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Becoming - Chapter 5

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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 5: Bastard, Prince...Grey Warden

Alistair stood with two other recruits in the compound's courtyard, trying hard not to look as nervous as he felt. The others--both men, older than him--fared no better. In fact, one of them looked downright ill. Alistair hoped his face wasn't as green, though Duncan's somber, sad mien wasn't helping any. Whatever this Joining was, it was big. And possibly scary.

Better than the Chantry, he reminded himself. Better than being whacked by canes or having his ear pulled or being ordered to scrub pots--again--because he'd refused to back down when one of the other initiates insulted him.

Duncan shared a glance with the Orlesian Warden at his side. Riordan, his name was; dark-haired, fair-skinned, with piercingly light eyes that seemed to look directly into the core of the person he spoke to. He was the only Warden that Alistair had met, other than Duncan. It was almost as if the others were keeping their distance, for some reason. Surely there had to be more in this huge compound than just Riordan. He didn't even live here.

Riordan gave Duncan a nod and the dark-skinned man turned to the recruits, his face grave. "It was during the First Blight that the Grey Wardens were founded, when humanity stood on the verge of annihilation. It was then that men first drank of darkspawn blood, and mastered their taint."

Alistair swallowed. He'd wondered why Duncan had stopped to gather vials of blood from the darkspawn they'd killed outside of Lothering. Now he knew. And wished he didn't.

"We take the taint into us so that we become immune to its effects. It is the source of our power, and our victory," Duncan continued.

"But...the taint sickens people," one of the other recruits stammered. Garth, a knight from Highever, if Alistair remembered correctly.

"The Joining is different," Riordan said. "If you survive--"

"Wait. If we survive?" Garth fell back a step, his eyes darting about wildly as if he was searching for an escape.

"Not everyone who drinks the blood will live," Duncan said, his voice low. "It is the price we pay to become what we are. But none of you would have been chosen had we not believed you had a chance to survive."

"Maker's breath." Alistair closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them, Duncan's dark gaze rested heavily on him. Better than the Chantry. Better than the Chantry. By Andraste, even dying would be better than being in the Chantry. Not that he was in any rush to rejoin the Maker...

He took a deep breath and nodded. "I'm ready."

"Aye. Let's be done with it," the third recruit, Lorne, stated.

Duncan's lips curved slightly, a ghost of a smile that was gone almost before Alistair saw it. "We speak only a few words before the Joining, but they have been said since the first. Riordan?"

When Riordan spoke, his rough, accented voice was soft, with a lilting cadence that burned the words into Alistair's soul. He dipped his head, because it seemed like the right thing to do.

"Join us, brothers and sisters," Riordan intoned. "Join us in the shadows where we stand vigilant. Join us as we carry the duty that cannot be forsworn. And should you perish, know that your sacrifice shall not be forgotten. And that, one day, we shall join you."

"Garth, step forward." Duncan held out the chalice. After a moment's hesitation, the recruit took it and sipped the vile concoction. Duncan retrieved the cup and stepped back.

Alistair held his breath, unsure of what to expect.

Garth blinked, then frowned, as if puzzled that nothing was happening. Suddenly he bent at the waist and toppled to the ground, shuddering. His mouth opened in a silent scream, and his eyes--

Oh, Maker. An unnatural white film covered his eyes. Alistair stumbled back, the core of his being protesting what he was seeing.

After a moment--a moment that seemed far longer--the convulsions stopped. His eyes closed. Riordan stepped forward and touched a finger to Garth's neck. He nodded at Duncan.

The Grey Warden leader gave no reaction except to turn to the next recruit. "Lorne, step forward."

The recruit took a deep breath and stiffened his spine before approaching Duncan. He accepted the chalice and drank without fear. Alistair hoped that when his time came, he would be able to act so definitively.

The blood affected Lorne almost instantly. Like Garth, he doubled over. His hands cradled his head as he screamed, a horrible keening wail that set the hair on Alistair's neck on end. When Lorne's eyes opened, they were white, like Garth's had been...but blood leaked from their corners. Another stream trickled from his nose. He gurgled, and more rushed from his mouth.

Riordan shook his head as Lorne fell to the ground, the blood pooling about him. Duncan looked down at the fallen recruit, and said softly, "I am sorry, Lorne."

Alistair wanted to vomit. Somehow, he managed not to, even when the recruit's body twitched a handful of times, even when the blood lapped at his boots.

"Alistair," Duncan said, holding out the chalice, "step forward."

He inhaled deeply, fortifying himself. "Better than the Chantry," he muttered. And drank.

The blood burned as it travelled down his throat, searing a path deep into his gut. He took a breath, then another--

And the real pain hit.

Fire roared through him. His blood felt like the lava that was rumored to heat Orzammar. It scorched him, everywhere, until he wanted to claw at his eyes, his skin, his brain, just to make it stop, please, Maker, let it stop.

