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Once We Were

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Once We Were

Chapter One

By Of Quirky Excellence

Jowan took a deep breath as the guardsman opened the metal door to his dark cell. This was it. He wasn’t sure if he was prepared for what was to come, whether it was death or tranquility. He could only trust that Amell, his dearest, sweetest Maeve, would somehow ease him through to the end. A part of him wished he could die by her hands, but he knew she would likely never be permitted to get close enough to him to do that after he was sentenced.

They chained his hands and brought him up to the Great Hall. Lady Isolde was there beside her husband and off to the far side of the room in front of the fire place stood Amell and her companions.

A stern voice addressed him and made him want to sink into what was left of his old leather shoes.

“What you have done is not in question…” the rest was a blur, until Jowan felt a tug on his arm, roughly from one of the guards holding him in place, jolting him back to reality. He realized he had been staring at her face, longing to tell her to stop crying, that it would all be fine…to run his scarred hands through her soft ginger locks.

“Answer the Arl, foolish boy!” the guard shoved him forward onto his knees, then kicked his back with a booted foot, sending him crumbling over and crying out in pain.

“Please, stop that! You thugs have done enough to him!” he heard her voice ring out over his own pained cries. She rushed towards him but the former Templar, Alistair, held her back, away from Jowan and those who maimed him.

Jowan wanted to speak to her, say something, anything to soothe her pain, but he was too weakened by his condition and the manacles on his wrists, which were surely runed to dispel magic. He sagged in the guards’ grasp. The Arl tapped an impatient foot and asked him again.

“What say you in your own defense?”

The blood mage closed his eyes. “Nothing, my Lord. Only that I am sorry. I expect no mercy for what I have done.”

The Arl nodded, having probably already made his decision before Jowan was even brought into the room. “Grey Warde-“

My lord, please, show him mercy. He is a good man, who has made poor, poor decisions. Not a criminal. We grew up together, he was my best friend. Desperation changes people…”  

“You would do well to learn to control your emotions, child. He is a maleficar, and the Chantry must intervene. With respect, my Lord, this is a Chantry matter, as Jowan is an apostate who escaped our Circle. I would see him returned, and allow the Chantry to do their job.” The First Enchanter strode into the room, probably still at Redcliffe because he and the other mages had assisted in freeing Connor from the demon’s grasp. Jowan grimaced as the old man now stood next to Maeve.

 “Can the Grey Wardens not intervene, then?” Maeve asked suddenly. Jowan’s head shot up from gazing at the fancy rug to her face. “Can I not conscript him, First Enchanter?”

 “No, Maeve. A junior Grey Warden cannot conscript a recruit. Only a Commander can for it to be legal.” Alistair shook his head abruptly.

 Maeve frowned. “Aren’t you-“

 "I am not. Duncan was, and even he would not conscript out of pity. Helping that…. maleficar escape required skill and loyalty, which is why you were conscripted. He is nothing but trouble.” Jowan wanted to cover his ears. The former Templar’s voice sounded so angry, and disgusted, that the dark haired mage anticipated he would strike him, as Lady Isolde’s men had done, so many times.

 “I am sorry, child. Jowan must be sentenced by the chantry.” Irving said gently to Amell.

 “Then I am already as good as dead.” A voice spoke softly, before he realized it was his own.

 “Oh, Maker, no!” Maeve cried. Before Jowan could comprehend what was happening she had rushed past her companions and she was holding him. Kneeling and clinging to his with her arms wrapped firmly around his neck, burying her face in his hair. His raven locks hadn’t been washed or brushed in Maker-knew-how-long, but she did not care.

 “This is wrong.” The Orlesian bard in Maeve’s group said just loudly enough that the other could hear.

Alistair even looked troubled. “Maeve, I’m sorry…but there’s nothing we can do….”

 “ We?!” Maeve cried, glancing up at the approaching man. She felt Jowan tense up in her arms, and she rubbed his shoulders lightly in a feeble attempt to comfort him. “You won’t even try!”

 “Maeve, it’s all right. He was a Templar, he could never understand.” Jowan said quietly. He even dared glance at Alistair’s face. Maeve began to sob as Alistair placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to coax her up, but to no avail. Nothing could tear the two apart, and it was evident there was more to them than mere friendship and casual camaraderie.

 Maeve’s fragile thin arms clung to Jowan’s bruised and beaten shoulders, but then Irving spoke up softly, breaking the tense moment where no words were exchanged among the many people gathered in the room.

 “We will have the Templars prepare him for the journey back to the tower today.”

 “First Enchanter, what is his sentence?” Maeve asked through sobs.

 “I am not certain. It is up to the Knight Commander to make the decision, child. And even if I knew, I would not be at liberty to say. I am very sorry, but given the recent series of event at the tower, one maleficar allowed to walk free would put everyone at risk…” Irving explained.

Maeve finally let go of Jowan and stood up quickly. “You…were like a father to me. I trusted you….I am not so sure anymore…” Maeve let the last part slip through her lips quickly and almost as incoherently as Jowan’s cries had been when the guard had struck him earlier.

Jowan yelped as the guard pulled him to his feet and a Templar walked over to take the place of the two guards who had held him.

“Wait,” Maeve said softly.

Irving nodded. “You may have some words with him before he is returned to the Tower. I’m afraid that is the only mercy I can show.”

Maeve’s eye narrowed. “To me, or to him?” She snapped angrily.

“It is for your sake, child.” 

“I am not a child!” she cried.

Jowan was the one who calmed her this time, softly calling her name and offering a timid smile. “Come, it’s the last time I get to see you, I don’t want you to be angry…”

The others took this as a cue to back off, an insult to the word “privacy”, but it was as much as the Templars or First Enchanter would allow given the circumstances.

“I’m sorry. For everything, Jowan, I don’t know what I can be without you….” she cried, easing him down to the floor again beside her. They sat together and he held him against her gently in a tender embrace. It was one final, peaceful moment together.

“Remember what we once were. That is something nobody can ever, ever take away from us.” He said softly, his voice betraying how he felt. He yearned to wipe her tears away but his shackled hands wouldn’t allow it.

“Jowan, I-“

“Shhh. You get to save the world, Maeve. Not too shabby for a girl fresh out of her Harrowing, huh?” he tried to be cheerful, but once again, both of their tears betrayed him.

“A girl my age should not lose the one she loves…” she said with a soft fierceness in her sea blue eyes.

“Maeve, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” She took him into her arms again softly and rocked him back and forth like a child waking from a nightmare. But this was a nightmare she would never wake from.

Chapter Text

Moments later, Irving stepped between the gathered Templars and Maeve's companions, and knelt beside his two former apprentices. Maeve shook her head frantically and clung tighter to Jowan, trying to hang on to how things were before and how they might have been. "No, please, don't take him..." she whimpered. 

Jowan's eyes opened and he felt his heart race faster, and faster, until he was sure it would stop, but that would have been too merciful, apparently. Maeve's face was painfully distorted and she sobbed louder as two Templars made the attempt to haul Jowan to his unsteady feet. "Maeve, you have to let go. Please." Jowan gulped. "I am done running from my mistakes. I have to take responsibility for what I have done....agh!"

One of the templars shoved his bruised side and Jowan only spared the helmed man a pained side glance, returning his gaze back to the face of the last one in all of Thedas who believed in him at all. "Enough, foolish boy! You've hurt enough people."

Maeve looked up, the pain in her feature replaced with relentless fury. She wanted to tackle the man like the scum she'd come to believe most templars were, but her former mentor steadied her, and Leliana was beside her now with an arm around her, gently encouraging her to stand. 

"Goodbye, my love. Whatever end I meet, you'll always have my thanks for making my life mean something." Jowan said as they were forced apart. Leliana and Alistair held Maeve gently but firmly as the templars led Jowan away, followed by the First Enchanter and the other templars.

Maeve stared at the door long after the Templars left with him, as if she were expecting them to return any minute. After a tense silence, Maeve spoke.

"We're leaving."

Alistair gaped at her words. "We still have business with the Arl. The Blight is-"

"Fuck the Blight! You stay here, conduct your Maker-forsaken noble business. I'm done." Maeve shouted the expletive, causing the room to seemingly shake, and then her voice grew softer but almost more cold and angry with each word.

"Maeve, I don't-"

"There are a lot of things you don't do, Alistair. Thinking  is one of them. You're on your own unless I can get Jowan back. Until then, I'm going to Kinloch Hold."

Then Maeve stormed off towards the courtyard, out the same door the Templars had led Jowan several gruelling minutes before.

Waiting for her near the threshold, leaning against the wall outside, was Morrigan. "Now, now, forgive me for eavesdropping, but I am drawn to jests at Alistair's expense like templars to Lyrium!"

Maeve chuckled coldly. "Oh. You think I was joking, do you?"

"Quite the contrary, my dear Amell. I was raised in a hut, not under a rock. You care for that mageling boy a great deal, do you not?" Morrigan smirked coyly, but her amber eyes were serious.

"I love him. And if he gets to that Tower they'll either kill him, and I will never love another again, or worse, they will make him Tranquil and he will never feel anything again."

Morrigan looked unsettled. "A fate worse than death, in the eyes of a mage, Circle-raised or not."

Maeve nodded in agreement. "And they wouldn't even let me conscript him, only a Warden Commander can conscript." She began to sob again, but before she could comprehend her own thoughts Maeve felt a warm hand on her shoulder. A gesture of empathy, understanding. She looked up, and the witch's eyes met hers, the raven-haired apostate's expression was soft. Almost kind. "I'm going back to the Tower. I will try to get there before they do....to save Jowan, or die trying."

"That is a noble plan, if not foolish." Morrigan voiced the last word coldly, with a tinge of harshness to her tone. "You must not go alone."

Maeve's eyes widened. "You would help me?"

Morrigan chuckled again, taking her hand off her fellow mage's shoulder. "I doubt the others would approve of such antics, and someone must make sure you do not die. Alistair may be a prince, but we cannot truly rely on his ...abilities, to stop the blight alone, now can we?"

Maeve veered the topic a little. 

"You really think I can stop the blight?!" she asked.

"My mother saw enough potential in at least one of you to save you from the Darkspawn, and it certainly isn't Alistair, so why not I?" Morrigan asked. "Oh, and with your precious childhood...friend, at your side!"

Maeve blinked away some tears. "I have to get him free from the templars first."

"Then our mission is clear. We must set off sooner rather than later. If we wait until tomorrow we may be too late."

"Too late for what?" Another female voice asked, as Leliana stepped out from behind Maeve.

