pariswriter: (Default)
Title:  The Ferelden Chronicles - Chapter Six
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, Jowan, Lily
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 assists Jowan in his quest to destroy his phylactery, all the while having a heavy heart due to the knowledge of what fate awaits him once the task is completed.


Chapter Six: The Break-In

Varia stormed out of the First Enchanter's study, signed form in hand, and marched straight back to the stockroom. She still couldn't believe that Irving would willingly throw Jowan to the templars simply for being in love with an initiate of the Chantry. Of course, the templars believed he was some sort of evil blood mage, and even if the truth behind why he was sneaking around the tower at night had been revealed they would have probably still believed him to be a maleficar and claimed that Lily was a victim of some sort of mind control spell and they weren't really in love, at all.

She supposed that was the point Irving was trying to make: it was a lose-lose situation, no matter how they looked at it. The templars would never listen to them without solid, irrefutable proof that Jowan wasn't a blood mage, and without that proof they would likely be branded as his thralls or – worse still – accomplices. It didn't matter, though. Sacrificing two innocent people was never the answer to any problem. She would do what Irving had asked of her, for he was her superior within the Circle, but the idea of betraying Jowan and Lily still didn't sit well with her.

Perhaps, once they were all 'caught in the act,' she would throw herself at the mercy of the Knight-Commander and beg him to hear her out as she proclaimed Jowan's innocence. Once they realized that he wasn't a blood mage and his only crime had been falling in love, Jowan would merely receive a sentence of time spent in solitary while Lily would be shipped off to serve the Maker elsewhere. It would break his heart to lose her, but at least then the two of them would still be alive and Jowan wouldn't be made tranquil. Maybe Anders could even help him escape once his latest term of imprisonment was over and then he would be able to reunite with Lily somewhere away from the Chantry's prying eyes.

Her blood was rushing in her ears so badly that she didn't even hear a word Owain said to her when she reached the stockroom. She merely handed him the signed request form – which was badly crumpled from being held in her clenched fist, but he didn't seem to mind – and took the rod of fire from him when he gave it to her in return. She then made her way back to the chapel, her footsteps echoing loudly as she stomped along. She knew she had to get her emotions under control, lest Jowan and Lily figure out that something had gone terribly wrong in their plans, but it was hard to reign them in when she was feeling so much anger. How could Irving so coldly cast Jowan aside as a lost cause? Wasn't it his duty to protect all of the mages in the tower, including the apprentices? After everything he had done over the years to protect her...

But was was the rub, wasn't it? Irving always protected her. She was his apprentice, and their bond ran deeper than that between most apprentices and their mentors due to the situation under which she had been brought to the tower. She'd been a very small child when she first arrived at Kinloch Hold, and he had treated her with a kindness and caring she had rarely ever experienced from a human up to that point. He taught her to read and write, helped her hone her magical skills, and had always been there for her whenever she needed him. It seemed the others had been right all along: he clearly favored her over everyone else. And that favoritism had apparently blinded her to the sort of man he really was.

By the time she reached the chapel doorway her steps had slowed considerably, her anger having finally ebbed away into sadness. What should have been a happy day for her was turning out to be one of the worst in her life. She had already lost her father-figure and she was about to lose her best friend, as well. The only person she would have left in the tower who cared about her after it was all said and done would be Cullen, and she couldn't very well just go to him whenever she needed someone to turn to. Miranda wasn't an option. She was a nice enough girl, and Varia enjoyed her company, but she was a tactless gossip. There was always Anders, she supposed, but he would still be locked away in solitary for the next five months and after that it was only a matter of time before he took off again. Besides, she couldn't ever have a totally serious conversation with him. He always ruined it either by being a complete smartass or trying to convince her to sleep with him. Once Jowan and Lily had been caught red-handed and taken away to their individual fates, she would no longer have anyone she could confide in or go to in times of need. She would, essentially, be alone.

"There you are!" Jowan whispered loudly as she approached the alcove where she had left him and Lily. She looked up at him, forcing a smile.

"We've been waiting here for hours! Did you get the rod?" he asked anxiously. Varia held up the rod of fire to show him, and he let out a relieved sigh. "Good! All this standing around is making me nervous."

"To the repository, then," Lily ordered, grasping Jowan's hand in her own and squeezing it tightly. "The sooner we get out of here, the better."

Varia turned away from them and began walking out of the chapel without a word, and the three of them continued to move through the tower in silence until they finally reached the door leading to the underground chambers beneath the tower.

"Is everything all right?" Jowan asked, resting a hand on her shoulder. "You haven't said a word since you came to the chapel to get us."

