An Apostate? Me?
Chapter One: How Dare You Call My Wife That!
Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Age.
Cassandra Pentaghast, member of a department of the Chantry no one had ever heard of, stared down at the dwarf in front of her who had transformed his seat into a veritable throne. " I just want the truth."
Varric hesitated. "Are you sure about that, Seeker? It's a rather…strange story."
Cassandra nodded impatiently. "It would almost have to be to bring Thedas to this point."
Still, Varric paused. "Well…alright," he conceded. "But don't blame me if you don't like what you hear…"
The setting was just outside of Lothering and the date was weeks after anyone with any self-preservation instincts would have abandoned the village to its fate. As it happens, an appalling lack of survival instincts does not mean that mean that one is necessarily helpless.
"Why didn't we leave days ago like everybody else?" Carver Hawke complained. "The darkspawn are literally overwhelming us!"
"We were waiting for you to get back from us, Carver," his mother, Leandra, said virtuously.
"Didn't we think he was dead?" the eldest Hawke child, Emma, asked bluntly.
Carver's twin Bethany winced. "Don't tell him that!"
"Yeah, I guess then our refusal to leave makes even less sense," Emma agreed. She started suddenly. "My templar senses are tingling!"
Carver rolled his eyes as a heavily-wounded man in templar uniform supported by a red-haired woman came into sight. "Please. You do not have templar senses."
"Then who is that guy stumbling towards us in a templar uniform?" Emma demanded, her hands on her hips. "A really devoted fan?"
"You just saw him coming," Carver said dismissively. His sister may be a mage but that was no reason to accept that she was psychic, after all.
"B-but he wasn't even visible-" Emma started to protest.
"Maybe we could continue this once we've dealt with the templar? And maybe, if we're really ambitious, the darkspawn?" Bethany suggested.
"I am so glad that I raised at least one sensible child," Leandra remarked almost idly.
Carver crossed his arms resentfully and frowned.
"Ah! A mage!" the man in the templar uniform cried out, alarmed. He quickly corrected himself. "No, two mages! And they aren't in the Circle! They must be apostates!"
"Or we could be Ostagar survivors who haven't yet managed to make our way back to the Circle," Bethany pointed out.
The templar paused, considering this. "…Are you?"
"Well, no," Bethany admitted. "But we could have been."
Emma sighed. "Bethany, you know I love you but maybe in the future we could claim that we were whatever non-apostates type mages you mention?"
"I agree with Emma," Leandra spoke up.
"Of course you do…" Carver muttered darkly.
"Oh come on, we weren't even arguing!" Emma protested.
"Emma, after eighteen years I think that it's safe to assume that if you think something, I disapprove," Carver told her patiently.
Emma hazarded a guess as to why. "Because you're a jealous insecure prick?"
"I was actually going to go with 'because you're a crazy person,'" Carver told her.
Emma shrugged. "Because you're a jealous insecure prick's fine."
The red-head took a step forward. "Look, while I'm sure that you'd love to stand around and argue all day and Wesley here would love to drag you to the nearest Circle, I think we have bigger problems here. Such as, I don't know, the fast-approaching darkspawn. I'm Aveline, by the way."
"You're right, dear," Wesley agreed reluctantly.
"I'm Leandra and these are my three children, Emma, Bethany, and Carver," Leandra introduced. "It's nice to-ogre!"
"My wife is not an ogre! How dare you say that!" Wesley said frigidly before glancing over to where Leandra was pointing. "Oh look, an ogre. After we kill this, you'd better apologize!"
Aveline rubbed her forehead. "Oh, Wesley…"
The ogre turn looked between the unarmed and untrained Leandra and the badly wounded Wesley to see which would be the easiest prey before finally settling on Leandra.
"I'll protect you, mother," Bethany declared valiantly, stepping in front of Leandra. "Maker give me strength…" Her staff had just begun to glow with magic when Emma froze the ogre in its tracks.
"Ta-da!" Emma said grandly.
"You are such a show-off!" Carver accused.
"I don't mind," Bethany assured him before sending a burst of magic at the ogre.
"Why does everyone like you better than me?" Carver complained, completely ignoring the ogre.
"I never nailed anyone's pigtail to the bed," Emma replied promptly, also apparently feeling that her work with the ogre was done.
"That was nine years ago!" Carver objected.
"And Bethany hasn't worn pigtails since…" Emma said, shaking her head sadly.
"Children? The ogre? It looks to be thawing," Leandra said worriedly.
Carver glared at his sister. "Why can't your stupid ice spells last longer?"
"So first I'm a show-off for using ice in the first place and now I didn't even do it right?" Emma demanded, annoyed.
Carver thought about it. "Pretty much."
With that, the Hawke siblings added their might to Aveline and Bethany's and the ogre was quickly felled.
Emma turned back to her brother. "Now, where were we…"
Leandra sighed. "Do you have to keep provoking your brother?"
"Well…no," Emma admitted. "But I enjoy it."
"Dragon!" Bethany shouted.
"Now my wife's being likened to a dragon, mage?" Wesley couldn't believe it. Neither could Aveline, for that matter, but that was for a different reason. "What is it with you people?"
