Beacon In The Night
A Dragon Age 2 fic
A/N: This is for those of you who asked (you know who you are). Really, guys: thank you for making me drop everything else and write this. And as usual, it turned out a bit different from the idea from which it originally started. But this game does it to me a lot. Hope you'll forgive me.
As usual, there's plenty of paraphrasing of in-game dialogs. Ah, and, of course, a homage or two... :-)
I still believe in summer days. I'll be your harvester of light
The seasons always change
and life will find a way.
and send it out tonight
so we can start again.
I'll be your harvester of light
-Winter Song—Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson
The Gallows courtyard is cast into long shadows. There are makeshift barricades at the great gate of the Tower, flames still smoldering from fire spells and the smell of blood, charred wood, molten metal and magic is as thick as the smoke that still lingers over the entire city after the Chantry went up in an inferno of crimson flames earlier the day.
"This is going to be… interesting." Bethany murmurs, shading her eyes to survey the area. She's humming something, barely audible under her breath—an old song that she remembers from her childhood days but which she didn't sing since she's left Kirkwall.
"Come on, Sunshine." Varric sits with his back to a wall, flask of oil and rag in hand, cleaning Bianca's metal parts with deft hands. "You're back with us. That in itself should be cause for joy."
"That depends." The Grey Warden mage winces and steps out of the way of two Templars carrying a third one sagging between them, one arm half-ton off by a blast of magic. "Or good for a laugh of irony."
"Where the Fade did you learn to be this pessimistic?" Varric says in indignation that's only half mocking. "Is it that Strahd fellow? I knew you should have never trusted someone with a moustache like that."
Bethany crouches down next to him and gestures across the courtyard.
"I see what she's trying to do." she says quietly, watching her sister in animated conversation with the captain of the city guards and the Templar commander over some maps of the Tower. The fact that all three are women commanding the loyalties of strong men surrounding them isn't lost on her, and her mouth twists into a sad little smile. "It wasn't only me who changed in the past years."
Varric knows when to remain silent; after all, he agrees with the mage. He wishes he had his trusty hip flask still with him to wash away the memories. As someone who has spent the past few years very close to the Champion, he is intimately familiar with the events that brought them all to here—more so than her Grey Warden sister with the pale skin and flowing locks and lethally aimed fire spells.
So he isn't surprised the least when the Champion, finishing her little conference with a decisive thud of her fist on the barrel they used as a table, whirls on her heels and stalks towards them, with all their remaining companions in her wake. Knight-Commander Meredith gathers her own command staff with her on the other side and starts talking to them in low, urgent tones, pointing things out on the map.
"That was fun." Marian Hawke says, nearing Varric and Bethany. Her armor, like most of the rest of their equipment, is piled up in a corner, with some of the best craftsmen amongst the Templars going through them for repairs, much needed after their long trek across town fighting. Everything needs to be in the best shape before they scale those stairs in front of them, and her Champion armor attracts foes like a beacon of light draws butterflies, apparently. Right now, her shoulders are slightly stiff with tiredness under her old leather jerkin she customarily wears under the plate armor, the long straps to attach the pieces stirring in rhythm with her movements. "I think she's stopped just short of breathing fire when I called her on targeting civilians and barring the Guard from rescue operations, but I can't rule it out for later. Day's long."
"You trust her?" Isabela cocks her kerchiefed head to one side. "Despite everything? She's off her rocker, clearly. That speech about the Rite of Annulment…"
"Not half as much as I trusted you to come back with the Tome of Koslun." Hawke shakes her head, and Varric's heart lightens a little. If she can say things like that, there's hope. "Listen, people. Events kind of started to run faster than I anticipated."
"Tell me something I don't know." The dwarf mutters, then ducks a gloved hand aimed at his head. "Hey!" he exclaims. "Knock me out, there's no one watching your back."
"I doubt that." Isabela snickers, looking pointedly at the lanky shadow of the elf looming at Hawke's side.
"As I was going to say…" Hawke clears her throat, her cheeks colored slightly and pointedly not looking at Fenris, whose shoulder almost, but not quite, touches hers, "…I didn't quite have the time to brief you on this." When she slips back to military jargon, someone's going to get hurt and soon, they all learned that through the years. "And you deserve it. My decision to support the Knight Commander is based on…"
"There's no need to explain." Aveline cuts in brusquely, and receives, surprisingly, an approving nod from Sebastian Vael; the ex-prince is still pale and shaken from what happened only hours before, but he's with them, fighting on their side. "You want the City saved. You want the people saved. That's what counts." Her arm reaches out and she squeezes Hawke's shoulder briefly. "That's what only ever counted." The unsaid 'like we were denied at Ostagar' hangs there in the air between them of a second, then dissipates as Hawke nods.
