9:31 Dragon 3 Parvulis Mid Morning
The North Road
Vigil's Keep loomed in the distance. Scaffolding encased the walls, and men crawled it across like ants, working to reinforce their defenses with the granite they'd found in the Wending Woods. In a way, it was reassuring. Anders didn't doubt the Keep would need protection with the darkspawn an ever increasing threat. Velanna was too hard on Amell, in that one respect. Amell was doing the best with what he had.
Anders still wasn't happy, but he lost his hold on his anger. When Amell stumbled and fell, Anders couldn't help but he a little concerned. Anders jogged over and knelt in the dirt beside him. Amell was on his knees, pale and sweating. He shouldn't have been walking at all.
"I can carry you the rest of the way." Velanna offered.
"No," Amell batted her hands away. "I have to walk in."
"You humans and your pride." Velanna huffed. "I should like to see you try."
Anders cast a simple rejuvenation spell, but there were limits to magic. He couldn't conjure any blood to replace what Amell had lost. Nathaniel dug into his pack and offered Amell a stamina draught.
"It's not his pride that matters, it's the people here," Nathaniel explained while Amell drank. "No one respects a weak ruler. My father never let anyone see him sick. He used to lock himself in his room for however long it took him to recover."
"Ridiculous," Velanna said. "Even leaders fall ill."
"That's what I'm always saying." Anders said. "You're not immortal. Let her carry you if you can't walk."
"I'm fine." Amell lied. "I just need someone's arm."
Anders was halfway to offering his arm when he remembered where they were. No touching allowed at the Vigil. The rule hadn't bothered Anders much before, but it bothered him now. What right did anyone have to tell him he couldn't be with someone just because he was a mage? What did Amell care what these people thought of him? They already thought less of him for being a mage. He was never going to win their respect.
Velanna had given Amell her arm again while Anders was bickering with himself. "Here. Now we'll just look pretentious fools, promenading about the courtyard. That is a human thing to do, yes?"
"If I was courting you, maybe." Amell said. "But it's a lot more subtle than leaning on anyone, so thank you."
"Velanna's a mage too, you know." Anders said, not jealous. "Why is it okay for you to walk with her like that?"
"Because everyone knows the Boss only buggers boys." Oghren said.
"Men, not boys, but yes, that." Amell said.
"How does everyone know that?" Anders asked. "How is that even anyone's business? I wouldn't have known if you hadn't told me."
"Okay," Oghren giggled and smoothed his hands over his beard, "Okay so this happened almost a year ago now, about a week or so before the whole coronation ceremony in Denerim. So-"
"Oghren. No." Amell said.
"Aw come on, it was fucking funny." Oghren protested, still giggling just thinking about his story.
"No." Amell said.
Oghren huffed. Amell kept on towards the Keep with Velanna, and Oghren grabbed Anders' wrist and dragged him to the back of their little group. "Okay," Oghren whispered. "So this happened almost year ago now, about a week or so before the whole coronation ceremony in Denerim."
Sigrun shoved in between them, whispering. "Me too. I want to hear this."
"So we're staying at the castle, yeah? And all these nobles blighters are fighting to get in good with the new Hero of Ferelden, throwing their daughters at the poor fucker left and right. You couldn't count the skirts. Dinner after dance after dinner, and the Boss's just got this look on his face the whole time, like he's trying to pass the biggest log you ever shit.
"So this one guy, some noble fuck, don't remember his name, he gets it right away, and then he gets it right away, you know what I'm saying? And then-hehe-and then-hehehe," Oghren giggled uncontrollably.
"And then what?" Sigrun asked. "What happened?"
"Hoohoohoo-and then..." Oghren stopped, looking up. "What the fuck is going on?" They all stopped.
Passing under the gates of the Vigil's outer courtyard, they walked in on a mob. The courtyard was crowded with nearly two score of folk, brandishing pitchforks and torches, rakes and other farm tools made into crude weapons. They were clambering to be let into the inner courtyard, but the steps were barricaded by a score of the Vigil's soldiers. The Seneschal and the Captain of the Guard were in between both groups, apparently trying to keep the peace.
"Oh look, the peasants are revolting," Anders said lightly. "After everything we've done for them."
"They are also causing quite a scene in the yard." Velanna quipped.
