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Things Said and Unsaid

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Things Said and Unsaid

It was a warm day for spring, but a breeze off the Waking Sea helped cool the City of Chains, even if the smell from the docks it carried was less than refreshing. The black banners hanging from the windows of the old Amell estate gently billowed as the breeze moved through Hightown. The sable hangings swayed with the wind, but this did nothing to lessen their ominous and forbidding presence.  Each window on the upper floor had a long, heavy black curtain spilling from the bottom of each sill, covering the windows beneath--like tear tracks through kohl. The columns that held the Amell heraldry were covered from the very roof down to the ground. Framing the door on either side, the two standards were as forbidding as the bronze Twins that loomed over the harbor.

An elven messenger approached the house, laden with flowers and missives. When he knocked on the door, it was opened almost immediately by a dwarf. The braids in his hair  were slightly unkempt and looked to be a few days old. “Hello, yes, no Feddic, Bodahn. Visitors only, no deliveries?” The dwarf’s voice was naturally sharp, but he sounded a bit faraway, barely paying the courier any mind.  The dwarf glanced back over his shoulder, shifting from foot to foot in the doorway. It nearly looked like the man had taken up residence in the entryway; in fact, the messenger spied a cot and a neatly-folded blanket tucked into a corner.

“I’m... sorry? No deliveries?”

“Ach. Excuse me. Bodahn Feddic, at your service. No visitors, deliveries only,” he stressed the words carefully, a bit more present in the moment. “It is another delivery, yes?”

“Yes, for Serah Hawke.  The du Lacs, de Montfords, de Launcets, and the Cuttenridge family all send their condolences, um… again, I think.”

Hawke’s manservant sighed and took the armful of flower arrangements and the envelopes from the messenger, “Indeed they do. Thank you for delivering these Serah.”

“Um,” the messenger coughed delicately “They all emphatically wished to express to Serah Hawke how devastated they are that they cannot personally attend today’s proceedings, and would welcome the chance to pay their respects to Lady Amell in the future.”

Bodahn sighed even heavier than before, “Of course.” His voice sounded a bit strained, as though his patience was being tested, he glanced back over his shoulder again. The courier bowed courteously and made a hasty retreat.

Bodahn closed the door with a heavy thud, “Sandal!” He called out for his son. “Sandal, my boy, come help your old Bodahn with these flowers.” The young enchanter came away from the fireplace and into the entryway.

“So many flowers,” the young savant cooed, balancing the arrangements delicately in his large, spade-like hands. Even by dwarf standards, Sandal’s hands were exceptionally nimble and sure. Bodahn often found himself envious of his son’s talent with his hands. He might have pursued a craft instead of trading in a different life if he had even half of Sandal’s raw talent. “Enchantment?”

“No my boy,” Bodahn said softly. “Not these, not today, I don’t think Serah Hawke wishes to keep these flowers at all. Take these up to him, won’t you Sandal? Remember to knock. I’ll be up in a moment, all right?” He gently turned Sandal towards the stairs and gave his shoulder a gentle shove of encouragement. “Up the stairs, there’s a good lad.” Assured of his son’s activities for the moment, Bodahn put the letters onto a growing pile of missives on a tray. He placed the last arrangement onto the tray as well and searched the main floor for Orana.

He found the young woman pacing the kitchen, pulling together a tray for a small meal. “Is he ready?” Bodahn asked her gently, “Any luck at all?”

Orana shook her head, a worried frown pulling at her mouth. The young woman twisted her hands with such ferocity Bodahn marveled that she didn’t sprain her fingers with each pass, “I tried to get him to bathe, but he hasn’t moved. I…  I managed to give him some tea, but I don’t think he’s heard a thing I’ve said.” She squeezed her hands together hard. “I... I played some music for him, but I don’t think he liked it. Master Hawke hasn’t spoken one word to me all morning.”

Bodahn let out a huge breath, his wide shoulders slumping, “No indeed, he hasn’t spoken to any of us yet today. I had rather hoped… he might respond with you. I suppose I’ll have to try again. If that doesn’t work one of us may have to go get one of his friends. Ah me, this is a difficult day for poor Quinntus.”

“What happens if Master Hawke doesn’t go?”

“That won’t happen,” Bodahn said, though he didn’t sound completely confident in his words. “He’ll come around.” Hopefully sooner, rather than later.

“You should go up to see him,” Orana said quietly. “He’s worse than yesterday.”

Bodahn nodded. He hadn’t seen Hawke since bringing him a tray for breakfast earlier, in the wee-hours of the morning, before sunrise. Ever since that dreadful night of Leandra's death, Quinn had been keeping all sorts of odd hours--sleeping little, eating less. Bodahn feared for the man’s health. He’d hoped that after Serah Fenris’s visit the other night, Hawke might be prepared to face…. today.

The dwarf let out a breath through his nose, “Ancestors and Stone, if you still hear me, help us through this day, I beg you.” Bodahn then braced himself and gave Orana a reassuring squeeze to one elbow, “Don’t worry my dear. I’ll get him ready, even if I have to bathe and dress him myself.” He tried to give Orana a faint smile, but he wasn’t sure his mouth moved properly. “You look exhausted, my girl, why don’t you take a rest,” Bodahn gestured to one of the chairs at the prep table. “Have something for yourself, and maybe we can get Quinntus to eat after he’s had a bath.” The woman shifted in place, she had that look again. That trapped look of wanting to protest, but unable to give voice to her thoughts. “Please, Orana, it’s no use standing about and fretting. Take care of yourself for now, and let me worry about Messere Hawke for a little while,” he was gentle in tone with her, as always, but he found himself holding his breath.

The dwarf felt relieved when the woman went over to the table and took a seat at the table. Bodahn was feeling tired himself, and he was selfishly relieved that he didn’t need to manage Orana’s emotions too. Hawke was enough of a challenge for the moment. “Just listen for the door, in case more deliveries come. I suspect there shall be many more today,” he brought the tray to Orana and placed it in front of her. She was still too skinny, by Bodahn’s estimation, even allowing for the fact that she was an elf.  Orana pulled a mug of tea towards herself and offered Bodahn a tentative smile. He nodded and tried to smile back at her, but it was a tired, weak expression.

