It was most disturbing to wake up and realise that you were no longer in your own body.
After the initial moment of disorientation Anders realised that he was in fact floating beside his crumpled physical shell, an incorporeal spirit. Had he died then? Had his struggle with Justice actually killed him?
YOU HAVE BROUGHT THIS UPON YOURSELF Justice’s voice boomed in his mind, and he turned to see the shape of Justice as he had once been, standing behind him, IF YOU HAD SIMPLY CONCENTRATED ON OUR TASK INSTEAD OF FRATENISING WITH THAT ELF.
“Oh shut up.” Anders bit back, finally fed up with Justice and all he had endured since agreeing to allow his mind to mesh with the spirit’s, “My life cannot wholly be about the cause! I’m no Fade Spirit to concentrate on one thing and one thing alone.”
IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE WEAK. BUT I WILL MAKE IT NOT SO. YOU CHOSE TO JOIN WITH ME ANDERS AND NOW BECAUSE YOU CHOSE TO DEFEND THAT ELF OUR CAUSE IS COMPROMISED.
Anders looked down at his body, laying there on the dusty ground of his clinic and shuddered, “Am I dead then?”
NO. Justice admitted NOT YET.
Before Anders could ask what he meant the door to the clinic creaked open and Merrill’s head peered around it, green eyes peeping cautiously at the silent clinic. They fell on the crumpled shape of the Mage and she gasped, pushing the door open properly to hurry in and fall by Anders’ body.
A second later Hawke too had entered, Fenris a pale but hasty third and Sebastian brought up the rear looking infinitely more wary than the rest of them.
“What’s wrong with him!” Fenris’ voice rose, a note of panic touching it, “Why isn’t he moving!”
“He’s not dead,” Merrill’s hands fluttered over Anders’ chest, pale light glimmering about her fingertips, “But...he feels wrong...”
”THAT IS BECAUSE HIS SPIRIT HAS LEFT HIS BODY” Justice’s form took on a more solid blue sheen and instantly his friends reacted. An arrow was nocked to Sebastian’s bow and Fenris was on his feet, sword drawn, ”THE PHYSICAL SHELL WILL CONTINUE TO FUNCTION, BUT ONLY FOR SO LONG.”
“Where is he!” Fenris snarled, taking a threatening step towards the spirit. Hawke caught his arm, and winced as Fenris turned on him, snarling, Lyrium bursting into burning light. “Bring him back!”
”AND WHY SHOULD I DO THAT?” Justice retorted, glaring at Fenris, ”OUR STRUGGLE DROVE US FROM HIS BODY. HE SHOULD NOT HAVE FOUGHT ME.”
“Bring him back!”
”IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN SHOUTING TO MAKE IT SO.” The Fade spirit considered the mortals standing before it and made a low considering sound. ”THERE ARE SEVERAL OPTIONS FOR WHAT HAPPENS NOW. ONE, I ALLOW ANDERS TO RECLAIM HIS BODY AND REMAIN OUTSIDE THE FADE. TWO, ANDERS AND I BOTH REJOIN THE PHYSICAL SHELL AND I TAKE HIM FAR FROM HERE. OR THREE. I SIMPLY TAKE THE BODY FOR MYSELF, AND DO THE WORK THAT ANDERS WAS TOO WEAK TO DO.”
Fenris’ hands had gone white knuckled on his sword, and his face was stony as he looked at the shape of the spirit. Anders too stared at Justice, and wondered how he could have been so foolish.
“And what, would it take for you to do option one?” Merrill asked, glancing up, “What bargain would be struck?”
“Merrill!” Sebastian hissed, scandalised, “Do not bargain with it!”
Justice considered the little elf for a long moment before letting out a low mirthless chuckle, ”ANDERS IS MINE.” he stated firmly, ”YOU HAVE NO CLAIM TO HIM FOOLISH BLOODMAGE.”
“She does not.” Fenris growled, moving forward and ignoring Hawke’s hiss of warning and the creak of Sebastian’s bow, “But I do. He’s mine Spirit, and I’m not going to just let you take him.”
“Fenris...” Anders breathed, trying to reach out to the elf, “Fenris no...”
”I SHALL MAKE YOU A DEAL THEN ELF.” Justice crooned, moving forward to stand just before the former slave, ”FOR I AM JUSTICE, AND THUS MUST OFFER YOU A CHANCE. THREE TASKS. COMPLETE THEM AND I WILL RESTORE ANDERS TO HIS BODY.”
“And you will leave him be?” Fenris asked, “You will not try to possess him or another?”
“I might be able to help with that actually,” Merrill stood, brushing the dirt down off her smock, “The Dalish have a ritual...”
“Don’t they always...?” Hawke quipped, despite his mouth being pressed into a tight line.
“Not now Hawke...” Sebastian groaned, easing his bow off the spirit and slipping his arrow back into his quiver, “You have the worst timing.”
“The Dalish have a ritual to banish spirits back to the fade. If you came to Sundermount, to where the veil is thin, then perhaps we would be able to send you back.”
