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A Garden of Poison

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“The Light shall lead her safely
“Through the paths of this world, and into the next.
“For she who trusts in the Maker, fire is her water.
“As the moth sees light and goes toward flame,
“She should see fire and go towards Light.”

The soft words rested in the air as the young woman knelt in Haven’s chantry head bowed and hands pressed together, resting against her forehead. Her long red hair flickering like flames in the candlelight, and her golden mask darkened by its shadows. Her blouse was red with silver embroidery along the neckline and sleeves, the bottom torn at one side and tied together to keep it snug to her skin. Her legs covered in flexible black pants, and knee high black leather boots. Two belts wrapped around her waist, one keeping her pants in place held her money pouch as well as a curious metal blade hanging from each side, the second looser, attached to the first belt on the side the shirt was tied, a miniature crossbow hung, it’s pouch of bults not to far from its side, and resting on her hip a chain meant for potion vials to hold but emptied at the moment.

Several feet away another woman stood, parchment clutched to her chest as she allowed this moment for her friend. Her dark brown hair short, and held out of her face by a folded cloth tied at her neck. She had on a simple green tunic that reached her knees and black pants that stopped mid calf, her feet covered in silk slippers.

“The Veil holds no uncertainty for her,
“And she will know no fear of death, for the Maker
“Shall be her beacon and her shield, her foundation and her sword.”

A man's voice finished the verse for her and she raised her head, he stepped out of a door near the statue she prayed near. He had on the traditional Chantry robes, white with a red leather coating across his shoulders and middle. “It is rare to see you so far from the city Lady Ghislain.” She rose and gave him a kind smile.

“And you, Lord Chancellor.” She returned in kind, he waved off the name returning her smile.

“I gave up any such title when joining the Chantry, you may call me Roderick.” He told her.

“As you wish.”

“Madam du Fur will not be joining us I presume?” He asked.

“She had business in the Ostwick Circle and wished for me to come in her stead.” She answered walking with him as they headed towards the exit of the Chantry. “As the leader of the last Mages loyal to the chantry her time is thin as I’m sure you can imagine.”

“Indeed.” He agreed and looked at the girl that fell in place at her side as they walked.

“This is Lady Myah Trevelyan.” She introduced. “She had joined me on my travels, she will be staying in the village while I give Lady Vivienne’s regrets to the Most Holy.”

“I will see to her comfort while you’re making the pilgrimage.” He promised her.

“Oh- no, you really don’t need to do that-” Myah flushed at the idea.

“I insist, any friend of Lady Ghislain is welcome.”

“I thank you Roderick.” The stepped into the chilly air of the mountainside town. “Have Sister Leliana and Lady Cassandra arrived?” She wondered.

“They were delayed and should be arriving later today,” he answered and she nodded before turning to Myah. “I shan't be long. A few hours at most.” Myah nodded before she left them walking down the slope leading towards the village gates.

Roderick introduced Myah to Josephine, an ambassador of Antiva who had come on Sister Leliana’s request and they spent a pleasant afternoon discussing Antivan literature. “You hold an interesting in writing Lady Trevelyan?”

“Not exactly,” She flushed some. “I’ve been practicing poems, and Vera- I mean Lady Ghislain has been teaching me to read music. I have a great interest in plays and operas.”

“Oh I do love the Opera,” Josephine said excitedly. “It has been ages since I was last in attendance of one however, have you ever had the opportunity to see-” The door opened and a woman in purple and chainmail walked in. “Oh, Leliana, you have arrived.” She stood and Myah followed suit in a show of respect.

“Only just.” A small smile played on her lips. “Am I interrupting?”

“Uh, no. Not at all.” Myah responded and wavered slightly under the seemingly kind eyes of the woman before her.

“I wanted to introduce you to a few people before Cassandra and I leave for the conclave,” She told Josephine.

“Of course,” Josephine agreed. “Lady Trevelyan we must continue this conversation later. I daresay we have a lot to speak on.”

