|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.
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!
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.
A/N - Tevene (latin) translations are at the bottom of the page.
Returning to the highways was almost a welcomed respite for Hawke. Though she enjoyed the comforts of civilization, she now enjoyed anonymity more so. It was an oddity for her to be so introverted, she knew. She used to love being in the thick of a crowd. Spending time at the Hanged Man's tables, playing Wicked Grace and drinking with her friends, as well as anyone else who had the coin and cared to risk it, had been a great source of enjoyment for her. Yet now, when Hawke found herself surrounded by a mass of faces, she felt only emptiness. No matter how she tried, there were so many people who had come to her suffering, desperate, pleading for her help, and in her incompetence she had failed them.
Or worse: she had inadvertently caused their deaths.
It had been easy to dismiss these thoughts before. Her efforts at subterfuge in order to avoid public recognition, and the retaliation she believed would quickly follow, had given her something to focus on. But now the protection of the Inquisition had rendered her aliases unnecessary, the burden of the needs of the people had returned to her shoulders, and Hawke was more afraid than she had been in years; which was making the coming mission that much more difficult. Hawke remembered what red lyrium did to people; if there was more - enough to infect a small army of templars - then their battles against Bartrand and Meredith had been just the beginning.
It was after days of miserable travel over the highways, during which there had been near constant rainstorms upon descending from the mountains, and with these worries reverberating within her mind, that she and Fenris reached their first village stop, much to her relief this time. Finally they had enough coin in their purse to afford lodgings without requiring a trip to the chanter's boards to offset the cost. And by nightfall the pair were tucked safely into their room, dry and warm for the first time in nearly a week. At last Hawke thought that perhaps she might actually find some small relief.
That hope, however was short lived.
"Haec passuram non possum." The words, delivered through a low growl, caused Hawke lift her eyes to the chair beside her own and blink at her companion in mild surprise. They had been sitting in silence for some time, enjoying the long-overdue warmth of a fire upon the hearth before them, drying and oiling their gear to stave off the rust that would result from a week beneath torrential skies, and drinking the cheap wine that the innkeeper kept on hand for the guests. Overall it had been a pleasant enough evening in comparison to the last several days, she had felt, and she could find no reason for him to suddenly be so agitated.
"You know I don't understand Tevene, Fenris." she replied quietly, wondering if it had even been meant for her ears.
"It means 'I can tolerate this no longer,'" he replied from between clenched teeth, lifting his sharp gaze to hers and tossing his oiling cloth to the floor. "Exactly how long will you continue down this path, Hawke?" He demanded. "It has been two years. How long must this self-imposed guilt consume you before you are satisfied? Where is the woman I met in the alienage?" With every demand he grew more incensed until he was pacing before the fire, and she half suspected he was about to strike out at something physically. "The Champion I followed in Kirkwall never shied from adversity as you do now. Tell me, is that woman gone forever?"
And there it was, she realized. His breaking point had been reached.
She had often wondered if, or more precisely when, it would come to this. Fenris had been unusually tolerant, even supportive of her since they fled Kirkwall. Never in their prior years together had she ever known him to be so forgiving of anyone. She had considered in an honor; one she knew that she was taking too many liberties with. For no matter how close they had grown over the years, in the end Fenris was a man of strong principle, and she knew that she was defying those principles with her self-deprecation.
"I don't know," she murmured dejectedly. "I can't think of myself as the Champion of Kirkwall anymore. But I know you well enough to understand that my actions are wearing on your patience. You've never tolerated weakness well. If you choose to leave, I'll understand."
"Is that so?" Though the volume of his voice did not change, there was no mistaking the fact that Hawke had just infuriated him dangerously. She half suspected to see his markings begin to flicker, for how rigid he had grown, and how fiercely his eyes now shone. "Is that the value you placed on our friendship, then? You can support me through my trials and struggles, yet you cannot count on me to do the same?"
