There is a shoemaker in Starkhaven who specialises in a very specific kind of Orlesian style shoe. The process of having one of these shoes made is long and expensive, requiring several fittings as the artisan moulds the materials to perfectly fit the shape of the foot. The final product is unique and beautiful, subtly different shades of leather sewed together in a pattern both pleasing to the eye and strong, the deceptively delicate lacing held tight with neat rivets and decorated at the ends with metal aglets with a distinctive star shape.
Bethany could feel every corner of these stars through the thin fabric of her trousers quite distinctly, not to mention the sharp edges of the heel. She looked up from the book she was reading and saw Leliana watching her with half lidded eyes as she slowly ran her foot up Bethany's calf under the table.
"Are you bored?" asked Bethany.
"Bored?" asked Leliana, innocently, as she moved her foot to gently stroke up the inside of Bethany's thigh. "Here I am, it is a beautiful day, I am spending time with my beloved..." She leaned forward, and increased the pressure of her foot. "How could I be bored?"
Bethany pushed back her chair so that she was out of Leliana's reach. Leliana raised her eyebrows in mock surprise. "I'm sorry I've been ignoring you," said Bethany, with more chagrin than remorse. "I know I did promise to spend time with you today. But I forgot that I'd promised to go out with Mother to visit Uncle Gamlen, and I really want to finish reading this book before Marian has to sneak it back into the Gallows library."
There was a soft sound of a foot being dropped back onto the floor, and Leliana looked away with an expression of melodramatic sorrow. "Ah, of course, I understand," she said. "You would rather spend time with your mother than me."
Leliana stood up and tilted her head with a small smile to show that she was not really hurt. She walked around and stood next to Bethany, giving her a kiss on the forehead. "Ah, I am only teasing you, my dear," she said. "I know you cannot always be entertaining me, and that your magic is important to you. But I am a little bored, and it is too tempting to have you near me. I shall go sit in the garden and throw sticks for Dane until you are done."
Bethany felt genuinely guilty now. She and Leliana had been together long enough that they did not expect to always be the centre of each other's attention, but it had been rude to invite Leliana here and then mostly ignore her.
"Don't go," she said. Leliana gave her a doubting expression that warned of further acquaintanceship with her boots if the morning continued on as it had before. Bethany stood up and took her hand. "Learning magic is important to me, but so are you. And besides," said Bethany, feeling a faint flush rising into her cheeks. "I'm not sure I could concentrate on my book now. Your new shoes are quite effectively distracting."
"Is that so?" said Leliana. "I will have to think my noble patron for giving them to me."
Bethany laughed. "Noble patron?" she said.
"Mmm," said Leliana, wrapping her arms around Bethany. "A beautiful, dangerous young woman who keeps me as her plaything, showering with me with gifts only to abandon me for more scholarly pursuits."
"You poor thing!"
"I survive somehow," said Leliana, with a long suffering sigh.
Bethany laughed again. She thought about trying to think of something witty to say but instead simply pulled Leliana closer and gave her a kiss. The skin of her leg still tingled from where Leliana had touched it. She stepped forward so that their legs were intertwined, the tingle in her skin replaced by the comfortable pressure of Leliana's skirt and boots and the bewitching expanse of smooth skin between them. "I am sorry I abandoned you," she said. "How can I make it up to you?"
Leliana tilted her head and gave a wicked smile. "Oh, I'm sure I can think of something."
"Oh Maker, Mother is home."
"Mmm?" said Leliana, her voice muffled.
Now that Bethany's brain had finally roused itself from happy vacancy she realised that the sounds of conversation from below had been happening for some time. And that was definitely her mother's voice calling out instructions to the staff.
"Mother is home," repeated Bethany. "We have to get dressed! I haven't got long to get ready, and I don't want her to notice we're gone."
Leliana lifted her head and pouted at her. "But your breasts are so comfortable," she said. "Like soft pillows with little round buttons." She gently tweaked one of Bethany's nipples between her fingers. Bethany tweaked the end of her nose and Leliana laughed.
