because she’s not an Elf, she’s a cat,” Shianni supplied.

“I am an Elf, nyaaaa,” Kallian replied as he yanked her out of the crate, making sure she had her balance before he let go of her, “thank you, Soris.”

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

Even if Kallian could protect herself and others, he could still help bail her out of trouble like this.

And that was good enough for him.

Chapter Text

She joined the double-digit club. Her life before and her life now were really starting to feel different; like the person she was, was simultaneously different and the same, and it wasn’t just her experiences. They were the same person, but at the same time not…

It was weird, she could remember her past life, though parts of her experiences there were fading, but she had different traits in this one. A somewhat different personality, she was calmer, more stable, the mental disorders she’d had were gone, she didn’t wish to die before she grew up anymore, which was great news, truly.

Well, yet, anyway. There was plenty more time for life to screw her over later. At least she still kept the general knowledge she’d learned in her past life, and that would probably help in this one.

Shianni had begun practising archery. Her Mother refused to teach her cousin lock-picking but ended up teaching her everything else she taught her. Her Mother had also told them to never ever steal, they could lose more from it than the Humans, something which she agreed with: her Father could lose his job, she could lose her life, the repercussions on the Alienage, in general, could be terrible. Even Elves who didn’t do anything wrong faced the harsh scrutiny of persecution.

So this was what oppression felt like, huh? Being in a minority in a place with an actual majority sucked, she missed being in a cultural melting pot with no majority. Ah, well, she’d be a popsicle if she’d kept her sensitivity to cold from her past life, people who grew up and lived near the equator really had no way to survive in cold climates without a mountain of layers… Actually, what part of the world was she even living in right now?

She’d begun hanging out with the apothecary, and she’d taught her how to grind herbs, and mix potions. Later, she’d learn how to mix poisons, but not for another year or two. It was dangerous, and she could see the logic in that. She’d learned as much as she could from her Mother by now, but she kept practising with her, improving her stance, and technique, the fluidity of her movements.

She wondered when she’d meet her fated one, but she was only ten, she shouldn’t really concern herself with meeting them yet. She had time, probably, anyway. Wait, no, positive thoughts, she had time. He had time. They both had time.

“Shianni, come here, quick,” she whispered, upon seeing that dark-skinned Human again.

“Why?” Shianni whispered back.

“Mother told me to stay out of that Human’s sight,” she replied as they both hid in the shadows moving towards their house.

“Do you know why?” Shianni asked.

“No,” she shook her head, “she wouldn’t say.”

“Okay,” Shianni nodded.

***

They could hear a lot of noise going on outside and rushed to the door, but she was stopped by her Mother.

“Stay inside,” Mother commanded, “I’ll see what’s going on. Both you and Shianni are not to leave. Understood?”

“Yes, Mother,” she replied, and both she and Shianni watched her leave through the door.

She could hear people screaming, she could smell fire, she wanted to run out into the streets to find her Mother, but she couldn’t because Shianni was here. She couldn’t lose her cool, Shianni was here. She needed to keep calm, she needed to hold herself together.

She wished her Father were here, but he wasn’t. She huddled with Shianni, if their house caught fire, she’d move them somewhere safe, she would keep them safe. She didn’t know what was going on, but she had a bad feeling about it, and that was all she knew. She was worried, incredibly worried, tripping, she was tripping over herself.

And it was a few days until her Father was allowed to return home, both she and Shianni hadn’t left the house, hadn’t eaten, and hadn’t slept out of fear. They were on the brink of passing out until they found the charred corpse of her Mother.

It was her turn to wail in Shianni’s arms.

Her Mother lay dead, and her family left weeping.

Powerless.

She was powerless.

And she hated her powerless self.

And so she decided that she would no longer allow herself to feel powerless.

***

He was fifteen when he lost his Aunt Adaia, he didn’t know what to do or say. Kallian was depressed, she couldn’t bring herself to eat, and he was worried. They were all worried, his Uncle Cyrion, did his best to help her transition in to being in a one-parent family, but it was hard. He didn’t know what to do or say to help her, neither did Shianni, and Shianni had known what she was going through. Instead of saying anything, the two of them just silently sat with her as she cried. They didn’t need words to help her through this, all they needed to do was be there for her.

They had no words to tell her, but they both knew that just being there for her was enough for her.

***

She was running through the back alleys of Denerim, holding her dress to keep it out of the way. Not slow enough to be caught, yet not fast enough for them to lose interest, just right. She heard their steps behind her, and a small smirk played on her lips as they neared where she was leading them; so with a burst of speed, she disappeared around a corner, leaping up onto the wall and then the roof of a nearby building. They were near one of the hideouts of the many gangs that made these back alleys their home.

“Where did she go?!” one shouted angrily.

“Andraste’s tits when I get my hands on that broad,” another growled.

As she expected, the gang came out of their hiding and advanced upon the nobles. The idiots, she turned her back on them and left, they had just been baited and outsmarted. If you’re going to chase a woman through back alleys, you deserve every bit of misfortune that befalls you. She returned to the Pearl to tell them that their problem had been dealt with, collect her payment, and return the dress and wig.

If her Mother hadn’t taught her what she knew, she definitely wouldn’t be baiting men and leading them to their doom; it was dangerous, she’s been cornered before, surrounded, but her eyes could see: judge distance, the fastest someone could move, the length of their arms and the furthest they could reach, this allowed her to slip past them, and combined with her training, allow her to leave the encounter unscathed. She jumped on faces and heads, intimidated with her movements and eyes, wall jumped.

Parkour was still fun. She’d retained a lot of what she knew from her past life, at the cost of many of her memories in this one. She had always constantly tried out new things because nothing could keep her attention long enough, well, that and she hadn’t known what she wanted to do with her life. ADHD for the win. When anxiety struck her down, she needed a way to release that pent up energy, and so she’d turned to martial arts… Plus it made her feel like she was one with the world, it made her problems feel small. She was just glad she still knew how to unnerve people with her movements. Well, that and even if it did come down to a fight, she was pretty confident she could take them.

Regardless, there were several risk factors in this but she only acted with careful consideration. Getting cocky would have terrible consequences for her, consequences she wasn’t really comfortable with paying: they were obviously chasing after her for a reason. Rape and molestation were the exact reasons she did this: she refused to allow herself to be targeted and refused to allow anyone else to be targeted as well. If she could act, if she could do something, then she would. Turning the hunter into the hunted would probably be the end of her one day.

Though she doubted her Father would allow her to do this for much longer… But mischief and mayhem were practically her middle names in this life. Not only that, but her past life pretty much set her up as someone who would always be scarier than thou… All the women in her family had that trait… Get pissed off? Threaten with a knife. Angry? Frying pans are bludgeoning weapons that you can cook with after. And of course, there was always the ever ominous: choose your words carefully, I know where you sleep at night.

Returning home with a sigh, she opened a journal, grabbed ink and a quill and began writing.

Dear Mother,

I’m fourteen now, and I’ve kept up my training, in the way you taught me, making sure to not get rusty. I’ve been learning potions and poisons from Agatha, and… I… I miss you, Shianni, Soris, and Father miss you as well. We’re doing our best, so don’t worry about us. I’m protecting us as best I can…

She sighed and put her quill down and the stopper back into the pot of ink. Why did she keep doing this? Tearing the page out she folded it carefully and threw it into the fire. The same ritual she does with every letter she has ever written to her Mother. She should know better and to let the dead rest... She missed the Mother of her past life, whose side she left too soon, and the Mother of this life, who left her side too soon. Balls. Picking up the book she was reading, she rested her chin in her hand, and let her mind wander as she read. Tapping a finger on the table, if she didn’t make noise, every now and again, people got angry with her. She had no idea why.

Well, until she felt someone leaning on her heavily from behind.

“Shianni, what are you doing?” she asked.

“Bothering you.”

“Well, alright then,” she sighed.

“When’re you going to the orphanage to help out next?”

“Probably tomorrow, why?”

“Was just wondering,” she felt Shianni shrug.

“Mind moving?”

“Why, yes,” Shianni replied snarkily, “I do mind moving.”

“Are you telling me not to cook your portion of dinner tonight?”

“Fiinnnee I’ll move,” Shianni whined moving off of her, “also, how many people are you going to lead to their deaths?”

“As many as I feel like.”

“It’s going to be so hard for Uncle Cyrion to find you a husband.”

“Well, he’s got seven years,” she replied, “and that should be plenty enough time for that.”

“True,” Shianni nodded, “still wouldn’t hurt to start making it easier for him.”

“I want to be accepted for who I am, not who I’m not.”

“How romantic of you."

“You say that as if it were a bad thing."

“Well, it’s not, it just makes things harder for Uncle."

“Then I guess I’ll just remain unmarried."

“That’s what I’m going to do."

“Guess we’ll just be unmarried sisters for the rest of our days."

“That doesn’t actually sound too bad,” Shianni paused to think for a bit, “still, I think you would be happier married.”

“Eh, who knows?” she shrugged, returning to her book, though she was quickly interrupted once again.

“KALLI HELP!” Justin shouted banging on her door, she immediately stood up and moved to the door, “KALLI PLEASE! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!”

“Calm down,” she said soothingly, “breathe, what happened?”

“It’s my grandma!” Justin cried, “help!”

“Take me to her,” she said, and Justin pulled her along by the hand with Shianni in tow. It didn’t take long for her to know what happened, she didn’t have to see it: she could smell it. Quickly grabbing a sheet from a nearby bed she covered his grandmother’s body with it, “go get Valendrian.”

“On it,” Shianni said running out.

“I—” Justin was inconsolable.

“It’s okay,” she replied hugging him, “why don’t you go wait outside? It’s hard to see her, isn’t it? We’ll handle it.”

“Okay,” Justin sniffed and moved away.

She moved back to the body, rigor mortis was already setting in… and her mind flashed backed to when she found Mochi laying dead… There was nothing anyone could do about old age. Fourteen and becoming so desensitized to death, she was the first person someone thought of to go to when discovering his Grandmother dead.

They spent the next few days handling the funeral arrangements, she and Shianni helped clean the floor of his house. It was hard for him to see her, it was hard for him to be in that house, and she knew how that felt. She and others from the Alienage took turns staying with him, helping him quietly when he wanted to be alone, and there when he didn’t want to be alone.

“You know,” she said sitting next to him, “when I’m missing my Mother, or if there’s something I want to tell her… I write her a letter.”

“What use is that?” Justin scoffed, “she’ll never read it.”

“Doesn’t matter, sometimes it just helps to get it out. She’s not there to speak with me anymore, but that doesn’t mean she can’t listen.”

“You’re dumb,” Justin replied, but took a piece of parchment from her, grabbed an ink bottle and quill, and began penning a letter to his grandmother, while she penned one to her Mother.

“And then we fold it up nice,” she said demonstrating how she folded it before tossing it into the fire, “and then burn it.”

“What’s the point of writing it, if you’re just going to burn it?” Justin asked skeptically.

“Well, how else can we be sure that it reaches them?” she replied, and watched as Justin threw his letter into the fire as well, “feel better?”

“…A little.”

“Just take it step by step, you’ll get there.”

***

“Shianni,” a crate called out to her as she was wondering where her cousin had gone, according to the children, she had disappeared while playing with them.

Generally, either she or Soris were the ones who had to look for her cousin. If she wasn’t paying attention, she got lost easily and trapped in weird places; especially while she was lost in thought. Her actually physically getting lost generally wasn’t a problem for her; she just jumped up to the highest roof she could find and to get a birds-eye view to figure out where she was.

Well, at least her dumb cousin always paid attention while she was out of the Alienage. Then again, there were actually many reasons, that Kallian was often referred to as a cat. One of them her like of being in containers, easy enough to understand; another was because of her flexibility and cat-like reflexes, she also moved quietly like a cat on the prowl, and had a small obsession with hunting.

Kallian’s ability to naturally disappear was really second to none, it was to the point where she had to consciously make noise as she moved around, otherwise, she just moved so quietly. She just… moved so quietly. Maybe they should just get her a bell.

“… Seriously?”

“I messed up.”

“What were you doing this time?”

“Playing hide and seek.”

“How are you such a good rogue and yet you get stuck in odd places?”

“… I can’t help the fact that I’m a clumsy idiot when I’m not paying attention.”

“Maybe you should pay attention.”

“Help me, nyaaaa.”

“You stupid cat,” she grumbled while helping her cousin free herself from the crate.

“Thank you, myaaa.”

“But seriously, how do you always end up in these situations?”

“I don’t know,” Kallian grumbled, “I was wondering that too. I spent a lot of time thinking about my life choices while in that crate.”

“And?”

“I came to the conclusion that I am an idiot.”

“I won’t argue there,” she sighed.

Sometimes, she didn’t understand her cousin, she loved her to bits and pieces… but sometimes, she just made no sense. She’d made that she didn’t know exactly how smart her cousin was, there were times where her knowledge pool seemed abnormally large, and then there were times where it seemed incredibly small.

Sometimes, she had the feeling that her cousin was hiding something. Since she wasn’t sure, she figured Kallian could handle it in her own time, and if it was something she needed help with, she knew they were there for her. To be honest, though, the chances that Kallian was hiding something were pretty high the woman was practically a vault of secrets no one could get into, many didn’t even know it existed, and her expressions betrayed nothing.

“Haaaaaaaah!?” Kallian shouted angrily drawing her out of her thoughts, “you wanna see what happens if you try to saying that to me again?!”

“…Kalli, stop yelling at the drunkards,” she sighed grabbing her cousin and dragging her off.

Kallian seemed to have infinite patience… until you were an idiot. She couldn’t seem to tolerate ignorant idiocy. Honestly, they were lucky that Kallian didn’t brandish her fists, the woman was terrifying in a fight… Well probably, anyway. She had yet to see her get into an actual fight, but she could tell that she could easily beat the shit out of someone.

 

She dumped buckets of water over Kallian’s head, and watched as her cousin covered her nose and mouth in a scarf and run into the roaring inferno. A few people ran out of the building before Kallian ran back outside, and shortly after the house collapsed behind her. Kallian was collapsing houses to keep the fire from spreading too much.

As worried as she was, if it wasn’t done, the damage would be left unchecked. They were only fifteen years old, and they were being called the Fire Sisters, since they were always helping to keep the damage to a minimum. They moved quickly between the houses, but she could see slight burns on Kallian’s skin and clothes. They forced themselves to keep going.

A child was roughly shoved out of the fire and a beam was falling on to Kallian, she screamed in horror, only able to watch as Kallian crossed her arms to shield her face before roughly pushing it to the side and escaping at the last second. She ran towards her cousin who was curled up, holding her arms close to her body.

“Kalli, let me see,” she demanded, and she gingerly moved her arms. The burns on her forearms were pretty bad… and made even more complicated by splintered wood, and the cloth of her sleeves that looked like they were fused to her skin. They immediately brought her to the resident healer; Kallian biting down on a strip of leather as they carefully peeled back the cloth and gently removed the splintered wood.

Her prodigious cousin who had always been careful, had always known the dangers of running into burning buildings and collapsing houses suddenly seemed not as invincible. She knew Kallian wasn’t invincible, she knew her cousin was flawed, but it was still weird to see her injured like this.

In the aftermath, she helped Kallian apply a poultice to her burns, wrap bandages on them, but Kallian seemed to be more despondent than usual as she organized the purchase of wood taken from dismantled ships. She was likely going to have those burn scars for the rest of her life.

Kallian didn’t lose as much as others, but as much as she tried to hide it, she seemed to hate looking at her own burn scars. Kallian called them a badge of pride, a mark of honor proving that she saved someone, so why didn’t she like looking at them? Why did she hide them? Her always confident cousin was hiding her arms and she still didn’t understand why.

“Do they hurt?” she asked.

“No, I just don’t like looking at them.”

“Then let’s do something to make you like looking at them.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Kallian sighed as she allowed herself to be led away.

She brought them back home and forced Kallian to lay down on her stomach. Pulling out needles and tattoo ink, Kallian had an extremely unhappy look on her face and tried to move away. Seeing her chance, she pounced onto her to keep her where she was and then began tattooing red flowers complete with leaves and vines around her burns.

Her hopes were that she could show her that even though she may be scarred, she was still beautiful. Idly, she remembered breaking her favorite cup one day, Kallian had helped her put it back together, and showed her that it could be more beautiful fixed than it was before.

“Stop squirming,” she chastised, “you’re going to ruin it.”

“You just wait until it’s your turn,” Kallian glared.

“The more you squirm the more it’ll hurt.”

“Ow! Owowowowow,” Kallian hissed, sometimes her dumb cousin was so much like a cat, it was weird.

“We’re turning you into a faerie,” she replied brightly, “don’t worry it’ll look amazing.”

“Shianni, you sadist!”

“Beauty is pain.”

“If it’s this painful, then I don’t want to be beautiful.”

“You’re already beautiful, it’s just a matter of making you more beautiful."

“If I’m already beautiful then why are you doing this?”

“Because you don’t like looking at them."

“Andraste’s tits, Shianni.”

She began putting the finishing touches on her left forearm, and Kallian relaxed her grip but continued to glower at her as she began to repeat the process on her right. Once she was done, Kallian turned the tables on her, and was now sitting on her to tattoo flowers on her, though instead of her arms, she tattooed her back.

“Oh, fuck me, it hurts,” she hissed.

“Right?” Kallian replied mockingly, “stop squirming, you’re going to ruin it.”

“Honestly, Shianni,” Soris said, “you did make her go through this too.”

“We should share our suffering with you,” she replied.

“No, I’m alright,” Soris replied.

“No, she’s right, we should share our suffering with you.”

“I’m fine,” Soris said quickly, “I’m going to go home now.”

“Bye, Soris,” they replied in unison.

 

She was practicing patience, while sewing a dress. Kallian was much better at these things, her fingers generally flew through the movements easily, too bad her nose was currently stuck in a book. Kallian stretched, the motion moved her and messed up her stitching. She almost killed her cousin.

“Oh, sorry, did I fuck up your stitching?” she felt Kallian reposition herself to look over her shoulder.

“Yes, you did.”

“Want me to finish it for you?” Kallian asked, scooting next to her so that they were sitting shoulder to shoulder, instead of back to back as they had been.

“Yes.”

“’Kay,” Kallian said holding out her hands, and she passed the fabric needle and thread over, and with that out of the way, she opened a bag of candy. Without even glancing at her, Kallian opened her mouth, “ahhhh.”

Rolling her eyes, she popped a piece into her mouth, before eating her own.

“Oh, man, these are good,” Kallian said, “where’d you get them?”

“Made them.”

“…Seriously? Make moar! Aahh,” Kallian opened her mouth again, and she popped another piece of candy into her mouth.

“I’ll think about it.”

“I demands it!”

“We’ll see.”

***

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, she hummed a random series of notes as she worked, she adjusted the way she was sitting and pulled one of her legs up so that her ankle was resting on her thigh. She heard the door to her room open, but didn’t pay it any mind, there was only one person who would enter her room without knocking, and that was Shianni… Because they shared the same room.

“Whatcha making?” Shianni asked, “and why do you like sitting on the floor so much?”

“Dunno, preference? Braided cord bracelets, and a new hair tie,” she replied, “want one?”

“You’re weird, and yes, please! Not a hair tie though, I don’t need one of those.”

“’Kay, what colors do you want? And is this really how you ask someone for a favor?”

“Blue, your favorite color.”

“’Kay.”

She ended up teaching Shianni how to make the bracelets, and they ended up making one for Soris too… Which they gave him right after pranking him, as a way to apologize.

 

She yawned and stretched, loosening up all of her joints, and tested out her flexibility, before walking off the edge of the roof she had been napping on. It was faster to fall than it was to climb down. Sometimes she just sat on a roof and watched people go about their day, imagining what kind of lives they were living, what their worries were… Sometimes she just liked being in high places, sometimes she just wanted to review her knowledge of the landscape. Sometimes, it was a nice quiet place for her to practice her stances and such, sometimes it was a good meditation spot, and she could really feel one with the universe.

Wait, why did she like high places so much? Maybe she really was a cat.

“Shianni! Look out below!” she called, and luckily her cousin moved in time for her to land right next to her, “hey, Shianni.”

“…Is there a reason it’s raining Kallians?” Shianni asked.

“It’s faster to fall than it is to climb down,” she replied, “well, if you know how to do it safely, anyway.”

“Where did you go?” Shianni asked.

“I was taking a nap,” she replied pointing to the roof she’d been napping on, holding the pulled out sleeves of her tunic to the palms of her hands, “it’s warm, and there’s a nice breeze on that roof.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“You should join me one day,” she pouted, “you’ll see, it’s nice and comfy. Perfect nap weather.”

“I don’t want to turn into a cat like you.”

“D’aww, don’t say that, nyaaa.”

“You say that, and yet you still act, and sound like a cat,” Shianni replied dryly.

 

Another fire… It was a dry season, and fires were starting up more often, it didn’t help that there was another riot. At least it was quiet for a year before things kicked up again. Shianni dumped another bucket of water over her head, and she ran back in. She couldn’t let her trepidations about getting burned again get to her: she had people to save and fires to stop from spreading, so she fought through her fear. Being burned sucked, but she couldn’t let that stop her. She could tell that Shianni would rather she just stop. Her Father probably would too, no one would blame her if she just quit. Still, she was drawn to fire, like an idiot, everything in her life seemed to be connected to fire.

“Kalli! Shianni!” Soris shouted, “help!”

After sharing a look they immediately ran to their cousin, his house was on fire, and Soris was trying to brave the fires that’d consumed his house.

“Where’s Aunt and Uncle?!” Shianni asked quickly.

“They’re still inside!” Soris replied.

Shianni dumped another bucket of water over her head and she ran in quickly, securing her damp scarf around the lower half of her face, she looked around hoping to find them as quickly as possible. The house was already beginning to fall, she wouldn’t have much time left. She saw them, and saw that she was too late, and sprinted out of the building, coughing violently.

“I’m sorry, Soris,” she cried, “I was too late.”

“What?!” Soris shouted at her wildly.

“I was too late,” she cried, “I’m so sorry.”

“Why?” Soris shook her, “why were you able to save all those other people, but not my parents?!”

All of these life experiences, all her combined ages, and it still didn’t matter. All her abilities, all her skills, and she was still powerless. What use was she? No, she couldn’t let this get to her; she couldn’t… His Holiness Dalai Lama the Fourteenth, give her the strength to persevere… What was it he once said? Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength? Yes, she can’t lose hope.

“SORIS STOP!” Shianni shouted, “she did her best!”

 

Her Father was home faster this time. His work often kept him away from the Alienage during riots, she knew that he was always terrified of coming back to find his whole family dead; especially after having come back to find her Mother dead. Soris’s parents were dead now, and their funeral had been yesterday.

“Kallian,” Father begged, “please… don’t run into burning buildings anymore. I don’t think I can lose any more family to fire.”

“Okay,” she cried, “I’m sorry, Father. I couldn’t save them.”

“No, you’re only sixteen,” Father replied, “you’ve done more than enough… Give Soris some time.”

“Okay,” she replied, she would not give in to despair this time, she was not going to fall into the spiraling pit of self-hatred. No, she was going to keep moving forward, or die trying… Which in hindsight was far more likely.

Fire.

It was hot. She could feel the heat of it on her skin, could hear the screams; the scent of burning buildings and corpses hung in the air. She could hear her Mother, Uncle, and Aunt calling out for help, but she couldn’t reach them, she tried but was blocked off by a falling beam. They burned alive right in front of her eyes. Shianni, Soris, and her Father were screaming for her, but there was nothing she could do.

Powerless.

She was powerless.

All of her abilities, all her knowledge, experiences, and strength… it was still all for nothing.

She was still powerless.

But still, she would try not lose hope.

***

He was nineteen years old when he lost both his parents. When he finally felt what Kallian and Shianni had gone through. He knew it wasn’t her fault, he knew she tried her best, but it was still hard. Seeing all the people she’d saved, and not seeing his parents among them. The guilt and frustration were eating away at her, even if she tried to pretend it didn’t. She was a good liar, she wove lies together as if she were knitting a blanket. And even though he’d been with her for her entire life, sometimes he couldn’t read into her, but right now… right now the hurt, the pain, and suffering, he could see it clearly.

He was hurting her, he could see it in her eyes. He needed to apologize, to tell her that he understood that it wasn’t her fault, but the longer he put it off, the harder the words were to say. So in the end, all he could do was avoid her like a coward. He hated that part of himself, he was hurting her every time he went out of his way to not even see her. Kallian was a strong person, seemingly invincible, but he knew that emotional wounds sliced her heart sharper than any blade could.

“Kalli,” he finally said, causing her to jump in surprise, “I’m sorry.”

“No it’s—”

“Don’t you dare apologize,” he chastised her, “it wasn’t your fault. You did all you could, it wasn’t fair for me to turn on you like that.”

“I—”

“I just said not to apologize,” he chuckled wryly messing up her hair, her hands shot up to bat his away, and he caught a glimpse of the bandages she wore over the scars from last years fire. Guilt sliced through his own heart, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Kallian replied wrapping her arms around him in a hug, “I understand.”

“That’s not an excuse.”

“No, it is,” Kallian shook her head.

His cousin was a hero, and he had treated her like a villain. Even if Kallian forgave him, even if she understood, it would still hurt him to know that he’d dealt that emotional blow to her for the rest of his life.

He loved his cousin dearly, and he regret that he hurt her more than the burns on her arms.

***

They were sitting across from each other, Kallian was reading a book in front of her, and she wanted to ask her something… To tell her something but she was suddenly having a hard time saying it, she’d gone through this conversation in her head multiple times… Screw it, she couldn’t let fear stop her from living the life she wanted… If Kallian didn’t support her then… She’d probably figure something out. Probably. Maybe.

She prayed to the Maker that Kallian wouldn’t think differently of her, wouldn’t look at her in disgust; she probably wouldn’t, Kallian was abnormally accepting, but even knowing that she was afraid to voice it. Once she put those words out into the world, she’d never be able to take them back; there was no way Kallian would ever forget.

“Kalli,” she said catching her cousin’s attention.

“Mhm?” Kallian hummed in question as she turned a page.

“I’m not attracted to men,” she admitted, and Kallian immediately closed her book and looked up at her; she felt her heart in her throat. Did she fuck this up? Did Kalli hate her now? Find her disgusting?

“Shianni, there’s nothing wrong with that. I can’t even choose what kind of food I like and dislike, why would I judge you on what your sexual preference is?” Kallian replied wryly, “I can’t choose what I like and dislike, you can’t either.”

“You don’t think there’s something wrong with me?” she asked.

“Why would I?” Kallian replied, “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. Rather, if I thought there was something wrong with you, then that would mean that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. Why? Do you think there’s something wrong with you?”

“I… just I don’t know, maybe?”

“There isn’t, but thank you for trusting me enough to tell me."

She felt a huge weight lift from her chest and she stood up and hugged her cousin tightly. There wasn’t anything wrong with her, Kallian saw nothing wrong with her. Kallian wouldn’t judge her, wouldn’t see her as less of a person, wouldn’t look at her differently; and for now, that was all she needed. It would have crushed her if her cousin had thought there was something wrong with her, she would never have been able to recover from that.

“So we’re clear,” Kallian said rubbing her back, “I’m into men. But let me know if you need anything. Tell me if someone gives you shit for it, I’ll kick their asses.”

“Thanks, bitch,” she replied.

“Anytime, bitch."

“By the way,” she said moving her hands to grope her cousin's breasts, “have they gotten bigger?”

“Shianni, stop, those are mine."

“They’re still so small.”

“I’m going to hurt you, I can’t control the size of my breasts.”

“By the way, what are you always reading?”

“Novels.”

“What kind?”

“Any, really. My favorites are the ones with good villains.”

“Villains?”

“I’ve always identified more with villains.”

“…Reasons?”

“Not sure, but a villain is what truly makes a story good. Without a good villain, what use is a hero?”

“I think you’re more of a hero.”

“Maybe an anti-hero, but I still prefer villains.”

“You’re weird.”

“True.”

***

The Tabris Trio were sitting on one of the roofs, waiting for the sun to rise on First Day. If there was something she appreciated about this world: it was the lack of light pollution and the fact that she could see the stars. After promising her Father that she’d no longer put herself in danger for others, she’d decided to grow her hair out, no longer needing it short to deal with fire. She liked her hair, so this really worked for her. New life, and still particular about her hair, in her past life, it had been a family trait; it carried over to this one, which she was fine with…

Thinking about it, there were a lot of similarities between both lives, but there were also a lot of differences, she was far more playful in this life, though she retained much of her well-mannered polite attitude from her last life… Likely that part of her stemmed from a combination of her past life and her Father’s influence.

“Damn Soris,” she hummed, “they’re going to start looking for your wife next year.”

“Don’t remind me,” Soris grumbled, “you’re lucky, you have another four years before you get to look forward to it.”

“Hey, don’t insult my delicate maiden heart,” she replied. All she could really do was hope that the person she would eventually be matched with was her fated one. She was promised a fated one in this life. Well, not promised, just sort of alluded to, she was going to be salty as hell if she never met him. Then again, how does one know if they’ve met their fated one? She also wondered how she was going to meet back up with Chi-chan, where was she to meet her pupper?

She pulled a sandwich out of the basket they’d brought with them, and rolled her eyes when Shianni held out her hand, and pulled out another sandwich after handing it to Shianni. She offered one to Soris, who took it with a thank you. This was a yearly tradition for them, waiting to watch the first sunrise of the new year. There were no super-accurate clocks, and so she had no idea when midnight was, first sunrise would have to do. Not only that, but there were two moons, and it was nice to look up at.

The sky here was clear, so it was nice… She wondered if there were meteor showers she could watch. Maybe she should pay more attention to the night sky, though there weren’t any she could see from Denerim, anyway.

“You? You have a delicate maiden heart?” Soris laughed, “this from the Fire Sister who led men to their doom in the back alleys of Denerim?”

“I haven’t in a long time,” she rolled her eyes, she’d stopped hunting a long time ago, “I stopped after I got scarred, remember? My hunting career was only a year… Ohh a rhyme.”

“Doesn’t mean that you never did, and I think it was a little longer than that."

“Ugggh, shut up oldie."

“I’m only three years older than you."

“That’s still three years, oldie,” Shianni chimed in.

“Not you too,” Soris groaned.

“But you are older than us by three years, oldie,” she replied, she, a person who died when they were twenty-three was now calling him, a person who was twenty, oldie.

“Now you’re insulting my delicate heart,” Soris grumbled into his sandwich.

“Aw, you know we love you,” Shianni laughed.

“We’ll be right in your shoes in four years, Soris,” she replied dryly, “don’t worry.”

“From the Fire Sisters who have declared that they’ll stay unmarried for their entire lives?” Soris asked.

“Father won’t allow it,” she sighed, “he wants me to be happy. And if I have to get married, then so does Shianni.”

“You’re so mean,” Shianni frowned, “you know I’m not into men.”

“I do,” she replied, “but I can still give you shit about it. You do the same anyway.”

“And we’re not the Fire Sisters anymore,” Shianni added, “we were banned, remember?”

“I’m pretty sure your moniker will always be there,” Soris replied, “you’ll always be the Fire Sisters.”

“That’ll make it so much easier for me to get married, the woman who ran into burning buildings and got scarred.”

“You know Uncle Cyrion wouldn’t allow you to be unhappy,” Soris replied.

“True,” she replied with a sigh.

Marriage was a rite of passage, a way to add fresh life into the Alienage, someone would move between Alienages. Apparently, her Mother was from Gwaren, she had no real idea where that was, she also had yet to see a map of this world. Seventeen years living in this world, and she’d yet to see a map. Okay, let’s review what she did know:

One: She lived in a country called Ferelden.
Two: She lived in the capital city called Denerim.
Three: Elves were treated like shit.
Four: Magic was indeed a thing, as evidenced in the fact that a rat became an ice cube the other day while she was helping out in the orphanage.
Five: Mages had it pretty shit too, as evidenced by the fact that templars came and took said mage away the next day.
Six: This world was also round.

She really missed Google in times like these. Her knowledge of this world was severely lacking, actually, the worlds knowledge of this world was probably lacking.

“Oh, there,” she pointed as the first rays of sun began peeking over the horizon, “Happy First Day.”

“Happy First Day,” her cousins replied in unison.

“We should go prepare for the rest of the day,” she said standing up and dusting herself off.

“Yeah,” Soris replied, “I’ll see you two later.”

As she climbed down the roofs to return to the Alienage, she suddenly had an epiphany: she was an idiot, why didn’t she just ask Alarith about the world outside Denerim? He was from somewhere called Tevinter, he probably knew a lot; so with that thought, she decided she would ask him about it sometime later this week. Her heart suddenly leapt up into her throat as her foot slipped, barely managing to catch herself in time. She should really stop wandering around when lost in thought, honestly, she was just glad her ankle flexibility kept her from eating shit.

 

Alarith began stocking informational books for her to read, and she feasted on them; learning as much as she could about this world. For instance, Thedas was originally only inhabited by the Elves, and maybe the Dwarves, then the Humans came and things went to shit; which sounded familiar. She learned about the Exalted Marches, which also sounded pretty familiar.

Honestly, she didn’t think that Human history would be eerily similar in both worlds; but, well, here it was. Another reason she was grateful for the books he stocked, was the fact that I read it in a book somewhere was such a convenient phrase… Wait, thinking about it, wasn’t Andraste a Roman goddess in her old world? Now it was going to bug her, folklore and myth were some of her favorite studies, she wished she could look this up.

He’d also procured a map of Thedas for her; something which she was grateful for, and by studying it, she’d deduced that if this world was like her old one, they were in the southern hemisphere, the weather was more tropical at the tip of the map, and the weather here was colder… Actually… The land continued on past the Anderfels and southwest of Orlais… Hm… What if the north she was looking at, wasn’t true north? And the map should be rotated differently?

Then again, she couldn’t expect this world to function the same as the world of her past life… Though, it looked like Antiva was prime real estate for an Island Girl like her. That giant bay? And that kind of weather? Ooh baby.

Though Antiva looked too big for her… Actually, living on a continent was kind of weird. Not only that, but it was probably expensive as shit. Ah, well, she’ll probably never leave the Alienage anyway, so it doesn’t really concern her. She’s quite happy where she was… Though she missed swimming, kind of a lot. Unfortunately, however, she was too afraid to go to the docks, she could easily be targeted there. The risks outweighed the rewards.

“Can’t you go bother Shianni?” Alarith groaned after answering yet another of her questions, “or Soris?”

“Neither Shianni nor Soris knows what you know.”

“So, what? Are you planning on leaving the Alienage one day?”

“Of course not, I don’t know the first thing about camping or traveling. I know my limits, I don’t care about actually seeing the world, I just want to know about it.”

“Good, both Valendrian and your Father would kill me if you did.”

“I’m not the adventurous type, I’m just a bookworm.”

“What are you planning to do with all this knowledge?”

“Who knows? I’ll figure it out later.”

“You do realize people are going to suspect us of being in a relationship, right?”

“I don’t think I’m your type.”

“You’re not, I’m not into brats who annoy me, nor am I into incorrigible pranksters.”

“I figured as much.”

“Can’t you see I’m busy?” Alarith sighed, clearly trying to get her to leave, but instead she looked around at the empty shop.

“I see… no customers,” she replied, gesturing to the lack of business, “also, I’m the best business you have.”

“No one likes a smart ass.”

“Yes, yes,” she said pulling her purse out of her pocket, “now, how much do I owe you?”

“Twenty-silver.”

“Uwaaa… steep,” she cringed pulling out the silver coins.

“Where are you even getting your money from?” Alarith asked as she took her books and stashed them in a bag.

“Odd jobs,” she replied brightly, “Chanter’s board, y’know?”

“Your Father is going to have such a hard time finding you a match.”

“What makes you say that?” she frowned.

“A headstrong trouble-making woman like you?” Alarith laughed, “no way.”

“If he doesn’t like the person I am then he doesn’t deserve me,” she stuck her tongue out, “see ya!”

Marriage, marriage, marriage.

“It’ll be hard to find you a husband.”

“You’re making it harder for your Father to find you a match.”

She was getting tired of hearing this, her worth shouldn’t be defined by her marriageability. It wasn’t their fault, it was society that was wrong, society was the one perpetuating all of these biases that should be inconsequential. She hated that her cousin felt like there was something wrong with her just because she was into women and not men.

The world of her past life still had these problems, and it was far more advanced… Why did people like to judge each other like this? It made no sense to her, it never did; then again, she’d grown up in a community without a majority, she’d never really thought much about how spoiled she was to have lived in a place like that.

She looked at her hand, clenched it and unclenched it. Considering her financial situation, she should probably start trying to slow her metabolism down. She’s already hit her growth spurt, so it should be okay; and she’s spent the last year and a half off and on carefully beating the shit out of things to reinforce her bone structure, so strength-wise, she should also still be okay if she continued with very light exercise, and unfortunately, not eating too many calories.

Which was the main problem… Well, hopefully, she wasn’t a monster when hungry, and no one’ll die. For the sake of her future, and her wallet, she must prevail.

***

For some reason, her cousin has been hanging out with Alarith a lot lately, asking about his life and such; it made her suspicious, was Kallian in love with their shop keeper? She did seem like the type who would like older men, and Alarith was older and far more mature than the other boys in the Alienage. Should she tease her about it? Actually, that was a stupid question, of course, she should tease her about it.

“I’m home,” Kallian sighed as she entered their house.

“Welcome home,” she replied.

“Thanks."

“Did you have a good time with Alarith?”

“Hm? Ah, yeah, though he kicked me out."

“What do you think about Alarith?”

“He’s great,” Kallian yawned, “he’s really been opening up my world lately.”

She was shocked, had they really gone that far already? Kallian was charming, witty, and charismatic, sure, but she didn’t expect this of Alarith; actually, she didn’t expect this about Kallian. Was there something about her virtuous cousin that she hadn’t known was there all along?

“Wait, hold up, I’m getting the feeling that you’re misunderstanding something,” Kallian said as realization seemed to dawn on her, “we’re not like that.”

“Are you sure?” she asked waggling her brows, “I won’t tell anyone.”

“Maker’s breath, Shianni,” Kallian sighed, “Valendrian won’t tell us about the world outside Denerim, and I want to know about it.”

“Boooooooorrrrrrring,” she groaned, “I was really looking forward to hot interesting gossip.”

Of course, her cousin was boring and just wanted to learn. It would’ve been super interesting if Kallian were interested in Alarith. Though, Uncle would probably be disappointed if she were. He had nothing against Alarith, but… Ah, well, at least now she could reassure him that there was nothing between them.

“Sorry, but there isn’t any."

“Do you at least have a crush on anyone?”

“Nope, but if I ever develop one, you’ll be the first to know."

“I’d damn well better be. By the way, can I ask you something?”

“You just did.”

“Oh ha-ha.”

“What’d you wanna know?”

“Do you even have any weaknesses?”

“…That’s a dumb question. You should know them by now.”

“I don’t, that’s why I’m asking.”

“I have a shit memory, I overthink things, I’m not always as smart as I seem, I’m probably going to get in way over my head one day,” Kallian replied counting off her fingers, “when that happens, I’ll probably crash and burn.”

“You’re already burned.”

“Touché. I’m also constantly hungry,” Kallian added, “which is financially draining.”

“…True, you do eat like a pig… How you’re still slender is a mystery,” she nodded, prompting Kallian to push her.

“Exercise, bitch tits. Why are you asking about my weaknesses? You planning on killing me?”

“What? No, I was just curious, you always seem so perfect… and at least I have tits.”

“Low blow, and if it’s you, I wouldn’t mind. Are you sure you’re not just expecting me to be perfect, and ignoring my flaws?”

“Touché. How are you not as smart as you seem? And what do you mean, you wouldn’t mind?”

“I’ve been burned, but haven’t learned my lesson, and am still drawn to flame… Like an idiot. Or a moth. Or both. And I know what I said.”

“An idiot moth.”

“Moth brains aren’t really that big to begin with, so maybe I’m actually a smart moth… Also, are you forgetting all the times you had to save me? From crates? And barrels?”

“…How did I forget that?”

“That’s what I want to know,” Kallian said opening up a bag of cookies, she opened her mouth. Kallian rolled her eyes as she fed her a cookie, before popping one into her own mouth.

“Thank you,” she said covering her mouth as she chewed, “and didn’t you get stuck in a barrel recently?”

“I wanted to see if I could still fit.”

“You stupid cat, though you could, you just messed up in positioning your legs.”

“Myaaaa, it’s rude to insult people, nyaaaaa.”

“Also, your eating habits would be cheaper if you’d just accepted the free things people try to throw at you.”

“Ha-ha-ha, you silly,” Kallian laughed mockingly, “Shianni, there is nothing more expensive than things that are free.”

“…That makes no sense,” she frowned, seriously, what the fuck was her cousin on about?

“If you accept something that’s labeled as free,” Kallian explained, “then the person that gave it to you can trap you. That’s how they get you, you know? I gave you this free thing, therefore you have to do this for me. Often times, what they ask for can be far more expensive than the thing you got.”

“Okay, that makes a lot more sense,” she replied thoughtfully, “I didn’t even consider that.”

“’Swhat I’m here for.”

Idly, she wondered exactly how much Kallian had protected her without so much as a second thought.

“Do you ever wonder what you’re life’ll be like in the future?”

“Doesn’t everyone? However, the future is something that is forever uncertain,” Kallian yawned, “no matter how intricate your plans are, how well thought out they are, even the best-laid plans can always go awry.”

Chapter Text

For once, she was sitting on top of a crate, and not inside of it, swinging her legs around as she helped Valendrian watch the children play. Her reflexes were far faster than his, so she could react faster than he could in case something bad happened. She tossed an apple up, caught it, and repeated.

She’d always been pretty good with kids, she didn’t really understand why, but whatever, it came in handy. Idly she thought about her life at current, she slowed down her metabolism, and as planned her strength didn’t take too large a hit, and she still retained her flexibility. Now she was trying to add fat to her body, because aesthetically, being skin and bones wasn’t really what she liked for herself. She wanted that golden ratio of muscle and fat, and she wanted to keep her strength up for just in casies; you never know what the future will hold, and if she’ll need to do some heavy lifting.

Being a strong independent woman was her current goal, along with still keeping as normal a life as possible.

“Soris!” she shouted seeing Soris talking with Taeodor, “think fast!”

“Stop playing with your food!” Soris shouted back barely catching the apple in time.

“Hi, Taeodor!” she waved, ignoring Soris.

“Hey, Kalli,” Taeodor waved back, as she saw a child trip, swiftly moving to stop their fall.

“Be more careful,” she replied setting the child back on their feet with a pat on their head, “how are you doing?”

“Pretty good,” Taeodor replied, “and you?”

“Alright,” she answered, walking back to her crate and sitting on it cross-legged this time.

“I’m surprised to see you sitting on top of a crate,” Taeodor said wryly, “and not inside of it.”

“Right?” Soris laughed.

“I can’t watch children inside a crate,” she laughed.

“I’m sure you could figure it out,” Taeodor laughed.

“I agree,” Soris said as she scooted over so that Soris could sit on the crate with her, “see you later, Taeodor.”

“Yeah, see you,” Taeodor waved before going home.

“No pranks and hijinks today?” Soris asked biting into the apple she’d thrown at him

“Not any that you know of, anyway,” she grinned.

“…As long as they don’t include me,” Soris groaned, “it’s fine with me.”

She loved her cousin Soris, even if he was a bit of a square.

***

She was watching her cousin playing jump rope with a bunch of the children. Honestly, how she could pull this stuff off without tripping was surprising, especially considering how clumsy she could be. Another kid jumped in along with her and they both began laughing while keeping in time with the rope swings.

Though, her cousin was actually highly flexible and mobile, and was great at jumping from place to place, she somehow still ended up falling into weird places all the time. Ah, one of the children messed up, and Kallian laughed and helped them up, as they stopped the rope from swinging. They kept Kallian in the middle jumping while starting to swing the rope again when she noticed her watching.

“Shianni! C’mon, hop in,” Kallian grinned, “pun intended.”

“Kalli, you suck,” she laughed moving to join her cousin.

“C’mon, it’s like this,” Kallian laughed as both cousins jumped in time with the swinging rope, while gesturing for the other children to join them, and the children jumped in mimicking their movements, Kallian giving a thumbs up as they got the rhythm down, “yeah! You’re getting it!”

She really loved her energetic, idiot, cat of a cousin, who always had a smile, a laugh, and encouraging words to help people through their days.

“So, Shianni,” Kallian hummed on while they were on their way home, “how’s your relationship going?”

“Pretty good,” she replied, “much better than your lack of one, that’s for sure.”

“Pshhh, I don’t need a relationship,” Kallian replied linking their arms together as they walked back home, “boys are stupid, all I need are good friends and fun times.”

“Then maybe you should come over to my side.”

“I just don’t feel that way about girls,”

“What is your type, anyway?”

“Average,” Kallian said as she snapped her fingers into a thumbs up, “normal people.”

“…That’s a shame, you could really land yourself a super hot guy.”

“Ah, but extravagant food can get boring fairly quickly, whereas, a nice simple home-cooked meal will always hit the spot.”

“…I suppose, you weirdo.”

“Whoaaa, rude.”

Kallian spotted Soris first. Sharing a mischievous look, they both snuck up on their unsuspecting cousin.

“Boo!” they shouted in unison, scaring Soris out of his skin. Dissolving into a fit of giggles, they both ran away as Soris chased after them.

They really loved their cousin Soris.

***

“Hip hip,” Kallian cheered clapping her hands, “you’re oolllllllllllllllllllllld.”

“…Gee, thanks,” he replied dryly, “isn’t it supposed to be ‘hip hip, horaaay’?”

“Hip hip,” Shianni clapped her hands, “you’re ollllllllllllllllld.”

“You two are the absolute worst,” he groaned.

“We’re the absolute best worst,” Kallian grinned.

“But seriously,” Shianni said.

“Happy Name-Day Soris!” both of his cousins cheered in unison.

“We made you your favorite foods and a cake,” Kallian said.

“Thanks, you guys,” he grinned.

“So, you’re meeting with Valendrian about your upcoming betrothal soon, right?” Kallian asked.

“Ugh… Don’t remind me,” he groaned.

“Too late, already done,” Shianni said brightly.

“Just you wait until it’s your turn,” he grumbled, “also, I hate that one of you is looking at me with pity, and the other is trying not to laugh.”

“I can’t help it,” Kallian said a hand on her mouth, clearly trying to hold back her laughter.

“Same,” Shianni said, “I feel so bad for you.”

“Like I said,” Kallian replied waving a hand around laughingly, “we’ll be in your shoes in a few years.”

Both of his cousins were absolute jerks, but he wouldn’t have them any other way. Granted, he often felt out of place with both of them, they were both pretty huge focuses in the Alienage, meanwhile, he was painfully average compared to them. They both had the courage to conquer mountains, they were both personable and funny.

Despite the fact that he often felt like he was the odd one out, he would always love both of his cousins dearly.

For some reason, Kallian was missing, so now he and Shianni were opening the lids of crates and barrels. The weather wasn’t warm, and there was no breeze, therefore chances were she was in either a crate or a barrel. Honestly, he was surprised her back and posture weren’t paying the price for her weird fascination with both types of containers. Sometimes, she was reading in a crate, sometimes she simply didn’t pay attention, and fell into a barrel while setting up a prank…

Though, to be fair, that was more divine intervention than anything. Or retribution. Or both.

Thinking about it, his cousin was far too good at simply disappearing and reappearing. If she didn’t vocally announce her presence you wouldn’t even know she was there.

“I found our dumb cat of a cousin,” Shianni called out, and Kallian popped her head out of the box she was occupying.

“Shianni, I am an Elf, mroooww,” Kallian yawned.

“An Elf shaped cat,” he offered.

“You two are the worst,” Kallian frowned.

“The best worst,” he said echoing her words from last week.

“…Touché.”

Supposedly, both of his cousins were out shopping in the Market District, since it was impossible for Alarith to stock everything. But he was still suspicious. Sure, Kallian actually was almost out of cooking ingredients, but whenever Kallian and Shianni were together somewhere where you couldn’t see them: you could be sure that something unfortunate was happening somewhere. It was only a question of where and what. Despite Kallian’s well-mannered disposition, both of his cousins were mischievous beyond reason.

“What’s wrong, Soris?” Taeodor asked, “you keep looking at everything suspiciously.”

“It’s Kallian and Shianni,” he replied, “they’re together, somewhere.”

“Oh…”

That was all that needed to be said, the infamous Fire Sisters weren’t just called Fire Sisters because they helped deal with fires. It was also because they were both energetic, and playful to a fault. Kallian’s influence also tended to spread like wildfire, especially with her affinity with children. Shianni was sometimes hot-tempered, and couldn’t keep her cool, letting her emotions out in explosive bursts. Shianni only saw Kallian as a center of attention, and Kallian only saw Shianni as a center. As someone, not a Fire Sister, he could see that they were both centers.

“Hey, Soris!” Kallian called, and he jumped.

“We’re gonna bake cookies,” Shianni said waving to him, “we got a good deal on flour and sugar today!”

“Do you want some?” Kallian asked.

“Yeah,” he waved back, “save some for me.”

“Can I get some too, please?” Taeodor asked.

“Sure thing!” Kallian replied brightly.

“You and your cousins are really close, aren’t you?” Taeodor said, “it’s rare to see any of you alone.”

“Yeah, we are… And as annoying as they can be at times, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

He really loved his cousins, they were the perfect mix of sweet and salty.

***

“Here you go, Elder,” she said handing blankets, sheets, and some new clothes for the orphanage over to Valendrian.

“Thank you, child,” Valendrian replied, “I was just thinking that we’d need to change them out soon.”

“Of course,” she replied, “it takes a village to raise a child.”

“That’s true,” Valendrian chuckled, “what do you have planned for the rest of the day?”

“I wanted to get some cleaning done, and then going shopping for ingredients… And while I’m cooking I’ll probably help Agatha mix some medicines together.”

“I can already see that you’ll make an excellent wife… especially if you can curb your mischievous tendencies.”

“But if I did that, then I wouldn’t be me anymore.”

Marriage again.

She was hearing the word more, especially since Soris was at the age for it now. Of course, they’d associate marriage with the rest of his cousins, the three were rather close, rarely without each other… Well, all things in good time, she supposed.

“True,” Valendrian sighed, “well, off you go then.”

“See ya,” she said and waved goodbye as she moved to continue on with the rest of her day, flying through her chores with practiced ease, until she had a sudden realization… Besides eyebrows, elves don’t grow facial hair… Holy shit, part of her was grateful, and another part of her was pissed off. It was really weird.

She was really beginning to wean off of her total memory from her past life, she just hoped she could retain the more important pearls of wisdom… Or at least she’s been here so long that she’s forgotten most of her past life’s experiences until sometimes some random piece of information popped into her head.

Another realization that she’d had, was that she’d stopped comparing both worlds to each other. Which was fantastic news, because the her of that other world was physically dead and gone, and she should really focus on her life in this world. Especially, since it’s the one she’s currently alive in.

She’d probably keep comparing her different personalities, but that was honestly because it was actually pretty interesting, and she was curious to see what type of person she’ll become.

She was sitting in a tree, watching out for Soris. She was gonna get him good this time, she just knew it… Thinking about it, she had never been this much of a prankster in her past life.

“Boo!” she shouted gleefully, making sure her legs were secured on the branch she had been sitting on as she swung her upper body down so that now she was hanging upside down right in front of him.

“HOLY FUCKING SHIT KALLI!” Soris shouted.

“Ohhhh… I got an expletive out of you,” she clapped her hands together excitedly, maneuvering her body so that she landed on her feet in front of him, “how rare!”

“Why are you like this?” Soris groaned.

“I dunno, I was born with this personality.”

“You are going to be the death of me one day.”

“Life should be full of love and surprises.”

“…I wouldn’t be surprised if you were the death of yourself one day.”

“Well, at least I’ll be able to say I had a fun life.”

“True.”

“Are you coming over for dinner?”

“Sure, why not? At least you take cooking seriously.”

“I take everything seriously!”

“Really? I’m pretty sure you just fool around. All.The.Time. Or at least most of the time.”

“We take our fooling around quite seriously, Soris,” Shianni piped up.

“Exactly!” she said and both cousins snapped their fingers into a thumbs up.

“I hate you two sometimes,” Soris sighed, as both cousins flanked him and latched onto his arms.

“Only sometimes,” Shianni pointed out cheerfully.

“And you know we love you, Soris,” she grinned.

“Yeah, yeah,” Soris sighed, “I love you two, too.”

She loved Soris and Shianni like siblings because, at this point, they practically were. Shianni could be abrasive, and her fire ran hotter than hers, but underneath all her bluster and mischief, she was a romantic sap. Soris was a happy medium between the two of them, though he was more on the timid side. One of the reasons she and Shianni liked playing tricks on him, was to try and get him to be more assertive.

It wasn’t working… Perhaps they needed a new approach. This life was much different than her last, she had far less, but she found herself far happier regardless. Her community was strong, and always there for each other, which was something she appreciated more than anything… Though her past life was like that too. She was beginning to see the truth in the Dalai Lama’s words. Even if life was hard, even if she was poor, she always had everything she needed to be happy.

***

As Elves, they never had free reign over Denerim, every time they left the Alienage, they were under suspicion, and Kallian was rendered to dress like a boy to avoid… men. The only time where they could freely wander the streets of Denerim was at night when it was harder to pick them out from the shadows. They packed snacks and walked through alleyways, making sure to avoid gang hideouts, Kallian seemed to always know where they were, even if she no longer led men astray... Probably because she spent more time combing through the back alleys than they did. They clambered over rooftops while avoiding guards, helping each other up.

Sometimes, Soris came with them, sometimes Kallian went alone. It was a weekly ritual for her.

“Hey, Soris, Shianni,” Kallian hummed as they sat together, “have I ever told you why I like looking up at the stars?”

“Isn’t it just because they’re pretty?” she asked.

“Well, there’s that too… But some people like to believe that we become stars when we die,” Kallian replied.

“…So you like to imagine that your Mother is up there watching over you, don’t you?” Soris said thoughtfully.

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ll never look at the night sky the same way ever again,” she replied.

“Is that good, or bad?”

“Good,” she grinned, “because now I know where to look when I’m missing my Mother.”

“I feel the same way,” Soris agreed, “whenever I’m missing my parents… I’ll just look to the night sky.”

“Glad I could help.”

“Where did you hear that, anyway?” she asked.

“I read it in a book.”

Star-gazing became a weekly ritual for all three of them.

And all they wanted was for these peaceful days to continue.

“Hey,” Kallian said as looked up at the stars, “I have a request.”

“Wuzzat?” she replied.

“When I die, don’t cremate me,” Kallian replied thoughtfully, “bury me with a sapling.”

“Why?” Soris asked, “are you dying?”

“We’re all dying, just at different rates,” Kallian stuck her tongue out, “which is why we should make every moment last… But that aside, that sapling will one day grow into a tree, yeah?”

“If no one sets it on fire or cuts it down,” she replied, “also you call me a romantic sap, yet here you are.”

“In my opinion, you’re both romantic saps.”

“Well, I want to be a romantic sapling then,” Kallian grinned.

“Ughhh… you’re the worst,” she and Soris groaned in unison.

“Anyway, even in death, there can be life,” Kallian said wistfully, “I’ll be able to live on in the tree… And if you’re ever missing me, you can just sit under the tree and pretend it’s me.”

“…That actually sounds kind of nice,” she said thoughtfully.

“Right?”

***

Soris and Shianni were out and about, Soris was talking to Valendrian about his upcoming betrothal, and Shianni was… somewhere, likely hanging out with the girl she was dating. Luckily, she didn’t have to worry about marriage quite yet, she was only eighteen, and generally, people married at twenty-one.

Currently she was knitting blankets for the children at the orphanage, writing out a quick checklist of all the things she wanted to accomplish this week. She wanted to sew together new sheets, and clothes for both herself and for the orphanage. Shianni would want new clothes soon, too.

There were plants she needed to tend to, and herbs she needed to set out to dry before grinding them down to replenish her stock; medicines didn’t make themselves, and Agatha needed the extra hands.

“Kallian,” Father said, “I need to talk to you about something.”

“Okay?” she hummed stretching out her knitting.

“I know it’s early,” Father said carefully, “but I think it’s time for you to get married.”

“Huh? But I’m only eighteen,” she said as she dropped her knitting needles, “are you okay, Father?”

Either she or her Father weren’t okay, and that was not good. There should be nothing wrong with her, but her Father? Was he sick? Was he going to die? Was she going to die? Actually, did she mess up somewhere? That was far more likely. Was this way of keeping her out of Denerim and to avoid whatever mess she was involved in? She hadn’t led people down alleyways in years, and her mind raced wondering exactly what was going on.

Clearly, something was up, and not knowing what worried her; she had always hated not knowing things. Even in her past life, she was an intellectual anxiety sponge, and though she’d lost most of those aspects of her in this life, it still showed itself every now and again.

“I’m fine,” Father replied reassuringly, “but you’ve heard news of the situation in Ferelden, I’m sure.”

“Something about a Blight?” she replied as she tapped her chin in thought, she never really heard much about the world outside Denerim. She also had no clue what a Blight was in this world. Was it just an illness? Or something more? Valendrian didn’t tell them much about things occurring outside the Alienage, likely to keep them from stupidly running out and getting themselves killed; granted, she got a lot of information from Alarith, so there was that.

Valendrian’s goal was always to keep them safe, but she’d heard that the King rode out of Denerim a week ago and that he was amassing his army at Ostagar… Wherever that was. She was a little concerned though, but trusted that everything would all work out in the end.

“Yes, as such, Valendrian and I have decided that it would be time for you to start your own life… Before it’s too late.”

“That sounds… ominous,” she frowned.

In a story, this would be a death flag. She’d already lost her Mother, Uncle, and Aunt, she wasn’t emotionally ready to lose another important family member. Then again, was anyone ever really emotionally ready to lose a family member? Death wasn’t really something you could do something about, it was always looming around every corner. Or something along those lines, truly, any slip up could kill you at any second… She missed her dog.

“It’ll be fine,” Father replied, “I’ve already found you a match.”

“This conversation is going places, and I’m not sure I can keep up,” she replied holding up a hand, “I’m getting married this year, and you’ve already found me my future husband?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“In two months, the same day as Soris.”

Everything was happening too fast, way too fast. She was having issues wrapping her head around this. Marriage was something in her future, sure, she knew that, but this was happening much earlier than she’d envisioned. Granted, there was nothing she could do about it now, she could kick and scream but it wouldn’t do her any good.

Might as well roll with it and keep herself from stressing out about it, so instead, she took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out, and idly drew circles on the table with her index finger as she processed this information. She was highly aware of her Father’s eyes on her as she stewed on this information a bit.

He was holding his breath worried about how she’d react to this bit of news. He had nothing to worry about, she wouldn’t refuse. On the other hand, it was the type of informational bomb that would make anyone anxious. This whole Blight business was really throwing her off, then again, she had told Shianni, that even the best-laid plans can go awry. Whelp, wrench, meet works.

Actually, she should make a side note to look up what a Blight was after this whole wedding thing was over and done with. For now, she had enough books to read, and she was also already busy… Why hadn’t she considered that earlier? Ah, right, she was an idiot. Then again, she wasn’t made of money, she had to seriously save up to buy books. Information was never a cheap commodity, especially given how important it is.

“Why can’t I choose who I marry again?”

“Tradition, child. With so little contact between Alienages and so few chances to travel, you must trust your elders.”

“I see… I’m surprised you found me a fiancé who doesn’t mind my scars and everything.”

“About that… I didn’t tell him that your Mother taught you how to fight,” Father replied sheepishly, “so don’t tell him quite yet.”

“Did you tell him about my scars?”

“Yes, it’ll be much harder to hide those after all… And you still don’t like looking at them.”

“I really don’t,” she sighed.

It wasn’t that she was ashamed of them, she was actually quite proud of them; they were proof of her accomplishments. Her reason for hiding them, however, was something she didn’t want to think about. There were times when she could still feel the heat of the fire on her skin, taste the leather she’d bit down on as they peeled the cloth of her sleeves from them, hear the screams, smell the scent of her own flesh burning…

There were many unpleasant sensations that were forever associated with them. Before she hadn’t had the physical reminder of the riots, they had eventually become bad dreams. With scars, she could remember everything just by looking at them. They would pass, in time, she knew that, but for now, it was still too fresh in her mind.

Sometimes she still dreamt of her powerlessness, dreamt of her family dying in a fire. She didn’t understand why the fire that had taken everything from her still enchanted her.

“In any case, I’ve a letter for you,” Father said handing her the letter, “from him, his name is Nelaros.”

“Okay,” she replied.

Taking the letter, she began sliding her finger under the seal to open it when the door slammed open, causing her sigh and place it on the table as she turned to look at her cousin; she had a feeling it was about to get annoying. Don’t get her wrong, she loved her cousin dearly, but sometimes she could do without her high energy.

Like right now, actually. Especially since her cousin was never getting married, she knew that, and she supported it. Whenever talk came up about it, she always steered the conversation away from it.

“KALLI! I HEARD THE NEWS!” Shianni shouted.

“Did you now?” she replied dryly leaning on her head on her hand as she regarded her cousin.

“Congratulations!” Shianni said brightly, “I’m so excited for you.”

“Yaaay for me,” she cheered monotonously waving her hands up in the air, of course, making sure to hold her sleeves to her palms with her middle and ring fingers.

“You sound like Soris,” Shianni said.

“Oh, good, I’m not the only one,” Soris sighed from behind Shianni.

“At least you were expecting it,” she frowned, “I wasn’t.”

“Is that a letter from him?” Shianni asked ignoring both her and Soris’s attitudes.

“So it would seem,” she replied.

“Read it!” Shianni demanded, “now! Quick!”

“Maker’s breath, Shianni,” she sighed and opened the envelope she’d been handed, “am I moving to wherever he is? Or staying here?”

“He’ll be moving here, from Highever,” Father answered, “and don’t worry, I made sure that he’s nice, and will treat you well.”

“I had no doubts about that,” she replied while reading the letter, fully aware that Shianni was reading it over her shoulder. She had always been a romantic.

“Of course you’re staying in Denerim,” Soris pointed out, “the day Valendrian lets you leave is the day the world ends.”

“He was speaking about making you our next hahren,” Shianni added, “a decision which I agree with.”

“Not gonna say that I didn’t see that coming,” she replied.

“Are you going to write a reply?” Shianni asked.

“Might as well,” she replied moving to grab parchment, her quill, an inkpot, and then began penning her reply.

Suddenly, she felt excitement lace through her heart: was this how she was going to be reunited with her pupper? She still missed her dearly. The change of environment had helped, she didn’t see traces of her everywhere she went, and wasn’t constantly reminded that she wasn’t with her anymore… What she wouldn’t give to see her doggo again, now that she was thinking about her again, the hurt came back, but the hope that she’d see her again soon soothed the pain.

They’d begun sending each other letters back and forth, and the more she learned about him the more she could see a future with him. She found herself wondering about what kind of daily routines they would have together; what kind of food did he like? Was he fiscally responsible? Despite the abruptness of it all, she found herself getting excited. Even if he wasn’t her fated one, she could see herself living a happy life with him. It did worry her a bit though, what if he wasn’t her fated one? What if she met him later on? Some soul-mates didn’t work out because of reasons like this. Sometimes their lifestyles just weren’t compatible. It’d probably all work out in the end…

Even if Nelaros wasn’t him and she met him later, she would remain faithful and stay with Nelaros. Through the letters they sent each other, she found out that he’s the youngest son of a blacksmith, and that he was also an accomplished smith. A normal life, with a normal person, that was the life she wanted to live. Still, this would be her first time as a bride, in either lifetime so she still had absolutely no idea what to make of this situation.

“Are you sure you can still live a normal life after everything?” Shianni asked one day as they were leaning on each other, back to back.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she replied continuing to read her book as Shianni knitted a sweater.

“Just that… you know… you’ve never really been what one would consider normal.”

“I’m feeling attacked,” she frowned and put down her book to play with the ball of yarn Shianni was using to knit.

“Well, you are the Deadly Faerie of the Denerim Alienage, and stop playing with my ball of yarn.”

“What’s with that? And no."

She continued tormenting Shianni by rolling her ball of yarn around, quickly getting in touch with her inner feline; she might be in trouble, she wanted to find a nice warm roof to take a nap on. After shifting positions, she tucked her skirt beneath her and opened her book back up while mindlessly toying with the ball of yarn with her free hand.

In hindsight, they should probably finish sewing her dress. Wedding dresses were a nightmare to sew, and they only had another month… But they were a pain to sew and she didn’t feel like getting back to it just quite yet.

“So, when are you getting married?”

“Nevar! I will never get married!”

She frowned bowed her head down and then quickly lifted it again, slamming the back of her head into Shianni’s.

“OW! You bitch!”

“Wa-ah-ah.”

“You know, you look especially faerie-like with your hair long, it’ll go with your wedding dress well.”

“I’m about to bash you in the head again.”

“I wish you’d put it up more, rather than that low ponytail you wear over your shoulder… though I do like the white ribbon.”

“I’m about to bash you in the head again.”

“Please, don’t.”

“Then stop talking about it my appearance.”

“But you’re so— OW! ANDRASTE’S FUCKING TITS KALLI!” she cut Shianni’s sentence off by bashing her head into hers again.

“I warned you.”

“By the way, can you teach me how to apply make-up?”

“Maybe later, you don’t need it.”

“Neither do you, but you wear it anyway.”

“That’s kind of you to say, but I don’t wear it for other people, I wear it for me,” she replied, she wore her make-up in the exact same style of her past life. Very light, but still noticeable; but then she also didn’t feel comfortable without the mask of it. It had always been her armor, a way to tell herself that she needed to calm her tits; jewelry had functioned much the same for her, “so why do you want me to teach you?”

“To look pretty?” Shianni replied.

“For yourself or others?”

“Hmm… Good question.”

“I’ll teach you when you answer it, so think about it carefully: why do you want to wear it?”

Shianni is perfect just the way she is.

***

“Shianni,” a crate called.

“…How did you get stuck this time?”

“I am not stuck, I needed a hiding spot, and fell asleep.”

“…Why are you such a cat?”

“Who knows, nyaaa, this crates on the bigger side, so there’s room for one more myaaa. Join me?”

“And if we both get stuck?”

“We have one more lifeline: his name is Soris.”

“I’ll pass,” she replied, honestly, she was kind of curious as to why her dumb cousin liked crates and barrels so much. Though, she would never admit it out loud, “how is your posture still good?”

“Stretching, and I keep my back straight as much as possible,” Kallian replied hauling herself out of the crate she was occupying wiggling her body to the left and right and stretching out all her joints, “like that.”

“I see.”

She and Kallian had been sewing her wedding dress off and on, but they’d spent too much time messing around, and now they were pressed for time. They were practically sewing non-stop. They chose white, because, well, it’s a wedding dress, with delicate embroidery. She stitched little flowers into it and made sure that the sleeves were long and properly covered up Kallian’s burn scars and tattoos. She still kept them covered up with bandages, saying that they make her too memorable despite the fact that she was memorable just standing there.

They had to skip out on practicing their weaponry since wedding dresses were a pain to sew, but they handled it. Though not being able to move as much as she liked was frustrating to Kallian, who had decided to bottle up many of her emotions, and currently had no way to release them.

“Shianni, why are you making it so low cut in the front?”

“To show off your assets.”

“Maker’s breath Shianni, no, cover that shit up.”

“Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine… Honestly, I’m just glad you have some tits now."

“Fuck off. Fuck, ow.”

“Did you prick yourself again?” she sighed.

“I’m nervous, okay!?” Kallian practically shouted.

“You have no reason to be.”

“What if he doesn’t like me? What if I don’t like him?”

“Stop worrying about the ‘what ifs’ and hurry up and help me finish sewing your dress, we have three days to finish it! THREE DAYS!”

“I KNOW SHIANNI! I AM AWARE OF WHEN I’LL BE GETTING MARRIED, OKAY?”

“Less shouting more sewing.”

“Don’t tell me how to live my life.”

“Maker’s breath, Kalli, we have three days!”

“Maybe I should run away.”

“Kalli, it’ll be fine! Stop worrying!”

“Ow! Fuck!”

“Andraste’s tits, Kalli,” she groaned, “calm down!”

“I CAN’T OKAY? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR? I CAN’T CALM DOWN!”

“Deep breaths.”

“You’re not the one getting married in three days.”

“I’m so going to make fun of you for this for the rest of our lives.”

“Thanks, bitch.”

“Of course, bitch.”

With that, Kallian calmed down and went back to sewing. She could easily do the most elegant embroidery that she’d ever seen, so this really shouldn’t even be hard for her. Though she’d probably be the same if she were going to get married soon, it was just a thing people did. Soris seemed nervous as well, both of them were eating a lot less, and not because they wanted to watch their weight, it was the kind of self-starvation that happened when you were anxious.

They were both so nervous it was hilarious, though she wasn’t used to being the stable calm one, usually, that was either Soris or Kallian’s job, they were better at keeping a level head. It probably didn’t help that Kallian wasn’t able to practice her martial abilities since they needed to get this done as quickly as possible.

She was sure that Kallian would be happy married, she was just that type. Not only that, but Kallian kind of, sort of, had a reputation as the ideal wife. In hindsight, that was actually really weird, both she and Kallian were absolute infamous trouble-makers. Then again, everything about her cousin was kind of really weird.

Her cousin was a strange woman, she was often surprised by how much she knew, though she was also often surprised at how much she didn’t know. How innocent she was despite leading men to their deaths, or muggings was beyond her. If the guards were ever brought to the gang hideouts, they had never seen her and was considered a hallucination to the ones she’d baited.

Whenever she left the Alienage for normal reasons, she always dressed like a boy and hid her hair beneath a hat. It was one of the other reasons why she was called a faerie, or a spirit, or any sort of ephemeral entity, no one outside of the Alienage could either prove or disprove her existence. Though some people regarded her existence as that of a demon.

A careful woman, yet so innocent. It made her feel like she needed to protect her, despite the fact that she could definitely protect herself. Not only that, but people tended to want to monopolize Kallian’s attention, she and Soris were no different. She was already feeling a little lonely about the fact that Kallian was getting married, but she was really happy for her. She wanted all the best for her; she deserved that much, at least. She should probably tell her future husband that Kallian likes to hide in crates and barrels.

She was also sure that Soris would be happy married, he needed someone to give him that extra push, to be there for him, and she hoped that his betrothed would be able to be that for him. Both she and Kallian weren’t always going to be able to back him up, but he was the type who wavered between wanting to do the right thing and cowardice.

He tried to be more courageous, he really did, it just… usually got hidden by his anxiety. Soris was far shyer than either of them, and sometimes he made it a point not to be around them, likely to avoid being noticed too much, since the Fire Sisters were famous, or infamous, anyway. They both knew that Soris often felt inadequate while next to them, and they really wished that he didn’t. But, instead of pushing their presence on him, they let him have his space when he wanted it.

“I want to punch something,” Kallian declared as she continued to embroider the dress, her fingers masterfully maneuvering thread and needle along. Personally, she didn’t have the patience for it; in fact, she didn’t have the patience for most things. If it wasn’t for Kallian, she wouldn’t be doing this.

“Just don’t punch me,” she replied

“Damn.”

“Since when were you so violent?”

“Since I’m apparently getting married in three days and it’s freaking me out.”

“Are you going to be abusive to your future husband?”

“Of course not, I’m not a violent person."

“Then what will you do when you’re angry with him?”

“I don’t know, go lead people to their deaths in the back alleys of Denerim?”

“I don’t think he’d be happy to hear you say that."

“How often do I even get angry?”

“…Not very, and pissing you off is hard. I’ve tried."

“I know you have."

“Though, when you actually get there, you transition from a mostly harmless prankster, into an absolute monster.”

“You shouldn’t push nice people to their limits. We’re the most terrifying of all. You’ll never see it coming.”

“True. Making you cry, on the other hand, is much easier."

“You’re a terrible person."

“But you cry over everything, when you’re happy when you’re sad… You just cry whenever you get overcome with extreme emotion."

“Yeah, well, fuck you too."

“But it’s adorable."

“Shut your face."

“Do you think he’s nervous too?”

“Probably, I mean I am. If he’s not nervous and I’m getting anxious all on my own I’m going to be pissed."

“Then maybe you should calm down."

Kallian sighed as she moved her embroidery hoop; she was glad she didn’t have to worry about sewing and embroidering her own dress. Thank the Maker she would never be getting married. She enjoyed the celebrations, but being the center of attention like that was not something she liked. Sometimes she didn’t even want to hang out with Kallian because of how much attention she called to herself.

When she was alone, Kallian’s presence was basically air. If she wasn’t with anyone or had mentally checked out of a conversation she could literally be standing in the center of a room, and you wouldn’t notice her. She could even be moving about the room, and you wouldn’t notice her. But the second she was with someone and actively interacting with them, she became a blazing inferno that was absolutely incapable of being ignored.

“You ever feel like you just want to watch the whole world burn?”

“…Maker’s breath Kalli, calm your fucking tits already.”

She didn’t always understand her cousin, but she didn’t need to understand her to love her.

Chapter Text

Somehow, they managed to finish sewing her dress in time, it was a miracle, really. Most of her experiences in her past life have long since faded, she retained the knowledge she’d learned, even if she didn’t know when and where she learned it. She wished she didn’t though, she also wished she’d forgotten far earlier in her life; granted, it kept her from losing her shit in her early years.

She’d seen so much death already, so many burned houses, and charred corpses, had seen people cut down; though perhaps she should have forgotten everything, and grown desensitized to it all at a much younger age, though she’d already gotten there by the time she was fourteen. Well, it was too late to do anything about it now.

Her Father had been trying to reassure her that everything would be alright, and she knew it would be, she trusted him. Right now, Shianni was trying to calm her down enough so that she could sleep, but shit was hard, she’d heard about this before, cold feet, or something… right? Her Father had told her that before he got married, he had been ready to hunt for the Dalish… But he loved her Mother, and he never regret staying in Denerim, he loved his life with her, her Mother had brought him so much joy; it was a life he wanted for her.

He wanted to see her happy, he wanted the best for her. That was something she appreciated, the Father of her past life, loved her too, and wanted the best for her as well… but she should stop thinking about her past life so much, let it be the past; that her was, quite literally, dead.

Soris was also nervous, equally excited, and equally scared. She was sure her Father, Valendrian, and Shianni had their hands full trying to calm them both down. Telling them both not to worry about the ‘buts’, and the ‘what ifs’. Both cousins knew it would be alright, and that things would work out just fine… Though, both of them were really afraid of turning into a bitter shrew like Elva.

“Do you think you’ll fall in love with him?” Shianni asked.

“I’m already there.”

“I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful life with him, so stop worrying.”

“Were it only that easy,” she sighed heavily.

“Kalli… I think we gotta get you drunk,” Shianni said wryly.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because you’ve been pacing back and forth for the past… forever. Your wedding is tomorrow, you need to sleep so that you don’t fall asleep during your own ceremony.”

“Urgh… Don’t… tell me how to live my life…?”

“Go to sleep.”

“I’ll try,” she sighed and allowed Shianni to pull her into bed.

Whenever they had trouble sleeping because of emotions they slept in the same bed to comfort each other and soothe the other's worries. She felt a little lonely with the thought that this is probably the last time they’d be doing this. The role would most likely be taken by her future husband. Oh, wow, she was actually getting married, for the first time in either lifetimes…

Actually she’d never even gotten to the engaged stage, her past self had a strong dislike of people and was quite happy derping around at her own pace, many of her friends had gotten married and she had fun at their weddings and stuff, but she didn’t really see that in her own future. Though, perhaps it was because her past self didn’t care about actual romance.

She was in love with love, she loved romantic stories, but having it for herself wasn’t really her shtick. Even here, she didn’t really care much for having a relationship of her own. Maybe she just hadn’t met the right guy, plus, she wasn’t really into younger men… And all of the men in the Alienage, acted like they were younger than her… Or at least her twenty-three-year-old self, and she wasn’t really into that.

With a sigh she closed her eyes and gave in to sleep, thankful that at least she wasn’t an insomniac in this life.

***

For some reason, Duncan had felt the need to go to Denerim, and after seeing to it that the rest of the Wardens had left for Ostagar, parted ways with them. Honestly, he couldn’t believe there was an actual Blight, he knew they were a thing, but he didn’t expect one to actually happen in his lifetime.

Dreams of the Archdemon were terrifying, but it was a duty that he had to fulfill as a Grey Warden, he chose this life, and he had to take responsibility for it. For now, all he could do was train with the other Wardens, and dodge Daveth and Ser Jory’s questions about the Joining. King Cailan, his secret half-brother showed up at the Warden encampment fairly frequently, watching the Wardens, and talking to them. He clearly respected them, but he, himself, was awkward and didn’t know how to go about talking to his half-brother, and so he just made it a point not to.

***

Great, Arl Howe was visiting. Personally, she’d never liked him, but her Father trusted him so it would be best for her to be cordial. It was hinted that she might be betrothed to Thomas in the future, he was a nice man and decidedly nothing like his father, so she didn’t really oppose it. If he tried anything, she had no doubt that she could take him. Her Father and Arl Howe would ride out tomorrow, while Fergus would be leaving tonight. She could handle the castle while they were gone; that was a thing she could do, she’d been trained to be a noble from birth. This was second nature to her by now. So after collecting her dog and dealing with other guests, she moved on with her day.

Still, a Blight? And while the best blacksmith in Highever’s youngest son was getting married? Ooph. At least he was marrying into a good family, or at least that’s what the servants gossiped about. She’d picked up bits and pieces like apparently he was marrying the daughter of Cyrion Tabris; a name even she knew of, Bann Rodolf was a strict man, but even he praised Cyrion. According to the rumors, his daughter was beautiful, skilled, and agreeable; and she kind of wanted to meet her, and if she was as skilled as she was rumored to be, maybe even hire her.

***

Kallian was still sleeping, both she and her Uncle decided to let her sleep in for the day; granted, she still had to wake up eventually. It was unlike her cousin to sleep in, though her staying up late at night was also fairly rare. They would probably wake her up soon, though, they definitely wouldn’t let her sleep in until past ten. Eventually, she’d heard Nelaros was at the gates of Denerim, prompting her to rush home and wake her dumb cat of a cousin up.

“KALLI!” she shouted startling her awake.

“Mmmnnrrghhh,” Kallian groaned before sitting up, “…Shianni… what? Wait… you woke up before me? Is the world ending?”

“Oh ha-ha,” she grumbled as Kallian got out of bed, “you’re the one who overslept.”

“I did?” Kallian mumbled as she went to go wash her face and get the last dredges of sleep out of her system.

“Yes… You do remember what today is, right? Please tell me you remember what today is.”

Silence as Kallian splashed her face with water and then wiped her face dry.

“Wedding,” Kallian replied finally as she continued to go about her waking up process, brushing her hair, putting it up loosely, and brushing her teeth.

“Yes,” she grinned, “it’s Nelaros! He’s here!”

“He is?!” Kallian immediately stood up straight after quickly rinsing out her mouth, turning to look at her; her face colored with both apprehension and excitement. She almost felt like she needed to squint from how absolutely annoyingly blinding her cousin was.

“Yesss, I snuck a peak and he’s handsome,” she said wrapping her in a hug, “I’m so excited for you! I’ll go lay out your dress, and find my dress, and you should go meet him, and maybe look for Soris.”

With that, she began quickly moving about the room, while Kallian put on a nicer dress, but not her wedding dress because they wanted this to be as auspicious as possible.

“I’m not emotionally prepared!” Kallian said freaking out.

“It’s going to happen anyway,” she laughed, “so hold your breath and jump in! Now put on your clothes and move it!”

***

She put her dress on, braided her hair over her shoulder, tied it with her white ribbon, and walked out of her room.

“Ah, my little girl,” Father sighed wrapping her in a hug, “it’s… the last day I’ll be able to call you that, isn’t it?”

“No matter how old I am,” she replied, “I’m fairly certain that I’ll always be your little girl.”

The Mother from her past life had frequently told her that. No matter how old she got, she’d always be her baby.

“That’s true,” Father chuckled, “I wish your Mother could have been here…”

“I do as well,” she replied sadly.

“You know I want only the best for you, right?” Father said pressing a kiss to her forehead.

“Of course I do.”

“Alright, time for you to go find Soris,” Father chuckled, “the sooner this wedding starts, the less chance you two have to escape.”

“I won’t escape,” she rolled her eyes, “Soris on the other hand… A small chance is still a chance.”

“Exactly… And remember, he still doesn’t know about your martial training… Or your history of trouble-making.”

“Yesss, Fatherrrr.”

“Of course, he’ll find out sooner rather than later.”

“Though, Mother was a clever rogue.”

“Yes… That she was,” Father said solemnly, she could tell he still loved her, still missed her, and that he would continue to do so until his last breath.

“It’s okay, Father,” she beamed, “I’m sure I’ll be happy.”

“I am as well,” Father said, before pulling out a pair leather boots, “take this, your Mother would have wanted you to have it. It’s the very least I can give you, as you start your new life.”

“I hope I’ll be able to walk in her footsteps with these.”

“I’m sure you will… Go on then, I still have some things I need to get done, and Soris is no doubt waiting for you.”

“I’ll be off then, Father,” she said waving as she left the house a small smile playing on her lips as excitement bubbled in her chest.

He was here, she would finally be able to meet him for the first time, and not only that but as she was eighteen now, she would no doubt be meeting her doggo again soon. Right? Right. She wondered what kind of dog she’d come back as, and just hoped that it wasn’t a small dog. She was partial to large dogs, and she wasn’t sure if Chi-chan could handle being in a smaller body… She on the other hand… was around the same height in both lifetimes.

“Oh, there once was a woman; she lived in the sea,” the drunkard by the name of Donal, was saying with a lilt, and she felt her eye twitch, “I didn’t love her, but I think she loved me. I brought her diamonds, rubies, silver, and gold— Well, hello, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?”

“Hello,” she said cheerfully, did this man not know her? The Alienage was a pretty close community, so it was a little surprising… especially since she knew him, “just y’know doing the rounds. Collecting wedding presents.”

“Oh… Oh!” Donal said in wide-eyed shock, and she could tell that he sobered up a tiny bit, “we… uh… thought that, uhhhmm…”

“We thought cash would be better,” his friend, Ulick, said saving him, while his other friend, Shane, fell down on his ass, “spends easier!”

“Right… Right! Yeah, we gathered up… uh… thirty bits!” Donal said latching onto the lifeline Ulick threw him, “that’s a pretty good wedding present for anyone.”

“That it is,” Shane said getting back on his feet.

“Much better than a present, yes?” Ulick said.

“Well… forty bits is more traditional…” she replied, if they didn’t call her out on it, maybe they shouldn’t be drinking so early in the day.

“Oh, you’re right,” Shane replied, “don’t mind us… We’re a bit tipsy. Here’s ten bits to top it off.”

“Thank you,” she smiled, a bit tipsy? A bit? They were so drunk, so very, very drunk. Well, hopefully, that’ll keep them from drinking so much so early in the day.

“Now, you go celebrate your big day, and we’ll do the same!” Shane replied, prompting her to leave them to their drunken idiocy. With her back turned to them, she stuck her tongue out mischievously as she walked towards the Alienages gathering place.

Honestly, they shouldn’t be this drunk this early. Elva was going to kill him, she was probably especially pissed off today, and she was not looking forward to talking to her… Elva was… so bitter about her own marriage arrangement, and really hated when others had a better, much happier marriage.

Though, honestly, with a husband like Donal, she didn’t really blame her. Trotting off and resuming her quest to find her cousin, though, it looked like Nessa and her family were in trouble by the vhenadahl. They looked like they were packing off to leave, and suddenly she remembered hearing about a landlord selling a building for storage… Oh no, it was their building.

“Hurry up, child,” Nessa’s Father chastised, “waiting around won’t make it any easier.”

“Hello,” she said greeting them, and Nessa’s Father turned to her.

“Many blessings, young one,” Nessa’s Father replied, “we hoped to stay for the celebration, but we must be off.”

“I trust you’ve heard that the Human who owns our building has decided to sell it for storage space?” Nessa’s Mother asked.

“Yes,” she nodded solemnly, “I have… Where are you planning on going to?”

“Well, we can’t afford to live anywhere else here,” Nessa’s Father replied, “so we’re leaving Denerim.”

“We’re headed for the Ostagar ruins,” Nessa said, she was absolutely despondent, “the army camp there is calling for laborers.”

“We wanted to look for work in Highever,” Nessa’s Mother added.

“But that’s just not possible,” Nessa’s Father finished.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.

“You’re still a child, you can’t do anything,” Nessa’s Father replied, internally, she held herself from pointing out that today was her last day as a child, “enjoy your special day, and put us out of your mind.”

“What my husband means is, it’s very generous of you to offer,” Nessa’s Mother translated, “but we don’t need charity to solve our problems.”

“If you’re sure…” she replied, “then I understand, good luck to you.”

“Many thanks,” Nessa’s Father replied, “and again, blessings on your day.”

She turned to leave with a heavy heart, it was always sad to see people leaving, especially due to circumstances they couldn’t help.

“Wait,” Nessa said stopping her, “can I talk to you a moment?”

“Sure,” she nodded and they moved to the other side of the vhenadahl.

“I apologize for my parents,” Nessa sighed, “you know how they are… Too proud to accept help, much less ask for it.”

“Yeah…”

“My parents will labor in the army camp,” Nessa said, and she could instantly see where this was going, she had to do something. There was a reason she’d led men astray all those years ago, and it was to stop bullshit like this from happening, “and they’ll expect me to do the same… but… Kalli, please help me.”

“I’ll try talking to them,” she said comfortingly, “maybe… maybe you can stay with my Father… We’ll get through this. Promise.”

“If you think it’ll help…”

“But no promises,” she said wryly and prayed that her Father would forgive her for asking without consulting him first, she couldn’t take too long, they might be gone by the time she returned, “but I’ll do my best.”

“Thank you.”

“Uhmmm,” she said tentatively, “sorry to bother you, again.”

“Isn’t your wedding soon?” Nessa’s Father asked.

“I was just wondering if I could speak to you about your daughter,” she replied confidently, “I think I have a way that she can stay here.”

“I don’t take advice from children,” Nessa’s Father replied, “nor do I plan to split up my family.”

“Well, since I’m getting married, I’ll most likely be moving out of my Father’s home,” she explained, “therefore, I was simply wondering if you would allow Nessa to stay with him in order to help him as Nelaros and I begin our new life together. It would ease my worries a great deal.”

“I see,” Nessa’s Father replied, “then he’d shelter and provide for my daughter?”

“Yes,” she replied decisively, she can’t show weakness or be unsure, any opening is still an opening, after all.

“I don’t know,” Nessa’s Father replied, she could see him wavering on it, “what do you think, love?”

“Well, she’d be among family,” Nessa’s Mother replied she mentally fist-pumped herself, “when we’ve made enough, we can return.”

“And you, child?”

“Your will, Father.”

“That’s my girl,” Nessa’s Father replied, “very well, first she’ll help us be away, and then return to stay with your family. Thank your Father for me.”

“No, thank you,” she smiled, ignoring her instincts that were screaming at her to bow, “I really appreciate you doing this for us.”

“I’ve always appreciated how well-mannered you were,” Nessa’s Mother smiled.

With a wave, she made the trek back home, she just hoped her Father wouldn’t be too angry with her. Though, he was just about as understanding and compassionate as she was… Actually, besides her past life, that’s absolutely where she got it. Even though she loved mischief and mayhem, sometimes her instincts were screaming at her to not make a scene.

It was a very Japanese thing, she’d always hated being around her friends when they were being loud and boisterous in public. Internally, she’d just always screamed don’tmakeascenedon’tmakeascenedon’tmakeascene while quietly putting some distance between them. Truthfully, she just hated being an inconvenience, especially in public. Like when they blocked hallways or talked too loudly…

Thinking about it she would probably make a good servant. She should look for work as one in the coming months, maybe her Father could give her recommendations, she could be both a bodyguard and a maid. It would be a pretty perfect fit for her, it would be a good use for the entire repertoire of her skills and abilities.

“Don’t you have a wedding to prepare for?” Father chuckled as she walked back in, “have you found Soris yet?”

“No, I haven’t,” she shook her head, “but… uhm… I kind of told Nessa and her family that she could stay with you.”

“Nessa?” Father quirked a brow, “I thought her family was leaving for the army camp… Ah… I see. You never were the type who could sit still when you saw injustice.”

“Sorry,” she apologized.

“No, no. Your compassion has always been one of your greatest strengths,” Father replied patting her on the head, making sure not to mess up her hair, “I suppose she can stay. She is family, after all, and if we don’t stick up for each other, who will?”

“Thank you,” she smiled, “I’ll go look for Soris now.”

“You do that,” Father smiled.

She wandered back the Alienage square, wondering where her dear sweet cousin could possibly be hiding. As she looked around she saw two familiar people, standing by the stage. Aunt Dilwyn, and Uncle Gethon, she hadn’t seen them in a long time. They lived in the Alienage in Gwaren, it was hard for them to come to visit; she hadn’t seen them since her Mother’s funeral.

“Well, it’s around the eyes, mostly,” Dilwyn said.

“I still don’t see it,” Gethon replied, “whenever I look, I just see the mother.”

“…They are both rather delicate looking,” Dilwyn conceded.

“It’s the same sort of nose,” Gethon said, as she patiently waited to go greet them, “you must admit that. The breeding shows.”

“Ugh, there you go again with breeding,” Dilwyn sighed in frustration, “we’re not horses, you know.”

“Of course not, but bloodlines are important. That’s all I’m saying!”

“I think the whole notion is ridiculous.”

“Well, you’ve got the freedom to think so,” Gethon replied, and she saw her chance, “you come from good stock.”

“Hello,” she greeted them with a smile.

“Well, if it isn’t the lucky bride herself,” Dilwyn smiled, “hello dear.”

“Do you remember us?” Gethon asked.

“Of course, Aunt Dilwyn and Uncle Gethon.”

“It means the world to us that you remember us,” Dilwyn said, “we haven’t seen much of you since… she…”

“Passed away,” she finished solemnly, “Father really loves her.”

“We all do,” Gethon replied.

“Adaia was beautiful, and full of life,” Dilwyn added, “and a bit wild… much like you.”

“She wanted you more than anything,” Gethon said, “it’s sad she never got to see you all grown up.”

“We just wanted to see you today,” Dilwyn said, “and express our good wishes.”

“I really appreciate you making the journey here for my wedding,” she smiled, “it means the world to me.”

“And it means the world to us to see you happy,” Dilwyn replied.

“We’ve saved a bit of money for this day,” Gethon said holding out a small purse, “we’d… we’d like you to have it, to help start your new life.”

“Oh, no,” she said, habits kicking in, refuse once, then accept on the second offer, “as much as I appreciate it, I can’t accept this.”

“Please, we want you to have it,” Dilwyn replied.

“If you insist,” she replied, “then I will humbly accept this gift. Thank you.”

“You’re so much like your Father this way,” Dilwyn chuckled.

“Maker bless you,” Gethon added.

“You as well,” she smiled.

Why did she still have these habits? That part of her should be literally dead, nature and nurture in equal parts, she reckoned. The personality of her old life rarely kicked in, but when it did dear gods did it ever kick in… She should probably pay attention to where she was going, and what she was doing… And she barely managed to keep her balance when a child literally ran into her.

“Careful, careful,” she chastised steadying him on his feet, “what have I told you about watching where you’re going?”

“Sorry, Aunt Kalli,” Aidan replied guiltily, as she knelt down to look at him eye level.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“Wham, you’re dead,” Bree said running up to them and tagging Aidan on the shoulder.

“No fair,” Aidan frowned, “she stopped me.”

“You stopped yourself,” she replied wryly, “with my legs.”

“Hah!” Bree laughed gleefully.

“So, what are you two playing this time?” she asked.

“Heroes and Humans!” Aidan said excitedly, “she made it up.”

“We each choose someone from the Elder’s stories and do furious battle,” Bree said, “I always win.”

“That’s ‘cause you cheat!” Aidan replied defensively.

“Heroes and Humans, huh?” she hummed thoughtfully, “why don’t you play as Elves?”

“Do you know any stories about Elven heroes?” Bree asked.

“Why, of course, I do,” she said with a wink, “it’s about Tathas, the sneaky Elven bandit.”

“Did Tathas steal from the Humans?” Bree asked.

“Yes, she did,” she nodded, deciding to take a page out of Robin Hood’s book, “she stole from the rich and gave to the poor.”

“Did Tathas ever get caught?” Aidan asked.

“Eventually, yes,” she said with a sad smile, “the Humans began hunting for her, targeting Elves to get revenge for her actions. After seeing how the Humans hurt those she loved, she turned herself in to spare them from further harm.”

“Hoooray!” Bree exclaimed, “I’m going to be Tathas!”

“Just remember, this: you two are to never, ever, ever steal from Humans, understood?” she warned for the same reason her Mother told her to never steal. She did not want to see them hunted, she did not want to see them hurt, and she wouldn’t always be around to help them out of trouble. They needed to be aware of the dangers their actions could cause.

“But why not?” Aidan asked, “Tathas did.”

“And Tathas ended up hurting those she loved,” she replied, “so be safe, and do not steal from Humans, alright?”

“Yes, Aunt Kalli,” both children said in unison, before going back to their game, still adamant on playing as Tathas, and she let out a wry chuckle.

“Hey, Kalli, congratulations on the big day!” Taeodor said greeting her, “I see you’re still good with children.”

“I do my best.”

“Have you seen Soris, by any chance?”

“Not yet, I’m looking for him as well.”

“Well, tell him to come by and say hello when you see him.”

“I will,” she said with a small wave, everyone was looking for Soris, should she prank him? Or greet him normally? Probably normally, he was stressed enough about this whole ordeal; if she stressed him out too much, he might lose his nerve and run away to find the Dalish. Then again, he was smarter than to do that, he didn’t know the first thing about living on the road, and neither did she. Now, where on earth was her cousin? Ah, there he was.

