Reyn Hawke stood on the deck of the ship and watched the dock slide closer. Carver and Mother were still below, sprawled with the rest of the Ferelden refugees, but he hadn’t been able to stand it one moment longer. After two weeks of storms, trapped amidst the filth while disease spread like wildfire through the crowded hold, he’d reached the point where throwing himself overboard was starting to look like the better option.
He’d done his best to keep up everyone’s spirits throughout the hellish voyage, cracking jokes even when he didn’t feel at all like laughing himself. Carver had initially responded to his attempts at humor with a glare, but quickly moved on to petty sniping, which was more or less Carver on any given day. The templar’s wife, Aveline, had smiled once or twice, but she was lost in grief for her dead husband.
And isn’t it odd that she stayed with us, instead of denouncing me as an apostate to be killed or chained as soon as we were out of sight of land? Given who her husband had been, her apparent tolerance came as a genuine surprise. A nice surprise, for once. There’s that, anyway.
As for Mother…she had only lain there, day after day, barely eating or drinking, hardly sleeping. Just…staring into nothing.
No, not nothing. I know exactly what she sees. It was the same thing he saw every time he shut his eyes: the ogre closing in on Bethany, its claw-tipped hand smashing into her as she moved to protect their mother. He couldn’t stop seeing it, just as he couldn’t stop hearing the loud crack as her neck snapped: the only sound in a moment of utter, horrified silence.
His hand tightened convulsively on Bethany’s staff, as if it could give him some comfort. He’d taken it, not because it was better than his own, but because it was the only thing he had left of her.
It had always been three of them against the world: Father, Bethany, and himself. Even though Bethany had been younger, she’d joined in his magic lessons the moment her talent showed itself. Magic had formed a bond between them far stronger than that between her and her twin. While Carver had been at sword practice, learning from whatever local knight or ex-soldier was willing to train him, the three mages had been closeted in their house, deep into the study of magic. So maybe it was natural that Reyn had become Bethany’s confidante, and she his.
Sometimes, she’d known things even without his saying them aloud, so close had they been. Like the fact that he’d been interested in Peaches’ brother, not Peaches herself. Or the fact that neither of them, no matter how badly they wanted it, could afford to have even a close friend, let alone a lover. The risk of exposure was simply too great.
Carver had lived without such restrictions. He was free to go where he wanted, do what—or who—he wanted. And yet, he’d always resented them. The prick.
Reyn shook his head sharply. This was no time to stir up old angers, not with all their lives in danger. Carver was his brother, and with Bethany gone, that relationship became even more important. If they were to survive in their new lives, they’d have to bury the old resentments and learn to work together. And he did love Carter, if only because they were brothers, and because Mother depended on them both now more than ever.
The ship slipped through the high cliffs, bounded by statues of agonized slaves, and glided into the docks. With a sigh, Reyn turned to the gangplank, Bethany’s staff gripped in his hand.