Anders laughed his first real laugh since Amell had cast his spell on him, and felt infinitely better.
"I was gone for a day." Amell said in quiet disbelief.
"This way, behind the cellar," Nathaniel gestured, "We can go along the wall for a better view, and try to make sense of what's going on."
They squeezed between the cellar and the outer courtyard wall, and circled around towards the stairs. They found a spot in the shadows, between another building and the inner wall, close enough to hear the shouting. "Open your granaries!" "Bloody feed your people!" "There are darkspawn in the fields!" "What happened to the Turnobles?" "Where's the Commander?" Nothing surprising, really.
The Guard Captain's reaction to the mob, on the other hand... "Damnit, Varel. Stop trying to reason with them." The Guard Captain snarled from the steps, hand on the hilt of his sword. "You don't coddle a revolt. You put it down. Give me the order."
"Maker, what an ass. Hurry up and get up there before-" Anders stopped. Amell had his dagger out. "What are you doing?"
"I'm going to disperse them." Amell said calmly.
"And then you're going to cut up an apple to celebrate, right?" Anders asked.
"Sure," Amell said. He set the blade of his dagger to the inside of his arm, where armor didn't protect him. Anders grabbed his wrist before he could make the cut.
"Oh boy, here we go." Oghren mumbled.
"Andraste's ass, Amell. Sigrun has the death wish, not you." Anders said.
"Hey!" Sigrun huffed.
Anders ignored her, "You were hemorrhaging. You went into shock. You try to cast in the state you're in now, and you're going to kill yourself."
"Anders, they're rioting," Amell explained patiently, as if he were a child. Maker, the man could make it so hard to like him sometimes. "And Garevel is right, you don't coddle a revolt. How else do you want me to disperse them?"
"I don't know," Anders said, "But not like this. I'm telling you, as a healer, you can't lose any more blood. Just-... shout them down, or something."
"Anders, look at me." Anders did. Amell's skin was ashen, dark shadows cast beneath his blood shot eyes the only color on him. His hair was a mess; the black strands flew wildly about his face in the autumn wind. The upper half of his armor was loosely buckled to compensate for the indentation over his right breast. He was... well, Anders hadn't been lying before. Amell looked awful. "Do you think I can convince anyone to do anything without magic right now?"
"You could at least try," Anders hissed to keep himself from shouting, "What happened to giving everyone a choice?"
"There is no choice here. They disperse or they die." Amell said flatly. "Do you want me to kill them?"
"I don't want you to kill yourself. You can't spare the blood." Anders said.
"I'll do it." Sigrun interrupted them, taking off her gauntlet. "They're just scared and hungry, and it's making them stupid. If we can send them home without fighting, we should."
"I will as well." Nathaniel said, similarly reaching for his glove. "This was my family's land until recently. I owe it to these people."
"No. Okay? No," Anders said. "You all lost more than enough blood while I was healing everyone. Every single one of you did."
"You didn't." Velanna said.
"What?" Anders asked.
"All you did was refresh the lifeward," Velanna said. "Not that I care if these people die, but if you truly wanted them safe, and none of us at risk, you could do it."
"Anders wouldn't-" Amell started.
"Fine." Anders took off his glove and rolled up his sleeve. Anders held his arm out, and Amell stared at him like he'd grown a second head. "I told you I didn't care about your magic." Using it to turn him into a mindless thrall was completely different than convincing a mob to leave peacefully, Anders reasoned. He might have been a hypocrite. "If you didn't believe me that's your own damn fault."
Amell held his arm, and Anders ignored the brief caress of his fingers. "It shouldn't take much." Amell promised, making a shallow cut on his wrist. It stung something mad, but Anders wasn't going to wince or whine in front of everyone. He rolled his sleeve back down, and put his glove back on, and they walked out from behind the building.
The Seneschal spotted them. "Make way for the Commander!"
"We will not be-" One of the rioters yelled.
"Quiet! Let the Commander speak!" Yelled another.
Velanna walked Amell up the steps. It was a miracle he didn't fall over. Anders didn't know whether the state Amell was in made him more or less intimidating.
"What happened to the Turnobles!?" Someone yelled. "We saw flames last night! Why aren't you protecting your people?"
"Open the granaries! My son is starving!" Someone else yelled.
