Hellfire Ch. 12: The Collar Unseen | DA2 Fanfiction

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Approx. 2100 words (5 to 17 minutes) | Rating: M | Dragon Age 2 Spoilers | Characters: Orsino, Garrett Hawke, Meredith Stannard, Carver Hawke

What with the ‘there is no escape’ angle from the day before, Hawke expected more Templar-themed disaster after patching things up with the Qunari on the Viscount’s orders. But instead of dragging Garrett off to the old cell again for a new round of aggressive silent treatment, his assigned Templar friends led Hawke to the dining hall for breakfast with his fellow mage prisoners. Not that anyone looked too pleased to see him after his latest vanishing spell, but was anyone ever happy in this place? Hawke didn’t see a reason to take that personally.

With Templars posted around the room between thin windows, it wasn’t the most relaxing place to eat. They had lanterns and wrought iron chandeliers to light the room at all hours, on account of its size and having no sunlight, and the gathered mages all ate with their heads down. A few spoke to each other softly, only barely looking up. Not seeming completely crushed on a spiritual level was an invitation for the Templars of the Circle to try harder. The Tranquil mages sat on their own, of course.

“Morning,” Hawke greeted a mage getting food from the Tranquil mage on serving duty, picking up a plate for himself. “Lucky us, we’re just in time for the stale bread.”

Alright, so it was a bit strange that the person he just spoke to walked away without a word, but he was willing to write that off as not being a morning person. The Gallows wasn’t a great place to start with, but imagine being woken up every day at your least favorite hour by people who probably wanted you dead or worse? Anyone’d be crabby. So, breakfast in hand, Hawke tried again with mages already sitting together. No one who sought out a crowd was in a bad mood, right?

“Hello there,” he said, catching the attention of some mages sitting at a table with room for at least one more. Gesturing to an open spot, he went for the polite approach just in case. His luck hadn’t exactly been in good shape lately. “Alright if I join you?”

They looked at each other, then at him. Not a fuzzy warm expression among them. “We were just leaving.”

And like that, they picked up their plates (with plenty of food still on them, he noticed) and sat at another table. Well, something was not right here. He usually had to do something first for people to avoid him so intently. Hawke wasn’t necessarily popular anywhere they lived, being a mage on the run and all, but he made friends pretty easily. Some people hated him because of his smart mouth or natural talent for ending up at the center of a big mess, and of course, the Templars hating him for his magic. But for the mages to join in on it? That was plain rude. Where was the section on that in Anders’ manifesto?

“Good morning, Hawke,” Orsino announced his presence like he was about to bring another awful errand to Garrett, having a seat with the same foreboding gravity. Seemed like having breakfast was the only thing that would go right for Hawke today. “Did you get any rest?”

Well, that phrasing was odd. Hawke gave Orsino a sideways look, smirking.

“I managed. And you, First Enchanter? I figure the perpetual accusations of world-shattering conspiracies make it hard to catch a good night’s sleep.”

He had no idea how old Orsino was, or how old elves could get, but the stress he was under all the time wasn’t doing Orsino any favors. The only people that haggard were apostates and former Templars left high and dry by the order. Not looking great for Orsino either way.

“You jest about the strangest things,” he answered, definitely not wrong, and sighed down at the table. No platter of breakfast for Orsino, just tea—or maybe he had a fancy First Enchanter’s breakfast earlier. That job had to come with more than office and the scorn of all Templars, or who would keep it? “But I am not the only one accused of deeds I did not do.”

“Oh?” He wanted help with something, Hawke assumed. It was unlikely he’d be able to do much, since Meredith was merrily taking up all his time with one-on-one torment, but Garrett would figure something out. Probably. “Who’s the unlucky bastard?”

His eyes softened as he settled for looking at Garrett, and boy, did that make him want to go back to his holding cell and lock the door himself. “You, I’m afraid.”

“That does sound like something that would happen to me before I’ve even finished breakfast.” Grabbing a piece of what passed as bread when you were magical and wrong, Garrett gestured toward Orsino with it. Wasn’t good for much else, though he’d try to eat it afterwards anyway. “Do I get to know my own juicy gossip?”

“I owe you that much.” He sipped at the cold, over-steeped tea that came with breakfast while Hawke tried to tear a piece off the bread with his teeth. Took a bit of effort, but he got it with a couple extra tugs thrown in. “Word has travelled of your connection to Knight Commander Meredith, and the mages in the Gallows were already wary of the implications.”

Right, so that was trouble. Hawke just figured everyone was shy or had the worst case of indigestion every day. No surprise with food like this, right? Should’ve figured it was actually all his fault instead, that really was a pattern going back for years.

“And then that got worse somehow, yeah?” Dipping the bread into the runny eggs in an attempt to soften it up a bit, Hawke shrugged.

Orsino had to work on that bad omen look of his, but for that, someone had to tell him. Hawke had enough going on for three people at the moment, and a positivity makeover was just one chore too many. Through a somber stare, the First Enchanter finished up the bad news (hopefully). “Once word had spread that she asked you to watch us on her behalf and report anyone suspicious, our people decided with near unanimity that you are not to be trusted.”

