|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 and AO3 where I'm still Lourdes23. I've got a bit more posted to FF.net, 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.
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Fenris clenched his teeth until his ears rang and his jaws ached, listening as her breath slipped through her lips in an erratic hiss from atop his shoulder. For hours she had traveled at his side as their party ventured further into the Deep Roads. If by nothing more than her own stubborn tenacity, Hawke had stoically matched pace with the elf and their guides until, whether by way of her inability to hold down food or the infection that coursed through her veins, her beleaguered body finally failed her. One moment she was jogging onward in silent determination, and the next she was splayed across the stone pathway before the dwarf's boots, having nearly been trampled underfoot, her expression befuddled in a way that set Fenris' heart thrumming with poorly contained panic.
Heedless of her protests and insistence that she need only a moment to catch her breath, Fenris had disarmed himself and thrust his sword into the hands of the abomination, his teeth bared in contempt of the trust he was now forced to grant, as he pulled Hawke onto his back and wrapped her thighs about his waist. She had continued her pleas to be turned loose for only a short time, until the rhythm of her breath slowed and softened, indicating she had at last succumbed to her exhaustion.
Hours later the warrior's arms burned and his feet throbbed beneath the constant press of her added weight. In spite of this, when that first labored rasp broke from her lips all physical misery was forgotten. Fueled by a dread which turned his insides to ice, Fenris drove their guides on with increased urgency, until at last the first of the blue and silver uniforms emerged from the dusty murk before them. They had come to the outpost which signaled the end of their journey; a sentry station meant to give the blood mage warning of intruder, according to the apostate at his side. And though the greeting they had received initially nearly brought Fenris to shed the woman at his back and retrieve his sword, a written missive from the Warden Commander - delivered by the dwarf along with a series of boastful claims and demands - secured the travelers curt apologies and an escort to the stronghold proper.
The Grey Warden encampment was not what Fenris had envisioned. Their infrequent trips into the Deep Roads has taught him that ruins within the passages were often uninhabitable, forcing travelers to camp in sheltered corners or nooks that could not be properly fortified, and yet the buildings of this fallen thaig had been remarkably well preserved.
Even still, that the blood mage had taken as his quarters the main hall of a fallen thaig, in spite of the surrounding smaller dwellings which lay in varying states states of improved repair, gave Fenris a creeping sense of foreboding. Images came to mind of the magisters of Tevinter and their ceaseless clamoring to elevate their own appearance of power, and unconsciously his grip on the woman upon his back tightened, suddenly all the more reluctant to trust her to the care of one who bore such similarities to that which he hated most in this world. Magisters did not offer assistance without expecting something in return, and took what they liked as recompense.
And while there was little that they possessed which Fenris could imagine a blood mage would desire, all that he could not bear to lose was now stretched along his spine. It was enough to give him reason to pause, yet the alternative of not seeking the mage's help was a certainty, and terrible enough to drive him onward when the doors to the thaig's hall opened wide.
Beyond the bronze doors a large breezeway stretched out before them; and further in a common room boasting a warm fire and several Wardens sitting down to a meal as their eyes turned on the newcomers curiously but without a word in question. It seemed to Fenris that their arrival may have been anticipated; the thought giving him more cause for caution than relief.
After passing through a handful of corridors and living chambers, the small party was at last permitted entry to the largest room yet: a former counsel hall of some fashion which now bore emptied animal cages of all sizes, tables littered with bottles, books and scattered pieces of parchment, and a man - as consumed and corrupt as any blood mage should appear - standing upon a raised platform stretched along the far wall; his near skeletal face pinched in a contemptuous frown until he set eyes upon Fenris' precious burden.
"I had thought the Commander wished to test the serum herself," the blood mage admitted, clearly still annoyed with the company he now kept, "not send a test subject in her place. Perhaps she lacks the stomach she thought she had."
"This is the Champion of Kirkwall," the abomination spoke quickly, before Fenris could let loose the demand that had been perched upon his tongue. "She was infected during our journey to recover the cure for Commander Valeria Therin. The Champion wishes to take the Commander's place as the first to test your cure."
The Grey Warden peered at Hawke through cold, predatory eyes, and Fenris shifted his stance, placing himself more squarely between the vile creature and Hawke; his eyes narrowing in unspoken warning. "It makes no difference to me," the mage announced after a time, "one subject is as good as the next. Well don't just stand there. Bring her."
With a compounding sense of trepidation, his teeth grinding almost audibly, Fenris stepped forward to follow the mage in spite of how his skin crawled-
-when the woman upon his back jerked violently against him and began to scream, giving Fenris only enough time to pitch his weight forward in an effort to prevent her from thrusting herself out of his grip and onto the floor beneath them. Immediately the blood mage was waiving for two of the Wardens who had acted as escort to the travel party.
"You will not touch her!" The warrior snarled, carefully lowering his charge to the floor so that he might kneel to gather her into his arms; the abomination sidestepping the pair to place himself quietly between the prone woman and the men who had been summoned. "Hawke," Fenris called firmly, yet without the rage that had tinged his voice only a heartbeat prior. "Hawke, be still."
"Her hysterics do her no service," the decrepit creature spoke again, "strike her if you must."
"Do not tempt me, mage," Fenris' growl emanated from deep in his chest, yet there was no further time to consider his threat, for the screams at his chest gave way to deep, wracking coughs, and then a choked voice.
"F-Fenris?" She croaked at at last, her bleary eyes lifting to his. She looked so pale; it drove a spike of fear through his heart. "Are you real? Maker... my dream... it also felt real."
"It was." The man upon the dais replied flatly, striding to one of the cluttered tables where he began gathering vials filled with dark liquids. "You are infected. Your dream was undoubtedly the archdemon calling to you."
Against his chest, Fenris watched as Hawke's uncertainty cleared from her eyes while her gaze lifted to the ancient creature addressing her. "You are Avernus?" It was as much a statement as it was an inquiry and, removing herself from Fenris' hold, Hawke cautiously pushed herself to her feet. "My name is Hawke."
