1. Witch Hunt
'Do not follow me.'
Morigan's warning echoes in my head as I stare at the stars. Part of me is absolutely unremorseful that I'm not acceding to her wishes, but the small sliver that remembers wistful golden eyes and a declaration of sisterhood is still wondering if this is the right thing to do.
But my curious nature won out, as always. It took a few months of hearing the rumors--a dark haired woman spotted in the Kocari Wilds, the Witch returned to her lair--but I finally decided I couldn't stand it any longer and set off. The one concession I made to our former friendship: I'm alone, save Fade. He wanted to come, and it was the only way to get Jowan and Nate to promise they wouldn't follow me. Between my blades and Fade's teeth, we'll be safe enough. I only had to swear it three times before Jowan relented, which to me is progress. Part of me is still convinced Nathaniel's following in the shadows, but if he is, I'll never know.
There's a rustle of blankets across the campsite, and my glance instinctively darts toward the noise. But the Dalish warrior we picked up in the Wilds is still sleeping, her swords tucked under her pillow for easy access. Ariane was the only person Fade and I found in Flemeth's old hut. Since we have a common goal--finding Morrigan--and Ariane had a lead, we decided to team up. Now, as the night wanes on and stars twinkle overhead, I try to work out why Morrigan would steal a book on long-destroyed artifacts from a Dalish clan, never mind how she knew they had it in the first place.
Fade snuffles and whines in his sleep, head bumping against my leg. I absently scratch between his ears as I ponder the lead Ariane shared. An apostate escapee from Kinloch Hold brought them the book, she said, so maybe there's more information at the Circle. I haven't been back to the tower since the Blight. Not a good place to go when I'm traveling with a blood mage, which makes me happy I talked him into staying back at the Vigil. Wonder how the rebuilding process is going, I muse, staring up at the stars. It's been three years. Wonder if you can even tell anything happened... I guess I'll find out soon enough.
"I really hope this pans out," I whisper to the night sky.
All told, it only takes a few days to reach the Circle tower. We spend the time getting to know each other a little. Ariane is hesitant to share specifics with someone who isn't Dalish, which I understand. Given the fact most of my story and exploits are common knowledge--regardless of my opinion about that--I'm decidedly less shy. She could learn my entire story from one of the tavern keepers along the road if she wanted. I'd rather her hear it right. And, like her, I stick to the basics. No delving into my love life or anything like that. By the time we reach Kinloch Hold, I have a good enough picture of the talented--if slightly prickly--warrior to feel confident she can be trusted. Besides, Fade likes her. She can't be too bad.
To my surprise, it's not Greagoir who greets us when we enter the tower, but rather a younger man. "Hello, welcome to Ferelden's Circle of Magi. I would request that you please keep your hound under control. Some of the younger apprentices are easily startled."
"Well, we wouldn't want that," I chuckle, glancing at Fade, who does look like he's already plotting something. "Behave, boy."
The templar cracks a smile, and then notices Ariane. "A Dalish elf?"
"She can be trusted," I assure him.
Ariane bristles. "What's that supposed to mean? Most Dalish are common thieves?"
Considering how your clan came by the eluvian book your Keeper wants back, I wouldn't get mad about that assumption... "I'm not saying that. I'm saying you, as an individual he has never met before, can be trusted. We just need to do some research," I promise the templar.
"As you say," he nods. "The Circle is glad to have you as a guest, Warden-Commander. As you can see, much has changed since the last time you were here."
"I did notice that, yes," I reply with a smile. No corpses or bloodstains scattering the floors, a distinct absence of wounded and exhausted templars, and hopefully an equal absence of abominations. "So, where's Greagoir?"
"He is in Denerim, attending to some important business. My name is Hadley," he introduces himself, "I lead the templars in his absence."
"Pleasure to meet you, Hadley." I nod in greeting. "We just need the library."
"Of course. If there's a particular book you're looking for, you can start in the index section." Hadley gestures over his shoulder. "And as the Warden-Commander, you and your guests are free to roam the first floor without an escort. Let me know if you need anything."
"Thank you, I will." We head down the curving hallway toward the library, and I can't help but marvel at how right Hadley was. I know it's been three years since I was here, which is plenty of time, but I'm still shocked at how normal it looks now. Floors scrubbed clean, doors repaired, the few apprentices we pass look carefree and happy. Two of the girls put their heads together and whisper in awe when they recognize me. From the little bit I'm able to hear of their hushed conversation, it's some tall tale involving me and the pirate from the Pearl who got me started as a duelist. It's completely false, of course, but I've learned the hard way trying to quash these rumors only convinces people they must be true. Sorry, ladies, the only thing I've 'taken on' between the sheets is a blond, goofy, ex-not-quite-templar. But that's not nearly so scandalous as a threesome with a lady pirate, so I keep my mouth shut. Let them have their stories.
