Archive Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence, Major Character Death
Fandoms: Dragon Age (Video Games), Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
Relationships: Male Inquisitor/Dorian Pavus, Fenris/Male Hawke, Nathaniel Howe/Male Surana, Male Warden/Cullen (Bromance - flirting)
Characters: Male Trevelyan, Male Hawke, Male Warden (Dragon Age), Dorian Pavus, Cullen Rutherford, Cassandra Pentaghast, Blackwall | Thom Rainier, Clarel de Chanson, Fenris (Dragon Age), Carver Hawke, Nathaniel Howe, Alistair (Dragon Age), Justice Anders (Dragon Age)
Additional Tags:Ambiguous/Open Ending, Headcanon, steaming mess, every pairing is implied
Summary: The Warden-Commander Surana travels to Skyhold with Carver Hawke, hoping to get help from the Inquisition to find out why every single Warden hears the calling. Warden-Commander Surana is sure there is dark magic in play.
Notes: So this is my silly headcanon, and really I have been staring at this story for so long that I decided to just upload it - even without an actual ending, hoping it would motivate me to finish the plotlines I laid out. It would maybe make sense to read the other story I wrote about my Warden-Commander Hashim Surana - you can find that here. I took many, many liberties with canon, and well... come at me bro. As I said, just me goofing about. All pairings in this story is implied. I am planning a second chapter, but as I said, I thought it was stupid to just sit here and stare at it, besides it's been ages since I uploaded a chaptered story - bout time, don't you think? Before anyone kills me, then MY headcanon since DA:O has been that Cullen is about as straight as a pretzel - v. surprised at Bioware's decision.
Should you happen to read this and have an idea of something you'd like to see, do shoot me a line, either as a comment, pm or email. Come on man, motivate me - please? Also it is not betaed, all mistakes are mine and there are plenty I am sure.
'Cause there'll be no time
For you to find
Truth or love
Or people you left behind
Hashim closed his eyes, not expecting to hear the voice of Andraste, but just soaking in the silence. Skyhold was worse than Vigil's Keep – the noise was like a cacophony of voices. He had come here because he knew it was the right thing to do. Something was very, very wrong. The Archdemon was dead, the blight was over, but then why did it feel like it wasn't? His blood was singing, and he heard the Archdemon whispers.
He had not been alarmed when he had heard the calling, but when other wardens had started going missing; he had started to question his calling. He had even gone so far as to send a letter to the king, remembering their oath to each other, but the king had either not had time to answer, or had not felt like entertaining Hashim's fears.
Hashim looked up at the statue of Andraste, he had thought his watch was over with the blight gone, but found himself called to duty once more, and he had a bad feeling about it, real bad.
Hashim sighed, "Yes." Not turning around to look at the person asking.
"Does she ever answer you?"
"No." Hashim smiled bitterly in the candlelight, he finally rose and turned to see who spoke, it took him a moment to place the face, when he had known that face it had been younger, much younger. "Cullen?" He asked hesitantly, not sure if he was right.
"One and only." Cullen said with a smile, "You look like yourself, it's been a long time Warden-Commander."
"That it has." Hashim said, "You got old." He smiled warmly before shaking hands with Cullen.
"I'm glad you're here." Cullen said, "This whole thing – it's… I don't know what to make of it."
"Maybe it's not up to us." Hashim said as he let go of Cullen's hand.
"Maybe not." Cullen said slowly as were he tasting the words and found the true. "That is not the reason for me interrupting on your prayers. Walk with me." Cullen turned and walked out the chantry room, and Hashim followed, effortlessly falling into step with the much taller man.
They walked for a while in silence, "You brought the younger Hawke with you." Cullen said, his expression unreadable. "Why?"
"Carver is a warden first and foremost." Hashim said, "I know of his family relations, and his history with you, or rather his brothers history with you."
"So you know what happened in Kirkwall, and you still brought him?" Cullen asked, walking up the stairs to the battlement.
"Yes." Hashim just said, "I did not take you for a petty man, Cullen."
"I am not." Cullen said, his voice hard. "You declined us when we reached out to you, why?"
Hashim stopped and looked out over the mountains beneath Skyhold. "Because I am too a Warden first and foremost."
"That is a lie Surana, and you know it." Cullen said with a tired sigh, coming to stand next to Hashim looking out over the mountains, funny how men talked better when they didn't have to look at each other.
"Maybe, but I do not have to explain myself to you, besides you have the Herald of Andraste – and what could be better than that? Answer me that Cullen!" He turned his head to look at the fair-haired man, "As an Andrastian yourself, do you really think you could have better odds?"
"My point is," Cullen said, "We searched for Hawke, the champion of Kirkwall – everywhere. He was gone, and none knew where. My question to you is – did you hide him? Out if courtesy of his brother?"
"Does it matter?" Hashim said, "Neither he nor I are the right ones for this task. But to answer your question since you asked so politely, then no I did not hide Carver's brother." Hashim shrugged, "I never even met the man."
Cullen nodded apparently satisfied with the answer, "But you, you killed an ach demon – why did you not come to our aid?"
"I believe I told you in my letter, that I was preoccupied."
"Come now, surely being the arl of Amarantine cannot take up that much of your time." Cullen laughed softly.
"No it does not." Hashim said, deliberately tight lipped. "Cullen," he said softly, "If I tell you that I had personal matters to deal with, would you let the matter rest?"
Cullen looked down at Hashim, "Personal matters?"
"Yes." Hashim said taking a deep breath. "We all hear the calling, but something is wrong – something is very wrong Rutherford."
"All of you?"
"Yes, and some chose to act upon it." He face fell, "I lost many friends to this – " He stopped and turned to look out over the mountain side again, "This is why I am here, I believe the mass calling is linked to the Herald and the rifts."
"What of the king?"
"I do not know." Hashim said, his expression sad. "He did not answer my letter."
"This is very troubling news indeed." Cullen muttered.
"You do not seem to have a lot of faith in your herald, Cullen." Hashim smiled, "You should – the pressure on his shoulders is greater than anything you can imagine."
Cullen nodded, "I suppose we all have our demons."
"Indeed we do." Hashim said as he started walking again, "I crumbled under the pressure, and so did your precious Champion – if you want your Herald to stay afloat, you need to support him, not question him."
"I see your point." Cullen said. "Though… one thing troubles me. You said all Wardens felt the calling, we have a Warden among us, and he has spoken none of it."