"Yes, yes," the blood mage gestured at her with one laden hand dismissively, returning to his inspection of several vials, "your friend already told me what you are after. And I will tell you the same thing that I told him - It is of no matter to me who takes the serum. My only concern is that it works as it should."
"And if it does not?" Fenris demanded, rising to stand at Hawke's side. "If your cure fails, what options remain?"
"What. To stop the Calling?" The question was enough to temporarily capture his attention. "Ah. The question you are asking if she can take part in the Joining." The blood mage deduced, returning his focus to his various tasks. "The answer is no. The serum contains properties that directly strike out at the Taint. If it fails it will be because the serum is not yet compatible with a human body, but it will still be present in her blood, thus preventing the Taint from taking hold as the Joining requires." A sneer further marred his wrinkled face as he snorted derisively. "Better she dies quickly if it comes to that."
It had been delivered as matter-of-factly as one would describe some mundane chore, and Fenris felt his heart began to thrum wildly beneath his breast in response. There would be no alternative. Nothing to save her, or their unborn babe - a concept he denied himself the right to consider thus far. That he had earned claim to Hawke's heart was unimaginable enough - the fact that she now carried their child was more than he ever dared imagine. Cowardly though it may be, Fenris refused to think on what they had created together for now, and focused solely on the risk that now threatened what was already known and precious to him.
Yet Hawke was not so easily deterred, her weight shifting on her legs as she watched the robed man carefully, speaking the words Fenris refused to utter.
"And if it works?" She asked, her expression tight. "If the serum is compatible... will it cure my child as well?"
If the blood mage had lacked proper enthusiasm before, he had found it in abundance now, for his head snapped upright; his attention raptly fixed upon the woman at Fenris' side. "You are with child?" He asked mildly, yet with a hint of an excitement that curdled the warrior's stomach. "Interesting... Most interesting." The vials stilled, all but forgotten in his grasp, as the Warden appraised her for a time, muttering half articulated thoughts to himself as the black beads of his eyes remained fixated upon her.
"We will increase the dosage for you to ensure that it has every chance of success." He announced at last, gathering up additional vials into his boney grasp. "In theory it will cure you both, though I do not know what effects the Taint may have already had upon the fetus. Perhaps nothing. Perhaps something. Time is the key factor in battling the Taint, and the greatest variable."
The creature's eyes gleamed with ill-concealed anticipation and, at his thigh, Fenris' fist clenched spasmodically; his foreboding compounding with every moment they were in this loathsome man's presence. The excitement of being the first to claim something of note was a concept Fenris knew well to be an attractant of those bent on establishing their own superiority, and this husk of a man now saw Hawke and their child as such a lure.
"Enough of your talk." Fenris barked, "we've come for a reason. Give us the cure and we will take our leave of this place."
"No. She takes it here." The mage replied firmly, his eyes trained upon Hawke as though she were a prized possession he feared the theft of; a sentiment Fenris echoed for a completely different reason. "If it fails I must know. This experiment is for naught otherwise."
From Hawke's opposite flank the abomination scowled darkly, gesturing with one pale hand. "The Commander would not have taken the cure here," he argued, "how is it that Hawke should be different?"
"I report directly to the Warden Commander," the ancient Warden countered; his eyes never leaving the woman at Fenris' side. "News of her death as a result of the serum would have traveled to me quickly enough. Yours I cannot guarantee would reach me, however. If you wish to take the Commander's place as my first test subject, these are my terms. You may accept them, or you may leave empty handed."
"And if I decide to tear out your heart and take your cure from your corpse?" Fenris growled. A grin as menacing and grotesque as any abomination Fenris had ever laid eyes upon stretched across the mage's distorted features as he extended his arms outward invitingly.
"If you wish to kill me, be quick about it," the blood mage sneered, lifting a finger in Hawke's direction, "but know that it will come at the expense of her life. The serum has not yet been fabricated, and I'll not give you the formula until I have witnessed its viability."
"Then create your mixture," Hawke ordered, her posture and tone once more that of the woman who had captivated Fenris so thoroughly years ago in Kirkwall. "I'll take it here."
Satisfaction replaced smug threats in the wrinkled features before them, and yet Fenris viewed the man as no less a threat. The only thing which stayed his hand from pulling the blade from Anders' back was the knowledge that Hawke had not yet been rid of the Taint in her veins. Until she was cured Fenris could not act in a manner that could jeopardize everything; no matter how his fingers burned to cleave their way into the blood mage's ribcage.
The Grey Warden's voice broke in a disgusting wet laugh. "Good." Vials were deposited and others lifted from the table before him with purpose. "Come forward. Not you." The decrepit mage added when Fenris took steps to follow. Beside him Hawke cocked a brow.
"You said I had to take it here," she stated firmly, "and I have agreed to your condition. But the father of my child will be allowed to stand at my side when I do so."
Another scoff barked from the walking corpse's throat, yet his dismissive wave was enough indication to Fenris that he would find no further protest to his presence; not that protests would have kept him at bay. Nothing short of spell work would have done that, and even then it would have been a temporary delay.
Together the pair climbed the short steps to the platform the blood mage prowled atop, following his command to stand to one side while the Warden mixed noxious liquids and powders into a flask, until the nearly-black concoction fizzed slightly and then settled. With hands far steadier then they should be given their withered appearance, the mage placed the flask upon the table, followed by a wooden cup of what appeared to be simple water, and stepped back.
"You will drink it all," he commanded, "and once you begin do not stop. When you have consumed it fully you will remain here while I take note of its effects, as well as a sample of your blood to confirm that it is clear of the Taint. You will not leave this place until my data is compiled. Agreed?"
Hawke gazed at the receptacle without expression before at last tearing her eyes from the glass and lifting them to the mage. "You have my word." She vowed, and then those same piercing blue eyes were upon the warrior, and Fenris recognized her expression as one that betrayed her knowledge that she was about to upset him. Perhaps strongly.
"If this doesn't work," she said quietly, her voice quaking gently, "don't let me die a monster. Send me to the Maker and my family as someone they will recognize."
