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Chapter 9 - The Lovers

He never saw it coming. All he felt was a sharp sting in his neck. Drowsiness. Justice fought to take control but to no avail. A cloth bag was thrown over his head. His body fell forward into armored arms. He heard a woman’s voice as he lost consciousness.

“Ugh. I can’t believe she’s making me do this. This is not MY job.”

“I understand that, Lady Seeker. However, the Divine said she could trust no one but you for this matter.”

“I… understand. This man is responsible for the worst tragedy to strike Kirkwall. There are many who wish to see him dead. And yet… We cannot move forward if we are unwilling to look past our emotions. He was but a symptom of an old disease. A victim of a broken system who tried to fix it in his own way…”

“Surely you don’t-”

“Do not mistake my compassion for approval. He killed many innocents. I do not condone that. But it was OUR job to ensure people like him didn’t have to do what he did. We stood by and watched things spiral out of control because it suited us. If we wish to find someone to assign blame, we need only look in the mirror.”

“My apologies, your worship.”

“Well, that was in the past. We are not our predecessors. We will do better. Let us move now. We must deliver him to the Divine.”

When he woke up, he was greeted by a somewhat familiar face. He smiled weakly.

“Sister Nightingale… Though I suppose it’s Divine Victoria now.”

“Call me whatever you want. We have more pressing matters to discuss.”

“Indeed. It’s not very often the Divine sends people to kidnap you. How DID you find me anyway?”

“The more hidden a place, the darker the shadows it houses. I am no stranger to shadows.”

“Right. I’m not sure I want you to elaborate on that. So, onto business then. Why did you want to see little old me, aside from the obvious public execution you may or may not have planned for me?”

“If I wanted you dead, Anders, it would have been done long ago. But your death has never served any good purpose.”

“Ouch. You’ve hurt my pri-”

“Hawke is alive.”

“Maybe you could have led with that?!”

“We are currently in the Grand Cathedral. A rift has opened up. It leads directly to Hawke and the demon she is fighting. I have already been assembling the forces we will need to safely retrieve her.”

“Then I don’t see why you would need or even want my help. You’ve got better people than me working on this. And I doubt you had me brought all the way here just to give me a happy reunion with the love of my life.”

“In a kind world, I really would have had you brought here to meet Hawke. But this is about Starkhaven.”

“Sebastian’s still holding a grudge?”

“For no small reason. Need I remind you of what you did?”

“Yes, yes. I destroyed Kirkwall’s Chantry with the express intent of killing Revered Mother Elthina, who happened to be a good friend and mentor of Sebastian.”

“It doesn’t stop there. He held a grudge against Kirkwall for harboring you even after what you did. He held a grudge against Hawke. I’m sure you heard about how he tried to annex Kirkwall. When he tried, the Inquisition sent forces to aid Kirkwall in repelling his invasion. The Inquisition I was a part of. So he holds a grudge against us as well. And yet… despite all that, he will be here.”

“Is it really so strange? The guy is a devout Andrastian. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s going to show up when the Divine asks for help. Unless… he had a condition?”

“He wants you.”

“I’m flattered but I’m already seeing someone.”

“He will be here soon. Starkhaven’s forces will support our efforts if I hand you over to him.”

“So this is it, then? Why bring me all the way here for this? If you already knew my location, it would have been simple enough to give that to him. Why go through all this trouble?”

“Because this is a teachable moment for all parties involved. The Game is afoot. Do you want to win, Anders?”

“Okay, now you’re starting to really scare me.”

Another man walked into the room. Anders recognized him. Cullen Rutherford was a Templar. That’s “was”. Past tense. He used to be one. He no longer took Lyrium. He had worked under Meredith when she was in power. When the Red Lyrium finally drove her to insanity and she tried to kill Hawke, Cullen had turned on her. That one act was one step in the way to becoming the commander of the Inquisition’s forces when it was formed to fight Corypheus. Somewhere along the way, he fell in love with Lavellan and here he was. With regard to the heroes who had entered the Fade, the people who had the largest stake in bringing them back alive were assembled in the room. Leliana, Anders, and Cullen. Cullen handcuffed Anders silently. Anders did not resist. He had a suspicion that things were not what they seemed to be. Cullen was silent as he escorted Anders from the room, towards the training grounds where the rift was.

