"She always thinks she's right," Carver muttered, kicking a loose rock. It skidded along the paving stones, scattering a flock of pidgeons. The birds struggled into the air awkwardly as if comfort forced them to forget how to fly. The templar watched with some satisfaction, wishing it were that easy to make his sister look silly. Hawke acted like she had all the answers. She always had. "Do this. Don't do that. Come here; go there!" Blah blah blah. Carver found another pebble, sending it clattering a few paces down the lane. The birds were already gone but it still made him feel better. Not as good as yelling at Riese would, but she was just impossible.
I never should have followed her out of Kirkwall, he thought sullenly. But then he never would have met up with Merrill again. "I should have stayed with her in the alienage," Carver sighed, looking in that direction. He knew he could go back, but Dirthen had made his feelings on humans and elves pretty clear. Maybe Merrill felt the same. It would explain the way she always drew back when things got intimate. Her shyness with him, and her refusal to call their attraction anything other than friendship. He'd thought they were getting closer, getting past her reticence, but now he had doubts.
If I go back, will she even want me? Carver didn't know if he wanted that question answered. And even if she did, the templar was pretty sure she would choose her ambition over him. Merrill had given up everything, so what was one more, small, insignificant relationship? Maybe things would be different if he had told her how much he liked her ten years ago, in another lifetime. He wanted to believe he could have rescued her, though he knew that was foolish. You could never save someone from themselves. It stung to admit that.
Carver wondered what Hawke would do in his shoes. Probably some ridiculous gesture, something so grand and unforgettable that no one would deny her. Even Fenris, grumpy and brooding, hateful to everything magic, had given in. Granted, it took Riese years to get that far but she had done it. Unfortunately, there was no slave master to kill for Merrill, no hunters in pursuit. And her desires . . . to bring back the Dales, restore the elves their glory . . . it was nothing one templar, penniless and alone, could accomplish. He gave a derisive snort at the thought of single-handedly carving out a kingdom for the Dalish. Not even his sister could do that.
It began to get dark and cold, the night filled with distant sounds of merriment and the barking of dogs. Carver had to smile at the noise; it felt like home. He still remembered his late night walks in Lothering, sneaking into the back of Dane's Refuge for stolen sips of beer. The smell of hay and tilled dirt, candles flickering in the windows as he passed. Carver missed the simple things, life before the darkspawn destroyed his home.
His wandering feet took him to the chantry, past the fence around the grounds, sweet smelling flowers and grass filled his nose. He made his way slowly down the path where finally he stood outside, staring up the steps at the great wooden doors. Part of him wanted to walk in, be welcomed by his brothers and the revered mother, to sing the Chant again and feel that sense of belonging. He knew it could not be. Even if they accepted him today, what would happen when they learned he was from Kirkwall? That he had betrayed his order and his faith for family? And how could he still square that desire to rejoin the order with the other half of him that wanted nothing more than to run back to the alienage and pull Merrill close, kiss her?
There was no welcome for him here. Carver turned and walked away, his heart heavy and full of regret. When had he ever made the right choice? Was he making the right one now? He pushed his thoughts away, focusing on his feet. One step and then another, no destination, just movement.
Morning passed Fenris and Hawke by, sliding into windy afternoon. Leaves danced across the cobblestones outside and within the eaves of Creme the ladies of evening began to stir. It was their laughter and the smell of baking bread that finally woke the elf. Beside him, Riese lay curled on herself, blankets tugged against her chest and held tight. She always slept as if she expected the sheets to be ripped away, likely a remnant of childhood spent sharing a bed with her sister. Fenris allowed himself a small smile, gently tracing the curve of her jaw with a fingertip. He loved her so much it hurt.
It was funny how things worked out, Fenris thought. He had run from Tevinter hating all magic, all mages. Determined to set himself apart from them and everything they corrupted, but somehow he had ended up here. He didn't think Riese understood the irony of it; that the chains she bound him by were stronger than any enchantment laid on him by Danarius. I chose this, he thought, kissing an errant lock of her hair. And that choice made all the difference. There was nowhere he would rather be. The elf slid carefully out of bed and began to dress.