"Fine," she said. "I will let you get ready. But I do not know why you worry so. We have been intimate for rather a long time, I am sure your mother knows by now."
"I know she knows," said Bethany. "She gave me a...very detailed talk, the morning after you first stayed the night."
"Yes, you may laugh, it wasn't your mother," said Bethany. "And I'm glad she doesn't disapprove. But it's bad enough hearing all the sordid details of Marian's exploits, there are some things you just don't want to think about your mother thinking about."
"She is a woman, not just your mother," said Leliana. "She is allowed to know of passion, of love. She did run off with your father after all. Who knows, perhaps she will find a lover herself one of these days. Do not make that face at me! Love is a wonderful thing, and not just for the young."
"I know, I know," said Bethany. "She said something similar to me recently, though I don't know if she was thinking of anyone specific." Bethany brushed her fingers gently through Leliana's hair. "And if she can find someone who brings her half as much joy as you do me I will be truly happy for her."
Leliana gave her a sentimental smile before lifting herself up onto her knees and stretching.
Bethany ran a hand up the warm slightly sweaty skin of Leliana's belly, soft and feminine yet lithe and muscular. Leliana smiled and lifted Bethany's hand to her lips and kissed it before turning and gracefully pushing herself off the bed into a standing position. Bethany leveraged herself up with rather less grace.
Bethany's room was gently lit by afternoon sunlight filtering through a gap between thick velvet curtains, and the floor around the bed was bathed in shadow. Leliana poked her bare foot into the pile of clothes on the floor. "Of course, to get dressed I must find my clothes..." she said. Bethany stood next to Leliana and reached down at random, pulling what turned out to be a divided leather skirt into the light. She held it up to her rather wider hips and said "Hmm. Do you think this is mine?" She held it over her head. "Perhaps as a hat?"
Leliana laughed. "Oh yes, very fetching."
It took them some time to finally make their way down the stairs. Orana looked up at them in alarm from the ground floor. "Oh, Messere, I..." She cringed and gave a very apologetic glance from under furrowed brows. "Mistress Amell said to give her apologies and tell you that she had left for Lowtown without you."
"It's quite alright, Orana," said Bethany, inwardly cursing the woman who had taught Orana to so fear giving bad news. "Thank you for telling me." Orana gave a brief bow and fled. Sometimes Bethany wondered if Marian had really done her that much of a favour giving her a job here, she obviously still saw herself as owned in a way that Bodahn and the others servants didn't.
Bethany's reverie was interrupted by Leliana placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"I am truly sorry I made you late," she said. "It was very selfish of me."
"Don't you apologise too," said Bethany. "I made myself late, and I knew exactly what I was doing." She smiled "And it was worth it."
Leliana smiled in return.
"Still, what are you going to do now?"
Bethany sighed. "As much as I might like to avoid seeing Uncle Gamlen, I did promise Mother that I'd go with her. She said she wanted to do some shopping first, maybe if I walk quickly I can catch up with her."
"I will come with you," said Leliana. "Do you know the way she usually likes to walk?"
Bethany nodded, "I think so." They left quickly, only stopping to let Bodahn know where they were going.
Bodahn waved them off, smiling to himself. He thought they made quite a charming pair.
It was only after he'd turned back inside and closed the door that he remembered that he'd been going to ask Bethany a question. He slapped himself on the forehead. Sandal looked at at his father in alarm. Bodahn smiled at him apologetically.
"Sorry Sandal," he said. "But they were all in such a hurry I forgot to ask them what to do about these flowers!" He gestured to the beautiful bouquet of lilies sitting on a side table near the service entrance. "Well, I suppose I'll put them in water and tell the elder Messere Hawke when she comes home. Maybe she'll know who they're from."
Bethany and Leliana did not encounter Bethany's mother in the Hightown market, along the shortcut through the park, or on the bridge into Lowtown. After stopping to look over the shoppers in the Lowtown market from the vantage point at the top of the bridge they walked down amongst the stalls and started looking around.
