sagacious_rage: (Amell)
[personal profile] sagacious_rage
Title: Prodigal, Chapter Five: Just Before it's Totally Black
Canon/s: Dragon Age
Genre/s: Family, Adventure, Romance
Characters/Pairing: Alistair, Maebh, Leliana, Greagoir, Morrigan, Leliana, Carroll, Zevran
Rating: Chapter: T for violence and drug use Story: M, for consensual het sex
Warnings: drug and alcohol use.
Word Count: Chapter: 3,258 Story: 71,100
Story Summary: A mage with a terrible secret attempts to survive the Blight and the powerful people who would like nothing better than for her to disappear for good.
Chapter Summary: At his wits' end, Alistair takes Maebh to the Circle Tower for treatment, and they discover that the mages are having troubles of their own.


Just Before it's Totally Black

The Bannorn


The elf lay prostrate on the ground in front of her. Oh Maker, she thought, he has the exact same hair.

The vagaries of fate. The quirks of destiny. The bits of luck that get a bandit strangled and an assassin spared. He looked at her with eyes that held hope without reason, the sun shining all about them.

She could not bear to kill him because he had the same hair.

~*~


"Great," Maebh said with a grimace. "Carroll."

The small group approached the jittery templar at the edge of the dock. "Hold!" he said imperiously, holding his hand up in Maebh's face. "Nobody is to cross, Greagoir's orders."

She smacked his hand away. "Carroll, I don't have time for this. I'm on important business and I must speak with the Knight-Commander."

"No! I've one job, and one job only, and by the Maker's shiny gold cutlery, I will do it!"

Alistair snickered as Maebh fought the deep well of anger boiling inside of her. She placed a hand on Sal, partly to calm his raised hackles and partly to support herself, as she was feeling quite weak. "Carroll, I'm on a mission from the Grey Wardens. I must speak with Greagoir."

"Oh, you're a Grey Warden, are you? Prove it." Carroll crossed his arms with superior smile.

"Prove it!" Maebh barked. She took a deep breath. "Well...I have these treaties?"

"Oh, so you have some pieces of paper, do you? Well, I've got some papers too! They say I'm the Queen of Antiva! What do you have to say to that?"

"Aren't queens usually female?"

"Don't question royalty!"

Maebh turned away and crossed her arms, furious. Alistair was biting his fist to keep from laughing. "He is very dedicated to his work, isn't he?"

"Maker damn that wretched man."

"Hey, that rhymes! You should tell Leliana, she could write a ballad about this."

Maebh shot Alistair a dark look. "It would be a song that ends in bloodshed, I'm sure. Wait a minute, I have an idea." She whipped a piece of vellum out of her pocket. "Alistair," she said, loud enough for Carroll to hear, "Do you have a quill?"

Alistair looked blankly at her, "No, I..." she shook her head slightly, "Why yes!" he said, loud as well. "I have one right here, why do you ask?"

"Well, I just thought I'd write a letter to the Revered Mother. Dear Revered Mother," she said aloud as she pretended to write, "I hope you are doing well. It's been quite a while since we last saw each other at Ostagar. I just wanted to tell you about the behavior of some of your Templars at the Tower. For example, last Summer Solstice I was eating a bit of stick candy when a certain Carroll caught me alone in a stairwell and gave me some interesting suggestions on other things I could put in my mouth..."

"No, no, no, that won't be necessary," Carroll bustled over and took the vellum out of her hand, laughing nervously. "Get in the boat, you vile temptress-blackmailer," he muttered.

~*~


Maebh stood in front of Greagoir, dreading his assessment. She felt so fragile she was sure she would crumble under the weight of his disapproval. She was spared, however, as he had more pressing matters on his mind. She blinked, not believing his words. "The Right of Annulment?"

"Yes. After Uldred returned from the Battle of Ostagar..."

But Maebh was no longer paying attention. She pursed her lips, trying not to giggle.

Greagoir noticed her expression and flared in anger. "I'm sorry, you find this amusing?"

"No no no of course not just the name Uldred. Ull dread," she giggled, high-pitched and hysterical. "Dread them ull!"

