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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6. The Apprentice

"Clearly the old man is out of his mind."

Jaleth's eyes were pinched, making little wrinkles appear on the sides of them. She was on her knees in the greenhouse, or rather, the patch of dirt that was illuminated by a fire spell that was being kept burning night and day.

They weren't allowed to have an actual greenhouse because the knight-commander was afraid of things that might happen if the mages were allowed to grow herbs for their poultices in an actual glass building. Not that the attitude the knight-commander displayed toward the subject had kept her from petitioning him several times during her teens.

The greenhouse was one of her favourite spots at the Tower. The way things sprung there from the earth. New life, not tainted. Every plant she raised felt like a little victory for her.

"Clearly," Wynne said without looking up from her page. She was sitting in the corner of the greenhouse, trying to read a book Irving had lend her.

Wynne was the only one who didn't have to get used to the hero of Ferelden being covered in dirt, her fingernails black as the taint and her knees bruised from working on the floor like she did. This look was similar to the one she had when Wynne got to know her, except for the missing gore that was, no Darkspawn guts in her hair.

"He can't possibly be serious," Jaleth said, pulling the weeds from the rose plant with more force then necessary. "I am no blighted teacher."

Wynne closed the book with a sigh, there was no point in pretending she would be able to read another word with Jaleth being in the mood she was in.

"I recall a certain someone in camp telling me she wasn't a leader either, or a Grey Warden for that matter. That turned out quite all right."

Jaleth wiped away some sweat from her brow.

"I didn't really have a choice..." she muttered, her lips thinning to a bitter line as she tried to keep them together frantically. There was something odd about arguing with a fellow mage when the templars were watching, and Maker knows, the templars were always watching.

Cullen was pretty damn good at it too, silent as a mouse but always ready to unsheathe his blade at the slightest disturbance. Sometimes she forgot that he was actually there, in the room with them, watching their every move.

When they were younger she used to test him, trying to make him blush or move when he was not supposed to. She used to place bets with Jowan, mostly with his favourite books as the reward. She ended up with a nice little book collection in the end.

Jowan.

The thought of him made her feel sick in the stomach.

Jowan the bloodmage.

She knew she was sending him to his death when she ordered him back to the Circle. They had burned his body before the Blight had ended. She kept telling herself that he had redeemed himself by saving Connor from the desire demon but she couldn't help but to wonder what would have happened to him if she had let him escape from Redcliffe Castle.

It had been clear at the time. He had done something terrible and had to be punished. But as the war progressed, her views changed. Was his crime really that bad? Turning to blood magic to save the woman he loved? Poisoning the Arl was unforgivable, but he would never have poisoned the Arl if they had let him have his farm somewhere. He would probably have given up magic in the first place.

She noticed her hands were shaking. The thought of Jowan still affected her physically. Like the thought of Alistair made her heart hurt, literally.

She tightened her grasp around the little shovel in her hand and bit her lip. She would move on when she was ready. She was not going to be ready any time soon.

Wynne looked up from her book. She had the preachy look on her face.

"You do not have much choice now either my dear," Wynne said.

"This is just how things go at the Tower, you become an apprentice and if you pass your Harrowing you become an Enchanter over time. What else is there? You don't want to spend your days cleaning toilets now, do you?"

She could be imagining it but she was quite sure Cullen had moved just now, right after Wynne proposed the toilet thing. She swore she could see a hint of a smile behind those well trained eyes.

"Maker, you are acting like a petulant child. You remind me of Alistair sometimes, you really do."

Jaleth stopped digging as she looked up at Wynne. She was right of course. She was behaving like a child, nagging and bitching about the tasks appointed to her. She didn't have to come back, she could have stayed at court or rebuild the wardens, everything that happened now was of her own making.

"Well at least you don't have to clean my socks and fix my shirts, that must count for something right?"

"I suppose it must," Wynne smiled. She opened her book again. "Now if you would focus on that dirt patch again. Those roses won't plant themselves you know."

It went silent again. Jaleth couldn't help but to smile.

"My apprentice is supposed to be lovely," Jaleth said.

"That's great," Wynne sighed.

"But I just wouldn't know what to do with her."

Wynne let out a heavy sigh as she closed her book again.

"Oh for Andraste's sake, can't an old woman get some peace and quiet around here?"

"They'll get each other in the end Wynne, they always do," Jaleth smiled, watching Wynne hesitate, narrowing her eyes and considering throwing the book at the younger mage.

"No but seriously Wynne, I don't know what to do with her. What if she fails her Harrowing because I didn't teach her properly? What if she becomes a blood mage? What if..."

"That risk is ever present," Wynne replied with the closed book on her lap. "But you can not let fear control you. You can try the best you can, but in the end it is up to your apprentice."

"I suppose you're right."

She sat there for a little while, playing with the shovel in her hand. Pondering.

"Are you all right?" Wynne asked when she noticed all of the colour in Jaleth's face was leaving it.

"I don't know," she replied. She sat back in order to regain control again, closing her eyes and breathing heavily. This is when a wave of nauseousness hit her. A pale stream of vomit slipped through her fingers as she tried to keep it all in.

