Ephemera: Chapter 3

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The old supply room was a wonderful find; there was no denying it. Anders lost count of the number of times he slipped up there, just to think, and to look out across the lake. It was amazing, the way the view was never the same. Even the slightest change of wind or light altered everything: the clouds, the water, the distant shapes of the cliffs and the docks on the far shore.

He took paper up there with him when he could spare it, and sketched the ever-changing vista, or the phantasms he saw in the sky.

Sometimes, they even managed to sneak all-too-precious time together. Anders had rather assumed that was why Karl had taken him up there in the first place, but he hadn’t pushed the issue. Even that first night, they’d done nothing except stare out over the water, and then clatter belatedly back down the narrow staircase, just before lights out and the nightly head-count.

Mostly, it was somewhere they went to talk, to relax… to just be. And that, to Anders, was priceless.

“I don’t know,” Karl said thoughtfully, leaning back on his elbows.

They sat sprawled on the floor, beneath that small, sacred window, enjoying the last rays of evening sun that poured through it, drenching the newly swept floorboards with gold.

In the time since discovering this place, they had made a few small changes, cleaning the worst of the grime and cobwebs, and pilfering a couple of cushions from the senior common room to make the floor just a little less hard.

Anders tilted his head to the side, watching Karl close his eyes and bask like a cat in the warmth. He really was rather handsome, all things considered. The collar of his apprentice robes was partially unlaced, loose against his pale throat, and that lazy half-smile of his was actually very tempting.

“Perhaps,” Karl said, cracking one eye open, “the rumours are all true.”

Anders frowned. “What, that they butcher the unsuccessful ones and serve them up as fat pork? I don’t think so.”

He grinned. “Why not? Could be.”

“No.” Anders shook his head emphatically. “I heard as many as a third of apprentices don’t pass. We don’t have pork that often.”

Karl’s grin faded as he sat up, cranking open the other eye. “I don’t think it’s that many.”

“It’s still a lot. Not to mention the ones who don’t even take the Harrowing. I reckon it’s some kind of trial by fire thing. You have to fight off a templar, and you die if you lose. They probably just dump the bodies into the lake… weight them down and leave them for the fish.”

Anders heard his voice growing darker as he spoke, and he could see from Karl’s frown that he didn’t like it, but he couldn’t stop himself.

They’d talked about the Harrowing more and more recently. It seemed to be on everyone’s minds, probably because dormitory rumour had it that another four of the oldest apprentices had been called. Neither he nor Karl knew them personally, and there was yet to be any word on whether they’d all passed, or… well, that was just it.

Too much bloody mystery, to Anders’ mind.

Karl cocked an eyebrow. “You’re morbid today.”

He shrugged. “I just… I hate it. The way they corral us, and control us, and there’s no sodding choice in anything. I mean, they don’t tell you, do they? None of us know what it’s about, or whether they actually let you choose between the Harrowing and the Rite of Tranquillity, or if that’s something else that gets forced on you. It just feels as if, from the minute you’re born, someone else is making all the decisions… you know?”

Anders hugged his knees to his chest. The blank look of honest sympathy on Karl’s face—like he wanted to agree, and to nod in all the right places, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it—told Anders that he had no idea what he was talking about.

He exhaled bitterly, and stared at the motes of dust bobbing in the thick, syrupy sunlight.

“How old were you when you came here?”

Karl pursed his lips. “I told you that before. Six. I was very young. And you were—”

“Fourteen,” Anders said distantly, “when the templars came.”

Karl’s brow furrowed. He scooted across the floor, drawing nearer in all his clean, warm deliciousness, like soap, fresh bread, and new paper. It was a nicer, more comforting familiarity to cling to than the memories that suddenly reared up in the back of Anders’ mind.

Metal men, blazing swords in their fists and voices echoing within their helms, tearing up the whole village in search of one scrawny brat… he’d never seen the point of it. Sometimes, he woke in the night and smelled smoke, and laid there panting and sweating until he was certain it wasn’t real.

“And this isn’t your first Circle.”

Anders shook his head. Karl knew that. He’d already told Karl more than he’d ever told anyone… already shared more with him than he’d ever wanted to, or dared to. He supposed that was part of the reason why thoughts of escape still called so loudly to him, and yet left him feeling so stupidly guilty.

“Well,” Karl said brightly, nudging him with a friendly elbow, “I’m glad you’re here, anyway.”

