Chapter 1: The Prisoner
It was barely past dawn when the noise awoke the Dalish Ambassador. Cheers of victory and triumph echoed through Skyhold’s walls as the first of the Inquisition troops returned from the Temple of Mythal. Whoever had been left behind from the battle now crowded by the gates, singing the Inquisitor’s name in glory, rejoicing another victory against Corypheus. Hearing this, Hans rolled back over in his bed and attempted to fall back asleep, his mind only reading the cheers as mockery to his expense.
As the Dalish Ambassador, Hans was the first to hear when reports came of the Temple of Mythal being targeted by Corypheus, yet when the time came to make a stand against the corrupted magister, he was made to stay behind. Of course, he trusted the Inquisitor’s decision, as perhaps he would struggle to fight when in such a sacred place, as he would likely want to preserve the ruins and seek artefacts of the ancient Elvhen, whilst in the process compromising their goal. Yet he could not help feeling the distaste of not going. It almost felt as if he was doing his own kind a disservice by not fighting for it.
Once they left, he began to grow embarrassed for acting so petty towards the Herald, but when news returned from the battle, his rage only escalated. Messages that came back quickly claimed that majority of the Temple was destroyed, and the Elvhen artefact, ‘The Well of Sorrows’, was preserved by being given to the human advisor, Morrigan.
After reading this, he remembered storming down from Leliana’s office, resorting seething alone in his chambers to deal with the news. “It should have been me,” he would think. As the only elf with an interest in helping the Dalish’s cause, he had the right to preserve the artefact himself above all else. But, as he was left behind, he could not even protest the decision that was made.
The Inquisitor’s main squadron returned first, including Lady Adaar herself, her chosen companions, the war advisors and the thief witch herself. There were still many soldiers left to also return, some not for a while as they would be surveying for any of Corypheus’ army to bring back as prisoner. But, marking the Herald’s return and her victory, Hans knew there would be a great feast to applaud her.
He considered himself a friend to the Herald but decided against congratulating the Inquisitor on her victory that day, instead skipping celebrations at the stables, practicing his bow and arrow against a straw dummy.
Several weeks passed, and Hans was becoming restless with thoughts of the Temple of Mythal. Whilst still envious of Morrigan and her possessed knowledge, he was mostly desperate for information on the Temple before it was destroyed from the battle. He knew that there was ancient Elvhen lore hidden within the walls, but the reports he read and interviews he made provided little insight, and no one except for Morrigan herself knew about the Well of Sorrows prior to the battle. He was beginning to lose hope and was becoming exhausted from constantly chasing information. Hans decided, before giving up, he would pay a last visit to Commander Cullen in attempt to convince him to give one more in-depth report. He had little hope, as he suspected nothing more than another lecture from the man. Despite this, he mustered up the motivation to leave his desk and venture down to the Commander’s tower.
It was a warm day outside his room; the light of the sun poured through the glass windows in the hallways and cast long shadows against the staff scurrying about the castle. Hans paid them little mind as he wandered about the halls and cut through the library as he made his way across the castle to Cullen.
From the window in the library, he stops to stare down in quiet resentment at the Orlesian witch. He watches as she gawks in bewilderment as the Well whispers to her the great secrets of Elvhen kind, gifting her with a knowledge she could not possibly grasp the importance of and will undoubtably use only for her own benefit. He stays rooted there for a moment, wishing that he could force himself to cooperate with her for the sake of his research, but he knew he’d only get that patronising look from the woman. Silly Dalish elf, he imagines she’d think, could not possibly grasp the wonders of the Ancient Elves, nothing but a mockery of their former glory. With a sigh, he continued his walk.
Past the stairs, he exchanged a curt nod of respect with Solas before passing through to the bridge connecting to the tower. Approaching the tower door, Hans gave a small knock before entering “Commander, a word if you’re not preoccupied?”
Cullen sighed in frustration, “Arren, if this is about that bloody Temple again, I assure you I have given you all the reports and remains that we have gathered from the battlefield.”
Hans walked a few feet into the room and gazed up to the Commander; he looked exhausted and avoided eye contact with the elf, keeping himself alert by pacing the length of his desk. The past few days has been a rush as the entire Inquisition prepared for the final battle against Corypheus, and it clearly was taking its toll on the former Templar.
