Thanks so much for clicking on this, my Dragon Age 2 story: Force of the Spirit!
I did really enjoy Dragon Age 2 despite the problems it had, and that was mainly because of the story and the characters, so I decided I would bring them to life in my own way with this story. I'm going to work through the whole game to really build up a whole universe, and a main character, Morgaine Hawke, as well as all the companions I love. However I have dispensed with Varric's narrative simply for logistics reasons. That means we're going to be plunged right into the action at the flight from Lothering.
You may notice (Or already be familiar with) my love of descriptions and lovely, sometimes obscure words. Just skim over them if you like, or soak them in.
Either way: Simply enjoy! And any reviews, or any faults you pick up or recommendations, would be appreciated as we go on.
The Blight had come to Lothering. All their prayers, all their hopes, the blood and broken swords of the soldiers lost at Ostagar, all of it had come to nothing, and now the village died burning and convulsing beneath a black tide of Darkspawn. Fire stained the sky, ash and embers danced upon a searing wind, and Morgaine Hawke ran, ran faster than she could have dreamed possible. Her heart hammered in her chest, her lungs ached with the heaving, shallow breaths she tried to draw from the smoke-filled air. As she gasped, coughing, she knew to her sickened core that the smoke had poured from the village down the valley, from the burning houses of friends, neighbours…from their own home, the Hawke homestead, their whole life…all of it was in flames now. Her pounding steps upon the already bare, ashen ground jarred in her muscles, but she had no choice but to run, to keep running, to push herself onward. The Darkspawn were right behind them. Carver raced just ahead, his soldier's physique keeping up the punishing pace with greater ease than Morgaine could manage. Even with the weight of the huge, double-handed sword he bore strapped across his back, the only thing he'd brought home from the hell at Ostagar apart from memories of the horrific defeat, he moved with ease over the rough terrain. The path they'd all thought familiar was now barely recognisable in this nightmare.
"Mother!" Morgaine stumbled, swinging round on her feet as she heard Bethany's plaintive scream from just behind her. Her younger sister had frozen, fear alight and deathly in her face, her horrified gaze on the place where their mother, Leandra Hawke, had fallen to her knees, stumbling into the dirt, exhausted and beaten down by their sudden flight from everything they knew, everything Leandra and their father, Malcolm, had built. Morgaine felt a sickened lurch, they'd run so fast, she should have been beside Mother this whole time, holding her up if she had to herself. She ran to Mother's side, and Leandra managed to raise her head to find her eldest daughter, grasping at Morgaine's sleeve with trembling fingers…
"Morgaine, I'm alright…" She gasped "I just tripped on something…"
"Oh Maker they're here!" Bethany's scream sent both of them reeling, and Morgaine's heart froze as she looked down the path and saw them, loping up the ridge with a strong, fast animalistic tread, four of the Darkspawn monsters. They paused for a moment on the ridge to gaze with greedy eyes at their prey, giving her a sickening opportunity to examine the monsters far closer than she could ever have imagined. Hurlocks…taller than a man and broader, their armour and weapons cobbled together from their dead foes, many of them the uniforms of Fereldan soldiers like Carver…with the features of corrupted, monstrous beasts, sallow, greying skin, bulging predator's eyes and teeth sharper than a Marbari hound. They were nightmares made real, and they had come here to kill. Bethany was frozen in terror, and Carver, just staggering to a halt and pulling his vast blade from his shoulders in one fluid motion, still wouldn't get there in time. It was up to her.
Stepping up in front of Mother, who dragged herself away from the creatures with a look of horror fixed on her face, Morgaine raised the staff she bore in challenge. She'd never actually fought the Darkspawn or anything else like Carver had, but she didn't need his training to protect her family regardless. Carver might bear his sword in hand, but Morgaine herself was a weapon. In a heartbeat she summoned her power to bear, like any well-honed instinct it came easily, and a warm glow of power suddenly tingled across her flesh, humming in the air around her like ozone in a storm. Magic…she was born to this. The Darkspawn, if they even recognised the threat, didn't care in the slightest, and they began their way upwards with bestial cries of rage and hunger, brandishing their blades. Their weapons were already smeared with blood, they'd killed people Morgaine had known in Lothering's small community, all of those who hadn't made it out like the Hawke family had. They'd spill no more blood, Morgaine vowed. Light radiated from her clasped hands, blue, effervescent energy that shifted and warped around her fingers, and she tamed it with a powerful sweep of her hand. The Darkspawn raced towards them, and she focused, fixing her enemy in her sights, and suppressing the inevitable rush of horror as the creatures came closer. Magic was all about focus, not to let go, not to panic, not to expend too much, her father had taught her that. She could do this.
