Jowan is much younger than average when he arrives at the Circle Tower. Barely a lad of four summers, he has been set upon the ferry by a templar to cross the dark waters of Lake Calenhad. He is cold and frightened. The old ferryman, face grizzled and eyes condemning, does nothing to assuage his worries. It is raining. This will be the last time Jowan feels the rain.
One day, he will regret this moment. He will wish his younger self had turned his face towards the dark skies and savoured the cool, pure touch of the rain upon his face one last time. But now, a child cowering beneath the threadbare hood of his cloak, Jowan begs for sunshine.
Only a few weeks earlier, in the cottage of his family's farm, he had lit a candle quite by accident. With a gentle exhalation, it had simply burst into flames. At the time, Jowan had not understood the enormity of his actions. If anything he had been pleased as he ran off to show his mother this new trick. She should have clapped and laughed and ruffled his hair and told him what a clever boy he was. Instead, she gasps in horror and her bright eyes turn red as tears begin to fall. "Malifica," she whispers, "Abomination."
Jowan's father is no better. His normally jovial expression turns cold and he walks with stiff legs out of the cottage, not to be seen for the rest of the evening.
Jowan does not understand. Nor does his understand the morning when his father tells him that they must go to the village Chantry. Nor does he understand why his mother wails and beats her fists upon the door frame as he and his father depart. Jowan turns back and runs to his mother to embrace her. "Don't cry. We'll be home soon," he tells her, but she only sobs harder. Finally, his father returns to pull his mother from his embrace, and together they set off down the path as his mother's cries echo behind them. Still, Jowan does not understand.
Now, sitting on a choppy old boat, in the cold and pouring rain, Jowan understands even less. His father has told him that he must go be a mage. That he must live in the Circle Tower for the rest of his days. That he is an atrocity of mankind– an affront to the Maker's Divinity. He hands Jowan over to a templar, and tells him to forget his family, for they have forgotten him. He walks away without saying goodbye.
Jowan thinks he should cry, but he does not understand why. All he did was light a candle! Why is he being punished? How could this be right? His face is wet. Perhaps he is crying after all, or perhaps it is just the rain. It doesn't matter anymore.
They arrive at the dock of the Circle Tower and the ferryman points Jowan wordlessly towards a pair of looming iron doors. Terrified, Jowan raps softly on the doors and waits. With a cold retching groan, the doors open and Jowan is overcome by the light that spills from deep within. Jowan steps forward, and the Tower swallows him whole.
It is Jowan's fifth birthday when she arrives at the Tower. He has spent the past year bemoaning his age as the other junior apprentices pick upon him. He is the youngest. The smallest. The shyest. The easiest target for unparented youths. Every night he prays to the Maker for a new younger apprentice to arrive, and with every new arrival he finds only disappointment. That is, until she arrives one bright and sunny morning.
Word of a commotion in the Grand Hall spreads to the Apprentice Chambers like wildfire. Most of the children run off to play; their morning suddenly free of lessons - but Jowan is a different sort of child. Being small and ever so sneaky, Jowan presses his ear against the hall door, catching brief snippets of the conversation that boils within.
"… found in the ferry…"
"… those markings…?"
"… Chasind …?"
"… the Chantry …"
"… not a babe!"
"… clearly a mage…"
"… no place for an infant!"
"… the Tower…"
"… so much magic…"
After what feels like half a lifetime, the doors to the hall open and Jowan falls flat upon his face in front of the First Enchanter Marielle. She sighs and picks Jowan up to stand on his shaking feet.
"Jowan, where you spying?" she asks, the answer already obvious.
Jowan's reply is an incomprehensible mumble.
Marielle sighs once more. "Very well. You'll have heard about this soon enough I suspect." She motions and a senior enchanter steps forward and kneels down to show Jowan a mass of blankets in her arms.
What awaits Jowan is a gift from the Maker himself. The enchanter holds a softly cooing infant, not even a full year old.
"What are those?" he asks, pointing to the light blue markings that twist around the right eye and cheek of the babe.
Marielle smiles "Those mean that she is very special, Jowan. She is the youngest mage ever to be welcomed into the Circle Tower."
Jowan is skeptical. "How do you know she's a mage?" he asks.
"It is hard to explain," replied Marielle, "sometimes, we can just feel that someone is blessed with magic."
Jowan takes a step closer to the infant and touches her tiny hand. With a mass of dark brown curls, and soft dove-grey eyes, she looks up to him and smiles. Jowan's heart melts.
