Warning: Very dark with extremely mature themes. I own nothing Rated M. This is an AU story, more or less a tangent on what the plight of the mages really could have been.
She had been twelve with the cusp of womanhood approaching quickly when she was forcibly thrown to the gray stone floor. Her terrified eyes had widened and watched the flickering of the torch light as it danced in a mocking patter on the sheen of the stone as she had withdrawn into herself while balanced on her hands and knees. The ragged sound of her breathing had been the only thing she heard over the eerie silence that blanketed the room stiflingly. As hard as she tried, she had been unable to stop the trembling while her mind reeled still with the halting knowledge that she was a mage, a cursed magic born monstrosity, which had been surrendered more than eagerly to the law of the Chantry.
For four days she had been collared, far too much like a willful hound that it goaded greatly on her nerves, but Solona had endured it all with a grace seldom found in a young woman. Had it been fear or pride that kept her going, she could not have said. However, her handlers had been less than kind in their treatment of her and their vague remarks of how well she would 'do' in the tower left her strangely cold. Their eyes had roamed over her lithe figure with an interest that had her recoiling from them at every stop or attempted touch. It had worried her that they had done nothing more than laughed at her discomfort, yet their eyes had never strayed long from her.
The Chantry had extremely strict laws when it came to the regard of mages. In no uncertain terms, mages were to be surrendered to the Templars or the Circle of Magi directly, whichever was sooner. Harboring an apostate, not that Solona had ever heard much about apostates outside of being told they were inherently evil, was punishable by death. Even being related to an apostate was a social smear that left many more than willing to surrender over any mage; related or not. The Chantry had always been known to be ruthless in dealing with those that defied the will of The Grand Cleric. The same laws that Solona herself had been taught since she had been old enough to toddle away from her mother's side had now come to apply to her with brutal clarity. She was less than a second class citizen, worth less than any servant or even a beggar on the side of the roadway. As a mage Solona was revoked all the natural born rights of a citizen in Ferelden. She was now little more than a walking weapon or abomination waiting to happen in the eyes of all inhabitants and she would be confined to the Circle tower until the end of her days. Saddened by the sheer weight of how her life had changed, Solona had thought only of the last time she had seen her mother. A mother that had all but thrown her to the mercy of these wolves once the horror had etched her features at her daughter's birth defect. Solona narrowed a broken gaze upward to the booted metal feet of a man that stood expectantly before her.
"I trust you will cause no trouble?" The voice had been hardened like iron over a forge after many folding's. Solona stared mutely from her prone position without comment. Her heart still torn from the loss of all she had ever known, or dared to dream of.
Solona cautiously flicked out her dry tongue to lick even drier cracked lips, reveling slightly in the pain that it caused which reminded the young girl that she was still alive even if she felt that life had not mattered at this point.
"I will take your silence as a yes." The tone had been clipped and there was a warning laced tightly with those words that forced a smaller part of Solona to jerk her head in a nod of acceptance. Her vision had been filled with the furious eyes of a much older man, one that looked even older than her own father, but Solona would not have guessed that their ages differed by much. She suddenly had felt so small compared to the towering mass of man before from the position at his feet.
"What is your name mage?" His thundering question caused her to flinch and shake noticeably. Solona cast her eyes back down to the cold stone floor seeking some vestiges of comfort only to find none.
"S-Solona." Her voice had been soft, and she had the distinct impression that the man strained to hear her. Her teeth clenched as she felt the bubbling hatred for how weak her voice had sounded, but she was young and frightened.
"Don't test my patience young one, what is your full name." The shuffling of footsteps distracted Solona from the cold swirl of dread his statement created. The swishing of colorful fabric entered her view and Solona stared at the woman that had come to rest at the man's side. The woman's red hair caught Solona's attention and she had been struck by the thought of how pretty the woman was in spite of the tell-tale signs of white at her temples.
"Knight-Commander, please, you are scaring the poor thing." Solona watched the woman place a soft touch on the armor the man wore. Solona could not have said what caused the man's face to soften slightly, or why he shifted his stance but the clank of metal caused the young girl to wince again. She could feel her hands cooling swiftly on the stone floor when the more subdued voice of the woman rang out clearer than any bell in the vast stone room. "What is your name child?"
