pariswriter: (Default)
Title:  The Ferelden Chronicles - Chapter Five
Author:  ParisWriter
Game:  Dragon Age: Origins
Summary:  Varia Surana thought her life had already been mapped out for her. She would be a mage of the Circle of Ferelden, studying and perfecting her craft. However, an unforseen series of events sends her headlong into a world thrown into chaos by the King's death and an impending Blight.
Rating:  T/PG-13
Pairings:  Cullen/Surana; eventual Alistair/Surana
Characters (This Chapter):  Varia Surana, Owain, Duncan, First Enchanter Irving
Disclaimer:  Dragon Age characters, settings, and any dialogue taken from the game ©BioWare. Varia belongs to me.   
Content Warning:  Mage Origin Spoilers; Overall game spoilers; Adult language; Mild violence; mature content in later chapters

In this chapter: Varia receives a gift from a friend, has a conversation with the Grey Warden about magic, and mistakenly places her trust in the man she has looked up to for most of her life.


Chapter Five: A Betrayal of Trust

Varia groaned and stretched, reaching up with one hand to rub the sleep from her eyes, and suddenly froze in place. A moment later, her eyes flew open and she shot up into a sitting position on her bed. She had only meant to rest her eyes for a moment, and instead managed to fall asleep in an awkward position lying across her bed with her feet danging over the edge toward the floor. At least... that was how she remembered lying there. Now she found herself properly laid out on the bed, a fresh dent in the pillow where her head had just been. Apparently someone had moved her – perhaps Cullen, maybe Irving – and she had been so exhausted she didn't even register it.

"Maker's breath!" she uttered quietly, wondering just how late it was. If she had slept well into the night and Jowan had already been taken for his Rite of Tranquility, she would never forgive herself.

She took off her apprentice robe and poured some water into the basin at her bedside to wash up quickly before heading back out into the tower to complete the task Jowan and Lily had entrusted her with, but when she went to gather up her new mage robes she found a package wrapped in brown paper with her name on it. Curious, she opened the package and found a different set of yellow robes – ones fashioned in the popular style worn by Tevinter mages, with feathered pauldrons – and two pairs of black stockings embellished with yellow-gold accents to match the robes. She knew immediately who the gift was from, but had no idea how he had managed to get it to her. Seeing a folded note tucked away within the robes, she pulled it free and sat on the trunk full of her belongings to read it.

To the Most Enchanting Elven Apprentice in the Tower–

Or should I be saying 'The Most Enchanting Elven Mage,' now? Congratulations on passing your Harrowing! I'm sorry I couldn't be there to congratulate you properly, but you know me... I can't seem to stay out of trouble.


Varia rolled her eyes. She could easily imagine the smirk on his face as he thought about how he was going to 'congratulate' her.

Luckily, the First Enchanter agreed to pass these on to you for me, and he even said I could have a moment to write you this note before they throw me back into solitary for another term – this time a full year! Can you believe that? They caught me the quickest this time, and I still manage to get an even longer sentence in that rat-infested hole! At least I'll have Mr. Wiggums to keep me company.

If he had been standing before her, she would have pointed out that the length of his sentence didn't have anything to do with how quickly they had caught him, but the number of times he had escaped. His last sentence had been eight months – which was cut down to six when Greagoir lacked enough manpower to keep a guard constantly on his door for the rest of the term. A year was nothing. He should be glad he was still alive after seven successful escapes.

I know you will look absolutely ravishing in these robes, my dear. They're so much more elegant than the frumpy ones we're given here at the tower, don't you think? And they're the same color, so they can't complain too much. Just make sure you wear the stockings with them – it completes the whole look. I can't wait to see you in these!

Kisses,
Anders


Varia sighed and folded the paper once more, then set it aside and stared at the robes Anders had gotten for her. She vaguely wondered if he had actually paid for them, or stolen them. Perhaps he had performed some sort of exchange of services in order to get them – which, for Anders, likely meant spending a few lustful nights with a lonely woman whose husband was away in exchange for having her make or buy the robes for him. No matter what he had done to get them, though, he had gotten them just for her. It was a sweet, if self-serving, gesture.

