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Accursed Ones

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9:31 Dragon 2 Parvulis Late Afternoon

The Turnoble Estate

Anders was not happy. There were a lot of reasons for that, but the first and foremost reason was lying in the dirt in front of him in dragonscale greaves and a torn up tunic. Healed or not, Amell was a mess, and not just because of his horrible helmet hair. An ugly pink scar ran across the right side of his chest, a remnant of the battle Anders couldn't heal. It reminded Anders of his own chest, the ogre squeezing the life out of him, and how Amell had saved his life. He should be grateful, but he wasn't.

He may as well own up to being a maleficar now. They'd all joined in on the blood magic-merry-go round. After Anders had healed Velanna's broken arm, Velanna had offered up her blood to heal the lacerations the shrieks had left on Sigrun's arms. Now they were all sitting around an unconscious Amell, woozy and drinking and generally making poor choices. Anders needed a nap.

"Do you guys want to hear a song we used to sing in the Legion?" Sigrun offered to break the silence.

"Please." Velanna said.

"Go for it, hot stuff," Oghren said, taking a swig from his flask.

"Why not?" Nathaniel said.

Anders could have done without the song, but he didn't say anything. He wasn't in the mood to argue, or do anything but sit in the dirt and pick broken glass out of his hand while he tried not to think.

"Somewhere there's a mother,
Crying for her daughter.
She's a legionnaire,
They sent her out to slaughter.
But don't you cry for her,
She don't need your sympathy.
She's a legionnaire,
And that's the best that dust can be.

Somewhere there's a father,
Crying for his son.
His son's a legionnaire,
In a war that can't be won.
But don't you cry for him,
He don't need your sympathy.
He's a legionnaire,
And that's the best that dust can be.

Somewhere there's a husband,
Crying for his wife.
His wife's a legionnaire,
And she's fighting for her life.
But don't you cry for her,
She don't need your sympathy.
She's a legionnaire,
And that's the best that dust can be.

Somewhere there's a woman,
Crying all alone.
Her lover was a legionnaire,
And now he's lost to Stone.
But don't you cry for him,
He wouldn't want your sympathy.
He died a legionnaire,
And that's the best that dust can be."

Everyone clapped, except for Anders, and not just because his hand was a mess. Why did every song have to be so bloody depressing? Anders agreed with Oghren. Their lives were bad enough without adding in horrible holidays and mopey music.

"I always really liked that one." Sigrun said, accepting a drink from Oghren's flask when he offered it. "If you replace legionnaire with warden, it kind of works for us, don't you think?"

"You're more than just a duster, or a legionnaire, or a warden, Sigrun." Velanna said kindly. Anders looked up, but no pigs were flying over head, about to shit on him. That was good. Pig shit in his hair sounded awful. "You don't have to wear a meaningless title to prove yourself to anyone."

"I just... think it's a nice song." Sigrun mumbled, passing the flask to Nathaniel. She picked up Anders' discarded scarf, and wiped the blood off Amell's face with it, "Amell would have liked it."

"I liked it." Nathaniel promised, taking a drink and handing the flask to Velanna. "Thank you for sharing. And our titles aren't meaningless."

"Of course the human noble would say that." Velanna said. She took a drink with the rest of them. Anders was stunned. Maybe some people could change. Not Amell, but some people.

Nathaniel ignored the jab. "Being a Warden means something. It's fine to be proud of it. We may not have saved these people, but these darkspawn will threaten no one else. I counted almost two score, all dead."

"You keep track of how many darkspawn you kill?" Anders asked. Velanna handed him the flask, and he took a greedy gulp with the assumption he'd earned it. The fire running down his throat and into his stomach did nothing for him. "We should compete."

"Sparkles, every one of us would whip your ass." Oghren said, grabbing his flask back. "You're the healer, dumbass. You kill maybe one for our five, not counting that firestorm thing back there."

"Indeed. That was tactically brilliant, Anders," Nathaniel said.

