Magic, Madness, Heaven, Sin [Closed]

((OOC: 1 Wintermarch, 35 Dragon, Evening, A Likely Story ))

A new year had started and it truly felt like a fresh start to Lucien. There were still the echoes of pain that wouldn’t soon be healed but, more than anything, he felt determined. The Templars watching over him were gone. Alcine was free. She was a Warden now, and no doubt in danger, but free. Looking back over it all- the mission for the Underground that had gone so wrong, Cullen’s scathing words about Alcine, and even what had happened to Leandra- had left Lucien with an urge to act. Things could not go on like that. Something had to be done.

He started first with a message to Anders, coordinated through Lirene, to meet him at the side entrance to the shop that evening. It had been nearly a week since they’d seen each other. As long as he was under direct observation, it had been too risky for them both. With that behind him, well, it only meant he had to occupy himself until Anders arrived.

He flit about the flat, his body wound with unspent energy. Since Alcine had gone, he hadn’t been as good about keeping things tidy and he set about fixing that. He put away a pair of trousers that had been left at the end of the couch, dusted a few forgotten surfaces, and made the bed. Still he was left pacing. He stopped before the full length mirror and gave himself a good close look, in a way he hadn’t really done since he’d escaped the Circle.

His beard stood out the most to him. He’d never grown one and was pleased to see how well it was filling in. Given how often he’d needed to shave to maintain his usual dusting of stubble, perhaps he should have suspected. However, he’d known more than a few otherwise hirsute individuals who could only manage patchy beards. His hair, which he hadn’t cut since the escape, was an unruly mess of curls. He still couldn’t decide if he liked the wild, roguish look of it, or if he’d finally need to do something to tame it. Less pleasing was the fact that he’d seemingly lost some weight over the past couple of weeks. It was only one more reason for him to further expand upon his fledgling cooking skills.

He left the mirror behind with a shake of his head and scooped up Paige. “You aren’t in any danger of wasting away, are you?” The kitten was still small for her age but had at least doubled in size since he’d gotten her from Camille. Perhaps more. She certainly wasn’t the palm sized thing she’d once been. He tested delicately with his fingers to feel through all the plus fur and make sure she was a healthy weight. She latched onto his fingers with her paws, prompting him to tilt her onto her back and bury her in the nook of his arm.

Man and kitten traveled downstairs to the shop below. It was as tidy as ever. He’d given up for a while on taking care of himself and his own space but never on the books, which meant he was free to wander to the side door. While Paige continued to bite and kick playfully at his increasingly clawed up hand, Lucien watched out the window for any sign of Anders. As soon as he saw the other man approach, he opened the door and ushered him inside before locking up behind him.

“I’m glad you came,” he said with a smile. He’d freed his hand to let Anders in and once again returned it to Paige for her amusement. “A happy First Day to you. I was hoping we could talk. About things. Not bad things,” he quickly amended. “Upstairs? I have tea. New tea, that I bought, and not that you gave me and I stashed away. I swear.” He let out a small laugh as half his mouth pulled down in embarrassment. He should have done more to burn off all this frantic energy before Anders came. He leaned in, brushed a quick kiss on Anders’ cheek, and held up Paige as he walked backward toward the staircase. “Have you met Paige?”
Despite having a fondness for holidays, if Lucien hadn’t pointed out to Anders that the year had turned, he never would have noticed that First day had arrived. Since the loss of Hawke’s mother, Anders had been head down in his work with a renewed of purpose. The horrible thing committed against Hawke’s mother had to be shown to be the exception and not the rule. People needed to know that Quentin was not representative of all mages. Just because mages had the capacity to be dangerous, to commit atrocities, did not mean they would.

This had been enough for Justice to latch onto. They would write. They would take what Anders had begun in Ferelden and expand it. He could break each point down further. He could take his time, cite his sources, show the places where even the Chantry got the Chant of Light wrong.

