The first time he sees her, he is struck by how tall she is. He somehow expected a mage to be much shorter. But as she stutters out a name, barely meeting his eyes, he realises that she might just be full of surprises to buck the stereotype in his mind.
The situation is grave, and there is little time for pleasantries. He quells the momentary joy in his heart at the sight of Alistair, alive and well and seemingly quite content – though he is not completely blind to the shadows of grief behind those too-old eyes – and instead looks to the awkward leader of the group, thin and pale and terribly shy. He wonders how she has inspired their dedication, so unwilling a leader.
In the night, they come in their masses. He sees nothing, of course – the defences hold, and although Murdock and the pub landlord perish, their losses are surprisingly few, and he spies a strength in her group kept taught and held together by her, like a tapestry. There is a fire in her eyes as they discuss storming the castle, and although she readily agrees to every suggestion made by Alistair, he has a feeling that once she is in the fray he will be at her command.
But when Isolde turns up, he sees something completely new in her – her curt questions and quick assessments seem almost comfortable on her, the scepticism at Isolde's obvious half-truths a revelation in comparison to the meek and subservient girl who only a moment ago was still deferring to the man at her side. His path forward is clear, and he pulls her aside to explain that he is collateral, always, and for a moment she wants to disagree, the unspoken promise of safety in her eyes. He smiles at that, before heading after his sister-in-law.
He remembers little after entering the keep; a vague feeling of chastisement and a lot of achey muscles is all that lingers, and then cuts and bruises from fighting Ser Perth and the mage. That he does remember.. the tone of command in her voice, and the look of determination as she holds him within a prison, intent on keeping him safe until the spell breaks. As he falls to his knees, it is Isolde who reaches for him, and he pushes away the disappointment in his stomach as he seeks out her eyes, that promise very much kept.
And then the mage Jowan steps forward, and she is back to being subservient and meek, whilst he cannot quite reach her eyes. Teagan is surprised to see a connection between the two – he had helped destroy everything, whilst she was part of the solution – but at the same time, there was a strange sense of inevitability around them. He dismisses the talk of blood magic, and is glad when she does the same, a stern look in Jowan's direction. After a moment's discussion with Alistair, she nods simply, before agreeing to go to the Circle, although there is a look of worry about her, and as she sends the bard back to their camp, he takes her aside for a moment, smiling slightly.
"I am honoured that you are worried about us, but we can contain him, for a time." She hesitates, but nods assent, her fingers light on his arm.
"Use Jowan. He will do as you say." She scurries away, almost hiding behind Alistair as they pass the bloodmage, and he catches himself touching his arm, almost laughing as he strides up to Ser Perth to discuss their new strategy.
The next week is hell.
On the seventh day, they return on the ferry, and she is asleep in the First Enchanter's lap, something that despite his own weariness he cannot help but smile at. As she stirs, Alistair talks, explaining some of the events at the Tower, and his eyes widen at what that small band of people have had to overcome just to save Connor. She smiles nervously up at him as she takes his hand, and he pulls her out of the boat and into his arms, holding her close for a moment with whispered thanks. He feels her blush against his neck, but then she is all business, helping Irving out of the boat and taking the mage Wynne's arm as they head up to the castle. Behind them, Leliana smiles softly at him, a slight nod of what might have been approval.
The three mages discuss the procedure, and she steps forward to walk in the Fade, of course. He is not in the least bit surprised – he has seen the nature of this woman, who would take on a demon to save anyone else the bother. He is not, however, quite prepared for Alistair standing at the edge of his vision, sword drawn and face bleak. She smiles reassuringly at him, all trust placed on the man who might have been a Templar, before succumbing to the dreams, almost ethereal as she adjusts her stance. The lyrium whips her hair into a frenzy, and she looks out at them all from behind dull eyes, arms expertly controlling the magic spinning out from the two enchanters beside her.
She remains upright for about two hours, and he is sure Isolde is about to snap, to rush off out of Leliana's hold and find her son, but then there is a noise from beyond the door, a yelp of surprise from the guard. In front of them, she drops abruptly, magic dissipating in the air, and the group rally around her, weapons drawn – but the door opens to Connor, bleary-eyed and confused, and as Isolde shrieks with joy, Teagan turns to the woman who had saved them all, despite the odds, rubbing her head as she is pulled to her feet.
"Hello," she says softly, and he bows low to her, grinning.
The smiles do not last long, of course. Eamon is still ill, and Jowan has no idea how to fix it. Even Irving is baffled, but when Isolde speaks of the Ashes in that low urgent voice of the truly desperate, his heart almost breaks to hear her agree.
"It is a fool's chase," he half-whispers, clutching her wrist as they prepare to head out for Denerim. She turns to him, pulling him out of the walkway and into an unused room, and her eyes are strangely bright. He remembers the lyrium, and wonders if she has staked her life and the lives of her followers on a drugged-up promise.
