Fandom: Original (Dragon Age inspired)
Riassunto: The story of a Tevinter mage and one of her slaves
Note: Scritta per la M1 della 6° settimana del COWT9 per "Parità"
The Claventia family has a long line of powerful mages behind their back and the certainty in their dinasty in front of them. They might not be the most notorious among the nobles, but their name is renowned enough to allow them some concessions and the city opens in front of them like a ostrich.
There isn't much that Licea doesn't think her family can do. Ever since she had been little, everything was handed to her.
Not to say that she hadn't had to learn much of what she knows. After all, the only way to have success in her family was to be an incredible mage in her own right. No one in her family was going to make concessions for her if she wasn't the best mage that there could be.
It was how it was in her family, where magic was always put in first place above anything else. Happiness was just something one had to earn, an afterthought after another magic lesson.
It was what Licea knew and what she thought was right. After all if her family was rising the ranks so quickly, what other reasons could there be?
It was unsurprising that there were many families that looked up to them, especially their cousins, the Albius, as renowned as them, but lacking any and all magical talent. What a sad life must theirs be.
Licea, who had magic running inside her veins since she could speak, doesn't understand how that must feel like. They're no better than elves, sometimes almost worse.
After all, even in their servitudes, there are elves, free and not, who posses magic powers even beyond what Licea herself can do. The Dalish will never be on par with the Magisters and the Imperium, but everyone knows that Dalish know more about the oblio than them.
Magis is balance, his father usually tells Licea, and so that means that it has to be distributed among us all. Even elves.
The matter comes with what the people use to do with the magic. Dalish at least understand the sacred gift that was given to them, and know to cherish their talents.
The ones in Ferelden, however, they are the real monsters. There are a lot of people that love to throw accusation at the Tevinter Imperium, but at least they weren't terrible enough to enslave some of their strongest people inside circles and suffocate their talents out of fear and nothing else.
The point is that Licea knows that she's not like everyone else, that her family is above most and destined to raise in ranks even more, and she knows that her existence, the whole reason why she's alive, is to further this agenda.
And so she acts accordingly.
There are many elves that serve them. Their house is big and they have decent rooms for the slaves. All in all, or so Licea thinks, they treat their servitude better than most other people. They should be honored to be in their house, to be given the opportunity to serve one of the most important families in the Imperium.
But not most elves thinks so. Just like any other owner, Lice has seen her father be forced to punish come of the elven slaves that didn't know how to act and what was their place.
But elves, after all, were not their equals. And so one might try and forgive their rudeness when one remembers that elves are only inferior creatures.
What she doesn't expect is to see her uncle, a great Laetians in his own right, even if not one of the mage, act with a disrespects that most suites an uneducated elf and not someone who was born and raised inside the Imperium. He should know how to act, and how the Tevinter etiquette demands one treats their superiors even if one's relatives.
Yet, one night, while she's going back to her room after a magic training session that devolved well into the late hours of the night, she stops in front of her father's study and she spots them, screaming at each other.
It's not something that she would have expected. Not from her uncle and even less from her father.
Do not yell, Licea, he usually tells her. A real Tevinter noble never raises his voice. We demand and scheme, we obtain with elegance and purpose.
We don't scream like common Mabaris.
And yet, this is what Licea is seeing in front of her eyes.
She doesn't get much of what they're telling each other. From what she can gather they are talking about money, about prestige. Common topics inside their house and the Tevinter in general, really.
But, from what Licea can understand, it seems that her uncle is in need of money or, at the very least, a favour. It's a rather tactless request, she thinks, but it's not unheard of for a Laetian family to ask for help to some cousins that have better rank inside the government.
Still, that doesn't mean it's not a shock when her uncle slams his hand onto one of father's table and the other man retaliates with a blast of wind magic, sending the man toppling over the couch.
"I told you," her father says, his voice as deadly as ice, "I won't give you what you need, Augustus. There is no money here for you and your family, and it's time for you to go."
It appears that her uncle might be trying to refuse, but her father's orders are absolute, and his very words are commands that need to be obeyed.
She would like to know that magic, one day, but it doesn't resonates with her chords. Every mage has a branch that is their speciality, and unfortunately that one doesn't seem to be Licea's.
Still, when the man stands up and moves towards the room, Licea can't do anything but run to hide in a corner, in order not to be seen.
She's surprised to collide directly into a slave.
It's one of the youngest ones, she thinks. Licea remembers his father's description about him: Stubborn but with potential.
Well, for now Licea needs him to be talented with disappearing. "Move!" he tells him, "I need to hide!"
Before she can add from what, the elf simply nods and steps in front of her, obscuring from her uncle's eyesight.
"Listen to me, you old fool," her uncle says, low and angry, "you'll regret this decision and, one day, you'll know that it will be because of me. You made yourself a very powerful enemy."
That isn't a threat to be ignored, not really. Her uncle is powerful and has a lot of connection inside the city.
Still, they're mages. What really do they have to fear?
She watches him go, hidden behind the elf, and even when her uncle passes in front of her, seems to be unable to see her.
When the danger is gone, Licea comes out of her hiding spot and looks at the elf. He's looking at her, probably awaiting an order. She doesn't thank him, after all this is only something he has to do for his job, nothing more and nothing less.
