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Heed well my words, for the Maker has spoken; Seven shall step forth to put the wrong to right. The king who is no king but the protector, The wizened, living on borrowed life The exiled one, sinful in innocence The silver knight, his soul dead The hunter, hunting that which does not exist The lost, anger lighting the way And the guardian, the protector’s queen. These shall spring forth to end once and for all The blight that began with the mortals’ pride. CHAPTER ONE Chapter The summons came
  Heed well my words, for the Maker has spoken;Seven shall step forth to put the wrong to right.The king who is no king but the protector,The wizened, living on borrowed lifeThe exiled one, sinful in innocenceThe silver knight, his soul deadThe hunter, hunting that which does not existThe lost, anger lighting the wayAnd the guardian, the protector’s queen.These shall spring forth to end once and for allThe blight that began with the mortals’ pride.  CHAPTER ONEChapter The summons came on a very rainy day, the sort of day when men got restless and womensat inside and drank tea.The messenger, as was predictable, was soaked. His cloak was dripping rain all over thefloor, and his boots would need thorough drying before the hearth. The horse was taken to thestables to be dried down with a thick cloth by the stablesmaster. The wind was cold and ithowled as if it was not pleased with the current turn of the situation.“I have an urgent message from Anderfels,” he told the man who seemed to be in charge.“For who?”“The Hero of Ferelden.”The messenger was then made to wait for three hours until the said hero returned from themission. Her party was on a raid, the man said, a routine hunt for the darkspawn that sometimescame out from the Deep Roads. He was dozing off in front of the fire when he heard footstepsthat were quickly approaching his chamber: one was clearly wearing soft leather boots, another was heavier and he could hear the rattle of an armour, perhaps a sword banging into a shield.There were also voices. A woman was talking to a man. Not emotionally, no; the woman wasust discussing matters, explaining something.“Arian told me he’s seeing dreams again,” she was saying.“But this can’t be another Blight. We just had one!”“I know.” Her voice was a clear contralto. “But Arturo told me something similar as well.”“And you?”A pause. “Not yet.”“I’m not saying I believe it’s a Blight, but do we even know where the next one’s going to be?” The man’s voice had taken on a slight, plaintive note. “I mean, the archdemon can beanywhere. We just stumbled on it in Bownammar by pure dumb luck.”“Please don’t remind me,” the woman’s voice said. “I nearly fell off that cliff, remember?That’s one of my ‘would not like to revisit’ moments.”“I caught you.”“I nearly fell off.”“I still caught you.”“I know.” Laughter. “What would I do without you?” Then footsteps continued, and the door suddenly opened.There stood a woman and a man. The woman was an elf, her pointed ears slightly peekingfrom the dark hair that was cut right above the shoulders. She only reached the man’s neck or so;   the man was clearly human, tall and well-built, his blond hair cropped close to his scalp. Theywere still wearing cloaks, and both had long blades on their backs. The two were wearing GreyWarden-issued gear, the man in heavy armour and the woman in reinforced robes. There were bloodstains on the cloth of their gear, and he could see black, thick liquid smattered in their hair.Their faces were clean, however. But where was the Hero? He had heard that he was a tall manwith jet black hair and electric blue eyes, well-built, and had a deep voice that could send glassshattering if he wished to. He looked to see if there was a third, and did not see any. Nope, justthe two. The woman looked… ordinary, and she could not hide a yawn as they sat down. Wasthe man in command of the woman? Probably; the woman was an elf, after all, and she seemedto defer to him. Maybe his servant?The messenger hastily got to his feet, but the man quickly gestured. “Sit down. You must betired.”“Thank you, ser…” he was quickly interrupted by the man again.“Alistair, please. I’m not so big into titles.” The woman had went over to the fire and was pouring herself a cup of tea. “Pour me one,” he said to her. The woman made a gesture of acknowledgement, and brought over two cups with the fragrance of tisane in the air.As soon as they sat down, he looked around. “I have an urgent message for Hero of Ferelden, the Commander of the Grey of Orlais.”The man gestured to his companion, who was bringing the teacup to her lips. “You’re talkingto her.”The messenger stared. This elf was it?! She looked… well, she was not what he hadexpected. He had expected a stern commander, perhaps radiating with power, or a grizzledveteran with gruff voice and a levelling gaze. But this woman was neither. She did not look likea Grey Warden at all; her arms were too slim to be wielding swords with ease, and her face wastoo gentle, her voice too quiet. The only thing that he could accept were her eyes. Startlinglygrey, her eyes seemed to see everything about him, yet did not