pariswriter: (Default)
Title:  The Ferelden Chronicles - Chapter Nine
Author:  ParisWriter
Game:  Dragon Age: Origins
Summary:  Varia Surana thought her life had already been mapped out for her. She would be a mage of the Circle of Ferelden, studying and perfecting her craft. However, an unforseen series of events sends her headlong into a world thrown into chaos by the King's death and an impending Blight.
Rating:  T/PG-13
Pairings:  Cullen/Surana; eventual Alistair/Surana
Characters (This Chapter):  Varia Surana, Loghain Mac Tir, Daveth, Jory, Wynne, Alistair
Disclaimer:  Dragon Age characters, settings, and any dialogue taken from the game ©BioWare. Varia belongs to me.  
Content Warning:  Mage Origin Spoilers; Overall game spoilers; Adult language; Mild violence; mature content in later chapters

In this chapter: Varia receives way too much attention thanks to Anders' little gift, meets her fellow Warden recruits, runs into a familiar face from the Circle tower, and eventually tracks down the Warden she had set out find - namely, Alistair.

Chapter Nine: Tracking Down the Warden

"Hail! You must be the Grey Warden recruit that Duncan brought."

Varia blinked in surprise at the guard who addressed her once she reached the far side of the long bridge stretching between the various parts of the ruins. Apparently, everyone there already knew who she was. At the very least, it seemed they all knew her purpose for being there. Of course, she should have expected that. The king had known of her, and he didn't really seem the type to keep his mouth shut about a new Grey Warden who would soon be joining them. She simply hoped that Cailan hadn't regaled everyone at the camp with the stories about her past that he seemed to have been privy to.

"Greetings," she said to the guard as she stepped up to him, smiling a bit nervously.

"This place hasn't seen such bustle in centuries, I'd wager," the guard told her, hooking a thumb over his shoulder toward the area behind him. Varia peered around him and saw dozens of people milling about – including soldiers, members of the king's guard, and some intimidating-looking men with their faces painted in a strange sort of fashion. Even a few mages were there, giving wide berth to a platform where a young Chantry sister was preaching to a small group of soldiers. What caught her eye the most, however, were two very large and colorful tents erected near the central bonfire. She assumed those were the ones which housed the king and General Loghain.

"Need a hand getting anywhere?" the guard asked her, and she wondered for a moment at his kindness. From her personal experience, she knew that humans didn't seem to like elves very much. The only other elven mage she met the entire time she lived at the tower had told her about his time growing up in Denerim's alienage, and he had painted a picture of cruelty and abuse which seemed even worse than what the mages had to put up with from the templars, at times. At first, she thought perhaps it was simply due to the king's respect for the Grey Wardens – after all, he had probably informed all the soldiers present at the camp that he expected them to behave in an honorable, respectful manner toward the Wardens. It wasn't until she caught his eyes darting toward her legs that she realized the reason he was being so kind to her was likely because he wanted to get into her pants.

Thank you, Anders, for encouraging other men to lust after me with your fashion choices, she thought, rolling her eyes with a sigh before clearing her throat to bring the guard's attention back to her face.

"I'm looking for a Grey Warden named Alistair," she told him, her tone businesslike.

"Try heading north," the guard suggested, pointing in the direction he had seen the man go. "I think he was sent with a message to the mages."

Varia thanked him and stepped around him to continue on her way, but found herself running into a tall man in a full set of shining silver armor.

"Pardon me," she quickly apologized, bowing to the man.

"There's no need to apologize," the man assured her, chuckling a bit. "It was my fault, really. I should have been paying more attention to where I was going, rather than focusing on these plans."

She looked up and found an older man with dark hair and icy eyes standing over her, grasping some sort of half-rolled parchment in his gauntleted hands. She studied him carefully for a moment, his face seeming somehow familiar, then gasped softly when she realized just who she had run into.

"General Loghain, ser," she greeted him, bowing a second time. "My apologizes. I didn't know it was you."

"Didn't I just say it was my fault?" he asked her, his own eyes taking her in for a moment before he continued to speak.

