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In Her Absence

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          Life truly has a way to bring unexpected consequences to actions; forgetting your texts before a lesson leads to a lashing from the professor. Messing with manners in front of nobility could result in the scorn of the rest of the court. However, what if they were not of one’s own doing, but instead the fallout of another? Of no doubt infidelity brings out the scorn of a wife, but the one who truly suffers is the child. But what of thousands of peoples made disenfranchised in one night, due to the sick mind of one of their kind?

          That is what Clover thought about every day for a year. At night she would lie her head down to dream, yet her dreams brought her nothing but torturous memories of the last night she had in her Circle. Every morning she woke up surrounded by the dour faces of her companions, knowing their dreams were the same. Most rejoiced the freedom from behind their weary eyes, while some mourned the loss of their safe haven. As for Clover, however still quite aware of the danger she were in, rejoiced quite feverishly in her release from bonds.

          The wilds had been their home ever since the fall of the Circles, since they were ousted from their home in Ostwick. They had lost some at first due to injuries from their escape, a select to abominations, others to sickness. Over time Clover’s small party gathered some here and there, but never had a home. She would say every city and town had thinly veiled aggressions toward them, had they ever attempted to hide it in the first place. Mages were not to be served but to be feared as if each were to burst into demons on the spot. The situation between Mage and Templar was not helped by the Apostate who destroyed the Chantry in Kirkwall years before; no, that was never to be forgotten nor forgiven.

          Not too long word of peace talk had reached the ears of hundreds of mage camps throughout southern Thedas. Given her nobility status Clover had been urged to go, but as she continuously stated time and time again she knew nothing of politics or high society, so then why should she go? No, her skills as a healer was of better use to the sick and helpless in the free mages camp.

          It was of good fortune she did not go, seeing as the talks had gone sideways leading to the covenant erupting and causing the death of thousands, mages and templars alike. None was so mourned as the great Divine Justinia herself who had been caught up in the chaos. Speculation poured in from all sides: The Mages blamed the Templars and the Templars blamed the Mages. Some believed it marked the end of times, that the Maker had truly left as had his bride Andraste, as an impassioned follower Clover could not believe it.

          Word of the dreaded event reached her as soon as refuge was found in Redcliffe. The King of Ferelden had so graciously given them safe haven when they had been spurned from all other places. Word spread like wildfire of the King’s good deed and mages flooded into the land in droves. Not too long after there were whispers of a man touched by the Bride, delivered from the Fade by Andraste herself. This man had been deemed Andraste’s Herald, a title which the clerics were quick to dismiss as blasphemous. They tried to suppress the news, but with rifts to the fade pouring out demons, and rumor of the Herald’s special power over the sealing of such rifts, he brought hope to those afflicted.

          That was where Clover found herself at the present, sitting on the docks overlooking the setting red sun. The cool breeze blew a lock of curly red hair to tickle her face, and she quickly tucked it away behind an ear. She hugged the shawl around her shoulders, unaccustomed to the cooler weather Ferelden had to offer.

          “Lady Clover!” Sandy steps ran hastily toward her and stopped at her back as they hit the planks. A young village girl stood behind her huffing and puffing for her own breath. “She is ready, you must come quickly.”

          The young mage took a deep breath and stood, taking her staff in hand and tome in another. “Do not worry, the child will not fall out.”

          Up Clover traveled from the docks, past the stalls where the merchants peddled their wares, and into the town. At the top of a long hill stood a once vacant cottage, now the home of many a mage. The loud screams of pain could be heard for quite the distance, and despite the serene outside inside the cramp and decrepit cottage mayhem ensued. Other mages ran around fixing soaked bandages and filling bowls of water. In the middle of the mess lay a heavily pregnant elf, her hair clung to her sweat laden forehead and face seemed permanently etched in agony. Her hands gripped the sides of the old mattress with white knuckles as if letting go would make her float away.

          Quickly Clover donned an old, once white apron and quickly began giving orders. She positioned herself at the end of the mattress and gently reached a hand into one of the elf’s. “I am here friend.”

          “Maker, just get it out of me!” She gripped the red-headed mage’s hand tight. “I can bare the pain no longer.”

          “Now now, don’t say anything you want your child to resent you for.” Clover said as she wrenched her hand out of her friends. The old, leather tome she bore she placed beside the bed, and with a wave of her hand and a murmured old elvish word it opened. The corners of the pages turned as if a breeze had its will. Slowly the pages stopped at the right spell, and Clover smiled. Pulling magic from the fade always made her hair stand up on end, but pulled it she did. The ethereal blue spell swirled above the pain-laden elf and rained down. The tension on her face lessened as she let her head fall back on a mountain of straw pillows.

          “You are nearly over the hill, Aditi. All that is left is to push.” She pat her friend on the knee.

          Nearly over the hill, but how far did they still have to go? Hours passed as Clover coached her friend to push and bear down, to rest and take a breath, then continue to push. The daylight turned to night and the moon was high before the screaming of a babe could be heard.

          Aditi, the exhausted but happy mother held onto her pink, wrinkly child and cood at her. She allowed her finger to tease the  new born’s palm and rejoice in the instinctual grip she had.

          “She favors her father, don’t you think?” Aditi said without taking her eyes off the child.

Clover looked up from folding the cloths she did not use and examined the baby. “Her ears set her apart from him. That is it, but then again all babes look the same to me.”

          “Mmm, begrudge all you like. I think she is lovely.”

          Clover smiled to herself at the happiness of her friend. “Rest is what you need right now. I will stay with you the night should you be in want.”

          “You are a good friend, I thank you.”

          “Yes, well rest now. Thank me later.”