Fenris wasn’t quite sure there was something wrong at first. There were times that Anders would stop during a conversation as if another person had interrupted-and Justice had indeed interrupted-but the mage was still always present.
The first time he stopped mid-sentence while talking with Fenris and looked through him, well, it had been years since Anders’ behavior unsettled him like that.
When Anders finally pulled his attention back to Fenris, the entire conversation was lost.
“Anders, the mages…”
Fenris watched Anders blink and look over the charges in their camp. They were escorting several young mages from the fallen Jainen Circle, and had stopped just outside the port town of Jader.
Fenris kept his voice, his countenance even as he asked,”Are you well? Justice does not usually make you forget a conversation.”
Anders glanced over Fenris’ shoulder; a look of panic briefly crossed his face before his eyes closed.
“I’m sorry Fen, just tired.” The mage opened his eyes once more to meet Fenris’ gaze.
Fenris pulled Anders down with him in the bedroll they shared. He pulled the mage’s leg over his hip before using the same hand to gently hold his chin steady. Nose to nose. Anders’ breath a warm caress on his lips.
“We will not travel into Orlais, not with Templars running about.” He watched Anders’ eyes carefully, he’d never seen the circles beneath them so dark before. “We should see what Varric knows about the rebels leaving Redcliffe. If this Inquisition has taken them in, these children will be safest there as well.”
Anders didn’t reply right away. Upon hearing the word Inquisition, his eyes became glass. Fenris felt the body against his own tense as if ready to flee at any moment.
“Hush, mage,” he soothed, running his thumb along the scruffy jaw held in his hand, “They will not have you. We can arrange to meet a party well outside their walls-”
Anders flinched away when Fenris’ thumb brushed just behind his jaw.
The markings on his hand flared and the mage kept his eyes to the bedroll. Fenris was unsure if it was to protect his eyes from the glow or the concern on Fenris’ face. After he leaned in closer to inspect the jaw closer, Fenris suddenly scrambled to pull both of them up to a seated position. There-right behind Anders’ jaw and down his neck-a trail of deep purple bruises that marched down his collar. Fenris’ hand hovered over the area, lighting up their faces. The mage still wouldn’t look at him.
A growl of panic and frustration escaped as he went to pull the collar down further when Anders finally spoke.
“I.. I hear it.” His voice was so soft and small.
No. My mage is not weak, this is not…
“It’s been getting louder since we passed Lake Calenhad. The…the song. My bruises…I can’t heal them. I can’t even feel Justice...” Anders grabbed Fenris’ wrist as he choked out the words. “We’re not far. Not far from Orzammar, but…”
Anders grip turned into a vice as his amber eyes locked onto Fenris, tears running down his face. “ I don’t want to die in the dark .”
Fenris quickly threaded his fingers into blonde hair that had become far too long on the run. Without a word, he softly kissed the streaks of tears on Anders’ cheeks. Each touch of Fenris’ lips upon his salty wet skin caused the mage to shake until he finally let go.
Anders crawled onto Fenris’ lap and wept, arms around his neck and the elf’s tunic balled up in his fists. Fenris wrapped his arms tightly around Anders’ trembling body. Afraid that if he didn’t, the mage would fall apart and he would never find all the pieces.
In between the gasping sobs, Anders forced his breathing to even out, and whispered into Fenris’ ear. “We’ll take the children to Skyhold.”
It was Fenris’ turn to tense up.
“I need to face them. They’re helping mages and maybe that means...,” he paused for a few labored breaths, “Maybe that means I’ll be safe.”
Anders leaned back into the arms that held him, released his hold on Fenris’ shirt, rested his forehead against the elf’s own.
“I’ll take whatever punishment they give me. If I die, at least I’ll die under the sky.”
Fenris dropped his arms in search of his lover’s hands. He held them just shy of too tight as he brought them to his lips.
“Promise me, Fenris. Promise me… if of all things they decide to…,” he squeezed Fenris’ hands in return, “ Promise me .”