“Hey, Kalli,” Soris said greeting her as she approached, he sounded… down, and she wasn’t surprised.

“Hey, Soris, getting cold feet?”

“Are you surprised? I feel about ready to go hunt for the Dalish.”

“I figured as much,” she chuckled wryly, “but you’re smarter than that. You don’t the first thing about camping and living in an uncivilized forest.”

“Yeah,” Soris sighed heavily, “still… I’ve already met your betrothed, he seems like a dream come true.”

“Oh?”

“And my bride sounds like a dying mouse.”

“Looks aren’t everything, Soris.”

“She’s not ugly… I don’t know maybe it’s just nerves? I didn’t spend as much time writing to Valora as you did to Nelaros… In hindsight, that one's kind of my fault.”

“Glad you realized it.”

“Alright, alright, let’s go introduce you to your dreamy betrothed before you say ‘I do’.”

“I’m nervous,” she frowned, “what if he doesn’t like me? What if I don’t measure up to his expectations?”

“That’s impossible.”

“Ah, we should find Taeodor first, he wanted to talk to you.”

“Do you know what about?”

“Wouldn’t say.”

“Alms… alms for the poor,” a familiar voice called despondently, it was Beckett, he had been crippled by Human foremen, who tossed him aside when he could no longer work.

“Yes, we can go talk to him first,” Soris said reading her mind, “anything to put this off.”

“Hey, Beckett,” she greeted, “how’s your leg doing today?”

“Same as always,” Beckett sighed.

“Do you need more medicines?”

“No… I don’t.”

“Here,” she said, holding out the forty bits she’d gotten from the drunkards, “I think you’ll put it to better use than I will.”

“I can’t accept this much, Kallian,” Beckett frowned.

“Don’t worry, I confiscated it from a group of drunkards,” she grinned, “you can use it more than I can.”

“…Thank you,” Beckett replied with a sigh, “may the Maker’s eyes look down with love on your day.”

“May he watch over you as well,” she replied giving a small wave as they turned back to the square, too bad they barely made it three steps without being met with misfortune.

“Ugh,” Soris groaned, they were caught by Elva, whose scathing glare was focused on her.

“So I see you’ve found yourself a big handsome hunk of a husband,” Elva glowered, “excuse me if I don’t congratulate you.”

“Well, looks aren’t everything,” she replied repeating the words she’d told Soris.

“Don’t act like you care,” Elva replied scornfully, “your Father has the money to get you a great match. Meanwhile, what did I get? A fat old man who smells like the docks and wouldn’t know what to do with a woman even if he was sober.”

“Well, that’s how life goes at times.”

“Don’t give me your pitiful reassurances! You think you’re better than me?” Elva replied angrily, before stomping off, “because you’re not! I may have gotten a poor match, but at least I’ve still got some dignity, wench.”

“I’m just glad her focus was on you, and not me,” Soris grumbled as they walked back to the square, “I hate dealing with her.”

“Does anyone like dealing with her?” she sighed, even she couldn’t handle Elva’s bitter negativity. It was exhausting like she just sucked out all the joy… Like a dementor, except the only patronus she had were words.

“Good point,” Soris sighed as they continued on their way to Taeodor. Hopefully, he was still by the vhenadahl.

She pats Soris on the back as they continued on, his nerves were clearly frayed.

“There’s the man of the hour,” Taeodor said as they came into view, “how are you, Soris?”

“I’m well,” Soris replied, “more or less.”

“Blessings on the day,” Taeodor chuckled wryly, “both of you.”

“Poor Soris isn’t feeling very blessed,” she snickered.

“True enough,” Soris frowned at her, “still, better to be married and have a real-life than to remain a child.”

“Easy for you to say,” she replied, “I was supposed to be a child for three more years. At least.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Soris rolled his eyes.

“There is something you two should know,” Taeodor sighed re-grabbing their attention, “my brothers won’t be coming. They… left to find the Dalish, you see.”

“Edwyn and Jinan, did?” Soris asked in shock.

“Kalli… Why do you look like you can’t decide whether you want to laugh or feel pity?”

“Because I can’t,” she replied, holding a hand to her mouth, “on one hand: it’s sad they’re gone. But on the other… Soris was talking about leaving to find the Dalish. I’m sure if he knew they were leaving, he would have asked them to take him with them.”

“…You have a point,” Soris sighed, “though, who knows if they actually exist or not.”

“Even Alarith swears that Dalish Elves saved him on his way to Denerim,” Taeodor scoffed, “nonsense.”

“Alarith did!?” she said in shock, “he never told me that!”

“Indeed,” Taeodor frowned, “he told my brothers that, when he was fleeing his homeland, he found the Dalish— or they found him. I don’t really remember.”

“I… I feel the need to go bug him about this,” she said.

“Well, I wouldn’t worry about it, Taeodor,” Soris said, “they were probably just taken in by another story.”

“I just wish they wouldn’t be so reckless and irresponsible.”

“I’d bet,” Soris replied, “well, Taeodor, it was great seeing you. I’m sure your brothers will show up in a few days, embarrassed and hungry.”

“I hope so,” Taeodor sighed, “I should go for now, I’ll see you two in a bit.”

“Yeah, see you later,” they replied in unison.

“Wait, Kalli, why are you going into Alarith’s shop?”

“To annoy him.”

“Well, alright then.”

She felt the urgent need to pester him about the Dalish, and everything else could wait for now; she doubted he’d tell her right now, everyone was preparing for the wedding. All she wanted for the moment was to extract a promise from him.

“What are you two doing in here,” Alarith asked dryly, “don’t you both have a wedding to prepare for?”

“Not for another few hours,” Soris replied.

“Honestly, I’m surprised your Father managed to find you a match, especially on such short notice,” Alarith pointed out, “it feels like just yesterday that I told you that there was no way you were getting married.”

“I know, right?”

“Really?” Soris quirked a brow, “I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t that difficult.”

“I don’t know about that,” Alarith replied, “there were a lot of other people who were shocked that your Father managed to find someone to marry you.”

“Thaaaanks, Alarith,” she sighed.

“Now what are you doing here?”

“I wanted to ask you about the Dalish,” she pouted, “and why you never told me about them.”

“Both your Father and Valendrian would kill me if I did,” Alarith sighed, “if you want to hear more stories, I’ll tell you all about it over ale after you're married. Now go, shoo, I also have a wedding to prepare for.”

“I’ll be holding you to that,” she said as she and Soris left.

“Are you sure there’s nothing between you and Alarith?”

“Of course there isn’t, our relationship is more akin to that of a person being annoyed by a mosquito.”

“…I hope you realize you’re the one who called yourself a mosquito.”

“Of course I do,” she replied as she saw Shianni waving to her, “oh no… Soris I don’t think I can do this.”

“And here I thought I was nervous,” Soris snickered, “come on, you’ll have to meet him eventually.”

She felt her heart in her throat as they walked towards Shianni, who was clearly waving them down; she felt her footsteps falter a bit. Taking in a deep breath, she mentally psyched herself up, she could do this, this was a thing she could do. It’ll be okay, she’ll be okay, they’ll be okay… But in her nervous state, she didn’t notice the Humans walking in until they grabbed Nola.

“Let go of me! Please! Stop!” Nola cried struggling out of his grip and running to hide behind her. She was still seen as a protector of the Alienage, she straightened her back, and allowed Nola to cower behind her as she regarded the Humans.

“It’s a party, isn’t it? Grab a whore and have a good time,” the Human laughed cruelly, if this were any other day, or any other time, she would take those as fighting words, and then he advanced on Shianni, and she barely kept her murderous rage in check, they could not cause an incident, “savor the hunt, boys. Take this little Elven wench, here… so young and vulnerable...”

“Touch me, and I’ll gut you, you pig!” Shianni glared defiantly.

“Please, my lord!” Jory begged, “we’re celebrating weddings, here!”

“Silence! Worm!” the Human roared before backhanding him across the face, her anger flared again and instincts raged. Something within her truly awakened in that moment, something she hadn’t felt in years, something she hadn’t done in years: she would soon be out on the hunt again.

“Kalli, calm down I know what you’re thinking,” Soris whispered harshly grabbing hold of her, “but maybe we shouldn’t get involved.”

“Objection, noted, appreciated, but duly ignored,” she hissed back and he let go of her.

“Fine, but let’s try to be diplomatic, shall we?” Soris sighed.

“Soris, when is diplomacy, not my first choice in settling conflicts?” she whispered back, though no matter what they chose to do they didn’t really have an opportunity to do it as the Human spotted her and advanced on her.

“What’s this?” the Human said and she could feel his gross disgusting gaze on her, but she was in control of herself, “another lovely one to keep me company?”

“Let’s just talk this over, shall we?” she replied with a practiced polite smile. It was basically the equivalent of a service smile, really.

“Maybe you should invite it over for dinner!” one of his friends laughed mockingly sealing his own fate. He too would be hunted for this grievance.

“I think that mayhaps, you might be a little lost,” she held up her smile, she knew they had no clue, and she would keep it that way. One should never reveal their hand too early, “perhaps I could give you some directions?”

“Oh? And where do you think we need to go?” the insolent waste of space scoffed.

“The Pearl is that way,” she replied gesturing to the direction of the Pearl.

“Do you have any idea who I am?” the man scoffed, and she did. He was someone whose life was forfeit. In the corner of her eye, she saw Shianni run towards a bottle and then smash it over his head, knocking him out. She really wished she hadn’t done that, but it was too late to go back now.

“Are you insane?!” one of his friends shouted, “this is Vaughan Kendalls, the Arl of Denerim’s son!”

“W—what?” Shianni said in shock, “oh, Maker…”

“Take him home,” she replied stepping in front of Shianni. She decided that when she got work as a servant, that she’ll only serve a woman, “if you don’t mention this, we won’t.”

“You’ve a lot of nerve, knife-ears,” his other friend glowered, before they both carted Vaughan’s dead beat ass away, “this’ll go badly for you.”

“Oh, I really messed up this time,” Shianni groaned, and she hugged her cousin.

“Don’t worry,” Soris said comfortingly, “he won’t tell anyone an Elven woman took him down.”

“I… I hope so,” Shianni sighed as she let her go, “I should go get cleaned up.”

“You do that, we’ll see you in a bit,” she said with a small smile. He was the Arl of Denerim’s son? Then she knew where to go later. She blinked her eyes a bit to clear her thoughts, the hunt will come later, for now, there were celebrations to be had.

“Is everybody else alright?” Soris asked as Shianni left.

“I think we’re just shaken,” an unfamiliar woman answered, as an unfamiliar man walked up to them as well, “what was that about?”

Oh, be still her beating heart, he was here. This was happening, this was really happening. This was a thing that was happening.

“The Arl’s son just started drinking too early,” she replied with a wry smile, “and somehow ended up here instead of the brothel. I’m sure they’ll find their way there eventually.”

“Yes, that,” Soris said latching onto her lifeline with a nervous laugh before clearing his throat, and turning to introduce her to the woman, “this is Valora, my betrothed.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Valora, my name is Kallian, I pray we get along in the days to come,” she nodded politely to Valora before turning to Nelaros and she could feel a smile bloom on her face, “and you must be Nelaros.”

“I am a lucky man to be so warmly welcomed,” Nelaros replied returning her smile, “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

“As have I,” she replied.

“I’m sure you two have a lot to discuss,” Soris coughed before leading Valora away.

“Well, here we are,” Nelaros said when they were alone, and she felt her pulse skyrocket, “are you nervous?”

“I was until I met you,” she replied.

“I’ll spend every waking moment learning to make you happy,” Nelaros declared and she felt herself on the verge of swooning.

“How was the trip from Highever?”

“Uneventful, thankfully, the trade caravan we accompanied had little of value; I think that kept the bandits away.”

“I’m glad to hear that… How do you feel about moving to Denerim?”

“It was hard to leave Highever, but Denerim is where you are, and I couldn’t help but eagerly await this day… Denerim itself seems friendlier than Highever… perhaps because it’s so large that Humans take less notice of us.”

“Well, things can only get better from here.”

“I think you’re right. I’m looking forward to seeing how life unfolds,” Nelaros smiled warmly.

“I am, as well,” she could really see it, a future with this man. Sure, being basically a mail-order bride wasn’t really her thing, but, she could see it, and it excited her.

“Come on, Kalli,” Soris said clearing his throat to grab their attention, “we should let them get ready.”

“We’ll see you two in a bit, then,” Valora said, “don’t disappear on us.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she replied with a nod and watched as they both walked away.

“Don’t look now,” Soris groaned, “but we have another problem.”

“Ughhh, I hope this doesn’t delay anything,” she groaned before turning to face the way Soris was facing, and she panicked. It was that Human, the one she was supposed to avoid at all costs. Soris didn’t know that she was supposed to avoid him, and she couldn’t leave Soris to deal with him on his own, especially since this Human was armed and judging by his armor, he’d likely seen battle many times.

“Another Human just walked in,” Soris sighed in frustration, “could be one of Vaughan’s or just a random troublemaker.”

“I’d ask why this is happening today of all days,” she sighed, “but that’s just a waste of energy.”

“Right?” Soris agreed, “either way, we need to move him along before someone does something stupid.”

“Agreed… Let’s go talk to him,” she sighed again.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Soris said and they both sighed heavily again.

Chapter Text

She pinched the bridge of her nose, seriously, out of all days, why was today the day that Humans felt the urgent need to stroll into the Alienage? Honestly, it was a bit strange. Normally, Humans left them to their own devices, they were considered second-class citizens, after all. She was also probably about to find out why her Mother told her to avoid that Human at all costs, and so she threw her a quick apology. Surely, she’d understand the circumstance under-which she must act.

Still, was it so terrible to want the first wedding she’s ever had in two lifetimes to go well? If either of her Mother’s were here, they would probably eloquently tell him to kindly fuck off… And now she once again missed both of her Mothers. She never wrote letters to the Mother of her old life, there was no way she would receive them, gods don’t cross over like that… Not only that, but she was still vainly trying to leave the family she had from that life alone. Though she kind of wavered on it a lot, on one hand, that her is literally dead. On the other? The family of that life also had played a part in shaping her into the person she currently was.

Ahhh decisions, decisions.

Alright, time to deal with the Human that she was supposed to avoid at all costs. With that in mind she put on her service smile simply hoping that this wouldn’t come to a fight. As she was now? She probably, no, definitely, couldn’t take him. She was unarmed, where he was not only armed, but in armor. His fighting experience probably outclassed hers by a large margin. She’d never gotten into a fight in her past life, martial arts were just a way for her to gain inner peace.

Also because wushu is fun to say, like… REALLY fun to say, plus baguazhang was strongly connected to Taoism. And her fighting experience in this one? She’d only led men astray, she rarely had to deal any amount of damage to them. She’ll have to choose her actions wisely.

“Good day,” the Human said with a polite bow, “I understand congratulations are in order for your impending wedding.”

“Thank you,” she replied civilly, “and as appreciated as it is, I must ask that you please leave as we would like to avoid any further unpleasantness.”

“What manner of unpleasantness might you be referring to?” he chuckled.

“The Alienage is just not a good place for Humans,” she answered.

“I’m sorry, but I have no intention of leaving,” he replied and she began to mentally assess the situation: he wasn’t mistreating them, he wasn’t abusing anyone, he wasn’t brandishing his weapons and using his position of power against them… But there was still a reason her Mother had told her to avoid him at all costs. Now then, what was his game?

“Then, may I ask if there is a reason for that?” she asked fully aware that he was judging her. To what end? She didn’t know, but chances are, she wasn’t going to like them. She trusted her Mother, and her Mother saw him to be a danger to her thus she must proceed cautiously.

“She keeps her composure, even when facing down an unknown and armed Human,” he said as she saw Valendrian approach, “a true gift, wouldn’t you say, Valendrian?”

“I would say the world has far more use of those who know how to stay their blades,” Valendrian replied his next words shocked her, but she still kept her suspicions, she trusted her Mother more than she trusted Valendrian, “it is good to see you again, my old friend. It has been far too long.”

“I agree,” she said, “you know this Human, Elder?”

“May I present Duncan,” Valendrian said, “head of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden.”

“How do you know each other?” she asked in an attempt to get a read on him.

“Valendrian and I have known each other for almost twenty years, since the time I tried to recruit your Mother, in fact,” Duncan replied, “your Mother was a fiery woman, she would have made an excellent Grey Warden.”

“Ah, I see,” she replied, perhaps this was why her Mother told her to avoid him, “and why would a Grey Warden come here?”

“The worst has happened: a Blight has begun,” Duncan replied, “King Cailan summons the Grey Wardens to Ostagar to fight the Darkspawn horde alongside his armies.”

“Yes… I had heard the news,” Valendrian replied. He knew something, of course he knew something, “still, this is an awkward time. There is to be a wedding— two, in fact.”

“This is quite a ways away from Ostagar,” she pointed out.

There was that word again, Blight. She still didn’t know what that was all about, she also didn’t know anything about the Grey Wardens. From what she could glean from his words, there was a war… Against Darkspawn? What the fuck was a Darkspawn? And if he’s a Grey Warden, and King Cailan had summoned the Grey Wardens to Ostagar, why was he here, in the Denerim Alienage?

“Indeed, but by all means, attend to your ceremonies,” Duncan replied, “my concerns can wait, for now.”

‘For now’? What exactly did this Human want from them? Why did her Mother tell her to avoid him at all costs? To use her as a bargaining chip to get her to agree to become a Grey Warden or whatever? If so, he’s far too late for that, that ship has long since sailed. Hmm… Grey Warden…

Alright, let’s first separate these two words: Grey, a shade often associated with either depression, and a colorless world. It could also be seen as the middle ground between white and black, good and evil, a neutral shade whose very existence proved that there is no true black and white, no true good and evil. A shaded representation that there is nothing inherently one way or the other.

Wardens… Wardens are watchers, sentinels, people or things who were given the important duty to look after their charges. Now then, who or what were the charges to these Wardens? And for what meaning did they choose the shade Grey? Big important organizations picked their names wisely, they take these things into account.

Now her only questions were: Why Grey? And who or what were their charges?

“Very well,” Valendrian sighed, “treat Duncan as my guest, and for the Maker’s sake, finish your preparations!”

“On it Elder,” Shianni said before dragging her off and asking her in a quiet voice, “what did the Human want?”

“I don’t know,” she sighed, “I couldn’t get a read on him, I have absolutely no clue what his intentions are. Apparently, he tried to recruit my Mother, but she’s no longer with us… So what on earth is he doing here?”

“Well, hopefully nothing bad happens,” Shianni replied as they entered her house so that she could change, do her hair, and put on a prettier face.

“I hope so too,” she sighed after putting her dress on and then began undoing her hair and re-braiding it into a bun at the top of the left side of her head, securing it with braided cords, and her favorite ribbon, “I have enough problems as it is.”

“…You haven’t been on the hunt in a long time, you sure you still know how to do it?”

“It’s not the kind of thing one really forgets,” she replied throwing on a prettier face.

“Why are you such a cat?”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s because everyone kept calling me a cat,” she replied, honestly, even she wanted to know why she was so obsessed with it, "so in the end I became what I was called.”

“You’re practically a cat of a vigilante… What are you going to do after you get married?”

“Well, first: this will be the last time I hunt. Second: what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, or something along those lines,” she said before suddenly sneezing and grumbling, “someone, somewhere is talking shit about me.”

“Are you ready yet?” Soris asked knocking on the door.

“Almost,” she replied and heard Soris enter the room.

“You’re going on a hunt later, aren’t you?” Soris asked wryly, “you’ve never been the type to back down easily.”

“How are you feeling about getting married now?” she asked.

“I think I’m coming to terms with it,” Soris replied, “maybe in time I’ll learn to appreciate the ol’ mouse.”

“Kalli, don’t hunt Soris’s wife, okay?”

“Why… why on earth do you feel the need to tell me this?”

“Because you’re a cat and cats eat mice,” Shianni replied.

“Ughhh… Seriously? I’m not an actual cat, you jerks.”

“You’re as close to a cat as an Elf can get,” Soris pointed out.

“By the way, Soris, do you know anything about Grey Wardens?” she asked, they had a few more minutes to spare.

“Not that much, I expected a giant, bristling in weapons.”

“Well, you already know more than I do,” she sighed.

“Wow, that’s a weird feeling,” Soris said thoughtfully, “the Elder once said that the Grey Wardens stopped a Blight: some huge invasion of evil things from darkness… you know how stories go.”

“Ahhh, yeah, that would explain why I don’t know anything about them,” she said standing up, “that’s not really in line with my interests.”

“True,” Soris replied, “anyway, it’s time, we should get this show going.”

“I agree,” she replied as she stood and followed Soris out the door. Approaching the stage, she felt her heart in her throat again. This was happening. This was really truly a thing that was happening. This was a thing that was really happening right here and right now. What was this feeling? Nervousness? Excitement? Fear? Or all of the above? Probably all of the above.

“Ohh! Soris, there you are,” Valora said, “I was afraid you’d runoff.”

“No, I’m here, with Nelaro’s blushing bride in tow,” Soris said, he already sounded much better than he had sounded earlier.

“You make it sound like you had to hunt me down and drag me over here,” she replied wryly as Nelaros turned his gaze on her.

“You look radiant,” Nelaros smiled and she felt her blood rush to her face as she returned his smile.

“It looks like everyone’s ready,” Soris said as Mother Boann ascended the stage.

“Good luck, Soris,” she whispered.

“You too, Kalli,” Soris whispered back, “maybe it won’t be so bad after all.”

She gave him a wry smile, resisting the urge to reach over and slap him on the shoulder. Clearly, Valora felt the same. As she saw Valendrian walk to the front of the stage she straightened her back.

“Friends and family, today we celebrate not only this joining, but also our bonds of kin and kind,” Valendrian said and she forced herself to keep her breathing in check, inhale, hold, exhale, repeat, “we are a free people, but that was not always so. Andraste, the Maker’s prophet, freed us from the bonds of slavery. As our community grows, remember that our strength lies in commitment and to each other.”

“Thank you, Valendrian,” Mother Boann said taking Valendrian’s place on the stage, “now, let us begin…”

She was getting married, holy shit balls. This was real. She was actually getting married. Her.

“In the name of the Maker, who brought us this world, and in whose name we say the Chant of Light, I—” Mother Boann began, and then her heart dropped, and she felt her blood run cold as over Mother Boann’s shoulder, she saw her target waltz in with a contingent of guards, “Milord? This is… an unexpected surprise.”

Mother Boann wouldn’t do anything for them, they couldn’t rely on her. And though this community was strong… She doubted they would risk themselves in this situation, and she didn’t want them too regardless. In this situation, in this dress, in this environment… She could already tell: she was powerless. That word again. Powerless.

“Sorry to interrupt, Mother,” Vaughan laughed, “but I’m having a party and we’re dreadfully short of female guests.”

“Milord, this is a wedding!” Mother Boann glared, and she breathed, in through the nose, out through the mouth.

Not now, not yet, she must choose her actions wisely, there were guards armed and in full armor. There was nothing she would be able to do just yet, and even if she did retaliate, the splash damage from her actions would be her end. She’ll have to bide her time and patiently wait for an opportunity, a window in which she’d be able to act.

“Ha! If you want to dress up your pets and have tea parties, that’s your business,” Vaughan scoffed, “but don’t pretend this is a proper wedding… now, we’re here for a good time, aren’t we boys?”

“Just a good time with the ladies, that’s all,” his friends laughed, she continued focusing on her breathing.

“Let’s take those two,” Vaughan said as if he were ordering food at a restaurant, “the one in the tight dress, and… where’s the bitch that bottled me?”

“Over here, Lord Vaughan!” his friend said grabbing Shianni.

“Let me go, you stuffed-shirt son of a— “ Shianni struggled and she felt her anger flare, and her instincts blaze, but still, this was not the time. Patience. Patient, she would have to be patient.

“Oh, I’ll enjoy taming her,” Vaughan laughed before turning to her, “and see the pretty bride…”

“Don’t worry,” Nelaros said and despite everything, she felt her heart swell, “I won’t let them take you!”

“It’ll be alright,” was the only thing she could say.

“Ah, yes… such a well-formed little thing,” Vaughan said as he advanced on her.

“You villains!” Nelaros shouted putting himself between them.

“Oh that’s quite enough,” Vaughan laughed, “I’m sure we all want to avoid further… um… unpleasantness.”

“Please, just take me and let the others go,” she pleaded.

“That wouldn’t be much of a party, now would it?” Vaughan replied, “oh, we are going to have some fun.”

She could see his friend come up and made her decision: as he moved to hit her, she moved with his strike, rag-dolled her body, evened out her breathing, and allowed herself to be carted away. There was still something she could do, she just needed to wait for the right opportunity.

Idly, she wondered if this was her punishment for all her actions, for her past. She’ll have to consider her actions wisely, she’s never had to protect others like this before. She kept her eyes closed as she felt herself get thrown down and heard a door close and lock.

“Maker keep us,” Nola began praying, “Maker protect us, Maker keep us, Maker—”

“Stop it,” Shianni grumbled, “you’re driving me insane.”

“Are they gone?” she asked.

“Oh, thank the Maker you’ve come to,” Shianni sighed in relief, “we were so… You weren’t actually knocked out, were you?”

“Nope, I’m gonna need you to move a little,” she sighed and they moved and she did a kip-up and began looking around the room.

“You… allowed yourself to be kidnapped?!” Lana shouted at her angrily.

“Why yes, Lana, yes I did. I needed an opportunity, so I needed to bide my time and consider my options,” she hissed, “that Human’s life is as good as over.”

“…I should have known better than to wonder if you had lost your fight,” Shianni grumbled.

“They locked us in here to wait until that… bastard is ‘ready for us’,” Valora panicked.

“Yes, and we’re getting out of here,” she replied opening the drawer, empty, of course.

“Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath,” Lana replied, “but the door is locked and solid, and we’re unarmed!”

“Do you have your lock picks?” Shianni asked.

“If I did, that door wouldn’t still be locked,” she replied inspecting the table, she could probably break it, but to what end? Same with the other furnishings in the room, breaking them would be a waste of time and energy. The gong was the only real thing she could use, but only if she could separate the metal plate from its casing and she had no tools to do it with.

“Maker keep us, Maker protect us,” Nola began praying again, “Maker keep us, Maker protect us.”

“Great… this again,” Shianni grumbled, “what are you thinking, Kalli?”

She opened the door to the cabinet, she could probably rip it off of its hinges… But then what? They were definitely not going to come in alone, there was probably going to be a group of them. Sure, she could use it to smash someone's head, but she somewhat doubted they’d be unarmed, they would also probably have helmets, and there was no way she could take on a group while still protecting the others. She was a protector, sure, but this wasn’t really her preferred method of protecting, she was a rogue, she was a hunter, she struck from the shadows. She wasn’t a warrior, she didn’t stand between people, well, she could, but that would be stupid.

She was confident that she could’ve gotten herself out of here, but it would be at the cost of the others, and that was a price she refused to pay. With a sigh, she looked back at the people she was stuck with, out of all of them the only other one who knew how to defend herself was Shianni, but Shianni was best with a bow, not melee, and most definitely not her fists… She hated that she currently thought of the others as a burden, but right now, that’s what they more or less were.

“Still thinking,” she groaned.

“Look,” Lana said through her clenched teeth, “we’ll do what they want, go home, and try to forget this ever happened.”

“She’s right,” Valora replied, “it’ll be worse if we resist.”

“It’ll be worse if we don’t!” Shianni glared.

“This isn’t something anyone can or will forget, no matter how hard you try,” she sighed in frustration. Valora wasn’t really Tabris material, she’ll be a good match for Soris, but she didn’t have the courage or fight that both she and Shianni had, “no one can forget trauma on this scale, you’re hoping for the impossible.”

“Shh,” Lana hissed, “someone’s coming!”

“Just stay calm,” she replied as the door opened five, there were five of them with weapons and in armor, and for the first time: she found herself completely at a loss of what to do.

“Hello, wenches,” the Guard Captain said, “we’re your escorts to Lord Vaughan’s little party.”

“Stay away from us!” Nola screamed and she panicked and found herself reacting way too slow, she had been too far away from Nola, and could only watch in horror as she was cut down. Chances were, they were going to cut one of them down anyway, to shove their own powerlessness down their throats and to make them lose hope.

“You killed her!” Lana shouted.

“I suppose that’s what happens when you try teaching whores some respect,” the Guard Captain sneered before giving orders, “now, you grab the little flower cowering in the corner. Horace and I’ll take the homely bride and the drunk… You two, bind the last one. Vaughan likes her looks and wants to save her for last.”

“Don’t worry,” the Guard said walking up to her as she pretended to cower, “we’ll be perfect gentlemen.”

“Now, you heard the Captain,” the Other Guard added, “be a good little wench or you’ll end up like your friend, there.”

“Please… please… just please don’t hurt me,” she sobbed.

“Don’t worry, sweetie,” the First Guard replied gently, “we’ll treat you real—”

“Uhh… hello?” a familiar voice said tentatively. Soris? What was Soris doing here?

“Oh, look at this,” the Guard chuckled as they both turned to him, “a little Elfling with a stolen sword.”

She saw her opportunity and took it. Inwardly she cringed as she felt and heard his neck snap beneath her hands, and before his body fell she stole his sword and sliced through the neck of the second. They hadn’t even seen it coming. She felt sick, this was the first time she’d ever taken a life in either lifetimes, but she couldn’t let her nausea cripple her. There were still things she could do.

“Thank you for the distraction,” she sighed as she turned the stolen sword onto the lower half of her dress, roughly slicing through it at the knees.

She couldn’t quite get to the back of it, so this would have to do. Part of her lamented the ruined dress, they’d spent so long making it, and they had both been beyond proud of the how it had turned out, and that part of her also lamented this whole situation. Part of her wanted to shout, scream, kick, and cry as she indignantly demanded answers for why this was happening. But that would be a waste of time and energy. There were things they needed to do, people they needed to save.

And people she needed to hunt.

“They… They killed Nola?” Soris said in shock, before turning to inspect her, “they… they didn’t hurt you too, did they?”

“I’m alright,” she replied looking at the sword in his hand, “where’d you get that sword?”

“That Grey Warden, Duncan, gave Nelaros and me his sword and crossbow, but that’s all we have,” Soris replied handing the sword to her, “I think you can use this better than I can.”

“Possibly,” she replied testing the weight of both swords and her heart swelled as she turned to look at Soris, “wait… Nelaros is here?”

“Yes, he’s the reason we’re here,” Soris replied, “he lost it on those who wanted to ‘hope for the best’. I… I didn’t know what to do.”

“You’re here now,” she replied soothingly, “and you helped me, that’s what matters.”

“Thanks,” Soris replied, “I couldn’t let him go alone.”

“Did you have to fight your way in?” she asked giving both swords a sharp downward strike to help gather her bearings. She guessed this was where she’d have to use the full extent of her abilities and hold nothing back.

“We snuck in,” Soris admitted, “although Nelaros took down a guard. He’s a savage fighter, though not quite as savage as you are, apparently. Nelaros is guarding the end of the hall, let’s go figure this out with him.”

“Good plan,” she nodded, she saw her future, and realized that she didn’t deserve Nelaros. He was too good for her. Far too good for her, and so instead she simply hoped that he would have a better life after her death. Humans would demand blood, would demand to know who was responsible, and she was not letting anyone but herself take the fall. Especially not him.

“We should hurry,” Soris said as they swiftly left the room, “before something happens to the others.”

“Agreed,” she said.

“What’s this!?” a Human that she presumed was the cook glowered, “I don’t recognize you, Elf! Wait… is that blood?”

But surprisingly, one of the kitchen servants got to him first, a fist slamming into the back of his head.

“You’ve no idea how long that shem’s had it coming,” the Servant said as he shook out his hand to help the pain from it to go away.

“Have you seen a group of Elven women?” she asked.

“Yes, dragged them to Lord Vaughan’s quarters, they did,” the Servant said before running out, “you should hurry if you want to help them… Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting out of here before the storm hits.”

“Good luck,” she replied and they ran through the door he’d left open, and after taking quick stock of the situation, dispatched the guards there swiftly and easily, “Soris, after we get to Nelaros, I won’t think any less of you if you both simply went back to the Alienage.”

“No, even if you can save the others on your own,” Soris shook his head, “you might not be able to get them out of here on your own.”

“Good point,” she replied as they continued to move.

***

He was scared.

He was scared of his cousin.

Kallian was a whirlwind of death that he could barely keep up with, most didn’t even see her coming, didn’t even have the time to react. He knew she was flexible, he knew she was agile, he knew she was deadly, but he had never known the true extent of her abilities. She bounced around the halls unleashing slices, thrusts, and slashes with what looked like practiced ease. Practically every single one of her attacks ended a life in a single blow, but he could tell that she was in full control of herself.

But despite knowing that she would never turn on him, he couldn’t stop himself from being afraid of her. Her eyes alone had sent shivers down his spine.

His cousin, Kallian, was a monster, and though he loved her, he couldn’t help but fear her.

***

She screamed as she felt her heart ripped out of her chest and left dying on the floor, and she knelt next to his body, applying pressure to his wound. It was fatal, she knew but she needed to try anyway she felt his hand caress her face as he shook his head and pressed a ring into her hands with the last of his strength. She clutched at his hands as they lost their warmth, grasping at them as they went limp in her grasp. His blood was on her. She felt it on her cheek, she felt it dampen her dress, she felt it on her hands. She felt her control of herself slipping, but she needed to keep herself together.

“He—” she bit the inside of her cheek and slipping the ring on her finger, “we need to keep going. We can’t let his death be in vain.”

How? How did this happen? How could this happen? How did everything go so wrong so quickly?

“You’re right,” Soris replied quietly, “I’m so, so sorry, Nelaros…”

Powerless.

She was powerless. She couldn’t save Nola, she couldn’t save Nelaros. What good was she? What good were her experiences? What good were her abilities? This must be her punishment, her punishment for leading those men to their deaths. Her punishment was having her own powerlessness shoved down her throat as those she’d vowed to protect, those she loved, those she cherished pay the price of her actions.

Nelaros… She’ll be joining him soon.

She saw her future. She saw it in a prison cell. She saw it in being left to rot. She saw it in her death.

But for now, she had to continue forward, there were still things she could do. Still people she could save. She had to be stable, she had to be in control of herself, she had to be the rock Soris could latch onto for strength.

She shook her head and fought against the poison that had started to course through her. The poison that made people lose hope.

The poison known as despair.

***

He could see wounds appear on her skin, she was covered in blood, and then he realized that he had yet to be hit. That he had yet to take any damage. The blood on him was minimal.

But her dress was in tatters, the white had given way to red.

He could tell she was forcing herself to go on for him. That she was still protecting him despite how cold, ruthless and methodical she’d become, she was still his cousin, his cousin that he’d always loved and cherished. He knew in the way that she left the servants alive, that she didn’t even look at them as she continued to rampage along her path of death and destruction.

This was simply another part of her, simply another of her faces. And he could tell that she was blaming herself, that she thought that this was all her fault. That she was in pain, that she was in shock, that her heart had been broken. That she wanted to cry, that she wanted to wail, that she wanted just stop and give up. He could tell in the way that she ruthlessly killed and slaughtered everything and everyone. How guards both on and off duty, mabari warhounds… all who crossed her path fell beneath her blades. All had their lives snuffed out by the executioner that was his cousin.

He loved her more than he feared her. He wanted to comfort her, he wanted to reassure her that it would be okay.

But now wasn’t the time.

***

She kicked the door in and froze.

She saw her, laying on the ground, bloody, battered, and broken. Blood on her thighs, bruises already forming on her skin, eyes lifelessly staring at the ceiling.

Was everything she touched just destined to fail? To crumble? Did her touch corrupt everything she cared for? Why was this happening? Why had she been sent to this world? A cruel joke played by the gods? Punishment? Did she do something without knowing it? Insulted them? Why? Why? Why?Why?WHY?WHY?WHY?WHY?

Ahhh… Who cares anymore?

As her vision went black she decided that if this world wanted a monster, then she would become the monster that it had so dearly desired.

***

Suddenly, the demeanor in his cousin changed. Something was wrong. Something was horribly wrong. Something was really, truly, terribly wrong.

“My, my, what have we here?” Vaughan replied turning to them.

“Don’t worry,” his friend said, “we’ll make short work of these two.”

“Quiet, you idiot!” Vaughan shouted, “she’s covered in enough blood to fill a tub. What do you think that means?”

“Aaaahh I’ve been looking for you,” Kallian sighed with a blissful expression, “ever since I first saw you, I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind.”

He was scared. He was scared. Hewasscaredhewasscaredhewasscared.

“Oh? Then perhaps we can talk something out,” Vaughan smirked.

“Well there is something I do want you to do for me,” Kallian smiled before suddenly her head tilted at an unnatural angle her expression became malicious, and her words turned to ice, “and that is for you to s.t.o.p.b.r.e.a.t.h.i.n.g.”

He found himself frozen in terror as he watched Kallian brutally slaughter them before beginning to mutilate their carcasses.

A monster.

She had become a monster.

He saw Shianni twitch, and he forced himself to conquer his fears and run over to pull Kallian off of Vaughan’s mutilated corpse.

“KALLI!” he shouted, “KALLI STOP!”

“…Huh?” Kallian said as she stared at him dazed and confused and then jolted, as if she had just been woken up from a trance, a hand flying to her mouth in shock.

***

What… What had she done? She lost control? She? She lost control of herself? She could see the fear in Soris’s eyes, and all she could feel was shame. She had tripped over herself. She had lost sight of herself… What has she done?

“I’ll go check the back for the others,” Soris said, “Shianni needs you.”

“Kalli…?” Shianni sobbed and she dropped her weapons and rushed to hug her cousin to her tightly, “Kalli… Kalli help me… Kalli…”

“I’m so sorry, Shianni,” she cried, “I’m so sorry.”

“Just… just please don’t leave me alone,” Shianni cried into her neck, “please… please… take me home… I want to go home.”

“Of course,” she sobbed.

“There’s… so much blood, I can’t stand to look at it,” Shianni sobbed moving her hands to cover her eyes, “it’s everywhere.”

“Let me… let me get you cleaned up before we leave,” she said as tears blurred her vision.

“You killed them, didn’t you?” Shianni whispered as she gently wiped the blood from her thighs, “you killed them all?”

“Not just them,” she replied, “everyone who hurt you.”

“Good… good,” Shianni replied as she gently pulled her dress back down her legs.

“Is… is she going to be alright?” Valora asked.

“Would you be?” she hissed.

“Shianni… Shianni’s strong, she’ll recover,” Valora replied and she felt Shianni’s hand on her wrist, and clicked her tongue in annoyance.

“Err… We should go,” Soris said quickly, “soon. As in now.”

“Soris, leave your weapons behind,” she demanded and he immediately complied not even questioning her.

He was afraid of her, but she still had her part to play. She still needed to play the part of a monster. The part of a bloodthirsty beast.

She led them through the Market, back towards the Alienage, still wearing her wedding dress, tattered, torn, and soaked in blood. Still holding her stolen swords, slick with blood and viscera. She kept her back straight, and tall, head held high with pride. A deep vicious scowl decorating her face.

She could feel them.

Everyone staring at her in fear. Staring at her in horror. Some frozen in terror, other’s fleeing before her.

Good.

She waited for the others to enter through the Alienage gates and gently stopped Soris, startling him.

“Take care of everyone for me, won’t you?” she asked with a small smile.

“What?” Soris replied in shock as she gently ushered him back through the Alienage gates.

Valendrian was the first to greet them and she felt ashamed of herself the second his eyes had fallen on her.

“You… You’ve returned,” Valendrian said briefly looking at Shianni, he knew, “where is Tormey’s daughter, Nola?”

“Nola didn’t make it,” Valora replied, “she resisted, and…”

“They killed her,” Shianni finished.

“They killed Nelaros too,” Soris added, “the guards killed him.”

Her thumb ran over the cool metal of the ring he had given her. The ring he had made for her.

His first and last gift for her… She’ll be with him soon.

“I… I see,” Valendrian sighed, “would the rest of you ladies please take Shianni home? She needs rest.”

“Soris, you go with them,” she demanded.

“Are yo—” Soris cut himself off as she slid her gaze to him and instead he immediately complied… He was still afraid of her.

“Now tell me,” Valendrian sighed heavily, “what happened?”

“I… I don’t want to talk about it,” she replied, her shame assaulting her like a splash of cold water.

“And the Arl’s son?” Valendrian asked, “does he live?”

“He didn’t deserve to live,” she replied quietly shaking her head.

“Maker preserve us all,” Valendrian prayed.

“Then the garrison could already be on their way,” Duncan replied, “you have little time.”

“I am aware,” she replied.

“The guards are here!” someone shouted.

“Don’t panic,” Valendrian replied, “let’s… let’s see what comes of this.”

She straightened her back when she heard the clanking of their metal armor as they marched into the Alienage.

“I seek Valendrian,” the Captain demanded, “Elder and administrator of the Alienage!”

“Here, Captain,” Valendrian said stepping forward, “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 Captain glared, “the Arl’s son lies dead in a river of blood that runs through the entire palace! I need names, and I need them now!”

“It was me. I did it,” she laughed, she would play this role out to the end… no, was it even an act anymore? She knew what she’d done. She was a monster, “I killed all of them.”

And it was more or less true, it was her blades they fell under, her strikes they died to. Soris helped, but not much, her abilities had far outclassed his. Something she was grateful for. Soris had not killed a single one of them, he may have damaged them, but she was the one who reaped their lives. She didn’t want Soris to feel that guilt, have that blood on his hands. Her fate had been sealed, his didn’t need to be.

She’d become death personified. Death given form in the shape of her body.

“You expect me to believe that one woman did all of that?” the Captain stared at her in suspicion.

“I see no other Elves covered in blood and viscera,” she sneered throwing her weapons down at his feet, “do you?”

“…You save many by coming forward,” the Captain sighed, “I don’t envy your fate, but I applaud your courage.”

“I don’t need your applause,” she cackled.

“Very well,” the Captain sighed again before raising his voice, “this Elf will wait in the dungeons until the Arl returns. The rest of you, back to your houses!”

“Captain,” Duncan said stopping him, “a word if you please.”

“What is it, Grey Warden?” the Captain replied, “the situation is well under control, as you can see.”

“Be that as it may,” Duncan replied and she felt her blood run cold, “I hereby invoke the Grey Warden’s Right of Conscription. I remove this woman into my custody.”

“Son of a tied down—” the Captain grumbled, “very well, Grey Warden. I cannot challenge your rights, so I’ll ask one thing: Get this Elf out of Denerim. Today.”

“Agreed,” Duncan replied.

“Now, I need to get my men on the streets before this news hits,” the Captain ordered, “move out!”

“What have you done?” she seethed rounding on him.

“You’re with me, now,” Duncan said, “say your goodbye and see me when you’re ready. We leave immediately.”

“And if I don’t want to become a Grey Warden?” she hissed with wide-eyed fury.

“You would prefer a swift execution?”

“Yes,” she snarled.

“Then give your life to our cause, I needed a Grey Warden and I found one. That conscripting you saved your life is only circumstance,” Duncan replied, “you did what you had to do to accomplish your mission. We need people like you.”

And she understood.

She finally understood what his angle was. She understood what he was doing here. What he was doing here, in the Denerim Alienage.

It was her.

He was here for her.

“Now quickly, say your goodbyes,” Duncan said and she felt herself dying inside, “your life here is over.”

Ahh… She really truly was powerless, wasn’t she?

At this rate, she’ll never be able to dodge a ball.

***

He was ashamed of himself.

He’d found his cousin completely and utterly terrifying. She’d sacrificed herself for his future. She kept his hands clean, kept him from taking a life. Kept him safe from harm.

He remembered when his parents had died. When he had avoided her. How it had hurt her. How he regret treating her as a villain when she was a hero. She understood, he knew she understood. She always understood. She always understood and forgave him. But it hurt him, it always hurt him to see her like this, in pain, blaming herself, afraid of doing anything in case she hurt them again.

“Kalli,” he said tentatively, “you—”

“Yeah, I…” Kallian cut herself off took a breath and with a small smile she asked, “what will you do now?”

“No more daydreaming,” he replied wrapping her in a hug not minding the blood she was soaked in, “I’m settling down. Valora’s a good woman, and she has ideas on making life better for everyone here.”

“Treat her well, alright?” Kallian mumbled into his chest.

“Of course… and I’m sorry,” he apologized stepping away from her, “I’m sorry for being afraid of you.”

“Don’t be. Anyone would be scared of a monster in Elven flesh.”

“Still, I—” he sighed, “your Father had the women take Shianni home. Will you see her before you go?”

“She would kill me if I didn’t, wouldn’t she?” Kallian replied with a small smile.

“Good luck, Kalli, you’d always been my hero since we were kids. You know that?” he replied, “and I’m proud to say that you still are.”

This would most likely be the last time he saw his cousin, and even still, he had been afraid of her and had once again treated her like villain.

He will forever regret that he spent his last moments with her like this.

***

She looked at Valendrian in shame. What had she done? What… what had she done? She loved her friends and family the most, and yet she’d hurt them the most.

“Elder… I—" her words got caught in her throat.

“Well, I guess Duncan got his recruit after all,” Valendrian sighed heavily, and she could tell he was disappointed.

“I— I didn’t want—” disappointed, she was disappointed in herself, “I didn’t want this.”

“No?” Valendrian replied and she felt another piece of her shatter in her chest, “either way, it’s out of my hands now.”

“How could I? How could—” Valendrian held up a hand and cut her off.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Valendrian sighed before leaving, “I must tend to our people. Goodbye, young one, and Maker keep you.”

And all she could do was stare after him in shock.

Disappointment.

She was a disappointment.

All her abilities, all her knowledge, all her experiences… And she was still a disappointment… No matter what life she was living, it seemed that all she could ever amount to was being a disappointment.

Truly, what good was she?

All she could do now was meander home on drunken legs.

She froze, she felt weak as her Father walked towards her, tightly wrapping his arms around her, clearly not minding the gore that coated her entire being.

“I’m so sorry, Father,” she sobbed, “I’m so, so, sorry.”

“If… If… If this is what the Maker has planned for you,” Father sighed, “then I guess… maybe it’s for the best… Your Mother would have been furious.”

“She would?”

“When Duncan came to the Alienage before, she told you to stay out of his sights, remember?” Father replied leaning back to wipe some of the blood from her face, “she… she didn’t want you you to become a Warden, she’d even threatened Duncan to stay away from you. She told him that the Wardens would never have you.”

“She was trying to protect me…”

“Valendrian was the same, he was the one who insisted that you be married sooner rather than later,” Father sighed sadly, “he wanted to keep you from joining the Wardens. He wanted you to be safe… He’s not disappointed in you, he’s disappointed in himself. For not being able to protect you, for not being able to stop this from happening… But clearly, the Maker has other plans.”

“I— I can’t… Why?”

“We both just wish there was another way, I dreamed of grandchildren, family gatherings—” Father held her tightly to him, “I’m sorry, this isn’t helping… Go inside… Shianni’s waiting for you.”

“Okay,” she said quietly as he let her go.

“Remember, that I will always love you, so take care,” Father said ruffling her hair a bit, “be safe, and wise… and… just come home one day, alright?”

“Of course,” she nodded before lifelessly pushing herself through the door of what had once been her home.

“There you are,” Valora greeted her, “thank you. For me, for Soris, for everything.”

“Be good to Soris,” she replied.

“I will, I swear it,” Valora replied cheerfully before leaving, “Shianni seems to have regained herself. I’ll leave you two alone. Good luck, and thank you again.”

She hated herself, the her that was weak, the her that was powerless, the her that was slow, the her who destroyed everything she’d tried to protect with her own hands… It was her fault. She’s the one who destroyed everything. She was the one who destroyed her home with her own hands. She ruined everything.

Her Father… Her Father… What would become of his work? Would they fire him for being her Father? Would he lose his job because of her? Would he be able to find employment elsewhere? Would the Alienage blame him? Blame him for her actions?

Will Soris be okay? He took part in it. Would they blame him too? Would he be able to find employment? Would they hate him because of her?

And Shianni…

A failure. All she was was a failure of a person…

What… What has she done?

And so she finally succumbed to the poison that she had so desperately tried to fight against.

***

Kallian opened the door to their shared room quietly, and her heart broke as she saw the hollowed out broken shell of a woman that was once her cousin. The one that was once her strong, confident cousin, was once her beloved cousin who had once shown as brilliantly as the sun. Her cousin who had always been full of life, energetic, and free.

And now, her seemingly invincible cousin looked completely, utterly, and absolutely, defeated.

“Shianni—”

“Kalli…” she said cutting her off and walking over to her and pulling her into a hug, “you took all the responsibility for what happened… you’re amazing, you know that?”

“How… How are you doing?” Kallian asked quietly.

“I’m alright,” she replied rubbing her back soothingly, “as far as the others know, Vaughan just roughed me up a bit… I just don’t want them treating me like some fragile doll.”

“Shianni— I’m so sorry,” Kallian cried, “I’m so, so, sorry! I should have been faster, I should have just attacked them on the stage, I shou—”

“Kalli, stop,” she said trying not to cry, “you did what you could.”

“But that isn’t enough! That isn’t anywhere near enough!”

“Kalli, shhh,” she said, “you’ve always… you’ve always been there for me… but what happened? What happened was beyond what anyone could have ever expected from another person.”

“But I—”

“Kalli… You’ve always been a hero, you know that? Even if you’ve always identified with villains more than heroes, you’ll still always be a hero.”

“No! I’m not!” Kallian shook her head wildly, “I’m not! I’m rea—”

“You know, from my perspective,” she said pressing their foreheads together gently, “from my perspective… when the world was at its worst, there you came— fire in your eyes, like something out of a storybook… I’ll never forget that.”

“I—”

She couldn’t stop her tears anymore, and they held each other tightly as they wailed together, sobbing wildly and uncontrollably.

They’d both had their innocence snatched away from them.

They both had their fires extinguished.

They were both in so much pain, no one else could possibly understand.

Once there were no tears left to cry. Once their voices here harsh and raspy, she helped her cousin pack a bag for traveling, helped her clean the blood from her body. Kallian had decided to keep her hair long. To help her remember better days. She worried it would be a hindrance in battle, but respected her decision. Finally, she helped her find a chain for the ring Nelaros had given her.

“I love you, Kalli,” she said hugging her again, “make us proud out there, alright?”

“I love you, too,” Kallian replied, “and… I’ll do my best.”

“You’d better.”

She, Soris, and Cyrion walked her cousin to the Alienage gates.

They all knew that this would most likely be the last time they ever saw her.

With forced smiles, for the first time in their entire lives, they parted ways, and they could only pray that they would see each other again one day.

***

How? How did this happen? Why was this happening?

Her breaths were coming out ragged as she fought her way through her own castle. As she fled from her family who had demanded she escape, her servants who’d given their lives to help her flee, from her dog that had been cut down in her place.

How? How could everything have gone wrong so quickly? Her Father and that wretched bastard were friends, how could he betray him like that?

Rage blossomed and consumed her heart.

She would never forgive him for this.

Never.

She would hunt him down and kill him, if it were the last thing she did. But to do that, she would first need to find someone she could trust, someone who could help her.

And with that in mind, she set her destination for Redcliffe.

***

“Alistair, right?” a messenger said handing him a letter, “dispatch for you.”

“Oh! Duncan found a promising new recruit,” he said reading it, “I guess that’s why he went to Denerim.”

“So someone else will be joining us?” Ser Jory asked.

“That’s what it looks like,” he replied.

“Do you know who?” Daveth asked.

“A woman,” he said, “named Kallian Tabris.”

Chapter Text

The woman he was traveling with detested him.

Absolutely abhorred him.

It was easy to see as they traveled along with the caravan towards Ostagar.

She blatantly rejected and ignored everything regarding him, including the armor he offered to buy her, and spoke to him in the bare minimum.

But he didn’t need her to like him, as long as she still worked together with him when necessary, that would have to be good enough.

Another man traveling with them had tried to put his hands on her, but soon ended up screaming in pain as she emotionlessly twisted his arm to an unnatural position before he could even interfere. People tried to attack her, but her attacks were far quicker, precise, and efficient than he’d expected. She’d left them all alive, but in the end no one dared approach her. She was the epitome of why you should choose your targets wisely.

He didn’t regret conscripting her into the Wardens in the least.

She would make an excellent Warden.

***

Nola lay bleeding out on the floor. Slow, she had been too slow.

She felt a neck-snapping in her hands as she twisted. Felt the warm splatter of blood as it hit her.

Nelaros was cut down and died in her arms. Slow… She had been too slow.

The pain in her heart coursed through her body. She felt the tattered remains of her dress become heavier and heavier as it absorbed more and more blood. Felt gore cover every single inch of her. Felt it become sticky as it cooled in the air as she moved forward, slaughtering everyone and everything in her path.

She saw Shianni bloodied, battered, and broken on the floor.

Slow… She was… so… slow…

The scenery around her faded to white, and standing before her was a woman wearing a mask she hadn’t seen since her previous life.

A Japanese styled white ogre, an oni, mask.

They both brandished their weapons against each other, but she was severely outclassed. She was completely forced on the defensive and then finally the woman stood above her, weapon pointing at her neck.

“Weak. You are weak. You are powerless.”

Her eyes opened as she’d sensed movement. She always had dreams of her own powerlessness, but the woman was a recent addition. She’d only joined in the fun of poking at her powerlessness recently, and now they were always the same: she’d relive the moments during which she’d felt the most powerless, and then be forced to fight the woman. She never had any hope of winning against her, but she didn’t mind, because she didn’t care. That woman was only there because she had lost control of herself, she knew that. It was because she had given in, because she was weak, because she was powerless, and because she had given in to the monster that had always been within her. The raging beast that was the counterbalance to her patience, her kindness, her love. She would probably be there until she got a firm hold of herself again… Which might never happen. It was easier to just not care anymore. Well, at least she had a visual representation of how she was fighting against herself in this life.

She just didn’t care anymore.

Not just about those dreams.

She just didn’t care about anything anymore.

She was tired.

She was too tired to care anymore.

She was too tired to even hate anyone or anything anymore.

What was even the point? It was a waste of time and energy.

If the world didn’t care about her, then why should she care about the world?

Dull, everything was dull and boring, and to think she had once loved this world. What an unbelievable idiot she was. This fucked up place, what good was it?

She remembered how she had once told Alarith, she had no intentions of leaving the Denerim Alienage, but, well, here she was. She couldn’t go home, she had no home, not anymore. Ruined, she ruined her own home, she destroyed the place she belonged with her own hands.

This was no good, she’ll probably have to eventually find herself again… She knew the name of what she was suffering under: it was survivor’s guilt. The guilt that stemmed from the fact that she had always been powerless, had always been unable to save and protect any of the people she cared for. She’s going down an unhealthy path, spiraling into the abyss, she’s tripping over herself, she’s lost sight of herself, she knows this. Was this even the kind of person she had wanted to be? Well, maybe it wouldn’t even matter. She’ll probably die soon anyway, and so she still couldn’t muster the energy to care.

Ahhh… She didn’t get to teach Shianni how to apply make-up. She didn’t get to— It doesn’t matter anymore. That her was figuratively dead… She was now dead in two different ways, what an achievement.

She only warded people away from her on basic instinct and reflex, she didn’t actually care, and she refused to accept anything that shem had offered her. She knew what his intentions were, but quite frankly, she didn’t give a fuck.

After spending a month traveling in a world she didn’t care about, she was tired. They separated from the caravan to continue on their way to Ostagar, they would probably get there the next day. Honestly, she just hoped these fucktards knew that she had no fucking clue about how to:

One: Camp.
Two: Navigate large plains of land. Islands don't have large expanses of land, and she's always lived in a city in both lives.
Three: Wear armor.

And as much as she hated sounding edgy, and lone-wolf like:

Four: Fight with literally ANYONE else.
Five: Be responsible for anyone else in a fight
Six: Fight a group of people and/or things.

Even now, she was just going with the flow and making shit up as she went along. That idiot probably didn’t even consider both her background and the living conditions under which she’d grown up in, and had probably only heard about her skills and abilities, and made a decision from there. What an idiot. Hmm, the Dalai Lama said… Consider carefully, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?

Answer: Duncan. Duncan is what’s preventing her from living her life the way she wanted to. Or rather, ending her life the way she wanted to.

Maybe she should just kill him.

She realized that the more time she spent with him, the more pieces of herself she lost.

***

Quiet.

It was too quiet.

The Alienage was too quiet without her beloved dumb cat of a cousin. Without her Fire Sister, it was so damn lonely… She knew that wherever she was, she was blaming herself. She was blaming herself for everything that happened. That it was her cousin in appearance, but there were no traces of the woman that she had once been, left. She needed her. She needed her here with her. She needed her to help her. She needed to help her. She missed her so damn much. She knew that she was dying inside for not being able to be there for her. She knew because her cousin had always loved so much, so wholly and completely, that there was no way that this whole ordeal had not broken her… She felt tears running down her face as a hand went to her back where her tattoos were, as her eyes fell on her braided cord bracelet that she’d made for her. She knew that they were both dying inside, both broken, both mourning the loss of the other…

Maker… Andraste… Someone… Anyone

Please protect her cousin and bring her back home.

***

As they crossed the bridge to the ruins, she saw the light bounce off of the armor of three figures. Someone was here to welcome them? Bleeeeeh, and so, as they neared them, she put on her service smile… Except she recognized one of the people in shining armor. It was King Cailan. She was wearing a loose-fitting tunic with pulled out sleeves to hide the bandages she wore around her forearms, a simple pair of black cloth gloves, a simple pair of trousers, and her Mother’s boots… She probably looked like some random vagrant. Well, there was nothing she could do about it as of right now, so whatever. She could at least act the part of a humble servant since that was what she had trained to be. Her Father and Valendrian had always taught her to mind her manners and be respectful, and she wouldn’t be letting them down, if she could help it. Granted, she had no idea how to approach and/or talk to a king. For now, she’ll just mind her posture and maintain her service smile.

“Ho there, Duncan,” Cailan said walking up to meet them to shake his hand.

“King Cailan?” Duncan said in shock, “I didn’t expect—”

“A royal welcome?” Cailan replied, “I was beginning to worry you’d miss all the fun!”

Fun…? What fun? What was fun about battle? She enjoyed the hunt, sure, as well as moving her body, but being in an actual battle? That really wasn’t her shtick. She derived no pleasure in violence, in fact, she actually detested it quite a bit. The extent of her violent nature was simply doing what she needed to. Her martial prowess existed solely for the fact she felt more at ease knowing that should the need arise, she could defend herself, as well as a way for her to release pent up energy and find inner peace… Taking the lives of others like that… She could only pray that she never got used to it, for the second she did, was the second she would have truly completely and utterly lost sight of herself.

“Not if I could help it, Your Majesty,” Duncan replied.

“Then I’ll have the mighty Duncan at my side in battle after all! Glorious!” Cailan beamed before turning his attention to her, he was pretty chipper for a king… well, not as if she knew how kings really behaved, “the other Wardens told me you’ve found a promising recruit, I take it this is she?”

“Allow me to introduce you, Your Majesty,” Duncan began.

“There’s no need to be so formal, Duncan. We’ll be shedding blood together, after all,” Cailan replied, “ho there, friend! Might I know your name?”

“My name is Kallian Tabris, Your Majesty,” she said with a polite bow. It had been a while since she’d spoken more than one word, almost a full month in fact. She was glad she hadn’t lost her ability to speak.

“Pleased to meet you,” Cailan replied kindly, “the Grey Wardens are desperate to bolster their numbers, and I, for one, am glad to help them… I see you’re an Elf, friend. From where do you hail?”

“The city of Denerim, Your Majesty.”

“As do I! Though I’ve not been in the palace for some time, ” Cailan replied and… well… no shit Sherlock, Denerim was the capital city of Ferelden, you’re the King of Ferelden, where else would you have come from? “do you come from the Alienage? Tell me, how is it there? My guards all but forbid me going there.”

“I’d… rather not speak of it,” she replied with a small smile. Speaking of it would make her homesick, not only that, but she still hadn’t come to terms with the exact sort of brutality she had been subjected to the day she had been more or less kicked out, as well as the brutality she’d unleashed upon others.

“One day I’ll see those walls taken down,” Cailan declared, “your people have suffered enough.”

“I look forward to that day,” she replied with a lie. It wasn’t her place to tell a king what to do, wasn’t her place to advise a king. In both lives she was a commoner, she didn’t know the intricacies of ruling.

Life was hard in the Alienage, sure. But it wasn’t completely miserable, there were happy times, sad times, hard times, but that was just how life was in general. Granted, they were pushed around by Humans quite a lot, and always looked at in suspicion. Not only that, but some asshole Humans would venture into the Alienage, as evidenced by her last day there. And there were many riots, and many fires, and far more deaths than other places likely saw… But they were a strong people, with a close-knit community… She had loved her life in the Alienage. The Alienage walls separated them from Humans, and locked them into the lives they led within them, but they also kept them safe. With the walls in place, Humans didn’t actually venture in all that often, didn’t have free reign over them and antagonize them as they could have if the walls hadn’t been in place. They were both prison and protection…

And she ruined it.

“Allow me to be the first to welcome you to Ostagar,” Cailan grinned, “the Wardens will benefit greatly with you in their ranks.”

“You are too kind Your Majesty.”

“And I’m sorry to cut this short, but I should return to my tent. Loghain waits eagerly to bore me with his strategies.”

…Weren’t strategies important in a war? Sure, they could be a bit boring, but in battle they were kinda sorta important, right? Were things different here?

“Your uncle sends his greetings,” Duncan said, “and reminds you that Redcliffe forces could be here in less than a week.”

Oh, yeah, they did run into a messenger a few days ago… Or something? Maybe? She hadn’t really been paying attention.

“Ha! Eamon just wants in on the glory,” Cailan replied, “we’ve won three battles against these monsters and tomorrow should be no different.”

“You sound very confident in that,” she pointed out. Glory? What glory was there to be had in battle? What glory was there in violence?

“Overconfident, some would say,” Cailan chuckled, “right, Duncan?”

“Your Majesty, I’m not certain the Blight can be ended quite as…” Duncan replied choosing his words carefully, “quickly as you might wish.”

“I’m not even sure this is a true Blight,” Cailan replied, “there are plenty of Darkspawn on the field, but alas, we’ve seen no sign of an Archdemon.”

There were those words again: Blight, and Darkspawn. And now in addition to those two: Archdemon. What the fuck was even going on? What mess was she being forced into? She still didn’t know, and she was too tired to even care to know. Whatever, follow orders, kill the thing, and lose more and more pieces of herself. That’s what her life was probably going to be like from now on. Eventually, she’d be left with no trace of the person she had once been, in either lifetime. But she still couldn’t muster up the energy to care. Before, losing sight of herself was a terrible thought, but right now? Maybe it was better for her to discard the person she had been, the person who had loved more than anything. The person who had loved her life no matter the hard times, and sad times, because after the rain, there was the sun, not only that but even if you couldn’t see it, that didn’t mean the sun wasn’t there.

But now she was guilty, she had met injustice with injustice. The others had brought their punishments onto themselves, at any and all times, they could have simply stopped chasing her, but they had continued chasing her through the back alleys of Denerim. But now? Now she had perpetuated an unhealthy circle, an unhealthy way of life. She had been judged, sentenced, and now this was her punishment. Her punishment for being too slow, being too powerless, for losing sight of herself…

“Disappointed, Your Majesty?” Duncan asked.

“I’d hoped for a warlike in the tales!” Cailan admitted and inwardly, she frowned. A king should not hope for war, war is hell on everyone involved, there were no winners in war, only those who lost less, “a king riding with the fabled Grey Wardens against a tainted god! But I suppose this will have to do. I must go before Loghain sends out a search party. Farewell Duncan, and you, Kallian.”

She gave a polite bow as he turned around and walked in the direction of what she assumed was the encampment. Tainted god? Tainted? God? What? Tainted god? What was even happening?

Okay, let’s think:

Blight: usually something that spoils or damages something, usually used more prevalently in the world of horticulture.
Darkspawn: Probably something that spawns from darkness. Not a very creative name.
Archdemon: Arch, beyond its use in architecture, is often used to describe the chief principal in something, the highest point. Demon, easy enough, a sort of apparition that many normally associate with evil.
Tainted God: Well, that one's also pretty obvious.

Gods usually don’t have a physical form, they’re just random beings of energy or something along those lines. Which plays into the demon aspect of it. So, what? Was she an exorcist now? All of these things sounded like some sort of weird spiritual thing. Were they dealing with some random esoteric type of deal? She wasn’t a mage, and from what she’d gathered, neither were either Duncan or Cailan. How was she supposed to fight against apparitions? What is even happening? She still didn’t know what definition of Grey they were using, nor did she know who or what their charges were. Even though spiritualism and demonology were in line with her interests, she still had absolutely no fucking clue what was even going on. Well, whatever, she didn’t know have to know what was going on. She should probably find out later, know your enemy and all that jazz. But she was most certainly not asking Duncan.

“What the King said is true,” Duncan said after Cailan had left, “they’ve won several battles against the Darkspawn here.”

“Mm,” she dropped her service smile and demeanor and once again became emotionless, Duncan didn’t deserve it.

“…Despite the victories so far, the Darkspawn horde grows larger with each passing day,” Duncan said, she still refused to speak more to him than necessary, “by now, they look to outnumber us… I know there is and Archdemon behind this, but I cannot ask the King to act solely on my feeling.”

“He regards them highly.”

“Yet not enough to wait for reinforcements from the Grey Wardens of Orlais. He believes our legend alone makes him invulnerable. Our numbers in Ferelden are too few, as such, we must do what we can, and look to Teyrn Loghain to make up the difference… To that end, we should proceed with the Joining ritual without delay.”

“Ritual?”

“Every recruit must go through a secret ritual we call the Joining in order to become Grey Wardens… The ritual is brief, but some preparation is required. We must begin soon.”

“’Kay.”

“…For now, feel free to explore the camp here as you wish. All I ask is that you do not leave if for the time being.”

“’Kay.”

“…There is another Grey Warden in the camp by the name of Alistair. When you are ready, seek him out and tell him it’s time to summon the other recruits… Until then, I have business I must attend to. You may find me at the Grey Warden tent on the other side of this bridge, should you need to.”

“’Kay.”

She watched Duncan leave, and then promptly decided that she would procrastinate as long as possible until seeing him next. Feel free to explore as she wished, hm? Well, don’t blame her if he didn’t see her for another week. Well, actually, chances were they’d send someone to look for her and red hair was pretty easy to pick out, especially her particular shade of scarlet. Fuckin’ lame. Not only that, but everyone likely knew who or what she was, especially since Duncan had told the other Wardens, and the other Wardens had apparently talked about it. Bleeeeeeeeh, being known before she reached a place was always gross and jarring. She guessed that was what people meant when they say that someone's reputation precedes them.

Well, might as well explore, she was already confused enough about this whole situation, and there was only so confused about something she should be.

She sneezed. Someone was talking shit about her. She didn’t blame them, she’d have talked shit about her too.

There was a tower nearby, it was behind a wooden gate with a guard in front of it. Curiosity drew her to it.

“Halt,” the Guard said, “the Tower of Ishal is off-limits. The men stationed inside are securing it now.”

“What was the Tower of Ishal for?”

“I think they used it once to watch for Wilders coming out of the forest.”

“Why is it off-limits?”

“By orders of Teyrn Loghain, the tower is being secured by his men to be used during battle… I’m told they discovered some lower chambers, and they don’t know how far they go. So for now, everyone’s to stay out.”

“Lower chambers?” she asked, she could get in there if she wanted too, but she didn’t want to make this guys life harder.

“I didn’t see anything like that when I was there, but who knows?”

“This is a pretty large ruin,” she said looking around.

“Goes back to the time of the Tevinter Imperium. Dwarven make. That’s probably why it’s still standing.”

“Good to know,” she bowed politely, “thank you for humoring my curiosity.”

“It was a nice distraction from just standing guard here,” the Guard replied, “Maker speed your steps.”

After noticing some elfroot, she picked them in case she’d needed them later. After she quickly glanced around she decided to pick the lock open on a chest and quickly furrowed her brows in confusion. Elfroot. Why was there elfroot in a locked chest? Who would lock elfroot in a chest? Continuing to look around this side of the bridge, she couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. This whole situation, in general, made her feel uncomfortable, she’d had her own powerlessness shoved down her throat, she’d failed in the worst ways possible… She’d failed Nola, she’d failed Nelaros, she’d failed Shianni… And she’d failed herself.

After exploring everything on this side of the bridge, she decided to finally meander her way across it. Curious, she put her hands on the rail and looked out at the land spilling forth before her. It was jarring, a totally different landscape from her usual perches in Denerim. Regardless, she hauled herself up on it and stood arms crossed as she took in the sight, before continuing to walk on the rail humming a little tune as she went hopping over the small gaps in the rail as she went. At a high place, surrounded by nature… And she felt disconnected from the universe, which didn’t come at a surprise. She’d lost her sense of inner peace, she’d lost her sense of self. She waved to a guard as she trotted past him as he stared at her in a mix of shock, horror, and worry.

“Hail… You must be the Grey Warden recruit that Duncan brought,” a Guard said as she jumped down from the rail.

“Indeed I am.”

“This place hasn’t seen such bustle in centuries, I’ll wager,” the Guard said as his initial shock wore off, “need a hand getting anywhere?”

“Actually… What can you tell me about Ostagar?” she asked tilting her head in curiosity.

“Used to be a fortress, long time ago, so I understand, back in the days when the Wilders used to invade lowlands. You were just on the eastern side of the ruin. The Tower of Ishal is there, but Teyrn Loghain’s closed it off until the battle.”

“I was just talking to the guard over there,” she replied thoughtfully, “he said that they’d found some lower chambers so they need to secure it.”

“Interesting… Well, on this side is the King’s camp,” the Guard continued, “we got the Grey Wardens here, the Circle of Magi, the Chantry… you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting somebody important.”

She never really understood that idiom, who the hell would want to swing an animals deceased corpse somewhere? Let alone hit someone with it. What kind of sick-minded person would do that? All she hoped was that the person who swung it didn’t mind getting their own corpse swung around.

“The Circle of Magi is here?” she asked.

“A few mages, yes,” the Guard nodded, “they even brought those creepy quiet fellows: the Tranquil. Gives me the shivers when they talk, all cold and even… They’re to the north of here, bunched up with a herd of Templars glaring at them. Can’t miss it…”

Boy, did she know that feel. Though she did know a few children who were taken to the Circle, Elroy was one of them. If memory served correct, they were about the same age. Also, Tranquil? A calm serene person? Speaking coldly and evenly? Oh no, was she going to have to fight alongside mages? She’s never fought either with or against mages before. She hadn’t even so much as seen a mage cast a spell on purpose, she’d only seen them cast accidentally. She was figuratively in over her head.

“Wait! Do I hear dogs barking?!”

“Well… This is Ferelden, isn’t it?” the Guard chuckled, “the king has his kennels on the west side of camp. Stinks from all the hounds… These aren’t cute puppies, though— some of those dogs bite the Darkspawn and get too much of that blood in them… It’s like poison. A slow, painful death… Terrible.”

Emotional support doggos here she comes! Wait! Was this it? Was this where she was to be reunited with her pupper?! She couldn’t help but feel excitement lace through her, it’d be the best thing to happen to her in an entire months worth of suffering and misery.

“Ah, is there anywhere to get supplies?”

“Quartermaster,” the Guard replied pointing in the direction, “he’s just a bit to the northwest.”

“Ah, where is the King?” she asked she’d probably have to mentally prepare herself if she were to talk to him again.

“The King likes to spend time with his soldiers,” the Guard replied, “sometimes even does it without his bodyguards… Drives Teyrn Loghain wild, that does.”

Hm… That was actually a type of leadership she appreciated the most. Ones who bonded with their subjects and got to know the people around them, that kind of stuff.

“Where’s Duncan’s tent?” she asked so that she could further procrastinate and avoid him.

“Not far, it’s straight ahead, just past the royal encampment,” the Guard replied gesturing in the direction of it, “though, most of your fellows are in the valley with the army, though the recruits seem to be staying up here for now.”

“One last question… Do you know where the Grey Warden named Alistair is?” she asked.

“Try heading north,” the Guard gestured in that direction, “I think he was sent with a message to the mages.”

“Thank you,” she gave a small smile, “for humoring me and giving me directions.”

“You’re welcome, and good luck to you.”

“You too.”

Wondering if Elroy was around, or something along those lines, she decided to wander over to the Circle of Magi’s encampment. Templars glared at her as she peered around inside. Thinking about it, she was actually dressed quite slovenly, she didn’t blame anyone for looking at her with suspicion, she would too. She didn’t blame the people who attacked her either, honestly, she looked more like a servant than anything, though that did give her a bit of an edge. The only thing that marked her as not a servant were the pair of daggers sheathed and loosely strapped at the small of her back. They were expecting easy prey, and she was far from it. Still, perhaps she should invest in another set or two of nicer clothes, they would also have to be easy to move around in. She also wanted a pair of shoes that were easier to move around in, as much as she loved her Mother’s boots, they added too much rigidity to her leg movements. Baguazhang required a great deal of flexibility.

Noticing a mage standing outside of the encampment she wandered up to her as she took her gloves off and stuffed them in her back pocket. She wasn’t used to wearing gloves. It was weird, and hard to get used to.

“Hello,” she greeted, “sorry to bother you, but, do you by chance happen to be one of the mages?”

“Greetings, young lady, and indeed, I am, allow me to introduce myself, I am Wynne, and I am one of the mages that the King has summoned to Ostagar,” Wynne replied introducing herself, “you are Duncan’s new recruit, are you not? He’s not a man easily impressed. You should be proud.”

“Hello, my name is Kallian, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said introducing herself before chuckling wryly, “and, honestly, I can’t help but think that there was some sort of mistake.”

“Kallian… As in Kallian Tabris?” Wynne asked, “would you happen to be from the Denerim Alienage?”

“Why, yes, yes I do,” she replied, “why do you ask?”

“There is a young apprentice in the Circle at Kinloch Hold,” Wynne replied, “I believe the boy’s name is Elroy… He used to talk about you frequently.”

“Ahahaha,” she laughed nervously.

“Nothing bad, I promise,” Wynne chuckled, “but regardless, well met, and good luck to you on the battlefield. To us all, in fact.”

“Luck hasn’t been really on my side lately,” she replied with a wry smile, “so I think I’ll stick to skill for the time being, it’s far less fickle.”

“Then I’m sure you have plenty of that to offer,” Wynne replied, “to defeat the Darkspawn, we have to work together. It doesn’t seem to be an idea everyone seems able to grasp.”

“Oh! Do you know much about Darkspawn?”

“Some, do you?” Wynne asked and she shook her head, “so you don’t know about the connection between them and the Fade?”

“What does the Fade have to do with it?”

“Any time your spirit leaves your earthly body, whether it’s to dream, or die,” Wynne explained, “it passes into the realm of dreams we call the Fade… It’s home to many spirits, some benevolent, others far less so. At the heart of the Fade lies the Black City.”

The Fade was kind of like the metaphysical ether of her old world, she had already known that much. So this played in with her demon-type-of-deal theory. Especially since she’d heard the word god there. A godly entity would surely exist in the ether, right? Soooo what? She was being forced to… what? Join an organization of exorcists? Was she about to become an exorcist? What? Was the ether corrupted and now spirits were spilling out of it? What was even happening? She didn’t know how to exorcise jack shit. This whole ordeal was stressing out the small part of her that still cared, and now she was worried about losing that, too.

She wondered if anyone from her past life lit a stick of incense for her.

“Sooo Darkspawn are just dream spirits?” she finally asked.

“Sadly, no, they are kin to neither the gentle spirits nor the malevolent demons,” Wynne answered and she felt a little relieved, she wouldn’t have to deal with weird esoteric shit, “shamefully, they were once the souls of men.”

“Ahhh, the folly of man then.”

“You’re quick to understand, some say the Black City was once the seat of the Maker,” Wynne nodded, “but when mages from the Tevinter Imperium found a way into the City, it was tainted with their sin… That taint transformed those men, turning them into twisted reflections of their own hearts, and the Maker cast them back to earth, where they became the first Darkspawn… Or at least, that’s what the Chant of Light says.”

“Ah, I get it now, the Chantry capitalized on humanity’s fear of Darkspawn to turn the story of their creation into an allegory in order to warn people of their own hubris.”

If she had to connect it something from her old world… It would be the Tower of Babel if memory served correct: everyone could once speak the same language, and life was good until they decided to build a tower to reach the heavens. Then had the tower destroyed, and were then smote for their insolence, and so to ensure that that never happened ever again, humanity was cast down and rendered to speak many different languages… Allegory to both explain the existence of different languages as well as warn people against their own hubris.

“How sharp, as expected of the Kallian Tabris, Elroy speaks highly of,” Wynne smiled softly.

“Certainly still something to ponder, when given the opportunity,” she nodded, “and can you tell him I said hello when you have the chance?”

“Of course, and yes, occasionally, it’s wise to contemplate one’s actions,” Wynne replied, “but I’m certain Duncan has more to do than talk to me.”

“True,” she replied, “I suppose I should hop to that now. Thank you for humoring me and my inquisitiveness.”

“No problem,” Wynne replied and she waved as she walked off.

In all honesty, she should actually stop contemplating her actions, all it does is send her down the never-ending spiral, and it will most likely be the true end of her. Her accumulated guilt was already crushing her, she had strived to fight against it for the longest time… But in the end it still caught up to her, she could feel its hands on her throat making it hard to even breathe. In her dreams she constantly had fought against herself, but her will to win, her will to keep going was dead. She didn’t really have a reason to keep going, but this was her punishment. This was happening to her because she fucked up. Because she had been weak because she had been slow, because she had given in to her powerlessness and lost control, because she had given in to her despair… She ruined everything, she destroyed everything she’d loved with her own hands. She’d destroyed her own home. She led people into danger in the back alleys of Denerim, she brought all of this on herself, and not just on herself, but on her family. The people she loved more than anything…

She deserved every bit of misfortune that befell her.

***

It would seem that Kallian was just as intelligent, sharp, polite, and inquisitive as she was rumored to be. No wonder Elroy had a bit of a crush on her. She was a very polite and well-spoken individual. Part of her wondered how someone like her came to be recruited into the Wardens. Fighting didn’t seem to be on the forefront of her mind, in fact, she exuded a sense of calm more than anything. Peace, kindness, compassion, and understanding… One wouldn’t normally turn to someone like that to have join the battlefield.

Though, she would admit that she had been a bit curious as to why the young woman wasn’t wearing armor. In fact, the only way you could tell that she wasn’t a servant was by the two daggers strapped at the bottom of her back, which was an odd place for one's weapons to be strapped to, most had their weapons sheathed at the tops of their back. Well, no matter, it wasn’t her place to tell her how to either dress herself or fight. She was clearly skilled, and from what she’d heard, Duncan had very high hopes for her. If she survived the Joining, that is. Though, she had a feeling that she, at least, would survive.

***

Quartermaster… Quartermaster…

She should probably invest in a set of armor in case she had to meet with important people again. She had a feeling that armor would clash with her baguazhang and weigh down the small bit of chāquán that she only knew because she thought the aerial movements of it were cool and were actually kind of fun. There was an accomplished feeling when pulling those stunts off. Chāquán focused on speed, power, and aerial acrobatics, while baguazhang focused more on flowing which better suited her feeling one with the universe.

“You there! Elf!” the Quartermaster shouted at her, “where is my armor? And why are you dressed so preposterously?”

“Because I’m not here to be a servant,” she replied dryly.

“You’re… oh! Yes, of course! I… please forgive my rudeness! There are so many Elves running about, and I’ve been waiting for… it’s simply been so hectic! I never thought…” the Quartermaster said tripping over his own words and she just stared at him as he rambled. This was weird. This was really, really, really weird. This was so jarringly weird she didn’t even know how to react. Was she suddenly in a position of power? What the shit was going on? This was weird and she didn’t like it, “p— please pardon my terrible manners! I… I am just the quartermaster, a simple man, no one special.”

“Don’t worry about it, but maybe you should treat your servants a bit more kindly. They’re working hard too, y’know? And if you work and punish them too much then that’ll be why they slack off,” she said finally before holding up both hands, holding her sleeves up with her fingers like usual, “would you rather have a boss who treats you well, and appreciates the work you do, or a boss that cracks the whip and only scolds you?”

“…I’ve never thought of it that way, but you have a point,” the Quartermaster said after a bit of thought, “anyway, did you… come for some supplies, perhaps?”

“What kinda supplies are you selling?”

“Arms and armor, for the most part… It’s for the King’s men, but you Grey Wardens can buy what you need for a modest price,” the Quartermaster said before signaling her over so he could whisper, “I also have some… goods on the side I can provide. Strictly off the record, of course. To keep morale up, you understand.”

“Alright, I’m interested,” she replied, “let’s see you have.”

“So long as you keep it quiet,” the Quartermaster said before gesturing her to a chest on the side.

She decided to buy a few recipes and a set of armor that she’ll probably only wear once or twice max, and with her purchases made, she began meandering off well, until she was swiftly stopped by some random guy.

“Wait, did I hear that right?” the Man asked, “you’re the new Warden recruit?”

“You have a problem?”

“Oh, no, no, you see,” the Man replied, “me and ser knight were just betting on what the third recruit would be.”

“Who won?”

“Neither, I thought you’d be a Dwarf, and he thought you’d be a Human.”

“I see,” the more people underestimated her, the better. It allowed her to better turn the tables on others.

“The name’s Daveth,” Daveth said finally introducing himself, “it’s about bloody time you came along. I was beginning to think they cooked this ritual up just for our benefit.”

“Nice to meet you, Daveth,” she inclined her head politely, “my name’s Kallian… And what do you know about this ritual?”

“I happened to be sneaking around camp last night, see, and I heard a couple of Grey Wardens talking… So I listen in for a bit,” Daveth explained, “I’m thinking they plan to send us into the Wilds.”

“The Wilds?” she quirked a brow, she really missed buildings.

“We’re right on the northern edge of the Korcari Wilds here, miles and miles of savage country,” Daveth explained. Savage country… even in her past life she was a city girl, “my home village isn’t far, and I grew up on tales about the Wilds. Even been in there a few times… scary place.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” she waved her sleeve around, “I doubt they’d send us into pointless danger.”

“Then why do the Grey Wardens only recruit folks who can fight?” Daveth asked, “or are you their first basket weaver?”

“Which do I look more likely to do: weave a basket, or fight?”

“…Weave a basket.”

“Exactly, however, what my point was, is that if we do get sent into the Wilds,” she explained, “it’ll be for good reason. They’re short on members, they wouldn’t recklessly risk fresh recruits.”

“I see… I guess we’ll just have to wait and see then,” Daveth sighed, “like we have a choice.”

“Wouldn’t be here if I did,” she joked, “I’d be off weaving a basket if I could.”

“You take what you get, right?” Daveth laughed, good, he seemed a bit calmer now, “anyway, I expect it’s time for me to get back to Duncan. That’s where I’ll be if you need me for anything.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” she nodded before deciding to wander up the ramp to the left of the Quartermaster. She asked the nurse in the Infirmary if she needed any help but instead was told about how bad the situation against the Darkspawn might be. Poor man, from how she saw it, he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and as terrible as it was, in a situation like this it was more than understandable. She offered him a small dose of light sedatives to help calm him down, explaining to the nurse that she used to help out at an apothecaries shop, as she gave her the recipe for the sedative as well as recommended dosages.

She wondered how Shianni was doing, it hurt her to be away from her. Especially because of what happened, it hurt her to not be able to be with her and help her get through this. To feel so powerless because of how far she was from her… But part of her was afraid of seeing her again, she didn’t want Shianni to see her like this. Broken, hollow, and ashamed of herself. Even if they were together, she wouldn’t be able to do much for Shianni, not as she was. Not as the person she was. They both needed someone who was stable to lean on, someone who wasn’t wavering on unsteady legs. Not someone who they would crush as they tried to simultaneously deal with each others problems. This broken hollowed-out shell of the person she was would not be able to do anything for anyone.

But perhaps that no longer mattered.

She’d given in, she’d given up, she’d allowed herself to be crushed, she’d drank the poison, she’d lost control, she’d lost sight of herself, she’d lost her sense of self, she’d failed those she loved.

She didn’t deserve to be the person she had once been.

“Greetings,” someone said drawing her out of herself, “you must be the third recruit we’ve heard about.”

“Hm?” she replied, “ah, sorry, you’ve heard about me?”

“Not a great deal. We’ve been waiting for your arrival, though,” Ser Jory replied, “Ser Jory is my name, and I hail from Redcliffe, where I served as a knight under the command of Arl Eamon.”

“Pleased to meet you,” she nodded politely, “my name is Kallian.”

“I wasn’t aware Elves could join the Grey Wardens,” Ser Jory said thoughtfully.

“That makes two of us, but is there a problem?”

“No, it’s just that in most places Elves aren’t allowed to join the military, but clearly, the Grey Wardens pick their recruits on their merits,” Ser Jory replied happily, he clearly respected the Wardens and was looking forward to this. Better not burst his bubble, “I hope we’re both lucky enough to eventually join the Wardens. Is it not thrilling to be given the chance?”

“I’m curious about the Joining ritual,” she replied skirting past his question.

“As am I. Has anyone told you about it?”

“Not much, but Daveth said that we’re probably going into the Wilds.”

“I’ve never heard of such a ritual,” Ser Jory frowned, “I had no idea there were more tests after getting recruited… I suppose since you’re finally here, I’d best get back to Duncan. I shall see you there.”

As she waved to him, her mind went to a single question: tests? What tests? He had to pass a test? What? A test? Why would he willingly join them? They figuratively ruined her entire life. Oh, gross… Was she some sort of special case? Actually, that was more likely, he’d gone to the Alienage specifically for her. The price she had to pay to be recruited was her sanity, and now everyone she loved blamed themselves and felt that they had failed and disappointed each other. Wonderful. Everyone was now a mess of emotional issues. He only got the recruit he wanted by ruining her life. Are you proud of what you’ve done Duncan? She bet he was. The fucker.

The embers that had come to life quickly extinguished themselves. It wasn’t solely Duncan’s fault, she knew that. It was just easier, more convenient to blame him. In the end it was her fault. It was her actions that gave him the opening he needed. It was her fault.

She heard dogs and decided to follow the sounds of barking, but she was stopped by a man in a cage.

“Pssst, Elf, with the scarlet hair,” the Prisoner beckoned to her and she wandered over to him with a sigh, “I don’t suppose you happen to have a bit of kindness in you? All I want is some food and water. They haven’t fed me since I was locked up, and I’m starving.”

“What are you in for?”

“I’m a deserter, or so they think,” the Prisoner replied, “I bet there’s no arguing out of it though— armies are funny that way.”

“Did you desert?”

“I wasn’t deserting, but when you catch someone sneakin’ around camp in the middle of the night, what else are you gonna think? But does it matter? All I want is a bit of food and water.”

How had Daveth not been caught and thrown in a cage? Probably because Wardens. As someone who had never been privileged like that, it was gross.

“It matters to me, if your cause is just.”

“Aww, that’s sweet of you dearie—”

“Alright, I’m gone,” she said beginning to walk away.

“Wait! I’m sorry… It’s not as if they’re wrong, I probably would’ve deserted later, just not when they caught me, is all,” the Prisoner sighed and she turned back, “hope that doesn’t spoil your opinion of me. I’m still hungry enough to eat my shoe.”

“So why haven’t they fed you?”

Prisoners in her previous life were given a last meal.

“I expect nobody thought of it with all the battles and such.”

“And why would I want to help you?”

“Because you might want something I don’t need. Them Circle wizards got a chest they keep things in, magical things… and I stole the key… That’s why I’m here. I got one of them drunk, took his key, and tried to sneak to the chest. They assumed I was deserting.”

“Ah, a thief then, must be nice to be put in a cage instead of brutally beaten and then killed.”

“How about, I trade it to you for some food and water?”

“They didn’t find it when they arrested you?”

“I swallowed it. But it’s…”

“Gross,” she couldn’t help wrinkling her nose in disgust.

“Yeah, well, do you want it or not?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she sighed, one last meal wouldn’t hurt anyone she guessed, though the chest was being guarded by a Tranquil, she’d probably have to wait for another opportunity. She was curious as to whether this chest was really worth this guys imprisonment.

“Just ask my guard for his,” the Prisoner said pointing, “he’s still got some food. I saw him put it in his coat.”

“He—”

“Lucky dog. You Grey Wardens get to ride with the king while I’m left with the drudgery of guarding this deserter,” the Guard grumbled at her cutting her off, “they should have just hanged him. Put his head on a pike as an example.”

Lucky? What the hell is lucky about being forced into a large battle? She didn’t know the first thing about fighting in a group, let alone fighting a group. Hell, she didn’t even know how to wear or even move around in armor. These were all things she had never had to consider in her entire life up until now. What the hell is wrong with these people? Or was it her? Was there something wrong with her? More likely. Actually, no, there was something wrong with her. She knew that.

“I just had a small chat with him,” she said finally.

“Don’t expect it was an enlightening conversation,” the Guard scoffed.

“He simply asked for some food and water,” she replied.

“Did he, now? Well, since nobody sends me nothing to feed him with, the only way he’ll get that is if I give him mine.”

“Surely you can spare a bit of kindness within you, ser,” she replied, “he’ll be hanged soon, would you not want one last meal before you were to die?”

“Alright, alright. I guess the poor fella could stand to have one meal in his belly before he hangs,” the Guard acquiesced handing her the package, “don’t know why you care… I had nothin’ to do with it, though. If anyone asks why he’s burpin’ I’m gonna say it was you, just so you know.”

“Thank you, ser,” she replied wryly, “and, well, it was me, so there’s no lie in that.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

She sighed as she took the package to the Prisoner, honestly, the key wasn’t even why she was doing this. He’ll probably still give it to her, she had a handkerchief in her pocket she could probably stash it in.

“So…? Brought me some food, have you?” the Prisoner looked at her with hope, “I’m so hungry I could faint dead away.”

“Here,” she said holding up the package of food and water.

“Much obliged… You’re a kind soul, you are!” the Prisoner said gratefully as she held out her handkerchief for him to drop the key in, “may Andraste herself rain blessings upon you!”

Finally free, she started back on her journey to finding her way to the kennels. As she continued moving with her goal set in mind, she overheard someone giving a lecture on Darkspawn, and decided to half-listen to it while she walked past, she really wanted to get to the kennels before she got stopped by someone else. Apparently, their blood was black as sin and poisonous. Might as well slit your throat if you get tainted with it, huh? That sucks, slicing your own throat was a pretty terrible way to die. Your blood still gets pumped to your brain so you can feel that agony, not only that but even after a beheading you’re still alive for a few seconds… Gruesome stuff.

The kennels. Finally. Except there was a large wooden fence in place and she was too short to see over the top of it. No doggos for her.

“Hmmm… This isn’t good. I’d hate to waste such a promising member of the breed…” what she presumed was the Kennel Master sighed before noticing her trying to peer around the fence, “are you the new Warden?”

“Something like that, yes,” she said still trying to see into the kennels.

“I could use some help,” the Kennel Master replied looking at her quizzically.

“What’s the problem?” she asked turning to look at him.

“This is a Mabari, smart breed, and strong,” the Kennel Master explained, and she got a bit of deja vu, “her owner died in the last battle and the poor hound swallowed Darkspawn blood. I have medicine that might help, but I need her muzzled first.”

“I can give it a shot,” she replied holding a hand out for the muzzle.

“For now, go in the pen and let her smell you. We’ll know right away if she’ll respond,” the Kennel Master replied gesturing to the gate, “let’s hope this works. I would really hate to have to put her down.”

She felt it as she entered the pen, a familiar presence. One she’d longed to feel for the past eighteen years of her life. In her past life, Chi-chan had been one of the top military dog breeds, a Malinois.

“Is that you, Chi-chan?” she asked super quietly and she looked at her in a sign of recognition. She still recognized her, wonderful. She gently reached out to her presenting her with the back of her hand, and as expected, she trotted up to her and nuzzled it, “Chi-chan, you got swole as fuck.”

“Oh! She seems to be quite taken with you,” the Kennel Master said in shock as he handed her the muzzle.

“How many times am I going to have to save you?” she hummed quietly as she pressed their foreheads together before gently putting the muzzle on her. In her past life, Chi-chan had been found in a box, abandoned on the side of the road with the rest of her siblings before finding their way into each other's lives, “I’ll be back soon, okay?”

“Well done! Now I can treat her properly— poor girl,” the Kennel Master said as she left the pen, “…Come to think of it, are you heading into the Wilds any time soon?”

“Probably,” she nodded.

“There’s a particular herb I could use to improve her chances, it’s a flower that grows in the swamps here, if I remember,” the Kennel Master explained, “if you happen across it, I could use it. It’s very distinctive: all-white with a blood-red center.”

“Where can I find it?”

“It usually grows in deadwood that collects at the edge of ground pools,” the Kennel Master answered, “there should be plenty this time of year.”

“I’ll keep on the lookout,” she nodded decisively.

“Good,” the Kennel Master replied, “in the meantime, I’ll begin treating our poor friend.”

She was definitely hunting that flower down, even if it meant that she had to sneak out of the encampment, no walls would hold her back. She NEEDED this.

Chapter Text

In the beginning, there were people who thanked the Maker that Kallian was gone.

He, Shianni, Cyrion, and Valendrian had all felt her loss immediately.

But after a while… Everyone began to feel her loss as well.

They felt it in the children who ran up to their house wondering if Kallian was too busy to play. In the clothes that were getting too small. In the sheets and blankets that were beginning to run threadbare. In the medicinal stocks that were beginning to run out. In the lack of life in the Alienage. In the lack of laughter. In the lack of someone who always had a joke and a quick smile to make you feel better. In the lack of someone you could confide in and know that your secrets would be safe. In the lack of someone who always knew what to say and when to say it. In the lack of someone who would always notice if something was bothering you and would sit with you until you were ready to talk about it.