"Interesting." Hashim said, "Maybe he is fighting it, many Wardens do." He looked at Cullen's worried expression and smiled, "I will speak to him if it eases your mind."
"Thank you." Cullen said with a little relived smile. "His name is Blackwall, and I believe me might be Orlesian? Not sure."
Hashim left Cullen on the battlement, he was more troubled than before. If the Herald already showed cracks, losing the trust of his inner circle of friends – then the odds that he would last to the end was questionable.
Carver came running up to him as soon as he came down unto the ground. "There you are! I've been looking all over for you."
"Is something wrong?" Hashim asked.
"Garrett arrived." Carver whispered, "He is asking for you."
"Never a dull moment." Hashim sighed, "Very well, let's go." He walked through the courtyard ignoring the stares from people, he knew they did not see him for who he was, they all wondered what a knife ear was doing in a warden get-up. He knew it, everyone had all but forgotten what transpired and what stopped the blight, and most the people probably thought it was Alistair whom had slain the Archdemon.
Carver took Hashim through abandoned derelict rooms and stairs until they made it atop the battlement in the far west corner. "Brother." Carver called, "It is –" They both stopped dead as they saw another man speaking with Hawke. They slowly made their way down to where they stood, both Hawke and the man turned around, the man smiled. "You must be the Warden-Commander."
Hashim smiled back, "Warden-Commander Hashim Surana at your service."
"Inquisitor Harun Trevelyan." Harun held out his hand, "Some call me the Herald"
"I'm Carver." Carver said with a polite handshake, "Hawke's brother."
Hashim looked at the Herald and Hawke and saw the same haunted look in their eyes as he knew he had himself. "Saving the world huh? No small feat."
Harun laughed despite himself, "I know." He clined his head and studied Hashim, "I feel better now that you are here, you are after all the slayer of the Archdemon."
Hashim smiled and looked over at Hawke, "We finally meet." He held out his hand, and Hawke reluctantly shook it.
"I was beginning to think you were a fairytale." Hawke said with a little grin that did not reach his eyes.
Hashim wet his lips, "I guess this hero business didn't suit any of us."
"No." Hawke said with a sad sigh.
"Tell them about Corypheus." Carver said, coming to his brother's side, "They need to know."
Hashim and Harun sat and listened to Hawkes tale till he finally fell silent.
As they all left Hawke on the roof, Hashim called Carver to his side. "I heard disturbing news from Orlais, that Warden-Commander Clarel has lost her mind." He gave Carver a sad smile, "I know that you have just found your brother, but I must ask that you go to Adamant fortress and investigate."
"Why now?" Carver asked, "It hardly seems –"
"If I am right about all this, and I pray I am not – then it all makes perfect sense. I will stay here and see what I can dig up." Hashim said, "Please, and don't tell anyone about where you are going."
"Surely the Inquisitor –"
"No, this is Warden business, Carver. Promise me." Hashim stared for a long pregnant moment straight into the younger man's eyes.
"Good." Hashim said, "Oh and Carver, while you are there, would you mind looking into an Orlesian Warden? Blackwall."
That night Hashim left his armor and ventured down into the main hall in civilian garments, once someone handed him an empty plate, and while surprised he took it with a little smile. Nothing had changed, elves were still servants, no matter how progressive the Inquisition claimed to be. Standing with an empty plate in his hand, it didn't take long before someone handed him another, and finally someone left an empty glass on the stack of plates in his arms.
"Do you know who that is?" A voice said, the person who placed the glass turned around to see who was speaking. "Should I? Surely you cannot ask that I know every servants name." the Templar said.
Hashim turned and saw Cullen sit on a bench, his mug full of wine.
"He is not a servant." Cullen said with a smile.
The Templar gingerly took his glass back, "Forgive me, I thought that –"
Hashim just chuckled, and so did Cullen. "That right there my good Knight, is the Warden-Commander of Amaranthine."
"He's an elf?" The knight blurted out. "Oh, forgive me ser I – I did not realize…"
Hashim laughed, "Leave your glass with me, seems like I need to find the kitchen regardless." He smiled at Cullen, "That is what I get for wearing civilian clothes."
"I'm sorry." Cullen said, placing down his mug, getting up from the chair. "Let me help you." He took the glass from the stunned knight, and the top couple of dishes and started to walk in the direction of the kitchen. "Come on then."
"Why did you not tell the knight who you were? I do not understand – surely."
"All he sees is an elf." Hashim said, placing the plates on the giant sink, "And well, it doesn't bother me anymore."
"Come now," Cullen said in all seriousness, "Look at you! True you are born in the Denerim Alienage – But you are the hero of Ferelden, and Arl of Amaranthine. Not to mention you ended a blight – surely you deserve respect regardless of your heritage."
"Thank you." Hashim said, "Now I want a drink, do you want a drink?"
"Absolutely." Cullen said, following Hashim back to the main hall.
Hashim poured himself a drink, nodding towards the throne, "Impressive that."
"Pompous if you ask me." Cullen laughed.
"That too." Hashim admitted. "I met the Inquisitor." He took a sip of his wine, "He seems like a good sort. Too bad he is shit out of luck. Did you know he wanted to be a Templar?"
"No?" Cullen filled his mug again, "Templars doesn't accept mages – no offence."
"None taken." Hashim laughed, "I mean, how would you feel if you were nothing but a living key to somewhere you didn't want to go?"
"Never looked at it that way." Cullen looked up at the throne for a moment, "I guess I wouldn't like that very much."
"I can guarantee you that you wouldn't. It's a bitter pill to swallow, being the means to an end, and that is all you are." Hashim said, "Maybe once this is over and the Inquisition is disbanded, he can get his own nice little Arldom to sit and rot in." Hashim downed the wine and poured himself another.
"Like me." Hashim smiled bitterly and looked at Cullen over the brim of his mug. "Back in the Ferelden Circle," he said, "I had the biggest teenage crush on you."
"What?" Cullen coughed getting his wine down wrong.
"Come now, you are a comely man, always were." Hashim said, softly, "Besides I was stuck in a tower with a bunch of neurotic mages – you were different. Can you really blame me."
"Don't answer that." Hashim laughed gently, "it's a lifetime ago."
"It truly is." Cullen held out his mug, "A toast for old acquaintances."
