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The Dark Sacred Night

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She’s back in Enchanter Haley’s office with a cup of tea, this scared fourteen-year-old new to the Circle. “I hate my mother! Of course, I’m not supposed to say that—”

“You’re allowed to feel however you want, Lily,” Enchanter Haley says, only ten years older than her student.

“No, I’m not. I’m supposed to love my mother.”

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Lily doesn’t tell Vivienne that she saw Rose kill Senior Enchanter Lydia while she was fleeing the rebellion’s carnage. “Rose! What are you--?”

“Fighting back, that’s what I’m doing! Even you can see she was just a stupid shemlen bitch!”

“Put the staff down, Rose!”

“No! We’re gonna need them out there!”

“Stop it!” Erin shrieked. “Nobody needs to die!!!” Her freckled face was paler than normal and Lily felt like she was dipped in ice, listening to Erin cry.

“Come, child, we have to move!”

“I can’t, First Enchanter! She—”

Move, Erin Lavellan!” Linnea insisted. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Lily didn’t need Linnea to tell her twice—rather ironic, she thinks, that she’s had to flee her home twice now.

The poultice never stops the nightmares, though. “Were you at all acquainted?” Vivienne asks kindly.

“I saw her around the tower, but we never really talked.” She can be evasive when she needs to.

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“That girl spent nine hundred silvers on a honeymoon in Antiva,” Lady Patricia Trevelyan said as she glanced over the latest quarterly. “We should go to Antiva sometime, dear,” she said to her husband.

“We’re in debt, Patti,” Bann William said without looking up.

“I’m just saying that I want to be able to take nice trips and if you would have less issues with money…”

You should have thought of that before you married him, Mum, Aubrey thought before she could stop herself. Why did we settle in Ostwick of all places, anyway? She knew better than to open up that door, as Mum would never stop lecturing otherwise…

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After the shit on her stomach, under her fingernails, she stops telling her mother that she loves her. Abuse doesn’t happen in affluent homes like theirs, abuse is for the lower-class, the downtrodden, the poor. “You have it better than most people, Aubrey, and you should remember that and be grateful. Didn’t I clean you up afterward?” Lady Trevelyan snaps defensively.

“You did.”

“Have I done anything like that since?”

“No, ma’am.” The stink, she remembers the stink…and she wants her to hurt--

Patricia flinches suddenly, as if startled by something. “Ow! What was that?”

“I have no idea,” the thirteen-year-old says sweetly.

“You’re fixing to get a hairbrush on your arse for your clever tongue,” her father says, passing by the study. “Act like the heiress you’re supposed to be, Aubrey.”

The fire goes out in an instant. “Yes, sir.” Her given name is like a stinging, painful whip.

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“I care about our family and don’t want infighting,” says Phillip, his new templar armor creaking. “I’m not even supposed to be talking to you.”

“But what she did was wrong.”

“She moved mountains for you on a daily basis when you lived at the keep.”

“Oh, please, not more of this gratefulness bullshit,” Lily bites back. “Maybe it was for the best that she kicked me out, then!”

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There was an old lighthouse near the tower that I used to hide in when I wanted to be alone; it was on the Circle grounds, so I wasn’t breaking any rules. Perhaps that was a blessing, being right on the Waking Sea—otherwise I might have gone mad. I’d climb the stairs, a hefty book in hand, and read with the waves crashing somewhere in the background. Sometimes I’d fall asleep and Enchanter Haley would come find me later. “Hey, girl, the senior enchanter’s looking for you.”

“I’m not in trouble, am I, Haley?” I asked, on the verge of blaming myself again.

Haley leaned against the lighthouse railing, the salty wind toying with her brown hair. “Your mother can’t hurt you out here, you know. She’s all the way back at the estate.”

“I know, but…she always could find some way to hurt me. I feel freer here, you know.”

“I can see why.”

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“Lily, at some point you’re going to have to come out of there… D’you hear me?”

“Yes, Master Patrick.”

“No one’s going to hurt you here; you’re safe in the Circle now.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Come on, you seem like a sweet girl and this is ridiculous.”

“I’m not being ridiculous, sir! I don’t want to get hurt!”

“Maker’s balls, she’s a strange girl,” Master Patrick muttered, running a hand through his brown hair.

“You’re only kind to me because it’s your job!”

“No, that’s not—”

“Yes, it is! You wouldn’t care about me if I didn’t live here!”

