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The Winter Throne

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The last thing he remembered was a column of red shooting up through the floor, and a piece of Andraste’s statue colliding with his head. Hands dragging him down the stairs, out towards the door, and then a deafening explosion. He remembered Elthina’s startled cries, the mingling of screaming voices all suddenly silenced by the blast. His body was thrown like a ragdoll into the cold night air, and then pulled back down to the ground with the debris. The Starkhaven bow flew from his hands. The crack of sound echoed into the night. Rubble landed on top of him, even as he reached to stop it. He remembered crushing weight, an unbearable ringing in his ears. He lay there for centuries. The pain in his broken bones subsided with his immobilization. Blood flooded the indent of his right eye. His red fingers stuck up from the debris, aiming for the night sky before going limp, like an undead rising from the grave. Sebastian didn’t know how long he lay there, waiting to die, feeling his body go numb. This is my end, he thought to himself, this is my end.

 

But it wasn’t his end.

 

Millennia later, a clear voice intruded his mortal silence, crying out into the night. Over here! He’s alive! She sounded familiar, oh so familiar. After much grunting, the biggest chunk of the Chantry was pushed off of him. He didn’t know he had the strength to groan but he did, legs and arms twitching with their sudden freedom. He could feel the way his ribs shifted against his insides when he breathed. The face above him was decorated with white and crowned with hair of the same color, speaking to him in a low, guttural voice. All these people he recognized, and yet their names escaped him.

 

The figure with white hair pulled him up into a sitting position, cringing at the cry of agony Sebastian let out. The crunch of his ribs said enough. Then there was another presence beside him, one that made the air thick with magic. A warm glow invaded his peripheral and slowly he felt his body begin to repair itself. He moaned as his ribs reconstructed and settled into place, as his skin knit back together. He felt...whole. And yet his mind was still shattered. The healing spell was yanked away abruptly and the white haired figure asked him if he could stand.
“Yes,” Sebastian breathed, reaching for Fenris’ shoulder, “yes, I think so.”

The world began to return to focus now, the stars in the night sky becoming clear as day, the moon beating down brightly on them. Fenris held him until he could breathe normally again, and Merrill shyly proffered his bow. Sebastian took it and assessed the damage done; it was not broken, which he was thankful for. Shocked, but thankful. The Starkhaven bow of his grandfather was scratched it some places, dented in others, and the golden sheen had long since worn off. He plucked the bowstring, still unused to the mobility of his fingers, and it resonated richly.

 

Slowly, the exiled prince surveyed the wreckage around him. They stood in a graveyard of stone and metal and wood, surrounded by the remnants of a building that stood over Kirkwall for most of its tumultuous life. Now it was shattered. A true reflection of the city itself.

 

Anders was staring at him, one hand white-knuckled on his staff. Sebastian started forward. He had done this, without a doubt. No one else was capable of such destruction, such death. No one else could look so perfectly calm after the loss of such life.

“There can be no compromise.” The mage stated coolly, setting Sebastian’s blood ablaze. He stopped midstep. No compromise? So he had killed the Grand Cleric and countless other innocents, set the city on fire? All for his precious little compromise and how detrimental it could be to his precious little rebellion? He had sacrificed people he never even knew, and now never would know, all for the sake of a war he could not win by himself?

 

Blessed be the souls of the righteous, that they ascend to your right hand.

 

“Sebastian.”

He hadn’t felt himself notch the arrow but it was there, staring down into Anders’ unforgiving eyes, trembling ever so slightly. The bowstring creaked quietly into his ear, the bow itself bending ever so slightly with his draw.
“Kill him, Hawke.”
“I can’t,” she said, almond eyes sending him an apologetic look. For all the good it’d do her.
“Can’t, or simply won’t?”

“We’re going to help the mages,” Maia kept going, inching closer to the prince. “You can help us.”
“My bow is yours, if his life is mine.” Sebastian said, voice tense with rage. Hawke’s shoulders drooped.
“I can’t do that, Sebastian.”
She stepped directly in front of the arrow, it’s pointed head aimed for her throat.

 

I will shoot first and ask for forgiveness later.

 

But he didn’t shoot. He would not kill Hawke, not the woman who’d helped him where others did not. Not the woman who’d built him back into the man he needed to be. He would not kill Hawke.
“Murderers,” he spat, lowering the bow. “The lot of you.” He met each of their eyes with a fire in his own, fists shaking at his sides.
“Give it up, Choir Boy.”

That voice, that damned dwarf. He turned to Varric, with all the momentum needed to land a critical punch against his temple. But his hand remained low.
“I will remember this,” he said to all of them, but stared with all the fury of the Maker down at Varric, “I will retake Starkhaven. And when I do, I will march back to this forsaken place with such an army you have never seen before.”

