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 BEST SERVED COLD, Garrett & Meredith | 9:37 Drakonis
played by sugar
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12 Drakonis 9:37



The trek back from the Wounded Coast was a long one indeed, and by the time he and his party made it back to Kirkwall with Cullen and the others, and sent Carver back on his way with Cullen to the Chantry, Garrett wanted nothing more than to head to his usual barstool in the Hanged Man. He’d drink until his face smashed into the wooden bar and would fall unceremoniously from his chair, to wake up with a headache and other pain points to distract him from the matters at hand. Things had started to escalate out of control in Krikwall, and the continuous butting of heads between the First Enchanter and the Knight-Commander had started to wear on him. Thrown into the fray, as usual, Garrett had been the one to break up the conspirators on the Wounded Coast, leaving them all dead save for Alain and Samson, of whom he implored Cullen to give another chance.

“You can go,” Garrett directed his attention to Fenris, Varric, and Aveline, who searched him with watchful eyes, “I’ve got to report back to Meredith. She’ll want to hear this.” The walk up to her study was just as harrowing as the return trip with all of the gazes cast over him as he made his way up the steps. Garrett was something of an anomaly—many didn’t know whether to respect or loathe him. Either way, he’d unintentionally started to carry most of the influence of the city, and his loyalty to Meredith had not gone unnoticed by his friends or even those mages in the Gallows. Sometimes, it was almost as if he could hear them whisper the word in contempt when he passed by the the statue of Andraste: turncloak.

He’d rejected his own kind—in a sense. The mages that had turned to blood magic and accepting demons as a way of life were no kind of his. The staff that he carried upon his back was a heavy reminder of who he was, and how his involvement in all of this would likely always leave him somewhat untrustworthy, since he relied upon magic in the brunt of battle. But he would stand to prove that he was not like these blood mages, and perhaps Kirkwall could come to some sort of peace again before things got entirely out of hand. Regardless, the situation was already slipping from his perilous grasp.

Garrett turned into Meredith’s office, acutely aware of how dirty he was, his armor stained with Grace’s blood, demon ichor—probably his own blood, too. But regardless, he stood tall, sure that the Knight-Commander had seen far worse. He was not afraid to stare into the ice that were her eyes in an attempt to bring fire to them, once and for all.

”I’ve stopped the conspiracy,” Garrett announced in a tone that was rather resigned, ”and Orsino is not to blame for it. These mages—and the Templars involved—acted upon their own accord. They’ve all been… dealt with.” He decided not to mention the saving of the mage Alain, who had freed Carver, and stood against Grace. Being an apostate himself was already treading on thin ice—best not to bring others into the picture to destroy the fragile tension in the room.

Bravely, he continued with a request, ”Can this stop now? There should be no more uprisings, so long as everyone holds their place.” Templars and mages alike needed to fall into line, and then there would be nothing left to fight over.

Or so one would think.
played by cherith
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Everywhere she turned something felt off. She'd been on high alert for days. Weeks, longer maybe. Her men seemed lax, Orsino cagey, the mages… well she'd never really trusted most of them anyway but they were the worst of the lot. And to have put her trust in one this time had taken a lot of effort and pride-swallowing. He'd made a lot of friends in Hightown, in the Gallows, everywhere. The whole city was in love with Garrett Hawke, he could do no wrong -- mage or not.

And though she was loathe to admit it, he'd done good by the Chantry and the Order. Perhaps some of his decisions were questionable, but when it came down to it, he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders where matters like these were counted. Truth be told, she'd had little other choice. Either go herself and risk learning nothing and losing more of her men, or trust someone the others looked up to. If anyone could root out the corruption in her city and report it back to her, it had to be him. And for some reasons, the Captain of the Guard trusted him. She was sure Captain Vallen had her reasons, but the fact remained that she used him to keep order in the city when need demanded it. This time was little different.

