Chapter 4: Secret Ritual

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.

Carver Hawke Templar Dragon Age.jpg

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.”

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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.

Hellfire: Chapter 3

Read the previous chapter.

The entourage of Templars left them together outside the hallway for Meredith’s office, just Cullen and Hawke. “A secret moment alone,” Hawke teased to break the silence. “I’m flattered, Cullen.”

“Sirrah Hawke,” Cullen sighed, running a hand over his neck briefly. “You should know what to expect. First, you’ll meet with Knight Commander Meredith. Once she clears you, you’ll meet with Orsino. Then Templars take you to the mage barracks.” He rested one hand on the edge of his belt, looking Hawke in the eye. “That’s everything for today. I’m imploring you, please behave. Just for that long.”

He didn’t wait for an answer, which was lucky for Hawke, who didn’t have one that wasn’t snarky. Cullen led Hawke down the hall to the Knight Commander. Orsino caught only a glimpse of him before Hawke was out of sight, turning the corner into Meredith’s office.

“Knight Commander,” Cullen introduced their arrival. “Sirrah Hawke of Hightown is here to turn himself in as an apostate.”

Two windows nearly framed her desk, and a few elaborate torches dotted the walls — already lit despite it only being about midday. The walls were the dismal off-white he expected with a spotless Templar shield mounted on the wall behind her desk over two crossed swords. To think there was someone even less subtle than he was.

“Very well,” she drawled, not looking up from her desk at first. It gave Hawke a few moments to raise his eyebrows to Cullen in a preemptively sarcastic ‘oh boy’. He’d heard about her at great length from many in Kirkwall, and she was living up to all the terrible things he’d heard so far. All with just two words and steady indifference. She finally looked up, actually at Hawke directly. “Sit down.”

“No thanks, I prefer—”

She leaned forward, dropping an armored elbow on her desk while loose, light blond curls drifted to the front of her shoulders. Maker, he was spending too much time with Varric to be that poetic. “Sit. Down.”

“Yes, Knight Commander,” he answered cheekily and grinned as he sat. “It is quite a nice chair. Not as good as home, but—”

“You are here because you’re an apostate, and I am here to determine how much of a threat you are to the people of Kirkwall. Your comfort is beside the point,” she accurately insisted.

“Rght to the point, I like that,” Hawke observed. “Determine away.”

“Not only now, but throughout your stay in the Circle.” She rested the other hand on the sturdy desk, pushing herself to loom above him. “Despite your standing in Hightown, you will be treated like any other mage under our watch.”

“What an honor.” Hawke deadpanned, a grin at the ready, and he rested back in the chair. An added bonus to getting Merrill to safety was the ability to sass and generally irritate as many Templars as possible. Embarrassing Carver too, if he could. Practically his job as an older brother.

“You will undergo the Harrowing,” she continued, letting out a heavy breath. Being Knight Commander and a reputed bitch had to be tiring. “And Cullen will stand guard to prevent the outcry mages and nobles so adore.”

“I do love a good Harrowing.” Anders told him all about the Harrowing when they planned this scheme up. For Hawke, it was nothing to be worried about. “I meant outcry,” he corrected mockingly with a dismissive shrug.

“And should you pass, you’ll be under a probationary period supervised by a rotating guard,” she ignored him and nodded to Cullen, no doubt some sort of hint to make note of that for later. “I’ve heard of your charisma and your ‘good deeds’, and I won’t give you the chance to gather favors as leverage.”

Hawke had mastered a steady expression through game after game of Wicked Grace, though he often managed to lose to Varric or Isabela anyway. So he immediately recognized this sinking feeling of knowing he was about to botch this round. A rotating guard wasn’t part of the plan and it complicated that plan rather a lot.

Andraste’s ass, this didn’t go right.

“And here I heard the Circle was a dismal, isolated place. Sounds like I’ll always have—”

“Lastly,” she interrupted, “The Templars will issue tests and trials for you as we see fit, with or without notice. The threat of magic is ever present, and—”

“The Maker steels your heart against temptation, and He shall judge their lies, yes, yes, I know,” Hawke said with a casual wave of his hand. If he didn’t antagonize her at all, it would make Cullen back there suspicious, so Hawke would just chalk this attitude up to strategy. Definitely not because it was funny. “I have every faith you’ll do whatever you want. For the people, of course.”