"You're Duncan's new Grey Warden, aren't you?" he remarked, the kindness in his voice greatly diminished. "His Majesty could not contain his excitement after your meeting."

"I am, ser."

"You're pretty for a Grey Warden," he added, his gaze sweeping over her in an appraising manner. "Don't let anyone tell you that you don't belong. The first Warden Maric brought to Ferelden was a woman. Best warrior I've ever seen. I don't suppose you'll be riding into the thick of battle with your fellows, will you, being a mage and all?"

"I really don't know yet," Varia replied, feeling a bit uncomfortable from his comment about how pretty she was. Loghain was a well-respected man, but something about him just made her feel like something was trying to crawl up her spine – and not in a good way.

"Well, I'll look for you on the battlefield," he told her, flashing a grin which she tried her best to return, but she had a feeling her smile probably looked more like a wince. "Now, I must return to my task. Pray that our king is the type to listen to reason, if you're the praying sort."

"And if he doesn't?" she asked before she could stop herself.

"Then simply pray," Loghain told her, his eyes cold and his expression completely unreadable. He gave her a slight bow before continuing on his way, and Varia shivered a bit as she watch him retreating toward one of the large tents.

"Alistair," she repeated the name of the Warden she was to report to under her breath, reminding herself of her own task at hand. "I need to find Alistair."

She wandered over to where a small group of mages were performing some sort of group spell, thinking perhaps the one Alistair had been delivering his message to was among them, but before she could approach them to find out she was stopped by a templar.

"This area is off-limits, I'm afraid," he told her, holding his hands up to block her approach. "The mages are not to be disturbed, by order of the Grey Wardens."

"Could you tell me if a Warden named Alistair came by here?" Varia asked him. "I am told he was sent with a message for one of the mages."

"Aye, he was here," the templar replied with a nod of his head. "The one he was looking for was up at the old ruins."

"Thanks," Varia muttered under her breath, rolling her eyes. The entire place was just one big ruin. How was she supposed to know exactly where she needed to go to find this Alistair? Not for the first time in her life, she wished there was a spell one could cast which would tell them where anyone was at any given time. Of course, she knew there probably already was such a spell, but magic of that sort usually involved blood magic and she was not about to turn to the most forbidden of magical arts simply to find some Grey Warden.

"Well, hello there."

Varia tried her best to ignore the drawling voice coming from her left as she continued to wander toward the northern part of the ruins, hoping that perhaps its owner had been attempting to draw the attention of someone else. That hope was dashed, however, when a man in leather armor with short, black hair and blue eyes stepped in front of her.

"You're certainly not what I thought you'd be," he said in that drawling voice, his eyes sliding over her form appreciatively.

"And what did you think I'd be?" Varia wondered, crossing her arms over her chest with an exasperated sigh. She was going to strangle Anders the next time she saw him. While his gift had been a thoughtful gesture, it was getting her far more attention than she had ever wanted from men and she suddenly found herself wishing she had her 'frumpy' old mage robes back.

"Not an elf, that's for sure. Though I ain't complaining," he replied, flashing a toothy grin. "The name's Daveth. It's about bloody time you came along, sweetheart. I was beginning to think they cooked this ritual up just for our benefit."

Apparently, this man was one of the other recruits Duncan had spoken of. She wanted to tell him off for his blatant flirting – especially the part where he'd called her 'sweetheart' – but she also knew that perhaps he could shed some light on the situation she now found herself in concerning this so-called Joining ritual.

"Oh? And what do you know of the ritual?" she asked him, batting her eyelashes the way she'd seen Miranda do it whenever she talked to the eldest Amell brother, Daylen, who she had been fancying since she hit puberty.

"Well, uh..." Daveth stammered, surprised at having a woman actually flirt back, for once. "I happened to be sneaking around camp last night, see, and and I heard a couple of Grey Wardens talking. So I listen in for a bit. I'm thinking they plan to send us into the Wilds."

"Why would they do that? From what I understand, the Wilds are dangerous."

"Oh, they are! My mum used to tell me all sorts of stories about the Wilds when I was growin' up. There's barbarians and cannibals, and even witches in them woods! All sorts of nasty things. But you needn't worry your pretty little head, 'cause I'll be there to protect you."