Bodahn returned to the grand parlor and placed his hands on the handles of the tray holding the flowers and the messages. He paused, as his vision suddenly blurred. He wiped away his tears as they appeared, and he blinked fiercely. “Come now Messere Feddic,” he chastised himself lightly. “Mistress Amell needs us to look after her boy, you can have a cry later.” He wiped his eyes again and picked up the tray, carefully climbing up the stairs. Bodahn nearly tripped over Ser Rascal, the hound was currently curled up outside Leandra’s door.  The hound didn’t seem to like being in Mistress Amell’s room without her present, but he was desperate to be close to Hawke. The dwarf wondered if the hound knew. He was only half-mabari, but he did seem smarter than most dogs. Most of the time.

Bodahn braced himself and entered Leandra’s bedroom. He wondered if this was what passing through the Veil felt like. The room had an eerie, tomb-like quality to it. Scarcely anything had changed from the night she left. Apart from the dust starting to settle on her journals and jewelry, it was almost as if Leandra might come home and settle in for the evening. As if she still lived here.

The last time he’d seen Quinntus, the man had been seated on the floor, at the foot of Leandra’s bed, not eating breakfast nor saying a word. Hawke barely moved from that spot most of the time, so Bodahn was surprised, when he saw Quinn sitting in front of the fireplace. His dark red hair was darker than usual and in need of a wash. Sandal was standing next to him, holding one of the floral arrangements while Quinn reached up with a heavy hand and threw blossoms, one by one into the flames. Bodahn cringed as he realized he’d forgotten to remove the lilies from this latest batch of flowers. He’d been so exhausted he hadn’t noticed them. He cleared his throat gently, “Sandal, why don’t you go see if Ser Rascal needs a snack, all right?”

The young boy frowned in consternation, “I’m helping.” He wavered on the spot, though, he loved the hound dearly.

“It’s all right Sandal,” Quinntus said in a quiet, raspy voice. “Go see Ser Rascal,” he curled his fingers around another flower and threw it onto the flames. Sandal set the arrangement down on the floor and paused.

“Sorry,” Sandal said in a hushed voice. The young dwarf paused, offering his hand to Quinn, “Enchantment?”

Hawke seemed to stir at this. He lifted his head, which seemed to take great effort and looked up at Sandal. Hawke lifted a hand and squeezed Sandal’s, “Thank you for the offer, Sandal. Why don’t you take care of Ser Rascal? I bet he’d like a walk. That would help me.” Bodahn held his breath, the tiniest spark of hope flickering in his chest.

“Woof! Woof!” Sandal barked, clapping his hands. “I can do it!” Bodahn’s momentary hope faded as Sandal left the room, and Quinn’s expression became flat and despondent again.  The firelight danced across Hawke’s wan, ashen face, his bold tattoos just about the only hint of color to his complexion. Bodahn could see that Quinn’s hair was deeply tangled—something the man couldn’t abide under normal circumstances. Hawke was always so particular and fastidious with his appearance. He was still wearing the same outfit that he’d worn when Serah Fenris came to visit the other night. Bodahn set the tray down on the end of the bed.

“More flowers and sympathies for you, Messere,” the dwarf approached the fireplace. “I’ve left the letters just there on the end of the bed. Allow me to take this for you Messere,” he bent down to pick up the offending flowers, but Quinn’s hand darted out to grip the vase. To his credit, Bodahn managed not to jump with surprise. He relented, and gently set it back down beside Hawke, “Or not, as you like, Messere.” Hawke said nothing, and instead threw another lily onto the fire.

“Would you like me to draw you a bath, Messere?” No response. Bodahn felt a bit uncomfortable filling the silence by himself. He was used to carrying on real conversations with Quinntus, not holding up both ends of it himself. He kept waiting for Hawke to chastise him and tell him not to be so formal. This… silence was unnerving and difficult to work with.

Of course, Bodahn didn’t expect Quinn to be at his best, but it was impossible to tell, at times, if the man even heard him. Bodahn suspected that Hawke often didn’t. Bodahn took in the man’s appearance again. Quinn’s eyebrows were… feathered at the edges, when he usually kept them thin and impeccably groomed. The man’s facial hair was starting to resemble a full beard, after several days without shaving at all. The marks on Hawke’s chin were almost completely invisible under the unchecked growth of hair. Bodahn ran a hand along his own less than stellarly-kempt beard. “I assume you’ll be wanting a shave before you go out today, yes Messere?” There was only the sound of a searing pop as another flower died on the flames. Bodahn stroked his beard again, wondering how best to proceed. Maybe there wasn't a 'best way' to proceed. “I know you don’t want to think of it, Messere, but, there’s nothing more to be done. Your mother—your mother’s… services are today.” Bodahn had to stop as his eyes welled with tears again and he started to choke on his own words. He wiped away a tear hurriedly, “We must all be presentable, yes? Of course we must.” Quinntus threw the last lily into the fireplace, and Bodahn felt his heart sink a little lower. “Come now, Messere Hawke, I know it’s a grim business, but you won’t be alone. Your uncle will be there, I’ll be there, Orana and my boy will be there if you wish it, your friends will be there. Serah Fenris will be there,” he added the last bit, rather desperately.  Fenris had been the only reason Quinn had bathed or groomed at all since his mother’s death—the sole reason he’d left Mistress Amell's room since that night. Still, the elf was a delicate topic on the best of days.

Bodahn wasn’t entirely clear on the details but the two men had hit some sort of obstacle, despite the clear and deep affection of both parties. The manservant—dwarfservant as Quinn often teased him—hoped that whatever it was, that it passed quickly. All Bodahn wished was for the two to reconcile soon, though that seemed less and less likely as the weeks stretched on. Hawke stirred slightly at the mention of the elf’s name, but he didn’t speak. “I’ll just draw up a bath for you, Messere,” Bodahn finally concluded, after several minutes of silence. If he had to physically put Quinn in the tub, so be it.


The door shut behind Bodahn like the seal to a Nevarran tomb.

It may as well have been one.

Quinn felt like her room was haunted by her specter as assuredly as he was still haunted by her corpse.

Hawke squeezed his fists until his knuckles hurt. No. Don’t think of it, don’t think of anything at all, but even as he set his jaw, he could feel tears well in his eyes. He could smell molten metal and the acrid, burning fuel of the Foundry District, he could feel the soot and oil coating his skin.  He could smell the scent of the sewers beneath the foundry –the waste of industry and human waste meeting to create an unholy stench most foul. He could smell rotted flesh, lye, and death. Hot bile burned its way up his throat as he tried to forget the scent of lilies and blood.

