Sign of the Maker part seven
"It was a dragon, and it was huge! I swung my sword at him and he shouted 'rraaaagh' and swiped me with his claws and
"Dariun, let the healer get to your side, dear."
The small boy seated on Anders's work bench wriggled and squirmed with the excitement of his tale, which was making it very hard to gain access to the nasty gash on his side. At his mother's words, the lad finally settled a little, scrunching his face into a brave scowl as the blonde man crouched down and prodded gently at the wound.
"Wow" Anders breathed, impressed "You must have really frightened that dragon to make him go at you like this, huh?"
"uh-huh" Dariun's head nodded emphatically "He doesn't scare me."
The child wouldn't have seen the sideways glance between the adults; wouldn't have noticed the sympathetic smile Anders offered his poor mother as he showed her he understood. The gash had clearly been made by a whip, and Anders bit down on his lower lip in barely-contained anger as healing magic began to pour from his fingertips and into the boy. Mages, slaves and refugees
in some ways they were all the same. All failed by the system. Where was their protection?
He'd save them. He'd same them all; one at a time if he had to.
Anders steadied himself on the edge of the counter as the healing spell ended and a dizzy spell took its place. When he was able to look up again, Dariun was leaping around, pointing at his unblemished belly.
"Look, ma! Look! It's like nothing was there at all. Is this man magic, ma?"
The mother gathered her shawl about her shoulders; placing one hand on her son's shoulder as she spoke, looking pointedly to where Anders crouched.
"Yes, dear. Yes, he is. And the Maker sent him to us. And we are grateful." Her eyes glassed over and she mouthed the words 'thank you' to the mage before escorting her son back to whatever hovel they called home.
Anders felt his brow wrinkle with a sad expression. Leaving his hands on the counter's surface he dropped his head low between his arms and took a few deep breaths.
"I know, Justice. I know."
A quick glance around the room told him that Dariun and his mother had been the last walk-ins for now. A few sleeping bodies occupied cots, their breathing gentle and steady. He should have felt relief at this moment of peace, but it was always in the quiet times that Justice's questioning voice grew the loudest. What he saw every day fuelled the anger he kept within his fleshy cage, and it was sometimes all Anders could do to keep that voice from bursting out of himself. But Justice was not a part of this world. He couldn't think beyond black and white. He didn't see the potential in people; in Sebastian. He would punish, but not give a chance to redeem, and Anders fought an internal battle every day to preserve that precious part of him that would still prefer the latter.
seven years was a long time.
He pushed himself away from the workbench and stood. The room span around him as he tried to correct his internal balance before he gave up on the endeavour for now and felt for the wall. Letting his back slide down the rocky surface, he let out a long sigh as he came to rest on the dusty floor, raised knees in front of him. Quietly, he surveyed his domain and let a small smile play on his lips as he muttered to himself.
"Maker, Anders. You had such promise once upon a time. What happened to you?"
He raised a hand with the intention of rubbing at his right eye, but found his head instead falling into it, his neck grateful for the relief from the effort of holding up the weight. He was tired.
You can still change your mind.
"I don't want to. Did you see Cortland's face when I told him everything would be okay?" The memory of Hawke's joyful expression put a silly grin on the mage's face as his fingers toyed with the buckles of his robe. "He looked so happy. I want it to be true."
It cannot be true while oppression runs rampant in the veins of this city
"You're a bundle of joy, you know that?"
what I am. You can hold off the inevitable, but Justice will be served.
"We've started something, you and I. It may not be the fireworks and fury that you expected, but we've given Sebastian and the chantry a chance to answer to the problems in Kirkwall. Be satisfied with that for now, old friend."
I am here
when you decide you need me.
Anders nodded, rather pointlessly; it wasn't as if Justice could see the gesture. Breathing deep, he felt the spirit rest in him again, retreating to whatever place he found in these quiet times. Without the added burden of Anders's own personal rage, control had felt easier somehow. He was angry, sure. He wanted to change the world, certainly, but a weight had been lifted. Who could have imagined that he would ever owe so much to Sebastian Vael, of all people?
Anders wasn't sure when his eyes had closed, but sleep must have claimed him momentarily at least, as it was with a shocked start that he opened them again and found the Prince of Starkhaven kneeling in front of him with a concerned look on his face.
"You're okay, thank the Maker. We wondered what had happened."
