From the Ashes We Rise

This is a Dragon Age: Origins fanfic. Warden Amell tries to rebuild her life at the Tower after Alistair got married. Main characters in this story are the mage origin warden, Alistair and Cullen.

Rating M for language and sexual content.

This is my first big fic so all constructive criticism is welcome because I am planning on doing a rewrite.

Dragon Age belongs to Bioware, the artwork I use as a preview is not mine either but I would love to know who the artist is.

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19. Forgiveness

Cullen's heart was racing when he made his way down the stairs to the infirmary. Running all those staircases in heavy armour was still an effort, no matter how well they were trained.

Jaleth had been quite the mess when Brann had found her. Her hands were covered in her own blood and her face was all sweaty. There were smears of red on the spots where she tried to brush the hair out of her face.

Brann had told him she had tried casting spells, for he sensed the tingling sensation of magic in the air. Her efforts were not powerful enough though, and she had to give up before passing out.

Brann had stayed with her, on the floor, her robes soaked in blood, her face more pale than ever, shouting at his brothers in arms to fetch Wynne the Healer, the Knight Commander, anyone.

When Cullen finally got to the infirmary, he bumped into Brann at the door.

"Wynne's still working on her," he said, looking at the big question mark on his commander's face.

Cullen nodded and turned away, but he did not leave.

"How long have they been in there?" he asked, spinning around on his feet to face Brann again.

"Not that long, but I am sure they'll be out here any minute. Wynne is very skilled."

So he waited, and prayed to the Maker in silence, even though he knew praying for a mage wouldn't accomplish anything upstairs anyway.

***

Wynne had been in there for two hours now, and not so much as a word had left the room. He had taken over Brann's guard duty, giving the kid an opportunity to rest and giving himself the chance to hover the hallway without prying eyes.

He really tried his best not to look too worried, because that would be ridiculous, and it wouldn't make sense at all. She was just a mage, just another girl they had to keep an eye on in order for her not to destroy herself with her curse.

Two hours passing without so much as a peep was bad, and he was truly worried now, there was no point denying it.

"What are you looking at?" he said, looking at Dog who had made camp at the Knight Commander's feet.

The wardog was always where she was, but this time Wynne had ordered him to stay outside, which he did because he was a good boy.

The animal raised its ears when the door finally opened.

The door squeaked when Wynne walked out of the room and into the hallway. She was drying her hands with a piece of cloth, he could still make out the red of her blood.

The not looking too worried part fell to pieces when Wynne turned her gaze at him. He was never all that good at hiding the state of his mind when he wasn't wearing his helmet and Wynne seemed to look straight through him.

"How is she?"

Wynne rubbed her temple, the exhaustion painting her face in different shades of grey.

"She lost a lot of blood, but she's stable for now."

Stable was good.

Cullen rubbed the back of his neck in relief. Still, the frown on Wynne's face made it hard to assess the situation entirely.

"And the child?"

"Stillborn."

Wynne sounded so calm when she said it, icy even. Mouths however, had a tendency to not match eyes at the Tower and Wynne's eyes carried a great lot of anguish in them. Mages were skilled tricksters, they had to be, their lives depended on it.

Stillborn. The world was hanging in between them like a hammer, about to hit them on the head.

The birth of a dead child, going through all the pain of labour to deliver a baby that will never draw its first breath. He could only imagine what that would feel like.

"Can I – can I see her?"

She put down the towel at an ending table and gave him a surprised look.

"You're the Knight Commander."

Yes - thanks for reminding me.

He watched Wynne leave, the doorknob in his sweaty palm, trying to make sense of the things his mind kept firing at him, his courage sinking into his heavy boots while minutes passed without opening any doors.

It's just a girl for crying out loud.

The minute he opened the door, a big war dog squeezed itself past him and toward the bed. At least one of them had the guts to do exactly what he wanted to do.

The room was silent and there were bloody pieces of clothes scattered across the floor. It smelled of death and sweat.

He found her in the centre of it all, looking very tiny in the large bed, vulnerable even. It was hard to imagine her slaying an arch demon until you saw her cast spells on the battlefield.

Cullen watched her watch her baby. It was wrapped in a blanket and she held it very close, caressing it.

The last steps toward the bed were the hardest as she had just acknowledged his presence with a slight nod. They didn't speak though, she kept her gaze firmly on the little bundle of death in her arms.

The baby looked like it was sleeping, Jaleth's index finger carefully tracing the features of the little girl's face like she was printing every single aspect of it in her mind.

Despite her ragged appearance she was still beautiful to him and he couldn't help but to admire the length of her hair as it came down every time she moved her head. He had never seen it undone before.

He was easily distracted today.

He shifted his attention back to the baby in her arms. It looked perfect, full grown, a little tiny but still a full developed human being. He wondered what had caused the child's death.

He wasn't about to ask.

She finally looked up at him. Cullen hadn't been prepared for the look in her eyes when they finally rested on him. Her lips weren't moving but it wasn't hard to guess exactly what she was saying.

He wanted to say something but before he was able to open his mouth Wynne marched back into the room. He felt like a fly in a spider's web when the older mage looked at him with a towel in her hand.