The spell thundered forward in a crackling burst of energy that threw two of the Darkspawn reeling and flying from the path, a rippling stream of blue light flashing over the ground caught and sent them tumbling to the floor, not dead but sufficiently disorientated and weakened by the blast to be of no immediate threat. Their two companions were unfazed however, and Morgaine brought her staff down across her body, rising to meet the remaining Hurlocks with a spectral glow burning around her staff, another spell to add magical heft to her blows. Father had taught her to wield a staff like this one too, since there had never been a guarantee that the many enemies of apostates like Malcolm Hawke and his daughters would let a spell be cast from a distance at all. Toe-to-toe combat was simply another dirty reality they'd had to be prepared for, and thank the Maker for it. The first strike of the Hurlock with a dirty, pitted sword she engaged was devastatingly fast for so seemingly a bestial creature, but she caught it across the length of the staff and forced the blow back. Carver appeared next to her, grim-faced and determined, and his huge double-handed sword whistled as it cleaved the air, hammering and ringing against the second Hurlock's axe. Engage, block, parry…Morgaine's body moved automatically through the motions almost as though this were another of her training exercises and she didn't face a monster across a wickedly sharp and blood-stained blade. She barely had time to think anything else, as she countered the creature's strikes one after the other, her staff whirling and spinning through the air in her arms. Only her pounding heart gave away the rush of fear and adrenaline pulsing through her veins, but she was a mage, she was trained to detachment and she mastered herself easily. Carver's opponent went down screaming in a spray of blood, and in the next moment Morgaine managed to force her opponent's blade down with her staff and thrust her hand inches from the creature's face. A spray of lambent energy burst from her fingers and sent the Hurlock slamming into the rock across the pathway, where it fell…still and silenced. The force had been enough to break its spine. The first two of the Hurlocks, those she'd distracted with her first spell and still numbed by its punishing, were dispatched by two quick slices from Carver's blade. Morgaine glanced away from the display, sickened by the stench of the creature's corrupted blood.
"I think that's all of them" Carver stood from his grim work, shouldering the massive blade once again, and ignoring the smear of thick, black blood it left across the simple soldier's tunic he wore. Morgaine nodded her thanks, her younger brother was as always stalwart and dependable, even with the sarcastic frown seemingly etched into his features and deepened by the events he'd witnessed at Ostagar. Carver Hawke was a tall and broad young man, he'd always been the biggest in the family, although soldiering and the deprivations he'd endured after the terrible defeat had honed his once awkward lankiness into muscle and sinew. The solid structure of his face was their father's, the strong jutting chin and firm stubborn nose both achingly recalled Malcolm Hawke, as did his thicket of dark hair that somehow managed to be hopelessly dishevelled despite a soldier's short cut. But he took after their mother's family, the Amells, in his steely blue eyes and fairness of skin.
"Thank the Maker" Bethany walked over with a lightness of tread that even the grim scene could not dent. She glanced apologetically at Morgaine, her hazel eyes, Father's eyes, glimmered with regret that she hadn't joined the battle alongside them. Carver's twin, though small and slender beside her hulking brother, Bethany shared his dark hair and fair skin, but she was far more Amell, her features shaped by a noble's bloodline, from her thin lips and slender nose to her high arching cheekbones. But the inheritance from Malcolm that she and Morgaine shared but Carver did not, magic, had run strong for both his daughters, and she too bore one of Malcolm's hand-crafted staffs in hand. Bethany had always been more hesitant with her gift than Morgaine, and the older sister had always been happy to take the responsibility for protecting her more cautious sibling. That didn't change now and it never would.