It's all I can do to keep my mouth from falling open when we walk into the library, and I stop so abruptly Ariane almost runs into me. The last time I was here, this room was gloomy and rank, strewn with templar corpses and lit only by what managed to make it through the windows. Bookshelves were fallen, charred remnants of their contents piled among the wreckage, and abominations lay in wait for more victims. Now, it's completely repaired. You'd never know anything like Uldred's rebellion ever happened. The bookshelves are up and filled with volumes on every topic an apprentice could wish to study, the soft, warm glow of lamps casting a golden light on everything, and there are a dozen or so mages reading, conversing, studying in the various alcoves as we make our way through.
The index is kept in a room just past the main library, and just before you go up the stairs to the next level. It doesn't take long to figure out where what we want. "Catalog of Elven Relics sounds promising, dontcha think?" I ask Ariane.
"Very promising," she agrees.
"Okay, it's in the Mysterious Artifacts section, which should be right back out the door, in that first alcove." The book is also easy to find, conveniently shelved low enough I don't even need to track down a ladder or a tall person to reach it for me. That, however is as far as easy take us. The book is in some ancient writing I don't even recognize. I snort in frustration and show it to Ariane.
She looks discouraged until her eyes light on a particular passage of text. "Wait, I recognize a character on this page!" She taps the parchment. "I think it's part of the word 'Eluvian'."
I raise an eyebrow. "So is this like the book you lost?"
"I... think so? The binding is the same style, but the script is different." She smiles hopefully. "This is a library, isn't it? Maybe we can find another book to help us translate."
It's a good idea, and probably the only thing that'll actually work, so back we go to the index. I have to leaf through a few of the index volumes before I find what I'm looking for, grinning as I listen to Ariane actually carry on a conversation with my dog, trying to talk him into scaring some poor apprentice. "The translation book is in the History section," I announce, cutting short whatever she was plotting. So we trek across the library to the History section, which is back near the door out to the dormitories. The book on translating elven languages is on a high enough shelf, I have to stand on a lower one to be able to reach it. Translation in hand, we return to the original section, pull out the book we need, and hold the two next to each other to get started.
We've barely set in when there's a startled yelp, tangled with a surprised growl from Fade, behind me. "Oh, for- Who let a dog in here?! And you, what're you doing? Be careful!"
I look up to see a human, clad in the sunshine-yellow robes of a Harrowed mage, staring at the two of us in horror. "What?"
"Do you have any idea how old that book is?! You're bending it too much! You'll crack the spine, and then all the pages will fall out!" He takes a deep breath. "Oooh, just thinking about is making me dizzy..."
"So, you're familiar with this book, then?" I probe, laying it on the table.
"I've used it once or twice. I hardly have it memorized," the mage shrugs. "Why?" His gaze falls on the section we were trying to read before his interruption. "Eluvians, hmm? No one's ever actually found one, you know."
"Wait, you know what they are?" Ariane demands eagerly.
"It's old elvish for seeing glass," he replies. "Mirror."
"And how do you know that?" she presses.
"Cross referencing, educated guesses, typical process of elimination. Finally lucked into the answer in a Tevinter scroll." He almost lovingly smooths the pages of the text. "See, an Eluvian isn't just any mirror. It's special."
Special would be putting it lightly. I raise an eyebrow in curiosity. This guy strikes me as a scholarly type. Maybe he knows more about them then Jowan."Go on."
He's just warming to his subject, and I probably couldn't make him stop if I wanted to. "When the Imperium sacked Arlathan, see, they took these mirrors to try and unlock their secrets. Never did manage to use them for anything more than long-distance communication."
Nuts. I knew that already. "Anything you read mention them being used for, say... teleportation or travel?"
His eyes narrow. "Just one legend in the Tevinter scroll, said something about the elves using them to travel long distances. Why?"
"Just curious," I shrug.
"Wait a minute..." Ariane begins slowly. "Not too long ago, my people crossed paths with another Dalish clan who'd lost two of their best hunters to some strange mirror in the woods. It made them deathly ill, and then one night, they just...vanished."
The mage frowns. "I've never heard anything about Eluvians making people ill. What happened to the mirror?"
"Shattered," the Dalish warrior replies with a shrug. "Destroyed."
"What? Why?" he gasps.
"It had been corrupted by the darkspawn. They did it to protect others," she explains defensively.
"Hmm, even broken it could be used to find the others..." he murmurs, then shakes his head. "No, no, Finn, don't get ahead of yourself... You need to be sure."
"What? What do you know?" Ariane presses.
The mage--Finn, I guess--just laughs and rubs his hands together gleefully. "Oh, this is exciting! We have to get to the repository! Hadley has the key, come on!"
With little choice in the matter, Ariane and I fall in step behind him as he speed-walks back toward the front door and the Knight-Captain who hold the--literal and figurative--key to our progress.