Anders gave him a queasy smile and said nothing.

"It makes no difference how many we kill when they breed like rats beneath the earth." Velanna said. "Unless we strike preemptively, our efforts are in vain. This horde should have been scouted out sooner. Amell is making poor use of his soldiers, spreading them thin between the roads and the farmlands and the city. He should pick one and guard it well, not fail all three."

"Hey, shut up." Anders said. "He's trying, okay? This just ... went to shit. This whole thing was just shit."

"So Sparkles," Oghren said, draining the last of his hip flask and pulling a second flask out from inside his chest armor, "I got a question."

"Whatever it is, no." Anders said.

"That bit back there, where you grew balls and a brain, and came up with a plan to save our sorry hides," Oghren said, passing him the new flask. "The firestorm, the orders, 'harry this, flank that'? Since when do you know shit about strategy?"

Kittens. Puppies. Happy thoughts, Anders. He took a long drink from the flask. It tasted like nothing, not even fire at this point. Anders passed it off, "Since an hour or so ago, obviously," Anders said. Maker's mercy, please let him drop it.

"Nuh uh." Oghren said, waggling a sausage-shaped finger at him. No such luck. Anders never had any luck. "I looked over when you were yelling out orders. I saw the pretty red lipstick you were wearing. That wasn't you at all, was it?"

"What are you talking about?" Sigrun asked.

"I'm talking about how the Boss puts more than just his dick in Sparkles' mouth," Oghren said, "Those were the Boss's orders back there, I'd bet my balls on it. Seen him do it before. Use blood magic to steal someone's voice, make 'em say shit they wouldn't normally say."

"Is this true?" Velanna asked.

Everyone stared at him. Bile gathered like a rock in Anders' throat and made his throat muscles quiver. He swallowed twice to force it back down, and took a deep breath through his nose. "Funny story, I really don't want to talk about it." Anders said.

"He did." Velanna decided. "He held two blood slaves and one undead servant, all while grievously wounded. That's fairly impressive, considering he had complex commands for each minion."

"So hey, remember how Nate just said titles matter?" Anders asked. "Maybe we don't call me Amell's blood slave or minion anymore."

"Did he speak through you, or just put the will to fight in your head?" Velanna asked.

"What was it like?" Sigrun asked eagerly.

"Could have sworn I already said this, but I really don't want to talk about it." Anders said.

"Why not? Did it feel bad?" Sigrun asked. "Did it hurt?"

"The red lipstick Oghren mentioned, this was blood, correct?" Velanna asked. They weren't even listening to him. "Do you know if the blood had to be in your mouth for him to have control of your voice?"

"I don't want to fucking talk about it, okay!?" Anders yelled. It shut all of them up. Good. Anders shoved himself off the ground, ignoring their surprised expressions. "I'm going to go take a piss or something." Anders muttered.

Anders walked away from them. The battlefield was a mess to cross. The field they'd fought in was littered with the bodies of genlocks and shrieks, and enough blood had been spilled to turn the ground into a sludge of black and brown, sucking up his boots with every step and making his departure far less dramatic than it could have been. Past the field, in the center of the small cluster of farmhouses was the wreckage of Anders' firestorm.

The small stone well had been singed an angry black. In a ten meter circle all around the well, the ground was black, the bodies of darkspawn piled high. Hurlocks, genlocks, shrieks, all of them burnt to into crisp, unrecognizable lumps. The ogre was the one exception, it's corpse like a black boulder in their midst. The smell of charcoal and cooked flesh was in the air, but it hardly bothered Anders now. 

It had worked. They'd won. That was something, at least.

"Anders, wait," Nathaniel called after him, following him across the field and back to the farmhouses. "We shouldn't travel alone, not after that ambush. There might be more darkspawn about."

"Fine," Anders walked around one the farmhouses and leaned against a window sill. He freed his cock from his trousers to piss on the wall, and didn't really care what Nate did in the meantime. Anders was still pissing when he decided to look in the window, and saw the bodies. "Maker's mercy," Anders said.

