**Story updated – had to correct a character reference – it was Sister Theohild in Denerim (the one that would substitute food into the Chant) that should be Sister Maevis' contemporary, not Mother Perpetua. Sorry for the mistake!
This is just my take on Alistair's Rose. I always wondered whether he'd asked anyone if he could take it, giving me the impression that he was the sort of romantic young man that would pilfer a rare botanical beast from a national park to present to his love if he thought it was pretty enough…and if he expected a random horde of escaped wildebeest to come rampaging through the gardens and destroy it.
Of course, that wouldn't happen in real life and in real life CCTV would catch him on tape and he would be arrested. Thank goodness no one saw him in Lothering, eh?
The usual disclaimer: Characters, places etc are owned by Bioware…thanks guys!
A Rose in Lothering
Sister Maevis loved her job. She was a Chantry orphan from …oh, far too many years to count. She'd lost track in any case, proving that time flew when one was having fun…She had stayed on because it was either take the vow or marry some poor soul who didn't mind a permanent thumb print in the centre of his forehead. Besides, you had to love a job that provided regular meals, shelter and a sexy uniform that kept your ankles warm and told the rest of the world that you meant business.
That was the serious part of sistering. The fun part about being a woman of the cloth was getting to meet people – and you got to meet all sorts in this job – and sometimes she got lucky and made a bit of a difference in their lives, making sure little mouths got food in them and widows found employment and that the dying didn't always die alone.
And there was always the ever important mission of spreading The Chant of Light, but most people expected that, when you wore the uniform. Some of them were even polite enough not to fall asleep when she'd recite it at them.
There was the travel too. She'd been from one end of Ferelden to the other and had been as far as Rivain, ending up finally in Lothering - which wasn't too bad for a simple girl from the wilds of South Reach.
Not a lot of travel these days though and getting up before the sun took a little longer than it used to – she still did it however, otherwise what was the point? And after all these years she still liked to watch the sun rise, thankful The Maker had chosen to grant her one more day.
She especially liked to see it rise over the tiny space of green the Revered Mother had allowed her behind the Chantry storehouse. Into the plot she'd managed to squeeze carrots and potatoes and the lovely round pumpkins that the Revered Mother liked to make into soup. Sometimes the others would help pull out the weeds or admire the size of her gourds. Her pride and joy however, was the elderly rose bush she'd brought over from South Reach. It had never liked being behind the storehouse and she had struggled to keep it alive – every year when the snow set in, she'd carefully scoop out the ice and pack the stem with dry hay, making sure the hay never got too damp.
Everyone had told her it was dead, but sister Maevis knew better. Her Pa had been head gardener to the Bann and she had been born with the same green thumb. It was just a pity her Pa had been a better gardener than a soldier; when he'd chosen to take up arms alongside the old king. She'd heard there was a new one – Sister Theohild had written to her from Denerim – and she was getting confused here. Hildy had told her it was King Cailan now but it seemed to her like it'd been King Maric who was the new one. She hadn't seen him either, but Hildy had told her he was a bit of a looker.
It was nice to know your king was good looking. Ferelden would have ugly coinage otherwise.
This morning - as with all mornings, sister Maevis tied her shawl around her shoulders, bundled up her hand trowel and the pair of hand shears that had belonged to her father to pick her way slowly down the dark hall. Devons was up already; replacing the old candles on the altar and making sure all the others were nice and dribbly. People she'd found, expected good, dribbly candles - added to atmosphere – and Devon was a pretty dab hand at those.
Clunk, clunk, clunk…her walking stick made a nice sound as it marked out the distance to the outer doors.
"Good morning sister."
Sister Maevis peered into the darkness, trying to make out who was speaking. Not that she would have been able to see his face anyway. The Templars liked to hide behind those upside down water jugs they preferred to call 'helms'. Over the years she'd simply learned to identify them by voice. She couldn't remember this one…he was one of the new lads…blast it.
"Andraste take all Templars and their camouflagery uniforms!" she muttered darkly, using her stick to prod the shadows. It met a muffled grunt – ha! Bullseye!
"Don't lurk in the shadows, lad" she told him, her voice full of ominous warning. "People will think you're up to no good."
She added a couple more pokes with the stick, hearing him squeak again. She shook her head; the young ones never learn.
Ser Bryant on the other hand had been a quick learner – never get in the way of Sister Maevis and her old faithful. Now, there was a bright lad and if she was sixty years younger she would definitely have taken great delight in teaching him a thing or two.
Ser Maron edged around the old sister, worried by the sudden cackling that made her sound…witchly. He reminded himself that he was a Templar, damn-it and had been trained in these sort of things. She still scared the britches off him though, so he politely but hastily unlocked the chantry doors and was quick to leap out of the way when that weapon came up again. This time it hit him squarely in the middle of his breastplate.
