Author's Notes: Hi there! This is the first multi-chapter story I've worked on in a long time, so please let me know how I'm doing. I always really appreciate feedback and suggestions on how I could improve.
Yes, there will be some romance between Alistair and Solona Amell in future chapters, but I'll do my best to focus on comedy and not get too stuck on the lovey-dovey stuff; there's already plenty of that with Alistair out there anyway.
Please note that I may go back and make revisions over the course of the story, but I hope to keep most of these edits fairly minor. I'll let you know in the Author's Notes section if I make significant past changes at any point.
I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 1: A Smiling Start
In the chantry as a boy, Alistair had always heard that magic was meant to serve.
Really, there was no way he could have not heard that, as Sister Kara so fondly took to reciting sections of the Canticle of Transfigurations every other day in the afternoon when, of course, he had cleaning duty just down the hall (and he was still sure Omer and his friends had something to do with that). He didn't think he could forget it even if he really wanted to, as branded as the words were in his mind in all their shrill-toned glory.
Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him. Foul and corrupt are they who have taken His gift and blah blah blah.
Looking back, he supposed it was really no wonder he'd never been able to sit still during the sermons. The stuff was dull. Duller than dull. He was pretty sure no birds roosted in the rafters because they'd all died from boredom a minute after flying in.
And then there were also the templars. Every so often, he caught their whispered conversations in the hallways as he scrubbed pots in the kitchen. As he discovered, sound carried well through those stone corridors, particularly so when he was also in them (searching for a brush, he'd always say when he got caught eavesdropping). Ser Felmon, Quentin, or somebody else would wander by and start muttering how much better everything would be if they only had full reign over their troublesome charges. If they could just cut out this "officious Circle nonsense," they'd say, they could make mages stick to lighting the eternal flame in the chantries as in the past or put them to use enchanting as Tranquils, and then there'd be no more fuss or foolishness about forbidden magic or abominations.
At the time, Alistair hadn't known much about the Circle Tower, demons, or blood magic. But, he did know one thing – keeping up a single fire for the rest of one's life was dead boring, and he was sure enchanting things like swords and never actually getting to use them was only a smidgen better.
Now, if he had magic at his fingertips, everything would be different. He could do whatever he wanted!
One idea – a frequent daydream of his, actually – had been to fly over treetops and houses like a bird, the wind on his face and through his hair. Freedom, he'd thought then. Pure and perfect freedom from everyone and everything, especially pot-scrubbing.
The Revered Mother shot that one down when she told him such magic didn't exist, and thankfully so or else keeping mages in the Circles would have been nigh impossible.
And so came his second idea, a plan to put a secret curse on the boys who sneered at him in the dormitory, calling him a bastard and asking him why his father never came for him. Just a small curse, mind; something that tied the laces of their shoes together when they weren't looking, or a hex that would always make them say the wrong answers when one of the Mothers tested them.
Though Sister Alisha said such a thing would be amusing, she unraveled it by adding that it technically wasn't serving anyone but himself.
Then he thought of a spell to make the rain go away. The stormy days full of freezing, miserable rain that turned the streets to filthy mud and brought up a horrid stench from the sewers – gone in an instant. Instead, there'd only be sun, sun, sun, and he could go out and play rather than sit cooped up inside all day.
And that, too, dissipated into the stuff of dreams when the cook pointed out that people actually needed the rain for their crops and wells.
Many such designs came and went over time, until he finally remembered he did in fact not have magic and so thinking about any of this was useless to begin with. Then, when he was put into the Order of Templars, he heard about nothing but magic this and Maker that, and he would have given anything to have enough magic just to turn himself invisible, walk out unnoticed, and never return.
In the end, though, he never saw much use of magic in his time at the chantry. Despite all the talk about mages serving this or that, he really watched little of it done. Once or twice he'd seen the sparkle of an enchanted amulet or the glow of a rune-engraved sword. Another time a wizened mage, though without the long, white beard or pointed hat he'd come to expect, visited the chapel library for three days to review some books on preserving phylacteries. But even then he hadn't been able to talk with the man, as flanked as he'd been by two very stern-looking templars. Even at that young age, Alistair knew he could only stand so much double cleaning duty.
Aside from those few instances, he never saw any other evidence of magic. No spells, no curses, not even a trick to pull a coin from behind his ear. As far as he could tell, mages didn't seem to do much of anything of interest. If the words of the visiting Tower templars were to be believed, they actually spent much of their time learning how to use and control their magic, and any real use of it was carefully regulated by endless paperwork and plentiful glaring from the aforementioned templars.