They would need to leave soon or pay for another night in this place. He wasn't sure they could afford it. Hawke had plenty of money stashed in Kirkwall, but there was no way to get it right now. And their purses were not light, but there was no guarantee they would have any income later. This was, for all purposes, every penny they owned. He didn't think Riese would want to sleep under hedges and grub for food in the forest, so it was best to be careful until things were certain. That in mind, he slipped downstairs.
Creme was much quieter today than it had been last night. Birk lounged near the door on a wide, round stool. It rocked unevenly as he nodded to the elf. Opal was nowhere to be seen, so Fenris walked to the bar and sat. The barkeep was a young woman, slender and dark skinned with wide, green eyes. She gave him a bright smile. "Whiskey to break your fast?" "Ehm, no . . . I was hoping to pay our tab, and maybe ask for a bath." The woman nodded, looking over at a slate board with some odd marks on it. "You've got the attic, right?"
Fenris squinted at the board, trying to figure out what she was reading. "Yes, that's right." "It's five silver. Bath is free if you fill the tub, or three coppers for service. Another silver if you want service to stay and scrub your back." The elf gave up on the board and nodded, fishing the coins from his pocket. "I can fill the tub, just tell me where to go." She pointed, "Round the bar, next to the kitchens. Pump for cold or ask cook for a bucket of hot." "Thanks. Can I grab breakfast there too? Or is it just -" he motioned to the bottles and jars on the shelf behind her. "Might be something left from last night. Cook only does dinners," the woman said, looking pointedly toward the kitchen. "There's a good bakery down the way though." "Great," the elf smiled, heading for the kitchen.
By the time Riese woke up, Fenris had the bath poured and sweet buns from the bakery waiting on her. "You sleep like a dead woman," he laughed as she sat up and looked around. "How - how long were you up?" she asked with a yawn. He shrugged, "A while. Bath is still warm though." Hawke stood, stretching. Fenris watched, breath caught in his throat. Even with the scars, she was so beautiful. From the top of her head to the tip of each pink nipple, and down to her toes. She caught him looking and grinned. "Don't drool on my sweet bun, dear." The elf returned her smile, reaching for her as she slipped past him to the bath. "I thought you liked it when I drool on your sweet buns . . ." He faked a disappointed look. Hawke shook her head, laughing at him. "At least I will know why breakfast is soggy." She stepped into the bath, splashing a bit as she rinsed off.
"So should we hunt for Carver today?" Riese looked at him hopefully as she asked. "If you think we should." Fenris didn't feel inclined to look for the younger Hawke, but he had expected the mage to ask. It didn't matter that the templar was a grown man who had chosen to storm off in the middle of a strange city, or that all of them were fugitives and really should be on their way. Hawke would want to find him, make sure he was alright, and give him one last chance to be insulting before they could leave. The elf held in a sigh. "Do you want to stay here while we look? It's five silver a night." Fenris grimaced as he said it.
Hawke looked conflicted for a moment, obviously not wanting to search the city for cheaper room and board. Finally, she sunk down a bit in the tub and said, "I guess we should look for someplace else." It came out sounding so defeated he had to smile. "It's ok, Riese. We can stay here. It's expensive, but I think we can count on Opal being discreet." He gestured around them, "It's just in the nature of the business." Fenris was rewarded with a grateful smile. "Oh good. I didn't want to sound whiny, but I love the soft bed and having a bath right here . . . most inns are just a straw pallet. And fleas!" It was hard not to laugh at the look of disgust on her face.
After she was dressed and the fresh sweet buns devoured, they went downstairs. Opal was sitting at a table with ledgers piled high in front of her. She gave them a broad smile. "Enjoy your stay?" "Very much," Hawke answered. "Good, good. Did you need anything before you leave? We have many services." "We were hoping to stay another night or two, if we could." The madame shrugged, "As you like. If you pay for a week, I will give you dinners free." Riese looked to Fenris and he gave a nod. A week in this city was not the best, but it would give them time to gather information and decide where to go next. And who knew how long the mage would want to stay and look for Carver? He hoped fervently this week did not stretch into two. That in mind, he handed over four gold to Opal, stashing the silvers she returned to him.