"You must look after her, Jowan. You will be her big brother. She will look to you for guidance, and you must be strong for her."
Jowan nods, not taking his eyes off of the baby. This is not some lowly apprentice to take his place as whipping boy; this is a treasure to protect. He vows to himself that moment to care for this little mage. He will teach her all that he knows, and protect her from the shadows of the Tower.
The babe is named Solona Amell. Amell, a common surname given to those that arrive at the Tower without one, and Solona for "sunny day". Jowan approves, nicknaming her Soli; she will bring sunshine to his darkened tower days.
When Jowan is ten, he is fond of playing Sers and Princesses in his mind. He saves Soli from the dragons that stalk the Tower's halls. She, in turn, clings to the ties of his robes and follows him wherever he wanders.
It is now that the Knight-Commander decides that Solona is old enough to be cut for a phylactery. She is drug off, struggling and wailing, into the Templar's Chambers, while Jowan is in his lessons. That afternoon, he returns to the apprentice quarters to find his dear little sister hiding beneath his bed, arm bandaged and cheeks tear-stained.
After luring her out, Jowan hears the awful and exaggerated tale of how his dear Soli was nearly sliced in two and bled dry by the depraved templars. When she says that the very windows in the upper Tower cried for her, Jowan is at first confused.
"No Soli, windows don't cry. That's just rain," he explains.
Solona ceases crying for a moment, suddenly intrigued.
"Magic?" she whispers.
"No, no. It's like … it's like water from the sky. It's better than magic," he tries to explain. He tries to remember.
Her eyes widen. "Outside?" she gasps.
Jowan only nods.
"Will you give me rain?" she asks, sweet and innocent and manipulative as ever.
"What? No, I can't –" Jowan begins, but is cut off by Solona's sobbing once more. She continues to cry into his shoulder for nearly an hour, leaving Jowan little choice: he must slay the dragon-like templars and protect his Princess Soli.
With "magic staff" (broomstick) in hand, Jowan marches up the first templars he spots and challenges them to a duel for Solona Amell's honour. The pair stare at him for a moment and then double over laughing. One adds insult to injury and even dares to ruffle Jowan's downy black hair. Fuming, Jowan swats the templar with his staff in the thigh… and he is carted off to Senior Enchanter Irving before he can take a second swing.
Irving is forgiving, but utterly fails to grasp the gravity of the situation. Jowan tries to explain that Soli's very life was in danger, but the enchanter just smiles and nods.
In exchange for Jowan's promise to never ever, ever attack a templar again, Irving promises a small present in "celebration" of Solona's phylactery. Jowan requests that he be allowed out of the Tower to show Soli rain, but Irving shakes his graying head; it is out of the question. Instead they settle upon allowing Soli to accompany Jowan to his lessons for the day.
It is the next day during his lessons that Jowan realizes what a horrible mistake he has made.
"What is rain?" Solona asks with her sweet, shy voice.
Jowan starts back from his day dreams.
The Enchanter leading the history lesson scowls at his sister as he tries to hush her. "It is when water falls from the skies," Enchanter Noria snaps.
"Oh, it is the bathing spell," Solona answers with a nod of understanding.
"No, no child," replies Noria, "The water falls naturally outside, without the will of a mage".
The apprentices begin to fidget in their seats from the disruption. Jowan grabs Solona's wrist and gives her a hard stare. With a shake of his head, he warns her not to continue. She frowns at him, but seems to acquiesce, tilting her gaze down to stare blindly at the desk.
The Enchanter gives a curt sniff and turns back to the lesson.
A soft sigh passes from Jowan. Even at his young age, he understands Noria is only putting up with Solona's presence today because Irving made her. He has heard the older apprentices say Irving will be First Enchanter one day and that all the other Enchanters must grapple for his favour. He smirks for a moment. If he had asked those questions, Noria would have cuffed him on the ear. But Soli is Irving's favourite and Noria would not striking her.
To his side, Jowan sees Solana begin to fidget once more. Why must his little sister be so troublesome? Surely Noria's restraint could go only so far. He prays Soli will stay quite long enough to keep them both out of the Enchanter's wrath.
A few moments later, she fails.
"But how does it?" her sweet child's voice streaks through Noria's lecture once more.
Noria sighs, exasperated and short tempered, before reaching to what Jowan has come to recognize as her favourite stock answer: "Because it is the Maker's Will," she spits.
"So the Maker makes it rain?" Solona asks, as the hum of whispering apprentices rises once more.
"Yes child. The Maker makes it rain," the Enchanter responds.
