- Work in Progress
- Dark Themes
- Death - Major Character
- Death - Minor Character
- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- Discussion - Rape
- Hate Crimes
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
Cast images taken from the game can be found here.
It was in a market place in Highever when he was six years old that Garrett overheard the conversation that was to help shape the man he became.
His mother was speaking with a merchant, discussing the sale of some needlework that she had been doing. Garrett’s attention had been drawn by a beggar situated over by the eastern entrance.
He wasn’t the first beggar Garrett had ever seen, but there was a subtle difference about him that made the boy edge closer to get a better look.
“Oh, it’s dreadful what the lyrium does to the poor souls,” came a voice from above him.
Garrett hunkered down in front of the stall to continue his observation.
“They spend their lives protecting us common folk from apostates, and what does it get them? A mind turned to mush and a miserable existence on the streets.”
“I met him when I was just a girl, you know,” another voice added. “He was so dashing in his uniform, Terlin – my older sister, you know – was half in love with him. It’s dreadful seeing him reduced to this shadow.”
“That Ser Gilton at the castle is his nephew,” the first voice stated. “Makes sure that old Steral gets enough to eat and has a place to sleep. Not that he can do much. He’s got his own son – young Gilmore, charming lad – to take care of. It’s a crime that the Order does nothing for them.”
“Jenna’s grandson said that as soon as they’re no longer useful, the chantry just boots them out,” the second voice sounded scandalized.
“It’s the lyrium,” the first voice insisted. “As soon as they take it they’re addicted. And then the more they use the less effective it gets, until they need more than the chantry finds practical, which is when they’re cut loose. You know what I think? The chantry uses lyrium to enslave them. It’s dreadful!”
“The chantry wouldn’t do that! I heard they need the lyrium to fight the mages,” the second voice objected. “Jenna’s grandson said they call lightning bolts from the sky to smite them!”
“Jenna’s grandson doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” the first voice said with a sniff.
“How would you know?”
“Ser Gilton isn’t the only person in Highever whose uncle was a templar. I’ll never forget my mother’s face when he turned up on our doorstep, half out of his mind with the craving and hardly able to walk. He wasn’t always terribly coherent, but we could understand enough.”
“If lyrium is so awful then why don’t mages have the same problems?” the second voice countered. “Everyone knows that mages use a lot of lyrium.”
“Maybe they do. It’s not like templars would release mages from the Circle just because their minds turned to custard.”
“I suppose so. Then why do they do it? Use the lyrium, I mean?” the second voice sounded doubtful.
“The chantry needs loyal soldiers,” the first voice replied cynically. “I’m pretty sure they don’t go into a lot of detail about what it’s going to do to them.”
“Well, I suppose that Ser Steral is lucky he has family able to support him. He’d be in an even more terrible way if something happened to Ser Gilton. Teyrn Bryce has been talking about making a visit to Antiva City to discuss trading rights, anything could happen! Their ship could be boarded by pirates!”
“Not if he takes the Teyrna,” the first voice sounded interested. “She’s known as the Seawolf, you know. They fly her flag on whatever ship they take and they’ll be fine.”
The discussion turned to the prospect of trade with Antiva and the effect on local markets, and Garrett’s attention turned back to the beggar.
Hearing his mother call for him, young Garrett took one final look at the former Templar.
Malcolm, Leandra, and Garrett Hawke left Highever not long after that, moving south through the bannorn. They reached South Reach in time for the birth of the twins, Bethany and Carver.
When he was nine Garrett discovered that he was a mage. His father began teaching him immediately, impressing upon him that magic was a useful tool that should not be abused.
“Your magic should always serve that which is best in you,” Malcolm informed him, “not that which is most base. Every use of magic should be a considered action, and under your complete control.”
Four years later Bethany encased the fireplace in ice after Carver accidentally knocked her off balance while standing too close. Garrett shared his studies with his sister, finding the differences in their affinities fascinating.
Three months later they relocated to Lothering. Once or twice a year Malcolm travelled alone to Redcliffe, but otherwise Lothering became their permanent home. They were able to acquire the rights to a small tract of land to the south-east and with a bit of work they were able to support themselves. The Arlessa in Redcliffe greatly admired Leandra’s needlework, bringing in quite a lot of coin.
“Father hardly ever spends time with me,” Carver said to Garrett one morning after Malcolm had left for Redcliffe with a satchel full of needlework. “It’s not fair that I’m the only one without magic.”
Garrett shook his head. “Father is doing his best to ensure that we’re safe,” he told his brother. “From those who fear magic, but also from ourselves. Be glad you don’t have magic. You will have a lot more options open to you than me and Bethany.”
“Yeah, like what?” Carver grumbled. “Father showed me the basics of holding a sword, but it’s not like he’s very skilled in that area. Mother never learnt to fight, so where does that leave me?”
“You could ask the templars to help you?” Garrett suggested.
“We’re supposed to stay away from the templars,” Carver said witheringly.
“I’m not suggesting you give them a family history or anything,” Garrett rolled his eyes, “just ask them for a few pointers. Lothering isn’t the busiest town, maybe they’re bored. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. Elder Miriam might be willing to introduce you, vouch for your character.”
“You really think so?” Carver asked hopefully.
“We’ll go in tomorrow and ask,” Garrett promised.
“But won’t Father object?”
“Well, he’s not here is he?” Garrett shrugged. “We can ask Mother for permission, if it’s that important to you. Do you want to learn fighting or not?”
That was the beginning of Carver’s training. Ser Bryant agreed to teach him the basics, but warned that he didn’t have much time to spare from his duties and it would be Carver’s responsibility to ensure that he put enough practice in to make it worthwhile.
