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Don't Leave Me Hangin' [Closed]

Cordelia

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#1
[26 Harvestmere, morning. @Cauthrien]

Cordelia woke with a headache. The young mage first attempted to lay in her bed longer than usual, but her sense of responsibility led to a deep feeling of guilt. She was a Grey Warden and needed to act accordingly. That meant training and study, regardless of whether or not her head was pounding. Which it was. Rising from her bed, Cordelia gave a groan and began to stumble through her morning routine.

A quick glance in the mirror revealed rather troubling bags under her eyes and a pale quality to her skin that prompted worry of some kind of sickness. Drawing upon all of her fortitude and the poise of her noble rearing, she managed to change into her uniform and spend a leisurely amount of time brushing her hair until it was as sleek and well managed as ever. Even if she felt dreadful, she did not have to look it. At least, not entirely. Though her condition was worrisome and gave her half a mind to locate whatever available healer was present on the compound grounds. She was about to leave for that purpose when her stomach gave a grumble that all but brought to her knees. It seemed it was time for breakfast.

If there was one thing that Cordelia was most uncomfortable with since becoming a Grey Warden, it was the hunger. Of course, the nightmares were dreadful and there was sometimes an otherworldly buzzing in her ears. But it was the hunger that she found undignified. In the Tower, she was content to eat a piece of fruit or perhaps splurge on a piece of jammed bread. Now, she was devouring bacon and oatmeals and pies as if she were a wild animal. Her mother would have fainted to see it, if she were still alive.

Nevertheless, she made her way to the mess hall and eagerly filled her plate with a variety of potatoes, griddle cakes, toast, and sausages. None of the other Wardens seemed so concerned about propriety that she felt too horrible eating her fill. More difficult was maintaining any good cheer or energy given her pounding head. By the Maker, whatever devilry was afflicting her?

Unable to endure, she stumbled over to a nearby table and made her place, taking a piece of toast and nibbling at it. She let out a sigh, leaning on one elbow and she willed the pounding in her head to go away. There would be no studying today, it would seem.
 

Cauthrien

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#2
Cauthrien was not overly surprised when she entered the dining hall to spot a forlorn looking figure sitting alone, cradling an undoubtedly tender head in one hand. The amount of alcohol that Cordelia had consumed the previous evening wouldn't have been enough to get a belch out of Oghren, but lack of experience and the girl's slight build all but guaranteed a bad result to even moderate consumption.

A more experienced Warden – Siali, perhaps – would have simply been left to their misery, but after eyeing Cordelia's plate, Cauthrien headed for the kitchen, fixing a plate of eggs, bacon and toast for herself and piling fruit onto another plate: slices of melon, apples and grapes. Two mugs of strong tea lightly laced with honey, and the Warden Constable made her way back to the hung over mage.

“That much grease will hit your stomach like a rock,” she advised quietly as she sat down across from Cordelia, pushing the plate of fruit toward her, followed by one of the mugs of tea. “Start with this, then see if you can manage anything more substantial.”
 

Cordelia

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#3
Cordelia was starting to suspect this was all the result of some horrid prank. Or else it was somehow tied to all of the changes caused by the Joining. More than a few individuals had passed her with a knowing look in their eyes, enough so that Cordelia was certain that something was happening beyond a mere headache.

That hunch was confirmed when she saw Warden-Constable MacLean walk over with a plate of fruit. The young mage stood up at attention, only sitting once her superior did. All the better, since rising only irritated her headache further. The rookie Warden returned to her toast, munching away and regarding the Warden-Constable with a curious gaze.

“That much grease will hit your stomach like a rock,” her superior said, voice edged with experience. She slide the plate of fruit closer. “Start with this, then see if you can manage anything more substantial.”

Cordelia scarfed down her bread before taking up a slice of melon. “You know,” she began before taking rather aggressive bite and swallowing. Damn this hunger. “If you all knew that headaches would follow the Joining, it would have been kind to inform me.”

The mageling pouted. “Such pain and beguilement can only be the result of most dreadful of poisons.” She paused. “Is it to be this always?”
 

Cauthrien

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#4
The girl rose dutifully to attention, though it plainly cost her to do it, and sank back down as soon as Cauthrien had seated herself, chewing dispiritedly on a piece of toast. When offered the fruit, she hastily finished the bread, then selected a piece of the melon. “You know -” She broke off taking a large bite of the melon and chewing, looking irritated. “If you all knew that headaches would follow the Joining, it would have been kind to inform me.”

