Title: Number Six
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V2 D0)
Warnings: Angst, fire, panic attacks, Anders has some fucking issues, threat of Tranquility, suggestions of attempted suicide, there are things worse than death
Notes: The sixth attempt went even less well than usual.
This time, he wasn’t coming back. Not this time. Win, lose, or fall a hundred and twenty feet to his death, he was not coming back. The windows were high and narrow, but frankly, so was he. The Templars joked about those windows — no one would fit, no one could reach them, no one would be that stupid. But, Anders was just that done. He was a grown-ass mage, and he was getting out of this tower.
For weeks, he’d gathered sheets out of the laundry, little strengthening enchantments of the sort that were meant to be used on the upholstery of the new chairs on the second floor. Little things that no one would notice in the usual tides of things going missing. No one was allowed in or out, for the most part, which meant anything that got lost couldn’t have gone far, in most people’s minds, and it wasn’t much worth raising hell about, if it was something small. Just mice again, or the magpies that had taken up residence in the stone scrollwork under the windows on the third floor.
And that was where he found himself, that night. A dusty, disused room that probably hadn’t been cleaned in the entire time he’d been in the tower. Was it fifteen years yet? If not yet, then soon. He’d carried the cloth rope up the stairs in a laundry basket, claiming he was just dropping off Sweeney’s washing — Oh, you know how Sweeney gets, when he’s reading. Just forgets we all exist. — and that was the thing about Sweeney. He wouldn’t remember one way or the other if Anders had been in with his laundry.
The huge table he set the basket on bore more scars than he did. It looked like a fight had broken out in the room, at some point, long ago, and it had just been closed up, afterward. Forgotten, like so many things were, in here. Books were stacked on the table, as if someone had meant to move them, but never got around to it. Faded maps stretched across one end. He found a small, metal gryphon that looked like it had once been part of something else caught in the fabric of one of the chairs, as he moved it out of the way of the bookcase he was going to have to move. The window was higher than he’d thought, but the rope was long enough. It had to be. And if it wasn’t, well, there were worse things. He’d either die or thank the maker he was a healer.
He moved the books, first, piling them onto the table until he could drag the enormous, carven piece of furniture — by the Maker how had they even gotten this thing into the room!? — under the window. Climbing the shelves was simple enough, and he tied the rope to one of the dragons carved into the top of the bookcase. Was that—? It was, wasn’t it. An old Tevinter design. Seven dragons. It seemed he’d chosen Urthemiel. Ah, vanity, one of his few redeeming virtues. Perhaps the Old God of beauty would help him out of this dreadful place, however unwittingly.
Picking the lead out of the window to free the glass took longer than he’d expected, but kicking the window out would echo down the hall and draw the attention of anyone close enough to hear. Finally, he’d pried out enough to fit through the space. He tossed out the rope and started to ease himself out the window. Andraste’s flaming knickers, this had been a poor choice of exits. His heart climbed up into his throat as he wrapped the cloth around his wrist. A little at a time. Don’t move too fast.
The door opened, but he was sure they were too late. He was so sure, until he caught the shoulder of his robe on the glass. Stuck. He couldn’t even throw himself down, and Maker did he try. Anything to get out. Anything was better than this. Anywhere was better than here.
One of the Templars dragged him back into the room, dropping him from the height of the bookcase, to land at the feet of the one below. Fire raced down his fingers, but he cut it off. He couldn’t call it or control it, but most of the time, he could stop it. Healer. Healers aren’t dangerous. They won’t hurt you as much, if you’re just a healer.
"Daring, for a mage," one of the Templars offered, tauntingly. "I’ve heard that about you. I’ve heard a lot about you. This time, the First Enchanter’s not going to save you, even if you are his little pet."
"I don’t even want to know what kind of arrangement this one has with the First Enchanter. He should have been made Tranquil." The other Templar climbed down the bookcase, as Anders quietly tried to heal himself before they remembered to take his magic.
"I don’t get why that can’t still be arranged," the first Templar complained.
Fates worse than death… Panic and the taste of bile blotted out everything in the room. First the books caught fire, and then the screaming started. It wasn’t until years later that he realised that had been his own voice. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. They were going to destroy everything that meant anything. They were going to destroy him, and he didn’t even get to die first.
He blacked out, when the smite hit, and came to his senses two days later, in a dark room. He was to be kept there, he learnt, until Irving and Greagoir ironed out the details of his fate. The room had been destroyed, he learnt — burned out in a magnificent inferno that he and the two Templars had escaped only because the room was stone, and only the furnishings could burn. He was unsurprised to learn that Wynne had saved him, after the Templars left him behind in the blaze. He’d been away from most of it, been spared any burns, and the Templars hadn’t gotten more than a little singed, which was almost a pity, since maybe if he’d taken one down, they’d have put him out of his misery.
But, no. There was nothing to do but wait, in this magic-less hole, while greater men decided his future for him, once again. He could hear Wynne’s strident voice in the hall, fighting for him, like she always did. Tears ran down his face, as he started to laugh. This was how it would be, then. Next time he’d do better. Next time. But, he’d seen what was down here, from the other side of the door. He’d seen the stories in the bones. Next time. The laughter became hysterical, and he let the darkness take him, drifting out into the biting mountain air that came before this place.