A/N: So, apparently I enjoy pairing Teagan with socially inappropriate elf-girls. The main pairing will be Teagan/F!Mahariel but will mention previous Tamlen/F!Mahariel and one-sided Alistair/F!Mahariel.
There may also be spoilers for the Witch Hunt DLC
He was lost in the darkness.
It echoed all around him, pounded in his head, crawled through his veins. He was drowning in it, further and further down. He didn't know if he could ever come back from it.
He only had vague recollections of what had happened to him - danger, an attack, then nothing but pain pain pain. It overwhelmed everything, the distant, insistent murmurs he couldn't quite hear as well as the concerned tones of familiar voices. He couldn't focus on what they were saying, but he knew that they were worried and that that should worry him.
Part of him wanted to give into the darkness, let it carry him away into nothingness so that he didn't have to feel or know or try to remember what had happened to him, why he was lost in the first place.
But he knew he couldn't just let go. There was something that he had left undone, something important, even though he couldn't quite remember what it was. When he wasn't overwhelmed by pain he couldn't rest for fretting about it.
He didn't know how long he had been lost before cool, soothing light began to push the edges of the darkness away.
He was suddenly, shockingly aware of two voices close to him. Unfamiliar, one male and one female, debating on whether he could be saved and whether it was even worth trying.
"Velanna. Just do it already," a third voice ordered. He recognised the flat, disinterested tone of the Hero of Fereldan. He could relax then, and let that strange light chase his shadows away.
Whatever he had been worrying about; Teagan knew that there was no longer any cause for concern.
He could leave everything up to her.
She was a savage.
That was his first thought, and one he had much cause to be ashamed of before she left Redcliffe.
But he couldn't help being astonished that Alistair - who was after all a son of a king, albeit an illegitimate one - was taking orders from a elf dressed in leather armour so scanty in wouldn't even pass as underwear in polite society.
Her blood-red hair was twisted into messy braids and her ears were pierced all the way up to the pointed tips, rather than just the lobes in the fashion he was familiar with. Leaf-green eyes, a colour he had never seen on any human, glared at him out of a heavily tattooed face. She couldn't have been anymore blatantly different if she had tried. But she wasn't trying, she was just being herself, and it made him distinctly uncomfortable.
He was reluctant to leave the town to her defence but he was seriously short of options. Her offer of help was nothing more than a curt nod in response to Alistair's pleading; she turned away from him without another word, leaving him staring at the strangely-shaped weapons she wore on her back. She confounded his expectations; she didn't obey commands like the elves he was used to dealing with, she didn't offer reassurances or seem interested in small talk like most women of his acquaintance.
He couldn't help worrying that he had made a big mistake in allowing her to organise their defence. He was proven wrong within half-an-hour, when a lost little boy was firmly escorted back into the building and reunited with his sister. It made him feel a little better that she would take the time to do something so human.
It wasn't until much later, until after the battle in which they had lost only a couple of people instead of the dozens they had grown used to, until she and her party had won their way into the castle and she took the most direct way of dealing with the demon, that his opinion on her changed.
When he awoke, Teagan would have to tell his brother that he had let a wild elf kill his son. He hid his anger. He had left the decision up to her, and he couldn't deny that she had made the most practical, if the most horrific, choice. The Warden had proven herself more than capable and he needed her to at least try to look for the Ashes. He couldn't risk alienating her.
When he looked for the Warden to discuss what little they knew of the location of the Ashes, he found that she was missing. None of her companions had seen her, or at least they would not tell him where she was.
He found her after a while of fruitless searching, sat cross-legged under the largest tree in the castle ground. Her head was in her hands and her warhound was nuzzling at her side, whining anxiously.
He stared at her, still resentful of her position and her choices, but politic enough not to let it show. "My lady? Are you alright?"
She jerked her head upwards to frown at him. Although her tattoos made it hard to read her expression; the look she sent him was disdainful and unfriendly.
"I've just murdered a child." Her voice was bitter. "How do you expect me to feel?"
The question shocked him. If he were honest with himself, he had expected her to be unaffected by Conner's death, and the fact she had caused it. He hadn't realised that she would suffer from making a difficult decision on an impossible situation.
He hadn't expected to see tears in her eyes as she thought about it.
"I shouldn't have asked you to make that choice." He was startled to realise that he meant that.
Her gaze softened ever so slightly, stone instead of steel. "What's done is done," she told him in her un-emotive voice. "Let's try to get your brother back on his feet."
As he led her back into the castle he realised that he had every confidence in her, not just that she would find the means to heal his brother but that she would stop the Blight as well. He knew that she would do everything in her power to help his brother, help Fereldan, even if she suffered for it afterwards.
The shock of Conner's death hadn't faded, but his anger about it had, and was instead replaced by a sort of obscure respect for the woman, the leader, who made the choice that he never could have.
That was the start of him seeing her as a person rather than an elf.
When Teagan awoke, he felt as if he had been asleep for an extremely long time, but he didn't feel rested at all. He ached all over, as if he had fallen down a flight of stairs while wearing armour (and, yes, he did actually know how that felt). There was a foul taste in his mouth. It made him want to spit.
He pushed himself upright, feeling the room sway around him as he did. A gloved hand thrust a glass of water under his nose, and while he drained it there was no room for anything in his head but thirst.
When he eventually looked up over the rim of his empty glass, he was startled to see the Hero of Fereldan sitting comfortably in a chair by his fireplace, reading a book (he had been surprised at first to discover that she could read. He was sensible enough not to reveal that to her, however). He was equally surprised, and uncomfortable, to discover that he wasn't wearing a shirt. This was not a situation he had ever pictured himself being in with the Warden.