"Down with mages! Down with the Wardens! We're not going to take this tyranny!" Yet another someone yelled.
"Go back to your homes." Amell said. Anders felt dizzy. He put a hand on Sigrun's shoulder to keep himself upright. "This is your only warning. Throw down your weapons and leave, or you and all your families will suffer."
That... was not what Anders expected him to say. He doubted Amell had needed blood magic. He delivered the lines so dispassionately even Anders thought he'd make good on the threat.
"You're bluffing!" Some brave bastard dared.
"Garavel, on my count." Amell said.
"Aye, Commander." Garavel said, fingering his sword hilt a little too eagerly for Anders' liking.
"Five." Amell said.
"They'll kill us!" Someone yelled. A hoe hit the ground. A rake followed. By the time Amell hit three, all of the peasants had disarmed.
"Go home. Do not come back." Amell said. "Garavel, have the men see them out. No incidents."
"You heard him, men." Garavel said.
The soldiers herded the peasants out.
"A timely arrival, Commander. You have my thanks." The Seneschal said. Anders still didn't like him. Anders could never remember his name, and there was just something unpleasant about his voice.
"Indeed." Garavel said. Anders didn't like him either. Anyone willing and waiting to butcher some poor farmers had to be an ass. "I gave similar threats before you arrival that went unheeded. I have no idea how you managed that."
"If the common folk just rose up on their own, I'll eat my boot," The Seneschal said. "I fear someone was behind this. Some conspiracy against you, or the Wardens."
"Or they were scared, and they were desperate." Garavel said. "You're paranoid, Varel. Commander, the Turnobles?"
"Dead." Amell said. "Darkspawn."
"They were well loved... Perhaps the people rose up for them." The Seneschal said. "That would be preferable to conspiracy."
"Can we meet for a full report?" Garavel asked. "My men should know what to look out for in the fields. Where they're coming from, their numbers, and the like."
"Of course," Amell said. He was still leaning on Velanna, unable to stand on his own, pale as death.
"No." Anders said. "Stop that. Maker, say no for once. Have you two even looked at him? He's dead on his feet."
Instead of looking at Amell, both men looked at him incredulously for speaking out. Well that was just too bloody bad. Anders was the healer here; he could say whatever he damn well pleased about anyone under his care. He looked back to Amell.
"You need to lie down, and stay lying down. Three days, at least. I'm not kidding." Anders said.
"Surely the Commander can spare an hour, before resting." Garavel said. Anders didn't like him at all. His freakishly large eyes and butt-shaped chin were bad enough without adding in a piss poor personality.
"No... No, Anders is right." Amell said. "We can meet in my quarters tomorrow, Garavel. I'll send for you. Dismissed."
"Commander." Garavel bowed, and walked back into the Keep.
"I would appreciate being present for this meeting as well. Commander." The Seneschal bowed and followed Garavel into the Keep.
"Say that again." Anders said.
"Say what again?" Amell asked.
"Anders is right." Anders said.
"Anders is right." Amell repeated obediently.
"Creators," Velanna rolled her eyes. "You take him, if you two are going to be like this."
"I'm not allowed to touch him, remember?" Anders said.
"I think it would be fine just this once, considering you're my healer and I'm injured." Amell said, sounding hopeful.
"There, see?" Velanna untangled her arm from Amell's and pushed him into Anders. "He's yours now. I'll come by when you're well again, and we can resume our lessons. Dareth, Amell."
"Ma serannas, Velanna." Amell said.
Velanna left, and the rest of the Wardens went with her. Anders felt abandoned.
Anders didn't want to take Amell back to his room. Anders wanted to be angry at Amell. Anders didn't want to wrap an arm around Amell's waist and bear half his weight through the Keep and up the stairs, lost in his scent and the memory of the forced obsession Anders had had with him.
Amell didn't say anything on the way up to his room, which was good. But he didn't walk like a patient, which was bad. Anders had to hold Amell's hand to keep his arm around Anders' shoulders, and Amell seemed to think it was an invitation to play with his fingers. They took a break on a bench in the second story hall. No one was about, save for the occasional servant.
They were alone in the hall when Anders took off his glove and rolled up his sleeve. The discomfort of dried blood peeling off his skin as the fabric pulled away made Anders hiss. He healed the cut with a simple spell, and Amell ran his fingers over where the cut had been.
