itsadrizzit: Amy Pond from Vincent and the Doctor (Default)
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The chapter summary for this reads thus: "The beginning of Anders story as he's captured for what he believes will be the final time and dragged to a castle overrun with strange monsters. The people he encounters inside may be even stranger, but he can't deny that the beautiful Grey Warden just might be the saviour he's been looking for."

Which may or may not be what this chapter is about, as I have not mastered the subtle art of summary as of yet.

I honestly don't remember what I was thinking or doing or feeling or whatever as I posted this chapter. I was working through the new book on editing and I remember that I went way overboard at first on the amount of stuff I cut out, such that I didn't even feel like this was the same chapter anymore. Which was good, in a way, but also bad. So I had to re-import the original and try again, this time being a lot more discerning, but not like protectively discerning about what to cut. Then I got to the end of the book where it encouraged me to use imagery and sense of place and feeling and appeal to the readers' senses. So I did, which is why this chapter, more than any that has been revised up until now, has like ridiculous over-the-top description of setting. I promise you it settles down to what I think are healthy levels after this. Then again, maybe you like this level of description and from now on you really wish I would describe the places more.

But Anders is telling this story and he gets to choose what details are important. Which is the beauty of this format, really. I get a lot more poetic license to break rules because it's a story within a story. Delightful.

Anyway, here's chapter 1. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1: Grey Wardens

Let's begin with a note I received from my contact outside the Circle asking me to meet her in Amaranthine as soon as I was able. I'd sent word to her several months prior about some phylacteries that were moved from the Tower for safekeeping during the blight. I had reason to believe that my phylactery was among them. Her note indicated that she had some information on their whereabouts. I left the next day. My chances of destroying the vial were much higher if I reached it before it returned to the guarded room below the tower. This was my last chance at true freedom.

"I thought you never found your phylactery." Hawke interrupted.

Anders sighed. "I didn't. Let me finish the story. You'll hear all about it, love, I promise. Be patient."

Hawke slumped into the chair and took another long swig of wine. "I'm no good with patience. You know that."

Anders smiled at his lover and returned to the story.

The Templars caught up with me as I neared the city gates. Freedom had been within reach and I had lost it again.

As they dragged me through the bleak Ferelden countryside, I squirmed and fought at my bonds. Ser Biffon kept his sword pressed to my back as we walked. I would not break free.

After a day's journey, just as the sun was beginning to set on the farmlands, a castle loomed ahead of us, a dark hulk rising from the horizon. Its high stone walls and heavy iron gates were out of place among the rolling fields and the small shacks we'd passed along the way. This was an important building, I could tell by the look of it. The Templars called it "The Vigil". They planned to stop for the night and continue to Kinloch Hold at first light. I was grateful to spend the night indoors, even if I was bound and tied and would be forced to sleep on the cold stone. I prayed that whoever ran this impressive estate might show some small kindness to a mage going to his death. I doubted it, but I could hope.

We found the courtyard deserted and the front door barred tight. Biffon pounded against it, but no response came. My mind raced with the uneasy feeling that something wasn't right here. The grounds were silent with no sign of humanity, yet lamps burned in all the windows. If I strained my ears, I thought I could hear shouts and the ring of steel on steel from deep within. Biffon slammed at the door one last time before he dragged me to a side entrance. He kicked the small door, splintering it inward, and shoved me into the room.

Short, squat creatures, human-like, but not at all human greeted us; crude weapons raised, filling the room with their stench and guttural cries. The Templars drew their swords but we were outmatched. The two younger knights were the first to fall. Biffon held out a few moments longer until the monsters surrounded him. A gurgle escaped his lips as he gasped for his last breath. I stood alone against the hoarde. I slid my wrists against Biffon's sword until I freed my arms and racked my brain for a spell. Primal spells were always my weakest, but I blasted the monsters with the biggest fireball I could summon, wincing as my fingertips singed against the flame. The spell slowed the creatures down, killing some outright and wounding the others. It also, I noted, charred the corpses of the Templars. I had to get out of there before something ate me or someone tried to pin the murder of three Templars on the apostate. As I turned to run, shaking my hands to cool my fingers, I found myself face-to-face with the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

She was lean and light, but well muscled. She wore expensive-looking leather armour that had been tailored to fit her curvaceous frame to perfection. I had to laugh to myself. Here I was, checking a woman's curves while standing between wounded monsters and dead Templars. Typical Anders. The woman yanked off her leather helmet to reveal chocolate brown hair, high prominent cheekbones, and deep blue eyes. Another woman, blonde and buxom with bright green eyes, stood to her side. I had stumbled into heaven. Sure, it included monsters trying to eat me, but if I looked on the bright side, that was an opportunity for the reluctant mage to be the hero as he slew the foul beasts. Though I had to admit that these two were not playing the part of damsels in distress very well.