“Yes, of course.” She agreed, and the three woman walked out of the Chantry together. Myah tried not to listen as Josephine asked Leliana of her trip to Kirkwall and if they achieved what she had gone out for as she headed to the cabin Roderick had offered her to stay in for their stay. At the turning into the small cluster of cabins she saw two men, a human in lions armor-

“It was my fathers armor if you must know Varric-” He said seemingly in exasperation.

“I’m just saying it's more flamboyant then intimidating Curly.” The dwarf at his side placated.

And a woman with short black hair and a hand resting on the hilt of her sword, an annoyed expression on her face. “Ah, Leliana good.” She spoke.

“Josephine this is Varric Tet-” A mighty tremor shook the earth unbalancing a great number of people before a flash of green light up the sky.

“What in Heaven-” The woman spoke as the trembling faded, they all turned looking up towards the light. It looked like the sky was tearing itself open. Myah stared in horror, watching as chunks of the sky started falling from it, she lost track of what was being said around her.

“Do I hear fighting?” Josephine asked returning her to the world. The two warriors turned to the gate at once and ran towards it, Leliana following after like a shadow. Myah felt herself moving without telling her body to first, Josephine at her side as they stopped at the grand doors watching as a dwarven man charged a rage demon with an axe, the telling signs of a barrier wrapped around him as a woman with her red hair in a ponytail blocked a shade from taking down a stunned soldier, she was shouting orders as the ranks banded together, shields facing the demons falling out of the sky. “Oh my,” Josephine gasped as the man took up position as commander started shouting orders and the woman turned her attention to the bigger threat, she sheathed her sword and dropped her shield before charging the flaming beast, her hands moving in an arc as if moving a blade for a strike, sliding low to get behind it. The glowing blade in her hands came from out of the air.

The battle was won soon after, and orders were shouted, then a conversation between Leliana, and the two warriors with the four traveler as soldiers were working carrying the injured into town. “To the chantry, please, it is the largest place we have for them.” Josephine directed.

“Yes Lady Ambassador.” They said and the few injured were taken past them.

“Well, shit.” The voice made Myah turn to see Varric standing not too far off. A moment later two of the travelers walked towards the gates.

“Where are they taking the injured?” The cloaked man asked.

“The chantry but-”

“Thank you.” He and his dwarven friend left without further word. Varric’s eyes narrowed watching them head up towards the stone building.

“Maker this is a mess.” The commander’s voice came to them not long later. “I will remain here and see to the defence of Haven.”

“Thank you Cullin,” The woman responded. “I will select a few and lead them up to the temple, Let us pray to find any survivors.”

“My scouts will follow you Cassandra. But I dare say there will be little for you to do following in the Wardens wake.” Leliana pointed out.

“Any number of men to help return those injured back to Haven will be better then none.”

“The… Temple?” Myah finally found her voice, that’s what had exploded? All those people.

“Let us… get you something for shock.” Josephine suggested laying a gentle hand on her back to lead her into the town.

“I’ve got it.” Varric offered. “I’m sure you’ve got quite enough to handle without this one to add to that burden.”

After Varric spent a while encouraging her to drink and eat and telling an tavern full of people some story about copper marigolds. Josephine collected her that evening, insisting they continued their earlier conversation and Myah goes willingly. “Don’t keep her all night!” Varric called out to her before they were in the relative quiet of the streets.

“How are you fairing?” Josephine asked hesitantly as they walked up towards the chantry.

“I… there hasn’t been any word from the temple?” She asked a bit desperately.

“I’m sorry, no, nothing as of yet.” Josephine responded.

“My friend had left this morning, to speak to the Most Holy on behalf of her family…”

“I’m sorry Myah.”

“She- she helped me, she was helping me get my life back together after… What am I supposed to do if she’s…” They entered the chantry and were quiet as they past the hall of hastily prepared cots with few people on it. The Dwarf from before was asleep on one, axe leaning against the wall near his head while the man he had been with bowing over a woman hand hovering what once was a broken leg. The door was rather forcefully opened as they reached Josephines’ office getting the dwarf to shoot up hand automatically reaching for the axe. In the torchlight outside the building a horse was seen and someone dismounting, clutching a body to their chest, a curious green glow flickering between them illuminating the woman’s face eerily. Leliana running towards them as she strode into the hall.

