Neria Surana was annoyed. She'd been annoyed for over four years. Ever since she'd passed her harrowing to be exact. Helping Jowan to escape had not endeared her to Gregior and the First Enchanter and although she'd worked hard to make up for her single stupid - possibly catastrophic mistake she still wasn't being trusted with anything beyond the simplest of tasks. There was no question of her being allowed out of the tower. Even when the wardens needed help against the archdemon she'd been left behind to look after the children - despite having the best range of offensive spells of any mage her age in the Tower.

If it wasn't for the fact that nearly every day she had to see Jowan - as a tranquil - helping in the storeroom, or cataloguing runes she would have wished the worst punishment on him she could think of.

As it was, he'd already got it.

When the grey wardens arrived for their yearly "sort" as Senior Enchanter Torin called it, she fully expected to be shunted off to the storeroom again the way she had been the previous two years. Instead, she was woken that morning by the First Enchanter.

She'd given up getting up early. The other mages in her dormitory left her alone in the mornings. They left her alone most of the time. Although she'd never exactly been popular before the Jowan incident, she'd been respected and had a few friends. That had changed. Nowadays she could get through an entire day without talking to any of them.

So she would stay up late, taking delight in tormenting her personal templar (Cullen, most of the time, although sometimes even he begged off in despair) by staying up as late as possible and sleeping past breakfast. They couldn't make her tranquil. They couldn't brand her as a malificar - sweet Andraste, hadn't she been one of the ones to warn Wynne and the others about Uldred's little subversion project? So she'd given up trying to make up for her mistakes. If they weren't going to trust her, she wasn't going to be their dogsbody.

Why was Irving here? She sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes and mussing her black hair.

"Neria," he said, and the tone he used was the same he had back in the days when she had been his pet apprentice. It only made her more bitter.


He sighed. "Neria the Grey Wardens coming today."

"So I expect you want to lock me up with Jowan and Owain again?"

"No, my dear," he said. "I think it's finally time that you joined them."

There were three of them. A dwarf and two humans. One of the humans was a man who looked strangely familiar - not surprising since he was a mage. But she couldn't place his name, which was strange. It meant he'd almost certainly left the tower before her harrowing, but he looked too young to have been assigned away and he couldn't have been conscripted into the wardens before the blight...

....Then he would be dead.

"Why would I want her?" the dwarf was saying to Irving. "You said yourself she's undisciplined. I don't need wardens who can't follow orders."

The warden mage seemed to find this comment particularly amusing and the dwarf shot him a look that plainly spoke volumes about who would be needing discipline later.

"Neria is the most talented mage in the circle at present," Irving was saying. "But I'm ashamed to say that our goals do not coincide. There was an unfortunate incident some years ago that has... destroyed any trust between us."

The mage cocked his eyebrow. "Now there's a surprise," he said dryly.

"Much like you, Anders," Irving said sharply. "And I'm sure you'll agree you don't want Neria to have the same experiences you had with us before your departure."

"Oh, why not?" he replied, rolling his brown eyes dramatically. "They were ever so character building."

Irving groaned and the mage... Anders... smirked. She remembered him now. A few years older than she, he had spent nearly all of his time at the tower in solitary confinement. Or absent. Without leave.

"Commander," the other human, a tall dark haired man with a serious face. "A word?"

The three wardens moved away from her and the First Enchanter. She tilted her head, glad that most humans forgot how well elves could hear, but they were frustratingly quiet. She caught only a few words - "joining", "useful", "we need", before Anders' voice piped up with "And I'm not that bad!". She hid a grin behind her hand.

"Very well," the Commander said when they turned back to her. "We'll take her back to the Vigil with us. But she will be tested before we accept her as a warden - as will the others."

"What will happen to me if I'm not found worthy?" she asked.

"You'll come back to the tower," the dark haired man said.

"Or you'll die," Anders added cheerily. He winked at her. "I know which I'd prefer."