9:31 Dragon 13 Parvulis Evening
Crown and Lion Common Room
"Alright you blighters, we're playing Oghren style." Oghren said, shuffling his deck of naked dwarven women. "Serpents high, Angels low, fuck the in-between. You draw the Angel of Death, you play that shit. I mean it, Archy, no holding onto the endgame card till you like your hand. There's cheating, and then there's cheating.
"We're playing for shots. Winner drinks, and you wanna drink. This is Golden Scythe, 4:90 Black." Oghren shoved a crystal flask to the center of the table. "They served this swill by the drop back in the army. We're talking so strong it'll make you shit your innards."
"Well when you put it like, who wouldn't want some?" Anders said.
"You'll die happy. Trust me, Sparkles," Oghren said, dealing.
Anders picked up his cards, and had to wipe grease off a few of them. His hand was rubbish, as usual. A knight, a dagger, a song, an angel, and a serpent. Sigrun was already moving cards in her hand, something that only made sense if she had more than one of the same suit. Unless she was bluffing. Anders had no idea. He was terrible at this game.
On his first turn, Anders discarded his angel, and drew another angel. It figured. He ate a handful of nuts from the bowl they were sharing, already resigned to his loss. "So do the Dalish have any card games?" Anders asked. "You know, like Wicked Grace or Diamondback?"
"Not in my clan." Velanna actually answered him. "We played with dice, and gambled our chores. I used to cast a bit of nature magic to stir the ground, and turn the dice in my favor. Seranni knew I cheated, but she could never figure out how. She would get so angry," Velanna smiled fondly. "She pushed me into an icy river for it. Twice."
"I like her already." Anders said.
"Seranni loved halla. She was training to be our halla keeper. I'm sure she would have liked you too." Velanna said. "You bleat incessantly and startle just as easily."
"I have a fire balm in my pack if you need it, Anders." Nathaniel said.
"Nice." Sigrun giggled, "What about songs? Do you know any Dalish songs we could hear?"
"They are mostly in Elvish." Velanna said.
"Most? So not all of them?" Sigrun asked.
"Not all, but I won't be singing anything, so put it out of your mind." Velanna said.
Two hours later, and Velanna still hadn't changed her mind, no matter how Sigrun pleaded. Oghren had enjoyed a winning streak that left him completely sloshed, and had passed out on the table, but they carried on without him. Anders hadn't won a single hand. No surprise there.
"Just sing one in elvish, then." Sigrun begged, for at least the fifth time that evening. "I hear you talk in Elvish all the time, and it sounds so pretty. I bet singing it would be even prettier."
"I said no." Velanna said. "Leave it be."
"But Amell sang a song. I sang one. We could all sing one. It could be our thing." Sigrun said eagerly.
"I don't want us to have a thing!" Velanna snapped, throwing her cards on the table. A damn shame, that. She had a good hand: two angels and two songs. "I joined this Order to find my sister, not to make friends, or to play this stupid card game, or to care about durgen'len or shemlen. Ma din lethallinen."
Velanna shoved back her chair and stood.
"Velanna-" Amell started.
"Leave me be." Velanna snapped. She stormed out of the common room and up the stairs to her room without a word.
"What did that mean?" Nathaniel asked.
"You are not my clan." Amell translated.
"Oh... man," Sigrun sighed. She folded up her cards and set them all down to rub her face. "Now I feel bad."
"Me too, and I'm not even friends with her." Anders said.
"No, ugh," Sigrun muttered. "I mean I feel bad because I pushed her. Most of her friends and family are dead, but she's alive. I know what that's like. Being with you guys, having fun like this... It makes you forget losing everyone, but when you remember... How do you not feel guilty?"
"Dying with them wouldn't have saved them, Sigrun." Amell said.
Sigrun ran her hands through her hair and tousled it. She took another look at her cards, set them back down, and stood up. "I'm out. Goodnight guys."
"As am I," Nathaniel said, leaving with her. "Goodnight, both of you."