Solona blinked back tears of fear and relief at the concerned but warm expression of the unknown woman. She was aware that her elbows shook under the strain of holding her pose on the floor. "Solona Amell." It was a ghost of her true voice, but the girl managed with only a tiny warble in the tone that betrayed the still lingering fear.
"Solona? What a pretty name, for such a pretty girl." Solona edged away attentively when the woman crouched down on the floor before her, the blazing heat that radiated off the woman's body helped to but Solona at the barest hints of ease. "It is alright child." The woman crooned softly and Solona had been beset by an ache to see her mother again, to be wrapped in loving arms that belonged to a familiar voice which would tell her this was all a horrible dream.
"Don't coddle the girl." The hiss of the Knight-Commanders voice brought both women out of a tenderly forged moment of compassion and back to the matter at hand.
Solona thought for a moment that the woman would rebuke the man, but she nodded quietly and waved her hand to the left. The sounds of more rustling fabric brought with foreign faces as women had surrounded her. Solona tried to look at them all as soft but firm hands dragged her upward to stand.
"Solona." The girl's attention snapped back to the nice woman with the graying red hair as it shone akin to a dying ember in the dim room. "We need to take some of your blood." The girl knew she must have shown the alarm she felt, for the woman crooned at her gently again. "Not very much and I promise you I will try to make it as painless as possible, but to do that you have to remain very still. Can you do that?" Warm eyes stared into hers and Solona bit her trembling lower lip and nodded only once as the flash of metal reflecting in the torchlight caught her eyes.
Solona scrunched up her eyes so that she could no longer see the sharp dagger that had been grasped tightly in the woman's hands. Her body shook with fear and Solona felt the tears welling in her eyes while a soft sob racked her frame. The ripping of her flesh as it gave way to the metal's edge caused Solona to cry out. Her terrified noise was met with a snort of impatience from the man, that Solona had already decided she did not like. Her small hand, attached to her uninjured arm, grasped blindly at one of the women holding her and she was grateful when an answering squeeze responded to her panicked reach. Unknown hands smoothed her hair and one of the women muttered kind words in her ear; telling her that she was brave and that she had done such a good job at holding still.
Solona opened her eyes to see that the first woman held a vial under the crimson flow of blood that originated from her inner elbow, soft and gentle hands squeezed lightly at the cut and Solona hissed with an large intake of breath. More tears carved a path down already stained cheeks as the girl watched the vial fill with her own life blood. Then, Solona had been fascinated to watch a soft glow of green emanate from the mature woman's hand as it wrapped boldly around her injury. The girl hiccupped a time or two as the pain had faded and the wound closed before that glow of green.
"Is it done yet?" The man snapped out angrily and Solona backed up, or attempted to before the bodies of the other women stopped her swiftly.
"Yes, Knight-Commander, it is done." The red haired woman responded cordially and Solona watched the man's face once more soften, before hard eyes trained upon her face.
"Apprentice Amell." Solona shivered at the direct address and the strange title now linked tightly with her surname. "There are rules that you must know to live without incident in The Circle. If you fall prey to a demon you will be slain swiftly and without exception. You are never to practice magic without your instructor present until you are a harrowed mage." The word 'harrowed' was one she had never heard and the girl struggled to understand the meaning even as the Knight-Commander continued on. "Furthermore, there are privileges that can be obtained, such as an extra set of clothing, or prolonged time in the library, even better nourishment if you are so inclined. However, only mages that behave and meet a certain criteria are allowed to partake in these privileges."
She had not understood what he meant. The young girl had no idea what was required to gain such incentives or niceties, but she had grasped firmly to a hope that living behind these cold walls would not be altogether horrid. Confusion lit her features quickly at the shadowed reference to something she had not known.
"With your permission, Knight-Commander, perhaps it would be best if I explained it to her?" The red headed woman smiled charmingly and once more Solona watched her place a tiny touch to his armor. "You have far more pressing duties to attend to than the instruction of one mage child."