“A, now.” She barked getting the man to call for a healer standing to the side, they rushed to replace him as he straightened, fixed his cloak and followed her to the end of the row of cots, far from the others and closest to where Josephine and Myah stood.

“Only one?” Leliana asked hesitantly.

“Others were found further from the ruins.” The woman spoke as she laid the girl on the cot, brushing the long red hair off to the side so it would pool on the stone beside the cot. “Cassandra’s organizing their return.”

“But-” Leliana seemed wrong footed looking to the girl as the cloaked man knelt at her side and started working.

“The soldiers that responded first, those closer to the conclave when it exploded found her before any of the rest of us could arrive.” The woman said as Myah walked forwards hesitantly, Josephine at her side. “They say she fell out of a tear from the fade. They say a woman was standing behind her, but none could see who she was.”

“Vera,” Myah whispered upon seeing her, tears starting to fall down her cheeks. She was alive.

“Fell out of the fade?” Josephine repeated. “That’s just, impossible.”

“And it may just kill her yet.” The man spoke lifting her hand and examining the angry green mark pulsating there. “This energy is directly from the fade, I’ve never seen anything like this in the waking world.”

“What does it mean?” The woman hissed in irritation. “What caused this? Could she have caused the explosion?”

“It is hard to tell with the marks interference but... It would take extremely powerful magic to break into the fade itself.” He responded. “You know this Aren.”

“She’s not a mage.” Myah got all of their attention. She seemed to shrink under the attention on her. “She’s not one.”

“You know her then? Why was she at the conclave?” Leliana demanded. Myah’s eyes flickered between them.

“Her name is Liara du Ghislain, youngest daughter to house Ghislain and- and she’s First Enchanter Vivienne’s bard, she came on behalf of her.”

“A Dalish elf in a high ranking Orlesian family?” Aren questioned.

“No, she’s right Liaren.” Leliana hesitated looking at the unconscious face, “it was a bit of a scandal after the blight, you had already been stationed as Commander and had your own problems to deal with at the time. But Duke Bastian had adopted an elf as his daughter after First Enchantress Vivienne brought her to their home, the details were unclear for the most part.”

“Children in clans don’t get their marks, it’s only after adulthood.” Liaren crossed her arms. “She can't be any older then her mid twenties.”

“Can you think of no acceptions?” Josephine asked hesitantly.

“But she always wears her mask.” Myah cut in. “Even when it was just her family or the two of us alone.”

“Perhaps the answers you need will come if she wakes.” A said to them all. “If you don’t mind it is late, and this will require a lot of my attention… A Lot more then any other patient has this day.”

“Remember to get some rest, please.” Liaren hesitated.

“I will.” He promised and quiet fell as the woman allowed Leliana to take her from the hall.

“Lady Trevelyan, if we may?” Josephine suggested gesturing to her office.

“What? Oh, yes.” She agreed and shot one last worried look at her unresponsive friend before following her into the room.

Chapter Text

The elf called Solas came to them at dawn, surrendering his staff and bag for investigation and offering his aid and knowledge of the fade. Leliana cleared him and immediately led him towards the church where the cloaked man was still working over the young elf now with the aid of a human with a black mustache, Solas joined them and took over looking after the mark while the cloaked man healed the other injuries. Myah and Cassandra came an hour after, Liaren following as the uncomfortable girl moved to Liari’s side, the larger pieces of a fractured golden mask in her hands and once she moved to the head of her bed she held them in place to show that it fit her frame, and unbroken would’ve covered all but the markings on her lips.  

“Then explain to me why she has the Vallaslin!” Liaren snapped at the girl getting her to flinch away. “The blood writing is a mark of adulthood if what you claim is true she would’ve just barely started puberty when the blood writing was dawned on her face.”  

“Commander!” Cassandra reprimanded.  

“Liaren,” Leliana walked out of Josephines room followed by the ambassador. “Why would the circumstances of her Vallaslin anger you so?”  

The wardens shoulders slumped and she sat back against the cot behind her her hands reaching up to grip her hair, even Solas turned to watch her, his expression masked. “Because when I was forced to leave my clan to join the Wardens I left my two fourteen-year-old sisters behind. My keeper promised to take care of them that they would be looked after so why- why does she bare the markings if she was driven to Orlais?”  