”THAT IS ACCEPTABLE.” Justice eyed Fenris, ”DO YOU AGREE ELF? THREE TASKS AND HE IS YOURS.”
“No!” Anders shouted, trying to make himself heard, “Fenris! Don’t be such an idiot! Don’t...”
Fenris didn’t hear him and just looked up at the spirit of Justice and nodded.
The next twenty four hours were some of the most intensely frustrating of Anders life.
Considering that his life had included solitary confinement for a whole year, which he had endured with limited wall climbing, it said a lot for his state of mind as he followed Hawke and Fenris around, waiting for Justice to issue his first task to the elf.
Hours passed and finally Fenris and Hawke left the clinic and Darktown, heading for the Hanged Man and the company of alcohol and their friends. Although Anders was grateful that Fenris insisted they move his body from the clinic and up into Hawke’s estate. Who knew what the refugees might do to a helpless almost-corpse.
Silently Anders followed, feeling quite despondent about how the day had turned out. Fenris had found out he was the Mage in the Fade, Justice had tried to kill Fenris and the resulting battle had resulted in Anders’ mind being forcibly evicted from his physical shell. On top of that his, whatever the hell he and Fenris were now, elf had made a deal with that damned spirit to save Anders.
And he had no clue why.
The Hanged Man was busy and crowded, but Anders found the whole place disconcerting. He floated through people, and the place didn’t smell. He also couldn’t touch the sticky tabletops, or down a few quick shots, which he was tempted to do at this point.
He was simply an observer, hanging nebulously around behind Hawke and Fenris. And it sucked.
The three of them entered Varric’s suite of rooms, shutting the door behind them as they entered. Everyone was there, a bit subdued, and more than a few worried glances were sent Fenris’ way.
“Hawke!” Varric greeted their friend warmly, waving him and Fenris towards some of the empty seats, “Can we now find out what happened? Choir boy and Daisy are terrible story tellers.”
“I’ve been told my voice is quite soothing.” Sebastian said, giving Varric a hurt frown, “And...”
“I’m with Varric on this one.” Aveline interjected, leaning back in her chair, “Your voice may be soothing Sebastian but you’re much too pedantic to be a good story teller.”
“And then we walked up the six, or maybe it was seven stairs up to the clinic and we saw that woman outside the door, what was her name? She likes horseradish, ah yes, Clarisse, and then we went inside...” Isabella teased, her voice taking on a passable imitation of Sebastian’s lilting accent.
“Sometimes I wonder why I’m friends with you people.” Sebastian grumped back, but the small smile around his mouth told them that he didn’t mean it.
“You’d be bereft without my charm and good looks, admit it Sebastian.” Hawke drawled, to general laughter around the table.
Fenris had quietly sat himself down and poured himself a large glass of wine. The others had briefly forgotten him in their good natured ribbing, but although Anders smiled at the familiar teasing, his gaze was on Fenris and the way that he gulped down the potent wine. It was followed by a couple of shots, Isabella quietly pushed toward him, of something strong that made the elf pull a face, but he didn’t slow down until he’d downed them and then finished his glass of wine.
“So?” Varric asked, looking between Hawke and Fenris, “What happened to Blondie?”
Then quietly, haltingly Fenris began the story.
He started with the nightmares, not going into any details, and told them of the mysterious Mage in the Fade who had helped him. His voice grew stronger as he spoke, relating of their friendship and then the more that had grown, and his frustration at not knowing who it was.
Most of it was glossed over, keeping the private memories private, but Anders could see the way the others reacted. Merrill had her hands clasped under her chin, and her luminous eyes were wet, Aveline looked pitying but trying to be impassive, Sebastian was looking down at the table but was clearly still listening, Isabella was considering the glass in her hand, and the liquor swirling in it, Varric was making surreptitious notes on some parchment and Hawke was watching Fenris’ face.
“I wanted to know who he was...” Fenris said gruffly, pouring himself another glass of wine, “So I went to Hawke.”
His voice seemed to fail him and he looked up at Hawke’s face and the man smoothly took over the narrative as Fenris went back to getting himself totally trashed on alcohol.
“I suggested Merrill.” Hawke said, fingers tapping on the arms of his chair, “But when she recommended Anders as having a better natural knowledge of the Fade....”
“He’s a Spirit Healer.” Merrill interrupted, eager to explain, “A very talented one, and his connection to the Fade is particularly strong. I don’t know whether that has to do with...” her voice trailed off, as Fenris threw back another shot, looking pained.
“Anyway...” Hawke winced, hurrying on, “We went to Anders, but when Fenris asked....”
“Justice...” Everyone sighed, and took a drink. Even Sebastian took a sip of his water.
“You got it.” Hawke drawled, “He threw a bit of a temper tantrum at the thought of Fenris taking his favourite toy...”
“...And tried to fry him. But Anders managed to get control back enough for us to get out of the room.”
“And when we got back in.” Fenris took over, his voice raspy, “He was laying there on the floor. Practically dead.”
