Shepherd of the Flock

Denerim, five years before the battle of Ostagar

"Darya?" The addressed woman startled and looked at the boy. He seemed so tiny and lost on the pier, his belongings around him. The men on the ship behind him worked to unload the freight. It was the last thing that linked him to his home. Or better: linked both of them to their home, as she had left Kirkwall behind the same as he did.

But for her it had been her own choice. Not forced on her as it had been done to the boy. Darya allowed herself to bestow him a little smile to soften her required rebuke: "Templar Darya it is, Apprentice Emile. Do you have a question?"

Emile de Launcet was only twelve years old. With his odd hair style, colorful clothes and orlesian accent he would surely have problems with the other apprentices at the tower of Lake Calenhad. She understood the reasoning behind sending him away from Kirkwall, away from his mother who tried to interfere in his teachings since he was sent to the Gallows of Kirkwall. But understanding was not the same as feeling it to be right. She had always thought it to be better to integrate the mages, not to lock them away. As her mentor Thrask often tried to explain: better give the mages a reason to behave, a reason to help the community, than to simply enforce it.

But too often his reasoning went unheard. The majority of the Kirkwall Templars were enthralled by the iron-fist-policy of Knight-Commander Meredith. She was a devout follower of the maker, about that Darya had no doubts. But this suppression seemed to only heighten the tension between Templars and Mages. More than once she had clashed with the Knight-Commander about the proper handling of mages and it was only thanks to Thrask that she had not been demoted from her rank as a Knight-Sergeant. As it had been decided to send Emile away, Thrask suggested sending Darya with him to make sure Emile's safe arrival and concurrent … get lost of her.

"How … how will it be, there at this Cal … Cell …" nervously he began to stutter. Darya laid a hand on his shoulder. She should not touch a mage, even an apprentice, but this boy was so frightened. "Calenhad is the name, Apprentice Emile. I really don't know, I have only once been in Ferelden and only in Denerim then. I've seen pictures. It is a tower on a small island in a marvelous lake. It will be a change from Kirkwall, but you'll do fine. Behave yourself, listen to the others. Don simple clothes."

She looked at his fine jacket. "You should change into the simple robe we bought for you. First impression is important. It is not bad or stupid to feel alone and frightened, many other apprentices will feel the same, even if they try to show a brave face. Don't be arrogant; stand clear of remarks about their clothes, smell or behavior. And no bad jokes about dogs."

Darya smiled broadly and it was the first time he responded in kind. "Try to make one or two friends, it will be much easier for you. Be a good student but don't forget to have fun. There will be enough graveness later. And if someone talks about pranks and tests of bravery: don't shy back but always think about the consequences. Do nothing to hurt others, neither bodily nor emotionally. Before doing something ask yourself: how would I feel if someone did that to me."

Emile tried to remember all what Darya said and nodded a bit relieved. "I'll try to do that."

Darya squeezed his shoulder and smiled. "You'll do fine. And if you ever need help from me, call me by my title of Knight-Sergeant and I'll know."

Calenhad Tower - Library, four years before the battle of Ostagar

Darya looked at the letter she wrote an hour before. It had been strenuous to concentrate on the book in front of her, with her mind always returning to Moira. To be severed from her sister had been the hardest part in leaving Kirkwall, but there was no way that Commander Meredith would have allowed her to accompany Darya. And besides that Moira had many friends there, she had a better ability to disguise her disgust for Meredith. Thrask had been her mentor too, but she had always much more balanced than Darya. She could only hope to see her sometime. Until that regularly letters had to do.

She felt the looks from the apprentices around her. Surely it was an odd sight to see a Templar sitting in the library hunched over a history book. But she still felt the urge to learn more about her new home. It always seemed strange for her that the other Templars often reveled in being uneducated. Yes, basics of education belonged to the time in the chantry, but after leaving that and showing up for duty in the tower, the Templars appeared to be content and unwilling to increase their knowledge.

This lack of knowledge felt odd to her, but in respect of their superstitious thoughts about themes as blood magic, demons and abominations Darya could only shudder. She had fought blood mages and abominations in Kirkwall and knew the horror about them. But thinking about a young Templar killing a mage out of superstition and nescience or slaying an apprentice in the harrowing because he could not decide if that radiance was a sign of an abomination frightened her deeply.

With the help of Knight-Lieutenant Bryant she had been able to convince Commander Greagoir that improvement was necessary. She was allowed to give lessons to young Templars under her command about these dangerous themes. But she needed help. Often she had been in the library but today she had another reason to be here. The reason sat two tables away and shot irritated looks at the Templar from time to time.

