Author's Note: Howdy! Well, it took a bit longer than I meant to get started, but here we go. This is the tale of what happens to Aeryn Hawke and Sebastian Vael, post game, post Shelter, in their attempt to restore Sebastian to the throne of Starkhaven. You do not have to have read Shelter, but I have to imagine it would help as I will be building on the base I started there.

F!Hawke/Sebastian Vael, Fenris/Isabela

Warnings will be posted as needed with each chapter, but for general purposes, I usually keep the level of violence and language about that of the game. If you play the game or read the previous story, then there's your guide.

Thanks go to the lovely and talented mille libri, for her beta skills, but of course any errors are mine.

Bioware owns all, I'm just happy to play in the sandbox.

Chapter 1 of Steal Away Home, being the sequel of Shelter. We join our story a couple of weeks after we left them.


Chapter 1

Somewhere on the wide Waking Sea, two lovers are wandering the Fade in dreaming.

One is dreaming a dream that's become familiar over the last few years, though he is buoyed by the hope that it isn't merely a dream anymore. There is a green hill, rising gently before the mountains and a smell in the air like baking bread as the winter wheat ripens in waving sheets of gold. And he stands on the lea of that hill watching a tumble of children with curling dark red hair and bright eyes, playing some sort of scuffling ball game. And just below them, watching them with wry amusement as she comes up is his love and she looks up to see him and the joy in her smile and the dimple in her cheek fill his heart to bursting and it's not hard to fall to his knees in thankful prayer before reaching for her to bearhug her into the grass with the children.

And one is dreaming of blood and fire and sharp simple things because that is what she almost always dreams, so familiar that she has forgotten it's a nightmare. But recently, those dreams are different and beyond the smoke there is something blazing and blue and maybe it's a lake of cool water or a Harvestmere sky but if she can just struggle on through the mire a bit farther, she'll see what it is. She hasn't made it yet. She almost always wakes up before she even gets close. But it's fine, because she will be twenty nine years old on her next nameday and she can't remember any dream better than waking up next to him, sprawled and snoring softly.

-000-

Sebastian woke with a start. He'd reached for Aeryn in his dream only to encounter cool blankets. The Siren's Call II drifted on the dark Waking Sea under the moonlight, about a day's sail out of Amaranthine. Pale light spilled in through the porthole, the water lapping against the hull but there was no sign of his love in the small cabin.

They'd been sleeping remarkably well on their voyage. There had been a few nights where she jerked awake, heart racing, but he'd whispered a few low words and then curled himself around her while she relaxed again. Twice he'd come around to find her sitting on the end of the bunk watching him with some soft look on her face and she'd laughed when he told her she was a wee bit spooky. She'd only woken once with night terrors sending her scrambling, the way she'd screamed his name- and pressed her fingers to his pulse on waking- leaving him with no doubt what she'd dreamed that time. Her scream had brought Fenris blazing into the cabin, slamming the door aside. They'd both blushed hard, Aeryn at the fuss she'd caused and Fenris at the unadulterated view of Aeryn's charms before Sebastian had drawn a blanket around her. It had at least answered a question he'd honestly never wanted to ask, Sebastian thought wryly.

She was definitely gone now, though. Sighing, he brushed aside the guilt that dogged him when he didn't wake for her and grabbed the linen trews he kept to hand and tugged his boots on, too. He'd stepped on a stray hook a few days ago. Didn't care to be doing that again. His tunic seemed to be missing.

He stopped in the galley on the off chance, but the tiny kitchen was empty and dark. Climbing the ladder, Sebastian went up to the deck. The night was chilly and damp, but the sky was clear. Millions of stars scattered across the deep sky and he breathed in, holding the icy air in to his lungs. He and Aeryn had sat here a night ago and she'd snugged against him, warm as toast, and he'd never felt the cold while he made up names for the new constellations that she traced out with the tip of her finger. Tonight, there was only Japeth, Isabela's mate, at the wheel and another lad on the rigging. Two more crew were sleeping in the hammocks slung across the stern. "Have you seen Hawke, Japeth?"

The mate shook his dirty blonde braids, earring jangling. "Nah. Not seen her since sunset. She ain't been up the riggings this eve for sure, messere. Hawke's a handy one with the tangles but the Cap'n warned her off the lines at night, before." He adjusted the wheel with a knotted brown hand as Sebastian nodded and scanned the moonlit deck. Aeryn had taken to scaling the ropes for a bit of exercise, staving off cabin fever, but Isabela had some concerns about woodworms and nixed climbing at all, yesterday.

Sebastian was fairly sure the sharp eyed sailor would have spotted Aeryn, unless she was trying to stay hidden. If she was keeping to shadows, no one would see his lass unless they tripped over her. Walking the deck length, just in case, slapping himself to keep the blood flowing to his chilled skin, Sebastian then slid back down the hatch, trying to ignore the knot of worry in his gut. If she'd only been half awake, hunting in a dream...

He shook himself. Don't borrow trouble. She'd probably holed up with Isabela and Varric or Fenris. He glanced down the passageway and stopped short. Fenris.

