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7 Kingsway 9:30 Dragon

Garrett Hawke had been an orphan for twenty-nine days.

It was a depressing thought, when he let himself linger on it, that he had left his mother's body in a darkspawn-infested valley outside Lothering twenty-nine days ago. There hadn't been time to bury her, so they said their prayers and ran, leaving her to rot beside the very creatures that had killed her. He still hadn’t forgiven himself for that; he doubted he ever would. But he had to keep what remained of his family alive. Alive and together. That was all that mattered.

Bethany and Carver were asleep, Bethany using her satchel as a pillow, Carver leaning against the wall of the ship's hold. Rascal was lying between them, keeping watch, ears flicking around at every creak of the hull. Almost unconsciously, Garrett pulled his coin purse from his belt and checked it again. A fistful of silver, Mother's locket, his parent's wedding rings, Flemeth's pendant. The last one felt cool to the touch no matter how long he held it in his hand. If he pressed it between his palms he could just barely feel the arcane energy contained within, the enchantment that the witch needed for...something.

“Stop that,” Aveline murmured beside him. “You're making us a target for thieves.”

Garrett glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Twenty-nine days since he'd met her, and he still wasn't sure what he thought of the woman. She was tough as nails, damned useful in a fight, and while she'd been married to a Templar she personally didn't seem to mind apostates much. But she also seemed to assume that she was in charge of their little group by virtue of being the oldest. That wasn't sitting well with him. Still, he obeyed and tied his purse back to his belt, half-tucking it into his armor to protect it from pickpockets.

On the deck above them, the crew began shouting. “Sounds like we're here,” Garrett said, leaning over to shake Bethany’s shoulder. She started awake, blinking, then sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Wake Carver, would you?” he asked, standing up to start gathering their few belongings: the clothes on their backs, the weapons and staves in their sheathes, and a trio of leather satchels.

They climbed the stairs to the deck with the other refugees. Garrett drew in a deep breath of fresh sea air as they approached the docks. “Well,” Aveline said. “There it is.”

Garrett nodded. “Amaranthine,” he said. A far more welcoming sight than Kirkwall-- fewer Templars and immense statues of weeping slaves and uncles who refused to take them in. No interest in beggars claiming to be kin, Gamlen had written, not even bothering to come out to the Gallows to see if perhaps they were telling the truth. Carver had nearly broken his hand punching the wall, Bethany had wept, and Garrett had gritted his teeth and booked them passage on the next ship leaving for Ferelden. Amaranthine was far enough north that the blight wouldn't have reached it yet. It wasn't safe, not by a long shot, but they'd let them past the docks. That was all Garrett could hope for now.

They piled off the ship with the other refugees, the ones who’d accepted that Kirkwall wouldn’t take them and returned to Ferelden. There weren’t many—Fereldans were stubborn, and most had refused to leave Kirkwall, assuming that the city would have to take them in eventually. Garrett had thought about staying, but he was tired and frustrated and wanted a place where they could catch their breath and perhaps finally grieve for everything they’d lost. The Gallows courtyard wasn’t that place.

“Where do we go now?” Bethany asked, looking around at the docks.

Carver shrugged and snorted. “Some rat-infested bolthole, I’d imagine.”

Garrett allowed himself a faint smirk. “Better infested with rats than darkspawn,” he said. “C’mon. Let’s see what we can find.”

He strode forward, taking the lead, and smiled to himself when Aveline fell in behind him. He had no idea what Amaranthine would offer them, but they were alive and together. That made the day a success.


11 Cloudreach 9:32 Dragon

Anders had been an apostate for eighteen days. This time.

He heaved yet another melodramatic sigh, staring out through the bars of the cell they’d locked him in. Over the years, he’d become a bit of an expert on prison cells, having spent far too much time in one or another. And the dungeon at the Vigil was, to be honest, pretty terrible. There was no privacy whatsoever, with one wall made entirely of bars, although he preferred that to a solid cell. A narrow stone bench ran along the back wall, too thin to really sit on comfortably. Nothing to look at but his retinue of Templar guards—they’d sent six this time, he was really quite flattered—and the flickering torches on the wall.

