Author's Notes: Hi everyone! I'm back, after taking a nice little hiatus to relax and recharge by just writing without a deadline. I caught a second wind with the story and have stopped at a point right now about ten or eleven chapters in, which means I can post comfortably and still have a cushion so hopefully there aren't any massively long wait periods.
This story as you might expect by the summary is a sequel to the story I wrote called "Reversing the Calling". I would recommend reading the previous story first prior to this one. And if you already have, then welcome! Please enjoy!
Thayer Amell remembered the day so clearly in his head when everything went wrong. The day when his pride and fear of mortality made him lose the one thing that mattered the world to him.
Blood magic, right under my nose! How could you lie to me like that? To my face? I can't believe you!
Alistair's words would forever remain burned in his mind, doomed to replay day in and day out. Even now, over a year and a half later, they hold the same amount of force and pain they did back then.
It's unforgivable, Thayer. I can't stay here any longer, not knowing what you've done.
And that was the end. Alistair walked out of Vigil's Keep, never to be seen or heard from again.
That painful memory had been enough to push him over the edge—enough to fuel him to ensuring himself that he'd find a way to reverse the Calling and prove to Alistair that it was all worth it.
In the end, he'd gained a lead. Nearly a dozen of failed experiments later, and he'd gained a lead.
Nobody knew it, of course, as the only person who knew he'd dabbled in blood magic had left them high and dry. Though Oghren, Zevran and Leliana had all been there, and had all helped him in slaying the Architect, none of them had understood the importance of one sentence that had changed Thayer's focus completely:
The blood of Grey Wardens can disrupt the connection between darkspawn and the Old Gods, much like our blood helps your kind connect to them…
He wasn't proud of what he did after that. He didn't like to think about it, but it reminded him that even leads could be false.
Getting someone to agree to participate in one of his experiments would have been nigh impossible, which had led to some precarious undercover investigations. Thayer had used drops of his own blood to taint the drinks of a few new recruits over several dinners, but to no avail. He'd even gone so far as to enthrall a recruit while she slept so he could try using her blood to reverse the taint within him. That, of course, had ended in a complete failure.
He had played with fire, but he'd given up on caring. His decision to show Alistair it was worth it all had overridden much of his proper judgment. However, months and months of sleeplessness, night terrors and experiments gone awry had amounted to nothing. He had nothing to show for it all.
He wouldn't admit it aloud, but he was ready to admit defeat. Maybe there was no way to reverse the Calling. Maybe he'd wasted all this time chasing the impossible.
He thought of Alistair constantly, despite every attempt not to. Oh, how he wanted him. At first Thayer had done his best to pretend the separation did nothing to him. That had lasted briefly. Not having Alistair beside him every night in bed, or in battle, even at dinner—anywhere at all—wore him down faster than anything ever had before. They had become so integrated into one another's lives that Thayer now was one half to a whole.
Alistair was gone. Thayer had no idea where he was, what he was doing. He'd told everyone the warrior had returned to Redcliffe to deal with a personal matter, but that lie had only held up for so long. Once questions began to arise, he claimed Alistair had written him and had chosen to stay a while longer to help Arl Eamon around the estate. Leliana had been hard pressed to believe it at first, but Thayer eventually assuaged any uncertainty.
In retrospect he knew he should have told her and the others that there had been a fight and that Alistair had left, but Thayer couldn't bring himself to admit it. Admitting it meant their relationship was really over. He refused to believe that.
And now he was in a position that left him feeling worse each and every day.
Six months had passed since the attack on the city of Amaranthine and the defeat of both the Architect and the Broodmother. Their numbers had dwindled, thanks to the loss of Anders, Velanna, Sigrun and several others. But Leliana and Zevran, ever the hard workers, had found at least a dozen new recruits, most of whom had survived the Joining and were now full-fledged Wardens.
Everything aside, the day-to-day was getting harder now. Whether it was taking care of repair work for the Keep, training new recruits or working on trade strategies, Thayer rose each morning with a malaise that weighed heavily upon his shoulders. He wasn't himself, he knew that. But he would be damned if anyone picked up on that. They couldn't know.
After getting up that morning and eating breakfast, Thayer went to the throne room within the Keep, preparing to speak with the Seneschal about what tasks needed to be accomplished for the day. There was ongoing discussion about what needed to be done for the farmers whose lands had been devastated by the darkspawn attack. Support from around Ferelden had slowly begun trickling into the keep's treasury, but everyone involved knew it would be years before Amaranthine and Vigil's Keep would return to its original glory.
To his surprise, upon his arrival, a messenger boy awaited him by the door.
"Warden-Commander," he said, "I've a message for you. Here you go."
Thayer took the slightly weathered envelope, thanked the boy and sent him on his way with a silver in hand. Written across the center of the envelope in somewhat crooked script was the title Warden-Commander Amell.
