|Why you gotta go rifling through my stuff???|
I'm a writer first, and once upon a time I was one helluva wiz with pencils, pastels and acrylics. Alas, I've neglected the latter talents in favor of real life, though I hope one day to pick them up again. Writing is my passion, though it was not always my strongest skill (and is still in the refining process.) I'll quit that when I'm dead... maybe. ;o)|
You can also find me on fanfiction.net where I'm still Lourdes23. I've got a bit more posted there, but much of it is years old and nowhere close to the standards I now hold myself to.
I've copied my favorite pieces here though.
I also post photographs I take which I find appealing, though I wouldn't call myself a photographer, or even a hobbyist. My camera is older, my skills are remedial and there are many times in which I am scolded by family for not taking enough pictures at special events. But I can appreciate lovely scenery, so if I catch a lucky shot I'll share it with the class.
or, enter your birth date.
"Word for you, ser."
Hawke spun, lines of consternation furrowing her brow. Beside her an Inquisition scout stood at the ready; a message bearing a white wax seal pinched between the woman's fingers. Hawke’s mind grappled for an explanation; after a taxing journey through the wastes she and Fenris had made an impromptu stop at the Inquisition encampment where they now stood to restock their provisions before setting out for the Imperial Highway. She could not fathom how someone had known they would arrive at this camp, let alone early enough to send a messenger after them.
"A letter for me?" Hawke clarified, her eyes narrowing uncertainly. "Are you certain?"
"Yes ser." The scout nodded. "I was told the Champion of Kirkwall and her companion would be passing through here, and when they did my orders were to deliver this."
Hawke's slight frown deepened into a mistrustful scowl; clearly she and Fenris had been followed. "By whose command?" She demand - a little brusquely considering the Inquisition had been nothing short of supportive to the pair thus far. Yet this would not the first time the Champion would have found herself manipulated by those she believed to be her allies, and still it never ceased to rattle her.
"Spymaster Leliana's, ser."
"Spymaster," the word escaped Hawke's pursed lips as though an obscenity. Though Hawke had never met the woman directly, Varric had mentioned her as being one that, as he had worded it, scared the piss out of him. As the Inquisition's Spymaster, it was her duty to know everything about persons deemed 'of interest' to their cause, be they ally or enemy, and from what Varric had said the woman was very good at her job. Without asking for further details, Hawke took up the message and turned to lock eyes with Fenris briefly, "I might have known. Thank you, soldier. Do you have a private place where I can read this?"
The scout pointed to a brown canvas structure at Hawke's back. "The tent just there is open. You're welcome to it until a ranking officer arrives."
Hawke nodded and strode to the unoccupied tent, removing her striker from her pouch and lighting the candle upon the small table as Fenris closed the flaps. The heavy canvas blocked out most of the sunlight, resulting in a noticeably cooler environment within.
It wasn’t complete privacy, as their voices could carry through the canvas walls as easily as if they still stood outside, but at least they were hidden from prying eyes. "It would appear the Inquisition is not yet done with you," Fenris growled as he laid a cutting gaze upon the missive in her grasp, and Hawke gave a slightly contrary shake of her head.
"No." she murmured with quiet surprise, inspecting the letter in the candlelight, "The seal is blank. This didn't come from Varric or the Inquisition. Neither would have cause to send a secretive message to an Inquisition camp."
"I see. Then word has traveled more quickly than I had anticipated." She could almost hear the corners of his mouth dropdisparagingly. The warrior had made it perfectly clear on multiple occasions that he viewed anyone intent on using her as outright threats, and the level of secrecy involved in their current situation was undoubtedly setting his teeth on edge.
Hawke cracked the wax carefully. "Oh? What word is that?"
"That the Champion of Kirkwall’s bladesare once more for hire." Hawke lifted her gaze, her brows arched at the contempt which laid thick in his words.
Fenris was right, of course, and inwardly Hawke bemoaned the end of their peace. While her cooperation with the Inquisition had been as much to settle a personal score as it had been a service to the greater good, that would not be how the world would see it. She would have returned to public service, in the eyes of Thedas. Hawke could already envision the requests she could expect. People desperately searching for lost lovers; mage factions calling on her sympathies; long lost treasures begging to be claimed by folk too oily to try themselves, with one such character coming to mind instantly, causing Hawke to cringe as she unfolded the parchment.
"I swear if this is from Hubert I'm changing my name t-"
The words died upon her lips as she laid eyes upon the swirling script.
It couldn't be...
The barest sound of movement rustled; a telltale that Fenris was now standing at her back. The heat of his proximity was palpable even here in the desert, making the skin along her spine tingle deliciously despite their presently shared frame of mind. "What do they ask?” It was a low, menacing growl; that of a mabari which sensed danger close by.
"I don't know," she muttered, "I haven't read it yet. Only the signature."
Eyes narrowed, Fenris turned his attention to the message, placing a hand over hers to tilt the script towards himself. Then his rich baritone quietly filled her ears as he began to read with careful practice.
'Greetings, Ser Hawke,
I hope this letter finds you well.
I've heard from a friend and former companion of mine that you recently accompanied ranking members of the Inquisition, as well as a Grey Warden, into the Fade; and while there you offered to remain behind for the sake of your fellows and Thedas. Though in the end the Warden took the task you had volunteered for, your willingness to make such a selfless decision has still earned the gratitude of an order.
I wish that this message could be just a letter of thanks, but I'm afraid that in contacting you I have an agenda of my own.
I'll get straight to the point. No man or woman should be sentenced to death for choosing to do what is right. I am asking for your help in putting a stop to just such an injustice.
If you are open to what I have to say, please meet me in two weeks at Madame Mazamet's Inn in Ghislain. We will discuss the details there, and you can then decide if you are willing to help.
If you choose not to come please know that I wish you all of the best in life, regardless.
In Your Debt,
Valeria Therin, Warden Commander of the Grey Wardens; Ferelden Order'
Fenris' fingers slid gently from Hawke's hand at the end, and she turned to him with a half-hearted smile upon her lips; close enough to his own to lean in and taste him if she chose.
"I'm glad to see you've kept up with your reading practice."
"Warden Commander, indeed," Fenris muttered, ignoring the compliment, "you have been summoned by a queen."
"I don't believe she's acting in that capacity, though," Hawke mused, "otherwise we'd find ourselves with a more distinguished rendezvous point. I believe in this she is acting as the title she used; a Grey Warden."
Fenris' eyes narrowed skeptically. "Perhaps. But to what end?"
"From the sound of this letter, she may be trying to prevent future Callings." No doubt it would be nothing so simple as an errand, she mused if only to herself, and she found quickly enough that she was not the only one to reach such a conclusion.
"I am not certain that this is a matter we should be involving ourselves with, Hawke," Fenris murmured, his dubiousness creeping visibly across his bronze features; eyes narrowing on her intently. "Were this a task she felt you would not question, she would have detailed it in her letter. That she is asking you to come to her for the explanation can mean only that she wishes the opportunity to argue its necessity when you refuse her request."
"Undoubtedly." Hawke agreed without hesitation, which seemed to momentarily take Fenris aback. "But that's exactly why we're going Ghislain." Folding the summons into her belt pouch, Hawke experienced a slight twinge of excitement at the prospect of meeting the Grey Warden who slew an archdemon and ended the last Blight. "We need to hear the Hero of Ferelden out. After what she has done she deserves no less than that."
Ghislain was gaudy, Hawke decided, right down to the stables at the city gates where they had penned their horses. With buildings painted every color imaginable, a multitude of colognes mixing sickeningly in the air, and inhabitants conducting their daily business while wearing all manner of extravagant masks and finery fit for a ball, Hawke found herself actually missing the simplicity of Kirkwall. Even the women of the Rose had known more restraint with their perfume and baubles. She heard in passing conversations that Val Reauoix was even more extravagant and counted herself grateful she had not been asked to travel there instead.
Worse were the way some of the women - and more than a few men - gaped at Fenris openly, and with clear interest that Hawke found irritating in the extreme. Fenris had always possessed an exotic air with his pale hair and strange tattoos, yet here he bore a stark contrast to the brightly clothed, pale skinned denizens of Orlais. He was a rare delicacy in this country of gluttony, and more than a few let it be known through inviting stares and subtle gestures that they wished a taste.
Desiring nothing more in that moment than to be away from this city, Hawke focused on her primary concern; locating the inn mentioned in the Grey Warden's letter. After several inquiries with local merchants, and having her pronunciation of the proprietor's name corrected haughtily by one masked woman, Hawke was grateful to finally locate Madame Mazemet's Inn; a building painted a nauseating shade of orange with perfectly aged bronze window casings decorating every wall face. Inside, the stone floors were plain but heavily polished, the tapestries and draperies that dripped from the walls were older but well-tended, and the smell of roasting meet overruled the cloying scent of perfume that filled the streets; a notable improvement to the city outside, she felt.
Before Hawke could seek out help from the barkeep a plump woman wearing a gown of purple satin and a simple silver mask which covered her eyes alone approached them; her cheeks dimpled in what appeared to be an honest, gracious smile.
"Greetings weary travelers!" She trilled through her thick Orlesian accent, spreading her arms wide. "Welcome to Madame Mazemet's. I am your hostess, Jacqueline Mazemet. How may this house serve you?"
Hawke's brow lifted uncertainly, yet she effected a slight smile none the less. The woman, while a bit theatrical, seemed a great deal more personable than many of the people she and Fenris had encountered in this city so far, and Hawke decided she would be grateful even if it was simply an act. "Good day, Madame. My companion and I were asked to meet a friend here. We appear to be early, however, and would like to rent a room if you have one."
Unexpectedly the eyes behind the mask lit brightly, the eccentric woman’s gaze darting from Hawke to Fenris and then back again. "Ah! You would be Hawke then, yes? Your room has already been purchased." The woman bowed gently at the waist and extended an arm elegantly towards the stairs. "If you would, it is just this way."
"Convenient." Fenris muttered at Hawke's side, and she cast him a discreet look begging for his silence as they followed Madame up the ornately carved stairs to a room at the very back of the inn.
"Our finest suite," their hostess twittered, opening the door with a grand sweep of her arm. Beyond, it truly was a lavish room - perhaps the jewel of her inn. Silk dripped from the bed in rolling flows that practically cried out to Hawke to bury herself in their softness. Plush rugs, thickly cushioned chairs and sofa, and fat pillows patterned the room, inviting any who entered into their comfort. The fireplace was small, but it was carved from polished stone, and in contrast with the general theme of the city, the walls were painted the softest grey, with upholstery and linens of similar hues. At the far side of the room an ornate screen hid a large copper bathtub which stood upon four clawed feet.
At last Hawke found something redeemable in this city that had so far done nothing to impress her.
"It's lovely, Madame," Hawke smiled, gazing at the tub longingly. Madame Mazemet smiled.
"I will have my lad bring up hot water for your bath, yes?" She said and then smiled at Fenris. "Monsieur is welcome to a meal downstairs while the lady bathes. The meals are complimentary with the room." Fenris’ eyes narrowed, yet Hawke’s silent plea caused his response to be delayed in coming, and when it did it was with a more civil tongue.
"Thank you, but I will remain here."
"Of course," the Orlesian woman replied smoothly, her smile just as bright. "Then I shall take my leave. My lad will be up shortly to see after your bath. Should you need anything, please do come see me."
When the heavy wooden door closed behind them Hawke began unburdening herself of her gear, smiling with eager anticipation at Fenris whilehoping that the Warden Commander would be just late enough for her to have her first proper bath since Skyhold.
Hours later, with her skin blessedly free of sand and sweat, her clothes laundered, and her belly full of ram roast and vegetable stew, Hawke was fairly certain she was developing a deep appreciation of Madame and her hospitality. Their hostess had even managed to procure a bottle of Aggregio for Fenris when Hawke had asked if her selection included it, though it had not arrived until well after their evening meal.
Hawke had crowned the evening's bliss by convincing Fenris to read from one of her favorite serials, his voice low and soft in its narrative. Her lids drooped as she nestled back against his chest; his graceful form stretched languidly behind her upon the sofa as his legs entwined intimately with hers.
She would have been perfectly content to never move from that place again.
