Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Age: Origins, or anything else associated with the Dragon Age franchise. BioWare owns it, more or less. And I am in no way affiliated with BioWare. So please don't sue me; trust me, you wouldn't get any real money out of it.

Prologue: A Lifetime of Changes

"Wake up, boy."

A terse and loud voice startled Alistair into consciousness, and a moment later, he felt a cold liquid being splashed upon his body. Alistair gave a sputter and bolted upright, glaring over at the stable master. The man in question, an older gentleman with his youthful years behind him, stared back unrepentantly. Alistair glared at him a moment longer, before reluctantly getting up from his bed of hay. The stable master reached over and handed him a loaf of bread as his breakfast, and then turned away from Alistair, putting down the now empty bucket in his hands, as he set about going to work.

Alistair greedily woofed down the somewhat stale bread, savoring its taste. Once he was finished eating, he fruitlessly tried to shake himself dry for a few moments, before giving up on that task. The young stablehand then walked through the Redcliffe stables, before coming upon a group of similarly aged boys, already at work. One of them took notice of Alistair, and gestured over at him to his coworkers.

"Well, if it isn't little Ali! About time you showed up. What's wrong, did the horses keep you up?" the boy jeered, as he and his friends sniggered. Alistair flushed and scowled at him.

"Oh shut it, Jonalby." he grumbled, glaring over at the boy.

That didn't deter their laughter, however, much to Alistair's continuing embarassment. Jonalby looked over at him, and sneered, "What, did little Ali not get enough sleep last night?"

Alistair grumbled under his breath and glared at him some more, wishing that he would just shut up, already. So what if he lived in the stables? Was that so bad? And why did they have to tease him about that?

"Come on, we'd better get to work. Otherwise the stable master will get cross at us," one of th other boys suggested, before any further jibes could be exchanged. Jonalby gave a reluctant nod at that, and with great relief Alistair joined them, as they set about doing their duty; cleaning out the stables of horse manure, feeding the horses themselves, and grooming them.

It wasn't the hardest job in the world, but it wasn't the greatest one, either. In fact, Alistair rather hated doing it. The stables always reeked horribly, and the work he did in the stables was boring and downright unlikable. Still, he didn't really have much of a choice in the matter. He had to earn his keep while he lived in the stables, after all. Otherwise the stable master wouldn't put up with him.

Still, it wasn't too bad. At this point in his life Alistair was rather proficient at being a stableboy; and at least it gave him something to do, during the day.

Alistair continued to work, and the hours came and went. However, something unexpected soon occurred. While he was grooming one of the horses with Jonalby, the stable master suddenly dropped by, and walked over to him. The older man crossed his arms, and looked down gruffly at Alistair.

"The Arl is here to see you, boy." he announced.

Alistair blinked, and stared up uncomprehendly at the stable master for a spare moment, before his face broke out into a happy grin. He dropped his brush and eagerly darted away, rushing outside the stables to meet Eamon Guerrin, Arl of Redcliffe.

It was unusual though, he thought. Eamon and his brother Teagan only visited him a few times a month, and Eamon's last visit had only been two days ago; this was far too soon for another visit from the Arl. How weird...

Still, Alistair didn't let the deviation from his daily schedule bother him too much. He always loved it when Eamon or Teagan visited, especially since their visits were so short and rare. So who was he to question why the Arl might want to visit him sooner than expected? Whatever the reason, a visit with Eamon was always something that brightened up Alistair's otherwise drear and boring days.

Alistair exited the stables, and eagerly looked around for the Arl. He soon spotted Eamon out toward the outskirts of the stables. Alistair smiled happily at Eamon and waved at him, and grinned all the more when the Arl waved back. The young boy ran over to the Arl as fast as his legs could carry him, already envisioning the fun and exciting things he and Eamon could do during his visit.

As he grew closer with each passing step, however, Alistair could make out several figures behind the Arl. Alistair then came to a complete stop when he discovered who those figures were: Templars. A total of four of them, to be precise.

Something was very, very wrong here; Templars had never accompanied Eamon on his visits before, and moreover, the presence of a Templar was never good. They usually only dealt in Chantry matters, and to see them here, with the Arl...

Alistair felt a sense of dread filling him, as he stared at the intimidating Templars that surrounded Arl Eamon. What was going on here? Was he in trouble? Had the Templars come here to reprimand him for the cheese he had pilfered from the Chantry storeroom during the last service? Or...was the Arl himself in trouble with the Chantry? Alistair wasn't sure what was going on, but whatever reasons the Templars were here for, it couldn't be good.

Then, Arl Eamon spoke. "I am afraid it is time to leave, Alistair."

Alistair stared at Eamon, confused...before understanding finally dawned upon him. The Templars...they were here to take him away.

Slowly but surely, the young boy felt his heart start to shatter.

"I have talked to the Templar Order, and they have agreed to take you in for training to become a Templar yourself, Alistair. Isn't that wonderful? It's great, prestigious honor, to be taken in for Templar training." Eamon continued, smiling grandly at his charge. Alistair, however, didn't listen to a word the Arl said, and merely stared at the helmeted Templars in stark terror.

What was going on? Why was he being taken? Had...had he done something wrong? Was Eamon punishing him for some infraction, by sending him to the Templars? But...why?! He could apologize...it wasn't necessary to get the Templars involved...