 

 

Chapter Text

The way to the Tower was a long and painful journey on foot, and while the Templars wore bulky armor, they had full bellies, and they were in shape to travel, while their prisoner was not, and he was not inclined to put up a fight when he was cruelly urged to keep walking, despite his injuries and weakness, and depite the fact that his shoes were far from protecting his feet from the elements and terrain. They stopped in a village midway to the Tower and Jowan was so tired and broken that he wanted to collapse, but he knew it wasn't worth making a scene. They made camp outside the town because the villagers had heard what he was and the town's mayor had refused to allow them to stay at the inn, despite Jowan's weakened and subdued state.

Once their tents were set, First Enchanter Irving instructed the Templars to chain one of Jowan's ankles to a sturdy oak tree and take turns guarding him throughout the night. The brokenhearted blood mage did not resist, but he pretended the First Enchanter wasn't there. He felt completely and utterly betrayed that a man who had once been his mentor, even a father-figure to some apprentices, could treat anyone, even someone who had made such terrible mistakes, with so much malice.

But when Irving didn't leave after he was secured to the tree, like an animal, or less, Jowan grew uncomfortable. More fearful than he had before and less convinced the older man was there to provide any protection or small mercies. That was why he yelped as Irving knelt at his side, and took one of his apprentice's heavily shackled hands in his own, running his other fingers gently over the palm, all the fingers, and the back of the hand. Then he let go, repeating the process with Jowan's other hand. What was he doing?! Jowan's heart was thumping quickly in his chest. Irving then pulled up Jowan's sleeves tenderly, almost with care, and the younger man cried out softly as his elder did this, because the man accidentally grazed a place where Isolde's guards had burned him with a hot iron to try to get him to talk. The old man frowned, looking at his flesh the whole time, and not at his face. Then finally the Enchanter shook his head. When he spoke at last, it was soft and melancholy, and he finally lifted his eye level to be even with Jowan's.

"When was the last time you cast a forbidden spell, Jowan?" The words came slowly. And they were registered in the former apprentice's mind even slower.

"First Enchanter I-"

"Just answer the question, Jowan." Irving interrupted.

"...that night....the night I escaped."

"Never since then?" Irving's tone sounded level, but Jowan was unsure of his intent still.

The captured apostate shook his head softly and spoke even more so, "Not since that night..." He blinked away some tears.

"Why?"

Jowan stuttered in his soft-spoken response."T-to protect them. Maeve and-"

"That is not what I meant, my boy. I meant, why did you not continue using blood magic, once you were out of the Tower?"

Jowan raised a dark brow. Irving was being very patient with him, almost kind and he wasn't sure what to make of it. "I never wanted to, Irving...I was desperate and stupid, and, and I-"

"All I want to know is what stopped you from doing blood magic again, not why you did it. At least not at present."

"All right, I didn't feel compelled to use any magic, really. It had hurt so many people ...and I found I was better at controlling my abilities when I felt less trapped. But I missed Maeve, and Lily. Even Surana, I even missed the way she and Maeve used to bicker! I was free but I was free and running. And that's not really freedom at all."

"I see. Surana never wanted you to be made tranquil, Jowan. I hope that can give you some peace."

"Then why-"

"She begged me not to take you for the Rite, and when I told her it was too late to reconsider, she told me of your plan. After that, she asked what would become of you...she said she was sorry the Circle had failed you. She was right, Jowan. The Circle has failed you. And I am sorry."

Jowan hung his head. "Then you know why I turned to blood magic to start."

Irving looked perplexed, and shook his head. "I assumed you thought it would help you pass your Harrowing?"

"Yes...and no. I was so afraid I would be made Tranquil, and Uldred saw me practicing my spells one day and he told me I may as well volunteer-"

"He taught you the forbidden arts. I figured as much. Many at the Tower believe he was the one who started the rumor of your dabbling, and now we know why. To throw Templars and mages alike, off his trail of suspicion. Do you know what he did?"

"He ruined my life, to start. Then he tried to take over the Tower by summoning demons?"

Irving nodded. Then he beckoned to one of the Templars standing watch. When the man was at their side, Irving spoke a little louder. "Bring the boy something to eat, a water skin and an elfroot potion."

The templar gaped at him for a moment. But then Irving got cross. "Now!"

"Remembering I am human now, are you?" Jowan sounded ever-so-slightly bitter as soon as that Templar was out of earshot.

Irving sighed, shaking his head. " The world has done you many injustices. I am only sorry I cannot do more." Then with that, Irving stood up and strode off toward his tent. Jowan thought perhaps it was only the lighting-or lack thereof, but he could have sworn as the old man stood up that he saw tears trickling down his face.

When the templar returned he did not speak to Jowan as Irving had, but he spoke at him. "Old man's too soft. You lot all got too many feelings. Ask me, you oughta not have any!"
Jowan winced as the man clapped his already wounded shoulder then handed him the potion and set the food and water skin at his side. "Too soft!" The man said, laughing cruelly as he looked the terrified apprentice in the eyes, then he returned to his post nearby.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Warden, the Witch and the Bard said very little as they left the castle. The guards did not question them as the three women, one’s face red from shedding too many tears, abandoned their companions.

Maeve said almost nothing until they camped several hours out of the village. Leliana pulled her to a stop upon spotting two horses tied to a post outside a woodcutter’s cottage. The man was sitting nearby, drinking a bit of ale. “Maeve, we need a plan. We could borrow that man’s horses and get there faster. If we beat the Templars back to the Tower they can’t possibly-“

“I’ve only got the coin in my pack, Leliana, and that was left at the castle. If we go back now, we’ll be too late to save him.” Amell said solemnly.

The bard nodded, and reached into the satchel she carried with her.

“Don’t be a fool, we will need that coin later.” Morrigan uttered the words harshly, back to her cold, stern self. “A squadron of Templars, an old man, and a battered prisoner will not travel anywhere very quickly. We should reach them, but it is imperative that we keep moving.”

“Maybe you’re right, but we need to get to the tower before they do, Morrigan. If they make it there, they’ll destroy him…” she choked out a sob and Leliana rubbed her back gently to soothe her quietly.

“Maeve, what if we don’t get there in time?” Morrigan looked her square in the eyes, her amber eyes seeking her fellow mage’s gaze. “What will you do?”

We have to get there in time!” Maeve cried, then she shook away from Leliana’s arms and walked off to take first watch.

-------------------

The next day

Try as he might, Jowan could not shake the feeling of relief from the small mercy of rain. It soaked the former maleficar’s skin, and though it was cold to the touch, something about it was clean, refreshing.

The mud, on the other hand, did not allow nearly as much movement, for the fully armored Templars, the chained prisoner or the elderly Enchanter.

Lightning struck and Jowan nearly slipped or stumbled several times as they led him across rockier terrain than he had ever been used to.  Down a hill there were some jagged shards of boulder and for a moment, just for a moment, he wondered how many pieces he would fall into if he threw himself down.

But he had to stay strong. Irving’s words the night before had given him a sliver of hope that he might at least have a trial, or that the old man might show some sort of mercy. Even execution seemed more dignified now than suicide. Those thoughts never entered his mind again after they reached the next village, just a day away from the Tower.

The Templar who had been the cruelest to him throughout the journey was, unfortunately, his escort, and Jowan hated the blasted man. This Ser Derrick had been the one to call mages too soft, and he often was rough and nasty with Jowan when Irving wasn’t looking. It wasn’t long before these villagers, like the ones from the last town, asked the squadron to camp outside their village, so once again, the Templars settled down and pitched tents. Ser Derrick was about to chain Jowan to the trunk of another tree, when the mage’s eyes grew wide with fear. In the distance there were several darkspawn, and a Hurlock rogue snuck up behind one of the Templars, a young knight who had volunteered to take first watch. The creature gutted him but the gurgling sound the boy made did not reach anyone’s ear except those of the only witness. He stammered, letting out a yelp as the man fell to the ground.

“I won’t have you stutterin’ about that way, blood mage. Must we gag you, or will you be quie-“

Jowan saw the bright demon-like eyes of the genlock warrior before Derrick did and he jumped up, restrained as he was and shoved Derrick back with not so much strength, but the element of surprise.

He’d gotten him out of the way just in time. Derrick escaped with life and limb from the beast’s shield bash, but now both men were on the ground and Jowan was not moving. “Ser Derrick…look out!” Jowan struggled to right himself now, but Derrick was faster and the gruff Templar was on his feet, sword drawn, and he was shouting for the others.

The genlock had backed off but Derrick had escaped the Hurlock rogue’s arrow by inches. Jowan had too, but he was in a far worse state. His robes were now torn open at the shoulder and his whole arm was bruised and bleeding. They had dosed his food with bitter magebane and of course it would be difficult to cast any kind of spell with his hands bound in chains as they were. That being said, the likelihood of using his wound to fuel a spell was very small. Still, when the fighting was over and the Templars had slain all the spawn, all swords were pointed at him.

Irving broke through the crowd of angry Templars just before Derrick got close enough. Irving all but jumped in front of the younger man’s raised sword to stop him from beheading the wounded man on the spot. “First Enchanter, he struck me! Stand aside, the order dictates, the maleficar dies now!”

“Cut first, think later, eh?” asked one of the Templars as he stood down.

“Tell that to Knight Captain Cullen,” Ser Derrick growled, not moving. “He was soft, like these mages. Look where that got him! Not to mention this mage”

Jowan cowered still, as two more Templars stood down. “No, you’re wrong. I saw what happened.” Said the youngest Templar of the entire group.

“Oh yeah, well, what happened, boy?” Derrick still didn’t lower his blade, despite the fact that it was no longer aimed at Jowan, but at the First Enchanter. He glared daggers at the young recruit and the lad cowered almost as much as Jowan did when Ser Derrick spoke.

“He saved you. He must ‘ave seen the beastie comin’, Ser.” The boy said meekly.

“Really now?” Irving crossed his arms at Derrick, who lowered his blade slightly.

“Bullshit. He spotted ‘em, cause he’s one of ‘em! May as well be-“

“That’s not possible, Derrick.”  Another Templar stood down.

“That’s Ser Derrick to you.” The cruel, hard faced Templar was now the only one left with a sword drawn and Irving was staring him down.

“Not for long if you keep this up. As First Enchanter I will be informing Knight Commander Greagoir of your misconduct and if you’re lucky, you’ll be assigned to a village chantry instead of Tower Duty.” Irving said coldly. Jowan looked up from his place on the ground as the recruit, Kyle, pulled him up by his uninjured arm and let Irving deal with Derrick pleading not to be demoted.

Kyle whispered into Jowan’s ear, “If you get ole’ Derrick thrown outta the order, I’ll take you back to that sweet Warden girl myself.”

Jowan raised a brow at him and then the young Templar shrugged. “Seriously. That took some gall.”
The mage was about to respond when he heard a sword being sheathed and he watched as Ser Derrick stormed off, angrily swearing under his breath.