The silence that followed was endless. Finally, Leliana walked over to her and sat at her side, placing a hand on her shoulder to help calm her. “We’ll get answers Aren.” she promised. “I can have scouts seek out your old clan-”  

“Their dead.” Liaren cut her off. “There will be no answers from them.”  

“What do you mean?”  

“One of the many casualties of Kirkwall was my clan.” She dropped her arms, letting them rest on her legs before looking at her lover.  

“There has to of been someone… I’ll ask Varric if he knows anything. He’s from Kirkwall.” She promised. “And if she… when she wakes you can ask her.”  

“Lady Cassandra, a group of travelers have arrived offering aid.” A messenger entered the Chantry jogging over to them.  

“I… yes, I will see to them.” Cassandra tore her eyes from the two and straightened up. “Leliana will you-”  

“Of course.” She got up and glanced hesitantly at Liaren.  

“I’ll stay here.” she promised. The two women nodded. Liaren got up and moved to lean against a desk not too far off out of the way of any incoming casualties.  

Josephine cleared her throat looking a bit hesitant. “Lady Trevelyan, would you mind going over some documents with me?”  

“What- oh, yes alright.” She hurried to follow Josephine from the building,  

“Well…” The cloaked man glanced at Liaren before looking to the other two men working over the elf. “I don’t think it’d be wise to keep her in a healing status until she wakes, her body will need some sort of nourishment.”  

“I could… whip something up.” Adan said slowly. “But I claim no expertise on mixing up brews.”  

“What about Elfroot extract?” A asked as Solas refocused on his job. They spoke over options for several minutes, the pros and cons of different brews. The door opened and closed a handful of times Josephine returning during one of their pauses.  

“The problem is we don't have any of the necessary herbs to create half of the potions needed. And we can’t send anyone out with demons falling from the sky.” Adan finally grunted.  

“Perhaps if you ask we can send a guarded group to collect the necessary herbs.” Cassandra told him as she joined them again, two women that had followed her in getting to work on aiding the healers.  

“Who in their right mind would-”  

“We need her alive Adan, or have you forgotten?” There was a pause, then a sigh.  

“What about that woman who burst into tears when she was brought in?” Liaren pitched in. “And that elf Segret is fond of bossing, we can send them out for the herbs.” Cassandra paused considering that. “If it’ll ease your mind me and my men will guard them. I dare say there’s little else A can do here until she wakes in any case.”  

“Very well. I will call for them. Perhaps it’d be better to talk with them outside our walls, we do not need the water works again.” Liaren nodded and got up, her friend followed after the two. Adan hesitated, looking at the elf for a moment as he continued working seemingly unaware of his surroundings but eventually he too followed the three to explain what herbs he needed.  

Solas worked in silence for a time, the mark was reacting to his magic but there was nothing he could do to completely tame it. It felt like several hours passed before his surroundings reclaimed his attention. A shattering of a glass bottle, the smell of lyrum in the air. Turning his attention to reprimand the careless soul about wasting limited resources he found the words catch in his throat. An elven woman stood staring past him at the girl on the cot he tended. A face he had all but memorized at this point, the only difference was how the Vallaslin was designed even if it held the same pattern, it was June’s but more intricate. Her hair was much shorter than the young woman that could only be her twin reaching just past her shoulders. Her lips moved in a shocked breath, “Liari…”  

Solas had a headache building by the time the group returned, he had taken a break to stretch his legs and replenish his mana supply. Answering frantic questions of a seemingly skittish elf for what felt like three hours but had really only been half of one. Or trying to answer them, he knew little of what was going on with the family drama that seemed to be unfolding here.  

Their group had grown, he could spot several baskets of herbs, a basket of vials for the potion brewing (or so he assumed) and a few buckets of water. They were set on a line of tables against one wall and Adan got to work while the bulk of the crowed walked towards his patient. He could feel the headache growing.  