He shook himself off in a hurry and fixed his trousers. Inside the house, the dark silhouettes of women were swaying idly from the rafters in the main room. There were two that Anders could see, and doubtless more in the other houses. "Nate, inside. Maker-they're-... they hung them. Just like in the mines."

"What?" Nate walked over to look in the window. Anders summoned a small ball of mage light, and sent it through the glass. It lit up the inside of the house, and illuminated the women. Their clothes were ripped, their bodies bruised and bloodied. Their faces were pale and bloated, their mouths open. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and purple.

"Ashes we were, and ashes we become. Maker give these women a place at your side." Nathaniel said quietly. "At least the darkspawn didn't take them. I'll cut them down and lay them out with the men. We can make a pyre later. Give me a hand?"

"Alright." Anders said. Anything was better dealing with the fact that he'd literally lost his mind an hour ago. Anders kept his light summoned, and followed Nate into the farmhouse. The smell hit him like a bad analogy. It was awful, basically. Burnt flesh and charcoal were far more preferable to the raw stench of death, which smelled like shit and rot. Nate found a chair, and set it between the two women.

"Do you want me to catch them...?" Anders asked.

"I'd appreciate it," Nathaniel said. "It feels disrespectful to just let them fall."  

"Alright," Anders took up a spot under the first woman, and Nathaniel drew a dagger from his hip. Anders listened to the rhythmic slice of his dagger sawing through the rope, the strands snapping one by one until the woman dropped down into his arms. She landed with a loud moan from the gases in her body expelling, and Nathaniel fell off the chair he was standing on with a high-pitched shriek.

"It's just gas," Anders said. He should have laughed. Ordinarily, Nate's reaction would have been hilarious, but he didn't have it in him today.

"Right," Nathaniel said, rubbing at his chest. "Just gas. Right. Okay. Can you get her outside or do you need me to take her?"

"I got her." Anders said, dragging the woman out by her armpits. He laid her down on the ground, and ignored the stain she left on his trousers. He went back inside and helped Nate with the second corpse. They went through the rest of the five farmhouses like that, and dragged out thirteen women in total, five of them young girls. They also found a genlock emissary, huddled over a bowl of blood and channeling a spell. Nathaniel killed it with a quick dagger to the back of its neck.

"Do you suppose that emissary was the reason we couldn't sense the darkspawn here?" Nathaniel asked.

"Probably. I don't know enough about blood magic to know if that's possible, but why else would it be in here casting with this?" Anders nudged the bowl of blood with his toe. 

"... Anders-" Nathaniel started, voice uncharacteristically soft.

"Don't." Anders interrupted him. "Whatever you're going to say, don't."

"Alright." Nathaniel said, kneeling to pick up the dead darkspawn by its armpits. His polite silence made Anders curious. It was Nate, after all. Nate didn't care about all the nuances of blood magic. He wasn't going to ask him anything that would make Anders have to think about what had happened.

"... What were you going to say?" Anders asked.

Nathaniel stopped, and dropped the darkspawn just beside the door. He straightened out and brushed off his hands on his knees. "I was going to say I'm sorry. I know our group is a little... dysfunctional, and we can be insensitive. I can't promise I'll know what to say, but if you need to talk about what just happened, I'll listen."

"... Thanks, Nate." Anders said. "I don't want to talk about it, but thanks."

"Anytime." Nathaniel said.

"Are we friends now?" Anders wondered.

"I wouldn't go that far." Nathaniel said, but he was grinning. Anders decided they were friends.

"So where are we shacking up?" Anders asked.

"What?" Nathaniel asked, startled.

"Where are we shaking up? You know, what house are we going to go barricade ourselves in until Amell wakes up." Anders said. "What did you think I meant?"

"Nothing." Nathaniel said, kneeling down to pick the darkspawn back up.

"Did you think I was hitting on you?" Anders asked.  