With a nod, Solona concludes, "So, the Maker is a mage then."
The room goes suddenly silent. Noria stands with a look of horror smeared across her face. The two templars standing in this corner of the library awake from their stony vigil and take a step towards Solona. The other apprentices look nervously about the room, desperate not to be caught in the crossfire. The unsaid word skitters cold back and forth throughout the room. Blasphemy. The very walls echo it. Blasphemy.
Not knowing what else to do to save his sweet little sister, Jowan jumps to his feet. "She didn't mean it!" he cries. "She's just a stupid little girl. She didn't know." With that, Jowan grabs Solona's hand and pulls her from the library as fast as he can run.
Jowan is twenty now and ready for the world. This year, he is old enough for the Harrowing. The senior enchanters could call for him any day now. Any day. Then, he will be a full mage and finally leave the awful apprentice quarters. He will be given his own room, and blessed Maker, privacy at last!
Finally, everything will change - but then again, everything already is changing. Most of all, Soli is changing. Suddenly, she is no longer a child clinging to his robes. She has grown in the most … interesting manner. Jowan sighs as he thinks about it; she is lovely, there is no denying it. Yet there is more than that: her eyes change when she looks at him now. When he speaks, she blushes and cannot seem to look him in the eye.
The changes go beyond her physical demeanor though. Maker, but Soli is powerful now. Jowan struggles along behind her. She can master spells in half a heartbeat and yet, to Jowan's chagrin, she does not seem to care. She does not hunger for magic like he does. It is now Jowan that shadows Solona, begging her to show him how to fix a spell, potion or otherwise. Frankly, he is jealous; if he is now Harrowed soon, Jowan has accepted that other methods may be necessary to enhance his powers. Yes, things are different now.
None of this seems to register with Soli. Jowan knows the other female apprentices pick on his Soli, mocking everything from the markings upon her face, to her abandonment at birth. He has seen Solona laugh off their taunts and challenge them all to duels, but he know their words still manage to seep into her heart.
It is late one quiet evening that he finds Solona in the washing chambers, crying to herself. All other mages have long since gone to sleep, but Jowan stumbles upon Soli scrubbing her face raw at one of the old bathing vanities. When she sees him, she only scrubs harder.
"Soli," he scowls. "Stop it."
"I want them to go away," she cries, dropping her towel into the washbasin. Suddenly she brightens "Would rain do it? Can rain wash it away?"
Jowan shakes his head, and sits down next to his Soli on the vanity bench. Girls are so … confusing. Solona Amell is a vision of beauty, but she was always a breath away from burning her tattoos right out of her skin.
"Chasind. Casteless. Duster. Abomination. I'm all of them. You've read the books; You know it." she says with reddened eyes.
"You know, the Dalish mark their faces too…" Jowan tries.
"In the image of the Old Gods" she retorts. With an accusing finger, she points towards her right eye. "Does this look like any god you know?" she spits.
Jowan squeezes his eyes closed in frustration. Soli is right. Her marks look nothing like a Dalish pattern. But it doesn't matter! She is still Solona Amell - the most powerful apprentice he has ever seen! Maker, she could probably take on any senior enchanter in the blasted Tower. And still…
"You're lovely." The words fall from Jowan's lips before he can stop them.
Solona blinks twice. "What did you say?" she asks, having clearly heard him the first time.
Jowan sighs once more - why stop now? "You're lovely," he begins. "You're beautiful with or without your marks. The other apprentices are just jealous" he says with a small smile to his dear, sweet little sister.
Solona stops crying, and Jowan is about to congratulate himself for a job well done when she flies at him. Before he can stop her, Soli's lips are pressed against his, awkward and urgent. For a moment, Jowan's body betrays him and he enjoys the sensation. Reality then kicks him squarely in the ribs, and he pushes Solona away. She is his sweet little sister! Not in blood, but surely in spirit.
Solona looks at him, hurt and confused.
"Solona," Jowan begins with a shaky voice "I…" he stammers. "I…"
Her eyes turn sorrowful once more, as Jowan reaches for words.
"I…" he tries once more. "I… You're like my sister!" Jowan exclaims, much louder and harsher than he had wanted.
Tears begin to fall from Solona's eyes once more. Not knowing what else to do and cursing his coward heart, Jowan stands and flees to the upper reaches of the Tower.
They are never quite so close again.
It is in the early morning after Jowan's 25th birthday when he awakens to see Templar Cullen carrying a sleeping Solona back to her bed. Jowan's first thoughts are of foul play – the Tower whispers tales of templars taking advantage of pretty mages and Jowan has seen the way Cullen looks at Solona.
