Morning came to reveal dawn streaked skies, calm waters and the cacophonous sounds of a busy port. There was only one person who could wake Aeoryn up in the morning without receiving a black eye, Aveline had learned that the hard way so she gently stirred Bethany first.
Bethany mumbled something indiscernible sleepily but did start waking up. Rolling over she propped herself up on her elbow and lightly touched Aeoryn's face, "Air, we're here."
Aeoryn mumbled something incoherent just as Bethany had moments ago.
Bethany smiled and kissed her cheek, "Come on Air, up you get." she playfully zapped her sister.
Aeoryn nearly hit the roof, "Bloody void!" she shouted, shoving her sister away roughly, "Necessary?" she glared at Bethany in bleary eyed annoyance.
Bethany just laughed, "Totally worth it." she pushed herself up off of the deck she was sprawled on and straightened out her clothes, "Come on."
Aeoryn stretched and yawned away her not so pleasant dreams before getting up. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs and their weapons, everything else was gone. Heading up on deck she was met by Captain Saunders.
"Hawke." he nodded to her with a gruff tone of voice, "Gonna miss you." he held out his hand.
Aeoryn smirked and took his hand, "Oh you'll find someone else soon enough." she assured him in a low but light tone of voice.
He scoffed, "Hawke, there is no one in this Maker forsaken cesspit like you. You ever need anything, I'm your man." he wanted to kiss her but knew she wouldn't in front of her family.
Aeoryn bowed her head politely, "Thank you Malcolm." she murmured.
His heart lurched in his chest at hearing his name from those luscious lips but she'd released his hand and was walking away, he hoped he'd see her again.
Aveline glared at the intimidating gates of what looked more like a fortress or prison than Kirkwall proper, a glance across the harbor proved that. "They're not letting people in."
"Shit, what in the void are we supposed to do now?" Carver swore, running his hand through his hair anxiously.
Bethany looked to her sister expectantly, she always had a plan.
"We introduce ourselves to our hosts and ask for a message to be sent to Uncle Gamlen." Aeoryn responded as though it were simply common sense, she was already walking to where a group of refugees had gathered around a couple city guards.
The guardsman noticed her and rolled his eyes, "Get back with the others Ferelden." he growled.
"What is this place?" she asked, unconcerned by his tone.
"The Gallows, it's where the mages are locked up." he responded simply, taking another look at her, she was actually quite good looking considering she'd just come off of a boat.
"They imprison mages here?" Bethany's surprised gasp didn't escape his notice.
"Only way to keep 'em in control, where they should be." He shrugged, his anti-mage sentiments all too apparent.
Before anything else could be said on the matter Aeoryn interceded, "I notice not everyone is being kept here." she nodded towards a market stall where people were being marked off and sent by small ship across to Kirkwall proper.
"Knight Commander Meredith's allowing merchants or people with legitimate business into the city, not refugees." he responded quite arrogantly.
At that she frowned, "That's a templar title, what are city guards doing reporting to templars?"
"She's the power in Kirkwall, other than the Viscount, and good at keeping order. Not that you'll know, you'll be shipped off..." he was cut off by the woman.
"We have family in the city and are expected. Is there some way I can get a message to my uncle?" she was very unimpressed with the man but kept her cool nonetheless.
"You've all got bloody family." he snapped in annoyance, that was until the look she leveled him with twisted his insides. He thumbed over his shoulder, "Go see the Captain, up the stairs to your right in the courtyard." he sighed.
Aeoryn just nodded and strode passed him. She was well aware of the looks she got, many of them admiring, some wary and only a few who realized that she was much more than she appeared.
The Captain was one of these people and he considered her closely as she approached. Her smooth stride, the subtleness borne of utter confidence in her abilities, her calm expression that was so opposite to just about every other person present in the Gallows courtyard, these things all told him to take this woman seriously. His mind was brought back to the rabble before him, some of them looked... sicker than normal.
"We paid good coin to get 'ere!" One of the leaders snarled.