Anders smiled thinly, unable to deny the way his chest squeezed itself around a small flare of excitement.

“Karl…?”

He stopped, feeling foolish, and not sure how to say what he wanted. He didn’t want to talk any more about the Harrowing, or phylacteries and rules and unfairness. He wanted to believe those things didn’t exist up here, where there was sunlight and the smell of soap and paper dust, and they were quite alone among the old crates and sacks.

Karl didn’t say anything. He just looped his arm around Anders’ shoulders and drew him close, letting him feel the warm solidity of another body, the beat of another heart.

Anders gave in, for once. He turned in to Karl’s embrace, resting his head on one broad shoulder, and listened to the rhythm of his breathing.

“You’ve got a while before they call you, I expect,” Karl said gently. “Me too. It won’t be yet. And, when it does happen, you’ll be ready. I know you will.”

It was a sweet thing to say, and he sounded like he really believed it. Anders smiled and nestled closer, his hand snaking across Karl’s chest, fingers tracing the patterns on the slippery fabric of his robe. Right at that moment, he didn’t particularly want sweetness. He wanted something else, something more immediate, and Karl didn’t pull away when he reached for it.

~o~O~o~

The striking thing about Anders, Karl thought, was his contradictions: all that bravado, papering over a beautiful innocence, and all that wily, dry humour concealing such a sense of loss and insecurity. He kissed as if it was the most terribly serious thing—as if every touch really, deeply mattered—and yet, when they broke for breath, he’d be all hazy-eyed and grinning smugly, like he’d just got away with some incredible prank.

He wasn’t like the other boys. None of this, in fact, felt like it had before. That worried Karl, used as he was to the kind of conveniences mages made for themselves. Oh, the whole business of ‘forming attachments’, as it was generally described, was of course discouraged, though naturally it happened. It just tended to happen with a little more fluidity and practicality than social custom dictated. In the close quarters of apprentice living, that usually meant intense crushes and clumsy encounters, perfumed with desperation and often followed by embarrassment. It was rumoured that, once you were a fully Harrowed mage, there was a little more freedom to seek the company of colleagues, but Karl was aware that one of the Tower’s key purposes was to remind mages of all that was closed off to them. All those trappings of so-called ‘normal’ life; family, freedom, marriage… love.

He let out a small, happy groan as, without breaking the kiss, Anders pushed forwards and climbed into his lap, those long fingers cupping Karl’s face, hot against his jaw. Karl was getting light-headed, but it didn’t really seem to matter. His hands worked circles over Anders’ back, his robe warm and smooth to the touch. Maker, but he was lovely… so full of enthusiasm and brimming with honest joy and desire.

As they parted, Karl winced at the bursts of light fracturing his vision. He was panting—they both were—and, just as he’d predicted, Anders grinned blearily and chuckled. He caught his lower lip, pinkened and lightly swollen with kisses, between his teeth, and raised his eyebrows.

“So… no one’s expecting me anywhere for a while. How about you?”

Karl wriggled, uncomfortably aware of the effect Anders’ weight was having on him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to—far from it, as a matter of fact—but he held back, nervous of something that felt more like an irrevocable step than it ever had before.

“I… I’m meant to be helping Petra with her paper on spirit healing. I shouldn’t be too long before I—”

“Oh. Right.”

That hurt look, the downcast eyes and disappointed pout, gouged at Karl’s chest. He linked his arms around Anders’ waist and squeezed.

“Hey. Just… not now. Soon.”

Anders raised his gaze, those dark eyes spearing him on the hope of a promise, need blazoning out from that sharply chiselled face. He might no longer be the skinny creature he’d been when he first arrived at the Tower, but Anders still managed to retain a slight air of tight-wound tautness, as if it wouldn’t take much to slip him over the edge from rebellious to downright feral.

Karl gritted his teeth and tried to will his arousal into submission. He smiled weakly, and Anders wrinkled his nose.

“You think I’m too young.”

“No. If I thought that, I wouldn’t come up here with you.”

There’s only so much temptation a man can take, after all.

He didn’t say it; didn’t really want to admit it. Anders’ brow furrowed, and Karl suppressed the urge to snatch those deliciously pursed lips against his, to wrestle him to the floorboards and push up his robes. It would only take a few seconds… just the briefest burst of time to cross that final boundary and change everything and that, Karl reminded himself sternly, was why it was important it was done right.