There wasn't anyone sitting on the stool outside Anders' cabin.

Bethany had taken second watch tonight, he recalled. If Aeryn had sent her to bed, she'd have gone. Light-footed, he stepped farther down the passage and stopped by the door. Oh, yes. Definitely Aeryn's low voice, beyond. He gritted his teeth. It had been her rule that no one be alone with the abomination until they got him to the Grey Wardens at Amaranthine.

Little sneak. Sebastian knew she'd been feeling guilty about her abrupt treatment of the mage after she'd told them all her decision to turn Anders back to his duty. He'd apparently given her too much credit for better sense, though. Sebastian leaned against the door, counting on the creaking ship to cover his noise. Pushing back the anger he felt at having to hunt for her and at her breaking her own rules as well as the creeping cold fear when he hadn't found her, he settled. He'd listen before he burst in.

"… your body count, Hawke?"

Too casually, she answered. "No idea, really. I lost count long before the Deep Roads."

"Think I caught up to you?" She took a breath. It was a bitter question and it had a hard answer, Sebastian knew. He waited for her reply.

"Maybe. Probably not, though." There had been perhaps thirty penitents. A hundred worshippers. A few dozen children. Maybe fifty in the courtyard. She'd done that in her first few years in Kirkwall, even accounting for Varric's penchant for embellishment. Sebastian glanced down, thinking, Oh, Aeryn, none of yours were children or innocents. It's not the same, mo chride.

Anders voice was sharp when he asked, "What does your priest think of that?"

None of your business, you fuathaich.

"Just what you believe he thinks, Anders." He could hear the cool reserve in her low voice masking some other emotion and Sebastian just barely restrained himself from entering to reassure her. He was shocked into stillness, though, at Anders' next words.

"Before him...before Vael. If I'd had the courage to do it, before. You'd have helped." Silence. And, oh, he could read a volume in that pause.

That level voice of hers and Sebastian could just see in his mind's eye the even gaze. "You're right. But it has nothing to do with him. If you had come to me in early days...oh, yes Anders. I was angry enough. I was...empty enough. You remember. How glad I was to help you kill Templars for Karl and after? But ...Bethany..."

Anders made an impatient noise, but Aeryn continued, mulishly.

"If Meredith had been sane...Bethany would have been happy in the Circle. I'm not saying it's right for everyone. I'm not saying there doesn't need to be change." She let her pause stretch before she continued. "You know, Sebastian read your manifesto."

The mage sputtered. "He...what? He did?"

"He read it and thought you made some good points. He told me that just the day before...It's not exactly a moot issue for us, Anders. Odds are at least one of our children will be mageblooded."

A nasty laugh preceded his answer. "Prepare to have him rip them from your arms and toss them to his precious..." Sebastian had to lock his knees from going in and smacking the fool across his vicious mouth...but ah, it sounded like Aeryn might do it for him. He heard her pad across the decking, swiftly.

"Shut up. He's promised that he would protect them. That he would...we can keep them safe. It's one of the reasons we're doing the Starkhaven thing."

"And you believe that?"

"Absolutely." And the thrum of certainty in her voice made his heart jerk in his chest and his shoulders square even as it silenced Anders. It was surprisingly difficult to be angry with a woman who spoke of you so.

"And, sodding Void, Anders. Do you realize? You could have come with us. There's no circle in Starkhaven, now. We...we could have tried something new. Something better. And now..."

Hearing the break in her voice, Sebastian decided a united front was needed and he finally pushed open the door to finish Aeryn's sentence. "Now we will do it without you." She was hovering, arms wrapped across her chest, over the seated mage in the small cabin, her form poorly lit by a glowing lantern. He ignored the fact that she was barefoot, wearing his own tunic over the light linen trousers she'd run up to wear in the galley. The too large garment slipped off of one white shoulder, but he did his best not to see it. He was yet upset with her, by the Maker. Truly.

Aeryn's eyes shot to him and widened as her back straightened. Despite walking around like an ill-bred (incredibly delicious, her wicked streak tempted) sailor, bare-chested and tousled from sleep, there was no doubt that Sebastian had arrogant, cool prince stamped on his angular features. Oh, and he was angry. At her, probably. He cocked a precise eyebrow at Anders and held an imperious hand out to her.

She raised her own brow back defiantly and glanced at Anders. "I wouldn't have had us end this way, Anders. I wish we could have done better."

The mage was hunched over his knees on the low slung bunk but he looked up at her with bloodshot hazel eyes. "Yes, well. Me, too, Hawke. For what it's worth, I'm..." He stopped and Aeryn could feel the glower in Sebastian's eyes and the tense frame, but gave Anders some credit for swallowing and continuing. "Sorry it ended that way."

She nodded before slipping past Sebastian and down the dim passage, lit only by one small candle in a hurricane lantern. She rapped on the door of the captain's quarters and in a minute Fenris emerged, strapping the final buckle shut on his gauntlet. He was clearly surprised to have Aeryn at his door, with Sebastian simmering behind her, leaning against the doorframe of their own cabin.