"Knight Commander, would you be so kind as to hand the child over to me?"

It wasn't really a request Wynne made there.

He looked at Jaleth, seeking her blessing but it would never come.

Jaleth kissed her baby's soft head and handed her over. This was goodbye, she knew it, she had made peace with it.

Holding a baby was surreal to Cullen.

He had never held one before and he didn't really know what to do with it now it was in his arms. It looked so tiny and fragile. He felt Jaleth's gaze rest upon him and it made his cheeks heat up. He didn't know how she still did that, how she still held so much power over him now that their teenage days were long over.

If only Greagoir kicked him around a little more during his training.

Wynne's eyes were suddenly soft when she took the child from him. She washed it like it was still breathing, careful not to hurt it. Jaleth turned her back at them. He bid Wynne farewell and left the room. There was a funeral to arrange.

***

A day had passed since the baby died and Jaleth had not left her room while life went on outside it.

He was wearing his ceremonial armour when he entered the room a second time. Jaleth was still in the bed, tired, depressed, not looking at anyone who entered the room to help her. She didn't want to be helped, she just wanted to be alone.

She averted her eyes as he neared the bed.

"You will not forgive yourself if you don't come with me," he said.

He put aside the blanket and put his hands underneath her legs and back. She didn't say anything as he lifted her off the bed and put his cloak on her.

"I'd rather you won't forgive me instead."

***

They were quite the sight as they descended the stairs. The Knight Commander in his ceremonial wear, carrying a mage in a cloak, the hood hiding most of her face, her arms around his neck while they were being followed by Wynne with a little baby in her arms.

He told himself he would have carried any other mage down like this when he tried to ignore the looks he got from the Templars at the door.

As the two Templars at the Exit opened the giant metal doors for their Knight Commander, the weather came crushing in and made the fabric of her nightgown move on the rhythm of the wind. She looked even more fragile than before, the daylight emphasizing the pale white of the circle mage's skin.

The lake was wild, whipping the water ashore with much force. The world beyond the lake looked green and smelled of summer rain.

She inhaled the season, picking up Cullen's musky scent along the way. She felt an urge to touch the slight stub on his chin.

Irving greeted them. He was already standing on the shoreline, accompanied by two guards and Dog. It took her a while to notice Kester was there as well, with a boat and a torch.

Cullen held her all the way during Irving's speech, her scent torturing him, her warmth driving him crazy. He could feel her crying, very silently, but her body softly shaking while she tried to contain her tears.

When Irving was done speaking, Wynne placed the baby in the boat and gestured Kester to hand her the torch.

Jaleth dried her tears and asked Cullen to set her down.

Her bare feet made her shiver as they touched the wet sand. The hood fell on her shoulders when the wind took it. She slowly made her way to where Wynne was standing and took her torch. This was something she had to do herself.

She lighted the straw the baby was laying on and started pushing the boat off the shore. Her feet got wet, followed by the rims of her dress, the rims of her cloak. Light green turned into dark green as she was standing into the water knee deep, pushing the boat one last time further into the lake.

It took her a while to notice Wynne's hand on hers. Her friend's feet and robes were drenched in water as well as she was standing beside her, Dog behind them with his short legs, trying not to drown.

The sky opened up and filled the lake with tiny ripples. It was summer rain, sweet and warm.

She closed her eyes for a second as it came down on her skin. When she opened them again the boat had disappeared and her friends had gone back inside. Cullen was the only one there, guarding her with a watchful eye.

She took a deep breath as she started walking back for the shore. Her feet were freezing.

He was looking at her, nothing like the young boy he had been when they had first met, his shy smile had remained, but the look in his eyes was that of a man instead of a boy.

She had never seen him more beautiful.

The rain gained in force and soaked what was left of her dry clothes.

"There's a reason we stay inside the Tower," she said, looking up at the sky.

He gave her half a smile.

"The weather in Ferelden is dreadful."

She turned around to the lake one more time, sand sticking against her feet, her cloak clearly not designed for this kind of weather.

"We should probably go inside," he said, pinching his eyes a little to keep the rain out.

"Probably."

Their voices got lost in the rain as she walked up to him, closing the distance between them while her feet got used to the land again.

She placed a careful hand on his chest, the steel of armour cold against her skin. He took it in his as he looked into her eyes.

She leaned in and kissed him. This time he did not pull back but pulled her in with such fever that she thought she was going to have a heart attack. His lips were as rough as she remembered, but there was a softness in them as he placed them on hers.

They were so doomed.

She panted when she pulled back, her heart was out of control.

They didn't say anything but he brought his forehead down to meet hers and they remained like that for a long time, listening to each other's heartbeats above the rain.

She placed a hand on his cheek and looked into his eyes.

"Thank you, Cullen – for everything."

He raised the tip of her chin and kissed her. The order could go to hell, the world could catch on fire, there was nothing he wouldn't do for her.

"We should definitely go back inside," she smiled against his lips.

She broke their embrace and started heading for the Tower's entrance.

It took him a second to catch his breath and follow her.

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