Quinn covered his mouth and nose, and shuddered. He tried to suppress the memory, but he could still feel his mother in his arms—not fully his mother, but several women pieced into something obscene. No. It’s under the foundry. Bury it all under the foundry.

Hawke recoiled as a stolen hand covered in sutures touched his shoulder. His heart raced and threatened to jump out of his throat, and his lungs were bloated with an unvoiced scream. He gripped his chest when he realized it was only Bodahn. Maker’s breath, for a moment he’d thought… he’d thought..  Hawke swallowed and tried to compose himself.

Bodahn pulled his hand away guiltily—large and heavy, not bony and frail. Full of life, not dead and cold. “I apologize Messere, I didn’t mean to startle you. Your bath awaits.”

Hawke let out a slow breath, squeezing that unborn cry into the Void itself. “Yes… of course Bodahn. I just… I must have nodded off, I’ve been so tired but unable to sleep,” it wasn’t a complete lie. Maybe he had drifted off for a nonce. Perhaps that hand had been a trick of the Fade or sheer exhaustion. Hawke chewed at his lip, agitated. His heart still thundered like a galloping gurn caged within his ribs. Slowly, he got to his feet, and his joints popped and crackled louder than the fire.

Bodahn clucked his tongue, “Ah, see, a nice warm bath will take care of those stiff joints Messere.”

Quinn nodded mutely in agreement. He felt a little unsteady on his feet, and rested a hand on the dwarf’s shoulder for a moment. He expected the dizziness to pass, but a lingering sort of fog remained that made it difficult to concentrate on walking.

“Perhaps a light meal will help you as well?” Bodahn sounded anxious.  

Quinntus furrowed his brow, trying to remember through that fog, “When was the last time I ate?”

“To be truthful, I don’t rightfully know, Messere, perhaps yesterday?” Bodahn twisted a thumb, staring at Hawke anxiously. “Let’s get you into the tub and I’ll go fetch a tray of tea and something to eat, yes? You’ll… be needing your strength today, I imagine.”

Quinn nodded again. His eyes burned and blurred with sudden wetness, but his tears still didn’t fall. With Bodahn’s aid, Quinn made his way out of his mother’s room.  The trek across the hall seemed to take an entire Age to Quinntus. He stared at the floor the entire time, not daring to look up at his mother’s portrait hanging on the wall. He looked up once they entered his room. The tub was there, waiting for him, full of water and warmed with a quartet of enchanted stones. Slowly, Quinn started to disrobe—without Bodahn’s help. After a moment, the dwarf left the room, satisfied that Hawke didn’t need his assistance with every step of getting cleaned up.

Once he was naked, Quinn sank into the bathtub.

The water came up to his chest, leaving the tips of his knees exposed as he nestled into the metal tub. Hawke stared at the water blankly without moving, as though expecting the water to jump up and wash him.

Still not a mage, I suppose, he thought after a moment. As if moving through pitch, he reached over to grab his soap, nails digging into the bar. It resembled a fancy cheese, marbled with flowers and tiny seeds. It was a new bar, one he had bought on a whim. Even though the novelty of having money had lessened, there were still things Quinn found he enjoyed about having wealth. Not the least of which included fancy soaps and shampoos. He still recalled the first time he’d realized he could afford the fancy soaps purveyed in Hightown. He’d brought home armfuls of every scent and fragrance imaginable, awed by this hidden world of soap beyond tallow and lye. Hawke could still remember his mother’s reaction.

“Quinntus, what—did you really buy all of these?” Leandra’s voice was so shallow, hollow and faraway. She plucked one of the soaps up in her hands—another woman’s hands, and turned it over in her palm. Her mouth was pulled into a rictus, the stitches at the corner of her mouth nearly straining. Leandra’s head snapped back, and looked up at her eldest, with someone else’s eyes sitting in her skull. “Where in Andraste’s name are we going to keep all these?” That reedy voice was almost fond, almost amused. She reached up with the hand that was not hers and cupped his cheek, “I didn’t realize asking for a few sundries meant my son would return poised to become a soap merchant.”

Hawke was standing in the tub, naked and shivering, drops falling from his outstretched arm. The bar of soap had landed in the empty fireplace. It was unlit, so the offending item was left to sit in the ashes, instead of burning in the flames. Quinn sank back down into the tub, biting his lip hard. He splashed water on his face, his stomach churning over itself. He trembled all over, and his shaking sent ripples from his knees, despite the warm water in his bath.

Hawke drew his arms around himself, and tried to wash away the sudden chill across his skin. He slapped a bit of water against his chest, grooming the thin red hairs back in place after. Quinntus didn’t know how he was going to get through this day. Whenever he thought of his mother—no matter how hard he tried, or inconsequential the memory—all he could see was the thing she’d become, what Quentin had made her into.

Quinntus hadn’t told anyone.

He pressed his tattooed brow against his knuckles. He couldn’t even look at her portrait without seeing… that. Quinn rubbed his thumbs along the bridge of his aquiline nose, following the curve there. Maker, I’m so tired. Did I sleep at all last night? Time held frighteningly little meaning to Hawke these days. One moment he would be sitting, feeling achingly empty and awful, seconds ticking by like hours. Then at other times he would come out of his stupor with an awareness that hours had passed with no memory of them at all. It was like going back and forth between sinking in tar and stumbling out of a fog.

Quinn wondered how long he’d been sitting in the bath. He tipped his head back and dunked his head into the water. Blindly, he reached for a bottle of his shampoo and scrubbed his hair clean, until it was soft and the color of a rich red wine again. Arcem Amoris, Fenris said once while drunk at the Hanged Man, that is the wine your hair reminds me of. It was a rare vintage even in Tevinter. A single slave produced a single bottle but once a year. Fenris had only seen it once, but if he was to be believed it ‘glittered like liquid rubies and garnets.’

Hawke doused his head in the tub and squeezed the moisture from his hair. Normally, Quinn washed it thrice, with a different soap each time, but his arms seemed to lack the strength. Once would have to do.  He just hoped his hair was clean. He hadn’t washed it for days—and not terribly well the last time he did.

