Everything is owned by EA and Bioware. I, unfortunately, own nothing.
It was the day the sun's ray had turned pale
with pity for the suffering of his Maker
when I was caught, and I put up no fight,
my lady, for your lovely eyes had bound me.
It seemed no time to be on guard against
Love's blows; therefore, I went my way
secure and fearless--so, all my misfortunes
began in midst of universal woe.
Love found me altogether disarmed and found the way
was clear to reach my heart down through my eyes
which are now the portal and passageway of tears.
It seems to me it did him little honor
to wound me with his arrow in my state
and not even to show his bow to you, who were armed.
--Petrarch, "Era il giorno ch'al sol si scoloraro"
It was over like it had begun.
They were at the highest point in the highest tower of Denerim. The darkspawn had swarmed Fort Drakon and were climbing every staircase and wall to get to their master. Mages and templars fought side by side to hold the beasts at bay while the Grey Warden and her allies worked to thin the sea of enemies that lay between them and the Archdemon.
The clash of swords reminded the Warden of the first time she had ever tasted battle, when she was still young, naïve and flirting with courtiers in the safety of her father's home. Embittered with her sense of loss, she had taken up her father's sword and shield and fought. Now again filled with loss, she had taken up her own sword and shield and was fighting for the last time. The passion and the resolve she had felt at her first kill was rekindled with each blow her shield absorbed or stroke of her sword arm. This was right; this was good. This was how it was meant to be.
Her keen and experienced eyes surveyed every critical battle point, tirelessly watching out for allies and enemies alike. "Morrigan, watch the left flank!" And so the witch of the wilds did, shifting and spinning and casting with her wild and dark magic. "Dane, mind your paws!" And her little Mabari halted just in time to avoid the grease that one of the darkspawn had thrown. "Wynne, I'm injured!" Wynne's magic passed through a gap in her armor and healed the flesh rendered by an arrow.
So it was that the long night on the tower passed. Commands issued, orders obeyed, magic oozing through the air and the bellowing of one single, piercing scream made the night complete.
The Archdemon had been separated from its flock, and it was now just it and three weary humans and a dog in the final battle. The mages and the templar were busy on the other side of the fortress and while the darkspawn were overwhelming them, they were not going to reach their master in time.
The huge dragon was injured, rotting flesh and singed scales were falling off its body from the magical and mechanical barrage. The great wings on its back had been pierced by the massive ballista it had just now crushed and one eye had been punctured by a stray arrow. Still, the Archdemon was dangerous and a force to be reckoned with. It waited, and it watched. The four were coming close…
The one in the front was the Grey Warden. She smelled like It, but was not It. It did not care about the other three, for the one in front brandished the shining sword and armor. It was a great and powerful wyrm, though It had forgotten much of its past in dark slumber…but It knew that the moment It had awakened for come.
Hot, fiery breath shot from the Archdemon's mouth, and the Grey Warden pulled up her shield. The metal glowed orange from the heat, and warmed the leather bindings of her gloves. She peaked around the edge of it, sword out, and edged forward again.
"Do not take any direct blows from its claws or it will crush you!" yelled Morrigan over the distant din of battle.
"I don't think we have much of a choice!" she yelled back. "Wynne…"
Wynne was casting some sort of shielding charm as she charged, shield held high and sword arm poised to strike. Being smaller than a dragon had many advantages, especially when that dragon was mortally injured. Even in her heavy armor, she was able to twist away from the beast's wrenching claws. Still, she could not entirely avoid being ravaged, as with a great crack her shield arm was shattered by a well-aimed tail swipe.
She screamed in pain and rage, unable to hold up the heavy burden of the Grey Warden's crest. Dane had distracted the Archdemon long enough for her to stagger up and away towards Wynne, shoulders squared resolutely. The Mabari, being much more agile and hearty than his human mistress, evaded the Archdemon's blows at every turn, and its growls and barks were enough to keep its attention.
Wynne was leaning heavily on her staff, "I…I will try."