When Malcolm returned from Redcliffe he wasn’t terribly pleased, but Leandra convinced him that it was the best thing for Carver.
“Perhaps it’s just as well,” Malcolm sighed eventually. “Maker knows I’m unable to be of any use when it comes to sword skills. I had been thinking about trying to arrange an apprenticeship in Redcliffe in a few years time, with one of Arl Eamon’s knights perhaps.”
“Really?” Carver looked hopefully at his father. “An apprenticeship to a knight?”
“Not until you’re fifteen,” Malcolm responded with a smile. “But yes, if you want. I’m sure the skills you pick up in the next three years will only increase your desirability as a squire. Let me know your preferred weapon, and I’ll keep my eyes out for a good blade at a reasonable price. No point learning blade skills if you don’t have blade.”
“Wow!” Carver practically glowed with enthusiasm. “I’m going to tell Ser Bryant!” He raced out the door, leaving his brother and father behind.
“As for you…” Malcolm turned to Garrett. “You’re nineteen now, and have exhibited consistently good control of your magic. I think you’re ready to enter the fade. I’ve managed to get hold of some lyrium, so we should begin preparations tonight.”
“About that,” Garrett replied carefully. “I’d rather not take any lyrium, if it’s all the same to you.”
“We can’t enter the fade without it,” Malcolm stared at him. “You know this.”
“Is it absolutely imperative that I enter the fade?” Garrett asked. “Because I’ve managed quite well on this side of the Veil up till now. I’m not sure what benefits fadewalking will give to me, to be perfectly honest.”
“We need to be sure that you won’t fall prey to a demon,” Malcolm said with a frown. “In the Circle they called it the Harrowing.”
“Yes, but we’re not in the Circle,” Garrett raised his eyebrows.
“Why don’t you want to take lyrium?” Malcolm asked. “Most mages find it extremely useful. It’s a quick way to restore mana, although if you use too much then over time your body builds up a resistance to it and you require more to get the same result.”
“I think that taking an addictive substance which turns strong, fit, warriors into gibbering fools is not something I want to risk.”
“That is what happens to templars,” Malcolm insisted. “Mages don’t react the same way. And there are some spells that require a great deal more mana than others.”
“I choose not to take lyrium,” Garrett said firmly. “If I find I can’t achieve spells that I want to learn without it, then I guess I’ll have to cope with lesser ones.”
“But, without the Harrowing there is no way of knowing if you may fall prey to a demon!”
Garrett raised his eyebrows. “Isn’t that what the meditation is supposed to help with? Theoretically a mage can be accosted by a demon any time that we sleep. I’m no more vulnerable now than I’ve been since my magic manifested.”
“I beg you to rethink this,” Malcolm said finally. “It is not only yourself that you risk in your refusal to be tested, but all the rest of us as well.”
“I’ve been considering this since I learnt I was a mage,” Garrett told him. “The chantry controls templars through the supply of lyrium. I wouldn’t put it past them to be controlling mages as well. Every mage in the Circle goes through the Harrowing, right?”
“Yes,” Malcolm confirmed, a puzzled expression on his face as if he was trying to work through some problem. “If they refuse the Harrowing, they are made Tranquil.”
Both Hawkes shuddered at the thought. To be made Tranquil, to be severed from the fade and made into emotionless automatons susceptible to abuse, and unable to defend themselves, was a fate worse than death.
“Which means that the chantry ensures that every Circle mage takes lyrium, just as they ensure that the templars take it,” Garrett pointed out. “Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps lyrium has no effect on a mage except for what is widely known and accepted. But I want the chance to find out for myself. You weren’t planning to make me Tranquil, were you?”
Malcolm shook his head. “Of course not. I may not agree with your choice, but it is well reasoned and made with good intentions. I must insist that you keep up your daily meditations in order to ensure that your mind is reinforced against possession. I also ask that you not try to convince Bethany to follow your example.”
Garrett considered that. “I agree to continue the mediations. I will explain my choice and my reasons for it to Bethany if she asks, and I won’t discourage her if she chooses the same path, but I promise that I will respect her choice the same way that I’ve asked you to respect mine.”
From then on Carver began to spend more and more time in Lothering. After some discussion with Ser Bryant he decided to train with a two-handed blade, and could often be found running through the strengthening drills that his templar mentor had set for him.
When asked, Bethany assured her father that when he deemed her ready she was willing to go through his modified Harrowing ritual. Malcolm was pleased, and began spending more time training his daughter than his elder son.
Garrett did his best to shrug his disappointment off and decided to put his extra time to good use, taking over responsibility for all the farm work and helping their neighbours, as distant as they were. The hours of monotonous labour turned out to be good for meditation, and he used the time to practice purposefully extending his magic as far from himself as possible without causing a noticeable effect. The more he practised the further his magic reached, and it didn’t take long before Garrett realised that, as his magic encountered living beings it was sending signals back to him, giving him a sort of mental map of the people and animals in his general vicinity.
A year later Malcolm returned from Redcliffe displaying the first signs of the wasting sickness. Leandra devoted herself to his care, while Bethany learned everything Elder Miriam knew about health potions and poultices all to no avail. Garrett watched helplessly as over the months his once strong father grew progressively weaker.
“You have magic, why can’t you heal him?!” Carver accused unhappily. “What good is it then?”
Garrett didn’t answer, but Carver didn’t let that deter him from venting his anger. It wasn’t anything that Garrett hadn’t already been thinking, anyway. Why had he never concerned himself with learning to heal? What were the use of elemental spells now?
