Karma [Complete]

((9th Cloudreach 9.35 with ))

It should have been a routine ride from West Hill back to Amaranthine, The rider wanted to get back to Amaranthine before the Merchants Dinner, he was going to be there with his family. Somewhere along the way he must have doze off on the saddle because his horse had come off the main track and was walking through a now remote and beaten track that he had no idea about. 

Callum Kennedy rubbed his brow and pulled his horse to a standstill and looked around. Just what he needed, the merchant in West Hill had been, difficult to say the least and it took him using his own, somewhat unique take on bushiness to make him see things his way, and pay the debt he owed. He clicked his tongue a few times and was about to head back to the main path or, where he believed the main path was, when his horse suddenly raised up on its hind legs whinnying in terror 

"Altos!" he gritted his teeth as he fought to control his mount "Altos calm boy!" 

The horse reared again and this time unseated his rider and bolted through the thicket and was gone. Callum groaned and got to his feet, Makers arse what was that all about? 

Callum brushed himself down and looked around him seeing if there were bandits or something but even that wouldn't have made his horse rear like that, maybe a bear, yeah a bear that might do it, thing is he didn't think there were many bears around here. That was when he saw it and when he saw it his blood froze. He slowly stepped back and carefully removed his sword from the back scabbard it sat on. One didn't ride through Ferelden without some sort of weapon, it would be foolish and foolhardy. With the bandits and apostates that lurked in forests and woods, well maybe not apostates they probably would want out of here quick as they like, but that wasn't to say some hadn't fallen in with sells words or bandits for protection. Only what faced him now was none of those things, and he hadn't seen anything like it since his days in the army since the blight.

Callum couldn't understand why this creature was here now, They were scarce unless it was the deepest woods and he didn't have time to ponder it, because the monstrous beast, and it was monstrous. A slavering horror abomination of a once noble beast, he daren't look around not wanting to take his eyes off the beast but he was worried that there might be more. Judging by the beasts growls it didn't have long to live. His brother had told him that the taint took them eventually but not before they wrecked havoc on other beasts and, the spawn used them as hunting dogs, Makers arse he hoped not, he never wanted to see those things again, ever. 

He heard a noise behind him and turned, his sword coming round, birds they were only birds but, it was enough and the wolf pounced. It knocked the human to the ground, needing to feed and stop the pain that was maddening its mind, Instinct made the young merchant raised his arm to protect his face and yelped as the wolf bite into his arm drawing blood and some meat with it. He cried out but who would hear him?

He smacked the wolf in the snout and got it to release him before scrambling to his feet, gaining his wits he swung his sword blindly and driven more by panic than any real skill but the Maker or Andraste or who ever must have been with him because as the wolf leapt again it yelped and lay still. Cal backed away from it and looked at his sword then the now dead beast. Breathing he looked at the bite on his arm and shook his head, it didn't look that bad and he was sure with a healers help he would be ok, thing is where did one find a healer in the middle of nowhere? Taking a handkerchief from his pocket he wrapped it around the bite on his arm and made his way in the general direction of his bolted horse, found Altos near some water and mounted up.


He had been riding for a day when he started to feel ill, he supposed the bite might be infected, he had no inkling on the poison that was now working its way into his body, manly because he had never listened when someone told him about blight sickness, all he knew was he was ill and if he didnt get aid soon he might loose an arm. Callum didn't know where he was and he let Altos  ride, when the sun set he lent forward in his saddle, it was only when the last touches of daylight brushed the horizon that he fell from his horse and passed out.
Well, wasn't this a perfect pickle? Leaning on his dragonbone staff, Avos regarded the slumped figure of the man lying upon the road with some consternation. Suddenly, his expression cleared and he clicked his fingers in delight, finally connecting this fallen rider with the wandering horse he had glimpsed from afar a few hours ago. He did so love when a mystery resolved itself!

Unfortunately for the prostate man, there was no mystery whatsoever to his bout of sickness. Blighted. Clicking his tongue, Avos moved closer, using the bottom of his staff as a lever to heft the giant of a man onto his back. He peered down into the stranger's pale sweating face, noting all the signs of illness. Definitely Blighted.  The poor bugger hadn't reckoned on that happening when he woke up this morning, Avos was quite sure!

