They were coming back from the Hanged Man, winding their way leisurely through the wide Hightown streets. When the others were around—tonight it was Anders and Varric, both up from the lower parts of the city for reasons of their own—Mairead did not usually rest her hand in the loop Gawyn made with his arm for her, so instead he just kept his long strides in pace with hers, his proximity close. They had outdistanced the other two a bit—or perhaps they were just being given a small bit of privacy—and a smile lit up his face as he looked at her.

They spoke softly, heads canted toward one another in the quiet night, and could hear the low back and forth as Varric and Anders made polite conversation with one another as well. She couldn’t make out any of their words, but wasn’t concerned in trying to do so, anyway.

“It’s a bit odd,” Gawyn was saying as she pulled her attention back to him.

“What’s that?”

His shoulders rolled back just a bit beneath his pauldrons, straightening his spine further and broadening his chest all in one small motion. “No one has come out to disrupt the night so far.”

Mairead glanced up at him. “It really can’t be so bad here at night,” she said, remembering the warnings he had given her when she first arrived about wandering Kirkwall at night alone, and every time he took her with him, he reminded her to wear her armor. She’d expect bandits in Darktown, any time of day, in Lowtown certainly at night, but still held her doubts of Hightown. Would the thugs and gangs truly be bold enough to strike in force against so a obviously armed and prepared group of people?

“You’d be surprised.”

Yet they continued on with no incident, and she nudged his arm with her shoulder, opening her mouth to make a smart comment, when Varric’s shout from behind them had them both whirling on the balls of their feet. A loose group of fighters in dark leathers dropped from the roofs of some of the lower Hightown buildings, all brandishing swords and daggers. A greenish glow flared momentarily to her right and she felt a warm surge run through her, boosting her energy. His back now to hers, Gawyn unhooked the massive axe from his baldric and swung it as he brought it around from his back in time to stave off the advance of two swordsmen with its vicious blade. She couldn’t spare any more attention on him as she snarled and lunged for the closest attacker.

The rhythm of battle took over her muscles and her mind, her blade now just an extension of her arm as she fought back the swordsman before her. She turned the tide of the fight and kicked at one of his knees, her boot making contact with a sickening crack and he dropped with a sharp cry of pain. Her sword opened his throat a moment later and she turned to her next target.

Her eyes locked on an archer lining his sights, and her feet lurched her into motion toward him before he could loose an arrow at anyone, but a bolt of energy jarred her nerves and knocked her off her feet. Cursing and shaking the energy from her head and her hands, she scrambled back to her feet.

“Just what we need,” she grated to no one. “Apostates.”

She ran to the archer, shoulder hunched down, and caught him with the full-force of her spauldron, knocking the wind from him as he flew back, arrow and bow flung from his hands. She finished incapacitating him as Varric shouted something from the other side of the courtyard they were in, a desperate pitch riding words she couldn’t make out. Had he called to Gawyn? Her attention was diverted as an apostate mage shimmered into the space right beside her, and she reacted instantly, her blade cutting through the woman’s robes and tearing through the cloth and biting into flesh beneath. The mage went down with a strangled cry, and Mairead wrenched her sword free, blood spattering in its wake.

The blood from the newly made corpse shimmered and shifted in the air, and she watched, lip curling in derision of its own accord. She backed away from the forbidden magic and picked another opponent to bring down. As if fighting mages weren’t bad enough, she didn’t need to have to worry about one potentially taking control of the very blood within her veins.

She could see both Varric and Anders fighting out of the corner of her eye, the former leaning back to rain down arrows over top a small grouping of enemy archers, and Anders was locked in battle with one of the apostate mages. Somewhere amidst it all, Mairead heard Gawyn’s angry shout. Soon, the courtyard was littered with bodies and the fighting was over. She pulled out an old cloth and wiped the blood and bits from her blade before sheathing it again. Anders joined her.

“Blood mages,” he spat. “Giving the rest of us a bad name and feeding that awful stereotype.” He shook his head as if to clear it. “Where’s Varric?”

She hastily searched the fallen with him, coming across Varric struggling with an arrow through his thigh next to one of the enemy archers, riddled with at least four of his crossbow bolts.

“Blasted broadhead arrows,” he cursed, sweat beading on his forehead.

“Here, let me.” Anders knelt down beside him and closed his eyes a moment, concentrating. Green washed over several spots on the dwarf’s body, though it focused primarily around the arrow protruding from his leg. The healer looked at Mairead. “Can you snap it off and push the head through? I’ll follow up immediately in healing it.”