"No." Nathaniel said.

"You thought I was hitting on you." Anders said.

"You flirt with everything," Nathaniel said. "It was a safe assumption." He dragged the darkspawn over to the mess at the well, and heaved it into the pile. "I think we should take refuge in the third house we cleared, the one with the second story windows facing east, so we can wake with the sun and be ready to travel in the morning. Assuming you think Amell will be fit for travel."

"Not really," Anders said, "He should be on bed rest for at least three days, but we could probably get him back to the Vigil if someone helped him walk."

Anders followed Nate to the house he chose, and helped him barricade the windows and doors with pieces of furniture.

"Velanna could help him," Nathaniel said, dragging a bookshelf in front of a window. "She's gotten better at the Dalish magic Amell's been teaching her. She still can't step into the Fade like he can, but the other day I watched her lift ten stones with ease."

"And she's gotten better at blood magic, apparently." Anders said, doing the same to another window.

"Are you trying to bait me into a fight, Anders?" Nathaniel asked.

"Nope," Anders said, "Just wondering if you knew."

"No." Nathaniel said. "I suppose you were right when you said they were close. I haven't seen her that distraught since we met, and her sister was in danger."

They finished barricading the first story of the house, and Anders took a minute to stretch. "I'll throw down some paralysis glyphs on the windows to the second story, just in case. If the darkspawn can ambush us like this, they can probably figure out how to scale buildings."

"Thank you." Nathaniel said. "We should post a watch, while we're taking precautions. I'm going to go bring everyone inside. Would you mind checking the larder for food? I don't think any of us brought rations outside of water. This was supposed to be an easy skirmish."

"No problem." Anders said. Anything that got him away from everyone. Anders went into the kitchen, and found the larder. He rummaged through jars and cloth sacks for the ingredients he assumed went into a soup. Anders wasn't a cook, but he could throw together something edible if he was forced.

There was no need for mages to learn how to cook, when the templars were all too happy to use the Tranquil for the free labor they provided. That, and learning any sort of basic life skills would give mages the ability to survive on their own if they ever escaped the Circle. Fortunately, Anders was resourceful, and a quick study, and he'd figured out the basics during his many escape attempts. A little hot water and a few vegetables, whatever meat chunks he could find, and tada, soup.

Anders summoned water for the cauldron in the kitchen hearth, and lit a fire with his magic. He cut up the vegetables he'd found, and when the water was boiling, he tossed in what he had. Lentils, a few carrots, some garlic gloves, an onion. A handful of thyme. Unfortunately, there were no meat chunks for Anders to use, but he found a jar of jerky and chewed on a piece while he waited for his soup to cook.  

Cooking beans smelled horrible. Anders was leaning against the counter, watching the cauldron in the fireplace, thinking very determinedly of nothing when Sigrun came in. "Hey. Nate said you were making us all lunch? Or is it dinner now? Linner? Dunch?"

"Linner." Anders said.

"Nice," Sigrun clapped her hands together, and wandered over to the hearth to peer into the kettle. "Phew. Stinks. So um... I know you said you didn't want to talk about it, but-"

"Please don't." Anders said.

"Jeez. Alright, fine. Can I at least thank you for healing my arms?" Sigrun asked.

"Sure. No problem." Anders said.

Sigrun left him to stew with his stew. Anders hummed to himself to keep his mind blank, and rummaged through the kitchen for bowls and spoons. It would take the soup almost an hour to cook. Anders didn't know what to do with himself in the meantime. He went outside and cast his paralysis glyphs on the windows, he paced, he ate odds and ends out of the larder, and eventually found a bottle of moonshine in one of the cabinets in the kitchen.

It kept him busy, and it kept him numb, and when the soup was finished he got himself a bowl and went into the main room where everyone was talking to tell them linner was ready, and that he'd take last watch. He went to the second story to eat alone. There were three bedrooms, and Anders could guess how they were going to split them. Anders picked a room at random and pushed open the door, unsurprised he happened to pick the one with Amell in it. 

