After I awoke, I gazed up at the ceiling and thought for a long while. I could feel no hope, then bedsprings bounced and I felt the brush of warm skin against mine. I gazed sideways at Alistair who was still sleeping, his eyebrows creased together like he was having a bad dream. I brushed the back of my hand across his forehead and smoothed the crease away. Hope flooded through me as his eyes fluttered open. Things between us were changing; I was beginning that perhaps I didn't have to be alone anymore.
Alone. The very word fills me with despair. I rolled over and nuzzled into Alistair's arms. I laid my ear above his heart and listened to its steady beat. Slowly, I brushed my lips over his skin and I felt him tremble beneath me. His hand came up and laid across my arm, I felt his nose nuzzle into my hair. I hoped it didn't smell disgusting.
"Are we leaving soon?" He asked quietly, stroking the side of my arm with his fingers. I nodded. Slowly sitting up, my head started to pound again like it had every morning since we had to flee for our lives.
Alistair looked at me. "Did you get much sleep?"
"As much as one can get with a companion who snores." I teased, patting his leg. In fact, I didn't get any sleep and not because of Alistair's snoring . Everytime I tried to sleep, I was plagued by nightmares of what happened to Cassandra and about that horrendous night. I had tried thinking happy thoughts like killing the bastards that killed them or strangling Anders so hard his head would fall off. Climbing out of bed I thought back to when we were all at the Cumberland Circle.. All those mages seemed to want to help us; they wanted the people, who were probably once their friends, dead for harming all those innocents. Back then I disliked Cassandra very much, but thinking about it now, she only did what she had to do. Even it meant she had to use people.
I stood up and took in the small room we were renting. A wooden rocking chair sat in the corner next to our bed; I had left my armour strewn across it. A wide dressing table lined the far wall opposite the door; candles filled the table and gave us light at night. The walls looked damp and pieces of paint were coming loose. I wonder when was the last time they had even decorated. Silk, white, patterned sheets had been laid neatly across the mattress on our bed. I looked at Alistair who was curiously watching me, a smug grin on his face. "What?" I said, feeling another blush threatening to embarrass me.
"I was just admiring your bed hair." He stretched his arms out wide and yawned. A laugh escaped his lips as I hastily checked myself in the mirror. I did have bed hair; my red locks stuck out in numerous places looking like a lions mane. I patted them down vigorously with no avail. Rushing to my small bag that I had scavenged from some woman who no longer wanted it. I took out a silver platted brush that was once my mothers and brushed through the knots in my hair. When I was satisfied with how I looked, I packed away my things that had been stranded across the room. I gazed at Alistair who was pulling his armour over his head. Catching a glimpse of muscle I felt the heat returning and quickly turned away. I started to undress, pulling the nightdress over my head; I threw it onto the bed. I could feel Alistair's eyes on me but I tried to ignore it. We still hadn't spent a romantic night together and I refused to do it while I believed my sister to be in danger. I had no direct proof that she was in danger but who needed proof when a horde of blood mages were stampeding towards Kirkwall intent on killing anything that got in there way. Deep down I believed my sister would never succumb to becoming an abomination. I believed she would want to protect the people. Of course I had no proof of that either. But we spent every day of our childhood and teens together, if I didn't know her better than anyone then clearly I was stupid. I pushed my armour down over the woollen under clothes the Revered Mother had given me. I picked my daggers off the floor and slid them into their scabbards. Picking up the small bag from the floor I took out a band and brushed my hair up into a bun. Tightening the band, I felt the pull and had to grind my teeth as a few strands of hair were pulled from my head. Finally ready, I patted myself down and turned back to Alistair who was against the wall playfully asleep. Since I told him that we were leaving he had seemed livelier and it was comforting. I giggled as a loud snort came from his nose; he shook his head and opened his eyes wide pretending that it had startled him.