“You’re not to blame,” Malcolm had tried to reassure him in one of his more lucid moments near the end. False dawn was just beginning to light the sky and they were the only ones awake, Leandra taking one of the few breaks she allowed herself. “Looking to the past only ever brings grief. Look to the future, Garrett. You’ll need to take care of them now.”
“Of course,” Garrett promised. “I’ll take care of them all as best I can.”
“That’s all anyone can ask of you,” Malcolm smiled shakily. “It was worth it, in the end. My beautiful family. I’m so very proud of you all.”
That was the last conversation Garrett had with his father. Malcolm Hawke passed away in the year 9.27 Dragon, leaving a devastated widow and three grieving children. Carver threw himself into his weapons practice and Bethany began to spend a lot of time in the chantry. Leandra grew visibly diminished. She asked Garrett to take the commissions she had been working on to Redcliffe Castle and to deliver a message to the Arlessa explaining that she would no longer be available and to thank her for her patronage.
It had been seven years since the Hawke family had settled in Lothering, and Garrett was surprised at the sense of relief he felt as he walked along the remains of the Imperial Highway through the Hinterlands towards Redcliffe. It was good to be on the road again, even if it felt strange to travel without his family.
Redcliffe Village was rather bigger than Lothering, not to be wondered at really, given the proximity of the Arl, his family, and retainers.
When he arrived Garrett decided it was too late to go up to the Castle and instead made his way to the tavern for a meal.
“I don’t think I’ve seen your face around here before,” the pretty red haired waitress remarked, setting his food down in front of him. It was nothing fancy, just stew and bread, but hearty enough to fill him up and rather well priced at two coppers. “My name’s Bella. If you need anything, anything at all, give me a yell.” She gave him a wink before heading back towards the kitchen.
Garrett watched for a moment as she responded to several ribald remarks made by a group of men drinking in the corner with a rather explicit hand gesture. Had she just offered… well, then. Maybe this trip would turn out better than he expected. He grinned to himself as he went back to his dinner.
The next day he ended getting a slightly later start than he had originally intended since Bella didn’t have to be at work until midday. After bidding her goodbye he poked around the village briefly to see if there was anything worth practising his rather meagre bargaining skills for, but nothing took his fancy and before long he was making his way up to deliver the message from his mother to the Arlessa.
“Please wait here, messere. I will see if the Arlessa wishes to reply,” the servant who took the letter requested, and Garrett agreed, only too happy to have the opportunity to admire the paintings in the entrance-way.
From somewhere rather close by the sound of a scuffle sounded, followed by a frantic cry of “Get him! Somebody grab him! Oh, Makers hairy balls, where is he going?”
Feeling slightly alarmed, Garrett turned towards the commotion in time to see a roly-poly mabari puppy come careening around the corner only to trip up on his huge paws and fall flat on his face. A flushed looking servant soon followed, scooping the puppy up before he managed to get all four paws in working order again.
Going by the noise the puppy was making, this was an indignity not to be borne. The extremely loud, shrill sound that he managed to produce was particularly grating on the ears.
“What’s going on here?” asked a nobly dressed bearded man.
The poor servant startled so badly he dropped the puppy, whose high pitched shrieking changed to a pained yelp as he hit the floor.
“He escaped again, my Lord Eamon. I’m sure I don’t know how he’s doing it. I’m so sorry, I really am!”
“Calm yourself lad,” the Arl said with a sigh. “It’s nearly impossible to stop a mabari doing as it chooses, as anyone who’s spent any time with one knows. Now- what’s this?”
The puppy had made his way over to Garrett, who crouched down to scratch behind his ears and then to rub the furry tummy that was presented to him.
“Who’s a pretty puppy? You are, yes you are,” Garrett murmured, noting with amusement that the stubby little tail was twitching madly.
“My name is Eamon, Arl of Redcliffe,” the Arl introduced himself.
“Garrett Hawke, your lordship,” Garrett replied, rising to his feet much to the puppy’s vocal dismay. “I came to make a delivery to the Arlessa and was instructed to wait to see if she had further business with me.”
“Well met, young Hawke. You seem to have made a friend. Are you by any chance interested in acquiring a mabari?” the Arl asked, watching as the puppy started pawing at Hawke’s boots.
“I really can’t afford to, my lord,” Garrett said regretfully. “My father has not long died and my sister and brother are both too young to ply a trade. My brother in particular was hoping for an apprenticeship to a knight, and they’re not exactly cheap.”
“Just to be clear,” Eamon raised his eyebrows, “is it the initial cost that is a problem, or the ongoing task of feeding a growing dog?”
“Oh, feeding him wouldn’t be a problem,” Hawke assured him. “There’s no shortage of small game to be found near our farm, and we can always add another animal or two to the flocks for family use. But my father once told me that a pure-bred mabari can go for anywhere up to a hundred sovereigns, whereas I can’t even spare one.”
Arl Eamon studied him for a moment. “You are aware that a mabari chooses his or her companion? They imprint on a person and then follow them until death, sometimes beyond. I’ve seen enough imprinting to recognise the signs. In truth, he is already yours. I believe you when you say that you’re able to provide for him, and so no further payment is necessary.”
Garrett stared. “Begging your pardon, my lord, but you can’t just go around giving away pureblood mabari puppies. The whole notion is daft.”
Arl Eamon shrugged. “It happens more often than you’d think. Perhaps two in every ten puppies bred here at the Castle imprint on those without a lot of coin. The happiness of the puppy is the most important thing, and I can tell from experience that this one is the stubborn sort that will pine away to nothing if I were to try and keep him from you.”