“I know I have asked you before, but I need to know more about the artefacts within the Temple. You know anything recovered could help my people greatly.”
“I know, Arren,” the Commander snapped back, stopping and scolding down at the man. “You’ve explained this to me many times. But I’m not risking any of my soldier’s lives by sending them back into those ruins.”
“I know but- “
“No, Arren,” he replied firmly, “This is not the time. We are getting so close to this final battle against that… Monster. We can’t afford to send any soldiers on... On a fool’s errand!”
Hans furrowed his brow, swallowing his anger, “What about all the errands your soldiers run concerning Josephine’s politics? Or Leliana’s marks across Thedas? How are they any different to what I ask of you?”
He was met with a cold glare from the Commander, “Because, those errands actually benefit the Inquisition. Helping Orlesian nobles and disposing of important enemies give us the influence we need. The Dalish, whilst a useful asset, are not nearly as important as allies such as Orlais.”
“What are you saying, Commander? That my job here is useless? That my people are pointless?” Hans questioned, quickly beginning to lose his professional temperament with Cullen.
“I am simply saying, Ambassador, that- “
A loud knock on the side door cut them short, and a scout entered with a parchment message. He was visibly out of breath. “Commander, ser! An urgent message from the scouts in the Dales!”
“What is it?”
“Ser, Commander Samson has been located and apprehended in the Dales, and it now being transported back to Skyhold for judgement, ser.”
Hans watched as the Commander suddenly breathed a sigh of relief, holding back a grin of triumph. “Thank you, glad they finally tracked him down. That will be all.” he dismissed the scout with a wave.
“Good news?” Hans queried.
“Very,” Cullen replied, “Been looking for him since the battle ended at the Temple. This means Corypheus has lost his army’s leader.” Finally, the Commander sat down at his desk, visibly relaxing in his chair and exhaling a breath that looked to have been held for weeks. “This is… Fantastic news.”
After that, their conversation never continued. Cullen suddenly became scarce after the news of the prisoner, and Hans no longer had the energy to chase the man further on his request. But, was surprised to see such a personal reaction from the Commander regarding an enemy.
From the moment he heard it, the Ambassador recognised Samson’s name on the messenger’s tongue. He had his interest and Hans dived straight into research on the man, rereading all reports on the Temple, hunting for any mentions of Samson’s name and his involvement before the trial. After a few skims, he realised why he recognised this man’s name.
‘Samson proclaimed to be the ‘Vessel’ for the Well of Sorrows. What we suspect this means is that originally, Samson would have taken the knowledge of the Well, and used it at Corypheus’ request.’
The Vessel. The phrase rattled in Hans head over and over. Samson had the same role that Morrigan adopted during the battle, and instead of Samson aiding Corypheus with the Well’s secrets, instead Morrigan is using it for the Inquisition’s gain. But, whilst they had the same role, something was entirely different about Samson and his ‘proclaimed’ role in the battle.
Frantically, Hans searched through countless more reports, before settling on a short statement from of the Herald’s companions, handwriting recognisable as belonging to Solas.
‘No one within the party knew of the Well of Sorrows until it was mentioned by the enemy. The Witch appeared to have some prior knowledge, and perhaps suspected it was at the Temple, but no one knew of the Well and its significance in Corypheus’ plan except for him and his Vessel.’
“His Vessel,” Hans repeated in a whisper, his fingertips tracing the dry ink on the page. He knew that the Inquisition appeared to have no prior knowledge of the Well being at the Temple, or even the existence of the artefact in the first place; but, this Vessel, he knew something about it that the Inquisition did not.
Samson was the one he needed to talk to.
Haven’s Rest was bustling with life when Hans entered, making him wonder if they were even aware of the likely hardship of the days to come. After taking his drink from the barkeep, he took his seat nearest the back, nursing his tasteless ale in one hand as he tried to distance his mind from work. Not many people that were here today he could recognise but could hear a few familiar voices such as Varric’s storytelling and Iron Bull’s booming laughter. As he downed more of his drink, the sounds of the tavern began to meld into white noise, the only prominent noise now being the sweet voice of the bard as she sang her songs of legends and tragedy.
