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“I always did like a woman with tattoos,” the mage quips. Velanna rolls her eyes and angrily stalks ahead. Mahariel can’t blame her. He knows damn well that both the tattooed women in their little group are only interested in each other.

“So, what about a man with tattoos?” Mahariel asks with a waggle of the eyebrows

“Men are good too,” Anders says easily, with that charming grin of his. Mahariel holds eye contact and smirks, and has the pleasure of watching Anders’ face slowly shift as he realizes exactly what he just said–and then the even greater pleasure of watching him blush. It is a beautiful blush.

The flirting has to come to an end as they all get inconveniently attacked by blighted werewolves. Mahariel puts them down with rather more viciousness than usual, but when they all lie dead and the group moves on through the marsh, Anders is already engaged in pestering Nathaniel with another Howe pun. His jokes, Mahariel thinks, are worse than Alistair’s. It’s so charming. And Anders really does look good in those ‘traditional Dalish robes’, that come up just to the nipple and leave plenty exposed. Anders really did like fine things.

Men are good too, huh? Mahariel thinks, picking his way through the bog, and can’t help but grin. He’d remember that. He would definitely remember that.


“I want a tattoo,” Anders says.

Mahariel raises an eyebrow. Not that he’s opposed to men with tattoos himself. In fact, historically, he’s had a bit of a weakness for them. “That’s nice. Thank you for sharing, Anders.”

“I mean, well–you’ve got tattoos.”

Mahariel sighs. the lecture comes out almost by rote. “The vallaslin are not just tattoos, they are–”

“–An ancient rite of passage bestowed on hunters coming of age. Yes. Velanna told me.” Anders is grinning. Mahariel is trying to glare at him in consternation, and it’s not working. He’s just too damn cute.

“So, what?” Mahariel says, connecting the dots. “You want me to give you a tattoo?”

“Sure, why not? There’s nobody around this place I trust more.”

Mahariel feels the warm smile creep up on him. “Why, Anders. I had no idea.”

“Don’t take it that way! I just mean–well–” Anders sputters. “Well, we’re friends aren’t we?”

Mahariel chuckles. “Hero of Ferelden, Commander of the Grey, slayer of the archdemon….and tattoo artist,” he muses. “You know not all Dalish know how to apply the vallaslin, right?”

The mage deflates a little. “Oh, well–sorry for presuming, I guess–

“But actually,” Mahariel says quickly—he hates disappointing Anders and is glad he doesn’t have to this time—“Actually, you’re in luck. I had a–friend, during the blight, who did tattoos. He taught me how to do it. I’m not bad at it, actually.”

Anders doesn’t miss the split-second pause before friend, nor the look on Mahariel’s face. Mahariel never did learn how to control his facial expressions. Anybody could have read him like a book. Maybe the damned Orlesians had the right of it, with their masks.

“Friend, huh?” Anders says, just a bit too casually, leaning against the wall. “So, I can’t help but notice this friend isn’t here with you now.”

Mahariel’s ears burn. “Zevran wasn’t…great at commitment,” he mutters, and forcefully steers the conversation onward. “So, what sort of tattoo?”

Anders doesn’t press, though Mahariel thinks he might have wanted to–if that wasn’t just wishful thinking. “I was thinking a bird of some sort. I always did like feathers.”

“A bird?” Feathers, Mahariel thinks, and remembers a coat he’d seen on a recent trip to Amaranthine. Teal, like Anders’ Tevinter robes, but with massive feathery pauldrons. Absolutely hideous. Anders would love it. besides, Ferelden was far too cold for the skimpy robes the man so favored. Not that Mahariel objected all that much to the skimpy robes.

“Sure. You know, for freedom. seeing as I’m a free mage now, and all.” Anders grin is so bright and irrepressible and Mahariel’s spirits lift instantly. “Thanks for that, by the way. Have I said that yet? Thanks. really.”

“Don’t thank me for freedom, Anders. You shouldn’t have to thank anybody for something you should have had by default.”

Anders shrugs. “Maybe you can think that if you live in the woods, and end up becoming a great archdemon-slaying hero who can do whatever he wants. The rest of us have to make do with what they give us and run away whenever possible.”

“Well, that’s not right,” Mahariel grumbles. “You know what we Dalish say? Never again shall we submit. I, for one, don’t intend to.”

Anders gives him a curious look, like he’s considering something. but then he simply shrugs. “Anyway, I haven’t decided where I want it yet. somewhere exciting. Hey, maybe I’ll let you pick!”

Yes, Mahariel thinks, blushing a hideous bright scarlet, the Orlesians definitely had the right idea about never showing their faces in polite company.