"Maron!" she announced triumphantly. "Knew it had something to do with seafood – hah! What were your parents thinking, I wonder?"
"It's pronounced 'ma-rohn'," the young Templar felt insulted enough to correct the old bird – um, respected older Sister.
"What, the colour?" the old bird – respected older Sister – cackled. "Can't imagine what that represents." Worse, she levelled a sharp-eyed gaze at him that made him feel like he should be standing in a corner wearing a cone-shaped hat with the letter 'D' painted on the front.
"Sounds suspiciously Orlesian to me…Thought we kicked you bastards out."
"I'm from Denerim, Sister!"
"Yeah, yeah, that's what they all say." With another burst of evil cackling Sister Maevis passed under the arch to the outside, completely unaware that Ser Maron had just attempted to drain mana…she didn't have; the defeated Templar wishing for the first time in his life that someone was a mage, just so he had an excuse to run her through with his sword.
"Maron!" The Knight-Commander's deep voice had him snapping to attention, but Ser Bryant's voice sounded tired when he spoke to him. "Please don't do that again. Sister Maevis is not an apostate, trust me on this."
"But I…and she…yes Ser"
"Good lad." It sounded like an assurance. "We're expecting another wave of refugees – keep an eye out will you? I've had reports of unsavoury sorts drifting in with the needy."
"Yes Ser" Perhaps we should put Sister Maevis on guard duty then – the way she wields that walking stick, we should stick her in the army…Now where did that statement come from, he wondered? The Maker sure worked in odd ways…
"Watch where you're stepping girl – you'll squash my squashes!"
The red-headed young woman didn't startle at all, looking up with a beatific smile instead as Sister Maevis latched the gate behind her – not that the lock did any good. Vegetables had been disappearing from her plot all week. When she found out who was doing it, she was going to be very cross with them.
"It's just like my dream," the girl told her. "The Maker has spoken unto me and has revealed His Sign."
Oh, this one, Sister Maevis thought sourly. Loony Leliana. She was just about to deliver a scold to the young lay sister, when she noticed the bright bud of a rose – her rose – in amongst the gnarled branches.
Creaking bones and protesting old muscles be damned; Sister Maevis danced a happy jig. Five years of nursing along the stubborn old thing had finally been worth it. Five years of mulching and careful pruning. Five years of experimenting with every kind of manure she could get her hands on. Five years of swearing at the thing – then apologising and whispering sweet words to it; one flower, just give me one flower, to make it all worthwhile. Five years of watching and waiting. Five years of patience and hard work.
The young lay sister had disappeared quietly, but Sister Maevis didn't care much, approaching the rose – her rose – with reverence and joy. She bent over the rose bud, her walking stick sinking dangerously into the soft ground, but she didn't care about that either, breathing in the rosy perfume and memories of her girlhood running through the Bann's gardens and watching her Pa at work, his neck reddened from the sun and his smile broad as she peeked at him through his peonies and crocuses.
It had taken quite an effort to find a viable plant those five years ago. The gardens were no more; the estate had fallen and left to waste by the Orlesians, but she had needed to come back – she owed it to herself. She had had nothing of her father otherwise. He'd been taken away when she had been young. Too young.
"Good rose," Sister Maevis told it. Lifting her eyes to the heavens, she grinned from ear to ear.
"Thank you, Pa."
"I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with the letter 'H'"
Sister Maevis wagged her finger at the giant in the cage. This had become something of a habit of hers – visiting the giant every day when she hoped no one else was looking. She didn't agree with the Revered Mother when she'd decided to cage him. He'd had no food or water given to him – what kind of fate was that, murderer or no? Despite his crime he had willingly stepped into the cage himself and would not accept any offer of sustenance, preferring instead to meditate. He'd reminded her a little of her father – only two feet taller. Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn. So the two of them had started this game of 'I spy', to while away the time – twenty days and counting…poor sod.
"Did you think you were going to get me with that one, eh?" Sister Maevis chuckled at him. "That'd be 'hill'. Plenty of those around here – Andraste's sainted knickers!"
A couple of Templars were approaching, so Sister Maevis hurriedly nodded at the giant and pretended that she was merely walking back into the village and hadn't stopped to talk to the prisoner at all.
She managed to make it through the Chantry doors without anyone questioning her. Being old sometimes meant you were invisible.
Ser Bryant was entertaining a crowd of people – there had seemed an increasing number of those of late, entering Lothering village. A lot of them had that look around them; a look Sister Maevis had not seen since the war with the Orlesians and had hoped never to see again. She wondered what was going on. Had the Orlesians invaded again? She'd have to speak to the Revered Mother some time about that – along with the mystery of her missing veg.