"Hawke?" His voice was still rough from sleep. "I thought..."

"Bethany looked tired. I sent her to bed and took the last bit of her watch." She really hadn't meant to talk to Anders. But, he'd started talking and she didn't want to wake anyone, so...

Fenris looked between them as Sebastian asked, "And I suppose then that your rule about no' being alone with th' mage is still in effect?"

She had the grace to look a bit contrite, then. "Yes. I think it's best." Sebastian snorted and Fenris shook his head as he went to take his post. Sebastian let him pass and then reached behind him and opened the door to their quarters.

Aeryn pursed her lips a second and then stepped into the room with her chin at a taut angle, her eyes flashing. She twitched the tunic back into place on her shoulders, but it slid right off again. Quickly, she unstrapped the sheathed dagger from her arm and twisted to strip another from her thigh while he toed his boots off. Sebastian's hooded gaze never left her shoulders, a present weight as she contemplated just stripping and sliding into the bunk. No, best just face the music.

He heard her sigh before she turned back to him.

"How much did you hear, then?"

"Did you mean it? That you'd have helped him?"

She looked at him through her lashes and for just a hard moment Sebastian thought she might lie to him. But she brought her chin up and only something bleak in her eyes and the slight hunch of her shoulders gave her away. "Yes." She felt small and cold and braced herself, but as often happened these days, the man she loved surprised her with the depths of his heart.

He had to look away for a minute, but he would be honest, too. "And had I known Bethany to be apostate before I came to know you, leannan, I'd have turned her in with no qualm and Merrill, too. We are neither of us the same as we were, Aeryn." Sebastian held his hand out again and this time she took it. He caught it, strong and firm, and pressed it to his heart. "And glad I am of it."

"I wish you had known him a bit, then...well, no I don't. What he's done would..." Her face scrunched up a little as she searched for the words. "Did you know, he and Karl, the one they made Tranquil as a trap? They were lovers. He only came to Kirkwall to save someone he loved, once." Sebastian shook his head. No, he hadn't known.

"Anders had to kill him...Justice woke Karl up for a minute and he begged for death. I offered, but..." She shrugged. "And all I could think of was that if the Chantry got their hands on Bethany, it would be me to do that for her. We were there and if he'd asked me, then? I would have. I would have torn it down myself."

She set her other hand on his chest and curled her nails in, looking up at him. "I'd have done it and cut my heart out and never known it." Her eyes were shadowed in the moonlight, her face as well, but he could hear a shiver in her voice and he ran his fingers into her hair, to stroke that little ridge of bone behind her ear that relaxed her so.

"Is that what you dreamed the other night?" She nodded, her mouth twisted down. "It didn't happen, a ruin. The Maker had gentler plans for us." Tugging, he sat her down on the bunk next to him against the wall. She laid her head on his chest, listening to the regular slow thump of his heart as he kept up the steady comforting movement of his fingertips on her skull. "I recall that night. I remember waking up to find the upper hall strewn with corpses. We were appalled that the Templars had clearly used the Chantry for some sort of trap." Burying his nose in her almond scented hair, he asked, "What changed, Aeryn? When did you stop..."

"Being so angry?"

"Aye."

"Time. Fenris. He was angry enough for the both of us." She gave him a rueful smile and he returned it wanly. "Varric, too. He always knew how to mock me just enough to make me laugh at myself. And I learned to do the same for Fenris. I'd at least had some choice in things, after all." Sebastian swallowed his snort. Yes, all the choice in the world when the father she idolized handed her a pair of daggers and taught her that loving someone meant killing everything in their path.

But- he didn't want to argue about her father in what was left of their night. Instead, he cupped the nape of her neck in his palm and squeezed, letting the little "unf" Aeryn made ripple through him to his groin. Her fingers curled into the crisp hair on his chest and she tugged, earning a grunt from him as well.

Then, she was stretching up to be kissed though she paused at the last minute, teasing. Suddenly starving for a taste of her, he closed the gap hungrily, sucking her lush lower lip in as he drew her to him, hands skating under the loose tunic and up her smooth, strong back. They clung, lips fused for a few long minutes before he broke away to explore. "You've stolen something of mine, leannan," he whispered as he dropped kisses along her jaw.

"Smelled good. Smelled like you." Aeryn buried her nose in the pulse of his throat and hummed as her fingers traced the lean, ridged muscle of his stomach and up to the broader plains of his chest. Tasting sun on his skin where he'd turned a darker golden tan while pitching in to help above decks.

His fingers nimbly pulled the tie of her loose trousers and skimmed them off the luscious curve of her bare hips. No smalls. Maker, this woman. He pulled her up his body, closer yet, fingers pressing into the firm flesh of her bottom and she shifted against the hardening length against her stomach. "You made me come to hunt for you. In the cold."

"It's true."

"I might have to exact payment."

"Gracious. Poor me. Please, my prince. Spare this repentant penniless maiden." Breathless, she undulated against him and flashed him wide, innocent eyes. The contrast sent a spasm of urgent lust lancing through Sebastian's nerves, but he prolonged the game, bringing up his old arrogance in his voice.

