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John and The Hound by IMarriedMyFandoms

Unfortunately this fic is very badly brought down by the obvious fact the writer is not British and has not had this story checked over...

by iE-ma

A very effective shot, combining a natural backlighting effect from the window behind with a soft chiaroscuro effect. A light smatterin...

by iE-ma

I feel the main issue with this picture is how you've framed the eye within the picture; the image doesn't follow the rule of thirds. T...

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They stared at each other, wide-eyed. Fenris could feel the pull of magic upon his brands, unmistakeable and undeniably coming from the mage before him.

“Anders....”

Anders laughed, disbelieving. “It's back! My magic is back! Oh Maker, it's – I can't describe how it feels, I-”

“Mage.”

Anders broke off and nodded. “Yes. Right. Intruder first, celebrate afterwards.”

Fenris nodded and rose to his feet, but as he turned away Anders gave a strangled cry. Fenris turned back, bewildered; the mage knelt at his feet, looking stricken.

Fasta vass, mage, what is it? We do not have time to dally!”

“It went away!” Anders choked. “When you stood up, it... it's gone, it went away, I don't understand!”

Fenris stared down at Anders, then at his own glowing hand. Slowly he extended his hand back towards Anders again. “Take my hand.”

Uncomprehending, Anders reached out and grasped Fenris' hand, then gasped at the surge of power within his veins once more as the elf hauled him to his feet.

“Your lyrium!” he suddenly realised.

“Evidently,” nodded Fenris. “This is... awkward. You are still a mage – but only so long as we are touching and my markings are lit, it seems.”

“And you cannot fight properly whilst holding my hand,” nodded Anders slowly. He stared down at their joined hands, then swallowed hard before reluctantly releasing Fenris' fingers.

It was like being smothered, half his senses cut off. The singing in his blood was silenced, and without it he felt numb. Suddenly the air in the room felt too thin; he couldn't breathe properly, his head swimming.

He was distantly aware that Fenris was talking to him, had asked some question. He looked up,  distracted. “Hmm?”

Fenris had pulled on his leather cuirass and his sword was in his hand; he paused and regarded Anders with worried eyes. “Nothing,” he said finally. “You should stay here. It is likely only looters. I will be back shortly.”

Anders nodded slowly and sank down on the edge of the bed. He stared at his hand, flexing his fingers slowly, feeling that numb empty space inside where his magic ought to flow.

Sounds of shouting and screaming echoed up from the foyer, stirring him out of his reverie; Anders stood up and grabbed his pouch belt from the pile of his clothes laid neatly on a chair, buckling it on about his hips. He grabbed his staff and ran to the door, flinging it open and racing over to the bannister rail to stare down at the hallway below.

It wasn't looters; he could see that as a glance even as he grabbed a couple of flameburst capsules from his belt and hurled them down into the melee below. He rapidly identified the Tevinter mage who stood, seemingly untouchable, hurling damage spells at the lyrium ghost that was devastating the ranks of the mage's lackeys.

Slavers. Anders' lip curled in a snarl. “Why don't you pick on someone your own size?” he yelled as he leapt down the set of stairs that curved to the left of the hall, away from the knot of fighting clustered around the swearing figure of Fenris and towards the mage, pulling more capsules from his belt pouches.

The paralysis bomb exploded at the mage's feet, the green energies writhing about the mage's robed legs to pin him from the knees down. Realising the danger from this new, unexpected direction, the Tevinter mage gestured arcanely towards Anders and a bolt of purple-black energy shot towards him.

Anders raised his staff and the arcane bolt was attracted to the blade. Without missing a step, Anders twirled the staff overhead then levelled the blade at the mage's chest, slinging the bolt straight back at the surprised mage. It hit him full in the chest and he screamed, transfixed in place by the paralysis gripping his legs even as the energies roiled through his body. Anders closed the gap between them in a couple of long strides as he brought the staff around in a sweeping arc that slashed open the mage's throat in a spray of bright crimson blood. He followed it up with another capsule that shattered against the mage's chest, spraying him with magebane; Anders wanted to take no chances on the possibility the man might be a blood mage.

As the man clutched at his throat, Anders drove the blade of his staff through the mage's heart then threw his strength against the haft. It twisted in the wound with a sickening crunch as the blade ripped free and the mage dropped to the floor, dead before his body hit the ground.

Anders was already turning to face the elf's assailants, who were staring at him with some trepidation. Anders merely grinned savagely as he flicked blood from the blade of his staff and reached for more capsules.

Between them, the blond apostate and the white-haired warrior soon made short work of the remaining slavers.

They stared at the fresh bodies strewn around the hall, blood pooling here and there, smeared across the cracked marble tiles and splattered across the walls. Fenris toed one corpse impassively, then glanced at Anders. “You terrified them,” he remarked quietly.

“I?” exclaimed Anders. “But – how -”

“You should see yourself in a mirror,” replied Fenris with a shrug.

They returned to Fenris' room, and the elf nudged Anders in the direction of a full-length glass that stood propped in a corner, mostly intact apart from a crack across one corner. Anders stared at the bloody apparition that returned his stare. He was clad only in his faded grey pants, barefoot, the belt pouch slung around his hips and wet blood spattered across his body; his arms were red from hands to elbows, and his eyes stared out from a mask of dark crimson splashes, his hair plastered flat. He grimaced, remembering how he had grinned at the slavers; no wonder they had been afraid after what he'd done to the Tevinter mage.

Fenris gave a pained grunt behind him, and hurriedly Anders pulled his eyes away from his own gruesome reflection. “You're hurt?” he asked, laying aside his staff as he made his way to Fenris' side.

“It's nothing; one of them got in under my guard – it is a scratch, nothing more,” shrugged Fenris then grimaced.

“I'll be the judge of that,” replied Anders tersely. “If you'll provide....” He gestured at Fenris' lyrium brands as he laid a hand lightly over the ragged cut that ran down Fenris' bicep.

Wordlessly, Fenris lit his brands, and Anders couldn't restrain a low sigh of relief as his magic came flooding back. He sank his senses into the wound and began to heal it. It felt so good to be able to do this again; to be able to draw torn flesh together, reweaving sinew and tendon, regrow new muscle, clothe the healed cut in new skin until not even a trace of a scar remained. Then he drew on a little more mana as he felt throughout Fenris' body for any other lingering wounds, healing up old strains and bruises before sending the rush of an Invigorate through Fenris.

