With every birth that has ever been, potential has been created. Some are born to greatness. Others are born to live in the shadows. What they are given is a result of their station. Humans lived and died in the world to become merchants, farmers, parents or nobles. Dwarves with their Paragons spent their lives in the search for riches and betterment. The elves either served the humans or lived in the wilds, far from any other society. The world was fragmented, but somehow still managed to hold together, even if by a thread. Unbeknownst to all, something was sleeping beneath the fragments. It had the power to bring the world together or bring it to ruin.
The Archdemon. Or rather, what would one day be the archdemon of the fifth blight.
The massive beast opened one eye just a crack. That was not what he would always be known as. Once they called him a god of beauty, worshipped in the Tevinter imperium. But no longer. Since then, he had only been a remnant from the past, an image in books and in temples.
Urthemiel had been his name. Yes, he remembered now. Or perhaps he had never forgotten. There wasn't much need to use it now, his days were spent in quiet contemplation. He slept, and dreamt. His mind was led to the birthing of a little girl with blue hair, whose magic was almost certainly unparallelled for someone of her stature in this age. Curious, he continued to dream of the little one. Why this girl? why now?
His spirit was bound in the body of an imposing dragon with massive wings that could carry him through the skies. He had been born into greatness. And now the time for his greatness was over. Perhaps his spirit would one day find itself in this girl, or maybe someone she would come to know.
Which, if Urthemiel was honest, was a good thing. He himself hadn't changed much over the ages. Only his notoriety in the world. With a yawn, Urthemiel stood up and stretched out his wings. It had been a while since he had gotten any exercise. It had gotten harder, since the darkspawn had found their way into his cave. They were the husks of men whose bodies had been corrupted by pure evil. More and more of them showed up every week.
Most of them were no trouble at all. But there was one in particular who seemed more ...ambitious than the rest. He always seemed to bring foul smelling meat to Urthemiel. But the taste was alright. Maybe he was just more tired than usual, and that was why he was feeling dizzy. It was no matter. He still had much to think about concerning the girl in his visions. It seemed they were destined to meet, although he had no idea when or where it would happen.
The girl in his visions was a young child named Aqua, who after six years had grown up with her parents keeping watch over her in seclusion. At the moment she was spending what would later become the last night with her parents. As she normally did, Aqua's mother was darning socks by a fire. Her father was reading one of their many books and the girl was playing with a doll on the floor. Whenever Aqua produced a magic spell, her mother told her to put it out. Her father told her the magic she did so easily was trouble.
But Aqua never could understand exactly why these things were trouble. Surely they were part of who she was, right? Her mother had told her never to be ashamed of who she was, and yet also told her to always hide her magic abilities.
"Mama, why do I need to hide? Why can't I learn magic here? I could protect us." Aqua asked.
"It's dangerous, my dear. I think the Liadon family from down the street suspects something. I've seen the way they look at you." Her mother replied.
Her father put down his book. "You know that the Templars will show no mercy, sunshine. They'll drag you off to the circle and that will be that. Please, just do as your mother asks."
"I promise that someday, we'll find someone who can help you learn how to do these things. For now, you just have to be as normal as possible." Her mother put her darning down and smiled. "I sense you will do great things."
From outside, a roar was heard. It shook the very center of the home, dropping a couple of Aqua's mother's fine china plates. A red light shone from the window, and the sound of the clashing of swords and shields broke through the air. Her parents looked at one another, and then scooped Aqua up, leading her into their room beside hers in the back of the house, cradling her between them. Something was happening. Aqua was curious, but seeing the fear in her parents eyes made her wonder if she should be scared, too. She could feel an aura that was growing stronger.
Anger. Rage. Injustice. Nothing was right, and the only way out was to fight. Aqua didn't know if her parents could feel it, but the aura was affecting her. She held her ears to try and block it out, but it just kept coming and coming with more strength.
Unable to keep herself out of the aura anymore, Aqua ran from the loving shelter of her parent's arms and headed into her room. She thought she would be safe under her bed. But she never got a chance to find out. Just as she bent over to hide, the aura became deafening, and a glowing demon broke through her window, having been thrown by whomever was fighting it.
