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Against All Odds

By LisHawke

Adventure / Romance

The Circle



The Chantry teaches us that it is the hubris of men which brought the darkspawn into our world. The mages had sought to usurp Heaven, but instead they destroyed it. They were cast out, twisted and cursed by their own corruption. They returned as monsters, the first of the darkspawn. They became a Blight upon the land, unstoppable and relentless. The dwarven kingdoms were the first to fall, and from the Deep Roads the darkspawn drove at us again and again until finally we neared annihilation.

Until the Grey Wardens came.

Men and women from every race, warriors and mages, barbarians and kings... the Grey Wardens sacrificed everything to stem the tide of darkness, and prevailed.

It has been four centuries since that victory and we have kept our vigil. We have watched and waited for the darkspawn to return. But those who once called us heroes... have forgotten.

We are few now, and our warnings have been ignored for too long.

It may even be too late, for I have seen with my own eyes what lies on the horizon.

Maker help us all.




Irving is more than happy to have Duncan in the tower, recruiting or no. After all, he wants his apprentices to do well, to serve mankind; to put their power to good use.

And Daylen Amell is one of the most promising; he completed his Harrowing not two weeks before Duncan arrived. Quite successful. He is a talented boy, if a little arrogant and rude. But perhaps that is putting it the wrong way; Daylen is a good young man. He has quite a few friends in the tower, including many of the senior enchanters and younger students. But Daylen is also rather... difficult with the Templars and the Chantry sisters. If he keeps up the pranks, the jabs, and everything else, Irving wouldn't be surprised if Greagoir claims Daylen is an abomination just to get rid of him.

It might be best if he leaves the Circle. His skills as a battlemage are extraordinary, and those skills will make him an excellent Grey Warden candidate.

When he tells Duncan as much, he seems interested. "He has already undergone the Harrowing, I take it?"

"Yes," Irving tells him. "His test was one the quickest I've witnessed in a long time."

Although the apprentice who was sent into the Fade the previous night, beat his record by at least five minutes.

"Interesting," Duncan murmurs. "I'd like to meet this young man, if it is no trouble."

"Of course, Duncan."

"What?" Greagoir cuts in. "Many have already gone to Ostagar - Wynne, Uldred, and most of the senior mages! We've committed enough of our own to this war effort-"

"Your own?" Irving gives a disbelieving chuckle. "Since when have you felt such kinship with the mages, Greagoir? Or are you afraid to let the mages out from under Chantry supervision, where they can actually use their Maker-given powers?"

Greagoir's eyes flash in anger. "How dare you suggest -"

"Gentlemen, please," Duncan interrupts, gesturing toward the doorway. "Irving, someone is here to see you."

Both Irving and Greagoir turn at once to see a lovely young elf in apprentice robes. Greagoir may not recognize her, but Irving does.

Avina Surana, the newest addition to the Circle. She had arrived when she was only four years old, about fifteen years before. Now, she is an accomplished mage. A healer and spirit specialist. Indeed, she is the one who surpassed Daylen Amell in her Harrowing.

Her gray-blue eyes are wide with excitement, her long brown hair in braids coiled around the back of her head. Her features are dainty and fresh with youth, and though she's an elf, she is almost as tall as the other human female apprentices.

"Hello," she greets quietly, eyeing Duncan curiously.

Irving's wizened face draws into a smile, his eyes crinkling. "Ah, if it isn't our newest sister in the Circle. Come, child."

Obediently, she steps forward and Irving makes his way over to his desk where her new staff, ring, and robes sit, and brings them over to her.

Duncan gazes at her with interest. "This is...?"

Before Irving can answer, she speaks for herself. "My name is Avina, ser."

Greagoir sighs, obviously displeased. "Well, Irving, you're obviously busy. We will discuss this later." And with a polite nod to Duncan, he leaves the room.

"Of course," Irving agrees. "Now, then, where was I... this is Duncan, of the Grey Wardens," he introduces.

She smiles brightly in earnest kindness. "I am pleased to meet you, ser."

She is such a charming young lady. Not even the Templars can maintain their icy demeanor around her; her aura is so warm and bright. She is happy and full of life, even in this place.

"You've heard about the war brewing to the south, I expect? Duncan is recruiting mages to join the king's army at Ostagar," he explains.

"I would like to join and defend Ferelden," she tells Duncan.

"With the darkspawn invading, we need all the help we can get," Duncan encourages. "especially from the Circle. They have formed into a horde in the Kokari Wilds and threaten to invade the north into the valley. I fear if we don't drive them back, we may see another Blight."

"Duncan, you worry the poor girl with talk of Blights and darkspawn. This is a happy day for her."

"We live in troubled times, my friend."

"We should seize moments of levity, especially in troubled times," Irving tells him, then turns his attention back to Avina. "Your Harrowing is behind you. Your phylactery was sent to Denerim. You are officially a mage within the Circle of Magi."

She bows her head. "Thank you, First Enchanter."

"I'm sorry," says Duncan, raising an eyebrow. "What is this 'phylactery'?"

"Blood is taken from all apprentices when they first come to the tower and is preserved in special vials."

Special vials that will lead the Templars to her if she ever flees the Circle.

"So they can be hunted if they turn apostate," Duncan understands.

Irving sighs. "We have few choices. The gift of magic is looked upon with suspicion and fear. We must prove we are strong enough to handle our power responsibly. You, my dear, have done this. I present you with your robes, your staff, and a ring bearing the Circle's insignia." He hands her the bundle and she accepts it gratefully. "Wear them proudly, for you have earned them."

She's practically bouncing with joy as she thanks the First Enchanter.

"It goes without saying that you shall not discuss the Harrowing with those who have not undergone the rite," he warns her. "Now then, take your time to rest, or study in the library. The day is yours."

She nods and turns to go, but Irving recalls what he was originally speaking to Duncan about. "Though, I would appreciate it if you sent the mage Daylen Amell to me, if you see him. I would like to speak with him."

She nods again and shoots out the door like lightning, a skip in her step.

Duncan smiles after her. "She's a lovely girl."

"She is," Irving agrees. "Quite talented, as well. I'm sure she has quite the future ahead of her."

Truer words were never spoken.





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