Approx. 1500 words (3 to 9 minutes)
The days leading up to Merrill’s escape went by in a jarring combination of a thrilling blur—she would be free and safe any day now—and excruciatingly slow. Hawke had read all the worthwhile books in the Circle at least once, and now he was halfway through the history of parchment instead. Maker’s breath, if the Templars didn’t get you in this place, the boredom surely would. Sitting by and waiting while someone else did the dirty work was not Hawke’s usual either. If he strained, he could hear the Gallows market from the library to help fill the maddening silence of the place.
And he turned a page without even reading it. Why would he, when the weathered sheet of parchment did more to capture his attention than the words on it?
“Hello there, Hawke,” a familiar Dalish accent interrupted, her characteristic lilt brightening Garrett’s mood instantly. “Alright if I sit here?”
“I would be forever in your debt. You’ve saved me from this awful book,” he said, smirking and closing the dreadful thing. For good, he hoped. “The stuff of true heroics.”
“Oh, I do like heroics,” she played along and took a seat. The Templars would be suspicious of Hawke after her escape whether Merrill avoided him, sought him out, or had a row with him in the foyer, so—well, he would rather see her before she went. “Carver does too, you know. He’s not like the other guards here, he’s so nice to everyone. And still very good at swording. Swords? I don’t know, but he’s got talent.”
Oh, if Carver could hear all this… The rambling was a sure sign Merrill was nervous and Hawke knew he’d have to say something to put her at ease. But just listening to her talk, Garrett could pretend this was his house or something and they’d be back together tomorrow. Odd, how the little things gave you comfort in the Circle. His plants would be happy to have her back on the outside, at least. Anyone could water them, but no one talked to them like Merrill did.
“He always did like adventure books.” Bethany too, but Hawke was pointedly trying not to depress himself, thank you very much.
“I worry about him sometimes, but… It’s good, you know? That he’s found his path here.” She fidgeted in her seat, her normal boundless energy bubbling up. “In time, he’ll realize that what happened before, it wasn’t your fault.”
Knock the wind out of my lungs, why don’t you.
Hawke breathed a laugh, shaking his head at how this started out of nowhere like that. Merrill did always have an odd way of thinking, but it wasn’t typically so jarring. Or maybe it was and Hawke didn’t notice until now.
“Why bring that up all of a sudden?”
“He was just so angry with you, and I can’t stand to think that you—” She sighed, trying to find a good place for her hands to settle as she clasped and unclasped them, weaving her fingers together in new and interesting ways as if that would somehow clear the way to the rest of her sentence. “One day, he’ll see you were trying to protect him.”
“Merrill, I’m pretty sure that’s what offended him,” Garrett teased. That was the truth of it, though. Carver didn’t want to be protected by his big brother anymore, but Hawke wasn’t about to just stop looking out for him whether Carver liked it or not. Better alive and hating him than dead.
“He doesn’t show it very well, but he does love you.” Ah, Merrill. Ever the peacekeeper. She gestured off to her right as if he was standing there and not too grumpy, tired-looking Templars. Come to think of it, Hawke hadn’t caught a glimpse of Carver all day.
He was probably laying the groundwork for her escape with Anders’ plan and Isabela’s help. Someone had to ‘lose’ her phylactery and it couldn’t look like Carver did it, or they’d both go down for the escape.
“I think books had less to do with his need for heroics than his big brother.”
“Well, don’t let him know you told me that.” Garrett leaned in conspiratorially, which he would probably regret later since Templars could actually see him. Nothing he couldn’t fix later. “It’ll ruin his brooding image.”
“The poor boy.” She giggled, a smile lighting up in her eyes instead of the worried pout she’d started with. “I do mean it, though. That he’ll forgive you someday. I just know he will.”
“He’ll talk to me now, at least.” Not his favorite subject in the world, but Merrill wasn’t going to let anything go once she set her heart on it. Hawke shrugged, turning the book over for an excuse to keep himself busy. “Usually to boss me around, since he’s a Templar and I’m a mage, but I guess It’s a start.”
“See? No one can stay angry forever, not even Carver. Being here is hard, but,” she put her hand on his over the book, offering him a soft smile. “I do hope it will bring you closer to your brother.”
That was just like her. On the night that she’d make a daring escape, Merrill came by to make sure Hawke was alright and lift his spirits. Maker, that girl was too nice. When all he had for company was sour Templars, dusty old books, and whichever letters the Templars decided to let through, this moment would make a good reminder of what would come after his grand exit from the Circle.
And speaking of letters, he actually got one before curfew that night. Dinner was nothing noteworthy, but better than the rations they scraped by with in the Deep Roads. Hawke couldn’t forget those if he tried. All in all, a good day for where he was.
The envelope had been opened, of course, but the front had Mother’s neat handwriting. How unlucky for the Templar who read the letter; it was almost entirely town gossip and worried questions. How was he sleeping, was he making friends, did he remember to change his smallclothes, and so on.
When Hawke found another note inside with her letter, that changed things. The letters were rushed, feathered, and harsh, but he still recognized it as Carver’s:
We’re ready for tonight.
Thought you’d like to know.
Hawke chuckled. With eloquently abrupt prose like that, it definitely had to be Carver. Anybody else might let on they cared about more than his physical safety. Still, it looked like Merrill was on to something after all. With his back to the cell door and his newly posted guards, Hawke called a bit of fire into his hands to burn the note from his brother. Last thing they needed was two Hawkes locked up.