Greagoir covered his face with his hands and took several deep breaths. "She's lyrium-addled?" he asked, though he already knew the answer.

Alistair nodded sadly. "She was mainlining in the Deep Roads for a week before I realized. I've had her on the knife's edge since then."

"How long did it take you to get here?"

"Just under three weeks."

"Blessed Andraste. There's no getting around it. We have to detoxify her immediately."

"But the mages..."

Greagoir shook his head. "The door's already locked. If anything comes through I'll be right in that room. Other than that I've just been waiting for word from Denerim. We can afford the time. You have Templar training, yes?"

Alistair nodded.

"I hope you have women in your party, they will need to tend to her. Maebh, Maebh look at me."

Her eyes shone bright with tears. "Greagoir don't be mad don't be mad I've done something..."

He placed his hand on her shoulder. "There's no need to apologize, girl. I have a gift for you, doesn't that sound like fun?"

"Really?" she clasped her hands together, excited as a little girl on her birthday. "Oh, you shouldn't have!"

"Yes, yes, it's right in here," Greagoir led her into a small room off the main hallway, shut the door, and bolted it. "Go get the women," he said to Alistair. "I'll prepare the incense."

A short while later, Greagoir, Alistair, Leliana and Morrigan stood outside the small cell where Greagoir had locked Maebh. They were all dressed in unbleached cotton robes. Greagoir and Morrigan had pulled their hair back securely. Greagoir held a large thurible, stuffed with unlit incense. Alistair carried an unlit brazier, Morrigan two buckets of water, and Leliana another bucket of water, a fifth robe, and an empty bucket. Greagoir turned to the group. "I need to warn you, this will not be easy to bear. She will be in a great deal of pain. She may say things that are shocking. You cannot take anything she says to heart, her rantings will be the symptoms of a diseased mind. She may imagine that you are other people she knows. It will go easier if you just play along and don't argue."

"What's going to happen?" Leliana asked, her face a mask of worry.

"Basically, we're going to sweat it out of her. The incense and brazier will speed this process considerably. She will most likely vomit as well, which is what the empty bucket is for. The water is so we can keep something in her stomach to vomit, and to keep her from becoming dehydrated before the process is over. She may try to cast spells on us to escape. We can rotate who is in there with her if the heat becomes overwhelming. However, either Alistair or myself must be with her at all times, to counteract her spell casting. I am hoping we will be able to restrain her without the use of leather straps, as that can be quite upsetting for everybody. The good news is, this should only take a few hours."

The three nodded solemnly. "First things first," Greagoir said, "ladies, I'd like you to go in there and change her out of her clothes and into the robe. She'll probably be upset when you go in but I'm hoping she will not be violent," he unlatched the bolt.

Leliana and Morrigan crept in. Maebh was curled up in the far corner, wringing her hands and muttering to herself. She looked at them with hollow eyes. "Maebh," Leliana called softly. "Would you like to come over here? I have something for you."

Maebh shook her head and covered her mouth with her hand. "Lies lies lies..." she babbled.

Morrigan placed her buckets of water on the floor. "Perhaps a more direct approach?" she asked Leliana. Before waiting for a response, she clapped her hands sharply. "Girl!" she commanded. "Put this on!" she threw the robe at Maebh.

Maebh hung her head and began to strip. "That seems cruel," Leliana said.

Morrigan sneered in disgust. "She's been trained to think of herself as less than human by the Chantry. She'll always respond better to commands than kindness."

Tears were dropping out of Maebh's eyes. "Can't do it I'm sorry don't be mad..." Her hands shook so violently she could not undo the clasp on her mage robes.

"Oh we're not..." Leliana started but Morrigan cut her off with a gesture.

"Come here, then, you silly child. We shall do it for you since you are incapable."

Maebh shuffled over to them, and meekly submitted to their attention. Once they had finished, Maebh retreated to her corner. Morrigan knocked on the door. Greagoir opened it. "We're ready," she told him in a flat tone. "You've trained her well."

Greagoir's eyes were ice. "You have a lot to say for an apostate."

