Garret breathed out slowly as he toyed with the chain of the pendant that rested atop the leather and furs that made up his armors. He always preferred the lighter materials to the heavier shit that Carver seemed to favor. Hell, if he had a talent for magic like dear old father Garret knew he could’ve been just as comfortable in the old combat robes that mother refused to get rid of. After a moment Garret huffed and ducked his chin down far enough that he could raise the chain up to his lips. Unconsciously he bit teeth into the metal and ground it there while he watched the road and waited.
It’d been close to a week since the fall of Ostegar. Garret could still remember the stench of the Darkspawn and the dying, the feel of slick blood that wound its way into the joints of his gauntlets and to the touch of his skin. He could recall clearly the way the ground grew slick with it as he’d scrambled back with polearm in hand. He could still feel the way his own breath grew stuck in his throat. He’d wanted to scream for Carver—he couldn’t find the little shithead in the mess and the King was dead and back up was gone and—
Garret jolted out of the memory to a light touch on his shoulder. He twitched and his eyes snapped down. With a relieved sort of breath Garret dropped the chain from his teeth. He reached out and pulled Marian into a tight hug even as she stiffened in his arms in surprise.
“Mar,” Garret mumbled. “Thank fuck.”
Against him Marian slapped at his sides until Garret let her go and stepped back. Her painted lips were pulled into a fierce scowl, but Garret long grew to accept that the ever so series child grew up to become an ever so seriously jaded adult. Still, Garret couldn’t help but search her for any signs of injury as if he could will them out of existence.
Marian stepped back and looked him up and down as Garret searched her face, and he knew he looked a sight worse for wear. He’d only just gotten back to Lothering two days prior and he stank worse than dog shit and darkspawn blood. Hell his leathers had a few nicks and tears and he had a lovely new scar across the bridge of his nose that itched in the way newly healing wounds often did.
“You arrogant fool,” Marian said. She crossed her arms over her breast and canted her hip to the side. Garret was used to her disapproval but this almost blindsided him for a second because he didn’t know what he’d done this time to earn her ire. “Why didn’t you tell me you joined the army? If I’d known I would’ve—” Marian cut herself off and turned her head to the side, lips pressed thin and golden eyes shadowed by her hood.
Garret blinked. He wasn’t slow but sometimes it took him a minute to parse the things that Marian didn’t say between the things that she did. She shouldn’t have known that he was in the army—they hadn’t seen each other since the Wintersend the year before—unless, and here Garret felt his gut run cold.
“Tell me you weren’t,” Garret shook his head as he stared at her. “Maker, Mar, tell me you weren’t there.”
Marian raised her head tall and Garret hissed a curse even as he whirled them around so that Marian’s back slammed against the wall and he used his granted diminutive height, since they were only about an inch difference between them, to stare down at her.
“Are you out of your Maker-damned mind?” Garret hissed between his teeth. “What if someone saw you? What if one of the Darkspawn saw you? Flames, Mar—”
“I was in far less danger than you,” Marian hissed back and shifted so that she got right back into his face. Her fingers sparked against his biceps and Garret winced. He moved to step back, but she just dug her fingers in until the point had been made. Garret looked away.
With a bitter mutter Garret said, “It was Carver’s idea.”
“Then you should have talked him out of it,” Marian snapped, but she let go enough for Garret to pull back. They both took a second to gather themselves and then Marian held her hand out, expectantly, as Garret’s own went back to the chain around his neck. Marian sighed. “Don’t be a stubborn ass. Hand it over.”
Garret sighed, and then tugged the chain over his head and dropped the pendant into Marian’s hand.
“You’re not coming with us, then,” Garret said as he watched Marian’s hands alight with arcane fire. She muttered words under her breath in a soft sort of chant and he could taste the magic as she pulled it and wrapped it around the enchantments that already coated the pendant. “Why?”
Marian didn’t say anything at first. She focused on the pendant until she felt assured that the magic took, and even then she stood and stared at it for a moment longer.
“Don’t be angry,” Marian said, her voice softer and far more fragile than Garret had heard in a long, long time. “Mother…has offered my services to the Wardens.”
