Una Hawke stood frozen staring at the statue of what had once been Knight-Commander Meredith. How someone could be so tyrannical, so careless of others lives she didn’t know. A part of her wanted to take her staff in hand and see if the statue would shatter. But the thought of red lyrium in shards and pieces possibly being picked up, perhaps even being smuggled away was enough to stop her.
“Is everything alright, lass?”
“Oh, Sebastian. Yes, everything is fine,” Una lied easily.
“You forced her hand and made her kill her lover. I doubt that ‘everything is fine’” Fenris growled.
“You of all people wanted him alive? After what he’d done?” Sebastian argued.
“All he did was kill your precious Grand Cleric. Someone would have done it eventually. How can you see the other parts of Kirkwall, all the suffering people and say that the Chantry is justified in keeping that absurd amount of wealth to themselves? I disagree with his methods certainly but something did need to change,” Fenris said.
Una wished they wouldn’t argue. It’d been hard enough to just get through the day.
“That’s enough now, boys,” Isabela said in a honeyed tone.
“Can’t you people leave her alone?” Varric sighed. “Head on home, Hawke. We’ll deal with this,” he said, waving her off.
“Thank you, Varric,” Una murmured. She gripped her staff tighter and made her way back to the estate.
The loss of Anders still stung. It had been months ago and Una had done her best; going through the motions, putting on a happy face. It seemed to satisfy most people, save for Sebastian. He’d accused her more than once of 'simply paying lip service’ when the subject of Anders’ betrayal came up. As it often did if Sebastian had anything to say about it.
Una lay back in the bath. The water had long gone cold, any bubbles dissolved. None of it bothered her. She heard a commotion downstairs but was certain that it was just Sandal having fun.
“Messere, please. The Lady does not wish to be disturbed!” Bodhan said.
“Sod it, if I want to see my sister, I’m going to,” Carver spat.
Una swore softly and hustled out of the bath and into her favorite robe. She sat at her vanity and tried to look busy, she was reaching for her hairbrush when Carver burst in.
“Brother. A pleasure as always,” Una plastered on a smile.
“Stop making that face. It’s weird. You don’t have to pretend, you know. Not with me.”
Una let her face relax, the frown coming easily. “Thank you, Carver,” she murmured.
“So whose head do I need to knock around?”
“No one,” Una huffed.
“Yet,” Carver said with a smirk. “That stuffy Prince still bothering you? Seems no matter how many times people argue with him he won’t see reason. Bet he thinks of old Elthina when he’s wanking off.”
“Carver Aristide Hawke!” Una groaned.
“What? I wouldn’t put it past him,” Carver chuckled.
“He is strangely obsessed with her.”
“You’re smiling,” Carver said smugly. “All it took was insulting Starkhaven’s royalty. When is he gonna fuck off right back there?”
“Not soon enough for you, clearly,” Una snorted.
“I don’t like him. It wasn’t right what he made you do.”
“He didn’t make me do anything, Carver,” Una sighed.
“I don’t believe that for a second.” Carver rolled his eyes.
“Anders forced my hand just as much as Sebastian.”
Carver passed Una his handkerchief before she even realized that she was crying. She thanked him and dried her eyes.
“Go on and blow your snotty nose with it. I know you’re just dying to,” Carver teased.
Una blew her nose loudly, taking pleasure in Carver’s noises of disgust.
Una was slumped back in her chair nursing a bottle of wine from Fenris when a visitor arrived.
“Shall I send them away, Messere?” Bodahn whispered.
“Depends, who is it?”
“His Highness of Starkhaven, my lady.”
Una polished off the rest of the bottle while Bodahn waited patiently for her answer.
“Send him in. Along with a bottle of whiskey, please. I daresay I’ll need it.”
“As you say, Messere,” Bodahn nodded.
Sebastian entered the study and stood by the fire. His posture was rigid and he held his hands behind his back. If Sebastian had noticed her shabby appearance, he chose not to mention it. From the lines on her face, to the dark circles under her eyes, it spoke much to what Una Hawke had endured. After several false starts where he opened his mouth only to close it and shake his head Bodahn entered with a bottle of whiskey along with two glasses that he set down onto the side table.
“Thank you, Bodahn. Feel free to retire for the evening, you deserve some rest,” Una said.
“Thank you, Messere,” Bodahn replied politely, though he threw Sebastian a glare on his way out.
“I don’t think he likes me very much,” Sebastian said haltingly.
“Not many people do,” Una snorted.
Sebastian’s cheeks went red. “I came to apologize, Hawke.”
“Whatever for?” She asked as she filled two glasses with whiskey. Una sipped from one and handed the other to Sebastian.
“I shouldn’t,” he protested.
Una pressed the glass to his chest.
“Drink.” Her voice stern and brooked no argument.
He threw back a mouthful and made an expression Una couldn’t quite name.
“That’s Starkhaven whiskey,” he murmured.
“I’m getting off track, I came to apologize. About Anders. After everything that happened, I was still so blind in my need for vengeance. I thought I’d put that behind me after the people responsible for my family’s murder had paid with their lives. You deserved better than to… I have prayed on it ever since that day and though I hadn’t meant to, it was manipulative. That position I put you in. I can’t apologize enough, and I know that words from a foolish man mean little when you’ve lost a loved one-”
“Drink,” she repeated, just as sternly as before.
