But a Sword
"I come not to bring peace, but a sword."
To who, she does not know. Her words are broken-winged things, like the sparrow that she rescued when it fell from its nest. It died.
So do her prayers.
So do her tears, in the end.
When her voice takes flight, she is as surprised as the rest.
Andraste is a slave. Slaves own nothing. Are nothing. But they could not take her love of music, her listening ears, her heart that patters quickly when it hears the men in the fields singing.
And now, this. This great thing within her, this does not belong to her masters. It belongs to someone else entirely.
Go, whispers a voice deeper than a bell at the bottom of the fabled sea. Go.
There is no sin greater than pride.
She has seen them with her own eyes, felt their hands on her body, touched her mouth to theirs and known their power. They tap the realm of dreams, the realm of that which she thinks of only as the Voice.
And she knows their sin.
In her throat burns the last gift that He who whispers to her was able to rescue before the magisters broke the Golden City. The last gift. The last song.
Her own voice is a broken thing. But the voice of the Golden City thrums in her, and when she gives into it and sings, men and women fall at her feet and abase themselves.
She is a mortal vessel for that which is immortal.
A man cannot compete with a god.
She has married, on His suggestion that she know mortal love and all it entails. She has known bodies invading her own, but she has not known the sweetness of a gentle touch until Maferath. She has had sons now, and daughters, known the milk-sweet scent of them and pride as they take their first steps into this uncertain world.
"Andraste," Maferath murmurs at her throat, lips hovering over the place where that which is immortal resides.
He will betray her, for love.
It is a sword which cuts both ways: love, and the myriad ways it can be lost.
A barbarian queen, they call her.
She has called, and all the tribes of the south have answered. Let us show them that they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves.
On the battlefield, she unleashes the Voice, and in her throat packs of wolves battle. The power is wearing through her; the Maker did not create her to be an everlasting vessel. Instead, she is a cup made of ice, trying to contain a bonfire.
She pushes her forces, forward and forward. She has so little time left.
Visions take her.
She lies wracked for weeks with them. Her forces falter. They have come to the north edge of the great valley, and beyond them an empire gathers its forces for a devastating blow.
But they do not strike.
Andraste wakes from the visions, her body weak but her soul renewed. Maferath is on one side of her cot. Her elven general Shartan on the other. She looks at them, one to the other, and begins to speak.
She has seen the Golden City's ruined perfection. She has seen the Maker, beheld that which no mortal was meant to withstand, and felt His all-encompassing love.
"He has sealed me to Him," she says, in her own broken voice. "I am the wife of the Maker, and I must write down what I have heard, what I know."
Scribes come to sit at her feet. Darkness falls over her army.
Maferath, mortal husband, dearly beloved, steps away from her, and in the widening gulf between them Andraste sees an ending, and a beginning.
She is a sword slicing towards Minrathous, beating heart of an ancient empire.
The empire fights a war on two fronts: one against her, one against creatures made of hunger and sin, spawned from the Deep Roads and the place which was once the Golden City. The Imperium is a great beast bedeviled by tiny foes, and it is bleeding from wounds too numerous to name.
It is dying.
Yet, it is still dangerous.
Andraste has taken most of the south. She has secured what will become a homeland for her people, for humans and elves. She has given them what she can of the knowledge the Maker has given her. She has given them four children, who are growing up fine and strong.
And she is worn thin, her mortal shell seemingly made of threads trying in vain to contain the Voice.
"Come with me," Maferath says, one night. "There is something you must see."
She knows he will betray her. And yet for love, for mortal love, for the last threads of humanity that bind her to this life, she goes with him.
It is to be fire.
When Andraste inhales, she smells well-aged wood, sweet oil. She is tied to a post in the center, and the last threads of her mortality are fraying. The Archon has a torch in his hand and no mercy in his eyes.
There are so many people pressed around, and the Maker is distant. It is midwinter. The sky is the color of steel, of swords, of betrayal.
She is afraid.
She had not thought she would be alone, at the end.
The crowd is cheering, calling for her death. The Archon raises up the torch and then throws it onto the pile of wood. It catches, it burns, and heat scorches Andraste. She cannot breathe. And the pain.
Andraste weeps, for in this last moment she is abandoned. She cannot feel the Maker. He is gone, and he has taken his Voice with him as her mortal body begins to give itself over to the flame.
Then she can no longer weep.
The Archon is watching her, before the baying crowd. "Please," she whispers. It is her own shattered voice she uses, throat burned beyond hope by years of carrying the Maker's power. She does not know for what she begs, but she begs anyway. "Please."
Show me mercy.
Something in the world changes, beneath that steel-colored sky, in the fire that destroys and consumes. She has no Voice to compel this man. Only her own, the fragile thing that was the only thing she ever truly owned.
The Archon sweeps his sword out of its sheath, and Andraste can see that he does not know why he does this. He will not understand for some time. It does not matter.
For what is between them, this killing mercy, this sword that is entering her chest as hot as the flames that consume her and as cold as betrayal, he does not have to understand. Only do.
She holds his gaze with hers, even as his blade goes into her heart.
The threads of her mortal life snap and she is taking flight.
A girl child is born into slavery in the Tevinter Imperium.
She will be remembered as many things: queen, savior, martyr. She will conquer the south, raise an army of wolves against those who enslaved her. Her work will guide the lives of countless men and women.
But right now, in this endless moment, she is standing with her bare toes curled into the grass. She is a child of seven, innocent and beautiful, listening to the songs men are singing, the rhythm of their work.
She loves the song, loves the way the sunlight slants down on her, loves the grass beneath her feet and the smell of hay new-cut. Andraste is made of love, made for love.
The Maker will smile upon her not three days from now. But leave her here, in this eternal perfected now, this moment before.
Leave her in this, her last moment before the darkness.
Leave her in the light.
Author's note: this is my belated Yule present to all of you. I hope you've enjoyed it!
I was quite intrigued by the legends of Andraste in Dragon Age, and wondered what she might have been like. And, like all figures around whom legends grow, I thought that the truth of her might have been something significantly different than the stories claim.