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He is fourteen the first time markings appear on his skin.

Anxious, alone, and all too aware of the quiet, Alistair whispers to himself to fill the emptiness of the night. Despite the years he's spent in the Monastery, he is not accustom to the numbing silence. He thinks of screaming, just to see if anyone would hear it, would even care, but he can't bring himself to try. Covering his face with his hands, he wills himself to sleep, just to be done with it all and find peace in his dreams.

Then, he feels it; a soft brush, as though the edge of a quill is lightly touching his wrist. He sits up in his cot, squinting his eyes as he raises his arm to the light of the moon, and he is left in awe. Slowly, almost intricately, speckles of black ink decorate his skin, one by one.

He thinks he should be frightened; Maker knows any of the other children in the Monastery would think him a mage for seeing this. Yet, the feeling of complete awe takes over before fear could even touch him.

It is then that stories from his days in Redcliffe begin to surface in his mind. Stories of star-crossed lovers and ancient myths that seemed so far-fetched, until now. He remembers a song the Elven maids used to sing of the first humans; powerful beings with two heads, four arms, and four legs. They sang of the old Elven Gods fearing these creatures, for they foresaw them bringing their ruin. In desperation, they called upon an ancient magic to rip each human into two; doomed to spend their days searching for their missing half. However, these early humans were still so deeply intertwined, they could speak to one another through mirrored markings in their skin, for their flesh was still one, as were their souls.

He stares down at the markings, terrified, yet completely enthralled. Its foolish to think, but could such a story hold truth? Is his soul so deeply intertwined with another, that he can see any brushstroke they make upon their skin on his very own?

For a moment, Alistair forgets the painful quiet and the aching loneliness of the Monastery. He doesn't think to fear the possible magic that is taking effect to his body, or what could happen if a Sister or Templar were to learn of it. All that exists is the growing collection of dots on his wrist, and the thought that maybe, somewhere, someone was connected to him.

:::

They are constellations.

Alistair learns this after careful study, noticing how each mark is made with careful precision. He watches them closely, drawing invisible lines to connect them, trying to see if he can guess the picture before…who ever is making them finishes. It makes him curious; what brings them to copy the stars into their skin? Are they a scholar in training? Do they find it soothing? Is it done out of sheer boredom?

He tries to remain rational, reminding himself of magic's purpose. He can not let the idea of this connection rule over him, so he spends most of his time in the library, trying to find some kind of magic that could replicate what he is experiencing. However, there is nothing. He worries of blood magic, but he can't convince himself to believe that a demon could create the night's sky in his skin.

There are nights when he wonders how this other person, his other person, would respond if he marked them back, but he is too afraid. He fears the thought of never falling asleep to the sight of black stars decorating his wrists. Though he is finally finding comfort in his training for the Order and the strict, demanding practices of its labors, he fears the thought of losing the one thing in this place that brings him true peace.

:::

A year has passed, and Alistair now has the shape of every constellation memorized, often whispering the name to himself as he watches the beginning sequences of stars appear.

He can't count many times he's sat in his cot, staring at the beginnings of the night sky brought to life against his skin, with a quill clutched tightly in his hand. There is only one night that he is brave enough to dip it in ink, prepared to let his presence be known. Whoever is on the other side of this connection, they deserve to know that someone sees it. That someone watches their stars shine in with more excitement and awe than when they look to the real thing.

But what if it's a trick? What if this is a demon's way to snake itself into his mind? What if by trying to reach out, he lets something wicked in?

The ink in his quill drips. He does not move in time to keep it from hitting his skin, and the starry night that began to color his wrist is smothered in black. He panics, jumping from his cot and grabbing the closest piece of cloth he can to wipe away the mess, but it is too late. The ink has stained him, taken the sky his other was creating and made it empty.

A few of the other trainees wake. They mumble incoherently as they toss to their sides and drift back to slumber, but Alistair can not rest. He sits alone on the cold floor, his mouth a fine line, and he stares at his grey tinted wrist, watching as the few blackened dots that were left begin to fade away.

"No," he whispers to himself, his anguish apparent in the way his face contorts.

He bites his lip and stares absently to the lone window of the room. Despite the moon shining brightly, and despite the twinkle of starlight streaming in from afar, Alistair knew the stars that mattered most to him were gone.

:::

Its been months since Alistair has seen a constellation grace his skin.

The first nights without them were the hardest. Falling asleep without counting out stars, without the sensation of a quill against his skin, felt…wrong.

He attempts to write his other, but his words are too cluttered, and his emotions too strong to let him make a coherent apology. He can only imagine how terrifying it must have been for them, to see their simple work of art suddenly turn into a haunting mess of black. He thinks of how hard they must have tried to cleanse their arm, only to find that the stain he had made would not wash away.

Maker, he's such an idiot.

Sitting alone in the shade of the Monastery's courtyard, Alistair watches idly as the potential Templars spar in their make-shift ring. He half-considers joining them, but knows it is best to keep his distance. They all judge him, he knows it. They see him as a self-righteous bastard, in more ways than one. He cares little, however. There was a time when their good opinion meant everything to him, but he gave up trying to gain it. Could any of them give him the stars the way his other once had?

No, they could not.

With a sigh, he moves to stand and use his free time for something other than drowning in his thoughts, and then he feels it; the soft, grazing sensation of a quill against his skin.

Alistair grabs at the sleeve of his tunic, pulling it up with such vigor he nearly rips the fabric. There is a moment where his heartbeat comes to a complete stop, watching with bated breath as ink paints the ruddy skin of his wrist.

The sight of it feels like being greeted by an old friend, and Alistair smiles unabashedly as he sits down in the shaded grass once more, entranced as a starry night takes over his day.

:::

He must be a fool for wanting to try again.

Yet, there he is: sitting upright in his cot, quill clutched tightly as he tries to decipher the constellation being brought to life on his skin. He chews on the inside of his cheek as he waits for another start to be placed; he needs to be sure of what image his other is trying to make.

Two more stars appear, and his eyes grow wide.

Another, and he raises his quill to his wrist.

One more, and he presses the ink to his skin, looping the name of the constellation slowly so that it is clear to see.

Tenebrium

His lungs are in his throat as he waits for a response. Fear eats away at his nerves, screaming at him for trying to reach out.

"What if you ruined it again?" it says. "What if you ruined it for good this time?"

The constellation begins to wash away, and the fear attacks his heart with a vicious spike of pain. He spits on his arm and wipes at the ink, wishing in vain that doing so could erase what he had done.

"Idiot," he thinks, staring at his arm now stained grey. "Such an idiot."

He closes his eyes and falls flat against his pillow, willing himself not to scream and wake the whole damned Monastery in his strife.

:::

The next night, he is amazed to find a new constellation being plotted against his wrist. Only this time, there is a small, shaky question mark beside the final star.

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