“In that case, I thank you, your Lordship,” Hawke bowed as his mother had taught him. “I swear he will be looked after to the best of my ability.”
“Very good,” Arl Eamon replied, eyes crinkling as he smiled. “He’s already weaned, so until he gets a little larger you’ll just need to make sure his meat is in small enough portions for his teeth to manage. You’ll also need to get used to having all of your things chewed upon for the foreseeable future. That one there is the pride of his litter as far as intelligence goes, and he’s got the largest paws. Good luck, you’re going to need it.”
“What’s the significance of the large paws?” Garrett asked curiously, picking up the puppy who appeared happy enough to be cuddled provided he had some fingers to chew.
“The larger the paws, the larger the dog is likely to be,” the Arl said, beard twitching. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do have other matters I should be attending to. Congratulations on your bond. There is no being in the world more loyal than an imprinted mabari, so treasure him.”
“I will,” Garrett swore.
By the time he arrived back in Lothering, he and Talon were well on the way to understanding each other. Talon would communicate with Hawke when he wanted to be petted, or picked up, or put down, or fed, and Hawke would oblige. Conversely, Hawke would communicate with Talon when he wanted Talon to stop chewing on his boots, his gloves or his chest piece, and Talon would pretend to agree, only to sink his teeth in the moment Hawke’s back was turned.
Garrett also discovered that Talon was fond of eating fennecs, but not so keen on birds. He didn’t mind fish, but only if he got to watch it being caught. An already dead fish presented to him was conspicuously ignored.
Unsurprisingly, the rest of the Hawke family were delighted with the furry new addition. Talon lapped up the attention, learning quickly the best ways to manipulate each of them into doing his bidding.
“I’m glad you’re home safe,” Leandra said as they sat down to dinner on the night of Garrett’s return. “I couldn’t help but worry, what with you so far away and all by yourself.”
“I can take care of myself, Mother,” Hawke replied, trying not to feel exasperated. He decided to change the subject. “Did anything interesting happen while I was gone?”
“Carver’s been spending a lot of time with Peaches,” Bethany said immediately, smirking at her twin brother.
“Oh Carver that’s wonderful!” Leandra said enthusiastically. “How long have the two of you been walking out together?”
Carver flushed. “It’s not like that, Mother, we’re just friends,” he muttered, glaring daggers at Bethany.
“Oh well, give it time,” Leandra replied with a laugh. “I’m sure she’s just waiting for you to notice her. You’re not still hung up on that Orlesian woman are you? The new lay-sister in the chantry?”
“Leliana,” Bethany supplied, eyes dancing. “She’s spent time in Val Royeaux, you know. And Halamshiral! She told me that the Winter Palace is the most beautiful place she’s ever seen!”
Carver flushed even deeper red, ducking his head and poking at the food on his plate.
“Leave him alone,” Garrett said with a laugh, amused at their antics.
“I don’t need any help from you,” Carver snarled, throwing down his fork and stomping out of the room.
Talon’s whine was loud in the silence.
“What did I do?” Garrett asked, mystified.
Bethany bit her lip and stared at her plate, and Leandra only shook her head.
“I’m going to Denerim to join the King’s Army,” Carver announced one morning six months later. “Ser Bryant has agreed to give me a letter of recommendation, and there’s a caravan going that way on Tuesday.”
“I thought you wanted to apprentice to a knight,” Leandra objected.
“Well, that’s hardly going to happen now Father’s gone, is it?” Carver said scornfully. “King Cailan’s Army is going to be my best opportunity to some proper sword training. Just give me my share of the savings so I can get some decent equipment once I get to Denerim. Barlin was telling me that there’s a smith called Wade there who can make masterpieces!”
Garrett nodded slowly. “Will fifteen sovereigns be enough?” he asked.
Carver’s eyes widened in surprise. “Y-yes, that should do nicely,” he replied, before regaining his confidence.
“But, darling,” Leandra began, looking from her elder son to her younger son anxiously.
“It’s alright, Mother,” Garrett forestalled the question he was sure she was going to ask. “It’s what’s been put aside for an apprenticeship, it’s only right that Carver should have the use of it.”
Leandra sighed, but nodded. “We’ll miss you, dear boy. But if you must, I suppose you must. But promise me that you’ll come back and visit every chance you get.”
“I promise, Mother,” Carver rolled his eyes, but it was clear that he was pleased.
Tuesday arrived very quickly. Carver said his goodbyes, all the while trying his best not cry. Bethany and Leandra wept openly, and Garrett gave him a hug along with their father’s old coin purse.
All too soon Carver was gone, and Leandra fell into despondency. Bethany began spending less time in Lothering and more with her mother while Garrett worked hard, doing all he could to rebuild their depleted funds.
“Why did you give him so much?” Leandra asked several months later, when she had begun to regain her spirits. “I know how much your father left us, and that was considerably more than Carver’s share.”
“In truth?” Hawke shrugged. “He’ll probably have the best use for it. Bethany and I will always need to fade into the background if we want to avoid templar notice. Bethany’s portion is still intact, of course, as is yours, but I’m unlikely to ever really have the need to use mine. Hopefully Carver can find what he’s looking for.”
“I wish he would write to us. He was so angry just before he left,” Leandra said mournfully. “Do you know what happened? Did he have a falling out with that girl he was fond of, Peaches?”
“Perhaps. The days when he would confide in me are long gone though. Bethany would likely have a better idea.”
But Bethany had no answer for them. “He may have just wanted to be a soldier,” she suggested.
