Winter's Grasp.

It was late autumn when Nancora first arrived at the Circle.

It was cold, and the water was rough, ice-cold as it came over the sides of the boat on the crossing to the Tower. Having no shoes and no cloak didn't help her much either. One of the Templars with her didn't care much, sitting with his back to her and watching the Tower growing ever closer. The other one, however, moved her into the centre of the boat where the water was less likely to splash her. She still started her new life soaked to the bone and shivering.

The Tower was difficult to settle into, those first few months. The hallways were high and winding and walking around made her feel dizzy. The other people in Tower weren't particularly friendly either; the Templars just stood around staring at her as if she was about to do something extremely naughty, and everyone else spoke to her very seriously, even the other children.

There was a lot for her to learn as well, especially since she hadn't really learned how to read and write before. There was little point back in the Alienage, after all. And she hadn't managed to cast another spell yet - the one she had done back home, accidentally freezing the puddle she had jumped into, making a sculpture out of the splash marks, remained all the magic she had performed, but it was enough for her parents to want to get rid of her, to lock her up and never see her again.

There was no one to play with in the Tower, and no one to tuck her in at night. She felt cold, and frightened and very, very lonely.

By the time winter truly settled in, she was used to the Tower, used to the way the wind echoed through the hallways and the way the helmets of the Templars turned to follow her as she walked, and the way the other children ignored her as she struggled in her classes. But that didn't stop Nancora from missing her home, and it didn't stop her from longing to be able to go outside.

One night, restless and lonely, she crept out of bed to peek out of the largest window she knew of in the Tower. Outside, the snow was falling softly and the moon was bright, and she wanted nothing more than to be out there, feeling the cold against her skin.

She heard a cough behind her, and jerked around in fright, expecting a templar. Instead, there was another apprentice, older than her. He had a ponytail, an earring and a wide grin. Nancora had been warned he was a troublemaker. She smiled back.

"Missing the snow?" he asked her, the first kind question she had been asked in weeks.

"The Alienage was only ever pretty when it snowed," she informed him wistfully.

He looked over his shoulder, an exaggerated gesture that made her smile. He then beckoned to her with a broad grin. "Come this way."

Intrigued, she followed him into one of the empty rooms used to practice the messy spells, only to find when she opened the door that it wasn't empty at all.

Half a dozen students stood in a loose circle, filling the room with snow, sprinkling it from their hands as easily as if they were shaking off dust. She smiled at the boy who had brought her, and he smirked smugly back.

"I'm Anders, by the way," he told her. "Have fun."

"Nancora," she replied, watching how the other mages made the snow, surprised at how easy it suddenly seemed. She ran to join them and opened her palms, adding to the drifts piling up in the corners of the room.

Another boy - Niall, she thought his name was, she'd overheard him having very serious conversations in the library on occasion - was the first to start the inevitable snowball fight, throwing a handful of snow he had just created into the face of a girl who instantly stopped whispering that they shouldn't be there and retaliated.

Nancora didn't join in right away; instead she went up to a boy around her own age, one who had only been in the Tower a few weeks longer than she had. He still seemed to have trouble adjusting the ice spell to turn it into snow.

"You do it like this," she whispered, doing the spell again, but slowly, so he could see it.

"Thanks," he whispered back. "How'd you figure it out?"

"I don't know. I just did." He gave her a look, part admiration, part envy, before throwing his handful of snow at her, where it splattered against the front of her robes.

They tried to be quiet, but it is all but impossible for a group of children playing in the snow to be quiet about it and eventually a couple of Templars poked their heads around the door. One of them was a young trainee, not even wearing armour.

The other was the Knight-Commander. They all froze.

Nancora had heard, late at night in the dormitories, whispers about what the Templars could do to mages who had been bad. She wondered how bad sneaking out of bed to play with magic was, really. She couldn't tell how much trouble they were in from the Knight-Commander's face, though the young Templar was looking around at all the snow in bewilderment.

There was a long, tense pause.

"Be in bed by half past ten," was all he said, and though his face didn't change she had the feeling that he almost wanted to smile. The young Templar met her gaze then, just for a moment, and he smiled at her before he followed his commander away.

They were still for only a moment, before the snowball fight continued with even more vigour. By the time they returned to their bedrooms, she and Jowen, the boy she had helped, were fast friends.

Nancora didn't have many happy memories of the Tower, but that was one of them.

It was also the reason she was so good at throwing snowballs, much to Alistair's annoyance.

They had wandered off together under the guise of discussing "Very Important Grey Warden Business," but really just wanting to take a break from all the noise and commotion of camp. Nancora liked her companions, but Zevran's flirting, Leliana's singing, Wynne's well-meaning lectures and Oghren's constant drinking grew a little tiring after a while. And although the others were quieter, it didn't stop them from being difficult to deal with on occasion.