Until the knock at the door dragged a groan from her chest and pushed her reluctantly to her feet. Waiting only long enough for Hawke to call out an invitation to enter, Madame bustled into the suite; energetic, pleasant and perfectly put together despite the late hour. "Good evening. Forgive my intrusion, but your guest has arrived."
With another of her flowing gestures, the proprietor opened the door wide and stepped back, allowing a cloaked and hooded figure to emerge from the shadowed corridor beyond before taking her leave discreetly. Entering the room, their visitor removed her hood, revealing strawberry hair pulled back in a braid that hung down behind her shoulders and bright green eyes that scanned the room before the woman's lips quirked in amusement. "Leliana was right - this room is perfect!"
Hawke frowned slightly, and at her side the softness that had only moments ago been present in Fenris' features was now hidden behind a steel veil of mistrust. Immediately Hawke stepped forward, knowing that she could not appear hesitant in this meeting. "Warden Commander Valeria, I presume?"
"Valeria, please," the woman gave her heada small shake, snapping herself back to attention, and unclasped her cloak with one hand while extending the other in greeting. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Ser Hawke."
"Likewise," Hawke admitted, taking up the proffered hand firmly. "I must admit, you're not at all what I pictured the Hero of Ferelden would be like."
Valeria chuckled lightly. "You were expecting someone a little more imposing, I assume?" She snorted a small laugh and Hawke tried not to gape at the undignified display."You've met Alistair. You should know we're not exactly a conventional pair."
"The Maker be praised for small miracles," Hawke breathed; the accolade earning a wide grin from the woman before her asHawke gestured to the man at her side. "Forgive me. This ismy companion, Fenris."
"A pleasure, Fenris," Valeria smiled, extending a hand to him as well without hesitation. Fenris hesitated before granting her only a brief nod of his head; his posture curved ever-so-slightly and ready to spring into action the moment he deemed it necessary. Before Hawke could excuse his manners, though, the woman before them straightened.
"Yes, you're right." The Grey Warden admitted, tipping her head to the elf as though having caught on to some hidden message as she squared her shoulders; her voice hardening into something of the legendary figure Hawke had expected. "Please forgive me. I did not invite you here for idle chatter.
"Tell me, Ser Hawke," the woman began, casually settling her rump upon the table beside her, "what do you know of the Calling?"
The Champion of Kirkwall sat motionlessupon the couch, her elbows perched upon her knees while she continued to watch Valeria as though the woman seated before her was still speaking, though the Warden Commander had been silent for several minutes already. Fenris seemed to be the only one among them capable of motion, and had been on his feet for some time, returning his gauntlets to his fingers while pacinglike a caged tiger and seething openly; the occasional Tevinter curse muttered or spat vehemently during Valeria's recital - some of which Hawke now understood after a few lessons.
It had been an unsettling telling; one of blood rites, secrecy and the eventual nightmarish death that befell every man and woman who took part in the Joining. Hawke had always known that the ritual was dark, and that the Wardens seemed to carry on their shoulders burdens not typical of any other warrior sect, yet the things the Warden Commander had told her had evoked a sense of revulsion and pity for their order.
And a compounded worry for the fate of her sister. Hawke had known of the Calling, but to hear that death would likely claim her sister after only twenty years? Bethany was already halfway there!
For hours Valeria had betrayed the secrets of her order to these outsiders she had only just met; had admitted easilyto discovering - and then turning a blind eye to - the blood magic of an ancient Warden who felt his deeds would cure his fellows before they could succumb to the taint in their veins. Of the man's relocation to the Deep Roads, where he could work his craft with a near endless supply of darkspawn test subjects, and the occasional human - pulled in secret from neighboring bandit camps when necessary.
She spoke so candidly of things that should have stuck in her throat like splintered bones, and as she did Hawke watched that shining veneer of the perfect Grey Warden - the perfect hero - crack a peel to reveal a human being; flawed, frightened and desperate.
Three of the four traits that most often invited disaster, Hawke thought, and scowled darkly at the woman before her; squaring her shoulders at last.
"Assuming for a moment that I will even consider aiding you after what you have told me," she began, "why come to me for help? You clearly know where this Warden-blood mage is, and that he has what you want. Why not go there yourself and retrieve it?"
"Because I am being followed." The Warden admitted with a sigh. "If my pursuers find Avernus before I can make his cure public they will kill him and destroy his cure."
"And what makes you believe your luck will fare better with us?" Fenris threatened; his voice as cold and jagged as broken ice atop a river, grinding against itself dangerously as it flowed. Yet Hawke did not acknowledge him.
"Who are these people that are following you?" She demanded, feeling her mistrust begin to compound more and more in the presence of this woman she once held on a pedestal. Valeria's face crumpled slightly.
"My own order," she admitted with a sigh. "But not because of how it was created. There are some within the Grey Warden ranks who see a cure to the taint as an end to our way of life. The death of our kind, as it were. But they don't understand that this is about more than the Wardens. If this cure works - if it really works - it could eventually bring an end to the Blights!"
"A fete of such magnitude?" Fenris growled dangerously. "Wrought by blood magic? You invite disaster upon humanity." Valeria frowned, shaking her head.
"The cure is nowhere near ready to be used so broadly," she revealed. "It is a potion. And only the research involved blood magic. It had to, as the rite of Joining follows similar principles. The production of the cure itself does not use such power, though."
"You believe that excuses what you have done?" The incensed demanded with a steadily degrading control, rounding the sofa to place himself before Hawke and nearly blocking her view of the Grey Warden. "The use of blood magic is never without consequence - never without some resulting horror. And yet here you sit expecting us to believe there is no risk? We have witnessed it first hand - we know exactly what it is capable of!"
"So have I!" Valeria countered, propelling herself from her seat to stand defiantly before the man who ridiculed her. "I am alive today because of that magic - as is my husband! For too long I have watched so many people - honorable men and women - die in secret and in the dark because of the taint. Now there is a way to prevent that. I would be a monster to turn a blind eye to that!"
"Yet you would allow the lives of others to be irreparably scarred for your own ends?" Fenris sneered, unwilling to back down. "You are already the monster you fear becoming; no better than the mages wielding their cursed power."
"Fenris." Hawke said quietly. "That's enough." Two sets of green eyes lowered to her; one pair flashing vibrantly with fury and disbelief; the other desperately clinging to hope. Frantically Hawke's mind churned with the information she had just received as she struggled to find a rational foothold once more. "You said the blood magic is done," she continued, meeting Valeria's gaze. "That it is not used in the crafting of the cure itself."
"That is correct," Valeria breathed. "The research is over. The ingredients necessary to manufacture the potion are alchemical in nature. One ingredient is darkspawn blood, but is only required because it bares the taint."
"And the cure - the potion - it will work?"
Before her she could see Fenris physically bristle at her words; his expression furious and yet confused all at once. "Hawke - you cannot possibly be considering what she has to say!"
Valeria allowed no moment for Hawke to consider Fenris' demand however. "According to the messages I have received, it works." She revealed. "It is my intention to be the first human recipient. If something goes wrong then... if there is further consequence to pay for this, it will be me that pays it."
"And if this works, will the cure be made available to all manner of infected folk? Common folk and Grey Wardens alike?" Though she spoke of the Grey Wardens as a whole, only one precious face came to mind.
She could still save Bethany. Nearly a decade later, she could finally do right by her sister. And while she could not right the terrible wrongs Valeria had allowed to take place in researching the cure for the taint, if what the Warden Commander said was true, Bethany and the other Wardens could be saved without the need for further sacrifice.
As long as there would be no further use of blood magic-
Fenris stepped before her fully; his eyes boring holes into her soul with their disbelief. "Tell me you are not considering this, Hawke."
It was the closest thing to a plea she had ever heard Fenris speak in the presence of another. It should have unnerved her, yet Bethany's sweet face hung before her mind's eye.
"It is as she said," Hawke replied softly before returning a disparaging look upon the Queen of Ferelden, "the research is over, and the damage already done." Hawke jerked her chin in Valeria's direction. "She will be the first to take the cure. If it fails her life is forfeit, and I will destroy this Avernus so he can't cause further harm with his blood magic. But if it works it can save countless lives. It can redeem itself for the damage its researched caused. Either way, we wont know if the price that was paid was worth it unless we bring this cure back. Will we, Commander ?" The title was delivered with reproach, yet Valeria's features were a mask of equanimity; her chin held proudly high.
"No result is ever worth the price of such despicable power, Hawke! Fenris bellowed. "That is the nature of blood magic! It consumes more than it bestows - you know this better than any!"
Hawke gazed at him softly, yet with a resolve she could not discount. "Yes. But I also know that when the fire has burned down the forest, sometimes all that is left is to wait and see what seedlings will sprout from the ashes." Her fathers old adage for thinking positive when things grew hard for his family came back to her easily, though it seemed just as thin a thread as it had during her childhood.
Silence stretched for an indeterminable time among them before, amazingly enough, Valeria smiled.
"Leliana was right," she announced, "you're exactly who I need." Her hand extended to Hawke. "Bargain struck, though you'll understand if I give Avernus a bit of warning for a sporting chance?" She murmured. Hawke's gaze flecked down to the appendage warily before she at last took it up.
"I hope for your sake your Avernus has worked a miracle." She murmured.
"No! I will not hear it! It is blood magic!" Fenris' voice bore the same unbridled wrath as the violent slashing gesture of his arm, filling every corner of the room with the evidence of his outrage.
Valeria had at last taken her leave in the early hours of the morning, after leaving Hawke with the promise of a Grey Warden guide to see her through the Deep Roads; whom she could expect to meet near the entrance to the caverns of Ferelden's Storm Coast.
"It's already done." She countered; quieter, yet equally resolute. "The magic is complete - there is nothing left for us to prevent. Would you have me turn my back on the Grey Wardens now because of events that were generations in the making?"
"I would have you stand for what is right and not dismiss what has happened!" He growled, one metal clad finger lifted to point at her accusingly. "If you do this you will be condoning their actions, Hawke."
"I'm not condoning anything, Fenris," she argued, holding her palms out in a plea for him to pause and hear her out. "What she allowed to take place is inexcusable - I know this better than anyone. But playing ignorant to the good that might come from that sacrifice, discarding the possibility that this cure could truly save lives, would be just as reprehensible. The choices we are asked to make are not always easy. You can't always look at them in terms of black and white."
Before her Fenris' lips twisted in a contemptuous sneer. "Is that so? So the ends justify the means now." Hawke recoiled; jarred at the unbridled anger her lover was turning upon her. She had sided with mages for years and had never received such a heated reaction before; though in truth she had made it a habit of leaving him behind on the missions she knew would truly pique his ire.
"Of course not! But how can I undo what was already done? I can only move forward and try to save as many lives as possible. Yet you're asking me to knowingly turn my back on an entire order. On my own sister!" Her traitorous voice caught at the mention of Bethany; her only remaining family. "You once longed for the return of the Champion of Kirkwall. Well here I am, Fenris, making the decisions no one should have to make; just like in Kirkwall!"
"This is nothing like the events of Kirkwall," Fenris spat. "There you were being manipulated by the abomination. He polluted your reason with his deceit!"
"Is that what you think?" Hawke's voice rose with incredulity. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the choices I made were entirely my own. A life spent in hiding with my apostate family set my path - not Anders."
The scowl upon Fenris' features darkened into nearly unrestrained anger. "I see. First apostates, then abominations. I suppose the natural progression would be for you to turn to blood magic then."
Hawke felt her knees buckle slightly, shocked to hear such cruelty come from his lips. "How can you say that? How can you say that I approve of any of this?!"
"Because after all of the tragedy that has befallen you as a result of magic you are still turning a blind eye to it!" the man before her railed, his eyes flashing with unrestrained fury. "And I will no longer tolerate it!"
Fear filled her voice at the threat that lay beneath his words. "What are you saying? We made a promise, Fenris-"
"I promised to help you return to the woman you were! The woman who could sympathize with mages and yet still see the line that could never be crossed! But you have lost sight of that line, Hawke!" He was panting in his rage now; his voice rising in pitch as he rapidly lost control of himself. "I remember when you held your mother in your lap as she took her last breath. I remember what blood magic inflicted upon you! How could you have forgotten?!"
