Twisted, dark, flashes of green, a golden figure. Images, voices, thoughts, sliding through her like water over rock. Pain lancing through her, covering everything in green, it hurt. She was asleep or had been asleep, now she was waking from an eternal slumber. Blissful, peaceful, shattered, wrong. Voices, those were real, in the waking world. She was becoming more aware, laying on her back, cold hard stone beneath her. The pain was real too, it came from her left hand, vibrating all the way to her muddled mind. It was wrong, too much was wrong, she couldn't think why.
Something touched her arm, it was all she needed to escape the tenrdils of sleep that clung to her. A face above her, grey stone enclosure, cold, she took it in trying to make sense of what her eyes saw. An unknown feeling worked its way through her, twisting around her heart, making it beat faster. This was the wrong thing she had sensed before, now it shot through her, expeling itself with a loud crack. The voices shouted, excitement, surprise, fear. She named the wrong thing, it pulled at her, wrapping her up in a thick, cold blanket.
“Impossible!” a voice floated in, pitched high.
The face she had first seen came back into view, high cheekbones, distinctive jaw line, no hair, pointed ears, watchful eyes. A man, an elf. She didn't know if she thought or felt these details, she didn't know if one was seperate from the other.
“The mark reconnects her to the Fade.” the elf spoke, quiet, gentle, curious.
She pushed herself up, it hurt, muscles sore and rigid, complaining. She was surrounded by grey stone, and metal bars. The elf sat on the floor next to her, on the other side of the bars was a woman, angry, confused, her dark eyes glaring.
“We won't hurt you da'len.” the one next to her spoke. “Do you have a name?”
A name? Yes she had one of those, something that seperated her from the others. An image of a boy danced in her mind, teasing, calling her. “Nova.” she repeated the name.
“Hello Nova.” he was warm and sturdy, a rock touched by the sun. “My name is Solas.”
A whisper of movement pulled her attention, another women appeared, calm and cold. She had red hair and grey eyes much like Nova herself, the vaguest sense of memory tingled within her, she couldn't name it.
“Take Varric and clear the way to the rift.” The angry women with dark eyes, spoke. “We will join you shortly.”
Solas stood slowly, reluctant, worried. “Try not to frighten her if you please.” he gestured to the left.
Nova followed the simple hand gesture with her eyes, the wall was scorched black, the stones crumbled. She remember the release of fear, crackling and exploding with a flash of purple. Did I do that? Again, something felt wrong, it was all to muddled, she couldn't put it together in her mind but her heart sang a single word. Magic!
Nova stared at herself in the mirror, red curls framed her slender face. Large eyes, high cheekbones, a slender nose, stared back at her. An elfy face, pointed ears poking out of the massive curls. It was weird seeing her face, aged but still young, she wondered when was the last time she'd looked into a mirror. The image was ruined by the tatoo an her forehead, the sunburst mark claiming her as property of the Chantry and the circles.
She lifted her hand, watching the way the green light flashed, it hurt less now that the Breach was stable. It had broken her curse, awakening her from her long slumber, bringing back her magic. Tranquility. The word echoed, still tinged with fear, a constant threat finally enacted. The fate she had suffered instead of her friend. Jowan. He betrayed her, leaving her with the curse he had run away from.
“My lady Herald?”
Cassandra was softer now, not so angry now that she new Nova had no memories of what happened at the temple. Indeed Nova struggled to remember a lot of things, her tranquil life was an elusive dream she could not hold onto. More memories of her childhood came everyday, she would be talking to Solas or Varric and then a spark of memory would come in a flash. Some were good, some were not.
“How may I help you Seeker?” her polite mannerisms were not something she remember having as a child, this must have been a lingering habit from tranquility.
“We would like you to join us, closing the Breach is impossible without you.”
“Of course.” She picked up the half empty cup of tea beside her and downed it in two gulps. Leliana had given her the tea to sooth her nerves, laced with a sleeping drought it kept her functioning as normally as possible. Her emotion and magic both came in random spurts, leaving her exhausted afterwards.
She followed the Seeker to the chantry, a small prickle of fear peircing her gut. The Inquisition had formed quickly after the conclave, the last week being a strange whirlwind of emotions and headaches. And a lot of lightning, as intense anger and fear made her lash out without meaning to. That was the only reason why she agreed to drink the tea Leliana gave her.
Nova again turned her attention to the mark, to her it said enchantment, the magic not so different then the runes she had once crafted. Though this one was infinitely more powerful.
“Does it trouble you?” the seeker asked.
“Your in big trouble this time.” The whisper of memory echoed in the back of her mind. “Not really.” she answered. No, the mark did not trouble her, it was a blessing, bestowed by Andraste or the old gods or just a spell gone wrong. She did not know or care.