"How are you feeling?" the Warden-Commander asked him, looking at him in a way that made him feel nervous.
"I…" He paused to think about it. "I don't know. What happened?"
She grimaced slightly, looking away from him. "The darkspawn fled across your lands. You tried to fight them off but you were wounded. We arrived just too late to help." She shifted, slamming the book shut. "I'm sorry."
"There's no need for that, my lady. You still came." He paused, touching the bandages around his ribs. "I was injured?"
"Quite seriously," she agreed with a nod. "Fortunately, I had two mages with me."
He nodded distractedly; still playing with the bandages as he tried to remember what it was that had been worrying him so much as he slept. But just as the Warden opened her mouth to speak again, the memory hit him. His side throbbed as he leant forward urgently.
"There were children playing in the field when the darkspawn came, are they safe?" he demanded.
She nodded gravely. "The children are all safe. A couple of your men-at-arms died; there was nothing we could do for them. Your lands are also unaffected by the Taint." She paused, taking a deep breath.
"I have a feeling that there's a 'but' in there somewhere," he commented wryly, sensing her uncharacteristic hesitance. "What aren't you telling me?"
She scowled, though he could tell her anger wasn't directed at him, before leaning forwards to gently, carefully unwrap the bandages around his chest.
He stared at his skin with a stunned, morbid curiosity as she slowly revealed the jagged wound under his ribcage. It was healed, which was not surprising considering he'd had attention from two mages. What was shocking was that the scar and the skin around it were obviously infected, discoloured green and black. When he pressed his hand against his side he could feel something foul and uncomfortably warm pulse against his skin.
"What…?" he asked, but he already knew, deep down. He just didn't want to admit it.
"That's the darkspawn plague," she told him quietly. There was too much understanding in her eyes. "You're tainted, Teagan."
A hot meal, a warm bath and a change of clothes didn't do much to change the situation, but their comfort and familiarity helped ease his mind.
He still felt numb. He knew, as did the rest of Fereldan, that the taint was a death sentence. The fact that he was alive and sane was pretty shocking, and he didn't know how long it would last.
When he entered his study, he was surprised to see not only his brother waiting for him, but a roomful of Wardens. He only recognised one other Warden aside from the Commander, Oghren, his former drinking buddy and the one responsible for making him fall down the stairs while wearing armour. The other two were mages, one a man with a cat in his lap, and the other a Dalish woman.
"Brother," Eamon said, clutching him around the shoulders fervently. "We've been so worried. These Wardens," he broke off with a slightly distasteful look directed at the Commander - "wouldn't let me in to see you. They said that they didn't know if you would come round."
"He said that," the Dalish mage snorted, indicating the human mage. "The Dalish have not forgotten the old magic. I knew he would wake."
"He is cured, then?" Eamon demanded. Teagan turned to look at her hopefully.
"No," the Commander replied quietly. "The taint is always fatal. Velanna and Anders have just driven it back for now."
"I'm dying, then?" Teagan asked. He still felt too numb to really take it in. He looked at the Commander, the woman he had come to respect and trust over the last few years, despite the rumours that she had fallen out of favour with King Alistair, no matter how far the Wardens' reputation had fallen since Amaranthine had burned.
If there was a way out of this, she would find it for him. He believed that.
She was leaning against his wall, arms crossed over her chest, lips pursed thoughtfully. "I'm sorry."
He heaved a sigh. "I have some preparations I need to make. How long would you say I have?" He couldn't believe he was discussing his own approaching death so calmly.
"It's hard to say," Velanna sniffed. "A few days. A week perhaps?"
"A week?" Eamon echoed in dismay. After Conner's death, Teagan had become much closer to his brother, as his brother came to rely on him as his heir. He felt the first twinges of regret not for himself as such, but because he was leaving Eamon alone.
"Or even as much as thirty years, perhaps." The Commander said suddenly, raising her head to look at him thoughtfully.
"Lyna!" Anders exclaimed in surprise. "Are you sure about this?"
She ignored the mage for the moment, still focused on him. "The taint is always fatal. But if you become a Warden, you could live a much longer, much harder life."
"If he survives the Joining," Velanna added, sounding displeased that she made the offer.
"Eh. It wasn't that bad," Oghren commented, looking up from his investigation of Teagan's drinks cupboard. The dwarf never changed, and it was reassuring to have someone who didn't treat him as if he had become fragile.
"You would have to give up your title and your land," the Commander continued. "And live and work with us at Vigil's Keep."
"Give up his title! But you're an Arlessa," Eamon protested.
"The land belongs to the Grey Wardens. I don't own it. We all come into the Order as equals."
"I think you are just determined to take all my heirs away from me," Eamon muttered pointedly.
She sighed, irritated. She and Eamon and never seen eye to eye. "I didn't come here to discuss the past. I came to try and help your brother."
Teagan cleared his throat and spoke quickly to deflect the argument he was in no mood for. "So becoming a Warden could… counteract the Taint?" Teagan checked, still speaking directly to the Commander.
"I've heard of it happening once before," she assured him. "But there is still a risk…"
"I would rather have some chance than none at all," Teagan replied. Eamon nodded slowly, still unhappy. "If you'll have me, I'd be honoured to join you."
"So be it," she replied solemnly. "Be ready to leave in the morning."
A/N (again): I love Teagan, but I think it's possible that he's inherited some prejudices as a noble. This story is about overcoming them. Also, it's total wish-fulfillment for me. I would have loved to recruit Teagan. Greagoir as well, but that's another story.
Also, for anyone reading Heal your Hurt, it will be updated. I just accidentally wrote this first.