Wynne had been very cool from the beginning, nearly rude to be exactly. But she was a senior enchanter and even Greagoir seemed to respect her. But what was much more important for Darya: Wynne appeared to really feel concerned about her pupils. That was something First Enchanter Irving lacked in Darya's opinion. Irving was more of a politician, always tried to free the mages from the grip of the chantry, always ready to challenge Greagoir's authority. Wynne on the other hand was a teacher by heart. Darya deeply regretted that her start had been so bad.

The Templar sighed. It would do no good to delay longer. She collected the books and went to Wynne's table. The older mage glanced coldly at her but it was too late to retreat.

"Senior Enchanter Wynne, do you have some minutes to spare?" For some moments Darya feared that Wynne would send her away, but then she nodded.

"As you know one of the duties of us Templars is to watch the Harrowing. As I learned in the last months it appears that … how I may describe that … the knowledge about what exactly could happen, how to discern dangers and what to do is a bit lacking on our side. Because I have collected some practical experience in the Circle at Kirkwall Knight-Commander Greagoir allowed me to train the younger Templars. But … I need some help. I wondered if you would perhaps support me in this task."

The older mage looked at Darya as if the Templar had gone mad and snarled: "Help you in train the Templars how to better slay us, is it that what you ask?"

Darya flinched, but then a wave of anger washed thru her head. "Always the same, always only distrust, hate and lack of understanding on both sides. I don't need your advice how to slay a mage. I surely do not wish I had learned that the hard way in Kirkwall, but I know that already. I'm not one of the Templars slicing marks in her scabbard for every killed mage. But if you have forgotten: we Templars have two duties. We protect the people from abuse of magic and we protect the mages in body and soul. To do that we have to know the difference between a devout mage and a practitioner of blood magic, the difference between a healing cantrip and a curse."

Slowly Darya talked herself into a rage, her voice rising, the apprentices around them very silent now. "We have to make sure that neither a Templar overreacts nor that he hesitates too long. Zeal without knowledge is dangerous. I want to change that. I want Templars not to be simple mage-hunters but shepherds of the flock. Until now I hoped you would feel the same and that you care about your pupils and want to shelter them from both rash swords as from the influence of blood mages. "

Darya stared at the puzzled face of Wynne, shame reddening the mage's cheeks. "There is no doubt that a Templar has to cut down a blood mage, an abomination, but it should be the clean cut of a sword to the culprit and not the blunt crush of a mace hitting all around as well." Her voice quieted, a bit of sorrow showed in her face. "There are much too many people on both sides, mages as Templars, who can only see enemies in the others. I had hoped you don't belong to them, but …"

Wynne gripped Darya's forearms, pulled her down to a seat. "You have not erred in me. And your words ashamed me more than I could express. I'll try to help you. Please explain what you have in mind."

Calenhad Tower – Rooms of the Senior Enchanters, two years before the battle of Ostagar

Four times he had tried to escape. Darya sighed as she thought shortly about Anders. It had been the second time that she had succeeded in fetching him. She really liked him despite his lewd humor, but it was her duty to catch him. She comprehended that there were mages unable to stay in the tower, unable to settle into a way of life they felt as a prison. But the chantry …

Knight-Lieutenant Darya that sounded good. As Lieutenant Bryant left the tower to assume the office of Chief-Templar in Lothering, Darya had been promoted in spite of her young age. Nearing her twenty-eighth birthday and already Lieutenant. With the place of Knight-Captain vacant only Commander Greagoir was her senior. But her hopes about promoting cohesion between mages and Templars had been crushed by the resistance of Greagoir and Irving. The tension between these two had increased in the last two years. They often seemed to recognize that they were thought to cooperate and spared less time in dialogue than in trying to diminish the reputation of their counterpart.

Wynne was now longer allowed to take part in the Templar training and more than once Greagoir and Irving had tried to urge Darya into altering her subject matter. It was really time for a change in leadership. She had heard that Templar Hadley was thought to be sent from Denerim to the tower and take the position of Knight-Captain, therefore being the most expected candidate of replacing Greagoir in some years. Darya had met him several times in the last years and he had made a very good impression of her. Perhaps …

Her mind wandered back to the task at hand. These long moments thinking about Greagoir, Irving, the tension, that all had been only to delay entering the room of Wynne. She knew that she acted childishly, that she should not fear this conversation with the older mage. In the last two years the two women had expanded their mutual interest of teaching into a deep friendship. But exactly that friendship had urged Darya to do something she now regretted and yet had to finish.

One year ago, Darya couldn't remember what had been the cause, she had looked into the archive of the tower. In neat lines there was recorded which mage had been apprentice since when, what had been his trespassing or merits … and which children were born to mages.

