He sat upon the horse, watching the sloping hills and towering trees pass as he rode. The sun hung high above in the crisp blue sky with no clouds in sight. None of that fought away the frown on the young man’s face. Especially the horse riding part. He hated horses. He also hated Fereldan and being out in the burning sun for long periods of time. He was from the Anderfels. He burned easily.
“Stop pouting,” an elderly voice said beside him and he cringed farther into the coat he wore, trying to hide in the fur lining. “Many would be honored to be in your spot, Anders.”
“Yes well, you should have sent one of them Wynne.”
She rolled her eyes. “I have met him Anders. Your life will not be as horrible as you think.”
Anders always wondered when Wynne would snap, old age and stress finally getting to the old broad. The fact that it happened on their little march through Fereldan was just his luck. Fereldan had once been the small back end country of Orlais. A large open expanse that was more uncharted than civilized. Orlais had tentatively claimed it, but had not the resources to do anything with it. Instead it filled with clans and tribes. None of which bowed to Orlais, but that was inconsequential at the time to anybody who even knew the fact.
One tribe leader, Maric Theirin had risen high carrying with him a large tribe. He began unifying the lands beneath his banner. Of course, Orlais took note, eventually. In the squabble between them Maric and his first born were killed. In fact many of his tribe were killed and the Fereldan tribes nearly split. Except Orlais was beginning to worry over it. And that meant they were making their presence known. Soldiers sent into the cold lands with cruel intent. Soldiers meant to bend the tribes to the will of the Queen.
The Hawkes swooped in then. Saved what was left of the Theirins and pulled back enough to gain time from the assault. While Alistair was Theirin’s son, it was Amery Hawke that led the second attack. Alistair at the front for show and Hawke behind him in the shadows, truly leading it.Orlais was pushed back however and had yet to try a third attempt on the land. Still, war had not ended. The tribes began to split. Alistair continued to look to Hawke for support and Loghain, Maric’s right hand man, called Hawke an usurper with Alistair under his thumb. The tribes began to split again.
It was here that Hawke truly surpassed all others. He rose to the top, standing firm in the chaos and reinforced all those loyal to him. He then pushed Loghain back, bringing many of the rival tribes, or aloof clans that still were on the fringes, under his sway. He was a warlord in the truest sense of the word. Leading his men through battles, conquering much land in his short time of ruling. He terrified everybody. That was why Anders was being carried across the land to be given to him. Fereldan wasn’t known for it’s great expanse of mages and Anders, the prodigal mage from Anderfels, was being carried over as a gift.
Which was the problem. It was going from one gilded cage to another. Or, one gilded cage to one that smelled of wet dog and mud. And now his cage was also one warlord of a man. Anders wasn’t sure how Hawke could not be bad. He was a barbaric, smelly, warrior. Probably as bright as a brick wall. Anders burrowed deeper into his coat and continued to pout. Wynne gave up with a loud sigh, pushing her horse ahead to avoid him. Anders made a face at her from behind his coat. It didn’t help anybody’s mood that they were getting closer. They knew because they could see the warriors making their way around them. A few had been present since they arrived for protection. But more and more seemed to be filtering around.
The one in front, Aveline, glanced back and announced with a point upon the hill, “We are here.” Anders nearly fell off the horse. They were close but he hadn’t expected- where was everybody? Wynne easily moved back beside him. She met his eye before glancing to all the hills. Anders looked closer. It was with effort that he saw them. All crouched and laying upon the hills. Some standing along the trees with arrows. More possibly in the trees.
They would all be shot down before too many of the warriors surrounding them were even singed, Anders realized. Hawke’s trust was also exemplary, but Anders was more worried about all the arrows trained on them. He dismounted slowly, trying to always look like he wasn’t going to cast anything. Wynne snickered at him. Aveline led them up the hill and he saw the expanse of yurts set up. There were plenty of people about, watching. Women and children by the fires. Mabari’s lay about, raising their heads and staring. Many getting up and following as their group headed to the largest home.
Sitting in front of it was Hawke. He sat hunched over the fire, a fur thrown over his shoulders as he prodded at the flames. The man’s hair a cherry wood brown, shining red against the fire, and a complete wavy mess as it fell down his neck. His bright honey brown eyes glanced up once, assessing them, before going back to the apparently oh so interesting fire. To his left was a barrel chested young man that wore the furs and leather armor that they were known for. Black hair smoothed back and braided. Same golden eyes as Hawke. And to Hawke’s right was an equally big man, golden hair tousled perfectly, as if planned to be such, a charming smile on his face that lit up his blue eyes. Aveline moved to stand off beside that one, shoulders squared.