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It’s the nights that are the worst, you know—even in Ostwick they were bad. Face it, Lily, you’re on your own. You’re a burden, a pain in everyone’s arse. They’re going to abandon you because you’re not good enough— Back then, I could go wake Morgan up at midnight so I wouldn’t feel alone. “Sorry if I’m whining again, but…getting over Mum’s abuse is hard.”

“Don’t apologize for that. Want some tea?”

“Uh-huh.”

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“Don’t ever take me to a party again, Mother!!” I screamed, lashing out at her through tears. “When they clap I hate them, it’s burning, it— I don’t care who’s doing it, it hurts!”

“You’re fixing to get a hairbrush on your arse again!” Daddy interrupted in a deadly voice. “Dry it up and act like an adult, for the Maker’s sake! That is your family in there!”

“I don’t care about family, I just want to stop hurting!” I yelled, running up the stairs. “I’d be happy never seeing any of you ever again!” There was a rising, tangible heat in my fingers. “The next time people applaud, I’m going to KILL THEM!!!” Heat, flames, smoke, smoke from my fingers— I slammed my bedroom door as hard as I could…and there was a tiny, burned out hole in it when I had calmed down, as if a candle had seared a hole in it.

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“You can’t do that, Lily! Don’t hurt them!”

“Why not?! They hurt me by making that sound so they—”

“Lily!” Senior Enchanter Lydia wrestled the staff out of my hands. “Ser Al! Get the girl under control, for the Maker’s sake!”

“Right away, Senior Enchanter.”

“You’re taking her side?!!” I screamed.

“You know very well you could be a danger to the rest of us, Trevelyan,” Al said in a low voice. “Do you really want solitary confinement?”

“It’s preferable to being in pain…but they deserve to be in pain so they know how I feel!!!”

“Escort her back to the dorms to ensure she doesn’t injure anyone else.”

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“Everything that’s gone wrong in your life you blame me for.”

“No, Mum, that’s not—”

“You would’ve been perfectly content if I’d died in childbirth, wouldn’t you? It certainly wasn’t my fault the healer was unprepared for you being born, Aubrey. I was there every day as you lay in bed, I informed the surgeon of any changes…”

Even at twelve, it was hard to ignore her.

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“Lily, you’ve got to stop—”

“No, no, I want to hurt them! I want to kill them!”

“I know, sweetie, I know.”

“So why can’t I hurt them?” I retorted, causing a small portion of the carpet to freeze. Without a staff my powers were uncontrollable. “They deserve it!”

“The templars would do something bad to you, I can feel it. It’s okay, it’s okay…”

“No, it’s not. You’re younger; I shouldn’t be sobbing like this every time I get…”

“Hey, hey,” she said, wiping my eyes, “you’re not a shemlen to me—you’re my sister. You’re family.”

“All I want is to be normal, Erin. Is that too much to ask for, sis?”

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“Can’t we stay up here and not go back yet?” I begged Erin one day when we’d gone to the lighthouse—that was…when I was fifteen, Erin was thirteen and I was desperate. Even the Ostwick Circle wasn’t safe, not really, because Lady Patricia Lynn Trevelyan could…do something. She was formidable, as I said, and wielded all the power.

I was a scared kid with magic, a temper and no power.

“You know Enchanter Haley will come looking for us. No one’s going to hurt you at the Circle, Lily.”

“My mum could,” I snapped, staring at the Waking Sea.

“She doesn’t have power over you anymore. You’re an apprentice here now and in three years you’ll have your Harrowing…”

“Mum could. She never even hit me, but she still could. Normal was her favorite word. I never felt normal enough. You don’t know what she’s like, when she used to talk at me…” The wind from the sea was picking up. “Just between you and me, I always felt like her biggest disappointment.”

“Come on, it’s getting cold.”

“…Alright. We’ll go back to the Circle.”

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I burned his face without thinking twice about it. He still has the scars, was shocked enough to blame it on his own clumsiness instead of me. I think Phillip knew what blaming it on me would mean for the entire family so we both kept our mouths shut. “How many times do I have to tell you, Phillip, don’t get so close to the kitchen fireplace! Do you hear me?” I remember Mum asking.

“Yes, ma’am.”

There are some things we just didn’t talk about…and we Trevelyans are excellent at flinging the skeletons into our closets. That particular skill I learned from my mother, actually.

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“I don’t want to be here. I want to go home. I need to go home! Erin can stay if she wants, but—”

“Rose, y-y-you can’t leave yet.” You’re more vulnerable to possession out there…

“I’m sorry. For everything.”