She felt twitchy waiting and worse when she received word that Hawke had arrived. She waited at her desk, trying to read the most recent report from Knight Captain Cullen but her eyes skipped over the words too easily. When Hawke appeared in her doorway, she was frustratedly setting the report aside.

"That's…" Meredith stood and came around the desk to greet him. Across the hall, Orsino's door was open and she could see the man at his own desk reading from one of a number of books strewn about the place. She sighed at Hawke's words and pushed the door closed, noticing in the last sliver before he was out of sight, how the Knight Enchanter's head had risen from his work.

"Thank you. It's reassuring to know that the situation has been handled. However, it has not escaped my notice that issues such as these have been escalating. This is not the first group of escaped mages, or conspiring templar to leave these halls." She shook her head and rounded on Hawke, standing between him and the front of her desk.

"I would like nothing more for this to all be settled, for them to as you say, 'hold their place'." Nodding, she tapped her desk, mailed glove clanking on the dark wood. "However, I feel like things are coming to a head. I've seen this before… the stirrings of mages, this need they have to learn more, to explore, to go outside the teachings and safety of the Chantry."

Agitation seeped into her voice, into her movements and anger lurked just below the surface. "I know the temptation of families and loved ones to find some kind of freedom--" she gestures with frustration-- "from these constraints."

The Order had saved her life once, long ago, when she'd lost everything. Thinking back she can remember that sense of protection she herself housed on behalf of her own family. They'd wanted the best for all of them. And an entire city had suffered the consequences.

"People think I don't understand, Hawke. But I think you might. I think you know exactly what it's like to worry about your family and wonder if this is the best place for them."


played by sugar
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It was hard not to be intimidated by Meredith, for she seemed cold—far colder than Orsino, the First Enchanter, but he didn’t take much of a liking to the elf for… whatever reason. Something about the way his ears were turned, maybe, or the flat plane of his forehead. It just rubbed him wrong. Meredith’s eyes were cold and piercing, but he was determined not to let her see right through him. He rather preferred being something of an anomaly, especially to the woman who still remained a mystery to him. If he couldn’t know anything about her, in what world was it fair that she had already become the judge, jury and executioner on him? Regardless of her title, the holier than thou act wasn’t going to cut it. And so, it left him surprised when she brought a thank you to the table. His eye dropped to her finger, seemingly far too loud on the table to be proper, but she didn’t seem to notice that the very act was quite nearly scaring the shit out of him.
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He couldn’t exactly fault her anxiety—worry—paranoia, whatever it was, because he’d seen it too. From both sides, they’d risen up above their supposed equilibrium and were causing a tumultuous amount of problems, most of which, Hawke had tried to subdue in a mad dash across the city. But he couldn’t be everywhere at once, and so surely, some events had slipped between his fingers, spinning out of his control. As such, he couldn’t imagine the one who was actually in charge of the city’s welfare—more or less, despite the fact she belonged to the Templars. But the Viscount didn’t seem to do anything but sit with his thumbs up his ass. He couldn’t blame her for wanting to take charge of a downward spiraling city, given its present dire situation. Anywhere he walked, the tension was thick enough to cut, even between those who weren’t mages and Templars—everyone had started to choose sides, and it was starting to effect the general populace.

Meeting her gaze at her admission about understanding, he wondered how exactly the Knight-Commander knew temptation, as it was one of the very things that the Order seemed to blast out of their day to day lives with the Chant and the standards set by the Chantry alone. He hesitated for a moment, unsure of how he was meant to answer. Bethany had gotten the short end of the stick by far, being sent to the Wardens after she had nearly died a second time, instead of being sent to the Circle. Despite how easily he led other mages there, he would be hard-pressed to bring his own sister to such a constricting place. Carver had made his own choice in joining the Templars, one that Garrett had attempted to come to terms with after that point. To be pulled in so many directions was frustrating indeed, but he couldn’t make sense of how this correlated to Meredith at all.

”Of course I worry.” Garrett responded simply. He would make no excuses for his family, the way they were—the way he was. ”It’s only natural.” A pause, and then: ”As far as the city is concerned, I can’t say that it feels too different from when we evacuated Lothering… so many years ago. But this time, it isn’t Darkspawn driving everyone mad, is it? Just a severe difference in opinion.” Her words, that people thought she didn’t understand, still stuck with him, raising a point of curiosity that he wanted to ask about, but wasn’t sure how he was meant to without seeming pushy. After all, the pair had hardly talked. He took a moment to sit down in the chair across from her desk, assuming the position of agreeing to be there for a while.

He chose a different approach. Choosing his words carefully, he folded his hands in his lap and tilted his head slightly to one side, hazel eyes inquiring in nature. ”Why did you let me run about the city when I first arrived? I’m sure you knew what I was.” He didn’t need to say it. Apostate. ”And yet, here we are.”

played by cherith
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There was a thick feeling in her throat, anger and frustration trying to bubble to the surface. In an attempt to catch the conspirators, in the hopes that they would be the only ones that perhaps Hawke would come back to her with no news rather than the news she'd expected, she'd hoped to keep it at bay. The pacing and the worrying and the praying… was ineffective. What needed to happen was the same thing she'd been reluctant to do all her life. Even now, years later, even after she'd seen what her sister had wrought on this city. To have to make the choice for so many more lives than just her sister's--

She'd been better at this once. All the decisions had seemed so easy. She'd made her way through the ranks with calm, level-headed ease. The decisions that needed to be made to become Knight Commander had been simple. She'd seen first hand what her own poor decisions had led to. She thanked the Maker nightly for the chance to know, at such a young age, how to make the better decisions for her city. She had a lifetime to make up for the lives that'd been lost.

Now it felt like it hadn't been so long ago she'd stepped into her first set of armor. The way her nerves jangled, how easily she could find anger and fear and frustration, how quickly her vision swam when she was confronted with apostates… It felt as though she was still yet to undergo her first Harrowing. She'd attended dozens, hundreds maybe in her years here in the Gallows. She was no fresh recruit, no wide-eyed templar with hopes that the next mage she met could be different.

She sighed. Wasn't that exactly what she'd been hoping for? That this… Hawke, would be different? That somehow, his name, his title, made him different? How many noble-born mages had they dragged from their families in the name of control? And yet. Here they stood.

"That's what worries me," she said at last. "You say it's not that different from the way Lothering felt. A circle should not feel as though it is attacked from within and without. It should not bear any similarities with rampaging darkspawn. And yet I find all my efforts cut off from within my own ranks." She gritted her teeth. "Mages will always bristle at their restraints. This is not that."

She frowned, the line between her brows drawing closer together as she stared at Hawke. His question hit too close to her own thoughts. He sat in one of the chairs as though he were calm, as though this were a simple conversation for her.

Her armor felt too tight. She straightened up, spine lengthening as her shoulder blades flexed back. She took off one mailed glove, letting the buckle keep it in place as she removed the other one. Her fists were gloved and her fingers stretched in the leather, cooler and less restrained.

"I didn't know. Not at first. Though I suspected quickly enough. At the time, it was only a matter of volume. As you said, you are from Lothering. Kirkwall was bleeding refugees and many-- most, I hope-- with magic, came to us." She nodded towards the door, Orsino across the hall. "Others, without, asked joined my ranks. Or like with your friend, Captain Vallen, the guard. Those who can prove useful--" Meredith shrugged. "We like those who can take care of themselves, who moderate and keep to themselves. You did that. At first."

Taking a few steps, she turned and circled the desk, stopping behind her own chair on the other side. She looked at Hawke, this older, darker, bruised version of the mage she'd met years before. "You… helped, in your own way. I know from Cullen some of the ways in which you inserted yourself to the workings of Kirkwall. Mages came home, Templars found their way back to their barracks unharmed, cargo returned, menaces… managed." She waved a hand in a vague gesture. "And, you were of age, far past the age we typically take in mages. It's… an unsafe practice to send a mage your age into the Harrowing chamber. It's not recommended. The other option, I'm sure you're aware of."

She sighed. "And whatever you've heard of me, that's not an option I take lightly."

played by sugar
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The woman’s presence was daunting enough as it was, without her words that cut about the life of mages, that very well could have been his own life, had his father not been an apostate as well and kept the other two mages in his family out of harm’s way, and nowhere near a Circle. It was just a life that he couldn’t comprehend, or fathom, regardless the number of stories he’d heard about it. Surely, they were there for a reason, weren’t they? If they were quicker, or smarter, they wouldn’t be caught. Like the Hawkes.

Survival of the fittest. That was how Thedas had always been—regardless if one possessed magic or not. Lucky, unlucky, it didn’t matter: people would get what they deserved in the end. He didn’t listen to Anders’ rants about injustice so much, because he didn’t see how a mage could really be a slave to a Templar. The power to lord over mankind, resorted to reading scrolls in a tower secluded from the rest of the world? If he’d ever been placed in one of those Circles, he’d burn down everyone who stood in his way. People fell into the line they were meant to serve. Not everyone could be strong, powerful—a leader. Some had to be shepherded; it was simply the natural order of things.

Perhaps he and Meredith Stannard were more alike than he’d originally assumed.

His eyes yet again moved to the shift of her armor, and he watched as the layers peeled back to reveal simply more layers; surely a metaphor for her mysterious, guarded nature. The lines upon her face depicted a woman who had a lifetime of mistakes, a lifetime of lessons—a lifetime of hardship. Kirkwall had knocked the iron maiden from her path forged in steel and blood. But how? This place was unlike Lothering, for certain, but the constant debauchery provided amusement and action that hadn’t existed in his previous home. Garrett was careful not to read too far into her words, because there was no telling what she could have truly meant—she was a locked chest of information.

Being surprised about her knowledge—awareness—of the mage’s tasks and paths through the Circle was foolish, as she was the Knight-Commander, and had to know how everything operated. But Meredith speaking about it in this fashion, as if she had a more personal hold on the matter than he’d ever experienced, was odd in its own right. He wouldn’t push, but would simply remain in awe that the woman was multifaceted in ways he had yet to understand.

”Well, they do tell you not to believe everything you hear,” Garrett responded cheekily, but it was the truth all the same. He could only imagine how the stories had been embellished to fit the storyteller and raise their popularity, how much the other townsfolk admired them, or whatever else they were seeking. He only knew after hearing so many ridiculous stories about himself that were hardly true—one of his new favorites involving bestiality with the Bone Pit dragon and being able to channel its powers from here on out—to hold a grain of salt to the things he’d heard about Meredith.

It’d only made Orsino speaking out against her look even more the villain than the woman he was advocating against.

”I’ve got to say, I’m grateful that you aren’t running around with a hot iron, ready to strip the minds of anyone who looks at you funny.” Anders, Anders, Anders. Where would the radical lies end? ”I can sleep with both eyes shut now, I think.” A loose smile lifted his features, and he leaned forward in the chair opposite her desk.

He wouldn’t go so far to say that he trusted Meredith, or even vice versa, but it was nice to feel as comfortable as he did in the same room with her, and no longer worrying about a severed head, amongst other things. A subject change to prevent his intended questioning on her experience with Tranquility: ”What will you have me do now, Knight-Commander?” The formality was as much of a joke as it was a term of respect.

”My staff will be at your service, should you ever find yourself in need of it. Oh, and my magic and coercive ability, too.” He honestly just couldn’t help himself.
played by cherith
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For all her efforts to appear relaxed, she could not bring herself to pull the chair in front of her out from the desk and sit opposite the mage, Hawke. She knew quite well the impression that she made on her recruits, especially the new ones. She also knew how the mages here perceived her, how they scurried from her view, darting behind corners and into the nearest hall to get out of her path. It wasn't something she'd admit out loud, even if she had someone to tell it to, but from time to time, she enjoyed that bit of presence she wielded. More often than not, she used it to her advantage. After all, fear was a useful motivator.

She did not know but could make a guess about how Hawke viewed her. He was an apostate, who had befriended apostates, but who had also worked with the Templar of the Gallows when the right opportunities had present themselves. For what it was worth, she could understand the needs of an apostate opportunist in a city like hers. However, his stance of late, or at least his ability to position himself not as a friend of the mages who viewed themselves as so oppressed… it was more than she'd expected.

Meredith was not in the habit of finding herself aligned with a mage, let alone an apostate. Under different circumstances perhaps even his humor could've been charming. Though she found it off-putting and focused her mind on the needs of The Gallows instead, to look past it.

"Yes, well." She took a breath and attempted to let it out as something more than a sigh. She'd met the guard woman, who only ever seemed exasperated by mention of Hawke and had heard a variety of reports from Cullen, whose conversations fared much the same. Meredith was better than that. "I tell you this, so that perhaps when I ask more of you, you might understand where the request comes from. There was a time long before you arrived when the city suffered under the hands of someone who did the very thing we all concern ourselves with when we speak of magic gone… untaught, untamed and out of all control. The city was nearly destroyed then."

Extra care was taken as she spoke to school her features into one of concern without revealing the memories that came with the words. But a bubble of fear pressed up inside her chest, chilling her. Her eyes drew across the room as she paused, falling on the sword in the corner and the red wrapped pommel that'd been designed just for her. The sight of it both calmed her and left that bubble to frost over inside her. Amelia could've torn the city down to its foundation had the proper measures not been in place. That's all she was trying to do now… brick up the cracks that'd been forming for years.

Her gaze returned to Hawke, expression flat. "I do not want to see that happen here, and I hope to put a stop to this once and for all. I suspect you have noticed certain patterns of behavior, this continual struggle between those who need protection and those who want only freedom and have yet to understand what that freedom could cost them. Could cost all of us, really. I need someone willing to take this further. You found no collusion this time, but I must prepare for the worst."
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Meredith’s story gave Garrett reason to believe that he should fear her.

Did he? No. If she wanted him dead, she could have silenced him long ago. Besides, he was helping her clean up Kirkwall more than hindering its attempt to be set back on the right track again. He’d brought nearly every mage that had escaped or caused havoc of some sort back to the Circle to be judged appropriately in the eyes of the Chantry. He didn’t want to be there himself, as he’d declared several hundred times over, but anyone he didn’t trust to do the right thing belonged in a cage. Her story reminded her of someone, but he didn’t quite put his finger on that thought. It was better to keep it pushed down. He was keeping an eye on the radical; there was no way that he would act out against the Templars after what happened last time. Justice was getting out of control—he was surprised that Meredith hadn’t mentioned him by name. Little did Hawke know her story was hardly about him.

Against his better judgment, he decided to withhold the information that he’d gotten from Anders the other night—the mage had asked for his help to distract the Grand Cleric for him in the middle of the night. To do what? He didn’t know—didn’t want to know. Garrett had gone back to his mansion, having refused adamantly to help his actions in any way, from this point forwards. If he wanted to be on Meredith’s side of this war, he wasn’t going to be able to have any more silly dalliances with mages. That time had come and past.

”I…” a pause, longer than he would have liked as he weighed over his options of response carefully. ”… understand.” It was the very least, and yet the very most he could say. ”I’ll keep an eye out and come back if I hear anything… see anything.” Not that he wanted to worry Meredith with squabblings on the street, but tensions were reaching an unbearable high. At the same time, Garrett did fear for enabling her paranoia. Whatever was happening behind those cold blue eyes, it certainly seemed as though Meredith was fighting a war of her own. Her body language didn’t convey the usual prowess over an audience now that she was alone. Strange, really, how it’d turned out.

Garrett was hesitant before he spoke next, not wanting to prod the sleeping bear, so to speak. ”If it does come to that, Meredith.. I am but one man. A talented one,” he couldn’t help getting that in, ”but just one man, nonetheless. And you’re one Knight-Commander. If there are more Templars like Thrask within your ranks, what will you have?” Playing the unyielding voice of reason was not exactly his strong suit, but she couldn’t bank her entire hopes for the city based on people listening to either him or her.

”I think we need to shut Orsino down. Permanently. At least with the public speeches. It’s making people uneasy—distracted, and he’s gathering up a following for himself. That’ll be a start, at least.”

Seven years ago, Garrett wouldn't have imagined himself here, in Meredith's office within the Templar's quarters. This was no place for a man like him. Perhaps that was why Cullen was so irritated with his presence. But now, he had a higher purpose than solely pettiness.

He'd been given a task to be a ward to Krikwall, and he had no choice but to carry it out to the end.

played by cherith
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It wasn't that she held her breath while waiting in that pause Garrett took, but when he spoke an understanding, a well of relief slid out with a breath. Few people in Kirkwall knew the true breadth of her story, of her tie to her position or the family that had given her reason to take up the mantle in the first place. Many remembered the story, but few remembered her place in it. Recent years, since the refugees from Ferelden began to swarm up from the South had recovered even some of her own memories of those times. She fought with difficulty, daily, to keep from being overwhelmed by the frustration and knowledge of the path her city could fall down.

"I appreciate that," she replied. It was easier than saying thank you, and she meant it. Hawke was a mage, and a public one at that, but he seemed eager to keep peace in Kirkwall. Peace even against those that her own protections and Orsino's training could not keep from folly. She hoped that his influence, that his continued presence, would continue to keep those in the Gallows aware of the consequences of betrayal. This was only the latest in years of disappointment. But now that he'd heard the complete story, perhaps his approach would continue to fall on the side of the just.

She shook her head at his question, kneading her bare fist into the desk with a thought. "If there are more like him… I do not know. Perhaps I have allowed for sympathies to be lenient, for boundaries to blur. If there are others that turn to his thinking, one Knight-Commander or one well-meaning mage could not contain the will of all the Gallows." Her brow furrowed as she spoke, aware of the impact she was giving away. If the Templars turned strong allies with the mages, if they could all be corrupted to believe there was no harm in their thinking, none could keep them back. They would burn Kirkwall to the ground.

Meredith listened, the concern in her ice blue eyes focusing them on the door over Hawke's shoulder. "Perhaps you are correct. If was not to blame in this instance, how long will be before he is?" An ember burned her belly, concern giving way to frustration, to anger. "Do you think he's actively seeking some kind of … rebellion?"

It wasn't so hard to believe, at least not with recent actions. Orsino had served across the hall from her as the First Enchanter for years. The elven man had always given her respect, though tensions had been chipping away at their niceties and polite conversations for years. They spoke only when the needs of The Gallows required it of them, other messages passed between assistants and messengers, even Templars when the occasion called for it. Harrowings were the most time they spent together these days and those had become fewer and further between.

"I would not like to think him capable of it, but…" She'd admitted it already and she knew it. If he gave the word, no one could hold the entire will of The Gallows on their own.

Her gaze shifted from the door, to the concerned face of Hawke and then finally, to the sword hilt across the room, leaning against the stone wall. "If he's already started then I need to know what I'm up against. Your help, if you're offering it Hawke, I could use it… I need to know what allies he may have in the city. Who he could use against us that do not live just here in these walls. Here, I can tighten curfews, shorten services, monitor messages… until I know more. I cannot just announce his removal, but time is of the essence."
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