Solona saw the man waiver for a moment before giving in and glowering at her once more. "Fine, but make sure she knows every rule. Any she breaks will be on your head as First-Enchanter." He growled lowly and then yanked on the kind woman's hair until her head tilted backward and exposed her pale neck under the firelight. Solona had wanted to protest his treatment of her, to stop him from harming the woman that had been so comforting in a time of abysmal hell. Small and childish words of protest died on her lips when the armored man ravaged the woman's mouth with abject hunger before he abruptly departed all but slamming the door behind him.
The women holding Solona released her gently and she stared horrified at the now tussled hair of the woman before her. "I can see that you are confused." Her tone was soft and indulgent, but Solona could not stop the sense of betrayal that crept along her veins as quietly as a mouse. A troubled sigh from the woman forced Solona to look away from the dejected face of the one that had healed her. "Where do I begin?"
A stubborn glare met her rhetorical question and the woman smiled down at Solona, although it had not reached her eyes.
"My name is Wynne. I am the first Enchanter for the Circle of Magi of Ferelden. The women next to you are Bessie and Petra respectively.." Solona cast a quick glance to the women who nodded at her politely. "The man you just met was the Knight-Commander Greagoir, he is in charge of the Circle's Templars. You would do very well to remember to stay on their good side child. The Templars are not to be trifled with and until you are a harrowed mage, something we will talk about later, I suggest you do not speak to any of them." Something in Wynne's face twisted and Solona had thought she was in pain. "The privileges that where stated to you, there are more than that, however…" Solona watched the woman's eyes dart around the room searching for words that refused to come to her.
"However they are for girls that are older than you." The one named Petra chimed in softly.
"I-I don't understand." Solona croaked out her mind puzzling over what would have caused all the women to look so crestfallen suddenly.
"Young one, Solona." The First-Enchanter corrected gently her fingers fidgeting nervously with the small round button at the collar of her robe. "What do you know about mages?"
A thudding of her heart as it leapt painfully at the utterance of what she had become and Solona licked her cracked lips again. "I know that the Chantry says that they are cursed by the Maker." She said 'they' because it still burned in her throat and mind to even have attempted to say 'we'.
A dismissive snort from her right jarred her to look at the one called Bessie who glowered at her fiercely. "Outside of that Chantry rubbish, what do you know about mages?" The flaxen haired woman had demanded.
Shame stormed deep in her chest and Solona bowed her head in apology. "Nothing. I know nothing about mages."
The shuffling of fabric played in a deafening symphony as the three women flinched nearly in unison. "Mages are almost always female. Though male mages are not unheard of, they are exceedingly rare." Solona peeked a gaze at Wynne whose face had formed into a pale mask of neutrality. "Nearly every mage in this tower is a woman; there are a dozen or so girls about your age this year and I will introduce you to them in a bit. Mages must remain in the Circle, as I am sure you know." The heavy pause forced Solona to meet the woman's gaze and she paled.
"Yes, I do know that." The girl muttered disheartened.
"What you may not know-" The First Enchanter had tested the words as if they were a rare and dangerous poison. "Is that we are not forbidden to marry, or even to have children." A brief flash of heart-wrenching sorrow reflected in the eyes of the woman and Solona wondered at the cause. "However, we are only allowed to do those things with certain men. The Chantry even encourages it to an extent."
The bitter laugh of the woman Bessie stopped the budding question Solona had dearly wanted to ask. "Bloody Chantry hypocrites." The snarled slight jarred Solona and she frowned at the woman for her insult.
"You shouldn't say things like that." Solona had bitten out like a cornered kitten, more fluff than claws at the imagined offense to the religious structure.
"One day, you will understand." The statement was ominous and Solona swallowed the fresh rush of fear that leapt into her throat.
"Enough Bessie." Wynne's voice brooked no argument and Solona felt gratification at the woman's mumbled apology. "As I was saying, the Chantry encourages us to marry and have children to strengthen our ties to the country and by association make us far more loyal in battle. Our partners must be approved members of the chantry or have taken oaths to serve the Chantry above all else. However, it is not us that choose our partners. Our partners choose us."
"I don't understand." The child whispered out in the dim room, while fear ate at her insides without remorse.
"What she is saying, is that mages are only allowed to marry or find lovers in Templars. Mages are not allowed to be romantically involved with other mages. Our…privileges-" The woman called Petra struggled to continue, her face was bathed in the warmth of a hot blush and Solona stood only more confused than before. "-stem from being able to catch the attention of a Templar. Those that please a Templar as a lover or companion are granted nicer amenities."
