Spring was in the air. The trees were budding, tender new shoots were sprouting in the garden and grass was turning green all over the forest. It was close to midday and Anders was expecting Fenris and Brit home any moment. Fenris had gone to Honnleath for a few things they needed and after her lessons Brit had gone into the forest. She was ten now and spent as much time exploring the woods surrounding the farm as she did reading books.
Anders didn’t worry about her much. She was just as powerful a mage as he was. Cecil was always with her as well. She had come home with the injured Mabari pup about two years ago, begging him to heal it. He still didn’t know just where she’d found him, but the pup had imprinted on her and they were inseparable. Stripes the cat hadn’t been very fond of him to start with but soon grew to like him. Ser-Pounce-a-Lot had died in his sleep before Cecil had joined the family. There had been many emotions from himself and Brit. He still missed Pounce sometimes.
He looked to the path from Honnleath and it was still empty. The forest to his right was clear and unbroken as well. Lunch would be cold if they didn’t hurry. Anders stepped off of the porch and headed for the forest.
“Brit!” he called out. “Lunch!”
“Papa! Come quick.” It was faint but definitely Brit. Anders broke into a run.
“Where are you?”
“Over here Papa Anders.” She sounded closer and he hurried towards it.
Cecil bounded around a tree not too far from him, barking. He turned a circle and darted off with Anders close on his heels. It didn’t take very long to reach her in a small clearing. She was kneeling on the ground and her back was to him. He saw another pair of legs stretched out on the ground in front of her and hurried to the other side.
“Who have you found sweetie?” Anders asked as he knelt down.
“I don’t know Papa. He’s hurt,” she said clearly concerned.
“Why haven’t you healed him?” he asked. Anders looked over the human boy and found he had a broken leg and arm. They had been set properly and he felt a small surge of pride.
“I can’t! I tried to but it didn’t work,” Brit said. Now she sounded worried as well as concerned.
Anders reached out to his magic and held his hand above the boy’s broken arm. He arched an eyebrow as he felt the magic dissipate before it reached its target. Letting his magic die he looked up at Brit.
“I need you to go to the house and bring me some bandages. He must have an anti-magic charm or something.”
Brit nodded and ran for the house, her long blonde braid flying out behind her. Cecil stood in indecision for a moment before he flapped his hands at the dog in a shooing motion. He tore off after Brit and Anders stood to find a couple of sturdy sticks. It didn’t take long to find two that were the right length and about an inch thick.
He laid the sticks next to the boy’s arm and leg and sat back to wait. Anders looked him over more thoroughly. Aside from scrapes and bruises he appeared to be in good health. His breathing was strong and steady and his pupils were the same size when Anders pulled up his eyelids.
Thinking the boy looked vaguely familiar, Anders studied his face. A square jaw, strong nose and rather large eyes, this boy would be ruggedly handsome when he came into manhood. He could be no older than twelve summers and his dark brown hair stuck up in spikes all over his head. His eyes had been the pale blue of winter ice. He was thin but looked strong. Anders thought that he was probably the son of a farmer but didn’t recognize him from around the village.
Anders looked up as Brit crashed through the bushes, her arms piled high with strips of cloth, Cecil close at her side. She knelt down and piled the cloth on the boy’s torso.
“Come over here sweetie, I’m going to need your help,” Anders said.
She whispered something to Cecil and the Mabari bounded off through the forest. Brit stood and moved to kneel next to him, looking up expectantly for instruction.
“I need you to hold the stick and I’ll tie it on his leg,” he said.
“What’s the stick for Papa?” she asked.
“It’s to support his leg while the bones heal. Keep it straight so they don’t heal crooked.” Anders said as he wrapped the cloth bandages around the stick and the boy’s ankle just above his shoes. He tied them tight and wrapped more cloth just below and just above his knee, keeping the joint immobile. They moved to his arm and Anders tied bandages around his elbow and at his wrist. He tied a bandage around the end of the stick on his upper arm.
“Now,” he said satisfied with his work. “Where’s Fenris?”
“Here,” Fenris said coming out of the bushes, Cecil ahead of him. “Another stray?”
“Papa!” Brit exclaimed. “He’s hurt!”
“I see that. Why have you not healed him?” Fenris asked kneeling next to Anders.
Anders kissed him on the cheek before saying, “I think he’s got some sort of anti-magic amulet. Do you recognize him?”
Fenris studied the boy and frowned. “He looks familiar but I do not know him.”
“Well, let’s get him to the house. Then we can eat, I’m starved,” said Anders.
Fenris moved to the boy’s head and gently lifted his torso. Anders supported his legs, trying not to jostle the broken one. Brit walked along beside and supported his outstretched arm. It was a long slow walk but they finally made it to the house. They set him gently on the floor.
“Brit, go get some of the spare blankets and make a pallet in the corner,” Anders said.
“Yes Papa Anders,” she said.
She disappeared in the hallway. Cecil panted in the doorway and Fenris was still crouched over the boy. Anders checked his knots and they were fine. The breaks were still set well and he finally looked at his nervous lover.
“What’s wrong love?” he asked quietly.
Fenris looked up at him and shook his head. “This boy looks so familiar…but I cannot place him.”
Brit came back with two blankets. She folded them lengthwise and spread them out on the floor, rolling one end for a makeshift pillow. Fenris and Anders shifted him to the blankets. They all straightened and stood around him. Anders slipped his arm around Fenris’ waist. Fenris smiled at him and put his arm around Anders’ waist. Brit wrung her hands in worry.
“Will he be okay?” she asked.
“We’ll just have to wait until he wakes up sweetie. I’m sure he’s fine,” Anders soothed.
“Come,” Fenris said with a troubled look on his face as he stared at the boy. “Let us eat.”
“There are chores to do too. He does look so familiar though,” said Anders.
“He doesn’t look very familiar to me,” said Brit looking up at them. “Can I leave Cecil here with him? So he’s not alone if he wakes up?”
“That is a good idea little one. Cecil can let us know if he wakes,” Fenris said.
“Come on,” said Anders. “The chores won’t do themselves.”
They were all outside working at various things around the farm. Anders was hanging laundry to dry and Brit carefully picked her way among the new plants in the garden. Fenris was splitting some of the firewood they had gathered. Neither of the mages showed their distress but Fenris could see it.
It bothered both of them that they hadn’t been able to heal the boy. The small frown Anders wore plus the stiff way he held his shoulders spoke volumes to Fenris. Anders was still the best healer he knew, though it was mainly used on injured animals Brit brought home before she managed to cast the spell herself. This bothered Fenris too. What could a boy be doing with such an artifact?
That wasn’t the only thing that bothered him about the boy either. Fenris was positive he knew him, but just couldn’t place him. Since he went to the village often, he knew just about everyone there. The boy did not belong in Honnleath. What was he doing out in the forest? Where were his parents? How did he get injured? There were too many questions and no answers.
He knew better than to argue with them though. The boy would be a guest until he either healed or his parents came looking. His compassion was one of the things he treasured about Anders but sometimes it frustrated him. Taking in a stray child was much different than a stray Mabari pup, especially when they knew so little about him.
Fenris leaned the axe against the chopping block and gathered the pieces. He added them to the pile at the side of the house and waited for Anders to hang his last shirt. Anders had finally convinced him that wearing his armor all the time was unnecessary and he wore simple tunics and trousers now.
Cecil stood at the doorway of the house and began barking just as Anders stood next to him with the basket in his hands. They exchanged a look and walked towards the house. Brit looked up and ran for the door. Even though Fenris and Anders were closer, Brit beat them to the house.
Fenris followed her into the house and leaned on the table. Anders set the basket on the table and went to the cupboard. Brit knelt beside the boy and began firing questions at him. “Are you all right? Where are you from? What where you doing out in the woods? How did you get hurt?” she said in a rush.
“Brit,” Anders said when she drew a breath. “It’s only polite to let him answer a question before you ask another.”
She sat back on her heels and the tips of her ears turned pink. “I’m sorry Papa Anders.”
The boy had sat up and was looking warily from Anders to Brit and his gaze settled on Anders. Anders knelt beside Brit and offered the boy a glass of water. He took it cautiously and sniffed before gulping it down.
“How are you feeling?” Anders asked. His voice was gentle and soothing.
The boy relaxed a tiny bit. “Hurts,” he said.
Anders nodded and said, “It’s going to for a while. What’s your name?”
The boy looked around nervously again. His eyes settled on Fenris for a moment, looking curiously at the lyrium brands that were visible on his chin, neck and hands. Fenris arched and eyebrow at him and said, “Name?”
“Gawain Archer,” he said blushing. After a brief pause he added “Ser.”
“I am no knight,” Fenris said tersely.
This earned him an annoyed look from both mages. “The grumpy elf over there is Fenris. I’m Anders and this is Brit,” Anders said looking back at Gawain. “Brit found you in the woods. Where are your parents?”
“My Mum’s dead, got sick about a year ago. I don’t know who my Da is,” he said flatly.
“Who takes care of you?” Brit asked.
“I take care of myself,” he said defensively.
Fenris snorted. “Stop lying boy. You are too healthy to have lived on the streets for a year by yourself.”
“Papa!” Brit exclaimed glaring at him.
Anders turned and also leveled a glare at him. “Fenris,” he said warningly.
He held his hands up in surrender. “I will be quiet.”
“Thank you,” Anders said shortly. He turned back around and Gawain was watching them with narrowed eyes. “He could have put it a nicer way but you really don’t need to lie. We just want to help you.”
He looked at Anders and sighed. “Chantry sisters took me in,” he said softly. “In Redcliffe. But I ran away!”
“Is that what you were doing in the woods? Hiding from the Sisters?” Anders asked gently.
“Yes,” he said sullenly. “Couldn’t stand all that preaching, what’s their Maker ever done for me?” He suddenly sounded bitter.
“You won’t find any sympathy for the Chantry here Gawain,” Anders said with a smile.
“How did you get hurt?” Brit asked.
“Must have fallen out of the tree,” he said blushing.
Brit stifled a giggle and Fenris smiled. Anders shook his head. “You’re much better off sleeping in the bushes if you want to hide. I’ve fallen out of a few trees running from Templars.”
Gawain’s eyes widened a bit. “You’re a mage?” he asked almost reverently.
Anders nodded. “So is Brit. I’d like to heal you but you seem to have an enchanted item that’s stopping my magic.”
He pressed a hand to something under his shirt. “You can’t have it! It’s all I got of Mum,” he said.
“Can we just see it Gawain?” Anders asked.
Gawain slowly nodded and pulled on a fine silverite chain around his neck. The amulet came into view and Brit gasped. Fenris stepped forward to get a better look. A beautiful red stone set into a diamond shaped silverite pendant. A rune was carved into the stone.
“How pretty!” Brit exclaimed. “Where did your Mama get it?”
“She said it was from my Da. Mum didn’t like it very much,” he said.
“If your mother did not like it why did she keep it?” Fenris asked, unable to stay silent.
“I asked her that once. She said she wasn’t going to sell my payment or something like that,” he said with a shrug.
Fenris frowned. This boy was an important man’s bastard son. “Where is your mother from?”
“Kirkwall, in the Free Marches,” he said sounding confused. “What does that have to do with Mum’s pendant?”
He exchanged a worried look with Anders. “How old are you?” Fenris asked trying to keep his voice neutral.
Fenris studied the boy’s face again. He imagined the hair shorter and a shade lighter. Fenris then pictured his nose broken and set badly. With the square jaw and his pale blue eyes, the boy was a perfect little imitation of Hawke. He watched Anders eyes grow wide and knew he’d seen the similarity as well.
Brit looked first at Anders then up at him. “Papa, is something wrong?”
“No,” he said tension clear in his voice. “A word outside please Anders.”
Fenris felt Gawain’s eyes on him as he walked to the door. He turned and saw Anders whispering instructions to Brit before he stood and followed. Pausing at the doorway, he gave Cecil a scratch. “Stay with Brit,” he said softly.
Cecil barked once and sauntered in to lay next to Brit. Fenris left the house and paced in the front yard. Anders soon joined him, leaning on the porch rail, watching him pace.
“What are we going to do?” Fenris asked.
“Why do we have to do anything,” Anders said. “Yes it’s very likely he’s Hawke’s son but it doesn’t really mean much.”
“Hawke is still alive! The boy is not an orphan!”
Anders stepped forward and stopped his pacing by wrapping his arms around Fenris’ shoulders. He spoke quietly in his ear. “Gawain might as well be love. Hawke is still locked up in Fort Drakon. He has nowhere to go.”
“You wish to let him stay here,” Fenris sighed in frustration.
“Yes I do.”
“I know. We’ll keep an eye on him but he seems like a good lad. Just a little down on his luck.”
Fenris was torn. He knew Anders was right. The boy truly had nowhere to go. It still made him uneasy and he wasn’t sure why. Other than his parentage, which really had nothing to do with the boy, he’d done nothing. Fenris shook his head.
He turned in Anders’ arms and rested his hands on Anders’ hips. “You are correct. I will go speak with Ser Martin.”
Anders leaned forward and kissed him briefly. “Thank you love.”
Anders watched Fenris jog down the path for a moment before turning back to the house. Brit and Gawain were still on the floor but she sat next to him with Cecil sprawled out next to her with his head in her lap. Gawain was trying to inhale the sandwich Brit had made for him.
“Slow down Gawain!” she exclaimed sounding slightly worried. “You’re going to choke!”
Gawain shook his head and swallowed. “But I’m really hungry.”
“You can have another if you’re still hungry but do slow down,” Anders said.
They both looked up at the sound of his voice. Gawain nodded reluctantly and slowed down just a bit. At least he isn’t going to choke, thought Anders with a sigh. Anders took the water glass and refilled it. He handed the glass to Brit before sitting at the table. They watched Gawain eat until he licked the crumbs off of his fingers and drank the glass of water in a few gulps.
“Thank you,” said Gawain.
“You’re welcome,” Anders said.
“Can he stay Papa?” Brit asked.
“Well, he’s not going anywhere until his leg and arm are healed one way or another,” Anders said looking at Gawain.
“All I have to do is take Mum’s pendant off?” he asked nervously.
“That’s all. I promise you can put it right back on when I’m done,” Anders reassured him.
Gawain looked from Anders to Brit. She smiled and nodded. “I’ll hold on to it for you,” she said.
He nodded and pulled the pendant off and reluctantly handed it to her. She looked it over curiously. Anders stood and then knelt on the floor next to him. His hands were surrounded by blue light immediately. Soon the bones were knitted together again and Anders stood and sat back down at the table.
Gawain grinned as Brit handed him back the pendant. “Thank you! That feels much better,” he said.
“Can I take the bandages off Papa?” Brit asked.
Anders nodded and she pushed Cecil’s head off of her lap. He huffed sleepily and sat up. Brit began untying knots and winding the bandages. Gawain watched her silently as he tucked the pendant back into his shirt. Anders filled the teapot and heated it with his magic. He put the leaves in to steep and got three cups and set them on the table with the honey.
“You might be a little sore for a few days,” Anders said when Gawain flexed his arm and winced a little. “Come and have some tea when you’re finished. We have a few things to discuss.”
Gawain looked up at him nervously. “I haven’t done something wrong have I?” he asked.
Anders chuckled. “No nothing like that.”
Brit handed the sticks to Cecil. “Take these outside please,” she said to him. Cecil stood immediately and ran for the door, dragging the sticks behind him. She turned to Anders with her arms full of the bandages. “The wash basket?”
He nodded and she disappeared down the hall. Gawain pushed himself to his feet and gingerly tested his weight on the leg that had been broken. He walked stiffly but without limping to sit across from Anders at the table. Cecil came back inside and got comfortable on the pallet they had made for Gawain.
Anders lifted the lid on the teapot and checked to see if it was ready. He poured some in all three cups and spooned some honey into his then passed it to Gawain. To Anders he seemed nervous as he stirred the honey into his tea. Brit came back and sat just as Anders began to speak.
“You’re welcome to stay here if you want Gawain,” he said kindly.
“Thanks but…I was trying to find my father,” Gawain said hesitantly.
“Do you know anything about your father Gawain?” Anders asked.
“I know he’s a noble in Kirkwall. Mum always said I look just like him, so...,” he trailed off.
Anders sat silently for a moment and sipped his tea. From what Gawain had told them already Hawke had had no interest in the boy. He’d given Gawain’s mother the amulet to keep her quiet and at some point she’d moved them to Redcliffe. Even if Hawke had still been in Kirkwall Gawain would have been sent away or given to the chantry. Hawke being a templar, Anders thought the chantry would have been the more likely option.
“Gawain,” Anders said frowning slightly. “Fenris and I think we know who your father is.”
“Really!” Gawain said excitedly.
“Don’t get your hopes up. He’s not in Kirkwall anymore. He’s locked up in Fort Drakon. We knew him when we were in Kirkwall, followed him,” Anders said. He felt their eyes on him and suddenly he was nervous. Anders studied the bottom of his cup and said quietly, “We think your father is Kain Hawke, The Champion of Kirkwall.”
“The Champion of Kirkwall,” Gawain said flatly. “The Champion of Kirkwall? And he’s in Fort Drakon?”
Anders nodded finally looking up. “He became a templar and chased Fenris and Brit here. Hawke was caught trying to take Brit and I back to the Gallows in Kirkwall and was locked up for the murder of some Sage Knights,” he explained. After a moment Anders added softy, “You really do look just like him. What do they teach about him?”
“Saved the city from Qunari, annulled the circle after one of his companions destroyed the chantry there…mage companion.” Gawain fell silent and Anders watched his eyes widen. “You traveled with him?”
“Yes. I healed him after the Arishok nearly gutted him…ungrateful bastard that he was.” Anders couldn’t tell if it was fear or awe in his eyes.
“Oh…wow. So you…?” Gawain trailed off again.
“Destroyed the chantry? Yes,” Anders said sadly.
“Don’t be scared,” Brit said suddenly. “Papa’s not like that now.”
There was a brief but tense silence. Suddenly Gawain began giggling. Anders, confused, said, “What’s so funny?”
“The…the sisters,” Gawain said between fits of laughter. He took a deep breath and continued speaking. “The way the sisters tell it, you should have two heads, horns, a tail and claws.” He burst into fresh giggles.
Brit looked over at Anders and burst into laughter. Anders couldn’t help but smile as the tension faded as quickly as it had appeared. He let the children laugh while he poured himself another cup of tea. “So I guess you’re not scared of me?” he asked with a smile.
Gawain shook his head. “You’ve been very kind when almost no one else has.”
“Stay with us Gawain,” Brit said, trying to convince him. “Maybe Papa Anders can ask Ser Martin about you seeing your Papa.”
“Who is Ser Martin?” Gawain asked.
“One of the Sage Knights stationed in Honnleath,” answered Anders.
“Could you?” he asked hopefully.
“It wouldn’t hurt to try I suppose,” Anders said. “How about you give us an answer tomorrow? It’s a little late to really go anywhere and I’d like you to go easy on your leg at least.”
“I…guess that’s fair. I am sort of tired,” Gawain said.
“Yay!!!” Brit exclaimed excitedly. “Come on, I’ll show you the farm.”
She stood and pulled him up. Cecil’s ears perked up at her excited cry and he jumped up and ran out the door after them. Anders followed more slowly. He picked up Stripes from the rocking chair and sat. Stripes settled on his lap and Anders ran his fingers over his soft fur, watching the children.
Brit was happy. Not many of the village children would talk to her. Anders thought that they were frightened of her. Gawain was not. He knew she was a mage but he didn’t seem to care. Earlier he’d seemed almost in awe of them and that made Anders wonder. Gawain was definitely a mystery, but seeing Brit excited and happy made Anders smile.
Fenris walked up the path beside Ser Martin. When he’d told him about who they thought Gawain’s father was Ser Martin had insisted on coming to see the boy for himself. He also wanted to look at Gawain’s pendant. They stepped off the path and into the front yard. Anders was in the rocking chair on the porch and the children were sitting under a tree talking. Ser Martin headed towards them and Anders had stood and was heading towards them as well.
Brit tugged Gawain to his feet as they approached. Anders fell in beside him and Fenris threaded their fingers together, smiling at him. “Is everything all right?” Anders asked quietly.
“He wished to see Gawain,” Fenris said just as quietly. “He did say the boy could stay though.”
Gawain looked nervous. Anders pulled him off to the side, leaving Ser Martin and the children facing each other. Brit smiled at Gawain and grabbed his hand before turning to speak to Ser Martin. Fenris thought that some of the tension in the boy’s shoulders left at her simple gesture of kindness.
“Good afternoon Ser Martin,” Brit said politely.
“Hello Brit,” he said cheerfully. “Care to introduce your new friend.”
“This is Gawain Archer. I found him unconscious and hurt in the woods this morning,” she said.
“I see Anders has fixed him up. Hello Gawain, I’m Ser Martin,” he said studying Gawain.
“Hel…hello…Ser,” Gawain stammered.
Ser Martin knelt in front of Gawain, armor clanking as he settled on one knee. “There’s no need to be frightened,” he said soothingly. “I’d like to see the pendant Fenris told me about.”
