Questions: Alistair and Teagan

“Can I ask you a question, Alistair?” He sat, apart from the others but still near the evening’s fire, cleaning the shield Arl Eamon had given him. When I spoke he set it aside and rose, polite as ever. If he stood a little closer than he used to, well, that was fine with me.

“At your service,” he said, bowing just the tiniest bit. I regularly pestered him with queries about the Grey Wardens, his Templar training, and about a dozen other things. He was patient and self-derogatory, sometimes sarcastic and a little silly but always willing to talk. But the brewing tension between us had me curious and I’d decided to just come out and ask him.

I tried to phrase it delicately. “So, if you were a Templar have you never…” The phrase dangled limply while I searched for a tactful term.

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 19

By the time we reached the end of the last corridor at the outside of the base every one of us was bleeding and splashed with gore. The Collectors had thrown everything they’d had at us, husks and soldiers alike. The sight of the Normandy floating beside the base lifted all of our spirits enough to fuel one last burst of speed for a leap through the low gravity to the open airlock.

I saw a few of my crew members and even Joker providing covering fire as others caught the team and hauled them aboard. I thought my heart would break as I saw my friends rushed into the waiting arms of those few we’d managed to save. Finally I was the only one left.

The first of the explosions rocked the station back from my ship as I sprinted toward the lip. Unable to check my momentum, I pushed off with all I had, windmilling my arms as though that would somehow provide me enough thrust to bridge the gap. I might as well have flapped them for all the good it did.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 17

Sudden Reversals

Anders explained that one of the senior Templars, Ser Alrik, had been agitating for what he termed the Tranquil Solution under which all of the mages in the Gallows would have their connections with the Fade, and thus their magic and their emotions, severed. Isabela and Merrill looked as horrified as I felt. Such a program would go against everything the Circle was intended to do.

The Rite of Tranquility was supposed to protect people from mages who were too weak-willed to face a Harrowing or who had already proven dangerous without that test. Enchanters who transgressed went to mage’s prisons rather than undergoing the Rite. It was not used to punish the outspoken or disagreeable and the Chantry would never approve it for all mages.

Would they? I thought. Meredith was a little nuts and Elthina had shown all the backbone of an earthworm in defying the woman she’d appointed Knight-Commander. By the time Orsino appealed to the Divine and received an answer it could be too late to save any of the mages. Clearly the First Enchanter didn’t have the power to prevent his charges being made Tranquil against his wishes, unless he was complicit in the plan as well, something I found impossible to believe.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 18

Oh, for the Love Of...

“And I thought my training was intensive,” Kaidan said later that night as we were eating again. We’d been hard at my practice for two full days. My head throbbed from the unaccustomed effort. We took another nap and continued working on my newfound biotic abilities, including generating and funneling my own energy without running around like a loon. The fact that I had no innate abilities made everything harder, despite the juice supplied by the L5 in my head.

“You’ll never be really powerful,” Kaidan told me, “but with the implant you can at least create a decent barrier or knock down someone’s shields to give yourself an advantage.” I still intended to have it out with Miranda over putting the damned thing in my brain and then apparently just hoping it didn’t get activated. I hoped she’d enjoy the surprise when I knocked her over with a blast.

Another few hours and a hefty snack later, Kaidan decreed that I was ready to start shielding myself from the energy that biotics naturally put out and from absorbing too much when one of them touched me. He explained how he had learned but that everyone had to create a personal method that worked because differences in brain chemistry and structure made no one technique effective for everyone.

Prompt Response: At the Beach

The city of Kirkwall may sit, brooding and white, at the edge of the Amaranthine Sea but the closely wound alleys and stairs trap the freshening breezes that should ease the heat of summer. The months when the sun bakes the southern end of the Free Marches bring lethargy to the wealthy in Hightown, who cannot not be bothered to stir from the cool of their stone homes, and misery to the poor that squat below them.

Hawke stretched in the warm sand, wind drying the spray that dotted her bare skin. She turned to Anders where he lay propped on his elbows, head tipped back and ribs showing. His smile of contentment was worth the lie she’d told to lure him away from his fetid clinic in the rankest corner of Darktown for the afternoon.

She’d only discovered this little stretch of beach because a bandit she’d been pursuing had fallen from the jagged rocks above in his flight. A narrow ledge sloped beneath the forbidding edges, tucked into a small overhang in the cliff face, and from the paths of the mountain the way was utterly invisible. Coated in sweat already that morning, she’d determined that the refugees and slum denizens of the city could do without their healer for a day.