Keeping one hand upon Fenris' arm, he then turned his attention to his own body, feeling out all the little niggling injuries he'd been forced to endure and heal slowly without the benefit of his magic.

Something made him shy away from the old head wound and scarred eye socket however. He realised he wasn't quite ready to confront that – not just yet.

He pulled his senses slowly back out of awareness of blood, bone, sinew and flesh to find Fenris was regarding him strangely. Anders drew a long, slow breath, and then reluctantly let his hand fall away from the elf's arm, closing his eyes as he felt the magic deaden inside once more. Suddenly he felt incredibly tired and weary and he sagged.

Fenris caught him as he swayed. “Come, mage; let us get you cleaned up, and then rest I think.”

Anders did not protest the name for once.
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes)
Anders couldn't believe this was happening. He tried to tell himself this was a dream; all just some random fantasy playing through his sleeping mind. And yet....

And yet Fenris' lips were warm and somehow soft against his, and wasn't that strange? The elf was always so hard and prickly, and yet his lips were warm and soft and gentle and Anders couldn't help but respond. It had been so long since someone had treated him with gentle kindness; so long since there had been intimacy of any kind with anyone and he'd missed it, Maker he'd missed it so much and he was starved of affection worse than any stray kitten, and he found himself responding without thought, his lips parting in a breathless, desperate moan that was an entreaty for more, more, more.

And Fenris responded willingly, claiming Anders' mouth with his own, his tongue delving in and tasting of Anders as he pushed him back onto the bed. And Anders lay back obediently, deliberately not thinking of consequences or anything other than here, than now, than this. When Fenris reached for the ties of his shirt, Anders pulled them loose, helping Fenris to strip him out of the worn garment then lifting his hips as the elf tugged at his pants before reaching for Fenris as the elf stripped off his own tunic.

Then Fenris' head dipped towards Anders' groin and the blond man cried out as the elf swallowed him down. When Fenris reached between Anders' legs to cup his balls, Anders let his knees fall apart, moaning yes and please and oh Maker now with soft, breathless cries when Fenris' fingers ghosted lower over his perineum and circled his entrance.

Fenris took him slowly and gently, a handful of oil to ease the way, and Anders came apart and undone beneath him, his moans little more than breathless exhalations. He was almost silent as he came, back arching off the mattress as his hands clenched into the folds of the sheets beneath them; his head thrown back, eyes closed, mouth wide in a voiceless cry before he collapsed back onto the bed, helpless and spent. Fenris followed him over the edge, his own cry hoarse, guttural and far too loud after Anders' near-silent unravelment. He fell forward, arms braced either side of Anders' shoulders, and fought to catch his breath.

Anders lay still, his own chest heaving raggedly as his heart raced still, only slowly calming to something approximating its normal resting beat. He opened his eye slowly and stared up at Fenris as the elf panted over him. Fenris opened his own eyes and stared down at Anders, and then he smiled, a fond look in his eyes.

Anders blinked. “Why?” was all he managed to gasp out. Fenris chuckled.

“Mage-”

Anders opened his mouth to object, the words “Not a mage” coming automatically to his lips; but Fenris laid a finger across them, silencing him.

“Hush,” he said softly, then replaced his finger with his own lips, kissing Anders gently. When he drew away, Anders was staring up into his eyes, a confused look upon his face that was shortly replaced by a look of discomfort as he squirmed slightly beneath Fenris.

“I can honestly say that's the first time anyone's tried to help me recover from a hangover by shagging me near senseless, but couldn't you have let me use the bathroom first?” he asked plaintively.

Fenris jerked back, abashed. “Venhedis, mage – Anders, I – forgive me -” He sat up and helped Anders upright, and Anders had to hide a grin as the elf continued to babble uncharacteristically. And was he - blushing?

Anders would have enjoyed this all the more if  he didn't desperately urgently need to relieve himself. “The bathroom?” he prompted, gritting his teeth as he stood up.

Fasta vass - yes, down the hall, second door on your left as you go towards the stairs,” Fenris gestured to the door.

When Anders returned from the privy, he was quiet and thoughtful. He found Fenris had donned his pants and was building up the fire in the fireplace, and there was bread and cheese set out on the table. He retrieved his own pants and tugged them on.

When Fenris turned around, Anders was leaning against the bedpost of the dilapidated four-poster bed, his arms folded, the former Warden staring not quite straight at him.

“So....” began Anders slowly.

“So...?” echoed Fenris, slowly getting to his feet.

“So, that was... what?” asked Anders. “You hated me when I was a mage, but now I'm not a mage you want to fuck me? Is that it?”

Vishante kaffras - no, Anders!” exclaimed Fenris as he took a step towards the blond man. “I don't – I didn't hate you. Have you not heard a word I have said? Any of them? I never hated you. And this is not because you have lost your magic.”

“Would you have kissed me if I were still a mage?”

“Anders....” Fenris took a step towards him, and Anders finally turned his head to meet the elf's gaze. He smiled sadly.

“Would you still want to touch me if I were to regain my magic? Would you be able to stand to look at me?”

Fenris closed the space between them in a few short strides, reaching up to cup Anders' face in his hands. Anders held still and allowed him, though his arms remained folded across his chest.

“Anders... this is not about your magic.”

“Isn't it?” asked Anders flatly. “You couldn't stand my touch before I lost my magic. Now you can't keep your hands off me.”

Fenris snatched his hands away as if burned, his face falling. Anders winced and glanced away. The elf's kicked-puppy expression was hard to face, and Anders felt a wrench of guilt in spite of himself.

He swallowed hard and dropped his gaze to the floor. Dammit, he was the one who felt he'd been used here. Too much was happening too fast. The tainted lyrium, the templars, Hawke's suggestion that maybe he was still a mage, then losing his patient and now Fenris acting like this and being most unFenris-like; and despite the healing potion he still felt hungover and a little queasy – which was probably down to a combination of the lingering after-effects of the magebane on top of the tainted lyrium-poisoning compounded by sleep deprivation and exhaustion, both physical and emotional. The excess of wine on top of all of that was probably the last thing his body needed.