The petulance in the girl’s manner had Cauthrien holding back a smile as she went on. “Such pain and beguilement can only be the result of most dreadful of poisons.” She hesitated, then added worriedly. “Is it to be this always?”

“Only if you insist on not heeding advice,” Cauthrien replied, allowing herself a chuckle. “It’s not the Joining affecting you, Cordelia. It is the ale and cider that you consumed last night without enough water to wash it from your system. Remember the hangover I mentioned? This is it.”
 

Cordelia

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#5
The melon slice was exactly what Cordelia needed. Although her stomach growled out for as hearty a breakfast as possible, the light refreshment was pleasing indeed. She munched on more fruit, doing her best to ignore the pounding in her head. Her eyes glanced at her superior, unsure if Cauthrien was bemused or not. Her tone was a mixture of experience and a softness that bordered on amusement. Cordelia huffed, telling the Warden-Constable that she did not care for the situation.

“It’s not the Joining affecting you, Cordelia.” The young mage raised an eyebrow. What else could cause such an awful headache? “It is the ale and cider that you consumed last night without enough water to wash it from your system. Remember the hangover I mentioned? This is it.”

That elicited a somewhat startled gasp from the little mage. “I did not drink so much,” she insisted. “I had naught but two cups. I wasn’t carrying on like some kind of inebriate at all.” A pause. “This is what a hangover is? I do wish I’d known the specifics before having a beverage.”

She took another bite of melon, relishing the taste as well as the time it allowed her to think. She spoke up carefully. “I wanted to fit in,” she admitted. It was no easy thing to do. “I fear you all think me a helpless child.”

The mage frowned as a stubborn strange of hair fell across her face. She quickly dismissed it with a puff. “To be more frank, I will admit that I did not want this,” she began. “When the Warden-Commander arrived at the Circle and asked for me, there was no discussion at all. Such was his prerogative but the entire affair was, I daresay, quite vexing.”

A pulse of pain in her temple made her wince. “I thought having a mug of cider would show I was made of sterner stuff..”
 

Cauthrien

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#6
Cordelia looked astonished when Cauthrien told her the cause of her present misery. “I did not drink so much,” she protested. “I had naught but two cups. I wasn’t carrying on like some kind of inebriate at all.” A pause. “This is what a hangover is? I do wish I’d known the specifics before having a beverage.”

“It can be,” Cauthrien confirmed, “and it does not take much if you’re not used to drinking alcohol. It should bother you less as you get accustomed to lt … not that I am recommending that you engage in a great deal of practice,” she added with a slight smile.

The young woman nibbled pensively at the melon.“I wanted to fit in,” she said at last, her reluctance plain. “I fear you all think me a helpless child.”

“You are young,” Cauthrien conceded, “but the Commander has briefed me on your abilities. Only a fool would think you helpless.” She cocked her head. “But that does mean that drinking to the point that your judgement is impaired would be unwise. I assume the Circle does not permit mages to drink?” Not the young ones, at least. “You won’t be restricted in that manner, but you will be expected to remain aware of your limitations.”

A stray bit of hair fell across Cordelia’s forehead into her eyes, and she blew it away impatiently. “To be more frank, I will admit that I did not want this,” she admitted.. “When the Warden-Commander arrived at the Circle and asked for me, there was no discussion at all. Such was his prerogative but the entire affair was, I daresay, quite vexing.”

“That’s understandable.” Cauthrien took a drink of her own tea. “You were given no choice when you were taken to the Circle and no choice in this.” It wasn’t fair, but life seldom was. She took a bite of her eggs. “Your sister thought you would be better off in the Wardens,” she offered quietly. “I can’t say with certainty that she was right, because I’ve never been in the Circle, but I can promise you that we take care of our own.” Nate hadn’t thought that the girl had been subjected to the same abuses that Anders, Adara and Maya had spoken of. Perhaps she’d been lucky, or considered too young for the Templars’ sadistic sport.

A pained flinch wrinkled the mageling’s features before they settled into a mournful expression. “I thought having a mug of cider would show I was made of sterner stuff..”

“That’s a common error in judgment in the young,” Cauthrien told her with a rueful smile. “I made the same mistake with a bottle of whiskey as a recruit in Gwaren. It didn’t end well for me, either. My sergeant made me run two miles the next morning, puking my guts up with every other step.” She left out the part of him pulling her drinking mates off of her the night before; that was not a hazard that the girl would need to be wary of here.
 

