Epilogue: Woven in My Soul
He thought of Lily every day, but had never told anyone else about her before now. He blinked away the tears that came with the memories.
"Do you still love her?" Cailan asked.
"I don't know," Jowan confessed. "I do. But at the same time I know she didn't love me, so I shouldn't keep loving her." He often wondered if that's all he'd ever been to her: a means to an end. And if they really had been planning to make him Tranquil, or if she'd just told him that to force his hand. And then he felt awful for thinking such things, because Maker only knew what she was enduring in Aeonar, assuming she was still alive.
"I wasn't talking about Lily," Cailan said. "Neria. You did everything for Lily, and Neria did everything for you. Sounds like she loved you all along, to the point that she loved you enough to let you go."
He felt like he'd been punched in the gut.
"I guess that's why I'm here now," Jowan said after a silent pause to watch the fire flicker. "I'm trying to make up for all the people I hurt. But I keep hurting more as I go." Cailan nodded in understanding. "I didn't want to poison your uncle," he said. "I didn't want to fall for Lily, or to become a blood mage."
"But you did those things, and you are a blood mage," Cailan said, but without judgment. "I led a disastrous campaign and got thousands of good men and women killed. They looked to me to lead them, and I essentially killed them. It's woven in my soul as tightly as the good things I've tried to do as king."
"You're not making me feel much better," Jowan said. "I appreciate it, but… you know."
"I do." Cailan poked the fire with a long stick and the kindling gave way under the larger logs. They fell with an explosion of orange sparks. "I guess what I'm saying is that we all have things we're not proud of. I've got skeletons, you've got demons. We hide them, and sometimes they haunt us. We can let them haunt us, or we can make something of it."
Cailan stood and stretched. The darkness had deepened and the watches were patrolling. Jowan nodded his goodbye to the king, and though the fire was still burning, he was left alone. No matter what he would always be the blood mage; it was the only thing about him that seemed to matter to anyone, and it was the only thing about him Lily would remember.
But Lily hadn't been willing to die with him, let alone for him. Neria had given everything she had for him. And because of that, here he was, talking with the King of Ferelden about love and loss. Just two guys on a winter's night, lamenting the past and hoping for a better future. He was a blood mage, but he was blood mage to the King of Ferelden, and that had to count for something.
He closed his eyes and pictured the blonde elf mage the way he remembered her best, in her blue apprentice robes that made her eyes sparkle. "I'll make it up to you," he murmured to the image in his mind. "I promise."
Author's Note: Special thanks to Karebear for helping me out on this final chapter! And thank you to all who have read and reviewed. The story became something I was not expecting, and characters took on a life of their own. It got me back to writing after a long dry spell, and for that I'm grateful.