"But how long until more of them come?" Even Mother's crisp noble accent cracked with strain as she joined them on the path. For 25 years Leandra Hawke had lived a life on the run with her hunted apostate husband, and then, since Malcolm's death three years ago, taking responsibility for the fraught duty of shielding her mage children from the Templars of Lothering. But this…the loss of everything she'd made of herself even in the rude village, almost all that remained of her husband, and now this sudden, desperate flight, it was clearly more than she could bear, though as always she tried to keep herself strong for her family. She still possessed glimmers of the light, delicate beauty she'd passed to her youngest, but the years of hardship had drawn a mature dignity over the softness of the heiress she had been before she'd given it all away for love of a criminal. Her once fair hair had greyed over the years, and a delicate web of lines traced the costs and sacrifices she'd endured without complaint, though her light blue eyes were clear and firm. "The village is gone…" She murmured, her voice breaking "Everything your father and I built…"
"Our family's still together" Morgaine answered firmly "That's what matters" A new home could be found, even the memories and heirlooms they lost could be spared, but the Blight was all around them now, and she had to see her family safe. Their father had laid upon Morgaine a duty to protect them in his dying moments, and she had done her best until now, through Carver's rushing off to play soldier, through illness and the poverty that had followed Malcolm's death, through the lurking, constant threat of discovery by a misplaced word or careless moment. It had taken sacrifice, painful sacrifice…and now it had led them here, and they were still alive. Morgaine would give everything to keep it so.
"Yes" Leandra murmured, finding some comfort in her eldest daughter's words. "You're right"
"Why didn't we run sooner?" Bethany gasped, half-tearfully. "Elder Miriam, the Revered Mother…most of the village left weeks ago…why did we wait so long?"
"Why are you looking at me?" Carver, sensing accusation where truly there had been none, glared at his twin with a defensive snarl. Since Ostagar he'd been sore, brooding in such a way that Morgaine couldn't get through. "I've been running since Ostagar" It was true that the family had delayed once the evacuation of Lothering, by then swarming with refugees from the South, had begun in earnest, desperately waiting for any news of Carver without even knowing whether he was alive or dead. It had been a dark time, with panic sweeping through the village and grimmer news coming each day of the horrendous slaughter in the ancient fortress, King Cailen dead, the whole army slaughtered and feasted upon by the dark creatures. Morgaine had, to her regret, tentatively suggested that they leave with the hordes of refugees, but Mother had insisted upon waiting. And Mother's faith had been rewarded when Carver had staggered in one dark night from the Korcari Wilds, feverish and wounded. But they couldn't move on with him in that state for at least a week and by then the Imperial Highway had been swarming with bandits and desperation. Somehow things had gotten so out of hand that the family had found themselves here, too late…caught up in this horrific slaughter along with a few other foolhardy souls who didn't have the protection of the Hawke family's gifts and thus faced a far grimmer fate. Morgaine hated that her hesitation had got the family trapped, but now was no time to be paralysed by blame or regret. They just had to get away from the village, and fast.
"That's enough" Morgaine insisted, drawing her staff back into her hand, and laying it firmly on the ground. "There isn't time for this…we've got to get away from the village before any more of them show up"
"Of course" Carver stepped back, retreating behind sullen obedience once again. "Lead on, sister" Morgaine breathed in heavily, feeling her lungs sting with the smoke in the air. Lothering was dead, but the Hawke family might just still have a future. Maker preserve them all…
Carver Hawke followed in his sister's footfall, somehow finding himself planting each of his strides within the slight indents Morgaine's quiet, elegant tread left in the shifting ashes and dust, so that he obliterated her footsteps under his own heavy steps. Morgaine didn't notice, of course, she never did. Duty, obedience, responsibility, this was his sister's world, she'd never conceive of anything as remotely petty as envy. After all, why should she? Even though he was the one who'd fought Darkspawn before, bloodied himself at Ostagar, even though with their father gone he was the man of the house, Morgaine as always took command in this crisis as in every other, effortlessly guiding the family onwards with her lightest touch. He hated the resentment coiling in his breast like a snake, after all they were running for their lives, and the only home they'd ever known was burning behind them, but since Ostagar it seemed as though everything he touched turned to ashes, so it hardly mattered now. Lothering had not been the home to him that it had to Bethany and Mother anyway, the only home he'd ever known was with the soldiers, in the camp at Ostagar, finally being a part of something, and in a few short weeks that had been broken and trampled under Darkspawn heels. He remembered how proud he'd been to face the Darkspawn in the epic battle King Cailan had promised, how he'd dreamed of returning feted to the village, to see Mother smile proudly as he never could make her since father died, although her eldest, Morgaine, could always bring that laughter to her eyes, to know that he'd been a part of keeping Bethany safe from an even greater threat than the Templars, instead of being just a useless weight to his family of mages and apostates where he lacked the gifts. Now look at him, on the run, and on his sister's heels again.
