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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5. Of Mages and Templars

Cullen was not amused.

It was bad enough that he had to watch her but now they were covered in mist as well, all cramped together on Kester's little boat, freezing to death like the couple of unprepared bastards they were.

Ferelden's autumns were just as bad as its winters, but he had insisted on being a perfect gentleman, handing over his furs to Wynne, watching her being all warm warm and cosy in his outer garments for the last couple of hours. Why oh why couldn't he just be a bastard and keep his mouth shut, like his fellow templars?

He tried to tuck himself away in his thin cloak as best as he could, trying to concentrate on the plumes of oxygen waste that left his mouth and disappeared into nothingness.

Of course there was nowhere to hide from those green eyes, even if they were directed elsewhere.

Jaleth was calmly sitting next to Wynne, her head on the elder mage's furry shoulder, trying to keep her body from shivering.

It was hard for him to forget she had been his tormentor during Uldred's attack. Her face had shown up, again and again until he could not take it, and then some more. Those lips, whispering all the things he had wanted to hear from them for years, tempting him, poisoning his mind.

Desire.

It had been hard to look at her again in the flesh, the real her, and he tried hard not to blame her.

He watched her for a little while. She looked cold and stubborn, having refused his cloak when they boarded, saying she was fine in her robes. Her body seemed far from fine right now, but her mind seemed awfully at peace. He wondered why she had chosen to go back to the Tower, as the Hero of Ferelden she could have had a pleasant life at court or in the military, but she had freed herself of all ambition and had chosen to go home. Remembering that she used to hate the place and tried her best to leave it, several times a day even, Cullen decided to keep an extra careful eye on her.

There seemed to be nothing unusual going on now however. The two mages were having a conversation which seemed light enough for them to exchange smiles every now and then. It were different smiles then the ones he used to extract from her when they were younger. When she had been hanging around the Tower with that...that blood mage Jowan, the one who would have gotten her killed if Duncan hadn't been there to conscript her.

Jowan, it was a name that still haunted him in his nightmares, like all the other names of mages that died by Cullen's hand.

The familiarity that had existed between Jaleth and the blood mage had made him jealous for a long time, until, one day, she started stealing Cullen's attention instead. He remembered it vividly. They had been in the library and he caught her looking at him over her book, pretending to be reading something about elemental magic.

After that he kept bumping in to her everywhere. He hadn't thought much of it in the beginning, thought their meetings were just happy little coincidences. It was a large Tower, true, but it was still a Tower, they all bumped into each other several times a day.

When she started working late in the library whenever he was on duty a bell finally started ringing. His templar training made it that he was suspicious at first of course, but Maker was she beautiful and smart and funny and everything he always wanted.

He swallowed hard and turned his attention elsewhere, a big frown on his face. Kester just nodded at him as the two mages continued their light banter. Even though they seemed to talk about nothing of importance, he could see the bond that had developed between them. He didn't know Wynne very well, she was always away on some adventure, mostly representing the Circle at court or trying to raise funds, but Jaleth seemed to have gotten to know her well over the last year and a half. She seemed to look up to her, like a child looks up to its parents. Not that Cullen knew what that was like, he never met his parents after all. They had given him away to the Chantry when he was a baby, and the closest thing to a father he had ever known was... well Greagoir really.

He sighed and buried himself deeper in his cloak as he regarded the Tower in the distance. It looked like something out of a fairy tale with the fog around its foot. There was no way to see the top in this blasted weather, nor the drama that had unfold over the matter of hours, the scars left inside of the building.

In spite of it all, he was almost home, or so it would feel again, hopefully, in a couple of years, after the bloodstains had faded and the weakness in the veil had been properly restored.

For now, he found comfort in knowing at least the dead bodies would be gone.

He noticed he had drifted off when he felt the boat softly bump into the shore. Kester jumped out to pull it further in as Cullen got up to help Wynne out of the boat. He reached out a hand toward Jaleth as well this time. This seemed to surprise her.

"So you decided to be civil after all?"

He looked for a smile but her face was all seriousness.

"It's in the job description," he mumbled, with a face as straight as hers.

