There was a commotion happening in the center of the village. Sebastian and a few of the other Chantry brothers and sisters went outside to see what it was about.
The Chantry Mother was standing in the center of a large crowd of villagers. She raised her voice to be heard over the noise, “It has been reported a maleficar was seen in the wilds near our village.”
The assembled villagers began murmuring. Sebastian saw his friend Varric and stood beside him.
“This mage is known to craft potions that could be used to poison whole villages. He escaped the Circle some years ago.” Shock traveled through the crowd.
“But we have no templars,” someone in the crowd shouted. “What are we supposed to do?”
“I know,” the Mother said. “I am only warning you. You are not expected to locate the mage.”
“That would end well,” Varric said to Sebastian.
Varric was the only person in the village who ever sought Sebastian out. He had a friendly way about him, and Sebastian enjoyed his company. Varric would come to him sometimes to discuss Andraste.
The Mother went back to the Chantry leaving the crowd to discuss the news. A group of people who wanted to look for the mage formed, and Sebastian began to walk over to it.
"You're not going to go after this mage, are you?" Varric asked.
"If we are threatened I should help."
"Be careful, Sebastian," Varric cautioned. He left the crowd.
Sebastian was concerned to learn about this runaway mage he, like others in the village, had been taught that mages were dangerous–especially escaped mages who wouldn’t want to return to the Circle. It wouldn’t do to let a maleficar be so close to the innocent people of the village. It was usually the templars’ duty to hunt mages down. If they heard of rogue mages in cities or in remote locations they sought them out, or they hunted down mages who escaped the Circle. They had certain tactics for dealing with magic.
Mages had never touched Sebastian’s life personally, but a boy in the village had been killed by one a number of years before. It was everyone’s duty to protect the innocent and if that meant hunting a maleficar down, then Sebastian would help.
Sebastian joined the group that would try to find the mage. Before becoming a Chantry brother he had learned martial skills; he might be of some help. They would ride out the following morning and begin the search.
The next morning Sebastian had packed some food and prepared one of the Chantry horses for the journey. He secured his blade at his side, and he joined the others who were going on the mission, and they set out in the early light. It was a misty morning and the ground was wet enough for the horses’ hooves to create mud as they trampled across it.
Sebastian liked the feeling of having a goal, something to be part of–he had no family to speak of. He kept to himself mostly. He prayed fervently and confessed his sins though he tried hard not to do anything to anger the Maker.
The group rode throughout the day. They found tracks that could have belonged to anyone; they decided to follow them. They led to the river that flowed near Starkhaven. They waded across at a shallow spot and continued on until evening. Then they climbed a hill to make camp for the night.
Sebastian stared into the fire in the camp and thought about what he knew of mages. Magic had to be controlled. It could corrupt anything and led to horrible actions. There had been a boy in the village who was playing one day when an escaped mage found him. The mage tried to use him as a shield against the templars chasing him. They were told the mage walked him back to a ridge and jumped into the rushing water below. The boy went with him; he didn’t survive.
One of the men seated himself on a log by Sebastian as he scraped mud from his boots and saw to his horse.
“Long day,” he said. “Wonder if we’ll find this mage.”
“Maker willing,” Sebastian replied.
The party traveled farther the next day, and it reached the lake, a dangerous and deceptive place. It was said creatures from nightmare lived there.
The party walked through the trees as silently as they could. They glanced from side to side to catch a glimpse of what might be lurking among the trees. A sudden growl was heard to their left and several of the group shouted and raised their arms to fight.
A large beast, too large, lunged from the shadows and its fangs ripped into one man. The others were too slow to prevent his quick death, but they closed around the beast. Blood dripped from its snout, and the cold air steamed with its hot breath.
Sebastian had joined the circle around it, but he senses that there were more beasts. “There are more–they surround us,” he shouted.
Some of the others tried to observe any movement in the woods without letting their eyes leave the beast before them for too long. Growls emerged from the trees and the beast seemed to smirk at Sebastian.
Sebastian heard more shouts and lunged forward with his blade to cleave the beast’s head from its body. He knew without looking that the villagers were being torn apart by the pack. Their sounds of pain hurt him.