"Wait, where are we going?" Bethany's shrill cry brought him back to himself, and he realised that she'd just stopped on the side of the road, gasping for breath. She was his twin, and Carver cared about her more than anybody else in the world, but there was a gulf between him and Bethany after what he'd seen and done that he didn't think either of them could ever bridge. Lost, he found himself foundering in spite at Bethany's innocence, unable to re-capture the ease they'd once shared. He almost felt like a stranger to his own family at times. "I mean…" His sister continued, as Morgaine and Mother paused too, turning to the youngest of the family with concern so sincere it set Carver's teeth grinding. "We need a plan, we can't just wander aimlessly out here! We could stray into the Wilds…or worse…"
"We can't be sure we've left the Darkspawn behind" Morgaine said quietly, her cut-glass accent was exactly like Mother's, Morgaine's only indulgence. "They could be anywhere out here" Though they'd fled the burning ruins of Lothering, now about a mile down the pathway, Carver knew better than Morgaine did how fast the creatures could come down on you without warning. The hills overlooking Lothering were bleak and craggy here, the skies around clouded and heavy, it was quiet, and the air was still. Perfect for an ambush…
"Bethany's right, dear" Mother breathed. "We've no food, no shelter…we need to head for something" She paused, touched her sleeve thoughtfully, every movement was as deliberate as her noble's poise. "We should go to Kirkwall" She declared so quickly and so deliberately that Carver knew she'd been considering such a thing long before the Darkspawn ever showed up. It was no surprise that her first thought was always her child-hood home, the city of Kirkwall across the sea. Since Father's death she'd clung closer and closer to the memory of her grand upbringing as an heiress of the Amell family in the Freemarcher city, even losing sight of the here and now of their precarious situation in Lothering. On the worst days, she hadn't seemed to see the Lothering house at all. But Carver was stunned she'd bring up the idea now. Kirkwall wasn't home to any of them anymore, the Amells had abandoned the Hawkes to the winds and to the mercy of the Templars after Mother's elopement.
"Is that wise, Mother?" Morgaine leaned in softly, always the voice of quiet reason. "There are a lot of Templars in Kirkwall" Of course, that was her concern. Always the bleeding Templars…what about that Kirkwall was miles away, or that they'd get no welcome in the city from either the authorities or their distant kin? Or that Carver hated the very idea of Kirkwall with a passion…it was bound up in all of Mother's hopes and disappointments, himself being one of the direst.
"I think it's a good idea" Bethany's eyes lit up. Worse than Mother losing herself in fantasies they'd never be able to recreate was how much she'd filled up her daughters' heads with the same fool notions. Bethany loved the idea, of course, and though Morgaine would never admit it, she'd always listened starry-eyed to their Mother's stories, one of few times Carver could ever catch his elder sister unguarded. "We'll be safe from the Darkspawn there…it's far away enough"
"We'll be abandoning Ferelden" Carver snapped, running still smarted. He'd left his king and most of the army dead behind him…none of them had deserted their posts. He had… "We should stay, fight, get back at these bastards…"
"Carver that won't help anything" Morgaine breathed exhaustedly, of course stupid Carver to be stupid enough to try to make a stand. Their family ran, always ran, to protect her and Bethany, and Morgaine would see to it that they ran together if she had to chain them to each other. She was quite capable of that. "Lothering's gone, the Blight is coming…if Ferelden is to be saved at all, it will be the Grey Wardens…"
"Grey Wardens be damned!" Carver snarled "They betrayed us!" He didn't remember much from the furious battle at Ostagar, or his flight from the field afterwards once everything had fallen apart. Everyone else had seemed to blame the Grey Wardens for what had happened somehow, and Carver, uneasy about Ferelden's crushing defeat, and the part he'd played in it as one of many to flee the field once the ruins were overrun, had filled in the blanks in his mind.