“Oh, let me guess,” he joked, letting the soaked bread drip dry for a second, “Telling them I’m not on her side would just confirm their deepest, darkest fears?”

“Regrettably, they have made up their minds.” Orsino just shook his head, the frown he was always sporting firmly in place. Maybe his face was just stuck that way. He loved this mess of a city-state, but Kirkwall could have that effect on someone on its own, never mind the Gallows. “I know you are not against us, Hawke, but even that is not enough to reassure them. Not with your long disappearances and freedom to come and go.”

What could he do to that but snort a laugh? And try to pull off another piece of yolk-sodden bread, that was important. Next to the other mages here, Hawke had to admit that he did have more liberties than they ever would. A scary thought, actually. Since he entered the Circle, he’d left a handful of times when most people held in the Circle didn’t have a single memory of life outside. They came in once, and they’d probably only leave when they were dead.

Not a bad escape plan, now that he thought of it. Maybe he’d pretend to be dead and make this easier on everyone (once they got done being mad that he faked his death with no warning, anyway).

“I could certainly do worse than having a friend in the First Enchanter.”

“I admit, I find your optimism reassuring. And to think I was worried you would be distraught.” He stood, looking down at Hawke with some sort of something, alright. Part forced smile, part pity, part crushing despair. He’d have to remember not to invite Orsino to Wicked Grace night before he sorted out his whole rain cloud of eternal despair bit. “I must return to my office, but please know that I am on your side even if our people cannot see why just yet.”

“You’re very sweet,” Garrett teased.

And with minimal fluster, Orsino dismissed himself so Hawke could finish his breakfast at the gradual pace advised by Aveline. Not much changed for him with the latest ugly news, really. He spent most of his time in one cell or the other under Templar watch. Any time he had out and about was usually cleaning up after someone in Kirkwall. It’s not like he had Circle friends beside Merrill, and he wasn’t going to stick around to make some either.

Hawke only barely decided to go to the library and read one of the books he was halfway to memorizing when Ser Alrik arrived with a different suggestion from Meredith. An order, actually. Leading Hawke down familiar halls and staircases in the irritable silence of a man who hadn’t ripped the soul out of any mages lately, Alrik dropped him off at the much-less-pleasant cell number two.

On the bright side, one thing had gone right so far: Hawke had a proper breakfast.


Mature content available on AO3 only.


Meredith put him back together when she ran out of patience or stamina, and Hawke let her go through the motions. Just enough done to cover her tracks for anyone to witness him. He had no idea how long it was before he heard Templars re-open the cell door, a radiating ache around the cut on his face making itself known as he lifted his head. Pointlessly, since the blindfold stayed on through it all.

“Alrik, my good friend,” he rasped.

“Not exactly,” Carver answered flatly. Hawke’s heart sank and the bile rose in his throat again.

No, not like this.

There were two sets of footsteps, so they weren’t alone together either. His little brother had to see him like this and pretend not to care while they undid the restraints—it had to be pretending, even Carver didn’t hate him that much, right?—and Garrett lowered his head back down. He really screwed this up now. How could he let Carver see this? There had to be a choice he could’ve made differently, something to learn for next time. Hawke should’ve fought off Alrik sooner or put up a fight right in the cafeteria. Whatever it was, Hawke had no one to blame for it but himself.

The other Templar grumbled through the process of lifting Hawke from the chair—so that wasn’t Cullen—and soon, Carver pulled Garrett’s arm over his shoulder. “Right, let’s get you on your feet.”

Carver didn’t have to hold Hawke’s hand once his arm was over his back and on the opposite side of his little brother’s neck. His wrist would have been just fine to support him, if he needed anything at all. Garrett closed his hand around his brother’s, hissing at the pain that ran down his arm. Must’ve been a bad angle for his shoulder while Meredith went about her business. Leaning forward to push himself up clued him in that his legs didn’t feel much better about it.

Standing sounded downright miserable. “Sounds fun,” he tried to joke. “Why not?”

The trip back to his room was a bit touch and go, but they made it, and Hawke was probably asleep before they even put him on the bed. If they passed anyone else, he didn’t remember them. And judging by the birds that woke him up, he slept through until dawn or close enough to it.

Stiffly and very aware of every sore spot, Garrett turned on his side and slipped his hand beneath the pillow for the illusion of fluff. Imagine his surprise when he found a half-crumpled, half-folded note there. Resting his back against the wall, Hawke read the message by the low flame in his other hand.

The others warned me about what happened in the tavern, but nothing as bad as this. We’re moving faster now. Hang in there.

At the bottom, another line had been scrawled on at a rushed angle.

I’m sorry.

Same as last time, he burned it up without a trace.

Slumped into the corner, Hawke dropped his hands to his lap and just sat there listening to birds. He was sorry too. Carver never should have had to see him in that state, half out of it with fresh injuries on his face and Maker knew what else. Hawke never wanted this weight on his younger brother’s shoulders. And next time, it’d be different.