This information only solidified in his mind that being a templar was going to be very dull and horrible and that all of this was a very, very bad idea.
And so when Duncan conscripted him into the Grey Wardens, saying he was overjoyed would have been an understatement. Sure, it still involved putting on a suit of armor and marching around with a sword and shield, but there was considerably less sermonizing and lecturing involved, and he considered that a step up. Over the months that followed, which included the Joining, all of the by-the-way's about being a Warden, and the march to Ostagar to battle the Blight, he had nearly put the thought of mages and their abilities out of his mind.
As fate would have it, though, it was a mage that Duncan sent to fetch him as though he were a morning errand. And of course she would witness the spat with the other mage about a ridiculous little message from the camp's Revered Mother. And of course he would say, without taking into account her robes, the staff, or any other obvious signs beforehand, "You know, one good thing about the Blight is how it brings people together."
Then those obvious signs finally got through to his thick head, and he wanted to smack himself. He'd never even taken his templar vows, and already he was doing so well with mages. He wondered if he should go get a shovel and start digging his grave to save her the trouble, because she was surely going to cast a fireball at him or turn him into a toad or something equally horrible after a comment like that.
Mages did things like that, didn't they? Casting fireballs and turning people into toads with impunity?
Instead, she giggled. "I know exactly what you mean."
Without considering that he should really, if he had any intelligence left in his skull, quit while ahead, he said, "It's like a party; we could all stand in a circle and hold hands. That would give the darkspawn something to think about."
Then she, against all odds and reason itself, laughed. She actually laughed. And not at him! He felt the corner of his mouth twitch up.
Well, at least she liked his jokes.
Still, he thought, it was better to check on these things to be sure. After all, maybe staves and Circle robes were all the rage in the capital these days.
"Wait, we haven't met, have we?" he asked. "I don't suppose you happen to be another mage?"
An arch grin tugged at her lips. "Would that make your day worse?"
"Hardly," he replied. "I just like to know my chances of being turned into a toad at any given moment."
He inwardly cringed, glancing away. Maker, he was certainly doing a fine job of digging himself deeper.
He looked back at her, expecting at least some sharp retort along the lines of what he'd just received from the other mage. But her amused smile lingered, and she seemed to wait for him to go on.
That was when he recognized her – the new recruit from the Circle of Magi who Duncan had mentioned, though her name escaped him at the moment. She was about a head shorter than himself, with round, dark brown eyes and equally dark brown hair cut to the bottom of her jaw. She also had a rather… pasty complexion, he noted; like that of bleached paper. He assumed she hadn't been out in the baking summer long enough to tan past it, or to burn completely over.
He wondered briefly if the quartermaster had some lotion in stock for such things. He couldn't imagine being sunburned – on top of everything else – would help her focus.
Though, knowing the events ahead, it might not matter anyway…
Even so, it was a good idea to make amends.
"Wait. I do know who you are," he hurriedly added. "You're Duncan's new recruit, from the Circle of Magi. I should have recognized you right away. I apologize."
Her smile softened a little. "That's all right. No offense taken."
He relaxed slightly. His chances of survival were certainly looking up. "Good," he said. "You didn't exactly catch me at my finest with the mage there." He politely inclined his head towards her. "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Alistair, the new Grey Warden, though I guess you knew that. As the junior member of the Order, I'll be accompanying you when you prepare for the Joining."
She gave a small bow of her own in return. "Pleased to meet you. My name is Solona Amell."
Oh, thank Andraste. He didn't have to ask. "Right. That was the name," he said, nodding. Then he continued, "You know, it just occurred to me that there have never been many women in the Grey Wardens. I wonder why that is?"
Oh, Maker, there went his first impression. Now she was going think he was a drooling lecher!
But again her response defied his expectations. "Really?" she said, arching an eyebrow at him. "You know, the other two recruits seemed surprised at that as well. Should I check to make sure I'm not a man?"
He chuckled. "Oh? And how would you go about that?"
Before he could stop her, she pulled on the collar of her yellow Circle robe and looked down into it. He felt his cheeks warm a little as she replied, "So far, I look like a woman."
He breathed a small sigh of relief when she released her top.
Then she asked, "Should I check the other bits as well?"
The heat in his cheeks turned into a full-blown blush. "No, no!" he cried, shaking his head. "I'm convinced, really."
She laughed. "Are you sure?"
He pressed a hand to his scorching face and looked away. "Maker, yes," he said. "I'm very sure."
She laughed again, and even he couldn't help smiling a little at it all as well.
Well, that showed him to ask stupid questions.