The Knight Commander narrowed her gaze at him, eyes sharper than her Templar tiara. “Sirrah Hawke. I will remind you only once that your status in Hightown will not protect you here. I suggest you keep in that mind.”

She took her seat again, a silent dismissal as she returned to the paperwork on her desk. Cullen responded immediately, saluting as Templars do, and gesturing for Hawke to come along with him. And so off they went, this time to Orsino’s office. The First Enchanter was respected by many, the unspoken requirement for being a First Enchanter at all. Mostly, Hawke knew of him as a frustrated man trying his best, which made sense once you realized he had even less say than a regular First Enchanter was provided.

His office was dark in a comforting, library-esque sort of way. Books sat stacked on most of the flat surfaces and Orsino was waiting for them when they came in. “Knight Captain,” he greeted Cullen with a civil nod, standing. “And you must be Garrett Hawke. Tales of your expedition have reached even here. Though I’m sorry you can no longer reside in your estate, I hope you find comfort among your fellow mages.”

A soft chuckle came instinctively, and Hawke smiled. “No need to be so formal, Orsino. Rest assured, I’ve fallen asleep in worse places among more dangerous crowds than this.” The looks he got from Cullen and Orsino alike were at once curious for details and praying to the Maker he wouldn’t go into it. And for now, he’d spare them the story. Stories, if he were to be honest. “The Circle is plenty fine for me.”

“Well, I am glad to hear it,” Orsino tried to moved from the subject for the sake of everyone present, only slightly awkward about it. “You’ve spent most of your life outside of the Circle and practicing magic out there is an entirely different creature than practicing it here. I’ll represent all Circle mages to the Templars and if you have any questions those in Circle can’t answer, that’s precisely what I’m here for.”

In a split second, the energy between Cullen and Orsino became charged and Hawke pretended not to notice. He would definitely win the bet with himself as to what it was about, though.

“And if you see or experience anything untoward, come to me immediately. We’re mages, not prisoners or slaves, and—”

“First Enchanter,” Cullen warned, mostly how one might try to stop a sibling before they pissed off their parent too much. “We’ve discussed this at great length. Any true infractions by the Templars against mages will be dealt with swiftly and seriously. We are here to protect you.”

“Yes, of course.” Orsino steepled his hands on his desk, lowering himself to sit. The venom in his voice could have killed a lesser man, but Cullen gracefully appeared not to notice. With the word “true” in front of “infractions”, Hawke could guess that his momentary blindness to that instigation was one of few mercies Orsino and the other Circle mages got.

The sooner Merrill is out, the better.

Fortunately, the rest of the trip was bland and went by in a blink. Cullen passed him off to other Templars, and he was escorted to his room (a cell that made Gamlen’s hovel look like a dream, so he wouldn’t be writing home about that). The Templars explained that he was to change into the rather disappointing Circle robe left on his cot while they waited outside to collect his clothing from home.

Hawke avoided robes all his life for two reasons: they looked like his grandmother’s nightgown and it screamed ‘I’m a mage, arrest me’. Now he learned a third reason, which was that they looked absolutely ridiculous on him especially. Rather freeing in the nether regions, at least. When they had his nicer clothes from the estate to send home to Mother, the Templars left him be. Probably to pawn his clothes.

And just as he expected, he found Merrill squirreled away in a pile of books in the library. He was several feet away and hadn’t said a word when she popped her head up, eyes delighted but her expression fraught with worry. She leaped up and tossed her arms around his neck.

“Oh, Hawke!” He hugged her back, relief washing over him. As a blood mage, she was in even more danger here than any other mage within the Circle. Hawke would be lying (to himself for a change) if he said he hadn’t feared the worst. “Thank you for coming. I’m so sorry to get you mixed up in all this, I… I’ve made a mess of things, haven’t I?” She took a moment to step back, wringing her hands for a glimmer of a second before answering herself for him. “I have.”