"Why did you agree to do that?" Amell asked.
"You were going to do it one way or another." Anders said, rolling his sleeve back down. "You heard Velanna, I was the only one who could spare the blood."
"Thank you. For helping." Amell leaned on him, his head on Anders' shoulder. Amell obviously needed to lean on something, but it didn't have to be Anders. They were sitting, and the wall was right there.
Anders thought of shoving him off, but he didn't. Being enslaved had been horrifying, and Anders wanted someone to hug him or fuck him. The only person willing to do either was the same person who'd enslaved him in the first place. Anders turned his face into Amell's hair and inhaled, and swore he could feel the tension melt out of his shoulders. It was simultaneously soothing and frustrating.
"Ready to keep going?" Anders asked.
"Hmmnh?" Amell twitched, sitting up.
"Did you fall asleep on me?" Anders asked.
"No?" Amell lied, poorly.
"One more flight. Come on." Anders stood up and heaved Amell along with him.
They made it to the door and Amell handed him his keys to his room, unwilling or unable to unlock the door on his own. Anders got it open, and laid Amell down on the right side of his bed. The right side being the left side. Anders was helping Amell out of his boots when Amell finally broke the silence.
"Anders, can you talk to me yet?" Amell asked.
"No. I'm still mad at you." Anders said as much to remind himself as remind Amell.
"I'm sorry." Amell tried to hold his hand when Anders started unbuckling his greaves. Anders smacked him away.
"That word's not magic, you know. It doesn't undo what you did to me." Anders said.
"I know it doesn't." Amell said. "I just want you to believe me."
"Yeah, well. I want a pony." Anders said.
Amell stopped talking. Anders felt like an ass. Anders set Amell's greaves aside and reached for his gauntlets. Amell dodged him, rather feebly. "You can go. I can do the rest."
Amell moved like a snail taking off his gauntlets, but he moved. He could probably get out of rest of his armor on his own. "I'll go give the cooks a meal plan for you." Anders said. "Don't get out of bed unless you have to. The servants will bring you whatever you need, and I'll have my aide come check on you."
"Thank you." Amell said.
Amell got his second gauntlet off and set it on his nightstand. He didn't move after that, exhaustion in his every feature. Anders sighed and unbuckled his chest piece. "I can do it." Amell protested.
"Shut up." Anders said.
Anders undid the buckles and straps, and set the mess of dragonscale on the trunk at the foot of Amell's bed. Amell stared at him the entire time, not talking. Anders would have preferred a kicked puppy dog look to the one Amell was giving him. Amell didn't look wounded, or terribly depressed. Just resigned and tired.
Anders sat next to him. "You need anything else before I go?"
Amell put a hand on his shoulder. Anders stared at it, and after a brief moment of hesitation the hand became a hug. Anders let his frustration out in a hard exhale, and thought of prying Amell off him, but he wasn't that much of a bastard. Amell was trying, at least. Right now it was more than Anders was doing.
"I'm still mad at you," Anders said so they were clear. He wrapped his arms loosely around Amell's waist, and wasn't sure when he stopped allowing the hug and started enjoying it.
Not long later, Amell's grip went slack. Anders laid him down on the bed, and pulled the blankets over him. Anders pulled the keys Amell had given him out of his pocket, and went to leave them on the nightstand. His eyes drifted to the drawer, and the tiny key among Amell's set.
Don't be an ass, Anders.
Curiosity killed the cat. The last time Anders gone through Amell's things he hadn't liked what he'd found, and besides, there was no reason to snoop. It wasn't like Amell had had a chance to write about what they'd just been through. Anders had what? Seven lives left? He should save them for something worthwhile.
Anders was an ass.
He unlocked the drawer and picked up the journal, half expecting it to scream at him for the breach of privacy. It didn't. It was just a journal. Anders flipped it open, and the page it opened to had a sketch of the golem they'd fought in Kal'Hirol.
A pretty damn good sketch, actually. Anders didn't know Amell could draw. He turned a few more pages, and found other sketches between entries. There were awakened darkspawn, an elf that looked like Velanna and must have been her sister, the dragons they'd fought in the mines, Anders...