Suddenly, a certain name pierced his drums, breaking through the tavern’s background noise.
“C’mon, Sparkles! Everyone knows Samson was from Kirkwall originally.” Hans heard Varric claim loudly from across the room. As he listened in, Varric’s comment piqued his curiosity and soon enough, he began edging his seat over to the table the dwarf sat at.
“Well, that explains slightly why he’s like that then,” Dorian added with a chortle, soon grimacing as he took a sip of his watered-down wine.
Varric chuckled back at the mage, “You got me there, Sparkles. But it’s true that he was from Kirkwall, also was originally a Templar like Curly.”
“He was a Templar?” Hans intruded, startling himself as the entire table flinched from his sudden presence.
“Originally he was,” Varric corrected, “Probably got booted out for his lyrium addiction, he ended up begging on the streets in Lowtown. Which was where I met him.”
Hans frowned; this was the same man who lead Corypheus’ army? He thought to himself.
“Makes you wonder what happened that lead him to Corypheus’ side,” Dorian wondered aloud, asking Hans’ internal question.
“That’s the part I don’t get.” Varric said, a hint of pity in his voice, “I suppose his resentment towards the order helped him rally what was left of the Templars. He was a broken man, and with the Order also broken I suppose they could relate to him.”
“That or a promise of endless lyrium perhaps. As an addict, bet that gave him plenty motivation.” Dorian added.
Varric hummed in agreement, unusually quiet in thought.
Hans leant forwards toward the dwarf, “Did you meet him then? Before he was with Corypheus?”
“Yeah I did,” Varric started, “He wasn’t the nicest man you’ve ever met, but assure you he was no where near the worst person in Lowtown.”
“What was he like?”
“Well, Hawke and I met him when a young apostate went missing. And with the Templar tension in Kirkwall, we wanted to help him before the Templars got there.” Varric began, taking a pause as he took a gulp from his drink, “Samson helped us find him, he took in lost mages and apostates and protected them from the Order.” Another pause, “He cared about them.”
“He supported the mages?” Hans sounded sceptical, “I thought the Templar’s hated mages? Or at least most of them do.”
Dorian laughed at the elf’s comment, taking the last swig of his drink when he calmed down, “Careful with bold claims like that, Ambassador. But, you’re not entirely wrong.”
“Maybe that’s why they kicked him out of the order. Afterall, Kirkwall Templars were also famous for their tension with the mages. Maybe he couldn’t stand treated mages the way he did.”
“You think so?”
“Ghil, I don’t think anyone really knows except for Samson himself.”
Then, the dwarf turned away, quickly changing the subject a different exaggerated story of his past. The table laughed and applauded along as Hans swallowed the feeling of unease rising in his throat.
Later that evening, in the dead of the night, the last of the Dales’ scouts returned to Skyhold, along with their special bounty. Hans was awake when they came and peered out of his window to watch the shapes of men taking the prisoner below the castle to the dungeons. The man was only a shape in the darkness, but you could still tell he was heavily chained and still dressed in full armour. Whilst the elf was far away from the events below, there appeared to be no complaints from the man as he was dragged down the steps, as no sounds pierced the night except for the chains rattling between his wrists.
He watched intensely until the group disappeared down the staircase, before the light of their lanterns disappeared from the courtyard. As everything fell silence once again, Hans turned back over and collapsed into the bed sheets.
Tomorrow would be the trial, and hopefully with it, there will be answers.
The judgement of General Samson was arranged to be the morning after his arrival, and from what could be seen, nearly the entirety of the Inquisition was attending. Whispers were already floating about the castle about the importance of that morning’s trial, how even Commander Cullen would be attending as well as taking charge of it in Ambassador Josephine’s place.
When Hans left his chambers to attend, the grand hall was already bustling with people, both nobility and common folk, all awaiting the anticipated judgement of the General. Hans managed slide in a few rows behind the front before the trial begun, lucky to have a good view of the Inquisitor’s throne and the steps before it.
