It’s another year before the letter arrived, sealed with gold wax with a griffin pressed into it. Evette ignores it, thinking it wiser than tearing out her heart again. She hides it in a chest of clothes and goes to the library. By now, her heart is truly frozen, and she throws herself into her work, forgetting it quickly.
She discovers her mistake a month later. She’s lecturing on ethics- of all the hilarity, a Grey Warden lectures on ethics- when they hear a low roar travel through the library. Pausing, she sends her apprentice to see what the noise is, and instructs the other three students to read the next passage.
Connor comes running back, face flushed and eyes alight. “Evette- it’s the king!” he says breathlessly. “He’s here!”
“Calm down,” she says. “Connor, take your seat. I doubt very much the king is interested in four students with no focus.”
The boy obeys immediately- he’s adored her ever since she saved him from the demon- and had been nothing but obedient since she finally agreed to mentor him. They go back to their lesson for the remainder of the hour before sending them to entertain themselves before dinner.
She doesn't look up from gathering the books and pens from the desks. “Pup, you have little free time, you don't want to spend it with me.”
“I’d like to.”
The voice hasn’t changed, it still sounds like he’s telling a joke and trying not to laugh before he gets to the punchline. Her hands still for only a moment before she continues, picking up the books and hugging them to her chest.
She knew this moment would come. She’d known when she saw the letter. She had half-expected her heart to race, but it didn't. She didn't blush or feel any joy bubbling inside her. Some distant part of her notices the loss of the joy he used to inspire. Now, she just feels cold, colder than she had an hour or a day ago. Her breath doesn't catch, and her heart keeps its steady pace. Finally, she looks up.
Connor looks gleeful, covering his mouth and trying not to laugh. He looks proud to be standing beside the king, with the royal hand on his shoulder. Evette gives him a hard glare and promises herself to play extra pranks on him later.
“You’re fired,” she tells him sternly. “Now you have to be Jacob’s apprentice.”
The king looks distressed. “No, please, he was just-” He breaks off when Connor laughs.
“She doesn't mean it,” the boy giggles. “You say that all the time, don't you?”
“I mean it this time.”
“Have mercy,” Alistair teases. “He was under the king’s order.”
Evette raises a brow at the boy. “Go, and don't forget I want three hundred words on today’s lecture by Wednesday.”
“Yes, ma’am!” On impulse, Connor runs over and throws his arms around her, then shyly runs off.
Alistair laughs, watching him go. “Do all your apprentices love you so well?”
“He is the only one, so yes.” She turns away and begins shelving the books in her arms. She can feel his eyes on her, but she’s determined to show him that he can't affect her anymore, so she goes on about her business and cleans up.
“Could we go for a walk?” he asks.
Evette finally turns her attention to him. “If the king commands it.”
He flushes and tries to laugh it off. “Aw, Vette, don't be that way,” he says, offering an arm that she refuses.
“Where shall we walk? By the lake?”
He sighs. “That’s fine.”
Evette hates the way everyone watches them as she leads him out of the tower. She came back so that no one would care who she was; she’d be just another mage in the Circle. No one special to anyone. The attention she’s getting now will take some time to die back down, and she regrets stepping out of the solitude of her alcove in the library.
She waits until they’re alone, well out of the earshot of the templar who is her constant companion. Even so, she speaks so softly the water lapping on the stone could drown it out if he wasn’t hanging on every word.
“Was it you?” she asks, arms crossed over her chest. “You have it?” She’s very careful not to look at him, not to give him too much importance.
“Not me,” he answers. “But...someone.”
“Destroyed. That I did myself.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees him put his hands in his pockets and smiles proudly to himself. “You deserve freedom.”
“Do I?” She turns her unsettling silver eyes on him but doesn’t make eye contact, keeping her gaze locked on his shoulder. “A mage as powerful as I am?”
“You’re more than just a mage; you’re a hero.” He looks at her, his gaze warm and sweet as it had ever been. “Do you always have a guard?” he asks, jerking his chin toward the templar behind them.
She nods, looking over the sparkling water. “Wynne and I told them what happened,” she explains. “That I don't need words or gestures. A thought is all it takes anymore. They think I’m too powerful to be on my own, and we don’t know what changes Avernus’ potion will cause. That one is Derrik. He doesn’t like me.”
“Do you have no privacy?”
“My room. But not always. There’s always one at my door, sometimes they come in.”
“I’m sorry, Vette.”
“My missing phylactery makes them nervous.”
“For what, your Majesty?”
“You stubborn girl. Would you look at me?”
“As my king commands,” she says cooly and turns to face him. “Why are you here?”
“I came to say I’m sorry.”
“But not to ask me back.”
Marriage to Anora has taught him a few things about talking with women. Knowing this one the way he did, he ignored those things. “No, I didn't.”
“Because I am a...what did Arl Eamon call me?”
“Don't do this,” he pleads, getting upset.
“Oh yes , a complication,” she remembers, her voice growing colder. “Is she pregnant?”
“Please what? ” she asks. “Please forgive you? Please expose myself to more of your lies about love? Or do you want me to tell you I’m fine with how it played out?”