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Hellfire Ch. 10: Blackpowder Courtesy | DA2 Fanfiction

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Approx. 2300 words (5 to 26 minutes) | Rating: M | Dragon Age 2 Spoilers | Characters: Carver Hawke, Garrett Hawke, Varric Tethras, Fenris, Meredith Stannard

Waking up the morning following Merrill’s escape felt like any other, really. No one stormed his door, and the guards didn’t harass him any more than usual. Cullen was especially dour in the fleeting moment Hawke spotted him leaving the Gallows—that man could certainly move quickly in a full suit of armor—but he didn’t even look Hawke’s way, never mind lecture him.

It wasn’t until the end of breakfast that her escape came back to bite Garrett like he knew it would. Ser Alrik, the Templar with a frankly disturbing obsession for making mages Tranquil, came to personally collect him. Not a great way to start the day, but at least it wasn’t on an empty stomach. Alrik was rougher than he needed to be, and Hawke was snarkier back. Being on perfect good boy behavior now would just make him look more guilty anyway, from how the Templars saw it, and Garrett figured he was in hot water no matter what. Might as well have fun with it.

“Charming escort you’ve sent, Meredith,” Hawke teased the moment Alrik dragged him into Meredith’s office. “Threatened to make me Tranquil twice on the way over. Really, I can’t imagine why he doesn’t have any friends.”

Alrik answered that by smacking Hawke upside the head, sharp and harsh, but not enough to leave a mark. Got to be careful with the rich one, he guessed, but that was also way more sense than he thought Alrik was capable of.

“Leave us,” Meredith barked, not taking her stern glare off Hawke for even a second. “Close the door behind you.”

By Andraste’s holy knickers, not this again.

Meredith closed in on him like a rogue going into flanking formation, as natural and effortless as a dog barking. Hawke turned to her on instinct and she took that opportunity to press her hand on his throat. Nothing serious, but it could be, and the gauntleted hand with just a hair too much pressure on his neck got that message across just fine. Kind of rude, to be honest. Not very Blessed-be-the-Maker-like at all.

“I know you helped that elf mage escape,” she growled, searching him for even a glimpse of whatever it was power-crazed, paranoid Knight Commanders looked for in their captive victims. In her case, Garrett figured it was her sister and for a painful second, almost felt… bad. For her. While she held him in a chokehold and threatened him. Maker’s breath, Hawke really did have a soft spot for crazy.

“I will prove it, and you will pay for your crimes and hers.”

“Well, I probably should’ve guessed you’d be into punishment.” He could feel his windpipe against her palm, a bit uncomfortable, but nothing he couldn’t work through for the chance to shove his foot in his mouth. Probably, anyway. Hawke did have a talent for that. “I usually go on a date or something before it gets this far, but you don’t seem like a romantic type.”

She grunted, shoving him off as a way of letting go before skulking off behind her desk. Meredith scowled at the papers there like they were personally responsible for the existence of magic. Or of Hawke.

“But first, the Viscount has requested you. Demanded, actually, since he overpowers even the Chantry.” Well, she did not sound happy about that last part. The first part is what had Hawke.

“The Viscount?”

“Yes, I just said that,” she snapped, ready to jump on any chance to yell at him, apparently. “The Arishok mentioned you by name, evidently in connection to a portion of Kirkwall that the city guard has sealed off, and he refuses to speak to any save you.”

“Of course he does,” Hawke answered in a sarcastically chipper tone, as if that was the best news he’d gotten all day. Actually, it was. That did not bode well for the day because he really didn’t get fuzzy warm feelings being so admired by the Arishok. He wasn’t even really sure admiration was the right word, since it was more like he hated Hawke the least out of everyone else in Kirkwall.

“Don’t sound put out. You find your way to the center of everything, just as I know you were key to that blood mage’s breakout.”

Accusing anything that moves of being a blood mage like she does, Meredith had to be right eventually.

Leaning over her desk, pinning him down with a look like he was prized game, Meredith was thoughtful enough to give him one last threat to his health and happiness for the road. Couldn’t have him missing the sense of oppression and objectivation for too long.

“And when this job is done, you will be back in my Circle and I will uncover your involvement in this mess. You are mine.

If those words count leap over that desk and get to Hawke, he was sure he wouldn’t like what they might do. Lucky for Garrett, danger was more or less a constant presence in his life since running from Lothering, so this was just another day. The Arishok dragging him into some mess by order of the Viscount and when that was behind him, a mess at the Circle to mop up.

If Carver was still jealous, Garrett was open to trading places.

“Right, because that’s not unnerving at all.”

“It was not meant to comfort you, mage.” She pointed to the door, giving another order. “You are dismissed. The Templar posted outside will see you to the Viscount.”

“More quality time with Alrik?” Hawke stood, glad to leave but miserable at the thought of dealing with another tirade about how fun life as a husk would be. “I can hardly wait.”

Meredith smirked and sure, it wasn’t an awful look for her—but it definitely was for Hawke. Nothing good ever came from a happy Templar Knight Commander.

“Not quite. But you do know him.”

If Aveline wasn’t up to her eyes in damage control from the saar-qamek gas, she’d put her boot up their collective ass for dropping by The Hanged Man before going back to the Circle. But there was a deadly gas attack on Kirkwall, so the mice got a chance to play. Just a bit, since one mouse was as sourpuss: turned out, Carver was his Templar escort.