There was a wet sounding thud, and an excited yip. Over by the front door Talon was standing at attention, tail stub twitching furiously, at his feet a bloody corpse of what appeared to have formerly been a fennec.
“You really need to give him some proper training,” Leandra informed him. “He’ll be fully grown soon, and the last thing we need is to be brought to anyone’s attention right now.”
“Of course, Mother,” Garrett agreed, reaching down and scratching Talon behind the ears to show his approval. “I’ll teach him to attack bandits and monsters, but leave everyone else alone. How would you like that, boy? How would you like that? Who’s an adorable puppy? You are, yes you are!”
Just before Wintersend they received a short letter from Carver, informing them that he had joined the Army and was training hard. That cheered Leandra up enormously, and she began to take a stronger interest in what Bethany and Garrett were up to when they weren’t at home.
“I don’t know how I’m ever going to get grandchildren, at this rate!” she exclaimed when both her children declined her offer to find a suitable match for them. “Bethany is still a little young, perhaps, but you, darling, are well beyond the age when you should consider settling down. Just think about it, for my sake.”
That year the farm did very well indeed, and Garrett took the windfall and used it to make some alterations to the cottage they lived in, giving everyone a bit more space.
Carver’s letters were sporadic at best, and spoke mainly of training. Leandra wrote back faithfully, giving all the local gossip and entreating him to look after himself and be careful.
Then he wrote to tell them that the entire Army was preparing to march to Ostagar, an old Tevinter fortress bordering the Korcari Wilds. Their path would lead them directly past Lothering, and Carver had obtained permission to go ahead and spend a couple of hours with them, providing he was back with the main body as they turned south along the Imperial Highway.
“But why Ostagar?” Garrett wondered. “It’s rather a long way to go for a training exercise, and to the best of my knowledge the Chasind are hardly organised enough to mount any perceptible threat.”
The answer came three days later.
Bethany returned from Lothering in the middle of the day, face pale. “Darkspawn,” she said, eyes huge and worried. “They say that increasing numbers of darkspawn have been sighted in the Korcari Wilds, and King Cailan is planning to wipe them out.”
“My baby is going to be fighting darkspawn?” Leandra went pale and sat down suddenly. “Maker preserve him, not my Carver!”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine, Mother,” Garrett assured her, thinking over the news. It did make sense. The threat of a darkspawn incursion would be reason enough to send the entire Army south. “Is there any news of an Archdemon?” he asked his sister. “Are we looking at a blight?”
“The Revered Mother told everyone not to panic, that there was no evidence that this was a blight,” Bethany replied. “Some of the templars looked as though they agreed with her, but Ser Bryant didn’t say anything one way or another where I could hear him.”
Garrett frowned. “That’s concerning. Ser Bryant has always struck me as an intelligent, rational man. It might be worth my while to ask him myself.”
“I’ve never spoken with him,” Bethany admitted. “I don’t talk to any of the templars. What if they realise I’m a mage? What if Ser Bryant can tell that you’re a mage?”
“I rather think he’ll be more concerned with the darkspawn reports to concern himself with an apostate mage who’s not making any trouble,” Garrett assured her. “Lothering itself is perilously close to the Korcari Wilds. If it is a blight starting there, then we’re directly in the path of the horde.”
“Maybe Carver can tell us more when he visits,” Leandra said hopefully.
Ser Bryant wasn’t able to give Garrett any more information than Bethany had.
“My brother said in his letter that the King is taking his entire army,” Garrett reminded him. “That is not the correct official response to a smallish band of darkspawn that have wandered up to the surface. Either the King is a military imbecile or we’re on the cusp of the fifth blight. Neither option is particularly encouraging.”
Ser Bryant drew him slightly to one side. “As a man who holds an official position here, I have told you all I can,” he murmured. “Unofficially, it would probably be wise for you and your sister to ensure that you have suitable weapons on hand to defend yourselves and your mother if the worst should happen. You need not fear a random search anytime soon, my men and I are going to have our hands full trying to keep the peace here and organising help for the inevitable refugees.”
Garrett just looked at him, wondering if he’d heard correctly.
“I’ve been able to sense your sister’s power for some time now,” Ser Bryant continued. “If your father hadn’t told me you were an apostate as well, I would never have known. You hide your power well, which will stand you in good stead.”
“My father told you?” Garrett was shocked.
“I knew your father briefly when I was training at Kinloch Hold before he was sent to Kirkwall,” Ser Bryant admitted, dropping his voice so even Garrett could hardly hear it. “I have never agreed with caging those who have never shown themselves to be a threat. Your father was a good man, and I know he raised worthy children.”
Malcolm’s staff was slightly too heavy for Bethany to wield efficiently, so they decided that Garrett would keep it. Garrett was considering making a trip to Redcliffe to see what was available there, when Bethany told him that Sister Leliana had promised to acquire one for her.
“Does everyone in Lothering know that we’re apostates?” Garrett wondered. “How on earth did she figure it out?”
Bethany flushed. “I told her,” she said in a small voice. “I didn’t intend to, but I was so scared about what might happen to Carver, and somehow it just came out. She’s very easy to talk to. But she assured me she would keep my secret, and she only knows about me, not you.”
“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” Garrett said comfortingly. “All’s well that ends well, and all that. But perhaps next time try to avoid giving us away to representatives of the organisation that wants to lock us up, yes?”
“Leave your sister alone,” Leandra scolded him. “She’s not in the right mood for your teasing right now. Just be glad that you’ve both got staffs now.”
“According to old Barlin, the army is due any day now,” Garrett offered, changing the subject. “It might pay to stay at home for a few days if we don’t want to miss Carver’s visit.