I settled her back on the infirmary bed. “You don’t have anything to be sorry for. I’m here, Claire’s here and we love you. It’s not so bad, Rose—you were only in the Fade with the demon a little bit and Claire got you out and now you’re here. You’re you. The demon’s gone.”

“But I hurt someone.” She looked so small and fragile, my adopted sister, her pointed ears poking out through her short brown hair. “I’m possessed now. They’re going to kill—”

“You’re alright, Rose,” Claire interrupted; she was younger than me but older than my sister. Her hair was a light blonde color and she looked in charge even in her apprentice robes. “Trevelyan, I think you should go for now. Please.”

“Of course.”

The phrase kept echoing in my head as I ran for the library: I want to go home, I want to go home…

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“No, girl, work with your reflexes—when you go into the Fade you’ll want to meet those despair demons head on. And what are they vulnerable against?”

“Fire damage, Enchanter Alan.”

“Good, Trevelyan, you’re not as dense as you come off. There may be something clever in that dreamy mind of yours after all—be grateful you’re not grasping at straws like Linnea over here. Are you ever going to aim your spell properly without being clumsy about it?” he asked her. “Even Trevelyan’s surpassed you today and usually you two are the weakest in the class.” Enchanter Alan was hard on all his students, but Linnea’s glare at me clearly showed that fact didn’t matter to her.

…You know, if Enchanter Alan found out I was Inquisitor now, his short gray hair would surely go white from the shock. “Your base is falling apart—I always had the sense you wouldn’t amount to much, Trevelyan,” he would say with that predatory tone he deployed on the lot of us. “Oh, and your advisors are all stupid imbeciles if they think you can lead them.”

“I said the same thing, sir,” I would say honestly; lying never has been my forte.

“Good, we can agree that you’ll never amount to anything at all since you’re little more than a scared, emotionally stunted child.”

…He and Mum would’ve enjoyed having tea together, then.

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Shireen came to us from across the sea, half of her face turned into cracked stone due to an illness foreign to Thedas. She said it was called greyscale and that her powers had manifested when she accidentally set a book on fire. “My daddy’s a great king and when he wins this war, I shall be queen of Westeros. Then we can establish trade with Thedas.”

“You’re lucky that mages can be queen in Westeros, princess. If we had a mage queen the Chantry would have a collective heart attack…but then Tevinter would ally with us in the west, probably.”

“I don’t want to talk about that, Lily. Keep reading Brother Ronald’s book to me, please! It’s so interesting!”

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“…And her father wants her returned to Castle Black in Westeros for her own protection.”

“She’s safer with us, First Enchanter!” I snapped back hotly.

“Safer?! My child, look around you! We have our own problems to contend with here and when a king makes a request, you obey!”

“Stannis isn’t king of Westeros yet!”

“With his daughter a mage and possibly in line for the throne, we must show support! Showing support means sending the princess home!”

“And what if she doesn’t want to go home?!”

“You are not Queen Selyse, Lily Trevelyan! A mother has the right to see her daughter if she wants! Her mother and Lady Melisandre will protect her more than we can! You need to attend the conclave and Princess Shireen needs to go home!”

“I’ve heard things about Melisandre, sir! She uses blood magic!”

“From the princess, no doubt. A child’s fancy, and no more. This discussion is over, Lily.”

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“I got you a dragon, Lily. Toothless seemed lonely,” Shireen said a few days after we abandoned the tower. “I got it from a market lady who was selling them.”

“Oh, Shireen, you didn’t have to do that… Have you heard from King Stannis?”

“You support Daddy as king of Westeros?”

“Yes. The throne is his by right, like our King Alistair. Teryn Loghain usurped rule of Ferelden in the wake of Alistair’s brother’s death and there would’ve been a war like in Westeros right now, but… Your kingdom is…very complicated, princess.”

“They hate us here, too. I don’t really see a difference,” Shireen said softly.

“The Circle is safer than Westeros…and when your daddy sends for you, as I’m sure he will, you will get the throne and the Seven Kingdoms will have a mage as queen eventually.”

“Take Rey to the conclave with you, please, Lily. For me…so that we’re connected no matter what. I am a princess and that is an order,” she giggled, handing over the bright blue dragon.

“Are we ever going to see each other again?” I asked, giving her a tight hug, the dragon pressed between us.

“I don’t know, Lily, I don’t know…”

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“You do know what will happen if moving to the Circle doesn’t work, right?” Mother asked the day I left Falcon’s Keep for good. It was the first time we had spoken since my forced solitary confinement in my room.

“They’ll kill me or I’ll become tranquil,” I answered, not wanting to think about either option.

