The lower in the Tower he is forced to go the heavier and more suffocating the weight of the levels above him becomes, but the lack of light is a heavier weight in his mind than any amount of stone could ever be.
There is too little of it everywhere, but the solitary floor is the worst; no windows at all, not even high up, and the cells themselves so deep down in the dungeons that he can almost feel the lake that surrounds the island around him. He imagines the layers that trap him; stone, then earth, and water last, painting them in his mind’s eye to distract from the darkness, the first and most suffocating layer of them all. There is no time when wrapped in it, only the slight difference between waking and sleeping, the uncomfortable embrace of the Fade or hazy, muddled thoughts. He needs a distraction from the dark as well as the oppressive loneliness, but the images he calls to mind only add to the weight above him and around and inside, and then all he can do is wrap his arms around himself and try to escape to a place where he can think of nothing at all.
When they let him out again, what light there is hurts both for how unaccustomed his eyes are to it and how it is still too little, too dull. He recalls thinking of it as an eternal dusk when he was younger, eyes desperately searching for windows low enough to let him see sunlight and how he used to climb up to look out of them when he had the chance. Back when he had the energy for such adventures, before solitary and more seeped the fight from his body.
The closest he has to the sun he longs for but now lacks the strength to reach out to is the sun of the Chantry; its sun brands on Tranquil foreheads, Templar sunshields and the red banners emblazoned with the rays of the Andrastian sun. The Chantry being filled with them should make him feel at peace and fill his heart with joy over the reminder of being in the Maker’s light, but it does not, because he is not; cut off from the light of the Maker’s creation, how can he be in His light? The Chant itself speaks of there being no darkness in the Maker’s light, but darkness is a tight knot of constant despair in his chest during the day and a black city at the edge of the horizon in the Fade at night.
They say the ancient magisters of Tevinter were the cause of that, and he and all like him are the ones left to repent. He should not doubt them, should not see any of their words as lies, and he should never doubt the Chant whose words are said to be the only way to dispel the darkness cast upon mortals. But for all that he has tried, the more he repeats the verses the greater the darkness grows, because the Chant is no longer about joy and safety and home, and has not been for more years than he is able to admit, even in secret to no one but himself. It speaks to him still, but no longer with love but accusation. He is told to repent and he tries, hands clasped and the small of his back touching the back of the bench behind him as he hunches over, whispering the verses that dispel nothing at all. He should find comfort in them like a good Andrastian, but it all rings false. It speaks of demons that are the lies upon mortal sleep; whispering lures in the night to be let in, but being awake is not much better when he himself is the lie upon the waking world with his flippant remarks and attempt to be beating life with a carefree heart. He wants almost no one to know of it, but the Maker is forever judging all lies, even the unspoken ones; he needs to repent for them all all the same. But repentance is for those who have faith and are unshaken by the darkness. Those who drown in it are never to have true peace. For all his aching doubts his faith is not lost, but what he has left is not enough, not good enough, because he is not unshaken and he is in that darkness; lost in it now as much as he was down in solitary, as if he carried that darkness with him as he ascended to the living floors of the tower and kept it within as a constant whisper of lonely despair. There is no way for him to atone for being born with magic, so how can anyone with magic ever hope to repent?
Unless the way to repentance is to give it up. The mere thought of it is a horror of such strength that it causes him to shiver, but the Tranquil are all at peace, forever unshaken and with unwavering faith. Is that the way to salvation, then, to go to the sun brand? Is that the will of the Maker and the way to earn His forgiveness? Does the Maker want him to submit to that which he fears most of all? The possibility makes his mouth as dry as the oldest tomes in the library, looking as if they are about to fall apart even at the most gentle of touches. Tranquility is not what he wants, not for himself and not for anyone else. By not submitting, is he going against the Maker’s plan, forever straying off the path to forgiveness? He has to be, he realises and whispers the proof to himself; words from the Chant, the law of the world, what he should do. The one who takes delight in the Maker’s law and creations shall know the peace of the Maker’s benediction.
If he is even truly meant to follow the Chant at all; it belongs to the Maker’s children, after all, and there are times when he wonders whether he really is one or not. Those who bring harm without provocation to the least of His children are hated and accursed by the Maker. The templars are neither hated nor accursed by the Maker despite having done things that Karl says no one can ever provoke, but that can only mean that he is less of a person, less than an animal, perhaps even less than a demon. Or it might not count as harm if it is directed towards a mage. Or he could have imagined it all; yet another nightmare to be trapped in in the Fade, a bad dream woven by a demon seeking to force him give in and up so as to not feel so weak again, or afraid, hurt and disgusted, desperately lonely and drowning in his own shame.
And the shame that is his own is not the only shame he has to carry, not in a world where all captive mages have to carry the burden of a thousand year old sin. That he is nothing like those magisters and nothing like darkspawn does not matter, not when in the eyes of the devout his gift is not a gift that the wrong hands could twist, but a curse, no matter how much good he could use it for. Unlike that of those magisters’ there is no vanity in his power, only the urge to help. He does not need to be watched over by templars for signs of blood magic because it is all that healing is not; blood spilled and not sealed beyond quickly healed scars. His magic holds the gentle touch of healing and life itself, and he can see nothing corrupt in it. The possibilities to use magic to better the lives of people and to truly serve instead of ruling over anyone should be just as endless as those which the Chant mentions mortal souls being made with. Unless you are a mage, when even the smallest spark of magic denies anyone with it of all possibilities and of most hope, even dreams turning dangerous; lures for demons. That part of the Chant is not for him and neither is the one of the Maker awaiting the wonders of his children, because no one wants to see anything Anders might create, though the unquenchable flame in his heart remains; much like the Maker being the fire of the world’s heart, there is something in his own that keeps him going, keeps him wanting even what he should not and striving for what will always be without his reach.
Other things are only without his reach for a while. Weeks of darkness and silence and horror is enough to take the words of his forced upon language from him, turning his whispered words of the Chant into a desperate mess of who he used to be and how he used to sound, and who he should be now. Min Skapare. Know my heart. Ta mig från ett liv av bedrövelser och lyft mig från en värld av smärta. Judge me worthy of Your endless pride.
He traces a sun on his forehead, weighing what he wants against what the world seems to want; and he wants the world. All of it, with its sunlight breaking through the branches and leaves to caress soft forest paths, said sunlight glistening on the water of lakes that are not meant to trap anyone, and painting the sky in the colours of dawn each morning for him to see. If the path to the heart of the world is lined with the fire to heat the sun brand, if the only way to be seen as worthy in His eyes is to give his own heart up in a trade for his own sun to carry upon his forehead, perhaps he would rather take the path where he can still know his own heart. He wants the light of the sun in the sky more than he wants the Maker’s light and approval, the freedom to use his gifts as they are and be as close to Karl as anyone with a free heart could; to not fear being each other’s’ lights in the tower, to not be in this tower at all.
As it is, the Chant first forced them together by having its followers tear them from their homes and bringing them here, and now it is tearing them apart by making love a weakness, and forcing him to prove that he is not weak.