He leaps from his bunk. Rage and jealously boil into his blood, urging him onwards. He'll destroy that damned templar's mind - use the power of his own blood to turn Cullen upon his fellows and then burn them all. His hands already reach for the hidden dagger beneath his bedding, before reality sets in; Solona is being returned from her Harrowing. Irving had her sent through it the very first night she was able.
The fire within him dies instantly. Jowan is devastated. Soli has been Harrowed before him. Although they have grown apart over the years, he still thinks of Solona Amell as his sweet little sister. And now, Soli will move on without him. Jowan shakes his head. Combining this with the troubling news from Lily, he decides he can wait no longer. He will ask Solona for her help escaping today.
And of course, she agrees. He barely finishes explaining how he knows that he will be made Tranquil before Solona nods her head frantically. He cannot help but notice the way she stares at the floor when he professes his love for Lily.
And of course, his dear sweet Soli performs beautifully. Together they smash his phylactery into the stony floor, and smile briefly as the mist consumes his blood.
And of course, it is his cowardice that dooms both his lover and his beloved. When they are confronted by Greagoir and Irving, and his fool plan exposed, Jowan panics and resorts to the only arcane technique he has ever shown promise in: Blood Magic.
And of course, hiding alone in an unforgiving forest, knowing that Lily and Solona will be imprisoned, Jowan realizes that there is little of hope of Redemption finding him here. How can the Maker ever forgive one as spineless as he? If Jowan is to find deliverance from his sins, he must find them himself.
There will be no more running.
Tales travel much faster Truth.
It is Jowan's 26th birthday, and he spends it alone in the Circle Tower's dungeon. The journey here, bright and sunny, utterly fails to herald Jowan's impending doom. After being delivered by an escort of Red Cliff templars, Jowan is deposited into the Circle's meager holding chamber: a magic-dampened cell in the Tower's basement.
Here in this stone cage he has waited for over a month. The mages must hold council to determine his fate, but it is … an unusual circumstance. Although clearly a blood mage, a request has been sent by the Grey Warden; she begs for his life. The Circle knows it owes Solona Amell the life of every remaining mage within the Tower, but justice still must be served. There is no time for such a council to convene with the impending Darkspawn invasion. And so Jowan has remained alone in the Circle dungeons for two fortnights, with only a daily visit from a sneering templar to deliver an unpalatable meal.
But today is different; Jowan can hear celebrations ringing from above. There are shouts and cheers as the first news of the battle returns from Denerim. In a jovial mood, and perhaps having a sip too many of celebratory ale, or a sniff too much of lyrium, the templar tells Jowan of the end of the Blight. The Archdemon is defeated. And oh what a glorious battle it must have been – the Wardens and the dragon up on the top of Fort Draken's tower. The wind and the rain beating down upon them as Darkspawn rushed up to swarm them. And how the mage Warden finally slew the Archdemon, sacrificing her own life to save the future king. What a tale indeed.
When the templar gets bored of his own story, he wanders back up the stairs to leave Jowan alone once more. "Soli," he whispers, as the sorrow washes over him. "Sweet Soli," the words fall hollow from his lips. Jowan doubles over at the awful retching feeling low in his stomach. It hurts more than he could imagine. More than when the templars caught him. More than when he was abandoned by his parents. More than when he lost Lily. His dear little sister has succumbed to a fate she never deserved, lost to the Fade forever.
For the thousandth time, Jowan curses himself for ever asking Solona to help him escape the Circle. If only he had not been so selfish, she would have never been conscripted into the Wardens. Soli was strong - so strong. He is certain she could have even stopped Uldred herself and saved the blasted Circle. Some other Warden could have fallen at Denerim – that ex-templar or someone – and Soli could have lived. Maybe a life in the Circle wasn't the best of times, but at least she would have lived.
Jowan lies in a heap upon the icy dungeon floor. "Soli. Soli," he chants to himself, as his traitorous mind plays a dreadful vision of Solona Amell dying upon Fort Draken tower over and over again. In the wind. In the rain.
"Soli. Soli," he whispers. "At least you felt the rain."
A/N:This is meant to be a companion piece to a much longer (and currently unfinished) story: The Maker's Gifts which follows Solona Amell from the Landsmeet to far beyond the end of the game – highly Amell/Alistair centric.
I thought this would be a nice two-pager to get me in the mood to really work on MG, but it ballooned up horribly and I didn't even touch on half of the scenes that I wanted to… so sadface.