Varia looked at him, and he must have seen the sadness in her eyes, because he immediately wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close to his chest.

"Please, don't cry," he pleaded with her, one of his hands rubbing small circles across her back. "If you get started then I might cry, too, and we really can't afford to waste time on tears right now. You know I would stay if I could, but it's not safe for me here any more."

"I know," Varia told him, her voice strained as she fought to hold back the tears which were threatening to spill out of her eyes at any moment. "I just want you to remember that no matter what happens, I will always be your friend and that everything happens the way it does for a reason."

"That's... an odd thing to say at a time like this," Jowan remarked, pulling away from her and giving her a perplexed look. Varia merely shrugged and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, smiling as best she could.

"It simply... seemed like the right thing to say, given the circumstances," she explained, though in her mind she wanted to say something entirely different to him.

I'm so sorry, Jowan. Please, please forgive me for what I am about to do. Irving gave me no choice. I should have listened to you. I never should have trusted him. I was wrong.

"So what are you two planning to do once you leave here?" she asked as casually as she could, changing the subject before she blurted out what she had been thinking, her hands trembling slightly as she unlocked the door to the lower level and pulled it open.

"We're getting as far away from here as we can, that's for sure," Jowan told her, following into the darker corridor below.

"We'll most likely go to the outskirts of Ferelden," Lily added, bringing up the rear and closing the door once more behind them in order to prevent the youngest of the apprentices from venturing down into the damp and dusty tunnels of the old dungeon.

"Or Orlais," Jowan suggested. "Maybe even Kirkwall. We're not sure yet, really, but once we've found a place and settled I'll contact you somehow to let you know where we are and that we're safe.

Varia nodded absently, wrapping her arms around herself and shivering in the cool dampness of the air around them. She remembered that when Anders had first started escaping, the templars would place him in one of the cells housed in the lower chambers. However, they later decided to move him up to the templar quarters, so they would be able to keep a closer eye on him at all times – or so that was the excuse they gave. Part of her wondered if they just didn't want to have to stand around in these cold, dark corridors to watch over him for his increasingly long sentences in solitary confinement. Now, the dungeons were an all-but-forgotten part of the tower, and if anyone ever ventured down here without being noticed or telling someone where they were going, they risked the chance of not being discovered until they were nothing but a pile of bones.

"Here it is," Lily announced when the reached a large door. Varia looked around for the alternate entry route Irving had mentioned, but it was the only door in the entire area.

"Are you sure this is it?" Varia asked, brandishing the rod of fire.

"Oh! This isn't the door to the phylactery chamber," Lily explained. "This door leads to the full body of the tower's lower chambers. We do not require the rod for this, merely a password to prime it and a spell to open it. The spell must be cast by one who has gone through the Harrowing, however, or else Jowan and I would have likely figured out a way into the phylactery chamber on our own."

"And I take it you know the password?" Varia asked, tucking the rod away in her robes once more.

"Yes," Lily replied, a sly little smirk playing upon her lips. "I got it from a templar who recently accompanied a mage into the vault."

"He just... gave it to you? Just like that? No questions about why you wanted it?"

"We have chatted on many occasions," Lily explained. "I believe he trusts me. It's not as if I simply went up to him and asked him what the password for this door was, either. I managed to work the topic into a seemingly normal conversation."

"I see," Varia said, eying the woman suspiciously. She certainly was a tricky one, this supposed Chantry initiate. Varia vaguely wondered if she wasn't some sort of spy who had been sent to the circle in order to test the effectiveness of the templars who were overseeing things there. She quickly pushed the notion out of her head, however, for Jowan's sake. He seemed to genuinely love this woman. Varia simply hoped he wasn't making yet another mistake by trusting her.

"So what is the password?" she prompted Lily, gesturing toward the large, wooden door. Lily turned toward the door and held her hand aloft in the air as if she were about to recite one of the affirmations from the Chant of Light.

"Sword of the Maker, Tears of the Fade."

A distinct clicking sound could be heard emanating from the door, which Varia took to mean that the password had been effective in priming to door to receive her spell. She stepped forward, coming to stand next to Lily, and allowed the magic in her blood to rise within her.

"What spell should I use?" she asked, in case there was a certain type of spell that would not work in opening the door.

"Any spell will do," Lily told her. "The primed door simply needs to feel the touch of mana from a mage. Please hurry, though. I fear we haven't much time."

Varia nodded, sadly thinking about how she had no idea just how correct that statement had been, and cast a small frost spell at the door. It immediately unlatched and swung inward several inches, and the three of them proceeded into the next corridor.

"This is it!"