"You are so immature" I teased through my giggles. I strolled over to the door, opening it slightly. "Ready, Mr funny?" I gestured with my hand for us to leave. Alistair turned up his nose and strutted from the room. I tried to stop giggling as we headed towards Riona's room, but when I heard sobs coming from her room, my smile and sunny morning vanished. I knocked loudly on her door and signalled for Alistair to wait outside. Slipping into her room, I saw that everything was clean and neat, which was typical of her. It seemed to me that now that everything was organised she had nothing to stop her from crying. I walked towards the bed and sat beside her, I didn't put my arm around her but I rested my hand close beside her leg.
"Nothing is going right for me anymore." She shoved a piece of parchment into my hand, and then went back to covering her face. I unravelled the crumpled parchment and read quietly.
Oh, my beautiful Riona. You do not need me bringing more sadness to your life.
Go with Hawke and the royal bastard and forget about me. I will be heading
back to Antiva and please do not follow. Know that I love you and
I'm only doing this for your sake.
Love always, Zev.
I glanced at Riona who was distraught. My heart went out to her and I thought of how I'd feel if Alistair decided to leave me, I hated the feeling and finally threw my arms around her. We cried together. The door slammed open and a concerned Alistair seemed to suddenly regret walking into a room of crying women. I shooed him with my hand; two seconds later the door closed again. After a few minutes Riona pulled away, wiping the tears with her sleeve. "I'm not supposed to cry. I'm the Hero of Ferelden, for Makers sake."
I watched her sad face and knew that title was becoming too much for her. I reached up and brushed a strand of hair from her eyelash. "Even the archdemon slayer must be a human sometimes." I smiled warmly at her. She laughed weakly.
"I just don't understand. He told me he didn't want to hurt me anymore. So he just ups and leaves. Doesn't he understand that I need him?" She sighed, sitting back on the bed; her gaze wandered around the room, as did mine, and I noticed a small object on the dressing table. Pushing myself off the bed, I walked over and picked it up. I held the ring close to my eyes, examining it. My love had been engraved on the inner side. Was this a gift from Zevran? I took a couple steps towards Riona and held it out to her.
"He loves you. Let that guide you and hold on to the hope that you'll see him again one day. Don't drown yourself in despair because you know he wouldn't want that. If you want to join me to Kirkwall, know that you're very much welcome. If not, I wont hold it against you. Just know that Alistair and I are here for you." I leaned down and kissed her forehead, pushing the ring into her hand. I left her sitting on the bed thinking over my words. I joined Alistair outside and handed the note over to him; I watched him as he read the words. His eyebrows creased in concentration, I thought I saw anger there too.
He looked back up, concern written all over him. He slouched onto his right leg and his eyes wider than usual. "Is she ok?" He spoke with so much concern I almost thought he's run in there, embrace her, and smother her with it..
"Only she can tell you that." I nibble on the inside of my lip as he turned to look at her door. He contemplated on going in but looked as if he decided to stay.
He shook his head. "I doubt she'd want me to comfort her." I knew he wanted to comfort her and I knew it was because he still felt strongly about her, but not in the romantic way. They had obviously grown attached during the blight, and those feelings wouldn't just suddenly disappear.
"Alistair, you may not realise it but you mean more to her than you think. Go comfort her. I'll be downstairs…" I pointed over his shoulder. "With the mob." I smiled warmly as I took his hand. He leaned into me and kissed me lightly on the nose.
X X X
I was on my third ale before Alistair and Riona came down the stairs. The men beside me cheered as I stepped away from my stool. I didn't know why that had done that but it had caused Riona to glance at them with curiosity. They cheered louder when they saw her. She was dressed in golden armour, her hair tied into a curly pigtail. She looked closer to a goddess than to human. Riona gave me a warm hug, as she got close. Alistair stood to the side, awkwardly. As we walked outside I felt his hand take mine and I couldn't help but smile. Riona started to bounce lightly on her toes as we headed towards the guide that was going to lead us to our boat. I eyed her suspiciously; Alistair tugged on my hand. But I turned to them both.
"What's going on?" I asked them, they glanced at each other. Alistair nodded encouragingly at her, only making me more suspicious. I narrowed my eyes at them.
Riona didn't look at me as she spoke. "I'm not coming with you; I'm going to Antiva." When she said 'Antiva' she looked straight into my eyes.