“His struggle with Justice ended up with both of them being ripped from the physical shell.” Sebastian contributed quietly, “I don’t know how that works but...”
“I have a theory!” Merrill practically bounced forward in her chair, “Anders was trying to hold him back from hurting Fenris...” her eyes went a little misty and Aveline rolled her eyes, nudging her surreptitiously, “And that meant that mentally he was clinging to Justice. So when Justice tried to flee the body to exact vengeance as a spirit....”
“He took Anders with him.” Varric tapped his lips, “That’s not good.”
“Justice made me a deal.” Fenris said bluntly, staring down into his wine, “I complete three tasks and he will leave Anders permanently.”
“Is that wise?” Aveline asked slowly, “I mean I want Anders back...” she added hastily as a few of the group glared at her, “Of course I do, but...deals with spirits. Aren’t they like demons? This could be really dangerous Fenris, he won’t want to lose.”
“You didn’t even know it was Anders who was your Fade Mage.” Sebastian added his voice to the argument, “Surely now you know it’s him...”
“What?” Anders spluttered, but of course no one heard him.
“And just what do you mean by that Sebastian?” Hawke scowled at the Chantry brother, “We should just let Anders die?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But Fenris dying in his place or along with him is not an option either is it?”
Silence fell and all eyes turned to Fenris, Anders held his breath.
Fenris simply stood and turned away from them, wine glass in his hands. Then he twisted in a fluid movement and threw it into the wall.
“He lied to me.” He spoke into the stunned silence, “I’m bringing him back so that I can kill him myself.”
No one said a word and Anders closed his eyes, letting the link with his body tug his spirit back to Hawke’s estate, his heart breaking.
The night passed slowly, Anders floating beside his body, trapped as a spirit in a physical world.
Occasionally the door opened, revealing Bodahn or Sandal peering in at him. Even Leandra checked up on him, clutching a warm robe around her as she padded in and banked the fire burning in the hearth.
Hawke entered in the morning, carrying a bowl of water and a cloth, dressed in the casual wear that the Hightown nobility favoured, the type of clothing that Fenris had dressed him in, in his dream. The memory sent a painful stab through the Mage’s gut and Anders squeezed his eyes closed.
They flicked open once more though as his spirit felt the man’s fingers stroke his body’s hair off his forehead. The contact shivered through the bond that still existed from Anders to his corporeal form.
“I wish you’d been able to trust me Anders.” He murmured, using the cloth to clean the parts of Ander that were readily accessible, “But I can see why you couldn’t. Merrill and her theories, she’s had a few about this whole thing, but one of them was that Justice doesn’t dream, so he couldn’t follow you into the Fade. What happened there...was just you and Fenris.” He huffed a soft laugh, “You and Fenris. Yeah I never would have picked that...”
Anders was touched by both Hawke’s gentle care of his form, but also the lack of judgement in the man’s voice and actions. Hawke was a true friend, and even if Fenris tried to kill him after this...
Suddenly he could feel a pull, a tug that was so much colder and harder than the natural bond between his spirit and body. Hawke too stiffened, hand reaching back for his weapons instinctively even though he was in his own home. After a moment he realised what it meant, at the same moment as Anders.
Together they moved for the door but while Hawke raced upstairs to buckle on his armour, Anders soared up, through walls and ceilings bursting into the Kirkwall dawn and swooping down to the warehouse at the Docks where he could see the glowing shape of Justice waiting.
AND SO IT BEGINS ANDERS. Justice intoned in his mind, turning his sightless eyes towards the Mage, YOU COULD STOP THIS RIGHT NOW. SAVE YOUR ELF WHORE A GREAT DEAL OF SUFFERING.
“Don’t call him that!” Anders snapped back, folding his arms, “You have always underestimated him. All of them. You’ll see.”
FOOLISH MORTAL. I HAVE OFFERED YOU MUCH. AFTER, I WILL FIND A MAGE MORE WILLING TO FIGHT FOR JUSTICE, AND VENGEANCE.
Anders glared at him wondering yet again how he could have been naive enough to trust a spirit and allow him into his body. After this he would be fighting for the Mage cause, but in the right way.
Footsteps sounded and Isabella and Varric appeared, followed by Merrill, who was almost jittering with excitement.
“Why are they all here?” He asked the spirit, feeling a leaden weight fill his stomach.
NO HARM WILL COME TO THEM. I MUST HOWEVER MAKE SURE THAT NONE OF THEM WILL AID HIM.
“You did not say he had to complete the tasks alone and unaided!”
NO I DID NOT. BUT THEY WILL NOT HELP HIM. THIS IS HIS TASK. DO YOU DOUBT HIM SO MUCH?
Anders stayed silent. He didn’t doubt Fenris, he knew him well, both from the physical realm and the Fade dreams, knew that now he had committed to a course of action that he would stick to it.