"That's not fair! I can't allow people to die for the past crimes of another!" Hawke was pleading now; aware that this was no mere spat, where they would disagree but ultimately set their differences aside for the sake of what they had.
Fenris seemed ready to cast that all away if she would not side with him. The panic roiled into desperation. He was going to make her decide between doing what she felt was right and him. And she could see there would be no time for her to consider which she could survive sacrificing. "Please," she whispered, "don't ask me to choose..."
"No, of course you should not choose." He sneered, leaning into her as he would his quarry, and Hawke found herself tilting away from him instinctually. "I have fought by your side for so long it must seem only natural I remain at your beck and call." He went on, his teeth gleaming dangerously from behind stretched lips. "Then let us dispense with the illusions, shall we? What do you command of me, Mistress?"
The crack of her hand against his cheek halted all other sound within the room, and she stood frozen before him; her arm still crooked with the follow-through of her blow. Blue light flickered to life before her and eyes the color of gemstones glowed as well; a snarl ripping from his throat as a metal-clad hand wrapped around her shoulder-
-and awareness flared across his features at the exact moment the light of his tattoos was snuffed out.
"How could you?" She whispered, and Fenris started, something very close to alarm flashing across his features. "How could you say that?"
In his cruel need to hurt her, he had taken the one thing she had fought so desperately against and thrown it in her face. Fenris knew better than most that, no matter how they might disagree on the plight of mages, Hawke abhorred slavery; or any form of subjection for that matter. Like the Circle.
The grip on her shoulder abruptly disengaged; the offending hand dropping to his side guiltily. "Hawke, I-"
"Get out." Her voice was barely audible, tears already burning her eyes like a poisonous cloud. "Now."
For a moment Fenris hesitated before her, seemingly torn between what he wanted and what she was demanding of him. His delay carried on for a heartbeat too long, however, for the first tear escaped her lids and Hawke panicked that she would break down before him.
She could not do that.
"Now!" She shrieked. With a start Fenris turned, albeit reluctantly, leaving the room in silence and closing the door behind him.
No longer able to hold back her tears or maintain her composure, Hawke lifted the first thing she could reach from the nearby table - her pack - and lobbed it at the door. Glass bottles shattered within upon impact; red and brown liquid oozing out of the leather satchel onto the rug and bleeding out beneath the door Fenris had just departed through.
Lost to her misery, Hawke dropped to her rump upon the floor and hugged her knees as she wept in earnest.
The Champion of Kirkwall has returned and, like before, finds herself receiving pleas for assistance from the strangest patrons. Yet with the latest request comes complications Hawke had not anticipated.
The conscience of the Champion is a heavy burden to bear...
or, enter your birth date.
Hawke's eyes opened to find her gaze caught up by one of silver and flickering gold; moonlight and the small cook fire that still burned overpowering the peridot hues that were normally present. His expression was impossible to read, even in his eyes where his fierce emotions would often smolder. She was growing more accustomed to his quieter side, however, and regarded him casually as she pushed herself from her bedroll, rubbing grit from her cheek without thought. The desert sands at their campsite were as loose as the rest of the wastelands they had been trekking through for the past few days, and gave way through the blanket beneath her palms as she righted herself.
"How long has the sun been down?" She asked, observing that there was no hint of dusk in the night skies beyond her canvas leanto. The scout that Cullen had sent after them immediately following their departure from the Inquisition's camp had brought with her invaluable gifts: three Anderfel Coursers to carry them and their gear on their journey, and some parting advice. Harding had instructed them to travel through the Hissing Wastes at night, and only at night. Daytime brought the desert to unbearable temperatures, and it was best to make camp and sleep during those hours to avoid dehydration and heatstroke. While night travel would not relieve them of the arid conditions, the temperature dropped considerably once the sun fell, and the cloudless skies and open expanses helped to secure their nearly uneventful passage by moonlight.
Pulling her mind from the haze of sleep as her gaze sought out a reason for their delay, Hawke wondered how many hours Fenris had allowed her to waste when they could have been that much closer to their destination. Yet the man before her sat rooted just as he had been upon his own bedroll; watching her for a time with a thoughtful expression she could not place into any singular emotional state.
"You truly would have stayed." He said softly, finally, as though responding to another conversation all together.
It was oddly anticlimactic. For days after the events within the Fade had taken place Hawke had been waiting tensely for an outburst of some sort; bracing herself for some form of retaliation from Fenris for daring to risk herself as she had. She had not expected quiet conversation, and still doubted she would be lucky enough to escape the argument she believed to bee inevitable.
"Yes." She said simply, waiting for that familiar temper to explode forth.
Yet Fenris' gaze moved from hers to the flames of the fire beside them, and still nothing of his expression betrayed what was taking place behind his eyes.
"I had forgotten this part." He murmured slowly after a time, and Hawke tilted her head quizzically. None of what was happening made sense to her.
"Which part might that be?"
His eyes returned to hers. "The part of the Champion of Kirkwall's persona which places the lives of all others above her own." Hawke remained silent, unsure of how she was supposed to take that statement. Yet as she tried to decipher the meaning behind his words Fenris rose, circled the cook fire to stand before her, and pulled her into his arms; those previously unreadable eyes now achingly expressive. "Promise me you won't die," he murmured, his bare fingers lifting to press against her ear; his lips so close to hers she could feel the humidity of his breath against her skin. "I can't bear the thought of living without you."
Hawke gaped, stunned into momentary silence and immobility as she became aware that she was not to suffer his wrath. The way his hands tenderly held her face and his mouth hovered so near to hers told her that she had been forgiven - though she could not understand by what reasoning.
Not until a closer look told her everything.
Where she had just moments ago been unable to fathom what he was experiencing, now Hawke could read his heart plainly; affection, worry, desperation and resolution swirled in his eyes like oil upon water; the prospect of what he may do to safeguard her the next time she faced down death was suddenly very real to her and not something she wished to contemplate. She could not lose this man, who had believed in her even when she had lost her way and given him no indication she would ever return.
"I don't make that promise unless you do." She replied her voice slightly tremulous though she had tried to maintain her composure, and there in the clenching of his jaw and the flaring of his nostrils she saw the return of the heat she had witnessed so many weeks ago within that storm-swept inn; her insides coiling tightly at the promise that suddenly loomed before her.
"Nothing is going to keep me from you." He swore fervently, an echo of the promise he had made that night, and sealed his mouth to hers at last. Once more Hawke surrendered to the power of his kiss, her arms absently wrapping around his back as his fingers tipped her head slightly so that he could sweep his tongue against hers. His touch against her skin remained surprisingly gentle, his lips slow and sweet against her mouth despite the growled oath that had just rumbled from his chest. Fingertips trailed from her cheekbones over her jawline and down to her throat, where he tipped her chin back with his thumbs to deepen the kiss further.
For weeks he had held himself at a distance from her; or so it had felt. While she had approached him for stolen kisses and tender caresses in rare moments of semi-seclusion, he had never been the one to seek out her affections without invitation... until now. Now the damp trails left by Fenris' lips along her jawline and neck tingled in the cooling air, while his hands practically burned against the bare flesh of her flanks as he slid his fingers beneath her armor and clothing.
She had not realized how terrible this time away from his touch had been; how desperately she had craved this man. It had gnawed at her, the emptiness that his restraint had left within her, and greedily she clung to him, releasing the catch of his breastplate so that her own fingers could ruck up his tunic to explore his naked skin.
"Yes," she hissed when her leather armor was stripped from her body and the collar of her shirt was pulled aside so that Fenris could gently bite at the juncture of her neck. "Maker, how I missed this."
The tender play of teeth and lips against her skin halted and those starlight-dyed eyes returned to her, along with the fingers against her cheekbone.
"Forgive me," he murmured, "I did not feel it was prudent to press you for more too quickly. You are... not like anyone I have ever been with before."
Hawke's eyebrow arched, and she tried to effect a playful smirk despite her agitation. "You mean I'm no Isabela."
The pale lips before her own quirked in response. It had been common knowledge within their group that Fenris and Isabela had been lovers briefly, though neither had ever claimed to hold an emotional attachment for the other.
"That is not a derogatory comment I assure you," he clarified, his mirth faded. "You are not one who simply seeks out carnal pleasures. I did not want to offend, or cause you to believe that is all that I desire from you. You will never again have to fear being used by love. Of that you have my word."
Hawke sobered. "Are you... are you telling me that you're in love with me, Fenris?"
Dark fingers striped with silver gently pushed a lock of hair from her forehead, and his lips quirked again if only for a moment. "I tell you that you are my soul and still you do not see the truth?" He asked with quiet incredulity. "Then allow me to make it clearer. You have my heart, Raina, and my love. And for as long as you will have me, I am yours."
Her breath caught at his confession. She had known for years that he cared for her; that he held her as a dear friend and a confidant - titles she understood to be more than an honor from a man so hesitant to trust. And recently she had even accepted that he had harbored some form off attraction or romantic feelings for her for several years. But love? She had not allowed herself to consider that option, and in their discussions since that first night they had never put such a strong and binding word to what was developing between them.
Yet hearing his gentle mocking now, she could see how she had blinded herself to the truth. And with that a self-deprecating smile formed upon her own lips. "Then, if it's all the same to you, I think I'll have you for the rest of my life. I certainly can't see giving my heart to another man after you took such great care in claiming it for yourself."
Fenris' lips twitched smugly. "Good. I would hate to have to rip the heart from the next man who tried to place himself between us." Hawke's chuckle was immediate.
"You wouldn't hate it." She teased, and felt her face flush anew when his lips ghosted against hers.
"You're right." He admitted huskily through the dusting of kisses. "I wouldn't."
Hawke was denied the opportunity for further retort by the sweep of Fenris' tongue against her upper lip, which she greedily accepted, her eyes slipping closed at the sensation of its moist heat within her mouth. Further down the buttons of her shirt were being carefully unfastened by tattooed fingers before the garment was slipped from her shoulders; her chest bindings following. He was taking his time with her she felt - moving slowly - and she savored the anticipation that quickened her blood and sensitized her skin.
With equal care, Hawke found the hooks and eyes of his tunic and began the task of opening them, allowing her fingers to trail against the skin beneath, still overly-heated even in the cool night air, and around his lips she sighed.
"You're always so warm," she purred appreciatively, placing a palm to the flesh that was accessible through his tunic while her other hand freed the final fasteners. Moving more quickly than he had when tending to her, Fenris stripped the garment from his body before pressing his skin to hers.
"I confessed to you before that I burn for your touch," he murmured, lowering his face to her collarbone. "Perhaps I should teach you Arcanum so you will understand?"
Hawke's head rolled back when open-mouth kisses trailed across her skin, gradually dipping lower towards her breasts. With gentle hands he guided her back down to her bedroll; the act not breaking his attention his mouth was paying her at present. "Teach me now." She moaned. "How do you say 'I love your kiss'?"
His tongue swirled vigorously once around her nipple before the sensitive tip disappeared between his lips with a small suckling sound, and Hawke's breath pulled from her in a quiver at the play of his talented mouth.
"Ego diligo vestri osculum." He replied against her flesh. She groaned, threading her fingers into his hair as he demonstrated the act she so appreciated.
"How do you say "your voice is alluring'?"
His head lifted from her breast unexpectedly; an elongated ear nestled against her cheek as Fenris' lips brushed the rounded shell of her own ear, hot breath setting the skin there ablaze. "Vox tua sicut amorosam." He purred purposefully from deep within his throat, and her eyes rolled back behind their lids at a voice that reminded her of molten lava: slow, deep thickness which she could never physically feel, yet found herself set afire by its very presence. Beside her his head shifted so he might kiss the delicate skin behind her ear, and a strangled moan was wrenched from her chest.
"How-" her voice broke when his hands dipped lower to caress her core through her trousers, "how do you say 'I need you'?" Silver eyes peered down at her as he held himself above her, his eyes flickering over her chest, lips, and eyes intently.
"Ego postulo vos."
With reverent fingers she reached up to cup his cheeks, her thumbs stroking his face tenderly as she guided him down to her.
"How do you say 'I love you'?"
His face lowered; his mouth hovering so near to hers that their lips brushed when he replied. "Ego diligo vos." His voice was a worshipful whisper against her skin, and it was clear to her Fenris was not just parroting words she asked for. He meant them.