Irving then turned to Jowan and his new guard. “We should get moving, men. The sooner we reach the Tower the less men we’ll lose.”

“But we just made camp, First Enchanter!” Another Templar protested.

“Come now, a little more time on the road won’t kill you, lad.” The old mage said with a disapproving shake of his bearded head.

“But it might kill him,” Kyle nodded towards Jowan who took deep breaths and was raising his hands as high up towards the bleeding gash on his shoulder as the shackles allowed, applying pressure to the wound.

“That’s a sure thing.” The other Templar said, chuckling. “But not as sure as if more of those darkspawn come. That’ll finish him off for certain.”

“Very well, ser.” Kyle nodded and gripped Jowan’s arms firmly but not as roughly as Ser Derrick had.

Irving gave the young Templar an elfroot potion and Kyle held it up to Jowan’s lips while he drank so he didn’t have to take pressure off the gaping wound from the darkspawn attack.

The mage nodded his thanks to his newer, kinder jailer and they led him on, continuing the journey home to the Tower.

But it was not a place Jowan thought of as a home now.

------------------

“Dead darkspawn. Someone’s been here.” Maeve said softly as Mouse sniffed at a tree.

“Ma Cherie, come and look at this!” Leliana was answered by Maeve gasping. “There’s a dead Templar over he-“

“Jowan’s hurt!” Maeve cried. Mouse had brought her the torn piece of dark purple robe Jowan had lost from the Genlock’s shield and it was stained in fairly fresh blood. And it was human, not darkspawn.

Morrigan and Leliana were with her in an instant. “Oh, Maker. The poor lad was not in good shape when he left…”
Maeve nodded. “They better be treating him decently…” Many thoughts were rushing through Maeve’s mind. Was Jowan being fed? Would he even accept food? He had been a picky eater to start, and knowing what they were likely to do to him, would he lose his will to live? Maeve knew he was not prepared to lose him, either way.

She spent the next day of travel silently contemplating what she would do if they arrived too late. Leaving the Tower wouldn’t be an option unless she returned to the wardens, and Maker knew she would never dream of leaving the tower again without Jowan. If he was dead, she would take his ashes and scatter them at the beach, a place he’d always wanted to go but never even got to see. But she would keep some of the ashes, clinging to her memories of what they once were, just like Jowan had told her to. If he was tranquil, she would take him too. She’d return to the wardens, perhaps, but he would be with her, under her protection, and she would take care of him forever even though he wouldn’t be able to love her, or even understand the pain she went through because of how the world treated him.

Chapter Text

They reached the Tower a few hours past dawn, and little more was said throughout their journey. Two Knighted Templars greeted the squadron at the gates, and the First Enchanter was off to report back to Knight Commander Greagoir. The hope in Jowan’s heart was miniscule, because of his wounds and pain. Seeing Maeve again had lifted his spirits only temporarily. He was certain nothing could save him now, unless by some miracle Irving persuaded the Chantry to have mercy- and that meant Knight Commander Greagoir, who had already sentenced him to death. There had been no trial then, and he wasn’t counting on there being one now.

He watched the First Enchanter go with sorrow in his eyes as the old man rounded the corner to the old stone stairwell, headed for his office. Jowan stood wearily in his mud soaked boots, halfway leaning into Kyle’s arm. The Templar assigned to the former blood mage’s other arm was an older man, another who had stood down when Ser Derrick had nearly beheaded Jowan just over a day before. The other Templar’s name was Ser Timothy. They hadn’t spoken much to him, but Kyle’s words still rang loudly in Jowan’s mind. “I’ll send you back to that sweet Warden girl myself.”

He doubted the Templar recruit even knew what he was saying, and he figured believing those words would be foolish, but he couldn’t help but hang on to that one little ray of hope.

“Do you need me to send for Bran?” A voice snapped Jowan’s wondering mind back to the present. It was a helmed Templar, and the mage didn’t try to remember the voice or the name. They were all the same now, mostly.

“No, Ser William. I will take the prisoner to the dungeons now, and then I shall report to Knight Commander Greagoir. Unless you have need of me elsewhere, Ser William?” Recruit Kyle replied.

The helmed Templar who had been guarding the main door gave the younger man a curt nod. “You may proceed. Be cautious, Recruit. He’s a very dangerous maleficar, and you would be wise to Smite him down before he goes in a cell.”
Jowan grimaced, and Kyle and Ser Timothy had to hold him steady as he began to sob.

Kyle narrowed his eyes at Ser William and then looked past Jowan’s trembling form to exchange glances with Timothy. The recruit and his senior officer nodded to one another and then they advanced towards the dungeon with the bound and trembling mage in tow.

“Do we really need to Smite him, Ser Timothy?” Kyle asked. The bearded man sighed deeply.  Then he nodded.
“You’ve a lot to learn yet about the Order, my boy. You will learn to control your emotions first and foremost. The Order dictates-“

“What? What does the order dictate?” Kyle sounded rather agitated, not the merciful, gentle young man who had escorted Jowan the latter half of his journey. “Does it dictate that force should be used upon a man who is already broken? He lost the woman he loves, and he’s probably going to lose a whole lot more in a matter of hours! Who are we to make him needlessly suffer even more? It’s not merely a precaution, that’s what the chains are, isn’t it?”

The boy was practically spitting fire out his eyes as he spoke and Jowan wanted to speak, but he was so overcome with emotions that no words would come. Ser Timothy, on the other hand, had plenty to say.

“That’s dangerous talk, boy, dangerous people think like that. This man cannot be treated like other men, he gave up that right the moment he put his hand to the blade. If you think I find pleasure in hurting mages, or that the Knight Commander does, then you’re wrong, but we don’t get to decide. We have a duty to fulfill and this mage is a danger to himself and to others.”

“That’s not true! He saved Ser Derrick’s life and the First Enchanter can confirm that! There’s a pretty girl out there who loves him, and tried to save him…but this system is broken. I’m going to withdraw from the order after today, Ser Timothy. I can’t stand by while these people are treated so poorly for an accident of birth!”

Kyle let go of Jowan’s arm and turned on his heel, about to storm off in the opposite direction, but Jowan’s soft, broken call stopped him. “Kyle, wait. Please, don’t throw away your career for me, it’s not worth it.” He cried.

“I’m sorry…I can’t stand here while they do this.” Kyle turned his head back towards Jowan and Timothy. The older Templar had practically dragged Jowan about three more yards before the younger one stopped, turned around, and came back towards them again.

“Then do something to make our lives less miserable!” Jowan cried. Timothy had reached the stairs now and Kyle was walking alongside them now.  “It’s too late for me, I’m pretty sure, but do something! And don’t forget that what happened to me can happen to any apprentice who feels trapped.”

Kyle was quiet as they brought Jowan down the stairs slowly and painfully, until they reached the cells.

As Timothy handed Jowan’s shackled hands off to Kyle, he opened the barred door. Jowan was tense in Kyle’s grasp, and the recruit sighed. Timothy gave his younger comrade a pained glance.

“It is against my better judgement to Smite this mage when he is so badly injured already. Irving surely wants him alive for sentencing tomorrow. Very well, Recruit, you have made your point. But if he hurts anyone or escapes it will be on your head.” Timothy said softly but firmly.

“Of course, Ser. Thank you.” Kyle nodded. The mage relaxed and let out the big shaky breath he’d been holding as Kyle led him into the cell. The walls were all stone, there were no windows on three sides and the fourth had a small, barred opening that let in a little bit of torch light. With the door open it was not well lit but not terribly dark. Jowan could see, to his relief, that it was clean and not too cold. His escort let go of his arm and began to walk away so Timothy could close the door, but Jowan spoke quickly to get his attention.

“Kyle, thank you…you didn’t have to do that, and I know this means nothing coming from a condemned maleficar, but thank you. The Order needs more people like you, to keep people like me from suffering more than we have to.” He said the last part so faintly and hoarsely it was nearly a whisper, and then he sat down on the small bunk in the cell.

“I won’t forget this, Jowan. Whatever they do, I will ask for mercy if they can give it.” Then the Templar recruit was gone, and his comrade shut Jowan in, locking the door without a word.

Many hours would go by before he saw another soul again.

------------------

“Jowan what?!” Knight Commander Greagoir shouted in Irving’s face.

“Come now, Greagoir. Your hearing isn’t that bad.” Irving said with a hint of annoyance in his tone.

He saved a blasted Templar?! I’m not going deaf, I must be going mad!Greagoir was fuming now, and disbelief was still etched into his features.

The First Enchanter shook his head. “He shows a high regard for human life, even if he believes he himself unworthy of compassion or mercy.”

“Someone with a high regard for human life would never use blood magic. Someone with a high regard for the lives of others would not try to assassinate a nobleman whose aid and influence is crucial to end a civil war!” Greagoir said loudly. He was a little bit calmer now, but his words were still harsh.

“Knight Commander, we must consider what he was promised in exchange for doing Loghain’s dirty work. That he would be allowed to return here safely. It is quite possible he asked for that, instead of a sea fare out of Ferelden. If that is the case, perhaps he is not so misguided, and perhaps redemption is possible.”

“No. He must be punished. A maleficar cannot be trusted in the Circle of Magi’s walls. I will not allow other apprentices to think they can just cheat the system as he tried to do. Loghain was wrong to interfere with Chantry matters, but the maleficar must be punished for his role in the civil war! We must also not forget his crimes against our Circle!” Greagoir made his way to the door, and was about to leave, but Irving spoke.

“There should be at least a trial-“

The First Enchanter was interrupted by the heavy wooden door being slammed in his face, as the Knight Commander left the office.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jowan had almost managed to find a position where he could lie down without excruciating pain shooting through his body from the various wounds he bore. It had been hours and hours of staying perfectly still, and he remained quiet and weak from the magebane and the runed chains that still bound his hands.

He flinched away from the sound of a voice commanding that the door be opened and then the light flowed in. Greagoir was in the cell in an instant, and before the former apprentice could even it up all the way the distance was closed between them, and the Knight Commander grabbed Jowan’s arm and wrenched him up painfully, dragging him to a shaky standing position.

Jowan cried out as Greagoir began to drag him by one arm out of the cell. “Knight Commander what’s going on?! Where’s Irving?” He asked, frantic for answers.

Greagoir jerked on his arm to silence him, then two more Templars, unfamiliar ones in helmets, joined them as Greagoir dragged Jowan down the hall, towards the last cell, an ominous door at the end of the hall.

“Where are you taking me? Please, answer me!” Jowan begged, but he got no response from any of the Templars. Greagoir’s face was bright red, and it was clear he’d been furious just to be in Jowan’s very presence.

“Open the door.” Greagoir spoke coldy over Jowan’s cries. One of the Templars obeyed, fumbling with the keys and then finally, with a loud click, the lock released and the door swung open.