Inquisitor Adaar was the first to arrive, with Cullen hot on her heel behind her. They marched silently down the centre of the hall; the crowd parting before them out of respect before Adaar went to take her seat by the great stain-glassed window. Guards stood patiently either side of the seat, and next to them Cullen waited like a loyal old dog, various documents in his hands ready for the trial. With a wave of her hand, she signalled for the judgement to begin.
“Forgive me, Inquisitor. For personal interest, I have relieved Josephine. As you might expect.” Cullen said towards the Herald, bowing in thanks when she nodded in response. He quickly turned back to the guards by the entrance, signalling them to collect the judged with a curt nod.
“Knight-Templar Samson, General to Corypheus, traitor to the Order,” Cullen began, listing his offences with intensity in his voice, “The blood on his hands cannot be measured.”
Then, Hans heard the crowd gasp behind him as a rattling of chains echoed through the hall. With two guards by his side dragging him through the building, the now prisoner, Raleigh Samson, made his way slowly towards the Inquisitor. The man kept his face low but was still wore his infamous lyrium-laced armour, with a single crystal jutting out from the chest plate. The armour was clearly well-used; blood-groves decorated the metal and the leather cracked under his elbows and neck, and even though he wore no helmet, he kept his face away from the crowd, as all they could see was his long, hooked nose and thin, greased hair.
The guards released him before the steps, remaining close to his side in case he escaped. From where he was, Hans could hardly see the man’s face, only the mark of Kirkwall on his armour and his ragged brown hair, though could tell the man would make no attempt to free himself, his face lowered to the stare at the carpet beneath him.
Cullen took a pause as he stared down at the man, his brow furrowing in a sense of both pity and rage. “His head is too valuable to take,” he explained, “Kirkwall, Orlais: many would see him suffer. I can’t say I’m not one of them.”
“Judging him will affect as many as his crimes. I won’t take it lightly.” The Inquisitor responded; her face unreadable from where Hans stood.
“The red lyrium with steal your vengeance.” Samson snarled back to everyone’s surprise; when Hans looked back at him, the prisoner had suddenly pulled his head up, replying to their claims without hesitation. “You know what it does. Corypheus only delayed my corruption.” His voice was gravelly, and his tongue did not sound educated like Cullen’s or Josephine’s.
“Are you still loyal to that thing? He poisoned the Order, used them to kill thousands!” Cullen barked.
“Templars have always been used!” Samson sneered back at the Commander with a familiar rage. “How many were left to rot, like I was, after the Chantry burned away their minds?”
There was a pause as a silence fell across the hall, the Commander and the man glowering at each other.
“Piss on it! I followed him so Templars could at least die at their best!” Samson exclaimed, “Same lie as the Chantry, The Prophet just isn’t as pretty.”
“I found your people.” Adaar suddenly interjected. “They believed in you. Believed your cause was righteous.”
“Not your business, Inquisitor.” Samson replied just as quick.
Cullen scoffed, “Your friend Maddox was so loyal, he killed himself. For you.”
“They were always going to die. I saw what Corypheus was doing, so yes, I fed them more hope instead of despair.” Came his response, “I made them believe their pain had purpose. Just like the Chantry does. Right, Commander?”
He paused yet again, the humour in his voice leaving him quickly, “It ended as well as anything else I’ve done. Corypheus would kill me on sight. I’ll tell your people what they want.” He looked back down at the ground, “Everything I cared about it destroyed.”
Silence fell across the hall, both the Inquisitor and the Commander staring down at the broken man. Whilst Hans could not see his face, he could even tell from his posture that he was dejected and defeated, nothing left in him wanted to fight against the Inquisition and their judgement. He had accepted his coming fate from the moment he was captured.
The atmosphere was cold as ice. Onlookers such as Hans exchanged puzzled looks, fighting the urge to talk whilst the Inquisitor continued to contemplate in silence. The Commander tried to meet eyes with the Herald, but she avoided away his searching looks as to make her own choice of the judgement rather than Cullen deciding his fate.
“Very well, Samson.” Lady Adaar sighed, sitting forward in her seat. “You will spend your remaining years serving the Inquisition. Cullen will be your handler. Perhaps he can get something useful out of you.”
A few murmurs and gasps were heard amongst the crowd, but Hans focused on the Commander as he snapped his eyes back to the floor in what he could assume was frustration.