"Penniless, is it?" He curved his hand under her breast, weighing the plump flesh, considering and saw her eyes spark and her lips quirk when he played his role. "Then, I'll have to take my payment in trade, hmmm?" His mouth closed on her tautening nipple through the worn, thin linen of his old tunic and she sighed as he suckled the tender peak.

"Oh." Aeryn's eyes fluttered close for a second. Slim fingers held his head to her as he teased and tormented the sensitive bud. Switching to the other breast, his hand came up to rub the wet, slubbed fabric, increasing the sensations spiraling from the sensitized tip. She whispered her next line. "I throw myself on your mercy, Prince Vael. How can I...ah" her voice fractured as he kneaded and suckled again, "ah...appease you?"

"Yield." And oh, she didn't have to fake the deep shiver that ran through her at the dark velvet tone his voice took, at the heat in his eyes.

"All I am is yours, my love." Aeryn twined her arms around his neck, smoky eyes gleaming from beneath her dark lashes. He nudged her lips open and slid in, tasting her sweetness, luxuriating in the soft heat. She welcomed him without a challenge, only a soft stroke of her tongue. Not passive, no. But as close as his wild hearted lover ever came to submission. He angled and took the kiss deeper as she snuggled into his lap, eagerly kissing him back.

Breaking off, he clamped his hands around her narrow waist and rearranged her, turning her back against his chest. The tunic he slipped up over her head and he briefly considered tangling her hands in it before discarding it to the side. She let him, and let was the operative word as his hands roamed and explored her body, savoring the coiled strength, the muscle like flexing steel beneath the velvet of her skin. In one second she could spring away, but she was utterly relaxed in his possession, a sultry smile curving her lips as she dropped her head back to his shoulder. Content to let him play, now that she'd set the game.

Aeryn couldn't help but purr under his touch, draped across him like some prize, trapped between his rock hard chest and his roving hands, setting her own hands on his arms to enjoy the strength playing under his skin, reveling in the scrape of calloused fingers drawing fiery trails, setting her nerves ablaze. She'd never been the type to be passive, but Sebastian...just beneath the possessive rambling she could feel the reverence, that assured feeling he had that they were together because his Maker wanted it. She didn't know why, hadn't examined it for fear that it would evaporate under scrutiny, but it made her feel safe. And he seemed to take her willingness as a gift, and by all he held holy, she wanted to give him every gift he craved.

He spanned his hand across her belly between her hipbones, just for a moment before parting her thighs. One sensitive fingertip traced the tiny black dagger she'd gotten, following her brother into the tattooist's tent at Ostagar, intent on scolding and instead finding herself fascinated by the art and, briefly, by the artist.

So little of this time apart left to them, now. Once they got to Denerim, the planning and organization for Starkhaven would overtake them and consume Sebastian's attention. She dreaded it, the coming time when he would have to assume in earnest the mantle of Prince. He'd become less her own. Until then, though, she'd take his attention, his devotion, his utter absorption in her pleasure...and her thoughts broke off as he parted her cleft and circled her clit with unerring precision and she moaned and shifted against his cock hard and hot under her bottom.

In that rich brogue he whispered, "Your mind is wandering too far a field, mo chridhe." Then he kissed down from her ear to the join of her neck and shoulder, hot open mouthed kisses that promised more heat to come. He could feel it blooming under her skin. Their night vision was acute enough to see each other, but colors were vague. Yet, from memory he could see the rosy flush that was imbuing her skin as he tracked the rising heat.

She was close, now. And he lusted after it, her pleasure in a way that still surprised him. Before...before, while he was always interested in a partner's enjoyment it was only because it made his better. Now? Maker, he wanted her, but he wanted those little trophies of her orgasms more.

Well, to be honest, not more, just more often.

He adjusted his hand, shifting his thumb to her clit in order to slide two fingers into that hot wet clenching sheath. Just at the edge, teasing little caresses until she strained against him, whimpering.

"Sebastian, please."

"Greedy, are you?"

"And well you know." Aeryn turned her face into his throat, nuzzling under his chin as he gave her what she wanted, slipping his fingers farther in, closing his eyes at the shuddering cry as he brought her just to the brink and then with a swirl of his thumb and again, again thrusting his long fingers into her slick heat, cast her over, letting the climax take her. He moved his hand ever slower, as she stiffened against him then trembled in the wake. When she slumped back he pressed her gently over, onto her stomach and lifting her hips, stuffed their pillows beneath. A wicked smile slipped across his lips as he surveyed the bounty, shifting to strip his trews off. She nearly glowed, skin dewed and pearly in the cool fading moonlight.

The twin dimples on either side of her spine, just before the ample curve of her backside began made his thumbs itch and he caressed them fondly just a moment before her sigh stirred his cock and set need beating urgently in his blood. He stroked the dark crisp hair, reigniting the sensitive flesh of her pretty, soaking cunt and eliciting her moan as she pressed back against his hand.

