The Rite of Tranquility is a mercy to those that are weak against a demon's pull.
-Codex of the Knights Templar of Andraste
The Gallows was aptly named.
Garrett paused in the center of the courtyard, Fenris at his side, and glanced around with a discerning eye. The amount of Tranquil hawking their wares in inflectionless tones was staggering. The Rite of Tranquility was only supposed to be given to those that asked for it. Those mages either feared the Harrowing and would rather a life bereft of emotion than death at the hands of a Templar, or they felt plagued by demons in their dreams and wanted an end to it.
The Rite was not for punishment.
Confinement, chores, beatings even, those were punishments. Taking things away, separating mages that had grouped together were common answers to rule violations.
This was sadistic.
To see so many Tranquil surrounded by the remnants of the Tevinter Imperium was just as startling. Old Tevinter statues lined the edges of the courtyard, staring down at the hapless mages below, as if to say 'We did this to you'.
Garrett shifted in his armor, thankful that he was no longer wearing a facsimile of what the Templars wore, but Warden armor instead. The fearful glances the non-Tranquil threw at him, were different than the downcast eyes they showed the Templars.
"How long has this been going on?" Garrett whispered to Fenris.
The elf glanced around the courtyard and raised an eyebrow. "This?"
"The Tranquil," Garrett hissed back. "Carver told me the Rite was being used to punish, but I didn't expect…" He trailed off, unable to give voice to what he had thought-the faint hope that it was all a mistake.
Cullen was Knight-Captain. He couldn't condone this. Why hadn't he stopped it?
"It's been this way for a long time now," Fenris replied. He shifted and eyed the bottom of one of his bare feet. "But there have been more in the recent months."
"Maker, help them," Garrett murmured. He had come to the Gallows in the vain hope that Justice was exaggerating the extent of what the Templars in Kirkwall were doing. He had left Anders with his brother and Bethany, taking Fenris with him to the Gallows. The elf had been there before, and had said that he could help Garrett find the one person that might be able to give him the answers he sought.
Exhaustion weighed Garrett down surer than the armor on his body. He had spent a restless night on the floor next to the bed Anders had slept in. There was a gulf between them, one that neither of them quite knew how to even begin to build a bridge to cross. They had spent the evening talking, their hands straying over each other, little touches of affection against hands, shoulders, and thighs.
When Garrett had awoken before Anders, he had stared down at the sleeping mage with hungry eyes, watching the slow rise and fall of his chest. How many times had Garrett seen this very exact same thing before? Anders had never been one for getting up early, and Garrett had had it instilled in him at a young age to rise when the sun did. There had always been chores to do and coin to be made to feed his family. In the past, Garrett would have brushed back Anders' tangled hair from his face and placed a light kiss on his lips, before departing for the day.
But Anders wasn't ready for that yet.
Anders had taken a chance on Garrett, getting pass his hatred of Templars long enough to see the man under the armor. Garrett could do not less for the mage. Whatever was happening to him because of Justice, Garrett would never forget the man he had fallen in love with.
Anders hadn't given up on Garrett and he would return the favor in kind.
A familiar voice broke Garrett out of his reverie. He turned to the sound to see Cullen striding towards him, the skirt of the more ornate armor of a Knight-Captain swirling around his legs.
He hadn't changed much since Garrett had seen him last. If anything, he looked better. His tightly curled, blonde hair was cropped as short to his scalp as ever, while the ever present shadow of a beard was on his jaw. He held himself a little bit straighter than Garrett had remembered, the mantle of Knight-Captain settling on his shoulders easily.
Garrett grinned as his old friend approached. To see the only other Templar that had survived the fall of the Tower with his eyes less haunted, gave Garrett hope.
But then Cullen opened his mouth.
"By the Maker, are you insane?" Cullen said in a low whisper when he reached them. He grabbed Garrett by the upper arm and pulled. Garrett let Cullen haul him behind a massive pillar, Fenris trailing in their wake.
