"Ok, so this beginning is terrible."
"What do you mean?" asked Anders. "I thought it was nicely dramatic. A spectre is haunting Kirkwall- the spectre of magic."
"Dramatic, I'll give you," said Varric, waving the scribbled sheets over his beer. He always tried to keep the table in his quarters relatively clear so he had room for lots of dramatic gesturing. "It's just a little scarier than I'd go for. People find you guys scary enough without describing yourselves as spectres. How about something more appealing, like…rainbows. A rainbow is shining over Kirkwall- the rainbow of magic. See?"
Not even a smile. Anders always got so earnest when he was talking about this mage business, took all the fun out of drinking with him. And truth be told, as much as Anders was (usually) a lot more fun to hang out with, if Varric had to make a choice between Anders and Meredith when it came to how to handle magic, well…he'd probably have to side with Meredith. Not that he'd ever tell Anders that.
Varric tried again. "Plus I'm barely a paragraph in and you've resorted to lists. Nobody likes reading lists. Maybe you should try writing it in iambic pentameter instead, that's concise, but it has a nice rhythm to it."
Anders frowned. "Look, if you're not going to offer any meaningful advice, I'll just go," he said.
"You're the one who asked me to read it, Blondie," said Varric. "But this isn't my area of expertise. Give me a plot, some main characters, a bit of romance, then maybe I can help you. Manifestos aren't really my style."
"Add a personal note you mean? Something people can relate to?"
"Blondie," said Varric. "What I meant was, I'd like to talk about something else."
To Varric's relief Anders rolled his eyes, smiling, and took back his manifesto. "Fine," he said. "If you insist on being irritating. Let's talk about your latest literary masterpiece. I hear Aveline had to step in before you ended up on the losing end of a duel after some minor lord decided you'd slandered him?"
"I'm hurt that you assume I'd lose," said Varric. "And it wasn't as simple as that, you see there was this goat..."
It didn't take long until Anders was laughing, his manifesto seemingly forgotten. Varric could only hope it would stay that way.
How could one man be both so endearing and so utterly exasperating all at the same time?
Rowan tried not to be drawn in by Anders' soft brown eyes, the wry curve of his smile, but as always they wheedled their way into her heart despite her best efforts. He looked at her with an expectant expression, as if a few sentences would have suddenly persuaded her to support universal apostasy when a lifetime spent living with two apostates had not, and she felt irrationally guilty for refusing to be swayed.
And she respected his principles, she really did. It was truly inspiring the way he risked himself every day by openly performing magic down here in the dank alleys of Darktown, the pains he took to make sure every patient was seen to and not charged any more than they could afford. She even respected his efforts on behalf of other mages, she might not agree with his opinions but his unwavering and unselfish commitment to what he felt was right was admirable, even attractive.
If only he would offer her beliefs the same respect in return.
"I'm not going to argue about this with you," she said. "We have said all we have to say to each other on the subject. Write your manifesto if you must, but I will not read it." Mages simply were not safe outside the Circle, they were a danger to others and a danger to themselves. And the longer she lived in Kirkwall the more convinced Rowan became of this fact, whatever Anders had to say on the subject.
Rowan wondered, as she had wondered on many previous occasions, if this would be the end of their friendship. It would be so easy to pretend to agree with him, to give in to her pathetic need for his approval. But she couldn't do that, she refused to do that, and she liked to think that he wouldn't like her any more for it if she did.
Rowan laughed at herself internally. 'Like'. 'Friendship'. Nice words to hide much less innocent motives. She found herself staring at the hard edge of his jaw, wondering how his stubble would feel against the tips of her fingers.
Anders' face fell and he scowled. "I swear, I don't know if I should kiss you or kill you."
Surely there was something wrong with Rowan that her overwhelming reaction to this statement was then kiss me.
And then he kissed her, and for a little while she stopped worrying about right and wrong altogether.
"I'mthinking of making a manifesto, you know." said Merrill.