"Well, what are you waiting for, Knight-Commander? Go get your sword and run me through!"

"Save it, Morrigan," Alistair came between them and lit the brazier while Greagoir lit the thurible. "This is going to be unpleasant enough."

They stood on one side of the small cell, watching Maebh who watched them with sunken eyes and twitching mouth. Her lips were cracked and dry, her cheeks sallow. Greagoir approached her. "Maebh, are you thirsty?" he asked gently.

She nodded. "It's hot in here," she said softly. "I'll make it colder," she began gathering her will to cast a blizzard. Both Alistair and Greagoir quickly cleansed the area. Maebh jerked and cried out as if she had been burned. Greagoir lifted a cup of water to her. "No," she said and pushed it away.

"What's wrong, child," he asked.

"Don't deserve it. Let you down." Her tongue clung to the roof of her mouth, throat was so dry she could barely speak. "Lyrium. C-Cailan..."

He hushed her. "That doesn't matter. I want you to have some water. Listen to the Knight-Commander."

She drank greedily and sighed. "I don't like it. It smells," she pointed at the thurible.

Greagoir laughed. "It does. But it's necessary."

"Don't like necessary things. Like having a choice," she turned to the wall. "Father Tower Duncan Cailan never had a choice. Do what you're supposed to do Maybe listen to me do what I tell you don't think Maybe don't want don't argue do what I tell you listen to me don't look sad smile for me do what I tell you don't question it come to Denerim of course you want to be with me don't question..." her voice died as her throat became parched again. Greagoir handed her the cup and she again gulped the water. "Greagoir don't be mad please," tears and sweat began to drip down her face. "Greagoir I lay with a man I wanted to Greagoir don't be disappointed he died he died Cailan lay on the cold ground I couldn't save him he sent me away..." the tears fell like rain. "He sent me away Father sent me away you sent me away where can I stay who wants me to stay who will let me stay..." she fell silent.

Greagoir's expression was sorrowful. "We all want you to stay," he said in a husky voice, "but we also have to do our duty."

But Maebh didn't hear. She stood up shakily, stumbled to the empty bucket and vomited.

~*~


The minutes passed like hours, Maebh slipping in and out of delirium. "Maker's Breath," she gasped in a moment of clarity. "Why am I dressed like this? Why is it so hot in here? What's that smell? Oh, thank you, Greagoir, I am parched." She drank deeply. She focused on Greagoir. "What happened to your hair?"

"I tied it back."

Her eyes glazed. "No, don't be silly Father. When did it turn grey like that?" Her eyes grew wide. "Is it a disguise? Can I wear a disguise? Are we tricking somebody?"

Greagoir slumped. "Yes, it's a disguise and you have one, too."

"Oh, most excellent! You have a disguise, too, of course," she said, turning to Alistair. "That's why your hair looks like that."

"Oh yes, of course."

"Because I like it better long."

"I'm sure you do."

"Who are we tricking?" she gasped in excitement. "Is it Nora? I hope it's stupid Nora."

"Sure, it's stupid Nora," Alistair humored her.

Leliana returned from fetching more water. "Shh!" hissed Maebh as she crawled to Alistair, unable to walk. "She'll figure it out. She's not actually stupid, you know. She's very smart and very pretty and everybody knows you're very lucky that she's going to marry you instead of me," she pouted. "But you love me I know they all know why doesn't that matter?"

Alistair patted her head awkwardly. "I don't know."

"Don't leave me don't let them take me help me I'm so scared..." she babbled, clutching his robe in her fists. "Don't forget me..." and she wept.

~*~


Greagoir held another cup of water to her. She knocked it out of his hands, flinched and covered her head. "Father, please, don't... I can hide it I've been hiding it Cailan knows he's been helping me Father," before Greagoir could react she cast a glyph of repulsion at his feet. He was thrown back against the wall.

"Oh, my!" gasped Morrigan.

Maebh began to gather her will again. "You can't make me go I won't I want to stay with you Father I love you don't make me go!" Her fingers crackled with lightning.

"What are you waiting for, Alistair?" wheezed Greagoir.