"What? No!" She blurted, realizing now how horribly she had insulted him. "No, of course not! Forgive me, Fenris, I was just-"
"You were just so busy wallowing in your self-induced misery that you forgot that you are not alone." Fenris replied, his voice a near primal growl within his throat, but there was something behind his rage now, something that Hawke could not positively identify, though it left her insides twisting. "You were never alone, Hawke. Not in the Deep Roads, not beneath the foundry the night we fought Quentin, not even the night Kirkwall burned. Three of your greatest regrets I have played a part in, and yet you will not allow me to share in the blame that is partly mine." His words puzzled her; the way he spoke of her failures almost seemed to her like he was demanding his right to some great prize she was withholding.
Before she could puzzle out his thinking, however, Fenris was upon her, looming over her not with extraordinary height but with an indomitable will she had come to admire greatly over the years. "You may have been able to turn the others away, but you will not be rid of me so easily."
Yes, she knew that in the end she had chased away her comrades; or fled from them. Most of them, at any rate. It had been for their own protection, she had felt. To associate with her now was too risky. Yet Fenris refused to be deterred. "Why?" She whispered, the answer to her confusion dancing upon the knife edge of her awareness; so close, yet just out of reach. "What is it that keeps you here, Fenris? I don't understand."
A moment of utter stillness passed before, with deliberate care, Fenris lowered himself to his haunches before her, his elbows upon his knees as clear green eyes met and held her gaze as powerfully as any mage-born spell she had ever been subjected to.
The change in the timbre of his voice was drastic and so utterly unexpected that Hawke momentarily forgot to breathe; and when she recalled to do so it came as a shuddering gasp.
It can't be.
But it was, she realized, and Hawke found herself breathless for a second time in these few seconds, now at the sight of Fenris unguarded. She had seen a comparable look turned on her like this, yet there was no anguished shadow behind the springtime hues she now gazed into as there had been within those prior amber depths. There was no fear of what could be and of what was to come.
Fenris was not afraid.
He was never afraid.
Fenris, who had willingly traveled with her into dangers which had nothing to do with him, even when not invited. Who had granted her moments of rare smiles and laughter, yet always when in her company alone. Who shared stories of a past he would sooner not relive, if only because she had asked.
Fenris now trained on her an expression swirling with a mixture of pain and hope and frustration and such longing-
Without pausing to consider her own fears, Hawke reached forward to catch olive skin and silver-white strands as soft as down between her palms so that she might crush her lips to his-
-and found her boldness rewarded.
Lithe arms ensnared her; armored hands clutching at her shoulders as soon as their mouths touched, tightening upon her until metal tipped gauntlets pierced her flesh. At her barely-audible gasp Fenris released his hold, muttering what she guessed to be a profanity as he hastily stripped the gauntlets from his hands and threw them almost violently away before capturing Hawke back into his arms and reclaiming her mouth with a near desperate possessiveness. She responded in kind, her hands sliding down his arms, raking her nails down his skin gently while pawing and pulling in an effort to increase the intensity of his embrace.
Now it was Fenris' turn to give a small, barely perceptible grunt and Hawke's hands lifted away instantly. "Your markings," she murmured against his kiss apologetically, remembering too late the pain they could inflict on the warrior. Yet Fenris was unfazed.
"They do not concern me," he growled softly, "I would suffer their discomfort a thousand times over for the feel of your touch."
The breath was squeezed from her lungs not by his arms, but by the emotions roiling inside of her, and with a groan she returned her lips to his lips and her hands to his arms, allowing them to slide up over his shoulders until they framed his neck and jaw. There she held him in place, deepening their kiss and sweeping her tongue over his lower lip until he opened his mouth and dueled his way into hers with gentle dominance.
The heat of his body beneath her hands was extraordinary, and she was overcome with a desire to experience more of it, yet as her fingers traveled over collar, shoulders and what she could reach of his chest, she could find not one catch or strap for his armor.
"Fenris," she pleaded against his teeth, "how-"
Removing her hand from his collar, he guided her hand to his back - never breaking their kiss in the process - where a short leather belt no wider than three of her fingers held his armor fastened, and once freed, his chest plate slid free into her lap before clattering to the floor, revealing a row of hooks and eyes down the front of his tunic.
"Only one fastener for your armor?" She asked, curious despite her preoccupation with the soft heat of his mouth.
