"Little Fox"

Renata Demitridis, aged 17

Andoral's Reach, Nation of Mages

9:58 Dragon


I always wanted my father's ears. Whenever I'd ask for them, he'd just smile, sadly, and tell me they were never something I could have, and were never something I should want. I never understood that, not until I was older, and realized that outside of the nation where we lived, my father's beautiful ears—in fact, everything about him—were a fast road to the underclass. Later, I would find out that outside our borders, the same road existed with magic.

I don't remember much of my mother. I know that she wasn't beautiful, but I do remember her voice. It was sweet, and kind. I remember that she used it; she was important, because she used it. I must have been about eight or nine when I saw her last. One day she left—to go use her voice somewhere, I think. The night before she and Adda had a terrible row. I don't remember what she said, but I do remember the words duty, responsibility, justice. I don't remember much else.

So, one day, she left Andoral's Reach on a fine horse, with a small contingent of battlemages. She never came back. This was perhaps a day or two after an attack. They came so often, when I was young, but I never saw them until that one. They did happen often enough that I wasn't allowed to play alone with my friends. They happened often enough that, even at eight, I felt as if my life was spent waiting only for the next attack to come.

Please understand this isn't to say that life at the Reach was ever bad, just…uncertain. Having such an uncertain life as an eight- or nine-year-old is no way to live. That being said, that attack was the first time I ever saw Adda use his markings. Maker, I thought they were beautiful, and it wasn't until then that I realized they were dangerous, to boot. I remember telling him I wanted them, too, and he only shook his head and said, "No, no. You don't want these." I asked him why, and he told me that I was still a little too young to know, and that soon enough, he would tell me everything. He told me that if something should ever happen to him, he'd made sure to put the story of his life—and Mamae's, too—in a book.

My father was illiterate for most of his life. That never ceases to amaze me, given his huge vocabulary and incredible intellect, and I learned that Mamae taught him how to read, and then to write. She taught us, too—well, Leto, mostly—and Adda taught me the rest, after she disappeared.

I digress. The night of the attack was the first time I saw his markings come to life, to catch on fire. He danced, and men fell around him, and there was blood. I was too young to understand, but later I would look back and realize, with no small amount of fear, that he was reaching into their chests and ripping out their hearts. He had a sword, but he rarely used it. It was as big as he was, and I'd seen him wield it in the practice yard, but he always said that the other way was faster, easier to utilize in close-quarters combat. He taught me how to wield my weapons, too: little daggers, for his 'little fox'. That was what he called me; I never understood why, not until I found out that it had been a name for my mother.

They called her Foxface, and from what I remember, the name was accurate. She wasn't beautiful, but her voice and her heart were beautiful. I know Adda thought she was beautiful. I do remember that she'd look at me and say she was glad that I looked not like her, but like her mother. I look nothing like my father, though Leto is his spitting image, just…human. All of us half-elves are human, and Adda says that it's a blessing, though I only ever wanted his ears. They were so beautiful. He was so beautiful. He didn't know it, or perhaps he didn't care. And I—well, I look just like my grandmother, red-haired and blue-eyed and nothing at all like my mother, the woman they called Foxface. I have her name, too: Renata.

Grandmamae Cora said that she was a slave, and my grandfather's lover. My father says the same, and always added that their love was strong, but it hurt a lot of people and ruined a lot of lives, including Mamae's. He told me that I should learn from it, and always remember to love openly but to keep in mind the consequences of my decisions. My grandfather refused to choose between his duty and his love, and we all paid the price.

Mamae and Adda had a row. They didn't fight often, but when they did, I felt as if my entire world might fall apart. And then she left, and never came back, and left me, and Leto, and Adda alone. We couldn't bury her. He was so sad.

Now that I'm older, I think that maybe some days he thought about ending his life and joining her, but he never did. He knew, maybe, that we would be lost without him, especially after Leto showed his magic. I don't have any…well, not proper magic. Adda says that hearing spirits is not something a lot of people know how to do, not people without magic, anyway. Merrill, one of our Keepers, says that it's what the Chantry calls 'hedge magic': abilities outside true magic, but sometimes powerful and always dangerous.