"Ego diligo vos," she repeated slowly, her tongue yet unable to apply the same fluid roll to the words that Fenris adapted so easily. "Ego diligo vos, Fenris."
Hungry lips returned to her own as the weight of his body bore down upon hers; taught muscle and searing skin pressing her deeper into the sands beneath her bedding. Without removing herself from their kiss Hawke pried her hands in between their bodies and began to work the laces of his leggings free; Fenris rising up fractionally to allow her clearer access. With her boots having been removed before dozing off, Hawke was able to strip his leggings and smalls clear of his ankles with her toes; her hands already caressing the naked backside and thighs her efforts had exposed.
Shifting slightly so that he could bear his weight with just one arm, Fenris assisted Hawke in removing her own trousers and small clothes, kicking them away as his had been before pressing his body once more to hers; his fingers already trailing down to her center to trace slow lines within the soft folds there.
"I have dreamt of how you felt that night," he admitted, his fingers pushing into her wet heat, causing her to moan and buck up into his hand eagerly. "How glorious it was to lose myself within you; with you. I have never before felt what I experienced with you."
His slender digits pulled from her channel, drenched with her nectar, to circle the bead crowning her sex slowly, and Hawke's breath hitched as she tried to respond. "Fenris, I - oh Maker - no one has ever made me feel the way you do... what you do to me..."
Her words died off in a moan that Fenris bent to drink in greedily; his lips as demanding as her own need.
That was the difference between Fenris and Anders, she knew. Anders' touch on her body had always been gentle, tentative, as though he was handling the finest piece of porcelain. She had loved it at the time, yet had possessed no basis for comparison.
Fenris, however - while equally careful and attentive - bore none of the same hesitance. His touch reverberated through her skin, vibrating her being; daring her to shatter so that he might build her back up, only to shatter her again.
Because she was anything but weak. Because he knew that she was strong enough withstand it.
The fevered skin at her side shifted then, taking the fingers at her core with it, and Hawke whimpered for their absence, reaching for him plaintively until the sound of ripping fabric met her ears. Above her head Fenris had taken her blouse in his hands and was tearing a long, thin strip from the bottom hem. Hawke frowned, pushing herself up as she watched him destroy the garment.
"I need you to understand what you mean to me," the man turned, the impromptu sash clutched in his grasp, "what you are to me." With great care he placed the fabric in her hands before pressing his wrists together before her. "Bind me."
Her stomach dropped. "What? I - no. No, Fenris." The idea confused and sickened her. She would not to that to him. She knew too much of what he had suffered at Danarius' hands during his time as a slave, and this came too close to those events, which had never ended well for her lover. If he found her comparable to that-
Yet Fenris did not falter. "You misunderstand. I give that to you not to give you power over me. You already hold more power over me than this fabric could ever secure you. I wish only to banish the shadows of my past and begin anew." He leaned in and kissed her slowly, sweetly, before presenting his wrists to her once more. "With you. Please, Raina. Let me surrender to your will and know that there is nothing to fear."
If he had tried to argue for this for the thrill of sensual pleasures or play - any reason other than the one he had given her - she would have refused. Yet he was asking for something that was more than just physical.
With careful movements, Hawke reached out and took the silken sash from his fingers, the ends of the red fabric dropping to her thighs. Taking hold of his hands within hers, she first lifted them to her lips, placing tender kisses at his pulse points before pressing them together and wrapping the scarlet fabric around his wrists, trapping them to one another.
"If this becomes too much," she nearly whispered, "tell me to stop and I will. I promise." With a final small jerk she secured the knot that held his arms in place, watching as he stretched them over his head and lowered his back to the bedroll.
It was so strange, seeing him bound and prone before her. While it was true that the thin red sash would not restrain him for long if he put his mind to freeing himself, watching this man surrender to her in a way he would have fought anyone else to the death for tugged a her insides.
She would be worthy of this. She would make certain he would not regret this.
Lowering herself to him, Hawke began with slow, wet kisses along his throat and jaw - the kind she remembered him enjoying so much before - as her fingers wound into his hair, scratching at his scalp and tracing the edges of his ears lightly. As she kissed him she allowed her hands to slide lower, massaging sensitive places while they traveled, and suddenly she recalled something Anders had taught her. Her first reaction was to discard the idea as one her lover would not appreciate, and yet Fenris himself had said he wanted to submit to her will.
And her will was to leave him writhing in such ecstasy he would never forget this night.
Without allowing herself further time to convince herself this was a bad idea, Hawke scooted down between Fenris' knees, lifting and spreading them so she could position her face near his erection, which was already swelling against his stomach. With her belly pressed to the bedroll and her knees and shins resting in the cool sand she caught his gaze with hers and held it intently as she inserted a finger into her mouth, rolling her tongue around the digit for him to see. Above her Fenris' jaw clenched, his eyes darkening with want, though he said nothing.
Removing her saliva coated finger from her mouth, Hawke pressed it to his puckered entrance, massaging the skin there cautiously, long enough to give him opportunity to refuse her. When he didn't she gently pushed the digit passed the entrance. His breath drew in with a sharp hiss, and his shoulders flexed as though uncomfortable, yet still he did not speak. She knew he had known penetration before, though not so gently, and worried that perhaps he was slipping into old habits - something she would not stand for.
"Please," she whispered, "don't close off to me. Tell me what you're feeling."
Above her Fenris frowned slightly. "I... Have you experience with this?"
Hawke turned her hand palm up, twisting her finger within him and crooking the digit slightly, stroking his walls until she was rewarded with a guttural gasp and the sight of Fenris' back arching from the bedding.
"Some." She replied. "Shall I continue?" Fenris swallowed hard and schooled his features as he nodded, resting his head back when she returned to the soft flesh against her finger.
With one hand occupied, Hawke turned her free hand to the stiffening erection beneath her chin, taking hold of its base so she could envelope it within her mouth and throat with one fluid delve; a low cry breaking from the elf's throat. From beyond her lids she witnessed the bulge in Fenris' biceps as he strained lightly against his bindings, though not so much that they failed, his eyes trained on her, shimmering with a desperate hunger.
With careful fingers Hawke continued to work his shaft and channel in tandem, stroking his hyper-sensitive inner-walls each time she swallowed his length; her other hand alternating between massaging the base of his manhood and cupping the sack beneath her chin. She had not performed this act in years, and yet Fenris' body seemed attuned to her; responding to her intent eagerly, though she might feel she was still clumsy in her attempts.
The panting above her head became labored, vocal; the muscular thighs on either side of her head opening wider and flexing as she worked him thoroughly from within and without, though never once did he rise to meet her. Her own sex quivered deliciously at the sounds he emitted, and she pressed her thighs together, rubbing her legs against one another while wishing for sweet friction, yet refusing to abandon any of the attentions she currently paid the gorgeous creature before her. At times she could feel his entrance tighten around her finger, and in response she would hum softly when she took his member into her throat, soothing and exciting him at once. Taking advantage of his restraint, Hawke dared to also play her teeth gently along his shaft as her tongue pressed against the veins that ran the length of him, clenching her throat tightly against his head right to the cusp off her gag reflex. There was no fear of him pushing her off roughly now, which could cause damage to both of them give her current actions.
No string off Tevinter-born profanities or utterances escaped Fenris' lips, yet he was by no means silent. That voice - usually so deep and controlled - now rose in pitch within his throat with every forced exhalation. And when Hawke inserted her second finger into his opening and applied additional pressure to that place within him that had sent him keening, she was rewarded with the deep, needful cry she had been waiting for, repeating her careful stroking again and again -
-until that one word was stammered hoarsely from between dry lips. "S-stop..."
Her heart tripped and as quickly as she could without causing him injury, Hawke pulled her fingers from his body and removed her mouth from the sword-straight member she had so covetously been suckling; her gaze trained to him nervously, noting how his eyes were sealed tight and his entire body was rigid enough to shatter.
When he did not move or speak for a moment her concern compounded. "Fenris?" Her whisper was tentative, her hand lifted, wanting so badly to touch him - to reassure him - yet doubting herself.
"Maker preserve me," he swore softly at last, his gaze filled with unshielded wonder when it came to rest upon her, "that was... I cannot think of a suitable word."
Hawke blinked, unprepared for what she had just heard. "You're alright?" She asked dubiously.
"Better than," he murmured, "you quite nearly unraveled me just now."
Realizing she had worried for nothing, Hawke felt slightly put out at being denied the delicious reactions she had been coaxing from her lover, though relief that she had not disturbed him quelled her annoyance almost immediately. "Then why stop me?"
The man before her squirmed upon his back, trying to lift himself but finding the current position of his arms rendering it impossible. Resigned he instead lifted his hips slightly, the movement causing his manhood to sway above its dark nest. "When I lose myself I wish it to be while following you in your decent into ecstasy." At that Hawke smiled at last.
"Ah, but that's not our arrangement," she chided playfully, allowing her fingers to trail up the underside of his shaft with feather-soft contact, "you are supposed to submit to my will, remember? What if it is my will to drink you dry?"
To her surprise Fenris appeared properly abashed. "Forgive me. If that is what you desire-"
"What I desire," Hawke interrupted, slowly crawling over his naked body with predatory intent, "is to see you come undone by my touch." Rising to her knees over him and tucking her legs beneath his upturned knees, she reached between her thighs and took hold of his shaft. "How I choose to touch you to that end makes no difference."
She delighted at the expression of unbridled lust upon his features as she slowly impaled herself upon him; his length stretching her, filling her, and pulling a ragged gasp into her lungs. Tentatively she rolled her hips, pressing her bead against his base and was rewarded with an electric jolt that shot from her apex down to her toes and up her spine.
"Maker, Fenris," she breathed, placing her palms against the flat panels of his stomach, caressing the skin beneath her hands as she continued to grind against his erection, "you are magnificent."
Tattooed arms crooked above his head as Fenris brought his wrists to his hair, clearly regretting that he could not hold her, guide her, drive her onto him. "Raina-" his voice was a croak in the hollow of his throat, and above him Hawke smiled in her victory. She felt empowered. This powerful creature had give control over to her completely, was trusting her to wield that power without regret.
And at last she knew - she knew - that he was strong enough to withstand it.
"How shall I take you, Fenris?" She murmured, lifting slowly so that he slid from her body; her womanhood aching at the loss of him before she lowered herself back to claim his length with an equally maddening patience, delighting in the way his head rolled back and exposed the gleaming length of his gorgeous throat to the sky above. "Shall I make you beg for more?"
A wicked smile slid across her features then, and without giving him warning her hips snapped rapidly, rising and crashing down upon him with near brutal force; his swollen head striking at the entrance to her womb and finding that place within her that could leave her seeing stars behind her lids. Beneath her Fenris gave a strangled cry; one of the horses nickering nervously beyond their shelter in response. "Or shall I make you beg for mercy?"
Not allowing him time to respond, Hawke dropped her torso over his, her heavy breasts swaying between them; nipples dragging against the scalding heat of his body as they moved, and Hawke licked his lower lip once before claiming his mouth in a devouring kiss.
"How shall I take you, Fenris?" She growled when the kiss ended, her inner walls twitching and tightening around his length. Beneath her, her lover strained to reach her lips once more; struggled to push his shoulders up from the bedroll. "Beg for more? Or beg for mercy?"
"Mercy," he panted at last, his pupils so large they all but consumed the gorgeous irises surrounding them, "I choose mercy." Granting him one slow, gentle kiss, Hawke rested her cheek to his, giving his lobe a lingering lick as well before breathing her response into the angular shell.
"As you wish."
Pushing herself up from his chest, Hawke held herself straight above him and began to ride him hard; taking his length faster than she had during their first encounter. Her breasts bounced against her chest as she moved, and between her thighs she could feel Fenris moving with her; his hips rising to meet her every decent. He strained to hold his head up as he moved beneath her; his hands fisting and opening above his head spasmodically, his jaw clenched and teeth bared as he growled, before tossing his head back and gripping his own hair forcibly; her name pouring from his lips in between grunted cries.