“So, she’s on to you already, Hawke?” Varric smiled over a dented tankard, fitting right in at the same time as standing out among drunk regulars and stained walls.

“What can I say? I am irresistibly charming.”

Fenris scoffed, taking a big drink to hide what might’ve been a smile.

“Brother, do you think you could be serious just once? I’m the one she suspects as your inside man.”

True, Hawke didn’t enjoy Carver being under suspicion like that. He had a way of saying just the wrong thing at the right time to make a complete disaster of a minor problem. Like agreeing to visit The Hanged Man only to talk about the reason Garrett needed a stiff drink in the first place.

His little brother was one of the Templars, but that only meant he was surrounded by enemies all the time. Hawke could always chat with a mage in the library or at mealtimes, or even the Circle Chantry if he got desperate, but it was all ‘magic is made to serve man, never to rule over him’ for Carver. With him actually being a mole, that had to get pretty dicey. Maybe it would’ve been better if Hawke had just taken Carver along to the Deep Roads… No going back on it now, though.

“You’re the one who suggested The Hanged Man, Carver,” he teased, nudging him to get the perfect eyeroll from Carver. “Should I look more dour while you shirk off your duties?”

He gave his best forlorn-mage-in-captivity pout, and that dragged a snort from Carver.

“Cut it out,” Carver chastised, scooting away from Garrett in a mock show of irritability. Or maybe it was a show for any Templars that might come through and remember anything after getting blackout drunk? That’d be the day, Carver thinking ahead. Not really a Hawke family trait.

“Come on, one drink before you go,” Varric interrupted, toasting to the untouched cup in front of Carver. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

There was just enough of a pause from Carver to suggest he was thinking about it, and not a second longer, before he pulled the tankard close. “Just one,” he insisted.

“You’re the best little brother,” Hawke praised, clanking his cup to Carver’s and grinning.

“Thank me by not drawing attention to yourself for once.”

“I can try, but I don’t think I’m very good at it.”

“How is it?” Fenris interrupted, watchful pale hazel eyes peeking out at him through messy white bangs. If Garrett didn’t know better, he’d think he was worried! Especially with him guarding his tankard by holding it close. Body language was a huge tell for Fenris, which was why the poor bastard barely ever won anything during Wicked Grace.

Hawke raised his cup and turned the conversation to a safe, reliable subject: alcohol. “As piss poor as ever, just how I remember it.”

“No. The Circle,” Fenris corrected. A bit impatiently, Garrett noticed.

Well, shit. Even when he wasn’t stored in his cell at the Gallows, there was no escaping the damn place. Hawke set his tankard down and shrugged.

“When did I give you the idea I have the run of the place? Carver sees more of it than I do, ask him.”

“Keeping secrets, Hawke?” Varric made light, but Garrett knew when he was being double-teamed. “Now I want to know the story more.”

“Sorry, Varric, you’ll have to get your next bestseller somewhere else. My life’s early curfews and rotating guards at my door for weeks.”

“Meredith is determined to prove you were behind this last stunt,” Carver added for their benefit more than Garrett’s, or that’d better be what he was thinking. Hawke knew exactly how determined she was to trap him in this scheme. Kind of hard to ignore the Knight Commander’s seething hatred when she half-choked him in her off time. “It will only get worse from here, Brother.”

“Should we break you out sooner?”

“Fenris, I’m honored!”

Fenris scowled, shaking his head. “You are not like other mages, Hawke. This is different.”

“Oh, it’s definitely different.” Varric leapt at the chance to joke with their beloved slayer of slavers, giving his best sage-like nod and sarcastic delivery. He didn’t lose sight of his intended target for long, though. “But I mean it, Hawke—the first sign of trouble, you tell us, and we’ll get you out of there. Whatever it takes.”

That was half-advice and half-warning, and the rare serious edge to his words made it clear that ‘whatever it takes’ really meant they’d actually do anything. Honestly, that made Hawke want to tell them less. Reckless acts of heroism with unpredictable chances for success were his specialty, and they’d just have to get their own.

He leaned on the table and smiled over his tankard at Varric.

“And what should I do if I’m the troublemaker?”

Fenris sighed as a fight broke out at the bar by the entrance in classic Hanged Man style.

“Watch him,” he ordered Carver and downed the rest of his drink rather than going through the trouble of acknowledging Hawke directly.

“When I’m not being watched,” Carver agreed with a grimace, not happy about that particular limitation. Being a double agent in the Templar force was hard, especially when the Maker was always watching. And by the Maker, Hawke meant the particularly unstable Templar leadership spearheaded by a crazy woman.

The bottom of his tankard came too soon, and the farewells went by too quickly. The worst part? Hawke wasn’t even close to drunk enough for his little reunion with Meredith.

He expected Meredith to make good on her threats as soon as her schedule for tormenting mages had an opening, but not the same-night treatment he got. Before he was sent to his cell for an even earlier curfew than before Merrill’s disappearance, she had him report in at her office. As anyone could’ve guessed, she cared less about the dealings of the Arishok than every last scrap of what Hawke himself did that day.