“Solas believes with more power poured into the mark we could close the Breach, the same level of power that created it.”
Nova smiled, Solas had been a constant presence by her side, calming her when she was to worked up to think and everyone else was tired of dealing with her. He had been against her drinking the tea, “You are finally you again, don't let them take that away.” She had promised it would be temporary, just until everything stopped being so big, so bright, so much.
They entered the back room of the Chantry, it was set up as their new headquarters. A large table taking up the center of the room, a map spread open across it. Three people were gathered around the table talking animatedly, Leliana was one of them. Nova still could not place where she might of seen the woman before, the memory covered in syrupy, sleepiness.
A muscular blond man and a pretty dark woman stopped their talking when she entered behind Cassandra. She had seen them around Haven, mostly talking to Cassandra or, in the man's case, out in the field training people to fight.
“Nova, this is Josephine Montiliyet,” Cassandra pointed to the pretty dark women. “She is our Ambassador.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you,” Josephine smile, warm and friendly. Calm but not in the same way as Leliana or Solas, they were both like the quiet stillness before a storm, she was like a cool pond, deep and inviting.
“And this is Commander Cullen, he commands our military.”
“We have met before,” The Commander smiled slightly. “A long time ago.”
Sir Cullen, “I am glad you made it through.” An image of a gangly boy, barely able to fit into his templar armour, came to her mind. His face too echoed across the years, the same but so different. Something else pricked at her memories, screaming, blood, pain, “Nova run, get help!”
“Cullen,” she whispered. “You're old.”
A flitter of emotions, to quick for Nova to name, flickered across his face, “I'm... what?”
Leliana's laugh was light and musical, “Indeed our commander is pretty and old.”
“I am younger than all three of you, and I'm not pretty.” Cullen's face turned pink, embarassment, familiar.
“Not this again.” Cassandra to was trying to hide a smile, “We have work to do.”
She turned to Nova, “There is a chantry mother by the name of Giselle, she wishes to meet with you. We would like to know if you are up to the task?”
“A mother?” Nova asked, confused. “What about the Breach?” Miles away, she could still feel its tug, pulsing through her veins, quiet, subtle, beautiful, dangerous.
“We need to gather the mages before we can take care of that.” Leliana answered. “We are uncertain how to at this time.”
“I still disagree,” Cullen said, “The Templars could serve just as well, weaken the breach, suppress it.”
“I was a templar, I know what their capable of.”
“Enough,” Cassandra sighed, “Let us focus on the problem we can solve, the chantry must be dealt with first.”
Nova's senses were buzzing like bees, to much talk, to many emotions and words to process. How anyone kept it all straight, she didn't know, it all hurt to much. Things still echoed with wrongness at times, a flicker in someones eyes she didn't understand or a feeling she could not name.
“I can go see Mother Giselle.” her voice cracked, it still did not sound like it belonged to her. They let her leave after that, talking about important stuff she would not understand. She sought out Solas, the first face she had seen after waking. He was by the cabin to the right of the apothocary, a place that was familiar to her, she had once brewed potions and loved the way that building smelled.
“Solas?” she prounced the name slowly, thinking about the way it sounded. Names were intersting things, it was like picking a random sound and deciding that sound was you.
“Da'len.” his greeting simple and quiet, a sturdy presence amongst a sea of emotions.
Nova could not think of what she should say, thoughts and feeling were hard to seperate. She said the wrong thing earlier to Cullen, she recongized it now. “I think I offended Cullen?” she meant to say that to herself, it came out in a rush,
“I think he is offended by your very existence.” Bitterness, anger, she could name that.
“Why?” she asked, how could one be offended that someone existed?
He did not answer right away, struggling, changing inside, going calm again. “That was unworthy of me, I will not speak ill of others before you can form your own opinion them.”
“I don't understand.”
Sadness as he looked at her, Nova tugged at her hair, she was nervous and cluttered inside. “I am not right, not what I should be, am I?”
“Through no fault of your own.”
No fault of her own? “They're going to make me tranquil, they'll take away everything that I am!” No, it wasn't her fault, she had tried to help, had broken the rules for him and he had left her to pay the consequences. “We only have each other.” “I will always be there for you, I promise.” Little fingers wrapped together, tears gone, hope remaining.
The tears on her face were real, not a memory. Nova wiped at them, curious and sad at the same time. Solas noticed, concern, anger and guilt? His eyes soft, “I am sorry da'len, this should never of happened.”
Nova didn't know what this was, she didn't know a lot of things. The mark pulsed, drawing her attention to it. “When we close the Breach, will I go away again?”
“I... no, I do not believe so.” Solas took her hand, soothing its sting with his magic.