"Why do you think I never let my enemies at my back?" He responded, and Hawke chose that moment to slide her fingertips up the back slit in his tunic - without her nails this time - to caress the skin over his spine with feather soft contact, watching with great interest as his back arched slightly into her touch and his eyes rolled closed momentarily.
"I'm at your back," she whispered against his lip.
"You are not my enemy."
"What am I to you, Fenris?" She breathed, and found herself gazing into fathomless crystalline depths. "Your friend?" There was a pause as he stared back at her.
"Anima mea." He answered at last, his voice near to reverent against her lips; she had never heard him speak in such a tone before.
"What is that?"
Bare fingers caressed her cheek as his eyes searched her features. "Permit me to show you." And with that Hawke found herself pulled to her feet, her rear suddenly cupped in his iron grip as Fenris lifted her against his body while she wrapped her legs around his waist, tasting his jawline and earlobes as he ventured across the room. When her tongue traced the etched line along his jugular the man beneath her hissed, arching his neck to grant her better access to the sensitive skin, which she tended to raptly before all too soon finding herself deposited upon her bed. With nimble, practiced fingers Fenris began rapidly releasing hooks from their catches, stripping his tunic and armguards from his body impatiently before leaning down to reclaim her lips, only to find Hawke's hand against his chest, halting his decent.
"Wait." She commanded, watching as his shoulders rose and fell hurriedly with every heaving breath he took. 'I've never seen you like this before," she explained, allowing her eyes to rove over his exposed torso with awed appreciation. His body was lean, yet incredibly well sculpted; perfect contours of muscle framed by curving lines of blue grey minerals engraved into him. Though it had been an act of cruelty in its rawest form, whoever had cut into his flesh had clearly done so with the intent of creating a work of art. The markings traveled from neck to torso, down long, corded arms and shapely fingers. From his neck and beautifully sculpted chest, the mineral gathered and dipped in its design to pattern his flat stomach in parallel lines that mimicked the ones she had glimpsed upon his spine, before disappearing beneath the waistline of his leggings like the lines on a map, guiding her to paradise.
"You are... Fenris, you are beautiful." Her fingers reached up to trace lines of definition between his pectorals, allowing her touch to follow the central line separating muscles down his core to his navel, tracing the rim of that shallow depression. With a gentle touch Fenris reached down to run his own fingertips along the side of her face, recalling her gaze to his own.
"I would say the same about you, if you will permit me."
Her hear fluttered within her chest; oh to feel cherished again! Maker, she hadn't felt like this in she could not recall how long. "Will you do something for me?" She asked.
"Whatever it is, it is done." He vowed.
"Say my name?" She asked, captivated by the emotions swirling within his eyes. "My given name? No one has called me by my given name in so long."
Lowering himself to kneel between her knees, Fenris took her waist within his hands, his head tilting, leaning into her mouth, yet not quite touching. She could feel his breath upon her chin as he withheld himself from her; smell the sharp tang of the minerals within his skin mixed with his musk that presently made her feel more womanly than she had in so long.
"Raina," his voice reverberated low and deep in his throat, graveled by passion in a way that made it even more sensual sounding than normal, and her insides melted into warm honey at the sound of what could be defined as sin incarnate. With eyes half-lidded, Fenris laid a slow, tender kiss upon her lips. "Raina," he repeated, lowering his lips to her throat, his fingers trailing to find the catches in her own armor, releasing them deftly and then dipping under the fabric and leather to explore her skin beneath, pulling a moan from her chest with startling ease.
With one hand he reached up to the back of her head, knotting his fingers into her short hair gently and pulling, drawing her head back so that he might feast upon her throat and the hollow point beneath her ear with greater ease, while his other hand swept the armor back from her shoulders and limbs. Yet before she was able to press her exposed skin to his delicious heat as she so wanted she found herself firmly pushed onto her back. Fenris' hands slid down over her thighs with deliberate, slow pressure from his fingertips, his eyes feral in a way that had nothing to do with battle. The sweet, kneading touch moved to her knees and calves to dislodge her high leather boots, then returned to her hips to her utter relief, so that he might slip her trousers from her body in similar fashion.