Fenris took both of Anders’ hands in one hand and cupped the mage’s jaw with the other as he kissed him with a passion that rivaled their first night together. He pulled away just enough that his words literally touched the mage’s lips when he answered. “Anders, you will leave this world knowing that I love you,” he whispered, voice trembling, “And when you tell me for the last time, you will mean it.”
He felt, rather than saw, the watery smile that broke out on Anders’ face.
The silence hung between them as Anders gently pushed Fenris back down onto the bedroll.
The next morning they set out with their charges for Skyhold.
Anders and Fenris make it to Skyhold.
Soooo, TearsofWinter needed a happy ending, and I've officially crossed the first WiP off my WiPlist.
Many thanks for Pikestaff for give this a beta pass, and to the folks in the Weird Shit chat for sprinting with me :D
ALSO, QUICK HEADCANON NOTE: I imagine that the False Calling was more than just hearing the call, i think the other effects (bruising, sores, etc) of starting to become darkspawn were affecting the Wardens as well. It had to be more than just the SONG to make them that desperate... or at least in my head... and that's why Anders is showing physical signs in addition to the Song.
Fenris watched as Anders pulled on the long dress in the limited morning light that filtered into their tent. He crawled forward into the mage's space to run his fingers through locks of silver and gold to loosen the tangles and ensure the long tresses extended beyond the cloak's hood. He took a moment to run a thumb against the freshly shaven skin of Anders' chin. The mage's thin frame was most easily disguised when he dressed as a woman, and today they were walking directly into Skyhold.
Fenris secured his own cloak around his shoulders as Anders pulled up the hood of his own. They held a small, silent conversation in their shared gaze. With a final, sharp nod from Fenris, Anders parted the tent, Fenris following close behind.
They entered Skyhold with their group of young mages; both surprised as well as thankful that they were only a handful of pilgrims filing into the ancient keep. Once they reached what looked like an open market, Fenris gave Anders' hand a squeeze and found an Inquisition soldier to find Varric's location. Anders pulled his hood further down and huddled the mages around him.
Anders gripped his staff tight, focused on his breathing, and kept his eyes to the ground. Two of the older children were instructed to be his eyes, to shuffle them towards Fenris if any authoritative figure seemed inquisitive.
It seemed like hours before Fenris' gauntleted hand curled around his own on the staff. Anders could make out the elf's tattooed feet as they walked into his line of sight.
"I was informed I needed to bring the mages to the far tower. They will be assigned rooms and mentors. On our way, there is a small tavern. Wait inside, out of sight, I will find you there."
Fenris cautiously pulled on the staff to signal it was time to move and allowed Anders to fall to the back of the group as he escorted them through the courtyard. He looked over his shoulder to watch the mage come to a standstill as they passed what was called 'The Herald's Rest.' He took the time to memorize everything about his mage in that moment. Now that they arrived, any moment Anders could be taken away.
With a heavy sigh, he pulled his gaze away and opened the door to the tower for the mages.
Anders stared at the Herald's Rest. In theory, separating from Fenris sounded like the best idea. Now that he was by himself, not far off from where warriors were taking out frustrations on target dummies, he finally felt how exposed he truly was. He slowly counted to ten.
"Are you insane?" The harsh words hissed in his ear as someone grabbed his staff and wheeled him around. Forgetting all self-preservation he lifted his head and came face to face with Garrett Hawke.
Hawke had of course seen through the disguise, it had actually been his idea to begin with when they first left Kirkwall.
"We've been trying to get ravens to you, there's things you need to know, and we were trying to keep you away from here. The Inquisitor is a mage but this whole operation is Chantry backed." The Champion grit his teeth in frustration. "C'mon, come inside and we'll talk."
They made it halfway to the Inn's door.
"Champion, I'd like your help training the recruits this afternoon. It's been a while since they took on a mage in hand to hand com-- Maker. "
Hawke quickly stepped between Anders and Cullen. "Cullen, please. I need to talk with him. Once we get things straightened out, he leaves. No one touches him."
