Gamlen said he would write, but I haven't seen him sober since it happened. I don't know why. It wasn't him that found Mother like that. If anyone should be drunk out of her mind, it's me. Just think, next time we see each other, we can swap horror stories.
Maker's breath, you'd think I could do this without joking about it. Mother's dead. Murdered by a blood mage. You don't want the details. You may not even want the news. It's not like you've bothered to answer any of Mother's letters or mine. Would it have killed you to write at least once before
Hawke swore as the quill snapped. The words on the parchment grew blurry and she blinked rapidly. She was not going to cry over a Maker-forsaken pen breaking. Swallowing around the lump in her throat, Hawke stared at the letter for a moment more before shoving it away. She'd finish it tomorrow.
Orana had already turned down the bed for the night. Hawke toed off her house slippers and crawled in, not bothering to undress. She was still awake when Bodahn finally took Sandal off to bed; the door to their room creaked despite Bodahn's best efforts. The house quieted and she turned over, unable to bear the silence. The heating pan Orana had left under the sheets was long since cooled, but Hawke curled her toes around its edge anyway as she strained to hear the faint clink of armor from the city guard making their nightly rounds. Then she thought of Aveline and the way the woman had just stood there while Hawke threw accusations at her.
Hawke rolled back over and pulled a pillow over her ears. Her chest constricted and the lump rose in her throat again. She didn't want to cry again. She hadn't cried like this when her father died. It seemed wrong, like he'd meant less to her, but Leandra and the twins had needed her and there just hadn't been time. Leandra hadn't cried much after the first few days, either, but as Hawke stared into the remains of the fire she remembered one afternoon, months after Malcolm's burial.
The twins had been out running errands, and Leandra was using the time with the house empty to clean. Hawke came back in from the garden and found her in the kitchen, humming to herself and crying as she swept out the fireplace. Hawke almost knocked over a chair going to her, but Leandra just sighed and smiled at her. "Don't worry, darling," Leandra had said. "Sometimes I just miss your father."
"Sometimes I just miss you," Hawke whispered. And her father, and Carver, and Bethany. This time when the sob rose, she didn't fight it. She did her best to muffle the sounds in the pillows, and when it was over she finally fell asleep.
Hawke woke late the next morning. She didn't return to the letter to Bethany until after she washed and dressed for the day. Hawke scanned the paper and grimaced before folding it away in her journal. She'd try again in the evening.
Varric had a job when she stopped by the Hanged Man. Hawke didn't need the money, but it got her out of Kirkwall for the day. It was well after midnight when they returned, and she was too tired to do anything but fall into bed. Merrill wanted help gathering herbs on Sundermount the day after that, then Isabela had a lead on her relic outside the city, and somehow a week went by without Hawke noticing. Fenris had even shown up on her doorstep to tell her about a group of slavers using the caves on the Wounded Coast. He'd hadn't exactly asked for her aid, but Hawke grabbed her sword and followed, taking Varric and Isabela along to fill any awkward silences. It wasn't that Hawke forgot about writing Bethany, but as the days went by what she wanted to write became more tangled.
Two weeks after her first attempt at the letter, Hawke found herself coming home early enough that the stars were just starting to come out. She nodded at the few nobles she passed, their paths lit by servants carrying lanterns. Tonight she was going to sit at her desk and not get up again till she'd finished the damn thing. She had nothing planned for the next day and would stay up till sunrise if that's what it took.
Hawke opened her door and walked straight into an argument. She almost turned around and walked back out, but then Isabela raised her hand to slap Aveline and there was no good way that would end.
"Could you not get blood on the carpet?" Hawke asked, entering the room. "Orana just got the last bit from Mother out."
Aveline looked appalled and a little ashamed at that and Hawke felt a kind of vicious pleasure. Isabela lowered her hand and gave her a darkly amused glance. They both started talking at once, and Hawke rubbed her temples as she realized that two emergencies had just dropped into her lap.
"All right," Hawke said as they finished. "Isabela tonight, then I'll meet you at the Qunari compound tomorrow, Aveline. Do me a favor and see that Fenris is there. He's helped before." She glanced up the stairs to her bedroom and stifled a sigh.
* * *
It was a disaster, all of it. Isabela ran off with the relic, which turned out to be the entire reason the Qunari had set up residence in the city in the first place. The Arishok was not impressed and had run out of patience. Hawke and Aveline barely escaped from the compound alive. They retreated to Lowtown, scooping Fenris up along the way, and Hawke immediately led them to the Hanged Man.
"Varric," she said by way of greeting as she walked in his room. "Get everyone together. Send runners or whatever you do, but I want everyone in my house now." Where I know they're safe, Hawke added mentally. There were shouts down in the tavern's main room. Fenris looked, then cursed and drew his sword. Aveline and Hawke followed him as he ran down the stairs and launched himself at one of the four Qunari that had just come bursting in.
