At the back of the cave, above a bed of fresh leaves and old rags, a shelf has been cut into the wall. A rushlight illuminates its contents: a doll dressed as an Antivan pirate, a torn book, a sunburst brooch, and the pieces of a broken staff.
"Well?" the Anchoress asks.
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Who she is -
Family history "I'm the Shame's shame. His get. Seduced one of the abbey's sisters, didn't he? Tut, tut. Couldn't have that secret getting out. Not to his pretty lily-wife and her lord father of Alyons. It would have meant disgrace at best; war more likely. "So he left me in the woods for the wolves and the wind. I didn't die, though. Too stupid. It was two days before my mother found me. She ran away from the Abbey of the Bans and raised me here in the woods. Like a fairytale it was. Moss for our pillow. Weaving blankets from grass. Dew to drink every morning. You know: from buttercups." She cackles. "You like that story? Or do you like your stories as real and nasty as gout? All shitting in ditches and strangling squirrels for scraps, our ribs pushing at our skin in the bitter winter? "He regretted doing it later. Said so, anyway. Except when he was saying he wished he'd done the job proper - usually when I couldn't follow his lessons, or when I beat him at Archon. "So let's see. You must be his great-grandchild. That'd make me your... great aunt?" She laughs, as if it's the funniest thing in the world. "Sorry I missed all your birthdays, precious. I was rotting in the woods."
How She Lives:
Bargains "The Applewoods provide. And when they don't, the abbey does. I ain't the only indiscretion the sisters have to cover up. The Masked Andraste isn't as keen on chastity as her moon-faced sister. The right spells and potions make a round belly flat again. Or, if the girl would rather, they can ease the pain when the child comes. And out here we're far enough in the woods that no one will hear all the hullabaloo.
"In return the sisters bring me clothes when they remember. Or sweet honey from those beehives of theirs. Or wine, sometimes." She smacks her lips.
Her Sunburst Brooch:
The heirloom "Belonged to my mother. It was the one thing she kept from before the sisterhood. She was born a knight's girl, I think.
"She brought me up all by herself, out here in the woods. Her once-sisters helped out a bit. Left meat out for us after feast days. Gave us clothes too ragged for fine Chantry shoulders. That sort of thing.
"She got sick. I was ten. Some things no herb can prevail against. Nor spells, neither. Said that to my father, once. That's when he tore up my book. He said I was no Serault if I thought like that.
"Anyway. Before she died, she wrote to him. Told him all about me. He sought me out."
About the doll:
The gift "That's what my father brought me when he found me after ma died. He said he regretted nothing as much as he regretted abandoning me. His other children were sweet-natured, he said, but a disappointing. Too comfortable, he said. Too content." She snorts. "A doll! Can you think of a more stupid present for a ten year-old girl who lives in the woods and has to feed and clothe herself?" You ask why she kept it. She gives you a sharp look.
The torn book:
Art and science "Father was proper pleased when he realised I was a mage. Did a jig, he did. That's the spellbook he gave me. "I was a disappointment. Don't read so well. And he was better at doing than teaching, my father. When he lost his patience, he'd ask if I was Tranquil. But the things he taught me... To hold fire by the throat. To catch lightning and spit it back at the clouds. To see behind the world..." You look at the inscription on the first page. 'To my beloved daughter. The world is yours.'
The broken staff:
Now my charms are all o'erthrown "That was his staff. He came to see me, soon before the end. He wasn't alone in his head. I could see that. He'd always been proud - and rightly so! - but he'd laid his pride out for the demon like a feast before a king. "He knew they were coming: the Seekers and their Templars. But he said he'd never run in his life and didn't know how to start. "He gave me his staff. He didn't say sorry, though. Not for anything. I was proud of him for that. A few days after he left, the staff fell over. Broke clean into three bits. And that's how I knew he weren't coming back."