"Do you not believe?" she asks quietly, and he cannot answer, because he does believe, oh so very much – but not in Andraste right now. His belief is wholly on this young girl before him – if anyone could find a cure for Eamon, it would be her, could only be her. She blushes, before pressing a soft kiss to his cheek, leaving behind a whisper of a promise to save the Arl as she heads out into the corridor. He stands for a moment, fingers trailing over that warm cheek, and wonders if he has met the most extraordinary woman in the world. Smiling, he follows her lead and slips out into the bright morning to wish them all well, content in the knowledge that he has, and that she might even come back.
It is another two long months before the guards call out the name of the Grey Wardens, and Teagan and Isolde race to the window, cheering with the soldiers at the sight of the mage and her band of followers. She almost falls down the stairs in her rush, and he slips on a rug, managing to roll and regain his footing; by the time they are face-to-face with the Wardens, they are both red in the face and panting, but they are greeted with hysterical laughs from the pair as they are ushered into the hall.
Within two days, Eamon summons the pair to his chambers, and even his wife is booted out as he talks to them at great length. As the day wears on, food is sent up to them, and eventually the mage appears, hovering at the arl's study door where Teagan has set up residence. He looks up from the report from Rainsfere, smiling.
"Everything alright, dear lady?" She nods, biting her lip. He tilts his head, standing up. "Are you quite sure?"
"Mm, it's just.. strange, to see him awake." She shuffles her feet. "Only really known him to be.. well, asleep." He chuckles softly, beckoning her in.
"Would you tell me of the Ashes? Leliana offered to sing me a tale of your heroics, but I would much rather hear it from your lips."
"O-oh, I'm not much of a singer," she insists, perching on the edge of the desk. He takes her hand softly, leading her around and sitting her on the chair, before kneeling by her arm, smiling.
"And I'm not one for grand tales of noble battles," he admits. "But I'd like to know how you came about finding what has been lost for years, if you've a mind to tell it." She blushes, nodding, and tells him of Haven and Brother Genitivi, watching his reactions as she tells him of the shade of the Guardian, and Jowan's ghost. She teases him with the riddles, and he laughs at his own wrong answers, until they fall into a companionable silence, her hands resting atop his. He smiles gently, and she mirrors him, before looking away.
"What troubles you?" he murmurs.
"I still have so much to do.." She sighs softly. "Not much time for evenings like this." He takes her hands in his, thumbs stroking her fingers softly.
"Then I would ask you to enjoy it whilst you can." She nods, closing her eyes. "But I sense that you would be happier talking out your worries.."
"Eamon intends to make Alistair king," she murmurs, and he hesitates a moment. "I know about his claim, and he seems.. alright with the idea."
"I.. that is surprising," he admits. He had caught that hard edge to the boy upon their return, although it had been fleeting.
"He would be a good king," she acknowledges. "But I'm not sure I'm ready to be the last Grey Warden of Ferelden yet." He smiles.
"Then I shall become one, and you won't be so alone." She whips her head around to stare at him, eyes wide, and he cannot help but laugh. "Would that be so terrible?" There is something in her eyes that sobers him, pain and fear, and she slips out of the chair to sit beside him as her hands rest on his shoulders.
"Please," she whispers. "Don't even think about that. What would Rainsfere do without you?" He blinks, shaking his head slightly as she holds his gaze.
"I.. don't understand. Is your burden so heavy?" A small nod of the head, and she is wrapped in his arms, one hand stroking her hair softly as she sobs quietly. "Oh, my lady, I am so sorry.."
They are gone again the next day, with Eamon supported by Isolde as he waves them off from the hall. She looks up to the small window of the office, waving as he smiles down at her, and then there is nothing but the glint of armour on the horizon as they head into the mountains. Teagan wants to follow her, to head back that way on the premise of going back to Rainsfere, but Eamon is still weak, and he is still needed.
Connor is sent to the Tower, and Isolde's weekly letters are mostly answered. She visits him once a month, always coming back in tears at how much he is growing as they sit to dinner, and Eamon is out daily with the troops, assessing his warriors or tending to the folk who remain in the town. But his brother keeps the castle running in relative silence, mind wandering often to that quiet mage with the world on her shoulders. Eamon stops him just once, asking if he was alright. The listless reply and the glance out of the nearest window discourages any further questions, as he drifts off to tend to the chef's demands, and Eamon smiles slightly before remembering himself. There were certain rules in their society, unspoken but firm, and he realises quickly that Teagan would never be happy under those rules.
Seasons change, and in the harsh winter she arrives quietly. With Alistair and her party in tow, she brings confirmation of her task being completed, and the Arl readies himself for the trials ahead. She looks older, he thinks as they take dinner. Smiling over at him before the meal, Leliana's tales soon enraptures him, and the group scare away the darkness with warmth and good conversation.
He finds her, later. She welcomes him in, a lot less meek and shy, and he smiles to see her growing into herself. Taking the seat by the window, he listens to her stories, of the elves in the forest and the werewolves and their plight, of dwarven politics and men of stone; she tells him of the land, and of the darkspawn, and of the sorry state of Lothering, and by the time she is done he is out of his chair and by her side, her hand tightly kept in his.
"Is the world so dark in our lifetime?" he wonders, and she smiles softly, the faintest of blushes half-lit by the candles.
"There are moments," she murmurs, squeezing his fingers. "Moments of happiness, and safe places where joy still roams."