Hawke sat up again, eyes fixed on Anders in a glare. "Can we maybe skip all the parts about you ogling women?"

Anders slid a reassuring hand onto Hawke's thigh. "I'm afraid they're crucial to the story, love. Don't take it personally. I ended up here, didn't I?"

Hawke let out a "hmpf", but slouched back down, motioning for Anders to continue speaking.

I shook myself from my thoughts, remembering the bodies strewn about the room. "Uh. I didn't do it?" They had seen the fireball. I was damned here no matter what I said. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not that broken up about it. I just…well I…they were dead before I…oh, bugger, what's the difference, you won't believe me anyway."

The beautiful woman flashed a brilliant smile. "Never mind all that. Can you fight?"

I scanned the room. Charred bodies littered the floor.

"Apparently. Funny, I've always considered myself more of a lover than a fighter. By lover, I mean healer. And lover."

"You're adorable. You remind me of someone I know. That's a good thing..." She trailed off.

The blonde cleared her throat as she gestured to the carnage at my feet. "If you'll forgive me, Commander, perhaps we should revisit this conversation later."

I did not want to revisit this later. I wanted to sprint from this castle. To run back to Amaranthine. I was on an urgent mission that was not supposed to involve monsters attacking me. "If I may propose an alternate solution—I could just go. I'll go my way, you go your way, and we'll forget that this little meeting ever occurred."

Blue eyes scanned me from head to toe. "No. No, I think not. You're coming with us. I could use someone like you around."

"I bet you could." I waggled my eyebrows in her direction. She rolled her eyes, grabbed my hand, and dragged me down the hallway.

In truth, I knew almost nothing about fighting or offensive magic. I was awkward with attack spells and my mastery of primal magic was rudimentary at best. In stark contrast, the tiny woman before me wielded her dual blades in perfect harmony. Every step choreographed, hands sweeping in graceful rhythm. I stepped back from the group to watch her fight. Her movements were sensual and seductive. I stood in their grace as I stared at her. "Mage!" she yelled, never breaking stride "I didn't bring you along to gaze at my backside! Fight!" She tore into another group.

After what felt like rooms upon rooms filled with darkspawn, we turned the corner to spy a lone dwarf locked in battle with six or seven of the creatures. Huge axe held high above his head, he slashed at the beasts. The size of the axe compared to the size of the dwarf was comical, and I would have doubted his ability to lift the weapon had I not watched him lop off three heads in one swing. He spotted our group as he spun and grinned as he waved one hand in greeting.

"What took you so long?" he cackled once we had finished off the rest of the creatures.

"Oghren!" The dark-haired woman clapped him on the back in greeting. "What in Andraste's name are you doing here?"

"He was here when I arrived, Commander." The blonde replied, her voice doing nothing to mask her distaste. "I hoped the others would have him cleared out by now. I do apologize."

The brown-haired woman grinned. "No need. Oghren's an old friend." she turned back to the dwarf. "Come back for more fun with the 'spawn, have you? I knew you couldn't stay away."

"Forgive me, Commander, but you're not thinking of bringing him with us, are you?" the blonde asked.

"Hey, if it isn't the recruit with the great rack." the dwarf responded, leering at the blonde. She shuddered, stepping away from the dwarf with a look of disgust on her face.

I shrugged. "He seems useful in a fight."

Oghren tossed another glance to the dark-haired woman. "Who's the mage? New boyfriend?"

She laughed. "Not quite."

I grinned at both of them. "What she meant to say was, 'Not yet.'"

She ignored my comment and started off down the next hallway. "Come along, mage, or I'll leave you to the 'spawn." she yelled over her shoulder as she disappeared around the corner.

Halfway down the hallway I spotted a man propped against the wall, groaning. I rushed to provide healing, but as I dropped to the floor beside him, it was clear that his injuries were beyond my skill.

"There's nothing I can do. Maybe a shot of whiskey for the pain?"

The dwarf guffawed. "I like the way the mage thinks!"

"I think he's poisoned." I continued. "I've never seen anything like it before. I'm sorry, but...I can't do anything to help him." I hated that feeling. The clawing, scratching, angry feeling in my stomach. I was a mage. A healer. I healed people. I helped them. If my magic couldn't do that then what good was it? Why did I bear this curse if I still had to stand back and watch people die?

The small woman pulled out a dagger. "Darkspawn corruption. There's nothing anyone can do for him now."

