The Weakness

The withered shape moved through the silent forest at a slow, limping gait. The cloak it wore was ragged and torn, but beneath it were robes of a different color, less ragged and obviously better cared for. They were dark grey and lined with black fur and goldthread, easily more expensive than might be expected of a common traveler. The gnarled and twisted branch it used as a staff was also of a strange nature, charred as it was. It had seen better days, and was not likely to see many more, but the way the figure clutched onto it as if his very life depended upon it certainly marked it as more important than one might at first assume

The tall, twisting trees of this forest were particularly menacing by the gloom of night, every bough a shadowy hand that clawed out at one with a shift of the wind, every shadow across their mottled trunks becoming a visage of terror. This place, along with many others, had never truly been tamed.

These were the primal forests of the south, where the Wild Men roamed, and untold horrors still prowled. A place so bleak and terrible that the Maker himself had decided to make it the ass-end of the world.

These were the Korcari Wilds, where the Darkspawn had first emerged more than a decade ago.

The land still bore the scars of their passing, where blighted beasts roamed and the land would not heal. But these forests, with their ancient denizens and dark secrets, had miraculously been preserved. It was as if the Darkspawn had been afraid of what might lay inside.

But the thing seemed to be ignorant of this, and pressed on regardless. The unseen eyes of the forest, though far from malevolent, watched the figure's progress with something akin to fear. The air seemed to be charged with something, a strange, faint golden nimbus of light.

A closer inspection would have revealed a network of bloodstains, spatters and lines of ugly brown discolorations. Many were old, but here and there was a splash of wetness that did not come from water.

But a closer inspection would also have revealed the labored breath along with a bubbling wheeze, an unwholesome and worrying combination. It would have surprised many that the figure was still moving at all, let alone dragging itself through one of the most hostile environments in all of Ferelden.

Indeed, it was not long before the cloaked figure staggered and then crumbled to the ground with a soft sigh.

The woman who was once known as Morrigan was patiently watching her son go through his exercises, summoning a small tongue of fire. It danced playfully across the palm of his hand, eliciting a delighted laugh from the boy as he watched it raptly.

Unknowingly, a small smile had worked its way into the corners of her mouth as she watched, taking a small amount of pleasure in the child's delight. But she quickly caught herself, and forced a stern face into place.

"Focus, child." She reprimanded, silencing the boy's laughter as she did.

The boy, Urthemiel, nodded silently as he quickly cupped his hands and closed his eyes in concentration. The tiny flame grew as if suddenly finding some new fuel, leaping high into the air as it blazed with renewed vigor. The small hut, dark as it was in the gloom of night, was suddenly filled with bright orange light as the boy's magic summoned more fire from the Fade.

As soon as summoned, however, the flame quickly sputtered back down. The boy's face scrunched up as he tried to summon the will to fuel the flames further.

"Concentrate." The woman said softly, trying not to break the boy's focus.

But the moment was past, and the flame quickly diminished back to its original size. It lingered briefly, before it died completely with a quiet hiss.

The boy gasped as he exhaled the breath he'd been holding while trying to work, echoing the woman's own soft sigh of disappointment.

"That will be enough for now, I think." She said soothingly, and stood. "We will resume tomorrow."

She ignored the boy's mumbled protests, putting it down to youthful rebellion. He was almost twelve years old now, and spending more and more of his days beyond the confines of their small hut.

He took after his mother in that respect, it seemed. Not that she hadn't had a hand in molding him so. The lessons of Flemmeth, the lessons she had so long ago lived with, were being passed on. This was what she had resolved to do long ago, no matter the cost.

But there was also a great deal of the father in him. It was eerie, how closely the boy looked like the man who had sired him. It seemed like every day that brought the boy closer to becoming a man also carried with it a reminder of what her choice had forever denied her.

Love was a weakness, a flaw. She should be glad that the source of her flaw was removed, had likely long since forgotten about her and settled into a new life.

Idly, she found herself running a finger across a scar on her hand.

It was a reminder to her of him, if a sordid one. They'd taught each other magic in their travels, both somewhat reluctant to relinquish what they'd learned but also hungry to uncover more. She'd taught him how to change shape, while he'd taught her to harness the power of blood.

She smiled wanly at the memory of those days, the two of them together and quietly discussing or arguing over one detail or another. The hours of heated debate or secretive lessons were something she was glad of having shared. What they had done afterwards had also been the subject of a few pleasant dreams.

On a whim, and not a small amount of curiosity, she summoned the magic that would help her locate the man that she had once been so fond of. She did not often indulge such fancies, as she wasn't certain if doing so would attract his attention. But after twelve years, she was confident that it didn't. After all, if he could find her through the ring she had once given him, he likely would have managed it long ago.

She was taken aback at the sudden sensation of agony that tore through her concentration like a whiplash, as well as the proximity from which it came from. Her eyes snapped wide open as her wits quickly came back to her from the past.

He was dying, that much she could easily feel. But more than that, he was close. How he had managed to do so without alarming her to his presence was a mystery, but she quickly scolded herself for her hubris. He was easily as talented as she, if not more so. And with his knowledge of her and his own magic, she should have been much more wary.

She knew what she should do.

He had led himself here, far out into the wild where nobody could help him. He had done this to himself, coming after her like this. His own weakness had destroyed him.

But her own weakness cried out, and broke her will.

She could not just let him die alone and forgotten out there. Not when she could save him so easily.

"Urthemiel!" She said loudly in a voice that brooked no argument. "Get the bandages from the cupboard and follow me. We have much to do this night."

The boy called Urthemiel followed his mother dutifully, if not willingly. He didn't like the forest when it got this late.

His mother had told him many times that the trees and the darkness were nothing to be afraid of. It was rather spoiled when her stern expression turned thoughtful and then added that it was rather the things that lurked in the darkness that were to be feared.

And staring out into the mottled blackness of the forest, it was very easy to imagine a great deal of things doing any amount of lurking.

Ahead of him his mother held above her a radiant globe of light that illuminated the path and cast long shadows that danced across the various plants and bushes.

He kept close, lest he fall behind and be alone in the gloom.

They continued on, neither speaking a word to the other as they made their way.

He was curious about what had stirred his mother so, that she would march out into the night with him in tow. She was rarely so eager to leave their seclusion, but he had learned not to press too deeply into her matters. She was a solitary creature, and did not like it when he asked about her past. He had tried to discover what he could about his father from her, but all she would reveal was that he wasn't there now. If the man had left her, or if he was dead, or even his name were all mysteries to him.

But now...

He stared bemusedly at the woman's back as she pushed her way through bushes towards something that he could only hope would bring some kind of change to the dull monotony of their everyday life.

She paused, her head tilted upwards slightly as if sniffing the air. He watched quietly as she tried to divine where her quarry was, swaying softly to some internal rhythm. She stopped abruptly, her head snapping forward.

"This way." She ordered, and he followed without question.

They didn't get far before Urthemiel spotted what it was that they were looking for.

There, laying prone on the ground, was a small figure shrouded by a ruined cloak. He quickly took in the sight, noting the blood and faint feeling of magic.

Strange, he thought to himself as he joined his mother at the person's side. Who would come out here, so far away from anywhere?