"Don't fight children…" Mother murmured distantly, and Carver gave way immediately. He never could quite express how much he cared about his family, it was like an ache in his bones, but even thinking about it made him feel awkward and ungainly. Protecting them should have been his charge, if only he knew how…but he didn't, all he knew was the rage at the monsters that had killed so many, and his own guilt that he'd abandoned the army to their savagery. He'd lost his honour, what value did he have now to his family, to anyone? "We need to find safety…" Mother continued softly "Kirkwall's the only place we have family left and Gamlen is sure to welcome us. We can make a new start there."
"It's…reasonable" Morgaine lowered her head, the rush of her fair hair brushing over her cheeks. "But we'll need to get out of the Wilds first…"
"We can head north, take a ship from Gwaren" Bethany added with a note of desperate, almost hysterical, cheerfulness. She'd traced the very same route with her fingers on the map so many times in the past, and now finally they got to go on an adventure to reclaim their glorious Amell inheritance, how wonderful for all of them. Carver couldn't fault his sister's seeking for hope in a bleak situation, but it grated on him anyway. They'd lost everything, and Kirkwall might be home to Mother, or at least the home her dreams thought it was, but it certainly wasn't their home. He didn't want to build a new life, he wanted his old life back.
It was then that Carver caught Morgaine looking at him again in that way she did. His sister had an uncanny way of reading people, and she'd been trying to read what had happened at Ostagar since the day he'd stumbled back into the house. Morgaine wouldn't understand his shame, to her that he survived and got back to them was far more important than his soiled pledge to stand and fight, but she insisted on looking at him, with pity in her eyes, anyway. He glared angrily back, but Morgaine didn't look away, and Carver's scowl melted away as he slowly found himself studying his sister's features again. You could see Morgaine every day of your life, and still find yourself surprised by something, some indefinable quality in her face that drew the eye. She wasn't sleek and dark like Bethany, she had Mother's fairness, fine light blonde hair, rippling down to her shoulders, against her glacially pale skin it gave her a waif-like translucence. Under almost invisible eyebrows, and set in her almost colourless features, her piercing blue eyes seemed larger and deeper than they were. Her features were pinched, slightly narrow and pointed, yet it suited her delicate poise. She was taller, too, than Bethany, but thinner. But even in a soot-stained and smoky peasant's dress she looked somewhat otherworldly. Carver's friends in Lothering had teased him about Bethany's prettiness, but no one had ever commented on Morgaine's looks, something about them seemed too strange to crudely pin down like that. She unnerved people, perhaps it was that focus in her eyes, or the unnatural stillness with which she held herself in company. Morgaine almost never let anything out, even now, and yet she seemed to read you with a single glance. But Carver realised again, with that same shock of surprise that caught him every time, that Morgaine was actually beautiful.
