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Dragon Age: A literary epic

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It was the end of summer, where the hot muggy air left people sticky with sweat and swamp coolers were useless. The beaches were packed, both with travelers and the locals, and ice cream shops were doing their best. Claire didn't care about any of those things as she turned on the fan and hit the power button on her computer. She had just finished all three Dragon Age games in a single summer, including reading the books and comics. “Why don't you go out and play with your friends?” Her aunt Dotty had asked. Claire had merely glared at the woman, hoping she would get the hint and leave her alone. Just because Dotty was her caretaker since Claire's parents had been killed the year prior didn't mean Claire had to like her.

Friends. What a joke. Besides, she was going to be going off to her first year of high school in the following month, she would be able to start new. Uncle Henry never paid her much mind, said she was a big girl and could take care of herself, but Dotty was doting.

The whir of the fan as the computer booted up was a comforting sound to Claire and her fingers danced quickly across the keys as she typed in her password. Finishing Inquisition wasn't really as satisfying as she had hoped, so she was going to try playing it again, to try different angles. Maybe she would play as a Dalish elf and romance Solas next. She'd already been all over the forums online and knew all the spoilers, she just wanted to go through the special conversations with a Dalish character herself, for the full experience. Having the knowledge was one thing, getting attached to it was another.

A rumble of thunder made Claire jump in the seat, and she almost toppled over. It was a small office chair with a small wheel base, not the most sturdy of things, and it had almost tried to kill her on multiple occasions.

“Great, a storm.” Claire grumbled as she pushed her light blond hair back behind her ear. She went over to the window and pulled back the blinds to see dark clouds gathering above the city. A flash of lightning made her jump back. She'd have to turn the computer off before a power surge destroyed it. Sighing, she slowly walked back to the computer and started the shutdown process. Her aunt would be happy that at least something had gotten her off the computer. Claire rolled her eyes at the thought and hit the power button.

 


 

Were those sticks under her? Digging into her face? Why would there be sticks... Was there an explosion and the house was reduced to debris? She started panicking and leaped up, brushing herself off as she looked around. The forest she found herself in was green, with ferns and tall pines, with some patches of grass and pretty yellow flowers. There was no sign of her house. As she realized she was completely lost, she started to notice how cold it was, the kind of bitterness in the air that required staying inside next to the fire and not something one would want to wear jean shorts and a tank top in, especially without shoes.

Rubbing her arms to try to keep warm, she looked around some more, forcing herself to start walking. Surely there would be civilization somewhere, right? She would just have to find it and figure out how to get back home. Teeth chattering, she laughed at the thought. Home. The place where she had no friends and an aunt and uncle that didn't really care about her aside from the fact that she was related to them. Claire's mother and her aunt had never been very close, so it was either the system for Claire, or Dotty. She supposed she was lucky that Dotty had taken her in. She had seen what the system did for kids and she wanted no part in that. She was thirteen, no one would want someone just entering puberty...

She was going to die, alone and lost, and no one would ever know it. Her body would probably never be found, eaten by some desperate animal she'd never heard of. Speaking of animals, where were they all? She'd seen a couple birds, but the area seemed rather dead otherwise. Was she even on earth anymore, or what? In all those stories she'd read, the people transported to other worlds or times were at least put into areas full of people! Just her luck to be thrown into a bleak, miserable, lonely world. It was like being in her mind, just with more trees, and she started thinking that maybe she deserved it.

After what felt like an eternity for her, she found a stream and decided to follow it. Maybe if she'd been sent back in time, it would at least lead her to a small village or something. Ancient peoples always built near water, right? She licked her parched lips, wondering how she could be so thirsty in such a cold environment and stared at the water. How dangerous could it be? She tried to recall all those survival stories she'd read, but could only remember getting really sick from drinking from a mountain stream. Get sick, or die of dehydration, or at least, if the cold didn't get to her first. She shrugged and drank, biting back a curse from how cold the water was.

“If Dotty could only hear me now.” Claire laughed. Cussing was for grownups, Dotty had said, not for little girls. Yeah well I'm not a little girl anymore, I'm practically a woman! Claire thought. In some cultures, she'd have already been married off and would probably have had a kid already, but no, Dotty had to treat her like she was still five. She shivered and huddled close to the ground, wishing she was more of a woman and not some scrawny little waif with no body fat. Boobs? What were those?

She sat there for a while, listening, trying to find any sign of civilization at all, but there was nothing but silence and the random birdsong. Groaning, she stood up and forced herself to keep going, knowing that if she stood still too long, she would certainly die, and she wasn't willing to do that just yet.

She stumbled on a rock and fell flat on her face in the dirt again, crying out from the pain in her foot. They'd been hurting from the cold, and from the sticks and rocks she'd been stepping on, but oh how painful it was to have kicked a rock. Her toes were scratched up and practically blue, and she didn't know if she could go on. It wasn't fair, it just wasn't fair that she should be sent to this miserable place to suffer alone before her untimely death. She wiped her eyes, feeling like her face was going to freeze if she let it get any more soaked, and tried to decide what to do. She could always try to build a fire, to keep warm and maybe signal someone, but how? When she learned from some of the boys at school who were in Boy Scouts, they'd had special tools for it. All she had were sticks and dirt and water. Angrily, she rubbed her hands together really fast and tried to warm her feet up that way. Oh the burning, the pain of the heat... Why couldn't anything be pleasant?

“Don't move.” Claire didn't have to be told twice and sat there, perfectly still, while alternating between joy at being found and extreme fear. The man's voice sounded threatening, after all, and there were worse things than death...

“Ok, not moving, got it.” She said, her teeth chattering. The man moved slowly and silently until he was in front of her, aiming his arrow at her heart. He had black hair done up in braids, black tattoos covering his dark face, and his eyes were piercing through her soul. His armor was patchwork leather and fur, and she really wished she had something like that to wear.

“What would a child be doing here?” He asked. “Especially in your underclothes?”

“I'm n-not a child!” Claire said, bristling. “I'm thirteen, I-I'm practically a woman.”

The man smirked, making Claire regret her words. “Oh, a woman, eh?” He undid the arrow and shouldered the bow before swiftly picking the surprised girl up as if she weighed nothing. “Then I suppose you would make the perfect wife for my son!” He laughed as Claire struggled.

“N-No, no no, I don't want to get married!” She panicked. “Especially to someone I've never m-met!”

“I suppose you think that marriage is all about love, do you?” He asked, walking away from the stream.

“I... would like to think so.” Claire said as she stopped resisting. She couldn't get free, he was far too strong. She should have been out working out rather than playing on the computer all summer...

“An idealist.” The man shook his head. “Where are you from, child?”

“What?” Claire blurted out. “An idealist? And w-what's wrong with that?” She couldn't stop shivering.

“Where are you from, or shall I just assume the gods sent you?”

She stared at him, horrified. “Gods? Noo, I'm from L-Long Beach, it's in California, and I have no idea where I am because it's summer there and it is obviously not summer here.”

“You're in the Wilds, and I would assume that is a very long ways from home for you.” His smile was gone and he was concentrating on the trail ahead.

“Wilds?” She asked. “Like, th-the Korcari Wilds? In Ferelden? Y-You're joking, right?”

“So you do know where you are.” He grunted and she wondered if she was going to be a problem for him, but was having a hard time caring. She didn't know much about the Chasind, but that was most likely what he was and she was going to have to deal with whatever happened.

“I've heard of the Wilds...” She said. “But y-yeah, this is so far from home, I have no idea how to get back. Or if it's even possible. How th-the hell did I get here and what's my aunt going to say when she finds I've d-disappeared and am being carried around the Wilds by a Chasind?” She clamped her mouth shut, realizing she was blathering again.

“I imagine that unless she's a powerful shaman herself, she would not be able to know where you went or who has you.” He said.

“I don't even know who has me.” Claire said. He looked sharply at her and smirked again.

“Oh, wanting introductions now?” He asked. “Chavdar, hunter for the barbarians of the Wilds, as you northerners like to call us.”

“My name is Claire Victoria.” She said. She was still shivering, shaking hard, and as scared as she was, figured he wasn't going to put her down so she snuggled up closer to him to try to keep warm, his armor's fur tickling her nose. “And I don't think I'd c-call you a barbarian. You haven't seen my people.” She laughed. He looked at her, surprised.

“Tell me about your people.” He said. “We still have a ways to go.”

She decided to go with something less culture shocking than the city dwellers. “Well, we live near the ocean, on the b-beach in huts made from old wood and grass, and it's warm there.”

“And how would you have gotten here?” He asked. “Some failed magical experiment?”

“I don't know...” She said. “I guess. We d-don't really have magic, though... Anyone thought to be magical gets shunned, forced to live elsewhere, if not outright killed.” He curled his lip in disgust and stayed silent, so Claire stopped talking and tried to focus on other things. She could smell smoke on the leather, mixed with body odor and fur, and some strange yet pleasant scents she thought could be herbs.

His voice broke through her thoughts and startled her. “We have magic here.” He said. “We do not shun it, we embrace it, and you will learn to as well.”

“Yessir.” She said. She didn't think she'd have a problem with magic, especially since she always played a mage in game anyway. Magic... she would actually get to see people use real magic, and she couldn't believe it. It hit her that she was actually in Thedas, that it was a real place, not just some video game for people to pretend with, that people like Alistair and Cailan were real, and that depending on what the date was, it was possible to even meet them. The date... she had no idea what year it was.

“Chavdar...” She said, feeling far too timid. “Um, what's the date?”

“9:20 Dragon, the sixteenth of Firstfall.” He said.

“Oh... I guess I d-don't know what m-month that is.” She said. “Would that be at the end of the year?”

“It is, being the eleventh month. We only have one more month in this year.” She fell back into her thoughts, thinking that she was around three years older than Alistair, probably a couple years younger than Anders... King Maric still had a little more than four years before his disappearance and Ferelden had only recently made peace with Orlais... So what was she doing there, and at that time period? She'd be old at twenty-three by the time the Blight would happen in less than ten years. What was she supposed to do with an entire decade to kill before all the excitement?

“There, my village.” Chavdar said, nodding towards the place he grew up. Claire looked over and saw many buildings on stilts, built around the trees and above the swamp. Little smoke wisps curled through the air and she could see children running around, playing. It was nothing like she'd seen before, something not covered in the game at all. In fact, there wasn't much known about the Chasind in general. She supposed she could spend a decade with them, figuring out their culture and perhaps even how to survive on her own.

Chavdar followed a path around the swamp and up to a walkway leading into the village. A few of the children stared as he walked by, but most were too busy playing to notice. The adults, on the other hand, were giving them strange looks.

“Chavdar, that doesn't look much like a deer!” A man called out, laughing.

The hunter smiled back. “I know, I am a horrible hunter! Go out for meat and find a girl. What will Maryska say?”

“We could always use an extra hand around my place.” The man replied. “If your woman won't take her, mine will.” Panic had seized Claire's heart as she realized they were talking about her as if she was property. Would she be a slave? Or would she be able to leave whenever she wanted? She was without a home and completely at their mercy, she was going to have to do as they wanted if she was to survive.

“Don't worry, I'm sure she'll be kept quite busy around the village.” Chavdar said, winking at Claire, whose mouth had gone dry. The wooden boards creaked under the hunter's feet as he walked towards his house (hut?), and it felt like it was signaling her doom. “Here, I'm going to put you down now. Can you walk?”

“I... think so.” Claire still couldn't feel anything but pain in her toes, but she was determined to try. He set her down gently and she managed to stay upright, though her feet felt like they were on fire, with needles jabbing them. Even her fingers, ears, and nose were numb, and she thought that it would be a miracle if she didn't get sick. Chavdar opened a door, then put a hand on her back, pushing her in. She stumbled and cried out, but kept going, telling herself she had to be strong.

“Get to the fire.” He said, pushing her again. Turning to another door, he called, “Maryska, I'm home and I brought you something.” There was a hint of humor in his tone and Claire frowned. Back home, if her dad had told her mom something like that, he had gotten her flowers or jewelry, not a strange lost girl. She settled down in front of the fire and bit her lip against the pain. The fire was too hot and it hurt her so much, but she knew she had to get warm. Looking at her purplish toes, she hoped they hadn't gotten frost bite.

“What have you brought – Oh, Chavdar...” The woman groaned and Claire looked back to see the woman shaking her head as if her husband was a young boy who had brought home a frog. She halfway expected Chavdar to ask her if he could keep Claire... The woman herself was a plump, stern looking lady with her black hair tied up on her head in a crown of braids, and Claire wasn't sure she wanted to deal with being yelled at by her.

“She was freezing in the forest, wearing just that, and crying.” Chavdar said quietly. “I couldn't just leave her. She doesn't know how to get home, and I've never heard of her homeland before, some place next to the ocean where it's hot, not cold.”

“Fine, I will see what she can do.” Maryska said. “But first, we need to get her warmed up.” Claire stared into the fire, wondering what they were going to do when a heavy fur was dropped around her shoulders and a cup of warm liquid shoved into her hand.

“Drink this, it'll warm you up on the inside.” Maryska said. “Do you have a name?”

“I'm Claire.” She said. Maryska made disparaging noises as she looked at the girl's feet.

“You'll need to see Ilina.” She grumbled. “Ridiculous, bringing you here and expecting me to take care of you, as if I don't have better things to do.” Claire stared at the ground, feeling the despair that she'd found after her parents died creeping back into her. Her aunt hadn't wanted her either, though she never would have said it to Claire. Claire had heard Dotty and Henry arguing, “They expect me to take care of the girl, like some tossed away dishrag. Better here than foster care, I suppose, but so help me God, I may just strangle the brat.” Doting Dotty tried to show she cared, but Claire knew the truth, and now she was passed on to someone else who felt the same, only wasn't so worried about hiding it.

“I'm sorry.” Claire said quietly, her voice flat and exhausted. “I'll work hard, I don't eat much, you won't notice I'm here, and I'll leave as soon as I'm able.” Claire didn't see the flash of concern on Maryska's face, or the look she shared with her husband. Maryska excused herself and dragged Chavdar to the side, out of ear shot.

“We need to get Ilina.” She said. “More than that, perhaps I shouldn't have said what I did, but it seems to me it's not the first time she's heard it. Did you hear her?”

“You're used to speaking your mind.” Chavdar said, trying to soothe his wife. “How were you to know she's emotionally damaged?” He frowned and looked at the girl, contemplating. “She told me that anyone with magical talent is shunned and cast out of her village. We need to get Ilina to test her.”

“Don't you think she would have told us if she had the talent?” Maryska absentmindedly started rubbing Chavdar's back as she stared at Claire.

“She knows nothing about us, why would she?” Chavdar said. “What if we were to turn on her as well, leave her to die in the Wilds?”

Maryska sighed. “May the gods save us, why would they send us this child? I do not need this added burden right now.” She rubbed her swollen belly, feeling her baby kick against her ribs. “Maybe Fedir will be able to help with her. He should be back soon, right?”

Chavdar laughed. “In a few weeks. He's fifteen, would he thank us for saddling him with her? Let us speak with Ilina first.”

 


 

A gentle voice woke Claire up out of a nightmare and it took a moment for her to get her bearings as she blinked at the strange face staring at her. The cup off to the side, the heavy fur on her, and the fire... She remembered, she was with the Chasind.

“How are you feeling?” There was an older woman, maybe in her fifties, crouched down in front of Claire, her bone necklace clacking against a necklace made of teeth. The woman's dark brown hair was lined with grey and tied back in a bun, decorated with feathers and beads.

“Confused.” Claire said. She started to wake up more and sat upright, realizing her feet didn't hurt anymore. “I'm not cold.” She said, smiling shyly.

“If you had been out there much longer, you would have lost your feet.” The woman said. “I am Ilina, a shaman here, and it was I who healed you.”

“Thank you so much.” Claire said, bowing her head. “I greatly appreciate it. Oh, my name is Claire, if they hadn't told you. Claire Victoria.” She figured it was better to overdo the politeness than to forget it, and she truly was thankful that she was no longer in pain.

“I have brought over some clothes that might fit you, as well.” Ilina said, gesturing towards a pile of neatly folded cloth and leather. “It is not something that you're used to, so I will help you dress. Come on, stand up.” Feeling a bit self conscious, Claire stood up and looked around to see if there were any other people around.

“Where's everyone else?” She asked.

“They are working.” Ilina said, holding up some of the fabric. “These are enchanted to help keep the cold out. I suspect you have no problem with that?”
Claire shook her head. “The less cold I have to deal with, the better.” She said. Ilina instructed her to strip and Claire felt like a ghost with her pale skin next to the shaman's dark complexion as the woman helped her dress.

“You have no meat on your bones, girl.” Ilina said. “No muscle, either. Don't worry, you'll get your womanly shape soon enough. Chavdar said you're thirteen, yes? You must help out here, you do realize that Maryska is pregnant? It has been a rough pregnancy and she is nearing her time and cannot deal with you causing her problems.”

The weight in Claire's stomach grew as she nodded. “Of course, I would hate to be a burden, and am willing to work as hard as I can to avoid that.” That was another thing Dotty couldn't argue about; Claire did her fair share of the housework, even during the school year. Claire refused to be a leech, and besides, she figured she needed to get used to working so she could get a job and move out at the earliest opportunity. Now though, she wasn't sure what she could do other than work as hard as possible, to make it worth their while.

Once Claire was dressed, including boots, Ilina looked her over and nodded. “Very good, it all fits fine. First things, I need your help in my house. After that, we can get you some food. Work first, food second.” Claire nodded. She wasn't very hungry anyway, the depression was settling in her stomach just fine and there was no room for food. She followed the shaman out of Chavdar's place, surprised to see it was morning, and to a small building nestled in the branches of a tree, overlooking the village. There were a few other such buildings and Claire wondered if there were more shamans or if someone else lived there.

Inside, it looked like a mess. Herbs were drying, hanging from the ceiling in what looked like a disorganized manner, bowls of strange looking liquids were strewn about, and there was a pile of bones in one corner. Ilina went rummaging through some bottles before picking out a few and an empty flask.

“You must learn how to make an elfroot potion first.” Ilina said. “These are very necessary with Maryska's pregnancy and you will need to keep them on hand at all times. I will teach you to know when to administer them.” Claire nodded, surprised. Was Ilina going to train her to be a healer then?

“Yes ma'am.” Claire said. Ilina proceeded to explain each process and Claire watched carefully, hoping she wouldn't get anything wrong.

 


 

“Does she have any magical talent?” Chavdar asked Ilina after the girl had fallen asleep.

“She does.” Ilina said. “But it has not shown itself yet. I can feel it bubbling just under the surface, desperate to come out, and it feels strange, and strong.”

“Will you be able to help her then?” He asked.

“The others will help, and I will keep an eye on her.” Ilina said. “I will not coddle the girl, and she knows it. She is a hard worker with very little confidence, far too hard on herself. She messed up a potion today and thought I was going to punish her for it. It will take time, but she will learn that we are not like her previous tribe. We do not abuse our people.”

“I can't imagine sending my son off to die in some strange land just for possessing magical talent.” Chavdar said. “And they call us barbarians.”

 


 

Claire had been with the Chasind for maybe three weeks and she was starting to get into the routine of their daily life. She spent a lot of time with the shamans, running errands, mixing potions, and learning everything she could about being a healer. Maryska was struggling with her pregnancy and when Claire wasn't with the shamans, she was with her, giving her medicines and trying to ease her discomfort. Claire had been struggling with her depression, trying to stay distracted by her duties, but Maryska kept lashing out at her, taking her frustrations out on the girl. One day Maryska yelled for some pain killers and Claire went as fast as she could to make it.

“I brought you the potion, Maryska.” Claire said, hurrying to the woman's side. Maryska was groaning in pain, writhing on the bed.

“Urgh, can you be any slower?” Maryska said. “I cannot believe I was saddled with someone like you and not someone more competent!”

Claire bit her lip, fighting the tears. “I'm sorry, I went as fast as I could!”

“Obviously not fast enough.” Maryska cried out in pain again before she downed the potion and threw the empty vial at Claire. It missed her and smashed against the wall, showering broken glass everywhere. Claire grabbed the broom and started sweeping it up.

“Stupid clumsy girl.” Maryska groaned. “Why did Chavdar have to find you and bring you here? I wish he'd never done something so stupid!” Claire stared at the broken glass in her hand, her tears washing away the dirt.

“I'll leave then.” She said. Maryska grunted in reply and Claire hurried away. She couldn't help but wonder if it would be better if she should just seek her death. No one really wanted her, she was just a burden, a slow and stupid burden. She hurried outside and up the path to find Ilina. She couldn't just leave Maryska alone, after all.

“Ilina?” Claire called.

“Is something the matter?” Ilina asked.

“I don't know, Maryska seems to be in more pain than usual and isn't herself.” Claire said. “She needs help I can't give her.”

Ilina sighed. “Very well. Be off with you then, I'll take over from here.” The shaman pushed past Claire, hurrying down the path. Claire shut the door, then slipped quietly past the buildings and into the forest, hoping no one had seen her. A fine mist of snow was coming down, mingling with the tears on her cheeks, and she thought it was incredibly fitting for her mood. How she had dreamed of what going to Thedas would be like, how magical and wonderful it would be to meet her favorite characters... and here she was, playing nursemaid to a woman who hated her, far away from any other form of civilization, miles from places like Lothering or Redcliffe, places she knew. Even being a mage in the Circle might have been preferable, for at least she knew what would be expected of her.

Claire stopped when she was a good distance away and broke down sobbing. All the pent up anger and frustration came pouring out and all she could think was how much she didn't want to live anymore. What reason did she have? Maryska didn't want her, she was just a burden to the woman and was constantly reminded of it. Ilina barely put up with her, she could tell. The shaman would probably be much happier without Claire getting under her feet. Chavdar was rarely around, and when he was, he didn't really say much, and all the stares she got from the other Chasind... She didn't belong, with her pale skin, light blond hair and blue eyes, and weird ways. Their customs weren't too hard to get used to, but it was still so different from how she was used to things.

Not to mention the nightmares. It felt like every night, the nightmares got worse and she wasn't even getting any rest anymore, as if there were demons clawing at her very soul, seeking a path to the mortal realm. When she had mentioned them to Ilina, the shaman had shrugged her off, saying that everyone has nightmares and they should be dealt with privately. But Claire wasn't sure she could handle it anymore. Everything was just piling up, weighing her down, and she needed to escape.

“You know you're going to attract wolves with all that howling you're doing.” A strong, young, male voice cut through her thoughts and she felt bitterness towards the person.

“Good, let them come.” She said. “Maybe they can finish what should have been done weeks ago.”

“If you seek death, I can deliver that now.” The man said. She looked up at him, her eyes puffy and red. He looked like a younger version of Chavdar, though he had his mother's eyes and smile, and she realized he must be Fedir. How fitting then, that he would be willing to do what his father would not.

“Please...” She said. “I can't take it anymore...” He raised an eyebrow and pulled out a hunting knife. She closed her eyes and raised her chin, uncertain of where he would strike her, and prayed it would be quick.

“You do not wish to see your death?” He asked. Startled, she opened her eyes.

“My eyes are open now.” She said, hands at her side. He carefully put the knife up to her neck, staring into her eyes and she refused to flinch. It would all be over soon and she would finally be at peace. She could see concern in his eyes, though his hand never wavered, and she wondered if he was going to do it, or was just testing her.

“You're serious.” He said, sounding like he couldn't believe it. “You would so willingly go to your death at the hand of a stranger?”

“I was going to do it myself, and I will if you don't.” She said, her bottom lip trembling.

He lowered the knife and sheathed it. “Will you do me a favor before you do?” She looked at him skeptically.

“That depends on what it is.” She said.

“Just answer a few questions, that's all.” He said. She nodded, so he continued. “I arrived late last night and my father informed me of your situation. He said he found you in the Wilds, freezing to death, wearing nothing but undergarments. He took you in, warmed you up, and you've been clothed and fed, and even given a job helping Shaman Ilina care for my mother. He said that you've been a great help to everyone. My question is, why would you feel like you've nothing to live for, when you have people who care about you? People who need you?”

She frowned, confused. “No one cares about me, and I mess things up far more than I help. I'm a burden, like I was back at my own home. What would make you think people care?” She had started crying again. “I don't belong here, I don't belong anywhere, and your village would be better off without me! Your mother said so, she confirms my feelings daily!” Fedir stared at her in shock, unable to believe his mother would say anything like that. He hadn't been away so long that she would have changed so drastically, had he?

“Come back with me, we'll clear this thing up.” He said, grabbing her arm and lifting her up.

“Do I have a choice?” She asked, sounding like a sullen child.

“No.” He said, reminded of not that long ago when his own father reprimanded him over something. He kept a tight grip on her arm as they went back to his house, determined to not let her get a chance to end herself before he had a chance to sort everything out. When they got inside, his father was there, looking grim, his eyes red from crying.

“Without you, Maryska would have died.” Chavdar said, staring at Claire. Fedir gave her an 'I told you so' look, but she was too confused.

“But how?” She asked. “I didn't do anything.”

“You gave her a potion, then ran and got Ilina, worried that Maryska wasn't herself.” Chavdar said. “If you had ignored the signs...” He closed his mouth, looking like he was going to cry again.

“Is mother all right?” Fedir asked.

“Ilina has her stable. We almost lost the baby, but Ilina was able to get to him in time as well.” Claire stared at the floor, with so many confused feelings rushing through her head. She wasn't sure if it meant she needed to stay alive or not, but she was glad to hear she had done something right for once. She was suddenly grasped into a bear hug, making it difficult to breathe.

“I owe you the lives of my wife and my unborn child.” Chavdar said.

“Father...” Fedir put a hand on his father's arm and the man loosened his grip on Claire, stepping back to look at her.

“What's wrong?” He said, realizing Claire's eyes were just as red as his. He looked to his son. “What happened?”

“Mother apparently said something... I don't know what, but it made Claire...” Fedir glanced between Claire and his father. “She begged me to end her life, and she was serious. I put my knife to her neck and she was ready to accept her death.”

Chavdar got down to her level and looked her in the eyes. “Why?” He asked, desperation in his voice. “Do you think it wouldn't hurt us to lose you? If we didn't care for you, I would have left you out there to die. After everything we've done for you, and you would think us so shallow to not care about you?”

She looked at him with despair in her eyes. “I've never been anything but a burden, even from the moment I got here, that's what I was told. It didn't seem any different from where I'm from... they didn't want me there either. As long as I kept my mouth shut and did my work, I wasn't harassed, or insulted... at least Maryska has the decency to tell me to my face, unlike my aunt who would go behind my back to pick me apart.”

“You told Ilina that Maryska wasn't herself.” Chavdar said. “What did she say to you?” Claire bit her lip and looked down, but he lifted her chin, forcing her to look at him. “Tell me what she said.”

“She... she told me I was slow and incompetent.” Claire said. “She threw the empty potion at me, but it hit the wall and so she called me clumsy. While I cleaned it up, she yelled that she wished you had never brought me here, that it was incredibly stupid of you...” Claire started crying again as Fedir shared a look with his father.

“What was wrong with mother?” Fedir asked.

“Ilina didn't say, nor did I ask...” Chavdar said. “But Claire, you said yourself that she was acting strangely. Why would you take her words to heart?”

“It wasn't her words I thought strange.” Claire said, wiping her eyes. “It's not the first time she's said such things... It was the amount of pain she was in, the way she was writhing on the bed. I knew something was wrong and that I couldn't do anything. She wanted Ilina anyway... Ilina told me to go away... so I did.”

“We're not like your old tribe.” Chavdar growled. “We don't coddle people here, we don't show affection as I'm guessing your people did, but that doesn't mean we don't care about you. No matter what she said today, Maryska does care about you, as does Ilina, and the sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be.” Claire felt so confused, having this man yell at her as if he was incredibly angry with her, while saying they cared about her... It just felt so backwards to her and she just wanted to be left alone.

“I... I'm sorry.” She said. “I'm not used to... any of this. I'll try harder...”

“I'm not really sure you understand.” Fedir chuckled. “But we'll work on it, yes?”

Frowning, she nodded. “Yeah...”

Chapter Text

No one spoke to her again that day and there was little interaction the next few days. Fedir had to take care of things with his father elsewhere and Ilina was too busy with Maryska, but Claire made sure the shaman knew she was there just in case. Lying on the bed she had been given, Claire tried to will herself to sleep, but she was terrified of the nightmares that awaited her. The voices would start whispering that they could fix all her problems, the demons would claw at her, and she would be lost in the darkness. It didn't take long for exhaustion to win the fight and she fell into a troubled sleep.

She woke up, finding herself in a strange stone building, nothing like what the Chasind had, and she was wearing a plain Ferelden styled dress. The walls were cold and she felt like they were trying to close in around her, so she got up and started walking, hoping she could find out where she was. A strange noise caught her attention and she tried to make out what it could be. Something was clanking around, as if a person was wearing heavy plate mail, and the footsteps sounded like they were getting closer. Wondering if the person could help, she looked around for the hallway they must be in. She peeked around the corner and saw a Templar coming towards her, not something she expected, but had no reason to fear.

“Excuse me.” She called out. The Templar turned towards her, his head concealed by his helmet.

He quickly pulled out a sword and pointed it at her, yelling, “Stop, apostate!”

“I'm not a mage!” She cried, but he still charged after her, so she ran as fast as she could back down the hall, his loud thundering footsteps echoing behind her. She wasn't a mage, how could she be? Why would he be chasing her? She tripped and fell, landing hard on her shoulder, sending shooting pain through her body. She gasped and tried to get up, but she felt the blade of the Templar's sword bite into her side.

“Maleficar, you will not be suffered to live!” The Templar shouted as he pulled the sword out. The feeling of the blade leaving her body made her retch, and through her tears and pain, she struggled to get up, but the blade found her shoulder, making her scream. The Templar laughed, enjoying his torture, and pulled the blade out twisting it slightly as he did so. He stepped on her back and grabbed her by the hair, lifting her head up.

“How dare you think you can live outside the Circle.” He hissed. “If I had my way, all mages would be put to the torch at birth, but instead, I must resign myself to watching you all. You claim the tower is a prison, but it is a freedom! It is a luxury!” He smashed her head into the stone floor, her vision exploding in fireworks as she lay there, stunned. Let death claim me... She thought. Did I not just seek it? Why should I deny its sweet embrace now? She closed her eyes, feeling the last bit of tears escape, and waited for the final blow. But instead, she felt a strange tugging at her back, as if the Templar was undoing the bindings on the dress...

“There are no rules saying we cannot at least enjoy our charges.” The Templar laughed, sending chills down her spine. If she was a mage, where was her magic? She needed to destroy him! Panic welled up inside her as she started struggling again, his weight preventing her from moving far.

“No!” She yelled. “No! I won't let you!” She needed to find her magic, she needed to find her power, and she needed to escape. In her panic, she grabbed something with her mind, latching onto some strange energy, and flung it towards the Templar with everything she had. Her world exploded in pain, her body wracked with it, there was nothing else but the agony, her vision seeing nothing but white.

 


 

 “Is she going to be all right?” Fedir asked, rubbing his arm where Ilina had grabbed him. The shaman was doing something to the girl, but he couldn't tell what, nor did he really know what had happened. He had been woken up by Claire yelling and he thought someone had gotten in and was trying to do something to her, but it turned out to be just a nightmare. As he straddled her, shaking her and trying to wake her up, Ilina rushed in, her black eyes ablaze, and yanked him off the girl before throwing some sort of shield up. Even he could feel the explosion, despite the shield, and could only wonder what would have happened had Ilina not been there.

“Her magic has awoken.” Ilina said. “She was trapped in a dream and unleashed a burst of Fade energy that I was able to counteract. It... doesn't feel the same as our magic, but I cannot place it. For everyone's sake, I will have to move her to my place until she can learn to control her powers.”

“So she is a mage.” Fedir said. “And that's why she was left in the Wilds to die like my father guessed? Who could be so cruel to one of their own?”

“In her culture, magic is feared.” Ilina said. “They do not know better, though there are things about her that make me wonder... I think even the Fereldens would prefer to kill this one.”

Fedir scoffed. “I will never understand why you felt the need to study them, shaman.” He said. “Did you not say they kill mage children all the time anyway?”

“The Templars prefer to take mages to the tower, where they will be kept safe.” Ilina said. “However, they do not tolerate strange magics, such as blood magic, or the shapeshifters like the Witch of the Wilds.”

“Which one is Claire?”

“That, I cannot tell you.” Ilina said. “We must be careful, lest she become an abomination. I fear if we do not stop it before it becomes complete, we will all die.”

 


 

The sun was shining bright, indicating that Claire had more than overslept, so she jerked up and looked around. She didn't recognize the room and Fedir was asleep in a chair by her side, his hunting knife in his hand. Her hand flew up to her shoulder, feeling a ghost of the pain from her dream, and wondered what had happened. It hadn't felt like a dream, it had felt far too real, and she was having a hard time believing it hadn't happened.

Feeling nervous, she spoke quietly. “Fedir...” She said. He stirred and looked at her, blinking in surprise.

“You're awake.” He said. “You didn't wake up at all yesterday... you had us all worried.”

“I dreamed I was in a strange stone building...” Claire said. “I was being chased by a Templar... he kept saying I was a mage. But I'm not a mage! I've never done magic in my life!” The look Fedir gave her was enough to silence her.

“You are a mage, one that worries Ilina.” He said, putting his knife away. “You're too dangerous to have around Mother right now. You almost killed me.” Claire felt a knot form in her throat.

Claire put her face in her hands. “I'm so sorry, I didn't know I had magic... I'm sorry... Why didn't you kill me?”

He narrowed his eyes. “We don't outright kill those with magical abilities. If you had become an abomination, then I would have, but Ilina says she can train you and I trust her. They've known you've had the potential since you first arrived. If they had deemed you a threat, they wouldn't have let you stay.”

“This is a lot to take in...” She said. “I never thought...”

“I'll let Ilina explain everything to you.” Fedir said, getting up. “Mother is well enough now that I can watch her until you're able to control your magic better.”

“I hope I don't hurt anyone else.” She said.

“Whatever they taught you about magic where you're from, forget it.” He snapped. “If you fear your gift, you will hurt others. It is not a curse, it is not something to be feared!” She looked up at him, startled.

“Th-thank you.” She said. “It's not easy, but I understand and I won't forget what you said.”

“Good!” He smiled. “Then I'll go get Ilina.”

 


 

 For the next few weeks, Claire worked on learning how to control her magic, while still helping Ilina and Maryska out. She had a long ways to go before she would be good enough to heal people, but Ilina had faith in her. The nightmares kept happening, though, and Claire couldn't figure out how to make them stop, and neither could Ilina. After a month had passed, Maryska had her baby, a little girl with a head full of black hair, and Claire figured she would never get to go back to their house to stay.
It was the first month of the new year, 9:21 Dragon, and Ilina had given up on figuring out Claire's nightmares.

“There is one nearby who may be able to help you.” Ilina said as Claire was mixing up some potions.

“Really?” Claire asked, looking at her mentor.

“Flemeth, the Witch of the Wilds.” Ilina said quietly. “It is said she has lived for a long time, and if anyone knows how to help you, it would be her.” Claire shuddered. She knew exactly who Flemeth was, and was worried about what the Witch might do to her.

“Why would she help me?” Claire asked.

“She may not, but what choice do you have?” Ilina shrugged. “Fedir has offered to take you, though he won't go near her hut. It's far too dangerous for him.”

“Yes... she does things to Chasind men...” Claire murmured. “I don't know how safe I'll be, but you're right, I have little choice. I cannot stay here and endanger you all.”

“Fedir said he'll take you tomorrow morning, so you can at least say your goodbyes.”

“You don't think I'll be coming back?” She asked, feeling her depression coming back. She didn't want to leave, not when everything was finally going well for her.

“It is a possibility...” Ilina said, not looking at Claire.

“But unlikely.” Claire sighed. She was almost fourteen, if her calculations were correct, and was moving on to her fourth caretaker. Or fifth, depending...

 


 

 Fedir was silent on their trip to Flemeth's hut, something that wasn't easy to find. Claire couldn't blame him, though, considering the potential danger he was in just with getting close to Flemeth's. The closer they got, the more it felt like they were being watched, and Claire looked up to see a raven watching them intently.

“I think Morrigan found us.” Claire said. The raven cocked its head curiously and flew off.

“Morrigan?” Fedir asked.

“One of Flemeth's daughters.” Claire said. “She's just a few years younger than me, I think.”

“And how do you know this?” Fedir asked suspiciously. Claire grimaced, wishing she had kept her mouth shut.

“Oh, maybe it was just a dream then.” She said, feeling stupid. “I swear it felt so real... I'm having a harder time telling dream from reality.”

“Mmhmm.” Fedir looked at her sideways, but didn't say anything else and the silence during the rest of the walk seemed so oppressive that Claire was thankful when they found the small plume of smoke rising out of the windmill's hut.

“This must be it.” Fedir said, quietly. “I'll leave you to it then. Take care.” He vanished into the underbrush and she moved forward towards the hut. She saw the raven sitting in a tree, still watching her carefully.

“Hello.” Claire called. “I'm looking for the one they call Flemeth.” The raven flapped while cawing, then flew off, disappearing into the woods.

“And why do you seek her?” An old crackly voice came from behind Claire. Feeling the hair stand up on the back of her neck, Claire turned around and came face to face with the witch. She didn't look much different than from the first game, though Claire imagined she could look like the version in the second and third games as well.

“I-I beg your pardon, but the shaman who was teaching me magic said that she can no longer help me...” Claire said. “She said I'm different, but we don't know how.”

“And where is the boy who was with you?” Flemeth asked.

“He left.” Claire said, feeling her anxiety rising.

“Did he now...” Flemeth smiled and looked over into the bushes. “You can come out now.” She waved her hand and Claire could feel energy flowing through the air as Fedir slowly walked out of the bushes.

“Please leave him alone.” Claire said. “Let him go back home.” She could see fear in Fedir's black eyes and amusement in Flemeth's.

“You would deny an old woman her fun?”

“You can have fun with me instead.” Claire said. Flemeth raised an eyebrow.

“Do you know how often it is that a Chasind man comes wandering into my clearing?” She asked. “Not nearly often enough.” Claire could feel herself starting to really panic as Flemeth brought Fedir closer. When he got up to the witch, she caressed his face gently, making him flinch away.

“Such young blood.” Flemeth said, smiling at Claire. Claire had a roaring in her ears and her vision was starting to go red as she tried to control herself.

“Don't touch him!” She yelled. She clutched her head, crying out in pain and doubled over, falling to the ground as she felt a burst of Fade energy leave her, aimed at Flemeth. Fedir was tossed to the side as the witch blocked.

“See, that wasn't so hard, was it?” Flemeth laughed. She helped the young man up. “You may go now. You have served your purpose.” He quickly ran away. Claire blinked back tears as she tried to stand up, her head killing her.

“Wha-”

“I was merely curious to know where you stand on your training.” Flemeth said. “And you showed me, you have a long ways to go. You also showed me something else... something that you know, but do not realize. Yes, I will help you, but not for long. You must go to the Tevinter Imperium, I think. They are the only ones who will be able to help someone with your abilities.”

“But you're...” Claire clamped her mouth shut, afraid she was going to say too much.

“I'm what?” Flemeth asked.

“You... you've been around for ages, you have the... ability to become a dragon... and the things you've seen, and can do...”

“Have you been listening to those tales the Chasind tell?” Flemeth asked, sounding annoyed.

“I'm sorry...” Claire said, hanging her head. “I'll not intrude on your hospitality longer than you wish.”

 


 

Spending time with Flemeth, Claire learned how to shapeshift, a tool the witch said would allow her to get to Tevinter much easier. After a few months of practice, Flemeth said it was time for her to go. Claire's nightmares had only gotten worse, but she didn't want to pester the witch, so she left without a fuss, running off as a wolf, following the path that would lead her out of the Wilds. What would her mom think of all this, her, running around by herself in a strange and dangerous world, barely fourteen years old... She missed her mom. Since the accident, she had tried not to think of her parents, but as she ran, she had only herself to keep her company and her thoughts continued to stray towards how much she missed them.

Being lost in her thoughts helped pass the time and before she knew it, she was passing by Lothering. She was hungry, but she had no money, nor did she think it would be very good for her to wander around the village as a wolf. She went off the road and circled around the village, wondering if she could hunt a rabbit or something. She knew how to cast lightning, and how to call fire, surely that would be good enough for something like a rabbit. She sniffed around, using her canine senses, but couldn't tell what scent belonged to what animal. Depressed, she decided she would just wait until she saw something move.

By the time the sun had set, she was starving and exhausted. Her footpads were sore, and she was no closer to getting something to eat than she had been that morning. She also had no idea where she was, or how long it would take her to get to Denerim. From there, she was planning on going up to Amaranthine to catch a ship to take her to the Free Marches, where she could go up to Tevinter somehow. But she needed to get something to eat, otherwise she would never make it up north. Why had she never taken any survival classes?

She transformed into a human and sat down against a tree, trying to decide what to do. The sounds of the forest different from in the Wilds, though not entirely disturbing. She had grown accustom to the wilderness, and living with Flemeth, she had gained a respect for the wild animals that lived around them. Sitting there, she started thinking about what kind of magic she had, and why it was so different that she had to go to Tevinter. What did they have up there that they didn't have anywhere else?
Feynriel.

It hit her, that Feynriel had to go to Tevinter to study magic because he was somniari. A Dreamer. Was that what she was? Was that why she was constantly having nightmares? She needed to figure out how to walk the Fade, bend it to her will, figure out if she really was somniari. She also needed to be very careful and watch for demons. She couldn't accept anything in the Fade, lest it be a demon in disguise. How would she be able to tell the difference between another mage and a demon?

Someone tripped over her, startling her out of her thoughts. “Andraste's knickers, you scared me!” It was the voice of a young man and he sounded more irritated than scared.

“I scared you?” She gasped. “I can't see anything out here, I thought I was far enough from the road, and you just trip all over me!” A small orb of light appeared and she stared in shock at the boyish face grinning at her. His sandy hair was falling in his face, getting into his amber eyes.

“Oh, I'm sorry, yes, I'm a mage.” He said, casually shrugging, though there was a hint of hostility in his tone, as if he was daring her to challenge him. “Hope you don't mind.”

“I, um...” Claire wasn't sure what to say, so she called up a little bit of fire in her hand and smiled back. He laughed and looked at her in awe.

“You're just a kid.” He said. “You're definitely not from the circle... Are you a Wilder? You dress like them, but you don't look it. What are you doing out here?”

“I need to get to Tevinter.” She said. “I'm not really Chasind, they just took me in after I was abandoned to die in the Wilds. Unfortunately, they said they can't help me, so I have to go north.”

“Well you're not going to avoid the Templars like that.” He said.

“Do they hunt even at night?” She asked. “I would have thought...”

He leaned in really close and said ominously, “They never sleep.” Claire frowned.

“I don't suppose you know of a good place to hide?” She asked. “Because I'm exhausted. I've been walking all day.”

“Ah, well... I've not been here very long, only four years now since I've been on my own, and most of that time was spent in the tower.” She could tell he hated it there with how much animosity he spoke of it.

“If I knew where I was, it'd be easier.” She said. “I know the maps, sort of , but it's so different down here and in the dark.”

“Tell you what, we can travel up to Denerim together, and maybe if things go well, I could go with you to Tevinter!” She smiled back and nodded, feeling relieved to have a companion for the trip.

“Do you think it's safe enough here to rest, or should we move?” Claire asked.

He looked around and shrugged. “Should be fine here.”

“All right, hope you can get some rest.” She smiled as she curled up against a tree.

“You too!” He said. “And may the Templars not find either of us!”

 


  

There was an arm wrapped around her... her body moving with the gentle breaths of the strange boy she found herself lying against. Her head was on his chest and she could hear his heart beating, and she blushed with all the emotions running through her. He was only maybe a couple years older than her, but surely he couldn't see her as anything more than just a kid sister. She sat up, enjoying the cool morning air as the sun started to rise, waking the birds up.

“Ugh, is it time to wake up already?” He asked. “

“You know, I don't know your name.” Claire said. “My name's Claire.”

He sat up and brushed his hair away from his face. “They call me Anders.” He said. She stared at him, trying not to show her surprise. She should have seen it before... he was just missing the earring, and his hair was loose instead of a ponytail, but he was the teenage Anders.

“We should probably get a move on, then, keep ahead of the Templars.” She smiled nervously. “It would suck to have my new-found partner in apostasy crime taken away...”

“We'd end up in the tower together, at least.” He smirked, but she frowned and looked at the ground as they walked. He was going to have to go back to the tower, or the entire fate of Thedas might be changed.

“I need to go to Tevinter.” She said. “They'll kill me in the tower, or make me tranquil, and I don't want that. I can't let them take me.”

“They're not animals, they don't just kill mages on sight, especially not kids.” He said.

“I'm almost fourteen.” She said. “Or I am fourteen, I don't know anymore, but I'm not just a kid. I was trained by the Chasind, then by the Witch of the Wilds. They have magic the Circle fears and if I'm caught practicing it... It's as bad as blood magic, they'll call me a maleficar!”

“Whoa, easy there.” Anders said. “I um, I'm sorry. I didn't realize. But no worries, we'll avoid the Templars. I'm getting pretty good at it! Managed to jump in the lake and swim away this time, silly Templars couldn't even follow because of their armor.”

“I bet that was funny to watch!” Claire laughed. They started trading Templar jokes while they walked. There were a few places Anders wanted to go check out before heading to Denerim so Claire followed, despite the feeling of urgency in getting to Tevinter.

They snuck onto farms and picked apples, making Claire feel so much better even though it wasn't the most filling thing ever. That night, they snuck into an abandoned barn and Claire laid down in the hay.

“This is a much better bed than the ground!” Claire said, laughing.

“Too bad we can't just find some place to live in peace.” Anders said. “You know, the kind of place where we can tell the Templars where to shove it...”

“Tevinter is rumored to be like that.” Claire said. “I'm sure it has its problems, but the mages rule there, unlike here.”

“How are you planning on getting there?” Anders asked, sitting down next to her. “I suppose we could just hop on a boat to the Free Marches and walk up the highway...”

“I don't know, I was just going to figure it out on the way.” She said. “The boat idea did cross my mind though. I just need to figure out how to pay for it or stow away.”

“You definitely need someone like me around.” He said. “I can tell you're not used to being on your own, you'll need someone to show you the ropes.” He sounded so confident Claire wondered how much of that was just bravado, a show for her. Whatever it was, it helped her feel better anyway. She yawned and stretched, trying to get comfortable. The warmth of the hay was getting to her and she could barely keep her eyes open.

“G'night.” She mumbled. “Think I overdid it today...” He chuckled and laid down beside her.

 


 

The sound of angry growling and a dog scratching at the door woke Claire with a start. Anders had his arms around her, holding her still. When she opened her mouth to ask what was going on, he put a finger to her lips and shook his head, then looked around. She stared at the door, waiting for something to happen.

“What is it, boy?” She heard a man's voice. “Bandits get in the barn again?” She could tell Anders was panicking, but the only thing that was going through her head was a very dangerous and probably stupid plan. As the door was about to creak open, she looked in Anders' eyes and pushed away, becoming a Mabari. She walked over to the door, wagging her tail nub, hoping the other dog wouldn't attack. When the door opened, she whined and lowered her head. The other dog, some large mutt, growled and sniffed at her, so she laid down and rolled over, exposing her belly. The mutt looked at her disdainfully, then wandered back to his master.

“Maker... that's a Mabari!” He said. Claire got up and barked excitedly. “How'd you get in the barn?” She whined and started sniffing around the outside of the barn, leading them away from the door, hoping to let Anders escape. The farmer followed, curious, and asked her all sorts of questions, to which she replied as best as her Mabari self could. She caught a glimpse of Anders sneaking into the forest and wondered how she was supposed to get away from the farmer. She sniffed the air, then gave an excited bark and ran as fast as she could into the forest south of Anders. She heard the farmer yell, but didn't hear him give chase, so she turned and headed for where she saw Anders head.

When she found him, he stared at her nervously. “I can see why the Circle wouldn't approve of your magic.” He said. She became human again and looked around nervously, still expecting the farmer.

“We should keep moving.” She said. “I don't trust that farmer.”

“You know, if I hadn't seen you change, you would have had me fooled!” Anders said, shaking his head.

“It's really dangerous to do that around people.” She said. “I shouldn't have... but I panicked. I'm just glad it worked out and no one got hurt.” He reached over and tousled her hair.

“Let's try not to get caught again, shall we?” He chuckled.

 


 

 That night, Claire had a nightmare that the Templars had found them, and in her fear, she became a wolf and ran off, but got struck by one of their spells. They took her captive, and then one told her to run or he'd stab her boyfriend. She challenged him, and the Templar stabbed Anders, just as he said he would. She got it in her head that if she did as he said, Anders would live, but she would be stabbed in his stead. She wondered what would happen if she didn't become a wolf... It wasn't the first dream she'd had that she knew was going to happen, but it was the most vivid.

That morning, she woke up and asked Anders. “Anders... if something happens, and we get separated, would you mind if I visit you in the Fade?”

He murmured, still groggy, and opened his eyes. “What do you mean?”

“I can visit you in the Fade, if you want.” She said. “I won't intrude, but I don't want to lose you. I've never really had a friend before. I can understand if you'd rather I didn't, I know I make people uncomfortable.”

He looked sharply at her, then frowned. “That's what being a mage is all about, but you're fine.”

“But even other mages are wary of me.” She said. “The Witch of the Wilds is the one who told me to go to Tevinter because she couldn't teach me.”

“I can't imagine why someone as innocent looking as you would make other mages nervous.” He said.

“They... think I'm somniari.” She said. “A Dreamer. Something that only the Tevinters really know about.” She hadn't gotten a handle on working the Fade yet, but she was determined to, and then she would know for certain.

“I've never heard of that before.” He said. “What exactly can you do?”

“I'm still learning, but... somniari can walk the Fade, shape it to their will, enter people's dreams... even kill people through the Fade.” She didn't like the uncomfortable look he was giving her. “I'm sorry I brought it up. See what I mean?”

“I suppose so!” He suddenly laughed. “You're still just a kid though, you don't seem so scary.” They talked about other things, him telling her about the Anderfels, and she telling him about the Wilds, and before she knew it, they could see Denerim. The city was impressive, even at a distance, and she was in awe at how tall Fort Drakon was. In ten years, it would be the site of the final battle with the archdemon...

“I've never been to a city like this before...” She said. “Just small villages.”

“I haven't really been here either.” He said. “We kinda skipped it on my way to the tower three years ago. Or has it already been four years? Look at us, neither one of us can remember the date.” Claire laughed, feeling happier than she had in a while. He pulled out a small bit of cheese and started eating, and Claire tried not to stare or drool, but he seemed to notice and pulled out another piece. “Haven't you eaten lately? No, I suppose you haven't... You've had about as much as I have...”

“Not all day today and barely yesterday.” She said. “We had those apples, but that was about it. So thank you very much.” She tried to savor the cheese, something she'd never had before. It had a sharp flavor and was smooth and creamy, reminding her of cheddar. It didn't last long, but it soothed her stomach for a minute.

“You need to get some food.” He said. “When we get to the city, I'll get you a good meal.” He sounded so confident, she wondered how he was going to do that. She supposed he could always charm some unsuspecting woman out of it.

“You'll have to teach me your ways, oh master of being on your own!” She laughed.

“Don't worry, I will.” He chuckled, then slowed his steps. Claire stared at the armored people in front of her, feeling the panic from her dream come back. They wouldn't... They couldn't.... Anders groaned and hung his head. “I can't believe they would have found me so soon. Play it cool, they might just pass by.” The closer the Templars got, however, the more Claire was certain they were not just going to pass by and she gripped Anders' hand tightly, shaking in fear. He glanced over at her, worried.

“To think you had the gall to escape again!” One of the Templars said. She was furious as she confronted Anders. “Took us a week to find you this time!”

He smiled and shrugged. “What can I say, I like the fresh open air.”

“And who is this?” The other Templar demanded, pointing at Claire.

“I'm a Chasind, ser.” She said, stepping away from Anders. “I only just met him on the road, he was taking me to Denerim as I've never been. W-what is he wanted for?” She glanced nervously at him, hoping it would work.

“He's an escaped apprentice.” The male Templar growled. “And he's making a habit of it.”

“It was fun while it lasted.” Anders winked at Claire as he shrugged nonchalantly. “Might as well see the city while you're here, just don't get lost!” She clenched her jaw against the fear and the tears, then noticed the female Templar was looking at her strangely.

“Why would a Chasind be out here for, really?” She asked suspiciously. “You're a mage too.” Claire felt the other Templar grab her by the shoulders and grimaced.

“Why would you say that?” She asked, still clinging on to some hope.

“I can feel it.” The Templar replied. “Chain her, I'll chain him.” Claire started thinking, desperate for a way out, but she knew if she became a wolf, she'd get hit by a spell and then they would know what she was. She needed to stay in control. Anders had lost any semblance of good humor, and was glaring at the Templar with such force as she shackled him, Claire was certain the Templar would catch fire.

“We'll take you to the tower where you belong.” The male said. “Not often we get one of the Chasind. You have some bizarre beliefs down there, and it would be interesting to see what strange magics you've picked up outside the Circle...” It sounded so ominous Claire was certain the man wanted to torture the answers out of her.

“You try anything and I swear my sword will find your neck.” He hissed. She had screwed up, so horribly, she had no idea how she was supposed to get out of it.

“At this rate, we're not going to get back to the tower until tomorrow.” The woman grumbled, shoving Anders ahead of her. The man gripped Claire by the back of the neck while they walked and she wished more and more that she had kept her mouth shut.

 


 

They traveled for most of the day, and eventually, Claire learned their names were Daric and Kara. The majority of the trip they spent being regaled by the male Templar's stories of how he hunted apostates and as Claire feared, tortured them. Her fear was growing stronger, that they would not let her make it to the tower, and she had no way to communicate with Anders. They kept them apart, and that night, Daric stayed next to Claire while Kara stayed beside Anders, and all the mage could do was look at Claire with pity in his eyes.
Without her helmet on, Claire could see Kara was actually quite pretty with dark brown hair tied up in a bun and blue eyes that felt like they were piercing her soul. Kara kept glaring at her charges, daring them to even speak. Ser Daric had sandy blond hair cut short and a goatee, and was probably in his thirties, plenty of time to bring in many apostates. She shuddered to think of what he did to the mages in the tower.
After Claire had finally fallen asleep, she found Anders' dream and 'woke' him into the Fade. He looked at her in surprise as he tried to get his bearings.

“What did you just do?” He asked.

“I interrupted your dream.” She said. “I'm sorry, I just... I had to talk to you. I don't think Ser Daric is going to let me make it to the tower. Have you seen how he looks at me? The way he talks about torturing mages... Anders, I'm afraid, I'm so afraid.”

“I wish I knew what to say...” She grabbed him and started sobbing into his chest. “Hey, it's not so bad...” He wrapped his arms around her. “I'll be right beside you.”

 


 

The following day, Claire had no desire to say anything, or look at anything but the road, and had no desire to eat, though the Templars all but forced her to.

“We can't have you passing out on us before we get to the tower.” Kara said, shoving the food at Claire. Daric seemed even more irritated with her than normal, and kept tripping her and poking her. Around midday, he pulled out his dagger and started playing with it next to her, catching it in the light and shining it in her face. She tried her best to ignore it, but then he got really close to her, making her stumble.

“Run, or I swear I will stab your boyfriend.” The Templar's words chilled her, and she knew it was either her, or Anders, and she couldn't let Anders die. He probably wouldn't forgive her, but she didn't have a choice. She ran, straight into the forest. It was hard enough trying to run with her arms shackled, but the forest floor was covered in sticks and rocks that kept tripping her up. The tree branches and bushes tugged at her dress, tearing it and cutting her.

The inevitable happened, and she felt the blast of energy that stole her breath and mana, knocking her to the ground where her head hit a rock, making her disoriented. Daric rolled her over and she started crying out, struggling, but just like the dream she'd had so long ago, she was powerless against this Templar as well. He held her hands above her head as he knelt down, pinning her legs.

“We do not allow maleficar to live.” He snarled.

“I'm not! I swear!” She sobbed.

“You're no normal mage, I can feel the energy coming from you. You're Wilder scum, there's no telling what bad habits you picked up.” He ran his dagger along her neck and down her chest. “I don't have time to have fun, Ser Kara doesn't like me taking long, but you look like you would have been a lot of fun.” He cut her dress further down, exposing more of her chest and she shut her eyes, not wanting to see his sadistic face.

“You're no ordinary mage.” He got close to her face. “What are you?”

“Somniari, ser.” She sounded so pitiful and it made her cringe. “A Dreamer.” She heard a sharp intake of breath and she opened her eyes in surprise as his hand holding her arms clenched. There was actual fear in his eyes, and a hatred of such an intensity she could feel it burning into her soul.

“You are no better than a demon.” He hissed. “You shouldn't exist, your kind was wiped out ages ago!” He shoved his knife into her chest, and she screamed in pain, kicking her legs. “Stop moving or I'll make it worse.” She was having trouble breathing and he seemed to be enjoying her pain. Dark spots began appearing in her vision and she felt herself falling backwards. Was that really how it was going to end?

 


 

Anders stared in horror as Claire bolted for the forest. He had caught what the Templar had said and he knew what game they were playing, and there he was, powerless to stop it. Seeing her get hit by the Templar's attack, seeing Daric throw her to the ground and pulling out the dagger... Anders felt his heart stop.

“What's he doing?” He blurted out.

“He's doing what should have been done when we first ran into her back at Denerim.” Kara said, her voice flat and unfeeling. The dagger plunged down and they heard Claire scream as Daric seemed to struggle with her, then silence. She had to get up, she couldn't be dead, she was just a kid. The Templar was still holding his dagger as he walked back towards Anders, blood dripping off the blade, and he smacked Anders with the pommel.

“You keep your bloody mouth shut or you join her.” He hissed, but Anders wasn't paying attention. Claire had failed, and it had cost her her life, and he couldn't stop looking at her, hoping she would get back up. Hoping it was a ruse.

“She's dead, kid.” Daric said, his voice sounding tired. “Get used to it. That's what happens when you run and fight back.”

“You told her to run!” Anders said, his voice cracking.

“You probably misheard.” Daric's tone turned dangerous as he growled at Anders. The young apostate glanced back one last time, but her body hadn't moved.

“Ser Daric only did what was necessary.” Kara said. “We cannot allow such a dangerous apostate to live.”

“She was just a girl.” Anders said, despair creeping into his voice.

“She still should have known better.” Daric said. Anders bit the inside of his cheek to keep from saying anything else, tasting the metallic flavor of his blood fill his mouth. He would escape one day, and he would find his phylactery and be free from the torture of the Templars. One day, he would rain fire upon them all and make them pay.

Chapter Text

Claire was surprised when she woke up and immediately began healing herself. He had somehow missed vital organs and while it hurt badly and she was faint from the blood loss, it wasn't so bad that she couldn't heal herself eventually. She was still lying there as the sun went down, and that night, she went into the Fade to find Anders. It was strange, seeing him there. He was just staring at the Black City, his shoulders slumped.

“Anders...” She said.

He turned and looked at her with such a look of anguish. “They say the dead walk the Fade.” He said. “I never really believed it...”

“I'm not dead.” She said. “I'm still where they left me, though. I'm trying to heal myself, but it's difficult. The wound is deep. It's taking a lot just to be here, but I had to see you, I had to let you know.” He hurried over to her and embraced her, crying.

“Thank the Maker, I'm so grateful you're alive.” He said. “I don't know what I would do if you... I saw you... I watched you...”

“I'm trying my best to hold on, Anders.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “I'll continue on to Tevinter, like I'd planned. I don't know how well I'll be able to visit from there, but I will try. I know we haven't known each other for very long, but I find myself attached to you. I've never had a friend like this before.”

“It gives me a bit of hope just knowing you've escaped them. Just stay safe, yes?”

“Same goes for you too.”

 


 

By morning, Claire had healed herself enough that she could continue on her journey, wishing she had a spare change of clothing. Her plan to get on a ship to get to the Free Marches wasn't going to work very well if she was covered in blood, and she wasn't sure she could fly on her own. Then she remember she didn't even have money, so the best she could hope for would be to perch as a bird on the ship. She headed for Amaranthine, since they had a good port that was certain to have a ship going to the Free Marches. Testing her falcon wings, she began flying.

Claire flew high above the clouds, thinking that maybe she could just fly over to Kirkwall. If she remembered correctly, it didn't look that far to fly, especially if she gained enough height and coasted down. Then she would just need to fly north and maybe a little west to get to Tevinter. It would be a good test to find out how long she could hold out flying. Looking down, she saw a few breaks in the clouds and could see farmland below her. Angling west a bit, she spotted a castle near the coast and decided it would be a good place to rest.

Lighting on a wall near where the soldiers were practicing, she noticed a young girl pointing at her, tugging at a man's sleeve.

“Look, Fergus, a hawk!” She exclaimed.

“It is indeed, Elissa, but not one of ours.” The Couslands, and they had had a daughter... Would she grow up and live on to become the Hero of Ferelden, or would she die a gruesome death at the hands of a traitor in nine years?

“It's watching me.” The girl said.

“That's because it probably wants to eat you for dinner!” Fergus said, grabbing Elissa and tickling her as she shrieked. Claire flew off, deciding that she would need to find food somehow and it wasn't going to be there. Heading north-west, she just flew, not really paying attention to anything. She was getting used to being hungry and it wasn't bothering her so much, just a discomfort that she would take care of, eventually. The pain, on the other hand, was wearing on her.

By the time she got to the Amaranthine port, she was exhausted and in pain, noticing that she'd aggravated her wounds so that it stained her feathers red. Using her heightened senses, she listened for the call for Kirkwall. There had to be a ship leaving eventually, but perhaps they wouldn't leave until morning. She sat on a sign and preened a bit while she rested, watching all the dock workers as they loaded and unloaded crates.

Some time after midday, she heard a call for Kirkwall. She watched the ship, and just as they were shoving off, she flew onto the crow's nest, which was unoccupied for the moment. If it got occupied, she'd just have to deal with it. Perched up at the top of the ship made her more queasy than she'd expected, so when a sailor did make it up, he was able to pick her up without much trouble.

“What do we have here?” He asked, looking her over. “You're injured, you poor thing. Well, I can just stick you in my coat, keep you safe for now.” She struggled a little, but it was a lot nicer in his coat than in the cold wind. What a way to travel! She laughed to herself, wanting to tell Anders. After a while, another man came up and relieved the first man of his shift, and she was taken down to the deck.

“Oy, what you got there?” Another sailor looked at the falcon that was Claire, who was peeking out from under the lapel.

“Shh, don't tell the captain.” The first said. “It's an injured bird, falcon of some sort. Don't know how he got up there, but he's been right happy in my coat. Thought I'd get him a bit of food.”

“You softy, you, you're gonna get in trouble.” The other said. “I reckon you should stow that bird away somewhere safe so you can do your job.” Claire's man mumbled something and moved away, taking her down below deck. Wherever he was taking her, she was getting worried she wouldn't be able to escape very easily. She needed to be able to get out in Kirkwall!