He gazed into those dark, questioning eyes, and sighed. “Look, Anders… you said you’ve never—”

“I haven’t. So I want to. I really want to,” he added helpfully, with what Karl decided was an utterly malicious wriggle.

“Andraste’s tits! Don’t do that. Just… look, we will. I promise. But not right now. All right?”

Anders looked suddenly insecure, worry pinching his brow and a stab of cold anxiety in his face, despite the way his fingers tugged at the lacing of Karl’s robe. It was an absent-minded kind of seduction, Karl thought, catching those long, pale hands in his, and gently removing them from his chest.

“I do want to,” he murmured, squeezing Anders’ fingers gently. “But I want everything to be right for you. I… I think that’s important.”

Anders didn’t look convinced. He looked like he was preparing himself for a rejection, and that stung Karl immeasurably. He pressed a soft kiss to those delicious lips, and was heartened when Anders seemed to relax into it.

He smiled thinly when they parted, and clambered off Karl’s lap, brushing his robes down as he got reluctantly to his feet. Their window—their eyrie, their little slice of the outside world—was flooded with the last rays of evening sun, the sky blushing crimson and yellowish-rose above the glittering planes of the lake.

Despite all the sweeping and thumping the dust out of the room, a small, silver-grey spider had already begun spinning a web in the corner, between the crates and the wall. As the deft fingers of a breeze seeped through the window, the creature twitched a leg and then scuttled the length of its web.

“I think,” Anders announced, looking down at Karl consideringly, “that you might well be a plant.”

Karl raised his eyebrows, and took the warm, firm hand that Anders offered to pull him to his feet.

“I didn’t think I was particularly vegetative just now.”

Anders snorted. “The other kind. Sometimes I think you’re here just so I won’t run.”

Karl blinked. Anders’ words settled heavily on the air between them, and Karl searched his face for a sign that he hadn’t meant that seriously… because Anders never was serious about much.

He shrugged, feeling small and awkward, as if there weren’t any words to really say what he wanted.

“I thought you were going to swim for it,” he said eventually.

Anders wrinkled his nose. “It’s not a good plan. But it is a plan.”

“You meant it, then?”

“What?”

Karl swallowed heavily as the sun’s embers lanced the air, dust motes spinning in the light that gilded Anders’ hair. Those dark eyes, polished by the sunset, flared with secrets and possibilities. Karl looked away, unable to hold his gaze.

“Well? Do you want to be a prisoner your whole life?” Anders asked softly. “Doing what they tell you: eating, sleeping and washing when you’re told to, walking on eggshells and jumping through hoops?”

His voice was low and soothing, but the words had an edge. Karl shook his head.

“Magic—uncontained magic, without any way of controlling it—is dangerous,” he admitted.

“And the solution is to cage us all, is it?” Anders retorted.

Karl sighed. “I know it feels like a prison. But it’s not. It isn’t… not forever. After your Harrowing, you get more freedom. You can travel, go to other Circles… to Denerim, maybe. There’s a lot of research going on there. The Chantry—”

Anders let out a long, weary breath, and leaned his head back. “Sometimes I think the bloody Chantry is half the problem. These are their rules, aren’t they? And, anyway, what if you fail your Harrowing? What then?”

A different note had crept into his voice… not frustration, not anger, but fear. Karl bit his lip thoughtfully. So, it was still about that, after all.

Anders had paced away from him, to one of the stacks of crates that lined the walls. He was running those long, pale fingers along the dusty wood, probably playing the familiar game of guessing what was in them. They had thought of cracking a couple open, just to find out, but it seemed like asking for trouble, or possibly discovery.

Despite the swept floorboards and the cushions, Karl knew they needed to leave this space as untouched as possible, in case they needed to brush away all traces of having been here in a hurry.

He supposed that meant Anders had a point. For all its values of safety and collaboration, the Circle was more a prison than a home.

He stepped across the boards, the joists creaking slightly beneath his feet, and put one hand on Anders’ shoulder, folding the other around those long, white fingers.

“Hey. Didn’t I tell you? That won’t—”

“It could do,” Anders said quietly, and there was real fear in his eyes. “And what then?”

Karl pulled him into a hug. Hot, uneven breaths grazed his neck, but gradually the tension seemed to seep from Anders’ spine.

