The desolate landscape spread out before him, distant fires still burning in every direction as far as the eye could see. He was running, his breath coming in harsh pants. He sensed the presence of others running with him and looked behind to see his family gamely trying to keep pace with him. At this rate, if they ran into more darkspawn, he doubted his siblings ability to fight. He was in better shape than either of them, always had been. While his father had trained him in magic, he had sought training frequently from others. He had learned ways to train his body and mind to work better together, to conserve his energy. He had learned to use weapons other than magic, like his fists. He had worked hard to build up his physical strength and consequently was more muscular and fit than even most of the templars he had to constantly dodge over the years. He knew that if he kept this pace that he would still have enough energy to fight, but he couldn't do it alone and so slowed his pace a little. Looking for a more sheltered spot than the open path, he finally spied an outcropping of rock and headed towards it.
"We'll rest here for a couple of minutes," he told them as they came up to him.
"I don't know how much longer I can keep running," Bethany panted out, bent at the waist and gulping air like crazy. She saw her mother stumble and quickly caught her arm and helped her to sit. "Are you alright?" she asked the woman.
"I just need to catch my breath," Leandra Amell Hawke whispered. She looked up at her children standing around her. First at her twins Bethany and Carver, the ones who looked like her, like every Amell before them. Then she looked at her eldest, Gavin, the only one of her children to inherit Malcolm's dark red hair and green eyes. He stood over them, watching the land around them, keeping an eye out for trouble. He looked like he was just out for a stroll, not on the run for his life. She saw him stiffen and sighed inwardly.
"We need to get moving," Gavin told them and helped his mother to her feet.
"Wait, get moving to where?" Bethany asked. "We can't keep running aimlessly."
"We can't stay still either," Gavin told her. "We'll figure something out, but we won't get the chance if we don't get moving soon. There is a group of darkspawn headed this way right now."
"We can go to Kirkwall," Leandra spoke up.
"What? That's insane!" Gavin stared aghast at her.
"There's a lot of templars in Kirkwall Mother," Bethany reminded her nervously.
"We have family there, and an estate," Leandra insisted.
"Sounds good to me," Carver chuckled.
"Yes, it would," Gavin snorted. "Tell you what, you go ahead with mother. Bethany and I will find some place where we won't be looking over our shoulders all the time."
"No, we stay together," their mother said desperately. "I've already lost everything else, I won't lose any of you."
"Then we'll have to get to Gwaren and find a ship to take us," Bethany said, laying a soothing hand on her mother. She saw Gavin about to protest again and shook her head slightly.
Gavin scowled and then huffed, "Fine, we'll go to Kirkwall." He turned his back and started off down the path again. Kirkwall, the City of Chains, former Tevinter stronghold, and the single largest Templar holding in all the Free Marches. Wonderful, brilliant, just the place for two apostates.
On they went, picking up another soldier and her Templar husband, both running from the horde just like they were. Fighting wave after wave of darkspawn. His mabari, Fang, snarling and growling as he tore open the throats of the monsters. Then, the ground trembling, thudding and the feeling of impending doom welling up in his chest. He looked up and barely managed to dodge the charge of a huge Ogre. Struggling to his feet, he saw the beast stop and roar and then reach down towards two figures. He watched in horror as the creature picked up his sister and then smashed her into the ground over and over before tossing her aside.
"Bethany!" he shouted and felt something grab him.
"Gavin, wake up," Aveline shook the mage at her side. His anguished cry had rung through the hull of the cargo vessel they were huddled in, startling and scaring the other passengers.
Gavin sat up with a start and looked around to see that he wasn't on that desolate plain anymore. He rubbed his hand down his face and took several deep breaths. He felt a soft hand on his arm and looked over to see his mother watching him with concern.
"Are you alright?" Leandra asked gently, hiding her dismay when her son pulled away from her.
"I'm fine, mother, nothing for you to worry about," Gavin said flatly. He saw the hurt look on his mother's face but ignored it.
"You were dreaming about our sister again," Carver said bluntly.
"No really?" Gavin said sarcastically. "Brilliant deduction. Good thing soldiers don't need to have a brain, just brawn."
"Gavin," his mother gasped, scandalized. "Apologize to your brother."
"It's alright, he's just being his usual obnoxious self," Carver said bitterly.
Aveline saw the cold fury in Gavin's eyes and the way he clenched his fists like he was getting ready to hit something, or someone. She reached out and got a firm grip on the mage's arm, "We are in the dank hold of a ship out in the middle of the ocean. This is neither the time nor the place for family squabbles. I think the sailors would just as soon toss you overboard as clap you in irons for fighting. Drop it or I drop you, understand."
Gavin looked into the hard, green eyes of the woman who had accompanied them from the outskirts of Lothering. She had had to put her own husband to the sword to spare the man from the darkspawn taint. He had no doubt that she would knock him out if she felt it necessary. Reluctantly he nodded and she released his arm. Without a word, he got to his feet and moved farther into the hold, his mabari following faithfully. Settling down against a far wall, he drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around, staring straight ahead, not really seeing anything.
"Of all my children, Gavin has always been the most reasonable, the most level headed," Leandra said softly, shaking her head in bewilderment.
"With what everyone's been through, it's not surprising that our nerves are raw," Aveline said soothingly. "But, if I might make an observation, it is more than just seeing all the death and destruction the darkspawn caused. It's just a guess, but Gavin was very close to his sister wasn't he?"
Leandra nodded, "He's four years older than the twins and always looked out for them, but most especially for his sister." She looked around briefly and then lowered her voice to just above a whisper. "With both of them being mages, it was only natural that they should learn from and draw strength from each other."
"Carver felt left out didn't he?" Aveline said shrewdly.
"Malcolm tried very hard to include him, but Carver could never understand most of what they talked about," Leandra nodded. "So, he often sought me out. I tried so hard not to play favorites with the children, as did Malcom."
"I think I understand," Aveline nodded. From what she observed and from things said, it was obvious that Gavin and Bethany had bonded with their father and each other. While they didn't consciously try to exclude Carver, it was inevitable that the boy would feel left out. Leandra had spoken to her of the years spent moving around before they settled in Lothering and tried to build a life, one that had been destroyed when the Horde had surged north out of the Korcari Wilds. The strain it must have put on the family was unimaginable and she admired them for sticking together through everything.
"I wasn't going to say anything yet, but I feel I must," Aveline said as she faced Leandra again. "I saw Gavin's face when you accused him of being responsible for Bethany's death." She saw the woman open her mouth to protest and held up a hand. "I know that it was grief that made you say it, that you didn't really mean it. But, it cut your son to the core. At some point I know you'll want to tell him that you're sorry, but I suggest that you wait until after we get settled in Kirkwall to do so."
"I didn't mean to hurt him," Leandra shook her head, tears welling in her eyes.
"Grief makes us do and say stupid things sometimes," Aveline said softly. She also suspected that Carver blamed his brother too. She made a promise to herself to keep an eye on them once they reached their destination. She knew that Kirkwall was a bad place to be a mage and knew that Gavin would need all the support he could get. Hopefully, the old adage that time heals all wounds held true.