He turned and took a swing at another beast. There were too many. But he would fight anyway. He spun and hacked at beasts. As one fell another attacked him from the side and bit deep into his leg. Its fangs tore at the flesh and Sebastian shouted at the awful sensation. Hot blood gushed out of the wound. He stabbed the beast until it was dead on the ground.
He dizzily spun to take in the carnage that surrounded him. Only a few of his party were still fighting. Where all of the beasts had come from he didn’t know. How could there be so many? If the fight was lost, if he was lost, he was going to go down fighting. Another creature came at him and he lifted his sword. It felt heavier than it should. Blackness was beginning to close in on his vision.
Suddenly, a bright light shone and blinded Sebastian. He knew it was magic but not who had cast it or what their intention was. He felt the ground disappear from beneath his feet and his stomach lurched. Then he was draped over something solid. A horse, it was a horse he was thrown over.
But he was too weak from blood loss to think about anything else.
Darkness fell over him.
Sebastian awoke in confusion. For a moment he didn’t remember anything – not the fight, not the loss of the villagers, not the wound in his leg, and not the mage who had captured him.
Then it all came crashing back to him. He felt panic as he looked around the small room. His armor, clothes, and sword had been removed and placed on a table out of his reach. He felt the throb in his thigh and threw back the blanket that was covering him. Bandages wrapped around his leg, covering the bite wound. He briefly wondered who had cleaned and wrapped it. Surely the mage would have let him die.
Then he heard a sound at the closed door and sat up. The door opened and the mage entered the room. Sebastian was in no shape for a fight. He watched warily as the mage came closer to the bed. The mage watched him too. He must have been able to sense Sebastian’s fear. The mage slowly extended a hand toward the wound and seemed to be asking for permission to examine it.
Sebastian was not comfortable with this mage touching him. He grabbed the blanket and pulled it back over his legs. He crossed his arms across his chest and glared.
The mage raised his hands in a placating gesture and backed away. He poured some water from the pitcher into the cup and left it on the table. He looked at Sebastian’s leg one more time, hidden under the blanket, and left the room.
Sebastian released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. At least the mage seemed docile enough. But he couldn’t forget that he was a mage and a threat no matter how he appeared. Sebastian tried to relax back against the bed. Hw ould have to come up with a plan for getting out of this mess.
He recited a comforting prayer until he drifted off to sleep.
"O Maker, hear my cry: Guide me through the blackest nights..."
Sebastian decided to let his leg heal more before he tried to perform any drastic escape attempt. It would take more movement than he could manage for the time being. He could try to somehow get a message to Varric back in the village. Varric would then lead a group out to save Sebastian. But how could he get a message to him from such a distance? Sebastian would have to bide his time.
The mage brought him food and when he came to retrieve the plate Sebastian let him examine the wound.
The mage unwrapped the bandages and looked at the red flesh. Sebastian was surprised to see the skin was already sealed together. Though it was still an angry red and pained him.
The mage raised a hand and looked at Sebastian in question. Sebastian nodded after a moment. He thought the mage was only going to prod at the flesh but when his hand rested, palm down, over it and a warm feeling soaked in Sebastian realized what was happening. He shoved the mage away.
“How dare you, mage?” he demanded. He was infuriated that magic had been used on him. “Get out,” he said harshly.
The startled mage promptly left, and Sebastian calmed himself.
The feeling of heat absorbing through his flesh still on his mind.
The next day the mage appeared again with food for Sebastian. Sebastian had been thinking about the mage for hours that night. He wondered why he had not heard him speak yet. Perhaps he had taken some sort of vow of silence. People did similar things in the Chantry. Sebastian had decided he may have overreacted to the mage trying to help him. That seemed to be all he was doing, so far. He had saved him from the beasts in the wood. But Sebastian couldn’t be sure what he might be planning to do with him. A captive could be useful for someone on the run.
He didn’t know what to say, but as he watched the mage set the plate down and pull out new bandages, Sebastian was relieved he didn’t have to say anything. He let the mage inspect his leg and change the bandages without incident. And, wisely, the mage didn’t try to use any magic.
It was several days before the mage indicated he wanted Sebastian to stand and try walking. Sebastian eased himself to the side of the bed and let the mage assist him in getting to his feet. His leg was sore but walking across the room a few times loosened it up. He held onto the strong arm the mage had offered and kept an eye on him while they walked.