This had been one of the direst points in her life as a Templar, the order to take away the newborn child of a mage. Three times it had happened in the past years and every time she had volunteered to be the Templar who executed the order. The tears, the cries, the pounding of fists on her breastplate, the despair in the mages' voices. Darya remembered every mother and every child. She had volunteered to make sure that the mother was not pained more than necessary and that the child found a good place with the chantry.

Greagoir had been displeased about her behavior and Darya was not sure he would send her the next time. But she had to do her best. To her relief she found some merciful souls between the younger sisters at Denerim and so she had been able to carry letters to the mothers with news about their children. Perhaps it would have been better not to do such things, to let the mothers' memories slip into oblivion. But every time she saw a mother hug a new letter as if her live would depend on its existence, Darya felt reassured.

Darya knocked against the door and stepped in after the invitation was called. As expected Wynne detected Darya's tension right after her entering. "What may I do for you, child?"

"Wynne, I …" Darya sighed deeply, tried to gather her nerves, find words to start with.

The older mage smiled. "Don't be shy, spit it out. Can't be so bad."

"You don't know, Wynne. But … you know I have done something really stupid. You know stupid like the things only Templars can do."

Wynne laughed friendly. "Templars or young mages perhaps."

Even her friendliness did nothing to soothe Darya's nerves. "Perhaps you'll be angry with me, perhaps you'll want to never speak with me again …" Now Darya had Wynne's attention. "One year ago I found something in the tower archives, something about you." Darya trembled shortly and looked down. "I read about … about your son." Wynne hissed and Darya looked up shortly only to avert the mages' eyes hastily anew. "He had been sent away as it is usual. I thought ...thought that you owed to know … what happened to him. I searched for him. And I found him."

Darya played with the letter in her hands, the silence disturbing her more than any shout of Greagoir could. Abrupt she put the letter on Wynne's table and nearly fled from the room.

It was only hours later at the next supper that Wynne left the table the elder mages, went to the Templar's table and hugged Darya deeply, ignoring the stares of all around. Without a word she left Darya, the young Templar feeling sorrow leaving her heart like a heavy stone.

Calenhad Tower – Rooms of the Junior Mages, one year before the battle of Ostagar

The day had been good so far. Kailli Tabris underwent her harrowing without problems, Darya alleviated that she had not to slay the young elven mage. She really liked the young mage, who had always been difficult to integrate, her temperament getting her into problems almost every week. Stemming from the Denerim alienage it had been hard to get her trust for a human Templar, but she even smiled at Darya as she entered the Harrowing Chamber. Now she was a full mage, changing her rooms from the apprentice bunks to one of the rooms on the second floor. Kailli would like to have a bit of privacy, the room only sheltering three mages and with screens between the beds.

Jowan on the other hand … Darya had always mistrusted him. He was weak, not only in skill but in will and dedication as it seemed. He was a friend of Kailli and Darya heard how he tried to quiz her about the Harrowing. The reason of the secrecy about the Harrowing she never understood, but the secrecy was one of the oldest laws of the tower. He should have known that.

That Darya knew about his mésalliance with Sister Lily only enhanced her displeasure. But being herself not the most ardent follower of the rules she tried to overlook that wrongdoing so far. She only hoped that she would never regret it.

And accurately that Jowan she had to rescue now, rescue from some overeager Templars. It had all began when Captain Hadley arrived at the tower not alone but accompanied by Sergeant Bryce. The elder Templar would make a good follower of Meredith, Darya mused. Instantly they both had taken a dislike to one another. He was a primitive brute but able to collect a following of the strongest and dumbest Templars at the tower. More than once she had to intercede when Bryce mistreated one of the younger mages or apprentices. Once nearly a fistfight erupted and Darya's report of the incident delayed his promotion, something that turned his rejection into blind hate.

Since then time had been hard for her, even harder had there not been the help of Cullen and a handful of other honest Templars. She dreaded where that would end.

Calenhad Tower – Prison, one month before the battle of Ostagar

"Hello Anders, how do you do?" Darya greeted the mage cheerfully. It had been the fifth or sixth time that he had been captured after fleeing the tower, but his will remained unquenched. Darya was sure he would try again and deep within she hoped that he would succeed someday. Somehow Anders was a prototype of a free-spirited mage, of an apostate who only wanted to rule his own life. No one suspected him of using blood magic or cooperate with demons. He never had used but the smallest amount of violence, his heart that of a healer. Why couldn't he live in a village helping the people as he wished?

Being allowed to visit him, Darya tried to be with him once a week. One of the things she blamed Irving for was his unwillingness to spend time with sentenced mages. How could he expect to sway them on the proper path without speaking with them? Simply locking them away would do nothing good.