Cullen's furtive eyes darted from side to side. "Serrah Fenris," he acknowledged. "You shouldn't have brought him here."
"Oh? Is there some reason why the Champion's brother can't come to the Gallows?" Fenris asked, crossing his arms over his chest. "He would have come with or without me. He was under the impression you would be glad to see him."
"He can also speak for himself," Garrett said dryly.
Cullen let go of Garrett and took a step back. "So it's true then." He gestured to Garrett's armor. "You became a Grey Warden and abandoned the order."
"I didn't abandon shit." Garrett tapped at his breastplate where the twin griffons of the Grey Wardens were emblazoned in bright blue. "You of all people should know that I did my duty, Cullen. We both did. The order abandoned me."
"We do not abandon our brothers," Cullen said through gritted teeth. "There was a time when I was lost, but the order gave me strength and purpose again. You should have come to me, Garrett. The things they say you did…"
"Who?" Garrett shot back. "And what do they say?" This was what he had been afraid of, but he'd had to come. In order to help Anders, there had been no choice.
"That you killed your commanding knight. That you slaughtered the knights with her. That you became a Grey Warden to escape justice and the Warden-Commander of Ferelden knows of your crimes and condones them. That you have an apostate lover who…" Cullen's eyes drifted to Garrett's ear and the small gold hoop that dangled from it. "Anders… He's in Kirkwall, I've seen him. It's why you're here, isn't it? You use to sneak down into the dungeons to spend time with him when we were in the Tower. I had heard that Anders had become a Warden. He's still living up to his reputation in the Tower, but this time he is proving harder to catch."
Garrett reared back in surprise. "How did you—"
"Oh, please," Cullen scoffed. "We were friends. Back then I didn't see the harm in it. You weren't seeking to free him. I use to think that being friendly towards the mages went a long way. I see the error in that now. We can never be friends with them. The loss of vigilance was what caused the horror in the Tower. I won't make that mistake again."
"So you condone the use of the Rite of Tranquility being applied so freely?" Garrett accused. "Maker, Cullen, have you seen how many are in your courtyard? What have the Templars in Kirkwall been doing? My own mother was murdered by a blood mage. One that Carver has told me was loose for years. There was a single Templar that was searching for him, but he was ignored to his peril. There was once a time when he would have been hunted down after the first murder. Instead the Templars of Kirkwall hire men like my brother to do it for them, while they terrorize the mages of Kirkwall."
"Fear is what will keep them in check." Cullen began pacing in front of him, long strides back and forth in his agitation. "They no longer feared us in the Circle Tower. Just as we no longer feared them. Kirkwall hangs in the balance, and I mean to see that balance tipped towards what is right."
"What is right," Garrett snapped, "is taking care of the mages under your charge. You use to know that, Cullen. You're a good Templar that believed in treating mages fairly, but with a strong hand. You taught me that."
"Our hand wasn't strong enough. I don't know what your brother or Anders has told you, but we are at the brink of collapse. I would rather see the courtyard filled with Tranquil than to have the Gallows fall to blood mages and abominations." Cullen's eyes turned haunted, ghosts of remembered atrocities clinging to him with ethereal hands. "I still hear your screams, Garrett. They stay with me in my nightmares."
Garrett's hands began to tremble and he curled them into fists. Cullen knew. He had heard how Garrett had begged for them to stop.
He breathed in a slow, fortifying breath through his nose. "And does that justify your compliance in what the Knight-Commander has turned this city into?"
Cullen looked away, unable to meet Garrett's eyes. "What would you have me do, Garrett? Her word is law, and I can't find it in myself to completely disagree with her. Even if her methods seem cruel, it's only to prevent the chaos that would ensue should we fail in our duty."
"Something is happening within the order," Garrett told him. "Templars everywhere are grasping for more power than they have been given. Don't tell me you haven't noticed it. In Ferelden, they've tried to finagle their way into the king's court. In Kirkwall, the Knight-Commander has become Viscount in all but name. The Templars have even challenged the right of the Grey Wardens to conscript who they wish. The Templars are supposed to be the shield and sword between the innocent and the profane."