"Tell me of these places. I would know that people are still happy." She ducks her eyes, that half-smile still on her face.
"Well, I should think that Redcliffe is such a place, is it not?"
"Not as much as you'd think.. for me, at least."
"Have you been so miserable, ser?" He smiles, lifting her chin up to meet her eyes.
"Dear lady, without you there has been little joy in my life, I am afraid to report."
"Then I am sorry to have deprived you," she whispers.
"No fear. Your company now is more than enough compensation." And he presses soft lips to hers, fingers teasing through her hair as he kisses her in the night.
They depart in the morning, and the Landsmeet is dealt with. Teagan rallies the troops of Arl Eamon, in his absence. Life continues, and within the week the call to war is sounded, and the successes reported. The next day, the victorious party returns, and she leaps into his arms, overjoyed at their achievements. He cannot help but smile, even as they prepare to fight, and Alistair sweeps her off on what sounds like grave importance. With a promise to try and return before the night claims them, he whiles away the evening with Eamon, going over tactics and consoling Isolde, who is beside herself with fear – and rightly so, he thinks for a moment. They could all be dead this time tomorrow, and the world overrun in darkness. He thinks of his mage, and falls silent as Isolde cries.
As the night swallows them all, he retires to his room alone, running a hand through his hair as he tugs at the braid. He starts on the buttons and the knock at the door comes. Opening it gently, his arms are suddenly full of trembling mage, and he pulls her inside, sitting her on the bed and drying her eyes.
"My lady, what is wrong?"
"I've just sent my best friend to sleep with a witch," she whispers, and he blinks, completely confused. She shakes her head. "And it's just selfish, really, some half-cooked last attempt to save everyone from dying when really I could just die and everything would be okay."
"A Grey Warden has to die, and it can't be Alistair and I just won't let it be Riordan, but if this ritual works then nobody has to die. It's just.. selfish." He shakes his head, pulling her into a tight hug.
"No, dear lady, it is not selfish to wish to live. Or would you wish me unhappy for the remainder of my days?" It is a cheap shot, but one that will assuage her guilt, he thinks as she shakes her head. Tipping her head back, he kisses her tenderly, before smiling. "Then I would ask you to live, if it is not too much trouble." She finally smiles, running a soft finger through the kinks where his braid had lain.
"I suppose," she murmurs teasingly, before the smile fades and she strokes his cheek. "I hope we all survive. I would like to know you better," she adds. He wants to kiss her again, to lay her on the bed and show her love, but despite their impending doom, he cannot bring himself to it. Instead he holds her, arm wrapping around her waist as sleep evades them, murmuring promises of a future so uncertain.
The call comes in the night, and they are betrayed by fate. The archdemon strikes the city, and they hurry to its defense. There is no time for goodbyes, and before he realises she is out of his sight and off to save the world. He wants to find her, to kiss her before it is too late, but there is not enough time, and he follows the arl into the fray.
The fight is messy – darkspawn, much like the terrible undead they faced in Redcliffe, are fighters to the last, and he finds himself facing down an ogre with five other men. The fight drains him, but as they finally slaughter the beast there is an air of satisfaction around them, if only for a moment. Then they advance, killing more and more.
The bodies pile up around them, mostly darkspawn but they have their own losses to mourn. In the bright of day, the hideous creatures are relentless, the sun beating down on all of them. But they fight well, and by late afternoon, there is a chance for a breath, almost. The small wave of brawlers is dispatched of easily.
Behind them, on the top of the tower, there is an explosion of light, and for a moment, all eyes are fixed on the spectacle. There is silence for a beat, and then the guttural scream of a man afraid. The noise resumes, and Teagan runs, lashing out at darkspawn fleeing the city as he heads for the keep. That scream echoes in his head, the scream of a Grey Warden deathly afraid for his best friend, and a terrible fear that the promises of a future would be unkept.
He reaches them as they stand, and he finds her limp in Alistair's arms. Looking to Wynne and Leliana, speech failing him, he simply clutches her hand, pressing a kiss to her wrist - and in the most satisfying moment of his life so far, she stirs slightly, a faint murmur of a name escaping into the day. He laughs, then – a nervous, thank-filled laugh and finally sinks to the floor, exhausted.
The recovery of the city is slow, but she cares not. King Alistair will fix things, she says often, and he has to agree, simply because the man who used to run around covered in mud in the keep has grown to suit the crown upon his head. He will be kind and just, they both murmur, and she made the right choice.
But when she refuses any sort of a reward, this will not do in the eyes of the king, and he sees to it himself that the mages are rewarded. She openly gapes at the gesture, and Teagan has to lean forward to close her mouth, a wry smile on his face as she blushes. She smiles as he winks at her, letting go of her hand so that she might meet the crowds who wish to honour her, and she leans in to kiss him, the promise of later lingering on his lips as the doors open and the king once again sweeps her out. He grins, before Eamon claps him on the back and hands him something, a broad smile on his face.
"Let me know when you're ready," he says simply, and walks off. Opening his hand, he chuckles slightly as he pockets the ring, heading upstairs to await his lady.