"But I thought-" I started but she cut me off
"Alistair made me realise that I cannot live without Zevran. I know this will be going against his wishes but he's not the only one in our relationship. I'm going to fight for him." Her eyes smiled but her mouth didn't. She stepped towards me and took my left hand in both of hers. "Thank you, Cameron Hawke." She brought the back of my hand to her lips. And left a sloppy wet patch from her tongue. I squealed, slapping her away. We giggled quietly. Riona stared into my face and smiled wondrously.
"Go on, you dirty girl." I pushed her away from me playfully. She looked towards Alistair and nodded her goodbye. He returned the nod. I watched her walk away from us, her hips bouncing as she walked. I realised I might never see her again but I didn't run after her. I was never one for 'goodbyes' even if they were forced upon me.
X X X
We arrived at our destination four hours later. We only encountered giant spiders on our trek, which had been easy enough to deal with. Alistair hadn't broken a sweat, he still looked as perfect as he always did. When we weren't fighting we held hands, I felt more at home with him than I have for more than five years. Although I was afraid. I was scared I might not be enough for him when he'd sigh heavily if he thought I was wasn't looking. .
Our boat was fairly large but narrow, a large sail post rose from the centre. A flag on the top made me freeze. Isabella, I mouthed to myself. Letting go of Alistair's hand I ran towards the ship, Isabella would kill me if I called her baby a boat. Alistair followed closely behind me, on high alert. I realised he didn't recognise the ship or the flag. I saw Isabella furiously scolding one her crewmates. A grin spread across my face as she caught sight of me. Shock then happiness spread across hers as she recognised the crazy women running towards her. Excited, she ran towards me and threw her arms around my neck. We jumped around in a circle. I was so happy to see my old best friend again; it had really saddened me when we last parted ways. I thought it a major coincidence that she'd be the one to take me back to Kirkwall. It felt like fate.
"Well what a surprise to see you're skinny ass back in my presence after how many years?" She suddenly glared at me and I realised I had abused our friendship by rejecting her letters.
"I'm so sorry I ignored you. I was an idiot; please forgive me." I fell to my knees and grasped my hands together. Isabella threw her head back and laughed.
"Oh, get up you swine." She pulled me up by the elbow, but then she slapped me across the face. I clutched at the spot that stung. I cursed her under my breath. Our friendship had always been easy and fun. I had missed it dearly. A loud cough made me remember that Alistair had been behind me. We both turned to him. I took Isabella by the hand and led her towards Alistair. Isabella made a funny face at him and I suddenly recalled the story she had told me about her wicked night with a noble and a bastard prince.
"I don't think I need to introduce you two, do I?" I winked playfully at Alistair who looked on in horror at the women beside me. I imagined the memories of that night on Isabella's ship running through his mind. I giggled quietly to myself.
"What's the matter Alistair? Cat got your tongue?" Isabella chanted beside me before skipping over to him and planting a huge sloppy kiss on his lips. I hadn't expected her to do that and it irritated me, but I kept my feelings to myself. Alistair quickly brushed at his lips, then rushed over to me. That was a clear sign ofhelp me. I took Alistair's hand and presented it to Isabella. Her jaw dropped. I felt insulted that she didn't think I could bag a king.
"Well, well, look at you Cameron Leandra Hawke." She cooed, she walked towards me and raised an eyebrow. "You have managed to surprise me twice in the same day." She raised her hand for a high five but I kept my eyes on her and my hands entwined with Alistair. She looked disappointed by my rejection but not surprised. Her face changed and she turned to her crew. "Set sail!"She shouted; her crew didn't hesitate. She gave me one last look then turned her back to us.
I tried my best to stay out of her way for a few hours to let her calm down. I had realised this was why I hadn't accepted her invitation to join her crew. Since Fenris, she never trusted any men that were ever interested in me. Neither had I, not until I had met Anders but then he committed the ultimate betrayal and broke my heart into a million pieces. I half blamed him for my making the wrong decision by siding with the Templars. I wish I could say that I fully trusted Alistair, but how could I when he hardly confided in me. Ever since we left Denerim things have changed. I suddenly knew what I could do to pass the time away from this trip.