Bethany went up to a shop keeper she remembered from when they'd lived in the area. "Have you seen my mother?" she asked. "Leandra Amell, I don't know if you remember her. She's medium height, my colouring, grey hair, wearing..." Drat, Bethany had no idea what she'd been wearing. "Wearing something nice?" This was hopeless. Maybe she should just give up and go visit Uncle Gamlen by herself, though she didn't relish the idea of having to make conversation without her mother there as buffer.
The shopkeeper tilted his head. "Hmm...I've seen a lot of people today, not sure that rings a bell..."
"I saw her," said a boy. He was shabbily dressed, with an emaciated face and what looked like a black eye.
"You did?" asked Bethany.
"What do I get for telling you?" he asked belligerently.
Bethany frowned. He was probably just an opportunistic con artist. But he might be telling the truth, and even if not he was so skinny he could be forgiven for trying to bilk a richly dressed shopper of a few coin. With a sigh, Bethany gave him some coppers.
The boy considered them, then looked up at Bethany with a professional eye, trying to decide if he could wring any more cash out of her. She mustn't have looked too desperate, because he gave a little shrug and pocketed the cash before deigning to speak.
"Like I said, I saw that lady. She was walking through the market, and then this man came up to her, he stumbled and fell over at her feet like he was dead. His hand were all bloody, like he'd been in a fight. The lady shook him, and I think he said 'Help'."
"Oh my," said Bethany.
Leliana came up to them. "What's happening?" she asked.
"This boy saw my mother," said Bethany. "He says she encountered a badly injured man."
"Ah, and of course she offered to help him," said Leliana, fondly.
"I'm getting to that," said the boy. "She got him to his feet, and he was all wobbly, it was funny. Anyway, they left, and that's all I saw."
"Oh," said Bethany. "Well, thank you for you help." She gave him another copper for actually being helpful and he gave her a broad gap-toothed smile. Bethany sighed. "But now I don't know where to look. And that poor man! Maybe if we find them soon I can do him some good."
The boy pointed to a red patch on the ground. "The man left some blood, where he fell over. You could follow it," he said.
"Thank you!" said Bethany. "That's a brilliant idea! Come on Leliana, the blood is still fresh."
The blood formed a clear path down a set of steps into a courtyard, but then became harder to follow, there were still spots and dribbles at irregular intervals but they were hard to make out amongst the general dirtiness of the street. Bethany was so focussed on the dirt beneath her feet that she didn't pay much attention to where she was going, and had a nasty shock when she walked right into the back of an armour clad man.
"I'm so sorry!" she said, then went pale when she recognised the armour as belonging to a templar. And there wasn't just one templar, he was with two others, a man and a woman. The man she'd bumped into began to turn, and Bethany sent out a silent prayer that none of them would recognise her. Thanks to Marian and their mother's careful political manoeuvring Bethany was fairly insulated from the usual dangers facing a known apostate in this city, but it was still not a good idea to go around rubbing her freedom in the Templar's faces. Or backs.
"That's quite al...Bethany?" He blinked at her in surprise. Yes, he did look familiar! Someone her sister had helped. Bethany tried to bring his name back out of her memory.
"Keran?" she said.
"Yes!" he said with enthusiasm, a big smile on his boyish face. "It's good to see you, are you well? I'll never forget what you and your sister did for me!"
"Oh, that's...I'm glad to see that the templars accepted you back," she said. "And I am well, thank you. But I can't say the same for the man we're following. You haven't by any chance seen my mother have you? Helping an injured man? He's lost an awful lot of blood."
"Oh!" said Keran. "I'm sorry but no. Though you've just solved a mystery for us. We were about to give up."
"I told you it wasn't blood magic," said the other male templar. "Blood mages use blood, they don't go around leaving trails of it."
"Yes, yes, Jacob," said the female templar. "We all know you're the expert. I still think it was worth following the trail to make sure."
