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In war, victory

In peace, vigilance

In death, sacrifice

Like many others, Duncan gave up his family name when he joined the ranks of the Wardens: a symbolic gesture of cutting ties. He might say this was a convenience in his case, however. His mother was from the Anderfels, his father from Rivain, and he spent his childhood in the Free Marches and Orlais. His people were everywhere and his homeland was nowhere. He was given the almost impossible task of leading the Wardens in Ferelden: a kingdom that had thrown the order out two hundred years earlier. Facing local suspicion and hostility, he set about finding recruits.

Duncan stood silently at the gates of the village. To his right crouched Tamarel with her bow. He had recruited the young elf for her sharp eye; she had justified his confidence through methodical, deadly hunting. To Duncan’s left waited Richu, as experienced a Warden as Duncan himself, thick arms crossed and waiting.

In war, victory

Duncan recalled the start of the Grey Wardens’ motto, the part he held closest to his heart. War never offered any choice but to win; in the battles the Wardens fought, losing meant the destruction of everything they knew and loved. Any sacrifice, if it meant victory. Triumph, no matter the price.

The three were nearing Redcliffe when they felt the tugging at their souls, the sensation familiar to any Warden that warned of twisted foes approaching. It is a blessing and a curse, thought Duncan, to sense the darkness in time to fight it, but also to know that a piece of that darkness will always be with us.

In peace, vigilance

It was centuries now since the end of the Fourth Blight, and the world had moving on. Some said the darkspawn no longer existed, or thought that occasional darkspawn raids in remote lands proved them now no more than a nuisance. But although the battles were hidden from human eyes, the dwarves still clashed with the darkspawn in the Deep Roads. Ignorance would not make the threat disappear. Here, in this remote village in southern Ferelden, the darkspawn had risen in such numbers that the people had been completely overwhelmed.

Duncan shook his head, nodded once, and a several darkspawn near the center of the village fell to Warden arrows. Duncan and Richu charged, steel glinting in the moonlight, to engage the creatures in close combat. There were more than a score remaining to confront the three Wardens, but Duncan reckoned the odds fair.

Blades slashed through dark flesh, and Tamarel cautiously pressed forward into the village, loosing arrows upon any darkspawn that thought to flee. The Grey Wardens cut the darkspawn down to the last. Covered in dark ichor and his own red blood, Duncan surveyed the combination of partially eaten human corpses and newly dead darkspawn. A few, maybe three or four, villagers stirred, staring out at the scene with lasting horror.

“We were too late,” Tamarel said. She was right; Duncan knew in his heart that the survivors had already been tainted. Those who avoided a quick, excruciating death would be driven mad, turned into diseased and rabid killers. He cursed and spit and wiped his sword clean. He stepped forward.

The villagers looked on him with mounting terror, their eyes growing wide as they turned black. They turned and fled.

Tamarel’s arrows slammed into the villagers’ spines as they ran. They died because they must, died to prevent the spread of the same taint that gave the Grey Wardens their connection to their enemy. That same evil that would eat away at the three Wardens until one day each would decide it was time to descend into the Deep Roads for one final walk into the shadows, to end their lives with purpose rather than wasting away from sickness.

In death, sacrifice

The final line of the Wardens’ motto is doubtless the most crucial. Every life must have meaning; every death must have purpose. Waving his hand, Duncan called the others to him and they began the bitter task of burning the village to ashes. Nothing was to be left.

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