Quinn braced his hands on the edge of the tub and stood up, water tracking down his body once again. He stepped out of the metal tub cautiously and wrapped himself in a towel, sitting on the edge of his bed. He ran a bit of the cloth along his jaw and pulled a face. He could feel hair poking him along his face and neck. Hawke ran a hand along his facial hair and frowned. Generally he only kept a bit of stubble around his mouth and chin. This was approaching a full beard—or at least nearing one. He stroked his thumbnail through the places the hair was thickest, wondering at the strange feel of it. Hawke dried himself off and walked over to his dresser, towel around his shoulders, his hair still dripping. He pulled down a set of smalls and black silk trousers. He stared down at his hands for several long moments. Right, smalls first. Hawke shook his head. It felt so hard to remember the simplest things. He ended up dropping his trousers to get into his smalls, and he cursed himself as he stepped on the black silk.

Once he had his trousers in place, Quinn slipped over to his looking glass, but as he slid into the chair, he cried out, pushing himself back from the dressing table violently.

Quinn shook his head, but the reflection remained the same. A pair of ghosts were staring back at him through his face, becoming something utterly monstrous. Hawke could see both his mother and his father staring back at him, till Malcolm resembled the thing Leandra had become. Quinn touched his jaw with one hand and reached blindly towards the table with his other hand. His hand circled around the handle of his razor and he brought it up to his face, starting at the corner of his jaw, unable to tear his eyes away from the horrific image in the mirror. Quinn hewed the razor’s edge along his jaw, as fast as he dared, hair falling away with each short, frenzied stroke. His gaze kept drifting away from his beard and to the eyes in the mirror which were no longer green, but cold and grey and fish-like. He scraped the blade along his chin, fingers shaking as bad as they had in Ferelden winters. Hawke continued to hack away at his almost-beard, seeing less of his father as he uncovered his jaw again.

He hissed out a curse as he felt the blade catch on his skin. The razor dropped from his grasp as blood welled along a thin line, crossing through the lines and sharp angles of brown ink on his chin. It didn’t hurt but there was so much blood it was starting to drip down his neck. He pressed his fingers against the cut and cursed again, louder, “Fuck!”

Hawke stood up and staggered back from the dressing table, pacing his room once before sitting on the edge of his bed. His chin started to burn, along the cut. Quinn checked his fingers, but there was still fresh blood, he was still bleeding—and he started to cry.

They were mostly tears of frustration, but his shoulders heaved with the tiniest sobs. “Fuck and bugger it all,” he cursed himself out loud. You’re so fucking helpless, Hawke, so fucking useless. Quinn rubbed his bloody fingers on the bedsheets and curled in over himself, crying and bleeding, still half-dressed. He sobbed again and tangled his fingers in his hair.

Hawke wasn’t sure how long he sat like that, but he looked up sheepishly as Bodahn entered the room, trying to blink away his tears. All at once Hawke felt incredibly ashamed of his appearance, covered as he was in blood and tears. The dwarf made a soft noise like a gasp, and then clucked his tongue softly. Bodahn came over, and pulled a kerchief out of his pocket, which he used to dab at Quinntus’s chin, holding pressure over the small cut. After a few moments, once the bleeding had slowed, Bodahn wet the cloth and used it to gently wash away the blood on Quinn’s neck and chin, dabbing at his collarbone where an errant drop had gone astray.

His wound tended to, the dwarf went over to the dressing table and brought over a small hand-dish of water, a brush, a bar of soap, and Quinn’s razor. Without a word, Bodahn wet the bristles and started to apply lather to Hawke’s skin—including places Quinn had missed in his haste. Bodahn finished Quinn’s haphazard attempt at shaving, taking care around the fresh cut on the man’s chin. He even used the razor to sculpt the man’s eyebrows the way he liked to—or did his best at least. Quinn wanted to thank the man, but his throat seemed to be stuck, as if it had been glued shut. Bodahn gave him an encouraging smile, “There you are Serah. You look like yourself again.” He gestured towards the dressing table and the looking glass.

Silk crumpled under Hawke’s fingers as he clutched the edge of the bed. He felt like he was trying to swallow a stone, “I’ll… take your word for it.” The corner of his mouth quivered uncomfortably as he attempted to smile. Hawke stopped trying to force the expression. Bodahn studied him for a moment, but then he gathered up the shaving materials and carried them back over to their proper place at the dressing table. “I.. what time is it?” Hawke's voice was still a bit rough as he asked the question.

“Oh sometime between the ninth and tenth bells,” Bodahn carefully folded his bloodied kerchief, tucking it into a pouch. Then he went to scoop up Hawke’s discarded clothes from earlier, “I’ll just take these downstairs and come back up with that tea tray, yes? Was there anything else you needed Messere?”

I need my mother. I need to wake up. I need all of this to be a dream. Quinn bit his lip, but he shook his head, “No, nothing… thank you Bodahn.” He looked down at his bare chest, where some of his hair had started to stand on end. “I suppose I should throw on a shirt,” he observed.

“I imagine you’ll be more comfortable that way,” Bodahn said. “Oh, did you need any hair ties? I know they tend to go missing,” the dwarf fussed a little, looking around the room.

Quinn shook his head, “I have some. It’s fine.”

Bodahn nodded, “Ah, that’s… that’s good then. I… I could braid your hair if you like, Messere?” He looked at Quinn with worry and compassion in those clear, gray eyes.

Quinn’s eyes burned as his vision blurred. He nodded, completely overcome with emotion. When he spoke, his voice was thin and close to breaking, “That… that would be lovely, Bodahn.”

Bodahn seemed to relax a little and he smiled at Quinn, “I’ll be back up in a moment, then. Oh, did you want any beads or ornaments woven in?

Quinn shook his head, “No beads. I… have some feathers, maybe just one of those in my hair? The others are going into my sleeves.” In the spaces where he usually kept a set of spare knives.

Bodahn nodded, “Anything else you need to prepare?”

Quinn swallowed, his heart racing again as he felt even more self-conscious. “I.. I’ll need some charcoal for my eyes later.” It was a silly superstition, and it felt a thousand times more foolish here in Kirkwall than it had in Ferelden. Even in Lothering, only his father followed this tradition. Malcolm Hawke had explained it once, when Quinn was about seven or eight summers old.

“The feather is to help usher the deceased’s soul on to the next world, to prevent it from lingering here with loved ones and friends. The charcoal is to protect from spirits who might be attracted by a soul passing through to the next world—or I suppose I should say across the Veil and into the Fade.”

“But… you’re a mage,”

Malcolm Hawke chuckled, “I am indeed, but sometimes there’s greater comfort in small traditions than the greatest magic, my son. Now, I won’t be gone a long time. You’re in charge while I'm gone. Help your mother watch over the twins, all right?”