Wynne rushed up to help her, the book falling from her lap and into the dirt.

Jaleth used her free hand to signal her friend that she was all right.

Cullen apparently had the reflexes of a cat and was standing next to her within an instant. He handed her a handkerchief and wouldn't take no for an answer. He had seen enough of this 'everything is all right crap' from her over the years.

"I will wash this for you Cullen, thank you."

Wynne ordered the Templar back with a look of her eyes, took Jaleth by her arm and raised her from the floor.

"I am so sorry," Jaleth panted when she slowly got up. Wynne wanted to hand her a glass of water but she declined it. She needed a moment to recuperate.

"It's probably just something I ate."

"Well whatever it is, it makes you look terrible my dear."

She paused, measuring Jaleth with her eyes.

"You should get some rest."

"I am fine."

"Remember what happened to us the last time you said you were fine?"

"You're right, I should get some rest."

***

She had slept for half an hour before she woke up again. Sleeping during the day always made her feel like she was wasting what precious time she had. There was always so much to do.

But the truth was she hadn't had much to do ever since she got back to the Tower. People were different around her now. Like she was some sort of breakable object. The Hero of Ferelden. They seemed to decide everything without her, like it had been when she was younger and her life was being lived by the knight-commander and the First Enchanter. No one needed her opinion, needed to know what direction they would take next or needed his armour mended. She had gone from commanding an army to being a housewife.

Training an apprentice would give her something to do again. It might even be fun.

She got up and walked to the vanity in the corner. It had been a week since she had taken residence here and she started to settle in again. She could not get used to the silence though. she could not get used to the empty hallways, the silent dorms. She even missed the shouting and the muddy footprints in the mess hall.

She had loved this place as much as she had hated it. This was her home after all, had been ever since she was a little girl. She had known no other home than the one with the round walls and the lack of windows.

Jaleth sighed.

At least her new room was nice. They had moved her up to one of the senior enchanter's quarters even though she wasn't an enchanter yet. When they arrived a week ago, she had happily moved the little belongings she had into her old room. But one day when she got back from the greenhouse, her stuff had been moved and Greagoir had not been happy about it. "King's orders my arse."

She brushed her hair without looking at herself in the mirror. She wouldn't recognise herself anyway, the black underneath her eyes, the wrinkles near her eyes. When she put down the brush she looked at herself. The black spots had deepened, the wrinkles seemed there to stay.

She looked god damn old.

"You're a mess Amell," she said, mimicking Zevran's accent.

She missed that quirky elf, as she did the Qunari and the dwarf. She even missed Morrigan's bitching, Leliana's ramblings about laces and shoes and girly stuff. She missed them all and she would never have them back.

They were a family of sorts, or so it had felt to her and now they were gone, on adventures of their own or ruling the country.

Bloody Alistair and his sense of duty.

She tied her hair together, put on her robe and left the room. She would find this apprentice kid of hers and she would start building a life again.

***

She could not get used to the silence at this level. Most of the Senior Enchanters were dead, some of them had escaped. The majority of the rooms were reasonably cleaned up but there were still rooms which they had simply locked because they hadn't come around to cleaning them with the little amount of people they had left. Perhaps she should volunteer. She would talk to Irving about it in the morning.

She tried to mentally project the image of the apprentice she had met earlier that day at Irving's office in her head and when she was confident enough she would recognise her, Jaleth walked down the stairs to the apprentice quarters.

She found Helena in the library one level lower.

The girl was beautiful, stunning even.

She was sixteen and had been brought to the Tower only a month earlier. Her parents had kept her hidden from the chantry quite skilfully, or so Irving had told.

Jaleth looked at the girl from a distance, taking in her looks, glancing at the long brown hair that was tied together in a bun. Her eyes were bright greenish and there were a couple of freckles scattered across her nose. She had something Jaleth longed for, something she had lost somewhere between Ostagar and Fort Drakon. Helena's face held the purity of youth, like that of a new born baby on a spring day.

Not spending most of your early adulthood in ditches, on a ration, fighting Darkspawn was probably very good for your skin.

Irving had told Jaleth very little about her apprentice, he wanted to prevent clouding her judgement. But she knew that the girl had been brought here after Uldred tore the Circle apart and that her parents had gone through great lengths to keep her with them.

Jaleth took a deep breath before entering the library.

"Enchanter Amell, how - how are you feeling?"

"Cullen... I am fine, thank you."

She gave him a quick smile and as she was about to open her mouth again to make a smart comment about his ruined handkerchief she got interrupted by the beautiful sixteen year old with the freckles on her nose.

"Ah there you are," the girl said, not in the slightest bit amused. She closed her book and got up. "I was worried you might not come at all."

"I was a bit worried about that as well," Jaleth replied. "But I'm here now."

They were silent after that, a little awkward even.

"So uhm, where do you want to start?" Helena finally asked.

Jaleth shrugged. "Let's just sit here for a while and talk. Is that all right?"

The girl raised her eyebrows but did not challenge her even though she looked like she wanted to.

Jaleth pulled up a chair and gestured Helena to do the same.

"I want to get to know you a little before we start working together."

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