A/N: So I started writing about one particular Warden ages ago in the story Never Boring. I wanted to do something in the Awakenings timeline and liked the idea of a well meaning but completely socially inept mage who has only just learned that how people behave in the tower doesn't translate well to life outside it and was trying her best to fit in with normal people as much as she could. It was mostly a personal practice exercise in first person perspective and dialogue for my creative writing class. But... several months and almost half a million words later I realized that I really wanted to go back to the blight and see how she would have handled that.
This is set before my story Never Boring which is, itself, set before my other current ongoing story, Apostates of Amaranthine. Since this is a prequil you don't need to have read either of those to follow what's going on, but some of the references may be missed.
And, given the stance my other stories present on the Circle you can expect the first couple chapters to be fairly... dark. I swear, it won't all be like that. But this one may be potentially triggering, so, fair warning.
A/N update... I've changed the listing to Amell/Zevran. It's really an ensemble piece, and more Maggie's story than anyone else's, but since everyone seems to use the characters listed to determine who the Warden in question is romantically involved with... there you go. If you're just starting now... well, he'll show up in the usual timeframe. :)
As always, Bioware owns the world. Maggie and I just like to visit.
We were drunk again, tucked away in one of the many forgotten storerooms of the tower. Shadows danced on the walls as our hands moved, animating the discussion. "Keep your voice down!" Jowan admonished me. "Those bastards can hear you if you blink wrong."
"You're always so paranoid," I laughed. "There's no rule against drinking. They serve ale and wine at dinner!"
He rolled his eyes. "I know that. But there are rules against stealing brandy from someone's desk and breaking into the storeroom."
I made a face but dropped my voice to a whisper like his was. He was right, after all. Even though there were also rules about keeping brandy in your desk if you were an enchanter, so it wasn't all bad. "So when do I get to meet this girl?" I asked. "I never see you anymore, you're always off with her. We could all hang out together! She could be here now! And I could have brought… um…. blonde guy?" The name was right on the tip of my tongue, I just couldn't find it through the brandy haze in my mind.
He rolled his eyes. "Patrick, Maggie. Your flame of the moment is named Patrick. Maker's breath, you're awful." He glanced at me. "Didn't you drop him already anyways?"
"Oh!" I gasped. "I did! He got all… strange." I remembered now. He had been complaining about sneaking around to see each other. I didn't entirely understand why, we all had to sneak around. But he was demanding I tell him how I felt about him, and if we were 'serious.' My answer of 'what are you talking about?' didn't seem to be correct. What did he think, though? Would we settle down and raise a family? Hardly possible, all things considered. "Actually, I might have something new. Well, new-old."
"You're horrid," he said, laughing. "Wait, new-old? Not…"
"Maybe," I shrugged. "We were talking in the library. I don't even remember why we stopped talking to begin with."
"Because you decided you hated his haircut," Jowan provided, "and when he wouldn't change it you cut it yourself while he was sleeping."
I started to laugh. "I remember now. Wow, he was so mad. It really looked much better after, though. He's even kept it that way!"
"You started screaming and shooting lightning at each other in the dining hall over breakfast!" Jowan said. "A templar was called to smite you! I don't know why you two don't just stop speaking completely. This annual reconciliation seems unhealthy."
"It'll be different now," I said. Jowan rolled his eyes. "What! It will. We talked about it."
"Nothing," Jowan said. "No. Comment. Anyways, you can meet her soon," he said, raking a hand through his hair. "It's… complicated."
I snorted. "Complicated? What, is she already harrowed?" Although relationships in general were discouraged, relationships between mages and apprentices were really discouraged. Which made my current endeavor a bit problematic, but really, we had known each other since well before his Harrowing. Actually, we'd known each other since well before either of us could tie our own boots. Just like everyone else I knew.
"No…" he made a face. "Soon, all right? I… I don't want to talk about it."
"Maker's breath," I muttered. "Fine. Sorry." I didn't see why he was acting so cagey about the whole thing.
Jowan sighed. "Maybe this weekend, all right?" he finally said. "She's… worried to meet you."
"What?" I snorted, quickly clapping a hand over my mouth to muffle the sound. "She doesn't believe that rumor, does she?" For years people had been saying Jowan and I were deeply in love. No one who was actually friends with us believed it, of course, but we spent enough time together that there had always been talk.
"She… suspects," he admitted. I made a face. "I know, I know. I told her 'look, once you meet her you'll understand, she's barely even a girl to me,' but you know how people talk."
"Barely even a girl? What's that supposed to mean?" I demanded, putting my hands on my hips.
"It means I know you well enough that your so-called… charms don't work on me. And you're insane. There's always that."