The previous days had gone smoothly with the mage bringing water and food into the room and making sure Sebastian’s leg was healing. He was always gentle when he examined the wound. Sebastian had tried to find out the mage’s name, but he remained silent. Sebastian found himself growing curious about the man; it was dull doing nothing but lying in bed, so naturally his thoughts went to his captor. He wanted to know why he didn’t speak and what he planned on doing with him. He also wanted to get out of the room and see what the rest of the house presented in terms of defense or escape.
Sebastian decided to fill the silence himself if the mage wasn’t going to talk. He told the mage his own name. He spoke about the Chantry and what he did as a brother. He didn't bring up magic. He didn’t want to anger him.
Outside the room Sebastian had been kept in was a larger room with a fire going. Another door went to what must have been the mage's room. In the main room, various herbs and potions were on a long table. The mage was clearly skilled in the healing craft with or without the use of magic. There was a knife on the table that might be useful. Then his gaze was drawn to an orange cat that sat on the table, its tail flicking back and forth as its eyes watched Sebastian. He wondered if it was magic, some sort of illusion. He had heard of mages having odd relationships with cats. He drew his attention away from the yellow eyes, and the mage led him to a chair and helped him sit and then handed him a bowl of soup from over the fire.
Sebastian was allowed to join the mage again in the main room once he was walking more. He chewed some bread and watched as the cat jumped into the open window, and Anders placed some food on the table for it. The cat ate the meat and proceeded to splay itself in front of the fire and bathe. The mage scratched behind the cat’s ears.
Sebastian was increasingly curious about this silent man. He at least wanted to know his name, so he asked what it was.
He watched as the mage took a piece of parchment and dipped a quill in ink. He wrote something on the paper and pushed it over for Sebastian to see. It read:
So he is mute, Sebastian thought. Why was this attractive man who couldn't speak living in the wilderness all by himself? As soon as Sebastian thought that he wondered where that description came from. Although, he had to admit Anders was attractive-it would be difficult to not notice.
Sebastian took another bite of bread and mentally told himself to stop thinking.
Sebastian was becoming used to the mage, Anders. He wasn’t afraid of being attacked every moment. Anders seemed to simply want to make potions and read or write. He seemed to write a lot. He had a shelf full of books on magic, medicine, history, and poetry. Sebastian asked if he could peruse the books and Anders gave him permission. Sebastian scanned the titles until he saw one that was familiar. It was a copy of the Chant of Light. Anders had marked some pages and when Sebastian flipped it open he saw the mage’s handwriting in the margins. He settled into the empty chair and began reading.
Anders had underlined one particular portion of Threnodies: All that the Maker has wrought is in His hand Beloved and precious to Him.
Anders went outside and had Sebastian join him. The sun and fresh air felt good. Sebastian watched as Anders picked some of the plants near the house. He ambled around and let his mind drift to his situation. He was surprised to find he was enjoying being in someone else's company. It was still quiet like the Chantry, but it felt different-Anders was a warm presence. Anders bent to examine a plant and Sebastian caught himself taking in the man’s whole figure. He was tall and lean with the muscles of a mage used to working with a long staff.
Sebastian decided that was an unhelpful line of thought.
They went back inside the house and Anders prepared some of the things he had collected. Sebastian continued reading the Chant until he came upon a page filled with Anders’ writing. It was densely packed into the margins of the page for the Canticle of Transfigurations.
Transfigurations contained the line, "Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him." The part used to justify keeping mages in Circles. It seemed Anders had a different interpretation of the words.
Sebastian had been there for a week, he realized. The time had passed so quickly. He couldn’t understand how he had come to be so at ease with the mage. He decided Anders must have cast some spell over him to make him stay. Why else would Sebastian not want to leave?
Sebastian walked toward the door with purpose. He was going to leave the house and return to the Chantry in Starkhaven. Anders and his magic tricks be damned. He stepped outside in the afternoon light. As he walked toward the trees that he thought would lead in the right direction he heard Anders open the door behind him. He didn’t turn to look. He was focused on his goal. But magic froze him in place before he reached the trees. He inwardly seethed at the mage’s act.
Anders approached and stepped into his line of sight. His eyes seemed to plead with Sebastian. He lifted the spell and used his body to block Sebastian’s way. “I don’t know why you want to trap me here, but I will not be your prisoner any longer," Sebastian said. He made to walk by Anders, but the other man physically stopped him. He was strong. He led Sebastian by the arm back into the house.
