This prologue is primarily for those who do not know or need a refresher on the events of the Dragon Age Mage Origin Story up through the Lorcari Wilds Lothering and the beginning of her return to the Circle

Prologue

Amalya dropped to one knee panting, aware that the templars had swords at the ready but unable for the moment to bring herself even to stand, let alone defend herself. If they were to decide she were possessed she would die on her knees. An ignoble end for Irving's prized pupil

Prized pupil, as though she were a farm animal on display at market. Which she supposed she may as well be given the circumstance. She managed a weak laugh.

"Mage, state your condition." She heard Gregoir bark.

"Child," Irving's voice cut through her exhaustion "stand up."

She was finally able to do so. "I am well first enchanter. Only a bit tired. May I… may I have some water please?"

Irving smiled at her in approval. He had seen young mages exit the fade vomiting, passing out, screaming in terror, buy all Amalya said was that she was a bit tired and asked for water. The young templar, Cullen, the one they had tasked with striking her down should she return possessed, and Irving had known that was no accident, rushed forward with a flask of water.

"Here mistress, drink slowly." He was blushing like a school boy. Ahh, young love Irving thought with a smile.

"You are not a nurse maid" Gregoir said sharply, but even Irving knew the man was not as harsh as he came across. Neither of them were so foolish as to believe you keep could keep young men and women together and no one would get ideas. As long as it was discrete and no one jeopardized their position or did anything foolish, it actually kept everything safer. Templars would not allow a lover to become possessed, and mages fought harder against possession if they had something to lose. Of course pregnancies could not be allowed, but there were ways.

Cullen handed her the flask and moved back quickly.

Perhaps if they had left it there none of the rest would have happened. Perhaps she never would have followed Jowan. Or perhaps she would have turned him in. Perhaps she would not have left to join the Grey Wardens. But it had not ended there.

She had heard what the other mages were saying when they thought she was asleep. They were saying that Cullen really care about here. That they thought… they even thought he might be in love with her. She thought she would never get to experience any of that here.

She had thrown herself in to making herself the best apprentice for Irving that she could. Studied hard, did everything in her power to make him proud. And she knew that she had succeeded. It was clear when dignitaries visited she was the one he brought out to introduce them to. And she never disappointed him.

Like with the Commander of the Grey, Duncan. A good man. He needed help. The King needed help. Maker, if he was right all of Thedas needed help. A Blight. Maker, a Blight. She could not turn her back on that. Not even for Cullen.

But now it seemed maybe she could have both. The pride of her mentor, and maybe, just maybe love. If Cullen could be convinced to bend the rules. He was pretty strict. It was one of the things she admired about him.

Cornering him guarding Irving's chambers Amalya had flirted with him mildly, but in the end he had fled. Sure that this had been the end of… whatever this had been, she had agreed to meet Jowan. She was surprised, but not overly so, to know he had been keeping time with a priestess. He had been telling her for some time after all that he had been interested in someone, she was just glad it was not herself as she had half feared. So embarrassed over the Cullen incident she had agreed to help Jowan and Lily. Someone should get a happy ending.

And then Cullen had come to her. Confessed his feelings. Kissed her even. He had left, confused. Determined to do his duties. They had even argued a bit, both heartbroken. But she knew no matter what it was not over.

So she had gone to Irving, agreed to betray her best friend and his love. It pained her to do so, but Irving had been so sure Jowan was a blood mage. Perhaps he would change his mind if she could prove he was not. Irving was not unreasonable. And that Grey Warden, Duncan, she could appeal to him. With a plan in place she had set off in to the forbidden areas.

And that is where everything had blown up, quite literally. How could Jowan have secretly been practicing blood magic all of this time? And yet… clearly he had, there was no doubt about it.

The look on Cullen's face even after it had been revealed that she was working on Irving's orders... all she could do was stare at the floor. She knew she would never return. That this was the end of... whatever they were. She could not even say good bye properly.

Duncan seemed to understand. He looked at her with such steady compassion and told her quietly to gather her things and meet him at the entrance. There was barely time to say good bye to Irving, to thank hi for all he had done, for being the closest thing to a father she had ever had.

Gregoir had started to warn her about some such thing or another at the door. She was pleased and more than a bit smug when Duncan turned to him and said in a very stern voice "You do not give orders to my wardens, Knight Commander, you will find our charter is more than clear on that."