"But, I thought Templars were called to strike down mages when needed?" Solona asked hurriedly, for she felt as if she had just been told the sky was purple.
"They do." Bessie responded without artifice and Solona could tell that the woman was clenching her teeth.
"How can they if mages are their wives? The mothers of their children?" The girl bit out hysterically at the thought of bearing a child for a man that would lay her low without hesitation.
"They obey the Chantry over all else. The Templars do not have to form a binding covenant with us such as marriage; it is up to the man's discretion. Mages are simply tools for war. We are powerful spell casters that decimate large groups of enemy soldiers. We are kept by the Chantry in the Circle until we are needed. Every nation wants the strongest weapons, the most deadly, so we are bred to keep the numbers strong." Wynne stated apathetically as if this were common knowledge. "The Templars that have served the Chantry Faithfully, or have proven to superior in mastering the Templar talents are rewarded by being sent to the Circle for a few year's time. Normally their time stationed here is long enough to find a mage to their liking and give their affections."
The bitter acid of bile rose unbidden to the back of her mouth as Solona digested that startling kernel of information. "I-I'm only twelve. I don't want the affections of a Templar." The young girl began to blubber and the women looked on in helpless resignation.
"Sh. Calm yourself young one. You are too young for that to be asked of you just yet." The calming touch of Wynne rested on her shoulder as the girl bawled out of repulsion and fear.
Hazel eyes blinked back tears and the surge of hope that began to thrum through her blazed a trail to her eyes. "I am?" Her voice had been thick with tears and emotion. She noticed that Wynne looked away from her gaze.
"The age in which you may consent to that part of your life is seventeen. You also will not be forced by any Templar, which is strictly against the law of the Circle. However, you will not be given any luxuries if you decided not to encourage at least one man's affections. " Solona pondered the consequences before childish will spiked and she firmly convinced herself that she would gladly live without any amenities if that meant she would not have to sell herself like a common whore.
"I can live without those things." Her tone had been resolute and determined but the pitying gazes of the women around her had not gone without notice.
"You are still young, Solona, not quite aware of the ways of the world. There will be plenty of time to make that choice." Wynne soothed and Solona fumed at the assumption that she would eventually fall victim to circumstance as they had. Indignation stained her face with all the artistry of a watercolor painting. "You will see many things in this place that you do not yet understand; both magically and not. I warn you to be on your best behavior at all times."
The stern look that Solona received reminded her so much of the mother she had been taken from that pain sliced through her chest like a knife.
"The other rules the Knight-Commander mentioned apply to us all. Even the oldest mages must abide by them. We have a curfew; you being an apprentice will be expected to retire one hour prior to the harrowed mages. You must not run in the halls or take food out of the dining area, that is forbidden as well. Your clothing must always be neat and presentable. You may not switch clothing with any of the other girls; you have to maintain your own sets of robes. Any form of speaking with a Templar outside of…making arrangements is prohibited. Everything else you need to know, you are just going to have to learn young one."
Solona frowned at the last part, for it had sounded almost like a thinly-veiled threat. Until the clanking of metal feet had begun to echo down the corridor approaching the room they occupied. The large wooden door swung wide with a frightening display of force and the scowling face of the Knight-Commander appeared. The women had stilled like frightened animals before the jaws of a hungry mountain lion.
"Has she been fully instructed?" The question was a curt as his earlier ones and Solona struggled not to find the man as vile as a snake.
Solona's small frame trembled once again and she watched as the First Enchanter nodded. "Of course Knight-Commander."
A grunt of indifference melded with acknowledgement was his only response and the young girl jittered as she watched the vial of her blood being released from Wynne's hands and into the massive grasp of the Knight-Commander. "Escort the apprentice to her room." He waved a dismissive hand to the other two women, while his eyes focused on the First Enchanter darkly.. "You stay here." He commanded and Solona watched the woman as she fell silent and passive. Solona had not understood the dark look in the man's eyes or why Wynne had flushed then looked away, but she was given little time to contemplate such a mystery as the vise like grip of Petra clamped around her arm.
Solona watched the door close behind them as she stared at the unfamiliar walls of the prison she would now call home.