Author's Notes: Oh, man, it's good to be back!!! After a year of being away from writing for the public, I've come back, and with a Dragon Age fic to boot! I'm completely new to the fandom (just got the game about a month ago) and have loved it ever since. But I won't fanboy for too long. It's just refreshing to have a new fandom to write in.
This story takes place after the archdemon's defeat and is predominantly about the friendship-turn-relationship between Alistair and male!Amell (human mage), but will also focus on something that intrigued me: using blood magic to try and remove the taint's Calling aspect. After reading something about one of Duncan's contemporaries possibly being free of it, I wanted to fiddle with the idea.
A few quick notes: Despite the way the story may portray it, I am by no means a Morrigan hater! Actually, I chose to portray Amell as having a poor relationship with her solely because I've used her in both my playthroughs. Also, Shale is not a member of the team. But that doesn't mean we won't be seeing her later on down the line.
Please let me know what you think! I love feedback from people. :)
Thayer Amell was the new hero of Ferelden.
So why didn't it feel like it yet?
The day after the archdemon's defeat had gone by in a blur: Anora's honoring speech, the crowd of Fereldans, the feast, the never-ending conversations over drinks…
He lay in his temporary bedroom at Arl Eamon's Estate, thoughts of the future swirling around in his head. What would he do now that the Blight was over? He hadn't the slightest idea. Just over a year ago he had passed his Harrowing—the most important thing in his life. Now, he had gone through more than most did in a lifetime, things that made the Harrowing seem like cherry pie.
Maybe he would travel. He'd lived under the Circle's watch for the majority of his life and had never left Ferelden. The possibilities were endless. Perhaps he would go to Orlais? Antiva? He remembered the many times Leliana had regaled him with stories of Orlais and its beauty, as well as the glances into Antivan society he had gained from Zevran.
Thoughts of his companions made Thayer's mind wander to Morrigan. Agreeing to her ritual had seemed positively outrageous at first, but he'd mostly justified it to himself. He told no one of his actions, of course, only sharing that Morrigan had left and that he didn't plan on following her.
Thayer hoped it was the right decision. He was alive, and as selfish as it sounded, he was glad for that.
Still, a child with the spirit of an Old God…what a strange thought.
He didn't fall asleep until sometime after midnight. Some hours later the rising sun poured in through the window across from his bed, basking him in bright warmth. He stirred, and for a brief moment forgot where he was. This didn't feel like the cold dirt of his tent…
Thayer blinked several times, rubbing at his bleary eyes. His dark brown hair was matted to the left side of his face and his mouth was cotton-dry. He'd not slept well, but he rarely ever did nowadays. As things grew more coherent, he remembered where he was: Arl Eamon's Estate in Denerim.
He supposed if he wanted to he could try sleeping in. There was no longer an urgency to get up and go. The Blight was gone and the archdemon, defeated. If anybody deserved an extra repose, it was he. Still, having grown accustomed to getting up with the sun this last year or so, it was hard to simply roll over and fall back to sleep. Thayer tried, but after about ten minutes of tossing and turning he finally decided to get up and face the day.
Thayer took his time getting ready, bathing and then dressing in a set of comfortable, lightweight robes. He slipped on his shoes by the fireplace where Brutus, his Mabari hound, was sleeping. Oh, to be a dog, Thayer thought. Brutus had seen plenty of battles, and yet he snored away like no tomorrow. He lost no sleep over the lives he'd taken, or the choices he made.
Just as he was about to exit his room he heard footsteps outside it. A knock on the door followed.
"Who is it?" Thayer called.
"It's Alistair. Just checking to see if you're up."
Thayer moved to the door and pulled it open, smiling at his friend standing on the other side. Seeing Alistair dressed in normal clothes as opposed to armor would take some getting used to. "Couldn't sleep in either, could you?"
"Mm, tried, but to no avail. The prospect of breakfast is just too enticing." Alistair smirked. "You coming?"
Thayer nodded. "I'll be there in a minute."
"There'll be food for Brutus, too, so you should wake him up and bring him along. I daresay he'd be upset if he missed out…"
"If I can wake him up. See you down there soon."
The mage watched Alistair walk down the hall, eyes lingering longer than he'd intended. He thought he'd broken the habit but apparently not. Try though he might, squashing the feelings he held for the Champion was nigh impossible. It was a never-ending battle that he'd been fighting ever since Ostagar, where they'd first met.
