Master Ilen at Dalish Camp in DA2

Hellfire Chapter 6: A Kept Mage — Dragon Age Fanfiction

Read the previous chapter.

A dull ache nestled behind Hawke’s eyes, the penalty of draining himself of magic and denying himself excessive rest before being up and about again. Bloody Templars, dragging him out of bed almost literally first thing in the morning… And yet he was there with Cullen waiting for Meredith. Hawke sat himself in her office, picking at a boot idly to pass the time. There was absolutely no chance that obsessive woman slept in, so he had no doubt this was an intentional delay. Most likely spent scolding Orsino for breathing too magically.

“Knight-Commander,” Cullen greeted her with a small bow as she strode past him to posture behind her desk. She nodded in return before focusing her attention on Hawke.

“Circle mages are expected to undertake tasks at the will of the Chantry and the Templars,” she prefaced, explaining as if he was a particularly idiotic student. “To show you what this entails, you’ve been tasked with helping an herbalist here in Kirkwall collect resources in exchange for supplies for the Circle.”

A thousand witty remarks came to mind, but he didn’t have the energy to spare for her. He settled on the easiest one with a sardonic smile. “What an honor.”

“You will do well to watch your tone,” Meredith warned, sharpening her glare to a point that might actually pierce his skull if she tried hard enough.

Hawke held his hands up in a nonchalant shrug but kept quiet this time. That was just enough stirring of the pot to keep her attention on him but not earn her suspicion.

“Cullen will be your escort to the Wounded Coast to harvest the Harlot’s Blush flower, and the Guard Captain will accompany you to the Dalish camp for their distinct tattoo ink,” she outlined, taking a seat and looking less than pleased about it. And he thought he was restless trapped in Gamlen’s hovel. Imagine being unable to relax enough to sit down? Must be the stick up her butt. “You will adhere to their every command and return to the Circle without a fight. Am I clear?”

“Perfectly,” Hawke dismissed, giving her the same treatment she offered him. Apparently deciding he wasn’t worth her time either, Meredith glossed over his indifference. Fine enough by him—he had enough to think about with the realization that he truly did never tell Aveline about this plan and by Andraste’s dirty socks, she’d probably give him a good scolding.

“Knight-Captain,” she implied the order and Cullen acted.

“On your feet, Sirrah Hawke.” Cullen, of course, could order Hawke around anytime he wanted and Garrett stood to follow him out to the Gallows entrance. He waited long enough to make the dirty joke he thought of the moment he got this task, and Hawke grinned now that he could finally share it with Cullen.

“Ever harvested a Harlot’s Blush before, Knight-Captain?”

Cullen’s heavy sigh to cover up his Templar-grade fluster never got old. “I suppose I should be grateful you didn’t say that in front of the Knight-Commander,” he evaded the answer and Hawke let it be. What’s the fun in teasing him only once? He’d need to savor the material he had.

“There, now that’s the spirit! Let’s make the Circle proud, or something,” he tacked on with a chuckle.

But most of their trip across the Wounded Coast passed in silence, trekking down worn, pitted roads with mysterious skeletons dotting the landscape. Why the coast was titled wounded instead of “riddled with the dead” was anyone’s guess. Bandits foolish enough to take them on fell quickly and just outside a cave waited the coveted flower. With another few playful jabs from Hawke, they tidied up that business and Cullen passed Garrett off to Aveline at a good midway point between the Coast and the Dalish settlement.

Of course, she was pretending not to know him well either. The grapevine could tell the Templars that these two arrived in Kirkwall together, but his occasional help with her work would be nothing more than mercenary work between two Fereldans if it was spun right.

And in just a few minutes after Cullen was gone, Aveline delivered her wrath. “Maker damn you for a fool, Hawke, what are you doing?”

“Fetching tattoo ink for the Circle,” he purposefully didn’t answer her question, getting an irritated groan back.

“Whatever you’ve got planned,” she started irritably, softening as she put her hand on his shoulder and stopped them both in their tracks. “I would think you’d know by now that you can come to me.”

Ah, there it was. Guilt would find him even in his Circle life, the one comfort of home he couldn’t escape. “Aveline,” he started, already hearing the defense in his own voice. “You’re the Guard Captain.”