"Well, now that our mystery is solved, would you like us to help you find your mother?" asked Keran. "It's not our job, strictly speaking, but there still might be blood mages involved. You never know." He gave her a good natured smile.
Oh dear. On the one hand, it was very kind of him to offer, but on the other hand it would make it very difficult for her to cast healing magic with templars watching.
"Um..." she began.
"Yes," said Leliana. "We would love for you to help us! My name's Leliana, by the way, I am a friend of Bethany's." What was she doing? "Something about this whole situation doesn't sit right with me," Leliana continued, turning to Bethany. "I have a horrible feeling your mother might have walked into a trap. I hope I'm wrong, but if I'm not it will be good to have these templars with us."
"Oh, Maker. I hope not," said Bethany. "But yes, if you're right we'll need all the help we can get." What a terrible thought. Her mother was no fighter!
Keran and his companions led Leliana and Bethany along the trail, since the templars had inadvertently been following it backwards. "We first noticed the blood near the foundry district," said the female templar, Salma. "We should have realised that any blood mage would go away from inhabited areas, not towards them."
"Unlikely choice for an invalid, though," said Bethany, increasingly worried.
"I'm sure it will all be alright," said Leliana, holding her hand and giving it a squeeze.
"Um. Also, I'm...I'm not sure I'll be much use in a fight, if it comes to that," said Bethany, belatedly realising that fighting would reveal her as a mage as quickly as healing would.
"Yes you are," said Keran. "I've seen you. You're amazing."
Bethany looked at him in alarm. Did noone remember that apostates were illegal?
"Oh, don't worry!" said Keran. "Jacob and Salma here are sympathetic to mages like you, those who live outside the circle without hurting anyone." They both nodded.
"I'm here to protect the city," said Jacob. "Catching blood mages and abominations, that's what templars should be doing, not locking up innocent mages just for having magic. The three of us try and always be placed together, that way we can try and dispense as much mercy as possible. Meredith's policies are no good to anyone."
Bethany let out a relieved breath. "I am so glad to hear that," she said. "I wasn't looking forward to having to choose between my mother's safety and my freedom."
"There are more templars who agree with us than you'd think," said Keran. "I don't want to say too much in public, but we should talk again, there are people in the Circle you might like to meet. We've...tried to connect with the mage underground, but they tend not to trust anyone wearing the templar uniform, no matter how sympathetic to mages we've proven ourselves to be. A mage like you, with powerful connections and a home outside the Circle, you could be useful to us, and us to you."
"Yes, definitely," said Bethany. "I know not all templars hate mages, even if enough of you do to keep me nervous. And if I can do anything to help the mages in the Gallows, I'd be glad to. But...right now I just want to find my mother."
"Of course," said Keran.
As promised, the trail of blood led to the foundry district, up a set of stairs and into an abandoned building, all rust and fallen bricks. Bethany's heart fell. "I don't like the look of this place at all," she said.
"Mmm," said Leliana. Bethany looked over at her, she was biting her lip with a familiar "there's something I don't want to tell you" expression.
"What is it?"
"This...this is where we found that woman's ring," said Leliana. "The one...the one who was killed by that blood mage who..."
"...who targets older women..." finished Bethany, her blood turning to ice. She started to run.
The blood trail had almost entirely petered out by the time they got inside the building. Bethany cast a small light above her head and started up another set of stairs to a wooden upper level. Along with the others she explored the empty rooms but apart from some dusty boxes found nothing, and could see no further doors or exits apart from the way they'd come in. Just as she was starting to feel the grip of despair Leliana silently waved her over to the corner of the room they were in and pointed down to a small red stain outlining a trapdoor cut into the floorboards. This had to be it.
Bethany was first down the trapdoor, carefully dropping to the ground as silently as she could then taking stock of the room while she waited for the others. It was huge, a cavernous space lit with a mixture of filtered sunlight and magelight. Was that...shouting she could hear? Bethany could feel her fingernails digging into her palm in frustration, but she would be no use to her mother if she got herself killed by rushing in without thinking.