And dammit but he'd missed the routine they'd fallen into together over the past two months. In the desperate searching for new meaning to his life after losing his magic, the calm familiarity of daily breakfast then sparring practice had been a grounding influence at a time when he felt adrift and aimless.

And if he were being honest with himself then yes, he'd missed Fenris himself. The elf had a habit of getting under one's skin. Before he lost his eye, Fenris' presence had been an irritation, a constant needling barb, though in his own way he'd almost enjoyed the almost-banter between them. It was familiar, and sometimes he'd almost had the feeling it was as amusing for Fenris as it had been for him – well, as long as they avoided the topic of magic and mages' rights, at any rate. And after? His presence had been a reassuring constant. He'd grown used to it; come to welcome it, looking forward to it. When Fenris had shown up at the clinic unlooked for, Anders had felt a genuine warmth and relief.

Yet he couldn't shake the nasty feeling that the change in Fenris' demeanour towards him was down solely to the loss of his magic; he had the feeling that the elf would be delighted if he never regained his magic, not understanding how even now, Anders still felt only half alive, as though he had lost a limb – lost far more than an eye. How could he dare to believe there was anything between them, when it could all be wrenched away if he regained his magic?

And Fenris had undeniably used him. He had been weak and vulnerable when Fenris kissed him; he was certain it would never have had happened otherwise – he wouldn't have let it happen. (Wouldn't he? Was he really so sure?) Fenris had taken advantage of him -

A hand came to rest lightly upon his arm and he glanced up, startled, to find himself staring directly into a pair of intent green eyes. He would have flinched back, but the bedpost at his back checked him.

“Mage. I would have kissed you even if you still had magic. I will not turn away should you regain it.”

“I wish I could let myself believe you,” whispered Anders. And Maker, he wanted to. He wanted to feel Fenris' hands threading into his hair again, feel the elf claim his lips; he wanted the elf to take him again, feel him moving deep inside him once more -

And then Fenris drew him down, one hand cupping the back of Anders' head as he threaded the fingers of his other hand into the soft blond hair and claimed Anders' mouth once more, and Anders couldn't restrain the desperate, needy moan that he breathed into Fenris as he slid to his knees, tilting his head back as Fenris deepened the kiss.

This is wrong, it's going to end in ruin, I can't do this, he told himself even as he whimpered, tugging at Fenris' pants. He broke off the kiss only to take Fenris' stiffening length into his mouth. Fenris groaned encouragingly; one hand still clenched in Anders' hair as he braced himself with the other hand against the bedpost. Anders clutched at Fenris' hips and closed his eyes as the elf thrust into his throat, and he abandoned all thought once more for the here and now.

Maybe the elf was using him. Maybe it would all end in tears. But for now he was tired of being alone, and he couldn't find it in him to care. Let Fenris use him; he didn't want to think any more.

Fenris' fingers tightening in his hair warned him the elf was close again; when Fenris shuddered with a groan, Anders swallowed his spend then leaned back against the bedpost as Fenris pulled himself away on legs that visibly trembled a little.

“Anders.” Fenris' voice was rough as he dropped to his knees before the former Warden, but his hands were gentle as he cradled Anders' face between his palms. He rubbed a thumb across Anders' cheek. “Tears?” His brow creased in concern.

Anders hadn't realised he was crying once more. “I want to trust you,” he confessed. “I want to trust this isn't a dream. I want to trust that nothing would change if- if-”

Fenris smiled gently then leaned in to kiss him lightly again. “I swear that this is no dream,” he murmured. “I would -”

He got no further as the sound of the door of the ruined mansion being slammed open carried clearly to them, echoing up from the corpse-strewn foyer downstairs. They stared at each other, and then Fenris lit his brands reflexively.

Anders gasped; as the lyrium energy surged along the brands cradling his face, he felt an unmistakeable answering surge of energy racing through his blood. He could feel with that internal sense he had feared gone forever. It were as though the elf's blazing brands had opened once more the door to the Fade that had resided within him since his powers first manifested when he was twelve. It was quicksilver and lightning, a heady rush of power that set his skin tingling with a thousand pinpricks of energy, his senses heightened.

“I feel it!” he breathed. “Fenris, I can feel it!
Anders became aware of three things simultaneously when he finally awoke.

His head was splitting.

His stomach was twisting itself in knots.

And he desperately needed to pee.

He managed to open his eye slowly, and instantly regretted it. A lance of pain shot through his head, the light in the room blinding. He shut his eye instantly and whimpered as the throbbing in his skull intensified. His stomach gave a rebellious lurch, and he realised dismally that he was about to throw up.

A warm hand rubbed reassuring circles on his back, then shifted to brush his hair away from his face.

“There is a bowl here.”

He didn't question the voice or how the speaker seemed to know what he needed. He opened his eye, saw a large, slightly chipped white enamelled bowl held by a dark lyrium-lined hand, and managed to lever himself up on one arm enough to hang his head over the bowl. The next few minutes were filled with the unpleasant experience of his stomach doing its best to turn itself inside out, his mouth and nose filled with the taste and scent of bile and regurgitated wine. He could barely draw breath between each spasm of retching, his feet pushing uselessly against the tangled blankets as his stomach heaved and his guts clenched even after there was nothing left in his stomach and he was only bringing up bile and phlegm.

He became distantly aware of the hand gently stroking his hair back out of his face and a quiet rumble of murmured soothing sounds as he finally slumped back down onto the bed, wrung out and spent, shivering and exhausted. He must have moaned or made some other pitiful noise; the hand stroking his hair shifted to gently brush his cheek.

“Easy there. It's over, it's done. Just breathe.”

That voice. He should recognise that voice. he couldn't think straight for the throbbing agony in his head. He was aware of a fiery itching in the scarred empty socket of his missing eye.

He felt the mattress lift and made a weak, protesting sound.

“Shh, easy, mage. I will be back in a moment.”

“Nnngh... n-not a mage,” he managed to moan. His head ached too much to even think straight. There was something he'd forgotten, but he couldn't focus beyond the hollow emptiness of his stomach and the lancing pain in his skull.

The mattress dipped again, and then the gentle reassuring touch of a hand in his hair briefly before a cool, damp cloth was laid across his brow.

“'M dying,” he managed to groan. There was a soft rumbling chuckle.

“No, mage, though doubtless you wish you could. When did you last drink that much?”