Anders quickly reached for parchment on the table and scribbled out the words:
The beasts have your scent. If you try to leave you will be hunted. My magic is protecting you here; the wards I have placed around the house keep them away.
Sebastian calmed a little after he read the words. Why hadn't Anders told him this reason before? “Then we should hunt them,” he said. “Your magic with my blade will surely be no match for them.”
Anders touched the quill to the parchment; he paused in consideration before continuing:
There is no nefarious plan, Sebastian. I helped you because that is what I do. And I’ve enjoyed your company. I’ve been alone a long time. It was nice to have you here.
Sebastian could sense no hint of deception from Anders. He hadn’t since he awoke in the man’s house, if he was honest. If he continued being honest, he also had no desire to send him to a Circle. He was content to let him live there by the lake as he had been for years without doing any harm. And, he couldn’t deny he enjoyed the time they had spent together too. Anders was quiet and gentle and seemed slightly broken, and Sebastian wanted to return the favor and heal Anders as he had done for him.
“Tell me what happened to your voice,” he said.
Anders took a deep breath and wrote:
I tried to escape the Circle more than once, when I was caught, one of the templars wanted to punish me.
Anders waited for Sebastian to read the sentence and when Sebastian was looking at him, lowered the high neck of his robe. Scar tissue covered his neck and Sebastian felt a wave of protective and outraged emotions flow through him. Templars weren’t supposed to harm the mages in their care. This was despicable.
I always had an insouciant mouth.
Anders quirked a smile at Sebastian.
Sebastian felt sick.
Sebastian went to sleep that night and thoughts of Anders being hurt by templars plagued him. He tossed and turned in bed until, in the early hours, he heard a commotion outside the room and cracked the door open a little to see what was happening. An older woman was laying a young girl down on the empty table. The girl looked as though she would be dead soon, if she wasn’t already.
Anders was searching through his potions and other items on the other table and came up with something. He brought it over to the girl and his back blocked Sebastian’s view. He could barely hear Anders speaking to the woman or the girl–his voice too low for him to make out the words. Everything was quiet for a few minutes. The woman worried a piece of fabric in her hands as she looked at the girl. Sebastian knew the girl was gone. He knew this woman must have been desperate to bring her here, believing a mage could heal someone so far gone.
So, it was to Sebastian’s surprise, when he began to close the door he heard a sharp intake of breath, and the woman let out a happy noise. He pushed the door open again and saw the girl had woken up. She still looked bad, but she was breathing and alive. The woman thanked Anders and tried to give him a coin, probably the only one she had, but he refused it.
Sebastian lightly shut the door.
Sebastian surreptitiously watched Anders in the chair beside him as he wrote. Anders had left his robe collar slightly open for the first time.
“You didn’t deserve that, Anders,” he found himself saying with conviction.
Anders averted his eyes from Sebastian’s and went to cover the scars again, but Sebastian stopped him with gentle hands. Anders lowered his own and watched Sebastian, waiting for what he would do. Sebastian didn’t know what he was going to do. So, when he pulled the fabric back, leaned forward, and angled his head to place a light kiss on the scarred throat, both men were surprised.
Sebastian pulled away and blushed at what he had done. Anders smiled at him.
Sebastian considered his situation that night. He was surprised to find he didn’t actually want to return home that strongly-he hadn't for awhile. The Chantry would be fine without him. The only person who would miss him was Varric. Maybe he could stay with Anders. If Anders wanted him to. Would he be interested in that? He hadn’t seemed displeased when Sebastian kissed him. Maybe it was too soon to be thinking about this.
He pictured Anders with his long hair and warm eyes and stubble. Sebastian wanted to kiss him all over. From the throat to his lips-and farther down. Sebastian felt himself becoming excited at where that line of thought led.
He tried to fall asleep, but incessant images of Anders appearing in his mind made it difficult.
The next morning, Sebastian got out of bed and stretched. He felt excited to simply walk out of the room and see Anders. He was there by the fire with his back turned, book open on his lap. Sebastian felt a silly smile breaking out on his face. He tried to hide it when Anders turned to him. He felt like he should say something, but words wouldn’t come to him.
Anders gestured at the chair by his side.