Jowan rushed forward, past both of them, and laid his hands upon a door directly across from the one they had just entered. He examined it briefly, then nodded and turned to fix his gaze upon Varia.

"This is the door to the phylactery chamber!" he exclaimed. "We're nearly there. Quickly, melt off the lock."

Varia silently stepped forward and brandished the rod of fire once more, pointing it in the direction of the door. She turned her gaze toward Jowan and Lily, who had moved aside in order to allow her to do her part, but instead of truly looking at either of them she was looking past them at a second door situated further down the corridor.

That must be the one Irving spoke of.

"Well? What are you waiting for?" Jowan prompted, gesturing impatiently toward the door which led to the phylactery chamber. "Melt the lock, already!"

Varia turned her attention back to the task at hand and attempted to melt off the lock. The heaviness in her heart would not allow her to convincingly fake her surprise at the failure of the object in her hand to perform its intended task, so instead of voicing the obvious fact that this door was a dead end she once more tried to melt the lock with no effect whatsoever.

"Oh, no," she heard Lily gasp before she broke away from Jowan's side and stepped closer to the door to examine the carvings in the stone arch surrounding it.

"This door is warded against all magic," she said after a moment, her voice thick with unshed tears. "I should have known! Why would Irving and Greagoir need to use something as mundane as simple keys to gain entry through such a door? Because magical keys don't work!"

"What about that door?" Jowan wondered, gesturing toward the door at the opposite end of the hallway. "It probably leads to another part of the repository. Maybe we can find a way around?"

"Or we could just forget about this and leave," Varia suggested. Maybe if she could convince Jowan to turn back now, there might still be a chance that Greagoir could be reasoned with. Perhaps she could talk the Knight-Commander into putting Jowan to the Harrowing right away. If he passed, it would be proof that he was not the supposed threat the templars believed him to be. If he failed, he would die. Either way, the issue would be resolved.

"I've come too far to turn back now," he told her, shaking his head. "Why are you suddenly trying to convince me this is a bad idea? You didn't seem to have a problem with what I wanted to do, before."

"I just don't want to see you get hurt," Varia replied, but she knew it would take more than a simple explanation such as that to keep him from becoming suspicious of her. "This task is obviously more complicated than we had originally anticipated it would be. Who knows what sort of traps could be lying ahead to keep mages out of the phylactery chamber?"

"I'm going to do this, with or without your help," Jowan insisted, holding his hand out toward her. Varia looked at his open palm for a moment, wondering if she should just give him the rod of fire and leave the two of them to complete their plans on their own. If she did, however, and they ended up getting caught anyway... Both she and Irving would be punished for aiding in his attempted escape. She would willingly take the punishment, but no matter how angry she was at the First Enchanter for putting her in this position, she could not condemn him to whatever sentence the Chantry would see fit for his involvement.

Without another word, she stepped around Jowan and went to the opposite end of the corridor. Rod of fire in hand, she took a deep breath to calm her nerves, once again apologizing to her best friend in the back of her mind, and proceeded to use it on the locked door. This time, she could feel the thrum of magic traveling through the object in her hand. A moment later, the distinct, heavy click of something unlocking echoed through the corridor.

"That's it! We've done it!" she heard Jowan shout gleefully behind her. Among his joyful celebration of their successful entry into the rest of the lower chambers, however, she heard another sound. It was the creaking sound of heavy armor, and when she turned her head to look at the armed sentinel standing next to the door, she saw it beginning to move.

"Oh, that's not good..." she muttered under her breath a split second before tossing a Winter's Grasp spell at the magically animated suit of armor, effectively freezing it in place before it had the chance to bring down its large axe on top of her head. She backed away several feet to prepare her next spell, but before she had a chance to cast one a bolt of lightning went flying past her and directly into the sentinel's chest. It twitched as the current of electricity ran through it, magnified by the metal armor it was created from. Varia added one of her own, more powerful lightning bolts to the already existing spell on the sentinel, and it quickly fell to the ground.

"You've gotten much better at that," she remarked as Jowan and Lily joined her before the door she had just unlocked, turning to smile at him. She had taught him that spell nearly a year ago, and no matter how hard she tried to help him improve he had only ever been able to cast a very weak version of the spell which had no lasting effect and merely gave the target a light zap.

"I had some help," Jowan told her, avoiding her gaze. She thought his demeanor was sort of odd and she found it strange that he didn't mention who had helped him, but she supposed he simply didn't want to make her feel bad for not being able to successfully help him hone his skills, herself.

"Well, I'm glad you found someone who has been able to mentor you better than I could," she told him before continuing into the next corridor.