Freed of her outer garments, and unwilling to allow him to deny her again, Hawke's arms flew up, catching his shoulders and deftly pitching him onto the soft mattress beside her while mounting his hips in a single fluid motion. The moan that escaped his throat when her mouth reclaimed him was enough to set her body thrumming as though she had just been struck by lightening. She had always found his voice captivating, but to hear it choked with lust-
"Say something for me." She demanded suddenly, wanting very much to hear the desire in his voice at that moment.
"What exactly would you have me say?" He asked, his eyes burning her with their want as she began kissing down his throat, his collarbone, his chest, carefully nipping at unmarked flesh and laving her tongue over pale lines as she went.
"Anything." An idea struck her. "Speak to me in Tevene."
She saw from corner of his eyes as he lifted his head, his face mirroring his voice in the intensity of his emotions.
"Vestri somes est meus pyre1," he began, hissing again as her lips gently plucked at a patch of lyrium infused flesh beneath his navel, while her fingers lowered to the laces of his leggings, dancing over the prominent arousal the fabric did very little to conceal, "et ego exuro pro vestri tactus2."
His voice had thickened during her ministrations, his speech quickening as black fabric was pulled down his thighs, followed closely by lips bent on milking all of the desire they could from that velvet timbre. Deliberately she ensured that her hands stroked his muscular legs down their full length, until his clothing lay pooled at her knees with her own.
Above her Fenris continued his litany. "Sententia vos planto mihi iratus3," her mouth had found his hipbone, where her teeth played across unblemished olive skin, while her hands reached up for his small clothes, allowing her fingers to once again lightly skim his growing need before reaching the strings which held the thin fabric in place.
"Plasmator servo mihi, ego sum vestri, Raina.4"
Hawke sighed breathily against his skin. "I heard my name. What did you say?"
"The truth." He growled with waning patience, reaching down to clutch at her shoulders forcibly. "Now, enough of your torment." And with that Fenris pulled her atop his chest before she could free him from his final vestige of clothing, fastening his mouth over hers, demanding entrance and delving into her with complete abandon when she complied. His bare skin against hers was intoxicating; he felt near to feverish to her, yet the only flush to his features was a result of their present activities.
Reaching a hand behind her back, Hawke released the catch to her bindings, pulling the fabric from between their bodies so that her bare breasts pressed against his burning skin. Another Tevene oath, delivered by a near desperate groan, and Hawke found herself on her back again; Fenris atop her as she had only moments ago been atop him. Now it was his turn to gaze at her body in awe, and without giving him opportunity to decide for himself, Hawke took up his hand, cupping it to the side of her breast and using her own thumb to guide his over a taut nipple. At the feel of his calloused hand against her sensitive flesh, her head tilted back and her eyes rolled closed as she whispered a litany of her own.
"Yes, Maker, yes. Oh Maker, Fenris, touch me, please."
With her only warning being that of a low, animalistic growl, the weight above her shifted urgently at her words and no sooner did she open her eyes than wet heat engulfed her hardened peak in a searing kiss that pit his demanding tongue against her nipple; her only view that of a head of moonlit-colored silk bent over her breast attentively.
Hawke moaned loudly at the sensation, her back arching into his amazing mouth, pleading with him with her body to touch her, to torment her, Maker, drive her to the brink of madness!
And he did. Ardently. His tongue flicked, teeth pulled and lips suckled at the abused nub and its surroundings, while his hands abandoned her breasts to seek out her hips, where her smalls were stripped from her body unceremoniously; his following suit in similar fashion. With no almost no warning yet again Fenris returned to her mouth, reclaiming it frantically as though to assert that it was still his territory as well, before leaving her bruised and breathless so that he might revisit her exposed breasts.
Lips and teeth slowly traveled down from her sensitized peak, traveling the underside of the plump globe of her breast; nipping, pulling, suckling and licking as he continued his venture down her ribcage, moaning and uttering sounds she could no longer recognize as a true spoken language. Yet it didn't matter. His voice thrummed low and hard in her ears, spreading liquid fire in her belly and damp heat between her thighs, which she soon felt spread by firm, hard hands. Her head tipped back as she willing surrendered herself to what was to come.
