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.
Oh, man, Combo. I have so many complicated thoughts and feelings about this letter of your alphabet, and I’m so glad you wrote it, really, and wrote it like this. Because religion, and how he relates to it, is such a big part of who Anders is, and how and why he thinks the way he does, and what he does, in the end, and it’s impossible to totally understand him, how he gets to where he does in the end, without understanding that he has internalized this, I think, without understanding these parts of him.
And I just love how you’ve written Anders here—how everything that might have given him hope, and that he wants to give him hope, just sinks him further into despair. It’s hard to write something so true and real about the mindset of depression, when nothing he thinks or sees gives him succor or relief, but you’ve made it real here, and part of him, his anguish about the Chant, and about who and what he is, how he feels hated and accursed by the Maker. And you bring through his rebellion, too, how he refuses to simply give in—how he wants the real sunlight, and oh, God, the IMAGERY in this is so powerful, and the picture, too, and I love how you’ve drawn young Anders, soft mouth and thin shoulders and long blond hair and all. The tracing the sun on his forehead, and how he thinks about being Tranquil, and you can FEEL his terror and pain, and just … oh, Anders. And the code-switching—how his mind is so muddled and he begins to say the Chant in the language he first learned it in, that just jumped out to me, and buried itself in my heart, because it’s so very heartbreaking for who he is and who he’s become and who he’s left behind, and it’s just … ache-y, really.
This fic is so visceral, and it really shows what being in the Circle can do to mages, how it can twist their thoughts and make everything about how much they hate themselves, how magic, which should be seen as a gift, or a tool, becomes seen as a curse even by those who have it.
This is just—it’s great. It’s really, really well-done. And I think it’s my favorite letter of Anders’ alphabet yet (aside from First).
I have been wanting to respond to this since I first read it, because it all just means so much to me. I struggled with this piece so much, because it was so emotionally draining and difficult to write since he is so deep down in depression, and to portray it accurately hurts, and it just… I had to get it just right, or it would not work at all. So I am so, so glad that it did turn out right, that it worked out as is should and just that… you really get it, what I am trying to say with this piece, and why I wrote it. I have spent so much time thinking about the Chant and what it can do to people, and I wanted to be able to show what mindset it can bring someone into, and I am just… so happy that you like it so much, and that you place it so close to First (which is the one that I am the most happy with, together with this one). This is just… one of those pieces that means so much to me on a personal level, so I get so happy when it is liked and understood.
And comments like this? Means so much when you are struggling with your writing, and doubting it and wondering if you should just let it all go. This is something I can look back at when I am wondering why I am bothering with writing at all, and remember. I just… want to be able to make people think, and feel, and to hear that it works? It means so, so much to me, and I do not know how to thank you enough for this.