“Mother, there’s a cat at the window,” Kieran noted, looking up from his studies.
“Leave it be, Kieran.” Morrigan looked up from the notes she was writing. An orange cat sat on the ledge, staring through the glass.
“Could it be hungry,” Kieran offered. “It’s raining pretty hard, too.”
Morrigan’s eyes narrowed, sensing a spell. “Tis no cat, Kieran.” She stood, stalking to the door and opening it. “Well, well, someone taught you a little trick, didn’t they?” she murmured as the cat turned and hissed at her. “Now that isn’t very nice.” She studied it, and in return it shook itself off, flinging water at her. “I could let you inside to fix this situation, but I’m not sure who, exactly, you are.”
The cat jumped onto the ground and glanced over its shoulder into the darkness, and Morrigan heard a pant. Kieran came up next to her. “It’s a mabari!” he exclaimed.
Out of the darkness, the dog trotted towards them, tail wagging. The cat backed up swiftly as the dog broke into a run and knocked Morrigan backwards onto the rug. She batted at it with one hand. “Ugh! Off, off of me!” She pushed at the mabari as it attempted to lick her face. Of course it would be this mabari. Of course. “I see you never grew out of drooling your weight in water.” Despite her agitation at being drooled on, she found herself feeling a swell of hope that perhaps Audra Amell had found her way to Skyhold. Morrigan may have even missed the mabari a little, but she’d never admit it because the beast would be more insufferable than usual.
The dog wagged his tail and retreated a short distance, letting Morrigan get to her feet and dust herself off. The last time she’d seen this mabari, it had been shortly before she’d gone into the eluvian after Audra found her. “Well. I’ve heard of raining cats and dogs but this wasn’t what they meant, I am certain.” She glared down at the cat. “I suspect I know exactly who taught you this trick. Which tells me… who you most likely are. In which case, I can take you where you need to go.” Hawke’s quarters were not far from hers. She glanced back to Kieran. “Kieran, I shall return shortly.”
He peered around the corner to look. “Oh,” he said, startled. “That’s a big cat.”
“Yes, it is, isn’t it?” Morrigan noted, rolling her eyes. “You could have picked a normal sized cat.”
The cat swished its tail and walked past her into the room. “I did not say you could enter,” she commented, turning from the door to attempt to block the cat from going any further. “My son is here.”
The cat made a growling sound and dodged around her legs to cross the room, ending up in the bathroom. It pushed the door shut. Morrigan sighed and peered back out at the mabari. “Fine. Come in and babysit your charge.”
The mabari disappeared for a moment, returning with a pack in tow. He jogged through the doorway and dropped the pack before heading straight to Kieran, licking his face. “Aw mother! Isn’t he great?”
Morrigan shut the door. “Fantastic.” She sighed. Now what, exactly, has Audra gotten us all into?
From the bathroom, she heard a voice call out. “I apologize for this, but I was running out of time and options.”
“The spell doesn’t last as long as any of us would like, I’m afraid.” Morrigan took a stance outside of the door, ready to stand between her intruder and Kieran if necessary.
“No, it’s not that. It’s that… I really had to use a bathroom, and did not want to find myself needing to lick-“
“Stop,” Morrigan called out, her suspicions confirmed. She did not expect a joke from him under the circumstances. While she had never met the man, she knew that a man in the form of a cat traveling with Audra Amell’s mabari could be only one person.
She picked up the pack and carried it to the door. “I presume this is your pack.”
The door cracked open and a hand reached out, pulling the pack back through before slamming the door shut again. “If it’s not, I’m about to be wearing Audra’s robes.”
Kieran started laughing and Morrigan shot him a look. She trusted Audra to not bring danger to Skyhold, but several people in Skyhold would view this as a very poor sign. Particularly Cullen. The possibility existed that Cassandra and Leliana would also be concerned.
After a few moments, the door opened, and a tall, blonde man walked in, wearing pants and a tunic. His hair fell to just past his shoulders and one gold earring was in his right ear. “I’m sorry for the urgency.” He winced. “I just couldn’t go through that again.”
Morrigan sighed, crossing her arms. “Anders, I presume.”
“In the flesh. My not furry flesh.” He managed a small smile. “I won’t stay long. I’d rather no one know I’m here, but I asked Diablo to find someone I could trust. He brought me to you.”
“Yes, well, shapeshifting apostates must stick together. I am Morrigan, and this is my son, Kieran.” She gestured to a chair. She didn’t know what she expected, but it certainly hadn’t been this seemingly personable man. “Have a seat. Can I assume, with how quickly you arrived, that you traveled by eluvian?”
He nodded. “We got word of what happened and tried to get here as quickly as we could. We… were able to secure access to one.”
