Anders frowned at the page in front of him. Scanning through the words, he couldn't find a single phrase that seemed familiar. It was his hand-writing, though the letters were formed perhaps a bit more forcefully than he preferred to use, but he didn't remember writing it.
"Justice?" he asked quietly, but the spirit was silent. He wondered when the spirit had decided to take over the manifesto-writing like this. He'd come across a few pages lately that had appeared slipped in between those detailing his own arguments, and he wondered if perhaps Justice had been taking advantage of his exhaustion after far too many late nights to express his opinions a little more... directly. Anders felt a disquietening uneasiness as he stared at the words written in his own hand that he knew had never come from his own mind.
He stared over at the candle; there was a good two hours' worth of wax burned out that he didn't remember. He blinked. That was one hell of a memory gap. It must be well after midnight by now; he somehow doubted Hawke would still be awake. Sighing, he pushed himself away from the desk, rubbing tiredly at his eyes as he stood and made his way out of Hawke's study towards the main hall, pulling Hawke's house-robe tighter around his slender frame. He couldn't make head nor tail of the parts he knew were his own work right now; time to puzzle over Justice's additions on the morrow after a good night's sleep.
Well, what remained of the night, anyhow.
He'd taken perhaps a handful of steps towards the main staircase when there came a knock at the door. He paused and stared towards the entrance. Who on earth would be calling at this time of night? Maybe Isabela after a few too many, though Hightown was rather out of the way for her to meander all the way up from the Hanged Man.
Maybe Fenris was having a restless night. Anders smiled at the thought; Hawke might grumble at such a late interruption, but perhaps....
That was when the double doors leading to the foyer were suddenly blown inwards off their hinges.
Anders flinched back, ducking flying splinters, his eyes widening in alarm as five dwarven warriors burst in. They stared around themselves, readying weapons, and one pointed a rather unpleasant-looking sword directly at Anders.
"Are you the Hawke?" he demanded, as the other dwarves stared at the unarmed mage and then started to inch forward to flank him.
"Who wants to know?" asked Anders, wishing frantically he hadn't left his staff upstairs in Hawke's room. He glowered at the dwarves, feeling rather less than intimidating in Hawke's borrowed house-robe and bare feet.
"Take him!" ordered the dwarf, waving the others forward. "We don't need him alive, just his blood!"
"I'd rather my blood stayed right where it is, if it's all the same to you!" exclaimed Anders, backing up as the dwarves advanced towards him. He pooled mana in his hands; he could still cast spells without his staff, but targeting and fine control would be far harder. Still, better a poorly-directed lightning bolt than a skewered mage, he thought, as he unleashed the crackling energies directly at his would-be assailants and caught three of them with an ice blast that froze them where they stood. As he followed that up with a lightning bolt, he desperately hoped Hawke would hear the commotion and come investigate soon. Preferably with something big, sharp and pointy.
He leapt backwards as a dwarven sword swept past his abdomen at just the right height for disembowelling. He unleashed a fireball directly at the dwarf's face, blasting him backwards as Anders retreated further back towards the stairs.
"This would be a really good time for reinforcements!" he yelled as he stared about wildly; two of the frozen dwarves were already breaking free of the ice and didn't look too happy about things. The leader was waving his sword around in a decidedly intimidating manner. He desperately wished he'd kept his staff to hand; with it, he could have cast a glyph of holding instead of being reduced to point-blank fire and lightning which was causing a lot of incidental damage to Hawke's furnishings. He hoped that vase hadn't been too expensive.
As he turned to blast a dwarf trying to flank him on the left, he felt something slice into his ribs on his right and cried out, staggering back as he clutched his side. He could feel blood soaking through the house-robe almost immediately as the pain hit, like fire across his flank. "Hawke!" he screamed, recoiling back. "I need you!"
"You called?" answered Hawke as he leapt over the mezzanine railing to land directly behind the lead dwarf, twirling his sword overhead before neatly bisecting him from shoulder to hip. The other dwarves instantly switched their focus to this new threat; Anders gestured towards the nearest two and managed to encase them in ice before sitting down rather suddenly upon the bottom-most stairs.