Maybe an agent of the chantry, one of the many his mother claimed would eventually come after them. Or perhaps the Circle, to implore them to join the fold?

But he rather doubted it. The way his mother had spoken about either group led him with little doubt that had either come in such a state she would not have hesitated to let them die.

She pulled back the hood, revealing the face of their figure.

It was an elf. Age had not yet begun to take a serious toll, but here and there was a wrinkle that promised to grow deeper, or a scar that had begun to fade and a gauntness that would become tighter. It's hair was cropped short so that only a light fuzz remained, probably to stop something from grabbing it when fighting.

It was revealed that such prudent countermeasures hadn't helped much as his mother began stripping it to work on its wounds.

"The fool." His mother growled darkly while carefully turning the body over. "Coming out here, what was he thinking..."

Her voice trailed off, descending into harsh murmurs. Whatever she was saying, it wasn't pleasant.

They worked into the night, treating wounds as they found them. When his mother was satisfied that they had done all that they could for the body there, the boy helped his mother drag the limp man back to their home.

The elf lay asleep for a day, lying on Morrigan's bed for the time. His wounds had been severe, but she was confident that with her care and his own resilience he would recover. Of course, she was still wondering what she would do once he did.

Did she leave him again, as she had once before so many years before? It was likely that he would resume his pursuit, spurred on by what he would likely take as success. And travelling alone as he did, he would likely catch up to her and the boy. He could travel light, bringing only what was necessary. Unless she wanted to have trouble later on, she could not.

Did she kill him? A large part of her rebelled at the thought, both her own weakness and the logical part of her mind. She had saved him from death, what would the point be in killing him? Better to get some kind of use out of him, first.

But he was still a danger, a great risk. Her hand played with the handle of a knife as she mulled this over in her head.

She didn't want to, but what else could she do?

Irrationality had seized her the night before, and she was reluctant to let it influence her once more. But every time she resolved herself to do the deed she was defeated by merely looking at him.

The years had not been kind to him. His body, something she had once prided herself on knowing intimately, had grown withered and thin. Where once he had been a fine example of a man, now he looked like a terrible warning of what could happen. Fresh scars riddled his body, the marks of blades and teeth and claws showing the ordeal he had endured to get this far.

It pained her to see that he had been reduced to this. But it pained her more to know that she had had a hand in it. He'd told her what he would do before their battle with the dragon.

I will find you, Morrigan.

And so he had, after a fashion. It had taken him twelve years and almost cost him his life, but here he was.

And now she was debating whether to end it all before he had a chance to know his small victory.

She stared at the face unblinkingly for a long time before she sighed. The knife was returned to its sheath, and she went outside. She didn't want to be around him, not like this.

Urthemiel was out in the forest still. She had chased him out this morning, not wanting the boy around if the man somehow managed to wake up sooner than expected. He had been hugely disappointed, and had even said so, but she was not a force to be bargained with.

She exited to the small clearing that she had built her home in.

Sometimes it worried her how quickly and easily she had mirrored the life of Flemmeth. Though she had no intention of prolonging her life as her mother once had, she still returned to the life she had left behind. Seclusion and secrecy out in the middle of nowhere, teaching a child she one day hoped would replace her.

There had been a witch of the wilds for longer than anyone cared to remember, but now it seemed likely that that would change. For once, perhaps, there would be a warlock.

A thought strayed into her mind.

The elf was a strong mage, it was true. But being in such a feeble state, it was unlikely that he would be mobile for quite some time.

He had once taught her. What else had he learned in his travels? What forgotten knowledge had he uncovered?

The boy would need all the power he could get, once the time came for her to pass from this world into the Fade. And though the elf was powerful, he would too die, likely long before she would.

And what a loss it would be, if everything he had learned were to be forgotten. All his magic lost to the wind, all his insights vanished.

There was something to be salvaged from him, even now. Some of the old cunning was surely there, and likely the fire that had burned in his soul during the war.

Yes. For now, the elf could be useful. She ignored the voice of Flemmeth in her own mind calling her weak, and instead focused on what was.

For now, Alim Surana would rest. And then he would make use of himself.

Urthemiel watched his mother from his vantage point in the boughs of a tall oak.

The elf was important, he knew that much. He'd hardly had time to finish his breakfast before she'd pushed him out the door and told him the day was his. And even before that, the way she had hovered over the bed had almost made him wonder if the woman had not been suddenly and greatly unhinged, so dramatic was the change.

But he knew that his mother was capable of such, as he'd received much the same treatment a few years back when he'd been abed with a fever. She only left his side long enough to get what necessities they needed.

So the elf was important to Mother. Very much so, likely.

His mind was ablaze with the possibilities of it all: Had something happened between them? Was he a part of the enigmatic group that she sometimes alluded to? Maybe he was a general of some army, fled from a lost battle?

He could hardly contain himself, so curious he was. And so it was that when his mother let herself out of the hut, and sat down morosely next to the cooking pit, Urthemiel saw his chance to learn something his mother didn't want him to.

Her attention was divided, focused on her thoughts as she was. She didn't even notice when he dropped from his branch with a quiet rustle of cloth and grass. Her eyes were blind to him as he made his way past her, hidden by the plants and trees of the forest, and back to the side of the hut. She didn't even stir when he carefully pushed the door open to let himself in, then quietly close it again.

Inside the hut there was no sound except for the merry fire in the stove and the steady, if weak, breathing of the elf. He moved forward quietly, fearing that even the slightest sound would instantly summon his mother and an army of demons.

He hadn't expected that his small movements would cause the elf to stir.

When he drew close, the elf's breath suddenly stopped for a moment, before resuming a different pace. Urthemiel panicked, knowing that the elf was awake even if he wasn't moving.

"Boy." The voice was light, but it was also weak. Strange as it was, it reminded him of his mother's voice. Ignoring it wasn't an option his mind was prepared to contemplate. "Water."

He found himself obeying without even thinking about it, much to his own surprise. He found a jug of water that his mother had brought in earlier that morning, and brought it to the elf's lips. He cautiously tipped it up, trying to let only a small trickle down the man's throat and not enough to drown him. Weak as he was, the man likely could not handle a great deal of water yet.

He was proven right when the man's mouth soon overflowed as his throat could not work down the small amount he had given.

Urthemiel quickly pulled the jug away, watching in terrified horror as the man struggled to get the water down his throat, and was hugely relieved when he did. He could not imagine his mother's fury if the elf had come to harm by his actions, and he was glad he did not have a chance to find out.

The elf sighed quietly as he got the last of the water down, stirring slightly. The face turned slowly, and bleary eyes looked at him.

Green eyes stared at him, their lids barely revealing anything.

The lips contorted into something that could be called a smile, or perhaps even a sneer. The motion was so weak and minute that Urthemiel couldn't quite tell.

"You," He whispered, eyes riveted on the boy. "Morrigan's child?"

Urthemiel hesitated, then nodded. He knew that it was his mother's name, but he was unused to her being referred to as such. Insofar as he knew, they were alone. And she insisted he only call her 'mother'.

The elf tried to nod as well, but managed only a feeble shake. The eyes closed once more, and the soft rhythm of his breath returned.

Seeing the man return to rest, Urthemiel finally allowed himself to think once more.

