Hellfire: Chapter 1: Setup

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Even the wooden floors of The Hanged Man had to be drunk, soaked in ale as they were. Normally, Hawke and his friends would be too, halfway through a game of Wicked Grace that Fenris would be losing terribly. They were settled around the table in Varric’s room, at least. Most of them, anyway. Fenris wouldn’t be part of breaking into the Gallows to free a mage (who wasn’t Hawke) and Aveline would’ve stopped them if she’d known.

“I can’t understand why you won’t just let me handle this, Brother,” Carver griped, scowling at Hawke across the table with the firelight waving behind him. “I’m a Templar, remember? I can sneak Merrill out and—”

“Knight Commander Meredith will have you beheaded as an example, or worse.” Anders said what Hawke was dreading, nursing an ale in a pitted steel tankard.

“Because we really needed that visual,” Hawke teased behind a smirk. “Besides, this plan is faster. I’ll turn myself in to the Circle, find Merrill, sneak through the tunnel Anders found while you keep the Templars busy, and meet Isabela at the docks. We’ll be done before dinner.”

“It won’t be that easy,” Carver insisted, throwing his hands up. “Not even for you.”

“This is for Kitten,” Isabela purred, leaning forward on the table to emphasize her assets as only she could. “Out of everyone here, you’ve got to want us doing everything we can for her, no matter how… Hard.”

Carver blushed just a little and sputtered to answer, and that was enough to make Isabela chuckle.

“That’s not, there’s no—” Ah, Carver. All eyes rested on him and for a moment, you could almost forget that Merrill was locked up in the Gallows facing Maker-knew-what at the hands of the most corrupt Templars in Thedas.

…And Cullen. Thraske too. There were a couple good eggs in the dozen, but even Hawke wouldn’t take those odds if he had a choice. Then again, wasn’t that the plan? Of course, whatever little relief there was couldn’t last long.

“I, I just don’t think it’s a good idea to send Hawke, it’s his fault she’s there in the first place!” He clanked his armored glove on the scratched, uneven table and their eyes met over the growing distance between them. It’d been hard enough when Carver said he wanted to be a Templar, but Hawke stood up for him against Mother anyway. The Order was bringing out the Gamlen in him yet…

“Well shit,” Varric cut through the tense silence. “Carver, you really don’t know how to change a subject.”

“My little brother,” Hawke mocked Carver, propping his elbows on the table. “Like it or not, we need two men on the inside to get this done. It’s got to be both of us.”

“You mean like the Deep Roads? Oh wait, you went alone and we thought you were dead for weeks.” Carver scowled and Anders rubbed at the back of his neck, trying to catch the gaze of anyone who wasn’t a Hawke. Isabela gave him a shrug, Varric only waved it off, and the conversation ran its course.

“So sorry to disappoint,” Hawke jabbed back, his patience thinning. “But we’ve got a friend to save.”

“That’s not what I meant!” Carver sighed, picking at a groove in the table. “If you hadn’t let her—”

Varric sat forward, doing his best to get between the two brothers. “Look, kid, she wanted to fix that mirror and she would’ve done whatever it took to make that happen. It’s no one’s fault.”

Hawke stood with a sigh. “Drinks, anyone?”

“Oh, yes,” Isabela crooned. “You’re such a sweet thing.”

Anders turned it down with a gesture and Varric raised his tankard, which was message enough as Hawke waved over his shoulder and walked down the stairs. Carver could get his own blasted drink.

“Corff,” he greeted as he approached the bar. He held up two fingers and put down enough coin for four drinks. Corff dealt with drunk Hawke when he was poor, and this seemed a just reward now that he lived in Hightown. Not that he was any less of a rowdy drunk.

“How goes it, Hawke?” He left the rag on the counter to pour two drinks, and at a glance, Hawke was certain that rag just moved dirt around rather than cleaning anything. Part of the charm, really.

“Let’s just say these drinks are just what I need.”

“That bad, huh?” They traded grins and Hawke took the tankards from the bar top. “Nothing you can’t handle after the Deep Roads, I’m sure.”

“There’s never more than I handle, Corff,” Hawke agreed. It worked for him so far, and why would he try humility now? This was his last night as a free man – for the moment – and he intended to wake up hungover from it and uncertain where his trousers were. All he could hope at this point was that Carver would remember they were brothers once he had Garrett in a locked cell in the Circle with restrictions on everything from reading material to bedtime. Or maybe it would be better if he forgot that fact.

Probably better.

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