It took both only a moment for the new room’s purpose to register in Jowan’s mind, and he froze. Any willingness to proceed forward was gone. The room was dark save for a few torches on the walls and there was a small shelf off to the side, but in the center, the thing that terrified Jowan the most, was the table. He could see the chains one either end of it, designed to keep its occupant still, and various straps adorning the center to disable more struggling. There was only one procedure Jowan could fathom that required someone to be restrained in such a way.

“No….no, please, anything but this! You can behead me, hang me, anything, anything, but please, not this!” They silently held him as he writhed in their grasp, like a moth tangled in a spider’s web.

Then Greagoir gave to order. “Strap him down.”

The Templars pulled and shoved him forward until his belly and chest were on the table. He could feel Greagoir activating the runes on the walls, and once they forced him to face the ceiling, lying on the table Jowan screamed, kicked and struggled, using the last bit of strength he had.

It was all in vain. They pulled his hands above his head and secured them in the manacles attached to the table and when his ankles were bound in the same way they finished securing straps around his body to halt his struggles. There was a pause. A long, agonizing pause, and then Jowan felt Greagoir’s glare.

“Please, Knight Commander, I beg you. Don’t do this. Let Maeve see me dead and at peace, not like this…” Jowan pleaded. “There’s so much you don’t know!”

Then Knight Commander Greagoir turned away again, and Jowan heard the hiss of metal and fire, then felt the song of Lyrium, for only a moment, and then it was gone. Then Greagoir held up the rod with its white hot, sun shaped tip. “Do not make me feel like a fool before I do my duty.”

“No. I am a fool. And I can live with that. But at least I’m not a monster.” Jowan managed between very heavy breaths. Strapped down as he was, he could not adjust to a comfortable position. It hurt, but nothing could compare to what followed.

Greagoir brought the branding rod’s tip down on Jowan’s forehead harshly, and the screams that followed were cries of agony. The Knight Commander held the branding rod in place for nearly five minutes until the screaming stopped.

And then the fear was gone. The hopes, dreams, and the magic, were gone too. He was no longer a danger to himself or to others, and Maeve Amell was no longer the sweetest, most beautiful, pure person in all Thedas. She was merely a Grey Warden, formerly a Circle mage, and a person who would not be at ease around those who had been branded. Her arrival at the Tower later that night was neither dreaded nor happily anticipated.

Chapter Text

Maeve’s heart pounded as she and Leliana rowed the small rowboat across Lake Calenhad towards the ominous Tower that had once been her home. Dried tear stains marked her cheeks and the fog allowed for poor visibility on the lake. It was long and exhausting to row all the way across the lake as quickly as they could and eventually Morrigan forced Maeve to sit down and stop rowing, lest she pass out. The young ginger-haired mage had barely eaten nor slept properly since they had been at Redcliffe and it was showing in her lack of physical strength.

Once they docked, Maeve rushed towards the front entrance of the tower. “G-grey Warden? What are you doing here?” The Templar guarding the door asked.

Sea-blue eyes glared venomously back at the helmed man. “Why do you think I’m here?” she snarled.

“I really don’t kno-“ the man stammered.

“Just let me and my companions in. I need to see the Knight Commander and First Enchanter. Now.” She interrupted the Templar, who stepped back as Maeve barely even slowed her pace towards the door. The man fumbled for a moment with his keys and then he and the other Templar opened the door.

Maeve stormed into the main hall, through the apprentices’ quarters, up the stairs and into the senior mages’ quarters. Mouse and Leliana followed closely behind her and Morrigan took her time, scoffing at the mages who stopped to gawk at her…less than modest attire. Maeve reached the First Enchanter’s office at long last, and she pounded on the heavy door. When there was no answer, she turned to Leliana.

“Pick the lock.” Maeve motioned towards the doorknob with a flick of her head and the rogue hesitated, but eventually nodded, quickly assessing the difficulty of the door.

After a moment Leliana stood up from her kneeling position by the door and nodded again, indicating that the door would unlock.

Maeve barged into the room only to find it empty. She practically cried out in frustration.

“You two wait here. I’ll search for them myself! If they come back tell them they’ll have to come find me. Mouse, come with me.”

Leliana was about to question her but instead she took a place outside the door as if standing watch, while Morrigan, unbeknownst to Maeve, began to look around Irving’s office, her amber gaze drawn to a halt when she spotted the First Enchanter’s personal chest…

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The Warden mage tried her best to keep her composure as she rushed from room to room, until at last, she rounded a corner and nearly crashed head-on into a young Templar, with sandy brown hair and hazel green eyes. “I’m so sorry, my lady! I presume you’re looking for First Enchanter Irving.”

“I am. He wasn’t in his office.” She replied hurriedly. “Please, the matter is urgent.”

“Follow me, my Lady.” The young man nodded. Little did Maeve know that this man had been the last one to speak kind words to Jowan and treat him as a human being. Kyle did not yet know Jowan’s fate, as he had not been present for the ritual, and word had not yet been widely spread of what had occurred only hours ago.

They walked quietly until they reached one of the many rooms Maeve recognized. It was a place she once looked forward to being in, because it meant healing lessons with Wynne, but now she looked upon it with dread. Why the infirmary?

The young woman became visibly tense. Kyle tried to break the tension, but to no avail. “I heard Irving had business here. I don’t know wh-“

“Thanks kid. I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you when the darkspawn tear this place to shreds.” Maeve cut him off crisply.

Before he could reply, Maeve kicked the door open.

But nothing in all of Thedas could have prepared her for what she saw within.

All the room’s occupants looked shocked, some mildly terrified. There were two enchanters and an apprentice, and even Irving looked startled. All the room’s occupants, that is, except for one. He lay on a slightly raised cot, unconscious. Jet black wavy hair covered his face, which was angled away from the door.

Irving was about to say something, but Maeve was moving quickly towards the cot. The only thing that stopped her from an all-out sprint was pure exhaustion.

“Jowan!” she cried as she reached his side. She tenderly reached out to sweep his dark locks away from his face but then she cried out in horror as she saw it. The dreaded sunburst brand was red and angry on his forehead.

“No. No!” Anguish filled her voice as she collapsed halfway onto the cot at his side. “I was too late…Maker no…”

The infirmary’s other occupants were silent and they watched as the scene unfolded. Maeve buried her face in the blanket that had been half-heartedly tossed over his limp body, her hands still cradling his face.

She sobbed and sniffled until Irving stepped up towards her.

“I am sorry, Maeve. This was done without my approval. His wounds are severe, but he will live.” The First Enchanter said softly, as he placed a hand on her shoulder.

No…He had dreams and a life and you took it all away from him!” she all but screamed, making everyone in the room jump. Even Jowan twitched in his dreamless slumber.

“Please try to understand, my child-“

I am not your child!Maeve’s furious tone broke only when Jowan twitched again and she was reduced to sobs and soft whimpers. She shook Irving’s hand from her shoulder but her hands remained near Jowan’s frighteningly lifeless face.

Healing magic poured from her fingertips when her thumb traced an angry looking cut across his cheek. Then her hands were over the rest of his body, and she extended the spell to the more severe wounds she knew he bore. The Circle mages hadn’t completely mended his injuries, they had apparently only stabilized him. It seemed they were in short supply of healers, Maeve assumed, and she angrily realized a Tranquil mage-even one with such horrendous wounds, would not be high on the priority list in the Circle’s infirmary.

“How could you allow this to happen, Irving? You say you did not approve of …this, but did you even try? He was your apprentice once…you even said the Circle never forgets their apprentices! You should have fought for him!” Maeve’s wprds came between shaky breaths.

“I didn’t think Greagoir would be so unreasonable.” Irving’s voice raised slightly. “I wanted a trial. Not at first, but on our journey the lad proved to me that I may have been wrong about him and his intentions. He was not the blood mage I envisioned. He was not what Uldred wanted him to be.”

Uldred.” Maeve breathed. ”That bastard!

“Language, my dear Warden. There is an apprentice present.” A male healer chided.

Maeve shot the healer an enraged glare, and then Irving promptly shook his head and ushered all the other mages and their charge out of the room. “Apprentices should hardly worry about language.” The Warden growled under her breath.

She turned back to Jowan, who was still unconscious and unresponsive save for the occasional twitch or tremble.
Her hands raised up again, resuming healing the remaining broken flesh on his body. Then all the sudden she felt uncontrollably weak. Her arms began to tremble and the color left her face. She didn’t let up.

This was a moment when Irving and Maeve were silent, but then Irving spoke softly. “You need to rest, Amell. You are exhausted and you have now nearly channeled all your mana. I advise you stop casting now, Maeve…”

“No.” She managed in an even tone, her eyes on Jowan’s face. She remembered his smile, his frown and his sorrow. A face that once melted her heart, a heart that pounded with rage because she knew he could never see those expressions again.

Irving shouted her name as she began to see spots, but he didn’t get to his dazed former apprentice until she was on the ground, eyelids fluttering. She managed to utter Jowan’s name before she slipped into unconsciousness.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

That night, the mages moved the Warden to the cot next to Jowan’s in the infirmary. Maeve dreamed vividly of her and Jowan’s early days at the Tower.

 


Nothing can hurt us here. Not even my mean old mum…the Templars will protect us from bad people. Maeve, it’s going to be all right.” Jowan held her petite form close and she wept away the memory of a nightmare she’d woken from.

Never in her seven years of life had she seen such a terrible thing as she had the day before. The old mouser who prowled around the library sometimes had been possessed by a rage demon, and the Templars had ushered the children and their mentors out of the library and quickly slain the afflicted feline. Anders had to have been twelve or thirteen years old, and he had been inconsolable once the templars had confirmed the danger had passed.


One unlucky templar had been killed by the raging inferno Mister Wiggums had shot across the library, but that news was kept from the younger children.


Maeve had woken up screaming that night, Jowan being the first to rush to her side. He was only a year or two older, but they were together in most of their classes, and had become fast friends.


“Please don’t go.” She leaned on him, her tears staining his night shirt as he held her and comforted her.


“I won’t. No matter what happens, I’ll always be here. I’m here. You’re stuck with me, Lady Amell.” He grinned softly, trying to tease her into laughing.


It didn’t quite work, but the little redheaded mage elbowed him in the side gently. “Don’t call me that. I’m not a lady, I’m a mage.”


She sounded defensive, but not in a malicious way. It was sort of a running joke between the two, because she’d come from a noble family and he from a poor farmer and his very quick-tempered wife.


“Okay.” She was calmer now and she curled up in her bunk, and he started to stand up so he could return to his, but she grabbed for his hand.


“Stay?” she asked.