The blood in his veins rushed in a furious current, and his heart kicked against his ribs violently in response to her request. She was asking for him to murder her. To give up. She had been right to worry at upsetting him. "Fasta Vas!" The obscenity was hissed through bared teeth which flashed from his unrestrained scowl, "do not-"
"Please Fenris," she responded softly; nearly a whisper, and with real fear naked in her eyes, "you remember what Oghren said before? In the shed? Don't let me become that."
Broodmother. He had heard rumors alone of the creatures which birthed the darkspawn; stories which always rang too similar in any part of Thedas to be myth. The reaction the abomination had displayed in the shed, coupled with the muted attempts at assurances from beyond the dais, told Fenris the man had laid eyes on such a creature before. If Fenris could not save Hawke from such a fate the mage would try, he knew.
Fury spiked within the warrior impotently; for who was there to be outraged at? The snarl upon his lips was consciously smothered, and for her sake he buried his hostility as deeply as he could. If this was to be their last exchange he would not send her away in anger. The urge to allow his fury to resurface came on swiftly, and he fought it down with effort.
If this was to be their last exchange he would be the man she deserved. If only this once.
If only one last time.
"It... will be done," he murmured quietly, his hand lifted to her cheek briefly. "But you made me a promise in the desert. Do not break it, Hawke. Not now."
Hawke nodded, though she did not actually speaking her thanks. No doubt she knew that this was not a request one thanked another for agreeing to. Briskly she strode to the table, Fenris on her heels, and lifted the container to her lips. With a final glance that held Fenris' gaze more raptly than any she had ever given him, Hawke tipped her head back and began to swallow; a grimace of disgust twisting her features with every pull she took from the glass.
The flask lowered when the last of the thick, dark liquid had been consumed, leaving only a red-brown residue across vessel and lips, and almost immediately Hawke's stare seemed to pull her into the Void; her eyes empty even as they slid closed. For a time she stood in silence, her chin slowly tilting down as though she might have been drifting off into sleep.
Glass shattered at her feet and her lids snapped open once more, revealing pearlescent white orbs where once brilliant blue hues had been; her body as rigid as iron. Abruptly Hawke doubled over and began to retch vocally, spewing up bile alone, in spite of just having consumed nearly a pint of whatever foul elixir the blood mage had concocted. With each heave her body spasmed forcibly, her legs staggering as a drunkard would on his walk home from the tavern, and Fenris was upon her; his hands gripping her arms as he braced her against his body. "Hawke?" He called desperately, looking for some sign that she still heard him. "Hawke?!"
"Quiet." The blood mage ordered blandly, a quill and small book now in his hands as he watched her, scribbling onto the yellowed pages intermittently.
"What have you done to her?!" Fenris bellowed, and at his back the sound of the abomination pulling his staff for once failed to bring on trepidation - for Hawke still commanded his loyalty, in spite of Fenris' prior wishes.
Yet the warrior's rage was doused when the guttural noises against his breastplate ceased, and the woman in his arms convulsed mutely, her head hanging limply towards the floor. Her weight grew heavier within his arms as her body grew listless.
"You fool, don't just stand there," the ancient Warden barked tersely, "can you not see that she is choking?"
With a start Fenris pulled her up against his shoulder; plain, bulbous eyes gaped wildly above her gaping mouth as her body wracked with the effort to find breath. Fenris dropped her back to her prior position and, with all of the strength he dared to employ, struck at her back with the flat of his hand, bringing a sting to his skin and small dimples to her armor from the tips of his gauntlets. Another forcible blow followed, and another until a wet slapping sound met his ears. He paused only long enough to take note of the thick, tar-like substance which had splattered to the floor near his bare toes, speckling the dark skin of his feet as well as Hawke's lips.
Forgetting all but the woman in his arms, Fenris rained down another blow between her shoulder blades, which produced more of the vile substance, and at last Hawke was able to draw a shuddering, shallow breath. Hacking with newfound force behind the effort, she continued to expel the foul pitch, with occasion assistance from sharp blows delivered by the man who held her upright, until at last her mouth hung slack and she panted weakly against Fenris' armor, leaving him to support her weight nearly in full.
Her breath whistled from her throat and once more Fenris hoisted her upright, gripping her chin and turning her face to his. Holding to her tightly with one arm, he used his free hand to clear the last of the disgusting black droplets from her lips, careful not to draw blood with his armaments. "Hawke," he called plaintively, fingers wrapping around the base of her skull so that he could help to support her head, "Hawke, open your eyes."
Lids fluttered weakly and parted to reveal pale blue depths beneath, rolling slightly as her pupils constricted with the light until at last they to rest on his own gaze. "Horrible vintage," she muttered, falling into old habit of deflecting her misery with humor, as she had during their years in the Marches. "Remind me to have a word with Corff for serving such piss."
"Take up the cup of water and rinse your mouth," the blood mage ordered absently as he continued to scratch his observations into his book. "Spit, do not swallow."
"Now where's the fun in that," Hawke grumbled, though there was no spark within her eyes or mischievous quirk to her brow. Still Fenris understood her intent, and offered her a slight smirk.
"If you continue making jokes like that, I believe your mother may yet prefer the monster to her daughter when next you meet." He stated quietly, and was rewarded with a watery smile which barely tugged at her cheeks, yet was visible enough to give him hope. The experience and what had lead up to it had rattled her deeply. If she needed to cling to that horrendous sense of humor which had come so easily to her once, he would not deny her the attempts.
With the hand not supporting a large portion of her weight Fenris reached to pluck the cup from the table and hold it to her lips, allowing her to sip and spit repeatedly until the cup was empty and color had returned to her cheeks.
"What was that?" She asked through a disjointed sigh, looking down at the mess she had created upon the floor as she pushed off of Fenris, testing the strength of her legs as she did, though not without the bracing grip of her lover upon her bicep.
"Tainted plasma," The mage revealed, setting aside his book to stoop and catch some of the black liquid into a small glass tube, stopping it with a ball of pliable wax. "leached from your veins by the serum and expelled in the most efficient manner."
Before him Fenris heard Hawke's breath hitch within her chest as her body grew impossibly still. "So... it worked?"
