Haven. Yet, another place where they hold me captive.
I had thought with the Mage rebellion in full force, I would finally be able to escape my captivity. I fled when Ostwick’s Circle fell. I didn’t pack my bags. I didn’t gather my cooking supplies. I just walked out the door, not even looking back. Many mages in the Circle did the same. Taking their first steps to freedom in many years.
But my mistake was in returning home. I didn’t know where to go but seeking out my father seemed like a good idea. I would show up at his doorstep, he would welcome me with open arms and we would be a family again. I was too quick to forget many of my relatives would have no qualms seeing me executed on sight. A mage in a family of Templars and Chantry sisters. The Maker has a sense of humor.
Until my magic was discovered, I had been headed down that road myself. The Noble House of Trevelyan. The most devout House in all of the Free Marches. I was trained in the Chant of Light. I was brought up to believe that magic was a curse as bad as the Blight itself. Magic had been bred out of our bloodline long ago, or so many thought.
I should have known better.
Instead of welcoming me home, they sent me, as well as a few of my relatives, to the Divine’s Conclave. Sent me away almost as quickly as I had returned. And for what? So I could fall through the fade with no memory of what happened? So I could be deemed the so-called Herald of Andraste?
I’m sure my family will love to hear this news.
I had only heard the news a few days ago and it still hadn’t quite sunk in. I flip my hand over examining it for the millionth time. The green light pulses, as it does so close to the Breach. Cassandra had mentioned that the mark was killing me, yet I feel no pain. For the moment, it is a constant reminder that I am at the mercy of yet another institution.
The Inquisition. Lead by a Seeker, a Spymaster, an Ativan diplomat, whom I could swear I’ve met before, and a blasted Templar. Second in command of the Templars from Kirkwall, no less. I recall the stories. Maker only knows how many of them are true.
I harbor no ill will toward Templars in general, but it’s hard to discern the motivations of this particular one. When we first met he seemed angry with me. He blamed me for the men he’d lost. I tried to play it off, telling him he wasn’t the only one hoping Solas was correct about me, but that only earned me a scowl and a “We’ll see. Won’t we?”
Then, when I woke from my initial confrontation with the Breach, in the War Room he tells me he’s pleased I survived. His smile seemed genuine. I still don’t know if he meant he was happy I was alive or happy the Inquisition didn’t lose its only means of closing the rifts popping up across Thedas.
Now, he seeks me out on matters that I feel I have no business dealing with. Then, after asking my opinion, he voices his own, as if mine didn’t really matter. It is infuriating.
When I returned from dealing with Master Dennet and informed him he would need to build watchtowers in order to gain the mounts he wants, he nearly threw a hissy fit about people only wanting to help if we assisted them first. I have done my best to avoid him and the War Room since.
“Herald?” His gruff voice reaches my ears and I slide further back along the roof of my small cabin. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide up here forever, but I was hoping for one moment's peace.
His bulging form is making a beeline for my door. He seems to be in quite the huff. His gloved hand raises and the door to my cabin opens.
Without even knocking, really?
He never knocks. He’s even walked in on me half-dressed, only my breast band on my upper body. I’m not modest, but it was an unwelcome intrusion, all the same.
“Herald?” His gruff voice questions again. This time muffled from the inside of the cabin itself. “Where is that blasted girl?”
I can hear him pacing around in my small cabin, his heavy boots echoing through the interior. Did he think he’d find me hiding under my bed? In the wardrobe? To be fair, I am hiding in a ridiculous place, so I can’t fault the man too much.
Soon another voice joins in, this one singsongy and pleasant. “Don’t worry Commander. I will look for her.”
“She is needed in the Chantry. Please, have her join us as soon as you find her.” I can hear his frustration, almost as if his words can’t help but resonate complete irritation at the thought of me.
I peek over the edge of the roof just in time to see the Commander walking away, his hand reaching up to massage the ache I seem to give him away. I follow his path to the Chantry, my eyes never leaving him, which is why I am startled to realize someone else has joined me on the roof.
“The stars are quite beautiful from up here, no.” The singsongy voice states from just beside me.
I turn to her. “So, you found me.” I sigh and turn over, my back flush to the roof underneath me. The frost covered boards feel good, cooling my own irritation. I shouldn’t let the Commander get to me. I just don’t like the fact that he seems to hate me one minute and then exalt me in the next breath.
A small grin stretches Leliana’s small lips. “Oh, please. I knew where you were.” She crawls over to me, stretching her legs out in front of her. She shifts, trying to find a comfortable position, and pulls her robes around her to stay warm.
“I had a friend who used to do such things.” She gestures to the rooftop we are sharing. “She always hated that everyone was so reliant on her, and at times she felt the need to escape. Granted we did travel a lot, and I usually found her dangling on a tree limb, but it wasn’t a hard guess.” She turns to me with a slight grin on her face.
The smile is something I have noticed that she executes at will, not always genuine but sweet enough that you can’t help but smile back. “The Seeker, I assume?” I sigh. Sitting up, I pull my knees up to my chin and wrap my arms around them.
“Oh, goodness no,” she exclaims. “Can you imagine the Seeker climbing trees in the wilderness?” She chuckles at what I assume is the mental image. “No.” She states again as she tries, unsuccessfully, to calm her giggling fit. “My friend Katarina. She had much the same burden that you now possess.” She nudges my legs with her elbow. “She too felt the burden of duty. She too had only just escaped the Circle to find herself captive to a cause.” Her eyes search mine and I can’t begin to fathom what she hopes to find there.
I also wonder who she may be referring to but she is the Left Hand of the Divine. Who knows how many powerful mages she’s encountered?