Meredith pressed him for details and tested them time and again for any holes in his story, but that trap was nothing new to Hawke. Any apostate still living had to know how to lie to Templars. Like Varric would’ve said: always tell them a story. It’s more believable than the truth most of the time anyway.

Laying on his slab of a bed, Hawke went over one particularly menacing message she threw at him.

“This is not over, Hawke.” She’d glowered at him like she might choke him for real this time, but barely decided against it. Another not-good sign, like he needed more of those for his life in Kirkwall. “I will organize an extensive interrogation for you in the coming days, weeks, or however long it takes for you to crack and reveal her avenue of escape.”

He’d promised to leave his schedule open, just for her, but she didn’t appreciate his humor. Almost as much as he didn’t appreciate how awful these next weeks or months would turn out to be. With no word from Anders or Isabela yet on when his escape would be, Hawke would just have to figure something out with whatever he had on-hand. And isn’t that what he did best?


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Hellfire Ch. 8: Reporting In — Dragon Age 2 Fanfiction

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Approx. 2670 words (7 to 22 minutes)

Night had already fallen in Kirkwall, but Varric spoke at the same volume as always. He had to if he wanted to be heard over the street brawls and drunken songs that made up the city-state’s lullaby. When you couldn’t just step out into the streets whenever you wanted, it was strangely uplifting to be out in the city. That crawling sensation would settle into his very bones in the Gallows, but he’d gotten used to it. As natural as the stars above, which Hawke could make out more clearly than the piss puddles he had to avoid in the roads. But the idea of going back to the Circle when he walked between Varric and Aveline? Hawke buried the discomfort behind a smirk, letting his dwarven friend fill the silence.

“This whole fiasco is Kirkwall in a nutshell. Stolen money, Coterie infighting, wrongful accusations, killing someone to prove you didn’t kill someone, impulsive business deals,” Varric trailed off into a chuckle, gesturing to Hawke and flashing a grin. “All we’re missing is a political scandal.”

“It’s not too late,” Hawke taunted back, the banter like a balm. “I’m sure we can come across something disgraceful.”

“It could have ended much worse than it did. And those miners will be better off now with the raise Hawke promised.” A good deed lifted Aveline’s spirits as well as alcohol lifted Hawke’s and Varric’s. Not that Hawke didn’t notice her pace slowing as their path escorting Hawke back to the Circle and Templars reached its end.

So he laughed to keep their minds off that ugly business. “Oh, Hubert was not happy with that.”

“Frankly?” Ah, perfect, Aveline’s rare playful smile graced her face. “Hubert be damned.”

Varric put his hand to his chest in mock surprise, eyes glinting at Hawke mischievously for a second before focusing on Aveline. “Guard Captain Aveline, having fun? You really are magical, Hawke.”

“I am the only mage in Thedas that can be in the Circle and run a business.” Maker’s breath, that was a blunder. The time he lost strip poker to Isabela in the Hanged Man—for the third time—was less embarrassing. He’d be damned if he wouldn’t try to salvage it anyway. “What? There something on my face?”

“No, just—” Aveline sighed, marching ahead at a regular pace now. Hawke could sense Varric holding back on saying something like the metallic, weighty feeling that came before rain. “How are you doing at the Gallows?”

“With a name like that, it’s about what you’d expect.” He couldn’t go into it with her or Varric. Meredith kept him busy on errands and somehow, his outside life still managed to worm its way in. Like handling the business with Hubert, actually. Then there was Merrill’s escape that Anders coordinated for a few days from now. Yes, Garrett had enough to deal with already. The worried, pitying stares would just have to wait. Maybe they could perfect it in the meantime. Wouldn’t that be nice?

“Told you he wouldn’t give a straight answer.”

“Hawke—” Never missed a hint, that Aveline. It was rare that Varric and Aveline were teaming up against him, though, so maybe Hawke should feel special.

“Yes, mother?”

She leveled her best guard captain stare at him and added a dash of nurturing concern for good measure. Somewhere in a nearby alley, a stranger puked up tonight’s drink as their friend slurred through comforting them. “I know you, Hawke. You have to be careful in there in ways you aren’t out here. If ever. I’m right to be worried about you.”

“And she’s not alone.” Varric joined in with his own thoughtful stare and Garrett felt guilt like a stone hit the pit of his stomach. He knew he’d figure it out somehow or another, but the idea behind that was to get Merrill out and… Alright, there was no real plan for the part that saved his skin.

“Oh, you guys are so thoughtful! I’ll put in a good word for you in my letter to Mother tonight.”

Aveline sighed more heavily than all that armor she lugged around, shaking her head at him. In the corner of his eyes, he saw Varric’s trademark ‘you’re really in it now’ smile. “Can’t you take this seriously? Your life could be in danger. Again.”

“I couldn’t be safer, Aveline.” More accurately, he was unsafe as ever but in a different way, so at least Hawke could handle whatever came. Probably. ”I’m useful to the Circle, so Meredith isn’t any more suspicious of me than she already was.”

Right now, that was a win and good enough for Hawke. He led the way toward the Gallows to keep his friends moving and maybe spare himself a lengthy discussion about exactly what kind of idea this was. Not when it was too late to change course anyway. And it was a long ways better than outrunning darkspawn.