"Well, at least I can have a knight's death," Carver said, trying to remain optimistic. It hardly needs saying but Carver was rather bad at optimism.
The dragon landed right in front of them and immediately transformed into an old woman with horns on her head.
Carver stared at the creature. "Huh. Now to get a knight's death I'd need to impregnate her and then die by the hand of my own twisted offspring twenty years or so from now. I'm starting to think a knight's death might be overrated."
Wesley only had one concern about this bizarre turn of events. "Ah! Another mage!"
"Wesley! Honestly, templars can be so single-minded," Aveline complained.
"Tell me about it…" Carver grumbled.
Wesley looked confused. "But…you're not a mage."
Carver gave him a black look but said nothing.
"He's a little sensitive, I'm afraid," Leandra confided.
"You lot aren't very good at focusing are you?" Aveline asked rhetorically. "You'd all make for terrible guards."
Bethany blinked in surprise. "What do you mean?"
The old woman had had enough of their ignoring her. "My name is Flemeth – well, one of them, at least – and since you'll probably die if I don't decide to help you, I strongly suggest that you start paying attention to me."
Aveline made an attempt to focus. "Who are you? Why are you here?"
"She just said that she was Flemeth," Emma said slowly. "Weren't you listening?"
"Yes, I was," Aveline said curtly. "I actually just wanted to know if she was a witch of the wilds."
"I have been called that, yes," Flemeth acknowledged. "And I'm here because I thought it would be amusing to watch that ogre brutally murder you all."
"But we didn't die," Bethany pointed out.
"So I noticed." The disappointment in Flemeth's tone would have been impossible to miss. "Fortunately, I have a Plan B so that this little visit won't be a complete waste of my time."
"I don't like the sound of this…" Carver murmured ominously.
"Stop being such a wet blanket," Emma ordered.
"She openly admitted she wanted to watch us die!" Carver cried out.
"So?" Unsurprisingly, Emma didn't see the problem. "She wasn't planning to kill us personally and I don't think she's going to do that now."
"What was your plan?" Bethany inquired politely. "If you don't mind me asking, of course."
Flemeth answered that question by posing one of her own. "Do you have anywhere you were planning to go after fleeing Ferelden? How does Kirkwall sound?"
"I have family in Kirkwall!" Leandra exclaimed. "The Amells are nobility there!"
"The Amells?" Flemeth repeated, intrigued. "That must make you relatives of Angélique."
"Who?" Leandra asked blankly.
Flemeth shook her head. "It doesn't matter. So…Kirkwall? Sound good?"
"Wesley!" Aveline cried out, drawing everyone's attention to her.
Wesley had fallen over and was lying weakly on the ground. "I think I'm dying…"
Aveline shook her head in denial of this terrible truth. "No, you're fine!"
"He is actually dying," Flemeth confirmed.
Wesley coughed. "Told you! You should have more faith in me, Aveline."
"Or he'll become a ghoul which is hardly better," Flemeth continued casually. "Darkspawn corruption and whatnot."
"No!" Aveline couldn't accept this.
"You can kill him or watch him become a ghoul and try to eat you," Flemeth said flatly.
Aveline hesitated. "Can I have a minute to think about this?"
Leandra was appalled. "Aveline!"
"What?" Aveline asked defensively. "Is he going to turn into a ghoul in the next five minutes?"
"I'll do it!" Emma volunteered cheerfully before zapping him with enough lightning to kill five men.
"You just killed my husband!" Aveline accused angrily.
Emma smiled magnanimously, the sun shining on her blonde hair giving her a very angelic look. "You're welcome."
Bethany cleared her throat awkwardly. "I think we will be heading to Kirkwall. I mean, they have a lot of templars but Emma and I are pretty good at hiding our magic and if we have family there then we'll be better off than anywhere else."
"If you deliver this perfectly harmless-looking amulet to the Dalish Keeper that may or may not be camping out near Kirkwall then I'll take you to a ship bound for the city," Flemeth offered.
Leandra held out her hand to shake Flemeth's. "It's a deal."
"Doesn't anybody care that my husband was just murdered?" Aveline demanded.
There was an awkward silence as it became clear that no one did.
Unfortunately, there was a little roadblock when they reached Kirkwall, or at least its outskirts.
"Sorry, you can't come in," a guard said, not looking all that sorry at all.
"Why not?" Leandra asked.
"There are serious concerns that half of Ferelden has fled here since no one wanted to go to Orlais," the guard explained.
"But…I have family in Kirkwall," Leandra informed him.
The guard stared at her for a moment. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"Noble family," Leandra clarified.
The guard straightened. "That's completely different. Name?"
"The Amells. My brother, Gamlen, knows we're coming," Leandra said imperiously.
"Well, probably," Bethany qualified. "The international mailing system is kind of hit-or-miss in the best of times, let alone during a Blight."
"The Amells?" the guard repeated blankly. "Never heard of them. I do know a Gamlen, though. Miserable drunken sot. You think that might be him?"
Leandra sighed. "That does sound like him."
