When Warden Commander Evrion Cousland and Inquisitor Adaar finally spill forward from the rift, Varric is on the ground. Brangian Hawke is bent over him, her own arm bleeding freely as she heals a gouge in his chest, Garlan hovering close by. When he sees Evrion appear, he nearly collapses with relief, thanks the Maker, and strides forward to clasp Evrion’s forearm.
Inqusitor Adaar turns towards the rift and holds out the Anchor. Green light sparkles and cracks and it snaps shut, leaving those assembled to decide what comes next amidst the chaos and the grief. Several moments in, the soft conversation spirals to a hush when finally, Brangian looks up and frowns.
She clutches her silk sleeve over the cut on her arm. Red seeps through, smearing across her fingers. The Inquisitor looks away, blinking once, twice, a dozen times, one after the other. “Where,” says Brangian, rising to her feet. “Is. My. Brother.” After a moment, she adds, through clenched teeth, “Inquisitor?”
The Inquisitor is despondent, drained, and Brangian braces herself, but it is not enough. When the Inquisitor says, ‘sacrificed himself,’ it echoes down to Brangian's bones, and the world shatters.
Propelled by a tempest already brewing within her, she’s on her feet and striding towards Inquisitor Adaar. Her hair coils out in all directions, free of her jeweled hair bands, her leggings are singed under her gilded armor, tunic torn and sticky with dried gore. She snarls, baring her teeth and gums, the rouge on her lips smeared by sweat. It shimmers like blood on her jaw.
Evrion steps between them. Sameth, stepping between her knife and Anders’ spine. She remembers the weary surprise on Anders’ face, the outrage on Sebastian’s, but not what was on Sameth’s. There is only his hand on her wrist, pushing the blade away.
He has not forgiven her, for siding with the Templars, nor she him, for letting Anders run. The first time they had seen one another in Skyhold, they had frozen, stared, until Brangian had moved to brush past him without a word, and he turned away. Adamant, and the Fade, had been the first time they had guarded one another’s backs since before their falling out in the face of the devastation of Kirkwall’s Chantry, and it had felt–
Oh, she has missed him, as furious as she still is.
“Brangian,” Evrion says, “none of us wanted—“
“Open the rift,” Brangian says, billowing past him. “You closed it, Inquisitor, you can open it again. You le—” she stops, choking on the word. She left him, too. Getting Varric to safety is a flimsy excuse. She looks away, a hand covering her mouth, eyes bright. Gone. Father Bethany Carver Mother now Sameth—
She thinks of the boy, then, of his bright green eyes, wide with worry as she set new little Bethany in his arms. Of how that worry turned to wonder as she showed him how to hold her.
“Brangian,” Evrion says again, stepping forward. He sighs through his nose. Dimly, she notices the pain on his face, the harrowed look in his eyes. He, too, has not come out of this unscathed.
Slowly, so slowly it seems to stretch on and on into the deepest heart of the night, she turns and stares at him. Her face is blank, but there is white fire coiling in her belly, her chest, up into the hollow of her throat where it settles like a stone. She doesn’t hear what he says next, the blood is roaring in her ears, and she feels every drop that seeps from her arm. He must take her silence for acceptance, because the next thing she hears him say is: “We’re all— what he did for us is going to mean something.”
What does Evrion Cousland know? Garlan Cousland is here, and Sameth Hawke is not.
Garlan Cousland has never gasped in delight as a butterfly made of electricity landed on his finger, while she concentrated on making sure it was nothing stronger than a sharp tingle against his skin. Garlan Cousland never bore Carver through the Deep Roads while Brangian and Anders surged ahead, desperate for Wardens. She has never woken up on the ground, two dozen feet from where she last remembers standing, ribs singing agony with each breath to find Garlan Cousland leaning over her, with blood on his axe and in the crevices between his teeth, sobbing himself to hiccups as he holds a healing potion to her lips.
The stone in her throat fractures.
“YOU LET HIM DIE FOR YOU,” she roars, and her open palm, her fingers and her glittering rings, crack across Evrion’s cheek.