Hawke's hands shifted to Fenris' bent knees, which she used as leverage to ride him that much faster, that much harder, her own desperate pants ripping from her chest as she threw her head back and lost herself to all but feeling of the man beneath and inside her. Beneath her rear the sculpted hips became frantic, frenzied; Hawke finding herself riding the ledge between pleasure and pain as she took him into her.
Yet before the pain even became a consideration, roiling waves of tingling heat crested within her belly and Hawke felt herself began to slip over the edge with Fenris' name dragging out in length from her lips.
The man beneath her roared and his hips rose to meet her forcibly; his release driving her into her own, and around her the darkened surroundings faded to pitch black as her senses failed her and she fell mindlessly into an explosive climax.
When the last of his thrusts had ebbed and his hips stilled Hawke allowed herself to collapse to his chest, forcing a light grunt from his lungs as they heaved their exertion into the cool night air. After a moment Fenris' arms began to twist over their heads, his elbows bending before he finally relented.
"Raina," he wheezed beneath her, "my hands?"
Chuckling breathlessly, Hawke moved only enough to reach her fingers to his wrists, untying the knot that held him and unraveling the fabric to free his arms; which he then wrapped around her shoulders possessively.
They were silent for a time, with Hawke listening blissfully to the sound of Fenris' hammering heart as it slowly found a proper rhythm again.
"I suppose we've lost our opportunity for travel tonight," he murmured at last, and against his feverish skin she smiled.
"I suppose you're right."
"I do not regret it." He admitted and Hawke lifted her head to gaze up into his eyes.
"I'm glad." She said simply and noted the way his pale lips smirked slyly above his chin's lyrium etchings.
"You failed in your objective, I might add," he said smugly and her brow arched in silent question. "You'll note that I did not once beg."
"Oh I don't know about that," she replied, pushing herself up carefully so that she could sit straight and peer down at him. "There are more ways to beg than with words." Her fingers dragged lightly against his hips. "These for example." Next her fingers skimmed the softening length of his manhood, and Fenris hissed in response. "And this," she added. "They seemed to ask for a great deal." Smiling conspiratorially, her lover lifted himself to sit beside her.
"No more than you were capable of providing," he pointed out, before reaching for the sash behind him. Curious, Hawke watched as he carefully twined the red fabric length around his wrist before tying it off with the help of his teeth. "A memento," he explained in response to Hawke's silent question. "That not all who bind us to them do so with malice." His fingers then rose to trace the line of her cheek. "Thank you, Raina, for teaching me this."
"Thank you, Fenris," she replied quietly, leaning in so that she might place a reverent kiss upon his lips, "for allowing me to do so."
I have read some truly amazing f!Hawke/Fenris fics out there, but one thing seems fairly consistent – Fenris is almost always in control. (I'm sure there are submissive Fenris stories out there, but unfortunately I've not had the pleasure of reading them yet.)
Instead, I decided to write one. Because I think that Fenris can surrender control and remain in canon in the right circumstances – and I hope that I've captured such a situation here.
At the very least, here is your daily dose of citrus.
or, enter your birth date.
I REMAIN AT YOUR SIDE
Hawke swallowed again, trying to quell the rising panic beneath a mask of pure determination; a mask that had once been a second skin for her. This place was doing something to her, twisting her insides into a strange, irrational maelstrom of anxiety. She hated useless fear such as this, when there was no reason to fear beyond the fear of the unknown. It riled her, grated at her nerves and drove her to fits of ire that warred for dominance with the panic which persistently threatened to bubble free. Yet in moments when she lost that blessed anger the back of her neck would tingle as though anticipating the sting of an unseen blade, and her nerves practically sang with the need to move, to run, to fight against the something that threatened her from every corner of the landscape.
She had attempted to reason with her irrationality at first, reminding herself that she had not felt like this the last time she had entered the Fade. True, last time they had entered the Fade as dreamers and not physical beings, yet that time friends had succumbed to the temptation of demons; had turned against her and attacked her for the sake of demon promises. Here the people she followed were already on guard against such temptation. They were prepared.
So why could she not master control over herself?!
Where reason failed her, however, their brief skirmishes against the native spirits and lesser demons succeeding in lessening her dread - if not outright dispelling it. Fighting always helped her focus upon the task at hand. It gave her clarity, if only to help show her where her priorities should lie.
Stay alive. Protect your allies. Strike the target. Fast. Faster! Don't let them touch you.
Fighting was a respite she welcomed gladly. Yet when the first of the spiders materialized she could no longer find relief even there. For as she fought them, she could not help realizing that they were more grotesque than any spider she had faced in Thedas; an odd combination of oozing pustules, oversized mandibles, horned bodies, and bristling black hairs that dragged at her clothes and armor when the creatures' limbs drew too near.
She had admittedly never cared to fight these insects during her numerous expeditions over the course of her life. There was only one other person left in this world who knew of the time when giant arachnids had attacked Hawke as a small child while she played in the farm fields just outside of Lothering, and thankfully Bethany had never chosen to share that knowledge with their party. That day had instilled an unnatural fear within the eldest sibling ever since; one that left her skin crawling with each battle against the beasts she had blundered into thereafter.
Yet just as she was about to curse the Blighted beasts and their Maker-damned origins, her fears mutated from revulsion to dread for her very soul when a figure rose up before them - unmistakeable despite the fact that Hawke had never before laid eyes upon her - composed, self-assured, and utterly impossible to believe.
Divine Justinia could not be in the here, Hawke knew. She was the Divine! She should be with the Maker and this place - this cesspool - was not the Maker's seat. The idea that someone as righteous and worthy as the Divine would be here in this festering pit of the Fade made Hawke's gut swirl with apprehension. If this was what awaited the Divine, what fate would await her in the here-after?
Yet the Seeker and the Inquisitor, while skeptical, seemed willing enough to entertain the idea that Justinia was here just as they were. Rifts were unnatural and unknown. It could be possible that Justinia had fallen through a rift at the conclave and been stranded here, or so the group's conversation allowed.
At Hawke's side Fenris scowled and stepped in closely to her side. "Be on your guard," he growled to her, his voice low enough that the Inquisitor's conversation with Justinia did not falter. "This could be an attempt to manipulate us." Hawke nodded, grateful that she was not alone in her trepidations.
"Agreed. But we have no alternative. For now we follow the Inquisitor and make for the rift."
Before them Justinia was spinning a tale of a fear demon - a Nightmare - which presided over this place. The existence of this realm wove itself around the nature of its master in order to feed the demon from the fears of those who stumbled into its lair. Overall it was not a comforting thought, though it did give Hawke an explanation as to her recent onset of cowardice.
Still, knowing a thing and being able to overcome it were two entirely different fetes. When the group set out to recover the memories the Inquisitor had been stripped of during her last journey into the Fade, Hawke found herself growing tired of her own apparent weakness as well as irrationally angry with Stroud for his continued defense of his brethren, even after the Inquisitor's memories depicted the Grey Wardens as a chief cause for the disaster at the conclave. And in her relief to feel something other than the tickling fingers of dread upon her spine, Hawke allowed her temper to go unchecked, lashing out at her friend and all but holding him personally accountable for the sins of his comrades. If Fenris' pointed stare in her direction was intended to restrain her, she could neither guess or care.
Then there were, of course, the spiders. They cropped up everywhere; descending from eves high overhead, or scuttling from crevices in the rock faces; their hard bodies clicking horribly against the stone and dirt as they moved. At her side Fenris snarled and barred his teeth as he fought, roaring defiantly as he hacked into grotesque carapaces and sending their liquified insides splashing to the ground sickeningly.
"Spiders," she murmured, cursing at the way her voice trembled as she peered down at the last of the slain beasts. "Why is it always spiders?" Fenris lifted a quizzical gaze at her; Cassandra mirroring his confusion as she regarded Hawke thoughtfully.
"Spiders? I see maggots, crawling in filth." The Seeker's admission was accompanied by a revolted shudder as she stared at her battle-soiled sword and emitted a noise of sheer disgust, dragging the blade across the dirt at her feet as she tried to wipe it clean. The admission puzzled Hawke. How could they be fighting different foes? And then it occurred to her that Fenris had also appeared surprised at her complaint.
"You don't see spiders either?" She turned to him, and he grimaced in response, his jaw clenching tightly.
"No," he grated, "I do not..." His voice faded and his eyes roved to focus off into the distance, burning with emotions that Hawke almost could not recognize upon his features; and when she did it unnerved her greatly. She had assumed - perhaps foolishly so - that Fenris no longer recognized fear. Now, aware that she had been mistaken, the reality of what was happening took root in her mind.
"This place," she thought aloud, "it takes your worst fears and pits them against you."
She wondered what it was that Fenris saw. What horrors did he have to battle against? Danarius? Slavers? Mages? She couldn't imagine him fearing any of them. True he had feared Danarius, yet the magister was dead. There was nothing left to fear on that account. And he had already killed so many slavers and mages during their time together that it seemed improbable for him to still fear their kinds.
Whatever his fears were, Fenris clearly held no desire to share them, at least publicly, and she knew better than to pry. And so she abandoned this conversation and turned her attention to the back of the Inquisitor, who at present was leading them down a stairway of carved rock and, with luck, towards the rift that would take them home.
Luck, she found, was never kind to her or those she cared for.
"Ah, we have a visitor." A voice, as deep and thunderous as a rock slide called from everywhere and nowhere all at once, and instantly Hawke's spine felt rigid enough that it could snap if she attempted to bend it. "Some foolish little girl, comes to steal the fear I kindly lifted from her shoulders." At their fore the Inquisitor's stone-hard gaze intensified, and she lunged at the next spider that presented itself, cutting it down with apparent blind hatred, while around their ears the disembodied voice continued to croon out to them softly, almost affectionately, though there was no quality within those fathomless tones that could be considered soothing.
Then, without warning, the sound of Varric's name met their ears and Hawke spun on her friend, her eyes wide with terror as she tensed, her blades ready, and waited for whatever attack was coming for the dwarf. Yet only words followed. "Once again Hawke is in danger because of you, Varric. You found the red lyrium. You brought Hawke here."
Golden eyes flecked to Hawke's features as fear and sorrow warred for dominance on that beloved face. And Hawke recognized that this was the attack; instilling fear upon them for the purpose of drawing power was the creature's intent. And it was apparently working.
Thinking quickly Hawke forced herself to school her features. To smirk as though she had just found herself to be the punchline of some joke and roll her eyes. "When am I not in danger, Varric?" She asked drolly, and that bit of hard humor seemed enough to pull a growled taunt from her friend, followed by a derisive smile of his own as the mighty twang of Bianca's bowstrings announced the death of a strange, skittering denizen of the Fade.
Hawke's answering smile was slightly more earnest now, relieved she had been able to bolster Varric's nerves.
As if it understood the moment's solace she had found, the voice called to her. "Did you think you mattered, Hawke?" It asked, sounding quite nearly incredulous. "Did you think anything you ever did mattered? You couldn't even save your city. How could you strike down a god?" Her blood ran cold; her fingers unable to spin the daggers in her hands or see the spider before her as the hateful words burrowed into her heart. "Fenris is going to die just like your family, and everyone you ever cared for."
At her side a fierce grip caught up her arm painfully and she turned her head to find green eyes boring into her fiercely; Fenris' sword impaled upon the spider that had been moving in on her.
"Hawke," he growled, and his voice held no comfort or concern; only warning. She blinked.
He was keeping his promise. Giving her a reason.
She would honor their promise as well.
"Bastard!" She bellowed and ripped her arm free of her lover's grasp, hurtling herself back into the fray, and cutting down a demon that was flanking Dorian. The mage turned and winked his appreciation for her with what could have been levity had his eyes not taken on such a hard shine.
One by one the members of their entourage were singled out as they battled their way deeper and deeper into the Fade; each one forced to bear witness to the telling of their most guarded fears, until at last the voice dipped ominously as a pride demon lumbered towards them.
"You cannot save her," the voice growled above the taunting laughter of the demon, "it is the legacy of her family that she dies in agony. You believe a slave can stop that? You are nothing, Fenris. It was Hawke who defeated your master. Not you. How can you possibly save her ?"
Lyrium flared to life along the lengths of arms and neck and Fenris let lose a roar which promised violence and death the likes of which Thedas trembled in fear of, his body flickering until he was defined solely by an ethereal glow; devoid of all color save the blue light of lyrium power; until he was barely even that.