"'m not," I said.
"You want to join the army," he said. "That's… insane."
I shrugged. "What else would I do? I'm only good at magic that makes things die and I want out. No one would want me as their healer."
"That's very true," he said. "Oh, I've got the next test answers for you. Remind me when we're back at the dorm, I hid them under my mattress."
"Awesome," I said. "Stupid healing. I'd already be harrowed if it wasn't for that class."
"Or tranquil," he snickered. Jowan made his face a blank mask. "Welcome to the Circle's stockroom of magical items. My name is Margaret. What can I do for you today," he intoned in a flat voice, imitating the emotionless keepers of the storerooms.
"Oh, creepy," I said, smacking him. "Very creepy. They won't tranquil me, I'm way too awesome."
"And so modest," he said. "That ego might get you tranquil'd, watch yourself."
"It's not ego," I protested. "I could teach the advanced primal classes by now. But, you know, couldn't do a thing if someone managed to set themselves on fire. Everyone knows that."
"You couldn't teach a cat to mouse," he said, laughing.
"Like you could," I countered. "You'd be a horrid teacher. I don't know, just… heal it," I said, in imitation of the last time he tried to help me with my Creation spells. " Come on, what's wrong with you? What do you mean 'how'? You cast the spell, that's how!"
We both dissolved in laughter, leaning shoulder to shoulder. It was careless of us, we couldn't hear the footsteps or door opening.
"Ugh," I groaned a moment later, laying on the floor. Jowan was curled up near me. "Why….?" I looked up at the templar, face hidden behind his helm, still glowing from the smite he'd cast on us. "We didn't do anything! You didn't have to do that!"
Jowan groaned, calling him a bastard under his breath. The templar stomped over and kicked him in the side. "Hey!" I yelled, crawling over to them. I managed to pull myself on top of Jowan, shielding him from another kick. Sadly, this wasn't the first time our evening was ruined by the arrival of one of the Chantry's so called holy knights. Usually they just dragged us back to our rooms, lecturing all the while. Being hit by a smite and kicked was… not typical. "You… you're horrible! Don't hurt him, you ass!"
He reached down and grabbed me by my hair, pulling me to my feet as I shrieked in pain. "Sick bastard," I spat at him. "What, you get hot beating us up when we can't defend ourselves?" I suppose he did, since I moment later his other hand started ripping my robes. Panicked, I began to shriek and kick at him. I could hear Jowan yelling, too, and saw him attempting to get up. The templar pulled his hand back as if to punch me and I braced myself for the blow. It didn't come, instead I heard several sets of footsteps followed by an angry voice screaming "enough!"
I was dropped to the floor as the grip on my hair released, landing in an undignified heap. Jowan had managed to sit up and pulled me near him, crouched against a wall. "Are you all right?" he asked, checking me for injuries as I held my robes closed.
"I'll be fine," I said. "You? He kicked you so hard!"
"I think a rib is broken," Jowan said. "Well, more than one. Well, all of them on that side." I winced in sympathy. We both looked up, wondering who our rescuer was.
I saw the First Enchanter and the Knight Commander talking to our attacker. Oh, it would have to be them. Of course. It could never be someone like Uldred, who hated the templars as much as we did, it had to be Irving, with the sad eyes and the 'I'm very disappointed in both of you' lectures that made me feel about two feet tall. "I think we're in trouble," I whispered.
"You don't say," Jowan deadpanned. He gasped a second later, I followed the direction of his glance to see the templar lying on the ground, helm discarded and the Knight-Commander standing over him looking… not happy. "He hit him!"
"Awesome," I said, watching the man roll on the ground, clutching his nose. Blood was pouring between his fingers. Really, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Particularly since a good amount of my hair was still caught between the joints in his armored glove and I needed one hand to hold my clothing shut so I didn't expose myself. Jowan even chuckled to see it, which made him moan in pain and wince, clutching his side.
That caught the attention of our rescuers, who walked over. "Well?" the Knight-Commander said. "What happened here?" Both of us began talking at once, very quickly, and he sighed, shaking his head. "Irving, they're drunk again."
The First Enchanter shook his head, kneeling near us. I felt my mind clear as his spell worked. "Jowan needs healing," I said as soon as I could think straight. "That bastard kicked him. Hard!"
"What happened here?" Greagoir repeated.
"After he's healed," I said.
"Maggie, it's fine," Jowan said, wincing again as he tried to stand up. His face was chalky looking, so I knew he was lying to make me keep quiet.
"No it's not," I said. "He kicked you! You can't even stand up." I stood, crossing my arms and immediately uncrossing them as I remembered I had to hold my clothes shut. "Not a word until he's healed."