Well. Game over. Which meant the Golden Scythe was fair game. Anders poured himself and Amell shot. "And that is why I hate All Soul's Day," Anders said when everyone but an unconscious Oghren was gone. "Who wants a whole holiday to celebrate feeling like that? If you ask me, the past is in the past, and the dead should stay dead."
"He said to the necromancer." Amell said.
"Excluding necromancy." Anders said as his toast.
"Excluding necromancy," Amell parroted.
Anders clicked drinks with him and knocked his back. It was like drinking sunlight; it burned his face, set his blood on fire, and it made his toes tingle. Anders coughed. "So hey. I know you were cheating on a few of those hands. There's no way you got four serpents that last round. I know because I discarded one of them. How did you manage to grab it?"
"Magic." Amell said.
"Haha. You're a riot." Anders gave Amell's chair a kick, "Come on, tell me. We both know I can keep a secret."
"Magic." Amell said again.
"Fine, be that way." Anders pouted. One of the many abandoned cards on the table stood up on its own. It floated midair for a few seconds, and then drifted leisurely across the table. Amell caught it, and rolled it over between his fingers.
Amell wore smug well. His smirk touched only the right side of his lips, and shadowed his eyes. It made Anders think of him on his knees, looking up. "You sneaky bastard." Anders said. "Telekinesis, right?"
"Mhm." Amell said, still with that painfully provocative look on his face.
Anders knew himself well enough to know Golden Scythe wasn't the only thing making his face hot. Amell set the card down, and made a come hither gesture with his hand. Anders hair fell down around his face, and his hair tie floated over to land in Amell's hand.
Okay. Bedtime Anders. Make smart choices.
"I've got to learn that one sometime," Anders said, forcing himself to stand up instead of doing any of the things his dick was telling him to do. "Anyway, do you need help getting Oghren back to his room, or are you good?"
"I'm good." Amell handed him back his hair tie without any silly finger brushing. Anders appreciated that. "Goodnight Anders."
"Night." Anders said.
Anders went back to his room and locked the door. Stripping impatiently out of his clothes, he threw himself down on his bed. Anders spit on his hand and slapped his cock against his thigh until he was hard. It didn't take long, thinking of Amell's smug grin, and how he always wore it on his knees. That look that always seemed to say he knew exactly how good he was with his tongue, and the ecstatic one that replaced it as if there was nothing more he wanted than Anders' cock in his warm, wet mouth.
"Fuck me," Anders hissed, cumming messily over his thigh and onto his stomach. He needed the release, but it was nothing compared to sex. Anders probably could have found someone, a barmaid here or at the Pilgrim's Rest, or a cheap prostitute if he was desperate, but he didn't want a stranger.
He wanted Amell. Amell was the one who'd protected him from templars, from demons, from darkspawn. Amell was his friend, and Anders didn't have many. Amell had said he was sorry, and Amell was always saying men were more than their mistakes.
Anders grabbed a handful of the sheets and cleaned himself off, and rolled out of the sweat spot he'd made. He was undeniably tired, but he lay awake anyway. Amell's room was right next door. Anders didn't have to sleep alone. Indecision kept him in bed, and Anders had almost fallen asleep when the walls rattled, and a door slammed.
Curious, Anders climbed out of bed, and threw on his trousers. He unlocked the door and poked his head out into the hall. Velanna was there, in full uniform and fighting to put on her boots. Anders could not imagine the soles of that poor woman's feet. It was sheer madness to him that Dalish didn't wear shoes.
The door to the room next to him opened as soon as Velanna won the battle with her boots. Nathaniel stumbled out shirtless, and still lacing up his trousers.
Oh. Oh boy.
"Velanna wait!" Nathaniel called. "Please don't go. Talk to me."
"Ir abelas." Velanna said, running out of the hall.
Anders blinked. Nathaniel ran after her without sparing him a glance. Poor sob. There was no winning with that woman. Out in the hall, Anders stared at Amell's door, indecision making lead of his feet. ... No. No, best not. Anders went back to his room and lay back down.
He'd been lying down for perhaps ten minutes when he heard someone knocking. Not on his door, but on the door to the next room over. Considering Nathaniel and Velanna had abandoned the room on Anders' left, it had to be someone looking for Amell.