“Can't remember,” Anders moaned. “Kill me.”

“After all the trouble I've gone to for you? No, I think not.” There was amusement in the voice that chastised him. The voice was very familiar; it sounded like Fenris, but that couldn't be possible. He couldn't imagine Fenris being this gentle and caring, stroking the hair back from his face and trailing fingers lightly down the side of his face and oh, but he was kind of liking this, but if it were Fenris then this had to be a dream because Fenris wouldn't -

“Why wouldn't I?” asked Fenris.

Anders' eye opened wide as he realised that yes, it was indeed Fenris stroking his hair.
                 
He flinched without thinking and then cried out as the incautious movement made his head throb anew.

“Calm yourself, Anders. I mean you no harm,” said Fenris quietly. “Wait one moment; I have a healing potion here somewhere.” The elf rose and moved away.

Anders blinked. Healing potion. He had called for a healing potion... when? Why? Something on the edge of his memory.... He frowned. He couldn't think straight, but it seemed somehow important. Something about having run out of healing potions.

He sat up gingerly as Fenris returned to his side and held a small flask out to him. Anders accepted it with a grimace and downed it, then lowered the empty flask and stared at it as the pounding headache at last began to recede. He frowned as he hefted the glass bottle. There was something... a reason he'd needed a healing potion, a reason why he'd gotten so drunk to be this hungover -

Mae. He couldn't save her.

He felt Fenris' hands upon his shoulders; was dimly aware of the elf calling his name above the sudden roaring his ears as his vision greyed. It took him a few moments of blank-minded grief before he realised the high-pitched keening he could hear was coming from his own throat.

“Mage - Anders! Venhedis, please, calm down and breathe!”

Fenris' words finally registered, and Anders drew a deep, shuddering breath. He managed to focus his gaze on the elf and realised that Fenris was regarding him with concern and worry. Anders drew another breath, then another, and then belatedly realised he was clutching the front of Fenris' tunic, the fabric twisted and bunched in his white-knuckled grip. He managed to disengage his hands with difficulty, and was unsurprised to find his hands were trembling.

What did surprise him was Fenris, who released his shoulders only to take Anders' shaking hands in his. Anders dropped his gaze to their joined hands, staring dumb-founded at his own pale fingers in the sure, warm grip of Fenris' sword-callused yet gentle lyrium-lined fingers.

“I-I don't understand,” he faltered.

“You need understand nothing, Anders; only this: that I would care for you, if you will allow me?”

Anders lifted his gaze to meet Fenris' green eyes, uncomprehending. Fenris sighed.
                 
“But....” Anders began, shaking his head slowly in bewilderment. “But why? I don't understand any of this. Ever since I lost my eye, I've been unable to figure you out.” He dropped his gaze back to their hands again. “Since I lost my magic,” he added, a bitter note creeping into his voice. He suddenly lifted his head, narrowing his eye. “Is that it? Suddenly I'm more tolerable now that I'm not a mage any more? Or is this just pity?” He tried to pull away suddenly but Fenris' grip upon his hands tightened.
                 
“There is nothing pitiable about you, Anders,” said Fenris quietly. “I do not think many would have handled the loss of their eye and – yes, the core of their identity – half as well as you have. You are resilient, and stubborn, and resourceful. You took down half the slavers by yourself, then four templars unaided.” He lightly shook Anders' hands; Anders glanced up at him, startled. “Anders, do you not understand why I returned to the clinic to aid you?”

Anders shook his head slowly.

“You have no further need of my training, but I have... grown accustomed to our time spent together, and I found that I missed it. Missed you.”

“You missed me?” echoed Anders. Fenris shrugged; a small, sheepish smile played across his lips.

“Strange, is it not? We spent so much time bickering that we never realised how alike, perhaps, we are. We have both spent a long time running away. And we have both found ourselves struggling to find a new identity for ourselves. And, yes, over the past few weeks I have grown accustomed to spending time with you – to look forward to it. When I accidentally caused you to drink that tainted lyrium and thought you might die...!”

He drew a shaky breath, and this time it was Anders' fingers that tightened on his.

“I'm not dead,” Anders pointed out quietly. “Though you were right – after throwing up like that I certainly felt like dying. Maker, I haven't drunk that much since the last time I tried to drink all the new recruits under the table with Oghren's special brew back at Vigil's Keep.” He pulled a face. “You'd think that experience would have put me off for life.”

“You seem to learn lessons the hard way, Anders,” smiled Fenris. Anders smiled back, ruefully.

“I do learn them eventually,” he said with a small shrug. “Sometimes I just need reminding.”

“And what do I need to do to remind you that I respect you as a valued companion, a skilled healer, a resourceful alchemist, and a fellow warrior? And as a friend, a -” Fenris broke off, his face colouring.

Anders blinked. “As...?” he echoed.

Fenris glanced away, and Anders stared at him. “Fenris?” he prompted softly.

“I missed you. And I feared for you. I thought....”
                 
“You thought what?” Anders' voice was still soft. Fenris glanced back at Anders, and then wordlessly lifted a hand to gently cup Anders' cheek. Anders held still, his one good eye widening slowly in dawning comprehension mixed with disbelief.

“Fen-”

“Hush,” whispered Fenris quietly as he leaned in, and silenced Anders with a kiss.

In the end, it was Varric who arranged for the repair of the clinic doors. He had listened patiently, nodding as Hawke and Fenris explained what had happened, then given Fenris a wry smile and told them to leave it to him. Good to his word, two carpenters showed up at the clinic a few hours later to repair the doors. By the time they’d left, there was no sign that there had ever been a mishap to the doors.


Fenris had returned that evening with Anders’ share of the pay from the patrol job from Aveline and a pot of stew sent by Leandra, along with an invitation for Anders to come join the Hawke family for dinner the following weekend. Anders had shrugged, not answering one way or another. Fenris had served the stew and they had eaten in silence, Anders not quite able to bring himself to ask why Fenris had taken upon himself to bring his share of coin himself rather than leave it to Varric, and Fenris either unwilling or unable to admit that he did not want their routine of the past two months to end, even if it was now quite obvious that Anders needed no further protection or training. They ate in an uncomfortable silence before Anders retired to bed, claiming exhaustion.