Cordelia

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#7
Cordelia had no experiences with drinking or hangovers. The most contact she'd had with intoxicating beverages was a pair of student mages at the Tower who had somehow managed to smuggle a bottle of wine into a small corner of the library. She'd immediately reported them to the Templars. At the time, she'd thought nothing of it. Now? She was not quite so certain it was the right decision.

The past being the past, she focused on her headache. Which Cauthrien explained the specifics of. "...it does not take much if you’re not used to drinking alcohol. It should bother you less as you get accustomed to lt … not that I am recommending that you engage in a great deal of practice."
That led the young mage to shake her head. Slowly, so as not to agitate anything. "I do not think I shall," she said firmly. "The cider was pleasing but should I drink again it will be naught but one cup."

Drinking was one matter. Fighting darkspawn would be another. Cordelia did she care for anything involving perspiration, let alone bloodshed. No doubt her comrades had taken stock of her genteel nature. That had lead to the excess drink; a poor attempt to prove that she had what it took to be a rough and tumble Grey Warden.

"You are young,” Cauthrien said after she revealed her worry, “but the Commander has briefed me on your abilities. Only a fool would think you helpless.” She cocked her head. “But that does mean that drinking to the point that your judgement is impaired would be unwise. I assume the Circle does not permit mages to drink?”

"Certainly not," Cordelia replied. "A boisterous mage is a dangerous one, and we all know enough that drink can embolden the spirit." She took a bite of melon. "Besides, it is a luxury. I do not know if your thoughts on Templars are as uncharitable as the Warden Commander but I suspect you know enough that Templars are not keen on spoiling mages. That was so in Kinloch Hold. We were better for it."

And yet, she was here. It was a proposition that troubled her deeply and she did her superior the courtesy of being honest about it.

"That’s understandable.” Cauthrien said before taking a sip of warm tea. “You were given no choice when you were taken to the Circle and no choice in this.” She took a bite of eggs. Cordelia remained attentive. She did not know Cauthrien well, but the woman seemed trustworthy. “Your sister thought you would be better off in the Wardens,” she offered quietly. “I can’t say with certainty that she was right, because I’ve never been in the Circle, but I can promise you that we take care of our own."

Thoughts of Finley's creative means of securing her freedom elicited an imperious scoff. "My sister defied the Chantry out of the most selfish and misguided sense of worry," she stated. She loved Finley, but her sister's impulsive ways would spell disaster one day. "I should not be here, nor should any mage." She did not want to debate that point, nor did she want to leave it unsaid. "I cannot condone the decisions that brought me here but I do I hope to live up to your expectations regardless." She paused. "I certainly won't overestimate my drink again."

“That’s a common error in judgment in the young,” Cauthrien said with a smile. Cordelia returned it, as she could. No doubt she would not be the last Grey Warden recruit who drank too much cider. “I made the same mistake with a bottle of whiskey as a recruit in Gwaren. It didn’t end well for me, either. My sergeant made me run two miles the next morning, puking my guts up with every other step.”

The mage took a moment to pick up a piece of toast, which she ate gingerly. "Might I request we avoid such strenuous activity this morning?" She immediately wondered if her mentioning it would lead Cauthrien to call for an even longer run. "That said, I cannot say I know what you or the Commander expect of me at the moment. I've focused on studying history and learning forms for my staff."

She plucked a grape and quietly ate it. "I much prefer the former."
 

Cauthrien

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#8
"I do not think I shall," Cordelia agreed with Cauthrien's recommendation that she not make a habit of overindulging, shaking her head as though worried it might fall off. "The cider was pleasing but should I drink again it will be naught but one cup."

“I generally don't drink more than one or two,” Cauthrien told her, nibbling at her bacon. “I've never been fond of the feeling of being out of control.” And she doubted that the Circle would be any fonder of mages being out of control.

"Certainly not," the young woman replied primly when asked. "A boisterous mage is a dangerous one, and we all know enough that drink can embolden the spirit. Besides, it is a luxury. I do not know if your thoughts on Templars are as uncharitable as the Warden Commander but I suspect you know enough that Templars are not keen on spoiling mages. That was so in Kinloch Hold. We were better for it."

“Some of you,” Cauthrien countered quietly. “I've me templars that I liked and others that I didn't. And I've known mages that the templars did far worse to than withhold wine. I'm glad no worse happened to you.” That the girl considered the Circle her home was plain, and she made no bones about the fact that she was unhappy to have been taken from it.