Hashim laughed, and toasted. He leaned in over the table and in a hushed voice asked, "Tell me about the Red Templars."
"They use Red Lyrium." Cullen answered flatly.
"Carver told me about the old Thaig and the Red Lyrium. It drove people mad – I assume it's the same." Hashim said, carefully choosing his words.
"Something for something," Cullen said, filling both their mugs, "You tell me the truth about why you didn't come when the Inquisition called, and I will tell you about the Red Lyrium."
Hashim shot Cullen a grim glare, "Alright." He leaned back in his chair, "People heard the calling and to begin with no one thought it strange, and people took their goodbyes and left for their glorious end." He scoffed, "Nathaniel struggled, he was scared. In the end he too left for the deep roads and – "Hashim paused and took a sip of his wine, "Truth is that we had not been lovers for years, but it didn't hurt less. I had grown to care greatly for him as a friend and trusted." He took a sip more, "It just sits even worse once I realized that he could still have been alive, had I acted on my suspicions earlier. Too little, too late."
Cullen looked down into his cup. "I heard that Howe took an elven lover, I did not know it was you."
"Does it matter?" Hashim said in a hollow tone, "It is as I said; these blighted things," He pulled at his pointy ears, "is all anyone sees."
"I don't." Cullen said with a little more conviction in his voice.
Hashim laughed "No you just think I'm a danger to my surroundings, and is watching me to make sure I don't suddenly turn into a sodding monster."
"Not true." Cullen argued, "Once maybe – but you have shown yourself to be the most capable mage I know, I would trust you with my life."
"Really?" Hashim laughed, "So you won't mind a little drunken bloodmagic?"
Cullen shook his head and laughed too. "You have been honest, so I owe you to be honest as well. The Red Lyrium is much stronger than regular Lyrium. The Templars needed an edge after the Mage rebellion, it only takes a couple of shots of it to see it's potential, it gives the user supernatural power – suddenly one man can take out a group." Cullen downed his wine, "Red Lyrium is tainted by the blight, and all I know that many Templars was suspicious and didn't want it, many was forced."
Hashim nodded, "Makes perfect sense – sadly."
"How?" Cullen asked, curiously leaning in closer.
"Do you really think it's a coincidence – On one hand every single Warden is unstable because of the calling, none of us can ignore it forever, it's like a song, an urge that pulls in your soul. And then the Templars turning into monsters because of blight touched Lyrium? You tell me – but to me it sounds very strange."
"Like the Archdemon trying to boast his ranks, and take out the competition?"
"Yes." Hashim nodded. "Promise me you won't touch the Red Lyrium, no matter how tempting it is."
"I promise." Cullen swore.
Hashim looked out over the dark fortress and nestled his last drink, he thought of Nathaniel and how tormented he had been at the end. He had been reduced to a mad man by the time Hashim had taken him to the entrance to the Deep Roads. By the time Hashim had handed over Nathaniel's bow and dagger, he had hardly recognized Hashim.
The long walk was supposed to let them all die with some dignity, and also hide the fact that the Dark Spawn blood that gave them their special abilities, would catch up to them. It did not make them immune to the blight it just prolonged the journey. And who in their right mind would join if they knew that in the end they would turn into the very thing they hunted.
It had hurt that Nathaniel didn't even recall his name no more. It had been very fast and very intense; at least they had managed to hold his feast before he was too broken to attend. Nathaniel that sweet angry kid, he had become a shell of his former self. And Hashim hated himself for ever initiating him.
Weeks later Carver came back, he looked like he had been to war and none of the other wardens he set out with, returned with him. Hashim was called to visit him as he mended in his bed.
He was surprised to find the Inquisitor in the room as well, Harun looked up at the Warden-Commander, "I did what I could, I just hope it's enough."
"What happened?" Hashim asked, his eyes widened in fear as he saw Carvers broken form.
"Hashim." Carver reached out feebly. "She has lost her mind, they are sacrificing humans to make a demon army – somehow she thinks that it will help her against the blight."
"But there is no blight." Hashim said softly, sitting down where Harun had been sitting just moments ago, taking Carver's hand. "Are you telling me that Warden-Commander Clarel thinks a blight is coming?"
"She is convinced the blight is here."
Hashim looked up at Harun, "Rest my friend," he said softly, "I will look into this."
He got up from the bed and let Harun cast a sleeping spell on the young man. "This is bad." Hashim said, "I heard the rumors, but I refused to believe it, Clarel is one of the most level headed people I know." He sighed and looked up at Harun, "Why would she believe a blight was here?"
"I say we ask her." Harun said.
They would leave at dawn, Harun had introduced him to some of the other people going with them, and finally Hashim had met the infamous Blackwell. He had seemed like a jovial sort, but there was something that didn't seem right, he did not have the haunted look in his eyes like every other Warden – like he did not hear the song. He looked like a man that slept through the night.
Hashim would have given his right arm for one of Zevran's massages about now, his entire body was aching, screaming for rest. A rest that would not come before he was dead, it had been months since he had slept through the night.
His mind desperately tried to find the pattern and make sense of this, what had tricked Clarel into the atrocities that Carver spoke of? Had she gone mad like Nathaniel, but in a less Dark Spawn'ish way?
He heard laughter from the courtyard, he could hear it was Harun – and he knew that kind of embarrassed laugh too well. A smile formed on his lips, he hoped that Harun had someone to hold on to, someone who was worth it, someone that loved him back – cause he would need that when he faced the world alone. In the end they were all alone weren't they? Him, Hawke and Harun, people had followed but few had stuck, even fewer had stuck for the right reasons.
There was a knock at the door, Hashim wanted to ignore it, but as the knocking came again, he called for the person to enter. He didn't move from his spot in the window, but just watched as the door slowly opened, and to his surprise it was Cullen.
"I've been thinking." Cullen started as he closed the door behind him, "I heard a rumor, but it's nothing more at this point." He scratched his neck, "Are, are you alright?"
"I'm good." Hashim said, "thank you for asking." He took a sip of his wine, "The rumor? What is it?"
"There is a mage, Fiona, she used to be a Grey Warden." Cullen said, coming to stand at the window where Hashim sat, "The rumor is that she somehow managed to annul the conscript."
"Are you sure?" Hashim asked. This could be exactly what he had been searching for.