As soon as they reached the first corner, the three of them found themselves being attacked by another pair of sentinels. Jowan and Varia each took on one of them, and she was surprised when he managed to take down his opponent almost as easily as she dealt with her own. She raised an eyebrow at him, even more baffled at his sudden increase in talent at spell-casting, but he merely smiled at her and gave her a wink as if to say, 'I told you I found someone to help me.'

"I feel completely useless here, you know," Lily commented before Varia had a chance to question Jowan further about this mystery tutor of his.

"Just be sure to stay back so you don't get hurt," Varia told the other woman. "We'll take care of any other sentinels along the way."

"I appreciate your concern," Lily said, "but I really am capable of holding my own in a fight. Before I went to the Chantry, I had to protect myself on the streets of Denerim."

"Really?"

Varia blinked at her in disbelief. She seemed like the quiet, mousy type who would have spent her entire life in the Chantry's care, not some street rat who would get into scraps with back alley thugs.

"My family died three years ago, and I was left to fend for myself," Lily explained. "It was not an easy life. In fact, I was attacked by one of the gangs in the slums and left for dead. When I awoke in the chantry, I took it as a sign that the Maker wanted me to serve Him."

"Yet, here you are – running away from the Chantry in order to be with a mage," Varia pointed out the contradiction.

"Yes, I suppose it's a bit ironic," she agreed, laughing. "But I believe that love is blind. There is no such thing as race or creed when it comes to love, and it can often be found in the most unlikely of places. We only need to open our hearts to it."

Varia felt even worse upon hearing those words, knowing that she was about the condemn this young woman – who quite clearly felt the same way she did when it came to love – to a punishment that she didn't feel she deserved.

"All I need is a dagger, and I will be able to help you both fend off any enemies who may attack us along the way to the phylactery chamber."

"Out of the question," Jowan spoke up, shaking his head and turning to his lover with his arms folded across his chest. "I don't doubt you can handle your own in a fight, Lily, but these guardians are not simple bandits. They are magical beings. I don't wish to see you get hurt, so I would appreciate it if you would stay back as Varia suggested and let us handle things."

"All right," Lily reluctantly agreed, nodding slightly.

They continued through the rest of the lower corridors, fighting the occasional small groups of sentinels – and one group of deep stalkers which had someone had apparently been trying to secretly hatch in one of the unused dungeons. Eventually, they came to the end of the maze of corridors and found themselves facing a door very similar to the one which led to the phylactery chamber.

"This is the repository," Lily stated. "Perhaps if we explore the room we will find another way into the phylactery chamber. If I recall correctly, they are directly adjacent to one another."

Varia checked the door to see if it was locked and, upon finding it open, pushed it inward and stepped into the room. Jowan and Lily followed, and she looked about for the statue Irving had mentioned under the guise of checking for any way that might lead them into the phylactery chamber. Even given the current situation, she couldn't help but marvel at all of the artifacts within the room. There were statues of dragons and carved idols of strange gods, and one table even held a giant globe which looked like a map of all of Thedas had been stretched around it, and it slowly spun while clouds floated gently around the surface.

The thing that most caught Varia's attention, however, was a staff leaning against a nearby wall. It was severely degraded and the wood appeared to be black and rotten in places, but there was no mistaking that it was made of heartwood, a rare magical material used by the Dalish in crafting armor and weapons. She had read about the material when she was younger – as she tried to find some sort of connection to her past in the various books of the mages' library – and had always wanted to possess something made from it to give her a tie to her elven heritage. She knew she should leave the staff alone, but she reached out her hand and grasped it, even as she removed the staff Irving had given her that morning.

"Greetings," she heard a voice say nearby, and stopped with her newly-acquired staff halfway to her back.

"Who said that?" she asked, looking back at Jowan and Lily, who merely shrugged at her.

"I am the essence and spirit of Eleni Zinovia, once consort and advisor to Archon Valerius."

Varia turned her head in the direction the voice was coming from, but saw only a statue of a warrior standing in the corner of the room. Cautiously, she began to make her way toward it.

"Prophecy, my crime, cursed to stone for foretelling the fall of my lord's house."

"What are you talking about?" she asked the statue, which she now knew to be the source of the strange, haunting voice.

"'Forever shall you stand on the threshold of my proud fortress,' he said, 'and tell your lies to all who pass...' But my lord found death at the hands of his enemies and his once-proud fortress crumbled to dust, as I foretold."

"Don't listen to it!" Lily warned, reaching out and grasping Varia's shoulder. "This is a wicked thing!"

"Still," Jowan said, stepping closer to the statue to examine it. "I feel a bit sorry for it... her."

"Weep not for me, child," the statue replied. "Stone they made me and stone I am, eternal and unfeeling. And I shall endure 'til the Maker returns to light their fires again."

