The Fade was no different than usual despite his change in entry, so to speak. Instead of it gradually rising from a dream, it rushed to meet Hawke. He could almost sense its alert to his arrival in the odd air of the Fade. The warped cobbled roads sort of resembled Kirkwall’s city streets, but… Not quite. The Fade reflected your expectations back at you the best it could, but it never could quite manage to make it perfect. Lucky for the skilled mages of the world who wanted to avoid possession and becoming an abomination. That would really ruin his day for certain. And think of poor Carver!
“Well,” Garrett said to himself, never one to keep quiet. “Only way out is forward.”
He walked alone for quite a ways, picking off a wraith here or there, and almost found himself wondering when the Harrowing was going to start. Sure, he was no noble of Hightown here and he had no schedule to keep, but surely his time was worth more than a prank trip to the Fade.
“Although,” Garrett trailed off, stopping at the top of a hill overlooking the almost-but-not-quite realm of the Fade. Chairs jutted out from walls and ceilings, spires stood at a slant along walkways leading to nothing. All typical, and yet—he could tell this was just a corner of the Fade. Hawke was contained in here, just a margin of the Fade, and so was something else. He couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s your big test? One demon?”
Maker, was he glad they didn’t ask him about the things he’d faced before. They might not’ve gone so easy on him if they’d known. With Meredith at the helm, it was almost a guarantee they wouldn’t have. Busy thinking on that, Garrett almost didn’t spot the glowing figure on a dock down the hill from where he stood. Nearly blended right into the sky behind it, but the figure was the first sign of anything in this trial he’d seen so far.
Naturally, Garrett approached it. Best get this over with before Carver stressed himself to early grey hairs.
“Hawke,” called a familiar voice with a faint echo as he came over. This area was different from where he first came into the Fade. Up close, it looked more like the docks of Kirkwall where he first landed with Mother, Carver, and Aveline. Made sense, since he was looking at Aveline for the moment.
“Bit of a cowardly trial, even for mages. Facing a demon unarmed,” she said, crossing her arms and setting her expression into a thoughtful frown he recognized all too well. This wasn’t the first Spirit of Valor he’d ever met, but normally, it was a faceless guard or a soldier. Aveline, though? She should be flattered if he ever told her. Which he wouldn’t, of course. He’d play along with this part, dangerous as that was. He understood the difference between a spirit and a demon better than a sheltered Circle mage. Hawke could play with this fire just fine.
“Worried about me?” He teased her and the spirit even came close to the same ‘cut it out’ stare Aveline was so good at.
“Not every mage is you, Hawke. But,” she sighed, shaking her head and resting a hand against her temple. “That you’re here means you haven’t faced the demon hunting you.” She walked past him to the edge of the path, pointing out at a half-circle of flames he passed earlier. In all honesty, he realized now that he should’ve figured that place was important. “This is where the creature will fight you. Be careful, Hawke.”
“Always,” he lied. The spirit, showing only the person he most expected in Valor and not being Aveline herself, just nodded in reply. Reminding himself that anyone he saw in a dream was nothing more than a familiar face was a big of part of travelling in the Fade. Losing sight of reality and your preconceptions was the biggest danger here, after all. Garrett went back down the path he came from without another word.
…only to find the place had changed entirely. The ruined stone towers and barren earth scrubbed lifeless by harsh winds and recent Darkspawn attacks, a place he couldn’t forget if he tried. And did he ever try. He glanced at the boulder where Bethany died and his mother held him to blame, a guarded smile already on his face. This demon played dirty, then? Well, it wasn’t the only one.
“Look familiar?” A gravelly voice, if you could call it that, ripped across the clearing to Hawke.
“Oh, so you talk? Pride demons are always jumping right to crushing,” he taunted the horned, towering beast. Each footstep rumbled through the ground as it marched over, perhaps involuntarily flexing its massive spiked arms.
“There it is again.” It barked a laugh, throwing its head back. “Your pride. Your arrogance.” The demon slammed its fists into the dead earth, nothing but a display, and Garrett didn’t flinch. “You kept telling yourself you could handle it when you fled from Lothering. You even told yourself that coming here.”
Garrett called forward the staff, appearing just as it was across the Veil because he willed it to. The Fade did have its perks. He faced it and squared off, staring it down. Or up. Difficult to say, now that he thought about it.
“And just like before, your pride will be your ruin. And I will run free in until your body decays!” Light consumed its body as it morphed to take the form of the ogre that ended Bethany’s life. A trick to get him to lean on that ‘arrogance’, or so it claimed. Well, what a blunder that was.