The mark didn't rip her apart like it had before, but always hurt, needles pricking her skin. She liked it, it reminded her she was real. Nova lifted her other hand, imitating the spell he used. The flow of mana calm and beautiful, not like the lightning created by fear. Solas smiled at her, rarely pleased by anything she did.
“Your magic is green, mine is yellow.” she pointed out.
Amusement crinkled his eyes, “Indeed it is da'len.”
“Why isn't all magic the same color?” her teacher gave her annoyed look. “Why do you ask so many question?” They never liked it when she asked questions, or pointed out things that no one else noticed. Nova pulled her hand away, “I'm sorry.”
“For saying things.”
Anger again, brief but sharp. “Never apologize for being you.” Solas was firm but kind.
Nova nodded, there was no familiarity in a order like that. Not an order. She realized, Solas would not order her to do anything, her pulse quicked as she also realized if he did, she did not have to listen. I am free.
Cassandra woke her early the next moring, it was time to go to the Hinterlands to visit the Mother. Nova was excited for the chance to see the world, she hadn't cared to notice on the way to the Conclave. She was also happy that Varric and Solas came with them, the Seeker was still a little scary for her to be alone with. Nova ran ahead of the group, finding new things to look at and trying to get a closer look at the fennecs and nugs.
Snow piled high around them, falling gracefully from the sky, it was beautiful and cold. Soft sunlight filtered through the trees, colors so vibrant it brought tears to her eyes. There was no color before, or at least she hadn't seen it. Nova thought she might have been blind, shapes and darkness before, now light and beauty everywhere. She trailed her fingers along a rock, it felt different from snow or grass, ruff but smooth all at once.
“Don't get out much, do you?” Varric walked beside her, naming the things she could not.
“We use to but someone left who wasn't suppose to, then they said no more.”
“Imagine that.” Varric was amused but not happy, “A mage running away from the Circle.”
“Some of them didn't listened when the templars said no. Hey look a goat!” The creature startled and ran away, huffing in fear.
Varric chuckled, “I don't think things will be dull with you around, Starlight.”
“Never dull, been bored enough, let's be exciting!” She ditched the main path to run through a snow drift.
They walked for hours, Varric telling stories that made her laugh until her eyes watered. When the sun reached its highest point they stopped for a rest, while Solas started a fire and cooked, Varric taught her how to make a person of snow. Cassandra called it a snowman, Varric insisted it was a dwarf until Nova added sticks for ears turning it into an elf.
Her excitement could not be tampered by the long tiring trek, they kept going and going and going. The Breach getting further away and the snow turned to grass, each footstep bringing more things to see. It wasn't until nearly dark that Nova's good mood disappeared, legs aching and groaning as they set up camp. She knew she should help but she didn't feel good, her skin hurt, every bit not covered by clothes burning and iching. Red to look at, warm to the touch, she curled up by the fire groaning, hurting, irritable. Sick and feverish, she whimpered, couldn't the others see she was burning alive?
“Here, take this.” Solas offered her a little jar, greenish liquid sloshing inside.
Nova hissed at him like Mr. Wiggums, the tower cat, use to when he was annoyed, “Leave me to die.”
He quirked an eyebrow, surprised, amused. “Do you often hiss at those who offer help?”
“Yes, maybe, I don't know.” Nova was annoyed by the whining in her own voice. Did it matter? She was sick and dying.
“Atish'an, da'vheraan.” he place the jar next to her. “The elfroot potion will make you feel better.”
She almost didn't take it, determind to be stubborn and annoyed, but her skin hurt to much for that. Yanking the stopper out, she downed the potion eagerly, it tasted earthy and slightly bitter. The effects made her skin tingle, the pain subsiding in minutes.
The next few days were much the same, only now she wore a hood and gloves to keep away the sun's glare. She could not feel the tugging of the Breach anymore and the snow melted into soft, luscious grass. On the third day of travel, a noise carried on the breeze reached her ears, loud wordless voices, metal ringing, curious and frightening. Cassandra drew her sword as they slipped through the tall rocks. People on the otherside, running, yelling, fighting. Swords and ice, bows and fire, mages and templars. The war everyone spoke of.
“Stay behind us.” Varric spoke to her, not an order but a desire.
She stayed while the others rushed to break up the fighting, Solas' magic warming the air, Varric's crossbow singing loudly in his hands, Cassandra drawing attention. Too much happening at once, Nova's mind hurt trying to keep track off it all. A burst of ice from that mage, an arrow from that templar, Inquistion soldiers trying to help the weaponless people flee. Frightening, fascinating.
A shout to her left drew Nova's attention. A man rushed at her, sword held high, wordless shout on his lips. Danger, he intended to harm her. She shouted for Varric, he was nowhere near, nobody was, Nova scrabbled backwards, fear digging its nasty claws into her. She tripped, falling, heart pounding, a familiar tug and then bright red light. The man screamed, fire starting from inside him, eating through his skin. He dropped his sword, falling to his knees an arms length infront of her, eyes wide with horror.