"That's not my concern, ships will be here soon to take you back to Ferelden." he sighed and turned his attention to the beautiful woman as she approached. "As I've told these gentlemen, the city is closed to refugee's. You will have to return to Ferelden as soon as a ship becomes available." he informed her in a rather monotone voice.
"I understand, however, my uncle Gamlen Amell is expecting us. All I ask is that you allow a message to be sent to him." her tone was silk and honey, her smile seductive and her face slightly lowered for full effect.
And it was not lost on the man who felt his insides flutter. He cleared his throat, "I know Gamlen. What do you need?"
"Oi wha? We been here for days, they only jus go' 'ere." one of the man complained and that brought up a whole mess of complaints.
Aeoryn shot a glance at Bethany, a clear move in her eyes.
Bethany grabbed her mothers hand and dragged her back out of the group quickly.
Not more than a moment later the refugees were pulling weapons.
"Defend the guard." Aeoryn ordered Carver and Aveline, pulling out her daggers in a swift, smooth motion. She set her sights on the closest idiot and flew at him.
Carver shot a glance over to Bethany to see she'd pre-empted the attack and moved herself and mother away, neither of them would risk participating in this frenzy. He drew his broadsword and roared before he charged a man whose veins were turning black from the taint.
Aveline made sure to keep herself between the two unarmed women and the fray of men, also keeping an eye on Aeoryn.
Aeoryn danced around her opponents with grace, speed and power. Her daggers slashing at presented vulnerabilities crippling men and killing them with ruthless efficiency. One idiot lunged at her with his sword, she simply melted around it, spinning full circle and slamming her blade into the side of his head, withdrawing it in the same motion as she blocked another's sword with her left hand. Ducking around it she lashed out with her right hand and blood spurted from his now severed throat.
The Captain stared at her, slack jawed and wide eyed. He had never seen anything like her before. The way she moved her entire body was breathtaking, her expression was cool and collected as though she were simply taking a stroll and not taking lives. It seemed only minutes and all of the rabble rousers were dead at their feet.
Aveline recognized his look, it was a similar one Aeoryn had received at Ostagar. "You should have seen her take down an ogre single handedly." she nodded towards the woman with a sad smile.
Aeoryn looked down at herself and sighed, she was covered in blood. Crouching down she wiped her blades on the shirt of a dead man before sheathing them. "So Captain, that letter?" she asked softly, as though the onslaught hadn't just happened.
He grinned then laughed, "Very impressive my dear. If I may be so bold, should you and your family make it into Kirkwall you should join the guard, we could use someone with your skills."
Aeoryn merely smiled, "I shall consider it, thank you serrah." She looked around at the bodies, "I know this is a rather... morbid request, but as you can imagine my family and I fled with nothing. Would you be at all opposed if we searched the bodies for valuables?"
"Hawke!" Aveline growled at her at such a horrid request.
"We have no food and unless you want to resort to other methods of payment we have no coin until Uncle Gamlen comes." she pointed out quickly, her gaze returning to the Captain.
He merely nodded, not showing any sign of discomfort at the request as he understood their position.
Carver helped but Aveline couldn't bring herself to search the bodies of the dead. They found coin and a couple choice daggers Aeoryn found new homes for in her boots, one could never have too many she pointed out. While they did that Leandra wrote a letter to her brother with the paper and ink a guard brought her. Sending it on its way all they could do was wait and pray.
Aveline had been impressed at how Aeoryn had provided for her family. While there was nowhere but the ground to sleep she had managed to get them blankets and food enough that while they remained hungry they didn't starve. After three days with no word from Gamlen tensions were rising. She had picked up that Aeoryn and Carver were not close on the boat and now his biting remarks were starting to get under the usually calm and collected elder Hawke's skin.
"I'm so bloody hungry I could eat a whole bloody halla." Carver growled, glaring at Aeoryn like it was her fault.
"Then imagine how those of us who have had far less to eat then you are feeling right now." Aeoryn returned with a slight growl to her tone.