"We'd better hurry, then" At last Morgaine looked away, and Carver wouldn't have been able to tell what she'd seen in that small moment. It was always more than he got from her, though, of that he was sure. "The Darkspawn won't be waiting for us to decide"
Only steps away, and the clamour of combat suddenly shattered the hillside's eerie silence. As soon as the cries of Darkspawn and the clash of steel upon steel sounded in the still air, Carver sprang into action, racing down the path with his blade open in his hands, and Bethany wasn't far behind him, trailing magic and her staff. Morgaine lingered a moment, trying to keep close to Mother, but as soon as Leandra realised that there might be other survivors to be rescued, she commanded her eldest to their aid. Morgaine caught up to Bethany in a few paces, and the both of them paused in shock to look down on the battle unfolding before them. There were Darkspawn, Hurlocks, a whole squadron of them it seemed…roaring and clawing, their blades flashing under the dim sun. There had to be a dozen of them, and they faced only two warriors…one was a woman, with cropped hair that was as red as the sunset, flashing and blazing behind her as she danced through the motions of a clearly well-trained warrior, a single short-sword in her hand her only weapon. It would dart in, and a Darkspawn would fall spewing blood, as simple and business-like as that, with a soldier's practicality. She wore no armour, only a tunic rather like Carver's, and trousers. The other…Morgaine's heart skipped a beat. He was a rather unremarkable-looking man, neat, trimmed black hair, somewhat ascetic features and she didn't recognise him in the slightest, but the armour he wore across his shoulders was all too familiar. The bulky plate armour all of shining steel though somewhat stained and battered and emblazoned upon the heavy breastplate with the upturned sword on fire, the crimson sash tied neatly about the waist, the robes open at the front that slipped over plate-armoured greaves, swathes of gilded silk trailing behind him as he swept and cleaved into his foes with his own sword, a shield with that same fearful emblem in his other hand. He was a Templar…
Carver reached the melee first, he attacked with a viciousness that could only have come from Ostagar, driving the Darkspawn back, hammering his blade again and again into their defences, without finesse or any concern for his own safety. Morgaine gripped her staff with trembling fingers, her heart hammering in her chest…he was in danger, but to intervene…with a Templar there. She foundered desperately, but Bethany suddenly thrust her hand forward, and a flame burned between her sister's fingers…
"Bethany!" Morgaine gasped.
"They need our help!" Bethany cried. Suddenly the Templar, in furious combat with at least three of the creatures, stumbled on something at his feet, and a Darkspawn blade caught his arm, slicing it open from wrist to elbow. His sword and shield clattered to the floor as blood spattered over the rocks and he flailed, stumbling to his knees and trailing his now useless sword-arm in the dust. Even so he didn't cry out, though Bethany screamed piercingly and as the Darkspawn advanced on the helpless man, grinning hungrily, its soulless eyes burning as it raised its sword. Morgaine instantly found herself racing down the pathway towards them, raising her hands and her staff, but she knew, sickened, before she was even halfway through casting a spell that she would be too late to save the Templar. But then, at the last moment, the woman, the other warrior, cannoned from nowhere into the creature before her companion, sending the both of them tumbling roughly to the floor. She ended up pinning the Hurlock to the ground, something Morgaine could never have imagined seeing, especially as she slammed her fist into the creature's face once, twice and again, sending it reeling into the dust.
"You shall not have him!" She snarled, as the Hurlock roared and bucked, its clawed hand reached desperately for the sword in the dust beside it. But the woman swept up her own blade first, and forced it across the creature's neck. She pushed down, and its neck gave way in a shower of blood, dead in an instant. Morgaine watched in awe as the woman warrior swept to her feet, lifting up her sword and the shield left on the floor by her companion. She leapt to the aid of the Templar, sweeping him up onto her shoulder so he leaned heavily upon her, and guarding them both with the great shield he'd lost as the Darkspawn advanced on the both of them. "They shall not have you" Morgaine was just close enough to hear what she gasped to him, when their lips almost brushed past one another at their closeness. But nothing would distract her, as she faced the horde alone with the wounded man on her arm. "Not while I breathe" She declared.
And then Bethany was beside Morgaine, and her hands and the sweep of her staff traced fire and sparks in the air they passed through, her own power pulsing into sudden, burning life. At once two Darkspawn went down in a sheet of fire that her sister conjured from the lifeless air, screaming, but quickly silenced and leaving nothing but a smoky reek in the air and ashes on the wind. The Templar and his lover, or whoever the woman was, both of them tensed visibly at the sight despite the advancing Darkspawn, but neither of them had any chance to do anything more before their attackers descended on them. Morgaine threw up her staff, summoning her own power in a smoky white radiance about her hands. Bethany had revealed them as mages, they had nothing more to lose now. So she fought with all the might she had to bear, and her staff crackled with energy as she duelled with the Hurlocks, in a delicate dance of step, release, attack. Her spells were an arsenal and she unleashed them, bursts of force from her hands to send enemies reeling for Carver or Bethany to finish, bolts of light that seared and crackled with magical force, glimmering wards she trailed with her hands to imbue their weapons with magical force, or to shield them momentarily from blows. Even through the taut intensity of the pitched combat, Morgaine sensed the Templar's eyes upon her the whole time. At the last, as Morgaine fought her way closer to the pair, she found herself facing a Darkspawn warrior of particular skill, whose swordplay more than equalled her efforts with a staff. She drew back, reeling with magical energy, but before either of them could strike, a sword sliced through the creature's chest from behind and it fell gurgling to the dust. Over its body, Morgaine found herself face to face with the woman who'd saved the Templar's life, the female warrior whose courage and skill had so awed her before. The battle, it seemed, was over.