“You’re a talented mage,” he murmured against the blond hair that smelled of soap and candle soot. “You’re smart, and sharp, and you can be anything. And I— I know you’ll be fine.”

Anders raised his head. “Really?”

“Really,” Karl promised, choking down the tremulous temptation to give voice to what he’d almost said… the things he’d never been afraid of saying before.

Anders burrowed closer, squeezing both the breath and resistance from him.

“I’m scared.”

“I know,” Karl soothed. “Me too. We all get like this when people get called.”

“I just don’t like the secrecy. I don’t like—”

“I know.”

Anders sighed, and after a while, when they parted, he looked strangely chastened. Karl smiled weakly.

“We should go.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t want to,” he added, glancing from Anders to the gold-drenched window, a bare cut into the encroaching evening. “But we should.”

“S’pose,” Anders admitted.

His fingers twitched, like he meant to reach for Karl’s hand again, and Karl had to fight not to pull it away. He couldn’t bear to let Anders think he was being rejected and yet, Maker help him, if he touched him again now it would be too damn hard to let go.

“Come on,” he said, his voice a little dry and husky in that sudden, thick quiet. “I’ll walk you to your dorm.”

~o~O~o~

Alyson Emmal, Ricard Oswest, Asha Kirklund, and Della Woodgard.

Those names—the four apprentices who had been called for their Harrowing rituals—sped around both the senior and junior dormitories in ice-dark whispers. Two templars and one of the bedders, who kept a vague responsibility for dormitory laundry and general tidiness, came down in the night to arrange the collection of their effects, or so Karl said.

Anders wondered what it was about the whole thing that meant it all had to be done in the dark.

They took all four students’ trunks, books, pens and other detritus, and apparently said they were being moved upstairs to the mages’ quarters. One of Alyson’s friends was inconsolable, Karl said. They wouldn’t tell anyone anything; just that it would all be over and done with soon.

Well, it was. In a way. The next day, at dinner, with them all in their long, ranked rows on the refectory benches, First Enchanter Irving gave one of his periodic addresses from the dais. He congratulated Ricard, Asha, and Della, officially welcomed them as new members of the Circle, full-fledged brothers and sister… and it was as if Alyson had never existed.

People tried to find out what had happened, of course. Anders asked a few questions himself, despite the fact he hadn’t known her, but all any of the enchanters would say was that it wasn’t any of his business and that all of life was flux. What did that even mean, anyway?

“People come and go from the Tower all the time,” one of the older mages told him, speaking in hushed tones in the quiet of the library. “There are constant changes. Why, you’ve seen Ser Rylock and her detachment of recruits, newly arrived from Denerim, and just this morning Enchanter Uldred and Enchanter Wynne left with the others for the conference in Cumberland. You see? Tos and fros, all the time.”

It was no answer, but the old sod wouldn’t say any more, and when Anders tried to ask someone else, the templar on the door started giving him shifty looks.

He sighed, scowled, and settled himself at one of the desks with a book he was meant to be reading on studies of the Fade. It was a new edition of a work dating from the middle of the Blessed Age, and written by some preachy Chantry scholar who couched the entire thing in terms of sin and morals.

Huh… might as well just put a big sticker on the front saying ‘Why Mages are Bad’ and have done with it.

Anders slumped in the seat and stared at the thick vellum pages, watching the little black slugs of words crawl and twitch before him. He couldn’t concentrate. He didn’t want to concentrate. He didn’t want to be here, in this place where you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing someone else; without seeing or smelling them, or just having the whole oppressive sense of their breathing and their power skimming the back of your neck the whole bloody time.

Mages sensed magic, of course. Power. It was like the world was a second skin over it, sometimes, and nothing was real but the crackle of energy beneath, like all life and all solid, physical things could just melt away and be part of the same blinding force of light.

When he’d been free—before the templars and the towers, and all this regimented security—Anders had never really felt that. He supposed it was because there were no other mages around, or at least none that he’d known about. Here, where they were all piled in on top of each other, tasting everyone else’s power was pretty much unavoidable. You couldn’t help feeling it, or feeling the templars’ abilities, and sometimes he wondered if it didn’t defeat the whole object of keeping them locked up. What if something went wrong in the Tower itself? What if the mages revolted, or if a whole mass of demons broke through at once? Was it really sensible to keep so many potentially dangerous people—as they were so often told they were—caged up together?