Sebastian gulped and nodded. He took small sips, savoring the taste that reminded him of home.
“I’m tired of thinking about it,” Una said wearily and sat back in her chair. “I’ve put him out of my mind. Just another chapter in 'The Tale of the Champion’, ended.”
“You can’t mean that!” He yelled.
“You’re not making this any easier, Sebastian. Just leave it alone. I don’t want to have this conversation anymore with anyone. If that’s all you came to say, you’ve said it and now you may leave.”
“I know better than most what burying your feelings does to a person,” Sebastian said quietly. He finished his glass and set it back on the side table. “Thank you for the whiskey. Be well, Hawke.”
She had fled the city at the behest of Varric. Under cover of darkness on a draft horse. ‘Best to hide in plain sight’ Varric had said; a wise plan. As to where she’d go, she had not decided. She felt a lot freer than she’d been in years. No obligations, no responsibilities other than the welfare of herself and the horse.
“You need a name don’t you?” Una murmured to herself as she ran her fingers through the horses mane. “Suppose I do as well. How about Ruby?” The horse nuzzled into her hand. “Ruby it is. Audra for me, I believe.”
She’d begun traveling years ago and had wandered the furthest reaches of Thedas; beyond the uncharted lands south of the Wilds, beyond the lands north of the Anderfels. Life was simpler as ‘Audra’. She was free to roam, beholden to no one, no longer duty bound to a city beyond saving. She found herself wandering back to the Free Marches. Perhaps she missed the only family she had left; the friends she’d been to hell and back with. Varric was easy to find and he was able to point her towards her former companions. Her heart somehow led her to Starkhaven.
The city had a splendor Kirkwall could never hope to match; buildings crafted of marble and granite, shops were clean and bustling with lively people.
Audra settled on the outskirts of the city and found herself falling into familiar habits, albeit not her own. It started with selling potions to get by. Then it was making remedies by request. The progression to healing the sick or injured seemed natural; perhaps too natural. She dreamt of Anders every night now. His resigned and mournful expression when she’d killed him. How his fingers brushed her cheek and he thanked her even as she sunk the knife into his chest. Audra thought she’d run out of tears only to be mistaken the nights she jolted awake thinking she could undo what she’d done. A life of service seemed an inadequate penance but she would set herself on that path all the same.
Several months after settling into her clinic a member of the city guard arrived at her door, his head bloodied and eyes unfocused. She healed the man and thought that was the end of it but before the week’s end she had the city magistrate knocking on her door.
“Is there something I can help you with serrah?” She tried to keep her tone polite and even, though in her heart she was stricken with panic.
“You’re the healer?” He asked with a frown.
“Yes, I am,” she said slowly. “Are you in need of aid?”
“Not myself, no. There’s an illness in the castle. And it’s spreading. If you’re half as good as my son says then you’ll be able to sort it out.”
"He’s a city guard,” the magistrate replied proudly. “He said you healed him. Not just his head but his leg as well. It was an old wound. He’d thought it would never be the same, but he’s got a spring in his step thanks to you.”
She blushed and nodded. After she gathered a few things they were off. The magistrate brought her to the servants living quarters first. They were wracked with fever, chills, coughs and sores. After thoroughly healing five of the ill servants, Audra was growing weary.
“Magistrate, serrah, I need rest,” she said. 'Or lyrium’ her mind supplied, though she knew better. The people of Starkhaven were distrustful of magic and very superstitious. It was enough that they had accepted her aid. There was no need to remind them of her 'abnormality’ by downing potion after potion just to finish the task at hand.
“I’ll alert the seneschal and he will find a room for the night. We cannot afford for the illness to spread further.”
“The Prince,” she found herself saying, “is he well?”
“Quite. I’ll return shortly.”
Audra breathed a sigh of relief. Though she and Sebastian had not parted on the best of terms she did not wish him ill. The seneschal greeted her kindly but she could see his distress.
“Are you alright, seneschal?”
“It’s my wife. She’s with child but she’s ill like the others. The magistrate said you need rest. But as soon as you’re able, please heal her. I can’t bear to lose her."
His desperation was plain to see. Audra couldn’t help but think of Anders; how often he had pushed himself to heal just one more person.
"Will you take me to her?” The words left her without a second thought.
“I’d greatly appreciate that. Even just assessing the condition is more than I’d hoped at this time,” the seneschal said and wiped his eyes.
His wife’s condition was worse than she’d feared. The illness was robbing the mother of the capability to nurture the growing life inside her. Audra felt sweat gather on her brow as she poured her magic into the woman. Even as she felt the room sway, she pressed on. When Audra finished the mother had color back in her complexion and the baby wriggled energetically once more. The seneschal wept and thanked her profusely.
“Do you mind if I sit down a moment?” Audra tried to even out her breathing.
“Of course, anything you need.” The seneschal gestured to the divan by the wall.