Suddenly, his profile is stark against the starless sky and the charred fortress walls. The Inquisitor stands to the side, lips slightly parted, even as Garlan launches himself towards Brangian. Varric, groaning, blinks awake, eyes swiveling in her direction. For just a moment, all of it freezes, a grim tableau, and then the world rushes into motion again.
Evrion brings his hand to his cheek and pulls it away to find a thin line of blood staining his palm, and something in him fractures, too. Brangian shudders at the ice in his eyes as he snarls, but her howling, aching heart sings as she sees a gleam of metal emerge from his scabbard. She lifts her staff in answer.
She does not notice Garlan slip behind her until her staff is clattering across the battlements and his arms lock hers in place. “Never,” he says, and she can hear how he struggles to keep his voice even, “touch him again.”
Brangian, still gasping for air, reaching for and failing to take hold of her magic after whatever Ser Alrik had done. Sameth, slamming him to the ground. “You will never lay a hand on any mage again, and least of all my sister,” he growled, stepping aside as Justice moved forward, crackling blue and righteous and vengeful.
“Let go of me!” she shrieks, thrashing. She cannot move her arms at all, but her legs flail wildly. Her armored boots only clang against armored shins and feet.
She’s not sure how long it takes. Long enough for Evrion to put the sword away, and for a few of the Grey Wardens to collect themselves and hesitantly step forward to flank him—but she does, eventually, remember Fenris’ lessons. Her head snaps back, skull connecting with Garlan’s nose with a crunch.
He drops her with a cry, the back of her head is sticky with the first drops of his blood. He’ll need to clean his gauntlet, she thinks as he rushes to staunch the bleeding, only to jerk away like he’s touched fire red steel as his fingers graze his broken nose. Absurd, that that’s all she can contemplate.
Evrion rushes at her—no, no, towards Garlan, but some of the Wardens and Inquisition soldiers step in her direction, and—
The trickle of blood from her arm hums and whispers, the drops at Evrion’s cheek, the gush from Garlan’s nose, all if it as encouraging as an old friend. Before she realizes what she’s doing, a torus of magic is caging her in, locking them out, whipping her hair and tunic into a frenzy. Red energy resonates, swirling around her. It does not lash out, but the soldiers draw back, to avoid the bits of debris it kicks up and carries with it.
“Fuck you,” she screams. “Fuck Meredith and Orsino, fuck Anders, and Varric, and Aveline, and Dumar and all of you, because none of you could just leave him out of it! Sameth was good, that’s why he let you all drag him in, over and over! And I let— I let—” She is not sure what she meant to say next, but the crushing weight of guilt smothers it. Words give way to sharp, loud gasps, like she is sucking in breath between heaving sobs.
“It should have been you!” she shrieks at Evrion, and thinks: or me.
When people said ‘Sameth’ she had always offered herself in his place. For power, for glory, for fame. (For love.) And always, always, he was grateful, but always, always, he was too soft-hearted to just let suffering be. They said his name again, even after she offered them her whole self on a golden platter, and shoulders sagging, he said, “Yes. Yes, I will help.”
Father Bethany Carver Mother now Sameth, the Fereldens at the mine, the orphans in the Chantry, the Tranquil, glassy eyed in their tower, all of Kirwall, burning—
“Lady Hawke, stop,” the Inquisitor finally says, the only one who is brave enough to move a few feet closer. “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” Brangian wishes that Inquisitor Adaar was as furious as Evrion, but there’s—what is it? Compassion? Sorrow?—written all over her face, and she’s holding something thin and red in her hands.
The torus of energy slows, and bits of stone rattle to the ground as the wind slows, leaving Brangian in the center of a perfect, spotless circle.
Sameth in the foyer as he offered Anders a red ribbon, the Amell crest embroidered in the center. Brangian, scowling as she watched Anders tie his hair back.
Sameth and Anders, standing in the rubble of the Chantry, as Anders pressed it back into Sameth’s hand.
The eyes of the Inquisition and the Wardens are on her as she gives herself over to wailing.