"Thank you," he told her. "If anyone comes asking for us, please let us know before you say anything." The madam gave a knowing smile, "I would do no less even if you didn't ask, fool boy. And you are welcome. Now if you don't mind -" She motioned to the ledgers, "The pages ache to be filled with ink. Good day to you." Fenris nodded and guided Hawke out.
They walked quietly toward the docks, Hawke tense at every tall, dark haired figure. "Where do you think Carver would go?" she asked, chewing her lip absently. "The chantry?" Fenris ventured, "Or perhaps the alienage?" "I don't want to go back there. I guess we can check the chantry. Where ever it is." She looked around, frowning. "Probably back toward the merchant district, or near those walled estates," Fenris replied. The chantry was never in the poor part of town, no matter their supposed goal of helping the poor and needy. "I hope word of Kirkwall has not spread," Riese told him quietly. The elf nodded, "That is my hope as well. Do you want to risk it?"
"It's worth it," she said quickly, guiding them around a corner and back toward the gates that led to the noble district. The guard there was happy to point them toward the chantry, his smiling face proof he must be new to the job. Guards were never that cheerful, at least, never after the first day or two.
The chantry was set behind a high metal fence, the bronze bent and twisted into fanciful flames. To Fenris it seemed almost a mockery of the Andrastian faith, their founder burned to death in fires of betrayal reduced to decor. At least the garden behind it was nice. A few late blooming flowers peeked out of the greenery, and all of it was shaded by trees in their autumn colors. The two walked slowly up the chantry stairs. Riese hesitated at the door, nervous to go in. Fenris just held open the door until she moved forward.
Inside it looked like most other chantries, tall columns lining the chamber with a large statue of Andraste on a pedestal at the end. The smell of incense stung his nose, sharp and sweet, and soft chanting filled his ears. Affirmed and initiates walked about, sweeping the floors and tending to the needs of the faithful. One young man approached them, asking in a low voice if he could help. Hawke nodded. "I am looking for my friend. He's a little taller than me, dark hair, brown eyes . . ." She described Carver well but the man just looked at her blankly. "Haven't seen anyone like that, miss. Is he in some trouble?"
Riese hesitated, then shook her head, "No, but we are new to this place and he's gotten lost. I thought he might come here to pray." The affirmed shrugged and then smiled, "If you tell me where you are staying, maybe we can send word should he stop by?" "No, that's alright. We haven't found long term lodging ourselves. Thank you though." Riese turned to leave, looking tense and uncomfortable in this place. It made Fenris sad to see. Riese was never overly religious but until now she had at least found some comfort in the chantry. Anders had ruined that for her. A small thing perhaps, but it was another debt that mage owed.
They walked out to the garden, where Hawke pulled him off the path, settling down under a large tree. The autumn leaves crunched under their boots, letting off a faint spicy odor. Late blooming flowers peeked out from under the fall colors, adding to the scents in the air. It was odd, thought Fenris, but pleasant. "What do you think?" Riese asked, looking up at him. "You mean was he telling the truth?" "Mhmmm." She tilted her head, patting the ground beside her. Fenris sat. "I think he was. He looked more confused than anything." "I guess I am getting paranoid. Just the way he smiled when he asked where we are staying - I don't know." The elf put an arm around her. "Paranoid is probably good, but I don't think it was anything to worry about." "Yeah . . ."
Riese leaned her head back against the tree, closing her eyes. "I half expected to see Elthina." Fenris studied her face, the way her brows drew together in the center, the edge of her lips turned down. "She is dead," Fenris said quietly, pulling Hawke closer. "I know. I just feel like she shouldn't be." "Because she shouldn't be." The mage drew a ragged breath, resting against him. He hoped she wasn't crying. "I don't know what else to say," Fenris added. She patted his arm, "You don't need to say anything." "Good," the elf replied, stroking her shoulder lightly.
