Title: A Cold Comfort
Characters: Some characters from the game appear and obviously do not belong to me. Random mages and templars in Circle Tower are featured.
Pairings: Mage/Templar. Mention of one sided Amell/Cullen.
Summary: It is no simple matter, safeguarding ordinary men from mages, and mages from themselves.
Rating: PG for descriptions of death/violence.
A/N: Inspired by a 'What if' conversation that occurred in the #swooping IRC. About why mages would choose to become tranquil, about what happened in the tower during Uldred, and about who survived. In which I prance about the Dragon Age world making a mess of everything.
Opposition in all things:
For earth, sky
For winter, summer
For darkness, Light.
By My will alone is balance sundered
And the world given new life.
- Threnodies 5:5.
"Your father lives in the grand estate," Mum used to tell you, pointing out the high towers and the ivy climbing towards the window. "He stands guard at the side of the Arl, and the servants called him Ser." There would be something breathless in her voice then, like the way you sound after you chased down one of the chickens for the night's supper.
She would only whisper this when there was none of the other village women around, and it was just you and her by the river, stepping on the trousers and skirts soaking with soap suds in water. Mum was a laundress for one of the banns of the village, and she made you promise not to tell anyone the story of your father - a knight in the service of the Arl. She said this was a secret, one that the Stewardess Tessa would not approve of, and you made a face then because the Stewardess was not a very nice woman and you had to smile at her and curtsey even though you wanted to throw a rotten apple at her head sometimes.
What was more important were the stories that Mum would tell about your father. You would ask questions like: Is he tall? Very, and wears his armor well. He was the grandest knight in the tournament the year we met, all silver and shining. What color are his eyes? Honey brown, just like yours, luv. His hair is dark, a little red in the midday sun. Does he love me? Of course, who wouldn't love a bright little girl like you? Why can't we see him, mum? The Arl keeps him too busy, sweetling.
She would get all quiet and a little hunched then, looking anywhere but at you. You wouldn't ask again, because the tiny little lines at the corner of her mouth dropped downward and there were spider webs in her eyes.
All you knew of knights was that they were good and kind and were honor bound by vows. They were protectors and saviors of the common people, your mum would tell you while you were wringing out a shirt or beating the suds out of a dress on the stones. Knights were strong and brave and fought in tournaments, like the annual tournament at the village. The tournament was accompanied by the village fair, and there would be bouts with cheering and there would be a great deal of commotion.
That year's fair you were seven. You wore your best dress and a matching green ribbon tied in your hair. There were so many people about that it was easy for a small thing like you to be pushed around, but you pushed back, ignoring the Hey! and the mumbled Stupid brat, to make your way through the marketplace. There were vendors with sweets and stalls with ribbons or shiny things that cost a copper or two. Mum handed you three whole coppers every fair, and you rubbed them smooth from your nervousness, tried to decide on a pastry or even a whole fruit.
You were too intent on your task and too short to see what was happening before it was almost upon you: the wagon pulled by two horses running wild. The hooves struck the dirt, thundering, and parted the crowd. You heard them coming before realizing it, the way the panic rippled through the people, and fear was almost a sharp smell – of sweat and metal. Someone's elbow struck your side, and suddenly your legs were tangled, you were falling, falling, into the path of the beasts screaming the way animals do when trapped.
You had one hand reaching out to catch your fall, and another arm outstretched, not knowing what to do, as if one hand spread in the air could ward you against deadly hooves. You felt a tear, like there was suddenly a solid shape in your hands, and you could twist it, grip it, will it to go –
Go where? What understanding that had entered your mind became wisps as your head struck the ground. You tasted dust and coppers on your tongue, but there was no pain of horses trampling your body, and all you felt was a wetness on your face. You realized it came from above you, steady drops of cold that you flinched from, as you gathered enough of your senses about you to sit up again.
What you saw made you scramble back, heels leaving tracks on the dirt. Oh Maker – the horses and wagon had frozen into a sculpture of blue and white. The legs of one were still kicked up in the air, stilled as it reared above you. The whole thing caught the sunlight and glittered like some precious gem, enormous, frightening, just a little beautiful –
In the distance, someone was screaming.
You were gathered up by strong arms encased in steel. The metal touched your face, and you forgot to struggle or to even move as you were lifted up. You looked up to see a face etched with deep lines, skin like leather that endured many years of sun. He had grey at his temples, but the rest of his hair was dark and curled.
"This child is now a ward of the Circle." His voice was not loud, but was carried through the crowd as it was murmured from one person to another.
"That is impossible!" Your mother's voice was familiar, and you craned your neck to see her. "She is my daughter!" She had her arms spread, like she was ready to fight, but there were villagers holding her back. One matronly looking woman was speaking to her in with a low, soft tone, and you could not hear what she was saying. I do not understand, you thought to yourself, but then your mother began to sob, and you must go to her. You were the only one who comforted her when she cried at Stewardess Tessa's harsh words, and she was the embrace you would go to when the blacksmith's son kicked you into the dirt or when the baker's daughter pulled your braids. You must go to her now and you wiggled, squirmed, tried to move out of the knight's grasp. His grip was too firm, and it hurt –
"Let me go," you whispered, then found your voice as you screamed louder. "Let me go!"
"I cannot, child." He started to walk away, and your mother, to your surprise, just crumpled to the ground, and stayed there, crying softly. The knight who carried you looked down at you as you tried to beat your way through his arms, fists struck hard armor and legs kicked uselessly at the air. There was pity on his face, like the arlessa's upturned nose when she passed through the village. Pity, but no compassion.
Knights took you away from the life that you knew. There was a lake, you remembered. A still, dark lake and a boat. You were brought across the water with two other children. There was a boy who wouldn't stop whimpering and a girl with a fierce expression, who crouched at the bottom of the boat, like she was ready to run at any moment.
But no moment came. An austere woman greeted them at the dock, her already light hair streaked with white and pulled back into a severe bun. Her robes reminded you of the ones that the Revered Mother wore, and she looked a little like the Revered Mother herself, because none of the servants of the Chantry carried themselves like this woman did, like the robes were a uniform and a blessing. Your memory fragmented as she introduced herself as Wynne, a Senior Enchanter of the Circle, and the three mages behind her were mentors for the new arrivals.
You were named a Inver, the girl Amell, and the boy Trissan. You knew then that you would not return to the village as the laundress' assistant, you would not go to next year's fair, and you would never lay eyes on the knight that was your father.