Hawke had let him live.
He'd been left for dead by the Champion and all his companions, but there was no dagger between his shoulder blades, no red sword amongst his ribs.
Anders eyelids fluttered, flicking away tears, and he sucked in a shallow breath through his teeth, past his tongue, and exhaled quickly to inhale again, this new breath sending a shudder down his whole being. He put his hands on his hair and squeezed his own skull, looking to the spot on the horizon where the chantry once stood. It was empty, but for a dull red haze from the lingering embers of the building, and he was alone.
He'd done it.
Turning his back on the scene, turning his back on Hawke, Anders looked toward the sea. The quickest route would be by boat, but surely he would never make it out of Kirkwall that way, not now. The town was in panic, in disarray, but it was likely the remaining templars, the ones who had not been called to Meredith's side, knew exactly for whom they were looking. No.
He could travel east, to Ostwick, and find passage from there; the voyage across the sea would be mere days, less if the waters were calm. And if Ostwick proved hostile, if all the Free Marches were no longer safe to him, he would have to backtrack, heading west, skirting the Vinmarks to avoid the city he had made a home in for ten years, west, and then south through Orlais. He doubted anyone on the Imperial Highway would be looking for him, and the journey from there to Ferelden would be easy.
It would not be the longest journey he'd ever been forced to make.
But for now, the more unbeaten path to Ostwick made the most sense. He could travel faster than the word that he was a wanted man if he left now, while Hawke was still keeping the city of Kirkwall busy.
Anders moved his hands from his head to his pockets, and in the left, his thumb brushed against a now-worn and rugged piece of folded parchment that was marked only, "Further instructions." He withdrew the envelope, red wax broken, and slipped the message out from within.
"I have spent the past eleven years of my life doing what needed to be done. I will not back down now.
"The darkness that feeds from within me, the same as yours, is cutting my time short. I don't know how much longer I have before..."
Here Mahariel had scratched out something, and Anders had folded and unfolded the paper so many times that a pinhole had begun to form.
"I will not go quietly into the Deep Roads. I will not succumb to The Calling. I have pushed it as far into the back of my mind as I can, but every day in all the quiet, small moments, I know it is there. That is not how I wish to die.
"I have spent the past eleven years of my life doing what needed to be done. I never before had to ask myself what was right. I knew, and I fought for it. Against the Blight and after it, I fought for the smallest person and the largest kingdoms and I never had to ask myself if it were worth it, or if it were correct. I do not have to ask myself now. You and I know the deepest justice.
"I will continue to fight.
"I will not back down now.
"You are always welcome in Amaranthine, when you need to leave Kirkwall."
She signed only her initials, "LM," with a flourish that said she'd done it many times for many people, but with a visible haste that swelled with purpose and desperation.
Anders brought the parchment to his nose, breathing in. He could smell the forest from where she came, and he could feel the stone walls that surrounded her now. His eyelids flickered and even in the chaos and the din of a city that was destroying itself, he could hear what she heard in the back of his mind - The Calling that drew him back to Ferelden, toward those dark places between forgotten thaigs, and gritting his teeth, he fought it back all the same as she.
Anders looked east, and behind him, the red sun set.THE END
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