He expected another witty remark but there was none. Instead she just took his gloved hand, their eyes meeting briefly, just before she made the leap to the shore. Dog jumped out straight after her, bumping into them as Cullen still held her hand, wagging his tail like a maniac.

Cullen was sure the animal did it on purpose. When he looked back at the beast, he could swear he saw a hint of a smile on its wretched little face.

They slowly made their way to the great steel doors, the shadow of the Tower dooming over them in silence.

Cullen watched Jaleth closely. She seemed hesitant at the last minute, shutting her eyes and breathing in the fresh air one last time before she would disappear behind the great doors again. When the wind came rolling over the lake and into his face a little of Cullen's old guilt came back to him, but only for a second or so. Deep down he knew that the Tower was a necessity, it was for the mages' own good as much as for the good of everybody else. Uldred's revolt had made it painfully clear that mages needed to be protected from themselves now more then ever.

"Are you okay?"

She looked at him with compassionate eyes.

"I'm fine, let's proceed."

It was like the new recruits had waited for him to say something and as soon as the words had left his mouth the doors gave way with a loud screech. Cullen smiled as he saw the little drops of transpiration on the four new faces. He too had been on guard duty at the doors once, when he had just finished his templar training. It had bored the hell out of him every single time.

Except when she was there, bugging him to let her pass, a sarcastic little smile on her lips.

He cleared his throat and barked a few orders. People started moving around him, luggage started reappearing, faces became sweaty and voices started to merge. He felt like all the world was moving, except for him, standing still like the centre of his own little universe.

The light pouring in the hallway unsettled him. Usually the hall was dimly lit by candles and quiet, now it was like a marketplace, people running around carrying luggage and new supplies, asking questions which only he seemed to have the answers to.

He was relieved to see the doors pushed back into their locks again, with no mages escaping and order partly restored.

They were home.

The first face that approached the travellers was that of the knight-commander. A wave of relief washed over Cullen. He had been the one in charge on the road but his mission was accomplished now and no one got eaten, or ripped in half, or turned to blood magic under his watch.

Jaleth seemed less relieved to see the old man's face. Cullen noticed her grip tightening around her bag and her eyes were getting that strict look in them again, the one she always used to give to Jowan just before he would get the both of them in trouble.

"Greagoir," she nodded.

"Amell," he replied, formally.

He looked at Dog, and from Dog to Wynne, who looked like she would cut out his tongue if he would make so much as one clever remark about their new house guest. So the knight-commander decided to clear his throat instead and that was the end of it.

"I have to say I was surprised to hear of your plans to return to the Tower."

Greagoir's heavy armour moved with every word he spoke.

Jaleth straightened her robes and looked at the old man with a hint of confusion in her eyes, like she did not know why she had returned herself. But when she opened her mouth again, the words came out resolute and with conviction.

"Well this is still my home Knight Commander."

He looked at her with measuring eyes. "I assure you it is not the home you remember."

He was right of course. They could already notice it here, two feet inside of the hallway. Cullen remembered the complaints of his younger brothers in arms. Jaleth went out there a lot, to test the patience of the templars who were standing guard at the entrance of the Tower. O'Brien in particular, it was always fun to hear him sigh in frustration, even Cullen had to admit it. O'Brien was no longer standing watch. They had found his body shred to pieces somewhere in the library.

"Jaleth volunteered to help rebuild the order Greagoir, she will help me train new pupils," the First Enchanter explained when he walked in to fetch a handbag.

"Ah."

A heavy frown settled on Greagoir's face. It was the kind of frown he put on when he was in disagreement but had no arguments to make his point come across, which usually resulted in a win win situation for the First Enchanter and a headache for the young templar recruits.

"Well I would love to stay and chat," Greagoir said, "but I have business to attend to."

After the knight-commander left it didn't take long before the entire hall cleared out. Everybody had somewhere to go apparently, being terribly busy, except for Jaleth of course. She insisted on helping him and Kester unload the cargo.

She was standing only a few feet away from him, her eyes fixed on the giant mabari she had taken with her. She seemed to be talking to it.