"Well now," Avos declared, mainly speaking to himself but aware that the sickly man might be roused by the sound of his voice. "I will need to gather a few more ingredients before I can fully remedy what ails you, my good friend. But until then..." He rummaged about in his pack, filled with a selection of plants and herbs newly picked. That was how he had come to be out in the wilderness of the Coastlands in the first place.

Swiftly, he concocted something which in all honesty was closer to poison than healing. That was where his talents lay, after all! But while the combination could kill, it was not Avos' intention. He simply intended to slow the advance of the sickness until he could complete the Joining on the stranger. But to complete the Joining, they would need to reach somewhere more hospitable than the side of some forsaken road.

"Come now," Avos knelt by the red-headed man, admiring the colour. "Rouse yourself enough to chew this." He held the mush to the lips of the man. "We've a short walk to some shelter. I haven't the build to carry you!"

"Come now, Rouse yourself enough to chew this. We've a short walk to some shelter. I haven't the build to carry you!"


Instinct made the groggy man take whatever mush was put against his mouth and he woke up, not because the distant voice told him to, but his stomach clenched then let out a spew of vomit, black in colour. thankfully he had the where with all to turn his head but he bowed his head breathing harshly and feeling like death warmed up, again he tired the mushy vile tasting stuff and this time, thankfully this time his stomach didn't eject it. 

"W-who are you?" he managed before fighting the urge to pass out again. "W-where you taking me?" 

Callum had been ill before, a nasty bout of flu had laid him up a few winters back but Andrastes Knicker Weavles it was nothing like this. He felt like someone had poured burning oil down his throat and as he looked at his wounded arm he could see the tell take black snake like lines begin to peek out from under the bloody handkerchief. 

He tried looking around for his horse but it hurt to even turn his head for the moment and was that a Tevene Accent he heard? he might be delirious but he was not that much out of it that he didn't know where he was. He knew what was happening to him now, but the shock of it robbed him of saying anymore and with great difficulty he picked his sword up and used it to help himself stand. 

"L-lead on" he stammered. 
As anticipated, no sooner had the man ingested some of the mush Avos pressed into his mouth then he threw up. Foul-smelling and oily, it further confirmed what Avos had already diagnosed: Blighted. Yet the man forced himself to take another mouthful, earning Avos's respect with his obedience. How much easier to treat a obedient patient!

"W-who are you?" His skin was pale and clammy, eyes unfocused. "W-where you taking me?"

"Far from the side of the Maker, I hope!" Avos replied brightly, eyes twinkling at his own joke. "At least for the moment anyway."

Whether the man appreciated the humour or not, he did at least stagger up onto his feet, using his sword to support his weight. My, but the armoury master at the Vigil would combust to see such disrespect done to so well-crafted a blade! Fortunately for the stranger, Avos prefered his staff over a sword, and it was just as happy to be a walking stick as it was a weapon. No judgements here!

"L-lead on," the man struggled out.

Obligingly, Avos did his best to support the man, heading towards a disused byre in a nearby field. It would suffice for what Avos needed to do: prepare the Joining. If the man survived, they could relocate to more hospitable surroundings; if he did not, Avos could be able to burn the body without risk to any other creature.

Once they were in the byre, which still smelled strongly of the musk of cattle, Avos helped the man to slump down against a wall. He then turned his attention to creating the potent mixture necessary for the Joining, having all the ingredients in his pack. Yes, yes, a Grey Warden should hunt their own darkspawn, but that was hardly appropriate in this instance, was it? If anyone knew the value of breaking a few rules every so often, it was Avos. Besides, with his magical abilities, there really was nothing hampering him from performing the Joining as often as he liked! Well, aside from the small matter of fewer darkspawn to hunt.

"Now, there are some words I really should say," Avos began, kneeling beside the stranger. "But if you agree not to tell anyone, neither shall I! Best to get these kinds of sufferances over in good time, isn't it?" With that, he tilted the small wooden cup he used to drink water at meal times to the man's lips, coaxing him to drink the foul liquid.

It was a full eight hours before the man even roused again. But at least he did rouse. In that time, Avos had cleaned the cup, tidied away the ingredients and fetched water. The camp fire, obviously, had proven no trouble at all: in fact, if anyone looked carefully enough, they would notice that the flickering flames did not burn over anything, sustained entirely through Avos' magic. He just liked the aesthetic of the circle of stones around a camp fire.