In the end, they all began to feel it.

And it was painful.

***

Why did he have to get caught by the Revered Mother?

Sometimes he wished he were a rogue, then maybe he could sneak around and escape notice. He was supposed to meet with the new Warden recruit, but here he was, about to start arguing with a mage and wondering whether he’d be turned into a toad sometime soon.

Thinking about it, what was the recruits name again?

What letter did it start with? C? Q? K?

Probably a K.

Or it could be a C.

Or a Q.

Well, now he was back at square one. All he knew was that she was a Female Elf from Denerim that Duncan apparently had high hopes for.

C… Catherine? No, that wasn’t it. Carol? No. Cathy? Definitely not…

Great, now he’s going to look like some great bumbling idiot. Well, that was kind of what he was.

Right, time to go piss off the mages.

***

She asked a few more people if they’d seen Alistair, he could have moved within the time of her asking the guard earlier and now. Which was a smart move, because apparently, he had. What kind of person was he? Probably a serious, uptight, square of a person. Grey Wardens seemed like they’d be the type. Though she was aware that she was unfairly stereotyping him, he could have been way different than Duncan, not everyone matched their stereotype. Not only that, but she didn’t know what other Grey Wardens were like, the only one she’d met was Duncan. Well, he and the two other recruits. She was a little concerned about the two of them, Ser Jory seemed the type to lose his nerve easily, so did Daveth. Well, she had experience with that, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Hopefully. There was no use thinking about it now, she should just worry about crossing that bridge when she gets there.

“What is it now? Haven’t the Grey Wardens asked more than enough of the Circle?” who she presumed to be a mage said as she jumped onto the rail and began scaling it to the area they were speaking in.

“I simply came to deliver a message from the Revered Mother, Ser mage,” who she presumed was Alistair replied, “she desires your presence.”

“What Her Reverence ‘desires’ is of no concern to me!” the Mage grumbled as she squat down on the rail elbows resting on her knees with her chin in her hands as she watched, “I am busy helping the Grey Wardens, by the King’s orders, I might add.”

“Should I have asked her to write a note?” Alistair asked as she wondered if maybe she should instead sit on the rail rather than perching on it precariously.

“Tell her I will not be harassed in this manner!” the Mage glared as she wished she had something to snack on.

“Yes, I was harassing you by delivering a message,” Alistair sighed as she decided to just stay precariously perched, it was more challenging if she fell then it was her fault.

“Your glibness does you no credit.”

“Here I thought we were getting along so well,” Alistair replied, “I was even going to name one of my children after you… the grumpy one.”

Was he planning to name his child Grumpy? Was he fathering Seven Dwarven Children? Or was he going to just nickname his child after the mage? That’s rather mean.

“Enough! I will speak to the woman if I must!” the Mage grumbled before stomping off, “get out of my way, fool!”

“Great, now I’m probably going to be in trouble, again,” Alistair sighed heavily, “I should probably go start looking for the new Warden recruit.”

“I’m right here,” she said raising a hand before standing up and leaping down from her perch. Apparently, she’d ended up startling him.

“How long were you there?” Alistair asked.

“Mmmm… Since almost the beginning,” she replied tapping her chin in thought, “I think.”

“There’s just something about the Blight that just brings people together, you know?” Alistair replied, ah, he was the type to tell jokes to calm himself down.

“True,” she said, “many people wouldn’t be here if it were not for the Blight.”

“It’s like a party! We could all stand in a circle and hold hands, that would give the Darkspawn something to think about,” Alistair replied, “you’re Duncan’s new recruit, right? The Elf from Denerim?”

“Yes,” she replied curiously, “what have you heard about me?”

“Just that he spoke quite highly of you.”

“Not quite sure why, I’m nothing special.”

“Well, allow me to introduce myself, I’m Alistair, the new Grey Warden,” Alistair said, “though you already knew that.”

“My name is Kallian,” she nodded politely, “pleased to meet you.”

“Right! That was the name,” Alistair said, “as the junior member of the order, I’ll be accompanying you when you prepare for the Joining.”

“What can you tell me about the Joining, anyway?”

“Honestly, nothing,” Alistair said quickly, “try not to worry about it. It will just distract you.”

“I see,” zero out of ten points. That was not comforting even in the slightest.

“You know… it just occurred to me that there have never been many women in the Grey Wardens,” Alistair said thoughtfully, “I wonder why that is.”

“You… want more women in the Grey Wardens?”

“Would that be so terrible?” Alistair said as she wrinkled her nose, “not that I’m some drooling lecher or anything… Please stop looking at me like that.”

“I have some questions about the Grey Wardens,” this would probably be a good time for her to figure out what the fuck Grey Wardens were, who or what their charges were, and what the fuck they actually did, “if you wouldn’t mind indulging me.”

“What would you like to know?”

“I don’t know anything about the Grey Wardens, what can you tell me?”

“Well… Let’s see, surely you’ve heard of Weisshaupt Fortress?” Alistair replied and she shook her head, “it’s a great aerie carved into the white cliffs far off in the Anderfells. That’s where the Grey Wardens once kept their griffons. Unfortunately, the griffons died out and our numbers have dwindled since the last Blight. There’s only a handful left in Ferelden. A few more in other nations.”

Griffons, huh? Her last world had stories about that… From… Where was it again? Egypt? Yeah, it was probably Egypt. That’s where the sphinx was from, so it made sense. While they were a thing in that world they still hadn’t actually existed. It was interesting to hear that they were actually a thing that was an actual thing that actually existed.

Wait… wait a minute… Holy fucking shit, she’s an idiot. She just realized that a lot of the flora and fauna of this world were the same as in her old world. How is that something she just realized? Probably because he was talking about how griffons had once actually existed here when in her old world they were simply a myth. It wasn’t really the sort of thing one really thinks about on a day-to-day basis. All she needed to know was if it were either dangerous or if she could cook it for food. It didn’t matter whether it was also from her old world or not, she just needed to know if it was a thing.

“So, what makes you guys so special?”

“The Grey Wardens are warriors without equal,” Alistair answered, “Darkspawn threatened to destroy the world four times over. Each time the Grey Wardens led mankind to victory. Nobody knows more about Darkspawn, and nobody’s better equipped to deal with them. You’ll see, trust me.”

Oh, no… In the world of her past life, there were once people who believed that if you ate the hearts of your enemies, you could add their power to yours. Was she going to have to eat a Darkspawn heart? Gross. That was… super-duper grody. Grodier than a poopy key… Wait, weren’t they poison? Then again, they might have a special way to prepare it. Even in her past life, there had been poisonous things that people were able to eat via specific preparation methods, some examples of it were the infamous fugu which needed to be cut in a specific way, Greenland sharks, which were fermented, some seaweeds that needed to be cured in quicklime. Honestly, she didn’t quite understand why they would go out of their way to figure out how to eat them if other people had already died after eating them. Seriously, people are weird. In any case, she somehow doubted Darkspawn would be a delicacy like that…

…Actually, dying from it might not be so bad. A disgusting way to go, sure, but beggars can’t be choosers.

“What can you tell me about the Joining?”

“There’s… not a lot I can tell you,” Alistair replied, “we go and collect Darkspawn blood, and then you’ll hear everything.”

Ah, blood. That wasn’t nearly as bad. Blood’s just drink it and then bam, done. Hearts on the other hand? Bite, chew, and then swallow. Can’t get around tasting or feeling it in your mouth, you’d be able to feel the texture of it too. Bleh. Still…

“Fair enough, if it’s that much of a secret, then I won’t pry more than I already have, but do I have to?”

“The Joining is the price we pay, all of us, for being able to defeat the Darkspawn. You can’t refuse.”

“Sooooo what are the Grey Wardens, then?” she asked getting away from questioning him about the Joining, she already knew the down low, so she didn’t need to know anything else about it. Feigning ignorance was a thing she could do, she was actually rather well practiced at it, “knights? Heroes?”

“I… don’t know if I’d go that far. Duncan says the Grey Wardens do whatever is necessary to protect mankind from Darkspawn… That means some pretty extreme things: whatever it takes to bring victory.”

Ah, that was why they chose the shade grey. They operated outside the bounds of the law to do whatever was necessary to ensure the end of their goal, and their charges were apparently the entirety of mankind. A defender of mankind, huh? Some people would probably be all for that, but she’d never really been one of those people. She liked doing things in small doses, in more personal and realistic ways. Fighting for the glory of mankind just wasn’t her shtick. People who did that tended to suffer a massive breakdown when they discovered something monstrous about their work, like they were being used, or the cause they were fighting for didn’t actually exist. They always crashed and burned so hard it was a bit heartbreaking. Then what was the purpose for everything?! Was everything I sacrificed for this cause for nothing!? What was even the point!? that’s how villains are born. Spurned believers. Sad stuff, really.

She didn’t blame them, she had experienced the same. It was brutal. She didn’t regret killing Vaughan, she was going to regardless. She was ashamed of how she’d done it. She just wished that she was the one who’d paid the highest price for her actions, not those she loved, not those around her. The world is unfair, she knew this… She still hated that she was the one who rampaged, she was the one whose brutality they fell under, and yet she’s not the one who has paid the worst price for it. It wasn’t her, she hated that she was being forced to join the Wardens, sure, but she still knew that it wasn’t her that got the worst part of the bargain, it wasn’t her that got fucked over the most. It was the people she loved and cared for… Balls.

She also hated that phrase: whatever it takes to bring victory. That’s how people who know they’re doing something completely and utterly abhorrent justify their actions, and when those people find out that their cause was shit in the first place… those are definitely the ones who end up becoming villains.

Basic rule of thumb: if you have to wonder if what you’re doing is really for the best, then you should probably not do it and instead reconsider your options. Am I doing the right thing? is a pretty clear sign that your conscience is suffering, and that you should probably cease and desist for the sake of your own sanity and inner peace.

She was also a little too old to be boldly declaring herself as an ally of justice, though that had never really been a goal of hers.

“The Grey Wardens really actually have the right to recruit anyone, then? I heard they did but didn’t believe them.”

“King Maric, Cailan’s father, reaffirmed the power the Grey Wardens were given during the Blights,” Alistair explained, “in practice, we can’t conscript too often without hurting our cause. We were exiled from Ferelden once… Best not to let that happen again.”

“Where’re all the other Grey Wardens?”

“The others are camped with the King’s soldiers in the valley, the King’s given us a position of honor at the vanguard, despite our small numbers,” Alistair replied, “I think Cailan is actually excited to ride into battle with us. Maybe he thinks that’s what his father would’ve done.”

“What do you know about the upcoming battle?”

“The one tomorrow? I’ll tell you, it’s Teyrn Loghain we should be looking to win it, not the King, Cailan just wants his place in history. The Teyrn is the one planning the strategy,” Alistair replied honestly, and she just hoped no one else was around, “errr… well, that’s my opinion anyway. I guess I should be thankful the King favors us Grey Wardens, but I know who’s keeping the lid on the pot.”

“What are our chances of success?”

“I’m sure Teyrn Loghain has the battle planned to the last detail. Still… no Blight has ever been defeated with so little cost.”

“And if we fail?”

“If we don’t break the horde here, Duncan says it will spread until it engulfs all of Ferelden. Then it will take an alliance of nations to fight it. Which would be bad. Neither the King nor the Teyrn really seems to believe this is a real Blight, however.”

“Bad? Bad seems to be putting it lightly… What even is a Blight?”

“Do you want the Chantry’s version or the truth?”

“Hit me with the truth.”

“The truth is, we don’t really know. They come up from the ground and that’s as far as we’ve gotten.”

“I see, what’s the Chantry’s version?” she already heard what Wynne said, but maybe he has another take on it. Especially as someone who was in a militaristic order dedicated to stopping them.

“According to the Chant of Light, the Maker imprisoned the Old Gods underground long ago as punishment for tricking mankind into worshiping them,” ah, we were already off to a different start, “the Old Gods still whispered to some men and taught them magic. These men became the magisters of the Tevinter Empire. The magisters used their gift to enter the Golden City, tainting it and themselves. They were cast out by the Maker and became the first Darkspawn. They fled underground, bringing their taint to their gods. The tainted Old Gods were the Archdemons, who rose from their prisons and led the Darkspawn against the world.”

“And that was the First Blight?”

“Yes, and it nearly wiped us out. When defeated, the Darkspawn flee back underground to seek out another Old God to taint, thus bringing another Blight.”

“What exactly is an Archdemon?”

“The Old Gods were dragons, so the stories say, big ones, intelligent, even,” Alistair answered, ah dragons, not some weird mass of corrupted energy, what a relief. Dragons could be killed, they had physical bodies, balls of energy? Not so much, “the Tevinter Empire had big statues of them. Each dragon had a name and a place in the cosmos… It’s all very intricate… the Archdemons may not be the Old Gods, but they’re definitely dragons.”

“How do the Wardens know this is a Blight?”

“The Grey Wardens keep watch. We… feel the Darkspawn when they come. You’ll understand after the Joining, if you… well, you’ll understand. Not to mention people start to notice when Darkspawn pour out of the Wilds and taint everything around them. Just a guess.”

“Where is the Archdemon for this Blight?” she asked.

It sounded like she was about to get a sixth sense. A Darkspawn sensor. Gross. Also, 'survive', she had a feeling the word he was looking for there was ‘survive’. They were definitely ingesting it. Great. She was about to be poisoned both literally and figuratively. What an accomplishment.

“We haven’t seen it yet. People are beginning to think this is just an unusually large Darkspawn raid without an Archdemon to unify them. But seriously… the Archdemon could be in the Wilds, or underground. It could be hiding. Just because it hasn’t shown itself doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.”

People were stupid. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

“So, why are people skeptical?”

“The Grey Wardens killed so many Darkspawn by the end of the last Blight, people decided they were gone for good.”

“That’s dumb. How do the Grey Wardens end the Blight exactly? Or is it just killing the Archdemon?”

“We chop off the snake’s head. It’s the only way. But according to texts, the most famous Grey Warden, Garahel, killed the Archdemon Andorhal in personal combat at the Battle of Ayesleigh to end the last Blight… Without the Archdemon to command them, the Darkspawn flee back underground.”

“Why not just kill them underground?”

“They’ve controlled the Deep Roads ever since they defeated the Dwarven Kingdoms. Even if we invaded, we can only chase them so far.”

“How many of them are there?”

“Thousands? Tens of thousands? They’ve had centuries to build up their numbers.”

“If that's the case, my guesstimate would be more along the lines of millions or even billions," she replied before figuring that she might as well ask, "why here?”

“We’re at the edge of the Korcari Wilds, the eye of the Blight’s storm, right where the horde will be coming… Ostagar itself is an excellent defensive position, the Wilders were pushed back from here time and again in ancient days.”

“I see.”

“So, I’m curious,” Alistair said, “have you ever actually encountered Darkspawn before?”

“Nope,” she shook her head.

“When I fought my first one, I wasn’t prepared for how monstrous it was,” Alistair admitted, “I can’t say I’m looking forward to encountering another.”

“Well, better find that courage, you’re going to be facing a lot more from the sounds of it,” she replied, “oh, yeah, what was that argument about?”

“With the mage? The Circle is here at the King’s request and the Chantry doesn’t like that one bit. They just love letting mages know how unwelcome they are. Which puts me in an awkward position. I was once a Templar.”

“That would be awkward, yes,” she nodded.

Politics were always a messy situation, she didn’t envy him in the least.

“I’m sure the Revered Mother meant it as an insult— sending me as her messenger— and the mage picked right up on that… I never would have agreed to deliver it, but Duncan says we’re all to cooperate and get along. Apparently, they didn’t get the same speech.”

“If we’re going to be working together, I suppose I could stand to learn more about you,” she said thoughtfully.

“As I said, I was trained as a Templar before Duncan recruited me about six months ago,” Alistair sighed, “the Chantry raised me, and becoming a Templar was a decision made for me a long time ago… Duncan saw I wasn’t happy, and figured my training against mages could double for fighting Darkspawn. Now, here I stand a proud Grey Warden… The Grand Cleric wouldn’t have let me go if Duncan never forced the issue. I’ll always be grateful to him.”

“You speak fondly of Duncan,” she pointed out trying to get a feel for his thoughts on Duncan. Honestly, she just needed to know if she should act like she liked the guy or not.

“I spent years in that Chantry, hopelessly resigned to my fate,” Alistair replied, “Duncan was the first person who cared what I wanted. He risked a lot of trouble with the Grand Cleric to help me.”

“I see,” she replied. Too bad he didn’t care about what she had wanted. Didn’t care about her sanity that was already fraying at the seams. She’d do well to hide this from him, he didn’t seem like the type who would take this kind of news well. Not only that, but she supposed that he had done well by him, and she supposed she could respect that. And so she decided to feign interest, “what can you tell me about him?”

“Duncan is the leader of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden… which he would say doesn’t mean much, as there aren’t many of us here. Yet, anyway. Beyond that, he’s a good man. A good judge of character. I owe him a lot” Alistair replied, yep, he clearly respected him quite a lot, “what about you? What do you think of him?”

“He seems like a kind but firm man,” she lied with a kind smile, “I owe him a lot, too.”

“Fair enough… He’s done the best he can with what little he has… and that includes me, I guess,” Alistair replied, “by the way, have you met Daveth and Ser Jory yet?”

“Indeed I did,” she nodded.

“That’ll make things easy, then,” Alistair replied, “they’ll both be back with Duncan by now.”

“Well, I look forward to working with you,” she nodded politely.

“You do? Huh, that’s a switch,” Alistair replied, “if you have any more questions, let me know. Otherwise, lead on!”

“Huh? I’m leading?” she stared at him blankly. Here was that weird position of power thing again.

“Well, I don’t know if you want to stop by somewhere else,” Alistair replied, ah, he was the type that was more comfortable following than leading. Fair enough, she knew people like that. Soris was like that. Not comfortable taking the initiative, and there was nothing really wrong with that. Everyone had their own preferences, things they liked doing, and things they didn’t. She was honestly more the type who liked to go with the flow, but she was also the type who would step up to the challenge if no one else did.

“Okay,” she nodded.

She had experience dealing with these types, and she was more than happy to help. She was going through so much emotional and mental misery, that she’d truly rather no one experience the same, so with that in mind, she would keep up this cheerful facade. If only to ease the worries and hearts of those around her. This was something she was very well-versed in, life in the Alienage could be harsh, and unforgiving, and she’d always strived to help ease their suffering, both external and internal. That was simply how she was, in both of her lifetimes. She had never been the type to sit idle while others were suffering around her.

***

Kallian truly didn’t know anything about the Grey Wardens, Blights, Darkspawn, Archdemons, and Old Gods. Which had come as a surprise, he didn’t know that there were people who knew absolutely nothing about them. Even he’d heard at least some stories about them growing up. He expected her to at last know about Garahel, since he was a celebrated Elven hero.

So far, she met zero of his expectations. He also didn’t expect her to look, move and act more like a servant than anyone with martial prowess. Maybe it was because she was a rogue, they probably had to sneak around and work hard behind the scenes. Well, Duncan obviously had a reason for recruiting her, so she must have a considerable amount of skill. Especially since Duncan had such high hopes for her, and he wasn’t someone who was easily impressed just like that. Ser Jory, had to participate in and win a tournament, and Daveth was caught cutting Duncan’s purse. Duncan wouldn’t recruit and speak so highly of someone with no martial prowess. He guessed he’d just have to wait and see what the extent of her true combat capabilities.

He was just glad he managed to successfully dodge her questions about the Joining. She was rather persuasive, but luckily she simply stopped pushing the subject, something he was grateful for.

He just hoped that no one would die this time, though he knew that was a vain thing to hope for, someone always died.

***

Exhausted.

She was exhausted.

She had never camped before, and Howe’s men had struck in the middle of the night. She had neither armor nor money. Somehow, she’d managed to kill a group of bandits to take their stuff. She wasn’t used to traveling like this. She just hoped her brother was okay. She would need to rendezvous with him after seeking asylum with Arl Eamon, he could probably help her send a message to him without alerting anyone to the fact that she was still alive. That bastard Howe would probably stop at nothing to ensure that she too lay dead, until all the Couslands were dead.

Part of her wanted to just give up, wondered what the point was.

She’d lost her family, her castle, her servants, her dog.

But she couldn’t. She could still hear the screams, hear her parents demanding her to escape without them.

She will make Howe pay for this.

She will avenge everyone she’d lost that night.

She will make him regret what he’s done.

She will end him.

Everything.

She lost everything.

She will make him taste the bitter drought of despair that he had forced her to swallow. She would not rest until he paid for this treachery, until she avenged everyone who’d aided in her escape.

And so, fueled with hatred and spite, she pushed herself on-wards.

Chapter Text

She led them back to Duncan, she didn’t really have anywhere else she wanted to stop by, she had explored the entire ruined fortress. Alistair was also probably getting antsy and wanting to hurry along, so not wanting to tip Alistair off to her true feelings, she put on her service smile. She really didn’t want to mess up his views of the man. Duncan had clearly done right by him to the point where he really, truly respected him. She didn’t have the heart to shatter his impressions of Duncan like that. Not only that, but she was clearly in the minority. Daveth and Ser Jory seemed to also hold a great deal of respect for the him.

It was fine, her past life had this type of thing down to a science, hiding things because she didn’t want others to know about it, didn’t want others to worry about it, didn’t want them to focus too much on her when they had more important things to worry about…

Hello, depression my old friend, guess who’s back for some quality time. That fear, and self-hatred for having issues trying to deal with them even though she knew what was wrong, what could help, what her problems were, and that it wasn’t always something she could help. Especially since it was a chemical reaction happening in her brain that she had absolutely no control over, but still beat herself up about it because… Well, what else was there to do? Who else should she be mad at for it all? It was her body that was working against her.

Knowing doesn’t always make things easier. In fact, in her case, it actually made it harder. An endless spiral, of I know this, I know this, so why is it still so hard? I know everything about it. I know I can’t help it, I really do. So why is it hard? Why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me? I know I need to stop doing this to myself. I do. So, why? Why can’t I?

Hello, again, downward spiral into oblivion. It’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it? How will you suffocate me this time?

It probably didn’t help that she was probably pissed off at the world for pulling this shit on her, and that inner turmoil and suffering was what truly made her feel disconnected with the universe. It was because she couldn’t believe it happened, still couldn’t come to terms with it…

“You found Alistair, did you? Good, then I’ll assume you are ready to begin preparations,” Duncan said as they walked up, “assuming, of course, that you’re quite finished riling up the mages, Alistair.”

“What can I say? The Revered Mother ambushed me,” Alistair replied, “the way she wields guilt they should stick her in the army.”

“She forced you to sass the mage, did she?” Duncan replied, it was like watching a father chastise his son, “we cannot afford to antagonize anyone, Alistair. We don’t need to give them more ammunition against us.”

“You’re right, Duncan,” Alistair sighed, yep, definitely like watching a father chastise his son. Also true, they were probably angry enough that Duncan used his stupid Right of Conscription bullshit on her, “I apologize.”

“Now then, since you are all here, we can begin,” Duncan said turning to address them and handing them three vials, one vial each, “you four will be heading into the Korcari Wilds to perform two tasks. The first is to obtain three vials of Darkspawn blood, one for each recruit.”

Yep, definitely ingesting it, how disgusting. There was just something gross about drinking the blood of your enemies. Sure, she liked meat, but she wasn’t about to drink their blood and stuff… That was just way too extreme for her.

Also, Wilds, and forests. Wonderful. She missed civilization, semi-even roads, buildings, not having to worry about tripping over things like roots and shit.

Actually, just not having to worry about getting in fights, in general, sounded great. Violence just really wasn’t her thing… Though she supposed it was a fitting punishment for her actions. Forced to do the thing she hated because that’s what she did to others… You reap what you sow. She’ll probably have to tap into that monster, and hope she doesn’t lose more of her sanity. There was only so much of it she could afford to lose before she simply became another mindless killing machine… Well, that might be better in the long run. It was a rather depressing thought, but in the end it was ultimately her own fault.

Well, at least she’ll be able to get the flower to save Chi-chan… Though, she probably won’t be able to call her Chi-chan in this life. They didn’t know what mochi was, and they also didn’t have the suffix -chan. What did Shianni name her stuffed Mabari? Diana? An oddly normal name, but it’ll do. If she had to get used to a new name, then she did too.

“Go into the Wilds?” Daveth asked, “isn’t that dangerous?”

“You weren’t recruited out of charity, all three of you are skilled and resourceful,” Duncan replied, “Alistair is the most junior member of our order and will accompany you as is tradition. Do not worry. I doubt you will need to go far into the Wilds to find what you seek.”

“What do we need Darkspawn blood for?” Ser Jory asked, and she somehow managed to keep the shock and surprise off of her face. Did he really not know? How did he not know? Oh, because he didn’t have the same past life experience as her.

“For the Joining itself,” Duncan replied, “I’ll explain more once you’ve returned.”

“Surely you could have acquired some blood before now,” Ser Jory pointed out.

“Of course. You must work together to collect the components, however,” Duncan replied, “it’s as much a part of the Joining as what comes after.”

She could probably use some practice in learning how to fight with other people. Before, she was one of the few who had any sort of martial prowess in the Alienage, which led to her mostly operating alone. She also didn’t want anyone walking the same path she did. It was dangerous… Though they ended up getting hurt by her actions anyway… She could only pray that they were doing alright, that there wasn’t a purge, that— It was useless to pray. Especially since she knew. She knew her loved ones were being blamed for her actions, her Father probably taking the brunt of it why didn’t you teach your daughter better?! She could practically hear them shouting at him… He didn’t deserve that kind of treatment, neither did Shianni or Soris.

She didn’t even care that these thoughts endlessly poured into her mind. It was probably a good thing, she should never forget what she’s done. The monster that she’d become. The pain and hurt she’d unwittingly unleashed upon her loved ones.

She was too ashamed of herself to even write to her Mother.

“And our second task?” she asked maintaining her service smile and attitude, fully aware she was being judged.

“There was once a Grey Warden archive in the Wilds, abandoned long ago when we could no longer afford to maintain such remote outposts,” Duncan answered, “it has recently come to our attention that some scrolls have been left behind, magically sealed to protect hem. Alistair, I want you to retrieve these scrolls if you can.”

“What kind of scrolls are they?” she asked.

“Old treaties, if you’re curious,” Duncan replied, “promises of support made to the Grey Wardens long ago… They were once considered only formalities. With so many having forgotten their commitments to us, I suspect it may be a good idea to have something to remind them with.”

“And if they’re no longer there?” Ser Jory asked.

“It’s possible the scrolls may have been destroyed or even stolen, though the seal’s magic should have protected them,” Duncan replied, “only a Grey Warden can break such a seal.”

“I don’t understand,” Alistair pointed out, “why leave such things in a ruin if they’re so valuable?”

“It was assumed we would someday return,” Duncan replied, “a great many things were assumed that have not held true.”

“Is this part of our Joining, too?” Daveth asked.

“No, but the effort must be made,” Duncan replied, “I have every confidence you are up to the task.”

“How will we find this archive?” Ser Jory asked.

“It will be an overgrown ruin by now,” Duncan replied, “but the sealed chest should remain intact. Alistair will guide you to the area you need to search.”

“Find the archive, acquire three vials of blood,” she said, “understood.”

“Watch over your charges, Alistair,” Duncan said turning to Alistair as she slipped her vial into one of the pouches strapped to her hip, “return quickly and safely.”

“We will,” Alistair replied.

“Then may the Maker watch over your path,” Duncan nodded, “I will see you when you return.”

For some reason, she was still leading them. Why? She sincerely had absolutely no idea. Wasn’t Ser Jory a knight? Why wasn’t he leading? Alistair too, you’re supposed to be a rank above us. Come on, man, step up! Preferences, she supposed. Ah, well, she’ll just step up for him, for the time being. Honestly though, being in a position of power where she was above Humans was weird and rather unnerving. She half expected to be smot for her insolence. Like You’re an Elf! Who do you think you are leading Humans around!? Know your place! and then bam, lightning strike to the face.

Alright, let’s get this bullshit over and done with.

“Hail!” the Guard at the gate said, “I’m told you all have business in the Wilds. The gate’s open for you… just be careful out there. Even a Grey Warden won’t be safe in the forest tonight.”

“Thank you for the heads up,” she nodded before leaving the encampment.

She looked around as she did a few light stretches to make sure her joints were loose, and her limbs flexible. They might have to deal with regular forest beasts, likely displaced, angry, and/or afraid because of the Darkspawn.

“Are you sure you’re ready to get into a fight?” Alistair asked her.

“Ah, yeah, you’re right,” she replied before fetching her gloves from her back pocket and slipping them on.

“Didn’t you buy a set of armor earlier?” Daveth asked.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replied smoothly, she had no clue how to function in armor, “well then, shall we?”

“Are you sure you don’t want to wear armor?” Ser Jory asked.

“How about, you worry about you,” she replied, “and I’ll worry about me, yeah?”

As she thought, the first thing they faced after entering the Wilds were a pack of wolves. They were likely desperate, and she offered a prayer of apology as she ended them. She focused on herself, and simply trusted the others to focus on themselves. If she survives, she’ll probably have to learn how to fight in a group better, but currently, she was banking on not surviving. She should probably just keep her weapons out for the time being, for now, she just flicked off the excess blood, she’ll clean them properly when she has the chance.

She really wasn’t at her best, she could feel it in her movements, her inner turmoil was definitely affecting the way she moved, her breathing, everything. She could feel it. Her failures kept haunting her at the back of her mind, reminding her of how weak and powerless she was. Constantly whispering about how much of a disappointment and failure she was.

“Hm?” she hummed as she noticed a dead body in Chantry robes. An odd place for one to be, she made her way over and rifled through his pockets trying to figure out what he was doing here, who he was, and if there was something she could tell his family so that they wouldn’t be in that state of limbo wishing he would come home one day. It was also a good time to wash the poopy key, and maybe clean her weapons so that she could sheathe them for now.

“Is that really… necessary?” Ser Jory gawked.

“Mm,” she hummed in affirmative finding a note and reading it, “to give his family and/or friends closure. It’s better knowing your loved one is dead rather than waiting and praying that they’ll return home one day. It’s rough. Wondering where they are, what they’re doing, if they’re okay… This way, if I come across them in our travels I’ll be able to give his family closure. It’s an important step in the process of healing. It’s very, very difficult to come to terms with everything when you’re still hoping they’ll show up again one day.”

“You have a point,” Ser Jory sighed.

After reading through the letter, she noted that it was from Rigby to his son Jogby who should also be somewhere in the Korcari Wilds. She’ll go to the meeting place to see if his son was there so that she could inform him of his Father’s passing. Hopefully, it’ll give his family closure.

Shianni had kept wondering if her Father would one day return from the Dalish to teach her how to be a real Elf. It had taken her a while to come to terms with the fact that he would never be coming back for her, but in the end Shianni had loved her life in the Alienage. When her Mother died, both she and Shianni had huddled together in their house waiting for her Mother to come back to tell them it was safe. They kept hoping she’d open the door and show up and tell them everything would be alright. The only way they could believe that her Mother had died was by seeing her. It was hard. It was a struggle. They had both gone through it. She understood how hard it was to just sit there and hope they would come back wondering if they were in trouble or not.

“Over here,” a voice called out weakly as they continued along, and they quickly moved towards the voice, “who… is that? Grey…Wardens?”

“Well, he’s not half as dead as he looks, is he?” Alistair replied as she frowned and retrieved bandages and a poultice from her pack.

“My scouting band was attacked by Darkspawn!” the man replied as she crouched down to begin assessing his injury, “they came out of the ground… please, help me! I’ve got to… return to camp.”

“Working on it,” she replied and handed a clean square of cloth to Alistair, “please go wet this.”

“Okay,” Alistair replied and obliged.

“Move your hand please,” she said and the man moved his hand. She cleaned the excess blood so that she could properly inspect the wound, he wouldn’t need stitches, good. She didn’t have the tools for stitches at the moment. She had him remove his armor, applied the poultice and bandaged the wounded area, “that should hold up until we can get you to camp.”

“No… I can get back there myself,” the man replied.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yes,” the man replied as she helped him stand, “I’ll be fine on my own from here… Thank you.”

“Be safe,” she said as he limped away.

“Did you hear?” Ser Jory said after the man was gone, “an entire patrol of seasoned men killed by Darkspawn!”

“Calm down, Ser Jory,” Alistair replied, “we’ll be fine if we’re careful.”

“Those soldiers were careful, and they were still overwhelmed,” Ser Jory replied, “how many Darkspawn can the four of us slay? A dozen? A hundred? There’s an entire army in these forests!”

“There are Darkspawn about,” Alistair said calmly to reassure him, "but we’re in no danger of walking into the bulk of the horde."

“How do you know?” Ser Jory replied, “I’m not a coward, but this is foolish and reckless. We should go back.”

“Overcoming these dangers is part of our test,” she replied assuringly.

“That’s… true,” Ser Jory sighed.

“Know this: all Grey Wardens can sense Darkspawn,” Alistair replied confirming her suspicions on drinking the blood and then gaining some weird shitty sixth sense, “whatever their cunning, I guarantee they won’t take us by surprise. That’s why I’m here.”

“You see, ser knight?” Daveth said, “we might die, but we’ll be warned about it first.”

“That is…” Ser Jory sighed, “reassuring?”

“That doesn’t mean I’m here to make this easy, however,” Alistair stated. Hm, she’ll give him… a five out of ten for that, “so let’s get a move on.”

They began walking along again, Ser Jory clearly not having a good time. She, on the other hand, didn’t really care, put the thing she needed to kill in front of her, and she’ll do it, she guessed. Forced to do the thing she hated because she demolished the entirety of the Arl of Denerim’s guards, his son, and his son’s friends. A fitting punishment, she supposed… Having to now dedicate her life to fighting.

“So, Ser Jory,” she said as they walked, trying to ease his nerves, “you said you were from Redcliffe?”

“I hail from Redcliffe,” Ser Jory nodded, “but Duncan recruited me in Highever, a city off the northern coast… Have you traveled there?”

She felt her chest tighten, and her pulse speed up.

Highever.

He was from Highever.

“No, I haven’t,” she replied hiding her discomfort.

“I was in Arl Eamon’s retinue when he attended King Maric’s funeral,” Ser Jory replied brightly, “it was in Highever that I met my Helena… I was smitten. She has the most beautiful eyes, my Helena. For years, I found any excuse to return there… We married a year ago. Arl Eamon gave me leave to serve in Highever, but I was attempting to persuade Helena to come to Redcliffe with me. At least until I was recruited.”

“See, you have something to fight for,” she pointed out, “how did the Grey Wardens find you?”

“Last month, Duncan visited Highever, and the bann held a tournament in his honor,” Ser Jory replied, his nerves already easing, good, “I won the grand melee.”

“Oh! Congratulations!” she said clapping her hands.

“Thank you… It was hard to leave my wife,” Ser Jory sighed, “we married only a year ago, and she is heavy with child now. But… Ferelden needs my blade, and I shall not falter.”

“You’re fighting for the future of both your wife and your future child,” she replied, “keep that in your thoughts.”

“I’ll… try,” Ser Jory replied, good, looks like his nerves have settled a bit.

They continued on, and she saw the flower the Kennel Master had requested to save her dog. She picked it and carefully placed it in one of her side pouches, deciding if she saw more she’d pick them as well. Just in case he needed more for other dogs.

“So, Daveth, tell me about yourself,” she said to make light conversation.

“I grew up in a village ‘bout a day’s trip to the east. Little blot you wouldn’t even find on a map, haven’t been back in years. I struck out for the city as soon as I could outrun my pa,” Daveth replied cheerily, “I’ve been in Denerim for, what… six years now? Never liked it much, but there’s more purses there than anywhere else.”

“I’m surprised we hadn’t met… Though perhaps I shouldn’t be, I rarely left the Alienage if I could help it,” she replied in thought, “so you’re a cut-purse?”

“And a pickpocket, thank you very much,” Daveth replied, “or was, anyhow. Who’d ever guess I’d end up a Grey Warden?”

“I didn’t expect to end up as one either… Not the preferred path in life I’d imagined for myself, but what can you do?” she replied, “how did they find you?”

“I found them. I cut Duncan’s purse while he was standing in a crowd,” Daveth replied, “he grabs my wrist, but I squirm out and bolt. The old bugger can run, but the garrison caught me first. I’m a wanted man in Denerim, you see, so they were going to string me up right there.”

“Ah, that’s why we hadn’t met,” she replied, “what happened?”

“Duncan stopped them. Invoked the Right of Conscription,” Daveth replied, ah, another conscriptee. Lucky that his actions didn’t have as much backlash as hers did, “I gave the garrison the finger while I was walking away… Don’t know why Duncan wants someone like me. But he says finesse is important, and that I’m fast with a blade. You bet your boots I am… Besides, it beats getting strung up… What about you?”

“Darkspawn,” Alistair said interrupting their conversation, and giving her an excuse to not answer that question.

She trusted her body and flowed around the battlefield, putting Darkspawn between her and their archers, and getting them to shoot their own allies. Circle-walking, evading, quickly maneuvering behind them moving to a place they couldn’t hit her. Using her momentum to build up power and flow from one strike to the next… Yep, these boots were definitely hindering her, and she was definitely not at the top of her game, her inner turmoil and lack of inner peace is really cramping her style. She’ll seriously have to consider getting shoes that are easier for her to move around in if she were to keep up this lifestyle. What a pain. She’ll also have to find herself again, something she doubted she could do. Her shame, her guilt, her self-hatred were already clawing at her chest and neck… Well, it probably wouldn’t matter soon.

“So this is what a Darkspawn looks like, huh?” she said crouching down to poke one of their faces, her arms looked similar to their faces, “looks like a burn victim, makes me feel a little bad.”

“You feel bad!?” Ser Jory gawked as she picked up its hand, made a slice down its index finger and filled her vial before holding her hand out for the others to hand theirs over.

“It’s generally bad form to mistreat the injured, not that I’ll spare any of them, of course,” she replied filling their vials before moving to wash off the excess blood on the vials and clean her weapons so that she could resheathe them. She handed them their vials back and sighed, “well, let’s get a move on. We’ve got documents to find. Or something.”

It was interesting that their blood was really black, it flowed like regular blood. Different creatures have different blood colors, that was something that happened quite often in her past life. It was because their blood was made up of different chemical compounds. She wondered what compounds made their blood black… Then again, this world had magic and shit, she really couldn’t expect it to function the same as her old world… Especially since Fade/Ether shit played a part in all of this.

“Look there,” Alistair pointed out to the three bodies hanging from the trees. Wonderful. Now Ser Jory’s nerves are going to start up again. Zero out of ten points, “poor slobs… That just seems… excessive.”

“Perhaps,” she shrugged, “but they put them there to send a message. In which case, it’s not really.”

“Careful,” Alistair called out, “I’m sensing Darkspawn nearby. Best be on your guard.”

They should always be on their guard in this sort of place. She continued to dance around battlefields, unafraid of using her enemies to block arrows before she dropped them and swiftly moved in for the kill before they had time to finish reloading. She made sure that her lungs were completely empty before taking another breath, making sure she got the best use out of her breathing. In her old life, her Grandfather had told her that you should always empty out your lungs before taking another breath, if you held too much air in your lungs, you get tired faster… Granted he taught her that while they were distance swimming along one of the reefs, but the logic still applied to basically everything. Getting your breathing down was one of the first steps for martial arts or regular exercise in general.

She noticed the pillars referenced in the note and moved along the path. They dispatched the wolves, no body. Jogby wasn’t here. There was another note in the chest, Rigby knew he might die soon. Poor sod. Hopefully, his son was still alive somewhere. With that thought in mind, she decided to explore the area in order to find this guys son. He deserved to know his Father didn’t make it.

Alistair kept calling out when he sensed Darkspawn, she wondered what that felt like. Was it some weird feeling? Something you could sort through? It sounded weird, and she didn’t like the thought of it. Ah, well, whatever, it’ll probably kill her anyway.

Wow, there’re a lot of wolves in this area… Interesting. Usually, they have separate territories, and packs respect their bounds. The ecosystem must really be fucked up for so many packs to have been displaced by the Darkspawn. Poor things. They’re even fighting the Darkspawn for their territory. Which was a weird sight. Darkspawn fighting wolves… Sounded like some sort of weird B-rated movie. They wiped up the remaining fighters, when she noticed another body in Chantry robes… It’s Jogby, poor sod. They should probably get this lock-box and send it to Redcliffe for Jetta. The poor woman.

“Oh, that’s cute,” she said, dodging around the battlefield while both disarming the traps and landing critical strikes. It helped that they more-or-less had the same anatomical structure as Humans, and Dwarves, “they’ve laid traps for us.”

“How is that cute?!” Ser Jory shouted after the fighting was over.

She noticed a soldier's body, rifled through it and found a note about myths and legends. Sounded interesting. She should check it out after she finished her experiment.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said as she rearmed a trap and picked it up.

“What… Why are you carrying that?” Alistair asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” she repeated.

She launched the trap at the next Darkspawn she’d come across, as if she were throwing a pie at someone's face, and then promptly cringed. Gruesome. Never doing that again. Well, now she knew that that was a thing. A gross thing, but still a thing. She picked up its body as an archer took aim at her and released an arrow. The body caught it, as planned, and she tossed it aside as she moved in for the kill.

“Well, not doing that again,” she sighed after the fight, “they’re kind of heavy, anyway.”

“You’ve been picking up and tossing away bodies this entire time,” Daveth said, “how are you not tired yet?”

“I don’t mind physical labor,” she shrugged, “so I guess I'm pretty strong.”

***

Both Daveth and Ser Jory’s skills paled in comparison to Kallian’s. He could certainly see why Duncan had spoken highly of her. If he were to sum up the way she fought in one word it would be that she flowed. It was like watching water unleash a torrent of death upon their enemies. She was clearly experienced in fighting, though, thinking back to it, she also seemed rather experienced at patching people up, and soothing frayed nerves. She was highly agile, and flexible, and her strength certainly wasn’t anything to scoff at. The way she carried her weapons, however, was still odd to him. Most people strapped them to the top of their backs, but hers were down by her hips, though, it clearly worked well for her. It was also jarring how she wore no armor, and simply danced around the battlefield in her simple tunic, and trousers. It also clearly worked well for her, but it did make him curious as to why she didn’t wear armor. Maybe he’ll ask her about it later.

Though, to be honest, he could have done without seeing her launch a trap at a Darkspawn’s face, and from the looks of it, she could have too.

He could have also done without her summoning a demon simply because she was curious.

“There,” he pointed, “those are the ruins.”

“The one surrounded by Darkspawn?” Kallian quirked a brow, “it seems like they’ve been waiting for us.”

“How are you so calm?!” Ser Jory furrowed his brows.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine,” Kallian replied, “relax, fight with a calm mind and steady heart.”

“See, Ser Knight?” Daveth said, “both of our most experienced fighters are calm, so maybe you should calm down too?”

***

She’d been watching the group of four for a while, from the moment they entered her Wilds, in fact. They were being led by an Elven woman with scarlet hair, a hair color she’d never seen before in her entire life. This woman clearly out-classed her companions in terms of skill, and ’twas interesting to watch her flow through battles, dodging, evading, and using her enemies as shields. Her strikes were accurate, swift, and always deadly.

They’d gotten their blood, so why were they still here, in her Wilds, she wondered. ‘Twas most strange, what was their purpose? What were they seeking?

Perhaps she’ll get a chance to ask them soon.

***

“All of that and the chest is destroyed!” Ser Jory shouted indignantly, “I told you we should have gone back!”

“We couldn’t have known it would be destroyed,” Alistair sighed, “we had to try.”

“It’s true,” she agreed, “in any case, at least this was a good experience.”

“Well, well, what have we here?” a voice called out as she was prodding the destroyed chest with her foot, she was getting some strong Maleficent vibes from that statement, “a vulture, I wonder? A scavenger poking amidst a corpse whose bones were long since cleaned? Or merely an intruder, come into these Darkspawn-filled Wilds of mine in search of easy prey? What say you, hmm? Scavenger or intruder?”

“Hmm… Are those my only options?” she hummed taping her chin in thought as the woman began walking down the ramp, “we’re simply here because the Grey Wardens once owned this tower.”

“’Tis a tower no longer, the Wilds have obviously claimed this desiccated corpse,” the Woman replied walking past them, “I have watched your progress for some time. ‘Where do they go,’ I wondered, ‘why are they here?’ and now, you disturb ashes none have touched for so long. Why is that?”

“Don’t answer her,” Alistair mumbled, “she looks Chasind, and that means others may be nearby.”

“Whoa,” she frowned, “rude, much?”

“You fear barbarians will swoop down upon you?” the Woman replied.

“Yes, swooping is bad,” Alistair replied.

“She’s a Witch of the Wilds, she is!” Daveth said as she began to realize how tired she was, she could use a nap, “she’ll turn us into toads.”

“Witch of the Wilds? Such idle fancies, those legends, have you no minds of your own?” the Woman replied before turning to her, “you there. Women do not frighten like little boys. Tell me your name and I shall tell you mine.”

“My name is Kallian Tabris,” she said with a polite bow, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Now that is a proper civil greeting, even here in the Wilds, you may call me Morrigan,” Morrigan replied finally introducing herself, “shall I guess your purpose? You sought something in that chest, something that is here no longer?”

“’Here no longer?’ You stole them, didn’t you?” Alistair accused, “you’re… some king of… sneaky… witch-thief.”

“How very eloquent,” both women said in unison as she facepalmed with a sigh.

“How does one steal from dead men?” Morrigan asked.

“Quite easily, it seems,” Alistair replied she decided to keep it to herself that she’d been rifling through the corpses of their enemies wondering if there was something she could sell, “those documents are Grey Warden property, and I suggest you return them.”

“I will not, for ‘twas not I who removed them,” Morrigan replied, “invoke a name that means nothing here any longer if you wish; I am not threatened.”

“Then who removed them?” she asked, deciding to keep it to herself that she noticed the slight waver in her voice when she had said the word ‘invoke’.

“’Twas my Mother, in fact,” Morrigan answered.

“Can you take us to her?” she requested.

“There is a sensible request,” Morrigan replied with a small chuckle, “I like you.”

“I’d be careful. First, it’s ‘I like you…’” Alistair warned causing her to sigh deeply, “but then ‘Zap!’ frog time.”

“She’ll put us all in the pot, she will,” Daveth said, “just you watch.”

“If the pot’s warmer than this forest,” Ser Jory replied, “it’ll be a nice change.”

“Please forgive my companions,” she beamed, “as they seem to have forgotten social graces.”

“Follow me, then,” Morrigan replied, deciding to ignore her companions, “if it pleases you.”

She followed Morrigan without hesitation, if it came to a fight, well, she knew how to fight. Either way, they needed those documents, and she was their most promising lead to retrieving them. She could really, really use a nap, granted she probably won’t wake up tomorrow, one doesn’t wake up from death… She’ll have to save her doggo first.

“Greetings, Mother,” Morrigan said as they neared a hut, and her instincts told her that this woman was dangerous, “I bring before you four Grey Wardens who—”

“I see them, girl,” the Old Woman replied, “mmm… Much as I expected.”

“Are we supposed to believe you were expecting us?” Alistair asked.

“You are required to do nothing, least of all believe,” the Old Woman replied, “shut one’s eyes tight, or open one’s arms wide… either way, one’s a fool!”

“She’s a witch, I tell you!” Daveth said and her hand found its way back to her forehead, “we shouldn’t be talking to her!”

“Quiet, Daveth!” Ser Jory replied, “if she’s really a witch, do you want to make her mad?”

“There is a smart lad. Sadly irrelevant to the larger scheme of things, but it is not I who decides. Believe what you will,” the Old Woman replied before turning to her, and her next words made her eyes briefly widen in shock, “and what of you, Traveler? Does your traveling mind give you a different viewpoint? What do you believe?”

“That you are much like anything else, in that you are clearly not what you seem,” she replied, this woman knew. She knew that she retained memories from her past life, and that her past life was in a different world. She wasn’t sure how this woman knew, but she knew she did, “therefore, I’m not sure what to believe.”

“A statement that possesses more wisdom than it implies,” the Old Woman replied, “be always aware… or is it oblivious? I can never remember.”

“Mmm some variation of ‘know nothing, and question everything’?” she offered.

“Oh, you I like,” the Old Woman laughed, “so much about you is uncertain… and yet I believe. Do I? Why it seems I do!”

“Much obliged,” she replied inclining her head slightly.

“So… This is a dreaded Witch of the Wilds?” Alistair asked.

“Witch of the Wilds, eh? Morrigan must have told you that. She fancies such tales, though she would never admit it!” the Old Woman laughed again while Morrigan’s hand went to her face, “oh, how she dances under the moon!”

“They did not come to listen to your wild tales, Mother,” Morrigan sighed.

“True, they came for their treaties, yes?” the Old Woman replied, moving to retrieve the documents, “and before you begin barking, your precious seal wore off long ago. I have protected these.”

“You— Oh,” Alistair replied barely saving himself from shoving his foot into his mouth, “you protected them?”

“And why not? Take them to your Grey Wardens,” the Old Woman replied as she handed the documents to her, “and tell them this Blight’s threat is greater than they realize!”

“What do you mean the threat is greater than they realize?” she couldn’t help herself from asking.

“Either the threat is more or they realize less,” the Old Woman laughed, “or perhaps the threat is nothing! Or perhaps they realize nothing!”

“Ah, I see,” she replied in understanding. She’ll have to remember this for later, if she understood her correctly: there was something else going on with this Blight. Granted who knows if she’ll actually survive or not, “and thank you for returning the treaties.”

“Such manners!” the Old Woman replied, “always in the last place you look. Like stockings! Oh, do not mind me. You have what you came for!”

“Time for you to go, then,” Morrigan said clearly trying to get rid of them, something she didn’t mind, she needed a nap.

“Do not be ridiculous, girl,” the Old Woman replied, “these are your guests.”

“Oh, very well,” Morrigan sighed, “I will show you out of the woods. Follow me.”

***

She was in thought after parting with the four Wardens, Kallian, of course, making sure to thank her for showing them the way out of the forest.

That Elven woman, Kallian, truly was strange.

She was polite, but the fact that she seemed to get along with her Mother ‘twas very odd. She did not know what her Mother had meant when she’d addressed her as ‘Traveler’, and her Mother certainly wouldn’t say. But she could tell, she could tell that Kallian genuinely understood her Mother’s words. Something that had been incredibly surprising, even she hadn’t understood her Mother’s words. A strange woman in more ways than one.

Well, it did not matter, she had nothing to do with either her or her companions. She would most likely not be seeing any of them again.

***

She walked over to the Kennel Master, after assuring her companions that she’d meet them at Duncan.

She had a dog to save.

“Ah, there you are,” the Kennel Master sighed, “the Mabari is stable for now, but not improving… Unless I get that herb I told you about, there’s not much hope.”

“Here, is this it?” she asked retrieving the flowers from her pouch.

“Let me see… yes, that’s exactly it, wonderful!” the Kennel Master sighed in relief.

“I picked a few, just in case,” she said as she handed them over.

“Give me a moment and I’ll make this into an ointment,” the Kennel Master replied before quickly moving to make the ointment and giving it to her future Mabari, “she looks better already. I’m sure she’d thank you herself, if she could.”

“How long until there’s an improvement?” she asked.

“A day, maybe two,” the Kennel Master replied, “there’s enough ointment for her to make a full recovery. Why not come back after the battle? Perhaps we can see about imprinting her on you… Though it seemed like she’d already imprinted herself onto you.”

“I just hope she gets better soon,” she replied.

“Come back after the battle,” the Kennel Master said, “we’ll see how she’s doing.”

“Alright,” she nodded with a smile.

She guessed she should report back in with Duncan now, the other’s were likely there already. As she meandered her way over, her thoughts wandered back to the Old Woman in the Wilds. She’d known, and that was a rather odd thing. That woman was not normal, in any sort of way. What did she call her? ‘Traveler’? Interesting, likely because she’d traveled from one world to another. A very strange turn of events. And this Blight’s threat was greater than they realized? Was there something more behind this? Ah, well, didn’t matter, she’d probably die soon, after ingesting a gross blood mixture.

She noticed that the Tranquil that had guarded the mage chest was gone, so snuck over to it and opened it with the clean key, and pocketed its contents. She was a rogue, stealth was her thing… Actually, it honestly seemed like an inborn trait, she had to consciously make noise, otherwise, she’d freak people out when she announced her presence, and unless it was for pranks, she didn’t want to surprise people like that. They might attack her, and she wasn’t really into that thought. A wonderful skill to have in battle, though. A thought that made her frown. She’s really suffering from that inner turmoil. Her movements were not nearly as fluid as she’d known they could be. Other’s may not be able to tell, but they didn’t matter. What mattered was that she could tell.

She wondered how her family was doing… But then wondered if she had any right to be concerned about them anymore. She’d destroyed her own place in the Alienage… So, perhaps she didn’t have any right to be concerned… It was a heartbreaking thought, and she felt another piece of herself shatter. No amount of apologies would ever fix what she’d done to them.

“So you return from the Wilds,” Duncan said as she approached, “have you been successful?”

“Indeed we have,” she replied as they handed over their blood vials, and the documents.

“Good, I’ve had the Circle mages preparing,” Duncan replied, “with the blood you’ve retrieved, we can begin the Joining immediately.”

Ah, yes, there was a special method of preparation for it. Figures.

“And if we have second thoughts?” Ser Jory asked.

“Let me be very clear on that point, you are not volunteers. Whether you were conscripted or recruited, you were chosen because you are needed,” Duncan replied, “there is no turning back now. You must gather your courage for what comes next.”

“Courage?” Daveth replied as she stifled a yawn, she was really tired, “how much danger are we in?”

“I will not lie; we Grey Wardens pay a heavy price to become what we are,” Duncan replied, “fate may decree that you pay your price now rather than later.”

“Are you… Are you saying that this ritual can kill us?” Ser Jory asked.

“As could any Darkspawn you might face in battle,” Duncan replied, “you would have not been chosen, however, if I did not think you had a chance to survive.”

“Let’s go, then,” Daveth replied, “I’m anxious to see this Joining now.”

“I agree,” Ser Jory nodded, “let’s have it done.”

“I just want a nap,” she yawned, “so let’s get this over and done with so I can take one.”

“Then let us begin,” Duncan replied turning to Alistair, “Alistair, take them to the old temple.”

They followed Alistair, and she was so sleepy she could barely stop yawning. It didn’t strike her as odd that she was tired: she’d been traveling and fighting all day, and not only that, but there was also the fact that she’d experienced so much weird today. Such as: Being in a position of power, and leading around three Human men, with no intentions of getting them killed in the back alleys of Denerim.

“The more I hear about this Joining,” Ser Jory said, “the less I like it.”

“Are you blubbering again?” Daveth frowned, clearly fed up with Ser Jory.

“Why all these damn tests?” Ser Jory replied, “have I not earned my place?”

“Maybe it’s tradition,” Daveth replied, “maybe they’re just trying to annoy you.”

“Calm down,” she said reassuringly, “there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

“I only know that my wife is in Highever with a child on the way,” Ser Jory sighed, “if they had warned me… it just doesn’t seem fair.”

“Life isn’t fair,” she pointed out.

“Would you have come if they’d warned you?” Daveth replied, “maybe that’s why they don’t. The Wardens do what they must, right?”

That phrase again: The Wardens do what they must. It still rubbed her the wrong way.

“Including sacrificing us?” Ser Jory replied, “and how are you so calm, Kallian?”

“Because I know what’s going to happen,” she replied with a yawn.

“What?! You know!?” Ser Jory glared before looking at Alistair accusingly, “who told you!?”

“No one, I figured it out,” she replied as Alistair held up his hands and shook his head wildly, “there were a lot of clues. The fact that you didn’t figure it out is, quite honestly, a shock to me.”

“Tell us!” Ser Jory demanded.

“I’ll let it be a surprise,” she replied waving a sleeve around dismissively.

“It doesn’t matter,” Daveth said, in an interesting turn of events, the career criminal is more self-sacrificing and courageous than the knight, “I’d sacrifice a lot more if I knew it would end the Blight.”

“Point, he has one,” she said.

“You saw those Darkspawn, Ser Knight,” Daveth replied, “wouldn’t you die to protect your pretty wife from them?”

“I…” Ser Jory sighed.

“Maybe you’ll die. Maybe we’ll all die,” Daveth replied, “if nobody stops the Darkspawn, we’ll all die for sure.”

“I’ve just never faced a foe I could not engage with my blade,” Ser Jory grumbled.

“I have,” she replied raising a hand. It’s true, she had. The foes that were hunger, poverty, fire, death, fear, guilt… the list goes on, really. They were all things she couldn’t raise a sword against, but she faced them down anyway. Not all problems needed to be solved with violence.

“At last, we come to the Joining, the Grey Wardens were founded during the First Blight, when humanity stood on the verge of annihilation,” Duncan said walking forward with a goblet, “so it was that the first Grey Wardens drank of Darkspawn blood and mastered their taint.”

“We’re… going to drink the blood of those… those creatures?” Ser Jory replied in shock, before turning to her angrily, “and you knew!?”

“As I’ve said, there were a lot of hints,” she shrugged, “I could list them, but it’d be a waste of time.”

“As the first Grey Wardens did before us, as we did before you,” Duncan said interrupting them, “this is the source of our power, and our victory.”

“Those who survive the Joining become immune to the taint,” Alistair added, and she wondered about that, “we can sense it in the Darkspawn and use it to slay the Archdemon.”

“Those who survive!?” Ser Jory replied indignantly.

“Not all who drink the blood will survive, and those who do are forever changed, this is why the Joining is a secret. It is the price we pay,” Duncan explained. Great, she’ll be a different person than the one she once was both figuratively, and literally. What an accomplishment, “we speak only a few words prior to the Joining, but these words have been said since the first… Alistair, if you would?”

“Join us, brothers and sisters. Join us in the shadows where we stand, vigilant. Join us as we carry the duty that cannot be forsworn,” Alistair said solemnly, and she wanted to mentally check-out of this situation, but somehow resisted the urge, “and should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten, and that one day we shall join you.”

“Daveth, step forward,” Duncan said passing him the goblet.

She was impressed, Daveth didn’t even hesitate to drink from it before passing it back to Duncan who backed away, and watched. She watched as well, Daveth doubled over in pain, letting out a cry as his eyes rolled back, and he collapsed clutching at his throat.

“Maker’s breath,” Ser Jory said backing away from them, he wasn’t a rogue, so she didn’t know what he was trying to do. She could probably dip, but she had no reason to. She had no home to go back to. No family to return to.

“I’m sorry, Daveth,” Duncan apologized as Daveth gave in to the pain, before turning to Ser Jory, who was still backing away, “step forward, Jory.”

“But… I have a wife,” Ser Jory said weakly and she frowned, didn’t she talk to him about this? To think of his wife? To remember who he was fighting for? “a child! Had I known…”

“There is no turning back,” Duncan replied grimly.

“No! You ask too much!” Ser Jory said unsheathing his sword, and Duncan put the goblet down and unsheathed his own weapon, “there is no glory in this!”

She watched Ser Jory try to attack, but was parried twice before Duncan landed a fatal strike… She couldn’t keep herself from sighing. If he had complied, there was a chance he could have survived, but by not complying, he’d sealed his own fate. If she survives, she’ll make sure to send a message to his wife, Helena, to inform her of his passing… She’ll make up a nicer story that didn’t involve him being a coward about the ordeal… Like he died in the upcoming battle… Yeah, that sounded heroic.

“I am sorry, but the Joining is not yet complete,” Duncan said as Ser Jory died before turning to her and handing her the goblet, “you are called upon to submit yourself to the taint for the greater good.”

Not being asked to step forward, hm? She sees how it is. She sighed as she drank, taking a quick gulp in an effort to keep it off her tongue. It didn’t work. The taste and texture were horrifying. She handed the goblet back to Duncan, who backed away from her as he had with Daveth.

“From this moment forth, you are a Grey Warden,” she heard Duncan say as she pressed a hand to her head.

There was a sharp stinging pain in her skull as she saw images of a large dragon that had definitely seen better days flash through her mind’s eye. And when she opened her actual eyes, she found out that one: she was now laying on the ground. And two: seeing Duncan’s face as the first thing she saw upon waking up, pissed her off.

“It is finished. Welcome,” Duncan said as Alistair offered her a hand to help her up, she took it.

“Two more deaths,” Alistair said sadly as he pulled her up, “in my Joining, only one of us died, but it was… horrible. I’m glad at least one of you made it through.”

“How do you feel?” Duncan asked.

“I’m fine,” she replied.

“Did you have dreams?” Alistair asked, “I had terrible dreams after my Joining.”

“Guessing the giant dragon that’s seen better days is the Archdemon?” she asked tapping the side of her head with the heel of her hand.

“Indeed, such dreams come when you begin to sense the Darkspawn, as we all do,” Duncan explained, “that and many other things can be explained in the months to come.”

“Before I forget, there is one last part to your Joining,” Alistair said passing her a pendant, “we take some of that blood and put it in a pendant. Something to remind us… of those who didn’t make it this far.”

“Take some time, and get some rest, if you can,” Duncan said, “tomorrow the King wants you to attend a strategy meeting for the upcoming battle. I am not sure why he has requested your presence, but I’ll send Alistair to come find you when the time comes.”

“Understood,” she nodded, “I’m going to go find somewhere to sleep…”

There were a lot of trees around here, she should borrow one for a nap, and with that thought in mind, she trotted off to find a suitable tree to sleep in.

Chapter Text

She and Soris had been trying to keep up Kallian’s weekly tradition of star-gazing, but neither of them knew the back alleys like she did, and neither of them were quite as athletic as she was. Instead, they just crawled onto the top of the highest roof of the Alienage that they could get up too.

It wasn’t the same.

Kallian had brought so much banter and life to their weekly expeditions, it was lonely without it. They couldn’t think of anything to say, anything to banter about. It was difficult, and part of them didn’t even see the point of going. Before it had been a fun bonding moment for all three cousin’s but now, it just reminded them that Kallian wasn’t here anymore.

“So, how’s your marriage going?” she finally asked.

“It’s… alright,” Soris sighed, “she doesn’t cook nearly as well as Kalli.”

“Does anyone?”

“Good point, how are you holding up?”

“…Alright,” she sighed, “could be better… I think people are starting to suspect something.”

“I saw you opening the lid of a crate.”

“I keep expecting her to be in one of them.”

“I’ve been opening them too.”

“We should probably start heading home,” she sighed and they both stood up, dusted themselves off and went home with heavy hearts.

***

She could feel the heat of the fire on her skin.

Fire flickered in her peripheral vision, but the woman she was facing off against wasn’t bothered in the slightest.

Even before the Joining she didn’t stand a chance against her, but right now? Right now it was just embarrassing. Not only did the woman know her exact fighting style, and everything she ever thought, but she also held absolutely nothing back.

But she, herself, had lost touch with parts of herself.

The woman was staring down at her, weapon pointed at her neck.

“You should be ashamed of yourself, and how weak you are,” the Woman said.

“Don’t worry, I already am.”

Well, at least the woman was only in her dreams. If she had to deal with hallucinations of her in her everyday life, that would be the absolute worst…

With a sigh she put her hair back up into that complicated braided bun on the top left side of her head, she slipped a vial inside of it, two needles to help keep it secure, and her ribbon. She’d kept it in this style since it was the same as the day she’d left the Alienage, it reminded her of better days. She moved on to begin running through her usual morning stretches to loosen up her joints and wake up her body.

She sighed and blankly stared out from her perch in the tree she was occupying, she’ll probably die in today’s battle, doesn’t matter if she re-finds herself before getting there. She still had absolutely no idea how to fight either against or with a large group of people, it was a little daunting to think of. And by a little, she meant really. It was really daunting. The most likely outcome would be that she’d accidentally end up killing an ally. Joining the military just wasn’t something she was interested in, in her past life. It wasn’t in this life either, really.

She was pretty bummed that this was what her life ended up being.

“Kallian!” she heard a voice call out, entering the area she was currently in, sounded like Alistair, “Kallian!”

Sighing, she stood up, grabbed hold of her pack and stepped off from her perch landing right behind him.

“Kallian!” Alistair called out again.

“Good morning,” she asked, noting him jump in alarm, “I take it, it’s time?”

“Where did you come from?” Alistair said trying to calm himself down.

“Is there anywhere, where I can wash my face?” she asked while pointing up to the branch she had slept on.

“Uhh…” Alistair replied pointing, “that direction.”

“How much time do I have?”

“About two hours,” Alistair replied, “is what Duncan said, anyway.”

“Thanks,” she said before trotting off in that direction.

***

Well, he was certainly glad he found her fairly quickly. He didn’t really enjoy yelling at trees like a madman. There were some guards that had started giving him suspicious stares, and he wasn’t sure how he was going to explain himself if it turned out she wasn’t there. Part of him had, after all, considered that the Elven servants he’d asked had pointed him in this direction to play a trick on him.

How she’d managed to land behind him so quietly was anyone's guess, it nearly scared him out of his skin. He also wondered if she’d really slept last night, and if so, how. She’d not only survived the Joining but also saw Daveth and Ser Jory die right in front of her. Granted, it was probably for the best, given that a major battle would be happening soon. He should get on with his own preparations, since he’d be battling alongside Duncan and the other Grey Wardens.

Though he wasn’t really sure how to go about preparing for a large battle…

He’ll just copy what the others are doing.

***

Battle would be in the air in her Wilds today. She could feel it in the way the animals moved, and the way the Darkspawn had begun moving. Her mind wandered to the group of Grey Wardens who’d trespassed into the Wilds yesterday, wondering what became of them. Well, ‘twas no matter, they would likely perish in today’s battle… Though her Mother was making preparations, for what purpose? She did not know, and she knew better than to question her Mother.

All she’d be left with, would be a piercing headache.

***

She should probably wear that armor she purchased yesterday since she’d be meeting with the King in a serious manner. Why he wanted her to attend a strategy meeting was anyone's guess. In this life, she had absolutely zero strategical background, and in her past life? Her only experience lay in tactical games. Perhaps there was some other reason he wanted her to attend, a special task? Ugh, this whole special treatment and position of power thing was terrible. It was weird, and she really, really, really, didn’t like it. She was an Elven commoner. Elves who stood out got raped, beaten, or murdered. It was a thing she had to keep in mind in her day-to-day life, but here she was. Her instincts were practically screaming that she was about to get executed.

She rinsed out her mouth after brushing her teeth, she likely wouldn’t have time to brush them after eating something. She pulled on her armor, and as she’d expected: it added too much rigidity to her body, weighed her down, and reduced her overall flexibility. Her range of movement was being hampered terribly. With a sigh, she grabbed a piece of bread and began walking towards the designated area. Everyone in the encampment was gearing up for battle, girding themselves for the coming conflict. She could see people praying, people asking for blessings from the Chantry. She could see battle-hardened veterans sharpening their weapons and doing their last checks on their gear, newly recruited soldiers skipping out on food from nerves…

Things were about to get hellish.

She recalled all the people who had told her that she was lucky to be riding out with the King, did they not see this same scene? Only fools would look forward to taking part in the hellscape to come. She could see them too, young folk clearly looking excited and eager to take part, she wondered if they truly understood the gravity of their situation.

Ah, well, dying wasn’t a such a bad idea for her, and so she happily munched on her breakfast, popping the last piece of bread into her mouth as she reached the table. A servant came up shortly after she’d arrived and laid a map of Ostagar out on the table. Not knowing her purpose for being here, she decided to study it. Hm? The Tower of Ishal… Didn’t the guard stationed there yesterday tell her that they had found lower chambers? Darkspawn come from the ground…

“You look troubled,” Duncan pointed out.

“The Tower of Ishal,” she replied, “they discovered lower chambers there…”

“Loghain, my decision is final,” she heard Cailan say as both he and the Teyrn approached interrupting her she immediately straightened up, “I will stand by the Grey Wardens in this assault.”

“You risk too much, Cailan!” Loghain replied, “the Darkspawn horde is too dangerous for you to be playing hero on the front lines.”

“If that’s the case,” Cailan replied, “perhaps we should wait for the Orlesian forces to join us, after all.”

“I must repeat my protest to your fool notion that we need the Orlesians to defend ourselves!” Loghain replied angrily.

“It’s not a ‘fool notion’. Our arguments with the Orlesians are a thing of the past,” Cailan replied, “and you will remember who is king.”

She wondered if those were a wise choice in words. From what she’d heard around the encampment: Loghain was a veteran who fought against the Orlesian occupation, and so she could certainly see why he was cautious about receiving aid from Orlais. But Cailan’s statement: You will remember who is king. She wondered if that saying that was wise, they would be fighting what she guessed would be a horrific battle later today, and he was picking a fight with his general. Ah, well, nothing she could do about it. You can’t change the past, and once words are put out into the world like that, you cannot take them back.

“How fortunate Maric did not live to see his son,” Loghain sighed angrily, they’ve clearly been arguing about this for days, “ready to hand Ferelden over to those who enslaved us for a century!”

“Then our current forces will have to suffice, won’t they?” Cailan replied turning to Duncan, “Duncan, are your men ready for battle?”

“They are, Your Majesty,” Duncan nodded.

“And this is the recruit I met earlier on the road?” Cailan said turning to her, “good afternoon, Kallian, I understand congratulations are in order.”

“Good afternoon, Your Majesty, Your Lordship,” she inclined her head politely, “and you are too kind, Your Majesty.”

“Every Grey Warden is needed now,” Cailan replied with a grin, “you should be honored to join their ranks.”

“Your fascination with glory and legends will be your undoing, Cailan,” Loghain frowned, “we must attend to reality.”

She wasn’t sure of the vibes she was getting from that statement, they seemed… Foreshadowing… Especially given that statement from earlier. But it wasn’t her place to question authority. She was merely a commoner, ignorant to the lives and inner workings of the ruling class. Peasants don’t worry about governing over people, don’t worry about setting laws and all that jazz, she hasn’t considered taking a part in politics since she’d literally died. There was no voting here, there was a monarchy, an actual monarchy.

“Fine, speak your strategy,” Cailan said looking over the map, “the Grey Wardens and I draw the Darkspawn into charging our lines and then…?”

“You will alert the Tower to light the beacon,” Loghain added, “signaling my men to charge from cover—”

“To flank the Darkspawn, I remember,” Cailan replied, “this is the Tower of Ishal in the ruins, yes? Who shall light this beacon?”

“I have a few men stationed there,” Loghain said, “it’s not a dangerous task, but it is vital.”

“Then we should send our best,” Cailan replied, “Kallian, I want you and Alistair to go and make sure it’s done.”

Ah, this is why she was brought here. He was sending her to the Tower, fair enough, it was a decision she could agree with.

“We’ll do our best, Your Majesty,” she nodded.

“You rely on these Grey Wardens too much,” Loghain asked, “is that truly wise?”

“Enough of your conspiracy theories, Loghain,” Cailan sighed, “Grey Wardens battle the Blight, no matter where they’re from.”

Loghain clearly didn’t think highly of Cailan, didn’t think of him as anything more than a child… But she had a feeling Cailan knew this and was using it to his advantage, she didn’t know in what way, though. In her past-life, she’d routinely play the innocent idiot card so that she could get a better read on people. See how they acted and reacted to her antics, and get a feel of their inner workings. It helped her navigate social interactions, figuring out who were really assholes and who weren’t actually assholes, among other things. It was very handy, and thinking back on their interaction yesterday… Yes, he could have been testing her and getting a feel for her personality… She’d been so done with everything she hadn’t really given it any thought. Hmm, if that were the case, then he definitely knew more than he was letting on.

Not that it concerned her, anyway, she was still a peasant who would probably die later today.

“Your Majesty,” Duncan said, “you should consider the possibility of the Archdemon appearing.”

“There have been no signs of any dragons in the Wilds,” Loghain replied.

“Isn’t that what your men are here for, Duncan?” Cailan replied.

“I… yes, Your Majesty,” Duncan replied, it seemed as though he didn’t know how to deal with Cailan.

“Your Majesty,” a Mage said, “the Tower and its beacon are unnecessary. The Circle of Magi—”

“We will not trust any lives to your spells, mage!” the Revered Mother glowered, making her wonder why even bring the mages here if they were going to treat them like this, “save them for the Darkspawn!”

“If I may,” she said raising a hand, “I have nothing against the mages, but I actually think having soldiers stationed at the Tower is a better option anyway, strategically speaking.”

“Oh? And why would that be?” Loghain asked looking at her with mild interest, he was a general, of course, he’d want to hear her thoughts.

“When I’d arrived at Ostagar yesterday, I had spoken with the guard standing outside the Tower of Ishal,” she explained pressing her finger to the Tower on the map, “he had mentioned that the Tower was off-limits since your men had discovered lower chambers, and were securing the tower, correct?”

“Yes, and what about it?” Loghain asked.

“The guard had mentioned that when he was in the Tower earlier, he hadn’t seen any lower chambers, and from my understanding: Darkspawn come up from the ground. It’s highly plausible that they opened up the lower chambers, and then left the area,” she drew lines across the map with her finger from the Tower to the rest of the encampment as she continued, “they would then lure us into a false sense of security, with the intention of taking control of the Tower when the battle began to launch a surprise attack from behind, after which, they’ll be able to take control of the rest of the encampment and close in on the rest of our forces.”

She wondered if she should prepare herself for a swift beheading for her insolence. Or even a lightning strike to the face. Insolent Elf! How dare you try to speak strategy! or something… Was this weird position of power and special treatment thing getting to her head? She hoped not, though it would also be wise for them to be aware of the possibilities anyway, since this was a battle for Ferelden.

If she were to suffer a lightning strike to the face, she just hoped it’d kill her in one strike. Surviving electrocution like that was kind of… Yelch.

“I see,” Loghain replied, “you bring up a very good point. This plan will suffice then: the Grey Wardens will light the beacon.”

“Thank you, Loghain, and you, Kallian,” Cailan replied and she noticed Loghain turn his back to them taking a few steps, “I cannot wait for that glorious moment! The Grey Wardens battle beside the King of Ferelden to stem the tide of evil!”

“Yes, Cailan,” Loghain said and that foreboding feeling came back, “a glorious moment for us all.”

“Well, then Your Majesty, Your Lordship,” Duncan said, "I would like to see to both Kallian and Alistair’s preparations."

“Of course,” Cailan nodded and they both bowed politely before leaving, "Duncan, Kallian, you are both dismissed."

“May the Maker watch over you,” she nodded politely.

“You as well, Kallian,” Cailan replied brightly.

Her thoughts went back to Cailan, he’d mentioned that he didn’t think that this was a true Blight, but she was beginning to think that he didn’t actually believe that. A king, or any leader, really, must always seem confident for the purposes of morale, if the leader is freaking out, then such panic can spread like wildfire, but she wondered if there was another reason for him to be saying that. Not only that, but his relationship with Loghain was clearly rocky, at the moment.

She wondered if she’d have time to kick her armor off.

“You handled yourself well,” Duncan said, “I did not think you knew about strategy.”

“I don’t,” she replied, “or at least I’ve never studied it.”

“I see,” Duncan replied before stopping them both to hand her the treaties, “I want you to hold on to these for the time being. I trust that they will be safer with you.”

“Understood,” she replied carefully folding them to stow in her pack.

“Ah, good, you’re here, Alistair,” Duncan said as he saw Alistair near Duncan’s bonfire, “I won’t have to send someone to find you.”

“Did you need me for something?” Alistair asked.

“Kallian, you heard the plan,” Duncan nodded, “you and Alistair will go to the Tower of Ishal and ensure that the beacon is lit.”

“What?” Alistair said in shock, “I won’t be in the battle?”

“This is by the King’s personal request, Alistair,” Duncan replied, “if the beacon is not lit, Teyrn Loghain’s men won’t know when to charge.”

“So he needs two Grey Wardens standing up there holding the torch,” Alistair replied, “just in case, right?”

“I’m ready to go,” she replied, she could explain to Alistair why they were being sent to the Tower, but it would take too long and she didn’t know how much time they’d have before they needed to be there. Since time was probably of the essence, she’ll explain later.

“Yes, so am I,” Alistair sighed heavily.

“You’ll need to cross the gorge and head through the gate and up to the Tower entrance,” Duncan explained, though she didn’t know why he was bothering to explain it, she clearly knew where it was, “from the top, you’ll overlook the entire valley.”

“When do we light the beacon?” she asked.

“We will signal you when the time is right,” Duncan replied, “Alistair will know what to look for.”

“And if the Archdemon appears?”

“We soil our drawers,” Alistair replied, “that’s what.”

“If it does, leave it to us,” Duncan replied, “I want no heroics from either of you.”

“How much time do we have?” she asked.

“The battle is about to begin,” Duncan answered, “once I leave, move quickly. You’ll have less than an hour.”

The answer was: no, she wouldn’t have time to kick her armor off. Wonderful.

“Can we join the battle afterward?” Alistair asked.

“Stay with the Teyrn’s men and guard the Tower,” Duncan replied, “if you are needed, we will send word.”

“Understood,” she nodded.

“I… understand,” Alistair sighed.

“Then I must join the others. From here, you two are on your own,” Duncan replied, “remember, you are both Grey Wardens. I expect you to be worthy of that title.”

“Duncan…” Alistair said, “may the Maker watch over you.”

“May He watch over us all,” Duncan replied before they parted ways.

She saw flashes of light in the sky and began counting. Trying to get a sense of the distance between them and the storm and whether she’ll have to worry about suffering a lightning strike to the face. She doubted it, there were many things taller than her in the area, but who knows, maybe the Maker would guide one straight to her. She wouldn’t put it past Him, the worlds been screwing her over pretty bad lately. The boom of thunder finally hit, ten seconds… She forgot how to convert that into knowing how far away it was. Or maybe she never knew. Geography was never in line with her interests, she took classes about it, sure, but that was only to fill requirements. She had a tendency to immediately forget everything she’d learned as soon as the test was over.

…Where did she study again? Actually… What did she study?

Ah, well, probably for the best.

“FOR FERELDEN!” she heard a chorus of people shouting as the battle began.

“Let’s get across the bridge and over to the Tower of Ishal!” Alistair shouted to be heard over the sounds the wind, and rain, as well as the sounds of battle.

“Let’s go,” she nodded and began running across the bridge.

She definitely felt slower and weighed down, she’ll have to adjust her breathing, otherwise she won’t last long. Curious, she glanced to the side of the bridge where archers and ballista were positioned… Much as she expected, there was a sea of Darkspawn fighting the King’s soldiers. It looked like a hellscape.

“Help me! They’re everywhere!” one of the guards shouted as they neared, and she clicked her tongue, “they’ve taken the Tower!”

She had been right.

“What happened?” she asked quickly.

“You… you’re Grey Wardens, aren’t you?!” the Guard said, “the Tower… it’s been taken!”

“What are you talking about, man?” Alistair replied in shock, “taken how?”

“The lower chambers,” she answered, “they opened the lower chambers to take the Tower after the battle had started.”

“How do you know that?!” Alistair stared at her in shock.

“She’s right. The Darkspawn came up through the lower chambers!” the Guard replied, “they’re everywhere! Most of our men are dead!”

“Then we have to get to the beacon,” Alistair said quickly, “and light it ourselves.”

For some reason.

She was still leading.

She was still in a position of power.

With three other seasoned fighters, she, the less experienced, and most probably, the youngest, was leading.

Why was she still leading the others?

Also, she still didn’t know how to either fight with or against a mage.

What was even happening anymore?

Maybe she should just stop thinking about it, the world stopped making sense a month ago, she should really stop wasting energy on trying to make sense of it.

So she cleared her mind as they cleared their way to the Tower entrance, she had to focus on adjusting her breathing to deal with the added weight and stress on her limbs. Not only that, but she had to consciously adjust her own movements since the armor was hampering her full range of movement.

She stuck to the shadows this time, she didn’t have either the strength or energy to waste dragging enemy bodies around to use as shields. Her flexibility and speed had taken larger hits than she’d anticipated, and she had to resort to ducking behind columns and other assorted furnishings to protect her from ranged attacks. She didn’t have the time or mental capacity to focus on anyone but herself, so she simply trusted everyone to know what they were doing.

They got to the room with stairs leading up to the upper floors of the Tower and she frowned.

There were barricades and skinned corpses… They’d had to have been here for at least two hours.

“Maker’s breath!” Alistair said in shock, “what are these Darkspawn doing ahead of the rest of the horde? There wasn’t supposed to be any resistance here!”

“It’s a forward group to take control of the encampment,” she answered, “in short: they probably knew the plan. Or something close enough to it.”

“Now that’s a scary thought… They couldn’t know about the plan!” Alistair replied, “how? They’re not that smart, are they?”

“We can figure it out later,” she replied, “we need to get to the beacon.”

“You’re right, let’s go,” Alistair replied as they quickly began ascending the Tower.

She was beginning to feel exhausted, which was all sorts of not good, she was confident in her own stamina, but that was when she wasn’t wearing armor. She was already not at her best, but to add armor to it? Her body was suffering under the strain.

“Loghain better be ready to charge as soon as we light the signal,” Alistair said, and she had her doubts. The Darkspawn had control of the Tower since before the battle, and she couldn’t help but remember that foreboding feeling she’d gotten earlier, “the King is depending on us!”

They continued up the stairs, her limbs were heavy, but she forced herself to keep going, to keep fighting. One foot in front of the other, one swipe after the next. Black viscous blood clinging to her, coagulating on her skin and armor, making her already uncomfortable state even worse.

And at the top of the Tower was a behemoth of a Darkspawn, one she’d never seen before.

“Throw a fireball at the beacon!” she shouted, “and Alistair, I’m gonna need you to give me a boost, lift your shield to the ceiling when I tell you to!”

“Alright,” Alistair nodded as the mage complied and threw a fireball at the beacon. Good. Whether they made it through this fight or not, the beacon was lit.

“Now!” she shouted, and made a mad dash for him, using his shield as a stepping stone to launch herself up onto it’s head. She stabilized her balance as quickly as she could and slammed her dagger into its eye socket, before rolling off its body and yanking her weapon free. She glanced to the side: the beacon was indeed lit.

But just as she was about to collapse from exhaustion, she heard a shout of panic and turned to look. Behind them, Darkspawn were ascending the staircase. She tightened her grip on her weapons and rushed to meet the opposition. She rolled and ducked to the best of her ability, but her body wasn’t used to the added stress, wasn’t used to being restrained like this. Her performance was shit, she could feel it, and it didn’t feel good. These were movements her body should be capable of handling, should be capable of doing, should be capable of easily flowing through, but her breathing was labored, her muscles tired. In a final act of desperation, she threw Alistair behind her, he knew more about being a Grey Warden than she did, it would be better for him to survive. At least this way, maybe she won’t feel as ashamed of herself when she reunited with those she’d lost in the afterlife.

She felt arrows, pierce through her, and in her last moments, apologized to her Father, Soris, and Shianni…

It doesn’t look like she’ll be able to return home after all.

***

Her Mother hand turned into a giant bird and flew off once the battle had begun.

To where and for what purpose? She did not know.

Though she suspected that she’ll learn why soon enough.

Chapter Text

Numb.

She felt numb.

Cyrion was sitting, hunched over the table, his face in his hands sobbing. Soris was trying to soothe him.

But all she could feel was numb.

The Darkspawn had won the Battle of Ostagar…?

All of the Grey Wardens had been wiped out…?

Her fault.

This was her fault.

Kallian hated violence, she never willingly sought out confrontations, always seeking to settle things as civilly and peacefully as possible. The men she’d led through the back alleys were different in that they were a danger to the safety of all women in Denerim, so Kallian had to deal with them, Kallian never sat idle when she knew there was something she could do about something.

If she hadn’t smashed that bottle over Vaughan’s head, he wouldn’t have shown up later during the wedding…

He wouldn’t have come with a contingent of guards, wouldn’t have interrupted the wedding, wouldn’t have stolen them from the stage, wouldn’t have forced her cousin to become a monster, wouldn’t have forced her cousin to have no choice but to be conscripted into the Grey Wardens…

Wouldn’t have gotten killed.

Her fault.

This could only be her fault.

Kallian had accepted all of the blame, all of the guilt. All of it. Kallian had thought it her fault, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t Kallian’s fault. It wasn’t Kallian’s fault at all. It was her fault. It had never been Kallian’s fault, it had always been her fault. All Kallian did was try to protect her, try to protect all of them. To keep them safe from harm, and when she’d failed, Kallian had hated herself, hated the weak her who couldn’t protect those she loved most. Kallian didn’t deserve to hate herself, Kallian didn’t deserve to be hated…

It was her actions, but her beloved cousin was the one to pay the price, and now she would never see her again.

Her voice finally came out in a scream.

***

The Teyrn…

Had betrayed the King…?

Other than both him and Kallian, all of the Wardens were dead… If Morrigan’s Mother had been any later than she was, they’d both definitely be dead. He didn’t know why Morrigan’s Mother had saved them. He didn’t want to pester them, they were working hard trying to stabilize Kallian’s condition, and honestly? He wasn’t even sure if she would make it. She’d thrown him behind her, and he didn’t even know why.

He didn’t understand.

How did things go so wrong so quickly?

It would take a miracle for Kallian to make a full recovery, she’d taken so much damage.

She’d been drifting in and out of consciousness for the past two weeks.

He’d never felt so powerless in his whole life.

And all he could do was pray she would wake up.

***

On her way to Redcliffe, she’d crossed paths with Bann Teagan, and from him she’d learned that the Darkspawn had won the battle. That Loghain had betrayed the King, that her brother Fergus was dead. She was the only one left. The only Cousland left.

A burning hatred in her chest.

She shouldn’t be the only one left.

She shouldn’t be the only Cousland left alive.

Loghain was being supported by Howe. She and Teagan decided to head into Redcliffe together, they both had reason to petition Arl Eamon for help.

***

He couldn’t believe it.

He couldn’t believe that she was dead.

His cousin, his often seemingly invincible cousin was dead. He hated the small part of himself that blamed Shianni, especially since he knew that she was already blaming herself for it, he knew that out of everyone mourning, no one mourned so loudly, and heart-wrenchingly as Shianni. The entire Alienage was in mourning, Kallian had been such a big part of their lives, they’d all felt the loss of her presence, but it was nothing compared to this. Before, they could hope that she’d return home one day, that they’d see her again one day. But now? Now they knew that she was never coming back, they’d never see her again.

Never.

His tears found their way down his cheeks as his hand went to the braided cord bracelet Kallian had made for him.

***

She was weak, but she needed to return to Kinloch Hold.

They needed to know what Loghain had done.

She remembered her interactions with King Cailan, a man she had respected as the King of Ferelden. She remembered her interactions with that Warden Recruit, Kallian Tabris, she had been so full of potential, potential that had been lost because of one man’s betrayal. She remembered all of the other mages who had answered King Cailan’s call for aid against the Darkspawn.

She had to tell them what he’d done to the King, how he had betrayed Cailan.

She used her staff to help support her weight as she traveled towards Lothering, she would find a caravan to take her to Kinloch Hold.

First Enchanter Irving must be informed of what has happened outside of the Circle, what happened at Ostagar.

***

He was tired of living, he was tired of Taliesen constantly trying to keep him alive. He was tired of having his worthlessness shoved down his throat by the Crows. They’d made it perfectly clear that he had no worth to them, that he wasn’t anything. It was his cockiness and arrogance that had gotten Rinna killed. He was both surprised and glad that his bid to slay the remaining two Wardens in Ferelden was accepted.

He stepped off of the boat that had brought him here from Antiva and headed for the Denerim Palace.

“I bring word, sire, there are demands from the Bannorn that you step down from the regency,” Howe, his employer said, “ they are said to be gathering their forces, as are your allies. It appears it will be civil war after all, despite the Darkspawn. Pity.”

“Have you heard any news of the two Wardens?” Loghain asked.

“No, not yet, sire,” Howe replied, “are you certain they’re still alive?”

“Positive,” Loghain replied, “especially considering that woman’s knack for strategy.”

Woman? One of the two remaining Wardens was a woman? Despite himself, he couldn’t help but feel a spark of interest.

“Then, I have arranged for a… solution,” Howe said, “with your leave.”

“The Antivan Crows send their regards,” he said.

“An assassin?” Loghain sighed heavily.

“Against Grey Wardens,” Howe replied, “and especially considering how dangerous you deem one of them, in particular, is, we will need the very best, sire.”

“And the most expensive,” he added.

“Just get it done,” Loghain sighed heavily again before gesturing to two wanted posters, one of a Human man with blonde hair and brown eyes, and another of an Elven woman with scarlet hair and emerald eyes, “the man’s name is Alistair, and the woman’s name is Kallian. She is by far the most dangerous of the two. Make sure that she at least dies.”

Good, if she were truly as skilled as Loghain suspects, he’ll get the death he’d hoped for.

***

Why her Mother insisted on saving Kallian’s life was anyone's guess. ‘Twas most strange. Though her Mother wouldn’t divulge her plans to her, or anyone else.

She would have simply let the woman die, especially considering the damage her body had suffered. A cracked skull on its own was hard to heal, but she’d resembled an Elven shaped pincushion when her Mother had brought both her and Alistair back from the Wilds.

She still had absolutely no clue what her Mother had meant when she’d called her ‘Traveler’. Nor did she know how she had understood her Mother’s insufferably vague and cryptic words.

That other Warden, Alistair was moping about, praying to that ridiculous absent god Humans so loved to worship: the Maker.

Hopefully the woman would awaken soon, she could do without him getting on her nerves.

***

She had no idea what was happening anymore.

The area around her was on fire, and she was surrounded by a sea of corpses. Weapons drawn, as she and the other woman clashed against each other. She didn’t know why she kept fighting her, didn’t know why she didn’t just allow the woman to kill her.

Maybe she didn’t want to die…? That didn’t matter, she needed too anyway.

“Wake up,” the woman snarled looking down at her blade pressed against her neck, “and face your own weakness.”

“You say that like I have a choice,” she coughed.

It hurt.

Everything hurt.

She’d never been in so much pain in either of her lives.

“Nggh… I’m alive?” she groaned, “I don’t think you’re supposed to wake up from death…”

Dear lord, how hard was it for one woman to stay dead?

Very, apparently.

She didn’t know if she should consider herself lucky or unlucky.

“Ah, your eyes finally open,” a voice said, Morrigan, she thinks, “Mother shall be pleased.”

“Where…? What happened to the Darkspawn?” she asked groggily, “how am I still even alive…?”

“You are back in the Wilds, of course. You were injured, and then Mother rescued you,” Morrigan answered, “I am Morrigan, lest you have forgotten, and I have just bandaged your wounds. How does your memory fare? Do you remember Mother’s rescue?”

“I remember being overwhelmed by Darkspawn…” she said holding a hand to her head trying to remember what happened. It was all foggy and vague, all she remembered was yelling at a mage to throw a fireball at the beacon.

Ah, right. The Darkspawn had come up behind them and ambushed them. They’d succeeded in taking the Tower then.

“Mother managed to save you and your friend, though ‘twas a close call,” Morrigan replied, “what is important is that you both live… The man who was to respond to your signal quit the field. The Darkspawn won your battle. Those he abandoned were massacred. Your friend… he is not taking it well.”

Why wasn’t she surprised?

Oh, right, because surprise stems from not expecting something to happen. Loghain hadn’t defended the Tower at all, she had a feeling that he had never intended to respond to the signal. If they hadn’t lit the beacon, he could have said that the signal never came, and that was why he thought Ostagar was a lost cause. However, since they’d managed to light the beacon, he couldn’t pull that excuse, people had seen it. Hopefully, that’ll alert people to the fact that something was amiss.

“You mean Alistair?” she asked, “what about the Grey Wardens? And the King?”

She knew they were probably dead, but it would be better to hear it and know for sure.

“All dead. Your friend has veered between denial and grief since Mother told him. He is outside by the fire. Mother asked to see you when you awoke.”

Well, at least she’d succeeded in saving someone that was a pretty good feat for her, especially considering her track record. It was practically a miracle. She’d failed to save and protect so many others, it was nice to hear that she’d managed to do it at least once.

But the rest of the Grey Wardens dying? Everything she touched truly was destined to fail.

“Were my injuries severe?”

“Yes, but I expect you shall be fine, the Darkspawn did nothing Mother could not heal.”

“How long was I out for?”

“You have been drifting in and out of consciousness for around three weeks.”

“I see, do you mind if I ask you some things?”

“I do not mind, take your time.”

“Are we safe here? Where are the Darkspawn?”

“We are safe, for the moment. Mother’s magic keeps the Darkspawn away. Once you leave, ‘tis uncertain what will happen, the horde has moved on, so you might avoid it.”

“Why did your Mother save us?”

“I wonder at that myself, but she tells me nothing,” Morrigan replied, “perhaps you were the only ones she could reach… I would have rescued your King. A king would be worth a much higher ransom than you.”

“Much higher,” she agreed.

“What a sensible attitude. Mother is seldom sensible, however.”

“Though the Tower was a fair bit away from the main battlefield which was where the King was… How did she manage to rescue us?”

“She turned into a giant bird and plucked the two of you from atop the Tower, one in each talon... If you do not believe this tale, then I suggest you ask Mother yourself. She may even tell you.”

She could believe it, mostly because the world was fucking weird as fuck right now. She had absolutely no clue what anything was anymore, she’d been put in a position of power, gotten special treatment, had led Human men around without intending to doom them… She’d killed a man, actually, multiple men. Killed Darkspawn… Honestly, at this rate, she wouldn’t be surprised if her kill count was higher than Alistair’s. He definitely didn’t know under what circumstances she’d been recruited into the Wardens, and she was most certainly not going to tell him. Especially considering that though she suffered the punishment for her actions, she wasn’t the one who was hurt the most. She had no desire to divulge the pain and suffering of others to those who were not involved.

“Were there any other survivors?”

“Only stragglers that are long gone,” Morrigan replied, “you would not want to see what is happening in that valley now.”

“What’s happening?” she asked anyway.

“Are you sure you want me to describe it?”

“Yes, please,” she replied, “it’s better for me to know than for me to not know.”