Garret didn’t know what Marian expected him to be if not angry, but she’d asked and so he smothered the rage he felt until all he could feel was emptiness. It always came back to the Wardens in the end, didn’t it? They took father from him, forced his sister to live out a lie, forced his father to lie to his mother, forced grief to swallow their little family whole for years, and now they would take her from him too. Garret swallowed and picked the pendant up from Marian’s open palm and decided he would say nothing.
Marian truly never did anything she didn’t want to do, after all, and Garret knew that well enough. He pulled the chain and pendant back over his neck, took a deep breath, and plastered on a smile to his face.
“Well then, best I meet these Warden’s, shan’t I?” Garret said in the most jovial tone he could convey. He’d make sure these Wardens would not force Marian to do anything she did not feel comfortable with. There would be no repeats of the sins of the past, if Garret had anything to say about it. “After all, I have every right to make sure they know not to hurt my baby sister.”
Marian rolled her eyes and pushed passed Garret with a huff of disgust, but Garret noted with a far more genuine smile that that wasn’t a no.
Carver showed up bloodied, bruised, and with Darkspawn on his heels the next day. Garret breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of his little brother if only because it meant he wouldn’t loose anyone else to the blasted Blight or the Wardens just yet. His fingers caught on the chain of the pendant that Marian had forced him to stuff beneath his leathers even as he swung his polearm around and slabbed the bladed end through the face of one of the Hurlock’s that chased his baby brother.
“You didn’t say you would be bringing friends, Carver!” Garret laughed. Carve stumbled with wide eyes and struggled to bring his great-sword up and around to block a blow from a genlock. Garret grit his teeth, slammed the butt end of his polearm into the side of the genlock, and then whipped it around to slice the blade through its neck. He reached out a hand to help Carver up and noted, with the faintest of a frown, that over half of his younger brother’s armor seemed to have been lost.
“Where’s mother?” Carver asked in lieu of anything else and Garret sighed and jerked his head back toward the house. “You haven’t left yet?”
Garret steadied his younger brother with a faint frown. He shouldered a chunk of Carver’s weight and dragged him back toward the house.
“Mother refused to leave without you,” Garret said after a moment. “Bethy, too.” Garret didn’t mention how he refused just as much as the others; in fact his voice had perhaps been the loudest when Marian demanded they just go. He agreed to Carver’s stupid plan to join the army, knowing it would leave Mother and Bethany unprotected since father died. He didn’t even protest—and when it all went up in smoke he couldn’t find Carver. He tried, for hours he scrambled around that battlefield and stumbled over Darkspawn and corpses and through black and red blood alike trying to find a hint of Carver.
“Great,” Carver huffed, and then muttered a frustrated, “Where were you?”
Garret swallowed but shoved open the door instead of an answer. He cheerfully announced, “Mother! Look what the dog has dragged in!” Hunter raised his head and huffed at Garret from that sentiment, and Carver in response gave the mabari the stink eye enough that Garret shook his head.
Leandra shot to her feet with a gasp of, “Carver!”
Carver shoved himself off Garret who stumbled back with a faint grunt of surprise even as the younger man wrapped their mother up in a hug.
“Oh, my baby boy you’re alive,” Leandra cried as she wrapped her arms tight around Carver.
“We need to go mother,” Carver said into Leandra’s shoulder. He pulled back just a little with tears in his eyes. Garret moved around them and searched for Bethany. “Gather whatever you can carry, but we have to leave.”
“What?” Leandra said. “But you just came home, Carver—”
Garret ducked his head into the twins’ room and ignored whatever else Carver and Leandra said when his gaze fell on Bethany. On the very edge of her bed Garret saw her curled into a ball with her face buried into her knees. He breathed out a sigh.
“Bethy, Carver’s home,” Garret said. He shut the door behind him even as he could catch Leandra as she ran around the main portion of the home. “He’s okay.”
Bethany glanced up at Garret and he winced at how wide her eyes were. As calm as he could make it he moved until he could kneel down at the edge of the bed and place his hand out onto her arm. He wanted to curse—Maker but she trembled something fierce.