She knew he simply wanted to see her in the skimpier robes and stockings... and she was happy to oblige. If there was one thing Anders had gotten right in his letter, it was that the robes they were given to wear were too restricting – or 'frumpy,' as he had called them – to do any real spell-casting. It would take more than her fingers and toes to count the number of times she had been forced to hold back in her practice duels with Irving simply because she was afraid of setting her sleeves on fire. It appeared the Tevinter robes also had arm bracers, but they looked to be designed to fit snugly on the wearer's arms and not hang about the way the cloth of the Circle robes did. Perhaps the robes given to them had been designed by the Chantry as another way to try to keep them all in check.

She carefully set aside the robes Irving had given her earlier in the day and dressed in the ones Anders had gotten for her, instead. If any of the other mages had a problem with it, she didn't care. If Irving told her she couldn't wear them, she would promise to stop wearing them after a week or so. After all, they were a gift and it would be rude of her to not wear them for at least a little while. And, of course, she would wear them for a day or two after Anders' release from solitary so he could see them on her. She might not be willing to let him bed her, but she could at least let him ogle her a bit for his kindness.

Once she had dressed, she fixed her hair and went out into the hallway and began walking toward the stockroom to speak to Owain about retrieving a rod of fire. She stopped one of the senior enchanters along the way – a sour-faced woman named Leorah –  to ask her what time of day it was, and was greatly relieved to discover that it was still early in the afternoon. She thanked the woman, and continued on her way with purpose in her step. She wouldn't fail Jowan. She would help him escape the tower...

Her steps slowed a bit once more as doubt started to seep into her mind. What if Jowan was wrong? What if Lily had been mistaken when she saw the paperwork for the Rite of Tranquility? What if it had actually been an order for Jowan to take his Harrowing? If that was the case, she would be dooming her friend rather than saving him. She should talk to Irving about it, even if Jowan and Lily had both decided against it. He was her mentor, like a father to her, the man she trusted most in the entire world. Surely he would help clear Jowan's name once he knew the accusations against him had been false.

"Welcome to the Circle's stockroom of magical items. I am Owain. How may I assist you?"

The jumble of thoughts in Varia's head stopped when she heard he monotone voice of the stockroom's tranquil keeper asking what she needed. She hadn't realized she had already ended up there, and she stared at him dumbly for a moment to collect herself before speaking.

"I require a rod of fire," she told him, trying to sound as casual as possible. Owain didn't seem to notice anything odd at all about how she was acting, though.

"Rods of fire serve many purposes," he stated. "Why do you wish to acquire this particular item?"

She hadn't thought she would actually need to give a reason for wanting a rod of fire. She had assumed that everything within that stockroom was for the use of the mages in the tower. She should have known she would need to give a reason, though, especially now with an apparent blood mage lurking within their ranks, somewhere.

"I need it for my research into... burning things," she responded, trying not to cringe at how idiotic she sounded. She didn't need a rod of fire to burn anything. Luckily, the tranquil mages kept mostly to themselves and didn't know the strengths and weaknesses of the other mages and apprentices within the tower.

Owain simply nodded and turned away, going over to a nearby box and sifting through its contents. Varia breathed a quiet sigh of relief. Soon she would have the rod of fire she needed, and then this entire ordeal would quickly be over with. Her relief was short-lived, however, as when he turned back he was holding nothing more than a piece of parchment in his hands.

"Here is the form – Request for Rod of Fire," Owain told her, handing her the parchment. "Have it signed and dated by a senior enchanter. I will release a rod to you once I have the signed form."

"Why can't you give it to me now?" Varia asked impatiently, looking at the form in her hands.  A cursory examination of the text revealed that the person signing the form would take full responsibility for all doings of the mage who was to receive the rod of fire, including but not limited to burning others and destroying property of the Circle of Magi.

She had no choice, then. She would have to go to Irving and seek his help, for she would not risk condemning an innocent senior enchanter who had no idea of her plans when signing her form.

"It is procedure," Owain explained. "I need a senior mage's authorization to release an item. Thank you."

Owain went back to standing silently at his post, diligently waiting for the next mage to come along who would require his assistance, and Varia tucked away the form within her new robes before heading to the library. She knew she should be going straight to the First Enchanter's study to speak with Irving, but she needed a moment to decide what she was going to say. She didn't want to get Jowan into trouble, so she somehow needed to gauge Irving's responses to see if the Rite of Tranquility was truly set to be performed on him or not without giving away the fact that Jowan and Lily believed it would be and were planning to escape the tower together.