There were no easy answers for Cauthrien to give to that. She reminded Cordelia that her sister had made her request out of concern.

"My sister defied the Chantry out of the most selfish and misguided sense of worry,” Cordelia replied disapprovingly. "I should not be here, nor should any mage."

“The Grey Wardens need mages,” Cauthrien said simply. “To heal us and to fight darkspawn. I owe my life to the mages in our ranks.” She traced the scar at her throat with a finger. “They are not tools or servants; they are brothers and sisters in arms. The First Warden in Weisshaupt is a mage.” That Cauthrien did not trust her was not anything she would burden a new Warden with.

"I cannot condone the decisions that brought me here,” the girl stated with a gravity beyond her years, “but I do I hope to live up to your expectations regardless. I certainly won't overestimate my drink again," she added after a moment of reflection.

“Experience can be the best teacher in such matters,” Cauthrien told her, going on to recount an edited version of her own first experience with strong drink and the brisk run that had been Beorlic's response.

Cordelia looked no more enthused than she had been. "Might I request we avoid such strenuous activity this morning?" she asked, nibbling at her toast.

“You get a pass the first time,” she replied, fully expecting Beorlic to stride into the hall and order her and everyone else on a running tour of Denerim. She was not Beorlic Gunnarsen, or Loghain Mac Tir, nor Nathaniel Howe. She would make the decisions that she thought best.

"That said, I cannot say I know what you or the Commander expect of me at the moment,” Cordelia went on. “I've focused on studying history and learning forms for my staff." She selected a grape and popped it in her mouth, looking pensive. "I much prefer the former," she said, a bit plaintively.

“No reason you can't do both.”
Cauthrien pushed some eggs onto her toast and took a bite. “There's plenty of Grey Warden history to be studied here, and I definitely want you to have something besides your magic to defend yourself against darkspawn. Have you learned to use your magic alongside fighters in combat?”
 

Cordelia

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#9
Cordelia was unsure what direction the conversation would take upon mentioning her own thoughts about mages. In her short experience with the Grey Wardens, few if any of them seemed to truly apprehend the importance of the Circle of Magi. Magic could achieve great things, that she would not dispute—nor could she deny the notion that mages were useful on battlefield—but that greatness could only come from a safe educational environment. Hedge mages risked disaster with the slightest mistake; she herself had almost burned down the estates library. Would Cauthrien understand? Yes, and no.

“I've meet templars that I liked and others that I didn't," her superior explained. "And I've known mages that the templars did far worse to than withhold wine. I'm glad no worse happened to you.”

Images flashed in her mind, corridors drenched in blood and demons erupting from the Fade. "...And I was there for the Rebellion," she said. "It was not Templars that failed that day." She did not care to mention that she, too, had failed in her own way. Letting the Desire demon take hold of her mind was her greatest shame.

“The Grey Wardens need mages,” Cauthrien said simply. Cordelia nodded, although she almost mentioned that neither Aedan Cousland nor the King had been mages. “To heal us and to fight darkspawn. I owe my life to the mages in our ranks.” She drew attention to the scar on her throat; it looked like an impossible injury. “They are not tools or servants; they are brothers and sisters in arms. The First Warden in Weisshaupt is a mage.”

The mage procured another grape and ate it. "Forgive me, ser," she stated. "I do not wish to seem in appreciative of the Grey Warden's needs. I simply find myself at a loss. I grew up with one certainty: that I would grow to be Arlessa. The Templars took me from that, so I accepted that I would remain in the Tower per the Chantry's mandate. Now, that life has been taken too."

She took a sip of her tea, glancing at the cup in thought. "I do not feel as free as many say I am."

To that end, she had made the attempt to adjust to her duties as much as possible. It had not been long but she'd focused on her own personal training and study with a happy zeal. Cordelia may not have enjoyed how suddenly she came into the Grey Wardens, but there was contentment to be found in a well maintained schedule. And if she was feeling adventurous, which was rare but happening more here than the Tower, she could do whatever she pleased. There was something intoxicating about it, even if she mostly found herself sticking to routine. A routine she admitted might not fall in line with whatever expectations were required of her. Thus far, her orientation had been concerningly informal.

“No reason you can't do both.”
Cauthrien offered before taking a bite of eggs and toast. “There's plenty of Grey Warden history to be studied here, and I definitely want you to have something besides your magic to defend yourself against darkspawn. Have you learned to use your magic alongside fighters in combat?”