When it was his turn to lay their father to rest, Quinn had put feathers in the twin’s hair, and drew a stripe of black across their eyes. Even if he didn’t fully understand it—it had been important to their father.

Hawke wondered, suddenly, if he was going to seem… blasphemous. He didn’t know why his father did small things like that, but there were other tiny and harmless superstitions that Malcolm Hawke had. Quinn suddenly found himself wondering, years later, what it all meant, what did these little things add up to? Were they just inventions of his father’s or were they things that had been taught to him in the Circle? He highly doubted it was the latter, but Malcolm had an aversion of talking about certain things. Malcolm rarely talked about his parents or his life growing up, and even less about the Circle—other than the magic he taught to Bethany. He'd always been so evasive. This family and this life is enough. When the twins are old enough, perhaps I'll tell some of those stories. Quinntus felt a brief stab of fury, angry that his father had died and taken such answers with him. And why hadn’t he thought to ask his mother? Hawke blinked fiercely as his eyes welled with tears.

He pushed the tears back. He pushed the memories back. He could get through this day if he just ground all his feelings to dust and was completely empty. If he stopped thinking.

Hawke jumped slightly as Bodahn offered him his hairbrush. Quinn took it slowly, staring at it as though it was a foreign artifact from Par Vollen.

“I’ll be right back,” Bodahn assured him.

Quinntus nodded, and he ran his thumb over the carved handle of his hairbrush.

He followed the swirls there with his thumb absently, still emptying his mind. It was a soothing exercise, focusing on the feel of the wood beneath his skin. Thinking led to so many painful emotions, this was simpler. And yet, even sitting and not thinking of anything in particular, his eyes still threatened to spill over with tears. Why? He wasn’t thinking on anything at all. He swallowed thickly and turned the brush over in his hands, pulling at the teeth trying to banish his sudden tears.

Quinn scarcely looked up when Bodahn returned, setting a tray down on the bed next to him.

“Sorry about that, there was another messenger at the door, I hope you didn’t think I was keeping you waiting,” Bodahn poured a mug of tea and passed it to Quinn. Hawke took the cup and stared down at the steaming liquid.

“I… was lost in thought, it’s all right. I didn’t notice,” a truthful statement. “Oh… my hair, it isn’t brushed.” It wasn’t dry yet either, and he still hadn’t put on a shirt.

“That’s all right Messere, I can manage,” Bodahn smiled at him with affection. The man gently took the brush from Quinn’s hands and started to pull it through the man’s dark red hair. He was gentle and patient in his movements, and Quinn hardly felt any discomfort while Bodahn worked the tangles out. “I do admit… Sometimes I wish Sandal had hair as long as yours, or a beard I could braid, but with his enchanting, it’s probably best he keeps his hair as it is. I don’t know where he keeps finding those salamanders…” He gently turned Quinn so that he was facing the other way, towards the center of the bed, so he could get at the back of his hair.

It had been a long time since anyone had done Quinn’s hair like this. Bethany might have been the last, and Quinn took a sip of too-hot tea as he nearly started crying again. Maker, his heart hurt so much. How could merely existing hurt so much?

Bodahn combed out his thick hair, and squeezed the ends of it into the towel when he was satisfied the tangles were gone. Then Bodahn pulled Hawke’s hair through the towel again, a heated enchantment stone on the other side of the cloth, in order to dry out some of the moisture. When Quinn’s hair was no longer dripping wet, the dwarf combed through it once more, so that it sat smooth and parted on the right side of his head. “You know,” the shorter man cleared his throat delicately “we dwarves have a saying. ‘Well-woven hair is a sign of care.’”

Quinn felt his heart lurch in his chest, “Bodahn…”

“I worry for you Messere,” the dwarf lowered his voice into a whisper as he parted Quinn’s hair diagonally along his skull. “You know that, I hope. Mistress Amell… she and I would both fret over your little… adventures.”

Quinn felt a hot tear roll down his cheek. It suddenly occurred to him that since dwarves were cut off from the Fade, that likely meant they didn’t pass the Veil after death. If what the Chantry said about death was true, it suddenly seemed like a poor and unacceptable afterlife, if it meant being separated from Bodahn and Sandal and Varric for eternity. Another tear spilled down his cheek as Bodahn started braiding his hair. It felt like an Orlesian braid, but Quinn couldn't be sure by feel alone.

“What… do dwarves do when someone dies?” Quinn asked the words hoarsely. “What do your people say about death?”

Bodahn had Quinn hold onto a small hunk of hair, “We return to the Stone when we die.” He had Quinn hold another piece of hair, braiding along the man’s skull, threading the braid carefully. “Well, in Orzammar, they’d tell you surface dwarves become rock wraiths or other ghastly things, but I like to think the Stone recognizes her children, no matter how far they might roam. After all, there is always stone beneath one’s feet,” Bodahn sounded touched that Quinn had even asked. “I’d… appreciate it if you didn’t mention that to anyone in the Merchant’s Guild. They’re mostly Kalnas, and they’re a bit more… traditional in their views. Or else they don’t believe at all.”

Quinn held another bit of hair as Bodahn moved further back along his hair, “You mean.. they believe they are doomed to that awful fate?”

Bodahn sniffed primly, “Not at all. They simply believe that their way of doing things is the only way to secure the favor of the Stone and the Ancestors.”

“Ah,” Quinn wrapped the next piece of his hair around his thumb. “What.. what are,” his voice failed him. “What are… dwarf services like?”

Bodahn had Quinn release the hair he’d set aside, and hold new ones as he moved across the back of Hawke’s skull with his sure, steady fingers. “Well, in Orzammar, usually we entomb them, in cairns or vast vaults. The Nevarrans do something similar I believe. Anyway, once they've been entombed they can join the Ancestors and strengthen the Stone. I imagine it’s similar to one of your folk returning to the Maker’s side.”

Quinn felt a sudden lurch in his stomach. Could his mother really return to the Maker’s side, after what was done to her? His hand trembled as he put tension on his hair. What if she did return to the Maker’s side, would she.. be sent to the Fade looking like that? Would her… soul… her essence… Had it been damaged by Quentin somehow?

“Messere?” Bodahn was finishing up the braid, securing it in place.

“It… it’s nothing,” Quinn managed to say, though it came out sounding like a rather pained gasp.

Bodahn pursed his lips as he started another braid beneath the first—weaving in the damp hair threaded through the first braid, “Maybe another subject, then?”