"And that's why we're not going to trust Meredith." Hawke takes a deep breath and lowers her voice even more as her companions lean closer. "Last night I… had a talk with the Grand Cleric." Sebastian pales even more, but remains silent; only his blue eyes get bigger, his gaze never leaving Hawke's face. "I proposed a meeting with Orsino, Meredith and the members of the Council in attendance. I was going to call for the resignation of both the First Enchanter and the Knight Commander. I was going to propose her Grace to retire as well and have the Divine to assign new, outside replacements for all three positions based on my recommendations." She pauses, lets all of that sink in, then adds. "And I was going to have the Council offer me the seat of the Viscount effective immediately."
"Well, well, Champion." Varric's whistle echoes across the courtyard, breaking the stunned silence between them and some of the Templars turn their heads, wondering. "You don't play in small coin, do you?"
"Not when I'm this pissed." Hawke growls, eyes flashing with anger, and Varric bites his lip. He clearly said the wrong thing. "Not when people who should know better use this city as their playground, not caring that innocents are getting in the crossfire. Not when nothing, nothing is done for three years except pious bleating, hand-wringing, demagoguery, accusations and more killings, while gangs stalk the streets and demons and abominations roam free, when slavers can own houses in a city that shook off its chains ages ago, when predators can drag kids away from their homes and serial killers dismember women and no one fucking cares because it gets in the way of their precious research or their power games…!" There's a loud 'twang' noise as she plunges the blade of the knife she was toying with deep into the ground of the courtyard and the steel snaps from the force of it. "I'll have it no more!" she whispers with the force of a windstorm, and as her gaze roams over all of them, they all wince from its sheer power. "I draw the line. It's right here in this courtyard. Are you with me?"
There's a weighted silence as they all consider; then, surprising all, it's Merrill who speaks up first.
"By the Dread Wolf, Hawke." Her luminous green eyes sparkle. "You know, I never thought I'd be going up against mages, but…I believe in what you're trying to do. If you were Dalish, our people would have a kingdom by now." She suddenly giggles. "And half of Thedas would be attacking us. So maybe things worked out for the best."
"You already know what I think." Aveline grunts, shaking her red hair out of her face. "We teach those sons of bitches a lesson, and I still have a job afterwards, I'm yours."
"Step One: we win this one. Step Two: Hawke becomes Viscountess and kicks out everyone else. Step Three: profit." Isabela's wink is a bit forced, but at least she's trying. "Now if only we could get over Step One without dying much, I'd be obliged."
"Don't you worry, Rivaini." Varric gently pats her on the knee. "Since the watch-Hawke's-back position seems to be taken, I'll do it for you." He grimaces up at the Champion. "Well, I've never thought I'd be doing this, but… if this is going to be my last dance, at least I'm doing it so that there always will be a Hanged Man when everyone knows your name. Right?"
"May the Maker lend you His strength." Sebastian's eyes are still red from his grief over Elthina. "May He watch over us all as we walk through this night so we can bring the dawn." His sigh is deep. "You know I can't be anywhere else but by your side."
Bethany simply rises, crosses the distance between them and drapes her arms around her sister tightly.
"Love you, sis." She says thickly, her head on Hawke's shoulder. "I'm glad I'm here. Even though I'm scared to death." She hums a few chords in a shaky voice, the tune from earlier, and Hawke's eyes widen as she recognizes it.
"Maker…" she whispers haltingly as she returns her sister's embrace and repeats the lines of the old song. "This is my winter song to you/The storm is coming soon/it rolls in from the sea…"
"My voice; a beacon in the night/My words will be your light/to carry you to me." Bethany hums back, her voice clear and strong suddenly, harmonizing with Hawke's on the last chords, heart-achingly perfect. "This is my winter song/December never felt so wrong…"
"…cause you're not where you belong/inside my arms." Hawke finishes, arms still tight around Bethany, eyes closed. "Mother's lullaby. I haven't…" She swallows thickly. "Dammit, Beth, I'm so sorry. For Carver, and Mother, and you forced being a Warden and..."
"Shh." Bethany pats the Champion's head like she was still a child and needing comfort after a bad dream. "The Maker brought us together again at the end. That's what counts, right?"