"Do not turn your face from me," Fenris commanded in a voice so far gone to lust it must have burned in his throat like fire-brandy, she thought, for it burned her insides just as fiercely. "I want to see the look in your eyes when you finally lose control."
"Maker, yes," the last word drew out in a long, wavering hiss from between her teeth, and she lifted her gaze to find him kneeling between her thighs, his face poised before her center as though he had been waiting for her to take note; to understand his intent. She did, and a reluctant whimper escaped her lips at the thought of the pleasure that was being denied to her at that very moment.
If he felt any victory from cracking her resolve as he did she could see no outward signs of it on his face; smooth but for the concentrated furrow at his brow. So slowly Hawke had to consciously refrain from bucking up to meet him, Fenris lowered his mouth to her heat, parting her folds first with his lips, before exploring her with his tongue. Against her softest flesh he felt like polished marble, warmed by a fire before being pressed to her skin deliciously, and a low, broken cry tore from her physically.
Between her thighs Fenris raised his eyes to her pointedly, pausing in his attention to her to ensure that she remembered to keep her eyes on him and, vulgar though the scene may have been, the sight of this man between her legs was arousing in a way she had never imaged. She watched as his head dipped and tilted slightly while he worked her until she was drenched, his eyes ablaze with desire and never leaving hers during the encounter. When his lips latched onto over-sensitized bead crowning her sex, suckling it gently, Hawke's wordless cry filled the room while teeth and tongue and lips sent her spiraling over the edge of control and into the inescapable whirlpool of her first climax.
Her tunneled vision cleared after what felt like an eternity, and she found Fenris still perched between her thighs, his tongue trailing over his lips, erotically relishing in her essence. With feral grace he crawled over her, placing an almost chaste kiss upon her lower lip invitingly, before swirling his tongue deep into her mouth when she responded, allowing her to taste herself on him.
"Fenris," she panted when he allowed the kiss to break, tugging at his hip and pushing at his chest simultaneously, "I need..." Believing he knew her mind, the warrior lifted himself from her body, readying to bury himself within her when she stopped him. "No. On your back." His eyes darkened, pupils so dilated with want she could barely see their lush green color anymore, but he complied, laying down beside her and reaching over to pull her onto his chest; upon which she immediately slithered down his smooth skin until her face hovered over his arousal, cradled in a nest of black that contrasted so perfectly with his glorious platinum locks.
She began with small, opened-mouth kisses upon the head and shaft, which had him clutching at the sheets desperately and gasping. The sight of Fenris prone and writhing at her touch made her feel powerful and sensual and - Maker she wanted to see him lose control so desperately! She added her tongue to the kisses, lapping up the length of his shaft decadently, savoring the saltiness of his skin, her mouth open near his pulsating head; eluding to the promise of entrance before denying it to return to the base of his shaft to begin again. A low groan emanated from above her head and Hawke felt her body stir in response, desperate for him to be inside her already.
She had thought to draw out the exquisite torture of the equally exquisite man beneath her longer, yet her desire was winning over her control and, after only a few more laps with her tongue and small suckles at the tip his reddened head, she took him into her mouth.
He was long, longer than she had experienced previously, and it took her a moment to adjust to his size; to open her throat properly and take in his full length. Thank the Maker he didn't thrust up to meet her at that first contact, instead compensating by arching his back and burying his hips deeper into the mattress beneath him, moaning hoarsely as she had never heard him before. She hummed her appreciation at his display and earned two fists grasping at her hair desperately in response. With careful fingers she disentangled his grasp from her hair, transferring his hands safely to her shoulders before she at last began to work at him in earnest, suckling and sliding and twisting her tongue around that polished oaken shaft impaling her mouth, her fingers lightly stroking the underside of his sac with a tantalizingly slow rhythm while her other hand held to his base, applying pressure at opportune moments.