"I'm a man and I'm bigger, of course I need to eat more." he scoffed.
"So perhaps you should go and find your own share of food." Aeoryn shot at him.
"Isn't that your job? You're the one with the coin." He returned sharply.
Aeoryn promptly pulled out her coin pouch and tossed it at him, "Be my guest Carver."
Leandra was instantly concerned as Carver surged to his feet.
"Fine!" he snarled and stormed off.
"Was that wise?" Leandra asked her daughter softly.
"There's only three silvers in there." she produced another pouch that looked to be at least a quarter full.
Bethany laughed, "You were waiting for him to do that weren't you?"
At that Aeoryn grinned, "Yep. I'm betting he comes back bruised with only enough food to feed himself if anything at all."
"And you just let him go off by himself?" Beth frowned at her big sister.
"He's been whining like a baby since we got here. I'm just as tired and hungry as he is, my patience is not limitless." she growled in annoyance.
Beth said nothing more, she was right after all, Carver had only been making their bad situation even worse.
Sure enough not more than half an hour later Carver returned with a bloodied nose, black eye, no food and no coin. He pushed Beth away as she moved to heal him, "Don't be an such a bloody idiot, you can't here." he snarled at her and plonked back down beside Aeoryn.
Aeoryn's fist snapped out and sent him sprawling with a blow to the side of his head.
"What the fuck was that for!" he yelled at her angrily.
"For losing our money and insulting Beth. Now quit you're incessant whining or go introduce your face to someone else's fist." she growled at him.
It was the first time she'd snapped at him in anger and he was about to return the favor when she turned to look at him and her eyes made his blood run cold. He shut up instantly and looked away, red faced.
Beth bit her lip to keep from chuckling at her siblings, Carver deserved it after all.
Aeoryn noticed a man approaching who had eyes only for mother, "Mother is that Gamlen?" she asked softly.
Leandra turned quickly and her face lit up, "Gamlen!" she got to her feet and hugged him like a girl.
Gamlen chuckled, "Maker Leandra, the years haven't been kind to you."
The others got up quickly.
Leandra didn't point out that they'd not been kind to him either.
"Let me say up front I wasn't expecting this... you... the blight... your husband, dead. I-I don't even know if I can get your family in." He admitted rather uncomfortably as he rubbed his neck, stepping back from her quickly, a little too quickly.
Aeoryn's eyes narrowed, there was something very shift about him. He certainly wasn't dressed as the nobleman mother had painted him as, his clothes were old, rather unkempt and he seemed to be disheveled all round.
"We were too late. My darling little Rachel didn't make it. But these are my children, Aeoryn, Carver and Bethany." she introduced them softly.
Gamlen's gaze fell on Aeoryn who was obviously the eldest and his eyes widened a little, "Well you certainly made a good looking bunch Leandra." it was hardly surprising considering she had been quite the belle when she was younger.
Aeoryn instantly disliked the way he gazed over herself and Bethany.
"We've got nowhere else to go, surely the estate..." Leandra stopped at the way he cringed.
"Right, I've been meaning to write you about that. There um, there's no estate. Debts to pay off." he looked awfully squeamish right now.
"What! You mean there's no money? How the hell'r we supposed to get in then?" Carver demanded, looking to Aeoryn.
"Well I've a couple contacts who could help, if you're not too delicate about the company you keep. Catch is you'd be working off the debt for a year." he could already see that Aeoryn and Carver could fight and Leandra had told him Bethany was an apostate.
"A year?" Leandra gasped, shocked at the very idea.
"Well, think of it as a job waiting for you." he looked from Leandra to Aeoryn.
"Tell us about them." Aeoryn didn't care about working off a debt as long as it got her family into Kirkwall where they could finally have a bed and decent meal.
"Athenril and Meeran are my contacts, I've convinced them to come here to meet you but it's a bloody lot of coin. You'll have to convince them you're worth it. Meeran runs a mercenary group called the Red Iron. Athenril... well you could say she's a smuggler." Gamlen gave them the only two options that were available.