The demon was bright orange with four fingers and no nose. It had an internal glow that made it almost look like fire. Aqua stared at it in its eyes, terrified of what it could do to her. She had heard whispers in the town, as a man had escaped the nearby circle and was slowly consumed by a demon that was described just as this one. Perhaps it was the same person.
"Child….you are filled with magic….help me to right a grave injustice against your kind."
She took a step back. What did he mean, her kind?
"These have wronged you. If you are caught….you will be sent to the circle or killed…freedom lost…." the demon murmured.
Aqua had heard about the circle. Mages were sent there to train and learn magic, and then sent out into the world, but that was all she knew. Her mind was throbbing. Other, smaller thoughts were trailing in.
Your days are numbered….they can track you….they know where you are…
"Nghn!" Aqua grabbed her head and bent down. "It hurts!"
"Aqua!" Her mother called, standing in her doorway.
"Get away from her!" Her father pushed past her to try and reach his daughter.
Through the hole left by the demon, a man in heavy armor crashed in. He carried a large two handed sword and wore a helmet that obscured his face.
"It's time to die, demon."
He attempted to swing his sword, but it caught the ceiling of the little room, stopping much of the force behind his swing. He was forced to try something different. With a smirk, the demon began to speak. Aqua recognized the incantation as a fire spell.
"Look out!" She shot ice from her hands, distracting the demon long enough for the templar to sink his sword into its side. It slowly disappeared back to where it came from, fading until there was nothing left. All at once, the rage and the anguish left, and the room was unnaturally silent. Aqua collapsed, her mother and father crowding around her.
"that ...child….was that….magic?" the templar asked, in unbelief. "There are many mages my age who have trouble with the elemental spells of that nature. We must take her to the circle at once!"
"No, please! She is our only child. If you take her to the circle, we'll never be able to see her again!" Aqua's mother cuddled her close.
"I'm sorry. I truly am." the templar's voice softened. "But if she's doing element magic already at her age, then we can't take any chances. We don't want her to end up like that."
The templar pointed to where the rage demon had lain just a few moments prior, disgust evident in his voice. He put his sword in its sheath and then knelt down. Aqua's mother held her tighter, her father gently squeezing his wife's shoulder. He wondered if it would come to this. The girl clung to her mother, praying to the Maker that this was all a nightmare.
"Please, you've already seen too much violence today, little one. I promise we'll take care of you. You'll like living there. You'll have people around you who have the same powers you do, you'll be fed and kept safe, and First Enchanter Mickey will oversee your teachers." The templar murmured.
"You mean she'll be trapped!" Aqua's mother burst. "And if she survives that test, kept on a short leash!"
"Darling." her husband tried to calm her.
"And then if she does one thing you don't like, you'll track her down and kill her! I know how you templars are!"
Aqua looked up to see her mother's face soften, a large tear falling on Aqua's face. "You know it's true, Stefan."
"We don't take our job lightly, ma'am." the templar placed a gloved hand on her shoulder. "Most of us want to keep the mages safe.I will see to it personally that your daughter is kept from all harm."
"Maren, she has to go." Stefan held her wife and gently moved Aqua's hair from out of her eyes. "You'll do wonderful things, my little sunshine. Just do as you're told and you'll be fine."
"I'll be able to come home soon, right?" Aqua looked hopefully up at her parents.
"Y-yes. As soon as you've finished your training." Maren was crying harder now, her voice laden with a shaking tone.
"How long will that take?" Aqua asked.
"That depends on you, Sunshine." Stefan cupped his hand around his daughter's face, hoping to burn the image in his head. "Promise us you'll do your best?"
"I promise. I'll make you two proud." tears made it hard for Aqua to see.
"Then we must go. First Enchanter Mickey will want to see you when we get there. It isn't a very far journey. I'll give you a half an hour while I make preparations."
