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Catalyst

By Caraine

Adventure / Drama

Prologue

Join us brothers and sisters.
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 will not be forgotten.
And that one day we shall join you.


Riordan lay broken and bloodied from his tumble through the sky. His hope, along with his body, dashed upon the unforgiving ground as splatters of rain struck his face, cool against the flushed heat of his skin.

His fate was no surprise: a Blight could not be defeated in a year. None at Montsimmard, or any other Warden stronghold, had held any expectation that it would be. All had dismissed Ferelden as lost; a necessary sacrifice in order that the Wardens might bolster their numbers and ready their defences across the remainder of Thedas.

For that reason, Riordan had held his tongue during the Landsmeet. What did it matter of the Cousland girl had violated the very essence of the oath sworn at the Joining by placing Maric's bastard on the throne? What was to be gained by his shattering the fragile peace—a peace required to stem the onslaught of the Horde for a time—by objecting to this forbidden acquirement of titles? The brief ascendency of Elissa Cousland and Alistair Theirin to political power would only ever remain a footnote within the historical ledgers; a detail the scholars would debate and compare with that of Warden-Commander Sophia Dryden but which would have no real consequence.

And then, the night of the victory at Redcliffe, Elissa Cousland had fled—taking with her any creeping doubts Riordan may have had regarding the attainment of the Ferelden Crown. Although he kept his thoughts to himself, the Senior Warden did not believe that either he or the so-called Grey Warden King would survive the battle at Denerim. Without her King, Elissa could be no Queen. All would remain as it should.

Yet in the midst of the battle, while Riordan had wrestled with the 'demon high in the air above the city, a surge had shuddered through both his body and that of the creature as the screech of Elissa's taint rejoined the shrieking concordance echoing through his blood. Wherever she had departed, she had been wrenched back to the city and her duty.

Alas, it was too little too late. Unless she had returned with all four heroes of the previous Blights, it would make little difference. Even as his sword ripped through the wing of the 'demon, causing the thing to buck and throw him from its back, Riordan knew there was nothing more which could be done. All that stood before the Archdemon now were two young and inexperienced Grey Wardens who knew nothing of anything.

A Blight could not—would not—be defeated in a year.

Then Riordan felt it. Sprawled upon the ground, his limbs at grotesque angles, he still felt it. A release: a moment of sheer bliss as the screams of the Horde resonating through the taint converged into a single beautiful note which pierced through the pain and struck at his heart, shattering the cold hard despair which had become encased around it.

Victory. How, he could not begin to imagine; yet he felt the truth of it in his blood. The Archdemon was destroyed.

... and something else. Even while the flicker of life within him grew ever fainter, Riordan could sense the presence of both young Wardens through the taint, as strong as he ever had.

No, it could not be.

As the darkness reached out to claim him for its own, Riordan could find no peace in it. Slipping beyond the reaches of any healer, the last thoughts of the Senior Warden were haunted by the knowledge that where there should remain only one Grey Warden within Ferelden, two still existed. The dog-lords had their victory—and Ferelden was now ruled by a Grey Warden King and his Warden-Queen.

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