Cordelia shook her head. "I'd mostly focused on ensuring I could remain safe in the event casting wasn't possible," she said. "My control over my magic is, if I might be so bold, quite perfect. I hate not thought to worry about the dynamics of fighting in a group. Be that safety or coordination."

She took another sip of tea. "It would be a honor if you taught me."
 

Cauthrien

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#10
Memories rippled beneath Cordelia's expression – unpleasant memories, from the look of it. "...And I was there for the Rebellion," she burst out defensively. "It was not Templars that failed that day."

Nor had it been the templars that had saved the Circle, but Cauthrien did not want to argue with the younger woman. “I wasn't there,” she admitted calmly. Another bloodbath that Loghain Mac Tir had a hand in, promising Uldred greater freedom for mages in return for the Circle's support. The refusal of the other enchanters after the betrayal at Ostagar had sparked the rebellion, revealing the cadre of blood mages that had been living and plotting under the very noses of the templars. “It must have been terrifying.” Cordelia would have been … fourteen at the time? No more than fifteen. And if the Right of Annulment had been followed, the templars would have slaughtered her along with the rest to cover up their failures.

"Forgive me, ser," Cordelia offered after her outburst. "I do not wish to seem in appreciative of the Grey Warden's needs. I simply find myself at a loss. I grew up with one certainty: that I would grow to be Arlessa. The Templars took me from that, so I accepted that I would remain in the Tower per the Chantry's mandate. Now, that life has been taken too."

She lifted her mug to her lips, her pensive gaze remaining fixed on the tea after she lowered it. "I do not feel as free as many say I am."

“None of us are,” Cauthrien admitted, not without regret. “Grey Wardens are bound by one duty, and to those who did not volunteer, it can be a harsh mandate to accept. But without a Blight to face, there's a fair amount of down time, and I dare say you'll be permitted more liberty here than you would have at Kinloch Hold. That's not to say that we allow Wardens to run amok,” she added wryly, "but you're adults, and as long as you act that way, that's how you'll be treated."

The girl was plainly more scholar than warrior, and while she would need to be able to fight darkspawn and defend herself, there was no reason that her intellectual strengths could not be utilized. First though, they needed to identify the gaps in her training.

"I'd mostly focused on ensuring I could remain safe in the event casting wasn't possible," Cordelia responded when asked about her training. "My control over my magic is, if I might be so bold, quite perfect. I hate not thought to worry about the dynamics of fighting in a group. Be that safety or coordination. It would be a honor if you taught me," she added, sipping at her tea.

“I will,” Cauthrien promised, “but tomorrow will be soon enough. Rest and recover today.” How perfect her control would be when she was pushed hard remained to be seen. “After you've finished your tea, stick with water, and plenty of it, until the headache fades,” she recommended, mopping up her plate with the last slice of toast.
 

Cordelia

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#11
“It must have been terrifying.” Cordelia held back a scoff. She knew that the Warden-Constable had no doubt seen plenty of horrible things, but the young mage did not know much much blood sacrifice her commander had encountered.

"It was the worst of things," she said, voice shaking ever so slightly as she recalled the torrent of screams ringing out in the hallways. She felt eyes gaze on her from beyond the Veil, or so she thought. In the worst moments of the Rebellion, she'd prayed for a swift death. The Maker instead brought a miracle. But just because she survived didn't mean she'd forgotten, nor did it mean she was unscathed.

In that light, it was perhaps good that she'd finally escaped the Tower albeit against her will. The weight of history would have been inescapable, the dreams and horrors mounting until se begged to be made Tranquil to forget it all. Unlikely, but the point had been made. Still, for all of the supposed freedom she had, she did not feel much more free than when her days were full of schedules and Templars. Cauthrien granted her that observation.

“Grey Wardens are bound by one duty, and to those who did not volunteer, it can be a harsh mandate to accept." Cordelia wondered how many times Cauthrien had said such to new Wardens. "But without a Blight to face, there's a fair amount of down time, and I dare say you'll be permitted more liberty here than you would have at Kinloch Hold. That's not to say that we allow Wardens to run amok,” she added wryly, "but you're adults, and as long as you act that way, that's how you'll be treated."

Cordelia sipped at her tea. For all of her headache pain and pensive thoughts, she did intend to be an admirable Grey Warden. "Yet I cannot leave the compound without an escort, I am told," she noted. "It is no matter to me; I'm not the sort to gaggle about at market stalls. What time I have will be spent in study, that I might serve you and the Warden-Commander more admirably." Still, the notion chaffed at her slightly. "...Is it because you think I'll run?"