She was glad of her caution a few minutes later, when the demons started to attack.
By the time they'd found Alessa's body, and Quentin's notes, and had seen the bizarre shrine to the woman who looked like her mother, Bethany understood too well what fate her mother faced. Her mother's locket held tight in her hand, she opened the final door and at last saw him, the blood mage, the man who would murder her mother out of some misguided attempt to user her body to recreate his dead wife.
Quentin was crouched over a table, and on it was...a body. Bethany stared in horror: there was no doubt this time, it was Bethany's mother.
Bethany cast downwards, dragging the invisible lines of force pulling through the ground to gather under the mage, holding him still where he stood.
He made a strangled sound of protest, but before he could cast anything Salma blasted him with a blue wave of anti-magic power. He staggered back slowly, his motions sluggish.
"No," cried Quentin, his voice distorted. "I'm so close! Let me finish!"
Keran came at him from the other side, lunging at him with his sword. Quentin threw up a protective shield and suddenly the room was full of shades. Leliana and the three templars regrouped to fight them, but Bethany only had eyes for the woman on the table.
Her mother was in some sort of suspended sleep, like the state Keran had been in when they'd rescued him. Bethany held her hand above her mother's mouth: she was still breathing, but very slowly. There was a horrible array of knives set up beside her, but the only blood Bethany could see was a few stains on her clothes, presumably obtained while "helping" Quentin when he had pretended to be injured. It looked like they'd arrived just in time.
All Bethany wanted to do was wake her mother up and take her away from here, to somewhere safe. But as much as it hurt to admit, she didn't have time to wake her, and under the circumstances her mother was probably safer asleep. Bethany turned towards her mother's would-be murderer and prepared to fight.
Bethany was not a bloodthirsty woman by nature, but Quentin was going to die.
It was not a protracted battle. Quentin was a powerful mage, but there's only so much blood magic can do when the odds are five to one. Lacking her staff, Bethany reached her hand to his chest and threw him to the ground with a combination of physical and magical force, his knees hitting the dirt with a satisfying crack. "You...bastard," she said. "How dare you..."
"Bethany! To your left!" cried Leliana. Bethany looked up and barely dodged the claws of the desire demon that was all that was left of one of Quentin's earlier victims. By the time Bethany had taken care of the demon, Quentin was dead.
Bethany spent a moment looking at his corpse with a strange sense of dissatisfaction. Then she rushed to her mother. Bethany closed her eyes and cleared her mind, trying to dispel the magic binding her mother in sleep without causing any harm.
Once she was done, Bethany looked down, and held her breath. Her mother's skin was looking much less pale, but she still seemed to be asleep.
"Mother," said Bethany. "Mother, can you hear me?"
"Mmm?" said her mother. "Marian? Have you come to save me? I knew you would."
"No, mother, it's me, Bethany," she said, joy overcoming her mild annoyance at always being the second Hawke sister.
"Bethany?" said Leandra, opening her eyes. "Oh, Bethany, thank you. I'm sorry, I knew it would be one of my brave daughters who came and saved me."
"I forgive you," laughed Bethany, and leaned down and gave her a hug.
"Is he...dead then?" she asked, looking across to the scattered remains on the floor.
"Yes," said Bethany. "Very much so."
"I almost feel sorry for him," said Leandra. "He was such a sad man, and he obviously missed his wife very much." She rubbed her eyes. "But I'm still glad that he is dead." She shuddered. "That was...not an experience I wish to repeat."
Bethany helped her off the table, and Bethany's mother looked around at the others. "Ah, and Leliana of course, thank you as well. And who else do we have here...templars?" Her voice quavered slightly, and Bethany could feel her mother's hand tense on her arm.
"Nice ones," said Bethany.
"If they saved me, they must be nice," said Leandra. "Thank you ever so much."