Below deck I found Alistair playing a game of cards with one of Isabella's crewmembers. They were both entranced with the game. I stood by idly waiting for either one of them to notice I was there. I watched the concentration on Alistair's face, his bottom lip pouted and his eyes narrowed while his eyebrows furrowed. The other man's face was a blank page; his eyes seemed as if they were looking into nothing. I felt an arm slide through mine; glancing sideways I saw the large golden earrings slightly covered by long dark hair. Isabella eyed the men happily. "He's a good guy." Her voice was husky. She loosened her grip on my arm. She turned her head to look me in the eye. "If he's good enough to be a decent king, he's ok enough for you." She winked teasingly at me. I rocked on my heels then slid my arms around her waist. "But you know if he steps out of line I will have to kill him." I instantly moved away from her, pouting my lips.
"You always ruin our special moments." I huffed.
"Oh shut up and give me a hug you little tart." She threw her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. These were the moments I enjoyed in our friendship. The moments I felt more like we were sisters and not just best friends.
X X X
One week later we said our good-byes to Isabella. I tried my best not to cry as we hugged and may have been our final goodbye. I knew there might be a chance I could die in Kirkwall. But I didn't want her to know that. It was bad enough bringing Alistair along. However Alistair had told me back in our room on Isabella's ship that he'd follow me to the ends of the earth. And I believed him.
We walked through the quiet docks of Kirkwall; I tried to block out the memories of this place as I recognized certain things. We walked towards the dock that boarded us onto a ferry to the Gallows. Only ten minutes later I was walking through the large gates into the Templar filled grounds. I instantly recognized Ser Cullen who unfortunately was waling straight towards us. His eyes widened when he realized who was standing in front of him. I awkwardly smiled at him. He huffed at me and grabbed at my wrist. I didn't expect him to jerk me towards him. Behind me I heard Alistair lunged forward to help but looking back I saw two Templar's holding him back. Cullen jerked my arm to look back at him. "You have no business here." He growled, I felt the spit come from his mouth, making me want to gag. I shoved him away from me.
"I'm not here for business. I'm here for my sister. Now, where is she?" I spat back, Cullen wiped at his face.
"She's safe that's all you need to know." He waved his hands at the men behind me; Alistair was instantly at my side.
Anger surged through me. I didn't care what had happened over five years ago. I didn't care that I ran before making sure everyone was safe. That was then, this is now. "Tell me where the fuck she is before I go find her myself!" I shouted in his face. I wasn't being refused this time, not after all I've been through.
Cullen looked extremely shocked from the intensity of my anger. "Give me one good reason." His voice was calmer.
"Okay, how's this? A band of Blood Mages are marching their way here and I will not leave unless Bethany is by my side."
"Don't be idiotic, Blood Mages? How can you give me proof of that?"
"Hmmm." I sarcastically tapped my head, gazing out wondrously. "Oh…I know how about the dead body of Cassandra Pentaghast and ten Templar's four miles away from the Circle of Magi in Cumberland. Check the woodland area." I knew I shouldn't have used their deaths this way but it was all I could do to prove that things were worse than they thought. I had to save Bethany, like I said before 'I'd tear down the sky.' Cullen thought this over, from his hesitation I knew he didn't want to believe me. I waited patiently.
"Okay, so if what your saying is true. How does this mean you get to see your sister? Much less leave here with her?' He said. I froze; I hadn't thought this through properly. I had hoped everyone would have marched off so I could sneakily her out secretly. Clearly I was losing my touch.
"Please Cullen, You have to let me see for myself that she's ok. I'm going insane with worry." I begged. I might have just got on my knee's and kissed his boots till my lips started to bleed. Cullen didn't look convinced.
"You have a nerve returning back here." He eyed me then sighed. "Fine, I'll let you see her. But if you really want to make sure she is safe, stay here and prove to us your not lying about these blood mages." He whispered something to the short, blonde woman beside him and she ran off towards the tower. Relief flooded through me and so did excitement. I had always missed my little sister. Ever since she got taken away from us fourteen years ago.
