Authors Note: Hello everyone! This is a little story about a headcanon I had a while back. I posted this on AO3 as well a while ago, so if you already read it there, let me know! Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Dragon Age. It belongs to BioWare.
When most people thought of the Tranquil on the rare occasions they crossed their mind, all they could ever think of was how detached and monotone they were. What no one ever thought of was how empty they were afterwards. They didn't think for themselves; they couldn't feel emotions like joy or anger; they looked at their friends and loved ones like strangers; they could barely even take care of themselves!
This was the only thing coursing through Frederick's mind as he dangled from his chains. No matter how hard he struggled, the chains wouldn't break. His magic was suppressed by the Templars around him, leaving him as vulnerable and defenseless as a kitten. All he could do was think of his bleak future.
"Apprentice Fredrick, you stand accused of taking part in the Mage Uprising in the Circle of Fereldan, consorting with and joining the ranks of Blood Mages, fleeing the Circle of Magi, and commanding a legion of bandits to help you raid villages. Have you anything to say in your defense?"
Fredrick looked up to gaze into the Templars eyes. "Does it matter? You won't be letting me go regardless of what I say."
The Templar captain narrowed his eyes. "This is can either be very painful, Apostate, or quick and painless. I'll give you one more chance to give us a reason to be merciful. Think very carefully about what you have to say."
Fredrick closed his eyes and hung his head. They wanted him to tell them where they could find other Apostates, anyone else who had escaped from the circle… part of him truly did want to tell them. If only so he wouldn't have to endure the rest of his life as a Tranquil. A quick death was a mercy compared to that. All Mages knew that life as a Tranquil was even worse than death or possession by a Demon. Tranquil may not have been physically dead… but the people they were before were gone forever.
The only problem was that he didn't know where to find anyone else. The night of Uldred's uprising had been chaos. He hadn't bothered to find anyone else to escape with. He'd run past the Templars rushing to contain the Demons and Blood Mages. He'd slipped out in the chaos and hadn't gone back. He'd actually been foolish enough to think he'd escaped.
"I don't have anything else to say, Templar. Not to you."
"Fine. Tranquility it is." He growled and motioned for his lackies to come forward.
It was then he laid his eyes on the brand that all Mages learned to fear in the Circle. The rod in that Templars hands was… surprisingly simple. Thin and boxy, it looked more like a slab of granite than a magical tool. And yet for a Mage or anyone else attuned to magic, the true nature of the rod was obvious. Even worse, the Chantry symbol was etched into the surface of the rod and blazing with raw Lyrium.
Despite the futility of his situation, he struggled against his chains. So much that he had to be held in place by the cold gauntlets of his executioners. He shut his eyes and continued thrash uselessly against his captors.
As the Rod of Tranquility drew nearer to his forehead, he could feel himself slipping away. As memories flashed through his head and his emotions raged, everything was becoming numb. What few memories of his family he had were losing the feelings of joy and wonder attached to them. His sense of desperation and terror was fading. Everything he was feeling or had ever felt was just… slowly lost in the blaze of Lyrium drawing ever closer. His struggles died down and all he could feel was acceptance of it all. Perhaps it would be best if he just... faded away.
"You can't go in there! Stop! Now!"
The sound of door being kicked open drew everyone's attention – long enough for him to regain his senses as the rod was drawn away from him. Slowly he opened his eyes to see who had barged in and interrupted his execution. They nearly bulged out of his head when he saw who was standing in the doorway.
Warden-Commander Sevrin Cousland. The Hero of Fereldan; the bane of Blood Mages across Fereldan; Arl of Amarantine. The only man that the Darkspawn feared. A man capable of bending not only werewolves – long since monsters of Fereldan myth – to his will… but commanding Dragons as well. The stories of the Battle of Denerim always featured the battle between the Archdemon and the Dragons at the Hero's command.
And here he was… staring at him as he was about to be made Tranquil.
"Ah… Warden Commander. To what do we owe the 'pleasure'?" The sarcasm that laced the captains voice was enough to break Fredrick from his stupor. He'd have thought that any man known throughout the land to mercilessly slaughtered every Blood Mage he found would be something out of a Templars wet dream.
"Well I heard that my favorite band of Templars were interrogating another Apostate in the same room you made the Tranquils and I wanted to see how that was going."
The captain narrowed his eyes. "The Apostate was being uncooperative. So we were about to undergo the process of making this filth Tranquil when you barged in here."
