With Noble Intent

Prologue

Josslyn Amell was not supposed to go with Duncan of the Grey Wardens. She was, in fact, supposed to take up duties as an Enchanter, being a woman of twenty-seven, a mage of uncanny, if somewhat lackadaisical, skill. Children loved and obeyed her and the Senior Enchanters thought it was the safest place for her, with one exception. Wynne thought it was a very dangerous idea. She thought Josslyn should stay in the research laboratory where the only thing she was likely to hurt was the odd rat or two.

Joss, as she was called by her friends, was a practical joker and found humor in almost any situation. When she couldn't find it, she created it. Senior Enchanter Torres called her Pepper whenever he saw her, a reference to the pepper she had laced the apple tarts with one evening. Knight Commander Greagoir had turned a stunning shade of red as he choked on the tarts and provided a very entertaining few moments as he gulped copious amounts of water.

Senior Enchanter Sweeny insisted she was his long lost daughter, although Josslyn thought she was more likely to be his granddaughter, given his age. But he had been quite a prankster in his youth and he was always giving her advice on how to pull off the best pranks. He particularly enjoyed anything to do with fire, which worried Joss just a bit.

Niall once called her a Red Haired Witch, which was not technically true. Her hair was a rich auburn color. His, however, had mysteriously turned red after that. A sizzling, fiery red. Apparently some miscreant had put dye in his shampoo. It was months before his hair regained its natural dark brown gloss. Months in which Joss snickered every time she passed by him.

Alim Surana, the mage recruit that Duncan had chosen to join the ranks of the Grey Wardens, had the misfortune of dying while helping another mage escape. He had tried using a new spell and it had backfired, causing him to go up in a ball of pink tinted fire and smoke, according to a very distraught Lily, an initiate who had witnessed it while trying to escape with her lover, a blood mage named Jowan. Nobody ever learned what the spell was or where he had learned it but Jowan had come running out of the Repository, eyes wild, right into the waiting hands of Knight Commander Greagoir and his bevy of brave templars. A fiasco ensued wherein Lily was sent to Aeonar and Jowan escaped as the templars all took a brief nap. It was not a glorious day for the Circle of Magi or the templars. Knight Commander Greagoir was most unhappy.

Josslyn was talking with Cullen when the commotion reached them. They had been discussing the ink splotches on her face, or rather she had been explaining them and he had been stammering about the shape of one in particular that reminded him a bit of a mabari. Cullen, being as bashful as a newly married virgin, couldn't bring himself to wipe the offending ink off until she handed him a cloth. Apparently touching her bare skin was a mortal sin. When they heard that Jowan was a blood mage and had escaped after destroying his phylactery, Cullen had taken a very large step away from her, stammering that he had duties to see to and c-c-c-could s-s-s-she please excuse h-h-him. Josslyn liked Cullen, thought he was as sweet as cream and twice as thick. She watched him take his very hurried leave with a pert smile. He was adorable in the way that puppies, kittens and babies were adorable. Wonderful to play with, hell to take care of.

With his favorite mage no longer among the living, Irving cast about for someone to take Alim's place that would help save the circle's reputation and finally called a young apprentice to go in search of Josslyn. She would do very nicely. She was brilliant, if a bit eccentric. She was strong, if a bit laid back. She was cheerful, if a bit of a prankster. She was dedicated, if a bit absent-minded. She was…Josslyn…and that was all that could be said on the subject.

And so it was through Alim's misfortune that Josslyn Winifred Amell came to be a Grey Warden. She was ambivalent about her new career but willing enough to go out in the world and help slay dragons or whatever it was Duncan kept babbling on about. She thought Duncan was a nice enough man, though he didn't have much of a sense of humor, always nattering on about darkspawn and duty.

When she sent the fireball into the pile of wood to set the wood ablaze their first night in camp she'd no idea Duncan was about to lean down and blow on the fire. It seemed to her a rather convoluted way to start a fire with a mage in attendance. She reassured him that his eyebrows would grow back quickly and his singed beard just needed a bit of trimming to make it look even. He stroked his uneven beard and sighed and then tried once more to explain what fighting the darkspawn was like and what was expected of her.

"Whoa, wait," Josslyn said, holding her hand up. "Go back to the part where there's a ritual. Not one of those dead of night, blood drinking, sacrifice a goat rituals, right?"

She gave Duncan credit for trying to keep his face neutral but his left eyebrow, or what was left of it, rose at her remark. Joss sighed. "Hope it's not the goat thing, I'm not fond of animals."

Poor Duncan. Joss couldn't help but feel the tiniest bit sorry for him. He'd come to the tower for a serious battlemage and wound up with her. She was a great mage, had some awesome skills, could read Arcanum, heal when necessary, make health potions from hay and dirty socks if needed and cook a very palatable lambless stew.

She could not, however, stand bugs or creepy crawly things, hated the slithering sounds that seemed to grow louder as their first night in camp wore on and was at a loss to explain how the raccoon ended up in bed with her and why it was now dead and encased in a block of ice. Or perhaps, Joss thought, looking at the block of iced raccoon, it had died because it was encased in ice.