“Cullen’s backed me up as a good little mage and everything. I’m ready for the big event so I can keep suspicion off me—see? There’s a plan in all this.”

“That’s a pretty generous use of the word ‘plan’.” Varric kept his smirk up, but it was only partially a joke. At least he wasn’t trying to drag the walk on for more time to lecture him. Aveline.

Writers.”

“Just—” Aveline resigned herself with a sigh, catching up to their pace in a few strides. “Be careful, Hawke. I mean it.”

“Don’t do anything you wouldn’t invite us to,” Varric agreed, chuckling.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”


“Another successful report.” Meredith set aside the physical report, or he assumed it was, and looked at him with an appraising smile over gauntleted hands. “Nicely done, Hawke.”

Andraste’s holy knickers, was that genuine praise from Knight Commander Meredith? He couldn’t decide what was more discomforting—that she could even mean it or that he was being given a once-over like a fine magical artifact worth purchasing. Or was it that he’d started to think of their one-on-one meetings like any other day instead of risky?

“But when I tell you that armor is flattering, it’s too much?” Hawke smirked, settling down into his usual chair. “Please, you’ll make me blush.”

“I’ve only just begun.” Wait. Garrett was still catching up to the first comment and—was that a threat? Or what, a promise for more flattery? Bad news no matter how he looked at it. Once Merrill was out, he doubted those warm, fuzzy feelings would last. “You are an example to other Circle mages, Hawke—and not in the way I first imagined.”

Wasn’t that barely audible laugh of hers just ominous as she stood and circled her desk. Templars going through his room almost daily while he wasn’t there, that rotating guard as promised, and the feeling of eyes always on him wherever he went… And there was more she’d imagined but not acted on. Maker’s breath. Meredith walked past him without a glance, and he heard the door to the office shut.

“If only they understood as well as you do how vital our work is here.”

Garrett knew very well what being backed into a corner looked like. The narrow escape from Lothering. Scraping together a plan to leave Ferelden. Persuading Mother to leave Bethany behind. Selling himself into servitude to buy his way into Kirkwall. Selling himself again to get into the Deep Roads, of all places. He thanked his luck for getting out every time, but somehow, Hawke just kept finding himself in corners of all shapes and sizes. This one just happened to be a worn armchair in the Templar Knight Commander’s office. And he did the same thing he did every time: put on a good show of having it all under control. The rest usually followed. Usually.

“That’s me. Templar sympathizer and model mage.”

“There is a great deal of work that must be done for the Circle and society at large that Templars themselves cannot do.” She found her way back to her desk without anything else weird happening, coming back into view on his right and taking a seat with that same steady expression. Hawke could feel the closed door behind him like it was charged with magic. He knew it wasn’t, but that didn’t change a damn thing. “With such a record for success and promising behavior, I would be negligent not to entrust more responsibilities to you.”

This had to be a test of some kind. A trick to burn him out and get him to rat out Merrill by mistake. Andraste’s ass, why was it always Hawke? Was it something he said or did? Perhaps that pumpkin he stole once from a farmer in Lothering. Or was it because he told that Chantry sister who spat at Bethany as a child that she had the face of a toad and a heart full of warts? Maybe the Maker just hated him that much? Damn it all, he really should’ve gone to the Chantry more.

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” He shrugged it off, propping one leg up on his knee like this was his den back at home. Just getting ready for a round of cards with Varric so he could part with coin on his terms. “I am still a mage. How much responsibility can I possibly handle?”

“Don’t play the fool.” That was an order if he’d ever heard one. She set one fist on the table, that smile dropping to her usual stern stonewall look. Somehow, that didn’t get rid of the tension. “I know you’ve seen the atrocities in the dark underbelly of the world that so many others shut out.”

That sentence alone was like a bucket of cold water, or—no, like a sheet of snow dropping on him unceremoniously from the trees of Ferelden. Even Carver laughed with Bethany at the yelp Garrett made, rushing to get his coat off as if that would make any difference then. They were just kids; he was barely in his teenage years. Father had died only a few years back, though they felt long and yet—like it had just happened. Their laughter was uncommon to hear those days and Hawke would do anything to make it continue.

But happiness never lasted.

The same feeling hit him when he saw Mother sobbing over Bethany’s body, begging her to get up against all reason. Even if her body wasn’t completely still and lifeless, she never would have been able to walk in that condition. Or ever again, most likely. Maker, the vacant look on her face still woke Hawke up with a choking gasp some nights.

After a lifetime as the family with no father and passing the silent desperation of other families with mages in them, seeing what they could be brought to when the Templars sometimes came for them… Yes, Hawke knew what life could do to a person. He just had the good sense not to talk about it to someone he had imprisoned and at his will.

Garrett felt the smile falter just a hair and no doubt, Meredith saw it too. The smile didn’t reach his eyes anymore, not even if he faked it like he often did. “And what would make you think that? Usually, I hear about my roguish good looks or clever wit.”

“It is your resilience in the face of hardship.” She sat back, keeping one hand palm down on the desk as if to keep it in place despite her relatively relaxed posture. “My older sister was a mage too. Amelia was gentle, a tender soul, and she was not ready for the rigorous standards that the Circle upholds.”