Nearly to the exclusion of all else he worked. Late nights until only the stubs of flickering candles remained, and early mornings to see to patients. He slept when he remembered to, or when the lulls in the clinic soothed him into it without his realising. A nod here, a dip of his head there. It was enough to get him through the days. It seemed that way anyhow.

Occasionally one of his patients or a runner, or even one of the people Lirene sent to check on him would remind him to eat. It wasn’t ideal, but he didn’t really see any other way to go forward. He’d finally chased down that ever elusive purpose he’d so desperately needed.

Lucien sent a note through Lirene’s runner. At first he waved a hand and directed the boy to set it on the bench. Predicting this, Lirene had not paid the boy, and he stood in front of Anders with the note until he received his coin. So, Anders read the invitation to meet at the bookstore.

Which led him here, to the side door of A Likely Story, pages tucked in various pockets in a labyrinthine organisation system which made sense to him. Lucien met him at the door, hurrying him inside. Prudent, given the attention brought down upon him by Alcine’s discovery.

“I’m glad you came,” Lucien told him, smiling as he locked the door behind them. As soon as his hand left the lock of the door, Lady Paige grasped it in her awkwardly large for her body paws. “A happy First Day to you. I was hoping we could talk. About things. Not bad things,” he added, which was hardly uncalled for, given the past months. “Upstairs? I have tea. New tea, that I bought, and not that you gave me and I stashed away. I swear.” He ducked his head, his smile abashed before dusting a kiss to Anders’ cheek. “Have you met Paige?”

Anders chuckled, finding Lucien’s energy charming. His renewed pleasant mood was a welcomed sight. “I’ve had the honour.” He patted over his various pockets until he found one with treats, pulling one forth and offering it in lieu of Lucien’s hand which she was playfully brutalising. Accepting the treat, she flopped over in Lucien’s arm, taking her chances that Anders would catch her, and that he’d have more treats.

She was not wrong.

“I’d like tea, yes.” Paige nosed at the flap of his cloak, then pushed one paw under it. He dug his fingers into her thick fur, amused as she searched for a way to get into his pocket.

He gestured to the stairs, indicating he’d follow Lucien up. Upstairs was small, but well used space. Perfect for a young, newlywed couple, though it was exceptionally tidy. Anders didn’t pretend not to explore. “I was beginning to think I’d never make it up to your room,” he teased, poking at this and prodding at that. Over his shoulder he batted his eyes. “You must only bring the very special boys here.”
Anders had not only met Paige before but came prepared with gifts to win her ladyship’s favor. Paige gave up attacking his hand and instead flopped right out his his arms and into Anders’ waiting hands to search for more treats. “Careful,” Lucien chuckled, “That’s precisely how I ended up with tattered pockets.” As though it actually bothered him enough to stop.

With Paige thoroughly distracted, Anders was free to turn his attention to an earlier question. “I’d like tea, yes.”

Lucien led the way up to the flat. He found himself oddly apprehensive about it. This was his space. His and only his, now that Alcine was gone. He’d never been able to say that before. He was suddenly grateful that an excess of energy had compelled him to straighten things up before Anders arrived. Not that Anders was in a position to judge, living essentially in the sewer as he did. And yet Lucien was forced to put all his focus on heating water for tea so that he wouldn’t be tempted to watch Anders’ every move as the other man poked through his things.

“I was beginning to think I’d never make it up to your room,” Anders teased. Lucien looked back at him just in time to catch batting eyes. “You must only bring the very special boys here.”

Light, airy laughter did away with all foolish apprehension. “Only the most special,” he replied with an indulgent lilt. He fetched a pair of mugs and turned them over in his hands while gestured at the flat. “So here you see where all the magic happens. Theoretically. I have a bed now and no longer have to worry about my blushing bride walking in, so things are looking up.”