“I had a good view of the battlefield. ‘Tis a grisly scene,” Morrigan answered, “there are bodies everywhere, and Darkspawn swarm them… feeding, I think… They also look for survivors and drag them back down beneath the ground. I cannot say why.”

That didn’t surprise her either. They’d interrupted the behemoth’s snack time, granted, she wondered how it had gotten up there. It had huge horns, and she just couldn’t imagine it carefully navigating the stairs of the Tower… Though it did have enough time to, especially given how long they had occupied the Tower.

“Why does your Mother want to see me?”

“I do not know, she rarely tells me her plans.”

“Thank you, for helping me Morrigan,” she said getting out of bed and then looked down at her body in shock. She ran through a few light stretches to loosen up her joints and muscles.

How did they keep her muscles from atrophy? Maybe it was a quirk of this world, magic existed and other shit was weird so best to just not question it. They probably used magic to keep her body from further deteriorating.

“I… you are welcome,” Morrigan replied, “though Mother did most of the work. I am no healer.”

“You still helped,” she offered a small smile, “and that’s not nothing… I’ll go talk to your Mother now, I suppose.”

“I will stay, and make something to eat,” Morrigan said, and she suddenly felt hungry. Which didn’t come at a surprise, especially since she was out of commission for three weeks.

Not wanting to impose any longer, she gathered her pack and inspected the remains of her armor. Yep, that wasn’t going on her body ever again. Not only did it look disgusting, but there were several holes in it where she’d obviously been struck.

How on earth had they managed to save her? Magic, she guessed.

She pulled on a set of her preferred battle gear, and did a few stretches.

Yep, much better. So with that, she thanked Morrigan again and said bid her farewell.

“See? Here is your fellow Grey Warden,” Morrigan’s Mother said, and Alistair turned to stare at her in shock, “you worry too much, young man.”

“You… you’re alive!” Alistair said in relief, “I thought you were dead for sure.”

“That makes two of us,” she replied, “but I’m not, thanks to Morrigan and her Mother.”

“This doesn’t seem real,” Alistair said clearly still in shock from the events that transpired almost a month ago… As she’d expected, he’d hadn’t had a chance to properly come to terms with it yet, “if it weren’t for Morrigan’s Mother, we’d be dead on top of that Tower.”

“Do not talk about me as if I am not present, lad,” Morrigan’s Mother interjected.

“I— I didn’t mean… but what do we call you?” Alistair replied, “you never told us your name.”

“Names are pretty, but useless,” Flemeth replied, “the Chasind folk call me Flemeth. I suppose it will do.”

The Flemeth? From the legends?” Alistair stared at her in shock, “Daveth was right— you’re the Witch of the Wilds, aren’t you?”

“And what does that mean?” Flemeth replied, “I know a bit of magic, and it has served you both well, has it not?”

“It has,” she replied, “thank you… Though that begs the question: why did you save us? It couldn’t have been easy.”

“Well, we cannot have all the Grey Wardens dying at once, can we?” Flemeth replied, “someone has to deal with these Darkspawn.”

“Then why didn’t you save Duncan?” Alistair asked, “he is… he was our leader.”

She honestly didn’t care, either way, she was rid of him. Granted, she’ll never tell Alistair that, he practically worshiped the man, saw him as a father-figure. She one the other hand? Not so much.

She’ll keep it a secret though, Alistair didn’t need to know she hated the man, especially since he was obviously broken up about it all.

“I am sorry for your Duncan, but your grief must come later… in the dark shadows before you take vengeance, as my Mother once said. Duty must come now,” Flemeth replied, “it has always been the Grey Wardens’ duty to unite the lands against the Blight. Or did that change when I wasn’t looking?”

“Well, the land is hardly united, thanks to Loghain,” she sighed.

“That doesn’t make any sense!” Alistair replied, “why would he do that?”

“Now that is a good question,” Flemeth replied, “men’s hearts hold shadows darker than any tainted creature… Perhaps he believes the Blight is an army he can outmaneuver, perhaps he does not see that the evil behind it is the true threat.”

She’d wager it was out of paranoia and hatred, he’d fought against the Orlesian Occupation. When Cailan went to Orlais for aid, he probably envisioned a future where Ferelden was re-occupied… She’ll keep this to herself for now, along with her suspicions about both the Tower and the beacon. She wasn’t sure, and she hated implicating people without being certain.

“The Archdemon,” Alistair said.

“Then we have to find the Archdemon and kill it,” she shrugged.

“By ourselves? No Grey Warden has ever defeated a Blight without an army of a half-dozen nations at his back,” Alistair replied, “not to mention, I don’t know how.”

Sounds like she’ll have to do a bit of research into this, she should make a mental note to buy books about Grey Wardens and the previous Blights… Ahh, what a pain.

“How to kill the Archdemon, or how to raise an army?” Flemeth replied, “it seems to me, those are two different questions, hmm? Have the Wardens no allies these days?”

“I… I don’t know,” Alistair sighed, “Duncan said that the Grey Wardens of Orlais had been called… But I suspect Loghain has taken steps against them.”

“Will you help us fight this Blight, Flemeth?” she might as well ask.

“Me? I am just an old woman who lives in the Wilds,” Flemeth replied, “I know nothing of Blights and Darkspawn.”

She was lying, she already knew a lot about the Blight. Enough to know that there was something else to it… Or was she talking about Loghain when she’d said that?

Well, it’s not her place to pry into the lives of others. Especially since she didn’t want others to pry into her own life.

“Well… whatever Loghain’s insanity, he obviously thinks the Darkspawn are a minor threat,” Alistair said, “we must warn everyone that this isn’t the case.”

“And who will believe you?” Flemeth asked, “unless you think to convince this Loghain of his mistake?”

“He just betrayed his own King!” Alistair replied, “if Arl Eamon knew what he did at Ostagar, he would be the first to call for his execution!”

“Perhaps we could go to him, then,” she said.

“I suppose… Arl Eamon wasn’t at Ostagar, he still has all his men. And he was Cailan’s Uncle,” Alistair replied, “I know him. He’s a good man, respected in the Landsmeet… Of course! We could go to Redcliffe and appeal to him for help!”

“Sounds like a good idea,” she nodded.

“Such determination,” Flemeth laughed, “how intriguing.”

“I still don’t know if Arl Eamon’s help would be enough,” Alistair replied, “he can’t defeat the Darkspawn horde by himself!”

“Then I’m glad Duncan handed me these before the battle,” she said pulling out the treaties, “also that they’re not covered in… gore.”

“See? There’s a smart lass,” Flemeth said.

“Of course! The treaties! Grey Wardens can demand aid from Dwarves, Elves, mages, and other places!” Alistair said, “they’re obligated to help us during a Blight!”

“I may be old, but Dwarves, Elves, mages, this Arl Eamon, and who knows what else…” Flemeth said, “this sounds like an army to me.”

“So can we do this?” Alistair asked, “go to Redcliffe and these other places and… build an army?”

Why is he asking her? She still wasn’t comfortable with this whole position of power thing… Then again, it seemed as though he was still processing his grief, and she’d already been dealing with hers for a while… He’ll have to get back on his feet eventually, but all things in good time.

“I doubt it’ll be that easy,” she replied, “but I suppose we won’t know until we try.”

Oh no, was she going to have to lead an army? She was definitely playing with fire now, or lightning… she supposed she should keep an eye on the weather. It didn’t seem like she’d be able to die quite yet, the world that had fucked her over, that part of her didn’t care about, still needed her, there were still things she could do. Granted, she was afraid, everything else she’d touched failed miserably.

“When is it ever easy?” Flemeth laughed.

“Things always seem to go to shit easily,” she replied causing Flemeth to laugh even more.

“It’s always been the Grey Wardens’ duty to stand against a Blight,” Alistair said, “and right now, we’re the Grey Wardens.”

“So you are set, then?” Flemeth asked, “ready to be Grey Wardens?”

“Guess so,” she nodded, “thank you for everything, Flemeth.”

“No, no, thank you, you are the Grey Wardens here, not I,” Flemeth replied as Morrigan left their hut, “now… before you go, there is yet one more thing I can offer you.”

“The stew is bubbling, Mother dear,” Morrigan announced, “shall we have two guests for the eve, or none?”

“The Grey Wardens are leaving shortly, girl,” Flemeth replied, “and you will be joining them.”

“Such a sha—” Morrigan cut herself off and stared at her Mother in shock, “what?!”

“You heard me, girl,” Flemeth laughed, “the last time I looked, you had ears!”

“Thank you,” she replied, “but if Morrigan doesn’t wish to join us…”

“Her magic will be useful,” Flemeth replied, “even better, she knows the Wilds and how to get past the horde.”

“Have I no say in this?!” Morrigan frowned indignantly.

“You have been itching to get out of the Wilds for years. Here is your chance,” Flemeth laughed, “as for you, Wardens, consider this repayment for your lives.”

“Very well,” she nodded, “we’ll take her with us.”

She really had no fucking clue what was going on anymore. How was this repayment for their lives? She didn’t understand. But maybe she didn’t need to understand. Nothing made sense anymore, she should really stop trying to make sense of it all. It was hard, she liked being able to understand things.

“Not to… look a gift horse in the mouth,” Alistair said carefully, “but won’t this add to our problems? Out of the Wilds, she’s an apostate.”

“If you do not wish help from us illegal mages, young man,” Flemeth pointed out, “perhaps I should have left you on that Tower.”

“I would have also definitely died,” she added, “there’s no way I should have been able to survive that.”

“Point,” Alistair said, “taken.”

“Mother… this is not how I wanted this,” Morrigan said, and honestly, she could relate. Kind of. She had never wanted to leave the Alienage, “I am not even ready—”

“You must be ready, alone, these two must unite Ferelden against the Darkspawn,” Flemeth replied, “they need you, Morrigan. Without you, they will surely fail, and all will perish under the Blight. Even I.”

Thanks for the vote of confidence. She was pretty confident in the fact that she’d probably screw something up and fuck everything up. Everything she touched failed, who’s to say that this wouldn’t either? All she knew how to do was ruin things so wholly and completely it wasn’t even funny.

“I… understand,” Morrigan sighed.

“And you, Wardens? Do you understand?” Flemeth asked, “I give you that which I value above all in this world. I do this because you must succeed.”

“I understand,” she nodded.

“Allow me to get my things,” Morrigan sighed again before returning to the hut, “if you please.”

She flipped through the treaties for a bit, Morrigan probably knew more about them than she did. And while that was all fine and dandy, both she and Alistair were the Wardens to which the treaties referred to. Ultimately, they were the ones who’d have to navigate the social interactions and talk to the politicians or whatever to get their help with the Blight. They couldn’t leave it to Morrigan, they needed to be able to stand on their own. Alistair was still in shock, and she’d been dealing with her shit for a while, making her a better candidate to get through this while Alistair processed this information. She should make a mental note to check up on him later, and see how he’s holding up.

Though she had a lot of things to ponder, she needed to focus on herself for the moment. She didn’t die the past three times she’d expected to, so she needs to figure out how she’s going to go about all of this. Especially since she was in a weird-ass position of power, and she needed to get used to this fact. She was raised to be a servant, a wife, a mother in the future, and to not stand out as much as possible. But here she was. If she didn’t get used to this she’d get exhausted as she jumped and panicked over every bit of… important she did. Leading, making important decisions… She was definitely going to receive a lightning strike to the face soon.

She should probably keep her inexperience and such hidden from Alistair, he doesn’t need that added stress. He just lost his father-figure, he doesn’t need to feel bad about pushing responsibility onto her. She was good at hiding things, she’d been doing it her entire life, after all. Hiding that she had experiences from her previous life, that she’d come from another world…

Yep, she was good at hiding things like this.

“I am at your disposal, Grey Wardens. I suggest a village north of the Wilds as our first destination, ’tis not far and you will find much you need there,” Morrigan said after exiting the hut, “or, if you prefer, I shall simply be your silent guide. The choice is yours.”

“No, personally, I’d prefer you speak your mind,” she replied.

“You will regret saying that,” Flemeth laughed.

“Dear, sweet mother,” Morrigan said, “you are so kind to cast me out like this. How fondly I shall remember this moment.”

“Well, I always said if you want something done, do it yourself,” Flemeth replied dryly, “or hear about it for a decade or two afterward.”

“I just…” Alistair said trying to wrap his head around everything, “do you really want to take her along because her Mother says so?”

“One: We’re two people,” she said holding up her fingers as she counted off on them, “two: we’re two people. Three: we need all the help we can get, we’re two people. Four: I don’t know how to navigate the Wilds, or do you?”

“Three of those points were the same,” Alistair pointed out.

“How very astute of you to notice,” she replied, “however, I repeated them three times because we’re two people against a veteran war general like Loghain, and whatever else is going down in Ferelden.

“I guess you’re right…” Alistair sighed, “the Grey Wardens have always taken allies where they could find them.”

“I am so pleased to have your approval,” Morrigan said, voice practically dripping with sarcasm.

“I have a few questions, actually,” she said as she thought about things, she’d ask if Morrigan thought her Mother would be fine without her, but she obviously would. Especially given Flemeth’s history, “have you ever been outside of the Wilds?”

“From time to time. I have been to the village I mentioned, ” Morrigan answered, “watched its people, and pondered what curious beings they are.”

“Oh! People watching!” she clapped her hands together, “I used to have fun doing that every so often… I used to wonder what kind of lives they were living and stuff…”

“…And nobody noticed you watching?” Alistair asked.

“I sat on rooftops so that I wouldn’t get in the way of anyone's business,” she shrugged, “it started off with me just wanting to find a decently quiet place to relax for a bit and then naturally evolved into people watching.”

“On occasion, I purchased goods from the village merchants, there I spoke with men, a little. There they stared and knew me as an outsider,” Morrigan continued, “Mother wishes for me to expand the horizon of my experience beyond the Wilds... Even she was not born here.”

“Is that what you want?” she asked because leaving home wasn’t what she wanted.

“What I want is to see mountains. I wish to witness the ocean and step into its waters, I want to experience a city rather than see it in my mind,” Morrigan said, and she wished she could swim in the sea too, “so, yes, this is what I want... Actually leaving is… harder than I thought, however. Perhaps Mother is right— it must simply be done quickly.”

“What can you tell us about this village to the north?” she asked.

“’Tis a small place of little consequence called Lothering, no more than a stop along your Imperial Highway where travelers purchase goods from local farms and smiths,” Morrigan replied, “I would go more often were it not for the town’s Chantry. It makes the village particularly intolerant and unpleasant for a stranger such as me.”

She was a little surprised she hadn’t heard of it since she traveled to Ostagar from Denerim… Maybe she had and just forgot, far more likely. She figured she’d die so there was no need to really memorize the terrain.

“A Chantry?” Alistair said, “and they never, in all this time, thought that maybe you were a witch?”

“Of course they have,” Morrigan replied, “they even called out their Templars once. They found nothing.”

“Is there a reason to stop by Lothering?” she asked.

“I mention it for its tavern, where travelers gather with news from other places,” Morrigan explained, “’tis small enough that our appearance might go unnoticed… Beyond that, ‘tis close and I know the way.”

“I see,” she said, “how are we going to get past the Darkspawn.”

She’d never had to worry about sleuthing before in her entire life. Either of her lives. She’d never intended on leaving the Alienage, so these kinds of things weren’t exactly things she’d ever considered… She was going to have to get used to this kind of thing, and fast. She was good at adapting to new situations, but this was so far removed from what she was used to it was jarringly weird.

“The real question is how we are going to get your friend pas the Darkspawn,” Morrigan replied, “is it not?”

“That’s true,” Alistair replied, “we can sense the Darkspawn. Conversely, they can sense us.”

“Well, that’s one mystery solved then,” she sighed.

“What mystery?” Alistair quirked a brow.

“Why they attacked the Tower,” she explained, “true, it was also so that they could take over the encampment, but you said it yourself right? They couldn’t have known the plan. The reason they were there was because they didn’t need to know the plan. They could sense that the highest concentration of Grey Wardens would be at the battlefield, this gave them time to prepare to attack the Tower since they wouldn’t have to deal with opposition from the Wardens there.”

“Of course! That’s the only way they could have known!” Alistair said as realization dawned on him, “in any case… we should be able to sneak past smaller groups, but larger ones or particularly intelligent Darkspawn will always detect us.”

“Mother has given me something else for them to ‘smell’ instead as we pass by,” Morrigan replied, “’tis important we head out of the Wilds, however, not farther in.”

“What skills do you have?” she asked, it would help to know what she could do in advance so that she can plan around it.

“I know a few spells, though I am nowhere near as powerful as Mother,” Morrigan replied, “I have also studied history. And your Grey Warden treaties.”

Yep, Morrigan definitely knew more about them than she did, she didn’t get to read them before, because she’d just handed them over to Duncan, and only got them back once the battle started.

“Can you cook?” Alistair asked.

“I… can cook,” Morrigan frowned, “yes.”

“Don’t mind him, you don’t have to cook,” she sighed.

“You missed your chance,” Alistair replied, “now it’s charred rabbit from here on out.”

“Are you just going to assume I can’t cook?” she frowned, “if anything, we’ll take turns… In any case, I suppose we should be off.”

“Farewell, Mother,” Morrigan sighed, “do not forget the stew on the fire. I would hate to return to a burned-down hut.”

“Bah!” Flemeth scoffed, “’tis far more likely you will return to see this entire area, along with my hut, swallowed up by the Blight.”

“I… all I meant was…” Morrigan replied.

“Yes, I know,” Flemeth replied, “do try to have fun, dear.”

***

He thanked the Maker that Kallian was still alive.

He didn’t think he could do this on his own, and with her leading, he could take time to properly process the fact that everyone he knew was dead. Including Duncan… He couldn’t help but feel like he’d failed him, that he should have been on the battlefield with Duncan, not in the Tower. Then again, if he’d been on the battlefield, and Kallian had headed to the Tower anyway, there was no chance that either of them would have survived. If that’d happened there would absolutely be no Wardens left in Ferelden. He had to admit that if she’d gone alone, she definitely wouldn’t have survived.

“Kallian,” he said a day into their travels, it had been bugging him.

“Hm?”

“Why did you throw me behind you at the top of the Tower?”

“I know absolutely nothing about the Wardens, it would have made more sense for you to survive than if I had,” Kallian answered, “I considered my options and made my decision.”

“I see…”

“It worked out in the end anyway,” Kallian said, “I don’t regret it, there’s no way I could’ve done this on my own. I’m glad we got sent to the Tower together. Otherwise, we’d both definitely be dead, Loghain would go unchallenged, and Ferelden would’ve fallen to the Blight.”

“…You have a good point,” he sighed.

“I think that Kallian could do this without you,” Morrigan chimed in.

“No way,” Kallian laughed, “there’s no way.”

So, it was a good thing he’d survived, Kallian wouldn’t have been able to do this on her own. He may have failed Duncan on the battlefield, but Kallian was right. If they hadn’t survived, Loghain would go unpunished, and Ferelden would have fallen to the Blight. This way, he could avenge Duncan, his half-brother, and the rest of the Wardens.

Loghain will pay for this.

***

She was glad that Kallian had survived, if she had to travel with Alistair alone… ‘Twas best not to think about it. The fool had been moping about ever since her Mother had rescued them both from the Tower. Even in the Wilds, Kallian had been a far better leader than Alistair, she was far more level headed, and was taking the loss of her fellow Wardens far better than Alistair was.

“Kallian, I’m curious of something,” she said as Kallian was trying to start a fire by striking flint together.

“Oh?” Kallian replied stopping her movements to look at her.

“You seem to be handling the loss of your fellow Wardens far easier than Alistair,” she said.

“True, but that’s to be expected,” Kallian replied, “I didn’t truly get to know any of them. Whereas Alistair had been with them for six months… He’s working his way through the stages of grief.”

“Stages of grief?” she asked, this was not something she’d ever heard of.

“Denial, when you can’t believe it happened and are still processing it as a thing that really and truly happened. Anger: where you’re angry at the world for it happening, that the world allowed them to die, or lash out at other people. Bargaining: you think about the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘if only's’ such as if only I could go back in time to tell them to not do the thing that would lead to them getting killed,” Kallian explained counting off her fingers, “Depression: feeling empty and wondering if there’s any point in continuing to go on, often times you’d rather isolate yourself while you work through it. And finally, Acceptance: where you acknowledge that they are in fact gone, and will never come back, and are thus able to finally move on with your life… It’s an important healing process.”

“I see,” she said, ‘twas most interesting to learn how much Kallian seemed to know.

“He’s still in denial,” Kallian said, “can take a bit to get through, but he’ll get there eventually.”

“Move back,” she said and Kallian obeyed despite being confused.

“…That’s so handy,” Kallian said as she lit the fire with a flick of her wrist, “thanks, Morrigan. Now I can get to cooking.”

“You are most welcome.”

***

Currently, she was glad that she was both a rogue, and raised to be a servant. She could easily sneak up on animals as she took her turn foraging for food. She was absolute garbage with a bow, but her aim with throwing knives wasn’t too bad, and she was pretty decent at straight-up ambushing them.

She heard barking and saw her pupper run towards them, she crouched down to pet her, but she turned and growled.

There were Darkspawn chasing after her.

She pulled her daggers from their sheaths and moved to attack. Her movements were already much better compared to the last time she’d fought against Darkspawn. She moved through her stances, attacks, dodges, and counterattacks with ease.

When the battle was over, her pupper smashed her face into her legs knocking her over.

“I think she was out there looking for you,” Alistair said watching her get toppled over, “she’s… chosen you. Mabari are like that. They call it imprinting.”

“Yes, okay, yeah, I missed you too,” she coughed, “but I can’t breathe with you standing on me like that.”

“Does this mean we’re going to have this mangy beast following us about now?” Morrigan sighed, “wonderful.”

“She’s not mangy,” Alistair cooed at her dog as she stepped off of her.

“My name is Kallian, your name is Diana,” she said scratching her behind her ears. She should let her know that her name was different in this world, “but I’m going to call you Ana.”

Diana barked happily, she’d always called her by various different nicknames in their past lives. Thankfully, she had always been smart enough to easily adjust to her annoying tendencies.

The world may be going to shit, but at least she got reunited with her doggo.

Chapter Text

They’d finally made it to the Imperial Highway, Diana being a massive help with hunting. She should probably find a way to get a message to Shianni saying she’s alive, and to stop blaming herself, especially since she knew that Shianni would have turned the guilt on herself. As strong a woman as Shianni was, she’d been through enough in the past two months, and she knew how her cousin thought. They’d grown up together, there’s no way she wouldn’t be blaming herself. She’ll probably have to be extremely sneaky about it. Luckily, she knew the back alleys of Denerim far better than anyone else, she could slip into the Alienage, leave a note, and slip out without anyone being the wiser.

Shianni needed to know she was still alive, and she’d be damned if anything stopped her from letting her know that she didn’t get her killed.

Alistair still didn’t feel like talking much, he was still working through his grief. She should probably tell him her coping mechanism. With everything that’s been happening, and with how she’d stop writing to her Mother out of shame, she’d completely forgotten about it, but Alistair could probably use it. She should probably pen an apology to her Mother saying something along the lines of ‘sorry I did the one thing you told me to never do.’.

Her Mother was probably rolling in her grave screaming.

At Duncan.

“Hm?” she tilted her head as she noticed something blocking the road in the distance.

“Is there something wrong?” Morrigan asked looking up at her as she paused walking on the rail.

“I think there’s something blocking the way,” she said, might be a fight. She fetched her gloves from her back pocket and pulled them on, “not sure what though.”

“I guess we won’t know until we get a closer look,” Alistair replied.

They continued walking as she wondered just what had happened in the month they’d spent away from civilization. It’s times like these when she missed the technology of her past life, and the ability to Google current events.

She just hoped she could get a better pair of shoes soon, she was glad her Mother’s boots had survived Ostagar, but they were really not working for her.

“Wake up, gentlemen! More travelers to attend to,” one of the Bandits said as they neared and she jumped off of the rail, “led by an Elven servant, of all things.”

She didn’t blame him for that slight chuckle, she certainly never saw herself leading two Humans around, and she knew how she was dressed. Still, they were about to learn an important life lesson, one she’s taught many times: you should choose your targets wisely, for you never know when you’ll attack the true beast.

“Errr… They don’t look much like them others, you know,” one of his friends said as she quieted Diana who’d begun growling by putting a hand on her head and scratching her behind the ears, “uh… maybe we should just let these ones pass…”

“Nonsense!” the Bandit replied, “greeting’s travelers!”

“Highwaymen,” Alistair frowned, “preying on those fleeing the Darkspawn, I suppose.”

“They are fools to get in our way,” Morrigan said, “I say we teach them a lesson.”

“A lesson they’ll never forget,” she agreed as she saw the body of a dead knight in the corner of her eye. She counted five of them, and on the Highway? Child’s play. The back alleys of Denerim were her domain.

“Now is that any way to greet someone?” the Bandit said, “tsk, tsk, tsk. A simple ten silvers and you’re free to move on.”

“You’re toll collectors, then?” she asked with a smile, deciding to play along for a bit.

“Indeed! For the upkeep of the Imperial Highway!” the Bandit said cheerily, “it’s a bit of a mess, isn’t it?”

“You’re fixing the highway?” she said looking around, “I think not.”

“Not much gets past you, I see,” the Bandit replied.

“It’s not really a toll,” his friend said, “we’re just robbing you, see?”

“Do shut up!” the Bandit said, “even a Genlock would have understood that.”

“Well, I’m paying for nothing,” she replied with a smile.

“Well, I can’t say I’m pleased to hear that,” the Bandit replied, “we have rules, you know.”

“Right, we get to ransack your corpse, then,” the Bandit’s friend said, “those are the rules.”

“Well, you can certainly try,” she replied drawing her weapons, and uttering the phrase Diana was waiting for, “sic 'em.”

She was getting used to fighting with others, which was a good thing, especially considering she was no longer a lone cat. She’d been observing the way both Alistair and Morrigan fought, learning so that she could mesh with them better. Also, so that she didn’t have to constantly check where Morrigan was aiming so that she could be in not that area. She was also really getting a feel for their personalities and such, which was very handy.

She was also glad that Diana still knew verbal commands.

“Alright! We surrender!” the Bandit said just as she was about to lop his head off, her dagger stopping just at his neck, “we— we’re just trying to get by, before the Darkspawn get us all!”

“You should always choose your targets wisely,” she replied seeing Alistair move over to the knight’s body, “hand over everything you stole.”

“Yes! Yes of course! The coins we collected are right here,” the Bandit said quickly handing her the purse, “just over a hundred silvers. The rest is in the chests we brought! I swear!”

Ohhh! A sovereign’s worth?! She suddenly felt rich. Sure, she’d had over a sovereign before, but she’d usually have to rigorously save for it, and then usually she’d have to spend it on important things like textiles, food, and such. She could never really frivolously spend her money, extravagance was the enemy. She couldn’t even buy all of the books she’d wanted to, they were so expensive, and there were times where she’d have to prepare for a season where things were even more expensive. Information was a luxury she could barely afford.

“This is one of Arl Eamon’s!” Alistair announced.

That was all she needed to hear for his head to depart from his body, and for them to make short work out of the rest of them. With a frown, she wiped her weapons off on one of their clothes so that she could re-sheathe them.

“Did you go through his pockets?” she asked.

“Yes, he had a locket and a note,” Alistair sighed handing her the note, “he’s supposed to be meeting someone in Lothering, Ser Donall… I know him.”

“Interesting,” she said handing it back, “if you know him, you should be the one to tell him the news.”

She took her gloves off, shook them a bit, and shoved them back into her back pocket. Life would probably be easier if she just got used to wearing them, but she just couldn’t. It was too weird, and she’d been dealing with enough new experiences for the time being.

“Well, there it is: Lothering,” Alistair said as they began descending the ramp, outside of necessary interactions, he’d mostly kept to himself, “pretty as a painting.”

“Ah, so you have finally decided to rejoin us, have you?” Morrigan replied, “falling on your blade in grief seemed like too much trouble, I take it?”

“Is my being upset so hard to understand?” Alistair glowered, “have you never lost someone important to you? Just what would you do if your Mother died?”

“Before, or after I stopped laughing?” Morrigan replied.

“Right. Very creepy,” Alistair sighed, “forget I asked.”

“Well, Flemeth is very old and very powerful,” she pointed out, “she’d have to do something incredibly stupid to die.”

“Exactly,” Morrigan said.

“Regardless, Morrigan, we’ve talked about this,” she chastised, “leave him be.”

“But how can I?” Morrigan replied, causing her to sigh, “he is right there, speaking, eyes wide like those of a brainless calf.”

“Oh, I get it,” Alistair stated, causing her to hand to lovingly find its way to her face, “this is where we’re shocked to discover how you’ve never had a friend your entire life.”

“I can be friendly when I desire to,” Morrigan replied and it was true, she could, and she has been. To her, at least, “alas, desiring to be more intelligent does not make it so.”

“Anyway,” Alistair said choosing to ignore that last statement, “I thought we should talk about where we intend to go, first.”

“Do you have any thoughts on this?” she asked.

“Oh, this should be good,” Morrigan said causing her to sigh. Honestly, these two bickered like siblings.

“I think what Flemeth suggested is the best idea,” Alistair said once again choosing to ignore Morrigan, before pulling the treaties she’d handed over to him after he requested to look at them out of his pack, “these treaties… Have you looked at them?”

“No, Alistair, I’d been carrying them around and have never thought to so much as read a single letter written on them,” she said sarcastically, “of course I’ve read them. I read them before you asked for them.”

“Right, well, sorry,” Alistair said holding his hands up in apology, “there are three main groups that we have treaties for, right? Though, I also still think that Arl Eamon is our best bet for help. We might even want to go to him first.”

“There a reason you’re leaving this up to me?” she asked, still marginally uncomfortable with this whole decision-making leading thing she had going for her.

“Well, I don’t know where we should go,” Alistair replied, “I’ll do whatever you decide.”

“Now that is unsurprising,” Morrigan said.

“Arl Eamon is a good man, but I don’t know for sure he’s where we should go,” Alistair said, “I’m not going to fight about it.”

“What are your thoughts, Morrigan?” she asked

She’ll really need to get used to this whole leading business. She knew how to, sure, but leading Humans around? It just felt wrong. This was going against all of her instincts. Both of her parents had made it clear, that she was not to stand out when she was among Humans, and here she was, leading them around, making decisions, being in a position of power…

“Go after your enemy directly. Find this man, Loghain, and kill him,” Morrigan said, “the rest of this business with the treaties can then be done in safety.”

“Yes, he certainly wouldn’t see that coming!” Alistair said mockingly and her hand was on her face again, “and it’s not like he has the advantage of an army, and experience and —”

“I was asked for my opinion and I gave it,” Morrigan said cutting him off, “if your wish is to come up with reasons why something cannot be done, we will stand here until the Darkspawn are upon us.”

“Were it only that easy,” she sighed, “but I’m no assassin, and neither are you. And can you even imagine Alistair assassinating someone?”

“You certainly move like an assassin,” Alistair said frowning at Morrigan who’d started laughing.

“In any case, we should find these people,” she said bringing the topic back up.

“I can give you directions, if you’d like,” Alistair said.

“As nice as verbal directions are, I’d prefer a map,” she replied, “where do you think Loghain is?”

“Well, if he isn’t out in the field with his army, he’s probably going to be at the palace in Denerim,” Alistair replied, “we can go to Denerim, but somehow I suspect that they’re not going to let us just walk around. Only a suspicion, of course.”

“Was just curious,” she said, “if we do go to Denerim, we’ll have to wear disguises then.”

She’d have to wear a disguise going into Denerim regardless, especially considering the fact that she’d gotten kicked out of the city by the city guard. Luckily, she always went out of the Alienage disguised as a man, so that wouldn’t be a problem for her. She’ll have to disguise Alistair though. And she would have to be extra sneaky as she made her way into the Alienage to leave Shianni a letter to the effect of ‘Hey Bitch-tits, I’m alive, so stop blaming yourself.’.

“Then you have a plan?” Alistair asked.

“Something like that, yeah,” she nodded, “but I’d like to get a map so that I will be sure about charting our course.”

“Fair enough,” Alistair nodded, “let’s head into the village whenever you’re ready.”

“Right,” she said before directing a command to Diana, “with me.”

“We are already with you,” Morrigan said, “are we not?”

“Wasn’t for you two,” she replied, “it’s for Annie, so that she knows not to wander off.”

“You both seem oddly comfortable with each other,” Alistair pointed out, “considering you haven’t been together for that long… Have you had a dog before?”

“Nope,” she shook her head. She’d had dogs in her past life, sure, but never in this life. Therefore, just in case someone said that she’d never had a dog before, she should go with the answer that would apply to this life.

“You seem to know a lot about caring for them,” Morrigan pointed out, “’tis hard to believe you’ve never had a dog before.”

“I’ve always wanted one,” she said before employing her favorite tactic, “so I read about them in a book.”

Such a convenient excuse, and if they ever asked what book she’d read it in, she’d just say she forgot.

***

Valendrian held a funeral for Kallian yesterday, and she couldn’t stop crying.

She just couldn’t.

She’d been crying ever since they’d gotten word that she’d died with the rest of the Wardens at Ostagar.

Kallian had always been there for her, always, and she’d gotten her killed.

Her cousin that had always been so warm, and full of life…

And now she was gone, and would never be coming home again.

***

Such a curious creature, Kallian was. Her movements were fluid and graceful, and in a battle, ‘twas clear that she sacrificed neither power nor speed. Indeed, the way she moved was evasive to the point where ‘twould be a surprise if she’d ended up wounded. Even in the Wilds, she had been a treat to watch fight. ‘Twas as if water had been given solid form in the shape of an Elf.

Though, there were aspects of her that reminded her of a cat, if she were a mage, she would probably be able to teach her how to shape-shift into one. She was also grateful that the woman did not mope around as Alistair did, if they’d both moped around she may have gone insane.

She was also grateful that the woman was a competent leader.

If she’d had to deal with two Alistair's, she would have left them to die in the Wilds.

“You there!” a Templar shouted to them as they approached, “if you’re looking for safe shelter, I’ll warn you: There’s none to be found.”

“Oh?” Kallian said.

“Move on if you can,” the Templar replied, “Lothering’s lost.”

“We were just looking for some news,” Kallian explained.

“You might find that, though it’s probably just frightened gossip,” the Templar said, “we’ve had refugees streaming from the south for the last two days. The Chantry and tavern are full to bursting… There simply isn’t enough food to go around, and we Templars can barely keep order. You’d be better off elsewhere, my friend.”

“Can I ask a few questions?” Kallian asked.

“I’m just out here to keep an eye out for Darkspawn,” the Templar replied, “please ask someone else in town. No offense, of course.”

“None taken,” Kallian replied, “is anyone in charge here?”

“The Bann has marched north with Teyrn Loghain, so Lothering’s on its own, most folks look to Elder Miriam,” the Templar answered, “otherwise, you could speak to Ser Bryant in the Chantry, I suppose. It’s up to you.”

“Thank you,” Kallian said politely, before parting ways with him.

Desperation was heavy in the air, she could see it on everyone’s faces.

“Ah, look how they moan and wail and gnash their teeth,” she said sarcastically, “’tis sad to watch how they helplessly scurry about.”

“Well, it’s just a guess,” Alistair said, “but I’m thinking everyone in Lothering is aware of the approaching Darkspawn horde.”

“Poor sods,” Kallian sighed, “they don’t have anywhere left to go, especially since the Bann has more or less abandoned them to their fate…”

***

She noticed a family of Elves looking destitute, naturally gravitated towards them. She knew how Humans treated her kind.

“Greetings to you, my lady,” the Father said, “if it… isn’t too much to ask, might you be able to spare some bread?”

“What happened?” she asked.

“We thought it’d be safer in Lothering, that they Teyrn would bring his soldiers here,” the Father replied, “but bandits attacked us and took everything! Our food… our clothes… my daughter’s pet lamb... Nobody cares for a few Elves like us, surely you understand.”

“I do,” she sighed before taking out half of what she’d confiscated from the bandits, and handing it to the Father, “here, take this.”

“Thank you,” the Father replied in surprise, “that’s very kind of you.”

“Bless you!” the Mother said, “I knew another Elf would help us!”

“If we don’t look out for each other, who will?” she replied wryly, “in any case, we met those bandits, they’re dead now.”

“You… killed them?” the Father said in shock. Honestly, she didn’t blame him for being surprised, Elves generally made a point of not standing out and killing Humans.

“Yes, we did,” she nodded.

“That’s wonderful news!” the Mother said, “perhaps our belongings are still there!”

“I can’t thank you enough, friend,” the Father said, “even if we don’t get everything back, it’s good to know that others will be safe.”

As downtrodden as Elves are, they still care about others. She wondered what that said about the Humans who abused them. Ah, well, Elves had a strong sense of community, since they were constantly mistreated by Humans. It was a sense of community Humans didn’t share. Elves had to look out for each other, if they didn’t, no one else would. Humans on the other hand? Even the poorest Human was treated better than the richest Elf.

“Mother! Where are you?” a Child called out, and of course, she gravitated towards him. She had an affinity to children, “I’m cold! I don’t like this.”

“What’s wrong, Child?” she asked crouching down to eye level.

“Have you seen my Mother?” the Boy asked.

“You poor thing,” she replied, “did you and your Mother get separated. What does she look like?”

“She’s really tall… and she has red hair, almost like yours, we live on a big farm hold, all of us,” the Boy explained, “some mean men with swords came, and Mother told me to run to the village as fast as I could, so I did! She said she would be right behind me, but I’ve been waiting and waiting and I can’t see her!”

“Do you know where your Father is?” she asked.

“He went with William to the neighbor’s yesterday,” the Boy replied, “but he didn’t come back.”

“Do you want to look for your Mother together with me?” she asked.

“Mother said I wasn’t to go with anyone,” the Boy replied, “I’m supposed to wait for her here in the village.”

“Smart child,” she replied with a kind smile, “go to the Chantry, someone will look after you.”

“I will, but only if I don’t find Mother, first,” the Boy replied, “…so, um… are you really an Elf?”

“Did the ears give me away?” she replied wryly.

“Father says Elves aren’t very nice,” the Boy replied, “but you’re nicer than everybody here… Thank you for helping me.”

“You take care, now,” she said before the Boy left, “and be safe.”

“I’m surprised that did not anger you,” Morrigan pointed out after the child had gone.

“Discrimination like that is taught,” she replied, “I can’t do anything about parents teaching their children to discriminate against other races.”

Even she was taught to be wary of Humans, but she’ll keep that to herself. Sure she’d had a bad run-in with a Human noble, but she’d been a Human in her past life, and she knew better than to judge someone based on their race. In her past life, she’d always judged people by the integrity of their character, not the land from which their ancestors hailed. Nor did she judge people based on their religion, and although she didn’t agree with Andrastian, she still wouldn’t judge with those who practiced their faith.

She noticed a merchant and wondered if he sold shoes that fit her.

“Back off!” the Merchant glowered at a Chantry Sister, “I have the right to charge what I wish!”

“You profit from their misfortune!” the Sister replied, “I should have the Templars give away everything in your carts!”

“You wouldn’t dare!” the Merchant glared, “any of you step too close to my goods, and I’ll—”

“It’s so nice to see everyone working together in a crisis,” Alistair said interrupting them while her instincts raged at her to disappear, “warms the heart.”

“Ho! You there! You look able!” the Merchant said noticing her and she barely kept herself from simply vanishing, “would you care to make a tiny profit helping a beleaguered businessman?”

“Is your profiteering ruffling some feathers?” she asked wishing she could simply vanish. She was making a scene, about to talk back to a Human merchant. Every instinct in her body from both lifetimes were screaming at her to cease, desist, back away slowly, and disappear.

“You could say that, yes,” the Merchant replied.

“The nerve of these people!” Alistair said sarcastically, as she tried to fight against the urge to simply disappear. This was probably something she’d have to get used too.

“He is charging outlandish prices for things people desperately need!” the Sister said, okay, yeah, she needed to do something about this, “their blood is filling his pockets!”

“’Tis only survival of the fittest,” Morrigan said as she began psyching herself up, “all of these cretins would do the same in his shoes, given the chance.”

“I have limited supplies,” the Merchant replied, “the people decide what those supplies are worth to them.”

“You bought most of your wares from these very people last week!” the Sister said accusingly, “now they flee for their lives, and you want to talk business?”

“Look, stranger, I’ve a hundred silvers if you’ll drive this rabble off, starting with that priest,” the Merchant said, “I’m an honest merchant, nothing more.”

“You don’t think you’re being unscrupulous?” she asked continuing to internally psych herself up. She could do this, yeah, this was a thing she could do.

“Would it help these folk if they could buy no goods at all?” the Merchant replied.

“They spend their very last coin because they are desperate,” the Sister replied, “and this man preys upon them as surely as the bandits outside the village!”

“Bah! I’m not arguing anymore!” the Merchant said angrily, and she needed to choose her words wisely, “drive this woman off and get yer hundred silvers. Otherwise, I’m taking my wagon and leaving!”

“I think you can compromise,” she replied, “and still make a profit, no?”

“Perhaps,” the Merchant sighed, “if that woman agrees I’m allowed to charge something.”

“Do what you must,” the Sister replied, “so long as the prices do not beggar the needy.”

“Fine, fine, done,” the Merchant grumbled, “and since you don’t look too needy, normal prices for you.”

“I can abide by that,” she nodded.

“So… we have come to solve every squabble in the village, personally?” Morrigan said, “my, but the Darkspawn will be impressed.”

“Thank you for your generous assistance,” the Sister said, “may the Maker watch over your path.”

She’d rather He didn’t, He’d surely be directing a lightning strike to her face if He was. Seriously though, all she wanted was to see if he had a pair of shoes she could purchase.

He did.

After putting them on, she immediately fell into a cross stance, and already she could feel the difference. That was one less encumberment gone, the only one left was the one inflicted on her by her own emotions and the sheer anger and disbelief in how her life was turning out. The insecurities she’s going through, the inability to fully adapt to the way her life was going. Her discomfort with leading Humans around and making decisions for their group, being in a position of power, getting special treatment… Oh, boy, she’d never be getting herself back to where she had been before her life had lost all reason, would she?

He also had a map, which was definitely handy. Geography had never been her strong suit.

“The Chantry is still running the Chanter’s Board?” Alistair said drawing her out of herself, “now THAT’s dedication!”

“Ah, the Chantry board,” Morrigan said sarcastically, “yes, let us run errands for the betterment of mankind as well as a few coppers.”

She felt her mischievous side kick to life, she’d almost forgotten that her true nature was that of a playful trickster.

“I betcha five coppers I can get the Chanter to deviate from the Chant of Light,” she said.

“You’re on,” Alistair replied.

“’Twould certainly be most interesting if you could,” Morrigan said.

“And Eileen spoke unto the masses,” the Chanter said as she adopted a cluelessly innocent facade, “’My hearth is yous, my bread is yours, my life is yours. For all who walk in the sight of the Maker are one.’”

“Uh… Greetings? And who are you exactly?” she asked uncertainly and as expected, the Chanter simply smiled and nodded, “hello? I asked you a question.”

“Let all repeat the Chant of Light,” the Chanter replied, “only the Word dispels the darkness upon us.”

“He can’t answer you,” the Boy next to him said, “he’s Chanter Devons.”

“What’s a Chanter?” she asked playing dumb.

“One of them’s that can only say the Chant of Light, his board has letters of good deeds to be doing,” the Boy replied, “my Father fixed Widow Allison’s roof once and the Chanter paid him, he did.”

“A learned child is a blessing upon his parents and onto the Maker,” Devons replied.

“Soooo it’s like a vow of silence, then?” she asked feigning curiosity, “he can’t talk normally?”

“Unless it’s in the Chant of Light, no,” the Boy replied.

“And so Rajmael in the heathen temple recanted,” Devons said, “'speak only the Word; sing only the Chant. Then the Golden City is thine,’ spoke Andraste.”

“A Chanter says, what?” she said quickly.

“What?” Devons replied as Alistair tried to hold in a laugh behind her, ah, he was indeed feeling better now. Good.

“Oh! You got him to speak!” the Boy laughed.

“Eeerrrrr What hath man’s sin wrought?” the Chanter said quickly.

“Oh, he cheated!” the Boy laughed.

“Pay up,” she said holding out a hand and Alistair and Morrigan dropped five coppers into it, “thank you kindly.”

“It was worth the five coppers,” Alistair laughed.

“Now, let’s see what’s on the board,” she hummed, “bandits, huh? Sounds easy enough.”

They should probably hit up the tavern first to listen to whatever news there was to be learned.

“So, I take it you did not enjoy your templar training?” Morrigan asked Alistair.

“That’s directed at me, I take it?” Alistair replied dryly.

“Do you see any others about who have failed at their religious instruction?” Morrigan replied.

“I didn’t fail,” Alistair sighed, “I was recruited into the Grey Wardens.”

“And if you had not been recruited?” Morrigan asked, “what would have happened, instead?”

“I would have turned into a drooling lunatic,” Alistair replied, “slaughtered the Grand Cleric and run through the streets of Denerim in my small clothes. I guess.”

“Your self-awareness does you credit,” Morrigan replied with a hint of mirth in her voice.

“I thought you’d like that,” Alistair replied.

D’aww… They’re kind of getting along… They really are somewhat like siblings, though she’d never say it out loud.

“Um, excuse me, miss,” a voice called out to her timidly, “uhh… hello, stranger… I d—don’t suppose you know anyone that can make traps?”

“I know my way around traps and the like,” she replied remembering that one time she used one to pie a Darkspawn in the face.

“Just don’t… pie someone with it this time,” Alistair groaned, “I could do without seeing that again.”

“I could as well,” Morrigan agreed. Oh yeah, she did say that she’d been following them in the Wilds.

“I would… happily pay you to make some,” the Woman replied, “there’s wood, nails, and other goods around the village and the forest… though you probably already knew that… Sorry.”

“No problem,” she shook her head, “I think I have enough materials to whip some up, how many do you need?”

“Three, would be just perfect,” the Woman replied in relief as she began taking out her tools and materials to make them, giving Diana a scratch under her chin before getting to work.

“Here,” she said after putting the finishing touches on the third one.

“Thank you so much,” the Woman replied handing her a small purse of fifty silvers.

“You’re welcome,” she nodded politely accepting the money.

Fifty silvers!

She got fifty more silvers from helping the Elder out with poultices.

She had six sovereigns!

This was the richest she’s ever been in her entire life!

She’ll leave some money for Shianni when she went back to sneak a letter to her.

“You might not want to go in,” a Man said stopping her from entering the tavern, “tavern’s full, and those soldiers are being a nuisance.”

“Tell us about these soldiers,” she requested.

“They’re not here to defend us, they were looking for someone… before they started drinking,” the Man replied, “I hear they almost killed a man because they didn’t like his face. I wonder if they’re deserters from the King’s army?”

“You seem rather unhappy,” she noted.

“Is there any reason to be happy? With the King dead, them Darkspawn will overrun Lothering before anyone can organize,” the Man replied, “you’d think those soldiers could at least run off the bandits. I hear someone gave them what they deserved. Wasn’t you, was it?”

“N—”

“Yes, that was us,” Alistair nodded cutting off her attempt to deny taking part in it.

“It was? Hey everyone!” the Man shouted and she wished she could disappear, “this is the one who drove out those thieving bastards! More will probably come, but it’s good to know some justice is left here… Thank you.”

In her past life, she was the type of person who’d stick around while winning the jackpot on a game machine but ask it to both shut up and hurry the hell up because she was drawing attention to herself and she didn’t like it.

She overheard people bad-mouthing the Wardens, and praising Loghain as she was about to enter the tavern, and barely managed to bodily shove Alistair into the tavern before he said anything stupid. Loghain was clearly spreading propaganda against them.

Except it was out of the frying pan and into the fire.

“Well. Look what we have here, men,” the Captain of the soldiers said and she put a hand on Diana’s head to quiet her, “I think we’ve just been blessed.”

“Uh-oh,” Alistair said as she pulled her gloves out of her back pocket and slipped them on with a sigh, “Loghain’s men. This can’t be good.”

“Didn’t we spend the past week or so asking about an Elf by this very description?” another soldier said, “and everyone said they hadn’t seen one?”

“It seems we were lied to,” the Captain replied.

“Hm? Why are you looking for me?” she asked tilting her head to the side, deciding to put her attire to use, “I’m just an Elven servant of no real consequence.”

“Don’t play dumb with me!” the Captain glowered, “I know you’re one of the Grey Wardens!”

“The Grey Wardens recruit Elves?” she said as she gasped in shock.

Why? Why her? Why her and not Alistair? Was it because Loghain knew her face better? What? Why?

“Gentlemen, surely there is no need for trouble,” a Sister said walking up to them, “these are no doubt simply more poor souls seeking refuge.”

“They’re more than that. Now stay out of our way, Sister,” the Captain replied, “you protect these traitors, you’ll get the same as them.”

“Can’t we talk about this?” she asked.

“I doubt he would listen,” the Sister answered, “he blindly follows his master’s commands.”

“I am not the blind one! I served at Ostagar, where the Teyrn saved us from the Grey Wardens’ treachery! I serve him gladly!” the Captain said indignantly, “enough talk, take the Warden into custody, and kill the Sister and anyone else that gets in your way.”

“Right,” the Soldier said, “let’s make this quick.”

“Wait, wait, wait!” she shouted holding her hands up, “can’t we at least take this outside? Some people are trying to eat in here!”

She ducked beneath a swipe. Apparently, the answer was no. No, they can’t take this outside. Wonderful. Now they were being an even bigger nuisance.

Right, time to discipline the muscle-brained idiots who don’t care about the people they’re inconveniencing. She unsheathed her daggers and focused the Captain.

Basic rule of thumb: Always take the leader out first. After that, the rest’ll be easier to mop up.

“Alright, you’ve won!” the Captain said and she stopped her blade from cutting into his neck, “we surrender!”

“Back off,” she said directing a command to Diana who ceased her attack.

“Good,” the Sister said, “they’ve learned their lesson and we can all stop fighting, now.”

“The Grey Wardens didn’t betray King Cailan,” she said re-sheathing her weapons, “Loghain did.”

“I was there!” the Captain said, “the Teyrn pulled us out of a trap!”

“Oh? You saw the beacon go up, no?” she sighed as she crossed her arms, “the plan was for Loghain’s forces to flank the Darkspawn upon seeing the beacon. You knew this, did you not? So, how did the Wardens betray the King, when all the Wardens did was follow orders and make sure that the beacon was lit?”

“I… He… You—” the Captain’s words failed him.

“Mhm,” she frowned, “critical thinking, perhaps you should try to do it more, yeah?”

“The Wardens led the King to his death!” the Captain tried to argue, “the Teyrn could do nothing!”

“Mhm, sure,” she sighed before speaking in a commanding tone, grabbing the Captain by the chin and pulling his face down to look him straight in the eyes, “clean this place up, apologize to everyone whose meals you’ve ruined, and reimburse them. They’re escaping from the Darkspawn threat and are already under enough stress, they didn’t need you kicking up a fuss and ruining their meals. Hence, why I asked if we could at least take the fighting outside you muscle-brained buffoon.”

“Yes ma’am!” the Captain and the rest of the soldiers said before quickly moving to follow orders after she released the Captain from her grip.

“Honestly, have your parents taught you no manners?” she clicked her tongue frowning at them as she watched them spring into action, “or are the common folk that far beneath you that you don’t care about inconveniencing them?”

“Sorry, ma’am!” they replied.

“Also, take a message to Loghain for us,” she frowned.

“W—What do you want to tell him?” the Captain asked.

“He’ll pay for what he’s done,” Alistair cut in after the initial shock wore off, “we’re coming for him.”

“Yeah, sure, that,” she said.

“I’ll tell him. Right away!” the Captain replied before he and the rest of the soldiers made a quick exit, “now in fact! Thank you!”

“Maker’s breath, Kallian,” Alistair said, “how did you do that?”

“Ahh… uhhh… I… uh…” she froze as she realized what she’d just done. She went too far, she was definitely going to be smot for her insolence, “know how to deal with people…?”

Oh dear, she was doing many of the things she hated doing. Bossing Humans around, sticking out while in the presence of Humans, leading Humans around…

She took a deep breath and held it in an attempt to calm herself down.

“I apologize for interfering,” the Sister said, “but I couldn’t just sit by and not help.”

“It’s okay,” she said holding her hands up, “I appreciate what you tried to do.”

“I am glad you found it in your heart to offer those men mercy,” Leliana replied, “let me introduce myself. I am Leliana, one of the Lay Sisters of the Chantry here in Lothering. Or I was.”

“My name is Kallian,” she nodded politely, “a pleasure to meet you.”

“They said you were a Grey Warden, I’m surprised you’re an Elf, but Elves must want the Blight defeated as much as Humans, no?” Leliana replied, “I know after what happened, you’ll need all the help you can get. That’s why I’m coming along.”

She honestly didn’t blame her for talking about her race like that. She knew how Elves were treated, Ser Jory had also mentioned that Elves weren’t generally allowed in the military. Not only that, but most Elves didn’t know how to fight, how to properly defend themselves. She was in the colossal minority.

Wait, she wanted to come along? She was going to be leading around three Humans? What even was her life now? This whole position of power shit was really freaking her out. How the fuck was she supposed to get used to this? It went against every single one of her instincts. She shouldn’t be leading Humans around, she should be following them around. She was an Elf, Elves were never in charge of Humans. She was brought up to not do any of the things she was currently doing.

She was DEFINITELY about to be smot by the Maker.

But seriously, the world could start making sense any second now.

“Those men were mistaken,” she said blankly, “I’m no Grey Warden. Elves aren’t allowed into the military. I’m just a servant.”

Servants didn’t lead two Humans around. She knew it was a stretch, but she could still try.

“But… oh, I see. Of course,” Leliana replied, “shall we move on, my completely ordinary and unremarkable friend?”

“If that’s what you want,” she said, “we do need the help.”

“That and the Maker wants me to go with you,” Leliana said.

“Can you… uh… elaborate?” she asked as she wondered if this would be a good thing or a bad thing. Would having a Lay Sister keep the Maker from smiting her? Or make sure she’d get smot?

“I— I know that sounds… absolutely insane,” Leliana replied, “but it’s true! I had a dream… a vision!”

“More crazy?” Alistair said, “I thought we were all full up.”

“Look at the people here. They are lost in their despair, and this darkness, this chaos… will spread,” Leliana said, “the Maker doesn’t want this… What you do, what you are meant to do, is the Maker’s work. Let me help!”

If the Maker didn’t want this, then why did he allow Blights to begin in the first place?

She’ll keep this to herself.

“Well, we do need all the help we can get,” she shrugged.

“Perhaps your skull was cracked worse than Mother thought,” Morrigan sighed.

“Morrigan, we are four people against the Blight, Loghain, and whatever else is happening,” she said, “we need all the help we can get.”

“Four? I thought we were three plus a dog,” Alistair said and Diana growled angrily, “right, four, sorry.”

“Thank you!” Leliana said brightly, “I appreciate being given this chance. I will not let you down.”

“I’m hard to let down,” she replied wryly before swiftly turning to Morrigan, “… wait, did you just say my skull was cracked?!”

“Indeed, it was,” Morrigan replied.

“…You know, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d written me off as a lost cause,” she said as she took her gloves off and stuffed them into her back pocket, “and just left me for dead.”

“Mother insisted we save you as well,” Morrigan replied.

She had a feeling she was forgetting something.

***

Kallian was pestering the Tavern owner about current events, asking him about rumors he’d recently heard, resting a hand on Diana’s head as she sat next to her. Honestly, Kallian had shocked her, immensely. She wasn’t dressed in armor as she’d expected, she looked more like a servant than anything, and she fought in a way that she’d never seen before in her entire life.

“Kallian is a strange sort, isn’t she?” she said looking to Alistair and Morrigan.

“She really is,” Alistair agreed without a second thought.

“An Elven woman bossing around grown men, soldiers even!” she said, “it was a shock, even to me.”

“I’ve never seen anyone fight the way she does as well,” Morrigan added.

“I haven’t either,” Alistair nodded.

“That makes three of us, then,” she said as they watched Kallian get stopped by someone who was apparently from the Blackstone Irregulars.

***

He seriously didn’t know what to make of his fellow Warden. She was polite, charismatic, and clearly at home leading. He’d also truly never seen anyone fight like her before in his whole life. Her movements were graceful, and elegant, but still swift, precise, and powerful. She also reminded him of a cat, as she always hopped on the top of rails and fences as they passed by them. Everything about her was odd, from the way she fought, the way she carried her weapons, the way she dressed, and the way she carried herself.

“I feel like I’m forgetting something,” Kallian said narrowing her eyes at him.

“Okay? Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked.

“Because I have a feeling it has something to do with you,” Kallian replied, “so I’m trying to see if looking at you will help me remember.”

“Is it working?” he quirked a brow.

“No,” Kallian shook her head with a sigh.

“What did the tavern keeper say?” he asked.

“Mmm… he basically said that Ferelden’s going to shit,” Kallian replied, “Loghain’s being praised as a hero, blah blah blah… That kind of stuff. Also, there’s something going down in the Brecilian Forest, the Mage Tower, and possibly Orzammar.”

“Wonderful,” Morrigan rolled her eyes.

“Right?” Kallian sighed, “we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

***

Seventy-Five silver for making three vials of venom?!

Holy fuck! She was rich!

Seven sovereigns!

She was up to seven sovereigns!

She was definitely leaving a few sovereigns for Shianni when she went back, she’ll have to leave something so that Shianni knows that it really was her… Maybe one of her hair ribbons? She had a spare one, but it was black, and she preferred her white one. She thought it went her hair better, so that would definitely be a good choice to leave behind. Any sacrifice to make Shianni stop blaming herself was well worth it. She could probably just buy a new hair ribbon, she certainly had the money to.

She heard some chanting in a foreign language while on their way to deal with the bandit problem that had been described on the Chanter’s board. Sounded like someone was chanting a Sutra. The only sutra she knew was the Heart Sutra, and that was only because it was made into a pop song. Buddhism wasn’t her jam, it wasn’t the flavor she wanted spread upon the toast that was her previous life… Which in hindsight, was also now toast.

Puns.

“You aren’t one of my captors,” the Man said, and holy shit was he huge, “I have nothing to say that would amuse you, Elf. Leave me in peace.”

He was tall enough that he’d make a fantastic portable landmark. Every short person knows that tall people are just portable landmarks in a sea of short people. ‘Where are you?’ ‘I’m by the really really really tall guy.’.

“You’re a prisoner?” she replied, “who put you here?”

“I’m in a cage, am I not?” the Man replied, “I’ve been placed here by the Chantry.”

The Chantry! They were supposed to go to the Chantry to find Ser Donall for Alistair! That’s what she was forgetting!

Or one of the things she’d forgotten, anyway.

Depression did cause memory problems. So did anxiety, and stress, actually…

Stupid chemical imbalances in the brain.

“The Revered Mother said he slaughtered an entire family,” Leliana explained, “even the children.”

She wasn’t exactly the most innocent person either. She slaughtered an entire castle’s worth of guards, both on and off duty, as well as all of their dogs.

She should probably not tell Diana that.

“It is as she says,” Sten replied, “I am Sten of the Beresaad— the vanguard— of the Qunari peoples.”

“My name is Kallian,” she nodded politely, “pleased to meet you.”

“You mock me, or you show manners I have not come to expect in your lands,” Sten quirked a brow, “though it matters little, now. I will die soon enough.”

“I was raised to mind my manners,” she replied simply. In both lives, being polite and minding her manners were a huge thing, the her of her past life abhorred the thought of both inconveniencing people, as well as being rude. The her from this life was raised to mind her manners because she was raised to eventually be a servant. Also because you didn’t know who would end up shanking you for being rude. She was still an Elf, after-all.

“This, is a proud and powerful creature, trapped as prey for the Darkspawn,” Morrigan said, “if you cannot see a use for him, I suggest releasing him for mercy’s sake alone.”

“Person, Morrigan,” she chastised, “he’s a person. Not a creature.”

“Forgive me, Sten,” Morrigan sighed and she nodded.

“Mercy?” Alistair quirked a brow, “I wouldn’t have expected that from you.”

“I would,” she replied.

“I would also suggest that Alistair take his place in the cage,” Morrigan replied.

“Yes, that’s what I would have expected,” Alistair sighed.

“I suggest you leave me to my fate,” Sten said.

“How long have you been stuck in here?” she asked.

“Twenty days, now,” Sten answered, “I shouldn’t last much longer. Another week at most.”

“Are you interested in seeking atonement?” she asked.

They were now five people against the Blight, and according to the Tavern owner, there was a lot of weird going on in Ferelden, and they needed every bit of help available. She also needed to seek atonement, though, with the amount of suffering and pain she’d delivered upon those she loved, there wasn’t enough atonement in the world that would set her straight. She’d loved her friends, she’d loved her family, she’d loved her life, and yet she’d destroyed it all with her own hands. And what was the point of it? There wasn’t any. She’d been too slow to save Shianni. Her entire life, she’d always been too slow. Too slow to save Nelaros, too slow to save Shianni, too slow to save her Uncle and Aunt… Too weak to save her Mother… After her Mother had died, she’d made a vow to herself that she’d never be too weak, too slow again. And yet there she was, far too late to either help or save anyone.

Part of her knew that wasn’t true, that she’d saved people, but in her spiral of despair, none of it mattered. What mattered, was that she’d been too slow and too weak to save any of the people she’d cared for most.

“Death will be my atonement,” Sten replied.

“It won’t,” she shook her head, “and there are other ways for you to redeem yourself.”

“What do you mean it won’t?” Sten quirked a brow.

“You simply dying won’t fix anything, it won’t change anything, it won’t bring those you’ve killed back,” she replied, “if you’re going to die, you might as well die while trying to do something.”

Hence why she didn’t simply off herself. She’d hoped to sacrifice herself to the guards to protect her community and those she loved. She hoped to die during the Joining, so she could at least say that she tried. She hoped she’d die saving Alistair, since at least she’d die trying to save someone… Or rather, saving someone.

“I see,” Sten replied, “then what does your wisdom say is equal to my crime?”

“You could help us defend the land against the Blight,” she replied.

“The Blight?” Sten asked, “are you a Grey Warden, then?”

“Alistair and I are, yes,” she nodded gesturing to both herself and Alistair.

“Surprising,” Sten replied, “my people have heard legends of the Grey Wardens’ strength and skill… though I suppose not every legend is true.”

“Things are rarely as they seem,” she shrugged she knew she wore no armor, she didn’t blame anyone for not seeing her as someone who knew how to fight, “would the Revered Mother let you free?”

“Perhaps if you told her the Grey Wardens need my assistance,” Sten replied, “it seems as likely to bring my death as waiting here.”

“We’ll be back, then,” she said.

“Farewell, then,” Sten replied.

***

"If you’re going to die, you might as well die while trying to do something."

He wondered if she were speaking from experience when she had said that. But what would Kallian have done to warrant her needing to seek atonement? For her to feel the need to redeem herself? From what he’d understood about his fellow Warden, she was polite, and endlessly kind, and it wasn’t just a front she put up. You could tell that she meant every word she’d spoken, every kind gesture. So what did she feel the need to redeem herself for?

Actually, what led to her joining the Wardens? She didn’t seem like the type that would want to join the Wardens at all. What made Duncan decide to recruit her?

He could ask, but he had a feeling that she wouldn’t answer.

And he was hiding something from her as well.

Chapter Text

A Grey Warden.

The Elven servant who’d talked to him a few minutes prior was a Grey Warden, or at least that was what she’d claimed to be.

Did the Grey Wardens recruit women? Why would they recruit women? Why would women desire to bear arms?

There were also her words:

"You simply dying won’t fix anything, it won’t change anything, it won’t bring those you’ve killed back. If you’re going to die, you might as well die while trying to do something."

There was wisdom in those words.

So what was she doing in a role that required her to fight?

***

While they backtracked towards the Chantry, to look for Ser Donall, as well as the Revered Mother, she inquired about the whereabouts of Patter Gritch. Who, apparently, was also in the Chantry.

How convenient.

The Chantry wasn’t the only thing she’d forgotten, she knew that, but she couldn’t remember the other thing she was supposed to tell Alistair. It was almost like she walked into the kitchen. Except instead of a kitchen, she’d walked into Lothering.

“The legions of evil are on your doorstep! They will feast upon our hearts!” she heard a voice shouting as they neared the Chantry, “there is nowhere to run! This evil will cover the world, like a plague of locusts!”

“Please!” a Farmer begged, “you’re scaring the children!”

“Better to slit their throats now than to let them suffer at Darkspawn hands!” the Man replied before turning to her, “there! One of their minions is already amongst us! This woman bears their evil stench! Can you not see the vile blackness that fills her?!”

Stench? Vile blackness? She was a bit of a clean freak, especially since poor hygiene was one of the reasons the Bubonic Plague was so effective at killing people. The Jewish community had gotten the memo of ‘practice proper hygiene’ and the illiterate Europe didn’t, and thus persecuted the Jewish community because they weren’t falling to the plague. They really got the short end of the stick an alarming amount of times throughout history. They’d been persecuted so many times it was mind-boggling, from Ancient Egypt, to Medieval Europe, to the Crusades, and of course… The Holocaust. She couldn’t help but admire how hardy they were.

Wait a minute, Elves were mistreated throughout history here. They were slaves, there was an Exalted March, she lived in a segregated community…

Then again, Elven history also reminded her strongly of Hawaiian History, and how brutally their sovereignty was torn from them. The March on the Dales kind of reminded her of that… She kind of wanted to sing Aloha ‘Oe, but doing so out loud would be bad, she wouldn’t be able to explain the sounds coming out of her mouth. Maybe… if she just mentally sang it?

Oh no, she was being moved to tears by her past life, better rein herself in.

“Why don’t you keep your voice down,” she said soothingly. He was being a nuisance in a public space, but he was clearly riled up.

But he was being a doomsayer… doom-shouter?

Whatever, he was scaring people and she needed to shut that down.

“I watched the black horde descend on my people!” the Man shouted, “I will not be silent!”

“P—Please! Stop!” a Farmer cried, “somebody shut his mouth!”

“But isn’t he right?” another Farmer said, “the Bann left us! We’re going to die!”

This minion is but the first of those who will destroy us!” the Man continued shouting, and honestly? Even she thought that she was more likely to be their doom than their savior.

“You poor man,” she said softly, to try and bring him to her volume, to calm him down, “what happened to you?”

“My family, my clan… those creatures butchered them all,” the Man replied softly, “some of us fled here, but we cannot escape the Darkspawn!”

“It must have been horrible,” she replied it was working, he was being pulled into her rhythm, “how did you escape?”

“I… ran, hearing my wife’s screams as they dragged her off,” the Man sobbed, “she had hair… the same color as yours.”

“Scaring these people won’t bring her back,” she replied.

“You… you are right,” the Man sighed before leaving, “I will go.”

Great success.

“He was right, wasn’t he?” a Chantry Brother said, “there’s no hope for us…”

“There is always hope, always, even when you can’t see it, it’s still there,” she said, “muster up your courage. There is always something you can do.”

“You’re right,” the Brother replied, “we can’t give up!”

“But… we can’t fight!” one of the Farmers said, “what are we supposed to do?”

“A wise man once said ‘if you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito’,” she recounted borrowing words from the Dalai Lama, “and you’re farmers, correct?”

“Yes,” one of the Farmers replied.

“Farmers have sturdy bodies, and well-distributed muscles,” she pointed out, “and in any case, anything is a weapon if you know how to use it right. The world is what you make of it, whether you simply lay down and die, or stand and fight is your choice. Lots of farming tools are made sturdily, and have sharp edges. Do you know what else has sharp edges? Weapons.”

“Are you telling us to use our farming tools as weapons?” one of the Farmers asked.

“Yes, that is exactly what I’m telling you to do,” she nodded, “getting used to using a sword is a waste of time, just use what you know how to use. Like a shovel, you can use it to gouge and slice... They also have fairly good reach.”

It was true, in her old world, many fighters were just farmers empowered to see that the tools and skills they used in their day-to-day could also be used as combat maneuvers.

“She’s right!” the first Farmer said, “we can’t lie down and die. For now, we must go north, to Denerim!”

“The Darkspawn will truly be impressed,” Morrigan rolled her eyes after the group left, “with how you’ve come to solve every squabble in the village.”

“If I see a bunch of soldiers running around wielding shovels,” she said, “I think I’d be able to die happy.”

“Kallian,” Alistair said.

“Hm?” she tilted her head to the side.

“Who ARE you?” Alistair asked.

Uh oh… did she go too far again?

She probably did, but empowering people was important to her. Giving hope to people who’d lost it was important to her. It’s always been important to her. Soothing frayed nerves, calming people down, helping people… Just because she’s lost her way, didn't mean they needed to. Just because she gave in to despair, didn’t mean they had to. This was the kind of person she was, the kind of person she’d always been. If she could stand as the gatekeeper between hope and despair… Maybe she’d be able to face those she’d lost in the afterlife with pride.

Still, she was standing out amongst Humans. She should rein herself in a bit more. Too bad she couldn’t will her existence out, since she was in a leadership role, and it would be terrible if she just up and vanished on them.

Then again, it might be funny… Watching them freak out while she quietly watched the mayhem.

“No one of any real consequence,” she shrugged as she moved to enter the Chantry.

“It is good to see you again, Sister Leliana,” A Templar said stopping them.

“Thank you, Ser Maron,” Leliana replied.

“Who’s in charge of this Chantry?” Kallian asked.

“The Revered Mother runs the Chantry itself,” Ser Maron replied, “and Ser Bryant heads the Templars stationed here.”

“Why didn’t anyone do anything about the bandits that were on the highway?” she asked with a frown.

“Were?” Ser Maron asked in shock, “did you drive them off? Ser Bryant will appreciate that.”

“Something like that,” she replied, “has there been any news coming into Lothering?”

“Not since Teyrn Loghain passed by with his army,” Ser Maron frowned, “it’s a shame about the King, but with the Darkspawn coming, few can think of anything else.”

“Thank you for your time,” she said politely before entering the Chantry.

“Maker watch over you,” Ser Maron replied.

“You as well,” she said politely.

She still wished He wouldn’t, but whatever.

Wait, is He what was keeping her out of a dark and dingy dungeon? Because if so, she wished that He would stop. Someone like her should be left to rot, not save the world. She was far more likely to fuck everything up and cause the end of it than save it. Everything else she did failed, so why wouldn’t this fail either?

After entering the Chantry, she hummed as she looked around, she hadn’t been inside of a Chantry in forever, she was only Andrastian in the way that she paid lip-service to the Maker to get people off her back about it, honestly. She also didn’t really want to get lynched for rejecting Him, that would have been terrible, especially since she didn’t like standing out. Not only that, but Elves weren’t really allowed out of the Alienage, and Humans would rather they not enter the Chantry.

Ooooh, a book about the First Blight…

Let’s steal it. She’s already broken her Mother’s biggest cardinal rule, which was to not enter Duncan’s sight, what was another?

Actually, maybe she shouldn’t steal it, yeah, let’s not steal it. She didn’t want this type of thing to become a habit, it also felt wrong to steal something from a religious temple thing. So she just took note of the title of the book and its author, a name she’d seen multiple times, since she’d already read a few of his books.

Wait… Wasn’t Brother Genitivi mentioned in the note they’re delivering to Ser Donall?

***

"No one of any real consequence."

She wasn’t sure how true that was, she hadn’t even known her for half a day, and she could tell that there was something about Kallian that drew people to her. She was beautiful, sure, but there was something more to her, something that drew you in. She was incredibly charismatic, it made her wonder what her life was like, before becoming a Warden. Though, she also wondered just how long she’d been a Warden.

“I see you have returned, Sister,” Ser Bryant said as they approached, “I thought you had left the Chantry for good.”

“I have, Ser Bryant,” she replied.

“And who is the lady with you, if I may ask?” Ser Bryant asked looking towards Kallian.

“My name is Kallian,” Kallian said politely, “pleased to meet you.”

“I am Ser Bryant, Commander of Lothering’s remaining Templars,” Ser Bryant nodded, “you don’t seem like the other refugees. Are you one of Arl Eamon’s knights?”

“Do many of his knights come?” Kallian asked.

“Some have, in recent days, Arl Eamon has fallen ill, and his knights are on a quest for the sacred urn filled with Andraste’s ashes, said to cure any malady… He must be very ill if they chase miracles as the only cure,” Ser Bryant answered, “one of the Arl’s knights, Ser Donall, is here searching for fantasies while... Never mind, ask him if you care about this foolishness.”

“Arl Eamon is sick?!” Alistair said.

“We’ll go to Redcliffe as soon as we can, promise,” Kallian promised, “but first, we need to get things to make traveling there easier.”

She really wasn’t sure how true Kallian’s claim of her being no one of any real consequence was, she was clearly knowledgeable and experienced in many different things.

“Why had no one done anything about the bandits outside the village?” Kallian asked.

“Maker’s breath!” Ser Bryant sighed in exasperation, “how many times must we drive them off?!”

“Well, at least you won’t have to deal with them any longer,” Kallian replied.

“All of them?” Ser Bryant asked in shock, “by yourself?”

“Don’t mind us,” Alistair said, “we’re clearly just chopped liver.”

“Depending on how it’s prepared,” Kallian said, “liver can taste pretty good.”

“What? Really?” Alistair asked in shock.

“Yeah, it’s pretty healthy for you, too,” Kallian replied, “not eat every day, kind of healthy, too much of a good thing can still be a bad thing, but it’s got a high nutritional value.”

“How do you know all of this?” Alistair asked.

“I used to have a very different kind of lifestyle,” Kallian shrugged, “than the one I do now.”

She remembered that Kallian had said that she was simply an Elven servant, and it made her wonder just how her life would have turned out if she hadn’t become a Warden.

“It’s true, Ser Bryant,” a Templar said interrupting them, “I saw it from my post. It was over so fast we didn’t even have time to get over there.”

“Sad that it needed to come to that, but then they asked for it,” Ser Bryant replied, “will you accept a small reward for your service?”

“Oh! If we weren’t in need of funds,” Kallian said sheepishly, “I’d say no.”

“Truly?” Morrigan sighed, “you are the most well-meaning person I have ever met.”

“I think it’s a good thing,” she said, “I think kindness is necessary in these trying times.”

“If it interests you, there is a Chanter’s board outside full of quests that need doing,” Ser Bryant said, “the Chanters even offer to pay for some of them.”

“Yep, we’re going to hit those up soon-ish,” Kallian replied brightly.

***

He saw Ser Donall standing over a table reading a book a bit aways from Ser Bryant, and he did have questions for him, as well as things to give him.

“Who…?” Ser Donall said as he approached, “I beg your pardon, I did not see you approach.”

“Ser Donall,” he said, “it’s you, isn’t it?”

“Alistair? By the Maker, how are you?” Ser Donall replied, “I… I was certain you were dead!”

“Wasn’t even close, thanks to the efforts of my fellow Grey Warden,” he replied gesturing to Kallian, “we are the last two in Ferelden, as far as I know.”

“He was almost the last,” Kallian added, “but, thanks to two-kind hearted souls, I managed to also escape with my life.”

He heard Morrigan snort, and he didn’t blame her. Kallian had just called both her and her Mother kind-hearted souls. Then again, they could have left her for dead and only saved him, so to her they were kind-hearted souls. She’d even said that she wouldn’t have blamed them if they’d just left her for dead. He was grateful that they’d put the in the extra bit of effort to ensure that she’d survive, but he still hated Morrigan.

“Terrible news, indeed,” Ser Donall replied, “pleased to meet you, my lady. Might I know your name?”

“My name is Kallian,” Kallian nodded politely, “it is a pleasure to meet you.”

“I trust you are staying discreet?” Ser Donall asked, “with the bounty placed on your heads?”

“We’ve heard Loghain’s accusations,” he replied, “but he’s the one who betrayed the King!”

“I… uh… schooled some of his lackeys,” Kallian said sheepishly, “in the ways of critical thinking.”

“You schooled them in more ways than that,” Leliana pointed out, “you also told them that they should mind their manners.”

“If Arl Eamon were well,” Ser Donall sighed, “he’d set Loghain straight soon enough.”

“So you’re here looking for the Urn of Sacred Ashes, then?” he asked.

“I am, indeed,” Ser Donall replied, “Andraste’s ashes are said to cure any illness. But I fear we are chasing a fable. With each day, my hope dims.”

“We were hoping to meet with Arl Eamon,” he said.

“Why is that,” Ser Donall asked, “if I may ask?”

“We need his help against Teyrn Loghain,” he answered.

“I see, the Arl is a popular man, it’s true. Teyrn Loghain, however, is a hero throughout Ferelden,” Ser Donall replied, “whatever the Teyrn has done or not done, the Arl remains ill, or worse. That is my primary concern.”

“I’m ninety-nine point nine percent sure,” Kallian said after glancing around and lowering her voice to an almost whisper, “that it’s Loghain’s fault.”

“But the Arl fell ill before the King died,” Ser Donall whispered back in shock, “but what if Loghain planned that, too? Ah, such thoughts do not sit well with me.”

“What makes you so sure?” he narrowed his eyes at Kallian.

“It is not wise to speak of it here,” Kallian replied.

Kallian knew something, he was sure of it, though he didn’t know exactly what she knew. Only time would tell, they have more important things to accomplish for now. Such as preparing the necessary equipment and such to travel to Redcliffe, which she seemed to be occupied thinking of at the moment. He wanted to go to Redcliffe, and she was making it happen. He could pester her about what she knew about Loghain later.

“Regardless, we should see what’s happening in Redcliffe ourselves,” he sighed, “I believe that now more than ever.”

“If nothing else, I am certain you would be welcomed at Castle Redcliffe,” Ser Donall said, “the Arlessa is there, and she could tell you more than I could.”

The Arlessa… Hated his guts, last he checked.

“So your quest brought you here?” Kallian asked.

“I expected to take advantage of the Chantry’s library, in fact,” Ser Donall replied, “but my skills are better suited to battle than chasing down tales.”

“Mine are actually better suited to chasing down tales,” Kallian noted dryly, “rather than battles.”

“…I can believe that,” Leliana replied.

“Do you know what the Arl’s symptoms are?” Kallian asked.

“I’m afraid not,” Ser Donall shook his head with a sigh, “as I’ve said: the Arlessa can tell you more than I.”

“Fair enough,” Kallian sighed, “what have you found out about the Urn?”

“If you’re truly interested, there are books here containing a great deal of lore, nothing I have found leads me to believe that this was anything more than a quest of desperation,” Ser Donall replied, “I intend to return to Redcliffe soon and tell the Arlessa exactly that, once Ser Henric arrives.”

“About Ser Henric, he’s dead,” he said taking the locket and note from his pack, “we have something from him.”

“What?! And you have his locket? And a note?” Ser Donall said in shock before sighing, “Maker’s mercy… Thank you for giving me these. I would never have known otherwise.”

“We’ve dealt with the bandits who killed him,” he replied.

“Thank you,” Ser Donall sighed, “I wonder how many of us have met similar fates on this mad quest.”

“I hate to be the bearer of even more unfortunate news,” Kallian said, “but could you please send a message to Ser Jory’s wife, Helena, in Highever for us? He passed away, during the Battle of Ostagar.”

Kallian just lied to Ser Donall, about Ser Jory, though, it was probably for the best. His wife didn’t need to hear that he really died because of his lack of courage, and that was probably her thought process.

“Ser Jory did?” Ser Donall sighed sadly, “I will… and with Henric gone, I need to return to Redcliffe. Perhaps later I will seek out the scholar his note mentions… But I must go.”

“We’ll be heading that way shortly,” he said, “after we finish some things up in Lothering.”

“We’ll probably see you there,” Kallian nodded.

“Thank you again, Alistair, and Kallian,” Ser Donall replied, “you both have been most helpful.”

“May the Maker watch over you,” he said.

“You as well,” Ser Donall replied before leaving.

***

My lady, and lady.

She got called my lady and lady.

What the fuck? Like, what the actual fuck?

This whole position of power and special treatment thing felt wrong in every single way, and the more it happened the more uncomfortable it made her feel. Especially when it escalated to being called lady and my lady, as if she were someone incredibly important.

How did her life become this?

Oh, right, it’s because she fucked up. She ruined everything like the idiot that she was. How can she be expected to save the world if she can’t even save herself?

She should probably tell Alistair about her suspicions about Loghain and the Battle of Ostagar, but she didn’t want to do it in a public space like this. She didn’t want to commit lèse-majesté like that in an open space like this. Even though she’d already done so in the Tavern, but it’d be best if they didn’t commit it in an open space more than they needed to.

“Fools,” Morrigan scoffed, “praying for help from a prophet they burned and a god who has turned His back on them not once, but twice.”

She could chastise Morrigan about insulting the beliefs of others, but it probably wouldn’t do anything other than annoy her, therefore, there’d be no point to it. It’d be a waste of energy.

“You ever wonder if that’s an accurate likeness of Andraste?” Alistair asked, “maybe She was ugly, maybe She had buck teeth. How would we know?”

“Beautification of deceased heroes is a pretty common practice,” she replied, “but the point of it being there is to make people feel like She’s watching over them.”

“How foolish,” Morrigan scoffed again.

“If it’s what grants them inner peace and inner strength,” she replied, “then that’s all it needs to do. That’s its only function: to give people a sense of peace. Some people need that, to feel like someone’s looking out for them.”

She found Patter Gritch, and handed him the letter from the Blackstone Irregulars, and with a sigh, he departed.

“You… Miss,” a Templar said stopping Morrigan, “what is your name? You… seem quite odd to me.”

“You would not be the first to think so,” Morrigan replied, “but avert your eyes. I will not have you staring overlong.”

“Best get used to it,” the Templar replied, “I’ll be watching you— we want no trouble here.”

“We don’t want any either,” she said moving in front of Morrigan, “however, if you continue to stare at her with hostility, I may be driven to act in order to secure her safety. No woman appreciates being stared at like an object.”

“I— that’s not what—” the Templar sighed, “very well.”

Holy shit was she an idiot.

She just stood out again. Apparently, she’d forgotten her race. She should DEFINITELY expect a lightning strike to the face the next time it stormed. Especially since she’d stood up against a servant of the faith that she’d more-or-less rejected. She already had her own beliefs, and Andrastian didn’t mesh well with it.

Protecting those she cared about was second nature for her anyway, denying that would be denying part of who she was, and as it was, she’d already lost so much of herself it was heartbreaking.

Right, time to talk to the Revered Mother and see if she could convince her to release Sten.

“Good day, Sister Leliana,” the Revered Mother said as they walked up to her, “I’m surprised to see you’re still in Lothering.”

“It is good to see you as well, Your Reverence,” Leliana replied.

“I do not recognize your companion,” the Revered Mother said to her, “greetings. Will you be making a donation to the Chantry? Our need has never been greater.”

Urgh… a tithe… but it was the least she could do. Especially since she was going to free Sten…

Actually, why didn’t she just pick the lock open?

Holy fuck she was dumb.

“Here is thirty silver,” she replied taking out the twenty silver she’d gotten from Ser Bryant plus ten. She could practically hear Morrigan rolling her eyes in exasperation.

“Thank you, dear woman,” the Revered Mother said accepting the money, “what can I do for you, then?”

“I wanted to talk about Sten,” she replied, “the Qunari you’ve imprisoned.”

“It might have been kinder to execute him, but I leave his fate to the Maker,” the Revered Mother said standing up to pace a bit, “why does he interest you?”

“Is there any way I can convince you to release him?” she asked.

“Then his next victims might count you and me as their murderers,” the Revered Mother replied.

“I was thinking you might release him into my custody,” she replied.

“And what do you say on this, Leliana?” the Revered Mother asked turning to Leliana, “you know your friend better than I.”

Leliana’s only been with them for a few hours…

“These are… unusual times, your Reverence,” Leliana admitted, “with us, the Qunari might do some good. I am sure of it, in fact.”

“Were things not so desperate… very well, I trust you,” the Revered Mother said handing Leliana the key, “take this key to his cage, and Maker watch over you.”

“Thank you, Your Reverence,” Leliana replied before handing her the keys, “your trust is not misplaced.”

She led them out of the Chantry and back to Sten’s cage.

***

He had his doubts that he’d achieve his freedom, though the Elf did return, and was once again standing outside of his cage, eyeing the lock with a frown.

“You wish something more of me?” he asked.

“I have the key to open your cage,” Kallian said holding up the key.

“I confess,” he replied, “I did not think the priestess would part with it.”

“She agreed to release you into our custody,” Kallian replied.

“So be it,” he replied, “set me free, and I will follow you against the Blight.”

“Very well,” Kallian replied unlocking the cage, “there you go.”

“And so it is done,” he said, “I will follow you into battle, and in doing so, I shall find my atonement.”

“Thank you, Sten,” Kallian grinned, “glad to have you with us.”

“May we proceed?” he asked, “I am eager to be elsewhere.”

“Do you want something to eat and drink first?” Kallian asked holding out some bread and a waterskin, “you were in that cage for a while.”

“…You have my thanks,” he said taking them.

“No problem,” Kallian grinned.

Was she truly a Grey Warden? It seemed as though she’d missed her true life’s calling.

“Right,” Kallian sighed pulling a pair of gloves out of her back pocket and slipping them on, “time to deal with some bandits.”

***

They’d dealt with the bandits, and she’d barely managed to keep herself from screaming and running in the opposite direction when she saw those… things with too many… parts…

Those things should not be that big. Why were they that big? What the fuck? She cussed out every god she could think of because they should not be that big. And she knew a lot of gods, she was a side helping of Shinto, plus mythology was a pretty big interest for her in her past life, so she cussed those out too.

“Soo… Kallian,” Alistair said slowly, “about those sp—”

“Don’t you dare even so much as name them,” she glared, “I am murderously afraid of them.”

“Murderously… afraid?” Alistair raised a brow.

“If they come near me,” she replied, “I will slaughter them with a violent rage.”

“Right, sorry,” Alistair replied, “guess that explains why they were killed twice as fast as everything else and more viciously than everything else.

“Yes,” she replied, “and you’d fucking better be.”

They returned to the Chanters board and her eyes went wide when she got the reward.

THREE SOVEREIGNS?!

That was the most she’d ever been paid for a Chanter’s Board request!

After pawning off the loot they’d gotten from the bandits they’d killed, they decided to call it a day, as the sun was about to set. They used the money they got to buy some bedrolls for the time being and hunkered down a little ways outside of the village. Sten likely wouldn’t be accepted in either the Chantry or the Tavern, so they started up a fire and made do with what they had.

She could not believe how much coin she earned from the day. They’d split the earnings from the Chanter’s board, but at the end of the day, she was still up to ten sovereigns despite their purchases. Which to her, was absolutely crazy and mind-blowing.

“What are you writing?” Alistair asked.

“A letter,” she replied.

“To?”

“My Mother,” she answered finishing up her letter apologizing for the fact that she did the one thing she was never supposed to do, before folding it up into a crane. After some thought, she’d realized that writing to the Mother of her previous life was useless: she was fairly certain that her Mother was still alive. It wouldn’t surprise her if all of her grandparents were still alive, either. Her family-line had longevity and youth in their genes.

If she hadn’t been fucked over by the gods of that world, she’d probably still look twenty despite being in her…

She gave up, she hated mental math. But it was unimportant because no one in her family looked even remotely close to their age.

“That’s an interesting way of folding it,” Leliana said.

“Paper art is pretty neat,” she replied before flying it into the fire. She couldn’t call it origami, that word was meaningless here.

“What? Why did you burn it?” Alistair asked, “I thought you were writing it for your Mother.”

“I burned it so that I can be sure that it reached her,” she said watching the fire consume her crane, “my Mother passed away a while ago… I’d started writing her letters and burning them as a coping mechanism.”

“…Can I have a piece of parchment, please?” Alistair asked and she handed him one.

“Do you wanna talk about Duncan?” she asked.

“Not… not quite yet,” Alistair sighed.

“Alright, take your time,” she replied before turning to the others to decide watch order, she generally took last watch so that she could cook breakfast so that they could at least start their day with a good meal.

She’ll ask him again when there isn’t that much of an audience.

***

He rendezvoused with some of Loghain’s men, who’d left Lothering in a hurry. From them, he’d learned that the Elven woman, Kallian, was indeed the more dangerous of the two remaining Wardens. Though he didn’t learn much, other than she’d soundly beaten them, insulted their intelligence, and then bossed them around as if she were their Mother.

His interest was definitely piqued.

But then who wouldn’t be interested in an Elven woman who could boss full-grown soldiers around? And not only that but apparently she was leading around two Humans?

Granted, he had doubts on how accurate the poster was. He sincerely doubted she looked that pretty, and since Loghain told him to focus on her, he had some suspicions about it.

She could be a romp he regretted having, or something.

Then again, his men did say that she was the more dangerous of the two…

Ah, well, he supposed he would find out soon enough.

***

Smoke was in the air.

The heat of the flames and the smell of charred corpses assaulted her senses.

On her right, she saw the faces of her Mother, her Aunt and Uncle, Nola, Nelaros, and King Cailan staring at her with accusatory stares.

On her left, she saw Shianni, her Father, Soris, and Valendrian staring at her in disappointment.

She raised her weapons to block the attacks launched at her, gritting her teeth as she attempted to deflect, dodge, and block. The Woman knew everything she could do, did everything she could… and she did it better than she did. The woman knew and accepted everything about herself, but she didn’t. She still couldn’t believe everything that had happened to her, she still wanted to deny it. With herself so damn off-kilter she stood no chance. She still didn’t want to face the fact that she’d truly lost control, that she’d truly become a monster.

And once again she was staring up at that white oni mask.

“I know,” she sighed, “I know I’m weak and worthless.”

“Then FACE it,” the woman snarled.

She frowned as she saw the new requests on the Chanter’s Board.

“What’s wrong?” Leliana asked.

“This one,” she said pointing to the request, “I talked to that boy…”

“Ah, yes,” Morrigan said, “the child who told you that his Father had told him that Elves weren’t nice.”

“Yes, that one,” she sighed, “I suppose… his Mother never showed up.”

There were displaced wolves surrounding a body, and they immediately sprung into action. That body was likely the Mother’s and she’d be damned if they took her body away. After recovering the keepsake, they were attacked by the bears mentioned on the other request from the Chanter’s board and took care of those too.

They finished their preparations to leave Lothering and start heading to Redcliffe and started towards the Imperial Highway to start on their way to their next destination.

“We done heard what was said, you’re a Warden,” a Refugee said stopping them, “I don’t know if you killed King Cailan, and Maker forgive me, I don’t care… But that bounty on your head could feed a lot of hungry bellies. Attack!”

Both she and Diana kept bodily shoving the others out of the way before they landed a finishing blow on the refugee and instead knocked them out. They were desperate, they wanted to be able to feed their families and their community, and that was something that spoke to her on a primal level. They knew they might be innocent, but they’d been pushed so far that they’d taken up arms that they weren’t used to in order to attempt to feed those they cared for. Community had always been important to her, in both lifetimes.

Thankfully, Leliana and Alistair got the hint pretty early and after she delivered a series of attacks to their pressure points, knocked them out.

Thank the heavens she remembered meridians from her past life, she didn’t want to hit their heads.

She heard Morrigan sigh in frustration as she left four sovereigns with their unconscious bodies. She still had six left from everything she’d sold and the work they’d done around the village, and they clearly needed it more than she did.

Also, she couldn’t help it, she’d always lived with aloha.

***

Kallian was the kindest and most well-meaning person she had ever met in her entire life, and she couldn’t even call her a fool because the woman was still smart about the way she did things. Especially with how she was careful enough to not let news about her and Alistair being Grey Wardens spread too much.

Everything about her reeked of kindness and compassion, and normally, that would put her off. But for some reason, Kallian’s kindness and compassion did not bother her, and she couldn’t figure out why that was. ‘Twas a strange thing, if it were Alistair or Leliana doing the deeds that Kallian had, she would have immediately called them fools and idiots, but when Kallian did it, she found that she did not feel the need to insult her overmuch. Something else about her that surprised her, was how she’d stood between both her and that Templar in the Chantry like it were second nature.

She still had no idea how the woman seemed to easily get along with her Mother, then again, Kallian seemed to easily get along with everyone. Something she didn’t think was possible, and wouldn’t think possible if she had not witnessed it herself.

Still, she should make a note to never turn into a spider while in Kallian’s presence.

***

It would take about a week to get to Redcliffe, according to some of the people she’d asked. Traveling like this was still weird, she’d probably get used to it in time, but for now? It was still so far removed from the norm that it still felt weird. She’d never been big on camping in her previous life. All she knew how to do, was live in a city. Though she was both grateful and sad about the lack of cars, on one hand? Being in a car for longer than an hour made her feel sick, on the other? She wasn’t used to walking so much.

Though, she often felt like Alistair and Morrigan’s Mother with how often she mediated between the two as they bickered like siblings. If they were in a car, she’d probably threaten to turn it around.

“Away with you foul creatures!” she heard a voice call out, “leave us alone!”

Her gloves were on and she was running, and weapons drawn, she leapt down from the rail she’d been running on. She felt flecks of their black blood and decided that she needed to increase her wardrobe, and also that she should have done her laundry while they were in Lothering.

She really needed to get her life together. Well, at least she was getting used to fighting with others, and that was one of the biggest things she’d been worried about.

“Mighty timely arrival there, my friend,” one of the Dwarves said, a merchant, she thinks, “I’m much obliged.”

“No problem,” she replied.

“The name’s Bodahn Feddic, merchant and entrepreneur,” Bodahn said introducing himself and his son, “this here is my son, Sandal. Say hello, my boy.”

“Hello,” Sandal said.

“Road’s been mighty dangerous these days,” Bodahn said, “mind if I ask what brings you out here? Perhaps we’re going the same way.”

“It’s a bit complicated,” she admitted, “but you’re welcome to come along.”

“Complicated?” Bodahn laughed, “somehow, I imagine that only says half of it.”

“Something like that,” Alistair said.