Garrett found his expression softening along with her tone. Whatever her opinion of mages or freedom or common human decency… The Meredith in front of him was a younger sister living with a mage in the family who saw her as sibling she didn’t want to lose.

“…You hid her.”

Meredith nodded sharply. “Not well. The Templars were called, and when they came, my sister entered a deal with a demon and became an abomination.” She said it with a level voice but the tension in the air gave away that this was still raw. And always would be, if Hawke’s own losses meant anything. “I watched as she cut my family down and before she was put to rest by the Templars, she had taken 70 other souls with her. I barely escaped with my life.”

Of course, Hawke had heard plenty of stories like this. Told tearfully or angrily, over tankards or corpses in rain-battered coastlines, hugging people he’d just met and would never see again, because it just felt like he had to. Nothing made him ready to hear it from Knight Commander Meredith, who turned a blind eye to the Templars under her that wanted to make mages Tranquil for the smallest suspicion and never let up on Orsino or any Circle mage.

“I can see it in your eyes even now. You understand where no one else does how important it is to protect mages from themselves.”

That wasn’t what he did. Sending Feynriel to the Dalish was because he needed guidance to understand his abilities. There was a damn good reason he never once considered sending him to the Circle to be shackled like an animal. The half-elf mage didn’t have the benefit of noble standing and something of a reputation to protect him. What Hawke wanted to shield him from was ignorant people, not himself. But how could a woman like Meredith understand? She saw the tragedy of magic as a child, and now it was the only thing she could see.

“Not all of them have your resolve, Hawke. Those that don’t will inevitably end up hurting others—or worse.”

Where was he supposed to begin? Hawke couldn’t talk about this, not with her. It didn’t matter that she was wrong, and most mages he knew about whose lives ended in tragedy only went that way because they felt trapped. All he could think of right then was how his entire family stayed on the move to keep Bethany and Garrett from being found out and taken away only to have Bethany die unburied. What did her freedom do for her when she died young anyway? Would she have been happier in the Circle, not like tender Amelia Stannard? Or would she have withered in there and met an early death in one of the grim, horrific ways that so many Circle mages did?

Neither side was right or wrong. The Templars shackled the mages and the Chantry collared the Templars. Like everything else Hawke just had to stick his nose in, it was a bloody mess. And he wasn’t here about that anyway. This was all for Merrill. Whatever he did to protect her, Hawke could manage.

“It’s a harsh truth. Never goes over well at parties.”

That seemed to do it for Meredith. Her analytical smile was back, and she leaned towards him over the desk.

“In the coming weeks, your tasks will be to watch over your fellow mages. Report anyone you find suspicious.” Oh, was that all? Hawke knew that if he came up empty, she’d start to suspect him. Just peachy. “And if work outside the Gallows needs a covert approach to track down dangerous mages, I will call on you. Be prepared.” He endured another assessing look, weighing him for Maker-knew-what. “You are dismissed.”

Led by the new watch of Templars to his cell, Garrett stared up at the ceiling that night as his mind whirled to think of answers. Well, Garrett, you got yourself here. Merrill would escape in just a couple days now, technically, and he couldn’t risk it all now. He could try to covertly talk to Orsino or contact Anders somehow to ask after which mages he should put under Meredith’s scrutiny, but… Well, shit. Now what?


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Hellfire Chapter 7: Good Graces — Dragon Age Fanfiction

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Approx. 1360 words (2 to 10 minutes)

The next week in the Circle was uneventful. Truly, it had to be. Merrill’s escape was in a few weeks and Hawke needed to keep just enough attention on him to have it off her—same as since he walked into the Gallows, but it was hard work to not draw attention when he was… himself.

Mother wrote him about the stress of running the estate and how she couldn’t trust Gamlen to help considering how poorly he’d managed last time. Of course, she was worried about how this affecting Carver and his relationship to Garrett too. And naturally, she chastised him for his recklessness and wasting the effort they put into protecting him all those years. The most surprising thing about the letter was that it reached him at all. Really, that was just more proof for Hawke that being from Hightown did give him the advantage even inside the Circle.

As long as that kept up after his good friend mysteriously vanished from the Circle before she was discovered as a blood mage, Hawke would be very grateful for his rare good luck.

“Hawke,” Merrill’s chipper tone drew his attention from the book in front of him. He got more reading done locked away than he ever did at home, what were the odds of that? He flashed Merrill a smile, less warmly than he normally would thanks to all the blasted Templars posted in the library, of all places. Not like someone was going to use blood magic to turn a page. “Sorry, I should really keep my distance, but,” she trailed off to sit down and opened up a book on Kirkwall’s magic history. A bloody mess, that book. “You just look so lonely, is all.”

Hawke had gone back to reading, but that earned her a wry smile and raised eyebrows. “Can’t see how I’d be lonely with friends assigned to watch over me all night.”

She hummed, her distinct accent shining through even without words. And in that second, he hated that she wasn’t wrong. Reading together casually like this brought Hawke back to the estate, muttering her name in mock disapproval as he stared at bare footprints on the second floor handrail, getting a note that she’d watered his plants again, and of course reading together in the library with that creepy wall art Fenris resented so much.