Light moved, casting shadow against rock and rank waters, and the pride demon staggered at an unseen attack, then staggered again. Again and again the demon faltered under blows that struck out like lightening; unseen but for brief flashes of blue illumination. Hawke stood stupefied. She had seen Fenris utilize his markings to slip unscathed amongst the battlefield, but never had she watched him become a specter of death.
Thinking quickly, Dorian capitalized on the creature's sudden vulnerability with a barrage of well placed fireballs and bursts of green energy, carefully avoiding the blue shimmer that sizzled and sparked around the beast until at last the demon toppled.
And without warning the blue light moved for the magister, and Hawke's blood froze.
"Fenris!" She cried out, and threw herself before Dorian, her daggers falling forgotten from her fingers as she splayed her arms out wide, watching an arc of light flare out at her -
- and fade to reveal the sullied blade of a great-sword; its murderous approach coming to an abrupt halt as it bobbed lightly before Hawke's breast, keeping time with the heaving breaths of its wielder. Motionless and silent, her arms still stretched out before Dorian, Hawke held her ground, acting as a living wall between the former slave and the Tevinter magister.
She could see the precise moment when reason returned to Fenris. When the creases at the corners of his eyes softened slightly and his gaze actually focused on her eyes instead of roving over his surroundings in search of his next target. His breath still coming in ragged gasps from between grinding teeth, Fenris blinked at last and dropped his sword to his side, turning from her without a word.
Hawke struggled to not quake in her boots; to not think about how terrifying it was to be on the wrong end of that blade and that horrible, unforgiving wrath. With all of the composure she was capable of feigning, she stooped to retrieve her daggers from the ground at her feet and gave Dorian a barely perceptible nod before turning back to trail after Fenris.
The words that had been flung at him haunted her. She knew that it had been her life that had been used to bring Fenris to a state of blind rage. Yet it confounded her; how could he expect her to accept what she could and could not save when one of his main fears was his inevitable inability to protect her? Wasn't his fear a mirror image of her own, to an extent?
She wanted to catch him up and confront him on her revelation, yet the steady barrage of enemies prevented all but the most essential of conversation. Instead she allowed this apparent hypocrisy to fuel her anger. Anger was better than fear, in her opinion, and if she was driven on by anger there would be no room for the paralyzing horror that was a near constant presence in this place.
Allowing her ire free range, when Stroud continued to push his arguments for the Grey Wardens' defense with subtle hints at their abuse or excuses for their actions, Hawke found herself lashing out at her friend. In what world was it acceptable to save one's own life by sacrificing the lives of others? Blood magic was bad enough, but to sacrifice your own comrades to save others? How did you weigh the value of one life above the value of another? The idea was abhorrent to her, and that Stroud was attempting to defend it was equally repulsive.
And so she channeled her anger into her fighting, pushing down her fear until it was little more than an unpleasant twisting in the pit of her stomach when she encountered a horde of spiders, or when the thundering voice began its torment again. Her daggers crunched through spider abdomens, sliced spirits into vapor and dust and tore demons to rags, and all the while she seethed.
She forgot everything.
The party had passed through a low tunnel and emerged on the other side to find a spider larger than the Chantry of Kirkwall waiting for them, and Hawke froze. When at last she remembered herself her mouth fell open in a silent scream as she scrabbled backwards, colliding with Cassandra in the process. The Seeker gave her a slight push forward with her shield while the spirit of the Divine launched an attack of her own against the enormous spider and the Nightmare; a creature which also bore terrifying characteristics of the spiders Hawke so detested. Reflexively Hawke pushed back at that shield, shying away from the embodiment of everything that terrified her, standing before them. Solid and real and waiting to bring her a most horrible death.
No. No! Maker don't make me - please -
And Fenris was at her side, his lovely springtime eyes burning with the blue light of his lyrium markings as he watched her... appraised her...
...turned his head towards the great arachnid and the demon...
The Inquisitor was the first into the battle, yet Fenris was not far off, striking out with unheard of strength at the Nightmare, bones within the creature cracking audibly, yet not without consequence. Without warning the Nightmare vanished, reappearing on the other side of the field, and leaving Fenris surrounded by a small throng of demon-spawn and wraiths.
Varric's arrows showered down around Fenris for a moment, providing a little cover, yet it was not enough. Soon the dwarf had to refocus his own tactics to defend himself, leaving Fenris to battle his attackers alone.
She could not leave him like that, Hawke knew, watching as he took attacks as frequently as he cut down minor foes. Gritted her teeth, Hawke slipped stealthily into the field and sliced the head from the nearest wraith embroiled against her lover with a quick scissoring motion of her blades. Gore splattered Fenris' cheeks and hair; black demon blood that mingled with the bright red mortal blood already smearing his features.
"I'm not too late, am I?" She asked, feeling ashamed at having balked so badly from their battle. Of having thought so badly of him, even for such a short time, when she shared the same faults she judged him on.
Surprisingly Fenris bestowed upon her a small, knowing smile. "I have waited longer for you," he admitted with a low voice that contrasted strangely with his battle-hardened appearance, and she wanted nothing more than to draw him into a lip-searing kiss at that moment.
There would be time for that later, however. For now...
Her daggers spun and sang in the humid air, and without thought for the smaller creatures Dorian was presently setting ablaze Hawke turned her sites on the Nightmare, finding it easy enough to cut into its strangely shelled flesh once she could pin it down and prevent it from popping out of range for a moment. Indeed, it was the creature's annoying habit of fleeing from their attacks that drew the fight out for so long, and the more it skulked away the more confident Hawke felt.
Even though their party was falling as quickly as they could revive one another.
Even though that horrible mansion-sized spider was looming overhead like a pale cloud of death waiting to descend.
Even though those horrible little fearlings were bloodying her legs and hips as she disregarded them in favor of their master.
She was confident because the Nightmare was fleeing from them.
The Nightmare was afraid!
Like Hawke, Stroud and Cassandra abandoned themselves to the task of striking down their primary nemesis; all caution for their own well being disregarded. Occasionally a voice from behind would call to one of them, and the summoned party member would turn to find a healing potion being lobbed at their head by one of the supporting members; a not-so-subtle hint that they should try to survive the battle as well.
When it became physically too difficult for the two rouges to continue their direct affront against the Nightmare Fenris swept in easily, taking their place at the fore of the battle against the demon and inflicting massive damage where Hawke and the Inquisitor had not, but at the cost of losing his prey to its disappearing tricks more frequently.
In the end Hawke could not tell if it had been Cassandra, Stroud or Fenris who had dealt the final blow, and it didn't matter. The Nightmare had fallen and, without pausing to allow the victors a chance to collect the spoils of their battle, the Inquisitor waived her followers towards the rift urgently -
- until the enormous spider dropped from above, dripping great torrents of blood, yet still powerful enough to crush any of them in its horrible maw. Already it was moving in for them, legs a thick as tree trunks moving independently of one another while those terrible pinchers clicked in anticipation of the next kill.
They would never get through, Hawke knew. They had exhausted their healing supplies, and this monster was more likely to slay them all before they could bring it down.
Someone was going to have to fight the beast; to distract this horror and cut a path for the others...
...and likely die in the process.
There was not even a second of hesitation for her. "Go." She commanded the others with more authority and confidence than she held felt in years. The Champion of Kirkwall once more stood in her boots. "I'll cover you." She dared not turn her eyes to Fenris - she could feel his gaze searing the skin from her back.
At her side Stroud frowned and shook his head, speaking out before Fenris had opportunity. "No. You were right. The Grey Wardens caused this. A Warden must-"
"A Warden must help them rebuild." Hawke interrupted without hesitation. "That's your job. Corypheus is mine." This was Corypheus' pet; his weapon. If she could cut it down she would cripple her old foe. This was her responsibility - no one else.
And the Grey Wardens had erred horribly, she knew, but they were redeemable. Redeemable and still necessary. She had to believe that. A lifetime of faith on her part, and the hope that her sister was still lucid and among their ranks, gave her grounds to believe.
Of them all Hawke was the most expendable; not a Grey Warden, not a member of the Inquisition... and she could atone for her sins here. She could play her part in saving both orders by safeguarding their leaders. She would die fighting for a just cause.
It seemed right.
The Inquisitor stood with her back to the group, appraising the arachnid before them as Hawke prepared to draw her daggers and make good on her promise. She wondered briefly if she should turn and kiss Fenris goodbye or shatter a poison flask against his breastplate and demand Stroud and Varric drag the incapacitated elf from the Fade with them. He would likely not leave her willingly, she knew, and her fingers fluttered down to the vials at her hip; her decision made.
"Stroud." The Inquisitor said softly and Hawke started. The Inquisitor had just sided with her friend - had just sentenced him to death.
The Inquisitor had just spared her life.
"Inquisitor," the Grey Warden intoned formally, "it has been an honor."
With a fleeting glance at Hawke, her friend charged into battle, slicing into the underbelly of the monstrous spider while the others sped beneath its floundering legs, sprinting for the rift and hurtling themselves through with complete abandon.
And at that precise moment Hawke didn't even bother to worry that the rift might not take them home.
The rift within the fortress was closed. Adamant was secure, and the Grey Wardens would serve the Inquisition in the interim. Hawke would travel to Weisshaupt and inform the Warden headquarters of what had happened to their Orlesian comrades. In time a new Warden Commander would be named and the Grey Wardens currently under Inquisition command would be reclaimed by their order. With no further reason to remain behind, Hawke bade the Inquisitor to take care of Varric, though the brunette woman halted her before Hawke had made it more than a few steps.
"I thought you would at least say goodbye to him." She called after the departing Champion, maintaining a neutral tone despite the insinuation Hawke felt in those words. "He's in the commanding tents, in the camp just outside the gates."
There were plenty of reasons Hawke didn't want to say goodbye, but they were all cowardly and self serving. She hated goodbyes, having said or not said too many of them in her life already. And she had no way of knowing if or when she would see her dearest friend again. Yet she found herself shuffling out to those very tents anyway, poking her head in various openings until she at last set eyes on a beardless dwarf cleaning and oiling the various mechanisms on his massive crossbow.
"Seems to me you give Bianca more of your attention than you do most people," Hawke murmured, and Varric lifted his eyes to her, his hands stilling on his weapon.
"Not all of them," he replied and set Bianca aside, moving to stand before Hawke. "You're leaving, I take it?"
"The Grey Wardens need to be told of what happened here." She replied with a nod.
"Weisshaupt." Varric shook his head. The name alone said it all; a journey that long would likely see them separated for years. For a time silence stretched between them as the contemplated what this meant. At last Varric broke the silence, his voice low.
"Hawke, you know why the Inquisitor didn't choose you, right?" She frowned, and Varric seemed to consider that answer enough. "It's because you still have people who need you. Not the Champion of Kirkwall. You. Hawke. You may not realize it, but there are people who honestly care whether or not Raina Hawke lives or dies. I know. I've got the list of people I've been asked to write letters to if we ever lose you. You remember that the next time you get it in your head to throw yourself on a sword. Got it?"
Hawke found it difficult to swallow passed the lump lodged in her throat. Even when she tried to do what was right...
No. No she couldn't wallow. She couldn't. She had promised.
"I'll remember," she replied, forcing her voice to remain steady.
"Good. Now get going. I've got contacts to set up in the Anderfels. Gotta keep an ear open for you somehow." The dwarf grinned and winked conspiratorially at her, and Hawke brightened slightly.
"Take care of yourself, Varric." She murmured, turning to follow Fenris from the tent.
"Yeah. You too. Oh. And Broody?" Fenris turned, one brow arched elegantly above his eye as Varric smiled at the elf. "I'm glad she's got you out there."
Fenris stood silent for a moment, as though uncertain what to make of Varric's statement, before nodding his acknowledgment. "Be safe, dwarf." And at those words, uttered low, and without any sort of foul temperament, Varric's brows lifted in surprise, before a crooked smile crept over his face; one that was barely echoed above a lyrium-engraved chin.
And with nothing more to be said between them, Hawke and Fenris stepped out of Varric's tent; the darkness swallowing them up almost instantly.
