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Broken Souls

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Tranquil Feynriel by Naiad

"Do you understand your orders, Keran?"

"Yes, ser," Keran said, standing stiffly at attention before Knight-Captain Cullen.

"Good. Be prepared to leave at first light tomorrow."

"Yes, ser. Err... ser, about my pay..."

The faintest of smiles lifted the corners of the Knight-Captain's mouth. "Don't worry about your sister, Keran – I'll see to it that a portion of your pay is sent to her each month while you're away. If you'll stop by the treasurer's office, he'll also have a three-month advance on your pay ready for you, which should cover any last-minute purchases you might want to make, and last you until you return next spring – there's damned little to spend money on out there. I'd advise you to stop by the market today," Cullen added, almost conversationally. "Pick yourself up a few little luxuries – there'll be only the most basic of supplies at the post, and there'll be few opportunities for you to go to the nearest town to buy anything extra you want. Especially once winter sets in."

"Yes, ser," Keran said.

Cullen nodded curtly. "Dismissed."

Keran bowed, and left the Knight-Captain's office. He was feeling rather surprised over the assignment he'd been given; it was a position of some trust, involving as it did an extended placement away from the Gallows, essentially an independent command, though the only people under his command would be himself and the staff of the outpost – a single Tranquil mage. Still, considering how close he'd come to losing any position at all in the Templars – not to mention his sanity and life – just four short years before, and how he'd been under close scrutiny by the Knight-Captain ever since, he chose to take it as a good sign.

Though it could equally well be a sign of just how short they were of templars that the Knight-Captain was willing to trust with unsupervised care of the Tranquil. Oh, they'd tried to cover up what Ser Alrik and his clique had been up to, but after his rather messily violent death the year before, along with all the templars with him – well, Templars gossiped as much as the next person. Possibly more, having fewer things with which to occupy their off-duty time. Disturbing rumours had spread anyway, and it was easy to believe them when it was noticeable that none of the survivors of Ser Alrik's coterie were ever allowed on guard duty over the Tranquil any more.

Still, as good a sign as this new assignment was of Cullen's growing willingness to accept Hawke's word that Keran had not been demon-possessed as a result of his mis-adventures four years ago, and even coming as it did with his long-delayed promotion to being a full Templar, no longer just a recruit, he was not looking forward to it with any particular enthusiasm. It meant a half-year away from the Gallows, stuck in a lonely outpost in the middle of nowhere, an hour or two away from the closest thing that passed for a town, with no one for company – if it could even be called that – except a single Tranquil mage, and the occasional passing trader.

He would, he decided, follow the Knight-Captain's advice about picking up some little luxuries for himself, and began putting together a mental list even as he turned his steps towards the treasurer's office to pick up his advance. A good stock of his preferred blend of tea, some tins of those little spiced cookies he particularly liked... seasonings, since the standard supplies were unlikely to include much more than salt. And a supply of books to help pass the time, and some warmer clothes for winter wear, and...

He smiled, amused to find himself looking forward to the pre-trip shopping, at least. It was rare that he allowed himself to spend much of his pay on fripperies. But as the Guard-Captain had pointed out, there'd be damned little to spent it on once he was at the outpost. Just this once, he could indulge himself.

Cullen glanced nervously over at the young man so calmly driving the cart they both rode in. Feynriel, he'd been introduced as when they'd met up at the Gallows' docks to catch the first ferry of the morning over to the city. He was young, only barely out of his teens at a guess, tall and slender and very blond, with pale skin and eyes of a bright gold colour. Keran might have taken him for entirely human, except he remembered the name – remembered it, because the story attached to it had involved Hawke, his own saviour. The young man was half-elven; knowing that, and looking carefully, he'd been able to pick out a few subtle differences in his physique that suggested Feynriel's true heritage. Thngs like a barely noticeable sharpness to the upper curve of his ears, how the structure of his chest was narrow but deep, the slender curve of his hips, his lack of facial hair. His face was set in the eternal emotionless calm of the tranquil, the skin smooth and unmarred save for the brand on his forehead.

It made Keran shiver a little, seeing that and thinking of what it stood for. He couldn't even begin to fathom what that must be like; living without the ability to feel emotion. Not just the unpleasant ones like fear, anger, and grief, but to never again be happy, amused, excited, in love... it was like they weren't even human any more.

And he was going to be stuck with this one for the next six months.

He decided to break the silence that had lasted since they'd claimed their waggon at the gates of Kirkwall and set out. "Don't talk much, do you?" he asked, a touch nervously, feeling very self-conscious.

Feynriel kept his eyes on the road ahead of them, expression changing not at all. "I speak when I am spoken to," he said, voice soft and without intonation. "Or when there is something that must be reported."

"Oh," he said, and briefly fell silent again. "You know Hawke, don't you? He saved my life once," he added, just a bit proudly.

"He didn't save mine," Feynriel answered.

Keran could think of no adequate response to that. The silence between them resumed.