“Shh, easy there, bird, you'll be safe down here.” He murmured, not understanding the reason for her panic. A cage! She saw the bars getting closer as he carefully put her in it, and in her frustration, she beat her wings against the bars, even though she knew she couldn't break them. She'd have to become a mouse.

“I'll grab you some food, just stay right there, eh?” Claire puffed her feathers out, wondering if he was going to try to keep her. He came back shortly with some sort of raw meat, which she gladly took, with how hungry she was. She would have to wait until they were docked and escape in the confusion. In the meantime, she would just have to bide her time. After the man was called back to work, she was left alone for the remainder of the trip. She slept most of it, then woke when she heard the call to port.
She waited for someone to come down to where she was, but all she could hear were boots stomping around outside the room and above it. She looked around for an exit, and figured she could squeeze under the door as a mouse, but it would be dangerous with all the people around. She waited for things to quiet down a bit, then slipped out as a mouse, sticking to the shadows until she could safely become a falcon again, then took to the skies. As she spied the man who had helped her, she felt like she should do something nice for him, but wasn't sure what she could do.

She followed him along until he was in a fairly solitary area, then landed on his shoulder. He looked pleasantly surprised to see her. She then took him into the Fade and learned his name was Frederick and he had family back in Ferelden, near Amaranthine. She kept him out of it so he didn't know what was going on, but left him with a message.

“I will one day repay you when I am able.” She said. “Thank you for your kindness, ser.” She 'woke' him back up and he stared at her in bewilderment before she flew away.

 


 

Kirkwall, white city of chains, with its statues looming over the boats as they entered the port, tiny beneath her as she flew higher. The statues were huge and a lot more daunting than she had expected, and she decided she didn't like them at all. She flew around until she found an out of the way alley in Lowtown that was empty and transformed back into a human. Her body was in so much pain and she was exhausted, but she couldn't imagine staying in the city for the night. She just needed to find some food and then she could leave again, hopefully before sunrise. She wandered out into the marketplace, amazed at the size and how much they hadn't put in the game, and tried to think of a way to get food without straight up begging for it. Maybe someone had a small job she could do, but there weren't any vendors out anymore. Would anyone help her, dressed as she was?

Since it was before the great exodus of Fereldens, she wondered if she would be met with any discrimination for that as well, or if they would be ok with some random girl asking for a job to do. As she wandered around, she spotted the Hanged Man and figured what the hell and walked in. It was always open, after all. It looked pretty similar to the game but oh the smells. Vomit and alcohol mixed with body odor and sweat and... whatever that was... Being used to the open air, she was about ready to leave when she heard a familiar voice.

“... And then you know what he says?” She looked over and saw Varric, looking pretty much the same as she expected, surrounded by people. She smiled at seeing the familiar face, too distracted to pay attention to his punchline. She was actually pretty surprised to see him and wondered if she should just leave, but then decided that she wasn't exactly noteworthy and should be fine. As the people started to break away, she turned instead to the bartender. He was a thin man with a stern face, someone she didn't think would be a good idea to cross.

“Excuse me, I was just wondering if there was some sort of work I could do for a bit of bread?” She asked.

“This ain't no charity, girl.” The bartender sighed. “I can't just feed every street urchin who comes in looking for food!”

“I beg your pardon, I didn't mean to offend.” She frowned and turned away as the bartender went back to working with actual paying customers, trying to figure out what to do next. It would be so much easier if she could just hunt, then she could just ignore the cities altogether. What were they going to think of her barbaric ways in Tevinter?

“Excuse me, did I hear you say you're looking for work?” She turned and saw a man who looked like he had questionable motives, but, well, that was always one way to get to Tevinter...

“Mostly looking for food, messere.” She said, hoping she used the correct honorific. “If work will ease my stomach, then yes.”

He smirked, then offered her a seat. “Wait here, I'll get you something.” She sat down, her heart beating hard as the panic started to rise again. What if he drugged her? She was willing to go to Tevinter, even if it meant becoming a slave, so long as she was able to learn. However, this man didn't know that, and they were known to take whatever measures they could, especially since it meant operating under the law. She needed to be ready for anything...

He came back with some food and a drink. “Here, eat.” He said. She cringed at the smell, but more than that, her stomach wanted it and her mouth was watering for it.

“What do I have to do for this?” She asked.

The man shrugged. “We'll discuss that after you're done.” He said. “This meal's on me.” She felt like she was about to cry, thinking about what he would ask of her, but she was too hungry. She forced herself to eat some bread slowly, not wanting to get sick, wondering if the drink was drugged or if it was the food. Kirkwall, the land of crazy people, slavers, and blood magic. No one was to be trusted, except maybe Varric. She sniffed the drink, but it didn't smell alcoholic.

“What's this?” She asked. “I don't recognize it.”

“It's just a tea.” He said. “You're not from around here, but it's pretty common in Kirkwall.” If her clothing hadn't given her away, her accent would have. She took a sip and found that while bitter, it wasn't horrible tasting and easy to stomach. Her hand was shaking as she drank, spilling some on her dress. She wiped her chin nervously.

“Are you all right?” The man asked. “You're not sick or anything, are you? You're trembling and sweating...”

“No, ser, I'm just... exhausted.” She said. And terrified. “I traveled all day today and I need to get back on the road as soon as possible.”

“Oh?” He raised his eyebrows. “Where are you headed? And are you sure a boy of your age should be traveling alone? I have connections, I can get you to where you need to go, safely.” Boy? She almost laughed, and decided not to correct him.

“I... don't know if I should say.” She looked around, nervous.

He leaned in close and spoke quietly, “On the run, are you?” He asked. “What'd you do?”

“This was a mistake.” She said, the anxiety overwhelming her. “I need to go... thank you for the meal, but I can't stay.” She stood up, pushing the still mostly full plate away, and felt a wave of dizziness hit her.

The man crossed his arms, smiling. “I don't think you're in any shape to go anywhere.” He said.

“You're a slaver, aren't you?” She asked. “One of the quickest ways to get to Tevinter, I suppose, but you're not very good at making a kid feel comfortable.” Another wave of dizziness hit her, forcing her to lean on the table for support. “You have no idea what I am.” She laughed and the man stood up, looking concerned.

“Hey now, what's going on here?” Claire looked over, surprised to see Varric standing there. She realized was just a smidge taller than the dwarf, which struck her as odd, since she didn't feel that short, but pushed that thought aside. He really did have a lot of chest hair...

“I just needed a little food to tide me over while I travel.” She said.

“Oh? Where're you headed?” He asked. “Surely not Tevinter. That's no place for a kid like you.”

“Um, not really sure I should say.” She spoke quietly, feeling nervous, as if a Templar was going to leap out at her the longer she stayed there.

“What do you want?” The man asked, irritated at being interrupted.

“Just seeing how everyone's doing.” Varric smiled innocently. “I have to make sure you're not harassing the guests, you know. Or trying to pick up little boys.” He laughed and looked at Claire. “But seriously, you're like, what, twelve?”

She pouted, wishing she had more of a chest to show them she wasn't a boy. “I'm fourteen.” She said.

“Same thing, you're just a kid.” He waved his hand dismissively. “What're you doing wandering around the Hanged Man? There are other places one can go for food, you know. Like the Chantry.” He must have caught the look of fear that flashed across her face because he raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps you'd like to join me in my room and I can have them bring up some clean food in exchange for a story.” He glared at the slaver, who tossed up his hands in exasperation.

“Fine, but don't think I'll forget this.” He said, getting up and storming out. Varric walked over to the bartender and gave him an order before leading Claire up to his room. She was surprised it was the same place as in the game, she hadn't thought he had stayed there for so long. She had to remind herself that she didn't actually know him and she needed to treat him like any other stranger. How weird was it for a random dwarf to ask a young girl, or boy, to his room anyway?

He pulled out a chair. “Have a seat and tell me your story. You don't seem like the type stupid enough to believe he had your best interests at heart.”

“I don't know why you'd be interested in a street urchin...” She mumbled as she sat down.

“Because you make it so mysterious!” He laughed, sitting down across from her.

“That's because I don't need any Templars...” She shut her mouth quickly and looked around before lowering her voice. “I don't need any Templars deciding that I'd make good target practice again.”

“So you are an apostate.” He said.

Claire took a deep breath before saying, “I was abandoned in the Korcari Wilds, in Ferelden, and the Chasind took me in until my magic showed up and they discovered they didn't know how to help me, so they sent me to the Witch of the Wilds, but she didn't know what to do, so... I'm on my way to Tevinter. If I have to go as a slave, then so be it. I'm tired of being hungry...” She put her forehead on the table, feeling dizzy, wishing the food would just hurry up and come before Varric decided to kick her out.

“Part of me wants to think you're spewing a load of nug shit, but I dunno, maybe it's the way you say it... I want to believe you.” Varric was staring at her as if he was expecting her to grow another head. “Ok, so even if that is true, if you have no money, how are you getting to Tevinter without becoming a slave? Because I can't honestly expect you to want that. And how did you get here?”

“I got here by boat, mostly, and flying.” She mumbled. “Though I still hurt from where the Templar stabbed me today so I had to stop to rest.”

“Considering your clothing is ripped and covered in blood...” He said. “All right, I'll give you the Templar attack, but what about the flying bit?” He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in the chair. She transformed into a raven and hopped up onto the table, startling Varric, who almost knocked the chair backwards, catching himself on the table at the last minute. She cawed in his face, then flew back over towards the bed, becoming human again.

“You tell anyone, I know how to kill you in your sleep without even touching you.” She glared at him. It was mostly a bluff, but he didn't know that.

“Well, remind me not to piss you off!” He said. “I'd say that tale earned you some food.” One of the bar maids came in with a platter full of food and and a pitcher, making Claire's mouth hurt from salivating, her stomach growling like a lion.

“Oh Maker, you have no idea how good that smells...” She grabbed a fresh hot roll and savored each bite. She didn't need a stomach ache from overeating, nor did she need to throw up all over Varric's boots. The little bit of bread she'd had hadn't been enough to truly satiate her hunger, nor was it like this roll... Oh the soft fluffy texture of the bread that practically melted in her mouth... He poured something into a cup and handed it to her, so she sniffed it suspiciously.

“It's just a tea they make down here.” He said, pouring himself a cup. “Didn't think it'd be good for you to get drunk right before you fly out. You did mention you're leaving tonight?”

She sipped the tea. “That's the plan. I don't feel comfortable in the city and I want to get to Tevinter as soon as possible.” She grabbed some meat and while it was tough and chewy, it was still so good.

“It's already quite late.” Varric said. “And you said yourself that you're inexperienced with magic, plus anyone can tell you're still affected by whatever he stuck in your food, so what do you say, stay here for the night and leave in the morning?” Claire looked suspiciously at the dwarf.

“First off, why would you want some strange apostate staying here?” She asked. “Second off, I don't know you, and while I really appreciate your hospitality, I can't stay, I need to go as soon as I can. You must know how weird it looks, some strange dwarf inviting a girl to sleep in his room...” She stood up, pushing the chair from the table, ready to leave.

“You're a girl?” He chuckled. “And you didn't even correct me. Look, I'm just worried about you. You come in here, talking about getting stabbed by Templars, running for your life, seeking slavery of all things, and you probably haven't eaten in days... You look like you desperately need a break. Especially with that black eye and all those scratches.” Her vision swam before her and she stared at Varric.

“Varric... wha-” She clutched her head, willing herself not to throw up. “He drugged me...” The dwarf rushed to her side and helped her to the bed.

“This does not bode well...” He said. “You just take it easy and wait for it to pass.” As he walked away, she heard him mutter, “What have you gotten yourself into now?” Feeling too vulnerable on the bed, she rolled herself onto the floor and hid beside the bed, praying no one would find her. She pressed herself against the bed and felt the drugs take her.

 


 

Light filtered in through the door and Claire could barely see it from beside the bed, but it was enough to let her know it was daytime. Her head was killing her and it took her a moment to remember that she could just heal it with a quick breath of mana. She stood up and looked around. There didn't seem to be any signs of a fight, but Varric's words as he left her made her wonder if someone had made an attempt on his life over her. Overall, the sounds of the tavern were quiet, not like they were at night, and it was almost calming.

A loud snore from the bed startled her and she jumped back, staring at the dwarf on the bed. He was still dressed and covered in blood, confirming her fears. Her first instinct was to heal him, so she gently laid her hands on him, pouring her magic into him. It struck her as almost hilarious that she was there, healing Varric, one of her favorite characters from the second and third games. She'd essentially gotten to sleep with three of the game companions! Maybe when she was older, she'd really get to...

“Maker's breath!” He said, sitting up, jerking her from her thoughts. “I thought you'd been taken!”

“I passed out next to the bed.” She said. “Now hold still, you're still injured.” He smiled and shook his head as she finished healing him.

“The slavers came back for you, you know.” He said. “They didn't realize who they were dealing with though!”

“Are they always so desperate?” She asked. “I'm not exactly special looking and there was no way they'd know I'm a mage...”

“I think it was more the fact that I took you from them.” He said. “You know, I never introduced myself. How'd you know my name?” Claire bit back a curse as she realized she had made yet another mistake, though this time the drugs had been clouding her judgment. How was she going to get past this one?

She sighed. “Let's just say it was magic.”

“Magic...” He grumbled. “You gotta give me a better answer than that.” Claire twitched, trying to figure out what to say then. She hadn't been caught before, never had to have a reason... Visions of the future then? How lame that sounded...

“I saw you in a dream...” She said quietly. “But the events in the dream didn't take place until much later. I didn't expect you to be here now, else I would have avoided the place.” She stood up.

“You're joking.” He said, then paused. “Except that you're not... Why would you dream of me?”

“Well, you're not alone in the dream.” She said. “But... I... I shouldn't have told you. I need to go.” She turned, but he had grabbed her arm.

“Hey, take it easy, all right? I'll see you around, Seer.” She smiled and nodded, then hurried away, glad that he hadn't pressed her further.

 


 

It took her far longer than she had expected to get to anything looking like what she'd expect Tevinter to look like, but there it was, a great number of cities far beneath her. But which one should she go to? Minrathous? Being the capital and all, maybe it would be the best chance for her, but it was a lot further up the coast and she was already getting exhausted. And what was she supposed to do there, anyway? Should she find a school, or become the apprentice to a magister? And how was one to do that, anyway? She pushed herself, looking for the mighty capital.

It was a lot warmer than in Ferelden and Claire was glad she'd found some lighter clothing to wear. People kept staring at her, and she couldn't blame them. She didn't look anything like them. Again, her pale skin, blond hair and blue eyes stuck out like a sore thumb, and she wondered if that would be a good thing, or a bad thing, when trying to get someone to train her. She also had no idea if she should even tell anyone she was somniari. Titus never did, as far as she knew, and he had succeeded in becoming quite adept. She was not going to go find him, however. She needed someone who wasn't so prominent, but still a magister.

“Excuse me.” A sharp male voice spoke up behind her, so she turned. There was a man dressed in fancy robes, his black mustache curled at the ends, his head shiny and bald like a stereotypical villain, and he was looking at Claire with a grin. “I couldn't help but notice you're dressed so... differently. Might I ask where you're from?”

“Um, I just came over from Ferelden.” She said. “From the Wilds.” Why did she say that? Her clothing was from Kirkwall.

He looked surprised, but still smiled. “Oh, a barbarian! What do they call them, Chasind, yes? I am Magister Tyranius, and I have a proposition for you, that is, if you have nowhere to stay.”

He was a magister, it was her chance... “My name is Claire, but I'm not actually Chasind. They just took me in after I was abandoned, left to die. See, I'm a mage and the Templars wanted to kill me so I had to leave.”

He seemed even more pleased. “Oh, dear, we won't do that here.” He said. “Come, then, I will have my slaves prepare some food.” Slaves... she cringed at that, but she would see if they were treated poorly or not. She nodded and the magister put his arm around her and talked to her about the city as they walked back to his mansion. She was beyond lost by the time they arrived, and she was impressed with how large it was. He hurried her in and took advantage of her disorientation to keep her confused, informing his slaves to get her dressed and properly prepared. Claire didn't know what was going on as a group of slaves descended upon her, dragging her off to a secluded room, and proceeded to attempt to undress her.

“Hey wait, stop!” She said, fending them off.

“But the master said we're to get you dressed...” One of the elven maids said, looking pitiful.

“Can I at least undress myself?” Claire asked. “I'm not a huge fan of getting naked in front of a bunch of strangers.”

“You'll need to get used to it sooner than later.” A gruff looking woman said. “Otherwise you won't last long here.”

“So, am I to be a slave then?” Claire asked. “He didn't really say, but that's what they do, isn't it?” Looking around, she saw there were five women in all, three elves and two humans, and they were all dressed provocatively.

“It will be a lot easier if you let us help you.” Another elf said, reaching for the straps on Claire's dress. Claire moved away and quickly undid her dress.

“No, please, not now. I'll... I'll do it.” From apostate running for her life to slave in the Imperium. Coming to Thedas was definitely not what she had imagined it to be. Standing there naked in a room full of slaves... They helped her into an outfit similar to

theirs, though her flat chest didn't help matters. She felt like she looked like a little boy playing dress up.

“We need to hurry and get you back out there.” The gruff woman said. “I am Alessandra, by the way.”

“I'm Claire.” She said as Alessandra ushered her out into the main hall. It was a beautiful layout, great architecture, with high ceilings that had great acoustics, but to her, it had suddenly become a prison.

“Ah, there's my little barbarian.” Tyranius said, walking towards them.

“So I'm to be a slave then?” Claire asked, frowning.

“You can't blame me for snatching up an opportunity like you.” He said. “No family ties, fresh into the city, no claims on you... Of course, you'll still receive training for your magic, I can't have you turning into an abomination or anything on me, now, can I? And if you prove good enough, perhaps you can become my apprentice. At the moment, you look too much like a boy, and that's just not my thing.” She cringed as he put his arm around her waist. “We'll just have to wait for you to fill out a bit up top.” He put a hand under her top, brushing his fingers against her nipple, and she reflexively jerked away, staring at the ground, blushing angrily. He grabbed the back of her head and turned her towards him.

“You'll learn soon enough that you must allow me to do whatever I want with you.” He said. “You are my property now, and you will be marked as such.” He made a movement with his hand and laid his fingers on the left side of her chest. Searing pain burned into her flesh as she tried to get away, but it was too late. He had put a mark on her. As she stood there gasping, he laughed.

“Perhaps I'll have to teach you obedience.” He said. Turning to Alessandra, he said, “Put her in isolation. I'll decide when to let her out.” He smacked her on the rear as she was led off and she wondered if she was going to be able to escape when the time came.

 


 

The following night, Claire was dragged out of the isolation chamber and stripped, then adorned with a jeweled collar and led to the magister's chambers. Claire's heart was trying to beat out of her chest, her mouth dry, and dizziness making her stumble. The elf who had led her there gave her a pitying look as she handed the magister the leash and left.

“That's a good girl.” Tyranius said as Claire slowly approached the bed. He was completely naked, lying with his legs spread apart. Claire felt sick and looked away. He was holding her chain, however, giving her no choice but to comply. “Your body is probably the least desirable of all my slaves, looking far too much like a boy's.” He said, shaking his head. “But you must learn to obey, and I will teach you.” She had arrived at the edge of the bed and he pulled her onto the bed, attaching the chain to a hook on the headboard so she was on her hands and knees.

His hands roamed her body, gently exploring her like someone looking over a horse for sale, from her feet to her head. He ran his tongue along her back, seemingly enjoying the fact that she was shaking. He spread her legs, running his fingers between them, caressing her, then he shoved his thumb into her. She cried out in pain, making him laugh as he curved his thumb and pulled it out.

“Good to see you're still a virgin.” He said. “I do like my slaves fresh.” She wanted to use her magic against him, she wanted to destroy him. But most of all, she wanted to escape. She heard the swish of a riding crop and she looked back in fear as he brandished it, smiling at her. “You'll see what happens when my slaves disobey. I'll keep you a virgin for now, but I will tan your hide.”

 


 

After her punishment, she was stuck back in isolation where she was able to heal her wounds. If only she could heal her pride, and kill the magister... However, being in isolation was far from the torture he probably thought it would be for Claire, and instead she enjoyed being able to just relax for once. The cell wasn't very big, but it was big enough for her to stretch out in and she found herself drifting off to sleep.

Anders.

She needed to find Anders and let him know what had happened, that she had made it. She awoke in the Fade and tried to figure out what to do to find someone so far away. If the Fade just reacted to her will, then surely she could just form a portal to take her to Anders, right? She wove her will around the Fade, molding it, making it bend to her desires. There, before her, was a blue swirling portal. She stepped through, excited that it had worked, only to find herself just on a different island that was completely devoid of anything. She frowned and wondered what had gone wrong.

She spent the rest of the night trying to figure out how to find Anders, to no avail, and woke up feeling far from rested. At least in isolation, she was given food and water so her hunger was satiated. That night she tried again to find Anders, while practicing manipulating the Fade. It wasn't until her third night that she even got anywhere.

She found herself just wandering, traveling as far into the Fade as she could, searching for Anders. It was interesting that there were demons who thought they could trick her, but she always knew they weren't Anders. She was starting to really see the Fade for what it was, and the different elements and how she could manipulate them. She looked up to the Black City and thought that if she truly wanted to, she could probably visit it, but she didn't feel like becoming a darkspawn.

As she wandered, she eventually came to a place she thought resembled the tower in Ferelden and renewed her search for Anders. She was fascinated by the place, and how different it all looked in the Fade. She began weaving her will into the place, putting things in order, bookcases right side up on the floor, nothing floating around...

“Excuse me, what kind of spirit are you?” Claire whirled around and saw a boy, maybe ten years old, staring at her. He had black hair and hazel eyes full of curiosity.

“I'm not a spirit.” She said, smiling at him. “My name is Claire, and I was just reorganizing this place.”

“That's what spirits do, isn't it?” He asked. “My name is Evan.”

“I... don't suppose your last name is Amell?” Claire asked, wondering if it was even possible. His eyes went wide and he nodded.

“How did you know?” He asked. “You must be a spirit!”

“Stay strong.” She said. “You have a long ways to go, but I believe you'll be a great mage some day.” Or he would be killed by the Templars when trying to free his friend who ended up being a blood mage...

“It was nice meeting you.” He said. “I don't know why everyone always says spirits are scary. Spirits can be friends.”

“They can!” She smiled at him. “But remember, sometimes our desires can warp them, and change them into demons. You must always be vigilant.” He nodded, then ran off.

“I feared you'd died.” Claire saw Anders walking up, looking back at where the boy had been. “I wasn't sure I'd see you again.” He looked happy, but nervous.

“Hello, Anders.” She said. “And no, I'm not dead.” She smiled timidly at him. “Though sometimes I wish I was. It was hard finding you from Tevinter...”

“It's not easy.” He said. “I know we haven't known each other for long, but knowing you escaped gave me hope. Perhaps not for me, but ya know, as long as someone can escape... Seeing you almost die, and having it be because of me... I heard what he said to you, what he would do if you didn't run... Why would you do that? You sacrificed yourself for me, and I can't stop thinking about it.”

Claire fidgeted, again at a loss of what to say. “I don't know...” She said. “I don't think I could handle it, having them hurt you because of me. I think they would have killed us both, had I not run. Daric knew I'm not a normal mage.”

“But hey, look at you now, you're in Tevinter!” He smiled.

“And I'm a slave.” She groaned. “I'm afraid to mess with the magister's head... what if it backfires on me? He said he would train me, but... I don't know how long I'll be able to handle being a slave! Forced to obey his every whim... he...” She shuddered, remembering his touch, and rubbed her arm. “I can't just outright kill him, even if I want to... It's a lot harder than I thought and I have so much to learn.” He shrugged and she looked at him, contemplating.

“I could probably make you forget.” She said. “If that would help, I could make you forget you ever met me.” His expression turned to horror and disgust and she regretted saying anything.

“What? No!” He said. “Aside from not wanting you messing with my head with your untrained magic, I don't want to forget you. And for all I know, you'd turn me into a drooling simpleton.”

“Oh, that's great, so much faith in me!” She snorted. “I'm sorry, it was a silly thought. I don't know if I'll be able to visit you very much, it takes a lot of effort to get this far. The Fade is... it just... isn't just the place you go when you sleep, it's like an entirely different dimension overlaid onto the physical realm, but yet more than just a metaphysical realm, more than just incorporeal creatures can roam it...”

“I'm older than you and I don't even know what half those words mean.” Anders said. “Where would you learn all that?”

Claire blushed. “Oh... back when my parents were alive, they taught me. They were very well educated. I just wish I could have learned more. But that's beside the point! What I mean is that I may not be able to travel this far very often.”

“You're a very strange girl.” He chuckled. “I'll look forward to your next visit then.” Claire felt herself blush at his smile, feeling incredibly silly and suddenly bashful. Maker... She hadn't been so bad when she was sleeping with him on the road! Why would she suddenly get embarrassed? Especially since she didn't think he could care about her in any other way than as a little sister figure. Maybe if she would actually grow breasts, she would be easier to see in a sexual way. Maybe it was because of what the magister had done to her... What he had said, not to mention what the slaver and Varric had thought of her.

“Um... Anders, can I ask you something?” She couldn't believe what she was about to ask. He looked at her expectantly, so she continued. “Do I... do I look like a boy to you?”
He frowned and looked confused. “Not particularly.” He said. “Why?”

“It was just... the magister says I look like a boy.” She said. “He... said my body is not desirable, but that didn't stop him anyway...” It felt weird to say and she felt the tears threatening again. “I just wanted to know... I need to go.”

“You're just a girl.” Anders said, grabbing her arm, gently but firmly. “Don't listen to him, you still have years before you become a woman, and I'm sure you'll be a beautiful one.” She looked at him strangely, not sure how to feel about it. “And I'm sure you'll be able to defeat him and escape before he's able to truly hurt you...”

“I'll survive.” She said, smiling, trying to make light of her situation. “I mean, what's a little rape and torture compared to being abandoned in the Wilds to die, or being chased by sadistic Templars? At least I'm fed and not fearing for my life...” Dammit, she couldn't stop the tears. Why on earth was she even telling him this? He wasn't her friend, she didn't actually really know him! What she knew was a computer variation... this was a real person, with real opinions and feelings, who didn't know her. She turned to go, but he wrapped his arms around her and held her, surprising her.

“Stay strong.” He said. “I'll be here if you need to talk. I can at least do that.”

Chapter Text

Every night she could, Claire went into the Fade and studied it. She spoke with spirits and demons alike, though the demons were not always so easy to work with. The desire to enter her world was strong in them, and she had to be stronger. Every so often she would seek out Anders, although she wasn't able to find him all the time. He always seemed genuinely happy to see her, too, which made her confused, but she never questioned it. She also practiced manipulating the Fade, discovering the different scenes she could create, and every so often, she would recreate something from her world, from her time before Thedas.

She'd been in Thedas for two years and she wasn't sure she even wanted to go back home. The magister kept her busy learning magic and had started to allow her more freedoms, such as visiting the library, which was nice since the slaves weren't allowed to socialize much. She studied as much as she could, reading up on the Dreamers of old, the papers that were published on the Fade, and everything else she could get her hands on. Tyranius had also decided that since her chest had filled out some by the time she was fifteen, she was more desirable. She hadn't been in his chamber since that one night a year prior, but he decided that she needed to do more for him and ordered her up again.

Abelia, one of the elven slaves, was also called for, and they were led to the magister's chamber, nude except for a jeweled collar and a sheer robe. Abelia had beautiful auburn hair and green eyes, and she was the only slave who would really speak to Claire whenever they had a chance, and Claire found herself growing attached to her. However, walking beside her, naked and heading to be forced to do some strange sex act, was not something Claire had had in mind when considering a friendship with the elf. She'd heard stories from the other slaves of Tyranius' sexual appetite and she considered herself very lucky she had been spared for a year.

Her anxiety grew with every step they took closer to the magister's chamber and she glanced at Abelia. The elf seemed calm, and Claire wondered if she was just used to it, if she had been a slave her entire life. How different it would be to know nothing else! Poor Claire, she had had a life of freedom, stripped away from her...

They entered the chamber and Tyranius smiled wide, sending chills down Claire's spine. “It's time for your new training, Claire.” Tyranius said. “And Abelia here will help tutor you.”

 


  

Despite her constant bedroom 'training,' the magister kept Claire a virgin, and she wondered if he was saving her for some horrible sacrifice or blood magic ritual. She constantly felt dirty and didn't think that she was any less violated than if he was actually having sex with her. Why was she allowing him to do this to her? Why hadn't she ventured into his dreams yet, to change his mind? The nightmares she was having, the panic attacks every time she was called to his room... Abelia tried to comfort her, but it wasn't something the elf could understand or relate to, having grown up in the lifestyle.

After a few months of it, Claire went into the Fade and sought out Tyranius' dream, hoping that just because he was a mage himself didn't mean that he was awake in the Fade. As she searched, she prayed he was dreaming... The Maker must have heard her, for she found Tyranius' dream and entered it with no problems.

She was in a large room, with the walls made of great stones, and there on the dais next to a large stone altar was Tyranius. He was leaning over an elf who was naked and tied down, her auburn hair splayed out around her head. Abelia struggled, but she was tied too tightly. Claire could feel the magister's emotions surrounding her, and it made her sick. He was never a very good mage compared to the others, but he was good enough to be made a magister, and he was always looking for a way to get the leg up on the others. He had no delusions of becoming archon, but he wouldn't mind a bit more power, and if that meant sacrificing his favorite slave, then so be it.

Claire felt her heart skip a beat as he raised the ceremonial blade and found herself running up to the altar.

“No!” She said. “You don't need to do it this way!” She looked into Abelia's eyes and saw adoration as the elf smiled up at her. She had to remind herself that it was just the magister's dream version of the girl and focused on him.

“You don't understand!” He spat. “Who are you but a slave?”

“I am more powerful than you'll ever be and you know it!” Claire snapped back. “If you make me your apprentice you could show me off, show all those other magisters that you are worth something to get someone like me as an apprentice. And I will stick by you, no matter how many offers to leave you I get.”

He looked surprised, then nodded. “I have been thinking as much.” He said. “I have been watching you, after all. You know that as my apprentice, you're still not much better than a slave to me?”

She could feel his lie and shook her head. “That's not true. Apprentices are much better than slaves.”

“Fine.” He said, angry. “Then how about a compromise? You continue to do your... extra lessons... and I won't torture Abelia.” She had already alerted him to her presence, he would be prepared next time. Would she ever learn not to give people a weapon against her? She nodded and stepped back out of his dream. She was exhausted, and feeling a bit depressed about being blackmailed. The real test would be to find out in the morning whether he would actually remember it, and go through with it.

Despite her exhaustion, she decided to spend the rest of her time in the Fade searching for Anders again. It had been a while since she had last seen him, not since the extra lessons had started, and she really missed him. Letting her will guide her, she found herself back in the Ferelden tower area, and in front of Anders. He was staring at a small amulet and looking more depressed than she had imagined he could.

“Anders...” She spoke softly, not wanting to alarm him. He clenched his fist around the amulet and stared at nothing.

“The most common way for a Circle mage to die is by his own hand.” He said. She recognized it from the game, though they were a long ways off from when he said it then.

“Did you lose someone...?” She asked. “Are you going to be all right?”

“We knew he wasn't going to last.” He said. “If we grow attached, it only gives the Templars more power over us. I still thought I could at least try to help him.”

“I'm sorry.” Claire said, putting a comforting hand on his back. “I wish there was a way to help.”

“I came here hoping to see him one last time.”

“Did you... did you love him?” She asked. He looked at her sharply, eyes narrowed.

“Love him...?” He asked. “As in was he my lover? No! What would give you that idea?”

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend.” Claire said, backing up. Why did she have to go and open her mouth? Hadn't she learned anything? She supposed she was just trying to figure out if he did like men, or just women, or both, but she had picked the wrong time. He shrugged tiredly and looked back at the amulet.

“I don't like to form friendships, especially in the tower. He was just a few years younger than me, not someone who should take their own life, but I'm apparently not the right person to talk to about that sort of thing.” He tossed the amulet to the side and looked at Claire, smiling. “You've grown! And here you were worried.” He was trying to put on a happy face for her, but she could still see the hurt in his eyes.

“It would have been better had I stayed flat chested.” She groaned. “But oh well. Other than mourning the loss of yet another apprentice, how are you doing?” She wasn't feeling up to talking about her life, but by the look he was giving her, she didn't think she had much of a choice.

“What do you mean, what did the magister do to you?” He asked, narrowing his eyes like an overprotective brother. Claire looked at him, worried about what he would say if he found out.

“Um, not really something that's good to repeat in polite company.” She said, blushing.

“Claire, if he's hurting you...” He grew angry. “He hasn't ruined you, has he?”

“Ruined me?” Claire asked, seriously confused. “Ruined me for what? I'm still alive and I have all my limbs, and I can still do my magic just fine, and he's training me.” He cupped her face in his hand and she flinched away.

“What about for physical contact?” He asked. “Can you even bear the touch of a man anymore?” He dropped his hand to his side. Her eyes flashed angrily as she stared at the ground, hot tears coursing down her face.

“I can't even stand the touch of a woman, or... or anyone. But that's the price I have to pay for being what I am. I... I'm no better than a demon!” It was a thought that had been plaguing her since she had discovered she was somniari. She could manipulate the Fade, change people's dreams, influence dreamers, learn their secrets... and how else was she to learn magic from those experienced in dealing with somniari than to apprentice with a magister? He had all the books and scrolls, and she was learning a lot from him in general, from a culture that embraced magic rather than shunned it. Anders looked at her in shock.

“A demon? You are nothing like a demon!” He yelled. “And you should not feel like you deserve to be... tortured like this, just for being who you are! You're still a human, with feelings, and those matter! You matter!” Claire fell to the ground sobbing. Why did he have to care? She was just supposed to be a nobody, someone who didn't matter, someone outside of the story... She was going to mess everything up... She felt strong arms around her, holding her, and at first it sent a jolt of fear into her heart and she tried to pull away, but he was still there, gentle and caring, not asking for anything in return.

“I should just make you forget me.” Claire said, sniffling as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “It's not fair for you.”

“Don't you dare.” He growled. “I am here for you willingly. And don't think about never coming back to see me, because I'll find you myself, somehow.”

“Why do you care so much?” She asked. He hesitated for a moment before responding.

“I dunno... I feel protective of you, have since I ran into you in the forest looking all lost and alone. Besides, you risked a lot for me when you didn't have to, and when I wasn't even in any real danger. Why do you care so much?” He had a good point, one she would have to think about carefully before replying, so she didn't give any game info away.

After a moment, she said, “I hate to see others in pain, and I hate how the mages are treated in Ferelden, or the Free Marches, or well... most of Thedas. Seeing you being abused by the Templars... It's funny you say you feel protective of me, when I want to protect you. I suppose we can watch each other's backs.” She sighed. “I know I've said it before, but I've never had a friend like you before... certainly not since before my parents died. You know, I had a decent life until I turned twelve, then it just fell apart...”

“You too?” He asked. “Except it was my father who sold me out to the Templars, and off I was packed to the tower. Seems to be a popular age...”

“I suppose you're essentially an orphan, too, then.” She said. After a moment of silence, she said, “Here, let me lighten the mood a bit. Where do you want to go most of all?”

“I keep hearing about the white beaches of Llomerynn.” He said. “I think those would be fun to visit. I've never been to a beach, you know. I don't think the coast of Ferelden counts for much, since it's mostly just cliffs.”

“Considering I grew up on a beach, I think I can figure something out.” She laughed and stood up, concentrating. “I've been practicing, but I didn't want to show you until I was really good at it.” She focused on the sand, making it white like she'd seen in pictures, with little seashells and the occasional pebble. Then the ocean, with gentle lapping waves going in and out, licking the shore. She poured her memories into it, forming the sky with puffy white clouds and seagulls, and for added measure, she put in plant life, with palm trees and ferns. Anders bent down and grabbed a handful of sand.

“This is so real... The smells, the air... I feel like I'm not in the Fade...”

“Scary?” She asked. “I don't know how to feel about it. It helps me escape, but the thought that I can use this for nefarious purposes scares me. What I know, what I can do... what I've seen...” Maybe one day she would tell him she could see the future, but she was terrified of how he would react to that.

“I suppose it is a bit terrifying.” He said. “But I trust you. Now me? I would be haunting all the Templars in the tower, giving them nightmares of them chasing apostates, then realizing they're not wearing any pants!”

“Hah, that'd be hilarious to see.” She said. “If I find one who particularly displeases me... I might have to remember that.” Anders walked over to the water and let the waves wash over his hand.

“It must have been amazing to grow up on a beach.” He said. “What other places have you been to?”

“How about the next time I visit, I show you?” She smiled.

“Then I hope your next visit is soon.” He said, smirking.

 


 

Claire decided to visit him a few days later, but was very confused when she saw his expression.

“Um, is everything all right?” She asked.

“I've just been thinking...” He said. “You mentioned you grew up on a beach, yet you're paler than most Fereldens. I have met a few Rivaini in my life, and they're fairly tanned. It just strikes me as strange.”

“Oh, is that all?” She laughed. “My family is actually not from Long Beach, they just moved there when I was maybe three.” Not sure how else to show him her Nordic ancestry, she created Whiterun, from Skyrim, surrounded by tall white mountains. Concentrating really hard, she created male voices singing the song Nord Mead, a song done by her favorite fan musician. Anders listened for a while, then looked at her sharply.

“Those words, they say they kill dragons?” She nodded.

“They're a tribe of warriors, the Nords. Although I don't think there's been a dragon sighted in years.”

“I've never heard of the Nords.” He said. “I've never heard of this Long Beach, either. Are you sure you're from this world?” Again she was caught without a proper answer. She wracked her brain and finally came up with something.

“There is a lot more to the world than just Thedas.” She said. “So much more above Par Vollen. Where do you think the Qunari came from?”

“And you were sent here by magic then?” He sounded skeptical and she rolled her eyes at him.

“Of course, how else would I have gotten here?” She said. “Just because my people shun magic doesn't mean they don't use magical relics. Too bad that technology has been lost.” She had just pretty much sealed the fact she would never tell him where she was really from. He looked around Whiterun again.

“It's cold here, probably colder than Ferelden.” He said.

“You should see the amount of snow they get in the winter.” She said, weaving the wintry world around them, with only three feet of snow, and she dropped the temp down to something that wouldn't kill them outright, but would show how cold it could get.

“Andraste's flaming knickerweasles!” Anders yelled. “Are you trying to kill me?” She brought the temp back up and laughed.

“Do you see why my parents moved to the beach?” She asked.

“Yes, very much so.” He rubbed his arms trying to get some more warmth back into them, so she changed the season to summer, a nice warm climate.

“It's at least pretty in the springtime and summer.” She bent down and picked a little white flower. “Maybe when I get better, I can create proper animals too and we can go horse riding.”

“That sounds like fun.”

“I'll keep practicing then.” He grinned at her and laid down on the grass, looking up at the clouds.

“I wish we could stay here forever...”

“Maybe one of these days...”

Chapter Text

Ferelden.

Its bitter winter air made Claire glad she had spells to ward against the cold as she tucked her cloak around her battle mage armor. The clouds were gathering overhead, threatening rain, but she didn't care. She made her way down the rocky path, heading towards Denerim, where she was hoping to find a job to gather more coin until the Blight. The Wardens probably didn't even know it was coming yet, as it was only Verimensis, or as the Fereldens called it, Wintermarch, just a couple months over nine years after she had first arrived in Thedas.

Tyranius hadn't wanted to let her go, but she could be pretty convincing when she was angry. She smirked, remembering how all she had to do was make herself glow and he had changed his mind. He knew she had grown more powerful than he could ever be and hadn't wanted to test her. He had tried to convince her to stay, to become a magister herself, saying that she could be an incredibly powerful one, but she said she didn't want it, she wanted to be free, and she had business in Ferelden.

And then she turned, gloating at having won, and saw Abelia's face. Claire had gone to her and gently ran her hand down the elf's cheek.

“Are you going to be all right?” She'd asked. Abelia shrugged and looked down. “I can take you with me, if you like, but it won't be an easy life. There will be days without food or shelter.”

“I'll be fine.” Abelia had smiled. “Don't forget me, though.”

“Just send the word and I'll set you free.” Claire had grasped her friend in a hug before wrapping the cloak around her shoulders and walking out the doors. Abelia had been a good friend and she had made sure the elf would be taken care of, as well as the other slaves, though little did they realize.

She looked around at the tall pines surrounding her and wondered if she shouldn't fly to Denerim. She had flown most of the trip already, why not complete the journey? She sighed and continued walking. She needed to get used to it, she thought, since she would be surrounded by humans afraid of magic again. She would need to get rid of the armor, too, hide it somewhere until Ostagar, and just wear a plain Ferelden style dress so she would blend in better. Bloody Fereldens and their fear of magic. Tevinter may not have been a wonderful place with its blood magic and slaves and backstabbing politics, but at least she, as a mage, was able to practice magic without fear. Was there nowhere in Thedas where the two could live in harmony?

She walked most of the day and realized by the time the sun started to set that she hadn't eaten since the previous afternoon. She sighed and looked around. There to the south, she saw some farmland and a plume of smoke was rising from the chimney. She headed for it and saw some people still working, using as much of the daylight as they could. An older man, maybe in his forties, with grey streaks in his otherwise brown hair, was working with two younger men, maybe early twenties or younger. A woman nearby was taking wash off the line and Claire figured she was about the same age as the man. A shrill shriek pierced the air and Claire looked over to see two little girls, twins, running around and giggling. One of the young men had spotted Claire and pointed, saying something to his father.

“Hoy, what brings you here?” The older man yelled. Claire hurried her steps so she wouldn't have to yell, but they seemed very wary of her.

“I've been out traveling and have not eaten all day.” Claire said. “I am starving and it's getting dark, and I was wondering if there was anything I could do for maybe a bit of bread and a place to sleep?” The men shared a nervous look and Claire noticed the woman and the two girls were coming over.

“I-I beg your pardon, but are you an apostate?” The father asked. “That staff...” Claire grabbed the staff and twirled it around, slamming it into the ground.

“You're more afraid of my staff than my sword?” She asked. She gave a hollow laugh. “I have seen skilled swordsmen take out multiple mages without getting hit once.”

“You're not doing anything to set us at ease.” One of the sons said.

“We want nothing to do with magic.” The woman said, her voice shaking. Claire wondered if they were just afraid, or if they had had a bad run in with a mage before. Either way, she was thinking it was a mistake to seek any sort of assistance. She could always deny her magical abilities, or if she was the evil sort, she could even force them to help her, but she was too tired to care who knew any longer.

“Not all mages are evil, you know.” She said. “I've no idea why you're so afraid, but I will respect your wishes and leave.” She put her staff back on her back and turned into an owl, flying as high as she could, as quick as she could.

“She's a Witch of the Wilds!” She heard the father gasp. She wasn't happy with her amazing hearing at the time, she didn't need to hear them freaking out about her visiting some curse upon them. She should know better than to talk to people... She found a secluded area in the nearby forest and settled down to sleep.

It wasn't hard to find Anders, she'd gotten pretty proficient at finding people in the Fade, but she was sad to see he was locked in a nightmare. She was nervous about entering it, though, since it had been at least two years since she had last visited him. She had been afraid he was starting to like her and was contemplating not seeing him again anyway when he had yelled at her.

“How great for you!” He had snarled at her after she told him about another ancient temple she'd explored. “You get to be trained by some great magister, showing off your magic, free, and I'm stuck here in this blasted tower never getting to see the outside world! Go, then. Go show off to someone else! And don't bother coming back!” She could still hear his words as if it was yesterday and so she stared at his nightmare.

He was in solitary confinement, surely he would welcome anyone, right? She slipped in, glad that she had perfected being stealthy so no one would know she had ever visited, and looked around. She was in a dark dungeon and there were three Templars, one of which was heating a brand in a small box of coals. The brand... “You can't do this to me!” She heard Anders yell. She looked quickly around and spotted Anders, stripped to his small clothes, being dragged into the room by a couple other Templars. He was fighting them as hard as he could, but they acted like they didn't even notice as they forced him down with his back against the wall.

She noticed his hair was tied back in a ponytail and he was wearing an earring, perhaps a prize from his last escape. There was a profound fear in his eyes while he watched the Templars laugh as they pulled out the white hot brand. One of the Templars grabbed Anders by the hair and jerked his head back. The mage struggled to break free, tears streaming down his face, and Claire couldn't stand to watch so she yelled and banished the Templars, watching with glee as they disappeared into smoke. She stepped out into the dim light and looked down at Anders.

“I can't leave you alone for two years without you trying to go get made tranquil in your dreams?” She sighed, making the ropes binding his hands fall away. He stared at her, bewildered, as he rubbed his wrists.

“Claire...” He said, his voice choking up. He quickly stood up and grabbed her, hugging her. “I can't believe you came back!”

“You said you didn't want me to.” She said, resting her head on his shoulder and hugged him back, relishing how good it felt. “But it was too hard to stay away and now that I'm back in Ferelden, I just had to see you...”

“I shouldn't have taken my anger out on you.” He said. “And I wish you had come back sooner. They have me locked away in solitary confinement for a year, just for escaping. I'm going mad in here!”

“Oh Anders... I'm so sorry.” She looked at him sadly. “How many more months do you have, or have you lost track?”

He shrugged. “I dunno, maybe half a year left.” He said. “It doesn't really matter anymore, does it? They'll just keep thinking of worse things to do to me each time I escape... They even sent Karl away.”

“Even Karl?” Claire sighed. “But you won't stop escaping, will you? They can't break you, and curse them for trying.”

“Please... just... take me somewhere else.” He said. “I don't want to be reminded of my situation right now.” Claire nodded and tore down the dream, building up a large, dark rainforest instead. She was pleased she could still remember all the sounds, the birds, the leopards, the frogs, insects... It was so noisy and colorful, nothing like what she'd shown Anders before.

“What is this place?” He gasped, reaching towards a bright green tree snake.

“It's a rainforest.” She smiled at him as the snake slithered down and started wrapping itself around his arm. He seemed almost alarmed by it, but also fascinated.

“Everything is so... bright.” He said. A leopard jumped down from a tree and padded over to them and Claire began petting it as Anders backed up.

“I've seen pictures of tigers, but I don't think I've ever seen a cat like that before.” He pulled the snake off and tossed it to the side, watching in wonder as Claire snuggled with the big cat.

“Don't be afraid, it's a leopard.” She said. “Remember, I'm in control and you're safe here.” He knelt down and put his arms around the cat, feeling the softness of the fur. It butted its head into him and pushed its body against him as if to tell him to pet it, making him laugh.

“I wouldn't mind having one of these in reality.” He said. “Show those Templars who's boss.”

“Anders... are you going to be all right?” She asked. “I'm worried about you...” He stood up, smiling at her, and she caught herself looking at his bare chest with lust in her heart. Oh it wasn't fair... That he should be locked up in solitary confinement, and not with her, running around Ferelden...

“I'll be fine.” He said. “So long as you continue to provide me with distractions, that is!” He laughed, and it sent shivers down her spine as she felt herself getting hot. But no, he probably still thought of her as something like a little sister... She could tell, the way he treated her compared to how he'd talked about Karl, and it would be awkward to mention anything. Sighing, she created a squirrel monkey and had it climb up Anders and sit on his shoulder, tail wrapped around his neck. He stared at it in surprise, then looked at Claire as if to ask for help, so she made it get off him and ride the leopard instead.

“What in the Maker's name is that?” He asked.

“It's a monkey!” She replied, smiling. “There are so many animals out there... Ferelden certainly doesn't have a wide variety... I thought I'd show you some of the others there are.”

“I'm... not entirely sure I like your monkey.” He said. “I'll keep the leopard though.” Claire's heart just wasn't in it and she wanted to leave. She hadn't realized how hard it would be to be near Anders again, nor had she realized how much she actually cared about him, in that she even wanted to have a physical relationship with the man. Even though she had worked past most of the inhibitions her bedroom lessons had created, she was still wary of being touched, yet she felt comfortable around her oldest friend. She was just able to hide the inhibitions better, and flirt more.

Flirt. Anders hadn't flirted with her at all and it just made it more obvious that he didn't consider her as something that could be more. But then, she hadn't flirted with him either, had she?

“Hey, are you all right?” He asked, laying a hand on her shoulder. She jerked away, then cringed.

“I'm sorry, I was just... thinking.” She said.

“You still can't handle being touched, even after all these years?” His voice was soft and worried, and it made Claire ache. Had she never told him how the magister had used Abelia against her so that she would continue the lessons?

“You just surprised me, is all.” She said, giving him a smile. “I've gotten a lot better.”

“Good! Maybe one of these days I can give you one of my famous massages, then.” He winked at her and she had to quickly distract her thoughts away from Anders by petting the leopard.

“That... that would be nice, I think.” She said. They started walking silently through the forest, with Claire making a path as they went, enjoying all the sights and sounds. She put parrots all around them, and toucans, and other birds that probably didn't even live in the rain forest. Anders would never know. She set up a cliff covered in rivers and waterfalls falling into a large basin, making it so that they were able to look out over the vast expanse of trees.

“It's amazing.” Anders said. He glanced over at her, then back to the waterfalls, making Claire wonder what was wrong.

Then he asked, “Did you leave anyone... special, behind in Tevinter?” Claire shrugged, missing his hesitation and meaning. The only one she had thought special was the slave who helped her through so much.

“Abelia... She was an elven slave and...” Claire blushed, remembering the special moments the two had shared. They'd never been lovers, Claire just didn't feel that way about women, but the elf had helped her get past most of her fears and anxieties about being touched and without her, Claire wasn't sure she would have been able to tolerate Tyranius' bedroom games. “I would have taken her with me, but this is no life for a girl like her. She was too used to being a slave, it was all she knew, and she was well cared for there.”

“Oh.” Anders sounded... surprised, yet disappointed? Was he expecting some sordid love affair or something? “You sound like you're trying to convince yourself that it was better to leave her.”

“It was.” She said. “There's no need to convince myself. Things are happening here that... well, you'll see.”

“What's that supposed to mean?” He asked, narrowing his eyes. “What are you planning?”

“I'm not planning anything.” She said, sitting down at the edge of the cliff. “It's... Anders... I... I think I saw a vision of the future.” She had to tell him something, she felt like he was her only friend, and surely he would understand... No, no he would not understand. He would want her to change it. Shit. She screwed up again.

“You're joking.” He said. “No one can see the future.”

“We'll see...” She laughed nervously. “I'm afraid to tell anyone, and I didn't want to tell you... it just... I shouldn't have told you. It was probably just a nightmare...” He sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulders.

“Care to tell me about it anyway?” He asked. She could feel her heart trying to beat out of her chest as she started to panic. It was just Anders! She needed to calm down.

Clearing her throat, she said, “I don't know if I should tell you. Promise you won't tell anyone else? I just... saw a Blight. The darkspawn were coming up, and there was a huge battle at Ostagar, and King Cailan was killed, along with all the Grey Wardens, and the entire land was plunged into chaos.” She closed her eyes and envisioned it, hearing the screams of the people as they were slaughtered, as Loghain quit the field, and she felt Anders' grip tighten on her. Looking up, she saw they were sitting in the middle of the battlefield.

She watched as the king was picked up by the ogre and crushed, tossed to the side like a rag doll, and as Duncan killed the ogre and was struck down himself.

“Claire...” Anders' voice was quiet with a hint of urgency in it. “I think we should not be here.” She was staring in horror as everyone was dying in front of her. Even in the game, this part made her cry, and tears were coursing down her cheeks. She couldn't look away.

“Claire!” Anders grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her until she looked at him. She quickly changed it to a serene valley by a lake and broke down sobbing.

“It feels so real!” She cried. “And I keep seeing them die...”

“It may not come to pass.” Anders said, gently hugging her. “It may be a demon playing tricks on you, trying to weaken you. You need to stay strong.” Oh if only he knew! But he would soon enough. She nodded, leaning her forehead against his bare chest, enjoying being held again.

“I'm hoping to try to get a job working for the Wardens as a maid or something.” Claire said. “I just... I need to know.”

“Be careful.” He said. “The Wardens are smart, and I would hate for you to get in trouble, or worse, recruited... If you're not cautious, they'll be able to tell you're a mage.”

“I'll be careful, and if I do get caught, well... I can fix that.” She smiled a little. “Though I don't think that I would want to... From what I saw of Duncan, the commander, he is an honorable and reasonable man. You saw how he took down the ogre...”

“You seem to have gotten a lot more information than I did from that vision.” He said.

“I... can feel everything... When I look at the people...” She shuddered and pulled away from Anders. “Duncan feels that he failed Cailan, and King Maric's bastard son Alistair. I can feel so many thoughts and feelings from him... When I look at the king, he thinks of Empress Celene in a way that indicates there was more than friendship going on... Loghain abandoned the king to die, but there are so many feelings going on with him as well. That he felt it was a lost cause, that Cailan wasn't fit to rule, and that he should be the one to put things right. He felt the Wardens had corrupted the young king, and that they aren't needed to stop a Blight. He will tear Ferelden apart with his ideals...”

“This is getting creepy.” Anders said, staring at her with a hint of fear in his eyes. “Why are you telling me this?” She frowned and backed up further.

“I... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...” She felt herself close to tears again. “Forget I said anything, it was just my imagination. I need to go.”

“Claire wait!” She jumped out of the Fade before she could change her mind, waking up in a cold sweat. There was no way she would be able to go back to sleep, so she became an owl and took to the skies, heading to Denerim, trying desperately to forget her mistake. The great city she had gotten so close to before loomed over her, ominous and threatening. She had to remind herself that it was just a city, and that the people in it hadn't gone off the deep end just yet. She had decided to walk in as a human, as she would not get a chance to shapeshift much, especially if she was to work for the Wardens. The dust of the road kept getting into her nose and by the time she made it to the gates, she ended up in a sneezing fit.

“Maker, are you all right?” A tenor voice spoke up behind her. She looked and saw an elf with messy brown hair staring at her, a chunk of bread in his hand and a waterskin by his side. She felt her stomach rumble as she stared at the bread.

“Thank you, I'm fine, just a bit of dust.” She said. “I um... I don't suppose you have any extra food...?” He suddenly looked anxious and reached into his bag to pull out another chunk of bread.

“I'm sorry, it's not much...” He said, a waver in his voice. Claire sat down next him and carefully took the bread.

“Thank you so much. I haven't eaten in a while, not today, nor all day yesterday...” She said. “My name is Claire, by the way.”

“Alberoth.” He said. “Um, nice to meet you.”

“Am I making you nervous?” She asked. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to come off as intimidating or anything...” The elf shook his head, but Claire could tell.

“No, no, it's fine, don't mind me!” He laughed nervously. She frowned as she took a bite. Despite being a bit on the stale side, it was amazing how good it tasted. Before she knew it, it was gone and her stomach was demanding more.

“You know I can tell I'm intimidating you.” She sighed. “So I'll just leave you alone then, but thank you again for the bread. If I get a chance, I'll repay you.” He looked even more antsy than before.

“No, no payment is necessary!”

“Just tell me why.” She said. “Please, what is it about me that's so scary?”

“You're wearing that armor... and the staff... and you just seem like a mage, or at least someone who would chop my head off if I say something wrong.” He said. “Shems don't like us elves, after all.”

“Where I'm from, everyone is treated equally.” It wasn't entirely true, but they certainly tried. “I don't care what you are, I'll treat you just the same as anyone else. With courtesy and respect.” He looked at her like she was insane, but nodded. “But, since I suppose I'll continue to make you nervous, I'll take my leave now. Thanks again.”

“No wait!” He shook his head. “I'm sorry, I just... don't know how to react when a shem – I mean a human, treats me, well, decent. I don't know where you're from, but I think I want to go there!”

“Well, I can't go back home, but when I was studying in the Korcari Wilds, there were some Dalish clans nearby, in the Brecilian forest.” Claire was wondering if it would be possible to take him there in exchange for some help, or if it would mess up the story. His eyes lit up like a kid in a toy store.

“You know the Dalish? Please, please, take me there?”

“I don't know them, really, but I suppose I could take you, if you help me a little first?” She hoped he would take the deal, and by the look in his eyes, he would.

“Of course, what do you need help with?” He asked eagerly. “I don't exactly have money, but I can do other things.”

“Obviously my armor is intimidating, and I'll need to hide the staff as well...” She said. “I just need a dress to change into, and simple shoes. That's all.” He looked at her skeptically, but nodded.

“That I can do.” He said. “There's a lady in town who owes me a favor, she had dresses and shoes and stuff. Follow me.” He gathered his things up and started walking to the city. Claire noted that she was actually taller than him, and she wondered if she had grown a lot since she went to Tevinter. She hadn't noticed before with Abelia or Alessandra, if she had grown as tall, or taller, than them. The real test would be on Varric...

Walking through Denerim was exciting. It was so much larger than the game could show and she could smell so many different things. It was true, there was a lot of dog poop around, and dust, but there was also the smell of smoke, of meat cooking, and various herbs and flowers, and leather. Besides the smells, the sights were interesting too, something rather different than anywhere else she'd been. There were women in fancy dresses and others in peasant dresses all perusing the market, with men in armor or in plain clothes. She was sad to see the elves being treated poorly, but had to remember to not draw attention to herself just yet.

Alberoth walked into one of the shops and Claire almost missed it, trying not to stare at the pair of Grey Wardens walking their way. They were wearing the classic blue and white colors with the twin griffin crest on their chest plates and they looked like they were in a good mood. Oh how she wanted to just work in the Warden base, just to listen to their tales and see what being a Warden was really all about. All she ever saw was with Alistair, really, and he'd only been a Warden for six months before...

She hurried inside the shop and looked around. Alberoth was speaking with the proprietor and gestured towards Claire. The gruff looking woman walked over to Claire and looked her up and down.

“Yeah, sure, I can get you something decent.” She walked briskly to the back of the store and started rummaging through an old chest, then pulled out a blue dress and some shoes, tossing them to Alberoth. “Now get, both of you!” Alberoth smiled and thanked her before rushing out the door.

“I hope these fit.” He said, handing the dress and shoes to Claire. “So what now?”

“Well, I can take you to the Dalish now, or you can wait until my business here is done.” She said. She had no idea when that would be or if she would even be able to get in to work with the Wardens, or if she'd have to think of something else to do.

“Now?” He asked. “As in, right this minute? I... as much as I would love to, I should probably make sure things are ready back home.”

“Then I'll come find you when I can.” She said. “I don't know how long it'll take, maybe a few months. Once I get in, I won't be able to get out until it's done.” Alberoth frowned, but nodded.

“I suppose I can wait then. Just don't forget me, all right?”

“I won't.” She smiled at him, bowed, and walked off. She needed to find a place to store her things while she was busy pretending to not be a mage, but where would be good? She wandered around behind the buildings, looking for a good place to put the stuff. Finally, she decided to just become a Mabari and dig a hole by the wall to put the stuff in. She made sure no one was around and got dressed in the new dress, pleased that it actually fit. The shoes were a little tight, but she would live. She bundled her armor and old clothes up and laid them in the hole with her staff, then set up wards and protective spells to guard them while she was gone.

After she covered her stuff back up, making the area look like the rest of the wall, she brushed herself off and went searching for the Warden base. It was an old looking building, with a gate and courtyard like a typical estate would have, but there were Wardens milling about out front. Claire started to lose her nerve seeing all the Wardens and turned to leave when someone ran up behind her and grabbed her shoulder.

“Hey, we're not all scary!” He said. She turned and saw a happy young man with trim brown hair and amber eyes that seemed to twinkle with his charming smile. “What did you need? I expect you came here for a reason.”

“I just... I've been looking for work and I've heard so many stories of the Grey Wardens, and surely you would need someone to cook and clean, right?” She couldn't believe how nervous she was! He raised an eyebrow and chuckled.

“Not very often someone comes to us for work!” He said. “Tell you what, I'll take you to see the commander and he'll tell us what we can do with you.” He turned, then said, “By the way, my name is Stefen.”

“I'm Claire, nice to meet you!” She said. “Thank you.”

“Eh, don't thank me yet, let's wait and see if you can get a job.” He laughed as he opened the door. It had different architecture than the Tevinter structures she was used to, and found she got turned around and had no idea how to get back out. He led her up stairs and through hallways until they got to a large room with a desk in one corner. Behind the desk sat a man Claire instantly recognized with his dark hair pulled back into a ponytail and his beard and mustache

“Hey, Commander, found this girl outside, says she's looking for work and so... you know...” Stefen grinned as Duncan groaned and shook his head. The Warden-Commander got up and walked over to Claire, looking her up and down.

“And why would you seek work here with the Grey Wardens?” He asked. “I'm assuming you aren't looking to be recruited. What are your skills?” Haunting people's dreams, killing people while they slept, turning into animals, and if she wanted to really add to the fun, she could add sexually pleasing lecherous magisters to the list.

“I've heard stories about the Wardens and I love them, I love hearing about you. I can cook, clean, mend armor, serve food, sharpen weapons, garden... anything, really.” She cringed at how desperate she sounded, but Tyranius did like to make her do a variety of things. Duncan narrowed his eyes as he looked at her.

“And where would you have learned all that?” He asked. She clamped down on her anxiety, trying not to let her voice waver too much.

“I... please, ser, I would prefer not to say.” She said.

“If you want to work for us, you need to be forthcoming in your information.” Duncan said. “We do not judge or discriminate here.”

“I'm sorry, ser.” She said, blushing. What could she tell him? “It's just that... I'm an escaped slave from Tevinter... please, please don't make me go back.” She looked at him with pleading eyes.

“A slave?” Stefen exclaimed. “From Tevinter? Why would you come here then? Surely the Free Marches would be closer...”

“Stefen.” Duncan shook his head. He turned back to Claire. “We do not tolerate slavery here and would never send a slave back to a Tevinter master. Very well then, Stefen, take her to the cook. I know she was complaining about too much work, now she'll have help. When you're done, come back and report.” Stefen saluted and led Claire away.

“Tevinter, really?” He asked. “How did you manage to escape? I know those magisters like to keep a tight leash on their slaves.”

“You have no idea how true those words are.” Claire grumbled, hoping she would never see another collar again. “I saw an opportunity and ran. With the head start I had, and the lack of a magical leash, I think I was able to elude him. Look, I would prefer not to speak of it, please...” He looked at her sadly.

“I'm sorry, it's just such a strange concept to me. The closest we have here to slaves are the mages, and I suppose the elves.”

“Yes, your way of dealing with mages is deplorable, I've noticed.” She said. “Fear of what Tevinter has become shouldn't be an excuse to lock mages up like criminals.”

“Hah, you should talk to Cedrik!” Stefen's smile was contagious and Claire found herself feeling happy for the first time in a long time. “He's always going on about the plight of mages. I can't really blame him, I suppose, considering what he's been through... But seriously, I think he'd get a kick out of talking to you. Oh, here's the kitchen!” He shoved open a small door and let Claire pass him. The kitchen was large room with an island in the center, covered in vegetables and meat. A small male elf sat in a corner peeling potatoes and a large robust woman was cutting carrots into a pot hanging over the fire. She turned, seeing Stefen with Claire, and glared at them.