Laying, decadently sprawled across the bunk, arse in the air. Maker, not particularly dignified, but what could she care when Sebastian finally pressed his broad head into her, filling that nagging emptiness left even after he'd spun her that gorgeous orgasm. He was taking his bloody sweet time about it, giving her inch by inch, like heated steel. And he'd set her just at an angle that all she could do was wriggle, holding her hips just that right...oh, holy...

Sebastian's eyes closed, drowning in pleasure, as he drew out and thrust fully back, hilting his aching cock in her, causing Aeryn's back to arch as she managed to meet him and they were properly off. Locking his large hands on her hips he set and ran a punishing rhythm, long deep strokes designed to strike that spot that made her voice little urgent 'ohs' with every hit. The sound of them, of the climbing pitch and frequency, fed that inner need of his, that part of him that wanted her need, recorded it, kept it as proof.

Aeryn's hands scrabbled in the blanket and she just managed to stuff a bit of the woolen against her mouth to muffle her shriek as she came, shuddering, sparks of bliss lancing through her veins like lightning. He groaned as she clamped tight as a fist around his cock in glorious liquid heat, again and again drawing him, milking him until he came, too, blindingly, the whole of his world briefly narrowed as he spent. Sebastian collapsed over her, rasping out the lovers' words of his cradletongue into her ear, breathing deep the scent of her, almonds and salt.

They lay for a minute in the surrounding, cushioning dark, letting the chill in the air cool their skin and slow their hearts.

"I wish you wouldn't...I love to hear it, when you come, mo chride."

"Yes, well, Isabela made a point of reminding me yesterday, vocally and rather explicitly how thin the walls are between the cabins. People are sleeping." She wriggled underneath him and he shifted just enough to let her roll over and draw him back down.

"Ah." Well, that was…no, he didn't care to be the main event in Isabela's penchant for voyeurism. Shaking his head he prodded and rearranged her, boneless and sated, to lay curled up against him.

"Exactly." Yawning, she tangled her fingers in his hair and stroked.

"I'll be glad to get off the ship." Sebastian sighed and if there was any tension left to him after their loving, it slipped away under her touch. He ran his hand over her sweetly rounded hip and fell asleep.

-000-

Isabela came to find them in the bit of bow Aeryn had claimed as her own with a hammock, a shading tarp and a few sturdy crates lashed together. She was sitting on one, reading a batch of parchments, her newly oiled scabbards drying to one side while Sebastian sprawled at her feet on the deck, working on his bowstring.

The Captain watched them for a moment, saw Hawke reach out her hand to curl her fingers absently into the archer's hair, turned lighter, redder in the sun. He paused for a moment to lean his head back against her thigh, closing his eyes, clearly luxuriating in the petting.

"You two are disgustingly adorable, you know that, right?" Two pairs of bright eyes shifted to watch her approach and it struck her that the Choir Boy was a different man, changed since Hawke had claimed him for her own, it was true. Something too soft in him was gone and something that had been without a focus was pinned but there was a new quietude about Hawke, as well, that hadn't been there before. As if some of the coiled energy that burned in her was being redirected. It was, Isabela supposed, a result of love hard fought for. And then scoffed at herself and the romantic thought. Must be catching, that romance shit.

It was Sebastian who asked. "What's the news, Captain?"

"We should be making for the harbor in an hour or so. Amaranthine awaits another hour's sail in."

Aeryn grinned then. "Thank the Maker."

Isabela frowned, wondering if she should take offense. "What, you don't care for ship life?"

Rolling her eyes, Aeryn stretched and folded her papers into her pouch. "You're the sailor, Bela, not me. If I don't get some land under my feet soon, I'm like to start being a pest. I am bored and I want to go for a prowl. It's about half a day out to Vigil's Keep from the city, if I recall my geography. A good chance to stretch our legs."

Sebastian chuckled at Isabela's dismay, but he knew Aeryn wasn't joking. She'd been getting more restless by the day, her pacing aboveboard reminding him of how long it had been since she'd gone so long without a fight. There wasn't much room for sparring on the deck and the style she and Fenris preferred had been greatly restricted. She'd dueled once or twice with Isabela, but that sort of fight had little appeal for Aeryn, he knew. Too much show and taunt and not enough action. The captain had won hands down in a halfmark what would have lasted less than ten minutes had Aeryn been fighting in her normal fashion. Lethal. Direct. And while their bedplay seemed to take the edge off of her twitchiness, it wasn't quite enough, though he thought they'd done their level best. He covered the smirk that crossed his face with a casual hand. It wasn't a poor way to spend a couple of weeks, being tumbled into a bunk every time she got energetic.

"There's no accounting for taste." The pirate shrugged. "Anyway. We can stay in Amaranthine for the week, like you planned. I think we'll still have time to make it to Denerim before the winter storms really start to be a problem."

A scramble at the hatch drew their attention. Merrill popped her dark head up. "I heard a gull. Are we close?"

"That we are, kitten."

"Lovely. Oh, look!" She pointed over the rail and drew their attention to the greenish black smudge on the horizon. The elf dashed to the rail and Sebastian saw eagerness flash across Aeryn's face as she followed close behind. Varric, Fenris, and Bethany joined them.