A/N I know that Fenris was never supposed to accompany Hawke through the events of DAI, but when the game came out, the events of DAI fit so well into the plot of the fic I've been working from forever that I HAD to incorporate it (which actually fleshed out what was to be short and uneventful beginning, in my opinion.) And because this fic can't exist without Fenris he just had to be added to the DAI events. Overall I'm satisfied with how this turned out. From here on out the fic will move away from actual gameplay. Hope you like it!
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I REMAIN AT YOUR SIDE
Understanding what would be asked of her after receiving Varric's message, Hawke had possessed the forethought to take steps that would assure her usefulness before meeting with the Inquisition; an organization which could have wanted her neck stretched for her part in Kirkwall's fall for all that she knew. That use would be to provide the Inquisition with intelligence they may need to turn their battle in their favor, and though she did not have much information to provide personally, she knew someone who would.
It had not been difficult for Hawke to pinpoint Stroud's location before arriving in Skyhold. She had made it a point to keep touch with a few of her more nomadic acquaintances in case she needed mobile support during her travels. Through this contact she had already been aware that something had been troubling the Grey Wardens of late, and that Stroud had been on the outs with his superiors, presumably for this unknown problem. In one of his last messages Stroud conferred his intent to slip into hiding if the situation worsened, though he would not speak of what the issue was outright. Given the recent mysteries surrounding the Grey Wardens' disappearances, Hawke was positive that Stroud would have taken his leave by now.
Thus it was to be a simple enough matter to travel to the cave where her friend had informed her in a coded message that he would take refuge. Or so she had believed.
In fact, the trek itself had proven anything but a quick jaunt through the countryside. The rains had not relented once since she and Fenris had descended the Frostback Mountains, and after two nights and one full day at the inn, the pair had decided to accept that they would be traveling uncomfortably going forward and return to the storm-wracked roads, or risk Stroud relocating without their knowledge.
Their luck, she found to her everlasting ire, was only to turn for the worse, however. The poor visibility caused by the foul weather had made it difficult to find their trails in this unknown landscape, and on multiple occasions Hawke found herself forced to backtrack in order to recover the route they had accidentally strayed from.
Then, of course, there were the undead. Ungainly creatures which were easy enough to dispatch... if you didn't unknowingly step into their resting places first.
By the time dawn broke on the final day of their travels Fenris was a growling mess of fatigue with varying gouges to his body from their numerous encounters, gauntlets that were growing increasingly difficult to function in after being sodden for so long, and waterlogged bare feet. Hawke was not much the better off. Her boots had flooded, her usual dexterity had been all but ruined by the sodden landscape, bringing about more injuries than usual during battles, and her hands were so numb from the constant cold rains that she could no longer spin her daggers with any efficiency within her grasps.
"How exactly did you manage to survive in this accursed country for so many years, Hawke?" The elf growled, ruffling his sodden hair with a single hand to stop the rivulets from running down over his eyes; the rain undoing his attempts in short order.
Hawke had learned quickly enough after leaving the inn that if Fenris was in a foul mood, or if they were in the company of others, he reverted to addressing her by her surname, which suited her just fine. She'd been accustomed to hearing that name used in any capacity over the years; but if her given name was only spoken in moments of tenderness she would treasure the sound of it all the more.
"Not all of Ferelden is like this," she grumbled in response as she trudged through mud that threatened to suck the boots from her feet. True this weather was unusual for her native land, yet Crestwood seemed bent on drowning them, and Hawke was quickly losing her patience with the area.
The cave was blessedly closer than she anticipated, though, and with a sigh of relief she lugged herself into the dark opening, leaning against slick rock walls as she pulled off her boots, pouring water from them as she would from pitchers. "We should probably announce ourselves," she announced once Fenris had taken a moment to scrape the muck from his feet, "no doubt Stroud will want to know he's among friends."
Traversing the narrow passageway was easy enough, though she found the bandit standards a bit comical. Thankfully he had laid no traps or trip wires to catch them up.
The large wooden door at the back of the corridor was solidly locked, but with a few steady blows she coaxed a roughly phrased demand from beyond the planking, the voice thick with an Orlesian accent. Reflexively she smiled. That was quite an act he was putting on!
"It's Hawke." She announced without any additional clarification, knowing that none would be needed. Moments later the door latches were released and she found her friend peering warily from the opening before laying eyes upon her and visibly relaxing at the sight.
"Hawke," he breathed, reaching an arm out to grip at hers in greeting, "it's good to see you."
"Likewise," she replied, "you and your impressive mustache." The smile she received in response was small, almost obligatory, and Hawke surmised that things were worse than she had feared. Putting aside any further attempts at levity, she informed him of her reason for coming, and of the visitors he was going to receive soon.
Thankfully Stroud appeared not only tolerant of the intrusion, but lightened by the prospect of it as well, if only slightly. "Perhaps we can be of assistance to each other then," her Orlesian friend murmured, apparently lost to his own thoughts. Grey Wardens were given to secrecy, and Hawke expected this was the case yet again. And so she volunteered herself and Fenris to stand guard at the mouth of the case and wait for the Inquisitor and her party to arrive. Without additional conversation Stroud returned to the cave, and Hawke and Fenris took up their assigned sentry positions, understanding that the Grey Warden was in no mood to exchange pleasantries.
The day wore on, and as it did the rain at last faded until it was nothing more than a light drizzle, falling cheerfully from a nearly sunny sky. Hawke chuckled darkly and cursed their luck aloud; Fenris smirking with her in her sardonic humor and joining in with a few choice epithets of his own.
It felt right - sitting here with him, carrying on as they had before that fateful night in Kirkwall. Yet it was not exactly as it had been before, she realized, for there was a warmth in his eyes now when he looked upon her; a softness to his smile that spoke of secrets shared between the two of them alone, and she could not resist returning the expression in earnest.
When his eyes began to swim with unspoken emotions she found herself tempted to wrap her arms around his neck and drink in another of his intoxicating kisses, until the sound of hooves on the path caught her attention. In moments the Inquisitor was upon them, Varric and two others reigning their own mounts in behind her. Hawke stifled an undignified giggle at the sight of one very uncomfortable dwarf on the back of a horse that nearly tripled his own height.
With their mounts secured Varric took the brief liberties of introducing the pair to Cassandra, the Seeker Varric had written her about, and a mage by the name of Dorian. Yet as Hawke lead the company inside, her arm was caught up by her dwarven friend, who pulled her back for a moment.
"Listen," his voice dipped low as he cast furtive glances at the backs that were moving further into the cavern without them, "I tried to convince her to leave Dorian behind, but they're practically inseparable. Almost as much as her and the Commander. She wouldn't leave him without cause, and I couldn't give her the reason without royally pissing her off. Just do us all a favor and keep Broody away from him."
Hawke's brow quirked. "There's no need for that. We knew that we would likely be working along side mages again," she replied softly, "the Inquisition sided with them, after all."
"Yeah, but you didn't count on Dorian." Varric grimaced. "He's Tevinter, pal. A Tevinter magister."
Hawke's stomach performed a series off flips within her at the revelation. "Maker!" She blasphemed vehemently, yet managed to keep her voice to a whisper, "Varric! Why didn't you stop her from bringing him?"
"I tried!" Varric repeated, over annunciating his words as though trying to speak reason to a drunkard; a display that Hawke did not appreciate.
"You should have tried harder!" She rasped. "If Fenris finds out-"
"Just don't let him." Varric suggested as though the idea were simple enough. "Keep him distracted. You're good at that, after all."
Hawke opened her mouth to retaliate before stopping short, eyeing the dwarf suspiciously.
"You knew." She accused.
"What was that?" Varric blinked, not following her insinuation. Yet their opportunity for secrecy was brought to an abrupt end.
"Hawke." Fenris' voice called for her quietly from within the cave, his platinum head coming into view as he circled back to find her. "Why are you lingering out here?"
Her mind stumbled for a reason - any reason - to have remained behind while not actually lying to a man who shared so many secrets with her. Recalling her secondary grievance with Varric, she quickly decided that the dwarf would have to be sacrificed for the greater good. "You knew Fenris had feelings for me all this time?" She demanded of her favorite storyteller, her eyes narrowing on him heatedly. "You knew and you never told me?"
Varric blinked, glanced at Fenris and then shifted his feet. "Well shit. This is awkward. Care to throw me a bone, Hawke?" Varric asked. "Are congratulations in order, or should I be taking the elf here out to drink himself into a stupor?"
"We'll discuss this later," Hawke whispered heatedly, yet not so quietly that Fenris could not hear, stomping into the cave and praying silently that Varric knew she wasn't truly upset with him. Well, not that upset at him at any rate. "For now we have a task ahead of us."
At her back there was a fair amount of shuffling before a pair of heavy boots plodded along behind her. "Well, I'm not crawling out of this one anytime soon," she heard Varric grumble as they hurried to meet the others and then, to her surprise, Fenris' low response.
"Hawke never did like to be the last to know anything." He reminded Varric. "I will speak to her again. She already understands that nothing could have developed between us sooner than it did."
"Sooner than it did, huh?" Hawke could not measure Varric's opinion of Fenris' revelation by the dwarf's voice alone, which was unusual for the normally expressive man. "So, you and Hawke? The world's a crazy place."
She had not time to ponder her friend's opinion of the couple's new-found romance for, to her horror, she found the door to Stroud's hideaway already open when she reached the back of the cavern, and inside the Grey Warden had the tip of his sword at the Inquisitor's neck.
Maker - what is he doing?!
"It's just us!" Hawke called, striding into the cavern quickly. "I brought the Inquisitor."
After a tense few moments Stroud sheathed his blade, making formal introductions to the Inquisitor and promising his service. Thankfully the Inquisitor seemed more glad for the offer of assistance than she did upset at her first encounter with Hawke's friend, and Stroud quickly began to share what knowledge he possessed of Corypheus. It was all speculation and conjecture, until Stroud made a startling revelation:
The Orlesian Grey Wardens were hearing the Calling. All of them. At once.
"Maker!" Hawke gasped, horrified. "Why didn't you tell me?"
When Stroud informed her that it was a Grey Warden affair she seethed inwardly. The man knew that she had a sister in the Order, and he had the audacity to keep something this important from her?
"And every Grey Warden in Orlais is hearing that right now?" She demanded, Bethany's face swimming before her mind's eye and, to her surprise, Anders' as well, for he had undergone the Joining, and that was permanent. Or so Anders had told her. "They think they're dying?" Her concerns spiraled outward. Stroud knew of the Orlais Wardens, but what of the Wardens in Ferelden? Or the Marches? And where was her sister?
Hawke could not feel that guilt that had nearly suffocated her before. She could not feel that horrible failure at the lives she had failed to save. Bethany could be in danger right now, believing herself dying, because of that creature.
Right now, all Hawke felt was rage.
And then, once Stroud had recounted the Grey Warden's foolish intent for saving their order and departed for the Western Approach - to her horror - things became even worse.
"This would not be something you would have any knowledge of, I presume?" The Seeker spoke up after Stroud had departed, her words casual enough, though the stare she pinned on Dorian was nearly accusing.
"Oh yes, of course," droll humor rolled off of the man's tongue with practiced ease as he affected what appeared to be a nostalgic expression. "All Tevinter magisters are taught blood rites in deserted towers. Ah, this will be just like my apprentice years."
Fenris went rigid, and at her back Varric's muttered expletive suddenly didn't seem sufficient in Hawke's opinion.
"I should have known." The former slave snarled, and Dorian appeared for the first time honestly taken aback at the sudden reaction from the composed elf. When Fenris took his first step towards the mage Hawke immediately intervened, placing herself squarely before her new lover, her hand on his chest.
"Fenris, there's no need-"
"Move aside, Hawke," Fenris sneered, ripping her hand from his chest and attempting to push her aside; yet Hawke held her position, freeing her hand from his metal grasp at the cost of a few bloody lines drawn upon her wrist, and gripping his shoulder tightly.
"This man has done nothing to you." She replied, trying to keep her voice calm and composed. "He is fighting with the Inquisition-"
"His kind is the definition of everything vile in this world!" Fenris snarled, white teeth flashing from bronzed skin. "And you expect me to cooperate with him-"
"I'm not expecting anything of you." She announced forcefully, drawing her shoulders back and lifting her chin as she always had when commanding someone's attention. "I'm asking you to trust me." Her voice softened, her head tilting slightly as she gazed at him seriously. "Is that something you can do again, Fenris? Or am I asking too much?"