Anders flexed his fingers, shifting his wrists in the too-tight anti-magic cuffs. The blasted things were silverite, large enough to cover half his forearms. He was an expert on these, as well, but he’d never figured out how to slip them, despite ample opportunity for practice.

Four of the Templars abruptly departed, disappearing into the Keep, leaving two of the younger members of the Order behind. Anders perked up. This had promise. After all, he didn’t need to slip the cuffs if someone unlocked them. “Can you take these off?” he asked, holding up his manacled hands.

One of the Templars— Puppy, Anders had nicknamed him, from the way he ran around after the knight-lieutenant, drooling and yapping—looked over at him and frowned. “No.”

“Come on. They’re heavy. And they hurt.” He flapped his fingers at them sadly and pouted a little.

“Deal with it.” Anders had named the other Templar Biff. Mostly because he looked like the sort of man who'd be called Biff.

Anders sighed again. “It’s not like I’m going to cast anything, not when there’s two-to-six Templars about. Getting hit with one holy smite is bad enough, but six at once? No, no no no. I’d just like to be a little more comfortable. If you don’t mind.”

“Maybe I do,” Biff snapped. Puppy looked a little less convinced. This had to be hard on him. They hadn’t completely destroyed his basic sense of decency yet, poor thing.

“What could I even cast that’s so dangerous?” he continued. “I’m a healer.”

“The knight-lieutenant said you’re a maleficar,” Puppy replied.

Anders shook his head. “I can’t stand the sight of blood!” he said. “Especially my own. That’s why I am, as I said, a healer. I like to make people stop bleeding. Besides,” he continued, warming to the subject, “even if I were a blood mage, there’s nothing in here for me to cut myself on. So I would just be a hypothetical blood mage with all that blood kept in my veins, which is where it belongs, quite frankly. I mean, I suppose that if I were really determined I could bash my hand against the wall, but I’d probably just end up with a broken hand. Not to mention I suspect you fellows might notice if I started punching the masonry. And--”

“Sweet Andraste,” Biff interrupted. “If you keep this up I'm gonna add a gag in addition to the cuffs. Now shut it.”

Anders sighed. So much for that tactic. As he started contemplating his next move, the fortress rumbled slightly. “What was that?” Puppy asked, eyes wide.

“I dunno,” Biff muttered, fingers slowly wrapping around his sword. Another rumble, this one louder, and accompanied by screams. Biff had taken two steps towards the door when it banged inward and the rest of the Templars poured through. With the door flung wide, the screaming was louder, as were the sounds of armed combat and the thick stench of smoke. There was something else there, too, something that smelled foul and rotten and diseased. Anders pressed his back against the wall, eyes wide.

“Darkspawn!” the lieutenant shouted. There was a deep, bloody gash across his face and neck. Before anyone could react, the creatures came shrieking into the room, laying into the warriors with pockmarked weapons and razor-sharp claws. The Templars fought back, but there wasn’t enough room to maneuver in the small space.

The lieutenant wrenched something off his belt and threw it into the cell. The key landed at Anders's feet. “Help us!” the Templar shouted.

Anders crouched and picked it up. It took some inelegant maneuvering with the key held in his teeth, but he managed to get the cuffs unlocked. He dropped them to the ground with a relieved sigh, the suppressed mana flowing back through him. The Templars were flagging. Two of them were already on the ground, probably dead. Anders stepped back, palms pressed flat against the wall; the lieutenant stared in horror, jaw hanging open, before a darkspawn slammed into him and took him off his feet.

With a faint shudder, Anders squeezed his eyes shut. He was safe inside his cage, and he liked his chances better against the darkspawn than the Templars. The darkspawn were horrifying, true, but they couldn’t drain his mana, or put him in shackles, or burn out his brain. And if by some chance any Templars were left at the end of the fight, well, they’d be easier to evade when they were wounded and bleeding everywhere.

One of the Templars let out a wet gurgle as he hit the ground. Anders smiled tightly. He’d be free again. And this time, they wouldn’t take him back.