Sebastian stood just beside and behind her at the rail, watching her face. He could almost see the memories running through her, emotions calling up old times. Love, fear, regret chased themselves across her pale features before she realized and smoothed it all away. She leaned back against him and sliding his hand over her shoulder, he looked at the coastline as it materialized. Craggy cliffs, not that different from those of the Wounded Coast. Clearly marked by brutal storms, time and heavy tide.

"It looks cold," Bethany said, a certain fond irritation in her voice. She'd never been one to complain about Kirkwall's heat.

Aeryn scanned the coastline, not quite sure what she was looking for. She'd never seen Ferelden from this angle. But still…it looked like…no. Not home. Not now. Aeryn submerged the thought. Now home was…wherever Sebastian was. She glanced at her companions before she pushed away from the rail. "C'mon. Let's go get our gear ready for a hike. I'll tell Anders."

Fenris frowned at her. "Will you keep him drugged?"

She felt Sebastian's hand tighten, probably involuntarily on her shoulder. "I'd prefer not. I'd really rather not have to hire a wagon and team to haul him. We'll just have to trust in our ability to control him."

They broke apart, then, each headed to their respective cabins to pull their packs together.

Sebastian and Aeryn were quiet as they packed. He squeezed her elbow, briefly realizing she was considering their approach. Possible, too, that she was setting her thoughts in order about letting Anders go. She quirked a half-smile up at him and tipped her head towards the passageway.

Aeryn let Sebastian linger at the door, while she spoke again to Anders, soothing her archer's over protective side. "It's time." She'd brought the mage a plain set of robes, only minimally spelled and tossed them to him.

He didn't bother to catch them. He just looked at them dully for a minute, and then leaned over to pick them up from the floor. Ander's lank golden brown hair swung by his jaw. "Um. My staff?"

She cocked an eyebrow at him. "You're kidding. What a perfect time to redevelop a sense of humor. Go on with yourself." The mage's jaw tightened at the dry tone, but he nodded and went to strip. He paused, one long pale finger on the latches of his pauldrons, when Aeryn lingered.

"Can I have a moment?"

"Sure. Come up when you're ready. Bring your gear." Falsely sweet, Aeryn pushed the pack forward; she'd had Bethany go it through very carefully, looking for…anything Anders might use to escape. She turned on her heel, wishing hard that she didn't mourn the old camaraderie that she'd once shared with the apostate mage. Sebastian looked at her face, carefully blank and sighed inwardly. He pressed his hand to the small of her back and she let him steer her towards the hatch.

The ship sailed up the inlet and towards the bustling port, following the lanes that buoys clearly marked. It was just before noon, the water sparkling under a chilly autumn sun.

While the Amaranthine dockside wasn't hugely different from Kirkwall's, the lack of Tevinter influence and a more energetic buzz made for a lighter atmosphere. The apathy that plagued the city of chains had no counterpart here. It was cleaner, too, in a subtle way. Well, anyway, there weren't any bloating dead bodies floating near the boats that Aeryn could see. Pleasant change, that.

Isabela called out several orders and mates clawed down sails. The Siren's Call II came to a graceful fullstop and, chain groaning, the anchor plummeted into the water with a splash. "Nicely done, Captain!" Someone called from the dock and Isabela gave a jaunty wave.

Aeryn glanced over her merry band, all armed and ready for their coming trek. She pushed away from the rail, meaning to disembark and then…Sebastian saw her pause and then look back at them from the head of the gangway, alarm and consternation full in her gaze. "What is it, then?"

She blinked and waved her hand, before covering her face. "Oh, sodding Void. I'm an idiot."

"Hawke?" Fenris and Sebastian exchanged concerned glances as Aeryn shook her head and moaned.

"Look at us. Just look at us. We can't...This isn't Kirkwall. No one's going to just wave us past…oh, that's just Hawke's mad band. Maker. If they're looking for us…" She had an insane urge to giggle. "Heya, Bob. I'm looking for that bunch that took out the Gallows. Well, gee, Templar Daveth, what do they look like? Oh, you know…elves, mages, dwarf with all the swagger. Pirate with the tits and no pants. Tall gorgeous fellow that walks about in bright white armor. That one carries a giant broadsword and oh, yeah, his tattoos light up. All led by that utterly daft madwoman…Oh, right. Isn't that them right there? Right you are, Bob!"

"Who's Bob?" Merrill asked a bemused Varric, wide eyed at Hawke's abnormal babbling.

"Ya know, Daisy, I think it's possibly her invisible friend. Always knew she had one."

"He doesn't seem to be very helpful. If he's telling a Templar about us, and all."

Sebastian stepped up, trying not to smile, and laid his hands on her shoulders, shook her, just a touch. "Leannan? Breathe, alright?" She dropped her hand and looked up at him with wide eyes before hauling in a calming breath. He was right. Being dramatic wasn't going to help.