But the battle had taken its toll on the elder mage, and what little magic she had left to spare was not enough to fix the bones and soothe the flesh. "Morrigan…" Wynne said thickly, "heal her arm."
The Witch looked taken aback, "I…I can not. I was never taught the sort of magic you seek." She spat out a curse. "Do not look at me such; it has never been an issue before. The battle isn't over yet, she can still fight!"
"It will be, very shortly," Wynne tapped her staff against the Warden's arm, casting another cantrip as she did so. "I…that is all I have left."
She nodded her thanks, arm hanging limply by her side, long since having abandoned the idea of holding her shield. Her other hand gripped her sword tightly. "Then that will have to do. Thank you…both of you." She turned back to the Archdemon, who had Dane trapped in the wreckage of the ballista. It was snapping at him with its large jaws, but could not get to him because of the way the great beams and springs were positioned. Dane huddled against the wood, growling and barking, taunting the dragon that was so close to ripping him in two, but also so far away.
Then suddenly the Archdemon was rearing its head back to incinerate the poor dog, when the Grey Warden had the most marvelous idea. She charged headlong at the dragon, her blade at the ready. Iron clad feet rushed across the stone, met one of the huge coils of the ballista, and sprang forward into the air. Never before had the likes of such a daring frontal assault been seen before! Her blade arched and sliced downward as she felt gravity's return. Through tendons and sinew and scale her sword cut, until it had passed through the other side.
The great head of the beast flopped to one side as its neck contorted and then was finally severed by its own weight… and she along side the Archdemon slept with the dreams of those ready for death. The blue light and the screaming, whistling wind of an Old God's ancient power washed over her, through her, in her and spread across the night sky.
The fight was over, and so was she.
Light was coming in through the single window. Her eyes opened, weak and bleary from lack of use. Her tongue and skin both hot and thick with sleep, she struggled forward against the sheets.
She had overslept and had probably missed breakfast. No doubt Nan wouldn't feed her until dinner, so she'd have to resort to begging the cook for some scraps until she relented and made her a special hot breakfast. Oh, how her mouth watered… sausages, bacon, eggs, stewed tomatoes… Her stomach growled! She'd have to go to the kitchen right now…
But as her eyes came into focus, she realized that this wasn't home. Nor was it any place that she recognized at all. There were tapestries on the walls depicting a woman being burnt and great dogs in the middle of a hunt… yes, Andraste and Mabari she recognized individually, but never together in one place. Therefore she wasn't in a chantry (since she knew all the verses in the Chant of Light and never once did the Mabari show up at Andraste's pyre, so obviously this was an artistic representation which would have been scandalous in any chantry outside Orlais). But where was she?
She pulled back the covers and examined herself. The shift she was wearing was white and nondescript. She could feel that it was light and soft against her skin. It looked like it covered her from neck to toe. Prudish.
Kicking the sheets down, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood. She stretched left, then right, feeling a dull ache in her left arm as she did so, and looked for her clothes.
The cabinets contained sheets and various vials and colored tinctures. There was nothing draped over the nearby chairs or resting on the windowsill. Everything wearable here seemed to be bed linen related.
The sound of shuffling skirts and light footsteps were heard on the other side of the door, and she barely had enough time to lower herself back to the bed before two women in pale blue gowns entered. The first had her hair covered by some sort of white silken scarf, while the other had her hair tied back into a neat braid.
"Goodness me!" exclaimed the first to enter, smiling at her with surprisingly white and even teeth. "We leave for a few minutes and you choose that time to awaken!"
"Not a moment too soon, either!" chimed the second with a voice that sounded like birdsong, "for the other Grey Wardens are due to arrive any day now."
She frowned, "the...other Grey Wardens?"
"Why yes, my lady," said the first, "all the way from Orlais! They were…coming to pay their respects, I think, though word has now certainly reached them of the miracle."
"The miracle…" the Grey Warden frowned, "what is the miracle?"
The second one blinked rapidly, taken aback. "You mean…you don't know?"
She shook her head. "Of course not, I just woke up."