Anders heard the sound of a door opening, and a muffled conversation. A short while later, and he heard the door close, followed by foot steps. Curiosity quickly got the better of him. Anders got out of bed again, and opened his door quietly.
The hall was empty, but Anders heard voices in the common room. Anders wandered out onto the second story gallery and peered down. The Crown and Lion was perfect for eavesdropping, really. A half wall on the second story meant Anders only had to sit to overhear everything going on below.
Not that Anders would do something like that. Anders respected the privacy of his friends. Whatever Nathaniel wanted to talk to Amell about was none of Anders' business. Anders should just go back to his room, beat another one out, and go to sleep.
"Bottle of brandy. West Hill, if you have it," Amell was saying to the night bartender. "And ten silver for privacy."
"No West Hill," The bartender said. "We got White River, though. Privacy's free, just come knock on the door to the kitchens when you're done out here, Commander."
"Thank you." Amell said. Anders heard the clink of glasses, footsteps, a door closing.
"Thank you," Nathaniel said. The poor sob sounded wretched. "I'm sorry. I didn't know who else to talk to."
"It's fine, Nathaniel." Amell said, and poured them drinks. The sound reminded Anders he could use a piss. It was one of the many things he could have been doing instead of eavesdropping. Anders kept sitting. "I wasn't asleep anyway. Tell me what happened."
"I wish I knew." Nathaniel said. "I went to go talk to her, just to make sure she was alright but she was so distraught. About her clan, about her Keeper's death and what you learned about Seranni... I hugged her, and that turned into a kiss and one thing led to another...
"Maker, I don't know what I'm doing. I don't have any experience with this sort of thing. My time abroad wasn't spent chasing skirts. I've only been with one other woman, and it was a scandal that got me sent to the Free Marches in the first place. Velanna and I, I thought we were close, but afterwards...
"She got dressed so fast. Told me it was a mistake, that it never should have happened. I'm not claiming any sort of magical sexual prowess, but I'm not that bad. She said ... I think 'I'm sorry', in Elvish, and ran away, and I can't track that root magic that lets her teleport.
"I tried so hard to show her that human doesn't mean evil, to court her like any man courts any woman, no matter the race. I never meant for this to happen. You're her friend. Before this, did she even like me? Did she talk about me? Do you think I ruined everything? What do I do here?"
"Velanna tolerates me for the memories in my head, Nathaniel." Amell said. "You're the only person who's completely human she spends any time with, and I know she wouldn't do that if you didn't mean something to her. And she does talk about you. When she first came to the Vigil she asked me a handful of questions about you and no one else."
"... Really? What sort of questions?" Nathaniel asked.
"About your family, your past... Your favorite color, recently." Amell said. "I guessed black."
"It's black." Nathaniel said.
"Dalish don't court the way we do." Amell continued. "They have bonds, usually with someone they grow up with, and it's a lot more serious for them. No one ever did that with Velanna. The men in her clan were intimidated by her, and I only know that because she told me after you got her that malachite. For all I know you're the first man she's ever been with.
"She likes you, Nathaniel, but you have to understand the stigma Dalish have around humans. Being with you would mean exile for her, if she wasn't an exile already, and I don't know that Velanna has really accepted her exile. I know she wants to find her clan and apologize, but I don't know if she expects them to take her back, or if she wants to keep being a Grey Warden. I don't know if Velanna knows."
"So what do I do?" Nathaniel asked.
"Give her time." Amell said.
"That's it? I just wait? I don't know if I can just sit and do nothing without going mad." Nathaniel said.
"I could try talking to her, if you want me to," Amell said.
"I do. Thank you," Nathaniel said.
The two were silent for so long Anders decided it was time to slink back to his room. He started crawling away when Nathaniel spoke up.
"How are things with you and Anders?" Nathaniel asked.
Anders sat down so quickly he fell over.
"I don't know." Amell said. "We still talk, but I don't know if he'll ever forgive me."
"I can't say I blame him." Nathaniel said. Anders liked him. "You have to know what you did to him was a gross violation."