“What's this? More mouths to feed?” She grumbled. “As if I didn't have enough work to do...” Stefen chuckled and pushed Claire forward.

“Dona, I brought you someone to help out!” There was an evil glint in the woman's eyes as she studied Claire, grinning, her grey hair a wild mess.

“Bout time you got me new blood!” She laughed. “Well then, what're you standing around for? Grab a knife and help Ian out with those potatoes!” Claire bobbed her head and grabbed the nearest knife, hurrying to the corner. She was glad she was used to being a slave, it would help her be one of the best workers the cook would ever know.

 


 

“So what'd you think of her, Commander?” Stefen asked, walking into Duncan's office. “Should have seen how fast she started working when we got to the kitchen! And Maker, can she peel a potato. Cook shouldn't have any problems now.”

“There's something about her, I can't quite put my finger on it.” Duncan said.

“You don't trust her?” Stefen asked, surprised. “She seems pretty legit to me.”

“Keep an eye on her, just the same.” Duncan said. “And let the others know as well. I don't want to take any chances.”

“You think she's a Tevinter spy?” Stefen asked.

“Who's a Tevinter spy?” A serious looking man with black hair showed up. Stefen found Jasper's black eyes too unnerving as the man stared at them, unblinking.

“Well we don't know for certain, but there was this girl I found outside who said she wanted a job, so she's working in the kitchen...”

“She claims she's an escaped slave from Tevinter.” Duncan said.

“And you don't trust her.” Jasper said. “I'm fairly good at getting information from people, shall I befriend her?”

“Try not to draw attention to yourself.” Duncan said. “We don't need her getting suspicious. I want you two to warn the others so they don't accidentally leak information to her. Now, was there something you needed to see me for, Jasper?”

Chapter Text

Once the cook told Claire and Ian they could stop working, Claire was ready to collapse, exhausted and hungry. She'd managed to get a little bit of food from Dona, but the cook was a bit overprotective of the stuff, so she didn't want to appear a glutton on her first day. She walked up to Ian, wondering how the elf managed to keep his long brown hair looking so nice after so much work.

“Is there a washroom of some sort I can get cleaned up?” She asked.

“Oh, yeah, sure, follow me.” He said. She tried to keep track of where they were going, noting it was getting easier to pick out key things to remind her of where she was. Above the kitchen door was a blue and white griffin banner, and as Ian led her into the washroom, she noted there was a strange looking potted planted nearby and the door had a small chunk taken out of it.

“Thank you.” She smiled at him as he shrugged and walked off. She looked around the room and saw there were actual stalls, each one with a bucket of water. There must have been more servants and maids to keep up with it all, though she did notice not all of the 'toilets' were clean. She decided to use an already used one before finding a clean bucket to wash up in. Since she was still alone, she figured it would be ok to use a little magic to dry her hair. There was no reason for her to stop using magic altogether, was there?

She put her shoes back on after soaking her sore feet and decided she would need to find shoes that actually fit and soon, since she was already getting blisters. She would heal them once she got into bed, but she couldn't just keep healing them, she needed to actually prevent it from happening. At least her dress fit and wasn't that dirty, though she figured she would have to wash it the next day. How did they do that, anyway? She had no spare clothing to wear while it dried. She sighed, figuring she'd just have to use magic for it.

What was she going to do? She had gotten a job with the Wardens, the people she was so fascinated by, only to feel completely lost and like she should leave. She wasn't meant for working in the kitchen, though she didn't know what she was meant for. What was someone outside the timeline supposed to do? She started absentmindedly picking at the hem on her dress, getting lost in her thoughts and being completely oblivious to the Warden who walked in.

“Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize anyone was in here!” The man said. Claire jerked her head up to lock her gaze with black, scary eyes. She jumped up, knocking over the stool she'd been sitting on, and started stammering.

“N-no, it's all right, I'm done.” She said. “Th-there's plenty for everyone, anyway.” She blushed and dropped her gaze to the floor as she hurried for the door. The Warden stepped in front of her, blocking her path, and she felt her heart stop as she tried to figure out what he wanted. At least with Tyranius, she knew what he expected of her, but how was she supposed to react to the Wardens?

“You don't need to leave on my account.” He said, his voice gentle. “I didn't mean to startle you. My name is Jasper.” She looked up at him, seeing his expression was one of curiosity, nothing more.

“I'm Claire.” She said, laughing nervously. “Sorry, I'm not used to anything yet. They haven't even told me where I get to sleep.”

“Hmm, I suppose I should show you, then.” He said. “You look like you could use a good night's sleep. Just wait for me in the hall, I'll be right out.” She nodded and stepped out, shutting the door behind her.

The hall was empty and she was glad for it. She was amazed that she was having such a reaction to being in close proximity to people again, though she supposed it shouldn't be a surprise, all things considered. She had spent quite a bit of time as a slave, even treated as such while an apprentice, then spent who knows how long alone on the road, sleeping in trees and bushes and living on dry tack, trying to get back to Ferelden. Ferelden was quite different from Tevinter, and Denerim was very different from the Wilds. It was a culture she only knew a little about because of the games, and it had been just over nine years since she had played those. She was surprised she remembered as much as she did.

“Daydreaming again?” Jasper asked, smiling as Claire jumped.

“Sorry, I'm just tired.” She said.

“So why are you here, working?” He asked. She shrugged.

“I was looking for work because, well, I need to be able to eat somehow, right? And I wandered into the courtyard, but when I turned to leave, Grey Warden Stefen stopped me and took me to the commander.”

“So had it not been for Stefen, you would have gone elsewhere?” He asked.

“Yeah...” She wasn't feeling much like talking, but he kept pressing.

“So where are you from?”

“I... I've been traveling a bit.” She said. “But that's not something that's lucrative when one wants to actually sleep in a real bed or eat real food.”

“Well we're almost to the servants' quarters, so you'll be able to sleep at least.” Jasper gave her an encouraging smile and she felt herself feeling like he was someone she might be able to trust. “Have you eaten? I expect having worked in the kitchen, you probably ate well!” She cringed inside, hoping he hadn't spoken with Dona.

“Yeah, I had some food.” She said, smiling back, praying her damnable stomach wasn't audible. “Better than I've eaten in weeks.”

“Good, we like to keep our workers happy.” He gestured to a door and Claire picked out the landmarks so she could find it the following day. “Here's the servants' quarters. I'll show you an empty bunk you can have.” He opened the door and walked in, and Claire saw it was just a large room with two rows of bunk beds, with a chest in between them and another chest at the ends of each one. There were various other people milling about, getting ready for bed, paying them no mind. He pointed at one that had the sheets folded neatly at the foot of the bed.

“Here, you can have the bottom one, and the chest at the end will be yours.” He said. “We do have people who take care of the bedclothes, so you won't have to worry about that, however we do expect you to clean up after yourself.”

“Of course.” She said.

“One more thing, can you sit on the bed?” He asked, waving his hand towards it. She looked at him, surprised, but complied, feeling her anxiety rising once more. He knelt down and grabbed her foot. She gasped as he pulled the shoe off and examined her foot. “Blisters, but not as bad as I thought. I saw how you were walking...”

“I... lost my boots...” She said. “Someone was kind enough to give me these shoes today, in exchange for a favor...”

“Your dress also looks pretty good.” She tried to wrestle her foot away, but he took the other one instead, taking the shoe off.

“I also got it today, since my other one wasn't fit for seeking employment.” She said. “Please, what are you doing?” She struggled to get away from him, her panic overwhelming her. Seeing her fear, he got up and sat on the bed beside her, taking her hands in his.

“I'm not going to hurt you.” He said, concerned. “You don't need to be afraid of me.” Claire realized she was shaking as a tear escaped, sliding down her cheek.

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean...”

“Maker, woman, don't apologize, either.” He said, exasperated. “You're a person, just the same as everyone else. You don't need to be afraid of anyone here, nor do you need to be sorry for it. I can't imagine what kind of life you left to come here!” A life of torture, apparently. She just hadn't realized how bad off she really was. Just having him hold her hands was making her upset.

“It's going to take a lot to get used to, apparently.” She said.

“I'll leave you to your sleep then.” He said. “Just let us know if you need anything at all.” She nodded and watched him leave, feeling confused and depressed.

 


  

“So you don't think she's a spy?” Stefen asked after Jasper had told him and the others what he'd observed with Claire while they got ready to sleep. He sounded disappointed and Jasper shook his head. The young Warden was always looking for excitement everywhere and one day he was going to find the wrong kind.

“I made her cry just by taking off her shoes.” Jasper said. “She was terrified and I don't think she can handle physical contact.”

“Makes me wonder what the magister did to her.” Markus said. “I've heard stories... never gave them much credit until now, though.”

“Let's not pry.” Jasper said. “I think she just needs to be left alone for a while and shown that we can be trusted.”

“Those blighted magisters, ruining the good name of mages everywhere.” Cedrik grumble as he checked over his staff. “Oh sure, we can try to show her that we can be trusted, but how well has that worked for mages in general? A thousand years!” Markus rolled his eyes.

“Well fine then, you can avoid the girl altogether, if you want.” Stefen said. “But from what she told me, I think you two would get along fine.”

“Oh? And what did she tell you?” Cedrik was in such a bad mood, Stefen wasn't sure he wanted to answer.

“She called our treatment of mages deplorable.” Stefen said, feeling smug satisfaction at Cedrik's expression. “She doesn't think they should be locked up like criminals just because we fear Tevinter. So I think it's safe to say she only dislikes Tevinters.”

“Well then, don't I feel like an ass.” Cedrik said. “Maybe I should talk to her after all.”

“Either way, we should get some sleep, and don't bother her too much.” Jasper said, crawling into his bunk. “And could one of you see that she actually eats tomorrow? I talked to Dona and she said the girl had a small bit of bread and hadn't been seen near the dinner table. I need to ask someone to get her shoes that fit... and maybe another dress...”

“Oh just go to sleep!” Markus said. “She's sounding like more of a hassle than she's worth!”

“I think we can spare five minutes a day to check on our workers.” Stefen said. “We've not much better to do with our spare time, after all!” Markus grumbled in response, covering his head with his pillow.

 


 

Claire was conflicted as she wandered the Fade, wondering if she should see Anders again, especially so soon after... But she wanted to talk to someone, and he was all she had, and if she didn't talk to someone, she would end up just lying down in a depressive funk, waiting to die. Feeling a weight pressing down on her shoulders that was all too familiar, she found Anders. He ran over to her, and seemed like he wanted to hug her, but he held back.

“Claire! I didn't think to see you again so soon.” He said. His hesitation made Claire feel worse, for some reason, and she was starting to regret her visit.

“I know... I just, wanted to say hi, I guess.” She was having a hard time not showing her depression, and knew he saw through it.

“After that last time...” He closed the distance and hugged her. “I was worried about you. And now I can tell something is really bothering you. Is it the vision again?”

“No, I... I found the Wardens, and they gave me a job.” She said, resting the side of her face on his shoulder. “Everything happened so fast, you know? I didn't expect my first day in Denerim to land me in the Warden base, I thought it would take longer... and then...”

“Did they do anything to you?” He asked, again reminding Claire of an overprotective brother. She shook her head.

“I just realized that I'm more broken than I thought... One of the Wardens made me sit on the bed so he could look at my feet, because my shoes are too small, and I freaked out... I can't handle it, Anders... I keep expecting them to want me to... do things...”

“Is my hugging you a problem?” He asked softly. She shook her head again.

“I trust you.” She said. “I've known you for so long... You've never done anything to cause me to fear you.” Instead, she had grown to like him more and more, and enjoyed the exhilaration she felt at his touch. He chuckled and squeezed her.

“Well that's good to know!” He said.

“I just didn't think I'd end up being such a scaredy cat.” She sighed. “Me, a super powerful mage who can bend people to my will through their dreams... me, who can kill people through the Fade. Me, who can turn into animals at will, who fought through demons to discover the secret of the dragon...”

“Humans, I've found, can be the scariest things ever.” Anders said. “I don't see any cats trying to lock me up, keeping me in solitary confinement...”

“True.” She chuckled, then realized he was still holding her. She didn't mind, but it surprised her. Not to mention it was raising her mood a bit. “I guess I'll either have to learn how to deal with my fears, or I'll have to leave them without any answers.”

“You could always try to get me out of solitary confinement...” He said.

“You know how scary that is for me!” She said, pulling away from him. “I... I don't want to screw up! It just feels like... it makes me feel dirty to mess with people and I'm terrified of messing things up. It could cost someone their life! But... do you know who would be the one to let you out? I'll at least think about it, and explore...” The relief on his face was so evident, Claire wondered if he was going to hate her if she failed.

“Thank you.” He said. “I don't know how much more of this I can take... I believe you would have to find Knight-Commander Greagoir.”

“I'll let you know what I find out... please though, not tonight.” She said. “Please, I don't think I could handle it.” He looked at her with concern in his eyes.

“As much as I want out now, I cannot force you.” He said. “Nor would I want to, especially when you're already so upset. It's just hard to sit here and watch you have the power that I want so badly, and yet you do nothing with it.”

“Anders...” She bit her lip, upset that he would be putting that kind of guilt on her, yet at the same time unable to fault him for it. If she didn't know the future, if she didn't know that things could go very badly if she messed with things, she would help him in a heartbeat. She would break in herself and rescue him, but she couldn't. She knew he had to go through the year, escape, get made a Grey Warden, meet Justice... oh if she could stop that from happening...

“Let's just talk about something else.” He said. She could tell he was still annoyed and all her good feelings disappeared, replaced with black claws of despair dragging her down. She should have ended her life all those years ago in the Wilds. Maybe she could suicide by Warden... She was certain they would be very quick about it, and efficient.

“I should just go.” Claire said. “I'm sorry I'm not very good company tonight.” He grabbed her arm and pulled her close.

“Don't go, please.” He said. “I don't care if you aren't happy and excited all the time, and if you're depressed, all the more reason for you to stay. Any company right now is better than nothing, for both of us. I just wish I was there to comfort you in person.”

“This is close.” Claire said. “And I'll take it. I really missed you those two years, I don't want to lose you again. You're my only friend now.”

“Friends...” He sounded almost disgusted by the word and she wondered why that would be such a bad thing, to be friends. Unless he thought of her as family... She had no idea what his thoughts on family or friends were anymore.

“You know, my parents believed that the best of friends became family.” She said, hoping it would help. “They didn't believe blood was as important, especially when it was family who turned on us and our friends who were there for us. I had quite a few aunts and uncles growing up who weren't related in any way.”

“That is... strangely disturbing.” He said.

“How so?”

“What if one of your 'cousins' fell in love with you?” He asked. “Wouldn't that bother you, if you considered them family?” Claire frowned, trying to figure out what his angle was.

“I actually don't know... I was twelve when everything fell apart, so I wasn't all that interested in a romantic relationship. You're probably the closest I have to family and I...” She blushed, hoping he hadn't caught the gist of what she was saying. She couldn't think of him as family at all, no matter what he thought of her. Was that what he meant?

“What about that elf... Abelia, right?” He asked. “You didn't consider her family, did you?”

“No, actually, I didn't.” She felt more like the elf's guardian, but because of what they were made to do together, the thought of her as a sister never crossed her mind. She was more like a lover, even though Claire never felt the way she felt about Anders towards Abelia. She thought she finally figured out what he was getting at. “I suppose it would be hard to consider a cousin as a romantic partner. You grow up with them, thinking of them as family, growing close like siblings... it doesn't stop some, I'm sure, but I think I see what you're saying.”

“Do you...” He turned his back towards her, looking up at the Black City.

“Or maybe I don't.” She said. “You're really confusing me.”

“I'm confusing you?” He laughed. “You're the one who brought up the fact you consider friends family.”

“Yes but...”

“It's just such a strange concept to me.” He continued. “In the Circle, we're all just a bunch of prisoners, no family, just people we either want to kill, fuck, or ignore.”

“But surely you have friends in the tower, or if not you personally, some of them.” She said.

“Doesn't mean they consider each other family.”

“Oh... I'm sorry I brought it up, I didn't realize...” She was having a harder time understanding him the more she visited him and tried to convince herself it was just the solitary confinement messing with his head. “Talking to you never used to be so confusing. I never know when I'm going to make you angry anymore... Maybe I lost something in those two years... maybe the solitary confinement is just getting to you, I don't know, but what I do know is I don't think this is really good for either of us, is it?”

He looked stricken. “You can't mean that.” He said, panic clear in his voice. “Please, you can't leave me.”

“But look at us! I just seem to keep saying the wrong thing, you're just irritated with me, yet you don't want me to leave?” She clenched her fists. “I don't know what you want from me! Do you just want me around to use me? To use my powers? Or do you actually care about me, and my feelings?”

“I do care about you.” He said, grabbing her hands. “And while I may want you to use your powers to get me out of this prison, can you blame me?”

“If I refuse to help you, would you still care about me?” She asked, feeling a knot forming in her throat. Surely he couldn't care for her in the way she did for him... She daren't hope for it.

“I admit it would be difficult.” He said. “But I can't just abandon you, not after so long, after all you've already done for me.”

“I can't blame you, really.” She said. “And I do want you out. I can't stand to see you being tormented so. Just... give me time.”

“Of course!” He said. “I am sorry, for getting mad at you.”

“Let's just go take a walk somewhere quiet and pretty, shall we?”

 


  

For the next few weeks, Claire kept to herself. The Wardens would occasionally say hello in passing or if they came to the kitchen to sneak some food, but for the most part, she had no conversations with anyone. She avoided the Fade as well, dreading the idea of even touching the knight-commander's mind. She knew they had the Litany of Adralla, but she wasn't sure they would use it. She could always lie to Anders... Except that she would feel horrible about it. She had no idea what the ramifications of him getting out early would be, but she could see it going badly. How could she just tell him that she saw his future? That she knew what was going to happen to him in the next seven years? And what he was going to do to the world?

Aside from those thoughts, Claire worked as hard as she could and constantly kept herself busy for fear she would fall into a deep depression. She had found the garden staff and they allowed her to help out in her free time and she would just listen to them chatter as they tended to the plants. She learned all the Ferelden plants, as there were some she didn't recognize, and she would recite how to make the potions in her head, not wanting Ilina's teachings to go to waste. Maryska's daughter was a young girl by this time, and just the thought of them made Claire want to go back. Would they accept her back? The odd pale girl from the north?

Strange little things also kept happening to Claire during that time as well. After her first two days, someone must have learned she wasn't eating much and had started putting out food specifically for her, though she wasn't sure who. Dona and Ian claimed they didn't know either, so Claire stopped pursuing it and just accepted that someone was going to make sure she ate. Another thing was that on her second morning there, someone had replaced her shoes with soft leather boots that actually fit. On the third day, she found a dress draped over her chest with a note saying it was for her.

By the middle of the second month she was there, Dona had her run out to the market to get special supplies, making it her first trip into the city since she had arrived. She hurried out the front door, a little excited to be out and about again, but as she got to the gate, she felt like she was being followed. She stole a quick glance and noticed a Grey Warden mage behind her. He had light brown hair cut short on the sides but long enough up top that it fell down onto his forehead, and he seemed to just be going about his normal business. She shrugged off the paranoia and focused instead on her task. She needed to hurry and find the grocer with the fresh produce.

“Excuse me.” She stopped and looked back. The mage had caught up to her and was smiling at her. “I've seen you around the base, haven't I? My name's Cedrik.”

“Hello, I'm Claire.” She said. “I work in the kitchen and I'm just picking up some things for dinner.”

“Mind if I join you? I've nothing better to do with my time off.” His hazel eyes seemed to be laughing and she felt her heart flutter when their gaze met.

“Um, sure, I suppose.” She said. Surely he could tell she was a mage... She had been avoiding anyone who looked like a mage because of how mages could sense the power in each other, much like Grey Wardens could sense the taint. Surely this Cedrik could feel hers... Unless maybe he just wasn't paying attention?

“How do you like working with the Wardens?” He asked.

“It's kinda fun, though I'm so busy I hardly notice anything around me.” She said. “There's a lot to do there.”

“True, and it's the people like you that make our job so much easier.” He chuckled. “Could you imagine us Wardens doing everything? There'd be no time for practice!” She had gotten to the grocer and handed the man her list and the basket.

“It would be terrible indeed.” She said. “We need you Wardens, no matter what most people think. The darkspawn aren't gone, the dwarves fight them all the time, and there will be another Blight one of these days.” He eyed her suspiciously.

“How strange to hear someone say that.” He said. “And the Blight may be closer at hand than you imagine, so we must stay ever vigilant.”

“Maybe if people talked to dwarves more they wouldn't be so keen on saying the darkspawn are gone.” Clair grumbled. “How horribly selfish of us surfacers to take the dwarves for granted. They are our shield.”

“You sound like you've spent time with the dwarves.” He said.

“Not enough...” She shrugged. The grocer handed her the basket back and she passed off the coin before heading back towards the base.

“Still, I'm finding it very strange indeed that you would know so much about the dwarves and the darkspawn.” Cedrik's gaze was making her nervous and she wished he would leave her alone. “Maker knows it's hard enough to convince the people of Ferelden that we're needed, it makes me worry that if there is a Blight, they'll think they can defeat it without us.”

“Because people don't know how an archdemon is killed.” Claire clamped her mouth shut too late and wished the world would open up and swallow her. He grabbed her roughly by the arm and practically dragged her into the courtyard and over to a small secluded area where he pinned her against the wall, making her drop the basket. She was shaking, with tears pouring down her face, and she thought she was going to pass out from the panic attack.

“How do you know that?” Cedrik hissed, pinning her harder, bruising her. “How would you know how an archdemon is killed? That's not something we talk about! Not even all the Wardens know that! Answer me!”

“Th-the m-magister... he... he had ancient manuscripts.” She was going to throw up. “Please, please let me go...” She started sobbing. “I didn't know it was wrong... please...” She was so glad she was in enough control of her magic that nothing was leaking. She knew what would happen if she lost control... He loosened his grip and started healing her.

“I'm sorry.” He said, his voice much softer and shaky. “I shouldn't have lost it with you.” He moved away from her, cursing under his breath as he ran a hand over his face. She quickly picked up the basket, glad to see nothing had fallen out, and started walking back to the entrance.

“Wait.” He said, touching her arm. She jerked away and stared at him, afraid he might do something else. When he just looked at her, unable to say anything, she ran through the door and headed for the kitchen.

“What took you so long?” Dona asked, grabbing the basket.

“I'm sorry, I was waylaid.” Claire said. “It won't happen again.” The cook gave her a strange look, then shooed her off.

“Go, get cleaned up.” Dona said. “You're a mess.” Claire nodded and headed to the washroom, praying the mage wouldn't find her again. She prayed he would try to avoid her, something she would be very happy about. She was so thankful the washroom was empty and proceeded to heat her tub of water before soaking her feet and washing her face. Maybe she should just fly away and pretend she had never met anyone in Denerim, pretend that Anders never existed... just fly off, find Par Vollen and then keep going.

Who was she kidding, she couldn't pretend she'd never met Anders, although perhaps it would be better if she were to make herself a dim memory for him... make it so that she had died all those years ago...

She spent the rest of the day hiding, only going to bed long after everyone else, then avoided the Fade as well. She wasn't in the mood to speak to anyone.

 


  

Cedrik was far too embarrassed to speak to anyone about what he'd done to Claire, or what she'd told him, but he was worried about her. He thought to find her in the kitchen, but even the elf was missing. Dona was busy chopping up the vegetables Claire had bought, so he knew she had to have been there.

“Hey, where's Claire?” He asked, trying to sound casual. Dona shrugged.

“Dunno, she dropped the basket off, her face a mess. Said she got waylaid and she was sorry she was late, swore it wouldn't happen again, as if she were in trouble! So I told her to go get cleaned up and haven't seen her since. Something must have happened, her eyes were red from crying, and if I find that someone hurt her, the bastard is going to have to deal with me!” She slammed her knife down on the cutting board, scaring Cedrik.

“Oh, well, thank you anyway.” He left the kitchen feeling nervous and defeated and found himself walking up to the commander's office. Duncan would know what to do, and he should know what she knew. He braced himself, then knocked. He heard the call to come in, so he opened the door and slowly walked in.

“Yes?” Duncan asked. “Is something wrong?”

“I... don't know.” He said. “That kitchen girl, Claire? I spoke with her today and found out she knows a lot about the Grey Wardens. After I said I wouldn't be surprised if people thought they could defeat a Blight without us, she said, 'Because people don't know how an archdemon is killed.' I know she didn't explicitly say she knew how, but I... panicked. I yelled at her... demanded to know how she knew. She said the magister had ancient transcripts or something. I terrified her... I hurt her, Duncan, and now I can't find her!” Duncan rested his elbows on his desk, running his hands over his face tiredly.

“And so you think she's left?”

“I don't know...” Cedrik said.

“There is something that woman is hiding.” Duncan said. “While I may believe she's telling the truth about being a slave, there's more to it than just that. You didn't notice anything about her, magically?”

“Magical?” Cedrik was surprised. “You think she's a mage?”

“I think it is a possibility, yes.”

“But why would she be working in the kitchen then?” Cedrik asked. “Why not ask to be recruited?”

“If she knows as much as she seems to about us, then she would know about the Joining.” Duncan stood up and looked outside. “Not many would want to go through that, knowing the cost.”

“I can't believe there would be written documentation of these things in Tevinter...” Cedrik said. “It just seems so... strange. Yet, how else could she know?”

“And if she already knows so much, what would she gain by staying here if she were a spy?”

 


  

The following day, Claire acted as if nothing had happened, but it was still bothering her. Dona didn't say anything, but she kept giving Claire strange looks and it was making her nervous. Would Cedrik tell Duncan about the confrontation? And how would the commander react? Would they kick her out, or lock her up? She was so distracted that she nicked herself with the knife. As she stared stupidly at the blood dripping down her hand, Dona grabbed the knife and potato from her and shoved her towards the door.

“You go find Cedrik, get that healed.” She said. “No idea what's gotten into you, girl, but you need to figure it out. You're useless to me like this.” Claire looked at her, feeling the tears coming yet again. Maker, she was tired of crying.

“Y-yes, my lady.” She said, hurrying out the door. My lady? She groaned. Once she was alone, she healed her hand. There was no need to go bothering Cedrik over something so trivial, nor did she think anyone would notice. She went to the washroom and put her hand in the tub, watching the blood mingle with the water...

“Dona said you got injured.” Claire jumped up and stared at Cedrik, panicking. She hadn't thought things would happen so quickly.

“It was just a scratch.” She said, wishing she hadn't healed herself. How was she going to explain that? “I'm not even bleeding anymore.”

“Dona isn't usually one to exaggerate... Let me see.” He reached for her hand, but she backed away, her fear rising up in her again. He narrowed his eyes and stepped closer to her. “Why don't you want me to see?” He grabbed her hand before she could move away and looked it over. Seeing nothing, he looked up at her in shock. “You healed it, didn't you? You are a mage. Why didn't I see it before?” She broke down sobbing, falling to her knees, knowing they wouldn't let her stay any longer. Why would they let a mage work in the kitchen? What if they tried to recruit her? Or suspected her of espionage?

“Please...” She cried. “Please don't tell anyone...”

“You know I can't do that.” He said, kneeling down in front of her. “What are you so afraid of? Were you even really a slave in Tevinter, or was that just a cover?” She shook her head.

“I didn't lie.” She said. “I did escape from slavery in Tevinter... j-just because someone's a mage doesn't mean they can't be made a slave...” He let go of her hand and brushed her hair behind her ear, making her flinch away.

“And so you came to Ferelden, a place you know to be against slavery?” He asked. “Yet a place where there is no freedom for mages. I... think I understand.”

“I wasn't born in Tevinter.” She said, figuring she might as well tell everything. “After my parents died, I was left in the Korcari Wilds to die, but the Chasind saved me. The shamans tried to help me with my magic, but they couldn't so they sent me to the Witch of the Wilds. After a while, she told me to go to Tevinter to learn... On my way, I was captured by Templars, and they... tortured me, left me for dead. I managed to live and made it to Tevinter, only to be made a slave... I thought that if no one knew what I am... I thought...”

“You thought your life would be easier, but you can't hide your magic forever.” He said. “You would have had an easier time hiding in a place without mages, you know. Why come here?”

“I love the Wardens...” She said. “I love what you stand for, I love the equality. Be you prince or lowborn murderer, elf or human, mage or rogue, in the Wardens, it doesn't matter. I wanted to help out.”

“Why not join?” He asked.

“I... can't.” She said. There were so many reasons she couldn't, and shouldn't, join, but she couldn't tell him. “Just... believe me, please.”

“So you do know what the Joining entails.” She stared at the floor, not wanting to reply. “You need to talk to Duncan, tell him what you are. It would be better coming from you than me.”

“I thought I'd have longer...”

“Just one other thing.” He said. “You said the Witch of the Wilds taught you. Is her magic very different from what's taught in the Circle?”

“Very.” Claire said. “The Circle is afraid of her magic, claims it doesn't exist... Templars call them maleficar, even if they don't use blood magic...” His eyes lit up and she could tell he was eager to learn more about this Wilder magic. Maybe they would let her stay if she agreed to teach him...

“Come on, let's go talk to Duncan right away.” He grabbed her hands and pulled her up, practically dragging her to the door.

“You don't need to hold my hand.” She said.

“Oh, right, sorry.” He let go, giving her a sheepish grin. “I feel like you're going to disappear on me, though.”

“I promise, I won't leave until I'm told to.” Despite feeling like she was walking to her doom, whether she was to be made to participate in the Joining or get sent away, Cedrik's excitement brightened her mood. She saw other Wardens watching with curiosity as they made their way to the commander's office and she wondered what they were thinking. She saw Jasper raise an eyebrow, a smirk on his face as if he'd won a bet. Were they guessing she was a mage, then?

“Duncan, Claire has something she'd like to tell you.” Cedrik said, pushing Claire into the room.

“Judging by the look on your face, we were right.” Duncan said.

“So you were guessing I was a mage?” She asked. “I was really hoping no one would notice...”

“We must always be vigilant.” Duncan said. “I have spent my fair share of time with mages. So tell me, then, what would you have me do with you?”

“I'm assuming you mean either go through the Joining or leave...” She sighed.

“So you do know about the Joining as well?” Duncan asked. “Cedrik guessed as much. How much do you know of our order that you would not only know of the Joining, but how an archdemon is killed?” Claire bit her lip, annoyed with herself for giving away so much information.

“I won't tell anyone, I swear.” She said. “I know how important it is to keep it secret. If I must leave, then I will, but I cannot go through the Joining.”

“And why not?” He asked. She fidgeted, trying to think of anything to say, but she was at a loss. “I cannot force you to give up your secrets, but neither would I be able to allow you to stay. You may pack up your things, then.” Claire hung her head, but Cedrik pushed past her.

“Duncan, wait.” He said. “She knows Wilder magic, and Tevinter tricks. Maybe we can convince her to stay and teach me those! They could come in very handy! She was trained by the Witch of the Wilds, after all.” Duncan gave an exasperated sigh.

“Will you be willing to teach him?” He asked. What could go wrong with teaching him how to shapeshift? It wasn't like they were going to be around much longer anyway... oh Maker, they were all going to die. Why did she have to think of that at a time like this?

“Y-yes.” She said, forcing the thoughts of death out of her head. “I can do that.”

“Very well, you may stay then.” Duncan said. “But if I think you pose a threat in any way...”

“Understood, ser.” She said.

 


 

Later that day, she went to get her mage gear, with Cedrik trailing behind. Thankfully everything was where she had left it, her spells untouched. However, the look on Cedrik's face when she became a Mabari to dig everything up was laughable, both shocked and excited.

“Maker... You didn't tell me you could shapeshift!” He exclaimed. She wagged the stump of her tail and began digging. Once human again, she dusted her staff off. Oh how she had missed the feel of it in her hands. She would have to put the armor on later, but she missed the weight of it, as well as the freedom of movement it allowed her, rather than the restricting dresses Fereldens loved.

“Let's get back and I can at least begin teaching you.”

Chapter Text

That night, Claire got up the courage to find the Knight-Commander. She was nervous, messing with a Templar with so much experience, but she had told Anders she would at least explore the man's mind and it had been months since she had last seen her friend. She felt horrible about it, but she couldn't face him until she had done what he'd asked. She stopped by to check on Anders and saw he was dreaming, so she left him be. When she entered Greagoir's dream, she found herself in a temple of some sort, though very barren. Greagoir was kneeling before a statue of Andraste, deep in prayer, and Claire wasn't sure what to do. Who dreamed of just praying? She moved closer, curious, and lost the stealth that shielded her from dreamers.

“I can sense your presence, maleficar.” His voice rang out, cold and clear in the empty room. “You think I became knight-commander for no reason?” He stood up and looked right at her, his eyes full of fire.

“Please, I'm not a blood mage, I was just curious about you...” She said.

“A spirit?” He asked, confused. “I am no mage, why would you concern yourself with me?”

“You're a lucid dreamer.” She said. “You fascinated me, with so much dedication to your job. Yet I'm wondering why you treat mages as less than human. That is what they are, are they not?”

“There are safety precautions, lest one of your kind decides to make a mage its host.” Greagoir said, his voice bitter and harsh. “I have seen what abominations can do, seen the havoc they have created.”

“I am no demon!” She growled. “Do not compare me to them.” He looked a little surprised, but nodded.

“Fine, then.” He said. “What is the true reason for this conversation?”

“There is a mage who cries out in your tower, I can feel it so strongly.” She said. “He has been locked away from other mortals, merely for wanting to be free. I cannot comprehend the logic in this.” She figured if she was going to be thought a spirit, she might as well act it.

Greagoir sighed. “You mean Anders.” He said. “Irving doesn't feel he's a threat, yet he flaunts the rules of the tower as if they are there for no reason! You must understand that he needs to learn there are consequences to breaking these rules. We cannot just let apostates go free. We have enough problems with blood mages as it is.”

“I... suppose.” She said. “Still, the cries in the tower are most distressing. I cannot begin to tell you how to run your world, but you should know this. I feel a great tension rising among the mages. It shapes the Fade, causes ripples, and the waves are growing.”

“Are you saying there's going to be an uprising?” He asked.

“We cannot see the future.” She said. “We can just see the clouds on the horizon building up and getting darker.”

“And you feel this mage Anders is going to cause it?” The grim look on the knight-commander's face scared Claire. She was messing things up again and it might cost Anders his life.

“He is not the threat.” She said. “Nor do I know who is. There are many angry voices. His despair is just the loudest, and I cannot figure out how to ease it.”

“And you think I'm just going to let him go?” Greagoir glared at her. “The answer is no, and you can feel free to leave now. I'm done talking.” He pulled out his sword and Claire decided that it would indeed be a good idea to leave. She woke up, sweating and anxious, praying that she hadn't screwed anything up.

 


 

“Let me speak to the prisoner.” Anders heard the knight-commander and it sent fear into his heart. Claire had said she'd do something, but what if she had messed up? He hadn't seen her in over two months and he'd been driven mad with worry... Maker only knew what had happened.

“Your tricks won't work on me, mage.” Greagoir said. The door didn't open, not did he expect it to, but he could hope. Anders had to clear his throat, his voice hoarse from not speaking.

“I have no idea what you're talking about.” He said.

“Don't lie to me!” Greagoir yelled. “You've attracted the attention of a spirit, calling it to aid you, but it won't work. You will continue to serve out your sentence, and if that spirit tries again, I will call for the Rite of Tranquility. I'm tempted to anyway, since you're attracting unwanted attention from the Fade. We cannot have a danger in this tower.” Anders felt the blood freeze in his veins as he started panicking. Claire had failed then, and if she tried again... He had to find her, he couldn't wait for her to come to him.

“I really don't know what you're talking about!” Anders cried. “I haven't done anything!” He heard the knight-commander storm off and he was left to his loneliness once more, only with the threat of tranquility looming over his head. The remainder of the day was more torturous for him than normal, unable to get the nightmare of losing himself out of his head. Claire had warned him, but he was so desperate to get out that he had ignored her, instead pressuring her when she was already under a lot of stress and was obviously depressed. He had brought this on himself. How could he have done that to her, anyway? He cared for her more than he had cared for anyone before even if she would never feel the same for him, and he had almost scared her off. Maybe he had.

By the time the small amount of sunlight had disappeared from the tiny window in his cell, he found he couldn't sleep at all. He was too anxious about finding Claire, and the fact that he couldn't sleep just added to it, making him worried that he wouldn't find her in time... By the time sunlight started showing through his window again, he slipped into a troubled sleep.

“No ser, just mumbled and paced the cell all night.” Muffled voices cut through his sleep, his head throbbing. “Occasionally yelled and hit the wall.”

“Interesting...” That was the knight-commander's voice. Anders sat up, adrenaline rushing through his body. Had Claire tried again? The sudden halt of conversation got him backed into a corner, feeling as if the door was going to burst open with a contingent of Templars on the other side ready to brand him, strip him of his humanity. He would rather be dead. He would not let them take him. After about an hour of waiting for something to happen, he started to relax and began pacing the room, waiting for nighttime so he could try to sleep. He felt like he was going insane, his paranoia getting worse.

He kept thinking about all the reasons Claire hadn't visited him in two months, wondering if he had scared her off again like he had two years prior. He didn't think he could handle losing her. It was bad enough worrying about what the magister was doing to her for those two years, now that she was back in Ferelden, infiltrating a Grey Warden base with potential knowledge of the future, he was constantly thinking of her, worrying about her.

As night fell, Anders was beyond exhausted. He laid down and closed his eyes, feeling a weight of depression settling in on him. Before long, he was in the Fade, looking for Claire. As he walked, something started tugging on him. He fought against the invisible hands, but to no avail, and he quickly found himself being dragged into a swirling vortex that dropped him down into a dark valley. He hit the ground hard, and as he got up trying to get his bearings, a bright green explosion lit up the sky and the shock wave knocked him back down.

He watched in horror as the veil was torn open, ripping a hole in the sky, and in the light, he could see demons pouring out. A family ran, terrified, past him as a strange demon pursued them. It shot a beam of ice at them, instantly killing them all and leaving only frozen statues that quickly shattered. Screams filled his ears and he looked desperately around for some way to escape the nightmare. As he turned, he saw Claire, glowing and staring at the tear in the sky, her face a picture of rage and despair, tears glistening on her pale skin. The wind was blowing her hair and battle mage robes about, making her look far too powerful and dangerous, and it was scaring Anders.

She raised her open left hand, elegant and gentle, then clenched her fist tight as if grabbing something and smashed her fist into the ground. The world exploded around him, chaos reigned amid the smoke and ash falling around him. He looked around, seeing that he was in a city. People were running past him, screaming, mages fighting Templars, and there, sitting on a box in the middle of it all, was someone who looked far too similar to himself. The man's hair was done in a half up ponytail and he was wearing a black outfit, a staff on his back, and his expression was that of someone who was done with living. Claire walked up behind him and touched his shoulder, jerking her hand back as the man fell to the ground, dead. She screamed and knelt beside him, tugging at him, begging him to be alive, to be all right. When he didn't move, she buried her face in his chest, sobbing.

Anders couldn't believe what he was seeing. What was this madness and was that really him? Was this how he was going to die? At least he would have Claire by his side... He walked up to her, his heart aching to comfort her, even if she was a dream. She jumped away from his touch, staring at him with wild eyes.

“How dare you take his form.” She snarled, raising herself up as she gathered power around her, her eyes glowing with fire. Anders stumbled backwards, hands up.

“What do you mean?” He gasped. “It's just me, Anders! Claire please!” She looked ready to strike him down, she was so furious. “I swear to you it's just me!” She blinked at him, her expression softening, and then the fiery city disappeared, replaced with the raw Fade as she grasped him in a death grip.

“Where the hell were you last night?” She cried. “Why the fuck weren't you in the Fade? All the Knight-Commander was thinking about was you becoming tranquil and I couldn't find you, I couldn't find you! I searched... I thought I'd lost you, and it was all my fault!” He started chuckling as he wrapped his arms around her and squeezed.

“I thought you'd given up on me.” He said. “Then the Knight-Commander came down, claiming I was attracting unwanted attention from the Fade and if you bothered him again, he would make me tranquil.” He felt her stiffen. “You... did, didn't you. You went to see him again.”

“I couldn't find you... I thought that if I could just find out if I had screwed up, see into his mind...” She hiccuped. “His mind is very protected against me, Anders. He knew I was there. He told me I was too late... and I kind of freaked out, pouring my emotions into the dream...”

 


 

“I am very sorry to bother you, but... I can't find him.” She said, standing in front of Greagoir. She hadn't even bothered hiding from him. “I can't hear him. Please, please you didn't do anything to him because of me?”

“You're too late.” He said. “What's done is done. We cannot have mages who attract such attention from the Fade in the tower, they pose a threat to all.” She stared at the Knight-Commander in horror. She felt like her soul had been ripped in half and she had nothing to live for any longer as she was plunged into a darkness. She looked up and realized that she had lost control and was destroying Greagoir's dream with her despair. She bottled it up, sucking the darkness back into herself, and fell to the floor, screaming. Greagoir put a hand on her shoulder.

“You're no spirit, are you?” He asked. “Then what are you, if you are not a blood mage?” She tried to calm herself to answer, but it came out choked.

“A Dreamer.” She said. “I-I'm somniari, in Tevinter... I know I'm dangerous, I try not to do anything bad, but I felt horrible for not even trying...”

“And look where it got you.” He was cold and she felt like she deserved it. “People with your talents are no better than demons.”

 


 

“So I'm not safe...” He said.

“No, you have to be safe, you can't be made tranquil, or die!” She said.

“Claire...” He stepped back and wiped her tears away. “I'll be fine. I always am.”

“I don't believe you.” She said.

“I know.” He laughed softly, staring into her vibrant blue eyes. He wanted her, to hold her, to kiss her... “Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?” She jerked back, startled, and shook her head.

“Why would anyone tell me that?” She asked. “And I won't believe you, I think you're biased.”

“Number one, because it's true. Although, I never have, have I?” He frowned, surprised that he wouldn't have flirted with her by this time. Just because she loved the ladies and all, didn't mean he couldn't flirt, did it? She shook her head, smiling.

“No, and that's all right with me.” She said. He was confused by her tone, as if she wasn't all right with it. But she couldn't like him, could she? She had already said she viewed him as family.

“Well, you are.” He said, winking at her, gauging her reaction. She became visibly upset and he felt even more bewildered, wondering if he'd misinterpreted her tone. “What, I can't pay you a compliment now and then?” He asked.

“It's not that, it's just...” She shrugged. “I'm still trying to get over thinking you were tranquil... I keep expecting you to turn into a demon, that you're not really here.”

“I'm no demon, and I'm here now.” He said softly.

“But now there's a threat over your head, and it's my fault.” She said.

“You're forgetting who told you to do it.” He said. “Do not think you deserve any of the blame. It's my stupid fault for wanting to be free from this blighted tower in the first place. Apparently escaping six times is just too much for them. You had nothing to do with that.”

“I knew the risks, yet I did it anyway.” She said. “So it is at least a little bit my fault.” Why was she so insistent on blaming herself? He was feeling really irritated with her again and it made him want to laugh. One minute he wanted to kiss her, the next he wanted to smack her.

“Fine!” He said, exasperated. “If I get made tranquil, you can go wallow in your guilt, then. Will that make you happy?” She smirked and crossed her arms.

“You're cute when you're mad.” She clamped her mouth shut, blushing and looking embarrassed. He gave her a sly look.

“Oh, you think I'm cute, do you?” He asked. She shrugged and tried to look nonchalant, but she was still blushing.

“Well, you know, like baby turtle cute, not kitten cute...” It sounded like she was trying to backpedal so Anders faked a pained look as he clutched his chest.

“Oh, ow, I've seen baby turtles!” He said. “Not cute.”

“Says you.” She laughed. “I think they're adorable.”

“So what's the difference between baby turtle cute and kitten cute?” He asked.

“Ah, um, haha...” She was laughing and had turned a brilliant scarlet. “Baby turtles are cute to look at, but kittens you want to kiss and cuddle... Oh screw it, never mind, ignore what I said!” She sighed as his expression fell.

“Oh.” He felt like that was a low blow, but she was never that good at saying the right thing.

“Anders, I'm sorry, that came out completely wrong.” She said. “It was just something I remembered from back home that I always thought was funny.”

“I suppose it is, if you're not on the receiving end of it.” He pouted. He was still holding out hope that she really did think he was cute. It was something, perhaps not handsome or rugged, but still something.

“I sure know how to ruin the mood, don't I?” She smiled sadly. He shook his head and ran his hand down her cheek.

“The mood has been all over the place tonight.” He said. “But it's still a whole lot better than it was when you dragged me into your nightmare! What was that, anyway?” She fidgeted nervously.

“Tell me what you saw...”

“I was dragged in just before the veil was ripped open from some massive green explosion.” He said. “I saw demons falling from the sky, demons I have no name for, killing people... And then I was in that city and there was another explosion... That man, was that me?”

“I keep having nightmares about the future.” She said. “Just certain events, and I can see other things, little events that tie in, and their different outcomes, but they all lead up to the same big events... there is no way to stop them from happening, and from what I've seen, it is necessary. It has to happen. No matter how much I want to change it.”

“So I'm going to die like that?” He asked. She clenched her fist and turned away.

“I will save you.” She said. Her voice had become cold and determined, and he wondered what else she saw in store for him. What kind of life did he have that he would lose the will to live?

“If you dreamed of that future, surely I don't become Tranquil, then.” Anders said.

“I thought you didn't believe in my visions.” She said. He shrugged.

“I don't know, I think I'm starting to. First Ostagar, then whatever those visions were... What was the veil tear?”

“I can't tell you.” She said. “I can't tell you anything of the future. I can't risk it, but it will probably be years before they come to pass.”

“Well, at least I'll have you by my side at the end.” He said, trying to make light of the vision, but instead, her shoulders started shaking. “You don't know, do you?”

“There are too many variables.” She was crying again and all he could think to do was wrap his arms around her, comforting her.

“Let's just see where the future takes us, then.” He said. She took a deep breath and exhaled, calming herself down, the pressed herself against him, leaning her head back so her hair was tickling his face. Maker, she was torture, but he seemed to be a masochist, so he figured they made a good pair. He closed his eyes and leaned his head gently against hers, feeling the silky softness of her hair against his cheek, and he savored the moment, remembering everything he could. They stood like that for a long time, neither one wanting to break the spell that had befallen them.

When Anders finally opened his eyes, he saw they were standing at the edge of a small cliff overlooking a beautiful green valley speckled with little white flowers. There were horses grazing and he could hear the sound of a stream nearby, soothing and relaxing. If he really were to be made tranquil, out of everything else, he prayed he wouldn't lose this memory.

“This is... really nice.” She murmured. “I wonder what happens if I fall asleep in the Fade...” He chuckled.

“With the dreams you have, I don't know that I would want to find out.”

“Let's just stay like this forever.” She said. “I wish I could protect you forever. If I can't find you again... I'll storm the tower.” If anything, he was at least lucky she was such a good friend. He would take what he could get.

 


 

Claire opened her eyes, her head throbbing like she'd been hit, and found a few worried faces staring down at her. She blinked, trying to figure out where she was, when she realized the people were Jasper, Cedrik, and Stefen.

“About time you woke up!” Cedrik said. “What happened? You've been out for the past two nights, and all day yesterday.” Claire groaned as she sat up, easing her headache with a quick breath of mana.

“Has it been that long?” She asked. “I... wow. I guess I lost myself harder than I thought...” She missed the worried glance the three shared, noticing that she wasn't in her bed. “Where am I?”

“You're in the medical area.” Stefen said. “What do you mean you lost yourself?”

“I... was trying to find a friend.” She said. “I thought he'd been made tranquil... and... I think I need to speak to Duncan.”

“Are you a spy?” Jasper asked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at her.

“What? No!” She exclaimed. “Why would I spy on you when I seem to know more about your order than most Wardens? I have to talk to Duncan as soon as possible.”

“You're not a normal mage, are you?” Cedrik asked. “What were you doing in the Fade? What kind of friend is this?”

“You're acting like you have urgent news, but what could you have found out through the Fade?” Jasper asked. “I was unaware that mages could communicate like this.” Claire got up and started walking towards the door.

“I just need to talk to Duncan.” She said.

“I'll take you.” Cedrik said. Jasper shrugged while Stefen just looked confused. They stayed silent on the walk to Duncan, but she could tell Cedrik was dying of curiosity, with how he kept glancing at her. They hadn't gotten to work together much yet, but he was a quick study and she didn't doubt he would be able to shapeshift. He had an affinity for the nature based magics and healing, though he wasn't a spirit healer like Anders, and he loved animals, especially the birds. He would take a few minutes every morning to feed them in the garden.

“Duncan.” Claire said, walking into the open office. The commander looked up, surprised.

“You've awakened.” He said. “Is everything all right?”

“I don't know, ser, she just insisted on seeing you as soon as she woke.” Cedrik shrugged.

“You seem nervous, what's wrong?” Duncan got up and walked over to Claire.

“I need to talk to you, but more than that, I need to show you something.” She said. “But... it would require you going into the Fade.”

“And how do you suppose we do that?” He asked.

“I just need you to say yes.” Claire said. “I'm... somniari... I don't need lyrium.” Both Cedrik and Duncan's eyes widened, though Cedrik seemed a bit bewildered.

“What's a somniari?” He asked. “I feel like I know the term...”

“I've read about them. Dreamers.” Duncan said. “We were under the impression they no longer existed.”

“There are five of us, that I know of.” Claire said. “Although one is just getting his powers and may or may not survive. It's not easy... And I would prefer to speak in the Fade.”

“Can I come?” Cedrik asked. “Please?” Claire looked uncertainly to Duncan, who nodded.

“I trust him.” He said.

“I suppose you don't keep too many secrets from each other.” She said. “Very well, if you don't mind then.” She had them sit down, then grabbed their hands and dragged them into the Fade. It took a lot more effort than she had thought and it took her a moment to get her bearings. Cedrik was looking around, open mouthed in wonder.

“This is crazy.” He said.

“It's going to get crazier.” She said. “Duncan, I... I needed to check with you. You've been around, you know things... You've met the Architect...” She changed the scene to be the Deep Roads and conjured up the Architect.

“Dare I ask how you know that?” He asked. “Or have you been gathering information from us?” She shook her head.

“No. I would never breach that trust unless it was a matter of life or death.” She said. “There are... memories here. In the Fade. You just have to know how to find them.”

“So what is this Architect?” Cedrik asked, looking at the ancient creature in front of him. “He looks like a darkspawn.”

“He's a sentient darkspawn who believes he can stop the Blights.” Claire said. “He's still running experiments, apparently.”

“Maric and I were unable to capture him, or kill him.” Duncan said. “We've been having worse nightmares. I'm guessing he has something to do with that.”

“Urthemiel.” Claire said, taking them to a massive cavern deep below the surface. The Old God flew overhead, roaring, and Cedrik ducked down.

“Andraste's tits, that's an archdemon!” Cedrik said, his voice shaky.

“And so the Blight has begun like we feared.” Duncan said. “How do you know all this?” Claire sighed.

“I... may have seen a vision of the future. I wasn't sure, but you pretty much confirmed it.”

“What else have you seen?” Cedrik asked. “Have you seen how it ends?” Claire shifted uncomfortably, glancing between the men.

“I can't tell you.” She said. “I can't risk it. If things don't happen a certain way, things will go very very badly... Just know that there is hope.”

“I don't know why that isn't very comforting.” Cedrik said.

“What other abilities do you have?” Duncan asked. “Somniari, shapeshifter, and you can see the future?”

“I think that's plenty.” She said. “Somniari is bad enough... I didn't need anything else with it. Can you see why the Templars wanted to kill me? Why I wanted to hide out? It makes it harder that I don't want to use the full extent of my powers... It makes me feel... dirty, to mess with people's minds. But because I don't use it, I'm not very good at it. In trying to help a friend a few nights ago, I almost got him made tranquil... For all I know, he may yet be made tranquil... Don't ask me to use these powers. I won't. I can't risk it.”

“Why would you tell us at all then?” Cedrik asked.

“Because Duncan wanted full disclosure, and I respect him.” She said. “I will follow you into the battle against the darkspawn.”

“Yet you will not go through the Joining.” Duncan said.

“I... can't.” She said. “You never made Maric go through the Joining. There are plenty of people who fight alongside the Wardens. I'm sorry, but I'm of more use without being a Warden.”

“Very well.” He said. “Are we done here then?”

“Just... one more thing.” She smiled sheepishly. “If you ever feel you need a break or anything...” She created a hilly countryside covered in grass and flowers gently blowing in the breeze, tricking their senses into smelling it and feeling the coolness in the air. “Feel free to ask, and I will provide. Just don't go telling everyone, ok? Please keep these powers a secret? There's no reason for everyone to know I can sneak into their dreams without them knowing. I don't need people to suspect me of abusing these abilities.”

“You have my word.” Duncan said.

“And mine.” Cedrik said. “Thank you very much for allowing me to see them as well.”

“Well, we are working together, you would need to know sooner or later.” She said. “Shall we leave then?”

 


 

During the next few weeks, Claire would visit Anders as often as she could, not wanting to let go of him. She was still afraid he would be made tranquil, even though he had started thinking they'd given up on that idea. Maybe the first-enchanter had persuaded the knight-commander to give up the idea. Either way, Claire never took their time together for granted, enjoying every minute, even when he was cranky and irritated, going on his tangents against the Circle and Chantry and how he wished she could just kill everyone. She figured he was just going completely insane being locked up. She couldn't imagine being locked away from any kind of interaction for an entire year.

Working with the Wardens, Cedrik had learned a few different shapes to change into and was becoming adept at it. Claire had to warn him to be careful multiple times when she found him wandering the base as a cat, as not everyone liked cats and would often try to kick him. Another thing, the more she worked with him, the more convinced she was that he was developing a crush on her. What was she to do with the man? He wasn't bad and she had started to grow fond of him, but she loved Anders and didn't want to have a relationship with anyone else, especially with a man who was about to die. Even if she couldn't have a relationship with Anders... She still counted Cedrik as a good friend, though, and exercised great patience with his eagerness to learn everything she knew.

One day as they were taking a break from practicing, sitting on a bench, he looked at her with an ambitious fire in his eyes.

“If we could just teach all mages how to shapeshift, they'd be able to elude the Templars so much better.”

“The Templars would crack down even harder on the mages, then.” She said. “You of all people know how they operate. They're afraid. Afraid of what we can do, afraid of what we can become... Afraid of losing control. They already don't allow Circle mages to operate their magic at their full potential, what do you think they would do if the mages could just vanish as a mouse or bird?” The fire became angry and she swore she could feel heat coming from it.

“One day, they will not be able to cage mages any longer. They will rise up against the Templars, and tear down the Chantry.”

“You know, you never ask to go anywhere in the Fade.” She said. “But can I show you something tonight?”

“Why are you changing the subject?” He asked, upset. “Don't you care about the other mages? Don't you care what the Templars do? You've experienced it yourself! How can you not care?” Her eyes flashed angrily as she stood up.

“How dare you accuse me of not caring.” Her voice came out with a dangerous growl to it. “After everything we've talked about, how dare you even think that! I will show you tonight. Be ready.”

 


  

Cedrik watched as Claire stormed off out of the training yard, his heart beating hard. It wasn't fair that she could be so... sexy, so full of passion, while terrifying him to death. To just kiss those soft lips, to taste her, while staring into her vibrantly blue eyes that captivated him so... He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. She was going to be finding him in the Fade, and she could probably read his mind there. He would have to be careful she didn't find out how he felt about her, or else he'd never be able to face her again.

Bad enough that he would be so stupid as to accuse her of all people, of not caring about the mages. What was he thinking? Oh yeah, he was thinking about how much he wanted to kiss her. Stupid feelings! He stalked out of the yard and ran off to the library to occupy his mind until the evening.

“Have you heard?” Markus asked, sidling up to Cedrik. The mage had his nose in a book and pretended to ignore his fellow Warden, but the warrior wasn't put off. “There've been rumors we're heading to Ostagar soon. Hope you've been learning something in those... lessons... of yours!” Cedrik glanced sharply at Markus, seeing the young man with a sly grin on his face. Cedrik could feel his cheeks flush.

“It's not that obvious, is it?” He whispered.

“My dear mage, if it were any more obvious, you'd be sleeping with her already.” Markus shook his head sadly. “Though I don't blame her for not accepting your advances. I don't think I would go for the moody mage type either.” Cedrik hit the man, glaring.

“Don't tell me you want her, too.” He growled.

“Like you have claim?” Markus laughed. “No, I need a woman with more spunk than that. She's a nice girl, I suppose, but my word, man, she has no confidence at all! You accidentally touch her and she loses it. Good luck getting a relationship with that, I don't think it's possible. Damaged goods, Cedrik. Maker only knows what she'd been through.” Cedrik didn't answer right away, just shut the book and stared at it. Markus was right, he had no chance. Even during practice she would flinch away from his touch, even though she tried to hide it.

“Hey, don't take it personally.” Markus said, patting the mage's shoulder. “Soon you won't have time to think about a relationship, anyway. Any day now we'll be called out.”

“I suppose the best I can do is just leave her be.” Cedrik sighed.

“Hey you two, there's a meeting!” Iestyn, a Warden archer, called to them. “I think we're moving out in two days! Come on.” Cedrik shoved the book into the bookcase and followed the other Wardens to the meeting hall. There weren't many of them, only sixteen total, nowhere near enough to fight a Blight and win, so Cedrik looked to Duncan.

“As you have been hearing, we're on the verge of a Blight.” He said. “We have reports of darkspawn coming up in the Korcari Wilds near Ostagar and having spoken with the king, we will move on ahead of the king's army to scout out the area. We have sent word to the Orlesian Wardens, but it will take time for them to arrive. We must make do with what we can until they arrive.” Cedrik started zoning out, surprised everything was suddenly happening. He thought they would have more time... Claire had said she would go into battle with them, but he realized he didn't want her to. He would have to talk to her.

A few other Wardens had questions, but Cedrik was anxious to get out. As soon as Duncan said the meeting was dismissed, Cedrik went looking for Claire.

“Hey, Cedrik, wait up!” He looked back, irritated, at the young rogue coming up to him.

“What do you need, Stefen?” He asked. Stefen looked a little confused with the angry tone, but it never phased him.

“Aren't you excited?” He asked. “We're going to go fight darkspawn! My blades have been getting lonely, lately, with nothing to kill.”

“Actually, I'd be perfectly fine without any battles.” Cedrik said. “Granted it will be nice to let loose my full potential, I've seen what battles can do and I'm not really interested in losing any of my fellow Wardens. We're so few as it is!”

“True... death is lurking around every corner on the battlefield.” Stefen's shoulders slumped a little and Cedrik felt bad for bringing down his mood.

“We still have a couple days to get ready.” Cedrik said. “So let's just make sure we're prepared for whatever the 'spawn can throw at us, yes?” He gave the rogue an encouraging smile.

“Hey, you wanna see if the cook has any treats she won't miss?” Stefen grinned wide. As anxious as he was to see Claire, Cedrik knew she would find him in the Fade.

“Sure, why not.” He said, chuckling.

 


  

After everyone had fallen asleep, Claire sought out Cedrik, wishing she was going to see Anders instead. She grumbled when she found Cedrik, annoyed that he was dreaming when she had told him that she was going to show him something in the Fade. Had he forgotten? She knew they'd had a meeting and that they were heading out for Ostagar soon, something she was dreading. Had so much time passed already, that the final days of the Ferelden Grey Wardens was upon them? She had grown attached to them and even the ones she didn't really like she was dreading seeing die...

She hesitated, not knowing what to expect, then entered the dream. She groaned and face palmed when she saw herself in the dream, whispering to Cedrik. She began weaving her will into the dream, but something felt off, something she recognized but couldn't place. Her dream self pushed away from the mage, covering her face with her hands as she started crying.

“Claire, what's wrong?” He asked. “What did I do?” Claire could feel someone else exerting their will over the dream and she could feel their frustration and confusion. A demon, probably Desire, and Cedrik was completely unaware. This demon was good and Cedrik was too far obsessed, making it difficult for Claire to decide how to handle it. She knew she could take the demon out without Cedrik even being aware, but should she? Or should she let him know how far he'd gone? Irritated with her image being used, she isolated the demon, destroying its control over the dream while taking command herself, so that Cedrik wouldn't know.

Silently, she banished the demon and set up a protection around the dream, preventing it from coming back in. Focusing on her dream self, she allowed Cedrik's mind to take over, letting her dream self become that which he saw her as. She felt confusion from him, though, as if perhaps he had known it was a demon.

“Claire... it's not you, is it?” He asked, grabbing her dream-self's arm. “I feel something... this isn't... this is a dream, isn't it? That was a demon... Oh Maker...” She could feel the dream crumbling around her as he 'woke up' in the Fade. She hid herself from him still and watched. He looked around, furious. “Come out, demon! I know you were there, why would you hide?”

“Something banished me.” A silvery voice spoke up behind him, and there was the Desire demon, curling her fingers around his shoulders. “You're not as weak as I initially thought.” She purred.

“Why are you toying with me?” He pulled away from her. “You cannot give me what I truly want. Begone.”

“You underestimate me.” She said. “I can, and will, give you that girl.” Cedrik laughed.

“She's probably the one who banished you.” He said. “You are no match for her.” Claire smirked, proud of him.

“If she banished me, where is she now?” The demon was getting angry. “Where is this mighty mage you claim can defeat me?”

“I'm right here.” Claire said. “I've fought more powerful demons than you. Why would you even risk it? You can feel it, can't you?” Cedrik's expression was a mix of relief, adoration, and shame when he looked at her, and it made her sad. The demon growled and lashed her tail.

“A Dreamer...” She hissed. Looking at Cedrik, she poured her power into a spell to attack him, but Claire could feel it and put up a shield. She slammed the demon to the ground and destroyed it.

“No one messes with my friend and gets away with it.” Claire muttered as she walked over to Cedrik.

“You saw...” He said, averting his eyes.

“I already knew.” She said. “I'm sorry, I didn't want to mess with your dream... I feel like I invaded your privacy and I should have let you be, but I couldn't just let that demon paw you like that.” He looked up, startled.

“I tried not to show it. I know you've been through a lot and...”

“And I have a hard time with touch...” She said. “I'm sorry, Cedrik. I do care about you, though, you've been a great friend...” Could she even do a physical relationship with him? If she couldn't have Anders, how bad would it be to let herself at least try with someone else...? He shrugged, a sad smile on his face.

“I must say this isn't near as embarrassing as I pictured it. I halfway expected you to up and leave... I'll take what I can get. I probably won't live much longer anyway, since we're marching off to war. There aren't many of us, you know. They pick off the mages first...”

“I'll be there to help.” She smiled. “Together, I'm sure we can make a dent before they take us.”

“Don't go into battle!” He said. “You deserve to live, don't just throw your life away!”

“If you die before me, you'll never know.” She winked.

“I will...” He reached a hand out to her, gently touching her arm. She was surprised at how uncomfortable it made her feel, so different from how Anders made her feel. “But you didn't want to talk about our deaths, I'm sure. What did you want to show me?”