His gaze was drawn to the sound of more footsteps as Fenris drew into sight, flanked by Hawke, Aveline and a pensive Sebastian. Justice shimmered into view, prompting reactions from the party members who hadn’t been there the last time the spirit had appeared in this form; Isabella swore quietly, Varric’s eyebrow lifted up towards his hairline, and Aveline reached for a weapon out of pure habit before realising what she had done and straightening with a wry smile.
Fenris just marched up to Justice, his customary displeased expression in place and stopped a mere pace away from the glowing, spectral form.
“What is your task spirit?” He asked with all his usual diplomacy. The familiarity made Anders smile and Justice frown faintly.
”ARE YOU NOT WORRIED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF FAILING ELF? WHY DO YOU SEEK TO HASTEN THE END OF YOUR EXISTANCE? LEAVE ANDERS TO ME AND YOU WILL NEVER HAVE TO SEE HIM AGAIN.”
“I asked you for my task.” Fenris snapped back, “I’ve made my deal already spirit, you will not sway me.”
“AS YOU WISH MORTAL.” Justice’s voice boomed, and the door to the warehouse opened slowly, “INSIDE YOU WILL FIND FOUR ROOMS. THREE WILL BE EMPTY. ONE WILL BE FULL, FULL OF COINS. YOU ARE TO SORT THEM INTO THE FOUR CATAGORIES. ALL MUST BE SORTED BY SUNSET TONIGHT. DO YOU ACCEPT ELF?”
“What kind of challenge is that?” Hawke spluttered, stepping up to Fenris’ shoulder, “What does that prove?”
“THIS IS MY TASK. DO YOU WITHDRAW?”
“I accept your task.” Fenris growled, walking towards the door of the warehouse, Hawke and the others trailing after him.
“Chin up Broody.” Varric said cheerfully, as Fenris stepped into the warehouse “With all of us helping you this will be over in no time.”
No sooner had he spoken, than the door slammed shut, sending Hawke leaping back with a yelp.
”THIS IS HIS TASK TO COMPLETE. ALONE.”
Instantly an argument broke out on the Dock and Anders rolled his eyes. That could go on for hours, and right now, Fenris was in that warehouse alone. Silently Anders left Justice and the others to yell out their frustrations at one another, and slipped through the wall of the warehouse.
He came across Fenris who was standing still, staring in at the four rooms with an expression of shock on his face.
“Andraste’s perfect tits...” Anders breathed, looking at the mountainous pile of small coins, all of which were the same colour and almost the same size, “That’s...that’s impossible...”
It had been hours, and Fenris had barely made a dent in the pile of coins.
As Anders had feared each of the four different coins were irritatingly similar. Each only had a tiny difference, which took a while to figure out and then remember which room was for which coin. One coin thrown in the wrong room and all that work would have been for nothing.
Briefly he had drifted outside of the warehouse to check on the others, and found Isabella, Varric and Merrill keeping watch, and alternating glares at the spirit who also waited. Seeing little cause for concern Anders returned to the warehouse, and to watching Fenris labouring over the coins.
The Mage felt terribly sorry for the elf as the hours drifted by, seeing the frown becoming more and more ingrained on his face, etched in tired lines. If he failed, Fenris would blame himself, and if Justice saw through his threat to just leave Anders in limbo until his body starved or thirst killed him, Fenris would see himself as the murderer.
Anders hated the thought, almost as much as he hated the thought of being snuffed out of existence.
Suddenly there was a noise and Fenris whipped around, hand reaching back to retrieve his great broadsword and Anders floated forward, worried and curious at the same time.
He didn’t know what he had been expecting, but the sight of Athenril and a few of her younger recruits had not been it.
“What the...” Anders spluttered, once again inaudible to all, “What is she doing here?”
“Athenril.” Fenris greeted, not lowering his weapon, “What are you doing here?”
“That’s what I just said.” Anders grumbled, fed up with the fact no one could hear him, “For such large ears Fenris you sure don’t listen.”
“You’re the elf who works with Hawke aren’t ya?” Athenril drawled, walking closer and examining the piles of coin, “This is my warehouse, so I suppose the proper question is what you and all this coin are doing in here?””
“It’s long and complicated. Basically I’ve been set a task, and unless I complete it, before sunset a...one of Hawke’s companions will die.”
“Sounds interesting.” Athenril moved over to examine the looming pile, and Fenris slowly sheathed his sword, “You’ll have to tell me the full story after. What’s the task?”
“I need to sort the four different kinds of coin.”
“Fiddly,” Athenril scooped up a handful of coins and examined them closely, “Lemme guess. You’ve just been lookin’ at ‘em? Thought so. These are dwarven coin, used in bartering. This one here? This one is heavier than the others.” She passed it over to him, “Take those damn gauntlets off. You can’t do delicate work with those things deadening your hands. Now see...” She eased a second coin into his other hand, “See? Marked difference, which you wouldn’t have felt through those things.”
The elf moved forward and scooped up another one, bringing it up to her nose and sniffing, “This kind of coin always smells like copper even though it is gold. And this? This one will taste like spice.” She licked it. “And this final type...is boring and normal and won’t smell, taste or feel strange.”
