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Becoming - Chapter 4

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Literature Text

Title: Becoming
Author: Freckles04
Game: Dragon Age: Origins
Character: Alistair
Disclaimer: Originally posted on BSN and FF.net. The world of Dragon Age belongs to Bioware, and many thanks to them for encouraging community creations.

Chapter 4: Dark Decisions

They came across the burning farmhouse during their fourth afternoon on the road, a day from Denerim's gates. Black smoke billowed into the sky, dissipating into a greyish haze that dimmed the sun's light. Alistair tensed as he heard a woman crying and men shouting, and his mind painted an image of what was happening out of sight. A child's wail warbled above the roar of the flames. He reached for his sword, but Duncan's hand stayed his.

"There are no darkspawn here," the Grey Warden said quietly.

"But--" Alistair turned wide eyes to look at the older man. "We can't just walk by and do nothing!"

Duncan took a deep breath, his face somber as he watched the smoke. "We can. And we will."

"No. That isn't right." Alistair shook off the Warden's hand. "That family is in trouble from--from bandits, maybe. We need to help."

"It is not our job to police Ferelden," Duncan stated. His face had grown hard, unyielding. "We must reserve our efforts to battle the darkspawn."

"We can help," Alistair ground out. His hands clenched at his sides.

"And what if we fall here?" Duncan said. "Who would carry the news to the Grey Wardens in Denerim of the darkspawn amassing to the south?" He looked at the farmhouse again and his firm expression faltered for a moment. "Our duty is to protect humanity from the darkspawn. Not from each other." He strode ahead.

Alistair watched his retreating back, then eyed the farmhouse again. "This is wrong," he shouted after the Grey Warden.

Duncan stopped. "There is very little in this world that is purely right or purely wrong, Alistair. This is necessary. No more, no less." He gestured at the younger man. "Now, come. I want to get closer to Denerim before we set up camp for the eve."

Alistair turned back to the farmhouse. He could go off by himself, see what he could do to help. He didn't need Duncan's assistance. He shifted in that direction.

"Don't." Duncan's voice was laced with warning and command. "Alistair, you are a Grey Warden. Fall in."

He closed his eyes, his jaw tensed. Then, with a muttered, "Maker's breath," he fell into line behind Duncan.

###

Alistair sat before the small campfire, tossing bits of grass into the flames. The dry strands glowed incandescently for the briefest of instants before vanishing. The repetitive motion kept his dark thoughts at bay, for a time. Duncan sat silently on the other side of the fire, his face obscured by sparks.

"Is this what I have to look forward to?" Alistair braced his arm on an upraised knee and regarded the older man. "A lifetime of difficult decisions that I can't agree with?"

"You would have had that regardless, Alistair. Life is filled with difficult decisions." Duncan gave him a rueful smile. "Do you think being a mage hunter would have been easier? What if you came across an apostate who was married, with children, living a life that harmed no one? You would still be required to capture that person, or kill him. So says the Chantry."

"I--" Alistair pressed his lips together. "That's different."

"How so? Either you choose to spare the mage and betray your vows, or kill the mage and thereby destroy his family." Duncan shook his head. "Our purpose goes beyond one family, or one village, or even one nation. We can't forget that. We can't allow ourselves to be distracted."

The child's cry reverberated through Alistair's mind, and he threw the remainder of the handful of grass into the flames. "I just don't understand how you can separate yourself like that."

"We do, because we must." Duncan sighed. "You'll understand more, after the Joining."

"Yes, the mysterious Joining." Alistair brushed a hand over his hair. "Are you going to tell me any more about that?"

"No."

"I didn't think so. Not that it matters." He tilted his head back to watch the sparks dance into the darkness arching over them. "Anything is better than being stuck in that Chantry another day."

"Joining the Chantry wasn't your idea?"

Alistair snorted. "I was ten. What do you think?"

He leaned back on his elbows, his eyes fixed on the heavens. Duncan remained silent, obviously putting the option to speak more of his childhood, or not, firmly in Alistair's hands. He took a deep breath. Tomorrow, they would reach Denerim. More significantly, they would reach the palace. The chances of running into...him...were slim, but not non-existent. If Duncan didn't know...it could be awkward all around.

Maker's breath. When would his blood stop haunting him?

"I'm a bastard," he said, his gaze on the sky. "Arl Eamon of Redcliffe took me in and raised me until I was ten, then I was sent to the Chantry to be educated as a templar."

"I see."

"I doubt that," Alistair muttered. He took another deep breath and forged onward. "Eamon isn't my father. King Maric is...was. Cailan is my half-brother."