"Rest and recover today.” Cauthrien's advice came with the unspoken promise of training. “After you've finished your tea, stick with water, and plenty of it, until the headache fades,” she said.

Cordelia nodded, taking another piece of fruit and eating it. "I'll be ready," she said.
 

Cauthrien

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#12
The memory of the events at Kinloch Hold clearly still haunted Cordelia, and Cauthrien chose not to press her further, instead trying to assure her that she would not be so restricted as a Grey Warden as she had been in the Circle.

"Yet I cannot leave the compound without an escort, I am told," the young mage remarked, a bit petulantly, as she took a drink of tea. "It is no matter to me; I'm not the sort to gaggle about at market stalls. What time I have will be spent in study, that I might serve you and the Warden-Commander more admirably.” Despite the assertion, she still looked troubled, and after a moment, she added, "...Is it because you think I'll run?"

“No.” Cauthrien's response was immediate and firm, accompanied by a shake of her head. “It is for your protection.” She paused, weighing her next words to the young woman who had evidently known only safety from the templars, decided that the best path was the straightforward one. “Grey Warden mages have never been subject to the Chantry. Over the last few months, that has changed.

“Eight months ago, the Circle of Magi in Ansburg, in the Free Marches, was annulled,”
she went on. “No one outside the Chantry knows why, but shortly after that, Warden mages in the Free Marches began to be harassed by templars. Warden-Commander Stroud sent several mages to Ferelden to shield them, but similar occurrences have taken place here. Four months ago, a Warden mage on her way to the Deep Roads was killed by templars. They claimed that she attacked them first; there were no other witnesses.”

She regarded Cordelia seriously. “I've had to step in here in Denerim when a templar challenged one of our mages for doing nothing more offensive than healing a young woman in the market. If I hadn't been there ...” she trailed off, shrugged. “We risk our lives against the darkspawn. We shouldn't have to deal with threats from among those that we protect, but that is the situation that we face. I have no desire to defy the Chantry, but I will not allow those under my command to come to harm. Nor will the Warden-Commander.”

After assuring Cordelia that calisthenics would not be required this day, Cauthrien offered advice on recovering for tomorrow.

“I'll be ready,” Cordelia promised, eating more fruit.

“I've no doubt you will be,” Cauthrien agreed, then considered the serious young woman. “What do you like to do for fun?”
 

Cordelia

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#13
“It is for your protection.” Cauthrien's answer gave Cordelia pause. She was a grown mage, skilled with the elements and fully capable of protecting herself. Yes, she'd managed to give herself a hangover but that did not mean she was completely irresponsible.

"Ser, I can control fire and armor myself magically," she stated. "I cannot imagine the market would offer me trouble."

“Grey Warden mages have never been subject to the Chantry," Cauthrien began. Cordelia tilted her head in curiosity. "Over the last few months, that has changed." She wasn't suggesting trouble with the Templars, was she?

It turns out she was, and the story she told filled Cordelia's heart with dread. A sudden annulment was tragic but within their rights, the young mage reasoned. After all, she'd seen the tragedy that occurred when mages grew proud. But it extended further; attacks on Warden mages and finally a killing. "Four months ago, a Warden mage on her way to the Deep Roads was killed by templars. They claimed that she attacked them first; there were no other witnesses.”

Cordelia's voice was quiet. "If what you say is true, then these actions surely aren't condoned by the Chantry." No, it would have to be rogue actors.

But her commander turned even more serious. “I've had to step in here in Denerim when a templar challenged one of our mages for doing nothing more offensive than healing a young woman in the market. If I hadn't been there ...” Cordelia did not wish to think of it, nor did she quite believe it possible. “We risk our lives against the darkspawn. We shouldn't have to deal with threats from among those that we protect, but that is the situation that we face. I have no desire to defy the Chantry, but I will not allow those under my command to come to harm. Nor will the Warden-Commander.”

The young mage was quiet for a moment. "They have my phylactery." she said. She left many other things unsaid. Instead, she focused on her tea.

Cauthrien looked at her. “What do you like to do for fun?”

The young mage paused, placing her tea down carefully. No one in her entire life had asked that question, and so she had no good answer. "I read," she started. In truth, even that was always in service of her education. That was not what "fun" was. "I can knit and sew as well. In the Tower, I would mend robes and uniforms." Half her own decision, half something thrust upon her. She did not care to wonder what would happen if she refused that service to one of the Templars.

