Two things before I start to write the story:

I'll try to write this story from the view of my main character, the mage Deridius who is NOT a warden. Planned to write in first character it is possible that I switch here and then to third person speech as I'm used to from my other stories, but that would be unwanted here.

Second I'll change some known characters, so don't be surprised. One change will be that Ser Rory Gilmore (named after a female TV-series character) will be a woman in my story.

Friends and Foes

Castle of Highever – Rory's Bedchamber, two weeks before the battle of Ostagar

Absentmindedly Rory stroke my leg laying over her powerful ones. The nights with her always were very exhausting and I loved the moments with the passion cooling down, finding comfort and security in her arms. She was not very bright and surely not very educated but if someone would ask me whom I trusted, trusted even enough to show my bare back, only her name could escape my lips. Assumed I would answer honestly, something what didn't come by very often. A smirk crossed my face and with closed eyes I cuddled tighter into her arms.

"Do you think I should … should say yes?"

I moaned as it dawned to me that the time of sweet nothingness was over again. Opening my green eyes I went up a bit, braced myself with my elbow and looked into her soft brown eyes, scrutinizing her face. Cute? No, no one would call her that. Or soft, slim, graceful. Nothing what men searched in women for company? The difference was even greater with my own body being so gaunt, the rips showing thru the skin and my ass clearly nothing to look at. Lazily I traced the edges of her heavy breasts.

I quenched the irritation inside me. Why did I even bother to respond to her silly questions? Did I become so soft lately? I tried to convince myself that it was only because she could be helpful sometime, being something of a fill-in if Belin ever broke the reins I laid upon him. But somewhere deep inside I knew that I lied to myself, that I really liked this strong, honest and straight woman.

"Say 'yes' to Duncan and his wish that you'll be a grey warden? What good will it be? You would have to leave Highever, wander around and slay darkspawn, could never be again with your family."

"And I would have to leave you." Surprisingly soft she kissed me. I could only glare back. "Stop that. You promised me not to … you know." I widened the space between us and frowned. Rory tried to straighten her face but I could see the sorrow in her eyes. "Yes, I know. Only friends with benefits. Please don't get angry. I can't deny that sometimes I hope for more. I know it can't be, but … I'm only a dumb woman."

With a plain face I looked at her. Dumb. Something similar I had thought about her only minutes before, but now it seemed so false. Pressing a smile I rabbit punched her shoulder and she flinched, pretended that I had really hurt her, even as I felt the pain in my fist for hitting her shoulder which seemed to be cut form oaken wood. "You're not dumb. You're only too honest sometimes and I really like you for it. But I don't know how I deserve this." This belittling me never failed to deepen her feelings for me but this was the first time I really meant it. Perhaps it was the doing of my thoughts about the next days that pressed me to think more about me, more than what was helpful. I even hoped that I could save her when … hastily I ushered the thoughts away.

With a broad smile Rory gripped my arms and pulled me above her strong body as I where some 12-year-old boy. "I could think about one or two things why you deserve my attention. Would you dare to do this magic flickering thing again?" I smiled back, my left hand hastily encased by some bluish light before I pinched the nipple of her heavy breast. "As you command …"

Castle of Highever – Throne Room, twelve days before the battle of Ostagar

Bored I looked around. How I hated these moments. No one expected me to speak a word, but I had to attend, had to show how mighty he was, he, Bryce Cousland, Theyrn of Highever. Look here, all of you, and be in awe because Theyrn Bryce has his own pet mage. I made a grimace, my mood not enlightening a bit because of Ser Belin standing beside me, his face stony as ever. He was helpful, yes. And he protected me. But I really didn't like him in the least. Sometimes I wondered if it was his attire or simply him being a Templar pressed into the service of watching me. Perhaps both.

Even someone as Theyrn Bryce couldn't persuade the chantry to allow him his pet mage without a Templar to simultaneously guard and watch him. I owed it to my flawless reputation and my standing as Wynne's diligent student that Irving selected me to be sent to Highever. Bryce wanted a mage, but not anyone but a most competent healer. And I was exactly that, having learned from Wynne the ways of a spirit healer, now being one of the best myself. I owed her much and had no qualms about admitting this.

The other mage teaching me many useful things had been Uncle Uldred. Alright, he was not an uncle exactly, but a distant relative. Being around twenty years my senior Uldred liked being called uncle and who was I to decline an old man his little joys? I hadn't to concentrate very much to feel the emotions in the people around me, this special sense being a reminder of the things I learned from Uldred. He was mighty indeed, but I always thought him too ambitious. Surely I was driven too, driven to be a great mage and loved by all. Silently I snickered at the thought. But Uldred had always been too encompassed with his dreams of glory.

And he was too careless in choosing his pupils. Jowan, dumb Jowan. He had no will, no real grasp of magic and was unbelievable lazy. Nothing of that was lamentable in my opinion, but these failures were contradicted by Jowan's urge to be seen as a great mage. Couldn't he realize that he was not meant to be something special? Before I left the tower I went to Irving and hinted at Jowan's special interests, being all the good but troubled friend of him who had to go away and leave the trouble of sheltering him from himself to his first enchanter.