“The future.” She said. “To give you hope. But you have to promise to never tell anyone, ever.” Wide eyed, he nodded.

“Of course, I will never tell anyone. I swear.” She nodded, then focused on changing the scene. She put them on top of a hill, overlooking Kirkwall.

Pointing to a building, she said, “That's the chantry.”

“I don't recognize it, what city is that?” She stayed silent as a red beam of light shot through the building, exploding it. He gripped her arm tight in surprise as they watched the Templars and mages fighting, demons everywhere. She showed him the Templars leaving the Chantry, the dissolution of the Circle, and then the explosion at the conclave, having Corypheus flying on his dragon overhead. She knew it wasn't accurate, but it made it more potent.

“Mages become free.” She said. “The Inquisition is reinstated, and they bring about a new order. There is hope for Thedas. Even if you don't live to see it, I wanted you to at least know.” His face was full of excitement and fear.

“I'm overwhelmed...” He said. “I wish I could be part of this change...”

“In a way, you will be. I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I know the Grey Wardens are involved.” He realized he was still holding her, so he released her arm and nodded.

“Thank you, thank you so much for sharing this with me.” He said. “I felt like such a fool but you've been so kind and understanding anyway... Please, stay out of the battle. The world needs you!”

“I can't abandon you, but I'll at least be careful. Before we go... was there anywhere you wanted to visit before you run off to battle? One last getaway before the storm?” His expression was so sad as he looked at her.

“Anywhere with you is fine with me.” He said.

“Then let's just take a walk in the mountains.” She smiled and took his hand, leading him away.

Chapter Text

“Claire, I can tell something's wrong.” Anders said, taking her hand in his as they sat at the edge of a cliff. She hadn't said much since she had shown up and just seemed agitated. “Did you want to talk about it?”

She shook her head. “I don't even know what's going on anymore... I was right, there is a Blight happening and the Wardens march out in the morning. I told you I was training one, right? Cedrik, the mage?” He could feel a ball of jealousy building up inside at the mention, but he swallowed it and nodded as she sighed. “He's going to die... they're all going to die out there... and he has grown a bit fond of me. He cares for me a great deal, and he respects me. He doesn't want me to go out on the battlefield with them.”

Trying to keep his feelings bottled, he asked, “And how do you feel about him? Can you even return his affection?”

“That's the thing, I don't know!” She was so frustrated she hit the ground. “I'm so conflicted... On the one hand, he's going to die and if I let myself get attached, how badly is that going to hurt? Or is it already too late? He... when he touched my arm the other day, it didn't feel right. You're right, the magister did ruin me... Would it change anything if I were to be with someone I was actually in love with...?” He felt his own frustration boiling inside of him, both with her and with himself. This was a man she was talking about, wondering if she should get romantic with, not a woman! Did she not care? She had no problem with him touching her, was that because she didn't think of him in a romantic way? How was he supposed to be a good friend when all he could think about was proclaiming his own love for her?

“You have no problem with me touching you.” He said, with more growl in his voice than he intended. She looked up at him sharply, confused.

“I've known you for years...” She said. “You're the only person I've ever felt comfortable around. Does... I'm not really sure what you mean by that though...” Was she just playing stupid or could she really not see how much he loved her? Was he that good at hiding it? If he wasn't so afraid of losing her again, he would tell her. He would kiss her, and make her forget about anyone else. But he was an apostate, he was never going to stop escaping the tower. What kind of life could he give her? They would be forced to keep any relationship to the Fade.

“So it is possible for you to overcome it.” He said. “Though I'm not saying you should run into the arms of someone who's going to die within the next month or so. Then I'll have to help clean up that mess...”

“Oh Anders...” She shook her head, smiling a little. “I wish things could have turned out a little differently. Then, maybe...” She blushed and got up.

“What? Then maybe what?” He got up and followed her.

“I don't know, I'm just confused and trying to figure out all these feelings inside.” She said. “I keep wondering what would happen if I got into a romantic relationship with someone, would I even be able to... You and I, we've never done anything more than just hold hands or hug. I trust you, I know you're not going to try anything with me.” She turned and looked at him.

“You're rambling again.” He said.

“I doubt you'd ever admit it to the person, but have you ever been in love?” She asked, looking into his eyes. “Have you ever been that attached to someone? I know you cared deeply for Karl...” If she only knew...

“I have, and it's torture.” He said, glimpsing a quick flash of pain in her eyes. “Seeing her, not being able to do anything about it... Trysts are one thing... two people looking for a quick fuck in the closet before the Templars catch on. But to actually have a real relationship, where two people love each other? It's a recipe for disaster! And it would give the Templars too much power over us if there was something we couldn't stand to lose. As you said, look at what they did to Karl.”

“Yeah... and like how they used you against me all those years ago...” She said. “But, being outside the Circle allows for more opportunity.”

Anders couldn't hide his annoyance with that statement and sneered. “Oh, good for you! No need to gloat about it while I'm stuck in this little cell all alone, trapped by the Circle.” She became furious and slapped him hard across the face.

“Do not speak to me that way.” She said. “I... I don't know what I was thinking, bringing it up, but that's just not fair. Do you just want me around so you'll have someone to keep you from insanity? Just to use me? I can't blame you, but I also cannot tolerate being yelled at just because I'm not in the Circle.” He grabbed for her, but it was too late, she'd left. He was so stupid, taking his frustration out on her. That wasn't the first time she'd accused him of using her, and as he thought about it, her statement about being outside the Circle could have been taken quite differently, in his benefit... He cursed himself, unable to ask for clarification.

 


 

Claire had a hard time focusing as she watched the Wardens leave, and seeing Cedrik look back at her and wave just confused her even more. A relationship with Anders was a stupid idea anyway. They fought far too often, it would be a disaster. She grumbled and gathered her own gear, then headed to the Alienage looking for Alberoth. She was pointed to the arl's estate and groaned. Would they let someone like herself in? There she was all dressed in her battlemage gear... She shrugged and walked to the back entrance, trying to remember where the kitchen was.

“Where do you think you're going?” One of the guards asked, stepping in front of the door.

“To the kitchen.” She said, smiling. She didn't want to have to use her powers on them, but she would if it came to it. “I need to speak with one of the elves, Alberoth. He has been neglecting his duties!” The guards shared a look and she sighed, pulling out her coin purse. “Fine, would a sovereign each work? I'm not lying about needing to go to the kitchen to speak to the elf.”

She walked through the halls, annoyed at the lightening of her coin purse, and hoped she wouldn't have to bribe anymore guards. The estate was large and full of guards and servants, but she walked with purpose and they seemed to ignore her for the most part. The kitchen wasn't very difficult to find, since she'd entered in the servant's entrance, however finding Alberoth was proving more problematic. She didn't see him anywhere.

“Excuse me.” She caught the attention of another elf. “I'm looking for Alberoth, do you know where I can find him?” The elf became nervous, his eyes darting around, then he shook his head. “Please, I must speak with him. If you know where he is, I swear it won't come back on you.” The elf pointed a shaking finger towards a door and ran off. Wondering what that was about, she went to the door. It opened to reveal a staircase leading down into what looked like a wine cellar. It was dimly lit, but she could hear sounds coming from the back that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up.

Muffled sobs, soft crooning, and other noises that made her quicken her steps, pulling out her staff as she hurried. On the floor, on his belly, lay Alberoth, naked, with a similarly dressed human man on top of him. The look on Alberoth's face when he saw her made her not hesitate in grabbing the human by the hair and she threw him to the side. Stunned, the man stared at her, so she cast a sleep spell on him, then hurried to the elf's side.

“Are you going to be all right?” She asked, covering him with a blanket and healing him. “I should have taken you when I first got here...”

“J-just get me out of here...” He said. “Before the guards see what you've done... they'll kill me for certain.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it.” She growled. She turned her back as he got dressed, his shaking hands making it difficult. “Has this been going on long? I suppose it doesn't matter anymore... Come on, we're getting out of here even if I have to destroy this place in the process.” He stared at her with his eyes wide with fear.

“P-please don't!” He said.

“Well, let's hurry then, before they find him.” She jerked her thumb at the still sleeping man. “Don't worry, he's just asleep.” She grabbed Alberoth's arm and pulled him along until they got to the top of the stairs. She brushed herself off, composed herself, and strode out into the kitchen like she owned the place, heading towards the exit with Alberoth trailing behind her trying not to look so nervous. They made it out into the marketplace before they heard the alarm bells. As the people in the crowded area turned to look towards the estate, Claire pulled the elf into a small hidden alley.

“I never told you what I am, did I?” She asked, making sure they hadn't been seen.

“W-what do you mean?” He asked, backing away.

“I'm a shapeshifter. They're looking for me, probably not so much you, so I'll need to transform.” She said. She pulled out a cloak from her pack and handed it to him. “Hopefully this will throw them off a little. Please don't be alarmed by what I do.” She turned herself into a mangy mutt dog and looked up at him. She could smell his fear, so she whined and cocked her head to the side.

“I-I guess we should get going out of the city then...” He said. She bobbed her head and headed back out to the marketplace, heading towards the gate. The guards ignored the two and they were able to leave the city uninterrupted, but Claire waited until the city had vanished from sight before becoming human again.

“Thank you.” He said. “I didn't think I would ever be able to escape...” He seemed to be fighting back tears and she felt horrible. How many nights had she lain awake, wishing she could escape the magister? Now, he was free, and everything that had been building up was on the verge of breaking out itself. Would he let it, or would he try to bottle it up?

“Alberoth, did you want to talk about it? Just let it out?” She tried to sound gentle and calm, but she was having a hard time. The only people who ever confided in her were Anders and Abelia, and she seemed to mess up any talk with Anders...

“You've already done so much for me.” He said. “You don't need me to unload on you.”

“I've been through a lot.” She said. “Our experiences might be more similar than you think, and I know how important it is to let it out, rather than to let it fester inside of you. It will eat you up.”

“You?” He looked at her suspiciously. “How could you know anything of what I've been through? You're a human, and you have power! I was nothing more than a slave to those shems, something to be used, and no one dared to say anything because there is no justice for us elves!”

“For the past eight years, I was a slave in Tevinter.” She said quietly. “Power doesn't mean much when you're a slave and can't overpower your master, and being human doesn't even mean much. I was equal to the elven slaves there, forced to cater to the magister's every whim. When I thought I had gotten the upper hand on the magister, he turned around and used my weaknesses against me, forcing me to continue to serve him. It wasn't until I had finally gained better control of my power that I was able to escape.”

“Oh... I guess you do know...” He sighed, then started talking about his frustrations and everything that made him angry, and Claire found it nice to be able to talk to someone who shared some of her own problems.

 


 

They made camp that night and Claire kept her guard up, surrounding the camp with wards. She contemplated going to the Fade to find Anders, but felt a strange ache when she thought about him. She couldn't face him yet. He was going to be let out soon, and then what? Would she get to see him in person again? Would he want to see her...? She wasn't sure how she always managed to piss him off.

Grumbling, she instead sought out Cedrik. He was walking around the raw Fade, and became very excited when he saw her.

“Claire!” He said, running over to her. “What are you doing here? I didn't think I'd get to see you again until you made it to Ostagar. We're almost there, I think. We would have made it tonight, but we were waylaid by some travelers and we had to make a couple stops.”

“I'm glad you seem to be doing well.” She said, smiling. She wasn't sure he could ever really be angry with her, he was always so happy to see her, and she realized even with how they were always butting heads, she would always love Anders the most. “I just wanted to say hello, see how things were going. I should be there by tomorrow, probably late though. Don't start any battles without me, all right?”

“You shouldn't come.” He became serious and tentatively raised a hand as if to touch her, then dropped it.

“I can't leave you...” She said. Her face felt hot as she realized she did like him. It wasn't the same way she felt about Anders, by far, but it was something, and why shouldn't she? It wasn't like Anders cared. “Cedrik, I... I really care about you...” She grabbed his hand, but he pulled away, refusing to look at her.

“Claire, don't.” He said. She stared at him, hurt, unsure of what to say or do.

“Why?” She asked. “I know what the risks are, if that's what you're worried about.”

“I'm going into battle soon, I'm probably going to die!” He had angry tears in his eyes. “It would only hurt you more if...”

“You think I don't know that?” She asked. “It's all right, don't be worried for me, I know what I'm getting myself into.”

“Do you?” He asked, taking her hand and kissing it. “You who flinches with every touch?” She couldn't explain the feelings she felt at his touch. Tingly, anxious, almost like it burned, but at the same time she wanted to feel more. Pushing past the discomfort, she pulled him close and kissed him. He wrapped his arms around her tightly, letting go of all the feelings he'd been holding back, kissing her with an urgency that scared her. She had asked for it! After a brief moment, she remembered her training and managed to control her fear, kissing him back while running her hands up his back.

He pulled away, tears running down his face. “It's not fair.” He said. “That I should find you only to be facing my death...”

“You don't know that!” She said. “I'll be there, fighting beside you. We can win this! And if not, at least we won't regret not saying something while we had the chance. I don't want you to be on the battlefield, bleeding out, wishing you had told me how you had felt.” She didn't see anything wrong with giving him even the slightest bit of false hope, but she found herself crying too. A brief fling with a dying man... And she would be there at the end with him. Whether she herself survived would be something she'd have to wait and see. Did she want to survive? She'd spent most of her time in Thedas fighting depression, but there were always bright spots and now she felt like she had something to live for. She had something to fight for. She may not belong to Thedas, but as long as she could, she would fight for it and the people in it.

“I would feel better knowing you were safe.” He said, wiping her tears away. “You don't need to throw away your life for me.”

“It isn't throwing my life away!” She said. “It is fighting for a cause, fighting for the freedom of Ferelden from the darkspawn! For all of Thedas. If Ferelden falls to the darkspawn, the other countries will have to rally together to fight it back!”

“The Orlesian Wardens should be coming to aid us.” He said. “Duncan said King Maric has been in contact with Empress Celene, and he has been in contact with the Warden Commander in Orlais, so they should arrive soon.”

“Well then that sounds like a winning army to me!” She said, trying to smile. She was used to depression, how bad could it be to lose an entire group of wonderful people in a single battle? Oh Maker, what had she gotten herself into?

 


 

The sun rose, turning the sky a brilliant pink and orange, and Claire groaned. After spending so long sleeping in a regular bed, the cold hard ground was no longer so welcoming as it had been and she was stiff and sore. Alberoth was still sleeping, his face twisted in pain, and she wondered if she shouldn't help him out. Cautiously, she put a hand to his head and entered his dream, making sure to hide herself from him.

She found herself back in the arl's estate, in one of the bed chambers there, and Alberoth was on the bed with a human male. The poor elf was in obvious distress, so she wove her will into the dream, shifting control to Alberoth, dissipating the feelings of helplessness and despair in exchange for confidence and vengeance. Perhaps not the healthiest of feelings, but she felt he needed the release. She watched as the elf's expression turned to anger and he twisted out of the human's grasp, snagging a dagger that had been left on the nightstand. The man stared at Alberoth, then laughed as he crawled towards the angry elf, as if Alberoth stood no chance at defending himself. But Alberoth had had enough, and he knew he could take the man on, and plunged the dagger into the man's throat. The man gasped, fell backwards, and disappeared.

“He's gone... I'm actually free, he can't touch me anymore...” Alberoth whispered, then started nervously laughing. Claire slipped out of the dream and looked down at the sleeping elf. He looked a lot calmer, almost smiling, and she hoped she had actually helped him. She gently shook his shoulder, watching as his eyes shot open and he blinked at her, trying to get his bearings.

“You all right?” She asked. “You looked like you were having a nightmare.”

“I... I was, but then... I don't know, I've never had a dream like that before.” He stood up and stretched, smiling. “I actually feel a lot better now.” He grinned at her.

She smiled back and grabbed her pack and staff. “That's great, probably all that freedom you're breathing in.” He laughed.

“Just the thought of never having to go back...” She grinned and clapped him on the shoulder.

“Well then, let's go find the Dalish.”

 


 

They arrived in the Brecilian forest around lunch time and stopped to eat when their stomachs were growling too much. It was a pleasant day, warm and calm, and the forest was green and full of life, making Claire glad she was there. Ferelden wasn't so bad when you took the oppressive people out of the picture. She didn't think the Dalish would be willing to allow her into their camp, so she was wondering if she should continue on in animal form.

“Alberoth...” She said between bites. “Do you want me to continue on with you, or do you think you'll be all right on your own? The Dalish aren't fond of shemlen and I don't want to incur their wrath. Or if you'd like, I can walk with you as a wolf.”

He fidgeted a bit, then shrugged, looking anxious. “I would prefer you come with me as is, but if not, then I suppose a wolf will do.”

“Does it really bother you?” She asked. “I guess they'll warn me first... and if it comes to it, I can escape. You'll be fine at least.” He nodded and packed up his things. They walked for maybe an hour down a small path before a voice called out to them from the underbrush.

“Halt, the Dalish camp nearby!” A Dalish scout stepped out from the bushes, followed by another. “Come no further!”

“What is this?” The other asked, anger coloring her tone. “A shem with an elf! Perhaps we should free him, lethallin! The world does not need yet another shem causing trouble here.”

“No please, she's helping me!” Alberoth said, stepping forward. “She helped me escape the city so I could find you! Please, please will you let me stay?” The scouts shared a suspicious look, then one disappeared.

“Shemlen are not allowed in camp.” The scout said. “Mahariel will let the Keeper know of your presence.” Mahariel? So this was the Sabrae clan, and he was... he very well could be Tamlen. Poor sod...

“Of course, I wouldn't dare trespass where the Dalish don't want me.” Claire said, bowing a little. “Your people have been through enough, and I respect you.” The scout raised an eyebrow, looking confused and suspicious.

“I... can't tell if you're serious or mocking me.” He said. Alberoth stifled a giggle.

“Trust me, you would know if I were to mock you.” Claire said. “I honestly truly respect you and your clan.”

“Huh.” The scout remained silent, just staring at Claire, until Mahariel came back.

“The Keeper says he can stay.” She looked at her companion oddly. “Are you all right?” She asked.

“It's... nothing.” He said. He turned to Alberoth and nodded. “Come on then, we'll take you to camp.”

Alberoth smiled and turned to Claire. “Thank you so much for doing this for me. If I could ever repay you...”

“Just go and be happy, that's payment enough.” She said, grinning. “Stay safe. It won't be the easiest life, but I think it'll suit you much better than the city life did!”

“Anything is better than that...” He grumbled. He turned and hurried off after the scouts. Claire transformed herself into a raven and took off into the sky. Ostagar wasn't too far away, she was sure she could make it before night fell, but when she got above the treeline, feeling the wind beneath her wings, she almost didn't want to go. Up there in the sky, she was free, she could go wherever she wanted, or just coast around and see where the wind would take her. She twirled around as she gained more altitude, feeling so free. She didn't need to feel validation from men like Anders or Cedrik... what did she want from them?

As she thought about it, she figured she mostly felt bad for Cedrik. She did like him, but she really didn't feel the strong romantic connection like how she felt about Anders. It was wrong to lead him on like that, and wasn't she really just angry about how Anders had treated her? Revenge romance was never a good idea. But Cedrik was going to die soon, did it even matter? Let the poor man have some happiness in his life before his death, right?

Why did she have to love Anders so much? Why was he so aggravating? Could he possibly love her, but be afraid to tell her, or was it something else entirely? She was one to talk, why hadn't she ever told him how she felt about him? She couldn't blame him when she was just as bad, if he even felt that way about her. Angry and conflicted, she folded her wings close to her body and dropped, opening her wings before reaching the treeline, gliding above the tops of the massive trees of the Brecilian forest.

She had no one she could talk to about these sorts of things. The only people she could talk to were the problems. What if she sought out Wynne? No, the mage had questionable ideas of romance, especially concerning Wardens. No, she should just figure it out on her own. She would be there for Cedrik when it was his turn to die, and she would try to ignore Anders until after. His words came back to her, and she remembered he was not very happy about having to “clean up that mess” so she decided she would have to deal with that on her own as well. She was used to being on her own, anyway.

Lost in her thoughts, she almost missed seeing Ostagar nestled in the Wilds, with the tents of the Wardens being set up in its midst. She swooped down and landed on one of the ledges overlooking the Warden camp and watched for a while. She spotted Stefen fumbling with his pack and Jasper nearby shaking his head in amusement while Cedrik carefully unpacked his own things. Duncan was sitting on a chest reading a letter, looking grim, while Alistair seemed to be sneaking some food. They looked so happy, even though they knew what the future held for them. They knew the darkspawn were coming, they knew more than the king and his men would know. Cailan would go down not really knowing it was a true Blight, though perhaps in his last thoughts he would realize it. It was hard, looking at everyone, and thinking about having to see them all die.

A couple other ravens landed beside her and she looked at them with curiosity. They were very intelligent birds and it was almost like they knew something was going to happen. Some of the men pointed up at them and she wondered if it was a bad omen. They were carrion birds, after all. Perhaps they were gathering for the feast... She caught Cedrik staring at her and the others as well, but couldn't read his expression. She could just fly away and he'd never be the wiser... She didn't have to stay. She could just vanish... But then she would feel the guilt of abandoning them, not being there to help like she said she would. It wasn't fair. She shouldn't have sought a job with them in the first place, she should've just laid low, waited for Anders to escape again, and run off with him.

She twitched her wings in agitation, then took off to find some place to transform, away from prying eyes. She found a small little alcove near the Tower of Ishal and became human again. She had to take a few deep breaths, trying to ease her anxiety, before heading into the camp. Once there, she wasn't going to be able to leave again. It was her last chance to escape. After everything they'd done for her, though, she couldn't just abandon them. They were almost like a family to her. They were certainly a family to themselves.

As she walked into the camp, Markus smirked and shook his head. Cedrik quickly dropped his things and hurried over to her, afraid to touch her.

“Hello, Cedrik.” She said, smiling. “Told you I would come.”

“And so you did!” He said. “I... I was afraid it was all a dream...”

“It wasn't.” She said. “Are you having second thoughts?”

“About... about us?” He asked, surprised. “As in, doubting that I want to spend every waking moment with you? Maker, no!” She laughed and hugged him, their armor clanking together before she stepped back.

“We'll have to talk privately, soon, but for now, is there anything I can do to help?” She looked around. They seemed to have everything under control and unpacked already, but there was probably food to be made, latrines to be dug...

“We're pretty much set.” He said. “We arrived this morning and we already have scouts in the Wilds looking around for anything suspicious.”

“Hey there, I knew you couldn't keep away.” Markus wandered over, winking at her. “Come to watch us defeat the darkspawn before the Orlesians can get here then?”

“Of course!” She replied. “And what a sight it will be, the mighty Grey Wardens in action, the first time in hundreds of years!”

“I'm excited to be here myself!” Stefen said, appearing from behind Markus. “I know, I know, battle is gory, battle is not glorious, I'm probably going to die, blah blah... But still, I get to fight the darkspawn for once instead of being stuck, holed up in a building all day.”

“Just keep your wits about you on the battlefield, boy.” Jasper growled. “We don't need you losing yourself out there.” He eyed Claire suspiciously and she wondered why. He was always the more serious one, but he hadn't seemed bothered by her before. She knew she made Alistair nervous for having Wilder and Tevinter training, and those were the reasons he had always kept his distance from her, but Jasper wasn't like that. She decided to ignore it.

“Of course, what do you take me for, a green recruit?” Stefen snapped. “I've seen death before, Jasper. I have even killed before.”

“Easy now, you two.” Markus said, stepping between them. “We don't need infighting here. Duncan knew what he was doing when he recruited all of us, we all know what we're doing and we will all be able to do our job just fine.” His eyes flicked over to Claire and she wondered if he had doubts about her as well.

Cedrik cleared his throat nervously and looked at Claire. “So, Claire, would you, um, mind showing me that bear transformation again?” He grabbed her arm and walked off, and she could hear Stefen snickering. She twisted out of Cedrik's grasp and rubbed her arm, wishing she wasn't so sensitive to that kind of touch. He glanced at her, concerned, but didn't say anything until they were out of sight of the others.

“I'm sorry, did I hurt you?” He asked, gently touching her arm.

“No... it's just... I'm still trying to get over the problems I have being touched...” She said.

“From Tevinter.” He sighed. “What did the magister do to you to ruin you like this?”

She frowned. “Don't. Just... please don't. It's not something I'm comfortable telling anyone.”

“I wish I could meet this magister and give him a piece of my mind.” Cedrik growled.

“Does it... would it change anything, would it change how you feel about me, if you couldn't have a deeply physical relationship with me?” Her mouth had gone dry and she felt nauseous.

“Claire, I love you.” He said, taking her hands in his. “If this is as physical as we can get, I'll live with that so long as I can be with you.”

“Maybe we can slowly work on it.” She said. “It's not that I don't want to... I do, I just... it's hard.”

“What about that kiss in the Fade?” He asked.

“It filled me with both fear and exhilaration.” She laughed. “But here, outside the Fade, it's different. The Fade is so much more comfortable for me, I can control it, it's my domain, really. Here... here I'm vulnerable. I'm not that powerful of a mage outside the Fade.” He slowly leaned in and kissed her, gently, and she could taste the smoked cheddar he'd recently eaten. It was quite different from in the Fade and she wasn't sure if she liked it. It sent tingling up her spine and made her heart race, while at the same time it frightened her.

“We'll take it slow.” He said, smiling softly, his eyes half closed. “I would hate to scare you off.” She nodded, breathless. “Come on, I'll show you around.”

 


 

It wasn't long before the king's army came, and soon after followed the Templars and mages from the Circle tower. Claire was kept busy running errands and messages about, as well as continued lessons with Cedrik. Then the fighting began. The first of the fights with the darkspawn was easy, their numbers few, but the second one was harder, with even more darkspawn coming. Duncan had run off to find more recruits, bringing back Daveth and Ser Jory, and before the third battle, he had left again, though Claire wasn't sure where. Which recruit was he going to bring back?

It was a depressing thought that plagued her, to think about the potential recruits and their fates. The Dalish elf Mahariel, the mage Amell, the human noble Cousland... she'd met them. Granted, there were probably a few different Amells in the tower... And for all she knew, she could have even run across the city elf Tabris in Denerim. Only one of them would survive to meet the archdemon, and even then it was unknown whether they would survive that battle.

She stood, fully armored, on the battlefield. The Wardens knew it was going to be worse than the previous fights and prepared themselves. They had two casualties in the Warden ranks so far, Iestyn and another fighter Claire had never gotten to know, and they prayed they wouldn't lose anyone else. As she looked over at Cedrik, she wished she had taken the time to talk to Anders. The more she did with Cedrik, the more she realized how much she didn't love him, and she was finding it harder to continue a relationship with him, but did so only because he was about to die and needed to be at his best for the final battle... It wouldn't do for him to die brokenhearted. She wasn't sure if Anders even wanted to see her again anyway, but she wanted to at least say goodbye, just in case. She wasn't going to abandon the Wardens to save her own skin.


A horn called above them, signaling the darkspawn had started moving towards them, the cold night wind blowing their foul stench towards the army. By now, everyone was used to it and she only heard one person retching in the back. Better they get it done and over with quickly. As soon as the darkspawn were within the army's sight, they waited for the signal to attack. Markus stood at the head of the Wardens, poised and ready with the flat of his two-handed sword resting on his shoulder. Jasper stood beside him, his daggers clenched in his fists, his dark eyes flashing angrily in the torch light. Claire gripped her staff tightly and waited for the command.

It was chaos around them and Claire was glad she had magic at her command instead of a sword. She had a much better vantage point and knew her shots wouldn't miss and hit a comrade. As the battle raged on around her, she caught sight of Markus falling to the ground, an arrow sprouting from his shoulder. She bolted to his side, taking out a hurlock that was trying to finish the job and knelt down beside Markus before pumping her healing magic into the man.

“...Claire...?” He winced in pain.

“Hush, I'm going to pull the arrow out.” She said. It had gotten him in the shoulder, but with her magic, she was confident she could heal him. She snapped off the fletching, seeing that the arrow had gone all the way through, and rolled him to the side so she could pull it through. He groaned, but stayed quiet as the battle raged on around them. Once the arrow was out, she was able to heal him further, well enough that he was able to get up and start fighting again.

As the fighting stopped, she looked around the battlefield as soldiers hobbled back up to the camp. There were plenty of dead soldiers and those too wounded to get up. She went to one and began healing him, at least enough for him to get back to camp on his own, then moved on to the next. Before she knew it, dawn had arrived and her head was killing her. She had overspent herself.

Stumbling away from the battlefield, Claire chugged a vial of lyrium before trying to heal herself. She was lucky, she hadn't taken too much damage charging in like that to save Markus. She had seen him drop and didn't think, just acted. If only she'd been able to do the same for Iestyn and the other Warden. Looking around, she saw Cedrik frantically searching the battlefield and she called to him. Relief flooded his face as he ran over to her.

“Oh Claire, I'm so glad to see you're all right!” He said. “I lost sight of you after you took care of Markus...” His face twisted in despair as he started to cry, then he grabbed her in a hug. “Please... you can't fight anymore...” His voice was hoarse, aching with the thought of loss, and Claire gently wrapped her arms around him.

“I can't, I need to be here.” She said. “I can help people here. Why should I find a safe place to hide while all my friends are risking their lives?”

“I... understand.” He said. “Never mind. Let's go somewhere else, somewhere quiet. Somewhere where we can just talk. Or sleep.”

Chapter Text

Cedrik grabbed Claire's hand and led her into a secluded area, far away from the camp. The sun was starting to set, but they were safe enough. Claire knew the darkspawn wouldn't attack until at least the next night, but feeling his agitation was starting to make her nervous.

“What's wrong?” She asked when he finally stopped. He paced around, brow furrowed in thought, until he finally approached her, placing his hands on either side of her body, pinning her to the stone wall and she could smell the alcohol on his breath.

“Claire, you have been driving me insane since we first met.” He said, his breath husky. “I have tried to hold back, but dammit, woman, we almost died out there last night! Markus barely made it out alive and only because you saved him! I don't... I don't want to die, but each battle is getting worse...” The look in his eyes alone was scaring her and she wanted nothing more than to run away, but she was paralyzed by her anxiety.

“We've taken it slow, but you keep resisting, you keep pushing me away.” She was surprised to see tears sliding down his face. “I thought you loved me! I thought you cared about me!”

“I do!” She said. “You think I don't? You think that because I can't handle even the thought of having sex that I don't love you?” He slammed his hand against the wall, scaring her.

“Dammit, Claire, I can't keep resisting you like this!” He pushed himself against her, kissing her roughly, her mind screaming in a panic as he ripped the dress she was wearing off her shoulders. His hands were rough against her skin and as he ripped the dress down, she felt herself having trouble breathing. He started kissing her neck, nipping her with his teeth, driving her further into her panic.

“Cedrik, please stop!” She gasped. “Please, why are you doing this?” She was strong, she should be able to fight him! He ignored her and his hand found its way between her legs. The shock it gave her sent her over the edge and she found herself escaping into the Fade.

The Fade was a familiar place, it was a comfort, and she was able to block out the feelings of her body. She put on a simple mage robe, created a large green field, and started sobbing uncontrollably.

 


 

A hand on her shoulder made her jerk away, crawling backwards in a panic to get away from the source, only to realize it was Anders. Of course, he would have to find her like that. His expression was a mix of concern and pity, but there was something else smoldering beneath the surface.

“So, I take it your lover is dead?” He asked. She wiped her eyes, shaking her head.

“Please don't call him that.” She said. “Why are you here? I didn't think you wanted to see me again, the way we left off.” His expression softened a little and he stepped closer to her, but she crawled back away from him, still afraid.

“What's wrong?” He asked. “Why are you afraid of me? Did he hurt you? Did he touch you?” She looked down, not wanting to answer, but her silence said enough. “If I find him, I will...”

“No, please... He's... it's not...” She couldn't make excuses for Cedrik's drunken behavior, but she didn't want Anders to get upset. Figuring that was too late, she sighed and continued, “I've been resisting his passes... After last night's battle, we almost lost a few men. He thinks we're not going to survive the next battle and got drunk tonight, took me away from the others... He said he couldn't resist me anymore. I panicked when he... and... and I retreated to the Fade. I don't know... don't know what he's doing to my body. I don't want to know.” She collapsed on the ground, sobbing again. She could feel the anger coming from Anders as he stood there, fists clenched.

“I... I know you didn't want to deal with anything like this... this mess... so I'll understand if you leave.” She said, eyes closed.

“You think I'd just leave my dearest friend in this kind of situation?” He crouched down in front of her and she looked up. “What kind of person do you take me for?”

“Anders...” Dearest friend... Of all the things she could want at that moment, she really wanted him to hold her. She trusted him, she loved him, and she should never have tried to have a relationship with someone as on edge and emotional as Cedrik. She knew he was going to feel horrible about it when he sobered up, but he was dangerous. She could never trust him. She threw her arms around Anders, crying on his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her. It felt right, with him, unlike with Cedrik, where it made her skin crawl.

“I'm sorry I haven't been the most understanding friend.” He said. “But I'll always be here for you when you need me. I'm having a hard time not being there in person for you right now to shoot lightning at the bastard...” She could feel he was tense and shaking with anger.

“I should have dragged him into the Fade.” She said. “I didn't think, I just reacted... But now... now I'm afraid to go back. I don't want to leave the Fade, I don't want to know what happened.”

“If you stay here, you'll die!” Anders forced her head up and looked her in the eye. “I had come to tell you I've been released from solitary confinement, and if you die on me now, I will never forgive you! I'm going to find a way out of this tower and then we can meet up, and if that... rat bastard mage is still alive, I will kill him myself!” It got a small giggle out of her and Anders helped her up. She looked at him, into his amber eyes, and wondered how she could have ever thought she could like anyone else. Feeling her bottom lip trembling again, she buried her face into his chest, gripping his robe.

“I don't want to leave you.” She said. “I don't want to go into battle tomorrow or the next day, I don't want to watch everyone around me die...”

“I don't want you in the battle either.” He said quietly. “You need to live so I can give you a massage in person.” She laughed.

“A massage sounds like a wonderful thing right now.” She said. “We've had three battles so far... I don't know when the next one will be, or if the next one is the last... We're waiting for Duncan to get back with the last recruit. I will be careful, but I can't abandon them all...”

“You know they all die.” He said. “If you go with them, what makes you think your fate will be any different?”

“Because I've seen the battle?” She gave him a weak grin. “I make no guarantees but I'll be careful. Or at least, we'll see what happens... my body... What if he...” She shuddered and closed her eyes. “You have ideas on what the magister did with me for the eight years I was with him, but... he kept me a virgin. I don't want to be raped, I don't want him to touch me anymore... but I don't know how to stop it.”

He stared at her with his mouth open. “I... Eight years?” He gasped. “But you said he had made you his apprentice! Why didn't you tell me? Never mind, we can talk about that later.” He started pacing, fists clenched. “Even if I were to leave the tower tonight, I wouldn't be able to rescue you in time... This is so frustrating.”

“I wish I hadn't told you.” Claire said. “That's why I didn't tell you about the magister... I didn't want you to worry about something so far out of your control.”

“I care about you, Claire.” He said, looking at her. “You didn't have to go through that alone, and you don't have to go through this alone. I may not be able to be there to stop him, but I can be here to support you.” She grabbed his robe again and buried her head in his chest.

“Can I... can I just stay here for a while?” She asked. “I don't ever want to leave you...”

“Anything for you.” He said, holding her close.

 


 

Never had Anders imagined this scenario, Claire practically proclaiming her love for him while her physical body was being violated by some desperate man. All he could do was be there for her, show her how he felt about her through comfort and support, his frustration smoldering inside of him. She had finally stopped crying and he was just holding her as they stood in silence. If her vision was true, and so far it was looking like it was, then the bastard was going to get what he deserved at the hands of the darkspawn before long. Claire would just have to stay strong.

He couldn't believe she had suffered at the hands of the magister for eight years without saying anything to him. It said a lot about their friendship that she trusted Anders enough for her to be so comfortable with him. She said she knew he wouldn't do anything to her, even after not seeing him for two years. How? How had he earned that level of trust? He didn't think she would trust anyone else so easily, so why him? All he had done was stumble over her in the forest all those years ago, yet she had latched onto him and he had looked forward to seeing her, even though at the time she was just a kid to him. As he watched her grow up, he found himself growing attracted to her, but he had also been very jealous that she'd been free.

He realized how wrong his thinking had been, how she had hid that from him even though she trusted him with everything else. She hadn't been free, she had only pretended, for his sake. Thinking about her behavior even just the past few months, it suddenly seemed obvious to him that she loved him. He'd just been too blind to see it, too wrapped up in his own troubles and frustrations to pay attention, assuming other things. What did she think of him, then, that she would hide her feelings for him? She had said, “If only things had been different.” He was a fool and he needed to fix that.

“Claire...” He murmured as she rubbed her face in his robe.

“I know... I need to go back...” She sighed.

“That's not what I meant.” He said. “If you need more time, stay.”

“Thank you, but I do need to go back.” She said, pulling away. “I need to deal with whatever happened.”

“Just remember, I'll be here if you need me.” He said. “Whatever you need... I will move mountains to get to you if I must.” She became visibly upset again and he wondered if he had said something wrong. She quickly nodded and stepped back, vanishing and leaving him bewildered.

 


 

Anders' words surprised her, but she forced herself to think on them later and stepped out of the Fade and back to her body, sitting up with a jolt. Someone had placed a blanket over her and her body hurt as if she'd been beaten up. Shuddering, she looked around. The night was quiet and dark, with no sign of Cedrik anywhere. She eased her pain and became a cat, slipping quietly across the rocks towards the camp, nervous at what she would find. Keeping to the shadows, she saw the Wardens off to the side, on the outskirts of the main encampment, and those who were awake were each trying to relax in whatever way they could, through reading or sharpening of weaponry, or eating.

There was no sign of Cedrik anywhere, and without her clothing, she wasn't about to go asking about him. She would have to wait until they were asleep, or maybe become a Mabari and sneak them away. It was the best plan she could come up with, so she did and walked around the edge of the tents. They looked at her funny, but didn't ask questions. Maybe they were used to Mabaris wandering around. She really needed to find out what happened with Cedrik, though. She had expected him to be there when she woke up and not finding him anywhere was disturbing her. He was a highly emotional man and he was drunk, not a good combination, especially after assaulting the woman he was supposedly in love with.

After grabbing some clothing, she ran back to the area he had left her in and became a human so she could get dressed in what she had snagged. Then she became a Mabari to sniff the area out. His scent was pretty easy to pick up and she followed it down a small winding path. Heart rending sobs reached her ears and she started running. There he was, prostrate on the ground, his warden gear glinting in the pale moonlight, shaking with each sob. She was conflicted. What was she supposed to do with him? There was a part of her that wanted to rip his throat out, while arguing that he was just going to die to the darkspawn soon anyway, but another part felt sorry for the man, an emotional wreck who had seriously screwed up and felt horrible about it. She couldn't forgive him, but she supposed she couldn't kill him either. She hadn't killed the magister, after all, and he'd done far worse.

She became a human again and touched his shoulder. He jerked up, staring at her in horror as he started backing up. She kept her expression as flat as possible, standing still.

“Claire...” His voice came out strangled and hoarse. He shook his head and started sobbing again. He was worse than she had expected and was conflicted. He wouldn't be suicidal, would he? Driven by guilt? What had he done to her while she was in the Fade? Making up her mind on what to do, she walked towards him and grabbed his arm, dragging him into the Fade with her. Just in case, she built up a barrier around them to prevent any unwanted visitors, then turned to Cedrik. She was much more comfortable in the Fade and knew he had no power over her there.

“You're obviously upset about what you did.” She said. “What in the Maker's name were you thinking? You weren't thinking, were you? So what are we going to do about it?”

“Please... I'm so sorry...” He cried. “I don't know how to make it better... I know I can't take it back, but I would, Maker help me I would.”

Claire sighed. “Maybe you can't, but I can. I'm not comfortable invading someone's head, but it's what I can think of right now to make things more tolerable. We need to be focused on the upcoming battles.” He swallowed his tears and looked at her with haunted eyes.

“You mean you can make me forget.” He said. “But you... you'll still remember. And every time you'd look at me, you would remember, and I wouldn't... no. Don't take my memory. I made the mistake, I should live with it.”

“What were you thinking?” She asked. “Do you not know that that is the exact reason I can't be touched? Because I spent eight years experiencing that kind of torture?”

“I have no excuse.” He said. “I... I guess at the time, everything was over-exaggerated to me... the alcohol, the feeling that I'm going to die soon... everything was dragging me down and you... you were taunting me, playing coy, and it made me angry. When you went limp in my arms, I realized what an idiot I was. I tried... I tried to wake you up...”

“I was in the Fade.” She said. His shoulders were slumped, he had the look of a man who was ready to give up. He was going to die soon, should she just tell him it was all right? Forgive him? Or let him go to his death feeling like a complete failure? He would probably die sooner if he was depressed...

“I won't take your memory.” She said. “As tempting as it is. Can we agree to move on from this then? Never speak of it again, focus only on our duties? I understand it was a mistake... I know how you feel about me, and I can feel your emotions here.”

“Are you sure?” He asked. “I... I'm not used to people reacting this way.”

“Maybe if we weren't surrounded by darkspawn, about to die, it would be different.” She smirked. “What would make you happier? If I beat you up? If I publicly shame you? If I let you meet a friend of mine who wants to kill you?”

He jerked back a little, looking worried. “You... have a friend who wants to kill me...?”

“He managed to find me when I retreated here tonight.” She said. “He said he would escape the tower and move mountains to find me if he had to. He's rather... protective.”

“N-no thanks, I... I think I'm fine not meeting your friend...” Claire laughed at his expression and found she was feeling a bit better about the whole thing. He would never get to touch her again, but perhaps it wouldn't bother her so much to continue fighting alongside the Wardens.

“Too bad.” She shook her head sadly. “He's pretty fun to hang out with.”

“How do you know a mage from the tower?” Cedrik asked. “I thought you've never been.”

“When I was on my way to Tevinter, he found me on the road and we traveled together for a ways before the Templars caught us.” She said. “I managed to escape, but he was taken to the Tower. I was able to find him in the Fade and that's the way we've been talking for the past... well I guess it's nine years now. I've been saying eight, but no... it's been nine now, since I made it to Tevinter.”

“He's the mage you thought had been made tranquil.” Cedrik said, his voice soft and understanding. “You obviously care a great deal for him, and he for you. He is a very lucky man indeed to have had your friendship for so long.”

“You're envious?” Claire raised an eyebrow.

“I can never have what he has with you.” Cedrik sighed. “Especially now. I doubt you'll let me anywhere near you now. Although, now I'm not really certain I ever had your heart to begin with. He always has, hasn't he?”

Claire scoffed. “The man who flirts with everyone except me? He treats me more like a little sister than anything else, and I'm not surprised since he met me when I was fourteen.”

“He probably doesn't feel like he needs to flirt with you.” He said, the anger in his tone surprising Claire. “You two have known each other for so long, I wouldn't be surprised if you're perfectly comfortable with him.” Claire shifted uncomfortably. While she had thought of it, she never wanted to dare hope, and after so many years, she still wasn't sure it was possible, but Anders' last words to her were bouncing around in her head. Had they been spending the past few months wanting something more, but too afraid to try for it? Or had it been going on even longer? Maybe that really was why he was so cross with her all the time, like she'd wondered about on her flight to Ostagar.

“I... don't know.” She said. “Even if what you're saying is true, I don't know if I'd want to change what he and I have now. I'm beginning to think romance messes everything up.”

“I want you to be happy, Claire.” He said. “Yes, I'm jealous that I can't have you anymore, but that was my fault. It doesn't mean you should suffer further... I'm sorry, I wish I could change it. Not all romance is bad...”

“We're mages, me being an apostate and you a Grey Warden.” She said. “It was probably a bad idea anyway. Mages shouldn't have romantic relationships. And besides, in the tower, they can't. How can an apostate have a relationship with a tower mage? I haven't even seen him in person in nine years.”

Cedrik turned away, fury twisting his face. “Blighted Templars. I would rain fireballs on them all if I could. They have no right to cage us like animals, killing us whenever they feel like it.”

“Is that how you were recruited?” Claire asked.

“Duncan found me... The Templars had me cornered, I was terrified and they were calling me maleficar. I didn't know what to do, they were going to kill me, but I didn't want to succumb to the calls of the demons, or blood magic. I just wanted to be free...”

“They used my friend against me, the sadistic bastard Templar told me to run or he'd kill my friend instead.” She said. “So, I ran. The Templar chased me down like it was a game, pinned me down and stabbed me, leaving me to die, saying I was no better than a demon. I waited until they left to heal myself... I may have been new to my magic, but I had that much training.”

“Too many of these stories don't end happily.” He said. “So many times I heard the Templars talking about an apostate that they ended up killing. Gloating about how the mage had begged to live... I know it seems impossible, but please, talk to your friend. Even if it's just a relationship in the Fade, that's still something the Templars can't touch.”

“I suppose I should...” She shrugged. “I'll at least think on it. You know, despite your mishap tonight, you've been a pretty good friend yourself. It was great to know you.”

“I don't quite believe that, but thank you.” He laughed. “We should get some actual rest before tomorrow... there's no telling what will happen.”

 


Lying on her cot, she thought on what Cedrik had said about Anders and wondered if she should ask before the final battle. Before she might die. Would it be better for her to die without telling Anders how she felt? Or would he be forever plagued with thoughts of 'what if?' She ventured into the Fade one last time, hesitating when she spotted Anders. She was comfortable with him, she loved him, but what if he didn't really like her back? She'd spent so long hiding her feelings, wanting something more but being too afraid, she needed to just say something.


 

Anders paced around the Fade, waiting for Claire to come back, praying that she would. She had such a propensity for disappearing that he wasn't sure he'd even see her again. She was going into battle with those blasted Wardens, she was going to get herself killed, and there he was, trapped in the tower still. At least he was out of solitary confinement, that was a plus. He had been surprised at how much the tower had changed in the year he was locked away.

The Libertarians were starting to speak louder against the Circle and there was an ominous tension in the air. It didn't help that a newly made mage had been caught helping a maleficar escape and had the Grey Warden Claire was always talking about not been there, the Templars would have cut him down. Claire would get to meet that mage soon enough, and from what she'd told him, the mage would be dead soon anyway, he'd merely be fighting for a nobler cause than freeing blood mages.
Sensing a presence behind him, he turned to find Claire. She had a soft smile and a strange look in her eyes that sent tingling up his spine. This was far from the woman he had comforted not that long ago. What had happened?

“Hello, Anders.” She said. “I keep thinking about what you said before I left, that you would move mountains to come to me.” She was suddenly right in front of him, running a bit of edging on his robe between her fingers. His heart was beating harder and faster as desire built up in him. “If you care about me that much, does that mean I've been holding back all these years for nothing?” She looked up at him through eyelashes, her vibrant blue eyes piercing his soul, making his mouth go dry. It was a demon, it had to be. This wasn't like Claire... The purring in her tone, the look in her eyes...

He backed away angrily, batting her hand from his robe. “I will not play this game.” He growled. “Go find some other mage to toy with.” Her hand dropped, confusion and hurt on her face.

“I'm sorry.” She said, reverting to the Claire he knew and loved. Was this just another demonic trick to lure him in? What was she playing at? “That was... that was stupid of me. I knew this was a mistake.” She started backing up and he felt panic grip his heart. If it really was Claire...

“What are you talking about?” He asked. “You're not a demon, then?”

“A demon...?” Her eyes went wide. “Maker, no! I... I screwed this up, didn't I? It played out so differently in my head, but I had no idea what to do...” She was turning a brilliant scarlet and it made Anders laugh.

“Andraste's great flaming knickers, woman, you scared me!” He grabbed her and hugged her tight. “When you left me, you were a mess, Maker knows what happening to your body, and then you come here and act like a Desire demon! What did you expect me to do?” And was she serious about holding back?

“Ah... true... I should tell you that I found Cedrik, dragged him into the Fade and yelled at him.” She sighed. “We came to an agreement, he won't come near me ever again and I won't kill him. It actually helped me a lot to talk to him. After I went to the Fade when he first attacked me, he realized what he was doing and stopped. That in itself was a relief to find out, that nothing else happened.”

“And here I was hoping I'd get to fry him.”

“I was tempted to get you two together.” She chuckled. “But it worked out.” He rested his cheek on her head, holding her close to himself. “I meant it, though. I've been holding back, for so many reasons, but now that I'm faced with potential death, I don't want to anymore. I don't want to die without you knowing how I feel and even if you don't actually feel the same way about me, at least you'll know.” He was elated, it really was her and she really did return his affection. Instead of responding verbally, he kissed her deeply on the lips, feeling her tense under his grip.

“I have waited a long time to do that.” He murmured as he broke away.

“I don't know why we waited so long...” She closed her eyes and leaned her head against his shoulder, her hair tickling his face.

“I'm an apostate trapped in the tower, you're an apostate who was stuck in Tevinter...” He said. “Thedas isn't appreciative of mages who fall in love, anyway.”

“We haven't seen each other in person in nine years.” She said. “It's not the same in the Fade, I felt that with Cedrik. I don't know how to describe it, but it's just different. And I'm so much more comfortable in the Fade, it's like my home. I'm powerful here, I am in control, and I knew that with Cedrik, that while he had power over me in the physical world, I could easily kill him here.”

“Are you afraid of seeing me?” He didn't want to lose what they had because they weren't in the Fade. “I'm planning on escaping here as soon as I can and I want to find you.” Granted she didn't wind up as a snack for a darkspawn... She said they were just waiting for Duncan and the new recruit, did that mean they'd all die when they got there? It wouldn't take them too long to get to Ostagar...

“I am...” Her voice was quiet and there was a tremor in it. “For knowing you, and loving you, for so long, you wouldn't think it'd be so difficult to see you in person, but I'm afraid.”

“Where would you like to meet?” He asked. “The battle... you said you were waiting for Duncan, right? What happens when he returns?”

“We have a day or two before the battle, I think, and then the betrayal.”

“He left the tower a few days ago, with a mage, Evan. He should be there soon then.” He sighed, wishing he had better news than that.

“So we don't have much more time before...” She shuddered. “I won't die, I won't, I can't. But I can't abandon them either. After the battle, I'll find you. We can figure out what to do then, where to meet. Maybe Redcliffe or Lothering.”

“You're not invincible.” He said, feeling his anxiety rising. He needed to escape, he needed to get to Ostagar before the battle, to make sure she survived, but how?

“I know and that's why I'm going to be careful.” She said, trying to sound confident. “If I have to, I'll use the knowledge of the dragon.”

“What is that? You've mentioned it before.”

“I found out about it in a Tevinter ruin, it was a book detailing how to become a dragon, but... it requires a lot of mana, and experience, so I haven't tried it yet. Frankly, I'm a little scared to become a dragon.”

“A dragon...” He was impressed. What other secrets would she unlock as time went on? She was somniari, a shapeshifter, and managed to get visions of the future as well, but never had he known of someone who could become a dragon, unless he believed the stories of the Witch of the Wilds. He looked down at Claire. “Tell me, could the Witch of the Wilds become a dragon?”

She looked startled, then nodded. “How did you know? Or was that a guess? She's... she's special.”

“I would love to learn her secret!” He joked.

“No, I don't think you would.” She said, frowning. “The cost would be too much, I think.”

“What, you don't think becoming a giant dragon and raining fire on every Templar in creation would be worth it?” She was always too serious, but it was an endearing trait.

“Oh come on, you know what that would do for mages?” She glared at him, then shook her head and smiled. “Of course you do. It's just a dream... You know, I don't think I've done anything like that...” He could tell by the glazing of her eyes she was getting lost in thought and wondered what she was thinking about. “You're a mage, you should be able to figure out transformations in the Fade.” She grinned as she showed him the wonders of Fade transformations, changing herself into a mighty dragon. After a while, he figured it out and felt the power rush as he stretched out his wings. She created her mountain village and took to the skies, with Anders quickly following.

 


 

Claire woke up feeling sore, but happy, like a bit of sunshine had crept into her soul, warming her up and making her smile. She dressed in her armor and tried to sneak out of the tent, ignoring the odd glances she received. They knew something had happened, but they seemed to assume something more romantic than the truth. Not that it mattered... Duncan was going to arrive soon, if Anders was right. She felt twitchy and escaped from the camp for a bit, becoming a bird and flying off.
At first she wasn't going anywhere in particular, but when she saw the road leading north, she started following it, hoping to catch a glimpse of Duncan and the recruit.

Amell.

Anders had said his name was Evan, the little boy she'd met in the Fade all those years ago. As she drifted lazily above the road, she caught sight of the gleaming armor the Warden-Commander was wearing, the young mage beside him looking dull and pale in comparison, his dark brown hair tied tight in a short ponytail. She tried to remember whether the battle started that night or the next, but the game wasn't very clear and it made her anxious. She flew back towards the Warden camp, hoping maybe there was something she could do to occupy her mind.

Nearing the camp, she noticed a couple of the Wardens were harassing Cedrik. Curious, she landed nearby and listened in. He didn't look very happy and their assumptions were completely off.

“Come on, Cedrik, you have to tell us eventually.” Jasper said. “You're the only one who's been able to get anywhere close with that woman.”

Cedrik waved his arm at them, making them move back, glaring. “Look, it's not like what you think. I... I screwed up, all right? Is that what you wanted to hear?” Their expressions ranged from confusion to shock.

“What do you mean, Cedrik?” Marcus asked. “You didn't hurt her, I hope!” Cedrik's shoulders slumped as he shrugged.

“She's still going to fight the darkspawn with us, if that's what you're wondering, but there is no relationship, so you can just forget about asking.”

As he turned to storm off, Stefen asked him, “Are you all right? You're not planning anything... crazy, are you?” Cedrik shrugged. Claire walked out from behind a tent, acting as if she hadn't heard anything.

“Duncan's back with the new recruit.” She said. “A mage, from the tower. From what I overheard, his friend betrayed him with blood magic and left him to die at the hands of the Templars.” Cedrik's fist clenched tight. “He probably won't want to talk about it... It's just so... infuriating. I hate the Circle, and its rules...” A couple of the other Wardens shook their heads sadly, but before anyone could say anything, a Templar came trudging in, helmet off, carrying a letter and Cedrik glared at him with so much hatred that Claire thought he was going to bore a hole through the man's head or set him on fire. The Templar ignored them both and walked up to Alistair, who Claire hadn't realized was sitting right behind her.

“We need you to give a message to the mages, the Mother asked for you by name.” Claire sniggered, knowing exactly what was going to happen. Alistair grumbled and got up, followed by the Templar, who nodded a gruff farewell to the Wardens. Cedrik grumbled and wandered off, leaving Stefen looking after him confused. Claire rolled her eyes and became a bird, taking off and flying above Cedrik. He was obviously still upset about what had happened, and Claire wasn't sure it mattered anymore, since he was going to die anyway.

She glanced back at the camp and felt her heart clench at the thought that that camaraderie would be gone soon. Was that all she could think about? She felt like she shouldn't dwell on what was to come and take in everything she could beforehand. Deciding to leave Cedrik be, she flew over the rest of the camp and just observed everyone for the rest of the day.

 


 

Dozing off, perched on a high ledge overlooking the area where the Joining was to take place, Claire was lost in thought until angry voices broke through her fog. Shaking her raven head, she peered down at Ser Jory backing up with Duncan advancing. The sword went through, and it was over. Then it was Daveth's turn, and he fell to the ground, gagging, before he died. Evan seemed nervous, but Duncan was cold, emotionless, as he handed the mage the cup. It was over quickly, and as Evan woke up, he was informed of the meeting with the king. That meant the battle was that night... she didn't have time to tell Anders, he'd have to find out later.

She swooped down and became human, waiting for Duncan to come back to his fire, her heart beating hard. She saw him, his face grim as he approached her.

“Hello, Duncan.” She said.

“This is it, then?” He asked.

“I said I would tell you some things about the future before... Well, you knew your time was getting short anyway. I'm sorry, Duncan, I wish I could save you, but I don't know how to cure the taint.”

“You don't have to tell me anything, you know.”

“I just want you to know there's hope. Alistair and Evan... they're the only ones to survive, but they raise up an army, unite Ferelden, and kill the archdemon. Alistair becomes king... and he finds his father, alive.”

“Maric is alive?” Duncan was surprised. “And that would mean Cailan...”

“I can't tell you more than that, but yes, to both.” She looked down. “If it helps, your death is what makes Alistair into the man Ferelden needs. Everything in this battle is crucial to that, it's a turning point in history. I think you would be very proud of Alistair. Speaking of...” She looked over at the two young Wardens walking towards them, with Alistair giving her a suspicious look.

“Not to be rude or anything, but what are you doing here?” He asked.

“Oh, I just heard you wished to be turned into a frog and have decided to grant your wish!” She smiled innocently at him. Duncan rolled his eyes and sighed. “Sorry, Duncan, I couldn't resist... I'll see you on the battlefield then. Maker be with you all.” She left, feeling Evan's gaze on her.

Once down with the soldiers and other Wardens, she checked over her armor, noticing hems were getting ratty and there were snags and holes here and there all over the dark red fabric. The metal wasn't too bad, but it did need a polish. There were dents and scratches, but she could fix that eventually.

“Are you sure you want to be here, fighting with us?” Cedrik asked her. He sounded forlorn, and she was afraid he wasn't going to last long in the battle if he wasn't focused.

“Yes, of course I'll fight with you.” She made herself smile, hoping he didn't catch any of her nervousness. “Cedrik, you're not a bad man. You made a horrible mistake, but you did stop, and you felt remorse over it. You need to remember that. I know you'll never do anything like that again.”

“Because we all die, isn't it?”

“No, because you're not evil.” He sighed and looked around, his hand gripping his staff tightly. Claire saw Wynne with Uldred and the other mages not too far away, preparing for the battle. “Cedrik... whatever happens tonight, just remember, aside from trying to rape me, you've been a good friend to me, and I'm grateful for getting to know you. I have no regrets.” Except that she wasn't going to be able to save anyone.

He frowned and rubbed his eye. “I will never understand you. If we are to die tonight, then, so be it. It was an honor to know you, Claire. May we find victory, or die fighting.” They saluted each other and looked over the army waiting for the darkspawn. There were so many... Aveline was in there somewhere, as was Carver. She didn't know how many soldiers survived, but at least that option was there for some of them...

The rain started pouring down, causing the torches to flicker and hiss. A dull roar ahead of the army echoed throughout the valley and the horns blew. The commanders ordered the army to charge, and the Grey Wardens led the attack with the king. Claire felt as if time slowed down as the two armies met, a brief moment of silence before the night erupted in screams and the clashing of metal on metal. She shot her spells out, picking her targets without much thought and just praying that she could kill as many as possible. She saw Stefen fall to a volley of arrows and she screamed out, pushing more mana into her spells as she continued to attack. There was nothing she could do as she watched Markus fall, and then Jasper, and a few other Wardens. Cedrik was beside her, tears streaming down his face, his eyes full of rage.

Claire saw the king get picked up and killed... Duncan charged in, killing the ogre, and then the beacon was lit, and nothing happened. Cedrik watched with her as Duncan was struck down, then he looked at Claire, horror at the realization that they were on their own, that Loghain wasn't coming, and then an arrow suddenly sprouted from Cedrik's head. Claire screamed and grabbed him as he fell. She couldn't stop crying, gripping his robe tightly and begging the Maker for a miracle, knowing it wasn't going to come. She didn't think the pain would be so bad... She felt a rush of energy in front of her and looked up just in time to see a fireball in her face. She gasped as the pain hit her, and then the world flipped upside down and for a split second it looked like she was in the Fade, then she was suddenly in a forest, the sounds of battle a faint whisper on the wind through the trees.

She looked down at the body she was still holding, glad for a reprieve from the fighting, and began sobbing again, collapsing on his broken body. It wasn't fair! Nothing was fair. She had only herself to blame for the pain of losing everyone, she could have done something else instead of find the Wardens, but no, she wanted to get to know them first. The arrow looked so horrible, sticking out of his head like it was, but she didn't want to pull it out. She picked him up and walked until she found a small clearing, then set his body down. She stepped back and set the body on fire. It wasn't a proper funeral pyre, but it would do. She wouldn't let any wandering demon take possession of his body. A cold numbness was settling inside of her as she watched the embers die down. She gave a strangled sob and became an owl, flying back towards the battle. She had to take Duncan's body... she had to, she couldn't let the darkspawn touch it.

The sounds of fighting had ceased, replaced with a few screams of survivors being taken by the darkspawn as the battlefield was picked clean. She spotted Duncan's body, no longer next to the king, but being dragged away. In her despair and rage, she used the knowledge she had found in Tevinter and became a dragon, roaring in defiance at the darkspawn who dared to touch Duncan. They would not have him. She batted them away like they were flies, then gingerly picked up the Warden-Commander's body. Stefen... he was still there too, with Markus and another Warden. She didn't see the others, but she could at least give those she did find the honor of a proper death. Giving one last roar, she flew off to find a place to burn their bodies.

Chapter Text

She knew she wandered, but she was numb and the days and nights blurred together until she had no idea where she was, or what day it was, nor did she care. Eventually, a small nagging voice in the back of her head said she needed to wake up and find Anders at least to let him know she was alive. She blinked at the sunlight and realized she was in the Korcari Wilds somewhere. A soft plume of smoke nearby made her wonder if Flemeth was there. Should she venture over? She was so tired...

“You seem familiar, could it be?” A familiar old voice seemed to echo in her mind. “Ah yes, the girl from the Chasind. So you've returned, and have forgotten any healing I taught you.”

Claire wanted to just collapse in a heap and not wake up. “Mythal... so tired. The battle...”

“What did you say?” Claire felt the world flip upside down again as it faded from view.

 


 

A bird chirping outside woke Claire with a start and she sat up quickly, easing the aches and pains she felt with mana. After looking around for a bit, she realized she knew where she was, she was back in Flemeth's hut. She rubbed her eyes and tried to remember what happened after she stopped being a dragon, but it was a blur full of emotions. She got up and noticed scarring on her left arm she didn't remember getting. She ran her other hand up the arm, feeling a sense of pain and tingling in the scars. The scars didn't stop, they kept going up and around her neck and chest, and up her face. From what she could feel, most of the left side of her face was scarred and some of the right side as well. She was missing a decent chunk of hair on her left side as well.

She sat there in shock for a moment before putting her armor on and walked outside. Flemeth was standing by a fire, looking grim, and Claire wondered if she should just become a bird and vanish.

“So you're awake.” Flemeth said, her gaze still on the fire.

“I'm sorry, I hadn't realized I'd even gotten hurt.” Claire said. “Thank you for helping me. How long has it been since the battle?”

“Long enough.” The old witch turned to Claire. “You're lucky to be alive, you know.”

“I... I don't know if lucky is the right word. I watched everyone else die. I don't even know how I survived, when I should have died with them.” She touched the scars on her face again.

“Now that you've been given a second chance at life, what do you plan to do with yourself?”

“I need to do what I can to help stop the Blight. With the Wardens dead, we're going to need everyone we can get.” Flemeth looked thoughtful, then nodded.