Anders stopped. One of the last filled pages in the journal had a sketch of him sleeping. It cut off at his stomach, where the blanket was tangled around his waist. Amell had imaginatively titled it 'Anders sleeping.' Anders flipped back through the journal, but there was just the one sketch of him.
Anders looked at the entry next to it, but it was completely unrelated notes about the state of the arling, recent tithes, a bit about the darkspawn sighting by the Turnobles. Nothing interesting. Anders closed the journal and put it back in the drawer. He locked it again, and left the keys on the nightstand before he left.
Anders went back downstairs, and left orders for a meal plan for Amell with the Vigil's cooks. He stole some milk from the kitchens while he was there for Ser Pounce-a-Lot before heading to the barracks.
He'd scarcely set foot in the door before he was promptly assaulted by Sigrun. "Is he okay?"
"Peachy. Why wouldn't he be?" Anders said. Ser Pounce-a-Lot emerged from under his bunk at the sound of his voice, and ran over meowing loudly. Anders set the bowl of milk down for him and heated it with his magic.
"Because a darkspawn stuck him like a warden-kabob?" Sigrun guessed.
"He's fine. He's had worse." Oghren said from where he was sitting over at the table. He'd changed out of everything but his trousers. Anders couldn't tell where his beard stopped and his chest hair began. "Stop fretting, my juicy little pomegranate. Come have a drink."
Oghren kicked out a chair for Sigrun, but instead of sliding expertly across the floor it toppled over. Sigrun rolled her eyes and picked it up. "I'm going to go help with the construction in the yard. You guys have fun."
"All work and no play makes for a shit sodding day," Oghren called after her. "What about you, Sparkles? Drink?"
"I'm going to change and get lunch, but then sure." Anders said.
Anders was glad Oghren didn't ask him anything about Amell when Anders finally joined him for drinks. Anders didn't want to think about Amell, and avoided him for the next two days. Anders sent his aide to check on Amell in his stead, wondering what he was even still doing here.
Anders could have on a boat to Rivain to enjoy the warm white beaches at Llomerynn by now. Instead he was freezing in Ferelden. This whole mess was a lot more complicated than Anders wanted it to be. All he wanted was a good friend and a good fuck. He didn't want all of whatever this was. The templars still had his phylactery, which meant the only safe place for him was with the Wardens, but at this rate Amell was going to get one or both of them killed anyway. What was even the point in staying?
On Anders' name-day, on the fifth of Kingsway, a servant came and found him while he was playing cards with everyone, and told him the Commander wanted to see him.
Anders climbed the stairs with a knot in his stomach. Oghren must have been rubbing off on him, because Anders felt far too sober for this conversation. The servant left him in front of Amell's room, and Anders was struck by the childish want to turn around and pretend he hadn't gotten the summons. He pushed open the door to Amell's room with a sigh instead.
Amell was in bed, and looked much better than he had two days ago. Instead of a ripped up tunic, he was in a Grey Warden doublet. The color was back in his face, and a strand of his hair was tamed into a braid and pushed back behind one ear. He looked nice.
"Feeling better?" Anders asked, picking a spot for himself next to Amell's bed. He couldn't decide what to do with his hands, and settled on fiddling with the corner of the blanket.
"A lottle," Amell said.
"...I just wanted to make sure you got your gift." Amell explained when he realized he wasn't getting more than the smile. He picked up a parcel from his nightstand, and slid it across the bed to him. It was about the length of Anders' forearm, and the width of his hand.
"This is pretty small for a pony." Anders said, tossing the parcel back and forth between his hands. It had a decent weight to it. It could have been anything.
"I'm still working on the pony." Amell said. "Did you want to open it?"
Not really. Anders untied the strings keeping the plain brown wrapping in place. Silver stared up at him, an eagle motif engraved into a pair of very fine bracers. Anders started laughing. He couldn't help himself. It was too ironic.
"You got me shackles." Anders laughed. Something in him snapped. "Andraste's knickers, that's too much. The blood mage who enslaved me got me shackles."
"I didn't have a choice, Anders." Amell said.
"Really? You went down to the jewelers and they were fresh out of everything except a shiny new pair of shackles?" Anders laughed. "You could have gone with nothing if these were your only options, I'm just saying."
