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To Find Absolution

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Audra looked around after they entered Morrigan’s quarters, immediately noticing that she did not see Anders. Kieran sat reading a book, one arm around Diablo. He looked up as they entered and Audra squinted at him, her eyes adjusting to the sudden light in the room after the dark walk outside. “Kieran, where’s Anders?” she asked, concerned.

Kieran’s eyes were wide. “There were some people that were burned. He went to the infirmary to heal them. He was… blue.”

Her breath hitched in her throat. Anders, Justice, you damned fools. She clutched at the necklace that Alistair had given her on her wedding day; it grounded her. “Where’s the infirmary?”

“I’ll take you there,” Morrigan said, her hand already reaching for the door.

Audra turned back towards the door, hearing the sound of a bark. She pushed past Morrigan and cracked open the door to see Fang and Akeva. Stepping back, she opened the door. “Are you coming in this time?”

Akeva stopped at the doorway, looking at Kieran, evaluating him. The boy stared back, then his face lit up. The marbari bounded in and started licking his face, Kieran laughing the whole time. Fang followed, sitting down to wait his turn.

Morrigan made a noise. “That is disgusting. Wash your face when they’re done.”

“Disgusting?” Audra snorted. “Says the woman who turned into a giant spider just to freak out Alistair in camp.”

“That was… a long time ago.” Morrigan put on a dignified expression.

Audra chuckled, remembering Alistair’s panic and Oghren’s drunk laughter. “He screamed like a girl. I don’t care how old we get, that’s always going to be funny.”

“Mother, did you really do that?” Kieran asked, and Morrigan shot Audra a look that said thanks a lot for that.

“I… did. It was a long time ago,“ Morrigan repeated.

“That’s funny, but also kind of mean.”

Audra didn’t want to point out that described Morrigan in a nutshell. She changed the subject. “Ok, dogs, you’re staying with Kieran?” A trio of barks answered her. At least that made that easier. Akeva looked particularly excited, and it started to sink in that perhaps Akeva knew exactly who Kieran was. “You can stay, but you’re going to have to go somewhere that’s not in here, okay? Morrigan doesn’t need her room smelling like dogs. Akeva, did you find a place to go?”

The dog barked, and Kieran patted her. “I’ll stay with them. If they’re hungry, I’ll bet I know who might be able to help. By the stables.”

Akeva barked again, and Audra smiled. “Is that where you were thinking, too?”

“Warden… ah. Blackwall.” Morrigan nodded, casting her eyes downward. “Excellent. Kieran, don’t forget a thick cloak, ‘tis cold out.” She looked over at Audra, her posture looking more guarded as she opened the door and stepped through it into the darkness. “Let’s go.”

Another warden at Skyhold was news to Audra, and that name... Audra thought for a moment. The only Warden Blackwall she knew of couldn’t possibly be at Skyhold. “Warden Blackwall would have had to have gone on his Calling many years ago. He can’t be here.”

“No.” Morrigan bit the word off sharply. “I would prefer you disregard my misstep. This man is no warden.”

“Then who is he?” Audra persisted, both curious and concerned. “If someone is impersonating a Warden, I need to be aware of it, Morrigan.”

Morrigan sighed. “Tis not my information to give you. Again, a question for the Inquisitor. He fights for the Inquisition, and I assure you that he will be of use taking care of the dogs. He is… a good man.”

Audra felt suspicious but would take Morrigan at her word, and besides, there were larger issues at hand. “Let’s find Anders, then. I can’t let him be harmed.” Between being married to her cousin, one of her closest friends, and the only person capable of healing Alistair, Audra had a lot of reasons to ensure Anders’s safety.

“Then let us hope we reach him before the Commander does.” Morrigan strode forward, and Audra matched her step to the other mage’s. “Did you talk to Cullen already?”