"You are the miracle, my dear." The first woman sat beside her on the bed, and pushed a lock of hair from the Grey Warden's face. "I am Elissa, by the way, part of the Circle. This is my apprentice, Winifred. We have been your healers."
And then it all came back to her like a stone sinking into the ocean. She slowly lowered herself back down against her pillows. "I'm supposed to be dead."
Winifred giggled, "Yes, silly, that's the miracle! You're alive. You were the first one to slay an Archdemon and live!"
"And no one died?" she put her hand to her forehead, thinking she must have been delirious with fever.
"Well, plenty died," Elissa said softly, "but that is the nature of battle."
"Alistair…Loghain…they live?" the words from her mouth were tentative, questioning, and mostly unbelieving.
"The King and the General both live, yes." Elissa frowned, pursing her lips in concern. "Though neither of them is happy about the predicament, I am told."
The Grey Warden peaked out from behind her hand. "What do you mean?"
"It is not my place to speak of it, really…" Elissa's eyes darted away from the Grey Warden's face.
But Winifred was happy to explain. "King Alistair is upset that Teyrn, pardon me, General Loghain isn't dead; and General Loghain is upset that he isn't dead either."
She chuckled quietly, "I have a hard time believing that Loghain would be upset. That man is the most pragmatic…" she searched for a good word to describe Loghain, but could not explain him beyond the obvious, "man that I've ever come across."
"King Alistair was in quite an uproar when the templars brought you back, you know," Winifred continued. "They were carrying you on their shields."
"…I was being carried by the templars." She frowned. "Don't tell me that Greagoir was holding point?"
Winifred shook her head. "No, my lady, he was in the rear with your shield and sword. Ser Bryant was in the front, I'm told."
She frowned. Why would the templars of all people carry her broken and battered body down from the battlements? She asked as much.
It was Elissa who gave her the answer she hoped to hear. "Because you weren't dead, and they were not convinced that it wasn't the work of the mages that kept you in a state of undeath. However, they weren't about to nullify your body if that was the case, since no one wanted the responsibility of potentially killing you. Thus they assumed responsibility for your well being initially, before finally relinquishing your care back to the Circle once Greagoir had convinced himself that it was the Maker's will."
"Well, it was the Revered Mother who convinced him, actually," Winifred's giggle was one of delight, "otherwise I don't think he would have ever left your side."
"Purely professional relationship, I assure you."
"Be that as it may, my lady, many people are going to want to see you now that you have awoken hale and whole as before." Elissa's hand wandered over to the Warden's left arm. "This will probably pain you for the rest of your life, but once you have become accustomed to the ache you will learn to ignore it."
The Grey Warden nodded. "I understand. My arm was shattered…I was not quick enough to avoid the Beast's tail. I'm surprised you could fix it."
Elissa smiled. "A well trained healer can fix just about anything, even dark wounds such as yours. Winifred and I were happy to serve the Hero of Ferelden."
"No…don't call me that," she cringed, "that is not fanfare I want."
"Very well then, my lady," Elissa bowed her head in acknowledgement. "I suppose you probably wish to have some freedom?"
She nodded. "Yes, yes I would. A pair of clothes would be lovely, and some shoes…and Ser Dane too."
Winifred hummed in thought. "The first two I can get you easily enough, though I'm afraid we can't let you have any male visitors…"
The Grey Warden colored. "Oh, no no no! Ser Dane… Dane is my Mabari. He…he is well, he is safe?"
"Oh!" Elissa sighed. "Yes, the Mabari. Of course. He's in the kitchens chewing on a bone. That is about all he will do these days. He whines, eats, chews on his bone, and sleeps. He misses his mistress, no doubt."
"And his mistress misses him," the Warden replied with a rueful smile, which was broken by the sound of her stomach gurgling. "And she has missed her breakfast too. I am famished."
Elissa smiled and nodded. "Well, Winifred will fetch you some clothes and we shall all three of us go to the kitchens."
And that was the beginning, perhaps, of the last easy day that our Grey Warden knew.
And as always, a lot of love and thanks goes to my beta, best friend and muse Lady Winde. Without her, there would be nothing.