Fingers bruised her shoulders in grips that rivaled that of steel traps as she took him again and again down her throat, purring her appreciation of his responses and reveling in the reaction her own voice was eliciting from him. His soft skin slid fractionally over his erection with her motions, veins rolled beneath its surface at her tongue's abuse, and her throat closed around his head with every swallow, tightening on him as she took him further and further from reason. Above her head Fenris panted and spoke inarticulate things, occasionally intermixed with her given name or what sounded like what could be pleas in Tevene, if Hawke chose to believe that Fenris was capable of pleading for anything.
The heavy flesh within her playing fingers tightened suddenly she found herself pushed away by the hands at her shoulders, elegantly tapered fingers moving to grip at his shaft mercilessly as he groaned and remaining perfectly still for a moment before turning an expression of unadulterated desire upon her.
As though he had not just been brought to the very brink of his own climax, Fenris sprang from the bed, heaving her into his arms before slamming her into the wall opposite the bed, lifting her knee above his arm and burying himself within her in a singular motion that had her crying out from shock and arousal all at once.
Without pausing to allow her time to adjust to his size, Fenris began moving; hard, slow thrusts that made her back and rear grind upwards against the rough plaster wall, abrading her skin with each rise and accompanying fall. Panting his exertion he pressed his forehead and nose to hers, breathing her air and holding her gaze with rapt attention as he moved inside of her; and while there was no hurry in his actions there was most certainly a desperation that was evident each time he sheathed himself within her.
With each thrust from Fenris short, vocal pants escaped Hawke's lips, tiny cries that he could have swallowed if he would just affix his mouth to hers. Yet he held back, his lips parted as he watched her, his eyes so lust-fogged it was doubtful he was even aware of their surroundings anymore. The hand at her backside which supported her raised leg clenched at her soft flesh mercilessly, and she mewled each time his grip tightened; his other arm crooked over her head supporting himself against the wall; fist clenched so tightly his knuckles appeared bloodless.
"Mei.5" He growled breathily, his words lost to her as she felt herself nearing the crest of her pleasure. "Mulier mea. Raina mea. Anima mea. Mei.6" The final word was bitten and hard, delivered from between clenched teeth as he thrust into her wildly, seemingly driven by his own mantra.
Feeling herself approaching her end, Hawke's hands rose to clutch at his sweat-slicked shoulders, trying to use them as leverage to ride him harder, deeper; Maker just more! Yet at the same time it was too much, and with a shrill cry the world exploded, unraveling her around him in pure, blinding ecstasy. At her ear Fenris' baritone cry accompanied the feeling of being impaled as slick heat splashed within her, taking her, claiming her, filling her in the most intimate, primal way and leaving her boneless, pinned between his body and the wall. Spent, Fenris' frame trembled against her as his climax subsided, and together the pair slid to the floor beneath them; his legs no longer able to support their combined weight.
Straddling his lap and still impaled upon him, Hawke brought Fenris' forehead to her shoulder, petting his hair and listening to his erratic breathing as he shuddered beneath her. The motion of his body's exertion traveled inside her where they were still joined, and her hips bucked reflexively at the sensation against her over-stimulated walls, causing him to clutch at her hips desperately, hissing a breath as he twitched within her, apparently equally raw. Yet neither tried to separate their bodies from the other, content instead to stay where they were for the moment, with Hawke stroking Fenris' locks as he leaned against her there on the floor.
And for the first time in years, Hawke's mind was empty.
If only for this moment, she had found peace.
When next her eyes opened the weak light of a rain-soaked dawn bled through the windows she had failed to shutter the night before, and the pillow at her side lay empty. Lifting herself from her stomach slightly, Hawke peered over into their room, finding Fenris standing before the fire with his back to her. He appeared lost in thought, and for Fenris that was never a good sign.
"Are you all right?" She asked quietly, and he turned to her, his eyes large for an instant, before his face settled back into his mask of equanimity.
"I might ask the same about you." He murmured, not approaching her. "I was not particularly gentle with you, and I fear now that-"
"If you're going to apologize for last night, I'd rather you didn't." She interrupted quickly. "What we did together... it was amazing."