But today Anders was not in the mood for conversation. With a stony face and unable to hide his rage he stared at Darya. Ignoring her answers he stayed silent until she left. As she grasped the door to lock it, he stayed up at last.

"How can you allow that? I thought you liked her. And now … bah." He made a disgusted hand move, startling Darya.

"What do you mean? Do you speak about Kailli? I have tried all that I could. You know that she helped Jowan to escape. A blood mage he is. And she helped him destroy his phylactery. She had to be punished. You can't ignore …"

Anders interrupted her with an angry shout. "Punishment? Punishment you call that? How dare you. Locking her away is one thing; perhaps she deserved that, even if she only wanted to help a love couple. But what Bryce and the others do to her, that can't be the will of the maker, I can't believe that."

Ashen-faced Darya looked at Andres, her voice only a coarse whisper. "What do you mean with 'what Bryce and the others do to her'?"

"As if you wouldn't know, as if not all wouldn't know it."

Darya shoved Anders at the wall. "Stop babbling. I have no idea what you are speaking about. What is Bryce doing?"

The mage didn't answer, only look at the Templar with grief. Darya felt her heart lapse a beat and she let Anders loose. With slow steps she left the cell and looked at the prison guard in the corridor. It was one of Bryce's brutes and his look did nothing to reassure her. Anders was on the first floor of the prison, the floor containing cells for minor infractions. Kailli had been dragged to the third floor. Only with special permission of Greagoir it was allowed to go there.

Her mind whirled. She had to speak with Hadley. He must do something. Slowly she left the mage prison. All know it. Nearly blind she reached the hall, and the guards looked puzzled at her officer. Cullen passed the prison entrance on his way to the barracks. Darya had to harrumph a few times before she finished speaking his name.

"Cullen, have you seen Hadley or Bryce lately?"

Before he could answer one of the guards pointed to the prison. "Bryce is down there since a while."

Paling even more Darya waved Cullen to follow her and went back to the first floor. The guard started to say something with a broad smile on his face. Two seconds later he was on the floor knocked out by Darya who rummaged thru his uniform to fetch the key. "What are you doing? You can't go there, that is not allowed."

Darya pleaded. "Don't hesitate, please. I need you, Cullen, as a witness. It is on my responsibility."

With hurried steps she led Cullen down to the third floor, dread gripping her heart. As they opened the last door they were greeted by female cries and rough laughter. Darya drew her sword and rounded the corner. Bryce and two of his brutes were with Kailli, the elven mage heavily bruised.

"Go away from her, surrender and lay down your weapons." Darya didn't recognize her own voice, red waves of rage veiling her view.

Bryce let Kailli go only to draw his own weapon. "How nice, the girl who wants to be a Templar. What do you want? Take her place?" Lewd laughter followed, his men joining in but with fear in their eyes. Darya had a reputation as a good and fierce fighter and Cullen trained often with her in the last years. But Bryce seemed to ignore that and wanted to use the chance to take revenge. As he raised his weapon and continued to mock her, Darya went to attack.

She left it to Cullen to occupy the two other Templars and concentrated on Bryce. Blade connected to blade, the ring of clashing metal permeated the prison, and sparks flew wildly. Bryce was stronger but Darya quicker and her rage more than compensated her disadvantage in sheer mass. With a groan Bryce slumped to the ground, lost his sword and pressed his hands to the wound at his side.

"Darya, DARYA, don't." Only Cullen's cry prevented her from chopping Bryce's head off. She pushed him into Kailli's cell, his two men following swiftly. Heavily painting, more from her emotions than from the fight, Darya ordered: "Cullen, take her. Put your mantle around her." Retaining her bloodied blade in the hand she locked the door and led Cullen with Kailli on his hands upwards.

Nobody dared to hinder her as she left the prison. The guards scurried away and even Hadley stepped aside and followed her silently to Greagoir's room. Her look promised cold murder to everyone who dared to stand in her way. Ignoring Greagoir's shouts Darya wiped away the papers on his desk and ordered Cullen to lay Kailli down, putting her own mantle under her head.

"Cullen, leave. Close the door, fetch Wynne. She has to come immediately."

Cullen left quietly, Hadley, Greagoir and Darya waiting in unsettled silence. More than once Greagoir started to say something, every time stopping as Darya only glared at him. She knew that this would end her career as a Templar. Surely he would dismiss her. But that was unimportant now. Nothing else mattered as the life of this mage and that justice was brought to Bryce.

A few minutes later Wynne arrived, going to work immediately with only a short look at Darya's sword, understanding without words what the Templar had done. With a short bow to Wynne, Darya surrendered her sword to Hadley and left the room for the barracks.