There was a strange woman in this particular group, Sister Maevis noted. My Ma would never have let me out looking like that – she'll catch her death, dressed in nothing but bandages. Never would have happened in my day, though she had to admit, if she could have gotten away with it, she would have. The other two were dressed a little more decently; but dear Maker they were young. What was wrong with the world when children were being sent out to war? Definitely must have a word with the Revered Mother…what in Andraste's name is going on here? Well the least she could do was find a nice woollen shawl for the young woman.
She remembered a sack of cast-offs that might have something just right, and was trying to remember where the Revered Mother had put it when a gloved hand slipped under her arm and a boyish voice addressed her: "Let me help you there, Sister."
Maevis stared up at the young man – what was that thing on his chin, for Andraste's sake? He did have pretty eyes however – but where was he taking her?
"What are you doing, young man?" she demanded.
"I'm helping you – I always try to be polite to grandmothers – ouch!"
She'd poked him with her stick.
"Cheeky bugger, if I wanted help, I'd ask for it." She poked him again, just to drive her point home. He wisely backed away, holding up his hands as if that would have done him any good. She hadn't lived several decades on this world not to learn that men had soft spots – and she didn't mean the romantic kind – and because the strangely-dressed woman thought it was funny, Sister Maevis poked him with her stick. Again.
"Sister Maevis, these people are Grey Wardens," Ser Bryant whispered as discreetly as he could behind her.
"Really?" Maevis eyeballed them. Children. "They let you back into the country, did they?"
"Well of course," Young-Man-With-Pretty-Eyes spluttered. "There is a Blight on, you know."
"I use a spray for that," Sister Maevis told him knowledgeably. "Weak solution of lye soap and water. Works a treat on blight."
Strange-Young-Woman laughed a hearty laugh as Pretty-Eyes turned beet-red. It was a nice laugh.
If not a shawl then a lovely cardigan, I think. She looked like someone who would look good in a cardigan.
Sister Maevis pushed the gate open cautiously with her stick, holding it up high, just in case. Someone had broken the lock in the middle of the night. She sighed with anger when she saw the state of her garden beds. Not only had every thing been taken – unripened or not – the ground was trampled; stalks and runners had been pulled out by the thieves and left to die and her carefully tied trellis had been stripped bare and knocked to pieces.
Hanging her head, Sister Maevis said a prayer against vengeance. It was taking all of her will not to run – or at least hobble – screaming into the Chantry yard, except that job had already been taken by a damaged Chasind and she wouldn't have been heard over the racket.
Well at least…she walked over to her rose bush. The bud would be perfectly open today…except that the rose wasn't there. It took her several seconds for her mind to believe her eyes. I'm getting old; the eyesight isn't so good anymore. She squeezed her eyes shut, counted to ten then re-opened them. The rose was still gone.
A stream of epithets – learned from a dwarven merchant in her youth – exploded from her lips. She had no idea what she was saying, but by the Maker, those dwarves really knew how to cuss. This was the final straw.
With grim purpose, she carefully trimmed the rose down to stock, mourning every new branch she'd managed to coax into life as they fell to the ground. Then, bending down with great difficulty she used her trowel to work away at the soil until the roots of the rose bush were exposed. She found the taproot easily enough and gently worked it free. She wrapped the root ball in the scarf from her head, packing damp straw around the root ball first, then laboriously got to her feet.
Can't stay here amongst thieves and rose molesters, she thought darkly. Five years – five Maker-cursed years and some thieving sod had taken the one rose she'd managed to grow. Well, perhaps those years weren't cursed after all if the Maker had allowed her to keep tending to her rose all this time. He just had an annoying sense of humour.
Well, she'd go north – to Denerim and take the rose with her. She hadn't seen Sister Theohild for a while and it was probably about time she visited the old handbag in any case. The Revered Mother wouldn't like it – it was usually up to the Grand Cleric to move her Chantry pawns about Ferelden, but Sister Maevis was in no mood to care about Grand Clerics and Revered Mothers. Denerim was sunnier in any case, a slightly better climate for growing roses.
Well Pa, here we go again.
With nothing but the shawl on her back, her walking stick in her left hand and the wrapped rose in her other, Sister Maevis stepped outside the Chantry compound and began to walk.
"You are leaving, Sister." It was a statement, not a question as she passed by the giant in the cage. She had half a mind to see the Revered Mother and demand the release of the poor man, but that would mean actually talking to the woman.
"Aye, I am" Sister Maevis acknowledged.
The giant simply inclined his head, "May He guide your steps, Sister."
"And may He find it in his heart to send you the atonement you seek, Ser." Or at least someone with the blessed key to let you out.
Having said her farewell – of a sort – Sister Maevis leant heavily on her walking stick, took a deep breath and began to walk.