She was surprised to see Duncan, the Grey Warden, standing before a section of bookcases, leisurely flipping through the pages of one of the tomes that had been in the circle's possession for at least a hundred years, if not more. She walked up to him, curious what he would be doing in a mage library since he was clearly not a mage, himself.

"Hello, again, my young friend," Duncan greeted her without turning around, taking her by surprise. She had just been about to announce her presence, but he had somehow noticed her there even with his back to her. He closed the book in his hands and placed it back on the shelf before turning to her, and he smiled at the sight of her bewildered expression.

"I hardly expected to meet you here," he said, which caused Varia to smile and let out a quiet laugh.

"I should be saying the same to you, Duncan," she told him. "After all, this is a library for mages. I am a mage, so my being here makes perfect sense, does it not? You, on the other hand..."

Duncan chuckled. "I may not be a mage, but I still have an interest in magic," he explained. "And I was referring to your being out cold as the reason I'm surprised to see you here. You didn't move a muscle when the First Enchanter and I righted you in your bed earlier."

Varia felt her cheeks burning in embarrassment. She would have been fine with Irving seeing her like that – after all, he used to put her to bed as a child when she first arrived at the tower – but Duncan was an entirely different matter. He was an honored guest, and a Grey Warden. A certain amount of decorum was expected of the tower's inhabitants when someone like him was visiting.

"There is no need to be embarrassed, my dear lady," Duncan assured her. "I know all about the Harrowing. It is quite understandable that you would be physically exhausted after such an ordeal."

"How do you know about the Harrowing?" she wondered. "We're not permitted to speak of it to anyone who has not yet taken theirs."

"Mages in the order like to talk," he simply replied. "Certain ones do, anyway."

"I see... So why were you with Irving in my quarters?" she wondered, recalling he had said they were there together and not that Irving had gone to seek his help in moving her to a proper position in her bed.

"I simply had some things I wished to discuss with you, things which also concerned Irving," Duncan told her.

"Such as?" Varia prompted, her heart racing. If a Grey Warden wished to speak to both her and the First Enchanter about something, did that mean he wished to recruit her? And, if so, was he recruiting her for the King's Army or the Grey Wardens? Either way, she would end up leaving the tower. She hadn't been in the outside world for over a decade. She barely remembered what it was like outside the tower walls. It would be nice to have a change of scenery, but the thought of leaving behind everything she had known for most of her life was rather daunting.

"You don't fear using the power at your disposal, do you?" Duncan asked her, his dark brown eyes sizing her up as he spoke. "It is dangerous, yes, but necessary."

"I have never felt endangered by magic," she told him. Yes, there was that story about how she had been brought to the tower after killing a man with her magic at the age of four, but she could remember no such thing ever having taken place. As far as she was concerned, it was just a rumor – a story concocted by the other apprentices who were jealous of her abilities and the First Enchanter's personal involvement in her training.

"What about abominations? Or blood magic? Do you deny these things exist?"

Varia found it odd that he would ask her of blood magic and abominations, especially since he had been present when she was discussing the issue of blood magic with Irving earlier. Was he suspicious that she was the blood mage?

"I do not deny the existence of these things, nor am I foolish enough to think they are not dangerous," she replied. "Since you know about the Harrowing, I am sure you know what is done to a mage during that test. I will have you know that it is not an experience I would ever like to face again. Not because I fear that I will succumb the second time around, but because I have seen the true face of the evil which lies in the souls of men and it is... terrifying," she concluded, shuddering at the memory of her encounter with the pride demon.

"I'm glad you see that," Duncan said, nodding in agreement. "Exercising some caution is always wise. It seems you have a good head on your shoulders, just as Irving said."

"Thank you, Duncan."

"If I may, though... You seem troubled. Is something bothering you?" he asked, that scrutinizing gaze of his fixed upon her once more.

"A friend of mine is going through a personal crisis," she told him. She didn't want to lie to the man, but telling him the complete truth was also a bad idea. Thankfully, he didn't pry any more and instead chose to take his leave.

"In that case, I am sure you have better things to do than stand around chatting with an old man," he told her, giving her a slight bow before stepping around her. "We shall talk more, later."