"I didn't have a choice about the spell," Amell said. "The bracers-"
"Don't give me that." Anders interrupted him. "You had a choice. You could have let go of the ogre and let me heal you. You could have just kept fighting with ogre enslaved. You chose to enslave me. You chose blood magic. You always choose blood magic."
"You said you didn't have a problem with it." Amell said. "You were perfectly willing to heal everyone and help me quell the rebellion with it."
"Surprise!" Anders raised his hands sarcastically, "I'm a hypocrite. I don't mind when you're not using it on me, and I'm sorry, but I think that's a pretty okay thing to be hypocritical about. Do you have any idea how dangerous that was? I'm a spirit healer. I draw spirits and demons like shit draws flies. You risked my life doing that to me."
"I risk your life every time I take you on a mission." Amell said.
"This was worse!" Anders snapped. "Do you even know what that felt like for me?"
"Yes." Amell said. "I've been mind controlled twice by demons, but never by a mage who cares about me. I know what it's like. I was hoping you'd come talk to me about it. I want to be here for you."
"I don't want you to be here for me." Anders said.
Amell didn't react. Anders was expecting him to look surprised or hurt, but he didn't look anything. Somehow that was worse. Anders thought of Amell's sketch, and wondered for a moment if he was wrong about him. Maybe Amell didn't like him as much as Anders thought he did. Anders thought of all his hugs, and little touches. No... No Amell definitely liked him. He was just good at guarding his expressions.
Anders pressed on. "You like me a lot more than I'm used to people liking me, and that scares the shit out of me. I'm having a hard enough time figuring out how I feel about you without blood magic fucking me up. I want to like you, okay? I really do, and that scares me too, but you just... I need some space. I'll talk to you later, alright?"
Anders didn't wait for his answer. He turned around and went to the door, and was almost surprised when Amell didn't call after him. It made Anders doubt himself all over again. He glanced over his shoulder half expecting Amell to be nose deep in a book, Anders' rant already forgotten.
Amell had his face buried in his hands. Well that answered that. Anders felt queasy, but he left anyway. It wasn't worth it. If Amell was willing to enslave him for an edge up against the darkspawn, who knew what else he was willing to do? How well did Anders really know him, when Amell was sitting on a grimoire of demons and Compassion couldn't read his mind?
It was a bad hand. Anders was better off cutting his losses now before he cared any more than he already did. Anders wandered back down to the Warden's barracks. Everyone was still playing cards. Sigrun was winning, unsurprisingly, but Velanna wasn't half bad once she finally consented to playing with them.
"You weren't gone long." Sigrun said. "What did Amell get you for your name day? No way it was sex."
"Nothing special," Anders lied. "Deal me in next hand?"
"Sure." Sigrun said.
Anders dug Ser Pounce-a-Lot out from under his bunk. The little tabby howled in protest, and refused to sit in his lap when Anders sat on the bed with him. Anders let him go, and wasn't surprised when the little fellow ran back under the bunk. Anders didn't want to spend time with Anders right now either.
"So did you ditch him?" Oghren asked. For someone who was drunk more than half the time, Oghren was remarkably perceptive.
"I don't know." Anders said. "Maybe."
"Wait, what?" Sigrun looked over at him. Anders watched Nathaniel palm card from the discard deck when Sigrun looked away. Velanna saw as well, and pinched Nathaniel, but didn't tell. Anders chuckled a little. "Why?" Sigrun asked.
"Don't really want to talk about it." Anders said.
"I figured as much." Oghren said. He dropped his cards on the table, despite having a fairly good hand. Three angels played, with one in his hand. "I'm out."
Oghren got up and went over to his bunk, where he dug up a bottle of something Anders guessed was alcoholic.
"Seriously?" Anders said. "He still needs fluids. He shouldn't be drinking. It'll dehydrate him."
"He's gonna drink anyway, Sparkles." Oghren said. "May as well be with me."
"Oh come on," Anders rolled his eyes. "I said maybe. And besides, aside from being a little down, I'm sure he's fine. He's barely known me a few months."
"You know, Sparkles, sometimes it's not about you." Oghren said, rummaging through the mess on his bunk for another bottle. He stuffed both bottles under his arm, and headed for the door. "Sometimes people are just fuck-ups, and they know it, and it gets 'em down. And when that happens, there ain't nothing you can do but drink until it goes away."