“There were two Grey Wardens who survived.” She said. “They left here and went up north to Lothering with Morrigan recently, if you've a desire to catch up to them.” Claire nodded, still feeling numb, then noticed Flemeth scrutinizing her. “You don't seem at all surprised. You already knew, did you not? You know a great deal, girl, and I am most curious as to how.”

Blushing, Claire stared at the dirt. “I'm not sure how I knew they survived, I just had a feeling.”

“Keep your secrets, then. Go, before I change my mind.” Claire nodded quickly and became a wolf, running up the road in search of the Wardens, wondering what Flemeth would have done had she known the truth.

 


 

Claire was exhausted, still sore from her almost healed wounds, when she came across a large group of five darkspawn approaching a wagon full of people. Groaning, she steeled herself and ran in between the darkspawn and the wagon, shooting out a chain of lightning from her staff, frying two grunts in the process. She then focused on the emissary, launching spell after spell at it until it collapsed. Hearing a scream from behind her, she saw a hurlock had gotten up to the wagon, so she fire-balled it, then hit it with a stone fist. The remaining genlock started running away, only to get frozen in place and shattered.

Breathing hard, Claire turned to the survivors who were staring at her in fear. “Is everyone all right?” She asked. A woman in the back nodded slowly, still in shock.

“Th-thank you, my lady.” The man in the driver's seat said. “Maker knows what we'd'a done without you! B-but if'n you don't mind, we best be going now. Thank you again.” She was sure the thanks were genuine, but their fear of her was pretty strong as well, noting the nervous glances they shot her as they drove away. Most people probably had never seen a mage, much less had one use her full potential near them. She grumbled as she continued walking up the road.

Her thoughts slowly turned to Anders and she stopped short, realizing he probably thought her dead. She would have to seek him out that night to let him know what happened, that she was all right. Had he escaped? Had Uldred gone insane yet? She clamped down on her anxiety and kept walking, telling herself that there was nothing she could do at the moment anyway. What could she do? She could find Evan and Alistair, and pal around with them, or she could go do her own thing with Anders. Her sense of duty was nagging at her, even knowing that they didn't need her, and she found herself severely conflicted. Would they even want her?

It was nearing dusk when she smelled the smoke of a campfire nearby, and wondered if it was the Wardens. Resisting the urge to become a wolf, she cautiously got closer to the camp. The dog was there, staring at her as he sniffed the air, a questioning look on his painted face as if he remembered her scent.

“Something out there, boy?” Evan had walked over and squinted into the darkness, his expression suddenly turning defensive. “Who's there?” So much for having an option of turning back... Claire stepped forward, her arms away from her body, palms out.

“We never officially met at Ostagar, but I saw you there.” She said. “My name is Claire, I fought alongside Duncan...” She couldn't read his body language very well in the dim lighting, but he seemed to stiffen.

“And what do you seek here?”

“Flemeth told me that two Wardens had survived and needed help, and I would like to help, if you'll have me.” Evan pinched the bridge of his nose, then nodded.

“Yes... I won't turn away help, not when so much is riding on us now.” He gestured towards the fire. “Come, tell us what happened. How did you survive?” Claire felt some relief, but as she looked at Alistair, she felt a huge amount of guilt fall on her. She stepped up to the fire, trying not to get too close to the man.

“I don't know how I survived, honestly.”

“You mentioned Flemeth?” Evan asked. Claire saw Alistair's attention had focused on her and it made her nervous.

“Yes... I don't remember what happened after getting hit by the emissary who gave me these scars. There are... vague flashes of memory, but they could have been dreams. I woke up in Flemeth's hut this morning, and I don't even know how long it's been since the battle.”

“You...” Alistair's voice cracked. “Duncan said you'd be fighting with the Wardens. You were there with him on the battlefield when... Y-you could have saved him...”

“Alistair...” Damn the tears, she couldn't stop them. “No one could have saved him. We were overrun! We saw the king get crushed and tossed to the side like a rag doll. We were barely able to see Duncan bring down the ogre that killed Cailan with all the fighting. We couldn't move, then he was struck down. When I looked at Cedrik, an arrow went through his skull. Alistair, I had to watch everyone else die around me, and I have to live with the fact I couldn't save anyone.” She cursed her tears as she cried. He went back to staring into the fire and nodded slowly.

“I'm sorry.” He spoke softly. “I just feel like if I'd been there...”

“You would have died alongside him.” Claire sighed. “When I spoke to him before the battle, he somehow knew it would be his last. He said his time was coming anyway, he was going to succumb to the Calling soon.”

“Yes, he mentioned that.” He glanced at her, then changed the subject. “I saw you around the estate in Denerim, but we never officially met. I overheard Cedrik talking about you. Is it true you were a slave in Tevinter?”

She grimaced. “Yes, for too long. I wish I'd been able to escape sooner.”

“I always thought the Imperium would be a great place for a mage.” Evan said.

“They'll make slaves out of anyone if they can.” She said. “Especially naive young foreign girls who are easily manipulated.” She spat in disgust.

“Why did you go to Tevinter?” Evan asked.

“Flemeth said she couldn't teach me, but that I'd learn there. I think the old witch just wanted me gone.”

“Yes... she did seem to have that sort of attitude while we were there.” Alistair said. “I still don't trust her daughter.”

“Oh Morrigan is fine.” Claire said, glancing over at the witch, who had set herself far away from the others. “Technically, so is Flemeth, so long as you don't cross her.”

“All the same, I'll be watching her.” Claire stifled a giggle, then yawned.

“We don't have a tent for you, but I think we have an extra sleeping mat.” Evan wandered over to a pack and brought over a blanket. “It's not much, but it should do you until we find something better.”

“Thank you.” Claire said, surprised. “And thank you for not turning me away. I've gotten used to being seen as a suspicious character.”

“You never did anything in the months you were with the Wardens.” Alistair said. “And... Duncan trusted you, that much was clear.” She looked at the ground and blinked back the tears again. It would get easier over time, but she was still so sensitive, and the images of everyone dying still burned into her memory. At least Alistair didn't have that.

“Thank you, all the same.” She smiled, then moved away to find a place to lie down.

 


 

She looked around the Fade, anxious to find Anders, and wondering what he'd done while she had been out. Had Uldred risen up against the Circle yet? Had Anders escaped? She was feeling too anxious to think clearly, too many questions popping up in her head that she didn't have answers for.

“Claire? Is that you?” She whirled around and ran into Anders' arms. “Maker, I thought...”

“I don't know how long I've been out...” She said. “I only woke up today. I should be dead, but I promised you I wouldn't die. I told you I would keep my promise.” He chuckled and kissed her head.

“How badly injured are you?” He looked her over, and she put a hand to her face. The skin felt smooth and normal, not like it was in reality.

“Ah, I apparently look the way I remember myself...” She concentrated and made herself resemble her physical body, noting the way Anders pulled back. “I got a face full of fire from an emissary after I tried to save one of the Wardens. I'm not sure what other injuries I sustained, but I woke up in Flemeth's hut again.”

“So she saved you.” He murmured, tracing a finger along her scars. “Does it... does it hurt?”

She shrugged. “A little. There are parts of me that are in a lot of pain, they still need healing, but otherwise I'm fine. How are you? Have you escaped the tower?”

He smirked. “Of course I have, you think I'd just sit in there while you were out risking your life?”

“I'm so glad.” She hugged him tight. “Uldred has gone insane. I think he's going to try to destroy the tower with demons, and I'm just glad you made it out before that happened.”

“Another vision...?”

“You should have seen him on the battlefield, Anders, he was insane with the power.” Claire shuddered. “He's been smoldering, but he's also been trying to win other mages to his side. They said he's not himself, that he changed. It was easier out here for him I think.”

“But surely he wouldn't do anything to hurt other mages.”

She looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Do you honestly believe that? That if he made a deal with a demon, he would spare all mages? I've seen demons... I've seen what they promise, and then what they do, and they tend to be different things.”

“Fair point.” He sighed. “Hey, now that I'm out, where should we meet?”

“I'm not sure where I am right now, honestly.” She said. “I'm with Evan and Alistair, the last two Wardens in all of Ferelden... and they need help. It's up to them to unite the land against Teyrn Loghain, who has declared them traitors, and they have to raise up an army to fight against the Blight.”

“How can two lone Wardens manage that?” Anders frowned. “It'd be easier for them to just give up and do something else.”

“Could you really sit idly by, if you were a Warden, sworn to fight the Blight? They're the only ones who can defeat an archdemon. If they don't at least try, the entire country will be wiped out.” He hugged her tight.

“I want you to stop fighting.” He said. “I've only just stolen your heart, yet you still insist on seeking death...” She kissed him, smiling.

“I'm not seeking death, I'm seeking life.” She said. “As soon as I figure out where we are, I'll let you know. I think we might be going to Redcliffe, to seek Arl Eamon's help.”

“Then I'll head there.” Anders said. “It's not too far from where I am.”

“I'll let you know if anything changes, but for now, let's just... enjoy the peace in the Fade.”

 


 

As the group walked to Redcliffe, no one really talked to Claire, though they gave her sidelong glances. Leliana seemed awkward around everyone, but was still energetic and put on a smile. Sten refused to speak to anyone and Claire figured he wasn't a big fan of her at all, her being a mage. She also noticed Morrigan casting glances at her, as if she couldn't remember who Claire was. Later, she approached Claire.

“You're that girl that stayed with us all those years ago.” She chuckled. “I almost didn't recognize you.”

“You've changed a lot, yourself, Morrigan.” Claire smiled. “We didn't get on too well back then, me being an awkward teenager and all, but I have always liked you.”

She pursed her lips. “I did not expect you to. You knew you were to leave us, and I felt no compunction to feel any attachment to you.”

Claire shrugged. “I know. I don't really care if you like me or not. It's just good to see you're doing well.”

“Debatable.” She snorted as she looked at Alistair.

Claire laughed. “Hah, well, as well as can be expected while wandering around trying to piece the country back together with one who would rather be sitting and eating cheese all day... At least you have Evan. He seems pretty capable, especially for being fresh out of the Circle and having all this dumped onto him.”

“Yes, well, we shall see.” Claire looked over and could see the spires on Redcliffe castle rising in the distance. It wouldn't be long before Alistair made his speech. She must have spaced out because she didn't realize Morrigan had moved on, and Leliana was looking at her oddly.

“You look lost in thought.” She said. Claire nodded.

“Just looking at the castle, and wondering what's going on in it.” She said. She already knew, but she wasn't going to let anyone else know. Not even Anders. “From here, everything seems so quiet, you wouldn't even know there's a Blight going on, aside from the sky.”

Leliana nodded. “The peace before the storm. But I have faith in the Maker that we will defeat it.”

Claire chuckled. “We will. Two Wardens and a handful of random people? We can do it, easy.” Leliana looked at her suspiciously.

“Think what you will,” She snapped. “But you will see.”

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to come off as mocking.” Claire said. “It won't really be easy, but I do believe we'll win. I just find it funny how small we are right now. We have the two newest Wardens, a Sister who talks to the Maker, a murderous qunari, a witch of the wilds, a dwarven merchant and his son, and me, another apostate.”

Leliana's expression softened a little as she nodded. “I see, yes. We are a rag tag team, aren't we?”

“Isn't that what legends are made of?” They were interrupted by Alistair talking to Evan about being a prince.

“A prince, eh?” Claire murmured to Leliana. “It is like a fairy tale...”

 


 

Claire was too preoccupied looking for Anders to pay attention to much that was going on as they arrived in Redcliffe and were asked for help defend the place. She paid more attention while Bann Teagan was talking, but there was no focus on her so it didn't matter. Evan, of course, agreed to help out, to which Morrigan rolled her eyes. Claire later heard Evan trying to explain why it was a good idea, but she wasn't sure it helped. She could tell he had started to like Morrigan, though.

The sun was getting low, and Claire hadn't seen Anders anywhere. She was beginning to hope he didn't make it until after the walking dead was dealt with. That night, there was no sleep. She did what she could to fight against the corpses, but it was horrifying. Darkspawn were one thing, but the corpses used to be human, and seeing the sheer amount of death that had occurred... But they succeeded in not losing a one that night. Claire spent a great deal of time healing those she could, but neither Morrigan nor Evan were healers so she was on her own, and she was proud of how well they all did.

The first minute she got a chance, she crashed and went into the Fade to talk to Anders. He had his arms crossed as he stared at her.

“What?” She asked, getting defensive.

“'Go to Redcliffe!' She said.” Anders said sarcastically. “That place is crawling with the undead! They were just pouring out of the castle!”

“Yes, we found out when we arrived.” She crossed her arms. “What, you think I purposefully sent you into danger? Really? Look, I just got done trying to save everyone in that village – and we did, thank you very much – so I'm not in the mood to fight with you right now.”

“I... no, it's not... argh.” He put his hand to his head, frustrated. “I didn't know you were there, else I would have helped more, it's just... what is going on with this world? Undead everywhere, darkspawn rising again, rumors of the Circle being overrun by demons, civil war... I get out of solitary confinement and the world has gone completely mad!”

“I wish I knew.” Claire sighed. “Even for all I do know, I don't know that. I just hope we can figure this mess out. All those people...”

“And you just go rushing into it head-first!”

“Can I at least get a hug before they wake me up?” She put her arms out, her expression sad and exhausted.

“Anything for you, my dear.” He hugged her gently, but firmly.

“I can't imagine this is easy for you.” She said. “You weren't even able to get used to a normal world before this one went crazy. I'm just so glad you got out of that place beforehand... is it true then? The tower has fallen?”

“Well, I wouldn't say fallen, but rumor is they're not letting anyone in or out.”

“This doesn't bode well at all. It's almost like everything is falling apart.”

“Just make sure you don't, yes?” He chuckled. “I'll come find you in the morning.”

 


 

Anders had found clothing to help him blend in better and went down to see what the crowd was all about. He was glad to see Evan up there getting congratulated and wondered who all the other people with him were. Then he saw Claire, hiding herself in the back, just watching. He waited for the crowd to disperse so he could let her know he was there. He was a bit anxious on how well she'd react to him in the physical world, since she'd said it was so different, and figured he'd probably have to take it slow.
To his dismay, Evan had Claire go with him and a few others to follow another man. He didn't really want Evan to know he was there, but he also didn't want Claire to leave. He followed for a bit, then magically zapped Claire a little to get her attention. She turned quickly, fire in her eyes until she spotted him. She quickly said something to Evan, who nodded and continued walking.


“Anders!” She said, grinning. “They're about to discuss how to get into the castle I think. No one knows what's going on.” He noticed she was fidgeting with her hands.

“Good to see you in person, Claire!” He grinned back. “It's been what, nine years now? And my word have you changed.”

“Oh hush, it's not that different from the Fade!” She laughed, but it sounded nervous.

“Are you all right?” He asked.

“You're here.” She said. “It's... It's strange, and... and honestly, I'm afraid of it being different. If... if I don't touch you, it can't change, right?”

“Claire.” Anders sighed. “It's still me, you trust me, yes? I won't hurt you.” She slowly reached out her hand to take his and he could feel her tremble at the touch.

“I can trick my mind all I want in the Fade, but it doesn't compare...” She said, giving his hand a squeeze as she looked up at him. She let go and gave him a hug, melting into his arms as he hugged her back, and he relished her scent. He softly kissed the top of her head and she didn't flinch away.

“I love you so much, Anders.” She murmured. “Thank you so much for coming. I never want to let you go...”

“Then don't.” He wanted to be with her always, and for once, he believed it possible. The Templars could never take her from him, he could love freely.

“Where should we go?” She asked. “We can't stand here on the pathway forever.”

“Are you sure you want to leave the Wardens?” He asked. “I thought you had to fight for justice and freedom.” She shrugged, stepping back.

“I don't want to leave you more.” She looked up the hill, where she saw some new people gathering. “But at the same time, I don't know. I want to help, but... I'm torn. Our little group is so strange, Anders.” She proceeded to tell him all about each member, and how they were supposed to save the world. “It's like something from a legend, right?” She smiled awkwardly.

“I have my own business I want to take care of, Claire.” He said. “But I'll be around. You know how to find me.”

“Well you don't have to leave right now, surely!” She frowned. He smiled and pulled her into a hug again.

“Of course not!” He said. “I just got here.”

 


 

Claire couldn't believe how she felt with Anders there, in person. The physical touch felt warm and welcoming, not strange like it had with Cedrik. She still had inhibitions and fears, but there was trust between her and Anders that helped. They didn't do anything physical, outside of hugging, that day, but she was fine with it. Towards the evening, they saw Evan leaving the castle.

“I should get back to them, I suppose.” Claire sighed. “I need to at least let them know whether I'll be staying or not.”

“You should stay, do some good.”

She looked at him, surprised. “And here I was expecting you to be selfish!” She laughed.

“It's a little bit selfish.” He pouted. “I have great faith in your ability to save this world from destruction, and I prefer the world not destroyed, so...”

“So you want me to keep your world happy?” He smirked, and something about his lips seemed irresistible. She quickly leaned in and kissed him. He brushed her hair back behind her ear and looked at her with wonder in his eyes. “I will keep your world happy, then.”

“Well now I don't want you to leave.” He laughed.

“You'll just have something to look forward to on our next visit.” She grinned. “Where will you be going, anyway?”

“Oh, you know, here, there, and everywhere. I am still after my phylactery, after all.”

“Hopefully you'll have more of a break this time.”

“If not, I'll just break out again.”

“Ever the optimist!”

 


 

Evan didn't question her when she got into camp, but he did give her a sidelong glance that made her wonder what he was thinking. She figured she should talk to him. If anyone would understand, it should be him. Waiting until after dinner, and after everyone got the rundown on what had happened in the castle, since only Morrigan, Alistair, and Leliana had gone with Evan, Claire approached him.

“I wanted to talk about what happened earlier.” She said.

“Who was that?” Evan asked. “I couldn't make out his face.”

Claire smiled. “Yes, he wants it that way. He's in hiding, but I figured of all people, you should be able to understand the best. You know how the Circle is, and the Templars. Can you blame a man for wanting to be rid of that?”

Evan nodded. “More than ever now that I have been rid of it! Do I know the man?”

“It's possible, though he was locked in solitary confinement for an entire year and just released.”

“That could only mean Anders.” Evan rolled his eyes and sighed. “He was always escaping, so of course he'd escape again. They act like solitary confinement would make him want to stay! How is he then? Happy to be free, I suspect.”

“Yes, very much so.” She said. “And that's one thing I wanted to talk about. I don't want you to worry, if I disappear for days at a time. I will try to be here for when you need the help, but at this point, I'm not sure how much help I'll be.”

“You were a great help fighting those corpses.” Evan shrugged. “You did great healing. And honestly, it'd be great to get Anders to help out as well, though I don't suppose that's an option?”

She shook her head. “No, unfortunately, he's enjoying his independence too much and doesn't want to be 'tied down' to anything.”

He looked at her oddly, then asked, “How would you know him, anyway? I thought you were never in the Circle.”

“Oh, when I was about fourteen, he tripped over me at the edge of the Korcari wilds. He'd just escaped and I followed him to Denerim, but we got caught by Templars. The...” She stopped and frowned, surprised at the sudden emotion she felt at retelling the story. “The second day, the Templar told me to run, then had fun chasing me down like it was a sport. He stabbed me and left me to die, but I healed myself and survived. I've kept in contact with Anders through the Fade ever since.”

“Huh.” Evan looked thoughtful. “So you've known him for a long time... and through the Fade. I'd heard of it, but in the Tower, there wasn't much meeting in the Fade going on. I'm not the most adept at wandering the Fade, though the Harrowing went well. I try to avoid the Fade if I can, but... if you ever need to contact me for any reason, or if I need to contact you, perhaps that would be the best way.”

“Certainly. I personally love the Fade.” She smiled. “I feel so much more comfortable there than here.” He shook his head.

“No thank you. Firm earth beneath my feet and no demons and I'll be happy. I used to think spirits could be friends, I remember someone telling me that in the Fade when I was a child and still new to my magic...” Claire suddenly remembered speaking with him then .

“They can be, but it's dangerous because they can be corrupted by us.” She said. “I don't blame you for staying out of the Fade, it's not for everyone.”

 


 

As Claire started getting ready for bed, Alistair walked over. She looked up at him, wondering what the bastard prince could want from her, and then suspected it had to do with Duncan, especially judging by his sorrowful expression.

“Hey, what's wrong?” She asked, standing up.

“Oh, you know, nothing.” He was a bad liar. “I just was wondering if you might have a minute, to talk.”

“Nothing better to do, what's on your mind?”

“You said... you told me that I probably would have died as well. You saw everything...”

“Alistair...” She put her hand on his arm. “I have nightmares every night, seeing their faces and hearing their screams. I am so thankful that you were spared, and I'm certain Duncan was as well. At least two Wardens were spared. You can think about the what-if's all day until you're mad in the head, but what matters is that someone who has a chance to beat this Blight, who can lead this country, survived.”

Alistair didn't look relieved. “Well you're obviously not talking about me. I can't lead anyone to anywhere, we'll all get lost.”

“By the time you're done uniting the land, you don't think you'll have grown by then? You really want that spoiled brat of a queen to rule?” She smirked. “She'll probably insist on a monument to her dear father...”

He looked horrified. “After everything that man has done?”

“She's a daddy's girl.”

“As much as I don't want to be king, if it comes to it, I think I will just to spite her.”

“That's the spirit!” Claire said, glad to see him happier, but then he frowned again.

“I'm sorry I didn't talk to you while we were in Denerim.” He said. “But it's good to see someone Duncan trusted, who knew the others, survived as well. It makes me feel less alone.”

“Are you lonely?” She asked. “Even with all these people around you?”

He snorted. “Morrigan's a bitch, Leliana is crazy, Sten is a murderer, and Evan doesn't like me.”

“He doesn't?” Claire frowned.

“You know he almost went for the blood magic ritual today?” Alistair shook his head, disapproving. “But we managed to convince him to go to the Circle to get mages.” Claire must have made a strange expression because he suddenly looked worried. “What, what's wrong?”

“It's... it's nothing, just a thought about the tower.” She felt like she was also a terrible liar.

“Ah, yes, because apostate.”

“Being enslaved in Tevinter was bad enough, I don't want to be enslaved here as well.”

“I wouldn't call it slavery...” He frowned.

“No privacy, no free will, no getting to use magic whenever... Templar abuses...” He bristled a little.

“Not every Templar is evil.”

“No, this is true, but those sadistic bastards more than make up for it.” She spat. “Ser Daric especially. I was fourteen, Alistair! Fourteen! And he made me run so he could chase me down and stab me like I was prey.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. “I'm sorry... I didn't mean to snap. I try not to judge Templars beforehand, but you have to understand, it's difficult. Like you and witches of the Wild.”

“Hey, that's not fair.” He pouted. She raised an eyebrow and he sighed. “All right, fine, I'll give you that one.”

She paused for a second, then said, “Please don't worry if I disappear every now and then. I'll never be far away.”

He looked at her quizzically. “Why's that?”

“I... have a friend.” She smiled sheepishly. “I finally got to see him today after far too long, and he knows how important this group is, but he has his own work he has to do so he can't join, so when possible, I'll be meeting up with him.”

“Please don't be too long, we need everyone we can get.”

“Don't worry.” She smiled. “You'll be fine, and I won't abandon the fight. We can win this, and we will. But you must be strong, Alistair. Even if you're not put up as king, you still have a duty to this world, and only the strong can win.” He blinked, then nodded.

“Perhaps I should go get some sleep while I can.” He said. “But thank you, it was nice to talk to you.”

“And you. Sleep well.”

 


 

Kinloch Hold rose high into the fog that surrounded the lake, and Claire wasn't sure she wanted to go into the Tower that had held her friend captive for so long. Evan could probably sense her dislike for the Tower and suggested she stay behind. She decided instead to fly up to the top and see if she could find Cullen. She began to wonder if Ser Daric was still around, and if he would be upset to see her like he said. She flew around, perching on various windows to see what she could find, knowing that Evan would take care of most of the problems. There. She saw Daric, with a Desire demon wrapped around him. She almost laughed at his predicament, thinking it only fair, but she knew she couldn't let a demon have free reign in her world.

“Hello, might I have a chat with this Templar without you interfering?” Claire asked as the demon noticed her. The demon scowled, but Claire didn't give it time to react before severing the connection between the demon and the Templar. Daric stumbled back while holding his head, moving away from the demon, giving Claire a clear shot. She didn't hold back, and while the demon put up a fight, Claire defeated it in rather short order. Daric blinked at her in confusion and suspicion.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” He demanded.

“Considering you love apostate stories, here's one that might jog your memory.” She said. “A Templar tells a young apostate girl to run through the forest or he'll stab her friend, then proceeds to chase her down and stab her, telling her she's no better than a demon.” His eyes went wide.

“I... killed you, you should be dead.”

“You hate mages like me, you fear what we can do...” She found she didn't have any of the anger she'd had before towards him, but she was still wary.

“Yet... yet you came back, and... dare I say, rescued me.” He looked bewildered, and she couldn't blame him.

“It may take a little time to get over the possession. This whole tower is overrun with demons, but we have some people coming in to help out. We will save as many as we can.”

“Why?” He asked. “Why you? An apostate, one who... who I tortured and tried to kill... why would you come back and save us and risk your life?”

“Because I can't let people just die.” She sighed. “The demons are the problem right now, we can worry about everything else later. We have a Blight to fight, as well, so maybe after that too. We need every one we can get, even if... even if they're... you.”

“Where are you going?” He asked as she turned to the wall.

“To the Harrowing chamber. There are Templars being held there and I want to see if I can help them. I can't reach the mages... my friends are doing that.” She shrugged. “We'll get this tower sorted out, no worries. It'd probably be better if you stay put, and watch for Evan and Wynne. They're here to help.” The Templar nodded and Claire became a bird, flying out and to the room with Cullen in it. She flew down and became human again. Cullen was the only one alive, just like the game, and she could feel the energy from the barrier.

She put her hands against it and said, “Cullen, if you can hear me, help is coming.” The Templar kept praying, muttering about dreams, and she sighed. The most she could do would be to try to ease his pain. Unfortunately, the barrier made it difficult and after a few hours, she felt as if it was actually draining her, sucking her mana from her. She began panicking as she tried to break free, her vision getting black spots in it.

“Cullen...” She gasped. “Stay strong, I can't hold them off anymore.” He looked sharply up as she finally broke free and stumbled back, only to fall unconscious amid the strange masses that were growing on the walls and floor.

Chapter Text

“Claire, what's wrong?” Claire slowly realized she was in the Fade, and Anders was standing next to her.

“W-what happened?” She groaned at the headache, surprised she even had one in the Fade.

“I'm not entirely sure, one minute I was dreaming and then the next, I felt myself being dragged, only to find you here holding your head in your hands.”

“The Tower is horrible, Anders, it's been completely infested with demons and there are hardly any people left, it seems. Templars and mages alike.” Anders grimaced.

“So the rumors were true after all.” He sighed.

“I am grateful more than ever now you escaped when you did. I couldn't bear to lose you.” She grasped him and stared into his eyes. “Evan is fighting to save the tower, or at least the mages in it... I...” She blushed and wondered how she was going to tell him she rescued a Templar.

“What? What did you do?”

“I found Ser Daric. You remember him...” His expression grew dark. “I don't know if it was a mistake or not, but I couldn't kill him. I saved him from a Desire demon... I saved a Templar, Anders. The same Templar that tried to kill me, and I saved him.” She put her head on his chest, not wanting to see his expression.

“You always have been too soft.” He gave her a squeeze. “Did he say he was going to hunt you down still?”

“No, he was in shock, and he couldn't believe I would do what I did.” She laughed. “I couldn't either.”

He looked concerned again. “Are you all right? Do you remember how you got here?”

“Yes... I was trying to break through a blood mage's barrier and it drained me of my mana.” She frowned. “I don't think anything will happen to my body, but there's nothing I can do about it either way. It won't wake up.”

“Maker, woman, why must you make me worry so!” Anders clung to her a little tighter.

“I'm sorry.” She said. “I don't mean to, but I can't sit idly by, you know that.”

“Just promise me once this is done, you'll come see me?”

“We're supposed to be heading back to Redcliffe to save a boy who's been possessed, which is the whole reason we came here in the first place, because they needed the mages and lyrium...” Anders raised an eyebrow.

“You just told me that you saved a Templar who was possessed, and now you're telling me that you had to come to this tower, to get people and lyrium to do something you could do without thinking?” Claire wasn't sure if he was angry, disappointed, or what, but how would she explain that?

“They... I... I didn't tell them what I can do. I don't want them to know, it's too dangerous, and... and they had to come to the tower anyway, because of the Blight, so um, kill two birds with one stone...”

“You're flustered again.” He shook his head and laughed a little. “Fine, fine, who am I to question my crazy woman? If she wants to charge into a demon infested tower to save Templars and risk her life for no real reason, that's her decision!”

She playfully shoved him, glaring while trying not to laugh. “Oh hush! There are lives to be saved here! Granted, I've only saved one and feel pretty much completely useless for once... but that's one life saved!”

“A Templar life...” The only response she had was to kiss him.

 


 

Claire wasn't sure how long it was before she woke up, but Anders stayed with her the whole time, just to make sure she would be all right. Finally she felt her body being responsive enough to wake up and was anxious to see what had happened. Oh Maker... Her head was hurting so badly she couldn't move, and her body was still too drained to heal anything. She listened for any voices, but she could hear nothing. Eventually she was able to reach into her pouch for lyrium and downed it, thankful for the relief it brought. She also downed an elfroot potion while she was at it and slowly got up.

Cullen was still behind the barrier, but he was staring at the door to the chamber, so she wasn't sure if Evan had come through yet or not.

“Cullen, was Evan here?” She asked. He turned and looked at her with haunted eyes.

“They're going to unleash blood mages on us all.” He said.

“Evan knows what he's doing, have faith.”

“They probably got into your head as well.” He glared at her. “They get into everyone's heads and it doesn't go away...”

“I'm pretty sure I'd know if they'd gotten into my head.” She grumbled, but he ignored her. She was about to try to make small talk when the barrier collapsed.

“Thank the Maker.” Cullen said, taking a deep breath.

“Are you going to be all right?” She asked, knowing the answer better than he did.

“I will be better after all the mages in the tower are dead and the evil is defeated.”

“Even me?” She asked. He frowned.

“I don't recognize you...”

“Oh, you're awake!” Evan said, staring at Claire as he came down the steps with Irving and the others. Claire smiled timidly. “We tried to rouse you, but to no avail, and couldn't keep Uldred waiting.” Evan said.

“Yeah, I tried to deal with the barrier on my own. It didn't work so well.” She said.

“Who are you?” Irving asked. “Another apostate?” She saw Morrigan made a face at the old man, but he didn't notice.

“Yes, ser, my name is Claire.” She bowed. Wynne stayed silent, pursing her lips in annoyance.

“Introductions can wait, we need to get to the knight-commander.” Evan said, glancing at Cullen. “Cullen...” But then he stopped and shook his head. The Templar ignored him, rage painted on his face. Claire followed them down to the main level, and she saw Ser Daric speaking with another Templar. Part of her wanted to just leave, but she was curious about him, about whether or not he changed his mind about her. She only half paid attention to Evan speaking with the knight-commander, noting it was pretty much the same as the game.

She noticed Daric had stopped speaking and was looking at her with a disturbed expression. He ran a hand through his greying hair and walked over to her, pulling her to the side, which made her nervous.

“I've had time to think about everything, or so I thought, but then I saw you and I don't know anymore.” He gave an exasperated sigh. “So many years I've dedicated to being a Templar, to keeping mages in check, advocating to tighten the leash... not even viewing them as human... and you knew it. You knew it, and you still rescued me, and I cannot wrap my head around it. Why?”

“I suppose it would make more sense for me to have let you die at the hands of a demon, than to live and potentially hurt more mages...” She said. “But I couldn't. I hate demons more than I hate Templars, and Templars are at least human, and humans aren't all bad. There is good, too, and there is hope in that. Though trust me, I'm still struggling with my choice too, wondering if I'm going to regret it.”

“I feel as if my foundation has crumbled away, at least in part, seeing something that goes against everything I ever believed in the face of such chaos.” He looked sad and lost, and Claire was reminded again of how human they were.

“We're all human, Ser Daric.” She said, cautiously putting a hand on his arm. “It's something so many forget, that we all have faults, that there are bad mages and Templars, and good ones as well. And right now, we need to come together more than ever to fight this Blight. We cannot afford to be divided now.”

He slowly nodded. “It will take some time to figure out everything, but... thank you, for my life.”

“After what you did... it was hard, but I guess I'm glad I saved you.”

“I've gotten better over the years, I suppose now I'll have to reevaluate everything I ever thought I knew.”

“Claire, we're leaving. Are you coming?” Evan asked, looking quizzically between her and Daric.

“You two know each other?” Wynne asked, perplexed.

Claire nodded. “We met... on the road about nine years ago...” She laughed awkwardly.

“That's a nice way to put it.” Daric sighed.

“Take care of yourself, Ser Daric, and Maker be with you.” She said.

“And with you.” Claire followed Evan out, wondering what had just happened. The Templar who had instilled the fear of Templars into her at the very beginning, cordial and nice? Amazing what nine years would do. She could scarcely believe it, thinking it was all just some weird dream.

“I was unaware you were friends with Templars.” Alistair said as they walked back to the camp.

“I'm not, not really.” She shrugged. “He was the Templar who stabbed me and left me in the forest when I was a kid. But despite that, I still saved him from that demon. Go figure.”

“You're a good person, otherwise Duncan wouldn't have let you stay and fight by our side...” Alistair had a sad look in his eyes and Claire wondered if he was going to cry.

“Apparently he saw more in me than I knew about myself.” She laughed. “I think he did for everyone he chose, including you. I think before long we'll see the man he knew was in there, the man hiding behind the love of cheese and bad humor.”

“Hey!”

“Got you to smile, even if just a little.” She said, gloating a little.

“Speaking of cheese...” Alistair grabbed a bag near a tent as they walked into camp. “Care to join me?”

 


 

Claire decided not to follow the Wardens back to Redcliffe, since that was pretty basic stuff, and instead hung out with Anders as he went to Denerim. She kept in touch with Evan through the Fade, to make sure he didn't need her, but was otherwise content to laze about. It had been interesting, the first night she'd stayed with Anders. She'd been afraid of it, of what he might expect of her, while at the same time, wanting to go all the way.

He'd managed to find them a room in an actual inn, and she felt giddy as she closed the door behind her.

“Now that I have you all to myself for once, what shall we do?” He asked. Claire's mouth had gone dry and she merely shrugged.

“What does one normally do with one's love in their own private room?” She managed to ask. He smirked and gently pulled her to him, pressing her body against his. Pushing her fear to the side, she kissed him, and all the pent up energy that had been building between them exploded.

 


 

Between spending time with Anders and helping Evan out, Claire found herself losing track of the date. They'd finally healed Arl Eamon, and Evan decided to go to the Dalish for help. Claire made up her mind to accompany them mainly because she wanted to see the werewolves up close, but as they were wandering the ruins, it hit her; the spirit, trapped with its arcane knowledge, might hold the key to her being able to teleport. She wondered why she hadn't thought of it before, especially after what had happened at Ostagar. She began to look for it, wondering if it was real, or if it was a game only thing like many other things ended up being.

Eventually, Evan held it up and she had to contain her excitement. Unfortunately, she still had to wait until they were back at camp, after everything had been taken care of, before she could get the information from Evan. He didn't even question why she'd want the knowledge. Gaining that information spurred her on to make a goal of trying to find the battlemage abilities as well, if they existed. But, with the knowledge she gained, she might be able to work towards teleporting. It had to be a thing, she knew it was. She'd already done it, she'd just need to practice.

It was easy to practice while they were in Orzammar. She stayed on the surface, flew up to an isolated area, and began working on learning. The abilities of the arcane warrior were fascinating, and slowly she was able to understand how to do the Fade shield ability, where she basically straddled the Fade. All it would take would be one more step... just a little further... She could feel the Fade calling to her and after a while – she'd lost track of time – she slipped in. There she was, physically in the Fade. She was elated. Everything looked different, though, and felt different. She'd have to be careful... there was no telling what could happen while physically in the Fade. She was reminded of the magisters who had stormed the Gold City, turning it black. Part of her wanted to see it, but she knew the corruption would probably get her and she wanted to avoid that at all cost. She decided she didn't want to attract any demons, and figured she needed to find out how to get out of the Fade.

That proved to be more difficult, something that was causing her to panic, especially with how hungry and thirsty she was getting. Calming herself down, she decided she would at least wander around in the Fade a little more before trying to open an exit. Despite her being in a physical form, she found a lot of the things she could do in spirit form were still possible, even bringing up portals to other places. Maybe she could find Anders when he fell asleep... She realized she had no idea what time it even was back in Ferelden. How was she to find him?

A wisp became curious about her and started following her about, and she mindlessly chattered to it, feeling small bits of emotion in response. It eventually grew bored and disappeared. She began thinking it wouldn't be a good idea to find Anders. What would it be like to see a dreamer? Could she touch them? Would they be physical themselves or like a ghost to her? She sat down and started contemplating how to get out. She went over the steps to get in, and focused on reversing it, pouring her will into it, wishing with all her might for a way out.

And there, after many tests, a portal out appeared. She quickly stepped through, not caring if anyone was on the other side. As it was, she found herself staring up at what she could only assume was Fort Drakon, and no one around. The sun was just rising, and she felt faint with hunger, and she could only wonder at how long she'd been in the Fade. Despite her experience, she was determined to continue trying, almost desperate to figure out teleporting. She found she didn't even have the energy to become a bird, and so wandered off to the marketplace to buy some food and drink.

As she ate, she wondered where Anders was. He said he was headed for Denerim, so she decided it'd be best to check their usual inn. The innkeeper knew them, and would be able to tell her.

“Hello, I was wondering if Anders had come back yet?” She asked as she walked in. The innkeeper didn't even look up at her as he grunted and pointed down the hall. “Thank you.” She went and knocked on the door. It opened a crack, the Anders flung it open and grabbed her, dragging her inside before shutting the door.

“Where have you been?!” He yelled, taking her completely off guard.

“I... what?”

“It's been three days since you said you'd see me again and I couldn't find you in the Fade! You had me so worried!”

“It's been three days?” She gasped. “Maker... I... I'm sorry, I had no idea. I...”

“How could you not know? Where have you been?” He looked so worried and upset Claire wasn't sure she should tell him.

“I... well, Evan has to deal with the dwarves, and their king is dead, there's a civil war and stalemate going on down there, and I really wanted no part in it...”

“That's more than a five day trip.” Anders wasn't believing anything. “But even then, you weren't in the Fade, did you not sleep?”

“Well, that's the thing, I... I was in the Fade.” She cringed as he looked at her like she'd gone insane. “While with the Dalish, Evan discovered a class of mage called the arcane warrior, and they have this ability to step halfway into the Fade for a Fade shield and...”

“And you went all the way.” His eyes widened in horror. “You went into the Fade, physically. Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?”

“More than ever, especially now.” She said. “It took me a long time to figure out how to get out. I was going mad from no food or drink, and I suppose I didn't even sleep. I don't even know if time passes normally there or not.”

“Please, love, don't... don't try it again. Please.” She hugged him tight.

“I think I learned.” She laughed. She wasn't going to promise anything, she had to keep trying, but she didn't want him to worry. She had learned, learned exactly what she needed to to figure out success. It would take a lot of practicing. He kissed her.

“I've finally found something the Templars can't take away, and yet the biggest threat to yourself, is yourself! I can't protect you from you.” He said.

“I know, and I honestly am trying not to kill myself, but what would you have me do, sit in a room all day doing nothing?” She laughed.

“If it means keeping you to myself, then yes.” He kissed her again.

“After the dwarves, all that's left are the humans.” Claire said. “Evan will be going back to Redcliffe, where Arl Eamon will give the call to march for Denerim to call the Landsmeet. Then... we'll see.”

“And you're still insistent on helping.”

“I need to protect you, and the land you live in, so that we may be able to live in peace for once. But, if it helps, I'll keep you company for even longer, since I lost three days.”

 


 

That night, Claire contacted Evan to see how things were going, and to see if she'd missed anything, but they hadn't even gotten into the Deep Roads yet. She wanted very much to go practice her Fade teleport, but Anders was clinging to her more than usual since her stunt and she felt bad for even thinking of leaving him to do something that terrified him. He just didn't understand what it could mean, though. Saving mages would be so easy if she could teleport. She could easily find his phylactery and give it to him, without anyone even knowing. She sighed. Maybe some day she would tell him, after she'd perfected it. She imagined herself handing him the phylactery and seeing his expression. What could be better?

It wasn't long, though, before Anders got a lead and left Denerim. He said he'd be back as soon as he could, but couldn't tell her how long that would take, so she said she'd go take care of some things herself. Their room was as good a place as any, and made sure she paid the innkeeper two weeks in advance, just in case. She would figure it out.

After four weeks of trying to get somewhere, Evan was finally back at Redcliffe, Anders had come and gone again, and she had finally figured it out. By the time Arl Eamon had made it to Denerim, she had even figured out how to remain invisible in the physical world and just be an observer, which she figured out be of the utmost importance when teleporting, so she didn't land on anyone. But, she still kept it from Anders. She didn't want him to know she'd gone behind his back and continued her dangerous research because she didn't want to worry him with the knowledge.

Since they'd started seeing each other in person, he'd gotten a lot more attached to her than she had expected, and hoped it wouldn't change anything. She couldn't imagine a timeline where he didn't join with Justice, where he didn't meet up with Hawke and help out the Deep Roads expedition, or blow up the Chantry. She definitely had to make sure he kept looking for his phylactery... everything she knew hinged on him being made a Warden. Perhaps the mages of Thedas would lead their own rebellion, but it'd take longer without Meredith going crazy from the red lyrium and being pushed over the edge with Orsino and Anders...

But at the same time, she wanted to say “damn the timeline!” and save Anders from all the pain and agony the future held for him. What would such a selfish decision do? She doubted it would stop the Dread Wolf from gaining help from Corypheus, and with all the mages still in the Circle... how would their plan work? Would they still target the Divine? The Venatori wouldn't just stop either... she couldn't be selfish, she needed to let him live the life he was meant to live, and while he wouldn't understand, it was what had to happen and she just had to live with it, just as she lived with the deaths of the Wardens.

Claire was invited to stay at Arl Eamon's estate, and since Anders had left again, she agreed. It was a lot nicer than the dirty little room at the inn and she felt like royalty sleeping on the best bed she'd ever been on. Everyone else was there as well, and she had a long talk with Evan about everything, even though they'd been speaking in the Fade constantly anyway. He never liked the Fade, though, so it helped him have a real person to talk to. Everything was going according to the timeline, even if she wasn't sure she liked his choices.

She felt very awkward in the estate, not knowing how to be proper at all in Ferelden, and feeling even worse trying to be proper Tevinter style. At least it was better than acting like she'd been living in the wild for the past year... even Morrigan seemed to have more grace than she did. Claire was more than glad when the meal was done and she could go back to being herself, but then Alistair pulled her to the side.

“I was wondering if we could talk.” Looking at him suspiciously, she tried to figure out if she should be worried or not.

“Ok, I'm free now.” She said. “What's on your mind?”

“Look, you've been with us for almost a year, yet I don't feel like you're really into this fight.”

“What do you mean?” Claire started getting defensive and tried to clamp down on her emotions.

“I mean you've been coming and going, disappearing for weeks at a time.” He was definitely irritated with her. “Even Morrigan has been here the entire time. We can't count on someone like you, though. Why do you even come back?”

Control... She thought. “I have been keeping constant contact with Evan throughout this entire ordeal, and I have been there every time he has needed me. Every single time he has asked for my help. I have never left you in a needed time, and I've been doing things elsewhere to help out that only Evan knows about, and it's fine that way. Not everyone needs to know what I'm doing, or even what I can do. And yet here you are doubting my desire to help. What, do you want me to leave altogether?”

“I...” He was shocked at Claire's outburst and had trouble speaking. “I'm sorry, I didn't know... What... if you don't mind my asking, what else can you do?”

“Did you miss the part where I said people don't need to know?” She shook her head. “Suffice to say I'm not exactly a normal mage, and my talents lie... elsewhere. Now, are we good, or do you want to yell at me about something else?”

He pouted. “I didn't yell.”

“No, just reprimanded me, and told me how disappointed in me you are.” She laughed. “Even Duncan left me to my own devices. Perhaps I've just taken to having freedom too much after spending what, eight years enslaved?” It made Alistair look awkward and sorry, and she shook her head again before he could reply. “It's ok, Alistair. I understand your concern. This whole mess is a huge deal, and we need everyone we can get on board.”

He was only slightly relieved. “Thank you, for speaking with me. I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions, I shouldn't have assumed, it's just hard, you know.”

“You will survive, of that I'm certain.” Claire said. “I will do everything I can in my power to ensure it. I will be there, don't worry.”

“Don't worry, she says, as the archdemon knocks on our back door with Loghain at the front.” He chuckled.

“Loghain won't be easy, but I think he'll be easier than the archdemon, and we'll make sure his head is detached from his body before long.”

“Yes, we'll make him pay.”

 


 

Claire didn't recognize the elf as she walked in, but she was fairly certain she was Anora's maid, and that they'd be called to save her.

“Come on, we'll need your help on this one.” Evan said as he approached Claire. “You're really good at disappearing.” He grinned.

“Oh, I take it a stealth mission is in order?” She smiled back.

“The queen has been taken captive and her maid entreats us to save her.” Evan rolled his eyes and sighed, reminding Claire he was only nineteen. He had certainly grown a bit in the year she'd known him, though. He was no longer the naive young mage fresh from the Circle still filled with bitter anger at his friend for betraying him.

“Well then, her majesty awaits.”

 


 

Claire followed Alistair, Evan, and Leliana to the arl's estate, and she was reminded of her first visit to the place and hoped they didn't recognize her. She didn't have the scar back then, at least, so that should throw them off. They changed into the guard outfits and went in. Claire was as sneaky as she could be, thankful she'd gotten good at the Fade crossover if she needed to disappear for a second. They managed to rescue Riordan, and found a few other people down in the dungeon that needed help, and they agreed to speak against Loghain for the Wardens.

Then there was Howe, and Claire found that she still hated the bastard as if he had killed her family. She knew Elissa had been there, and how could he kill her? She did not regret helping kill the man. When they got to Anora, she was dressed in armor, ready to go, and then the guard surrounded them, demanding their surrender.

“You are under arrest for the murders of Arl Howe and his men at arms.” The voice echoed in Claire's head.

“I will come with you peacefully.” Evan said.

“Why stop now?” Alistair said, his voice full of anger. “When they're all that stand between us and freedom?”

“Killing them will only reinforce their lies against us.”

Then the lieutenant said, “I'm surprised this ended peacefully.” Turning to her men, she said, “Bring the Wardens. Loghain doesn't care about the rest.” Claire found herself being pushed along with Alistair and Evan, and part of her wanted to correct them, but instead found herself shaking her head at Leliana, to silence her. She could help at the tower, and Evan seemed to agree, as he said nothing.
Fort Drakon was an unpleasant place, and Claire wondered what they had in store for a couple mages. Would they have a Templar around? Then she got hit in the head and blacked out.

 


 

She was in pain when she woke up, in her underwear, her arms stretched above her head by a rope, and a rope stretching her legs as well. What would they do if she burned the ropes? She decided to find out and incinerated the ropes, getting up quickly.

“She's a mage!” One of the guards yelled.

“Don't worry, we were warned about this one.” Another guard said. He quickly chanted something from a scroll he had, and Claire found herself without magic. Absolutely nothing, and she couldn't go into the Fade. There was nothing.

“What did you do?” She yelled. The guard merely smiled in return as the others rounded on her and took her captive again. She was panicking so much, she barely noticed when they dragged her past the cell where Evan and Alistair were being kept. Evan rushed to the bars and stared at her as she fought the guards, but they kept tight hold of her and dragged her into a small room full of torture devices.

 


  

“Where are they taking Claire?” Evan asked, staring after her. “Why isn't she fighting back? She looked so terrified!” He was starting to panic himself, since he'd never seen her helpless before.

“Chances are they did something to nullify her magic.” Alistair said. “We need to get out of here before they do the same to you. How are we supposed to escape?”

“We either wait for the others, or do something ourselves.” Evan growled, looking around. He quietly walked over to the door and froze the lock, then sent a stone fist into it.

“You're going to attract attention!” Alistair whispered. Evan didn't care, and did it again, this time breaking the door open. Before the guard could say anything, he froze him too and Alistair smashed him. They ran to a chest, looking for their gear, but found only some food. Another chest had books, but then the third had their stuff.

“Grab Claire's as well, we'll find where they took her.” Evan looked around to the area the guards had taken Claire and pointed to a door. “It's strange, but I can feel magical energy building up in there.” Then as Alistair's hand touched the doorknob, they felt a blast of magic. Alistair quickly opened the door, to find Claire standing, glowing, in the middle of the room. She had her hand to the torturer's head, while the room was covered in blood and littered with dead guards. After a minute, she let the man go and he collapsed on the ground in a sobbing mess.

“Claire...” Alistair and Evan stared in shock.

“We... we brought your clothes.” Evan said.

She continued to stare at the ground, her eyes glowing white with her fists clenched at her side. “I... this... this wasn't supposed to happen... I just... I just wanted to leave, I wanted to get out, and now they're all dead.” Her eyes slowly faded back to normal.

“Claire...” Evan slowly approached her and handed her the gear, noticing her hands were shaking as she took it.

“Thank you...” She said. He couldn't help but notice all the scars she had covering her body, and the fresh wounds that would add to them. He turned to leave.

“We'll just be waiting outside when you're ready.” He said.

 


 

That was not what was supposed to happen. Claire wasn't even certain what had happened, except that she'd gotten her magic back quite suddenly while they were torturing her, and something snapped in her, sending a blast of magic that tore the guards to shreds. The torturer, on the other hand, she decided to do something else to. She slipped her cuffs and went into his mind, pouring all of the pain and suffering she could into him. He could at least live with that. As he fell, she heard something at the door and realized Evan had seen it. He was at least kind enough to give her her clothing and leave, but she was ashamed.

She slowly walked back out, feeling sticky and gross with all the blood, and wondered if she should just stay behind and teleport out later.

“Shall we?” Evan asked. Claire noted Alistair remained silent, but kept shooting her worried glances. He'd probably never seen a mage do anything like that before. She didn't even know she could, so if he asked for an explanation, she wouldn't be able to give it to him anyway. They went down some hallways without meeting anyone, but then when they got to a big room, they missed seeing the Mabari keeper until the dogs were on them. Claire tried to cast sleep on them, but they resisted and she was forced to defend herself.

Looking to Evan, she said, “Lead the way.” They crept out into another hallway and looked around before finding a room with spare guard uniforms. Unfortunately, there were only two.

“You go on ahead, I'll just sneak out as a bird or something.” She sighed. “I'd do Mabari but the others would be able to tell I'm a stranger and it'd be too dangerous.”

“Are you sure?” Alistair asked, concerned.

“I'm not comfortable just leaving you behind without making sure you're all right.” Evan said.

She smiled and shrugged. “Trust me, I can get out. Remember, I got in the Circle tower just fine.” Evan didn't look like he believed her, but nodded. She transformed and flew out of the room and to the ceiling. Once she was certain they weren't going to see her, she teleported outside of the fort and perched on a tree near the entrance to wait for them. She was starting to get worried until she saw them come out, still dressed as guards.

She followed them as they made their way back to the estate, debating on whether or not she should go in yet. She didn't really want to talk to anyone, yet she at least wanted to let them know she had made it out alive. She swooped down and transformed before alerting them to her presence. Evan smiled and Alistair looked relieved.

“See, I told you I could get out.” She said.

“Good. Let's not keep everyone else waiting then.” Evan paused, then looked at Claire. “Back at the fort... I won't tell anyone what you did. No one needs to know.” He shot a glance at Alistair, who, while confused, nodded.

“Nor will I.” He said. “I don't know what sort of magic you have, but your secret is safe with us.”

She smiled. “Thank you both, so much.”

 


 

She debated on telling Anders what had happened to her that night in the Fade. It wasn't good to let him worry so much, but she needed someone to talk to about it. He'd probably go on about how she should stay out of danger, and she knew he was just worried, she just didn't want to be treated like a kid who didn't know what she was doing.

Of course, he could tell as soon as he saw her that something was wrong. “Claire, what happened?” He asked. She tried to smile, but instead shrugged.

“We were only trying to help the queen, when the guards took us captive.” She said. “Got locked up in Fort Drakon for the day, and they did something weird to me that took all my magical abilities away. I couldn't do anything, Anders! It was horrible!”

He looked stricken. “Are you all right? Surely you're not there now.”

“No, we escaped.” She smiled. “I made them pay. As soon as my magic came back, I destroyed them all. I... actually didn't know I could do that, it was just... a really powerful burst of magic that ripped the men to pieces... how do you even explain that?”

He frowned. “I can't rightly say, but what I can say is that I am very thankful you made it out.” He kissed her. “I should just stay with you, keep you out of trouble.”

“I think I'd be fine if it weren't for Evan!” She laughed. “They're always after him and it's not fair, he's just a kid.”

“He's fighting against corruption, love. Not just the darkspawn, but the humans.” Anders said. “But enough chatter, let's go somewhere beautiful, away from all this mess!” Claire smiled, more than happy to oblige.

Chapter Text

She decided to fly there as an owl, knowing she probably wouldn't make it until morning, just a little too late. At least as an owl she was able to watch below her better, though the fires were like a beacon on the horizon and she had no problem finding the keep. She circled overhead, wondering how early she was, then spotted the king marching away with his men, and Evan walking with Anders and the others back into the keep. She waited until they were inside before she landed and became human. She decided to try to heal as many people as she could instead of rushing in immediately, nervous about seeing Anders after something like that.

Dawn arrived and the people milling about wore dark expressions, just trying to get by. Too many had died, or were taken, and the keep was damaged. Claire searched for Anders all over before finding Evan.

“Evan, is Anders here?” She asked, trying to play dumb. “He said he was.”

“Yes, about that...” He looked awkward. “I may have had to recruit him into the Wardens.”

“Did he do the joining?”

“Yes, and he survived, so you don't have to worry.” He smiled. “I know how you feel about him, and trust me, we'll take good care of him here.”

“Oh sure, you're going to be fighting darkspawn again, that sounds so safe.” She snorted. He rolled his eyes at her.

“Come on, I'll take you to him.” Evan sighed. “It was either this or let the Templars have him, and I am not about to let that happen again.” Again? She figured he was probably speaking of Jowan.

“Thank you for saving him.” She said. “If you hadn't... I don't know what I would have done.”

“Probably something very unpleasant...” They stopped at a closed door.

“This is his room, he crashed pretty hard after the joining, just to warn you.” Without another word, Evan turned to leave, but she touched his arm to stop him.

“Evan... I heard... I heard what happened here.” She said. “Is it true? All the Wardens? It's just... it reminds me too much of Ostagar.”

He slowly nodded, looking down. “Yes, though at least there are three Wardens now instead of only two, and we don't have to unite the land, just figure out what happened.”

“I wish you all the luck in that.” She said. She waited until she couldn't see him before she knocked on the door. A muffled voice replied and she opened the door. Anders was lying on the bed looking exhausted, but when he saw her, he got up.

She rushed over to him and grasped him in a hug. “Anders! You had me so worried, and I couldn't find you, and I didn't know what had happened...”

He gave her a squeeze and chuckled. “Now you know what I had to go through this past year!” He said. Claire shook her head.

“Fine, yes, I suppose it's payback.” She grinned. “But at least I avoided being made a Warden. Evan told me what happened, that it was the only way to save you from the Templars.”

“Yes, but it's just another jail, isn't it?”

“Not really. It's nothing like the tower, if that's what you mean. Granted, once a Warden, always a Warden, with the taint, but I'm sure Evan would let you wander about now and then, and you won't have to worry about the Templars anymore!”

“You think they'd just leave me be because I'm a Warden?” He scoffed, getting up. “The Templars will never leave me be.”

“What right have they to take a Grey Warden?” Claire snapped back. “The Wardens supersede everything, even the king if the need is great enough, and there is obviously a need, since the darkspawn rose up and took the Orlesian Wardens. Maker help any Templar foolish enough to cross the Wardens. Evan will not stand for it.”

“At least I have a commander who knows the struggle.” He said. “But enough of that, my stomach is rumbling.”

“That won't do. Come on, I think I saw some food down below, though it's still a bit of a mess.”

“Isn't that why it's called a mess hall?”

 


 

Anders was in a peculiar mood when he got back from Amaranthine the first time, and Claire figured it had to do with the Templars.

“Anders, do you want to talk about whatever happened?” She asked as he headed to his room.

He shook his head, but then paused. “You know, I suppose I should... I just, it doesn't make sense. The tip I'd gotten about the phylacteries ended up being a Templar trap, and I think Evan knew, but he let me go anyway after I begged him.”

“But obviously the Templars had no power to take you...”

“We killed them.” He said. “They were going to take me one way or another, they were that desperate.” Claire was silent, trying to figure out what to say.

“This doesn't make sense.” She said. “I'm... I'm going to start investigating the Templars. Something is going on, that they're getting this cocky...”

“Claire, you mustn't!” He stared into her eyes, pleading. “You're not invincible! Remember what happened to you at Fort Drakon.”

“I can't easily forget that...” She sighed. “Fine, I'll just mention it to Evan then, see what he says, and let someone else risk their life. Maybe Leliana or Zevran can sneak in.”

“I know it's selfish of me, but thank you.” He leaned in close and she kissed him.

“We need to stop worrying so much about each other.” She laughed. “The world needs saving, work is never done, and now you're a Warden and there's no end to the darkspawn. You're going to be constantly risking your life now.”

“Not my choice.” He grumbled. “But I suppose it does beat another year in solitary confinement.”

“Or tranquility...” Claire shuddered.

“Don't even go there!” He moaned, putting a hand to his head.

“Trust me, I still haven't gotten over thinking you'd been made tranquil.” She said. “Worst thing ever. I... I don't know what I would do if I lost you.”

“Are you still thinking about the future?” He asked. “About what you saw?” He paused, then asked, “Did you know this would happen to me? That I would be made a Warden?” There was a growl to his voice Claire wasn't expecting and it took her off guard.

“What? Where did that come from?” She tried to avoid the question. “I already told you how it works, that I only see certain things...”

“Yes, but you also told me, when you showed me the battle at Ostagar, that you picked up many other things.” Why did he have to think about such a thing? Why had she ever told him?

“Anders...” She frowned, uncertain on what she should tell him.

“You did know, didn't you.” He seemed disappointed in her, and that hurt the most.

“I didn't know when, all right?” She snapped. “I don't know dates! I don't know everything and I've already proven I fail at even trying to fix things...” She started crying, and, embarrassed, she bolted out the door, teleporting the instant she could.

She stared down at the valley from her perch high on a mountain, wondering when she should go back to Anders. He was being emotional, and she knew he loved her, but doggone, she couldn't take that kind of guilt. She was tempted to erase his memory... to modify it so that he didn't know she knew the future. It was such a mistake she'd made... She was more pissed at herself than at Anders, really. What else could she expect from him? He needed something to blame, so why not blame the person who knew and did nothing?

Frustrated, she didn't even go into the Fade that night, but slept out under the stars at the top of the mountain, thinking that maybe she would go find his phylactery and investigate the Templars just for fun.

 


 

After spending the day wandering about and getting hungry, she decided to go back to the keep, lest they go on another mission without her getting to talk with Anders. She teleported just outside the gates and walked in, feeling less than enthusiastic. She found Anders in the main hall, and when he saw her, he grabbed her into a tight hug, causing her to start crying again. He quietly led her to a more private area where they could speak in peace.

“I'm sorry, Claire.” He said. “I don't know why I did that. It just... came out, and I took my frustration out on you. It wasn't fair.”

“It felt like you were disappointed in me for not telling you everything I see in your future.” She sighed. “I don't even know everything that's going to happen, just possibilities, no dates...”

“It's just hard to see someone who has this ability doing nothing with it.” He still sounded frustrated and she just felt depressed and empty.

“I'm doing everything I can.” She choked back a sob. “I know you care about me, but I don't need this kind of pressure right now.” She went for the door but he grabbed her arm.

“Please don't leave me again.” He sounded so mournful, but how could she stay with a man who was looking at her as if she was hiding things from him just to make him suffer?

“I just need a little time... you'll probably be going on another mission soon anyway, you'll hardly know I'm gone.”

“Please, Claire. I don't want you to leave like this.” He said. “I love you, more than I've ever loved anyone, more than I knew was possible, and I honestly don't know how to react. My life is crazy, it's been turned upside down, and I don't even know what I'm doing anymore. I'm sorry.”

“Anders...” She said. I really get the feeling like this is going to happen again. She thought. Things I don't even know about are going to happen and you're going to blame me. Maybe not out loud, but it'll be in your mind, I just know it.
Out loud, she said, “We'll work through it. I can't just leave you, I love you too much as well. We're just too emotional, I think. Everything is on edge, especially with you riding out into danger, risking your life. Let's just get something to eat and relax in the room until you have to attend to your duties.” He kissed her, pressing her to him tightly, and she melted into his arms, knowing that even if he would continue to blame her for things outside of her control, she still loved him and would put up with anything for him. She'd just need to take breaks now and then...

 


 

Evan ended up giving Anders Ser Pounce-a-lot the following day, and even though Claire said she'd watch the kitty, Anders insisted on keeping him in his pouch. Claire was just glad he had his cat, even if he was taking the kitty on dangerous missions. The first big mission Anders went on ended up being the Blackmarsh, and Claire found she was anxious over Justice coming back to the keep. She knew what he meant, and while she tried to hide it, Anders could tell something was up.

“Is it something about the future?” He asked one night. “The way you look at Justice, there's something wrong, isn't there?”

She shrugged. “It's just... spirits aren't supposed to inhabit mortal bodies like that. It's weird and I don't know how to feel about it. Part of me is wondering if I should try taking him into the Fade, physically, but...”

“No, you might not make it back out.” Anders said.

“He doesn't belong here.” She said.

“He wants to help us fight, and... we talked, in the Blackmarsh, and he's got me thinking, that maybe I should do something. I'm essentially free now, and I should be doing more for the other mages. I've been selfish my whole life, thinking only of myself...” What could she say in response? She didn't realize she would feel so upset at the transitioning. “Claire? What's wrong?” Damn her emotions! It was the wrong time to start crying.

“All while I was helping Evan out...” It was as good an excuse as any, and it was true. “You didn't understand why I did it, why I kept putting myself in danger like that... now maybe you can finally understand.”

He looked at her with eyes wide. “I... never thought about it like that.”

“It's something that takes hold, and you can't let go, you can't stop. We have this power... we need to do good with it, show the world we can be trusted.” She was just going to help him along, wasn't she. She sighed.

“We can be fools saving the world together then.” He reached over and squeezed her hand. She smiled at him and wiped her tears away, but they kept coming. She couldn't get the thought of losing him out of her head.