"Ah, my good friend! A pleasure to see you awake." He offered the man his water skin and a plateful of dried rations. "My name is Avos. Some news for you: you are a Grey Warden, but you are alive. I trust joy over the latter might help to soothe any distress over the former."
"Far from the side of the Maker, I hope!" this, healer mage, whatever was far too cheery for his own good Callum thought was he tried to find some humour in the mans jokes. "At least for the moment anyway."

They moved on for a little bit, the slighter built man helping him, and as much a it pained him to use it, Callum was using his sword to make sure he stayed upright. The smell of the Byre as they approached it made his nose scrunch a little, he was no snob, never had been but that smell was so bad it almost had his eyes and nose watering. 

Callum was grateful when his companion helped him sit down, if he was going to die and it was a big bloody possibility now that he had that taint in him, it gave a moment to think. Was this the Makers punishment for the nastier things he had done in the last few weeks? Was Andraste telling him he was going to end up in the deep roads as a ghoul or dying a gaunt black ridden husk in a ditch somewhere. He was never an overly religious man, he believed in the Maker and the Bride but had little to no tolerance for the Chantry.  

There were those he had wronged that would call this Karma, and he could see them now rubbing thier hands with glee as they made arrangements to get thier hands on his stock. He thought of Scarlett and let a groan leave his lips, there was one person who would get her grubby little paws on his business if she could. 

"Now, there are some words I really should say," the mage knelt beside him holding a wooden cup. "But if you agree not to tell anyone, neither shall I! Best to get these kinds of sufferance's over in good time, isn't it?" Without another word he tipped the cup onto Cals lips the intent clear. 

MAKERS BREATH!!!! 

It felt like someone had poured burning liquid down into his throat, he wanted to throw up, curl up and just die there and then. It was the worst cup of poison anyone could take, it was foul, and it burnt all the way down his throat. For a moment everything went black, his eyes seemed to sheen over and, after what felt like an eternity but was in reality probably a minute or two, Callum blissfully passed out.

How long was he out for? he had no idea but, the burning had gone and as he looked at the wound on his arm he saw that the black lines had shriveled back. The bite was there still but the taint lines, for now were gone. 

"Ah, my good friend! A pleasure to see you awake." Cal was offered some food and a drink both of which he wolfed down and gulped down in equal measure. "My name is Avos. Some news for you: you are a Grey Warden, but you are alive. I trust joy over the latter might help to soothe any distress over the former."

Handing Avos his water skin back and actually remembered to thank him for the food, his grandmother would have boxed his ears if she thought he was not going to say thankyou to someone helping him and feeding him. 

"And people actually volunteer for this?" Callum muttered rubbing his brow as the headache began to pound behind his eyes "Sorry, Callum, Callum Kennedy."  Cal looked around him "So, what happens now? and thanks...guess i owe you my life." 


With a murmured thanks for the most basic of courtesies - what Grey Warden would not have ensured access to sufficient supplies after a Joining? - the stranger considered the harsh reality of what Avos had revealed about his new circumstances.

"And people actually volunteer for this?" He tried to soothe the pounding his head by massaging his temples. "Sorry, Callum, Callum Kennedy." He looked around the byre, somewhat dazed by it all. "So, what happens now? and thanks...guess i owe you my life."

"I do not believe anyone fully understand for what they volunteer when they join the Order," Avos pointed out, taking a bite of his own rations. Even if the secrets of the Joining itself were widely known, how could anyone ever explain the excruciating pain of taking the taint into the bodies? There was no comparison. "As for your life, you owe me nothing. I have only delayed your death, not averted it."  He munched on his mouthful, full of good-natured cheer. "But isn't that what anyone can do? No one may defeat death entirely." Now, wasn't that a fascinating point? Were he still in Minrathous, he would have sought out acquaintances who could have provided rigorous intellectual debate. Alas, his only company was a mere dog lord who had, through no fault of his own, only recently regained consciousness. Best to give the poor man some time to gather what parochial wits he possessed.

"Now, to the matter of what happens next," he beamed at Callum, "that is something far more straightforward. I will take you to Vigil's Keep so that you can learn more of what is expected of you." He took a swig from his water skin. "Do you know it? I find most Fereldans have a rather curious reaction to the name.
"I do not believe anyone fully understand for what they volunteer when they join the Order," Avos pointed out. 

