Menagerie: Prologue – Stepping Stones

Victory. Hawke and his companions make it out of the Deep Roads alive and richer for it, despite Bartrand's betrayal. Maybe Garrett has lost his brother Carver to the will of the Templars, but Carver is alive and well and Garrett knows that at least the Gallows has a Templar the mages can trust. Carver gets to be his own man, and the mages have someone to protect them. Garrett can move their mother into the ancestral estate, and Leandra is happy like a little girl again, finally home, despite everything she's lost to get here.

Peace. Despite their general misgivings about each other's beliefs, Anders and Fenris have given their arguing a rest. They still debate, true, but they debate like intellectuals instead of enemies. The air between them is civil, nearly polite. None of their comrades understands this. Perhaps that's the point.

Conflict. There will be war with the Qunari, whether the large, horned people and their smaller fellows in faith will it or not. The religious extremist factions of the city will not tolerate competition, and with their fierce certainty about the world and their place in it, those of the Qun are the strongest competition the Chantry has seen in years.

Vengeance. The slavers finally pounce on Fenris. An apprentice magister tells the murderously angry warrior exactly where to find one of his former tormentors. Fenris promises Hadriana mercy when she surrenders, but the past's hurts are too much. His hand phases through her chest and rips out her heart seemingly of its own accord. He does not talk to anyone for three days.

Love. It takes subtle prodding from Hawke, and Fenris, and Anders, and finally some not-so-subtle prodding, but Aveline and Guardsman Donnic are finally lovers. And happy. Maker knows, someone in their mismatched menagerie of miserable mopes and pathological liars needs a stable, normal, happy relationship.

Betrayal. Despite going through Keeper Marethari's trials to acquire the Arulin'holm, Garrett does not give the tool to Merrill. The hurt that blooms in her wide green eyes is as tangible as a knife to Hawke's heart. She trusted him, and he betrayed her. Never mind that he's certain it's for her own good.

Scars. It's a stormy night, dark, the kind story writers everywhere like to cliché when Anders wanders up to Hightown in the rain because he's desperate to talk to someone who understands what it's like to have skin that hurts when the weather changes. He ends up on Fenris' doorstep. They talk, Anders tells stories about where some of his scars come from, and it is ironically Fenris who reminds him he does not need to fear his own skin. Afterwards, they maintain their civility, but neither speaks of that night for some time.

Awe. The Hero of Ferelden wanders into the Hanged Man one night. Anders is at first panicked that Cousland is there to drag him back. Cousland whacks some sense into his head, actually beats Isabela at Wicked Grace, and wistfully tells Hawke how much Leandra reminds him of his own mother. Then he blows out of their lives like an overnight storm, leaving them enough stories of the good old days to mourn Anders and Justice as they had been before becoming AndersandJustice.

Grief. Garrett panics when Gamlen tells him that Leandra is missing and the only sign of her is a bouquet of white lilies. Funeral flowers. The mark of the serial killer that has been plaguing Kirkwall and who now has Hawke's mother. It's too late to save her when they find her. All Garrett can do is kill the blood mage – Quentin – and put on a brave face for the stitched-together monstrosity that is Leandra's head with another woman's eyes stuck on a body that is another woman's hands, another's skin… Leandra's blood, black ichor, not completely her own, is still wet on Hawke's clothing when he is called out to rescue Seamus Dumar, the Viscount's son. Seamus is dead too, in the Chantry, one of the last voices of reason in Kirkwall, throat slit while Hawke was screaming over his mother's mangled corpse. Petrice is shot dead by a Qunari archer, but Seamus and Leandra are both dead. The first thing that happens when he gets home is his uncle Gamlen – never reasonable, less so in grief – snarling at him that it's all Garrett's fault that Leandra is dead and that all mages, Garrett included, should burn in the Void for it.

Author's Note: Sorry for re-loading the prologue, but the author note was missing the first time and I shouldn't type when I'm tired because I actually spelled 'panics' with a sodding k. Panicks. And no~body called me on it. Here I thought I was posting here instead of the kinkmeme so that my computer could spellcheck me. Anyway. My dipshit-ness aside, I had meant to explain that this may be slow to update. I'm an unemployed shmuck looking for a job. Also, I clearly need to spend more time editing. That, and I promise that following chapters will not be in 'stepping stone' style. They'll be actual chapters, with plot and everything.

Again, sorry to everyone who has this on alert (and there are an awful lot of you - where'd all y'all come from? I've never had a story this popular before [because most of the stuff I put on this site wasn't worth writing, forget reading]). I just needed to warn you that this will be updated slowly and irregularly and I had to Grammar Nazi myself on that spelling error.