Alistair has the grace to look ashamed of himself. “Please forgive me for hurting you,” he says finally. “I had to do what was best for Ferelden- you told me that. But what I wanted wasn't what Ferelden needed.”
“Fine. I forgive you.”
“Truly?” The sudden rush of hope in his eyes would thaw other cold women, but Evette ignores it.
“No you idiot!” she hisses. “I hate you. You played the awkward sweetheart on me when I was vulnerable. You made me fall in love with you, and then you offered to make me your whore while you married that harpy. I came back to the tower because it was better than being anywhere near the two of you. Every day I consider going to the templars and begging them to recall Cullen so he can finish me.”
“You don't mean that.”
“No?” She laughs, the sound like brittle ice. “You were a templar- or near enough. You know how it’s done. Shall I call for a sword for you? I bet Derrik will let you borrow his. Put me out of my misery. Better yet, have them make me Tranquil. They’d like that. That’s the only way you’ll ever touch me again.”
“Vette...I had no idea. I’m sorry.”
“Go be sorry to your wife.”
“She’s good for the country, you have to admit that.”
“No, I actually do not ,” Evette tells him. “The chantry still treats us like animals. They still keep us caged. I could leave, but I would be hunted till I died. We deserve to be as free as the rest of Ferelden. What you allow to happen to us is disgraceful. I’m ashamed to even know you.”
“Now that’s uncalled for,” he says, temper rising. “You have no idea the fight that’s happening over the Circle, Wynne and I have put so much work-”
“Oh, you work, ” she spits. “The poor little king has to do his job!”
“A job I didn’t want! That you-”
“Would you truly have let Loghaine rule?” she asks. “Would you have walked away and gone to Weisshaupt and just left us all to his tyranny?”
Alistair looks away, clenching his jaw. “No,” he says finally. “But I wouldn’t have let you go back to the Circle if we could have just stayed as we were. Are you happy here, Vette?”
“Yes,” she lies. “One of the templars is my lover, and we meet nearly every night. Irving and Gregor know, they let it continue to keep me complacent. Connor is as devoted as a boy could be. I am happy.”
“You’re a liar.” The words start out as a low chuckle, then grow into a loud, outrageous laugh. “You’re a damned liar. Do you think I don’t have you watched? That I haven’t championed you the last year and a half?” he laughs, covering his eyes with his hand. “Oh, Maker! Why do you think you’re allowed to even speak to Connor? He’s my cousin- or near enough, as far as the court is concerned. I know you, you frigid bitch,” he laughs, touching her cheek with his knuckle. “You’re so cold and distant, like some haughty ice sculpture. You were the same way when we met, do you remember?”
Evette jerks away from him, and he has to shake ice from his fingers. “Don’t touch me, you bastard.”
“Except I thawed that chunk of ice you call a heart,” he continues, voice dropping and stepping into her personal space. “They wanted to make you Tranquil. I told Gregor and the Reverend Mother that I would dissolve the Circle of Magi and level the tower, and never allow a mage to be governed again. I would risk the wrath of the Divine herself if they so much as annoyed you.”
Her eyes light up with hope. “You would do that, for them?” she asks, meeting his gaze for the first time.
“I would do it for you.” She can see he’s struggling with something, trying to find a way to say what’s on his mind. “I still love you, Vette. Come back with me.”
“I thought you didn't come here for that.”
“I didn't. I came to see you, to speak with Irving. But I’m asking, now.”
Oh, she wants to. Every nerve in her body screams yes, every inch of flesh yearns for his warm touch. The wind picks up, blowing her long dark hair off her shoulders as she looks up at him. And then she hears the creak of leather behind her as the Derrik shifts, Connor’s laugh as he and his friends chase one another in a rare moment of play.
The templars would always be there, waiting for her to falter. Waiting for her to become an abomination.
Anora would always be there, wearing his name like a badge of honor and making her miserable with her very presence.
Connor’s nightmares hadn’t stopped; he needed her.
“I can’t,” she says sadly, stepping back. “I won’t.”
She looks over her shoulder, watching the red-haired boy who had been so afraid to come to the tower. “I’m needed here.”
“ I need you, Vette.”
A deep breath, icy when exhaled. “No, you don’t, Alistair. You only want me.”
“You want me too,” he argues gently.
“That doesn’t matter.” She takes another step back, holding eye contact. A small wind picks up, and ice and snow swirl around her, stopping him from touching her again. Derrik strides forward, grabbing her arm and cursing at her for making his hand go numb. “Make this world better for us,” she says, giving the templar a disdainful look. “Calm, knight. I’ve no intention of harm, merely distance.”
“You know the rules,” he says, yanking her back another step. “Let’s go inside. The fresh air has you riled up.”
“As you wish.” Evette allows him to treat her like a rag doll, staring at Alistair as she’s pulled inside. “You owe me that much,” she calls to him.
Alistair watches the young woman forced into the tower and notices Connor watching her exit anxiously. “What will they do to her?” he asks the boy, walking to him.
Connor shrugs. “They don't let her outside much. Viktor says it’s because being outside reminds of her being a Grey Warden, and she gets...feisty.”
“Will they punish her?”
“I don't know, your Majesty. Probably. She spends a lot of time in solitary confinement.”
Alistair puts a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Come, cousin. Tell me about life in the Circle.”