The elf had known of his presence, even his gender, without even looking. Perhaps it had woken up sometime last night, and seen him? This seemed likely, as he could see no other reason. Though perhaps...

He had seen the elf's robes. He knew they were not the garb of common travelers, as they had a taste of magic to them. Even ruined as they were, there were still traces of powerful enchantments.

His mother had once told him that few could stomach the presence of magic without training. It had more to do with their silly beliefs that with sense, but there was indeed a small bit of it in there. Magic could corrupt, after all.

But the elf he was obviously comfortable with it.

A mage, then.

He tried to recall a time his mother may have spoken of either elves or other mages, but could not. She hardly spoke of anything at all about herself, not in particular. Oh, she would recall anecdotes that made him smile, or stories of battles she had fought in. But there were never any names, never any descriptions. Everyone in her stories were faceless shadows, things drawn more from his own imagination than her recollections. Perhaps that was the nature of stories, though. Perhaps the true nature of everyone in it was forgotten even as it was told?

But that was a thought for another time. The elf was important now.

A mage. A mage who wandered- no, he had come too far to be aimless. A mage who was looking for something, then? It seemed most likely. This was the edge of the old Imperium as well as close to the old onslaught of the darkspawn. Who knew what there was to find here?

But alone... That suggested secrecy, or maybe ambush. Had he come with a larger party, only to be beset by some unknown enemy? This seemed likely, considering the state in which he'd been found.

Perhaps he'd been leading a group of templar? No, they rarely needed or wanted the assistance of the Circle.

He was spared further speculation, however, as at that precise moment Morrigan pushed open the door and spotted him.

The look she gave him was a mixture of anger and surprise and maybe even a small amount of satisfaction. She liked his inquisitive nature, after all.

"So, decided to disobey me, hmm?" She stated simply, neither chastisement or encouragement carried by her tone. "And what is it you thought to learn?"

Urthemiel was silent, still mortified at being caught. Morrigan continued on regardless, striding quickly to the bed where the elf lay.

"No matter. It is better that you are here."

A knife appeared in her hand, and for a moment Urthemiel was very frightened. But when she studiously ignored him and kneeled by the bed, the fear for his own wellbeing changed to one for their sleeping guest. He watched with rapt attention

"You should see this."

Without any further ceremony, she plunged the blade through her hand. Her gasp of pain was overshadowed by his own cry of shock and horror as she quickly pulled the knife free and held her wounded hand over the prone man.

"Remember this, child." She commanded, but not harshly. "Remember that there is great power in it."

Her blood dripped down onto the sleeping elf freely, landing with a quiet tattoo of splashes. But as it did, golden mist seemed to form wherever her life fell.

His mother smiled and drew back her hand. With her good hand she pulled a wad of bandages from one of her pouches and began to dress her wound. Calmly, as if there was nothing else to see.

Urthemiel watched in horrified fascination as the elf was shrouded by the mists and the air took on a strange quality. He had never known anything like it before, at least not in the waking world. But in his dreams, out in the Fade, he had felt it many times. Like something just beyond his sight. It felt like power...

"Nngh..." The elf groaned, and stirred.

The mist grew thicker, almost obscuring his view of the elf completely. By now all he could see were vague shapes and outlines.

"B, blood?" Urthemiel recognized the voice, but barely. He'd heard it only a few moments before, but much weaker. It was the elf, but now it was as if nothing were amiss. "Wha-"

The voice stopped abruptly as the speaker seemed to recover from their initial shock.

"Morrigan." The elf was fully alert now, and by his voice he was much stronger than he had been. But there was something else. There was a hardness there that he hadn't expected from someone who had been so weak not so long ago.

He glanced up at his mother, only to see his own confusion mirrored in her own face, if much more subdued.

The mist subsided quickly as if blown by an unseen wind.

Urthemiel hadn't thought much of the elf's appearance before, but now that he saw it spattered with his mother's blood there was something sinister about him.

He seemed all too comfortable with it, for one thing.

Strangely, though, the blood had dried, turned into a hard blackness that even now was cracking and crumbling from his skin.

With a single smooth motion he was up, sitting cross-legged upon the bed and his eyes riveted upon his mother. A smirk soon crept over his lips, though, and he relaxed visibly.

"I said I'd find you." He boasted smugly.

His mother's unease lightened and she scoffed at the claim.

"You found nothing." She retorted. "I found you. And you'd likely be dead now had I not."

The smirk faded, and now the hardness returned.

"I know. I was counting on it." He stated, and sighed. "There was no real down side for me."

Urthemiel watched as his mother sneered, then rose to her feet.

"You are better, but not yet fully recovered. You will stay here a while, and then we can discuss your fate."

The elf grunted, and lay back down. Urthemiel noted the anger in his eyes, and wondered once more how he was connected to his mother.

A hand latched onto his shoulder, and he looked up to see his mother standing over him.

"And you," She began, turning fully on the boy. "You will resume our lesson from yesterday."

Alim Surana, still called the Hero of Ferelden by many of those who knew his deeds and great deal other things less pleasant by those who were aware of the full extent of his exploits, knew that Morrigan had something in store for him. He'd expected it, if he'd ever woken up at all. But he hadn't expected... Well, he hadn't expected a lot of things.

He loved her. That much he remembered. But it was a faded love, like that for his parents. He knew it was there, and that he would act upon it, but it no longer consumed him. Not like it had when he'd first woken up next to her, or when they'd fought beside one another, or even when he'd finally woken up after that fateful battle at Fort Drakon, alone.

Yes, he loved her. But somewhere along the lines it had changed. And when he looked at her he felt only the cold anger that was all she had left him The hurt of her betrayal had left a scar on him that he could only now recognize.

And now, with her so close that he could stand up and...

Well, he wasn't so sure what he wanted to do right now. But for a moment, his initial intent had been to show her some of the things he had learned. And very few of those things were of the sort one did to friends. But now, alone in her home, he felt himself calming down from a rage he hadn't even known had been building. He supposed that twelve years of failure had taken a heavy toll on his mind.

He closed his eyes and attempted to drown out the world around him. He was better, as Morrigan had said, but he was a far cry from his normal self.

"Concentrate on the fire, boy."

He heard the admonition, and fought the urge to watch. He wasn't needed here. Morrigan could handle the boy.

The boy...

Alim had never had aspirations of becoming a father before Morrigan had brought up the subject. Truth be told, he'd almost expected the Archdemon to step on him and end whatever sordid bloodline he might spawn before it had a chance to spring up. But when he'd seen the child there (and his intimate knowledge of blood magic allowed him to know easily that the child was indeed his) there had been a flash of pride in him that he felt was quite uncharacteristic and perhaps a little bit misplaced.

He had no illusions about himself. He knew what he had done to accomplish his goals and while he was not proud of them, he was comfortable with them. Hundreds of innocent people had died because of him, were likely still dying, but he knew that their deaths meant something. Many would call him a monster for what he had done, or maleficar, or even an abomination. But they had no guarantees that they would have succeeded had he not made the sacrifices he had. He took solace in that simple fact, and stood tall. Nobody could tell him that he had failed them in their hour of need.

But the child...