Carver’s visit was even briefer than they’d expected.
“I can’t stay long,” he said hurriedly after quickly embracing Leandra. “My sergeant is already unhappy that we’ve taken this long to make it this far. The word coming from Ostagar is that the darkspawn numbers are continuing to grow. King Cailan has sent word for reinforcements from Highever, Gwaren, and Redcliffe, and apparently the Grey Warders are coming too. All of them. And more are on the way from Orlais.”
Garrett felt a chill run through him. If the Grey Wardens were gathering, then they at least believed it to be a blight.
“Are you hungry, darling? Here, have something to eat,” Leandra said, moving towards the pantry. “I’m sure that between the King and the Grey Wardens this darkspawn business will be sorted out in no time.”
“I really can’t stay,” Carver said regretfully. “We’re marching double-time today, and I can’t be late.”
“At least let me get some bread and cheese together,” she instructed, smiling when he reluctantly agreed.
“I like your sword,” Garrett offered in the lull. “Its very big and shiny.”
“Isn’t it beautiful? Takes a bit more effort to swing than a wooden stick,” Carver replied proudly. “I see you’ve got Father’s staff out.”
“No point in keeping it hidden away when we might be needing it soon,” Garrett shrugged.
“Here you go darling.” Leandra pressed two hastily made sandwiches into Carver’s hands. “We’ll be waiting for you here on your way back.”
“I’ll make sure to stop by,” Carver promised, and then he was gone.
“I’m not sure telling Carver we’d wait was the best idea. We should think about getting ready to evacuate ourselves,” Garrett suggested the next day.
“Don’t be ridiculous, we’re not going anywhere without your brother,” Leandra snapped. “I promised we’d be here, and here’s where we’ll stay until he returns.”
“But Mother, what if the army is overrun,” Bethany asked hesitantly.
“Your brother is going to be fine,” Leandra said adamantly. “You can go if you want to, but I’m staying right here as I said I would.”
Garrett exchanged a helpless glance with Bethany. “Maybe it’s time to start practising your fire spells, sister,” he recommended. “I have a feeling we’re going to be needing them.”
“And what will you be doing?” she asked, an attempt at a smile on her lips. It would have been a little more convincing if it wasn’t so wobbly.
“I’m going to get my Stonefist and Chain Lightning as efficient as possible,” Hawke replied grimly. “I’m also going to harvest every elfroot this side of the village. Bethany, you should carry your new staff and those lyrium potions with you everywhere, unless you’re going into Lothering. I want us to be ready to leave at a moments notice.”
Bethany nodded. Leandra had already stopped paying attention, and was standing just outside the door gazing towards the south, as if with a bit more effort she would be able to catch a glimpse of Carver.
“Maker watch over us,” he muttered under his breath, before reaching for his father’s staff. Time to follow his own advice.
The refugees started arriving soon after. First just one or two at a time, and then in ever growing groups. Bandits and profiteers popped up out of nowhere, hoping to benefit from the growing air of desperation.
The news from Ostagar came as a blow. The army was destroyed, the King dead. There were conflicting tales as to whether the Grey Wardens or Teyrn Loghain were primarily responsible, but all the stories ended the same way. The horde was coming.
The Hawke family stayed close to home. Leandra still refused to leave without Carver, which left them in a state of nervous readiness. Garrett and Bethany used the time to practice using a staff in a melee fight, since opponents could hardly be expected to keep at a convenient distance. Talon wandered restlessly, stopping by the house every hour or so to ensure that the Hawkes were still there.
It was Talon who warned them of the approach of the first darkspawn. Almost as soon as he began growling, Garrett felt his senses ping with movement outside.
The fight was short and rather one sided. One hurlock against two angry and fearful mages and a fully grown mabari wasn’t precisely a hard fight, but it was the first time Bethany had used her magic to kill something.
“I’m fine, brother,” she insisted when Garrett asked if she was okay. “This is only the beginning, after all. You have to stop coddling me.”
“Stop coddling my baby sister?” Garrett responded. “Never.”
After that there was another darkspawn. Then another. Then a group of three, and then a ragged band of goulish horrors wearing the rags of what looked like some sort of armour.
Garrett was starting to consider the viability of knocking his mother out and carrying her strapped to his back when Carver arrived, out of breath, terrified, and at once both relieved and angry to see them.
“No time!” Garrett ordered. “Take what food is easily carried, and lets go!”
With that they abandoned the home they had lived in for the past ten years and fled.
Garrett’s concerns that they’d left it too late seemed rather more accurate than he’d hoped. They barely had time to catch their breath between groups of darkspawn. Having Carver with them made the fighting easier and more efficient. Talon was fighting with them, a veritable battering ram that bowled into the centre of every group they came across, knocking them off balance and making it that much easier to finish them off.
“That’s the last of them,” Carver said as the largest group yet fell to their combined skills.
“For the moment,” Bethany muttered.
“Maker save us, we’ve lost it all. Everything your father and I built,” Leandra sounded distraught.
Better to head off that line of thinking. “At least we’re alive, that’s no small feat,” he offered with a tight smile.
“Yes, you’re right,” Leandra agreed, calming somewhat.
Bethany didn’t look appeased. “We should have run sooner. Why did we wait for so long?”
“Why are you looking at me?” Carver asked angrily. “I’ve been running since Ostagar!”
“Not to interrupt,” Garrett interjected before they could really get going, “but the blight’s not going to wait while we stand here pointing fingers.”
“Please, listen to your brother,” Leandra added.
“Then lets go,” Carver snapped. “Lead on.”
They hadn’t made it much further before a question from Bethany stopped them again.