She gave a quick nod and knelt, snapping the arrow’s shaft and hesitating only a moment to get a nod from Varric before slowly and steadily pushing it the rest of the way through his leg. Varric gitted his teeth and grimaced, but she could feel the warmth radiating off his thigh from Anders’ spell and knew the pain was greatly diminished from what it would have been otherwise. Varric let out an immense breath when the arrow was all the way through and leaned back on his hands as Anders finished mending the wound from the inside.

“You’re lucky,” Anders told him, drawing a vial of elfroot potion from a pocket and handing it to the dwarf. “Had that been a few inches over, you might’ve bled to death before we got to you.”

Varric threw back the potion like a shot and a small shiver rippled through him as his body soaked up the potion. “Good thing we keep you around then,” he remarked, then glanced between the two of them. “Speaking of bloodshed and death, where’s Hawke?”

Mairead stood swiftly and Anders looked up at her. “Usually he finds us after destroying whatever stragglers he’s hunted down and savaged,” he said, worried.

Varric waved at them. “You both go find our wayward boy.” He grunted, slowly working to get to his feet as gingerly as he could. “I’ll catch up in a minute.”

That was all she needed. Anders stood as she started off, her strides longer than was normal and her eyes scanning the courtyard for Gawyn’s looming bulk to present itself. Anders walked off to her right flank, calling out Hawke’s name a few times.

“Where are you, you bear?” Mairead muttered under her breath.

As if in reply, though he couldn’t have heard it, a low moan drifted up from behind a raised stone garden in the courtyard just before narrowing into a side street. She knew instantly it was his voice and called for Anders even as she jogged over to him. Her heartbeat stuttered and her footsteps faltered when she he came into her view.

Lying on the flagstones, Gawyn looked more a felled metal tree next to the body of an apostate than simply a man in armor. His lips were pale and his eyes fluttering as he tried to maintain consciousness. Blood pooled between his body and the mage’s, dark and congealing. A strangled cry left Mairead’s throat and her heart twisted into a lump in her chest as she ran the rest of the way to him and dropped to her knees. She took his face between her hands and blanched at how cold his skin was compared to normal.

“Gawyn—Gawyn no,” she pleaded him. “No, no, no, you’ve got to stay with me, can you hear me?” Without waiting for an answer from him, she looked up at Anders, kneeling down on his other side.

The healer hovered his hands over Gawyn’s and his brow creased deeply. “He’s lost a lot of blood. There’s… residual magic inside of him.”

Mairead glanced at the pooled blood on the flagstones, the apostate lying only a few feet away from where they knelt beside Gawyn with the head of his axe still stuck in his side. Errant drops fell from the blade to mark a slow, macabre beat on the stones. She tore her eyes from the sight and made them settle on Anders.

She didn’t say anything to him; she didn’t need to. Anders gave a small nod, then drew in a fortifying breath and set to work.

It felt like several eternities passed. Mairead watched Anders, his cheekbones reflecting green as he mended, her stomach knotting. Varric joined them eventually, his mouth drawn and terse. He placed a light hand on Mairead’s shoulder for a moment before he limped over to Anders and quietly asked him if he needed anything. Anders muttered something in the negative, intent on Gawyn, sweat forming along his hairline.

The rise and fall of Gawyn’s chest was hidden by the black cuirass, but she could hear it echoing shallowly for far too long a time. Her hands were wringing themselves with no conscious thought on her part, and there was a thickening in her throat that was threatening to overwhelm her.

This was taking far too long. What if there wasn’t anything Anders could do? What if they had gotten to him too late? Mairead’s throat tightned more and she pushed a swallow through the constriction. Sweat clung to her palms, as she gripped Gawyn’s gauntlet with white knuckles beneath her gloves.

“Ah!” Anders exhaled suddenly, sitting back. Some color flooded back into into Gawyn’s face and his breathing deepened. His eyes shut completely, then he squeezed them a little and opened them, slow and almost groggy. Anders sagged backward, exhausted, and Varric darted forward to stop his fall, but all Mairead had the space in her for was on Gawyn.

His grey eyes were the palest she’d ever seen them, as if the life had been drawn out of them like poison from a wound, and she tightened her grip on his hand and felt tears well in her eyes. He whispered her name hoarsely, a prayer tumbling from his lips. Lifting the cold metal of his gauntlet to her lips, she felt hot tracks of tears sliding down to her jaw. Gawyn weakly turned the wrist of the hand in her grip to lightly cup her cheek.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he told her.