She's six years old when she casts her first spell.

Well, not her first spell, technically, but the first one she cast on purpose and that's what counts.

She had been slightly afraid of her developing powers, until she casts that spell and the magic just feels so wonderful and right, and its part of everything she is.

The Tower is truly her home now.

When she's six years old, victory is cold in the palm of her hand and makes her feel warm inside.

She's a loyal daughter of the Circle.

So when Jowen confides in her, she goes to Irving. She always has. She can't imagine doing anything else.

She does her duty to the Circle by betraying her friend. Her guilt doesn't fade even when it turns out that Jowen actually was a Blood Mage. Irving is pleased at her success; although he's lost a mage, the Chantry has lost an initiate too, and that satisfies him.

For her service she gets a reward she's not sure she wants. She's recruited into the Grey Wardens and allowed to leave the Tower forever.

Victory should feel like betrayal, and it does later. But standing by the door of the Tower, with the wind cold against her skin and lifting her hair, victory feels like nothing but freedom.

Her head is pounding and she is spattered in the blood of a man who was briefly her comrade.

The Joining is over. She's a Grey Warden now.

When Alistair helps her to her feet she smiles at him, choosing to ignore the terrible dreams that linger at the edge of her memory.

Victory tastes bitter in her mouth, and feels like fire through her veins, and she's fiercely glad that she survived.

She's never commanded a force before Redcliffe (her mismatched group of vagabonds and their pet dog don't really count as a force), but some things just seem obvious to her.

People can't fight without the right equipment. People can't fight without comrades. People can't fight without any hope of victory.

Of course, a little Antivan courage doesn't hurt anything. She'd be tempted to join in if she hadn't already discovered that magic and alcohol don't mix.

The battle that night is unclear in her mind, muddled memories of darkness and death, wave after wave of horrors driven back, the fire and lightning from her fingers reflected in blades of the soldiers surrounding her.

The night seems to go on forever, yet morning finally comes. When it does, she realises that Redcliffe has not lost another person. They've all survived.

That morning, victory is the cheers of relief from the townspeople, and the heavy, ugly helm she holds between her hands.

Sometimes, it surprises her to remember there was a time in her life when she didn't know Alistair.

They cling to each other, and have done ever since the Tower of Ishal. They are the last of the Wardens, and neither of them want to fight the Blight alone.

It soon becomes more than that though. They fight together, and laugh together, and soon they are everything to each other, comrades and friends and lovers. He is her shield, against the Darkspawn and against the fears and doubts that assail her.

She thinks that all this darkness is almost worth it, as without it, they would have never met. He feels the same way. She wears his rose proudly in her hair.

Victory is his heartbeat underneath her ear as she sleeps. For the first time, she feels as if all her victories have earned her a reward she truly wants.

The search for the Ashes is finally over.

After the cold, the battles with cultists and dragons, the riddles, facing the memory that haunted her, the bridge, and the fire, the Urn is almost a letdown.

Until she takes a pinch of the Ashes. There is a sense of relief, they will be able to heal the Arl and get his aid in uniting Fereldan. But more than that, there is a sense of something other, something vast and holy and kind.

Victory resounds like a hymn in her ears, and for the first time, she thinks that there might be something there to believe in.

She's never fought a battle like this before, one where words are more important than spells or steel.

It's longer and more draining that most other battles too. The High Dragon was nothing compared to the Landsmeet, and it was far easier to defeat.

But they succeed, despite the odds. Alistair is king. Loghain is dead.

And it's a victory for Fereldan, a great victory. A traitor and tyrant is overthrown and honourable king is gained. It's a day she knows that history will remember forever.

She knows it's a victory but she can't feel it, not over the sadness in Alistair's eyes, or the pain of her own heart breaking within her chest.

The archdemon is dead, its fire quenched, its hordes scattered.

They've won. The Blight is over. Her army is cheering far below her.

But she was not the one who struck the final blow. She is the one left behind.

Victory is cradled lifelessly in her lap and feels like defeat.

A/N: My contribution to the weekly challenge over at Swooping is Bad on LJ.

Reviews are always welcome!