Quinn swallowed and nodded fractionally, “Yes.” His voice was soft and hollow, even though he felt a scream clawing at his throat. Hawke swallowed it down and he could breathe again.

“There’s another saying we have about hair, you know,” Bodahn tried to keep his tone light. “Well-ordered hair means a well-ordered day.”

Quinn snorted faintly. “Well, I wish it was true for humans.”

Bodahn chuckled nervously, “Ah, well, yes trouble does seem to follow you around, despite your good grooming.”

Quinn shrugged, “Don’t feel bad. It always has. I just hope… not today.” He gulped thickly, hanging onto his hair again.

Bodahn braided along his head, his fingers so sure and nimble, despite their size and age, “I’m sure everyone will be on their best behavior today.”

A humorless smile lifted the corner of Quinn’s mouth, “I think it’s been said that weddings and funerals bring out the worst in people.”

Bodahn gasped, “Messere! What a thing to say.” The dwarf was a bit flustered, but his hands remained steady.

“Sorry,” Quinn wet his lips, a lead weight settling into his stomach now that he’d said the word aloud. ‘Funeral.’ Such a curious magic. Up until now, it hadn’t felt real. His eyes were burning, and he could taste salt at the corner of his mouth. Quinn touched his cheek. Why am I crying when I feel as empty as the Void itself? It was as if admitting the reality of today made him feel less, even as the gravity became solid. He didn’t know what to make of the strange duality of it.

“Now you didn’t mean that, Messere. Everything will go fine today, you’ll see,” but Quinn had meant it, inappropriate as it had been to say. He looked down at the floor, deciding not to argue the point.

Bodahn just managed to make a third braid beneath the first two, and he wove Quinn’s black feather into it, tucking it in along the base of his skull. Then the dwarf finished off the braid, weaving the three braids together into one, over Hawke’s shoulder.  Bodahn’s hands lingered on Quinn’s shoulders for a moment, and Hawke felt so young and small, despite being twice as tall as the older man.

“Would you like to see, Messere?” Quinn held his breath, his heart pounding in his ears, but he nodded. If… if he just looked at his hair. At the back of his head… that would be safe enough. Hawke shifted off the bed and approached his dressing table. He sat with his back towards the mirror. A chill ran up his spine as Bodahn passed him a mirror. He lifted the hand-held glass and gasped. The back of his head was like a masterfully woven net, a trio of Orlesian-style braids weaving down into each other. It was stunning enough Quinn hadn’t realized there was no longer a terrible specter in the glass. His hands shook with relief as he lowered the mirror—it nearly slipped out of his fingers.

Hawke’s voice was thick with emotion as he spoke again, “Thank you Bodahn it’s… beautiful.” He attempted to swallow but between his relief and how deeply he was touched by Bodahn’s gesture, he almost choked.

Bodahn smiled at him, full of all the fondness when the man smiled at Sandal.

Quinn looked down at himself. Still shirtless. He felt naked beyond exposing his chest—as if Bodahn could see into his heart and head. It was an unwelcome, uncomfortable feeling that pushed aside the affection and tenderness he felt towards the man. Maker, what would Bodahn and Orana say if they knew what he’d seen in the mirror? In his mother’s portrait? Hawke swallowed and wet his dry lips, “I suppose I had better finish dressing.” He smiled that humorless smile once again, though he had to fight the very real urge to laugh, “I’ve heard there’s a strict dress code.” He felt bad, for the flash of shock and hurt in Bodahn’s eyes.

Quinn stood up and opened his wardrobe, with all the confidence he had never felt in his life, as though this were an ordinary day. He pulled down the rest of his mourning outfit, slipping into the black silk with remarkable ease, considering he’d needed help to finish shaving.

Quinn wrapped an Amell-red sash around his waist, and he turned to face Bodahn. An easy, false smile rested on his face, though his lips trembled from the effort. He could see the confusion on Bodahn’s face. He wasn’t certain where this bravado had come from either, but he hoped it lasted long enough to get him through this.

He hoped it was enough that people wouldn’t ask him what was wrong with him.

Quinn tried making his smile a bit bigger, and his lips stopped shaking, “I think I’m ready for that charcoal, what do you think, Bodahn? A bit of kohl to finish the look. It’ll add to the mystique.” He turned away from Bodahn, digging in his wardrobe again, pulling out a pair of fancy leather vambraces. They were detailed with fine stitching and embossed with subtle, swirling patterns.  He felt a bit naked, slipping them on without sliding any daggers or knives underneath. He slipped the feathers underneath them where he usually strapped his throwing knives.

Bodahn stepped forward and helped Quinn lace them in place, still looking at Hawke as if he didn’t quite trust the man. Quinn could almost hear the gears turning in Bodahn’s head. ‘Is he mad or simply bereaved?’ I know. I don’t know either, Bodahn. Not that it was.. strictly unusual for Quinn to make jests or jibes—sometimes inappropriate ones, even, but.. rarely were they so ill timed. The dwarf gave Quinntus a rather penetrating stare, but he nodded his head after a moment, “I’ll go get that for you Messere… please try to eat something before I return.”

Quinn nodded, and he walked over to the bed. He lifted a sweet roll to his lips, but it tasted like the soapy ashes in his fireplace. He forced himself to eat it anyway. He tried one of the strawberries on the tray instead but it tasted like bitter clay. He tossed the stem of it into the fireplace as well, to rest beside the bar of soap. Hawke poured himself a little more tea and took another roll. Even if it tasted like sawdust, it was still food, and he could feel his stomach rumble—hopefully in approval.

Quinn sat on the edge of his bed with a sigh. He felt terrible, being so… helpless. He was more used to being the reliable one, taking charge while his family mourned around him. Now that he was alone… he found himself lost and unsure of what to do. There was no one to be strong for, no one to feed, no one to comfort but himself, and Quinn was increasingly aware that he had no idea how to do any of that for himself.

Hawke tried to swallow down his anxiety and wondered what Carver was doing.

They had only received word that he had survived the Joining, but after that… nothing. Despite the regular correspondence Quinn sent his brother. It had complicated things with their mother.

Leandra had been half-convinced Carver had died in service to the Wardens on account of that silence. When she was at her lowest, Quinn held her as she wept and expressed doubt that her youngest son had survived the Joining at all. Sometimes she had been more optimistic, but it didn’t matter. Carver had been as good as dead these past three years.