“Thank you for the offer, but there may be more excitement on your path than is good for my boy and me,” Bodahn replied, “allow me to bid you farewell and good fortune.”

“For you as well,” she said with a polite nod.

“Good-bye,” Sandal said.

“Now, then,” Bodahn said as they began continuing on their way to Redcliffe, “let’s get this mess cleaned up, shall we?”

They continued along the Imperial Highway, trying to make as good time as they could before setting up camp again.

“You were in the Chantry,” Sten said to Leliana, “you are a priest?”

“No, no,” Leliana clarified, “I was a Lay Sister of the Chantry.”

“Which means?” Sten asked.

“I lived and worked in the Chantry,” Leliana replied, “but I did not take any vows.”

“So you… dabbled in priesthood, then?” Sten asked.

“Oh no,” Leliana shook her head, “the Lay Sisters don’t have the same sorts of duties as priests at all.”

“So you were not a priest, did none of their duties, and took no vows,” Sten replied, “but you lived among them?”

“Yes!” Leliana nodded.

“You… were a house guest of the Chantry?” Sten asked.

“Umm,” Leliana replied, “sort of…”

“Looks like the sun’s going down,” she said, “we should set up camp for the day.”

After dinner she blankly stared at the fire thinking about her last dream. The accusatory stares as well as the looks of disappointment… That was probably the worst one yet.

She missed her family. She’s seeing and experiencing a lot of new things, but honestly? She’d rather be back in the Alienage being idiots with her cousins.

“Hm?” she said noticing movement, “is that… Bodahn?”

“Ah! It’s good to see you, my timely rescuers!” Bodahn said, “Bodahn Feddic at your service once again.”

“Hello again, Bodahn,” she replied.

“I saw your camp and remembered the kind offer you made the last time we met, and is there anywhere safe for a poor merchant and his son to sleep? I think not,” Bodahn replied brightly, “I’m perfectly willing to offer you a fine discount for the inconvenience of our presence. How does that sound? Good? Yes?”

“Well, I certainly don’t see why not,” she chuckled, “would you be willing to help us cart around our camping equipment?”

“Of course!” Bodahn replied.

“And… sell my wares at the villages we pass by for a cut of the profits?” she asked seriously.

“What kinds of wares?” Bodahn asked clearly catching her drift.

“Mmm… Textiles, mostly,” she replied, “clothes, blankets, handkerchiefs, bags, baskets… I can also make medicines and such.”

“It’s a deal!” Bodahn replied and they shook on it.

And with that, she’d secured them something of a stable income, she was quite confident in her skills as a tailor and apothecary.

This was fantastic news, and she couldn’t help but pump her fist happily.

***

He heard Kallian tossing and turning.

“Ugghh,” Kallian sighed tiredly as she sat up and lazily lifted up a hand as Diana walked into her so she could be pet.

“Bad dreams, huh?” he asked.

“Not as bad as usual,” Kallian replied leaning her head on Diana’s head while still petting her, “but just as tiring, sure.”

“What do you usually dream about?” he quirked a brow.

“It’s best not to talk about it,” Kallian waved her sleeve around before yawning, “must have been something I ate.”

“Drank, more like,” he pointed out, “as in the tainted blood, remember?”

“Whoa, I thought that was supposed to be a secret, Alistair,” Kallian said wryly, “granted, I don’t actually care if we keep it one or not. I believe that people should actually know what they’re getting into before they get into it.”

“Right, well, I’d like to keep it one,” he coughed.

“Fair enough,” Kallian nodded, “you are the Senior Warden, so I’ll abide to that.”

It felt weird to be called that when he’d left most of the leading up to her.

Though, he would like to talk to her about Duncan at some point. She seemed to know a lot about coping with loss, and that was something he needed. He could also probably stand to know more about his fellow Grey Warden, she completely confounded him. Actually, she completely confounded everyone they were traveling with.

Well, except for Diana.

“Anyway, you see, part of being a Grey Warden is being able to hear the Darkspawn,” he explained, “that’s what your dream was: hearing them… The Archdemon, it… ‘talks’ to the horde, and we feel it just as they do. That’s why we know this is really a Blight.”

“Why didn’t Duncan just tell everyone that?” Kallian sighed in exasperation.

“He did. He said he felt the Archdemon’s presence,” he replied, “everyone just assumed he was guessing.”

“This is why secrets like this work to the detriment of a goal,” Kallian groaned in frustration, “secrets are all well and good, until a country stands on the precipice of annihilation because of idiotic obstinacy that’s unwilling to inform people of the truth. If Loghain had actually known and had a reason to believe that it wasn’t just a guess, we might not even have to be here.”

“Finally!” Morrigan groaned, “a true voice of reason!”

He hated to admit it, but she was right. If Loghain had actually known what was truly at stake, they might not be having these issues.

“It’s common sense!” Kallian frowned, “then again, in his paranoia, he might have assumed we were in league with Orlais and staging a coup.”

“In any case, it takes a bit, but eventually you can block the dreams out. Some of the older Grey Wardens say they can understand the Archdemon a bit, but I sure can’t,” he replied, “anyhow, when I heard you thrashing around, I thought I should tell you. It was scary at first for me, too.”

“Thanks, Alistair,” Kallian replied, “I appreciate it.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” he replied brightly, “to deliver unpleasant news and witty one-liners.”

“Looks like the sun’s coming up,” Kallian said standing to get started with her morning routine, “I’ll get started on breakfast so we can pull up camp and get a move on.”

Chapter Text

She really wished she had a copy of the Tao Te Ching, but she didn’t so she’ll have to try and make do with her shoddy memory… Let’s write down what she remembers in a journal so she can look at it later. Actually, why didn’t she just do that ages ago?

She picked up a quill, an empty journal and began writing the few excerpts she remembered:

Those who understand others are intelligent
Those who understand themselves are enlightened
Victory over people is being powerful
Victory over self is being invincible
Those who know contentment are wealthy
Those who proceed vigorously have willpower
Those who do not forget their principles endure
Those who die but are not forgotten live on.

She could write more later, they’d only stopped to eat lunch, and they still had to go to Redcliffe.

“Hmm, Alistair,” she said as they began walking again, something had been bothering her since last night, “I have a question.”

“What’s up?”

“Why do we have to physically alter our bodies to become Grey Wardens?”

“…You know, I wondered that myself. I asked Duncan but all he said was ‘you’ll see’.”

“…I see,” she sighed and bit the nail of her thumb in thought.

When they reached Denerim, she’d have to stop by a book store to do some research. There had to be a bigger, more important reason behind it than just being able to sense them. Not only that, but the Deep Roads were Dwarven territory, and they didn’t all become Grey Wardens in order to fight the Darkspawn. There was another reason, another secret, and her gut told her that she needed to figure out what it was. If they were to end this Blight, she needed to know what was behind this reasoning.

“Do you have any ideas?”

“No clue I’m afraid, but if I figure anything out, I’ll think about telling you.”

“…Just think about it?”

“No promises whether I’ll actually tell you or not,” she replied, “by the way, lemme know when you wanna talk about Duncan, I’m not going to push it.”

“Will do,” Alistair replied, “by the way, Kallian?”

“Hm?”

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re like a cat?” Alistair asked.

“Oh, thank the Maker I’m not the only one who thinks that!” Leliana exclaimed.

“I do as well,” Morrigan replied, “if she were a mage, she would surely be able to turn into one.”

“My nickname in the Alienage,” she said raising up both her hands and clenching them to look like paws, “was that of a dumb cat.”

“Dumb? How are you dumb?” Alistair asked.

“As a child,” she replied, “there were times where I’d accidentally get stuck in crates and barrels.”

“…How?” Sten asked.

“By miscalculating distances between myself and said crate or barrel,” she replied, “I like high places, so I used to climb onto rooftops a lot, so when jumping down, I’d accidentally end up stuck in a crate or barrel. Sometimes I hid in them while playing hide-and-seek and just fell asleep. At some point, I began just liking being in the quiet space of a crate, sometimes I took naps in them, sometimes I just liked curling up in them to read a book… I can’t fit comfortably fit inside of a barrel anymore though, too cramped.”

“Kallian… Why did Duncan recruit you?” Alistair asked seriously.

“It pisses me off to think about,” she said with the deepest frown she could muster, “maybe I’ll tell you later.”

With Bodahn’s help, they should be able to make it to Redcliffe ahead of schedule, which was good news. Alistair’s been antsy about Arl Eamon ever since they’d heard the news. Hopefully, she could get more information on his symptoms and work out an antidote if it were a poison, or a medicine if it were an illness.

She should make a note to get to know her companions more… Yeah, she’ll talk to them tonight.

“Oh, thank the Maker! We need help!” a Woman shouted running up to them, “they attacked the wagon, please help us! Follow me! I’ll take you to them!”

She quirked a brow as she watched the woman run away.

“Shouldn’t we hurry after her?” Alistair asked.

“Nah,” she shook her head, “she’s not even in any real danger. It’s a trap… Too bad we’re stuck on this road and can’t just go a different way.”

“It’s a trap?” Alistair asked, “how do you know?”

“How could I not know?” she asked, “she’s defying common sense. In fact, if it weren’t a trap, then it’d be an insult to the world’s common sense that she survive. If she were in any real danger, she would cower behind us and point in the direction of the attack, not run towards them without being sure that we’d follow. Though, it’s still a pretty shit trap. If I were whoever planned to ambush us, I would send three people who actually looked roughed up and afraid, and had them cower behind us so that they could assault us on two fronts. Strategically speaking, that would increase their chances of success and put us at a huge disadvantage.”

“I’m still confused as to why Duncan recruited you,” Alistair said, “but I’m grateful that he did so.”

“That makes one of us,” she grumbled quietly.

“What?” Alistair asked.

“Noooooothing,” she replied fetching her gloves, “ah, well, all we can do is walk forward I suppose… At a leisurely pace, of course.”

***

The woman he’d sent forward as bait was now standing around awkwardly while they waited.

…Were they even coming?

He frowned at the woman, who simply shrugged.

He didn’t come here to succeed, but it still didn’t feel good to have to wait like this.

“Oh my goooooooosh!” he heard a voice laughing, “no waaaaay! You did not!”

“It’s true!” another voice giggled, “I did!”

…This really didn’t feel good.

And all he could do was sigh, until they finally saw them, they could finally spring their trap, and sent the tree falling to block their escape path.

And he wondered if the soldiers and Loghain were telling the truth, the Elven woman wasn’t even wearing armor, she looked more like a servant than anything. Though, the poster was indeed inaccurate: it did her no justice.

“The Grey Warden dies here!” he shouted as they locked eyes, every ounce of mirth that may have once been there was gone.

The last thing he saw was the mole under the emerald eyes of a cold-blooded ruthless killer.

***

Kallian’s knack for strategy bordered on the obscene, as did her overall fluid mobility on the battlefield. If he hadn’t seen her in action, he would have continued to believe the woman a simple Elven servant. It was strange to see someone in these lands not wear armor into combat, but she did not seem to need too. Her opponents were both armor and shield for her as she masterfully manipulated them into blocking their own comrade's attacks for her. He wondered where she’d learned to fight, he’d never seen someone move as she did.

It made him remember the words he’d spoken to her when they first met: that his people had heard legends of the Grey Wardens’ strength and skill, and about how he’d said that he supposed not every legend was true. In regards to Kallian, that was clearly not the case, she held more skill and power than he’d given her credit for.

He had no doubt, that if she were to join the Qun, she would have found herself in a high-ranking Ben-Hassrath position.

“One of them is still alive,” Leliana said.

“I would certainly hope so,” Kallian replied pulling a braided cord from one of her pouches and tying the thumb of the Elf’s right hand to the pinkie of his left, “I only knocked him out… He’s their leader, I wanted to see if we could get information.”

“Is that all you’re going to do to tie him up?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s all I need,” Kallian nodded, “it traps his arms in an awkward position, not only that, but keeps him from grabbing anything.”

“Kallian,” Alistair said, “who ARE you?”

“No one of any real consequence,” Kallian shrugged taking out a piece of paper and began folding it in half, and folded it again into a square, “I used to help out at the apothecary’s in the Alienage, and also spent time helping out at the healers… I am multi-talented.”

“Clearly,” he nodded as she held her folded paper in a peculiar way, lifted her arm up, and then did a sharp downward stroke.

***

He woke up to the sound of a loud bang.

“Kallian… are you just a master of paper?” someone above him asked, a male voice.

…Paper? That loud sound came from paper?

“Mwa-ha-ha,” who he assumed to be Kallian laughed.

“I did not know how interesting a simple piece of parchment could become,” another female voice said, “’tis certainly interesting to see.”

“Mmmm… what? I… oh…” he groaned, “I rather thought I would wake up dead… Or not wake up at all, as the case may be. But I see you haven’t killed me yet.”

He was tied up in a rather odd way.

“Emphasis on ‘yet’,” Kallian smiled brightly a hand on her Mabari.

“Are all Elves the same upon waking up from almost death?” one of the voices from earlier asked.

“I’m fairly certain he’s having a better time than I was. I just hit one of his pressure points,” Kallian frowned gesturing to him and then herself, “I took a bunch of arrows and also, apparently, suffered a cracked skull.”

…A bunch of arrows and a cracked skull? And she was still alive?

Could this woman even be killed?

“…Your skull was cracked?” another more gravely voice said in mild surprise, “and yet you still live? Impressive.”

“Right? Apparently, some people really don’t know how to stay dead… or actually die, I suppose,” Kallian shrugged before changing her stance to stand feet shoulder-width apart, and cross her arms in front of her chest, “anyway, we have some questions.”

“Ah! So I’m to be interrogated? Let me save you some time,” he replied, “my name is Zevran. Zev to my friends. I am a member of the Antivan Crows, brought here for the sole purpose of slaying any surviving Grey Wardens. Which I have failed at, sadly.”

“I’m rather happy you failed,” Alistair said.

“So would I be, in your shoes. For me, however, it sets a rather poor precedent, doesn’t it?” he replied, “getting captured by a target seems a tad detrimental to one’s budding assassin career.”

“…What are the Antivan Crows?” Kallian asked blankly, and he could not believe his ears.

“I can tell you that. They are an order of assassins out of Antiva. Very powerful, and renowned for always getting the job done… so to speak,” the Red-Headed Woman replied, “someone went to great expense to hire this man.”

“…I’m going to sound really stupid here,” Kallian said and he really couldn’t believe his ears, “but… where was Antiva again?”

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE ANTIVA IS?!” a man he recognized as Alistair shouted and he noted Kallian jump slightly.

“Geography’s never been my strong suit,” Kallian shrugged.

“First, you don’t know anything about the Grey Wardens,” Alistair counted off his fingers, “then you don’t know the Antivan Crows… and now you don’t even know where Antiva is?!”

“My ability to retain information on things that either aren’t in line with my interests, or don’t directly pertain to my life is, basically, no it is nonexistent,” Kallian declared proudly, “military organizations aren’t really an interest of mine, I never planned on leaving Denerim, and I also never planned on becoming important enough to warrant assassination. Therefore, I deemed all of that information as unimportant, and promptly forgot all of it.”

“And yet here you are,” he said dryly.

“Indeed! Jokes on me!” Kallian replied, and he honestly had no idea what was happening anymore, “in any case… you came all the way from Antiva?”

“Not precisely,” he answered, “I was in the neighborhood when the offer came. The Crows get around, you see.”

“So, did Loghain hire you to kill us?” Kallian asked with a frown.

“The rather taciturn fellow in the capital?” he replied in thought, “yes, I believe so… He also told me to make sure you at least died.”

“What? Kallian, do you know why?” the Red-Headed Woman asked.

“No, I’m afra—” Kallian who had been in the process of shaking her head completely froze, “ah, no, wait, yeah… Sorry, I lied. I do know.”

“What? Why?” Alistair asked.

“Mmm… It’s what I forgot to tell you,” Kallian explained, “Loghain realized I’d seen through him when the beacon went up. So, of course, he’d see me as the larger threat… You see, the truth is: he’d never intended to respond to the beacon in the first place. The Tower's complete lack of defense despite it being for a vital role strongly indicated this, especially considering that he knew Darkspawn came from underground and that lower chambers had been found in the Tower. Add into the equation the fact that the Darkspawn had been there for at least a few hours, logic dictates that, quite frankly, he was hoping that the beacon would never light, since it would have given him the excuse of saying that he couldn’t help the King because the beacon never went up, and so he’d pulled his forces from Ostagar after seeing it as a lost cause. Which is why I had us light the beacon: I wanted people to witness that it did indeed get sent up, and that something was amiss.”

“HOW DID YOU FORGET TO TELL ME THAT?!” Alistair shouted and Kallian covered her ears a little.

“Very easily it seems!” Kallian replied brightly, “but why are you just telling us all this?”

He really had no idea what was happening anymore.

She wasn’t anything like how he expected, granted, she did indeed seem to be the larger threat of the two remaining Wardens…

She was also far more interesting than he’d anticipated. Appearances aside, she was charming, witty, and charismatic.

And he was realizing that perhaps he didn’t want to die, just quite yet. She was such a curious woman, that a large part of him wanted to know more about.

“Why not?” he replied, “I wasn’t paid for silence. Not that I offered it for sale precisely.”

“Do you have no loyalty to him?” Kallian quirked a brow.

“No, not really,” he replied, “I was contracted to perform a service.”

“When were you supposed to see him next?” Kallian asked.

“I wasn’t. If I had succeeded, I would have returned home and the Crows would have informed your Loghain of the results, well… if he didn’t already know,” he replied, “if I had failed, I would be dead. Or I should be, at least as far as the Crows are concerned. No need to see Loghain then.”

If you had failed?” Alistair asked.

“What can I say? I’m an eternal optimist, although the chances of succeeding at this point seem a bit slim, don’t they?” he laughed, “no I don’t suppose you’d find that funny, would you?”

“I don’t get it,” Kallian stared at him blankly, “and a slim chance is still a chance… I feel like I was just telling my Father that the other day…”

“How much were you even paid?” Alistair asked as he noticed Kallian’s entire demeanor begin shifting again, regaining that cold-blooded look.

“I wasn’t paid anything. The Crows, however, were paid quite handsomely, or so I understand,” he replied keeping an eye on her, currently, Alistair was keeping him alive, “which does make me about as poor as a Chantry mouse, come to think of it. Being an Antivan Crow isn’t for the ambitious, to be perfectly honest.”

“Then why are you one?” Kallian asked, even the quality of her voice was different, it sent shivers down his spine.

He would have to choose his words carefully here if he wanted to not only escape with his life, but also get into her good graces. Which was something he found himself wanting quite strongly. He had no illusions, she could kill him quite easily. But there was a quality to her that drew him to her… It was something he’d strongly felt the second they’d locked eyes. Before then, he thought her interesting, sure, but there was something else there that he didn’t know what was.

“Well, aside from a distinct lack of ambition, I suppose it’s because I wasn’t given much of a choice. The Crows bought me young. I was a bargain, too, or so I’m led to believe” he decided to appeal to her maternal instincts, as well as those they’d shared, considering that they were both Elves, “but don’t let my sad story influence you. The Crows aren’t so bad. They keep one well-supplied: wine, women, men… Whatever you happen to fancy. Though the whole severance package is garbage, let me tell you. If you were considering joining, I’d really think twice about it.”

“Thanks, I’ll take that under advisement,” Kallian replied, her demeanor still hadn’t shifted back.

“You seem like a bright girl,” he replied, “I’m sure you’ve other options.”

“Well, that’s all I wanted to know,” Kallian said and he saw her begin to lift her weapon, “so without furth—”

“Then unless you’re quite stuck on cutting my throat or something equally gruesome,” he said quickly interrupting her, “perhaps you’d care to hear a proposal?”

“Make it quick,” Kallian sighed in annoyance.

“Well, here’s the thing: I failed to kill you, so my life is forfeit. That’s how it works. If you don’t kill me, the Crows will,” he said, “thing is, I like living. And you obviously are the sort to give the Crows pause. So let me serve you, instead.”

There was a slight shift in her expression, she began furiously blinking her eyes and shook her head slightly and then huffed a sigh.

“Kallian,” Alistair said, “are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m not good at this whole switching back and forth thing,” Kallian replied pinching the bridge of her nose and her demeanor finally switched back, “can we expect the same amount of loyalty from you?”

“I happen to be a very loyal person. Up until the point where someone expects me to die for failing,” he replied noting that she had issues switching back to not killing him, switching to killing him, however, was much easier, “that’s not a fault, really, is it? I mean, unless you’re the sort who would do the same thing. In which case I… don’t come very well recommended, I suppose.”

“That’s not a fault, no,” Kallian sighed, “and what’s to stop you from finishing the job later?”

“To be completely honest, I was never given much of a choice regarding joining the Crows,” he replied deciding to continue to appeal to her maternal instincts and shared race, “they bought me on the slave market when I was a child. I think I’ve paid my worth back to them, plus tenfold. The only way out, however, is to sign up with someone they can’t touch… Even if I did kill you now, they might kill me just on principle for failing the first time. Honestly, I’d rather take my chances with you.”

“Won’t they just come after you?” Kallian quirked a brow.

“Possibly, I happen to know their wily ways, however,” he replied, “I can protect myself, as well as you… Not that you seem to need much help. And if not… well, it’s not as if I had many alternatives to start with, is it?”

“You must think I’m royally stupid,” Kallian frowned.

“I think you’re royally tough to kill, and utterly gorgeous,” he replied honestly, he knew that she could switch back to that cold-blooded killer easily and needed to keep choosing his words carefully, “not that I think you’ll respond to simply flattery. But there are worse things in life than serving the whims of a deadly sex goddess.”

“Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha,” Kallian laughed monotonously, “and why would I want your service, exactly?”

“Why? Because I am skilled at many things, from fighting to stealth and picking locks,” he replied, “I could also warn you should the Antivan Crows attempt something more… sophisticated… now that my attempts have failed. I could also stand around and look pretty, if you prefer. Warm your bed? Fend off unwanted suitors? No?”

“Is this before or after you stab me in the back?” Kallian asked.

“Tsk… These things you say,” he replied, “they must drive the men back home simply wild.”

“Not really,” Kallian replied monotonously after he noticed something unreadable pass through her eyes, “I’d been dubbed the headstrong trouble-making woman who brought more trouble than she was worth.”

He couldn’t believe that.

He really couldn’t believe that, what sorts of idiotic men would pass-by someone like her?

“Well, what shall it be?” he replied, “I’ll even shine armor. You won’t find a better deal, I promise.”

“And what do you want in return?” Kallian asked.

“Well, let’s see… being allowed to live would be nice,” he replied finally seeing that this was going his way, for the moment, anyway, “and would make me marginally more useful to you… And somewhere down the line, if you should decide that you no longer have need of me, then I go on my way. Until then, I am yours. Is that fair?”

“Hmmmm,” Kallian tapped her chin in thought before turning to her Mabari, “I dunno, Anya, what do you think?”

…She was trusting her dog with his fate?

“You’re trusting your dog with this decision?” Alistair asked.

“Yes, because dogs have good instincts and are good judges of character. In fact, in general, dogs are incredibly perceptive. They’re also pack animals with a strong need to protect their pack, if she thinks he’s a threat to me, she will not hesitate to kill him. The only reason she backs off someone who’s already threatened me is because I tell her to, but she won’t abide by it a second time, if he tries anything she’ll straight-out ignore me and kill him anyway,” Kallian replied as her dog huffed at Alistair in disgust, “right? The nerve… I can’t believe he’d just deem your opinion as unimportant…”

“Didn’t you just meet her three weeks ago?” Alistair asked, “how are you two already so in-tune with each other?”

“You just wouldn’t understand,” Kallian replied looking at Alistair with pity before moving to undo his bindings and slipping the cord back into her pouch, “very well, we accept.”

“What?! You’re taking the assassin with us now?” Alistair balked, “does that really seem like a good idea?”

“Don’t worry, cats trump crows,” Kallian replied.

“You’re not an actual cat, you know,” Alistair frowned.

“Alistair… I don’t know if you’ve realized this yet… But I hate unnecessary violence and bloodshed,” Kallian frowned, “and with how shitty that trap was… I feel like if we don’t bring him with us, he’ll die.”

“You’re a rather cruel woman,” he sighed, he had a feeling that she’d seen through him, “did you know that?”

“I do have a bit of a messed-up personality,” Kallian replied, “so you’re not wrong there.”

Kallian offered him a hand to help him stand, but as he took it, he saw a mischievous glint in her eye and was promptly dropped back down.

And he was treated to the sight of her hysterical laughter.

“…Kallian… what?” Alistair asked in shock.

“My true nature is that of a playful trickster, with a penchant for mischief and mayhem, and a love of laughter,” Kallian after calming down and extending her hand again, “sorry, but I needed that, so thank you, and I promise I won’t drop you this time.”

She didn’t, though he could tell she wanted too.

“I hereby pledge my oath of loyalty to you, until such a time as you choose to release me from it,” he said with a bow, “I am your man, without reservation… this I swear.”

“A fine plan, but I would examine your food and drink far more closely from now on, were I you,” the Raven-Haired Woman replied.

“That’s excellent advice for anyone,” he replied brightly.

“Don’t worry, Morrigan,” Kallian replied snapping her fingers into a thumbs up, “I suffer from the Apothecary’s Crux.”

“The Apothecary’s Crux?” Alistair quirked a brow.

“High tolerance to poisons, but at the same time also high tolerance to medicines,” Kallian replied, “they’re basically two sides of the same coin.”

He’d never heard of this before, but then perhaps the Crows didn’t care to discuss it since it dealt in saving lives, and not ending them. It seemed that Kallian’s goal was to save people, the direct opposite of his… yet she knew how to make use of her skills in both ways, to save lives and as well as deal death.

How interesting.

“How do you know so much about medicines and the like,” Alistair replied, “and not know where Antiva is?”

“Medicines and such directly pertained to my life,” Kallian replied, “of course I’d remember them.”

“Welcome, Zevran,” the Red-Headed Woman said, “having an Antivan Crow join us sounds like a fine plan.”

“Oh? You are another companion-to-be, then?” he grinned, “I wasn’t aware such loveliness existed amongst adventurers, surely.”

“Or maybe not,” the Woman said quickly, prompting Kallian to cover her mouth to keep herself from laughing.

“So, Kallian,” Alistair said, “did Duncan recruit you because you played a trick on him?”

“I WISH!” Kallian practically shouted, “at least that would have been funny!”

“Kallian,” the Red-Headed Woman said.

“Hm? What is it Leliana?” Kallian replied, ah her name was Leliana, then.

“What else can you make with paper?” Leliana asked as Kallian walked back to the fallen tree.

“A lot of things, I can make animals, flowers, and even functional things like containers,” Kallian replied as she inspected the fallen tree and then angrily clicked her tongue, “honestly, did you not think about the traders and such you inconvenienced with your shit trap? Help me move this.”

He was beginning to see how Loghain’s men had felt that they’d been scolded by their Mother…

Granted, he never knew the woman, but he had a feeling that it would be something like this.

***

After clearing the way for Bodahn to move his cart in, they continued towards Redcliffe, Diana staring at Zevran, practically daring him to do something. With all of this dealt with, she could allow her mind to ponder just exactly what her life even was right now. Diana would keep him in check, she was sure of that. She hadn’t been lying, Diana would outright demolish him if he tried anything, though, at the moment, she was a being a figurative and literal bitch. Quite honestly? She didn’t think he would try anything, if he’d really wanted to kill them, he’d have planned a better trap. Or not even an ambush, really.

Though, this also confused her a bit: if he was from an infamous guild of assassin’s whose services cost so much… Why would he plan such a shoddy trap? The only explanation she could think of, was that he didn’t want to survive the encounter.

Ah, he was like her then, wanting to die, but then realizing, that perhaps he didn’t want to die after-all.

She just realized that his accent sounded Italian, and followed that realization up with how Leliana’s accent sounded French. So, what? Were the Crows like the Mafia? She wondered if he moved his hands a lot when he spoke, as Italians have a tendency to do. But seriously, what was even happening anymore? Assassins? From Antiva? What she did remember about Antiva was that it had weather that would appeal to her inner Island Girl.

She was hungry, and she hated that her appetite was increasing, she’d worked so damn hard to slow down her metabolism because the larger her appetite was, the more her wallet would shrink. Which was terrible, especially considering the fact that she’d lived in poverty: she’d never had the funds to sustain such a way of living. Especially if she wanted to have other things she wanted to buy, she had to keep track of her funds. Make sure she had enough to continue to be able to purchase the things she needed, and only be able to treat herself once in a blue moon.

“Ugghhh,” she groaned, “I just remembered Alistair’s on cooking duty tonight.”

“I think I shall be skipping dinner tonight,” Morrigan replied.

“That’s fine with me,” Alistair replied, “more for us.”

“Urgh…” she winced, “not sure if that’s what I wanted to hear.”

“Is Alistair’s cooking that bad?” Leliana asked.

“It’s… borderline edible,” she said bluntly, “I’m more concerned about Alistair accidentally poisoning us, than I am about Zevran purposefully poisoning us.”

“Hey! It’s not that bad!” Alistair replied.

“It is,” Morrigan replied, “it really is.”

“So I may not be the best cook,” Alistair replied, “but are you saying my cooking is less trust-worthy than the assassin?”

“That is exactly what we’re saying,” both she and Morrigan said in unison.

“Kallian,” Sten said.

“Hm?”

“I would like to see a demonstration of your abilities,” Sten said seriously.

“Huh? Why?” she asked blankly.

She was worried that this would come up one day. This world didn’t have her concept of fighting, nor did it truly have her concept of living in general. Aloha meant nothing to the people here, despite it still meaning everything to her.

“You fight in a way I’ve never seen before,” Sten replied.

“I was just thinking that!” Leliana said, “the only times I’ve seen your martial prowess is in battle… but you move in such a unique way.”

“I thought so as well!” Alistair agreed.

“’Tis most interesting to watch,” Morrigan said.

“Oh? Does she fight in a special way?” Zevran asked clearly trying to ignore Diana staring at him.

“’Tis like watching water come to life in the form of an Elf,” Morrigan said, “’tis graceful and elegant, but swift, sharp, and powerful.”

“…That’s right,” she sighed, “Morrigan would be the only one who’d been able to actually observe me fighting without also being in battle with me.”

“I find myself a tad curious as well,” Zevran said, “as I was immediately knocked out.”

She doubted she could talk her way out of this, well, if they wanted a demonstration, might as well go all out. She’s gotten better at marrying both styles together. Granted, she’ll still have to make do with the fact that both she and her religion still weren’t on speaking terms yet.

“Basic strategy,” she replied, “you were the one leading them, therefore I wanted to prioritize being able to question you, so I knocked you out first.”

“When did you study strategy?” Sten asked.

“I never did, I mainly use common sense, and I’m good at dealing with people,” she replied, “so I guess it just worked out that way.”

The skills and abilities she’d nurtured in order to help people, in order to save people were currently being used to kill… A fitting punishment for the fact that she’d lost control of herself, for the fact that she killed people with her own hands in anger and rage…

…Maybe she should cook tonight, she wasn’t really in the mood for Alistair’s cuisine, she should also start to making some things for Bodahn to sell. So much to do so little time.

“Ugggggggggghhhhhhhhhh,” she groaned in frustration, “Alistair, why can’t you be a better cook?”

“Will you be taking over cooking duty, tonight, then?” Morrigan asked.

“Yeah, I really don’t want to eat Alistair’s cooking tonight,” she replied with the deepest frown she could muster, “but the next time he’s on cooking duty, I’m going to be supervising him with an iron fist.”

“What?” Alistair replied, “why?”

“Because your cooking is an insult to the ingredients,” she replied angrily, “it’s an insult to the animals that died in order for us to eat meat, and an insult to the vegetables that had parts of them amputated in order for us to consume them.”

“Plants don’t feel pain,” Sten said.

“Just because you can’t hear it screaming,” she replied flatly, “doesn’t mean that it’s not. Anything that’s alive has a way of saying ‘hey, please stop hurting me’.”

In her past life, scientists used finely tuned microphones to pick up the fact that when plants are being cut, or are ill, they emit frequencies akin to whimpers and screams. Not only that, but just in general, plants are highly social organisms, they simply communicate in frequencies and ways that are different to those associated with the animal kingdom.

“I think that is the single most terrifying thing I have ever heard in my life,” Leliana said finally.

“Understanding is the first step to correcting something,” she replied, “when I cook, I take these things into account, the same as when I mix medicines and poisons. I face them properly, and endeavor to not grant what they’d offered a disservice… Unlike Alistair.”

“Errr… I think I’m going to be taking cooking a lot more seriously from now on,” Alistair said.

“You’d fucking better,” she replied.

They set up camp for the day, and she began preparing dinner, since she was tired, and didn’t want to deal with being Alistair’s step-mother overseeing him cook. Honestly, his terrible cooking angered her greatly. It was a waste of good ingredients, and she’d grown up poor. The impoverished don’t have the luxury of being able to waste food like that. Her Father may have had the most lucrative job in the Alienage, but that didn’t mean much for Elves.

“So, Kallian,” Zevran said sidling up to her.

“Mmm?” she hummed as she began slicing through the vegetables.

“Are you sure you’re not leaving behind a lover in Denerim?” Zevran asked.

“And I thought I was the one with the slightly messed up personality,” she frowned, “but here you are, rubbing salt into my wounds.”

“I just find it hard to believe that a woman like you would escape notice,” Zevran replied.

“I did not, in fact, leave a lover behind,” she sighed, “and even if I did, everyone I know and love thinks I’m dead, and I’m going to have to keep it that way for a long time. So, even if I did have one, I doubt I’d have one when I returned. Rather, it would be stupid of me to expect to still have one.”

“Is—”

“Kallian!” Alistair called after she’d set dinner on the fire cutting Zevran off, “I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Alright, alright,” she sighed and Diana took her place by the fire continuing to dare Zevran to try something.

***

He, honestly, just wanted to get her away from Zevran. She seemed to trust him enough, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do the same. He was an assassin, hired to kill them. Though it seemed like Kallian had figured him out, or something along those lines. She really was good at dealing with people. Being able to grasp their personality and motives with ease. He wondered how she did it, how she knew exactly what to say, and when to say it.

“So?” Kallian asked sitting next to him while Diana stood guard watching dinner cook.

“I… wanted to talk about Duncan,” he sighed, “I know you didn’t know him as long as I did.”

“Still, he was like a Father to you,” Kallian replied, “even I could see that.”

“I… I should have handled it better,” he replied, “Duncan warned me right from the beginning that this could happen. Any of us could die in battle. I shouldn’t have lost it, not when so much is riding on us, not with the Blight and… and everything. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Kallian said, “you have no reason to be. No matter how much preparation one might do, losing someone important is never easy.”

“I’d… like to have a proper funeral for him. Maybe once this is all done, if we’re still alive,” he replied and received a swift smack to the head, “right, sorry, once this is all done, once we’ve ended the Blight. I don’t think he had any family to speak of.”

“He had you,” Kallian said with a soft smile.

“I suppose he did… It probably sounds stupid, but part of me wishes I was with him,” he admitted, “in the battle. I feel like I abandoned him.”

“It’s not stupid,” Kallian replied, “there’s a name for that thing you’re feeling. It’s called: survivor’s guilt. It’s when you believe that you’ve done something wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others didn’t. You blame yourself for the deaths of the others…”

“Do you have it too?” he asked.

“Yeah, there were people I tried to save, but failed to,” Kallian replied with a far-off look, “I was either too weak, too slow, or too incompetent… I have those thoughts like: why were you so slow? If you’d only been faster, you might have rescued them in time! If you weren’t so damn weak, you could have saved them! I was well acquainted with death in the Alienage, especially doing the work I did: helping out at the healers, helping out with the apothecary…”

“I can’t even imagine what that’d be like,” he said

“Don’t get me wrong, I loved my life. But there were times when I tried to save people, but ended up too slow, or too weak,” Kallian continued, “I was too slow to save my Aunt and Uncle… And that was years ago. It can be hard to get through, it takes time, it’s a process… but you’ll get there. You just… have to learn to forgive yourself, even if it’s only a little at a time. It’s hard, it sucks, and sometimes you wonder what the point even was. But you can’t give in… Someone once told me that ‘tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength’. No matter the difficulties or how painful the experience is, losing hope would be the true disaster.”

“Thank you, Kallian,” he replied after a bit of thought.

He really did admire her ability to know what to say, and when to say it. He wondered if her ability to soothe frayed nerves and calm people was because she knew what it was like to be struck down by life. She’d clearly experienced a lot, but never allowed it to get her down, never allowed it to break her. ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength’… It was a process, one that’ll take time, but he’ll get there.

“Now then!” Kallian said standing up with a grin, “how about a bit of a martial demonstration?”

***

She knew the steps to saving herself, but she had no interest in walking them.

For her? It didn’t matter, she’d already lost most of her own hope, but if she could keep others from experiencing the same? There was nothing she wouldn’t give. She herself, was beyond hope, anyway.

Why did she get to walk off freely, when Shianni was home in the Alienage suffering? When she couldn’t be there for her? She loved Shianni so damn much, but in the end, she had caused her the most pain. And to make it worse? She’d brought Nelaros down too. She had no illusions, there was no redemption for her. No matter how many she saved, it would never matter, because she failed the ones she loved most.

Well, she’ll just channel this into her movements while she pretends that everyone isn’t watching her.

She was better in barehanded combat, armed Elves never lived very long.

So she married both styles, using both the evasive flowing maneuvering from baguazhang using her momentum to help build into the stronger, fiercer chāquán trusting her body to follow through with the movements she set in motion. It was still mainly baguazhang but that was to be expected.

Still, there was nothing more satisfying than executing a five-forty twist into a front-split landing. Demonstrations were for people being able to see everything someone is capable of, not what they’ll actually do in battle, so might as well just go all out.

***

When Kallian spoke of philosophy and wisdom, one could not help but listen, a quality he did not think possible in these lands.

And watching her demonstrate her abilities in full, was a far better experience than fighting alongside her.

The way Kallian fought, was truly an art. She had full control of her body and trusted in it. She was well-disciplined in her martial style, something that was impressive to him.

There were movements that he did not think a body capable of handling, that she flowed through easily. There were movements that were almost too swift for him to see that she maneuvered through masterfully. It made him understand why she did not wear armor, and why she wore the clothes that she did: it was because of the way she moved and fought did not allow her to wear armor. But to compensate for that, her movements were graceful, fluid, and flexible that she would be able to either easily flow out of the way of any attack, or do as he had already seen: maneuver her opponents to become her armor and shield.

Chapter Text

Being in Redcliffe was brutal, they could not reach Arl Eamon, and night after night they had to deal with siege from the undead. She and Bann Teagan were doing all they could to help the villagers defend themselves, but hope was waning. Still, they continued to defend the village, praying that someone would come and give them aid.

***

She was stretching, and getting ready to start the day, it would probably take another four days to get to Redcliffe. She leapt up into a nearby tree, and jumped from branch to branch until she was at the highest point, pulled out her map and surveyed the area to make sure they were heading in the right direction. She took a breath in, held it, and let it out, she’d almost forgotten this feeling of freedom.

“You even climb trees like a cat,” Sten said as she reacquainted herself with the ground, “in Seheron, there are large spotted cats who live in the jungle. We call the Jaguars, they are swift, powerful, and precise. You remind me of them.”

“That sounds so much better than being referred to as just a regular cat,” she nodded with approval.

Jaguars existed in this world? Let’s see… If memory served correct, Jaguars were the perfect examples of a keystone species in that they had a strong top-down effect. They kept the environment they inhabited healthy by preying on other animals and keeping their populations in check. Not only that, but they were apex predators, the absolute top of the food chain. She could see the resemblance, especially given her role in Denerim.

“OW!” Alistair shouted and she jogged over to where Alistair and Diana were, “why you little…”

“What?” she asked confused, “what?”

“Diana here took offense at me getting near her food,” Alistair replied, “she snapped at me. Look.”

“Of course she snapped at you,” she frowned, “she thought you were going to take it away.”

“She doesn’t snap at you,” Alistair pointed out.

“Because she knows I rank above her,” she replied looking at his hand, “that’s why she listens to me. Dogs are pack animals that abide by a hierarchy.”

Diana huffed at Alistair and she knelt down and stared into her eyes for a bit then picked up a stick and began drawing a triangle in the dirt, separated it into three parts, and labeled them.

“This is what she thinks our hierarchy is,” she said gesturing to it, “I’m at the top, then her, then everyone else.”

Diana put her paw on her hand.

“Hm? Ah, sorry,” she changed it a bit moving Sten up to the same rank as Diana, “Sten’s here too.”

“You two really are in sync, aren’t you?” Alistair quirked a brow.

“Of course we are,” she replied.

They pulled up camp and loaded up Bodahn’s cart to start setting off to Redcliffe. She missed actual beds, having a roof over her head, and a proper kitchen.

“Kallian, did you always live in an Alienage?” Leliana asked, “was it very terrible?”

“Terrible? It wasn’t terrible at all,” she shook her head, “on first day, my cousins and I would climb to the highest rooftops to watch the first sunrise of the year… And we had a weekly tradition of going stargazing at night. My days were generally filled with laughter and love.”

“That is good to hear,” Leliana replied, “I have never been to the Denerim Alienage, but I hear that life is hard and… there is so much squalor.”

“Life’s hard no matter where you live it,” she replied, “I was well acquainted with death and hardship, sure, but that just made me treasure the time I had with my friends and family all the more.”

“That’s a nice way of looking at it,” Leliana nodded, “in Orlais, most Elven servants live in the homes of their masters, often in great wealth and luxury.”

“My Father is the head-servant of Bann Rodolf’s Denerim estate,” she said thoughtfully, “but he was still expected to return to the Alienage by nightfall.”

“I’ve known Elven servants with servants of their own,” Leliana replied, “a well-trained Elven servant is highly valued in Orlais. They are nimble and dexterous and many people find them pleasing to look at.”

“While I did expect to one day find employment as a servant,” she frowned, “I would prefer people not find us pleasing to look at. Especially considering the fact that I felt the need to dress like a man whenever I left the Alienage.

And especially with how nobles like Vaughan preyed upon Elves in the Alienage, people who she intentionally led to their dooms because of their ill-intentions.

“I— I did not mean it that way!” Leliana apologized, “my words were clumsily chosen… I did not mean to offend. I— ugh I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she sighed, “like I said: the first step to correcting something is through understanding, and now you know.”

“You have given me a lot to think about,” Leliana replied.

“That’s what I’m here for, empowering people, making them think,” she replied, “and to end the Blight.”

“Empowering people?” Zevran asked.

“I really, really, really, want to see a horde of soldiers wielding shovels,” she said clenching a fist.

“Shovels?” Sten asked, “you want to see soldiers wielding shovels?”

“Oh! You guys weren’t there for that,” Leliana clapped her hands together, “back in Lothering, outside of the Chantry there was a Chasind man who was scaring people. Kallian calmed him down and sent him on his way, and then told some farmers that they had skills they could use to defend themselves. And that getting used to a weapon is useless when they already have tools that can double as weapons. It was quite impressive.”

“By the way, Zevran,” she asked, “what’s Antiva like?”

“Oh? You wish to know about Antiva, do you? The only way to truly appreciate it would be to go there,” Zevran replied, “it is a warm place, not cold and harsh like Ferelden. In Antiva it rains often, but the flowers are always in bloom… or so the saying goes.”

It sounded just like where she lived in her past life.

“You don’t like Ferelden?” she asked.

“It is fine enough with its dogs and its mud. The people are spirited even if they can’t tell the difference between an assassin and a mere killer,” Zevran replied, “I hail from the glorious Antiva City, home to the royal palace. It is a glittering gem amidst the sand, my Antiva City. Do you come from someplace comparable?”

“Of course, my Mother was better than any gem, fiercer than any fire, freer than the wind,” she replied, “softer than any silk, but also harder than any rock…”

“Well, you have me there, indeed! I, for one, can make no such claim as I never laid eyes on the woman!” Zevran laughed, “hmm… you know what is odd? We speak of my homeland, and for all its wine and its dark-haired beauties and the lillo flutes of the minstrels… I miss the leather the most.”

“…Is that some kind of euphemism?” she asked with furrowed brows.

“It may as well be! But not this once, no,” Zevran laughed, “I mean the smell. For years I lived in a tiny apartment near Antiva City’s leather-making district, in a building where the Crows stored their youngest recruits. Packed in like crates… I grew accustomed to the stench, even though the Humans complained of it constantly. To this day, the smell of fresh leather is what reminds me most of home more than anything else.”

“You sound like you’ve been away from home forever,” she said thoughtfully.

“Oh, not so long, I know,” Zevran sighed, “it is my first time away from Antiva, however, and the thought of never returning makes me think of it constantly.”

“I know how that feels,” she sighed, “this is my first time away from Denerim.”

“Oh? Before I left, I was tempted to spend what little coin I possessed on leather boots I spotted in a store window… Finest Antivan leather, perfect craftsmanship… Ah, but I was a fool to leave them,” Zevran replied, “I thought, ‘Ah, Zevran, you can buy them when you return as a reward for a job well done!’ More the fool I, no?”

Now she was confused, she was fairly certain that he’d planned on not ever returning. Since you can’t return somewhere when you’re dead.

“Your home is still there, Zevran,” she replied, she on the other hand? She was kicked out of the city. By the City Guard.

“True, and it’s a comforting thought,” Zevran replied, “one simply never knows what is to come next. How could I have suspected I would end up defeated by a beautiful Grey Warden, a woman who then spares my life? I could not.”

“Well, now you’re just flattering me,” she frowned.

“I say you are beautiful because it is true,” Zevran replied, "should I not?”

“You don’t have to lie to me,” she sighed.

A broken hollowed-out husk like her could never be beautiful. She may have been beautiful before, but she lost her light. Her flames no more than embers fading away into charcoal.

“Lying? You think I’m lying?” Zevran asked in shock, “I’m thinking that you should be told that you are beautiful more often.”

“Now you’re REALLY just trying to flatter me,” she replied, “at current, I’m nothing more than a lump of coal. A disappointing lump of coal.”

“I strongly disagree with that statement,” Zevran replied with a frown.

“Then let us agree to disagree,” she sighed.

“If that is what you wish,” Zevran sighed, “now, if it is all the same to you, I would prefer not to speak more of Antiva. It makes me wistful and hungry for a proper meal.”

“I miss being able to cook a proper meal,” she replied.

“Kallian, your meals are already the best I’ve ever eaten,” Alistair said butting into the conversation.

“Now imagine what it’d be like if I had an actual kitchen,” she said.

“…Well, now I’m hungry,” Alistair sighed.

“I’m not on cooking duty today,” she replied.

***

A disappointing lump of coal? Kallian thought herself a disappointing lump of coal?

Who would consider her a disappointing lump of coal? If anything, she was one of the finest gems he had ever laid eyes on. She was strong, charismatic, witty, and acted with a grace and poise many would be envious of, especially considering her skills and abilities.

“By the way,” Kallian said looking at him, “why did you want to leave the Crows?”

“Well, now, I imagine that’s a very fair question. Being an assassin, after all, is a living, at least as far as such things go,” he replied, “I was simply never given the opportunity to choose another way. So if that choice presents itself, why should I not seize upon it.”

“You didn’t choose to join the Crows?” Kallian tilted her head to the side, “oh, wait, that’s right. You said you were bought on the slave market.”

“Mm I didn’t even know the Crows existed when I joined them,” he sighed, “I was but a boy of seven when I was purchased. For three sovereigns, I’m told. Which is a good price, considering I was all ribs and bone and didn’t know the pommel of a dagger from the pointy end… The Crows buy all their assassins that way. Buy them young, raise them to know nothing else but murder. And if you do poorly in your training, you die.”

“And that system works?” Kallian quirked a brow.

“Of course. You compete against your fellow assassins, and those who survive are rightfully proud of it,” he replied, “in Antiva, being a Crow gets you respect. It gets you wealth. It gets you women… and men, or whatever it is you might fancy. But that does mean doing what is expected of you, always. And it means being expendable. It’s a cage, if a gilded cage. Pretty. But confining.”

“I knew the pommel of a dagger from the pointy end when I was seven,” Kallian said thoughtfully.

“You did?” he asked.

“Yeah, my Mother wanted me to get an early start in case she died, so I started my training when I was four,” Kallian nodded, “I don’t think I’d have survived if I had become a Crow, though.”

And he thought the Crows got an early start on training their assassins. Clearly, they had nothing on this woman’s Mother, and quite honestly? It showed. Especially in her martial demonstration, she was well-disciplined, and flexible with a high amount of mobility.

“I don’t think you would have died,” he mused, “and the Crows would, quite literally, kill to have someone of your talents.”

“I don’t know about that, I’d probably have wondered what the point was and just given up,” Kallian laughed, “so, you should be proud to have survived, because it meant you had the strength and will to keep going.”

“Hm, now that’s an interesting way to look at it,” he replied thoughtfully.

“I was also a bit of a wild child, so they might have just killed me on principle,” Kallian added, “I’m not easily controlled. Fire can never be easily tamed.”

“So, what do you fancy, Zevran?” Leliana asked.

“I fancy many things. I fancy things that are beautiful and things that are strong. I fancy things that are dangerous and exciting,” he replied, “and currently, I fancy Kallian quite a bit.”

“Did you enjoy being an assassin?” Kallian asked apparently deciding to ignore that last statement.

“Why not? There are many things to enjoy about being a Crow in Antiva. You are respected, you are feared… The authorities go out of their way to overlook your trespasses. Even the rewards are nothing to turn your nose up at,” he replied, “as for the killing part, well… some people simply need assassinating. Or do you disagree?”

“I do not disagree, some people are shitty wastes of space who don’t even deserve to so much as b.r.e.a.t.h.e,” Kallian replied in a dangerous tone and an unnatural tilt of her head before suddenly jolting a bit, “ah, sorry, my face.”

All he could think, was that she had resembled a beautiful monster. She truly was everything he fancied: Strong, beautiful, dangerous, deadly, and exciting.

Though, he was curious who this person who’d made her revert to this state was. Ah, well, no matter, he sincerely doubted that person still drew breath.

“Oh? Are you thinking of someone in particular?” he asked.

“Nope!” Kallian beamed, and he knew she was lying. Someone didn’t look that way when they weren’t speaking of someone in particular. She had hated someone with a vehement and possibly violent rage.

“I often find myself the instrument of fate, ending lives for one necessity or another,” he replied deciding to brush over that topic, “I console myself with the notion that most of them had it coming.”

“Well, if they were wanted dead enough to have someone pay for it,” Kallian replied thoughtfully, “they probably did… Though I suppose that means I had it coming too… Yeah, I can see that. Alistair on the other hand? Nah.”

“Oh? You think someone would want you dead?” he quirked a brow.

“Well, obviously,” Kallian laughed, “since you’re here.”

“You have me there,” he laughed, “and well, as far as the act of killing itself, why not? There is a certain artistry to the deed, the pleasure of sinking your blade into their flesh and knowing that their life is in your hands.”

“A job well done does always feel good,” Kallian nodded, “especially if it’s a result of something you trained for… For instance, it’s always satisfying for me to nail a five-forty twist into an front-split landing.”

“The way you move does have a significant amount of artistry to it,” he replied thoughtfully, “and there are many things I did not enjoy about being a Crow, of course. Having no choice, being treated as an expendable commodity, the rules… Oh so many rules!”

“Ughh… rules are the worst… I always broke them,” Kallian groaned, “so they definitely would have just written me off as a lost cause and killed me.”

“Ah-ha! A bit of a rule-breaker, then, are you?” he laughed.

“A bit is putting it lightly,” Kallian replied with a grin, “playful trickster, remember?”

“True, very true,” he nodded, “but, simply being an assassin? I like it just fine. I will continue to do it, if I can, even if I am not a Crow. Honestly, could you picture me doing something else?”

“Why not?” Kallian shrugged, “you can do whatever you like.”

“Whereas I am content merely doing what I happen to be good at,” he replied, “it’s a talent that not many come by honestly, I don’t see why I need not pursue it… Though I happen to think that you would make an excellent assassin.”

“Well, I suppose we both deal in lives,” Kallian replied thoughtfully, “though I primarily dealt in saving them, whereas you deal in ending them.”

“That is a rather true. Though, it appears you do well in both areas,” he said, “of course, all these thoughts are moot. Chances are still good that you and I will perish, eaten by Darkspawn or slain by the Crows at some point. Very gruesomely, I imagine.”

“I just don’t want to end up poisoned by Alistair’s cooking,” Kallian sighed.

“Not all of us can have every skill in the book!” Alistair shouted.

“It’s what happens when you grow up in poverty!” Kallian shouted back, “you learn how to do everything yourself because extravagance is the enemy!”

Extravagance is the enemy, hm? Perhaps the Crows could learn a great deal by looking into Kallian’s life, she had skills and abilities that many of them would be jealous of. She’d begun her training when she was four, and learned a wide variety of skills because she felt that she’d had no other choice but to do so. He wondered what kind of life this woman had been living up until now. She truly utilized tragedy as a source of strength.

Was living in an Alienage truly that hard a life?

“Hmm… By the way, last night I noticed that you change the way you strike,” he said, “you didn’t simply use your fists, do you truly use your palms and fingers as well?”

“Of course I do,” Kallian nodded, “if I’m hitting a hard place on someone's body, I’d prefer to strike it with my palms to reduce the damage I take as well. If I’m hitting a soft area, I strike with my fist. And for precision strikes, I use my fingers.”

“Does everyone in the Alienage know how to fight as you do?” he asked.

“Nope, I’m the only one. My Mother didn’t care what anyone else said, and wanted me to learn how to defend myself, while still also be able to handle other things,” Kallian shook her head, “so she taught me what she knew, and taught me how to use the skills I learned as a rogue for other things, like sewing, knitting, cooking, and stuff, so that I could upkeep all of my skills and abilities without adding too much extra effort.”

“Hm, interesting,” he replied thoughtfully, “ah, well it certainly is pleasant enough to chat about.”

“True,” Kallian nodded.

Her Mother sounded like a truly amazing woman, one who would highly be sought after by many organizations, he was sure.

***

Just like in her past life, both she and Diana often used each other as furniture. Sometimes she used her as a pillow, backrest, and footrest. And she was often used as a pillow and chair for her.

“Ooph,” she wheezed as Diana barreled into her, “sweetie, you’re too big for this. Please, move.”

Diana stayed put.

“…Well, alright then,” she sighed, “if you want to still believe that you’re a lap dog then go ahead. I guess.”

In their past life, she was far more manageable. But in this life? In this life she was half her height, and twice her bulk.

“You two are really close,” Alistair pointed out.

“So you’ve said,” she replied, “multiple times.”

“It’s just… strange,” Alistair replied, “I’ve never seen anyone this close with their dog.”

“Then they’re missing out, or aren’t treating their dogs right,” she replied before petting her pupper vigorously and cooing, “isn’t that right? Isn’t that right? Yes, it is. Yes, it is.”

“What happened to your voice?” Alistair asked.

“Nooothing,” she replied before tapping the ground twice, “alright, hop up, Dia. C’mon, hop up.”

Diana sighed and stood up and moved to curl up at her side.

“Much better,” she nodded before handing her a piece of jerky, “ah-ah. No. Nicely. Nicely… Good girl.”

***

Kallian’s ability to get along, and connect with everyone was rather astonishing. An assassin had been hired to kill her, and she was already joking around with him, trading witty remark for witty remark. Not only that, but she’d even gotten along with, and joked around with her Mother.

“Hey, Morrigan?” Kallian asked, “did you grow up in the Wilds?”

“Why do you ask me such questions?” she frowned, “I do not probe you for pointless information, do I?”

“You can if you’d like,” Kallian replied.

“Oh, what luck… What is it you asked? If I ‘grew up’ in the Wilds?” she replied, “a curious question. Where else would you picture me?”

“Well, I can’t imagine Alistair growing up in a Chantry,” Kallian shrugged, “and I bet you wouldn’t expect that I grew up in poverty so intense I had to decide on whether I would splurge ten silver on a book or save it in case I’d need it later down the road.”

“’Tis true, I would not have expected either of those things,” she nodded, “for many years, it was simply Flemeth and I. The Wilds and its creatures were more real to me than Flemeth’s tales of the world of man. In time, I grew curious, I left the Wilds to explore what lay beyond. Never for long. Brief forays into a civilized wilderness.”

“And you always returned to the Wilds?” Kallian asked

“Would you not do the same? Your world is an unforgiving and cold place,” she replied, “the Wilds I hail from is home to me, and I a natural denizen.”

“True,” Kallian sighed, “I miss crawling over the rooftops of Denerim.”

“For all that I had been taught, however, the truth of the civilized lands proved to be… overwhelming,” she said, “I was unfamiliar with so much. So confident and bold was I, yet there was much that Flemeth could never have prepared me for.”

“Very daring,” Kallian replied, “that sounds like you.”

“Equal parts daring and foolhardy, perhaps,” she laughed, “only once was I accused of being a Witch of the Wilds, and that by a Chasind who happened to be traveling with a merchant caravan. He pointed and gasped and began shouting in his strange language, and most assumed he was casting some curse upon me. I acted the terrified girl, and naturally, he was arrested.”

“Nice thinking,” Kallian nodded with approval.

“Men are always willing to believe two things about a woman: one, that she is weak,” she replied, “and two, that she finds him attractive.”

“And that makes them so easy to trick,” Kallian grinned.

“You have experience with this, then?” she asked, interest piqued.

“Oh, yes, there have been many times where men have tried to prey on me as well,” Kallian replied with a sneer, “but well, you should always choose your targets wisely, for you never know when you’ll attack the true predator.”

She could believe this, Kallian did seem the sort who wouldn’t stand by while injustice was being done. Especially to women, and especially considering how she’d moved between her and the Templar in Lothering without even a second thought.

“I can believe this,” she replied, “I played the weakling and batted my eyelashes at the captain of the guard.”

“Child’s play,” they said in unison.

“The point being that I was able to move through Human lands fairly easily, whatever Humans think a Witch of the Wilds looks like, ‘tis not I,” she continued, “not that I did not have trouble. There are things about Human society which have always puzzled me. Such as the touching— why all the touching for a simple greeting?”

“I only greet people I actually know that way,” Kallian cringed, “I hate it when strangers touch me.”

“Exactly! What is the point of touching my hand? I find it an offensive intrusion,” she frowned, “there were many nuances that Flemeth could never tell me of. When to look into another’s eyes, how to eat at a table, how to bargain without offending… none of these things I knew… I still do not understand it all, truth be told. But, then I gave up long ago any hope of doing so. When I returned to the Wilds last, I swore to Flemeth that I had no intention of leaving again.”

“Jokes on us,” Kallian groaned, “I told everyone in the Alienage that I was never, ever leaving Denerim.”

“And yet here we are,” she agreed with a sigh.

***

They were nearing Redcliffe, and she was unsure of what Zevran’s intentions towards Kallian were, but it seemed like his eyes were always on her. Though she could hardly blame him, Kallian was an incredibly curious person who had an alarming amount of charisma. Still, he seemed more fascinated by her than the average person. Perhaps he truly did fancy her. They also seemed to have a nice dynamic between them.

“Kallian,” she said, “have I ever told you I really like the way you wear your hair?”

“My hair?” Kallian replied, “thank you.”

“It’s very nice, and it suits you, it’s elaborate, but still simple. Not like the elaborate hairstyles we wore in Orlais. They involved flowers, ribbons, jewels,” she nodded, “one year, feathers were all the rage, and Lady Elise decided she needed to outdo everyone else, and actually wore live songbirds in her voluminous hair. The chirping was quite charming for a while, but you must realize, terrified little birdies often have loose bowels.”

“Oh, those poor things,” Kallian frowned.

“Yes, I don’t envy them in the least. She never washed her hair,” she replied and Kallian winced, “but I was trying to say something nice to you, wasn’t I? Oh, forgive me. My mind wanders so… It’s just that I… I feel so comfortable talking to you, like I could say anything and you wouldn’t judge me.”

“Well, we are friends, aren’t we?” Kallian replied wryly.

“Yes, very much so,” she smiled, “I haven’t felt this close to anyone in a long time. I really enjoy your company.”

“You are a treasured friend, Leliana,” Kallian grinned.

“Thank you,” she replied, “I am honored that you feel that way.”

“By the way,” Kallian hummed, “why did you decide to come to Ferelden?”

“My Mother was from Denerim and I consider myself a Ferelden, Mother served an Orlesian noblewoman who lived here when Orlais ruled,” she explained, “when Orlais was defeated and the common folk began to resent the presence of any Orlesian, the lady returned to Orlais. She took my Mother with her… I was born in Orlais, and did not step foot in Ferelden till much later. Mother was always telling me stories of her homeland; I think she missed it.”

“What happened to your Mother?” Kallian asked.

“Mother died when I was very young, Lady Cecilie let me stay with her. I had no one else,” she replied sadly, “she was quite old then, and she had me study music and dance to entertain her. It is unfair, that I have more memories of Cecilie than my Mother.”

“Do you remember anything of your Mother?” Kallian asked.

“Strangely, the only thing I really remember of Mother was her scent,” she replied, “she kept dried flowers in her closet, amongst her clothes… Small white Ferelden wildflowers with a sweet fragrance. Mother called them Andraste’s Grace. They were very rare in Orlais.”

“Oh! We had those in the Alienage!” Kallian clapped her hands together, “they’re my cousin’s favorite.”

“Your cousin has good taste,” she replied.

“I agree,” Kallian smiled sadly, “I miss her a lot…”

“Were you very close to her?” she asked.

“We were partners in crime,” Kallian replied sadly, “we were practically always together… And now… Now I’m a Grey Warden and she thinks I’m dead.”

“I’m sure you’ll be able to return home, someday,” she replied soothingly.

“I… wouldn’t count on it,” Kallian sighed, and it looked like she didn’t want to talk about it anymore, so it was better not to push, “so, what would someone like you be doing in Lothering’s Chantry?”

“What is meant by ‘someone like me’?” she replied.

“They don’t teach you how to fight in the cloister, do they?” Kallian tilted her head to the side.

“Did you think I was always a cloistered sister?” she replied, “the Chantry provides succor and safe harbor to all those who seek it. I chose to stay and become affirmed.”

“So you learned your skills and abilities before you entered the Chantry?” Kallian asked.

“I was a traveling minstrel, in Orlais. Tales and songs were my life,” she replied, “I performed, and they rewarded me with applause and coin. And my skill in battle… well, you pick up different skills when you travel, yes? Yes, of course.”

“Do you miss anything about Orlais?” Kallian asked.

“I miss Val Royeaux. Unlike other cities, where the people are the life-blood and the character, Val Royeaux was her own person, and her people little more than decorations,” she replied, “there was always music in Val Royeaux, streaming from the many windows— quiet refrains and triumphant choruses… And always, floating above that all, the Chant, coming from the Grand Cathedral. It was magnificent.”

“I never planned to leave Denerim,” Kallian said thoughtfully, “though I suspect Zevran would fight you over whether Val Royeaux or Antiva City was better.”

“True,” she giggled, “are you not going to defend Denerim?”

“Nope, I know Denerim’s kind of a dump,” Kallian waved her sleeve around, “no one knows Denerim like I do, no one can navigate Denerim as I can. So, yeah, I know Denerim’s kind of a dump.”

“Well, of course there are good and bad things about Orlais, like anywhere else,” she replied, “sometimes I miss it dearly, and sometimes I am glad I am rid of it… And you will laugh at this, but I miss the fine things I had in Orlais.”

“I… wouldn’t know what that’s like,” Kallian said looking off to the side. That was right, to Kallian, extravagance was the enemy. She had to learn skills in order to live the life she had… Perhaps she should treat her to something nice, every woman likes to be spoiled every now and again, “what sorts of things did you have?”

“Dresses… fine dresses and furs. And shoes, of course,” she replied, “one can’t mingle with nobility with bad shoes, you see… Orlais is very fashionable. Almost ridiculously so. Ahhh… but the shoes. Living with those ridiculous trends was worth it for the shoes.”

“Were they ridiculous shoes?” Kallian asked.

“Sometimes. About ten years ago, all the ladies went mad for shoes with soles as large— and heavy— as bricks. But it isn’t always that silly,” she replied, “when I left Orlais, the fashion was shoes with delicate, tapered heels and embellishments in the front— a ribbon perhaps, or embroidery. In soft colors of course; it was spring.”

“Ohh… that sounds nice,” Kallian said, “though I doubt I’d have been able to function in them…”

“I had my eye on a pair my shoemaker was working on, it was covered in pale blue silk, with amber beads on the toe,” she sighed, “the shoes made in Orlais were exquisite. Not at all like these clunky fur-lined leather boots you have in Ferelden. Ugh… just… look at them.”

“I can’t wear those,” Kallian said, “or at least not right now. Boots hamper my movements too much.”

“True, you do seem to need a great deal of flexibility in your legs as well,” she nodded, “that is why you don’t wear armor, no?”

“Yes, it’s too restrictive,” Kallian nodded, “it weighs and slows me down, adds too much rigidity to my body… The first time I wore armor was during the Battle for Ostagar, and my performance felt terrible. I got hit, I got tired, I was slow… It was the worst. But I suppose at least the boots we have keep the cold out. Luckily, I’m sensitive to heat, so I don’t need to worry about them too much.”

“Well, they’re sturdy shoes, sure,” she nodded, “but sometimes a girl just wants to have pretty feet… Oh, I could talk about shoes all day…”

“I only had one pair of boots in the Alienage… It was one of the few times I splurged on myself,” Kallian replied thoughtfully, “they’re black leather with white laces… I didn’t get to splurge on myself very often.”

“Perhaps I should take you shoe shopping one day,” she mused, “I think you would enjoy it greatly.”

“I’ll look forward to it, then,” Kallian grinned.

***

They set up camp for the day, they would be entering Redcliffe tomorrow morning.

She leapt up into a tree ascending to the highest branch she could and sat there, swinging her legs back and forth as she stared at the moon. Her hand went to the ring around her neck and she ran her thumb over the cool metal of it.

It had really been well made…

Her fault.

It was her fault he was dead. It was her fault that everything was a mess.

She couldn’t let the others see her like this, or rather, she refused to allow the others to see her like this. She felt tears well up in the corners of her eyes, as she wished for a thousand things that didn’t matter.

She was afraid.

She was afraid she’d ruin the lives of her companions who were waiting down below, she could see them, specks in the distance sitting around the fire, but she kept her eyes towards the sky. A tight feeling in her chest, as she desperately yearned for the life she had lived before. He shouldn’t have had to die because of her. He truly was too good for her… She didn’t deserve him, so perhaps that’s why he was taken from her. Her fingers clenched at her chest and a tear slid down her cheek.

Who was she kidding? Save Ferelden? She didn’t even want to save herself, who could she save? No one, that’s who.

Nothing, she was nothing.

She didn’t deserve anything more than a traitors death, and idly she remembered what she’d once told Shianni:

“If it’s you, I wouldn’t mind.”

She had meant it, if it was Shianni who wanted her dead, she’d willingly slit her own throat. Drawing one of her throwing knives from her pouch, she pressed the tip of it to the side of her neck. She wouldn’t actually end it, not yet, anyway. There was still work to be done, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t long for it.

She couldn’t help but huff a laugh, she truly got the words of that one song from her past life: she’d tried so hard, and got so far… but in the end, it truly didn’t even matter.

***

His poisons were missing.

His poisons were missing and there were only two other rogues in the group who would steal them.

And one of them, in particular, had declared herself a playful trickster.

“Kallian,” he said as she was in the middle of her morning stretches, “where are my poisons?”

“Why are you asking me?” Kallian asked innocently.

“While I don’t like making accusations,” he replied, “and I also appreciate the artistry behind a good burgle, to tell the truth… I need my poisons, and you are the most likely suspect.”

“Need is such a strong word,” Kallian replied batting her eyelashes.

“Kallian,” he frowned.

“Fiiine, I wanted to see if assassin poisons were special,” Kallian sighed and handed him a lock-box, “I figured out how to make antidotes from them, so there was that.”

“Did… did you drink my poisons?” he asked eyeing the lock-box.

“Mmm, it’s the best way to figure out what it does,” Kallian replied snapping her fingers into a thumbs up, “don’t worry, I’m completely fine. If applied right, some of those could even be used to treat certain illnesses.”

She… she drank his poisons? On purpose? She poisoned herself on purpose? They could be used to treat illnesses? Apparently, this so-called ‘Apothecary’s Crux’, as she called it, wasn’t just for show.

When exactly did she steal his poisons? He had them last night, he was sure of that, but how long had they been in her possession for her to be able to do all of that?

“Did you just say you poisoned yourself with his poisons?!” Alistair practically shouted.

“Don’t worry,” Kallian replied, “I’m fine.”

“Is there a key for this?” he asked.

“Mmmm I lost it about three years ago,” Kallian replied thoughtfully, “so I just use lock-picks to open and close it… So just pick it open.”

He had told her that he was skilled in picking locks, not knowing that she was an actual master at lock-picking. Perhaps this lock wasn’t that hard to pick? He retrieved his lock-picks and he could feel her watching him. After a few seconds, he heard a loud clap, she’d lifted her hand up and slapped it over her mouth as her body began shuddering with barely concealed laughter.

“I— I’m not— I’m not—” Kallian was clearly trying incredibly hard not to laugh, she gave up as she doubled-over laughing, “oh my gosh! You lied about lock-picking! That’s such a baby lock too!”

“Yes, well, we can’t all be skilled at picking locks,” he replied dryly.

“But you said you were skilled at it! You said it! You said you were skilled at fighting, stealth, and lock-picking,” Kallian laughed hysterically, clutching her sides and falling to the ground, “I can’t— I can’t breathe! It hurts! I’m dying! I— Ahahahahaha!”

Death by laughter. That would be the first time he caused someone to die by making them laugh too hard, the Crows didn’t teach one to be amusing enough to cause someone to die through laughter.

“Yes, well, we can’t all be good at multiple things,” he sighed.

“Phooooooooo, lock-picking was one of the first things I learned,” Kallian replied holding a hand out as she desperately tried to stop laughing, “give it back.”

He had a feeling, he’d be seeing that lock-box more often. Especially, since she’d mentioned that she was a playful trickster. Her fingers were fumbling due to how much she was still trying to hold back her laughter, yet she still had it open fairly quickly. He took his poisons back while she continued to try to hold her laughter back in. She had not lied about her being a playful trickster with a love for laughter.

“I’m glad I did my morning stretches first,” Kallian sighed, “otherwise I might have gotten a cramp in my side… I’m probably going to remember that moment and laugh about it for the rest of my life.”

“Please don’t,” he sighed dryly.

“Well, it’s your fault for lying about being skilled at picking locks,” Kallian replied, “you should never lie about what skills you have. You don’t know when they’ll come into question like this.”

“Yes, well,” he replied, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Kallian was a strange sort, he’d only known her for a few days, and by the second day, she’d already begun joking around with him trading witty remark after witty remark. She was drawing him to her, and she probably didn’t even realize the effect she was having on him. She probably didn’t realize the effect she had on anyone.

He won’t lie, he’d already imagined what her body would look like, feel like, and the sounds she would make while he ravished her. How soft and pliable her body would be beneath his fingers, but honestly, that goes without saying. Though, apparently, nobody knew just how big her body was. The clothes she wore were baggy, and her sleeves always covered her hands, and whenever she raised her hands, she held her sleeves to her palms. Though, despite how baggy they were, they did suit her quite nicely. Still, it did leave absolutely everything up to the imagination.

“Do you stare at everyone this way?” Kallian asked quirking a brow at him.

“Not everyone,” he replied, “but a beautiful woman like yourself? Why not? I am sure you draw many stares, from men and even other women. Does this bother you?”

“Mm… Not really I suppose,” Kallian replied, “but I don’t think I draw that many stares.”

“Would you prefer I desisted?” he asked, “it would be difficult, traveling as we do in close proximity, but I am nothing if not a gentleman.”

“Well, you don’t have a fist in your face,” Kallian replied thoughtfully, “so I suppose I don’t really care.”

“Oh? Now this is intriguing,” he grinned, “I shall have to redouble my efforts immediately.”

“Redouble your efforts?” Kallian tilted her head to the side.

“There was a young Elven danger in Antiva City once,” he recounted, “and I believe I actually managed to stare off all seven of her skirts… it’s a trick worth retrying.”

“Well, don’t worry,” Kallian replied simply, “you’ve already stared them off.”

“Oh? Is that so?” he grinned.

“Yeah,” Kallian said with a smooth grin, “because I’m wearing pants.”

Alistair snorted, and Leliana began giggling. Even Morrigan let out a small chuckle.

The woman was incredibly charming and witty, and it was, honestly, rather refreshing.

“Well, now that that’s out of the way,” he said, “perhaps we should move on? With you in front, of course.”

Chapter Text

Attain the ultimate emptiness
Hold on to the truest tranquility
The myriad things are all active
I therefore watch their return
Everything flourishes; each returns to its root
Returning to the root is called tranquility
Tranquility is called returning to one's nature
Returning to one's nature is called constancy
Knowing constancy is called clarity
Not knowing constancy, one recklessly causes trouble
Knowing constancy is acceptance
Acceptance is impartiality
Impartiality is sovereign
Sovereign is Heaven
Heaven is the Way
The Way is eternal
The self is no more, without danger.

She’d decided to not write it as the Tao, if anyone saw this, it’d be much harder to explain, so instead, she’d opted to use the translation of Tao. Thinking about it, she didn’t know why she was even writing these, she had no real plans to re-find her Way, and quite honestly? She didn’t really care about it.

She closed her book and threw it in a lock-box that was ten times harder than the one she’d used to torment Zevran.

Closing her eyes, she decided to think on her companions for a moment, she didn’t know how much longer she could dodge questions regarding her recruitment into the Wardens, but she was already running a story of it through her head. One that was the honest truth, without detailing anything specific. They’d already felt like family. Well, except for Zevran, for some reason. Which was a little weird, then again, they did seem to apparently compliment each other rather well. They’d both similarly had harsh and cruel lives, but she had a feeling that their similarities didn’t end there.

That trap was definitely a death wish.

Something happened to him that made him want to throw his life away, of that, she was sure. Something set him off balance, something had crushed him. She knew, because she was the same. On her last day in the Alienage, she was forced to see just how worthless, how weak, how pathetic, and how incompetent she truly was. How she ruined everything with her own hands, because of how stupid she truly was. She tried throwing her life away to save the Alienage, she’d tried to throw her life away during the Joining, tried to throw her life away saving Alistair. She fucking sucked at getting herself killed, and it seemed he was much the same. She could tell that he had given up, because she had too.

Though, she had absolutely no clue what he wanted now, so there was that. Her goal on the other hand? End the Blight, and then maybe just off herself. She couldn’t leave this up to fate anymore, it wasn’t on her side. Or was it?

Urgh, this thought process was getting messy. Mmmm… Ah, well, she’ll go with the flow, while still refusing to accept what had happened to her. She didn’t want to accept it, she didn’t want to accept that it was the way of the universe… So for now, she’ll simply continue being a rebellious brat.

She still really wanted to go to Denerim, she needed to tell Shianni she was still alive, but she also didn’t want to explain anything. She didn’t want to explain why she wanted to go to Denerim right after this, and efficiency-wise, it’d be better to head to Lake Calenhad after they concluded business in Redcliffe, though the mages probably also needed a serious dose of help. Maybe… Redcliffe -> Lake Calenhad -> Denerim? And then after Denerim -> Brecilian forest? But, the Brecilian Forest would be on the way to Denerim…

Urrrrrgggggghhhhhhhh this planning thing was getting messy too.

Her head was a mess.

Let’s just… forget about it and focus on the present for now! Bridges should be crossed when you get to them, not while she was miles away from them.

And in any case ending the Blight will still be her protecting those she cared about…

…Right?

***

He should probably tell her before they moved into Redcliffe. Tell her how he knew Arl Eamon, and about how he’s King Cailan’s half-brother.

“There a reason you’re fidgeting like crazy, there, Alistair?” Kallian asked.

“Look, can we talk for a moment?” he sighed, “I need to tell you something I, ah, should probably have told you earlier.”

“I’m sorry!” Kallian said after her eyes widened and she’d clapped her hands in front of her and bowed, “but I’d like to stay as friends!”

“What?! No! No!” he shouted, “that’s not! No! I don’t see you that way either!”

“Oh,” Kallian sighed with relief, “so? What’s up?”

“Well, let’s see… How do you I tell you this?” he sighed, “we’re almost at Redcliffe.”

“Indeed! It’s right over yonder,” Kallian replied gesturing to the village.

“Did I say how I know Arl Eamon, exactly?” he asked.

“No, you never did,” Kallian shook her head.

“I’m a bastard! My Mother was a serving girl at Redcliffe castle and she died when I was born. Arl Eamon took me in and raised me before I was sent to the Chantry,” he admitted quickly, “the reason he did that was because… well, because my Father was King Maric. Which made Cailan my… half-brother, I suppose.”

“Sooo… you’re not just a bastard,” Kallian grinned, “but you’re a royal bastard.”

“Ha! Yes, I guess it does at that… I should use that line more often,” he laughed before he sighed, “I would have told you, but… it never really meant anything to me. I was inconvenient, a possible threat to Cailan’s rule and so they kept me a secret. I’ve never talked about it to anyone… Everyone who knew either resented me for it, or they coddled me… even Duncan kept me out of the fighting because of it. I didn’t want you to know, as long as possible. I’m sorry.”

“Mmm that must be why Cailan sent you to the Tower with me,” Kallian replied closing her eyes in thought.

“Cailan wanted me out of the battle?!” he asked in shock, “not Duncan?”

“Nope, it was Cailan, I believe his words were something along the lines of ‘then we should send our best, Kallian, I want you and Alistair to go to the Tower and make sure the beacon is lit’,” Kallian recounted, “then again, I could be remembering wrong. I did crack my skull… I wonder if he knew Loghain was going to double-cross him like that.”

“KALLIAN!” he shouted and Kallian widened her eyes and lifted her hands to cover her ears, “YOU NEED TO WORK ON YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS!”

“Yeeeeesh, no need to yell,” Kallian winced, “and I don’t like spreading information I’m not sure of like that. You never know who’ll actually believe the bullshit you spew, and I don’t want to be responsible for that.”

“Alistair,” Morrigan frowned, “I hope you have a good reason to berate your fellow Warden like this.”

“She has terrible communication skills,” he replied, “and keeps forgetting to tell me IMPORTANT INFORMATION!”

“My communication skills are amazing, and I don’t want to hear that from the royal bastard,” Kallian pursed her lips as she grumbled, “furthermore, I didn’t think telling you who sent us to the Tower was important. I also didn’t know you were Cailan’s half-brother. That last bit is just a guess I made based on the information currently available.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” he sighed before turning to Morrigan with a frown, “anyway, butt out, we’re having an important discussion here.”

“’Tis hard not to notice you yelling at Kallian,” Morrigan rolled her eyes but walked away.

“Honestly, I thought I taught you better than this,” Kallian sighed lifting a hand to her cheek, “in any case, I understand. Everyone has one or two secrets they want to keep to themselves.”

“You didn’t raise me, and good, I’m glad, it’s not like I got special treatment for it, anyhow,” he sighed, “Arl Eamon eventually married a young woman from Orlais, despite all the problems it caused with the King so soon after the war. He loved her a great deal…. Anyway, the new Arlessa resented the rumors which pegged me as the Arl’s bastard. They weren’t true, but of course, they existed. The Arl didn’t care, but she did. So off I was packed to the nearest monastery at age ten. Just as well. The Arlessa made sure the castle wasn’t a home to me by that point. She despised me.”

“Did she know the truth?” Kallian asked.

“She may have, but I think it’s more likely that she feared the rumors might be true, I can’t blame her for that,” he replied, “I remember I had an amulet with Andraste’s holy symbol on it. The only thing I had of my Mother’s. I was so furious at being sent away, I tore it off and threw it at the wall and it shattered… Stupid, stupid thing to do. The Arl came by the monastery a few times to see how I was, but I was stubborn. I hated it there and blamed him for everything… and eventually, he just stopped coming.”

“Why keep it a secret now?”

“My blood has never been important to me. I’ve spent my whole life trying to forget about it and being told that I would never sit on the throne,” he sighed, “and that’s fine by me. No, if there’s an heir to be found, it’s Arl Eamon himself. He’s not of royal blood, but he is Cailan’s uncle and more importantly: very popular with the people… Though if he’s really as sick as we’ve heard… no, I don’t want to think about that. I really don’t.”

“We’ll do all we can,” Kallian replied.

“Thank you, and there you have it,” he replied, “now can we move on, and I’ll just pretend you think I’m still some… nobody who was too lucky to die with the rest of the Grey Wardens.”

“As you command,” Kallian smirked, “Your Highness.”

“Oh, lovely,” he groaned, “I’m going to regret this. I just know it.”

“Well, you were the one who insulted my communication skills,” Kallian replied, “so, personally, I think it’s fair.”

He really should have known better than to insult her communication skills. Her saying her communication skills were amazing wasn’t a lie. They really were, especially with her being able to soothe the most frazzled minds. Something he knew personally, she’d always known what to say and when to say it. He was already beginning to forgive himself for the Battle of Ostagar. Not only that, but her way of coping with loss, was really helping him as he wrote letters to Duncan and burned them as he reported new information to him.

“You know, Alistair,” Zevran said, “Antiva has a long tradition of royal bastards.”

“You don’t say,” he replied dryly.

“Oh, yes. They’ve led wars to claim the throne,” Zevran replied, “some of them have become kings. In fact, I’d say the current royal line in Antiva stems from bastard blood several times over.”

“Well, aren’t you just chock full of useless trivia today,” he replied.

“Sadly, whenever a royal bastard rears their head in public and declares themselves,” Zevran recounted, “it often goes poorly for them.”

“Let me guess,” he sighed, “they get assassinated?”

“Only the very popular ones.”

“And the unpopular ones?”

“Well, they get by somehow, I’m sure,” Zevran replied, “there was one fellow who did quite well working as a prostitute based on his uncanny resemblance to the king… Charged a fortune.”

“Couldn’t afford him, I take it?” he replied.

“That cynicism will serve you well, my friend,” Zevran replied, “hold onto it.”

Currently, he was simply praying that Arl Eamon was okay.

***

She hoped nothing weird was going on in Redcliffe, she really really really hoped nothing weird was going on in Redcliffe. Though, she supposed they’d find out real soon, since they were finally about to enter the village. She could use a proper bed, a proper meal, and a proper bath. She was getting used to this whole camping business, but that didn’t mean she liked it. Not having to wake up for watch, not having to sleep on a stupid bedroll, not having to balance a goddamn cooking board on her lap… What she wouldn’t give for proper furniture and rest.

“I… I thought I saw travelers coming down the road, though I scarcely believed it,” a Man said running up to them as they were about to cross the bridge, “have you come to help us?”

“What do you mean?” Alistair asked, “is there a problem?”

“So you… don’t know?” the Man replied, “has nobody out there heard?”

“About how Arl Eamon is sick, we have,” she said, “however, from your appearance, I suspect there’s more at hand.”

“He could be dead, for all we know! Nobody’s heard from the castle in days!” the Man replied, “we’re under attack. Monsters come out of the castle every night and attack us until dawn. Everyone’s been fighting… and dying.”

This man had clearly been through a hellish couple of nights, and she hated that her immediate thoughts were: what a pain.

“Well, that’s just typical, isn’t it?” Zevran said dryly.

“Apparently everyone seems to agree that a Blight is the perfect time to start killing each other,” Morrigan said, “marvelous, really.”

“We’ve no army to defend us, no Arl and no King to send us help,” the Man said desperately, “so many are dead, and those left are terrified they’re next.”

“Hold on,” Alistair said holding up a hand, “what is this evil that’s attacking you?”

“I… I don’t rightly know, I’m sorry, nobody does,” the Man replied, “I should take you to Bann Teagan, and Lady Elissa. They’re all that’s holding us together.”

“Bann Teagan? Arl Eamon’s brother?” Alistair asked, “he’s here?”

“Yes, and Teyrna Elissa of Highever,” the Man nodded, “it’s not far, if you’ll come with me.”

The… Teyrna of… Highever?

And a Bann?

Panic flooded her chest.

She wasn’t just any ordinary Elf, her Father was well respected amongst the nobility, they’d likely heard of her, of what she’s done. The pain she still didn’t want to share. The pain that was hers, and hers alone. The pain that she refused to allow anyone else to know about. Her shame assaulted her in a landslide. The disappointed look on Valendrian’s face as he walked away, how she’d felt the pieces of her shatter in her chest.

She thanked the heavens that she was a good actress, and good at hiding her discomfort. Hopefully… if they do recognize her, she’ll be able to dissuade them from saying anything.

There was a foreboding feeling that resonated throughout her entire body.

She looked around as they followed the man, whose name was apparently Tomas, and her mind immediately flashed back to Ostagar. To the encampment on the day of the battle, except this time, there weren’t battle-hardened veterans. There weren’t soldiers eager to prove their worth. They were simply terrified villagers who wondered what the night would bring.

They entered the Chantry, and she saw them, there were people injured, people ill. Exhaustion was clear on their faces, they were pale, there were bags under their eyes. If they did not properly rest soon, they may not live much longer.

Could she do something for them? Should she do something for them? Or would she just fuck up? Would she just ruin them forever? Would her help even help? Should she even extend a hand to help them? Even knowing that it was more likely to bring their doom?

She was scared.

She was terrified.

Every other time she’d strive to help people, to save them, all she ended up doing was make it worse. All she ended up doing was being too slow, too incompetent, too weak.

No, she couldn’t let her fear cripple her. She had to do something.

With that thought, she steeled herself the best she could.

“It’s… Tomas, yes?” a Man said as they approached, “and who are these people with you?”

“They’re obviously not simple travelers,” a Woman said eye-ing them.

“No, My Lord, My Lady,” Tomas replied, “they just arrived, and I thought you would want to see them.”

“Well done, Tomas. Greetings, friends,” Teagan said introducing himself, “my name is Teagan, Bann of Rainesfere, brother to the Arl.”

“And my name is Elissa Cousland,” Elissa said introducing herself, “daughter to the Teyrn of Highever… And I suppose, by right of succession: Teyrna of Highever.”

“I remember you, Bann Teagan,” Alistair said, “though the last time we met I was a lot younger and… covered in mud.”

“Covered in mud? …Alistair? It is you, isn’t it?” Teagan said and she had to cover her mouth with her hand, “you’re alive! This is wonderful news!”

Alistair was frowning at her.

“I— I’m sorry,” she said trying to get herself under control, “I just— I just don’t know how to feel about your defining characteristic being covered in mud.”

This would be a really, really, really bad time to laugh. Though, she did tell them that she had a bit of a messed-up personality, and had a love of laughter. Still, it’d be best for her to contain it as much as possible.

“Still alive, yes,” Alistair said deciding to ignore her, “though not for long if Teyrn Loghain has anything to say about it.”

“Indeed,” Teagan replied as she held in a breath, “Loghain would have us believe that all of the Grey Wardens died along with my nephew, amongst other things.”

“He already tried, remember?” she said gesturing to Zevran, “but yes, not all of us died. Though, I understand that I was very close to it… You don’t believe his lies, then?”

“This is true,” Zevran agreed, “he did.”

“What, that he pulled his men in order to save them? That Cailan risked everything in the name of glory? Hardly, Loghain calls the Grey Wardens traitors, murderers of the King. I don’t believe it. It is an act of a desperate man,” Teagan replied looking to her, “so, you are a Grey Warden as well? A pleasure to meet you, though I wish it were under better circumstances.”

“Yes, my name is Kallian,” she said with a polite bow, “a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“Kallian? As in Kallian Tabris?” Elissa asked in surprise, “as in the daughter of Cyrion?”

“Errr…Yes,” she replied looking to the side.

Panic rushed through her, they did know her. They did know her Father. Of course, they knew her Father… He was well respected.

But how did they know her?

“I’d been wanting to meet you,” Elissa said.

“Kallian? You’ve been wanting to meet Kallian?” Alistair quirked a brow.

“Cyrion Tabris is well known throughout nobility,” Teagan explained, “he’s the head-servant for Bann Rodolf’s Denerim estate, and he is not an easy man to please.”

“She’s fairly known as well, Cyrion’s daughter was rumored to be highly skilled, intelligent, and well-mannered,” Elissa added with a sigh, “I was hoping I could hire her as a servant.”

“I would have loved to work for you,” she replied clenching her fist, “I could have been both a bodyguard and a servant.”

“In any case, you’re here to see my brother?” Teagan said bringing the conversation back to topic, “unfortunately, that might be a problem. Eamon is gravely ill.”

“What a remarkable coincidence,” Zevran said dryly.

“Yes, we’ve heard,” she nodded, “do we know what his symptoms are?”

“Unfortunately, no,” Elissa replied shaking her head.

“No one has heard from the castle in days. No guards patrol the walls, and no one has responded to my shouts,” Teagan added, “the attacks started a few nights ago.”

“Evil… things… surged from the castle,” Elissa nodded, “we drove them back, but many perished during the assault.”

“What kind of evil things are you speaking of?” she asked.

“Some call them the walking dead,” Elissa answered, "decomposing corpses returning to life with a hunger for Human flesh."

Zombies.

They were being attacked by zombies.

Wonderful.

“They hit again the next night, each night they come, with greater numbers,” Teagan replied, “with Cailan dead and Loghain starting a war over the throne, no one responds to my urgent calls for help.”

“We have a feeling tonight’s assault will be the worst yet,” Elissa added.

“Indeed, Alistair, I hate to ask,” Teagan said imploringly, "but I desperately need the help of you and your friends."

“It isn’t just up to me,” Alistair replied, “though the Grey Wardens don’t stand much of a chance against Loghain without Arl Eamon.”

“Of course we’ll help,” she stated with a frown.

“How pointless, to help these villagers fight an impossible battle,” Morrigan rolled her eyes, “one would think we had enough to contend with elsewhere.”

“There are no Darkspawn here, and nothing to gain,” Sten said, “it is a fool’s errand.”

“Firstly: we needed Arl Eamon’s help, to begin with, we’re up against a seasoned general like Loghain, and it’s not just Loghain, we have a Blight to end as well. We need all the help we can get,” she said regarding the two with a stern expression as she stood her ground, back straight head held high, “secondly: not helping them would be an insult to the person that I am, and I refuse to allow that part of me die and fall by the wayside. If you only seek to end the Blight without aiding those suffering under its threat, then perhaps you need to re-evaluate yourselves. For things to truly heal, they need nurturing hands, not simple might.”

“…I should have expected this,” Morrigan sighed, “you have shown to be sickeningly kind and compassionate, ‘tis true.”

“Furthermore, if I left this village on its own, I would constantly wonder if what I did was the right thing,” she added, “and I don’t want to live like that.”

She’d lost enough pieces of herself, if she didn’t do this, she’d truly have lost sight of herself. Her skills, everything she’d stood for was to help people, not cause them more suffering.

“Thank you! Thank you, this… this means more to me than you can guess,” Teagan replied gratefully, “Tomas, please tell Murdock what transpired. Then return to your post.”

“Yes, My Lord,” Tomas replied before taking his leave.

“Now then, there is much to do before night falls,” Teagan said, “we’ve put two men in charge of the defense outside.”

“Murdock, the village mayor, is outside the Chantry,” Elissa nodded, “Ser Perth, one of Eamon’s knights is just up the cliff at the windmill, watching the castle.”

She’ll talk to those two, and then come back to the Chantry to take a look at the people. Making sure their defenses were in proper order is the more important of the two.

“To make sure Alistair doesn’t yell at me again,” she said, “I should probably tell you that Loghain probably planned Eamon’s illness, just like how he planned to let King Cailan die at Ostagar.”

“He planned to allow King Cailan to die at Ostagar?!” Teagan asked, “are you certain of this?”

“Not completely, but the information currently available strongly asserts this fact,” she replied, “what have you heard about the Battle of Ostagar?”

“Only that the Teyrn had pulled his troops,” Teagan replied, “though there have been rumors that he had ignored the signal for his men to charge.”

“He never planned to help the King,” she explained, “he was hoping that the signal would never get sent up, so that he could give the excuse that he saw Ostagar as a lost cause. The Tower had zero defenses, and not only that but the Darkspawn had occupied it hours before the battle had even started. He’d never planned to aid King Cailan, the beacon going up was just me trying to signal to everyone that something was wrong.”

“Are you absolutely sure of this?” Teagan asked.

“I’m fairly confident in my critical thinking skills,” she nodded, “King Cailan summoned me to the strategy meeting before the battle, I’d heard the entire plan, I witnessed the exchange between the Teyrn and the King, and I saw the state of the Tower. Not only that, but if I were to assert control, I’d take out the opposition before it had time to react. So, yes, I think Loghain has something to do with Arl Eamon’s illness. But those are just my thoughts, take it as you will. I just don’t want Alistair to get angry at me again for withholding important information. Granted, I totally understand him getting angry at me for forgetting. I would too.”

“This is… a troubling turn of events,” Teagan replied.

“Well, we’ll go see to the villages defenses for the moment,” she replied, “and we can think more on this later.”

People were terrified, she couldn’t allow this to continue. Despair was a poisonous drought, one that once took root and was hard to shake off. She knew, from experience, two lifetimes of it, in fact.

“You’re a Grey Warden, right? Were you in Ostagar? In the Korcari Wilds?” a Woman said walking up to them, “my husband and son went there to bring the Chant of Light to the Chasind, but I haven’t heard from them since.”

“…Are you Jetta?” she asked, “was your husband Rigby? And your son Jogby?”

“Yes, how did you know that?” Jetta asked, “did you meet them?”

“I’m sorry,” she shook her head sadly retrieving the lock-box from her pack, “I was only able to find their bodies in the Wilds, they’re gone.”

“Oh… oh no,” Jetta sobbed, “I’m sorry. Thank you so much for bringing this to me… It means a lot to…”

“Take your time,” she replied rubbing her back soothingly.

“Maker’s blessing upon you,” Jetta replied after calming herself, “I… I need to…”

“Take your time,” she repeated as the woman left.