Gawain looked over at Fenris and Anders. Anders smiled and nodded at him and Gawain reluctantly pulled it out of his shirt. Ser Martin pulled off his gauntlets and set them across his thigh. Without making Gawain take it off, he gently lifted the pendant and looked it over carefully.
“Are you a mage Gawain?” he asked still looking at the pendant.
“I don’t think so Ser,” Gawain answered nervously.
“Nothing strange that you can’t explain ever happens? Like freezing things, setting fires, suddenly feeling better, a little ball of light appearing out of nowhere…things like that.”
“No Ser,” Gawain said with more confidence.
Ser Martin let the pendant fall gently against Gawain’s chest. “Keep that tucked under your shirt all right. Don’t let Anders or Brit touch it either,” Ser Martin said seriously.
“Why?” Anders asked sharply.
“There’s a powerful enchantment on it. Dispels most low level spells, harmless for a non-mage but there’s something else. I can’t quite tell what it is but it’s triggered by a mage’s touch. So better safe than sorry until I can research it a bit,” he said looking up at Anders.
“Brit’s already touched it,” Anders said ominously. “When he took it off so I could heal him.”
“I only touched the chain!” she said nervously. “I never actually touched the pendant. Am I going to be all right?”
“You’ll be fine Brit,” Ser Martin said placing a hand on her shoulder. “Just make sure you don’t handle it in the future.”
“What about me?” Fenris asked.
Ser Martin looked up at Fenris and said, “It would probably be better if you didn’t. Who knows what effect all that lyrium would have?”
Gawain looked up at Fenris. “Lyruim?” he said quietly. Brit whispered in his ear and he nodded, looking up at Fenris curiously. “So you knew him too?”
Fenris didn’t need to ask who Gawain was referring too. “Yes, I knew him,” he said. Turning to Ser Martin, Fenris asked, “Is it truly all right for him to keep such an artifact?”
“He’s already worn it for a year,” Ser Martin said. He looked at Gawain and added, “Correct?”
“Yes Ser,” Gawain said quietly.
“Nothing has happened. This is just a precaution until I can do some research.” Ser Martin stood as Gawain tucked the pendant back into his shirt. “It was nice to meet you Gawain. Brit.”
Ser Martin turned and walked away from the children. Anders followed him and pulled Fenris along. “I’m sure Fenris has told you he can stay,” Ser Martin said quietly. “I will write the Queen immediately. She’ll want to know. If Gawain is truly Hawke’s son, then they are related.”
“Maker, I never thought of that,” Anders said.
“Will she want to meet him?” asked Fenris.
“Who knows? The resemblance is truly remarkable. I’ll see you both later in the week,” Ser Martin said. He turned to the path and was soon out of sight.
They turned and began walking back toward the house. Fenris waved for Brit and Gawain to come in and they followed. Anders began supper and Fenris told the children tales of Hawke, at Gawain’s request. He left nothing out, good or bad. Fenris began with how he’d met Hawke, Anders briefly told them of his meeting, and ended with his imprisonment in Fort Drakon. Gawain listened intently but Fenris couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
The next day Gawain stayed. May, Ser Martin’s wife, brought some things for him. Things like extra clothes, a proper pillow and another blanket that he shyly accepted. That morning, while Brit and Anders were busy with their magic, Gawain watched Fenris practice with his sword. He watched the second day and the third he asked Fenris to teach him to use a greatsword.
Even though he was still uneasy with having Gawain living with them, Fenris agreed. He wasn’t the only one teaching Gawain however. Brit discovered that he didn’t know how to read very well and she began working with him after their chores were done.
The children were soon the best of friends and were almost inseparable. Fenris watched him closely for the first few days but soon discovered that his worry was unfounded. They played games like tag or hide and seek with Cecil but Gawain was never rough with her. He wasn’t condescending towards her either. The fact that she was an elf and he was not just didn’t matter to him.
Fenris soon noticed that Brit seemed happier. He’d mentioned this to Anders one night while they lay in bed. Anders had smiled and said, “Of course she’s happier. He’s not scared of her like the village children are.” So Fenris had watched them closely the next day and realized that Anders was right. Her magic didn’t frighten him at all.
He eventually found out why Gawain was not frightened by magic. Fenris had spent the evenings while they ate supper coaxing out his story. Gawain’s earliest memories were of Amaranthine. When he was six they had moved to the village that had sprung up around Kinloch Hold on Lake Calenhad. There, Gawain was the oddity. Being around so many mages had taught him a lot about magic, and he didn’t fear it as most people still did.
They had moved again when he was ten. This time to Redcliffe and after only a year there his mother had become ill suddenly and died in her sleep. They hadn’t really known anyone and the chantry had taken him in. When he ran away from the chantry Gawain had been trying to get to Amaranthine. He’d gotten lost in the forest running from bandits and hid in a tree, where he fell asleep and had fallen out of it.
Gawain said that they never had much coin, sometimes skipping meals and often patching clothes that were little more than rags. Anders had asked him why she never married. “Mum didn’t really trust anyone,” he said. “She said people only wanted one thing from her but she would never tell me what.” Fenris and Anders had both frowned at that answer. They spoke of it quietly that night in bed.
“Do you think Hawke met her at the Rose?” Anders asked. “Promised her the world then broke her heart?”
“That would explain her lack of trust,” Fenris said. Anders snuggled closer as they spooned together. “It could be the pendant.”
“I suppose the only way we’d find out for sure would be to speak with Hawke,” Anders said.
Fenris snorted softly. “I do not really want him here.”
“Me neither,” Anders said through a yawn. “Good night love.”
The next morning, Gawain had been with them a week. Their day went like most of the others had. Practice in the morning, chores in the afternoon followed by reading lessons. Dinner was fixed and eaten, conversation light and happy. Evening found them all out in the front yard. The children were taking turns at throwing a stick for Cecil to fetch.
Their happy laughter at the Mabari’s antics drifted over to where Fenris and Anders sat. Anders rested against a tree, his legs stretched out around Fenris who sat between them. Fenris leaned back, his head resting on Anders’ shoulder with the mage’s arms wrapped around his chest. His arms rested on top of Anders’. They were content to sit together and watch another day pass into night, simply watching the children and enjoying the other’s presence.
“Is that…Ser Martin?” Anders asked quietly.
Fenris looked over at the path. “It is a little late.”
“Must be important,” said Anders as they untangled themselves and stood.
They hurried towards each other and Ser Martin handed Anders a letter when they met. “What’s this?” Anders asked him.
“It’s from the King. I received one too,” Ser Martin panted. “Read it.”
Anders tore open the letter carefully and Fenris read it over his shoulder.
Anders, It is my understanding that the boy, Gawain Archer, in your care is thought to be the son of Kain Hawke. The prisoner as well as Queen Solona has both expressed a desire to meet him. Solona and I cannot leave Denerim right now and I’m not willing to let Hawke out of our custody just yet. I’m formally requesting that you and Gawain come here. There will be a coach in Redcliffe waiting to bring you. While here you will be guests at the palace. Also, feel free to bring your partner and daughter. Solona has been dying to meet them. Yours Truly, Alistair Theirin.
“Leave the farm?” Anders asked in a small voice.
“I have been ordered to accompany you,” Ser Martin said. “I’ve already talked to May about her watching the farm and taking care of your garden.”
“When?” asked Fenris.
“Tomorrow, meet me at the office as early as you can,” Ser Martin answered.
“No,” Anders said suddenly shaking his head. There was barely restrained panic in his voice. “No, no, no, no! It’s against the rules. I can’t leave Honnleath.”
“Anders?” Ser Martin said, clearly concerned.
“No,” Anders said again. “No, no, no!” He thrust the parchment at Fenris, turned on his heel and almost ran back toward the house.
“Papa Anders?” Brit said as he flew by them.
“Fenris,” Ser Martin said in the same concerned tone. “He must come with. You can’t ignore a summons from the King.”
“Papa what’s wrong?” Brit asked him as her and Gawain joined them.
“What’s wrong with Anders?” Gawain asked at the same time.
“You and him have been summoned by the King,” Fenris said to Gawain.
“The King!” Gawain squeaked.
“Brit, I want you and Gawain to use our old pack and gather extra clothes. Do not worry about Anders, I will calm him,” Fenris said to the children. Brit nodded and pulled a dazed looking Gawain after her toward the house. He turned back to Ser Martin and said, “We will all be there in the morning.”
“All right,” Ser Martin said. “I’ll see you then.”
Before Ser Martin turned to leave, Fenris lightly gripped his arm. “He will be fine, I promise,” he said. Ser Martin nodded and Fenris watched him jog back down the path. He turned and jogged quickly to the house, shutting and locking the door.
Fenris could hear the children talking quietly in Brit’s room as he entered the hall. He opened the door to the room he shared with Anders and stepped in. Anders was curled up on the bed, lying on his side with his knees close to his chest. Stripes stood and stretched from his position on the pillow. Fenris waited for the cat to leave before shutting the door.
He sat gently on the bed and curled around Anders tightly. Anders lifted his head slightly as Fenris worked his arm under, resting the other on his hip. Fenris could feel him trembling. Anders was silent for a while as Fenris comforted him with his presence.
“Fenris,” Anders said finally. “I don’t want to go.”
“I know,” he said.
“But I have to…don’t I,” Anders said, his voice shaking slightly.
“Yes,” he said. After a moment he added, “Tell me what troubles you.”
“Eleven years,” Anders said. “I’ve been here for eleven years and the idea of leaving terrifies me.”
“Why?” Fenris asked quietly.
Anders turned to face him. “What if someone recognized me? I won’t be safe out there.”
“You will be among friends,” Fenris said as he gently cupped Anders’ cheek. “Ser Martin and I will keep you safe.”
“I…oh Fenris,” Anders said as he scooted closer. “I’m so frightened. This farm has become my entire world.”
Fenris pulled out the tie holding his hair in a ponytail and ran his fingers through it, knowing Anders found it soothing. He hoped Anders could hear the lyrium song as he whispered comforting words. There would be little sleep for either of them tonight.
It didn’t take long for Fenris to pack the things they would need for a journey. Brit and Gawain were ready and they seemed excited. But Anders was still terrified. He’d chosen to go back to his half remembered childhood home because it was small and isolated. At first he had just wanted to be left alone after it had been made clear that he wasn’t to be executed.
Then Fenris and Brit had shown up at his doorstep and changed his life again and Anders had more reason to hide than ever before. The less people that knew he lived the safer he was. The longer he could stay with them. Fenris, Brit and the farm had been all he’d ever really wanted, to have a loving family, a place to call home, to be able to watch the stars or to stand in the rain if he wanted.
Anders had never really wanted to leave but now he had to. And here he stood, pack filled and on his back, Stripes resting half on the pack with his head and front paws on Anders’ shoulder, white knuckled grip on his staff and still his feet refused to move.
Fenris, dressed in his armor with his sword strapped to his back, stood patiently at his side. Anders felt Fenris’ arm slip around his waist. He gave the concerned elf a strained smile and said, “Time to go.”
“Everything will be all right,” Fenris said quietly. “Come.”
Anders nodded and reluctantly let Fenris lead him off of the porch and down the path to Honnleath. He concentrated on the ground at his feet, letting Fenris be his eyes. Anders listened to the children’s happy chatter and Cecil’s occasional bark. It didn’t take them long to reach the village. He finally looked up.
Ser Martin stood in front of the Sage Knight’s office giving orders to his subordinates. May, who stood next to him, smiled and waved at him. Anders smiled nervously back. He finished speaking and turned to May. They kissed and embraced and Ser Martin shouldered his pack and joined them.
“All right?” Ser Martin asked looking at Anders.
He shrugged and said, “Yes?” uncertainly.
“Let’s go,” Ser Martin said with a reassuring smile.
Ser Martin led the way through the village followed closely by Brit, Gawain and Cecil. Fenris gently pulled him forward. At the very edge of the village Anders abruptly stopped. This was the furthest away from the farm he’d been since he arrived here.
“This used to be easy,” Anders said quietly.
“You are a different person,” Fenris said. “Come, we are falling behind.”
“Right,” he said taking a step forward. It got a little easier the longer they walked.
The forest was the same with the same kind of birds singing. The same type of shrubs and grass passing by as he walked. He concentrated on these little things and took comfort in them. Fenris walking by his side, the occasional purr from Stripes, the sounds of conversation ahead of him, Cecil crashing through the brush as he ran excitedly ahead of them, gradually lessened his nervous fright.
The walk to Redcliffe wasn’t a long one and they were on the outskirts just before midday. Anders could hear the activity in the town and his nerves returned. He followed Fenris to where the others stood at the top of the steep hill leading down into the town. Anders kept his eyes to the ground and tried not to fidget nervously.
“Where are we supposed to meet this coach?” Fenris asked.
“Up here. The coach is over there,” Ser Martin said.
They started toward the coach and Anders looked up to see how far away it was. At the top of the path that led down to the town, movement out of the corner of his eye made him turn to see. There was a near perfect view of Redcliffe below them. Some houses and the tavern were perfectly visible with Lake Calenhad twinkling in the distance. Many people came in and out of the tavern, many more on the path and there were even a few people around them.
Anders froze and stared wide eyed down the path. It was suddenly hard to breath, his breath coming in short little gasps. His heart pounded heavily in his chest and he barely heard Fenris calling his name just ahead of him. He took a shaky step backwards. “I…no…” he whimpered between gasps of air.
He turned and fled, heedless of the people staring. Vaguely he was aware of claws digging into his shoulder but he ignored it. Anders ran for the forest but was stopped by something.
“No!” he exclaimed as he struggled to get away. Anders squeezed his eyes shut as tears began falling down his cheeks.
Strong arms wrapped around him, a familiar deep voice in his ear telling him to breathe deeply. Another familiar voice warning others away and a small delicate hand grasping his, leading him somewhere. He listened to the comforting rumble in his ear and his breathing evened out to sobs. They stopped moving and he was lowered gently to the ground.
On his knees, he turned and clutched at the person holding him. There was cold metal on his cheek as a hand cupped the back of his head gently and comforting circles were being rubbed on his back. Eventually the fog in his head cleared enough for him to recognize Fenris’ voice. Anders didn’t know how long they sat there as his sobbing died to hiccups but he still kept his eyes shut. They weren’t at home and he didn’t really want to see where they were.
“The coach is here Anders,” Ser Martin said. “We’re going to lead you inside okay?”
“Want to go home,” he mumbled miserably.
“You know we cannot,” Fenris whispered. “We will help you through this.”
“Come on Papa Anders,” Brit said. She tugged gently at the hand she still held.
Anders finally opened his eyes as they pulled him to his feet. Fenris led him to the coach and they climbed the steps and he sat in the middle of one seat, pausing only to pull the pack off so he could sit comfortably. Fenris propped his sword against the far wall and sat beside him while Brit climbed up and sat opposite him after propping his staff next to Fenris’ sword. Gawain was next, holding Stripes, and sat opposite Fenris.
“Come on Cecil,” Brit said. He jumped into the coach and sniffed everything before settling on the floorboards at their feet.
Ser Martin appeared in the doorway but he didn’t get in. Anders didn’t see the look he and Fenris exchanged or the way Gawain slouched in the seat frowning guiltily. He was focused on forcing down the panic that was still so close to the surface. So he closed his eyes again as Fenris took his hand and heard the door of the coach shut. After a moment it lurched forward.
Anders concentrated on the little things like Fenris sitting next to him and Cecil’s head resting on his foot. Very little sleep the night before, the rocking motion of the coach and Fenris’ comforting words eventually put him to sleep.
Fenris was worried. Anders had panicked at the sight of more people in one place than he had seen in years. Redcliffe was bigger than Honnleath but Denerim was far larger than Redcliffe. If Anders couldn’t handle Redcliffe how were they ever going to keep him calm in Denerim?
He had known that Anders was frightened, but he hadn’t been prepared for just how frightened. Fenris had never seen such a look of naked terror on Anders. Not even when Hawke had held a knife to his side for the second time. Anders had faced demons and blood mages with nothing more than contempt. To see him reduced to a quivering, frightened mess was hurtful and very worrisome.
Gawain also worried him. The boy had said nothing since Anders had fled from them in Redcliffe. Brit hadn’t even been able to coax anything out of him. Fenris thought that he might be blaming himself for Anders’ fear. After all, if it weren’t for Gawain, Anders would be safe and happy at the farm. Knowing that Anders wouldn’t want Gawain to blame himself for something that really wasn’t his fault Fenris said quietly, “This is not your fault Gawain.”
“Yes it is,” he said miserably. “If it weren’t for me you’d all still be in Honnleath.”
“But it’s not your fault Papa Anders is afraid,” Brit said.
Gawain said nothing, simply looked out the window. Fenris frowned and tried to think of a way to convince him. Anders’ reaction to leaving Honnleath had nothing to do with why he had to leave. It was a subtle distinction. Fenris leaned forward and tapped Gawain on the knee with one sharp clawed finger. When he finally looked at him Fenris said, “Anders’ fear is not your fault. Yes you are why he had to leave the farm, but his fear is a product of many things that you had no part in.”
“But…” Gawain started.
“No,” Fenris interrupted sharply. “There are no ‘buts’. It will stress him more if he knows you blame yourself needlessly.”
“All right,” Gawain said reluctantly. “You admitted I’m partially responsible though,” he added more firmly. “How can I help? You’ve all been so kind I…I want to help.”
Fenris leaned back and looked at Anders. He was still sleeping with his head resting on the back of the seat. Stripes lay in his lap and Anders hands twitched through his fur every so often. He looked peaceful, but Fenris saw the small worry lines on his forehead, the small frown and the tension Fenris could feel in Anders thigh, where his hand rested, all told him otherwise. Looking back at the children he saw worry on both of them.
“Help me find a way to keep him calm when we reach Denerim,” Fenris said.
“What made him so scared in Redcliffe?” asked Brit.
Silence fell as they all thought back. Fenris had been watching him carefully all morning. He’d spoken little and had watched the trail at his feet most of the morning. Anders had only looked up when they were at the top of the path leading into the town.
“That’s it,” he said quietly. “When he saw the town’s people he panicked.”
“He’s afraid of people?” asked Gawain skeptically.
“Not people, large crowds of people,” Fenris said.
“He’s fine in Honnleath though,” Brit said thoughtfully. “But Redcliffe is much larger.”
“And Denerim is much larger than Redcliffe. We cannot avoid large crowds in the capital city,” Fenris said.
“A blindfold?” asked Gawain. “He didn’t panic until he saw them.”
“That…might work,” Fenris said hesitantly. “It might make his fear of small places worse though.”
“Let’s keep thinking. Then we can ask Papa Anders which suggestion he likes best,” Brit said.
Fenris nodded and silence fell once more. They had about three days to think of something else. Anders could not be allowed to run off in a panic in such a large city. Fenris didn’t want to think of what could happen.
Anders had managed to calm most of his fear during the last three days of boring travel along the Imperial Highway. But home was still far away and he was still nervous. Fenris had been incredibly patient with his clinginess. Brit and Gawain tried their best to take his mind off of his fears and they succeeded more often than not. Ser Martin’s presence was also calming in its familiarity.
But Denerim was getting closer and Anders found it hard to concentrate on anything but the large capital city. If he couldn’t handle Redcliffe, a large place full of people like Denerim would be intolerable. He was frightened at the thought of being among so many people but he was also scared of what might happen. If he panicked and bolted they might not find him in one piece…or at all.
He couldn’t suppress the shudder that ran through him. Since he was sitting as close to Fenris as he could without actually sitting in his lap the elf looked over at him and frowned. The worry Anders saw comforted and hurt at the same time. “I’m okay,” he said with a nervous smile.
“Anders,” Fenris said. They had stopped for the night and were all sitting around a campfire after a simple dinner. “We have been thinking. We will probably be in Denerim tomorrow and…we are all worried about you.”
“I’m sorry…” Anders said quietly. “I hate being such a burden.”
“You are a burden I bear willingly,” Fenris said as he threaded their fingers together. “We have been trying to think of ways to keep you calm when we enter the city.”
Anders squeezed his hand and waited for him to continue. Brit, Gawain and the driver were already asleep and Ser Martin sat across from them.
“We haven’t been able to think of much that might work,” Ser Martin said quietly. “There are really only two suggestions that are even feasible.”
“The easiest way would be to put you to sleep,” Fenris said.
Anders frowned. That would certainly work but to be carried in like some swooning maiden? “No,” he said. “What’s left of my pride couldn’t handle being carried around like a child.”
Ser Martin smiled and shook his head. “Didn’t think you’d like that one, but hear out your other choice before you make a decision.”
“What’s the other choice?” Anders asked nervously.
“To put a blindfold on you,” Fenris said quietly.
“How could that possibly help?” he asked in confusion.
“You didn’t panic until you saw the people of Redcliffe,” Ser Martin explained. “If we take away that possibility then…”
“I might not be as scared from the crowds but…what if…” Anders stopped and shuddered. “You wouldn’t leave me alone?”
“Of course not!” Ser Martin exclaimed as Fenris growled, “Never!”
He giggled nervously and said, “Sorry. Guess that was a stupid question.”
“Yes,” Fenris said scowling at him. “It was.”
