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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9. Shifting Winds

Of course Dog had to come along.

The beast was a big furry hairball which drooled to much if you asked Cullen, but nobody ever asked Cullen so Dog was in the lead.

They had set out earlier that day and found nothing. No Templars, no bodies, no nothing. So whatever had happened to them, hadn't happened right on their doorstep.

They inquired at inns, at farmhouses, asked random strangers on the road but no one had seen the missing soldiers, let alone knew where they were now and it tested the limits of Cullen's patience. He had the feeling Greagoir send them off on a goose chase.

Jaleth was in an awfully good mood though. She hadn't been outside the Tower for at least a month now and he half expected her to stop at every corner to pick flowers and hug trees.

He watched the spring sun touch her pale skin which looked like it was glowing. Her hair was starting to grow back and she had to tie it together to keep it from falling into her eyes.

He blushed when she suddenly turned towards him.

"I'll scout ahead if that's okay with you," she said and Cullen knew she wasn't really waiting for his answer but he nodded anyway. He also knew she was about to pull of some pagan magic. He had seen her do it once, when she thought no one was watching. Why he hadn't reported it was beyond himself.

He didn't like it one bit when she shifted. Part of it hated it because of the comments his men would be throwing at him after and part of him hated it because it was dangerous. If she would spread this magic to the other mages their job as Templars would get impossible. There would be no stopping them from transforming into birds and flying out of nearest window they could get to.

He watched her shift and as hard as it was to admit to himself, it actually was strangely exciting to see her become a wolf, sniffing up a track. The fact that she was twice as fast as a wolf and her teeth were kind of pointy was a little less exhilarating.

"I thought mages weren't suppose to know they could do stuff like that," Theron remarked. He was one of the ten lads that accompanied them, hand picked by Greagoir himself, in case they encountered Darkspawn stragglers.

They watched her run off, waiting for Cullen to say something, to call her back, to chop her head off, but none of that happened and their commander looked like nothing had happened at all. That didn't keep the other templars from talking about it though.

"Makes you wonder where she learned to pull it off."

"Well I heard that she wasn't at all picky about the companions she kept," Markus replied, "one of them was an apostate apparently."

"A blood mage no doubt."

"Well if you ask me, her arse looks better in those robes," Theron laughed.

"Nobody asked you anything gentleman, so please shut your traps and stay sharp," Cullen commanded. "This isn't a field trip for Andraste's sake."

The minute he said it, it felt as if he should have directed it at her. She should have been the one who got disciplined. She undermined his command and she made him look like a fool in front of his men. There would be talk again, just like there had been before.

It was not like he was in love with her or anything. He just tried seeing things from her side. It had nothing to do with her piercing eyes or her swaying hips, she just had difficulty following orders, which wasn't strange, considering she had been the one giving them for a long time.

He watched her disappear deeper into the woods and imagined her to be like sand. She was slipping through his finger and the harder he squeezed the faster she slipped. So he decided not to squeeze at all and wait for her to return to the wide open cup of his hand, like he had always done.

***

It felt good being on four legs again. She could feel the wind blowing against her fur, her paws touching the dirt.

She liked being a wolf, especially when she was among other wolves. It was so much better than being a mage among people.

She had seen the look on Cullen's face as she shifted in front of his eyes for the first time that day and she had ignored it. She had this sneaky suspicion he would leave her alone anyway. She had risked it because it was Cullen an for as long as she had known him he had given her the benefit of the doubt.

Until Uldred tortured the shit out of him at least.

So she left him behind and ran alongside Dog for a while. Dog could never be fooled though. He always seemed to recognise her, no matter what shape she was in. He loved her in every possible form.

It was strange being outside of her body again, because she wasn't really. She could never really get away from herself, not even as another species. Her thoughts would remain the same, her sense of self would always be present. She would still be a mage, but in a wolf's body.

Her senses were heightened as she moved along the roots of the trees like an animal and she had to get used to the sounds and smells. The colours of the foliage above her head seemed more bright, the air seemed more fresh. It was like the earth was more alive and in a sense she was as well.

Until she picked up the scent of death.

It was a very distinct smell.

She could see smoke rise in the distance, it was thick and black and there was an awful amount of it.

She ran for five minutes without stopping to catch her breath and when she noticed the earth getting dark. There had been a major fire and the trail of smoke up ahead was the last remainder of it.

The frail spring grass had been scorched, reduced to dust and where there once were trees, little black stumps were pointing a blaming finger toward the sky.

The birds could no longer be heard.

She left her animal form behind as dog started snarling. Her magic was useless unless she shifted back to her human self.

"What is it boy? What do you see?"