"Of course," responded Alistair, who smote Maebh. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed.

"Was that truly necessary?" demanded Morrigan.

"Yes," Greagoir responded grimly. "As are the straps. If she continues to think I'm her father, things could get even uglier."

"Why? What do you know?" Morrigan interrogated Greagoir angrily.

He turned to her with barely controlled rage. "I was there. I know he treated her in a way no child should be treated, regardless of who they are. Now go get the straps before she wakens."

Morrigan returned a few minutes later with a wooden box. Gently, as if he were wrapping an infant, Greagoir buckled them around her wrists, waist, and ankles. He then attached them to rings on the floor. For some time she lay perfectly still. Then she began to twist and moan. Then, she screamed as she writhed on the floor in pain. Leliana was overwhelmed and left the room. Alistair turned his face to the wall. Morrigan sat with Maebh's head in her lap, smoothing her sweat-soaked hair from her brow.

"Mother," Maebh whimpered. "Mother, I missed you."

"I know, dear, I missed you, too."

She sighed in contentment before another spasm wracked her body. "Father's going to send me away. I don't want to go."

"I know, dear."

"Father hates me. I can't help it. I want to please him but I can't."

"I know, dear. I understand."

~*~


Maebh was silent for some time, breathing heavily. "Greagoir, something's wrong," she said somberly. "Jowan..." she choked, "Jowan is lying to me. I don't see it. Why don't I see it? How could this happen?"

"Jowan lied to us all, girl," Greagoir said sadly.

"But I'm his friend. Why is my friend lying to me?"

"Because you are his friend? He wants to protect you? Or he's afraid you would disapprove? He's afraid of disappointing you? He's ashamed you are so much stronger? There are many reasons why we lie to each other."

"I am lying to you, Greagoir."

"I'm sure you are. But it doesn't matter. I forgive you."

Maebh's eyes rolled back in her head and she went limp. After a few minutes of silence, she reached out her hand and grasped his tightly. "Oh Maker," she groaned. "I feel like I've been run over by a herd of brontos."

"Here, hold her up," Greagoir said to Morrigan. He took a candle and held it up to Maebh's face as he pushed back her eyelids. "Oh thank the Maker, it's over," he looked up at Alistair. "Go tell the men to prepare a bath, and fetch Leliana."

~*~


Maebh didn't have the strength to stand, let alone walk to the lavatory and bathe herself. Alistair carried her in and then left with Greagoir to clean up elsewhere. Leliana held her up while Morrigan stripped her of her robe, and then they both did their best to help her into the bath without dropping her. "Blessed Andraste every inch of me aches," she groaned. "I'm so sorry."

"Why are you apologizing," Morrigan demanded as she lathered her hair, "you are constantly apologizing, and usually for something that somebody else did. Is that something they teach you in the tower? To feel countinually guilty?"

Maebh laughed ruefully. "That's part of it."

"'Tis a terrible thing to teach a child, to be afraid of one's own gifts. To feel as if what makes one special is a curse." Morrigan poured a pitcher of water over her head.

Maebh sputtered and wiped her eyes. "Isn't it?" she protested as Leliana soaped her back. "If I wasn't a mage everything would have … been very different."

"Yes, and if wishes were fishes we'd never go hungry. Lift up your leg."

"Besides that," Leliana said, fetching some towels. "If you weren't a mage, do you think Duncan would have recruited you? Then where would we be? Even as incapacitated as you have been, you're still a better leader than Alistair."

Morrigan snorted. "Truer words. Can you stand?"

Maebh tested her weight on her arms. "I think so." She stepped gingerly out of the tub and wrapped a towel around herself while Leliana dried her hair. "Thank you. Both of you. I don't know why you've decided to help me like this."

"We're doing this because we believe in you," Leliana placed her hand on her shoulder.

"Yes, and the Blight, of course," Morrigan smirked.

"Morrigan, you especially. I've said and done some awful things to you. I just wanted to apologize, and I really mean it this time, not a reflex."

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, well. You better get dressed and tell the Templars to bring more water. We all need a bath."

~*~


Previous Chapters:

Prologue, Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four

May 2012

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