Anders took a deep breath. He didn’t like either of their ideas but bolting like a spooked horse in a huge city full of people just wasn’t an option. Being put to sleep would be the surest way to prevent anything, but it would be embarrassing…and cowardly. He’d been called a coward many times for choosing to save his own skin before merging with Justice. It had never really bothered him before. The spirit had changed him in many ways and even with Justice in the fade he was surprised to discover that he didn’t want to be seen as a coward now.
“I think I’d rather be blindfolded,” he said cautiously. “I think I’ll be all right as long as I know that I’m not alone.”
“We will all be right there with you Anders,” Ser Martin said. “We should be in Denerim by tomorrow afternoon. We should get some sleep.”
Ser Martin stood and moved to lay in his bedroll that was set up between the children. Anders and Fenris were actually sitting on theirs so Anders lay back and watched Fenris remove the spiky bits of his armor. He lay down on his side, facing the fire, and Anders scooted as close to him as possible. He slipped his arm around Fenris. They were silent for a bit, listening to the crackle of the dying fire.
“I’m glad you’re here love,” Anders whispered.
Fenris turned his head and kissed Anders’ cheek, as always, letting his actions speak for him.
That morning, Fenris paced around the small campsite and ran the strip of dark blue silk through his hands. It had been a part of the coach driver’s uniform. Fenris wasn’t sure he wanted to know how Ser Martin had gotten the prissy little man to part with it. He wasn’t sure that this was going to work. But Anders had agreed to it rather than the safer sleeping option. So he paced and waited for their small camp to be packed away. When Anders stood by the coach arms folded across his chest, looking at him nervously and with the children standing close to him, Fenris walked up to him.
Anders looked at the blue silk in his hands as he said, “I would like to put this on you now.”
“Why?” Anders asked. Fenris could hear the nervousness in his voice that Anders tried to hide.
“To know if you can handle it. For you to get used to not seeing,” Fenris said.
Unfolding his arms, he took Brit’s hand. She smiled up at him reassuringly. “I can do this,” Anders muttered as he looked at Fenris. Anders nodded.
Fenris moved around behind him and pulled out the tie holding his ponytail. He twisted it around his fingers so he wouldn’t lose it. Positioning the silk so that the bottom of it rested just below the bridge of his nose and the top rested halfway up his forehead, he tied it tightly but with just enough room for Anders to open his eyes if he wished. Fenris gathered the mage’s hair and retied it loosely at the nape of his neck.
“Fenris,” Anders said shakily.
“Here,” Fenris said close to his ear resting a hand on his shoulder.
Anders turned his head slightly towards him and said, “I can only see a faint light.”
“Are you all right?” Fenris asked. He could feel Anders trembling.
“Yes, I can do this,” Anders said a bit more firmly. “Brit?”
“Here Papa,” she said. “You’re okay?”
“I’m okay sweetie,” Anders said smiling nervously.
Fenris took his other hand as Ser Martin approached them. He was a bit surprised when Anders looked unerringly at the Sage Knight with a more genuine smile.
“Ser Martin,” he said.
Ser Martin smiled and said, “Are you sure you can’t see through that?”
“Positive. I’ve been listening for the sound of clanking armor for years,” Anders said.
“Please tell us if you can’t do this. We’ll think of something else,” he said seriously.
“I think I’ll be all right. Just…let me know I’m not alone,” Anders said.
He sounded confident but Fenris knew he wasn’t. Tension radiated from him and Anders had a death grip on his hand. “Anders,” he started quietly.
“I can do this,” Anders repeated. “Let’s get this over with.”
They helped him into the coach and Gawain set Stripes in his lap. Cecil settled on the floorboards and they were underway. Anders kept them talking and he never let go of Fenris’ hand. He was so focused on Anders that he didn’t notice how quiet Gawain was.
In a rare lull in conversation Brit asked him, “Are you okay Gawain? You’re really quiet.”
“Fine,” he said too quickly.
“No you’re not,” Anders said. “You sound as nervous as I am.”
Fenris was impressed that he could tell that from one word without seeing him. Now that he focused on Gawain, he saw that the boy actually was nervous. One leg bounced constantly and his hands were clasped together in a white knuckled grip.
“What troubles you?” Fenris asked.
“Am I really going to meet the King and Queen?” he asked in a small voice.
“Don’t worry, they’re both very nice,” Anders said smiling a little. “Queen Solona might even be your cousin.”
“Oh,” Gawain said. Fenris watched the color drain from his face. “I could be related to the Queen?” he squeaked. “Now I know I’m going to do something stupid.”
“That’s okay,” Anders laughed nervously. “I think I’ll make a big enough fuss they won’t notice you for a while.”
“I’m sorry,” Gawain said miserably. “It’s my fault.” Fenris frowned at him and he looked down at his hands.
“Gawain,” Anders said. “We’ll talk about this when I can think properly. Just try to relax.”
There was a thumping on side of the coach and they all fell silent. They were approaching Denerim. Fenris felt Anders squeeze his hand. I hope this works, he thought as he patted Anders thigh.
Anders truly couldn’t see anything in the coach. It was dark enough that even the faint light didn’t show through. But he could hear them. The sounds of many people going about their business as the coach rumbled slowly by, merchants calling out their wares, mothers calling for children, laughter, an angry cry… “Say something,” he said suddenly. “Drown them out!”
Fenris pulled him close and began speaking quietly in his ear. Anders didn’t listen to what he was actually saying, just letting comforting the sound of his voice drive away the noise from outside. He tried to concentrate on Fenris’ voice but the other sounds were still there and they sounded louder than before.
He whimpered and put his hand to his other ear. Anders faintly heard Brit and Gawain encouraging him. I will not panic, I will not panic, I will not panic, he said to himself.
It seemed to take forever for the coach to stop but eventually it did. He dropped his hand from his ear to pick up Stripes and whimpered again at the sound of clanking armor. Anders gripped Fenris’ hand and held the cat close.
“Fenris,” he said in a small nervous voice.
“We are going to get out of the coach now,” Fenris said to him. “They are just castle guards.”
“Please hurry,” Anders whispered.
Fenris helped him down the steps while he kept talking to him. He felt a small hand grip his shirt and heard the end of his staff thump on the cobblestone ahead of him. As they began walking, Fenris and Brit leading him, he heard armor clanking behind him and it was too much. Anders surged forward but was held back.
Anders dropped the cat in his arms and tore at the blindfold. “No,” he cried. “I have to get away!”
Strong arms gripped his shoulders from behind. He finally succeeded in pulling the blindfold down and as the world swam into focus all he could see was Fenris. The elf put both of his hands on Anders’ cheeks, preventing him from looking anywhere but at him.
“Focus on me Anders,” Fenris commanded. Unable to do anything else, the person behind him keeping him still, Anders looked into Fenris eyes.
A familiar feminine voice from ahead of him said sharply, “What’s wrong with him?”
Anders tried to look but Fenris held him still. “No,” he said. “Focus on me.”
“I’ll explain later Majesty,” said the person behind him. “We have to get him somewhere private.”
“Please ma’am,” said a boyish voice ahead of him. “We don’t want him to run off like he did before!”
“Like he did before?” she questioned.
“Majesty please,” said the voice from behind as Anders began struggling.
“Anders,” Fenris said soothingly. “It’s Ser Martin.”
“This way,” she said.
Anders was walked slowly, Fenris walking backwards in front of him, through a maze of corridors. It didn’t take long for them to enter a large room. When the door was shut firmly Ser Martin let go of his shoulders and he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Fenris. They stood there for a while embracing each other while Anders’ breathing evened out to normal.
“Will someone please tell me what’s going on now?”
“Hello Solona,” he said weakly without turning.
“I’m sorry your Majesty, there wasn’t time to send you a note. The people in Redcliffe frightened him badly,” Ser Martin said.
“What?” Solona said.
Fenris examined the Queen of Ferelden over Anders’ shoulder. Her red hair was pulled up in a bun at the back of her head. She wore a flowing silk gown that matched the green of her eyes and her creamy white skin almost glowed. Right now her eyes were hard and her hands rested on her hips. She was a woman who expected to be obeyed.
“She’s the queen?” Gawain asked in a small voice.
Solona turned her scrutiny from Ser Martin to Gawain. The boy squeaked and stepped back, gripping Anders’ staff in both hands. As she looked him over Fenris compared them. They didn’t really look alike at all.
“Are you sure she is related to Hawke,” Fenris whispered to Anders.
“Yes,” Anders said quietly. “They’re cousins.”
Fenris could feel Anders trembling still so he pulled him closer and rubbed Anders’ back. Brit edged closer to him, holding Stripes with Cecil standing close to her. Ser Martin stood by the door with Solona and Gawain standing in the space between them.
“Maker,” she whispered. “You look just like him.”
“That’s w-w-what Mum always t-t-told me,” he stammered.
“It’s all right. I won’t bite,” she said smiling at him. Solona looked up at Anders and her smile withered. “Now what’s this about? Why were you blindfolded and what’s this about you being scared of people?”
All the tension of the last five days came to the surface as Fenris’ markings flared at her demanding tone. He stepped between her and Anders and growled, “It’s partly your fault. You were the one who left him in one place so long that he cannot stand to be in a crowd of people.”
Her gaze snapped to him and she arched an eyebrow. “You’re Fenris?” she asked.
“He has been frightened since he received your letter. Why are we even here?” he snarled taking a step forward. “You could have sent someone to fetch the boy if Hawke wanted to see him that badly!”
Gawain scrambled out of his way as his markings flared again. He took another menacing step forward and Solona dropped into a defensive crouch. Suddenly Ser Martin was between them and he pushed Fenris back gently.
“Stop this!” he ordered. “Majesty, I will silence you.” Solona clenched her hands into fists, letting the spell dissipate, and stood upright. “Fenris calm down and step back please.”
Fenris turned and stalked back to Anders, who had sat in a chair and covered his face with his hands. He stood behind the chair and placed a hand on Anders shoulder.
“It’s all right Fenris,” he said quietly.
“We shall speak later,” Fenris said between clenched teeth.
“I can see why he likes you,” Solona smirked at Fenris.
“Solona,” Anders groaned.
“Majesty, the last few days have been very stressful for all of us,” Ser Martin said facing her. “I would like to request that Fenris, Anders, Brit and Gawain be taken to their quarters and left to relax for the rest of the day. I will explain to you and King Alistair what has transpired since we left Honnleath.”
“Very well, but I will speak with Anders first thing tomorrow,” she said. “I’ll send a servant to show you to your rooms.”
She nodded to them and smiled and waved at Gawain, who had retreated with Brit to a far corner of the room, and stalked out. Ser Martin followed her but paused at the doorway. He turned and gave Fenris a hard look, before following her out. Behave yourself that look said.
Fenris took a deep calming breath as Brit and Gawain cautiously walked forward. He hadn’t meant to snap at her, the Queen of the country he now lived in, but he couldn’t help it. Watching Anders suffer and not being able to do much had apparently worn his temper thin.
Turning his attention back to Anders, he saw that he’d relaxed enough that he wasn’t trembling. He looked very tired though. Fenris knew that he hadn’t been sleeping well and hoped that now that they were actually in Denerim he could at least sleep peacefully. It didn’t take long for a knock to sound on the door. A woman opened the door and beckoned them to follow her wordlessly. Fenris pulled the weary mage to his feet.
“Come,” he said quietly. “Maybe you can sleep.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Anders said slowly.
They followed the woman through a maze of corridors. Decoration in this part of the castle was spare. Tapestry’s hung along the walls at long intervals depicting great battles or triumphant heroes. When they reached a nondescript door, seemingly at random to Fenris, she pushed it open and stood to the side.
“Dinner will be brought at six,” she informed him before moving off down the hall.
Fenris nodded to her before she left and they filed into the room. All four of them stopped and gaped. They stood in the main room of a set. Three doors lead off the main one, two on the right and one on the left, and a strange glass door at the back of the room looked like it lead to a garden. There were plush couches and chairs set about the room in little groups of two or three with a table at each group. A large painting of a man Fenris didn’t recognize sat over the large hearth between the two doors on the right. Other paintings, landscapes mostly, dotted the walls.
“Andraste’s knickers,” Anders breathed.
“I think you could fit the whole farmhouse in this one room!” Gawain exclaimed as he stepped forward.
Cecil began moving around the big room, sniffing everything. Brit set Stripes on the floor and he began investigating as well. Fenris pushed the door closed so he wouldn’t get out. How Brit had managed to catch the terrified cat after Anders had dropped him was a mystery.
“Oh look Papa,” Brit said as she walked forward. “Someone brought our packs.”
“So they have,” he said. In the confusion Fenris had forgotten all about them.
Gawain set Anders’ staff on the couch near the packs. He turned to Fenris and asked, “Can we go explore the garden?”
“Can we Papa?” Brit asked excitedly.
Fenris smiled. At least someone was enjoying this trip. “You may,” he said.
“Don’t go too far,” Anders added.
“Come on!” Gawain said dashing for the strange door. Brit ran after him with Cecil following soon after.
Anders had wandered into the room and stood looking at the large painting over the cold hearth. Fenris followed slowly, looking around and wondering why they had been given such extravagant quarters.
“If I remember my history correctly,” Anders said still looking at the painting. “That is Maric Theirin, King Alistair’s father.”
Fenris finally stood at his side and looked up at the painting. He wasn’t very impressed. “Come,” he said taking Anders’ hand. “Let us find a bed for you to nap in.”
Anders gave him a small smile and turned. “The master bedroom is probably through there.”
He led them to the single door to the left and opened it. They stepped in and stopped to gape a second time. A very large bed sat against the far wall. There was a smaller hearth to their right and a walled off section to their left. A wardrobe sat against one wall and there was a nightstand on either side of the bed. More landscapes dotted the walls and there was a colorful blanket draped across the end of the bed.
Anders pulled them to the walled off area. “A privy…and oh my, would you look at that tub,” he said in awe.
Now that is impressive, he thought. “I think you could fit three grown men Hawke’s size into that tub,” he said out loud.
“Yes,” Anders said. “I think you could.” He pulled them to the bed. As he climbed onto it he groaned. “Feathers! So comfortable…” he said as he settled on his side and pulled one of the other pillows down to cuddle with.
Fenris sat next to him after propping his sword next to the bed. He pulled off his gauntlets and set them on a nightstand. Carefully untying the knot in the blue silk, he gently pulled it from around Anders’ neck. Anders was already snoring softly as Fenris carefully brushed a loose lock of hair behind his ear.
He sat there until Stripes wandered in to the bedroom. Fenris had known he would find them. Stripes jumped up to the bed and sat in front of Fenris until he got a scratch behind the ears. Fenris slid off of the bed as Stripes stretched out along Anders’ back. Quietly he walked out of the room and pulled the door mostly shut leaving a little crack that Stripes could get through.
Running the blue silk through his hands Fenris wandered around looking through the rest of the rooms. The two rooms on the right looked like the big master bedroom only smaller. He stepped out into the garden. It was a carefully tended private garden. Flowers of every color were growing in little plots between decorative shrubs. The children were playing with Cecil towards the back. Their laughter was a welcomed change from the fearful tension of the last few days.
A knock sounded at the door and Fenris frowned. It was too early for dinner. The Queen had said she would return in the morning so who could be at the door? He cautiously opened the door a little as another knock sounded. He stared in shock.
“Hello Fenris. Could…I speak with you?”
“Hawke…,” Fenris said quietly. He stepped into the hallway and shut the door. Hawke didn’t look that different from the last time he’d seen him. His hair was graying and he wore simple clothes but there was a certain peace about him that had never been there before. “What are you doing here? I thought…”
“I haven’t actually been in Fort Drakon for six months. Cousin Solona says I’ve made great progress and they’ve been letting me help train guards,” Hawke said. After a short pause and seeing the thundery expression on Fenris he added quickly, “I’m not allowed weapons of any sort and I’m guarded wherever I go.” He pointed to the two guards standing behind him. “I use a wooden practice sword while training.”
“Why are you here?” Fenris asked coldly.
Hawke looked at his feet and sighed. “I want to apologize. To you…and to…Anders. I…was also hoping to see my son.”
“Not today. Enough has happened today,” Fenris said.
Nodding like he’d expected to be denied he said sadly, “Fenris, I’m sorry for being such an ass. I’ll guess I’ll see you later.”
He turned to leave and Fenris stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. Hawke turned and looked at him. “Why did you keep Gawain’s mother a secret? You had to have known her before the…incident.”
“Sebastian begged me not to tell anyone,” he said flatly.
“Sebastian?” asked Fenris. “What does he have to do with Gawain’s mother?”
“She was his half sister.”
“What!?!” Fenris said in shock. “I thought Vael did not have sisters.”
“Sabrina was the product of an affair Sebastian’s father had with one of his maids. To avoid a scandal she was a carefully kept secret. Sebastian didn’t even know about her until she showed up at the chantry one day looking for him. He brought her to me for protection, begging I keep her a secret. I let her stay at the estate and eventually she fell in love and well…” Hawke said quietly.
“How do you know she was not lying?” Fenris asked.
“She looked just like him Fenris. They were so similar, facial structure, same color hair and her eyes were the exact same shade of blue.”
Fenris leaned back against the door. “How did she end up in Ferelden?”
“After she told me that she was pregnant, I…didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t even sure if I loved her. I think I was still reeling from everything…I had just taken the comfort she offered,” Hawke said. He took a deep breath and continued. “I took a few days to sort some things out. I decided that I didn’t want the child raised in Kirkwall…but I also felt obligated to stay…to fix the mess. So I had one of the circle enchanters make the pendent and paid her way to Amaranthine. I gave her enough coin to live comfortably and told her to find my cousin.” Hawke paused again and shuffled his feet. “My biggest regret…looking back now…is that I didn’t go with her.”
“Oh Hawke, you are such a fool,” Fenris said quietly. “You did the same thing to her that was done to her mother!”
“I know,” he said sadly. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Fenris leaned on the door and watched Hawke and his shadows walk away. It was no wonder the woman had been so bitter and untrusting. That Gawain was relatively well adjusted and happy was a bit of a miracle. He turned and opened the door. Fenris looked down the hall where Hawke had disappeared. I should have asked about the pendant, he thought. Fenris shook his head as he entered their rooms and shut the door behind him.
Anders was woken so he could eat something but he fell right back asleep when he was finished. Long days of restless nerves and nights of sleepless fear had left him exhausted. He had no idea what time it was when he woke the next morning. Fenris was gone but their pack had been left at the foot of the bed. Anders yawned and stretched then dug through the pack for clean clothes.
He considered using the large tub but settled for cleaning himself with a basin of water that had been left for him. He washed himself and dressed quickly, listening to his stomach growl then opened the door to find Fenris and Brit eating breakfast with Solona and Hawke. Gawain had probably slept in like he had. He saw that a place had been left for him and Gawain at the table but Anders just stood in the doorway. They all turned to him and Hawke stood.
“Good Morning…Anders,” he said hesitantly.
Anders looked at Fenris, who nodded slightly, then turned back to Hawke. “Good morning,” he said evenly.
“Well don’t just stand there,” Solona said. “Come and eat.”
His gaze flicked to her for a second but came back to rest on Hawke. The man had almost killed him once, stabbed him a second time and here he was eating breakfast with his family like nothing had happened? Anders wasn’t sure if he was more angry or afraid. “What’s he doing here?” Anders asked voice still fairly even.
“He is one reason we insisted that you come here,” Solona said. “Kain has seen that he was wrong and he wants to apologize.”
“Really,” Anders snorted.
“I know it won’t change anything I’ve done but…” Hawke said hesitantly.
“It will make you feel better,” Anders finished dryly.
Hawke shook his head. “No,” he said sadly. “It’s just something I have to do.” He took a deep breath and continued. “I’ve done so many rotten things to you and I am so, so sorry.”
The defeated tone of his voice, slumped shoulders and the way he wouldn’t quite look him in the eye, it went straight to Anders’ heart. Anders was glad that he’d been right six years ago. Hawke was clearly remorseful. A small smile crossed his lips as he finally started toward the table. “It wasn’t all bad,” Anders said.
“What?” Hawke looked up at him in confusion.
Anders stood by the chair meant for him and said, “You freed Justice.” He touched Fenris’ shoulder lightly. “And in the end…in a way…you brought me happiness.”
Hawke smiled hesitantly and said, “I don’t know what to say.”
They stood there and exchanged quiet smiles for a moment before Solona clapped her hands together, making everyone at the table jump. “Now that that’s done, let’s eat!” she said.
Anders and Hawke both sat at the table and Anders felt Fenris’ hand on his thigh. He smiled at Fenris as he loaded his plate from the platters of food on the table. There was truly more food than they could possibly eat, even with two Grey Wardens at the table. Anything one could want for breakfast, fried eggs, fresh fruit, sausage, bacon, pancakes and that was only the few things that weren’t covered. They ate in silence for a few minutes until Gawain’s door opened. He took a few steps out into the main room and then stopped. Hawke had stood and turned when the door opened.
Gawain’s eyes went wide as he studied Hawke. He took a hesitant step forward and said, “Are you my father?”