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 18

“They’re alive!” I yelled as the others piled through the doors behind me. As I watched in horror, Chambers’s face became blotched and the skin began to peel away. The fluid in her pod turned a frothy, bloody pink and she beat at the port with hands from which the flesh had sloughed down to bone. “Get them out,” I screamed frantically.

We hammered and pried at the pods on the floor as the eight plugged into the network of tubes along the wall flushed obscenely behind us. I didn’t know who had been in the other seven pods, didn’t want to know. I may have scorned Yeoman Chambers’s attempts at manipulating my life but nothing she could ever have done could have merited the torture and dissolution that she’d suffered. I saw Garrus help Dr. Chakwas stand shakily and would have started crying if tears hadn’t already been streaming down my face since the moment I saw that at least some of my crew was still alive.

We opened the pods that we could reach, finding twelve more of my crew and seventeen colonists. Empty pods hung across the vast walls and across the ceiling. Hundreds of them filled each of the distant outcroppings that dotted the chamber. There was no way to tell if those were empty and no way to reach them directly, beyond the fact that the Normandy couldn’t carry all of them even if we could release the prisoners. My heart ached as I realized that anyone still alive in this chamber would have to be left behind. I wanted to smash each of those pods, preferably with the face of a Collector, and save every human on this station but we simply couldn’t. They were as doomed to die as if we’d never come.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 16

Back and Forth

A worthy battle we found atop overlooking the quarry: the mother dragon that had spawned the dragonlings we’d fought with in the tunnels. Yet after facing down Flemeth’s high dragon form a regular full-grown dragon didn’t intimidate me as much as I’d have thought. The biggest challenge lay in keeping out of its way when it loosed a full-throated trumpet that battered your ears and made your whole head swim. My shield provided enough cover so the gouts of flame barely singed the fringe on my armor but the teeth and claws were a different matter.

Isabela danced to stay behind mama dragon while Sebastian jockeyed for position on the piles of rock around the cave we’d just left, trying to stay out of her line of sight. He sank arrows into the hollow at the base of her neck and after a time it began to look like the dragon was wearing a ruff of feathers. Aveline and I kept her attention as much as we could, striking at intervals from behind our shields but mostly just letting the others chip away until she lay, magnificent and bloody, unable to fight back any longer.

Aveline and Sebastian argued about who should get the death blow until I finally walked over and ended the beautiful thing’s suffering. They both pouted the entire way back to Kirkwall, Isabela’s jibes pricking each of them. Meanwhile I dreamed of being able to transform as Flemeth had.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 17


Liara flared with her own power, the glow skating over the lighter blue of her skin. I was getting nervous and the wild energy loose in the room was doing nothing to calm me. The pressure in the back of my head made me dizzy and I swayed a bit, trying to keep my balance. Kaidan must have seen it, focused though he was on Liara, and immediately tamped down his biotics.

“Shepard!” I felt his arm around me and for a moment Liara's face twisted with some emotion. Then she, too, stopped pulsing. Kaidan helped me into a chair and then stepped back a few feet. I held up a hand to stop Liara as she moved closer. “If you two are going to have a fight I need to leave the room,” I said. I hated how weak my voice sounded but something seriously weird was sapping my energy and stuffing my head. I seemed to be reaching some critical mass. Despite my protests, she put a hand on my shoulder and then jumped back as I squirmed in the chair, a stuttering blue glow of my own leaping briefly to life. “I do not understand. Why would Cerberus have implanted you, Shepard?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” I shook my head a little, trying to clear it. “That's actually why we came to see you so quickly.” I pretended not to notice the hurt that crossed her face at that. I never said that tact was my strong point. “Kaidan says I need someplace to hide out while we get a handle on this thing. It's been active for all of fifteen minutes, now. Can you help us find a spot?” Her expressive face shifted between alarm and concern. She was worried about me but Kaidan must not have been overreacting if she dropped the question of why in favor of helping us to solve our little problem. After a few moments, she nodded.

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 17

The dock crew at Illium had us loaded and ready to go before my hair was even dry. It looked like The Illusive Man had played nicely for a change. I had EDI and Tali scan everything we took aboard for surveillance equipment or unpleasant surprises but they both came up empty.

By the time we finished our jump back to the relay near Omega and I went down to check on Thane he was back in the life support room, up and dressed as stylishly as ever. His breath came roughly still but some of the new medical supplies had helped to ease his laboring lungs. He ran his hands through my hair and kissed me thoroughly while I wallowed in my disappointment that he was no longer nearly nude and in a bed.