If what the Vint had told him was true then no, Callum didn't suppose anyone would understand and maker help them all if the Chantry found out about that titbit, that would be some exalted march crap right there he supposed. 

"As for your life, you owe me nothing. I have only delayed your death, not averted it." The man was just so cheerful  "But isn't that what anyone can do? No one may defeat death entirely."

Callum arched an eyebrow and picked at some food "If you listen to Chantry rhetoric then the Tevinter Magistrates tried that, the whole walking in the fade, storming the golden city and gave us the wonderful creations of the Darkspawn, if you listen to them," Callum set the plate down and lept his gaze into the darkness, it helped his headache "personally i think the Darkspawn have always been here, a warning against our hubris and if we were to defy death then maybe we end up like them, eternally lusting for blood, war and a hunger to consume that which they can never be." Cal shook his head and swallowed some more water and handed the skin back, "Chantry tales are fascinating but most of them are grounded in Politics and a need to constantly control. everything, the hearts minds and lyrium. They even control how we are supposed to perceive those of Tevinter. lord of horse crap if you ask me, The Vints i met have been nice enough people." Cal was an Andrastian, he believed in the maker and he believed in Andraste he just did not believe in the Chantry. His grandmother would turn in her urn if if she could hear him now. 

He thought it better if he shut up now, he had lost count of the amount of times he had annoyed the more chantry pious of his clients with his views. Besides he was aware that this was a deferred sentence, just he never expected to drink the spawns blood! wasn't sure how he was going to get over that one. 

"Now, to the matter of what happens next,"There was that smile again "that is something far more straightforward. I will take you to Vigil's Keep so that you can learn more of what is expected of you." He took a swig from his water skin. "Do you know it? I find most Fereldans have a rather curious reaction to the name."
 
Cal lifted a shoulder in a shrug "She's always been the Vigil, regardless of who has owned her before. I have no reaction one way or the other to it and those who do are those who cannot separate the difference between Rendon Howe owning it and the Grey Wardens."
The mention of Vigil's Keep brought only the most mundane of reactions from his newest companion. "She's always been the Vigil," Callum shrugged, "regardless of who has owned her before. I have no reaction one way or the other to it and those who do are those who cannot separate the difference between Rendon Howe owning it and the Grey Wardens."

"A refreshing response!" Avos observed approvingly, shaking his head in delighted disbelief. "My good friend, you are quite remarkable: neither the news that you are a Grey Warden nor mention of Vigil's Keep has stirred more than a casual rise of your shoulder."

Glancing around their campsite within the byre, Avos judged that there was no time like the present. It was still some distance to Vigil's Keep and his rations would only sustain the fierce hunger of a newly-Joined Warden for a short time. Best to be off and closer to civilisation as soon as they could.

"Once you feel more steady on your feet, we should be on our way."

Given the time it had taken for the whole Joining to be complete, it was the middle of the night by the time that the pair set off through the remote Amaranthine countryside. Unperturbed, Avos summoned a brightly flickering flame atop his staff, which illuminated the ground for quite some distance all around. Well, if any fool wished to try their luck with fire, that was their business!

"You are extremely fortunate that I came this way," he began, striking up easy conversation. "Otherwise your lasting contribution to this area would have been to poison the ground for years to come." He turned to look at the giant of a man walking beside him. "How did you come to be Blighted anyway? It is exceedingly rare for darkspawn to venture above the surface."


"A refreshing response! My good friend, you are quite remarkable: neither the news that you are a Grey Warden nor mention of Vigil's Keep has stirred more than a casual rise of your shoulder."

Cal arched a dark red eyebrow and then closed his eyes a moment and shook his head a little. Were all Grey Wardens so....cheery? There was no point in weeping over it. besides if he was being punished then, well he could think of worse ways to go. He looked around him, the headache starting to abate now. "I-I will have to go to Amaranthine at some point." he sighed "Someone has to tell the folks i wont be running the Denerim business anymore. but that can be done another time.

"Once you feel more steady on your feet, we should be on our way."

Cal got up, let the wave of nausea pass and picking his sword up sheathed it and gestured with his arm "Lead on, Avos." 

"You are extremely fortunate that I came this way," Avos informed him, and yes that was glaringly obvious.  "Otherwise your lasting contribution to this area would have been to poison the ground for years to come." great, he got poisoned and if he had died he would have poisoned everything else, yup this was Karma alright. "How did you come to be Blighted anyway? It is exceedingly rare for darkspawn to venture above the surface."