“Yes,” Hawke said quietly.
He took another step forward and asked, “Why?” Gawain didn’t sound angry or sad just curious. “Why did you leave us?”
“I was a fool,” Hawke said immediately. “A selfish, broken fool who didn’t know what he had.”
Gawain finished crossing the distance between them in a few steps. He looked up at Hawke and wrung his hands nervously. “What happens now?” Gawain asked.
“We can decide that later. After you two have gotten to know each other a little,” Solona said.
Brit pushed the empty chair between her and Hawke out with her foot. “Come and eat,” she said. “It’s really good!”
Gawain looked at Solona briefly before smiling at Brit. He glanced nervously up at Hawke before he sat and looked over the food. Hawke sat as well and they all finished eating in silence.
“Papa Anders, are you feeling better?” Brit asked when Anders finally pushed his plate away.
“Mostly yes, I think I’ll be fine as long as I don’t have to be around a lot of people,” Anders said after some thought.
“Can we continue our lessons then?” she asked hopefully.
“That’s a wonderful idea.” Solona said grinning. “We can go out into the garden. I’d really like to see what you can do. You three can go to the training yard! I understand you’ve been teaching Gawain?” She directed the question to Fenris.
Fenris narrowed his eyes and frowned. “I have been yes,” he said.
“Great! Kain can show you the way.” Solona stood and went to the door. She opened it and beckoned to someone outside and then started for the garden.
The rest of them stood as servants entered and began clearing away breakfast. Hawke moved towards the doorway and waited. Gawain looked from Fenris to Hawke and back again. “Go ahead. I will be right there,” Fenris said.
He nodded and slowly walked over to Hawke. They looked at each other nervously. Anders smiled as they spoke at the same time. He turned to Brit who was still standing next to him. “Go on out to the garden with Solona, sweetie,” Anders said.
“Okay,” she said. Brit turned and walked to where Solona stood at the doorway. They spoke briefly and walked into the garden.
Fenris took Anders’ hand and moved them away from the servants. “Will you be all right?” he asked quietly.
“I’ll be fine,” Anders said smiling at him. “Brit’s here with me and I don’t plan on leaving this room no matter what Solona wants.”
“Good,” Fenris said with a nod. “There is something you should know about Gawain. Hawke stopped by last night while you were sleeping.”
“What is it, love?” Anders asked.
“Sebastian had a sister no one knew about. She is his mother.”
Anders looked over at Gawain and Hawke. “I want the whole story later,” he said. “For now I think you’d better get going.”
“Anders,” Fenris said with concern. “Be careful.”
He pulled Fenris into his arms and whispered to him, “I’ve known her a long time. We’ll be fine.” After a brief squeeze Fenris pulled away slightly. He leaned up for a brief kiss and turned to the door. Anders watched him for a moment then turned and walked to the garden. He stood in the doorway watching them.
Solona was showing Brit a spell that she had learned from Velanna. Brit was standing well away from her as thick roots shot up from the ground around her. Brit gasped as her eyes went wide and she grinned. Anders could only guess where the roots came from or where they went, there really weren’t that many trees in this private garden. Solona gestured for Brit to try and she reproduced the spell near perfectly.
He couldn’t hide his smug grin from Solona as she turned to him, her mouth dropped open in shocked amazement. Anders started towards them as the roots disappeared back where they’d come from. Brit met him halfway and threw her arms around him.
“How was that Papa?” she asked as she hugged him.
Anders returned her embrace and said, “Wonderful.”
Solona came up to them and said, “Dear Maker! I’ve never seen a mage learn something from just watching it once. You are very talented Brit.”
Brit buried her face in his shirt as she blushed. She mumbled, “Thank you.”
“Why don’t you go over there and practice,” Anders said to Brit. “Solona and I have to talk about some things.”
She nodded as she stepped back. “Okay Papa,” she said.
They watched Brit cast a series of spells for a bit before Solona spoke. “I’m very sorry Anders,” she said quietly.
“About?” Anders asked keeping his eyes on Brit.
“I thought you would enjoy getting away from Honnleath for a while. You never could stay put in the Tower. You were restless at Vigil’s Keep too.”
Anders shrugged. “People change,” he said, thinking of what Fenris had told him before they’d left Honnleath. “I don’t think that’s why you wanted to speak with me.”
“No,” she said quietly. She shuffled her feet and turned to face him. “Alistair and I can’t have children. Cailan had no heirs and neither Alistair nor I want Anora back on the throne.”
“So,” Anders said with a frown. “What does all that have to do with me?”
“Kain is my cousin. He’s the only blood relative either of us has.”
“Solona, you can’t put Hawke on the throne. He’s a templar, addicted to lyrium and convicted of murder. Even you can’t pull that off,” he scoffed. Anders looked over at her and let his voice turn hard. “And you still haven’t answered my question. What does all this have to do with me?”
“Not Kain, Anders, Gawain,” she said softly. “His mother is dead, Kain is unable to care for him at the moment and you found him. We consider you his guardian. That’s why you’re here.”
“Brit found him not me. Fenris and I took him in,” Anders said slowly. “Wait, you want to put Gawain on the throne?”
“Why not? He’s family and he’s young enough to be taught. Gawain isn’t tainted or addicted to lyrium and he’s obviously sympathetic to mages. It’s perfect!”
Anders took two steps forward and turned to Solona. “And you want my blessing because I took him in?” he said angrily. “Do you know of Gawain’s ties to Starkhaven?”
“Yes. Kain told me as soon as we received Ser Martin’s letter,” Solona said warily. “Prince Sebastian Vael is currently in Amaranthine. He’ll be here in a day or two.”
“What?” Anders said quietly as all the color drained from his face.
“What’s wrong with you?” Solona asked. “The man has a right to see his nephew. Besides with strong ties to Starkhaven we could possibly help the mages there.”
Anders turned and ran to Brit. She was standing quite still and Anders knew she’d heard the last of his conversation with Solona. “Go and bring Fenris back here right away,” he said shakily.
“Yes Papa,” she said. Brit ran for the door, her braid flying behind her.
“Anders, what’s wrong? You look sick,” Solona said. She sounded truly worried as she came up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
He sunk to his knees before his shaking legs buckled. “Oh Solona,” Anders said quietly. “You’ve no idea. Choir boy isn’t going to stand for the abomination who murdered Grand Cleric Elthina to raise any relative of his.”
Fenris, Hawke and Gawain stood just outside the door of the apartments. Hawke gestured down the hallway and they began walking in awkward silence. The two guards that had been standing by the door followed at a distance. He was irritated at having been dismissed and the presence of the guards irritated him further.
When the silence grew heavy, neither of them quite knew what to say to the other, Fenris finally broke it. “What does the pendant do Hawke?” he asked.
Gawain looked up at Hawke curiously as he began to speak. “It dispels most low level magic,” Hawke explained. “There is a different enchantment that is triggered by blood magic though. It takes the energy of the spell and uses it to create a barrier that dispels all magic around the person wearing the amulet. I’m told it was difficult to figure out and it’s definitely one of a kind.”
“Blood magic?” Gawain whispered. He pulled the amulet out of his shirt and gazed at it.
“We found so many blood mages in Kirkwall that I just wanted to protect her from them,” Hawke said. After a moment he added sadly, “I think she saw it as a gift to buy her silence.”
“Mum never spoke much of you,” Gawain said to Hawke as he tucked the amulet back into his shirt. “What she did say wasn’t very nice.”
Hawke looked over at him and said, “I wasn’t a very nice person back then.”
“But you did care for her,” Fenris said. Hawke shrugged and continued walking. “If you did not care then you would not have wanted her safe.”
“Yes I did care for Sabrina. But look at what happened anyway,” said Hawke ruefully. “It seems like anyone I care about is cursed.” Fenris frowned. Was Hawke still blaming himself for every bad thing that had happened then? “Hawke,” he started but Hawke held up a hand to silence him.
“I know, I know,” he said wearily. “It’s not all my fault. Solona tells me constantly.”
They walked on through the maze of hallways Hawke led them through in more awkward silence. A final door led them to a training yard that was deserted at the moment. There were racks of practice weapons of all kinds lined around the walls and targets stood at one end of the open rectangle while dummies stood at the other.
Gawain gaped as he followed Hawke to one of the weapon racks. Fenris followed behind and waited to see what they would do. Hawke examined the practice weapons and chose a large longsword. He handed it to Gawain.
“Fenris has been teaching you right?” Hawke asked.
“Yes, ser,” Gawain said as the tip of the sword thumped to the ground. “Heavy,” he grunted.
Hawke frowned but said nothing. Fenris wasn’t sure if it was Gawain’s use of the title or the clumsy way he handled the sword that made him frown. He’d begun to suspect back in Honnleath that Gawain was not meant to be a warrior. Watching him fumble with the large weapon only confirmed his suspicions. Fenris examined him again. Gawain was slender and lithe not bulky and broad.
“Perhaps he would do better with a pair of daggers,” Fenris said stepping forward.
Hawke looked at Gawain thoughtfully and said, “Or maybe a bow. The Vaels seem to produce excellent archers.”
Gawain looked at one then the other before handing the sword back to Hawke. “What do the rulers of Starkhaven have to do with me?” he asked.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you?” Hawke asked in surprise.
“Tell me what?” Gawain asked suspiciously.
“Gawain, your mother was the sister of the Prince of Starkhaven,” Hawke said.
“Mum’s last name was Archer not Vael,” he said.
“I know,” Hawke said sadly. “She was hidden, Sebastian didn’t know about her until Flint Company killed all of the rest of his family. Her different last name is probably what saved her life.”
Gawain’s hands turned into clenched fists at his side. “So the Prince of Starkhaven is my Uncle?” he said angrily.
Hawke stepped back and his next words were hesitant and unsure. “Yes he is.”
“Why didn’t Mum ever say anything!?! Why didn’t she ask him for help!?!” Gawain cried angrily.
Fenris hurried forward and took Gawain by the shoulders. “Do not blame your mother,” he said.
“But it’s her fault!” Gawain shouted, tears now running down his cheeks. “It’s her fault! She could have asked for coin to buy the medicine she needed to get better!”
“Dear Maker,” Hawke mumbled quietly. “If I had just...” He walked a short distance away and buried his face in his hands.
Fenris pulled Gawain close and pressed his head gently against him. Gawain wrapped his arms around Fenris as great sobs escaped him. “She could be alive!” Gawain wailed in between sobs.
He let Gawain cry. Fenris rubbed his back and whispered soothing nonsense until his sobbing died slowly to hiccups. Gawain did not let go of him though and Fenris was content to comfort him. He was starting to regret coming to Denerim more than he had before. Hawke finally turned to face them and his eyes were wet and red rimmed as well. He opened his mouth to speak but didn’t get the chance. Just then the door burst open and Brit stumbled through. She caught her balance, looked around quickly and ran for them.
“Papa!” she cried almost in a panic. “Papa you have to come back! Papa Anders said to bring you back!”
Gawain released him and turned to look at Brit as she ran to them. She slammed into Fenris, wrapping her arms around him, in much the same position Gawain had been in seconds earlier. Feeling uneasy, Fenris placed his hand gently on her head. “Calm down and tell me what has happened,” he said soothingly.
Brit pulled back a bit and looked up at him. The fear he saw in her eyes made his unease grow. “The Queen said she wanted to make Gawain king then Papa Anders got mad.”
“What!?!” Gawain squeaked in astonishment.
She looked at him for a moment as worry crossed her already distressed face and then continued. “I didn’t understand everything they said but she said something about a Prince and Starkhaven and then Papa Anders didn’t look very good. Please you have to come back!”
“Brit, did the Queen say where the Prince was?” Fenris asked as dread built up in his gut like a lead weight.
“Amaranthine,” she said now tugging him to the door. “Please Papa! He didn’t look well at all!”
“Maker have Mercy,” Hawke breathed. He ran for the door.
Brit tugged on his arm again and Fenris began running as well. He could hear Gawain running behind him and they blindly followed Hawke. They ran all the way back and Hawke threw the door open without knocking and they all ran into the apartments. Anders was seated in one of the chairs, leaning back covering his face with his hands. Solona knelt in front of him until their sudden entrance. She stood and, Fenris was sure it was survival instincts, held a large fireball in her hands. Solona let the magic dissipate quickly at seeing them. She was pushed to the side as Anders flew out of the chair.
Fenris had just enough time to open his arms as Anders flew into them. He wrapped his arms around the mage and was surprised that he was calm but shaking badly. Looking around Anders, he saw that Solona was sitting on the floor with a surprised look on her face. Hawke stepped forward towards her.
“Where is he?” Hawke demanded as he offered Solona a hand up.
She took his hand and said, “Probably on the Pilgrim’s Path by now. Would one of you please tell me what I’ve done that’s so horrible and has all of you in a panic?”
“Grand Cleric Elthina was like a mother to Sebastian,” Hawke said. Fenris could hear anger creeping into his voice. “Before he left for Starkhaven he told me that if I hadn’t killed Anders he would have. Sebastian doesn’t know Anders is alive and he’s going to completely flip when he sees him walking around and talking.”
“You really think the Prince of Starkhaven will try to kill Anders for something that happened nearly twelve years ago?” she scoffed.
“I don’t think cousin,” Hawke said sharply. “I know.”
Fenris felt Anders arms tighten around him. “I want to go home,” Anders whispered to him.
“So do I,” Fenris whispered back.
Anders turned around to face Solona and Fenris moved next to him with a hand still resting on his hip. Solona had crossed her arms under her bosom and was glaring at Hawke. He stared calmly back. In that moment Fenris caught a glimpse of the man who had fought and defeated the Arishok in single combat. It was good that Hawke hadn’t completely lost his spirit.
“I think you are all over reacting,” Solona said in a motherly tone. “It has been nearly twelve years. People change.” She directed a fierce glare first at Anders then at Hawke.
Fenris frowned as both of them looked at their feet. Yes, people change. Every adult in this room was proof of that. But she didn’t know Sebastian as they did. Even if the fires of his rage had died to coals, seeing Anders would fan them to life again.
“You need to take this threat seriously,” he growled at her. “You do not know the man.”
“And after all this time you do?” she snapped at him. “I’ll be back at lunch and I expect all of you to be calm and reasonable." She brushed past them and all of them turned to watch her leave.
When she turned the knob Fenris said calmly, “I will do what is necessary.” Solona cast him a scathing glare before opening the door and slamming it behind her.
They all stood there, staring at the door for few moments, as dread settled into the three adults. The children were standing side by side, hands clasped loosely together, looking at the door as well. Hawke finally turned away and sighed. “I suppose that means I am to stay here,” he said as he collapsed into a chair.
“Papa Anders,” Brit said hesitantly. “That Prince wouldn’t really hurt you…would he?”
“I won’t let him!” Gawain said fiercely as he turned to look at Brit. “If he really is my Uncle, then maybe I can do something.”
“Maybe,” Hawke said. “But it’s doubtful. It would be best if we can convince Solona to be serious.”
Anders slowly walked to one of the loveseats with Fenris and they sat. He leaned forward and with his elbows resting on his knees, rubbing his temples. “None of this is your problem Gawain. You need to decide if you really want to take the Ferelden throne,” he said wearily. “If she can actually pull it off,” he added quietly under his breath.
“But…” Gawain said miserably.
“No buts,” Anders said firmly. “They consider me your guardian and want my approval for some stupid reason. I won’t give it unless you agree to this. I know it’s a lot to ask of you but don’t worry about me and think of what you want for your future. My fears are not your fault either so stop blaming yourself.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt!” Gawain exclaimed. “You’ve been so kind…I just…”
Anders looked up and offered him a small smile. “Your concern is appreciated,” he said warmly. “I’m sure between Fenris, Hawke and Ser Martin we’ll figure out a way to keep me safe.”
Gawain stared at his feet for a long moment. “Okay,” he said quietly.
“Come on Gawain,” Brit said quietly. “Let’s go out to the garden and let them talk. Papa won’t let the Prince hurt Papa Anders.”
He looked up at her and nodded. She pulled him to the door at the back of the room and they disappeared into the greenery. Her confidence made Anders feel just a little bit better. With each of them lost in thought the sudden knock on the door made them all jump. Fenris stood and walked to the door as another knock sounded. Anders smiled at the familiar voice that came into the room when he opened the door.
“Ah, good. You’re still here. Now I don’t have to go find you! Hi, I’m Alistair. Er, King Alistair. Have we met before?”
Fenris stepped back and the King of Ferelden walked into the room. His trousers and tunic were simple but finely tailored in dark colors. He looked no different than the last time Anders had seen him except for the grey hair at his temples. Alistair bounced on his feet with his hands clasped behind his back, waiting for Fenris to answer.
“I believe we met in Kirkwall,” Fenris said.
“Ah yes. When I went to see Hawke,” Alistair said cheerfully. He looked around the room and nodded to Anders and Hawke before turning back to the open door. He spoke quietly to someone Anders couldn’t see then turned back to them and walked to the nearest chair, flopping into it gracelessly. “Now maybe you can all tell me why my wife is upstairs destroying the furniture. Oh, I’ve sent for tea too. I hope they bring cookies.”
“Is Solona really that mad?” asked Hawke.
Fenris finally shut the door and moved back to his seat. Alistair leaned forward in the chair, resting his arms on his knees. “Well, she walks in, I ask what’s wrong, she throws a vase at the wall and then I decided a tactical retreat was the best course of action. I asked around and found out that she had been here all morning. So who wants to start talking first,” he said still sounding cheerful.
Anders and Fenris let Hawke do most of the talking, unconsciously letting him lead. He spoke of their meeting Sebastian, Flint Company, the Harrimans, and everything else they had done with him. They left nothing out. Between the three of them they told of all four years they had traveled with the Starkhaven Prince.
Hawke stressed his relationship with Grand Cleric Elthina and how distressed he had been at her death. Fenris spoke of his devout belief in the teachings of the chantry, having had many discussions with the Prince. Anders told of their mutual dislike of one another and how he feared Sebastian would turn him in to the Templars.
Alistair sat quietly and listened intently. He asked few questions, mostly just listened. They paused once when the servants arrived with a large pot of tea and a plate of cookies. When they could think of nothing else Alistair sat back in the chair and steepled his fingers. “That is worrisome,” he said thoughtfully. “I’ll have Ser Martin moved here immediately.”
“Thank you, your Majesty,” Fenris said.
“This is going to be tricky,” Alistair said as he frowned. “Will he demand that we turn Anders over to him?”
“Almost certainly,” Hawke said. “You can’t let Sebastian take Anders. Death would be the most merciful thing Sebastian would do.”
Anders shuddered as he rubbed his forehead. He didn’t want to think of what else the Prince might do. Fenris pulled him close, each taking comfort from the other. His eyes softened as Alistair watched them. “Don’t worry,” he said speaking to Fenris. “I won’t let the Prince take Anders. I’ll talk to Solona and we’ll figure something out. She’s good at that sort of thing. I’d like to meet Gawain, is he here?”
“I’ll go get him,” Hawke said as he stood.
It only took a few moments for Hawke, Gawain and Brit to come in from the garden. Brit sat next to Fenris as Hawke and Gawain moved to stand in front of Alistair. He stood and studied Gawain for a moment before offering his hand. “Hi, I’m Alistair.”
Gawain tentatively shook his hand and said, “Gawain Archer, Ser.”
“Hah, no Sers here. Just a couple of Templar drop outs,” Alistair said with a smile. Gawain smiled back and Alistair continued speaking. “I understand you know why you’ve been brought here? Well, besides meeting your father that is.”
“You wish me to be the next King of Ferelden,” he said quietly.
“Solona does yes. And it’s a good idea but, I want you to think about it,” Alistair said seriously. “I won’t allow it if you won’t agree.”
“May I ask why?” Gawain said. “Anders told me the same thing.”
“I didn’t really want to be king. It was pushed on me because of who my father was and I’d rather not do that to you.”
“If you didn’t want to be king, why did you agree to it?” asked Gawain.
“Because it was best for Ferelden. Just think about it all right,” Alistair said quietly.
There was another knock on the door and everyone turned as the door opened and servants with trays began filing in. “Oh look, your lunch is here. I’ll just be going then,” Alistair said returning to his earlier cheerfulness. He headed for the door and stopped when Solona appeared in the doorway after the last tray had come through. She crossed her arms under her bosom and arched an eyebrow at him. Anders hoped he wouldn’t be in too much trouble for sneaking out on her.
“Hello my dear,” he said. “I think we need to talk.”
Alistair ushered her out the door and closed it behind him. They waited for the servants to set up the table and leave before they all settled around it. The relief they all felt was visible on every face as they began eating their lunch.
They spoke of inconsequential things as they ate their lunch, which was just as varied as breakfast had been. When lunch was finished the leftovers were taken away and the dirty dishes cleared away, they separated into two family groups. Fenris watched from the bedroom doorway as Hawke and Gawain sat at one of the seat clusters and began talking quietly to each other. He thought it was good to see them getting to know one another.