"Kester told me you wanted to help," he said, breaking up the conversation she was having with her hound.

She nodded, shyly, as if she got caught, and followed him back to the entrance where a couple of templars were piling up bags.

"We'll take the First Enchanter's belongings first," Cullen decided, "he lives the furthest up."

She smiled at him without an apparent reason to do so, it was an unnerving habit of hers, like she had a secret, or she saw something others overlooked.

"Why are you smiling?" he asked, fearing there was something stuck between his teeth, they had had corn for lunch, those yellow pieces always got stuck between his teeth.

"No reason," she said, but changed her mind almost straight away, "it's just, I remember you counting the steps whenever you walked up. You hated these stairs so much."

"You remember that?" His face seemed to soften, but only for a second.

"I remember a lot of things."

They walked in silence for a little while, focussing on the sounds of heavy boots on stone. As they neared the second floor he realized the load he was carrying was piled up with an optimism that was very unlike him.

He dropped a bag and with his hands both occupied on the other pieces of luggage he came to a clumsy halt. Jaleth hurried up to the spot he was standing at.

"Let me help you with that," she muttered, "mine isn't that heavy."

She swooped the bag from the floor and didn't await his reaction, she just started walking again and he seemed to agree it was the best solution since the load he carried was heavy enough as it was.

Cullen eyed dog who had been on her tail like since they had left Denerim. The hound seemed to be watching his every move and had a nasty glare in its little eyes.

"He is used to following me around," she responded, following his gaze. "It's this thing he did during the Blight and I kind of got attached to him after that. He makes for a great bed warmer during cold nights."

"It could think of worse things following you around," he mumbled, trying to distract the thoughts that were crawling a way back into his mind.

She nodded, an amused look in her eyes.

"Well yes, it could have been a man or something."

He tried not to smile.

They ascended the next steps in silence, it was hard for Cullen to look at her, let alone speak to her.

It was strange how relationships shifted. How friends became strangers. Not like they had ever been friends in the first place, but they had been...well... something.

He still could not get used to the silence at the second floor. The senior enchanters quarters had been hit hard. Demons were attracted to stronger mages. A lot of them had turned into abominations and the ones who had resisted had been taken captive by Uldred or were killed on the spot.

He shifted the weight of the bags before attempting to open his mouth again.

"So uhm, it must be strange for you to be back here?"

She looked at him in surprise. Was he fraternizing? Well yes, she believed he was.

"Well yes, it actually is...kind of strange." With one hand underneath the bag she tried to rub her hair from her eyes, but failed.

"It is so quite," she said.

"Nearly everyone got destroyed," Cullen answered. Destroyed. It was such a weird word to use when it came to people, yet is must have been like that. Abominations and demons destroying things, destroying lives.

"I am sorry," she said, "it must have been really hard for you too."

"You have no idea," he said, his lips forming a harsh line.

But she did, now, didn't she?

"You are not the only one who lost his friends here that day," Jaleth answered, the tone in her voice more unpleasant than she had intended.

His expression changed again, but not in the way Jaleth had expected.

"You are right," he stuttered, "I am sorry."

"It's okay," she replied quickly. "We all lost a lot during the attack."

She stopped walking and turned toward him, which made him stop walking too. "Look, I know you probably hate every mage that still draws breath in this Tower, but we are to live here together whether we like it or not. We might as well just get along, don't you think?"

The look on her face had been the exact look he had fallen in love with when he first met her. She had been eight, he had been ten. He had fallen in love with her fire and his life had become a pile up of stuttering and blushing after that.

"I don't..." he started "I don't...hate mages, you know." He started walking again. He did not care much for the expression that rested on her face, who was she to judge him anyway?

"Well you are not particularly fond of them either," she answered.

He halted again, looking into her eyes, expecting to blush real soon now, but speaking in a tone that surprised him instead.

"It is not my job to be fond of them, it is my job to protect them from themselves."

She sighed a heavy sigh and he could almost hear her think.

"I...we're here," he muttered as they reached Irving's room.

She dropped the bag to the floor and left without a word. Cullen couldn't help but to smile a little, in spite of himself.

She had always been quite the hot head.

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