Cal paused for a moment and looked around him, just in case there was another blighted wolf or a pack of them. "A wolf spooked my horse, my horse threw me and i was attacked by a blight wolf." Cal glanced down at his arm "I killed it, and it - in a sense - killed me."  That was pretty much the long and the short of it. Cal furrowed his brow a little and looked at the mage "What about you, how did you come to be a warden.
Well now, it seemed that his newest companion was already familiar with Amaranthine. With the mention of a family-run business, Avos nodded along to Callum's distracted ramblings, seeing no reason to challenge the mundane request. Yes, yes, the Order had, at one time, insisted upon the complete division of personal from duty... but it was easier to count the instances of conformity rather than exceptions. The Order of the Grey appeared to make rules only so they could subsequently break them. It was all rather entertaining!

It was the question over his becoming struck with Blight sickness which gave Callum more pause. He cast a wary glance around him, seeming to forget that he was accompanied by a fire-wielding Grey Warden. Not that Avos was in any way ferocious but even he was unlikely to be caught unawares by a tainted creature.

"A wolf spooked my horse, my horse threw me and i was attacked by a blight wolf." He looked down at the arm which Avos had cleaned and bandaged while Callum was unconscious after the Joining. "I killed it, and it - in a sense - killed me."

"A fair trade, then!" Avos remarked cheerily. 

Given the furrow of his brow, Callum did not seem to be of the same opinion. He glanced at Avos, changing the topic. "What about you, how did you come to be a warden."

"Oh, I had a little fuss with some of your White Divine's Templars," he explained, waving his hand as though the whole incident had been nothing more than a mere trifle. "Really, so much panic over so little magic. But!" He directed a beaming smile towards Callum. "I am the stranger in these lands. It was quite my own fault that I underestimated the unsophisticated attitude to magic here in the south."

"Anyway," he went on, warming to the topic, "had it not happened, I would not have the joy of living amongst the fabled dog lords. I am usually in Denerim, you see. It is a perpetual delight to exist in a world of nobility where subtlety has no recognisable place. It is really quite obvious what is afoot at any time and yet you all pretend it is not!" Avos shook his head, marvelling at the notion. Of course, it did not really strike him that, in fact, no one was pretending. He was just so versed in the intricacies of the Imperium that the politicking of Ferelden was basic at best. "I do so adore being here."
"A fair trade, then!" Avos remarked cheerily.

Callum was most certainly not of the same opinion, there was nothing "fair" about it. Honestly, he had half expected his end to come at the end of Scarlett's blade not a blighted wolf bite. 

"Oh, I had a little fuss with some of your White Divine's Templars, Really, so much panic over so little magic. But!" There it was again, the big beaming smile, either the man was of naturally good humours or it was all fake, for not, Callum was inclined to go with the man was naturally good humoured. Although he thought this might grate nerves if heard for too long. . "I am the stranger in these lands. It was quite my own fault that I underestimated the unsophisticated attitude to magic here in the south."

Callums jaw dropped a little at how, Blaise this mage was about an interaction with the Templars., "A little fuss?" he almost squeaked choked with incredibility.  He would hardly call a altercation with the Chantry's military arm a little fuss.  However Avos did not even skip a beat as he warmed to his topic, and Callum had to wonder if they all so cheerful and self assured in the Imperium. Certainly the merchants he had traded with who were from the Imperium were never this...what was the word? Hyper? 

"Anyway, had it not happened, I would not have the joy of living amongst the fabled dog lords. I am usually in Denerim, you see. It is a perpetual delight to exist in a world of nobility where subtlety has no recognisable place. It is really quite obvious what is afoot at any time and yet you all pretend it is not!" Avos shook his head, Callum shook his head but for a different reason, his head shake was slow and as the bigger man looked away he had a look on his face that translated to What the hell? . "I do so adore being here"

"Well, thats nice to know i suppose." Callum finally said "not many people like coming here, smells of Wet Dog they keep telling us." Then his eyebrow arched "I have never seen you in Denerim were you at the warden compound there?" The Denerim Wardens tended to be slightly more dour than thier Vigil counterpart, he had no idea why that would be, but they certainly did keep themselves to themselves.