Audra made it four steps before she collapsed in a heap on the floor. The seneschal hadn’t even had time to catch her.
Prince Sebastian walked past his chambers, only a single bodyguard- Ainsley- in tow, and onto the seneschal’s chambers. The seneschal’s wife was unwell and though Sebastian himself could do little to help, he wished to extend the man any and all services in his employ.
He knocked on the seneschal’s chamber door and waited. Graham rarely left his quarters this time of night, opting instead to be by his wife’s side as much as he could. Sebastian waited several more minutes before he tried the knob.
“Seneschal Graham?” Sebastian asked. He heard a scuffle of feet and let Ainsley enter the room first.
“Did this woman harm you, seneschal?” Ainsley asked, his hand ready to draw his sword.
“Absolutely not!” The seneschal seemed cross at the simple implication. “She healed my wife but she collapsed shortly after. I haven’t been able to rouse her and she’s heavier than she looks.”
Sebastian stepped closer to the woman. Much of her figure was obscured by the dark billowing fabric that could only generously be referred to as a dress. Sebastian tore his gaze from her attire and onto her face. If it wasn’t for the woman’s long mass of golden ringlets, Sebastian could have sworn the woman was Una Hawke. She was softer in the face, more scars, even a burn along the side of her neck.
“Her name, Graham?” Sebastian asked.
“Audra I believe, your majesty.”
Sebastian picked up the woman and carried her to one of the guest quarters. She was at least twice as heavy as Una -or at least the Una he remembered- had been, but he’d no trouble carrying her. He sat by her bedside until he grew tired, vowing to return in the morning before his princely duties.
The more he thought about it, the more he was certain that the woman was Una. Sebastian had wheedled the information of her whereabouts the last time he met Varric after he’d become the Viscount of Kirkwall. All the dwarf had said was that she’d returned to the Free Marches.
He’d instructed a maidservant to watch over her and to send a runner to him if the woman woke. He’d gotten no news of Una waking throughout the day and decided to take her lyrium potions.
He dismissed the maidservant and left Ainsley by the door. As Sebastian sat at her bedside he gazed at her body. She was as beautiful as he’d remembered. He’d never told her of his infatuation; it seemed inappropriate since she had been with Anders then. The regret he still carried over his hand in Anders’ fate had faded over time but looking at Hawke now it stung anew. He wanted to tell her how sorry he still was. He didn’t dare hope that she’d forgive him, or even attempt to rekindle the easy friendship they’d once had. As Sebastian watched her chest rise and fall he longed to reach for her hand but resisted. He doubted she’d even want him touching her so familiarly. Instead he laced his own fingers together and waited on in silence.
Hawke began stirring in her sleep some time after midnight. She thrashed against the covers murmuring apologies. Sebastian’s heart ached to see her so unsettled. He laid a hand on her shoulder.
“Hawke, rest easy,” he murmured.
Her eyes opened and they had a wild look about them. “Sebastian?” Hawke asked breathlessly.
“It’s nice to see you awake, Hawke. Gave us quite a fright passing out like that.”
“I’d hoped we wouldn’t cross paths,” she admitted slowly. “Not because I didn’t want to, it seems silly now. I didn’t want you to see me looking this way.”
Sebastian frowned. “Collapsed from healing people? How could you have known you would?”
“I’m not as fit as I used to be is all,” she mumbled.
“Hawke, I hold you in high esteem regardless of your shape.”
“Oh,” she replied blankly.
“I um, I’ve brought lyrium potions. And an additional offer if you’ve a mind. I would do well to have a healer at court. Especially one of your talents. Would you consider coming to work at the palace?”
Hawke’s eyebrows shot up.
“The lyrium potions do not hinge on your acceptance of the position!” Sebastian added hastily. “You’ve done a great service for my people. And not just yesterday if the rumors are true.”
“Healing people… For quite some time now I’ve considered it a calling,” she said softly.
Anders, his mind reminded him. It should have come as no surprise that the mage had had such a profound effect on her. They’d been lovers, and nearly more. Varric had sought to twist the knife in him deeper and told him that Anders had meant to wed Hawke.
And in a single-minded fit of rage Sebastian had taken it all from her. The more he’d prayed on it the more he did everything he could to invite her rage. He deserved no less. She hadn’t lashed out at all and that had been so much worse. Even now he still sought penance. Though as he stood at her bedside his traitorous thoughts ran wild with the hope that maybe after all this time she’d finally forgive him.
“Sebastian?” Hawke asked.
“Are you alright? You seem… unfocused.”
“As you can imagine, I often have much on my mind. Starkhaven needs a deft hand to rule it,” he chuckled.
“Apologies your majesty,” she murmured. “I should finish healing the ill here. If they are willing.”
“Why would they be unwilling?” Sebastian frowned.
“Aren’t Starkhaveners distrustful of magic?”
“Who told you that?” He asked, seeming somewhere between amusement and disbelief.
“That little bastard,” she huffed.
“I beg pardon?”
“Varric. He’s always told me that they abhorred magic!”
“I think he may have been trying to keep you in Kirkwall, Hawke.”
“Well, I really showed him, didn’t I?” She smiled gently.