Something inside him rebelled against the pride he felt. But he paid it no heed, and instead focused on trying to remember what the boy had looked like, and what the boy may be like. He was angry with Morrigan, still, but now he was angry because she had tried to keep him from this.

"Concentrate." Morrigan was growing impatient, and it showed in her voice. Alim rolled over onto his side, ignoring the ache in his limbs as he did so.

The boy was something that he had been a part of that had not left the world a darker place in any way. And that was what stirred these strange feelings in him. The boy could grow up to do anything, become anything.

And he would be damned if he would let Morrigan of all people warp him into what she wanted.

But the question remained of what she wanted from him. She'd saved him when she could have left him to die. But he knew that she would exact a price from him. She would not be ruled by her emotions, not her.

He heard the roar of fire behind him and its sudden death, and sighed to himself. Maybe now he could-

"Again." Morrigan commanded levelly. "And this time, try to focus."

It was more than Alim could bear, and with a groan of pain he was in a sitting position on the bed, his head swimming slightly at the speed of the motion. He needed to rest, but not now.

"No." He instructed, instantly gaining the attention of the other two. "You try too hard."

Morrigan's eyes glared at him from where she sat, but she kept silent.

Urthemiel was watching him intently, waiting on his every word. Seeing the boy's bright eyes on him, Alim almost faltered before he continued on.

"The Fade is a place of dreams, not will. You do not try to dream, it simply happens. Magic is similar." He was amazed at himself for recycling the words that had once been spoken to him years ago by his own teachers; mostly that he had remembered them at all. "We do not create fire, we summon it."


Alim frowned in concentration, trying to remember how he'd been taught. But whatever had spurred on his previous recollection had failed him, and so now he simply tried to explain as best as he could.

"We..." He hesitated, then pressed on. "We dream it here, in a way. We make it real in our minds, so real that we can feel the heat of the flame and hear its crackle. When we know the fire exists, it comes from the Fade through our dream. The magic listens to us, and obeys. But if you try and force it, it will rebel."

"Yes..." The boy said this as if he was merely being reminded of something he had long since forgotten.

The boy closed his eyes once more, a little uncomfortable under Alim's intense observation.

The elf sat patiently, intently watching for anything that the boy may be doing.

A tiny tongue of fire sprang into life in the palm of the boys hand, happily blazing away.

"Good..." The mage complimented, relaxing a bit. "Feel the heat of fire before you make it so; give it a place in our world, springing from your own mind before anything else."

The boy nodded quickly, eager to try once more.

The little flame danced merrily around, but where once it had suddenly leapt into an angry blaze it now slowly climbed upwards as if moving along a branch. The fire grew, a quiet roar growing louder as it did

Alim shot Morrigan a smirk as he watched, only to see her giving him one as well. He was confused, but decided that she was just trying to confound him.

He refused to play her game, and instead returned his attention to the boy.

The fire had grown as large as the boy's head, and was even now still growing. Alim stirred at this, uncomfortable around such a large flame. It was one of the reasons why he'd never tried to develop those particular talents.

"Now is when you exert your will, boy." He instructed warily, readying himself to dispel anything should the boy lose control. "The magic is here, all you have to do is control it."

He didn't trust fire. If you lost control of it, you were sealing your own fate. The Tower had been a good place to learn how to use that form of magic, but out here, in a house made of wood and so many other flammable things... Well, he only wished the boy had chosen a different element to focus on. Like lightening. At least then he could give better advice.

But the boy merely nodded, and the fire took on a smaller, more compact form. Alim could see something resembling a blazing core swirling madly, frantically. He recognized this spell easily, as he'd had quite a few of them thrown at him.

"Very good." He complimented, shooting a glance at Morrigan. She was focused on the boy, which suited him just fine. "Throw it at Morrigan."

At that both Morrigan and the boy snapped their gaze him, the woman wearing intense annoyance and the boy puzzled shock. But Alim was waiting for this moment, and smirked smugly when it happened.

With the boy's concentration broken, the ball of fire roared outwards. It threatened to consume them all, but he let loose a spell of his own. A blast of power flowed out from him, snuffing the fire out before it could get any more out of control. He felt the drain of the magic on him, but he considered it a sacrifice well worth making.

Morrigan was glaring at him, while the boy was still reeling from the rapid chain of events.

The elf sighed and sagged back down into the bed, still wearing a smirk.

"Don't listen to others." He commented, closing his eyes to rest. "Mostly, they only distract you."

Morrigan was seething.

It was easy to be mad at the man. He'd told her son to throw a fireball at her! True, the boy had almost instantly lost concentration, and there seemed to be a lesson in that. And he'd disrupted the spell before it could harm anyone.

But he had no right!

"Fool man!" She hissed, angrily plunging her clothing once more into the small stream.

It was also easy to be angry while washing their collective clothes. The righteous fury she felt seemed to add just a little more violence to her scrubbings, something that would either make very clean smallclothes or gaping holes in them. Both would be fine, but Morrigan secretly hoped the man would be left with only the latter. That'd learn him.

She was pointedly not angry that he'd managed to teach the boy something that she herself had been struggling with. She'd been taught by Flemmeth, a creature who'd had vast experience of teaching her daughters magic. Morrigan, who'd never really considered teaching before her mother's plan had been pushed onto her, had been met with difficulty.

But that he would succeed so quickly, and so thoroughly...

She twisted the cloth tightly, wringing out the water perhaps a bit more zealously that was strictly needed.

He was still bedridden, of course, but somehow he turned that into a weapon. If he was hungry, she had to get him something to eat. If he was cold, she would have to find something to warm him with. If he needed to relieve himself, lo and behold, it was she who had to escort him to the privy. She had once tried to step on a rat in his presence, and been very surprised at the small explosion it produced when she did. Anything done around him became a hardship.

And always, always, there was the smirk. For two days she'd put up with it all. The man was insufferable.

But there was something else, something that she refused to acknowledge. Even with his small insults and indignities, it was good to have him back. The way he fought her at every turn was refreshing, and even his insults were imaginative enough to make her smile if she ever distanced herself from them. If they had been directed at anyone else, she would likely have openly laughed.

Urthemiel was fascinated by the elf. There was hardly a moment that she was gone from the house that the boy would not seize upon, pestering the man with question after question. She had to trust the man's ability to be discreet about their past, and so far he had. In fact, so far as she knew, he hadn't even told the boy what his name was. He knew the value of secrets, and even if he hated her right now, he still respected her. However little.

She tossed the clean article of clothing into the basket with all the others, and with huff got up to return to the cabin. No doubt she'd have to chase Urthemiel away. Again. And then change the bastard's clothes. Again.

She made her way through the quiet forest, studiously ignoring the birdsong or other soft noises of the woods.

The clearing loomed up ahead, and she almost dreaded what the accursed man would think up to make her day all the worse and just a little bit more interesting.

To see the man staggering around outside with her son dancing around him, laughing as he did, was a little of both.

He'd managed to get his robes on all by himself, it seemed, or with the help of Urthemiel. What he was doing outside was a small mystery. He couldn't possibly be-

But as she drew closer, it became painfully clear that he was.

They were playing.

And it wasn't one of the games she'd taught Urthemiel, either, with a subtle lesson to be taught or a skill to be learned. They were simply running (or hobbling, in the elf's case) after one another, laughing and smiling as they did.