Aqua's parents helped her pack a bag with some clothes and shoes. They did their best to keep the conversation light, as if she were only going somewhere overnight. Maren especially was trying to hide her emotions, but her father had a harder job of it. His family was rife with mages. It was his fault she was born with magic; his fault that his wife was going to lose a child. He swore bitterly under his breath. Not all mages would fall to the spirits of the fade. Not all of them needed to be babysat. Why couldn't the templars see that? He prayed to the Maker that someday things would change.
"Are you all ready to go?" the templar softly asked.
"Here, I embroidered this. Keep it with you and I'll be by your side. Always." Maren kissed her daughter's head.
"I can't allow personal items to be brought. They'll just be taken when we get to the circle." the templar mentioned.
"Please? It's only a handkerchief and my daughter is still so young. She needs something from home." Stefan begged.
The templar looked a little uncomfortable, but as Aqua held the cloth to her face, breathing in the familiarity, he rubbed the back of his neck. "And others have come when they were younger. But...if you're good on the ride over, I won't let them take it from you."
Aqua only nodded and hugged her parents one more time. She grasped onto her mother's neck, wishing she could stop this from happening. The question 'why' filled her mind more than she let on. It was finally dawning on her. She would probably never see her parents again. Realizing this fact, Aqua clung all the tighter, tears flowing freely. Maren matched suit, wishing she could be stronger for her daughter. Stefan saw his daughter's shoulders heaving. They would be burdened with something much worse than losing her family.
"It's time to go now, sunshine. You'll be an amazing addition to the circle. Maker knows why this is happening, you're so young." he breathed that last part. "We can't change what's happened, but you can change how you'll react to it. Be the best mage you know how to be, alright sunshine?"
"When you get older, try not to let the sadness in the world color your experience too much. Despite all of the evil-" she looked at the templar "There is still plenty good. Be that good and you will go far. Remember that we love you more than anything."
They whispered words of encouragement to her, and kissed her forehead. She wished their embrace could have lasted forever. From somewhere deep down inside, she wondered if she would ever feel loved and wanted again. Aqua looked back as they rode up the lane, the only home she had ever known growing smaller in the distance. She hoped her mother wouldn't cry too much over her.
The templar looked down over her. "It really is a nice place. There are plenty of books to read, plenty of others to be your friends, and it's surrounded by Lake Calenhad. I bet you'll like it."
"But why can't I just learn magic at home? And what was the test mother was talking about?" Aqua asked.
"It's dangerous to allow mages to be unsupervised. There are dark rituals that cause one to lose their humanity. They are a danger to everyone around them. I'll admit the system we have now isn't perfect, but it's one that works." the templar answered. "As far as the test goes, it's called the harrowing. I don't know very much about it, and those preparing for it aren't told much, either. All I know is that it's best to finish it as quickly as you can. Once you finish, you're promoted to full mage and they send you out and about to live your life."
"And then I'll be free to use my magic?" Aqua tried to understand.
"To a point." he answered carefully. "Are you tired?"
"Then rest. We have a bit of a ride ahead of us, and there'll be plenty more to do when we get there."
"Are all templars as nice as you?" Aqua yawned, holding tightly onto her handkerchief.
He paused. "No. they aren't. But most of us are. You can trust us, little mage. I promise."
Aqua nestled into his lap and closed her eyes. It was hard to believe that only an hour ago she was with her parents, and now she was basically an orphan. As she came to, she could see Lake Calenhad sparkling in the moonlight. The circle tower rose high into the sky, a deeper black than the sky behind it. Even the shadow it cast under the full moon seemed to pierce the ground that it covered. She found herself clinging more tightly to the handkerchief in her hands as he dismounted and then helped her down.
"We'll be heading to the docks now. If you want to keep that handkerchief safe, give it to me. I'll deliver it to you when you get settled." the templar held out an expectant hand.
Seeing his extended hand, Aqua brought the small cloth closer to her, using her arms and torso to shield it from his grasp. She was shaking ever so slightly, but she refused to give up the only piece of home she had left. With eyes shut, Aqua could only guess as to what this templar was doing. She heard his metal armor click and clack as he knelt down in front of her.