"Yes," Gregoir sneered "It is well known that Grey Wardens have been known to harbor blood mages in their ranks."

"There are worse things than blood mages in the Korcari Wilds Gregoir, and I and my Warden recruit need to be on our way to deal with them, you are welcome to join us if you would like to leave the safety of your tower to stand by the side of your King to do so. No? Then we shall bid you a nice safe night." Amalya noticed he used the word safe like a curse.

With one last sad look behind her at the only home she had ever known, Amalya Amel gathered her cloak about her and set off with the second man who would in a very short time become a father figure to her.

And he was absolutely correct, there were far worse things than blood mages in the Korcari Wilds.

Dark Spawn being chief among them. To battle those blighted things she would have cheerfully slit both of her wrists and any who said otherwise was a bloody fool. She did get to meet the king. She agreed with Wynne's assessment, he was rather like an eager puppy.

His advisor Teyrn Logain was… something. Taciturn and angry and very suspicious of Grey Wardens.

The joining was terrifying. And gross. Drinking Dark Spawn blood was not even the worst of it. Losing both of the other recruits, Daveth and Jory was just awful. They had been the first friend's she had made outside of the circle. Inside of the circle everyone was trying to one up each other, she had never had friends who could just be … friends. Alistair maybe. He seemed like maybe he wanted to be friendly after she didn't die. It was kind of creepy to think that before that he hadn't wanted to get close in case she ended up dead. Tough life.

And she got to help a mabari. Poor thing. It was nice that it had let her help. They were both kind of misplaced, so she had taken to visiting when she could. Bringing treats.

And everything was pretty, well, pretty terrible really, until the orders to go up and light the damned signal fire.

And then it got really truly terrible. She had never seen anything so horrifying. The army retreated. How could the army retreat? Not that it mattered because by that time, she had been shot so many times she was pretty sure she was going to die and be eaten by that big fucking ogre that burst through the doors after they had lit the fire.

It had amazed her when she woke up and found the witch they had met earlier looking down at her tending her wounds. Morrigan.

And the fact that Morrigan was willing to answer questions. Well, that part was a little less surprising. It was really only Alistair that annoyed her. She and Morrigan had got along just fine. Alistair really had a way of annoying people. He acted awfully imperious for a blasted low ranked grey warden.

"Thank you for helping me, Morrigan she had finally said.

"I… you are welcome, but t'was mother who aided you, I am no healer" Morrigan almost looked shy to have been shown gratitude.

And after that, with Morrigan sent with them though Amalya made certain it was of her own free will, they had set off to form and army to defeat the blight.

The mabari hound she had assisted met up with them very quickly and Amalya was very pleased to see he had survived.

She was able for a time to put Cullen from her mind, but the very first place they stopped was a little town called Lothering where Templars were in attendance. And the first person they picked up was a young ley sister named Leliana. A lovely young woman but both the templars and Leliana reminded her of Cullen.

At least her next companion Sten, a Qunari was nothing like a templar or priest. He amused her greatly and made her feel very safe. Which was odd, considering he made it very clear he thought her lips should be sewn closed for everyone's protection and was a confessed brutal murderer of an entire family.

When she confessed he made her feel safe he merely stared at her. She was not sure if this was a good stare or a bad stare.

He was willing to answer her questions however and told her that he did not mind her quest for knowledge.

Sometimes she was able to answer questions that he found perplexing as well. And when she found out the problem with his missing sword she promised him they would find it. He actually thanked her. He confessed he did not necessarily believe her but he appreciated the words and knew she meant them.

She was in the town of Lotering when she discovered there were problems in Red Cliffe, that Arl Eamon was ill and his knights had been sent out to find the ashes of Andraste to heal him.

It turned out to be quite a bit worse than all of that, and even worse to find out her old friend Jowan had inadvertently helped the Arl's young son set monster's lose on the town and poisoned the Arl and everything just got worse from there because to save him someone was going to have to go into the fade.

They could have sacrificed the Arlessa, but that not only would have damaged their chances with gaining the Arl's help, Alistair didn't seem too keen on the idea either.

Which meant after all this time traveling she would be going back to the Circle. Back to Cullen.

She had never told anyone in her little group about the templar she had left behind. Well, except for Drake, her Mabari, and so far he had kept his own counsel on what he thought about that matter.

She knew she would find trouble at the Circle, but not what the trouble would be.