She didn't object to their having fun so much as she did of how they were doing it. She stormed up to them, intent on breaking up whatever they were doing.

But as she drew closer she noticed something else. They were not alone, the two of them. There was a third creature, or rather thing, with them.

It was a skeleton. Or a dog. Or maybe both. The way it pranced between them certainly seemed lively enough, to be sure. But the complete lack of flesh lent something sinister to the whole scene, and suddenly Morrigan was unsure as to how she should react.

There was a certain wrongness about it all. And where had he gotten the bones, anyway?

As if she had spoken her thoughts the skeletal beast snapped its head at an unnatural angle to look at her with eyeless sockets. The jaw dropped in what could have been a happy pant had there been any flesh there to define the gesture. Without warning it bounded away from the two and towards her, each movement coming with a creak and click of bone.

It jumped around her happily when it got close, prancing madly with it's bony tail wagging wildly. She was momentarily disgusted by this display, and caught herself before she kicked the thing away. Animated through magic as it no doubt was, the thing would likely crumble into a pile of bones if she did. And then, probably, reassemble itself disconcertingly. She knew from experience that it was a distressing thing to witness.

The witch shot an annoyed glare at the two males that seemed to dominate her life of late, demanding an answer for all this.

Alim was watching her keenly, that damned smirk back on his lips. If the man was smirking, there was a nasty joke about the whole matter that she didn't know quite yet. Something about the dog-


Where was his dog?

She looked back down at the mass of bones, even now still happily nuzzling her leg with its skull. Her mouth slowly dropped, the fascination of the whole thing sinking into her. But with him watching, she refused to let her perturbation show overly much.

"It's gotten thinner." She remarked airily, and ignored the thing looking up at her expectantly. "Though I suspect it will still pester me."

She watched with satisfaction as the smirk faded into a frown, and then back to a smile as the skeletal hound returned to its master.

"Yes, he's rather fortunate that I care very much for him." He said lightly, smile never fading. The skeleton tried to bark, but no sound issued forth. "A bit of a give and take matter, but I believe we're both satisfied with the results."

Morrigan arched an eyebrow at this, and set about hanging the clothes to dry.

"Indeed? I can't imagine how it let you know. Perhaps you taught it to write as well?"

"I have ways." A flash of red caught her eye. He'd pulled something out from under his robes, a small gem. A phylactery. It hung from a leather cord around his wrist, surrounded by a faint golden glow.

The mage grinned down at Urthemiel, then patted the skeleton carefully.

"Why don't you play with him for a bit, boy? I'm sure he's more interested in you, anyway." He confided.

The boy, completely unconcerned by the dog's less than vital state, readily agreed. Both boy and 'dog' charged happily out into the forest, one with laughter and the other with strange silence.

There was a moment of quiet as both of them waited for the boy to get out of earshot, and then they were both eying the other coolly.

Morrigan didn't quite know what the elf wanted from her, but she decided to humor him for now. It wasn't as if the laundry was going to hang itself, either. But there was no reason she couldn't satisfy her own curiosity, either.

"What happened to it?" She asked casually, watching him out of the corner of her eye.

The mage shrugged, and hobbled over to the hut for something to lean on.

"He got killed." He answered, with a sigh. "A great many people have been trying to find me of late. Very few of them with good intentions."

The woman the Chasind called the Witch of the Wilds laughed mirthlessly, allowing herself a small reprieve to their tension.

"After years of gallivanting after me, I imagine many people are wondering where you've gone. The chantry must be abuzz, trying to track you down."

"Them and the Wardens." Alim agreed. "They caught up to me a week ago or so, asked me how we both survived."

There was no question of who 'we' were. He and Alistair, the only remaining Grey Wardens in Ferelden. There should only be one, if any. Naturally, the Wardens from Orlais would be curious.

"And?" She let her curiosity show.

The mage grinned wryly and laughed softly.

"I asked them if they knew all the terrible things I'd done. Then I asked if they reallywanted to know."

Morrigan echoed his laugh, and waited for him to continue.

"Turns out they did." Alim finished lamely. "Chantry lapdogs I could deal with. The Wardens... Not so much. He died, I didn't."

Morrigan frowned, hanging up the last of the laundry. With that done she turned fully on the mage, leveling him a stern glance.

"None of the others joined you?"

The elf was silent, sagging slightly.

"How many others were there, once we were done?" He asked hollowly. "We killed Lel and Zev. Sten went back home."

There was no mention of Wynne, the elderly circle mage. For as short as the time with them had been, her condescending rants on their 'dark' magic hadn't endeared her to either of them. Only Leliana had grumbled about her death, and after their trip into the temple of Andraste, she never had a chance to again.

There was an accusing note of voice, but she knew that it wasn't directed at her. He wasn't angry enough to be speaking of anyone other than himself. The melancholy he wore troubled her greatly. It wasn't something she'd thought he'd fall victim to.

"And what of Ogrhen and Alistair?"

That got a response. As if slapped, the mage straightened up, anger plain on his face.

"He was like the Wardens." He sneered, folding his arms. "He wanted to know how I'd survived. Don't worry, our secret's safe." He added once he saw her questioning glance. But he had misunderstood the meaning of the look.

Our secret.

He'd never told anybody about their child, it seems. Well, that was an unexpected benefit.

"I told him that I used fell magic. Blood magic, and worse besides. I think he's the reason the Chantry are after me, truth be told." He snorted derisively. "I put the ungrateful bastard on his damnable throne!"

Morrigan frowned deeply at the insult swung so casually at someone he'd once been close to.

"And Ogrhen?"

At this Alim laughed darkly.

"Take a drunken, foul-mouthed and flatulent dwarf out into the middle of nowhere?" He asked contemptuously. "No. I think he made it with the other dwarf at the tavern, though. I hope they both go mad."

"My, aren't you a snide little wretch?" Morrigan commented mirthfully, folding her own arms. "I almost think it an improvement."

Alim glared at her, but kept silent. He allowed himself to slide down to the ground where he sat, tugging at the grass idly.

The two were silent for a time, neither quite willing to be the first to speak. Alim, idling on his own. Morrigan, waiting patiently for something to break the stalemate.

And then, deciding enough was enough, the mage sighed deeply.

"What do you want?" He demanded, crossing his legs as he studied her features. "My life does not come without a price, I know."

The Witch smiled wryly and sat down in front of him, staring him down.

Gold bore into green as the two watched the other for anything that might betray the slightest emotion.

"You have learned much." She stated lightly. "I doubt there are many mages alive that can match you spell for spell."

His eyes narrowed and his face grew stern.

"You want me to teach you again." He said darkly. There was no question in his voice.

"No." She marked well the twitch of surprise and continued. "I want you to teach Urthemiel."

Now his face was full of incredulity.

"The boy?" He asked, somewhat taken aback.

The magnitude of his surprise spread to Morrigan, making her wonder why he would find that so astonishing. But, unlike him, she did not let it show.

"I assume you will?"

"Of course!" He said quickly, and with some derision. His vehemence took Morrigan back a bit.

But she soon recovered, and smiled slyly.

"Then we are agreed."

The mage was still staring at her as if she had an extra eye, though. It was beginning to annoy her to no end.

