What would make sentient darkspawn fail to keep a rendezvous with Nathaniel?
That's the question she and Nathaniel will be discussing once they've healed him and two of his companions up from the now-festering wounds they took on their exploration of the abandoned thaig. Ambushes apparently don't depend too much on sentience, surprisingly enough.
"Here, you know I'm no help, but Anders' clinic is just on the other side of this tunnel, so if we get you there -- "
A weak chuckle.
"He'll never let me live it down, will he?"
"I'll join him in shaving your chin fuzz off, I swear. Now hush and don't pass out on me for the next five minutes. I'll give you a shortbread if you manage."
Liranan whines, attempting to help prop Nathaniel up on his other side. It only sort of works.
Thank Andraste the light on the clinic is lit.
"Anders!" Ysalwen calls. "Someone. Please, Nathaniel's hurt badly. I can't -- "
And then there are hands pulling them out of the dank, fetid tunnel and into . . . slightly less dank fetidness.
"Thank you. Hurry, please, I think -- "
That, of course, is precisely when Nathaniel passes out from pain and blood loss. Good times.
It's quiet once Nathaniel and the others are resting in somewhat better beds in Lowtown, the worst of the damaged healed, and poultices packed around the remainder of the cuts and scratches.
Ysalwen stays behind, brown eyes fixed on Anders as he paces the infirmary, muttering to himself with his gaze turned resolutely away from her.
He asked to speak with her privately, and so --
"Anders, what is it? You said -- "
At almost the same instant he speaks. "We -- I mean I -- no, we. We've been angry at the Circles for a long time. The templars, the Chantry itself, all of it. You know that as well as any. What if w-- I told you there's a way to begin working free of them? Of all of them."
Her brow furrows, and she heaves herself off of the cot she was using for a chair, stepping closer.
"I'd say that sounds too good to be true, but -- I suppose all things are possible. We've already started some of that in Ferelden, with the schools for both mages and templars, training and learning together. It seems to be working so far, no major incidents, not much local unrest. Is this more of that, just -- elsewhere? Or -- "
Anders whirls on her, expression shadowed and intense. "That's not enough, you know it's not. You'll die and the Chantry will move right back in, sweeping everything under the rug as if it had never been. They do that, they always do that. Anything too troublesome or too loud or too unwieldy or too free. We have to show them, Ysa."
His eyes are blazing with a fervor she's never seen.
"We have to show them what it means to keep mages caged and enslaved, trapped in circumstances they can never escape, neutered and made Tranquil at the will of a few. They have to see what it costs, they have to feel it. Maybe then they'll understand, maybe then it will mean something to them."
Ysalwen takes a step back at that, a small one, hand reaching out halfway.
"Anders, that's -- that sounds -- what do you mean they have to feel it?"
Nothing about that sounds good, honestly. None of it sounds like the Anders she remembers, like the Anders she's always known.
"They have to feel our pain, Ysa. The loss of loved ones, the loss of freedom, the loss of self. Then they'll know, they'll understand. And if they don't, it will be too late to change it. The mages won't be able to stay trapped and afraid any longer, safe and compliant behind walls, under the firm hand of the templars. They'll have to run, have to fight their way free, and then -- "
His eyes really are blazing now, blue fire crackling in them and lighting up his skin.
"Then we'll have justice, true justice, at long last."
Ysalwen bites back a gasp, hand coming up to cover her mouth. This isn't -- no one said -- oh sweet blessed Andraste.
"Anders. Justice. What did you do."
He left. Justice left, after the Architect, took himself back to the Fade when they had the funeral for Kristoff. He said farewell and --
"You called him back. You called him back, didn't you, and took him in and now you're both -- oh no. No."
Anders' voice drops low and intent, ringing with a strange harmonic that Ysa has heard only once before. "They have to pay, Ysa. You have to see that they all have to pay, allowing this to go on for so many centuries. They'll feel the same fire that we do, and when the ashes have cleared over the Chantry, when Elthina knows the price of her silence and complacence, then -- "
"Anders! Justice. Be silent."
It's the voice of their Commander now, long and far away from the last time Ysa was that in truth, for them. "Feel the fire, ashes clearing. What in Andraste's name have you done."