The first to spot Lilori (as she had introduced herself to him) was the human girl Myah and the waterfall of questions that followed was soon silenced by Cassandra who immediately dismissed those who were not directly necessary for the following conversation or healing process of the girl. Thankfully that left few in attendance. Cassandra, Josephine, Leliana, Myah, the two sisters, a Dalish man and himself. A had gone to rest having been working for a day without any, an elf and the Dwarf that stayed at his side following at a wave from Liaren.  

“We’ll get to why your here later.” Liaren said with her arms crossed glancing between the two then the staff on her back. “Tell me everything, from the moment I left.” Her sister mirrored her stance, arms crossed standing tall and unmoving.  

“And then you’ll tell me what's going on.” She stated getting a slight nod. she let out a huff of air. “After you left the clan started packing to head north to the free marches. They were planning on going to a place called Kirkwall. Liari was always the more responsible of us back then, you know what she was like, she did the hunting and all that and I wasn’t as cautious as I should’ve been. One of the hunters Paul I think was his name, the flat ear that joined us before you left, he saw me using magic and told the Keeper. Well, we already had our first so they decided to send me off to Clan Lavellan and since they were last known on the border of Orlais and Ferelden they took me as far north as their journey allowed before sending me west. But Liari wouldn’t let me go on my own. They deemed her an adult then, old enough to take care of a family on her own and we left after that but we got separated in a forest. I looked for her but there were traces of Darkspawn and… well… anyways I found the clan and they took me in. I had always thought she had died… or else she would’ve found the clan, they weren’t too far from where we had been. And Death was a kinder fate then corruption…”  

“But she wasn’t corrupted, nor did she find your clan.” Josephine concluded. “Instead she was rescued and taken into an Orlesian family, where she has lived since.”  

“What? As a servant?” Lilori asked angrily turning on her.  

“No.” Myah defended. “She was adopted into the family.” Lilori frowned at that.  

“But why wouldn’t she have sought you after?” Liaren asked.  

“Perhaps she thought me dead as I had her.” Lilori offered. “It was the beginning of the blight, news of Lothering had met the clan not a day before we parted from it.”  

“And they just let the two of you leave without any protection outside of each other? During a Blight?” Liaren demanded getting her to take a step back.  

“What else could they have done? There were already two mages-”  

“You were children!” She snapped, “children who had just lost their sister, children being forced out of their family for what? Because you showed magic?! They could’ve taken you directly to the other clan, they would have allowed you to stay until the danger of the blight had past and had a proper hunter take you to the other clan once it was safe, they could’ve taken you on as a second to the Keeper. There is a list of things they could have done but they decided to force a fourteen-year-old to take the blood writing and banish you from your home. Imagine the suffering as a child is branded in such a manor. Imagine her humiliation at being forced through that then banished and then finally alone probably being chased by darkspawn through an unknown place. It’s a wonder she didn’t go back to find a fucking clan.”  

Myah was covering her mouth in shock, tears in her eyes. Josephine looked close to it as well. Leliana looked hesitant and Cassandra unsure. The Dalish man was watching Lilori, his face confused while Solas studied her sister.  

“Why… did you allow yourself to get caught?” Liaren asked after a long period of silence. Lilori look slightly taken aback.  

“Let myself?”  

“Don’t play stupid with me.” Her eyes were hard. “Our parents did everything to keep our family together, when my magic came they did everything in their power to teach me to use it and control it without knowing a thing about magic themselves, I kept it hidden so I wouldn’t be taken away, it was the same when your magic awakened, only they knew better how to teach. Everything they worked for, everything I did after they died to keep our family together. How long did it take you to abandon that after I was gone? It must’ve taken you what? A week?”  

“You left us.”  

“I was dying.” Liaren responded. “Had I not gone, not become a warden I would’ve died or been corrupted.”  

“I was tired of pretending I was something I wasn’t.” Lilori stated. “Being able to use my magic without restrictions or the worry of being caught.”  

“The only price you paid for it is blood.” There was a tense air at the proclaiming.  

“I am not a blood mage.”  

“Perhaps not but you had thought Liari dead these last ten years. It makes little difference whether the blood has been spilt or not. You exchanged it for power and came out on top, you must be so very proud of yourself.” She stated before turning and walking from the hall.