Thayer had experienced both crushes and lust before. Hell, he'd even been involved in a few romantic encounters with other apprentices. The Circle mages did not discourage such acts, so long as they didn't lead to marriage or progeny. Thankfully, Thayer didn't have to worry about that.
Well, except for Morrigan. But that was a case the Circle didn't know about, and would likely never.
He retreated into his room, reminding himself yet again that it would do him no good to dwell on things he couldn't have. What he felt for Alistair was not fleeting, but now was neither the time nor the place to think about it. Really, there never was.
After rousing Brutus and straightening his hair in the mirror, Thayer wandered out into the expansive corridor, heading for the mess hall.
Alistair, Zevran, Leliana, Oghren, Wynne, Arl Eamon and several other guests were all seated around the long, ornately decorated table that rested in the middle of the mess hall. The air was ripe with delectable scents, and Thayer's stomach growled in anticipation. He took his seat between Alistair and Wynne, sending a greeting around the table to all those present.
Two usual faces were missing: Morrigan and Sten. The first he'd expected; the second, not so much.
"Where's Sten?" he asked.
"He is nowhere to be found," Zevran explained. "When I woke up this morning, his bed was empty and all of his equipment gone. My guess? He's gone back to his homeland."
"He had briefly mentioned returning at the ceremony yesterday," Wynne stated. She stirred some eggs around on her plate.
"I remember speaking with him about it, but I didn't think he meant to leave so soon." Thayer pursed his lips. He and Sten weren't particularly close, but they had fought a few battles together, namely those at Redcliffe before Arl Eamon had recovered. He thought that would at least warrant a proper goodbye.
"The Qunari are strange," Alistair said. "Sten is no exception. He probably wanted to avoid goodbyes."
"Eh, good riddance," Oghren grunted. He took a heavy swig of his pewter stein. "He was a pill. So was that witch, Morrigan. M'glad she's gone."
There was a murmuring consensus around the table, though more for Morrigan's departure than for Sten's. Nobody had liked her, or had grown close to her. In truth, her abilities were the only reason why Thayer hadn't asked her to leave. Her understanding and manipulation of entropy and shape shifting complemented his primal, elemental abilities, as well as Wynne's creative and spiritual magic. All three had learned from each other and strengthened one another's skills. The knowledge he gained was well worth dealing with her abrasive personality.
Arl Eamon cleared his throat and raised his goblet. "I would like you all to know that you're welcome to stay as long as you need. As defenders of Denerim, you've earned your place." He turned toward Thayer. "So, have you given any thought as to what you plan to do now that you've defeated the Blight?"
Thayer nodded. Queen Anora had asked him the same question yesterday, which had prompted his thoughts from the night before. "I think I may travel. I've never been outside of Ferelden, and both Leliana and Zevran have piqued my interests with their tales of Orlais and Antiva."
Zevran swallowed roughly. He appeared surprised. "You aren't seriously thinking of going to Antiva, are you?"
Thayer laughed. "Probably not. The Crows probably want me dead, after all. But Orlais…"
He glanced down the table at Leliana, who had a distant look in her eyes. She had mentioned wanting to go back since having dealt with Marjolaine, the reason for her leaving in the first place.
"Now, Orlais I can handle…" Zevran tapped his chin. "Beautiful women, beautiful men, wonderful food, good quality boots…my kind of place."
"And we could meet up with the Grey Wardens if we went there," Alistair commented.
"We?" Thayer looked to his left at his friend.
"You don't seriously think I'd let you go to Orlais by yourself, do you?" Alistair snorted. "I mean, I know you're the hero of Ferelden and all and can handle yourself, but there's a lot of opportunity for us there to help rebuild the Grey Wardens. I'd be mad not to go with you." He paused to chew on some bread. "You don't mind, right?"
"Of course not," the mage replied. He swallowed.
Part of him thought that traveling away from Alistair would help him move on from the feelings he harbored, so inviting him along seemed counterproductive. But he couldn't tell his friend no, not without hurting his feelings. Thayer hated guilt.