After all, Licea is his owner and he's the slave. There's no reason to thank him.
Four years later, Licea is the only member left of her family.
The elves, from what she understands, came at night. A swarm that only wanted to kill every member of the Cleventia family in cold blood, only to run away soon after and forget a target.
That is, at least, the story that many have created and share between their friends, but everyone with two brain cells would see the holes in that plan.
Licea herself most of all.
If their object had been to kill the entire family and then run away, why is Licea still alive? Why did they not kill her when they had the chance and instead left her orphan and without her title anymore?
She still has money, but can't spend them until the investigation about her parents murder has been resolved.
Licea is alone. Penniless and without any power.
It's then that her uncle comes to her offering her a family, protection, and a title. The Albius might not be nobility, but they have money and prestige, the only thing they lack is magical talent of which Licea has in abundance. If they unite their families, make them one as they once were, taking Licea into their midst, they would be able to become a full fledged magical family. With magic flowing once again into their family’s blood, the Albius would raise in rank, possibly gaining a title immediately.
It would be the answer to both of their troubles.
She knows, however, that nothing is ever handed to her. It's not how her word works and, even if it isn't how most people think her life goes, she knows that everything in life must be earned.
And so she remembers the discussion of that night between her father and her uncle. She doesn’t remember the details but the threat at the end has been burned in her mind.
Her uncle had been angry, blinded by a rage so devastating that he had forgotten himself and his place in front of her father. Whatever it was, he had looked angry enough to actually follow through on that threat.
To actually kill someone.
It’s a chilling thought, one she would prefer not to have, but she’s the last of the Claventia and that requires that she leaves behind any and all childish behaviour and steps into the role of matriarch of her house.
She has to face the harsh truth that is slowly forming in front of her. As terrible as it might be, it seems that the reason her parents are dead is her uncle.
Blinding herself to the truth is useless.
That also means that not only she can’t accept her uncle’s hospitality, she might be in danger of being eliminated herself if she remains in the city.
She doesn’t have the strength nor the political power to go against her cousins. What they lack in magic, they make up in power and political connections. Licea, who was never supposed to be the face of her family, hasn’t been trained like her brothers and sisters, always more interested in books than politics.
It seems she might have to learn faster than she would have ever imagined.7
She also has to decide what to do now. An intelligent strategy might be to actually accept her uncle’s proposition and act like she doesn’t suspect a thing.
They need her or, more accurately, they need her magic and that means that she’s safer acting like a gullible idiot. She might play the part for a while, enough time to gather the consensus and friendship she needs to move war against her cousins.
Of course, how much freedom would she ever have under her uncle’s thumb? How much time to build her revenge, plan how to act against him.
The other possibility lands at her feet one day. Or, better, screams in her face in the middle of the street.
She’s walking alone in the market when she hears someone scream about an expedition to help the Grey Wardens, an expedition sponsored by the Magister and endorsed by the council. Anyone that volunteers, they say, will be largely rewarded.
Licea doesn’t know what reward that might be, but that’s not the part that interests her. A magister? Anaximander from the looks of it?
That is the connection she needs for her revenge.
The one missing piece in her plan. The only problem now is ensuring that she will survive the expedition and actually come back to enact her revenge.
She’s a strong mage, focused more on fire magic and entropic forces, but she’s not yet great. If, as the notice said, they will have to face Darkspawn and who knows what other monstrosity, she has to ensure her own safety first of all.
And so, she goes to the only place she can think of.
After the attack on her family, they had found just one elf on the premise, one who had been drugged just as her family and abandoned there by his peers.
She remembers the slave very well. Dryadalis, Elf in Teneve, had been a loyal slave, hated by his peers because of his own disdain for them.
It’s possible that they left him there on purpose, knowing full well that he wouldn’t have helped them in their plan. Of course, it might have been that they wanted them to believe that.
Ever since the attack, then, the slave had been living in the dungeon, chained to the wall.
She hadn’t known if she could trust him, or really anyone else, but in front of the one who had orchestrated her family’s murder and a slave who’s only sin is hating his own kind, Licea has to try with the second.
She sneaks into the dungeon at night, finding the elf awake and looking at her. He looks malnourished and tired, but not angry.
He looks resigned more than anything else.
“Do you remember who I am, slave?” she asks him. When he nods, she continues. “I’m here to offer you a deal. Swear fealty to me, follow me into battle, prepare to lie your life for me, and once we come back - and we will - I’ll make you a free elf. We’ll be equals, no more chains will adorn your wrists.”
It seems like a very fair proposition to Licea, who can only wait with held breath to the other’s answer. He’s still her slave, sure, but if he doesn’t come with her of his own volition, she knows that he will betray her the moment they step foot outside of the dungeon.
She needs his complete fealty and nothing less.
“I don’t need to be freed,” he says, his voice a little rasp. “I only want to serve you, make the name of the Claventia family famous once again and be the highest ranking slave in your service.”
That’s… a rather strange request, she thinks, but it seems that he doesn’t want to be her equal. It’s not what he’s after. And who is she to judge?
“You’ll have anything you want,” he promises him, opening the lock of his cell. “You’ll be able to act of your own volition where we’re going, but never forget this pact. Never forget that your life is mine.”
And Dryadalis nods and bows his head in her direction.
Not equal, then, but still bonded.
She can work with that.