“You appear to have recovered from our adventures on Zorya. I fear that my days of stealth are over, however,” he joked. “My targets would hear me through the walls.”

How sweet he was, trying to reassure me despite how obviously he had deteriorated in a single day. His face looked drawn, serious despite his light tone. Had it really been so short a time since he was dancing destruction through the geth on Haestrom, laughing? His quick fluidity had slowed to a smooth grace in the past few weeks. It was clear that the Kepral’s Syndrome had spread far beyond his lungs. Guilt stabbed at me. I’d been hauling him around the galaxy, thrusting him into situations that would only worsen his condition, and he had actually thanked me for doing so. He’d saved my life and risked his for me countless times and all I had to offer him was death.

I held him as tightly as I dared. “I need you to be careful, Thane,” I said, swallowing tears yet again. “Promise me. Promise you’ll be back here with me after we destroy these bastards.”

He held my face in his hands and pressed his lips against my forehead, each of my cheeks in turn, the tip of my nose, and finally my mouth. “I promise, siha,” he answered solemnly. I wished I’d asked him more about his language so that I could have a name for him as beautiful as his for me.

Both of us knew keeping that promise was essentially out of his control. It calmed me, though, to have told him at least a little of how I felt and to have him so clearly accept what I offered. Had there been time I would have hauled him to his cot then and there but I suspected that Thane, ever composed and deliberate, had never heard of a quickie. Instead, we made our way to the briefing room so that the whole team could discuss strategy while EDI and Joker performed the half-blind calculations that might allow us to live through the coming jump.

There wasn’t any way to prepare for what would happen. We tossed ideas around and considered some what ifs but as soon as Joker announced that we were approaching the relay I kicked everyone free and headed for the bridge. Thane and Garrus both came with me and I was thankful to have my closest friends around me. I was terrified, though I wouldn’t allow it to show. The Omega Four relay swam into view. Most relays pulsed a familiar, biotic blue, a color with which we’d all become comfortable. The mysterious machine we faced, however, glowed a diseased purple-red, a threatening bruise of color that clearly warned us away. I’d half hoped that the IFF handshake would turn it the reassuring cobalt of the others but that didn’t happen. The roiling brilliance grabbed us and threw us to the heart of the galaxy.

I doubt anyone breathed as we were decelerated on the other side. Then we made up for that breathless moment hyperventilating as Joker threaded the Normandy through nigh-invisible gaps between the broken, blasted, and otherwise destroyed ships that choked the space around the relay. It must keep a clear field in the debris around itself but the landing distance was incredibly short. I reminded myself to kiss Joker on the cheek for being good enough to not only make the jump that accurately but to react so quickly to the thousands of looming threats. We’d upgraded the shields and the hull but it was his skill that squeaked us through the minefield.

No sooner had we cleared the bulk of the mess than sentinels sprang to life around us. It looked like the Collectors were not relying on the debris field alone to knock out those lucky enough to survive the trip. Their lasers forced us back into the wreckage and a high-speed game of chase ensued. Between our weapons and more of Joker’s unorthodox piloting we finally managed to destroy the last of them. Our shields were all but depleted and the hull scored in many places but we were still flying. EDI confirmed that the worst of the damage had been superficial. We cruised to the object of our collective hatred, a bizarre structure that looked as though random asteroids had been strung together with titanium beams and the spit of some enormous nest-making insect.

Sliding from a dock in the behemoth was none other than our friend, the Collectors’ ship, according to EDI the very one that had killed me and then kidnapped my second crew. That fucker was going down if I had to launch myself out of the airlock and attack it with a hand knife. Happily, I didn’t need to: Garrus showed us all the value of the hours he’d spent calibrating our new Thanix cannon when EDI sliced the damned thing to ribbons as Joker spun us around its flanks. I cursed it colorfully the entire time, willing us out of the path of its weapons as we dodged and weaved about the ponderous thing.

I hadn’t noticed that I’d grabbed Thane’s hand at some point and was crushing it in my anger. He made a small noise of protest as the other ship broke apart before us. My frustration at being unable to assault the ship myself broke as I apologized for hurting him. He really needed both hands to be effective inside the base and there I was, trying to break his fingers. My own hand was sore from squeezing so tightly. With the other I punched Garrus on the shoulder in thanks and congratulations. The look of satisfaction on his face cheered me.