Leliana sighed wistfully. "It would be nice to see Orlais again. Especially now that I don't have to worry about Marjolaine and her followers…"
Thayer had planned on traveling alone; exploring the other nations and just enjoying what time he had left. Now he had Alistair, Leliana and Zevran along for the ride. He had mixed feelings about the idea, though for no concrete reason. He was tempted to ask Wynne and Oghren to join them, but he knew both of them had important things to attend to. Wynne especially, as First Enchanter Irving had asked her to take over his position, and she had accepted.
Thayer glanced across the table at Oghren. "Oghren, what are you going to do now that the Blight is over?"
The dwarf stroked his thick, red beard a few times. "Might just continue to wander. Got an offer to join the human forces as a general." He nodded to Arl Eamon. "Sure as hell ain't goin' back to Orzammar. Bhelen would have my head, and if I go into the Deep Roads, I'm gonna try and bring Branka down. Prolly best for me to just stick around here."
That made sense. Thayer remembered talking with Oghren after they found Branka. He couldn't imagine how seeing her must have felt, especially when she had cast him aside in favor of the Anvil of the Void. To love someone and then watch them fall from grace and drown in madness…he didn't know how Oghren handled it.
"Arl Eamon's men will be lucky to have you," Alistair said.
Idle chatter continued throughout breakfast, and one by one each person pulled away from the table for a variety of reasons. In the end it was only Thayer, Alistair and Arl Eamon. Alistair was still eating heartily while Arl Eamon spoke with a servant about cleaning up breakfast.
Thayer had been nursing the same goblet of juice throughout the entire meal. It felt tepid against his lips, but he didn't ask for any more. His mind was lost in thought.
When was he going to go, he wondered? Orlais was considerably far away; travel would take a while even with infrequent stops for rest. They would not only have to cross the Frostback Mountains but also the Dales and the Heartlands. Thayer could only guess as to what they'd come across along the way.
As he stood up and excused himself, so did Alistair. Thayer stepped into the hall with his fellow Grey Warden by his side.
"Listen, can I talk to you?" Alistair asked. He was fidgety, antsy—it made Thayer uneasy.
Alistair glanced from side to side, and Thayer naturally did the same. Nobody was in sight. "I wanted to ask you about…Morrigan."
Thayer's heart fell into his stomach. "What about her?"
"I'm not stupid. I know something is up. And I know it had to do with her. Come on, let's go back to my room."
He'd wanted to hear those words for a long time. If only they were under a better pretext.
Thayer followed Alistair up the steps in the main hall and down the corridor that led to their bedrooms. Once they were inside Alistair shut the door behind them, turning to look at his friend.
"Take a seat."
The mage swallowed. Alistair was surely going to ask how he'd survived, and he deserved to know. Still, Thayer wished on some level that they would never have to have this conversation.
He sat in the large armchair by the fireplace, not even feigning innocence. He was already caught, so to speak. "So, go ahead."
Alistair paced back and forth for a moment in front of the fireplace before he looked at Thayer. He scratched the side of his head. "You should've died."
"Well, that's nice of you to say." Thayer frowned. "That wishful thinking, or…?"
"No, no. You know what I mean." Alistair waved his hand dismissively. "With the taint and all that. What Riordan told us? You dealt the final blow to the Archdemon, and it will kill you. But it didn't."
The way he paused was clearly a sign for Thayer to fill in with the 'how'. Something held his tongue. He realized it was fear. What would Alistair say when he found out what he had done in order to save his own life?
"Well, what? You're the one who wants to know. Ask your question, Alistair."
Alistair, clearly baffled by his friend's frankness, folded his arms over his chest. "I saw Morrigan go into your room the night before the battle. She didn't come out for a while. I know you two weren't having a heart-to-heart, because I know you didn't get along very well. What were you doing?"
This was it, Thayer thought. The question had been posed, and he could either lie through his teeth or be honest.
"Morrigan and I had sex," Thayer said simply.
"W-What? You two had what? Wait."
"You heard me correctly. We had sex."
Alistair remained silent for a moment. His expression gradually transformed from surprise to disgust. "Why? Why would you sleep with her? That's like…I don't even know what that's like!"
"Believe me, it wasn't for recreational purposes."
"Then why?" Alistair pressed.
Thayer sighed. "Because…she proposed an alternative to death."
"What, did she say that by having sex with her the archdemon wouldn't want your spirit?"
"No, no, nothing like that." Thayer shook his head.