Anders and Brit were sitting at another seat cluster, away from Hawke and Gawain, also speaking quietly. Fenris had gone to get a deck of card from his pack. He turned to the bedroom and saw that Stripes had been sleeping on the bed. When he approached the cat stood and stretched. Fenris gave him a scratch under his chin before digging through his pack. Having found what he wanted, Fenris followed Stripes out of the bedroom and sat down next to Anders as the cat jumped up to the chair Anders sat in. He noticed Cecil sitting on the floor next to Brit.
Anders frowned at the mabari and said, “Where have you been all morning?” Cecil actually looked guilty as he whined.
“Papa!” Brit said scratching behind his ear. “Don’t make him feel worse. One of the servants took him for a run.”
As large as these rooms were, Cecil was used to having much more space to run in. Fenris smiled and scratched him behind the ear. The mabari woofed once and Anders turned his attention back to Stripes who had made himself comfortable on his lap. Fenris smiled as he shuffled the cards. It was something they did usually in winter when it was too cold to go outside. They played a few rounds before Hawke and Gawain joined them. None of them spoke of what they were waiting for, but they all knew. There was really nothing to say about Sebastian until the King or Queen returned.
Ser Martin arrived shortly after Hawke and Gawain had joined them. An armor stand was brought in and Hawke helped him settle his things. After he had surveyed their rooms he settled with them around the table, where he could see the front door and the door to the garden.
They played cards, teaching Gawain Diamondback and Wicked Grace. It was surprising to Fenris how easily Hawke was accepted at the table. Brit didn’t really remember him but Anders took his presence well. He’d expected the mage to be nervous at the very least but he wasn’t, not about Hawke at least. They spoke to each other very civilly, something they had never done in Kirkwall. Hawke himself seemed to be the most nervous person sitting at the table.
It was after their dinner had been eaten and cleared away before Alistair and Solona came back. Fenris was struck by his change in demeanor. This was no longer a man who wanted to know why his lover was angry. He stood stiffly erect with his hands behind his back, his face a mask of seriousness. All trace of his cheerfulness from earlier was gone. Solona stood next to him arms folded under her bosom, and looked just as serious. They stood in front of the pair and waited.
“First, I must ask Gawain if he’ll accept being my heir,” Alistair began. “I don’t like to rush you like this but it will affect what we will need to do.”
Gawain looked at the floor for a moment. “Will I be able to help people?” he asked looking up at Alistair.
“I hope so. Look at what I’ve done for the mages here,” Alistair said.
“We are hoping you can continue what we’ve started,” Solona added.
He looked at Anders, then at Brit. When he looked back at Alistair, determination shone in his eyes. “I’ll do it,” he said. “But I want to go back with Anders and Fenris and Brit. I don’t want to be like all those snobs in Redcliffe who refused to help Mum and me.”
Alistair smiled, just a bit of the man showing through the king. “I was actually hoping you’d want to go back with them. We’ll have to send a few people with, tutors and such, but I think living a simple life is a good experience for a king to have.” Alistair looked over to Anders, serious once more. “Will you do this?”
“Majesty, I don’t have any problems with it…but what about Sebastian?” asked Anders.
“We’re getting there, don’t worry you’ll be fine,” soothed Alistair. He turned to Hawke. “I know you’ve made great progress and I think you are ready for an important task. I would like you to go with Gawain and be his personal guard.”
Hawke paled but nodded and said, “Yes Majesty.” After a short pause he added, “What…what about the lyrium?”
“Arrangements will be made with Ser Martin and you’ll be supplied with lyrium. You’re no good to him if you go mad after all,” Alistair said.
“Thank you Majesty,” Hawke said. “I won’t fail you.”
“I know you won’t,” said Alistair said smiling. “Who better to protect the boy than his father?”
“We do not have room in the farmhouse for all these people,” said Fenris.
“I know. Most of those we send with you will be staying in Honnleath,” Alistair said turning to him. “I am willing to pay for an extension onto your house for Gawain and Hawke.”
Fenris exchanged a look with Anders. This would completely rearrange their lives. Anders smiled at him and shrugged. “The last time someone turned my life upside down it turned out to be a good thing,” said Anders still smiling. He looked at Alistair and added, “I have one requirement. They will help with the chores.”
“Fair enough,” Alistair said. “Now…on to the Prince.” He spoke to all of them but focused on Anders. “Good public relations with another nation cannot begin with lies. You won’t be hidden or disguised in any way. You are considered Gawain’s guardian and you will have to be present. There will also be Solona and myself as well as Hawke and some of my personal guards. Only the guards will be allowed weapons, his as well as mine.”
“I will be there as well,” Fenris interrupted his tone more than a little demanding.
Alistair smiled and said, “I sort of thought you’d feel that way. I know what those markings can do though.” His expression turned hard. “Be sure to control yourself.”
Fenris nodded but said nothing. Anders found his hand and laced their fingers together. He gave Fenris a grateful look and he gave Anders a reassuring smile.
“We want to open relations with Starkhaven so that we can try and help their circle mages. Gawain has presented us with an opportunity,” said Alistair. “I know it looks like we’re using him and in a way we are but this meeting would have taken place whether Gawain was here or not. Anders, you have also presented us with an opportunity. We plan to use you as an example of how well our system here works.”
“An example?” asked Anders in confusion. “How is that going to help keep me alive?”
“You’re hardly defenseless,” Alistair said diplomatically. “Besides that’s what the guards are for. And Hawke. And Fenris. And Solona.” He looked thoughtful for a moment and then added, “We will outnumber the Prince and his guards, there will be two powerful mages in the room, two trained templars and let’s not forget your partner. It would be pure foolishness for him to attack you.”
Anders closed his eyes and nodded slowly. “I suppose you’re right, but I’m still worried.”
Alistair stepped forward and put a hand on Anders’ shoulder. “You’ll be fine, I promise,” he said gently. He stepped back and addressed all of them once more. “The Prince is expected to arrive tomorrow and we will set the meeting for the day after. You are free to do whatever you wish tomorrow, just don’t leave the city.” Alistair turned to Hawke. “Your duties start now. I will supply you with appropriate armor and a weapon tomorrow. I want you to gather your things and move to this room. There’s plenty of room out here for you.”
“Yes Majesty,” Hawke said. “If you’ll excuse me.” Hawke put a fist to his heart and slipped out the door.
When the door had closed behind Hawke, he turned to Fenris and Anders. “Despite your rocky history you three seem to be getting along just fine. If any problems do crop up please try to be civil with each other.”
“If there’s anyone with a reason to hate him…it’s me,” Anders said softly. “He’s sincere and I know he’s trying to do the right thing. If I deserved a second chance…so does Hawke.”
Alistair grinned and said, “I’m glad you feel that way. Guards have been posted outside and with Ser Martin and Hawke both here I doubt you’ll be in any danger.” He clapped his hands together and rubbed them. His grin widened as he said, “May I join your card game? It’s been ages since I’ve had a good game!”
Anders grinned and Fenris chuckled. They made room at the table for Alistair and Solona. Hawke was dealt back in when he returned and there was conversation and laughter. The problems that plagued them were forgotten for a while.
Brit rolled onto her side and sighed quietly. She couldn’t sleep. Everyone would be at that meeting tomorrow but her and Ser Martin. Papa Anders and Gawain had to be there. She understood why Gawain needed to be at the meeting but she wasn’t sure exactly why Papa Anders had to be there. If this Prince really didn’t like him that much then the King shouldn’t make him go. It had been terrifying enough for Papa Anders just getting here.
She was glad that Papa and Gawain would be with him at least, even though Gawain was a new part of their odd little family. Brit trusted them to keep Papa Anders safe. Gawain’s Papa she wasn’t so sure about. Something about him made her nervous but he was Gawain’s Papa and she was determined to be nice at least.
Reaching out her hand, she stroked Stripes’ soft fur. There had been a cat sleeping with her for as long as she could remember but his presence did nothing to help her anxiety this night. Neither did Cecil’s bulky shape at the end of the bed. I wonder if Gawain is awake, she thought.
Without disturbing Stripes, she carefully got out of the bed. She managed to get halfway to the door before Cecil raised his head and whuffed softly. Brit put her finger to her lips and motioned him to stay. She turned back toward the door and he whined softly. “All right, you can come with. But you have to be quiet,” she whispered.
He jumped off of the bed and padded quietly over to her. Brit smiled when he licked her hand and she scratched his head before turning back to her door.
Hawke had made himself comfortable in one of the soft chairs near Gawain’s door, but he found sleeping almost impossible. In the span of a few hours he’d gone from prisoner to protector. He wasn’t sure he deserved the responsibility of keeping the next King of Ferelden safe but he was honored anyway.
They were all showing him a level of trust that he knew he didn’t deserve. After all the things he’d done in Kirkwall…to the mages and Anders in particular…if their positions were reversed, he wasn’t sure he could show the same level of trust. Anders and Fenris were both so different now though. They had both been so full of hate and now a blind man could see their devotion to one another. He was different too, though. Solona wouldn’t let him be executed but had instead shown him what he’d done wrong. She didn’t let him give up on himself the way he wanted to. Hawke often wondered if she’d done the same for Anders.
It wouldn’t be easy living with them. He had so much to atone for but they had both agreed. Hawke knew he couldn’t fix his past mistakes. This was a chance not to fix the past but ensure a brighter future. A chance for his son to achieve the greatness he had failed at. The chance to know Gawain was worth any price he had to pay. Hawke understood now, why Fenris had run with Brit. He hadn’t known his son for very long but he knew that he would do anything to make sure he was safe. Not because that was technically his job now, but because he wanted to.
Hawke heard the sound of a door being opened softly. Opening his eyes only a fraction, he saw Brit sneaking out of her room and into Gawain’s with her big Mabari following along quietly behind. She was a special person and he was glad that he had failed to imprison her in a circle. With the spirit of her father and the compassion of her adopted father, Brit would be a force all her own.
Closing his eyes again he thought, Gawain certainly couldn’t ask for a better friend.
Gawain sat on his bed in his nightclothes staring at the fire that was hardly needed. Being found in the woods by Brit and Anders had been the best thing that had ever happened to him. It was also the worst. They were all very nice to him and he felt like he belonged somewhere for the first time since his Mum had died.
How had he repaid this kindness…with fright and misery. First there was the trip here and now this uncle that he hadn’t even known about. He could hardly believe his father was The Champion of Kirkwall but if a man that had fought a Qunari leader and won was worried then Gawain was downright frightened.
He knew that Anders had told him not to worry but he couldn’t help it. This whole mess was really his fault but it was comforting to know that Anders and Fenris didn’t blame him. Gawain had entered their lives and now he was turning it upside down. He was glad they weren’t throwing him out though.
The short time he’d spent at the farm had been the best. Only having his Mum there would have made it better. But his Mum was gone and now he’d found his Da. He wasn’t quite sure what to think of his Da. Fenris had told him all about The Champion of Kirkwall and he’d been prepared for a horrible person but he didn’t seem so bad. Gawain looked forward to getting to know him better.
The door opened, breaking into his thoughts with a soft squeak. Gawain watched as Brit crept into his room and closed the door quietly after Cecil had entered as well. Cecil jumped up on the bed and lay next to him. He ran his hand along Cecil’s back as Brit sat next to her Mabari.
“What are you doing here?” he whispered.
“I couldn’t sleep. I’m…worried,” she said just as quietly.
“Promise me you’ll tell me all about the meeting? I hate being left out.”
Gawain grinned. “Promise.”
They spoke for a while, each easing the fears of the other. Eventually they fell asleep with Cecil still between them. With her hand resting on his broad back and the other tucked under her chin, Gawain’s hand resting lightly on hers and the other under his head, until Hawke woke them in the morning.
Fenris swallowed his lover’s soft moans with kisses. He rolled his hips slowly, loving the way Anders filled him. He straightened resting his hands on Anders’ chest and began moving faster. Anders ran his hands up his back and down his chest, following the lines of lyrium. There were more soft moans from both of them as Anders wrapped one hand around his erect cock and began stroking.
He rocked his hips faster and threw his head back. Fenris bit his hand as he came and shuddered as his rhythm faltered. Anders smiled as he flipped them over. He wrapped his legs around Anders’ waist and moaned again when Anders began thrusting rapidly. Soon enough he snapped his hips and stilled as he came also.
Anders collapsed off to the side and immediately tangled them together, heedless of the sticky substance still on his chest. Fenris wrapped an arm around his shoulder and placed the other atop Anders’ hand resting lightly on his chest. Neither of them spoke, there was no need.
A familiar sleepiness stole over them both. Fenris finally allowed his eyes to close when Anders’ breathing evened out into the long deep breaths of sleep. Whatever tomorrow brought…they would face it together.
Anders patted Brit on the back. Her arms were around his middle with her face buried in his abdomen. Fenris placed his hand carefully on the top of her head. She sniffed as she stepped back. Her green eyes glistened with tears as she frowned up at him. “I love you Papa,” she said quietly.
He smiled and kissed the top of her head. “I love you too Sweetie.”
“We will be fine, little one,” Fenris said softly.
Brit gave him a hug and tried to smile. After a moment she stepped back. Ser Martin squeezed her shoulder and she tried to smile up at him. This was hard enough for Anders but seeing Brit so distressed was making him more nervous. She exchanged a look with Gawain and he nodded.
Hawke nervously resettled his weight and rolled his shoulders. He looked more like the man Anders had first met in his gleaming silverite armor with a grim set to his face. It was the same sort of armor the Kings personal guards wore. The sword he now wore was also silverite but plain. It wasn’t fancy at all, clearly a weapon meant to be used.
“We should get going,” Hawke said nervously. “Wouldn’t want to keep his Majesty waiting.”
“Yes,” Fenris said. To Anders, he looked as he always had. The tight leather under the spiky metal armor and a plain but well cared for sword. He was a comfortable island of familiar in a sea of unknowns.
Even Anders himself and Gawain looked different than they normally would have. Gawain’s plain peasant’s clothes had been replaced by dark breeches, a black shirt with fancy scroll work along the buttons and a colorful jacket. He looked like a noble’s son. It didn’t really suit him at all.
Solona had left Anders a set of dark green robes with instructions to ‘wear or else’. They were standard circle robes, nothing fancy about them at all. After so many years of wearing pants the skirts irritated him. That wasn’t what bothered him the most though. It was the fact that he was being advertised as a mage. He’d never really hidden his status from the villagers of Honnleath but he didn’t flaunt it either. There was no sense that he saw in wearing robes when Sebastian already knew he was a mage.
He plucked at the skirts in irritation and tried on a smile for Brit’s sake at least. She waved at them as they walked out the door. Anders looked back at her before he shut the door. Ser Martin was leading her further into the room, Cecil at her side. An arm around his waist brought his attention back to their little procession down the hallway.
Hawke led them with Gawain walking silently at his side. Fenris and Anders walked behind them, Fenris’ arm around his waist, and Anders plucked at his skirts again. Anders lost track of the twists and turns they made in the mazelike hallways and soon stopped paying attention all together. Focusing instead on Hawke’s feet.
They were all silent on the way to the meeting room and silent as Hawke led them inside. Fenris gave his sword to one of the guards standing just outside the doorway before entering. A round table sat in the center of the room. Two throne like chairs sat facing the doorway. Hawke led them around the table.
“Gawain, you stand here,” Hawke said pointing to the first chair to the right of the large ones. Gawain only nodded and stood behind the chair. Hawke then pointed to the one to the left of the large chairs. “Anders you stand behind that one, Fenris you’re next to him. We’ll sit when everyone else is here.”
Anders stood behind his chair and tried not to fidget nervously. Their wait wasn’t long. King Alistair and Queen Solona soon entered the little room followed by four guards. Both of them were quite stunning. Alistair wore an outfit similar to the one Gawain had been given but the only other color was gold trim on his breeches and jacket. Solona wore an emerald green gown with long flowing skirts and a neckline that scooped low enough to intrigue but not enough to be scandalous. Her hair had been drawn up into a bun at the back of her head. A golden circlet was the only jewelry she wore.
Both of them wore identical neutral expressions as they took their places in front of the two large chairs. The guards arranged themselves behind the chairs and no one acknowledged the people already in the room. Alistair and Solona gazed ahead at the door. Gawain shot them a nervous look before he too focused on the door.
Closing his eyes, Anders shifted his weight nervously. Fenris took his hand and held it gently, mindful of the sharp claws on his gauntlets. He squeezed Fenris’ hand and gave him a grateful look before focusing on the door.
One of the guards that had been outside the door stepped inside and intoned, “Prince of Starkhaven, Sebastian Vael.”
He stepped aside and Anders saw Sebastian for the first time in nearly eleven years. It was like looking into the past. He hadn’t changed at all. His dark brown hair was still slicked back, his gleaming armor the same right down to the ridiculous belt buckle. Sebastian’s bright blue eyes took in the people standing opposite him as two of his guards moved into the room to stand behind him. His eyes almost skipped over Hawke, paused at Gawain, slid over Alistair and Solona and came to a surprised halt on Anders. Even though he was frightened, Anders met his gaze and didn’t look away.
“What sort of trickery is this,” he demanded. “This man should be dead.”
“Well, I’m not,” Anders said. He hated the small tremor in his voice.
“No tricks Sebastian,” Hawke said quietly. “After I…stabbed him…Anders and Justice were separated.”
“The spirit took him out of the city and saved his life before being drawn back to the Fade,” Fenris said.
Sebastian’s head snapped around to Fenris. He saw their joined hands and his eyes went wide. “Lies,” he said firmly. “What sort of spell are you under that you believe such nonsense.”
“Truth,” Fenris said, a hint of anger creeping into his voice. “Varric and I saw the spirit carry him off.”
Anders squeezed Fenris’ hand. “I am not, and have never been a blood mage,” Anders said. The tremor was gone and a hint of anger crept into his voice also. He felt Fenris squeeze his hand briefly and he took a deep calming breath. “Fenris is with me because he wants to be.”
Sebastian looked them all over once more with an unbelieving look on his face. His gaze finally rested on Alistair. “You have a murderer in your midst,” he said harshly.
“Two actually,” Alistair replied cheerfully. “Can’t forget Hawke.”
His eyes widened further and his gaze snapped to Hawke. Anders tried not to smirk at the surprised look on Sebastian’s face but didn’t quite succeed. He felt a little better when he heard Gawain snickering. Hawke placed a hand on Gawain’s shoulder and looked passively forward. Gawain put a hand over his mouth and Sebastian shook his head.
“Madness,” Sebastian muttered. “Why have you been accused of murder Hawke?”
“Not accused, Sebastian. Tried and convicted. I’ve spent the last several years in Fort Drakon for killing the Sage Knights that were escorting me to Amaranthine,” Hawke said, his voice oddly flat.
“Why were you in Ferelden?” asked Sebastian.
“He was chasing me and my daughter,” Fenris said. “We came to Ferelden looking for Anders so that he could teach her.”
“If she is a mage she belongs in the Circle,” Sebastian said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Anders saw Fenris’ markings flare to life. Fenris growled at the same time that Anders snarled, “If you go near my daughter…”
“Stop!” Gawain shouted.
Silence quickly filled the room. Anders couldn’t take his eyes off of Sebastian. He had a moment to wonder why Alistair and Solona were letting this happen. Fenris’ markings flickered out as Gawain began speaking again.
“Now I know why Mum never spoke about her family,” he said glumly.
“Let’s all have a seat,” Alistair said.
The tense silence continued as everyone sat in their assigned spots. Hawke remained standing behind Gawain’s chair. Anders scooted his own closer to Fenris and their still joined hands sat on the table top.
After a few moments of silence while everyone settled Alistair continued speaking, “Prince Vael, welcome to Ferelden. I’m going to make this very clear. Anders, Brit, Solona and any other mage here in the castle, Denerim, Amaranthine or even Highever are citizens of this country. They have not broken any laws and they will remain in this country. Our Sage Knights are vigilant and we have very few reports of blood mages or abominations running amok.”
“Yet you harbor a mass murdering abomination,” Sebastian said almost angrily.
“I harbor a man who deeply regrets his actions,” Alistair replied calmly. “He turned himself in and begged to be executed.”
“Why didn’t you? After all the deaths Anders caused in Kirkwall he deserves nothing less.”
“Sometimes,” Hawke said quietly with a glance at Anders. “Living with your mistakes is worse than dying for them.”
“People change,” Solona said calmly. “Let us show you how well our system works. Perhaps if you met Brit…”
“No,” Anders and Fenris said at the same time.
“She’s a perfect example,” Solona said diplomatically.
“Use me as your example,” Anders said angrily. “I won’t let Brit be used in some plot because he can’t move on.”
Alistair put a hand on his shoulder. “I won’t force you but she is a very good example. She’s a mage who’s been raised outside the circle and taught to control her gift.”
Sebastian turned a thoughtful look to Anders. “I am a reasonable man,” he said. “Our mages are unhappy and I don’t want Starkhaven to become a second Kirkwall. Both of you have my word. Your daughter will remain safe. Show me how well you’ve taught the child.”
All eyes were suddenly on Anders and Fenris. They shared a look. Anders didn’t know how much Sebastian’s word was worth. He only knew that he wished to keep her out of the mess this was becoming. Fenris nodded his head almost imperceptibly. Anders closed his eyes and nodded unhappily.
“Very well,” Fenris said.