The afternoon was warm by Ferelden standards, Riese thought. The breeze beneath the tree was barely enough to bring a shiver. She had not realized until today how much the destruction of the Kirkwall chantry shook her. Grief and regret still swam beneath her determined exterior, haunting every smile. Why had everything turned out so badly? What could she have done to fix it? There were no answers and Hawke knew it. Still, she turned the questions over and over in her mind. Fenris seemed to understand what she needed at least. No false words of comfort, just his solid presence beside her. She knew logically this was not the best time to stop and deal with her feelings, but seeing the chantry brought loss to her mind. Old memories of Elthina, her mother's funeral, of Sebastian . . . all the things wiped out by Anders' misguided quest for freedom.
The worst part was that Riese understood him, even sympathized with what her friend had done. But understanding was not forgiveness. Her father taught her that you could only judge people on their actions, their motives. And that killing was a last resort. The people Anders had taken vengeance on were good hearted, trying to work in a corrupt system to change things slowly, safely. Their actions made them good people. Riese truly believed in time things would have gotten better, especially once Meredith was removed, but it wasn't the revolution Anders wanted. The deaths he caused were needless sacrifice, and those killings - that act - made him evil. She sighed heavily, knowing this reflection was not helping. I should get up and go look for Carver, she thought.
Hawke lifted her head, giving Fenris a light kiss on the lips. "Ready?" he asked, standing. She nodded, letting him help her to her feet. "Do I have dirt on my butt?" she turned to let the elf see. He shrugged, patting it. "Just some leaves. Decoration, right?" The mage brushed at them, distracted as a few people began to gather at the fence. "What do you suppose that's about?" Fenris shrugged. "Doesn't matter unless they stop us, right?" He lifted an eyebrow. "Right," Hawke agreed. She had promised not to get involved in other people's problems as they had in Kirkwall. No more adventuring, she told herself firmly.
The gathering moved into the garden, a templar pushing past the people, dragging along a young girl in chantry robes. The girl looked frightened, disheveled, her only possession a tightly held messenger satchel. The bag wasn't very valuable looking, a dusty brown leather with faded stitching. It looked a bit . . . "The Viscount?" Riese whispered, tracing the familiar lines of the Kirkwall sigil with her eyes. "I see it," Fenris said flatly. "We need to get out of here." "But Carver-" Hawke began. "Isn't here," the elf interrupted. They edged along the side of the garden, where the trees grew close to the fence, away from the gate.
Fenris boosted her up without a word. Riese scrambled over as silently as she could, then waited for the elf. He hauled himself after her with no trouble. "Move," he said sounding strained. Hawke let him lead, worry clouding her mind. If word from Kirkwall reached here, how long could they stay in the city without being recognized? "Back to Creme?" she asked as they hurried along the street. The elf nodded, "To get our things and go. We can't stay." Behind them, bells began to toll and then ragged shouts erupted. From this distance it wasn't clear what they were saying, but the voices were full of anger and grief. "I guess that means it wasn't some other message. Damn." The mage bit her lip. She had hoped they would have more time before news from Kirkwall caught up.
People ran toward the chantry as they walked away, expressions of surprise on many faces. Fenris grabbed one old man as he hobbled past, feigning confusion. "What do the bells mean? Is there danger?" The old man pushed the elf away. "Last time they rang, it was a fire. Took out a few estates up the hill. If you're so curious come on then." "I don't want the trouble," Fenris replied, managing to sound worried. The old man spat and then continued on his way, obviously annoyed. "Why did you do that," Riese asked. "To make sure we can still get out the gates. If it's a general alarm, we should be alright, at least until they send word to the guards . . ."
"They might not," Hawke said. "It could still be something else - or - or even if it is word from Kirkwall, they can't know we came here. They might just be ringing the bells to announce what happened." Fenris shrugged, "I don't want to take the chance. This place has too many walls and gates to get out of easily." The mage nodded, though she didn't entirely agree. It was too early to panic, and while she was glad to be away from the chantry, there was still Carver to find. Though it would do her brother no good if they did end up caught.
