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Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

By amailia

Fantasy / Adventure

The Lord's Son

The city-state of Kirkwall was in turmoil. With the threat of Qunari invasion thwarted by the Champion, there was a brief whisper of peace. But like the warm Waking Sea winds that swept up the docks, encircled the vhenadahl in the Elven Alienage, beat up the steps of Lowtown, and finally clawed its way between the stone mansions of Hightown, it was gone before it could land at the doorstep of the Viscount's Keep.

Aralynn Hawke removed her hood as she sat down on a shabby stool in the darkest corner of the Hanged Man. It had been almost five weeks since she had dueled the Arishok to the death. A relief for the city-state, it seemed, until the realization of what was lingering beneath it. The impending threat of foreign invaders had acted like the fisher's nets that stretched across the Dark Corridor, holding at bay a volatile truth: templars and mages were at war. Though they hadn't taken it outright to the streets, there was more than substance to the whisperings heard at the Hanged Man, the Blooming Rose, Darktown, the markets, even within the Chantry's doors. Hawke could not go anywhere without hearing about it, and she found herself inundated with requests for assistance.

With this realization unearthed, nothing was predictable, and nothing was safe. Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters came crawling out of the stonework looking for the Champion's aid. Either their charge was an innocent mage, trapped and oppressed by the circle, or a templar made to take actions against his or her will, or gone mad craving lyrium. Some were neither, simply city workers whose unfortunate assignments had placed them dangerously close to the unrest. She certainly couldn't help them all, and no decision was eased by her ardency, as she had not formed an opinion on the matter. She wanted to help all those she could, right wrongs, save innocents, and kill those responsible for all the terrible deeds of Thedas. However, there was no right or wrong to this conflict. She knew deep down there was nothing she, the Champion of Kirkwall, could do to help them. Each side was right and each side was wrong and in the end anything she did to help either would do nothing but fuel a fire that was already burning too hot.

There was one story however, too compelling for her to ignore. She had arranged to meet the man here, where people might be more discreet, rather than having the conversation in the Hightown market where both Knight-Commander Meredith and First Enchanter Orsino had ears. Aralynn heard the stool next to her scrape the ground, and an elderly man wearing a full-length cloak, likely to hide his noble garb, sat down next to her.

"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Hawke," his voice was gravely with age.

"Of course. Your story sounds… unique," she signaled the bartender to bring them two pints. He ran his fingers through his white-speckled grey hair, rubbed his knuckles, and generally looked guilty as he waited.

"Relax, Lord Restin, we're quite anonymous here, I assure you," Hawke said. He raised an eyebrow at that.

"Well, you are," she corrected. The pints arrived and Lord Restin scooped up the mug and gulped down half before Hawke could even slide the coppers across the bar.

"I have a friend with a room here, if it will make you more comfortable to speak in private," Hawke suggested. Lord Restin, nodded, darting a look around the room nervously. She took her mug and led the Lord to the back of the bar and up the stairs. She rapped quickly on Varric's door, it squeaked open a moment later.

"Hawke! You know you can just come in, I'm not up to anything gruesome in here, I assure you," Varric bawled, and Hawke gave him a wry look.

"Of course, Ser Varric, however I have a guest," she inclined her head to Lord Restin who hovered anxiously behind her, "We were hoping you would lend us your private quarters for quick meeting." Varric raised his eyebrows, noticing the man's expensive tunic peaking out from underneath his cloak.

"Of course, Lady Hawke. I needed an ale anyways," Varric said, scuttling out the door. Hawke lead Lord Restin to Varric's dwarven-style dining table, and motioned for him to take a seat. He sat, looking a bit more comfortable now that they were in private. Hawke was growing much more curious about whatever it was he had to say, to drive a quite powerful Lord of Kirkwall to such apprehension.

"I'm going to need some more details about the situation, it'd be best if you could start from the beginning. Any information you can give me would be helpful, even if it seems irrelevant," Hawke coaxed. Lord Restin nodded, then spoke quite softly, something made worse by the grit in his voice.

"My son, Ansor, starting showing symptoms of magic around age eight. My wife, Petula and I were afraid… we didn't want our son taken from us. At the time the Circle was more… stable, but we had still heard tales of its injustices. We didn't want Ansor to suffer. Petula, Maker rest her soul, believed it a sickness, something the Maker cursed us with to punish us for our sins. She wanted to place him with the Chantry so he could atone. We did, and for years we prayed and watched over him, but nothing changed," he scoffed, taking a swig of his pint. "Stupid I know, but we were so desperate. Ansor was too, he always had more in common with his mother. He wanted to please her, to be able to show her that her faith in the Maker was able to cure him. He was absolutely resolute that it was the right solution, and fervently wanted to stay to prove the method's worth. I believe this resolve was what gave him the strength to control his abilities. Even when he was young he was good at controlling his emotions, Maker bless him, and that's what saved him for all those years."