Alistair motioned one of his guards forward, whispered in his ear and the guard left quickly. “Now let’s talk about your nephew while we wait for Brit and Ser Martin.”
“He is my nephew then,” Sebastian said looking over at Gawain, who sunk in his chair a bit at the sudden scrutiny. “Why didn’t you tell me Hawke? Why didn’t you tell me Sabrina was pregnant?”
“She asked me not to tell you,” Hawke said. “Sabrina didn’t really want me to tell you where I was sending her.”
“Why?” Sebastian asked in confusion.
“I didn’t know at the time but I think I’ve figured it out looking back,” Hawke said. “You dropped her in my lap and went right on as if she didn’t exist. Neither of us did her any good Sebastian.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Sebastian said after a moment looking ashamed.
“Gawain is officially my heir,” Alistair said after silence had settled once again. “He wishes to stay with Anders and I think that’s a wonderful idea.”
“Never!” Sebastian said angrily as he shot to his feet. “I will not let my kin stay with this murdering abomination!”
“I am NOT an abomination!” Anders yelled. Fenris tried to keep him seated but Anders shook him off angrily. “Haven’t you been listening to anything?!? Justice is in the Fade.”
“Why should I believe this fairy tale?” Sebastian sneered.
“Because it is the truth,” Fenris said. He had stood right after Anders had and now had his arms around his shoulders. “Where is it Sebastian? You have provoked him enough that if the spirit had still been present you would be ashes where you stand.”
Sebastian folded his arms across his chest. Anders hadn’t been this angry since Kirkwall. “He’s not going to listen to a thing we say,” he snapped. “He’ll believe what he wants. He always has.”
Anders tugged on the arms keeping him immobile but Fenris was too strong. He struggled to free himself, unsure of exactly what he wanted to do but Fenris pulled him close.
“Calm yourself,” he whispered quietly.
“I’m tired of these accusations!” he whispered fiercely.
“We knew he would not listen. He is one man. Everyone else here knows the truth.”
He closed his eyes and stopped struggling. Fenris released his grip and gently pushed on his shoulders. Anders sunk into his chair and folded his arms on the table, resting his forehead on his arms. He took a deep calming breath, determined not to let this small-minded man provoke him further. The air was still full of tense silence when he sat up after a few minutes. Fenris had stayed standing behind him but Sebastian had also sat.
“This discussion is not about Anders or his status as a mage,” Alistair said calmly.
“I…am sorry,” Sebastian said slowly. “I still find this hard to believe.”
“Why?” Gawain asked. He sounded almost angry.
“Do you not know what this man has done?” Sebastian asked in shocked disbelief.
“Of course I know what he did in Kirkwall!” exclaimed Gawain. “I was a ward of the Chantry for a year before I ran away and they make it sound like he’s the one who dared invade the Golden City. Anders and Fenris have been much nicer to me than anyone like you!”
“Wait…,” stuttered Sebastian.
“No!” Gawain shouted. His fists clenched on the table and his eyes glistened with tears. “You never even tried to find Mum! You could have saved her! You can’t j…just come h…here and…and act like you c…care now!”
Anders stood as he broke down into heart wrenching sobs, sitting with his hands covering his face. He walked quickly behind Alistair and Solona to Gawain and knelt next to him. Gawain threw his arms around Anders, resting his head on Anders’ shoulder. Wrapping his arms around Gawain, Anders did his best to calm him while glaring at Sebastian.
Sebastian sat with his arms still crossed over his chest with his head down. Over his shoulder Hawke cleared his throat.
“You see who he takes comfort from?” Hawke asked sadly. “I’m just as guilty as you are Sebastian.”
“I see,” he replied quietly.
Gawain’s sobs had quieted and he sat up rubbing his eyes. Anders rubbed his back as he stood and turned to go back to his seat. Before he could move away from him, Gawain grabbed his hand. He looked up at Anders and pleaded for him to stay with wide eyes. Anders squeezed his hand and remained standing between the chairs.
“He is correct,” Sebastian said as quietly as he had before. “And I am ashamed.” Silence fell once more. He continued after nothing was said in a stronger voice. “Gawain I am sorry and I can only beg your forgiveness. I won’t fuss but I want a liaison from the Vael family to stay with you.”
“Someone to keep an eye on me you mean,” said Anders acidically.
Sebastian looked him in the eyes and said, “I don’t trust you.”
“An archer,” Fenris said. He was still standing and he leaned forward resting the palms of his hands on the table. “If there is to be another person invading our privacy they will be useful. It must be an archer capable of teaching him.”
Sebastian nodded his head.
“Is that acceptable Gawain?” Alistair asked gently.
Gawain looked miserably from Sebastian to Fenris and finally to Alistair. He tightened his grip on Anders’ hand and said, “Yes.”
There was a knock on the door and the guard that had announced Sebastian stepped inside. All eyes turned to him as he said, “Knight-Lieutenant Martin and Apprentice Mage Brit.”
He stepped aside and they walked into the room. Brit looked around with wide eyes and hurried to Fenris. Ser Martin stood at attention beside the closed door. Fenris straightened and rested his arm around her shoulders as she wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Papa,” she said shyly.
“Prince Vael wishes to see how well Anders has taught you,” Fenris said coldly. His gaze never left Sebastian. “Shall we move to a more appropriate setting?”
“Yes let’s go to the practice yard,” Alistair said as he stood. “This is going to be exciting!” he added with boyish glee.
Solona stood and the guards that had stood silently behind them the whole time led the way to the door. Sebastian fell in beside Alistair and they began speaking quietly. Hawke stayed in step beside Gawain when he stood as well and began walking, pulling Anders along with him. Fenris and Brit walked around the other side of the table and met them at the door. Brit gave Anders a brief hug and walked beside Gawain, Ser Martin and the guards that had been outside the room brought up the rear.
Fenris walked beside him in silence. Anders took his hand after he’d sheathed his sword and leaned toward him slightly. “Why did you agree to this?” he asked quietly. He trusted Fenris implicitly but this had been nagging him.
“He will see just what our daughter is capable of. Brit will be watchful of him when she knows what happened in there,” Fenris said just as quietly.
“I think Gawain’s telling her now,” Anders said. The two had their heads together and were whispering to each other, he could hear enough of their conversation to know Gawain was relating what she had missed.
They followed and there was a comfortable silence between them. Anders was, again, soon lost in the maze of hallways. They passed through a garden and Fenris paused to pick an orange flower. He looked over at Anders and smirked. Finally understanding what he had planned, Anders returned the smirk.
Soon after Fenris had picked the flower they stopped in an outside training area. Everyone stood together in a group with the guards on the edges. Fenris continued to walk forward toward one of the target dummies. Anders watched as he produced a string from the pouch on his belt and tied the flower to the chest area of the target. It was bright compared to the dull wood and very visible.
Fenris turned and stepped forward a little way then stopped. Anders stepped forward in front of the small crowd leading Brit with a hand at her back. After all was quiet and Fenris had everyone’s attention held his arm out toward the dummy. “Your target, little one,” he said loudly. “Do not harm the flower.”
Anders bent to whisper in her ear. “Don’t hold back, sweetie.” He stepped back leaving her standing alone.
Fenris walked to the back and off to the side of the crowd, standing as far away from her as he could and still be able to see clearly. Brit’s face was calm and determined. She took a deep breath and raised her arms.
Ice erupted from the ground and surrounded the target completely. Three balls of flame flew at the ice, melting it with a hiss. A force spell blew the fire outward, raising a cloud of dust in the courtyard. Bolts of energy flew toward the target and Anders could just make out the tiny shield surrounding the orange flower. The target dummy rocked backward with every bolt of energy until it finally overbalanced and tipped backward. The dummy stopped suddenly and a ball of ice hit the stand knocking it back and it began falling forward. Another fireball and the target wobbled then stood still.
There were gasps of shock and amazement as the dust settled. Brit looked over her shoulder at Anders and he smiled proudly back, nodding once. As Fenris joined Anders, Alistair and Sebastian walked forward to the dummy. Gawain ran forward as Brit turned to them, her eyes bright and smiling. Gawain bounced excitedly from foot to foot in front of her.
“Brit that was amazing!” he exclaimed.
“Thank you,” she said shyly.
Alistair and Sebastian came up beside them and Alistair looked as excited as Gawain. Sebastian’s mouth hung open in shock and there was a confused glaze to his face. Anders could see the smug grin on Fenris and felt his own lips curl into a smirk.
“It’s not even wet!” Alistair said excitedly holding the perfect flower out to Brit.
She took it and her smile turned shy. The tips of her ears turned pink as she said, “Thank you.”
“It must be a trick,” Sebastian said shaking his head.
Anders felt furious on her behalf. It was no small feat to hold that tiny shield and still cast all the other spells that she had. Fenris took an angry step forward but before either of them could say anything Brit spoke.
“Trick!” she squeaked angrily. Her hands were fisted at her side, the flower still held in one and trembling slightly as she glared up at Sebastian. “I’ll show you a trick.” She held the flower out to Gawain. “Hold this please.”
Gawain took the flower curiously and held it out in front of him. Brit stepped back and with one last glare up at Sebastian turned to the flower. Anders and Fenris stepped up behind her as she created a thick length of ice in her hands. One of her hands glowed orange and she began shaping the ice. Everyone crowded around to watch her and when she was finished, Brit held an exact replica of the flower that Gawain still held. She held it up to Sebastian with another scathing glare.
“That’s a trick,” she said coldly as he took the ice flower from her.
Gawain laughed as Sebastian’s mouth hung open once more. There were more chuckles as Brit folded her arms across her chest. Anders stepped up beside her, a smug grin on his face. Sebastian turned to face him and he snapped his mouth shut, his teeth making a small click as they came together.
“Still doubtful Prince Vael?” Anders said smugly. “Take us to the infirmary.”
“This way,” Alistair said with a small smile.
It was only a short distance to the infirmary and it looked like any other that Anders had been in. Cots stood in neat rows, some occupied and some not. Cabinets stood along the walls filled with supplies and nurses moved about the room at various tasks. One came up to them and curtseyed in front of the king. “How may I help you, your Majesty?” she asked politely.
“I’d like you to let this young lady heal some patients,” he answered holding an arm out to Brit.
Brit stepped forward, her face carefully neutral. The woman blinked once looking at Brit then she turned back to Alistair. “She’s so young,” the woman said carefully. “Can she really heal?”
“Of course I can heal,” Brit said indignantly. “Papa Anders taught me how.”
Alistair smiled reassuringly at the woman and she still looked concerned but said, “Okay, this way.”
Anders stayed with Fenris close to the door as the others spread out in the aisle. Alistair, Sebastian and Gawain were closest to Brit. He didn’t need to see her impress them any more than she already had. There was still much to teach her in this area but she was beyond competent. So he stood by the door and listened to their impressed noises and waited.
They moved to another patient while the first one was given instructions. There was one more patient before their group moved out into the hallway. Brit and Gawain stood in front of Anders and Fenris with Hawke standing a little off to the side with Ser Martin. Sebastian stood with Alistair and Solona. The guards stood on either side of their little group.
All three royal members of the group looked amazed, Solona only slightly less so because she had seen how quickly Brit learned. Sebastian still held the ice flower and he looked at it, watching a drop of water run down the stem.
“She is talented,” Sebastian said slowly. He looked at Anders. “You have trained her well.”
Anders didn’t bother trying to hide his pride. “Thank you,” he said smugly.
Sebastian scowled at him then turned to Alistair. “I would like to speak with you privately.”
“We can talk over lunch,” Alistair said. He turned to Anders’ group and said, “You are free. Lunch will be sent to your quarters and we’ll talk later.”
“Yes Majesty,” Anders said. “Thank you.”
Alistair moved off down the hallway with Solona and Sebastian, his guards following until only they were left in the hallway. Brit and Gawain both glared after Sebastian.
“Gawain,” Brit said quietly. “I don’t like your Uncle.”
“I don’t like him either,” Gawain said flatly. “Let’s go back to the room.”
“Cecil’s probably worried sick. They wouldn’t let him come with,” Brit said, worry suddenly lacing her words.
“This way,” Hawke said.
It didn’t take them long to navigate the hallways back to their room with Hawke guiding. As soon as they were inside Anders and Gawain went to their rooms immediately. Fenris knew Anders wanted out of the robes and he assumed Gawain was going to change his clothes also. Brit went to the glass door and Cecil barked happily as they greeted each other.
Fenris sighed and followed Anders. He shut the door quietly behind him and watched for a moment as Anders paced the length of the room fumbling with the buttons on the robe. In his current agitated state it took twice as long as it should have to undo enough of them. Fenris removed his gauntlets as Anders pulled the robes over his head and wadded the material into a ball.
“That man…,” Anders said quietly but fiercely. He made an irritated sound and flung the robes across the room. It hit the wall, knocking a painting askew before falling to the floor. “He always did have a knack for making me angry.”
“It would seem he has not lost it,” Fenris said quietly as he began removing the rest of his armor.
Anders continued pacing the length of the room in his small clothes. “He refuses to believe that Justice is gone despite the word of someone he trusted,” he said throwing his arm in Fenris’ direction. “That’s not even what’s really got to me. It’s not even that we’ll have to put up with one of his ‘people’, who won’t be staying at the farm by the way.” Anders completed another circuit of the room and sat heavily on the bed with his hands clenched in fists resting on his knees. “A trick, how dare he.”
Down to just his leggings, Fenris climbed up onto the bed and sat behind Anders. He scooted forward on his knees so that his chest was flush with Anders’ back. Anders leaned against him, resting his head on Fenris’ shoulder. Fenris wrapped his arms around Anders and lightly kissed his ear.
“She did show him quite a trick though,” Fenris said calmly.
Anders snorted. “That’s not the point,” said Anders. He was still angry but calmer than he was before.
Fenris placed gentle kisses on his neck. Anders hummed in appreciation. “Stop that,” he said quietly and calmly. “You’re trying to distract me.”
“You wish to be angry?” Fenris asked.
“No,” Anders said quietly.
After another kiss on his ear Fenris said, “He has made me angry as well but we must keep our wits.”
Anders turned his head slightly and kissed just below his ear. “Yes,” he whispered. “Maybe you could distract me a bit more.” Fenris moved to gently grasp his arms. “What of the others?” he asked punctuating each word with a kiss along his jaw.
“So we’re quiet,” Anders said bringing his hand up to caress Fenris’ cheek. “It wouldn’t be very nice to leave me like this.” He gestured down at his hard length. “We’re just going to be waiting anyway.”
Fenris smiled and released him, moving to the side. Anders lay back with his lower legs still hanging off the bed. Running his hands across Anders’ chest, Fenris leaned down and pressed their lips together. When Anders parted his lips, Fenris pushed his tongue through. Anders brought his hands up and ran his fingers through Fenris’ hair, one settling on the back of his neck and the other sliding down his chest while they kissed.
A need for air broke them apart. Anders panted heavily as he followed Fenris up. Another kiss and he pushed Fenris gently to the bed. He was now lying with his head at the wrong end of the bed and watching as Anders scooted backwards. Fenris lifted his hips when Anders tugged on his leggings and they were soon dropped to the floor. They were followed quickly by Anders’ small clothes. A vial of oil was tossed at him and he caught it easily.
“My turn,” Anders said quietly. He turned and straddled Fenris, backing slowly until Fenris leaned up and took the tip of his hard length into his mouth. A quiet gasp from his lover and his own hard length was surrounded by warm, wet heat. Sucking gently on the tip of Anders’ cock, Fenris coated his fingers in oil and set the bottle aside. Running his hands lightly up Anders’ thighs to his arse, he circled the tight ring of muscle before sliding a finger inside.
Anders licked, sucked and groaned quietly around his cock, teasing him as Fenris stretched him open. He released the cock in his mouth in favor of rocking back into the fingers inside. Fenris scooted out from underneath Anders and let his fingers slide out completely as he got on his knees behind him. Anders pushed back impatiently and Fenris let the tip of his cock rest against his entrance. He pushed himself in slowly, his hands gripping his mage’s hips.
After a moment Anders pushed back again and Fenris began to thrust, pulling almost out and thrusting deeply back inside in a steady but quick pace he knew would drive his lover crazy with want. A steady stream of gasps and pants escaped Anders with every thrust. There were quiet moans from both of them.
“Anders,” Fenris gasped as he came. He pulled Anders upright quickly and stroked him before his own orgasm had finished.
“Yes,” Anders groaned quietly as he came moments later.
They stayed pressed together, Fenris’ arms wrapped around Anders and he rested his head back against Fenris’ shoulder once more. Their panting evened out into regular breathing. Anders let himself fall forward onto his hands as Fenris pulled out and stood. He wet a cloth and cleaned them both and then the blanket.
After they dressed they walked back to the main room to wait for Alistair, sitting together on one of the couches. The children played in the garden with Ser Martin and Hawke speaking quietly together nearby. Lunch came soon after and was quietly eaten. An hour after lunch had been cleared away there was finally a knock on the door. It was opened seconds later and King Alistair walked in. Somehow, he looked happy and pensive at the same time. After everyone, including Gawain and Brit, had gathered he began speaking.
“Prince Vael has requested a tour of Kinloch Hold. Arrangements are being made to leave tomorrow morning but he wants to spend some time with Gawain,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d allow that without being there so here’s what I proposed. You, Fenris and I can work out a few things while Gawain and Hawke spend some time with him. We’d be in my sitting room, its large enough for all of us.”
“There’s no getting around it I suppose. We’ll be able to see him the whole time?”Anders said after he had sighed.
Alistair nodded and said, “In an hour then.”
He smiled cheerfully at them before leaving as abruptly as he’d come. Anders and Gawain wore identical frowns. Fenris didn’t really like this either but there was no real choice. Sebastian was the boy’s Uncle and had a right to see him. He didn’t think Sebastian would take him…the Prince of Starkhaven surely had more honor than that. But he was worried anyway.
“I’m going to be left behind again aren’t I?” Brit pouted.
“I’m sorry Brit, but I would feel better if you stayed here with Ser Martin,” Anders said sympathetically. “I don’t trust him either,” he added seriously.
“I’m not wearing all that fancy stuff,” Gawain said crossing his arms over his chest.
“Let us get ready then,” Fenris said with a sigh. He wondered just when they would be allowed to go home.
The second meeting that day had gone much smoother than the first had. Sebastian, Gawain and Hawke sat at one end of the room while Anders, Fenris and Alistair sat at the other. Anders didn’t know what sort of things Gawain spoke to Sebastian about but they were cautious. Alistair wanted to discuss the changes that would be made in their lives.
It was decided that only Hawke would serve as protection along with Anders and Fenris. There would be two tutors, one for general learning and another to teach the future king everything he might possibly need to know in his role as king. Since Fenris had insisted that Starkhaven’s representative would teach Gawain the use of a bow, that person would also teach him about the art of war. Anders and Fenris were both adamant about Gawain and Hawke being the only people actually staying at the farm. The other three would have to find their own lodgings in Honnleath. Alistair reluctantly agreed.
Plans were made to build an addition on to the house for Gawain and Hawke on the farm. Materials and workers were to be sent immediately. A letter explaining what was happening had been written for May, Ser Martin’s wife. Until Anders and Fenris returned she would have the final word on any problems that arose.
The coming trip to Kinloch Hold was the last thing they spoke about. They were to leave early without the usual fanfare the departure of royalty warranted. Anders was very grateful for this little bit of thoughtfulness. Once there, they would be whisked away to quarters inside the tower itself. There would be a tour of the city that had sprung up around the base of the tower on the shores of Lake Calenhad and a tour of Kinloch Hold itself.
Later when they were cuddled together under the blankets of the bed they shared, Anders and Fenris spoke quietly about the coming trip. Anders was understandably nervous about being in the tower again but it would be the best place for him to avoid crowds of people. They decided together that Anders would avoid the city entirely. Fenris would stay with Gawain and Brit would stay with Anders. Early the next morning Anders was blindfolded once more and led to the carriage with Fenris’ arm around his waist. His voice was constantly whispering to Anders as he held Stripes, determined not to panic this time. Sebastian’s presence helped him stay calm…he refused to make a fool of himself in front of the Prince.
Days of boring travel followed. Anders couldn’t help but remember the last time he’d traveled this road. He’d been desperately depressed, remorseful and utterly alone, pouring his heart out to a childhood friend he barely remembered. His life was better now than he’d ever had a right to hope for. He had a loving partner and a wonderfully bright daughter. They were everything…all he’d ever wanted. He kept these feelings close as he sat in the carriage, blindfolded once more. With his hand resting on Fenris’ thigh and Fenris’ hand resting lightly on top of his, Stripes purring in his lap, Cecil’s head resting on his foot, listening to Brit and Gawain talk excitedly, Anders focused on these familiar things instead of the noisy city outside the carriage walls. It helped quiet the panic that rose in his chest.
They were currently crossing the bridge that had been built across Lake Calenhad to Kinloch Hold. Anders calmed somewhat as the noise of the city, simply called Calenhad, fell behind. He could hear people and horses as the carriage they were in passed by. Anders listened to Gawain telling Brit of his time in Calenhad for a short while but he mostly focused on Fenris speaking quietly next to him, telling him where they were.