Carver's eye began to twitch. "Didn't you say I remind you of him?"
"Only his good qualities," Leandra said hastily before scrambling to think of one of those aforementioned good qualities. "Like the fact that, er, he doesn't really hate his siblings. At least I don't think he does."
"I feel like I'm really getting some valuable insights into your family dynamics," Aveline said dryly.
"Wait…Mother only left twenty-five years ago. Even if the Amells have since fallen, how have you never even heard of him?" Bethany asked reasonably.
"You know, that's a good point. Uncle Carver-clone must really suck," Emma declared.
Carver narrowed his eyes. "I hate you all."
"No you don't, dear," Leandra said blithely.
"Just like Uncle Gamlen," Emma added.
"I…" the guard trailed off, realizing he had no answer. "Damn. That's a really good question."
"If you go find Uncle Gamlen for us then we won't make you answer it," Emma offered.
"How dare you go look for their family and not provide the same service to us!" One of the random people milling about shouted.
The guard looked him over. "Do you even have family in Kirkwall?"
"Well…no…" the man conceded before quickly rallying. "But that's not the point! It's a matter of principle! I call foul on the blatant favoritism! Attack!"
"Yes, this will in no way end badly for you and prevent you from being allowed into the city should you survive this encounter," Aveline deadpanned.
The man and the three idiots he convinced to attack as well were soon dead at their feet.
"Fereldens…" the guard said disgustedly as he turned to go. "I'll be back shortly."
Carver sighed. "I am not going to like Kirkwall, am I?"
"Probably not," Emma agreed. "Then again, when was the last time you liked anything?"
"That says more about you people than me," Carver insisted.
"Leandra!" an older man cried out. Presumably this was Gamlen. "I never thought I'd see you again!"
"He really doesn't have to sound so disappointed," Bethany observed.
Leandra wasted no time with pleasantries. "Why has that guard never even heard of our family? What did you do?"
Gamlen looked awkward. "I'll tell you what I didn't do. I didn't steal your inheritance then drink, gamble, and poorly invest it away. And slavers most certainly aren't operating out of the old mansion."
Leandra tilted her head. "Well, that's something I suppose."
"I don't know. I think that sounds like a suspiciously specific denial," Carver announced.
"You really should have more trust in people," Emma told him.
"Listen, bribes to get into the city at this point are really high. Fortunately, I managed to get a mercenary group and a smuggler group to agree to get your group into the city for the low low price of your children's free labor for a year," Gamlen said quickly.
"YOU SOLD ME CHILDREN INTO SLAVERY?" Needless to say, Leandra was not happy.
"It's more indentured servitude really," Gamlen claimed. "And it's only for a year!"
"Why doesn't she have to do anything?" Carver demanded, pointing at Aveline. "If she's getting in with us then it's only fair."
"After the way your sister callously killed my husband…" Aveline trailed off.
"I'm a giver," Emma said modestly.
"He was going to die anyway," Carver pointed out.
"Not right that second," Aveline countered.
"Fine," Leandra ground out. "But I want you to know that I am never going to stop complaining about this. Ever. And I'm moving into your house with my children and not paying you any rent or even contributing with groceries."
Gamlen sighed. "I knew the words 'come with me, sir' uttered by a guard is never a good sign…"
"So which do you want to work for?" Emma asked them. "The mercenaries or the smugglers? Are we all going to need to work for the same group?"
"Indeed, it's the three of you or nothing," Gamlen confirmed.
"I think the mercenaries sound okay," Carver said dubiously. "And at least it's soldier work so I'll have some background in it. And even though I'm sure some of it will be illegal, at least its very job title doesn't automatically make people call for the guards."
"Well I want to work with the smugglers. It's less legal and thus less chances of anyone finding out that Bethany and I are mages," Emma opined. "And that makes it a tie. Bethany?"
As per usual, it was up to Bethany to cast the deciding vote. And as per usual, she sided with her sister. "I'm not really comfortable with the idea of killing people for money."
"You always take her side," Carver complained.
Emma rolled her eyes. "And if Bethany voted first then you'd complain that I always took her side."
"No…" Carver said unconvincingly. "But fine. I can see I'm outnumbered. Again. Why I even try is beyond me."
"I think you're just a contrarian," Emma theorized.
"No I'm not," Carver automatically denied.
"You're really not helping your case here," Emma told him, amused.
"While you're doing all of this, I think I shall join the city guard," Aveline announced. "As your smuggling job is going to pay the bribe I need to get into the city, I'll try to ignore what you guys are doing. Try not to make it too obvious, though, or I might not be able to help myself."
"I'm not sure if I should feel grateful for that or not," Bethany admitted.
"Okay, this is a new city and it's a templar stronghold so let's try to keep the fact that you are both mages quiet," Carver told them.
Emma and Bethany both nodded their agreement and the three made their way over to the elven smuggler leader.
"Ah, so you've decided to work with me? Excellent. I've always thought that having mages would make my smuggling ring run smoother. Or at least I have ever since your Uncle Gamlen suggested it…"
This might be harder than they thought.