Neither of them mentioned the strange experience of that morning. The following day, they breakfasted in silence, and then Fenris took his leave of Anders somewhat awkwardly. The clinic seemed very empty once he had gone, and Anders found himself slightly at a loss as to what to do with himself. He, too, had grown too used to their routine.


Anders lost his first patient two days later.


Varric had dropped by the clinic, accompanied by a man carrying a chest. The dwarf inspected the repaired doors then nodded before gesturing to the man and leading the way into the clinic.


Anders had glanced up briefly as he entered, nodding distractedly as he brushed hair out of his face then turned back to the labouring woman he was tending. Her husband glanced up at Varric then dropped his gaze back to his wife as she panted and moaned, oblivious to the entrance of the strangers.


“Nearly there - easy now, you’re doing really well,” said Anders encouragingly. “I can see the top of the head - two more pushes and you’ll be done, I promise.” The woman gave a breathless moan of dismay.


“Now, come on, you can do this, Mae!” Anders patted her trembling thigh, his other hand resting lightly on her abdomen. As the next contraction rippled through her, he kept talking in a low, soothing voice, urging her to keep breathing. “Good girl, that’s it, just bear down -” He crouched down between her thighs, his hand shifting from her leg to reach for something wet and glistening. “That’s it, that’s the head through! We’re nearly there, Mae, it’s nearly over! Just one more push -”


Mae gave a long, exhausted wail as she bore down once more, and then Anders was sitting back on his heels with an armful of squalling newborn, a tired yet happy smile on his face as he looked up at Mae and her husband. “Congratulations, Mae; you’ve a beautiful baby daughter,” he said gently.


He laid the baby on her mother’s tummy and Mae hugged her gently as her husband crouched down next to her and laid a hand lightly on the tiny head of his newborn daughter. Anders was busying himself dealing with the afterbirth.


Varric directed the man to set the chest down in the corner near Anders’ preparation bench then dismissed him. He turned and glanced around the clinic.


Besides the labouring woman, there was a handful of other patients in the clinic; a few of the small cots were occupied, and it looked as though Anders had had a busy morning. The dwarf smiled when he spotted Fenris crouched down next to a small child. Varric made his way over to them both.


“I didn’t expect to find you here, Broody!” he greeted the elf. Fenris glanced up.


“Varric. When did you get here?” he asked, straightening slowly.


“Just now,” answered Varric. “Anders’ alchemy supplies arrived this morning; I figured he’d want to get his hands on them as soon as possible, but I guess he’s a bit preoccupied right now.” He jerked his head towards where Anders was still busy with the new mother.


“The woman has had a difficult labour,” nodded Fenris. “Anders has been with her since yesterday morning; I’ve been dealing with the other patients as best as I can so he could concentrate on her.” He gestured at the other patients. “I am no healer, but I can at least bandage wounds and apply salves. It has become obvious to me that there is much need of Anders’ services and that there is often far more work here than one pair of hands can manage alone.”


Varric eyed the elf shrewdly. He guessed there was another reason behind Fenris’ presence, but if the white-haired warrior were not ready to admit it to himself yet, then Varric certainly wasn’t going to be able to prise it out of him. Yet.


“Fenris, I could use a hand here!” called Anders suddenly, looking up, his face serious. The woman, Mae, was lying back on the cot, her face very pale as her husband looked on anxiously, his baby daughter cradled in his arms.


Fenris hurried over, Varric a couple of steps behind.


“She’s bleeding, far too heavily; something’s torn somewhere. Pass me a healing potion,” said Anders tersely.


Fenris frowned. “There are none. You used the last yesterday evening on the miner with the head injury.”


“What?” exclaimed Anders, his face paling. This close, Varric could see how haggard and exhausted Anders was. He turned back to the woman and began to work frantically.


The woman’s breathing was becoming uneven, each breath a shallow pant, her face waxen and pale. She seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness. Varric glanced from her pale face back to Anders.


Varric and Fenris could do nothing. And in the end, despite all his efforts, nor could Anders.



***



“Blondie. Come on Blondie. You can’t just sit there.”


Anders stared at his hands. Blood covered them; covered his arms up to the elbows. So much blood. He hadn’t been able to save her. She had bled out, despite his best efforts. He had reached, and reached, and reached inside himself but there was nothing there, and Mae had died. And he could do nothing.


“I couldn’t save her,” he said quietly. “I could feel her slipping away and I couldn’t save her.”


Fenris nudged Varric out of the way and set down a bowl of warm water. He knelt down in front of Anders and reached for the blond man’s hands; Anders let him take them and the elf began to wash them carefully.


“You did your best,” rumbled the elf gently. “You could do no more.”


“I could have. Once, I could have,” murmured Anders brokenly.


Varric sighed and shook his head. He’d seen enough people in shock to recognise the signs. “Blondie, you did what you could. Sometimes... people just don’t make it.” He shrugged. “You gave her a better chance than she’d have had alone. The baby was born healthy.”


“I lost her,” said Anders, as he lowered his head. His shoulders began to shake with silent sobs.


Fenris stared up into Anders’ face then glanced up at the dwarf, a look of grave concern upon his face. He glanced back to Anders then gently dried the former Warden’s trembling hands. Anders drew his hands out of Fenris’ grasp then huddled in upon himself, his breathing hoarse and ragged, his sobs almost silent save for the gasp of indrawn breath between each one.


Fenris hesitantly reached up a hand as though to touch Anders, then drew it back, unsure how Anders would respond to the touch. He got to his feet and turned to Varric.


“He cannot stay here; he is in no fit state to be left alone,” the elf said quietly. Varric nodded.


“Let’s get him back to the Hanged Man; I dare say he could use a few drinks,” the dwarf agreed.




***



Varric glanced up at the sound of feet pounding up the stairs to his rooms; a moment later, Hawke burst into the room, Bethany as step behind him.


“I came the moment I got your message - Anders, is he....” Hawke’s eyes fell on Anders and he fell silent.


Anders was sprawled with his head upon the table, one hand still loosely curled around an empty wine bottle. As Hawke stared, he opened his good eye with difficulty, his gaze unfocused as he squinted past his dishevelled hair. His eye was red-rimmed; he looked like he’d been crying hard for some time. He tried to say something, then seemed to give it up as a bad job, shrugged, and closed his eye again.