Irving hadn't been convinced then, as I thought. But now thirty months had passed and still Jowan was not allowed to try his Harrowing, so perhaps I've been wrong about Irving.

The motions at the doors fetched me from my memories. There she was, Ser Rory Gilmore, captain of the guard, a marvelous sight in her silverite armor with the slender sword at her side. I sent her a silent kiss and while she tried hard not to contort her face her cheeks blushed. I smiled shortly because I loved these reactions of her, before I forced a plain face and looked to our guests. And hard work it was to remain so.

Rendon Howe had been very generous these last months since our meeting in Denerim. Using the breaks between the Landsmeet conferences, he made a bargain with me. Information about the Couslands against money, much money to be exactly. But that I worked for him didn't mean that I liked it or liked him. He was a snake, a poisonous one to be sure. I sighed flatly. Poisonous, exactly which I would be too. That was what he expected from me today. As a competent healer at the court of a high noble I knew something about poison and now I would use this knowledge. Looking at Rory I felt relief in the thought that I slipped the antidote in our wine, not only protecting me but her too. The poison in the guards' meal would make it easier for Howe's men this night.

The conversation between Bryce and Rendon burbled away, me not listening to their meaning but thinking about how Rendon could play the family friend this convincing. I was good at pretending too, but I had to admit that I had much to learn before I would reach this height of convincing.

"Too bad that your troops need some more days to be ready. Fergus left yesterday with the scouts and cavalry. I'll join your regiment with the rest of my soldiers. At least we'll have some days in Highever to speak about old days." Bryce seemed genuinely happy and I wondered what he would think if he could read my master's mind.

Castle of Highever – Theirn family rooms, early night

Nicolas Cousland, second son of Bryce, was sleeping soundly, as it should be. Content about it I left the room, closed the door and protected it with a glyph of repulsing. Not need in forcing my luck. It would be no good if some stupid follower of Howe accidently entered the room and killed him, after I worked so hard to enforce Howe's will. I had no real idea why he wanted Nicolas to survive this night, but he paid too good to ask.

It was around the time to start the next act. Knowing the castle and its secrets it was my role to prevent any member of the family from escaping. Detecting the secret escape tunnel I knew for certain where my place would be in the next hours. Nodding shortly at Belin I left the family quarters, exerting some mental pressure on the Templar to follow me. For a second he resisted, his eyes losing the usual blandness, but then he followed. I had to get lost of him in the future. From the beginning it had been hard to hold him in check, his Templar abilities supporting his strong will. And in the last months my hold on his mind had been uncomfortable uncertain.

The hallways were silent as we passed, reaching the kitchen at last. I waited outside as I didn't want to clash with Nan and the other kitchen stuff. Now I had to wait.

Castle of Highever – Kitchen, late night

A few minutes ago the trouble began. Shouting from the throne room, shortly later followed by the clash of weapons. Heavy steps neared as some of Howe's men passed our hiding spot and went to the family quarters. Shortly a pain of guilt reached my heart. Theyrna Eleanor had always been nice to me, going long ways on making me feel at home in the castle. Now she would die. I crunched my teeth and swept these thoughts away. It was necessary.

"Close the doors. Hank, Josh, go with the Theyrn." I smiled briefly. Rory was alive. A short discussion followed, broken off by her angry statement. "You must be secure, milord. I'll fetch Lady Eleanor. Go, please." Frowning I pondered. Four men had passed me, enough to kill Eleanor but no match for Rory's skills. My thoughts were interrupted by Bryce, passing me clutching his side, family sword in his hand and leaning on one of the soldiers. The other one hurried away to the kitchen to open the escape tunnel.

Enforcing my will anew I pointed Belin to go after the man supporting Bryce while I neared the Theyrn, a dagger ready in my hand …

More steps neared, Howe's men accompanying their master. Shortly his face went to the corpse of Bryce, a smile crossing his lips. Then his eyes went up to mine. I gulped as I saw his intent. I had been only a pawn in his hand. Now it would be my time to die, having outlived my usefulness and being a danger to his plans with my knowledge, my knowledge about the source of the evidence against the Theyrn that had allowed him to convince Loghain.

Without a second thought I ran away, forcing Belin to intercept Howe's men. He would die now, die for me, but that was his duty from the beginning. But what should I do now, where could I hide? Running aimlessly I passed the hallway to the family quarters. Rory. Rory would protect me. Catching my breath I forced my tired legs to run …

Road south of Castle of Highever, eleven days before the battle of Ostagar

Tired, I was so tired. Even my magic was not able to compensate the long hours of forced march, being compelled to energize not only me but Rory and Oriana too. Shortly I wondered how Oriana could keep pace with us, my healing magic only curing the worst wounds after I reached the quarters. Perhaps it was simply the fact that she had to. If she felt back Howe's men would reach her and continue what they began. I shuddered a the mental image of these brutes raping her while the slashed body of Lady Eleanor laid beside her, one of these grinning bastards holding her son.

It had been a relief for me to kill them all, picturing the face of Howe in their stead. Rory arrived only moments later, eased to see me alive. And now she was walking in front of me, carrying Oren, carrying him to Ostagar and his father.