“The templars-“


“They’ll understand. I had a bad dream.” She squeezed his hand, afraid only for a moment that he’d leave, but he turned around and sat on the bed again.
He stayed with her that night, and sure enough, both apprentices were questioned the next morning about their sleeping arrangement, and regardless of what was in store for this pair of mages, the Templars understood.

 

-Present day-


“Jowan!” Maeve’s eyes flickered open and she quickly lifted her head. She tried to sit up when she saw him lying quietly in the cot where she’d last seen him, but gentle, firm hands held her down by her shoulders. She didn’t even pry her eyes from Jowan to see who it was.


“No….no, let go of me!” She cried.


“Amell-“

"Get OFF!” She raised her arm up and violently slammed the hands away, no longer caring who was holding her back.
She sat up and when she could see straight she stood and closed the distance between herself and her beloved mage.


“Maker, please let this all be a nightmare!” But she knew it wasn’t. Everything felt all too real. She was horrified all over again that while she at least had the Fade to allow her reflections of her past with Jowan, he didn’t even have his dreams. The tears stung in her eyes as she fought to hold them back.


She smoothened Jowan’s long raven hair and tried to ignore the sunburst. Leliana was at her side now, and Morrigan stood not far off. “Ma Cherie, I am sorry. The first enchanter told us you lost consciousness trying to heal Jowan’s wounds!”


“I’d lose a lot more if it meant saving him from this!” Maeve gestured towards the mark above Jowan’s brow.


Leliana embraced her gently from behind and Maeve let out another few sobs before she spoke again. “Will he wake up on his own, like I did? Or do the Templars get to dictate that too?” Her words were pointed and provocative. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Kyle, posted at the door who looked slightly hurt when he heard her questions.
Kyle opened his mouth to speak but no words would come. “My lady Amell-“

That struck a nerve. “Don’t ever call me that! I’m a mage, not a lady!” She repeated what she’d said to Jowan, in her dream of a night that happened a lifetime ago.


“I…I’m sorry…miss Amell. F-for what it’s worth, I didn’t know…when you were looking for Irving last night…I was with them, you know, when they took him from Redcliffe…I’m sorry. He really cared about you, and you obviously care about him. This shouldn’t have happened to either of you.”


Maeve’s eyes narrowed. “Aw, the chantry has a heart. I knew they were hiding it somewhere. Get lost, runt.”


Kyle looked even more hurt than he had before and he flinched a little in reaction to her tone. “I…I shouldn't say anything b-but, Jowan saved a Templar on our way here, and that Templar has been demoted. He's lucky he wasn’t thrown out of the order. Ser Derrick…was the most cruel, inhumane person I'd ever met. He almost killed Jowan but Irving stopped him. Then he turned on Irving…we managed to talk him down but something tells me he won't get a chance to hurt any more mages…”


“Didn't I tell you to get lost, boy?” Maeve asked sharply. Mouse was at her side now and he growled softly, reinforcing his mistress’ words.


“I…I am sorry. I'm stationed here.” Kyle said softly, gaze drifting to the carpet.
Maeve huffed and she turned back to Jowan, who had begun to stir. Little twitches and shudders here and there, but he was waking up.
“Maeve, I think-“


“I know, Leliana. I don't know what to say to him…” Fear came quickly to the ginger haired mage’s features and she began to tremble.


As Jowan’s eyes opened, his expression did not soften or falter when he saw Maeve. He was stoic, composed. He began to sit up seconds after he’d awoken but Maeve gently pushed him down. “Please, Jowan, stay down for now. Your wounds are not completely healed yet.”


“I feel discomfort here, but no pain.” He spoke softly as he always had, but his tone was even, the voice frighteningly emotionless. He'd indicated the side of his torso where he'd broken ribs and much of the bleeding had taken place.


“Oh…maker…” Maeve turned away from him for a moment and sobbed, the bard hugged her and rubbed her shoulders as the Mage wept.


“Have I done something to upset the Grey Warden? I am sorry.” Jowan did not look concerned but he appeared deep in thought, as if he were pondering any possible reason for Maeve’s tears. Leliana shook her head and continued rubbing soothing circles into Maeve’s shoulders.


“Jowan…you did nothing wrong. What was done to you…that is why I am upset. It should never have happened.” She now turned to face him, with a deep frown on her face.


“I never passed my Harrowing because I was a blood mage. I suppose I have what I always wanted, before…I am no longer a danger to anyone. Your feelings confirm that you are hurt by what I was bef-“

“Never! Don't ever say that!” She snapped suddenly at those words. If only I could make you what you were again, just to have you back, love! She thought to herself.


“I have offended you. I am sorry, Warden. I will not say such a thing again.” He replied.


“No. Not as sorry as I am, love.” She let the last part slip, causing her to sob again.


“I cannot be offended. You are upset and are bound to say things that are irrational, driven by emotions. I have no such emotions. I am no longer afraid. I screamed and begged for Knight Commander Greagoir not to make me this way, but I can no longer remember why. This is an agreeable state.” Then Jowan sat up. His raven hair fell down past his shoulders and the wicked symbol of the Chantry shone brightly and angrily above his brow.


When Jowan said that he had pleaded with Greagoir, Maeve’s heart seemed to shatter into pieces all over again. “I won't let him hurt you again, Jowan. He will pay dearly for what he did.”


“I'm going to just…ignore that threat to my Commander’s being. Just know the walls are thinner than the Veil in this tower, Warden. Tread carefully, please!” Kyle warned.


Maeve shot a pointed look his direction and then turned back to Jowan, then she reached for his hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze. “That was no threat. That was a promise.”


She unclasped her cloak and draped it over Jowan’s shoulders and then offered him her hand again to help him stand. She walked across the infirmary to grab a potion and she returned with an elfroot elixir.


“Here. Drink this. If I cast another spell Irving might have my head, but this should help.” She offered him the potion and he took it, popped open the cork and drank it.


“Thank you. The injury seems to be mending.” Jowan stated.


“Good…that’s great, Jowan. It's great. Come. I'm going to have a word with Irving.” She encouraged Jowan to follow her, along with her companions.


He gave her a small nod and they walked together to Irving’s office.


“Ah, Amell.” Irving’s expression dropped to a mournful, slightly guilty look when he saw Jowan trailing behind with Maeve’s companions.


“Don't. I want Greagoir to come and face the consequences of his actions. Jowan saved a Templar’s life! One of Greagoir’s own men! And he still had the…audacity to…do this!” She curled one hand into a fist, her own fingernails biting into her palm, and the other hand gestured toward Jowan.


“Greagoir was wrong to conduct Chantry business in an angry and poorly disciplined manner. But what is done is done and I am sorry for the pain this is causing you. I will be sending a report to the chantry, but unfortunately, due to Jowan’s past actions, the Grand Cleric will likely take Greagoir’s side.”


“Thanks for nothing then. I don't suppose there is any crazy secret concoction that will cure the Rite of Tranquility?” Maeve asked, half-joking.


“I…I cannot express how sorry I am. Greagoir and I do not know the cure, but there is a Seeker at Aeonar-"


“A Seeker of Truth? And isn't Lily at Aeonar?!” Maeve asked, abruptly interrupting the First Enchanter.


Yes. And so is Fen’Asha Surana.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Maeve let out an angry huff at the mention of Fen’Asha’s name. She and Surana had been the Circle Tower’s worst case of rivalry between any two apprentices, and things had worsened when Fen’Asha Surana had passed her Harrowing first, even though Maeve was eighteen and Fen’Asha was twenty one years old now. The only one who had been able to get Irving’s two youngest prodigies in the same room without ripping into each other’s egos was Jowan. He was the only human besides the First Enchanter that Fen’Asha liked or trusted.

 

Maeve thought she could handle facing Lily again, but Fen’Asha? After everything that Jowan had gone through because she had told Irving about his escape plan, she wasn’t so sure she would be able to contain her rage.

 

“Fen’Asha is there to work as a healer, before you ask. She is not a prisoner. The Seeker of Truth is stationed there to monitor the Templars who work with prisoners who may turn at any time. As you can imagine, the veil is very thin there, and I do not advise an attempt to enter the fortress.”

 

“Your advice is noted, but I probably won’t take it, Irving. After what Greagoir did to Jowan I have nothing to lose.” Maeve replied coldly.

 

“I wouldn’t be so rash, my dear…” Irving began.

 

“Where is Aeonar and how do I get in without being Smited down by twenty Templars?”

 

“That is a conversation you would need to have with Knight Commander Greagoir, Maeve.”

 

The runaway Warden swore under her breath. “I’m basically an apostate trying to undo the Rite of Tranquility. What makes you think he’ll even let me out of the Tower willingly?”

 

“You are still a Warden. My advice, return to the Wardens. End the Blight, then look into all of this.” Irving answered.

 

“You say that like this is some cutesy magical experiment being done by a child, Irving, it’s not! I’m trying to give back the emotions and dreams Greagoir ripped away from Jowan! Without Chantry approval. After he saved a Templar from Darkspawn.”

 

“You have a point, dear girl, but my hands are tied unless you go back to the Wardens. If I can put in a good word for you, Greagoir may cave, but as it stands, you are technically an apostate, by your own admission.” Irving sighed. “Go back to the Wardens. Prove yourself, get some leverage, and I may be able to help.”

 

“You’re insane if you think I’m letting Jowan stay like this.” she said after letting out an angry, humorless chuckle.

 

“I am sorry. There is nothing I can do about it, Maeve.” Irving looked troubled.

 

“I’m paying Greagoir a visit. Don’t try to stop me from telling him just what I think of his mistake.” Maeve snarled.

 

“Maeve, please. Just be careful. Greagoir...all the templars...have been on edge since Uldred-”

 

She whirled around and stomped past Jowan to face Irving, her face inches from his, hands balled up into fists again.

“First Enchanter, don’t you ever mention that name again!” She spat. “The Chantry is so inclined to believe he is to blame for Jowan’s downfall, but it didn’t matter. The Circle didn’t protect its apprentices from predators in their own realm, let alone the realm of demons. You were there when Uldred tried to get me to join his side. When I killed him, I said it was for Jowan...I blamed Uldred then, but now? Jowan would have felt trapped with or without the bastard’s influence.”

 

Irving looked guilty now, remembering his talk with Jowan before they had returned to the Tower with him. The Circle had failed Jowan.

 

The elderly mage took a step back. “I understand, Amell. You have made your point, but lashing out in a rage will not help your cause.”

Maeve sighed. “I know. You...you are right. I know it wasn’t you who did this to him, not really but-”

 

“I will not hold that emotional outburst against you, my dear...because I feel that I too have failed to protect my apprentices. Not just Jowan...had I suspected Uldred was coercing apprentices...threatening them with tranquility among other things. ..I could have saved more of my charges, Jowan included.” Irving said slowly. He sounded utterly melancholy.