Nodding, she shrugged away from him. "I just wasn't thinking. I'm so used to folks not noticing us. We were just going to waltz into the city, stride through and off to Vigil's Keep. We've no idea if they're looking for us. And…Maker. Look at us. There's no way for us to duck notice. Void."

Bethany glanced her companions over. "Sister. We could go cloaked. It is fairly cold, we wouldn't attract any more notice. There are several people on the docks in full winter cloaks already."

Aeryn shot a look over the quay. Bethany was right. She wouldn't have chanced it, walking around so encumbered in Kirkwall, but with any luck there weren't random hordes of bandits lining the streets of Amaranthine. She nodded. "Cloaks it is, then."

Even swathed in the winter gear, they still drew glances and one or two outright stares. Mercenary bands clearly weren't as common in Amaranthine as they had been in the Marches. Sebastian shifted. In leathers and armor, he'd been warm enough. The cloak was too much. If his armor was this much of a problem for Aeryn's peace of mind, he'd have to look out a replacement sooner than later. But…they'd left Kirkwall before she could sell the estate. Money was likely to become an issue, too.

Aeryn saw Merrill edge closer to Varric, who reached out to pat her while he scanned the area. The elf was definitely feeling eyes on her. Fenris had his hackles raised. He too, had gotten used to being, if not ignored, then, a common sight. Aeryn resisted the urge to shift her shoulders and draw back to Sebastian. Or duck into shadows and leave the others to fend for themselves. Anders, walking in the midst of their loose circle, head down and hunched in on himself, Sebastian, used to observation in the Chantry, and Bethany from recent years in the Gallows seemed oblivious to the watchers. Sighing, she stuck her nose into the wind. The slight scent of dog made her lips tip up.

On the outer gate, there was a framed notice posted that made her smile outright. By Order of King Alistair Theirin. Safe passage is granted to all mages in the Kingdom of Ferelden and the Arling of Amaranthine otherwise abiding by the laws of said territories. Any harming innocents, practicing blood magic or demonic liaison will be dealt with summarily and with extreme prejudice. It was signed by Alistair and the Warden Commander, Arlessa of Amaranthine, Meriden Caron.

At least she didn't have to worry about Bethany. She dropped back to Merrill. "Let's keep a lid on the…"

Merrill nodded, cutting her off. "Yes, I will. Don't worry, Hawke. I…haven't been. Since…" Since they'd had to fight their way past her clan. Aeryn squeezed her arm and up again to walk beside Sebastian and Fenris.

Isabela gave a high sign and peeled off towards the dockside offices. She'd get whatever permits were needed and had spoken of picking up another crew member or two.

Sebastian watched her go. He'd asked her to find a cook. He wanted Aeryn spelled from that monotonous duty, now that they were in Ferelden waters. Glancing down, he took up his love's hand and tightened his fingers, fondly. "It seems to be fine."

The inner gate loomed, with its guard. "Let's not count our chickens." Fenris grunted in agreement.

The city guardsman who confronted them was neatly turned out and efficient looking. His shield and sword gleamed with obvious care. Aveline would be appreciative, Aeryn thought fondly of her missing companion. He didn't lift his face guard before he spoke, with appropriate caution when meeting a well armed troop.

He spoke with assured authority, in a warm Fereldan accent. "Amaranthine is a peaceful city. If you and your associates are looking to make a name for yourself, this is not the place, ser." The guard addressed Aeryn, who had shifted to point.

She spoke and it startled Sebastian to hear the softer vowels of her own Fereldan accent bleed through far more than they ever had in Kirkwall. It suited her low musical voice. "Definitely not looking for trouble, Guardsman. My friends and I have clean business in your city and out in the countryside and then we'll be sailing out." She paused and shrugged. "Although, if there are jobs for willing hands, I'd not find directions to the Chantry Board amiss."

He gave them a once over and pushed back his faceguard, revealing an older man, with a calico beard and dark brown eyes. "Well, now. You do look willing enough, at that. Chantry is up the stairs to the west side of the city. There's a town board up in the merchant quarter, as well." Tipping his head, he added, "Redcliffe, is it?"

Aeryn grinned. "Once upon a time. Been a few years, though. You're local?"

"Yup, Amaranthine born and raised." He seemed to be weighing something. It was a slow enough day on the dockgate. "Well, you lot look to be up to it. There's a couple of merchants looking for company out to the Vigil and mercenary companies are a little sparse right now. There's been 'spawn sighted between here and there pretty often this last sennight. Warden Commander's had her hands full with a breached tunnel down south and we haven't wanted to bother her, but it's going to have to be dealt with. That'd be a pretty lucrative job if you're headed that direction, anyway."

She seemed to weigh the idea. "Hadn't thought to go out that far. But- good coin?" The guardsman nodded. "My thanks, Ser…"

"Oswald."

Aeryn flashed him a charming smile. "Oswald." Sebastian tried not to chafe at her mild flirting. She was just easing the way and it was working, the guardsman seemed a little dazed. Sebastian sympathized.

"You'll find 'em at the Crown and Lion- not far from the Chantry." She sketched the man a courtly bow and he grinned. "Just you stay out of trouble, mistress, and I think you'll like Amaranthine."