"Margaret…" the Knight Commander began, sounding annoyed.
"Greagoir, what's the harm in healing the boy?" Irving said, cutting him off. A moment later Jowan climbed to his feet, color returning to his face. The First Enchanter looked at me next, casting another spell. He must have seen the confusion on my face since Irving touched a hand to the top of my head, removing it quickly and displaying red fingertips to me.
"Andraste's sagging tits," I groaned, putting my free hand to my head. "I'm going to have a bald spot!"
"Language!" the Knight-Commander snapped. "Hair grows back. Now talk."
Jowan and I exchanged a quick glance. We should get off easy since this was clearly just as bad for the templar. Probably a whole lot worse once my ripped robes were considered. Might as well be honest. "Fine," I said. "We stole a bottle of brandy and broke in here to drink it. That's it." I sighed. "I'm sorry. We both are. Sorry, I mean. It was wrong. Of us. Very wrong." I tried to look apologetic. It didn't work, judging by how Greagoir rolled his eyes.
"Where does he come into this story?" he asked, gesturing to the man who was now sitting up, glaring at us both.
"He's a sodding lunatic!" I said. "We were just sitting here talking, not casting spells or doing anything else, when he came in. Didn't say a word, just cast a smite. There was no reason! We weren't using magic, he just wanted to make sure we couldn't defend ourselves! Then he kicked Jowan really hard, and yanked me by my hair when I complained. He pulled me right off the ground and it hurt, a lot! And now I have a bald spot! He was going to punch me in the face when you came in. I think you can figure out what else was on his mind, too. Freak started ripping my robes right off me. If you hadn't stopped him…" I said with a shudder before stomping over and kicking the man between the legs. He groaned and fell to his side. "How do you like it!" I snarled at him before Greagoir pulled me away. I still couldn't resist adding "Lunatic" as I pointed a finger at him. When they didn't respond fast enough I kept talking. "Sick bastard probably gets off on hurting mages. Who knows what was going on in that mind? Look at him, my hair's all stuck in his glove still, my robes are completely ruined, too. I sure didn't consent to this, I'll tell you that." I made a face. "And: Bald. Spot."
All three of them sighed in unison and I stopped talking. "One of these days we'll remember to make Jowan answer. Perhaps he can reply without so much… drama," Greagoir said.
"It's all true," I muttered. "And drama? He was ripping my clothes off! If that doesn't call for some drama I'd love to know what does!"
"Both of you go wait for me in my office," the First Enchanter said. "Do try and avoid getting in more trouble along the way." We shuffled out quickly, heads down. Once we left the room Jowan grabbed my arm, putting a finger to his lips. Understanding instantly I stopped, standing just beyond the doorway to listen.
"—by nightfall," the First Enchanter said.
"Irving, I agree, but that's too fast, I need to make arrangements. I have to decide where to send him."
"Then he can wait in a cell," Irving replied, sounding… really angry, actually. "First the girl last week, now this? I suspected he was responsible then, I have no doubts of it now, he did the same thing to her. Will you wait until he does kill someone?" Girl last week? Jowan met my gaze and gestured for me to be quiet.
"Don't pretend those two were completely innocent," Greagoir responded. "Theft, breaking into a storeroom… and not the first, or tenth, time for either of those things."
"So for that they should be attacked? Margaret deserved to be—"
"No! Of course not," Greagoir said. "Don't be absurd. Fine, I'm not going to argue. The Maker himself couldn't keep Margaret quiet about this anyways, so it's just as well." They were walking towards the door, we both bolted down the hall and up the stairs, not wanting to get caught listening.
"Girl last week?" I whispered, once we were seated in the First Enchanter's empty office.
"I don't know," he said. "An apprentice was hurt pretty bad, younger than us, I don't know her. I didn't get the whole story."
"What did you get?"
He made a face. "If it was him, well… just be glad they got there." I thought about it for a moment before gasping.
I felt sick. "Makers breath, please tell me you're kidding, right?"
Jowan shook his head. "That's just what I heard," he said. "I don't know how true it is."
"That's horrible!" I said, shuddering. "That poor girl. The worst part is, he'll just get sent to some Chantry, or to hunt apostates. He won't even get in trouble, not really. Not until he tries to hurt some normal person. Hurting us doesn't count, I guess."
"And I bet we'll be cleaning for weeks. Again."
"No you won't," a third voice chimed in from behind us. We both shifted, sitting ramrod-straight in our chairs as the First Enchanter sat behind his desk. "Don't worry, I wasn't eavesdropping any longer than you two did. Are you all right?" We both nodded. "Margaret, are you sure?" he said, looking at me holding my torn clothing together.