Duncan was very good natured about the whole thing. Once he stopped chuckling he kindly offered to dispose of the dead raccoon. Apparently the raccoon was not as dead as they thought. A few minutes later she heard a startled yelp of pain, a few extremely colorful curses involving varies parts of Andraste's anatomy and series of high pitched barking noises.

The scratches were easy enough to heal but Duncan decided since they were both up and the moon was bright they might as well continue on. Joss was happy enough to be on the road again. The sooner they reached somewhere civilized the better. No-one had ever bothered to mention to her that the big yellow orb in the sky actually burned skin. Nobody thought to tell her that traveling in the thin boots with the soft soles that all mages in the tower were issued would lead to blisters the size of sovereigns on her feet if she wore them outside the tower. And why, by Andraste's fat ass, had not one person thought to explain that an insect called a mosquito could leave itchy welts on her skin that no amount of healing could stop? She thought with longing of her soft bed and soft life.

Ostagar was hardly an improvement. All that could be said was that misery loves company and there was certainly plenty of misery. And company to share it with. She met the king, wondering if he had been dropped on his head as an infant because he couldn't understand that fighting an army of monsters might possibly lead to anything other than glory for all. And he caressed her bottom on his way to hide from Teyrn Loghain. She wondered if she could shoot a smidgeon of ice at him and get away with it but decided that the guards walking with him probably would retaliate.

Teyrn Loghain wanted to know if she knew her history on the Grey Wardens and if she was out for glory. She explained that she was not all that happy to be out of the tower and she thought glory was for fools. He laughed in agreement but it wasn't a sound that gave her any sense of comfort or camaraderie. A dry, ironic sound followed by a sarcastic remark about Joss being wiser than she looked which made her send her mildest jolt of lightning into his pretty Chevalier's armor as he entered his tent.

She was chuckling as she walked away, the squawk of surprise and discomfort from Loghain Mac Tir magic to her ears. Barmy. The lot of them. The King, Loghain, the quartermaster who expected her to go hunt down his servants. And Maker's left nut, what was Wynne doing at Ostagar? The only person she wanted to see less than Wynne was that stuck-up prissy prig Uldred.

"Ah, so it is you," Wynne said with a disapproving tsk of her patronizing tongue.

"Wynne, I'm surprised to see you assisting the king's army, given your age," Joss replied with a beatific smile. Wynne's eyes narrowed perceptibly but she kept her smile in place because they were in public and Wynne was all about appearances.

"Yes, I imagine it is a bit difficult to understand duty, dear," the Queen of Mages remarked with pursed lips.

And it went downhill from there. She finally found the Grey Warden that was supposed to teach her the ropes and he was a templar who made Cullen look like a lecherous beast. The first thing he asked was if she was a mage, as if the robes she wore and the staff she carried weren't a dead giveaway.

"No, I wear the robes of a mage because they are the very latest style. I hear even Empress Celene wears them in private," she replied with a bright smile, opening her eyes wide.

"Ha! Good one, I've never heard that before," the templar named Alistair chuckled, looking remarkably, eerily like King Cailan when he did. A by-blow? Possible. Likely. Isn't that was the nobles did?

And because her day was rolling along so well, they were sent out to a place called the Korcari Wilds with a knight who wanted fame and glory and a cutpurse who was interested in more than her purse. She spent as much time evading his hands as she did killing all the nasty creatures that inhabited the mosquito infested swamp.

They went in search of blood for a ritual that smacked of blood magic to Joss which involved killing the most Maker forsaken creatures she could imagine and while they weren't particularly smart, they smelled atrocious and fought like a maiden protecting her virginity.

After watching poor Cutpurse die from the ritual and Knight Idiot refuse the cup and brandish his weapon at Duncan, who struck him down with quick efficiency and real regret, the cup was in her hands. If she'd managed to avoid a Sword of Mercy for the twenty three years she'd lived in the tower, she wasn't about to be skewered by a Grey Warden. Closing her eyes and pinching her nose between her thumb and her forefinger, she took the plunge. Literally.

As she sat up a short time later, healing the large goose egg on the back of her head, she glowered at Duncan. "A pillow would have been nice. Or you might have at least attempted to catch me when I fell," she groused.

Duncan tried hard not to smile and he was mostly successful. "I'll take that under advisement," he said, helping her to her feet.

Templar Alistair was blushing several shades of red and mumbling about the honor of joining the Grey Wardens, so bashful that she felt like blushing for him.

She stood with Duncan, feeling rather cocky and self assured as the King Cailan and Loghain argued about the battle plans. She was confident that no matter what they wanted her to do, she'd be able to handle it. Until she saw Uldred step up and offer his services. Josslyn felt her first tickle of fear. If he was involved in the battle it wasn't going to be all roses and raindrops.

It wasn't. It was the loudest, bloodiest, most brutal thing she'd ever had the misfortune to witness and it changed her in ways she couldn't even begin to comprehend.