return the favour. Determinationand experiences of both joy and sorrow were there. But otherwise, she looked like an elvenmage strolling in the White Spire, save for her garb.Then this ‘Alistair’ must be her companion. Story had it that they had met right before theBattle of Ostagar and had been inseparable ever since. Rumour also had it that Alistair had beenheir to the throne of Ferelden, and he had simply given it up to the current reigning queenwithout much fuss. The messenger observed the man with scepticism. He didn’t look much theimage of a Grey Warden. His face was too open, his expression too congenial. He almost lookedas if he was just out of adolescence, but the lines around his eyes told the messenger otherwise.He took her hand in a manner that told the messenger that this was his habit and withoutthought, and surprisingly - most female Wardens that he knew were independent, almost angrylot - she let him. The man’s large hand almost enveloped hers, but he saw that her hand wasn’tsmall; just slender, with long fingers. There were matching rings on their hands. They weremarried.The messenger produced a scroll case that had been carried all the way from Weisshaupt. Hehanded it reverently to the Warden-Commander, who opened it without much thought or hesitation. She quickly scanned it, then showed it to her husband.“Well, here it is,” she said with a falsely cheerful air. “It’s official now.” The Blight, or the summons?” asked the man.“The summons. We’re to go to Anderfels.” The elven mage made a face. Of course, we   have no idea what for. How kind of the First Warden to not give us any hint. We need to leave assoon as we can.” They stood up. “Thank you for delivering this. Have you been attended to?”asked the Warden-Commander.“Um, no.”“Ask the quartermaster to put you up. He will provide you with most necessities. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we need to start getting ready.” With hurried footsteps and swirling of cloaks,they departed almost as unceremoniously as they had come in. The messenger stared at the seatswhere the Wardens had sat just a few moments before, puzzled. The Ander Wardens were grim,grave lot; but these two were starkly different. He remained in the seat for some time, trying tofigure things out.Alistair and Amarina were not particularly concerned with the messenger’s opinions aboutthem. They had things that they needed to attend to. For example, they needed to bathe.Darkspawn blood gunked up in Amarina’s hair faster than she could cast Tempest, andquartermaster had threatened to stop washing bed linen if people continued to sleep in their bedscovered in darkspawn blood. Neither of them cherished the thought of sleeping without cleansheets, and so washing it was.Due to Grey Wardens coming back covered in filth, the compound had installed a water system so that warm water was accessible at all times. It involved a clever rigging of metal pipesand heating that had required quite a few of the mages. Amarina had no idea how it worked, butas far as it worked, she was not very concerned with it. She removed her tunic - that had to bethrown away, it was shredded beyond any hope of repair - and her trousers. That had to becleaned. She got out of her shift and her smallclothes, resisting the urge to scratch at her healingwound on her arm. By the Maker, it itched like crazy.Throwing her clothes into the laundry basket, she stepped into the tub, shivering. The hotwater was almost scalding on her skin and she watched as her feet turned pink from the heat. Aar of soft, brown soap sat in the corner, and she scooped some out and smeared it into her hair.Black clots fell out, trailing black ooze that was mixed with suds of soap. She quickly washed itoff with more water, slightly disgusted. It smelled awful. The sewer system for the compoundhad to be specially designed, due to the toxic nature of darkspawn blood. The water wascollected into an underground vat, which was then neutralised with a special potion that was brewed by the mages of the order. It was tedious work.Once she was clean, she opened the little flap on the bottom of the tub that released thewater, and stepped out of the tub. She dried herself as the water gurgled out of sight. Dressingherself in a warm gown, she left the bathing room and returned to the suite. Alistair had alreadyreturned and was in a chair, dozing. She sat across from him and watched him. He had notchanged much since that sunny day in Ostagar… no, he had. Grief, responsibility, fear, anddifficult decisions had erased the angelic youthfulness from his face a little. He wasn’t quite a boy anymore. His hair was still wet, plastered flat onto his scalp, and there was a healing scar onhis cheek.Well, she could not just keep staring at him forever. “Wake up, Alistair,” she said quietly.“Huh?” His eyes fluttered as sleep threatened to take over him again.“I know you’re tired,” she said. “But don’t sleep in a chair, you’ll catch cold. Go to bed.”“You look sleepy too,” he noted. She yawned so largely that he feared her jaw woulddislocate. “You should take a nap.”“I…” another yawn. “I think I will.”
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