Green eyes ablaze with near unbridled hatred laid upon her, and to her relief began to flicker. After a moment the cords within his neck relented fractionally and he took a single step back.
"Festus bei um canaverum." He muttered.
That phrase he had translated once for her, and a sudden sadness gripped her heart at how valid it could someday prove. "Maker, I hope not." She whispered, and that softly spoken admission seemed sufficient to break him from his prejudice induced trance as he blinked at her odd response.
"We should get moving," he announced and spun upon the balls of his foot, following the path Stroud had used to exit the cave.
The Western Approach had been horrific to bear witness to, but it had also given Hawke the conviction she had needed to stand against an order she had always held in high esteem. The Grey Wardens had protected Thedas since the first Archdemon crawled out from the stinking depths. And in a show of the power which fortitude and strength of will could endow, the last Blight's end had been orchestrated by the only two Grey Wardens left in Ferelden. Two Wardens, where there had once been hundreds, and still they were able to slay the Archdemon be sheer ingenuity and determination. The Grey Wardens were unquestionably a force to be reckoned with.
Yet what this group of Wardens was doing was inexcusable. They had not just resorted to blood magic out of desperation to save their own lives. They had allied themselves to a darkspawn magister, sacrificed human lives to raise an army of demons, enslaved the minds of their own mages to ensure compliance, and now were planning their ascension to 'god-kings' to rule the world under Corypheus' boot heel.
Or so the mage at their fore claimed.
Hawke's resolve had become infinitely clearer. Though Stroud spoke of their reasons and attempted a weak defense, Hawke knew that all who followed this path would be put down. There would be no compromises. The image of Bethany, lifting her hands and lowering them like a puppet on command as those Wardens in the Western Approach, had her grinding her teeth in near a nearly blinding fury and gut-roiling fear. She would not allow her sister to come to such a fate.
And if she had... Hawke's fists trembled at her sides.
Maker have mercy on the Grey Wardens, for I will not.
And so when the Inquisition's Commander - who unbelievably enough was Cullen Rutherford, the one-time templar who had stood with her in the final battle against his own Knight Commander two years ago - had asked her to join the Inquisition's ranks when they stormed Adamant Fortress, Hawke had volunteered her temporary services gladly, not even asking Fenris if he would come. She already knew his mind, for it was the same as hers.
The traitorous Grey Wardens must be put down.
It had started in silence, as all great battles did. Moonlight and anticipation were the only presences hanging in the air. No voice carried in the still night skies.
Then came the first explosion of sound: a war cry delivered from the lungs of the Commander of the Inquisition's armies.
And so began the bloodiest battle Hawke had seen since Kirkwall fell.
As one both sides rose to Cullen's challenge. Demons crawled forth at every corner. Wardens railed against the invading army with anything and everything at their disposal. Inquisition siege engines laid waste to stonework, and soldiers poured over the fortress' battlements - Hawke and Fenris among them - to find their foes waiting eagerly on the other side. Yet as a testimony to Cullen's leadership the Inquisition's forces rallied valiantly, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were hard-trained and battle ready.
And so Hawke danced.
It had been years since she had been able to dance as she did. Small skirmishes on the highways and country roads provided almost no opportunity to push her abilities to their limits. But here, surrounded by demons and warriors bent on her death, Hawke felt herself able to simply let go of thought; of restraint. She was her own greatest weapon.
Her daggers sang free of their sheaths as the first of her prey moved in, her body spinning lightly on her soft boot soles, twirling her in circles with her blades extended on either side like deadly wings. And around her three Wardens fell at her feet; expressions of shock frozen upon their lifeless faces.
Without pausing she located her next target and lunged; her dagger an extension of her arm, and the rage demon at the end of her assault was hurtled over the edge of the battlements to its death.
At her back game a guttural growl, and she whirled to find Fenris carving his way through human and demon flesh as though he were cutting down wheat in a field. His lyrium marks blazed to life and his sword swung wide with a grand sweeping gesture, leaving him ample room to bury his unencumbered arm in the chest of a mage before him, ripping the appendage free with a horrible sucking sound. It was enough to cause a few Wardens around them to balk; a reaction that Hawke capitalized on quickly, along with a few nearby Inquisition soldiers; dropping those off-balance Wardens with ease.
And Hawke danced, and twirled, and leapt and killed. At times she danced in tandem with Fenris, and that dance was intimate and thrilling and brutal. She'd never fought at his side in such a way; twisting her body around his, using her blades as close-combat cover while the warrior inflicted massive damage upon those before him, muscles bunching in his corded arms as he wielded that massive sword with a grace and ease one would never suspect from a man of such trim build.
He was magnificent, she decided, and was surprised to find a small smirk upon his lips following one particularly close pairing. She allowed her battlefield facade to fall if only for a moment, returning the smile before schooling her features to stone once more and spinning around to Fenris' back, ripping her blade across the throat of a man who had intended a stealth attack.
"I'm at your back," she murmured.
"I know." Came his rumbled response, and again her composure slipped for an instant at the meaning behind those words.
Moments later, or perhaps it was hours, a tremendous crash shook the very stone beneath her feet. "They've breached the doors!" She shouted to her nearby allies.
It was just in time, too. Though she and Fenris were cutting down foes with practiced ease, more and more were rushing in to fill the fallen's places with every passing minute, while ally soldiers fell with greater frequency the longer they were forced to endure so little support. Soon skill alone would be insufficient - they needed greater numbers if they hoped to come out of this with their skins.
Yet all was not well just yet. To their immediate right a pride demon materialized from a small group of Warden mages, and Hawke bit out a coarse oath. She and Fenris might have been able to survive a fight against a pride demon just barely, had their potions not been touched, and if there had not been Warden mages prowling around the demon like lurkers.
Desperately she bellowed for help from soldiers in the distance, yet they were in no position to assist; too embroiled in their own present battles to break away. The monstrosity, however, heard her call, and with a laugh that drove a chill down her spine it approached. Grimly, Hawke bared her teeth and rose up on the balls of her feet, preparing herself for a battle she knew she had little chance of winning.
At her side Fenris lowered himself to a near crouch. "Be ready to draw its attention," he growled, and she nodded her understanding. Being fleeter of foot, she would act as decoy while he unleashed the full extent of his power upon the demon. It was risky, but it was all they had.
And then, like a prayer answered, a bolt as fat as her finger and as long as her forearm struck the demon where its heart should be, and another only a second later buried in the monster's neck.
"I've got your back, Hawke!" Varric's familiar cry was a boon to her soul, and she nearly laughed aloud with relief. With the knowledge that she was now supported, the former Champion rushed in, only to find herself matching strides with the Inquisitor herself. The women glanced at one another as they tore into the fray, the Inquisitor smirking lightly at her ally.
Four daggers sang out; the Inquisitor blitzing past the monster with a surprisingly brutal blow considering her chosen class and stature, while Hawke crouched low, skirting along the demon's peripheral vision so that she could strike out at an exposed weaker point on its flank, her daggers piercing holes in the armored skin with ease once she was able to surprise it.
Together she and the Inquisitor dipped and darted, spinning clear to make room for their warriors, or to give wide berth to one of Dorian's spells or a volley of Varric's arrows. It felt oddly familiar, almost like her days of fighting beside Isabella when the two would practically duel each other in play as they took down their foes, though the Inquisitor was far less vocal and more disciplined in her techniques than the pirate captain.
Unexpectedly whips of lighting suddenly crackled into existence within the demon's claws and, caught off guard, Hawke felt a jarring impact more than any pain as she sailed into the air; Fenris' cry of alarm echoing faintly in her ears. The world faded to black and silence for an instant and then Dorian was above her, his hands glowing green as he poured a potion down her throat.
"I would recommend not standing in the path of those bolts in the future," he said flippantly, and against her better judgment Hawke smiled.
"I'll try to remember that." She replied, rising to rush back into combat and finding Fenris aglow with the power of his markings; his eyes twin orbs of cerulean light as he struck out at the demon viciously.
"Fenris," she called, and a near maddened face turned to her; eyes widening impossibly at the sight of her standing, and for a moment he forgot to raise his sword to defend against the coming blow.
Yet green energies sailed over his head, throwing the demon's arm back violently, and from behind Fenris' shoulder Dorian leaned in. "You're welcome, by the way," he purred into the pointed ear, and Hawke could not tell if it was for saving Fenris from the demon or Hawke from her injuries. Yet no retort came from the former slave, save for an alarmingly large bulging of his jaw.
The battle against the pride demon continued on hard-fought, with Fenris, Stroud, and Cassandra proving the most useful against its formidable defenses as their blows were the most punishing, and eventually the monster groaned and crumbled to the ground before fading into nonexistence.
Hurrying off to lay waste to the remaining siege points, the Inquisitor gave Hawke a brief smile and word of thanks before together the ever expanding group moved deeper into the fortress; encountering more demons, Wardens and abominations with every turn. Yet soon enough they pushed past the final set of doors to find that odd green glow that spoke of a rift filling the inner courtyard, and within mages and Wardens crowded while the Warden Commander herself sacrificed a man before the gathering.
Enraged, the Inquisitor stepped forward, hurling accusations and demands at the Tevinter magister from the Western Approach and Warden Commander Clarel, though to no avail. With a barked command from the leader of the Grey Wardens, the rift within the courtyard expanded dangerously, leaving Hawke and Stroud to raise protests of their own to the Wardens, desperate to avoid what they thought was to come.
Until something tore free from the skies and sailed over their heads like a black cloud.
It was, but then again it was not. Hawke had fought dragons before, but nothing like this. This dragon was darker, grotesque in its form and seeming decay, and elicited a response within the Wardens like nothing Hawke had ever witnessed.
And then she understood what it was they were seeing.
Maker preserve me, that's an Archdemon!
Immediately Wardens were rallying to the Inquisitor's group at the command of Clarel who, from her place upon the dais, attacked the Tevinter magister at her side before throwing magical energies against the Archdemon without restraint.
Around them the courtyard exploded into a frenzied nightmare. Demons spawned in every corner of the clearing, Wardens fought and fell shrieking to the ground, and a steady string of Tevene profanities poured from Fenris' lips, or at least Hawke believed they were profanities, judging by the echoed phrases or additional words she heard Dorian elicit during Fenris' breaths.
Yet there was no time to engage them all, for Clarel was rushing to the battlements in pursuit of the Tevinter magister, with the Inquisitor and her troupe not far behind. If there was any hope to stave off the tide of demons pouring into the fortress, it would be with those two. Rounding corners and dodging abominations and demons at every turn, Hawke and Fenris finally reached the battlements behind the Inquisitor and Stroud; her skin prickle with apprehension at the scene. the Warden Commander was a furious sight to behold, attacking the magister without reserve from her place beside the ramparts, until he was little more than a quivering, smoking mass of flesh and cloth upon the stone. It seemed to Hawke that the man's death was all but inevitable.
Inevitable, that was, until the Archdemon dropped from the heavens on black wings of death and plucked the Grey Warden from the battlements, carrying her off and shaking her violently before tossing her back to the stonework. Such a horrific attack should have been enough to kill anyone, yet impossibly Clarel rolled to her back, muttering something softly as she raised her hand into the air -
- and rent the battlements asunder with a magical blast the likes of which Hawke had never before witnessed; the Archdemon floundering and falling beneath the stonework with a terrifying guttural howl.
"Run!" The Inquisitor shrieked as the great pavers beneath their feet began to give way, crumbling to to the jagged rock below. Needing no further coaxing, as one the group turned to flee, with the Inquisitor trailing behind, pushing Stroud passed her forcibly.
Nimbler than Fenris, Hawke reached back, clutching at his arm desperately and pulling at him as though she had any hope of speeding him along beyond his current pace. Yet in the end he could not outrun the crumbling stone and mortar, and she would not release her hold on the man she so desperately needed.
And so the rock beneath their feet gave way, and then they were falling, the pit of her stomach rising into her throat as she watched the ramparts rush by her through her decent; thought that this was it, this was the end of it all.
Until the brilliant green light swallowed her.