“I told you he survived, didn’t I, Bethy?” Garret said softly. “Come and see for yourself.”
Bethany took a moment, but then she spoke in a faint whisper, “I can hear them, brother. I can hear them outside.”
Garret swallowed heavily and wrapped Bethany up into his arms. He placed his chin atop her head and murmured, “It’s going to be okay, Bethy. I’m here. I’ll keep you, Carver, and mother safe, I promise.” He pulled back just the slightest bit and tugged Bethany off the bed. “Now, come and see Carver so he can fuss over you for a brief minute before we leave.”
Bethany got her feet on solid ground and stood just the slightest bit firmer as Garret nudged her out of the room when the loud sound of a body slammed into he side of the house startled her into a shriek. Garret cursed, and then his eyes went wide when he saw a blade puncture through the wood. He shoved Bethany out the door to her room with a sharp, “Flames!”
With numb fingers Garret unhooked his polearm from his back and held it in front of him. Bethany scrambled to get her staff while Garret yelled, “Carver! Time to go!”
Garret could hear Carver curse even as what looked like a fireball burst over Garret’s shoulder, much to his consternation and his own surprised yelp. Leandra let out a loud wail of loss, but Carver knew to get her out of the house and Bethany would be right behind them both, so Garret kept his gaze toward the walls even as they mad-scrambled out and then down the road. Hunter ran at Bethany’s heels and Garret only turned around to run with them when he felt assured the darkspawn hadn’t burst through the walls to kill him.
A sword swung out right at Garret’s neck and he hissed even as he dropped to his knees and skidded right under the hurlock’s blade with enough momentum to swing his polearm up and bisect the creature’s arm from its body.
“You bring home such lovely friends, Carver!” Garret spat out as he stumbled back to his feet and swung his polearm in a wide arc against the three other darkspawn that threatened to converge on him. Bethany, sweet and lovely Bethany, cast out a few entropy spells to push the creatures away from him and give him enough time to actually catch up without gaining a new wound to go with his pretty scar across his face.
“Thank you, Bethy!” Garret planted a kiss to her cheek and urged her onward even as Carver rolled his eyes. Both twins thankfully pushed their mother into a full sprint and they rushed away from the growing smell of fire, shit, and darkspawn behind them.
Garret slumped against the edge of the hill to catch his breath while Carver wiped his blade clean of darkspawn blood. Bethany, bless her beautiful mage heart, already began to dig through the corpses even if the distaste read plain on her face. Garret didn’t want to think about some of the corpses that weren’t darkspawn and were very much their neighbors, but then he needed to make sure he could still breathe right now. It felt like someone had jammed his favorite knife into his ribs.
“Ooh, that stings,” Garret wheezed out and straightened up as he pressed his fingers through a seam in his armor and against his ribs. Not a wound, but he probably did bruise something between the fighting and running that they had to do. He glanced over toward Leandra who moved in tight, nervous circles. Garret frowned. “Mother?”
Leandra fiddled with her hands, something Garret had seen out of his mother more and more when anxiety and fear threatened to overwhelm her. With a sigh Garret shoved himself away from the stone and dirt encrusted hill to stumble over to his mother. He grasped her hands with his and only had a moment to grimace at the fact that okay there might’ve been some darkspawn blood and guts there before Leandra turned watery blue eyes on him.
“Our home,” Leandra said, and Garret sighed.
“I’m sorry, Mother,” Garret mumbled and tugged Leandra against his armors. He felt rather lucky that she didn’t seem to notice the blood and gore that now smeared against her dress. “At least we’re alive?” She didn’t even seem to register the soft-spoken words so Garret continued, voice just a little louder, “I mean, you know what type of friends Carver makes. Deviants, the lot of them!” It earned him a small giggle and a loud huff from his little brother along with a look of disgust.
“At least I wasn’t trying to sleep my way through all of Lothering,” Carver said.
Garret laughed. “Oh, you’re just jealous that I got to Lily before you.” The bright flush that crossed Carver’s face let Garret know he hit the truth on the head with that one.