No, the truth of the matter was that Corelia had no good answer because there was no answer at all. "I... don't really do things for fun," she said. "I've never had time for frivolity."
 
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Cauthrien

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#14
Cordelia didn’t understand at first, protesting that she could take care of herself - which she undoubtedly could against most opponents. As Cauthrien explained, her face grew more and more grave as she realized, perhaps for the first time, that the ones that she had looked to as her protectors could be a source of danger, even if she was not misbehaving.

"If what you say is true, then these actions surely aren't condoned by the Chantry," she reasoned uneasily, reaching out for something solid as one of the accepted tenets of her life to this point crumbled.

Cauthrien wished it were so. “I’ve never heard of any of them being punished,” she replied, “but even if they were, punishment can’t bring back the dead or reverse Tranquility. We take no chances, give them no opportunities.”

Cordelia absorbed this in silence for a long moment before saying in a small voice, “They have my phylactery.”

“Not for long,” Cauthrien assured her with steel in her voice. “The Chantry turns over all phylacteries of Grey Warden mages. It is being sent here, and should arrive any day now. When it does, it will be given to you.” The Grey Wardens would not tether their mages, or hold the threat of it over their heads.

Her question about fun plainly took the younger woman aback, and Cordelia set her tea down as she pondered it. “I read,” she said at last, seeming uncertain if that qualified. "I can knit and sew as well. In the Tower, I would mend robes and uniforms."

“We have staff here who handle such things,” Cauthrien told her, “but if it is something you enjoy, they won’t object to the help. I knit … sort of,” she amended wryly. “Not good enough to be of much use, though I’ve made a few potholders for the kitchen.” Tobias and Cressa didn’t care that they were lopsided.

"I... don't really do things for fun," the girl admitted at last. "I've never had time for frivolity."

“As I said, you’ll likely have some time now, so if you think of something you’d like to try, go ahead,” Cauthrien encouraged her. “We … can see some fairly grim things in the line of duty. It would be good to have something that you enjoy doing in the times between.” She had seen the toll that the fight beneath Denerim and the death of the broodmother had taken on those who had been there. It was harsher than soldiering had ever been, and even soldiers were allowed respite; without something to leaven the grim duty, they would be husks in a year’s time.

Damned if she would let that happen.
 

Cordelia

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#15
“I’ve never heard of any of them being punished,” Cauthrien noted of the Templars, “but even if they were, punishment can’t bring back the dead or reverse Tranquility. We take no chances, give them no opportunities.”

Cordelia took a moment to consider the matter, trying hard not to assume the worst. Cauthrien was certainly no liar but the young mage could not help but wonder if there was more going on than the Grey Wardens realized. It was no small thing to annul a Circle and whatever happened in Ansburg must have been terrible to lead to such a decision. But that hardly explained the continued problems.

"It cannot be..." She paused, trying to find her words. "The Templars protect us, even if that means protecting mages from themselves.."

Yet, she worried what trouble might come of her phylactery. She was free, in a way, yes. But would the Chantry truly tolerate it or come to take her back? Cauthrien assured her that would not be a problem. “The Chantry turns over all phylacteries of Grey Warden mages. It is being sent here, and should arrive any day now. When it does, it will be given to you.”

That made Cordelia tilt her head in curiosity. A strange and secret desire crept into her mind, as surprising as it was intoxicating. "I can do with it as I wish?" She needed to hear it, needed to hear her commander say it.

It was getting easier to accept that her conscription would not be completely miserable. She was prepared to do her duty, of course, but Cauthrien's words eased her bitterness at yet another life decision made without her consent.

“As I said, you’ll likely have some time now, so if you think of something you’d like to try, go ahead,” Cauthrien said. Cordelia was not so young, and understood that this was, in some ways, a concern of her commander as much as a comrade. “We … can see some fairly grim things in the line of duty. It would be good to have something that you enjoy doing in the times between.”

Another pause, as talk of duty left the young woman uneasy. "How am I ever to be ready for such things?" It was a wonder that pressed on her mind ever since the Joining. "When I was a child, my mother wouldn't let me run in the halls. How am I to fight monsters?"
 

Cauthrien

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#16
Cordelia pondered Cauthrien’s words for a long moment, her delicate features troubled.

"It cannot be..." she managed at last. "The Templars protect us, even if that means protecting mages from themselves.."