 

Maeve’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry for everything, First Enchanter.” Her expression softened a great deal and she looked about to burst into tears again.

 

“As am I, child. Now go. If Greagoir comes to me, you have my support in your...mission, even if I can promise nothing.”

Irving smiled softly, but the small grin did not reach the old man’s eyes.

 

“Thank you, Irving...I just...I wish things were different.” Maeve replied, beginning to turn towards the door.

 

As they left the office, Maeve slowed her pace so Mouse could walk at heel and Jowan, who was still recovering from his physical injuries, would not be fatigued by walking too briskly.

 

Morrigan and Leliana brought up the rear. When they reached Knight Commander Greagoir’s office, Maeve’s hand was inches from banging on the heavy wooden door when a voice called to her from down the hall.

 

“Hey! Warden!...Maeve! Hold up for a second!”

She heard fully plated armor clanking as a tall, slightly tanned Templar jogged to catch up with them. Kyle. The only templar who actually had a heart.

 

The mage Warden turned to face him, and she scoffed.

“Are you out of breath, runt?”

 

“My name...is Kyle….and yes. You try running up two flights of stairs and down this long winding hallway in full plate- let me know how it goes.” Kyle replied, with his hands on his slightly bent knees.

 

“Oh, please. I ran faster here from Redcliffe.” Maeve retorted.

 

A few templars were happening by to relieve their comrades on patrols. All of them were fairly young, only one of them above Kyle in rank.

“But you were still too late.” One of them muttered.

“It was only a matter of ti-” Kyle stepped in front of the offending recruit, setting his jaw.

 

“Not another word, you insensitive sod.” The others snickered, all except Ser Bran.

 

“Aw, what’s the matter, Kyle? Let me guess. You’re trying to put moves on the Warden girl before her boy toy’s brand scars over-”

The other recruit didn’t get any further before Kyle punched him square in the face, a gauntlet breaking his nose. The one who started it all turned his head, shielding his face and then retaliated with a fist to Kyle’s jaw.

The other recruits all started shouting.

 

“Whoa! Kyle, are you mad?! Enough, lads!” Bran tried to get past the others to get between the two. But Maeve was faster, only because she was closer. She cast mind blast, centering the spell near Kyle so the others were plummeted onto their backsides, but Kyle was left standing, or at least staggering, next to her.

 

Stop it!” she cried. “ All of you!” There were tears streaming down her face. Had she really just used an offensive spell on five Templars? I’ve done worse. She reminded herself. Mouse was barking, Templars were groaning and nursing sore bottoms, and of course Kyle had backed off, but the one he’d punched was on the ground in a state of total shock.

 

“Greagoir, come quickly! There’s been a fight!”

Bran shouted, as he got up from the ground.

Maeve was in a state of panic. This eerily reminded her of Jowan’s outburst before the Templars and the way he’d lashed out when she and Lily were threatened by the Knight Commander. She hadn’t used blood magic, but still!

 

She sank to the ground, breathing heavily. Jowan stood beside her. Her companions were nearby, ready to defend her but not about to attack unless provoked or ordered to.

Mouse snarled and barked at the whole commotion, and Maeve clutched his collar to keep him from lunging or biting anyone. Across the hall, Greagoir’s door swung open, and the surrounding Templar recruits realized they’d best make themselves scarce and they scattered away, save for Kyle and the one he’d punched. There was blood on his gauntlet and when Greagoir surveyed the scene, the kind, usually confident recruit  began to shake.

 

Maeve was sobbing now, and Leliana now stood next to Jowan, knowing that her friend would want the man she loved protected, even if she was unable to voice it.

Morrigan made herself distant, but she still remained.

 

“What has happened here?! Kyle, my office. Now.” The Knight Commander’s face was red with rage and Kyle looked back at Maeve’s trembling form. The recruit he’d punched was clutching his broken nose and Bran was trying to put a cloth on it, but the stupid boy wouldn’t remove his hands, even though his own gauntlets were hard steel.

 

“Amell, stand.”Greagoir ordered. Maeve stared up at him, wanting to explode but remembering Irving’s words, all of them, and that Jowan was standing nearby.

 

“Amell. What happened here?!” His voice boomed in her ears, echoing in her mind. It was too much. This man had sentenced Jowan-had branded Jowan-

 

“What does it matter what a mage says? You will always believe the Templars. And the only decent one left in your command just walked into your office, and you’re probably going to throw him out of the order for being too nice to us!” Maeve cried.

 

Greagoir’s tone softened but remained stern.

“You are a Grey Warden first, and a mage second, Warden Amell. Your word weighs heavier than the average ma-”

 

If my word meant anything to you, Jowan would never have been made Tranquil!” Maeve hissed in response.

 

“Jowan is-”

 

Maeve shook her head violently. “Don’t speak of him. He is human and you wanted him put down like a rabid dog!”

 

Greagoir frowned.

“He’s-”

 

“Yes, he’s alive. We can all see that his heart still beats, but that’s all it does, thanks to you. Now he’s...he’s…”

 

She began to sob and she turned her head away.

“Amell. Amell. Maeve. Look at me, look at me!”

Her gaze shot up and she glared at the Knight Commander as though she could make him suffer as she was, just by looking at him.

 

“I performed...my duty, carelessly...and I was foolish not to listen to the First Enchanter. In the past three days I’ve lost three good Templars!”

Greagoir did not look upset, but he looked slightly apologetic.

 

“Three? I thought Ser Derrick-”

 

“He requested transfer to Kirkwall’s Circle. He ships out tomorrow, and these two ruffians ! What am I to do with them?!” He asked.

 

“He threw first blow, Knight Commander, I was only trying to defend myself!” The recruit on the ground protested. “Then the mage Warden cast a spell! Why haven’t you sent her to solitary?”

 

Maeve glared at him. “You call that a good Templar? Maker forbid I use magic to put them all on the ground before anyone got killed!

 

“Point taken, Warden. Do not...worry. You aren’t going to solitary. But you, Recruit Blaire, are transferred to kitchen duty until you learn to curb your tongue around mages you have no business threatening!”

 

“But the mage-Kyle-”

 

“Another word and we’ll add scrubbing the privy to your punishment. Begone. I’ll have no backlash from you, Blaire. Bran, see him out.”

 

“Yes ser.” Ser Bran escorted Blaire away from the gathered group. Mouse growled angrily as the two walked past.

 

“As for Kyle…”

 

“I hereby Invoke the Right of Conscription.” Maeve said quickly before Greagoir could get a word out. “I’ll need his help if I’m going to fix what you did to Jowan.”

“What?” Greagoir asked angrily. “First of all, you aren’t the Warden Commander, you have no Right of Conscription. Second of all, if there was a cure for Tranquility that is dangerous information and I would-”

Not lie to a Grey Warden who needs to reverse the Rite of Tranquility on a mage you admit didn’t deserve it? Don’t try it. Irving told me about the Seeker at Aeonar.”

 

“I never said he didn’t deserve it, I just should not have been so rash with my actions.” Greagoir said as he gestured for the group to follow him into hi office.

 

“I don’t care if you held his hand and whispered sweet nothings into his ear while you branded him. He still is Tranquil, and if there’s a way to reverse it you need to tell me. If I’m expected to help end the Blight, if refuse to do so if I will be remembered as a hero and the very man responsible for my conscription remains a shell of the man he once was.” Maeve said fiercely.

 

“Duncan conscripted you, Amell.”

 

“Because of Jowan. If I hadn’t helped him I’d be dead from Uldred’s takeover. He saved me!”

 

“He corrupted you!” Greagoir raised his voice. They were in his office now. Jowan was the last one in and he shut the door carefully.

 

“Yes, because how dare a mage dream of freedom? Or Maker forbid, being safe from hi worst fear, which he is now being forced to endure!” Maeve ranted, letting out her frustration and devastation that had been started months ago.

 

“He’s a bl-”

 

“And how dare a mage fall in love?” She asked, softly but with the fierceness of a dragon.





Chapter Text

"You...and Jowan were..." Greagoir's jaw all but dropped. His brows were raised and he looked less angry, more curious. Maeve nodded slowly with an annoyed expression on her face.

"You should have listened more, and acted less. Not that it matters. I bet you would have branded him anyway just to punish me for the rules I broke, had you known."

Greagoir took a step back. "N...not to spite you, no. I was just angry Jowan turned to blood magic, and about Lily..." Maeve glanced to Jowan, who stood stoically at the door. He didn't care. Not for Lily. Not for her. Her breath caught in her throat.

"Can Lily be spared? I think we've all suffered quite enough. Uldred has paid for his crimes, and I promise you Loghain's got it coming."

"I can't let you just take Jowan and reverse the Rite, even if there is a way for the Seeker to-"

Maeve burst into tears again. "Knight Commander, please. I can't let him stay like this. He begged you for mercy and now I'm doing the same thing because Jowan really didn't deserve this."

"The Chantry will not-" Greagoir began.

"I think we've established that I don't care for the Chantry, Knight Commander Greagoir. And besides, if it works, maybe I can ask Jowan to testify against Loghain when the nobles try to overthrow him. He was the real criminal  behind the poisoning of the Arl, after all."

"That would not suffice, the Chantry would still want the mage imprisoned, if not executed."

"No. I will not allow it. Release him into my custody. The Chantry can do without a sacrificial lamb."  Amell snarled the last part fiercely.

"We cannot allow a mage to leave the Tower without a phylactery, or a passed Harrowing. If you go, he must return for those things to be done. Then he may join the Wardens, provided you reunite with Alistair and fight the Blight. Jowan must testify against Loghain. Whether he wants to or not, and he must have a Templar escort keeping ahold of his phylactery."

"I volunteer." Said Kyle suddenly as he stood abruptly from the chair across from Greagoir's desk. "I will protect him, if that's how it must be."

"You would be protecting others from him, Recruit. But I will allow it." The Knight Commander said sternly.

"Y-you will?" Kyle asked, hope in his tone.

Greagoir smiled softly beneath his mustache. "I will, my boy. You have shown honor and valor far more notable than even some of my Knights, Kyle. I have no doubt you will represent the Chantry well in the eyes of the public."

Maeve's expression even settled to a light smile, tears still in her eyes. "Thank you Knight Commander, you will not regret this!" 
Jowan opened the door and stood aside for Maeve to walk through, and she placed a hand gently on his shoulder as she passed by him.

"We've got a plan now. Let's get ready to leave the Tower."

"Maeve, one more thing." Greagoir said softly as the rest of those gathered in his office filed out.

"Oh! Aeonar, where is it?"
He beckoned for her to enter the office again.

"In the Frostbacks, right between our border with Orlais and the Entrance to Orzammar. I will mark it on your map." He replied in a whisper. She handed him her map out of the pack at her hip and he placed a small "x" with the letter A in red ink in the location. 