 


 

While the Wardens went to Kal'Hirol, Claire decided to search for the phylacteries, wandering around the Fade, seeking out Templar dreamers to delve into the minds of. She felt dirty doing it, but she insisted it was for a good cause. Eventually she discovered where they were keeping the vials of blood and snuck in. So many vials! The phylacteries were on tall shelves, hundreds of them, and she wondered what would happen if there was an earthquake. Surely they had protections... The hard part for her was to find Anders' phylactery. It wasn't exactly clearly labeled, but she did eventually find it.

She examined the bottle without touching it, then had a wild thought. If she stole it or broke it, they would know something was amiss. She couldn't risk them being led back to Anders... but what if she replaced it with pig's blood? She teleported out and went into the Circle tower to find an unused phylactery, then hunted a wild boar, paralyzing it so that she could just take a little blood, making sure she did the right spells. Soon the phylactery was glowing brightly in the presence of the boar. Praying her crazy plan would work, she teleported back to the phylactery chamber. She carefully removed the label from Anders' and put it on the boar's blood, switching them out.

Still afraid the Templars would figure something out, she was tempted to bring in some giant rats to run rampant in the place. Shaking her head, she teleported out, keeping a tight hold on the phylactery, noting how it glowed brighter near the keep. Were they back? She had spent quite a bit of time on the phylactery mission. Not wanting Anders to know what she'd done just then, she teleported to a ruin she'd explored in the Korcari Wilds and hid it behind a stone, securing it with wards and protections. She then went back to the keep and found a new dwarven Grey Warden being inducted into the order.

 


 

Claire was certain Anders knew she was hiding something, but he didn't bother her about it and she didn't say. As the time came closer to the final attack, Claire decided she would at least tell him about it.

“Anders, you know I can't change the future, not really...” She said, making him glance at her, worriedly.

“What's going to happen?” He asked.

“The darkspawn are going to stage two attacks. One on Amaranthine, and one here at the keep. They want to divide our attentions, and there are multiple ways for it to go, it depends on Evan, really... but there will be people still alive in Amaranthine when Evan gets there. I'm going to try to get them out beforehand. He's done good building this keep up, it should be fine.”

“Why are you telling me this?” He asked, confused.

“I don't know... I guess I wanted to give you some sort of warning, let you know what I was doing.” She shrugged. “Nothing happens to you either way, as far as I can see.”

“What's really wrong?” He asked, his voice soft and concerned.

She looked at him, surprised. “Nothing, really. I mean, this is just... it's huge. It's another huge battle... so many people are going to die, Anders, and I can't protect them all. I can only do so much...” He put his arm around her and kissed her head.

“We'll do what we can.” He said.

 


 

Anders ended up going with Evan to Amaranthine, and insisted they rescue people from the city despite Nathaniel claiming the city was already dead. Claire did her part to kill darkspawn there, to save as many people as she could, then teleported back to the keep. Evan would go on to strike at the Mother, and she would do what she could to protect the people of Vigil's Keep. It was a long battle, but she fought as hard as she could, teleporting around the battlefield, not caring if someone saw her. Most people were too focused on not dying to care.

Looking over the smoldering ruins, Claire felt more exhausted than ever. She waited for Anders to come back, falling asleep on a mound of rubble.

“Claire!” She was rudely shaken awake and blinked as she stared at the worried face of Anders. “Oh you're all right, you had me worried!” He hugged her.

“Just... just tired, is all.” She laughed, hugging him back. “I'm glad to see you back. Now maybe things can relax.”

 


 

The following day, Claire slipped out and teleported to the phylactery she'd stowed away, wondering what Anders would think about it. She had her guesses. It glowed brightly when she got back to the room and it felt almost warm in her hands. She stowed it in a pocket quickly before getting Anders' attention.

“Hey love...” She murmured as she walked into the room. He turned and looked at her, smiling softly.

“I was wondering where you'd gone.” He walked over to her and gave her a hug. “Is something wrong?” She knew she was being too tense and shrugged.

“That depends on whose side you're on.” She laughed. “I did something for you, but I'm not sure how you're going to react.”

“What do you mean?”

“I'm sure part of you is going to be angry, but it's done, and no one knew.”

“You're starting to worry me.” She pulled out the phylactery, with Anders' eyes growing wide at the sight. “Maker's breath, Claire, what... this is... are you serious?” His face changed expression many times.

“I thought you should have the honor of destroying it.” She said. “I left a vial of pig's blood in its place, so no one will know.”

“How? How was this done?” Anders asked, still in shock.

“That... is something I don't think I should tell you.” She said. “The less you know, the better, that way if anyone asks you, you can honestly tell them you don't know. I almost didn't tell you I got it in the first place, but how could I keep it a secret from you? You've wanted it for so long.” He suddenly threw it against the wall and began kissing her hard.

“I won't ask, just as long as you're safe, and it's gone.” He was breathing hard, and she felt the love from him so strongly in his words. “What would I do without you?”

 


 

Soon, a former Templar named Rolan came as a new recruit for the Wardens. Claire watched him carefully, glaring at him any time he caught her eye. She needed to leave. She couldn't handle having Anders' joining with Justice being so close at hand, but she didn't want to just leave him either. That night when she went up to his room, he could tell she was agitated.

“What's wrong?” He asked. “What's going to happen, or is this another one of those things you can't tell me?”

“That Rolan pisses me off.” She said. “Bloody Templar, hasn't changed, doesn't care that he's no longer a Templar, he's still loyal to the order. I don't like Evan sending you out with him all the time.”

“If you were anyone else, I would say you're worrying for nothing, but there is something, isn't there?”

“I don't know... it's possible. If so, I don't know when.” She paced the room. She didn't know when, but she could feel it would happen soon. “I need to look into the Templars. I know you don't want me to, but there is something seriously wrong with them, and I must do something before they hurt you.”

Anders looked surprised. “I can't say I've ever seen you this angry, and it's frankly scaring me.”

“I don't know if they will do anything, Anders, but dammit, I cannot bear to see them so close to you, as if taunting us. I cannot let them have you!” She grabbed Anders and buried her face into his shoulder, grateful for him wrapping his arms around her and squeezing. She didn't want to lose him, but it was inevitable. She could at least try to take care of the Templars beforehand.

“Please, love... please be careful.” He murmured, his voice cracking. “I couldn't bear to lose you to them either.”

“I will do my best.”


 

That night, she went into Rolan's dream and got as much information as she needed on his order. There was a small sect of Templars that hadn't been destroyed by the darkspawn like he'd said, and she learned of their location. To her dismay, she knew his plan to betray Anders was coming sooner than she'd expected.

 


 

In the morning, Claire kissed Anders goodbye, and left to find the Templars. He watched her walk away, feeling as if something horrible was going to happen to her, but surely she would know? But no, she hadn't known about other things that had happened, so it was possible she was walking into a trap, blind, and she was doing it for him. He still didn't know how she'd gotten the phylactery, but he had his guesses that she had continued walking the Fade physically despite him not wanting her to, especially since he had seen her vanish on a few occasions.

He knew why she had continued her practicing, and that was why he'd not mentioned it to her, though he felt conflicted. On the one hand, she had gone behind his back to practice something dangerous that he didn't want her doing for her own safety, but on the other hand, the good teleporting could do outweighed the risks. He wished he'd talked to her about it, but he couldn't change his mind about protecting her, so he kept quiet. He knew he was too hard on her, and he regretted taking his frustration out on her. How could he not trust her?

That night, Claire was not in the Fade. Anders waited, and waited, but she never showed up, and he grew worried for her. He was set to leave in the morning with Rolan and Justice on a routine scouting trip, but he didn't want to leave without knowing what happened to her. When he woke, he went straight to Evan.

“Evan, something happened to Claire.” He said. “She said she was going to look into the Templars, that there was something wrong, but she wouldn't say more, and she wasn't in the Fade last night.”

“Are you worried about being sent out with Rolan?” Evan asked.

“I don't know... maybe.” Anders paced the study, frustrated. “Maybe it's just my being an apostate that makes me distrust even former Templars.”

“Justice will be there with you, I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.” Evan tried to hide his own worry, but Anders knew him well enough to see through it. “I'll look into what Claire was investigating. Do you know where she went? She didn't mention anything to me.”

“No, she didn't say...” Anders grew even more worried, not knowing where she'd gone, especially if she'd teleported there, it could have been anywhere. “Dammit, I know she's done similar before, but it's not right. I need to know she's all right. I remember what happened in Fort Drakon with you...”

“Yes, and had the effects not worn off, she would be there still, I think.” Evan said, grimly. “I will do all that I can to find her, and I need you to pretend everything is still normal. Go on the mission, and tell no one of what we spoke of.”

Anders sighed and nodded, then stepped closer to Evan, whispering. “Before she left, she gave me my phylactery. She said she put a phylactery full of pig blood in its place, but what if they knew? What if that's why she's missing?”

Evan grimaced. “That is not comforting to think about, but I'm thankful to hear you're at least free of your leash. Would that I could be free of mine! Just... not at the cost of someone I care about. We'll find her, Anders, I swear it.”

 


 

Anders sat on a boat, huddled under his cloak as the rain beat down on them, and tried to get the dark thoughts out of his head. He had murdered all of those Templar, and the Warden that was there as well, and he couldn't get the smell of burnt flesh out of his memory. If Claire was still alive... she would surely know how to find him, but if not... he didn't want to think about it. He was a changed man and he had a new life ahead of him, bound with Justice. He had made a deal with the spirit, and he had felt his anger change his friend inside of him. Claire would be better off without him.

Had she even known? Perhaps she had thought she could defeat the Templars beforehand, perhaps to stop it from happening, but failed. He hoped he'd get to ask her some day...

Chapter Text

The shadows flickered on the wall in the firelight, reminding Claire of the demons in her nightmares, but she walked past them, ignoring her fear. Things had gotten worse since she had sought out the Templars over a year ago and she knew it was a mistake to seek out the mage who ultimately had driven her down her dark path, but she had to see him, she had to apologize... she had to see his face one more time, before...

The dusty paths in Darktown were bare in the late night, just a few thugs here and there or families with nowhere else to sleep huddled around a small fire, burning what they could just to stay warm. Never mind their hunger, it wouldn't get them as quickly as the cold. The freezing temperatures of Kirkwall in the middle of winter brought with it illness, pain, and death, and there was only one healer for all of Darktown. Claire looked up at the twin flames burning brightly above the clinic and sighed. What was she going to say? What could she say?

Her steps slowed as she neared the open door, seeing Anders healing a patient. The little boy jumped off the bed and ran out ahead of his mother, smiling happily as the woman hugged Anders in thanks. It made Claire's heart twinge. She wanted nothing more than to hug him herself, to have any past resentments disappear, to start anew. But with Justice, she wasn't sure what to expect. She stopped at the doorway, her pulse beating loud in her ears as she watched Anders cleaning up the empty clinic, probably getting ready to turn in for the night. He turned and saw her, freezing in his tracks. She couldn't read his expression, but it troubled her.

She took a couple steps towards him, then hesitated. “Anders...” It came out more a strangled gasp than anything else, but he heard, and hurried over to her, grasping her tightly.

“Claire...” He sobbed. “I thought you'd died!”

“I'm sorry, Anders, I'm so sorry!” She cried, hugging him back. “I messed up and I've never regretted anything more. Please forgive me...”

“Claire, there's nothing to forgive, you didn't do anything wrong.” He stepped back, worried.

“I did, I should have listened to you and your fears, but I didn't. I got too cocky, I think, and I underestimated the Templars... I...”

“What happened? Why did you wait so long to find me?” She tried not to cry as she thought about what she'd just escaped, what Evan had saved her from.

“I was captured, Anders.” She said, looking away. “I came as soon as I could, Evan knew exactly where you'd gone... but it took him so long to find me, and the others. The Templars... their knight-captain was corrupted, possessed by a Pride demon, and the Templars were allowed t-to do whatever they wanted with us...” He looked at her with horror in his eyes and she felt all the depression come back on her like a tidal wave.

“I should have gone after you...” He murmured, hugging her again. “Then none of this would have happened. I'm... I'm not the same man you fell in love with all those years ago, though I'm sure you know.”

“I don't know... there were many different paths, but one was certain, that Rolan was going to betray you, and I failed at stopping him.” She started crying again, knowing exactly what had happened.

“He paid with his life. I merged with Justice, and we killed him.” Anders sighed. “Tell me, did you know that was going to happen? That I would turn my friend into a demon?”

She pulled back and wiped her eyes as she looked at him. “Not entirely. It was an option I saw at the end of things, but there was another path I suppose I was hoping would be taken, that you wouldn't merge, and he would find his way back into the Fade. But I was unable to achieve that one.”

“Why didn't you warn me?” He asked, his tone sounding almost hurt, as if he couldn't believe she wouldn't have told him about something so drastic.

“Because I hoped to change it.” She said. “Look, you've already made a life here, starting fresh. I probably shouldn't have come, I just wanted to apologize. You don't need me fucking up your life again and if I hadn't promised, I'd just make you forget me. I should never have talked to you in the first place, I should have just let you think I was dead all those years ago. I don't belong here! I've never belonged in this world... and there's only one way I can think to get out, to make things better. Something I should have finished back in the Wilds. I've hurt too many people, most of all you, and I need to go somewhere I will never hurt anyone again.” She looked at him, the tears pouring down her face, and smiled.

He was staring at her with a bewildered and upset expression, reminding Claire of a kicked puppy. “Goodbye, Anders. It was great knowing you and I'm sorry for all the crap I put you through.” She turned and hurried towards the door, but she felt a paralyze spell on her, slowing her movements. She shook it off and ran to one of the large openings overlooking the river. She didn't teleport because she didn't really want to leave, but it was difficult. She wanted Anders, so much did she want him, but more than ever did she want to be done with all the pain, and all the pain she'd put him through, by telling him things she should have kept secret and by putting herself in danger without thinking about his feelings.

“Claire, no!” Anders called after her.

“But if I die, then you won't have to worry anymore about me, or my visions.” She said, leaning against the fence. “I don't belong here. I'm some sort of magical mistake and I need to fix it. No one should have these powers... I can't handle it anymore, I can't handle the pain, the memories, I can't handle the accusations and limitations, and I can't handle messing up and hurting you anymore...” He was suddenly beside her, gripping her arm.

“I love you, Claire, I've never stopped.” He said. “Do you think that your death will not cause me more pain? I thought you were dead for the past year, and then to see you again, alive, has brought me more happiness than I've felt in a long time. Please, stay, help me here. I can't bear to lose you again.”

“You care that much about me?” She asked, surprised. Why, she wasn't sure, but it took her off guard nonetheless. “I thought, after everything, you'd not want me around anymore...”

“What did those Templars do to you to make you think such a thing?” He asked. “How could I stop loving you? You have no idea what torture it was not knowing what became of you.”

“I'm sorry, I don't know what's wrong with me.” She said. “I have a lot to work through, I think.” She tried to laugh but it felt hollow.

 


 

Anders could almost feel the despair that was plaguing his love, and he was worried for her. She had been willing to jump to her death, fully believing he didn't want her around, and he couldn't understand why or how she could think such a thing, but there she was, still staring at the darkness below them.

“I hope Evan made the Templars pay.” He growled as he gripped her tightly in a hug, mostly to make sure she didn't do anything rash.

“We both did...” She said. “As soon as I was freed, I burned whoever was left with my rage. It's fitting, is it not, that we should be fated to be lovers, each burning Templars in rage.” She held him tightly as well, and he prayed it would be enough to keep her with him. He could feel a strange conflict within himself and recognized it as Justice being uncertain about Claire being there, though he couldn't deny the love Anders felt for her and their history together. Justice had wondered, while he'd been in Kristoff's body, about love, about the memories he had of Kristoff's wife.

Could he consider Claire his wife? “Claire... will you be my wife...?” She pulled herself quickly away in surprise, staring at him.

“Anders! I... I didn't think you cared about such things. I mean, it's just a label, it doesn't change how I feel about you. If you want to call me your wife, I will be your wife gladly.” He kissed her, and she kissed him back, more passionately than ever before.

“Well, who's your friend, Anders?” A cocky voice called out. Anders looked over and saw Hawke, a man with shaggy black hair and beard, red smear across his nose, and twin daggers on his back, walking towards them. Behind him stood Varric, the beardless dwarf with his trusty crossbow, and Fenris, the lyrium tattooed elf from Tevinter. He felt Claire stiffen in his arms as she turned to look. “Maker, what happened to her?” Hawke recoiled.

“Hawke.” Anders was not the most pleased to see the man who supported the Templars there, especially at such a delicate time. The last thing he needed was for someone to push Claire further into her depression.

“My name is Claire.” Claire said, bristling. “I fought the darkspawn at Ostagar.” Hawke composed himself and smiled, taking her hand and swiftly kissed it in an attempt at being suave.

“It's a pleasure to meet you.” He said. “They call me Hawke, and this is Varric and Fenris.” Varric was giving her a strange look, as if he almost recognized her, but then shook his head. “What brings you to Darktown on such a cold and bitter night?”

She pursed her lips before responding. “Personal reasons, mostly, and some... unfinished Warden business.” Hawke raised an eyebrow and looked at Anders. “I was investigating a sect of Templars who had gone against the Chantry, who had... targeted my husband, among others.” She glanced at him nervously.

“Husband? You two are married? I take it they've been taken care of then? Are you a Warden as well?” Hawke asked, then turned to Anders. “Was that why you came here, Anders?”

“Only in part.” He replied, still not wanting them to know the circumstances involving his joining with Justice. “The other was Karl, as you well know.”

“You're not planning on leaving now, are you?” Hawke seemed disappointed.

“You know I can't leave.” The healer sighed. “Not until every mage in Kirkwall is freed.”

“I pray you never see that happen.” Fenris growled. “The last thing this world needs is another Imperium rising up.”

Claire stepped between Fenris and Anders quickly. “All right, look, it's been a very long day for me, and I'm exhausted. I'm just going to go find somewhere to sleep... It was nice to meet you all.” She smiled, but then Anders saw Fenris grab her arm tightly as he stared at her.

“You seem familiar... I've seen you before... but without the scar.” Fenris said.

“You probably saw her in Tevinter.” Anders said, not even thinking about the effect his words could have until after they'd left his mouth.

The elf's eyes searched hers, angry, and then there was the recognition. “I do remember you. I saw you with Tyranius. You were his apprentice!” Fenris quickly stepped away from her and grabbed the sword he was carrying, pointing it at her while Varric and Hawke stood there confused. Anders grabbed his staff, but Claire put her hand up to stop him before he could overreact.

“So you're a mage?” Hawke asked. “Are you a magister yourself? Was that Warden business just a lie then?” He seemed upset, but Claire was doubly so.

“Yes I'm a mage!” She managed not to yell, but her voice still echoed against the walls, frustration over everything that had happened to her spilling over, making Anders hurt for her. “I was a slave in Tevinter, nothing more. I succeeded in escaping to Ferelden just before the Blight and spent the next year trying to avoid not only the Templars but the darkspawn as well. I have not lied! The rogue Templars captured me when I got too close, kept me prisoner for almost a year before the Hero of Ferelden saved me and the other captives.” Hawke smirked a little and looked at Fenris, shaking his head.

“Well then, now that that's out of the way, what do you say we resume our conversation like normal, civilized people?” Hawke said. Begrudgingly, Fenris put his blade away.

“Do not think this means I'll trust you, mage.” He said. “I've seen what your kind has done.”

“She is nothing like your magisters!” Anders was fuming. “She has never used her power for personal gain except to free herself from slavery! She has sacrificed a lot to protect others!”

“That doesn't mean she's immune to temptation!” Fenris yelled back.

“What could a demon offer me?” Claire asked, laughing. “What could I possibly want anymore but to be left in peace? Blood magic holds no interest to me, either. Why would I want more power?” Fenris looked at her, suspicious and bewildered, but stayed silent.

“Come on, love, let's find you a place to sleep.” Anders put his arm around her shoulders and gently pulled her towards the clinic.

“Claire...” Varric finally spoke up. She turned to face him as he cleared his throat awkwardly before continuing. “You should come up to the Hanged Man one of these days and join us for a pint. I imagine you have some amazing stories you could share.” She smiled a little and he winked.

She replied, “I could always tell you the time I was saved from slavers by a handsome dwarf.” Her smile faltered as he grinned at her.

“I'd love to hear that one, Seer.” He laughed. Anders gave her a questioning look, frowning, but she shook her head.

“Maybe later, though.” She said. “I do need to get some sleep...”

Hawke gave her a soft smile, his eyes partially closed. “Well then, may you sleep well and I hope to see you again soon.” Anders' grip tightened possessively on her as Fenris turned his head to look at Hawke, a look of uncertainty and surprise. Anders quickly ushered her into his clinic, shutting the doors and barring them behind them.

“You should know Hawke isn't very fond of mages.” Anders said.

“He seems to like you well enough.” Claire said. Anders didn't really want to admit he had felt jealousy at Hawke showing her any affection.

“Sure, right, he likes torturing me is more like it.” Anders scoffed. “The way he drags me around to help him do his dirty work...”

“So why do you go?”

Anders looked down, shrugging before answering. “In the hopes that I might be able to change his mind, that I might be able to save some of the mages he hunts. I'm part of a resistance that tries to free mages from the Gallows. I thought... that Hawke might be persuaded. His own sister was a mage before she died in the Deep Roads but I think that only hardened him to our cause.”

“It really means that much to you for him to side with the mages?”

“I can't explain it, it's just a feeling I have about him, that he will be able to do a great deal of good for our cause, if I could only get him to side with us.”

Claire looked at the ground thoughtfully. “I wonder... if that's the person in the end of that vision, the shadowy visage with the knife...”

“You mean the one who kills me?” Anders shifted nervously at the thought. “I suppose that would make sense, for him to be the one...”

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring it up...” She reached out and put her hand on his shoulder. “I won't let him hurt you. No one will touch you, if I can help it.”

“The Maker surely blessed me to have you by my side.” He said. “I will try not to get myself in trouble, but I can't make any guarantees. I must help the mages here, and that does require me to risk my life.”

“Which is why I must stay and help you.” She said. “Someone needs to make sure you stay safe.” He kissed her gently, grateful to feel her lips against his again, and she melted into his arms.

 


 

Over the course of a year, Claire kept busy helping Anders at the clinic, and to start, he asked her to join him to save mages, but that grew less and less as time went on. Anders could tell she was still depressed, she was having trouble just living and taking care of herself, and he worried more about her, uncertain how to help her. He'd found out that Varric had helped her escape to Tevinter all those years ago, but even then she rarely went to the Hanged Man to speak with him, despite Anders going up to play Wicked Grace every so often, and the dwarf was forced to go to her if he wanted to talk.

One night he found himself going up just to speak with Varric, his concern for Claire becoming worse. Varric was alone in his room and welcomed Anders in with a smile.

“What can I do for you, Blondie?” He asked.

“I need help.” He said. “I'm at a loss, and I don't know what to do. Claire is slipping away. Whatever those Templars did to her... I can't lose her again and I don't know how to heal her mind.”

“Have you tried talking to her about it?” Varric asked, at a loss himself. “I know she hasn't listened to a damn thing I have to say.”

“She tells me nothing is wrong.” Anders said. “She won't talk about it, and I think she doesn't want to hurt me, but she doesn't realize watching her like this hurts enough. I feel helpless.”

“Have you actually tried healing her mind? I admit I know less about healing than I care to admit, but surely there's something you can try. Those Templars had to have done something that can be reversed.”

“I'll try... I shouldn't leave her for long, but I needed to talk...”

 


 

Claire found herself staring out into the river again, feeling that call to jump like she'd felt when she'd first arrived in Kirkwall. She couldn't, she knew it would hurt Anders too much and there was no way she could do that to him again, but the feeling was plaguing her. She felt so lost and alone, even with Anders there. He was always so busy, and she didn't want to get in his way, but that only contributed to her depression. Had spending almost a year being tortured by the Templars really ruin her so badly that she couldn't even bring herself to live?

She suddenly wanted Anders. She wanted to hold him, to have him assure her that everything was all right and that he still loved her, but he was gone to Maker knew where. She continued to stare into the river, feeling such a weight on her she wasn't sure she could move even if she wanted to.

“Claire!” A voice called from the door of the clinic, and she turned to see Hawk standing there with Fenris. “Do you know where your husband is?” He seemed far too cheerful.

“No, he just stepped out for a moment.” She said, forcing herself to walk over to them. “Was there something I could help you with?”

“Oh, I don't know, I just wanted to kill some slavers with him is all.” He laughed. “I don't suppose you're interested?”

“I'm sorry, not today.” She said, feeling worse that she couldn't even bring herself to want to hunt slavers. She had all that power and she was wasting it by wasting away with depression. Hawke took her hand and held it tightly, making her feel anxious.

“Come on, we'll be back before he even notices you're gone.” He said. She saw Fenris giving him a confused and troubled look and wondered at it.

“Keep your hands off my wife.” Anders growled from the door. She felt such relief at seeing Anders, but then the fear that he might assume something that didn't happen popped into her head.

Hawke quickly let go of her hand and put his hands up in surrender. “Hey, no worries, just wanted to hunt some slavers and you've been keeping her cooped up in here for a year, I thought it might be good for her to get out and get some fresh air.”

“Thank you, Hawke, but not now.” Anders said, sternly, as if telling off a small child.

“As you wish.” Hawke said, then left, taking an overly confused Fenris with him.

“Are you all right?” Anders turned to Claire, putting his hand on her shoulder. She didn't know why she felt so self conscious, and fearful of how he felt about her. She wanted to rush into his arms, but there was too much fear and she couldn't make sense of any of it. Instead, she dropped to the floor, sobbing while she shook her head. He embraced her, and just held her as she cried, without saying a word.

“I'm here for you, Claire, no matter what.” He murmured as she calmed down. “I don't know how to help you, but I want to. I can't stand to see you like this.”

“I don't know what's wrong with me...” She said. “I don't want to live, I can barely bring myself to do anything anymore, and that just makes it worse...”

“Have you tried healing yourself?” He asked, desperate. “Can I try? There must be something we can do.”

“Heal...?” She frowned. “I didn't even think of that. Do you think the Templars did something to injure my brain? Can one even heal emotions?”

“It's worth a try!” He said, his voice cracking. “I can't lose you again...” He took her head in his hands and closed his eyes. She could feel something happening, and then there was a sort of a snap sound, and she was suddenly in the Fade, facing what could only be a Despair demon.

 


 

Anders began freaking out when Claire went limp in his arms. “Claire!” He yelled, but she didn't move. He'd broken her, he'd killed his wife. But no, he could still feel a heartbeat, she was still breathing, so he quickly moved her to the back, to their bed, and laid her down.

“Please, Claire, wake up.” He brushed her hair away from her face and absentmindedly traced a finger along her scars. He noticed the looks she got because of them, and her white left eye, but she acted like it didn't bother her. How much she'd been hiding... the pain, everything she'd been through, she didn't deserve it. It made his anger at the Templars and the Circle grow even more. All he wanted was a world where he and Claire could live together in peace, where other mages could as well, where anyone could love whoever they wanted.

He laid down beside her and tried to heal her more, but she stayed asleep.

 


 

Claire stared at the demon, and realized the Templars had done something to connect it to her, without her being possessed, and the weakened Veil in Kirkwall was probably helping it get to her better. How, she wasn't sure, but whatever Anders had done, it helped her see it for what it was, and she grew angry.

“How dare you harass me!” She yelled.

“You are full of pain...” Its voice was more like a hiss, faint and slow. “Guilt. Despair.”

“Leave me be or I will be forced to kill you.” She said, making it laugh, if it could even be called that.

“Powerful though you may be, your despair is too strong. You lack the confidence to fight back.” Claire gasped as she was brought to her knees, filled with despair, all the memories of the past flooding her. She could see Cedrik's face staring at her with his dead eyes, Duncan as he was killed again, Anders being stabbed, Abelia being abandoned, things she didn't even realize she was holding onto still. She was overwhelmed by everything, locked in a nightmare she couldn't escape. She started running down a dark empty hallway, trying to outrun it, no longer thinking rationally, but everywhere she turned, there was something else to remind her of her failings. She would always fail, she could never do right, she might as well just die.

She stopped suddenly, feeling a strange warmth spreading through her, and she felt like she woke up, seeing clearly again and realizing what the demon was doing. She was a somniari, she was powerful, why was she letting this demon tell her what to do? She latched onto her anger and faced the demon, not giving it a second chance before she attacked it with everything she had. It teleported behind her, but she anticipated something like that happening and blasted again. She started getting even more angry as it continued to dodge, and forced the Fade to bend to her will, trapping the demon so she could end it once and for all.

She stood there, panting, as the demon dissipated, leaving her free. A weight felt like it had lifted off of her, and while she still felt all of the negative feelings about the past, they weren't smothering her and dragging her down anymore. Perhaps she could finally start to heal, and live again.

When she woke, Anders was asleep beside her, and even in the dim light she could tell his eyes were red. She put her hand on his shoulder and rested her forehead against his.

“Anders...” She murmured. He twitched, so she kissed him on the nose, and he woke up with a start.

“Oh Maker, Claire, I thought I hurt you...”

“I'm fine, Anders, really.” She said. “You helped me find the cause of my despair... and while I'm not completely healed, I still feel depressed, it's not... overwhelming anymore. There was a demon attached to me, a demon of Despair, feeding off my negative emotions and dragging me down.”

“A demon?” Anders caressed her head, staring into her eyes.

“I think the Templars must have gotten it attached to me somehow, without it possessing me.” She said. “Thank you for helping me. I'm sorry I didn't figure it out sooner, I feel bad enough about that.”

“No, don't put that on yourself.” He said. “I don't need you dragging yourself down with guilt or regret again. You're my life, I can't bear to see you in pain.” She kissed him and smiled.

“So long as I have you, I'll be fine.” She said.

 


 

The following day, Claire realized exactly how long she'd been under the demon's influence as she looked around the clinic. She could remember Hawke saying Anders was keeping her hidden away for a year... She had lost a year with Anders, she couldn't even really remember it at all, except bits and pieces of the first half, when she went out to help Anders save mages. She could have been doing so much more to help, yet she'd lost herself to the despair. How could it have been so long?
Hawke came in, and though she wasn't sure what they were talking about, Claire could tell Anders wasn't happy about it. Frustrated himself, Hawke walked off.

“Anders, I'm sorry.” She said, walking up to him. “How did I lose a year of my life? A year with you?”

“How do you mean?” He asked.

“I wasn't really living, I don't remember much of anything after the first half of a year here, and even that's a blur.” She frowned. “I helped you to start, didn't I? I wasn't completely useless?” He quickly kissed her, trying to smile.

“Please don't worry about it.” He said. “You're here now, and you're better. I will ensure you don't lose yourself again.” She wasn't comforted by the fact that he didn't deny her being useless, but she had to remind herself not to let herself feel too bad and work harder in the future.

“Thank you.” She hugged him slowly, cautiously. “I'll be a better help, to make up for lost time. I feel like I've lost two years now, and I don't want to miss any more.”

“Oh, Anders, I just had a –” Hawke came back in and stopped, staring at the pair embracing. “Oh, am I interrupting something?” He had a smirk, and Anders pinched the bridge of his nose before turning around.

“What was it you needed?” Anders asked.

“Oh, it was just a thought, but I've suddenly forgotten what it was.” Claire could tell Hawke enjoyed annoying Anders, though she wasn't sure why. He couldn't be envious, could he? He'd had a whole year with Anders without knowing about her... He looked at her and said, “You've been hiding here, doing nothing but staring out that window for the past year or so... what changed?”

“I was depressed.” Claire shrugged. “I mean, I still am, but... Anders talked to me, and helped me realize I was slowly killing myself and needed to snap out of it. I realized, I've just been sitting here in this clinic, doing nothing, when I could be out there helping people who may be going through what I went through, what Anders went through...”

“Oh, sure, because we need more rogue mages running around.” He said it with a smile, but it seemed like he was actually serious while trying to pass it off as joking. She had to remind herself of everything he'd been through, because there was a good chance he was hurting inside and didn't want to bring everyone else down with him.

“I will try to keep my bias in check.” Claire said. “I know that while I fear the Templars because of what I went through, and what I've seen others go through, that they're not all bad. I also know that it's those in charge who are allowing the abuses to go unchecked, which is a bigger problem. You can want a Circle all day long, but if you don't keep it in check, it will fall to chaos and then you won't have to worry about the few blood mages or abominations, it'll be a full on war.” She saw Anders looking at her in surprise, and she knew he was understanding her meaning. He'd seen the city in her dream...

“So what, you want me to fight against the Templars then?” Hawke asked, his calm demeanor cracking as his anger and frustration started coming out. “Just throw away everything I've fought for?”

“I want you to fight for what's right.” Claire said. “You know Templars abusing their power is wrong, why won't you fight that? Why don't you ask the knight-commander why she sits in her tower and does nothing to keep her people in check? Why don't you ask Elthina why she claims to be neutral while siding with the Templars completely? She leads the mages on, and she will continue to do so until she dies.” She felt Anders hands on her shoulders and it gave her a bit of strength. She hadn't realized she'd started crying again.

“You know nothing of what's going on in this city.” Hawke growled. “I would appreciate it if you stayed out of my business!” He stormed out of the clinic, slamming the door behind him.

“I'm sorry, Anders...” Claire turned and laid her head against his shoulder.

“I've been trying to get to him for two years now.” He murmured. “Don't worry about it. But... what you said, it's true, isn't it?”

“You saw that vision...” Claire sighed. “I don't know when, exactly, it'll take a while, so we have time to... I don't know, try to stop it? Warn the people before it's too late?”

“But they won't listen. It seems fate is more set in stone than I thought, and we cannot change it.”

“No, that can't be true.” Claire said. “I know I can change things, but... some of the things I can change, I don't want to, because they're needed, or they're the best path to take. You'll see, and perhaps in time, you'll understand why things must go as they do.” He moved a little so he could kiss her, and she melted into it, wishing she'd not wasted an entire year moping around.

“Now that you're better, will you come with me, to help mages again?”

“Of course.” She smiled, but then frowned as she realized she needed to tell Anders what she could do. How upset would he be to learn she'd gone behind his back like that? Perhaps once he saw the good it could do...

“What's wrong?” He asked.

“I'm sorry, it's just... Anders... I don't know how to tell you, I don't want you to get mad, but you need to know what... what I learned how to do...”

“Does this have anything to do with going into the Fade physically?” He asked. She nodded slowly. “I already know, love. I watched you disappear on more than one occasion back in Amaranthine, when you thought I wasn't looking.”

“But... you never said anything? I thought you'd be mad.”

“I was upset at first, yes.” Anders shrugged. “I thought you were going to get yourself killed... until I realized the possibilities, and that it was worth the risks for you to learn it.”

“I wish you'd told me, though... you were waiting for me to come to you, weren't you?”

“Yes.” He said. “But, you never had the chance, and this past year, you've not done it at all, have you?”

“No... there was no reason for me to, or so I thought.” She said. “But now, now all I can think about is putting these abilities to good use. Of course, I have to be careful. I can't let the Templars know what I can do, I can't let them have any excuse to kill more mages...”

“I don't need you putting yourself at risk again.” Anders said. “Not like that. I want you to be careful, please.”

“I will be.” She smiled softly. “I've learned a few tricks to help with that. I can fully shield my magic, and I can slip partway into the Fade so that I'm invisible. No one would ever know. Of course, they'll get suspicious if mages just start disappearing, so I'll have to be careful with that...”

“The Maker surely blessed you, for all that you've been through.”

“The Maker certainly blessed me with you.” She laughed. And, it had happened naturally, over many years... it still felt like a dream, a dream she never wanted to wake up from.

Chapter Text

The inn was smelly and noisy, just as Claire remembered it from all those years ago. She'd been a few times since she'd followed Anders to Darktown, but her mind had been in such a fog, she didn't remember much about it. The clientele didn't look much different either and she had to resist running back to the clinic. She was still too sensitive from the demon, as it'd only been a few days since she'd fought it.

“Claire!” An arm draped around Claire's shoulders and she looked over to see the pirate captain, Isabela, grinning at her. “So you've finally decided to join the rest of us?”

“Yes.” Claire said, trying not to move away from her. For some reason, having her arm around her like that was making her uncomfortable. “I need to start living more, instead of hiding.”

“Good!” Isabela clapped Anders on the back as well. “No sense in hiding your pretty little wife away when there's fun to be had.” She moved on ahead to Varric's room, where Claire could see Fenris, which meant Hawke was probably there as well. She couldn't remember any actual interaction with the elf past that first encounter, and the way he was eyeing her, she knew he still didn't trust her. Again, not that she could blame him, after everything he'd been through. She had a hard time trusting Hawke, waiting for him to turn her in to the Templars for being an apostate, even though he'd never made any sort of comment about it.

Claire sat down on the opposite side of the table from Fenris and Hawke, nodding a greeting to the two.

“Good to see you, Seer.” Varric said. She gave him a timid smile and nodded.

“Good to be back.” She said. “I'm sorry I've been such a lump this past year.”

“No worries.”

“We needed more players.” Hawke said, giving her a smile that actually looked honest and not just cocky. “We can't have Varric cleaning us out all the time.”

“Yeah, but no cheating, Seer.” Varric winked at her, so she rolled her eyes in return.

“I think you'll find I'm not very good at the game, even if I knew how to cheat at it.” Claire laughed. Anders took her hand and gave it a squeeze, and for the first time in a long time, she felt a warmth in her that she'd been missing. She was with friends, even if they didn't all get along or agree on anything. They were all stuck in Kirkwall together, dealing with the garbage that floated their way, and what better way to ease the drudgery than with a good game, food, and drink?

 


 

A few weeks later, after Claire had started smuggling mages out of the Gallows, Hawke came by to see Anders, looking like his usual cocky self.

“Is there something you need?” Anders asked.

“It's just a job, seems there's a troubled mage wrecking parts of Lowtown.” Hawke said.

“I suppose I'll have to go, to ensure you don't kill this one as well.”

“I'll go as well.” Claire said. Hawke grinned and nodded.

“Very good! Let's go then.” Perhaps she was just sensitive after the encounter with the demon, but there was definitely something off about Hawke like she'd thought before. He put on a smile and seemed to hide his pain with jokes, yet she could feel something smoldering beneath the surface. How long would Hawke be able to keep up his own charade before he snapped? Perhaps that was why he'd been so adamant at taking Claire slaver hunting that one time, because he had seen in her something he felt himself.

Lowtown was fairly quiet until they got closer to a small housing area where the mage was yelling at the people around her. Claire saw Hawke bristle as he looked at a certain door.

“What is it?” Claire asked.

“That's my uncle's house.” Hawke said quietly. “Where I used to live with my mother and sister... Come on, let's take care of the mage.” Claire nodded and ignored everything else, walking straight towards the mage.

“You're all complicit!” The mage was yelling, her eyes red and swollen from crying. “They torture us, and you all let them!”

“Has she done anything yet?” Claire asked someone standing nearby.

“No, or else we wouldn't be here. We're just waiting on the Templars.” Claire nodded and went up to her, finding she was glad to be wearing just a simple dress instead of her more intimidating armor.

“Why don't you come with me, and we'll talk it over?” Claire asked quietly. The mage's eyes widened as she looked at Claire's scars and armor.

“You're one of them, aren't you!” She gasped. “Stay away from me! You won't have me!”

“It's all right, Claire won't hurt you.” Anders said. “We're here to help, but there's nothing we can do to save you if you won't let us.” Hawke brushed past Anders, his hand on his daggers. “Hawke, no, she's done nothing to harm anyone!”

“She's already on the edge...” Hawke said. “We cannot take that risk.” Claire felt her heart go into her throat as she realized what she had to do. It was the only way, she couldn't let the woman die. She quickly stepped in front of the mage to guard her from Hawke.

“No, Hawke, I will not allow you to hurt her out of fear.” Claire said.

“What do you know of these things?” Hawke snapped. “You haven't seen the things I have! You haven't had to deal with as many blood mages and abominations as I have!”

“She's none of those!” Claire cried.

“Stand aside.” Hawke pulled out his daggers. Metal footsteps echoed off the houses as the Templars started marching towards them. Glaring at the rogue, Claire paralyzed him, grabbed the woman, looked apologetically at Anders, and ran as fast as she could away, dragging the mage with her.

 


 

“Where'd she go?” Hawke cried out, desperately looking around for them in the alley he'd watched them run down. The Templars were looking around the alley as well, finding nothing.

“Hawke, it's all right.” Anders said softly. “Trust Claire to know what she's doing.”

“You can't be serious right now.” Hawke said. “Your wife just vanished! There's no way out of this alley!” Anders shrugged, feeling uncomfortable with the Templars right there.

“It's true, the footsteps end here at this barrel, but there's nothing under the barrel, and no way they could have made it onto the roof.” A Templar said.

“She was your wife?” Another Templar looked at Anders.

“The one with the scar, not the woman you're after.” Anders said, feeling Justice getting defensive. Hawke suddenly grew concerned as he looked at the healer, surprising Anders.

“I'm sorry, Anders.” Hawke said. “We'll find your wife, and the mage will pay.” Confused at what Hawke was saying, Anders could only nod. Was he really trying to protect Claire?

“Next time leave it to us.” A Templar said. He sounded cross, as if he merely thought the two incompetent, and Claire a victim rather than perpetrator.

“There's nothing we can do now but go back to my clinic and wait...” Anders turned and started walking. Once they were out of range of the Templars, Hawke grabbed Anders, stopping him.

“What kind of game are you two playing?” Hawke hissed.

“You should know me better by now, that I do not play games.” Anders growled. “Especially when it comes to mages.”

“Mages can't just disappear!”

“Obviously they can.” Anders pulled out of his grip and started walking again.

“She's not a normal mage, is she?” Hawke pressed. “There's something strange about her, and why does Varric keep calling her Seer?”

“I don't think you can understand, with how much you hate mages.”

“I don't hate mages!” Hawke said, exasperated. “I'm just trying to keep order in this city, and it's very difficult when there are so many blood mages and abominations around every corner.”

“Well you don't have to worry about Claire.” Anders snapped.

“Why? What makes her so different?” Hawke asked. “What makes you so certain she won't resort to blood magic or a demon?”

“Because!” Anders turned to face Hawke, his eyes flashing blue in his frustration. “After everything she's been through and she's not been tempted once, there is nothing that would get her to join with a demon. She doesn't need more power... she just wants to live in peace and be left alone.” He began walking again, wondering if he'd ever make it back to the clinic, or if he'd snap and attack the ever frustrating Hawke.

“I really don't want to lock all mages up...” Hawke murmured after a while. “I just... I don't know what to do. I can't just sit by and let the city fall to chaos.”

“Yet you continue to support those who would oppress us.”

“I... admit they have some questionable tactics, but...” Hawke sighed. “I just can't think of allowing every mage to be free. There must be something!”

“Mages deserve to be as free as any other.” Anders said. “To be free to love who they want without fear, or to live as they want, to decide their own fate... in the Circle, mages can't even have children, we're stripped of the rights given to any other.”
Hawke remained silent for the rest of the walk, and when Anders opened the door to the clinic, Claire was already there, waiting, with the mage she'd just saved.

“Hello, love.” Claire said, frowning. “Hawke... I didn't expect you.” Anders could tell she was nervous, and wondered if it was because she thought Hawke would want to kill her.

“It's all right, Claire.” Anders said.

“What is going on here?” Hawke asked. “Why is she here?” He pointed his finger at the new mage.

“This is Margaret.” Claire said, putting a hand on the mage's back so she wouldn't run off. “Her brother was made tranquil, well past his Harrowing, which is against Chantry law. Can you blame her for being upset? She hurt no one, she's not resorted to blood magic or demons. I'll take her far away from here so you won't have to worry anymore.” Hawke was visibly upset, struggling with something internal as Margaret looked like she was about to faint from fear.

“There's really nothing I can do, is there?” Hawke said. “You have some strange ability, I won't even be able to touch you.”

“Hawke, I wouldn't do it if she wasn't innocent.” Claire said. “I have searched her heart, she's just deeply hurt and upset. Can you blame her? I will not let her go back to the Templars, I will not subject her to that again.”

“I don't know you very well...” Hawke said slowly. “But you've never given me reason to distrust you. I just... this morning, I though you were just a normal mage, and now I find out you're... what are you?”

“I don't know!” Claire cried. “I used to think I was a somniari, a dreamer, but I don't even know anymore. I've never met anyone else like me... I shouldn't even have these powers, I just keep messing things up...”

“Love...” Anders walked over to her to hug her and she looked up at him with tears. “It's all right.”

“Despite what you warned me about, I still went to investigate the Templars, and it cost so much... Anders... I feel like it's all my fault, everything that's happened. I thought I could stop it and I was wrong, and instead, you lost Karl, and me for a year, and you've been through so much...” She was sobbing so hard he had a hard time understanding her, so he just embraced her, holding her tightly.

“It's all right, there's nothing to blame yourself for.” Anders said.

“But there is!” She cried, pushing him away. “There is! And... and I don't know how to explain why, and I'm afraid you'll be upset when you discover what I figured out... but you need to know.” She looked worriedly at Hawke. “Hawke, please... please don't tell anyone.”

“I... I won't.” He said.

“When you see...” Claire suddenly disappeared.

“Maker, that's unnerving!” Hawke exclaimed. “What else can she do that she's so worried about? Never mind, you don't even know yet...”

“She's going to get my brother.” Margaret finally spoke, her voice barely a whisper.

“Didn't she say he's tranquil?” Hawke asked. Anders' eyes widened with realization.

“Maker, no... Karl. She said... she said because of her I lost Karl. She can't possibly mean it.”

“What? What do you mean?” Hawke didn't realize it, and Anders wasn't sure he wanted to vocalize it, especially if he was wrong. But how could he be wrong? And why did she think he'd be angry with her? Because she was insistent on going after the

Templars? She'd thought she was doing something good, he couldn't blame her for that. It hurt, more than he'd expected, to realize he hadn't needed to kill his best friend. He leaned against a pillar, trying not to cry.

“Anders, what's going on here? Can someone explain it to me?”

“Claire will, when she gets back.” Margaret said.

“Anders...” Hawke was suddenly beside him, his hand on his back, looking very concerned. “Please tell me what in the Maker's name is going on?”

“I can't.” Anders said. “I don't know, but if it's what I suspect... if she's done... done that... if anyone could, she could. Cure tranquility...” Hawke stepped backwards in shock.

“You're joking.”

“Why else would she go to get a tranquil?” Anders snapped. “Why else would she think I'd be angry because of Karl?”

“No... this is...” Hawke started pacing around, his hands to his head. “Yesterday she was just a normal mage, keeping to herself, doing nothing but staying here, now she's some sort of goddess that's stepped out of a storybook...”

“Hawke, please don't try to do anything to her.” Anders knew what the rogue could do, and prayed the man's fears didn't make him react before thinking. “Please, just let her be.”

“Can I even touch her?” Hawke asked. “You say that like I could do something to her... do you truly have so much faith in my abilities?” He laughed.

“She's not a goddess, Hawke.” Anders said. “At least, I don't know if she is, and even if she is, she's a very young one who doesn't have a lot of experience, otherwise she wouldn't have gotten caught by the Templars in Amaranthine and tortured for a year...”

“I'm just trying to figure this all out.” Hawke said. “How does someone like that even exist? It flies in the face of everything I've ever known.”

“Perhaps when she comes back, you can ask her.” Margaret sat down on a box, her head in her hands, while she waited, and Anders started sorting his potions again while Hawke paced the room.

 


 

Claire was terrified about what she was going to do, and tried not to think about what would happen when she got back to Anders. If she thought about that, she'd never go back. She'd found Margaret's brother, Trevor, and he was as she'd said, tranquil and selling wares in the Gallows. Sneaking in behind him, invisible by the Fade, was easy, but she didn't particularly want any eyes on him when she took him herself, so she waited for an opening. Once no one was watching, she grabbed him and pulled him into the Fade, and his eyes shot open.

“Who are you?” He gasped. “What did you do?” He looked around him, panicking.

“I can make this permanent if you like.” She said. “Or let you revert...”

“No!” He wiped his eyes, but the tears kept coming. “Being tranquil is the worst thing ever, please, I'd rather be dead!”

“No worries, I won't let you die. Close your eyes.” Wisps were always around, and she called one over to touch the mage's mind. It wasn't certain at first, then possessed the mage for a split second before flitting away, unhappy with the experience. She prayed it hadn't done anything to the wisp. “That should do it. Would you like to see your sister now? She's been worried about you.”

“Thank you so much, I can't even begin to show my gratitude!” Trevor grabbed her in a quick hug. “Please, yes, take me to my sister.” She took his hand and teleported him to the Clinic, where he instantly ran for Margaret, hugging her tightly while they both laughed and cried.

“So it's true.” Anders looked upset and Claire felt like disappearing.

“Anders, I'm so sorry...” Damn the tears, she was tired of crying. He put his arms around her, staring into her eyes and shook his head.

“No, you have nothing to feel guilty for.” He said. “You've warned me enough times, and apparently some things are just meant to be. You failed at changing anything, didn't you?” She buried her head into his shoulder, feeling the love for him more than ever and needing that comfort. “It took me a while to come to terms with it... I know I was too hard on you in the past, feeling envy at your powers and anger at you doing nothing, but I realize how wrong I was. I'll be content to be a spirit healer here in Darktown.”

“I can't believe you did it.” Hawke said. “What are you?”

“I'm just... me!” Claire turned to face Hawke. “None of this happened the way I expected, it was all just... you weren't supposed to find out. Please, you can't tell anyone! They'll kill me, they'll start killing more mages instead of just making them tranquil, you can't tell anyone!” Anders' grip on her tightened as he tried to calm her down.

“I trust Hawke.” Anders said. “As much as he sides with the Templars, he's smart enough to know the chaos that would come if what you can do got out.”

“I'm trying to wrap my head around it.” Hawke said. “But I swear, I will tell no one. Just... promise me you won't help any truly dangerous mages? Please? I have enough work to deal with here... I don't need more.”

“Of course, I'll make sure to examine them first.” She said. “I'm not so blinded as to think all mages are perfect, I've met my fair share of corrupted ones as well. Mortals are all the same, corruptible, whether they be mage or Templar, elf or human, dwarf or Qunari.”

“And you, are you mortal?”

“I've nothing to say otherwise.” She said. “I feel mortal enough.”

“Does Varric know?” Hawke asked.

“He...” Claire frowned. “No, I've not told him about this...”

“Then why does he call you Seer?”

“Please don't ask that.” She cringed. She didn't need him of all people to know what she knew, he'd be sure to blame her for everything. “He gave me that nickname when I met him on my way to Tevinter around eleven years ago because... I acted like I knew what was going to happen when I got to Tevinter. He tried to warn me and I didn't listen.”

“I get the impression you don't listen a lot.” Hawke suddenly laughed. “Am I going to regret this, since I'm sure you're not going to listen to me either?”

Claire sighed and shook her head. “You're one to talk, you don't listen either.” She said. He gave a halfhearted shrug and smiled.

“That's because I don't trust anyone else.” He said. “But... I'll give you this one. I pray you haven't made a mistake in this, and perhaps I'll see you at the Hanged Man tonight?”

“I suppose I'll have to.” Claire said.

 


 

Time flew by for Claire, and she'd lost track of how many mages she'd helped rescue, and how many tranquil she'd cured, all while still trying to keep it quiet. The tranquil were harder to get without raising suspicions, and the rumor in the Gallows was that someone was kidnapping them for blood mage rituals. What Claire was really doing was taking them to a hidden away castle in the Planasene forest, which, while still close to Kirkwall, was fairly unbothered by travelers. She kept protections on the place in order to prevent others from seeking it out, essentially hiding it from the world, but she was still afraid they'd be found out, so she kept looking for a safer place for them.

Before she knew it, Hawke was coming in to bother Anders about another job, one that caught her attention. She glanced at Fenris as Hawke started talking to Anders, and wondered what his path would be. It was obvious he was attached to Hawke, but he wouldn't really do anything about it for years yet.

“What's the job now?” Anders asked.

“Well, you remember that Templar, Emeric, from a few years back?” Hawke asked. “His investigation into the missing women is still going on, and Aveline needs me to talk to him because he's ruffling a few feathers. I was wondering if you might want to help.”

“What missing women?” Claire asked, even though she knew. How could she forget that quest? She hadn't expected it to come up so soon, and she wondered if she could do anything to save Hawke's mother. Was her death really necessary? But she had no idea how to find her after she was taken, or Quentin, without using blood magic herself. If she could even find Quentin and kill him before Leandra could be taken...

“There's been a few women who have gone missing over the years, and Emeric thinks there's a single culprit.” Hawke said. “However, he's been unable to pin him down. The most we found three years ago was a finger and a ring...”

“Anders, we should go.” She said. He gave her an odd look, but nodded.

“All right, let's go to the Gallows then and see what Emeric has to say for himself.” Hawke said. Claire knew Hawke wouldn't turn her in, and neither would Fenris since he never even tried to turn Anders in, as Hawke wouldn't allow it, and she thought they might be getting to him on the mage issue. However, going to the Gallows with those who supported the Templars was still unnerving to her.

The Gallows were as oppressive as ever, with the tranquil standing around selling their bloody wares, as Anders had said. She may have been a slave in Tevinter, but she'd had more freedom and privacy than the mages in the Gallows. She barely paid attention to Emeric as he asked Hawke to go to Gascard's mansion in Hightown, and instead found herself staring at Cullen. She hadn't seen him since the tower in Ferelden, but she could still remember how he felt about mages at this time in his life, and it wasn't something she wanted to think about. He caught sight of her and narrowed his eyes, but then Hawke walked away and started talking, so she quickly followed.

“All right, so we'll go to Gascard's tonight, see if we can't find any information.” Hawke sighed, then looked at Claire carefully. “Or... perhaps we won't have to. Claire, it would be easy for someone like yourself to gather the information needed, surely.”

“Fine, I suppose I'll meet you at the Hanged Man when I'm done tonight?” She asked. Hawke grinned, while Fenris glanced between them, confused. Claire was surprised he stayed silent, as did Anders.

“You don't have any idea how grateful I am you came around.” Hawke said. She couldn't help but think he'd have a different opinion once the whole thing was over.

 


 

“Be careful, love.” Anders said before she was to set out. “You don't know what you're up against.”

“I have an idea.” She said. “A man who kidnaps and murders women? He's not to be trusted at all, and is probably dealing with some nasty type of magic, maybe even a demon. I'm going to take every precaution I can.”

“I still worry.” He kissed her lightly and she smiled.

“I appreciate it, Anders.” She said. “I love you, and I will come back to you.”

Gascard was in his room with Alessa, the woman he'd kidnapped, just as Claire suspected, and before she made herself known, she debated on how to do it. Kill him and make up some story? She could still remember some of it, especially as she looked at him. He didn't even know where Quentin was, from what she could remember, so she didn't need anything from him. Finally deciding on what to do, she put Alessa to sleep, making it look like she fainted from fright, and then appeared in front of Gascard.

“Good evening, messere.” Claire said, letting herself glow a bit. “I see somebody wants to play with demons and blood magic...”

“Who are you?” Gascard asked, stepping back, his fear plain on his face. “Did Quentin send you? What do you want?”

“I want you.” She said, stepping closer, feeling the rush of power at having a cowering mage in front of her. She could see how power could corrupt, it was very tempting to play with the man for a bit before killing him. “A mage, such as yourself... letting your talents fall to waste...” He lashed out at her with a spell that she easily blocked, making his face pale even more.

“You're not... you're not a demon, you can't be human, what are you?” He stammered.

“I am your worst nightmare.” She hissed, using Fade energy to knock him to the side. It wasn't enough to kill him, but he was stunned for a moment. “Tell me about Quentin, and I'll go easy on you.”

“I don't know what you want me to say!” Gascard cried, getting up. He tried to run to the door, but he hit a barrier she'd put up.

“You're his, what? Apprentice?”

“I was!” Gascard cried. “In Starkhaven! But he refused to teach me his magic.”

“You mean his necromancy.” Claire snapped. “That's all you care about, isn't it? And you're going to use this poor woman to find him?” There was a possibility of using her as bait, that Quentin would take her first, and then Leandra, and if Claire was watching Alessa, she could take care of Quentin before he even got near Leandra... Did poor Hawke really have to go through losing his mother as well?

“Like you're one to talk, look at you!” Gascard started getting a little more confident, but he was still shaking. “Probably made a deal with a demon!”

She started laughing. “I have no need for demons!” She grinned. “I am worse than a demon, so that even they fear me.” She was suddenly beside him, and grabbed his head, taking him into the Fade to get all the information she could from him.

 


 

“Was it a good idea to send Claire there alone?” Anders asked, pacing around in Varric's room while they waited for her. “What if something happened to her?”

“Maker, Anders, you're giving me anxiety just looking at you.” Hawke said. “I'm sure she'll be fine, she's a smart woman who I'm sure by now has learned to be cautious.”

“Anders, sit down, have a drink, relax.” Varric said.

“I do not understand why it had to be her to go.” Fenris grumbled from the doorway. He kept looking towards the entrance, waiting for her to walk in, and Anders didn't feel like telling him she probably wouldn't come that way.

“She has unique abilities and experience.” Anders said. “She'll be able to get information we otherwise would have missed.” Fenris just glanced at him suspiciously and went back to watching the door.

“Why do I feel like she hasn't even told me half of her abilities?” Varric asked.

“I am perhaps the only one in this room who she's told the most to, and even then, I question how much I actually know.” Anders said.

“You're not convincing me very well of her mortality.” Hawke said.

Fenris turned sharply and stared at Hawke. “What do you mean? What is she?”

“Maker only knows.” Varric said.

“I swear, the more I hear about her, the more she seems like a Dalish god.” Hawke griped.

“Are you still going on about that?” Claire sighed as she stepped from the shadows near the bed. “I told you, I'm human.”

“You say that, but you just came from nothing.” Fenris said, eyeing her suspiciously. “How can you have such powers without a demon?”

“Because I was born special, apparently.” Claire snapped. “Anyway, Gascard is not the one taking the women, though he was a blood mage and had a woman there he was going to use to track down his former master, Quentin, with. I took her to the Chantry after I ended Gascard's miserable life, but I don't know how safe she is if Quentin already targeted her.”

“I'm glad you made it out in one piece.” Anders said.

“He was no match for me.” Claire laughed. “I left his body next to the vials of blood so they'll know what he was, and made it look like a demon killed him.”

“And I suppose such a thing was easy for you to do?” Fenris said, a growl to his tone. Anders knew how he felt about mages and couldn't forget his reaction at realizing Claire had been in Tevinter, so he stepped over to Claire.

“It wasn't the easiest.” She said, glaring at the elf. “I'm not a demon, Fenris, nor am I a danger, except to those who cross me.”

“Claire...” Anders murmured. As much as he didn't like Fenris, he didn't feel like dealing with a confrontation there at that moment.

“Anyway, I'm tired, and if you don't mind, I'm going to take my husband back to the clinic now.” Claire said.

“Thank you for your help.” Hawke said. “I'll let you know if we find anything else.”

“You're welcome, I hope we can catch him soon.” Claire said. “Take care, Varric, I'll try to come back soon.”

“Any time, Seer.” Claire took hold of Anders and teleported them both back to their room, where she latched onto him tightly.

“Are you all right?” He asked quietly.

“Quentin is a madman, Anders.” She said. “He deals in necromancy... I fear what he's doing with those women he's kidnapped, or what he's already done.”

“We'll find him, don't worry.”

“Even his own apprentice didn't know where he was.” She said. “I can't just find someone like that...”

“We will, and then we can both sleep better at night, knowing he's gone.”

“Thank you, Anders.” She said. “Thank you for being here with me. I don't know where I'd be without you.”

“You probably wouldn't have gotten stabbed by the Templar, for one.” He said, making her laugh. “Come on, it's late, we should get to bed.” She kissed him, pressing herself against him and he hugged her tighter.

“The bed is more fun.” She murmured as she started moving him to it. He smiled at her with his eyes half closed.

“But only if you're there.” He said.

“I'm not going anywhere...”

 


 

“Help... help me...” Claire stared in horror at the bloodied woman reaching her hand out, begging Claire for help. It was Leandra, there was no way it couldn't be, and a dark shadow stood nearby. Why was she there? And why couldn't she do anything? It felt so real, but she was paralyzed.

“She is mine...” He said. “My wife...” Anger boiled inside Claire and she tried to lash out, but demons began to surround her, clawing at her. Screaming, she flailed.

“Claire!” Her eyes shot open and she saw Anders staring at her, terrified. “Claire, what's wrong? Are you all right?”

“I... I... I don't know.” Claire took a deep breath, trying to calm down. “I saw Quentin, and... I saw Hawke's mother. We need to find Hawke, we need to talk to him. I think his mother may be a target.” Without a word, Anders nodded and got up, helping Claire up, and they got dressed. Claire glanced outside, and realized the light was wrong, and that it was too dark.

“What time is it?” She gasped. “How long was I asleep for?”

“Most of the day.” Anders said quietly. “You'd worked yourself hard, I figured you needed it. After you fell asleep at the desk, I thought something might have been wrong and tried to heal you, but you were just drained.”

“No... no, it's too late.” Claire grabbed Anders' hand and was about to teleport when Hawke burst in.

“Please, you have to help me!” Hawke cried, his eyes red already. Fenris was right behind him. “He took my mother.”

“Oh Hawke, no.” Anders' voice caught and Claire felt like she was going to break down. She'd wanted to avoid it, but perhaps Anders was right, maybe fate wasn't something she could so easily change.

“Do you know where?” She asked, but Hawke shook his head. “Give me a second, I'll see what I can do.” Where was she going to take them? How could she just teleport them somewhere without having any idea where she was going? She quickly closed her eyes and went into the Fade for some sort of hint. She could feel a spirit nearby disturbed by something and went over to see what it was.

“Do you feel it?” The spirit asked. “A voice, crying out, pain... it cuts through the Fade because of the magic.”

“Show me?” Claire asked. The spirit pointed to a pool of water, and so Claire put her head in, keeping her eyes open. To her amazement, she could see Quentin as he finished working on Leandra. “Thank you.” Claire told the spirit when she lifted her head.

“Will you help her?” The spirit asked. “I feel it in you, compassion, you can't sit by, do nothing, while others suffer.”

“That's my hope.” Claire said. “I just hope I'm not too late.” She then went back to the others.

“Did you see anything?” Hawke asked.

Claire stood up, unable to tell him. “Take my hands. This is going to be a difficult fight.” Nervously, Hawke took her hand, while Anders took the other, and Fenris cautiously took Hawke's. Taking another deep breath, Claire teleported them all to Quentin, and then fell to the ground, exhausted. It had taken more out of her than she'd expected.

“Claire, are you all right?” Anders knelt beside her, while Hawke started walking forward.

“I'll be fine, but Hawke won't. Stay with him.” Anders nodded and got up, following Fenris and Hawke. Claire downed a bottle of lyrium and stood up.

“I was wondering when you'd show up.” Quentin said, his voice more annoying than Claire had remembered. “Leandra was so sure you'd come for her.”

“You bastard! I'm going to kill you!” Hawke's hands went for his daggers, but he didn't pull them out.

