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     At first, Alistair isn't sure what to expect. The Lucrosian fraternity had never really been touched upon when he'd been learning about the Circles.

     "Lucrosians. Greedy." One teacher had offhandedly summarized, before launching back into her warnings of the flighty fraternity of Isolationists. They, along with the Libertarians, had always been the primary concern of every Templar. Then Duncan had come crashing into his life, and then darkspawn had tried to tear his face off, and Alistair had completely forgotten about the little, marginalized fraternity.

 

     When she finds him in the war camp, dressed in the finest robes he's ever seen on a mage, he can't help but stare. Beautiful, he thinks. And then they spend an hour tramping around the camp as she looks in every little nook and cranny. They make their way back to the camp merchant with a bag of equipment and leaves to sell, and the recruit looks at the gold the merchant hands her like a woman would her lover. And that's... that's weird, but she tosses his old sword at the merchant and buys him a spiffy new one, so he naïvely thinks she might be ok.

 

     It's only when he's helping her strip the armor off their fifth dead darkspawn, watching her coo over its staff, that he regrets everything. Give me a twitchy Isolationist or a shifty Libertarian, he silently begs the Maker. The Maker doesn't answer his prayer, and he goes back to watching her collect bloody weapons.

 

     The recruit is the only one to survive the Joining, and Alistair, Andraste forgive him, questions the will of the Maker. For as they fight off darkspawn to reach the tower, she still strip searches each and every corpse.

     "It'll all come in handy later," she insists, turning to knock a Hurlock back with flames. "They can't use it anymore anyway, why let good money just waste on the ground?"

 

     Wynne, it turns out, isn't even remotely surprised; merely sets about the task of searching the dead like it's something she does every day.

     "Lucrosians," she says to him with a shrug, as if that explains everything.

 

     Alistair startles at the Warden's screams. He pulls his sword out, raises his shield high, and looks to her- to find her holding a dwarven belt up high, her face an open book of utter glee. Bodahn gives him a shrug when he looks at him for answers.

     "A Merchant Belt," she screams at them, "a Merchant Belt!"

 

     He thinks she has a heart, under all that desire for wealth. He's wearing what probably amounts to the best of what their warriors have at this moment- an impressive armor set, a sword worth killing for (the Warden certainly had, she'd gone after its wielder with extreme prejudice) and a golden helm that was making him rather self-conscious in the dirt poor village they're currently passing through. She's taken everything he started out with and continually replaced it with better equipment. Everything except Duncan's shield. The Warden had shoved it into his arms one night and then... left it there. He's gotten so used to changing armor that having something steady, something that isn't sold off in the span of a few days, is shocking. He's seen her eyeing shields, comparing them to some standard he can never hope to comprehend, but she never buys them. Never takes his shield to replace it with something better. He's noticed that that amongst their group, each person has at least one or two things the Warden never touches. Wynne's token amulet, Morrigan's robes, Zevran's fancy boots and Dalish gloves, Leliana's satin shoes, Sten's greatsword- the Warden shoves the equipment at them and never takes a second glance.

 

     And then she'll giggle at some piece of armor or weaponry that she's peeling off a fresh corpse, wonder aloud at how much she'll get for them, and he doubts.

 

     The Warden doesn't make him king, lets him keep his own Warden status as they prepare to gather their forces. Both he and the new Queen are equally thankful.

  

     The army they gather has the best of the best. The Warden pours her more than considerable resources into their ranks, and even Alistair is shocked at the results. The finest of bows, the best of shields, perfect dwarven armor- seeing their army gathered before them takes his breath away. The Queen stands before them, gives a rallying cry in the name of her husband, and Alistair barely says a word. He doesn't like her. Will likely never like her. And then the Warden takes the stage. She doesn't speak about the kingdom. The losses. Their hopes or dreams. Her own rallying cry is a simple two word declaration, a short sentence that will live on for eternity in their history books.

     "For money!" A Lucrosian through and through. And, well, damn, he can get behind that. Alistair raises his sword high, echoes her cry as the men and women around him follow suite.

 

     Flames flicker around them, unbearably hot, and he sprints for the Archdemon. This is his chance, his chance to kill the cursed thing and end the threat to them all. The Warden uses her staff to knock his feet out from under him. She pauses to smile at him, an upward quirk of her lips that he'll remember for as long as he lives, and then she turns; raises her staff high. Her robes bellow around her, hood thrown back. Beautiful, he thinks, she's never been more beautiful.

Blinding light.

The elements as one.

An explosion.

And it all comes to an end.

 

     He leads the Wardens now, as they patch their wounds and come together. And for years after, the new recruits will ask him, without fail, about the Warden. And he'll sit back and tell them the tale of the Lucrosian mage who'd saved them all.