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Tamlen was your first everything.

Your first friend, as you adjusted to the fact that not every da’len in the clan had an Ashalle instead of their parents, and all the hahrens seemed to look at you with the saddest eyes. Ashalle and his parents were friends, so it was only natural that he would be close to you as the clan traded off the duties involved in raising a child.

Your first best friend as he ran to Marethari, the both of you eight years old, your body rippling with lightning engaging you, Tamlen with a pattern similar to some vallaslin all over his hand and reaching up his arm. You had tripped, and as he was helping you up, there was some static that just seemed to amplify until it boiled out your hands. His fear and pain was only tempered by the fear in your eyes as the lightning grew around you, forming a cage. After Marethari dispels the lightning and heals him, he’s gone until the next morning, when he’s back as if nothing had happened except the planned lesson with Maren about the halla.

Your first confidant as you study magic with Marethari and Merrill. You may be better at flinging the elements around than her, but Merrill’s grasp of the Old Magic that Keepers pass on to those that will become their Firsts is better. You complain quietly to Tamlen as a sixteen year old, knowing that you will not become Marethari’s First. You share the pain of not being able to follow in your father’s footsteps as a Keeper to the Dalish, hurt by the loss of what tenuous connection you had to parents you’d lost before you knew them. Tamlen doesn’t know what to say that night, but, a couple weeks later, when Marethari announces that Merrill will officially be her first, presenting her with ceremonial robes and a staff, she also has a new staff for you as well - your father’s staff, a little dusty and tarnished from storage, but thrumming with magic nonetheless. Out of the corner of your eye, between the tears, you see Tamlen grinning, just a touch more genuinely and less from the ceremony of it all.

Your first crush, as you fumble your way through telling Ashalle privately that you don’t know how to thank him for talking to Marethari about the staff, which leads her to prod at why your thanks has to be just so until you’re crying on her shoulder, like you’re eight years old and scared Tamlen isn’t going to be your friend anymore. Ashalle smiles at you kindly, drying your tears with her sleeve, before telling you, rolling her eyes a little, that even if Tamlen doesn’t love you back romantically, the bond you two share will survive this.

Your first adult conversation- You and Tamlen recieve your vallaslin at nearly the same time, Tamlen a week before you. His markings are of Dirthamen You choose Ghilan’nain, Halla-Mother as your patron, both as a mark of pride for being Dalish but also as a reminder that, just as the Halla Mother herself asked Andruil for help and received it, sometimes all it takes is asking to find the outcome you seek. As Marethari finishes the ink, healing spell just below her fingertips, she meets your eyes, smiles, and helps you up. Tamlen, to no one’s surprise but your own is the first one to run up, picking you up and swinging you around in a joyous celebratory hug, speaking words of congratulations as he does so. Your face flushes as he sets you down, his hands lingering at your waist. He leans in, whispering a request that you sneak off behind the halla pen early the next morning. You barely manage to squeak out an affirmative before you are surrounded by your clanmates and Ashalle. Tamlen slips away in the throng, and you lose track of him.

Your first kiss, awkward and fumbling, in the early morning light. The halla are quiet, still half-asleep, and the camp echoes that. Tamlen’s lips meet your own after stulted attempts at beginning conversation, and you both sink into each other, lost in the feeling of finally being able to have this. His body is electric where it connects to yours, as you move from standing, to leaning against the pen, to lying down, the ground cold below you and Tamlen, hot enough to melt glass, on top of you. All too soon, he pulls away, and you realize the camp will be waking up fully soon. He pulls out a set of delicate rings, clearly made while he was spending time with Master Ilen. He gently slides one onto your ring finger, before placing the other in your palm so that you may do the same for him. You drop his ring at first, and you both laugh as you collide while reaching down to pick it up. His hands are warm in the cool morning air, and as you slide the ring onto his finger, he reaches up with his right hand and cups your cheek, gently looking into your eyes. You kiss him one more time for good measure before going to help with the morning routines a clan of your size has managed to develop. You manage to be acutely aware of him, even across the campsite, until he leaves with some of the other hunters and you go to Marethari for questions about a spell.

Your first reason to properly shirk your duties. You were meant to help Master Ilen craft ironbark that day, while Tamlen went to find game for the clan, but Ilen watches you watch Tamlen leave, a longing look in your eyes, before shoving you off, a bow and quiver tucked over your shoulder with your staff, instructions to come back only when you could be trusted not to warp the wood with your emotions. As you catch up to Tamlen, the two of you run into a group of shems spouting nonsense about ruins nearby. Your first heartbreak, as you fade out of consciousness with Tamlen’s panicked “I can’t look away!” ringing in your ears. When you awake, it is to the clan’s sad eyes, as Marethari tells you that the shemlen warden brought only you back to camp. Your confidence that you will find Tamlen is unshakeable until you re-enter the ruins, waning moment by moment as you retrace your steps to find Duncan standing in front of the mirror, its gaze once again clouded and impassive as he shatters it. You rage at the impertinence of this human, destroying your history and your last hope to find Tamlen. He insists that you will find nothing, and as he escorts you back to camp, Merrill asking as many questions as she can about the Wardens, Fenarel helping you along as you begin to feel the Taint course through your veins, you feel your heart shatter. Marethari sends you off with Duncan, as you blankly recite words of duty and honor, emotions raging so hard internally that you shock yourself and the human as he helps you onto his horse, something you haven’t done since that fateful day back when your magic manifested with Tamlen. Duncan is polite enough not to mention your emotional state until you approach Ostagar itself, wanting you to represent yourself, a Dalish elf, the best you can to the assembled human armies.

Your first ghost, as you walk through the Gauntlet. His face is exactly how he looked that fateful morning, his hair rumpled from where he’d slept on it wrong and had been too lazy to fix it with water. He acts wiser than he’d ever acted before, telling you “Some things lost will never be found. You have suffered enough.” His shade lingers only long enough to smile sadly at you before fading into dust motes, before you walk into the next room and fight yourself. Tamlen’s words ring in your mind, and your companions dance around the subject, despite their obvious desperation to know who he was.

Your first grave dug. After the shrieks have been defeated from their ambush at your camp, and you’re clearing away their bodies to burn, you notice a figure hiding in the undergrowth. Thinking it to be one of the tranquil emissaries sent by the Circle, you approach them, only to be greeted by a face you thought you’d never see again in the flesh: Tamlen- warped by the taint, his face gaunt and pale, his hair gone, and his body waifish. He maintains his grip on himself long enough to kiss your cheek before you kill him, ending his suffering for good. You take the ring you gave him nearly a year ago, and put it on your finger, sliding it next to the one you wear before you start digging. It’s hard work, but you finish as the sun starts to rise, covering the camp with a pale glow, as it had when you two had kissed for the first time. You settle his body lovingly inside the hole, kissing his forehead one last time before covering his body with dirt and planting a seedling you found nearby overtop him. You use what little Keepers’ magic Marethari had been able to teach you and twist the world just-so before the seedling explodes into a tree, taller than anything around it and blooming brilliantly.