"That is what the rumor said, only problem is that she joined the Venatori, and it is going to be a problem to get to her." Cullen said with a little sad smile, "I thought about what you said about Howe, and your friends, and thought that if there was the slightest chance this rumor was true – maybe it's worth it?"
Hashim nodded, "For years I have searched for a way to annul or reverse the initiation, I have seen too many trusted friends and young people take the long walk. And we cover it up with dance and drink, like it was a joyous thing that you are about to enter the deep roads in one last glorious attempt to kill as many dark spawn as you can before you are killed." Hashim looked up into Cullen's eyes, "It is not joyous or glorious, it is pointless."
Cullen nodded in agreement "I understand, I saw many good men succumb to their lyrium addiction. It is a necessary evil."
"What about you? You aren't a Templar anymore." Hashim looked at Cullen whom looked away.
"Some day." Was the cryptic answer.
Hashim nodded in understanding.
"Back in the circle." Cullen said, "How did you manage to destroy your phylactery?"
Hashim laughed merrily, "I found it and smashed it." He held out his hands, "You can arrest me now sera Templar, I'm a dangerous apostate."
Cullen smiled amused, "I guess you are."
Taking a sip of his wine Hashim sighed content looking out over the battlement from his window. "Thank you for the information, it means a lot. Truly." He turned his head and looked at Cullen. "You gave me a kindling of hope that I might find a way to save my brothers in arms, and that means the world."
"You are welcome." Cullen said, he opened his mouth to say something more was cut short by Hashim who silenced him with a slim finger against his lips.
"I appreciate the gesture Cullen, but you should leave now."
"Why?" Cullen managed to mumbled with the finger firmly against his lips.
"Because my dear Cullen, I am drunk as a skunk – quite frankly it's a miracle I speak in complete sentences, and haven't fallen from this window yet." Hashim chuckled, "And because I might tell you just how comely you are, and I'm sure you don't want to hear that from me." He smiled to himself and removed his hand from Cullen's face, "The years have definitely been kind to you."
"Oh." Cullen blushed which just made Hashim laugh, he turned around in the windowsill his feet dangling over the floor and straight across from Cullen. "Good night Warden-Commander."
"Good night Curly." Hashim said with a leer, loving the way it tainted Cullen's ears red. Once Cullen left Hashim jumped from the windowsill and walked to his bed, he was not that drunk, he had not been proclaiming attraction to Cullen because of the wine, it was true – Cullen was stupid handsome, but most of all he knew it would make the other man leave, and stay away. Hashim let himself fall down in the bed, it was disheartening to know that he was that repulsive, but he had never for one second doubted that Cullen never felt the slightest attracted to him. He recalled that he had made a fumbling attempt once many, many years ago – and Cullen had laughed in his face. Maybe Cullen didn't recall it, but Hashim did. Not that any of it mattered now. None of it.
The Inquisitions army set out from Skyhold. It was an impressive sight indeed, and Hashim smiled as he saw Cullen there, every bit the Commander.
Two days later, they had set up camp one last time before they would make it to the Fortress of Adamant, a well-deserved break from marching for everyone involved. Hashim had been keeping close to Hawke, asking him all the questions about Corypheus he could think of, trying to connect the dots, even if the grander scheme still eluded him.
"So," Hawke said as he sat down next to Hashim close to the bonfire, "You are the one that made Anders a Grey Warden, huh?"
Hashim smiled, he hadn't given Anders and Justice thought in years, "Yes I was."
"He hated it, you know." Hawke said with a little strange smile.
"I don't doubt it, but back then it was that or certain death. That Templar Ry-something, had it out for him bad." Hashim said, "I saved him several times over, I even gifted him that ridiculous kitten."
"Ser-pounce-a lot" Hawke said darkly
"Yes, that was it's name." Hashim nodded, "Whatever became of him and Justice? I know he left – But unless he found some unheard of cure, he just laid down the colors and abandoned the cause."
"Anders is dead." Hawke said in a somber tone, "Justice finally consumed him."
"I am truly sorry to hear that." Hashim said, "He was a dear friend once."
"He caused the mage rebellion, how can you not have heard that Warden-Commander?" Dorian said from across the firepit.
"He was the one to blow up the chantry in Kirkwall." Hawke agreed, "I executed him for it, not out of anger, but Anders had lost his mind – There was nothing of the gentle healer left, there was only Justice. He deserved peace." Hawke looked over at Cassandra who listened closely. "I did not want him to wake up and see the destruction and death he had caused, he who had sworn his life to heal and mend."
"I'm sure it was mercy." Hashim said with a little sad whisper. "I wonder if it was Justice's influence though, maybe it was the same madness that seems to inflict every Warden lately?"
Hawke shook his head, "No it was Justice, no doubt about it."
"It's good he had a friend like you to end his suffering then." Hashim said.
"But you helped him." Cassandra finally said, "You aided the apostate with planting the explosives."
"I did." Hawke admitted, "But I did not realize it was explosives."
"If I had suspected Loghain's betrayal in Ostagar, I could maybe have persuaded Alistair to persuade King Cailan to see reason, and maybe it would have saved many, many lives. Maybe Cailan would still be alive, maybe we have managed to quell the blight in its infancy – maybe Lothering would not have been overrun." He gave Hawke a knowing look, "Sometimes what you do out of your best intentions are just wrong."
Hawke nodded with a silent understanding smile.
"But then Hawke would still be a farmer, and we wouldn't be here – " Dorian said only being cut off as Harun slapped him over the shoulder. "What? I so adore these campfire tales."
Much later Hashim found himself sitting at the dying fire pressing the balls of his hands hard against his temples, the voices was beckoning, screaming, taunting – it was impossible to figure out what this was. He knew what a blight sounded like, but this wasn't it, but neither was it the calling – it was both in one deafening cacophony. In the end he couldn't take it anymore it felt like his head was splitting and he screamed.
When he woke it was daylight and a pair of troubled brown eyes studied him. "What.."
"Are you alright?" Cullen cupped Hashim's face, worriedly studying his face.
"Don't worry about me." Hashim smiled dazed, "I am fine"
"You did not sound fine last night." Cullen said his voice thick of what Hashim could only interpret as concern.
"It's just so loud here." Hashim said in a whisper, "it's like the dark spawn is screaming with a thousand voices inside my head."
"Dorian?" Cullen looked over his shoulder, "Can you do something for him?"