Anders stared at the smuggler, mouth open.
Fenris too seemed rather affected by the information imparted as well, and blinked at the other elf for long moments before speaking, “And what do you expect in return for your information?”
“Practical man.” Athenril smiled humourlessly and flicked a coin up in the air, “Let’s say me and my boys help you with this lot. Reckon Hawke will let that Mage of his heal any wounded I get, free of any charge?”
“He charges people for his healings?” Fenris frowned slightly, “I thought he ran a Free clinic.”
“Free for refugees. Not Carta, Coterie or my band. We’re less needy. So? Reckon Hawke’d go for it?”
“Screw Hawke!” Anders snorted, “Come on Fenris you know I’d agree to that! Hawke wouldn’t even hesitate!”
“Deal.” Fenris said, a faint smile touching his lips, as he shook the Smuggler’s hand.
“Alright then,” Athenril said, smiling back before turning to the lads behind her, “Get sorting. If this isn’t done by sunset, you won’t be seein’ it rise again.”
The celebrations at the Hanged Man stretched long into the night.
Buoyed by Fenris’ success in Justice’s First Task, Varric and Hawke had taken it upon themselves to make sure that everyone’s ale cups and tankards were full and flowing all night. And the storyteller told the tale of the First Task, with ever increasing embellishments until the dawn sun rose to bathe the inn’s room in its light.
Anders had listened to Varric’s renditions with increasing amusement, floating nearby, unheard and unseen. He had even managed to entertain himself on one retelling by adding amusing little embellishments. Still it wasn’t as fun as if he had been sitting there with the others, and be able to mutter it to one of his companions.
And without fail his eyes kept coming back to Fenris throughout the night.
Even though he was the hero of the hour, a place more than willingly given up by Hawke, for the moment at least, Fenris sat more or less alone, and nursed only one or two cups the entire evening. He seemed deep in thought, frowning down into the cup and only occasionally lifting it to his lips. Even Isabella cracking dirty jokes into his ear didn’t stir him from his brooding and eventually she left him to it to go tease Hawke.
As dawn broke the revellers disbanded and Hawke stretched before heading over to Fenris’ corner table.
“I’m heading back up to Hightown for some shut-eye.” He said, popping another crick in his spine and sighing beatifically, “And to check on our dear Mage. Walk with me?”
The man really did know how to handle Fenris better than anyone else, Anders thought, a pang of unexpected jealousy bursting near his heart. He had phrased it as a question, but with enough force that Fenris could interpret it as an order if he required an excuse. And sure enough the elf looked up at him for a few brief moments and then nodded, tipping his head back and drinking down the remnants of his wine, before standing and following Hawke out of the pub.
The pair of them didn’t hurry as they meandered their way through Lowtown and then up the stairs to Middle and Hightown, but neither did they fill the air with meaningless chatter. Both of them seemed content to just amble along in silence, but to Anders it chafed. He was so tired of his insular little bubble of ghostdom. No one hearing him, or feeling him. It was intensely frustrating.
It wasn’t until they entered the Hawke estate, after Hawke silently quirked an eyebrow at Fenris at the door and the elf scowled at him and pushed past to enter, that the pair really began to talk about anything interesting at all.
“You said you wanted to bring him back to kill him yourself.” Hawke said quietly as they entered the room where Anders’ body lay in cool repose, “You know...I don’t think I believe you.”
“Oh? And why is that...?” Fenris’ voice held a dangerous note as he moved into the room, green eyes looking everywhere but at the still body in the bed.
“It’s so bloody obvious Fenris honestly.” Hawke rolled his eyes before bending over Anders and checking over him carefully, “No one would go to this much trouble to bring someone back from the brink of death just to kill them again. And I know you don’t hate Anders that much.”
“He invaded my dreams...”
“You welcomed him. Don’t try and re-write history now Fenris.”
Anders watched this silently, holding his breath as he floated between the pair of them.
“I didn’t know it was him.”
Hawke sighed and turned back to face Fenris, folding his arms across his chest, “You know what I think Fenris? I think you’re full of shit.”
A squeak left Anders mouth, unheard by the room’s other two occupants.
“Choose your next words very carefully Hawke.” Fenris snarled, bristling, and prowling forward a step, “Don’t you presume to know how I...”
“Feel?” Hawke didn’t budge, staring back at the other male, “Because you do feel don’t you Fenris? That’s why you wanted to find the Mage. That’s why you let him stay in your dreams in the first place.”
“I know you care for him Fenris.” Hawke was unrelenting, “Your actions say it louder than your bitter words. “
“Why? So you can keep telling yourself you hate him? So by the time he wakes up you’ve convinced yourself that he didn’t look after you out of care or feeling of his own? He’s like this because he stopped Justice from hurting YOU!”
“ENOUGH!” Fenris roared, surging forward, lyrium markings burning as he slammed Hawke into the wall.
Hawke twisted in Fenris grip and slipped free enough to dance out of his reach before slamming his shoulder into the elf and sending him tumbling to the floor. His arm pressed against Fenris’ neck and even though Anders knew Hawke would never hurt Fenris, not like this, he couldn’t stop the surge of irrational fear and protectiveness from surging.