“I doubt the Commander believes there’s anything worthy left in me,” Samson added, also facing the ground.
“You’re not wrong,” Cullen agreed, “But you served something greater than yourself once. Perhaps you can be made to remember that.”
The Inquisitor raised a hand to silence them both, “Samson, you can still be of use to good people,” she added, “What you know is less important than what you are. My arcanist will also study your resistance to red lyrium whilst in our service.”
Samson jeered, raising his head slightly to look up at the qunari woman, “Do as you will, Inquisitor. Your kind always does.”
Adaar sat back against her throne, signalling the guards beside Samson again with a wave of her hand.
With that, the trial was over.
Silence remained as the guards once again took hold of the General and turned him back out of the hall, the only sounds again being the chains rattling between his wrists as they walked out. The moment he left, the crowd resumed murmuring amongst themselves, some of them shocked with the light punishment against the General, whilst some praised the Inquisitor’s mercy and clever use of Samson as a possible resource. Hans simply stood quietly amid them, staring at the Inquisitor as she now spoke to the Commander stood next to her, perhaps discussing the interrogation he would be performing, or maybe a professional disagreement at her decision for all he knew.
Eventually, the Commander took a small bow to the Inquisitor and turned on his heel to leave the hall alongside the guards and the now separating crowd. Then, she turned and noticed Hans midst the remaining onlookers; she gave him a warm smile, gesturing him to join her over by the throne. Returning the smile, he complied and began trotting over to the qunari woman.
“Hello, my friend,” she beamed down at him. Despite her sitting down, she was still taller than him. “I saw you remained for the whole trial, I honestly thought with Cullen there it would have lasted much longer.”
“I think you made a wise decision with the General, Inquisitor,” he said, not even lying to fit in a compliment. “Although, I think the Commander would have preferred a more aggressive approach.”
She nodded in agreement, “Well, as you know this was a personal issue for him. But I did not want his involvement with the prisoner to affect my treatment of him.”
“I understood Cullen knew him, but I did not know they were close?”
Adaar shook her head, no longer looking at the elf, “I do not believe they were close, but instead they worked together during the order. Cullen did not give much details, but they were friendly once. I think it’s more of a matter of Samson’s ‘corruption’ of the order which bothers him.”
Hans made a sound of understanding, “I don’t understand the Commander sometimes. He says he is no longer bound to the Templar order, but also defends its insanity and cruelty to mages.”
With a sigh, the Herald pushed herself up off the throne, walking in front of the Ambassador and back towards the hall’s entrance. She glanced back at Hans for a moment, inviting him to walk alongside her, to which he followed, “I agree with you, Ambassador, as a mage, it confuses me where his alliances lie. But I know he’s a good man, and you should know that too.”
Hans sighed, looking up at the towering woman as he realised, she was right. “I’ll admit, me and the Commander don’t always agree, I apologise if that gets in the way of the Inquisition’s cause sometimes.”
Adaar laughed, stopping at the steps leading to Skyhold’s courtyard and turning to the small elf, “Don’t concern yourself with it, there are stronger rivalries in the Inquisition, Arren. Have you ever been in a room with Vivienne and Sera? Those two wouldn’t get along even if they were the last creatures alive.”
He chuckled, shaking his head. Being around the Inquisitor always filled him with ease. Despite her height and intimidating features, she was quite the opposite of what people expected of qunaris or mages. The pair easily became friendly from the moment they met, and both with their admiration for magic and nature, a friendship was not difficult to maintain. But Hans sometimes felt embarrassed when he knows his needs could sometimes be difficult for others, especially with already having many rivalries with other members of the Inquisition. Cullen only being one of them.
“Herald, whilst still regarding this trial, there is something I need to ask of you.”
“It’s about the Temple of Mythal. I discovered yesterday that General Samson was involved with the Well of Sorrows. If he has any prior knowledge of the Well, I believe it could be useful to the Dalish.”
Adaar hummed in thought, “Well, whilst I have no quarrel with people questioning the General. I made Cullen his handler.” To that, Hans sighed, resting a hand on his hip and making a suggestive look at her, one that read, must I again with him? To that, she chuckled and shook her head, “But, I suppose I can inform him myself of you talking to him. Just try not to overstay your welcome with that.”