"I knocked you out, sorry." Dorian said, coming to stand behind Cullen "I made you sleep, do you feel better?"
"I do, I can hardly hear them now." He smiled gratefully, "I don't know how you muted it, but you did." Hashim sat up with a little help. "Truly I am not going mad." He offered lamely.
"I did not say you were." Dorian said with a little shrug, "But I cannot speak for the rest of them, they all heard and saw your little meltdown."
Hashim sighed. "of course."
"You're finally awake," Harun extended a hand to help Hashim to his feet, Cullen moving aside so he could stand. "Are you sure you are up for this last trek?"
"I am." Hashim said with a little smile, "I just need to collect myself. I am a little dizzy."
And so it came to pass that Hashim would lean on Cullen for the next hour, still trying to rid himself of his dizziness.
When they arrived at the Fortress it was a confusing chaos to Hashim, it was Wardens defending the gates alongside demons, it made no sense – and the screaming felt like physical, it was so loud. For the longest time Hashim just stood and stared at the carnage. "Hashim!" He heard someone yell, he looked up and saw Cullen stand there at a ballista waving his arms for Hashim to notice him. It was weird, he couldn't recall Cullen ever calling him by his first name ever. But he stumbled towards the friendly face and the voice.
"Maker!" Cullen caught Hashim as he all but fell into his arms. He looked desperately around for a mage but saw none, "You're bleeding." He said as he gently wiped blood from Hashim's nose.
"So loud." Hashim whimpered, and looked up at Cullen in alarm, "Maybe they are right, maybe there is a blight coming."
"No.. there is no blight," Cullen said softly, "Clarel has gone mad, you said so yourself."
"But it feels like – "
"I believe you," Cullen said, his eyes trying to hold Hashim's swimming gaze, "But trust me, there is no blight."
"I must get to Clarel." Hashim mumbled, "And the Inquisitor."
"Can you walk?" Cullen asked.
"I had worse." Hashim opted for a little smile, kissing Cullen on his cheek. "Thank you." He left Cullen's safe arms and stumbled across the battlefield, luckily it was more muscle memory that saved him, like he knew the spells even if his head was clouded.
He was going to find Clarel, and he was going to find out what this was about.
When he finally caught up he saw Harun stand there with Dorian, Blackwall, Cassandra and Hawke. The sound in his head had reached a feverish pitch, and he had a hard time hearing anything said, he heard Hawke yell from the top of his lungs that blood magic never led to anything good.
There was Clarel, but who was that person next to her? He looked like a mage, and not a Warden enchanter. He could hear Harun's voice rise above all else and he saw a rift open. For a split second he managed to get eye contact with Clarel, she looked confused and Hashim started towards her, but suddenly a roar brought him to his knees, he felt strong arms pick him up and when he was on his feet he saw it, it was a Archdemon. That was why it was so loud, but Cullen had said there was no blight, and he had to admit that it didn't sound right, the screams and roars inside his head sounded like a chant, not like chaos. He looked up at Clarel who shot a lightening spell at the monstrosity, and then it attacked. Hashim ignored his nosebleed and ran to Clarel as fast as he could, only just dodging the dragons breath.
The dragon swung around and he hit it with another lightening spell, it focused on him and forgot Clarel whom he hoped got away.
He hit the dragon a couple of times more, but then it flew away from his line of fire. He decided to run in the direction of Clarel's voice. "Clarel!" He called, "Clarel, what is –"
Before he could act, the dragon swooped up and grabbed Clarel with it's mouth, shaking it's head violently, he could see Clarel's legs flailing like a rag dolls. "No!" He screamed.
The dragon spit out Clarel and she fell to the ground more dead than alive, but before he could make it to her the dragon came down to the ground, advancing on them, he grabbed the arm of the person next to him, realizing it was Hawke. "Give me a blade and get the others away."
Hashim took the dagger offered and advanced on the dragon "In War, Victory." He yelled between his attacks, "In Peace, Vigilance." Lastly, he summoned the last he had in him for a massive cone of ice "In Death, Sacrifice." He hoped to get close enough to the damn thing to deal a blow with the dagger before it killed him, surely he would not get lucky twice in his life.
He had not seen Clarel on the ground, thinking her dead. She managed to hit the dragon with a lightening on it's underbelly. The dragon slipped and as a result he took the entire battlement with it, Hashim heard someone call his name before he was tossed backwards off the battlement, spiraling down.
It took Hashim a moment to realize that he wasn't hurt, he could hear voices close by. He got to his feet and brushed off his armor as he looked around, what was this place? He looked down at his broken staff, he had apparently landed straight on it, he picked up the pieces wondering if he could somehow mend it. The voices got closer, and next thing he knew he heard Hawke exclaim, "Warden!"
He turned and smiled at Hawke, Harun, Dorian, Cassandra and Blackwall. "Are we dead?" He asked, feeling stupid.
"No this is the fade." Dorian said, "Expect we are here in person, not just in spirit."
Hashim nodded, "That makes sense." He looked at Harun, "Any plan to get out of here? We need to get back to the battle."
Harun pointed at the rift at the top of a steep cliff, "There would be my best bet."
They walked through the eerie landscape; they could hear chittering sounds like insects but saw none. Instead what they saw was a woman, it took a while for it to register with anyone, and Hashim was the first to open his mouth, "By Andraste's tits, is that.."
She smiled, "I greet you Warden, and you Champion."
Hashim and Hawke shared a look.
Harun finally found his voice and said what they all thought, "Divine Justinia – but you are dead!"
"Of course she is dead," Hashim cut in, yanking Harun's shoulder pulling him back a step. "This is a spirit or a demon – remember where we are."
"You think my survival impossible, yet here you stand alive in the fade." Justinia said calmly, it sounded sane, and they all relaxed a little, Hashim even let go of Harun's shoulder. "In truth, proving my existence would require time we do not have."
"Surely you understand our concerns." Hawke said.
"I am here to help you." Justinia said, not elaborating more. "You do not remember what happened in the temple of sacred ashes, Inquisitor." The group looked at Harun who just looked like he wasn't sure to trust the woman or to attack her, his hand hovering over his quiver of arrows.
"You are right, I do not." Harun said.
"The memories you have lost have been taken by the demon that serves Corypheus. It is the nightmare you forget upon waking. It feeds of memories of fear and darkness, it grows fat upon the terror." She looked at Hashim for a long moment, "The false calling that terrified the Wardens into making such grave mistakes – it's work."