"I know what I am, Nathaniel." Amell said.
"I don't mean to say that there aren't merits to your magic, but some verses are in the Chant for a reason. Transfigurations 1:2. Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him." Nathaniel quoted piously, "I can't think of a more fitting verse here."
"I can. Threnodies 8:27. Andraste 7:12." Amell said. Anders had no idea what those verses said, but it probably wasn't 'blood magic is okay sometimes.' "When I say I know what I am, I don't mean a mage. I mean a Warden. I don't have the luxury of easy choices."
"But surely there was something." Nathaniel argued. "Some other way we could have come out of that encounter without putting Anders at risk."
"Of course there was," Amell said. "I've been working strategy for over two years, and I have the memories of a man from an ancient order of warriors. I know there were other ways, but I couldn't talk. I was going into shock. There wasn't time for me to sit down and discuss battle strategy, and if I had left it to all of you?
"You're a tracker, Nathaniel. An excellent tracker, but a tracker. You see one target, maybe a few more. Oghren is a berserker, and Velanna is painfully similar. They see what's in front of them. Sigrun is a soldier. She follows orders.
"Anders could have called down that firestorm on his own, but he doesn't think like that. He's a healer. He wanted to help me. I pointed to the battle. I tried to tell him, but I'm your Commander for a reason. I have to see the bigger picture. Sometimes that means risking one person to save four."
"There are five of us, besides Anders." Nathaniel did the math for him.
"I had no idea if the spell would kill me until I cast it. Anders is extraordinarily willful, and if he hadn't already been of a mind to help me at the time, with how much blood I let.. Do you want to know what I really should have done back there, Nathaniel?"
Maker, please say yes.
"I want to know what you think you should have done." Nathaniel said.
"I should have let the ogre kill him. He should have let the ogre kill you. We all got caught, and someone should have died. If I'd let the ogre kill him, I would have had time to finish off their commander and enslave the ogre safely. But I didn't. I panicked, and I'm sure you can guess why.
"Someone once told me a Warden's first priority has to be darkspawn, and that's why relationships inside the order are discouraged. I agree with that in theory, but in practice? I care about Anders. I care about all of you. I can't just let you die to win a fight, but I can and I will make choices that risk your lives. I have to.
"I don't expect you, or Anders, or anyone to understand that, but that's what being a Warden is." Amell said. "Vigilance, victory, sacrifice."
"I see what you're saying, and I agree, but I still feel like there had to be a better way." Nathaniel said. "I'm not claiming to be a strategist, but I squired under one. I understand choke points, key targets, the flow of battle. I don't know if this is out of line, but would you be willing to train with me?
"Strategy, I mean." Nathaniel clarified. "Not sword play. You should have a second, in the field. Someone you can rely on, so your first choice doesn't always have to be magic."
"... That's... No, it's not out of line at all. I'd be happy to, thank you, Nathaniel. If you take to it, and you're interested, I could see about having you appointed Warden Constable." Amell offered.
"I am, but do you think the Wardens or the King would allow that?" Nathaniel asked. "Given who I am, who my father was?"
"I think so. You're not Loghain. There's no reason to assume you'd abuse the power, and I know much of the nobility would be reassured to have a Howe in high places again." Amell said.
"Considering the kind of person I now know my father was, I'm not sure I want anything to do with the people who'd want anything to do with me," Nathaniel said, sounding rueful, "But I appreciate the offer and I'll consider it. ... What you said about relationships in the Wardens being discouraged, is that something I should be concerned about?"
"If it is, I'm a hypocrite." Amell said. "Other Wardens in other countries might do it differently, but as long as I'm your Commander, you can court Oghren for all I care."
"Thank the Maker. I'd been waiting for your approval." Nathaniel joked. "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Amell. Are you heading back up?"
"No. I think I'll stay and finish off the bottle, and make sure Velanna comes back. I'll talk to her for you." Amell said.
"Thank you." The sound of a stool scooting across the floor sent Anders scurrying back to his room.
Anders slept, but didn't dream. Velanna was back by morning, but Anders didn't know her well enough to say if she was any more or less bitchy than usual. On the walk back to the Vigil, she walked with Amell instead of Nathaniel, the two of them speaking in Elvish or hushed tones.