“But also your friend,” she emphasized, soft compassion in her eyes. Maker, she was like family to him and like his family, she knew exactly what to do to get past his guard (or under his skin in Carver’s case).

“Andraste’s ass, that’s why I didn’t want you mixed up in this,” he laughed, shaking his head. “And that’s not going to change, so you’ll just have to settle on this little visit to the Dalish.”

“So stubborn,” she teased, obviously not happy with this answer, but… Well, at least she let it go. For now. Garrett knew better than to think she actually gave up. Varric would get an earful next, more likely. “We’re not done here, Hawke,” she warned him like she was reading his mind. “But let’s take care of your errand for Meredith before she gets cross.“

“Speaking of her, how did you convince her to send you here instead of Cullen?” They started off to the camp again, passing the winding roads of Sundermount that were still more pleasant than the Wounded Coast. Not that he had much of a choice either way.

“Because I’ve been here before, they’re more comfortable with me than a Templar,” she explained as if it was obvious. “People in charge like results, Hawke. They won’t argue with them.” Her knowing tone suggested he was supposed to learn a lesson from that, and maybe he would. …Probably not, but there was a sliver of a chance.

Just as Aveline predicted, the Dalish received them with a watchful calm that was much better than the barely contained hostility he’d be faced with if Cullen brought him. Best case scenario, they’d hate just Cullen, but worst case was they’d think he was ratting them out to the Templars and they’d have to move ahead of schedule. Not a pretty picture however he looked at it. Aveline saved him yet again.

Master Ilen wasn’t feeling so favorable to Hawke, though. What a man refuses to sell can still be taken, so… Better than going back empty-handed, he picked up the Dalish tattoo ink from a nearby chest without a fuss. They left the Dalish camp and turned back to Kirkwall before Aveline broke the silence.

“So,” she awkwardly began, glancing to him. “How is it? In the Circle—is it as bad as Anders says?”

Of all the blasted things she could ask about… Hawke knew Aveline had her reservations about mages not being in the Circle, but he wasn’t going to hide the truth of it from her if she asked him.

“Absolutely. Doubt I’ll see the worst of it since I’m a noble from Hightown. Despite what Meredith says, that does make a difference inside the Circle. Not enough of one, but…” He wasn’t the one to worry about anyway. His smirk fell at the memory of Merrill sitting with him in the Circle library. “But Merrill? She’s hanging in there; you know how she is. But that can’t last forever. Meredith’s got a real case of the crazies, and she doesn’t know when to quit.”

“Neither do you,” Aveline joked, trying to lift his spirits but introducing a dangerous thought when she did it. Well, so long as he avoided being blighted crazy, Hawke would only be halfway to Meredith. Not too shabby. “I’m sure whatever half-baked plan you’ve got, you’ll set this right.”


Turning in the flower and ink to Cullen and living through another lecture about minding his manners in the Circle, Hawke was finally returned to his cell. Based on the messy sheets and skewed bedding, someone had done a search while he was out. Already trying to catch him red-handed, eh? Hawke chuckled and sat down on the corner of the bed without fixing it up. Searching aside, they did let him have a quill, parchment, and ink to finally write a letter back home on the wall-mounted “desk” in his cell—the only outgoing letter he was allowed this month. They’re Templars, not mailmen, that was the argument. But they had time to dig through an empty cell, of course.

Hello, dear mother,

What to even write now? She had to be worried sick. Her youngest son, a Templar, and her oldest son, a prisoner. She only had Gamlen around now and that had to be miserable. The quill waited above the page as Hawke thought it over.

I’m alright. I even have my own room and steady work! I think they’re impressed with me, Mother. Be strong and brave, and I’ll feel better.

‘I’m sorry I can’t be there.’ He sealed the letter with that unwritten and stick it out a hole in the door for the Templar guards to take. And throw away or burn for all he knew, but hey, Garrett tried. That wouldn’t be enough to save any of them if Leandra Hawke didn’t get her letter, though.

Ienzo and Demyx in Radiant Garden

Red String of Fate: Zemyx KH Fanfiction

The corridor came out on a wooded path dotted with large rocks and tall grass. Zexion read plenty in the past life and this one, so he had expected as much from The Land of Dragons.

