Amina Hawke: dark-skinned, short hair, queer as all hell, snarky to a fault, an apostate who believes in mage freedom. Not flawless, but instead flaunts her flaws with pride, and maybe sometimes works on growing.

This piece includes spoilers for Dragon Age: Origins, 2, and Inquisition, as well as various DLC packages.

Amina Hawke, who does everything for her friends because she can. Pushes Fenris to be better, to not see mages, like her, as the problem. Sleeps with him anyway because broody bois, makes fun of him for never cleaning his stolen mansion. Sleeps with Isabella because both women know what they want, and also is such a good friend that Isabella comes back to return what she stole by her own volition. Flirts with Merrill because precious blushing; also doesn’t think blood magic necessarily leads to demons  so is willing to help our young elf along, but will admit that might not have been the best idea. Wants to stab Aveline after trying to help her with her love issues, only to have ingratitude shoved back at her. Is best friends with Varric and would die for him. Punches Carver in the face until he becomes a tolerable Grey Warden. Falls in love with Anders, who would die for his beliefs, and she would die alongside him.

Amina Hawke, who would have been an incredible viscount of Kirkwall, who doesn’t actually want to buy into the capitalist mining economy with Hubert but knows she’ll treat her workers better and so does, who takes in a bunch of outcasts because they have nowhere to go, who holds her mother as she dies. Amina Hawke, who won against the Arishok by running in circles, who went after her father’s legacy, who was not tempted by red lyrium but was willing to help those who were.

Amina Hawke, who would die in the fight against Corypheus.

An image of Marian Hawke, the stock female Hawke, leaping with a sword over some darkspawn. Dragon Age II, BioWare, EA, 2011

It often surprises people to learn that I’m an introvert, and that around people I don’t know, I’m very shy. If I go to parties (since when?), I keep to the corners unless I know people. I am not the type of stranger who makes small talk in the grocery store, or on the train, or while waiting in line.

I’m loud, sure. I speak my mind, yes. I am a Gryffindor and will always be. But the confidence I project is just that: a projection, a hollow shell that cracks with insecurities I’ve harbored my whole life. Insecurities that used to define me and, even though they no longer do, still weigh heavy on who I am and who I pretend to be. At least I’m loyal to a fault; when I was a child, my parents used the saying baraye kesi bemeer keh barat tab koneh. Die for someone who would take a fever for you. It’s advice I’m still trying and failing to follow every day.

When I was a child, my parents used to tell me to die for someone who would take a fever for you. It’s advice I’m still trying and failing to follow every day.

Amina Hawke is loud and speaks her mind, yes, and she’s fiercely loyal. She didn’t sell Isabella out, didn’t denounce Anders, didn’t even leave the city that was so torn on deciding her humanity because she believed it could be better, that she could make it better. But Hawke’s confidence, sometimes/oftentimes arrogance, isn’t feigned. She knows her power and she owns it. It shows in the way she walks, how she addresses the viscount, in going toe-to-toe with Meredith. It shows in how she flirts: with alarming confidence, unafraid to bat her eyes at anyone and add a snarky comment to boot. For Hawke, sex can be separate from love but is also not the only way to show love. For Hawke, friendship means time, commitment, and attention. For Hawke, nothing is more important than the people you care about and putting yourself on the line for them.

Even Hawke’s family relationships sing with familiarity to me. Despite how different the specifics are, having to care for Carver—especially once Bethany is killed—Leandra, and even Gamlen made me think of my own family responsibilities. My brother has classical autism and is turning 27 this year, but he still lives with my parents and will, when they’re gone, live with me. (As far as I’m aware, my brother, unlike Carver, does not resent our relationship.) As my parents age, it will fall on me to make sure they live out the rest of their lives in relative peace. I will continue to hope and pray neither of them are hunted by a serial killer trying to recreate a dead lover, but regardless, one day it’ll just be me and my brother, the way it’s just Hawke and her brother by the end of DA2.

Between her prowess, swagger, and love life, I woke up one day and found myself completely devoted to this woman I helped create. Hawke is everything I’ve ever wanted to be. I wish my confidence were as real as hers. I wish I had been able to approach people I was interested in the way she does. I wish I could flirt and charm with a witty comment or two. I wish people could admire and respect and believe in me the way they do Hawke. And I knew I’d follow her to the ends of Thedas.

So yeah, I feel a bit attached to her.

For most of my life, I’ve believed that I would need to surpass my dad in order to be worthy of my name.

Imagine my shock and glee, then, when in the midst of Inquisition the character creation opened up and I could bring Hawke back to life. More scars than before, a bit older and more tired, but Amina Hawke coming down those steps, Varric nearby—I screamed. I had already seen Alistair, my DA:O romance, and swooned to hear him call my Warden “my love” and talk about his faith in her. I knew Anders, my favorite character in the ‘verse (and one of my favorite characters of all time), was not going to be in the game, but I was overjoyed at the prospect of my Hawke joining the Inquisition for even a little bit.