"What does that mean?" Varia asked quietly, somehow feeling that the statement held a deeper meaning.

"Ambiguous rubbish. It could mean anything. Look, I can do it, too," Jowan remarked, turning back to her and gesturing grandly with his arms. "The sun grows dark, but lo! Here comes the dawn!"

Varia couldn't help smiling at him, even though she could hear Lily's clearly annoyed sigh behind her.

"Stop talking to it, please. Both of you," she begged.

"Right," Varia acquiesced. "We have much to do, yet."

The three of them turned away from the now-quiet statue and began searching the rest of the repository for any signs of a secret entrance into the phylactery chamber. Varia's eyes kept falling upon a large bookshelf which happened to be directly situated across from the statue Irving had described to her, but she made no move toward it. She would give the others more time to discover the possible entrance before pretending to stumble upon it, herself.

"I think I've found something!" Jowan called after another couple of minutes had passed, and both of the women went to join him before the bookcase.

"This old wall is about to come down any moment," he commented, gesturing to the wall behind the bookcase. "Perhaps if we move these shelves, we could find a way to knock it down. With any luck, the phylactery chamber could be on the other side."

"I suppose we should move this, then," Varia remarked, and the two of them slowly pushed the bookcase aside. Lily walked up to the wall once they were done and pressed on some of the loose bricks, but they were not loose enough to give way completely.

"What now?" she asked, looking to the two mages for an idea.

Varia wandered to the dog-shaped statue which sat facing the old wall, and tentatively ran her hand over the smooth, polished surface of its head. Without a word, she pulled the rod of fire from its place within her robes and tapped it to the statue. A large burst of fire spewed from the statue's mouth, causing both Jowan and Lily to jump backwards in order to avoid being set aflame.

"Watch what you're doing!" Jowan scolded her, and Varia flashed him an apologetic smile.

"It worked," she said, pointing to the gaping hole the artifact had helped blast into the weak wall. Jowan immediately climbed through the hole, pushing more of the loose bricks through and onto the floor of the adjacent room, then turned and helped each of the women carefully climb over the small pile of rubble.

"This is it!" he gasped once he finally turned around and looked at the room they were in, little puffs of steam escaping from his mouth as he spoke. "We're in the phylactery chamber!"

"Now all we need to do is locate your phylactery, and we'll be free, my love." Lily cooed, tightly grasping Jowan's hands in her own.

"I don't think it's going to be quite that simple," Varia remarked as the three sentinels guarding the room suddenly came to life and attacked them. These ones were stronger than the others they had previously faced, and Varia found herself quite glad that she had exchanged her issued staff for the heartwood one she had found in the repository. She focused on the two stronger sentinels while leaving the weakest one to Jowan, and after a few minutes the two of them had dealt with the threat and were heading for the phylacteries.

"Which one is it?" she asked, looking at all of the vials of blood, each one taken from one of the mages who had been brought to the circle. She vaguely wondered if her own was still in the room, then recalled that Irving had said hers was already on its way to Denerim to join the others which were housed in storage at the grand cathedral.

"I remember it being large, and sort of shaped like a flower that hadn't yet bloomed," he said, scratching the back of his head. "Other than that, I don't really recall."

"Perhaps they have names on them," Lily suggested. Varia doubted it, but when she picked up a random phylactery off a shelf and looked it over carefully she discovered that the mage's name had been etched into the bottom of the glass phial.

"Good thinking," she complimented her, then continued to check the bottom of any phylactery which fit the description Jowan had given. She eventually located it, sitting on top of a low chest toward the back of the room. She held onto it for a long while, not quite ready to face what would come after she gave it to him, then turned and walked over to him with it still clutched tightly to her chest.

"Is that it?" Jowan asked, pointing to the phial of blood she was holding. She merely nodded in reply.

"Well, give it here!"

Varia reluctantly gave him his phylactery and watched him as he turned it around and around in his hands, smiling at the red contents swirling within.

"I can't believe this is all that stands between me and my freedom," he whispered before dropping it to the ground. The glass shattered on impact, sending tiny shards skittering in every direction across the floor and leaving a good-sized blood stain on the stones.

"And now I am free," he added, closing his eyes and letting out a relieved sigh.

"We should get out of here," Lily insisted, grabbing his arm and pulling him along toward the door they had originally tried to enter through. "Greagoir could very well be looking for you, right now."

"Thank you," Jowan told Varia, turning to smile at her over his shoulder as Lily continued to lead him away.

"Don't thank me, Jowan," she replied, knowing her words were probably too quiet to reach his ears. "I don't deserve it."

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