“Makers hairy ball sack,” Varric muttered as he staggered out of Haven's only surviving tavern. Taking a deep breath, he looked up into the green sky of late afternoon. So he'd had a bit much to drink, but with the events of the last few days...He stepped out away from the building a bit then returned his gaze to the heavens.
It was pretty, and creepy, that big green swirly...hole in the sky. “Mostly creepy,” he muttered to himself. A couple moved past him and into the tavern while he ignored them, focused on the breach. It was terrifying. Mages and Templars killing everyone in their path. The Divine dead. Darkspawn, cults, red lyrium and to top it all off, a huge hole in the sky that spat demons like a drunken sailor...spat.
He wasn't a coward, but this… this was beyond heroes, beyond armies, beyond magic.
The whispered prayer just seemed to slip out of him. He barely believed but…“Maker, if you're listening, could you be a buddy and send us a miracle?”
Maker but she was tired. Running a hand roughened by hard work through her unkempt hair, she glanced around at the other women drudging laundry in the steaming vats that filled the rickety wash house. Stooped backs and wrinkled faces graced both the old and the young here. Her eyes followed these victims of age, hunger and exhaustion as they washed and wrung and nattered on. Suddenly she couldn't bear the trivialities of their chatter. Muttering a short excuse she slipped out the side door.
Outside, she took a moment to breath in the thin mountain air. The sounds of refugee bustle kept Haven less than quiet in the aftermath of the great explosion that had rocked the world… Quiet, now that was something she longed for. Quiet, to grieve for the little one she’d lost. Quiet, to ponder what hope there could possibly be for her. A woman who had nothing and was nothing in a world where “nothing” meant you were just another casualty of those who had or wanted something.
...Death is quiet.
She sighed and moved to re-enter the washing house. Perhaps she could let that chatter drown the thought that kept worming its way into her mind. When she opened the door the sound and smell of despair and fatigue and fear hit her like a solid blow. Something inside her snapped.
Later, out of breath from running and out of what little energy her sudden distress had given her, she found the humble mountain shrine and collapsed in the snow at its overgrown base.
This shrine, a tiny rough carving to the maker, was little frequented. Ignored by those who had made the pilgrimage over the years to celebrate the glory and sacrifice of Andraste. She liked to imagine it felt as lost as she did, and so she’d come here more than once since she’d taken the washing job at Haven to support herself after the death of her child. Often she’d sit here and wonder if the supplicant pilgrims knew how much pain and sweat their devotions cost those who lived and worked in the small community below the great temple. Today, though…
She stared up at the great green hole in the sky. The gossip on the streets touched unreliably on the works of the great and mighty. The hope of the Herald and important things of gods and prophets. But the conversation in the wash house, the life she was part of, was more concerned with the small things of humanity. As her grief had grown, so had her distance from those small things and small people. Now she felt as isolated and inhuman as any stone statue in spite of the coming together the breach in the sky had wrought amongst so many there.
The thought twisted her mouth in a wry smile and she set her back against the frowning stone. “Two of a kind, aren’t we?” The dead brambles that twisted about the rough effigy caught at her hair, drawing a bead of blood from her scalp as her breath fogged the air in front of her.
She hadn’t slept much since… nightmares of the small hand being torn from her grasp. The wash of blood that had once been the child she’d loved more than breath and life itself. She hadn’t even really understood what the fighting was about. Mages? Templars? What did such things matter to those at the bottom, until their violence stole a precious life away?
Her feet were going numb, and trembling rocked her bone-thin frame. It was time to head back to the village, to shelter and warmth and her work. She bent forward to begin the stiff process of standing, but the brambles, in a way that felt almost insistent, pulled her hair.
Maker, her lips moved in silent prayer, she WAS tired. Too tired to fight anymore and she leaned back into the stone, letting the brambles have her. I wonder if there even is forgiveness for one who has forsaken her vows she thought, but what came out in words was different. “I wonder if they will find me in the spring?” A sad thought, but it made her smile. Perhaps she’d just sleep until then. Let the brambles have their way.
“By gods forsaken, fate emptied of hope…” Her eyes began to droop as the cold seeped into her body. “I used to hate this verse.” Her shivering was fading with the sun...but it wasn’t sunset yet was it? “Wounded I fell then, by grief arrow-studded, never... to heal...” A slight sigh as her voice slowed with her heart. “Never to heal, death for me come.” And then silence.
And in the silence came a voice that was not a voice. Deep and small, old and young, soft as a baby’s sigh and thundering as an army marching to war. Love and hate in equal measure...until the hate fell away and in the last word was only love.
“Heart that is broken, you have forgotten. Within my creation none are alone.”
She startled awake, wondering why she couldn’t move. Panic, then remembrance. She’d died. Or intended to. Her legs ached, though, so she couldn’t be dead yet.
Actually, her entire body ached. She managed to crack an eye open past the ice that had frozen her lashes together. Dawn... or, it looked like dawn, everything seemed so bright. She’d been out here all night! Her stomach clenched in hunger, waking her to the certain understanding that, against all that was real and true, she was not dead. It was that final bit of humanity that forced her past the torpor and into the struggle to move against her frozen clothing. Finally she stood panting on aching, frostbitten feet. Disoriented and confused, she began her slow way back down the mountain to the distant echo of morning work-a-day sound.
And so didn’t notice the rose, perfect and beautiful, growing out of the winding bramble where the brown strands of her captured hair sparkled in the cold.
Below the ground the darkness moved. It writhed and suffered. Even the twisted beings before it shuddered as what was already hideous became more so through the dark thing inside it. Flesh, hair, and… breasts… The mother’s eyes finally opened to them and the horde rejoiced . “The light is in the world. Find it."