I know I'm not the first one to come up with this, because after it occurred to me I found at least three people online who had the same idea. I'm not trying to copy any of them. I'm just trying to work through some of my feelings about Inquisition, especially the way it treats the second game. Perhaps I've played Dragon Age II too many times, but I was unsatisfied with the minimal references to its characters within Inquisition. I'd really been hoping for something like Mass Effect 3, or even the cameos in Dragon Age II, where you go on a little side quest with one of the characters from the previous game, get to see them in the new engine and catch up a little. Reading a short report about them or hearing Hawke or Varric give a brief explanation of what they are doing now just wasn't enough for me, especially when I see so much potential for tying up loose ends.
I was also troubled by how dismissive everyone is of Anders, even Varric, who surprised me with his bitterness. Yes, Anders did something reprehensible, but it was also obvious that he wasn't in his right mind at the end. For all the faults of DA2, I thought it was ambitious of them to attempt such a dramatic character arc in a video game. I'll admit I also have a bit of a soft spot for Anders and would like to see him get a little redemption, though it's obvious Bioware's writers have no interest in exploring that. So, the only solution for me is to try to explore it myself. I know Anders can be a pretty divisive character in the fandom, but I hope you'll come along with me on this journey.
Climbing up the ramparts with the elf, Varric eyed the ugly green mess in the sky with a look of disgust. This whole latrine-in-the-heavens-that-poured-out-demons thing had all the earmarks of a major epic, but he just wasn't sure if he had it in him to write an odyssey of such proportions—especially when he was already referring to it as a latrine. His specialty was in the little character moments, the everyday interactions that eventually led to the turning points in the plot. But a hole in the sky? That was a completely different scope. That was world-wide chaos and heros of a bigger scale than even the Hero of Ferelden—and that hadn't been his story to tell. The Champion of Kirkwall was small beans compared to that—no offense, Hawke.
Shaking his head, he jumped over a broken wall and hefted Bianca as more screaming demons leapt through the rift ahead. "Out of the frying pan and into the damn fire," he muttered under his breath.
"Hm?" Solas looked back at him in confusion.
"Forget it, Chuckles. Let's just fight."
The battle was well underway when reinforcements arrived, the Seeker and the prisoner they had found in the middle of the Temple of Sacred Ashes' ashes. Varric hadn't gotten a look at him yet, but the mage flung elemental magic with the best of them. And that mark on his hand was nearly blinding when it connected with the rift, untangling all the energies and pulling at them until they snapped back into place. It was pretty damn impressive. Varric knew instinctively that he had found the hero of his next story.
Then he turned to actually look at the man and the congratulations died on his tongue. The prisoner had stumbled when the rift closed, the effort clearly taking something out of him. Blond hair obscured his features, falling free from the tie at the back of his head, and when he looked up he froze, honey brown eyes widening as they met Varric's. Anger sparked in Varric's chest, catching fire so quickly that he had no chance to even try to cover his reaction.
"You," he hissed. He had Bianca trained at the mage's head before he had even thought to raise her.
"Varric?" The Seeker's voice was as uncertain as he had ever heard it.
"What happened to his shackles?" Varric demanded, approaching the prisoner with cautious steps. "Lock him up, Seeker, and throw away the key."
"What is going on?" Solas asked.
"He did it. He killed the Divine. Blowing up churches is sort of his thing."
Anders grimaced, squeezing his eyes shut and lifting his hands palm up as if waiting to be bound. The mark on his left hand flared with sickly green light.
Cassandra peered down at Anders curiously, but she made no move to cuff him. "You know him?" she asked Varric. "I thought the Trevelyans were from Ostwick."
"That isn't his name." Varric was close enough now to see the sweat beaded on Anders' brow, the new scar on his cheekbone, the haunted look in his eyes. He didn't care. Back in Kirkwall, he had let Anders under his skin, taken pity on him and actually called in favors to keep him safe. He had counted Anders as one of his closest friends, and then the mage had thrown it all away in the name of a cause that was more unhealthy obsession than worthy goal. His perspective had gotten so jacked by the end that Varric hardly knew how to have a conversation with the man without wanting to kick him in the head—and that would have been a truly improbably feat given their height difference. But instead of setting him straight, sitting him down and arranging an intervention, he had found other more important things to do. He'd let Anders wander off down the path of insanity without lifting a finger to stop him. He might not have lit the fuse for Anders' bomb, but he certainly hadn't tried to dismantle it either.
"I know you have no reason to believe me," Anders pleaded, "but I didn't do it."
Varric blinked. It took him a moment before he realized Anders was talking about the explosion at the conclave. He almost laughed at the absurdity of that. Anders actually thought it might have mattered to Varric that he hadn't blown up one building when he knew for a fact that he'd already blown up another. "Lock him up," he repeated.
"Who is he?" the Seeker demanded.
A sad smile tugged at Anders' chapped lips, and damn if the mage did not have the market cornered on bittersweet smiles. In spite of his anger, Varric felt a pang at the sight, remembering all the times he had let that expression cut right through his defenses. But now he looked at it and saw what it really meant. That was a martyr's smile. Anders wanted to be a martyr so badly it hurt, but Hawke had denied him that easy death and forced him to live with his mistakes. Who was Varric to do any differently?
Lowering Bianca, Varric sighed and looked away. If he told the Seeker the truth, she would probably kill Anders on the spot, and for all they knew that mark on his hand was the only thing that could fix this broken world. Varric's fists clenched. He didn't like where this story was going already.
"Varric." Cassandra wanted an answer, and she was going to find out who Anders was eventually with or without his help. He might as well get the unpleasantness out of the way now.
"My name is Anders."
Varric looked at the mage in surprise, expecting to see his sharp chin lifted with pride, but he seemed resigned instead, shoulders slumped, hands fallen limp at his sides. He was ashamed of his identity. Good.
Cassandra's eyes were burning now. "Anders? The mage who destroyed the chantry in Kirkwall?"
Anders swallowed. "Yes."
"What were you doing at the conclave?"
"Not trying to blow it up, if that's what you're asking."
The Seeker looked less than convinced, and Varric had to admit it was refreshing to see her ire focused on someone other than himself—especially since Anders actually deserved it.
"We don't have time for this," Solas interrupted suddenly. "We can discuss how we all got here after that breach is closed." He pointed to the miasma behind them. "It's getting worse."
Anders started to stand, but Cassandra stopped him with her sword, pressing the blade as close to his throat as she could without breaking the skin. "How do we know we can trust you?"
"Didn't we just have this conversation? You can't, I guess." His eyes flicked over to Varric but didn't linger. "But at the moment I seem to be the only person who can close these rifts, so you can either choose to trust me or hope to find someone else who has the same ability. For what little difference it makes, I do want to help."
The Seeker actually looked at Varric as if for confirmation.
He shrugged. "Don't ask me. I'm not sure I ever really knew him."
"We have to go," Solas reminded.
"Get up," Cassandra hissed, and Anders complied. She shoved him ahead of her, and from his wince she wasn't being gentle. Varric thought he might be starting to like the Seeker.