"Thank you Cullen. And I will. I'll help you against the blood mages." Cullen had always been a good man and I didn't blame him for not wanting me around. He walked away without acknowledging what I said.
X X X
We were shown into a small room, four chairs were seated around the table that was in the middle of the room. One window looked out over water, I noticed the sun still high in the sky and wished I could walk around with Bethany out in the grounds instead of some box-like room. Alistair sat in the chair beside me as we waited for her. Apparently she had been overjoyed to know I was here to see her. When she entered the room, I saw how much longer her hair had grown since I last saw her. It lay in curls around her waist. She had put on a bit more weight but it made her look healthy and pretty. Her skin was flawless. She had dimple lines showing the years of laughter. I instantly smiled; it was good to know she was happy. The Templar who had ushered her in pushed her into a chair opposite me. There were no words I could speak.; I was reunited with my sister and I felt lost for words. I felt a deep urge to jump across the table and embrace her, but the glaring eyes of the Templar's scared me. Bethany seemed lost for words too, but she reached out with an up turned hand towards me, I took it. As our hands connected tears burst from both of us, I no longer cared about the terrifying Templars. I stood up leaning over the table and hugged her.
"I've missed you so much." She cried into my hair. I stroked my fingers through her hair like I did when we were children and I found her crying in her bedroom after Carver destroyed her favorite doll.
"You have no idea." I whispered, pulling back. I smiled before kissing her lightly on the lips. No matter how old we were, she was always the little girl who followed me around like an idolized puppy. We sat back down and Bethany caught sight of Alistair; she looked back at me and frowned quizzically. I blushed but hid it behind a smile; I took Alistair's hand in mine. "Sister, I'd like you to meet the King of Ferelden and my dearest friend." I didn't know if I should have called him my boyfriend because I didn't even know if he was. We never made it official. We just slept in the same bed and occasionally kissed each other. I wasn't complaining, but it would have been nice if he could confirm it once and a while. From Bethany's narrowed eyes I think she just didn't quite believe we were just friends.
She reached her hand out towards him. "It's an honour to meet you." He took it, but he pulled the back of her hand towards his lips.
"I'm more honoured to meet you Bethany, your sister has told me a great deal about you." Then he planted a gentle kiss on her hand. I watched Bethany as her face went red, I giggled silently to myself. Oh Alistair, do you have any idea of the hold you have other women?
We talked for hours, I told Bethany of what I had been up to since leaving Kirkwall. She seemed angry with me for hiding in my own little bubble. Once or twice I saw her roll her eyes. The truth was, I was so ashamed of myself for siding with Templars and letting all of the mages die, in the hopes of changing the former Knight-Commander's mind; I had thought myself to be a monster. In the end, I couldn't face anyone. Anders had betrayed me and everyone else, but with the pain in my heart I couldn't bring myself to end his life. I had run just like he did, at first I told myself that I was running after him to finish what I started. But when I reached Starkhaven I no longer had to will to carry on. After taking so many lives, I didn't have friends because I felt I didn't deserve any. I didn't have a home because I didn't deserve it. All I deserved was the sorrow that those mage's families were now feeling. For five years I lived with a false name and with no home. It wasn't until I had the letter from Cassandra that I finally realized I couldn't escape from the damage I had caused. I will still trying to atone for that damage, even though I didn't deserve anyone's forgiveness. I know I needed closure, and saving Kirkwall from the blood mage's might do just that.
Bethany sat there and listened to my plans, silently contemplating my words. When I was done she stayed silent before leaning forward and resting her elbows on the table in front of her. "Cameron, do you really think this is how you're going to find closure?"
I chewed on my lips but I kept my eyes on hers. "I don't know. But it's not just about that, innocent people died while I lived in Kirkwall and not all of them were because of Meredith. Mother died and it was because of a blood mage. I want to atone for the terrible mistakes I made and by coming here I hope I can do that." I could feel everyone's eyes on me and I knew that what I was doing was right. This was no longer about saving Bethany; this was about saving myself.