"I was right! It's connected, and the calling was-" He paused as to soak it all in, "The calling was false, so many of my brothers and sisters gave up their life for nothing." He looked at Justinia as did he expect an answer. "And it was all this Nightmare's doing?" He stepped up alongside Harun, staring at Justinia, he looked at the other party members, "We have to end its false song, soon there are no more Wardens left if we do not find this thing and kill it."
"You will have your chance brave Warden, this place of darkness is its lair." Justinia said with a sad droning tone.
Harun gave Hashim a hard look, "We have to get out of this place, that must be the first priority."
"When you entered the fade at Haven, the demon took a part of you Harun, before you do anything else, you must recover it." Justinia said.
They all looked at each other and walked forth, searching for Harun's memories. The more spiders they killed the more memories they found the clearer it became that it had been Wardens holding down Justinia, it had been Wardens in league with Corypheus.
Finally Hawke couldn't stay silent anymore. "The Wardens are out of control! You told me yourself that you were glad that Anders had a friend to end his torment, I was that friend to him – maybe I ought to be that friend to you as well."
"Stop!" Harun yelled trying to step between Hawke and Hashim.
"Maybe if we leave the Nightmare be, the Wardens will end themselves? Those we do not kill upon our return." Hawke growled.
"You are out of order!" Hashim threw his broken staff on the ground, pointing at Hawke over Harun's shoulder. "You let Corypheus out from his prison – the prison your father of all people put him in."
Harun pushed the two apart, "Both of you are out of order! Now Stop, we need to focus on getting out of here."
Hashim shot Hawke a dirty look, but none the less picked up his broken staff again and started walking.
"Your Inquisitor is a fraud, Cassandra. Yet more evidence there is no Maker, that all your 'faith' has been for naught." The Nightmare taunts, Cassandra yelled for it to die in the void, not that Hashim was surprised, he knew that as soon as the nightmare noticed them, it would attempt to oust them, or make them turn on each other – he had never met a demon that didn't work like that.
He looked at Cassandra, but she looked determined as ever – that was good, she was absolutely remarkable that way. Not a single doubt in her conviction.
They walked on, the fog got denser and it was harder to breathe, "Ah, there's nothing like a Grey Warden. And you are nothing like a Grey Warden." Hashim turned around to see Blackwall grimace, "I'll show you Grey Warden, beast!" He yelled back at the fog.
They met a cluster of minor nightmare spawn, they would have been easier to kill if the air had been less putrid, and Hashim was out of breath almost before he started to fight.
"Getting tired old man?" Hawke laughed.
Hashim looked at him, he didn't seem weighed down by the air being thick as molasses. "Can't breathe." Hashim croaked out.
"Ah Hawke, Do you think it mattered, Hawke? Do you think anything you ever did mattered? You couldn't even save your city. How could you expect to strike down a god? Fenris is going to die, just like your family, and everyone you ever cared about." The Nightmare sing song in an amused tone.
"I'm going to enjoy killing this thing." Hawke growled, and Hashim couldn't agree more.
The Nightmare laughed, echoing off the cliffs. ""Greetings, Dorian…it is Dorian, isn't it? For a moment, I mistook you for your father." To Hashim's surprise Dorian stopped for a moment and just looked offended, "That was rather uncalled for." Dorian mumbled, which made Hashim smile, apparently the Nightmare wasn't as good at taunting as it thought.
Hashim was breathing with great effort now, but it seemed that none of the others had this problem. He thought that the Nightmare would mess with their minds, maybe one of the others felt like their foot was broken or something like that. The critters were dead and the party moved on, they had not gotten far before the Nightmare spoke again. "Warden-Commander Surana. You wanted to be prince consort, but the king wanted a real queen, not some alienage trash. Everything you touch rots and dies. The Wardens are going to fall, and it will be your name they curse come next blight." And that was when he knew, the Nightmare was not bad at throwing taunts, the others were just covering up for their fright. He was right wasn't he? He had wanted to be prince consort, he had pictured it when he had pushed Alistair to take the crown, and he had never recovered from it. He didn't answer the Nightmare, his lungs couldn't draw enough air to form words.
When they finally made it to the Nightmares lair it was more terrifying than anything Hashim could have imagined, though the air seemed lighter here and he welcomed it with large gulps down his lungs. He was too slow running up the slope to the exit portal, and the Nightmare trapped Him, Hawke and Harun in its lair.
"We need to get past that monster!" Harun yelled, staring wide eyed at Hashim and Hawke.
"I will hold it off, you two run." Hawke said, his hand already on the hilt of his daggers.
Hashim grabbed Hawke's arm, "No. You were right, we all was it was Wardens that caused this," he looked Hawke directly into his eyes, but felt Harun's gaze heavy on them. "It should be a Warden that ended it."
"That is exactly why you need to rebuild the order, don't let the Nightmare come true. Thedas needs the Wardens, and if anyone can pull them out of this, it is you." Hawke said softly, almost lovingly.
"But what about your family? Carver? Fenris? – Your friends? I have no one waiting, and the Wardens can rebuild without me." Hashim grabbed Hawke's hand, "You should run out of here with the Inquisitor."
"Rebuilding the Wardens is your job, Corypheus is mine." Hawke said, his voice hard and determined.
"Maybe I should stay." Harun said with a soft voice.
"No!" Hashim and Hawke yelled in unison, they turned to the Inquisitor.
"Look, my family and friends will mourn me, but you two are needed to end this. I will cover your escape, no point in arguing with me." Hawke said, pushing Hashim towards the path to the monsters right, "Tell them… Tell Fenris I love him, and tell Carver that, well I love him too."
Before Hashim could act, Hawke rushed towards the monster, leaving the path to the rift open to Hashim and Harun. Harun started to run, but Hashim stood rooted to the ground, "we should help him. Maybe then.."
"Maybe then we all die, this is Hawke's choice." Harun argued, pulling Hashim with him up the path and past the monster.
"No! We can't just –" Hashim's words was cut short as Harun pulled them through the rift.
Out of the fade Hashim finally felt like he could breathe again, and the terrible screeching inside his head was gone, the song was silenced – that meant that Hawke had been successful, but it didn't necessarily mean that he lived.