"You are," said Anders, dubiously. He was having to hang back so she could keep up with him, his long legs making short work of the sandy dunes. It had been a while since they'd been out like this together, the two of them casting magic from a nice safe distance while tougher sorts like Fenris and Hawke dealt with all the messy parts of the battle. She'd never really gotten along with Anders, but she was sure he didn't used to be quite so irritatingly evangelical. She decided she preferred Sebastian, the fact that she agreed with a lot of what Anders had to say just made him less fun to tease.
"What do you think, Fenris," shouted Merrill to the others, now checking the bodies of the raiders they'd just fought for anything worth stealing. (Such details tended not to make it into Varric's glamorous tales of life with the Champion) "Shall we elves have our own manifesto? About how nasty and oppressive the humans are?"
Fenris looked up and humphed to himself in amusement but didn't reply.
"Perhaps you should," said Anders. "I would read it."
There was a serious conversation to be had about the way elves were treated in this city. And there was, she had to admit, even a serious conversation to be had about the treatment of mages. But Merrill was in no mood for either conversation right now, and certainly not with Anders.
She turned to Hawke. "Or what about tall people," she said. She gestured up to the spiky metal rod she was holding, looted from one of the enchanters she and Anders had encountered on the outer edges of the battle. "I mean look at this staff, clearly designed for someone a good head taller than me, I can barely carry the thing let alone wield it. And none of the robes anyone sells in this city fit me, it's a good thing I have my own."
Hawke smiled. It was a lovely smile, and not one Merrill had seen much of lately. She wondered if Anders was annoying her as much as he was annoying everyone else. "They are a menace," agreed Hawke. She was hardly short herself, but Merrill was willing to overlook this defect. "Why just this morning I had to stand on a chair to find my blue ink, because someone had put it on the highest shelf."
"How thoughtless of them," said Fenris.
"You know," said Anders, looking down at her, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish Sebastian was here." By the Creators, that was almost a joke! He still wasn't smiling, but you couldn't expect two miracles in one day.
"Me too," said Hawke, looking sadly at a locked chest amongst the raider's things. "But he had some business to do for the Grand Cleric, and Varric had some Merchant's Guild meeting. We shall all simply have to do without."
"You see," said Merrill, "Tall people, oppressing us again! Well, maybe not Varric. Though he does tell tall tales, I'm sure that counts for something."
"Most definitely," said Hawke. "Tall tales are the most oppressive tallness of all."
"Anders, isn't it?"
The apostate started, as if struck by a guilty conscience. Elthina didn't find this very surprising, he only ever seemed to come into the Chantry for reasons of politics, which was hardly conducive to serenity of mind.
Though he was a large man Elthina did not usually find Anders very physically intimidating, but there was a fire in his eyes today that she found disquieting. She wondered what he was doing here, skulking around in the back rooms. Some of the things she'd heard…ah, but if she believed everything she heard she'd be no better than Meredith. Still, there was no doubting that he was dangerous, even beyond the fact that he was an apostate. Elthina instinctively looked around: the only other sister nearby was Ivette, a new noviciate with a little more enthusiasm than sense. A pity. Elthina would have liked to believe that noone would bring violence into the Chantry but the events of the last few years had sadly proven that this was not so.
"I usually see you with the Champion," she said to Anders. "Is she not with you? Or have you come seeking guidance for your own sake?" There had to be some good in him, for the Champion to be willing to live with the man and turn a blind eye to his increasingly blatant defiance of the Circle.
"No, the Champion chose not to come with me today," he said bitterly. "And I have not come here for your guidance." His face twisted into an ugly snarl. "Perhaps you think that if I only pray, I will suddenly find myself at peace with the injustices my people face? That if I listen to the Chant I will decide that all this needless oppression and death is the Maker's will? I think not. And you have shown yourself unwilling to listen to any guidance from we mages, it is clear where your loyalties lie."