She heard his screams echoing inside her head even after he stopped and laid still. Fire, magic. It had come from her, horror and fear, the light in his eyes going dim, she kept seeing it inside, even though he was blackened and burned on the ground outside. Dead, I made him dead. It was too much, her breathing became rapid, she could not get enough air.
“Shit, Nova can you here me?!”
Light in his eyes no more, fire, screaming, pain. She couldn't breath, choking, gasping, the blackened lifeless man staring up at her. Something touched her shoulder, a face filling her vision, someone softly talking, worried. Light going dim. Not that man's face, Varric, eyes full and bright. Alive and worried, scared for her.
“I killed him.” Tears hot and heavy splashed on her cheeks.
“It's alright.” Varric comforted, pain and sorrow inside. “He would of killed you, it was self defense.”
Not alright, never alright. Nova had seen death before, she knew but couldn't remember. Swords and magic, beasts and demons. No, she did remember, she just didn't feel it before. It hurt now, feeling the past instead of thinking it.
The Seeker was there beside her too, “I'm so sorry Nova, I didn't see him coming.” Anger directed inward instead of out.
Nova swallowed hard, limbs felt heavy and shaky. “I could die.” New knowledge, strange and scary.
“Not today, Starlight.” Varric assured her.
Not today, almost did, blood dripping from my side. She remember a man with dark hair and thick eyebrow, “You use to be fun, now only your blood is worth anything.” A vile, ugly twisted creature rose from her blood. “Death and monsters, Solona's eyes went dim just like his.”
“Can you hear the wind, da'len?” Solas knelt beside her, holding her hands. “The birds chirping?”
“Birds?” There were no birds in the towers, only blood. She had watched them die and hadn't cared.
“Yes, you hear them? Can you name something else you hear?”
Screaming? Crying? No not here, not now. Water, she could hear water trickling, a creek. “Water.”
“Good. Look up, tell me what you see.” Solas instructed, kind, firm, always knowing what to say.
Nova looked up, she could see the sky and clouds. “Blue and white sky, fluffy clouds heavy with snow. The sun glinting behind.”
“Can you stand?” he asked.
She nodded, with his help, she climbed unsteadily to her feet. “Look at me, da'len, can you do that?”
“Yes.” she did, keeping her eyes on his. Solas walked backwards, holding her hands, asking questions. Nova followed, her hands still shook but the pulsing fear didn't bring images of death and blood anymore. Questions helped, keeping her focused, occupied.
They finally stopped walking, settling down in a patch of trees, quiet and cool. Solas handed her a jug of water, “I am going to start a fire.” he said, watching her for any signs of lingering panic. “Do want to eat?”
Fire from me, consuming flesh. Nova squeezed her eyes shut, “Just the tea please.”
“Normallly I would try to persuade you otherwise...” She could hear the frown in Solas' voice. “But perhaps it is necessary for now.”
She was calm by the time Varric and Cassandra joined them, her sense dulled by the tea. Both of them being comforting and kind, making her feel awful in a completely new way.
“Come on, Mother Giselle should be nearby.” Cassandra led way through the little village.
Nova tried to pay attention to her surroundings, there was plenty of people and buildings but not as much as Haven, a strange sense of relief and hope filled the air.
They found Mother Giselle comforting an injured man, her face wizened and kind. “Turned to noble purpose their magic is no more evil than your blade.”
Nova frowned, memories of chantry sisters always telling her magic was a curse, floating through her. The Mother come to her, dipping her head respectfully, “The Herald of Andraste?” she inquired.
“This is her.” Cassandra comfirmed. “Nova.”
“What you said to that man...?” she gestured to the injuried person, now being healed by a mage. “I thought Andraste hated mages?”
Lips pressed tight together, disapproval? “Andraste never hated any of the Maker's children.” Mother Giselle explained, her accent foreign and rich. “What Our Lady despised was those who used magic to rule through fear, causing harm to the innocent. We do not teach magic is evil, we teach pride is evil and it does not corrupt only mages.”
Pride? Yes that was a familiar lecture, pride of mages that caused the blights. She was not allowed to be proud when she mastered a new spell. The Maker cherishes a humble heart, Mother Belinda's favorite saying.
“But I did not ask you here to debate with me.” Mother Giselle continued. “I know of the chantry's denannoucment of you and I am familiar with those behind it. I won't lie to you, same of them are grandstanding, some are simple frightened. So many good people senselessly taken from us. They have only heard frightening tales of you.”
“I don't understand.” Nova head spun with the effort of keeping up with the Mother's words, “They are frightened of me?”