He broke the arrow over his knee and threw it to the ground, shifting his eyes to Anders.
“And when I do, any who stand in my way will be crushed.”


His eyes settled on her from across the great hall, landing on a solitary figure in a satin dress, silhouetted against the moonlight streaming in from the large window. She used to come to Starkhaven for the splendor of the winter ball, for the dancing and the burning Starkhaven whiskey. But now she came to mourn the loss of someone still alive, still very attainable, but forever out of her grasp.

“Did you ever figure out what was wrong with his portrait?”

She wasn’t startled at his voice, but she turned. The rustle of her dress was swallowed up by the howl of the wind outside.

“I’m not sure. I’ve found a few things,” she smiled minutely. “His hair is too red. And I believe the bridge of his nose is wrong.” Corbinian looked up to the painting of the third son of Vael; something was definitely off about his royal portrait. His slight smile and cool gaze were the only things right. Maybe it was his nose, Corbinian thought upon further inspection. Maybe it was the fact that his boyish face survived beside the grown faces of his dead brothers. Since his exile, the list of things wrong with portrait had grown. Corbinian knew she couldn’t possibly find all of these things to be incorrect, but he took it in stride. It was her way of missing him when no one else seemed to.

“He looks alone.”

Corbinian knew that, too. He never studied Sebastian’s portrait at the lengths she did, but he walked past it enough times to feel a chill in his spine. Nicolas and Andreas’s portraits came next, regal and ceremonial, beautiful. But they were dead; Sebastian was alive. Sometimes, he seemed to forget that.

“You haven’t danced tonight.”

Corbinian knew she’d take a moment to answer, so he turned his eyes to her dress. A beautiful pale blue, long sleeved, with a neckline that scooped around her shoulders. A simple belt of jewels around her waist—jewels which, she’d told him over their first glass of champagne earlier, were fake diamonds. It complemented her lavender eyes and tan skin but less so the red warpaint on her face.

“But I have drank the champagne.” She replied, never tearing her eyes away from the painting on the wall.

Corbinian snorted, glancing to the portrait.

“Sebastian loved dancing with you,” he said finally, setting his glass down on a passing servant’s tray. The murmur in the great hall had died down as the chamber orchestra returned to their chairs, instruments glinting in the firelight.

Through the crowd, Corbinian spotted a mop of the same dark auburn hair he had on his head moving towards him.

“Azriel,” he said quietly, extending his hand to her, “you may not want to, but I imagine you’ll want to dance even less when Goran asks you.”

Her lavender gaze was impenetrable and almost shocking when it turned to him. Without a moment of hesitation, though, she took his hand. Together, they moved towards the dance floor.

They had grown closer over the years of Sebastian’s absence, even when she was missing from Starkhaven to return to her native Ostwick. He would never claim to have the same relationship with the Trevelyan as his cousin ever did, but Corbinian had been determined not to see her fall into a lifelong despair. Goran seemed to have taken a liking to many things since the immediate heir to the throne had been banished—Azriel was one of them. She didn’t need Corbinian’s protection—she’d already bested him in combat a handful of times, and could easily drink Goran beneath the table—but he felt obliged to provide it.

“Lady Trevelyan!” A voice boomed. All chatter ceased.

Goran Vael strutted into view, blocking their path to the floor. His doublet didn’t go with his kilt at all; burnished gold against dark plaid. A terrible mix of fashion and tradition. He held his hands behind his back, proudly puffing out his chest. Corbinian squeezed her fingers. Goran smoothed his kilt before bending at the waist, one hand proffered. “It would do me great honor if you were to accompany me for a dance, my lady.”

“It would seem your cousin has beat you to the chase, Goran.” She smiled politely. She lifted the bronze fingers wrapped around her own as proof.

“Aha! Then I must insist on impeding on my cousin’s honor, my lady.” He shook his extended hand, face losing some of its jovial warmth.

One hand fisted tightly into her skirt, and Azriel forced herself to sigh, an action that made elegant collarbones press against her skin.

“I’m sure he won’t mind.”

Corbinian released her fingers, pushing a smile onto his face as Goran took her.

To his mild surprise, it was not him she glanced back to cast a forlorn gaze to, but rather the painting on the wall behind him. I must impede on my cousin’s honor, my lady; I’m sure he won’t mind. It had not been Corbinian she was talking about.

 

Sebastian’s immortal, boyish face said nothing, bright Vael eyes peering back at her with an affectionate curve of his lips.

 

I’m sure he won’t mind.