He hadn’t meant to do anything but the next moment Hawke was flying off Fenris’ body to land a few paces away.
Silence fell as the two men sat up, staring at one another.
“That was...” Hawke’s voice was uncertain, “That wasn’t you..”
“It was magic.” Fenris hissed back, Lyrium markings flickering, “I felt it...”
Hawke’s head twisted around towards the bed, and Anders body and his eyes widened. “He knew... he knew that I was attacking you and he protected you, you ungrateful little wretch.”
“I didn’t need his help!”
“Do you even listen to yourself?” Hawke shouted, throwing his hands up in the air, “He’s lying there, practically dead and he’s STILL looking after you!”
“I don’t WANT him!” Fenris roared back, scrambling to his feet, “He’s a filthy abomination! A Mage! He is everything I hate! I don’t want anything to do with him. He saved my life! And now I’ll save his! Then we’ll be done...I don’t want anything further to do with him!”
Hawke stared at Fenris for long moments and Anders couldn’t even look at him, feeling sick to his stomach. The brief excitement of interacting with the world once more had well and truly faded. Now...now he just ached.
“You don’t deserve him.” Hawke’s voice was firm and calm, so strange after Fenris’ fervent rage, “You don’t even know what love is. What true sacrifice is. You know what Fenris...I know Anders. I know him better than you. And he’s a good man. When Justice next calls, don’t answer. One of us will do it. “
And the man swept out of the room, leaving the elf standing beside the body of the Apostate mage, looking quite bereft.
Night fell and once again Anders felt the tug of Justice.
He tried to resist, fighting the urge to leave his corporeal shell and fly through the Kirkwall night to wherever the spirit called him now, but it was futile. Leaving the sounds of Hawke fumbling about upstairs, and the yelp of a stubbed toe as the man got ready to head wherever Justice called them, Anders let his spirit drift up through the roof once more.
He was surprised to find himself drawn to the docks again and specifically to the jetty where the ferries across to the Gallows left from. There Justice waited, still fuming over his defeat from yesterday.
Anders blocked him out, feeling too emotionally wrung out to really deal with the bullshit that Justice could bring, and instead watched as his friends gathered once more. When Hawke arrived, trailed by Sebastian Anders looked away, feeling too ashamed for words.
Hawke knew Fenris didn’t care for him, that he had been giving affection to an elf that could never, would never, love him in return. He was embarrassed, so...
The man moved forward, face grim, walking toward Justice with a solemn Sebastian trailing him and a concerned Aveline.
“Save your breath Hawke.”
It was fortunate perhaps that Anders was unable to be heard, because the noise he made when that voice spoke was something between surprise, joy and a halla giving birth. He twisted around to watch as Fenris strode down the jetty, customary frown in place and green eyes slightly red rimmed.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking today Hawke. It’s fine.”
“Maybe that’s why I saw smoke rising from Hightown.” Hawke muttered to Varric as the Dwarf moved up alongside him and Fenris strode up to Justice. But there was a small smile on the man’s face, and Anders wondered at it. Had he missed something here?
“Fenris doesn’t smoke, you know that Hawke.” Varric chimed back, winking as the elf twisted to glare at them, “He’s much more likely to combust from all that internally repressed...”
“Let him be Varric.” Sebastian’s voice was gentle, “He needs to focus...”
“Oh you are such a spoilsport.” Isabella drawled, folding her arms with a pout, “That Chantry has so much to answer for.”
”IF YOU ARE ALL QUITE FINISHED.” Justice interrupted, frowning at them all as though their levity was an affront, and considering who the spirit was, it well might be, ”I GIVE THE ELF HIS NEXT TASK.”
“I suppose we can allow that,” Hawke drawled, folding his arms, “What do you think Varric?”
“Go ahead Mister Justice,” Varric said, completely deadpan, “We wouldn’t dream of interrupting.”
”I ONLY WISH THAT WERE TRUE.” Justice grumbled before turning back to Fenris, who hadn’t taken his narrowed green eyes from the spirit’s form, ”YOUR NEXT TASK ELF. YOU ARE TO RETRIEVE A PAGE FROM A BOOK FOR ME.”
“A page.” Hawke interrupted, rolling his eyes, “Shells and shards...”
Sebastian rolled his eyes, and stepped forward to cover Hawke’s mouth with his hand, “Continue please Justice.” Sebastian said politely, as Hawke’s muffled protest rose from behind his hand, “Hawke won’t interrupt again if I have to keep him gagged all night.”
A muffled but unmistakable ‘kinky’ was heard by all before Justice turned back to Fenris.
“What book and where can it be located?” Fenris asked without preamble, folding his arms tight across his chest.
”THE BOOK IS CALLED, ‘ASCETIR’” Justice intoned, stepping forward, lifting his hand.”YOU WILL BE ABLE TO RECOGNISE IT BY IT’S DISTINCTIVE COVER.”
