Dragon Age: Origins/Awakenings belong to BioWare…
Wind and rain attacked the embattled group with increasing ferocity, transforming the road beneath their feet into a slow-moving stream of mud. Their hurried pace had slackened considerably, every step more and more laborious as day became night. Especially dispiriting were the endless piles of mangled bodies left behind in the Horde's wake, strewn carelessly across the countryside. As the bloody sludge clutched at their boots, the constant struggle to keep afoot ripped away what little hope they had left. Sporadic lightning flashed across the darkening sky, momentarily highlighting the twisting, billowing cloud of smoke wafting across the horizon, guiding them to their destination.
Vigil's Keep, once believed to be an nigh-impenetrable sanctuary, was no longer a safe haven. The darkspawn's second invasion of their sacred lair had shown them how relentless, and remorseless, the dark ones truly were. More than likely, they would find her nothing more than a wretched, broken gathering of ancient stone and mortar, streaked with red and black rivulets of blood. The newer Wardens had yet to witness the aftermath of an unchecked darkspawn rampage.
Soldiers, knights, and freemen guarding the Keep would have little choice but to stand against the invasion of the darkspawn horde in the absence of the Wardens. They deserved the greatest praise for facing such formidable opponents, all too aware of the poison in their enemy's blood. The dark army was insatiable in its desire for complete destruction of surface life, bitter hatred the only motivation.
As determined as they were exhausted, the group trudged mindlessly on through the mire, drawing closer to the fortress. The battle to save the City of Amaranthine was over, but the war was not. They had to prepare themselves for the losses, the darkness, ahead.
The Commander of the Grey Wardens momentarily halted in mid-stride. Images of past tragedies flashed through her mind: Highever, Ostagar, Redcliffe, Kinloch Hold, and Denerim. She remembered the horror of facing the darkspawn forces in person and in nightmares - nightmares that these Wardens had not yet been hardened to.
The new Wardens would have to learn of their enemy's ways through trial by fire, as she had, and they soon would come to understand the possibility of sacrificing their own kith, all the time trying to make sense of their own seemingly destructive actions. How else could they learn that the Grey Warden creed was far more crucial to their existence than mere words spoken to remember the fallen? Amaranthine's newest heroes still had to realize that their duty included destroying the blight-inflicted without compassion or hesitation, and one day they would learn of the soulless hatred - the insanity - the tainted blood gave them in the end. Then they would need to make the final choice; become the enemy, or face certain death while killing them.
Her former life of power and prestige had not prepared her for the experience of being a fabled Grey Warden. All that remained from her past life was the understanding of Duty. That which had sustained her throughout the bloody demise of her family, allowed her to walk away from a shattered heart, and finally accept the encroaching death of her soul. Only one in the group understood the depth of her loss, as he had lost even more.
Alas, even duty had its limits, and she could feel the time of her leadership coming to an end. Meeting the eyes of her companions was becoming more and more difficult, the guilt too much to bear.
If only she could have explained what they had to do, how long they had left, and how lonely the next few years would be before they underwent the Joining. As a reluctant Grey Warden herself, she believed the secretive nature of the Joining to be a form of betrayal of their humanity, as well as to their dignity. And now her companions simmered with barely contained rage, desperation, and despair - similar to what she'd felt at her own Joining.
Elissa Cousland glanced at them, sympathy gleaming in her haunted eyes for the briefest of moments, before focusing once more on the road.
Perhaps they were ready, after all.