She sighed as she watched the woman left, she knew it would turn out like this. She had been wondering where her husband and son were, if they were coming home, if they were doing okay…

“So that’s why you’ve been carrying that around,” Alistair said.

“I do believe that I explained this to you in the Wilds,” she replied, “closure is an important step in the process of healing. Without proper closure, you’ll forever wonder if they’re doing alright, if they’re coming home, or if they’re dead. While it’s still possible for you to come to terms with something without being sure, it’s far more difficult. Knowing for sure is the best way to be able to come to terms with it all and move past it.”

“You have personal experience with this,” Alistair asked, “don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do,” she sighed, “one day, my cousin and I were at home when we heard screaming and shouting… My Mother told us we were not to leave the house, and went to go check it out. She didn’t come home, and my Father took a few days to return because of the riot… My cousin and I were huddled together for probably… what? Three days? Waiting for her to come back. By the time my Father came back home, we were on the brink of exhaustion, we hadn’t eaten, or slept. Though I had experiences with it even before then, my cousin, her Mother died when we were six, and her Father had apparently decided to be a dead-beat ass and ditch them to go find the Dalish. It took her a while to come to terms with the fact that he was never coming back.”

“…Kallian,” Leliana said softly.

“Ah, well, that was years ago,” she waved her sleeve around, “the world stops for no one and continues to move forward, so I must as well.”

“How old were you?” Leliana asked.

“Mmm I was twelve, but riots can happen pretty frequently, that’s why she wanted me to get an early start with my training. She didn’t want to regret not having had enough time to pass her training and knowledge on to me,” she replied, “I suppose that’s why I can’t stand by when I see pain and suffering: I’ve been there, I know it sucks, and I’ve never been the type to sit idle when there was something I could do to help.”

Thinking about it, her earlier observation was incorrect. Redcliffe wasn’t like Ostagar… It was more akin to the Alienage right before or even after a riot. The attacks… were probably more in line with how life was like during a riot.

She heard sobbing and naturally gravitated towards the source.

“Sorry, am I bothering you?” the Girl asked, “I… I’ll try to be more quiet.”

“No, it’s fine,” she replied shaking her head “what’s your name?”

“My… my name’s Kaitlyn, my lady,” Kaitlyn replied, “pardon my manners, but… you’re an Elf, aren’t you? I mean, that is what you are, right?”

Urgh… This whole my lady thing was still weird.

Also, she didn’t blame her for the Elf bit, especially since she’d been trying to unsuccessfully play that card for a while now.

“That I am,” she nodded.

“You’re so, you’re so pretty, I never thought… I mean I never expected… never mind,” Kaitlyn said, “are you going to help us? Everyone says we’re going to die tonight.”

“You’re not all going to die,” she replied, “don’t say that.”

“You… you’re very kind to say that,” Kaitlyn replied, “I wish I could believe you.”

“Don’t worry,” she replied assuringly, “I’m a master tactician.”

“I can’t even sleep,” Kaitlyn said, “ I close my eyes and I see my Mother being… carried off.”

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked.

“It’s my brother, Bevin,” Kaitlyn replied, “he ran off, maybe tried to leave the village! I’m so scared those… things got him!”

“Why would he run off?” she asked, “do you know?”

“He said something about saving Mother… He’s just a little boy!” Kaitlyn sobbed, “he doesn’t understand she’s gone. I hope he didn’t try to go to the castle! Oh, that would be awful!”

“Have you tried looking for him?”

“I went to our house. It’s by the square, he wasn’t there, I searched the rest of the village too,” Kaitlyn replied, “I called and I called but he never answered. I… I wonder if he ran off into the woods. I’m so worried! Without me, he has nobody!”

“You need to be strong,” she replied.

“I understand, I do,” Kaitlyn sobbed, “I’m just so afraid for him.”

“I’ll find him,” she said assuringly.

“You will? Thank you so much!” Kaitlyn said, “please find him!”

“Of course,” she nodded before moving to leave the Chantry.

“That Elf comment didn’t upset you?” Alistair asked.

“How could it upset me,” she replied, "when I’ve been attempting to use that very same card to bail myself out of trouble for the past month or so?"

“…That’s true,” Alistair said, "you have."

“Exactly, I’d be a hypocrite if I got mad at her for that comment,” she nodded before pulling her gloves on with a sigh and leaving the Chantry, “now let’s see about defending this village.”

She probably had her work cut out for her, but she just couldn’t let this stand. Leaving things as they were, went against absolutely everything she stood for.

***

She watched the group leave the Chantry while questions swum through her mind.

Kallian Tabris had been made into a Grey Warden? What about her marriage? Wasn’t she supposed to have gotten married to Nelaros? What had happened?

She should probably refrain from bringing it up, it might be a sensitive topic for her. Perhaps she should just be grateful that their prayers were answered, and that they would be getting aid in Redcliffe. Though it did surprise her, she didn’t think Grey Wardens didn’t fight without armor… Then again, Alistair wore armor, so why didn’t she?

Though, she was right about one thing: Alistair’s defining characteristic being covered in mud was rather funny, she’d almost giggled at that as well.

“Do you think she’s truly a Grey Warden?” Teagan asked.

“Well, she must be,” she replied, “though I did find it odd that she wore no armor.”

“I was thinking that as well,” Teagan nodded.

“Still, she’s just as kind, charismatic, intelligent, and well-mannered as I’ve heard,” she said thoughtfully, “it truly is a shame that these were the circumstances we’d met under.”

“Indeed,” Teagan sighed, “it truly is.”

“So, what can you tell me about Alistair?” she asked, “he seems an amusing sort.”

***

Apparently, living in an Alienage truly was that hard a life.

In fact, it seemed harder than she’d made it out to be.

To him, she seemed amazingly resilient, especially considering that she’d still kept her upbeat personality.

Though, it was also surprising that one only needed to hear her name to know who she was. Was her Father truly well-respected enough that people would know her as well? How did a woman like that become a Grey Warden? Granted, he was grateful that she was one, if she hadn’t been one, after all, he wouldn’t have met her. She also did have a great deal of skill in battle.

Still, she had mentioned she had never been interested in joining a military organization, nor did she have plans to leave Denerim. To the point where she did not even know anything about the Wardens and did not know where Antiva was. So, why did she decide to become a Grey Warden?

“Still no sign of them coming from the castle, Murdock,” a Man said and Kallian began walking in that direction.

“Tell them to maintain watch,” the person he assumed was Murdock replied, “I don’t want a surprise attack before the sun goes down.”

“Yes, ser,” the Man replied, “what should we do until then?”

“Pray,” Murdock replied, “and hope for a miracle.”

“Hello,” Kallian said, “I’m Kallian, I believe you’ve been informed of us?”

“So you’re the Grey Warden, are you?” Murdock replied, “I didn’t think they made women Grey Wardens.”

For some reason, that comment annoyed him. He was not quite sure why, but it did.

“And why would you think that?” Kallian asked.

“For more reasons than you’d care to hear, I bet. Still, there’s no reason to think Bann Teagan, and Teyrna Elissa’s lost their minds,” Murdock replied, this man was really getting on his nerves, “we aren’t going to turn aside anyone who wants to help, though. Don’t take me for being an ingrate or nothing.”

“That’s good,” he said, and Kallian looked at him with a bit of surprise and curiosity, “the survival rate of ingrates is remarkably low, so I hear.”

She was probably wondering why he was getting annoyed.

“Well, we do want to help, however we can,” Alistair said looking at him with a frown, “you can trust us.”

“Name’s Murdock, mayor of what’s left of the village,” Murdock said finally introducing himself, “providing we aren’t all killed and hauled off to the castle tonight.”

“Have faith,” Kallian said reassuringly, “we’ll get through this.”

She’d been insulted because of her gender, and yet she was still trying to reassure him.

Ah, perhaps that was it: he was annoyed because he’d insulted her.

Kallian was anything but weak: she could easily handle herself in tests of both wit and might, she was, however, also too understanding to get angry for herself.

“I… I hope you’re right. I’ve been trying to hold us together, but it isn’t easy,” Murdock replied, “anyhow, you’re here, and they tell me you’re in charge.”

“So, you’ll listen to what I tell you?” Kallian asked.

“Yes,” Murdock replied.

“Wonderful,” Kallian replied turning to one of the houses, “we’re going to need to move your barricades.”

She took a few steps back and then sprinted towards the wall at a speed that they were sure she was going to collide with it face first.

And then watched in awe as she leapt up, launched herself up off of the wall, grabbed onto the roof of the house and used her extra momentum to swing herself up to the top of the roof. It was something that she’d clearly done often, her movements were smooth, polished, and graceful.

“Can you do that?” Alistair asked looking at him.

“The Crows do teach us how to climb walls,” he replied, “but not precisely in that manner, no.”

“Whoaaa, this is bad,” Kallian said in a daze.

“What is?” Alistair asked.

“This is, like,” Kallian replied, “perfect napping weather.”

“You truly are a cat,” Morrigan groaned.

“Are you sure we can trust the defense of our village to her?” Murdock asked Alistair.

“Kallian, focus!” Alistair shouted and they heard the sound of a sharp slap.

She’d slapped herself in the face.

“Right, move your barricades where I throw these,” Kallian said before throwing daggers where she wanted them to move the barricades.

“But that’ll just protect the Chantry!” a Man said, “what about us?!”

“Station your archers on the top of the roofs,” Kallian replied, “it’ll give them time to safely line up their shots. Though, I’d suggest pulling up the ladders, just in case.”

They watched Kallian simply step off of the wall and fall straight down.

“You really do have a lot of mobility, don’t you?” Alistair said, “and if I ask you who you are, you’ll just say you’re an inconsequential Elven servant, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, I would, and unlike a certain someone, I didn’t lie about my abilities,” Kallian said glancing in his direction, “I wasn’t lying when I said that no one can navigate Denerim like I can. I can even bounce off of two walls to get more height. I’m quite efficient at getting from Point A to Point B.”

She really wasn’t going to allow him to live down the fact that he lied about being able to pick locks.

“Are you sure you weren’t trained as an assassin?” he asked.

“I’ve just always had to maneuver around as quickly as possible to make sure I had enough time in the day to finish doing everything I needed to get done. Time was a luxury I could rarely afford to waste, not only that, but the back alleys can be dangerous, so it’s safer for me to just avoid being in an easily reachable place just in general,” Kallian explained before clapping her hands, “anyway, chop-chop, move those barricades.”

Time was a luxury she could rarely afford to waste? The Crows really could learn a great deal from looking into this woman’s life. Especially if she’d gained all of these abilities strictly because she’d grown up in poverty. In fact, poverty seemed a far more brutal teacher than any of the Crows. As she was, she could easily become a high ranking member of the Crows. In fact, there were many who would likely target her simply out of jealousy, though he had no doubt that that would be the last of them.

They spent some time moving the barricades, with her picking her daggers back up after each one had been moved. She’d thrown them so that the pommel hit the ground first, her skill truly was undeniable.

“Perhaps you should consider changing occupations,” he noted.

“No thanks, I’m good. Also, you’re the one who told me to think twice about joining. Make up your mind,” Kallian frowned, “I also happen to hate unnecessary violence and bloodshed. I refuse to kill anyone simply for the money. I’ll do it for community service though.”

Community service.

She’d kill people for community service.

He could honestly see that.

“Ah, that’s right, you did mention that some people were…” he said, “how did you put it? ‘Shitty wastes of space who didn’t deserve to even so much as breathe’?”

“Mhm, though I didn’t actually kill anyone until after I met Duncan,” Kallian replied before turning back to Murdock, “anyhow, I have some questions.”

If he remembered correctly, Duncan was Alistair’s father-figure who recruited the both of them into the Wardens. She hadn’t killed anyone until she’d entered the Wardens? Why would they recruit her without knowing her abilities? It seemed that she kept the reason she’d been recruited into the Wardens a secret. No one knew even the slightest detail what had transpired to make her decide to join the Wardens.

Not only that, but he felt that there was something deeper to that statement: she’d kill if it were for community service, but she hadn’t actually killed anyone until after becoming a Warden. Had she spent time eliminating people in a different manner? If he were to think about her fighting style, she had no qualms about pitting friend against friend, or rather: she maneuvered around them, manipulating them to take hits for her.

If her skills were widely known, she would likely find herself in high demand.

How had she remained hidden in the Denerim Alienage for so long?

“Oh? Ask away,” Murdock replied.

“Can you tell me what’s happened here?” Kallian asked.

“Don’t rightly know. We heard the Arl was sick and getting worse, but after a while, we heard nothing at all. A few folks went up to the castle to see what was going on. They couldn’t get in. Nobody was there, not a soul,” Murdock answered, “and then those horrid creatures attacked the village. They were everywhere, people dying… it was awful. Good thing Bann Teagan and Teyrna Elissa were here.”

“Do you know anything about Arl Eamon’s illness?” Kallian asked, “such as symptoms?”

“No, all I know is that the Arlessa sent the knights out for a cure,” Murdock replied causing Kallian to sigh heavily, “you can ask Ser Perth about it— he was one of them.”

“How’s morale?” Kallian asked.

“Morale’s about what you’d expect: these men aren’t soldiers,” Murdock replied, “they’re villagers defending their homes, and they’re frightened.”

“So why have you been stationed here?”

“We’re the last defenders of them folks in the Chantry— the women, elderly, and the children,” Murdock replied, “they’re the ones we need to protect.”

“The weak must learn to protect themselves,” Sten said gruffly.

“That is unworthy of you, Sten,” Leliana replied, “are the Qunari never in need of aid? Are you people so heartless?”

“No Qunari would ever cower helplessly, not woman, nor elder, nor child,” Sten replied, “they would fight for their survival with tooth and nail.”

“I’ve had to do that before,” Kallian sighed, “it’s rough.”

“Oh? Against Darkspawn?” he asked.

“Not quite,” Kallian sighed, but it was clear that she was not going to explain that statement any further.

She was shrouded in such an air of mystery, he was sure that she’d drive anyone mad with desire, and yet she’d been left alone to the point where she thought herself undesirable. Were the men in the Denerim Alienage, what? Blind? Deaf? Stupid?

“Well… We’re not Qunari,” Murdock replied, “I’m not asking those folk to fight monsters. No matter what happens, we can’t let them evil things in there. If they die, the village is done.”

“So, what can I do to help?” Kallian asked, “other than fight.”

“We need what little armor and weapons we got repaired, and quickly or half of us will be fighting without either,” Murdock explained, “Owen’s the only blacksmith who can do it, but the stubborn fool refuses to even talk. If we’re to be ready for tonight, we’ll need that crotchety bastard’s help.”

“Kallian fights without armor,” he decided to point out.

“Yes, but that’s because I can’t wear armor, also because I don’t understand armor… Elves who wear armor and weapons aren’t ones who live long: the City Guard will always go out of their way to put them down. Living under that kind of oppression makes you have to adapt to your new circumstances, learn the rules so that you can break them more efficiently, and know how to get away with it,” Kallian explained before turning back to Murdock, “why has Owen refused to talk to anyone?”

…And he thought living and growing up under the Crows was hard. Not only did she have to fight against poverty, but also a degree of oppression that made her unable to even understand how to wear armor. It was no wonder she moved the way she did, if she hadn’t learned to fight that way, she would not have survived. Learn the rules so that you can break them efficiently and know how to get away with it, hm? Interesting.

She had said that she’d probably never have survived living life under the Crows, but he doubted that many of the Crows would have survived living under the same kind of life she had. Though, it did explain the alarming amount of strength and resilience she had.

“His daughter, Valena, is one of the Arlessa’s maids. So he hasn’t heard from her since this whole business started,” Murdock explained, “he demanded we attack the castle, break down the gate, and force our way in. I said it was impossible, but he wouldn’t listen. He’s locked himself in the smithy now. I can’t force him to do repairs… He says he’d rather die first.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Kallian replied, “is there anything else?”

“We could use some extra bodies, having a veteran like Dwyn in the militia would help, a lot,” Murdock replied, “but he flat out refuses.”

“What can you tell me about him?” Kallian asked.

“He’s a trader, a Dwarf. Lives near the lake. Locked himself up in his home with some of his workers, he has,” Murdock explained, “says he doesn’t need any of us. But we could use somebody with his fighting experience, but he won’t come out.”

“I’m sure I can work something out,” Kallian replied.

“Just don’t drink with Owen! That’s how he sucks you in!” Murdock replied, “just my luck our success hinges on the most foolish drunk of a smith ever to grace the Maker’s lands!”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Kallian replied wryly.

“You’ve been staring at Kallian a great deal, Zevran,” Morrigan pointed out, “are you planning to finish the job? What is going to keep you from poisoning your target now that you have been allowed to accompany us, I wonder.”

“You and Diana are,” he replied dryly, “you will both be watching me ever so closely to make sure I attempt no such thing.”

Diana really had been staring at him practically daring him to do something, ever since he’d met them, in fact.

“And why would I do such a thing?” Morrigan scoffed, “sneaking into our good graces in order to make another attempt is what I would do, were I you.”

“And here I was becoming rather fond of the idea of you watching me closely,” he said.

“It would be a simple enough matter to poison the food in camp,” Morrigan replied, “or cut our throats while we sleep.”

“You seem rather charmed by the idea,” he replied.

“It would seem an appropriate result of sparing your life,” Morrigan said simply.

“Ah, well, I’m sorry to disappoint you then,” he sighed, “the next time I am spared I will be sure to immediately turn upon my benefactors. Will that do? And do not forget: Kallian has already poisoned herself with my poisons.”

“It’s true, I did,” Kallian said, “however, I did it in dosages that I knew would be non-lethal to me. Not only that, but I’m not immune to having my throat cut in my sleep.”

“Hmm… If I had to do anything while you were in your bedroll,” he grinned, “I would much rather make love to you than slit your throat.”

“Whoaaa, crazy… I didn’t think you’d just come out and say it like that,” Kallian said in shock, “how surprising.”

“Oh? So, then, my dear,” he grinned sidling up to her, “what are the chances that you and I will end up in the same bed?”

“Sorry, but I seem to suddenly have selective hearing and thusly have not heard your last statement,” Kallian said blankly before knocking on a door, “excuse me, is this the Blacksmiths?”

“Hmmm, I truly shall have to re-double my efforts,” he said thoughtfully as Alistair snorted.

Kallian certainly was a cheeky one.

He knew that she truly didn’t mind his advances, especially considering the fact that she wasn’t the type of person who would simply sit there and allow someone to disrespect her without swift retribution. She was kind and understanding, sure, but she had a backbone and clearly knew how to use it.

“Go away, curse you! Leave me in peace!” Owen replied through the door, “you’ve already taken everything out of my stores! There’s nothing left.”

“I would simply like to speak with you,” Kallian replied.

“Oh? Who is that?” Owen asked, “what do you want? I’ve been through enough…”

“I’d prefer not to speak through the door,” Kallian said calmly, “can I come in?”

“Hmm… Alright, alright, let me undo the locks,” Owen replied as they heard the sound of locks being undone, “all I ask is that you don’t make any trouble.”

He, Leliana, and Alistair decided to follow her into the Blacksmith. He was just curious about her, the other two? Likely worried what he would do, though, their concerns were completely unfounded. He had no plans to kill her, far from it, in fact.

In many ways, they seemed like opposites, but in other ways, they were shockingly similar.

***

A blacksmith.

They were entering a smithy.

“Maker’s breath!” Leliana gasped, “what is that smell? It’s like someone set a brewery on fire.”

“Somebody’s been drinking,” Alistair said with a lilt.

“So I let you in. You wanted to talk, now we’re talking,” Owen said leaning against a pillar, “mind telling me who you are?”

“My name is Kallian,” she replied with a polite bow, “a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

Is this… is this wha— she should stop thinking about this. About things that can and will never be. There are things to be done, she can spend time alone later.

“Funny, you didn’t sound like an Elf through the door,” Owen replied, “can’t say I expected that.”

“Can’t say I blame you,” she replied wryly, “I certainly wouldn’t either.”

“Anyhow, my name’s Owen… though you might already know that,” Owen replied, “care to join me as I get besotted? Or is there something in particular you wanted?”

“The militia desperately needs your aid,” she replied.

“Why should I help Murdock when he won’t help me, hmm?” Owen scoffed, “my girl, Valena, is one of the Arlessa’s maids and she’s trapped up there in the castle, but the Mayor won’t send anyone for her. She’s been my life since my wife passed on two years ago. Now she’s dead or soon to be. I don’t care what happens to me, or the village, or anyone.”

“Or you could work to help save her,” she said.

“I’m an old man. Everyone knows we aren’t making it through the night,” Owen replied, “or are you going to save us?”

“Of course I am,” she replied with a confident grin.

“Is that so? Huh,” Owen replied, “maybe it’s the drink talking, but you almost sound like you believe that.”

“I shouldn’t almost sound like I believe it,” she said, “because I do believe it.”

“Tell you what, if you want me to do repairs for Murdock and his men,” Owen said, “promise me you’ll go into the castle and find my daughter.”

“I will,” she replied.

“Not good enough! Murdock said the same damned thing and I didn’t believe him, either,” Owen replied, “I want a promise. Promise me that you’ll look for her, that you’ll bring her back to me if you can.”

“I’ll do you one better,” she replied with a serious expression, “I swear to you that I will get into that castle and find your daughter. Even if I have to break in there alone.”

“You sound confident in that,” Owen noted.

“I should,” she said, “because I am. I don’t deal in false promises.”

“It seems I have some work to do, re-lighting the forge and I suppose I’ll have to find some iron. Hmm, maybe at the mill?” Owen said obviously beginning to get his mind set on this, “bah, Murdock just better send his men here as soon as possible if I’m gonna get to all these repairs and get them done by nightfall. If you need anything done… well, just let me know. I’ve got a lot to do now, so you’ll have to excuse me.”

“Do you really think you can break into Redcliffe castle on your own?” Alistair asked after they’d left the smithy.

“Of course, especially if there are no guard rotations. I actually could have broken into most of the castles in Denerim,” she replied, “the only reason I didn’t was because I had no reason to, I just knew their guard rotations and everything so that they wouldn’t annoy me when I climbed over the rooftops at night.”

“You could have stolen something and sold it for coin,” Zevran pointed out.

“I’d have no way of selling it, only idiots steal valuables without securing a proper way of getting rid of said stolen good. Not only that, but if I were caught I wouldn’t be the only one punished: the splash damage from it would affect my entire family. Especially considering that my Father is known throughout nobility,” Kallian explained, “I have to think about these things, y’know? I’m not the only one involved in my life, my actions affect the world around me. I know this, and thus, I must consider my options and make informed decisions… As I’ve said before, I’m quite confident in my critical thinking skills.”

Plus she’s had two lifetimes worth of experiences to draw from, even if she could only vaguely recall events from her past life, she still retained all of the knowledge she’d grasped from it. She may have not been the brightest, but she had always been incredibly curious about everything that seemed interesting.

“How do you know all of that, but not where Antiva is?” Alistair asked.

“My thought process when encountering information I don’t find interesting or relevant to my daily life, is basically,” she sighed, “I don’t really care and it’d just be a pain to remember it… So let’s just forget it!”

“For someone who never planned to join a military organization,” Alistair pointed out, “you sure know a lot about strategy and tactics.”

“I’m a quick learner, and I’m also good at learning on the fly,” she explained, “I’m also good at swiftly analyzing new situations, considering my options, and making a decision based on readily available information. That’s all strategy and tactics are: being able to analyze a situation, consider your options, and being able to make logical and informed decisions. These are skills I utilized quite frequently in the Alienage, and I already know how skills can play into each other. So, I simply changed my way of thinking and applied those skills in a different manner.”

In her past life, she was good at splitting her mind off into two parts. She knew this because she had a habit of playing tic-tac-toe against herself when she was bored, she would actively assume both player positions and bait out the other side of her in order to win. It was weird, sure, but once she got into it, she really got into it.

“So, tell me, my dear,” Zevran grinned, “how often did you use these skills to break the rules?”

“At least once a week,” she said returning his grin.

Now, let’s see, she’ll look for Bevin, and then talk to Dwyn, then head up to Ser Perth. She glanced to the sky, they were still making good time, it was barely past noon, if she was reading it right. Interacting with people sometimes felt longer than it actually was, she recalled having some conversations that seemed to stretch on hours, or have a lot said despite apparently being only fifteen minutes long. Most of those types of conversations tended to come from deep within.

Chapter Text

She entered Kaitlyn’s house deciding that the best course of action for finding Bevin was to look for clues as to where he might have gone. Sometimes, some children ran away from the orphanage back in the Alienage after a riot. They didn’t want to accept the fact that their parents were dead and their new situation, and quite frankly, she never blamed them. Many of them simply returned to their houses, or the charred ruins of it, anyway.

“Pardon the intrusion,” she said quietly as she entered the house, “and sorry for going through your things.”

“Why are you saying sorry?” Alistair asked, “there’s nobody here.”

“Shht! I think I hear someone,” she said moving towards the dresser, “hello? Is someone hiding in there?”

“Go away! This isn’t your home!” the Voice, Bevin’s probably, replied, “this is my home! My home! You hear me?!”

“Bevin?” she asked, “is that you?”

“How… how do you know my name?” Bevin replied.

“I spoke to your sister,” she replied.

“Did… did she tell you to take me back to the Chantry?” Bevin asked, “don’t make me go back there! I hate that place! I hate it!”

“Your sister is worried sick!” she chastised, “you can’t just run off like that!”

“But she just tells me not to be scared, even though she is! She tells me not to be sad, but she keeps crying because Mother died,” Bevin retorted, “I… I don’t want to be sad! I’m brave! I’m going to be a hero! I’m going to fight them off, I will!”

“…From inside the closet?” she quirked a brow.

“N—no… I just heard you coming and…” Bevin replied, “I guess that’s not very brave of me, is it? I’ll… I’ll come out now.”

“Good,” she sighed as he left the closet.

“Alright, I came out. You won’t hurt me, will you?” Bevin asked, “I’ll go back to the Chantry if you really want.”

“What on earth led you to return here?” she asked.

“I… I can’t tell you,” Bevin replied, “it’s a secret.”

“Oh? Is it something I can help you with?” she asked.

“You… could, I guess,” Bevin replied, “I just… Father said I could have his sword when I grew up. It was Grandfather’s, and Grandfather was a great dragon-slayer. I thought… if I was brave like Grandfather, I could use his sword and… kill the bad people who took Mother.”

“Well, you’re a little young for that,” she said wryly, “but it was a brave idea.”

“Th— thank you, miss,” Bevin replied, “but the sword is too heavy for me. I… guess I’m not as strong as I thought I was.”

“I have an idea,” she closed her eyes in thought, “how about, I borrow it to help with the assault, and then hand it back? This way, you can say you helped, and your sword defended the village.”

“Will you really give it back?” Bevin asked.

“Of course I would,” she grinned, “I don’t deal in false promises.”

“…Alright, here’s the key,” Bevin replied handing her the key, “it’s in the chest upstairs. I hope you use it to kill a lot of those bad people.”

“Thank you,” she replied with a smile.

“I should… go back to the Chantry,” Bevin replied before leaving, “good luck.”

She hummed as she moved to the upstairs chest, hoping that she could wield it in one hand. Honestly, she could have picked the lock, but she used the key. Looked like a one-handed weapon, she picked it up and tested the weight of it giving it a few experimental swings. She could use this in battle, which was good news, otherwise, she’d have to hand it over to Alistair.

“Let’s see,” she sighed, “I think Dwyn’s house is… that one…”

For some reason, some really really really strange reason. Rather than politely knock on the door. She felt the need to pick the lock open, and she couldn’t decide on whether she actually followed through with that desire or not.

She knocked.

No answer.

“Hey, Zevran,” she said turning to him with a grin, “wanna pick this lock open for me?”

“No, no I do not,” Zevran frowned at her.

“Y— You sure?” she asked trying to keep herself from laughing.

“Very,” Zevran replied dryly.

“Don’t worry,” she sighed kneeling down to pick the lock, “I’m also probably going to forever remember that Alistair’s most defining feature is covered in mud.”

“Please don’t,” Alistair groaned.

“Too bad,” she grinned.

“Go learn where Antiva is,” Alistair grumbled.

“I’ll think about it,” she replied hearing the lock click open, “but geography’s never been an interest of mine, and I currently have no plans of traveling abroad.”

“That is a shame,” Zevran replied, “I think you would enjoy it. Visiting Antiva, that is.”

“The thought of having the time and money to go on a vacation is jarringly weird,” she replied opening the door.

“Wonderful. Intruders,” a Dwarf, Dwyn, she guessed said, “I hope you’ve a good reason for breaking and entering into my home.”

“I apologize,” she replied, “I didn’t mean any harm.”

“Apology accepted. The name’s Dwyn, pleased to meet you,” Dwyn replied, “now get out.”

“Murdock would like your assistance with the militia,” she said.

“So, what? You’re recruiting for him?” Dwyn replied, “I’ll tell you what I told Murdock: I’m not risking my neck for this town.”

“Your chances are better out there,” she replied, “than in here.”

“Thanks, but I’ll take my chances in here,” Dwyn replied, “everyone else can run around in the open, waiting to die.”

“Can I show you something?” she asked with a sigh.

“Make it quick,” Dwyn said.

“Close and lock the door again behind me,” she replied before leaving.

“What are you doing?” Alistair asked.

“Just… illustrating a point,” she sighed.

She took a few steps back from the door, and fell into a stance, took a step and launched a brutal side kick into the door, breaking it open.

“I am one person, that was one hit,” she said, “tonights going to be the worst attack, you can fight out with the rest of the militia or stay here. If you stay here, that’s fine with me, they’ll break your door down, and go for you, and do you know what that’ll do? It’ll give our archers more time to line up their shots and take them out while they’re busy killing you. You can stay in here and get swarmed, or you can fight with the rest of them out there. The choice is yours.”

“Fine, I’ll throw in the militia, for now,” Dwyn grumbled, “not like I have a choice since you broke my door. You better be out there, too, when the sun goes down. I’m not fighting for a lost cause, you hear me?”

“Yep,” she replied as Dwyn left, “ooph, it’s been a while since I kicked something that hard.”

“Did you have to kick the door down?” Alistair asked.

“Probably not, but I’m feeling a little cranky,” she shrugged, “ah, we should eat something.”

She was also kind of sleepy, but there was no time for a nap. Well, not yet anyway.

“Now that you mention it,” Leliana replied, “I am kind of hungry.”

After reporting back to Murdock and checking up on Kaitlyn they took a food break, heading into the tavern.

***

There was a suspicious man in the corner of the Tavern, an Elf.

And he, Leliana, and Kallian had picked up on it right away, so now Kallian was talking to the serving girl, Bella. A strange look had crossed her face as her eyes slid over to Lloyd who was behind the bar, and he had a feeling that the man wouldn’t be alive for much longer. Especially considering that the woman had told her about what Lloyd had done to her.

“I’m not looking for company,” Berwick said as Kallian approached.

“I hear that your names Berwick,” Kallian replied ignoring him after eye-ing the bow on his back, “and shouldn’t you be with the militia?”

“Why? I don’t live here,” Berwick replied, “and how do you know my name?”

“I asked around,” Kallian replied, “and I heard that you were waiting for your brother?”

“My what? Oh…” Berwick’s eyes widened in shock.

“I see,” Kallian replied as she went in for the kill, her hand shooting forth to grab the man by the bottom of his face, forcing him to make eye contact with her, a malicious sneer decorating her face. She truly was a beautiful monster, especially with that dangerous glint in her eyes. He wasn’t lying when he said that she looked like a deadly sex goddess. Especially with that look in her eyes, the eyes of a cold-blooded ruthless killer. Or perhaps she was more a sexy death goddess?

“It’ll be easier if you just tell us what you’re really here for,” he said, “otherwise… Well, I’m sure three out of the four of us know how to make a man talk.”

“I’ll tell you! Just don’t… don’t hurt me,” Berwick replied quickly, almost frozen in terror and she let him go, “this is more than I bargained for. Look, they just paid me to watch the castle and send word if anything should change. But they never said anything about monsters! I haven’t even been able to report anything since this started! I’m stuck, same as you, I swear!”

“Who are ‘they’?” Leliana asked, “who hired you to do this?”

“A tall fellow, I forget his name,” Berwick replied, “he, uhhh, said he was working for Howe. Arl Rendon Howe. He’s an important man, Teyrn Loghain’s right hand! So I didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Hm, Howe, huh?” Kallian mumbled, “I wonder if either Elissa or Teagan can tell us more about him…”

“What are you supposed to watch the castle for?” Alistair asked.

“Just to report any changes, honest!” Berwick replied, “all I could send word about was the Arl getting sick. After that, monsters started coming from the castle.”

“Did you report anything about Elissa and Teagan being here?” Kallian asked dangerously.

“No! I didn’t! I swear!” Berwick replied quickly.

“You know what’ll happen if you do, right?” Kallian grinned darkly, and the man’s words failed him as he just furiously nodded his head, “so, do you know how this began?”

“No, they just sent me to watch,” Berwick answered, “maybe they knew the Arl would get sick, I don’t know.”

“They knew he would get sick, huh?” Kallian sighed heavily.

“Here, this is a letter from them,” Berwick said handing Kallian a letter, “it has instructions and everything… keep it! Do whatever you want with it! I just thought I was serving the King and making a bit of coin on the side. You have to believe me!”

“You’re helping defend the village tonight,” Kallian replied with a glare, “I think that should be a good enough trade for your life.”

“Alright, I’ll do it,” Berwick replied, “thank you for your mercy, I won’t forget it!”

Kallian sighed, crossed her arms, closed her eyes and leaned against the wall, probably trying to switch back.

“Well, guess you were right then,” Alistair sighed looking to Kallian, “the Arl’s illness isn’t just a coincidence.”

“We’ll have to tell Teagan,” Kallian sighed the look on her face screaming ‘what a pain’, “well, let’s eat something for now, and then continue on with preparations and such.”

Kallian hummed in thought, he had a feeling she was thinking of a way to get rid of them so that she could kill Lloyd without being yelled at by Leliana and Alistair. He stayed behind after she’d sent the two away, promising that she’d meet them at Ser Perth as she talked to Lloyd. The man truly was dead in seconds, perhaps he could convince her to go into business with him once this whole Blight business was over with, she certainly had the skills for it.

“Community service complete,” Kallian grinned looking at him after handing ownership of the tavern over to Bella, a finger over her lips, “it’s a secret.”

“Do not fret, my dear,” he replied returning her grin, “my lips are sealed.”

***

They met the others at Ser Perth, and told her that Ser Perth wants divine protection, which is something she could understand and deal with, so she returned to the Chantry.

“Your Ladyship,” she said turning to Elissa, “I’ve a question, if I may.”

“Please, just Elissa is fine,” Elissa replied shaking her head, “and what do you need to know?”

“What do you know about Arl Howe?” she asked, and the look on her face told her everything she needed to know.

“That vile, hateful, murderer betrayed my Father, and killed my family,” Elissa hissed angrily, “his men killed my sister-in-law, my nephew, my parents, and every servant who lived and worked in Highever Castle. I’m here in Redcliffe because he betrayed us, because I needed Arl Eamon’s help dealing with him.”

“Ah, okay, he’s a dead man walking, got it,” she nodded, “we found a suspicious person in the tavern, an Elf by the name of Berwick. He’d been hired to watch the castle and report if there were any changes… I made sure he hadn’t said anything about the both of you, and… he gave me this note… My suspicions were confirmed: Arl Eamon’s illness isn’t a coincidence.”

“He also said that Howe was Loghain’s right-hand man,” Alistair added, “so if we’re to deal with Loghain, chances are we’ll have to deal with him as well.”

“This is… To think that Teyrn Loghain would stoop so low as to having Eamon poisoned,” Teagan said in shock, “this is outrageous!”

“In any case, we should see to the rest of the preparations,” she said, “we can discuss the rest of this after we deal with defending the village.”

“Indeed,” Teagan nodded, “this is a lot that we need to think on.”

She nodded before heading over to the Revered Mother.

“You are of Elven blood and a stranger,” the Revered Mother said looking to her, “yet you defend a home that is not your own. We are grateful for that.”

“Is there a reason I shouldn’t?” she asked tilting her head to the side.

“Many Elves claim we wouldn’t do the same in return,” the Revered Mother replied, “I would like to think that is not true, but I cannot speak for all.”

“Oh, it is true, very true, I’ve watched our houses burning down, heard people screaming for help without the City Guard even so much as lifting a finger to help,” she waved her sleeve around, “but in most cases, Elves who live in cities don’t even know the first thing about defending themselves because the City Guard go out of their way to execute any Elf who even shows the smallest signs of being able to fight. I only got away with it because my Mother made sure that I knew and understood this from an early age. So in the first place, not showing signs of hostility, especially around Humans, is ingrained into our minds from an early age to make sure we live longer lives.”

“I… I don’t know what to say…” the Revered Mother said in absolute shock, “I… For now, allow me to introduce myself; I am Revered Mother Hannah, head of this Chantry… which, for the moment, is a place of refuge for these poor villagers.”

“Is this everyone that’s left?” she asked looking around.

“All those who cannot defend themselves, yes,” Mother Hannah replied, “they are terrified of tonight’s attack, and I fear these walls will not keep them safe. What can I do to help with your task?”

“Ser Perth would like holy protection for the knights,” she said.

“I have done all I can for them. I pray for them each night, and seek the Maker’s forgiveness for their sins before they face their deaths,” Mother Hannah replied, “what Ser Perth seeks is something that is not in my power to give.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Ser Perth believes that I can protect them against these creatures, a shield only the Maker can provide, and that I withhold this power,” Mother Hannah said.

“Does he not realize that it is his faith alone which must sustain him?” Leliana asked, “it is faith alone which will bring the Maker’s aid.”

If Morrigan were here, she’d be rolling her eyes so hard she’d need a new pair. Even she had to resist the urge to roll hers. Prayers would do absolutely nothing in this situation, what they needed was confidence and reassurance.

“Unfortunately, he seeks the Maker’s protection in a far too literal sense,” Mother Hannah replied, “this is something I cannot promise nor provide.”

“Can’t you just give them an amulet or something?” she asked tilting her head to the side.

“You mean you want me to let them think the Maker protects them in a real sense?” Mother Hannah frowned, “I will not lie to them like that!”

“Why not? It will give them inner peace, and a calm mind, these are both important in battles,” she replied, “for it is only with inner peace and a calm mind that we may fight to the full extent of our true abilities. Will you truly deny them this?”

Personally, she wasn’t religious in the least, she had no desire to worship the Maker in any way, shape, or form. She simply trusted her own body. However, she knew the importance of a calm mind and inner peace, especially since she’d lost her own.

“Very well, if it’ll help keep them alive, I will do what I must,” Mother Hannah sighed after a bit of thought, “I have a number of silver-cast holy symbols. Tell Ser Perth that he can have them, and that wearing them will confer the Maker’s protection… Now, please… let me tend to these poor folk. I must do what I can, and I suggest you do the same.”

“You know, my dear,” Zevran said thoughtfully, “out of battle, you move quite loudly for a rogue.”

“Ahhhh… yeah,” she sighed, “force of habit… I had to make a conscious effort to make noise… Otherwise, my cousins would yell at me.”

“Oh?” Zevran quirked a brow.

“Mhm, they even threatened to put a bell on me,” she frowned and Alistair snorted.

“A bell?” Leliana giggled, “do they really think that you are that much of a cat?”

“Apparently,” she replied.

She returned to Ser Perth with the amulets, and gave Leliana a sharp look, to keep her from saying anything. They were still making good time.

Still, dealing with zombies? In her last life, she fell into the group of ‘best to just let them bite you and get it over with’.

“I have an idea,” she said, “why don’t we use some barricades or crates and make a wall to bottleneck them into one area? It should help us control the flow of battle a bit better.”

“That is a fantastic idea,” Ser Perth nodded before ordering his men to follow through with her suggestion.

She wondered if she’d have time for a nap, she had a feeling she wouldn’t be getting any sleep. She spotted something familiar, Andraste’s Grace. She picked them and handed them to Leliana.

“Hmmm? Flowers?” Leliana replied accepting them with a confused expression, “uh, thank you. They’re… very pretty.”

“They’re Andraste’s Grace,” she said and Leliana stared down at the petals in shock.

“These were… these were Mother’s favorite! Oh, I haven’t seen these in such a long time!” Leliana gasped, “they smell just like Mother used to.”

“I’m used to hunting them down… When my cousin wasn’t feeling well, she’d demand I find one and bring it back to her,” she closed her eyes thoughtfully, “I remember crawling over the rooftops grumbling about how much of a pain it was.”

“But you did it anyway,” Leliana smiled softly, “thank you… thank you so much for remembering.”

Thinking about it, she never really asked Leliana about her vision. Perhaps she’ll ask her about it some other time, though right now there was something else she was curious about.

***

“I heard that in Orlais,” Kallian said thoughtfully after the others had meandered away to help Ser Perth move barricades and crates, “minstrels are often spies.”

“Where did you hear this?” she asked suspiciously.

“I read it in a history book,” Kallian closed her eyes in thought, “or rather, my cousin read it in a book, and then badgered me about it until I read it too.”

“And you believe everything you read?” she chuckled, “not all minstrels are spies, most are just singers and storytellers. But some of them are… are what we call bards.”

“I thought minstrels were bards,” Kallian replied seriously.

“Many use the two words ‘minstrel’ and ‘bard’ interchangeably, but to do so in Orlais would cause misunderstanding,” she explained, “bards are minstrels, and more. Spies, as you say. Some say there is a bard order, but I don’t think this is true… Many bards work alone, or in small groups, doing the bidding of a patron who pays for their services. If there is an organization behind it all, no one knows who they are.”

“Doesn’t the monarchy govern them?” Kallian asked.

“The Empress must have her own bards at her disposal, I suppose, but many are more… self-serving, in Orlais there is much rivalry amongst the high-born. They fight over land, influence, and the favor of the Empress. But they cannot do this openly, because it is impolite, and in public, they wear smiling faces and pretend to be civil,” she explained, “in secret, they plot and scheme to destroy each other. It is a game completely meaningless to anyone but its players.”

“Whoaaa…” Kallian said, “you seem to know quite a bit about them. Bards, that is.”

“And I should, shouldn’t I? After having spent most of my adult life as one,” she sighed, “you’ve guessed as much, I’m sure… But does it really matter what I was? What’s past is past.”

“I had suspicions,” Kallian replied, “but I didn’t want to push it if you didn’t want to talk about it. Everyone has a secret or two from their past they don’t want known… I suppose that’s how you learned to fight like that.”

“My skills served me well, but the day finally came when I decided to just put them aside,” she nodded, Kallian didn’t like discussing her recruitment, so she knew that she wouldn’t have pushed it, “I… found myself in Ferelden and sheltered from bad weather in the Chantry. And when the storm had passed, I just… did not want to leave. I like to say that the Maker brought me here.”

“I suppose you could say that,” Kallian nodded, “since now you’re helping defend Ferelden against the Blight.”

“This is true,” she replied with a soft smile.

***

Kallian was off having a pleasant chat with Leliana, Alistair was down in the Chantry, the man seemed enamored with a certain Teyrna. Sten was speaking with Ser Perth, and Diana was laying at Kallian’s feet.

And Morrigan was eye-ing him.

“You do still intend to kill your target, do you not?” Morrigan asked him, “is your reputation not on the line?”

“Are you still on about this, woman?” he sighed, she still thought he was going to kill them.

“I am led to believe that the Crows would never permit such a transgression,” Morrigan replied, “they will come after you, and in force.”

“It has come to my attention,” he replied, “that the Crows are not always successful when pit against Grey Wardens and their companions.”

“Perhaps they will send someone more competent next time,” Morrigan replied simply.

“You wound me,” he replied.

“I have considered doing far more than that,” Morrigan replied, “trust me.”

“Perhaps next time,” Kallian snickered, “they’ll send someone who can actually pick locks.”

“Have you ever been told how cruel you are, my dear?” he frowned.

“Yes, by you, actually,” Kallian laughed.

“Then you do not fear the Crows at all?” Morrigan asked.

“I think of it more as my desire to leave them far exceeds the fear I possess of them,” he sighed.

“You think the Grey Wardens will give you safe harbor once this is all done?” Morrigan asked, “surely you are not so naive.”

“I am willing to take my chances,” he replied.

“And if you are wrong?” Morrigan asked.

“Then I will be dead,” he said simply, “one does not do what I do and fear death so very greatly.”

“There are fates worse than death,” Morrigan replied.

“And one of them is being unable to choose which master you serve,” he sighed, “trust me, my dear, I am well pleased with my current direction… Though that does bring an interesting question to mind.”

His eyes fell on Kallian, who had quite easily captured his interest.

In many ways, Kallian was like Rinna, but in truth, even he had to admit that Rinna paled in comparison. He shouldn’t let someone's beauty and clever wit move him, not anymore, and especially considering what had happened to Rinna. But Kallian was absolutely impossible to ignore. Not only that, but it seemed she'd seen through a veteran general like Loghain with ease, and quickly planned and executed her own countermeasures, something which had proven to be immensely successful. Especially considering that Loghain had considered her dangerous and a threat after meeting only once. Though, anyone moving against her would likely find themselves thinking much the same.

But she was beautiful, strong, clever, witty, charming, dangerous, elegant, graceful, mysterious, and very deadly. A beautiful monster lurked within her, he had only seen small glimpses of it, but he knew it was there.

“Fueh? Why are you looking at me?” Kallian tilted her head to the side, “oh, it’s a question for me?”

“Well here is the thing: I swore an oath to serve you, yes? And I understand the quest you’re on and this is all very fine and well,” he replied, “my question pertains to what you intend to do with me once this business is over with. As a point of curiosity.”

“Does your oath expire then?” Kallian asked.

“Not precisely, I said I would serve you until you saw fit to release me,” he said, “one simply assumes that, once your Grey Warden business is finished, you would have no need of an assassin to follow you about. Am I wrong?”

“I’m not holding you to any oath, Zevran,” Kallian replied with a quirked brow, “you could go if you wanted.”

“Oh? Could I?” he replied, “and what if I didn’t wish to leave?”

“Well, that’s what freedom is,” Kallian laughed, “freedom is being able to choose where you want to go, what you want to do, and whatever whenever you want.”

And he realized something:

Freedom.

She’d given him freedom.

Something he’d never even thought was possible for him to achieve, in one simple sentence, she’d given it to him as if it were as simple as breathing.

“Oh? I made the oath willingly, but if that’s how you see it, then all the better,” he grinned, “for the moment, it’s still best I stay, considering my standing with the Crows.”

“Why do I have the feeling that’s not the only reason you want to stay?” Kallian asked wryly.

“Well, let’s assume that I didn’t desire to leave, when the time came,” he replied, “what then?”

“Like I said, that’s what freedom is: being your own master,” Kallian laughed, “making your own decisions, living life the way you want to… So if you don’t want to go, then don’t. It’s as simple as that.”

“I see…” he replied thoughtfully, “it is good to know what my options might be…”

“It is always nice to know one's options, yes,” Kallian nodded with a grin.

He highly doubted that she had even realized the effect her words had on him. He highly doubted that she knew the effect her words had on anyone, not just him.

And he couldn’t help but find himself wanting her in more ways than one.

***

Kallian’s preparations for the village were well thought out, and he had no doubt their losses would be dramatically cut down, and now they were holding a strategy meeting in the Chantry.

“We’ll have Leliana and Morrigan in the village proper,” Kallian said, “stationed on the roofs, and the melee fighters will stay up here by the windmill. If you need help, send up a flame arrow as a signal and I’ll break off and come assist.”

“Just you?” Teagan asked.

“Yes, just me should be enough,” Kallian nodded, “plus, I can get down there the fastest while wasting as little energy as possible… Though, I honestly doubt you’ll need my help. If they begin swarming the Chantry, and breaking through the barricades, try calling them back over to you. Remember to pull the ladders up once the siege starts. I don’t know if they’ll be able to climb them or not, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“I’ll stay by the windmill to help in the battle,” Elissa said.

“With the defenses and barricades set,” Kallian said, “we should be able to keep casualties to an absolute minimum… Aim for their heads, I doubt they’ll be able to continue moving without them, and remember: they can’t get to you so breathe and take your time lining up your shots.”

“I have a good feeling about tonight,” Murdock nodded.

“As do I,” Ser Perth agreed.

“For now, we should get as much rest in as we can,” Kallian sighed, “especially if we’re to go all out tonight.”

“You just want to take a nap, don’t you?” Alistair asked.

“I’ve been using my brain non-stop since we got here,” Kallian pouted, “of course I’m sleepy.”

“You are not quite as callow as I thought,” he said, “that is… unexpected.”

“Fueh?” Kallian tilted her head to the side.

“You sound surprised. You must have heard this before,” he replied, “you’ll get over it. Eventually.”

“I see,” Kallian replied, “why did you come to Ferelden, anyway?”

“I was sent to be the eyes of the antaam,” he replied, “the Arishok asked, ‘What is the Blight?’ by his curiosity, I am now here.”

“Don’t you have to report back?” Kallian asked.

“Yes.”

“Are you going to do it after all this is settled?”

“No,” he replied, “I cannot go home.”

“Why not?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“What were you doing in that cage?” Kallian asked, “I have a feeling you could have easily escaped.”

“Does it matter? Very well,” he sighed, “I caged myself. A weak mind is a deadly foe, as you are no doubt aware.”

“I… am quite aware,” Kallian sighed as a strange expression crossed her face, she had personal experience with this. Though she would likely dodge any inquiries into it, just as she’s dodged all other inquiries into her past, “power without control is a dangerous thing.”

“It is,” he nodded, “I came to your lands with seven of the Beresaad — my brothers — to seek answers about the Blight. We made our way across the Ferelden countryside without incident, seeing nothing of the threat we were sent to observe… Until the night we camped by Lake Calenhad. They came from everywhere: the earth beneath our feet, the air above us, our own shadows harbored the Darkspawn. I saw the last of the creatures cut down, too late. I fell.”

“That sounds like what happened to me at Ostagar,” Kallian sighed, “just as I was about to collapse from exhaustion, we were swarmed by even more Darkspawn. I couldn’t move the way I wanted to because of the armor I didn’t have time to kick off, and in my last act of desperation I threw Alistair behind me and took the brunt of it.”

“I heard the stories of Ostagar, your kith stood their ground when others fled,” he nodded, “no one can do more than that… Especially considering what you’ve said on the subject… I don’t know how long I lay on the battlefield among the dead, nor do I know how the farmers found me. I only know that when I woke, I was no longer among my brothers. And my sword was gone from my hand.”

“What did you do?”

“I searched for it, and when that failed,” he answered, “I asked my rescuers what had become of it.”

“Did they know?”

“They said they found me with nothing,” he replied.

“Did you believe them?”

“I did. I knew they didn’t have the blade: they had no reason to lie to me,” he admitted, “I panicked, unthinking I struck them down.”

“It’s… really important to you isn’t it?” Kallian replied another strange look crossing her face, something that meant a lot to her was taken from her as well, likely the reason she’d lost control of herself, “your sword that is.”

“That sword was made for my hand alone, I have carried it from the day I was set into the Beresaad, I was to die wielding it for my people,” he nodded, “even if I could cross Ferelden and Tevinter unarmed and alone to bring my report to the Arishok, I would be slain on sight by the antaam. They would know me as soulless, a deserter. No soldier would cast aside his blade while he drew breath.”

“You lost it at Lake Calenhad, correct?” Kallian asked tilting her head to the side, “maybe there’s a way we can find it. It might have been picked up by scavengers… We’ll find it, Sten.”

“Perhaps those words are empty,” he replied despite knowing that she’d do her damnedest to ensure it found, “but thank you all the same.”

***

After distributing some medicines she’d already had on hand, she decided to take a rest. Though instead of taking a nap and potentially having to deal with her she instead opted to perch on a roof and blankly stare at Lake Calenhad. She knew Sten had probably surmised that she’d gone through a similar situation, one where she’d lost control of herself. It’s easy to recognize people who’ve gone through similar circumstances like that.

She was afraid of herself, of that raging beast inside of her. She was afraid of losing herself to it again, she was afraid of being consumed by that level of hate… What had her life become? Half a year ago, she was just a regular girl living in the Alienage. Five months ago, she was engaged to be married. Three months ago… her life fell to pieces. Two months ago her body had been brutally beaten and rendered comatose. And a week ago, she’d been the subject of an assassination attempt.

She missed the days she’d spent living carefree in the Alienage, missed the simplicity of her regular everyday ordinary life. Missed not having to worry about coming up with strategies and tactics in order to keep people alive in battle. Missed being able to sleep without having to fight herself. Missed not being responsible for leading around Humans while worrying about getting smot for her insolence.

She wanted to throw herself down on the ground and kick and scream, throw a temper tantrum the likes of which had never been seen before, but it would be useless, and a waste of time and energy.

The sun would be coming down soon, so she stood from her perch, and sighed as she stretched out her muscles before heading to her post.

“Will you not wear armor?” Ser Perth asked as she put her gloves on.

“Kallian doesn’t wear armor,” Alistair answered for her, “it’s weird but eventually you get used to it.”

“Remember not to bite them,” she said kneeling next to Diana, “treat them like Darkspawn, you don’t want that taste stuck in your mouth.”

“They’re coming!” someone shouted.

Luckily, these zombies were not bite-y at all, so that was pretty neat.

Her preparations were also holding up nicely, they had full control over the flow of battle.

She couldn’t stop a yawn as she looked down at the village proper, things were going according to plan. The undead were swarming the houses they could not reach the top of, and falling to arrows and magic. As she suspected, they probably wouldn’t need her help and where they were, they were being funneled exactly where she wanted them. This was… quite honestly… one of the easiest battles she’d ever fought.

“How are you yawning?!” Elissa asked in shock.

“Well,” she shrugged, “at current, everything is going all according to plan. They can’t reach the archers on the roofs, and the archers are downing them quite nicely… I also haven’t seen a signal telling me to go down there and assist, so there’s that too.”

“What?!” Ser Perth said in shock moving to look down alongside her.

“Why couldn’t you have arrived earlier?!” Elissa asked mournfully.

“I spent three weeks on the brink of death,” she replied, “after that, it took us a week to get to Lothering, and then another week to get here.”

“It’s a miracle she’s still even alive,” Alistair said.

“Yeah, I almost died trying to save Alistair,” she nodded.

“I’ve also certainly tried my hand at taking her life,” Zevran laughed, “but I understand she felled me in one hit.”

“It was indeed one hit,” she nodded, “I hit your vitals pretty hard.”

“Alistair… Where did you find your companions?” Elissa asked.

“Kallian was recruited into the Wardens for some reason, not sure what reason that is yet, Morrigan and her Mother saved us after Ostagar,” Alistair recounted, “Leliana we picked up after a bar fight that ended in Kallian scolding, insulting, and then bossing around Loghain’s men, Sten we rescued from a cage, and Zevran tried to kill us on our way here.”

“And you brought him along?” Elissa asked.

“I believe in second chances,” she replied trying to stifle another yawn, “and I’m sure I’ll tell you eventually.”

Zombies really didn’t have much brains, and they attacked the crates and barricades, but they didn’t do much damage to them before realizing there was an entrance they could funnel into. Things were going so well according to plan she was expecting a lightning strike to the face any second now.

So, now she was wondering what was happening in the castle. Poisons didn’t cause zombies, or rather, they did, but the ones she was used to from her old world were more along the line of diseases. They didn’t need to drag off the corpse of their victim to turn them into the mindless undead, it was just bite once and done. Which meant that there was something going on in the castle, magic? Demons? Spirits?

Ughhh she was tired and didn’t want to think about this.

She wanted a nap.

The sun was finally coming up, they waited a bit, to make sure that the attacks had ceased.

“How were things in the village proper?” she asked.

“They were scared in the beginning,” Leliana replied, “since they were swarming the houses… but once they realized they couldn’t reach them, we were able to take out a great deal of them without any issue.”

“Great success,” she cheered throwing her hands up while still holding her sleeves to her palms.

“How were things up by the windmill?” Leliana asked.

“Was there ever any doubt?” she smirked and puffed out her chest.

“Is… is it over?” Teagan asked opening the doors to the Chantry, “and everyone’s alive?”

“Indeed,” she nodded snapping her fingers into a thumbs up with a grin.

Apparently, they decided to hold a ceremony for them. Honestly, all she wanted was a nap in a nice bed.

“Dawn arrives, and all of us remain! We are victorious! And it is these good folk you see beside me that we have to thank for our lives today, without their heroism, surely we would all have perished,” Teagan declared before turning to her and she stood up a little straighter since now the spotlight was actually on her. Though panic flooded through her, she was still highly uncomfortable with being the center of attention, especially amongst Humans, this was literally going against every single instinct she had, as he bowed to her and offered her a helm, “I bow to you, dear lady. The Maker smiled on us when he sent you here in our darkest hour. Allow me to offer you this: the helm of Ser Ferris the Red, my great-uncle and Hero of Ferelden. He would approve of passing it to one so worthy.”

Weird.

This was weird.

This was so jarringly weird.

A Human— Not just any Human, a Bann was bowing to her and offering her an heirloom helm.

This is probably at the absolute top of her list of weird shit that has happened to her recently.

What was even happening anymore? Can the world just… make sense again? Please?

She thought she was getting used to this nonsense, but nope, she wasn’t.

“Thank you, Bann Teagan,” she replied deciding to accept it, since refusing it in this crowd would probably be seen as rude, “I am honored.”

“Take it, then,” Teagan replied as she took it, “and use it in good health.”

She didn’t wear helms.

She didn’t wear armor.

This would do absolutely nothing for her.

Maybe Alistair or Sten could use it.

“Let us bow our head and give honor to those who gave their lives in the defense of Redcliffe,” Mother Hannah said and a different kind of panic swept through her body, nausea assaulted her senses as her eyes swept through the crowd. She remembered her failed wedding, she remembered the last time she was in front of a crowd as a Mother spoke of the Maker. She remembered Nelaros, she remembered Nola, she remembered Shianni. She felt sick. She felt sick. Shefeltsickshefeltsickshefeltsick. No, Vaughan’s dead, she’d brutally massacred him, his friends, and his guards. He’s dead. If anyone else tries anything, she’s learned her lesson: she’ll kill them where they stand, “now they walk with He who is their Maker. Long may they know the peace of His love.”

“So let it be,” she mumbled, fighting back the bile that threatened to spew from her lips.

“With the Maker’s favor, the blow we delivered today is enough for me to enter the castle and seek out your Arl. Be wary and watch for signs of renewed attack. We shall return with news as soon as we are able,” Teagan announced turning the attention away from her, and once the crowd cleared he turned back to her, “now, we’ve no time to waste. Meet me at the mill. We can talk further there.”

“Of course, My Lord,” she nodded with a bow as he left.

“Kallian,” Zevran said, a hand on her arm stopping her as she moved to follow, and a serious expression on his face, “are you feeling alright, my dear?”

“What do you mean?” she beamed with the brightest smile she could muster.

She knew she wasn’t fooling him.

She knew she couldn’t fool either him or Leliana.

“Ah, no my mistake,” Zevran grinned at her, “you simply looked stunning in the morning light.”

“Ah-ha-ha-ha,” she laughed monotonously simply grateful that he’d decided to play along, “so, who wants to go into the spooky, scary, haunted castle? Unfortunately, Magical Mistress Morrigan’s participation is mandatory, because my knowledge of magic is basically non-existent.”

Crap, now that song was stuck in her head.

Spooky scary skeletons.

“Magical Mis—” Alistair snorted.

“Oh? Does magic not interest you?” Morrigan asked.

“It’s not that,” she shook her head, “I’ve just… never really been exposed to magic… And I didn’t want to end up turning into the so-called green-eyed beast.”

“You’re already a green-eyed beast,” Alistair replied, as she noticed Leliana and Zevran discussing something in hushed voices.

“Oh, you’re right,” she laughed.

“In any case, I’m going,” Alistair declared, “Arl Eamon needs help and I’m not just going to wait here.”

“I figured as much,” she replied.

“I’m going!” Zevran announced brightly, “I’m interested to see what the inside of this castle looks like, and I have been inside my fair share of castles.”

She sort of expected this, Sten never seemed that comfortable around magic, and Zevran had a tendency to stick closer to her than Leliana.

She secretly took a dose of sedatives to help with her nerves.

That might have been a bad idea, she’d already been sleepy.

She gave herself a sharp slap across the face to wake herself up before heading up the hill.

***

Kallian’s complexion during the ceremony had looked… concerning. Not only that, but there was no hiding that extremely brief glance of wide-eyed hysteria, she’d wiped it from her face quickly enough, but both she and Zevran had seen it.

Both she and Zevran knew that Kallian was a master of hiding things, and that she would likely say nothing regarding it, while she brushed off their concerns.

So they both discussed it, and decided that Zevran would go and keep an eye on her.

Or rather, he decided that he would go and keep an eye on her. She didn’t really get a chance to argue before he was already volunteering himself.

All she could do now, was pray that nothing bad had happened in Kallian’s past, and nothing bad would happen in the castle.

Chapter Text

She walked over to Leliana and told her that they’d probably be staying in Redcliffe for a few days, she wanted to make sure the village was secure, and asked her to tell Sten and Bodahn for her before continuing her climb up the hill, as she worked to get herself back under control, she was in control of herself. It was her, not her rage, not her fear, not her pain, it was her.

She was in control of herself.

And she would not lose it, not this time, not ever again.

“Odd how quiet the castle looks from here, you would think there was nobody inside at all,” Teagan said as they approached before turning to them, “but I shouldn’t delay things further. I had a plan… to enter the castle after the village was secure… There is a secret passage here, in the mill, accessible only to my family.”

“That’s convenient,” she replied, “though I suppose all castles have an escape route.”

“Perhaps I should have gone into the castle earlier, but I could not leave the villa—” Teagan sighed before noticing something approaching, “Maker’s breath!”

“Teagan! Thank the Maker you yet live!” a Noble Woman said running up to them with a guard in tow.

Interesting.

“Isolde! You’re alive! How did you…?” Teagan asked clearly trying to get his thoughts in order, “what has happened?!”

“I do not have much time to explain! I slipped away from the castle as soon as I saw the battle was over, and I must return quickly,” Isolde replied and she felt her eye twitch in disgust, “and I… need you to return with me, Teagan. Alone.”

“You don’t seem very concerned about what’s happened here,” she said with a sharp clipped tone.

Maybe this special treatment and position of power thing was getting to her head, but this pissed her off. The people of Redcliffe were suffering and all she cares about is herself?

“What? I… who is this woman, Teagan?” Isolde replied looking at her in suspicion.

“You remember me, Lady Isolde,” Alistair sighed heavily, “don’t you?”

“Alistair? Of all the… why are you here?” Isolde replied and she couldn’t help but click her tongue in annoyance, as her nose wrinkled in disgust.

This woman didn’t care about the village, about the people who’d died trying to defend their loved ones and their homes, and now she was getting annoyed at Alistair for being here? For helping protect the village? At least he actually DID something to help the villagers. She remembered the haggard faces of those hiding in the Chantry, the haunted expressions of the villagers when they’d first arrived, remembered both Kaitlyn and Bevin, and this woman wasn’t even concerned for them? The actual fuck?

“They are Grey Wardens, Isolde,” Teagan said trying to diffuse the situation, “and the villagers, Teyrna Elissa, and I owe them our lives.”

“Pardon me, I… I would exchange pleasantries,” Isolde said, “but considering the circumstances.”

“Please, Lady Isolde,” Alistair said as she attempted to wipe the look of disgust off of her face, “we had no idea anyone was even alive within the castle. We must have some answers!”

“I know you need more of an explanation, but I… don’t know what is safe to tell,” Isolde replied, “Teagan, there is a terrible evil within the castle. The dead waken and hunt the living. The mage responsible was caught, but it still continues… And I think Connor is going mad… We have survived but he won’t flee the castle. He has seen so much death! You must help him, Teagan! You are his Uncle, you could reason with him. I do not know what else to do.”

She closed her eyes, took a breath, held it, and released.

She was in control, not her anger, not her disgust.

She was.

“What about Arl Eamon?” Alistair asked, “is he still alive?”

“He is, he is being kept alive so far,” Isolde replied, “thank the Maker.”

“Kept alive?” Teagan asked in shock, “kept alive by what?”

“Something the mage unleashed, so far, it allows Eamon, Connor, and myself to live,” Isolde replied, “the others… they were not so fortunate. It’s killed so many, and turned their bodies into walking nightmares! Once it was done with the castle, it struck the village! It wants us to live, but I do not know why. It allowed me to come for you, Teagan, because I begged, because I said Connor needed help.”

Then what was this guard doing still alive?

“Tell me about this mage you mentioned,” she said.

“He is… and infiltrator, I think— one of the castle staff,” Isolde replied, “we discovered he was poisoning my husband. That is why Eamon fell ill. The mage claims an agent of Teyrn Loghain’s hired him. He may be lying, however, I cannot say.”

“It seems your suspicions truly were correct,” Teagan sighed, “I was hoping…”

“I was hoping I was wrong too,” she sighed, “so, Magical Mistress Morrigan, what do you think? Do you think it’s a demon?”

“I think I like being called Magical Mistress Morrigan,” Morrigan replied, “it rolls off the tongue quite well.”

“Oh, Maker’s mercy! Could it truly be a demon?!” Isolde gasped, “I can’t let it hurt my Connor! You must come back with me, Teagan! Please!”

The mage who was poisoning Eamon, summoned a demon to keep the three of them alive?

Sense, it makes none.

“So why must Teagan go alone?” she asked.

“For Connor’s sake, I promised I would return quickly and only with Teagan,” Isolde replied, “Teagan, I know you could order your men to follow me when I return to the castle. I beg you not to, for Connor’s sake!”

“Why do I get the feeling that you aren’t telling us everything?” she asked flatly.

This is bad.

This position of power and special treatment thing might really be getting to her head.

Or maybe it’s the lack of sleep.

It’s probably the lack of sleep.

Let’s just call it the lack of sleep.

She was definitely being more of a Grumpy McGrumpykins than anything, though it was honestly deserved. She’d spent the entire fucking yesterday redoing their goddamn defenses, planning their strategy, and fighting to save Redcliffe, and this woman didn’t care about the village. Not only that but the world was still weirding her out. She should be allowed to have at least one small temper tantrum.

“I… I beg your pardon!” Isolde replied, “that’s a rather impertinent accusation!”

“I think it’s a fair question,” she replied, “considering you’re asking Bann Teagan to throw himself in harm's way to return to the castle with you.”

“An evil I cannot fathom holds my son and husband hostage! I came for help! What more do you want from me?!” Isolde replied, “Teagan! I do not have much time! What if it thinks I am betraying it!? It could kill Connor! Please come back with me… must I beg?!”

“Well, in the end, it’s your decision,” she said throwing her hands up in exasperation.

“The King is dead, and we need my brother now more than ever,” Teagan replied, “I will return to the castle with you, Isolde.”

“Oh, thank the Maker!” Isolde said in relief, “bless you, Teagan! Bless you!”

“It seems you have little choice,” she sighed.

“Isolde, can you excuse us for a moment?” Teagan asked, “there is something I want to make sure of before I return to the castle with you.”

“Please do not take too long!” Isolde replied before she and her guard left, “I will be by the bridge.”

“I have no illusions of dealing with this evil alone. You, on the other hand, have proven quite formidable,” Teagan said moving her an extra bit of distance away from Isolde and handing her a ring, “here’s what I propose: I go in with Isolde and you enter the castle using the secret passage. My signet ring unlocks the door in the mill… Perhaps I will… distract whatever evil is inside and increase your chances of getting in unnoticed. What do you say?”

“Well, it’s as good a plan as any, I suppose,” she sighed inspecting the ring noticing Elissa approaching in her peripheral vision, “I doubt I can break in there if there’s a demon or whatever afoot.”

“Ser Perth and his men can watch for danger at the castle entrance,” Teagan replied, “if you can open the gates from within, they can move in and help you.”

“I’ll wait by the gates as well,” Elissa said speaking up, “sorry, I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help.”

“It’s okay,” she replied shaking her head, “you’re fine.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone else who can help you, then,” Teagan replied, “whatever you do, Eamon is the priority here, if you have to, just get him out of there. Isolde, me, and anyone else… we’re expendable.”

“I don’t believe that,” she replied.

“You’re a good woman, the Maker smiled on me indeed when He sent you to Redcliffe, but I can delay no longer,” Teagan said before leaving to join Isolde, “allow me to bid you farewell… and good luck.”

She sighed heavily in exasperation. If the Maker really sent them, he was a sadistic son of a bitch, causing the Blight and allowing this madness to even begin. Not only that, but a good woman? Hah, he didn’t even know the half of it.

She wasn’t a good woman.

She was a monster of her own making, she’d been one even before Vaughan, she knew that. She had turned herself into one so that she could hunt those who preyed on others, she had absolutely no illusions on that, but at least that monster was self-contained, at least that monster was within her control. But that raging hate-filled beast? That was a monster on an entirely different level, one she had not even known herself capable of.

“Sometimes,” she grumbled, “I really hate nobles.”

“I… hate to admit but she was pissing me off as well,” Elissa nodded.

“I can’t believe her!” she frowned, “here we were, here Alistair was, putting his life on the line to defend the village and she fucking scoffs at his presence?!”

“Exactly!” Elissa frowned, “we’ve been defending the village, night after night, and she doesn’t even care!”

“What a revolting attitude,” she sighed in frustration, “in any case we should probably head over.”

They entered the mill, and she saw the trap door barely hidden beneath some hay and frowned.

Not a well hidden door.

She took her gloves off before she brushed some of the hay off as she looked for the place she was supposed to put the signet in and pressed it into the slot before pulling her gloves back on. She didn’t want the hay sticking her through them.

“Hey, Kallian,” Alistair said, “you’re a woman, right?”

“…Yeah, sure, I guess,” she replied, “I guess I’m something along those lines, yeah, why?”

“Can you give me advice?” Alistair asked.

“That depends on what you want advice on,” she replied.

“If I think a woman is special—” Alistair began and she held up a hand stopping him.

“Are you telling me… are you telling me you fell in love with Elissa!?” she slapped her hand over her mouth, “when did— No way you fell in love with her at first sight, didn’t you!? And then right after that you decided to introduce yourself as having your defining characteristic being covered in mud?!

“Just… just let it out,” Alistair groaned and she did.

“You— BWAHAHAHA! You— ” she laughed hysterically falling to her knees and clutching at her sides, “I can’t— I can’t breathe! I’m dying! It hurts! My sides! D’AHAHAHAHA HEEHEEEHEE!”

“It isn’t that funny!” Alistair glared, “and what is with that laugh?!”

“But you—!!!” she laughed, “oh, I am never letting you live this down!”

“You know what?” Alistair frowned, “forget I said anything.”

“That’s impossible!” she wheezed, “absolutely impossible!”

“I guess we’re in the same boat now, huh?” Alistair sighed turning to Zevran.

“It would appear so,” Zevran replied dryly as she held her breath trying to calm herself down.

“One would think you would have learned after seeing what happened to Zevran,” Morrigan said, “but ‘twould appear that that was not so.”

“Don’t worry,” she sighed finally getting herself under control, “I have my embarrassing moments too.”

“Like what?” Alistair asked.

“I once got so worked up and angry that I closed a door on my own face because I was dead-set on angrily storming off,” she recounted wiping a tear from her eye, “argument ended immediately after that because my cousin and I had dissolved into a laughing mess.”

“I can’t even imagine you getting angry,” Alistair admitted, “and especially not angry enough to storm off.”

“It takes a lot to get me angry, but she had a habit of trying to deliberately piss me off,” she shrugged, “neither of us remembered what we were arguing about, all we could both remember was how I stupidly closed the door on my own face… I’ve also already told you how I’ve gotten stuck in crates and barrels.“

As they began moving through the tunnel again she tried to put that thought from her mind. They were going into potentially dangerous territory, and she didn’t need to have a laughing fit to give away their position.

“Escape tunnels make such very handy entrance tunnels,” Zevran said excitedly, “don’t you agree?”

“They really do,” she nodded, “though, the only reason we were able to get into this one was because of the signet ring.”

“A tunnel that goes under the entire lake?” Morrigan said baffled, “who would build such a thing?”

“Rich people,” she replied, “who need a stealthy quick getaway.”

“You know,” Alistair said as if almost proud of it, “I locked myself in a cage once, when I was a child… For an entire day. Ahh, good times.”

She audibly clapped a hand over her mouth, faced a wall free of cobwebs and leaned on it, as she began desperately trying to stifle her laughter as much as possible, her body practically spasming from the effort of trying to hold her laughter back. Her cheeks and sides were aching from the amount of laughing she’d really wanted to unleash.

She was so telling Elissa this later.

“I’m going to regret saying that,” Alistair sighed, “aren’t I?”

“Of fucking course you are, I can’t believe you would just admit it like that,” she wheezed still trying to keep herself from laughing she took a deep breath, held it, and let it out, “I’m definitely going to remember and laugh at this for the rest of my life.”

“Go figure out where Antiva is,” Alistair groaned.

***

She truly lamented the fact that Kallian had been made a Grey Warden, she really wished she could have hired her. The medicines she’d distributed and her knowledge of healing were nothing to turn your nose up at. She was indeed incredibly well-educated with a shockingly wide-range of skills, and according to Alistair, her cooking skills were top-notch.

Don’t get her wrong, she knew the woman was clearly skilled enough, that alone was plain to see, considering how well their defense went last night, it was supposed to be the worst yet, but it ended up feeling like the easiest night they’d defended against. Not only had she given them hope, but her strategical and tactical know-how clearly saw them through the night. Not just anyone could see through the plans of a veteran general like Loghain like that, and by the sounds of it, not only did she see through him, she immediately counteracted him. It wasn’t often that you could find someone who could both serve and advise, and both of her quick analytical skills as well as her observational prowess would have made her a formidable ally for any employer.

Well, as long as you didn’t consider something stupid like trying to tame her, but she could tell, that the woman was loyal, especially considering how angry she got on Alistair’s behalf… She could have seen herself having fun, chatting with her…

But what had happened to her marriage? She really wanted to know, but she also really didn’t want to push it. Especially not around everyone else, and especially considering she had apparently told no one how she was recruited in the first place. It was clearly a sore topic, one she’d avoided at all costs.

***

Kallian was picking fights with nobles, and being thrown into laughing fits, which made him wonder if he and Leliana truly had seen wrong. The others hadn’t noticed anything wrong. Still, he should observe her carefully. The brief glimpse of panic, hysteria, and madness came back to the forefront of his mind. It made him remember a conversation he’d had with her before.

That malicious scowl and unnatural tilt of her head as she hissed that some people were ‘shitty wastes of space who didn’t deserve to even so much as breathe’.

Something had happened to her, but he doubted she would say anything on the matter, just as she refused to say anything specific about her life before becoming a Warden.

“So… Let me ask you something,” Alistair began, “what are your intentions with her?”

“You speak of her as if she is not present,” he sighed gesturing to Kallian, “she is just right over there, you know.”

“It’s true, I am,” Kallian sighed raising her arm as she began wildly waving her sleeve around, an action he’d always found oddly endearing.

Her sleeves were just as much a part of her as any body part, she’d assault people with them when annoyed, wave them around wildly when trying to get someones attention. They were long, and always covered at least half of her hands, yet she was still rather expressive in her usage of them. She even used them to help her hold hot things, she was astonishingly versatile in their use.

Her body was still a mystery to absolutely everyone with the exception of Morrigan.

“Don’t dodge the question,” Alistair frowned, “I’m serious.”

“Is this brotherly concern I detect? Or something else?” he asked, now even Alistair was questioning his motives, “perhaps you are concerned for me, yes?”

“I am just asking what your intentions are,” Alistair replied, “you did try to kill us all, remember?”

“And now I owe her a blood debt, as she has spared my life,” he smirked, “it has brought us… closer together.”

“Is that a smirk?” Alistair frowned continuing to ignore Kallian, “are you smirking at me?”

“I assure you, Ser, that I am not smirking,” he grinned and Kallian audibly rolled her eyes, “no smirking here, no.”

***

A dungeon.

They were in a dungeon.

Somewhere where she was supposed to have been left to rot, left to die for her crimes. Somewhere where she wished she could be, alone, in solitude awaiting her own death without worrying about keeping people alive, without worrying about planning, strategy, and tactics. She’s a villain, not a hero. At least Zevran’s was a job. Hers? There were no justifications, no excuses, nothing that she could profess to explain herself. She should have been sacrificed for the greater good of her community.

“Stay away from me!” a voice cried out and she ran it was day time, but the undead were assaulting a closed cell. Her dagger and borrowed sword ended them, “h—hello? Who’s there? Is there anyone alive out there?”

“Hello,” she waved.

“Wait… you don’t look like the Arlessa’s guards,” the Man said, “did she send a servant for me?”

“Nope,” she waved her sleeve around, “sorry, I know how I’m dressed, but I’m not a servant.”

“Then are you from outside the castle?” the Man asked and she nodded.

“I take it you’re the mage Lady Isolde mentioned?” she asked.

“You’ve spoken to her?” the Man replied, “then you know what I did.”

“She said you poisoned the Arl,” she replied.

“My name is Jowan, and I’m not proud of my deed… Poisoning Arl Eamon was what I was hired to do,” Jowan replied, “Lady Isolde had no idea when she took me in to tutor her son, of course.”

“So, what’s with all the walking corpses?” she asked.

“I… I know it looks suspicious, but I’m not responsible for the creatures and the killings in the castle,” Jowan explained, “I was already imprisoned when all that began. At first, Lady Isolde came here with her men demanding that I reverse what I’d done. I thought she meant my poisoning of the Arl. That’s the first I heard about the walking corpses. She thought I’d summoned a demon to torment her family and destroy Redcliffe. She… had me tortured. There was nothing I could do or say that would appease her. So they… left me to rot.”

“Whoaaaaaa…” she said in a daze.

“What? What’s wrong?” Alistair asked.

“I’m just… trying to figure out what’s wrong with her, I suppose if her families being threatened she wouldn’t be thinking straight but… logically speaking: that’s pretty asinine,” she closed her eyes in thought, “well, at least some of the pieces are falling into place… Why did the Arlessa hire you to tutor her son?”

“Lady Isolde was looking for a mage to tutor Connor, secretly,” Jowan admitted and she clicked her tongue in annoyance, “Teyrn Loghain found out and he… sent me. I was to use the opportunity to poison the Arl. I was told that Arl Eamon was a threat to Ferelden, that if I dealt with him Loghain would settle matters with the Circle.”

“The Circle? The Circle’s involved?” she furrowed her brows and bit the nail of her thumb in thought, the Tavern Keeper in Lothering had mentioned something weird was going down in the Circle, she should probably file this bit of information away for when she’s in control of more of her intellectual faculties, “why would he need to settle matters with the Circle for you?”

“It’s because… well… you see, I’m a maleficar: a blood mage,” Jowan answered.

“You? A blood mage? Truly?” Morrigan said in shock, “I would have never guessed.”

“A blood mage!” Alistair frowned, “well that isn’t good.”

“I dabbled in the forbidden arts, and they condemned me to death for it. I thought Loghain was giving me a chance to… redeem myself,” Jowan began whining, “but he’s abandoned me here, hasn’t he? Everything’s fallen apart, and I’m responsible! I have to make it right somehow, I have to!”

“Then Teyrn Loghain hired you after all,” she sighed.

“Yes, when the Templars caught me, they brought me to Denerim to await execution, eventually, someone came to see me, alone. It was the Teyrn. I’d seen paintings of him so I knew,” Jowan nodded, “I thought he’d have me executed right there, but he said I could make up for my crime. He said I would be helping the country.”

All she could feel was pity. She pitied Loghain. She didn’t hate him, she pitied him. She pitied the him whose inner demons plagued him and drove him to destroy the one thing he loved most: Ferelden.

But more than that, she understood him, she understood that his past would never let him sleep. She wouldn’t allow herself to tread that same path, she’ll catch and end herself before she does, but she pitied the him that could not do that.

“And he said that Arl Eamon was a threat to Ferelden,” she stated with another sigh.

“Yes, he said that Arl Eamon was dangerous to the nation,” Jowan nodded, “why wouldn’t I believe Teyrn Loghain?”

“In that situation? I don’t blame you,” she said.

“Are you saying that you would have poisoned Arl Eamon if Loghain had asked?” Alistair balked.

“No, because I ask too many questions. I demand to know exactly what a threat is and why it’s a threat. I will never be a ‘yes man’ who only knows how to blindly follow orders,” she said flatly, “however, that does not mean I do not understand his mentality. Someone in a position of power abused the trust society had placed in him, placed in him to know what was best for the country, he simply took the hand offered. End of story.”

“But I just don’t understand,” Alistair sighed in frustration, “why would Lady Isolde need a mage to Connor?”

“Connor had started to show… signs,” Jowan answered and rage flooded through her veins, “Lady Isolde was terrified the Circle of Magi would take him away for training.”

“Connor?!” Alistair gasped, “a mage? I can’t believe it!”

“She sought an apostate, a mage outside the Circle, to teach her son in secret so he could learn to hide his talent,” Jowan said and she felt her nose wrinkle in disgust and her tongue angrily click in her mouth, “her husband had no idea.”

Control.

She was in control.

It was her mind, her body, her soul, and she was in control.

She will become a monster, become the monster she needed to be, but she will be the one in control.

She will not lose herself to her.

“And Arl Eamon had no idea?” Alistair asked.

“No, she was adamant that he never find out,” Jowan answered, “she said he’d do the right thing, even if it meant losing their son. And that infuriated her.”

Every new piece of information she learned of Isolde disgusted her. Arl Eamon would send him to the Circle because he actually fucking cares about his son.

“Then ‘twould seem that this woman’s son is responsible for this,” Morrigan said.

“I thought that, too. Connor has little knowledge of magic, but he may have done something to tear open the Veil,” Jowan agreed, “with the Veil to the Fade torn, spirits and demons could infiltrate the castle. Powerful ones could kill and create those walking corpses.”

“I see,” she sighed heavily in frustration, “well… shit.”

“I never meant for it to end like this, I swear,” Jowan said, “let me help you fix this.”

This… this could have been her. This could have been her were it not for Duncan, but quite honestly? She’d be rather content wallowing in the cell she’d been left to rot in.

“I say this boy could still be of use to us. But if not, then let him go,” Morrigan said, “why keep him prisoner here?”

“Hey, hey! Let’s not forget he’s a blood mage!” Alistair practically shouted, “you can’t just… set a blood mage free!”

“Better to slay him? Better to punish him for his choices?” Morrigan shot back, “is this Alistair who speaks or the Templar?”

“I’d say it’s common sense,” Alistair replied flatly, “we don’t even know the whole story yet.”

“Honestly, you two are so interesting… Morrigan is always willing to allow people to redeem themselves and live freely,” she closed her eyes thoughtfully, “and Alistair wants to stick with what he’s been taught is right, and wants to err on the side of caution. I feel like a Mother.”

“Give me a chance, please!” Jowan begged.

She was allowed to walk free, and she was a bigger and more fearsome monster than him, she was even being allowed to pretend she was something she wasn’t. No matter what this man had done, her crimes likely made his look minuscule in comparison. One does not need to be a mage, does not need to be a maleficar to be completely and utterly dangerous and destructive.

“How will you make things right?” she asked, “there’s no saving the boy, I hope you know this.”

“I… there must be something I can do,” Jowan replied, “there has to be!”

“Well, Mother also believes in giving people second chances, so I’m sorry Alistair, but Mother will be siding with Morrigan on this one,” she said, “plus, he’s already been heaps more helpful, informative, and actually caring than Isolde.”

“You are not our Mother,” Alistair and Morrigan said in unison before glaring at each other.

If she added the full ages of both lifetimes together, she would definitely be old enough to be both of their Mothers.

“I certainly feel like it at times,” she replied wryly, “and what do you intend to do afterward?”

“Afterwards?” Jowan asked, “I assume I’ll be arrested, or executed, or… whatever people like me get. I’m tired of running from the Circle, I need to account for what I’ve done.”

She had been drafted into the Wardens and forced into a world that made absolutely zero sense, where she was routinely weirded out by everything, and she was far more dangerous than he was. The world made no sense, so let’s just meh it. She could see herself in him, a possible future of hers. One tired of dealing with the backlash from her actions, one who just wanted it all to end.

Actually, that’s what she was now.

“Alright,” she said, “as a reward for how helpful and informative you’ve been, and also for actually caring about the other people who’ve been caught up in this mess.”

“What?!” Alistair all but shouted.

“Alistair, Isolde is currently on my personal shit list, for many reasons,” she replied, “have you not noticed? She doesn’t care. Kaitlyn, Bevin, Murdock, Ser Perth, Elissa, Teagan, Tomas, Owen, Berwick, Mother Hannah, and all of the other villagers? They’ve suffered from this, and Isolde doesn’t even fucking care about them. This man does, he’s learned his lesson, he knows better now. You can’t expect to gain life experiences without messing up somewhere.”

“I’m not leaving,” Jowan said adamantly as she picked the lock to his cell, “I made a mistake and I’m going to find some way to fix it.”

“Alright, well then, do your best,” she replied, “we’ve got a castle to retake.”

They ascended out of the dungeon and she was blasted with a wave of nausea, she was back in that moment: fighting through an Arl’s estate in order to rescue people. She saw the faces of the guards she’d already massacred in the undead they fought against. A string of apologies resounded through her mind on repeat as the images flashed through her mind.

A ceremony in front of a group of people with a Mother speaking of the Maker.

A dungeon.

An Arl’s Estate.

Undead guards.

Rescuing someone.

She took a deep breath, held it, and released.

Breathe, she needed to breathe.

“Alistair, you take the lead,” she said, “you know this place better than I do.”

“Alright,” Alistair nodded firmly.

She could lose control of her stomach later.

***

After they’d left the dungeons, Kallian’s complexion worsened, her eyes unfocused as they continued to fight through the undead. Something had happened to her, something related to an Arl’s estate, he was sure of that now, but he doubted she’d say anything.

She never said anything regarding her recruitment, but perhaps they held more similarities than he’d originally thought.

She’d previously mentioned that she had no intentions to join a military organization like the Grey Wardens, she’d had no desire to leave Denerim, she doesn’t like unnecessary violence and bloodshed, she thought that there were people who were wastes of space who didn’t deserve to breathe…

His accepting the contract to kill the remaining Grey Wardens was his death wish…

…Was becoming a Grey Warden hers?

He didn’t understand, she was strong, and resilient, she gave people hope and peace of mind. She’d lived through tragedy after tragedy after tragedy and still stood tall. He remembered what was said: Kallian had thrown Alistair behind her to save him during the Battle of Ostagar and almost died doing so. She’d apparently justified it by saying that he had been a Grey Warden for far longer than she, and therefore making it a better option for him to have survived, since he knew more about being one than she did. But was it truly only that? What could have possibly happened to her to make her want to throw her life away?

Or perhaps she was simply tired, and he was reading into it too much, but he had a feeling he wasn’t.

He had a feeling that she no longer wished to live, he knew because he had been the same.

Chapter Text

She heard barking and they were attacked by Mabari, and the waves of her nausea rocked her body anew, but this wasn’t the time to feel sick. This wasn’t the time to empty her stomach. She can do all of that when she’s alone, when no one else is around.

“Ahh! Please don’t hurt me!” a Woman cried as she opened a door and in her mind, she saw Nola.

“Let go of me! Please! Stop!”

“Stay away from us!”

Breathe.

She needed.

To.

Breathe.

“Calm down,” she said softly, “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“I… I’m sorry, I’m so frightened! These monsters are everywhere!” the Woman replied and her nausea took an all-time high, “my… my name’s Valena, the Arlessa’s maid. Is she… alright? What happened to everyone?”

“Valena?” she asked, “the Smith’s daughter?”

“You know my Father?” Valena said in relief, “I want to go back to the village! Is there a way out of here?”

“There’s a tunnel to the windmill through the dungeons,” she answered, “do you think you can make it on your own?”

“I’ll find my way,” Valena said with resolve, “I can run fast and I know the castle. Thank you!”

“Be careful,” she called out after her.

She continued to follow Alistair through the castle and he led them to the courtyard. She let the fresh air fill her lungs as she opened the gate for Elissa, Ser Perth and the other knights to enter.

“You have opened the gates, that is good,” Ser Perth nodded, “my men and I are eager to see our Arl again.”

“What has been going on inside of the castle?” Elissa asked.

“Lots of dead people going grawr. No sign yet of Isolde, Connor, Teagan, or Eamon,” she reported and decided to skip over Jowan, “but we found the Blacksmith’s daughter and sent her back to Redcliffe.”

“Shall we enter the main hall together, then?” Ser Perth asked, “it must be held if we are to regain control of the castle.”

“Let’s go to the hall,” Alistair nodded.

“Excellent,” Ser Perth replied, “let us go now, then, and see what awaits us there.”

“Be on your guard,” she sighed, “and be prepared for… anything, really.”

“All we can do is go forward,” Elissa nodded.

She did her best to steel herself as they entered the main hall of the castle. She knew what she had to do, there was no way she could allow the child to live. No matter what, he needed to die. She can scream, and cry, and vomit all she wanted later, but for now, for now, there were things that must be done.

The scene that greeted them as they entered was… depressing, to say the least. Teagan was being forced to act as a jester as Isolde watched, with who she presumed was Connor clapping happily.

“So these are our visitors?” Connor asked, “the ones you told me about, Mother?”

“Y— yes, Connor,” Isolde replied.

“And this is the one who defeated my soldiers?” Connor asked, “the ones I sent to reclaim my village?”

“Yes,” Isolde replied.

“And now it’s staring at me!” Connor replied, “what is it, Mother? I can’t see it well enough.”

“Well… I guess that’s the second time I’ve been called ‘it’,” she mumbled quietly, the last time she was called an ‘it’ it was also by nobles.

“This is an Elf, Connor. You… you’ve seen Elves, before,” Isolde replied, “we have them here in the castle.”

She hated that they were talking about Elves as if they weren’t people, as if they were pets one simply owns.

“Oh, I remember! I had their ears cut off and fed to the dogs!” Connor replied, “the dogs chewed for hours! Shall I send it to the kennels, Mother?”

“C— Connor, I beg you,” Isolde replied, “don’t hurt anyone!”

“M— Mother? What… what’s happening?” Connor asked seeming to regain parts of himself, “where am I?”

“Oh, thank the Maker! Connor!” Isolde said falling to her knees, “Connor, can you hear me?”

“Get away from me, fool woman!” Connor shouted, “you are beginning to bore me.”

“Maker’s breath!” Ser Perth gasped, “what has happened here?!”

“Grey Warden… please don’t hurt my son!” Isolde begged, “he’s not responsible for what he does!”

“He’s the evil force you were talking about,” she frowned.

“No, don’t say that!” Isolde replied.

“So the boy has become an abomination and sundered the Veil?” Morrigan said.

“Connor didn’t mean to do this! It was that mage, the one who poisoned Eamon— he started all this!” Isolde replied, “he summoned this demon! Connor was just trying to help his Father!”

“And made a deal with the demon to do so?” Morrigan sighed, “foolish child.”

“It was a fair deal!” Connor shouted, “Father is alive, just as I wanted. Now it’s my turn to sit on the throne and send out armies to conquer the world! Nobody tells me what to do anymore!”

“Nooobody tells him what to do!” Teagan said in a voice that did not sound like his, “nobody! Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

“Quiet, Uncle, I warned you what would happen if you kept shouting, didn’t I? Yes, I did,” Connor flowered at Teagan before turning back to them, “but let’s keep things civil. This woman will have the audience she seeks. Tell us, woman… what have you come here for?”

“To be your end,” she replied smoothly hands moving to the borrowed sword and her dagger as she turned herself to ice.

“I’m not finished playing! You can’t make me stop!” Connor shouted angrily, “I think it’s trying to spoil my fun, Mother!”

“I… I don’t think…” Isolde replied as she began calculating.

“Of course you don’t. Ever since you sent the knights away, you do nothing but deprive me of my fun, frankly, it’s getting dull,” Connor glared as she counted five guards plus Teagan, “I crave excitement! And action! This woman spoiled my sport by saving that stupid village, and now she’ll repay me!”

Before she could move, the child ran away Isolde ran to cower in a corner and now she was stuck facing the guards. Teagan aside, knocking out the guards would be impossible. Their armor would protect them from any of her strikes, Teagan wasn’t wearing a helm, she still didn’t want to touch his head, but his neck was exposed and she could deliver a chop to his carotid artery which should knock him out nicely.

“You seem to be quite skilled in knocking people out,” Zevran noted.

“She really is,” Alistair nodded.

“Teagan! Teagan, are you alright?!” Isolde shouted running to his side to help him up.

“I am… better now, I think,” Teagan replied, “my mind is my own again.”

“Is your neck okay?” she asked.

“It’s sore, but I’ll live,” Teagan replied.

“Blessed Andraste! I would have never forgiven myself had you died, not after I brought you here, what a fool I am!” Isolde replied, “please! Connor’s not responsible for this! There must be some way we can save him!”

“There isn’t,” she replied.

“I am sorry, My Lady, but Connor has become an abomination,” Jowan said, “he’s no longer your son.”

“You!” Isolde shouted, “you did this to Connor!”

“I didn’t! I didn’t summon any demon, I told you!” Jowan replied, “please if you’ll let me help…”

“Help!? You betrayed me!” Isolde shouted hysterically, “I brought you here to help my son and in return you poisoned my husband!”

“Speaking of poisons,” she cut in, “do you know which poisoned you used?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” Jowan replied.

“Do you have any left?” she asked.

“No,” Jowan shook his head.

“Wonderful,” she groaned as she covered her face with her hand. Then again, she had no real confidence that any medicine or antidote she mixed up would actually help, especially considering that there was now magic in play.

“This is the mage you spoke of?” Teagan asked, “didn’t you say he was in the dungeon?”

“He was, I assumed the creatures had killed him by now,” Isolde glowered, “he must have been set free.”

“That’s right,” she frowned, “and I stand by my decision.”

