|Past Entombed in the Present
Author: BrennaCeDria PM
A brash young mage returns to Kirkwall one year after the destruction of the city's Chantry. Image by WhiteThornWolfRated: Fiction K - English - Drama/Suspense - Amell & Justice - Words: 2,451 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 1 - Published: 01-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7731353
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I wrote this one-shot as part of the Dragon Age Asunder Creative Writing Challenge that ended yesterday (1/10/12). Set just as Varric is being returned to Kirkwall for interrogation, a year after the Rite of Annulment is invoked and shortly after the mage fraternities vote to go to war against the Templars following the close of Asunder. As always, Bioware owns everything; I'm merely playing in their sandbox.
Edit March 5, 2012: I'm very strongly considering expanding on Vrania once I finish my main fic, "A Warden's Duty", in the coming weeks. If I do expand on her like I'm planning, she'll exist in the same universe as WD itself.
They'd done their best to keep Vrania from coming to Kirkwall. The city had been the site of the worst slaughter in the history of the Circle, but there was treasure to be found here—a treasure that none in the Chantry would expect to be found, much less used a second time.
To his credit, Anders had done everything he could to destroy his formula. He had wanted to make his example here, but had never intended for it to be used again. Justice hadn't allowed the former Warden to completely cover his tracks, however, though the templars would never have been capable of finding his secrets no matter how thoroughly they ransacked his clinic. Only a mage would be able to uncover what he'd hidden, and no mage in Thedas was bold enough to return to the city to try and retrieve it.
Getting into the city had been a simple matter. What remained of Kirkwall had become a nest of mercenaries and mage hunters come to seek gold and glory in aiding the templars with their war against the mages; all she'd had to do was slip into one of the numerous caravans that entered the city daily. Being seen was never a problem; those few individuals who actually was aware of her presence before she could branch off on her own conveniently assumed she belonged with one of the other camps. And as for the Templars themselves, well… Vrania's phylactery had been destroyed long before she escaped her gilded cage, and they'd never been the wiser.
Even though Vrania herself was safe from the hunters, hundreds of other mages were not so fortunate. That was her endgame here in Kirkwall. She wasn't stupid enough to believe she'd actually be able to access the phylactery chamber in the Gallows, but there were a dozen other such chambers spread across the continent that taunted her with their very existence. She would find Anders's formula, and she'd destroy the shackles holding her brothers and sisters or die trying.
Unfortunately, there had been… complications. The most glaring of which was the complete and absolute quarantine of the Darktown slums that housed the clinic itself. The guards manning the barricades were always templars—never the city watch—and though they'd never find her via phylactery, that didn't mean one of them might not sense her if she got careless and strayed too close. So here she sat in the Hanged Man, among the mercenaries and miscreants that had practically taken over the once great city, waiting and watching for any chance to slip into the sewers below.
The crowd tonight was rowdier than usual, but the rumors swirling among the intermittent brawls were too intriguing for Vrania to pass up. Word had it that Varric Tethras had been captured by the Seekers and had been returned to the city for interrogation regarding the role the Champion had played in Anders's plot. Idly, the girl wished she could get access to the dwarf. It was well known that he had made it a point to know things, especially about the Champion; perhaps he would have an insight that could aid her?
Marian Hawke… Vrania had met Bethany Hawke, the Champion's sister, once almost three years ago. The younger sister had accompanied a handful of other Wardens to the Tower where Vrania had been caged, seeking recruits for the Order. If the Champion was anything like her sister, there was no way she'd have knowingly helped Anders. It was a shame, really; every story she'd ever heard of the Champion was that Marian had been just to a fault, always seeking a peaceful resolution, giving her very being to save every troubled soul that crossed her path.
It was ironic, and yet so fitting, that the Champion had fallen in love with the apostate that had inspired the mages of Thedas to seek their own freedom, and to bleed for it if necessary.
Vrania's eyes widened as she realized the implication of that last thought. He had been the Champion's lover. Not only that, but Anders had supposedly moved between his clinic and the estate without being seen, and that meant there was some way into Darktown from the Champion's home.
The templars had to have known this, but in the few excursions she'd taken to Hightown, Hawke's former estate had been unguarded. The house itself had long since been looted and now it was just a shell left standing to remind what remained of the local population of how their Champion had betrayed them. Even better, hopeful scavengers still came and went on an almost daily basis, so she could enter without the templars and guards even sparing her a glance. To them, she'd be just another opportunist picking the bones of a long-dead corpse.
Smiling, she downed the rest of her drink and sauntered off to her room. She was going to have a busy day tomorrow.
A tomb would have been livelier than the husk she had entered. Of course, there were signs of habitation everywhere—decayed food and empty bottles strewn about each room, cold ash in the hearths, and so on—but the blanket of death that enveloped every chamber in the Hawke estate was nearly suffocating. Vrania recognized a certain... tang in the air though, and she realized that in a way, her first impression had been correct. This house was indeed a tomb, though no bodies were ever interred here. Instead, Anders had infused the walls themselves with what little joy he'd allowed himself to experience with Hawke, and with even more sorrow, knowing that he was betraying her trust.
Rumor might hold that Hawke had spared her lover following the destruction of the Chantry here in Kirkwall, but Anders had died long before that attack.
Vrania felt a tear escape down her cheek as the gravity of his sacrifice struck her. Anders had achieved his own freedom, and as a companion to the Champion no templar alive would have dared to touch him. But instead of becoming complacent he continued to fight, refusing to be satisfied until all mages could share the liberty he'd gained.