They all looked to Aeoryn, Gamlen could see instantly that she was the one in charge.
"What's this Meeran like?" She asked him calmly though her eyes were dark.
"He's a hired sword what do you think he'd be like? But he's got a decent reputation and I wouldn't have asked him if I thought he'd cross you." He grumbled at the accusation in her eyes.
"What about Athenril?" she made no further comment on the Red Iron.
"It wouldn't be pretty working for Athenril, they're a pretty small fish compared to some of the other smuggling rings. They never deal in slaves or flesh and Athenril's tough but fair." He shrugged.
Aeoryn considered the options before her. She glanced at Bethany who was her true deciding factor.
Bethany said nothing but kept her sisters gaze, she could see her thinking this through and already she could tell that Aeoryn didn't like either option. But they had no other choices.
"Carver I imagine you would be more comfortable with the Red Iron." she looked to him, "I'm not comfortable with either option but smuggling would open more opportunities to endanger Bethany and I will not allow that. So we'll talk to Meeran." she nodded back to Gamlen.
"What about me?" Aveline asked firmly, "I will not be a further burden on your family."
"I don't see that it matters." Gamlen shrugged.
Aeoryn turned to Aveline. For the first time in their time of knowing each other she stepped over to the taller stronger red head and hugged her, "You are family, Aveline." she murmured.
Those simple words turned Aveline's world upside down. Other than Wesley she had been alone for a very long time. She stood stiffly for a moment before she hesitantly hugged the younger woman but the hug was only brief as Aeoryn pulled back.
"So," Aeoryn smirked, "I'll kick your ass if you do anything stupid like Carver."
"Hey I'm right here you know." Carver growled, his jaw was still smarting though not as much as his pride at what had happened.
"And how's your jaw little brother?" she returned promptly.
He glowered but Bethany's hand on his arm stopped him from saying something else.
"Meeran." she turned back to Gamlen expectantly.
Gamlen led the way into the gallows courtyard.
It was busy as always and though they'd been there a week other's who'd been there long enough knew that the gorgeous blonde haired, blue eyed Aeoryn Hawke was not to be messed with. A few hands had been severed for touching the younger dark haired sister and even a few black eyes for trying to rip her off.
Gamlen nodded to a small group of men in reddened armor waiting in a corner, "There they are."
Aeoryn moved towards them, eyeing them over to determine who Meeran was. Judging from the positions of the men she determined an older looking man with gray hair and scarred face was Meeran.
Meeran glanced over at the four approaching him though his attention was quickly enrapt by the blonde. The way she moved declared she was skilled in a combat style he rarely saw in his line of work, a true dancer of the blades. He had only met two others like her, they'd killed each other in an epic duel that was still talked about to this day. But unlike them her feminine grace was truly captivating.
"Meeran." she greeted him with a nod, her voice soft.
"You must be Hawke, niice." he boldly looked over her.
Carver gave a startled cough and Bethany instantly looked uncomfortable as she glanced at her sister waiting for the worst to happen.
"Meeran, I should advise you that if you were any other man right now you would be on your ass. It's only out of courtesy for your possible assistance in getting my family into the city that you are still standing." she purred in a rather seductive manner that neither sibling had ever seen her use.
Meeran laughed, "You are a saucy little minx. If you're as good with your blades as your uncle makes out I'll get you and your family in." his gaze flicked to Bethany but before he could speak Aeoryn's sultry tones deepened.
"I'd like to know more about you first."
"Right, you're not a Marcher like you're uncle. The Red Iron take wha' jobs we want, when we want, we look afta our own and mess up anyone who crosses us. Simple as 'at." he shrugged, the Red Iron had a reputation few risked crossing and many paid good gold for.
"Sounds... good." Aveline looked to Aeoryn whose calm demeanor belied her highly protective and when required positively violent tendencies.
Carver was grinning from ear to ear, "It does sis."
Bethany said nothing, this wasn't really her thing, Aeoryn and Carver were the swords in the family, she'd always remained hidden.