"Thank you."

Greagoir nodded. "Maker guide your journey. Be careful when you get there. I will send a letter with you with my stamp of approval but just...be aware that the veil there is thin and that the reversal to the Rite of Tranquility has very rarely been tested. You and Seeker Octavia would be wise to consider the possibility that it will not work as planned. That is part of the reason I've sent Kyle with you, aside from the obvious. He is compassionate, but if Jowan must be subdued or...or if he cannot be salvaged, Kyle will know what to do and I trust he will perform his duty without causing unnecessary suffering."

The Warden responded crossly, "Unlike yourself when you branded Jowan?"

"I...yes. I do suppose I want him to succeed where I did not."

"You don't know how it warms my heart to hear you say that." Maeve replied dryly. 

The next few hours were spent making preparations to leave the Tower.
The others had gone to retrieve some last-minute herbs to make potions for the journey and Maeve took a moment alone with Jowan.
"You are staring at me, Warden Amell. Do you need something?"

"I would prefer just to be called Maeve, Jowan. I know the Chantry probably made you address everyone by formal titles and such, but there is no need for that. I am still Maeve, and I still hold you dear to me even if you can't return the sentiment." She sounded a little taken aback, and Jowan's next few words frazzled her even more.

"I am sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. There are rules for the Tranquil, just as there are for apprentices and the other mages." His body tensed, but he didn't flinch or cower. He blinked once or twice, leaving his grey eyes closed longer than usual as Maeve moved closer to him. Once she made sense of his body language, her heart shattered all over again. He thought she was going to strike him, or something. The fear was gone so he didn't react emotionally but he'd tensed so the blow would hurt less, the blinking so that he wouldn't see it coming. A physical response, nothing more, and yet it broke her heart just the same.

When she reached him her hands found his shoulders and gently stroked them. "J-Jowan, I've broken many rules in my life. I'll break a thousand more if it meant nobody ever hurt you again. Once we are out of the Tower we'll be free of the Circle's rules. And I am never going to hurt you, Jowan. You are precious to me, as I said before."

"I remember being afraid of being struck by others, right before being made Tranquil. I would imagine the physical pain still wouldn't be pleasant. Emotional pain was far less pleasant, and it would appear you're feeling that now."

"Of course I am, Jowan. The idea of someone hitting you..."

"You should not have such feelings for me. You are a Grey Warden, you must end the Blight or everyone will die, you cannot afford to have your emotions compromise your duty."

Maeve went pale. "I can't go be a Grey Warden without you, Jowan. That's all I know. Anyway, I did have a question for you. tell me about Kyle."

"The Templar recruit was kind to me on the way back form Redcliffe. Ser Derrick tried to kill me and Irving stopped him. Kyle replaced Ser Derrick as my escort guard, and he stopped the others from using a Holy Smite on me when I was put into my cell once we reached the Tower. He said I was already suffering enough. I know my wounds were severe, but I cannot grasp what I felt like otherwise. Then I was left alone. After that I did not see Kyle until you arrived."

"He was good to you." Maeve smiled, touched that even though she couldn't protect Jowan, someone else showed him at least a few small mercies. 

"Yes. He almost left the Templar Order because he didn't like how I was being treated. I persuaded him to stay because I thought the order needed more kind Templars."

"I'm glad he stayed." Maeve nodded, giving Jowan a gentle hug after packing her last poultice into her bag, for once not caring that the hug was not returned.

"Here they come." Jowan patted her shoulder, not gently but also not harshly.

The others were indeed back, led by Kyle.
"Are we ready?" he asked.

"Ready as we'll ever be." Maeve looked relieved to see the sandy haired Templar among her companions.

As they departed Maeve gave Jowan her hooded cloak and he hesitantly put it on. 

By the time they made their first camp the Warden and her companions had been walking for near ten hours.
Everyone was exhausted. Mouse took it upon himself to fall asleep with his head on Jowan's belly when the branded mage lay down. He knew how important this person was to his mistress so he was protective of him.
Maeve gently moved the dog's head up for a moment, so she could tuck a blanket around Jowan, who had no trouble falling asleep.

Instead she began to sing a song she'd learned as a child in Kirkwall's Chantry, before her magic surfaced.

"Shadows fall, and hope has fled, steel your heart, the dawn will come.

The night is long and the path is dark, look to the sky, for one day soon, the dawn will come."

She paused, checking to make sure Jowan was still asleep. Then he began to sing again, finding that she wasn't alone. Kyle and Leliana who had taken first watch were standing nearby.
Maeve continued to sing, and the other two joined her. Leliana sat beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, and Kyle stood not far off, keeping watch still. They finished the song together, and for the first time in months, Maeve felt all right again. Soon, it would be time for Jowan to feel all right, too.

Chapter Text

Early the next morning, Maeve was the first to wake, followed by her hound. Jowan was still lying on his bedroll, and she gestured for Mouse to stay with him. As she approached the dying campfire, she spotted Kyle putting on his armor for the day. Upon seeing the Warden, the young Templar smiled softly.

"Morning," his greeting was solemn but not unfriendly.

"Kyle, Jowan told me what happened with you almost leaving the order. I jut want you to know that for the sake of people like him, I'm glad you stayed. I also owe you an apology, for the way I treated you when I arrived at the Tower." Maeve was interrupted by a shake of Kyle's head.

"You don't need to apologize, Maeve, you were going through a lot. You still are. The important thing is we get Jowan back to how he was before, and keep him safe."

"Agreed. But...there is another matter I should probably discuss with you. My fellow Warden will probably object to our entire mission, because he wants me to help end the Blight. But I never wanted to be any kind of hero, I just wanted to keep Jowan safe. Ironically, that's how I ended up as a Warden, trying to protect Jowan from falling prey to the Circle's broken system."

"I've heard the story. The Wardens are lucky to have you." Kyle replied. "You and your fellow Warden were collecting treaties, weren't you?"

Maeve nodded. "Alistair is likely headed to the Brecilian Forest next. That's the last treaty we had. I hope he succeeds, and we can join up again, although I doubt he'll be too happy with me when we do...because Jowan will be with us."

As the day progressed, so did the journey for Maeve's strange little group. They packed up camp and began the long trek North towards the Frostbacks. They camped in odd places and never stayed more than a night or two at one camp. Not only did their determined leader want to keep moving, but she also wanted to keep their exact whereabouts known to few. Although the Arl of Redcliffe's men were allied with the Grey Wardens, there was no telling what would happen if any of them encountered Jowan, Tranquil or not. When Maeve went to a tiny village to resupply, Leliana accompanied her, but Kyle and Jowan stayed back at camp so they attracted little attention.

"Girl, you're dressed like you're headed to the beach," an old woman called from one of the market stalls.

"Oh, please, what are you trying to sell me? I probably need it, but I'm not likely to waste coin." Maeve rolled her eyes and turned to face the elderly woman.

"Oh dear, but you look so worn. I bet there's someone out there who'd like to see you smile, no?"

Leliana gripped her arm, as if she expected Maeve to snap at those words.

"No, mistress. Smiling would be a waste of time, now." Maeve said, tears welling in her eyes. Leliana looked the old woman in the face sadly.

"I am sorry...I can see it now, you wear your grief on your sleeve, my darling girl. Wear this instead! Free of charge." The woman handed her a gently worn scarf, not terribly heavy but if worn around one's neck, it could work pretty effectively. Maeve managed a small smile. "That's better, my dear. Be strong, child. You'll get through this troubling time, as will we all. Maker be with you."

"Andraste bless you." Maeve bowed her head, and wrapped the scarf around her neck. It was such a familiar color, if not a little faded. Whenever Jowan looked at her, she saw it in his once sparkling eyes. Someday, she swore she'd be able to look him in the eyes again and they could both smile.

As they were leaving the village there weren't many people about, and as evening fell they returned to their campsite. Jowan and Kyle stood by the campfire and Mouse galloped up to the two redheaded women and barked happily. Maeve chuckled and knelt to hug the hound, and the dog sniffed deeply at her new scarf. Then he walked off, panting contentedly. Kyle greeted the pair as well, with a gentle smile.

"I hope you don't mind, I peeked at your map. Aeonar is only about a day away. We should probably expect some resistance getting in, even if Greagoir or Irving sent word. Greagoir told me about Seeker Octavia. She sounds like a remarkable soldier, and an excellent researcher. He also mentioned that she has a strong will, but she uses her power to protect the basic rights of Aeonar's prisoners as best she can. But the some of the Templars there sometimes resent her, because they don't have free reign over their charges."

"Wow, sounds like some situation. Thank you for the warning, Kyle." Maeve expressed her approval subtly, but she really was happy to have someone with inside knowledge to ease the anxieties she had around entering the dreaded Aeonar.

Jowan approached her as she was laying her bedroll down in her tent. 


"Hey there..." she smiled, even if it was a little forced. She had to stay strong for Jowan. The real Jowan was in there somewhere. She promised she would never forget him.

"Hello, Maeve. I have a question."

"Of course, ask away."

"If we are headed to Aeonar, I suppose there is no way to convince you to let me stay this way."

"J-Jowan, are you serious? Wait, don't answer that, of course you are." she sounded distressed and she turned to face him entirely. 

"My condition allows me to be productive and useful but not dangerous. I'm not eager to become dangerous again, Warden." Jowan said, softly this time.

"I...I know it won't be easy, but I will stay with you, I can teach you to use your magic to help people, and your emotions will return. It's the right thing to do. You were so afraid, Jowan. I want to make sure you don't have to deal with your fear alone, ever again-" She looked pained but her voice did not falter. 

"Maeve, I will not bring this up again, if it bothers you. I am sorry." He nodded and walked back to the campfire, where the others sat and talked, save for Morrigan, in her raven's form. She sat atop a tree not far off, keeping watch,

Maeve's sleep was so troubled that night that she woke up screaming. Mouse ran to fetch Leliana. 

"Ma cherie! Ma cherie, are you all right?" Cried the Orlesian bard, as she opened the flap to her tent. Leliana was at her side at an instant, rubbing her back and whispering assurances both in the common tongue and Orlesian, and when Maeve pulled away her breathing steadied.

"I'm sorry. Grey Warden nightmares combined with all this..." Maeve said softly.

"Shhh, ma cherie, you're under so much stress right now. It may not look like it's all right now, but it will be, I promise."

"I hope I can promise Jowan the same thing."  The Warden whispered.

Chapter Text

They packed up camp early the next morning, wasting no time. Maeve didn't even eat breakfast, even though she made sure Jowan had a decent meal and enough time to eat it. She led the way, fumbling with the map. They got lost a few times before Kyle whistled, from the back of the group.