“Fenris...watch...” Anders began, but of course no one heard him as Justice’s fingers touched the elf’s forehead, showing him the book.
Predictably Fenris did not react well to the spirit’s gesture and drew his sword. “Touch my mind again and you will regret it, spirit,” he snarled, “Where is the book?”
A smirk touched Justice’s lips and Anders felt a strong surge of foreboding fill him.”IT IS IN THE LIBRARY OF THE CIRCLE OF MAGI. IT IS HELD IN THE SECRET BOOK REPOSITORY. YOU WILL NEED TO ACCESS IT AND RETRIEVE A PAGE WITHOUT SPILLING A SINGLE DROP OF TEMPLAR OR MAGE BLOOD. DO YOU ACCEPT MY CHALLENGE?”
“Oh shit...” Anders groaned.
“Maker have mercy.” Sebastian breathed, “Fenris...don’t..”
Fenris ignored him and nodded once, striding down the jetty to the waiting ferry, Anders following helplessly.
“Fenris!” Merrill shouted, running after him as Hawke turned on Sebastian. Anders heard his friend growling, ‘Do you even WANT Fenris to get Anders back?” before Merrill was standing before the other elf, “Do not activate your markings when in the Tower. The Templars and the Mages will sense it.”
Fenris looked at her with surprise and then nodded.
“I will return soon.”
“I’m not so sure.” Anders sighed as the ferry pulled out from the shore, the spectral mage following along, “I’m not so sure.”
The gallows were quiet and still.
It was eerie to see them like this; Hawke had only ever brought them to the Gallows during the day. At night the statues seemed even more sinister, the oppressive air of the place almost like a heavy cloak bearing down on them. Two Templar guards stood at the steps leading up to the entryway to the Gallows, turning back visitors who had arrived too late to see Mage’s or seek Templar aid.
Fenris hung back and then slipped off to the side, Anders following him concernedly. Getting in wasn’t going to be the hard part. If anything finding that Secret Repository and gaining access would be the tough part of this challenge. Anders remembered well the tight wards there had been on the phylacteries and secret libraries of the Circle back in Fereldan.
It was yet another impossible task and this time...
Fenris reached the Gallows wall and frowned as he concentrated hard. Slowly the brands flared bright and Fenris slipped his hand through the thick stone wall. Anders sucked in a breath, watching anxiously as the elf inched through the unforgiving stone.
One misstep, one slip in concentration and Fenris would solidify in the stone, which could kill him. Or like Merrill had said, the Templars would sense it...
“Fenris...” he breathed, reaching out helplessly, fingers brushing through the elf without any resistance, “Why are you doing this?”
He was halfway through the stone and Anders saw him take a deep breath before he stepped forward, face, head and body disappearing into the stone. Then he was gone and Anders floated through the wall after him to find the elf braced on the ground, on his hands and knees, shuddering.
Fenris got to his feet, unhearing of the Mage spirit beside him and padded silently around the rim of the courtyard, heading for the entrance to the main tower.
All Anders could hear was the soft puffs of breath from Fenris, as the elf crept forward, slipping into the Circle of Magi, using his phasing trick to slip through the mahogany wood without opening it and possibly alerting anyone.
“You’re going to get tired if you keep doing that...” Anders murmured, needing to say something even if he would never be heard, “Stubborn snarly elf.”
The hallways were dim lit with magelights gleaming in sconces lining the worn stone and it was through this that Fenris padded, looking like a shadow himself, with Anders following him helplessly. Templar shields and insignias on banners decorated the dark walls, and Anders shuddered at the sight of them. Another symbol of Mage oppression.
Slowly the pair of them moved through the lower floor checking the classrooms and the apprentice barracks where the Mage students snored softly or mumbled in their sleep. One young girl was crying silently in her dreams, and it was by her bed that Fenris paused, gazing down at her wet cheeks with a faintly unhappy expression on his face. Hesitantly he reached out and slowly pulled the girl’s blanket up and around her shoulders more snugly, before he moved on and out of the rooms.
He’s sweet, Anders thought, fascinated as he followed his elf, I had no idea...
It took a while to scan every layer of the Circle, but eventually they found the Secret Repository.
It seemed less secret and more restricted really, Anders thought dryly as Fenris examined the huge door closely. Both he and the elf could feel the power in the door and the wards protecting it and it made Fenris cautious about phasing through it.
Understandable, Anders thought privately.
So it was that they were both absorbed and didn’t see or hear the figure come down the hallway until the tip of the Templar’s sword was pressed to Fenris’ back, between his shoulder blades.
“Turn around,” The Templar said, and Anders whirled around with a loud gasp that no one heard, “Slowly.”
It was fortunate for Fenris really that the Templars who had caught him had been Cullen and Carver who had been patrolling together and had spotted the elf as he turned down that corridor. As it was, Anders had to restrain himself from pinching the bridge of his nose as Cullen offered the elf a cup of tea.