But she’d be leaving soon, she had to. And Hawke would get out eventually somehow. Even if he was lonely, and Garrett wasn’t thinking he was, what good would that do? He’d be back out in the fresh, free air soon enough one way or another.

“Oh, that’s not the same, Hawke,” she half-reprimanded and half-teased. “They’re not actually your friends… Oh. You knew that. Right.” Jokes were always on the difficult side for her, but she did figure that one out without Hawke dropping hints. Isabela would be proud! “Do you think you’ll be alright?”

She snuck a peek at him as another couple mages slunk by them for new books, though they were probably old to them. Everything was old to them by the looks of things. Both strangers moved like the air was water and seemed permanently afflicted by a desire to be much, much smaller than they really were. Right, they definitely weren’t being beaten by Templars at least once a week. Anders had that part right too, as extreme as he could be: if a mage was being hurt, everyone else turned a blind eye.

“Relax, Merrill,” he brushed off her worries with a wave. “You’ve seen for yourself what I can deal with. If spirits, the Blight, and the undead didn’t get me, a few Templars won’t stand a chance.”

Whatever she was going to say dropped off once the sound of clanking armor got closer. Merrill stared at her book, shoulders tense in defiance more than fear. Come to think of it, Hawke wasn’t even sure what Merrill looked like afraid—only cripplingly nervous or guilty. He turned his attention to the Templar, probably because he recognized those footsteps anywhere.

“Carver,” he greeted far too fondly, which was really just right. Closing the book, Garrett rested forward on the table with a smirk. “My dear brother! Should I assume that dour look on your face is for me?”

“You’ve been called by the Knight-Commander,” he informed him. “On your feet.”

“Anything for you, baby brother.” Out of spite, Hawke left the book behind on the table. More likely, Merrill would pick it up to put away before any Templar did, but he could pretend it inconvenienced one of them.

Talking on the way was out of the question now. Templars were out in droves during the day and from how Carver stared straight ahead the entire time, apparently even looking at Garrett was a risk he couldn’t take. That’s what he was choosing to think, anyway. Carver stopped outside Meredith’s door and nodded him in.

“Go on, mage.”

“Mage?” He scoffed but went with it and walked into Meredith’s office. It was all an act… And a very convincing one. Was it luck that he had bigger issues to think about than the strained relationship with his little brother? “Knight-Commander, what a pleasure.”

And for a moment, he thought he caught a smirk from Meredith. A wry one, yes, but still. He had to have imagined it from being overworked and sleep deprived off and on since he landed in his Circle cell.

“Sirrah Hawke. The Knight-Captain tells me you’ve been doing great work on behalf of the Circle.” Ah, so that was her motive. He’d been shown the stick and now it was time for the carrot. Should be an uplifting change of pace, not that it would change much for Hawke. “And his praise is not easily earned.”

Maybe there was something weighing on Cullen’s conscious from the Circle in Fereldan after all… Or maybe it was guilt from telling Hawke mages weren’t people. Whatever he said to Meredith would’ve decided Hawke’s life from then on out. Well, more like his quality of life. Being Tranquil was technically not murder as far as the Chantry or anyone cared, but—there were better thoughts to have. More relevant ones too. Garrett quirked a smile to Meredith too, figuring that one simple gesture like that couldn’t hurt his odds in the long run. Every bit of leverage counted towards Merrill’s escape just a few weeks out.

“Oh, he’s certainly a tough one. I’ll have to remember to write him a thank you letter later.”

“As a reward for this model behavior,” she began and stood, cutting an intimidating figure looming over her staunch desk. “I’ll allow you to assist your business partner in the mines.”

The mines? It took a moment for Hawke to remember the Hightown market hawkers and the one who talked down about Fereldans. Hubert, if he guessed right. Always something with him, wasn’t it? The more pressing observation was that he hadn’t taken a seat yet and wasn’t being forced into one this time. Could it be that the heartless Knight Commander actually saw worth in a measly mage? Maker’s breath, that’d be his finest achievement yet.

“To be clear—” Meredith interrupted, her familiar hard expression returning, “This is only being offered to you as a condition of your cooperation and high standing in Kirkwall.”

“Those high society types sure know how to whine, don’t they?” Garrett leaned on the back of one of the chairs, pushing his luck to see how far it would go. Whatever this discovery was with Meredith, he’d need it when Merrill was out safe and sound. He flashed her an easy smile, letting his hands hang loosely over the chair. “Tell me, was it the neighbors to the south or the northeast?”

“Both,” she answered drily, but with a slight, almost imperceptible bright edge to her voice. And Hawke knew he had to have gone mad by then. Meredith, returning his sarcasm at even a fragment of its strength? Maybe he was too good at getting her guard down; this was uncanny.


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Hellfire Chapter 3: Reunion — Dragon Age Fanfiction

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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.”


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Hellfire Chapter 2: First Step — Dragon Age Fanfiction

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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.


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Hellfire Chapter 1: Setup — Dragon Age Fanfiction

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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.


Read the next chapter.

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