The people who'd lived here had been farmers, so their bedroom was nothing special. There was a bed, an armoire, a vanity with a stool, and a wash bucket and chamber pot in the corner. Amell was on the bed; Velanna had laid him out on the wrong side. Amell slept on the left, not the right. His armor was already off, all of it stacked neatly in the far corner of the room. Anders ate, shit, washed, and changed into his smalls and his tunic before climbing into bed, where he sat staring at Amell.

Amell had apologized. He'd looked him in the eyes and said he was sorry. Then he'd turned him into a puppet with no will of its own, no better than a Tranquil. Worse than a Tranquil. Amell had left him completely at risk for possession. Anders was a spirit healer; he attracted spirits and demons, and was the last sort of mage who should have been left with no guards on his mind whatsoever.

Anders had even felt Tranquil by the end of the spell, unable to speak or even think for a few minutes. The single-minded need to kill darkspawn had completely eroded Anders' sense of self in the middle of the spell, and at the start... The blind obsession. The way the world had fallen away, and it had seemed as if Amell was the only thing that existed. Anders had never been in love  before. He'd never had the chance, and never expected to have it, but he'd rather feel nothing than the pale mockery of the emotion blood magic left him with.

Sorry wasn't good enough. Anders slept on the floor, and had nightmares of darkspawn.

He was shaken violently awake what felt like minutes later. Anders batted away the meaty hand on his shoulder, and almost puked when Oghren belched into his face. "Wake up, Sparkles,"

"No," Anders whined. His head was splitting pain, and Oghren's breath would have made him sick with or without the hangover. "Give my watch to someone else."

"Sig already took it. Felt bad for your sorry ass for some reason," Oghren said, kicking him. It wasn't a templars' kick, but it was close. The metal boot thudded into Anders' ass, and Anders sat up, irrationally furious. It must have shown on his face, because Oghren took a step back. "So what happened? You fall off the bed?"

"Sure," Anders said, standing up and stumbling over to his clothes' pile to dress.

"Bitch Tits made breakfast," Oghren told him, "Some sort of weird nutty elf egg thing, but it's not half bad. Bring you a plate? Can the Boss eat?"

"He can eat, but he'll need fluids when he wakes up. I think the well is ruined, but if you bring me a glass, some salt and citrus I can summon some water and make him a drink." Anders said. "And anything you can get me to help with a hangover."

"I can get you another drink." Oghren snorted.

"Sure," Anders said.

"Glass, salt, citrus, drink. Alright," Oghren hesitated at the door, and Anders tensed, but the dwarf walked out without a comment and he relaxed.

Anders put on his leather chest piece, stepped into his trousers and threw on his tabard, belted both, and put on his spaulders, his boots, and his gloves. He stared at himself in the vanity mirror, but there was nothing to feel handsome about when every piece was covered in darkspawn blood and dirt. Anders tied his hair back and waited for Oghren to come back with his food and his drink.

He came back with everyone, and Anders had to awkwardly shovel food into his mouth under their impatient stares while they waited for him to wake up Amell.

Anders threw together the drink for Amell, and took two shots of moonshine for himself to kill his hangover, and went to sit next to Amell on the bed.

Alright, Anders. It never happened. Nothing's wrong. Avoid the problem. That was the safe way to cope. After all, it had worked for Anders so far. Sure, he had no lasting relationships aside from his spirit, but that was unrelated. Probably.

Anders dispelled the veil of his sleep spell from Amell, after which he was tempted to leave. It wasn't possible. Nathaniel was standing behind him, and Oghren beside him, and combined they blocked his exit. Velanna sat on the other side of the bed, and Sigrun on the foot of it.

Amell groaned. Anders swore he heard the whole room let out a collective sigh of relief. Amell lifted a hand to massage at his face, and pushed back a mop of hair from his blood-colored eyes before settling them on Anders. Anders couldn't read whatever was in them.