We ended our fighting on the roof of the castle, looking out at the sun rising over the fields of Amaranthine. A new day had begun, and I'd killed more things in one night than I'd expected to kill in an entire lifetime. The smaller woman removed her helmet once again and her hair shown russet and gold in the early morning light. Even spattered with blood, she was beautiful.

I stared at her, wondering who she was, why she'd dragged me along on this fight, what she intended to do with me now, and how it was that she came to be so good at fighting darkspawn until I caught a glint of steel in the courtyard. A handful of figures on horseback approached the castle at an urgent pace, their armour glittering. Even from that distance I could make out the unmistakable sword emblazoned on silver breastplates. "Templars." I whispered. I was caught again.

The woman grinned and rushed down the stairs, dragging me behind her. I twisted and squirmed to pull my hand away but her grip was strong. At the front door, I pulled back with all my weight, planting my feet. She may have been strong, but I was much larger than her and she all but tumbled over as I yanked her back. "No. Please no. I don't want to go back to the Circle. Please don't give me to the Templars! Please! They'll kill me! Or worse!"

"They'll what?" She asked. "Kill you? That's...harsh, even for Templars. What in the Maker's name did you do?"

"Ah, perhaps some introductions are in order. I'm Anders, expert lover, notorious escape artist, and wanted apostate. At your service." I bowed.

She laughed. "I already like you better than the last apostate I knew. Right bitch, that one. My name is Josephine Cousland. I'm—"

I interrupted her. "Grey Warden. Hero of Ferelden. Saviour of the Circle of Magi. Please don't take me to the Templars."

She let out a sarcastic laugh. "My reputation precedes me, I see. All the way to Kinloch Hold. Fantastic. You're coming with me. I can handle a few Templars."

I put on my bravest, most defiant face and followed her through the door. I stood back from the group, my eyes and thoughts fixed on this woman, the Commander of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden. I'd heard about her, rumours whispered from the shadows of the Tower. I'd heard she was a former noble, that she'd killed some Teyrn and put her fellow Grey Warden on the throne. I'd never heard that she was beautiful. Or that she fought with such grace. I'd imagined her to be a huge and powerful warrior, not a small girl with big blue eyes and a smile that lit up a room. I was glad that my final escape led me to her. I knew that her dazzling smile, her eyes filled with emotion, and her seductive dance would be my last thought as I went to my end. I tried to drink her in. I wanted to savor her every detail for the rest of my short life.

Ser Rylock's voice disturbed my thoughts.

She was one of a trio flanking King Alistair Theirin of Redcliffe. I knew him as former Templar recruit, Alistair. After my fourth capture, I'd been used as a practice mage for the Redcliffe recruits. They'd practiced their neutralizing skills on me for hours until I was so drained and battered that I couldn't stand up. Alistair had lingered behind the group and helped me back to my quarters. The Knight-Captain punished him for helping a mage. I doubted he would make that mistake twice.

"Your Majesty, this man is a dangerous criminal. He's an apostate who we were in the process of bringing back to the Circle to face justice!"

"Oh, please." I shot back at Rylock. "The things you people know about justice would fit inside a thimble."

Josephine bowed low to the king then straightened; her eyes trained on his, daring him to challenge her. She spoke in a calm voice. The voice of a pragmatic noblewoman trying to get what she wants. "Your Majesty. This man has proven himself a capable fighter against the darkspawn. As you well know, we are in desperate need of Grey Wardens in Ferelden. I hereby invoke the Right of Conscription."

"What? Never!" Rylock's face burned red.

The king's eyes flashed at Josephine, but he failed to contain his amused grin. "I believe the Wardens retain that right, do they not? I will allow it. We do need all the help we can get."

I was still trying to process this. "Me? A Grey Warden? I don't know..."

I didn't know. On one hand, Josephine had just offered me protection against the Templars. On the other hand, I wasn't at all sure that joining the Wardens would be anything other than a different sort of prison. What did it mean to be a Grey Warden? Did anyone ever stop being a Grey Warden? Could I leave whenever I wanted, or was I bound to the order for life the same way I was bound to the Circle? How much freedom would I have?

"You can become a Grey Warden and stay here with me or you can head back to the Tower with the Templars. You choose."

It was no choice. If I went back to the Templars I would hang…or worse. I stared into her eyes, head held high. She had offered me a solution to my problem, but that didn't mean I would submit to her authority. I flashed a seductive grin as I spoke. "When a pretty girl says 'Anders, you're coming with me' I say 'Your room or mine?'"

If my insolence fazed her, she didn't show it. "Good. Let's get you all joined up. Your Majesty, are you coming? For old times' sake?"


itsadrizzit: Amy Pond from Vincent and the Doctor (Default)

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