"I will need to test your blood to be certain." The Warden announced dryly and took up a small knife and a shallow dish. "Give me your arm."
Without thought Fenris' hand upon her tightened, and Hawke patted the lyrium-etched appendage lightly; a clear signal that he was to release her. Freed of his grasp she stepped forward gingerly, avoiding the black stain as she pushed her sleeve up and presented the underside of her forearm. Gnarled fingers pinched tightly around smooth skin and Fenris watched as he pressed in the knife's tip, piercing her flesh and drawing forth a thin trickle of blood that ran ragged crimson lines down pale skin. Turning her arm over, the blood mage held her arm above the dish, kneading her flesh and coaxing blood from her arm greedily. Hawke grimaced while the clay vessel slowly filled, and at last Fenris stepped forward, unable to hold his tongue any longer.
"Enough." He announced, taking hold of Hawke's arm and pulling it from the Warden's grasp. "You have what you require for your tests. Finish them and let us be off."
"The formula," Hawke spoke quickly, "we'll need a copy for the Warden Commander, as well."
"Quite." The blood mage responded distractedly, waving them to an adjacent workbench. "In the wooden box, just there, is the Commander's copy."
Moving more quickly than Fenris felt she should have been capable of given her condition up until just moments prior, Hawke found the box and lifted the lid, pulling forth a small book and flipping through its pages. "I don't understand," she murmured, her brow furrowing as her eyes combed over the thin sheets within. "There is nothing here. Just the statement 'Take back your Joining.' Where is the formula?"
"That is all the formula a Grey Warden will need." The blood made revealed, placing droplets of her blood into various vials with the use of a slender glass wand. "The serum follows the same principles of that which is used in the Joining. In the Joining, initiates must drink a serum containing the blood of an archdemon, or a darkspawn if archdemon blood is not available. In curing oneself, one must drink blood that has been cleansed of the Taint. It is not magic, but alchemical. A Joining to become part of the Order. The antithesis to leave it."
Hawke grimaced. "But I thought I was the first to be cured. If the cure requires cleansed blood, whose blood did I drink?"
"A ghoul's." The Warden sighed, his patience clearly waning as he added pale, opaque liquids to the vials. "Though it never returned to its prior form, its blood was cleansed before it died."
"I knew it." Fenris growled deeply, his teeth bared in a hateful snarl. "The cure was never ready. You simply needed a new test subject."
"The serum was ready." The blood mage countered. "It had proven successful in prior trials on animals which were cured using blighted subjects of the same species. A ghoul was used to create the basis of the cure for men, as a ghoul was once a man. Having the same anatomy as an uninfected human, a ghoul is a suitable substitute, if necessary, but blood of one who is still human is the most stable."
Thin lips pulled back over darkened teeth and the blood mage grinned. "And now we have it." With reverent fingers the Warden lifted a red vial from its stand and held it out to Hawke. "Clean blood; free of the Taint. The future of thousands of Grey Wardens now rests within your veins. Perhaps someday, the end of all Blights." His expression then crumpled slightly. "So much to do. But not enough time..."
"I don't understand." Hawke frowned. "Why is time so short?"
"I will not live much longer," the mage admitted, "perhaps another few years. Perhaps less. Before I die this cure must be modified into something that can end the Blight on a world-wide scale. To end the Blights - that is the purpose of the Grey Wardens; my purpose." His head shook slowly, and the mage raised eyes that were nearly sad to the woman before him. Fenris' skin began to tingle, and then burn, as the power of his markings coursed in reaction to the rage he welcomed as a necessity - even before he heard the blood mage's next words.
"Forgive me, my dear, but your blood is too precious. I cannot let you leave here."
Fenris snarled as he pitched his weight forward onto the balls of his feet; his body poised, ready for flight. Ready to deliver onto the mage the finality he had only just been speaking about.
Perhaps less, indeed.
DA:If Fenris Were In Origins
Title: If Fenris Were In Origins... (Party Banter)
Game: Dragon Age: Origins/Dragon Age 2
Characters: Fenris, Leliana, Alistair, Sten, Morrigan, Zevran
Disclaimer: Dragon Age and all things related belong to Bioware.
Author's Note: This is some party banter I believe would have occured if Fenris had been in Dragon Age: Origins. There are some minor spoilers for both games, since the dialogue is inspired by actual dialogue/events.
__ Leliana and Fenris __
Leliana: You are very pretty, you know.
Fenris: I am very pretty.
Leliana: You would be quite the commodity in Orlais. There, the noblemen and noblewomen would lavish you with gifts in envy of your beauty.
Fenris: Should that make me happy?
Leliana: It should!
Fenris: It doesn't.
Leliana: You should smile, Fenris. I bet you have a wonderful smile!
Fenris: Is there something to smile about?
Leliana: Well not at the m
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ACT TEN: HER FAMILY'S LEGACY
The sound of whispers tickled at her senses, so hushed they were barely perceptible, and Hawke's eyes fluttered open to the view of a damp stone-chiseled ceiling above her just as the voices died away.
H er first cognitive thought was that an unknown amount of time had passed since she had fallen on the battlefield. She was not certain how exactly she was aware of this, only that she was, and that it was disjointing, for there had been no dreams or trip to the Fade to mark that passage of time. Only the absolute lack of self from the moment she had been sprawled on her belly until now gave indication, and the softness of a bedroll which had taken the place of cold stone beneath her.
Coupled with her mental distress was a physical discomfort of sorts. She did not feel broken or injured. It was more of a sensation of being hollowed out; like a sponge that had been wrung dry; her legs tingling with the need for movement gradually overtaking her lethargy.
Unable to stand the sensations plaguing her any longer, Hawke pushed herself up to her elbows, swiveling her head to take in her surroundings.
" You're awake! " The soft utterance was immediately accompanied by a hand at her back and another beneath her clavicle, holding her carefully while trying to coax her back down. "Lie back, Hawke. It's alright."
She resisted his gentle push, turn ing towards her companion quizzically. "Anders?" The name came out a hoarse croak, as though her body had forgotten how how to ply her voice. "What's happened? Where are we?"