Dog started barking at something she couldn't quite make out yet. The smell was horrific though and it made her want to throw up like she had done again that morning.

Only when she got closer she recognised the smell of burned flesh. She waited for Cullen to confirm what she had already suspected.

"There is pile of dead bodies over there. I can not be sure, but it seems like the amount of recruits we were expecting, or parts of them anyway."

"Do Darkspawn burn their corpses?" Theron asked.

"No, no they do not," Jaleth answered. She poked at a piece of purple cloth, untouched by the fire.

The smell of burned humans was so intense that she couldn't be sure, but Jaleth thought she smelled something else as well. Cullen seemed to notice it to when he put his hand on his sword's hilt. He knelt down at the smouldering pile of humans.

"Well who then? Who would be capable of such slaughter?"

"I think we should be focussing on why anyone would do such a thing," Cullen answered. He looked as if he had more information, but was somehow holding this back. Jaleth watched him running evidence through his hands. She admired his efficiency.

"Be on your guard."

When he looked up again she was standing still, frozen like a statuette on a mountain slope. She was as still as the corpses on the pile, except for her lips.

She was speaking without words.

Maker's breath! She was about to cast a spell...in his direction. He rose to his feet and went for his sword. This wouldn't be like at her Harrowing, he would not hesitate to strike her down today.

Before he got to his sword, a rock flew over his head. She had released the spell, but...missed?

Jaleth's face came back to life as she started shouting commands at the other men. He had never seen her like that before. As an apprentice she had always been quiet and even a little shy. The woman standing in front of him, looked nothing like the young mage that had left the Tower two years ago. It was not hard to imagine people bending to her will, he understood why you listened when she spoke.

He turned around to see where her rock had landed and looked straight into the black eyes of a Darkspawn emissary.

Cullen clasped his hand around the hilt of his sword and turned around. Jaleth's scattered rocks had thrown the approaching Darkspawn of their feet. The entire front line had fallen, their stupid grins still on their faces.

But they were already regaining control over their tainted bodies and it would not take long for them to regroup and cut him down.

Everything went to hell from there.

Cullen could hear them shouting in the distance, his comrades, his brothers in arms. They shouted like they had shouted the night Uldred attacked them. He saw the fall, Theron went down first, blood spilling from the gash in his inexperienced head.

He could feel her close to him, she kept forcing her will, little prickles of healing magic settled on his skin. Only than did he notice his own blood.

There was no time to dwell on it though as he could also feel the emissary approach, it was about to cast a spell.

"Be ready to strike him down Cullen," Jaleth shouted at him as her fingers got covered in ice. Her eyes were disappearing, or it looked that way when all the colour left them and a layer of frost had replaced the pupils. She looked like something from another world as wind started gathering around her.

Cullen was ready, more than ready and when the emissary vanished underneath a layer of ice he was the first to reach him with a heaved sword in the air. The emissary's head had not been made to resist such raw violence.

The loss of their mage had thrown the Darkspawn of guard for a second, giving Cullen's men, or what was left of them, a chance to regroup.

Jaleth send another wave of healing magic their way as they saw the Darkspawn getting ready for another round.

She had bought them some precious minutes and this time his Templar brethren were standing next to him. Most of them were panting heavily, but none of them were severely wounded but still breathing as far as Jaleth could see. Except for Theron, who lay motionless in the dirt a couple of meters from where she was standing. If only she could cut through the Darkspawn that were charging at them, she might have a chance to save him.

It felt strange fighting alongside the templars, instead of against them in psychological warfare.

She had fought alongside Alistair of course, but he never finished his training and he had never slain a mage because he had a bad hairday, better even, he had never killed a mage at all.

Fighting with an entire unit of chantry boys was a thing she never had expected to do.

They fought like lions though, and for a bunch of new guys they were pretty decently trained.

Jaleth healed their wounds while they went in for a charge. As soon as the fighting started again she protected herself with rock armour and made her way to Theron.

She cast a protective ward over him as she started clearing the way around him.

Her ice spell froze a couple of Hurlocks on the spot and she finished them with a stone fist. This was her favourite way of killing the fuckers, freeze them and then snap them.

She focused her will again as hail came tumbling down the sky, accompanied by winds that made the trees shake, and she eventually cleared the spot where Theron was dying.

Fighting like that came at a price though.

She had given it all, casting one spell after the other continuously. Her will was gone, her mana was drained. She was panting heavily as she made her way to where the boy was laying.

He wasn't dead yet.

Jaleth took a bottle of lyrium from her pouch and knocked it back in one swig. She could feel her talents replenishing and prayed it would be enough.

It probably would have been if the Ogre hadn't appeared out of nowhere.

It crushed the life out of her just before she hit the ground.

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