“I’ve realized, over the years, that it’s not a question of what someone believes in, but the fact that everyone needs something to believe in, full stop.” Sebastian Vael’s irons jingled as he raised the wine goblet to his lips, draining it completely of liquid. “There’s something horrible in this world, and it is called nihilism. It’s a life lived with no purpose at all.”
Dagna had perched herself on the top of a barrel nearly an hour before, and now she rested with one knee pressed against her chest, her arms wrapped around that bent leg. Had an hour elapsed since she had entered this tent, bringing this high-priority prisoner of war his dinner? She was still surprised that the Archon had given permission to let her do this at all.
She was grateful that he had done so.
Dagna nodded her head. “All my life, I’ve always had a goal. First it was the study of magic. Then, when I realized that I was a square bolt in a round hole, I wanted to travel to the Imperium to share my theories with the Magisters. After that, I wanted to build my engine and see it improve the lives of others.”
Sebastian smiled at her, his strange blue eyes serene. “When we’re young, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of selfishness, isn’t it? I was a selfish fool as a young man. Then, you’d think that faith would have been a balm to my soul. It wasn’t, at first. Not while I lived in Kirkwall.” Dabbing his lips with a napkin, he dropped it lightly onto his empty platter. “It was the channeling of that faith into a purpose – to destroy the enemies of the White Divine – that I knew that my life would not be wasted. And it hasn’t been.”
Dagna frowned. Had Sebastian insulted her? When had she been selfish? What was selfish about the study of magic? But even as the strike settled unevenly upon her, she saw her father’s face clearly within her mind. She was aware of the fact that her time in Kinloch Hold upset a gentle balance in the tower that frequently became disturbed by the actions of mages and Templars alike.
Perhaps her leaving of Orzammar and her parents had been selfish.
But the ends justified the means, didn’t they?
Still, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
She started to speak in her own defense, but withdrew the remark before it left her lips. It wasn’t the time for such things. She had come and delivered Sebastian his dinner out of curiosity, but also to offer companionship to a legendary enemy. The past hour had been, without a doubt, a unique experience.
“When the Stone takes me, I want to have made a positive change in the world,” Dagna replied. “I think I’ve done that.”
“I would agree with that,” Sebastian said. He was still smiling. “I would hope that when we part ways, you remember this: the Maker’s hand has guided you throughout your life, whether you believe in him or not. There aren’t many dwarves that can tell the same tale that you can. It’s obvious that he has a great plan in store for you.”
Dagna clicked her tongue, sliding down from the barrel. “I didn’t come here to talk about me. I came here to talk about you.”
She avoided Sebastian’s gaze, her mind not on his words or the discussion of human religion, but on the Stone Itself – cool, comforting, a final bed for the weary and young alike. Neutral, not judgmental in its presence, taking all mortal things at the end of their time. It did not have hands or feet, yet its force remained constant. It was strength, personified.
Just then, the tent flaps opened, and Hawke and Anders stepped through. While Hawke’s lips were set in a firm, grim line, something on Anders’ face looked positively overjoyed.
Dagna had the overwhelming urge to cross the room and punch Anders in the Taint-filled, darkspawn gut.
“It seems that there’s nothing left to discuss.” Sebastian stood up, the heavy irons clanking loudly as their weight caused him to bend over slightly. “Is it time, then?”
Hawke nodded silently. He stepped forward, allowing two guards to move past him, to take Sebastian’s chained arms into their hands.
“I’d like you both to accompany me,” Sebastian said, looking between Hawke and Anders.
“It was my intention.” Hawke’s grim demeanor remained. “I wish it didn’t have to end this way, Sebastian.”
“I’m glad that it did.” Anders’ smirk, on the other hand, became positively vicious. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
Dagna narrowed her eyes, curling her fists into tight balls filled with the mere potential of anger. It was perhaps fortunate that she wasn’t a mage, or else her magic would be flying wildly out of control in a mess of spell fragments and badly-channeled energy.
Sebastian sighed as the guards led him from the tent. “I feel sorry for you, Anders. You will suffer in the anguish from your transformation for the remainder of your days. I won’t feel any pain when I die.”
She followed them out of the tent, through the rows of gathered soldiers standing in crowds – not in formal lines. Only when they reached the wooden platform did she stop, watching Hawke, Anders, and Sebastian ascend upward and onto the long planks, toward the bloody block that awaited them there, along with the hooded man bearing the great, sharp axe.
Sebastian did not need to be prodded to kneel; he did so willingly, resting his neck upon the block as he turned his head to face the setting sun. In this final, silent moment, Dagna found herself wondering what he was thinking. She wondered if he was not thinking of himself and the journey that was to follow, but of Anders – Anders, whose damaged soul and twisted body seemed to never find peace, never find rest, no matter if he laid down or stood up, or what sort of gods might look down upon him in pity.
The moment that Hawke looked away was the moment that Dagna closed her eyes. There was a sickening thump, accompanied by a squashing thud of something rolling several times before coming to its final stillness.
She turned away from the scaffold and the crowd, faintly aware that Hawke was issuing orders to the troops, telling them the reasons why they had chosen to execute Sebastian rather than to negotiate with the White Divine concerning his ransom. She chose to not make these things her concern. She instead moved toward a large rock, one taller than herself, and leaned against it, resting her warm cheek against the cool, smooth surface.
She let the Stone support her in the moment that she needed it the most.