Varia bade him goodbye and watched him leave, still unsure why he seemed so interested in her. Returning to the task at hand, she decided to stop stalling and speak to Irving. She had no idea what she would say to him, but she couldn't put off the conversation any longer. Every minute which went by was another minute that brought Jowan closer to being made tranquil against his will.

She turned around and left the library, passing by Owain once more on her way to Irving's study. She kept her pace steady, until she reached the doorway... then she hesitated, once more. Taking a deep breath to steel her nerves, she finally stepped forward into the open doorway. Irving immediately turned around from straightening another stack of books on his desk – probably more tomes on forbidden magics – and smiled warmly at her as she approached him.

"Feeling better, I hope?" he asked her, and Varia forced a smile. It quickly faded, however, and she shook her head.

"What is bothering you, child?"

"When is Jowan going to be taken for his Harrowing?" she asked him, deciding it was best to not beat around the bush and just come right out and ask him for the truth without actually admitting to what Jowan was up to.

"He will go through it when he is ready, just like any other mage," Irving told her.

"He's ready now," Varia insisted, the volume of her voice rising slightly

"That is not for you to decide," her mentor reminded her. "Why are you so concerned about this matter, anyway?"

"Because he's my friend," she answered quietly, averting her eyes from his.

"Oh? And this has nothing to do with the fact that he is about to be made tranquil?"

Varia's eyes snapped back to Irving's face and she found him staring intently at her with his arms crossed over his chest and one eyebrow raised in question.

"I... How did you..." she stumbled over her own words, shocked that the older mage was somehow aware that Jowan knew he was going to be made tranquil.

"So it's true, then?" she finally managed to say, holding his gaze steadily with her own.

Irving let out a heavy sigh, seeing the sadness written in her eyes. He knew the two of them were good friends, and had been so since she had first come to the tower. If Jowan had gone to anyone about his predicament once he discovered it, Irving knew that it would be her he went to.

"I am sorry, child," he apologized, no longer able to face the pain she was feeling and instead choosing to avert his eyes in the direction of the floor. "I know you and he are close. If there was any way I could prevent this from happening... believe me, I would. But I am afraid my hands are tied."

"Surely you can do something," Varia pleaded. "Talk to Greagoir. Tell him he's made a terrible mistake."

"Greagoir says he has proof – and eyewitness testimony – that Jowan has been practicing blood magic."

"And who is this 'eyewitness' of his?" Varia asked, a sharp, bitter edge to her voice. "One of his templar lackeys? You would trust one of them at their word over your own people? For all we know, Greagoir could be making this entire thing up! He hates all mages!"

"Lower your voice, child," Irving admonished her, his own voice barely above a whisper. "You know what sort of punishment awaits those of us who speak out against the templars so openly."

"So I get thrown into solitary for a week. It would be worth it to save the life of my best friend."

"There is nothing you can do," Irving told her, firmly.

"Jowan isn't a blood mage!" Varia insisted, her voice getting louder once more as tears began to sting in her eyes. "This is all just a misunderstanding. He's not sneaking around the tower in order to perform secret, dark rituals."

"I know," Irving said. "He's sneaking around to dally about with that initiate."

Varia stared at him blankly for a moment, wondering if she had heard him correctly.

"You... You know about him and Lily?" she asked quitely.

"Of course I do," he told her. "I did not become First Enchanter by keeping my eyes and ears shut."

Varia swallowed nervously. She hadn't even picked up on the relationship between them, and she knew Jowan better than anyone in the tower. If Irving had discovered their relationship, then perhaps he also knew about the one she was having with Cullen. For a brief moment, she considered asking him about it before changing her mind. If Irving didn't know about her stolen moments with the templar, she'd be condemning her love to a severe punishment by outing them. It was best she just keep it to herself and hope that if Irving did know, he was doing his best to help them keep their romance a secret.

"She is the one who told him that he would be undergoing the Rite of Tranquility, is she not?" Irving wondered. Varia nodded and looked away from him.

"There is something else you are not telling me," he added, his dark eyes narrowing as he observed her carefully.

"They're planning to run away together," she informed him, still unable to look at him.

"That is a foolish notion. The templars will catch them right away, and he would not only still be made tranquil, but the young woman he's been flitting around with would also be punished."