"Took a damned roundabout way to do it, too." Hawke's chuckle is sudden but relieved; she sniffles as she finally releases her hold on her sister and straightens. "Pardon my Orlesian."
"You never change." Bethany grins back, then leans closer and whispers into Hawke's ear. "And now go… there's someone there who is practically dancing from impatience to talk to you. Alone, probably." she adds.
Uncomprehending, Hawke turns and reddens almost immediately, seeing Fenris standing there, trying to look his usual imperturbable self, and failing spectacularly.
"So." Hawke says, clearing her throat and smoothing her hair behind her ear with that nervous gesture she only ever uses when he's around. The rest of her companions edge away a bit, giving them enough room although Varric can't help but watch surreptitiously as he pretends he's busy with Bianca again. "Here we are, ready to make history. Are you sure you want to stay?"
She feels every bone in her body as he steps closer and takes one of her hands in his.
"Promise me you won't die. I can't bear the thought of living without you." is all he says on a low voice.
Hawke's eyes cloud for a second, but just as fast it's gone, and what's on her face is, yet again, her half-grin with that defiant set of her chin that Fenris simply can't get enough of.
"What was that?" she whispers, head tilted sideways. "I'm not quite sure I've heard that clearly."
"Then let me make it clearer for you." Fenris says, and then he moves, fast, even faster than usual (his armor is with the armorers, too), and in the next moment Hawke's literally swept off her feet in a kiss that seems to go on and on, and on forever. Her arms are wound tightly around his neck and he crushes her to his chest with corded arms that slightly glow with eerie blue light, as they cling to each other with passion that seems to stop time right there and then.
"Excuse us for a moment." Hawke says loudly and significantly out of breath when they finally part, and pretty much everyone in the courtyard (well, except for the Knight Commander) pretends they didn't just stare at them for a minute or so. "I just..." She makes a huffing sound and shakes hear head. "We'll be right back. Just need this man to tear my clothes off. All of them."
And before anyone else could recover (although Varric does make a choking sound), she grabs Fenris' hand and they disappear behind one of the side doors into one of the countless offices that used to house Templar officials before it all came crashing down. The door closes with a loud bang, suspiciously like it was slammed shut with a booted foot, and immediately following that there's yet another thud from behind it as the thick oak shakes slightly in its frame.
"Well." Varric says in a pensive voice, trying very hard not to look in that direction. "Um... anyone thinks the weather is quite nice for this kind of... doomsday we're having here?"
"Mmm." Isabela sits down slowly, stretches her long legs in front of her and sets to sharpening her daggers with a whetstone she whips out from her belt. She's whistling. "I think so. Unless..." She stops and tilts her head, listening as a loud crashing sound reverberates across the courtyard. "Oh. Chair?"
"Cupboard, probably." Varric says, and the ex-pirate nods as the next second they all hear the clash of crockery rolling on the floor behind that door.
"Yep. Cupboard." She holds up a hand. "Wait...wait..." Another sharp clanging noise. "Metal?"
"Washbasin in the corner, probably." Varric shrugs. "All these offices are set up the same. Seen one, seen all."
"Ah." Isabela nods sagely, probing the edge of one of her weapons. She clicks her tongue disapprovingly and continues with the whetstone. "Heavy tables?" she asks, hopefully.
"Massive oak ones." Varric says, brows furrowing. "With fancy scrollwork and everything, though."
"Ouch." Isabela winces. "I hope there are pillows?" she asks after a little while.
"Oh, I honestly doubt they bothered." Varric is skeptical, assessing the faint noises coming from behind the door. "No armor to get out of...so what? Ten minutes?"
"Come on, Varric." Isabela coos, looking at the dawrf coyly from behind her eyelashes. "Give that girl some credit. At least fifteen."
"Fine." The dwarf leans back, triumphant smile on his face. "Want to bet?"
"Got a hourglass?" Isabela is all business. "If not, maybe I can get one from the templars..." She jumps up and looks determined. "Five sovereigns?"
"The usual." Varric nods and watches the ex-pirate saunter away, cornering one of the younger recruits with her question, shaking his head at yet another clash from behind that door. "Armor stand." he murmurs, just to himself as he identifies the noise. "Damn, girl, you're wasting time." He glances up the sky where the Tower looms and sighs. "On second thought, take as long as you want. Even if I lose those five sovereigns." He smoothes oil on Bianca's worn mechanism and chuckles. " But by Andraste's dimpled buttcheks, to see your face when you finally come out of there will be worth ten times more."