"Up the stairs," Aveline shouted at the patrons. Hawke motioned for Corff to retreat into his back room as Fenris caught the sword of the nearest Qunari with his own. His markings flared as he broke the attack and swept his sword over the unprotected neck. Aveline engaged the second warrior, and the last two headed for Hawke. She dodged behind the pillar in the center of the room, forcing them to split apart. She hooked a chair with her foot and kicked it toward the legs of the one on the right. He stumbled, and it was enough for her to get inside his guard and slip a dagger between his ribs. His companion roared a battle cry and Hawke twisted away, leaving the dagger in place. She scrambled backward as the Qunari advanced. One of her legs hit the edge of a table and she unbalanced just enough for him to get in striking range. She brought her sword up, knowing it was no match for his heavier blade.
An arrow sprouted between the Qunari's eyes, and a split second later Fenris's sword ran through his stomach.
"Thanks," Hawke panted. Across the room, she saw Aveline snap her opponent's head back with the edge of her shield and follow it up with a sword to the gut. Screams filtered in from outside. Hawke met Aveline's eyes and nodded.
"Corff," Hawke barked. The owner poked his head out of the backroom cautiously. "We're leaving. Block the door after we go." He looked at her like she was crazy, but by the time they hit the door, he was already dragging a table over.
The city was on fire. The acrid smell of smoke made Hawke cough and her eyes water as soon as she stepped outside. Aveline stood beside her, face grim.
"Merrill," Hawke said. Hopefully Anders had the sense to stay where he was. She was pretty sure he had an escape route from his clinic, meant for Templars, but also useful for unforeseen Qunari invasions. They fought their way up the steps to the Alienage, only to find the entrance barricaded. Hawke called over it, but got no response. She peered through the barricade, desperately searching for any kind of movement.
"Hawke," Aveline said. "I need to get to my guards."
Hawke ignored her, tilting her head back. Maybe she could climb over?
A hand fell on her arm. "Daisy will be okay," Varric said.
"They will secure the Viscount first," Fenris put in. "They are unlikely to waste energy subduing these pockets of resistance until they have captured those in charge."
Hawke pressed her lips together. She trusted Fenris's assessment, but unlikely to wasn't the same as definitely won't. "All right," she said, backing away from the barricade. She wasn't abandoning Merrill, she told herself. She was leaving her in a fortified position and would return as soon as she could. Aveline shifted with impatience. "All right," Hawke repeated. "Hightown."
They ran into a larger group of Qunari outside Gamlen's house, already engaged in a fight with a contingent of soldiers. Aveline rushed forward, and was nearly knocked off her feet by a blast of electricity from her blind side.
"Saarebas," Fenris spat, moving to meet the collared mage. Hawke followed without thinking to cover him. She took out the Qunari holding the mage's control rod - Maker, but she hated the very idea of it - and then joined Fenris against the Saarebas. He went high as she went low, and Hawke wondered what it said about the two of them that despite everything they could still kill in perfect harmony. She paused to push hair out of her eyes before turning to face the rest of the fight. Or maybe it was just her it said something about. It wasn't like she'd been good at anything other than killing people lately.
Without the help of the Saarebas, the Qunari were outmatched in both numbers and skill. The remaining warriors fell quickly to the soldiers, with only a little help from Hawke and her party. As the soldiers' leader approached to offer his thanks, Hawke blinked as the blue and silver armor registered. Not soldiers. Grey Wardens. Her eyes darted over their faces. It was foolish, Bethany was stationed no where near Kirkwall.
Except that it wasn't. Hawke felt her breath catch as a familiar head of dark curls rose behind the Warden's shoulder. The man trailed off as he noticed Hawke was no longer listening to him.
"Bethany," Hawke breathed. She was here. She was alive. The silence of the past three years hadn't been because she died in some darkspawn tunnel. Relief and anger and grief tangled together in Hawke's chest, and any further words died in her throat. She stepped toward her sister, free hand reaching out.
Bethany's eyes flickered down to Hawke's outstretched hand. "Sister," she said, not moving. Hawke faltered, hand hanging in the air a moment longer before dropping. Bethany barely met her gaze before deliberately turning her head and looking away.
The other Warden cleared his throat. "Ah, awkward family reunions. Really takes me back." Bethany continued staring off into the distance. "Right. Well. Wish we could stay and help, but we've got important Grey Warden business to be doing."
"More important than this?" Hawke waved her hand. She looked at Bethany as she said it. Bethany went on contemplating the space behind the Warden.
"Wardens don't get involved in politics," the man said. His eyes moved between Hawke and her sister, and he shifted his weight a little so that the bulk of him was between Hawke and Bethany. He was protecting Bethany, Hawke realized. Against her.
The knowledge was like a knife in the gut.
The Warden signaled his men to head out. Bethany still wouldn't look at her. Hawke took a shaky breath; she had to tell her.
"Bethany, wait." Her voice didn't sound like her, but Bethany stopped and half-turned her head. "You need to know, Mother - "
"I know," Bethany interrupted. "Gamlen wrote." The stress on the name was slight, but Hawke heard the accusation in it. Guilt, old and new, choked her. Bethany waited a moment for a response, then shrugged. "Good luck, sister," she said as she left, the final word a curse.
Hawke stood with the city screaming around her, and thought she deserved it.