It was cold, and there was snow on the ground, but she didn't care. Actually being outside experiencing weather was a novelty she was still enjoying. And as there were no darkspawn around as far as she could tell it was actually shaping up to be a peaceful day.

So she and Alistair had strolled along side by side, throwing sticks (and once an old Hurlock bone) for the dog as they idly discussed what they would really like to eat for supper (what they would actually be having was Alistair's famous lamb and pea soup, re-heated from the night before, with some mostly-stale bread but it didn't hurt to dream) when Alistair shyly slid his hand into hers. He didn't turn his head to look at her, but she could tell that he was blushing, and from more than just the cold.

She had given him his mother's necklace, then he had given her a rose in return, and they had exchanged some very nice kisses, but there had not been time or opportunity for anything more (their every move in camp was observed, discussed and giggled over, much to her annoyance). It was the first time they had been alone since… it was the first time they had been alone.

But just as things were shaping up to be actually quite romantic, Alistair batted a branch out of their way and accidentally poured snow all down the neck of her robes. She couldn't help the shrill shriek that escaped her as Alistair floundered around, stammering apologies.

She didn't bother bending down to scoop up any snow; she simply made snowballs from nothing and pelted him with them. He tried to fight back, of course, but he was hampered by both his shield and the fact he had to actually take the time to bend down and make his snowballs from scratch (presenting his arse as a perfect target, which she of course took advantage of).

"Cheater!" he exclaimed. "Using magic is cheating!"

"Never challenge a mage to a snowball fight," Nancora taunted back. "You'll never win!"

They both knew he could have won by smiting her, but they also both knew that Alistair would never do that. It was one of the reasons she cared for him so desperately.

Eventually, they called a draw when she froze his feet to the ground and he shook a tree so that all of the snow fell down on her, soaking her right the way through. She didn't even want to know what her hair looked like.

They looked at each other, panting, and both started laughing. She ended the spell holding him still and Alistair tripped forwards, but she was there to catch him.

"Maker's Breath," Alistair gasped, still laughing. "I love you."

It was the first time either of them had said it, and it probably deserved more than a surprised, "Really?" but she couldn't help her surprise. She was an elf, and a mage, but he didn't seem to see her as anything but Nancora.

"Of course!" Alistair exclaimed, sounding slightly offended. "I mean, unless you don't…?"

She rolled her eyes and cut him off with a kiss. "Shut up, of course I do."

He grinned again, that infectiously happy smile that she always had to return, even if she didn't want to. "Well, that's alright, then," he told her, and suddenly she was too happy to even feel the cold.

It was yet another snowy day, and she was waiting impatiently outside of Denerim for Alistair to join her.

She and Alistair, as Fereldan's Senior Wardens, spent more time apart than either of them were happy with, but a Grey Warden's work was never done, not even when you had stuck a sword through the head of the big, bad archdemon years and years ago.

This time had been the longest for years, they hadn't even been in the same country for most of it and letters were few and far between. She'd missed him. She always did when they were apart.

She sensed his approach first, and it wasn't long before his familiar form loped into view.

His face broke into a smile as soon as he saw her. Nancora scowled in return.

"You're late," she informed him flatly.

Alistair wasn't intimidated; he just shook his head and leaned in to press a kiss against her lips. "Sorry, my dear, but there was trouble in Kirkwall. Some sort of Qunari revolt."

"Well, I suppose that's an acceptable excuse," she said, unable to keep up the pretence of anger when Alistair was right in front of her. She rose up onto her toes, flinging her arms around his neck as she gave him a proper kiss that lasted just a bit too long to be public before pulling away to ask, "Did you find what we were looking for?"

Alistair nodded once, his face grave. "Yes, I'm afraid so."

They were quiet for a moment, both realising what they needed to do, before Alistair pulled her into what she thought was a hug.

Instead he dropped a handful of snow down her robes. Again. And she shrieked like a little girl. Again.

She swatted at him in annoyance as he laughed, and she couldn't help but join him.

They had faced danger before, plenty of times, in fact, and would face it again and again for the rest of their lives. But she knew that she could face anything with a smile, as long as he was alongside her. They wouldn't be parted again, if she had any say in it.

"Come on," she said, tugging Alistair's arm to lead him through the city gates. "We've got plenty to do before we have to leave."

She would start by freezing his bathwater for revenge.

This was a Secret Swooper Gift for Jessicajones_1 but I have only just got around to posting it here and stars her Surana.

Is anyone else desperately curious to know what the Wardens were worrying about whenever you met them in DA2? I hope we find out at some point!