“He’s drunk,” Hawke realised.


“He lost his first patient since losing his magic,” rumbled Fenris quietly. Hawke started; he hadn’t noticed the elf’s presence, as intent as he had been on Anders.


“Oh no,” breathed Bethany. “Poor Anders, he must be devastated!”


“That’s about the shape of it, Sunshine,” nodded Varric. “I don’t recall as I’ve ever seen Blondie take a death to heart quite so badly as this before.”


“But... I don’t understand,” said Hawke slowly. “He’s been a healer for a long time. Surely he must have lost patients before?”


“Garrett,” said Bethany quietly. “He’s still coming to terms with losing his magic.”


Fenris nodded. “He feels that if he still had his magic, he could have saved her. Likely he is correct. He was obsessed with what you had suggested - that he might still be a mage. He blames himself for not reaching deeply enough.”


Anders made a faint, plaintive noise then hiccupped. He dragged the bottle closer and managed to lift his head enough to set the bottle to his lips and tip it back, but a moment later he let it fall with a grunt. “‘S empty,” he slurred. “Fen... bottle’s empty.”


Fenris took another bottle from the sideboard without a word; phasing his hand without thinking about it, he removed the cork. Anders frowned a little and rubbed the back of his neck then reached for the bottle, taking a long pull.


“Is that a good idea?” asked Bethany quietly.


“Probably not,” replied Varric with a sigh. “If you’ve got a better one though, I’m all ears, Sunshine. This isn’t exactly my area of expertise.”


“It’s not really mine either,” said Hawke, troubled.


Anders had lowered the bottle and was squinting at it. He showed no sign of being aware of them discussing him. He placed the bottle on the table with exaggerated care and blinked owlishly at it for a moment, and then abruptly slipped sideways out of his chair.


Hawke caught him before he could hit the floor. The slender blond man was a dead weight in his arms; as Hawke hefted him up, Anders began to snore.


“I think that’s Blondie’s lot for the evening,” shrugged Varric.


“What are we going to do with him?” wondered Hawke. “I can’t take him back to ours - I’m sure Mother would be delighted for the chance to fuss over him but Gamlen won’t be too pleased.”


“Can you get him back to his clinic?” suggested Varric.


“I don’t think he ought to be left alone,” said Bethany. “What if more templars show up to find out where the first lot got to?”


“He can come with me,” Fenris said suddenly. The others turned and stared at him, Varric arching his eyebrows in surprise. “I live alone in Danarius’ mansion; there are several rooms. He will be safe there, and the templars would not think to look for him there.”


“Are you sure, Broody?” asked Varric.


“He will be safe,” nodded Fenris. “Though I would not refuse assistance taking him there.”


Hawke nodded. “Beth, grab Anders’ staff will you?” he asked as he set Anders’ feet upon the floor and slung his arm across his shoulders. Fenris stepped in to Anders’ other side, slinging his other arm across his own shoulders.


“What’s this?” asked Bethany, retrieving something from the floor. She turned it over and stared at the small pillow, lightly trailing her fingers over the faded embroidered flowers.


“Something that means much to him I believe,” rumbled Fenris. “He insisted on keeping it with him when we brought him here.”


Bethany nodded and tucked it under her arm as she reached for Anders’ staff.


“I guess Wicked Grace is off this evening,” remarked Hawke. “Maybe tomorrow, Varric?”


“Sure thing, Hawke,” nodded the dwarf. “Hope Blondie’s back to normal soon.”


“You and I both,” Hawke muttered. He nodded farewell to Varric, and then he and Fenris turned and half-carried, half-dragged the comatose Anders towards the stairs, Bethany following behind.


Varric sighed as he watched them go, then reached for the unfinished bottle of wine. “Hell of a night,” he remarked to the empty room.

Anders woke up disoriented and confused. He lay blinking up at the rough wooden beams of the ceiling; it took a moment or two to work out he must have fallen asleep upon one of the cots in the clinic instead of making it to his own bed in the little alcove. He could smell bacon and wondered who down here in Darktown could have afforded such a rare treat. Meat was expensive and most of Darktown’s denizens did without. His mouth was watering. It seemed most unfair to be woken by the tantalising smell of a treat he could never afford; these days, the only time he got to eat bacon was when Varric insisted on pushing breakfast on him. Fenris usually preferred lighter fare such as bread and fruit, or porridge on colder days.

A snore to his left broke into his reverie; rolling his head upon the thin pillow, his eyes fell upon Hawke, sprawled on his stomach on a nearby cot, dead to the world and snoring peacefully. As Anders slowly sat up, the events of last night slowly came back to him. He swung his legs over the side of the cot onto the floor, drew a deep breath, and glanced around.

Bethany was crouched over a cooking pot set over the hearth fire, stirring something that bubbled before she turned to a small iron skillet (did he own a skillet? He didn’t remember) and neatly flipping over slices of frying bacon. He blinked and rubbed his eye, then ran a hand through his dishevelled hair.

“Ah, you’re awake!” said Bethany brightly as she lifted her head and noticed Anders staring around himself. His eye blearily focused on her as he turned.

“For certain values of,” he replied, getting to his feet then stretching. His spine made a series of alarming popping noises as he arched backwards then twisted to one side to try and unkink himself. Those cot beds were only barely adequate for his patients; they were too short for him and he always woke with a crick in his neck and a niggling ache in his back whenever he slept on one. He pressed his hands against the small of his back then grimaced as he remembered he couldn’t even relieve that small discomfort the way he used to. He wondered if he would ever get used to that - reaching for something that wasn’t there.

“Here, let me,” said Bethany as she rose to her feet, wiping her hands on a rag. “I may not be brilliant at healing but I’m at least good for that.”

Anders sighed then inclined his head as she stepped behind him. Her small hands were warm and gentle through the worn linen of his shirt, and he groaned with relief as the small wave of healing magic dissipated the ache of tired muscles.

As he straightened, he became aware that Fenris had sat up and was staring at them intently, his expression unreadable. Anders frowned slightly as Fenris’ expression changed; the elf glowered at him and turned away hastily.

“Better?” asked Bethany.

“Much, thanks,” nodded Anders as he turned, dismissing the elf’s baffling behaviour. He followed Bethany back towards the hearth. “Ah, Bethany,” he said quietly. “About last night....”