"I'm fine," I said. "He didn't have a chance to... do anything. Besides give me a bald spot."
Irving nodded, looking relieved. He shuffled through papers on his desk and sighed, setting them aside. "How many times will the three of us have to sit here like this?" he asked. "Why can't the two of you just follow the rules?" I looked down at my hand, resting in my lap. "What he did wasn't your fault, but we can't pretend you had any business being in that storeroom. Or that you owned that bottle of brandy." I nodded glumly, not meeting his eyes. "Nothing to say? Well, all right then." He sighed again and I waited for it. "I'm very disappointed in both of you. You've both bright young people, free time should be spent studying and preparing for the Harrowing, not with petty crime and drinking." And there it was. "Fine," he finally said after we both mumbled an apology. "Go on, I can't see any reason to punish you on top of what you've already been through tonight."
After we thanked him Jowan and I made our way to the dorms. "I can't believe we didn't get in trouble," he said.
"You had broken ribs!" I countered. "And don't forget: bald spot!"
"Let me see," he said, looking down at the top of my head. He shifted several locks of my hair around before nodding. "There. No one will ever see it. Just check a mirror until it grows back. You're lucky you have curly hair. It's always so all over the place that no one will ever realize anything is different." I rolled my eyes at him and we walked back downstairs.
Returning to the dorm Jowan turned to look at the wall while I slipped into a fresh robe. Changed, I tossed my old robes in the nearest fireplace and waved my hand over them, watching until they were ash. That done, we both sat on my bunk, facing each other. "What are you reading now?" he said, pulling the books from the top of my trunk. "The Valliant Rebels of River Dane? Well, no surprise there. Rip the pictures of Teyrn Loghain out already to hang up?" I made a face at him and he chuckled, setting it back down. "Victory at Ayesleigh? Oh, that seems like a nice light read. You're actually enjoying this?"
"Yeah, it's really fascinating. All about the Grey Wardens and the fourth blight. Good stuff."
"Your version of fascinating doesn't quite mesh with mine," he said. "Or anyone else's."
"You just don't know a good read," I said. "They rode griffons into battle. Can you even imagine how exciting that must have been? Griffons are awesome."
"Terrifying," Jowan said. "The correct word is terrifying, not exciting." He shook his head and looked around the room, dropping his voice and leaning towards me. "Is it true about Colleen?" For as long as I could remember, Colleen had the bunk above mine. Last night the First Enchanter and a group of templars woke her up, taking her off for the Harrowing.
I sighed. "They got her last night, she never came back."
"You sure she didn't move to the mage quarters?" he asked.
I shook my head. "No, when they do a tranquil comes and packs up their stuff. The templars came, they just tossed everything away."
He looked disgusted. "Tossed away? They didn't think her friends might want a keepsake?"
"Why would they?" I muttered. "We're barely people to them anyways." I sighed.
"Yeah," I agreed. "Why do you think I wanted to get drunk so badly? She's had the bunk above mine since I got here. I'll really miss her. She was nice."
"She was," he agreed. Jowan turned around and rooted through the trunk at the foot of my bed, turning back once he'd found my hidden flask. "To Colleen," he said, raising it and taking a swig.
"To Colleen," I said, once he passed it to me. I winced after taking a drink, my throat burning.
"Maker's breath, what is that?"
"No idea," I admitted. "I think it's blue, though. Brennan got it for me."
"Oooh, mystery booze, charming." He rolled his eyes at me. "From Brennan no less. I can't believe you're really going through that again. Last time you told me I should beat you senseless if you considered ever giving him the time of day."
I shrugged. "I'm sure I didn't mean that," I said. "And maybe," I said. "We've been talking again." Although I'd never actually been with someone long enough to really call it a relationship, Brennan and I seemed to both decide we couldn't get enough of each other about once a year. That lasted a couple weeks until we both got bored or annoyed with each other, followed by another year of barely speaking, only to start over again.
"Drinking again?" a voice called. I looked over to see our friend Bridget watching us from the door. Since she had been through the Harrowing we didn't see her quite so often. "Didn't you two just get busted an hour ago?"
"Different this time," I said. "Come here, have a drink to Colleen's memory."
She glanced at the bunk above mine, seeing it stripped to a bare mattress. "Did she…"
"Harrowing," I said. "Last night."
"Oh Maker," she said, paling as she sat between us. I passed her the flask and she gratefully accepted a drink.
"You can't tell us anything?" Jowan said. "Not even a hint? If we know something maybe we'll have a better chance of not ending up like…"
"You know I can't," she protested.
