AN: Thank you to those that have read, reviewed, or even given this story a second thought. I appreciate your time.
Please note: This is a mature story with very dark themes. Those that find such material disturbing, provoking memories, or in any way uncomfortable; I urge you to please stop reading. If you choose to continue reading, please know that I in no way condone acts of violence (physically, mentally, emotionally, or sexually) against anyone.
Rated M. I own nothing. Please enjoy.
The news came so quickly on the heels of her changed world, that Solona nearly lost her stomach contents. Six evenings now she had been called to serve the Knight Commander. What he hoped to accomplish by requesting her more, she knew not, but after each encounter she bathed in water heated to the point of scalding and scrubbed until her skin pinked. Even that was never enough to get rid of the lingering scent she imagined she carried.
Petra, the poor dear soul, had been unable to even speak with Solona for fear of reprisal. Yet, it had been Solona who had found her huddled and slightly bloodied in the farthest corner of what had been the infirmary. The pair had spoken naught a single syllable between them, however, their eyes had carried a wealth of emotion. Sorrow, heartbreak, loathing, self-hatred, hatred for the one who had caused this, and fear swirled heavily in gaze of each mage. With care, Solona helped to heal the physical wounds that were inflicted out of want for power, anger, and the want for revenge. The mental harm could not yet be touched for it was still too raw and fresh. Solona had learned long ago that no good ever came from agitating a still bleeding wound.
Touch was kept to a bare minimum as Petra shook and bit back sobs. Solona clenched her teeth, ready to gnash them in pure sympathetic anguish. Her own hands trembled as she brought healing poultices to cloth and tended the bruises combined with abrasions. She choked back any pity she might have felt without mercy. Petra was her friend and despite what had happened to her, did not deserve to be pitied for she would get through this.
Minutes slowly crawled into an hour until nearly every trace of the horrible event had been as removed from Petra as Solona could manage. A wordless thanks was given as Petra stumbled from the corner, and out the door. Though the First Enchanter longed to call out to her, longed to comfort her, there were no words that would do. Petra would never speak of it, while Solona would drown in her guilt from it.
The Black City be damned, the people of this world were already lost to corruption and vile acts. Shame filtered through Solona she recalled her own personal hell from the night prior. It caused her no small amount of pain to admit that part of her was grateful not to have endured what Petra had. The other part of her hated that she was relieved no matter what the circumstances might have been.
After that dreadful morning, Petra avoided Solona and there was no doubt in the First Enchanter's mind that it was out of self-preservation. Something that Solona could and would never begrudge. How could she? She knew that no matter what Ser Carroll did or said that some part of her would always feel responsible. He carried out the atrocious act, but Solona was the person her truly wished to harm. Petra was nothing more than an innocent victim caught in a tangled web that no mage could seem to escape.
Just as Solona, chained in obligation to her fellow mages and duty to her position could not escape even the set of amber eyes that watched her intently. Nor could she bar herself from his bed, and she did not know what to make of his want to have her near. Part of her assumed he hoped to breed her with an offspring to please the Chantry. It had been whispered, more than once, that Solona had not yet conceived for any of her partners by the braver Templars. Their idle whispers only enflamed her anger and distrust of anything with the symbol of Andraste.
What had been gratitude toward their heroic defense of the Tower had soon turned to ash in her mouth. Their lustful gazes on the few remaining mages and the cries in the night some in passion others in fear haunted Solona's every waking moment. Still, she forced herself with a strength she had not previously known she possessed to teach the Children and oversee coordinating the newest arrivals.
Maker help her, for each day she watched the young and innocent lambs come into a Tower of wolves. There would be no escape for them and no respite. Desire burned brightly in her heart to change their roles. If she could make people understand. If only they would look at the plight thrust upon people whose only true crime was being born; then surely things would change? But, no, she had walked that road before when Wynne still drew breath.
She wanted to hate the Knight-Commander for his role in all of this, just as she loathed the feel of his skin upon hers with a passion that threatened to consume her. However, she could tell by the dispassionate way he addressed her in public, and by how his gaze still seemed suspicious, that there was nothing between them that had not been borne of obligation. She had observed long ago that he was a pious if not slightly conceited Templar, but his devotion to the Chantry had been absolute from the start.
She was confident that should the Revered Mother command him to severe his own arm, he would do so without question. And while he never made a move to harm her, Solona could not bring herself to view that act as anything other than detestable.
They moved as a mockery of Wynne and Greagoire around the tower. Each played their part, nearly to perfection, but the act dropped behind closed doors when the candles had been snuffed. They held an uneasy truce to present a united front for the rest of the Circle to seek comfort in the stability they might provide.
That uneasy truce had been shaken to the very core, rendering Solona speechless for one candle-mark, when the Revered Mother in all her preposterous self-proclaimed glory had made the decision to send mages as aid for the King's army. It had come as a harsh blow to the First Enchanter who held a handful of mages lives in her inexperienced hands.
She had been called into the Knight-Commander's office. Forcibly she had been pulled from her latest research on warding the Tower more effectively against Demons even though the veil was thin due to the cluster of magic users present. Ser Brann had appeared genuinely apologetic for the circumstances as she was all but pushed through the heavy wood doors.
The first thing her eyes took in was Ser Cullen busily staring at a vellum and the eerie stillness that surrounded him. He did not bother to rise at her presence, nor did he deem it necessary to look at her.
"Close the door behind you," he commanded in clipped tones that had Solona instantly alert and wary.
Silently, she complied. She waited patiently as he dipped a quill in his ink well and penned a reply. Solona gazed curiously around the room, as she calmed her racing heart. She still ensured that she presented to very essence of what a First Enchanter should be. She seemed calm, composed, and thoughtful.
Inside she was aquiver with curiosity.