When the water finally got to temperature- ages later than it would have been had he been allowed to use magic- he readied the tea. The small flat was filled almost immediately with the rich scent of spices that were as comforting in the chill weather as Lucien had hoped when deciding on a blend in the market the other day. He handed one of the mugs off to Anders.

“I saw her the other day,” he said after a sip of his tea. “Alcine. She decided to join the Wardens. After she got out of the Gallows, they let her stop by to pick up her things and say goodbye.” With all of Anders’ history with the Wardens, it wasn’t a topic Lucien wished to linger on. And while it had been good to see Alcine, the meeting had been bittersweet since it was perhaps their last.

Lucien blew lightly to disperse the steam rising from his mug. “So no need to worry about divided affections anymore,” he said with a laugh by way of a clumsy transition. “I’m all yours.”
Lucien bustled about, as if they did this all the time. Anders didn’t mind the air of normalcy, after everything else which had taken place. It felt nice to have a quiet place alone, full of the warm scent of spices and the sounds of boiling water. In his opinion it was a good way to spend First Day.

He carried the pair of mugs across the room until he could hand one to Anders. Anders inhaled the fragrant steam as Lucien sipped at his own cup, waiting until he swallowed to speak. “I saw her the other day,” he informed him. There was no need to ask who ‘her’ was. Anders knew, even if Lucien didn’t supply the details a breath later. “Alcine. She decided to join the Wardens. After she got out of the Gallows, they let her stop by to pick up her things and say goodbye.”

That did surprise him, and he lifted a brow to say as much. Wardens weren’t known for being thoughtful and kind in their actions. Noble, perhaps, through less than noble gains, but in no way did he consider them the type to care about goodbyes and sentiment.

“I’m glad to hear it.” Even Anders couldn’t deny he was relieved to hear she’d accepted. Of course, they’d not come up on the topic of whether or not she survived, but they would know soon enough, he was sure.

Lucien blew the steam into fine wisps over his mug, his expression giving no indication of what was to come out of his mouth next. “So no need to worry about divided affections anymore,” he laughed. “I’m all yours.”

Anders let a soft snort, not derisive, but amused. “I suppose it’s too much to ask to be able to live that one down.” Some might have considered it a show of jealousy, but Anders had honestly wanted to know. There was much unknown between the men, and he needed to know the full of things, given the circumstances.

“I hope you hear from her soon, then.” That was the honest truth. Anders tested his tea with an audible sip, deciding the sting on his tongue worth the flavor and comfort of the piping hot beverage. “It won’t be an easy life,” which was likely obvious, given the well-known occupational hazards of being a Grey Warden. “It’s not freedom,” he repeated, “but it’s closer than she’d ever have in Kirkwall, never mind the Gallows.”

Another sip of his tea and Anders set his cup down in the same motion he stood back up. “I’ve brought something to show you,” he announced. He reached inside his coat for the numerous pages he’d stashed there and laid them out, smoothing them. “I’ve been working on this for the last few nights.” And then some, but he left that unspoken. He moved to a peg line which looked as though it was once used to dry herbs and the like, and began hanging some of the pages. “It’s far from finished,” his perfectionism would insist as much, no matter how polished it already was, "but I wanted you to see it.” He glanced over his shoulder as he hung the last page.
Anders accepted his tea and snorted softly when Lucien teased him. “I suppose it’s too much to ask to be able to live that one down.”

Lucien smiled and let his shoulders lift and drop casually. “When I’ve been handed such a gift?” He wouldn’t mention the laugh he and Alcine had over it. With her out of the picture for the foreseeable future, chances were that he actually would let it die because he knew Anders had asked out of honest curiosity. Still, he wasn’t about to take any cards off the table.

“I hope you hear from her soon, then,” Anders said, taking a sip of his tea. “It won’t be an easy life. It’s not freedom,” he repeated, “but it’s closer than she’d ever have in Kirkwall, never mind the Gallows.”