A letter had arrived the night she died. Short, irritated, and slightly nasty: ‘Been busy with Warden stuff. Keep meaning to write, but some of us don’t have time to write novellas like you, brother, lounging about in Hightown and faffing about with nobles. Some of us have to go into the Deep Roads for months on end. Thanks for that, by the way. I’m fine, stop asking if I’ve died—you tried your best on the expedition but it didn’t work. I’m not going to fall to some bloody darkspawn, even if they are smarter than you. Give mother my love.


PS. Tell her I’m sorry. I’m mad at you, but I don’t want her to worry, I guess.

PPS. I’ve got a chance to be someone here, even if there is a lot of awful and horrific stuff we have to do and the Blight’s already been stopped.

PPPS. Say hello to Gamlen for me too.

PPPPS. Stop worrying about me! I mean it.’

Quinn hadn’t sent a letter in return, for once.

He couldn’t.

Quinn’s fingers shook at the thought of even trying to write such a letter. Maker’s teeth, he needed a drink. He set his mug of tea to one side before he spilled it with his unsteady hands. Gamlen said he’d tell Carver. Quinn’s heart raced a bit. Did his brother know yet? Who was going to look after his brother while he mourned? Quinn bit down on one of his knuckles. What if he sees mother in the Fade? Would Carver be haunted by the same visage as Quinn?

Hawke curled in on himself, and he felt like he was trying to swallow his heart. He could feel his eyes shaking uncontrollably. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this by myself. He was rocking back and forth, pulling his lower lip hard enough with his teeth that the cut on his chin twinged with pain. Quinn leapt to his feet. Just calm down. It can be done after today. It can be over. Just get through today. He paced the room, his face drawn tight. He breathed deeply through his nose. Just a few more hours then you can bury it for good, Quinn. Just a few more hours. He pressed his hands against his face and tried to tell his racing heart to slow.

“Messere?” Bodahn’s voice was soft. Quinn dropped his hands to his side.

“Nothing, just… tired,” Quinn tried smiling at Bodahn and it felt a little easier to fake.

Bodahn nodded, “You might be able to nap, if you wish Serah.” Quinn walked over and took the jar of powdered charcoal from the dwarf.

“Perhaps I’ll rest my eyes once I’ve made them up,” he fluttered his lashes outrageously. Bodahn didn’t smile at all. Quinn looked down at the floor, adopting the tone of a child who expected a scolding, “What is it, Bodahn?” He didn’t like the look the man kept giving him.

“Forgive me Messere I’m just.. surprised to see you… closer to your usual self is all,” Bodahn didn’t sound particularly happy about this development. That look of pity and disappointment sent a hollow thrill of fear through Quinn’s chest.

“I’m fine,” though he was belied by the way his voice wavered and his hands shook. “I can get through today, Bodahn.”

The dwarf inclined his head, “As you say, Messere.”

“I’m perfectly normal,” he stressed again keeping his voice modulated. Quinn coated his thumb in black powder and drew a bold stripe across his whole face. From the outer corner of one eye, over the little dip in bridge of his nose, and across his other eyelid. The stripe ended in the space where his tattoos came around to cup his eyes and cheekbones. He traced over it a few times to even out the application. He blinked several times to get some of the powder off his eyelashes. He closed the lid and passed it back to Bodahn. “Let me know if I need to reapply before we leave.” He brushed his thumb off against his pants, though the powder was barely visible against the black fabric. He had to resist the urge to rub his eyes. His traitorous lashes itched, but he would just have to suffer the discomfort. The last thing Quinn did was slide into a pair of comfortable boots and—after several long moments of consideration—he slid a dagger into each one. It helped him feel less exposed, though his back felt strangely empty without a pair of blades resting there.

Hawke was as ready as he was going to be for this day.

Now he just needed something to do.

For nearly an hour.

“I’m going down to the study,” he announced. There was always correspondence to attend to. He paused at the doorway. “Let me know when it’s time to leave,” there was a risk he might nod off at his desk.

Quinn made his way down the stairs, Bodahn stayed behind in his room. The kind soul was probably tidying up his room. Maker, what’s he going to think of the soap in the fireplace?

Hawke glanced up at the curtain obscuring the statue over the fireplace as he entered his library. He’d hidden it ever since Fenris expressed distaste for it—and the fact that the statue’s eyes followed a body around the room.

Quinn sat down at his writing desk and picked up a letter. They were almost all condolences—most of them insincere. At least half of them were from other noble families who hated the Amells or hated that a refugee Dog-Lord had joined their elite ranks in Hightown. He managed to fish out an older letter. His ‘business partner’ Hubert had been pressing the workers too hard, according to the correspondence from the foreman at the mine. Quinn sighed. Nothing good ever came of that wretched place. He already gave up a good portion of his own share of the profits back to the workers or else to replace equipment. Quinn started a letter to Hubert. He could usually beg off some leniency by offering a share of his share of the monthly profits to the other man. It was just a question of how much. Not that he was hurting for money these days. Even with fancy soaps, fine blades, fine food, and fine clothes, he really didn’t spend a lot of money from month to month. Bodahn and Orana, while well-compensated, were only two people, after all.

Quinn stared down at the parchment, not quite sure what he’d written there. It made about as much sense as the silly, alliterative sentences he would dream up for Fenris and Orana to practice. He pulled another clean sheet of parchment towards himself and started again. He felt a bit terrible that their lessons had been… interrupted. Again.

Quinn finished his letter to Hubert, signing his name at the bottom with a wavering hand. He added an extra flourish under his signature, making sure his hand was steady this time. He sealed it and pressed his seal into the wax, trying not to feel the stab in his heart as the Amell crest cooled and became solid. I bet no one ever thought an apostate’s son would be the head of the Amell family.

Quinn set the letter to one side, leaning back in his chair with a sigh. Maybe they should have gone further up the coast or further inland all those years ago.

Hawke pulled a piece of parchment towards himself. He should probably work on writing down all the niceties about how touched he was by so-and-so’s condolences even though they didn’t make a bloody bit of difference. Quinn knew full well they were insincere and utterly devoid of any true pity—and without any inclination of the horror of what had happened. Maker’s balls there were a lot of them.

Hawke picked up the first one and frowned. It was his neighbor immediately across the way. From what he’s written here, he makes it sound like my mother caught a severe case of pneumonia. He shook his head in disgust. Apparently acknowledging her murder was too uncouth for their Hightown neighbors.

