Chapter Three

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The cave was merely an entrance to a lost world. Majestic trees with roots twice the size of Sten snaked their way upwards to the divide in the earth above. My eyes followed their path to the Brecilian Forest overhead trying to invade this space as well. The trees and the thick underbrush made the light that did find its way down work hard to do so. As our eyes adjusted to our new surroundings, we were all surprised to find that this had once been a people's home. Perfect ruins remained intact throughout the space. Leliana was the first to whisper how remarkable the people must have to create something so beautiful, and so remote.

Leliana was a bit of a mystery. Having found us in the tavern in Lothering, she had aided us against Loghain's men then insisted that the Maker had told her to help us. Alistair had made an off-handed remark about being "all stocked up on crazy", but there was something about her that I was immediately drawn to. There was an innocence about her, but also a strength she was trying to hide. She had her faith, was quick with her bow, and could pick any lock. She was a wealth of information, knowing a great deal about many of the regions we were to visit upon this journey, in addition to wonderful stories she shared while we sat around the fire in camp. She was also stealthy and able to obtain information otherwise unavailable. She had quickly made her presence invaluable, and Alistair was quick to recant his earlier statement. The innocence about her also made her eyes wide whenever she encountered something of great interest or beauty, like now.

The stone columns were each detailed with artwork or text. There were clear indications that this had once been a center of activity; remnants that maybe they had left in haste. We remained in a state of awe as we took in the scene before us, but remained in silence to listen for the rustling of its inhabitants, of which there must be some. I grappled with the idea of a mage light, a floating orb of illumination; for fear that it might draw attention to us. Although, the space was large enough that if we did end up in a fight we could easily spread out and defend ourselves, or retreat if necessary.

I conjured the image of the light in my mind. I felt its warmth spread through me towards my hands. I clenched my left fist tight, allowing the magic and my will to bind my desire and then released the light into the air. It hovered a few feet above me, like a halo, lighting the area around me as I moved. Alistair's voice cracked when he tried to break the silence. We all shared a small laugh as he cleared his throat and tried again. "Shall we continue?" We all murmured our agreement.

It was Sten who took the lead then; making his way down the hazardous makeshift steps that would lead us all to the cavern floor. He cleared the first step easily with his long stride, the same step that would require the rest of us to jump, so Alistair helped each of us proceed while Sten made sure we reached the bottom unharmed.

Sten, the stoic and unlikeliest of companions, a Qunari warrior imprisoned for a crime he had admitted to, was quickly becoming a valuable asset to our cause. He had been caged for weeks without a sentence because there was no one willing to exact one upon him. He was twice the size of any man, with a face and a brusque temper that any sane person should fear, but the day we found him, we all knew what a pity it would be to see him lost to the Blight. He was proud, and from a land we, none of us, understood. He had lost his sword, and in turn, lost his identity and lashed out. Talking to him was to talk in circles most of the time, but I was slowly starting to understand him. He appreciated fine things, and saw most situations as black and white, a useful tactic, most of the time. I liked him, and I knew he was warming to me, despite his best efforts. It was my intention to kill him with kindness, and my know-how, because I knew that was what he would respect.

And then there it was, the simplest of gestures, the helping hand. Alistair's hand reached out to mine, and my eyes became fixated on the movement. He had kind hands. His Templar training and his short years with the Wardens had not yet embittered him. The palms were lightly calloused from his weapon's training, and the fingers were long and nimble. How odd to find myself drawn to them. I had never noticed anyone else's hands before. Even while in training at the Circle did I only watch the magic spread throughout a fellow mage's limbs, not the physical details of them. I felt that strange warmth again, felt it burning in my cheeks. This would be the first contact; unlike the brushing against one another as we had in battle, my assisting him with his armor, or the binding of each other's wounds, this would be, I don't know, personal?

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