“Some undoubtedly do,” Cauthrien conceded, “and I am glad that has been your experience of them. But templars can be good or bad, just as any man or woman can be. Most of them are somewhere in between, but the ones I have met all believe firmly that their way is the only right one, that mages have no business being free. And yet, I have never seen a Grey Warden mage that I thought needed to be locked up for their power, any more than I need to be locked up because I have a big sword that could cut peoples’ heads off. With power comes responsibility, and I trust you to be responsible with your power, just as I am with mine.”

Regardless of what the girl said she believed, knowing that her phylactery remained with the Chantry clearly troubled her, and Cauthrien’s report that it would be delivered to the Wardens just as clearly surprised her.

She cocked her head, her expression that of one faced with the realization of a dream barely remembered and never acknowledged. "I can do with it as I wish?"

“It belongs to you.” Cauthrien felt the now familiar sliver of anger flare hot in her chest. “And you belong to no one. Keep it or destroy it as you choose. You are a Grey Warden: my battle sister, not my slave. We are all bound equally by the same blood and the same duty.”

Cauthrien hoped that the girl would be able to find something to sustain her beyond the duty, but it was that duty that currently weighed on her.

"How am I ever to be ready for such things?" she asked plaintively. "When I was a child, my mother wouldn't let me run in the halls. How am I to fight monsters?"

Maker, she was so very young. “You will not fight them alone.” Cauthrien reached across the table to cover one of Cordelia’s hands with her own, looking into the younger woman’s eyes. “And you will not fight them unprepared.” She gave the small hand a final squeeze and leaned back in her chair. “Rest today. Tomorrow, we’ll begin your training,” she promised.
 

Cordelia

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#17
"It belongs to you.” Cauthrien's words hit Cordelia hard. The young mage exhaled a breath she did not know she had been holding, feeling a powerful gratitude sweep over her. Tired as she was, and even as her hangover began to move to the background, Cordelia took a moment to think of the implications. She trusted the Templars and believed in the Circle, or so she thought, yet the idea of being free turned her heart around. She could smash her phylactery with a hammer or toss it into a lake or burn it with her magic.

Cauthrien seemed to understand. “And you belong to no one. Keep it or destroy it as you choose. You are a Grey Warden: my battle sister, not my slave. We are all bound equally by the same blood and the same duty.”

The young mage nodded, taking a deep sip of tea to calm herself. They would talk about that duty another time, and she felt its weight keenly. But the Warden-Constable's support suddenly made it seem much more bearable. It would be a heavy burden but she would not have to carry it alone.
"I do not know what to say," she admitted. "I think I want it destroyed but that admission shames me. As for 'battle sister.' I'm not.."

“You will not fight them alone.”
Cauthrien's words once again drove away doubt, even in the face of her inexperience. “And you will not fight them unprepared. Rest today. Tomorrow, we’ll begin your training."

Cordelia nodded, looking at her commander with as much drive as a surprisingly exhausted, hungover mageling could manage. "Yes, ser," she said. "For now, I believe I will sit and finish this tea."
 

Cauthrien

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#18
Regardless of Cordelia’s proclaimed support of the circle and all that it entailed, some part of the girl had recognized her cage for what it was, and being offered the key to its lock affected her deeply. "I do not know what to say," she said after taking a drink of tea. "I think I want it destroyed but that admission shames me.”

“You have no reason to be ashamed,” Cauthrien replied. “Nor have you done anything to justify treating you like a dog that must be kept on a leash. What you do with it is up to you, but should you decide to destroy it and want company, you have only to ask.”

The prospect of battle daunted the young woman as plainly as the realization of freedom had moved her, and quite frankly, she was as unlikely a warrior as Cauthrien had ever seen. But she was a Grey Warden and, with their numbers so few, she could not simply be tucked away in the archivist’s position that the Warden-Constable suspected might suit her best. But neither would she be thrown against the darkspawn alone or unprepared; that promise Cauthrien could make and would keep. The next day would be soon enough to begin, though.

"Yes, ser," Cordelia replied stoutly to the prospect of training on the morrow. "For now, I believe I will sit and finish this tea."

“Drink plenty of water when you’re done with that.” Looking down, Cauthrien was not surprised to see her own plate clear; eating was accomplished without thought these days. “It’ll wash the remnants of the alcohol from your body.” Standing, she took her dishes back to the kitchen and headed out to start the rest of her day.
 
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