“The stories say Andraste was blessed with powers by the Maker, you bare the mark of Tranquility, blessed with power that should be impossible. The lies are less frightening then the truth, fear of being wrong is paralizing, it is easier to believe you are a trick, a lie.”
Nova lifted her hand, the glow of the mark could be seen even through her glove. Pulsing with life and magic, it had brought herself back, awakening the magic in her blood. Could it be a blessing from the Maker? Why would He choose her, an elf and a mage, of all people?
“Why do you believe I am more?” she asked, confused, scared of the answer.
“It is because I hope.” The Mother smiled kindly, “Go to them, convince the remaining clerics you are no demon to be feared.”
She glanced at the Seeker, it would be her descion, not Nova's. Cassandra nodded, “We will do that, thank you Mother Giselle.”
An old hurt, ached deep inside, Nova had once believed in the Maker had once spent hours pleading, praying, hoping. Nothing had happened, emptiness inside, the thing she asked for Andraste to stop still happened. Twice. She had also pleaded desperately for the Rite of Tranquility to be stopped.
They stayed at the crossroads that night, Nova abnormally quiet, lost in thought. Varric tried to sooth her aching with jokes and stories, he was worried for her, she did not know how to make him understand why she hurt so much inside. She didn't understand it. The fire crackled, casting a faint light in a small ring, nothing but shadow beyond. An image of the man burning, forever imprinted in her mind. The tea kettle whistled loudly, startled her back to the present, she added a couple drops of sleeping draught and elfroot to ease her sore muscles.
Solas settled beside her, quiet, reflective, not quite caring more curious. “Will you hiss at me again if I offer help?”
“Probably.” It was suppose to be funny, she couldn't bring herself to laugh. “Thank you for helping me earlier and... well all the times before. Sorry to be such a pain in the arse.”
“I would not describe you as such, Varric yes, but not you.” Solas smiled, teasing.
“Don't start with me, Chuckles.” Varric answered, he too teasing and smiling.
Nova wondered how they were always were able to joke, even after a long horrible day. “Ugh! I don't want to think anymore, can you tell me about the Fade?” she rubbed at her eyes, dislodging the annoying persistant thoughts.
“You could go there yourself.” Solas gave the tea in her hands a pointed look, disdain etched plainly in his eyes.
“I tried, it was too fuzzy.” She sipped at the tea. “And this makes everything stop hurting.”
“I can... respect that.” Solas frowned slightly. “What would you like to know?”
“I...don't know exactly...” Nova sighed, she couldn't even ask questions right anymore. She had thought Tranquility was a curse, maybe being awake was the real curse.
He seemed to understand, speaking words when she could not, talking of the breach and the veil, of a time when spirits could wonder freely between worlds. Describing the ancient city of Arlathan, Nova listened to both the words and the sound of the words, imaging what it would have been like to live in a world where she was not reviled, not seen as a thing. Not seen as a saviour, that was just as frightening as anything else she had experienced in her life.
“It must of been beautiful.” She hummed sleepily, eyes fluttering shut. She drifted off, grateful for the peace that sleep brought.
This chapter is dedicated to all my fellow pale skinned, red heads, who burn to easy and never tan. Those of you lucky enough to tan or never get sunburn, I hope the Dread Wolf haunts your dreams! Just kidding thanks for reading!
Elven translation thanks to Dragon Age Fandom Wiki and FenXShiral.
Atish'an da'vheraan = Peace little lion
Chapter 3: Fire
I had fun writing this chapter, hope y'all enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A voice called her name pulling Nova from her slumber, she tried to ignore it, wanting to enjoy her sleep for as long as possible. A hand an her arm, gently shaking her, “Wakey, wakey, sleeping beauty.”
She groaned, her muscles ached, legs throbbed, everything hurt, why did they have to walk so much? Prying open tired eyes, she glared at Varric who had the audacity to grin at her. Why wasn't he moaning in pain? Was it just her who hurt?
“Come on Starlight, you'll feel better with some food in your stomach.”
“Blech.” Eating didn't sound so good to her, it was even worse when she smelled the nasty stew Cassandra made.
Solas turned his nose up at it too, “To repeat our Herald, blech.”
“At least it ain't snails.” Varric offered her a bowl.
Nova accepted, poking suspiciously at the soupiness, it had hard chunks of meat and half cooked potatoes swimming around in it. “What is it?” she wrinkled her nose in disgusted.
“It will give you energy to travel.” Cassandra scowled, annoyed by the criticism.
“I think we should let Solas do the cooking.”
“Yes, we should.” Solas agreed, eyeing the stew like it might jump out of the pot and bite him.
“Ugh! Are all elves such picky eaters?”
Nova glanced at her fellow elf, there was a glitter of amusement in his eyes, “Perhaps we have more refined tastes.” he offered.