Then the real world came back into focus, the charged atmosphere of the Fade giving way to regular Kirkwall air that stank of life, seawater, and now musty books too.
“That wasn’t so bad,” Garrett said, slightly winded but managing a debonair smile. “Once you get past the demon, it’s… nothing.” He staggered forward, catching himself on the stoup. Orsino marched over to offer a free arm, whatever good that might do to a man twice his size, and Carver just scoffed. He heard it often enough to know it was him and not some nameless judgmental Templar off to the side.
“Right, so… when you said willpower,” Hawke implied the rest of the sentence, gesturing to himself. Once the mage was in the pocket of the Fade, they were removed from the supply of lyrium, drawing on their own resolve instead… Leaving them an easy kill if a demon did get into their body.
Besides, why waste the Circle resources on one who might end up dead anyway? Times like this, he understood Anders’ indignance more than he wanted to admit. His vision swam and he pushed himself up using the stoup instead of his offered arm. “Thank you,” he breathed to Orsino, the exhaustion hitting him hard. “Just need a minute.”
“To your credit,” Cullen entered into the conversation, glancing to Orsino to gauge the elven man’s irritability with the practiced eye of guard. “Most mages pass out during the Harrowing.”
“Can’t imagine why.” Garrett almost laughed, but it came out more like breathing wrong. He hadn’t pushed his magical limits like this since he was a child training under his father. Garrett did not miss this feeling. He reached for his staff to use as a walking stick, mainly to spare Orsino the uncomfortable task of leading him anywhere.
“I can’t let you do that,” Cullen explained, the soldiers behind him reaching for their weapons. All of the Templars, even Carver. Maybe especially from that scowl on his face. How much of it was acting, Hawke wondered sometimes.
“Makes perfect sense,” Hawke quipped and lowered his hand. He was too tired to argue and if he had to, he’d drag himself to his room. Quarters. Cell.
“Ser Carver,” Cullen said, turning only barely over his shoulder. “Return this mage to his chambers.”
“Yes, Knight-Captain,” Carver answered and marched forward to collect his brother from the stoup. “Come on.” If his goal was to sound as indifferent as possible while maintaining the barest level of civility, he was doing just perfect.
They walked the hallways in silence aside from Garrett’s occasional uncomfortable sighs. Carver took a careful pace once they were out of view and could’ve been careful not to mention it. But social skill wasn’t his specialty, was it? “Maker, you’re heavy.”
“Don’t they train you Templars?” Garrett could manage a proper laugh again, at least, though only one. Maybe one and a half. “The Order is so dangerous; this is the least of your worries.”
“And now you sound like mother,” he muttered. Not a wise plan to bring back the memory of Carver’s declaration to be a Templar so soon after the pride demon took a dig at Hawke.
See, Mother? I told you he’d only think of himself.
“Better than Gamlen.” Garrett didn’t miss a beat, always ready for a battle of wits. Not much else to do in their home in Lothering or back in Gamlen’s hut. “Just don’t miss out on your big chance to be someone.”
Carver scoffed again, this one sharper than the last. So now it was hitting home—and instead of stirring him to fight Carver like he was so close to wanting to, Hawke felt guilty for even saying it. “I’m not serious, Carver.”
“When are you ever,” he drawled back, taking him cautiously down the stairs back to his floor. “I told you not to joke about the Harrowing, and now I’m practically dragging you back.”
“The noble work of a Templar,” Garrett mockingly praised, the rest of a biting remark dying before he said it out loud. Thank the Maker. “I did promise I’d be back before you missed me. One of two isn’t bad, Carver.”
“I see you’re feeling better.” They were back at his cell and to think that this morning, he couldn’t wait to leave the place. Now he was sure he’d sleep for 12 hours on the fabric-encased rock slab they called bedding and be happy for it. “Just in time for your meeting with Meredith and Cullen in the morning.”
“Afternoon?” He hopefully corrected, leaning against the wall in what might have passed as nonchalance while Carver opened the cell door.
“Morning,” Carver insisted, gesturing into the cell. “Just keep your head down and follow the rules for once, brother.”
“I’ll be a model mage.” He could just envision the look his brother gave him even as he passed him into the chambers. Made it all worth it. Hawke sat on the bed, staring out into the hall at Carver cast in shadow. “You can count on it.”
“Not just me.” He couldn’t mention Merrill directly anywhere in this building, but that was all Hawke needed to know what his little brother was thinking of. Rather, who. Then he disappeared from view, the clanking of his armor fading into an echo. Finally, Hawke let out an exhausted groan, laying down and practically falling asleep before his head even hit the bed.