"The Deep Roads," The apostate explained, still trying to guide her gently to the bedroll beneath her though she would not have it . "Oghren scouted ahead and found this place further down from where we were ambushed. Some sort of ancient guard shed, it seems. The important thing is that it had an iron door , and a place for me to tend to you." He shook his head, scowling. "I must admit, if Fenris hadn't arrived when he did I would-"
"You would have what?" A voice beyond his shoulder demanded suspiciously, and Hawke's insides twisted and warmed simultaneously at the sound; her lungs momentarily unable to draw breath.
He was here.
The golden eyes before her peered down at her cautiously; his head tipping to her as though in confidence. "Hawke, you don't have to-"
"Anders," she interrupted quickly, meeting his gaze with a warning look of her own. She did not want to give him the chance to say something that would only make her angry. At this moment she wanted to avoid anger at all costs - including her own. "Would you give us some privacy, please?"
Reluctance painted the man's features clearly, yet to Hawke's relief the unspoken truce between them remained, and Anders backed away, turning towards the door. "Alright. If you're sure. I'll just... see how Oghren is coming with his nug hunting, then."
One last unspoken exchange with the elf halted his progress - her view obstructed by Anders' position - and after that the mage was gone, leaving her alone with Fenris. The sound of another door closing heavily echoed from the other room. Then nothing.
Her insides squirmed nervously and Hawke twisted to sit at the edge of the raised platform she had slept upon, readying herself to break the silence, yet Fenris did not wait for her to lead.
"I can't stop thinking about that night." He murmured, not quite meeting her gaze as he spoke, and she stilled at the remorse which colored that rich baritone she so loved. "I allowed my hatred of blood magic to consume me, and in doing so I blinded myself to your words. Though I may not entirely agree even now, I admit that I can see some validity in your point. The magic is done, and there is nothing for it. That you now tread down the path already laid to find some shred of good at its end is in your nature. I have known this about you for years. I should have anticipated then that you would agree to this mission."
At last his eyes lifted to Hawke's, and she saw there pain the likes of which she had not known him to express previously, her own heart crying out in a silent echo of his. "And when I think of how close I came to losing you," he admitted slowly, "of how I almost watched you die before me..."
"What happened in that battle was not your fault," Hawke argued. "Blaming yourself for it is the same as me blaming myself for Kirkwall. You couldn't have known what would come of it." There was the briefest moment of silence as Fenris allowed her words to settle in.
"Perhaps," he conceded, closing the distance between them tentatively. "But I must ask; can you forgive me now, Hawke? Am I too late?"
Her breath caught. Here he was, speaking the words she had thought he deserved from her; asking for her forgiveness. Vertigo caught her and she fisted the blankets beneath her if only to anchor herself to something real. "I will disappoint you again, Fenris," she breathed. "I can't change who I am, or what I believe in. Not even for you. Doesn't that bother you?"
"Does it bother you that I will likely always carry this mistrust of mages? Would you ask me to change who I am for you?" Hawke's lips parted yet the man before her pressed on. "There is no need to respond - you already have. Not once have you ever asked me to let go of my hatred of magic. Nor have you tried to sway me to share in your sympathies, or your care for your mage companions. You have respected my beliefs while remaining true to your own. I would be a fool to wish a woman such as you to be anything other than what you are."
"So that's it then?" Hawke asked. "We forget this whole fight ever happened?"
"No," Fenris replied firmly, "forgetting means we will not learn from it, and I for one wish to remember the lesson that I learned here."
"And what lesson is that?"
Reaching out with hands naked of their armor coverings, Fenris took her face gently into his palms. "That nothing could be worse than the thought of living without you." It was a statement spoken with all of the conviction of a man who would not be swayed.
Hawke's heart leapt and with it the vertigo tightened its grip. Her hands reached up to clutch at his arms and she felt the pressure against one of her cheeks increase as the room around her tilted slightly. Before her Fenris scowled.
"You're not yet well," he observed, taking hold of her shoulders so that he could guide her to the bedroll; the act gentle, but firm enough for her to find resisting difficult. "Rest now. We can finish our discussion later."
Despite having just regained consciousness a few minutes prior, Hawke's eyes were all too willing to slide closed once more; her stomach instantly settling when that much-loved scent of leather, minerals, and masculinity enveloped her as overly-warm lips brushed against hers. When a brow tousled with silken strands rested against her own she sighed contentedly, her breath mingling with his.
And before Fenris could pull himself from the tactile display, Hawke was once again asleep.
They were whispering about her. She could hear them, though their hushed tones made the words and the identities of the speakers indiscernible. At first she thought they were right beside her, they were so close. But when she opened her eyes she found that the lights in her room had been doused, while firelight flickered from the open door to the other room.
For what must have been two full days by her estimate, she had endured the furtive glances Anders had given her whenever he came to check on her; obviously wishing to speak to her, yet never coming out and saying anything beyond his responses to her distaste at being bedridden. In his opinion Hawke was not yet well enough to travel, though the rogue soon began to wonder if the delay had something to do with Fenris' arrival. Anders always seemed to close up when the darker man was in the room; the new habit even more irksome than his heated outbursts. At least when he fought openly Hawke knew the cause. But here she could not be certain. And so as the days stretched on the conversations between her and the apostate healer slowly shifted from polite acquaintanceship to forced civility as their patience with each other frayed.
And then there had been her lover. She still marveled at his return, not understanding exactly how she had earned such unyielding loyalty from this man in spite of her faults. Yet he had come for her, and she decided she would not question it further. Instead she allowed him to try to placate her in his own way, and would not complain about her incapacitation as he sat by her side for hours speaking with her, though never supporting her rebellious need to leave her blankets. For, while he was quick to cast Anders aside or argue with the apostate when a topic allowed, he would sit in silence and simply watch whenever Anders would remind her that she should not push herself. It was the closest thing to an accord she had ever known the two to have and, had it not come about at her expense, she might have subtly encouraged it.
