Who We Are
Though she'd left her door partly ajar to cool down the seemingly super-heated air in her room at The Hanged Man, sometime in the late afternoon, there came a knock.
Not even bothering to look up from a massive stack of parchment, she voiced, "Anders, I'm busy." Her mind was foggy enough.
"Are you also too busy for someone else?" came a gravelly voice, and Mahariel tipped her head up and leaned in her chair to see through the gap in the door. Fenris strode in slowly, his hands folded behind his back, head down. "I... wanted to apologize."
Mahariel stood quickly, and offered him entrance with a sweep of her hand, quickly saying, "That's not necessary."
"It is. My problem with the mage is my own, and though I would be happy to have a discourse with you on the real and apparent dangers of magic, I had no business inserting myself into your personal life." He looked up at her though his silver hair and his eyes were bitter but genuine. "I hardly know you."
Mahariel nodded. "I accept your apology, and I bear you no grudge. Believe me." She offered him a seat and she lifted a large stack of papers, setting it carefully on the floor. Fenris quietly accepted and Mahariel allowed herself to sit once more.
The Warden-Commander had never been one not to ask questions. "Tell me about your markings, Fenris."
He smiled, and it revealed his sorrow. "The lyrium scars of my former life. My master bestowed them upon me. The pain was so unbearable I forgot who I was - honestly. I went through the better part of my life thinking they were a punishment at best, but I have come to learn that these cursed marks," he held out his arms, sun-baked skin contrasting against the pale moon lines, "that these were something I asked for. Fought for." He closed his eyes. "I am not sure which is worse."
"Does it matter?" she asked plainly.
"Does it matter which is worse?"
He looked up at her as though the thought had never occurred to him before. "No," he nearly chuckled. "I suppose it doesn't."
"Are they useful?"
"...They can be."
Mahariel folded her hands and leaned forward as though sharing a secret. "I was not made a Warden by choice. A clan-mate of mine, Tamlen, and I stumbled upon a Dalish ruin while out hunting. We were young and stupid, and we decided to explore it. It was hidden underground, and filled with vile creatures, but we didn't heed the obvious warning; we slew them instead and pressed on, and we came upon a mirror.
"The very sight of the thing turned my stomach but it drew Tamlen in. It was too late for him the moment we entered that ruin, I believe that now. The eluvian called to him, and corrupted him completely. I like to think he did not escape alive, but..." she pressed her eyes shut, trying to purge herself of the memory, of the experience, of the wraith that had haunted her camp.
"The Warden Commander Duncan found me in that ruin, unconscious and helpless. How I survived, I don't know. But I didn't escape my fate. I was tainted by the eluvian, which in its years in isolation had been opened to all sorts of foul things. I was given a choice: become a Grey Warden, which would slow the course of the corruption through my veins, or die.
"I still think Duncan took pity on me, even though he insisted he didn't; that Wardens are not made without reason. But I don't think it was that kind of pity. I think he was sorry he had not found the eluvian first." Leaning back in her chair, she finished, "My point is, it doesn't matter whether or not we get to choose with what or how it is we are poisoned, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Only that we choose who we are after we are scarred."
A blankness washed over Mahariel's face, and a sort of epiphany struck her. Quickly she stood, nearly knocking the chair over. "I'm sorry - I have to go.
"But -" Fenris rose and meant to stop her, but she waved him off, apologizing again, and Fenris was left between a chair and a table in a room that didn't belong to him. But after listening to her words, he felt somehow lighter.