“I can't imagine how an apostate vagabond could have refined taste.”
“You'd be surprised Seeker.”
Nova took a cautious sip, the stew was bland and desperately needed some salt. Blech! She put the bowl down, she wasn't hungry anyway. Cassandra made an undignified sound in the back of her throat, “Fine, Solas can do the cooking.”
A small victory, attention quickly went back to her aches and pains, the mark stung like a thousand needles jabbed into her skin. She dug into their supplies, pulling out an elfroot potion, it's bitter, earthy taste was still better than the Seeker's stew. They were packing up and continuing the grueling walking before she was ready, each hour bringing only more pain and annoyance, and none of the beauty and joy of before.
She grew more and more irritable, snapping at anyone who tried to talk with her, ignoring all of Varric's attempts at humor. She was almost grateful when bandit attacked, feeding off of anger, frustration building inside. Varric tried to protect her, keep her away from the fighting. She pushed past him and set three men on fire at once, anger coursing through her blood. She hated them, she hated everyone. It didn't hurt this time when the men screamed in pain, exactly the opposite in fact, it made Nova feel powerful.
“Damn, Starlight, your cold today.” Varric was worried about her, always worried.
She glared, she didn't need him to be worried about her. Nova stomped ahead, anger and frustation making her insides sqirm and steam. Why do they treat me like a wounded animal? I could set fire to their shit faces with a thought. It was tempting, to starting burning and never stop. Burn everyone, Gregior, Irving, Jowan. They had taken her life away, it seemed only fair for her to do the same.
“Perhaps we should set camp early today.” She heard Solas murmur quietly to the Seeker.
They did, stopping hours before sunset. Nova paced as they set up the tents, her sore legs only further feuling her anger. She hurt everywhere, rigid mucsles, screaming, protesting, but to furious to stop moving. She imagined everyone from the Circle bursting into flames, even her friends who had never done her any wrong, she was angry at Solona for dying, angry at Cullen for being alive.
“Da'len, would you like to eat?” Solas broke through her murderous thoughts. Cautious, concerned, the stillness inside him that normal made her feel better only served to flame her anger.
“No, you stupid, old, knife ear!” She snapped, rage rearing it head. “Leave me alone.”
Flickering irritation in his eyes, “As you wish, child.” he was annoyed too, good, if she had to be upset everyone else should be too.
“Look kid, we now your having a bad day.” Varric tried to be soothing, reasonable. “But you haven't eaten all day.”
“I don't want to!” She yelled, rage spurting inside, surging out. Fire, bright and hot, tiniest bit of control keeping her from burning Varric alive. The camp fire burned brighter, then snuffed out leaving smoldering ash, her magic eating up all the wood. Varric started to talk, soothing, calm, all the things Nova did not want. Cassandra stopped him with a shake of her head.
“Let her be angry.” the Seeker understood, too well, red deep inside. “Come with me Nova, I know exactly what you need.”
“Uh Seeker, maybe that ain't -”
“Not all women are delicate flowers who need to cry about their feelings.” Cassandra retorted, sharp.
She followed the Seeker, glad to get away from Varric and Solas and their stupid condescending worry. Delicate flower she was not, Cassandra understood, Nova was powerful, burning bright inside and out. The Seeker led her into the trees, far away from the others, eyes sharp and knowing.
“Here.” the Seeker stopped, picking a sturdy branch off of the forest floor, offering it to Nova.
She took it, looking at the Seeker, puzzled, questioning. What was she susppose to do with a stick? Burn it? Eat it?
“I would suggest hitting a tree.” Cassandra answered the unasked question. “But you are free to do whatever you wish.”
“Really?” she narrowed her eyes, was this some kind of trick? It did sound like an interesting idea, soemthing strange gripped her inside, she realized she wanted to hit something. She did, experimenting at first, then growing faster, angrier.
Each hit sparked her anger, Nova let it. Thwack, thwack, thwack! The stick broke, Cassandra placed a new one in her hands right away. Thwack! Thwack! Anger building, rolling, escaping. It soon became enjoyable, relieving, Nova laughed. The Seeker joined her, both venting, frustration turning to relief. Anger spent, arms tired, a pile off broken sticks.
“Thank you!” She grinned at Cassandra. “This was fun!”
“It's been a pleasure Herald.” The Seeker returned her smile, sort of, he didn't look grumpy anymore which Nova took to mean the same thing.
The found their way back to the camp, they must have been gone for hours, darkness fallen like a velvet curtain. The tents were up, Solas already retired for the night, Varric adding a new log to the fire, “There you two are!” Relief, a grin spread across his face.
“Varric!” Nova greeted, laughing, she felt so much better, happiness inside. “Sorry I snapped at you!”