Lucien nodded. “She seemed aware of the gravity of the agreement. Which was… reassuring.” From what Anders had told him of his time with the Wardens and the price he’d paid to be with them, Lucien wasn’t thrilled to know Alcine would soon go through the same. However, he was somewhat heartened to know the Wardens had not simply spun her a pretty story and promised her a griffon if she signed up. “Like you said, at least it’s better than she’d have in the Gallows.”

Anders set his tea aside. “I’ve brought something to show you.” He withdrew a stack of papers from his coat and smoothed them out. “I’ve been working on this for the last few nights.” He pulled out a line to hang them all up for easier viewing. “It’s far from finished,” he insisted, "but I wanted you to see it.”

Lucien drank his tea silently while Anders hung each page of his writing up. Only when Anders finished and looked back at him for a reaction did he set his tea aside. He crossed over, waiting to give it a proper read before he said anything. Or as good a read as he could manage in his excitement. He let his smile show, so as to at least spare Anders from complete suspense. When he finished, he turned back to Anders and clapped his hands together.

“This,” he said, gesturing back at the hanging pages, “is brilliant. And I don’t just mean what you’ve written, though it is at that.” He squinted his eyes and tilted his head to the side to give Anders a joking examination. “You haven’t developed the ability to read minds have you? Because this is actually one of reasons I asked you to meet me here. Well, not this precisely but the spirit of all this.”

He walked back to his abandoned tea and swallowed the remainder with one large gulp, then discarded the mug on the windowsill. “When you showed me all this- or the previous version of this- it got me thinking. Especially with what happened with Alcine, with everything Cullen said, with the Templars watching me this past week, and then with what happened to Leandra…” He’d been tapping his foot but found that wasn’t enough and started to pace. “The Underground does good work. Freeing mages or making sure they’re never imprisoned in the first place- that’s all good, necessary work. But it’s not enough. It will never be enough. To them,” he said, gesturing out the window to indicate the Templars, the Circles, all of it, “we’re all monsters to be caged. Why go through the trouble of hunting slavers or serial killing blood mages when you can drag in any mage at all and pretend you’re stopping a great evil? They can rest easy with a gardener behind bars where she can’t menace the people. They paint us all with the same brush and so lose the real picture.”

Lucien paused for a breath and lay one hand on Anders’ arm and used the other to tap at the nearest page. “This is the real work. If we can change hearts and minds, we can change it all.”
Anders could feel Lucien watching him as he hung the pages one by one on the line, though his attention was solely on his work. Already his eyes were finding mistakes, places he could phrase things better, lines he could make more succinct. He wondered in a mumble beneath his breath if the lengthy section on the indignity of mage hats was necessary.

In the name of great hair, he decided it was.

As if sensing the care required, Lucien put down his drink before stepping closer. Anders stepped back out of his way, locking his hands behind his back as he resisted the urge to over-explain every minute detail. In the end, he trusted Lucien’s reading comprehension.

Lucien clapped as he turned back. “This,” his hand indicated the hanging pages, “is brilliant. And I don’t just mean what you’ve written, though it is at that.” Anders lifted and dropped a hand as if to say he knew. There was no reason to be modest; he was a highly educated man with a keen mind. Lucien canted his head, considering Anders where he stood. “You haven’t developed the ability to read minds have you? Because this is actually one of reasons I asked you to meet me here. Well, not this precisely but the spirit of all this.”

Anders wrinkled his nose. “No. I have not.” That sort of thing could only be accomplished through blood magic, and Anders had no desire for such things.

Lucien continued on. “When you showed me all this- or the previous version of this- it got me thinking. Especially with what happened with Alcine, with everything Cullen said, with the Templars watching me this past week, and then with what happened to Leandra…” His tapping foot, in rhythm with Anders’ fingers on his own mug, became pacing. “The Underground does good work. Freeing mages or making sure they’re never imprisoned in the first place- that’s all good, necessary work. But it’s not enough. It will never be enough. To them,” he shook a hand towards the window to indicate the wide reach of the Chantry on their lives, “we’re all monsters to be caged. Why go through the trouble of hunting slavers or serial killing blood mages when you can drag in any mage at all and pretend you’re stopping a great evil? They can rest easy with a gardener behind bars where she can’t menace the people. They paint us all with the same brush and so lose the real picture.”