Her eyes soften. Her face relaxes into an almost dreamy state. “You know, I used to believe I was chosen, just as some say you are. I thought I was fulfilling His purpose for me, working with the Divine, helping people. She believed me, or maybe she believed that I believed. Either way, she helped me to see, truly, that’s all we can do. Help people, do what needs to be done.” She pauses and gazes toward the heavens and I can’t tell if she is praying or simply thinking.
Then, she turns back to me, a strange glint in her eye. “You remind me of her. Her fire, her wit. She was always a quick thinker, never one to give up hope. She suffered a lot but she always came through it. I imagine you will be the same.” She reaches out a hand and places it on my shoulder. It’s a small gesture but I can’t help but smile at her gentle comfort.
It’s my turn to gaze to the heavens. Escaping the Circle seems so small, so distant now. Under the weight of becoming the Herald, it seems so… insignificant. Again, I examine the mark. Again, I wonder at its true purpose. Again, I wonder why this burden fell to me. I am no one. Nothing. I am a healer, a cook, not a warrior or battle-mage. I am a girl who has yet to live my life. I am a girl who has only ever wanted a life of her own. I didn’t ask for this.
Leliana is about to stand when I ask, “And what happened to your friend?”
Again, that smile traces her lips. “She saved all of Ferelden from the Blight, of course.” She states before hopping down onto the crates I had been using as a makeshift ladder.
“We must begin making plans to approach the Templars.” The Commander states from behind the door I have been reluctant to open. I hear his meaty fists hit the table and I jump. It shouldn’t startle me anymore but the sound always seems to unsettle me. His anger towards me, his irritation at every little thing I do is apparent in everything he does.
“If she has decided to shirk her duties as Herald, we can proceed without her.” He pauses and I can imagine him pacing the room, hand massaging away at the constant ache that resides at the apex of his spine. “I thought you said you had found her.”
“Commander, control yourself,” Cassandra barks. An order but also a reminder that they have a common goal here.
I push open the door, not wanting to give the Templar any reason to doubt Leliana. “I am here. What did I miss?”
“There you are, finally,” the Commander groans.
Our eyes meet across the expanse of the massive War Table. His anger and irritation seem to dissipate as I hold his gaze. It is in these moments I am sure that a part of his growing irritation stems from the fact that he is slightly afraid of me. Given his past with Mages, it is not so hard to understand. But did he have to judge or assume based on other’s actions? I am the furthest thing from the former Mages he’s encountered. I have no lust for violence, no want to see bloodshed. But that doesn’t mean I am entirely soft. The Circle builds in a Mage a core of steel. It is necessary to undergo what we must train to do. And I am certain that is what he sees when he looks at me.
“Herald,” Leliana starts, pulling our attention away from each other. She casts us each a look that says, ‘cool your heels’. It brings us back to the here and now but it doesn’t stop the Commander from casting another quick look my way.
“We were just discussing our options for approaching either the Mages or the Templars. After Val Royeaux, we must begin sorting through our options.” Her arms cross in front of her as she looks to the two spots on the map we have marked as the headquarters for each sect.
I lean onto the table, the weight of decision hangs on me and I am not sure what to do with it. “There are just the two, correct?” I ask, not knowing what other options they could be referencing.
“Yes,” Josephine begins, “However, an invitation to Redcliffe has already been extended to the Inquisition. What we must decide is to accept that invitation or to try and approach the Lord Seeker.” She waves her quill in a flamboyant gesture. Then, returns to scribbling notes on her tablet.
Looking at both of the places on the map does nothing to help in my decision but I hope that it at least looks like I am thinking about what to do. That I am somehow formulating a plan to deal with this chaos. As my eyes land on the marker for Therinfall Redoubt, I feel the tension in my shoulders rise, the stressful ache builds in my neck. I know my nervousness at the prospect of approaching the Templars is showing because the Commander grimaces. His glare is penetrating, but I do my best to speak up on the matter, regardless.
Already uneasy, my voice does little to exude the confidence I need at this moment. “With an invitation already extended from one party, shouldn’t we at least attempt to pursue that route?”
Cullen opens his mouth to speak but I hold up my hand, halting his words, for now.
I try again, this time with a little more false confidence. “I know seeking the aid of rebels is not ideal, but an offer has at least been extended, if not cemented, on their end. What truly matters is sealing the Breach, not who our alliances may be.” There, that sounded diplomatic, didn’t it?
I cannot discern the look the Commander darts my direction, but it’s not as sharp as it was moments ago. He seems to be deliberating the idea I set forward. When he speaks, his words are controlled, careful. “As I have said before, I don’t believe more magic is the answer. But…” He sighs, fingers coming up to massage the bridge of his nose. “The Herald makes a good point.”
All eyebrows raise at this revelation. Even Cassandra seems surprised.
The Commander scowls, but continues, “If we go to Redcliffe, we may find that they are not the answer, we may find they want nothing to do with this, and as our Ambassador has pointed out, we do not yet have a way to approach the Lord Seeker. I do, however, think it best that Cassandra accompanies you. She will be able to evaluate any dangers these rebels may present.”
Still surprised at this change of heart, I nod my assent, glancing over to see Cassandra is doing the same.
“Very well,” I say, straightening my posture and attempting to inflect some authority. “The Seeker and I will head to Redcliffe in the morning. Are there any other matters to discuss?” I look to the faces of my advisors, the Commander simply turns away from my gaze. Josephine shakes her head and gives a slight bow before heading for the door and Leliana tilts her head in a meet me outside gesture. I nod my acknowledgment of the gesture and turn to leave.
I don’t know why but before I step out the door, I turn back to the Templar. “Thank you, Commander.”
He is leaned over the War Table, much in the same posture I was before but he looks up, his eyes meeting mine for just a moment before he nods.
I feel a small smile tug at the corner of my lip before exiting the room.