Her first thought was that this woman was not all that much older than she was. She was hardened, certainly, and somewhat weathered, but the stern set of her features gave way to a youthful flush in her cheeks. Her hair was even more striking up close, burning, sweeping red, flashing with gold and fire as she inclined her head slowly to look at Morgaine closer. It was tamed with a strip of twisted crimson material about her forehead to fall away from her face into a short ponytail at the neck. Her eyes were a startling green, and, even more surprisingly, a girlish dusting of freckles covered her nose and cheeks. She was used to being outdoors, and to being in command, and combat, that much was clear. And, despite what she'd just seen, there was no outright condemnation in her eyes, only a frank assessing stare that Morgaine sensed was measuring her up.
"Apostate, keep your distance" The Templar spoke suddenly in warning, and both Morgaine and the woman looked away from each other to him, as he limped over, leaning heavily to his one side. But his gaze was clear, and hard. Morgaine, however, did not move, and neither, interestingly enough, did the woman.
"Didn't the Templars all leave Lothering?" Bethany obeyed him, hanging somewhat around the edge of things, but still she couldn't resist the chance to talk, even to the representative of the Order that had hunted people like the Hawkes for all their lives. After all their father's work, now they faced one of the Templars, and he knew everything. Morgaine's heart sunk at the thought. But the circumstances were something that even Malcolm Hawke could never have foreseen, with the Darkspawn a threat even a Templar couldn't ignore stalking them even now, and Morgaine realised that the Templar, wounded as he was, would need their help to get out of this alive. Perhaps he could be reasoned with. It wasn't as bad as it could have been…not by a long way, but that didn't mean she could let her guard down for an instant. "I mean Darkspawn…now a templar, does the Maker have a sense of humour?"
"The spawn are clear in their intent" The Templar somehow managed to both sneer and do it righteously at the same time. Even as severely wounded as he was he cut a fearsome figure like nearly all the Order did. There'd been a few Templars in Lothering at all times, but she didn't recognise this one, though she'd made a habit of memorising the faces of each of those she'd encountered in the village. He came from elsewhere then, perhaps, but what was a Templar doing in a war zone? "But a mage is always unknown." The Templar continued "The Order dictates…"
"Wesley…" The woman at his side murmured in a long-suffering tone.
"The Order dictates…" The Templar, Wesley, it seemed, repeated unsteadily, staggering somewhat as he stepped up to Morgaine, who refused to give a single stride back, though he was much taller than her, and broader, packed with all that armour. Their eyes met, his were steely grey. But inside them he was uncertain, and he was frightened, and in pain, for himself and for his wounds, but most of all for the woman who he travelled with. Strange, for a Templar. In the end, it was, as always, he who looked away from her, seeming suddenly uncomfortable. Morgaine afforded herself a grim pleasure in the effect she had on people. For once, it had come in use.
"Dear, they saved our lives" The woman laid a hand on Wesley's shoulder, lingering, gentle, a clearly accustomed touch that visibly gentled him. Morgaine blinked…Templars were largely celibate, or at least they claimed to be. Those who couldn't deal with the demands of their service found other ways to compensate, she thought bitterly. But here…these two seemed like a couple. "The Maker understands" the woman murmured.
"Of course" Wesley lowered his head, and stepped back a little. He looked unsure all of a sudden, a novelty for a Templar, but after the knee-jerk reaction to apostasy was done with he actually seemed alright. He hadn't tried to cut them down yet at least.