"Lucky, lucky me," Varia said with very little enthusiasm, but Daveth either didn't notice or didn't care. He moved to her side and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, turned her around, and started steering her back in the direction from which she had come.

"You know, I could tell you all about how I cleverly snuck into the Wardens' camp right under the noses of the King's Army. I'll even show ya some of the stuff I managed to swipe for trophies. So why don't we go somewhere a little more private?"

"Oi, Daveth!" called a deep, male voice, and the rogue stopped in his tracked and turned toward its owner with a sigh.

"Can't you see I'm busy here?" he asked a tall, balding man in full armor. While it wasn't as flashy as the pieces the king's guard wore, it was still extremely well-crafted. Varia assumed he was most likely a member of the guard for one of the more prominent noble families in Ferelden. He was obviously older than Daveth, probably older than the king, as well, but not quite as old as Duncan.

"Sorry," the knight apologized, nodding toward Varia. "I was merely wondering if you'd heard anything more about this new recruit Duncan was supposed to be bringing along. I just heard one of the king's men say he was back and I wanted to introduce myself to our new brother-in-arms."

"Sister-in-arms would be more appropriate, I think," Daveth corrected him, gesturing toward Varia. "This is the new recruit."

"Oh!" the knight exclaimed, his eyes going wide as he took her in once more. He quickly wiped his hands on his breeches and offered one of them to her, and Varia couldn't help smiling as she shook it in greeting.

"I'm Jory," he introduced himself with a smile. "I apologize if my comment offended you. Duncan never told us who he was going to retrieve, so I assumed it was another man."

"Well, you were wrong, ser knight," Daveth remarked before Varia could get a word in. "She's not only a woman, but an elf – a very pretty elf, I might add." He turned his head and winked at her and Varia rolled her eyes as she shrugged his arm off from around her shoulders.

"A word of advice," she told the rogue, taking a large step away from him. "You should probably ask a woman her name before you make sexual advances toward her."

Jory chuckled, stepping forward and slapping the smaller man on the back, and Daveth stumbled forward a bit.

"And what is your name, my good lady?" Jory asked politely, proving himself much more well-mannered than his fellow recruit.

"My name is Varia," she told them. "Duncan brought me from the Circle of Magi."

Daveth winced and slowly backed away from her. "A mage, eh?"

Normally, Varia would have been offended or upset by the way he was treating her like some sort of monster who was about to rip out his entrails, but she found herself amused by the nervous way he was putting so much distance between them.

"Is there a problem, Daveth?" she asked, taking a step toward him and laughing when he tried to get away from her more quickly and ended up tripping backwards over his own feet.

Oh, yes, she thought. He is quite a graceful rogue, indeed.

"I just don't want to be turned into a toad, is all," Daveth told her, holding his hands up in front of his face like a shield.

"Maker's breath, Daveth, what sort of stories did your mother tell you as a child?" she wondered, gently nudging him with her foot in an attempt to get him to look at her. "I'm not going to turn you into a toad. I don't even know how one turns a person into a toad."

"So you're uh... not gonna hurt me, then?" he pleased, peeking at her through his fingers.

"As long as you don't try to hurt me first, I think it's safe to say that I won't do anything detrimental to your health," she assured him, holding out a hand to help him to his feet. Daveth hesitated for a moment, staring at her hand as though fire were about to burst forth from her fingertips at any second to set him aflame, then he grasped onto it. Varia stumbled backward slightly as she helped him to stand, but Jory quickly stepped forward and caught her against his chest before she could end up sprawled out on the ground like Daveth had just been.

"We should probably get back to Duncan," Jory suggested as he released her, blushing furiously. "Now that you're here, he'll no doubt want to get this ritual he told us about underway as soon as possible."

"Duncan sent me to find another Warden for the ritual," Varia told them.

"Alistair?" Daveth asked, then turned a bit and pointed in the direction of a ramp near a couple of merchants who had set up stalls for the soldiers to get supplies from. "He went that way, looking for some mage. Poor sap."

"Why 'poor sap'?"

"Alistair used to be a templar," Jory informed her. "He's been giving the mages here quite a wide berth since they arrived."