"I know you don't have any reason to trust me. But I made an oath to your parents, my word is my bond. You were a very good girl on the way over, so I will keep your treasure safe. Rules state that you can't bring anything in from your old life with you. There's no rule that prevents a gift from one friend to another."
Aqua's eyes grew large. He seemed kindly enough, perhaps she should just hand it over. "You consider us friends?"
"I'd like to, one day; if it's alright with you." the templar nodded.
Slowly, Aqua handed over her prized handkerchief. The templar ruffled her hair and helped her to get on the little boat that would carry them over to the circle tower. It only grew in size and intimidation as they rowed ever closer. The doors were a heavy wood with iron. As soon as the door opened, Aqua was hit with the smell of old vellum and air was stuffy, but warm. Immediately on either side of the doors were templars dressed just like the one who had brought Aqua in. She held his hand and shuffled closer to him. They only looked at her with slight intrigue.
"What in tarnation is going on, Campbell? It's late and you bring in a little girl?"
"My apologies, Knight commander Cid. I was attempting to apprehend the apostate when she saved me. She stopped his fire spell with magic of her own. Unfortunately by the time I got there, the apostate had already been consumed by the demon." the templar Campbell reported.
"I see." Cid knelt down to look Aqua in the eyes. "So you're a mage, huh?"
Aqua gave a little nod and stepped behind Campbell's leg.
"Well, the tranquils can take it from here." Cid waved one down. "Take this little one up to first enchanter Mickey. He'll want to know she's here. Good work, Campbell. Two more out of trouble."
An older female walked over wordlessly. She held out her hand for Aqua to take.
"It's alright, little one. You can trust her. I have to go take care of a few things" Campell threw her bag over his shoulder. "But they'll help you get settled in, I promise."
With a nod, Aqua gently took the woman's hand. Campbell then walked away to take her clothes to the chantry, to be used for those in need as the two found the staircase. They had to walk all the way up to the fourth floor in order to reach First Enchanter Mickey's office. Aqua didn't say a word, but instead took in her new surroundings with wide eyes. Walls were lined with books as the interior wound around in a circle. Huge doors hid sleeping quarters and more libraries. Dim candle light illuminated the walls and made it easier to see where they were going.
"First Enchanter Mickey will be right through here." she stated simply.
"Is he nice? I'm a little scared." Aqua asked quietly.
"He is a good leader. I cannot feel the fear, so I cannot sympathize. I'm sure you'll be fine."
"You can't feel...fear?" Aqua gasped.
The tranquil woman nodded and then knocked on the door. A small 'come in' was heard, and the door opened for the girl. Sitting in a cushioned chair beside a fire was what looked to be a mouse. But he was a little taller than Aqua and had a smile on his face. Placing down his book, he stood up to greet the two. The tranquil bowed and exited, leaving Mickey and Aqua alone to talk. Mickey gave a soft sigh and took a step closer.
"Hiya, little one. My name is First Enchanter Mickey. I take it you're here because you have magic?"
Aqua gave a small nod, keeping a check on her breathing so as to keep herself calm. The mouse smiled gently. She didn't feel like he was going to be mean to her. He had the look about him like he had seen a lot and was willing to listen, despite their age difference. While she slept, she thought she had heard Campbell mention that first enchanter Mickey had played a vital role in the fourth blight. It was how he became the first enchanter in the first place. Her grandparents had died in the fourth blight, but her parents hadn't told her much about how they died or when. They had only referred to it as 'the dark times'.
"It must be awfully scary to be away from your family and home. I hope you'll like it here."
Remembering her father's advice to be good, she nodded. If this was the most powerful person in the tower, it was important to do as he asked the first time around and to the best of her ability.
"What's your name, little one?"
"Do you understand why we brought you here?"
"Not entirely. I just know that I have magic and those with magic don't get to be normal."
Mickey gave a soft nod. "Some people may tell you that having these powers is a curse, but don't think of it that way. You were given a very rare blessing that not everyone understands. You have a connection with the fade that helps you tap into the elements themselves."