Finally, after torturous minutes had passed in silence only disturbed by the scratching of the tip of his pen across paper, Ser Cullen gazed at her with disinterest.
"I have received a notice from the Revered Mother that the mages are being called to assist in a counter-attack against Antiva. It would seem that word of our recent problems have spread to those that would seek to do Ferelden harm. The King has already mobilized a force to drive them back. I will be sending a few squadrons of Templars with the mages."
She stared at him mutely as her mind processed what he had just said. It could not be true. This must have been some sort of cruel jest. Solona blinked and watched him carefully as he blandly continued on about how she was to send every harrowed mage. That would not be possible. To send them into battle would be nothing short of a death sentence as so few remained alive already. To lose any more would ensure the Tower's destruction.
That both appealed and repulsed Solona. For while the mages currently in bondage would be freed through shuffling the mortal coil, it left the children completely without guidance as they navigated a world where demons howled at the doors every waking moment.
Her voice was pleading and her eyes beseeched him to use some of the influence he had been granted due to his station. "You cannot allow this."
"You will do as you are told, and that is the end of this discussion."
"I will not send my people to be slaughtered!" She shouted with such force that the very windows rattled for the space of a heartbeat.
"You watch your tongue," Ser Cullen bit back harshly with anger radiating from his gaze. "The mages are my charges. I will say-"
"No," she interrupted in fiery denial, "they are not your charges. They are mine. It is my duty to protect them Ser. Though protection means precious little when faced with a Templar."
"What do you mean?" His voice became dangerously quiet and Solona could feel the hairs prickle at the nape of her neck. Yet, she brashly chose to push onward for the lives that would be wasted just as surely as the sun would rise on the morrow.
"Do you not have eyes? Have your ears not borne witness to the screams of women who have no right to deny a Templar anything? Your precious Chantry simpers that we may not be forced, but coercion, oh that does not bother your ranks. We are only mages! You preach rights and treat us worse than animals. What need have you to respect us or leave us be if we do not fall into your beds hot and wanting? "
Unease filtered across his face, and Solona thought for a single moment that there may have been a touch of remorse as well. However, the expression was quickly locked away behind a steely mask of Templar resolve. "You exaggerate."
"Do I? Really? You have seen what happens to the Tranquil," she shouted as tears streamed down her cheeks, leaving her eyes red and swollen. "How many of your Templar brothers joke about tupping the neutralized 'animals'? How many times have you turned a blind eye to the frightened gazes of young girls," her breath came out in haphazard pants, "who only tried to make 'arrangements' to save themselves from such a brutal rape as the likes of you could never imagine?"
The accusation stood plainly between them and she could see his eyes widen in recognition of their first meeting. His face coiled into hard lines as his jaw clenched. Solona had made his undeniably angry, yet she felt no pleasure in the accomplishment. For this was not about one lone mage years ago, but about the two dozen or so that would suffer a needless death to appease some imagined slight to the King's honor.
Solona Amell had reached her breaking point.
"The rules of the Chantry are clear," he said slowly as he prowled around her akin to an angry cat. "We are not to question the wisdom of the Revered Mother who is blessed among all."
The mage gave a gesture of angry dismissal. "She is blessed amongst nothing if she allows such acts of violence and malice to continue against the mages. There is neither kindness nor prized Chantry mercy in this."
"You overstep your bounds, and I have been very lenient up to this point. However, you will never show such disrespect toward the Chantry again. Am I clear?"
Amber orbs burned into hers so sharply that Solona fought not to recoil, but she held fast to her conviction.
"I understand your meaning, Ser but I will not yield," the song of her magic burst to life as angry and uncontrolled as its mistress. "If you send those mages, they will die. They have neither the training nor the inclination to stay alive. Death is a release to a mage."
His eyes narrowed at her with thinly veiled spite. "Then I am showing them that prized 'Chantry mercy', as you call it."
"Send them and I will make sure that not one mage returns. Myself included."
He scoffed and the noise chaffed her ears to hear it. She seethed at his audacity as her dislike of him swirled dangerously close to hatred.
"You speak nonsense. You would never allow such a thing to occur."
She tilted her chin up in defiance. "Try me."
"I have every right to punish you to the fullest extent," he warned gruffly, "First Enchanter or not, you will receive a sound lashing."
"Then beat me," she half-hissed with vehemence. "Smite me. Starve me. Make me an example to the precious few remaining mages in your magical 'army'." Her voice dipped low for a moment. "But if you do that, know that no mage will willingly follow you. Oh, you may terrorize them, and you may even get them to battle. Need I remind you Ser Cullen that Templars are not the only ones that call fall upon the sword?"
"You dare threaten me?" His face grew red and splotched as he attempted to reign in his fury. Solona would have cowed had the issue at hand not been so dire.
She raised her gaze and stared at him calmly. "I dare a great many things when I am the only thing standing between the Revered Mother and an empty Tower because every mage has found a new home in an unmarked shallow grave by the wayside."
She watched with some small amount of satisfaction as his eyes turned cold and his mouth closed. Without waiting to be dismissed, and knowing she would pay dearly for it later, Solona departed from the room. Upon her exit, she slammed the door hard enough to make the candle sconces in the wall rattle in the wake of her fury.
She stalked the halls with her staff banging gently at her back, a steady rhythm that nearly brought her a moment's peace until she rounded the stairwell and came face-to-face with Circle Chapel. Bitter tears tempered her anger as she gazed upon the Maker's symbol. Something that others saw as a comfort in times of darkness only served to remind the mage of the shackles of her life.
"If you are so wonderful, then tell me, what did any mage ever do that would have deserved this?" She made a cold gesture around the room. A hollow and disillusioned laugh escaped her as the room remained silent.