"Just lovely." Varia sighed, reaching up to rub at one of her temples. She had finally gotten away from the templars at the tower, and now she was going to end up fighting alongside one in the Grey Wardens. And he was not only a senior member of the order but, going by what Jory had just said, he was one of the ones who disliked mages.

"We'll go ahead and let you grab Alistair and catch up," Jory said, giving her a sympathetic smile as he grabbed Daveth by the arm and began leading him toward where Duncan had told them all to meet.

"Varia?" called a woman's voice before she had a chance to take a single step toward the area Daveth had indicated.

"What is it now?" she muttered under her breath, though she was surprised that someone was actually addressing her by name. She turned around and spied one of the senior enchanters from the Circle walking toward her, a smile lighting up her old face.


She'd forgotten that Irving had mentioned Anders' former mentor being one of the mages who had been sent to Ostagar to assist the King's Army. The older mage beamed as she reached her younger colleague and enveloped her in a tight hug, taking Varia completely by surprise. Wynne had always been a stern, by-the-books type rather than someone who was known to walk up to people and hug them in greeting.

"It's so good to see you, dear," Wynne said once she had released her. "I take if from your presence here that you've passed your Harrowing and Irving has sent you to help Uldred see reason?"

"What do you mean?" Varia asked, shaking her head. "I did pass my Harrowing, of course, but Irving didn't send me because of Uldred."

Wynne sighed. "Wonderful. I suppose I'll have to continue to listen to his ranting, then. He's been making a fuss for the past several days, insisting that King Cailan should give us a bigger role in the battles. I keep reminding him that our place is to offer support to the troops, of course, but he won't listen."

"And what makes you think he would even care to listen to a mage just out of her apprenticehood over a respected senior enchanter?" Varia asked with an amused smile.

"You weren't just any apprentice, though. You were Irving's apprentice."

Varia let out a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes as the smile fell from her face. She wasn't even his apprentice any more, and that still seemed to be all people cared about. The First Enchanter had trained her, basically raised her, and because of it her name and reputation would forever be associated him. Perhaps leaving the tower was a better thing than she thought if it meant she would finally get the chance to crawl out from under that overbearing shadow he'd cast upon her.

"I'm not here on behalf of the Circle," she informed the old healer. "I'm here as a recruit of the Grey Wardens."

Wynne's entire demeanor shifted with that revelation. She took a step back away from Varia and carefully appraised her, one of her eyebrows arching high as she crossed her arms over her chest and her lips thinned out into an unreadable expression which was neither a smile nor a frown. It was a look Varia had seen her give Anders on numerous occasions, whenever he was trying to talk himself out of some sort of trouble. Varia wanted to scream at her, ask her what she'd done that was so wrong, but instead she simply offered the senior enchanter a polite bow.

"If you'll excuse me, I must be going."

She didn't even wait for a response. She simply turned on her heel and quickly walked away before Wynne could start lecturing her about her duty to the Circle and how she should be devoting herself to helping other mages instead of wasting her days fighting the darkspawn, or something along those lines. Wynne was a nice enough woman most of the time, and she was the best healer Varia had ever met, but her sense of loyalty to the Circle and the Chantry had always been a bit of a point of contention between them – especially when it came to Anders. Wynne had been his mentor, but she had refused to stand up for him even once after his many escapes. It was a stark contrast to the way Irving had stood up to Greagoir on her behalf when Duncan announced he wanted to recruit her.

Shaking her head, she once more continued on her way and finally managed to get past the merchants – one of whom was a tranquil mage she vaguely recognized from the tower, selling potions and enchantments. Once she had ascended the ramp toward the upper courtyard she could hear raised voices coming from nearby and knew she'd finally found her man as she listened in while following the conversation to its source.

"What is it now? Haven't the Grey Wardens asked enough of the Circle?"

"I simply came to deliver a message from the revered mother, ser mage. She desires your presence."

"What her Reverence 'desires' is of no concern to me! I am busy helping the Grey Wardens – by the King's orders, I might add!"