"Just doing our job," said Keran, with a smile. "Now let's get you back to the surface, and we can report back to Meredith that there's one less blood mage stalking the city."
"I told you there was a blood mage," said Salma.
"Lucky guess," said Jacob.
In a further stroke of luck, just past Quentin's grisly workspace they found a door leading back up to Lowtown, and it wasn't long before Leliana, Bethany, and her mother were back at the Amell estate.
Leandra collapsed gratefully onto a sofa and sipped at the warm milk she'd been given by a concerned cook. "Remind me not to be so quick to help random strangers," she said. "Or at least not to follow them into abandoned foundrys."
"Did you not suspect anything before then?" asked Bethany.
"Oh, most certainly," said her mother. "But by that point he had quite a grip on my arm, and from his mutterings I got the feeling that calling for help might make him desperate and violent. So I decided that it would be wisest to play along quietly and wait for one of my marvellous children to come rescue me. Which you did." She beamed proudly at Bethany.
Bethany blushed. She wasn't used to being the great hero, it was all rather intimidating. "It wasn't just me who rescued you..." she began.
She was interrupted by Bodahn giving a soft knock on the door. "Mistress Amell," he said in an apologetic tone, "your brother is here to see you."
"Oh no, Gamlen!" she said. "I completely forgot! He must have been so worried!"
Bethany's uncle stomped into the room and then glared at his sister. He didn't look particularly worried. "Where have you been? he asked. "Hours I've been sitting at home, waiting, and yet here you are swanning about on the sofa without a care in the world. And then when I try to walk through Lowtown to come visit you there's all these templars about, making a fuss about blood mages or something. Not that you care about how hard life is for us ordinary people."
Bethany's mother blinked at him, and then took another sip of her milk. "Sit down, Gamlen," she said. "And let me tell you about my day."
When Marian arrived home from her meeting with the Viscount there was even more of an uproar, especially once she saw the lilies sitting forgotten in a vase on the sideboard. Bethany found herself the centre of attention again, and while it was nice to be appreciated she quickly decided that she was glad that Marian was usually the one in the spotlight. Bethany certainly didn't feel like a hero, she'd just done what anyone would do, and all this praise made her feel uncomfortable. Was this how Marian felt all the time? Eventually things calmed down, and Anders came to check that Bethany's mother was genuinely unharmed by her ordeal, and Bethany managed to escape to the garden with Leliana.
The day had been warm and sunny, and the night was still balmy, a cool breeze rustling through the leaves of the trees overhanging the little bench by the fountain where they sat. Bethany let out a sigh and rested her head on Leliana's shoulder.
"Well, at least we got to spend today together in the end," she said.
"Very true," said Leliana, gently rubbing her back. "Although this was not quite what I had in mind."
"Sorry about dragging you into all this," said Bethany, giving Leliana a kiss on the shoulder. "But I am so glad that you were with me. If you hadn't been there...I'm not sure my mother would still be alive."
"Do not underestimate yourself," said Leliana. "I did very little in the end. And I am glad that I could help, I owe my life to your family, it is only fair that I repay the favour. You are all very dear to me, I would do anything to keep you safe."
"And I you," said Bethany, smiling at her. Leliana smiled back, but she looked a little pensive. Bethany stayed quiet, giving her space to say whatever it was she had to say.
"Do you think you will work with them, these templars who wish to help the mages?" she asked at last.
"Yes, I think so," said Bethany. "I've been so lucky, so protected all my life, I think I have a responsibility to use the gifts I've been given to help others. And the Gallows...Circles aren't pleasant places at the best of times, but that place is a prison. Maybe if we can find a way for the mages and templars to work together, we can make things better."
"Maybe," said Leliana. "I hope so." She leaned her head lightly against Bethany's. She still gave off an aura of tension. The breeze stilled, and the garden became quiet enough that Bethany could hear faint sounds from inside the house. From what she could tell, Isabela, Varric and Marian were celebrating Bethany's mother's escape from death with a drunken serenade.