Dear Messere Ahrenburg, he dipped the pen into the inkwell and let it go, watching the stylus bob on the surface of the ink for a moment. He sighed and drew it out, scraping the excess along the lip of the bottle. Thank you for this kind regards in- Hawke hesitated, not sure whose time of grief he should specify. ‘Our’? ‘My’? He dropped the quill on the desk, staring at the parchment. He felt defeated by a single word. Quinn tilted his head and idly watched the ink pool off of his quill on to the wood of the table. He didn’t know what he expected. He’d nearly drowned it in the inkwell, after all. He picked it up and there were streaks left by the stem as well. He busied himself wiping off the desk. It had sat long enough it was sticky and tacky. Then he started straightening and organizing his desk, pulling out writing instruments and nib sharpeners and other odds and ends, only to push them around his desk and dump them back into drawers with a false sense of productivity. He heard the gentlest click of nails and he heard Ser Rascal rushing up to him, and he looked down and saw his hound’s head on his thigh.

Hawke tried to smile, “There you are, did you have a good walk with Sandal?” He stroked the hound behind the ears. “You’re a good mongrel, aren’t you Ser? Every bit as good as a full-blooded mabari, aren’t you?” Ser Rascal had come from a litter of pups he’d saved in his first year in Kirkwall. The last one he couldn’t find a home for, and the biggest handful of the lot. The seller had been a despicable criminal sort, the head of a dog-fighting ring. Before Quinn had put him out of business—at Athenril’s behest—he had tried to pass them off as full blooded mabari offspring. As pups it had been harder to tell, but they had been bred with something else. Possibly a coursing hound, judging by Rascal’s svelteness and longer snout. He was still smarter than most dogs—perhaps too smart sometimes, but Quinn loved the wretched beast anyway. Even when he made life miserable in Gamlen’s little hovel. Quinntus was certain there were still socks of his buried somewhere in that house.

Rascal looked up at him with big golden eyes and whined. “I know. I know… I’m sorry,” he brushed his thumbs along the dog’s cheeks. “I’m sorry,” Quinn whimpered, his voice failing for a moment. Rascal whined softly and pulled away. He padded up the stairs to the library adjacent to the space Quinn set up as his study. “Ser Rascal,” he said the hound’s name quietly, but the beast refused to listen. The stubborn hound was still searching the house for Leandra.

Bodahn cleared his throat at the doorway. Quinn turned around and looked at him. “Bodahn?”

“I think it’s... getting close to the time we should be leaving, Serah,” the man turned another letter over in his hands.

Quinn felt his shoulders go slack, “Already?” Hadn’t he just come down to the study?

“Well if we want to get there on time... it’s nearly midday,” Bodahn looked at him with concern. Sweet Maker. Had it really taken him the better part of an hour to answer a single letter? “Are you... ready, Quinntus?”

Quinn felt like he was moving through water as he stood up. I’m not ready. I thought there would be more time. He nodded, his head stuffed full of wool, “Of course. How is my make-up? Can’t show up to a social function with poor cosmetics you know. Those… Orlesian nobles love to gossip.” His voice sounded flat even to himself. Bodahn hesitated before holding out the letter.

“Another message for you. I think… I think it might be from your brother,” Bodahn held it out gingerly, as if he already regretted his words. “I don’t know if you wanted to read it now or… or wait.”

Quinn felt like he had been struck by an ogre. His hand was heavy as he reached out for the parchment. He took the missive. He turned it over in his hands several times. It was most assuredly his brother’s hand. Seeing his name in Carver’s penmanship felt like an accusation. ‘Why are you still here, and not her?’

Quinn broke the seal and opened the letter. His heart stopped several times in his chest.

He could see where his brother had started the letter several times over, hesitant quill marks and stricken words littered the missive. He could barely make out Gamlen’s name and ‘letter’ and ‘mother’ as well as a few crossed out recriminations. At bottom of the letter were the only two clear words—

What happened?

Quinn tried to pull air into his lungs, a dull pain aching within his breast, and the parchment fluttered out of his grasp. The smell of the foundry was all around him, inescapable, sickening. He shook his head faintly, his entire body trembling hard. Hawke swallowed back some bile that was burning in his throat.

He had told Gamlen that night, the words coming out flat and hollow. He had told his uncle too much.

He couldn’t speak of it anymore. He could scarcely speak of her at all. His throat simply locked up, choked by an invisible hand.

He couldn’t tell Carver. He couldn’t. Not now. Possibly not ever.

Quinn looked down and realized he was clutching his chest. He let his shirt go and tried to smooth it back in place.

“I suppose we should... be leaving,” Quinntus hesitated. “Sandal… will he… be alright without you? He’s been… very upset.” Hawke wasn’t going to drag Orana or Sandal to this dreadful affair. Orana had seen too much death already, the death of her own father likely too near. He wasn’t sure Sandal would be alright seeing the funeral pyre and… everything that went with it.

Quinn wasn’t sure he was going to be alright seeing it.

Bodahn rubbed his beard—now impeccably brushed and braided, “Let me go talk to him once more, Messere, and I’ll meet you at the door, how does that sound?”

Hawke nodded silently and made his way into the foyer and the entrance, still struck by the sensation that he was swimming.

He left Carver’s letter on the floor of the study.            

He leaned heavily against the wall, just next to the door, resting his brow on his forearm.

It wasn’t long before Hawke felt the gentle touch of Bodahn’s hand on his lower back. Quinn slowly stood up and looked down.

“Shall we?” Bodahn gestured towards the door.

It occurred to Quinntus that he hadn’t left the house since that night.

His palms felt sweaty at the thought of leaving his home, his sanctum. His heart was thundering in his chest again, but he pulled the door open—or tried to.

“Ah, I think the latch needs to be undone,” Bodahn said the words kindly and reached up to pull on the chain to unlatch the heavy door and open it up.

The sun was bright, and Quinn fought the urge to shield his eyes. He hadn’t seen sunlight in at least a full sevenday. He blinked fiercely as his eyes watered and he prayed that his kohl wouldn’t become streaked.

Hightown was as busy as ever, but he could hear people whispering. He could feel them staring, but no one stopped to greet him.

His skin suddenly tingled where he had smeared the dark pigment and he felt the urge to wipe it all off.

Instead, Quinn touched his braids, and made sure the feather was still there. He gritted his teeth from side to side and held his head up higher. Let them point and stare.

They all knew where he was going, even without his garb.