“This is a strange place for a prisoner hand-off…”

“I am not handing you off. I am here to ensure you enter the rift. And to ensure that King Vael chases after you.”

“Wow. Cullen Rutherford helping me escape justice? I never thought I’d see the day. I thought you would want me dead.”

“I… am not the person I once was. That man was unworthy. I do not forgive what you did. But what Sebastian is demanding is not justice.”

“Well, color me impressed. A Templar showing signs of cognitive thinking…”

“I am what I should have been all those years ago. Apologies do not benefit either of us. But for what it’s worth, I am sorry for what happened.”

“Now you’re just making me look bad.”

“When he arrives, attack me. But hold back. I don’t take Lyrium anymore. My abilities are not what they used to be.”

“Of course. We still need you to storm in with the troops later, don’t we? I’ll be careful. Ah, our guests arrive.”

Sebastian Vael walked towards them with two guards behind him. Cullen turned to face him and spoke “Divine Victoria sends her regards.” The ground trembled as it cracked, rose, and enveloped one of the guards. A fist of stone flew at the other guard, sending him flying backwards. Sebastian notched an arrow into his bow. Cullen turned around with his sword and shield drawn. “Stand down, prisoner!” he shouted. Anders smirked and shot lightning from his hands. Cullen felt the jolt hit him and fell to the ground. It stung. But not as badly as it should have. Sebastian aimed at Anders and almost smiled.

“I was wondering if you would do this the easy way or the hard way. I am glad you’re resisting.”

“Listen to yourself! Is this really the man Elthina raised?!”

“Do NOT dare speak her name, murderer! Death is too good a punishment for you!”

“You’re not telling me anything I haven’t told myself already.”

“Then why are you resisting? What do you have to fight for?”

“Somebody made a promise to me. I need to hold her to it. I may have given up on myself but I need to fight for the people who haven’t.”

“Yet another life you have brought down. No matter. You have nowhere to run now, Anders. She is not here to protect you this time. Justice will be served.”

“I know a thing or two about justice… You do not want to go down this road. You won’t like what you find at the end of it.”

“Shut up! You do not get to tutor me on rights and wrongs, abomination!”

“You may have a point, there. Still… I don’t want to die before I see her again. You’re welcome to try and stop me. If my resolve is weaker than your arrows, I welcome death at your hands.”

Anders jumped towards the rift as Sebastian chased after him. When both of them had entered the rift, Cullen stood up and went to examine the guards. They were both breathing but unconscious. He looked up and saw Cassandra watching from the shadows. She stepped out into the light and eyed the Rift cautiously.

“I do not like this, Cullen. I do not like how the Divine is playing this… but it is a test of conviction. I’ve always hated how the Game turns the best of our qualities in our vulnerabilities.”

“It’s times like these when I’m glad I grew up in Ferelden, where politics were settled with sword fights.”

“That reminds me… I once heard a rumor that the civil war of Ferelden was almost decided by a duel between the then Regent Loghain and the Warden Commander’s pet mabari. I dismissed it as ludicrous, of course.”

“Not everything Fereldan involves Mabaris, you know. On the other hand… you could try asking Her Holiness. She was present during the duel.”

“Would she even tell me, I wonder? Would she embellish the story as a bard? Would she shroud it in shadows like a spymaster? Or would she give me the truth, as a friend? At this point, I am uncertain.”

“You do not agree with her methods?”

“Had you read her letter to the Crows-”

“We are fighting to save the people we love above all else. There’s no price too high to pay and no line too far to cross.”

“I can understand that… Very well, then. I shall take my leave. There is still much to be done.”

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