It made Anders fidget. He liked Nate, and if Nate was brave enough to bed the harpy, then Anders was rooting for him, but Anders wanted to talk to Amell. He didn't know what he wanted to say, but he wanted to talk, and he probably wasn't going to get another chance for a while. After a brief stop at the Vigil, the six of them planned to head out to the Blackmarsh to search for Kristoff.
Sigrun nudged him out of his thoughts. "Hey, you had the other room next to Velanna, right?" Sigrun asked in a hushed whisper. "Did you hear those two last night? Those were definitely not push ups."
"What, really?" Anders feigned surprise. "No, I didn't hear anything. The wall on your side must have been thinner."
"Not to sound like Oghren, but they really were going at it like nugs. My whole wall was shaking, and Velanna? Screamer." Sigrun said.
"No kidding?" Anders said.
"About time, right?" Sigrun said happily. "The way she's always pretending not to smile around him is too cute."
"'Pretending not to smile.' Right." Anders rolled his eyes. "Is that what we're calling glares now? Pretend smiles?"
"No, for you, they're actually glares. Bet you wish you were a durgenlelelelen now, huh shemmy?" Sigrun asked.
Anders had a comeback, but someone was running their way on the road. A soldier from the Vigil, by the look of their armor. That couldn't have been good. "What do you think this is? Another attack?" Anders asked.
"I don't know." Sigrun said.
The six of them jogged up to meet the runner. It was a young woman, and she was out of breath when she reached them. "Warden Commander, Ser. Private Kallian. Seneschal Varel sent me to warn you."
"Report." Amell said.
"Templars arrived at the Vigil last night, Ser." Kallian said. "There are five in total, led by a Knight Lieutenant, and traveling with a Revered Mother of the Chantry. They've been asking question about Senior Warden Anders, and a templar named Rylock."
And there it was. All Anders' fears laid bare. He never should have gotten comfortable here. His little freedom fantasy was over, and the templars were going to drag him back to the Circle, to Aeonar, to prison, to darkness. He couldn't breathe. Why hadn't he left? Why hadn't he ran when Amell had pushed three gold sovereigns into his hand and given him a chance and a choice?
"Private, this is important. The templars, the Knight Lieutenant in particular, did they have a pendant with them?" Amell asked. "A red vial, set in a circle like a compass? They'd be wearing it like a necklace."
"Yes, Ser," Kallian said. Anders laughed. "The Knight Lieutenant has it, Ser. He plays with it all the time."
"What about a scroll?" Amell asked. "It would have gold handles. It wouldn't be with the rest of their things. One of the templars would be carrying it in a small gold chest."
"I don't remember any fancy scrolls or chests, Ser." Kallian said after a pause. "They have their trunks, so I can't say for certain, but all they carry around the Vigil are their weapons and armor."
"Thank you, Private. You can return to the Vigil. Don't mention us." Amell said.
"Yes, Ser." Kallian said. She bowed, and jogged back the way she came.
"Well. It was nice knowing most of you." Anders laughed, hysteria making his heart skip like a stone over water. He couldn't breathe. "But I think that's my cue to head for the hills, or whatever landform's closest. I think I'll go with ocean? Ocean sounds good. Pesky things, oceans. All sorts of brigands and pirates and water. Great templar deterrent, water. You wouldn't believe how fast those skirts rust, and brown with silver and purple? Well that's just a fashion crime. No templar would risk it. You guys will feed Ser Pounce-a-Lot, right?"
"Anders, calm down." Amell said.
"Calm down?" Anders laughed. He couldn't stop laughing, and started hyperventilating. Velanna slapped him. Anders managed a deep breath, and rubbed his stinging cheek.
"By the Dread Wolf, get a hold of yourself." Velanna said. "You are a mage! You have walked the Beyond. What are these templars to you?"
Anders scowled at her. Entitled bitch. Velanna was Dalish. Her clan had embraced her magic, even revered it. She had no idea what it was like to live in fear. In a cage. In solitude and darkness. "You don't have a fucking clue, do you?"