Anders had never really bothered to ask questions about it. He wasn’t sure how to talk to people about the way things felt. He wasn’t even sure if other mages felt things like that the way he did, and he had no desire to get himself labelled as insane or… well, whatever it was. He could talk to Karl, he supposed. Karl would probably understand. Karl understood pretty much everything, and didn’t look at him like he was an idiot, or a foreigner. Which he was, obviously. Easy to forget that, sometimes.

Anders shivered, wishing he’d picked a desk closer to the fireplace. The library was always so bloody cold, and the fizzing little orb of blue in the lantern bolted to the centre of the desk didn’t give out enough light to see properly by.

He sighed, closed the book, and decided to go back to his dorm. He thought about sneaking up to the supply room, but it didn’t seem sensible to risk it when the templars were so edgy. Oh, they knew what happened to apprentices who never came down from the Harrowing Chamber. Anders was fairly sure of that… and that probably meant it wasn’t anything good.

So, he had no wish to get caught. Anyway, Karl was busy tonight, and for all the snatched privacy and solitude the storeroom afforded, Anders really only wanted to be up there with him. For that. He’d promised it, hadn’t he? Unless that was a lie, too… only Karl wasn’t a liar.

Well, not yet.

Anders blinked the thoughts away. In his experience, almost everyone he’d ever known had been divided into two groups of people: those who lied to him, sooner or later, and those who never even spoke to him. Oh, the lies varied. Sometimes they were kind ones, like ‘don’t worry, we’ll be safe here’, or ‘no, of course I’m not afraid of you’, and sometimes they were less well-intentioned.

Karl said the Circle’s platitudes—‘this is your home’, ‘we care for all our young apprentices as if they were our own children’, and ‘of course the Chantry doesn’t hate mages’, for example—weren’t all lies. Karl was, quite possibly, wrong, although Anders supposed he might not know it. People whose lives had been easy, or at least not marked by any violent difficulty, frequently were.

He folded his arms across his middle as he slumped back to his dorm, his shoes slapping on the flagstones and his robes swishing softly in the quiet.

He didn’t really mean to take the other corridor, to head in the opposite direction to the way he intended to go, and—still scowling at the floor and stomping along as if the stones themselves had offended him—to end up at the chapel. The doors were open and, inside, they were lighting candles. The smell of beeswax polish and copal incense wafted out to greet him. One of the initiates was singing a verse of the Chant that Anders didn’t immediately recognise—no great surprises there—and he furrowed his brow as he picked out parts of the words.

As there is but one world, / One life, one death, there is / But one god, and He is our Maker.

Ah, yes. Transfigurations. That whole deal about magic serving man, never ruling over him… blah blah blah. Anders wrinkled his nose. He’d read a book in the library about the history of the first Circles, and how they’d grown from the times the Chantry used magic for menial things, like keeping the braziers that contained the eternal flames lit… until the mages decided they were a bit fed up with being servants.

A noise cut across his thoughts, and he glanced down at its source.

The fat ginger cat that was supposed to be the Tower’s mouser—an old, boot-faced tom with a torn ear and malevolent-looking green eyes—glared at Anders as it padded out from behind one of the statues that flanked the doors. He presumed it had just taken a steaming great crap behind Andraste’s marble draperies, and he grinned widely.

“Hello, Mr. Wiggums.”

Well, it seemed as good a name as any. The cat arched its back into a stretch, and stalked idly up to him, the look on its face one of extreme disinterest. Anders hunkered down and offered a half-curled hand, which the cat head-butted, and he obediently scratched behind its ragged ears.

Mr. Wiggums’ thick rope of a tail lashed once, then plumed straight upright as he worked his spine beneath the petting hand. Anders smiled. After a moment, the cat started up a growling, greasy sort of purr, rather like a set of rusty hinges.

“You like that, do you? Yes, you do…. No, I’m sorry, kitty. I haven’t got anything for you.” Anders patted down his pockets with his free hand and shrugged regretfully at the cat’s expectant stare. “Sorry.”

The tom yowled, low in his throat, and the green eyes narrowed to slits. Anders withdrew his hand, but not quite quickly enough. Mr. Wiggums lashed out in a half-hearted sort of way, and landed a deep scratch across his knuckles.

“Ow! Well, that wasn’t necessary.”