She glanced back at him as she shifted the pot away from the flames, and smiled sympathetically. “You were upset. You have every right to be; I can only barely imagine what you must be going through right now. I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner, to be honest.”

Anders blinked and felt his face grow hot. “Has everyone been waiting for me to go to pieces then?” he asked, his voice a little sharp and brittle though he kept it low.

She straightened, the smile gone. “No, Anders. We’ve just been worried for you. It’s what friends do.”

Anders swallowed and glanced to one side. “I’d, ah, appreciate it if we just kept it between us. Really, I’d rather pretend it didn’t happen at all, if it’s all the same to you.”

“Is that really healthy?” she asked him gently. He tried to smile.

“Probably not,” he admitted with a note of false bravado. “But it makes me more comfortable.”

“I’ll speak to Garrett,” said Bethany. “I’m sure Fenris will say nothing.”

Anders nodded, not looking at her as he twisted his fingers together. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, then drew a deep breath. “I’m, I... I’ll just go wash and change,” he said haltingly as he turned away.

He was aware of Hawke’s watchful eyes as he ducked into his little alcove and let the curtain fall closed behind him. He exhaled slowly. The curtain only really gave an illusion of privacy, but this small room was, at least, his own personal space.

He stripped off his shirt then washed with cold water, shivering a little, his mind replaying the events and conversation of the previous evening as water ran down his back in small rivulets from his wet hair.

“Are you sure you’re not still a mage?”

“Anders, to all appearances you appear to still be a mage.”


“Then why can’t I feel my magic?” he whispered to himself. He held his hand out, palm uppermost, and frowned as he tried to reach inside for that place that once was quicksilver and light but now felt so cold, empty, dark. He hunted for anything, the smallest spark; he gritted his teeth as he closed his eyes and tried to find what he had lost. He felt his body trembling as he strained for even the smallest drop of mana, reaching inside blindly.

Fenris’ head whipped around as a scream of anguish, frustration and pain rang out from behind the ragged grey curtain. Hawke and Bethany moved almost as one as they stepped towards the alcove, but Fenris was faster. His brands lit up almost without conscious thought and he was a streak of brilliant white light as he reached the alcove ahead of them and threw back the curtain, lighting up the small room, nearly overbalancing as he came to a sudden halt before he could bowl the former mage over.

Anders turned towards him, lifting up his empty hand. “There’s nothing, there’s -” he cried out, and then he suddenly gasped as his bare palm lightly brushed Fenris’ arm, touching briefly one of the blazing lyrium lines. Fenris’ gasp echoed Anders’ as he felt briefly a tingle that raced along the line of lyrium incised into his flesh.

It was gone as swiftly as it had come. As Fenris let the light die from his lyrium, he regarded Anders with wide eyes; Anders appeared equally shocked. He lifted his trembling hand to stare at his palm incredulously.

Fasta vass, what was that?” breathed Fenris.

“I don’t know,” whispered Anders. “You felt it too? I wasn’t imagining it?”

“Anders, are you alright?” exclaimed Hawke as he peered over Fenris’ shoulder, Bethany craning her neck to look around the elf on his other side.

“I don’t know,” said Anders, his voice shocked and bewildered. “I don’t know what just happened. I felt... something.”

“As did I,” said Fenris quietly.

“Whatever it was... it’s gone now,” said Anders slowly. He lowered his hand and was suddenly aware of his state of undress, clad only in a worn and faded pair of pants; barefoot, water still dripping from his loose hair as it brushed his shoulders.

He was also acutely aware of the close proximity of Fenris; the scent of leather, lyrium, sword oil - the smells that were uniquely Fenris. The small alcove suddenly seemed very overcrowded and tiny, almost claustrophobically so, and his breath caught in his throat as Fenris stared up at him, so close that Anders could feel the elf’s breath upon his damp skin.

“Too close,” he breathed, and swallowed hard.

Bethany slapped Hawke’s arm lightly with the back of her hand. “Come on, Garrett, let’s give Anders some space, hmm? Let him finish washing and dressing. Fenris?” She tugged her brother away.

The elf regarded Anders with that same unreadable expression from earlier then took a step backwards. “My... apologies. I thought....”

Anders frowned, bewildered. “You thought...?” he echoed.

“Never mind,” scowled Fenris as he turned away and drew the curtain closed again, leaving Anders alone with his thoughts.

When Anders emerged a short while later, dressed and with his damp hair combed back neatly, the others were sitting around the hearth fire talking quietly; as Anders took a seat on an upturned crate, Bethany handed him a plate of bacon and eggs and a mug of tea.

“You are a blessing, Bethany,” he smiled, then tucked into his breakfast. He was aware of Fenris watching him from over the rim of his bowl of porridge but said nothing. Whatever was on his mind, doubtless Fenris would speak it sooner or later. Preferably after Anders had finished eating and had a full stomach.

As Anders laid down his fork on his empty plate with a small, satisfied sigh and picked up his mug of tea, Hawke cleared his throat.

“So. About what happened.”

Anders went still, then lowered his mug. “When?” he asked, his voice carefully neutral.

Hawke glanced at Bethany who gave him a warning look. “Ah... just now,” said Hawke. “You yelled.”

“Frustration,” replied Anders sourly.

“And afterwards?” pressed Hawke, glancing at Fenris.

“No idea,” shrugged Anders. “Maybe nothing. In fact, probably nothing.”

“Then you and I both felt nothing,” Fenris rumbled quietly. Anders darted him a suspicious look, but the elf was staring into his mug as though they were merely discussing the weather.

“What happened in there?” asked Hawke, pressing further. Anders sighed and set his mug down before rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. The empty eye socket was itching abominably and he was having to fight hard the urge to rip off the eyepatch and scratch at the scars.

“I don’t really know,” he said. “I was thinking about what you said last night - about me maybe still being a mage - and trying to, I don’t know, find perhaps a small scrap of mana - something to draw on, however tiny. I couldn’t find anything, and then Fenris burst in all lit up like that and I accidentally touched his arm and....” He lowered his hands and huffed a stray lock of hair out of his eyes. “I thought I felt something. Like a tingle in the palm of my hand. It was probably nothing though.”

Fenris looked as though he were about to argue, then glanced away, perhaps thinking better of it.