Anders -- Justice -- whatever they've made of themselves reaches toward her with blue flaming hands, beseeching. Entreating. "Made it so they can't look away any more. The righteous flame will reach to the heavens and demand an answer. We'll be free, then. All of the mages. You can help us, Ysa, come with us to the Chantry, set the powders alight, and usher in a new dawn for Thedas. It's long past due. You've seen it yourself. You've said it yourself. We remember. We trust you."
Ysalwen's eyes are damp, and her skin has gone bloodlessly pale, hand reaching out to grasp her staff and use it to hold herself steady. "Oh, Anders. Justice. Vengeance, whatever you are now. I can't. You know I can't. If you were thinking clearly you'd know you can't, either. We none of us ever could, or should."
Rage crackles across Anders' face, blazing in his eyes and all over his skin. Betrayal might be there, too, but the rage is far too consuming and bright.
Ysalwen releases her spell, channeling it through her staff and up out of her outthrust hand. Mana clashes, purple energy billows up, and Anders -- Justice -- both of them in one body and made into something else -- falls down.
Ysalwen curls down into herself, burying her face in her knees and crouching there, breathing. Hiding her tears. They'd made themselves into an abomination, a creature so filled with its own pain and anger and fear and hate -- but it was still Anders. Still Justice. Just -- changed.
Andraste, guide me, I don't know what to --
"Powder, he said. I have to go."
Zevran was set to watch the injured Wardens, along with Sigrun -- if she can just get to the Hanged Man and have them sneak into the Chantry, take whatever powders and explosives Anders might have meant -- perhaps this sense of rising dread she has about the events in other Kirkwalls can be stopped.
With hope pulsing faintly through the self-loathing and sorrow, Ysalwen bolts out of Anders' clinic and begins to run.
It's too late. Explosives disarmed or no, someone (someones, perhaps a plan within a plan, in the event of trouble lighting a match) spreads rumors that a mage was responsible for the saltpeter and guano mixture all over the foundations of the Chantry. Several mages, even, to move that much. Citizens panic, Elthina goes to the square to calm things down, Meredith and Orsino have it out, someone moves wrong and then steel is flashing, fires are erupting, mages and templars are screaming and charging each other, the blood magic comes out --
Then it's all over but the red lyrium, the animated statues, and even more death and destruction. Casualties could have been higher -- a squad of Grey Wardens, including a reformed Crow and the Hero of Ferelden -- comes in handy in a tight spot, and Cullen moves in after the self-inflicted transformation of Meredith to keep the peace and let the Champion and her companions go, but --
The mages were still killed, save for those who turned to blood magic. The templar ranks are decimated, Meredith is gone, Elthina was slain in the fighting -- they're blaming the mages for that, too, despite no evidence -- and --
Thank the Maker for Isabela, at least, who gets Sarai Hawke's crew and Ysalwen's out of the harbor before anyone thinks to stop them.
"Where will you go?" Ysa asks Sarai, as they both stand in the prow of the ship, looking out over the Waking Sea. "After this, I mean. Hiding might be in the cards, for a time."
Sarai snorts, sharpening her dagger and looking anywhere but up. "As if the story won't spread faster than us, one way or another. That and I'm abysmal at hiding. No head for it, and I never can resist a dramatic reveal at the wrong time."
Ysa bites her lip, looks up and meets Zevran's gaze.
"Well. I've got a Bethany Hawke in Amaranthine with me, and I think she'd have my head if I didn't offer sanctuary to her sister at least for a little while. So."
Sarai looks over, golden eyes widening with something other than dull acceptance and resignation.
(It's something to see, something almost comforting. Just now.)
"Bethany?" She sounds incredulous. "Maker take it, really?"
Ysa musters up a smile, faint and soot-stained and traumatized as it is.
"The Maker probably didn't have much to do with it, no. But you'd be welcome, at least for a while. Figure out what you all want to do next, where to go, and what you'll need to get you there. It's -- it's the least I can do."
For killing Anders, for failing to stop any of this, for knowing it was coming and not having it change a damned thing --
"All right," Hawke says, holding out a callused hand. "I give it a week before you kick us out, but I'll take it."
Maybe it will feel better, later. To have people around who also remember Anders fondly, who can share some feeling of regret that he's gone.
Right now Ysalwen just wants to be alone.