"Yes. you'll learn more about it in your time here, but for now the best way to describe it is a land of dreams. Your connection to the fade gives you dreams and emotions; because you're closer than others, the fade also lets you tap into magic. But you have to be careful. Powerful demons reside in that realm. That's why we brought you to the circle. If you can learn to control that connection to the fade, then you can be a valuable asset one day and avoid being overtaken by those demons."
"Yes. To the King. I'm not sure what form it will take, but something dark is on the horizon." Mickey reported. "But that's not anything you need to worry yourself with. Arivain, the woman who came in with you is waiting outside the door. She'll help you into your new robes and get you settled in for the night. You'll start your new classes tomorrow."
Upon hearing her name, the tranquil opened the door and walked back in. "Come with me."
Instead of going straight to the sleeping quarters like Aqua thought, they went back downstairs to where the templars were hanging about. She was presented to the men, and they took her to a side room. One of them had a bag. He pulled out a small razor and a pill shaped bottle. After wiping down her finger, he attempted to place the razor to her finger, but she pulled away. They continued reaching for her, but every time she pulled back. When one of them tried to hold her down, she sent a small chill out from her skin.
"Hey! You've got to get your blood drawn. It's part of your process, mage!" the templar growled. "Do anymore magic and we'll be forced to stop you."
Campbell heard the commotion and hurried into the room. He was unsurprised to see what was happening. He knelt down beside her and handed her her mother's handkerchief. "Here, take this. Maybe if you have something to hold, it won't be so scary."
His helmet had come off, revealing brown hair in a short ponytail and a small amount of stubble on his chin. His eyes were a light blue and were full of empathy. A small blush spread across her cheeks. Although she couldn't recognize his face, she knew his voice immediately. In his hand was her mother's handkerchief. She grabbed for it and rubbed her face against the embroidered initials.
"We have this handled, Campbell. Back to your duty." the templar growled.
"She trusts me. Let me try." he urged.
"Fine. You get one shot. If she fusses too much, we'll do our duty." the templar folded his arms.
Campbell nodded solemnly and ruffled her hair. He took the razor and bottle from the other templars and shooed them away, hoping to give her some more room. Even though he himself wasn't a mage, he could remember how intimidating it was when he had first joined as a templar. The others in the room were massive and stern looking. Later he would become friends with many of the very men who had intimidated him on his first day.
"You've got to listen to me, little one. We need to take some of your blood now, okay?" Campbell wiped down the razor and her finger. "Can you tell me your name?"
"It's Aqua. Why do you need to take my blood?"
"We need it so that if anything happens, we'll be able to find you." Campbell replied. He decided that he could distract her with a story while he took her blood. "You see, we templars are responsible for everyone here in Ferelden. We here are the circle templars, but there are a lot more of us out there. We're specifically trained to watch over the mages. Remember how I told you that most of us are good? Keep that in mind. If you're ever in need, there are usually templars hanging out by the chantry of the town...There, all done."
Aqua looked down at her finger, blood still slowly trickling from it. His voice had been so calm that she hadn't even noticed the pain. She was about to use her mother's handkerchief to stop the flow, but Campbell stopped her. He pulled out another and gently held it to her fingers.
"You can keep both of them, I actually have a third one." Campbell smiled.
"What's with all of the handkerchiefs, Cambpell? Are you out hunting for maidens while hunting apostates?" the other templar snorted.
"At least I can get a maiden." Campbell shot back.
The insulted templar snorted while the other chuckled at the antics. "Alright I get it, I get it. You'd better go get your lyrium rations before they're gone. Don't want you to go crazy and lose all those girlfriends."
"I hear you." Campbell rolled his eyes and patted Aqua's head. "Okay Aqua. Arivain over there will get you to bed. Sleep well, okay?"
She nodded. Before she could stop herself, Aqua wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a hug. Campbell was surprised, but his gaze softened as he gently patted her back. He pulled her out of the embrace and ruffled her hair once more before guiding her towards Arivain. The woman's expression was blank as she placed her hand on Aqua's back, helping her up the stairs to the apprentice's quarters. After dressing Aqua in her new robes, Arivain led her to her bunk and left for the night. She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.