The Royal Recruit
Duncan paused at the bottom of the winding, stone staircase and looked up. Looming in front of him was the near ruined cathedral the templars had taken to use as their monastery. Inside, many young men were being trained to become at templar, to dedicate his life to keeping the mages within chantry law. Duncan had met many a mage, some he considered good friends, and still others he knew as bitter enemies. But they all had one thing in common—they were people and not slaves to be carefully watched by the Chantry.
But he was not here to argue mage rights. As he started up the stairs, a long trek indeed, he was bombarded by memories.
The small woman next to him was silent, contemplating…worried. One would have thought her human, the babe wrapped in her arms was so, but the point to her ears gave her away as an elf. She held the newborn boy protectively, as though she expected to lose him at any moment. The baby was not worried. He slept soundly, undisturbed by the wind that ruffled the tuft of tawny blond hair on his little head.
"Duncan?" the elven mage inquired. Her voice was quiet though there was no one else on the caravan that would overhear them. The driver was too occupied with leading his horses, the old man's ears filled with the clicking and clopping of the hooves.
"Fiona?" Duncan mimicked, trying to lighten the mood.
But the mage would not be cheered. "I'm worried about Maric's reaction." Her eyes were tired; she had aged years over the course of one, and her trials were yet finished. "What if he refuses his son?"
"He's a king, he can't," Duncan said with certainty. He knew Maric as a friend, knew he was a good man. He also knew that he loved Fiona.
"He is king, he can't implicate his son's inheritance," Fiona challenged, her own words only cementing the fear she felt in her heart. "Cailan is legitimate. My boy is a…My boy isn't." She couldn't bare to call him what he really was, what he would be raised to be—the bastard son of a king.
Duncan frowned. For a moment he was unsure of what to say. How could he abate her fears? Only Maric could do that. He knew as well as her that the boy's life would not be easy if the people knew what he was. His heritage would have to remain hidden; he would have to be raised as a commoner to keep from meeting a cruel fate. But was it crueler to have royal blood but be treated as nothing more than a commoner?
"Duncan," she said, a new timbre to her voice—anxiety. "Will you do me a favor?" She looked up at him now, boldly meeting his gaze. That was more like the Fiona he knew.
"Anything within my power," he replied, laying a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She was trembling.
"Will you look out for him? My son?"
Duncan was taken aback. He was also very touched that she would trust him with this. They had not known each other for very long, but they had gone through more together than most people went through in their entire life time. They had grown as close as any two people possibly could. "But won't you keep him?" He knew after he asked this question that he should not have spoken.
Fiona clutched the child to her tightly, causing him to awake and begin to cry from frustration. She began to rock him, soothing him with a quiet voice. Once he had settled back into sleep, she answered. "I have to return to the Circle. I can't bring him with me." Her voice cracked and she swallowed hard.
Duncan's heart went out to her, and he did the only thing he could to put her at ease.
"I will look after him. No matter what."
King Maric had done as Fiona predicted. He couldn't claim the boy, not when his grasp on the throne was still loose and greased by the Orlesians. But he did take responsibility. The boy was raised by his brother-in-law, the Arl of Redcliffe, Eamon. When he was old enough, he was sent to the chantry to become a templar. He wasn't told until he was set to leave that his blood was not that of any other Ferelden. It had been much debated whether he should be told or not, but finally Maric and Eamon came to the decision that it was best that he knew, not to be surprised later—there was no telling who could know.
But Duncan would not allow him to be given a lyrium addiction and possible God complex. He had more than just Fiona's promise to uphold.
Maric paced the length of his privy chamber, his arms clasped tightly behind his back. After a long silence he turned to look at Duncan.
"Will he become a Grey Warden?"
Duncan was unsure how to answer. It was too soon to tell. He may show magical ability, in which case he would be sent to the Circle of Magi to be educated. After all, his mother was an adept mage. His mother was also a good Grey Warden who had survived the taint, one who would not meet the Calling. His father had a long, pure Royal bloodline that had survived two long tours of the tainted Deep Roads. He had as good a chance as any to become a Grey Warden, if not better.
"I can't say. There is a good chance of that."
Maric nodded, looking as though he had already known the answer. He regarded the Grey Wardens highly. After all, he had reestablished their order in Fereldan. Still, he also knew of the dangers it meant to become a member of the order.
"If he does, will you watch over him? Watch over him as I would, as I wish I could do."
Duncan had promised the boy's mother and his father to protect him and guide him. He had reassured his father on his death bed, and kept the secret from Cailan. His mother had long ago fallen out of contact with everyone and he had no way of knowing if she still lived.
Now he had to guide the boy; had to guide him straight to certain death. But he was needed. He was certain a Blight was coming, he could feel it deep in his bones. He could also feel that his Calling was approaching, and the order of the Grey Wardens was already very thin in Fereldan. He needed recruits, ones that would survive the Joining.
He told the head templar of his intentions. After some arguing, he was taken and left in front of the chamber that the boy shared with others. He told, very directly, to only speak to the boy and to take whatever answer he received and left. The templars were not eager to part with any of their generous numbers.
He knocked. He waited.
The door opened to reveal not a boy, but a man. He was grown and carried himself like his father. His shoulders were set and wide. His hair color was still the same tawny color that was darker than Cailan's. His eyes were blue, like his father's and like his half-brother's. He was tall, and gave the impression that he was a friendly young man. All-in-all, he was a fine example of the Theirin bloodline.
Duncan didn't see a shred of Fiona in him. It almost made him sad, to think that her legacy would not live on in her only child. But that was usually the case with elf and human offspring. The offspring's blood was purely human, and apparently all of this boy's dominant traits had come from Maric. A king in body and spirit.
Duncan smiled at him, though a bit sadly. "Hello, Alistair. My name is Duncan, a Grey Warden."
Author's Note: I wrote this under the assumption that Fiona, the elf mage from the book The Calling, was Alistair's mother. I certainly feel that the evidence for it is near irrefutable.