Velanna sneered. "I know you-"
"Mana. Tel'dirth." Amell said. "Anders, it'll be fine."
"'Fine'?" Anders scoffed. "How will it be fine? You don't send that many templars, a bloody Knight Lieutenant, and a Revered Mother for tea and crumpets. You heard her! They have my phylactery. You think they brought it just to give it back to me? Hey, congratulations! You're a Warden now; we don't need this anymore. Oh, and about those five templars we think you killed? Don't even worry about it. No hard feelings!"
Anders couldn't breathe again. A deep inhale won him a sliver of breath. He locked his hands over his head to help air into his lungs.
"Anders, trust me." Amell said. "I swore I wouldn't let them take you back. I meant it. I'll talk with them. They'll leave."
"Oh good. They'll leave." Anders repeated mockingly. "They have me pegged as a maleficar who murdered five templars, but you'll talk to them and they'll leave."
"Yes." Amell said.
"What are you going to say?" Anders demanded. "How can you possibly convince them to leave if they went far enough to bring my phylactery here? You can't just mind control a half dozen templars."
"Watch me." Amell said.
Maker's breath, he meant it. He took it like a dare. Anders could see it in his eyes, practically painted the color of Amell's obsession. This was suicide. This was insanity. "You're not serious."
"I doubt I'll need to, but if you think I won't, you're wrong." Amell said.
"If they got even a whiff of blood, they'd run you through before you could say knickerweasels," Anders said. "You're insane."
"Fine. Then I'm insane," Amell said. "But I made you a promise and I'll keep it. If you let them blame you for these deaths, they'll kill you, and if you run, they'll blame you. You'd rather risk that than trust me?"
Yes. No. Anders didn't know. It wasn't a choice he wanted to make. Amell had said it himself: Amell made the hard choices. Anders didn't make choices. Anders didn't have choices. He just ran.
"Anders?" Amell asked.
"What?" Anders asked.
"Are you staying or not?" Amell asked.
"Where would I even go if I left?" Anders asked.
"... There's an elf in Amaranthine named Alim. He stays at the Fisherman's Rest by the docks. I have five sovereigns on me. If you give him one, he'll get you on a boat to wherever you want to go." Amell said.
Anders stared at him, dumbfounded. It was right there. Freedom. Or a mockery of it. Where could Anders go the templars wouldn't follow? Especially now that they apparently blamed him for Rylock's death. Amell kept talking, some nonsense about something called the Mages' Collective that could help him.
No. No, it wasn't that simple. The templars still had his phylactery. As soon as Anders left Amell's shadow, he was a dead man. He had to stay. He wanted to stay. Amell bound Pride, Desire, Terror. He was right. Velanna was right. What were templars to a mage? They were feared for a reason.
"Anders, are you listening?" Amell's voice finally stopped sounding like it was coming through a film when Anders made a decision.
Anders grabbed Amell's face in his hands and kissed him roughly. It hurt like mad, and clicked their teeth together, but Anders didn't care. The kiss was a mess of teeth and tongue, of gasps half pained and half surprised.
Amell didn't react immediately, and Anders bit his lip for it. Anders wanted or needed Amell's confidence. Amell let slip a moan, and Anders changed his mind. Anders had his own confidence. It was confidence in Amell, but it bloody better count, because it was all Anders had.
Amell kissed back, and Anders lost himself in the moment. Hands clutched at his back, heated moans took up space between each desperate kiss, and Anders wasn't afraid of anything.
"Alright. Okay." Oghren said. "Glad you two got your shit sorted, but this is getting kind of gross."
"Shut up! I love this." Sigrun said.
"Did I say kind of gross? I meant really gross. Hands don't go there." Oghren said.
"Guh." Velanna said.
Anders let go of Amell. Breath came easier, when it wasn't panic leaving him breathless.
"I have no idea what that was for." Amell said, face flushed. "Are you staying or leaving?"
"Staying." Anders said. "Staying, fuck it. Fuck templars. Let's go. Let's do this."
"Atta boy, Sparkles." Oghren said.
