Chapter 1 – Sorry, Anders

“Sorry, Anders.” Those were her words as she heroically ran into the giant spider while the Inquisitor and her companions escaped. As soon as they were out of sight, Alice Hawke quickly jumped away from the Nightmare demon and began a comical attempt to run away from it. “Hey, is this any way to treat a young, hot, blue-eyed blonde who also happens to have a great posterior?!” She shouts as she playfully jumps to one side or the other, dodging the various appendages aiming to strike her. “Champion, you think you can resist your fears through pathetic attempts at humour…” the demon says in a deep voice, because, of course its voice is deep. Hawke raises her eyebrows and shrugs, “I’d say it has worked pretty well so far… Honestly, it’s better this way. You feed on fear. So you try to scare me but I use humour to deflect my insecurities. We’re the perfect couple. I’m not sure how well that Loghain fellow would have done against you though… He’s brave and strong and all but I get the distinct impression you eat brave and strong for breakfast.” The demon chuckled deeply and halted its attacks. “You managed to spew all those words while evading my attacks. As unimpressed as I remain, I can feel it in you… A great fear that surpasses most fears I have fed on before. Slowly but surely, I will creep my way into your heart and rip out that fear… It shall be an exquisite meal! I must thank you, Champion of Kirkwall. The other fools would not have satisfied me so. Do you know why? It is because the greatest fear in this world is the fear of losing someone you love. The false warden held true love for nothing… least of all, himself. The Seeker’s fears were dampened by her faith. The elf clearly had experience in dealing with demons. He would have been a troublesome meal to stomach. And the Inquisitor was never a viable choice, given her ability to tear through the Veil with her Mark. You, my dear Champion, were the best meal that could be left to me. I see him. Your Anders. I see how much you fear for him. I will take great pleasure in making you live through every terrifying event over and over again until your mind breaks and you beg for the sweet release of death. Only, I will not give you that mercy. I will feed on your fears, growing stronger with each delectable morsel… I will press on every inch of you and squeeze you until you are nothing more than the dried husk of a creature, too pitiful to exist. And then, I will still deny you death. I will simply toss you aside-”

“Maker’s Breath!” Hawke interrupts,”You took over almost the entire first paragraph with that drivel! If you’re not careful, you’ll literally bore me to death! Where’s the fun in that? On the other hand, I don’t wanna seem ungrateful. Your little exposition gave me a lot of information… So allow me to return the favour. Pay close attention, demon. For the next few minutes, I am not going to crack any jokes. This is an incredible moment in history.” She holds her shield up and points her sword towards the demon. A shield wall stance. The shield has her family crest on it. The Amell Family Sheild. The sword is, curiously, of Qunari make. “I am so glad I left father’s Key back at home.” she says, “That thing is a fashion disaster. This sword, on the other hand, is much easier on the eyes. It was a gift from the Qunari. They call it Basrath-Kata. Apparently, it IS me, in their eyes. If I let go of it without fighting to the death, it apparently means I am dead to the Qunari. Well, what I’m about to do is something worse than death anyway, so I guess it’s pretty poetic… Maker, if Varric were here, he’d be tearing  up at the thought. Well, that and shooting a hundred bolts into you. The point is, I’ve still got an ace up my gauntlet!” She could feel the demon reaching down into her mind like a million tiny roots. Maybe tentacles would be a better word to describe it. It was calmly talking a stroll down the street that contained everything she dreaded, like a window-shopper. The feeling of vulnerability alone is intense enough to make her wonder why she hadn’t already gone insane with fear. “As I suspected…” the demon calmly states, “Your greatest fears are rooted within the mage, Anders. You supported his every endeavor. You enabled his obsession with justice.You are afraid that your unconditional support may have cemented his connection to Justice . You allowed him to manipulate you into distracting the Grand Cleric. You allowed him to lie to you. You are not afraid of being lied to, no… that would be far too childish a fear. Rather, you fear the true identity of the entity that lied to you. Anders? or Justice? Is there even anything left of either of them within that body? Or is it simply the charred remains of a spirit that came in contact with the undeniably vast injustices of the waking world and found itself twisted into Vengeance? Ah, deeper, deeper… there is more. The Blight. As a Grey Warden, he never had much time in the world in the first place. Your fear of losing him to the Calling is greatly overshadowed by your fear of him leaving for his Calling alone. He will not let you be with him during his final moments. He will try to pay the whole price himself just like he did at Kirkwall. I have seen all your fears. Whatever you plan to do is inconsequential.”

“I must ask.” Hawke says with a grin, “Do you charge per hour for your therapy sessions? Anyway, thanks for laying it all out in the open for me. Gives me great character development. But you should dig around a little more. Maybe you’ll realize what I’m about to do. What’s the most common fear among people who date mages? I’ll spare you the effort of taking a census and spill the beans: their waifu being possessed by a demon turning into an abomination. After Kirkwall, Anders and I did a lot of running. And other stuff… Including research into the Rite of Tranquility. As is common knowledge, Tranquility cuts one off from the Fade, destroys their ability to feel any emotions and thus, makes them extremely boring to demons. As a result, Tranquil are never possessed by demons.Now, the results of our research were quite disappointing. We didn’t find a way to improve our situation. We simply decided that, if a day comes when Anders is about to turn into an abomination, I would kill him. But through the course of our research, I learned what the Rite actually involves. In short, I know how to turn someone Tranquil. Will I turn Anders into a Tranquil when the day comes and keep him around as an emotionless pet? No. He thinks being Tranquil is a fate worse than death. I respect his wishes. I’m boring like that. But let’s jump to an interesting question now: What if I turned myself Tranquil right now?” The demon let out a desperate roar and lunged forward with all its might.

Memories of another time.

“During my time with the Wardens, the Calling never really bothered me. I lived in the moment. But now, I worry about it. It tears me apart to know that one day, I will have to leave you and either die a pathetic death, drooling while the Blight slowly breaks my body apart or die a pathetic death impaled by a Darkspawn blade, surrounded by Darkspawn corpses. Even worse, I won’t be there for you when your sister faces the same fate.”

“You sure do know how to talk the pants off a lady, don’t you? Bethany is beyond my help right now. I’m guessing she always will be. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this. If a million other things, including myself, don’t kill you first, I will accompany you to the Deep Roads myself. We’ll give those Darkspawn one last party. When you can’t fight anymore, you’ll be lying with your head on my lap. And when you can’t remember me anymore, I’ll give you a Spiderman style kiss and slit your throat. Aren’t I the best girlfriend in the world?”

“Don’t. I can’t. I can’t ask you to do that for me. You should live on long after me.”

“You’re not asking. I’m doing this for us. And who said anything about me dying? I’ve made it out of the Deep Roads before. If you want head tonight, you’re gonna promise me that we’re gonna do the Calling together. It’ll be the ultimate party!”

“Well, when you put it like that… How can I refuse?”

Moments before Tranquility.

“I guess I’m the one who ended up breaking that promise, huh? Sorry, Anders. You’ll be going to our party alone after all…”

A plunge into cold water.

Next Chapter (Laughing Matter)

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