In her Denerim home, on a morning in late spring, some three months after Queen Anora's conference with the Warden Commander, Aveline Vallen watched the last templars leaving the city. The war had finally touched Denerim.
The Bannorn had agreed upon Anora's decree, and the banns were in favor of the ruling that the templars were no longer welcome in Denerim. The Circle was allowed to remain, using the old Chantry building. First Enchanter Irving returned, with a dozen mages loyal to him. They were a solitary group, but well liked by the remaining people in Denerim. The mages were gentle, focused, and Irving proved popular amongst the young children.
Aveline bowed her head. She and Donnic had stayed in Denerim, though he wanted them to leave as soon as possible. He'd heard that Amaranthine held better promise, and that the Wardens, despite their insistence on being apolitical, had managed to keep the conflict to a minimum. Having a mage as the Warden Commander had some perks, Aveline supposed.
She heard a knock on the door. Picking up a sword from a nearby workbench, she peered through the small window in the door, before opening it. A haggard looking messenger stood there. "Guard Captain Aveline Vallen?"
"Message for you, Captain." He handed her a sealed, tightly rolled scroll.
"Who is it from?" she asked, hesitantly taking it.
"Couldn't say, Guard Captain," he said. "Was left at a depot north of Denerim some time ago. I've been dashing back and forth, and I nearly forgot about it."
"When was this left?" Aveline asked, suddenly curious.
"There's a port, just north of the city," the messenger said. "I take messages where I can. This one was left about, ah, probably two weeks back now."
"Two weeks?" Aveline looked at the seal carefully. There was a stylized symbol on it, a series of interwoven knots, creating the sigil of a dragon. She looked at the messenger, and handed him two gold pieces. He looked stunned, then thanked her profusely and hurried away.
Aveline closed the door, and held the scroll in her hands.
She slowly wandered around the common room of the house, not wanting to open it for fear of what it contained. Donnic walked out of their bedroom. "Everything all right?" he asked. He saw the scroll. "Who's it from?"
"I think it might be news," she said. She gently cracked the seal, and unrolled the parchment.
The handwriting was blocky, scrawled in poor man's ink, but the message read:
Hello from the land of the living. You look beautiful. Your man's not in bad shape either. Kiss her for me, guardsman.
There was no signature.
Aveline looked at Donnic. "Hawke's alive," she said softly.
In the middle of the ocean, a two-mast ship glided through the waters, red sigiled sails catching the air. At the bough, a woman wearing a long black shirt secured with white cords, knee-length trousers, and tall, buckled boots stood, watching the horizon coming at her. She closed her eyes against the salty wind in her face, relished the taste of freedom, the feeling of life. She leaned her elbows on the railings, the sky reaching out, offering the rest of the world for her to see.
She glanced over her shoulder, and saw a man standing on the nets, gripping tightly with one hand, his other reaching out over the waves. He wore black trousers and boots, and a white shirt with the sleeves bunched up; his hands and wrists were covered in soft black leather wraps. His black hair was tied back in a long tail, his skin burned darker by the sun, his pale gray eyes clear and bright, watching the world. He caught her watching him, and gave her a wide grin.
She returned it and waved. He waved back with his free hand, moved it back over the water, and twisted his fingers. Sea water plumed into the air, spinning and splashing, dancing just for her, before spinning toward her, freezing and shattering into delicate ice crystals, raining down around her. She laughed, lifting up her hands to touch the suspended droplets before they vanished.
The crew gathered on the deck cheered.
"Now that," shouted the man on the nets, "is how one impresses a pirate, gentlemen!"
Captain Isabela would be the first to admit she was impressed. The wind whipped through her hair. She watched Marekh Hawke, climbing nets, giving orders, the ship an extension of his own body, knowing it as well as Isabela did. He'd taken to the sea as naturally as she'd always suspected he would.
When he appeared beside her, sliding down a long rope, he wrapped an arm around her waist, and kissed her cheek. "Where to now?" he wanted to know.
"There," she said, pointing to a spot in the distance.
"You sure? What about over there?"
"Qunari that way."
"Hm, well, I'm sure there are dragons the other direction."
"I could use a pet dragon," she said.
"You've already got me," he said.
"I do, and you are splendid with fire." She shifted her hand. "No, I changed my mind. We're going that way."
"What's that way?"
"I've never been. What's in Antiva?"
"Pirates, gangs, intrigue, adventure, assassins, all those things we love."
"I do love pirates," he agreed.
"To Antiva then," she said, and kissed him. "Let's go have an adventure."
Author's Note: To those of you who rode out this little journey with me, I say thank you. I hope you enjoy what you've read. There might be further adventures for our Hawke and Isabela, but for now, I'm letting them sail off into the sunset. Let's be honest, these kids deserve a holiday.
Again, thanks to those who've stuck with me. Thank you, thank you, and a third time, thank you.