What happened to Alcine had, indeed, left its mark upon Lucien. Perhaps Anders should have felt more pity, or even sympathy, given what happened with Karl. Instead, he felt a spark of excitement in his chest. The beginnings of possibility which fanned brighter with Lucien’s every word. “Exactly. Drowning us at birth or our first manifestation would be more efficient.”

One of Lucien’s hands came to rest on Anders’ arm, the other pointing at the writing on display. “This is the real work. If we can change hearts and minds, we can change it all.”

“I’m glad to hear you feel this way.” Despite the evenness of his tone, he meant it, and one side of his lips yanked upward in a crooked half-grin. “Ideas are great, and I have so many, but I can’t put them into action myself. There are places I can’t go or be seen. They know I’m a mage.” He gestured out the window, the same direction Lucien used moments ago to indicate the Circle. “I still mean to do the things I’ve been doing.” Not only did healing build goodwill, but it gave him the connections he needed to help sneak people out of or through the citystate.

He pulled a stub of charcoal from his pocket and stepped back up to the pages in two long strides. He made a few marks as he began to take down and collate them. Every couple of pages he did the same until he’d marked them all and tapped them into a neat stack.

“First is to tidy it up, copy it, but we need to distribute it. Take it to anyone who will listen, and get it in hands without anyone knowing who handed it over.” He levelled a look to Lucien, very serious as he closed space between them. “I need you for this. I can’t do it without you.”
“I’m glad to hear you feel this way,” Anders said, his mouth crooked up in a grin. “Ideas are great, and I have so many, but I can’t put them into action myself. There are places I can’t go or be seen. They know I’m a mage.” He gestured out the window, the same direction Lucien used moments ago to indicate the Circle. “I still mean to do the things I’ve been doing.”

“I’d expect no less,” Lucien replied with a soft curl of his lips. He wasn’t sure Anders could stop everything else he was doing if he tried. He was… driven, to say the least. That passion and drive was as much what drew Lucien to him as kept them apart.

Anders strode by Lucien to collect each page from where they hung. After they’d been marked and gathered neatly into order, he turned back to Lucien. “First is to tidy it up, copy it, but we need to distribute it. Take it to anyone who will listen, and get it in hands without anyone knowing who handed it over.” He captured Lucien’s eyes with a serious gaze and closed space between them. “I need you for this. I can’t do it without you.”

Lucien's heart swelled so he swore he could feel it press against the confines of his chest. He put a hand on Anders’ arm and let the touch travel down to join their hands together. “Of course.” He squeezed Anders’ hand to emphasize his sincerity. He released the grip after a moment so that he could get back to pacing. “I’ve thought about this, since I agreed to help you earlier and while I can distribute it, what happened with Alcine has given me an opportunity to do more. I am now the grief stricken… widower? What do you call a man whose wife was stolen away by the Chantry?” He gave a derisive snort and waved the matter off. “Whatever you might call it, the fact is I now have ample reason to start openly questioning the treatment of mages.”

He let his eyes roll. Everyone should care, not just mages. Anyone could find themself with a child touched by magic. Which was to say nothing of mages being people, as deserving of empathy and care as any other. Lucien crossed his arms and let his fingers tap at his elbows. Whether he stepped this way or that, his meandering path always drew him back to Anders.