But now, on the third day of her recovery, the whispers and the tingling and her nerves gradually got the better of her, until at last Hawke decided for herself that she was well enough. Pushing herself unhindered to her feet, and satisfied to feel her legs hold her weight steadily, she made her way to the main room of their tiny shed.
The whispers stopped before she reached the doorway, and she watched as three sets of eyes lifted up to her from their various tasks when she emerged.
"Why am I not surprised," Anders sighed resignedly from his place beside the fire. "You should be resting, Hawke."
"I've had quite enough rest," she said irritably, nearly spitting the last word with her newfound distaste for it. "When are we moving on?" From his seat across the cook fire Fenris arched one brow at her but said nothing.
"When you're well enough." The mage replied, a bit more firmly then usual, and Hawke pondered briefly if his bedside manner only applied when his patient was actually in bed.
"I'm standing, aren't I?" She asked, moving forward to circle the fire with confident, strong strides, "I'm walking. But I am most assuredly not sleeping."
"I have a poultice that can help with that," Anders offered, reaching for his pack, and Hawke felt her frazzling patience gutter like a candle.
"I don't want help with that," she snapped, "I want to reach Avernus! We have a mission to complete, and waiting around here while I sleep for days is not helping anyone!"
"You just don't get it, do you?" Anders stood, and beside her Fenris was on his feet as well, glowering at the mage darkly. "You have no idea how close you came to dying! Do you know that-"
"That's enough, mage." The elf growled, and with and angry slash of his arm Anders waived him off.
"No - it's not." He argued. "You almost died, Hawke. And if Fenris had not offered up his lyrium markings for me to draw from I would not have had strength enough to save you! You-"
His words died off abruptly as Hawke felt the blood drain from her face. There came a soft rustling at her side and she held a hand out to ward off her would-be assistance. "You..." she lifted her gaze to the green eyes before her. "You let him draw from your markings?"
The thought horrified her. To simply touch his tattoos was enough to cause him pain. But for a mage to tap into their power...
"I have done so before for far less agreeable tasks," Fenris reminded her, "that it was done this time to save your life means that at last they have served a mage for a purpose I deem worthy."
"But the pain-" she argued weakly, and Fenris' eyes narrowed.
"Is already gone," he finished petulantly. "And you are not. It is an exchange I would gladly make again. Now," his scowl darkened and he pulled her to the place before the fire he had just vacated, "if you will not return to your bed, you will at least sit here before the fire and eat."
Hawke grimaced, not feeling particularly fond of either idea. But at least sitting before the fire got her off of the bedroll, and so she moved to take the seat offered, taking note of the laden spit over the fire. Oghren's hunting had apparently paid off, and she watched Fenris carve her a serving from the nug's shoulder, holding the plate out to her when he had finished. He must have noticed her apprehension as well, for his brow crooked in gentle warning. "If you do not regain your full strength we will not be going anywhere, Hawke." He murmured, and reluctantly she reached out and took the small meal, shoving hunks of cooked meat into her mouth before she could dwell on how much she did not want to eat just then. The first mouthful was washed down with a swallow of tepid water, and she followed up with a second bite, wishing to finish as quickly as possible if only-
Her stomach coiled and she had only enough time to lurch from her seat and throw open the door into the main passages with a deafening bang, where her body forcibly rejected what she had just eaten.
"Shit," she muttered when the clenching had passed, wiping her lower lip and bracing herself against the cold wall opposite their hiding place. The blood pounded in her temples uncomfortably and she pressed her brow to the stone to sooth the ache.
A scuffling arose at her back from which she heard Anders' voice arise, anger resonating clearing in his words. "You can't be serious. I'm not going to eat her, Fenris. Now will you go back inside the Blighted shed and give me two minutes to tend to her without you scowling at my back?"
A course obscenity was spat in response, and Hawke recognized it from her tutelage weeks ago. Yet the door clanged shut noisily just as warm, soft hands rested on her back and shoulder.
"Has it passed?" Gone was the ire that had clouded his voice moments ago; replaced with the gentle timbre he had effected with her so frequently in prior years.
"I think so," she murmured, turning around to shrug sheepishly at her companion. "Remind me the next time we fight an ogre to wear a decent helmet. Do you think Oghren will spare his?"
Anders' expression took on a slightly skeptical appearance, and he appraised her for only a moment before he spoke. "Tell me that you honestly didn't know." Hawke scowled at him in response.
"What didn't I know?"
"Of course you didn't." He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I suppose that makes sense, though."
"You're not injured, Hawke," Anders announced quietly, "not anymore. You're pregnant."
The world stopped and Hawke sat motionless, allowing the word and its meaning to resonate within her mind.
She was pregnant.
At first the word made no sense to her. It was as foreign as Fenris' Tevene curses had been before her lessons. Yet she forced herself to stop and consider the meaning - to apply it to herself as Anders had. It took a few moments, perhaps even longer, but at last she began to comprehend what it was he had just told her. Pregnant meant a child. It meant motherhood. It meant tiny hands and feet and a little mouth that needed feeding and-
And panic flooded her system. How could she be pregnant? Never mind the physical requirements of it - she knew how . But her ?
"No," she whispered. "No, no, no. No this can't be real. Anders, you're wrong, aren't you? Tell me you're wrong."
"I promise you that I'm not," he replied gently; by his expression he seemed to have been expecting this. "While I was healing you I discovered it, and that you were on the verge of losing it. I didn't know if you knew or not - if you wanted it or not - but I knew that I couldn't just let it die." Anders' admission told Hawke far more than she wanted to know about how much he had done for her after that battle; about why Fenris' lyrium had been so vital.
Anders had not saved one life that day - he had saved two.
"I've been trying to ask you about it for days," the mage continued when she did not speak, "but I couldn't. Not with the others so close by. I felt you should have the right to keep it private, if that was your choice."
"My choice?" She shook her head in puzzlement. "What do you mean?"
"If you wanted Fenris to know at all," Anders replied. "After what happened-"
Hawke bristled instantly. "You think Fenris is the problem here?" She demanded incredulously. "He's the father, Anders. He needs to know. Andraste knows I've not yet been able to keep one member of my family alive - and they were all grown! Now a baby...?"