A thought struck her and she stopped. "Wait, how will Carver know to leave? He didn't see the messenger!" "You're joking," Fenris answered, pressing his to a thin line. "If he sits here waiting after this alarm, he deserves to end up in the city dungeon." "That's not very fair to him." The elf sighed, looking at her sharply. "Riese. Your brother is a grown man. He isn't a child and he isn't helpless. You are not his mother. He will escape or he won't - either way, we are not waiting here and risking our skins in case he needs a hand." The words were said quietly, but firmly. A quick outpouring of determination tinged in frustration.
Hawke wanted to argue with him, but he was right. She just hoped her brother had learned over the last few years. She nodded and let Fenris take her arm again. It didn't take long to get to Creme. The streets here were nearly deserted and eerily quiet. A few worried shopkeepers peered from their empty storefronts. The elf ducked into Creme with a disgusted look. "Well they are going to remember us. The only two people walking away from the chantry." "That old man might too," the mage added. "I doubt it," Fenris answered, glancing behind them nervously.
Birk raised an eyebrow at them but said nothing as they slunk into the tavern. He was the only one there, Opal and barkeep gone. Hawke was glad of it. Birk didn't seem like he would ask questions as they left with their packs, though he didn't seem smart enough to lie about it either. Fenris nodded to him and then led Riese upstairs quickly. It took only a moment to shove their unpacked belongings into bags. Hawke pulled a hooded cloak on, though the day was not cold enough to need it, and the elf pulled a knit cap over his hair and ears.
"You look like a fisherman," Riese grinned. "Maybe I am a fisherman," Fenris replied, strapping his sword onto his back. It was too big to hide properly, but the coat he draped over it helped. "Must be some big fish you are after," the mage laughed. She knew there was nothing funny in their situation, but it helped to make light of it. Fenris grinned, "The biggest." He grabbed their bags and settled one on his shoulders, the other two hanging from his arms. His armor was still packed, but he didn't seem concerned. Hawke supposed they wouldn't need it just yet. She hoped.
Riese dropped two gold on the small table by the bed as they left, hoping Opal would say nothing of their stay or departure. There was no way to guarantee silence, at least, no way she was willing to take. They would have to bet on greed and stupidity to keep their stay a secret. It wasn't much to rely on. With one last, longing look at the big soft bed and porcelain tub, Hawke left the room, bouncing down the stairs after Fenris. She wondered if this was what being on the run was always like. The feeling of being hunted, of leaving comfort behind every time you found it. It made her miss Kirkwall all the more. She wondered if Fenris felt that way too, even if he never considered that city a home.
If Birk noticed them leave, he didn't give any indication. He just sat staring into a tin mug as they walked out, oblivious. "You lead," Fenris told her, nudging Riese forward. "Where to? I'm not sure which road goes out." The elf shrugged, burdens shifting awkwardly. "South I think. Along the Merchant Road. It seems a likely way toward the Bannern." "Bannorn," Hawke corrected him, heading the direction he indicated.
The Bannorn. Maybe the last place Riese had expected to find herself again. It was just grass, fields, and scrubby trees. If you were lucky, maybe a few deer. If not, just hungry wolves and giant hunting spiders. She had a lot of memories out there, times when her father was alive, and Bethany. Though she had not known it as a child, her whole life with her family was spent on the run. At the time, she had considered it normal to move each season, to give more than one name depending on the village, to stay far out from the chantry and town center . . . it was funny to be on the run with another family again in this same place. History repeating itself, or perhaps just the present making mockery of the past.
"Why did you slow?" Fenris asked, walking a few paces behind her, head ducked and shoulders lowered subserviently. "What?" "You slowed down. Why?" Hawke shrugged, not wanting to share her feelings just yet. She quickened her pace, earning a grunt from Fenris. "Sorry," she muttered. Despite her happy memories of her father, she realized she didn't want to live that on the run. Had her parents fled here with the same plans she now shared with Fenris? To settle and find peace in the simple life? It made her stomach twist to think about it. Being forced to run again and again, never finding a home or safety . . . that seemed more a nightmare than a dream. Was it the truth that lay before them?