“Just glad to see you smiling again Starlight.” He gave Cassandra a look, curiousity, she could almost hear him screaming the questions in his head.
“Goodnight Varric.” The Seeker was smug, satisfied, glad to know something Varric did not. He would not get answers from Nova either, it would be much more fun to let him wonder. “Goodnight Varric.” She echoed, adding a lair of smugness to her voice. Tomorrow would be a much better day, she would make sure it was bright and cheerful.
Next one will be longer with more story and plot to it.
Edit: I lied, it totally doesn't.
Chapter 4: Person or Thing?
This chapter didn't quite go where I thought it would. Nova spoke too loudly and I had to listen.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Val Royeaux loomed in the distance, so close yet so far, the ship that brought them across the sea would dock within an hour. The trip across had been amazing, Nova had no words to describe the way it felt. The city she'd read about drew nearer with every breath, excitement and anticipation making her bounce on her toes. A true challenge considering the movement of the ship.
At last they docked, making their way off the ship and through the city, beautiful and colorful. The fancy, brightly colored outfits making Nova feel plain and ugly in her brown leathers. Music floated through the air, voices, people and... a crowd. Chantry clerics and nobles waiting for the dreaded Inquistion, waiting for her. Nova swallowed hard, staying close to Cassandra.
“Good people of Val Royeaux, hear me!” Mother Hevara was standing on a little platform her gestures grand, glaring but fear inside. “Together we mourn the Divine, her niave and beautiful heart silienced by treachery. You wonder what will become of her murderer? Wonder no more. Behold! The so called Herald of Andraste!”
Too many eyes turned to Nova, whispering, pointing, mocking. Too many emotions packed into such a tiny place, fear, hope, anger, sorrow. They mourned the Divine and marveled at Nova, could she be something more? She clung to the Seeker's arm, afraid she might drown before she could read and understand it all.
“We say this is a false prophet, a vile thing, a pretender. Tranquility can not be undone, the Maker would not send an elven criminal in our hour of need!”
“Go on, tell them your story.” Cassandra whispered, encouraging, ever faithful.
Still holding the Seeker's arm, Nova tried to speak sensible words, she tried to remember how to feel powerful. “Tranquil once, feeling nothing, no color or song. This woke me.” She lifted her hand, the mark bright as always. “I felt inside, I heard the song magic makes. Now we have this so we can close the Breach.” She was a pale shadow pretending to be powerful.
“It's true,” Cassandra spoke, confidant voice ringing across the plaza,“The Inquistion only seeks to end this madness before it is to late.”
“It is already too late.” Clinking, clattering armour. The templars stormed in, a dark heavy cloud wrapped around them. Wrongness, they were not what she remembered, darker, scarier. The Lord Seeker spoke, grand, loud, wanting. Nova listened, not to his words, to the thing that spoke quietly underneath. She could not name it.
She frowned, puzzled, maybe she was wrong. She didn't now much of anything and nobody else seemed to notice. The Templars stormed off, leaving behind a sense of hopelessness. Nova ran to the injuried Mother, a healing spell ready at her fingers. It didn't make sense for the Templars to leave, they always loved the Chantry, or at least they had years ago.
“This must please you greatly, Seeker Cassandra.”
“We only wish for help closing the Breach, this is not our doing but yours.”
“You had no part in forcing our hand?” The Mother reluctantly accepted Nova's healing, pain over pride. “Tell me, do you believe you are the Maker's chosen?”
Do I believe? Again not knowing, this was starting to become annoying. Nova chewed her lip, searching for the words that would best fit how she felt, perhaps it was simple. “I do not know.”
“That is oddly comforting.” The Mother sighed, “But I cannot believe. For you to be true a great many things must be wrong. And if you are false a great many things have failed.”
“Why must it be one or the other? Many thing are wrong and many things have failed.”
The Mother chuckled softly, tiredness inside. “You have a strange way of looking at the world.”
She patted the Mother's arm affectionately, leaving to join her... friends? the people she travelled with. Varric grinned, proud of her, Cassandra too. Solas looked at her like she was some strange creature whose purpose he could not fathom. That look always reminded her she was not quite what she should be, it also made her feel sqirmy inside. How am I suppose to know what I should be?
A whistle and a flash, an arrow sprouted from the ground at her feet. That was strange, she was fairly certain arrows didn't grow out of the ground. The Seeker drew her sword, looking for danger, an attacker. There was none, only the arrow with a red ribbon and a note. Nova unfolded it first noticing the doodles then the words.
“A baddie who wants to hurt me?”
Cassandra read over the note, “It may be worth looking into.”
Look in to it they did, Nova tried to throw herself into the excitement of the new city, she couldn't stop thinking about the Mother. The Maker would not send an elven criminal. Is that what I am? Their scavenger hunt of red things was only stopped briefly by another messanger, an Enchanter Vivienne wanted her attention as well. They found all three things easily enough, Cassandra interpreting the hidden clues.