“Anders, last night you said that if a non-mage had drunk that much lyrium, it would probably be fatal even without the felandaris,” said Bethany slowly. He nodded, frowning slightly. “But you’re fine?”

“As far as I can tell, yes,” replied Anders with a shrug. “The symptoms I experienced aren’t what I would associate with lyrium poisoning; I’m assuming that was the felandaris, mostly.”

“So what would happen if you drank just ordinary lyrium?” asked Hawke.

“Are you asking me to try?” asked Anders, sitting straighter.

“No, he is not,” said Fenris unexpectedly, giving Hawke a sharp look. “Was his near-death through poisoning not enough?”

“Easy, Fenris,” said Hawke soothingly as Anders stared perplexed at the elf. “Just thinking aloud. Does anyone know what would happen if one of the Tranquil drank lyrium?”

“No. And I’m not going to the Gallows to ask,” replied Anders. “Just before you get any ideas.” He picked up his cup then got to his feet. “Well, fascinating as this all is, I have work to do; I need to open the clinic.” He walked over to his desk, setting down the mug as he picked up flint and steel then headed towards the doors. He paused to eye the state of them, then sighed. “Fenris, I wish you’d learn to knock,” he groused.

Fenris and Hawke exchanged a glance, then got to their feet.

“Any good with a hammer?” asked Hawke.

“No,” replied Fenris tersely, then glanced at Hawke. “You?”

Hawke sighed. “I’ll go talk to Varric. He must know a carpenter or two....”

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ArkadyRose
Arkady Rose
Artist | Professional | Varied
United Kingdom
Professional artist working in both traditional and digital media, craftsman, doll customiser/costumer, jeweller.

COMMISSIONS:

SIZE: I generally work on a minimum canvas size of 4Kx4K at 300dpi - however this is open to negotiation depending on whether you want a high print-quality image or something for web work.

TIMESCALE: This depends on what you're after; simple sketches on a blank or parchment-textured background I can do on a 1-2 day turnaround; simple painting of a bust will take 2-3 days. Full-length character portraits will take longer depending on how complicated the outfit is. Full-length portrait with full painted background could easily take me up to a couple of weeks to do. It also depends on how busy I am. I will discuss and agree a timescale with you before any money changes hands.

SUBJECT MATERIAL: This is pretty much up to you with very few exceptions. I'm pretty versatile and can do pretty much almost any subject material; please browse my gallery for samples of my work. Animals are my real forte, but I also enjoy painting portraits. If you're not sure whether I can do justice to a particular subject, please ask!

PRICES:
* Simple sketch, blank or parchment background £30
* Simple portrait - head & shoulders/bust, blank/parchment background £50
* Full-length character portrait, minimal background £65
* Full painting with detailed background £80
* Pet portraits - blank/parchment background, fully-coloured, digitally painted, 300dpi suitable for printing £45
* Logos etc - POA, generally £15-£30 depending on complexity and size required.
* Tattoo designs - POA

PAYMENT: In the UK: Either Bank Transfer to my account or Paypal. Outside UK: Paypal only please. I require a 50% non-refundable down-payment upon agreement of the commission, the remainder to be paid upon completion of the commission. All pictures will be released with a Creative Commons license unless otherwise specified & negotiated. I reseve the right to display a copy of the work as part of my deviantART portfolio.

If you would like to commission me, please send me a Note or email me at arkadyDOTroseATgmailDOTcom with the subject heading of "Commission:DA".
Interests

Commissions

Simple sketches
Generally 2-3 hours' work. Simple illustration sketches - animals, children's story illustrations etc. Supplied as PNG at 72dpi, suitable for online display. Sample: fav.me/d6jf2oh
Custom art piece (portraits, Celtic knotwork)
Generally minimum 6-8 hours' work upwards. Knotwork animal or creature of your specifications in a celtic knotwork design, supplied as PNGs both against a transparent background and coloured, minimum 300dpi, suitable for printing. Sample: fav.me/d6p7nsu
Portraits: Supplied as full-colour digitally painted PNG, 300dpi, at a size suitable for printing. Samples: fav.me/d6hi5et, fav.me/d4z8wk5, fav.me/d4kux2n, fav.me/d4klzb2
Logo design
Generally 2-3 hours' work, PNG file supplied on both transparent background and on sample coloured background, minimum 300dpi suitable for printing, t-shirts etc. e.g. fav.me/d6pub7p

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Instead of doing naNoWriMo, I'm thinking that I'll do another 30 in 30 - 30 paintings in 30 days. Last time I did it, I found the discipline of turning something out daily - even if only a sketch - was very useful and I could see definite improvements in my art; so I'm going to focus on that again this year. I'll probably be working on some warm-up practice with a few speed paintings beforehand as well.

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:iconkulibrnda:
Kulibrnda Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks fot :+fav: :hug:
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:iconarkadyrose:
ArkadyRose Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2013  Professional General Artist
My pleasure. It's a lovely piece. :)
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:iconblackkiba:
BlackKiba Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thanks for the fav! :3
:D
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:iconarkadyrose:
ArkadyRose Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
My pleasure. :-)
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:iconadmiraldemoy:
AdmiralDeMoy Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks for the Loki fave. :hug:
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:iconarkadyrose:
ArkadyRose Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
My pleasure. :)
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:iconadmiraldemoy:
AdmiralDeMoy Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
:XD:
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:iconimlindy:
imlindy Featured By Owner May 2, 2013
Hi Arkady,

How are you?

My name is Lindy Fu. Our company ZQGame is looking for good artwork from talented artists. We have seen this work from your artwork site: [link]. We wonder if we can use it for our game promotional marketing. If so, is the IP yours or somebody else? What the price range would be? Please let us know. We can work on the details later. You can reach me at lindy.fu@zqgame.com.

Thank you very much,

Lindy Fu

Executive Assistant
ZQGame, Inc.
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:iconarkadyrose:
ArkadyRose Featured By Owner May 2, 2013  Professional General Artist
Unfortunately the IP of that particular subject belongs to Bioware; it is a piece of fanart depicting the character Anders from Dragon Age 2. However I would be willing to accept a commission for a similar piece featuring an original character of either your or my own specifications.

A sample list of my commissions prices is available here, together with contact details.
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:iconhyperwolfy:
hyperwolfy Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2013
Thank you for the fav ^^
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