“We are here,” Fenris said as the carriage came to a stop. “Ser Martin and Hawke will be behind us.”
Anders nodded and Fenris took his hand. The door opened and the carriage shifted as Gawain and Brit exited. Cecil barked twice as he followed and Anders picked up Stripes, holding him close to his chest. Fenris pulled him to his feet and they also stepped out of the carriage. Fenris kept a firm grip on his hand as he was led. After only a few steps Anders stopped walking suddenly.
“Fenris,” Anders said hesitantly.
“I am here love,” Fenris said quietly, close to his ear.
“Hold me…please I…have to see…,” he said.
An arm around his waist with a firm grip on his hip and an armored hand on his shoulder appeared as he let go of Fenris’ hand. Slowly he pulled the blindfold down until it rested under his chin. Kinloch hold towered above him and he focused on the great double doors. The last time he’d seen these doors he’d been dressed in Templar armor, hurrying away after the Knight-Commander had sealed the inner doors.
He wasn’t sure how he should feel, standing here preparing to enter the prison he escaped from seven times. Anders knew he wasn’t the same person he’d been back then. He’d been vain, a bit selfish, maybe just a little cowardly and more interested in saving himself than anyone else. Justice had changed him and the spirits departure had changed him again. That he stood here with an ex-slave from Tevinter, an elf who’d hated magic beyond all other things was proof enough that things could change.
This tower was no longer a prison for mages but a learning center for them. It was home to orphaned mages but it was truly their home. They could leave through these doors without having to worry about being named malificar and hunted.
“Full of memories isn’t it,” Solona said softly.
Anders looked over at her and smiled briefly. “Yes,” he said.
“I imagine yours are worse than most,” Solona said looking up at the tower. “I did the same thing…the first time I came back during the Blight. Just stood here and hoped they’d let me leave again. It gets easier.”
“The memories aren’t all bad,” Anders said looking back at the doors. “Let’s go.”
He looked down at the ground in front of him so he wouldn’t see their large crowd of people. The hand on his shoulder squeezed gently then was gone. Fenris led him through the doors and the hum of conversation among them disappeared. Anders looked up to see that not much had changed in this part of the tower. There were only two people to greet them, the First Enchanter and the Knight-Commander of Kinloch Hold.
“Welcome,” said the First Enchanter. She was a slight elf that Anders vaguely recognized.
“We have kept fanfare to a minimum as you requested your Majesty,” said the Knight-Commander. Anders didn’t recognize him at all. “If you will follow us rooms have been prepared for you and your guests.”
“Thank you Knight-Commander Thomas,” Alistair said politely. “Lead on.”
Anders concentrated on Fenris’ arm, still around his waist and on the children just ahead of him. The apprentice quarters on the first floor had been remodeled into guest rooms. They were led through a doorway into a small hallway with many other doors. Alistair and Solona were shown to their rooms first, followed by Sebastian and then they were finally led to theirs. The rooms were small and sparsely decorated. Little more than a bed and a wardrobe could fit into the rooms they had been assigned.
Because of this, Brit and Gawain each were assigned a room of their own. Hawke would stay with Gawain of course and meals would be served in the cafeteria after the students had left. Directions were given to the cafeteria and to the privies on this floor before Anders and Fenris were finally left to themselves.
Fenris kissed his cheek before Anders settled on the bed. “I am going to check on Brit and Gawain,” he said. “You are all right?”
“I’m fine love,” Anders said with a smile. “Find out how long it is until dinner.”
With a nod and a small smile Fenris left, shutting the door behind him. Stripes sniffed his way around the room before settling on the window sill. There was a knock on the door but before he could stand it opened and the First Enchanter slipped in, closing the door behind her.
“Anders!” she grinned. “I’ve been so excited ever since we got the King’s letter.”
He stood up and studied her, going through his memories trying to come up with a name. Her brown hair was pulled up into a bun at the back of her head and she had exotic features, even for an elf. It was her violet eyes that were twinkling merrily that jogged his memory. “Neria Surana?” he said in amazement. “The First Enchanter!”
She darted forward and they embraced before she gripped his arms and stood back. “Farm life suits you,” she said. “You look much better than the last time I saw you.”
“The last time I remember seeing you...was right before they put me in solitary for the last time,” Anders said shaking his head. “I didn’t think I looked that bad.”
“I was here when you turned yourself in. After King Alistair took the tower…I wanted to talk to you but they wouldn’t let me,” Neria said sadly. An awkward silence fell. After a moment she shook her head. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to bring up bad memories.”
“It’s all right Neria,” Anders said smiling. “There are some good memories.”
Her eyes sparkled mischievously and she grinned as she said, “Like Senior Enchanter Wynne catching you with Enchanter Thekla, bent over his desk and moaning.”
“Oh Maker,” Anders said laughing. “That was awkward.”
“If you hadn’t been moaning quite so loudly you wouldn’t have been caught,” she said through her own laughter.
“Everyone was supposed to be in class,” Anders said. “Including Wynne.”
“You were the biggest bit of tower gossip for weeks!” Neria laughed.
“I think I always was the biggest bit of tower gossip,” he chuckled. After a moment he asked more seriously, “Does that sort of thing still happen?”
“It’s definitely frowned upon,” she said, catching his more serious mood. Neria took one of his hands and gripped it in both of hers. “They don’t have to sneak around like we did Anders. We hold dances, a feast on Winters End, we celebrate Name Days. It’s the most wonderful thing…seeing the next generation of Ferelden’s mages holding hands openly, laughing together or even just sitting in the Roof Garden watching the clouds together. People like you and Karl…don’t have to hide their affection. What you did…gave us all hope.”
“What I did was horrific,” Anders said sadly. “I should have...,” he stopped speaking when she pressed a finger to his lips.
“What’s done is done,” Neria said in a quiet yet motherly tone. “Yes it was terrible. I could hardly believe they were speaking about the same Anders that I knew. Look, and see the good that has come of it. The pretty little elf girl you claim as a daughter has benefitted from that one terrible act. She has grown up free.”
Anders smiled and pulled her close and embraced once more. “I can see why you’re the First Enchanter,” he said.
After a brief squeeze Neria pulled away and smiled warmly. “Look at us carrying on. I need to go, I’ve got important First Enchanter stuff to do,” she said. “We can talk more later.”
“All right, I look forward to it,” Anders said also smiling.
Neria looked back as she opened the door. “He’s bloody gorgeous by the way. I think I’m jealous.”
Anders chuckled as he threw the pillow from off the bed at her. Her laughter echoed in the hallway along with her hurrying footsteps. Only seconds after Neria had left, Fenris leaned in the doorway, with a small smile and shining eyes. He picked up the pillow and closed the door behind him.
“So how much of that did you hear?” Anders asked still smiling.
“Enough,” Fenris said sitting next to him. “I have missed the sound of your laughter. You must remember to thank her for me.”
After a peaceful night Fenris stood in his room with Anders and Brit. Cecil and Stripes were curled up in the corner together. He would be going with Gawain on the tour of Calenhad. Even though Gawain probably knew the city better than anyone else in their group Sebastian had insisted he come with. Anders would never be able to stay calm in the city and he was staying in the tower with Brit.
He embraced Anders and kissed his cheek. “We will be back after dinner,” he said.
“I’m sure Brit and I will find something to do,” Anders said smiling. He pressed a chaste kiss to Fenris’ lips. “Be careful, love.” Brit took a small step forward and put an arm around each of them. “I’ll take good care of Papa Anders,” she said seriously.
“Thank you little one,” Fenris said, placing his hand gently on top of her head.
They broke apart and Fenris took his sword and placed it on his back. At the doorway, he looked back at them and smiled. Anders smiled and made a shooing gesture at him. Smiling, he joined Hawke and Gawain in the hall.
Nearly four hours later Fenris was bored almost to tears. The mayor of Calenhad had been chosen to lead the tour of the city. His deep voice droned on and on about mages, their relatives, the skilled professions the non-mages brought to the city with their mage children, facilities of every sort, population percentages, accident rates…he didn’t know how Sebastian managed to still look interested. Even Alistair and Solona looked like they’d rather be somewhere else.
He truly felt sorry for Gawain. Since he had lived here, this tour was extra boring for him. So far, Fenris and Hawke had managed to keep him entertained. Sebastian had asked Gawain a few questions throughout the morning but they’d been in the same place listening to the man ramble on about something or other for at least thirty minutes now.
Gawain had drifted back to stand between him and Hawke and was currently making faces at Sebastian’s back. After one ridiculous face, Hawke snickered and put a hand on his shoulder. Fenris had managed to keep a straight face when Sebastian turned. Gawain turned all smiles and innocence until he turned back around, then he stuck his tongue out at Sebastian’s back.
“I’m bored,” Gawain said sullenly. He looked around and grinned suddenly. Gawain turned to them and said quietly, “Do you think we’d be missed if we snuck away?”
“Not for a bit probably,” said Hawke just as quietly. “The old man is still going strong.”
“I can show you the best bit of beach on Lake Calenhad!” Gawain said with quiet excitement. “Come on!”
He dashed off and Hawke followed immediately. Fenris looked back to the others and Alistair twiddled his fingers at him. He was glad someone would know they were gone. He turned and hurried to catch up to them.
Gawain stayed to the back alleys and angled them towards the lake, glittering in the sunlight not far away. He led them past the last house and around a large rock to a section of the shoreline that was naturally fenced off. There was a large outcropping of rocks that ended well inside the lake at the far end. The sand on the beach was a fine grit and he sunk a bit with every step. The sand gave way to solid ground and then to a thick line of bushes that turned quickly to forest.
Waves lapped gently at the shore and Fenris stood still looking out over Lake Calenhad. Kinloch Hold loomed over them a short distance into the water and past that all he could see was blue water. Gawain sat in the sand and Hawke sat next to him. Fenris stood where he was, blocking the only possible entrance into the little cove.
“I used to come here with my friend Reggie a lot,” Gawain said looking out over the water. “He’d always tell me about his classes in the tower.”
“He was a mage then?” Fenris asked.
Gawain looked at him briefly before turning back to the water. “I was the only one in our little group that wasn’t. I didn’t really have time to make friends in Redcliffe. Mum was too sick.”
Silence fell among them, each lost in their own thoughts. After a short time, the silence was broken by a grumble from Gawain’s stomach. Fenris turned to them, his back to the small passage and smiled. Gawain held his stomach and grinned, a blush creeping up his cheeks. Hawke grinned and stood.
“Let’s go back and see where…” he said turning to Fenris and extending a hand to Gawain. “Fenris, behind you!!!”
Fenris heard them just as Hawke shouted. He began to turn, his arm reaching up for his sword, his markings flaring to life. The small turn probably saved his life. The large double bladed ax that might have killed him, struck his sword instead. Fenris was thrown forward from the impact, into the water. Pain exploded in the side of his head as he fell forward onto his hands and knees half submerged in the lake.
He saw Hawke rush past him with his sword drawn, slicing his way through a group of at least seven thugs. Fenris tried to stand but suddenly there was someone at his side and the kick to his stomach sent the air rushing out of his lungs. His markings flickered out and he heard a battle cry from Hawke and Gawain screaming his name. The boy fell suddenly silent as Fenris struggled to breath. More pain as the back of his head was struck with something hard. Fenris fell forward into the water, eyes closing as he fell unconscious.
His eyes fluttered open sometime later to near complete blackness. Fenris was lying on his back on cold rough stone. The only light came through a small barred window at the other end of the room. Trying to sit up only caused his already throbbing head to pound worse and he sank back to the stone floor. There was movement at his side and Fenris turned his head gingerly.
“Thank the Maker you’re awake,” said Gawain quietly. “They took your sword and gauntlets.”
“Where are we?” he said hoarsely. “What happened to Hawke?”
“I don’t know,” Gawain said miserably. “Someone grabbed me and covered my mouth…then you fell into the water and Da…,” He swallowed and continued in a shaky voice. “Da screamed and fell…he was covered in blood.”
Fenris sighed and closed his eyes again. That they were still alive meant their captors wanted something. He hoped it was merely coin, an idiot hoping to cash in on Gawain’s association with either Alistair or Sebastian. Just why he had been spared was somewhat of a mystery.
“Fenris,” said Gawain nervously. “Are you all right Fenris?”
“I am getting too old for these things,” he said wearily. “I hope someone has had the sense to contact the King.”
“I fear Anders just might tear the city apart looking for me.”
Anders spent the morning wandering through the tower with Brit and Cecil. There were memories both good and bad in every hallway. He had watched all the students, the first time the halls had filled with them, from an alcove. Brit had gripped his hand tightly and Cecil had seated himself directly in front of him.
The sheer numbers of students had been daunting but he watched them anyway. They walked the halls, going to where ever in pairs or groups much like he had. The difference was the in way they smiled. Happy laughter rang in his ears and a constant buzz of conversation covered everything. Sage Knights roamed the halls among the mages, much like the Templars had, but they were part of the crowds. The students didn’t shy away from them or find the floor suddenly very interesting when they passed.
He watched one young Sage Knight recruit with an arm around his girl, but she was a mage. Such a thing had been strictly forbidden when he walked these same halls. Neria had been right…it was a beautiful thing to behold.
They now sat in the mostly deserted cafeteria eating lunch. After they finished Anders planned to climb to the top of the tower and see what had been done with the roof garden. When he was here, it was the place where herbs had been grown. There had always been a high wall around the top of the tower and he wanted to see if it was still there. He’d spent many days in his youth among the plants, enjoying what little sunshine he could get.
Brit sat next to him and Cecil sat between them. No one had said anything about the big Mabari following them around. He’d gotten quite a few scratches and pets throughout the morning. It was quiet as they ate since it was technically after lunch. Both of them gave morsels to Cecil. Brit had many questions and Anders patiently answered them like he always had.
The sound of the door flying open so hard it hit the wall behind it made Anders and Brit jump. Cecil stood and started growling as Neria ran to them. “Anders!” she said sliding to a stop in front of them.
“Neria what…” began Anders.
“You must come quickly!” she interrupted, panting. “Hawke was found near the shore of the lake, nearly dead.” She grabbed his hand and tugged him to his feet. “Solona kept him alive but he needs your help.”
“Gawain!” Brit said fearfully standing.
“Missing,” Neria said as she led them quickly to the door.
“Fenris?” Anders asked, dreading the answer.
“He’s missing too. We’re hoping Hawke can tell us what’s happened,” Neria said.
“No,” he whimpered. Anders took Brit’s hand and they ran, Cecil’s mournful howl filling the empty halls.
I've taken a few liberties with Cecil the Mabari. I'm not sure if they can sniff things out like a bloodhound but this one can.
They were led to the main hall where a small group of people were gathered around a body lying on the floor. Anders shoved his way through, fell to his knees and began removing armor. Brit knelt next to him and together they got Hawke’s breastplate off. She gasped in shock and Anders frowned. His undershirt was soaked with blood.
“Someone give me a knife,” he said curtly.
A knife was placed in his outstretched hand and Anders sliced through the thin cotton in one clean stroke. The knife was thrown to the floor and the shirt thrown open. The wound was deep and Anders guessed whoever had made this wound had gotten very lucky with a dagger. It was on his side, under his arm. His hands hovered over Hawke’s side, the blue glow of healing surrounding them. Anders didn’t know how long he’d been kneeling here but Hawke’s breathing evened out, blood stopped flowing, he repaired the punctured lung and flesh finally knit together. He let his hands fall to his thighs and leaned to the side. Brit held him upright.
“Roll him onto his side,” Anders said tiredly. “He’s probably going to throw up soon.”
It was Sebastian who knelt beside him and turned the big warrior onto his side. “Why? Is he all right?” he asked quietly.
“Blood…filling his lung,” said Anders. “I had to get rid of it quickly so I moved it to his stomach. He needs rest but he’s fine. What happened?”
“Gawain was bored so he snuck off,” Alistair said, sounding guilty. “They went with him of course. It hadn’t been too long but we were ready to go to lunch so I led us in the direction they went. We heard fighting but at a distance. It was too late when we got there.”
“Take me there,” Anders said determined.
“Is that really a good idea?” Solona asked. “What about…”
“Take me there!” Anders interrupted hotly. “I will find Fenris and Gawain. You can help me or not but I will get them back.”
Anders struggled to his feet supported by Brit. He turned them toward the front doors and began walking. There was hushed speaking behind him but he ignored them. Fenris had been taken and Anders wanted him back. Nothing would stand in his way. A hand on his shoulder attempted to stop him but he shrugged it off and continued on.
“Anders wait,” Sebastian said from behind him.
“Why?” he said still walking.
“I will go with you, but please wait a moment,” Sebastian pleaded. Anders stopped but didn’t turn around. “You don’t even have your staff,” Sebastian continued. “The King and Queen will wait here for a message from the kidnappers. Let me send for a warrior, and then I’ll take you there.”
“Brit,” Anders said softly. “Go fetch my staff.” She dashed off with Cecil at her heels. “I want Ser Martin.”
He leaned in the doorway and waited, realizing Sebastian was right. Brit returned with his staff first and Anders tried to get her to stay but nothing he said changed her mind. She wanted to come with no matter what. He thought maybe it was her promise this morning to take care of him. Brit was so much like her father in that moment, that it made him smile.
It took a bit longer for Sebastian to return with a grim Ser Martin. While he waited his strength returned and Hawke was taken away. They started out toward the city. Neither Sebastian nor Ser Martin said a word about Brit coming with them. Both of them had seen her display of power in Denerim and Ser Martin knew she could be as stubborn as Fenris was.
Anders was apprehensive about being among so many people but he shoved it away. Fenris might need his help and he would be strong for the man he loved. Sebastian kept them to the alleys and side streets as he led them through Calenhad. He was grateful but suspicious. It made sense that Sebastian would want his nephew found but he couldn’t help but wonder why he was being so reasonable.
They followed the shore for a ways until they reached a large rock. Sebastian stopped and searched the ground for a minute before he said, “Yes, here. We found Hawke here. They’ve come and taken their fallen away.”
There were definitely signs of a battle even if the bodies had been moved. Blood matted the sand together in spots. Anders stepped forward around the large rock into a section of the shore that was secluded. Unless they swam the only way out was the way they’d come. The question now, where did they go?
“Damn,” Ser Martin muttered. “There’s no telling where they went.”
Anders crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. Brit stood beside him, determined but a little green. He sighed and put his arm around her shoulders. Cecil had his nose to the sand and was moving around the area slowly.
“Lass,” Sebastian said as he watched Cecil. “Could your hound find them?”
“I don’t know,” she said slowly. Brit took a few steps forward. “Cecil.” The Mabari snapped his head up at the sound of his name. “Can you find Papa?”
He barked once and went back to sniffing at the ground in widening circles. They watched as Cecil stopped and snuffled around one spot, then with his nose still to the ground head for the nearby woods. Brit followed behind him and rested a hand on his back.
“Come on, I think he’s found something,” she said hopefully.
Anders followed immediately with Ser Martin and Sebastian behind him. They followed Cecil through the woods sometimes stopping to let him find the trail he was following. Anders had never considered himself much of a woodsman but his time at the farm had taught him some things. He was confident Cecil was leading them in the right direction when he began to see some obvious signs of recent passage as the forest grew dense. Branches that have been recently broken and he even saw most of a footprint in some soft earth.
Everyone stayed quiet and watched for signs of attack. It was surprising when Cecil began growling suddenly and charged forward. Brit backed up, running into Anders as Ser Martin ran around them and after Cecil. Anders, staff ready, pulled her behind him and ran forward with Sebastian at his side. There were frightened screams underneath Cecil’s growling and barking. As Anders and Sebastian pushed through a line of brush they stopped.
There were two thugs guarding a cave. Cecil had one pinned underneath his big paws, snarling and snapping viciously at him. The man was barely able to keep his head away. Ser Martin rushed forward and used his shield to knock the other away from the focused Mabari, saving him from a nasty wound. Sebastian knocked an arrow and made his way slowly around the edge of the clearing toward Cecil. Anders edged around the other direction, toward Ser Martin who was trading blows with the thug. He could feel Brit’s hand fisted in his shirt as she followed him and he blocked her view as much as possible. He watched and waited, his patience rewarded when Ser Martin knocked the thug away with his shield. Anders cast Winters Grasp the second his line of sight was clear. The thug froze solid and without missing a step Ser Martin struck him again and he shattered.
They both turned just in time to watch Sebastian release an arrow. The man’s struggles stopped suddenly but Cecil continued barking for several seconds. He growled and sniffed at the man as they surrounded him. Brit stood beside Anders and reached for his hand. She was trembling and staring at the arrow protruding from the man’s neck.
“It’s all right to be scared sweetie,” Anders said quietly. “Do you want us to take you back?”
“No,” she said without hesitation. Her voice trembled as she continued. “They took Papa and Gawain.”
Cecil barked once and Anders turned to him. He stood at the entrance to the cave, looking back at them. Anders groaned. “If that leads to the Deep Roads I think I’ll scream,” he pouted.
“At least we have a Warden to warn us of Darkspawn,” Sebastian said with a little grin as he stooped to retrieve his arrow.