“I’ll have to be quiet about it. Careful who I talk to. At least at first. I don’t want to draw suspicion before I’ve managed to do anything. But I’ve already considered a few people who might be sympathetic. There’s Lady Camille, the woman who first helped Alcine and I. She has the ears of other nobles, so she could be a valuable ally,” he suggested. Suddenly the room seemed too small, even for two people. Two people and a kitten who flicked her tail at him before hopping up onto the couch to get out of his way. Lucien stopped, turned on his heel, and back he went in what little space the flat allowed him. “Then there’s Grand Cleric Elthina. She’s been neutral in all this, from what I hear, but perhaps I could sway her. Give her a face and a story for our side.” He stilled and caught Anders in a look with all the intensity of his feelings behind it. “Even if she won’t listen, there will be others. I’ll find them and I’ll sway them and we’ll turn the tide our way.”
Perhaps Anders knew what he was doing. Perhaps not. It had become such a subconscious act over the years in and out of the Circle, in and out of the Wardens. He never missed an opportunity, not to make an escape, not to secure his freedom, not to sway an ally to his side. The act came as easily as breathing or pulling lightning from the sky.

“Of course.” Lucien agreed instantly, as Anders had expected he might. It was unfair, really, with the knowledge of Lucien’s feelings for him right there for the plucking, that he knew how to appeal to the other man, especially given Anders’ own conflicting ones. Anders didn’t care. Or, if he did, he didn’t stop to think about it. Lucien grasped his hands, squeezing them, an act which Anders returned, sealing the emotional impact of the moment. A moment later, Lucien released his hands and returned to his invisible track around the room. “I’ve thought about this, since I agreed to help you earlier and while I can distribute it, what happened with Alcine has given me an opportunity to do more. I am now the grief stricken… widower? What do you call a man whose wife was stolen away by the Chantry?” ‘Widower’ didn’t seem so far from the truth, at least from a public angle, but Lucien waved off any response before Anders could offer it. “Whatever you might call it, the fact is I now have ample reason to start openly questioning the treatment of mages.”

It did not matter that Alcine was not really his wife. Lucien saw the opportunity and seized upon it. Anders’ eyes narrowed in something of pride to see the sparks fan themselves in the other man. “Anyone who does not know you are a mage will see you as a strong ally, and know that this does not affect only mages.”

Of course, for one of the first times since Anders had known Lucien, the man took note of the inherent danger. “I’ll have to be quiet about it. Careful who I talk to. At least at first.” Not just at first. The mole had shown them the dangers of trusting just anyone, even their fell members of the Underground. “I don’t want to draw suspicion before I’ve managed to do anything. But I’ve already considered a few people who might be sympathetic. There’s Lady Camille, the woman who first helped Alcine and I. She has the ears of other nobles, so she could be a valuable ally.” She made the most sense, as someone who had cared for Alcine after a fashion. Lady Paige leapt up onto the back of Lucien’s sofa, escaping the clomps of his feet and Anders moved closer to run a hand over the silky fur that covered her. “Then there’s Grand Cleric Elthina. She’s been neutral in all this, from what I hear, but perhaps I could sway her. Give her a face and a story for our side.” He stopped, all the fire and light of the firestorms he was so fond of shining in his eyes. “Even if she won’t listen, there will be others. I’ll find them and I’ll sway them and we’ll turn the tide our way.”

Paige purred, arching her back to lean into the full effect of Anders’ hand only to turn about and do it again the other direction. Unsatisfied with that, she pawed her way to standing on her hind legs, stretching her claws against Anders’ side with a small mewl for more attention.

“Elthina won’t be easy. I’ve tried getting access to her for weeks.” There was only so far he, a known apostate, was willing to push. The flimsy protection afforded to him by the false mask of being a Grey Warden would only go so far. If he were to make too much a nuisance of himself, Wardens might be called in to deal with him. It went without saying he did not need that. “She has assistants. Servants. People who have her ear and trust. We find out who they are, we get closer. If we get her on our side, others will follow.” The power of organised religion. Paige bumped her head against Anders’ hand and he smiled, warm and bright at the kitten.