Hawke made short work of the dwarves and shortly he was surrounded by corpses. He eyed them all carefully before taking in the scorch damage from Anders' undirected spells. "It's going to be a bugger to get that blood out of the carpet," he mused. "Oh, you got that old vase. Excellent; I always hated that thing," he added as he turned back towards the mage with a grin which died as he took in the sight of Anders slumped against the stairs, clutching his side, the house-robe stained dark with blood. The mage was white-faced as he pressed his hands to the bloody slash in his side; as Hawke leapt to his side, the soft blue glow of healing magic surrounded his hands as the mage worked to draw cut flesh and severed veins back together and slow the bleeding.
"What happened?" asked Hawke quietly as he crouched down next to the mage.
"No idea," replied Anders tersely, concentrating on pulling the wound closed as he poured healing magic into himself. "They blew the doors off their hinges somehow and came in demanding blood. And they weren't being metaphorical about it either." The glow around his hands faded, and he sagged back against the stairs with a low groan.
"Love?" asked Hawke, concerned, laying a hand on the mage's shoulder. Anders shook his head.
"I'll be fine," he muttered. "Just tired. Flinging fireballs around without a staff and then healing... just takes it out of me a bit."
"Hello? Hawke?" called a voice, as Aveline cautiously stepped over what remained of the door and into the hall. She stared around at the mess as three other guardsmen followed her. "Maker's breath, what happened here?" she exclaimed.
"We're not exactly sure," replied Hawke, straightening up. "These dwarves broke in and attacked Anders."
"Is he alright?" asked Aveline as the guardsmen spread out and began rolling over bodies and studying the scorch marks.
"Aveline, I didn't know you cared," smiled Anders wanly.
"Captain, these dwarves are all Carta," called one of the guardsmen.
"Carta? What have you been up to, Anders?" frowned Aveline.
"Me?" exclaimed Anders, sitting up with some assistance from Hawke. "I haven't done anything! It was Hawke they were after!"
"Hawke?" said Aveline, frowning. "I wasn't aware you'd been stepping on Carta toes lately?"
"Not recently, that I recall," replied Hawke.
"I'll go talk to Varric," decided Aveline. "Maybe he might have some idea of what's going on. In the meantime, I'll have a unit of my guards patrol round your estate. I don't want any further incidents on my watch. And I'll send someone to clear away the bodies."
"I appreciate it, Aveline," nodded Hawke. He helped Anders get up to his feet as Aveline directed her men; Hawke noted that his manservant Bodahn had appeared at some point and had a large meat-cleaver tucked into the belt of his dressing gown, and was now assisting the guardsmen. He must remember to have a word with the dwarf later about not taking needless risks, particularly when Anders was chucking fireballs around.
"Come on, let's get you upstairs," suggested Hawke; Anders nodded.
"Fenris will be sorry he missed a fight," he mused as they headed upstairs. Hawke snorted.
"He'll be apoplectic to find you got hurt," he replied.
"Fenris doesn't do apoplectic," replied Anders. "He might growl a bit though."
Hawke laughed as they made their way up to the bedroom. "He does tend to take you getting hurt rather personally," replied the warrior.
"You'd almost think I got hurt deliberately just to wind him up," Anders agreed.
"You mean you don't?" teased Hawke. Anders rolled his eyes at him, then stripped off the robe and climbed into the bed. Hawke leaned over him and gently traced his fingertips over the long, angry red line that slashed across Anders' side just beneath his ribs. "That was nasty, love," he added.
"I know," replied Anders tersely. "I was the one on the receiving end, remember?"
Hawke leaned forward and kissed Anders tenderly. "I couldn't bear to lose you," he said softly.
"I couldn't bear to lose me either," Anders quipped sleepily as he snuggled down into the soft bed.
Hawke watched fondly as Anders drifted off to sleep. He sat and watched the sleeping apostate in silence; when finally he stretched out beside Anders, sleep was a long time in coming.
What did the Carta want?