“Lucky for you, I’m here to make an even bigger mess,” he joked and she breathed a laugh, tucking her hair absently behind her ear. Good to know he could get her to laugh, however half-hearted. Hawke took a seat on the bench near the windowsill she’d been sitting on before, which she returned to now. They had to look boring to keep talking about matters like this, and they both knew it.

He grabbed the nearest book, something about protective spells, and opened to a random page to point out some line about spell radius. All part of the rouse, but it helped to know what he was looking at if someone did come along to question them. “There’s a small wrinkle in that plan, but it won’t change a thing for you. It’s just like it said in the letter.”

“Clever code, by the way,” she chimed, trying her hand at changing the subject to distract herself. It wasn’t working. “It wasn’t yours, was it? Didn’t seem like you, so—” She forced out a sharp sigh, snatching up a book of her own to keep up appearances. “What did you mean, for me?”

“Dear old Meredith is keeping an extra close eye on me,” he explained and did his best not to notice the almost pained look she gave him. “Can’t be worse than darkspawn. The point is, you’ll be safe and I’ll be right behind you. Metaphorically.”

“Thank you, Hawke,” she replied, tilting her head down to the open book on enchanted items but peering up at him with bright, mournful eyes. “I know you will.”

Hellfire: Chapter 2

Read the previous chapter.

Hawke walked into the Gallows, looking at it completely differently this time around. Not just because he was hungover either. The statues were always haunting, if he was being honest. But now… He’d been avoiding this all his life and his mother made a lot of sacrifices to keep him and Bethany from ever being in the Circle.Good thing it’s not forever.Right, sticking to that. Hawke cleared his throat, rolling his shoulders as he walked up to Cullen. “Hello, handsome,” he greeted with less volume and enthusiasm than normal. Maker, this afternoon sun was brutal. Almost made him wish he hadn’t slept through morning and his uncle’s griping about Andraste-knows-what. “Have I got news for you.”Cullen’s sigh had the same restorative effects, however, and Garrett managed a smile despite the headache pounding behind his temples. “Sirrah Hawke, I don’t have time right now for—””I’m an apostate.” He interrupted, his smile turning tired. Hopefully the Circle had light-blocking shades. Couldn’t be worse than Gamlen’s hovel. “A rogue mage, you know. Or I hope you did. I haven’t done a terrific job of hiding it, so—” Hawke held his arms out, nodding to Cullen. “Here I am, turning myself in for the safety of everyone. Well,” he corrected himself. “My family first.”Cullen’s moment of true, genuine surprise was definitely a plus to this whole plan. “Hawke, if you go through with this,” he began, keeping up a decent front. “I have to take you in. It’s my duty. You do understand that?””Yes, of course, Cullen.” Hawke shook his head, wincing at the movement and stopping. Really wished he hadn’t done that. “Why do you think I went to you? You’re one of the good ones.” And he stopped to consider it for a moment, though it was mostly true. “Except that one time you said mages aren’t people like you and me. I am still people, aren’t I?”A weighted silence sat between them for a moment, Hawke’s least favorite kind. Worse for the fact that Cullen was studying him closely and only Aveline had a gaze more piercing. Cullen reached out to Hawke, waving other Templars over to join him. With any luck, it would be with as much silence as they could manage in those metal suits. “You’re still people, Hawke. I respect what you’re doing here, for what it’s worth.”Hawke stifled a laugh. Oh, if only Cullen knew. Better that he didn’t. Amazing how that kept happening and it was only step one of the plan. “Worth plenty, Cullen.”And he followed the group of Templars into the Gallows. He’d have to write Mother straight away once he was inside or even their gates couldn’t stop her.

Hawke: AB 2019

Anime Boston 2019: Dragon Age

Though I’m late uploading these, it was a blast to meet up with other DA fans at AB 2019. LyricalVillain took photos and arrived as the Warden. Isabela was samspics118, Modern Hawke was rivafoss, Garrett Hawke was cat101495. and Fenris was mentalbravery.

The shirt I’m wearing as casual Hawke can be purchased on Redbubble and was designed by samspics118.

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.