As the metalic clang of the Warden Commander's boots echoied throughout the room, Fredrick had his eyes glued Sevrin's face. Even with the Templars so close, he was all Fredrick could focus on. Those haunting blue eyes that had stared down impossible odds and monsters even the Maker would fear weren't filled with hatred or revulsion like he'd expected. Instead he found... compassion?
"And his crimes, captain?" Came his gruff voice.
The captain sighed. "Taking part in the Mage Uprising, associating with Blood Mages, fleeing the Circle of Magi, and most recently commanding a band of bandits to raid towns throughout southern Ferelden."
The Arl whistled. "A bandit leader? That's a new accusation. Do you have any proof?"
"We do. Witnesses can attest to him not only burning down the Chantry of a small village to the south, but the bandits doing nothing to attack him."
"That's not true!"
"Quiet, Mage, or so help me I will prolong your interrogation until you crack!"
"Stop, captain." Commander Cousland warned. "I want a chance to speak with him."
"And why would I allow that?" The captain demanded.
"Because I want to make sure he really did what you're claiming. We're talking about a mans life, after all."
"Is still a Human being. Now silence, captain." It was then that Sevrin Couslands gaze turned towards him. "Tell me your name."
"F-Fredrick Wade, sir." He stammered.
"Wade? Any relation to the master smith from Denerim?"
He shook his head. "No, sir. I'm a bastard; I took the name for myself when I was 13. I don't know who my family is."
Commander Cousland nodded. "And what branch of magic did you study in the Circle?"
"Entropy magic, sir."
Commander Cousland hummed for a moment before nodding to himself. "Ok then... I'm going to make this simple. Are you a Blood Mage?" He held up a hand to stop his reflexive reply. "Don't lie. If you do, I'll know and I'll leave you here so the Templars can do what they want with you. Understand? Good."
Fredrick gulped and shakily shook his head. "No sir, I've never practiced Blood Magic or made any deal with a Demon. I didn't ever ally with the Blood Mages in the tower either, I swear!"
"Instead you just used the chaos to escape while innocent people either died or suffered even worse fates." He flinched back at the accusation. "I'm not judging you, of course. I'm curious though... how did you manage to escape from the Templars for so long? The phylactaries made the other mages who escaped easy to track down."
He remembered; destroying his had been the only thing he'd done before fleeing. "Uldred's uprising did more than summon Demons, sir. It weakened the Veil and sent the latent magic in the tower into some sort of hibernation. It meant I could break into the phylactery chamber before I escaped."
Commander Cousland nodded. "So you were able to not only escape from the tower, but think and plan ahead a little. Impressive. It takes a special kind of person to not panic in a situation like that."
"Thank you, sir."
Commander Cousland narrowed his eyes. "Last question: did you lead those bandits and burn down the village like they're saying you did?"
Fredrick shook his head. "No, milord. Those are lies the Templars are using to justify making me a Tranquil."
"You worthless little-" The captain was silenced at a simple look from the Commander. However much he may have wanted to object, he must have known it was wise to listen to the Commander. Just as Fredrick knew it was wise to tell him everything he wanted to know.
"If you didn't lead the bandits and burn down the village, then why does everyone think you did?"
He glanced away. "I was on the run for so long... I got tired and wandered into the village a few weeks before. I met one of the Sisters there. She was so kind to me - a stranger - and offered to help me while I was in the village. I ended up staying there and-"
"I get it. You fell in love with the unobtainable, it's happened to all of us." Commander Cousland interrupted. "Get to the point. Your life is on the line here. Focus on the important details for now."
Fredrick flushed in embarrassment, despite his situation. Here was the Hero of Fereldan - greatest hero since the last Blight - trying to help him and he was talking about his love life? He hoped he didn't just mess this up.
"Sorry, milord. A-anyway, I stayed in that village for longer than I shiuld have. Then the bandits raided the village trying to steal everything in sight. Not even the Chantry was safe from them. Then I saw the Sister I told you about being attacked and I... set the Chantry on fire when I tried to save her."
Commander Cousland quirked an eyebrow at that. "Why didn't the Sister tell the Templars about this?"
"She tried to when the Templars captured me but they wouldn't listen. Not when everyone else thought I was the leader of the bandits who had just killed their loved ones and destroyed their home." He flinched at the Commanders appraising gaze. How many other Mages had seen that just before he'd slit their throats?