"What?" She demanded angrily, unused to such incredulous scrutiny.

"What kind of name is Urthemiel for a boy?"

The elf was staying with them.

Urthemiel was both surprised and happy at this turn of events. The mage (and especially his dog) had breathed new life into their lives, making every day more interesting for both of them. Especially for his mother, he suspected.

The mage seemed to take delight in making mischief for her, and she for her part seemed to take some pleasure in finding what new and inventive ways he could abuse the powers he had gained over the years. And abuse them he did. There didn't seem to be a spell he'd learned that he couldn't pervert into a parody of itself. The one day his mother had tried to make him prepare their dinner he'd promptly animated the corpse of the rabbits she'd snared. That had ended all culinary duties for him before they ever started.

And the magic he so casually twisted for his own amusement he also taught. Urthemiel was learning from him faster than he could believe. It was as if the elf knew exactly how he was trying to work the magic, and always knew what he was doing wrong. And while he might not always have been perfect in his methods of correction, his fumblings would eventually lead Urthemiel to make his own discoveries.

And the way he smiled and laughed, Urthemiel could only assume the elf was happy with them. The small wrinkles that had formed from worry and anger (although he wasn't old or experienced enough himself to know this yet) seemed out of place whenever they were together.

He loved his mother, he really did. She had raised him, taught him everything he knew. But the elf, he was something new, and exotic. Something interesting. Naturally he would gravitate towards this alien person. It annoyed her, though. He could see it. She seemed loathe to intrude upon them when they were huddled together, one learning and the other teaching, as if her presence would somehow ruin this dynamic.

Mother avoided the elf whenever she could, in fact. And he, for the most part, seemed inclined to let her. Urthemiel could see it in the way they acted around one another. They were at once very comfortable and awkward with one another, neither quite knowing where their boundaries started or ended. Well, that seemed to be the case for mother, at least.

Urthemiel hadn't yet worked up the courage to ask the elf what he thought of his mother. And the elf, for his part, was content to let him wonder. For all that he taught and played with him, the elf was just as private and solitary as his mother, if not moreso. At least his mother told him clearly what she would not speak of. The elf simply steered him away from conversations that might make him uncomfortable.

"Keep your eyes open, 'Emiel." The elf admonished softly. "When they come for you, they won't be waiting for you to open them again. Be aware of your surroundings."

The elf was teaching him once more, this time about hexes.

They were outside, not far from the small hut that had come to be their home in a small clearing, surrounded by tall grass and distant trees. Even in the height of summer the air was cool and crisp, and each time the wind whispered past an unwilling shiver coursed through his body. But he ignored that, and instead focussed on both his magic and what had been said.

There was no question of who 'they' were. The Circle.

They would be coming for them, that much was more than likely. He'd heard the two of them arguing about the issue not long ago, though he had only managed to decipher small snippets before one of them had caught him eavesdropping. Apparently the elf's disappearance was of great concern to the Chantry and Circle.

What they'd decided to do about it was a bit of a mystery.

"Hexes are trickier than fireballs, boy." The elf lectured, his voice slipping into a scholarly tone that Urthemiel wasn't altogether sure the elf was aware of. The boy liked listening to him this way. It was like the rest of the world simply faded into the background, and left only the two of them.

"For now, don't bother with the symbols. Think instead of what they do."

Urthemiel didn't nod. He'd learned long ago to never outwardly acknowledge anything anybody said when he was trying to channel the Fade. The elf had scolded him for distracting himself by acknowledging his surroundings, saying that a lapse in concentration was all that was needed to turn the magic against him.

Instead, he focused on the magic. It came easier to him, now. As instructed, he didn't distract himself with trying to memorize the symbols that the spell should form as it manifested.

He imagined instead the magic seeping into the elf, allowing the flow of other, more deadly spells to strike more deeply and more destructively into him. He watched with mild interest as the magic reacted to his will, and around the elf a glowing, sinister purple glyph faded into view.

"Good," He congratulated softly, a smile smile working its way onto his face. Urthemiel finds himself feeling inordinately pleased with the praise.

Riding high on his success, the boy decided to press his fortune.

"Teach me to make the golden mist." He pleaded, hoping that today would be the day that the elf relented.

Ever since his first encounter with the mage he'd wondered how he had gone from a wasted corpse of a man to the much more rejuvenated one that had given him his first instruction.

The smile evaporated like morning dew under a merciless sun, replaced by a hardness that Urthemiel had subtly named the 'Other Elf'. At times the transition between the two was so different that Urthemiel wondered whether they were the same person. He had heard from his mother of Abominations, and been duly cautioned by the elf as well.

But it seemed a distant threat, not something to be truly feared. After all, if they were truly so dangerous, why would anyone risk to become a mage?

The elf's reply was hard as steel and cold as winter, though.

"No." There was no explanation, no placation.

For a long time neither spoke. Urthemiel was used to it. His mother had answered him in such a manner several times already. The two seemed to have reached an unspoken agreement on the matter. After what seemed like an hour, the elf spoke once more.

"But I can teach you something else." He said cautiously, a small grin working its way back onto his features. "Watch carefully."

Urthemiel did so dutifully as the elf began his silent mutterings and swaying. His eyes watched intently as the magic flowed and seethed around him like a tempest, warping their surroundings like a constantly distorting mirror. He fought down the mild sensation of nausea that passed through him as he witnessed it, instead focusing on the ebb and flow of the elf's power.

He'd expected to see something dazzling, some scintillating display of raw magical power. He'd half expected to see some massive beast with bones of fire and blood to claw its way out of the fade at horrify him with its terrifying visage. Actually, he'd expected so many seemingly impressive things of increasingly fanciful nature that he was incredibly surprised when the elf's features turned an organic shade of grey and distorted, then exploded into a cloud of angry buzzing.

It was horrifying to witness up close, being able to see a friend dissolve into a swarm of what looked like demonic insects. He recoiled in terror as it enveloped him, biting back a scream that he feared would open his mouth to the hellish bugs. He clenched his eyes shut tightly and tried to ignore the sensation of a thousand insects crawling across his skin.

As suddenly as it happened the feeling was gone, the buzzing replaced instead by the sound of wild laughter.

"Oh maker, the look on your face!" The elf said in between laughs.

The boy fell to his knees, his mind still reeling from the horror of what had just transpired.

It took a long time for the boy to recover from the horror he'd felt as the swarm had consumed him, but eventually he too saw the humour in it. Soon enough the two of them were enveloped in study as the elf tried to impart the knowledge of shape-changing. While it certainly wasn't what he'd hoped to learn that day he wasn't about to turn down the offer to learn some fascinating new magic.

Urthemiel had been listening intently to the elf explain the complexities of what he would need to know in order to make the change from human to beast when the elf's head suddenly perked up, his brow furrowing in concentration. A frown slowly formed on his lips as the moment wore on, the scholarly instructor being replaced by someone else.

"Go find your mother." The elf commanded, his voice suddenly hard and unyielding. "Tell her that they have come."

The boy stood, obeying before he was entirely aware of what he was doing. But soon he rallied his wits about him and managed to question his elder.

"Who?" He asked, concerned.