Dorian hugged Harun, holding him tight for a moment. Hashim got to his feet and looked at the crowd, Inquisition soldiers and Wardens, locked in deadly battle when he had fallen to the fade, just stood there and looked at each other and them, waiting for the Inquisitor to speak.
Hashim looked at Harun, "It worked, the spirit was right – The song is silent, and the Wardens are free of the spell, you saved us all." The Wardens mumbled and nodded in the background.
"Inquisitor, the Archdemon left as soon as you dissapeared, the venatori magister is still alive, Cullen said you would want to deal with him yourself." An Inquisitor soldier said, breathless from running. "The remaining Wardens, those who had not gone completely mad - helped us kill the demons."
"We are ready, Inquisitor – we wish to help make up for Clarels tragic mistake." A Warden said, and the other Wardens banged the breastplate in unison to agree.
"Warden-Commander Surana, you are the senior surviving Grey Warden.. What do we do now?" Another Warden said, his voice a little shaken still trying to process the whole ordeal.
Hashim looked over at Harun, hoping that the Inquisitor would be lenient, if not – Hashim didn't quite know what to do, he didn't want to fight, surely they would lose anyway with this few Wardens, and all of them confused and worn. If he chose to exile them, he simply wasn't sure they could make it out of Orlais alive. "Inquisitor?" He asked softly.
A long pregnant moment went by and Harun finally spoke. "Stay, help us rebuild. The Warden-Commander clearly believes in you, and therefore so do I. You are however still vunrable to Corypheus' magic, and possibly his Ventatori as well, so you will be under the watchful eye of the Inquisition for as long as you remain in these lands."
Hashim smiled, "Thank you." He said softly. "You truly are the Herald of Andraste."
Harun cleared his voice uncomfortably as everyone laughed and some hugged, just glad that it was over without more bloodshed.
"After all this, and you give them another chance?" Cassandra said, her voice cutting through the chatter, silencing everyone. Hashim looked at her and up at Harun, desperately hoping he wouldn't retract his mercy.
"We will watch them Cassandra." Harun said softly, "They won't hurt anyone again."
Cassandra remained tight lipped, her eyes were shooting daggers but she didn't argue.
Harun sighed heavily, turned around and closed the rift. Hashim felt sick, but he was right, they had waited for long enough for Hawke to come through, and couldn't risk more demons finding their way through to where they stood.
Varric came up to them slowly, he looked at Harun and out over the crowd, "Where is Hawke?" He asked, stepping closer to the Inquisitor, "Where is Hawke?"
"He stayed behind, I am sorry Varric." Harun said, "He gave his life to deal a major blow to Corypheus. It was his choice."
"Oh." Varric just said, and hurried off – Cassandra called after him, but Varric didn't answer or turn around.
Hashim looked down into the ground, he still felt it should have been him, but as he looked at the uprooted Wardens around him, he knew that Hawke had been right, he was needed here. "Get some rest, all of you." He said, turning to the closest Wardens. "Tomorrow we start rebuilding."
The Wardens and the Inquisition milled around, getting their wounds tended, eating a meal, sleeping, crying. There was no cheers, no feast – it did not feel like a victory. Hashim went to the tent that the Inquisition had erected on the edge of the fortress grounds, for Harun. There was light in the tent, so odds were that the Inquisitor was still awake as well. "Inquisitor?" He called softly from outside the tentflap, "Harun, are you awake?"
"Come in." Harun said, "Have a seat and a drink with me." He smiled tired, his eyes were sad. Hashim poured himself a drink and sat down opposite Harun, warming his feet on the smoldering barrel in the middle.
"I am sorry." Hashim said in a near whisper.
"What for?" Harun asked with a surprised expression, "Hawke was a grown man, he chose this – No matter what his friends or family might think. It is not your fault."
"Had I seen the connection earlier, had I known that it was an agent of Corypheus that had fooled Clarel, and had I known the false calling was his doing – I would have… I don't know, but I am sure it would have ended differently for everyone."
"But you didn't, and I didn't either – for all the intel I had on this mess, I did not see the connection either." Harun said softly. "You cannot doubt yourself now, these men need you."
Hashim smiled, "Cullen." He said, noting Harun's amused smile – He cleared his throat, "Commander Rutherford told me of a woman named Fiona, a mage who was once a Warden, somehow she found out how to reverse the process, how to cure herself. I have been looking for a cure for years, and – The Commander told me that Fiona had joined the Ventatori, may I.." He smiled into his wine, embarrassed to ask the Inquisitor for more favors, after all he just hauled him out of the fade and let the Wardens stay in Orlais. "Could I possibly talk to that Ventarori, I must hear if he knows where I can find her." He looked up at Harun, "Please?"
Harun nodded, "For now I will keep him in my prison, there is ample time Hashim." He said, "I promise you that you will have a moment with him before the judgement is passed."
"Thank you." Hashim said, sipping his wine.
The next day the Inquisition was packing up, Hashim was going over the lists provided to him, on how many able bodied persons had survived, how many injured, and provisions. He knew this was bad, real bad, and wanted to have the complete picture before contacting Weisshaupt. He looked up from the papers and saw the first of the Inquisition army start the trek back to skyhold, it felt strange not to be among them for some reason. But his place was not with the Inquisition, it was here among his battle brothers.
"Warden-Commander, are you busy?" Cullen asked.
Hashim turned around and smiled, "No, never too busy for old friends."
Cullen smiled awkwardly, they both knew they were not friends, it was more that they had known each other since they were but children. "I heard your staff was broken."
"Yes." Hashim laughed, "Apparently it wasn't as sturdy as I thought."
Cullen held out a staff humming with energy unspent, "I took this off the Ventatori, figured you might have a use for it."
Hashim took the staff gently, the energy hummed through his entire body, he looked up at Cullen with a bright smile, "thank you, I will set this to good use, I promise."
"I know you will-" Cullen smiled back. "I still don't trust magic," He muttered, "But I trust you."
"That is the nicest thing you ever said to me." Hashim placed the staff on the table with the paperwork. "I promise you the Inquisitor won't regret his decision, and should you ever need me to aid you, you know where I am." He laughed a little uncertain, "I am done running."
Cullen mirrored the little unsure smile and nodded, "I shall leave some men in your care, and I trust you will treat them as your own." He handed Hashim a list over the soldiers he would leave at the fortress, "These are all good men."
"And they report to you?" Hashim asked.