“I was afraid you might say that.” Quentin said. “You will never understand my purpose. Your mother was chosen because she was special, and now she is part of something... greater.”

“Spare me the demented rambling. Where is she?”

“She's here.” Quentin began moving around the woman in the chair. “She's waiting for you. I have done the impossible. I have touched the face of the Maker and lived. Do you know what the strongest force in the universe is? Love. I pieced her together from memory. I found her eyes, her skin, her delicate fingers. And at last, her face... oh, this beautiful face. I've searched far and wide to find you again, beloved, and no force on this earth will part us.” Leandra stood up and turned to face Hawke. And then, Quentin summoned up a horde of demons.

Claire did her best to fight, using her sword more than her magic. She knew Hawke needed to be the one to kill Quentin, to make the bastard pay for what he did, but she could at least help take out the demons. If only there had been a way to have saved Leandra... While she fought, she began wondering if it was really was possible to change things. Every time she'd actually tried, it had failed; were things so set in stone that it was impossible? She couldn't recall any specific quests for the time period outside of the Gallows incident and Feynriel, except for the Qunari. What would happen if she delivered the Tome of Koslun herself? Would the city be spared?

She was distracted from her thoughts as Hawke killed Quentin and ran to his mother. Her heart was breaking just watching it, remembering all too well her own mother's death, along with her father, and then the Wardens, and watching the other mages getting tortured and killed by the rogue Templars. She'd not dealt with the pain, she'd just shoved it to the side, refusing to think about it as there was always something more important to deal with, and that had been a mistake. It all came crashing down on her.

She needed to leave, she needed to get out, she was panicking and crying too hard to think. Warm arms wrapped around her and she collapsed into them, sobbing, unable to stop thinking about everyone who'd died.
“It's not your fault, Claire.” Anders murmured. “You did everything you could. You can't save everyone.” She tried to get herself under control, knowing it wouldn't help Hawke any, so she shoved the emotions to the side again and nodded. She wasn't going to be able to last much longer, she couldn't hold it at bay, she needed to leave.

“Hawke... do you... do you want me to take you anywhere?” She asked.

“Just take me home, please.” Hawke's voice was quiet and hoarse, and she was sure he was barely holding on himself. He gripped his mother's body and Fenris wrapped his arm around Hawke's shoulders, so Claire took Fenris' hand and Anders', teleporting them to Hawke's estate.

 


 

“What happened?” Hawke asked, staring at Claire lying on the floor. Anders carefully picked her up, not wanting to think about the long walk back to Darktown.

“She's drained herself too much.” Anders said. “I'll take her back to the clinic. Will you be all right?”

“I think so, in time.” Hawke said.

“I am here if you need me.” Fenris said, and Hawke looked relieved as he nodded. Anders wasn't sure what was going on between the two of them, but he was glad Hawke had someone with him. The man was too on edge all the time anyway, he could only hide so much behind his mask.

“Take care, and let me know if anything changes. I won't be far.”

“Thank you, Anders, and tell Claire I appreciate her trying her best to help... she shouldn't blame herself.”

“I'll let her know.” Anders said, then left. He knew, as he walked through the dark city, that she would blame herself, just as she had with everything else, even with Karl, despite never having cured a tranquil before Trevor and having gotten the idea from hearing about what happened with Karl. Part of him knew he was a cause of it, back when he accused her of not doing anything with her abilities. He'd been young and foolish then, and full of a different kind of anger, a more rash anger. Now, his anger was focused and he had a goal.

Claire was part of that goal, and Justice reveled in her willingness to help, but he hated how long things were taking. Hiding mages away wasn't enough, the Circle still stood, the Templars were still being allowed to abuse their charges, and even more mages were being made tranquil, even past their Harrowing. Justice knew, from Anders' memories, what was going to happen, but it wasn't happening soon enough. Anders was adamant he continue trying peaceful approaches, he had to show them that mages weren't dangerous, that they could be trusted.

Over the years of knowing Hawke, Anders felt himself start to drift apart from Justice. Where before, he said their thoughts were one, there seemed to be a divide the further they went, and there were moments where he felt like he blacked out with no recollection of what he'd done. If Claire ever noticed, she never said anything, but perhaps it was because she didn't want to worry him. He was afraid he'd hurt her, but he kept his fears to himself, knowing she'd never leave him. Of all the people, she knew him better than he probably knew himself. She knew what his path was, and where he'd end up. He'd seen the flaming city...

Somehow, he made it to the clinic without any problems, and went into the back, setting Claire on the bed. She'd never drained herself like that before, and he had to admit he was a little worried, though he knew she'd be fine. She always was. She was stronger than she gave herself credit for, even emotionally. He'd seen others go through less and become broken from it, while she was still pushing on ahead. He leaned over and kissed her, always amazed that they, two mages, could be husband and wife, and he would cherish her forever.

Chapter Text

Her head pounding, Claire winced as she tried to open her eyes. She wondered if it was like what a hangover felt like, since, having never been drunk, she had no personal experience, but it was at least able to be dulled with magic. She felt Anders sleeping beside her and slowly moved so she could snuggle him, not wanting to think about the previous night. She would enjoy the calm and quiet before unpacking those emotions.

Anders wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer as he smiled. “Good morning, love.” He murmured.

“Good morning.” She kissed him on the nose. “I feel like a herd of cattle ran me over. Did you have to carry me all the way back?”

“If it was anyone else, I'd have left them with Hawke.” He laughed. “But for you, I'd carry you to the ends of Thedas if I had to.”

“Feeling a bit sentimental?” She asked.

“I watched you almost kill yourself in order to help a man try to rescue his mother from a complete madman. You put yourself through so much just to help others. How can I not be head over heels in love with you?”

“You've been in love with me for how many years now?” She asked. “And you still can act like it's new. I know... I feel the same. I look at you, and I wonder how the Maker ever blessed me so much to let you love me as much as I love you. We could die tomorrow, and I will have no regrets.”

“I'm glad to hear you say it.” Anders said. “I wish we could just lie here all day, and not do anything...”

“But the people of Darktown need help.”

“The way things are going, it won't be much longer, will it?” He put his hand on her face, making her scars tingle, and she nodded.

“We have time yet, though, I'm sure.” She said. She'd hold off on telling him about the Qunari for a bit, but she still wasn't sure what she was going to do about it. She would probably just have to let it run its course so she could be certain Hawke would be made Champion, but what would happen with Isabela? She was fun to hang out with at the Hanged Man, playing cards, but Hawke didn't seem to be super close to her, would he convince her to give up the tome and stay? Would he fight for her?

“You're thinking quite loudly, love.” Anders said, looking concerned. “Is something wrong?”

“I was just thinking about everything that's happened, and what's going to happen...” She said quietly. “Hawke has already been through so much, what else is in his future?”

“You know something of it, don't you?”

“Just a little.” She shrugged. “Another battle, with the Qunari, involving the whole city. We'll all be affected by it, not just Hawke. It needs to happen, though, the Arishok must die by Hawke's hand. Just... all those people...” She suddenly started crying, feeling her emotions bubbling to the surface again. She couldn't stop it and she knew she had to deal with it.

“It's all right, love, I'm here.” Anders said, hugging her tight. “We'll save as many as we can.”

“It... it's not j-just that!” She cried. “Everything... H-Hawke's mother, the other m-mages caught by the T-Templars, the Wardens...” She started crying harder, so hard it was difficult to breathe or think, all she could do was sob while Anders held her.

When she started calming down, she said, “I'm sorry, I wish I was stronger...”

“Hush, you're too hard on yourself.” Anders said. “You have every right to be upset, and you're stronger than you think. How else could you have made it as far as you have? I will be right here beside you until the end, don't just rely only on yourself.”

“Thank you.” She buried her face into the nape of his neck and tried to relax. “I keep shoving my emotions to the back, ignoring them, but I can't anymore or I'll never heal properly and I'll lose it at the worst possible moment. I don't know what I would do without you.”

“Same...”

“Can we just lie here all day?”

“You can, and I would recommend it, but I'm sure there are patients I need to help.”

She sighed. “One of these days, I'm going to steal you away to a place you can't escape from and force you to have a vacation, whether Justice wants to or not. I know he's impatient, but he should trust me, that things will work out the way they need to, and let you have your free time.”

“You know time works differently for spirits in the Fade.”

“Yes, I was trapped in the Fade for three days!” She laughed. “One of these days, I will figure out how to separate you two... then Justice can be back where he belongs, happy and free.”

“You're a miracle.” Anders looked in her eyes, then kissed her again.

“Only for you.” She smiled.

 


 

It had been two weeks since Leandra had been murdered and Hawke was barely living. He spent most of his time at the Hanged Man, and Claire felt horrible for him. All he had left was his uncle Gamlen, and Gamlen's daughter that neither of them knew about yet, so Claire started visiting more often. With how Fenris acted around Hawke, perhaps she could convince him to do something more than wait three years to complete a romance with the poor man.

Then one day, Hawke came down to the clinic, looking slightly more energetic than before, and Claire wondered what had happened.

“Are you two busy?” Hawke asked when Anders walked over to him.

“No more than usual.” Anders said. “Did something happen?”

“Do you remember Feynriel?”

“Oh! That elf-blooded boy!” Claire exclaimed. Both Anders and Hawke turned to look at her, confused.

“Did Anders tell you?” Hawke asked.

“I um, yes, I may have mentioned him before.” Anders said, covering for Claire. She felt her cheeks get hot as she nodded.

“Did something happen to him?” Claire asked.

“He's in the Circle, I thought it would be the best place for him, but...” Hawke shrugged. “The Circle has failed him. Arianni says he fell into a nightmare two days ago, and that the Keeper says he's a throwback to ancient magic, that he can shape the Fade, and I thought...”

“Because of my abilities?” Claire asked.

“Come with me into the Fade to help him, please.” Hawke said.

“Of course, but you do realize, if he truly is a somniari, a Dreamer, then he cannot stay in the Circle and I will take him far away from here, yes?” Claire didn't know what she was going to do with Feynriel, since she was probably his best bet outside of going to Tevinter. Who better to learn from than another somniari, if that's what she even was?

“I understand.” Hawke said. “Let's go now, then. The Keeper is waiting.”

 


 

Anders kept glancing at Claire, wondering what she would do in the Fade. He'd not been in the Fade with her in years, not since Justice... he wished he'd gotten time to ask her what she knew about Feynriel, and if something was going to happen. They were almost to the Alienage, where Hawke said the Keeper would meet them, so he didn't have much time left. Arianni was waiting outside, but the Keeper hadn't made it yet.

“The Keeper will be here soon.” Arianni said when Hawke approached her. “Thank you again for coming.”

“You remember Anders?” Hawke asked and Arianni nodded, so Hawke continued. “I'd like you to meet his wife, Claire. She has... experience in this area that I think will be useful.” Arianni looked at Claire awkwardly and nodded. They stood around in awkward silence for a moment before Keeper Marethari came walking down the steps to the Alienage. Anders noticed Claire regarding with a strange expression and again he wished he could ask her about it. Arianni motioned for them to go inside.

“I came quickly, Arianni.” The Keeper said. “I did not wish to tell you by letter how grave your son's situation is. The magic he possesses makes him what the Tevinters called “somniari,” a dreamer. Dreamers have the power to control the Beyond, what humans call “the Fade.” Feynriel is the first in two ages to survive.” Claire stifled a giggle, making the Keeper glance sharply at her.

“This is not a laughing matter.” The Keep said.

“There are others, Keeper.” Claire said. “Feynriel is not the first, he is the fourth, at least.” The Keeper's eyes widened.

“How would a shem know of such things?” Arianni asked.

“Because that is what I am.” Claire said. “But I would appreciate it if you told no one. I am trying to help people, and when they realize the extent of my abilities, they become afraid, which helps no one.”

“Yes, of course, your secret is safe with us.” Marethari said. “And so you know what must be done.”

“Yes.” Claire said. “He is being plagued by demons, and he must realize it himself. Hawke will be there to guide him through it, as the one he trusts, and I will be there to safeguard them all.” Hawke gave her a smile, and the Keeper nodded.

“Then let us prepare.”

 


 

Once they were in the Fade, Anders lost control to Justice, but unlike in the physical world, he wasn't unconscious for it, just watching, like a puppet in his own body.

“Hello, Justice.” Claire said. “We haven't really talked since Amaranthine.” She laughed. “But, one of these days, you will return to the Fade.”

“It is good to feel the breath of the Fade again, not the empty air of your world.” Justice said. “It would please me to return, once our work is complete.”

“Not much longer.” She said.

“I cannot blame Anders for feeling as he does for you.” Justice continued. “Your aid has helped us greatly.” Anders sighed internally, since there was so much more to how he felt about Claire than just her help. Even if she did nothing, he would still love her.

“Come on, let's go before Hawke gets impatient.” Claire said. Hawke rolled his eyes. They walked through the Gallows, to the courtyard in the Templar quarters, where Torpor was waiting for them.

“Torpor!” Claire said, grinning as she greeted the demon. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Why have you come?” Torpor asked. “Do you think you can free the boy? There are others here, more powerful than I am.”

“Oh come on, you know me better than that, surely.” Claire said. “Do you really think they're any match for me? I defeated my first Pride demon decades ago. I've even defeated a Despair demon. If you want to continue to exist, leave now, or I will kill you as well. I will let nothing touch Feynriel.”

“Do not let it leave!” Justice yelled. “It is a demon, and must be destroyed.”

“I agree.” Hawke said, pulling out his sword. Claire shrugged apologetically as Torpor fought back against the spirit and the rogue. Anders never knew she spoke to demons as well, and found himself slightly disturbed by it. Yet another thing to talk to her about.

“I apologize.” Claire said, once Torpor was gone. “I know I have a strange relationship between spirits and demons.”

“How is it you speak to demons?” Hawke asked.

“They have no power over me, and I find them interesting to talk to.” Claire shrugged. “I have killed my fair share, they're not all afraid of me, but still, if you know how to deal with them, they're not too bad. But come, Feynriel doesn't have much time left. You need to get him to realize what's going on. If you just blurt it out, it'll be a shock to him, so tread carefully.” Hawke nodded and they moved on to the next room, where Hawke became Arianni and was faced with Feynriel speaking with his father.

Hawke was able to get Feynriel to realize what was going on, and the Desire demon snapped its tail as it stared at the intruders.

“You may have cost me a Dreamer, but I will still have a death!” It yelled, and then Claire struck it down with a green Fade spike through the head.

“Yes, you will still have death.” Claire said with a sigh. “Two more demons.” She turned and walked away. Anders had never seen someone defeat a demon so easily, and wondered how needed he and Hawke even were.

“You mean to tell me you can just kill demons that easily?” Hawke was in disbelief as he followed after Claire. “Why don't you just kill all the demons then?”

“I will, but only after you have helped Feynriel realize it's a demon.” Claire said. “His mind needs to be strengthened, and killing a demon while it has a hold on him will weaken him and prevent him from defeating demons on his own.”

“I... suppose.” Hawke frowned.

“A Rage demon, after the Dreamer.” Justice growled as they got back into the courtyard, but even as the Rage demon appeared, Claire had already killed it and was moving quickly to the next room. Hawke gave Anders a look, but Justice was unimpressed.

“What, do you have a problem with her?” Hawke asked.

“She has not disclosed everything to Anders.” Justice said. “There is much she hides, and it is obvious the more we are in the Fade with her.”

“I'm sure there's a reason for it.”

“She has not even told you she sees the future.” Justice growled. “She knows what lies on the horizon.” Hawke doesn't need to know! Anders yelled. Justice looked up and saw Claire glaring at him, and Anders knew she'd heard.

“We're here for Feynriel.” She said. “We can talk later.”

“You are a goddess.” Hawke said. “And yet you walk with us mortals...”

“I am not a goddess!” She snapped. “Come on, focus, please. Feynriel needs you.” Hawke nodded slowly and entered the door where the Keeper was talking to the Dalish, calling Feynriel their savior. Like before, Hawke was able to get Feynriel to see that it wasn't the Keeper, and the Pride demon turned on the group. This one, Claire trapped in a green cage before shooting spikes into it until it died.

“Feynriel is waiting for us in the courtyard.” Claire said, sounding tired. Anders wondered if it was just because she didn't want to deal with Hawke knowing her secrets, but he couldn't do anything to comfort her and Justice didn't see any reason for it. He didn't think she should be hiding as much as she was, despite how much he appreciated her efforts.

“Thank you.” Hawke said. They walked to the courtyard and saw Feynriel looking around the Fade, like he'd finally gotten it.

“I'm not sure if this is real.” The boy said. “If so, it is the second time I owe you my life. The Fade feels different now. I see the stitches, the seams holding it together. I feel I could wake at any moment.” Claire smiled.

“You're a dreamer, Feynriel, and so you have the power to shape the Fade, the same as me.” Claire said. “You must master your powers, and you have a couple options. Come with me, or got to Tevinter.”

“What do you mean, you're a Dreamer too?” Feynriel asked.

“I am, yes.” Claire said. “I have a castle hidden away that I've been trying to make as a commune for mages. There are perhaps twenty mages there now, most of them formerly tranquil. I can take you there, if you like, and help you gain better understanding of your magic.”

“That would be fantastic!” Feynriel grinned. “Thank you, and thank you, Hawke, for everything.”

“I'm just glad we could help.” Hawke said.

“I'll come get you as soon as I can, so be ready.” Claire said. Feynriel nodded.

“Please, could you give my mother my farewell?” The boy asked, and Hawke nodded. Feynriel turned and looked around. “I can do this.” He then walked forward and disappeared, allowing Claire and the others to wake as well.

Arianni was happy to hear her boy would be fine, though sad to hear he'd be leaving, and Anders was glad to have use of his body back instead of being a passenger in his own skin. As they left the Alienage, Claire turned to him.

“I need to go get Feynriel now.” She said.

“Please, let me go with you?” Hawke asked. “I want to see this castle for myself.”

“I... suppose I could, but after I get Feynriel.” Claire said “I will meet you at the clinic, and we'll all go together.”

“Take care, and watch the Templars.” Anders said.

“No fear, love, I know what to do.” She smiled, looked around to make sure no one was watching, and disappeared.

“I doubt I'll ever get used to that.” Hawke said. “So... tell me, she knows the future?”

“It would be better if you talk to her about that yourself.” Anders said. “I don't like going behind her back, telling all her secrets.”

“Justice had no problem with it.” Hawke chuckled. “Very well, then, I'll wait. Maker, how did you manage to con her into marrying you?”

Anders bristled at that. “I told you before, we met as teenagers, before she knew what the extent of her powers were. I don't know why she loves me, but I'm not going to question it, nor will I take her for granted.”

“I'm sorry, I meant it as a joke.” Hawke sighed. “I admit I'm a bit envious, that you managed to find someone to love you unconditionally, and here I am, painfully still single. I can't even get someone to go past a one night stand, apparently.”

“What about Fenris?” Anders asked. “I thought for sure he was going to make a move, the way he's been hanging off you.”

Laughing, Hawke shook his head. “He has made no indication to me that he wants to progress past friendship.”

“I'm sorry.” They continued walking in silence until Hawke spoke up.

“How did you two meet? You've only mentioned that you met as teenagers when you escaped the tower, but you've never really told me the story.” It was something to fill the air, at least, and it might even help Hawke see his side of things better.

“I stumbled over her in the dark when she was on her way to Tevinter.” Anders said. “She looked like a little kid, but she was fourteen, so I thought two going to Tevinter would be better, but... the Templars found me when we got close to Denerim and they found her to be a mage as well. On the way to the tower, one of the Templars told her to run, or he'd stab me. She ran... he chased her down like an animal, and stabbed her, leaving her to die.” Anders felt the rage building up in him again and tried to calm down, but it was difficult.

“But she didn't die.” Hawke spoke softly.

“No, she survived, and found me in the Fade that night to assure me the Templar had failed.” Anders pinched the bridge of his nose. “Surely you can understand why we must do what we do.”

“My mother was killed by a mage.” Hawke growled. “While yes, I can understand your hatred of Templars, they are still needed! We cannot just get rid of the Circle and allow mages to run free, there must be some control!”

“You cannot judge us all based on the actions of a few!” Anders cried.

“We can still take precautions. You would rather we sit back and do nothing!” Instead of replying, Anders stormed on ahead, furious.

 


  

Claire had wrapped a black cloak around her after obscuring her face, just in case, before teleporting into the Circle. She stayed hidden, searching for Feynriel. As she moved about the Gallows, she spotted Cullen again. She still had a strange fascination towards him, part wanting to know him better, and the other part fear of what he'd think of someone like her. Maybe one day, she would get up the courage to speak to him, to at least say hello.

She continued her search for Feynriel, finally sensing something of him. They seemed to be keeping him in a room, but since she could feel his energy, she could teleport to it without any problems. To her relief, he was alone.

“Are you ready?” She whispered. The boy stood up and nodded, so she grabbed him and teleported to the clinic, where she took the cloak and face covering off. “All right, now we just wait for Anders and Hawke. Are you all right?”

“Thank you so much.” Feynriel said. “I'm fine, really.”

“I'm just glad to have gotten you out of there.” Claire said. Just then, the door slammed open and Anders came in looking pissed, with an equally angry Hawke behind him. “Are you two fighting again?”

“It's not my fault he refuses to listen to reason!” Anders snapped.

“And it's not my fault he refuses to listen to common sense!” Hawke threw his hands up in frustration. Claire sighed, knowing she honestly fell in the middle of it all, though she'd never talked about her beliefs to either of them before, not wanting to get them hating on her as well, but it was worth a try.

“Hawke, would you at least agree that mages are human, the same as everyone else?” She asked.

“I wouldn't say the same, but yes, they are human.” Hawke looked a little confused.

“Couldn't we at least agree there should be a school for mages?” She asked. “A place like the Circle, where mages can come and go freely, fall in love, marry and have families while learning how to control their magic?” Hawke sighed and sat down, running his hand through his hair tiredly.

“What about the Templars?” He asked. “Surely you wouldn't be rid of them entirely.”

“The Templars are slaves themselves to the Chantry.” Claire said. “They are leashed by lyrium, and then given power over others. The Templars should be freed as well, and not allowed to have such power over another human. There should be no slavery. Let the Templars still exist, as bad mages will happen as we know all too well, but let them be more like the guard, to protect, not be prison keepers, and not leashed.” Both Hawke and Anders stared at her, frowning.

“I suppose there could be some sort of compromise.” Hawke said.

“Just as long as the mages are allowed to be as free as any other.” Anders said. “I do agree there should be something to help mages learn to control their powers, but there should be no walls to cage us in.”

“I know you two will probably never truly see eye to eye, but can we at least call it a truce now?” She asked, and both men nodded. “I know you two care about each other, and I hate seeing friends fight. Come, Hawke, you need to see my own made Circle. Perhaps it will at least ease the mood.” She held out her hands for them, and then took them to the Planasene forest where her castle stood.

“It's a lot bigger than I expected!” Hawke said, staring at it. Then he looked at the few mages who had come to greet them, with only a few who weren't branded as tranquil.

“Claire, it's good to see you again.” Trevor came running over. “And you, Anders.” He glanced nervously at Hawke.

“Hawke is here as a friend, he will harm no one.” Claire said. Trevor nodded slowly.

“I apologize for before.” Hawke said. “Since meeting Claire, I've had to seriously reexamine my whole outlook on things... I'm certainly trying anyway.”

“Trevor, this is Feynriel.” Claire said, gesturing to the boy. “He'll be staying here for now, to be tutored in magic. His magic is a little different, but he can work with the others as well. I'll be taking care of the main part of his training, however.” Trevor raised an eyebrow, but nodded. An older mage woman came up, her forehead clear of the mark indicating she was never tranquil, and smiled as she spotted Feynriel.

“Did I hear correctly, we have a new mage?”

“Indeed, Maude, this is Feynriel.” Claire said. “Feynriel, Maude is our main healer here, so if you have any problems you can't take care of, she'll help you out.”

“Thank you.” Feynriel said. He seemed a little overwhelmed, so Claire decided it was time to get him settled in.

“Maude, do you think you could find him a room to sleep in?” Claire asked. “And perhaps find him some food, he was trapped in a nightmare for two days straight, so I imagine he needs to eat.”

“Certainly, mistress!” Maude said. “Come with me, lad, I'll get you settled in right away.”

“Take care of yourself, Feynriel.” Hawke said. The boy nodded, then followed after the woman. Turning to Claire, Hawke said, “I admit, this is far different from what I was expecting.”

“Wait until you see the gardens and the library.” Claire said. “We've only been here maybe a year, but it's coming along nicely. Not all the mages want to come here, but the formerly tranquil have never wanted to go anywhere else. They just want a quiet place to live their lives. Many of them have had horrible problems dealing with their emotions after being cured, and it seems the longer they were tranquil, the worse is it, as if all the emotions they should have felt suddenly piles on them at once.”

“That makes some sense.” Hawke said. “But still, I'm sure they're glad to be cured.”

“Yes, we've had no complaints about that so far.”

 


 

All while Claire was showing him the castle, Hawke started feeling stranger, having conflicting feelings about everything. He knew his sister would have loved the castle and the very idea of its existence, and she probably would have been safer in the sanctuary than in the Circle. There were no Templars at the castle, they were all self guarded, though there was a Council of Elders. They knew their freedom could be taken away at any moment if they were found out, so they made sure to be careful.

How could he advocate for a Circle full of Templar guards when faced with such happy people? His mind went back to the psychotic murderer who took his mother's life, and then to all the blood mages he'd fought against, all the abominations... were there truly enough to justify what the Circle was doing?

“Are you all right?” Anders asked, and Hawke realized he was staring at his hands.

“I don't know.” He replied softly. “I... have a lot to think about.” He would still hunt the bad mages, but perhaps he should look deeper into the Circle's corruption.

“Perhaps I should take you back then.” Claire said, looking worried. “I didn't mean to upset you with this.”

“No, it's fine, honest.” Hawke said. “But yes, perhaps I should get back.” Claire nodded and patted his shoulder before teleporting him to his estate.

 


 

That night, Fenris came by, and Hawke was suddenly nervous around the elf. He knew how Fenris felt about mages, how could Hawke confide in him what he was thinking?

“You seem agitated.” Fenris said. “Did something happen today?”

“We saved a mage boy from a demon.” Hawke said. “And... seeing Claire in the Fade, seeing what she does... it makes me wonder.”

“I still do not trust her.” Fenris growled.

Hawke suddenly laughed. “You've never seen what she can do, have you? You've only seen a small portion... how she was ever a slave is beyond me, but Anders says it was because she hadn't fully realized her true potential. She could take over Tevinter, if she wanted, yet she hides in Darktown, healing people!” Which reminded him, he needed to ask her about her visions of the future.

“She is unlike any other mage we've ever seen.” Fenris said. “Which is why she should not be trusted. In Tevinter, there are stories of mages called somniari who can delve into the dreams of others and manipulate their minds or even kill them in the Fade. If this woman is a somniari, we should kill her while we have the chance, take her unawares.”

“I'm not killing her.” Hawke said, getting angry. “You're letting your fears get the better of you. She has been here for years, and has done nothing but help people. After what she did to try to save my mother, and you would say that...”

“I'm sorry, I misspoke.” Fenris looked uncertain, and Hawke had to remind himself of what Fenris had been through. Maker, why was he surrounded by broken people? Was it because he was broken himself? He needed a vacation.

“I understand, it's all right.” Hawke sighed. “But please, I owe her a great deal. She pushed herself to the point of almost dying to help me, I can't just forget that. She also helps fight against the bad mages. Not all mages are bad...” He was reminded of what he and Anders were fighting about earlier, and how that was what Anders had said. Why were they judging mages based on the actions of a few?

“No, but mages are susceptible to corruption.”

“So are men.” Hawke said. “Do you think you're immune to such things? That's the quickest way to fall to it, is to think you're above it.”

“Yes, but mages have powers that no other has.”

“Should I not trust you, then? Your lyrium tattoos give you powers yourself...” Hawke put his hands on the elf's shoulders and looked him in the eye. “I care about you, Fenris, and I care about my friends who happen to be mages as well. I'm in a difficult position here, trying to protect this city, I'd prefer if my friends could at least trust each other. Is it not enough I trust them? Do you not trust my judgment?” Fenris furrowed his brow and looked away.

“I don't know.” He said. “I... need to go.” Hawke let his hands fall to his side and watched as the elf walked out the door, then cursed himself. Why did he have to care about him so much? There was no way Fenris could return his feelings, not when he sided even the slightest bit with the mages. Could he ever convince him that mages weren't all bad? Three years ago... it had only been three years and Hawke had changed so much. If only his sister could see him now... even when she'd been around, he'd supported the Templars, now he was questioning everything.

He didn't want to stop supporting them, but neither could he deny the abuses going on in the Circle. Even if it wasn't so bad in other cities, Kirkwall had a definite problem, and he needed to examine it thoroughly.

He walked over to the desk and leafed through the letters, then noticed one from the viscount asking him to come meet him. It would have to wait until the following morning, especially after that whole mess with the Qunari, the gas, and the Chantry messing everything up. He tossed the letter back down and went to his bed, flopping down. Baron, his dog, jumped up beside him and laid down, panting in his face.

“At least you'll always love me.” Hawke laughed, petting the dog. “You never ask for anything but food and pats...”

 


 

“I'm worried about Hawke.” Claire said while she was lying in bed with Anders. He nodded and rolled over to face her.

“You said something was coming, is it that?”

“No, it's more than that. Today, you two were fighting again, but at the castle, he... he seemed to close himself off. I'm not sure if he's going to try to go to the Templars, or if he's having trouble coming to terms with what I do... I don't know, I just know something is wrong and he needs someone to talk to.”

“Are you suggesting I do that?” Anders sighed. “He'll just yell at me again.”

“You have to be more understanding.” She said. “I should probably talk to him. I'm the one who's causing all the problems I think. I mean, I'm making him question everything he knows just by existing.”

“I'll at least come with you.” He said. “I love you, and I don't want to see you get hurt.”

“Hawke won't hurt me.” She smiled. “He doesn't even think he can.”

“Please, love, don't get cocky.” He got up on his elbow and looked down at her. “I couldn't bear it if something were to happen to you again.”

“I'll be careful, especially for you.” She kissed him deeply, then grabbed him and rolled him over so she was on top. “I won't do anything to jeopardize this.” He smiled and kissed her, running his hands up her bare back with a little electricity. She laughed, and doused the torches with her magic.

 


 

Hawke felt more like the walking undead as he made his way out of the Viscount's Keep, wishing the Blighted Qunari would just go away. If the viscount's son wanted to convert, then so be it. However, there wasn't anything wrong with making sure it was his own decision. He contemplated asking Fenris to go with him, but he felt his heart twinge with anxiety at the thought. After the way they'd left off... it would be better if Fenris approached him when he was ready. Instead, he went to the Hanged Man to see if Varric would come.

Isabela waved at him, and he nodded in return, but he knew she'd never go with him. Every time he'd asked, she'd flat out refused, made up some excuse, so he went straight for Varric instead of talking to her. However, when he saw Anders and Claire talking to Varric, he suddenly had second thoughts about even asking Varric. He didn't want to talk to them just yet, he still hadn't processed everything from the other day.

“Hawke!” Claire called to him, and he cringed. Putting on a smile he nodded.

“Claire, Anders, Varric, good to see you.”

“What brings you here today, Hawke?” Varric asked.

“Well, it's actually about coming with me to talk to the Arishok again.” Hawke said, noticing that Claire's eyes widened. “You know something, don't you? Justice said you know the future.”

“Oh, he did?” Varric asked, grinning.

“Yes, he did, and I regret that.” Anders said.

Claire shook her head. “It's all right, I knew this would come up sooner or later. Yes, Hawke, I do know something of what's going to happen... and that you must do it a certain way for the best results. What is it you need to speak to him about now?”

“Maker, you're... you cannot be human.” Hawke stepped backwards, trying to figure her out.

“I am.” She pouted. “Do you want me to help or not?”

“Fine, yes, but you don't make it easy to trust you.” Hawke said. “The viscount's son has converted to the Qun, and I'm supposed to go make sure he did it on his own.”

“Oh...” Claire grew frustrated and looked down. “This is...”

“What's wrong?” Anders asked.

“I'm trying to think.” She snapped, then looked apologetically at Anders. “Sorry, this is a complex matter, and I'm trying to remember what I saw. I know the Chantry is involved, and it will end in a death tonight, though if you're here, that probably means it already happened.”

“Seamus?” Hawke asked. Who else could it be? “They're using him... dammit, he must have converted of his own free will, and Petrice is going to use him to start a war with the Qunari!”

“Go, speak with the Arishok, but do not tell him what you know.” Claire said. “This one will work itself out... though, what is your relationship with the Arishok? Are you on... relatively friendly terms with him?”

“I have tried to be diplomatic, yes.” Hawke said. “I'm trying to keep the peace, but considering what you've said, it's not going to happen, is it? There's going to be a war.”

“I'm sorry, Hawke.” Claire said. “I didn't want you to find out. I can't control events, I only see glimpses of them and see different ways it could work out, but it's difficult to know for certain which way is the right way.”

“Did you know about my mother?” Hawke asked, the sudden realization hitting him.

“She didn't, not in time.” Anders said. “By the time she'd gotten anything about her, you were bursting into the clinic begging for our help. She did everything she could to save her, so you can't pin that on her.” Hawke tried to calm himself down, but everything had been building up too much. He could leave while he had the chance...

“Hawke, why don't you sit down and have a drink?” Claire asked. He laughed, but it came out more like a sob.

“I suppose you can see what I'm about to do?” He asked.

“Any idiot can see you're having a hard time and need to talk.” Her voice was soothing, but he couldn't trust her.

“Come on, Hawke, we care about you.” Varric said. “You need to get it off your chest, and we're here to listen.”

“And not judge.” Claire quickly added.

“I know we don't agree on everything, but I hate to see you like this.” Anders said. Hawke nodded and walked to the back of the room, sitting at the far end of the table, away from the door. Varric quickly poured him a drink and passed it, and Hawke drunk it down fast. He couldn't understand why they cared, after so many years...

“Tell me, Seer, what happens between me and Fenris?” He asked, using Varric's nickname for her. She looked surprised, her mouth open, unable to respond. “Do you even know?” He chuckled.

“That I have no idea about.” She said. “Human relationships are tricky. I didn't even get into a relationship with Anders until the Blight started and I certainly hadn't seen that coming!”

“It was worth a shot.” Hawke said. He'd just have to play it by ear and either give up or try something else.

“Just try to be supportive of him.” Claire said. “You don't have to give up your ideals to try to understand his point of view and just be there for him. I don't know if he'll ever feel romantic interest in you, but it's worth a try.”

“Thank you.” Hawke said. “That wasn't what I came here to talk about, I was just seeing how much you knew, but thank you.”

“What is bothering you, Hawke?” Anders asked. “It was obvious even yesterday that something was wrong.” Hawke stared at the table and played with the cup between his hands.

“I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about it just yet.” Hawke said. “It's... complicated. I should just go see the Arishok and get that out of the way before it gets too late. Varric, did you want to come?”

“Sure, I've got nothing better to do.” Hawke stood up and set the cup down.

“I'll stop by the clinic later, after everything is done.” He said, looking at Anders, then Claire. “Maybe tomorrow, depending on how things are.”

“I'm sorry I'm not more help.” Claire said. “I pray you find the guidance you need, and find comfort for your troubled mind.” Disturbed by her words, he merely nodded and left. Why would she care? She barely hung around him at all, yet in some ways, she acted like she knew him. What did she see in his future then? What horrific incident did she see, outside of the war with the Qunari? He almost stopped to ask her, but decided he'd wait until he saw her next, after he'd had time to think about it.

Did he even want to know?

 

Chapter Text

“There's little we can do for him, love.” Anders said, wrapping his arms around Claire from behind. “He has to make his own decisions.”

“I wish Justice had never told him.” Claire said, bitterness in her tone. “It's never good when someone finds out...”

“Never?”

“When you first found out... I could feel the anger from you.” She turned around to face him. “Blaming me for things that happened to you. Now, of course it's different now. We've both grown a lot in the past four years.”

“Yes... it was harder then, to see you with all your powers, doing nothing.” He hugged her tightly. “But you weren't doing nothing... you were just hiding in the shadows, trying to change the course of history without anyone noticing, just as you are now.”

“Shall we go back then? I'm sure there are patients waiting for us.”

“There's always work to be done, isn't there?”

“There is...”

 


  

Hawke didn't come by the following day, or the day after, and Claire wasn't sure he was going to come. They'd heard that Seamus had been found murdered in the Chantry, and the Qunari had killed Petrice, though Claire felt no real loss over losing the Sister. She had been causing strife, and murdered an innocent young man in the hopes to start a war, a war she wouldn't even get to see. They just needed to wait for Hawke to let them know when that battle would start.

Another week went by, with Claire focusing more on training Feynriel, who was a quick study, and Anders working more in the Gallows to free other mages.

 


  

“Claire! Wake up!” Claire opened her eyes to see Anders staring at her, meaning she had to have woken him with her vision. Ella had been in her dream, only the girl had become an abomination and Justice had killed her.

“I'm sorry, I must have woken you...”

“Was it another vision?” He asked. What could she tell him?

“No... no, I don't think so. The dream just startled me.” Which was an understatement, since she saw something that she couldn't tell was a vision or a dream, but if it was real, she needed to be there to stop it.

 


 

Later that day, Hawke came by, and Anders started talking about the tranquil, and Claire knew she needed to be on her guard.

“Have you noticed how many tranquil are in the Gallows courtyard lately?” Anders asked. “And don't tell me I'm just sensitive to it. I've been watching and every day there are new tranquil, selling their bloody wares. Good mages, too. People I know, past their harrowing.”

"What's it to you how many tranquil there are?" Hawke asked dismissively, surprising Claire. She'd thought he'd gotten a little more understanding of the plight of mages, not hardened to it.

"The Templars are using the Rite of Tranquility to silence those who speak against them." Anders sounded desperate. "They're working on a deliberate plan to turn every mage in Kirkwall within the next three years."

“Do you know who's behind it?” Hawke asked, his tone softening a little, though he didn't quite look like he believed Anders.

“There are groups in Kirkwall who help those fleeing the Circle. I've talked to people on the inside. The plan is the work of a Templar named Ser Alrik. I've had a run-in with him myself. He's the one who did the ritual on Karl. Nasty piece of work, likes to make mages beg.”

“Then perhaps the blame can be laid on him, and not every Templar?” At least that was something she could agree with Hawke on.

“That's what I hope. If we bring the evidence of this plan to light, there must be men who'll stand against it. Perhaps even the grand cleric will finally be forced to act.” Anders looked around, then stepped closer to Hawke, lowering his voice. “I've been working with a group, a secret mage underground that helps others escape the Gallows. They have a way in. A secret entrance under the walls of the Gallows. Come with me, tonight, please. Help me find the evidence of Ser Alrik's "Tranquil Solution."”

“I don't know if it's a good idea to take on the Templars on their own ground.” Hawke seemed nervous.

“It's a risk I have taken frequently, to save the life of a single mage.” Anders spoke angrily and Claire could see the fire in his eyes from where she was. “Would you do less to stop a plot that would destroy all of them?”

“Very well, then, let us go before they can act.” Hawke sighed, and Claire prayed Hawke wouldn't regret it. If he was having issues with his position on mages vs Templars, the Gallows incident would not help at all.

“Thank you.” Anders said, surprised. “I confess, I wasn't sure you'd share my outrage. I'm glad I can count on this much. I'm ready to go when you are. Our entrance is concealed not far from here.” Hawke shrugged and motioned for Anders to lead the way. Claire quickly stepped forward to follow.

“Hello, Claire.” Hawke said. “Don't tell me, this is going to end badly?”

“I don't know.” She said, shrugging. It won't end badly if I'm there. Or so she hoped. “We'll do what we can to ensure it ends the best it could.”

“As we always do.” Anders said. “Look, there's the entrance. Let's just get this done.” They climbed down the ladder and into the tunnels, where they soon encountered lyrium smugglers. Claire didn't bother holding back and swatted them away like they were flies, her eyes glowing.

“Your wife seems really angry today.” She heard Hawke whisper to Anders. “She must have seen something she's not telling us about.”

“That's what I'm afraid of.” Anders replied. “She woke me up this morning with a nightmare, but she insisted it was just a dream.” Was she going to be the one to mess it up? It made her think of all the people she'd read about, who tried to stop a prophecy from happening, only to be the catalyst to cause it to happen. She would hang back once they got to the Templars. It had to just be a nightmare, not a vision. The men shooting her worried glances wasn't helping her any, but she wasn't sure she could tell them anything comforting.

Finally, she turned around and said, “It might have just been a dream. I don't know, that's why I don't want to tell you. I don't need to tell you something that might not even matter.”

“But it has to do with the mission today.” Anders said.

“Maybe?” Claire sighed. “Yes, it has to do with Ser Alrik. But... if I tell you, when I can stop it from happening... it might be more damaging that way.”

“Just please don't do anything dangerous?” Hawke asked.

“I'm trying my best.” Claire replied.

 


  

Hawke was following a madwoman and her insane husband into the Templars' own domain, to take down a Templar, and he was already having enough issue trying to come to terms with being more supportive of mages. In the three weeks since Seamus had been killed, Hawke had been spending more time with Fenris, and they'd gotten ambushed by slavers trying to get Fenris back, which led them to Hadriana, a blood thirsty power hungry mage from Tevinter working for Danerius. Fenris killed her without mercy, and Hawke was glad for it. People like that shouldn't be allowed to live.

But there he was, with two mages who, while not power hungry, weren't the safest to be around either. If there was truth to what Anders was saying, though, he needed to find out. Investigating the Templars had led to some disturbing truths, so that while yes, there were corrupted mages all around, the Templars were guilty as well, and they were actively oppressing the mages, and gladly too. Knight-captain Cullen didn't even think they could be treated like humans at all, and he seemed to be one of the more rational Templars!

They could hear the Templars before they'd even gotten close, and they had a young woman with them, cowering in fear.

“No... please! I haven't done anything wrong!” The girl cried.

“That's a lie.” A Templar, most likely Alrik, said, cornering her. “What do we do to mages who lie?”

“I just wanted to see my mum.” The mage said. “No one ever told her where they were taking me.”

Hawke saw Anders flash blue, his eyes glowing for a second. “No... no, this is their place, we cannot...” He said, looking away. Hawke knew Anders wouldn't be able to hold the spirit back.

“So, you admit your attempted escape?” Alrik asked. “You know what happens to mage girls who don't toe the line around here, don't you?”

“Please, no!” She cried, falling to her knees. “Don't make me tranquil! I'll do anything!”

“That's right, when you're tranquil, you'll do anything I ask.” Alrik said, and Hawke found he wanted to kill the man with no mercy.

“Get your hands off her!” Hawke said, as Anders pulled out his staff.

“You fiends will never touch a mage again!” Justice came out, his voice changing with his anger, and Hawke gave the Templars everything he had, though with Claire there, it wasn't much of a fight.

“They will die!” Anders yelled, even though all the Templars had been killed, making Hawke wonder what was wrong with him. Perhaps that was what Claire had seen, and hadn't wanted to tell them about. “I will have every last Templar for these abuses.”

“We'll kill them all.” Hawke said, trying to calm down. “I promise.”

“Every one of them will feel Justice's burn.” Anders said, looking at Hawke.

“Get away from me... demon!” The mage girl they'd just saved was cowering as she held her hands up to ward off Anders.

“I am no demon.” Anders said, walking up to her. “Are you one of them, that you would call me such?” Hawke quickly looked at Claire, who looked concerned, but not overly so just then.

“Anders, that girl is a mage.” Hawke said. “We rescued her from being made tranquil.”

“She is theirs.” Anders growled. “I can feel their hold on her.”

“She's the reason you're fighting, Anders!” Hawke said. “Don't turn on her now! Claire, do something!” She nodded and stepped between Anders and the girl.

“This is not justice!” She snapped. “This is nothing more than petty vengeance! You're better than this! You're a healer, act like it!”

“Do you think to stop me?” He growled, raising his staff as if to hit her, and she prepared herself. His face twisted in fury, Anders struck at Claire, and she struck back, pushing him to the wall. Hawke stood back, staring in shock, as she struck Anders again.

“Snap out of it!” She yelled, then smacked him across the brow. Anders suddenly stopped glowing and staggered back, holding his head in his hands, as the mage girl got up and bolted.

“Maker, no...” Anders said. “I almost... If you weren't here... I... I need to get out of here.” He ran and Hawke tried to follow, but Claire stopped him.

“I'm sorry, Hawke.” She said. “This was the best outcome we could have hoped for, but still. There was no way I could have warned him. There was nothing he could do about it...” She looked so depressed, and Hawke couldn't figure out how to feel.

“He's become more of a demon...” Hawke said. “Anders is being lost, isn't he? He's losing himself to Vengeance?”

“Yes.” She replied. “Kirkwall should never have had a Circle to begin with. Many years ago, the Tevinters conducted experiments here, experiments that weakened the Veil considerably. Have you never wondered why there are so many abominations, blood mages, failed Harrowings, Templar abuses? Even non-mages have been getting possessed, and it's... there's more, but I don't know how to tell you, only that it's corrupting not only Justice, but others as well, and it will... it cannot continue.”

“You've seen the end?”

“There is no stopping it.” She said, her voice flat and cold. “We have time yet, but please, be easy on Anders. He needs you, especially now, even if you still don't want to support the mages.”

“About that...” Hawke sighed. “What you said, I have noticed it. I've been looking into the Templars, and... I think I'm beginning to see what Anders has been talking about. I'm still not sure I can fully agree with everything, but... the Templars need to be kept in check and no one is doing anything about it.”

“Take your time, think about it. I'm here to talk if you need it.”

“That's another thing I don't understand.” Hawke said, staring at her. “You're a mage, you fight for the mages, you ferret them off to your secret location, yet for all that, you're so understanding! You know something, don't you? About me? What lies in my future, that makes you act like this around me?”

She grew upset and shook her head. “Please, you can't ask me that.”

“It's that bad?” He asked.

“There are different paths...” She said. “I don't know exactly which ones will be taken, and I'm sorry, Hawke. I'm so sorry I can't make your life easier. All of Thedas will be plunged into chaos, and there's nothing I can do. All we can do is save as many people as we can.” She was serious, and all he could do was stare at her as she wiped the tears away.

“I'm sorry as well.” Hawke said. “Let's search the bodies, and go find Anders, then...” The world would be plunged into chaos? What could happen to cause that? And how long did he have left? He began to wonder if perhaps avoiding the strange mages might make his life a little easier. Then at least he wouldn't be wondering if they knew anything.

 


  

When they got out of the sewers with the evidence of the Tranquil solution, the girl was there and she slowly approached Hawke.

“Y-You saved my life, messere.” She said. “What was that thing?”

“He's no demon, just a deeply troubled man.” Hawke said, even if he didn't really believe it himself.

“Can I... go home now?” She asked.

“Find your parents, but don't stay there.” Hawke said. “You must leave Kirkwall.”

“I know. There's nowhere in the city where Ser Alrik's men won't find me. Thank you, messere. Andraste herself must have put you in that room.” He watched her leave, then looked at Claire.

“Will she be all right?”

Claire shrugged. “I think so. She's a strong girl.”

“You don't really know, do you?” Hawke asked. “That whole situation, it was just about Anders, wasn't it? That was your only focus?”

“Not entirely.” She said. “Take the papers you found to Elthina, and Knight-Captain Cullen. They may provide more insight into it.”

“So, it's me as well then?” He asked. “You're still trying to get me to see your side of things.”

“I want you to talk to the grand cleric and knight-captain. I will not sway your opinion either way, I want you to decide for yourself.”

“You are a very confusing woman.” Hawke said before continuing his walk to the clinic. What was he supposed to say to Anders? He was an abomination, the spirit a demon, corrupted as Claire herself had said. He proved himself to be a danger... or did he? He didn't strike at the girl, would he have killed her had they not interfered, like Anders had said?

He could see Anders in the back, sorting through a box, muttering to himself, then noticed that Claire was gone. Why would she leave her husband at such a sensitive time for him? Was this another test?

“... Trash. Trash. Keep. Trash. Trash... Won't be needing that anymore...”

“You're upset.” Hawke said. “We need to talk about it.”

“Upset doesn't begin to cover it.” Anders said, getting up to face Hawke. “You and Claire were the only things that kept me from murdering an innocent girl! It's all gone wrong, Justice and I. We're just a monster, same as any abomination.” Could Hawke even agree with that anymore? Could an abomination really feel that level of regret?

“You were out of control.” Hawke said. “But even then, you heard what we were saying. You knew, in your heart, that you had to stop.”

“You have too much faith in me.” Anders said, his shoulders slumped. “Without you, I'd never have known who was there until it was too late. How can I fight for the freedom of mages, when I am the example of the worst that freedom brings?”

“Mages are dangerous, that's why this has been so hard.” Hawke said. “And why I've had such a hard time understanding your side of things... but you can make yourself the proof that they can control their powers.”

“I don't know how.” Anders said. “How can I even trust myself to heal anymore? What if that... creature of Vengeance turns on a patient? Will he... will I... resist? Or will I loose his fury?”

“Claire and I will stay by your side and help you through this.”

“Where is she?” Anders suddenly looked around. “I thought she'd be with you. I... I attacked her. Maker, I attacked her...”

“I think she knew what was going to happen.” Hawke said. “And I think she knew that I needed to talk to you, alone. She won't leave you, Anders.”

“Did you... find anything on Ser Alrik?” The mage asked. “Or was the 'Tranquil Solution' another of my delusions?”

“It exists, but it was Ser Alrik's plan, no one else's.” Hawke pulled out the papers.

“Let me see that!” Anders said, reaching for the letters. “The Divine... rejected the idea. Meredith rejected the idea! This was... not what I expected. Perhaps I should try talking to the grand cleric. Perhaps she's more reasonable than I thought. Thank you, I will think on what you said.” Just then, Hawke noticed Claire leaning against a pillar, looking exhausted. He didn't envy her at all.

She looked over at him, making eye contact, and he felt a shiver go down his spine. Her white eye still bothered him, even after all those years of knowing her. That whiteness, surrounded by the horrible scars. He hoped she never realized how much her face bothered him. He hurried out of the clinic, not wanting to think about it.

 


  

“I'm here, Anders.” Claire said, coming up to the healer, and he felt afraid and confused.

“I tried to attack you...” He said, trying to hold himself together. He wanted to hug her, to feel her embrace him, to let him know it was all right, but he was afraid.

“It's all right, you didn't hurt me.” She said. “Just as you didn't hurt the girl.”

“You knew...”

“This was the best possible outcome, Anders.” She said. “There was nothing more I could do, but you're all right, and the girl is alive and free from the Circle, with Ser Alrik dead. What more could I ask for?” She tentatively held out her hand to take his, but he stepped back, shaking his head.

“I'm still a monster...” He said. She grew angry at that, pain in her expression, and she grabbed his hand.

You are not a monster.” She said. “And I will not let you be one. I'm still working on how to separate you and Justice... but it might take a while. I will do it, and I will free you both from this torment, and we'll go far far away from Kirkwall, to live in peace.” He didn't believe her, but he accepted it and didn't stop her when she hugged him. He hugged her back, breathing in her scent. The way he was going, there was only one way for it to end, and he'd seen it in her vision. It all made sense, it was only a matter of time...

 

Chapter Text

Claire wasn't sure she wanted to be around for the Qunari fight, but she could tell it was getting closer. Her dreams had all become nightmares about it, and Anders was worried for her, even though she kept telling him it was all right. Her nightmares weren't eased at all after she tried to help Varric's brother, either. There was nothing she could do to cure the taint that came from red lyrium, and after they'd left the house, Varric had pulled her to the side to ask her to come back later, alone.

She had gone back after Anders had fallen asleep, and Varric told her he wanted to see a vision of the future, just to say he had. What was she supposed to do? She nodded, and showed him the explosion at the temple. It wouldn't give him any hope, if that was what he was looking for, but it was something. After that, she went back to Anders, but couldn't sleep. She felt like she was slipping away herself, again, but she wasn't sure what to do. There was no demon to fight this time, except herself.

One morning, Anders woke her again, but this time he didn't say a word, only hugged her and cried, startling her.

“Anders, please, what's wrong?” She asked, holding him tightly. “I'm sorry I woke you again, please tell me what's wrong!”

He raised himself to look into her eyes and tried to smile. “You always tell me it's all right, even though I can tell it's not. This time, you were crying out words. You were begging people not to leave you, crying that they couldn't be dead, and then you started crying my name, begging me to come back. I'm here, I'm not going to leave you...” It was her turn to cry as she remembered the dream, trapped in the darkness, alone... so alone.

“I'm sorry, Anders.” She said. “I don't like worrying you, but I do it anyway. Can we just take today and go somewhere fun for once? Just escape for a day?”

“For you, love.” He said, then kissed her lightly on the forehead.

“I think I'll be better after the Qunari are taken care of.” She said as she got up. “Where would you like to go, Rivain? Llomerynn? I've heard great things about it there. Or we could take a walk through the Tirashan forest.” She suddenly grinned.

“I've heard rumors about the Tirashan forest, but... why? Isn't it dangerous? You don't have a death wish, do you...?”

“Hah, no, I've been exploring old maps.” She said, shrugging. “I think I may have found something, and I want to check it out.”

“So this is what you've been doing when you sneak out?” He raised an eyebrow. “Very well then, shall I pack a picnic lunch then?”

“I was going to stop in Orlais for a snack.” She said. The excitement of it was making her happy and chasing the darkness away, exactly what she needed. Of course there was still that nagging voice in the back of her head that was warning her that if she left, she'd regret it, but she couldn't stay in Kirkwall all the time. Besides, if she had discovered what she thought, she could move the mages from the Planasene forest to the Tirashan with no problems, and after the Qunari battle, she'd have three years to get it self sufficient before the world would fall to chaos.

“You're insane.” Anders laughed, then kissed her again. “It's good to see you happy again. There's been too much darkness lately.”

“Let's get ready, then, and go.”

 


 

The Tirashan forest was dark, with the massive twisted trees reaching high overhead, even in the clearing they'd landed in. Claire shouldered her pack and caught a whiff of the delicious food she'd bought in Orlais, but she wanted to wait until she found the landmark she'd seen on an old map. No one had been in the forest for thousands of years, back when the elves had their empire stretched across Thedas. If Solas could have his castle still standing, then surely anything in an untouched part of Thedas would be standing as well, she just needed to find it.

“How do you feel about flying?” Claire suddenly asked.

“I don't know, I've never done it.” Anders said, looking perplexed.

“You know, I really need to teach you to shapeshift.” She said. “But I meant, if I become a dragon... will you mind?” He raised an eyebrow, then smirked.

“This I've been dying to see.”

“All right then, stand back.” She handed him the pack, took a deep breath and focused. The only time she'd ever become a dragon had been in a rage induced pain filled fog that she barely remembered, and in the Fade, but she could remember enough to know how it felt, and how it was done. When Anders was far enough away, she began the transformation, which was quicker than one might expect. Once it was complete, she raised her head to the sky and yelled out in triumph, then looked down at Anders and gave him a toothy grin. He could only shake his head and smile back.

“How is this supposed to work?” He asked. “Do I just... climb you? I'm not the most comfortable with being in your claws...” She lifted her right front leg and looked at the claws. They were sharp and shiny, almost as long as his chest at least, and she wasn't sure she could control enough to not squash him. Instead, she laid down and spread her wing out as best she could, allowing him to climb up. She couldn't even feel him on her, she had to swivel her head around to see if he was secured and then wondered if he'd be able to hold on.

Can you hear me like this? She tried a mind to mind communication, since she knew the ancient dragons could speak somehow – how else had they taught the Tevinters? – and she saw Anders nod.

“Try not to lose me.” He said.

Are you afraid? She asked. I am, I've never had a passenger before... except for the Wardens as I carried their bodies to a pyre.

“That doesn't give me much comfort, but I trust you.” Judging from his tone, she didn't think he trusted her that much, but nodded.

Hold on tight, then, I'm going to launch myself up. Would the g-forces make him pass out? Oh if only she could magically fly, not just become something that could fly. To be on the safe side, she put a few different magical protective spells on Anders, so that if he did fall, he wouldn't be hurt. The big plus, at least, was that she had large spikes in her back that he was pressed between, so he wouldn't fly backwards at least. Taking a deep breath, she launched herself into the air, remembering how she flew before as if it was yesterday. It wasn't so different from doing it in the Fade, and as she soared higher, she heard a yelp from Anders.

Is everything all right? She asked.

“This is amazing!” He cried. She could barely hear him over the wind, but she heard enough to make her smile. Concentrating instead on the ground below, she looked for anything that could point her in the direction of the landmark. Being in the air, it was easier to see things as if looking at a map, and she spotted an area that looked about right.

Hang on, love, I'm going down. She glided down in a gentle circle pattern rather than just a straight dive, but the closer she got, the more she realized she was going to have to break some trees in order to land. Finding the least dense area, she moved her massive body in a way that would minimize the damage and crashed through the trees, making sure to keep Anders shielded. Once the dust had settled, she heard Anders getting down and looked over at him. After he was on the ground, she transformed back into herself and stretched.

“That was more exhausting than I expected.” She said as she looked around. “I'm not sure I can take us back to Kirkwall today.” Suddenly, Anders grabbed her and kissed her hard, taking her by surprise. It was a pleasant surprise, at least, and she grabbed hold of him to keep herself steady. When he looked at her with his eyes half-closed, smiling softly, she felt herself melt.

“You are the most amazing person I've ever met.” He said, his voice catching. “It still amazes me to have you for a wife after all these years...”

“To be fair, I don't feel that amazing.” She said. “I'm still grateful every day that you chose me to be with.”

“Only a fool wouldn't have.” He kissed her again.

“We should probably look around before it gets late.” She said. “I came here with a plan, outside of just spending time with you of course.”

“Well then, let's see what's here.” Anders surveyed the area with her, and then she saw it.

“There!” She hurried over to the top of a hill and looked down, proudly, at the castle. “I knew it was here!” Anders stared in awe at the ancient ruin, and slowly followed Claire as she bolted down the hill towards it. It was nestled up against a rocky cliff, as a waterfall fell nearby, and while the trees were dark and twisted giving it a more frightening feel, it still felt idyllic.

“How did you know about this place?”

“I was looking at the old maps, and there was a just... I don't know, something that piqued my interest.” She shrugged. She wasn't really sure how she knew either, but she was glad she was right. She hurried to the door and looked at it. There wasn't much left of it, but the stone was still intact, which gave her some hope that it would be easy to repair.

“Did you dream about it?” Anders asked. “Is this where we're going to take the mages?”

“I think it'd be safer, even with the elves that live here.”

“Elves?” He looked at her sharply. “What elves?”

“Oh, they're not like the Dalish, or the city elves, but... they've always lived here, from ancient times, and they worship the Forgotten Ones, the um, the dark elven gods that were banished to the Void... they sacrifice living beings to their dark gods...” She was surprised she still remembered that, it'd been so long since she'd even thought about it, but then, how could she forget Solas? Maker, he'd probably want to kill her if he ever found out about her. Would she be a threat to him, with everything she still remembered?

“Is something wrong?” Anders was looking at her worriedly.

“Oh, it was... just a thought.” She said. “About elven history, and the fall of Arlathan.”

“You seem to know quite a bit, things that I've never heard of.” He said. “How do you know about the elves here?”

“I read it somewhere.” She said, though she couldn't remember if she'd ever read it in Thedas. “Though I don't really remember where. I've read quite a few books after all. Come on, let's see what's inside.”

 


  

Anders watched Claire as she went inside, and wondered how much she really knew about the ancient world. She was so excited as she looked around the castle, a castle that he was certain no one else even knew about or they'd have taken it for themselves, unless...

“What if the elves come here?”

“No worries, I'll take care of them.” She said it so nonchalantly that it surprised him. She didn't feel any fear at that moment, she was actually confident for once. She had grown so much since he'd met her... He suddenly felt himself doubting her, wondering if he really knew her, then chided himself for it. She had never given him any reason to question her honesty, and if she was holding something back, it was probably for his own good, like she kept saying. But, Justice didn't trust her, especially since the Fade.

“Love...” He looked down at the floor, feeling a bit of shame at giving in a little to the doubt he knew was from Justice. “How much do you really know about Arlathan?” She looked over at him, startled.

“Oh, it's been years...” She frowned. “Let's see... I think I know what everyone does, that the Tevinters used demons, dragons, and magic to make the ground swallow it. Not that it really mattered at that point anyway... if I remember correctly, they'd already lost most of their knowledge by then and had fled the city.” Anders raised an eyebrow.

“That's actually a bit more than what we're taught.” He said. “Though perhaps they teach more in Tevinter than Ferelden. But I'm curious, I've always thought it was the fall of Arlathan that lost them everything.” She smiled awkwardly and shrugged, and he was certain she knew more than most.

“Well, it's... complicated.” She suddenly looked very nervous, losing all of her confidence and reverting back to the timid girl he'd always known.

“Claire, what's wrong?” He asked, going over to rub her back. “You were so happy just a few minutes ago.”

“I'm sorry, it's just, it's hard to explain.” She said. “I think I do know more than most people, but it's... considered heresy by the Chantry. You have to promise you won't tell anyone, please?”

“Of course, you should know me by now.” How could she have doubts too?

“Yes, I do, probably the only person I can trust.” She laughed. “Did you know the Fade was once part of our world? It was our sky... but the elven gods... they weren't really gods, but somniari, like me, I suppose. Only, they were much older, more experienced, and they were worshiped. Mythal was good to her people, but the others kept slaves and waged war. One somniari was against them, so they called him Fen'Harel as an insult, but he took it for a name with pride. When they killed his friend Mythal, he banished them by splitting the world, creating the Veil as a barrier between us and the Fade. That's how the elves lost everything.”

“I can see why that would be considered heresy!” Anders said, surprised. He couldn't imagine many others even knew a fraction of that. “How did you learn of this?”

“I read about it.” She said softly, looking away. “Mythal isn't dead... and neither is Fen'Harel. They stay in the shadows, but... I know them. Not exactly something I ever thought I'd say out loud. I don't want them to know about me.”

“You... but wait, that would mean...” He wasn't sure what it would mean, or how she could know ancient elven gods, or how they could exist in the first place and be so old. He pressed his back against the wall and slid down until he was sitting, trying to figure out how to process what she'd just told him. No wonder she never said anything, it was too strange to comprehend easily.

“I'm sorry, Anders.” She said. “Please don't be upset with me.”

“Upset with you?” He asked, looking at her again as she knelt in front of him. “I'm just trying to figure out how two ancient elven gods are still alive, much less how you know of them in the first place, without them knowing you...”

“My dreams.” She said. “That's how I know them. I've met and spent some time with Mythal, she even taught me some things, but I never let her know I knew who she really was. Fen'Harel, I'd rather avoid altogether. He might consider me a threat, since I've seen what he wants to do.”

“No worries, I'll mention it to no one.” Anders said. “I'm almost sorry I asked, but I appreciate you telling me, and trusting me with it. That means a lot to me.”

“Of course, for you I'd do anything, I think. Were you anyone else...”

