“So... mind explaining what happened back there?” Anders asked, leaning himself against the least gore covered wall he could find. Blasted Deep Roads- he was only a Warden for a few weeks and the darkspawn were reaching the same level of annoying as the templars. He leaned himself closer to the Warden-Commander, who adjusted her armor pads as Oghren and Sigrun collected the temporary camp they made.
“Explain what?” Ophelia Tabris asked, mid-fasten.
“Last night, with the hurlock and the emissary. I had that fight under control and you shoved me out of the way.” Anders snipped, using one hand to motion the shove, flicking his wrist upward.
“I had lost the shriek and it would have struck you from behind. Last I need is my healer down in a fight.” Ophelia replied, standing from her bedroll, collecting her hair and beginning the task of braiding it back behind her pointed ears.
“Come on now, no need to get those pesky personal walls up, I’m only curious. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you always within lunging range of me. Scared for poor dear Anders, are you?” The mage teased, leaning down to be more at eye level with the Hero of Ferelden.
The elf woman merely raised an eyebrow. “Yes, scared you will trip over your robes and land on your ass in another pile of broodmother gunk.” Anders stood back up straight to laugh.
“I am embarrassed at the number of times that has happened!”
Ophelia snickered at that, attempting to finish her braid. “I don’t like it when you fight too far from me. Don’t go where I can’t follow.” She was struggling, her fingers shaking, likely from the constant banging in her head, being surrounded by darkspawn. Anders could sense them, too, but the Warden-Commander was more sensitive, likely from her confrontation with the archdemon. Anders took the hair from her hands, shushing her before she could protest, and began to finish her work.
“In truth, it is not the fact you did it that bothers me. I am actually rather greatful.” Anders tied the braid off, wrapping it in the decorative circlet Ophelia maintained. “I may be prodding, but when you shoved me, you called me Alistair... As in, I am assuming, our King Alistair.”
Ophelia did not speak when Anders finished helping with her hair. Instead, she motioned him toward a crypt opposite of the campsite- and the two dwarves in the party bickering. She sat herself on a sarcophagus, likely a disgrace to whoever inside, and Anders found a new wall to perch on.
“You are aware King Alistair is a Grey Warden, yes?” Anders nodded. “And that he and I were the only two for a time, until the Orlisian reinforcements after the Blight?” Another nod, then a knowing look.
“So the rumors were true. He and you-“
“Yes. We were lovers. It was after my decision to give him the crown instead of previous Queen Anora did he say he wished to cut it off. Being with me, with his kingly duties of producing an heir, wasn’t possible. I’m an elf from the Denerum alienage, I couldn’t marry him. No one wanted an elf as queen of Ferelden. And Alistair refused my offer to be his mistress, even if he married another woman just to make an heir.”
“But you’re his royal chancellor, only an idiot would think he truly rules Ferelden. In all acts and practices, you do! Denerum comes to a halt when you’re gone.” Anders laughed under his words, his running from templars causing him a brush or two in Denerum as the farthest he could go. “I’d bet they can’t wipe their own asses without you. He must still honor your company.”
Ophelia chuckled. “You’re right. He is still one of the dearest people in my life, as I am to him. But I am a Grey Warden before all that, and since I refuse to let Alistair leave the throne in fear of civil war, I had to leave. Even in death, Loghan’s supporters lurk. But that doesn’t answer your question...”
Ophelia lifted herself from her makeshift seat, walking over to Anders. “You remind me of him. He is no mage, and wasn’t nearly as involved with his political views as you are, but your aura,” Ophelia looked down Ander’s robe, then back up. “You have an air of pure confidence, belief in ones skills. A reckless abandon to expectations thrust upon you for your blood, not your merit. You hold yourself like a warrior, willing to take all comers-“ She stopped, realizing how close she had become to the mage, who hadn’t moved at all. Her hand hovered over his chest, cowering away when their eyes met in an unwavering connection. Anders took that hand and pressed it to the warmth of his chest, above his beating heart.
“Are you lonely, Commander?” he asked softly, carefully kicking the door to the small crypt closed for more privacy.
“I am not.“
“An elven woman, barely of age, thrust into the world of politics and war, and a near stranger reminds her of her only lover. That sounds like loneliness to me.” Anders lifted Ophelia’s chin, a smile on his face. She was shaking again, hopefully for a different reason. “I would not mind being your Alistair. I may not have the royal blood, or the sword and shield, but a shoulder to lean on? A bedroll to share? More?...”