“I won’t ask.” She put a pot of water onto the stove to warm it. “Did you travel through my eluvian, then?”
“Yes. That wasn’t easy, believe me, but Audra and I had been working out the logistics of getting here as soon as Alistair and Hawke left.” Anders watched Diablo settle himself in front of Kieran. “We had a feeling that something went wrong, but there was more to it than that. I’ll let Audra explain that.”
“Fair enough.” Morrigan followed his gaze to her son, and back to Anders. “So, then, what of your spirit?”
Anders slumped slightly. “Also complicated. But no one is in any danger, if that’s what you’re thinking. We’ve had some time to work out a more beneficial arrangement. I’ve tried to let a lot go, which has helped him, too. It’s not perfect, but we’re in more of a constant dialogue with each other, rather than fighting each other for dominance.”
“That must have been difficult.” She wanted to point out that it also appeared dangerous, but under the circumstances of Kieran’s conception, she felt it best to not to judge too harshly.
“It was. At his core, Justice can’t stand those being treated unfairly. He’s not always fine with me avoiding that, but we’ve managed to turn our attention to trying to find a cure for the Taint, or at the least, prevent the Calling. He and I are in agreement that the Wardens have protected many mages who would have otherwise been killed, or Maker forbid made Tranquil. So, we help the Wardens. It’s the best compromise we have.”
“Well, you’ll find here that the Warden situation has… escalated.” Morrigan pulled the chair from her desk. “It’s not the best time to be a Warden here.”
Anders frowned. “Worse than usual, then? We’re aware of the false Calling.”
“Most of them at Adamant attempted a blood sacrifice ritual, under the influence of Corypheus.”
Sighing, Anders closed his eyes and tilted his head back. “Of course they did.”
“It is my understanding that Hawke unleashed Corypheus?”
“Yes. Which is why I’m confused how Hawke survived up until this point. When he left with Alistair… well.” He shivered. “We said our goodbyes. I didn’t expect him to make it back. That’s how Hawke is.”
“Apparently, Alistair overruled him,” Morrigan noted. “When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, you have… you people.”
“Are you suggesting you aren’t stubborn as well?” Anders asked.
“I did not say that.” Morrigan regarded him, then stood, walking back to her pot of now-hot water. “I would have thought all of you would have heard your Callings by now. You are all far past when you should have heard them, yet you’re still here.” As she talked, she dropped a hefty pinch of tea leaves into a strainer and placed it over a cup, pouring water over it.
“Audra isn’t as far from it as she’d like. And me, well…” He shrugged. “I’m immune for now.”
“You’re aware there’s risk to any Warden that they will hear Corypheus’s false Calling and be swayed to him?”
“We… are.” Anders winced. “It’s not pleasant, but I lived through it once with the help of Justice. Since then, we’ve learned to channel my unique connection to the Fade to help counter the Calling for periods of time. That’s why I have to travel with Audra. I haven’t got to check with her, but it’s likely fairly quiet for her currently.”
“You’ve worked out a spell that can block it for a time?” She lifted the strainer and set it aside, handing him the cup of tea.
“Thanks.” Anders nodded. “We discovered it while working on a cure for the Taint. Given that the Taint seems to have started with the Fade, we’ve been doing research on it to determine if there’s an answer there somewhere.”
“Ah. So you’ve come to study it.” Morrigan lifted a cup and placed the strainer on it, adding new tea leaves. She poured water over it and lifted the cup, holding onto its warmth.
Anders snorted. “Not entirely. We’ve mainly come to find Alistair. Audra is not convinced he’s dead, but she can’t consistently reach him. It’s all unconscious, when she’s asleep, and very hard to control. It’s frustrating to her.”
Kieran asked Diablo a question and the dog responded with his paw. He put a hand on the dog, scratching him behind the ears. “Bleeding and time work differently there, I think, but he’s not doing well.”
The cup slipped from Morrigan’s hand and shattered on the floor, and everyone jumped. “What have you seen, Kieran?”
“In dreams. I’ve seen him.” He hesitated. “There are demons, but also spirits. I think they’re trying to help. Everything else is waiting for him to die.”
Morrigan sidestepped the broken cup and dropped to her son’s side, putting her hands on his shoulders. “Why didn’t you say anything?” she asked.
“I thought it was just dreams.”
“And you?” Morrigan asked, turning to look at Anders.
“No, but my dreams are somewhat different anyway.” Anders got off the chair and started picking up the pieces of the cup.
A knock sounded on Morrigan’s door, and Anders froze. Morrigan pointed to the bathroom and Anders backed up, moving back through the door and closing it behind him.
Now what? Morrigan thought, sighing as she put her hand on the handle to open it.