The elf responded with a grateful grin, “I do not plan to spend hours of my day with him, just a few questions in a single session should cover it just fine. But thank you for covering for me, Adaar, I greatly appreciate your help.”
She rolled her eyes affectionately, patting his shoulder with some force before turning to leave. “Good luck with your investigation, Ambassador,” she called back as she descended the steps, before disappearing as she entered Haven’s Rest.
With a sigh, the smile began to fall from Hans’ face. Looking towards the outside entrance to Skyhold’s prison, two guards emerged, likely returning from putting Samson back away in his cell. This time, this would be where he stays, for his remaining years, Adaar’s voice echoed in his head. He had plenty of time to question the prisoner.
Several days had passed since the General’s trial, and Skyhold began to turn its focus towards other matters. The entire base was chaotic with preparations; soldiers bustled in the courtyard as they practiced in the sparring ring, merchants crowded by the stables with stock for the army and the blacksmiths were hard at work outfitting the troops. Everyone knew the final fight against Corypheus was drawing near, and with it the Commander was surprisingly scarce, likely to be trying to squeeze any last information out of Samson before the fight.
Adaar had told Hans that the prisoner was not to be questioned further until Cullen deemed his own interrogation to be finished. It was frustrating to wait even longer before the elf could pursue his investigation, but he was not up for arguing with the ex-Templar, so he complied with the Inquisitor’s orders. Instead, he busied himself by observing the entrance to the dungeons and making mental notes when a guard used it.
He guessed Cullen’s interrogation happened within his own office, as he spotted Samson leaving the cells accompanied by several guards one morning; he did not mark his return to the cells until suppertime, which suggested to Hans that the questioning had taken place. That same evening, one of Cullen’s messengers dropped by Hans chambers to confirm his suspicions.
“Ambassador Arren. The Commander wanted to alert you that the interrogation of the prisoner, Samson, is over. You can use him for your own investigation now, if you so wish.”
Hans sighed with relief, “Thank you, please send him back my thanks. I will speak to him after I’ve spoken to the prisoner.” With a nod, the messenger scurried off down the hall.
The next morning, Hans awoke soon after dawn, eager for answers. He rushed about his chambers, cleaning his face and hair before dressing. As he gathered his notes from various reports, he took a quick glance in the mirror. He could almost convince himself he looked the part of the Dalish Ambassador; he was dressed into his white and copper garments provided by the Inquisition, his dark brown hair styled with traditional elven braids, his dark skin for once clean and bright in the morning light and his white Ghilan’nain vallaslin clear on his face.
Out past the courtyard, he made his slow descent into the castle’s holding cells, to which he was met with a vast and empty chamber. The room was dimly lit with lanterns as natural light poured in from the missing end of the wall at the far back of the chamber. A waterfall roared down past it outside and the chill mountain air hung about the area.
One guard stood before him, fully armoured with a bored look on her face before she realised, she had company.
“My lord!” she greeted him, slightly startled. “Good morning, are you here to see the prisoner?”
“Yes, I’m here to speak to General Samson.”
She gave him a nod of understanding, “General Samson is our only prisoner here, my lord. The Inquisitor has been quite merciful with her judgements. He’s just through the gap there and down on the left.”
It was then Hans noticed just how empty the prison was. With all the holding cells empty, the room looked creepily bare, and it almost seemed useless to keep a guard down here with only one prisoner.
“I should not be any more than an hour, I just want to ask him a few questions.”
“Right my lord. I’ll try and keep out of your way and give you some privacy.”
He bowed to her in quick thanks and proceeded ahead.
As he past the split between the two holding chambers, he turned towards the only occupied cell in the entire castle. The light barely touched this corner of the room, and the chill from the outside easily seeped its way into the area and under his clothes. But, even in the dark, Hans could just see the shadow of the man that lay within the cell. With a deep sigh, he spoke out to the darkness at the shadow.
“General Raleigh Samson?”
This chapter ended up a lot longer than I expected! But I have big plans for the next one!
Please if you have any feedback for the story and my writing it is greatly welcomed! Thank you for your interest and check my Twitter for updates!