"W-Why? Why do I have to leave?" The immediate response came, as the boy stared uncomprehendingly at the imposing Templars. They stared back, their cold eyes bringing no relief to him.

"I am afraid you simply can't stay here any longer, Alistair." Eamon answered with a small, sad smile. "It breaks my heart to see you go, but it is unavoidable, unfortunately. You are simply getting too old to live at the stables, and I can't exactly take you in as my own; Isolde is with child, now, and I cannot raise two boys at once. However, I have made suitable arrangements with the Chantry. Like I said, Alistair, you are going to be taken by these nice Templars to a place where you will be trained to become a Templar yourself. Don't be afraid, now. I assure you, that this is a great step in continuing your life."

"B-But, Arl Eamon!" Alistair protested hotly, staring over pleadingly at his caretaker, as tears welled in his eyes. "I-I can e-earn my keep! Please, don't send me away! Just...just give me a job somewhere else other than the stables! I, I can work in the castle!I promise I won't get in the way. I'll...do whatever you want. Just...just let me stay! Please, I don't want to leave Redcliffe! I...I don't want to leave you!"

Eamon, however, merely sighed and shook his head, denyin his request. Their was no sympathy in his voice as he calmly stated, "There is no avoiding it, Alistair. You must leave, and for that, I am truly sorry. However, you will live a much better life now, with the Templars. Trust me. What they have to offer, it is so much more better than your life at Redcliffe. I know you must have some misgivings about this...perhaps we can talk it over in my study? I'm sure we can work out whatever fears you might have about leaving."

Alistair simply stared at Eamon in reply, and took a step back. One of the Templars stepped toward him, then, and this caused a surge of panic to sweep over the child.

"N-No! I don't want to go! I-I won't go!" Alistair cried out, turning to run. But the Templar was already upon him, and grabbed his arm in an iron-like grip. The child struggled to get out of his grasp, but the Templar did not let go, and started dragging him back toward Eamon and his fellows.

"I know you don't want to go, Alistair, but it is the only way. I am sorry. Please, do not make this any more difficult than it has to be." Arl Eamon stated firmly, staring sternly over at the boy. Alistair continued to kick and scream at the impassive Templar, screeching his denial, but no one payed him any heed. Alistair twisted and turned to try and get out of the Templar's hold, but nothing he did worked.

"No!" Alistair continued to shout, a mounting desperation welling within him as he searched in vain for a way to escape this growing nightmare. He wouldn't go! He couldn't! He had spent his entire life at the stables...he knew nothing else. And he couldn't leave Eamon and Teagan! They were his uncles, his family! He couldn't leave them. And...and he didn't want to be a Templar! Templars were scary people...he certainly didn't want to end up like them. He had to stay to stay at Redcliffe...he had to!

Alistair struggled again and again, fighting desperately against his captor, but it was all for naught; the Templar was simply too strong. As he was dragged back to Eamon and the other Templars, Alistair gave one last attempt to beseech the Arl. He cried out, pleading,

"I don't want to go! I don't want to go, Eamon! Please! Please let me stay! I can't go! I...I...I don't want to... go!"

With that shout, time seemed to slow into a crawl, and at once, everything changed. A raw, untapped energy began to fill Alistair's very being, responding to his emotional distress. The energy was comforting, and reassured him, almost as if it had been with Alistair throughout his entire life. So, without even thinking, the boy curled his free hand into a fist and sent it sailing toward the Templar that had him captive, futiley attempting to punch him.

Alistair's newfound power responded to his actions. A large and powerful Fist of Earth sprung into existence from his sailing hand, crashing into the Templar holding his arm. Caught off-guard, the armored behemoth was sent flying, and tumbled away from Alistair.

Dead silence reigned in the aftermath, as the injured Templar groaned and lay still upon the ground.

Using that time to recover, Alistair took a few ragged breaths, and felt elated at beating his captor. And then, what had truly transpired caught up with him. Alistair blinked, a new kind of dread welling inside him. He looked at his hand in shock, unable to fully comprehend what he had just done.

To Alistair's credit, the uninjured Templars and Arl Eamon were equally surprised by his sudden display of magic. Eamon himself stared openly at Alistair, his mouth opening and closing in rapid succession as he gaped.

However, the Templars quickly recovered, and moved to act before the situation could deteriorate any further. One of the Templars lashed out with a fist, and unleashed a Holy Smite upon the unsuspecting boy.

A wave of nausea and overwhelming pain enveloped the astonished Alistair, and he fell to his knees, screaming as his magic was ripped from him. It was unlike anything he had ever felt before; all the pain he had ever endured during his ten years of life, from twisting his ankle to nearly breaking his arm, paled in comparsion to the feeling of having his magic forcibly torn away from him. It felt like his entire body was lit on fire.

Alistair screamed himself hoarse, unable to take the agony. Mercifully, he rapidly began to lose consciousness, causin the pain to fade away from his awareness. The boots of a marching Templar were the last things Alistair saw before darkness finally overtook him. Before he slipped into total unconsciousness, however, one last thought gripped his mind:

Alistair's life as a stableboy in Redcliffe was over...but his life as a Mage had just begun.