 

“Hey, uh,” Demyx started up with his usual preface of needless words as his mouth caught up to his mind. After instructing him in recon over several assignments, Zexion had grown accustomed to the musical member’s many quirks. “What kinda trees are these? They’re like grass but sticks but trees.”

 

Giving his attention to the woods, Zexion examined them briefly. “I don’t recognize every species,” he explained, knowing there were others than what we would or could mention. Turning to Demyx, he continued. “But I believe you mean the bamboo trees.”

 

And as his gaze turned to the blond, he caught sight of a thin red cord. It was only for a moment, and the thread was gone when he simply looked. And yet… He did see it. Reversing his magic, Zexion tried to look through any illusions in place around Demyx or himself only to have the red string reappear.

 

It hung in a way that betrayed physics, almost appearing to float between its two anchors: one little finger on Demyx and Zexion respectively.

 

“Umm, whatcha looking at?” Demyx interrupted his thoughts. Zexion dropped the magic from his view and the string disappeared. “There’s a big monster behind me, huh?”

 

Zexion smirked. So he couldn’t see it. That made sense, given that his ability didn’t lend itself to seeing what was hidden. That made it all that much easier to mislead him and avoid questions that Zexion had no answers for—yet. “Maybe.”

 

And he turned around to continue down the path. After a small, nervous whine, Demyx followed a few paces behind. He was taller with a longer stride and easily could’ve gone ahead, but that would be work and his laziness was legendary.

 

…perhaps during their reconnaissance, Zexion might gain more information on this thread.

 


 

They gathered their data largely unnoticed, though Demyx was markedly less subtle about it… Zexion couldn’t deny that he at least got results even if he didn’t report on his findings properly.

 

“This world is threatened by war,” Zexion remarked out loud as he retraced their original path with Demyx. Thinking aloud was an old habit from his last life, one he’d yet to shed—to his own chagrin. “Heartless are sure to follow.”

 

Soon, this world would be a prime location for the dark power those creatures could offer the Organization. Xigbar would likely be sent in that case to recruit anything or anyone of value to their efforts. Though this did nothing to solve the red thread mystery, and it was irritating Zexion to even consider that they would RTC with that unresolved. And yet, he would sooner fade away than entrust Xigbar with that information.

 

“Super tough Heartless,” Demyx agreed. “Hope they don’t send me here when stuff goes down.”

 

Zexion sighed. Truthfully, he would be good in the field of he wasn’t… Himself. “What makes you say they would be tough?”

 

“The people,” he answered matter-of-factly. Zexion found that simply asking Demyx what he thought cut out most of the floundering and sputtering other members faced from him. “Gathering up their stuff, you can tell they’re used to fighting, and they got a culture packed with all kindsa gods and beasties.”

 

Glancing to him, Zexion finally started to take visual stock of what Demyx picked up. His arms were full of hastily wrapped up finger foods (entirely useless to the Organization) and some children’s toys and books that added only slightly more credibility to his work today.

 

In that these items were often designed to demonstrate the foundation of a world’s culture in an easily understood format, it would aid the next members assigned here in understanding how to navigate their society. Though this was undoubtedly not Demyx’s intent.

 

And still trailing between them was the mystical thread—almost as a mockery at this point in their mission.

 

“Plenty for Heartless to draw on,” Demyx whined, unaware he was being studied so closely. “So it’s gonna be a huge mess. Here, listen,” was the only warning he gave before jostling everything around in his arms to get to one of the books.

 

“The red string of fate,” he mused aloud. One he hadn’t read yet, then. “Huh. Where destinies meet,” Demyx started reading in a lilting tone reserved for material he actually wanted to look over, “an invisible red cord shall be tied by the gods.”

 

Demyx continued undaunted by the sudden tension in Zexion’s body language. If indeed, he noticed at all. He was a scientist, and Zexion believed in neither gods nor destiny. But he listened intently, incredulous that it would be Demyx who found the answers he was after while still in his training phase.

 

“Those found in the embrace of a single thread shall embrace one another as decided by fate, buh buh buh,” the musician trailed off to skim for something that interested him more. “Destiny shall guide them to unite as they are bound by true love. Whoa.”

 

“Definitely matters of the heart,” Zexion forced himself to answer levelly. And of course it worked—illusion was his specialty in more ways than one.