"I'm under the impression it will take a lot of coin to get us in to the city." Aeoryn had made up her mind already but information was the difference between life and death and the more information she had the better of they'd be.
"Did I mention we're paid a lot of coin? Besides..." he looked to the younger girl who obviously didn't have the same fighting abilities as the others, "not every day we're offered the services of an apostate."
Bethany paled in fear.
Aeoryn growled, "I hadn't realized Gamlen had told you that."
Meeran noted the flick of her fingers towards her weapon, "Don't worry, we'll protect her, unless you do somfin' stupid."
Aeoryn met his glare with a fierce one of her own.
He smirked, this girl was going to make him a lot of coin.
"I assume you have a test of some kind to prove ourselves." it was a statement not a question.
"Noble bastard by the name of Frederick gave us bad intel, got my boys killed. You're gonna return the favor." he leveled her with a rather pissed off look.
Aeoryn could see that he didn't take this as a matter of some code of conduct but as something personal. The mercenaries in the Red Iron were his family. She nodded to him, "Where is he?"
"By the docks waitin' for a ship outta here. My boys can't get near 'im but you can. Got a guard of six wiv 'im." He crossed his arms and gestured with his head for them to go.
Aeoryn led them with Bethany falling into step with her, she looked to her sister nervously, she could see the anger boiling beneath that calm exterior like no one else could. "Air..."
"If anything happens to you because of Gamlen's big mouth I don't care that he's blood... I'll kill him." Aeoryn growled. This changed everything, had he told Athenril as well?
"And what would mother say to that? Killing her brother and all..." Bethany couldn't help but smile at her big sister's protectiveness.
Aeoryn hissed through her teeth, "I'll make it look like an accident. She'll never know." there was a touch of dry humor to her tone though as she acknowledged death for that man wasn't an option.
Bethany smiled and linked her arm with Aeoryn's swiftly kissing her cheek, "I love you sis." she whispered.
Aeoryn softened, "Let Carver, Aveline and I deal with this, it's far to open for your skills." she murmured just in case Bethany got any ideas.
Beth nodded and stayed in step with her. She knew that she and Aeoryn had always received more than their fair share of attention when they were together, Aeoryn's beauty was one that every man would fall to their knees for and hers was of an innocence that that belied the true danger she possessed. So with them side by side no one ever anticipated they could be in trouble, until it was too late. This was why Aeoryn hadn't let go of her arm as they approached a small group of men who matched the description of Meeran.
"Are you sure about this Hawke?" Aveline asked softly from behind.
"There is nothing I wouldn't do for the protection of my family. These fools will not be the first I've killed nor will they be the last. Stay with Bethany and make sure none of them try anything on her." Aeoryn murmured over her shoulder, confident that she and Carver could handle them. She looked to her brother, "You and me, Carver. Wait for me to draw first and try not to yell." she released Bethany's arm, smiling sweetly at the haggard looking nobleman who had noticed them some time ago.
Bethany and Aveline hung back, Bethany admiring the scenery and even pointing something out casually.
"Excuse me but are you perchance serrah Frederick?" Aeoryn asked in her silky smooth tone.
He flashed her a rather lecherous smile, "Indeed I am, and who might you be, such a rare and delicate flower?"
Carver burst out laughing, "A delicate flower? That's gotta be a first sis."
"You forgot 'rare' brother dearest." she smirked, walking in between the first of the guards who were totally unaware that they were in danger. In a flash her blades appeared in her hands and she slashed their throats without missing a step. Flicking her wrists saw one of her blades between the eyes of Frederick and the other similarly positioned in a guard beside him.
Carver hurriedly drew his sword and beheaded a man to the right of his sister as she stepped aside deliberately leaving the target for him.
The last guard turned and run in fear.
"Carver he's yours." Aeoryn nodded to him as she knelt down to retrieve her daggers.
Carver grinned and sprinted after him, "Oi! Who said ya could leave!"