The Commander of the Inquisition forces returned a cold stare. "I wish I could let you do that, Hawke, but this is above us all. He needs to be brought to judgement." He motioned to the group of Inquisition soldiers that had slowly moved towards the scene that was unfolding in the yard. "Don't make me silence him. He doesn't need more attention right now."
Hawke wrapped his arm around Anders and gave him a small squeeze, keeping the connection as they were escorted to Skyhold's dungeon.
Three days Anders sat in the dark cell. His only company an old Tevinter magister that refused to speak to him. Not that Anders had anything to say to the man either.
Three days and nights with the song echoing through his mind.
No one had come since Cullen made Hawke leave without further discussion.
He just wanted to see Fenris. If they were going to judge him, they needed to get it over with. It was only delaying the inevitable. He was dying. Whether it was to an Inquisition hangman or to Fenris' fist, the end was coming and this stay of execution was cruel.
The door the the dungeons slammed open. From his position against the cell wall, Anders could see Fenris searching the cells by sight.
"Fenris." Anders called out as he pulled himself up the wall. Both hands, spotted with the taint's bruises, gripped the the bars of the cell to put him in sight of his lover.
When Fenris' green eyes finally snapped to his cell, the anxiety of the night outside Jader returned full force. The elf swiftly moved across the stone floor and within seconds stood before Anders. A flash of sorrow crossed Fenris' face as his markings lit up the dungeon.
Anders panicked and pushed off the bars. There were supposed to be words.
He promised. He promised that he would tell me that he loved me one last time. He promised that I would tell him--
The elf had phased through the bars and solidified around Anders, holding him just shy of too tight.
"Anders..." The elf choked as he dug his face into the side of Anders' neck. "Anders, you're not dying."
Tears of relief slid down his face as he willed his arms to return the embrace.
When the two were finally interrupted by an overly animated Hawke and Varric coming to open the cell doors, Fenris had filled Anders in on the past three days.
The thing that Hawke had tried to pull him into the Inn to talk about was that the Calling he was hearing wasn't real. All the Wardens stationed in Orlais had succumbed to Corypheus' trick, mages more than anything.
As for his trial, the Inquisitor had opted to hold judgement without the accused in attendance, mostly for his own safety. While there were plenty of people willing to tear him down, the only Templar that had been present in Kirkwall was Cullen. Surprisingly, the man made a quick speech about second chances and the room erupted in shouting.
The group of mages they escorted to Skyhold offered their testimony. They spoke of a mage that had the heart of his brethren in mind. Both Hawke and Fenris spoke on Anders' behalf but it was two mages from Kirkwall whose voices were the loudest.
They showed their gratitude to Anders. If not for him, they would have been dead in their sleep from the Annulment that was called on them by Meredith. A single person should not hold such power over so many lives, and Anders gave them a chance to live.
The room was cleared for the Inquisitor to make their decision. Fenris stalked the training grounds as the sun dipped below the horizon. It was Varric that appeared to deliver the news.
Anders pulled his hair back off his face and held his staff openly in the courtyard once more. Fenris sat on the back of a sturdy mare that the Inquisitor was willing to part with. Anders would leave with his magic and with his life.
He was exiled, to give those who wished him dead some satisfaction of punishment, but it was truly that he would never be safe in Skyhold with those people around. The Inquisitor supplied them with enough equipment and food to last them weeks; to find a place wherever they could settle away from the things that chased them. They assured Anders personally that they bear him no ill will, and that if they hear anything from the Warden about a Cure, he’ll be the first to know.
Anders sidled up beside the mare and looked up at Fenris. The elf leaned over and lifted the thin mage bodily off the ground and helped him get settled in front.
With a promise to Hawke and Varric that they would send a raven from wherever they ended up, Fenris led the mare down the path away from Skyhold. Anders leaned back against Fenris' chest and sighed, feeling lighter than he had in years. Fenris chuckled at his mage and slid a hand inside Anders' cloak to rub gently down his chest.
"Where shall we go?" Fenris asked.
"As far from Orlais as possible, but as long as it's with you, I don't care."
Fenris kissed the mage's temple, mentally making plans for the years the Maker was kind enough to give back to them.