“I’ve lived here at the tower for years and I don’t remember ever hearing of a Deep Roads entrance in the area,” Ser Martin said thoughtfully.
Cecil barked impatiently at them again. “We should follow Cecil,” Brit said shyly. “Papa might be in there.”
“Right,” said Anders. “Let’s go.”
Gawain helped Fenris to a sitting position. His head pounded and he groaned. He sat still and it lessened but didn’t stop entirely. There wasn’t enough light to see the cell they occupied. Fenris let his markings flare to life and frowned immediately. They had lit up but they were about as half as bright as they normally were.
“What’s wrong?” Gawain asked.
“I do not know,” said Fenris. “How long have I been out?”
“A few hours maybe. It feels like I’ve been down here forever.”
Fenris looked around carefully and slowly. The room they were in had nothing in it. There were no cots, no blankets, not even a bucket. He sat on the floor of an empty room and he let his markings flicker out. There was nothing to see.
“What are we going to do?” Gawain asked.
Hawke sat up in his bed and scrubbed his face with his hands. “You’re telling me that Sebastian went with Anders? Of his own free will? And it was his suggestion?” he said incredulously.
“Yes Kain, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” Solona said irritably. “Why is that so hard to believe?”
“Because Sebastian hates Anders,” he said glaring back at her. “I thought that was made clear in Denerim. They don’t trust each other. Now Gawain’s gone, I barely survive and Maker only knows what’s happened to Fenris. Now he’s suddenly best buddies and that doesn’t strike you as odd?”
“It is odd but Ser Martin and Brit are with them. Sebastian would have no reason to harm the people trying to help him get his nephew back,” she scolded.
Hawke’s frown deepened. “I hope you’re right cousin. Have the kidnappers contacted you yet?”
“No. It’s starting to worry me.”
He ran a through his hair in frustration. If these bandits just wanted coin they should have been contacted by now. Sebastian’s strange actions could simply be to get Gawain back but Hawke had his doubts. The man just couldn’t be trusted around Anders as far as he was concerned. Hawke was extremely glad Ser Martin went with Anders.
What a mess, he thought getting out of his bed.
“What are you doing?” Solona asked after he’d pulled on another undershirt.
“Getting ready for whatever’s bound to go wrong.”
There’s no way I’m going to the Deep Roads by myself, thought Anders. The cave turned from natural to man made soon after the light from the entrance was gone. Thankfully the thugs had left sconces burning every so often. Still it was darker than Anders liked. The sounds of water dripping echoed everywhere.
“Are we under Lake Calenhad?” Ser Martin asked quietly.
Perfect, not only tons of rock but tons of water too, Anders thought. “Thank you but I was trying not to think of that,” he said, his voice quivering slightly.
Brit squeezed his hand. She was irritatingly calm and he was anything but. He tried to appear calm but his heart raced. This cave had awakened his oldest fear of dark enclosed spaces. It was nothing like the dwarven built Deep Roads. There was barely enough room for him to stand and he could touch both sides of the cave without extending his arms very far.
“This is more of a tunnel than a cave,” Sebastian said. “I hope we don’t run into anyone here.”
“Cecil would know if anyone’s coming,” Brit said confidently.
“Can we just stop talking and get a move on please,” Anders said desperately.
Anders was thankful that they actually did get quiet. He was already inventing enough disaster in his head and really didn’t need their help. There was no way of telling how long this tunnel extended or even where it went. To Anders it felt like forever and nowhere. He took a deep breath and thought of Fenris. I can do this, he thought.
They traveled further down the tunnel for an unknown length of time. So far the only people they’d seen were the two guards outside the cave. There was finally a dim light at the end and they walked a little faster. Cecil sniffed around the chamber they emerged in, but there was still no one around. When Anders passed through he gasped. It felt like silence had just been cast on him.
“Did you feel that Brit?” he asked quietly.
“I felt…something,” she answered frowning.
He held out his hand and tried to create a fireball but there was nothing. “I think I know where we are,” he said slightly louder. Ser Martin and Sebastian both looked over at him. Anders gestured for them to come closer. “I think we’re in the dungeons of Kinloch Hold. I’ve been silenced.”
“The wards,” Ser Martin said closing his eyes. “Yes,” he said after a minute. “I can feel the wards now.”
Brit held her hand out, much like Anders had done moments ago. Fire sprang to life in her palm. “I can still use my magic,” she said. Anders could only stare along with Ser Martin. Sebastian scoffed however. “Is this place truly warded?” he said. “Or are you two playing a poor joke.”
Brit closed her hand into a fist and the fire winked out. She took in a breath but Anders put a hand on her shoulder before she could speak. “Sebastian, I spent a year under these blighted wards. You can’t possibly know what it feels like to be cut off from something that’s an integral part of your being for so long. This is no joke. We are in the tower dungeons,” he said trying not to sound furious even though he was.
“Then why isn’t she cut off?” Sebastian said angrily.
“Fenris,” said Anders after taking a deep breath. “I told him the lyrium embedded in his skin might have affected her somehow. We think that’s why she’s so powerful at such a young age.”
“This could work to our advantage,” Ser Martin said. “They won’t be expecting magic.”
“You want me to use my magic…to hurt them?” Brit said hesitantly.
Anders knelt down in front of her. He didn’t like any of this. She was always so gentle. “We aren’t going to make you do anything you don’t want to sweetie,” he said.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone…but they’re bad people, right?” she said. Before Anders could answer she went on. “Of course they’re bad, they took Papa and Gawain.” Brit looked up at Ser Martin after a moment. “I’ll help.”
Ser Martin smiled proudly at her and said, “You’re such a brave girl. We’ll find Fenris.”
“Stay close to me okay,” Anders said after he hugged her. She nodded as he stood.
“Andraste guide us,” Sebastian said, a grim look on his face.
With Ser Martin at the front they continued following Cecil.
Fenris managed to ignore the pounding in his head as he stood next to the door. Gawain sat where he had been. He had heard someone’s approach and now stood ready for them when the door opened. Even with the power of his markings subdued somehow he was far from defenseless. He wasn’t sure why he’d been taken along with Gawain but he was determined to show them what a mistake it had been.
There was a pounding at the door and it opened inward. A tray appeared with two bowls of something and some water sitting on it. Fenris waited patiently until the man holding the tray was just inside and then swiftly lashed out with his fist. The sudden movement made him dizzy so he gripped the doorway as the tray crashed to the floor and the man quickly followed it.
Gawain stood quickly and poked his head out to look around. “One guard? These guys are really stupid,” he said quietly. “Don’t they know who you are?”
“Apparently not,” Fenris snorted. “Come.”
He stepped out into the hallway and looked down one side and then the other. There was a whole row of cells to either side of the one they stood in front of. One side was a dead end but the other led to stairs. Gawain headed toward the stairs and Fenris followed him. He noticed how the boy kept to the shadows naturally and smiled.
They climbed the stairs and came to a door. Fenris put his ear to the door but heard nothing so he opened it carefully. There was no one in this hallway either. He led them to the right, the only direction they could go. Soon he began hearing the sound of battle. Cautiously peering around a corner, what he saw was a bit surprising.
At the other end of a large chamber stood Anders, that didn’t surprise him at all, but Brit stood beside him. She was casting spells at a knot of bandits around Ser Martin and Cecil. The most surprising thing was Sebastian, who stood on Brit’s other side, calmly loosing arrows. Fenris frowned as he realized Brit was the only one casting magic. Anders used his staff on any foolish enough to get close but otherwise did nothing.
It didn’t take them long to finish the small group of thugs but when the last fell Brit sagged against Anders. Fenris ran to them but the words he had prepared died in his throat when Brit ran to him.
“Papa!” she exclaimed throwing her arms around his waist.
“I should have known you’d save yourself,” said Anders, also embracing him.
“Why is she here Anders?” Fenris asked softly.
“She insisted,” Anders said just as quietly. “It’s a good thing too because here, I’m useless.”
“Why? I noticed you were not casting,” he said pulling back a little.
“We’re in the tower dungeons Fenris…warded so mages can’t cast magic,” said Anders flatly. He nodded when Fenris felt shock register on his face. “Let’s get out of here then we can talk.”
Brit stepped away from Fenris and gasped. “Papa you’re hurt!” she exclaimed reaching up.
“No,” Fenris said pushing her hand gently away. “You are tired. Anders can heal me when we leave this place.”
“He’s right sweetie,” Anders said. “It’s hard to cast your spells through the wards isn’t it?”
“Yes but…Papa’s hurt!” she said turning to look up at Anders.
Anders looked into her eyes, pleading him to let her heal Fenris. He didn’t like seeing Fenris hurt either but he knew Fenris would be fine until they could get clear of the wards. There had never been a reason for Brit to push herself to her limit before but he knew she had reached it. The way she had sagged against him had reminded him of the end of marathon healing sessions in Darktown.
“I don’t like seeing Fenris hurt either sweetie,” Anders said sympathetically. “I promise I’ll heal him the second we clear the wards. You shouldn’t cast anymore spells until some of your mana returns.”
“I am fine little one,” Fenris said softly.
She looked from Anders to Fenris and finally nodded, frowning. Anders looked around him to get his bearings. He’d spent enough time down here remembering the way out to the tower should be easy. Taking the lead with Ser Martin, Fenris and Brit helped each other along and Gawain and Sebastian brought up the rear. Cecil stayed with Brit and Anders walked slowly enough so that Fenris and Brit could keep up.
It didn’t take him long to find the stairs that lead up to the rest of the tower. They didn’t come across any more thugs either, for which he was extremely grateful. The door at the top of the stairs wouldn’t open, however.
“I don’t suppose you still remember how to pick a lock?” Anders asked turning to Sebastian.
“I do remember but I don’t have the tools I need,” he said apologetically. “I haven’t carried a set of lock picks since Kirkwall.”
“Just have to force it then,” Ser Martin said. “Stand back please.”
Anders moved away from the door, down the stairs to stand with Fenris and Brit. Ser Martin tried kicking first and when that didn’t work he tried pushing the door first with his shoulder and then his shield. The door stayed stubbornly shut. He made a frustrated noise and leaned on the door. Anders frowned…he really didn’t want to go back through that tunnel.
“If I froze the door could you shatter it like you did…earlier?” Brit asked shyly.
“That…might work.” Ser Martin said thoughtfully. “Are you sure you can?”
“I think so,” she said.
“What if you froze just the door handle and the lock?” Gawain suggested. “That would take less mana right?”
Brit nodded and looked to Anders. “Can we try?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Anders said slowly.
“Please Papa Anders! If we can’t get the door open we’ll have to go back through the tunnel. It’ll take longer to heal Papa and…I know you didn’t like it. Let me try, please!” Brit pleaded.
Standing on the stairs, with an arm around Fenris he looked at her. He knew she was exhausted but she was willing to push herself further to save them some discomfort. Anders felt a surge of pride and smiled. “All right,” he said. “But if this doesn’t work we go back.” Brit smiled, gave him a quick hug and hurried up the steps. They watched as she touched the door handle and concentrated. It was quickly encased in ice and she swayed a little when she dropped her arm. Ser Martin put a hand on her shoulder and Anders stepped forward to help her down the stairs a little ways.
Ser Martin backed up a few steps, turned and rammed the door with his shoulder. There was a sharp cracking sound and the door swung open. Brit leaned on him as Anders led her and Fenris up the rest of the stairs and out the door after Ser Martin. The second he was clear of the wards he paused long enough to heal Fenris.
Without waiting to see if the others were following him, Anders led the way to her room. When Brit was on the bed, he gave Cecil a scratch behind an ear as the Mabari jumped up to the foot of the bed. He whuffed softly once as he was settled on the bed. “Thank you Cecil,” Anders said before turning back toward the door. He was surprised to see that everyone but Ser Martin had followed him.
“Will she be okay?” Gawain asked trying to look around him through the door.
“She just needs some rest,” said Anders as he closed the door.
A group of people appeared at the end of the hall led by Hawke and King Alistair. “Thank the Maker!” Hawke exclaimed.
“How did you get here?” Alistair asked. “We’ve been watching the main doors waiting for you.”
“Through the dungeons,” Fenris said. “You should send soldiers to search through it and guard the door.”
Alistair turned and spoke to a guard behind him. He turned and darted off. “How did you get to the dungeons?”
“A tunnel,” Sebastian said. “It should be collapsed.”
“All right,” Alistair said shaking his head. He looked at Fenris and said, “Start from the beginning.” After the whole tale had been told, Alistair shook his head again. “You have no idea what they wanted?”
“No,” Fenris said. “I am not sure why I was taken instead of left for dead.”
“It’s getting late,” said Solona, who had joined them at some point. “Let’s get some rest and we’ll see what the soldiers have turned up tomorrow.”
Hawke and Gawain turned to their room speaking quietly. Alistair and Solona moved down the hallway also speaking quietly. Sebastian turned to follow the King and Queen but turned back to Anders and Fenris.
“I know we don’t trust one another,” he began. “I would like you to know that I had nothing to do with this. I would also like to say that your daughter has impressed me. She is a powerful mage but she thinks of others first. I will consider trying to change the way our circle works.”
“We’re just people Sebastian,” Anders said quietly.
He said nothing, just nodded and walked down the hall to his room. After a moment Fenris led them to theirs.
After breakfast the next morning everyone was taken to a meeting room. The tour of the tower had been put on hold to deal with the kidnapping. Fenris was hopeful that the soldiers had found something during the night. They were all seated around a large table, everyone that had come from Denerim along with the First Enchanter and the Knight-Commander.
The Captain of Alistair’s personal guard stood at the front of the room and gestured to someone at the back. The door was opened and two guards walked in with a man between them. The prisoner wore the symbol of Starkhaven on his fancy shirt. Fenris looked across the table at Sebastian. His expression was dark.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Sebastian asked with carefully controlled anger. “Why has my personal attendant been arrested?”
“This man turned himself in to us last night,” the Captain said. “You sent him ahead of the rest of your party correct?”
“Yes,” said Sebastian.
“He has confessed to conspiring to kidnap the heir to the throne of Ferelden.”
Sebastian turned his angry gaze to the prisoner. “Why Phillip? What reason could you have to put my nephew’s life in danger?”
“His life was never in danger my Prince,” the prisoner said quietly. “I couldn’t stand the thought of a Vael staying with that…monster.”
“He is not!” Gawain said angrily.
“It’s all right Gawain,” Anders said quietly.
“No it’s not!” he exclaimed.
Hawke put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head slightly. Gawain scowled but fell silent. Fenris laced his fingers with Anders’ under the table.
“Explain yourself,” Solona said to the prisoner.
“I hired people to take Gawain. We were supposed to take him from the tower but it was a perfect opportunity. They weren’t supposed to take the elf. I was going to send him to Starkhaven ahead of us. I’m sorry my Prince…I failed you.”
Sebastian shook his head. “You have disappointed me,” he said sadly. “I will speak with the rest of my people to make sure this won’t happen again.” Sebastian turned to Alistair. “Since we are in Ferelden he is subject to your rule.”
Alistair waved a hand and said, “Take him away. I’ll decide later.”
“Can we go home now?” Anders asked quietly. “The less people that know who is raising the heir to the throne the less things like this will happen.”
“Anders…” Solona began but Anders cut her off angrily.
“Don’t Solona. Don’t you dare say this isn’t my fault! How many others will try something like this? I know what I’ve done and I’ve made peace with that but not everyone else has. This is exactly why I wanted to stay in Honnleath in the first place. The less people that know I still live the less I endanger those I care about.”
Fenris wanted to tell him that he was wrong but his words made too much sense. So he stayed silent, along with everyone else and simply held his hand.
Anders let the silence draw out as he looked around the table. Alistair was thoughtful but Solona frowned deeply. Sebastian’s expression was carefully neutral. He wasn’t sure he believed that Sebastian had nothing to do with yesterday’s events. It was all a little too convenient. Taking Fenris as well, that’s really what had him questioning. There was no reason for Fenris to have been spared other than Sebastian wanting to get him away from the ‘abomination’. Unless he confessed, there was just no way to know.
“Please,” Anders said finally. “Just let us take Brit and Gawain home.”
“Very well,” Alistair said. “Arrangements will be made and you’ll be on your way before lunch.”
“I will stay,” Fenris said firmly.
“Fenris,” Anders said looking over at him.
“I will make sure Sebastian’s liaison can be trusted,” he said coldly. “Do not think they will just wait and snatch him away from the farm.”
Sebastian’s expression turned dark as he asked angrily, “What are you accusing me of?”
“Nothing,” said Fenris smiling. It didn’t reach his eyes, they were sharp and cold. “I merely wish to know that nothing will happen to the boy while he is under our care.”
Another tense silence filled the room as Sebastian glared and Fenris coolly looked back. Alistair cleared his throat and said, “All things considered that’s probably a good idea. I believe we’re done here.”
Sebastian stood and with a last unreadable look at Gawain strode out the door followed by his guards. Anders hoped it would be the last time he saw the Prince of Starkhaven and from the look on Gawain’s face, he did too.
“Come on Gawain,” Hawke said softly. “Let’s get ready.”
Gawain nodded and stood as more people filed out. Anders and Fenris both stood. He kissed Fenris on the cheek and said, “Go on and help Brit. I need to speak with the First Enchanter for a moment.”
Fenris quirked an eyebrow at him but nodded and turned to the door with Brit while Anders intercepted Neria and waited until they were alone before he spoke. “I need to know what passes for the Harrowing these days.”
“We still send apprentices to the Fade to kill a demon. We don’t send them alone though. An Instructor goes with and only interferes if the apprentice is in danger. Why?” she explained.
“I think she might be ready.”
“Anders, she’s so young…” Neria said worry crossing her face.
Anders held up a hand and said, “I didn’t say I wanted it to be done now. I don’t think Fenris would allow that. I just said Brit’s probably ready. You should have seen her yesterday.”
Neria thought for a moment before she spoke seriously. “Fifteen is the youngest I’ll allow. I understand that she has a…guardian…in the Fade.”
“Justice,” said Anders nodding. “He watches over both of us…I think it’s his self-imposed penance. I could use some spell books as well. I’ve taught her everything I know.”
“He can’t interfere either. I’ll see what I can spare and send some books with Fenris.”
“Thank you Neria.”
She kissed his cheek and said fondly, “Take care Anders.”
A few hours later Anders found himself in the back of a coach, Brit and Gawain to either side of him, Stripes sleeping on his lap and Hawke sitting opposite him, on the way back to Honnleath. Cecil had been left with Fenris. Brit’s last words to him had been a serious order to ‘bring Papa back unhurt’. He had managed to not get too emotional, it’s not as if they had never been separated after all. Fenris occasionally went to Redcliffe for things they couldn’t find in Honnleath and often stayed the night. It was the first time they had been separated with Fenris’ safety so uncertain, however.
Sebastian’s presence had probably helped him stay somewhat focused. After a kiss and a long embrace Anders had told him to be careful. He had received another kiss and a promise to return. Sebastian had promised to write Gawain and then they were on their way. Anders was glad to be heading home but he couldn’t help but worry just a bit.
Fenris walked calmly up the path that led to the farm, Cecil walking beside him. It had taken two days to find an instructor for Gawain that he was satisfied with. He had left her in Honnleath with Ser Martin. Her skill with a bow was impressive, as was her knowledge of tactics. She was Starkhaven born and bred with a thick accent that Fenris had to concentrate to understand.
It was her attitude that had endeared her to Fenris. She reminded him of Aveline, harsh, no nonsense, loyal and yet understanding. He had no doubt her reports to Starkhaven would contain unembellished facts. Fenris was also sure that she would perform her duties to the letter, train the boy and teach him the arts of war.
They had walked to Honnleath, which had taken longer than Fenris had expected. He had refused the offer of a horse because he wasn’t sure Cecil could keep up. That’s what he told them, the real reason was he didn’t trust the animals. He was more confident on his own feet.
He’d been away from them for a week now and he was eager to be home. Cecil was just as excited to see Brit as he was but the Mabari took his orders seriously and stayed beside Fenris. They were almost to the top of the path, just coming into the yard when Cecil began barking. Fenris stopped and dropped the heavy pack full of books that the First Enchanter had sent for Brit.
Anders and Brit were both working in their field and looked up at the familiar sound. Hawke paused with the wood axe resting on his shoulder and turned. Gawain and another person sat with a book open between them on the ground, away from the noise of the carpenters that swarmed over the skeletal beginnings of the addition onto the house. Hawke walked forward to Gawain and smiled as Gawain stood.
“Papa!” Brit exclaimed as she ran towards him. She slowed only a fraction before slamming into him, knocking him back a few steps, and wrapping her arms around his waist. Anders followed her at a more sedate pace.
“I’ve missed you,” Anders said as he drew Fenris into an embrace with Brit still between them. Cecil barked as Anders drew back. Brit knelt and kissed his nose before she wrapped her arms around his neck. Anders laughed and said, “Yes we’ve missed you too.”
“Books for Brit,” Fenris said gesturing at the pack near his feet. “Martha will be here tomorrow to start Gawain’s training. Everything is well here?”
“It is now,” Anders said with a smile.