Anders looked around and realised that he must have been a sight to behold with his legs sprawled out in front of him, back against the wall, sat there on the cold, hard floor. He pushed a loose strand of hair back from his face and offered Sebastian a smile.
"I'm fine. I was just tired, that's all." He blinked a little and wiped at his eyes, stifling a yawn "I didn't expect to see you here so soon, but I'm glad you came. I realise I never did say thank you, which was awful of me. Thank you, Sebastian."
The brunette smiled and shook his head as he reached out a hand.
"Has it ever occurred to you to maybe get into an actual bed once in a while?"
Anders used the Prince's offered arm to clamber to his feet. Thankfully, his head seemed to be spinning a little less now, his mana returning.
"When I do find a bed, there's this pesky Champion in it who doesn't let me sleep
Sebastian held up a hand and adopted an expression of horror "I don't want to know, thank you."
Anders grinned, and then something Sebastian had said crept finally to the forefront of his mind.
"What a minute, we? Who's we?"
Sebastian's face was hard to read suddenly. He seemed unable to make eye contact and instead gazed at the floor. Somewhere deep in his mind, Anders felt a small cog turn as his new friend spoke, his brogue thick and heavy on his lips.
"He's waiting outside. We hadn't expected to find you
Anders narrowed his eyes, stilling the spirit inside of him. "Who's waiting outside, Sebastian?"
As if summoned, a figure walked around the corner and into the clinic. He was tall and wore a cloak that couldn't conceal the strong frame beneath it. As he lowered his hood, the world slowed down for Anders. His jaw fell open, any number of stupid retorts coming to his lips before he final settled on one, breathed word.
"Well, that's not the worst greeting I've had so far in Kirkwall."
Alistair's jovial tone was utterly lost on the mage, who staggered backwards, his frame hitting the wall once again, hands groping at the stone behind him. He felt like a cornered animal, his carefully constructed walls crashing down. Justice was confused, but ready to leap to his host's aid, and it was with a strangled and quiet 'no' that Anders just managed to wrestle control back from the spirit before their visitor saw something he shouldn't. He regained composure enough to stand and glance towards the Prince in whom he had placed so much trust. Any hope that Alistair was here for a friendly cup of tea was dashed as he recognised the guilt on Sebastian's features. Anders looked at the archer's downturned face with hurt eyes and muttered quietly.
"Of course. Silly, silly, Anders."
Sebastian had the decency to look as though his heart might break as he faced Anders "He's not here to hurt you. You said you wanted change. I am on your side." Some small part of Anders truly wanted to believe that the Prince was right, but the part of him that was Justice seethed with a sense of betrayal that threatened to swallow him whole.
"Get out, Sebastian." His voice was quiet, controlled. Sebastian gave a worried glance towards Alistair, whose expression had become grim. Anders suspected that this wasn't the reunion the Prince had expected to bring about, but fade take him, it didn't matter now.
"Anders, I -"
"I said leave."
With a final look between the two blonde men, Sebastian tightened his jaw and nodded.
"Anders, I'm on your side, whether you believe that or not."
With fists clenched, he strode out of the clinic and left the two ex-wardens to their reunion.
He wasn't far out of Darktown when his knees finally buckled, sending him crashing to the floor as if crushed by the very weight of his emotions. Sebastian knelt where he fell, his fist slamming into the ground several times as his lips threw words to the dirt.
"I'm on your side. I'm on your side. Don't be a stubborn, small-minded fool, damn you, Anders. I'm the one with the small mind, remember? Maker, tell me, please tell me I did the right thing."
He was dimly aware of the crowd that was gathering, staring in confusion at the well-dressed man taking out his apparent frustration on the stone streets. He didn't care. Mages had been stared at like they were animals for centuries. What did it matter if he was that animal now?
Suddenly he felt the close warmth of another body next to his; an arm circling his shoulders and lifting him to his feet, a tender voice speaking into his ear.
"That's an answer we'd all like to hear, sweet thing."
His blue eyes widened at the sight of the tanned pirate as she guided him away from the crowd with a snarl at his onlookers,
"Haven't you ever seen a drunk before? Clear off, the lot of you, there's nothing to see here!"
Sebastian allowed himself to be lead, words forming in his mind but not getting as far as his lips.
Isabela guided Sebastian towards the Hanged Man, his weight heavy on her arm. Her brows knitted as she glanced up at the sky, deep in thought. If there was one thing a pirate excelled at, it was knowing when a storm was coming.