Post-DA2. Not necessarily canon for my other pieces.


She knew she would find him here.

The trail was easy enough to follow - tales of Veil-tearing, of disturbances, of unnatural light. As if he's been getting careless. There's also the fact that she knows him too well, that she knew she'd have to return herself someday. This place haunts them both.

Kinloch Hold rises up before her, a spike into the sky, looming over the village; no mages remain in its stone walls, their freedom found in a violent blaze of glory and magic. He is gazing at it, still except for a hand absently trailing in the waters of Lake Calenhad, and doesn't look up as he says softly, "Thought I might find you here."

With the hastily pulled-up blond ponytail and the robes, labelling what he is, she can almost believe it's still him then, the old Anders of lewd jokes and cats. Then he turns to look at her, and she sees the unfamiliar blue swirling in amongst the brown of his eyes. "I thought I escaped this place when I joined the Wardens, but it never really leaves you, does it? By the time you've walked away from it, it's already too late."

She hesitates a moment, then sits next to him, looking at what they'd been told so many times was their home, listening to the lapping of the water at the shore; for a moment, it's easy enough to forget the sword at her hip and the armour on her back, the intruder in his body, and they are just two skinny apprentices once again, cloaking pain with silence.

"I thought she'd be with you," Morgana finally says, voice sounding unusually loud to her own ears.

Anders looks at her, leaning back on his hands. "Hawke?" He sighs, and his eyes are far away for a moment. "She left. Couldn't take it any more, eventually. Said there was nothing of me remaining, that it was leave me or kill me. Charming woman, she was." He gives her a half-smile that doesn't reach his eyes, and it's all so achingly familiar that she has to fight herself not to put her arms round him and tell him it's going to be all right. Because it isn't, and it's far too late for that now - it's been too late for a long time. He looks backwards, over his shoulder. "Pet templar with you?"

She shakes her head. "I told you, he's not a - It doesn't matter. No, he isn't."

He nods, looking out over the water, but suddenly something changes in him, and his voice, when he speaks, is not his own. "Commander."

"Justice. It's been a long time."

"Indeed. Leave here. You are one of his kin, another mage, but we know why you are here. We cannot allow you to stand in our way." He stands, and she does also.

"You don't know why I'm here at all. It seems vaguely ironic to see a Fade spirit making assumptions." Something colder, harder, that she hasn't had to use for a long time, edges into her voice. "Give him back to me. I don't care what you think of me, what your cause is, just give Anders back to me. At least so I can say goodbye."

There is a pause, the spirit gazing at her with those pools of lyrium blue, and then it nods, and the colours fade, mixing back into the muddy swirl she saw upon her arrival. It is Anders looking at her, then, and he averts his gaze, looks back at the sun over the water. "He broke through, didn't he?"

She nods sadly.

"You know, I thought I was free, for a while. I always do. But I've just been wandering into cage after cage... The Wardens. Vengeance." His voice drops. "Why are you here? Revenge for a Chantry you hated?"

She shakes her head. "I was about to ask you the same question, actually. Why here?" He watches her in surprise, and she continues, "What do you want, Anders?"

There is a long moment of silence, and he gazes at the Tower again. "What do I want? I want..." He swallows, then he looks at her, and something flickers behind his eyes that she hasn't seen for such a long time; in a way, she has missed it, but it makes her insides twist - his eyes are those of a frightened teenager shivering on a cell floor again, and it takes all she has not to look away. He sighs, and his voice is older, tired. "I want not to run away any more. I've done enough of it for a lifetime. I want freedom. True freedom, not some dream that gets dragged away from me. Not what Vengeance calls freedom, not a half-life dictated by an insane spirit." He looks at her pleadingly, because she knows what it takes to free a mage of a possession, and her hands begin to shake, because he can't be asking for this, he can't...

There are many kinds of freedom.

"No," she says. "No. You can't ask me to..."

Anger flares in him then, so sudden it makes her step back. "Yes, I bloody well can. You asked me what I wanted."

She meets his eyes, the two of them watching each other for a long moment, and then takes a deep breath. "There's no other way?"

He shakes his head. "Aren't you sick of this? Sick of pretending that I'm still who I was years ago?"

"I'm not pretending," she says quietly.

His eyes are sad. "Maybe not completely. But I know I am."

She places a hand on his cheek, and the tears spring free then, one making its way slowly down her cheek, cooling in the summer air. The word is quiet, almost lost on the breeze. "Brother..."

He knows she doesn't mean it in the Warden sense, and gives her a shaky smile, almost like his old one, nodding. "Best get on with it, then."

She takes an unsteady breath, and it burns her lungs, then removes her hand, stepping back. She can feel the wetness coursing down her cheeks, blurring her vision, and she wipes it away.

Silently, she draws her sword.