Hawke woke to incessant knocking with far too brief bouts of quiet between. He rolled in his bed, pulling sheets with him. “You’re just drunk, Sergius. Again,” he muttered, shooing away one of the neighbors packed in around Gamlen’s ramshackle home.
“Good morning to you too,” Carver grumbled.
Ah, it was coming back now. Hawke sat up, stretching to loosen the tension in his shoulders, but there just wasn’t any getting rid of it. Andraste’s ass, this bed was a curse worse than any magic. A bit of morning light filtered down to Hawke, but hardly enough to wake him up. It was no Hightown, that much was obvious. Still— better than the Deep Roads.
“My own brother, here to fetch me?” Hawke teased, swinging his legs out of bed and approaching Carver at the door. Rather, through the slotted window in the door. “I’d been promised a rotating guard. And here I was, worried I’d start to miss you. Barely got a wink.”
“Don’t joke, brother,” Carver scolded, unlocking the door. “They don’t call it the Harrowing because it’s easy.” He stepped back with a scowl set on his face that really was going to turn him into Gamlen if he kept it up. And Hawke knew what that meant. He’d sooner die than admit it, but Carver was worried, and so the joking had to stop. …Alright, he’d just slow it down a little.
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll be alright. Lead the way, Ser Carver,” he teased with a smirk. It wasn’t a spritely dance to lift his spirits, but that was more of a Carver trick anyway. Didn’t have much of an effect regardless as his little brother turned without a word and they rounded a corner into another indistinguishable hallway of the Gallows.
Identical wall torches were all placed the same distance apart and slivers in the walls that were supposedly windows gave no hint as to where they were in relation to the outside. Dark doorways broke up the monotony of the stone halls, but even those doorframes matched each other perfectly.
The Harrowing would be easy for Hawke, no matter what Carver fussed over. What weighed on him now was the idea of Merrill travelling these halls alone at night in a couple weeks without getting lost. There would be no ball of yarn this time, not like in the alienage, and she couldn’t risk being late.
One step at a time. First, the Harrowing.
“They’re testing me, you know. That’s why they sent me for this.” Carver wouldn’t actually look at Hawke while he talked this over. Strangely, no one else was around, but at least it afforded them this moment for Carver to get this weight off his chest and onto his brother’s shoulders. After all, what were big brothers for? “I’ll be watching your Harrowing with Cullen. It has to be perfect.”
“It’s hardly my first visit to the Fade, you know that. Trust me! This won’t be much of a test for either of us,” he encouraged Carver. “I’ll be back before you can miss me.”
Carver scoffed, finally granting Hawke a glance. Barely. Walking up a set of stairs leading to another level in the Gallows, Hawke wasn’t sure which, Carver continued. “You’re not taking this seriously. If you get possessed, I’ll have to—” He cut himself off with a grumble and stopped suddenly on the landing.
Carver had an explanation ready before Hawke could even start to ask what this hesitation was about. “Right, before we get too far… After the Harrowing, watch out for Ser Alrik or anyone who looks like they don’t want to run screaming from him. He’s a nasty one, probably the worst Templar here.”
“Take the Harrowing seriously and avoid Alrik. I think I can do that,” Hawke answered brightly, flashing a smile to counter Carver’s scowl.
“Maker’s breath, just follow me.”
At the Harrowing chamber, which may or may not be what it was actually called, few Templars in full armor waited with Cullen and Orsino. Hawke had a tendency to turn heads when he entered a place, but nothing like this. Andraste’s ass, it was like being at his own funeral.
“Hawke,” Orsino acknowledged him, sounding somewhere between exhausted and irritated as he usually did. At least he was consistent. Carver went to join Cullen while Orsino came over to Hawke, his back to the Templars almost as if they were scheming.
“I’m not certain what you’ve heard about the Harrowing, but it’s nothing like a normal visit to the Fade.”
“Of course not,” Hawke teased, smirking and already prepared for the worst. It’s not as though he lied to Carver before; he truly was confident that he could handle whatever came his way. It’d worked so far, why question it?
“This ritual sends you to the realm of dreams to contend with a demon with only your willpower to guide you.” Orsino, as somber as ever, looked up at Hawke with an intense, prying gaze. “Do you understand—”
“First Enchanter,” Cullen interrupted. “Each mage has to go through their Harrowing without prior instruction to prove they can shield themselves from the threat of demons.”
Orsino had instructions of a sort for Cullen, Hawke could tell that much even as the elven mage stepped back to stand a good distance away from everyone present. The stoup of lyrium in the center of the room couldn’t be more obviously for the ritual, so Hawke approached it with everyone’s stares boring into his back.
“Sirrah Hawke,” Cullen continued, his voice level with years of practice beginning this speech. Watching the lyrium swirl and glow, as if it were alive, Hawke kept his back to them all and listened. “Place your hand in the lyrium to enter the Fade and begin the Harrowing. If you fail, we Templars will uphold our duty.” The gravity of the pause told Hawke he wasn’t done and that he had nothing nice to say. What a shame. “You will die.”
So that’s what had Carver so worked up.
“Well, no one wants that.” Alright, a few people did. Hawke slipped his hand into the lyrium and felt the cold, lightning rush of the Fade overtake him.