"Directly to me." Cullen said, "The Inquisitor has other worries, and besides now it is a military outpost of the Inquisition, which makes it my job."
"Good." Hashim said taking the paper from Cullen's hand. "I trust the Inquisitor, but he is –burdened."
Cullen nodded, "That he is." He raked a hand through his hair, "So I will send Hawke's brother back to you with the next provision caravan, I expect he will demand answers."
Hashim sighed, "I expect he will, though I am not sure I have any that will satisfy him."
The rebuilding was slow, but at least everyone seemed to be in good spirits. The Wardens and Inquisitor soldiers alike were working as a team, and within the month it was hard to tell them apart, save their uniform.
Hashim had sent word to Weisshaupt but had not heard back, and honestly he was glad. It had not been easy to explain that he had uncovered that Clarel had been tricked by Corypheus' agent to raise him a demon army, and that the calling they had all heard was a ruse. He knew how many good Wardens had dutifully taken the long walk, and in truth they had not needed to. It pained his heart to know, and he was sure that Weisshaupt would scramble to put a spin on it somehow. He was almost certain that they would call out Clarel as a weak individual who had aided the enemy, where Hashim knew it was not true. She had panicked and had done what seemed sane, her advice and knowledge at the time taken into consideration. He was also almost sure they would call him and the wardens back to Amaranthine, or maybe even all the way back to Weisshaupt. Maybe they would all be punished by their own, even when the Inquisitor had been lenient – Hashim had made up his mind that if they were called back, he would give his men the option of merging into the Inquisition, he was sure that both Cullen and Harun would welcome them.
The sun was low on the sky when the first provision cart had arrived, Hashim was shook from his thoughts by a messenger carrying a letter from the Inquisitor. Hashim took it and thanked the messenger, he opened the letter and read on. Apparently Fenris, Hawke's lover had come to Skyhold shortly after they had left, he had waited for Hawkes return, but when the army returned with bad tidings, he had taken it badly. Cullen who knew Fenris from Kirkwall and had fought beside him before, had tried to talk Fenris out of coming to Adamant, but he had insisted, and for that the Inquisitor was sorry. Carver was still mending but had insisted on coming as well.
The Inquisitor also wrote that the prisoner, the Ventori Erimond had only spoken in riddles for now, but that Hashim was welcome to come to Skyhold and speak with him.
Hashim took a deep breath and walked out his tent, he was greeted by what he could only assume was Fenris, for he had never seen anything like it – he wasn't sure why he was so surprised that he was an elf like him. "Fenris?" He asked softly.
"The Warden-Commander I presume." Fenris said, his voice deep and commanding, he crossed his arms over his chest.
"Yes." Hashim nodded, "I heard much about you, and I regret that we did not meet under better circumstances." How he hated these 'talks' with family.
"I had not expected you to be an elf." Fenris said softly, his voice in stark contrast to his body language.
"Likewise." Hashim said, "Look, how about a drink." He opened the flap to his tent, "And we can talk about what you came here for. Please." He gestured for Fenris to enter, and much to his surprise he did. Hashim followed him inside and went straight to pour them two drinks. "I imagine you are here to hear about Hawke." His voice was low and gentle, "I am sorry but I can't tell you anything the Inquisitor haven't already told you." He handed the drink to Fenris.
Fenris took the cup and looked straight at Hashim. "Cullen tried to stop me from coming; I think he is afraid I will hurt you." He smiled sadly.
"Are you?" Hashim asked, "Going to hurt me? I understand it if that is –"
"No." Fenris said, "I want you to find Hawke for me."
"In the fade?" Hashim asked surprised, sitting down, "But I am not the inquisitor, and I can't just enter a rift."
"The Dalish have these fadewalkers, maybe –"
"I am not Dalish, I am sorry." Hashim said, when Fenris just stared at him, Hashim continued, "Denerim Alienage, born and raised I'm afraid."
Fenris sighed, "Maybe we could find a Dalish elf?" He looked directly at Hashim, "I need to know if he is dead."
"I am sorry Fenris, but I am quite sure he is – that thing was huge, and…"
"But you do not know for sure." Fenris said, his voice cracking over, "Warden.."
"Hashim, please, he is my life – and I must know." Fenris said, "I had made a vow to myself to never again beg for anything, but I am now. If he is alive, trapped in the fade, I must get there and get him out."
Hashim nodded, "The Inquisition has Dalish mages, maybe they can help us?" He took a sip of his drink, "I am truly sorry Fenris, Hawke seemed like a good man."
"The best." Fenris said.
"I have other business in Skyhold, so I say we travel back with the caravan together." Hashim smiled, "We will find Hawke."
"I had not expected this." Fenris admitted, "I had expected you to be… different."
"I had expected you to be more angry." Hashim said bluntly.
"Who says I am not." Fenris said with a little smile, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend – am I right?"
Hashim nodded slowly. They both looked up at Carver entered the tent, he was hobbling on a crutch. "You!" he yelled, pointing at Hashim.
"Carver." Hashim said holding up his hands. "I am sorry."
"Anything for your sodding wardens." Carver yelled, "even my brother's life!"
"Not true, he chose to stay." Hashim argued, getting up from the chair, "I volunteered, I wanted to stay behind, but he wouldn't let me."
"I don't know why he chose to stay behind!" Hashim suddenly yelled back, losing his cool. "That is the truth! He said that Corypheus was his responsibility, but I don't know why he would sacrifice himself."
Carver stood silent for a moment, "Did you bewitch him?" He asked softly.
"NO!" Hashim exclaimed in horror, "I told you, I wanted to stay behind."
"Convenient that we have yours and the Inquisitor's story, you both came out alive, anything – anything could have happened, and you decided agree on it."
"Hold." Hashim held up his hand, "Are you calling the Inquisitor a liar? Are you calling me a liar?" Hashim stepped close to Carver looking up at the man, "When have I ever lied to you?"
Carver opened his mouth to counter argue, but closed it again without a word. "Never." He finally said.
When Hashim left for Skyhold the next day, he rode in the back of the caravan pondering the whole ordeal in the fade, he should have been more insisting, he should never have allowed Hawke to stay behind alone. He felt guilty for the hollow, empty look in Fenris' face, the fierce warrior was nothing but a husk – all because Hashim had not insisted on staying behind. Corypheus was not Hawke's problem; it was all of their problem.