We scraped to a landing on the surface of the base, too damaged in the fight to maintain our distance. The Normandy hadn’t been designed to land rather than dock. My whole ship was leaning to port and EDI poured a stream of damage reports into my omni-tool. I cut it off with a curt, “Can you fix it?” I wanted the bottom line: could we still get back home? EDI reassured me that the supplies we’d taken on in Illium had included plating and replacement power cells that she and Legion could use to repair any hull breaches and restore the shields, given a few hours. While I could have used Legion’s precise marksmanship with me it was more important that everyone know we had a ship in which we could return. We needed that hope to sustain us.

I ordered Grunt to release Miranda and everyone but Joker piled out of the Normandy's canted airlock. We made our way to the nearest opening as EDI scanned the base for our best attack route. There was no real way to know where my crew lay in the massive structure but the time had been relatively short and we could hope that they hadn't been killed outright and tossed aside like those on the ship we'd cleared weeks ago. With any luck we'd interrupted the Collectors on their way to do whatever it was they did with the humans in their pods and they'd be along a main path. Of course, with any luck they wouldn’t have been there in the first place.

The team split and reformed as we followed the network of corridors along the circuitous path EDI had mapped to the heart of the structure. I sent Tali crawling through the ducts to hack locks, racing to stay ahead of her to keep valves open before she cooked behind one. We slaughtered Collectors wholesale, wiping out every one of the creatures we found. There would be no prisoners taken on this enterprise. It was an exercise in vengeance and a bitter satisfaction flowed through my team as we progressed. Then we came together in an enormous chamber filled with pods hanging from the walls and strewn about the floor. In the one just to the left of the door stood Yeoman Chambers, her eyes open and her mouth screaming silence.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 15

A Plague of Dragons

Suddenly frustrated, Fenris spun and stepped even closer, stopping with his face an inch from mine. He growled, “Maker’s breath! Are you a mage, like your sister, to have bewitched me? Ever since we talked I can think of nothing else.”

I blinked at him, unable to form a response. The heat in his gaze and the sudden change of mood made it hard to think. It was nice to know that he’d been thinking about me, at least. Yet his markings began to glow as he continued.

“How can I accompany you into danger when I’m more concerned with keeping you safe than completing any task? How can I fight at your side distracted by watching the muscles of your shoulders slide under your skin when you swing your shield, by seeing the flash of sweat trickling down your neck as you spin to strike down a foe?”

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 16

Who Did What to Whom

After spending almost my entire stash of credits and arranging to have the loot delivered to the Normandy I let Joker know that we were ready for that drink. He promised to meet us there. I notified EDI that non-essential crew, including Garuus and Jack who were with me, were off-duty and on shore leave until 0800 the following morning, ship time. That gave us the cover to shut off our comm units and secrete them in a potted plant on the way. Joker would probably just leave his on the bridge.

I’d give the skeleton crew that provided security and replenished supplies with a day’s leave tomorrow but I wanted to be sure that we could leave at a moment’s notice should the need arise. We browsed through a souvenir shop to kill time as we made our way to Eternity, the nearest bar. We found Joker in the farthest, darkest corner booth, behind some cheery, fern-like trees, sitting with the package.

I froze, unsure whether my eyes were playing tricks on my or if Kaidan really was grinning up at me, eyebrow raised in amusement. I’d missed that quirked brow so much over the past weeks. I wanted to fling myself on top of him and run my tongue over it, but first I had to convince my mouth to close and my feet to move. “It took you long enough to get here,” he said. I didn't know if he meant the lounge or Illium in general.

Prompt Response: Delirious

It was sheer torture. Hawke tossed and burned, her fever continuing for a third day, and Anders could think of nothing more to do for her. Broken bones and infestations of a personal nature were nothing, he could cure those in a trice. But the common cold remained the bane of all healers, magical or herbal.

If she were only ill Anders could have dealt well enough with the situation. He did, after all, run a clinic helping the sickest, dirtiest, and most hopeless people in Kirkwall. It was the delirium that promised to drive him mad.

At first she'd only talked to her father, something Anders had found fascinating. She had loved Malcolm Hawke, trusted and been devoted to him, and the man had escaped from the Circle here in Kirkwall, lived as a mercenary traveling Thedas, and then settled down with the love of his life to raise three amazing children, one of them a mage that he'd trained to be a strong and independent as he'd been. Anders rather wished he'd had a chance to meet the man.