Wiping her blades clean she concealed them again and looted the bodies. Frederick had a very nice pouch of gold on him that she pocketed quickly, along with some jewelry she could sell once they were in Kirkwall, there was no point trying here in the Gallows.
Carver returned with a swagger to his step that signified a successful hunt and take down.
Aeoryn smiled to him, "Nice work Carver." while her little brother pissed her off no end she knew that if she didn't at least try and acknowledge the good things he did their tenuous relationship would fall apart.
He shrugged, "Coulda left me more ya know." he grunted, pleased at the praise though.
"Oh I'm sure you'll get more with the Red Iron." Aeoryn sighed, standing up and heading back to the others.
Meeran looked to them grinning, of course he'd watched them perform the deed. That Aeoryn Hawke was going to make them a stack load of coin.
"Dead and buried... well dead at any rate." She smirked to him.
"Welcome to the Red Iron, Hawke." he held out his hand to her.
Aeoryn shook it firmly.
"One of tha boys'll come get ya when the bribe's paid." he assured her before moving off.
"Well, looks like we're in." Carver felt a sense of relief wash through him, he was looking forward to a decent meal and an actual bed.
"Thank the Maker." Bethany sighed, leaning in to her sister again.
Aeoryn didn't say anything as she walked over to where their mother and uncle were waiting.
"So? How'd it go?" Gamlen asked her curiously.
Aeoryn smiled but it didn't reach her eyes, "Was there ever any doubt?"
The worry in their mother's expression vanished, "Thank you darlings I... I don't know what I'd do without you." she hugged Aeoryn tightly.
Aeoryn held her and shot a glare at Gamlen.
Gamlen frowned, wondering what the look was for, and why it made his stomach twist.
"One of the Red Iron will get us when the bribe's sorted. Gamlen if I may have a word with you, privately." she asked softly though her tone indicated it was not a request.
Leandra pulled back and looked to her daughter quizzically.
"Erm of course." he shrugged and walked a few paces away.
"Air... don't." Bethany murmured, highly worried now.
Aeoryn said nothing and moved after their uncle until they were out of earshot of the others. "Thank you for your help Gamlen."
He relaxed a little, "Of course, what's family for right?" he gave a nervous chuckle.
She smiled, "I'm not sure of where we're going from here..."
"I've got a place in Lowtown, it's... small, but it's a roof over your head at least." he shrugged, his little shack wasn't really for more than two people, an additional four was going to be quite... cosy.
"I'll do everything I can to get us out of your space as soon as possible. I can't see that happening before the contract with the Red Iron is completed though." she sighed, she felt decidedly uncomfortable at the prospect of living with this man, he may be family but he was a stranger to her.
"Your mother paints you as a resourceful young woman, I'm sure you'll do well." he didn't really know how to behave around young women, especially nieces.
"Since we'll be living with you, considering Bethany... it's vital you tell no one else about her. You should not have informed Meeran or Athenril of her abilities." her amiable tone became a little darker and her expression firm.
He frowned at her, "I had to give them something or they wouldn't have..."
She held up her hand for silence, "What's done is done and as I said, we're very grateful for your help. I will deal with Athenril and we will have to tread very carefully around Meeran and the Red Iron. I'm just very aware that you've never had to live with someone of her skills before and am asking for you to remain cautious when speaking of her." she assured her in the most civil tone she could muster.
"Of course, I understand." he nodded, she was going to be an interesting one to live with, that was for sure.
A couple hours later the Red Iron merc found them and took them all into the city. Gamlen took Leandra back to his place while the siblings were taken to the Red Iron headquarters. Aveline, however, had already made up her mind to try for the City Guard rather than the Red Iron. Being a member of the city guard would mean that she'd live in the barracks and cease being a burden on the Hawke's no matter how much they insisted it was okay.
Yes three chapters in one day! You are so spoiled! But I wanted to get the Hawke's into Kirkwall and get you all hooked, hopefully. If you've come this far I'm sure you'll like what's to come.
Don't forget to review, takes only a minute and is greatly appreciated!