"Look! That must be it!" The tower was not as tall as the one at Kinloch Hold, but it was still impressive and intimidating. It was not the tower, however that made up a majority of the fortress. The lower chambers were likely where prisoners were held. Maeve felt the veil getting thinner and thinner as she got closer. The souls of many despairing mages were trapped here. She only hoped Jowan wouldn't add to them if this strange ritual with the Seeker failed.

She heard a spectral scream and it made her blood go cold. Jowan did not react, but Mouse did. He placed himself between the group and the fortress, planting his feet. Hackles up, the hound let out a menacing growl. "Come one boy, we have to keep moving."

"This place is the stuff of nightmares." Kyle said, sounding unsure for once.

"Your Chantry is to blame for that, little Templar. How does that make you feel?" Morrigan said with a cold chuckle.

"Admittedly, pretty horrible." Kyle confessed.

"Good." Morrigan said softly as they heard more screaming.

"It isn't real." Maeve said.

"Easily proven, my dear. Jowan, did you just hear something?" Morrigan asked in a serious tone as she kept walking to the front of the group, even with Maeve and her childhood friend.

The tall former blood mage looked at her, and shook his head. "It's quiet aside from our conversations. Are we in danger?" he asked, calmly.

"Morrigan, don't use him like that. We all know demons and fade creatures roam where the veil is thin. We don't need confirmation that he can't hear them. I don't need another reminder."

Morrigan looked irritated, but backed off. "'Twas simply a test to make sure nothing living is making that noise. If it was real, Jowan could have heard it too.

"Yes, I know." Amell shot her a dirty look before turning back to the road.

Kyle was gripping the hilt of his sword as they got closer because there were more sounds. Maeve adjusted her scarf and strode ahead of Mouse, whose hackles were still up.

"All right. Kyle, you have the paper from Greagoir, yes?" She asked moments later as they reached a small but singular door that seemed to be an entrance.

"I do." he replied as he reached into his pack and produced a small envelope.

Maeve walked up to the door first, but then paused. She gestured to Kyle.

"You'd better go first. A templar is less likely to be attacked on sight than an apostate Grey Warden with an angry dog." She gave Mouse a pointe3d glare and grabbed his collar, gripping the leather strap tightly as if he would attack who-or what ever was on the other side of that door.

Kyle tapped the door with a gauntleted hand. A minute ticked by before the door opened slightly. 

"Turn back now, Circle boy. The Knight Commander did not send word of any new arrivals." A gruff voice stated in more of a business-like tone than an actual warning or threat.

"We are here with his approval, actually. We need Seeker Octavia."
He handed the older Templar the envelope. The man examined it, and upon seeing the Knight Commander's seal, he nodded and opened the door wider.
"You can enter, but keep that Mabari on a lead. And I trust the mages in your company are authorized to be here?"

"I am Maeve Amell. Unfortunately, I'm a Grey Warden. Fortunately, that does not qualify me as an apostate."

"Amell, eh? No way. We heard you were killed in an incident with a blood mage! Or at the very least, you were branded."

Maeve felt the color return to her face a it quickly turned red. "was not branded. I was conscripted by Duncan, the late Commander of the Grey Wardens. If it weren't for that healer of yours, I never-"

"All right, all right, enough's enough, Miss Amell." Kyle said loudly, not wanting Maeve's temper to get them into boiling water just yet.
"It's time to go see the Seeker."

"Certainly. But what I was going to say was, mages better keep their wits about them here. The veil is very, very thin. I doubt I need to explain more, you passed your Harrowing from what I was told.:" The Templar explained in a slightly condescending tone.

"Yeah. Sure. At least I was allowed to take the damned thing." Maeve hissed.

They walked up two flights of stairs into the tower. There weren't any cells or anything that Maeve could see that even indicated this was a prison. She stayed close to Jowan and made sure no Templars stared at him for too long. Their escort didn't seem to care but the last thing she wanted was somebody asking about the black haired Tranquil mage in her party.

"Seeker, you have guests."

Their escort had finally stopped at a wooden door and knocked before cracking the door slightly.

A slender armored woman stepped out a minute later, with curly cinnamon colored hair and tan skin. Her eyes were kind even if her face was battle -hardened and she was likely in her early forties.

"Greetings." Her voice was softer than Maeve expected. More velvety and inviting than any warrior she'd met before.

"Hello. I am Maeve Amell. Of the Grey Wardens." Amell said the second part, and her last name, softly and timidly, as if she expected to be murdered on sight for being who she was. Her eyes were wide and expectant as she allowed the seeker in black armor and a black cloak to take her and her group in.

"You have a blood mage in your midst, my dear Grey Warden." She said knowingly as she laid eyes on Jowan, brand and all.
"Irving filled me in on what occurred after the incident. I know who you are, do not fret." Her face remained calm, even though Maeve had begun to panic at the mention of blood magic.

"So you know that he has to die-" The escort drew his sword.

"No." Octavia moved quickly to knock the man's sword from his hand with one high kick to his hand.

"What? You just said he was-"

"That will be enough from you, Ser Richard. Back to your post you go now, go on!" She flicked her wrist at him, gesturing for him to leave the group alone. Hesitantly, the Templar obeyed, descending back to his post down the stairs.

Once they could no longer hear his footfalls, Maeve turned back to Octavia. She had grabbed Jowan by the wrist and pulled him behind her when his life was threatened, but now she relaxed and released him.

"Please, do forgive Ser Richard. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed. Come into my quarters, dear Warden. And bring your friend with you. The words I have for the two of you are for your ears alone.

With a glance back to her companions, she nodded to them, handing Kyle Mouse's leash. "Stay there, boy. We'll be right back." she said softly. Leliana looked as if she had something to say, but did not voice it as Maeve turned around again and led Jowan into Seeker Octavia's room.

"With all due respect, Lady seeker, he is no longer a blood mage, or even a mage. Knight Commander Greagoir took that away from him. And I intend to try to get him back to how he was." Maeve was seething.

"My apologies, again, my dear. I do not know your friend at all. But you do. And surely you can tell me your side of the story? Becuase after that, I will  provide you with critical information that may change the way you view the Chantry. I want change for the way things are with the mages and Circles, and I think someone like you may understand the kind of changes I want to make. You may even be able to help."

"That's funny, because I thought all the Chantry higher ups just wanted the brand for all of us." Maeve responded with haste. Jowan sat down in a nearby chair. He was probably exhausted, but obviously he wouldn't complain.

"Not all of us, my dear Warden. I have seen the abuses many mages endure. I do intend to propose some new policies in Orlais, and once I do, hopefully ferelden and the Free Marches will follow suit. I have been working here to improve the lives of mages and finding new ways Templars can keep them safe without being too invasive, but as you can imagine, I am at a disadvantage, being stationed here instead of a Circle.

"Must be a challenge. Improving life for people who are basically excommunicated from the Chantry and forgotten by society." Maeve said sarcastically.

"Your wit is charming. I should be offended, but you will need plenty of wit if you're to remain at Aeonar for any period of time. The veil-"

"It's thin."

"Yes. Despair demons and their essences roam the grounds. They're not strong enough to be dangerous as long as they do not find hosts. But if they do possess someone...it's a gruesome business, as I'm sure, growing up in the Tower, you know."

"Yeah, actually, I helped defeat a desire demon that possessed the Arl of Redcliffe's son. Jowan helped too. He actually was the one to go into the Fade to kill the demon. But they...." Maeve trailed off, getting emotional as she explained only part of what happened at Redcliffe. "Sorry. It's still fresh in my head. They took him away in chains and I chased their caravan. If I had gotten there a few hours sooner....maybe I could have saved him."

"Oh, sweetheart." Octavia pulled up a chair for Maeve to sit in as the mage began to sob. She handed her a handkerchief. Maeve thanked her softly.

"Jowan's worst fear was to be made Tranquil...he just wanted to be safe. And that was why he turned to blood magic. Uldred screwed him over. So did Fen'Asha Surana."

Suddenly, Octavia looked really tense. "The healer?"

Maeve nodded. "She told Irving about Lily and Jowan and how we were all going to try to break out."

"I see. Well... you did mention Uldred-"

"You know I killed that bastard to give Jowan some justice, right? He was only the first person to screw him over!" Amell fumed, angrily.

"Yes, well...Uldred wasn't the only one, you have a right to know." Octavia said knowingly.

"What?" Maeve's head darted up to meet the seeker's brown eyes. "What are you talking about, Seeker?"

"Irving." the Seeker said simply, with a serious expression on her face.

"Yeah, he didn't want to give Jowan a chance...but, he didn't do anything,...did he?" 

"He confessed to me in the letter he sent with Lily. Jowan was one of about a dozen apprentices he baited with forbidden material in the library. Jowan took the bait, and Uldred worked with Irving to make a case. To weed out mages thought of as weak."

"That bastard!"  She shouted, standing up from her chair. "WHy tell me this?!"

"You deserve to hear the truth. You don't deserve to be left in the dark, Warden. All of this goes against one of my new policies. I want to eliminate Harrowings-"

"Okay, Seeker. Can we not get political? I just want to help Jowan any way I can!" Maeve cried.

"I understand... we can speak more about this later, then. I can try to help with Jowan, but I'll need to know your intentions with him after, provided the ritual works. And I will warn you, it has yet to work on a mage without the mage coming out of it insane. One of our subjects committed suicide, and the other disappeared only nights after the ritual. We think the issue has to do with connections, actually. If the mage in question has no support from others they trust, the mental trauma of getting emotions and magic back gets to be too much. At least that is what I have theorized. But that is where you come in."

"Y-you mean we could do this?" Maeve asked with a hopeful expression on her face.

"Potentially. It will not be easy however. And Jowan could become dangerous. We will likely have to restrain or otherwise subdue him if he cannot be calmed by those he trusts." Octavia continued.

"Do you think he would go insane like the others?" Maeve gulped.

"I do not know. The others had been Tranquil for at least a year, and had no one close to them. For Jowan, outbursts will be expected but his chances are slightly better than the others. We won't know unless we try."

"We have to try." Maeve said softly.

"Very well. You are very determined, young lady. I like you." Octavia chuckled warmly.

"You have no idea what this means to me..."

"I may not, but I am happy to help. We will need at least four mages to perform this ritual, and one person to enter the Fade."

"Perfect. Fen'Asha will help too, right? If she wants to fix things...and if she doesn't want a Stonefist to the face."

Octavia gasped and then laughed again. "She will have to. We don't have many mages here who aren't prisoners. The only catch is, the veil is so thin here that only a non-mage can enter the Fade to complete this task without a chance of possession or death. We cannot risk you dying, mage or not. The person must also be someone Jowan won't be terrified of upon seeing them in the Fade. They'll have to leave the Fade together after this person has contacted a spirit."

"I'll have to talk to my companions then." Maeve said, disappointed that she couldn't be the one to go.