It is over. All of it.
The Gallows that you so long feared stand empty now, sealed to all but the crows. The long shadow of the Chantry, with all its righteous admonitions, touches us no more. All the tensions of this world have at last boiled over and Kirkwall was the first to fall into the rift. Mage turned on templar, templar on mage. Even now I cannot rightly say which side I fought upon. We bled them, Bethany – innocent and abomination alike – enough to sate the demons that we claimed to fight against.
They are saying that Knight-Commander Meredith fell to the blood mage Orsino and – Maker help me – I do not have the stomach to correct them. He claimed the same desperation that they all do in the end, but I no longer doubt that he deserved his fate. He knew, Bethany. He knew the mage that killed Mother; he protected him, all so that he might study his "work." Whatever Meredith became, I have no doubt that the First Enchanter deserved his fate. Would that I could somehow make him suffer it again.
And yet still I doubt. There is no triumph in such vindication, no righteousness in victory. "Shock" Knight-Captain Cullen called it when he looked into my eyes. But there were no healers to tend us; I had killed them all. I left that place on slow and dragging steps, fleeing Kirkwall all the faster when the people began to whisper of naming me viscount. I departed as we arrived, silent and unnoticed, slipping away in the night. But this time I was alone.
Rebuilding belongs to people like Aveline, people who still have hope, who never doubt the direction of their blade. I have no doubt that Varric will one day tell the tale, but I cannot now see the value in the words.
Fenris would have traveled with me had I asked, but I did not. I know now why I have held myself distant, why his touch stirs only restlessness. He carries such hate with him still, a fury that fear and distrust pale beside. I do not blame him; magic haunts us both. And that is the problem. In him I see the worst of myself, the worst of what I have become. For a time he gave me hope, hope that together we could be something more than the sum of our bitterness. And perhaps we were. But he found his sister – a sister he had forgotten, a sister who betrayed him, a sister who was a mage. I stood at his side and watched as he killed her, telling myself that it was not my place to interfere. He killed her as I killed you, Bethany, and after that I could bear to look at him no more.
Nor do I think he truly wanted my company at the end. I do not doubt that he would have borne it, but I cannot help but picture him now as he was on that final battlefield, watching expressionless as I wept over the body of another. When the world has been lost, all lies are laid bare.
Anders is dead. He lied to me; he lied to us all. But in that moment – when the sky burned and the Chantry fell – for one mad moment, I stood upon the precipice of abandon. I wanted to throw back my head and laugh, to taste the ash that fell around us and to the Void with the mages and the templars both. War, though, does not wait.
I could not kill him. It was left to me, of course, as so many things are, even though I have never understood the reason. He told me then that he was ready to die, welcoming it with the heavy calm of inevitability. My blade was in my hand, Bethany, but he refused to face me. Even Justice's fury had faded; there were no arguments now, no manifestos. Perhaps that would have made it easier. But he only offered his back, waiting for me to finish him, waiting as he had been all along.
I bid him run, run and never return. And still he would not meet my eyes. He simply disappeared and I was grateful for it. Then could I find my strength, then could I make my way through the city, then could I kill. I almost laugh now to think how easy it was. But Anders would not let me be.
He found me again on the steps of the templar hall. So many had fallen – ours, theirs – familiar faces and twisted visions that chilled the blood. But to see him above me on those stairs... This was no abomination, no ideal personified. It was merely a man, pained and broken but unwavering to the end. I do not know what I said, the words a torrent of anger and fear, but I was hurtled backward on a burst of woven air and I swear to you that it was he who screamed. He left me no choice, Bethany. He had never planned to. The spells came in rapid succession – all to attack, never to defend. He wanted me close, I think. He wanted me to end it quickly. And this time he never took his eyes from mine.
Long we stared, longer than even memory recalls, the world stopping as it had so many times before. Perhaps I did not know it until then; perhaps he knew it better than I. But a length of steel separated us now. I had not felt it pierce his belly, was surprised to look down and see the hilt resting in my hand. It had been many years since I had seen him smile and, in that moment, I too was run-through. He took my face between his hands and kissed me there amidst the blood and tears, pushing closer despite the pain, always despite the pain. It was the last thing he ever did.
I do not know who lifted me from his side, who pulled my sword free. Fenris, perhaps, or Aveline. There is not much else that I recall. Only that when Orsino was dead, when Meredith turned her fury on me – I was relieved. I was happy, Bethany, happy that I was allowed to kill them both.
And so it ends as Mother said it would. I am alone. I will not tell you where it is that I have gone. In truth, if I were to pass beyond your sight – beyond the Maker's – I would welcome it. Kirkwall looked always to its Champion but Kirkwall burns now, spreading its flame out across the world. None will notice one more wanderer, one more refugee. Such irony is worth a smile, is it not? Laugh with me, Bethany, for I have no more tears to cry.