To my surprise, this reunion gave me something new to love about Hawke, or, at least, expanded on another resonating aspect from the DA2 Legacy DLC: our fathers. Though my daddy issues might not be as potentially world-shattering as hers, I do understand the burden of legacy. Even if I hadn’t been a child of immigrants, my father started college at 16 and got his PhD at 25. For most of my life, I’ve held that as a standard, believed that I would need to surpass him—if not in how fast I completed my degrees, then in how many I got—in order to be worthy of my name. (For the record, my dad never did anything to instill this in me, never once made a comment implying I was failing him. When I finally told him about this idea some years back, he laughed and said I surpassed him long ago. Also, unlike Malcolm, he is still, thankfully, alive and complaining about needing to save for retirement.)

Hawke may not have had Malcolm around to encourage or discourage this kind of “surpassing,” but taking up the fight against Corepheus was still taking up his mantel. (Indeed, fans speculate Hawke was originally supposed to be the Inquisitor; it certainly would have made Corepheus a stronger villain in DA:I. Perhaps we would have seen “Here Lies the Abyss”—and, therefore, a new Inquisition villain—as the canceled Exalted March DLC instead; perhaps Hawke would have experienced the same ending regardless.) Of course she would be there for this mission, risking herself in the Fade to make sure this OG darkspawn was taken out once and for all. Of course she would make sure she honored her father and picked up where he left off, just as I’ve spent years trying to do with my dad.

I was so excited to see Hawke again. I had no idea how much heartbreak awaited me.

Marian Hawke stands in Skyhold and looks at the camera. Dragon Age Inquisition, BioWare, EA, 2014

Having Alistair and Hawke both in my party felt like bringing together all three games in a tangible, impactful way. Never mind that Carver would have made more sense—my Warden love and my Champion were together bickering, chatting, exploring the Fade with my Inquisitor and her team. Seeing Varric and Hawke together again made me feel like I’d been reunited with a long-lost friend. Seeing Desta—my Dalish mage Herald—with Hawke felt like the crossover of my dreams. All I needed was my elf Circle mage Warden and I’d have my three badass brown women taking over Thedas. Three women who have become a part of me over the 300+ hours I’ve put into this series, 300+ going on 158,447,849+, and Hawke was chief among them.

I knew Dragon Age is brutal. I knew things weren’t going to be easy. But I really didn’t expect for Hawke and Alistair to both turn to me and offer themselves as sacrifices. I didn’t expect to have to choose between Hawke, my hero, and Alistair, my first DA love. I did not expect to have to send one of them to their doom.

I didn’t expect to have to choose between Hawke, my hero, and Alistair, my first DA love. I didn’t expect to have to send one of them to their doom.

Maybe I made my decision hastily. Maybe I should have considered letting Alistair atone for the sins of the Grey Wardens, the ways in which they’d failed. Maybe I should have learned to hack the game and sacrifice, say, Blackwall, who sucks a lot. Maybe I should have restarted an Origins playthrough and let Alistair be a (very bad, I imagine) king, or a drunkard because we need as many Wardens as we can get, Alistair, and wait why are you breaking up with me—anyway. It doesn’t matter how many maybes I can think of, because as soon as that decision was presented, I knew what my choice would have to be.

I thought this would be the worst thing I’d have to mourn, but no, the game had to juice a lime into the wound and dump a container of salt on it: Hawke’s last words had to be “Sorry, Anders.” I lost it. His relationship with Hawke—their complicated, loving, deeply devastating relationship—kept me going in so many ways. Hawke visiting Anders in his Darktown clinic. Anders loving her over three years. Hawke sleeping around with others before settling on the one waiting for her. Anders asking whether she’d proclaim her love for an apostate. Even before Hawke moved him in, Anders curled into my heart like the cat he wishes he was, and I knew I’d love the two of them forever. To picture Anders somewhere (Weisshaupt, perhaps), waiting for her, planning for the two of them to go off together, live out the rest of his days in peace and quiet before either Justice/Vengeance corrupts him completely or before the Warden(-Commander) can figure out how to undo the Calling—I was gutted. I am gutted.

A tattoo of the Amell symbol in a stained-glass pattern

I mean serious business! This is my latest; I got it in February. I plan to get the Kirkwall symbol on the other side of my calf.

The worst part about “Here Lies the Abyss” was knowing that Corepheus would come back—that Hawke’s sacrifice, twice, was in complete vain. Perhaps it was the developers atoning for the sin (in so many fan’s eyes) that was DA2. Perhaps they believed it was a fitting end for the Champion of Kirkwall. In some sense, I believe the latter; as devastated as I was, it felt—and feels—right to choose Hawke to stay in the Fade.

Maybe Hawke is coming back. I think BioWare has certainly left that avenue open, especially with Solas’s plan to rewrite the world. I don’t think this would necessarily cheapen Hawke’s sacrifice, though I would understand if the developers decide to lay her to rest. Still, among all the moments where Dragon Age broke my heart, “Here Lies the Abyss” takes the crown. Rest in power, Hawke. You will always be my Champion of Kirkwall.