Seneschal Varel's voice caught his attention. He glanced up and saw the older man standing beside the strategy table sitting in the center of the room. He had an amiable smile upon his face.
"Good morning. I trust all is well."
The mage gave a curt nod.
When Thayer approached the table, Varel asked, "Received a letter, then?"
"Yes. Though from whom, I'm not sure."
Discomfort stirred within him. The handwriting looked awfully familiar…but it couldn't be, could it?
"Ah, well, please, take time to read it. I'll gather the business to discuss today while I wait."
Once Varel was a safe distance away, Thayer turned the envelope over, popped open the seal and retrieved the parchment from inside. The note was short, only a few paragraphs, but when he saw who it was from, his stomach flipped.
I'd resigned myself to never writing, knowing that opening communication between us would surely cause confusion on your behalf. I know I disappeared after the battle, and I'm sorry. My reasons were my own. But that isn't why I'm writing.
I saw Alistair at the Hanged Man tavern here recently in Kirkwall; he recognized me and called me "that damn apostate", so I'm quite sure it was him. I asked him where you were and he said he couldn't be arsed to care. So, naturally, I asked him if you knew he was here, and I got the same answer.
He's a mess. I don't know what's happened, but he needs help. He could barely sit up at the bar. He looked ill. I offered to take him to a safe place and he shrugged me off. I thought you should know. Apparently he is staying here—that's all I was able to get out of him.
Do with this information what you will.
No one knew what had happened to Anders after the battle. Thayer had left him to defend the Keep, and upon his return, not a soul could tell him where the other mage had gone. In truth, it had almost felt like a slap to the face. After everything Thayer had done for him, and Anders had run away without so much as a goodbye.
He had resigned himself to the fact that he would likely never see the other mage again. Though the note hadn't specified where he was in Kirkwall, the fact of the matter was he at least had an idea. But what mattered most to him now was that he knew where Alistair was.
Kirkwall. What had possessed him to go so far away? Had their fight really ruptured Alistair so much that he couldn't even stay in Ferelden?
It hurt to think that.
Thayer quickly folded up the letter and put it back into the envelope. He pocketed it, turning to look at the Seneschal.
"Right. So, what's on the agenda today, Seneschal?"
. . . . .
When Thayer returned to his room that evening after a long day of taxing duties, he wasted little time in opening up his liquor cabinet. He recalled that upon his arrival to the keep, he rarely drank. Now it seemed that nearly every other night he was digging around inside the cabinet, trying to find something to help him get to sleep.
He couldn't help but think of Alistair sitting in some rank tavern, drowning his sorrows in much the same way. That he was doing it in the privacy of his own bedroom should have been comforting, but it only made him feel worse.
After pulling out a thin, hourglass-shaped bottle of Antivan brandy, Thayer grabbed a small cup and poured himself a straight shot. He submerged a fingertip into the drink and blasted it with a small wave of frost, giving it a nice chill.
"Much better than ice it would seem, hm?"
The sound of Zevran's voice caught him off guard. Thayer quickly turned around, staring at his bedroom door. There stood the elf, arms folded across his chest.
"May I come in?"
"By all means." Thayer turned back to the cabinet. "Can I offer you a drink?"
"You read my mind, handsome."
The mage prepared Zevran a glass of Antivan brandy, gesturing for the elf to join him beside the fireplace. A well-aimed stream of flame lit up the logs within the hearth, helping to warm up his room.
Thayer wasn't quite sure why Zevran had chosen to come tonight of all nights. He knew he'd become distant over the last couple of months, but he was quite sure it was nothing unexpected of someone who had as many duties as he. After all, he was trying his damnedest to ensure he acted as normal as possible, given that inside, he was twisting and turning in discomfort.
Zevran finally spoke up after a few moments of sipping at his brandy.
"I've decided I'm going back to Antiva soon."
Thayer nearly choked on the swig he'd downed. He coughed. "What?"
The elf gave a toothy grin. "You didn't expect me to stay here forever, did you? Not with all of my own unfinished business."
"But I thought you were going to help—"
"Help rebuild the Order and train recruits, yes, I know. And I've been doing my best. But you and I both know that I am no teacher."
"You've only been here a year, Zevran. There's so much more you have to offer."
"Ah, yes, but you have Nathaniel now. He is more than capable of taking my place. I…" Zevran stared at the fireplace for a few moments, then sighed. "I was foolish to think I could escape the Crows forever. I must kill them all if I'm ever to have freedom fully."
Thayer couldn't blame Zevran for looking out for his number one: himself. Somewhere in the back of his mind the mage had always known this day would come, but he'd hoped it wouldn't be so soon.
"Have you told anyone else yet?" Thayer asked quietly.
"No, my fearless leader. You're the first. I will tell everyone at breakfast. I plan to leave tomorrow night." Zevran gave a genuine smile. "It has been a wonderful experience, following you. I knew you were something special that very day you spared my life. And here we are, two years later, and you've never ceased to amaze me. Though I must say…"
Thayer sat forward, curious. "Say what?"