Amell struggled upright, and opened his mouth to talk. A wheezing gasp came out. Anders handed him his drink, and Amell drank. He set the empty cup back on the nightstand. "What happened?" Amell finally managed.

"We saved you," Sigrun said.

"You overestimated yourself," Velanna said.

"You fucked up," Oghren said.

"We won the fight, and spent the night barricaded in one of the farmhouses until it was safe to wake you," Nathaniel said, "We found an emissary we believe was shrouding the horde so we couldn't sense them until they were on us.

"The darkspawn hung the women, as they hung the miners. We think, now that they've become more intelligent, they've also become more malicious. Killing and torturing, instead of going with their base instincts to eat and breed. We also heard their commander mention 'the Mother' when the fight started. We think they have another nest somewhere, with this 'Mother' leading them."

"Thank you, Nathaniel," Amell said. "The emissary, it would have been using blood magic. Velanna, did you get a sense for the spell it was using?"

"I wasn't there." Velanna said. "But I see where you are going with this. If we are to infiltrate a nest, we would benefit from such a shroud. I would be happy to help you try to replicate such a spell."

"Thank you," Amell said.

Barely awake, and the first thing Amell cared about was blood magic. Anders didn't have it in him to be surprised. Anders stood up and slipped around Nate to pour himself another shot of moonshine.

"And we saved you," Sigrun said again. "Well, mostly Anders, but we all helped. Oghren and I donated our blood so he could summon his spirit and heal you! How do you do that every fight? I felt so dizzy afterwards, I almost threw up the dinner Anders made,"

"We all almost threw up the dinner Sparkles made," Oghren snorted.

"... Anders?" Amell asked.

"Guilty," Anders said, raising his glass. "I'm a terrible cook."

"Why did you need to use blood magic?" Amell asked. "Is Cera denying you supplies again?"

"Squish," Anders mimed the ogre crushing him by making a fist, "Remember? Ogre broke all my potions."

"I'm sorry," Amell said. Anders gave him a smile made mostly of moonshine and lies.

"Oh please," Velanna said, "It is no fault of yours Anders overestimated himself and took too long to heal Nathaniel's legs. Aside from being so foolish as to get yourself stabbed, you did decently. Enslaving that ogre turned the tide of the battle, and your firestorm plan was well executed. I would like to learn more of the spell you used to manage it, when you have the time."

Amell was still staring at him. Anders kept up his fake smile despite the fact he was sure Amell could see through it. Anders doubted Amell wanted to have this conversation in public, but he'd never won a gamble before, and didn't want to risk it. Anders changed the topic, "You'll have to take it slow for a few days. I'd say bed rest for at least three, once we get back to the Vigil."

"Returning to the Vigil sounds like the safest option, if you feel up to it," Nathaniel agreed, "I don't feel comfortable camping out here any longer than necessary."

"I can help you walk, or carry you if need be," Velanna said.

"I'm sure I can walk," Amell said, finally looking down at his chest. He traced over the scar on his breast, and glanced around the room. "... my armor?"

"Buggered." Oghren said, fetching the discarded chest piece from the corner of the room and tossing it into Amell's lap. "So much for dragonscale, eh? That fucker who did you in was wearing dragonbone, I shit you not. I bet that pollaxe he was using was made from the same stuff. Where the fuck does a darkspawn get dragonbone?"

Amell stared at the armor in his lap, and fingered the ruined scales with a look of such profound loss Anders almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

"Hey, buck up," Oghren said. "Maybe we'll get lucky, and this'll be another Blight with another Archdemon, and that piss baby Wade can make you another set."

"Maybe," Amell agreed with a wan smile. He dropped his legs over the edge of the bed and tried to stand, and promptly toppled forward. Anders caught him, trying to ignore the way Amell's hands clung to him for support and gently squeezed him in thanks.

