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At the Gates

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It had been hours since Teagan had attempted to impose anything resembling order on the soliders of Redcliffe and Rainesfere -- trying to organize them into formations was all but impossible, in the face of this ravening horde. Besides, they all knew what they had to do: hold the gates by any means necessary. The more darkspawn they could keep out of the city, the better the Warden's chances of killing the Archdemon. If she failed, it didn't matter how many darkspawn died today: Ferelden would be lost. They didn't need Teagan's orders to motivate them.

Instead, each man and woman fought alone, and Teagan was no different. He fought as if possessed, not pausing for breath or water or to clean his sword. Cut down the darkspawn that stood in front of him, and then the next, and the next after that. Wave after wave fell upon them, genlocks and hurlocks and shrieks, mostly foot soldiers, but then he was set upon by a hurlock alpha -- he knocked three grunts aside to reach it, but then he slipped in a patch of torn, muddy earth and fell, landing hard on his back; he looked up to see the hurlock raise a sword high in the air, and he sent a prayer for a quick end, and for the rest of the forces to be enough...

"No!" A soldier clad in simple plate armor appeared as if from nowhere and slammed a shield into the alpha's face. The hurlock's neck snapped backwards with a sickening crunch, and then it was down, dead before it hit the ground. The man thrust his sword through a crack in the darkspawn's breastplate to make sure, then sheathed it before holding a hand out. "Teagan! Are you all right?"

The voice was muffled by the man's helm but still familiar, and as Teagan took the outstretched hand to climb to his feet, he worked to place it. "Thanks to you," he said. "I am in your debt. Are you one of Alfstanna's men, or..." His gaze drifted down to the device on his rescuer's shield, and he gaped in surprise. "Alistair?!"

Alistair -- for it was he, Teagan was certain of it; who else would be carrying a shield that bore the griffon of the Grey Wardens? -- looked quickly around to ensure that they had not been overheard, then nodded, but did not raise the visor of his helm.

"You're here!" Teagan stepped closer and grasped his foster nephew by the forearms, almost shaking him in relief. "When you walked out of the Landsmeet, I was sure we'd never see you again."

Alistair let out a sigh. "That was my intention. I was halfway to Amaranthine before I realized I had to turn back. I kept picturing Denerim in flames and-- I couldn't. I couldn't just leave Ferelden to fall. I had to do something. Even if I can't be a Warden anymore."

"I'm sure they'd take you back." Teagan let go of Alistair, remembering the agonizing moment when he had turned his back on his fellow Warden, the heartbreak in both of their eyes as the door slammed shut behind him. "If you talked to her, after..."

"Never!" Alistair stepped back, shaking his head, eyes burning through the slit in his visor. "After what I said, what she did... No. I'm here to protect my-- my homeland, and that's all. I do this one last duty, and then I disappear forever. You mustn't tell her, Teagan. Or anyone. Not after the battle, not ever. Swear it."

Teagan raised a brow. "But, surely--"

Alistair set his shoulders, rigid with determination. "Swear it on Andraste's sacred ashes, or I leave, right now, for good this time."

The ashes that had saved his brother's life, and by extension possibly all Ferelden. Alistair had chosen his oath wisely, and Teagan responded with a grim nod. "All right," he said, lifting a hand to cover his heart. "I swear, on the sacred remains of Andraste, bride of the Maker, that I will keep your secret for as long as you wish." Alistair relaxed, and Teagan smiled at him. "Now, shall we kill some darkspawn?"

Alistair nodded, then pulled his sword free again. "For Ferelden!" he shouted, and Teagan followed suit, plowing into the nearest mass of enemies, giving his all for home and family.