Ophelia was beside herself. She pulled away when Anders leaned forward, but still kept close, her hands resting on his biceps. “We can’t, Anders. The scandal-“
“-Can hang. I’m serial deserter and apostate using the Wardens as my get out of jail free card. You conscripting me is scandal enough. Wardens die fast, anyway. What more could they do to us?”
“Remove my command or my chancellorship, pick one.” Ophelia, ever the tactician, spoke in matters of fact and rules, and Anders loved breaking rules. He cashed in his cards and leaned in, placing his lips to his commanders and holding there, waiting for her to stop him.
She never did.
Ophelia could sense the tension in Thedas, growing and growing, but no news arose throughout the continent as much as it did from Kirkwall. Knowing that is where Anders was, after she let him escape, sent her skin itching.
She had made mistakes in letting Anders evade the Wardens. She knew of he and Justice bonding. Victory, at any cost, she told herself. None of the other Warden-Commanders agreed. So, Anders fled, leaving his cat, Sir Pounce-a-lot, with her as a parting gift.
They exchanged numerous letters over the years. About Kirkwall, the mages and templars, of Justice. Then, the name ‘Derek Hawke’ began to appear, along with stories of a Deep Roads expedition he was giving his maps for. Ophelia said it was a proper act for a Warden to go to the Deep Roads, but the next letter stated Anders refused to go when asked. ‘Never again. Not without you.’ A young man died on the expedition; Hawke’s brother, infected with the Blight.
‘You could have saved him, had you gone.’ She wrote.
‘I know.’ He replied.
More names came in the letters more often. Aveliene Valen. Ophelia recognized the name from King Cailen’s recovered duty rosters. Raider Isabella. She taught Ophelia how to duel in a Denerum pub, it seemed funny she would run in the same circle as Anders. Merrill, a Dalish blood mage. Ophelia said to watch her closely. Varric Tethras, renowned dwarven author. Ophelia begged for a signed copy of Hard in Hightown, but it never came no matter how much she begged. Sebastian Vael, a name that had crossed her desk concerning trade between Ferelden and the Free Marches when Starkhaven turned kingless. And then, an elf boy that Anders only called ‘the annoying shit’, and Ophelia can only guess why that was so. Hawke was in every letter now, along with mentions of a budding romance between he and ‘the annoying shit.’
‘You sound like you are jealous.’ She teased.
‘I know.’ He noted.
Then, news of the City of Chains set ablaze by the Quanri arrived in Denerim, after half a decade’s wait. The viscount was executed publicly, and after defeating the Arishok in single combat, apostate mage Derek Hawke was announced Champion of Kirkwall by Knight-Commander Meredith.
Anders sent a single hopeful letter, rejoicing how the most faithful and dedicated templar in the Order gave a position of prestige and power to a known apostate, one that protected him from any harm for fear of public outrage. It was clearly written during a manic episode, since before Ophelia finished her reply, another came. His hopes were wrong; Meredith was cracking down, pressing on the mages of Kirkwall more and more. The mage underground that smuggled apostates was crushed, and Anders barely got out alive. His writings become less of the man she cared for, but more the ravings of a man dead set on revenge. Dread sank in Ophelia’s stomach when Alistair returned from his visit in Kirkwall and told her of his treatment. Fear settled when Leliana sent a letter regarding the push by the Chantry to send an Exalted March against Kirkwall and the other city-states should the mage-templar conflict not lessen.
Anders’ last letter was filled with fury, directed everywhere, even Hawke himself for not doing more for the mages, for not demanding their freedom with his power as Champion. She tried to warn him, told him of those petitioning Divine Justinia for holy war. No reply came. Dead air.
Then, the Chantry of Kirkwall was destroyed in an act of terror by an apostate abomination. Knight-Commander Meredith called the Rite of Annulment against the Circle of Magi, and the Champion of Kirkwall stood against her.
But not before killing Anders, making him the martyr he wanted to be, for the cause he committed uncountable mass murder for.
‘I told you; don’t go where I can’t follow.’ She thought.
‘I know.’ She could hear him say.