Commander Cousland looked at the captain out of the corner of his eye. "Can I assume you never heard about this."
"No. My men never said anything about this." The captain narrowed his eyes. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I want to know if it was just simple incompetence on their part, or they deliberately hid this information so they could make another Mage Tranquil."
The captain growled and tightened his fists. "What would it even matter if they did? This man is obviously lying about everything! A small child could tell you that."
Commander Cousland sighed. "It matters because you're about to destroy everything that makes this person who he is because you and your men jumped to conclusions." He then shook his head. "What really doesn't matter is whether he is a Blood Mage or not."
The captain looked confused now, same as Fredrick. "It doesn't?"
"It doesn't." Commander Cousland turned and for the first time since he walked into the room, the faintest traces of a smile crossed his face. "As commander of the Grey Wardens in Fereldan, I hereby use the Rite of Conscription to recruit this young man into the ranks of the Grey Wardens. Cut him loose, Captain."
Everyone - Fredrick, the captain, the other Templars in the room - stood in shocked silence after Commander Cousland made his declaration. Fredrick could hardly believe it. Not only had he managed to escape a fate worse than death and join the legendary order of the Grey Wardens, it had been the Hero of Fereldan who had given him this chance at life.
If this was some sort of last dream before he became Tranquil, at least he would be able to say that it was a unique one.
The captain was much less thrilled. "Out if the question! This Mage is a criminal responsible for who knows how many innocent people's deaths! I have had enough of you interfering in Templar work and recruiting monsters into your ranks like it's some sort of safe haven!"
The captain reached for the sword on his back, but stopped halfway when he saw the glare Commander Cousland gave him. If there was ever a look that could kill - ever a man that could give a look capable of killing someone - then the Templar Captain would be dead and buried.
"I want you to think very carefully about what you're about to do. If you so much as make one wrong move, it won't just be you who suffers. Every Templar here who decides to rush to your aid will die right alongside you." Commander Cousland may have spoken softly, but his words hit like a Darkspawn fist. It was clear as day to everyone what the obvious choice was here.
The only question was if the captain would be too arrogant or stupid to take the Commanders warning.
After what seemed like and eternity, he grunted and hung his head. "Cut the Apostate loose."
The next thing Fredrick knew, he was one the ground. Slowly, he rubbed his raw hands and looked up to his savior - his Commander. The gauntlet of Commander Cousland was extended. Grasping it, he felt himself pulled up off the ground with the kind of strength someone would expect of a larger than life hero.
"The Chantry will here of this, Warden. This will not go unpunished." The captain warned.
"I've heard that before."
"If I may, Commander, can I ask why you did that?"
Sevrin Cousland was not a man who did things on impulse. Ever since becoming a Grey Warden, he'd had to think every decision he made through. The 'right' choice was never so simple as what would have been morally good. Often times, he'd had to make the hard choices that everyone else objected to just so they would be ready for the final battle against the Archdemon. Even after the Blight had been defeated and he became the Arl of Amaranthine and Commander of the Grey Wardens, things weren't simple enough for him to act impulsively.
Not even during simple recruitments.
"Simple: I saw someone who may have been innocent about to be made into a Tranquil by the Templars. It wouldn't be the first time they've done that." The answer came easy to him, as it always did.
He didn't have to look back to see the confusion on his newest recruits face though. "How did you know I wasn't lying though?"
Sevrin shrugged. "I've always been able to tell when people are lying or telling me the truth. It's why I asked you those first few questions of mine so I could see what your face looked like when you weren't lying."
"Well... Thank you, milord. I swear to serve you and the Grey Wardens faithfully from this day forward for the rest of my life."
"Don't thank me yet, Fredrick. Joining the Wardens isn't easy and even more deadly than the Harrowings of the Circle are. If you still feel grateful after, then I'll accept your thanks."
"Of course... aren't you worries about the Chantry though? It sounded like they'd try to take me back by force."
Sevrin couldn't help but chuckle at this. "I've been angering the Chantry ever since I became a Grey Warden. You aren't the first Apostate I've recruited and you won't be the last. At worst, they'll send a strongly worded letter to me warning me to stop recruiting dangerous Apostates or there will be consequences. I stopped caring after the twelfth letter. We have place for them at this point."
"What is it?"
"The fireplace. Winters are cold in the keep and we need something to keep the fires going."