“So you have a stake in wanting to make this work, I think.”

She thinks I will fail. I bowed my head obediently because there was nothing else I could do. “Yes, ma’am.”

“The next step after this is the Rite of Tranquility, and I don’t think you want that, do you?”

“No.”

“I thought not. Get downstairs, please—the templars will be here any minute.”

I grabbed Toothless, my stuffed dragon, off the bed and marched downstairs. If I could set the keep on fire…

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“What do your reports say about her, Leliana?”

“Thirty years old. A Trevelyan. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one in the Marches—the line is very distinguished, very religious and very large. She came to the Circle late, very late—at fourteen. When she became an apprentice she refused to mention where she came from at all—what branch of the family, I mean. I suppose it doesn’t matter. She was to inherit a keep until her powers manifested—a templar at the Circle volunteered that information for us when my agents questioned him.”

“Well, that doesn’t help.”

“I feel…strange about all this.”

“I see she was also very supportive of the Kirkwall Rebellion,” Cassandra mentioned through gritted teeth. “She could have easily set this in motion on purpose, just like that bastard—”

“Don’t jump to conclusions, Cassandra. Come, let’s go question her.”

“Anything else?”

“People say she is immature, irresponsible…”

“The same was said—Maker knows, still is said—about Lily Hawke and look how that ended…”

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Shireen was the one who found the cat wandering around the Circle lighthouse. He was an orange tabby, skittish, difficult for even her to handle. She was nothing if not proud of herself. “Isn’t he cute, Lily?”

“You don’t know where he’s been, Princess.”

“Sure I do! Poking round the lighthouse! Besides, isn’t Anders Hawke fond of cats?”

The twelve-year-old had used the magic words on me, damn it. I actually pulled myself out of my reverie to pay attention. “Where did you hear that name?”

“You left The Tale of the Champion in the dormitory,” she answered honestly, shifting the cat to her right shoulder; he looked as miffed as a cat possibly could until he began to play with her long brown hair. “So I read it.”

“That’s a book for adults, Shireen. I don’t think your father would—”

“He’s too busy fighting a war. I don’t think he has time to read…but I do think we should keep the cat,” she finished slyly. “Please? Until we get to Ferelden? You know the tower’s been quiet and…”

“Do you know, Princess, how hard it is to tell you no?” I laughed. “Fine, if you can hide him, I’ll help keep your secret. I’ve even thought of a name for him.”

“What?”

“Ser Pounce-A-Lot, obviously.”

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[A letter from Leliana’s files on Lily Trevelyan, collected from her brother Phillip, a templar. The handwriting is direct and fluid.]

Dearest Phillip,
So she’s calling herself Lily now, has totally cut us off? Ah, well, I can easily move Joseph into the position of heir. I suppose it’s for the best—a mage, as you know, is a shameful thing in this family. We haven’t heard from her since the templars came for her. Do remind her, if you see her, that her parents moved mountains for her when she lived with us and let that be the end of the matter. The keep has been much quieter without her presence…

Are you enjoying yourself at the Circle otherwise? We pray to the Maker each day that He will guide you in all that you do, and protect you from the angry, seething mages you control.

With love,
Mother

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"High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts--"

"Oh, Shireen, please don't sing Jenny's song," I groaned, adding more fuel to the campfire. "It's much too sad."

"But it fits because we had to abandon the tower today, Lady Lily."

"Not a lady, remember. You lose most of your nobility when you come to the Circle; it's how things are in Thedas. You're protected because you're Westerosi." I drew my knees to my chest. "I spend enough time dancing with ghosts as it is." I sighed, then sang what I could remember. "They spun her around on the damp old stones, spun away all her sorrow and pain..."

"You skipped a bit," Shireen interrupted.

"Well, I only heard it from you," I pointed out a bit sourly. Somewhere just out of reach, I could smell the sea.

"It reminds me of Dragonstone out here," Shireen said sadly, crawling into my lap. "I miss Father. I want to help him."

"He'll send for you soon," I reassured her. "You've learned so much and he'll be so proud..."

"You don't talk much about your family, Lily."

"They're in Ostwick on the coast, near the sea."

"But I know that, what else?"

The stink of my body, the barn, the heavy scent of hay and Mother's rage...

"There is nothing else," I insisted, my tone colder than I meant. "Shireen? Look at me. Look at me."

"Yes, Lily?" she asked, half her face grey stone. I wondered briefly if the illness might worsen.

"Nowhere and no one is safe. Remember that, if I teach you nothing else. No one."