"Easy," Anders said, sitting Amell back down. "Take it slow. You lost a lot of blood. You should probably eat something before you try going anywhere." Anders picked up the plate Oghren had brought Amell, and set it in his lap. "Velanna made it, so don't worry. Or, you know, do, but her cooking's a lot less bitter than she is."

"It's scrambled eggs, with spinach, pine nuts, and seeds." Velanna said, throwing a frown in Anders' direction, "It's normally served with halla cheese, but I made do with goat."

"It was delicious, Velanna, thank you," Nathaniel said. Everyone chorused him.

"Thank you." Amell agreed, eating slowly.

"Alright, you blighters, he's alive," Oghren said. "We don't need to sit here and spoon feed him. Let's go get our shit and get the fuck out of here."

"I'm glad you're okay, Commander." Sigrun said, giving Amell's foot a squeeze under the blanket before hopping off the bed.

"Someone still needs to help him walk," Velanna said.

"Anders," Amell said. "Would you mind staying?"

"Yeah, sure. No problem." Anders lied, ignoring the ache in his stomach. Everyone filed out, and Anders was left alone with Amell.

Traitors. Anders rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, and rubbed sweat off his palms on his trousers.

"Are you alright?" Amell asked, setting his plate aside.

"Me? Peachy." Anders lied again. "Just a few cuts on my hand, no big deal. What about you?"

"I'm alive," Amell allotted.

"Good to know," Anders said, "You're so pale I wasn't sure."

Amell's smile looked a little uncertain, "Flatterer."

"Actually, yes," Anders said, "If I knew any reanimation spells, right now I'd be worried I cast one. You really do look awful. Any trouble breathing? Chest pains? Anything?"

"Tired, and a little dizzy," Amell confessed.

"No surprise there. You lost a lot of blood and went into shock. So you know, you should eat." Anders gestured at Amell's abandoned plate, and took a few aimless steps around the room. Keep it together, Anders.

"Anders... I'm sorry. For the spell." Amell said.

"Hey, you know. Whatever." Anders shrugged, intending to stop there, but the rest of the words slipped out when they proved too bitter to swallow. "You're a blood mage. It's what you do."

"It's not." Amell said quickly. "Anders, if I thought I had any other-"

"So, I've got an idea." Anders interrupted him. "Let's just not do this, how's that sound? Just eat and get dressed, and I'll help you downstairs."

"I'm sorry." Amell said.

"Yeah, you said that already." Anders said.

"Anders, please talk to me." Amell begged.

"You don't want me to talk to you right now." Anders said. "Eat. Get dressed. I'll help you downstairs."

Amell spent a long minute looking at him. Anders held his stare, and was almost surprised when he won, and Amell broke off. Amell ate in silence, and dressed in silence, and Anders slid an arm around him and helped him stand in silence.

Amell still smelled like the Fade, like blood and sweat. He still felt the same, firm and familiar. Anders hated how much he'd grown to like him. The arrogant ass probably thought Anders didn't want to talk because he was afraid of him, or something like that.

"Anders-" Amell tried again when he was standing.

"No." Anders said.

They walked downstairs in silence, and Anders passed Amell off to Velanna. Everyone gathered their things went outside, where the bodies from the Turnoble estate were laid out atop a makeshift pyre the others must have put together last night. Broken tables and chairs from the other houses made up most of the kindling.

"Should we say something?" Sigrun asked.

"Why?" Velanna demanded. "We didn't know these people. Light the pyre and be done with it."

"Draw your last breath, my friends. Cross the Veil and the Fade and all the stars in the sky. Rest at the Maker's right hand, and be Forgiven." Nathaniel said.

Anders cast a fireball onto the pyre. Velanna cast a second, and the flames devoured the bodies. They left the estate behind them, and walked back to Vigil. Velanna supported Amell, and Nathaniel walked with her. Sigrun walked with Oghren.

Anders walked by himself, and ignored most of the conversation. The isolation didn't make him feel any better, but it also didn't make him feel any worse.

That was something, at least.