"Don't waste time!" The elf snapped, turning his angry gaze down at the boy. "Go to your mother!"

The vehemence in the voice was something the boy had never heard from the elf before. It was full of hot fury and deadly promises of what was to come. Not wanting to be near when whatever had caused such a change to occur arrived.

Because when it did, Urthemiel was certain that there was no power in the world that would protect them from the elf.

Alim watched the boy flee with a grim expression on his face, and when he was certain the boy had gone he turned his attention to the task at hand.

As much as he'd hoped for his time with his son to last, he knew this day would come. He'd always known. They wouldn't let someone as powerful as him run free, especially not that they knew just what he was capable of. When the darkspawn had threatened to come crashing down around them, burning and killing anything in their path, he had been the one to face down the Arch-demon and destroy it. He had killed thousands to do so, and devoted his life to learning the destructive powers that had finally allowed him to triumph.

He'd known this day was coming, and so had Morrigan. But they'd both ignored it, content instead to pretend, at least for a time, that nothing was wrong. And for a time, nothing was. The hatred that had been welling up in him for so long had long since faded, replaced instead by a quiet satisfaction in the life they had together. If he tried, he could even imagine that the many years spent alone searching for her had never happened, and that instead they'd spent all that time together. But such times were few and far between. Most often, he was simply proud of the son he had come to be fiercely proud of.

And now that pride was going to be the prime motivator for what was to come.

They'd agreed what needed to be done, Morrigan and he. They'd come looking for him, and they would find him. Sooner or later, they would always find him. And so, when that happened, he would delay them for as long as was necessary for Morrigan and their son to flee somewhere safe. And if he survived... Well, he could always find them again.

But somehow he doubted that would happen.

With a small grunt he rose to his feet, pulling his staff upwards as he moved. The seemingly withered wood seemed to take on sudden life as he began drawing power from it, exploiting its connection to the Fade in order to better prepare himself for what was to come. He looked down at the ground, and with a quiet muttering the pile of bones that lay there leapt into motion, the dead dog brought back into a parody of life by the power of his magic. The thing danced around him, it's mouth opening and closing as the will that guided those bones tried to voice excitement it no longer had the flesh for.

With a wry smile he stroked the skull, and for a moment he could convince himself that nothing had changed. He was still that fresh-faced young mage that was making his way to Lothering with his dog, and still just learning to love the woman who would one day leave him when he'd needed her the most.

Back then he had attacked a band of Darkspawn to save a brave dog that stood alone against their onslaught. It had seemed insane at the time, rushing those monsters with two weakened Grey Wardens and a witch neither of them had wholly trusted. But they'd soon triumphed against the seemingly impossible odds, and in that victory he'd found the surest ally he'd ever need.

The dog had remained fiercely loyal even to the day it died, and even after. No enemy would know victory against them without death so long as the two of them were together. Nothing would change that.

He listened carefully to the sound of metal on metal and thudding footfalls. They would be there soon. He would have to hold them here long enough for the only two people he cared about in the world to run, and make them pay dearly for whatever success they had against him came so heavy a price that they would have no choice but to return to their masters with nothing but the assurance that Alim Surana lay dead and forgotten in the Korcari Wilds, abandoned once again by everyone he'd ever cared about.

With a calculating eye he surveyed his surroundings, his small grin turning cruel as he began chanting. Wards flared into life all around him, their bright markings obscured by the tall grass. He felt their power surge around him, empowering and protecting him. Even if their much-vaunted abilities to resist magic allowed them to draw near they would be thrown away from him like ragdolls. He had turned the creation of wards into an art, able to bind even the most powerful of creatures with them. No man, not even a Templar, could defy them.

With half-lidded eyes and a low chant he burned a few more around him. They would do little more than slow down the first few, but that was fine. He didn't need to stop them, just keep them away from him long enough for him to even the odds.

It was a thing he'd learned during the war, something that those who hunted him seemed to have forgotten. Against the hordes of enemies that had threatened Denerim, it had only taken four people to turn the tides against the horrific beasts. It was only against the Arch-Demon that anyone else had been needed.

Two of those four now waited for them.

Alim saw the glint of metal in the forest, heard their excited chatter as they drew closer. Soon they would be able to see him. Soon he would be able to see them, and then nothing would save them from his fury.

His smile widened grimly even as he clutched his staff tighter, and before he could stop himself a laugh tore its way out of his mouth.

These poor fools had come to do what werewolves, demons, dragons and a horde of darkspawn couldn't. People had said he was more than a little cracked over the years, but the situation struck him as inordinately funny.

The sounds of movement grew louder and more rushed as they realized he was taunting them with his mirth. Soon enough the first one appeared, and when the heavily armoured templar burst out of the relative safety of the forest into the field. The fool hadn't even drawn his blade, no doubt thinking to entreat with him before the onslaught began. These trespasser would try to convince him to go meekly to his own imprisonment and death. They expected him to obey.

Alin would have nothing of it. With a word, his hand suddenly crackled with lightening. The Templar faltered in his advance, no doubt already regretting his foolhardy attempt at reason.

The elf felt once more the excitement of battle pulse through his veins as he guided the globe of scintillating death at his enemy, and his smile turned wild when an agonized scream tore through the air as the Templar's armour roasted the man inside it alive. Cries of dismay echoed it from the forest, but nobody seemed eager to repeat the previous folly.

They guessed now what he was capable of, and now they would be cautious.

That would not do.

With a casual glance at his side to his last ally, he quietly muttered a command. The floating skull barked soundlessly, and then the animated skeleton leapt through the tall grass, eager to obey.

From where they waited, they would not be able to see what was coming. They would only see shaking grass, and their worry would build. And then the dog would be on then, full of animalistic rage and invincible magic. They would fight, and they would find that this incarnation of the dog was not hindered by trivial things like swords and arrows.

How does one kill something that is already dead? With magic. And his mastery of it was such that nobody could stop him on that front.

More cries rang out as his plan came to fruition, and in that moment someone lost control of their discipline.

An arrow whizzed out from the darkness of the forest, and such was his surprise that he barely had time to twist before it pierced his side. It through the threadbare cloak he wore and then through the wiry muscles below, eliciting a pained grunt from him.

With an irritated glare at the offending thing he broke off the fletching and forced the thing all the way through, cursing quietly the whole time.

Seeing him distracted the Templers burst from their cover, their weapons shining brightly in the midday sun.

The first ward blazed as one of them crossed it, and the suddenly paralyzed body fell forwards as it lost the ability to keep itself righted. Soon after another ward activated, and yet another of the attackers was brought low by the mage's preparations.

Alim managed to tear the arrow lose the moment those who had made it past his initial wards made it to him, only to find that his defences were a great deal more thorough than they had first believed- As predicted, their armoured forms were thrown backwards as if struck by the fist of the Maker himself, and such was the force of the blow that when they landed some did not get back up, instead laying dazed.

Tossing away the arrow, the elf stood tall once more. Lightening crackled from his hand once more, though this time there was no terrifying globe. Instead it fanned out from his hand, each of its many arcs finding some helpless victim and bathing them in his power. They would not likely be killed by it, but it would probably addle their senses long enough for him to finish the job with a different spell.