Foolish child, as if it were ever that simple. "My loyalty lies with the Maker, and the people of Kirkwall, as it has always done," said Elthina, trying not to let herself become irritated. "I understand how difficult it must be for mages to live such restricted lives, but I cannot ever forget the ruin that so frequently results when you are free to do as you wish. I seek what is best for all the Maker's children, whether they be mage or no."
"But so do I!" he said. Anders gesticulated wildly, his hands balled into fists then angrily flexing. "If you would only listen to my dema…to the necessary steps that must be taken to create an equal society, there could be peace for everyone." He reached inside his robes and took out a carefully folded sheaf of papers. "Please your Grace. If you could just read this manifesto…"
He expected too much of her patience. "I apologise, messere, but you must excuse me, I have many other duties to attend to." She tried her best to be sincere as she said, "Maker bless you child, and may you find peace."
His eyes flashed with anger, for a moment it was if they shone blue in the dim golden light of the candle filled landing. Anders' hand clenched around the papers he was holding, creasing them, before he dropped them to the ground. "On your own head be it," he said. "I have tried, Maker knows I have tried to make you people see reason, but it is too late. There can be no peace for anyone now." He started to leave.
Ivette, sweet girl that she was, ran over to pick up the papers and hand them back to Anders. "Keep them," he said. She smiled at him nervously. Anders' angry glower lifted and he smiled back. It was a sad, beautiful smile, it almost made him look like a different person, and for a moment Elthina could see what the Champion saw in him. Then he turned away. As he reached the door he said softly, almost to himself, "May…may you find peace. Maker be with you all."
It was hard to find anywhere well lit to read in the Chantry that wasn't reserved for specific religious duties or being used by someone higher up on important business. Every time Ivette found herself a comfy position by a sconce of candles some sister would notice her and say that if she had time to sit around doing nothing perhaps she should use that time to fold some extra robes or dust behind the statue of the Maker. Also, one of the other noviciates was certain that she could smell brimstone in one of the cupboards and kept going around trying to convince everyone to help her find the hidden demon.
But eventually Ivette found a spare moment and a spare corner to herself, and she finally had a chance to look at the papers the Champion's apostate lover had left behind. She'd never read a manifesto before, the idea filled her with a strange sort of bubbling excitement, something like the feeling she'd had when she'd first realised that it was her calling to pledge her life to the Maker's service.
Ivette had always had trouble understanding why others in the Chantry looked upon magic with so much disfavour. It was a gift from the Maker, like being strong or beautiful or talented with a bow. Like any gift it could be misused, but at best was an opportunity to further serve the Maker's will. It seemed like such a waste to lock the mages up in the Gallows away from their family and friends, instead of letting them serve and be part of the community they came from. And it was increasingly clear that the Circle didn't work to keep that community safe, perhaps this Anders could offer a better way.
She carefully opened up the folded papers. They were written in a neat, even hand, and carefully numbered. "Andraste suffered at the hands of magisters," the words began, "thus she feared the influence of magic. But if the Maker blamed magic for the magister's actions in the Black City, why would he still gift us with it?"
The more she read the more certain Ivette became of the rightness of what he was saying. Surely this was the Maker's will. Perhaps she could persuade the revered Mother where an apostate could not. At the very least, she could talk to the other sisters, perhaps those stationed to offer guidance to the Templars at the Gallows.
As she finished the final page and carefully folded the sheets back together, Ivette rose to her feet and smiled to herself. Perhaps there really was hope for this city after all.
Author's note: I adapted the original beginning of the manifesto from The Communist Manifesto because it was easier than coming up with my own, and amused me. I also took a few snippets of dialogue, and the final version of the manifesto's preamble, from the game.
While I was plotting this out in my head I came across the fic "The dark hours before dawn" by annakruczynski which is remarkably similar to what I had in mind for attempt 3. In the end I decided that I needed something cheerful and not from Hawke's POV in that spot anyway, but you can imagine an extra scene along those lines if you like :)