“Wait, where are we going?”
“Away from the darkspawn, where else?” Carver replied.
“And then where? We can’t just wander aimlessly.”
Garrett pasted a smile on his face. “So long as we wander aimlessly away from the horde, I’m happy.”
“We could go to Kirkwall!” Leandra suggested, sounding brighter than she had since we discovered that Carver was being sent to Ostagar.
Garrett winced. “Well, that wouldn’t be my first choice.”
Bethany frowned. “There are a lot of templars in Kirkwall, Mother.”
“I know that,” Leandra replied, “but we still have family there, and an estate.”
Garrett hesitated. That was a good point.
“Then we need to get to Gwaren and take ship,” Bethany agreed.
“If we survive that long. I’ll just be glad to get out of here,” Carver said.
The familiar itch of darkspawn pinged Garrett’s senses. “Here we go again,” he muttered, readying his Chain Lightning and feeling the familiar surge of Bethany’s Fireball.
Around the next bend there was yet another fight. For a change this one was in progress before they even got there. Two people were struggling against a band of darkspawn, hardly even visible amongst a group that looked about ready to overwhelm them. At that moment one of the defenders fell to the ground.
Talon was leaping forward even before Garrett gave the signal. Gathering his magic, he twirled the staff to give his spell more momentum and flung Chain Lightning amongst the attackers, doping considerable damage to most and stunning those remaining. One was frozen by Bethany’s Winter’s Grasp just in time for Carver’s broadsword to shatter it into tiny pieces. In moments the tide had turned, and within a minute the last darkspawn fell.
As the Hawkes approached, the fallen man was helped by his companion to his feet, which was when it was revealed that he was a templar.
“Apostates! Keep your distance!”
Well, that appeared to answer that question.
“Well, the Maker has a sense of humour,” Bethany said, clearly of the same mind. “Darkspawn and now a templar. I thought they all abandoned Lothering.”
“The spawn are clear in their intent, but a mage is always unknown. The order dictates…” the Templar looked barely capable of lifting a sword, but seemed intent on doing something about the apostates he’d inadvertently come into contact with.
“Wesley,” the Templar’s companion, a strong looking woman in battered armour admonished him.
Wesley didn’t seem inclined to listen, stepping forward. It might have been threatening if the man didn’t look like a stiff breeze would knock him over “The order dictates.”
Garrett stepped forward to meet him, blocking his view of Bethany.
The woman tried again. “Dear, they saved us. The Maker understands.”
This time it worked. Wesley backed down, and the woman introduced themselves as Wesley and Aveline Vallen. Aveline had survived the Battle of Ostagar and then met up with her husband who was coming to look for her.
“North is cut off,” she told them. “We barely escaped the main body of the horde.”
“Then we’re trapped!” Carver blurted. “The Wilds are to the south, that’s no way out!”
“If the choices are south or die, then I choose south,” Garrett announced, turning to go, Talon at his side. He didn’t bother waiting to see if anyone would follow him. There was no choice at all really.
One advantage to fighting so many darkspawn was that his spell work was getting a real workout. he’d noticed Bethany experimenting with her ice spell as well, practising casting it in a sweep right in front of her.
And then they came across a darkspawn that was moulding magic. Garrett fried it before it could let off a spell. Bethany followed it up with some ice and then Talon knocked it over, shattering it on the ground.
“When we find ourselves in a large group like that, make sure you take out the mages and the archers before engaging the heavily armoured warriors,” Garrett instructed as they caught they breath.
“What? Why?” Carver asked, looking baffled.
“Ranged fighters often have lighter armour so that they can move quicker,” Garrett explained. “They’re easier to defeat, but can do huge amounts of damage if you don’t at least neutralise them quickly.”
“I was the one in the army, you know!” Carver grumbled. “Why do you think you know fighting tactics better than I do?”
“Hawke!” Aveline called as she finished checking Wesley over for fresh injuries. “We need to keep moving.”
“She’s right,” Hawke agreed. “Let’s go.”
Even as he finished speaking, the ground beneath him started to shudder. Something very heavy was coming towards them.
“It’s an ogre,” Carver said, looking horrified. “Where did the fucking ogre come from?”
“The deep roads, I’d imagine,” Hawke replied. “It doesn’t really matter. What matters is where it’s going, and that’s something that I have say in.”
Killing the ogre was hard. Harder than anything they’d managed yet. It’s huge fists striking the ground sent out a shock-wave that sent Bethany off balance. The ogre zeroed in on it, and was reaching out to grab her when Wesley threw himself in her path.
The ogre roared, smashing it’s prize hard against the ground.
“Wesley!” Aveline cried.
Hawke sent a Stone Fist flying at the ogres head before summoning as much lightning as he could, raining it down on the huge group of darkspawn coming along the path. When he turned back to the ogre, it was to discover that Aveline had managed to knock it down and had ended up on it’s chest.
She raised her blade high, and plunged it down into it’s head, twisting viciously before withdrawing it and leaping back of the now still corpse.
Leandra and Bethany had gathered around Wesley’s still body.
“He saved me,” Bethany’s voice broke and her eyes were wet with unshed tears. “Even though I’m a mage. Why would he do that?”
“Wesley?” Aveline approached quickly, falling to her knees and pulling her husbands head into her lap. “Oh Wesley. I was going to save you.”
“We don’t have time for this,” Carver said, his words more brutal than his tone. “Wesley sacrificed himself so that we could get away. So that you could get away. We have to keep moving.”
Aveline stared at Wesley’s still face a moment more before nodding. She laid him gently on the ground, placing his hands neatly over his chest before rising to her feet, sword in one hand and templar shield in the other.
