It seemed inevitable that it would end like this, as all things beautiful and bright eventually fell to ruin.
They were both too determined towards self-destruction, him with vengeance, and her with him, and one could not seek to bring about change without becoming changed in turn.
He had wished and hoped that it could be different, sharing in her naïve optimism about them and the world. He had warned and pleaded to try and spare them both, denying desire's burn for her and a life more ordinary.
But revolutions were too often fought and won by the sword, and as he spent too much of these dark days fighting with alchemical formulas, away from her sweetly-stolen moments, the time had nearly come for him to cut himself out of her life.
And if he did it right, she, at least, would endure.
"You remind me of my brother. He used to mope and molder in the dark like that..."
Anders raised his head from his hands to view the stranger at his clinic door, a bindle over his shoulder, and was struck with a niggling sense of familiarity at the red-haired and bearded man with the typical build from the Anderfels. Something about his golden eyes, perhaps. Like his father; Like his own.
"Are you a refugee?"
He laughed at that, big and boisterous, straight from the belly. "I suppose I am, in my fashion. I'm a traveler, certainly… and I'm in need of no healing," He added, as Anders rose to assume his responsibilities. "But I wouldn't say no to some bread or cheese if you have any."
"Of course… Just a moment," Anders nodded, and ducked into the back room to retrieve a small packed lunch that Marian, bless her, always insisted he took with him. When he returned the stranger was overlooking his formulas with a professional interest, even making alterations with his quill, and at this intrusion, Justice flared with outrage. "Keep away from that!"
"Settle down, lad. You and your little dream-friend," The man glanced up, and smiled widely, his utter ease and knowledge of their condition giving them pause. "I'm just fixing your formula, that's all. It's all wrong… Not enough sulfur, by far. It was less of a bang, and more of a whimper if you get my meaning."
"I – thank you." He said lamely, over the buzz of the spirit's caution and confusion. He could feel, now, the latent power radiating from this stranger. "You… know about Justice?"
"Indeed. His Maker fashioned him with the fervor of my domain, but they never quite work out how you'd think, dreams." The quill scratched out a final, uneven blot. "There we are. And thank you," He said, accepting the basket of food from Anders to look inside it. "Mm, Ferelden cheddar, rustic and simple… Your lady is a woman after my own heart."
Anders hesitated, but the question on his tongue could not be ignored. "What – are you?"
"An expatriate, as I said. And an expert in what it's like to struggle with dual purpose. Something I imagine you and your friend would know about."
Anders sagged into his chair, wretchedly. "I – we can't ignore it any longer. Something has to change."
"Everything changes eventually. You don't need to be the one that does it."
"Yes, I do."
"Tch. Just like my brother. 'The more things stay the same' is right." The stranger sighed, and re-evaluated Anders slowly with something like approval, which Anders never thought he'd see coming from his father's golden eyes. "Still – You're more than just a dream, which is good because you always need more than just dreams for something to change, and you're a sight better at creation than myself, let me tell you… here –"
He tossed Anders a large golden coin, and Anders reflexively caught it, turning it over to look at it. On one side it had a sword, the other the flourishing symbol for the school of creation magic. "A coin has two sides, lad - but it also has an edge. Maybe it will help you… maybe not. But that's ultimately your business, not mine."
With a broad grin the man shouldered his belongings, bidding Anders good luck by name - his real name, Anders recognized - and he turned the corner with a tuneless whistle.
He wouldn't understand the man's words at the time. Neither of them did, of the necessity for him and Justice to find a place of balance, an edge where creation and destruction met to work in harmonious renewal, and the coin quickly became forgotten in his pouch as more pressing thoughts of sela petrae and drakestone haunted his mind. Things changed, however –
"You've been thumbing that coin for a while - the edge is worn smooth."
"Mmhm. You always bring it out after a long day of healing. Is it from the Anderfels?"
"No… It's from a friend, I think. It was his advice."
"Oh. Did it help?" She said sleepily, and nuzzled further into his embrace.
He kissed the top of her tangled hair, feeling the echoing warmth of emotion from Justice as well. "I think it is."
Everything has changed. The world; even themselves. And sometimes, not everything has to be lost.