He opened his mouth, then, and screamed until the blackness rushed up to claim him.

###

He dreamed.

It had to be a dream, because he was wearing golden plate armor, the type reserved for kings. Strange, but he wasn't uncomfortable in it. It felt...right, somehow. He walked through the corridors of Redcliffe Castle, the confidence and surety of self flowing through him as natural as wearing the armor.

Not that he'd ever be king. Arl Eamon had made it absolutely clear that Alistair was a commoner, despite his father's lineage. His mother had been only a star-struck maid, and Maric had never recognized him. Alistair's chances of taking the throne were...well, astronomical wasn't an overstatement. But this was a dream, and as far as dreams went, it wasn't bad. He might as well relax and enjoy the entertainment. Reality would intrude again soon enough.

He smiled as he walked into the main hall to see Eamon standing by the fire. The man's grey beard nearly masked his return grin, and he gave a gentle bow as Alistair approached. "Your Majesty," he said. "I hope your accommodations are to your liking?"

"I kind of miss the stables, Eamon." Alistair chuckled at the older man's startled look. "I jest, I jest. The suite is quite nice."

"And the Queen?"

Queen? I have a Queen? His heart flipped, even as the part of him that was blissfully unaware of his dream state continued the conversation with Eamon. "She's resting comfortably. Thank you again for offering us a respite from the city. The quiet of the country will no doubt do her a world of good."

"We're honored to have you here for the birth of your child, Alistair." Eamon clapped a hand on his back.

A queen. A child on the way. Oh, yes, this dream was not bad at all.

He fell into an easy rhythm of camaraderie with the man who'd raised him, smiling, laughing, looking quietly into the fire as happy memories fell over him like a favorite childhood blanket. The part of him that knew this to be a dream was startled as the maid burst into the hall, urgency in every movement; the part that lived the dream accepted her appearance like it was foretold.

"Your Majesty," she gasped, "it's time."

He glanced at Eamon, then rushed out of the hall just steps behind the maid.

They wouldn't let him into the room, so he was left to pace by the door. Murmurs filtered through it; once, a shout. Eamon held him back with a gentle hand on his shoulder.

And then it was done.

The same maid reappeared, a wide smile on her face. "Your Majesty," she said, nearly breathless with joy, "come meet your daughter."

Daughter. Maker's breath, he had a daughter. His throat closed and tears burned his eyes as he stepped past the threshold into the bedchamber. Women fussed over his wife in the bed, but he only had eyes for the small bundle thrust into his arms.

"What will you name her?" the maid asked as Alistair stared, dumbstruck, at the swaddled babe.

"I--I don't know," he admitted, pushing back a corner of the blanket to see his child's face.

Twisted, blackened flesh greeted his gaze. Dead, empty eyes. Sharpened teeth.

Darkspawn.

"No!" he screamed. His heart twisted. Broke. He shoved the thing out of his arms. It tumbled to the floor, where it wormed its way out of the swaddling clothes and crawled toward him.

A hand landed on his shoulder. He spun to face the emissary he'd killed in Lothering. Its black eyes bored into his and it leaned forward as if to deliver a secret.

"You are ours," it hissed. "We...are...one."

A wordless, guttural cry wrenched itself from Alistair's throat. He tore himself out of the dream.

It took him a few long moments of panting and near-panic to realize he wasn't in the bedchamber of his dreams. Light flickered beneath the door, revealing a small room with barely enough space for the bed and chest of drawers. He was alone. No darkspawn. No dream-wife. No would-be child.

Alone. As always.

He pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes, trying to force away the memories of the dream. It had been so real. He could still feel the weight of the armor on his body, the smell of the incense used in the birthing room. A sob hitched in his chest before he regained control of himself. Just a dream. A terrible, awful, soul-shattering dream, but nothing more than that.

He pushed himself to his feet and used the tepid water in the basin next to the bed to wash away the remainder of sleep. If a couple of stray tears blended into the water...well, there was no one around to see it.

He took a deep breath and opened the door.

Duncan rose from a chair facing the entrance to his room. His eyes held understanding and knowledge, but he said only, "Welcome, Alistair."
Alistair, bastard prince and former templar, embarks on a new life as a Grey Warden.

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© 2011 - 2021 Freckles04
Comments7
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Ellelalee's avatar
So sad.... Pooor Ali.... *sniff*
Freckles04's avatar
Thanks for the comment. I appreciate it!
kitiaramajere's avatar
You do an awesome job with his personality.
Freckles04's avatar
Thank you! I'm glad you think so.
Korithetramp's avatar
..... oh boy.... ooooooooo :D
Freckles04's avatar
Korithetramp's avatar
You're welcome. I really cant wait to see more!!!
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