Varia was surprised by the mage's defiance, especially considering the man he was talking to was a templar. Either the mage didn't care about being punished for such disrespect or he thought he was above adhering to the rules of the Circle simply because he was no longer housed within its walls. She held her breath and her eyes moved to the templar – Alistair – to see what his reaction would be.

"Should I have asked her to write a note?" Alistair asked the other man rather flippantly, and Varia blinked in surprise. It certainly wasn't the reaction she had been expecting. She thought he would have cuffed the mage or at least threatened him in order to remind him of his place.

"Tell her I will not be harassed in this manner!" the mage replied, his dark eyes narrowing at the younger man.

"Yes... I was harassing you by delivering a message," Alistair remarked, a defiant grin on his face.

"Your glibness does you no credit."

"And here I thought we were getting along so well," Alistair said, grasping at his chest in mock pain. "I was even going to name one of my children after you... the grumpy one."

"Enough!" The mage threw up his hands, shaking his head in frustration. "I will go speak to the woman if I must! Get out of my way, fool!"

He turned and stormed away from Alistair in a huff, nearly knocking Varia over as he shoved past her, and she gaped after him. Never in her life had she seen a mage acting so openly aggressive toward a member of the Chantry. Moreover, she'd never seen a templar react to such hostility in the way Alistair just had. It was confusing, but she supposed that it was just another way the outside world was different from life within the tower.

"You know, one good thing about the Blight is how it brings people together," she heard Alistair say, but she wasn't sure if he was addressing her directly or just commenting on the entire exchange he'd had with the other mage.

"That's one way of putting it, I suppose," she replied, still looking off toward where the mage had gone for a moment before finally turning toward him.

"It's like a party: we could all stand in a circle and hold hands. That would give the darkspawn something to talk about."

She laughed as a picture of dozens of Grey Wardens standing in a circle, holding hands and singing folk tunes, suddenly formed in her mind. Perhaps this templar wasn't going to be so bad, after all. At the very least, he seemed to have a sense of humor – which was something pretty much all of his fellows were sorely lacking.

"Wait, we haven't met, have we?" he asked, looking her over. "I don't suppose you happen to be another mage?"

"I am indeed a mage," Varia responded.

"Really? You don't look like a mage," Alistair remarked, looking surprised, then he quickly cleared his throat and took on a more serious tone. "Uh... that is... I mean... how interesting."

"You must not be a very good templar, if you can't tell when someone is a mage upon meeting them," Varia teased him. "I would think the robes and staff would be a dead giveaway, after all."

"I'm not really a templar, though," Alistair corrected her.

"That's not what Daveth and Jory said."

"Why would you be talking to... Oh!" His face suddenly lit up with realizatioon. "Right, you're the new recruit Duncan went to the Circle to retrieve. I apologize, I should have recognized you right away."

"And how would you have recognized me, at all?" Varia wondered. "We've never met until just now."

"Fair point," Alistair acquiesced with a grin. "Duncan described you to me before he left, though. Young elven girl, blonde hair, grey eyes. You fit that description, so I'm assuming that's you. Allow me to introduce myself: I'm Alistair, the new Grey Warden, though I guess you already knew that."

"I did. And I am Varia Surana. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Right, that was the name," Alistair remarked with a snap of his fingers. "I'm sorry we had to meet under these circumstances. I'm afraid you exactly didn't catch me at my finest there with the mage. And, you know... being a mage, yourself, I sincerely hope you don't hold that against me."

"I'll try not to," Varia assured him. "After all, that mage was being a bit of an ass. I certainly hope you don't hold his actions against me, either."

"I wouldn't dream of it," he replied, smiling at her once again, and Varia found herself smiling back at him. He was a good-looking man, young and ruggedly handsome like Cullen, and he seemed to have a slightly snarky sense of humor like Anders. There was something in his hazel eyes, though... Some sort of deep pain, like she'd seen in Jowan's eyes so many times when he didn't realize she was looking. She shook her head, reminding herself that her life at the Circle was over and that dwelling upon the memories of her old friends wasn't going to help her move on the way she knew she needed to.

"As the junior member of the order, I'll be accompanying you and the others when you prepare for the Joining," Alistair's voice broke through her thoughts.