“I want to reach out to the First Enchanter, as well.” He didn’t know how well that would go. First Enchanters were inconveniently pro-Circle and more than happy to live in the comfort of their shackles. Or at least accepting of it. Which was Orsino? “Anyone who will listen. Anyone. Even the Knight-Commander.” He scooped Paige up once more as he joined in the pacing, laughing beneath his breath as she began to knead at his neck where it was exposed with her needle sharp claws. “Or her confidants, though I can’t seem to find any. Perhaps there’s still reason within her yet.”
Anders approved of his plan, which was good as Lucien had planned on doing it anyway “Elthina won’t be easy. I’ve tried getting access to her for weeks,” Anders said. Lucien raised his eyebrows slightly at the image of the healer of Darktown in the midst of the ostentatious Chantry. “She has assistants. Servants. People who have her ear and trust. We find out who they are, we get closer. If we get her on our side, others will follow.”

“I’ve considered that,” Lucien replied. He’d also considered that he would fit in quite a bit better amongst those who were regularly found within the Chantry’s walls. “I attend services there, from time to time, with Camille. I can make it a weekly thing. See if I can’t find likely allies or, at least, individuals who seem sympathetic to me in particular.”

“I want to reach out to the First Enchanter, as well. Anyone who will listen,” Anders continued, his attention half on Paige and half on Lucien. He scooped the kitten up as he started to pace. “Anyone. Even the Knight-Commander. Or her confidants, though I can’t seem to find any. Perhaps there’s still reason within her yet.”

A frown tugged at the corners of Lucien’s mouth. Thankfully, at the moment, he was behind Anders so that he could run a finger along Paige’s spine. She arched into she touch and extended the motion so that she was rubbing against Anders’ neck. Watching that, Lucien was able to walk back into view with a smile rather than a grimace on his face. He stopped his pacing to take a seat on the bed.

“You’ve got better connections within the Gallows than I do, so I’ll leave all that to you. However, Alcine had been trading with their herbalist. When warmer weather returns and tempers have perhaps cooled in regards to everything that happened with her, I thought I might carry on with that,” he said. “It was a good revenue stream and while I might not agree with all Saoirse’s reasoning on the matter, there was some pleasure to be had taking the Templars’ coin.” He puffed out a soft laugh as he leaned against one of the bed posts. “I might be able to find others you could reach out to that way. I wouldn’t dare, myself, since I’m sure they’ll still be watching me but I can still be a set of eyes and ears for you.”

In his opinion, Anders shouldn’t dare either. What good had all of the goodwill Alcine had fostered done for her? It certainly hadn’t swayed any of the Templars to her side or made them treat her any better. And she was far more… palatable to the general public than Anders ever would be, as much as Lucien himself might be charmed by the other man. But he also knew if Anders was determined to do something, he would do it regardless of sense, so it would be pointless to argue. Another time he might have tried anyway but things had been so difficult between lately that it was nice to have an easy evening.

He shifted on the bed so that he could lean against the headboard. He rolled his head to look out the window and the stars that were starting to sprout in the plum colored sky. “When I was in the Circle, there was nothing I wanted more than to be free of it but I never tried. I knew mages who ran, mages who argued, and who fought against their treatment. Even Alcine rebelled in her own way, climbing and causing mischief. But I never did any of that. I kept my head down.” Lucien lowered his head as he said it. He’d been ashamed of it then and was even more now that he was free. “Life there was all I knew. I was too young when I was brought in to remember anything beyond flashes of another life. Those felt like dreams. The Circle was reality and I thought it would be the only one I’d ever know. I wanted more but I didn’t hope for it.” He swallowed hard over his shame. He turned to look at Anders once more. “But with you, I have hope, like we could not only fight but win. And maybe we won’t get away from it all without our own scars but there might be mages who never have to face the same.” Lucien let his eyes close a moment as he let out a long, satisfied breath. “It feels good to have that. Hope.”

Such a small word but the feeling in his chest was immeasurable, especially when despair had so recently started to creep back in.