The Wardens' passage through the city had gone surprisingly well, Alistair decided, considering that a war seemed to be breaking out all around them. Had he known, he would probably have chosen some port other than Kirkwall for their journey to Ansberg, but by all reports the fighting had begun within an hour of their arrival. At least they had gotten out with minimal fuss and injuries, a few small skirmishes and only the one major battle. As always, Alistair felt a pang when he thought of the innocent people who would die in Kirkwall tonight, and over the days or weeks to come if the Qunari weren't contained, but there was little he could do about it. Had they still been in Ferelden, he might have put his ass on the line. But he had learned his lesson about avoiding political entanglements the hard way. Just not worth the trouble, and the sternly worded messages from Weisshaupt.
But he was in a position to help one person wounded in the day's fighting, and so when they stopped a few hours later to make camp, he made a point of seeking out Carver Hawke. He found the young Warden alone in the darkness, standing at the edge of a cliff and staring out over the ocean, down into Kirkwall. Alistair stood next to him and surveyed the scene below. Their campsite was on a mountainous slope with a clear view of the city, fire and smudges of smoke and dust still rising from its buildings. For a moment he stood at Carver's side in silence, and then he glanced over at the other man's face, which could have been etched from stone. "Everything all right?"
"Just fine, ser." Carver spoke without moving, without looking away from the city below, his face and shoulders as stiff as the stone cliffs behind him. Alistair watched him for another moment, then looked away.
"It's okay if it's not," he said, gently. "I know what the Order says about giving up our past entanglements. But it doesn't really work that way, does it? How can you feel nothing when you see your hometown in flames? I know I didn't. Feel nothing, I mean." He cast Carver another sideways glance. "And with your sister down there, somewhere... It takes real strength to walk away from that for the sake of a vow."
Carver's response was a soft snort. "You don't know my sister. Her safety is the least of my concerns."
Alistair raised an eyebrow. "You don't mean that."
Finally Carver did turn his head, just enough to meet Alistair's eyes. "Well, no. Not the way you're thinking, at least. Of course I hope she's all right. She's the only family I have left, after all. But if anyone can get involved in a war and come out on top, it's Marissa Hawke."
"She certainly seemed to know her way around a battlefield." Alistair looked out over the city again, remembering the lithe mage with the short black hair who seemed to be everywhere at once, healing and shouting and blasting Qunari head over heels with pure force. "Still, I'm sorry we couldn't stay to help them more."
Carver shrugged. "This mission is more important than the troubles of one city. I know where my duties lie."
"Good." Alistair clapped Carver on the shoulder, letting his hand rest there for a moment. "If you want to pass back this way when we return to Amaranthine, just say the word. I'm sure it can be arranged."
"I--" Carver looked away, his hands clenching into fists, then slowly loosening. "No." He shook his head, once. "No, I think it's better if I don't."
"All right." Alistair dropped his hand. "It's not true, you know. Your sister isn't the only family you have left."
Carver raised his chin and met Alistair's eyes with a small smile. "I know. And I appreciate it. Ser."
He raised his arm in salute, and Alistair returned the gesture. "Good. Carry on, Warden. I'll see you back at camp?"
"Wait, I'll come with you." They turned their backs to the city together, Carver with only a quick glance over his shoulder, and Alistair smiled. It seemed the patient would recover; he could report only light casualties after all.