Amell ran an ineffectual hand through his hair. Anders had ruined it. He wasn't sorry.
"So... Uh," Amell cleared his throat. "I'm going to talk to them alone. Anders, stay with Oghren, and Velanna, stay with Nathaniel. Don't give the templars an excuse to notice you."
"I am not afraid of templars." Velanna said.
"Trust him, lass. You don't want none of that mess." Oghren said. "I've seen the shit they do to your like, and it ain't pretty. Ain't pretty at all."
Oghren unhooked his hip flask from his belt, and punched Anders in the stomach with it. "Thanks." Anders said.
The alcohol didn't help, but it also didn't hurt. The sun was still high in the sky, and there were no ominous shadows in the courtyard, but Anders felt uneasy. A templar approached them when they stepped into the inner courtyard, and Anders suddenly appreciated the Seneschal's warning. Templars obviously weren't the sort of guests who waited politely to be seen.
"Warden Commander Amell." The templar said with a bow. He was wearing a helmet, and his voice echoed queerly for it. "I am Ser Aedan, here with a small retinue of my fellows under the command of Knight Lieutenant Borris on Circle business. We request an audience at your earliest convenience. We also request the apostate Anders be present."
"There's no one here by that title." Amell said. "I have a Senior Warden by the name of Anders, and he will be addressed accordingly. Your audience will be with me and me alone."
"Very well, Commander." The templar agreed with no fuss. Anders wondered if that was blood magic. Why else would a templar be polite? "Ser Borris is waiting in the throne room. May I take you to him?"
"Lead on." Amell said.
Amell left, and it was over. Nathaniel and Velanna went to the kitchens with Sigrun. Oghren gave Anders a shove, and they walked back to the barracks.
"See? Simple shit. No fuss, no muss, no need to cuss." Oghren said when they were inside. He trundled over to his bunk, and disrobed down to his trousers before throwing himself down on his bed.
"You realize you just cussed, right?" Anders asked. Ser Pounce-a-Lot ran out from under Anders' bunk at his voice and circled his legs. Anders picked him up and buried his face in his fur. The smell and his purrs helped unravel the knot in Anders' stomach, if only by a strand.
"What? No I didn't." Oghren said, digging up a bottle of something from the mess on his bunk. It was strong enough Anders could smell it from where he stood.
"Are you sure you should be drinking?" Anders asked. "Shouldn't you, I don't know, be in full armor ready to protect me when the templars come crashing through the door?"
"Alright, Sparkles, come sit on Papa Oghren's lap and he'll tell you a story." Oghren suggested, patting the space beside him.
Oghren's bunk was covered in crumbs, stains, and dirty clothes. Anders wrinkled his nose, and set down Ser Pounce-a-Lot. He wouldn't force the poor tabby to suffer with him. Anders sat gingerly on the edge of the mattress, the frame of it biting into his ass.
"Did you ever ask the Boss about how he stopped the Blight?" Oghren asked, taking a drink.
"No." Anders shrugged. "I mean, I don't really care, honestly."
"Haha!" Oghren laughed, and wiped his mouth off with the back of his hand. "See, that's why I like you, Sparkles. When you're not pissing yourself over templars and mage bullshit, you know what's up. Laugh, drink, and eat, damn the rest and suck some teats.
"Anyway. Blight shit. Boss shit. You can untie your panties, because this isn't his first Proving. When I say he does this a lot, I mean a lot. All those stories about how the Boss brought everyone together to fight the Blight, batting his eye lashes and being some silver tongued dick sucker? Bullshit.
"Deshers in Orzammar? Blood magic. Nobles at the Landsmeet? Blood magic. You name it, blood magic. Those templars are gonna walk out of here, and they won't even remember your fuckin name. So have a drink, let's play some cards, and don't worry your pretty little head about it."
Anders took his advice. They played Diamondback, which Anders was rubbish at, ate lunch, and drank. Oghren even took a nap, but Anders wasn't about to sleep with templars in the Vigil.
Anders was sitting on his bunk, lost in his thoughts and petting Ser Pounce-a-Lot when Amell came and found him.