"We're your friends!" I said. "We won't tell anyone else, I swear." She shook her head. It wasn't the first time we had this conversation, after all. I accepted the flask back and capped it, slipping it under my pillow. "So, what's going on?" I asked her after a moment. "You don't come down to see us kids very often, it has to be good."
"I'm sorry," she said. "They have me teaching some of the really young kids now. I'm just so busy all the time. I really should make more time for my friends."
I shrugged. "I understand."
"Is it true a templar attacked both of you?" she asked, looking worried.
"You heard already?" Jowan asked. "Yeah. We were in the storeroom, he busted in, launched a smite and kicked me. He started ripping Maggie's robes off, though, so all things considered we're pretty lucky Irving and Greagoir showed up when they did."
"I have a bald spot now," I added. "He pulled out a chunk of my hair. It sucks."
Jowan rolled his eyes. "I'm sort of disturbed that bothers you more than him trying to rip your robes off."
"No, I'm just not thinking about that," I said. "Or I'll start vomiting. Or crying. Maybe both."
Jowan squeezed my knee sympathetically. "He was about to punch her right in the face, glove on and everything, when the First Enchanter and Knight Commander got there." Bridget's face went even paler. "You should have heard Maggie, she wouldn't even talk to them until they healed me, and then started shrieking that he was a maniac. She kicked him. It was fantastic."
"Well, he is," Bridget said. "You heard about the girl last week, right?"
"I did, but just bits and pieces," Jowan said. "What actually happened?"
She glanced around and dropped her voice to a whisper. "Someone forced himself on her. Beat her up really bad, too. She was young, maybe four or five and ten. No one knew who did it at the time, but I guess they figure it was him since he did the same thing. Only without anyone stopping him in time."
"That young?" I gasped. "Disgusting. What kind of adult goes after children? They should hang him."
"Well, I don't know what they're doing to him, but everyone's talking now. They were pulling him downstairs, to the cells, and a couple other templars came up to him. They beat the boots off him, right there in front of everyone in the hall!"
"Good," I said. "Nice to know some of them have a shred of decency."
"By the time Greagoir got there to break it up… well, they say he might not make it because all of the healers have refused to do anything since they'll just send him off to some Chantry instead of punishing him. They said they won't unless he promises it's just so they can march him to the gallows for what he did to that girl. Even Wynne won't do it and you know how she's always defending the templars." She shook her head. "She's still not right. I mean, they healed the injuries, but I guess she won't talk, just cries in the infirmary. Not like she could say who it was, though. He left the lousy helmet on the whole time, I guess."
"I hope they don't help him," I said. "Let him suffer."
We talked for a little while longer before Bridget and Jowan both went off to their respective beds. Once they had left I went over to one of the small desks across the room. I stared at the blank vellum for what felt like ages before I began to write.
If you're reading this I suppose I've failed my Harrowing. Or, you know, the other thing (in which case please don't let the mindless husk wearing my face trick you, I'm already dead, they're just milking a few more years of usefulness out of my corpse.) So much for all my talk of being awesome, huh?
Do you remember when we met? It was the day I arrived. The templars dropped me by the doors as soon as they filled my phylactery and left me howling and clawing at them. You came over and gave me a hug, and then led me by the hand to the kitchen where they gave us each a cookie and glass of milk. For years I had prayed to the Maker for a brother, at that moment I decided He must have answered me. Oh, I'm sure you were just thrilled that the First Enchanter told you to go talk to the new kid once to shut her up and she wouldn't leave you alone after, but there you have it. I decided you were my new Maker-sent brother and I wasn't about to let you get away from me. I don't think my mind changed about that since then.
I just wanted you to know how much your friendship has meant to me over the years. Since that day you've often been the only reason I've found to smile. You're my dearest friend and, more than that, the only person I've ever known who I would proudly call my family.
Please don't be sad. We both know this is the only way they would have ever let me out of here, and now I'm free. They say we return to the Maker's side. Maybe that's true, who am I to say? If it is, I'm sure it's better than the tower. You, though, you have a chance. You've never given yourself enough credit. You could be a healer, get out, live with some fancy noble. You could make a real life. So, this is the last thing I'll ever pester you to do: live, and be happy.
All my love,
I blotted the letter and folded it, carefully writing his name on the outside. Hopefully someone would make sure it got to him if I ended up like Colleen. And Anne, and Thomas, and Helena, and Geoffrey, and Bess, and, and, and, and… my mind supplied, rattling off the names of the people we'd known who never returned from that late-night call. After I put the letter in my trunk I crawled into bed and cried.
I swear every chapter won't be this depressing. Really.