Sebastian took a seat and felt the warmth of the fire. He saw that Anders was writing something and let him finish. When the quill stopped scratching the page, Anders closed the book. He reached over and hesitantly placed one hand on top of Sebastian’s. Sebastian felt his stomach do a flip at the small action that meant so much.
Sebastian fell asleep early that night. He woke up in the night and went to see if Anders was awake. He wasn't in the main room. Sebastian eased his door open but Anders wasn't there either. Concerned, he went outside and in the moonlight tried to find the man. He heard noises coming from the trees. It sounded like a fight was taking place. The quick flash of light confirmed his fear that Anders was out there alone.
He dashed back inside and put his armor on and retrieved his sword from the place it had rested the entire time he had been in the house.
He hurried beyond the tree line. He didn’t have to go far. Soon the sounds he had heard that dreadful night were close. The beasts truly had been waiting for him. He pushed forward until he came upon Anders in a clearing. Anders' magic flared, and his staff spun–he was skilled. Sebastian joined the fight, slashing at the nearest creature.
And then Varric was there in the woods, fighting by their side. They fought together until the creatures were all down.
In the silence that followed Varric greeted him, "Choir Boy, long time no see."
Back at the house, Sebastian let his sword clatter to the floor when he entered, unconcerned about it. He spun on Anders, “What were you doing out there by yourself?”
“I’ll be outside washing up,” Varric said, looking between them.
When he had exited the house, Anders grabbed the nearest paper and scrawled out:
It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.
“Well you still could have been hurt. Why didn’t you tell me you were going?”
I was fine. I am fine! I just wanted to get rid of them. Now you can leave. I know you want to go.
Sebastian was silent. He didn't know how to respond to Anders suddenly trying to get rid of him.
Anders went to his room.
Sebastian went to what had become his room.
The next morning he was calmer. He saw that Varric had slept on the floor by the fire. He felt a twinge of guilt at ignoring his presence the night before, but Anders’ actions had alarmed him. Then he hadn’t known what to say to Anders.
The other two men were already awake and eating breakfast. They glanced at him before going back to their food. He saw his own plate sitting, prepared, on the table. Anders always took care of him. And with that simple realization he knew he couldn't deny his feelings and would have to tell Anders about them.
He joined them, and they ate in silence.
“Are you heading back with me?” Varric asked when they had finished. He looked like he already knew the answer.
“I, I think I might follow you in a day or so,” Sebastian responded. He looked at Anders to see his response to the statement. He only gave a nonchalant shrug.
Varric nodded. “Do what’s right for you, Choir Boy,” he patted Sebastian’s shoulder. He set out on his horse and left the other horse he had brought behind for Sebastian.
Sebastian couldn’t think of what he had done to make Anders believe he wanted to leave. Then again, he hadn’t actually explained his feelings for the man either. “Anders, about what you said last night.”
Anders looked at him. He always looked like he was prepared to receive a blow.
“I do want to go back. I should. They will be wondering where I am.” He paused and continued, “But I was thinking. I want, well, I would like to stay. That is, if you would have me.”
Anders seemed unsure.
“I care for you, Anders.”
Anders picked up the paper he had used the night before:
You don’t need to feel obligated to me.
“I don’t. I’m grateful you saved me, but that isn’t what this is about. It’s you. I want you.”
Anders didn't write anything. He was studying Sebastian.
Then one of them moved. Sebastian was unsure who moved first.
They collided in the center of the room. Hands grabbed and clutched while their mouths met in a passionate kiss. Everything seemed to move in a blur after that. Sebastian briefly wondered if magic was involved, but he was too wrapped up in the other man to care. They made it into Anders' room. Sebastian’s clothes came off. He struggled to get under Anders’ robes, to touch his golden skin.
Sebastian pushed him down onto the bed. Of course he was pretty all over. His cheeks were flushed and his lips red. His cock curved up, heavy where it lay against his own stomach. Sebastian wanted to take it into his mouth and taste Anders.
And he did.
Anders was curled into Sebastian’s chest as they lay on the bed.
Sebastian cradled one arm around him. He finally broke the pleasant silence, “So, can I stay?”
Anders lifted his face from Sebastian’s chest and kissed him–it was light and magical. And his smile when he drew away was the sweetest affirmation Sebastian had ever felt.
For You are the fire at the heart of the world,
And comfort is only Yours to give.