"Has the Chantry found out? That he's a mage?" Hawke asked, stunned by his admission.

"Maker, no, child. There would be nothing even you could do if that were the case. And the story gets worse, I'm afraid."

"I'm sorry, Lord Restin, go on."

"After almost ten years at the Chantry, it became clear that his abilities were not diminishing. If anything they became more and more difficult for him to predict and control. Petula became very depressed. Every day she got up, went to the Chantry to pray for his soul, came home, and went to bed. She wasn't eating, hardly sleeping. I already felt like I had lost my son, I couldn't watch her waste away anymore. So we discussed our options - sending him to the Chantry in Orlais, letting him go to Tevinter, giving up and having him join the Circle, so we would at least have him near us. Petula wanted to try and hide him with some relatives in Antiva. It was her suggestion of hiding him that sparked a thought in me, so I suggested to Ansor that he join the Templar Order."

Hawke almost spit out the mouth full of ale she was about to swallow, but managed to get it down with only a mild fit of coughing and hacking. A mage disguised as a templar? Was that even possible? Lord Restin went on, as if Hawke wasn't causing a ruckus.

"Petula was furious, at first, she thought it too risky." Hawke found herself nodding in agreement. "I thought if he was hidden, right under their noses, they may never see him at all. For Petula it was still about atonement, but for me, I just wanted him safe. As a templar he was able to see the training the mages go through to learn to control their powers, and it was exactly what he needed to continue to be able to conceal his own. And it's worked, for almost ten years. But now, this mage friend of his, Irinna… she's all but outright seduced him."

"Are they romantically involved?" Hawke asked.

"Not as far as I know, but it would not surprise me. She is all he has talked about of late. I don't know specifics about where they've gone, only what was written in his most recent letter," he dug the note out of his pocket and slid it across the table to Hawke, "In the letter, he mentions that he thought Irinna could help him, and would be leaving Kirkwall for a short time to pursue the method. He wanted to me to know so I didn't worry, but warned me not to tell anyone, that it could have dire consequences if anyone found out. But it's been almost over a week since I've heard from him and… my patience has worn out. How, or in what way this mage could help him, I am not certain, but anything that would make my boy leave Kirkwall… it can't be good, Hawke. I've heard rumors about this woman, Irinna. People say she was a known apostate in Ferelden before the blight. That she used blood magic." Lord Restin looked pale.

"So when you said that your devout son had run away with his circle-mage friend, you meant, your 'Templar-who-is-also-a-mage' son ran away with his maleficar friend?" Hawke asked dryly.

Lord Restin grimaced, "Yes, something like that. I'm sorry Hawke, I know it's a difficult situation, and I understand if it's too risky for you."

"Of course not," Hawke shook her head, "I'm just... surprised by the specifics, that's all."

"One last thing. Please do not tell Ansor that his mother has passed."

Hawke was shocked, "He doesn't know?"

"I'm ashamed, and I know, I should be. But she is everything to that boy, and I was afraid that if he found out… that the trauma would be all it would take."

Hawke nodded, "For him to lose control?"

"Precisely. Please, do what you can for my boy. Thank you, Champion." The gruff man rose and extended his hand across the table. Hawke stood and shook it firmly, nodding. Lord Restin raised his hood and quietly made his exit.

Hawke stared after him for a moment, still a little shocked by what she had learned. His last words rang in her head. It was not what she intended, becoming the Champion of Kirkwall. She never sought glory or power. She merely wanted to utilize the second chance at life the Maker had granted her. As her new life in Kirkwall progressed, she found it more difficult to understand the Maker's guidance. All around her, terrible things happened and those she loved vanished – her father, mother, brother and sister all dead, and treacherous Isabela, disappearing into the night. She sometimes felt very alone in her cold, stone mansion in Hightown. These moments permeated her thoughts. Her world shrank in them. They were never about invasions or unrest, blights or dragons, politics or dignitaries, mages or templars… or templar mages. They were just about Aralynn Hawke, the warrior refugee from Ferelden who had lost her family.

It was never long before the moment concluded. Sandal would break something, Bodahn would scold the dog, Fenris would be by with yet another sample of wine found in his cellar, Varric to boast about an improvement he made to Bianca, Anders looking for some time away from the troubles of Darktown, Sebastian to have a philosophical discussion, Aveline to protest another arrant injustice. And she'd quickly remember all she did have, despite all she'd lost. This helped, the juxtaposition. She could see again her purpose, her direction. She had another family now, though they could never truly replace the first. They were sometimes frustrating, ridiculous and overly infuriated at or by one another, but they were also supportive, forgiving and kind. This unlikely group of companions, who certainly should have scattered to the winds years ago, was somehow still together. They had more than just Hawke in common; she refused to take credit for their unity. They were all there to be part of something, something that was greater than the sum of its parts. They were stronger, despite their differences, when they were together.

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