"She…performed a ritual to conceive a child that would attract the archdemon's essence."
Alistair looked confused, and with good reason. "Conceiving a child when you have the taint is almost impossible. But that aside, why would you do that to a child? Won't it—"
"No. Morrigan assured me that the child won't be evil. But it will bear the taint."
Suddenly Thayer felt guilty—guilty for condemning a child to a life of only thirty years; of condemning a child to life without any knowledge of its father; to a life with a mother who would do Maker knew what with its talents.
He ran a hand down his face.
"Thayer, why would you—" Alistair didn't finish his sentence. He just shook his head. "So this child will, what, have the essence of the archdemon inside of it?"
"Not the archdemon—an old god." Thayer finally stared up at Alistair for more than a second or two. He remembered one more thing she told him. "This is assuming the child survives."
Alistair laughed. At first Thayer couldn't believe it, but he quickly registered it as incredulity.
"I guess we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?"
"It's for the best, Alistair." Thayer stood, staring his friend in the eyes. He didn't like the way Alistair was looking at him—like he didn't know him. He spoke quietly. "You know I wouldn't have done it if it weren't. Had I not, you'd be all alone right now. I didn't want you to bear the burden alone. Leliana, Oghren, Zevran, Wynne…none of them understand what you and I have gone through as Wardens."
"…Yeah, you're right. I couldn't imagine the Grey Wardens without you, let alone trying to rebuild them." The warrior sighed heavily. Thayer could tell he was weighing the situation. "Well," he finally said, rubbing his eyes, "I just wanted to know for sure. Now that I do, I'm not sure what we should tell the other Wardens."
"The truth?" Thayer joked. Alistair's glare made him cringe. "Okay, maybe not. We could tell them I was spared for some…reason or another."
"Part of me wishes we could lie and say Riordan killed the archdemon, but word will spread and people will know of your exploits soon enough." He paused. "We don't want to get on the wrong side of the Orlesian Wardens."
"We've got time to figure it out. I don't plan on leaving right away. Plus, the Orlesian Wardens are likely in no hurry to meet up with us…"
"You've got a point."
"Was that all?"
Alistair fell silent again. The corners of his mouth curled into a smile, and he gripped Thayer's shoulder firmly.
"For what it's worth, I'm glad you're still here. Things wouldn't be the same without my brother Warden."
Thayer smiled, enjoying the warmth that came from Alistair's words while it lasted.
It wouldn't be long before it was replaced with cold, repressed longing.
. . . . .
Thayer lay in bed that night thinking about the Grey Wardens.
He and Alistair truly were the last of the Ferelden order. Upon their shoulders lay the burden of rebuilding the group. But in order to do that they would first need to learn how to perform the Joining. Alistair readily admitted that he had no idea, having only participated before. And Thayer…well, he hadn't the faintest clue, either.
It was probably for the best that they were traveling to Orlais together. Should something happen to either of them, then at least there would be another who could rebuild the order.
Thayer wrinkled up his nose and rolled over atop his bed. Now came all of the questions: when would be best to leave? Who all would be coming along? How would they get there safely? What would they need to take?
This would an adventure, just like his trek around Ferelden invoking the Grey Warden treaties with the elves and dwarves. Only this time, the darkspawn were at bay in the Deep Roads with no archdemon to guide them. And Thayer would know—the taint in his blood gave him no prophetic dreams.
The darkspawn taint.
If only he'd known before what he knew now….
Most times, Thayer had been far too distracted with other goings on to really think about it. But now that the Blight was over, he was faced with his inevitable mortality. He had thirty years, give or take, before he would experience what Alistair had described as 'the Calling'—an inexplicable drawing to the Deep Roads to battle darkspawn until his death. Living life with that kind of morbid end wasn't appealing to him, particularly since he was a mage who'd just now begun to experience the world outside of the Circle.
There had to be some way around the limited time…some way to extend the lifespan beyond the Calling.
Nonsense, Thayer's rational side protested. If there were, the Grey Wardens would have found it by now. There would be no need to them to even talk about the Calling if they could avoid it.
He hated being told there was no way. It felt as if others were trying to box him in. Maybe it was just in his personality, but Thayer Amell had never been content with accepting things just the way they were. He always had to try his hand at them.
There was something they were missing. He was sure of it.
Thayer slowly drifted off to sleep with that thought in mind.