At last a small smile crept onto Fenris' features, erasing what she at last recognized had been anxiety in his eyes. "It was at that." He agreed. "It was better than anything I could have dreamed."
"And had you?" She dared pose the question. "Dreamed of this before?"
The mirth in his features died away, yet none of his usual fire replaced it. Instead he appeared quiet; pensive. "For years I have watched while another stood where I wished to stand," he admitted at last. "Even after what you had was dead, the ghost of what had been still haunted your memories. I knew that as long as you could not let go, my dreams would remain just that."
Hawke pulled herself to sit against the headboard, the thin coverlet slipping from her breasts, and she fought the silly urge to retrieve it. "I never knew," she sighed.
"Would it have made a difference if you had?"
"I... I don't know." She had loved Anders; even towards the end, when little of the man she had first come to love was left. Yet would she have abandoned him for Fenris? True she had come to care for Fenris greatly over the years, had even recognized how attractive he was during her relationship with Anders. But to leave the man she loved for another, simply because her present lover was struggling?
"I don't think my conscience would have allowed it." She admitted at last, and to her surprise Fenris nodded as though he understood.
"You possess the rare trait of loyalty, Ha-" he paused, and smiled for her warmly, "Raina." He finished, and she returned the smile with earnest affection. "It is a trait I have always admired in you. It is also the trait I knew would keep you from me for as long as you believed that the abomination was worthy of your love."
"And yet you stayed?" At her incredulous question Fenris' expression sobered dramatically.
"I suspected the day would come when he would reveal his true nature." He admitted. "I could not condemn you to suffer that alone. And so I stayed, awaiting a day when you might need me, just as I need you."
It was so hard for her to hear. For years Fenris had walked at her side, wanting her and knowing it might never be. And she had never known. Suddenly all of those kisses she had shared with Anders in public, the private smiles and the gentle touches Fenris must have witnessed, all seemed like blades she had used to inadvertently cut down this brave, stoic man.
Yet she would not apologize. Fenris was tired of watching her lament her past. She would not allow him to be another regret; it would infuriate him if she did. And so, she put forth all of her effort to push down the pang of sorrow, as she had been able to do so easily in the past, and chose a new path to focus on.
"Anima mea." She stated, clearing her features with old practice, "you said that more than once last night. What does it mean?"
A small smile crooked Fenris' features and for a moment his eyes darted from her face to the floor - Maker, was he embarrassed? "Yes. I did say that, didn't I?" He murmured, returning his gaze to her, wiping the smile from his lips with clear intent. "It means 'my soul'."
Hawke's heart all but stopped within her chest. "Is that what I am to you?"
Pale locks dances against his ears as he shook his head slowly. "That is... insufficient," he admitted, "yet, I can think of no other words to describe what you mean to me." Apparently unable to face her any longer, he turned back to the fire, his head dipped low as he rested one arm across the mantle. "You did not only save my life, Raina," he continued, his words muffled by the direction he now faced, "you gave me a purpose beyond vengeance and survival. You have taught me what it is to live for another; not out of subjugation, but willingly, because that person makes you better simply by being part of your life."
The most blessed pain gripped at her heart, and without waiting for another word to pour from that molten voice, Hawke strode to his back, wrapping naked arms around his shoulders and pressing her forehead to his soft hair. Carefully Fenris turned within her embrace, pulling her close and placing his forehead against hers.
"Then," she began hesitantly, "I will make you a bargain. I will be the woman you met in the alienage, if you will agree to stay with me and be my reason to not give up."
His eyes suddenly shone fierce, his jaw clenching spasmodically. "Nothing is going to keep me from you." He vowed, and crushed his lips to hers with an echo of the desperation they shared just a few hours past. When the kiss broke Hawke trained her eyes to the window.
"This rain is going to cause problems for our journey to Crestwood." She mused, allowing her eyes to slide back to Fenris'; his pupils already dilating as the pulse beneath his throat quickened. "I doubt the innkeeper would be opposed to us purchasing this room for another night," she continued, "and we should probably work on the terms of this new arrangement while we are here." Her mouth quirked, drawing out a chortle from her lover as he leaned into her lips readily.
"I think that would be a wise decision."