"Do you have a minute?" Amell asked.
"I thought you'd never ask." Anders swung his legs over the edge of his bunk, and hesitated. "Are they gone?"
"All gone." Amell promised. "Could we talk? Preferably in private?"
"Point the way, fearless leader." Anders said.
Amell led him through the Vigil and up to his quarters. When they reached them, Amell locked the door behind them. Anders missed the way his room smelled. Like Amell, with a hint of parchment and cedar. It was comfortable, but Anders wasn't quite confident enough to sit anywhere after the week they'd had.
"So, how'd it go?" Anders asked. "I mean they left, so I'm assuming it went well."
"It went fine." Amell said. "They were investigating Rylock's disappearance, and they had a few questions about you. I told them I didn't know anything and they left."
"And they believed you?" Anders asked.
"So I assume." Amell said.
"Just like that?" Anders asked. "You didn't have to bribe them with cookies, or cake, or blood magic, or anything?"
"... The Revered Mother was there as a mediator. I nudged her a little, and she spoke in your defense." Amell said.
"Right in front of the Knight Lieutenant?" Anders asked. "How did they not notice that?"
"It wasn't noticeable." Amell shrugged. "Without reciting the Litany of Adralla, there's... no real counter for it."
"The what now?" Anders asked.
"A spell, written in Tevene." Amell explained. "It counters blood magic, but something in the magic keeps it from being memorized. It's normally kept as a scroll, when templars expect to encounter maleficarum. I took what I believe is the only copy from Kinloch Hold, but it never hurts to be sure."
"Well that's... something." Anders said. "So... Look. I've been thinking, and I understand why you did what you did. Back at the Turnobles. I don't like it, but I understand. What I don't understand is how everything just keeps working out for you. You'd figure you'd fuck up at least once, just to spice it up a little, but you don't."
"Anders, I've fucked up almost every expedition we've had." Amell said. "I got us caught by darkspawn in the mines, and again in the fields, I pushed you too hard in Kal'Hirol-"
"No, I don't mean any of that," Anders interrupted him. "I mean the blood magic. You don't fuck up. I keep thinking you're crazy, and you're going to get us killed, but you don't. It just works, every time, and you're such a smug bastard about it, but you're right. You know what you're doing,"
"Do you really mean that?" Amell asked.
"You got me. I'm just fucking with you. I'm that evil." Anders joked. "Of course I mean it. This is the third time you've stood for me against templars, and I don't know, third time's the charm I guess."
"... What about us?" Amell asked.
"What about us?" Anders repeated.
"Do you still want there to be an us?" Amell asked.
"No, I came up here and said all that just so I could officially ditch you." Anders said.
"I'm... not fluent in sarcasm, Anders." Amell said. "Could you try being feely for me just this once?"
"Yes. Alright? I want to keep having sex with you." Anders said.
"You're so romantic." Amell said.
"You can swoon. I'll catch you." Anders promised.
Amell grinned, and crossed the space between them to cup the back of his neck. Anders put his hands on Amell's chest to stop him before he could kiss him.
"One more thing." Anders said. "What you did... was probably the worst thing that has ever happened to me, right up there with solitary and being taken to the Circle. I can't even tell you what I'll do to you if you ever do that to me again, but... I meant what I said. I understand why you did it.
"If you hadn't... we'd probably all have died back there. And I know I'd be in shackles right now if it wasn't for you. If I was alone, if I went with that Mage Collective thing you were talking about, and the templars caught up with me, I'd be dead. Once they cast that smite... That's it for me. I'm on the ground, I can't cast, and the shackles come out, and it's back to the Circle.
"That... scares the shit out of me. It always has. But you? With blood magic? You can actually fight back. You can defend yourself. You can defend me, without even fighting, and I..." Anders stopped.
Anders had been thinking about it all afternoon. He'd thought about it when he'd healed everyone at the estate. He'd thought about it when he'd healed Amell in the storehouse. He'd thought about it when Amell was with him in the Fade. He'd thought about it ever since Amell had offered to teach him blood magic his first night as a Warden.
"I want you to teach me." Anders said.