“We should have just enough time to meet with both.” Varric grinned at Cassandra, “Think there might be wyverns at this party?” The Seeker's famous disgusted noise was her only response.
“Herald, if I might have a moment of your time?” A lady approached, another elf, dark haired and strangely quiet inside.
“Gand Enchanter Fiona?” Cassandra was surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“I heard of this little gathering and wanted to see the once Tranquil Herald for myself.” Here was one more person who felt wrong, more than one song echoed inside her, deep and hidden.
“If help for the Breach is what you seek, perhaps you should look to your own people.” The Enchanter was calm, assured.
“My own people? Tranquil have always been spat on by mages.” Nova scowled, her people were Varric and Cassandra and Solas, not unnamed mages who hated her.
“Perhaps on alliance with us could be the start in changing that? Consider yourself invited to Redcliffe, come talk with the mages so we may find justice for the Divine together.” The Enchanter bowed slightly, leaving a whisper of her presence behind.
A vile thing, a pretender. Nova could not forget the Mother's words, they rolled around inside her like rocks. A thing. Too many people had refered to her that way when she was tranquil, she herself had seen them as less than people. It had been hours since they had left Val royeaux, Sera and Vivienne would join them in Haven. They were interesting but she could not stop herself from thinking long enough to really talk with them.
Am I a person? She was sad inside, a longing for things to be clearer eating though her heart. Solas viewed spirits as people, was she a person too? They stopped for the night, eating food she did not taste, having conversations she did not hear. To lost in her anguish. She was always getting lost in something, fear or anger or joy or sadness.
“Alright Starlight, it's time for you to stop living in your head.” Varric sat beside her, she had nearly forgotten he was there. “What's on your mind?”
She wanted to talk, she wanted them to care but she was just a means to an end to them. Jowan had been her friend whom she could always talk to, but now she wondered just how much he had cared. She did everything for him, broke the rules, got into fights when the others teased him, took the blame for everything. He did nothing for her, now it seemed suspcious he decided to runaway the very day she past her Harrowing.
“Nothing.” She sighed, how would she even begin to explain?
“That's an awful lot of silence for nothing.”
She chewed on her lip, it was starting to hurt from doing that all day, maybe she could trust Varric. “What makes a person real?”
“Shit that's deep.” He rubbed a hand across his face, suddenly worried.
She regretted speaking, “I'm sorry, I shouldn't of asked.”
The others had heard her question, going quiet and turning to look at her. She felt an odd warmth spread to her ears and down her neck, the attention making her uncomfortable. She could not read their expressions, could not understand what they were feeling. A voice echoed in the back of her mind, questioning if she had ever been able too. Maybe she simple thought they felt that way because that is how she wanted them to feel.
“It's all good Starlight, we just weren't expecting that.”
“Because I don't think? I feel and rage and cry?” The words tumbled out, she wanted to stuff them back in.
“Not at all.” Cassandra spoke up, again Nova could not tell what she was feeling. “You have a unique way of viewing the world, it is all new to you and must be terrible frightening. But in spite of everything you have done well.”
“I am a pale shadow cast adrift from her tree.” She sighed, not encouraged by the Seeker's words. They were silent again, she wished she could see what they felt, it was like someone had dropped a thick veil over her eyes. She could only wonder if they mocked, or thought her stupid, perhaps they thought nothing of her at all. Would that be better or worst?
“I am curious,” Solas spoke. “What do you believe makes a person real?”
He was asking her? Nova chewed her lip, ouch, she really needed to stop doing that. “The Seeker's faith, Varric's wit?” She echoed his own words. “Flesh and blood? No, that's to simple. Passion and purpose perhaps? A mind to think with, a heart to feel with?”
None of these answers comforted her, they all said she wasn't real, she was not a person. Had not been a person since the day the lyrium brand touched her forehead.
“I always thought...” Cassandra was hestitant to share her thoughts, something that was not normal for the Seeker. “...Perhaps it is a Soul that makes a person?”
A Soul. Nova repeated to herself, she had read about souls, the old god dragons had souls, the ancient elves had learned how to place a part of themselves into glass vials. She had never thought of a soul as being something everyone had. She liked that idea, that would mean she was a person, had always been a person.
“I like that idea.” She smiled at the Seeker, strangely encouraged by the thought of some invisible magical energy inside that made her real. If she had a soul, did that mean there was a Maker? Perhaps one that actually cared? Nova looked at the mark on her hand, for now she just glad for this thing that brought herself back. And maybe that was good enough for now.
I totally meant to have a fun scene with Sera, but Nova kept telling me she wasn't done learning yet.