"That's why I was sent to find you," Varia told him. "Duncan said to bring you along when I was ready."

"Perhaps we should be on our way back, then," he suggested. "I imagine he's eager to get things started."

"Wait." She reached out to stop him when he turned to go. He looked down at her hand resting upon his arm and she quickly pulled it away, blushing. "I just... I was hoping maybe you could tell me a bit more about this ritual."

"There's... not a lot I can tell you," Alistair replied, scratching the back of his head and avoiding eye contact with her. "We go and collect darkspawn blood, and then you'll hear the rest of it."

"Can't you tell me something?" Varia pleaded, and he finally met her eyes. She knew she must have sounded pathetic by the look on his face. She was scared, though. She had been dragged into this way too quickly, and no one was willing to tell her what she should be expecting. For all she knew, she would have to cut off all the toes on her left foot in order to prove her loyalty and worth to the Grey Wardens.

"I..." he hesitated, looking back over his shoulder to be sure they were completely alone, then he took a step closer to her and lowered his voice to a near-whisper.

"Look, I can't tell you much, all right?"

"I just want to know what I've gotten myself into, here."

Alistair gave her a sympathetic nod. "The Joining is... very unpleasant. I wish I could forget it, but I can't. I don't envy what you're going to have to go through."

"But what actually happens in the Joining?"

"You find out why it's a secret."

Varia slowly let out a breath and tightly shut her eyes, a combination of anger and fear making her stomach feel like it was about to empty itself upon his feet. He was being intentionally vague, and it was clear she wasn't going to get any actual details about the ritual out of him.

"Hey," Alistair said, resting a hand on her shoulder, and Varia looked up at him. Her vision was blurred by tears, but she could tell he was warring with himself inside his head. He appeared to want to tell her everything, but she knew he couldn't.

"You're going to be fine," he assured her, and she jumped a little when she felt his thumb gently swipe across her cheek. It was a simple gesture meant to comfort her, but her heart instantly started racing in her chest at the contact. Surprisingly, though, she found her vision clearing as the tears subsided. For a long time, she simply gazed into his gentle hazel eyes. They had only just met, but there was a comforting familiarity in them.

"I'm sorry," Alistair apologized, suddenly pulling his hand away and averting his gaze as his cheeks burned pink. "I didn't mean to... I don't know what came over me, there."

"It's all right," she assured him. "But could you just answer one more question about this Joining ritual for me?"

"If I'm able to, certainly," he told her without looking at her.

"Is it anything like the Harrowing?" she asked, knowing that he would be aware of what was involved in the ritual, since he was a templar.

"I don't know much about the Harrowing, to be honest. Only what I was told. I really have no idea what a mage has to go through during the ritual, so I can't rightly compare the two. We don't do any spells, if that's what you're asking," he answered. "Allow me to say this, though: if becoming a Grey Warden were easy, we wouldn't recruit the best."

"Thank you for your honesty and your vote of confidence," she told him as she squared her shoulders and lifted her head high, though she actually felt even less confident than she had before she met him.

Alistair gave her a curious look. He could tell she was hiding behind a false sense of bravado. He'd done that himself, on far too many occasions to count. She was better at it than he had ever been, though. If he hadn't just spoken to her, hadn't just witnessed the tears in those big, frightened eyes for himself, he might have been convinced that she really was as brave as she was attempting to make herself out to be. He'd gotten a glimpse of the scared little girl underneath the facade, however, and it had mercilessly tugged at something in his heart.

He'd almost spilled everything to her in that moment, all of the Wardens' secrets Duncan had entrusted him with shortly after his own Joining six months ago. Thankfully, his sense of obligation to the order and the man who had saved him from what would have been a life full of loneliness and boredom had won out and he'd been able to hold his tongue. They would tell her everything soon enough. Soon, she and the others would find out exactly what they had gotten themselves into by agreeing to undergo the Joining. He could only hope she would forgive him for not telling her the truth when that time came.

He also hoped she would survive, because it would greatly sadden him if he had to watch those beautiful eyes – with their enchanting flecks of silver swimming in a sea of deep, stormy grey – close forever.

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