“Am not,” Carver muttered and crossed his arms.
Leandra moved away from Garret as Bethany wove around her twin in time to press what looked like it could’ve been some sort of healing potion into Garret’s hands. He eyed it distrustfully for a second before he uncorked the bottle and knocked it back. Beside him Leandra frowned as she realized the amount of gore Garret got on her dress, and Garret winced.
“I do apologize, Mother,” Garret said around the head of the battle, swallowed, and then recorked it with a faint shiver, “but you know how it is. Blood and guts are so hard to get out of dry cleaning when you’re running from hordes of darkspawn.”
Leandra huffed. “I’m perfectly aware, Garret,” she said, and Garret choked on his own spit at the response. Leandra turned toward Bethany. “Bethany, dear, did you find any knives or daggers?”
Bethany carefully fished out two daggers and a basic leather cuirass from the pile of goodies she’d pilfered from the dead and Garret watched with wide eyes as Leandra tugged the cuirass on and hooked the daggers into a rudimentary harness.
“Mother?” Garret asked, voice just the slightest bit strangled.
“Oh, you don’t think I’m helpless, do you?” Leandra questioned. She shot her eldest a look. “I may be old, Garret, but I’m not dead. Yet.”
Garret worked his mouth for a second before he said, “Daggers?”
“Easier than that stick you call a weapon,” Leandra waved her hand. “Also, less heavy than the greatsword your brother favors.” Leandra looked toward her youngest.
“Where are we going to go, Mother?” Carver asked, while Garret still floundered with the idea of Leandra being anything more than his mother. “The horde’s completely overtaken Lothering.”
“All of our stuff, just gone,” Bethany mumbled to herself. Garret watched her grab at her elbows and duck her head with a grimace.
“Kirkwall,” Leandra said after a moment. She reached out and grasped at Bethany’s hands with her own. Carver came up to her other side. “We have family there. An estate.” Bethany looked to be about a hairs breadth away from mentioning the templars when the sound of the horde began to grow again. Instead she swallowed heavily and nodded once.
“Kirkwall, then,” Bethany said.
“That means we should make for Gwaren, take a ship,” Carver interrupted, and Garret had just the sense to realize they finally had a plan beside run when the darkspawn converged on them.
Garret stabbed the one that came up on him with his polearm and said, cheerfully, “Then let’s go!” One of the creatures got around him and Leandra unsheathed the daggers and made quick work of the genlock.
Garret gaped and lost concentration on the battle enough to see his mother happily dive in and tear flesh out of the monsters long enough for Bethany to yell at him to get his head in the game. Garret shook himself, ducked under one of the creature’s knives, and dove to stab up into the skull of another.
“Who knew Mother could fight with knives?!” Garret demanded once.
“Daggers, brother,” Carver corrected with a roll of his eyes, “and apparently not you.” Bethany giggled and Garret huffed.
“No shit,” he grumbled under his breath. They began to retreat as they worked their way through the group of genlock and hurlock’s that attacked them and further down the path. Garret hoped they could be on the way to Gwaren, but he couldn’t tell up from down in the middle of combat like this, let alone any of the other cardinal directions. At least they were going ‘away’ and that’s all that he really cared about.
Garret twisted around another Hurlock and slammed the butt of his polearm into the side of its head before he turned to the bladed end and stabbed up with a grunt. Bethany shouted something that sounded like, “Survivors!” and the sounds of fighting grew even louder.
Garret cursed; he could feel Bethany’s fireballs miss him by a hair as she mixed up her spellcasting to include a few more elemental spells aside from just entropy. Carver beheaded one creature right in front of Garret’s face, to his consternation, and then Leandra ducked in and stabbed another right in the jugular.
“Is this spray blood on Garret day?!” Garret demanded as he spluttered and wiped his face clean. At least none of that shit got into his mouth; he didn’t want to even think about how disgusting that would be. Leandra laughed.
“Sorry dear,” his mother said with a sunny smile amidst the carnage and Garret felt his knees go weak. Who knew his mother could be such a badass? Garret certainly didn’t. He wasn’t even clear how he felt about this version of his mother, but he did wonder were Leandra had hidden her for so long.