 

“Whatcha make of it, Zex?”

 

He sighed, turning to Number IX and catching the glimpse of the red string once again. It could not be. Even if it was the case and their match was inevitable…

 

“A meaningless legend, no doubt,” he dismissed. “Though one they must hold in high regard.” He examined Demyx one last time to be certain that, yes, the string between them was truly there. At the castle, it would disappear again and he could eventually forget this… Though he knew he wouldn’t. “Are we ready to return now?”

 

“Uhh, guess so. I’m all set, anyway.”

 

“Let’s see it, then.” Demyx was nearly done his supervised training and would soon go on recon alone. All the better for Zexion. He did not believe in fate. “You won’t always have someone to call on a corridor for you,” he teased as a distraction from the situation in his mind.

 

“Yeah, yeah,” the musician sighed, reaching out to help himself focus and amazingly dropping nothing. After a few seconds, the corridor swirled open. “Ha! Got it.”

 

“Not bad,” Zexion conceded. “But you will want to improve your speed. In an emergency, a hasty retreat may be your only option.” Without waiting, he went ahead to the castle to the fading sound of Demyx spluttering about what kind of emergency that might be.


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Riku, Sora, Kairi from left to right

Destined to Be: Kingdom Hearts Fanfiction

They had a rare free day, and Kairi suggested they take a break with it. Sora didn’t miss a beat and suggested San Fransokyo immediately. And who was Riku to argue? There were plenty of places Sora went that they hadn’t even heard of, never mind seen. He wanted a chance to see everywhere Sora had been and for Kairi to be at their side.

 

“Riku,” Sora broke through his thoughts, tugging on Riku’s sleeve and making the bags in his hand crinkle together. “Check it out!”

 

“What is it, Sora?” He didn’t explain, of course, just ran off into a massive toy store full of giant stuffed animals, blinking robots, and other things Riku didn’t recognize. He smiled, shaking his head, and waited behind. Kairi would be back any minute—someone should be here.

 

“He’s at it again?” Riku turned to Kairi’s smile, two bags in her hand from the shop behind her. Just putting together some outfits not made from fairies made her feel more at home, she said. Now that she’d thought of it, Riku was sure he’d do the same soon enough.

 

“Yep. You know him,” he answered warmly, nodding to the game store. Sora wouldn’t go far, he knew that without even looking yet.

 

And sure enough, Sora looked up from the toy train track just long enough to wave to Kairi with a big, boyish grin.

 

To both of them, actually. Sometimes it was so hard to believe they are all in the same space at last. Ready to face Xehanort together once and for all… But first, some time just… Together.

 

Kairi waved back, a broad wave with a bright smile in return. “I missed this.”

 

Years ago, back on the islands, he might’ve teased her. Expressing what he thought and felt so impossible then. They’d all come so far since their childhood… “I know how you feel. It’s been way too long.” There was so much more to say, but none of it seemed to fit into words the way he wanted it to.

 

So he held out his hand, offering to take her bags too. Kairi just shook her head. “Oh, it’s alright! You don’t have to do everything yourself, you know.”

 

Teasingly, she nudged his shoulder and they both laughed—for a moment. Kairi trailed off into a sigh, turning to look out the large windows overseeing the city. Nothing like the islands he felt so trapped on, and so much more than he could ever have imagined. How weird was it that now, sometimes he wished he could go back?

 

“Being kids,” Kairi thought out loud, “We’re here doing what other people our age do all the time…” Finally turning to him again, her smile was steady.

But there was a trace of remorse in the ocean of her eyes. All those years, she waited without a complaint and only now did Riku realize she’d never talked to him about how that must’ve felt. “And together at last. Thank you, Riku.”

 

Caught off guard, his eyes widened. “Huh?” What did he do to earn that?

 

Kairi just giggled, leading him toward the toy store. “You helped him find his way back.”

 

Thinking back, she had a point… But they were the reason he had the strength to do that for Sora. Riku learned his lesson about being too prideful. “And you helped him see through to me when my face wasn’t my own.” He smiled her way, moving closer to keep together through the crowd. “We all fought for this, Kairi.”

 

Her smile softened, the sorrow vanishing from her gaze. Riku knew well that it just retreated to greater depths, still there and waiting for her to talk about it—when she was ready. He nodded to her. He would be patient, then.