Wide eyes. "Do I look the sort who would cause trouble, Oswald?"

"You look the sort trouble likes." He winked and she chuckled and waved as she turned in the direction he'd indicated, leaving them to follow.

A few steps past the gateyard, she grinned saucily up at Sebastian who had returned to her side. "Well, that's handy."

"Yes, you charmed him completely, Mistress." She sideswiped him with her shoulder and he slid his hand down to the small of her back, glad to see her more relaxed.

"You seem pretty happy about getting chatted up by the local guard, Hawke." Varric's brow was wrinkled with concern.

"Kirkwallers." Aeryn shook her head. "Law and order is a good thing, Varric. If the guard has enough time to be warning off troublemakers and a sharp enough eye to know how to use mercs, then it's a solid sign that Ferelden is getting back to normal. That King Alistair is doing well by his rule. Kirkwall was dysfunctional, remember?"

"I remember it made it easier to hide the bodies."

"I just got permission to run jobs, I don't have to hide the bodies."

"Are we really going to guard the merchants?"

"No. Well…maybe. Depends on what they're selling." Aeryn tried to explain what she'd decided while she walked. "I'd been thinking to try and keep a low profile…at least until we heard what word had spread, but there's no point. We're all of us too distinctive. If we're being hunted…well, better to engender some good will among the right people, 'til we get to Denerim and see what Alistair thinks of us." She glanced up at Sebastian and an almost shy look crossed her face. "I thought you and Beth might like to attend Chant while we're here. I figured you could do that while the rest of us took the lay of the land. We can meet you back at the market in a mark or two."

Anders coughed and spoke, rustily, "They'll know me, maybe. At the tavern and the Chantry."

Aeryn nodded without looking at him. "Pull up your hood. Don't talk."

The bells were ringing as they came to the steps and the groups separated. Sebastian understood he was meant to see what news was being spread in the Chantry, but Aeryn was right, he missed his devotions, still. Aeryn leaned against him briefly before she peeled away to the tavern. "Be safe. Don't be too long." He watched her stride away, cloak swirling. She was trusting him with her sister's care. It was almost heady, in a way, though he was under no illusions that Bethany required his protection.

The Chantry of Our Redeemed Lady was a beautiful timberframed structure- low slung and built of dwarven quarried grey stone that caught sparks in the shifting light. It was a far more earthbound building than the Tevinter structure in Kirkwall or the more ornate Orlesian inspired Chantries of Starkhaven, but Sebastian felt the pervading peace reach for him in the incense. Bethany, too, sighed softly beside him, clearly finding the atmosphere soothing. A quick glance showed no sign of any troublesome heavy Templar presence. In fact, with the exception of the guard at the door and two at the Mother's office, there weren't any.

The alcoves were empty, confession would wait until after the verses were sung, but the nave was well filled with worshippers. Many were cloaked, he and Bethany didn't stand out unduly. They'd both stashed their weapons, bow and staff under specially cut folds in the cloaks, unwilling to be unarmed, even here. Sebastian had known Aeryn wouldn't approve, not without one of the others, those who wouldn't be chanting, to keep an eye out. It was why, in the old days, she'd always attended with her mother and Bethany. She watched while they worshipped. And when he protested, she reminded him of the ambushes she'd walked into while in the protection of the Chantry.

Here, though, the peace of the Maker prevailed.

It wasn't quite perfect. No, someday he hoped Aeryn would be the one slipping to her knees beside him. But if it never happened at her instigation, he would never push. He allowed himself to be pulled into the words of the third verse of Transfigurations and let Aeryn's constant presence in his heart subside until he returned to her.

-000-

Aeryn turned just at the corner of the stairwell and watched Sebastian guide her sister up the stairs and away up the landing. It had been weeks since they'd been more than a deck apart from each other. But he needed the cleansing that the Chant provided for him as much as she needed a fight to blow the cobwebs away. He was always lighter when he came back, more centered. Hopefully, it would be the same at any Chantry.

Fenris tipped his head, towards the tavern, with its gaudy sign swinging in the fresh breeze. She nodded and followed and then hesitated, again.

It had been on the tip of her tongue to ask Orana to run to the market with Sandal this morning, when it occurred to her that her servants were no longer with her and she was spoiled. Years of having three servants with only her to coddle had made her life immeasurably easier. In Kirkwall, she'd have sent Orana to the market for those little items, soap and new bootlaces, tedious to shop for, while she herself took care of business at the tavern. While she'd done it before, always tried to be self sufficient, truth was her time had been devoted to other less domestic tasks. And now she would have to carve out the time. She especially needed to seek out the apothecary.

The others were at the tavern door and she trotted to catch up.


Author's Notes:

With any luck at all, chapters will go up every Monday. Hope you enjoy!

In my headcanon, Sebastian grew up speaking Starkish, the DA equivalent of Scottish Gaelic, so translations follow. All such are taken from the internet, so any errors are due to poor translation, aye?

fuathaich: abomination

mo chridhe: my heart

a ruin: my love

leannan: beloved, sweetheart