Despair consumed her, and Hawke sank to her rump trying desperately to keep her tears at bay; the fingers of one hand splayed across her eyes when she feared she could not contain them.
She had not placed much thought into having children; her life in Kirkwall had not been conducive to raising a family. Yet she had always loved children. They were the hope for a world which had otherwise gone mad. There was always the hope that the next generation would be wiser, kinder.
And now she carried one inside of her; a sweet, innocent mixture of herself and Fenris-
-and she would fail it, as she had the others. A tear slipped down her cheek, burning hot against her skin.
"Hawke, no, you're wrong!" Anders crouched before her, resting one hand on her shoulder consolingly, "Bethany's still out there. She has to be."
"Bethany is alive because of you," Hawke countered, lowering her hand so that she could meet his gaze. "Because you had the maps that lead to the Wardens, they were able to help her. If you hadn't been there she'd be dead, and I-"
Her words cut off when Anders' head abruptly swiveled in the direction of the darkened passage further on, his features hardening, while at his back the door to the shed opened almost simultaneously.
"Hate to put an end to your healer business," Oghren growled to the former Grey Warden, "but we've got visitors. Unless you want to try your hand at a fight, get your skirts in here so we can shore up the door."
Before she could react Hawke was pulled to her feet as Anders hauled the pair of them back into the shed; Oghren and Fenris immediately pushing large pieces of fallen masonry and a broken stone table against the metal door as it clanged shut. Reflexively Hawke's hands reached back behind her shoulders; remembering too late that she was not armed.
"My daggers," she demanded, "where are they?"
"You're not fighting." Anders barked and with that Hawke cast him an incredulous look; her prior despair buried beneath the need to defend against an immediate threat.
"Of course not. I should just stand here and look properly frail." She replied flatly, recalling the way a similar comment from him had grated her back in Kirkwall. "Surely the darkspawn will take pity on me."
Something broad and hard tapped at her stomach and Hawke looked down to see Oghren's armored fist against her shirt, her blades in his grasp. With a murmur of thanks she accepted the weapons, partially pulling them from their sheaths to find they had been cleaned and oiled.
Before the door the remaining two companions of their party eyed the dwarf with furious gazes as she moved to the corner where her armor lay, yet Oghren only sneered in response.
"You ever see a brood mother, lover-boy?" He growled at Fenris, and when Anders cringed and lifted reluctant eyes to her Hawke resisted the urge to shudder; cinching the buckle at her side all the more tightly instead. "Trust me," the dwarf continued, "you don't want to. Better she have her blades. At least then she can cut her own throat if it comes to it."
An enraged snarl split Fenris' face, yet his eyes leapt from the dwarf to the sealed door, as from the other side the sounds of scuffling feet and guttural calls emanated through the corridor. The noises died off briefly, and then the metal panel shook with a loudly resonating clang. Seconds passed and then another blow rang the metal door like a dissonant bell, and within the shed weapons immediately went to hand.
"It's a scouting party," Anders breathed, "they're not trying to get in."
"Aye," Oghren growled, "just holding us in place until the others get here. Sneaky bastards." Fenris' scowling at the door darkened.
"Then we should overtake them now while we have the chance."
"Agreed." Anders stepped towards the door. "There should be no more than four or five." He gaze swung first to Oghren and then at Fenris, clearly understanding that though he may not like either of them, he now had to rely on their cooperation for his survival.
Their unspoken agreement reached, Fenris turned a piercing stare on Hawke, his focus solely on her. "Tell me honestly Hawke; are you fit for battle?" Of course he would not attempt to order her to stay behind. He would simply rely on her honor to hold her in place. The man was more cunning than he had a right to be.
She wanted to tell him everything then; craved it even. She needed his assurance to buoy her now more than ever. But now was not the time. Not with a battle right outside their door. Her daggers found their sheaths and she shook her head in resignation.
"I'll get our supplies," she offered, "you three go and clear the way." And with that she immediately made for the other room where she began gathering the rest of her gear. As she worked, Hawke listened to the others remove the barricade and wrench open the door; the bright orange glow of one of Anders' fireballs exploding into existence and filling both chambers briefly with its light.
Hearing the battle move outside the shed, the clash of weaponry and crackling of magic obliterating the battle cries of ally and beast alike, Hawke returned to the main room. The flashes of motion and light which immediately caught her attention through the opened door were partially obstructed by a figure bearing a head of dimly shining silver. Fenris fought from a sentry's position, barring any that would try to reach her.
With a conscious effort Hawke pulled her eyes from the well-toned back presented to her, the irrational urge to go to him stamped down as she forced herself to focus on her self-assigned task. Glass vials, cloth-wrapped parcels, and packages of food were swept into the backpacks and satchels scattered about the room, taking note that one such pouch was the very one she had abandoned in Ghislain; carefully cleaned and containing the oils that Fenris often used to tend to his gauntlets and sword. Hawke felt a small tug at her heart at the meaning behind the act and loaded the bag with healing potions and poultices before returning to the other room to pull on her boots and gloves.
"Hawke?!" Anders' voice called from the main room, and she rushed back into the main room.
"Here!" She called, scooping up the waiting packs and tossing Anders' own bag to him. "Where are the others?"
"Outside," the apostate stepped aside so Hawke could exit the shed, fastening her own belt pouch to her hip. Before her Fenris and Oghren stood over the bodies of five genlocks with their blades bloodied but no worse for wear. Each was handed their gear; Fenris accepting the emblazoned pack with what may have been a hint of amusement beneath his steeled expression had Hawke the wherewithal to pay close enough attention.
"We need to move," the former Warden spoke up at Hawke's back, "the others are almost here."
Despite the knowledge that she should avoid further fighting, Hawke drew her blades. They were a comfort to hold, if nothing else. "Get us out of here, Anders."
And when the mage jogged off into the darkness the remaining three followed without hesitation.
Hawke's stomach turned and she swallowed the saliva that welled within her mouth in response. For several hours she had been trudging along behind Anders, who had graciously taken the position at the fore fore her, her tongue pressed tightly to the roof of her mouth in an effort to stave off the urge to heave.