“I suppose we should find somewhere to sleep for the night, unless you feel you're up to taking us back to Kirkwall.”

“No, I do need to rest first.” She stood up and looked around. “There should be bedrooms around here, but they probably don't have beds anymore. There's very little of anything left that wasn't stone or metal. We'll have an uncomfortable night, but then we can return to Kirkwall in the morning, and I'll present this as an option to the mages in the Planasene castle. It has a lot of potential, and I'll know more about the area in the morning.” She grinned again and helped him up.

“Have I told you how wonderful you are?” Anders asked, then kissed her, making her giggle.

 


  

They found a room, but as Claire had suspected, there was no bed, only dust remaining, and she wished she had thought to bring more things to make their sleep more comfortable. They hadn't had to sleep on the cold hard ground in a long time, she'd gotten a bit too spoiled on having a bed, but as long as she got to share it with Anders, she was happy. They fell asleep nestled against each other, and Claire went into the Fade to find the elves of the forest, to warn them away from the castle. It was obvious they never went near it in the first place, but she wanted to take precautions, just in case.

Their minds were interesting, not much different from any other except that their culture was a lot more bloodthirsty than most, and they still did sacrifices to their Forgotten Ones. By shrouding herself in darkness and giving them all the same dream, insinuating that their Forgotten Ones would visit upon them horrific evils if they ventured near the castle, she was able to ensure the safety of anyone she brought over. She also really would visit horrific evils on the elves if they did anything to endanger her people, so it wasn't like the dream was a lie, either.

When she woke, the sun was starting to rise, though it was difficult to tell with how dense the trees were. Wanting to surprise Anders, she teleported them back to their bed in Darktown, and snuggled up to him more, enjoying having him there. She knew the Qunari were going to attack soon, though whether she had a day or two left, she wasn't sure. She would need to find Hawke... She wanted to get it over with so she could relax a little and focus on her own work.

She felt Anders start waking up and kissed his forehead. “Good morning.” She murmured.

“Good morning.” He replied, smiling without opening his eyes. “We're back in the clinic, aren't we?”

“We are. I got tired of sleeping on the ground.”

“We should probably get up then, we probably have patients to deal with.” He said, but neither one moved.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Claire... Claire, wake up, you're having another nightmare.” Anders shook his wife's shoulder, worried by the intense expression on her face. Her eyes shot open, glowing for a split second before she started focusing.

“Maker, Anders... I think the Qunari are going to start something today.” She said, looking at him. “There was so much blood... It's still morning, right? I need to find Hawke, he's going to end up in the middle of it.”

“He seems to do that a lot.” Anders said.

“Yes... and it isn't going to stop anytime soon.” Claire sighed. “More than ever am I convinced he's the one at the end... but he cares about you, surely he won't kill you. No, let's not think about this just yet, let's just find Hawke and get this war over with. You should stay here, just in case he comes down here, while I check his estate. If he's not there, I'll check the Hanged Man, and then come back here.”

“Take care, love.” Anders said, pulling her close.

“I will.” She quickly kissed him, then started getting dressed. “Once this is over with, I think I'll feel a lot better and will be able to relax for a while, maybe focus more on fixing up that old castle.”

“I'll be glad for a break.” Anders saw the sadness in her smile as she left and it hurt, and with how he was feeling, with Justice starting to disagree more often, he knew he was going to end up hurting her more. She could say he wasn't a monster all she wanted, but what was he really? He was losing control, and he would truly become an abomination before long. He had an idea of why Hawke would kill him, even if he cared about him. Anders had killed Karl, after all, hadn't he? Hawke had been forced to kill his own sister. Anders knew if he begged Hawke, he would kill him, but what would Claire do? She was desperate to find a way to separate him and Justice, but how?

He got up and got dressed himself and started preparing for the day. He would never take his wife for granted, and he never wanted to hurt her, it just seemed inevitable that there was going to be pain. Could he truly feel so bad he would seek death?

 


 

Claire knocked on Hawke's door, but Bodhan said he wasn't home yet, so Claire went to the Hanged Man instead, looking around. She didn't see him, or Varric for that matter, anywhere, so she was going to find a place to teleport when she felt an arm across her shoulders.

“How is the healer's pretty little wife today?” Isabela laughed. “I figured you'd be out chasing slavers with Hawke today.” Had Claire gotten it wrong, then? She shook her head and looked at the pirate.

“I was looking for Hawke, actually.” She said. “I need to talk to him about the Qunari, something I think you know a bit about. I know what relic you're looking for. You realize how many people are going to die because of it?” Isabela grew angry.

“You know nothing about it.” She snapped. “What's done is done, it's not like I can change the past.”

“No, but you can change the future.” Claire said. “You're a good person, Isabela, even if you want to hide that. Just please, be careful. I know Hawke doesn't want to lose you, and I don't want him to get hurt.” Before the pirate could respond, Claire hurried away and teleported back to the clinic, where she saw Anders talking with Hawke and Varric.

“There you are!” Anders said. “Hawke said he hasn't heard anything about the Qunari yet, so perhaps your vision was wrong.” Claire shook her head and looked at Hawke.

“It probably just means I'm early.” She said. “It starts with Aveline, and Isabela.”

“Aveline?” Varric asked. “The captain of the guard? I can see how this is going to get messy! Especially if Rivaini's involved.”

“We shouldn't worry about it, what's going to happen will happen, we just need to be ready.” Claire took hold of Anders' hand for comfort and he squeezed her hand in response.

Hawke frowned as he looked at the two mages. “Does this mean I can still go hunt slavers? Because I got a tip recently that a new batch of slaves was coming in today and I want to be ready for them, and... I was hoping you two would come.”

“Certainly!” Claire smiled. “It'd be good to get our minds off the Qunari and onto other things we can actually deal with.”

 


 

Claire took all her frustration out on the slavers, and they were finished by late afternoon, plenty of time to go home and relax. She still couldn't get the idea that the Qunari mess was going to happen that night out of her head, but she felt a little more relaxed. When she said goodbye to Hawke, she was worried Isabela and Aveline were already at his estate, arguing, and all she could do was wait. The idea that he wouldn't come to her at all crossed her mind as well, but it didn't matter, everyone would know when the Qunari went to war and she would be ready.

 


 

When Anders woke Claire, she was pleasantly surprised to see him looking happy, so she kissed him.

“Did I not wake you with another nightmare this time?” She asked.

“No, and I would have let you sleep longer, but it's getting late.” He said. “It's been a while since you've had a restful sleep, are you feeling better since nothing happened last night?”

“Nothing that we know of, anyway.” She said. “It's still possible that it's started and we've just not been told.” She got out of bed and dressed for a regular day.

“Surely we would be able to tell if it's already started?” Anders asked, confused.

“Not yet... when the fighting starts, sure, but not when it initially starts.” She stretched, still sore from beating up a few slavers with a sword. She walked over to the door and looked out, but the clinic seemed pretty empty. “I wonder if it's going to be a slow day today.”

“Knowing our luck, you'll be right and we'll be full before long with people fleeing the Qunari.” Anders sighed, walked up behind her, and put his arms around her. “But... until then, I can at least enjoy my wife.” He kissed her behind the ear, making her squirm as she laughed. She turned around and kissed his lips before snuggling her face into the nape of his neck.

“I love you...” She murmured. “Maybe I should go to Orlais and grab some fancy pastry for breakfast for you.”

“Now there's an idea.” He chuckled. “We should eat like royalty now and then.”

“Then I shall be right back.” She smiled as she stepped back and disappeared.

 


 

Anders didn't like her being gone, but she was at least going somewhere pleasant, to bring back a rare treat. When was the last time he'd had something fancy to eat? Most of the food they got was whatever they could scrounge up, unless Hawke was treating them to something, but Anders hated bumming off the man, and since Claire had been exploring the Tirashan forest, she'd found artifacts for Varric to sell for her. To occupy his time while he waited for her to get back, he began fixing up the cabinets, making them look a little neater.

“I brought some fancy wine back as well.” Claire said, surprising him.

“That was quick!” He said as she set a basket down on the table. “And by the looks of it, you brought more than enough for us. Though, at this rate, you'll be out of money in no time.”

“You never know when someone might need a sweet pastry to ease the stress. It's worth the cost, which really wasn't much.” She said, and he knew she was still worried about Hawke. In some ways, it irritated him with how much she thought about the man, but he knew why. He thought about him enough as it was, he couldn't blame her, and it almost seemed like Hawke was starting to side with the mages more because of it. Anders looked through the pastries and picked out one that had strawberries and some white frosting on it. Biting into the still warm sweet was heaven to his mouth and he savored every bite, washing it down with fine wine. He could get used to living like that.

When he was finished, he looked at the other pastries and wondered if anyone would indeed come for them, or if he would be lucky enough to get to eat another.

“I see how you're looking at those.” Claire teased. “Perhaps you may have another... but let's wait until afternoon, all right?”

“Fine, fine, I can wait.” He said, staring longingly at the food.

“Well, I guess you already know what happened.” A loud grumble came from the door, so both mages looked up as Hawke walked through. “Isabela betrayed me! Why? She said she's the cause of this whole mess, that the Qunari can't leave without the relic, and she left with it! I thought she was my friend!” Hawke looked like he was about to cry and Claire was quick to usher him over to the table, directly in front of the pastries.

“I'm sorry, Hawke.” Anders said. “Is there nothing we can do?”

“She's left, with the Tome of Koslun, the relic the Qunari have apparently been searching for since they arrived here.” Hawke put his head on the table. “Can I call it quits yet?”

“No, it's barely morning.” Claire said. “Have some food, and drink, it'll lighten your mood a bit. I had to go all the way to Orlais for this.” Hawke didn't even lift his head as his hand went into the basket, tipping it almost over, and grabbed the first thing he touched. Anders had never seen a man eat like that, but he could tell the pastry was helping. Claire put a cup of wine in front of Hawke and he actually sat up to drink it... all in one gulp... He really was in a bad position.

“I didn't even mention Aveline is going to be waiting for me at the Qunari compound.” Hawke sighed, so Claire poured him another cup. Was she trying to get him drunk before his encounter with the Qunari, or just loose enough to not panic over it? “What am I supposed to do with the Arishok? What can I even tell him about his precious relic?”

“Tell him the truth.” Claire said. “They greatly value the truth, even if it's not what they want to hear, as I'm sure you've already figured out.”

“Yes...” Hawke gave an exasperated sigh. “After that whole mess with Petrice, and Seamus... the viscount hasn't been himself and he doesn't even care about running the city anymore. Sometimes I feel as if I'm doing more to keep the city together than he is.”

“We must stay strong, for the city's sake, Hawke.” Claire said. “The leaders are failing it. Are you up to the task? We'll be here for you, you won't be alone in this.” For reasons Anders couldn't figure out, her words made Hawke start crying as he buried his head into his arms on the table. Claire looked at Anders, confused with her eyes pleading for him to do something, so Anders tried comforting the man.

“I know we haven't always seen eye to eye on things, but you're still our friend.” Anders said. “Is there something more going on, or is it just the stress of everything?” Hawke sat up and wiped his eyes, staring at the ground.

“Yes... and everything. I'm still not over my mother's death I keep expecting her to be in the estate, waiting for me... then to have someone I thought was a friend betray me like this, leaving me with such a big mess, and then Fenris...” The rogue's face screwed up as he tried not to cry again, and Anders got the gist of what was going on. He'd seen the way the elf had been looking at Hawke, but...

“He cares a great deal for you, Hawke.” Claire said softly. “I don't know if he said something or did something to you, but I know that much.”

Hawke took a deep breath and nodded. “You're right, he does care, but... perhaps that's the problem. He said being with me was too upsetting for him and he doesn't want to talk about it. I didn't tell you, but I hunted the Tevinter mages that had aided the magister who kept him leashed, and we killed them all. I thought he would have been happy, but it only seemed to make it worse.”

“And even after the magister is dead, if he doesn't work on himself, he won't get any better.” Claire said. “But you knew there would be such issues before wanting to pursue him, right? He's talked to you about what he's been through, I'm sure. He considers you his only friend, though I wish he'd give us a little more credit. I'm not opposed to helping him, even if he hates us.”

“I've wondered if that's another part of it.” Hawke said. “I have been questioning myself and everything I've believed. The more I investigate into the Chantry, the more corruption I see... you were right, it's not just the mages who are being corrupted, but Templars and innocent people as well. And seeing your castle... to see all those people, and to think of what my sister would have given to have lived in a place like that... But now I have nothing. I've lost my father, my brother, my sister, my mother, someone I thought was a friend just stabbed me in the back, and I scare off any potential lovers!”

Anders knelt down beside Hawke and looked at him. “You do still have us, as dysfunctional as we are, and I'm sure if you looked for Merrill, she would be glad to see you.”

“Merrill?” Claire looked confused, and Anders wondered if she'd never seen the elf before.

“An elven mage we helped a few years ago.” Hawke said. “I admit... I've had a hard time wanting to see her. She's... a blood mage, and she's become obsessed with a damned tainted mirror that apparently killed two of her clan's people.”

“Mahariel...” Claire muttered, but Anders didn't understand what it meant, until she spoke louder. “Mahariel and Tamlen. That was in Ferelden, before the Blight. I met them... albeit briefly. If we had gotten to them sooner... we could have at least saved Mahariel through the Grey Warden joining, but Tamlen had disappeared. And you say this mage is messing with the mirror that killed them? This cannot end well.”

“That's what I said!” Hawke said. “But she's insistent, and gets mad at me any time I'm there, so I avoid her now. Even her Keeper warned her away, but like she would listen to the Keeper. If she did, she wouldn't be here.”

“Maybe when things have calmed down a little, you could take me to the clan. There's someone I wish to see.”

“You?” Anders asked, surprised.

“Did I never mention Alberoth then?” She asked. “He was a city elf who helped me out, and in exchange, I took him to the Dalish in the Brecilian forest. That was right before I made it to Ostagar.” Before she had confessed her true feelings to him, and he remembered why she wouldn't have mentioned it, because he had snapped at her and she had avoided him until just before the final battle. He had been such an angry young man...

“Perhaps after the Qunari mess.” Hawke said, sounding tired. “I'll be glad when things calm down a bit.”

“I'm sorry, Hawke, I wish I could help out more.” Claire said. “Did you need us to go with you to the Qunari compound? You said Aveline was waiting for you.”

“No... it's all right.” He replied. “I'm sure you'll have your work cut out for you down here when the victims start piling up. I suppose I should get going. Thank you for the wine, it took the edge off my mood, and perhaps I can get this over with without losing my shit and killing everyone.” He stood up and looked around. “At least it's quiet now. Enjoy it while you can, I'm going to start a war!” He laughed and started walking out.

“Just let us know if you need anything.” Anders said. “Take care of yourself, Hawke.” Once the rogue was gone, Claire sat down and pulled out a pastry. “I thought you said we should wait until afternoon.” Anders teased. There was only one left, so he grabbed it.

“I apparently lied.” She said. “Hawke really has his work cut out for him, doesn't he... Things aren't going to calm down, they're only going to get worse, until the sky explodes.”

“He really is coming to see our side of things, though, isn't he?”

“Yes and no. I think he's more coming to realize that more than a few of the people he was supporting are just as bad as the mages who have turned to blood magic and demons. And then, for him to love Fenris... and to be so conflicted in his feelings over mages... will Fenris ever be able to accept that? Or is it over for good?” Anders shrugged.

“I've no idea, nor do I have any interest in their love life.” He finished his food while Claire had only taken a small bite, and wondered why she cared so much about who someone else bedded.

“Love is strange...” She said after a moment. “I'm sure since Fenris does care about Hawke, he won't abandon him. Everyone deserves some happiness, right?” He kissed the top of her head, chuckling. Of course, it was like her to want Hawke to have some bright spot in his life as well.

“Yes, they do. Let's get ready, then, because we're going to be dealing with a lot of unhappy people soon.”

“Do you want me to stay here, or do you want me to help up top?” She was asking him?

“You should do what you think is best.” He said. “I'll go with you if you like.”

“I'm not really sure... it's just... just one night, that's all it is, and we should be good tomorrow.” She sighed. “I think I'll go now, and warn people to stay indoors. I can at least do that much.” She kissed Anders and he pulled her into a hug.

“Stay safe, I'll see you when you're done.”

 


 

It was chaos in Darktown when the fighting started, as so many people began flooding it just to get away from the Qunari, and Anders found himself quite busy. There were a few others helping out, and he wondered if Claire was helping out by keeping people from getting injured in the first place. He would have to ask her when she got back.

Even as the night wore on, there didn't seem to be an end to the injuries, and Anders no longer had much time to think about Claire beyond hoping she was all right.

 


 

Hawke navigated through the smoke and debris with Aveline, killing as many Qunari as he could, but there were already so many human corpses piling up alongside the grey giants that it made him wonder if he was even doing any good. Claire had warned him, but seeing it... it was worse than he expected, and if this was bad, what would the world plunging into chaos that she spoke of look like? He found he'd rather not find out, not that anyone would have a choice. He sliced the neck of another Qunari in anger, yelling as he did, and Aveline gave him a look.

“You're taking this harder than I expected, Hawke.” She said.

“It's not just this.” He growled back. “It's everything... the mages, the Templars, the Qunari, my mother, my so called friend... Isabela stabbed me in the back with the very daggers I gave her! And then another friend... I don't want to lose another one, especially not now. I just lost my mother, must I lose everything else?”

“This isn't the time or place, but afterwards, come see me.” Aveline said. “It would be good to talk about this with a friend. And yes, I do consider you a friend, even if it seems like I'm yelling at you more than anything these days. We've been through a lot together, and you were there when I needed you most, it's only fair I return the favor.”

“Thank you, Aveline, I appreciate it.” He wasn't sure how to feel about it, honestly. Aveline was one of the most socially awkward people he knew, outside of Merrill. Merrill... why was he thinking about her? Was she all right in this mess? Why should he even care? She was a blood mage who consorted with demons, and not like how Claire treated them, but dangerously so.

Claire, he was finding, was trustworthy and spoke the honest truth, and he had no doubts anymore about how much she and Anders cared about him, despite everything. He sliced through more Qunari, but his thoughts were straying to the mage couple, and how strange they were. It didn't seem like he could truly turn them against him, even while he supported the Templars, and then the good they were doing for Kirkwall... how could he be against them, when they had proven themselves time and time again to him?

“Hawke!” He heard a voice call out and he saw Varric running towards him, with Fenris behind him. Hawke clenched his teeth as his heart skipped a beat and he tried not to think about it. They had to focus on the battle first and foremost. But still, seeing Fenris there... should he at least be glad his friend came to help, instead of avoiding him?

“What are you two doing here?” Hawke asked.

“Looking for you!” Varric grinned. “We figured you had to be in the middle of this mess, and lo and behold, here you are!”

“Ha ha, very funny.” Hawke grumbled.

“I take it the Qunari decided to rise up after all.” Fenris said. “It is unsurprising.”

“Yeah, well I'm not going to let them have the city.” Hawke said. “Come on, we have Qunari to kill.” He moved on to the next group and plowed through them, using fewer stealth attacks and more straight forward ones because of how upset he was.

When they'd finally made it to Hightown, they saw Qunari dragging people towards the Keep, and slaughtered those grey giants as well. A sudden burst of magic took Hawke and his team by surprise and they were knocked down, but the Saarebas wound up with a sword through his gut before Hawke could retaliate. The warrior then sliced the qunari mage's head off and shook the blood off her blade.

“I am Knight-Commander Meredith.” A woman in imposing armor stood before them, and reached out a hand to help Hawke up. “I know you.” She said. “The name 'Hawke' has turned up in my reports many times. Too many. But that doesn't matter now. The Qunari are taking people to the Keep and may already be in control. We will need to deal with them.” She looked up at another Qunari hauling people away. It was the first time Hawke had ever seen her, and the stories he'd heard barely did her terrifying nature justice.

“Why would they need hostages?” Hawke asked.

“They're going to take everyone of import and put them in the same place.” Fenris said. “Those that agree to convert, live. Those that don't...”

“Charming.” Meredith said dryly.

“I'll do whatever it takes to defend my home.” Hawke said.

“Good.” Meredith nodded, then began walking away. “Your skills will be sorely needed. Head to the Keep and I will see if I can find more of my men. These creatures will pay for this outrage.” Hawke wasn't sure what it was, but there was something about her that made him not trust her. Had he been investigating the Templars and Chantry too much, that he was becoming suspicious of everyone?

They continued on, and then Hawke noticed a person shrouded in black, using both dagger and magic to kill Qunari, making him think of Claire, though she commonly used a rune imbued sword instead. He watched as the person disappeared into a shadow, then he continued on his own way. When they got to the Keep, they found First-Enchanter Orsino with a few mages, fighting hard against the Qunari. If it wasn't for the black clad person, Hawke was sure they'd be dead, as the new rogue mage was very quick in taking out the invaders.

Once the enemy was dead, Orsino looked to Hawke. “Many thanks, my friend.”

“Are you all right? You seem to be the least injured, though I don't see any dead.” Hawke saw the rogue mage healing the fallen Circle mages, and figured it had to be Claire. No one else would be able to do such things, and no one else would think to wear a disguise.

“Thank the Maker no one died...” Orsino said, looking over to their savior as she continued to heal. He was about to say something else when he was interrupted.

“First-Enchanter Orsino.” Meredith came walking over with her Templars behind her. “You survived.”

“Your relief overwhelms me, knight-commander.” Orsino replied sarcastically.

She shook her head a little and said, “There is no time for talk. We must strike back before it's too late.”

“And who will lead us into this battle?” Orsino asked.

“Allow me.” The rogue mage said as she stepped forward, and Hawke recognized her voice, though as he saw her face, she looked very different, with no scars, black eyes, and black hair. Could Claire disguise herself so well? She was practically an ancient goddess, so why not? “I will distract the Qunari at the entrance, and Hawke here will sneak in, since he's an expert at such things.”

“And who are you?” Meredith demanded.

“A citizen trying to aid the city, to protect my home and my people, knight-commander.” Claire bowed. “I have a few tricks up my sleeve, and if the first-enchanter helps, we will make easy work of the Qunari. I have seen the Keep, there is a large group of Qunari at the door, and we must lead them away. Hawke will be able to make it inside then.” Meredith looked like she was going to argue, but finally nodded.

“Very well then.” She snapped. “We will do as you say.”

“Thank you.” Hawke said. “Lead the way.” The rogue mage grinned and nodded, then bounded up the stairs leading to the Keep with the others behind her. She didn't wait for anyone before addressing the Qunari, yelling insults at them.

Orsino joined in, saying, “You will not take this city so easily!” As he lit up his staff. The chaos Claire and Orsino were able to make, along with the other mages, was amazing, and Hawke had no trouble getting inside.

 


 

“You didn't mention you're a mage.” Meredith growled once the last Qunari fell. Claire grinned and shrugged.

“It didn't seem important.” She said. She knew she was playing with fire, taunting the knight-commander like that, but she didn't care. She was disguised, and while Hawke had seen through her, Varric had seemed more confused and the other two were oblivious, and Meredith had never seen her before. There would be no problem if she just up and vanished, Meredith wouldn't be able to track her down.

“Who are you?” Orsino asked. “I've never seen a mage do such things before.”

“She's probably a blood mage, dealing with demons.” Meredith said, drawing her sword.

“Hah, like I need demons or blood magic.” Claire laughed. If Anders knew she who she was taunting, and what she was saying, he would be extremely upset and she hoped if he found out, he would forgive her. “I'm fine just the way I am.”

“Silence, mage!” Meredith yelled, slicing the air where Claire used to be.

“You're not going to be able to make friends very easily that way, my dear knight-commander.” Claire said, sitting high on a ledge.

“What the...” Orsino was flustered, and Claire began wondering if she'd made a mistake in showing too much of her powers to them. She dropped back down.

“Shall we try this again?” Claire asked. Meredith yelled out as she tried attacking again, so Claire went back to the ledge. “I am not your enemy, you foolish mortal. Focus on the Qunari before you do something you regret.” Claire then made herself invisible to watch the reaction. Meredith merely growled and stormed towards the Keep with her Templars and Orsino and his mages following after, though he glanced back. They would be having talks for a while after that, she was certain. Stretching, Claire teleported to Lowtown to finish off more Qunari, hoping she would be able to sleep for a long time the following day because she needed it.

 


 

Hawke walked into the Keep, where all the people were being held, and saw the Arishok standing on the steps, with the viscount's head on the ground, and prepared himself for a fight.

“Shanedan, Hawke. I expected you.” The Arishok walked down the stairs towards Hawke. “Maraas toh ebra-shok. You alone are basalit-an.” The Arishok looked around at the people he'd herded into the room. “This is what respect looks like, bas! Some of you will never earn it!” He turned back to Hawke. “So tell me, Hawke... You know I am denied Par Vollen until the Tome of Koslun is found. How would you see this conflict resolved without it?”

A loud noise at the door made Hawke turn around, and what he saw shocked him. Isabela had thrown a Qunari to the floor and was walking in, holding the book. He was so conflicted, he wasn't sure how to feel. She had still caused a lot of deaths with her actions, she had still betrayed him, but it seemed she was going to try to make up for it...

“I believe I can answer that.” She said as she stepped on the Qunari she'd thrown down. She held out the massive book to the Arishok. “I'm sure you'll find it's mostly undamaged.”

“The Tome of Koslun.” The Arishok said as he looked it over.

“It took me a while to get back, what with all the fighting everywhere. You know how it is.” Isabela looked at Hawke apologetically, surprising him again, but he could still feel the anger, and the confusion over it all.

“I appreciate that you've come back to fix your mess, but I can't just get over you stabbing me in the back like that.” He said.

“That's being a bit dramatic.” She said, frowning.

“You started a war that has killed people, and now the viscount and his son are dead, because of your actions! I don't think I'm being dramatic at all.” She looked hurt and looked down.

“You're right. Normally I wouldn't have cared.” She said. “I was halfway to Ostwick before I knew I had to turn around. It's pathetic.” Hawke wondered, as he watched the Arishok hand off the Tome, if Aveline was going to lock her up for what the she'd done.

“The relic is reclaimed.” The Arishok said. “I am now free to return to Par Vollen – with the thief.”

“What?” Isabela was in shock.

“Oh no no no.” Aveline waved her hands in anger. “If anyone kicks her ass, it's me.”

“She stole the Tome of Koslun, she must return with us.” The Arishok was determined, and Hawke had to think fast. He still cared about Isabela, and she was trying to make things right, but her actions had killed so many people...

“You have your relic, she stays with us.” Hawke said before he could even properly think. He was mad. The Arishok had every right to demand her head, but Hawke just couldn't let her go. Perhaps part of him wanted to make her pay, just a little, by his own hand, the same as Aveline.

“I'm sure he'll take that well.” Varric muttered. “Rivaini? You might want to move a bit this way.”

“Then you leave me no choice.” The Arishok said. “I challenge you, Hawke. You and I will battle to the death, with her as the prize.”

“No! If you're going to duel anyone, duel me!” Isabela cried.

“You are not basalit-an. You are unworthy.”

“All right. Let's dance.” Hawke said, feeling like his life had spiraled out of control and this would be the final nail in the coffin.

“Meravas!” The Arishok yelled. “So shall it be!” Hawke began losing himself as he fought, not caring if he got hurt, and wondered if it would be so bad to lose. He knew he couldn't, he was fighting not for Isabela, really, but for the whole of the city. He knew the Qunari would not leave the city in peace, not after all that, so he had to ensure they knew there was someone there who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty.

Before he knew it, the Arishok was crawling backwards away from him, bleeding profusely, and Hawke knew it was over.

“One day...” The Qunari's breath was coming out ragged, his voice strained. “We shall return.” If the Arishok hadn't gasped his last right after that, Hawke would have sliced his head off. The other Qunari left silently, the crowd in the room just as quiet. It was finally finished...

“Is it over?” Meredith came running in with her Templars and Orsino, and Hawke nodded.

“It's over.” Hawke replied. That seemed to be what the crowd was waiting for, as they began shouting and crying that the city was saved. Meredith, however, looked like she wanted to kill Hawke, and he wondered why. She slowly walked up to him, sizing him up.

“Well done.” She said. “It appears Kirkwall has a new Champion.” She didn't sound pleased, but the people were ecstatic. Was Meredith really as bad as the mage stories made her out to be? He found he never wanted to deal with her again. All he wanted was to crawl into his bed and sleep for the rest of eternity.

Somehow, in the midst of all the noise, he managed to slip away, and made sure to lock his door, telling Bodhan not to let anyone in.

 


 

Anders jerked awake when someone accidentally bumped into him, and he realized he'd fallen asleep at the desk in the middle of work. From the faint light he could see from the window, it was dawn, and the clinic was still bustling.

“Messere, please, go get some rest.” A nice older woman put her hand on his shoulder. “I'll help keep things in order here while you do.”

“Thank you.” He said, standing up slowly. He looked around, but he couldn't see Claire anywhere, so he went to the back, hoping perhaps she had already fallen asleep in their bed, but when he got there, it was empty. Where was she? She couldn't have gotten taken out by the Qunari, could she? He yawned and stumbled, wishing he was more awake to look for her, but she would have to understand and wait. He fell into the bed, not even undressing first, and started dozing.

When he was woken up next, it was because someone was lying on him, snoring. He smiled softly as he saw Claire's face close to his, smoke and blood still on her. He figured she must have pushed herself too hard again, and closed his eyes. The world would be fine, they could have a small break before the end... before he lost all his control and begged Hawke to kill him.

He knew it was inevitable, that for all he'd believed when Claire had first told him, she couldn't actually change the future, and he was doomed to die at Hawke's hands, and he would welcome it. Claire would have to understand, and live on without him. But as he lay there, watching her sleep, he was overcome with emotions and began crying at the thought of leaving her, and hurting her that deeply.

“Anders, are you all right?” She asked. “What happened?”

“I was worried.” He said, holding her tight. He couldn't tell her the truth, he couldn't tell her the pain he was in, the pain she couldn't heal... “You weren't here when I came in, I thought the Qunari had gotten you, and to see you here... I can't bear the thought of losing you.” He felt bad about telling her half truths, but she wouldn't understand. Her fear of losing him was just as strong as his of losing her, and if she was in his position, he wouldn't be able to let her go either.

“I'm sorry I worried you.” She murmured. “I'm here now, just tired is all. Hawke killed the Arishok in a duel, and the remaining Qunari left without further fighting. Hawke has been named the Champion of Kirkwall now... the viscount is dead, Meredith has taken over... the next few years are going to be... interesting.”

“Just so long as you're by my side, we will make it through them.” Anders said.

“So long as I have you, nothing in this world will take me.” She smiled, and it almost broke his heart. He realized if he died, she would most likely follow in some fashion... he'd seen how distraught she was in her vision. How could he think to do that to her? She wouldn't be able to understand, especially with how hard she was trying to cure him. Perhaps he should let her.

 

Chapter Text

After the Qunari left, Hawke became quite busy with being the Champion, getting more jobs around the city, and he distanced himself off from his friends more. Isabela had also closed herself off, and Varric was getting lonely without the regulars coming by to play cards and listen to his stories. Claire decided she would wait for Hawke to come to them, so she kept herself busy getting the Tirashan castle ready to move mages over. She didn't want to leave Anders very long, so progress was slow, but a few of the mages from the Planasene castle volunteered to stay at the Tirashan one to work on it while she was gone.

She made sure to set up many protections, paranoid that the elves would come looking for sacrifices, but even after a few weeks, there were no reports of any elves being seen, which gave her comfort. With Anders, he was getting worse, and she knew he didn't want to worry her, but she could tell. She would stay around him as much as possible without making it obvious she was just worried about him anyway. What a pair they were, both not wanting to worry the other and failing constantly.

Around four weeks after the Qunari fight, Claire sought out Fenris, who was brooding in his abandoned mansion he'd staked out all those years ago. She knocked on the door, but he didn't answer, so she walked in and wandered around the desolate building until she found him in the main bedroom, drinking wine. He didn't look pleased to see her, but he didn't seem like he was going to try to hurt her at least.

“Hello, Fenris.” She said. “I'm sorry to intrude, but I wanted to talk to you.”

“What could someone like you have to talk to me about?” He had a growl to his voice, and she began questioning why she was there.

“Hawke.” She said. “I don't know what's going on between you two, or if something happened, but I know he cares a great deal about you, and I've seen the way you look at him. I'm worried about him, Fenris, he's closing himself off to us, and he needs you. He cares more for you than he does me or Anders, or anyone else.” Fenris stared at the bottle of wine he was holding for a moment, then looked at her oddly.

“I was under the impression he was close with you and your abomination.”

“Don't doubt your position with him.” Claire snapped. “You can hate me, you can hate Anders, all you want, I don't care. I'm not here to try to win you over. I know how badly you were hurt by mages, the same as I was hurt by both Templar and mage alike. I have no trust for anyone, but I do care about Hawke. Please, Fenris. For him, please. Go, talk to him, be around him more, for his sake. Try not to be afraid to trust him, to love him.” Fenris' eyes widened.

“Love...?” He asked. He grew angry and stood up, then became more distraught. “What would you know about it? You can't possibly know what you're talking about!”

“I held back from telling Anders how I felt about him, for years, out of fear.” She said. “The many what-ifs, the fear of opening myself up to someone else like that, the pain that physical touch would bring after eight years of torture at the magister's hands... I don't know what you're going through, but I suppose it feels a little familiar to me, and I hate seeing people I care about in pain. I'm sorry, I... I shouldn't have come.” She teleported away as she realized she was getting too emotional, and went to an isolated mountain top to cry alone.

She should have just gone to Hawke, but she knew he wouldn't tell her the truth, just like how Anders was hiding his own pain from her. Why was everyone hiding everything? They were all in pain, and holding it in... She went back to the clinic, but Anders was too busy to talk then, so she began going around helping out to pass the time.

By the time everything was done, and the clinic was slow and quiet, Claire was exhausted and had forgotten what she wanted to talk to Anders about, until they fell into bed, and she saw the pain in his eyes reminding her.

“Anders...” She murmured, snuggling up to him. “You do know that no matter how much you try to hide it, I can tell you're in a lot of pain and trying to hide it? If you're trying not to make me worry, it's not working.” He sighed and held her close.

“Can you blame me?” He asked. “How long have you hidden how you feel, just to keep me from worrying?”

“How do you think I can tell?” She laughed. “But seriously... I love you, and I don't want you to feel you have to hide anything. I've been doing a lot better at telling you, haven't I?”

“I'm sure you know what it's about.” He said slowly. “You've seen what happens...”

“It's not inevitable!” She cried, then tried to calm herself a little. She wanted him to talk openly and she didn't want to scare him from doing it. “I'm sorry, Anders. I just... there must be something we can do.”

“What if I don't want you to?” He asked, making her freeze. Had he really gotten so bad already? No, she couldn't lose him... she couldn't, she had to do something, she would find a way...

“Please, Anders...” She was crying and she couldn't stop it. She had three years... three years and they were already talking death. “We still have time, and we'll be together for that time. I won't leave you alone. Please don't leave me.” She felt him tense up and hold her even tighter.

“Claire, no, I'm not leaving!” He said. He moved so he was looking her in the eyes, then kissed her lightly. “I'm just saying, when the time does come, what if things have gotten so bad that death would be preferable?”

“We... we'll... we'll figure it out w-when we get there.” She was having a hard time keeping her emotions in check again. “Is it really so bad now? Or is it just the thought of the future that's plaguing you?”

“You saw what I almost did to that girl... what I almost did to you.” He said. “But even so, I'm not ready for it to be over. I can't bear the thought of leaving you, and I can't abandon the mages here. I still have work to do.” She kissed him and they laid there for a while with their lips barely touching, tears still falling down her cheeks.

“I'm here for you, Anders.” She said. “Don't ever forget it. If you need a break, we can go somewhere, enjoy ourselves for a time. We can't work all the time, we need to take some breaks now and then, or we'll wear ourselves too thin.”

“Perhaps we should go somewhere fun, then, just for a little bit.” He said. “Have a picnic on the beach...”

“I would like that.” She said, smiling. “There's still so much of this world I want to show you...”

“Then let us see it together.”

 


 

Anders was starting to notice how long it had been since Hawke had visited, and wondered where his friend had gone. Had he even congratulated Hawke on becoming Champion? Though, as he thought about it, he wasn't sure that was something Hawke liked being. It was more responsibility, more saving the city, as Meredith practically appointed herself viscount until someone else could be found for it.

After his talk with Claire, he started thinking about what they could do for Hawke, and wondered if the rogue would be up to it.

“Love, I was just thinking...” He walked up to Claire as she put some potions away. “Do you think we could take Hawke somewhere? I'm getting the feeling he needs a vacation himself.” She looked at him and smiled.

“That sounds like it would be nice.” She said. “But where would we take him? Or would we let him decide?”

“We should probably let him decide.” Hawke said, surprising them both. They both turned to stare at the Champion as he walked in.

“Did you hear, then?” Claire asked. “Is that something you'd like?”

“More than you could know!” Hawke sounded exasperated. “Things are finally starting to calm down a bit as the city is rebuilt, but Maker, I am exhausted. The less likely people are to find me, the better the location.”

“I could take you to the Tirashan forest, then.” Claire grinned. “No one would go there for you!”

“Dare I even ask where that is?” Hawke asked.

“It's a forest far to the west of us, west even to Orlais, and south to the Anderfels.” Claire replied. “It is a dark and deep forest, where an ancient clan of elves live, elves who worship the Forgotten Ones, the dark gods of the ancient elves... the ones sent to the Void.”

“That sounds absolutely pleasant, when can we leave?” He grinned, easing any tension that was left.

“With Claire, we can leave whenever we want.” Anders said. “Though I would suggest stopping in Orlais for some food.”

“Yes, that's true, I must make another delivery.” Claire sighed. “The castle there isn't self sufficient yet, but it's getting there, so I've been delivering their food to them.” Hawke's eyebrows rose.

“You've got another castle...?” He asked. “It must be costing you a fortune to feed everyone.”

“I've found a few artifacts and relics that I've had Varric sell for me, but yes, almost all the money goes to the castle and building it up. I still have mages in the Planasene castle, but soon, I'll be moving them all over. The Tirashan is far safer for them, while the Planasene is still too close to the Templars for comfort. There have already been a few close calls, but thankfully the protections I put up have held, and the castle wasn't discovered.”

“Maker... you're truly an ancient goddess.” Hawke laughed.

“She does seem like it sometimes, doesn't she?” Anders said. “But I know she doesn't feel like it. She is still human, no matter what anyone else thinks, and you should keep it in mind.”

“I'm sorry.” Hawke said, taken aback. “I didn't mean to insult...”

“Oh, it's all right.” Claire said. “I took no offense. It just makes me uncomfortable when people make a big deal about it... some of the mages, I've seen the way they look at me, almost as if they worship me, and I can't stand it. But you, I know you would never do that. You've seen me at my worst.” She smiled.

“I was originally being sarcastic about going to the Tirashan forest, but you've intrigued me and I would like to go.” Hawke said. “Perhaps not today, though. I actually came to see if you wanted to come with me to see the Dalish. The Keeper called for me, something about a hunter who's gone missing.”

“Certainly.” Claire said, getting more serious. “Shall we go now then?”

“The sooner the better.” Hawke said, and before Anders could say anything, they were standing on a trail leading towards the Dalish camp. He'd been there a few times before, it was a quiet little place, but it was strange for them to be in one place for so long. The small group walked into the camp and the Keeper greeted them.

“I'm glad you were able to come so quickly.” Marethari said. “We're afraid the hunter may be injured or worse, since he left on his own instead of waiting for a hunting party. He has always been a troubled one, who came to us from Denerim while we were still in the Brecilian forest.”

“Is this Alberoth?” Claire asked quickly.

“You know him?” Marethari asked.

“It was I who rescued him from the city and brought him to you.” Claire said. “Do you know which way he went?”

“The other hunters say he went off into the hills, to the north of us.” The Keeper said. Claire nodded.

“We will do our best to find him and bring him safely back.” Claire said. Anders was impressed with how she took control of the situation, when she normally would let Hawke lead, and wondered if it was because she knew the elf.

While they walked, Anders asked, “You said you rescued this elf?”

“I did.” Her reply was curt and he figured she was pretty worried. “I met him outside the gates of Denerim, where he gave me some bread. I hadn't eaten in two days... he offered to help me and in exchange, I was to take him to the Dalish. I had offered to take him that day, but he said he would wait for me to be done, since he wanted to wrap up his own business. I got my job with the Wardens... when we got the call to head out, I went and got him. He was in a wine cellar... being made to be a plaything for a fat naked human. I should have kill the fat slob!” Her fist was clenched tight as she walked, and Anders was surprised she had never told him.

“Then I'm glad you were able to get him out of there before it was too late.” Hawke said.

“Was I?” She asked. “He was plagued with nightmares, and he probably still has issues. I should have stayed with him a little longer, but I was anxious to get to Ostagar...”

“Another mistake.” Anders said.

“Yes, I suppose in many ways, it was.” Claire sighed. “I was a bit younger and stupider then, and full of confusing emotions I didn't know how to deal with. It doesn't matter now, though, we just need to find Alberoth.” Anders put his hand on Claire's back and she gave him a soft smile before focusing on the path again.

 


 

They searched the foothills for a while, looking for any sign of Alberoth, until the sun was starting to get low. Hawke spotted a bit of fabric in the underbrush and went to look, finding the elf unconscious but alive. Anders quickly knelt down and began healing the elf, who didn't seem too badly damaged. He'd suffered a blow to the head from behind, which only raised more questions.

“Claire, there's a possibility someone lured him out here to kill him.” Anders spoke quietly.

“What do you mean?” Hawke asked, kneeling down. “He didn't fall and hit his head?”

“No, the way he's lying on his belly like this?” Anders gestured to show his point. “And look, there are drag marks, showing someone else put him here to hide his body.”

“The question is, who? And why?” Claire mused. “This may be something I go into the Fade for.”

“Are you certain?” Anders asked. “I know how you feel about doing that...”

“It's the quickest way, and the surest way to know no one else will find out what we suspect.” She said. “If we go around the camp asking questions, we may scare the person away and we would definitely make it known what we suspect.”

“Is this something I may not want to know about...?” Hawke asked nervously.

“Short story, I can go into the Fade and invade people's dreams, ask them questions and such without them suspecting anything.” Claire sighed. “I hate doing it, I feel gross invading people's privacy like that, but I feel this is important.”

“You... can manipulate people that way.” Hawke said carefully. “I remember what the Keeper was telling me about somniari before we went into the Fade to help Feynriel.”

“You don't have to worry about me doing that to you.” She said. “I respect you a lot, Hawke.”

“It's fine, I trust you.” Hawke said. “And I agree, this is an occasion I feel such efforts are necessary. Will you wait until tonight, then?” Anders realized then how far Hawke had come, that he would trust Claire despite her abilities. Or, was it because of her abilities, and that she had never done anything to Hawke, but only for him?

“Yes, I will camp here, after I've sent you and Anders back to the clinic.”

“Claire, I don't want to leave you.” Anders said.

“Do you want to sleep out here then?” She asked.

“Count me in too.” Hawke said. “I'll keep first watch.” He pulled out a bottle from his pack. “I even brought the wine!”

“Well, if that's the case then, let me at least get some supplies!” Claire grinned before she vanished.

“I hope she remembers to bring some blankets.” Hawke said, sitting down beside the still unconscious elf. “Looks like our friend here will need one, the night air is already getting colder.”

“I'm sure she will.” Anders said, noting that Hawke looked a lot better than when he'd walked into the clinic.

“You know, I think you and Claire are the only ones who haven't made a big deal out of me being made Champion of Kirkwall.” Hawke said. “Varric is just eating it up with his storytelling. I just hope he doesn't get too carried away, I've been hearing some strange rumors lately.”

“I figured it was something you didn't want in the first place.” Anders said. “Just another burden for you to bear, cleaning up other people's messes. I thank the Maker I have Claire by my side to help clean up my messes... though I try not to make such a mess of things for her. She has enough on her plate as it is.”

“You're right, I didn't want this, but here I am.” Hawke sighed. “You know how it is, you're fighting some giant grey monsters invading your city, and then next thing you know, you've killed their leader and the people are praising you as they scream your name. I thought the knight-commander was going to eat me alive, but she knew what the people wanted.”

“She doesn't like you then?”

“She complained she's seen my name too often in her reports.” Hawke laughed. “I can't imagine why she'd be displeased, unless she thinks I'm interfering with the Templars somehow.”

“No, she's just a very paranoid woman.” Claire stepped from the shadows. “She doesn't trust anyone, blood magic is around every corner, and it's only getting worse. When she was a child... her sister was a mage, but their parents shielded her from the Chantry, afraid she wouldn't be able to survive. The Templars were eventually called down on the girl, who made a deal with a demon in desperation, killing more than seventy people in the village, including her own parents.”

“And so Meredith fears magic because of what her sister did?” Hawke looked horrified. Claire had told Anders that story before, so he wasn't surprised, but it still made him angry to hear it.

“Yes, and that fear is only growing.” Claire set her things down and laid a blanket over Alberoth. “Remember how I said Kirkwall is corrupting people? Her paranoia is being fed by that corruption, causing it to become worse. We still have a few years yet, so we shouldn't worry about it until then, and just keep doing what we can now.” She put her hands on Alberoth's head, a soft glow around her.

“What are you doing?” Hawke asked.

“Healing him.” Claire replied. “I want to ask him some questions, though I don't want him moving until tomorrow.” Slowly, the elf began to fidget, until his eyes finally opened.

“What...”

“Hello, Alberoth.” Claire said, putting a pillow under his head. “It's been a while, and I didn't expect our reunion to be this dramatic. I pray the next one isn't so bad, it would be a shame to make this a habit.” Alberoth gave a small laugh.

“I don't know what happened...” He mumbled. “I was... hunting. I just wanted to be alone, but... I heard a noise behind me, I think? But I don't remember anything after that.”

“Was there anyone in the clan who has a problem with you?” Anders asked. “You were hit from behind and dragged under a bush to hide your body.” Alberoth's eyes widened and he sat up, wincing in pain as he did so.

“You mean someone tried to kill me?” He gasped.

“We don't know.” Claire said. “I'm going to be interrogating the clan tonight in the hopes I can find out, but you will stay here in the forest with us until I determine it's safe for you.” She reached behind her and pulled out a bag that had an unmistakable aroma of fresh bread that made Anders' mouth water.

“Damn, woman, fresh bread at this hour?” Hawke asked, holding out his hand. “How do you do it?”

“Certain places in Orlais bake all day, and all night.” She grinned. “The rich like to eat fresh for dinner too, you know.” She handed Hawke and Alberoth chunks of bread, then Anders.

“You didn't steal this, did you?” Anders asked, to which she shrugged a little.

“Well, I wouldn't quite call it stealing...” She said. “I... switched out two cheaper loaves I got in Kirkwall for the fresh stuff that was still in the oven. I don't much care for that little lordling anyway, he likes his servants crying, so he can eat cheap bread for once.” She then suddenly disappeared for a second, and reappeared holding a large bowl full of stew. “Now this, I paid full for this, but I figured it was worth it.” Alberoth immediately began digging in, reminding Anders that he'd been missing for a while and probably hadn't had any food in that time.

Anders took his time dipping his bread in the stew while Claire filled some cups with wine, and Hawke was just watching with an amused expression on his face as he slowly picked off pieces of bread.

 


 

They spent the remainder of the evening talking until Claire decided there would be enough of the Dalish asleep to find some information, and went into the Fade to interrogate them. She wasn't entirely certain where to start, so she went to the Keeper. It was easy to tell the old elf had only concern for Alberoth, so she 'woke' her to speak with her.

“Keeper, we found Alberoth.” Claire said.

“That is wonderful news, though I did not expect you to speak to me here. Why have you not come back to the camp?”

“He's injured, so we've been healing him, and we will bring him back in the morning.” Claire said. “There is more, but... we're not entirely sure what yet. We suspect someone tried to kill him, and I seek to route them out.”

“May the gods watch over you then, child.” Marethari sighed. “He has not gotten on as well as we had hoped, but he keeps to himself mostly. I pray you discover what you seek.”

“Thank you, Keeper, I will do my best to figure this out quickly.” Claire bowed and went into another elf's dream, but that one barely knew Alberoth and had no feelings towards him at all. On and on she went, searching the minds and hearts of the elves, feeling dirtier as she went. She was invading their privacy, learning things that would never be uttered for ears to hear. Was it right? Was she doing the right thing? Or was she bordering on villainy?

One of the elves, a young woman named Elain, had special feelings for Alberoth, and Claire felt a pang in her heart as she remembered the emotions running through her before she'd told Anders how she felt about him. Would anything come of this elven maid's blossoming love, or would it end up like Hawke and Fenris, cold and lonely? Perhaps if she talked to Alberoth, without revealing Elain's secret... She quickly moved on to the next elf.

Exhausted, she couldn't find anymore to interrogate, and wondered if maybe it had been one of the watchers. She would have to wait for them to switch out the guards before she could ask that, and so she prowled around the Fade, her anxiety growing. It would be easy for her to become a villain... all she had to do was stop caring, and she could wreak havoc on the world without even doing much of anything. Just a couple of specific targets, and bam, instant war. But, she didn't want any attention drawn to her, because she was still very much afraid of Solas, and a bit afraid of Flemeth.

What would happen when the Inquisition was brought together and Solas came out into the open a little more? Would she try to help them out like she was helping Hawke, or would she just try to live a quiet life with Anders? Provided she could get the spirit out of him... Suddenly, she was aware of another dreamer nearby, and went to see who it was. Another elf, one of the guards named Meurig, and he was full of anger and bitterness.

His dream was reflecting it, so she watched for a bit as he fought against strange looking creatures in a forest. It almost looked as if the creatures were covered in mud that was dripping off of them, disguising who they really were, so Claire wove her will into the dream to reveal what he was really fighting against, and gasped as the creatures became disfigured representations of elves in the clan, including the Keeper.

What was plaguing this elf so badly that he would dream such a thing? She started delving deeper into his subconscious, and learned that he was in love with Elain, the elf who had feelings for Alberoth, and Meurig was envious, especially since he felt Alberoth didn't deserve her love and would treat her harshly. There was more, as well... he had indeed been the one who had hit Alberoth over the head, but Meurig's biggest trouble was that he held resentments towards many of the other elves in the clan, even the Keeper.

He had mental issues, and he was a ticking time bomb if they weren't dealt with properly, but how was she supposed to help him? He'd already hurt one of the clan, what if he went after another, and did more than just injure? He was delusional and angry. Not knowing what else to do, she went quickly to the Keeper.

“I have found the culprit, Keeper.” Claire said. “An elf by the name of Meurig, who has a very troubled mind, but tries to hold it all in and hide it. I fear what he will do if he's not dealt with, but as he is your charge, I leave the decision on what to do with him up to you.”

“Thank you.” Marethari said. “I must admit, it's a bit of a surprise to hear it's Meurig, he's always been such a hard worker, and a very diligent guard. We will deal with him our way... but I will wait until you leave. I appreciate all your work that you've done for us.”

“It's no problem, Keeper, I'm glad I was able to help.” Claire smiled a little, but felt awkward still.

“There is one more thing I want to know... How is Feynriel doing?”

“He's doing great, he's a very quick learner, and once he dealt with those nightmares, he's been fine. You would be proud of him, I think.”

“Good, I'm glad to hear that.” Marethari smiled softly. “And... I don't suppose you would happen to know Merrill?”

“The Dalish mage living in the Alienage?” Claire asked. “The one who is playing with the tainted mirror that killed Tamlen and Mahariel? You know she won't listen to reason, Keeper. She is obsessed with the thing, and it will end in death...”

“Yes, I know.” The Keeper looked tired and sad. “I've tried to warn her, many times, and, in a way, it already has caused a death. When Hawke came with her to take the Arulin'Holm, I gave them a task, and one of the hunters ran from her, afraid of her and her demons. Perhaps I was hoping she would have guidance from someone with experience dealing with demons.”

“You do know he ran because of you?” Claire asked. “You are also allowing your fears to control you and spread throughout the clan... Yes, she deals in dangerous things, but you have no faith in her at all. That doesn't help, and has pushed her further away, and further into the arms of the demon. I will do what I can... for now, good night.”

 


 

The birds singing loudly overhead woke Claire, who groaned at having yet another headache. Anders had his arms around her and hugged her tight as she stretched.

“Morning again already?” Hawke grumbled nearby. “I feel like I just fell asleep.”

“Well, the sun doesn't care how we feel.” Claire said. “I forgot how much I hate sleeping on the ground... at least it was just for last night.” Alberoth sat up, rubbing the back of his head.

“Did you at least figure out who tried to kill me?” He asked.

“I did.” Claire said. “I've already spoken to the Keeper, and she's going to take care of him for you. A guard, named Meurig.”

“Oh, yeah, he's been shooting me nasty looks for weeks now...” Alberoth sighed as Claire went over to finish healing him.

“There are some in the clan who are pretty worried for you.” She said. “I'm glad you've made some friends, even if you've also made enemies.”

He gave a halfhearted laugh. “Friends? There are those who tolerate me... nothing more.”

“Even Elain?” She asked, and he looked at her oddly. She wasn't going to betray the elf's secret, but surely he should know she was worried for him.

“Elain avoids me!” Alberoth frowned. “Any time I go near her, she makes some strange noise and finds something else to do on the other side of the camp.” Anders and Hawke both shared a look, while Hawke smirked.

“I don't have to read minds to know what that means.” Hawke said. “That's a girl who likes you, but is too shy to do anything about it.”

“You can't be serious!” Alberoth said. “Why would she avoid me?”

“How do you feel about her?” Anders asked. “Do you share that affection?”

“Well, I mean... she is pretty nice, when she's not hiding.” He blushed a little and Claire had some hope they could get together. “I've been with the clan for years now, though, why hasn't she said anything?”

“To be honest, it's hard sometimes...” Claire said. “I was in love with Anders for years before I told him.”

“And I loved Claire as well, but we were both afraid.” Anders said. “I was trapped in the Circle, I couldn't offer her any kind of relationship except in the Fade, and... I didn't think she liked me.” Claire put her hand on Anders'.

“I'm glad we finally did say something, though.” She said. “I've never regretted it.”

“All right, then, let's wrap this up and get back to the camp, shall we?” Hawke suddenly got up, and Claire sighed.

“I'm sorry, Hawke.” She said.

“No, no, it's not your fault...” Hawke shrugged awkwardly. “And well, Fenris did come by two days ago, and while he didn't seem interested in rekindling anything, he told me he was glad I still asked him to come with me on missions, that he enjoyed seeing me...”

“Give him time, I imagine it's hard for him to open himself that much to someone.” Claire said. “But you're right, we should go. We can talk on this later, if you want.”

 


 

By the time they got back to the Dalish camp, Meurig was already being tried as he had confessed when confronted, and the Keeper again thanked Claire and the others, but made no more mention of Merrill. Claire then dropped Hawke off at his estate so he could get some rest, and went back to the clinic with Anders.

“Well, that was fun.” Anders said, hugging Claire. “But next time, we should bring a bed...”

“I agree!” Claire laughed. “But um, mind if I ask some questions about Merrill? The Keeper wants me to check up on her...”

“I want nothing to do with her.” Anders said. “You shouldn't either, she deals with blood magic and demons!”

“I know, and she wants nothing more than to get that mirror working.” Claire said. “But do you think I could even have a chance at swaying her at all? I don't want to think that the future is so set in stone that there's nothing I can do to change it...”

“What did you see?” Anders asked sharply.

“The Keeper lying dead, bloodied, in Merrill's arms.” Claire said. “I think that's the only way Merrill will stop with what she's doing, is with that kind of shock... does the Keeper truly have to die, though? Merrill has a good heart, she really means well, but she's blinded by her desire to help her people.”

“There's only one way you can find out...” Anders said. “I love you, Claire, and I don't want you to play savior to everyone, especially if it hurts you. Most especially if you can't change it...”

“I know.” Claire said, resting her head against his shoulder. “I suppose I'll at least stop in and see Merrill soon. I doubt she'll listen to me, but it's something to think about.”

“Just be careful.”

“You know me, I've been careful for years now!”

 


 

The Tirashan castle was almost finished and ready to transfer the few remaining Planasene mages over, and Claire was excited. The garden they had was growing well, the animals they were raising were thriving, and the hunters had no problem hunting for what they needed. It had become self sufficient far sooner than Claire had expected. The only reason mages were still at Planasene castle was to harvest the rest of the garden, and then they would move over as well.

Mages in the Tirashan forest had even started building small houses, anticipating when they would outgrow the castle. Claire had to start expanding her territory a bit, but since the elves there never came close to the castle before anyway, it wasn't a problem. Their territory was further south, and while Claire contemplated actually meeting with them, she didn't really want them to be aware of her.

One day while Claire was helping out at the clinic in the Tirashan castle, a teenage girl came in looking nervous. Since it was a quiet day and the other healer, Maude, was busy, Claire went over.

“Is there something I can help you with?” Claire asked.

“Well, see, it's difficult to ask...” The girl laughed awkwardly. It took Claire a minute to remember her name was Heather, and that Claire had saved her from the Templars in Kirkwall a year prior, when her magic had just appeared. “I... before I was taken, my mum told me about becoming a woman, how every so often I would begin to... bleed.” The girl blushed profusely, confusing Claire. Bleed? Become a woman?

“I'm sorry, I don't think I quite understand.” The way Heather said it made it sound like it was a perfectly normal thing for a girl to experience, but Claire had no idea what she was talking about.

“I'm just wondering what you use during that time, to stem the bleeding.” Heather said. “And... and I was wondering... what do you use for birth control? See... there's a boy I like, and if... if I'm a woman now...” Claire felt like she was punched in the gut. Birth control? She'd never even thought about it before. She suddenly realized she didn't actually know how babies were even made, past the fact that they came from having sex. She'd thought there was something else to it, otherwise she would have gotten pregnant, surely. She and Anders had never even talked about it, they'd always been too focused on other things.

“I... I'm sorry, I don't think I'm the right person to ask about this... let me get Maude.” Claire quickly hurried to the other healer, who was in the middle of setting a broken leg.

“Maude, please, let me finish this.” Claire said. “There's a girl who came in who needs an experienced woman to help her.”

“Is everything all right?” Maude asked. “You look like you're about to pass out!”

“No, I mean, I'm fine, don't worry about it.” Maude looked at her like she was insane, but threw up her hands in surrender and walked away. Claire smiled awkwardly at the patient and proceeded to work on the leg, healing it as she went.

When she was done, and before she could disappear, Maude grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to the back.

“That girl only needed to know what to use doing her monthly cycle.” Maude said. “And birth control! You're married, how do you not know that?” Claire could tell the woman was concerned, but it made her feel even worse, and she wasn't even sure why she felt so bad in the first place.

“I don't know!” Claire said. “I don't know what a monthly cycle is, no one ever told me! My mother died when I was twelve, I was passed to an aunt and then left in a forest to die, and spent the next eight years or so as a slave to a man who certainly never mentioned anything of the sort!” Maude's mouth opened in shock, which made Claire start crying.

“Oh, my dear girl...”

“I've been too busy fighting... I've been... been in wars. I never had time to think... to wonder... I thought maybe there was something else to it, to getting pregnant. I never thought...” She didn't want to say it out loud, that there was something wrong with her, that there was a possibility she could never give Anders a child, that she would never be a mother herself. She crumpled to the ground, sobbing, and Maude comforted her as best as she could.

“I'm so sorry, Claire.” Maude murmured. “That no one prepared you for this, that no one ever talked to you... someone should have been there for you, to guide you. May I examine you? To see if it's something we can fix?”

“Do you think it's possible?” Claire hiccuped as she looked at the older woman. “Please, I don't want to be barren!” The look in Maude's eyes didn't give Claire hope, but she put her hand to Claire's belly and used her magic to examine Claire. After a minute, Maude pulled her hand away, confused.

“My dear, I... I don't know how to tell you this, but...”

“But?”

“You're missing a womb... the part where babies are made.” Maude's pity hurt Claire even more, especially as the reality of it hit her.

“I think I need to leave now.” Claire's voice was hoarse as a knot was forming in her throat. Never... she could never... “Thank you, Maude. But... I need to leave.”

“I understand.” Maude said, and Claire teleported straight to Anders' clinic, where she stared at him while her tears poured down her face. How could she tell him? How could she break his heart like hers was broken? She'd never thought about having children except for the future, after Kirkwall... but now, she couldn't even think about having a baby, it was impossible.

“Claire!” As soon as Anders saw her, he hurried over. “What's wrong? What happened?” Claire couldn't talk, her voice wouldn't come out, she could only cry as she clung to him. Had he even thought about having babies? Or did he think it was a bad idea, being what he was? She couldn't help but think about what a good father he would have been, and how he would have loved his children...

He picked her up and walked to the back room where he shut the door. “Please, Claire, tell me what happened!”

“I can't have babies!” She wailed. “I'm broken! I'm not a real woman!”

  

Not a real woman? Anders couldn't make sense of what she was saying, only that she apparently couldn't have babies, but why? What was preventing her?

“Claire, please, I don't understand.” He said. “What do you mean you can't have babies?” She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down, but she was still shaking hard as she gripped him.

“I was never told what it was to be a woman.” She said. “No one ever told me women are supposed to have some sort of monthly cycle... no one told me that it was needed to have babies... Maude said... Maude looked at me, she looked inside, I'm missing something, a womb... I'm not a real woman.”

“You are a real woman!” Anders said firmly, though he found himself surprised he'd never noticed himself. “Just because you're missing a womb doesn't mean you're less of a woman.”

“A woman's job is to have babies, isn't it?” Claire cried. “That was why we were put on this world!”

“You were put here for a far different purpose.” Anders said. “I can't deny the idea of never having children upsets me, but I want you right here with me, as you are. Besides, we're in no position to have children... I'm a tainted abomination living in the slums with my ancient goddess wife. What sort of life for a child is that?”

“I know, but... but...”

“It's the idea of it?” He asked.

“My whole life... I never thought...”

“I'm here for you, Claire, you know that. If you want, perhaps one of these days we can adopt.”

“It's not the same... but you're right. It's going to take some time to adjust to this, to... accept it...” She took another deep breath and shuddered. “I was having such a good day, and then Heather came in and mentioned monthly cycles, and it went downhill from there. I didn't expect it to hurt so much, to have something taken away like this...” Anders kissed her forehead, then rested his head against hers.

“No matter what, you will always be a real woman to me.” Anders said. “Why don't we go take a walk somewhere, to get a change of scenery and perhaps it will help clear your mind.”

“Yes... I suppose that could work.” She said. He'd seen her upset over other things, but they were never as personal as this, as finding out that she was missing something women were supposed to have, to fulfill nature's purpose. He grimaced at that thought, reducing humans to basic functions like that? After everything she had ever done for people, and she felt she wasn't a real woman? She was more of a woman than many others he'd met in his lifetime.

“It'll take some time, love.” He said. “Don't feel like you have to get over this quickly, take your time to heal.”

“I wish this was something I could just heal... but I can't grow body parts.”

“No, nor can I.” He sighed. “But we'll deal with it, just as we always do.”