 

“C’mon, you guys!” Sora rushed out of the store to meet them, practically bouncing with excitement. “You gotta see what they have!”

 

Riku had to chuckle at the sight. Sora really was incredible—he’d seen so many places, achieved so much, and that did nothing at all to his natural curiosity. To him, there really was beauty in everything. “Coming, Sora.”

 

Breaking out into a grin, Kairi matched his energy. “I haven’t gotten a toy in years! I wanna see all the best ones.”

 

Sora lit up, both of them feeding into each other. “You got it!” And he took her by the arm in a second, the two running ahead of Riku trailing with most of the bags.

 

“Right behind you!” He would catch up, that much was sure. In more ways than one. After all this time, Riku finally had the strength to protect what mattered.


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A New Ally: Luxord Fanfic (Kingdom Hearts)

After he’d emerged from his comatose-esque state, Luxord tried his luck with poker against the second member of the Organization several times. Of course, they were both cheating, though Luxord still won more often than not… But Xigbar was simply not good for his debts.

 

The scarred Number II offered neither munny nor precious information about the secretive group Luxord found himself in. Only cheeky grins and partial might-be-truths. So Luxord simply stepped down a rung. Before him now sat Xaldin in a rare moment in the castle, not on some world seeking leverage for their shared cult. If Xaldin was aware he was being manipulated by “Lord” Xemnas, he had an excellent poker face. Everything he did, he carried out with the resolution and fervor of a true believer.

 

“It can still go either way,” he commented, breaking up the typical near-complete silence of their games. To Luxord’s surprise, he got a smirk in return this time.

 

More fascinating still, he did not cheat even once. Three games had transpired already and all with fair play. Considering that Xaldin had proven himself willing to sink to any low in service of the Organization, Luxord certainly wasn’t expecting morality of him. Not even among so-called allies.

 

“And here Xigbar told me you were a dirty cheat,” he answered, or maybe mocked was the more fitting term.

 

Luxord chuckled at the mental image of how Xigbar, of all people, might call someone ‘a dirty cheat’. “And did he catch fire on the spot?”

 

“Not yet,” he scoffed, and was that a smile? Be still his nonexistent heart, the man did know how to have fun after all.

 

They ended the game in silence, Xaldin leaving his payment behind for having lost—or rather, upon recounting, Luxord realized it was only half this time. He glanced up to Number III with an inquisitive smirk.

 

“When’s the next game?” Ah. The implication was he would get the remainder then, was it? Luxord sat back and nodded amicably.

 

“Next week, same time. Invite who you like.” He lied in that he had no plans for a next game until he was asked. But for his very first companion here, shall he say, it was well worth the small deception.


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That’s My Secret: Demyx Fanfic (Kingdom Hearts)

Another day at the castle, another day bored to death. Undeath? Second death? He didn’t even wanna think about that. Demyx flopped his limbs out on the couch, whining. “Man, I’m bored!”

Axel say across from him, toying with the dangle on his cloak pull. “Tell me about it. Even getting a nap in isn’t doing it for me.”

“Engh.” And they sat in the Grey Room in silence, no one coming around and neither of them budging.

And then Ax perked up, a devilish grin lighting up his face… Which was gonna good news or bad news, he never really could tell ’til it was too late. “Y’know what? I got an idea.”

“Like, uh,” he started, sitting up too. “An awesome idea, or…?” The worry was all over his face, Demyx knew it, but that didn’t change a thing for Axel.

“Sure thing! Trust me,” he said the least trust-inspiring thing ever, grabbing Demyx by the arm and pulling him through a dark corridor to the rush of warm, dry air and the smell of… was that goats? Sweat? Nothing good.

“The Coliseum?” Demyx questioned, drooping at Axel’s side already. “Ah, all they do here is fight.” He really wanted to believe Ax had an idea that wasn’t that. Somehow.

“Yeah, and winners get munny,” he answered, putting one hand on his hip and making a rolling gesture with the other to imply… Something.

“Yeah. Aaaand?” Demyx squinted against the sun and doubtful that Axel’s idea was really any good.

