18th day of Pluitanis, 44th year of the Dragon Age
The days stretched into weeks, and still Azriel did not show. His brother Tyriel, master of Aneth’Ara, was growing ever more anxious at his absence, and it seemed that any day he might leave himself in search of his missing kin. Of course, had he tried, I planned to petition him to let us go in his stead; however, such plans were rendered moot when a messenger arrived from the Circle Tower, bringing an urgent appeal for aid from Azriel himself. It had come to pass that a Circle pyromancer named Emery — a former associate of Daryel’s, one of Azriel’s original group of agents — had gone rogue, leading a group of wild and apostate mages to attack the tower in hopes of reclaiming his phylactery. Azriel thought that, given their common history, Emery’s former companions would be best suited to deal with him;. Little did he know, of course, that in the intervening months all but two of those companions had gone their separate ways, and of those two, one had no intention of leaving his family again. Still, this was our best opportunity to get Azriel’s project moving forward once more, and so at first light we rode for the Circle Tower to lend what aid we could.
The tower was in a sorry state when we arrived. Much of the building was on fire, despite the Circle mages’ best efforts to contain the blaze, and sounds of magical combat could be heard echoing from the upper floors. It seemed that Emery, having failed to breach the phylactery vaults in the basements of the tower, had instead chosen to ascend, entrenching his forces on the uppermost floors. For anyone else this would seem madness, but perhaps Emery, like the fires he commanded, drew power from climbing ever higher. Of course, whatever his ultimate plan now was, we had no intention of letting him complete it, and so with the aid of one of the tower’s Templar contingent, we began the grueling task of climbing the burning tower to confront him. For the first several floors, our main foe was the tower itself — the threat of collapsing floors and falling masonry was ever-present — with the occasional skirmish against whatever of Emery’s forces remained on the lower levels. With the Templar’s assistance, our group made short work of these initial defenders, and progress was, if not easy, at least steady.
Eventually, of course, we made it to Emery’s fastness proper, and resistance stiffened. It was here that we also began to observe a disturbing sight: Circle mages mingling with Emery’s forces, seemingly of their own volition and under no duress. At first these anomalous Circle mages did not actively stand against us, and so we made an effort to avoid harming them. When one was left behind in the aftermath of a battle, however, I had the Templar escort him down — with instructions to subdue him at the first sign of treachery. My suspicions were roused, and if this handful of Circle mages had indeed turned traitor, I wanted none of them to escape justice. As it happened, of course, I would soon come to regret sending the Templar away.
Emery had made his way to the highest floor of the tower, and was standing atop some manner of altar, giving an impassioned speech to stoke the fires of rebellion in his men’s hearts. Ensuring that my companions were in position to respond when the proper moment came, I stepped out of hiding and challenged the pyromancer, giving him an ultimatum: surrender and submit to the Circle’s justice, or perish on my blade. Emery, of course, had no intention of coming quietly, and ordered his forces to attack. Trusting in my compatriots to hold off the other mages, I charged directly for Emery himself, hoping to break the rebels’ will with a decapitating strike. My blade struck true and wounded Emery grievously, but it was here that the Circle mages present revealed their treachery. While they still did not raise a hand directly against me or my comrades, they did cast healing and support magics on Emery, mending his flesh and leaving him stronger than ever. Realizing that we could not prevail against such odds, I turned my attentions to the Circle turncoats, aiming low with my blade to sever legs and break knees. (I had no intention of killing them — the Circle could deliver justice to its own — but I needed them out of the fight, and I admit to taking a savage joy in making them pay the price of their betrayal in blood.) Unfortunately, Emery’s apostates and wild mages had not been idle while my attentions were focused on their leader and his healers, and despite the best efforts of my comrades, they were finding themselves hard pressed.
Eventually, all but one of Emery’s healers was left broken and mewling on the floor, but just when it seemed that the tide was starting to turn in our favor, fate conspired to throw the battle into chaos once more. First one apostate, then another lost himself to demonic possession, mutating into hideous abominations. Then Emery too, surrendering completely to his hatred and fury, gave himself over to a dark spirit from beyond the Veil and transformed into a demonic monster. However, upon seeing his leader’s transformation, the final Circle turncoat realized his folly and changed sides once more, aiding us in our fight against the abominations. Fate smiled on us further when another Circle mage, apparently having made his way up from below, lent us his power to defeat the monsters. My comrades took down the first abomination, while the thing-that-was-Emery slew the second with a careless blast of magic. Finally, after much struggle, I drove my blade deep into the thing’s black heart, and it screamed as it shrank back into Emery’s body and then breathed its last.
With Emery dead, and his head in our possession as proof, we swiftly returned to the base of the tower. The Circle mages were finally able to make headway in dousing the flames now that the fighting was done, and Azriel himself, who had been safeguarding the phylactery vault in the basement, was finally able to emerge. I met with the man, informing him of the Wardens’ rekindled interest in his project and their desire to see it to completion, and officially offered my services towards that end. Azriel told me that his work will keep him in the Circle Tower for some time, but that our group can assist him next by traveling to the Anderfels to recover an artifact of the First Blight. I fully intend to let the local Wardens know of this, as well as my own fellows in Denerim, for it behooves us to be ready to lend aid if Azriel requires it — and to keep watch over him, for his work is fraught with peril, and may lead to ruin if it goes astray.
We leave for Denerim on the morrow, there to charter a ship that will take us to the Anderfels along the eastern coast of Thedas. It will be a long journey, but the trek overland would be longer. The mage who fought alongside us in the final battle against Emery, a lad by the name of Thomas, will be joining the group; the reasons for that are somewhat complicated, and I shan’t tarry over them here. (Suffice to say that Thomas and the lad Marcellus are not fond of each other.) I pray to the Maker that our journey will be quiet and uneventful — but I am a knight, and I am a Grey Warden, and I have seen enough to know that such hopes are folly.