"Do you remember my friend, Revered Mother Dorothea?" asked Leliana.
"From Lothering? Of course!" said Bethany. "I always liked her. And you know her from Orlais, as well, yes?"
"Indeed," said Leliana. "She is nearly as dear to me as you are, when I thought all hope was lost she saved me, and reminded me that the Maker is there for all his children. We still write to each other, she and I, little things mostly." Leliana sat up. "Do you know much of the politics of the Grand Chantry in Orlais? How the Divine is chosen?"
"Um," said Bethany, wondering at this sudden change of subject. "Not really. Divine Beatrix has been the Divine for as long as I can remember. Is it decided by the Grand Clerics after the last Divine has died?"
"Ah, no, but that is a common misconception," said Leliana, smiling. She seemed more at ease now, back in the comfortable role of storyteller. "They used to choose the Divine that way, but it became very corrupt, there were all sorts of scandals. Grand Clerics would take bribes or face blackmail, and some of the women who became Divine...well, it was the Maker's will, but they are not the women I would have chosen. Some say that one of them was secretly a man! Anyway, it was eventually decided that the Divine herself should choose her successor, with the name only to be revealed after her death. That way, her choice was between her and the Maker."
"I see," said Bethany.
"Maker willing, it will be a long time before Divine Beatrix's successor is chosen," said Leliana. "But she is old friends with Revered Mother Dorothea, and some say that Dorothea herself will be chosen next as Divine. The Grand Clerics are not happy with this, they have been harassing my poor friend and trying to blacken her name, they would rather the Divine be someone they feel they can control."
"Oh my," said Bethany. She tried to imagine sensible Revered Mother Dorothea from Lothering as the Divine of the Grand Chantry. "Do you think it's true?"
"Who can say?" said Leliana. "Noone knows but the Divine herself. But she has certainly been working more closely with the Revered Mother, and asking her advice." Leliana laughed. "She says it is quite scary, to have the ear of the Divine. But as you said yourself, when we are given a gift, we have a responsibility to use it to help others."
"Yes," said Bethany. "And yes, that must be quite scary! I don't know how I would handle that sort of influence. I think I'd always end up asking other people for advice myself."
Leliana held up a finger with a smile. "Exactly!" she said. "And so she writes to me, and her other friends, to ask what is happening in Kirkwall, and in all the other places the Chant is sung."
"Oh," said Bethany. Then, as she thought back over the earlier parts of their conversation, "Oh. Is that why you were asking about the templars? So that you could report back to the Revered Mother?" Bethany was sure that Leliana would never deliberately put any of them in danger, but it was still...disturbing, to think of her as indirectly reporting things to the Divine.
"Not like that!" said Leliana. "I would never betray a confidence, or act as a spy. I love you, I would never take advantage of your trust in that way. But you must understand, the Revered Mother is as concerned about the oppression of mages as we are, and she has been greatly disturbed by what I have told her of their treatment in Kirkwall. Unfortunately, until today, it seemed there was no way to oppose that oppression without supporting those like Anders who would undermine the Chantry's control completely."
"So she would support these templars, then?" asked Bethany. "And oppose the Knight Commander?"
"Not directly," said Leliana. "She does not have that sort of power. But you would be surprised by how much can be done indirectly. If there is some way to help, I am sure she will offer it. Information does not flow only one way, you know."
"I see," said Bethany. Leliana made a good point: having a friend with the ear of the Divine could definitely be useful, especially when the Grand Cleric in Kirkwall refused to act. "Well, thank you for telling me. And I will keep you updated about anything I learn from the Circle. I trust you to know what details to leave out to keep people safe."
"Of course," said Leliana, smiling, and she gave Bethany a kiss. Bethany leaned into the kiss, Leliana's lips were warm and comforting.
"Do you think we can really change things here?" she asked.
"Who can say?" said Leliana. "The Maker has his plan, all we can do is try to follow his will as well as we are able. But there is always room for hope."