"I never thought I'd see the day you and Alistair would separate from one another's side." The assassin chuckled. "Surely he'll be coming back so he can help you train recruits."
The mage was unsure if that was an attempt to jab out information or if it was a sincere statement. Knowing Zevran's preference for the direct, however, he figured it to be the latter—and that made him feel even guiltier.
"Once he feels Arl Eamon is in a good position, I'm sure he will."
"You two will certainly bring even more honor to the Grey Wardens of Ferelden," Zevran said. He moved to stand. "And I can proudly say I was a part of that."
Thayer, too, moved to stand. He stepped close to Zevran, embracing the other in a firm hold. He hadn't touched anyone since Alistair had left; it felt strange.
He pulled away and said, "You will be missed, Zevran."
"I will miss you all as well. But we all must do what's best for ourselves. I never knew how much I could treasure the idea of a secure future until I met you. Thank you for that."
Zevran turned to walk away.
"Good night, Thayer."
We must do what's best for ourselves.
Thayer watched the elf as he shut the door behind him. He turned to the large four-poster bed he'd once shared with the love of his life, and that was all it took.
He was going to the Free Marches.
He was going to get Alistair back.
. . . . .
Was this how Morrigan had felt, he wondered? Knowing that you planned to leave, and nobody else?
Thayer had mulled about the details in his head for days now. Without Alistair here, the only person who could continue to run things in his stead was Seneschal Varel. Amaranthine and Vigil's Keep needed someone in charge to continue helping the rebuild, someone whose mind and heart were devoted to the recovery of the people.
And all he could think about was Alistair alone in Kirkwall, drinking himself into a stupor.
He was sure making a big announcement about it would raise too many questions. If he was going to leave, he would need to do it quickly and without hesitation.
He'd spent that morning packing up a travel sack to take along with him. He'd deliberately packed light-another set of robes, some books, poultices. Nothing he couldn't do without at least for a day or two. He would pack some food when he visited the kitchen later.
For now, he needed to visit the Seneschal.
Thayer wasn't sure where Varel would be, so he tried his room first, but to no avail. The Seneschal often spent time in the throne room but he wasn't there, either. Thayer finally found him in the library, sitting at one of the tables with several books laid out atop its polished wooden surface.
The older man turned his head, saw Thayer, and offered a smile. "Ah, Warden-Commander. Please, join me. I was just doing some research."
Though the polite thing would have been to ask what he was researching, Thayer came focused to discuss the matter at hand. He took a seat and cleared his throat.
"I have to take leave from the keep for a while."
Varel blinked, confused. "I'm sorry?"
"I must take leave from the keep for a while, Seneschal. There are some personal matters I have to attend to, and they're abroad."
Seneschal Varel scratched the back of his head. Though curiosity was etched into every weathered crinkle of his skin, the older man did not inquire. He simply nodded.
"How long do you think you'll be gone, Commander?"
"I'm not sure. All I know is that after what's happened here recently, I loathe leaving, but these matters are urgent. I'm sure you'll be able to handle everything just fine in my absence."
"Without a doubt, Commander. Leave the day-to-day to me, I will take care of it. If there's anything of major importance, I will be sure to write to you. Where will you be going?"
Thayer took in a breath. "Kirkwall."
Varel didn't flinch. He nodded in understanding. "May the Maker watch over you in your travels. Should any Grey Warden business arise, I'll work with Nathaniel and Oghren. Have you told your crew?"
"No," Thayer began. "Seneschal, it's…of utmost importance that nobody find out where I'm going. I do not want anyone to follow. This is something I must take care of, myself."
The Seneschal furrowed his brow. "You won't be taking anyone with you? Forgive me, Commander, but I don't think that's a particularly safe idea. Kirkwall isn't exactly the most stable city at the current moment."
A smirk played across Thayer's lips. "You're speaking to the man who defeated an archdemon and took down several Broodmothers, Seneschal. I think I'll be just fine."
Varel chuckled. "Bested as usual. As you wish, Commander. I wish you a speedy journey."
. . . . .
Early in the morning, with the sun having barely risen over the eastern horizon, Thayer stepped out into the chilly autumn air, feeling every bit as nervous as he did all that time ago when he agreed to go with Duncan to become a Grey Warden recruit.
He adjusted his rucksack so that it comfortably rest against his back, keeping his staff securely against him. With any luck he wouldn't have to use it on the journey north, but nothing was ever so easy.
Inside Vigil's Keep slept nearly everyone who had been near and dear to his heart. Not telling Leliana where he was going had been one of the hardest decisions to make—but he knew she would have gone with him, and he needed to do this alone.
We must do what's best for ourselves.
Zevran's words rang clearly in his head.
This was something he needed to do alone.
Maker watch over me.