A/N: I'm updating this story, clarifying some things and bringing it in line with Inquisition. It will be slow, as this fic is looooong. But a chapter or two a week will be read and edited. Also, I'm going to go ahead and include my original author's notes. For posterity. Or something.

Most things belong to Bioware. Solona and the AU aspects are inventions of my own sad little brain.

Long original A/N (feel free to skip to start of story): So, I've been wanting to do a Dragon Age fic for a while now. An idea was floating around in my head, but it wasn't compelling enough to write down until I started the game as a mage recently. Then it got interesting, and what you're about to read in the prologue is what I sort of narrated to myself as I made my Warden; sort of an explanation to myself for why should would have the appearance I was giving her. I have a bit of this written, which allowed me to go back and make the beginning something that was actually, you know, legible.

There will be some tweaks to the story, and I've come up with something different for my mage that hopefully makes this different enough from just a novelization of the game that it'll keep people's interest. It also won't be a regurgitation of game dialogue or plot events, though you will see some of the more unforgettable in-game conversations make an appearance. I want to follow canon, but I will also be straying from it, sometimes in little ways, sometimes in major ways.

There will also be some reference to characters from DAII. It will also involve Mature content, most of it of a lesbian nature. Eventually. You have been warned. Also, it's a working title, for now.

They cut her hair in punishment; hold her down and crop it all off, not bothering to avoid nicking her scalp with the shears. They do not stop there, however, finishing the job by lathering her head and shaving her bald.

The feel of the razor as it scraped over her head makes her wince, though she is smart enough to keep from doing so. She can't just hear it; she can feel the sound, feel every strand as it is cut. Her arms are manacled behind her back, her face held in place by strong, armored hands, the metal of the gauntlets biting into her skin. She glares venom at the blonde man, a friend, holding her in place. He tries to mumble an apology, but she will not hear it. She knows he feels for her, but what man who felt such for a woman would force this upon her?

She just wanted her freedom. She wanted to see her family, experience the world a little. So when she'd stumbled upon her phylactery while tidying up the storage area, she took her chance, slipping it into her pocket before bed that night. Two days later, she snuck through the halls of the Circle Tower, using a spell to slip out a window and land safely many feet below. She smashed the vial containing her blood and discarded the shards in the lake, swimming the frigid waters to her freedom. It was incredibly stupid to do so, but she was confident she could return her body to its normal temperature once she'd hit land. Fires were something she was actually good at.

She succeeded, traveling with what money she had borrowed from Jowan to Lothering, seeking out family in the last place she had known them. She had not found her parents, but she had found kin, and spent many weeks with them. As the ice started melting, she left their abode, striking out for the capital, where she'd been told her parents now lived.

The next step in her humiliation is to mark her skin permanently, so that everyone who ever sees her will know that she had tried – and failed – to escape.

Three men are needed to hold her down as they tattoo her skin, putting a remarkably pretty-looking flourish on her face, starting just under her right eye. It hurts, but she refuses to show that it does. She will forever be marked apostate, as a mage who attempted to leave the "protection" the Chantry offers. It is never clear whether they mean protection for the mages, or from the mages.

Growing up, she had believed everything she was told. She felt guilty for her power, vowing to the Maker to make up for it by learning everything she could. She vowed to be more in control than any other mage thus far. Instead, by reading and learning so much through the vast library available to them – their only chance to experience anything outside the Chantry and the Circle – she came to the realization that she lived in a gilded cage. It might have warm beds and hot food, but she and her kind wielded a power that could be used for good, and instead, they were kept away from society, like lepers. Which, as it turned out, was something magic could cure, if only they were let out of their cage to help those in need, instead of just those who could pay the Chantry and the Circle for their services. It disgusted her, and she began to long for a way out.

She'd found it, found her kin, and eventually, found her parents. Her parents, who panicked and turned her into the Templars as soon as she'd fallen asleep that night. She awoke to three armed and armored men incanting their energy-draining spells, and she had been pulled from her parents' home gagged and bound, tossed into the back of a cart, losing consciousness on the road.

Now she is here, the biting needle and stinging ink marking her forever as a mage who had failed to keep her freedom. She would never forget that betrayal.

She is then thrust into her Harrowing, with no rest, no food, not even a healing ointment for the nicks on her head. Her face is still red and puffy from its earlier marking.

The First Enchanter, Irving, her lifelong teacher, wears an expression of such disappointment as she is frog-marched to the lyrium podium. He does not expect her to survive. The Templars surrounding her do not expect her to survive.

Her expression hardens. She will prove them wrong.

She defeats the demon and sniffs out the true risk – Mouse: a demon, not a downed mage. They are all so surprised when she awakens, in full control of herself. Cullen nearly faints, walking her back to her room with a spring in his step. He stammers as he bids her goodnight, but she has no patience to reassure his bad flirting: he held her down during her shame, and she likely will never forgive him that. She sleeps the sleep of the dead until Jowan awakens her. He listens and holds her as she pours her ordeals out to him, sharing his own in return.

Now that she is a full mage of the Circle, she can help him, at least, even if she cannot help herself.

Only it doesn't go quite as she might have hoped. Jowan is a blood mage. He is able to escape, but she feels uneasy with it. The only reason she doesn't end up Tranquil in punishment – a completely inappropriate use of the Rite of Tranquility, but no one seems to be willing to split hairs – is that the visiting Warden-Commander steps in, invoking his Rite of Conscription and taking her away with him. She only wishes that she'd broken the rules before her new phylactery had been sent to Denerim.

Punishing weeks on the road, followed by her first encounter with the Darkspawn and an introduction to the legend of Flemeth in the flesh, and she is drinking Darkspawn blood after watching her fellow recruits succumb either to the taint or the fear of it. The next night, they are all betrayed by a hero, and the only thing she can think as she is overwhelmed is, "Lovely…"