His other hand, still holding the staff, channelled power through it and pointed it imperiously where he suspected one of the downed Templar lay, and grinned in satisfaction when a bolt of pure magic wailed through the air. He didn't wait to see if his guess had been true as he prepared his next spell, a small shard of luminescence that appeared in his free hand. With an errant flick of his fingers it left him, digging deeply into one of one of those affected by his fan of lightening.

But even that was not his last spell, as he seamlessly began a chant that caused the air around him to ripple as the boundaries of the Fade thinned around him. Another arrow streaked out, and such was the elf's concentration that when it struck him fully on his narrow chest he barely even paused in his incantation, continuing even as blood bubbled up from his throat and his breath grew ragged.

And then he was laughing again as streaks of lightening danced around him, consuming everything unfortunately enough to find itself inside that deadly perimeter. This laugh was accompanied by what sounded like the chirping of a thousand panicked birds and a short series of wet explosions as the clearing suddenly became a small slice of hell. Gore soared through the air trailing blood behind it.

Alim allowed himself to be struck by the tempest of carnage that raged around him, taking perverse satisfaction in the knowledge that even with the powerful enchantments of his garments and magic, there was no way to pass through the eye of this storm unscathed. Even as the shortness of his breath stole away much of his strength, his power was unrivalled.

He left the relative protection of the runes, knowing that nobody but he could weather this power with any hope of survival. There were still those outside the storm that needed to be dealt with, and if he remained inside he would be pointlessly weakening himself. With every step, with every breath, the arrow still lodged in his chest sent lances of pain shooting through his body. But he was able to ignore it through his discipline and force himself to continue onwards.

He saw the archer freeze in terror as he entered the forest, still wearing that wild grin despite thin streamlets of blood coming from his mouth. With grim satisfaction he awoke the power of that few off of his pain, encasing himself in a nimbus of golden mist. He knew that the feeling of magic coursing through his veins was an illusion; something to trick him into drawing upon more power than his body could take.

But that was a sacrifice he was willing to make.

With an errant flick of his hand the mist around him turned a malevolent crimson and streaked out towards the frozen man and binding his body in agony.

He turned quickly as movement out of the corner of his eye grabbed his attention, and gasped in pain as steel violated his body. Uncomprehending, he looked downwards at the sword that had impaled him and then back up at the faceless Templar that had done this to him. With a feral snarl he encased the armoured man in a prison that would slowly crush him to death. The blade twisted inside him as the man's grip spasmed when the spell took effect, and before he could stop himself he screamed in pain.

He staggered backwards like drunk man, each step bringing with it indescribable torture as the sword bit deeper into him before it finally left his body.

Collapsing backwards to the ground, the fires of life quickly dying down in his body, he remembered one last time that glorious first battle the four of them had had together, the first of many. Even as the light in his eyes dimmed, he could not help but feel the pride of his victory burn brightly inside him, both in the past and now.

Nobody could take this away from him, this last sacrifice for the two people had ever truly loved. The thought brought a satisfied smile to his blood-stained lips.

The two of them had been travelling all day, moving deeper into the nigh-impenetrable Korcari Wilds. They carried with them only the barest of essentials, the few things they needed to survive. Food, water, clothes, a scattering of various medicines they'd managed to grab before fleeing into the forests.

They'd felt and heard the distant battle, and though neither spoke of what they could perceive of it Urthemiel remained awed at the sheer strength of the magic he sensed. It left a quivering yearning inside him, a desperate need to feel it again.

But they spared no time to take in the battle, instead pouring all of their energy into their hasty retreat through the woods. It was late at night when they finally stopped to rest, making a simple camp beside a creek.

Their flight had left the boy exhausted, but his mother sat anxiously staring into the fire, her eyes closed and her lips moving slowly with unspoken words. He watched her worried from where he lay, wondering what might be going through her mind. But fatigue took him, and he soon feel into a dreamless sleep.

He woke late in the morning, his body aching from the previous days exertion caught up with him. His mother was already beginning to pack up their camp, though as she did so he caught a sudden flint in the morning sun off her finger. There was a ring there, one that hadn't been there before.

"We will travel north." His mother stated, and for a moment Urthemiel could almost fool himself into thinking there was a note of sadness in her voice.

He voiced no objection, despite knowing that this would bring them closer to civilization. She did not look to be willing to brook any complaint of his lightly.

So instead they travelled again in silence, and eventually they came upon a different hut. This one looked long since deserted, but not quite reclaimed by the forest. Inside the hut much the furnishings they'd abandoned looked to have also been left behind by the previous occupant. Two beds, cauldron, various shelves and dressers... There were even books. It would take a long time, but the small house would eventually be just like the home they had been forced to leave.

They worked dutifully to clear out the various attempts the forest had made to reclaim the area: The interior was thoroughly cleaned, scrubbed and the various flora and fauna that had taken up residence being removed. They made a worthy attempt to clear out the surroundings, but soon they were both too tired to do anything other than start a fire and begin the process of winding their day down.

It was only then that Urthemiel had worked up the courage to ask his mother something he'd suspected ever since the elf had taken up residence but never dared to ask. But now that they'd left him behind in what the boy knew beyond a doubt was a lost battle, he had to know.

"Was he my father?"

There was no question of who 'he' was. The elf, for all that he had remained nameless for the entirety of his stay with them, had come to be a part of their lives.

Morrigan was silent for a long time, not bothering to look at him. Urthemiel began to suspect that she was simply ignoring the question like she had often done before when she suddenly sighed quietly, and shook her head before rubbing at her eyes. In the dying light of the sun through the window, Urthemiel wasn't sure if it was merely a trick of the light or if the skin around his mother's eyes really was wet, but when she spoke again he voice betrayed nothing of what she was feeling.

"No. Your father was weak." Was all she said. "And one day that weakness killed him."

But as Urthemiel watched his mother as she silently grieved he could not help but think that she was lying to him.

AN: Thus concludes the short story, which was originally written quite quickly if sloppily. After a few months of correcting, rewriting and so on, the finished product stands before you. I hope you enjoyed it, because the idea gnawed at me when I finished the game.

I pictured my mage going out into the world alone, determined to find Morrigan once more. I also imagined how said mage might change during the years, being the bastard he was. (Didn't destroy the Anvil of the Void, destroyed the Dalish, let the Arl's wife die so that he could barter with demons, etc) I decided that he would eventually come to be like the woman he was chasing, pragmatically callous. A practitioner of blood magic out of practicality (because, let's face it, blood mages kick more ass than an ass-kicking machine in hyper-drive), doer of dark deeds to save the world, jaded ass-bag killer of hundreds unfortunate enough to get on the wrong side of a Blood Wound/Mass Paralysis combo.

It also gave me an excuse to turn Dog into a skeleton. Dog - Messy Bits - Barking = Bestest Dog Evar. I suppose the only downside would be if he tried chewing his own bones. That would be unfortunate..

This story was started prior to the release of Witch Hunt, an addition to the game that left me more confused and annoyed than anything else.

There will be no follow up, no second chapter, nuthin. Unless someone feels like doing so for me, since this was hard to make under my own steam. Hopefully it ended on a note that doesn't require anything else, though.

As for Morrigan doing laundry, well... How else was it going to get clean? Magic?

Wait, hold on a sec...