“I know what you must think of me, My Lady,” Jowan said, “I took advantage of your fear. I am sorry… I… I never knew it would come to this.”

“Well, I shan’t turn away his help, not yet,” Teagan said, “and if Connor is truly an abomination…”

“He’s not always the demon you saw, Connor is still inside him, and sometimes he breaks through,” Isolde replied, “please I just want to protect him!”

“I don’t think you can protect him at this point,” Elissa remarked.

“Isn’t that what started this? You hired the mage to teach Connor in secret,” Teagan pointed out, “to protect him.”

“If they discovered Connor had magic, then they’d take him away!” Isolde argued, “I thought if he learned just enough to hide it, then…”

“Where is he?” she asked coldly.

“I think he ran upstairs,” Teagan replied, “to the family quarters.”

“Violence… scares him. I know that sounds strange,” Isolde replied, “he may have run up to his room, or…”

“An ambush, huh,” she sighed.

“I don’t know, the fighting may have scared Connor into… coming out again,” Isolde replied, “and so he ran.”

“So you’re saying he may be vulnerable?” Teagan asked.

“I… perhaps,” Isolde asked, “is there no other way?”

“There isn’t,” she repeated, “where is Arl Eamon?”

“Upstairs, in his room,” Isolde replied, “I think the demon has been keeping him alive.”

“So if we destroy the demon, then…?” Teagan trailed off.

“Then my husband may perish,” Isolde replied, “yes.”

“We don’t have many options,” she said.

“I wouldn’t normally suggest slaying a child, but… he’s an abomination,” Alistair spoke up, “I’m not sure there’s any choice.”

“There are always choices,” she sighed, “however, all other choices are bad ones.”

“There is… another option, though I… loathe offering it,” Jowan said softly, “a mage could confront the demon in the Fade, without hurting Connor himself.”

“What do you mean?” Teagan asked, “is the demon not within Connor?”

“Not physically,” Jowan shook his head, “the demon approached Connor in the Fade while he dreamt, and controls him from there. We can use the connection between them to find the demon.”

“You can enter the Fade, then?” Isolde asked, “and kill the demon without hurting my boy?”

“No, but I can enable another mage to do so,” Jowan replied, “it normally requires lyrium and several mages, but I have… blood magic.”

“Blood magic?” Alistair replied, “no, that’s not an option.”

“If there’s a way, I must know it,” Isolde begged, “please! Tell us what you mean, Jowan.”

“Lyrium provides the power for the ritual, but I can take that power from someone’s life energy,” Jowan explained, “this ritual requires a lot of it, however. All of it, in fact.”

“So… someone must die?” Teagan asked, “someone must be sacrificed?”

“Yes, and we send another mage into the Fade,” Jowan replied, “I can’t enter because I’m doing the ritual… Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s… not much of an option…”

“It’s not,” she replied coldly.

“I… I understand,” Jowan replied, “I just…”

“I disagree,” Isolde replied, “I think we should do it. Let it be my blood. I will be the sacrifice.”

“What? Isolde, are you mad?!” Teagan asked, “Eamon would never allow this!”

“Either someone kills my son to destroy that thing inside him or I give my life so my son can live,” Isolde replied, “to me, the answer is clear.”

“The answer is clear to me too,” she said.

“Connor is blameless in this,” Isolde replied, “he should not have to pay the price.”

“He won’t be, you will,” she stated, “we’re fighting the demon here.”

“Please don’t!” Isolde begged, “it isn—”

She slapped her hard enough across the face to knock her off her feet and glared down at her with disgust as she shook the feeling back into her hand.

“It isn’t his fault,” she agreed, “but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to die.”

“You… you’re a woman!” Isolde shouted back at her, “what if this was your son?! Tell me you wouldn’t move mountains to save him!”

“If he were my son? If he were my son we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place!” she shouted angrily, “if it were my child, I would have sent them to the Circle and visited them any chance I got, hell, I’d move in right next door so that I could be an overbearing Mother who practically all-but adopted the entire fucking Circle because at least then I know that they would be safe. That they would be getting an education far better than any I could ever hope to provide. I know my limits, I know I have zero magical abilities and know-how, that even if I tried to keep them out of the Circle, all I’ll end up doing is hurting them because I can’t give them what they need.

“Do you even know what your selfishness has cost him? Cost the village? Oh, right, you don’t know, because you don’t care! You don’t care that the villagers had to spend night after night defending against an assault that drove them further and further away from hope. You don’t even actually care about your own son! You can save his life by sacrificing your own, sure, but will that ever truly save him? Will it? Will it save his conscience? His heart? His soul? He’s going to have to be the one who lives and suffers from your own fucking selfishness. But you don’t even actually fucking care. All you care about is yourself and about you feeling good about your own parenting abilities. You narcissist. This is your fault, and no matter what, he’ll be the one to pay the price for it. I am not perpetuating this circle, I am not going to cause him more pain than he’s already going to be suffering under.

“If you want to save him, you can do it without our help, but you’d better look at every single one of those villagers, every single one of their haunted expressions and know that you were the one who caused this. The least you could do at this point is ease the burden on his heart. If you even truly care.”

Silence.

She was already a monster, she’d already lost pieces of herself.

What was one more?

“…Then this is what must be done,” Teagan said finally.

“Noo!! No!” Isolde screamed, “I won’t let you do this!”

“Then I’m leaving,” she replied and turned her back to them to leave, she’s never been afraid to walk away from things she didn’t believe in, from things she didn’t agree with.

She knew that if she took the offer and allowed Isolde to sacrifice herself for Connor’s sake, she’d wonder if she did the right thing, she’d wonder if Connor would truly be happy having caused the death of not only the villagers, but also his Mother. She knew he wouldn’t be, she knew he would never be, this isn’t the kind of burden anyone wants on them.

She knew because she was the same, all she wanted was an end and she was far older than the child. No matter what she did, no matter how many people she helped, it would never be enough to counterbalance her guilt, her pain, her agony. She knew he would wonder why he was able to live, when his Mother and all of the other villagers died because of him. She knew because she still hated that she was out here experiencing the world when those she loved and cared for were probably going through hell for her actions, because she’d caused those she loved most pain on an unimaginable scale.

“Please wait!” Teagan stopped her, “go and do this quickly, we must save Eamon and restore the castle. I will… try to make her understand.”

“We’ll do what we can,” Elissa nodded, “so… please…”

“Understood,” she replied.

She moved forward, not caring if the others followed her or not, she knew what she had to do. This was a job no one else wanted to do, so it might as well be her to do it. That’s how she’s always done things: she had the skills to do it, so it might as well be her. There was no salvation for people like them, there was no peace, there was no redemption. There was only agony, suffering, pain, self-hatred, and a desire for an end. Nobody else could possibly ever hope to understand. No one. No one would understand that there were no words or actions that would ever ease the burden on their hearts and souls, there was no hope for them. And she didn’t want anyone else to understand.

Even in death there would be no redemption nor any peace, she knew this.

But at least she won’t be able to harm anyone else once she’s dead.

So she will end him for mercy’s sake alone, and so she closed off her heart and steeled her resolve.

Suits of armor came to life and a room opened for more undead to stream out of, she found herself being backed into a room, a study, by the looks of it, as she parried, dodged, and countered. She noticed an amulet on the desk, one of Andraste’s holy symbol, that had clearly seen better days. Someone had carefully glued it back together, she swiped it before leaving to continue upstairs. The others still following her.

She saw him, just standing there, and saw the room the Arl was in, she could see him laying on the bed from here. She tightened her grip on her weapons.

Should she just…?

“Go away,” Connor said spotting them, “she won’t like you being here. She’ll just try to hurt you.”

“I know,” she replied softly, “but I’m not afraid of being hurt.”

“I know, I think the scary lady is afraid of you. She says you’ll ruin everything, I can’t hear her now, but she’s never very far,” Connor replied, “I tried to stop her but I can’t. She said she’d help Father. I didn’t think she’d hurt everyone, honestly, I didn’t.”

“I understand,” she nodded, “and I need to help your Father.”

“She said that was why you were here. I want to help Father, too,” Connor explained, “she knew I did, that’s why she came to me.”

“Do you know what she is?” she asked.

“She’s a bad person,” Connor answered, “I heard her in my dreams, and then she was everywhere.”

“She’s a demon,” she stated simply.

“Sometimes she’s nice. She says she just wants to help me,” Connor replied, “but then she gets very mean. Demons are liars.”

“Mm…” she tightened her grip on her weapons again, “I’m afraid this has to end now.”

“Is that why you’re here? Are you going to kill me?” Connor asked, “she said you would. What’s going to happen to me? When I’m dead?”

“I’ve heard that death is the final journey, some say that it’s freedom from suffering and pain, some say that we become stars when we die,” she replied as she felt her heart wither and die, but this needed to be done, “but in the end, no one knows for certain, Connor.”

Well, in her case, she’s literally died already, and she ended up getting shucked into a new world with a new lease on life.

And she already wanted to end it.

Huh, thinking about it, that was quick.

“Oh, I heard the priest’s songs about the Maker, but I don’t know Him at all,” Connor replied, “I wonder if He’s nice.”

“Your intentions were pure,” she smiled softly, “I’m sure He’ll see that and grant you peace.”

“Is it… going to hurt much?” Connor asked.

“No,” she shook her head, “I’ll make sure it won’t.”

“At least nobody will be hurt anymore, and maybe Father can be helped,” Connor replied, “that’s all I wanted. Just… just do it, then.”

“I won’t ask you to forgive me,” she said steeling herself as she changed her stance and raised her weapon, she could do it in one clean strike, “but I’m sorry, none-the-less.”

“You’ll never win!” Connor shouted in that unnatural voice and she leapt back, “you’ll never take him. He’s mine!”

She had hesitated, she had hesitated and now they would have to fight.

Why was she still so damn weak? Why was she still so damn incompetent?

Because she didn’t want to do this. She didn’t. She really really didn’t.

She hated that she had to do this, but this is what she was: a monster, an executioner.

The predator who hunted those who preyed on others.

“Stop! Stop! Don’t hurt him!” Isolde screamed running in and she felt sick, she felt sick and nauseous, “please, have mercy on him! He’s just a boy! He doesn’t deserve this!”

“KALLI! KALLI STOP!”

“Kalli…? Kalli… Kalli help me… Kalli…”

“I can’t do this anymore,” she said simply and limply dropped her arms to her sides.

She’d waited too long, she’d hesitated, she shouldn’t have spoken to him, she should have just killed him.

It needed to be done, but she was weak.

She was tired.

***

Kallian had hesitated.

She’d gripped her weapons so tightly her knuckles had turned white and her hands had begun shaking. He could tell that she was dying inside.

Perhaps he should have killed the boy for her.

Her eyes had widened and her complexion worsened after they found the Blacksmith’s daughter, and even more so just now. He had a feeling she was remembering something, recalling a time where she had been in a similar situation. Her facade had briefly fallen away, and for a split second, he saw through the cracks in her mask.

She was broken.

She was broken but pretending that she wasn’t. She was pretending that she was strong.

He knew because he was the same.

***

Connor begged his Mother for release, and she gave it to him as they waited out in the hall.

She wanted to run away, she wanted to throw herself off of a cliff.

But she couldn’t.

Not yet.

The Blight had to be ended first.

“It is done,” Isolde said walking out of the room.

“It’s… for the best,” she replied.

“I wonder just how long Eamon will survive, now that the demon cannot sustain him, will I lose my whole family, do you think?” Isolde replied, “enough… I wish to mourn my son, now. Give me that, at least.”

“Of course My Lady,” she replied and they left Castle Redcliffe.

She needed to get out of there, she needed to get out of the castle, she needed to be alone and to vomit and to scream and to cry.

“I need to talk to you,” Alistair said pulling her to the side as they were about to re-enter the village and she had a bad feeling about it, “about what happened. Just now.”

“Okay,” she replied signaling Morrigan and Zevran to head back to the inn first.

“You killed Connor. You killed him. A little boy,” Alistair glared, “how could you do that?”

“I didn’t enjoy it, Alistair,” she replied.

“You could have let the Arlessa sacrifice herself. Lady Isolde is the one who started all of it, isn’t she?” Alistair glowered, “blood magic or no, if one of them had to die, it should have been her. This is the Arl’s son we’re talking about here. What do you think he’ll say when we revive him?”

“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, ALISTAIR!” she shouted, “are you just thinking about his life? Or are you thinking about his future?! Because I was thinking about his future! You think he can recover from that? From that much death? From causing that much pain!? NO ONE CAN RECOVER FROM THAT, ALISTAIR! NO ONE! You would sentence him to that kind of life?! Living under that?! Which one of us is truly cruel? You don’t understand… and I don’t want you to be able to, either.”

“Kallian…” Alistair said staring at her in shock.

“Just… I need to be alone right now,” she replied curtly and walked off, leaving Alistair on his own.

She walked into the forest and continued walking in while making sure no one was following her, until she was far in enough that no one should be able to find her, and she retched. She felt tears running down her face as a string of apologies spilled from her lips alongside the bile she could no longer hold back.

She was sorry. She was sorry. Shewassorryshewassorryshewassorryshewassorry.

She rinsed her mouth out, spat, tore her hair our of their bindings and she ran.

She ran, leapt, jumped, climbed.

Higher.

She needed to be higher.

Higherhigherhigherhigherhigher.

But… instead of free, instead of harmonious…

All she felt was empty and lost.

“See, Shianni?” she mumbled, “I told you I wasn’t a hero…”

She leaned back from where she stood and simply…

Fell.

She felt the wind rush through her, the weightlessness as gravity took control of her body, watched the stars get further away, the strands of her hair floating up past her face.

She closed her eyes.

Falling.

Floating.

But instead of the bush she’d planned to fall into, she found herself caught in two very strong arms.

And she was very confused.

***

He’d followed her after Alistair had said his piece, but she was to distracted, too sick to truly notice him.

He’d heard her string of apologies as she cried and vomited and clearly wanted to stay hidden. When she’d rinsed her mouth out, and stood up, he thought she’d return to Redcliffe, to the tavern they’d decided to stay at.

But she didn’t.

She was running, so he chased after her, and were it not for the brightly colored clothes she’d been wearing, he’d definitely have lost sight of her.

She flowed over the terrain like a shadow, running, leaping, jumping, climbing.

He thought that Sten’s assessment of her a few days ago was incorrect: rather than a cat leaping into a tree, she looked like a bird taking flight.

He finally caught up to her as she stopped at the top of a tree perching herself perfectly upon the branch as she stared at the sky.

But then she leaned back and simply began to fall.

She looked like she was floating, she looked ephemeral, she looked like a star falling from the sky, and he couldn’t stop himself from moving.

When Kallian felt herself being caught in his arms, her eyes snapped open, and she looked delightfully confused.

She was smaller than he’d imagined, softer, not quite as muscled as he'd expected he couldn’t see much, but he could feel the shape of her body in his arms.

“Fueh?” Kallian stared up at him in wide-eyed shock, “what are you doing here?”

“I find myself wondering much the same, my dear Warden,” he replied with a smooth grin, “I happened to go for a walk and found myself catching the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

She clearly didn’t believe that for a second.

“No, seriously, what are you doing here?” Kallian asked with a frown, “and why am I in your arms?”

“Why were you falling from the sky?” he asked in return as he set her on her feet.

Truthfully, he didn’t know why he felt the need to follow her, to chase after her, all he knew was that he’d felt the need to do so. Perhaps it was out of curiosity, there was so much about her that he wanted to know, and he couldn’t help but find himself being drawn to her.

“Freedom, I wanted to feel freedom,” Kallian finally sighed as she closed her eyes, “that weightless feeling that you’re simply existing in a space, falling, floating, free.”

He wanted to ask her about her behavior before, about the string of apologies that had spilled from her lips. He wanted to ask her about the wide-eyed hysteria during the Chantry ceremony, about her behavior in Castle Redcliffe, but he had a feeling she would simply dodge and evade any questioning.

She always did, brushing her own pain away as if it didn’t exist, as if it were inconsequential.

He was much the same.

But now she was staring him in the eyes with a confused expression on her face, she was back on her feet, but she was still in his arms, and he did not want to let her go. They both knew she could free herself from him at any moment, but she didn’t, and he wondered what was going through her mind.

“You know,” Kallian finally said, “I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to just finish the job, go back for Alistair, and return to Antiva. You could easily snap my neck, you could easily steal my daggers.”

She did want to die.

He wanted to ask her why she wanted to die, but he wasn’t quite ready to tell anyone why he wanted to die, and he knew that if he asked her, she would ask him in return. He knew she knew his trap was a death wish, she didn’t say it, but he knew she did. There was no way she didn’t. Especially since she seemed to always be able to see into the truth of the matter.

“And lose this sudden refreshing taste of freedom?” he grinned and Kallian finally removed herself from his grasp with a sigh, “I think I should stay where I am.”

“If you insist,” Kallian huffed a laugh as she began trekking back towards Redcliffe, “still doesn’t explain why you’re all the way out here.”

Her back was to him, she truly didn’t care if he finished the job or not. What had happened to completely and utterly crush this strong, beautiful, and resilient woman? What could have possibly happened to her that would break her? He wanted to know, and before he even realized what he was doing, he’d yanked her back into his arms and his lips were on hers.

He hadn’t meant to, or rather, he’d told her that he was a gentleman, and gentlemen don’t suddenly find themselves stealing someones lips like this, and quite honestly? He didn’t know why he’d felt the need to. A desire to leave an impression on her, perhaps? To make her think of him? She was constantly on his mind, and perhaps he wanted to be constantly on hers.

Her hands came up, and he could tell that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to return his kiss or push him away.

She ended up pushing him away.

“You shouldn’t,” Kallian said quietly, and simply continued walking back towards Redcliffe.

She was broken, but so was he.

Maybe they could be broken together.

***

A bath had been drawn for her when she returned to the tavern they’d decided to stay at, she didn’t feel like sharing a room with anyone, so she didn’t. She stripped off her clothes and undid the bindings that made sure her chest didn’t kill her on the battlefield and unwrapped the bandages that hid her scars. She removed her make-up and heaved a sigh as she got into the bath.

She closed her eyes as she leaned back in the tub.

Another child’s blood was on her hands, another Arl’s son. She didn’t know how the orphanage fared because of her actions but she doubted it was good. Everything she touched was destined to fail, after all. All she did was bring death and misfortune, she was a herald of disaster, everything she touched was forever tainted.

Perhaps she should ditch her companions and continue onward on her own, it’d be better for everyone in the long run. She’d always hunted alone anyway, and she had a tongue silver enough to charm the stubbornest of people, she knew that. But she didn’t know exactly what kind of troubles the other places faced, something was happening in Orzammar, the Circle Tower, and the Brecilian Forest, and she wasn’t sure she could face those challenges alone. She decided to ponder her companions a bit.

Alistair… Alistair, she saw as a brother, sometimes a son, but he was naive and innocent in the ways of the world. He didn’t understand, and she didn’t want him to either. She didn’t want anyone to understand why she felt the need to kill Connor. She didn’t want to talk about the events that happened during her recruitment, how she demolished the guards in the Arl of Denerim’s estate out of anger, hatred, and pure unadulterated, and uncontrollable rage.

She didn’t want to explain her reasons behind it, it wasn’t her story to tell: she was involved, sure, but it was a story she refused to tell without Shianni’s permission. No one wanted that kind of information just floating around. But Alistair… she’ll need to help him gain more confidence and more of a backbone so that he could continue on his own. Especially considering that she was going to die after the Blight.

A hand went to her lips.

Zevran had kissed her.

She wouldn’t deny the fact that she was interested in him too, because she was. She’d felt a connection between them since they’d first met, and their personalities complimented each others well. The problem was that he had once wished to die, something had crushed him to that point, but he didn’t seem to want to die, not anymore, and she didn’t want to ruin that. There was still hope for him, still salvation, but there wasn’t any for her. No matter what she did, there was nothing that could offset the amount of destruction she’d left in her wake. Zevran didn’t deserve that, not after the kind of life he was forced to live, and all she would do was hurt him.

She had no plans to continue living once the Blight was over, she had plans to off herself, she didn’t deserve to live. Not only that, but everyone she loved faced horrible fates. Like Shianni, and Nelaros… It was also too soon. A hand went to the ring she wore around her neck, and she felt tears welling up in her eyes. It wouldn’t be fair for her to start up any sort of relationship while her heart still yearned for another. It’d also be irresponsible of her to start anything knowing that she wasn’t going to live much longer. Knowing that she was going to kill herself after the Blight was over, she didn’t want to live anymore, she didn’t want to hurt anymore, she didn’t want to hurt others more than she already had.

It would be better for her to simply disappear.

The water was getting colder, so she lathered up a washcloth and began wiping down her body and began carefully washing her hair. She was tired, she was so very very tired. Too tired to continue thinking. She rinsed herself off, threw on a dress, wrapped her hair in a towel and simply face planted the bed in her room and fell asleep.

Alistair was angry at her, Connor was staring at her accusingly, Isolde was screaming.

And the masked woman was launching vicious attacks on her and she could barely keep up.

Or was it that she didn’t want to keep up?

She knew what this woman wanted, she wanted her to accept her, but she didn’t want to. She didn’t truly want to accept the fact that all she did was hurt people, all she could do was be a harbinger of doom. She didn’t want to accept the raging hate-filled beast that this woman represented, she didn’t want to accept that it was, essentially, her fault Nelaros died. She’d loved him, she really did. In fact, she still did. He was more than she’d deserved, she could see herself living happily with him, starting a family, supporting each other through hard times, and cherishing every single moment with him…

But everything she touched was destined to fail.

And so she let the masked woman kill her once again.

***

He had a hard time sleeping last night, the look on her face before she walked away, and her words kept coming back to the forefront of his mind:

“NO ONE CAN RECOVER FROM THAT, ALISTAIR! NO ONE!”

“You don’t understand… and I don’t want you to be able too, either.”

He needed to apologize.

“Where’s Kallian?” he asked as Leliana entered the dining area of the tavern.

“M’right here,” a muffled voice said and he turned to look at its origin, Kallian was sitting at a table with her face planted into the wood, her hand raised up at the elbow before she let it slap back down onto the table, “m’ still sleepy…”

“I just wanted to say I’m sorry,” he sighed moving to sit across from her, and she just gave him a thumbs up, “I— I’m… such an ass… I should have known better to second guess you like that… I should have known better than to get angry at you like that. You did what you had to… It’s just all this death…”

“Don’t worry Alistair,” Kallian replied propping her head upon her hand, “it’s not the first time someone’s angrily yelled at me for not being able to save someone.”

“…It’s not?” he stared at her in shock.

“Nah, my cousin’s got you way beat,” Kallian waved her other sleeve around, “I told you, right? My Aunt and Uncle? He asked me ‘why were you able to save all those other people, but not my parents!?’.”

That didn’t make him feel better in the slightest, in fact, it made him feel worse. Kallian was a woman whose entire life was marked with tragedy and death. With more tragedy than he could ever imagine, yet still stood strong. Whose had so much experience with death that she knew what to say, when to say it, how to help people cope with their losses and how to help people begin to heal.

And he lost it on her.

Chapter Text

She went back to her room in the tavern. The mass funeral would be held tomorrow, so today they were free to meander and rest to their hearts content. So now she was sitting on the floor, leaning back against her bed with Diana laying next to her as she mindlessly pet her while wearily staring at her purse.

Twenty-five sovereigns.

She had twenty-five sovereigns.

Having this much money didn’t sit right with her, it made her nervous. It felt wrong.

She pulled out her book, ink, and quill:

The Way is constant in non-action
Yet there is nothing it does not do
If the sovereign can hold on to this
All things shall transform themselves
Transformed, yet wishing to achieve
I shall restrain them with the simplicity of the nameless
The simplicity of the nameless
They shall be without desire
Without desire, using stillness
The world shall steady itself

She’ll go to the Chantry, give Bevin his sword back, and then she should wash her clothes and begin planning their next step, though she wanted to speak to Isolde, and Teagan first, but she understood that mourning could take a while, so she should use this time to mentally and emotionally recuperate.

She also wanted to do her laundry so she stripped and threw on the dress Shianni had thrown into her pack without her knowing and looked down at her body with a frown. She spent two fucking years trying to put some fat on her body and now it was all being converted to muscle. All of her hard work would soon be gone, from her metabolism to the shape of her body. Ah, well, not that it mattered anymore. She wasn’t living past the Blight. Her fate was sealed. Still, it was a little sad that this whole ordeal had stolen even that from her.

Honestly, she just wanted to face plant straight back into bed, but there were still things that needed to be done. So she grabbed the borrowed sword and left with a sigh.

She didn’t know where everyone else was, probably also taking the time to relax and de-stress. It’s the first time they’d been able to relax since this madness began, and it’ll probably be a long time until they’re able to do so again…

Come to think of it, how should she treat Zevran? Because thinking about it, that was also her first kiss…

Let’s just treat him like normal, and forget that it was a thing that happened. Nothing would come of not treating him like normal, and nothing would come of remembering that he’d did it. She didn’t want him to give her a reason to live. She didn’t want to ruin him like she’d ruined so many others.

“I admit,” Bella said as she re-entered the main part of the tavern, Diana in tow, “for a while, I didn’t think either of us would survive. It’s good to see you did.”

“Of course we did, I am a master tactician, after all,” she grinned, “are you sure we can stay here for free?”

She wasn’t actually a master tactician, she was honestly just waiting for someone to call her out on it. She’d never studied either strategy or tactics, she’s honestly been winging it like crazy, but it’s been working so far so… whatever.

“Well, it’s my tavern so I don’t see why not,” Bella grinned.

“Thank you again, Bella,” she replied with a smile before leaving.

“Hey, Murdock,” she waved.

“I’m still amazed we made it through the night in one piece, and won! They’ll be telling stories about this for years, I bet,” Murdock replied, “fighting’s not over, we still have Darkspawn to battle, and if the Arl sends out the call, I’ll be there for him.”

“True enough,” she sighed, “has everything been alright since…?”

“So far, yes,” Murdock replied, “though we’ll be fighting Darkspawn soon enough. I don’t look forward to it, but with the Maker’s luck, I’ll live through it all to tell my grandchildren a tale or two. Here’s to hoping you can do the same.”

“That’s a commendable attitude,” she nodded.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll offer the Maker a bit of thanks for not choosing to be a wrathful god,” Murdock replied, “good luck to you.”

“You as well,” she replied wondering if Kaitlyn and Bevin were still in the Chantry.

She covered her mouth with a hand as she yawned.

She needed something to laugh at… maybe she should throw a lump of mud at Alistair to make him look more recognizable. Or throw Zevran’s things in a lock-box… Or maybe she should just find a tall place to fall off of again.

There were a lot of Humans stopping her to thank her for what she’d done, and it was unnerving her for multiple reasons, one of them being that they were Humans, and another being that she caused the death of the Arl’s son…

No one should be thanking her for that, she decided to check up on the blacksmith and make sure his daughter reached him.

“My Valena returned! She told me of your daring rescue,” Owen said as she entered, “I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am.”

“I’m glad to see that she arrived home safely,” she smiled softly.

“Take this… a reward for your deed,” Owen said offering her a weapon, “it’s Dwarven made, and should serve you well.”

“It’s fine,” she said pressing it back into his hands she didn’t deserve to be thanked like this, “I don’t need a reward. You should keep it.”

“That’s even kinder of you,” Owen replied, “thank you again… I’m forever in your debt.”

“Stay safe,” she replied before leaving.

She decided to head into the Chantry to see if Kaitlyn and Bevin were still there.

They were.

“How are you two doing?” she asked.

“You saved us,” Kaitlyn replied, “I can’t believe we’re alive and it’s finally over.”

“What are you two going to do now?” she asked.

“With Mother and Father both gone… I suppose they’ll send us to an orphanage, maybe separated,” Kaitlyn replied, “but at least we’re still alive… I won’t forget what you did, though… Neither of us will. Thank you.”

“Why an orphanage?” she asked.

“With Mother and Father dead, we don’t have any money,” Kaitlyn replied and she saw a chance, “I think we have relatives in Denerim, but we’ve no way to get there… We’ll be fine, I promised Mother I’d see to Bevin’s safety, and I will.”

“Well, here’s your sword back, I used it to slay all of the bad people,” she said handing Bevin his heirloom sword, “and perhaps I could help you get to Denerim?”

“Oh! Your path is probably much too dangerous for us,” Kaitlyn replied, “there are wagons going there, but it would be expensive.”

“Here,” she said handing Kaitlyn a purse of ten sovereigns, “take this… I think you’ve a better use for it than I.”

“That’s… I can’t… Are you sure?!” Kaitlyn gaped.

“Very,” she nodded with a soft smile.

She had been antsy about having that much money on her.

“That’s… That’s incredibly kind of you! This is more than I ever dreamed of!” Kaitlyn said happily, “with this, I can hire a wagon to take us to Denerim! We have family there, and they’ll take us in for sure now! Come on, Bevin, let’s find one now.”

“Safe travels, you two,” she waved after them, “and be sure to hide it well so that no one harms you for it.”

“Maker watch over you,” Kaitlyn replied, “I’ll never forget you.”

She decided to go secretly get her laundry done, she didn’t want anyone seeing her scars, it’d be a pain in the ass to explain.

Laundry day attire was now the same in both worlds, apparently.

***

He couldn’t get it out of his head, why did Kallian understand what it was like to be the cause of as much pain and suffering as Redcliffe went through? How is that something she would know? She was calm, caring, and helpful… What would make her understand something like that? Or was it just her empathy? She did seem really good at putting herself in other’s shoes, and understanding them. Maybe she knows someone who went through that… Actually, that was more likely.

“Hey, Alistair,” Elissa said walking up to him, “has anyone ever told you how handsome you are?”

“Not unless they were asking me for a favor, well, there was that one time in Denerim, but those women were… not like you,” he replied making sure Kallian wasn’t around, “why? Is this your way of telling me you think I’m handsome?”

“And if it is?” Elissa asked, “what then?”

“Oh, nothing much, I just get to grin a bit and look foolish for a while,” he replied and Kallian’s telltale snort came from above.

“…Maker preserve us,” Elissa’s face went furiously red as she covered her face with her hands.

“Go figure out where Antiva is!” he groaned shaking a fist at the roof he’d heard the snort come from.

And then there was laughter, hysterical laughter.

Yep, it was just that she knew someone who went through what Connor did, there was no way she could do something like that herself. She’s not capable of that much death and destruction, especially since she’s said that she hated unnecessary violence and bloodshed.

Kallian fell into view, bunching her skirts in one hand as she did, letting go of them only when both her feet were planted on the ground.

“Eavesdropping is a terrible habit you know,” he said, “and why are you wearing a dress?”

“Hey, I was sitting on that roof long before you two began talking, nya,” Kallian replied laughingly, “and it’s because I wanted to wash all of my clothes.”

“…That’s a good idea,” he replied.

“Indeed it is, since we’ll be here for at least another day or two, and especially since I’m not sure when I’ll be able to properly wash them next,” Kallian nodded before turning to Elissa with a huge grin and he had a bad feeling, “oh my gosh, Elissa, you won’t believe what Alista—”

“What was that? You wanted to talk about our next destination?” he said covering her mouth before dragging her away, “alright, sorry, Elissa, but we have to go discuss where we’re going next.”

She was going to tell Elissa about how he’d proudly stated that he locked himself in a cage for a whole day, he just knew it.

“By the way, Alistair, I have something for you,” Kallian said as she pulled something out of her pocket and handed it to him.

“This… this is my Mother’s amulet… It has to be,” he stared at it in shock, “but why isn’t it broken? Where did you find it?”

“I found it while I was cornered in the Arl’s study,” she replied, “it was on his desk.”

“Oh. The Arl’s study?” he asked and she nodded, “then he must have… found the amulet after I threw it at the wall. And he repaired it and kept it? I don’t understand, why would he do that?”

“Mayhaps you mean more to him than you think,” Kallian replied.

“I… guess you could be right… We never really talked that much, and the way I left…” he sighed, “thank you. I mean it. I… I thought I lost this to my own stupidity… I’ll need to talk to him about this. If he recovers from his… when he recovers, that is. I wish I’d had this a long time ago…”

“That’s right, positive thinking, and at least you have it now,” Kallian grinned, and he just felt guiltier for having lost it on her about Connor. She’d helped him cope with losing Duncan, and she was doing everything she could to help others, helped support him when he needed it and he’d gotten angry at her.

“He asked me ‘why were you able to save all those other people, but not my parents?!’.”

She’d lived through and experienced more tragedy, than he could even begin to comprehend yet somehow she was still smiling, grinning, and laughing. Everyone had been thinking about the present, while she had been thinking of Connor’s future, and when he’d personally thought about it, there was no way he would be able to live with that over him either. There was no way anyone would be able to live with that over their heads.

She was the only one who was truly thinking about him and his future, she was the only one who considered how he’d feel about causing all that death, about causing his Mother to die for him. She was the only one who saw, knew, and understood the circumstances and was the only one who acted in Connor’s best interests. She was the only one. Everyone else just wanted to preserve his life, and she was the only one who actually genuinely considered Connor and his feelings.

And no one considered just how painful making that decision was for her.

“Did you remember me mentioning it? Wow,” he replied, “I’m more used to people not really listening when I go on about things.”

“Hm? Sorry, did you say something?” Kallian asked, “I seem to suddenly have selective hearing again, and have thusly not heard your last statement.”

“Ho, ho, ho, see this gesture I’m making? Can you hear that?” he asked waving his hands around, “oh, actually, there was something I wanted to ask you.”

“Why, yes, Alistair,” Kallian replied blankly, “yes I am a woman.”

“No, no, not that, well, not right now, anyway,” he replied, “chances are we’ll be heading to Denerim soon, and when we’re there I wonder if we might be able to… look someone up.”

“Whoa… what about Elissa?” Kallian replied, “or is it about Loghain? Because don’t worry, the fucker will get what’s coming to him, promise.”

“No, I… I know that, but that’s not what I’m talking about, the thing is, I have a sister: a half-sister. I told you about my Mother, right? She was a servant at Redcliffe Castle, and she had a daughter… only I never knew about her,” he replied, “I don’t think she knew about me, either. They kept my birth a secret, after all. But after I became a Grey Warden I did some checking and… well, I found out she’s still alive. In Denerim.”

“Oh, have you tried contacting her?” Kallian asked.

“No, I thought about writing her, but I never did, and then we were called down to Ostagar and I never got the chance,” he explained, “she’s the only real family I have left, the only family not also mixed up in the whole royal thing. I’ve just been thinking that… maybe it’s time I went to see her.”

“I see,” Kallian replied closing her eyes in thought.

“It’s just… with the Blight coming and everything, I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance to see her,” he replied, “maybe I can help her, warn her about the danger, I don’t know.”

“I’m pretty sure she knows about the Blight and what-not,” Kallian replied wryly, “but if you want to, we could try.”

“Could we? I’d appreciate that… if something happened to her and I never went to at least see her, I don’t know if I could forgive myself,” he replied brightly, “her name is Goldanna and I think she remarried but still lives just outside the Alienage. If we’re in the area, then… well, it’s worth a look.”

“Of course, Alistair,” Kallian grinned.

“And I wanted to apologize again… for last night,” he sighed, “that decision couldn’t have been easy for you to make…”

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s water under the bridge already,” Kallian replied wryly bending one of her hands and then passing the other hand underneath it, “and it was actually an easy decision for me to make.”

“What?” he asked in shock.

“Remember this, Alistair: making decisions is easy. It’s carrying them out, that’s the hard part,” Kallian said holding up her index finger while still holding her sleeves to her palms, “I’d made the decision easily enough, but when it came down to carrying it out, my hands were shaking and I hesitated. It needed to be done but I was weak… And because of that, Isolde had to do it.”

“I see…” he replied in thought, “you know, I was doing some thinking, and I realized… you were the only one who truly considered Connor.”

“Well… I mean,” Kallian sighed closing her eyes, “I wouldn’t have been able to live under that kind of pressure. I would have hated myself so much… But then since my Mother had died to save me, there was no way I could throw that life away… I would have lived hating myself. There’s just no way I would be able to live with myself like that.”

Ah, so it was just her empathy talking… Of course, it was, there was no way she could have done something on the scale of Connor. She cared about people way too much, and she always carefully considered her actions, and the effect they would have on others.

“By the way, where do you think we should go next?” he asked.

“Kinloch Hold, there might be someone who can figure something out,” Kallian replied closing her eyes in thought, “and from there… I don’t know, I wanted to speak to the Arlessa and Bann Teagan first before planning anything after that.”

“…How did your Aunt and Uncle die?” he finally asked, “if you don’t mind me asking.”

“Fire, their house caught fire during a riot… I was too late to save them, in fact, by the time I ran into their house I’d already been too late. I barely had enough time to run back outside before the house fell,” Kallian replied as her gaze suddenly lost focus, then she shook her head and patted him on the head, “but it took my cousin a good month or so to apologize for getting angry with me, so good on you for only taking a few hours.”

“A month?” he asked.

“It… can be difficult to apologize,” Kallian explained, “and sometimes it’s especially hard when you wait too long.”

***

He couldn’t help but feel annoyed at the sight of Alistair dragging Kallian off, especially since Kallian began laughing hysterically after he’d released her, and especially considering last night, when she’d been reduced to a crying vomiting mess. And especially while she was wearing that dress. Her body truly was smaller, softer, but not quite as full as he’d thought, she was still far more on the slender side, perhaps it had felt that way because of how baggy her clothes were. Though her sleeves were still incredibly long, and he wondered why she preferred long sleeves.

Though thinking about it…

“You shouldn’t.”

Why did she say that he shouldn’t? Why shouldn’t he? Why was it ‘you shouldn’t’? If he asked, she’d probably just dodge his questions.

If one were to closely examine her words, you could see a deeper meaning to them. You could see vague glimpses of hints at her past, and at her pain. He wondered what happened to her in an Arl’s estate. Did a man touch her? Lay his hands on her? No, that wasn’t it, she didn’t regard Human men any differently, and normally, one who’d been through that would. She’d let Alistair cover her mouth and drag her off as well, so that definitely couldn’t be it.

And then there was that seemingly endless stream of apologies that she’d cried as she’d vomited. Was she apologizing because of Connor? Or was it something else? A different event that’d happened earlier in her life, perhaps?

She truly was constantly on his mind.

“Do you really want what’s under this skirt that badly?” Kallian asked wryly as she lifted her skirts just slightly.

“A beautiful woman like yourself?” he replied with a smooth grin, “who wouldn’t?”

“The men in the Alienage,” Kallian replied flatly, “and a lot of other people.”

“There must be something wrong with the men in the Alienage,” he replied.

“Or maybe,” Kallian grinned, “there’s something wrong with you.”

“Well, I won’t deny that,” he chuckled, “especially considering my line of work.”

“What does it take to be an assassin anyway?” Kallian asked.

“Oh? Are you interested in becoming an assassin?” he quirked a brow.

“No, not really,” Kallian replied waving a sleeve around, “I was just curious.”

“Curiosity killed the cat, my dear Warden,” he noted, “which you seem to be.”

“But satisfaction brought it back,” Kallian stuck her tongue out at him, and he wanted to claim her lips again.

He couldn’t help but want to be on her mind, he wanted her to think of him. He didn’t quite know why that was, but he did. Yet here she was, treating him as if nothing had happened, something that was mildly frustrating. Then again, it was just a kiss, after all. He can’t really expect that she would act differently about just a kiss.

“Well, the Crows would have you believe that it is an involved process that takes years of training, the sort that tests both your resolve and endurance. Survive that process and maybe, just maybe, you’re good enough to start being considered one of them,” he explained, “but quite frankly, the truth is that all it requires is a desire to kill people for a living. It’s surprising how well one can do in such a field.”

“…They don’t teach you how to pick locks though, I see,” Kallian replied, a sleeved hand on her mouth clearly trying to hold in her laughter, “but I— I’m sure you did well in the other aspects of it.”

She was never going to forget the fact that he lied about being able to pick locks, and just as she said, she’d probably remember and laugh about it for the rest of her life.

“Within the Crows, I did. But it has been something the Crows have devoted a great deal of time to perfecting,” he sighed, “an assassin simply specializes in striking from stealth… and in maximizing the first attack to be as lethal as possible. Debilitate your foe, either by poison or crippling their limbs, makes any follow-up combat you need to engage in that much simpler.”

“You always use poison, then?” Kallian tilted her head to the side.

“I do. It is not something inherent in an assassin’s skills, however… merely something complementary,” he nodded, “of course, the Crows like to pretend that their abilities are trade secrets, shrouded in shadows and wrapped in a blanket of mystery… So let’s just keep this between you and me, shall we, hmm?”

“Well, I have no reason to spill their secrets,” Kallian huffed a laugh.

“By the way, my dear lady, if you like falling from high places so much,” he decided to ask with a smooth grin, “would you be up for a little bit of naked cliff-diving?”

“Huh, weird,” Kallian replied in a daze, “I didn’t think you’d just come out and ask me like that.”

“So, is that a no?” he asked.

“Mhm, I’m onto you,” Kallian laughed.

“I’d much rather you be on me,” he replied with a smooth grin.

“Whoaaa, crazy,” Kallian replied in surprise, “I didn’t think you’d just say it like that, but it’s still a no.”

***

She was grateful that they would be resting at Redcliffe for another day or two, and she could tell that everyone else was the same. If they didn’t take a break, they’d likely reach their wit's end soon, so now Kallian was sitting on her bed with her back to her so that she could play with her hair, there were some things she wanted to tell her.

“That’s a nice dress,” she said, “but I thought extravagance was the enemy.”

“It cost me less than a sovereign,” Kallian replied, “I make all of my own clothes.”

“You made this?!” she gasped.

“Yeah, sewing and embroidery require deft hands, just like lock picking,” Kallian nodded, “my cousin had zero patience so I ended up having to sew her clothes together too.”

“How much would it cost for you to make me one?” she asked.

“Well, we can talk about it when the Blight’s over,” Kallian said clapping her hands together, “come to think of it, there was something I wanted to ask you…”

“What’s on your mind?” she asked as she braided her hair.

“That vision of yours…” Kallian replied trailing off and she sighed heavily.

“I knew this would come up sooner or later,” she replied before recounting her dream, “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. And there was a noise, a terrible ungodly noise… I stood on a peak and watched as the darkness consumed everything… and when the storm swallowed the last of the sun’s light, I… I fell, and the darkness drew me in.”

“I’ve heard of prophetic dreams before, or rather, clairvoyant dreams,” Kallian replied, probably closing her eyes in thought, “what happened next?”

“When I woke, I went to the Chantry’s gardens, as I always do. But that day, the rosebush in the corner had flowered,” she continued, “everyone knew that bush was dead. It was grey and twisted and gnarled— the ugliest thing you ever saw, but there it was— a single beautiful rose… 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.’.”

“So you sought us out,” Kallian replied thoughtfully.

“In my dream, I fell, or… or maybe I jumped… I’d do anything to stop the Blight, and I know that we can do it,” she replied, “there are so many good things in the Maker’s world. How can I sit by while the Blight devours… everything?”

“I suppose I couldn’t sit by either,” Kallian sighed.

“Isn’t that why you are a Grey Warden?” she asked.

“Err… Well, I actually just figured it’d work itself out somehow,” Kallian admitted, “I knew absolutely nothing about the Blight, Darkspawn, Old Gods, Archdemons, Grey Wardens, and I thought it had nothing to do with me… Well, look at me now.”

“Indeed,” she replied, “why did you become a Grey Warden?”

“Errr…” Kallian trailed off.

“If you don’t want to talk about it yet, then that is okay,” she said as she tied off her hair with a braided cord.

“Well, it’s more that I’d like to just say it while everyone’s there,” Kallian sighed turning around to face her.

“There was something else I wanted to tell you,” she admitted, “I lied to you, you know? About why I left Orlais?”

“Hmm?” Kallian hummed, “you did?”

“I didn’t feel like talking about it then. What happened to me… maybe it will affect us, maybe not, but you should know,” she sighed, “I came to Ferelden and the Chantry because I was being hunted, in Orlais.”

“Hunted? what for?”

“I was framed, betrayed by someone I thought I knew I could trust. Marjolaine— she was my mentor… and friend,” she explained, “she taught me the bardic arts— how to enchant with words and song, to carry myself like a high-born lady, to blend in as a servant… The skills I learned I used to serve her, my bard-master, because I loved her, and because I enjoyed what I did.”

“How did she betray you?”

“You can say it was my fault. There was a man I was sent to kill. I was to bring Marjolaine everything he carried. I don’t know who this man was, she gave me a name and a description, and I hunted him down. I found documents on his body— sealed documents.”

“And you opened them, didn’t you?”

“My curiosity got the better of me, something told me that I needed to know what was in those letters… Marjolaine had been selling all kinds of information about Orlais to other countries— Nevarra and Antiva, among others… It was treason.”

“Uwaaa… That’s pretty bad…”

“Indeed, I also considered it to be bad… My life as a bard taught me that my loyalties should be kept fluid, but my concern was not that she was a traitor, but that her life would be in danger if she was caught… Orlais has been at war with so many countries, and it takes a harsh view of such things… as I later discovered.”

“What do you mean?” Kallian asked, “though I suppose most countries don’t really appreciate treason…”

“I should have left well alone, but I didn’t… I had to tell Marjolaine I feared for her life. She brushed aside my concern. She admitted her guilt but said it was in the past, that is why the documents had to be destroyed, she said. I believed her… I kept believing, up till the moment they showed me the documents, altered by her hand to make me look the traitor.”

“She truly betrayed you, then.”

“Yes… The Orlesian guards, they captured me… did terrible things to make me confess and reveal my conspirators… It was a traitor’s punishment I endured, and at the end of it, all that awaited me was eternity in an unmarked grave.”

“How did you get out?”

“The skills Marjolaine taught me were good for something, at least. I broke free when I saw the opportunity… I did not seek Marjolaine out. If she thought I was coming for her, she would have me caught again.”

“And so you came to Ferelden, to Lothering.”

“I was tempted to confront her; I was furious, betrayed, but what could I do against her? And so I fled, to Ferelden, to the Chantry, and the Maker. Ferelden protected my person, and the Maker saved my soul… and that is the reason I am here. The real reason. No more lies between us, at least in this.”

“Thank you for trusting me with this,” Kallian said.

“It feels good to have this off my chest,” she smiled softly, “thank you for listening, and understanding.”

“Listening and understanding are two of the things I do best,” Kallian grinned, “shall we go eat something?”

“Of course,” she replied, “I’ve been feeling a little hungry myself.”

***

“So, are you a very religious man, Alistair? I am curious,” he said, “I believe I heard you say you were raised in an abbey?”

“I was raised in a castle, I was schooled in an abbey. As far as being religious… I don’t know,” Alistair replied, “not especially, what about you? Not in your line of work, I expect.”

“Why do you say that?” he replied noticing Kallian and Leliana enter the main part of the tavern, “I happen to be quite devoted, in my way, as most Antivans are.”

“Truly? But you kill people,” Alistair frowned, “for money.”

“And I ask forgiveness for my sins from the Maker every chance I get,” he replied, “what manner of monster do you think I am?”

“But… you ask forgiveness,” Alistair was trying to wrap his head around this, “and then you go right on with your sinning!”

“The Maker has never objected,” he stated, “why should you?”

“I… have no idea,” Alistair said finally.

“Well, there you go,” he replied, “perhaps you ought to think about asking for a little forgiveness yourself, hm?”

“Ahahaha,” Kallian laughed, “he hasn’t been smot for his insolence yet, so there’s that… though I know I’ve been waiting for a lightning strike to the face for a while now.”

“Why would the Maker smite you?” Alistair quirked a brow.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Kallian sighed, “multiple reasons, really.”

“Such as?” he asked, and Kallian simply smiled and pressed a finger to her lips.

A secret then, how cheeky of her.

“Why are you here?” Sten asked Leliana.

“What do you mean?” Leliana replied.

“Women are priests, artisans, farmers, or shopkeepers,” Sten explained, “none of them have any place in fighting.”

“I… have no idea how to answer this…” Leliana sighed.

“It is not done,” Sten said, “there is no more to it.”

“Do you mean your people have no female mages or warriors?” Leliana asked.

“Of course not,” Sten replied, “why would our women wish to be men?”

“What are you talking about?” Leliana frowned, “they don’t wish to be men.”

“They shouldn’t,” Sten said, “that can only lead to frustration.”

“Sten… no, never mind,” Leliana sighed, “let’s drop this.”

“You haven’t asked Kallian why she’s here,” Alistair pointed out.

“I am here because I am a strong independent woman, who doesn’t need anyone to tell her what to do,” Kallian replied flatly, “and who also strongly dislikes being told that she must conform to socially constructed roles on peoples views of gender. If you want to conform to them, good on you. Just don’t force me to conform to them as well.”

“Are you certain you didn’t drive the men back home wild?” he asked.

“…Can you please stop rubbing it in?” Kallian sighed, “the women in my family, have always been described as fiery. But while beautiful and enchanting, fire still burns and harms everything it touches.”

He could have sworn he heard her mumble something along the lines of “I should know”.

“It is useless to ask Kallian why she is here,” Sten replied, “because this is her role.”

“But you just said that there are no women who fight in the Qun,” Leliana frowned.

“Kallian would be part of the Ben-Hassrath,” Sten replied, “a religious enforcer.”

“Objection!” Kallian shouted, “I hate telling people what to do! Especially because I hate being told what to do! There is only one person I will obediently listen to!”

“And who would that be?” Morrigan asked.

“My Father!” Kallian replied proudly, “because Kallian is a good daughter who does not want to make her Father’s life harder. Also, because he rarely asks me to do something, and if he does, it’s because he can’t stand me putting myself in danger anymore… But some days I even hate telling myself what to do.”

“That makes no sense,” Sten replied.

“I know, right?” Kallian shrugged, “even I’m illogical every now and again.”

A man walked into the tavern and straight up to Kallian and a hand went to one of his daggers, though the woman could easily defend herself. She did better in bare-fisted combat as well.

“You’re a hard woman to find!” the Man said.

“You were looking for me?” Kallian tilted her head to the side as she pointed at herself.

“Yes I was, where are my manners? The name is Levi, Levi Dryden,” Levi replied, “did Duncan ever mention me? Levi of the Coins? Levi the Trader?”

“Errr… If you want to know about Duncan,” Kallian replied gesturing in Alistair’s direction as he waved, “you should ask Amicably Avid Alistair… He knows him far better than I do.”

“Do you have alliteration titles for everyone?” Leliana asked.

“Almost, Lovely Lilting Leliana,” Kallian replied, “Z’s are hard.”

“I don’t think I heard anything,” Alistair replied moving to sit next to her, “or maybe I did…”

“You did seem to be bad with names,” Kallian nodded gesturing for Levi to sit with them, “since you’d apparently forgotten mine before we met.”

“Really? He never told you of old Levi?” Levi asked taking a seat, “we’ve known each other for years…”

“I only knew Duncan for roughly a month,” Kallian replied with a shrug.

“I see… but here I am carrying on while you have a Blight to stop,” Levi replied, “don’t want to waste your time.”

“We’re probably going to be in Redcliffe for a day or two more for multiple reasons,” Kallian replied waving a sleeve around, “so it’s fine.”

“I see, so you see, Duncan promised that together we’d look into something important for the Wardens, and for me,” Levi replied, “but poor Duncan’s… well, no more. A tragedy it is, at that. But I know he would want his work carried on. His pledge fulfilled.”

“What did promise did Duncan make to you?” Alistair asked.

“My family… well, our past is a bit checkered, you see? Nobles look at us with disdain,” Levi explained, “my great-great-grandmother, Sophia Dryden, was the last Warden-Commander of Ferelden, back when the Wardens were known as freeloaders. So King Arland banished the Wardens and he took House Dryden’s land and titles.”

“What happened next?” Kallian asked.

“Hard to say… After King Arland died, there was a civil war, loads worse than this one,” Levi continued, “and our family was on the run, hunted by enemies— with nary a friend in the world. But Dryden's are tough. We rebuilt, became merchants. And we never lost our pride.”

“So what favor did you ask of Duncan?” Alistair asked.

“I asked for the truth. My family reveres Sophia Dryden… We know she died at the old Grey Warden base, Soldier’s Peak,” Levi replied, “we want evidence to clear her name. It won’t restore our land or our titles, but it’ll restore our honor.”

“I’ve never even heard of Soldier’s Peak,” Kallian replied.

“That’s not really surprising,” Alistair pointed out, “considering you don’t even know where Antiva is.”

“Alistair,” Kallian replied with a proud smirk, “I don’t even know where Gwaren is, and that’s where my Mother’s from… In fact, I didn’t even know where Ostagar was.”

“…Kallian… I don’t think you should be saying that proudly,” Alistair sighed.

“You think I had the time or money to waste on information like that?” Kallian frowned, “I needed to choose what I could do with my spare money wisely… especially back when my appetite was monstrous.”

“Your appetite’s been pretty monstrous lately,” Alistair pointed out.

“I know,” Kallian sniffed covering her face with her hands, “and I hate it… the larger my appetite is the smaller my purse gets, and the smaller my purse gets the more worried I am that I’ll be able to buy the things I need… I spent an entire year slowing down my metabolism via the starvation method, you know? A fucking year, and all that hard work… gone.”

Poverty… was a harsher mistress than he’d thought… And he could tell everyone else was thinking something along the same lines.

The Crows truly had nothing on this woman’s life as she faced off against poverty and oppression to the point of not understanding armor, and having to choose between eating and buying the necessities.

“Well, no one’s been to Soldier’s Peak since Arland’s days. At least none that’s come back,” Levi coughed, “I spent years mapping the maze of tunnels to the peak. And I found the way a few years back. So I went to Duncan, I did, and I said that he could reclaim the old base and my family could have its honor.”

“Why didn’t Duncan help you?” Kallian asked.

“Darkspawn surfaced in southern Ferelden, and Duncan got plenty busy recruiting new Wardens and meeting with good King Cailan,” Levi replied, “Duncan said he would help after the Battle of Ostagar. Said there might be useful things at the Peak… But he never had the chance.”

“Your family’s faith will be rewarded,” Alistair declared, “we’ll help you.”

“A thousand blessings upon you, Wardens,” Levi replied, “I’ll mark the location on your map… When you arrive, we’ll pick our way through the tunnels together!”

“I’ll go get our map,” Kallian sighed, stood up and left, Diana following after her.

“She spent a year starving herself to decrease her appetite…” Alistair said in shock, “a whole year… because of poverty…”

“Don’t feel so bad, Alistair,” Kallian stated knocking Alistair on the back of the head while laying the map out on the table, “it’s because of hardships like that that I became easily adaptable to new situations: if I hadn’t lived in that kind of environment, I’d probably have lost my mind about three months ago… And it’s not exactly survival of the fittest, Morrigan, it’s actually survival of those who can adapt to their new environments best. If you adapt, you live, if you don’t, you die. Simple as that. My surroundings pressured me into becoming what I am now, so, such hardships were necessary. I don’t feel like my life was sad or pitiful in the least, because I would not be who I am today if I’d had any sort of different life, nya. Everyone else here is the exact same, if we didn’t live the lives we did, we wouldn’t be who we are, and that’s a rather scary thought, nya.”

“I hate… that you just said something incredibly profound,” Alistair sighed, “and then ruined it by sounding like a cat.”

“I had to balance myself out somehow, nyah-ha-ha-ha,” Kallian laughed as Levi began marking Soldier’s Peak out on the map.

“By that logic,” he pointed out, “I believe you would have survived training as a Crow.”

“Nah, because like I said, my life was filled with laughter and love,” Kallian replied, “the things I’m able to do are solely because I was motivated by love, and I’ve told you: I would have wondered what the point was.”

“Love?” Morrigan frowned.

“Yeah, whenever things happened and I couldn’t protect those I loved most, I’d hate the powerless me who too was slow, weak, and incompetent,” Kallian nodded, “and so each and every time I vowed that I would never be that powerless again, and pushed myself and just kept pushing and pushing andpushingandpushingandpushing myself to my limits and then past them over and over andoverandoverandoverandover again. Eventually, I got to this point.”

If that were the case… How had she been broken so wholly and completely? How could something have broken her to the point of wanting to die? Why had she apologized profusely as she cried and vomited by herself? Or was she like him? In that, something had happened to someone she loved? Thinking about it, that was far more likely. He wanted to ask her, but he knew that she’d just end up feigning ignorance and ask him what he was talking about. She was a good actress, his Warden was… If he hadn’t been experiencing the same, he’d have never known.

But he was realizing that he didn’t want to die anymore, whereas she was still set on her path, and she probably knew this. That was probably why she’d told him that he shouldn’t: she was continuing on the path that would end in her doom, and she didn’t want to chance dragging him along with her. She’d realized this quickly, and was telling him to cease and desist for his own benefit.

So, now the question becomes: can he convince her to stray from her path as well?

Odd, he was hired to kill her, and now he was contemplating how he could go about stopping her from ending herself.

“By the way, Zevran,” Alistair said after Levi had left, “do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”

“You may ask,” he nodded, “but I may choose not to answer.”

“Fair enough. Have you… had very many women in your time?” Alistair asked and Kallian’s hands flew to her mouth, “I mean… you seem like the sort of man who would…”

“I have indulged from time to time, perhaps,” he nodded glancing at Kallian whose face planted itself into the table as her body began spasming, “when my interest is not elsewhere.”

“Right. Well, how do you… woo them?” Alistair asked and Kallian’s body began spasming even harder, “is there a… technique? Or…”

“’Woo them?’,” he quirked a brow, “are you quite serious?”

“Er… yes?” Alistair replied, “I don’t know what else to call it.”

“So let me get this straight: you have… never wooed?” he asked, “not once? You are woo-less, as it were?”

“Alright, bad idea,” Alistair sighed, “never mind.”

And Kallian couldn’t handle it anymore and entered her loudest and most hysterical laughing fit yet.

“BWAHAHAHA!!! AHAHAHAHAHA!!!” Kallian laughed, “D’AHAHAHAHA!! HEEHEEEEHEEE!”

“Right… very bad idea,” Alistair sighed heavily as Kallian laughed so hard she began slamming her fists, sleeves and all, into the table and stomping her feet.

“It hurts! AHAHAHAHA! It— It hurts! My cheeks! My sides!” Kallian cackled clutching at herself, “BWAHAHAHA!! I can’t— I can’t breathe! Dying! I’m dying! AHAHAHAHA!”

“She’s never going to let me live this down, is she?” Alistair asked.

“Of course she’s not,” Morrigan rolled her eyes, “were you not the buffoon that you are, you would know this by now.”

“Morrigan,” Kallian chastised with a frown.

“You are not our Mother,” the two said in unison before glaring at each other again, causing Kallian to snort with laughter.

“You know,” Alistair sighed, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you actually died laughing.”

“There are worse ways to go, and at least then I’ll die as I lived: laughing,” Kallian said propping her chin up with one hand, “so, Zevran, tell us about your adventures.”

“My adventures?” he chuckled, “I’m hardly an old man just returned from across the ocean, am I? Should I shake my fist at nearby children while I talk about the good old days?”

“Well… I mean, if you want. No one's stopping you, but I get to laugh at you if you do,” Kallian shrugged before covering her mouth with her other hand, “I mean I already laughed at Alistair for shaking his fist at me, so it’s fair game.”

“Then I shall make a note not to,” he replied wryly, he really didn’t want to give her another reason to laugh at him.

Unlike Alistair, he’s learned his lesson.

“You’ve certainly had more adventures than I,” Kallian replied.

“Falling down a flight of stairs is an adventure. Falling into someone’s bed? Also an adventure. I am assuming what you’re looking for are professional anecdotes,” he replied and she nodded, “let’s see… my second mission ever for the Crows was a bit intriguing. I was sent to kill a mage who had been meddling in politics.”

“Meddling in politics?” Kallian quirked a brow, “how?”

“How should I know? I got the impression it involved sex… but then I get that impression about most everything. Odd, really,” he shrugged, “as it turned out, the mage in question was quite a delightful young woman. Long, divine legs, as I recall. I caught her in a carriage on her way to escape to the provinces. After I killed her guard, she got down on her hands and knees and begged for her life… rather aptly, I might add. So I joined her in the carriage for the night and left the next morning.”

“And… she didn’t try killing you?” Alistair asked butting into the conversation.

“Well, yes. Twice, actually. Then she decided to try and use me, instead, the woman had actually convinced me to speak to the Crows on her behalf. What can I say? I was young and foolish at the time,” he recounted, “then as I was kissing her good-bye to return to Antiva City, she slipped on the threshold and fell backwards out of the carriage. Broke her neck. Shame, really, but at least it happened quickly.”

“So you didn’t actually kill her,” Kallian huffed a laugh.

“Not actually, no. I was a bit unimpressed by the development, at first, then I found out she had told the driver to take her to Genellan instead. She had planned to lose me in the provinces. I would have looked very foolish to the Crows,” he sighed, “as it was, my master was very impressed that I had done such a fine job of making it look like an accident. The Circle of Magi was unaware of foul play and everyone was happier all around.”

“These sorts of things happen to you often?” Kallian asked.

“Like being spared by a benevolent mark who then helps me escape from the Crows?” he grinned, “yes, it does seem to happen now and again, doesn’t it?”

“Luck seems to be on your side,” Kallian said wryly.

“It was after that when I learned that one needn’t let a pretty face go to your head,” he replied, “professionalism was key… That’s my moral of the day, you see.”

“Oh! A rhyme,” Kallian said, “and it’s a wise lesson to learn.”

“And one that not everyone learns, I’m sad to say,” he sighed, “but that’s enough tale-spinning from me, for the moment. Talking about the mage has made me a bit nostalgic, I’m afraid. Ah, the good old days.”

“Are you thinking about her legs?” Kallian grinned.

“I’m thinking about how I want to see your legs,” he replied smoothly.

“Whoaaaaa,” Kallian said in shock, “I don’t know why I’m still surprised to hear you say these things, but here we are.”

Chapter Text

By the time the mass funeral was over, it was already late afternoon, and after the funeral had finished, they were called to Castle Redcliffe to reconvene with both Teagan and Isolde in order to plan their next step. She still had plans to go to Kinloch Hold first, and it seemed Arl Eamon was in stable condition, so they should have time, and she really wanted to go to Denerim, locate a book store, and do research into Grey Wardens and the previous Blights. There was a secret to be unlocked there, and the only key she could hope to get her hands on at this point was the knowledge currently available in books. Of course, she still had plans to infiltrate the Alienage and leave Shianni a letter.

Thankfully, since she wasn’t fighting through the castle eradicating the guards while trying to save people, she was able to keep control of her stomach, anxiety, and what little remained of her sanity.

“So, it is over,” Teagan sighed, “Connor is dead and the demon gone with him. With its creatures vanquished, the castle is back under our control. I thought I’d never see my brother again.”

“My son, your nephew, is dead,” Isolde replied curtly, “do not forget that in your great relief, Teagan.”

“How could I, My Lady?” Teagan replied, “Eamon has much to mourn, if he recuperates.”

“When he recuperates,” she said speaking up, “not ‘if’ it’s ‘when’.”

“Of course… There is still the matter of Jowan, his poisoning Eamon began this whole mess, yet he lives,” Teagan replied, “I must decide what becomes of him… We will hold him for Eamon to decide his fate. If he doesn’t recover, Jowan’s fate is sealed. What do you think?”

She was still of the opinion that, quite frankly, it was Isolde who started this whole mess. However, the woman has seen better days, and it’s against her policy to kick a person while they’re down. Not only that, but why the hell was he asking her? Why can’t they just treat her like an inconsequential Elven servant? Why should her opinions be important? This was just wrong on so many different levels. First, she was leading around Humans, then she was thanked by a Bann and offered an heirloom helm, then she was thanked for having a hand in killing a child, and now said earlier Bann was asking for her opinion on what to do with a mage.

How the fuck should she know? She should be rotting in a dungeon about now, in fact, that would even be preferable, because at least that made sense.

“Do as you wish,” she replied.

“Very well, I shall have the mage imprisoned again, for now,” Teagan nodded, “but our task is not done yet. Whatever the demon did to my brother, it seems to have spared his life… but he remains comatose. We cannot wake him.”

“We’re planning on heading to Kinloch Hold next,” she replied, “hopefully we can find someone who knows… something.”

“The Urn!” Isolde said moving to the Arl’s side, “the Urn of Sacred Ashes will save Eamon!”

“We’ll seek out this Urn,” she replied, it was honestly the least she could do. She did have a hand in killing the woman’s son, so trying to locate it would probably be best.

“Thank you… I am grateful for your eagerness to help restore my husband,” Isolde replied, “find Brother Genitivi— the Scholar— in Denerim. He has been researching the Urn’s location for several years now. The knights that returned say that they were unable to find Genitivi, but perhaps the Maker will lead you to him.”

“I must go to the hall and begin rebuilding,” Teagan said, “I wish you luck, and may the Maker go with you.”

They left and went back to the inn to begin packing and setting towards their next destination.

The Quest for the Holy Grail, huh? Was Arl Eamon King Arthur? Were they the Knights of the Round Table now? Were they going to find the Fisher King and Avalon? Ah, was Brother Genitivi the Fisher King? Should she expect him to have a wounded leg? Was she Galahad now? No, wait, she wasn’t pure of heart, so maybe Alistair’s Galahad. Yeah, that makes a lot more sense. Or was Arl Eamon Merlin and Alistair King Arthur? Wait… Actually… Why did King Arthur and his knights seek out the Grail again? Was it because of an illness or just because they could? Her thoughts were getting all mixed up, and why was she trying to apply Arthurian Legend to their situation now?

“Bwargh!” she shouted as her face collided with a wall.

…Let’s just derail that train of thought here.

“Did… Did you just…?” Alistair began laughing.

“Owwww,” she replied holding a hand to her nose, “by doooose.”

“…How?” Sten frowned.

“I was lost in thought,” she replied, “I haven’t done that in a while… I forgot I wasn’t supposed to think deeply on my feet.”

“What were you thinking about?” Leliana asked.

“Where we should go next,” she lied, Arthurian legend wasn’t a thing here, “I’m thinking we should double back towards Lothering to head to Kinloch Hold and then after we deal with whatever crazy is going on there, we can head to Denerim. After that, we talk to Brother Genitivi and then we can figure out where to go from there.”

It should take another week or so to get to Kinloch Hold, weather permitting.

“What about the Brecilian Forest?” Alistair asked, “isn’t it on the way to Denerim?”

“There’re some things bothering me that I’d like to read up on, preferably before it drives me insane. Not only that, but I think we should prioritize finding a cure for Arl Eamon: a person’s body can only go so long without food,” she replied before turning to Elissa, “what are you planning on doing, Elegantly Enduring Elissa? Though, we won’t leave until tomorrow morning, since it’s kind of late in the day. Not only that, but I think we could still use a bit more of a rest before we begin heading towards crazy town number two.”

There were no IV drips here that could feed Eamon sustenance, so that was bad. Not only that, but muscle atrophy and bed sores might also become a problem… Unless the demon had also been keeping his body from deteriorating. Still, she’d like to err on the side of caution.

“I think I’ll be staying here, in Redcliffe, for the time being,” Elissa replied, “the two of you are already large enough targets, and Arl Howe will likely be after me as well if he knew I’m still alive, not only that, but if Loghain tries anything else, we’ll be ready for him.”

“That’s a shame,” she replied with a grin, “isn’t that right Alis—”

“Yep, sorry, we have to go get ready to leave tomorrow,” Alistair said covering her mouth and dragging her off.

“Those two are basically like siblings,” Elissa said thoughtfully.

She missed Shianni… She missed being able to laugh like idiots about the same thing, she would definitely find Alistair and Zevran hilarious, though she’d probably take a while to understand that Alistair wasn’t a threat… She’d probably have to protect Alistair from her. Knowing Shianni, she’d probably attack him on sight after learning her lesson with Vaughan, and knowing Alistair, he wouldn’t lift much of a hand against her.

And if even if he did, she’d just break his arm for it.

“Shianni needs you.”

She needed her too.

“Why do I feel like you just thought something dangerous while looking at me?” Alistair asked.

“Because I did,” she replied trotting off with a hum, Diana at her heels, to go meet back up with the others.

She missed her Father, she missed Soris, she missed Valendrian… She missed everyone, and not a second went by that she didn’t regret that she wasn’t there with them… She’ll probably have to tell Shianni not to tell either her Father or Soris that she’s still alive… She didn’t want word to spread too much.

“I said I was sorry!” Alistair said jogging to catch up to her, “and you said it was water under the bridge!”

“It wasn’t because of that,” she huffed a laugh, “it was for a different reason.”

“Wh— Do I want to know?” Alistair asked.

“Nope,” she replied, “or rather, I don’t want to tell you, because it’s a secret.”

They went back to the tavern so that they could begin preparing to leave the next morning, and she was now refolding her laundry, quite pleased that she’d had the foresight to properly wash everything. She left her room and entered the main part of the tavern.

“Leli,” she hummed sitting across from her fellow red-head, “do you know any Ferelden legends?”

“I know one, told to me by my Mother a long time ago… It always chilled me to the bone,” Leliana replied, “maybe you have heard of Flemeth?”

“Flemeth?” she said thoughtfully, “Morrigan’s Mother called herself Flemeth.”

Oh… She’d forgotten what Flemeth had told her… Oops.

“Are… are you sure? Was she the Flemeth of legend?” Leliana asked, “Flemeth the Devourer of Men? Flemeth, Mother of Witches? Flemeth Demon-Touched, Who Dwells in the Mists?”

“She didn’t introduce herself as such,” she shook her head, “but she’s the real deal. I know that much.”

“Oh? And how do you know that my Mother is truly the Flemeth from legend?” Morrigan asked.

“From her words: Ser Jory chastised Daveth about him saying that she was a witch and that we shouldn’t have been talking to her, she’d said that he was a smart lad, but sadly irrelevant to the larger scheme of things… though it wasn’t her who decided,” she closed her eyes in thought, “and then she singled me out, which tells me that she knew both Daveth and Ser Jory would die, and that Ser Jory’s death may or may not have an impact on those of us who were in that situation and survived. If his death didn’t impact either me or Alistair, then he was irrelevant, if it did, then he wasn’t… Though that does remind me of something that I wasn’t supposed to forget but ended up doing so anyway… Oopsie.”

“…Was it something important?” Alistair sighed with a frown.

“Oopsie whoopsie,” she replied.

“…Kallian,” Alistair sighed heavily, “what was it?”

“That ‘this Blight’s threat is greater than they realize’,” she replied, “which tells me one of two things: either she knew that the Civil War was going to happen, or the Archdemon isn’t the only thing behind this Blight… Or I both, I suppose. Which is a scary thought… Actually, thinking about it, yeah it’s most likely both.”

“How is it,” Morrigan said, “that you could understand the insufferably vague words of my Mother enough to have dissected them to this point?”

“Who knows,” she shrugged, “anyway, you were there for that exchange too, Alistair, so don’t get all pouty with me.”

“But clearly, I didn’t understand what she was saying,” Alistair argued, “whereas you did.”

“Well, I have no idea what else could be behind the Blight,” she closed her eyes in thought, “so I guess that one will have to just have to reveal itself in time.”

“Well, that’s not comforting,” Alistair sighed.

“S’not supposed to be, but there’s no use worrying about it,” she replied, “I mean I’m certainly not going to worry about it, if it comes up I’ll probably say something along the lines of ‘oh, so that’s what she meant, neat.’… If a problem can be solved, it will be, if it can’t, there’s no use worrying about it, nya.”

“Can you stop saying stuff like this and then ruining it by sounding like a cat?” Alistair asked, “that’d be great, thanks.”

“I’ll think about it, however, all of that is simply just conjecture, I could be wrong,” she replied, “I could even be wrong about her knowing that Ser Jory and Daveth would die! I could even be wrong in saying that she’s really Flemeth from legend! Who’s to say I’m not?”

“…Now you really sound like my Mother,” Morrigan groaned.

“Ah-ha-ha,” she laughed, “I was hoping to, I thought it’d be fun act like her for a bit.”

***

The fact that Kallian had truly understood her Mother’s words enough to pull actual meaning from them, was truly quite the surprise. She’d known that Kallian had understood her Mother, but did not think that she had understood her to that extent. In fact, even she didn’t know that her Mother had likely known that the other two recruits would perish.

Though the fact that Kallian had understood her Mother enough to even act like her was most disturbing.

“So… let’s talk about your Mother,” Alistair said, “for a moment.”

“I’d rather talk about your Mother,” she replied.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Alistair replied, “and besides, isn’t your Mother a scary witch who lives in the middle of a forest? Much more interesting.”

“To you, perhaps,” she said, “you would find the moss growing upon a stone interesting.”

“You know what’s more interesting than that?” Alistair replied, “apostates. Mages outside of the Tower. That’s illegal, you know.”

“You did not read that in a book somewhere, did you?” she asked, “I hope the small letters did not strain you overmuch.”

“Or we could not talk about your Mother,” Alistair sighed, “that works for me.”

“Have you ever been hunted by the Chantry?” Kallian asked.

“My Mother has been hunted from time to time, yes,” she sighed, “by Templar fools like Alistair, which should tell you how successful they generally were… Flemeth made a bit of a game of it, in fact. The Templars would come again and she would look at me and smile and say that the fun was to begin once more.”

“Hey! And fun?” Alistair glared, “and you found it fun?”

“I found the game fun, I was too young to understand the truth behind what was happening,” she replied, “Flemeth would warn them once. ‘Twas a warning they inevitably failed to heed. And then the true game began. Often Flemeth would use me as bait: a little girl to scream and run and lure the Templars deeper into the Wilds and to their doom.”

“Oh! That sounds like something I used to do,” Kallian said clapping her hands together and everyone immediately turned to stare at her in shock, “ah, sorry to disappoint, but I will not be explaining that.”

“You can’t just say that and not explain yourself!” Alistair gawked at her.

“Sure I can,” Kallian shrugged, “because I just did.”

“My dear Warden,” Zevran purred sliding into the seat next to Kallian, “surely you can at least tell me, yes?”

“Nope. No way no how. Let’s just say… I’ve led an interesting life, and leave it there, hm?” Kallian smiled mischievously, “in any case, I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to chase someone like that, you deserve any bit of misfortune that befalls you.”

She was also quite curious about that statement. But she would likely speak no more of it… In that way, she was infuriatingly similar to her Mother.

Perhaps that was why she understood her Mother’s words: it was because they had similar personalities.

“Well, thankfully, the Wilds is a vast place. Once they found us, Flemeth would simply move us elsewhere and we would be lost within the forest once again,” she sighed, “I did not understand the danger we faced until I was much older. I had never heard of ‘apostates’ or ‘maleficarum’.”

“Eh… well, theirs was a job so…” Kallian said a finger to her chin.

“I do not begrudge them doing what they believe is necessary,” she sighed, “the Chantry sees any mage not leashed to the Circle of Magi as ‘apostates’. And apostates could become ‘maleficarum’: evil mages that resort to blood magic and become demon-enslaved abominations. It may even be true, as we’ve recently seen. Still, those of us who prefer freedom see no reason to submit.”

“I agree,” Kallian replied, “I mean, even if I’d lived under oppression I was still able to go wherever the fuck I wanted… Though the City Guard didn’t like Elves wandering out and about at night, granted, that didn’t apply to me because horaaay for skills! As long as I wasn’t caught there wasn’t any issue.”

“What a refreshing change,” she said glancing at Alistair, “as opposed to hearing about how mages should be locked up in towers.”

***

“Oh! That sounds like something I used to do!”

His Warden was quite the mysterious one, though, he supposed it might have something to do with how she once eliminated people. He still had absolutely no idea what would cause a woman like her to seek her own death, and it was bothering him. It also bothered him that she didn’t seem curious about his own reasons for wanting to die. Or perhaps she simply didn’t want to ask, so that he wouldn’t have the chance to ask her why she wanted to die.

“That is wily of you, Zevran,” Morrigan said.

“What is wily of me, o magical temptress?” he sighed.

“Getting in the good graces of the one who decides whether you live or die,” Morrigan answered and he threw a glance Kallian’s way, she was currently engaged in a philosophical conversation with Sten, “not to mention the one who can protect you against your former comrades.”

“And I am supposed to believe you are here,” he replied, “because of a… sense of patriotism, perhaps?”

“Ha! Hardly that,” Morrigan replied.

“We all have our reasons for doing what we do,” he replied, “mine happen to come with a set of lovely eyes.”

“Oh? Just her eyes?” Morrigan asked, “from the way you stare at her so intently, so hungrily… one would think you found more than just her eyes lovely.”

“Well, of course I think that her whole body is marvelous,” he replied, “and a treat to look at.”

“Have you even seen her body?” Morrigan asked, “in all of its entirety?”

“No, no I haven’t,” he sighed, “but it does leave absolutely everything up to the imagination.”

“Are you undressing her with your eyes?” Leliana asked narrowing her eyes at him.

“Among other things,” he grinned.

“Well, I certainly can’t control his eyes, nor can I control his thoughts,” Kallian said glancing in their direction, “he’s free to look and think what he wants.”

“Oh? Is that so?” he asked.

“How am I supposed to control your eyes and thoughts? Not that I would even if possible, that’s inhumane,” Kallian replied with a raised brow before standing up from her seat and stretching, “I think I shall go savor the last proper bath I’ll have in a long time as well as the last time I will be able to sleep in a proper bed… And no you cannot join me in either endeavor.”

She’d dashed his hopes as quickly as she’d raised them, though, he supposed it was to be expected, considering his own revelations on her.

He wondered if there might come a time where she asked him to leave, in order to keep him from being dragged into the path she walked. If so, well, she did give him freedom, so it really didn’t matter if she tried to send him away. It was her fault, honestly, for saying those words.

***

What she wouldn’t give to also have a copy of the I Ching, but that ones significantly harder to remember. Or rather, she could never remember the lines associated with each hexagram. She wasn’t even sure she remembered all sixty-four hexagrams… Actually, she knew she didn’t remember every hexagram. She did, however, remember the eight trigrams: Heaven, Earth, Thunder, Water, Mountain, Wind, Flame and Lake. But of course she remembered those, those were the Bagua, and her martial art translated to Eight Trigram Palm. It’d be embarrassing if she couldn’t at least remember those.

Then again, she didn’t have a need for divination.

When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other
Therefore the sages:
Manage the work of detached actions
Conduct the teaching of no words
They work with myriad things but do not control
They create but do not possess
They act but do not presume
They succeed but do not dwell on success
It is because they do not dwell on success
That it never goes away

A sigh escaped her lips, and she penned a letter to… it didn’t matter really, all she needed was to get it out of her system. A self-counseling session, kind of. She folded it into a water bomb, blew into it to inflate it, tossed it between her hands for a bit before sending it on its way into the fire in her room before moving to begin her bath.

She truly didn’t care if he gazed at her hungrily or with desire, if he undressed her with his eyes, if he imagined having sex with her, or even if he dreamt of having sex with her. It wasn’t going to happen, so he was free to do what he wanted in the confines of his own mind.

He’ll never have her in real life, so it’s fine if he has her in his mind.

Or something.

She looked at the scars on her arms, the tattooed flowers that coiled around them. Even if they went back to Denerim, she had no place there, no home to return too. Her family might welcome her back with open arms, but that wouldn’t make it okay. None of them could ever just simply… go back to where they were. They’d all been irreversibly changed in so many different ways. She dropped her hand to scratch Diana under her chin, before deciding to get out of the bath.

She really wished she’d been left to rot in that dungeon, she supposed that that was why she shared a lot in common with Sten: they both unthinkingly slaughtered people, and wanted to cage themselves to keep them from doing so again.

Though, thinking about it, Zevran might be onto her, in which case, she’ll have to be more careful about sneaking away to cry and contemplate death.

What a pain.

If only she could truly kill off all of her emotions.

People were shouting at her but she couldn’t hear them, couldn’t understand their words. She couldn’t even make out their faces, though that didn’t mattered.

She’d always hated mirror matches.

Dodge, parry, block…

Why was she still defending herself? She’d thought this before, that perhaps she didn’t wish to die, but that was a dumb thought. Monsters who couldn’t control themselves needed to be put down, and she was no exception to the rule. No one should be an exception to that rule.

What was it that Sten had said? A weak mind is a deadly foe.

Staring up at the masked woman as she brought down her sword.

It didn’t hurt, but it still wasn’t very pleasant.

Both she and Diana left her room with a sigh, and noticed something interesting: Elissa was leaving Alistair’s room.

And she covered her mouth with her hand to hide what was most likely the biggest and shittiest grin on the planet that was definitely decorating her face as Elissa froze in place upon seeing her.

Actually, when did Elissa even come to their inn?

“What’s wr—” Alistair began before seeing her, “oh… oh no.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t laugh. I think that finding love in these trying times is a good thing,” she remarked as both Alistair and Elissa’s faces transitioned from pale to various different shades of red, as they both let out a sigh of relief, “of course whether I tell everyone or not is a completely different matter.”

“Plea—” Elissa began but cut herself off and the blood ran from her face again.

“Well now,” Zevran purred sidling up next to her, “isn’t this an interesting turn of events?”

“Oh, great,” Alistair sighed, “the two people we never wanted to find out, found out. Wonderful.”

“Don’t worry Amicably Avid Alistair, and Elegantly Enduring Elissa, Mother won’t give you grief over this,” she chuckled, “she cannot, however, speak for Zealously Zesty Zevran.”

“Oh! You thought of one for me,” Zevran said brightly, “Zealously Zesty, hm? I do like that.”

“Glad you approve,” she grinned.

“Can’t you two just… kiss already?” Alistair groaned.

“Why would we do that?” she asked innocently tilting her head to the side.

“…Good luck, Zevran,” Elissa said looking at him with pity, “you really have your work cut out for you.”

“Oh, I know,” Zevran sighed, “trust me, I know.”

“If it’s that much of a pain,” she hummed, “mayhaps you should give up?”

“When did I ever say that it was a pain, my dear Warden?” Zevran asked.

“JUST KISS ALREADY!” Alistair repeated.

“Whelp, guess we better get underway,” she said turning around to start descending down the stairs, “we’re wasting daylight, as they like to say!”

“Alright, even I’m starting to feel bad for you,” she heard Alistair say, and Zevran just sighed.

She’s going to keep pretending that she’s not interested in him, for both of their sakes.

Or maybe she should sleep with him to help him get it out of his system.

Whoa, double entendre much?

The problem being that she didn’t want to risk it becoming more, didn’t want either of them getting irreversibly attached to each other.

Maybe she should send him away before it’s too late. Though he might refuse and reference the fact that she’d given him freedom, and then said the words ‘if you don’t want to go, then don’t. It’s as simple as that.’.

It might be impossible to get rid of him at this point.

Fuck.

Her thoughts were getting jumbled up.

Let’s stop thinking about this for now.

Teagan, Elissa, Isolde, Murdock, and Ser Perth decided to see them off, and quite honestly? Such a strange sight, being seen off by a group of important Humans, three being nobles, one being a village mayor, and a knight. A commoner, an Elven commoner being seen off as if she were someone important was really really weird.

Why the fuck was she in a position of power again? Oh, right, because she fucked up. She really really really just wanted the world to make sense again, the past three months have made exactly zero of it.

“We’ll be back,” she said, “with news of some sort, I’m sure.”

“Maker watch over your path,” Isolde replied.

“May He watch over you as well,” she replied politely.

She needed an adult, though she was already an adult.

She needs an adultier adult, one who’s better at adulting.

***

They’d begun traveling to Kinloch Hold, and watching Kallian and Zevran interact with each other, made her think one thing and that was that Zevran had probably fallen in love with Kallian the same way he wanted to have sex with her: hard and fast. Though, she had her doubts on whether he was aware of it yet. She didn’t blame him, she doubted that anyone could survive long against Kallian’s charm, and wit, among other things. Kallian, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to decide whether she wanted to push him away or pull him in closer. Though she leaned more towards trying to push him away.

Kallian and Alistair’s relationship was that of two bickering siblings. Kallian being the smart, caring, responsible older sister who loves to give her brother grief, and Alistair being the younger brother who looks to his older sister for help and guidance. Kallian and Sten’s relationship seemed like two respectful colleagues who stood on the same ground and had deep philosophical conversations. They both seemed to have a lot in common, even if what that was was a secret even to each other. Kallian and Morrigan seemed like two best friends, or two sisters. Kallian being the only one who could draw an actual girlish smile from the Witch of the Wilds, while seeming to share a lot in common with her as well.

Her own relationship with Kallian was also that of best friends, as well as sisters.

“So tell me of this vision of yours, Leliana,” Zevran requested.

“I’m not certain I wish to discuss my vision with you,” she replied curtly, “you’ll make fun of me.”

“Nooooooo, why would I ever do such a thing?” Zevran asked.

“See? There you go,” she frowned, “no, I am not speaking to you of it.”

“Hmmm… Yes, I suppose the Maker would not want you to spread His words,” Zevran sighed, “very well, I’ll accept your reproach.”

“I… why do you even wish to know?” she asked.

“Why, to make fun of you, of course,” Zevran replied brightly.

“You are utterly impossible,” she glowered.

“On the contrary,” Zevran grinned, “I am often told how very easy I am, my dear.”

“Oh, go bother Kalli,” she sighed in frustration.

“I would love to, but…” Zevran sighed glancing in the woman’s direction where she was once again engaged in a philosophical debate with Sten, “I don’t think either of them would appreciate me just barging into their debate.”

“Have you considered joining the Qun?” Sten asked.

“No, I have not,” Kallian replied waving a sleeve around, “as much as I appreciate philosophy and all of its acumen, I don’t think I’d do well in the Qun. I’ve already said that I don’t like being told what to do, plus, from what you’ve said, they don’t appreciate playful tricksters.”

“True,” Sten replied.

“There’s your chance,” she pointed out.

“Hm? Chance? Chance f— ” Kallian cut herself off with a groan before sighing as she pulled her gloves on, “uggh… I’m never going to get used to this feeling… Darkspawn.”

And sure enough, they were attacked by Darkspawn.

“What does that feel like?” Zevran asked, “as a point of curiosity.”

“Barfy and weird,” Kallian answered, “I honestly don’t know how else to explain it… Alistair, you explain it!”

“Well, I don’t feel ‘barfy’ as Kalli put it,” Alistair replied, “but… it’s hard to describe.”

“So barfy and weird are the best descriptions you’re gonna get,” Kallian said, “unless we can find another Grey Warden to describe it to you.”

“And the chances of that are kind of slim,” Alistair added, “for the moment, anyway.”

***

It would probably take them another four days or so to reach Kinloch Hold, and part of her just wanted to waste two days traveling back to Redcliffe. She’d missed civilization so much. She’d always been a city girl. Camping? She didn’t go camping, she went glamping.

“So, Alistair,” she asked running her fingers through Diana’s short fur, “what were all the other Grey Wardens like?”

“I didn’t know them for very long, but I guess it was longer than you,” Alistair replied, “you never met them all, did you?”

“I only met you and Duncan,” she replied.

“They were quite a group. Actually, they felt like an extended family, since we were all cut off from our former lives,” Alistair replied thoughtfully, “we also laughed more than you’d think. There was this one time… well, you probably don’t want to hear stories about men you didn’t know.”

“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked, “plus I think I laugh quite a lot.”

“You probably laugh more than anyone I’ve ever known,” Alistair replied, “there was one Grey Warden who came all the way from the Anderfels. What was his name? Gregor? Grigor? He was a burly man with the biggest, fuzziest beard you’ve ever seen. And the man could drink. He drank all the time but never got drunk. Finally, we all made a pool to see just how many pints it would take to put him under the table.”

“Sounds like you had a lot of fun,” she noted.

“Sometimes. We were kin, of a sort. All of us had gone through the Joining, so we knew,” Alistair sighed, “anyhow, it doesn’t have to be deadly serious all the time.”

“I haven’t been deadly serious since we were the targets of an assassination attempt,” she pointed out, “I’d almost forgotten what it was like to not be so serious. I didn’t even realize just how badly it was wearing me out until I laughed at Zevran.”

“Ah! So that’s why you said you were sorry, but you needed that,” Zevran said brightly plopping down to sit next to her.

“Pretty much,” she sighed.

“Anyhow, we never did find out. He said he’d drink a pint for every half-pint that the rest of us drank,” Alistair recounted, “he was still going by the time the rest of us were passed out. I’m told that Duncan walked in later on and saw us all passed out from one end of the hall to the other, and Gregor still drinking. Duncan laughed and laughed until he nearly… until…”

“Sorry, this must still be hard for you,” she said reaching over to pat him on the head.

“Yes, I… I suppose so,” Alistair sighed, “I thought I was done with this, but…”

“Getting over death is never easy,” she replied, “never.”

“You seem to do fine,” Morrigan pointed out.

“We’ve talked about this, Morrigan, I also have more experience with it than he does,” she sighed, “experience with losing important people, and with helping people who’ve lost others. A healers job doesn’t always end at fixing people up, or making their passing easier. It sometimes extends to helping the bereaved cope.”

“It… it just struck me that I have nothing to remember Duncan by. Nothing at all. There’s no body, not even a token of his that I could… take with me,” Alistair sighed, “that must… sound really stupid to you.”

“Of course it doesn’t,” she waved her sleeve around, “though, you do have your memories of him. Don’t forget those.”

“I… I know, I just would have liked something of his to take with me, that’s all… well, there’s no use in moaning about it, is there?” Alistair sighed sadly before taking out parchment, ink, and a quill.

She would write one too, but Zevran was sitting right there next to her. Then again, it’s not like she had anything to really write, she’d already gotten whatever off her chest before they left Redcliffe.

“Kalli, can you fold this for me?” Alistair asked handing her the parchment.

“Into what?” she asked.

“Anything is fine,” Alistair replied.

She folded it into a square first and then decided to go old school and do a crane, fold it in half, unfold, fold it in half, unfold, fold it diagonal, unfold, fold it diagonal, unfold.

She could feel Zevran watching her with interest, her fingers flying through the incredibly familiar steps, making sure that neither of them could read what Alistair wrote. She’d done it once, folded one thousand origami cranes, she knew she was going to die anyway, but it did help fill the time since hospital nurses prodded her practically all the time to make sure she was still alive.

Until she wasn’t.

 

After a week of travels from Redcliffe, they were on the shore of Lake Calenhad, and currently, she was wondering if they should rest at the inn here before heading into the Tower, though… She wasn’t expecting it to be that far away from the shore, in her past life, she could never handle boats very well. Which was fine, since she could swim like no other. This was a new life, a new body, so hopefully, she wouldn’t get boat-sick… She should still be prepared to jump ship and swim to the Tower.

“There’s a lot of weird happening in the Tower, I think we should stay here and recuperate for the rest of the day so we can tackle whatever’s going down refreshed,” she said closing her eyes in thought, and then pointing to the tavern at the bottom of the slope, “I’d also like to take the time to nag the tavern keeper for gossip, as well as ask around for Sten’s sword. Though there seems to a good lead right there, so can someone go get us set up at the inn while Sten and I get information out of that guy, for me please?”

“I’ll do it,” Alistair said before leaving.

“Wonderful,” she said before turning to the man sorting through what was most likely the bones of Sten’s brothers in arms.

“Back off!” the Man scowled, “I was here first!”

“Have you seen a sword lying around here, by any chance?” she asked.

“Why, you looking to buy one?” the Man asked in return.

“Me? No,” she replied before gesturing to Sten, “but he is.”

“Ah… is he? Heh. Well… that’s… see I’d like to sell you one, but I don’t… er… have any myself. I got part of a glove that the wolves didn’t chew too badly, though! I think it was a glove, anyway,” the Man panicked, “I know, don’t say it, I got cheated. I knew the guy who was here before me, he sold me this spot. Said he’d found giants and all kinds of crazy valuables. He didn’t mention that he’d taken everything but the bones and the dirt already. His name’s Faryn, squirrelly little bastard, if you ask me. Which you didn’t, but I said it anyway.”

“I can’t… even fully comprehend the stupidity in that statement,” she said in awe.

“I have often thought that your existence is a fluke,” Sten nodded.

“I can’t even argue with that statement, even I don’t really know how I ended up here,” she replied wryly before turning back to the man, “where is he now?”

“He was going to Orzammar, he said, I imagine he’s gotten there by now,” the Man answered, “if you find him, tell him I sent you! It’ll scare the piss out of him, heh.”

“Well, we’re going that way eventually,” she said as they began trekking to the inn, “we’ll find your sword, yet, Sten.”

“I look forward to it,” Sten replied.

Chapter Text

Kallian and Sten reunited with the rest of them, pushing into the Spoiled Princess with a sigh. Just in time, he’d just finished getting all of them the last two rooms in the tavern. Sten had the same sword he’d had before, chances were he didn’t find his old one.

“No luck?” he decided to ask anyway and Kallian shook her head as she plopped into the seat across from him.

“Any news?” Kallian asked and it was his turn to shake his head.

“It’s probably demons, though,” he sighed, “we’re coming here to see the mages, right?”

“I can’t… why?” Kallian said after staring at him for a bit, “yes, we are here to see the mages.”

“Great,” he groaned, “they just love me.”

“Ahhhhhh… Got it, it’s because you were being grumped at by a mage in Ostagar,” Kallian said snapping her fingers in realization, “I was worried for a second there.”

“Do you ever wonder why the mages built their tower in Lake Calenhad?” he asked, “do they have an aversion to practicality or something?”

“I think… the tower was there first,” Kallian replied, “and the mages came second… Judging by the giant broken bridge.”

“I just know that the view from the top must be spectacular,” Leliana said, “though I wonder if we’re allowed to swim in the Lake.”

“Who cares if we’re allowed to or not,” Kallian grinned, “rules are made to be broken.”

“You really are a rule-breaker, aren’t you?” he replied.

“Naturally,” Kallian replied, “I especially like breaking stupid ones.”

“Uh… do you think that perhaps there are magical beasts swimming in the lake,” Zevran replied, “guarding their magic tower?”

“If there were, they’d have attacked Redcliffe,” Kallian quirked a brow, “or any of the other fishing villages in the area.”