The cat stared at him, tail thrashing for no real apparent reason, then sat down and started washing his paw, apparently unconcerned. Anders put his sore hand to his mouth, and sucked away the welling beads of blood. He didn’t hold it against Mr. Wiggums. Everyone should have the right to strike out when they felt vulnerable.

The familiar clink of armoured footfalls coming down the corridor behind him hauled Anders to his feet even before he was really aware of it, and he glanced guiltily over his shoulder. No reason to, he thought resentfully. Not as if he was doing anything wrong.

Mr. Wiggums yowled again, and wound himself around the backs of Anders’ legs, possibly in the hope that he’d been lying about not having any food. The templar bearing down on them—Ser Rylock, Anders realised, the woman who’d come from Denerim with the new detachment of recruits—glared at him as if she expected a salute.

“You shouldn’t fiddle around with that thing,” she said, nodding at Mr. Wiggums.

Her voice was blunt and hard, with an accent that sounded as if it might be Marcher, and she wore her glossy chestnut hair pulled back into a severe bun. She was fairly young, for a templar, though something about her face—all pale skin and tough, dark eyes, keen like a bird’s—seemed tight-drawn, as if she was just waiting for a command, so she could snap to attention.

Anders had thought that the other night at dinner, when the First Enchanter acknowledged her in his little speech. A welcome for new colleagues, and all that rubbish. She’d stood up with the trace of a heel click, and glared at the roomful of mages and apprentices as if she expected someone to fling a fireball.

He shrugged diffidently. “I’m not doing anything wrong.”

Rylock narrowed her eyes. “Filthy, and most likely disease-ridden,” she snapped.

Mr. Wiggums pressed up against the back of Anders’ calf, and loosed a quiet, rumbling noise best described as mraawoo. Anders gazed steadily at the sword of mercy emblazoned on the front of the templar’s armour. They didn’t make them a different shape for women, he noticed. He’d been curious about that, given that there weren’t any female templars serving under Knight-Commander Greagoir, at least as long as he’d been here. Vaguely, he’d somehow expected there to be… well… bumps. Or something. Not that Ser Rylock looked like the type of woman who had— no, all right, she probably had… just, maybe, not… a lot.

Oh, sod.  

Anders cleared his throat, aware of a slight heat rising to his face. Her armour was awfully shiny. She probably spent a lot of time buffing it. Templars did that, as he understood. Shining armour and praying. Kept the mind off carnal temptations, probably. Not that she looked like she had many of those, either.

He shrugged defensively. “I wouldn’t say that. I mean, I bathe every single week, and at the slightest cough, I’m straight down to the sanatorium. Can’t be too careful, can you?”

Ser Rylock’s glare intensified as Anders raised his head and met her gaze. Her lips drew into a tight crease.

“I meant the cat,” she said crisply.

Ignoring the slight quickening of his pulse, Anders squeezed out an enormous smile and widened his eyes in melodramatic surprise.

“You did? Oh… silly me! We-ell, not to worry. Mr. Wiggums doesn’t have a thing wrong with him. Probably outlive us all, won’t you?” he added, glancing down at the tomcat, who was now sitting by his foot, and radiating an aura of feline smugness.

“Mister…? Oh, for the Maker’s sake….”

Rylock crossed her arms over her chest, obscuring the sword of mercy with her heavy gauntlets, and sighed irritably.

Anders’ grin grew faintly manic, and he garbled out some excuse about how he ought to be getting along. She didn’t even bother to dismiss him. The hallway was beginning to fill up; evening service would be starting soon, and all good apprentices were supposed to show their faces in chapel.

Mr. Wiggums had stalked off in search of something to fight, or possibly eat, and somewhere warm to lay, so Anders slipped in on the tail end of a group of elven students, and slid into one of the back pews.

Rylock didn’t come in. She clanked off down the corridor, and Anders relaxed against the well-polished wood. He didn’t listen much to the sermon, though the shapes of the words were familiar and yielded a little bit of comfort, like being enveloped in the blurred folds of a childhood song.

He thought about that, as the priest droned on in her usual stultifying manner. The heavy air grew warm, perfumed with wax and incense, and the shadowy, half-forgotten sound of his mother singing him to sleep seemed to thread its way through the canticles.

Anders bowed his head, closed his eyes, and held onto that. It was the most peace the Chantry ever gave him.

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Chapter 4

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