"The order is changing, Garrett." Cullen sighed and rubbed at the stubble on his chin with a gauntleted hand.
"Is this coming from the Knight-Vigilant? The Knight-Divine?" Garrett pressed. "Give me something, Cullen. You're Knight-Captain here. You can't be ignorant of what is happening."
"I don't know," Cullen answered honestly. "I… I have my doubts, but I can't be swayed from my purpose. I ask you again, what would you have me do? If the Knight-Commander received orders from Orlais, then I have to assume that it is divine mandate. Above all, we obey the Divine. We are sworn to the Maker in her honor."
"What are these orders?" Garrett licked lips suddenly gone dry.
Cullen glanced at Fenris who had remained silent during the exchange. "You know I can't tell you that, Garrett. Don't ask this of me."
"There was a woman in Ferelden who was very informed. She told one who is close to the Warden-Commander that the Grey Wardens needed to watch their backs. You were in Ferelden during the Blight. You know how much the Grey Wardens are needed. If you know something, Cullen…"
"Apostates are to be seized," Cullen said after a moment's hesitation. "Any apostates. If they are found to be Grey Wardens, then they are assumed to be blood mages and dealt with accordingly." He gave Garrett a pitying look. "The word from Orlais is that the Grey Wardens deal in dark magic and it will no longer be tolerated. The Rite of Conscription will no longer be a shield to hide behind. "
Garrett pressed his hands to his lips, breathing in the scent of cold steel. "So it's not just Ferelden then." It wasn't a question and he didn't say it as such. "What else?" He dropped his hands. "What else, Cullen? That doesn't explain the sudden grab for power."
Cullen shook his head and held up a finger. "No. I've said what I could for a friend."
"You condone all of this," Garrett said incredulously. "The Tranquil, the power—all of it. I thought I knew you."
"And if the Knight-Vigilant himself sends missives directing that grab for power-what then, Garrett? I am a lone man trying to keep a city from going under in a sea of blood and demons. What I do or do not condone is immaterial to that."
Garrett grasped Cullen by the upper arm, the metal of their armor clanging. "It is not immaterial. It's everything. You lose that and you become no better than one of the knights we use to catch abusing the mages, full of bitterness and the inability to feel empathy for your charges."
Cullen glanced down at the hand on his arm, his eyebrows drawing down sharply. "I can't pretend to know the mind of those in Orlais, but there are those that feel what they are asking us to do it only right. Meredith was directed to seize control when the Viscount died. She feels it is the Maker's will."
"And you?" Garrett ventured.
Cullen flicked his eyes back up. "If we take power, how are we any better than the magisters? Neither Templars nor mages are meant to rule. We are meant to serve for the good of man. The measures we take to keep this city safe are what is right. Ruling Kirkwall from the Viscount's seat is not. Antagonizing the Grey Wardens will not help our cause."
"If the Templars try and take the mages in our ranks, they will decimate the Wardens," Garrett added.
"Exactly," Cullen agreed.
Fenris spoke for the first time. "If the Templars want power they should go to Tevinter. Let them play king and queen there."
Cullen snorted and a small smile graced his lips, the first that Garrett had seen. "I think we have our fill of blood mages in Kirkwall."
The tense mood had broken somewhat and Garrett released Cullen. "Thank you. I… I need to think on what to do next."
"Do?" Cullen laughed bitterly. "There's nothing you can do, Garrett. This is beyond the both of us."
Garrett shook his head and turned to walk away. "I have found that little is beyond me anymore."
"Wait!" Cullen called. Garrett paused and turned back around.
"You should know that you are a wanted man. I will make some excuse if your presence is questioned, but I can do no more than that. You should not have left Ferelden-especially for Anders."
"If I need to, I'll go to Orlais and question the Knight-Divine myself—especially for Anders."