“Can’t go out and have fun without munny, right, Dem?” He draped an arm lazily around Demyx’s shoulders, drawing him towards the entrance to the arena. Ugh, there just wasn’t any telling Axel no when he got his mind set on something. “C’mon, I wanna see that sitar of yours in action.”


The arena was already not his favorite place, and with Axel and Demyx fighting side by side, now it was even worse. Fire and water clashed into misty humidity, clinging to him like sweat like the cloak wasn’t even there. And Demyx hated that, like a lot. Where’d they even get this many Heartless?

Demyx glided across the field on water while Axel zipped around, and their friendship meant they were already pretty good at reading each other’s movements before they made ’em. So they were good, but fighting really sucked no matter what. He was tired, damp, and he wanted to go home for snacks and a nap. Ax was having a blast, anyway, flinging those disks around and dodging with a boast. But he was winded too… Maybe he’d finally be tired of this? Demyx reeeaaally hoped so. Then of course one of those big guys showed up, slamming his belly and rushing at Axel outta nowhere.

“Aww, crap,” Demyx whined, calling up pillars of water to topple the creature before he hit Axel. Right behind it was Demyx, water in his wake, and he summoned another cluster of pillars beneath the Heartless to finish it off. They were tough, and if Demyx was feeling spent magic-wise, Axel was definitely done.

But hey, he did it! The Heartless faded, not a creepy reminder of his own nonexistence at all. Demyx dropped back on his butt, flopping to lie down in the empty arena with a groan.

Axel started laughing, leaning over to offer a hand up. “Hey, you really had it in you! Nice save.” Reluctantly, Demyx took the offered hand, basically letting Axel do most of the work getting him on his feet. Everything was sore, and he had work tomorrow! Ewwww…

“Ugh, don’t tell anybody. Especially X-face,” he added on in a hurry, waving his hands frantically. Just the thought of Saïx knowing he’d been holding back scared him. Think of the extra work!

“Sure, sure,” Axel answered, brushing it off casually and turning back to the door they came from. Demyx was way too happy to follow knowing this nightmare was finally over. “Maybe you’ll teach me a thing or two in return, Dem.”

“Ennnhhh,” he whined, and Axel just laughed again.


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SoRiku: I Love You

Kingdom Hearts 3 Spoilers

Riku relaxed into the small sofa of his Traverse Town apartment with a content sigh. Yen Sid said he was always welcome at the Tower, but Riku felt better having a place of his own. Besides, when people came to Traverse, he could help them adjust to their new lives better if he lived there.

But today wasn’t about that.

He invited Sora over after their missions to just play games, watch movies, and be kids for a bit. They both grew up fast, but Sora didn’t have to. Riku made that necessary, and now he wanted to make it right.

His crush on Sora was part of that, selfish as that might be… But it wasn’t the right time to mention it to Sora. Not yet.

When his best friend first got there, dropping his sleepover bag next to the shoes he kicked off, he was all smiles and energy—typical Sora. Riku couldn’t help but smirk at the sight and tease him just a little. But now?

Riku turned to his sleeping friend resting on his shoulder, snuggled in close under his arm and muttering incoherently off and on. He never bothered to pause the movie, knowing the sudden silence could very well wake him up.

And how could Riku be anything but happy as long as Sora was there?

Sora deserved some rest after everything he carried on his own for all those years. He was under so much pressure—to be happy, to always be helping, to be exactly like he was as a kid but still a hero across the worlds. Ones he and Kairi hadn’t even seen, but Sora had saved.

Who else got the privilege of seeing him late in the day, napping away with the occasional murmurs of a dream about pirate life? Riku wanted to believe it was special to him. To them. That he could trust Riku now that things were different and like they were all at once.

Let everyone else see Sora as a dumb kid until they need something from him… As much as he resented that perspective of Sora, he couldn’t blame the others. They didn’t know him like Riku did. It was up to him to show them and Sora all he could be because it was who he already was.

Limbs in a tangle under the blanket that was once on the back of the couch, and the faint ghost of a smile on his boyish face… Riku caressed Sora’s cheek, lightly, as softly as he could to not wake him up and have to explain himself. “I love you, Sora. No matter what might change.”

For now, it was enough to just say it to him whether he could hear or not.

Hellfire Chapter 5: Harrowing — Dragon Age Fanfiction

Read the previous chapter.

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.