"I am Aveline Vallon" The woman bowed her head in a vaguely formal, if somewhat challenging, introduction. Aveline…that was Orlesian, but she didn't have a trace of the distinctive accent, or of the legendary decadence or subtlety of the empire to the west, once Ferelden's conquerors, still a hated memory in some parts of the country. No…she was hardened, tough, and direct, and very much a Ferelden. "This is my husband, Ser Wesley" She nodded to Wesley, who gave a more distant nod. Strange, perhaps they were married before he joined the Templars…aspects of the practices of the Order were still a mystery to Morgaine despite her best efforts to learn as much as she could. "We can hate each other when we're free of the horde" Direct, pragmatic, Morgaine sensed that this was Aveline's way.
"I'm Bethany, Bethany Hawke" Bethany smiled brightly "And this is my sister Morgaine, and Carver, our brother…and Mother's just coming here. We live in Lothering"
"What are you doing out here?" Morgaine asked, as Mother joined them on the pathway, curiously examining the pair, but letting down her guard almost immediately just as her youngest daughter had. Morgaine knew what she'd say, 'they seem like decent people, dearest'…
"I was at Ostagar…" Aveline grimaced…so she was a soldier too, as Morgaine had guessed, one of Carver's comrades.
"Wait…you saw it too then?" Carver pushed forward instantly. "What the Grey Wardens did…"
"The Grey Wardens fought and died with us, and the beacon was lit before we lost it" Aveline shook her head she shot Carver a considering glance, her first his way, and clearly filed away the information that he too had been in the Ferelden army for later consideration. "I don't know what happened on that field…but this in not the time" She finished hastily, as Carver squared his shoulders, looking quite belligerent at her suggestion.
"I was on an errand to Denerim for the Order" Wesley added "But when I heard what had occurred in Ostagar I had to come to seek Aveline" Once he'd finished he looked even more uncomfortable, as though he'd given away more than he intended. So he too was a deserter of a sort. That was comforting…
"Bad luck, and judgement, led us here" Aveline added, and they shared a glance. "But as we're here, we're going to have to work together, if you have no objection?" She glanced at Morgaine.
"No" Morgaine answered curtly "We were heading north…"
"It's a no-go, I'm afraid" Aveline shook her head grimly "It's up in the north we ran into these bastards, the horde has seized the road, no one's getting through there"
"Where can we go then?" Mother gasped, raising her hands to her mouth in horror. Kirkwall had been her only hope.
"It's going to have to be South, see if we can get around them" Aveline answered bleakly "About the only way we haven't seen burning and this corruption…"
"South…into the Wilds?" Carver exploded "Are you insane?"
"Carver, she's right" Morgaine cut him off, before he could say something they'd all regret. Like it or not, Aveline could help them, she was well-trained and well-disciplined, and they all wanted the same thing right now regardless, to escape the horde, Templar and apostate alike. If she was right about the north road, they'd need the aid more than ever. South…was Ostagar, the way the Darkspawn had come originally, and it was doubtful they'd entirely abandoned it even if they had swooped around the village to the north, a tactical manoeuvre of which she wouldn't have thought the beasts capable. Not to mention the Korcari Wilds were down there, a place of horrors and mysteries, ancient and profane. "We go South"
"Are you sure you'll be okay?" As they turned to leave, Morgaine saw Bethany lean toward Wesley with clear, honest concern. "That wound I mean…"
"I believe my sword arm is a loss" Wesley seemed surprised at the question, but he slowly relaxed under Bethany's bright smile, like everyone did, flexing his wounded hand experimentally and wincing with the jolt of agony. "But I will do my best to keep up" He didn't look alright, Morgaine noted critically, ghastly pale, with a sheen of sweat glistening across his forehead, but she supposed Templars were tougher than most. They were trained to struggle. Still the weaker he was, the better for the Hawkes…once they were all safe Morgaine would make sure they got as far away from Wesley as possible. With luck he'd be grateful enough to forget he saw them. But if not, Kirkwall was far away enough…regardless, that was all a concern once they were safe. For now, they had to escape the Darkspawn, and that was not going to be an easy feat.