“We will never forget him,” Leandra murmured, rising as well.
They had barely taken two steps before more darkspawn appeared before them. “Too late,” Garrett muttered, swivelling around as he sensed more darkspawn coming from the side.
“There’s no end to them,” Bethany despaired, even as she raised her staff in defiance.
The deep rumble that echoed around them was so loud and so surprising that Garrett almost dropped his staff. What had looked like an oddly shaped rock formation on the rocky peak of a tall hill behind them revealed itself to be a high dragon. Her wings unfurled as she roared again, before taking flight. She was headed directly for them.
Rather expecting to be fried at any moment, Garrett was shocked when the high dragon ignored them, heading straight for the oncoming darkspawn, spitting flames as she went, causing them to scatter and panic, those on the outer edges fleeing. Rising into the air she turned around, making another pass.
Garrett was wondering if this was really happening. A high dragon in the south of Ferelden was crazy enough, but a dragon that appeared to be killing their enemies for them? He tried to imagine telling someone about this, if he managed to survive. The whole thing was rapidly passing out of the realm of ‘unlikely’ and right into ‘impossible’.
The high dragon dove again, picking up darkspawn and tossing them into the air, before coming in to land, using her flame and her tail as equally formidable weapons. Finally, she picked up the last two hurlocks in her claws, smashing them together. One dropped to the ground before the dragon was engulfed in a light too bright to look into.
When the light dimmed a woman emerged from amongst the flames, a dead hurlock dangling from one hand.
“Well, well,” she drawled as she grew nearer. “What have we here? It used to be we never got visitors to the Wilds, and now they arrive in hordes.”
Garrett approached, Bethany flanking him on the right and Carver on the left. “Impressive,” he commented, wondering if they were getting out of trouble or only further into it. “Where did you learn how to turn into a dragon?”
The woman gave a sly smile. “Perhaps I am a dragon,” she replied. “If so, count yourself lucky that the smell of burning darkspawn does nothing for the appetite.” She turned to glance in the direction they had been heading. “If you wish to flee the darkspawn, you should know that you are heading in the wrong direction.”
“You can’t just leave us here!” Bethany objected.
The woman turned back. “Can I not? I spotted a most curious sight, a mighty ogre vanquished! Who could have performed such a feat? But now my curiosity is sated, and you are safe – for the moment. Is that not enough?”
“You could show me that trick of yours,” Garrett suggested, only half joking. “That looks useful.”
She laughed loudly, throwing her head back. “I daresay it is! Such a clever tongue, for a mage. Tell me, clever child, how do you intend to outrun the blight?”
“We’re going to Kirkwall, in the Free Marches,” Carver said, with a hint of his usual belligerence.
“Kirkwall? My, but that is quite the voyage you plan. So far, simply to flee the darkspawn.”
“Any better suggestions?” Garrett shrugged. “I hear the Deep Roads are vacant right now.”
She laughed again. “Oh, you I like.” She was looking at him, but it almost seemed as if she could see something else entirely. “Hurtled into the chaos, you fight… and the world will shake before you.” She turned her back to them and took several steps away, tilting her head to one side as though considering something. “Is it fate, or chance? I can never decide.” Turning back, she addressed them again. “It appears fortune smiles on us both today. I may be able to help you yet.”
They might be in pretty serious trouble, but Garrett knew better than to make deals with anyone without knowing all the details. As difficult as it was to imagine, things could get worse. “There must be a catch.”
“There is always a catch, life is a catch! I suggest you catch it while you can!”
“Should we even trust her?” Carver wondered. “We don’t even know what she is!”
“I know what she is,” Aveline responded bleakly. “The Witch of the Wilds.”
“Some call me that. Also Flemeth, Asha’bellanar, ‘an old hag who talks too much’.” Flemeth raised her eyebrows. “Does it matter? I offer you this: I will get your group past the horde in exchange for a simple delivery to a place not far out of your way. Would you do this for a ‘Witch of the Wilds?’”
Garrett looked to see what his companions thought about it. Carver seemed overwhelmed, Bethany just gave him a little shrug and Leandra was taking the opportunity to rest against Talon and wasn’t paying any attention.
Aveline sighed. “What choice do we have? Without her we’ll never escape the darkspawn.”
Garrett acknowledged the truth in her words. “What is a Witch of the Wilds, exactly?”
“A Chasind legend,” Aveline replied. “Witches that steal children.”
“Bah!” Flemeth said scornfully. “As if I had nothing better to do.”
“Then you’re an apostate,” Bethany said wonderingly.
Flemeth smiled. “Yes, just like you.”
“How much trouble will this delivery be, exactly?” Garrett asked, still trying to figure out the hidden cost.
“About as much trouble as my saving your lives five minutes ago.” Flemeth returned, eyebrows raised. She looked to be in good spirits, actually, as if she was enjoying herself. Or if she knew something they didn’t and which she found amusing.
“It you knew my daughter, you’d know how seldom I hear that.”
Oh well, the longer they stood here talking, the worse the prospect of staying here without a high dragon’s assistance was looking. “Roast a few more darkspawn, I’ll do anything you want.”
Flemeth straightened up, growing serious again. “Sadly, my charity is at an end. There is a clan of Dalish elves near the city of Kirkwall,” she told him, passing him a carved wooden disc attached to a leather cord. “Deliver this amulet to their Keeper, Marethari. Do as she asks with it, and any debt between us is paid in full. Do we have an agreement?”
Garrett looked Flemeth directly in her curious yellow eyes. “We have an agreement.”
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