Yet even after the fraternities had voted to stand up to the Chantry once and for all, so many mages considered Anders a psychopath for his actions here in Kirkwall. In spite of agreeing to follow his example, the majority of the fools still argued that what he had done was wrong. 'Grand Cleric Elthina had been a good and noble woman who had not earned her fate,' they would claim.
Grand Cleric Elthina had been a coward who had not stood up against the injustices she knew were taking place in the Gallows. Her flock included mages just as well as it included the common citizens of Kirkwall, and she allowed dozens of them to be turned Tranquil or killed.
After making a quick pass of the main floor, Vrania made her way down to the basements, hoping to find the passage she knew had to be there. Her efforts were rewarded as she searched near the house's vault, revealing a small, dark passage leading even further into the building's foundations. Pulling a small glow stone from her pack for light, she ventured into the blackness, stumbling a few times but eventually making it to the door at the far end.
She cautiously sent out a few tendrils of thought, probing the area beyond the door for any sign of life templar or otherwise that might bear witness to her passing, and found nothing. Smiling, she carefully pulled the door open and dropped the short distance to the floor below. The first rays of the rising sun—the only direct sunlight capable of reaching through the vents that allowed fresh air into these slums—blinded her momentarily, and she retreated to the nearby shadows to get her bearings. It was then that her gaze fell upon the decrepit lanterns just a few yards to her left, and Vrania realized that the Maker must have been with her. There was no other explanation for her good fortune to exit the estate so close to the clinic itself.
Checking again that she was alone, the girl flitted over to the nearest door, slipping easily through it and shutting it quietly behind her. As in the estate, an almost overwhelming sense of sorrow permeated the walls here, but there was desperation as well. Most of it came from Anders himself, and she could almost see him hunched over the crude desk in one corner, scribbling out copies of his manifesto to be distributed to any who would read them. But there was also the desperation of the refugees that this clinic served; souls who had been forced from their homes only to be shoved amongst the lowest of the low, wallowing in hunger and filth just to survive.
Vrania let her mind wander as well as her feet, brushing her fingers against a cot here and a table there as she got a feel for the man who had lived and worked in this hovel. When she came to the desk itself it was with reverence that she caressed its surface.
This is where he did it, where he came up with the formula itself. Her mother had once told her that even inanimate objects had memories, and that those memories were where ghosts came from. As an apprentice in the Circle, Vrania had tried to discover if this was true or not; as the time approached for her Harrowing, however, she had been forced to set such childish curiosities aside. Now though... What was the harm in trying one last time?
Pulling a bench over to the desk she sat with her palms down on the rough wood and closed her eyes. She didn't have lyrium or the aid of another mage to anchor her, and slipping into the Fade via her dreams would mean leaving her body completely defenseless, but there wasn't any other options. She had to find what she'd come for and get out of the city before the templars detected her, or else her entire plan would fail.
Calming herself, Vrania closed her eyes and her mind drifted immediately into the Fade.
The noise was unbearable. The sounds of the injured and dying filled the clinic, and Vrania realized she was viewing it as it had been following the Qunari attack on the city. Anders was bent over a nearby cot, pouring all of his mana into a spell, desperate to save the child under his care as a faceless mother wept at his side. After an eternity he released the power he'd gathered, collapsing in a heap as the child gasped for breath and the mother cried out in joy.
A slight, dark-haired woman in bloody leathers rushed to his side, and Vrania immediately recognized her as Hawke; the resemblance between the Champion and her sister was uncanny, even down to the loose waves that framed each of their faces. Looping his arm around her shoulders, the Champion led him back to his own cot and forced him to lie down and rest.
You'll not find what you seek here, mortal.
If Vrania had skin here in the Fade, she'd have jumped out of it when the voice sounded at her side. Turning, she found another spectre of Anders, though unlike the memory on the cot, this ghost shone with righteous power.
Come. I will show you.
The scene shifted around them, three years' worth of activity scurrying around them like ants. When it finally settled into what passed as stability here, the spirit was gone and Anders was huddled at his desk. Ink was smeared across his face and through his hair as he scribbled strange equations in a journal, and moving closer she realized that this was the moment she'd been seeking.
Suddenly, the mage stopped his writing, and he slowly lifted his gaze to look straight at Vrania. Just as she was about to panic, he shook his head irritably and returned to the page once more. Breathing what passed for a sigh of relief here where there was no breath, the girl came around the desk to read over his shoulder as he wrote.
It took a moment to make sense of his horrible penmanship, but once she had deciphered his handwriting her heart soared. She quickly studied the information before her, committing everything to memory so she could record it properly once she was away from this cursed city.
You must move quickly, mortal.
Glancing up she saw that the spirit had returned, and that its face was beginning to crack under the pressure of the power within its shell.
Your gratitude means nothing here, mortal. Show your thanks through your actions.
The room began to spin then, and everything went to black.
Vrania's eyes snapped open, and she was moving before she even stopped to consider her actions. Marching from the clinic she returned to the passage to the Hawke estate, using a crude ladder she'd found not far away to reach the door. Not even bothering with the glow stone this time she navigated the basements with ease, and upon her arrival on the main floor of the mansion she made a beeline for the front door.
So focused was she on her escape, and on the next steps of her mission, that she didn't pause to check that it was safe before she exited. Only when the touch of cold steel was laid across her throat did she realize her danger.
"Not another step, apostate."
No mage after her was foolish enough to try and retrieve Anders's formula.