Knight-Captain Greagoir watched from the opposite side of the street as his fellow Templar walked up to the door of the house and knocked. He had an equal measure of appreciation and dislike for this part of the job; while he hated to see families torn apart in this manner and even play a role in it, he was always relieved to know that this might allow them to protect the innocent better and hopefully save someone from themselves.
The unfortunate family had just recently moved to Ferelden from the Free Marches and it looked as though they were former nobility. Greagoir watched as his companion briefly spoke to the woman who had answered the door, even from here he could see that her striking blue eyes were still bloodshot and puffy from crying and her dark hair just hastily tied into a bun, wisps of it still trailing at odd angles. A man came to the door to stand close behind her, his expression seemed slightly glazed but arms gently reached out to comfort the woman. She detached herself from him and entered the house again while the Templar quietly spoke with the man.
Many of the people who walked by shot glances of pity at the house, but there was the occasional look of disgust coupled with angry muttering, as some whispered to each other while watching the proceedings with suspicion. Such was the stigma against those who were unfortunate enough to have something like this happen to them or their families, those unfortunate enough to receive the gift of magic.
The Knight-Captain watched all of this from his post; it was always the same. Theirs was a thankless job, to watch over the mages, yet it was necessary: even with the power of mages having done much good in the world, it also had the potential to wreak unimaginable chaos. This was due to the mage’s innate ability to access the Fade, the incorporeal realm that was separated from this one by the Veil.
All sentient beings travelled to the Fade when they dreamed, with the exception to dwarves, who it was hypothesised that due to their constant exposure to lyrium – magic in its purest form – they had been made immune to most spiritual influences. Unlike others though, mages had the ability to remain conscious in the Fade. This allowed them to exert some control over reality, drawing the often unwanted attention of demons. These demons would then try to possess the mage and use them as a conduit to the real world, which would normally result in the mage becoming an insane monstrosity.
Greagoir had encountered several of these so called ‘abominations’ as a Templar and it had been a harrowing experience each time; the bodies of the former mages normally bloating up into gruesome creatures of frightening strength and magical prowess. This was why the Circle of Magi had been formed under the oversight of the Chantry; so that mages could have the opportunity to learn to master themselves, and if that should fail, that there were those trained in the grim art of bringing down a magical foe, namely the Templars, at hand - should the need arise.
The Templar’s thoughts returned to the task at hand when he saw the woman re-appear in the doorway, this time steering a young girl by the shoulders. The girl had a striking resemblance to her mother and Greagoir could already tell that one day she would test the vows of many an initiate. She was holding a pack to her chest, arms clinging to it as if it were all the security she had left in the world. The woman leaned down to hug her daughter one last time, whispering something to her before she nodded to Greagoir’s companion. The Templar nodded, and used one gauntleted hand to steer the girl from the doorway, gently guiding her to her new future.
The Knight-Captain took one last glance at the couple before walking out into the road to join the other two. Now to journey to Lake Calenhad and the Tower; it would take several days, but he had planned for them to join a trading caravan for most of the trip, so that it would hopefully be shorter and safer than usual.
Elisa Cousland looked out over the parade grounds of castle Highever from the window of her room. Down below in the dust, her twin brother was sparring with one of the squires, their wooden practice swords clanking off each other’s weapons, shields and occasionally armour. If one had stood the two of them next to one another they’d easily have seen the resemblance, both of them having golden blonde hair and pale blue – almost grey - eyes; when they had been younger they had even sometimes pretended to be each other to play pranks on their tutors and castle staff. The last time they tried that it no longer managed to achieve the desired result as Elisa grew to look more like her mother and Erik like his father.
She sighed, wishing that their mother would return, so that she could also resume her training. Their mother had been visiting one of the local Bann’s wives for the past week and Elisa was growing restless. Since while she had to continue all her lessons concerning matters of court and other things a noble’s daughter ought to know, her lessons in martial arts had been suspended for the duration of her mother’s absence.
She was never allowed to join the boys, since that was considered ‘unlady-like’ and her mother was the only one proficient in the art of combat that she was being taught; one that relied more on subtlety and speed opposed to brute force, since few women would be able to stand on par with men in that department. Elisa tried to return to reading the book she had taken from her grandfather’s study, but her attention was drawn again to the window when she heard the boys below burst into laughter.
Erik was sitting back on the floor, a page, that Gilmore boy with that fiery hair standing over him, offering his hand. The young Cousland gripped it and was pulled back to his feet, still laughing. “My lord is as benevolent as ever,” Gilmore said, bowing mockingly before the young noble. “Ever willing to grace the ground with his arse’s presence.”
“Careful there Gilmore, I might just grace your arse with the presence of my foot.” Erik said, still chuckling.
“My lord’s generosity humbles me.”
Both boys looked up when they heard a giggle. Elisa was leaning out of the window, “Whatever will Nan say if she knew the language you two were using in the presence of a lady?” Her clear voice rang down.
The squire’s face turned red in embarrassment as he fiddled with the hilt on his practice sword, Erik on the other hand looked around nonchalantly. “What lady? …Oww!”
Gilmore burst out laughing again as a book from above landed on his companion’s head.
Leandra looked over to the table where Sorana and Malcolm were sitting; her daughter was fiddling with some trinket the stern man had given her while he was penning another of his letters. Carver and Bethany – their youngest - were sitting on the floor playing with some carved animals. She was about to turn back to her cooking with a content smile when the trinket Sorana had been inspecting lit up with a dull red glow. The girl gasped, dropping it on the table.
Malcolm looked up from his letter, “Aha, that went faster than I had expected - well done girl.”
He pointed a finger at the trinket and a small spark of electricity jumped from him to it and it stopped glowing. “Let’s see if you can do it again, quicker this time.”
It was a curious-looking artifact: a sphere of jet or onyx that was clamped by golden spines. On the bottom a small section protruded which looked like it was supposed to slot into something. Sorana was carefully tracing her fingers along the spines again, trying to recall what exactly it was that she had done that had caused the item to light up.
Leandra looked at this exchange, her face set in an expression of mild annoyance. “Dear, you know I don’t like it when you do magic in the house.”
“But it was hardly more than a static shock!” he responded with feigned indignance.
“Yes, well… now that you have Sorana to deal with as well I think we should set up more formal rules about it. Firstly, because while I know you can keep the casting to a minimum we don’t know how long it will be before she is in complete control of it…”
“Ah, don’t worry so much about it, Love. She’s a natural; besides we’re far enough from town so as to not have to worry about people peeking in through the shutters and ratting to the Templars.”
Not quite satisfied with his answer, she looked at the subject of their discussion again, concern written plainly across her face, before returning to preparing their evening meal. She prayed that neither of the younger children would end up having to deal with the same difficulties their eldest would inevitably have to face.
Young Carver had dropped his toys when the trinket had first started glowing, enamoured by the lights. Malcolm ruffled the boy’s hair good naturedly as he tried to peek over the edge of the table to see. “Let’s hope you’ll never have to deal with that thing lad.”