“Hm, well, do you have experience fighting mages, my dear Warden?” Zevran asked.

“Zero,” Kallian replied, “I didn’t even have experience fighting with mages until recently… Though I did summon a demon out of curiosity.”

“You…?!” Leliana stared at her in shock.

“Alistair the Templar, didn’t stop me!” Kallian argued flinging a sleeve in his direction, “he’s had more experience with this! And he just let me do it!”

“I didn’t think you would actually summon it,” he argued back.

“I took responsibility and killed it,” Kallian pursed her lips, “so at least there’s that, and since my curiosity’s been sated, I won’t be doing it again. Especially considering what happened in Redcliffe.”

“Well, the good thing about mages, I find, is that they die much like any other,” Zevran replied, “you need only worry about what happens before that.”

“…Thanks for the advice, though I’m fairly certain the same could be said for anything,” Kallian replied finally after staring at Zevran with a look on her face, she’d opened and closed her mouth a few times as if trying to think of how to respond.

“I find it very fitting that they would build a prison for mages in the middle of a lake,” Morrigan mused, “and make it look like a giant phallus.”

“Well, towers are just giant cylinders, and I’m just going to leave that one there,” Kallian replied, “also I’ve already said it: tower came first, mages second. Probably.”

“That is the prison for your mages?” Sten asked referring to the Tower, “ours is not so grand.”

“If I weren’t tired, I would like to ask you about that,” Kallian replied, “but at current, that is not the case. So how many rooms did you get?”

“The last two,” he answered.

“Ah, we’ll split up by gender then,” Kallian replied before sticking her hand out, “key please, I’m sleepy.”

“Here,” he replied handing the key over, “we have the last two doors at the end of the hall.”

“Neat, thanks, g’night guys,” Kallian replied doing her best to stifle a yawn before taking her leave Diana at her heels.

“I wonder if she can unlock the door while holding the key through her sleeves,” he mused.

“She can,” Leliana answered, “I once watched her pick one of her lock-boxes open while holding her lock-picks through her sleeves.”

“Has anyone besides Morrigan seen her arms?” he asked, “or… any part of her?”

“Other than her face, neck, and hands?” Zevran answered with a sigh, “not really… She was wearing boots while wearing that dress.”

“And I will not be telling you anything,” Morrigan replied.

“She’s such a mystery,” he sighed.

“She does seem fond of keeping parts of her life secret, yes,” Zevran sighed.

***

She would have to be careful and make sure no one saw her arms. In truth she was kind of surprised that Zevran hadn’t seen them yet, considering how closely he’s been watching her. Actually, how she’d managed to keep them a secret from everyone, except Morrigan who only saw them because she helped Flemeth save her life, is anyone’s guess. At this point, she was honestly just curious to see how long she could hide it from them. She’d found it incredibly hilarious that they hadn’t discovered the bandages yet despite how long they’d been traveling together.

At current, she was just happy they found a super promising lead to finding Sten’s sword. Though, thinking about it… the Qun reminded her of that one book. What was it called again? The Giver? Yeah, that was it, The Giver. Also Confucianism. Which was kind of the opposite of Taoism. While vastly similar, Taoism rejected the rigid emphasis on rituals and the hierarchy, and preferred spontaneity. The Qun seemed to be rather fond of said rituals and hierarchy. Even reading the excerpts of the Tao Te Ching she’d written out made both sound familiar, but in the end, their practice was all she needed to reject it.

Plus, The Giver was also kind of a dystopia and she didn’t really want to live in that kind of society.

All she needed was to move according to the will of the universe, but currently, the universe was pissing her off. She had no illusions, she was probably still dancing to the tune of the music it played, and that also pissed her off.

At current? Fuck harmonious existence.

She felt his hand caressing her face, leaving a smear of blood on her cheek as the life faded from his body, her fingers desperately grasping at his hands.

But he’s gone and she’s left with daggers in her hands and an opponent to valiantly lose against.

She hated these ones the most, the ones where he died in her arms. The ones where she had nearly been fast enough to have saved him but only ended up being early enough to watch him cut down.

How she made it through the night without Leliana seeing her arms, was anyone’s guess. But now they were approaching the docks. Sten had decided that he would stay with Diana, probably because he wasn’t comfortable around magic, and the chances of the tower being full of demons were pretty high. Everyone else, however, would be venturing across the lake.

“What is the name they have for Mother and I? Apostates?” Morrigan asked as they walked towards the docks, “truly boggles the mind.”

Apostate… Come to think of it, that was a word in her past life too.

“Well, an apostate is someone who renounces a religious or political belief,” she explained, “so it fits. Kinda.”

“How do you know these things?” Alistair asked.

“Read it in a book,” she replied.

She wondered if Elroy was still alive.

“You! You’re not looking to get across to the Tower, are you?” the Templar said glowering at her, “because I have strict orders not to let anyone pass!”

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I am the person appointed to stop all unauthorized access to the Circle Tower,” the Templar answered, “meaning you, because you’re unauthorized.”

“I need to speak with the First Enchanter,” she replied, both she and Alistair were still keeping their Grey Warden status on the down low.

“No! I’ve one job, and one job only,” the Templar glowered, “and by the Maker’s shiny gold cutlery, I will do it!”

“I don’t think the Maker has cutlery,” she replied dryly.

“Oh, and He’s told you that, has He?” the Templar replied, “well, you’re still not getting in this Tower.”

“We have some documents that compel the Circle to help us,” Alistair said taking over and holding up the documents.

She almost killed him.

Or at least shoved him into the lake, which would probably kill him, because of the armor.

“Yes? Oh, a Grey Warden seal, a-ha. So you’re claiming to be one of those,” the Templar replied, “you know, I have some documents, too. They say I’m the queen of Antiva. What do you think of that?”

“No, he is not the Queen of Antiva,” Zevran sighed after she’d gestured to the Templar and turned to look at him, “and queens are generally women.”

“Don’t question royalty!” the Templar glowered, “anyway, it was nice chatting with you. Now on your way. Right now. Go.”

“Your superior won’t like that you’re giving us trouble,” she said deciding to rely on her silver tongue.

“Oh, really? You think Greagoir would be upset with me for not letting you in?” the Templar replied, “wait… actually, he would. Good point.”

“Well, we should try our best to avoid that,” she replied, “shouldn’t we?”

“He’s the big guy around here… I bet he could deal with one or two Grey Wardens,” the Templar replied, “alleged Grey Wardens. Well, you want that I should take you there now?”

“Yes, please,” she nodded.

Boats are still terrible, but it wasn’t as bad as her past life. Which was good, because if it wasn’t good, she’d be swimming in that lake right about now. Maybe she should just swim back across to the lake when they were done with crazy town. Yeah, that sounded amazing, a lake wasn’t an ocean, but it was still a large body of water she could swim in. Though, she wondered if mages could freeze the water and path of frost across it. Like a Death Knight.

She was about to get out of the boat with the rest of them when a hand was extended to her. Only one person in their group had a hand that tan, but her eyes followed up the arm to the person who’d extended it to her anyway. Of course, it was Zevran, who else could it possibly be? No one else in their group had skin that tan. Not only that, but she didn’t think Alistair would help her out of the boat, that kind of thing wasn’t really on his mind. Probably. She reached out to take the offered hand.

And then she remembered how she dropped him, so she couldn’t keep herself from narrowing her eyes at him suspiciously.

“I won’t do anything you would,” Zevran chuckled, so she took his hand and he helped her out of the boat.

“Wow, what a gentleman,” she said.

“I did tell you that I am nothing,” Zevran grinned, “if not a gentleman, my dear Warden.”

“That’s true, you did,” she nodded before moving to enter the Tower.

She didn’t want to give Alistair the chance to tell them to ‘just kiss already’. Actually, why was she the only one he helped out of the boat? Leliana and Morrigan had to get out on their own.

They entered the Tower and there were Templars running around. Looked like an emergency, something pretty bad must have gone down. Demons and abom’s most likely.

Templars really do have standard-issue armor, huh? She wondered if Grey Wardens did too.

Honestly, she just wanted to wear a suit. Though, those kinds of suits weren’t a thing here, even if they definitely should be. People look so good in suits, especially good looking people, good looking people in suits were justice. Eye-candy of the most delicious variety.

“…and I want two men stationed within sight of the doors at all times,” a Templar, Greagoir, she thinks, said giving orders, “do not open the doors without my express consent. Is that clear?”

“Yes, ser,” the Templar he was speaking to replied.

“The doors are barred. Are they keeping people out?” Alistair asked, “or in?”

“Now we wait, and pray,” Greagoir sighed.

“You’re Greagoir, I presume?” she asked.

“Who are you? I explicitly told Carroll not to bring anyone across the lake,” Greagoir asked, “we are dealing with a very delicate situation. You must leave, for your own safety, this is no place for an Elven servant.”

She knows how she’s dressed.

“Ah, yes, my name is Kallian, and Alistair and I are actually Grey Wardens,” she replied, she could see no other way of getting through this exchange without playing the dumb Grey Warden special treatment card, “and unfortunately we seek the mages’ assistance in order to defeat the Blight.”

“I am weary of the Grey Wardens’ ceaseless need for men to fight the Darkspawn, but it is their right,” Greagoir sighed, “you’ll find no allies here. The Templars can spare no men, and the mages are… indisposed. I shall speak plainly: the Tower is no longer under our control. Abominations and demons stalk the Tower’s halls. The Circle is lost. The Tower has fallen.”

“How did this happen?” she asked.

“We don’t know… We saw only demons, hunting Templars and mages alike,” Greagoir answered, “I realized we could not defeat them and told my men to flee.”

“What are you thinking?” Alistair asked after noticing her biting the nail of her thumb.

She’d been thinking about Jowan, and what he’d mentioned: Loghain promised to talk to the Circle on his behalf. Which could only mean one thing: someone high up in the Circle was in league with him.

“That Loghain put some stupid idea into a mages head and then this happened after said stupid idea didn’t pan out right,” she replied honestly, “though, honestly, that’s stretching… Is there anything we can do?”

“I have sent word to Denerim,” Greagoir replied, “and the Right of Annulment.”

“The Right of Annulment?” she asked.

“The Right of Annulment gives Templars the authority to neutralize the mage Circle,” Greagoir replied and she felt her blood turn to ice, “completely.”

That’s basically a purge.

And also inhumane.

“The mages are probably already dead,” Alistair sighed, “any abominations remaining in there must be dealt with no matter what.”

“This situation is dire, there is no alternative— everything in the Tower must be destroyed so it can be made safe again,” Greagoir replied.

“Mages aren’t defenseless,” she argued, “there must be some still alive.”

“If any are still alive, the Maker Himself has shielded them,” Greagoir replied, “no one could have survived those monstrous creatures. It is too painful to hope for survivors and find… nothing.”

“I’ll go look for them,” she replied.

“I assure you, an abomination is a force to be reckoned with,” Greagoir replied, “and you will face more than one.”

“I have to try,” she replied firmly, “it’d be an insult to the person I am to not.”

“A word of caution… once you cross that threshold, there is no turning back. The great doors must remain barred. I will open them for no one until I have proof that it is safe,” Greagoir sighed, “I will only believe it is over if the First Enchanter stands before me and tells me it is so. If Irving has fallen… then the Circle is lost and must be destroyed. May the Maker watch over you.”

The doors were opened for them, and then closed, she could hear them reapply the bar that had held them shut. There were a lot of bodies just… laying there. The smell was overpowering, so overpowering that she was getting a headache. Bodies do things when they die. But this was neither the time nor place for her to make comments on it. She doubted anyone would want to hear about what happens when a person dies. Zevran probably knew though.

“As I recall from my time as a Templar,” Alistair mused, “locking the door and throwing away the key was ‘Plan B’.”

“This is too cruel,” Leliana said looking around with a hand to her mouth, “I would not subject even an animal to such a terrible fate.”

“So the mages are all locked within?” Morrigan sighed, “a fitting end for those who gave up their freedom.”

“Or wanted a better education than just setting their own homes on fire,” she replied, “if I were a mage I would love to study all the crazy tricks magic could accomplish… Without worrying about setting fire to at least three houses and two trees.”

“Oddly specific,” Morrigan pointed out, “and I suppose you did mention that you would send your child to the Circle so that they could get the education that you could not provide, and then move in next door to be an overbearing mother… I wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed that you said it, or that I could see you doing that.”

“Both, maybe?” she shrugged.

“Have you ever heard the saying ‘let sleeping abominations lie’?” Zevran asked, “now would be the time to consider it.”

“A bit late, considering they already closed the door behind us,” she mused, “not only that, but when have I ever turned my back on people in need?”

“Never,” Alistair answered, “you even knocked out the farmers who attacked us in Lothering rather than just killing them.”

“They attacked out of desperation and a desire to feed their families,” she shrugged, “I couldn’t fault them for that.”

They pushed through a set of doors and she saw a demon, a fiery demon being vanquished by a familiar face: Wynne.

She saw another familiar-ish face: Elroy. He’d certainly grown up in the five years since she last saw him.

“It’s you! No… come no further,” Wynne glowered, “Grey Warden or no, I will strike you down where you stand!”

“Wynne?” she replied, “I’m not here to fight… you anyway.”

“I will accept that, for now,” Wynne sighed.

“Whoa, the world really must be ending, for the Alienage’s domestic goddess, to be out of Denerim,” Elroy said, “I mean, Wynne had mentioned that you were made into a Grey Warden and had probably died at Ostagar, but I figured she’d either hit her head too hard or was going se— Ow!”

She cut his sentence off with her fist knowing he was going to call Wynne senile.

“You two… know each other?” Zevran asked, and she couldn’t help but detect a smidgen of irritation in that question.

Was he… jealous? That wasn’t good, especially since she probably couldn’t get rid of him at this point. She had no idea what to do about this, what should she do? Was she in a similar situation in her past life? She couldn’t remember. A while ago, she’d made the realization that she couldn’t remember most of her past life. Something like dealing with jealousy wasn’t something she was going to remember. She just remembered things she’d learned, not things she saw, or felt, or anything of that nature.

Shianni or Soris! Help! But preferably Shianni because she handles these situations better!

Or maybe she’s overthinking it. Yeah, that was far more likely.

She needs to get her ego checked, or gotten rid of. Along with her special treatment, and position of power. Those can go away too.

“Are you talking about Wynne? Because we met at Ostagar,” she replied quirking a brow at him, “or are you talking about Elroy? Because everyone comes from somewhere before they end up at a Circle of Magi. In any case, we’re here seeking aid from the mages.”

She’d decided that her best course of action was to return to the matter at hand.

“And you were told that the Circle was in no shape to help you, I suppose,” Wynne sighed, “so why did the Templars let you in? Do they plan to attack the tower now?”

“The Right of Annulment hasn’t arrived yet,” she replied.

“They sent for it, then. I feared they might have, what else could they do? So Greagoir things the Circle is beyond hope, he probably assumes we are all dead,” Wynne sighed, “they abandoned us to our fate, but even trapped as we are, we have survived. If they invoke the Right, however, we will not be able to stand against them.”

“What… exactly happened here?” she asked.

“Let it suffice to say that we had something of a revolt on our hands, led by a mage named Uldred,” Wynne replied, “when he returned from Ostagar, he tried to take over the Circle. As you can see, it didn’t work out as he had planned. I don’t know what became of Uldred, but I am certain all this is his doing. I will not lose the Circle to one man’s pride and stupidity.”

“Wait… what, how, and why?” she asked holding up a hand.

“It all started when I returned from Ostagar, as you know, I was at that ill-fated battle, and I survived, barely,” Wynne sighed, “I was in no state to travel, so I stayed at Ostagar to recuperate and help the wounded. Uldred, on the other hand, left for the tower almost immediately. When I finally returned here I found that Uldred had all but convinced the Circle to join Loghain, the man who nearly destroyed us all! I cannot fault the Circle though, Uldred had a persuasive argument, and how could they have known what happened in Ostagar?”

Charismatic people are the worst, it was they who people tended to flock to. People who used their silver tongues and pretty words to get what they wanted. She knew because she was the same, she chose her words carefully, and she would never abuse the trust people had placed within her for personal gain. That was never her modus operandi.

“Apparently, it wasn’t stretching,” Alistair said, “how did you know?”

“Wait… what do you mean ‘how did you know?’” Elroy asked.

“Kalli said the words, and I quote: ‘that Loghain put some stupid idea into a mages head and then this happened after said stupid idea didn’t pan out right’,” Alistair explained, “about, oh, I don’t know, ten minutes ago?”

“I also said it was a stretch, but I’d based it on what we heard from Jowan: I figured he might have someone he was in cahoots within the Circle, and since he was willing to go the route of poisoning Arl Eamon to get his way, it made sense. Not only that but if Loghain were going to mediate, between Jowan and the rest of the Circle, it would have to be someone with a lot of clout. Now if we take into account that a lot of people likely didn’t agree with Loghain’s decision at Ostagar, we arrive at the conclusion that it had to be someone who knew that that was going to be what happened. Whether or not that person was already of influence or not is a different matter, but given the situation, a failed grab for power made the most sense,” she explained, “I made a guess based on currently available information. Just like everything else I’ve guessed. I told you: I’m fairly confident in my critical thinking abilities.”

“You always did seem to have your nose buried in a book or five,” Elroy sighed, “well, when you weren’t setting up pranks, napping on a roof, or stuck in either a crate or barrel.”

“That was my suspicion, as well. Uldred always wanted power, perhaps Loghain promised Uldred the position of First Enchanter, once they had dealt with the Blight,” Wynne sighed, “well, I told the First Enchanter, Irving, what Loghain did on the battlefield. I revealed him for the traitorous bastard he is. Irving said he would take care of it. He called a meeting to confront Uldred, but something must have gone wrong. I emerged from my quarters when I heard the screams. They were coming from the meeting room, and it wasn’t long before I saw the first abomination, running down a mage. It deteriorated quickly then.”

“What happened to Irving?” she asked, “Greagoir will only accept the Tower is safe if the First Enchanter stands before him and says it is so.”

“I do not know, I found Petra first, and we were trying to fight our way to the meeting room, to help, but we came across Irving. He was fighting a terrifying abomination and told me to get as many as I could to safety, I had to obey. That was… the last time I saw Irving,” Wynne replied, “our path is laid out before us. We must save Irving.”

“Will the children be okay?” she asked.

“Petra and Kinnon will watch them, and I’m sure Elroy will play his part as well,” Wynne replied, “if we slay all the fiends we encounter on our way, none will get by to threaten the children.”

“We could also leave two of our number down here as well,” she replied closing her eyes in thought, “I’d like to bring Alistair the Templar for obvious reasons a—”

“And me!” Zevran said brightly.

“Why you?” she asked.

“Well, why not me?” Zevran asked in return.

“Fine,” she sighed, it’d be annoying and a waste of time and energy to argue with him.

She was actually going to bring Morrigan because mages, but she supposed Zevran had experience fighting them too.

“Since when did you know how to fight, anyway?” Elroy asked her.

“Did you not start your training when you were four?” Zevran asked with a raised brow.

“I did, but as per my Father’s request I kept it secret,” she replied smugly, “Elroy hasn’t lived in the Alienage since he was ten at that point I’d spent most of my time sewing, knitting, and mixing potions and medicines.”

She was three years older than him, so she was thirteen when he left. She didn’t start leading men through back alleys until she was fourteen, and she and Shianni had started helping with fires when they were almost fifteen. He didn’t know anything she didn’t want them to know.

“Hence why I called her the Alienage’s domestic goddess,” Elroy replied.

“Anyway, we can travel down memory lane later,” she sighed, “we’ve another Tower to retake.”

“Petra, Kinnon… look after the others,” Wynne nodded, “I will be back soon.”

“Wynne, are you sure you’re alright?” Petra, she guessed, asked, “you were so badly hurt earlier. Maybe I should come along.”

“The others need your protection more. I will be alright,” Wynne replied, “stay here with them… keep them safe and calm.”

“Have faith,” she replied, “we’ll be alright.”

“Your confidence is refreshing, though you should make sure it does not blind you to your weaknesses,” Wynne replied, “if you are ready, let us go end this.”

“Okay,” she nodded, “I guess Morrigan and Leliana will stay here then.”

They walked towards the barrier, it was pretty. Like light reflecting off of water and onto a ceiling or something, and she wanted to touch it.

She never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed, just not the dullest.

“Here we are,” Wynne said, “I am somewhat amazed at myself for having kept it in place this long.”

“You did what you had to do, Wynne,” she replied.

“It made me very weary at times, but I had to stay strong, to keep us safe,” Wynne replied and she felt guilty for spending last night on the side of the lake as well as the two days they rested at Redcliffe, “be prepared for anything. I do not know what manner of beasts lurk beyond this barrier.”

“Do not fear, my good lady, Kallian is very good at fending off attackers,” Zevran replied, “speaking from experience here.”

“I do alright, I guess,” she replied.

“Alright is putting it lightly,” Alistair pointed out, “considering what you’ve done so far.”

“I do alright, I guess,” she repeated.

“You saw through and immediately countered Loghain,” Alistair replied flatly, “and let’s not forget Redcliffe.”

“She did?” Wynne asked in surprise.

“She figured out that Loghain had no plans to aid the King once we got into the Tower,” Alistair explained, “she made sure the beacon was lit so that people knew something was wrong. Basically, the only reason everyone knows that Loghain was a traitorous bastard is because of Kalli.”

“I.do.alright.I.guess,” she repeated again, “we've got a Tower to retake.”

“Alright,” Wynne replied, “be on your guard…”

She was a little sad to see the barrier fade, it was so pretty and shimmery.

“Could I… speak with you for a moment?” Petra asked her.

“Sure,” she nodded moving to the side for a bit of privacy.

“Look after her, will you?” Petra asked.

“You sound a little worried,” she pointed out.

“I don’t know if she’s up to this… Especially not after…” Petra sighed, “I just worry.”

“Not after what?” she asked.

She highly doubted she was referring to Ostagar, that was months ago.

“I was on my way down to the library when I heard screaming, and a demon came around the corner. Its eyes were afire with evil… I was certain it was my death come upon me,” Petra recounted, “I think I screamed; I was so afraid. And then Wynne was there, in front of me, shielding me. It was light and fire, blood and chaos… When it was over, the demon was dead but Wynne wasn’t moving either. I was so afraid she was… gone.”

“I see, what happened next?” she asked.

“As I moved to help her, she stirred and coughed,” Petra replied, “I don’t know what I would have done if she had died… for me.”

“She might have just had the wind knocked out of her,” she replied, “but I’ll keep an eye on her.”

“Just… look after her for me, alright?” Petra asked, “she might be completely fine, but then again, maybe she didn’t come away from that totally unharmed.”

“I’m sure she’ll recover,” she replied.

Sometimes injuries could take a while to show up. Whiplash, in particular, could take a few days before it showed up.

“Thank you,” Petra replied, “and thank you again for helping us.”

“I hate unnecessary violence and bloodshed,” she replied snapping her fingers into a thumbs up, “not only that, but I know what oppression feels like. It sucks.”

Living under oppression, under constant scrutiny, worrying about being purged just for breathing wrong… It was a shitty way to live, for sure.

With that, she moved to rejoin the others.

***

That boy, Elroy, had feelings for his Warden, and for some reason, that annoyed him. He wasn’t sure why, but it did, and he couldn’t resist the desire to give him a smug grin as they left to retake the Tower. He may know what his Warden was like before, but he knew what she was like now.

Though, it seems that she had always been a master at keeping secrets, considering that the boy didn’t know she’d begun her training at age four. At this point, he may know more about her than Elroy did.

“So what can you tell me about Uldred?” Kallian asked.

“Uldred… it’s uncharitable of me to speak this way, but I never liked him, he was a squirrelly, twitchy sort of person,” Wynne explained, “he never mentored the apprentices, never taught. He didn’t seem to care much for the Circle, only his own advancement.”

“Sounds like an ass,” Kallian commented.

“I’m sure Uldred has some redeeming qualities,” Wynne sighed, “he probably has a perfectly good reason for not displaying them.”

“Any clue what we’ll face?” Kallian asked.

“You have seen the demons, haven’t you? We will doubtless see more of those,” Wynne replied, “but I fear the abominations more, they are no longer Human and are driven only by their lust for destruction.”

They fought through an abomination, and Kallian leapt back in surprise as it exploded upon death.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Kallian exclaimed in surprise, “why didn’t anyone tell me they exploded? I am not okay with that.”

“You’re… not okay with killing them because they explode?” Alistair asked.

“Uh… yeah,” Kallian replied, “who would be okay with something blowing up in their face, Ser I-Have-A-Shield?”

“You have a point,” Alistair replied after a bit of thought.

“Exactly,” Kallian nodded.

They continued through the library, Kallian making sure to swiftly retreat behind Alistair after every abomination they killed. Likely to avoid having one blow up in her face again. He was perfectly fine with simply dodging away from the explosion.

“Perhaps you should use a bow,” Alistair commented.

“I’m really bad with bows,” Kallian replied, “almost— no actually, scratch the almost. I am embarrassingly bad with bows.”

“So, tell me, my dear Warden,” he asked, “how close were you and that boy?”

“Elroy?” Kallian quirked a brow at him, “not very. I was always busy with a lot of different things, and my cousins were always a bit of a handful… Do you have a problem with him?”

He wasn’t sure what to make of that question, but it also annoyed him that she would be willing to stand up for him. He didn’t know why it annoyed him, but it did. It was part of the reason he’d insisted on coming along with them through the Tower: he was free to be around her whenever he wanted, whereas that boy was not.

“So, Zevran, the stories we hear down here about the Crows,” Alistair said interrupting their conversation, “they’re not true, are they? They all sound a little far-fetched.”

“I cannot say. What have you heard?” he asked for clarification, “in Antiva, we hear that Ferelden men cannot sleep without a dog in their bed. Is that true.”

“A dog? No, of course not,” Alistair replied, “we value our dogs, it’s part of our history.”

They’d both apparently decided to ignore the fact that Kallian frequently used her dog as a pillow. Thankfully, the woman bathed both herself and her dog every chance she got, so the smell was never an issue.

“Oh, perhaps it was simply a reference to your Ferelden women, then?” he asked.

“Well, now that you mention it…” Alistair laughed.

“But those stories you heard?” he grinned, “all true.”

“Really? Even the ones that talk about how you all…” Alistair trailed off, “you know… get paid to…”

“Especially those ones,” he replied with a smirk.

“Wow,” Alistair replied, “I am totally in the wrong order.”

“How did you get in league with an Antivan Crow?” Wynne asked Kallian as they began ascending to the next floor.

“Loghain really wanted us dead. Like really really wanted us dead,” Kallian answered, “though how he figured we survived I have no idea. Even I didn’t find out we survived until after he was hired.”

“I thought she was dead too,” Alistair nodded.

“Oh? Loghain seemed rather confident that you had survived,” he replied thoughtfully, “incredibly so, actually. To the point of telling me to make sure you, in particular, were killed.”

“Apparently he has more faith in me than I do,” Kallian mused, “not quite sure how I feel about that… flattered, I suppose?”

***

She was thankful that Kallian had survived, she hadn’t been able to get her out of her head. Not only that but the fact that two Grey Wardens had survived meant there was still hope for Ferelden. Though, for Loghain to want them dead so much he hired an assassin angered her greatly. She wondered as to what made Kallian decide to bring him along.

They got to the second floor and already all of them noticed something was off.

“Be wary,” Zevran cautioned, “I do not think we are alone here.”

“You feel that?” Alistair asked, “it’s actually colder up here.”

“Owain’s room is near here,” she said worriedly, “I hope he’s alright.”

“There’s someone over there,” Kallian said gesturing into a direction.

“That’s… the stockroom,” she replied.

“Please, refrain from going into the stockroom,” Owain said, “it is a mess and I have not been able to get it into a state fit to be seen.”

“What are you doing here?” Kallian asked.

“I was trying to tidy up,” Owain replied, “but there was little I could do.”

“Tidy up?” Kallian asked in alarm, “aren’t you afraid of the abominations?”

“Of course, I am defenseless and if I ran into one, I would surely perish,” Owain replied, “I tried to leave, when things got quiet. That was when I encountered the barrier. Finding no other way out, I returned to work.”

“Owain, you should have said something!” she replied, “I would have opened the door for you.”

“The stockroom is familiar,” Owain replied, “I prefer to be here.”

“Have you come across any abominations?” Kallian asked.

“No, I suppose I should count myself lucky,” Owain replied, “I would prefer not to die. I would prefer it if the Tower returned to the way it was. Perhaps Niall will succeed and save us all.”

“Succeed? At what?” Kallian asked.

“I do not know, but he came here with several others,” Owain replied, “and took the Litany of Adralla.”

“But that protects from mind domination!” she exclaimed in alarm, “is blood magic at work here?”

“I do not know,” Owain replied.

“Niall was in the meeting, he would know,” she sighed, “blood magic… I was afraid of this.”

“Whoa, wait I just remembered something important, okay, yeah, Jowan needed someone to mediate between him and the rest of the Circle because he was a blood mage,” Kallian replied, “so… the person who handled Jowan and his relations to the rest of the Circle would have needed to be comfortable with blood magic.”

“Kallian,” Alistair sighed, “how do you always forget the important parts?”

“Hey!” Kallian replied, “you didn’t remind me either!”

“I thought you remembered why Jowan needed someone to talk to the Circle on his behalf,” Alistair sighed again, “I didn’t think you would have forgotten that in your grand display of brilliance.”

“Hey, hey, hey! I never claimed to be the smartest person,” Kallian replied pursing her lips, “just not the dumbest.”

“You saw through Loghain and then you forgot that Jowan was a blood mage!” Alistair replied, “how do you just forget something like that?”

“We should find Niall,” she sighed to stop the two from continued bickering, “the Litany will give us a fighting chance against any blood mages we encounter.”

“I wish you luck,” Owain replied, “perhaps this will be over soon and things will return to the way they were.”

Chapter Text

She heard talking in the distance and lightened her steps, and gestured for the others to keep quiet. She closed her eyes as she pressed her back to the doorway to focus her hearing and listen.

“What are we doing?” Someone asked, “have you thought about it?”

“We’re making sure no one disrupts Uldred’s plan,” Someone else replied, “I thought that was quite clear.”

“But he’s not Uldred anymore,” the First Person said back, “I never wanted it to go this far.”

So then Uldred was an abomination, wonderful.

“Neither did I,” Another Someone replied, “but this is what we’re faced with and—”

“Quiet! Both of you!” the Second Person hissed, “I think I heard something. Keep your eyes open.”

She opened her eyes to stare accusingly at Alistair, the most likely suspect considering his armor, and lack of rogue-ness.

Three mages, which meant three ranged, though, they likely didn’t learn anything about close-quarters-combat. She and Zevran could probably take out two and make taking out the third easy. Stealth kills in this situation was best, her eyes met Zevran’s and they both nodded entering stealth to go take them out.

Her sword cleaved through one of their necks, and she cringed as Zevran snapped one of the others necks.

It reminded her of her first two kills.

“Please, please don’t kill me!” the Third Mage begged.

“I’m sure the people you killed didn’t want to die either,” she pointed out.

“I know I have no right to ask for mercy, but I didn’t mean for this death and destruction. We were just trying to free ourselves,” the Woman replied, “Uldred told us that the Circle would support Loghain and Loghain would help us be free of the Chantry… You don’t know what it was like. The Templars were watching, always watching…”

“I don’t, huh?” she replied sighing as she closed her eyes to switch back, “I am an Elf who grew up in an Alienage. The City Guard was always watching, always. Too much of a misstep and we might even be purged, which is not so different than the Right of Annulment. So, I know exactly what it’s like… I don’t blame you for fighting back, I suppose.”

“The magic was a means to an end,” the Woman replied, “it gave us… it gave me the power to fight for what I believed.”

“Fighting for what you believe is commendable,” Wynne stated, “but the ends do not always justify the means.”

“You don’t really believe that, do you Wynne? Change rarely comes peacefully,” the Woman replied, “Andraste waged war on the Imperium, she didn’t write them a strongly worded letter. She reshaped civilization, freed the slaves, and gave us the Chantry. But people died for it. We thought someone always has to take the first step, force a change, no matter the cost.”

There was that phrase she hated again, or at least a variant of it: no matter the cost.

“Nothing is worth what you have done to this place,” Wynne glared.

“And now Uldred’s gone mad, and we are scattered,” the Woman replied, “doomed to die at the hands of those who seek to right our wrongs.”

“As I’ve said: I can’t fault you for fighting back, we have too its never gone well for us but we did anyway,” she sighed, “so? There’s a reason you’re begging for your life, right?”

“I… I would like a chance to atone for what I’ve done,” the Woman answered, “please if you spare me I… I could escape and seek penance at the Chantry.”

“You know, they’ll never take you. They’re very picky about who they let in,” Alistair replied, “harlots, murderers, yes. Maleficarum, oh no…”

“I just want my life,” the Woman begged, “please…”

“Fight the Darkspawn,” she replied.

“Fight the Darkspawn?” the Woman replied in shock, “but I’m a…”

“Just don’t use blood magic, or I can always withdraw the offer,” she replied before snapping her fingers to jab her thumb in Alistair’s direction, “it’d keep Alistair from getting pouty with me as I explain somethings to him.”

“N—no I’ll… I’ll help you. I’ll… I’ll do anything. I don’t want to die,” the Woman replied.

“This is unwise, you cannot trust her,” Wynne cautioned.

“I have lived through riot after riot after riot after riot. Felt flames on my skin, heard screams for help, smelled charred flesh as people burned alive in their own homes,” she replied, “you know how I always say I hate unnecessary violence and bloodshed? It’s because the first people to respond to that kind of shit are people like me: healers and apothecaries. We see the absolute worst it gets. She has never had to deal with any of that, she’s never had to watch a family burn alive in their own house. She doesn’t know what it’s like to see things fail on that scale. Now she does, now she is wiser. Hate begets hate, suffering begets suffering. One should never answer one with the same, all it does is perpetuate an unhealthy cycle.”

“Huh, you didn’t ruin your own profound sayings by sounding like a cat,” Alistair replied in shock, “that’s a switch.”

“Meoooow,” she replied lifting both hands to clench them to look like cat’s paws.

“I suppose it is not my place to question your motives,” Wynne sighed.

“What should I do now?” the Woman asked, “am I to follow you?”

“Go join the apprentices downstairs,” she replied jabbing a thumb in the direction of the stairs, “don’t tell them what you are.”

“Yes, I will pledge my life to your cause,” the Woman nodded, “thank you for sparing me…”

“You really do believe in second chances, don’t you?” Alistair remarked, “will you be giving Loghain a second chance too? Because if you are we aren’t friends anymore, just so you know.”

“No, I will not,” she sighed, “there are always limits, and he has long since crossed that threshold.”

“Good,” Alistair declared, “because I’m never forgiving you if you do.”

“Yes, yes,” she replied.

“I’m being serious here!” Alistair said.

“Yes, yes, yes,” she replied.

But to be honest? Why were there so many blood mages? Aren’t the Templars supposed to be watching them? Or was Uldred keeping them secret…?

They found more blood mages, looting for things to sell in case they ever made it out of the Tower, and she wasn’t sure what they were planning. Luckily, she didn’t have the chance to deal with them, since an abomination found them. And then there were more zombies. She supposed she shouldn’t be surprised, but here we were. Wait… was there someone hiding in this wardrobe too?

“It’s alright,” she sighed, “you can come out now.”

“Are the demons gone? Is it safe?” the Wardrobe asked fearfully, “I don’t want to d—die.”

“We’ve dealt with them,” she replied.

“If… if you’re sure it’s safe, I could peek outside,” the Wardrobe replied before the doors opened to let out a mage, “ooh. Ow… Ah, yes.”

“Are you hurt?” she asked.

“I have a crick in my back and my bum’s gone numb,” the Man replied, “never thought I’d be rescued from demons by an Elven servant.”

“…You’ll survive,” she replied as he looked around, “and I never thought I’d be rescuing a mage.”

“You’re also not a servant,” Alistair pointed out, “you’re a Warden, remember?”

“Hard to forget,” she replied.

“Oh, holy Maker… look at this… those demons didn’t know what hit them, did they?” Godwin replied, “Godwin, mage of the Circle of Ferelden, at your service.”

“Pleased to meet you, my name is Kallian,” she inclined her head politely, “how did you end up in that wardrobe?”

“There were demons everywhere, blocking my exit,” Godwin explained, “so I decided that the best thing to do in that situation was to hide, and be very very quiet… I just really want to be somewhere safe. I think I might stay here for now. Maybe go back in my closet for a little while.”

“We’ve killed most of the demons,” she replied, “you could escape.”

“And go where? The Templars have locked the door,” Godwin replied, “I’m just going to stay here and see what happens.”

“Well, you could go downstairs,” she stated, “where the survivors are gathered, but very well, take care.”

“Thank you again, for saving me,” Godwin replied before re-entering his wardrobe, “may we meet again, in happier, less life-threatening times.”

They continued forwards, and eventually found Irving’s office, it was full of books, books, and more books. She wondered if he had any books on Grey Wardens and the Blight, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted Alistair to know if that she’d begun her research on it yet. She needed to figure out whether she wanted to let him in on it, or keep it to herself, and she’d only be able to decide that when she found something concrete.

“This is Irving’s office,” Wynne said, “I half-expected to find him here, but I suppose that’s too much to hope for.”

“You know,” Zevran said, “I’d be willing to bet there’s a tome or two in here that would fetch a lovely price on the market.”

“Zevran, no,” she frowned secretly swiping a black grimoire that might be one of Flemeth’s, she’d seen a similar grimoire in her hut. Perhaps Morrigan could use it. She saw Zevran smirking at her and playfully stuck her tongue out at him.

“You think he’s read all those?” Alistair asked.

“Maybe?” she replied, “some people don’t take long to finish a book, so there’s a chance that he did.”

“How long does it take you to finish a book?” Alistair asked.

“Depends on the book, if it’s something I’m interested in, not very,” she replied, “but if it’s not? I can take years to get through a single page… Because I fall asleep after reading a sentence.”

“…What kind of books put you to sleep that quickly?” Alistair asked.

“Economics, war history, geography,” she replied before trying to stifle a yawn, “whoa just thinking about it is making me sleepy.”

“Kalli, focus,” Alistair said shaking her shoulders a bit.

“Aye aye captain,” she replied standing up a little straighter as she gave him a salute.

They began ascending the stairs to the next floor, and it got colder. Come to think of it, weren't spirits a heat-sink in her old world?

“Do you get the feeling that things are just getting worse as we go up?” Alistair asked.

“It’s not true that mages can turn someone into a toad, is it?” Zevran asked, “that’s just a myth, yes?”

“How should I know?” she replied, “though why does it always have to be a toad, or a frog? Wynne! Can they?”

“Who’s to say we can’t?” Wynne replied.

They probably couldn’t, otherwise everyone in their group with the exception of her and Sten would have spent some amount of time as an amphibian.

She pressed her ear to the door to the next floor and closed her eyes. Hearing nothing, she opened it carefully. She’d also felt that things got worse the higher they went, so proceeding with caution was ideal.

“Everyone’s gone,” Wynne sighed sadly, “or dead… I fear the worst.”

More demons, and abominations.

But added to the mix were now Templars under demonic control. Full armor, no matter where she hit, it’d be ineffective, though she had no doubt that knocking them out would be futile. Magic at play, likely meant that she could spare none of them.

“Hmmmmm, I wonder how it became like this,” she hummed inspecting a mass of flesh, “almost reminds me of the Tower of Ishal… Though that place was a lost cause, unlike this one.”

It played into the Chantry myth that Darkspawn were a punishment for Human magisters crossing into the Fade, how interesting. Perhaps that myth wasn’t as far-fetched as it first seemed. It piqued her interest enough, she should read up on it later.

Someone snatched her hand away as she moved to touch it.

“Don’t touch that,” Zevran frowned down at her.

“Don’t tell me how to live my life,” she frowned right back at him reaching out with her other hand but it got snatched away as well causing her frown to deepen, “fine, you win. For now.”

He released her and they crossed up to the stairs and onto the next floor. Where they were greeted with more fleshy globules. She wanted to cut into one of them but didn’t want to risk causing people to feel barfy. Zevran might not get barfy, but he wasn’t the only one with her, Alistair and Wynne were as well. Though the texture looked… brainy. How interesting.

Too bad she also felt Zevran watching her to make sure she didn’t touch one of them.

Why was he being so damn protective? She tried to think back, wondering if there were a time where she’d ever acted as if she needed someone to protect her. She was drawing a colossal question mark, and so she thought and thought and thought. Ah, he said that he could protect himself as well as her. Oh, right, he’d also been watching her closely for a while now. He’d probably guessed she was on a path that would end with her destruction. She didn’t want him to ask about it, so she won’t say anything. But she wished he wouldn’t watch her so closely, there was nothing he could do to sway her.

She needed to die.

She needed to be put down.

Even if the one to put her down had to be herself.

There was nothing he could do or say to stop her.

Though, come to think of it. Since when was she HIS dear Warden? He seemed to call women my dear, but at some point, she became his dear Warden. Which made it sound like she was his personal Warden. When did that happen? And why? And now she was certain that there was nothing she could say that would get him to leave. Though, she didn’t understand why he seemed so fascinated by her.

That also didn’t make sense.

Just like everything else that’s happened so far.

“Ah… now I regret that second serving before we left,” Zevran groaned, “oh well.”

“Now that’s just unnecessary,” Alistair added.

“T—this cannot continue,” Wynne gasped, “we have to stop it…”

“It’s really reminding me of the Tower of Ishal now,” she said thoughtfully, “I wonder if I should prepare myself for a fight with a massive behemoth of a foe.”

“Oh, that’s right, you were always calm in the face of danger,” Alistair sighed.

“Why shouldn’t I be?” she asked, “it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”

“When have you—” Alistair cut himself off, “right, the Tower of Ishal.”

“I was gonna say…” she grinned, “but I’ve said it before: a calm mind is important in battle, whether against actual enemies, or against time as you try to stop someone from bleeding out.”

***

Thinking about it, his Warden did live in conditions that were similar to living in a Circle. The City Guard always watching, being sure to put down any Elves that showed an ability to fight, and now he learned of another thing that Alienage Elves had to think about: a purge. He wondered how anyone was able to live under those conditions, it made training as a Crow seem easy. Hearing screams and watching families burn in their own homes seemed like a very unpleasant experience, though it served her well. Considering that she was always able to stay calm in most situations.

In that way it was rather similar to his training as a Crow: she was always able to keep her focus and turn into that methodical, cold-blooded executioner in a fight. He wondered if she had always lacked a fear of death, or if that was simply because she no longer wished to live. He had a feeling that it was the former, she seemed like the self-sacrificing type. One who would ignore her own pain and continue forward for the sake of others, even before whatever happened to her that had broken her so wholly and completely.

He was sure of it now: something had happened to someone she cared for, and that was what broke her.

***

They continued forwards, and… it sounded like someone was having a blast role-playing… something. It didn’t sound like erotic role play, just slice-of-life domestic happiness role-play.

“Everything is just as you wanted, my knight,” the Demon, Desire, she thinks, said, “our love and our family is more than you hoped for.”

“Role-playing a normal family life with a demon, huh?” she mused, “interesting choice.”

“Do you hear something, love?” the Templar asked.

“It is nothing, my darling, just the door, I will get it,” the Desire Demon replied, “the children have finished supper. Tuck them into bed while I see who it is.”

“Don’t be long,” the Templar replied, “the children will want to kiss you goodnight.”

“I will be but a moment, my pet,” the Desire Demon replied before turning to address them, “you are intruding upon a loving, intimate moment and I dislike disruptions.”

“Right, yes, well, hm,” she replied she had to think for a bit, “yeah, alright, all good dreams must come to an end, so you need to die now.”

She had to weigh her options, on one hand, he had the family he wanted. Just in a dream. On the other hand? He was under the control of a demon. The Tower at current, sucked, it was basically a choice between a beautiful dream, or a horrifying reality. But she supposed she would want to be woken up so that she could truly live her life.

“What was that?” the Templar asked.

“Help! There are bandits at the door!” the Desire Demon cried, “they are going to murder the children!”

“They will not get past me!” the Templar replied.

He wasn’t wearing a helm, so she could… oh dear. No, she can’t dodge him continuously while trying to kill the demon first, especially with all of them focusing her. She was nowhere near that skilled. All she could do was offer his passing soul her apologies, as she did all the other Templars they’d killed on their way here.

They continued, more Templars, more demons.

“Oh, look. Visitors,” a Demon, Sloth, she thinks, said, “I’d entertain you, but… too much effort involved.”

Fair enough, she also hated wasting time and energy. However, that was simply because she had a lot of things she wanted to do, this guy, on the other hand, was just being lazy. Then again, she supposed that was what sloth was: the embodiment of laziness.

“Who—” she was cut off.

“That’s Niall!” Wynne shouted glaring at the demon, “what have you done to him?”

“He’s just resting, poor lad, he was so very, very weary,” the Sloth Demon replied, “you want to join us, don’t you?”

“Not particularly,” she shook her head.

“Wouldn’t you like to just lay down and… forget about all this?” the Sloth Demon asked, “leave it all behind?”

“What is this?” Zevran asked, “some ridiculous ploy to get me to let down my guard?”

“Possibly?” she shrugged.

“Can’t… keep eyes open. Someone… pi— OW!” Alistair shouted after she slapped him across the face, “I still… can’t…”

“Resist! You must resist,” Wynne said wearily, “else we are all lost…”

She could see and feel what was happening, so she backed herself towards a wall and slid down it with a yawn. She still wanted to see how long she could hide her bandages so she’ll just fall asleep leaning against the wall.

“Why do you fight? You deserve more…” the Sloth Demon said, “you deserve a rest. The world will go on without you.”

Hm? A house… she was inside of a house preparing dinner. Why was she in a house? Actually, why was she in a house preparing dinner? With weapons strapped to her? Why would she be preparing dinner with a sword and dagger strapped to her hips? Actually, where did she get weapons? Why did she have weapons? Did she have a death wish? Absolutely none of that made sense. She raised her hand to her head but stopped to stare at it in shock. A ring. A very familiar ring, a ring she saw and felt every day. And now she knew what this was: a dream.

“Kallian,” a voice she barely remembered laughed from behind her, “why do you look so surprised?”

Nela…ros…?

This was a dream, she knew it was a dream. There were things that needed to be done, a Blight that needed to be ended. So she can’t linger here… but she wanted to. She wanted to so, so badly. But it was too soon, it was too soon for her to die, she needed to find the others, and escape from this place. They needed to save the Circle of Magi, they had so many things they needed to accomplish. They needed to unite Ferelden and end the Blight. She couldn’t die here, not now. It wasn’t time yet.

“Nelaros,” she said feeling tears welling up in her eyes as she gave him a sad smile.

“What are you crying for?” Nelaros chuckled moving to wipe her tears for her before he stopped and stared at her in shock.

“I’m sorry I was too slow to save you, I’m sorry you died because of me,” she replied feeling more tears fall down her face as she twisted her dagger, “I’m sorry for this, I’m sorry for everything.”

She watched him back away from her glaring at her and her sword stole his head from his neck.

She did have a death wish.

As his body faded she dropped her sword and fell to her knees as she wailed, clutching at her heart.

She should be allowed this much, at least.

After a while, she sniffed and scrubbed at her eyes to begin inspecting the world around her, she wondered if she were crying in the real world as well.

She should count her blessings in that at least that woman wasn’t here.

She saw a pedestal, one that had no business being in a house, much less her house. Inspecting it, it was covered in markings she didn’t understand. It reminded her of those flat-ish round disks she kept finding that she also didn’t know what were. She should ask Alistair what they are later. There were only two of them lit up, and she guessed that she was currently in one of them. She wondered how it worked, and just randomly pressed her finger to one of them.

Nothing.

She pressed her finger to the other one and was engulfed by a bright light.

“Who are you!? Where did you come from? Are you a demon?” a Man began immediately questioning her, “no… I see that you’re not. You’re like me. Congratulations on getting out of that trap.”

“Yay me,” she cheered, “I have companions that came here with me, or at least I think I do. Are they trapped here too?”

“You came here with others? Then yes, they would be trapped,” the Man replied, “the demon traps everything that comes here in a dream it thinks they can’t—or won’t— try to leave.”

“I noticed,” she replied dryly, “almost got me.”

“I thought I’d escaped, too,” the Man replied, “but I’ve been wandering these empty grey spaces for a lifetime.”

“How did you end up here?” she asked.

“Through sheer stupidity, or perhaps very, very bad luck, my name is Niall, by the way,” Niall replied, “I was trying to save the Circle when I encountered the sloth demon. I expect our experiences were similar.”

“Pleased to meet you, my name is Kallian,” she replied, “and Owain mentioned you.”

“Owain helped me greatly, though I suppose I’ll never be able to repay him. The Litany was our weapon against the blood mages’ domination, but it’s too late. Everyone’s dead…”

“How are there so many blood mages here?” she asked, it had been bothering her. For a Circle of Magi, there were a shocking amount of them.

“I don’t know, they must have been practicing in secret, even teaching others. I knew these people, trusted them,” Niall answered, “the Litany was our only hope of saving the Circle, but now… This place drains you of everything: hope, feeling, life…”

“We’ll find a way out, because if I don’t get to punch either of those sorry sacks of shit I’m going to be incredibly pissed.”

“No, there is no way out of here. You think there might be, but you’d be wrong,” Niall shook his head and explained, “you see that pedestal there? I’ve studied the runes on it— runes that signify different islands of the sloth demon’s domain. The sloth demon itself is on the center island, but you can’t get there. The five islands around the center somehow form a protective ward. I thought I was getting somewhere when I figured that out, and I went to each island in turn only to have my hopes dashed. There’s always an obstacle. You’ll see the path but be unable to get to it, and it taunts you and drives you mad.”

“Protective ward?”

“I don’t know much. I… I think the sloth demon has placed lesser demons on each of the islands, I’ve seen them. They take different shapes but they’re there. Defeating them may be the only way to reach the sloth demon. But you have to get to them first. I… I couldn’t… I was too afraid to try.”

“So, what are the obstacles?”

“Yes… obstacles and mad dream things— a river of flame before a portal, or a door that shows you freedom through a keyhole which no key will fit. I once found a passageway smaller than my hand with a mouse going to and fro through it. Silly thing fled before I could question it.”

“Why would you talk to a mouse?”

“Because almost everyone here is a dreamer, except for the spirits and the demons, I suppose. Each dreamer may know things another may not. The mouse could have told me what lay beyond the tiny passage, or how to get there. Or even how I might make myself small like him, and crawl through myself. And if one could become small enough to take one path, perhaps there are similar ways to walk the others.”

“Could my companions be on one of these islands?”

“I… I don’t know, there are many dreamers. You might find a way to reach them through the islands… if you’re lucky.”

“I’ll be back then,” she replied, “I guess.”

“Don’t mind me then.”

She saw a black clouded thing and wondered if she should touch it, probably not. Her throwing daggers… They were just a dream version of them, right? So she shouldn’t lose any in the real world if she threw one, right?

Well, only one way to find out, she supposed, she fetched one from the pouch on her hip and threw it.

Passed right through, probably meant that she couldn’t go through that one. She wandered around again, and found a glowing purple one, and repeated her test. It disappeared, so she stepped into it.

“I— I just want to leave this place!” a Voice cried out, “HELP!”

A mouse, she was defending a mouse from a demon. Ah, this must be the one Niall saw. It’s been so long since she’d last fought on her own, it was a bit weird to do so again. Then again, she never really fought before, she simply led people through merry chases to their dooms. She'd still operated alone though, but after becoming a Grey Warden… Ever since she was recruited, she’d always been in a group. It was weird to not be in one again.

“Thank you! But… too late for me…” the Mouse said, “kill Yevena, the demoness that rules here. She protects her master… Sloth… there’s a door! A door only demons can see… the key must be in another realm. Take my power… save any others trapped in nightmares, kill the demons that guard Sloth. Make my…”

As light engulfed her she wondered, if she’ll ever be fast enough to save anyone? Or will she only be early enough to watch them die?

A mouse, she knew how to turn into a mouse now, which was fantastic, since it allowed her to go through the mouse holes. Though, having a tail was a new and strange sensation. However, she did not know how to switch back to being an Elf. Maybe… imagining herself as an Elf? Ah, yes, here we go. She wondered if she could turn into a cat, though there’s no way that’d be possible, right?

…Right?

She was now a cat, both literally and figuratively. What an accomplishment.

And this time, she wasn’t thinking that sarcastically.

“Something happened, didn’t it?” Niall asked, “you look a little different. What happened?”

“I learned how to turn into a mouse,” she replied, deciding to keep the cat in the bag for now.

“Did you? Did it help? I know I saw the tiny holes,” Niall said excitedly, “were you small enough to get through?”

“I thought you’d given up, why so excited?”

“I… I don’t know… You’re… so much braver than I am. I was so sure it was impossible to get anywhere.”

“Well, I am a Grey Warden, for good or for ill, I think bravery might be in the job description. Though I could be wrong.”

“Do you think you could learn other shapes? Maybe they could help you get to places you couldn’t otherwise.”

“It’s certainly worth a shot,” she replied moving to the fade pedestal, “any recommendations?”

“Try this one,” Niall said pointing at the island to the left of where they were.

“Alright,” she nodded and moved through to the next island.

Such a weird feeling, though these foes… were familiar ones, in that killing them was in her job description. Though, there was a lot of fire. Lots and lots of fire. She saw what Niall had meant: a river of flame kept her from some doors. Luckily, she could turn into a mouse and go through the mouse holes. Also a weird feeling. She wondered if this was how Morrigan shape-shifted.

“Yes… yes! Must be quiet, shhh… they won’t find me here. They won’t find me here!” a Dreaming Templar said, “you! Don’t move! They’ll hear us! They’ll—”

She wasn’t sure just how quiet this guy actually thought he was being, but she helped him kill the Darkspawn anyway.

“They’re gone. You… you did it, you killed them,” the Templar said and she felt a wave of nausea hit her, “but not all, their leaders are behind the unbreakable door. I give you my wisdom, it will let you see. And now I wake.”

She shook her head and slapped her cheeks, he wasn’t talking about the Alienage, he wasn’t talking about Nelaros. He was talking about the Darkspawn in the dream. He was waking up from a nightmare. She did good by him. She rubbed at her eyes and dried them on her sleeves before moving forwards. He said that the leader to this one was behind an unbreakable door, but none of the mouse holes she traveled led her there. Though, he did teach her how to be a… what was it? She didn’t even know, shit was weird. Though, oddly not quite as weird as the whole Bann Teagan thing.

Mouse said that on that first island, there was a door only demons could see, perhaps this was what she needed to get there? Only one way to find out.

“You look a little different again,” Niall said.

“Yeah, I learned how to become a… thing,” she replied, “I think I can get to the demon on this island now… There’s a door… here. Be right back.”

That must be Yevena, the boss of this island. She missed being able to hide behind Alistair right about now. Their bodies disappeared immediately, she had no shield, no armor. Well what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger, or something.

“Did you… did you kill it?” Niall asked, “I felt something, like the earth was shifting— except it probably wasn’t the earth…”

“Yeah, I killed it,” she nodded.

“You did? You managed to get to it and kill it…” Niall trailed off, “I didn’t think it was possible. Killing that demon must have opened something. Perhaps… perhaps the pieces are falling into place now.”

“I’m guessing the blood mages are responsible for this mess, then?” she asked.

“Uldred is the mastermind behind it all, at Uldred’s suggestion, the Circle was about to ally itself with Loghain, when the Teyrn’s treachery was revealed,” Niall explained and she felt a little, really, very, responsible, “Uldred made excuses but we were having none of it. He panicked then, tried to leave… Irving would not let him.”

“Did Uldred confess?” she asked.

“I was barely paying attention: such meetings are boring,” Niall replied, “the course of action usually decided before we even congregate.”

“I… suppose I can’t blame you there,” she replied, “when did the blood mages show up?”

“Uldred let loose a bolt of energy that flung us all against the far wall, that woke me up,” Niall recounted, “it might have been a signal: that was when a whole group of mages poured into the chamber, and that was when I saw real blood magic in action, for the first time in my life. It was like they brought the wrath of the Maker Himself down upon our heads.”

“I see…” she replied biting the nail of her thumb.

“Uldred must have also dabbled in demonology: when the fighting started, he tried to summon something… or some things,” Niall added, “they overwhelmed him, and when his screaming stopped, Uldred was gone.”

“Well, shit,” she sighed, “that sounds… like he got what was coming to him, really.”

“I’m sure he wishes he were dead,” Niall replied, “Uldred became an abomination, and when I saw it, I ran for my life.”

“Fight or flight, huh?” she closed her eyes, “well, fleeing isn’t always a bad thing. It means you can come back to fight another day.”

“I was in a panic. Once I calmed down, I thought about what would happen if… that thing… got out,” Niall nodded, “I gathered some of my fellows and we obtained the Litany from the stockroom. I thought if we disabled the others, we could throw everything we had at Uldred. But… I saw my friends fall, one by one… and now it’s my turn.”

“I wonder if this is my fault,” she sighed.

“How would this be your fault?” Niall asked.

“I lit the beacon at Ostagar, showing everyone that Loghain betrayed the King,” she replied, “and I did that intentionally: I wanted people to know that he’d committed the worst kind of treason… I suppose I didn’t stop to consider what would happen to the Circle of Magi. Then again, I did only really have five seconds to devote thought to making that decision.”

“No, you couldn’t have known,” Niall shook his head, “you couldn’t have known what Loghain had planned, and what Uldred would do… It’s best that Ferelden is aware of the truth.”

“Well, I still feel responsible,” she sighed, “so I’ll deliver us from this mess… any recommendations on where to go next? I couldn’t get to the demon on that island, the dreamer I ran into said that they were hiding behind an unbreakable door.”

“The rune for this island changed,” Niall said in awe, before pointing to the one to the right of them, “try here next.”

There was a lot of fire, and burning Templars. Unlike her usual dreams, however, this fire wasn’t as unpleasant. She wondered what it said about her that dreaming of fire had been a commonplace occurrence for the past six years of her life. She went through the mouse holes and doors she could, before arriving on another floor of the area. Where she was attacked by fiery Mabari. This island really liked fire, the other one she went to had a lot of fire too, but this one? Really loved it.

She turned into a mouse and went through a mouse hole.

“Must… control… anger,” a Voice behind her said and she moved out of the way of his attack as she shifted back to her original form, “but it bubbles. It burns… You MUST die!”

She stayed silent as she flowed out of the way of his assault, unleashing her own, until he stopped attacking her.

“The anger… fading… I am free. Take Rhagos’ power, use it and BURN him… burn them all,” the Templar said in awe, “he guards sloth, he bars the way… You must destroy the door… other dreamers, other powers… only way…”

Hm, she couldn’t get through that door either, then. Rather than go back to ask Niall, she decided to just go to the one directly under the one she was in, hopefully that’ll give her… something. The form she needed to break those doors in, she hoped.

Oh dear… Mages, mages, and more mages… She supposed she shouldn’t be surprised, but it was her first time actually encountering mages here, and she was being hard countered. She ducked and rolled behind things to block her from fireballs, and utilized her throwing daggers, making sure to retrieve each one once the battle ended. She decided to use that last form she’d attained… Setting herself on fire…

Well, she was a Fire Sister, after all, she supposed. Though it was still highly unpleasant considering the state of her actual body: scarred from burns. Looking down and seeing herself on fire was… gross.

“HELP ME!” a Voice shouted as soon as she got to the next floor, “PLEASE!”

What… what are those? Golems? Are those golems? What? …Does magic work against golems? She felt fire tingle to life beneath her fingertips, and… Yep, still wasn’t as weird as that whole Bann thing.

“Thank you, it is time for this dream to come to an end,” the Man said, “I give you my strength, it will be of little use against the demon that rules here. But perhaps it will help in other realms. Find a way to kill all the demon lords to open the way to Sloth. Free us all from this nightmare!”

His strength? Turning into a golem? That should be able to break those so-called unbreakable doors in the other two realms. But she should see what other obstacles lay on this island first. She turned into a cat to make back-tracking go faster, since they’re much more agile than any of her other forms and shifted as she saw fit. Though, being a cat agreed with her.

Ah, she could get to this one. Nice.

She decided to go tell Niall she that she thinks she might be able to get to the other demons as well now.

“I’ve been studying the runes a bit more,” Niall said, “I think your companions might be on these outlaying three.”

“Looks like I’ll need to get the connecting two to get to them then,” she replied, “I think I can get to the rest now.”

“Be prepared,” Niall replied, “they might be in traps of their own, and they might not want to leave.”

“Thanks,” she replied, “I think… I’ll manage… somehow.”

“Good luck,” Niall replied as she moved to one of the other islands where she hadn’t been able to reach the boss.

Four down, one to go, and now one of the outlying islands was open. The question now was to go now, or wait until she opened up the way to the middle. On one-hand, they could be having happy fun times, where she had been. On the other hand? She had nothing, whoever it was can wait.

“The path is clear,” Niall said in shock as she went to report to him before going for her companions, “I can’t believe it.”

“Yeah, I’m going to go make sure my companions are safe,” she nodded, “and then it’s time to end this nightmare.”

“It’s been a long time coming, Kallian,” Niall replied, “go.”

She nodded and left, deciding to go south first. She had a fitting new cat form that she wanted to show off, because she was going to lose it quite soon.

Let’s see… That is… Wynne, who was, technically, the first of her companions that she’d met.

And who probably wouldn’t find her cool new trick very cool. She’s been dealing with this madness for a while, so she’ll just approach her as the normal everyday ordinary Elf, Kallian Tabris.

“Maker forgive me, I failed them all,” Wynne said mournfully, “they died and I did not stop it.”

She was feeling good about her decision to not be a cat, right now.

“They’re not dead yet, Wynne,” she replied, “the Circle can still be saved.”

“What about all this? How can you say that when you are faced with this?” Wynne asked, “death. Can you not see it? It’s all around us.”

“It always has been and always will be,” she replied, “but this is the Fade, you are in a dream.”

“Why was I spared, if not to help them? What use is my life now that I have failed in the task that was given me?” Wynne asked, she wasn’t listening to her, “leave me to my grief. I shall bury their bones, scatter their ashes to the four winds, and mourn their passing till I too, am dead.”

“You have to fight this feeling, Wynne,” she argued, “this isn’t real. This isn’t what’s happened. Not yet. We can still stop it.”

“Your blatant disregard for the souls of the dead strikes me as being utterly inappropriate,” Wynne glowered at her.

“Wynne, please, think,” she said imploringly, “think about what you’re doing here, what I’m doing here, and why.”

“I do not know what you are trying to tell me. Why must you make this more painful?” Wynne argued, “and where were you when this happened? I trusted you as an ally and you were nowhere to be found.”

“I…” she felt tears threatening to spill from her eyes remembering how she had to kill Nelaros, watch him die all over again, “I am the only thing here that’s real. Ignore everything else.”

“I do not know what this will accomplish, but I will do this, if it will satisfy you,” Wynne sighed but acquiesced, “it is… difficult… to focus. It feels as though something is… stopping me from concentrating. I have never had so much trouble. Perhaps some time away from this place will help me think clearly.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” she replied with a soft smile, before noticing movement in her periphery, and bringing out the monster within her.

“Don’t leave us, Wynne,” an Apprentice said causing Wynne to turn and stare at him in shock, “we don’t want to be alone.”

“Holy Maker!” Wynne exclaimed, “stay away, foul creature!”

“Stay away from us!”

Her body moved before she had time to register what it was doing, cleaving through it with her sword.

“You have to defeat them to leave,” she declared.

“Stay, Wynne,” Another of them said, “sleep soundly in the comforting embrace of the earth. Do not fight it. You belong here, with us.”

“N— no. Not yet,” Wynne replied sharply, “my task is not yet done… it is not time yet.”

She was already moving through the others as they tried to hold her here, and Wynne helped her finish off the last.

“Is it over? Thank the Maker for you,” Wynne sighed in relief, “wait… what’s happening? Where are you going?”

“We’ll see each other again soon, I’m sure,” she replied with a shrug watching Wynne leave.

She decided to go East next, though, she did unlock the West one first… Well, too late! Zevran and Alistair know her solidified cat status.

Ah, it’s Alistair.

Wait… That’s Goldanna? She’d been hoping that that wasn’t her.

“Hey! It’s great to see you again, I was just thinking about you… isn’t that a marvelous coincidence?” Alistair grinned down at her, “this is my sister, Goldanna. These are her children, and there’s more about somewhere. We’re one big happy family, at long last!”

Just… just how much of a cat did he see her as being, exactly? For him to just… see her like this and think of it as normal?

Also, he seemed really happy, and carefree.

“You seem very… content,” she said as he knelt down to talk to her.

“I am! I’m happier than I’ve been my entire life. Isn’t that strange?” Alistair replied with a big goofy smile, “I thought being a Grey Warden would make me happy, but it didn’t. This does.”

“I’m overjoyed to have my little brother back,” Goldanna said happily and she felt her fur rise straight up in alarm, “I’ll never let him out of my sight again!”

Goldanna was nowhere near as bad as Elva, but holy shit this was still creepy.

“Alistair, you live with your sister?” she asked.

“There’s nothing wrong with living with my sister,” Alistair replied, “I’ve never had a real family, before.”

“Well, Alistair, is your friend staying for supper?” Goldanna asked.

“Say you’ll stay! Goldanna’s a great cook,” Alistair replied, “maybe she’ll make her mince pie. You can, can’t you?”

“Of course, dear brother,” Goldanna replied, “anything for you.”

“Alistair, level with me here,” she said putting her paws on his shoulders, “what race am I actually supposed to be?”

“You’re acting really strangely,” Alistair frowned at her.

“Alistair, what is my race supposed to be?” she asked again.

“A… no… you shouldn’t be a cat,” Alistair replied.

“Where is the only place where I could ever be a cat?” she asked.

“The… Fade?” Alistair replied.

“Now think,” she continued her questioning, “what’s the last memory you have of when we were together?”

“I remember… a tower. The Circle… it was under attack… there were demons,” Alistair replied, “that’s all I really remember.”

“Right, the Sloth demon, do you remember him?” she asked shifting back.

“This is a dream?!” Alistair stared in shock and she nodded, “but it’s so real.”

“It’s not,” she replied, “there’s only one place where I could ever actually be a cat without suddenly becoming a mage.”

“Right, this doesn’t feel right anymore,” Alistair said, “I think we should go.”

“Yes, we should,” she nodded wanting to get away from creepy Goldanna, “like now, because that’s not really your sister.”

“She is… but she isn’t,” Alistair replied.

“No! He is ours,” Goldanna said in a gravelly voice, “and I’d rather see him dead than free!”

“By the way, Kalli?” Alistair said as they moved around the battlefield together.

“Yeah?”

“Maybe don’t be a talking cat around a Templar in the Fade.”

“…Yeah.”

They finished off the rest of the creatures with ease.

“I can’t believe it,” Alistair sighed, “how did I not see this earlier?”

“Better question: why did you see me as an actual cat, and immediately think ‘oh, that’s just regular normal everyday Kallian’?”

“Right… well… yes, uh, well… Try not to tell everyone how easily fooled I was,” Alistair coughed, “and especially not Elissa!”

“No promises.”

“Are we going now?” Alistair asked, “wait, where are you going? What’s happening to me? Hey!”

“Bye!”

That really could have ended… weirdly for her. She had no doubt she could have fended off Alistair, but then Goldanna would probably… yeah, it would have gone weirdly.

Ah, well, she was a woman who did not learn from her mistakes, plus, she was a cat. She wouldn’t be able to enjoy this for much longer, the path to the Sloth demon was open. She was busting them out of this joint as soon as she collected Zevran.

Wait, was that… a rack? She’d never seen one before… huh…

“I think I saw him flinch that time,” a Crow, she was guessing, said.

“Maybe,” the Second Crow replied, “we’ll make you scream yet, apprentice.”

“We’re not going to go easy on you,” the First Crow said, clearly ignoring the cat just waltzing in doing what cats do: owning the place, “trust me.”

“No… I wouldn’t… want you to hold back,” Zevran groaned as she jumped up onto the rack and then sat on his chest, “I’d be disappointed if you… did.”

She put a paw on his face, drawing his amber eyes to her green ones as her tail swished about.

“Zevran,” she asked, “what are you doing?”

“What… what are you doing here?” Zevran asked staring at her in shock, “you’re not supposed to be… here… and neither are… you supposed… to be a cat.”

“Whoa! You picked up o—” she covered her mouth with a paw, “right well, what are you doing?”

“This is my test, I am going to be a Crow…” Zevran replied, “I need to show them I can tolerate… pain.”

“You’re already an Antivan Crow,” she pointed out.

“What? That cannot be, and yet… you speak the truth?” Zevran replied in confusion, “I can feel it… also you on my chest. So, then what? Is this nothing but a bad dream? A bad memory?”

“Whoa, you picked up on th—” she cut herself off again, “ahem… Yes.”

“Oh, I think he’s questioning us,” one of the Crows replied, and she shifted back, “that’s a very, very bad thing to do, isn’t it?”

“Not if you’re dead,” she replied throwing a dagger into the forehead of the one without the helm and slicing off the one with the helm’s head, “I’m getting pre—wah!”

She got carried away with being able to turn into a cat.

Regrets.

She had them.

Because now she was staring up at Zevran, who’d turned the tables… rack? On her.

“Well, that was bracing,” Zevran grinned down at her, “there’s nothing like a good racking, is there?”

“I’m sorry I sat on you as a cat,” she replied, “I won’t do it again, promise.”

“Well, I’m sure we can— hmm?” Zevran’s face looked confused, ah he was going the way of Alistair and Wynne, “what are you doing? Where are you going?”

“Bye,” she replied.

Talk about saved by the bell… She sighed heavily and lifted both hands to cover her face.

She’d killed the dream version of her fiance… husband? A man she'd truly, genuinely loved.

And then ended up underneath another man a few hours later, had she always been this kind of woman?

Stupid? Yes, actually, very much so.

She should have been the one to die, not him… She pressed her palms to her eyes for a moment before leaving this island to go tell Niall that she’d be attacking Sloth soon.

“The way is open, and you’ve found your companions,” Niall said, “finish this, for every single one of us who fell prey to the Sloth demon.”

“I will,” she grinned, “he’ll regret crossing me pretty soon.”

“I’m sure he will,” Niall nodded.

She went to the Sloth Demon’s Sanctum. It was time to finish this, it was time to punch that sorry sack of shit in the face.

“What do we have here? A rebellious minion? An escaped slave?” the Demon laughed, “my, my… but you do have some gall… But playtime is over. You all have to go back now.”

Movement in her periphery, Alistair, Wynne, and Zevran.

“Oh, here I am! And there you are!” Alistair exclaimed, “you just disappeared. Well, no matter!”

“How did I get here?” Zevran sighed, “what happened to all those luscious wood nymphs?”

“You will not hold us, demon,” Wynne declared, “we found each other in this place and you cannot stand against us.”

“I have some gall, hm? I wonder about that…” she replied holding up her fist with enough anger and rage that it was shaking, “I’m about to fucking brutalize you.”

“If you go back quie—” she cut him off by acquainting his face with her fist.

“You touched something you shouldn’t have, you made me do something I hated with every single fiber of my being,” she seethed, “I have gall? I have gall? How fucking dare you. You started a fight, I’m finishing it.”

“Can’t you think about someone other than yourself?” the Sloth Demon asked teleporting to a spot further away from her, “I’m hurt, so very, very hurt.”

“Not as much as you’re about to,” she replied.

“You wish to battle me?” the Sloth Demon laughed, “so be it… you will learn to bow to your betters, mortal!”

They fought, the demon transforming several times. With Alistair back, she could now use him as her shield and armor. The demons kept vanishing on kill, so using them to block attacks had been impossible. The dreamers and Darkspawn and such that attacked her, weren’t that much of a problem. They’d stuck around for a bit more.

Once the fighting was over, Niall appeared before her, and the others… Well, she guessed they woke up.

“You defeated the demon. I never thought… I never expected you to free yourself, to free us both,” Niall said, “when you return… take the Litany of Adralla from my… body. It will protect you from the worst of the blood magic.”

“Your body?” she asked, “aren’t you coming with?”

“I cannot go with you, I have been here far too long,” Niall replied sadly, “for you it will have been an afternoon’s nap. Your body won’t have wasted away in the real world while your spirit lay in the hands of a demon.”

“Then… you’re dying?”

“Every minute I was here, the Sloth Demon was feeding off of me, using my life to fuel the nightmares of this realm. There is so little of me left…” Niall explained, “I was never meant to save the Circle, or… survive its troubles. I am dying. It is as simple as that.”

“There must be something I can do.”

“Thank you, but it is too late for me. I do not fear what may come. They say we return to the Maker in death, and that isn’t such a terrible thing… My only regret is that I could not save the Circle, but you… you can,” Niall replied, “take the Litany off my… my body, when you return. It is important!”

Too late.

She was too late again.

She was simply only early enough to watch him die as well.

“I will… but what about…?”

“I can rest easy, knowing you will save the Circle. I’m… not a hero, perhaps trying to be one was foolish.”

“I’m not either,” she replied, “but ordinary people can do great things when they have to… And you did help. I couldn’t have gotten through this without you.”

“Dark times, greater acts of heroism, eh? You may be right… Before I was taken to the Circle, my Mother said I was meant for greatness, that I would be more than my ancestors could have ever dreamed… I hope I haven’t disappointed her.”

“You didn’t, Niall,” she replied offering him a sad smile.

“It is time for us both to be on our way,” Niall replied, “remember the Litany of Adralla… The Circle is all that matters now.”

“I will,” she nodded.

“Thank you,” Niall replied, “and goodbye… friend.”

“Rest well,” she replied, “may we meet again, in another life.”

The world faded to white around her, and she woke up.

Chapter Text

They woke up before she did, and he looked around, finding her leaning against a wall, and he was about to rouse her when he noticed it. The others noticed it too, the resigned look on her face, and the tears flowing from her eyes. Though, that worried him even more than the fact that she hadn’t woken up yet.

What did his Warden dream of that caused her to cry?

Before they fought the demon, she’d said that he ‘touched something he shouldn’t have’, and ‘made her do something she hated with every single fiber of her being’, and she had clearly been very angry. It was the first time any of them had ever seen her that angry.

He reached over to her and gave her a gentle shake. He was beginning to worry, what if the demon had done something that would trap her in a nightmare for the rest of her life? Like the one in Redcliffe?

“Mmm,” Kallian’s brows furrowed before she finally opened her eyes, “what…?”

“You did not wake with the rest of us, my dear Warden,” he replied fingers lifting her face to look at him as his thumbs wiped away her tears, “what did you dream of to make you cry, precisely?”

“I was listening to Niall’s last words,” Kallian replied batting his hands away, “and that’s—”

“No, you don’t get to say it’s a secret this time,” Alistair said cutting her off, and she pursed her lips, “you saw ours. Fess up.”

“Home,” Kallian said with a sigh, “I was home, with my family. Cooking dinner.”

“So you had to…” Alistair trailed off.

“Yeah, but we have duties to fulfill, and a Blight to end,” Kallian sighed standing up to begin doing her usual stretches, “so of course I was pissed…”

Well, with her awake, he could now think about how she had been both on top, and underneath him. Sad, really, that he couldn’t keep her there. He wished that she knew what she did to him, but she never seemed to.

That memory should serve him well later.

***

She went through her throwing dagger pouch and counted all of her blades. Yep, she didn’t lose any to the dream, phew. That would have been annoying. She heaved a deep sigh, she hadn’t lied: she was at home, with her family, cooking dinner. A husband was generally part of someone's family.

She was not looking forward to sleeping tonight.

She would also need to ignore how right being around Zevran felt, she was still in love with another man. A man she was supposed to be happily married to, a man who died because of her, a man who’d loved her just as she’d loved him. Not only that, but there was also the fact that she knew what the future held for her.

There was also the fact that everything she touched was destined to fail.

And she was tired of that.

She’d become a Grey Warden, and look what happened at Ostagar. She met the King, and look what happened to him, too. Daveth and Ser Jory? Look what happened to them, they died during the Joining. She met Alistair, and look at what happened to Redcliffe and Arl Eamon. She met Wynne, and look what happened to Kinloch Hold. She loved Shianni, and look at what happened to her. She loved Nelaros, and look what happened to him. Her Father? She didn’t know if he were okay, but he was probably reeling from the aftereffects of her rampage. She’d loved her life in the Alienage, and she knew that they were most likely going through hell because of her.

It was only a matter of time before something happened to Leliana, Morrigan, and Zevran as well.

Though, thinking about it… Why didn’t she connect the Goldanna Alistair was talking about with the one she knew? Of course it was that Goldanna, there’s only one Goldanna living near the Alienage. It was probably because she wanted to be stupidly optimistic. She really didn’t want to believe they were related by blood… That poor man… Ah, well, this might be a good thing. Perhaps she’ll be able to use this as a lesson for him, Alistair needs to learn to look out for himself more.

“By the way, Wynne, I think you have a right to know this: Niall mentioned that the blood mages must have been here for a while and that there had been a group of them,” she said crouching next to Niall’s body to look for the Litany, “he said that when they confronted Uldred, he tried to leave but since Irving didn’t let him, he ‘let loose a bolt of energy that flung us all against the far wall’ and that ‘it may have been a signal’ because ‘that was when a whole group of mages poured into the chamber’.”

She decided to keep it to herself that Niall had been half asleep throughout the whole thing. Though something had bothered her: his body had wasted away. Which made her concerned for Arl Eamon.

“What?!” Wynne said in shock, “how could that have happened?”

“I think… Uldred was keeping them secret, Niall said that he thinks Uldred might have dabbled in demonology, as he tried to summon either something or some things,” she recounted standing back up with the Litany, “it didn’t go well, he became an abomination… I think the terrifying abomination Irving fought, might have been Uldred.”

“Then we need to get to him quickly,” Wynne replied.

“I agree, in any case, what you do with that knowledge is up to you, I will not be telling anyone else,” she asked, “for now, what can you tell me of the Litany?”

“I see… Adralla was a bard in the service of Divine Clemence the First during the second Exalted March. The Schism had split the Chantry into the one we know and the Imperial Chantry, in Tevinter,” Wynne explained, “there was much mistrust of the Tevinter Imperium at this time, as you can imagine.”

“Interesting,” she nodded inspecting the Litany.

“Even though the Imperial Chantry had forbade blood magic, the Chantry— our Chantry— did not believe them, after all, many of the Tevinter mages, and even their magister lords, had used blood magic with impunity throughout history,” Wynne continued, “together with the help of the Chantry and its Templars, Adralla wrote the Litany, to protect against the mind-controlling abilities of blood mages.”

“How do we use it?” she asked.

“It is just a spell, like any other spell, any mage should be able to recite it,” Wynne replied, “reciting the Litany breaks any existing mind control and prevents future attempts at domination from being successful.”

“I see, then you should take it,” she said handing her the Litany, “there’s also the fact that I’m a rogue and probably won’t have time to use it… so yeah, you should hold onto it.”

They continued forwards until she pressed her ear against a door and heard… growling? It didn’t sound like the growling of an abomination… it sounded… like an animal?

She cracked open the door to take a peek.

Yep, the world still didn’t make sense.

Good to know.

After dancing around the dragonlings trying to figure out how to go about killing them, they managed to finish the fight.

She really, really, really wanted to touch one of the sacks of flesh and cut into it out of morbid curiosity, but she knew Zevran was eyeing her. The spoilsport.

She also wanted the world to make sense, but that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

“It’s a Templar! He… he’s still alive, I think!” Wynne gasped, “we must help him!”

“It could be a trap,” Zevran pointed out causing her to snort, cover her mouth and look away when he turned to frown at her.

“Watch now,” Alistair said, “I’m not falling asleep again!”

She snorted again and refused to meet his eye as well.

“Not.a.word,” Alistair said his hands on her shoulders.

“Y—yeah,” she replied still covering her mouth with her hand, “I—I’ll t—try.”

They walked towards the giant pillar of light, it was shiny, she wanted to touch it. But she also knew someone would pull her away… How could she get him to stop caring about her? What could she do that would get him to just… stop minding her?

“This trick again? I know what you are,” the Templar glared at them, “it won’t work. I will stay strong.”

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“The boy is exhausted, and this cage…I’ve never seen anything like it,” Wynne remarked, “rest easy… help is here.”

“Enough visions, if anything in you is Human… kill me now and stop this game,” the Templar begged, “you broke the others, but I will stay strong, for my sake… for theirs… Filthy blood mages… getting in my head… I will not break… I’d rather die.”

Well, nothing in her is Human, she is an Elf. But pointing that out won’t help any.

“Calm down,” she said soothingly, “you’re safe now.”

“Silence! I’ll not listen to anything you say, now begone!” the Templar glared and then stared at them in shock, “still here? But that’s always worked before… I close my eyes, but you are still here when I open them.”

“We’re real,” she replied keeping her voice soft and soothing, hoping to bring him into her flow, “and we’re here to help.”

“Don’t blame me for being cautious, the voices… the images… so real,” the Templar replied, “did Greagoir send you? How… how did you get here?”

“He did send us, in a sense,” she replied.

“Good… kill Uldred, kill them all for what they’ve done, they caged us like animals… looked for ways to break us. I’m the only one left,” the Templar replied, “they turned some into… monsters, and… there was nothing I could do.”

“You must stay strong,” she replied.

“To think I once felt pity for the Circle… Now I’d like nothing more than to wipe their taint off the face of Thedas,” the Templar glowered and her blood ran cold, “only mages have that much power at their fingertips. Only mages are so susceptible to the infernal whisperings of the demons.”

What this man wanted was genocide.

“Where are Irving and the other mages?” she asked, there was no getting through to him. Not right now, right now, they were wasting valuable time.

“What others?” the Templar replied, “what are you talking about?”

“Irving and the other mages who fought Uldred,” Wynne clarified, “where are they?”

“They are in the Harrowing Chamber,” the Templar replied, “the sounds coming out from there… oh, Maker.”

“We must hurry,” Wynne said, “they are in grave danger, I am sure of it.”

“You can’t save them,” the Templar replied, “you don’t know what they’ve become.”

“I can’t just kill them all,” she replied.

“They’ve been surrounded b—by blood mages,” the Templar replied, “whose wicked fingers snake into your mind and corrupt your thoughts.”

“His hatred of mages is so intense,” Alistair said quietly, “the memory of his friends’ deaths is still fresh in his mind.”

“He’s suffered pain and anguish like few have had to endure,” Wynne added, “that and his lust for revenge have confused the issue—”

“Do not presume to judge me, mage!” the Templar glared, “I am thinking clearly— for perhaps the first time in my life.”

“If that’s the case then I should kill every single every single Human I come across,” she remarked, “however, people are complex creatures and need to be treated on a case by case basis.”

“Why would you kill every Human you come across?” Alistair asked in alarm.

“For having the ability to hurt those I care about without much retribution, however, you may be able to solve one problem with violence, but you sow the seeds for another,” she replied borrowing words from the Dalai Lama, “hate begets hate, suffering begets suffering, violence begets violence.”

“Are you really saving anyone by taking this risk?” the Templar glared, “to ensure this horror is ended… to guarantee that no abomination or blood mages live, you must kill everyone up there.”

“No, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did that,” she replied, “doing that would be an insult to the person I am.”

“Thank you,” Wynne sighed in relief, “I knew you would make a rational decision…”

“Rational? How is this rational?” the Templar glowered, “do you understand the danger?”

“I know full well the danger of magic, but killing innocents because they might be maleficarum is not justice,” Wynne replied, “I know you are angry—”

“You know nothing! I am thinking about the future of the Circle,” the Templar replied, “of Ferelden!”

“What you want, is genocide,” she said flatly, “and I cannot abide by that.”

“I am just willing to see the painful truth, which you are content to ignore. But what can I do?” the Templar scowled, “as you can see, I am in no position to directly influence your actions, though I would love to deal with the mages myself.”

“Small blessings,” she replied.

“Fine, then, deal with Uldred, if that is what you plan to do,” the Templar glowered, “once he is dead, I will be freed.”

“Everyone will,” she replied, “even the mages.”

“No one ever listens, not until it’s far too late,” the Templar sighed, “Maker turn his gaze on you. I hope your compassion hasn’t doomed us all.”

“The true hero is one who conquers his own anger and hatred,” she said once again borrowing words before leaving, “I hope that one day you may conquer yours.”

She didn’t blame him for his way of thinking. He’d been through a lot, all she could do was hope that he could one day move past this, so with that thought, she pushed him from her mind and entered the Harrowing Chamber. She told Niall she would save the Circle, and she never dealt in empty promises.

She recognized that man, he was at the War Council, in Ostagar… that was Uldred?

“Do you accept the gift that I offer?” Uldred asked the mage who nodded, probably simply to make the pain stop.

They weren’t in time to use the Litany… Why was she eternally too late? Why was she eternally too slow? What use was she, truly?

“Ah… look what we have here, an intruder,” Uldred or what had once been him said, “I bid you welcome.”

“I remember you, or at least I remember your host,” she replied, “from Ostagar. At the War Council.”

“Ahhh I thought you looked familiar, the derelict Elven woman who dared to speak strategy,” Uldred replied, “would you care to join our revels?”

“I think we’ll just kill you now,” she replied, “if it’s all the same to you.”

“Fight, if you must,” Uldred said before changing into a… massive behemoth, “it will just make my victory all the sweeter.”

That feeling when you’re joking but then apparently predict the future.

“So… I’m just going to say this now,” she stated, “I was joking about fighting a massive behemoth of a foe.”

“Well, let’s just hope you don’t get filled with arrows and suffer a cracked skull this time,” Alistair replied, “I don’t think Flemeth will come all this way to save us again.”

“I don’t either,” she replied, “you wanna send me flying again?”

“It worked last time,” Alistair shrugged as they both began moving into position, “try not to get eaten… or whatever he might do to you.”

“Yeah,” she replied, “I have no intentions of dying here.”

This time she launched herself higher, and forced her body into a spiral to add speed, and ultimately, power behind her blow while also keeping him from being able to snatch her out of the air. Once she was about to hit the ground, she tucked her body into a roll to soften the damage of her impact as she reacquainted herself with the ground, and then unfurrowed her body to kick out and slide her body around to face him to make sure he was dead.

He was.

And she was dizzy from all the spinning so she just sat there for a bit. It probably didn’t help that she had apparently been crying for who knows how long, and was a little dehydrated.

“Are you okay, my dear Warden?” Zevran asked offering her a hand.

“Dizzy… so much spinning,” she replied before taking the offered hand and being yanked to her feet. That made her dizzy too so she just leaned on him for a bit. She felt him freeze, “sorry, change in elevation… I’m good.”

“Maker, I’m too old for this,” Irving said as Alistair helped him up.

“Irving! Are you alright?” Wynne asked moving to his side.

“I’ve… nghh… been better, but I am thankful to be alive,” Irving replied, “I suppose that is your doing, isn’t it, Wynne?”

“I wasn’t alone,” Wynne replied, “I had help.”

“The Circle owes all of you a debt we will never be able to repay,” Irving replied, “come, the Templars await. We shall let them know that the tower is once again ours.”

“Yes,” she nodded, “before they go crazy or something.”

“I’ll need you to guide me down the stairs,” Irving replied, “ah, curse whoever insisted the Circle be house in a tower…”

“I’ll help you,” Alistair said quickly, “Kallian’s so thin and light that I feel like if you hit her, even slightly, she’ll shatter.”

“…Clearly not the case, considering the Tower of Ishal,” she pursed her lips, “but alright then.”

They began moving down all the floors of the Tower, collecting the imprisoned Templar, Cullen, as they went, while making sure to keep an eye on him. She went to tell Godwin that Uldred was dead, and the demons gone. They moved to rendezvous with Morrigan and Leliana.

“You’re back,” Morrigan remarked, “’twould seem you were successful.”

“We were,” she nodded, “how were things down here?”

“Quiet, and mostly peaceful,” Leliana replied.

“Oh, the First Enchanter,” Elroy remarked, “I didn’t think you’d actually be successful.”

“How’re my parents doing, do you know?”

“They were doing alright the last time I saw them, though, that was a few months ago… Anyway, I gotta go talk to people.”

They moved to go talk to Greagoir.

“Irving? Maker’s breath,” Greagoir exclaimed, “I did not expect to see you alive.”

“It is over, Greagoir,” Irving replied, “Uldred… is dead.”

“Uldred tortured these mages, hoping to break their wills and turn them into abominations,” Cullen said, “we don’t know how many of them have turned.”

“What?” Irving frowned, “don’t be ridiculous!”

“Of course he’ll say that! He might be a blood mage!” Cullen glowered, “don’t you know what they did? I won’t let this happen again!”

“I am the Knight-Commander here,” Greagoir said, “not you.”

“And what does the Knight-Commander think, then?” she asked.

“We have won back the Tower,” Greagoir replied, “I will accept Irving’s assurance that all is well.”

“But they may have demons within them,” Cullen argued, “lying dormant… lying in wait!”

“Enough! I have already made my decision,” Greagoir said sharply, “thank you, you have proven yourself a friend of both the Circle, and the Templars.”

“I couldn’t just let things stand like that,” she replied.

“I promised you aid, but with the Circle restored, my duty is to watch the mages,” Greagoir replied, “they are free to help you, however. Speak with them.”

“What will the Templars do now?” she asked.

“For now, I will have to oversee a sweep of the Tower, there may be some survivors and we should do our best to tend to them,” Greagoir replied, “please, excuse me, and Irving… it is good to have you back.”

“Ah, I’m sure we’ll be at each other’s throats again in no time,” Irving chuckled before turning to her, “here we are, then, the Tower in disarray, the Circle nearly annihilated… though it could have been much, much worse. I am glad you arrived when you did. It’s almost as though the Maker Himself sent you.”

She was still of the opinion that if the Maker sent her, he was a sick, sadistic son of a bitch. It made her glad she turned her back on him all those years ago, honestly, he could go fuck himself. Which was admittedly part of the reason why she expected a lightning bolt to connect with her face.

“That’s… the second time I’ve heard that, recently,” she replied wryly, “but I’m glad I could help.”

“From what Greagoir said, it seems that you came here seeking allies,” Irving nodded, “the least we can do is help you against the Darkspawn. I would hate to survive this only to be overcome by the Blight.”

“What about the Tower?” she asked, “don’t you have to stay here?”

“We will do what we can for now, but if the Blight spreads, the Tower itself will be lost,” Irving replied, “stopping the Blight is more important. You have my word, as First Enchanter: the Circle will join the Grey Wardens in the fight.”

“Thank you,” she replied with a smile, “ah, also, in Redcliffe, Arl Eamon’s in a coma, if you could send someone to look after him, that would be wonderful.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” Irving replied.

“Irving, I have a request,” Wynne said speaking up, “I seek leave to follow the Grey Warden.”

“Wynne… we need you here,” Irving replied, “the Circle needs you.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, Irving, but the Circle will do fine without me, the Circle has you,” Wynne replied, “this woman is brave and good, and capable of great things. If she will accept my help, I will help her accomplish her goals.”

She wasn’t a good woman, and if by ‘great things’ she meant ‘ruin everything and doom us all’ she was correct.

“I would be honored to have you join us, Wynne,” she replied.

“You were never one to stay in the Tower when there was adventure to be had elsewhere,” Irving replied wryly.

“Why stay when I can be of service elsewhere?” Wynne asked.

“Then I give you leave to follow the Grey Warden, but know that you always have a place here,” Irving replied, “there is much to be done here, and I must go. You must forgive me for not being a proper host.”

“Considering the circumstances,” she replied wryly, “it’s understandable, till next we meet.”

“Yes, when the time comes,” Irving replied, “we will stand beside you.”

***

The feeling of her hair brushing against him, her breath on his neck as she leaned against him, and the smell of her. She would be the death of him, he was sure of it now.

Though, honestly, he would be fine with that.

Her voice, her words, her actions, her expressions, the way she moved, her mannerisms, the feel of her…

That memory really would serve him well later, among other things.

When he noticed Elroy staring at her, he stole her lips, and was assaulted by her sleeves. But it was worth the look on the boys face as she huffed and marched away.

“Well, have fun saving the world,” Elroy sighed.

“Well, have fun sitting in your tower,” Kallian replied with a snide grin.

“It’s nice to see you haven’t changed,” Elroy replied.

“Nya-ha-ha, well, bye-bye,” Kallian laughed and with a wave, she turned to enter the boat, and he decided to help her in.

And even though she looked at him suspiciously, she accepted his help. He gave Elroy a snide grin as he climbed into the boat as well.

“How was retaking the Tower?” Leliana asked as they were rowed back across the lake.

“Kalli got so angry she punched a demon in the face,” Alistair remarked.

“Alistair basically called me brittle,” Kallian remarked chin in her hand as she looked off to the side, “in that he claimed that he felt that if you hit me, I will shatter.”

“You’re so thin!” Alistair replied, “and light! I didn’t even know you’d launched yourself up until I saw you falling!”

“She looked like she had wings,” he recounted.

“…am I a bird now?” Kallian quirked a brow at him, “did I go from cat to bird?”

“No you still act like a cat,” Alistair replied, “but I can see where he’s coming from. Though, how are you so strong despite being so thin?”

“Mm? Ahhh… part of it’s from my momentum,” Kallian replied, “I use speed to put more force and power behind my blows.”

“And the other part?” he asked.

“Secret, but I’ll just say that I spent time making sure that the only weapon I’d really need to defend myself is my own body. No matter how many people I face, and whether I have weapons or not,” Kallian replied before a look of glee crossed her face, “ah, but speaking of cats…”

“NOT! A! WORD! KALLI!” Alistair roared making Kallian snort and try to contain her laughter.

“What about cats?” Morrigan asked.

“I got to turn into one in the Fade,” Kallian replied, reminding him of his own encounter with her in the Fade, “a demon forced us to take a nap. Which is why I got angry and punched him in the face.”

“He’d trapped us in our own nightmares,” Wynne sighed, “if she hadn’t broken herself out of hers first… I shudde