"They're... They plan to destroy Jowan's phylactery before they go," Varia admitted, unsure why she was so readily telling him everything. Perhaps a part of her thought that Irving might help them accomplish their goal. After all, it was no secret that he had no real love for the templars who ruled over his mages in the tower.

"I take it they have trusted you with this information because they have asked you to help them carry out their plan?"

"Yes," Varia said.

"Good," Irving replied, and she breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed he would indeed be willing to help them, after all.

"If the Circle must punish one of its own, I will see the Chantry done the same courtesy," he continued, and Varia's heart sank as she looked at him.

"You have no intention of helping Jowan at all, do you?" she asked him, her voice full of quiet anger. "You're going to use him to get back at the Chantry, instead."

"My hands are tied when it comes to protecting Jowan," Irving told her. "At this point, there is nothing I can do. Any protests I have made on his behalf fell upon deaf ears – and, yes, I did stand up for him on several occasions before the rite was decided upon. Once the templars hear the words 'blood magic,' there is nothing that will stop them from seeking punishment against the accused. You are guilty until proven otherwise, and the proof must come from one of their own as they believe any mage standing up for those accused of being maleficarum are either thralls of the blood mage or simply too oblivious to see the signs themselves."

"But why not help Jowan escape, then?" she asked him. "Help him and Lily get away from here so they can be together and have a happy life away far away from this place."

"If you want to survive, you must learn the rules and realize that sometimes, sacrifices are necessary."

She couldn't believe what she was hearing. The man who had taught her everything she knew about magic, the one who had protected her and cared for her, the very man she had looked up to ever since she was a small child was suggesting she sacrifice one of the most important people in her life. And for what? To keep the templars from accusing them of being blood mages, too? It wasn't really happening. It couldn't be. And yet, it was. The man she had trusted, looked up to, and loved as a father had just shown her his true colors.

"You're asking me to sacrifice my best friend!"

"I'm sorry, child," he apologized, guilt written across his features. "Jowan will be made tranquil, but Lily must also face the consequences her actions. And I need you to help me ensure that will happen."

"Fine," Varia spat, reaching into her robes to retrieve the form Owain had given her. She unfolded the parchment and thrust it toward him. "Sign this, then, so I can hand over the Chantry whore and the maleficar, as you wish."

"Varia, there is no need to be so hostile--"

"Isn't there?" she interrupted him. "I'm sorry, but I thought you were sacrificing two innocent young people in love just to protect your own hide." Irving sighed heavily, shaking his head, and took the parchment from her.

"I have my reasons for doing this, child," he told her. "You would not understand even if I told you, however. Perhaps, in time, you will."

"I highly doubt that."

Irving looked at her quietly for a moment before turning his gaze to the form she had given him. He read the first few lines, his brow scrunching up in confusion.

"A rod of fire? Why would you... Oh, I see. They mean to use this to attempt to get into the phylactery chamber. I should inform you: it will not work."

"And why is that?" Varia asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

"The door is warded against all magic. Why else would we use something as mundane as keys to open it?" he said, giving her a small smile. When she didn't return the gesture, he averted his eyes to the parchment in his hands once more. After a moment of complete silence between them, he turned and took the parchment over to his desk to sign it.

"There is another door just down the hall from the one to the phylactery chamber," he informed her. "The rod should work on that one. Go through there and follow the lower corridors until you reach the artifact room. One of the walls is weak from age and dampness. Coincidentally, this wall is shard by the phylactery chamber. There should be a Tevinter statue shaped like a hound in storage there. Its purpose is to amplify the effectiveness of spells. Point the statue at the wall, use the rod on it, and that should get you into the phylactery chamber.

"I will be waiting with Greagoir and a contingent of templars when you come out," he said, coming back around the desk and handing the signed form back to her. "Do this, and you will be rewarded. Just remember not to mention the possibility of an alternate route of entry too quickly. You would not want to draw suspicion onto yourself and ruin our plan, after all."

"Very well," Varia said coldly, taking the from from him and folding it up once more before slipping it back into her robes. "I'll do your dirty work for you, but don't expect me to like it. And don't expect me to trust you ever again."

Irving watched her turn and walk away from him, every muscle in her body tense in anger, and quietly went back to his desk. With a groan, he sank down into his chair and placed a hand to his head. He hated having to do this to her, but he knew it was the only way he could avoid losing them both. She would likely never forgive him, but maybe someday she would at least understand.
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