Anders went over the group and wondered what was in the water to make everybody so damn big. Aveline was not dwarfed by any of them, he thought with a frown. Wynne stepped forward with a gentle smile. “Greetings, Sers. I am glad to bring you Anderfel’s offering of peace.” Anders glanced at the tomes in the chest beside him before back at the Fereldan’s.
None of them did much, though the blonde’s face brightened even more. He was such an anomaly in the group of sticks. The black haired man spoke up. “Here I thought they’d bring you a woman, Brother.”
Hawke didn’t even look up. “They didn’t? I assumed with the pretty dress and all- I mean, she’s formless but we can’t expect much from Anderfels can we?”
Good to know they were original, Anders thought with no amusement. Anders snorted, all of them looking at him. He did not shrink away. Especially when Hawke looked up with a raise of his brows. The man was large, the expanse of his shoulders under the blanket said as much. But Anders was no dainty flower, no matter what they thought. He was tall and had bulk enough to match it. At least, to not look a twig. He met the stare evenly. He wouldn’t outright ruin the chances here but he didn’t have to be happy.
Then Hawke stood and Anders had to eat his words. With him stood the other two as well. None of them shorter than Anders. But Hawke stood above him, shoulders even seeming to expand as he dropped the blanket and stretched. The man was a wall, Anders thought as his earlier comment came to mind. Shoulders like battering rams, arms thick with corded muscle. He too wore armor and fur, but there was no doubt that under that Hawke was hard as the steel he wielded. Anders swallowed. He was dainty flower in comparison.
Hawke jerked his chin at the chest of tomes and Aveline walked forward, flipping it open and thumb through them a bit. She glanced back and nodded. “To Bethany’s yurt then,” he said and she hoisted the chest up with a bit of a grunt before marching off. Anders was fairly happy not all the women were like her. Because she could probably break him in half. Anders knew that chest wasn’t exactly filled with feathers. He looked back to Hawke, who was eyeing him. “And him, he’s not going to be trouble?”
Anders almost got indignant, being talked about like he was an object. Wynne was quick to quiet Hawke’s fears while he puffed and pouted. “Anders is quite happy to be here.”
Hawke snorted as Anders glared at her. “I can see that.” Hawke shrugged however. “Doesn’t matter. I am honored to have received your offerings. You may return to Anderfels knowing that I shall not follow you.” Wynne smiled with a nod. “For tonight, we celebrate our guests and the alliance!”
Anders jumped a bit as the entire encampment cheered, fists in the air. The noise level was enough to shake a person. He glanced over to see Hawke grinning over it all. Food was brought out to be hung over the fire and passed around. Drums, flutes, and mandolins found places on the laps of the Fereldans. Hawke sat at the front, lounging and large. His brother, Carver to his side, and at Anders glance he said something that earned him a slap over the head by Hawke. Beside him was a curvacious, if not a bit dainty looking next to the men, Bethany who giggled as Carver yelped. Alistair was on the other side, stuffing his mouth with cheese and meat.
Anders, for his part, remained with his group. He wasn’t particularly fond of Jowan or Wynne or any of the others. But he’d take the safety of their normalcy over all of that.Wynne was at ease, but she had been here before. For negotiations. The others were mostly like him. Only a small troop had been sent in before, with Wynne. Some women brought the food around along with the buttered ale. For once he remained quiet, watching the entire place as it got wilder. He retired with the rest of them, following Wynne when she made her way to the yurt given to them. He wasn’t quite ready to give up on them. To be alone yet.
He settled into the thing they called beds here, mostly just furs and blankets, and glanced up when Wynne sat on the ‘end’ of it. “Anders, I know it seems like we’re throwing you to the wolves. That this seems like an attempt by Gregoir to get rid of you.”
“Seems? As if it wasn’t?”
“You were a problem child, Anders. But no, Gregoir actually didn’t want to send you. Didn’t really trust you out here, I think. But it was very important to send somebody worth something to Hawke and his horde. You are a prodigy. You have great skill Anders. You have power and you have the control. And you are young.”
“Good to know Hawke likes them supple, Wynne. Thank you.”
She sighed, summoning on her patience. “You had to be younger because we couldn’t be sending somebody my age, Anders. It would seem like we were just handing off the next corpse to him.”
Anders pursed his lips and frowned. “Lots of thoughts went into this huh?”
“Anders- everybody was terrified when Hawke’s horde was seen around the borders. Nobody wants a war with him. Especially not Anderfels. We are not fit for war. Not anytime soon. We have mages but that is about all.”
Anders still couldn’t work up the empathy to not be displeased with what was happening. It must have showed on his face because Wynne gave another large sigh before standing and returning to her furs. Anders burrowed deeper beneath his own, curling around himself and pouting. He already missed Mr. Wiggums.