I can't help it. I listen to them, and I find out what they want. If it's easy and ethical, I'll give it to them, and occasionally they give me something in return. There are good ones—mostly, they're good ones—but there are some very, very bad ones, too. Well, I don't think they're bad, per se, or evil. But they are lawless, visceral, and dangerous. They don't play by the rules of the Real and don't care for them. I must tread carefully around them, think of them as wild animals, and treat them with caution and respect. It's just in their nature to hurt, and best to stay away, and I do.

Adda was so sad when he found out Leto had magic. I don't think he ever told Leto that, and it wasn't until later—much later—that I found out his experience, the terrible things he and Mamae had suffered at the hands of mages. I marvel that he never seemed to let that get in the way. He taught us that what we had was both gift and curse; it was a great responsibility to wield magic, and only to be used when no other way would do. He taught us the strength of heart we would need to keep it. Not all of the children we grew up with were so lucky; we watched ourselves closely for any signs of corruption. They didn't all make it.

We knew the cost of relaxing our vigilance. It was either watch our own or slip into the ways of the people around us.

Mamae chose the middle path. The people that fought against us—the people who tried to kill us—treat their mages like slaves, like walking bombs, like animals. They don't even treat them like something you'd find useful, like a pack horse. The Qunari are even worse; they bind their mages, sew closed their mouths, torture and kill the ones who will not comply.

In the north, where Mamae and Adda come from, mages rule everything and every one. I would know; my grandfather was their leader for a time, and he held the power of life and death in his hands. In Tevinter, they don't recognize their terrible gift, and they don't care. All they care about is power, in whatever form they can get it: forbidden magic, ugly things, murder, blood. Grandmamae's son was killed that way, and it was what made Mamae run away. I don't blame her; they made Mamae and Adda into slaves. That was all they had in common, in the beginning, but they grew to love each other so deeply. Even at eight I could tell that much.

They loved us even more. Mamae would sing to me at night, she'd read to me, she'd snuggle me and tell me I was loved, so loved, and that she wanted me. She wanted me, like nothing in the world, to grow up and be happy, and healthy, and most of all…free. She wanted to give me the world she'd never had. To create a place where we could always be free. She told me that was why we were fighting: so that Leto and I and all the other mage children being born in the Reach could have the freedom that Mamae and Adda never had. I believed in her so much that I still fight for it every day.

I suppose I could have left, but we're so close. There are treaties being drafted. The Qunari—the worst mage-slavers of them all—tried to take our piece of land, and didn't make it very far. Refugees from the old countries, the old Chantry, started streaming in. There were farmers, smiths, workers of all kinds and colors, even a few refugee kossith that call themselves Tal-Vashoth. They heard that the Nation of Mages—we still don't have a name, though some Resolutionists have stupidly suggested New Tevinter—were strong enough to defend them all. Those who weren't afraid of us came, first in trickles, then in droves. The Seekers and the Chantry no longer have the kind of numbers it would take to fight both us and the Qunari, and I think maybe they're beginning to realize that the kind of balance my mother advocated so strongly for, the kind she died for, is something that we continue to engender every day.

Andoral's Reach is home to several philosophers, who we have named Keepers in the tradition of the Dalish. Together, they dreamed up a doctrine they call vir ethrevas: 'the way of safe freedom'. Each of us swears to walk in balance all our days, and we've created a system in which each citizen is held to their oath. No one of us can do something at the expense of the many; no one of us can claim to speak for the many. We treat our non-mages with respect, and the love and care they deserve. And, Maker help us, we will never become Tevinter. We will never collar our own, we will never keep slaves. We have the path of vir ethrevas, and I fight for it. I fight for it, my spirits fight for it, my brother fights for it, my father fights for it.

My name is Renata Demitridis. I am seventeen years old, and my friends and family call me 'the little fox'.