"I was wondering when you were going to tell me," Duncan said, a hint of amusement in his voice.

"Wait--you knew?" Alistair shot upright.

"I considered your father a friend," Duncan said with a shrug. "Your resemblance to him, and your brother, is remarkable."

"Wait. Just...wait." Alistair rubbed his forehead. "You knew, and you still recruited me?"

Duncan arched a brow. "Was I incorrect in assuming that you did not appreciate the Chantry life?"

"What? No! I hated it there. I never wanted to be a templar."

The Grey Warden inclined his head. "And what is it that you do want?"

"I--" Alistair blinked. What did he want? No one had ever asked him that before. All of his decisions had been made for him, starting right at his birth, when it was decided that he would be raised by Arl Eamon.

Certainty bolted through him and he averted his eyes so Duncan wouldn't see the telltale glimmer in them. What he wanted was a home. A place he belonged. Even...a family.

"I don't know," he lied.

Duncan smiled. "You've some time yet to figure it out. Go on, off to bed. I'll take first watch."

Alistair lay on his bedroll for some time, awake, unable to sleep even with the soothing rhythmic crackle of the fire. For the first time in his life, he actually found himself looking forward to the future. Despite the hints of darkness that came with being a Grey Warden, his life was looking much brighter than it ever had.

###

Denerim…bustled.

It seemed an inadequate description, but it was the only one Alistair's stunned mind could come up with. Maker, the mass of people…he'd never seen so many gathered in one place. Sure, there had been the summer festivals at Redcliffe, epitomized by rowdiness he'd observed from afar, but even those celebrations hadn't placed so many people in one location. Beyond the city's gates was a new world, a collection of colors and textures; a conglomeration of humans, elves, even dwarves going about their mundane lives. And the noise! He'd found the silence of the Chantry horrible, but this unrelenting noise was nearly as unbearable.

His steps faltered as Duncan pressed into the crowd, but he gathered his courage and kept up with the Grey Warden before he could lose sight of the older man. Duncan wove through the people in the street with an ease borne of long practice, and Alistair wondered if the man was a native of Denerim. In fact, he knew nothing of the Grey Warden, did he? Other than his name and his place within Ferelden's order.

The crowds thinned somewhat as they approached the Palace District. Fewer people milled in the streets and they seemed more…refined. Less loud hawking of wares, for example, and the goods at the infrequent merchants' stalls seemed more expensive.

The closer they got to the palace, the tighter Alistair's stomach became. What if they saw…him? The King? He thought Cailan knew of his existence, though he wasn't sure. There had been that one visit to Redcliffe about fifteen years ago now, where Alistair had greeted his half-brother only to be dismissed in favor of the armory. But then, it wasn't likely that a teenager would have much to say to a five-year-old, would he? Certainly not any kind of deep or meaningful conversation, and an acknowledgement of Alistair as his brother would have fallen into that category. He took a deep breath and tried to push the hurt aside, but, like a festering wound, it wasn't so easy to ignore. It ached. The sense of what-if, if-only, and maybe-if-I.

What if I'd been raised here instead of Redcliffe?

If only I'd had a chance to know my brother and father.

Maybe if I'd been better…

No, that was foolishness. He didn't get a say in his life, remember? Not then, not now, and probably not ever.

He was slightly proud that he only fumbled one step as the palace came into view. He cleared his throat, unsure of how to word his request. "Uh, Duncan?"

"What is it?"

"You're not going to tell anyone, are you?" Alistair said, his eyes flicking from the Warden's face up to the spires of the palace. "About…about me, I mean."

Duncan's lips curved. "Do not worry, Alistair. I don't think anyone else needs to know."

Alistair blew out a relieved breath. "Oh, good." His mouth twitched. "And…thank you. For not treating me differently."

The older man inclined his head. "Come. We've much to do before the Joining this eve."

"And, let me guess: you're still not going to tell me anything about that."

Duncan's only response was a silent and somewhat sad smile.
Alistair, bastard prince and former templar, embarks on a new life as a Grey Warden.

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Comments5
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kitiaramajere's avatar
Really liking this more and more. The convos between him and Duncan... awesome!
Freckles04's avatar
I'm glad you're enjoying it!
Korithetramp's avatar
AHHHH!!! The ritual!!!! poor Alistair...
Freckles04's avatar
Dun dun DUN DUNNNN! LOL...well, this isn't an AU, so you know the outcome. :)
Korithetramp's avatar
Yea... LOL my F!Cousland married the man. Lol. But i want to see what happens with his ritual. We know so little about it