With four—five—no six fighters, Garret noted when he caught sight of platemail—the battle against this part of the horde ended in rather short order. The last of the darkspawn Garret faced found itself speared on the end of his polearm, much to his disgust. He tried to shake the creature off and, after only a minute’s worth of a struggle did the darkspawn finally slip. Garret huffed and with a small flourish hooked his polearm to his back.
With a wide smile across his face Garret turned to address these new other survivors only to pause because—holy Andraste that woman was tall. Not Fereldan, Garret felt assured, and beside her stood—and his world narrowed to a white-washed gray.
“Templar,” Garret said, voice tight, just as the templar turned upon their little apostate family and said, “Apostate!”
Garret reached back to lay a hand against the grip of his polearm as he shifted closer to Bethany who paled despite even her pursed lips and stiff stance. Garret could see Carver with one hand on his greatsword next to their mother, who cleaned her own blades methodically.
“Stay back, apostate,” the templar uttered, then listed slightly into the beauty beside him.
“Wesley…” spoke the woman who hoisted him up further, and Garret tightened his grip just lightly. He didn’t want to know what a Smite would do to any of them; he’d heard enough horror stories from his father when he was young, before Marian left to live with the Witch.
“First the darkspawn and now a templar,” Bethany said, and she kept her hands down in as non-threatening as she could. “I thought you all abandoned Lothering?”
Garret wondered at that. He hadn’t seen any of the templars after his initial return from the battlefield, but then he hadn’t paid any real attention aside from the search of Marian and Carver. Still he adjusted himself slightly, and stiffened as the templar—Wesley—paid more attention to him this his darling sister. Garret pursed his lips and plastered back on the smile—better him than Bethy.
“The spawn,” Ser Wesley uttered, listed into the warrior beside him, and then straightened. “The spawn are clear in their intent. A mage is not.” He took a step forward and Garret shifted. “The Order dictates—”
“The Order dictates a lot, I’m sure,” Garret said and Bethany shifted so that she was further behind his larger frame. He waited with baited breath for the touch of a Smite, maybe a Silence if the bastard was feeling a bit more generous, but nothing came. Instead the Ser Wesley listed again until the blonde caught him once more.
“Wesley, they saved us,” she said softly. “The Maker understands.”
Garret watched as Ser Wesley sagged and then finally relaxed himself. Garret shook his head in disbelief and mumbled, “A neutered templar,” under his breath to Bethany who giggled softly.
“Brother, the kind templar has agreed not to kill us all for being apostates,” Bethany said and placed one hand on his arm, so Garret sighed dramatically.
“Garret Hawke,” Garret said to the two, magnanimously. “My younger sister, Bethany, brother, Carver, and mother. All formerly of Lothering.”
“Avaline Vallen, and this is my husband Ser Wesley,” Avaline introduced with a faint smile. “We can all hate each other once we’re safe from the horde.”
Garret nodded. “Oh yes, but to be fair funny time to be hunting apostates isn’t it?” Ser Wesley rolled his eyes, but the tension seemed to effectively evaporate with the words. They stood around for a moment longer before Garret swept a hand through his hair and motioned onward. “Shall we survivors best get going then? Nothing but darkspawn back that way.”
“And nothing but darkspawn back to the North,” Avaline shook her head. “We just came from that direction and barely escaped the main body of the horde.”
Garret wanted to curse. There went their chance to get to Gwaren, then. Carver seemed just as upset as he made an aborted, if angry gesture and a loud, “Flames!” Garret glanced to Carver with a raised brow. “We’re trapped then! The wilds are to the South and that’s going right back into the belly of the beast, isn’t it?”
Garret sighed heavily even as Leandra shifted over to them and placed a hand on Carver with a murmured, “It’ll be alright, dear.”
Garret disagreed, but even still he straightened his spine and started off in the only direction of no darkspawn, presumably South, even as he said, “It’s not like we have any choice, is it?” He made a motion to Ser Wesley. “After you, Ser Templar.”