“Yes, I saw him before you.” She hesitated. “I didn’t want him to hear that I was here through some rumor.” Pulling her hood up over her head, she hoped that she’d be able to hide. If nothing else, she and Anders had worn nothing that hinted that they were Grey Wardens, but if Anders had gone to heal, there was no doubt in her mind that someone would notice he didn’t belong there. No one could heal like Anders, anywhere.

And no one could hurt someone like Anders could if pushed far enough.

Especially if pushed by someone carrying enough fear and hate to nearly have annulled a Circle, even if that were years in the past. “Damnit.” She glanced at Morrigan. “Cullen seemed stable, but I’m not sure about how he’d react to Anders.” Not well, she presumed.

“I do not believe it will go well,” she said, echoing Audra’s thoughts. “For either of them.” Her dark robes swished behind her as she walked.

Audra saw Leliana waiting near the infirmary, looking concerned. “Good, you’re both here. We need to get to the War Room.”

Feeling her heart drop into the vicinity of her leg, Audra placed a hand on her friend’s arm. She was again struck by how much Leliana had changed. “Leliana-“

“Not now.” The woman looked grim. “You’ve brought a situation here that will not be easily resolved. But I do admit, I’m curious. I have not seen Anders in a very long time, and even then it was only brief. He was…” She winced. “Difficult.”

“Is what happened in Kirkwall an issue for you?” Audra asked. Leliana’s ties to the Chantry could be complicated, and it had occurred to her on a few occasions that she may not have an ally in Leliana when it came to sheltering Anders (and Justice) as she and Alistair had.

“The destruction of a Chantry is.” Leliana sighed. “In the end, though, it can’t be denied that the situation was poor. His actions are causing the Circle and Templar model to reevaluated in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Sometimes you need to tear something ugly down so that something beautiful can be put in its place.” Her fingers ran over the crest on her clothing, which Audra recognized as the Eye of the Seeker. “I just wish that lives hadn’t been in the cost.”

“I thought you’d be more angry about the Grand Cleric?” Elthina had been an unfortunate casualty in the Chantry explosion, one that Audra and Anders had talked about at length in the past.

Leliana nodded, her demeanor calm. “I was, for a time. But Varric’s explanation of the events caused Cassandra and I to determine that the majority of the fault lay in Meredith and the red lyrium. Meredith called for the Rite of Annulment, which the Divine rightly denied.” Leliana’s mouth set into a tight line. “Not that Meredith cared for what the Divine determined.”

“That’s what Hawke said as well,” Audra noted, forcing her tone to stay level. When Hawke and Anders had made their way to where Audra and Alistair lived, it had been a number of very difficult months to heal them both, physically and emotionally.

“Yes. And even without… what happened, something was going to happen eventually. We had hoped we’d have more time, but the events were not as surprising to us as they were to some.”

Audra winced at the tone in Leliana’s voice. “That sounds… oddly harsh.”

Morrigan let out a laugh. “Audra, tis the least harsh thing I’ve heard Leliana say lately.”

“I’m not that bad, Morrigan.” Leliana smiled. “I just know where to hide the bodies.”

Audra looked from one to the other, then started laughing. “I missed you both.”

“We missed you, too,” Leliana said. “I’ll speak for Morrigan since she doesn’t have time for the sentimental sentiments.”

“Some things don’t change, then. Although you do seem to be very happy with Kieran,” Audra offered.

Morrigan tilted her head to the side, her golden eyes bright. “I am.”

Audra didn’t want to ask any more questions as she didn’t want to tip Leliana off as to Kieran’s true parentage, although knowing Leliana, she may already know. “Leliana, is Anders in the infirmary? I need to find him.”

“We would be better to discuss this in the War Room with the group. Anders is no longer in the infirmary.” Leliana looked grim. “Cullen beat us here. The Inquisitor prevented the situation from escalating, and Anders has been placed under a combined Templar and mage guard.”

“Fuck.” A jolt of fear shook Audra and she forced herself to stand up straighter. She glanced around, noticing now that a number of people seemed to be lingering near the infirmary. “Well, then, I guess there’s that. Let’s get this over with.”