“...And we have prepared a room for you in the guest wing above the gardens. If you are in need of anything, my lady, simply ask.” Ambassador Josephine Montilyet fussed, giving a detailed tour of Skyhold to Ophelia, who walked while petting an ancient tabby cat. Her interaction with the Inquisition was minimal, no less than a single letter to Inquisitor Lavellan when he attempted to find her years ago. Yet, six months after said Inquisitor declared the Inquisition a peace-keeping force of Divine Victoria, she found her resources scrambled due to the silent civil war in the Wardens. She dare not go to Weisshaupt, since no word had come since Warden Stroud took the journey, fearing the worst had become of the remainder of her order.
She needed resources to study the Calling. And the Inquisition, lead by Divine Victoria’s new left hand, had them.
“Of course, an invitation has been extended to you if you wish to participate in our war council by Inquisitor Lavellan and Spymaster Arianni, if you wish to join and give your expertise. Although, a fair warning; Commander Cullen still remembers you,” Josephine continued, joking softly on the last line, stopping in the middle of the Great Hall outside her office. Ophelia snickered. She wondered who replaced Lelianna as the Inquisition’s cloak and dagger. It was fitting for it to be Zevran. How small the world truly was.
“Come now, Ruffles. She’s the Hero of Ferelden, I’m sure she has a plan to fix what Chuckles plans to break. She killed an Archdeamon and lived, for Andraste’s sake.” The graveled voice said in a sarcastic tone. Ophelia had to look down to see a dwarf in a very pointy crown, flanked by a nervous looking human man.
Josephine huffed. “Warden-Commander Tabris, this is Varric Tethras, Viscount of Kirkwall. He is visiting, as well.”
Ophelia’s eyes went wide. “Varric...”
The dwarf laughed, his revealed chest jumping up and down. “I see you have heard of me. So, which one was your first? Hard in Hightown? Tale of Champion?” Varric paused, placing a hand on his chin and stroking. “You don’t seem the type of enjoy Swords and Shields...”
Ophelia didn’t reply, but with a snap that could compare to a whip-crack, she fell onto one knee, bowing before the dwarf with a lowered head.
“My lady Warden-“
“On behalf of the Grey Wardens, I humbly apologize for the actions of Warden Anders and his crimes against your city-state. He was my charge, and I let him go knowing the danger of his condition. His actions were products of my mistake, and had I not let him leave my ranks, then we would not still be feeling the effects of his actions in Kirkwall.” Ophelia spit out, her voice strained. There was a profound silence, gossiping Orliseans and Chantry sisters stopping to watch the marvel that was the Hero of Ferelden’s dramatic apology.
”Woah, woah, the hell is this about? C’mon, up.” Varric grabbed Ophelia’s arm, and forced her back onto to feet, even though she could have stayed down given the dwarf’s stature. “You don’t owe me nothing. There isn’t anything you could have done that would have stopped the shitshow that was Blondie’s mess.”
“Anders was ambitious bastard that would have found a way, even if you were there. There’s no helping crazy, Tabby.” Varric patted her hip with his hand. “Besides, he is currently beaten out of the ‘weird shit’ category by whatever Solas is. What Anders did isn’t your fault, and it couldn’t have been stopped. But we have bigger problems now. Like not letting demons walk around like they own the place.” The elf woman’s head still hung low, her heart beating in a nervous patter now that she confessed to her deepest regret to one of those still living in the aftermath of Kirkwall’s mage uprising.
Varric’s smirk grew, looking at Josephine then back at Ophelia. “Tell you what; you help the people here kick Chuckles’ flat ass, and I’ll consider whatever debt you think you owe paid. Deal?” Varric extended a hand toward her, and she hesitated before taking it and shaking.
“Well, that is wonderful. Beating me to the punch, as always, Varric?” A new voice from the back of the hall had every head turn. Another elf with a black and gold wrap covering his left arm, a fiery mane of hair, a gaudy crystal pendant around his neck walked forward, smiling at Varric like he was an old friend.
“Ruffles was dancing around it.”
“I was not! I was respectfully introducing a honored guest to what Skyhold has to offer.”
The elf laughed in his chest, looking at Ophelia before extending his right hand. “Let me introduce myself. I am Inquisitor Vitya Lavellan. And, I am sure you are aware, Zevran Arianni has been tailing you since your arrival.”
Ophelia smiled before taking his hand and shaking firmly. “I wouldn’t doubt it.”
“It is an honor to be working with you, finally.”
“Likewise, Inquisitor. Likewise...”