Thane Thursday: Losing, Chapter 16

The hull was intact as we approached the ship. None of us was prepared for the destruction we found inside. We stared at the remnants of the cargo, what had been secure enough not to get blown out of the hold when EDI had opened the doors. I made my way through the halls and rooms, finding only two of my own crew, both dead before the decompression had gotten to them, as Garrus and I supported Thane on the way to the med bay with the hope that we could do something for him.

But Dr. Chakwas was gone and Mordin had his hands full just running triage on the team’s injuries. We got Thane settled into a bed, back on oxygen as dry and pure as it came. I wanted nothing more than to stay beside his bed, stroking his forehead and holding his hand. He shooed me away, however, speaking calmly despite the rumbling in his chest.

“Joker needs you now,” he said, “more than I do.” I wanted to argue but I knew that we had to go straight after the Collectors. I would be damned if I would let them have my entire crew, regardless of their nominal employer. These were my people. I kissed his fingers and headed for the bridge.

Sideline Wednesday: The Champion's Side, Chapter 14

Rough Vindication

Though I wanted to maul him right there I held back, waiting to see what Fenris chose. Apparently he wasn’t quite ready to set aside that physical reserve that held him apart from the rest of our circle. He moved around me and back to the chair on which he’d been perched earlier that evening, the tension I’d barely registered showing clearly in the stiff line of his back when I turned. The intimate moment passed and, although I briefly considered a trip to the Blooming Rose that evening to take the edge off my suddenly-powerful frustration, I wasn’t about to push him.

Weeks passed after that evening and nothing much changed. Fenris seemed to avoid being alone with me but so subtly that I could not decide whether it was intentional. Yet he smiled more and joked with Varric on our frequent trips about town cleaning up messes with and for Aveline. Even Anders remarked that he’d not received yet another lecture on the evils of magic from Fenris when they’d met at one of the regular card games Varric arranged at The Hanged Man. I decided to let the matter lie until Fenris brought it up again but as the days passed I grew less sure he ever would.

It may seem from my descriptions that Fenris led a bored and petulant life, squatting in the mansion and closely guarding his hatred and distrust, drinking and gambling like a wastrel. In fact he had reason as the years passed to believe that Denarius hunted him still. We regularly encountered groups of slavers plying their trade using the refugees and elves that filled the lower reaches of Kirkwall. Many of them knew to whom he was to be returned, should they manage to capture or kill him, and they taunted him with their intent to reap the reward. They all paid the price for their foolish arrogance.

Double Monday: The Double, Chapter 15

Getting to Know You

We wended our way across the galaxy once more, stopping to check out distress signals and perform other research projects for the Alliance and Cerberus. We dropped probes on twenty or more planets along the way and generally had a leisurely journey. Until I heard more from TIM about how to chase the Collectors we were mostly chasing our tails. I decided to take a little time on the way to learn more about my crew and the members of my team that I’d mostly ignored. Since I wanted to work out some of the weapons upgrades we’d picked up on the Citadel I started with Jacob.

As I chatted with him about maximizing damage and restocking ammo for our power weapons I tried to draw him out about his history as well. He told me he’d been rated an M6 before he’d left the Alliance. That was pretty impressive. My own N7 ranking was the highest you could get before they classified your entire existence and made you an O-Zero.

O0 meant that they’d mark your record KIA, deny you were ever born, and may eliminate any living relatives who would swear differently. A lot about the O0 program didn’t make sense. That wouldn’t have been a problem for me but the few other N7s I met were a bit concerned about walking that fine line in job performance: if you do too well you disappear forever and your mom gets axed but if you don’t do well enough you get busted down in rank or a court martial or you die from sucking at your job, any of which might kill your mother with grief, if I understood this family thing correctly.

Prompt Response: Anders in Song

We all know that, in the Dragon Age universe, Anders is not our tortured mage’s real name but a nickname based on his nationality. Whatever the powers-that-be at Bioware decide as far as accents go, the idea that people from the Anderfels have German accents has been bandied about the discussion forum and has stuck in my head as canon. Yet Anders does not have a German accent.

And thus, we come to the Pale Young Gentlemen and their song Fraulein. Despite the song title being a German word you’ll find no accent here, either. That’s rather too tenuous a connection to make this Anders’s theme song for the three years between Act 1 and Act 2, however. The secret lies in the lyrics.

If I could draw, I would make you a pretty picture. But I can't. And so I invite you, if you will, to picture Anders hanging out at The Hanged Man, watching Hawke and Isabela dancing on the tables. He’s been warning Hawke away from himself for a more than a year, now. This song is running through his head. He is, in fact, pining, as the chorus so clearly illustrates. The lyrics for the last verse of the song run thus: