Part 5: A New Arrival

“It’s a baby not a sword Donnic,” I chuckled as I watched the awkward guardsman try to hold Connor.  Aveline smiled at her husband and deftly lifted the squirming baby from his arms, much to Donnic’s relief.

Fenris, Aveline, Donnic, Orana and I were all sitting on the floor in our bedroom, talking and eating and playing with the children.  It had been almost four months since Connor and Leandra were born, and I couldn’t be happier.  Bethany, Fenris and I finally had a family again, we were surrounded by friends who loved and cared for us, and things were finally going well and right for me after so long.  I like to think that mother saw some of my happiness and was smiling down on all of us.

In the months since the babies were born, Aveline, Donnic and Varric had become frequent guests, spending time with the children that they would be raising for the Maker only knew how long.  Things had quieted down, and while a part of me hoped that everyone had finally given up on me, I had a feeling it couldn’t last.

I was surprised at how quickly Aveline had taken to the children.  She had quite the maternal side, my stoic guardswoman friend.  If one didn’t know any better, looking at her holding Conner, you would think that she was his mother.  I was oddly proud of this, and I knew she would take good care of them.

“We need to come over more and teach you how to hold a baby properly,” Aveline said with a smile as she bounced Conner in her arms to his coos and gurgles of laughter.

“It’s been months Aveline, I don’t think I’ll get better,” Donnic groaned as he reclined against some pillows.  Fenris picked up Leandra who was beginning to fuss and began to rock her in his arms.

Even at four months you could see who each of them would take after.  Leandra took after her father, stoic and quiet, happy to just lie there and study the world around her.  Conner was like me, rambunctious and full of energy, reaching for everything and anything in sight, and constantly wriggling, trying to get to whatever he saw that interested him.

“You just need to stop thinking of them as something that will break when you look at it and you’ll get the hang of it quickly enough,” I assured him, smiling at Fenris who smirked back at me.  He still had trouble some days holding the twins, but he was getting better.

A soft whine from the bedroom doorway drew my attention.  “Oh come here you big suck,” I said, motioning for Áedán to come over to me.  I had been careful to make sure he didn’t feel neglected with the children around, playing with him and giving him as many belly and ear rubs as I could, but he still liked playing the forgotten one when there were more people around.

Áedán ambled over and flopped down beside me, panting happily as I rubbed his ears.

It was peaceful here, and I was calm and happy, for the first time in a long time.  But then my calm, and my world, was shattered.

“Hawke! Elf!” came a bellowing cry from below, followed by a loud thud as I assume the door to the tunnel in the cellar swing shut.  The four of us leapt to our feet, Áedán scrambling to his feet and racing out the door as we reached for our weapons in the split second before we recognized Varric’s voice.  “We got a problem here!” Varric shouted, his cry closer this time and with the echoing sound of booted footsteps coming towards us.

Aveline and Fenris gave the twins to Orana, who had stood with us at Varric’s cry.

“Orana, stay here with the children until we find out what’s going on,” I directed the young elf woman as the others quickly filed out towards Varric’s call.  I waited until she nodded her acknowledgement, her blue eyes wide, and followed them.

We met up with Varric in one of the corridors leading from the great hall, and when I saw the look on his face my heart stopped.  Something had happened, and a small part of me that I locked in the corner of my mind knew that the time to leave had come far sooner than I wanted.

“What’s happened Varric?” Fenris demanded.  By the set of his shoulders and the tone of his voice I think he knew too.

Varric shook his head, frowning.  “I’ve just gotten word that the Chantry has heard the rumors of the Champion’s return to Kirkwall,” Varric looked directly at me as he said the words that shattered my world forever.  “They’re a day outside of the city.  You need to leave.  Tonight.”

“No, no,” I muttered, shaking my head and wrapping my arms around myself.  “No, they’re wrong Varric.  You’re sources are wrong.  They can’t be so close!  Not yet!”

Fenris came behind me and placed his hands on my shoulders as Varric looked at me sadly.

“My sources are never wrong Hawke,” he said quietly.  “You know that.”

I turned to Fenris. “We can’t leave yet, the twins are still too young,” I stammered.

“Tanis,” Aveline said softly. “You knew this day would come.  Thank Andraste you had this time with them.”  I continued to shake my head at them, denying for as long as I could the truth.  I would have to leave my children, and I may never see them again.

“Tani,” Fenris said with a short shake of my shoulders. That got my attention.  Fenris had never laid his hands on me in such a way before.  I looked at him, and saw that he was hurting just as much as I was.  His ability to hide his emotions was working well for him now; he was holding it together for me I knew.  “We have to leave,” he said slowly.

I took a deep breath and my shoulders slumped.  For a moment the world disappeared as I went deep into myself and gathered up all my fear, pain, and sorrow and locked it away.  There would be time enough for that later, when Fenris and I were safely away from Kirkwall.  The only thing I had left now was my anger.  Anger at the Chantry for coming now and tearing me from my children, anger at the mages and Templars who forced my hand and through me started the war, anger at the whole gods forsaken world that despite being a good person, despite saving all those people, despite doing my best to always do what is right, I am condemned and my children may never know their parents.  Damn you all.

It only took a moment, and I squared my shoulders, giving Fenris a brisk nod that he returned.  He was no fool.  He knew what I did.  But he also knew now was not the time for such things.

“Fine then.  We leave tonight.  Come Áedán,” I beckoned to my hound as I marched back to the heart of the manse, to finish packing and say goodbye to my children.

The rest of the evening was spent gathering the last of the supplies Fenris and I needed for our flight from the city, and waiting for night to fall.

The waiting was the worst.  No one knew what to say.  We just sat there, doing everything we could not to stare at each other and failing miserably at it, while Fenris and I spent what time we could with Connor and Leandra.

When darkness finally fell we all left the manse in the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness.  Donnic, Aveline, Varric, Orana, with Fenris and me holding our children one last time.  We travelled a few miles south from the city, in the opposite direction from where the Chantry was approaching from the north.  Finally Varric stopped.

“We go no further Hawke,” he said.  “If we don’t turn back now we’ll never make it back to the city before dawn.”

I nodded, clutching Leandra to my breast briefly before giving her to Aveline.  I looked into the eyes of my oldest friend, and she just nodded to me.

“We’ll care for them as if they were our own Hawke, you know that,” she said.  I returned her nod, gave my little Leandra one last kiss and stepped back as Fenris gave Carver to Donnic.  The twins had been quiet the whole night, almost as if they sensed the need for secrecy, but now they squirmed and fussed in the arms of their new caregivers as they felt the familiar presence of their mother and father leaving them.

Áedán whined softly, looking between the babies and me.  I knew he was asking what was wrong, why was I leaving them behind.  I hadn’t told him anything before our flight, and I couldn’t now.  Not until we were safely away from them.

“Go,” I croaked as Fenris said his goodbye to Connor and Leandra.  “They won’t stay quiet for long.”  Orana stepped up to me and gave me a swift hug.  “Goodbye mistress,” she whispered.  I hugged the young woman back hard before releasing her; she had grown so much in such a short time.  I was glad to have known her.

“Good luck Hawke,” Varric said.  I didn’t trust myself to say anything; the twins had started to cry.  The sound wrenched at my heart but I did nothing.  I just turned and walked away from them with Áedán at my heel and Fenris by my side, the cries of my children for their mother echoing far away into the night.

****

Walking away from you two was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but to this day I believe it was the right thing.

Your father and I wandered Thedas, keeping out of sight of those who sought us, but still doing what we could.  I always felt responsible for the war.  I only ever did what I felt was right, but I still lie awake some nights wondering what I could have done differently to prevent all this.

We’ve watched you grow up from afar, seen the bright and wonderful men and women you’ve become, and we couldn’t be more proud.  I understand if you can’t forgive us for leaving you all those years ago, I only pray that one day you’ll at least accept that we did what we thought was best.  What I thought was best.

But now we need your help my children.  Darkness rises again in Thedas, and just as the lords and ladies of the lands call their people forth, so too do your father and I call for you.

Go to the old Hawke estate, search for the house crest in the cellar.  With luck your father and I will be waiting there for you, and the gods willing you will get the answers you deserve.

Stay safe my darlings.

Love your mother,

Tanis Hawke

Champion of Kirkwall

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