“So let me get this straight,” Carver said, rubbing his forehead, “Anders was visiting you in your dreams and protecting you from demons, without Justice.”
Cullen made a distinctly disapproving sound; he hadn’t taken the news of Anders being possessed by a Spirit of Justice very well. A couple of smashed teacups lying around his otherwise pristine office were testament to the large shouting match that had preceded this more cordial chat. Carver ignored his superiors sound and kept his blue eyes on Fenris’ green ones.
“You two became close, and one day you asked Anders about finding the Mage from your dreams and Justice freaked out.”
“Your brother’s words were ‘threw a bit of a temper tantrum at the thought of Fenris taking his favourite toy’.” Fenris supplied with a rather passable imitation of Hawke’s drawl.
That made Cullen grin into his tea and Carver rolled his eyes, “Yes that does sound like my brother. So Anders and Justice became separated but Anders was removed from his physical shell...and Justice said he’d restore him if you completed three tasks?”
“That is correct.”
“Sounds rather like a deal with a demon to me.” Cullen muttered, sighing gustily, “You should have just...”
“What,” Fenris bit back, scowling at Cullen, “Let him die?”
“I thought you weren’t a big fan of Anders?” Carver quirked an eyebrow at Fenris, who turned his scowl on him, “Last I remember you and he were constantly at each other’s throat about Mage rights and the dangers Mages present. Surely you and he haven’t changed so much in three years.”
“He is different without Justice.” Fenris said simply, and set down his teacup. “My second task is to bring Justice a page from a book from the Secret repository.”
“Absolutely not.” Was Cullen’s blunt response but Carver was watching Fenris closely and his eyes narrowed.
“What is the book?”
“Ascetir.” Fenris answered.
Cullen’s eyes widened and Cullen rubbed his forehead again, sighing loudly, “I thought as much.”
“You are speaking riddles.” Fenris frowned between the two Templars, “Explain.”
“The secret repository is for dangerous tomes.” Cullen said quietly, “Ascetir is one of the most deadly. Open it without speaking the wardwords and it will kill you.”
“Shit...” Anders whispered, staring at Cullen and then at Fenris, “Shit, buggering fuck.”
“Justice is trying to get you killed.” Carver’s voice was urgent, “Dammit Fenris you’re playing with some serious fire here. He didn’t expect you to complete his first task...and now...”
“Now it’s worried.” Cullen supplied, shaking his head, “You have it worried. If you die, then it will not be forced to relinquish its Mage vessel.”
“I need that page.” Fenris said quietly, looking between the two men, “If I don’t have it come dawn Anders will die, or be possessed for real. I can’t...”
“I’m sorry.” Cullen said and he did look truly sad as he peered down into his tea, “I cannot in good conscience allow this.”
Carver snorted softly and turned to his superior officer, “You would do the same.”
“And what just are you implying Sir Carver.” Cullen growled back, puffing himself up slightly.
“You have been watching my sister.” Carver supplied bluntly, causing Anders to choke, and Fenris’ eyebrow to inch up towards his hairline, “If she was in danger I would hope you would try to aid her.”
“She is not an Abomination!” Cullen hissed back, his cheeks beginning to flame with colour, “Makers Breath, Carver...”
“And you would not do everything you could to save the woman you loved?”” Carver challenged, not backing down.
Both men ignored him.
“That...is completely beside the point!” Cullen clenched his fist, and hitting his thigh, “I would never get myself into this situation.”
“If you do not help me you will have an extremely powerful Abomination on the loose.” Fenris supplied, and now both men were listening, “Anders is a very powerful Mage, and with his power and Justice’s own abilities, and that focus...no humanity holding him back...”
“It wouldn’t be pretty,” Carver agreed, turning to Cullen, “This is the only way to get the Mage back unpossessed, without killing him.”
“Killing him is an option.” Cullen muttered and then blinked as he found Fenris’ sword an inch from his throat. The elf was glowing and had moved with that almost inhuman speed he had and now he was glaring at the Templar, huge sword unwavering at his throat.
“You want him. You’ll have to go through me.”
“Fenris...” Anders breathed, feeling his heart warm even as it clenched at what Cullen might do.
Cullen however was frowning at Fenris’ markings, “Is that...Lyrium?” he asked, voice shocked.
“Yes.” The elf snapped, “Do not push me Templar.”
“He can rip people’s hearts from their chests.” Carver supplied, reaching out, hands outstretched to lightly tap the blade, “Sheathe your weapon Fenris. Cullen isn’t going to hunt down your Mage.”
“I outrank you.” Cullen muttered at Carver, “I’m sure I do. Someone didn’t come along and demote me did they?”
“No sir.” Carver grinned as Fenris sheathed his sword, “But one day..”
“Bite your tongue boy.” Cullen stood slowly and sighed, “Well I suppose I had better help you then. But if Anders becomes an Abomination for real, I want you or Carver’s brother to come and tell me so Carver and I can hunt him down. Understood?”
“If he becomes one, you won’t have to.” Fenris replied, following the two men out of the study, “I’ll kill him myself.”
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3