Knowing now what caused her discomfort just made it all the more difficult to ignore, for it was a constant reminder that every second that passed was one in which she intentionally kept the truth from Fenris. Yet a worry had started to grow within her mind; one that stopped up her voice every time she opened her mouth to speak.
The moment she told Fenris he would undoubtedly insist that they leave the Deep Roads - cure in hand or not. She would not be able to fault him for that demand - a part of her even hoped that he would. But they were so close to reaching Avernus and completing their objective here. Just another day or so to the Grey Warden's sanctuary, if they encountered no delays, according to Anders and the Grey Warden. If she could just hold out until they reached the commander's accomplice she could retrieve the cure, tell Fenris about their child - Maker, their child - and then allow him to whisk her back to the surface with all of the impatient fury he was capable of.
The thought of keeping this secret from him turned her stomach all the more, yet the thought of coming so far only to turn back just before the very end was unconscionable. She was here for something larger than herself and one baby. Even if it was hers.
"So the ends justify the means now?"
Fenris' words from that horrible night in Ghislain filled her mind and unthinking she moaned miserably, instantly regretting the slip when two contrasting sets of eyes turned on her.
"Hawke?" Anders turned back from his lead to study her with that familiar gaze she had watched him adapt with so many people who had come to his clinic seeking healing.
"It's nothing," she insisted, holding her hands up immediately, "I'm fine. Really. Let's keep moving." Beside her Fenris' eyes narrowed.
"You are pale," he pointed out. "Perhaps we should stop."
"Rest will solve nothing," she announced, looking at Anders and hoping he would understand, "I just want to be done with the Deep Roads. The sooner we reach Avernus, the sooner we can go back to the surface."
"I agree," Anders added, and she could not tell if it was sincere or if he had caught on to her queues, "I've always hated the Blighted Deep Roads."
"Then why are you here? As I recall no one invited you." Fenris growled, stepping closer to the apostate; not outright threatening, but undeniably hostile.
"I've more reason to be here than you," Anders replied heatedly, "I took part in the Joining. If it works this cure could save my life. If you want to question someone's reasons for being here, question your own."
It was the beginning of one of their squabbles she knew, and though it provided the distraction she had needed her mood still soured at the thought of having to listen to this go on for hours, as was sometimes the case.
"Fantastic," Hawke muttered impatiently, shouldering passed the pair as she continued along their path leisurely, "I'm moving on. When the two of you are done bloodying each other will the survivor please catch up?"
Words spoken too low to understand caught her ears again and Hawke's patience snapped. "And will you please stop whispering behind my back?!" She demanded, whirling on them angrily. "Really, I've had enough-"
Her companions were staring at her in various forms of confusion, yet all with sealed lips, until at last Fenris broke the tableau. "No one is whispering, Hawke." He said, his voice low and unsettled.
Hawke's eyes darted around their surroundings. "Then... who is?" She asked, her gaze coming back to skip from one person to the next. For a moment they all simply stared at one another.
Then a look of dread crossed Anders' features; his effort to school his expression too late to disguise it. "Do you hear the voices now?" Vertigo began to claim her with the understanding that something was wrong, tilting the world before her sickeningly as she gave a slow nod; her mind working to puzzle out why Anders would look so stricken before at last coming to one conclusion.
Soft hands had her by her arms; were lowering her to sit at the stone beneath her, and Hawke did not fight them. Thumbs pulled up her eyelids, fingers pressed to her pulse points, yet all of it seemed a moot point by now. It was so similar...
Beside her Fenris' voice rumbled low and dangerous, like a thunderstorm rolling across the mountains, threatening destruction to any who found its fury. "You know what is happening to her, mage. Tell me."
Without pulling his hands or his eyes from her Anders replied, so quietly it was almost drown out by the whispers. "It's the taint. It's in her blood."
Fear gripped her insides; reaching out with icy tendrils to numb her fingers and tighten her throat. Beside Anders, her dark lover grew still, his eyes widening with unguarded shock.
"Fine," Oghren growled from behind the healer's back, "so she's got the taint. Avernus has a cure. And if that doesn't work she can try the Joining like her sister. I don't see what has you all so sodding worked up."
"No. It cannot be." Fenris replied flatly, not taking his eyes from Hawke. "You are mistaken."
"I'm not," Anders replied, calm in spite of the doubt which had just been placed on his abilities. "It effects everyone differently, but hearing voices after a fight with darkspawn leaves few other options to choose from."
"Then we will find this Avernus," Fenris growled, his hands reaching up to cup at Hawke's face firmly, "we will stop only when we can go no further. You will take the cure, and if it fails I will tear the beating heart from his chest - though not before he aids you in undergoing the Joining. I will not lose you, Hawke." Yet the rogue fighter shook her head, or rather she tried to from within her lover's grasp.
"It's not that simple," she nearly moaned, lifting her gaze first to Anders before turning to her lover. "I'm pregnant, Fenris."
And all of that familiar, fierce determination bled from his face instantly, his brows lifting almost absurdly, and for a moment he was silent. "What?" He breathed at last.
"I found out just before we left the shed," she admitted, feeling her eyes well as she realized that she was afraid - afraid now that maybe he wouldn't understand. That he would be angry - reject her even. The possibility was suddenly very real to her, though in complete contrast to her worry just ten minutes prior. Fenris was certainly not what came to mind when conjuring the image of a family man, she knew. "I wanted to tell you, but then we were attacked and..."
Her throat tightened when he stood, taking a few long strides away from her before turning back on her. "You didn't know?" The question was incredulous but also something else. Something so similar to the night they had fled Kirkwall; when Fenris had held Anders by his throat and all but begged Hawke to deny that she had played a knowing part in the apostate's crimes.
So similar to what Anders had asked her just before revealing to her that she carried a child within her. Both desperate for her to let them hold to their high regard for her.
Hawke shook her head. "I thought I had lost you, and I was miserable. I just assumed-"
And instantly Fenris was looming over the pair on the ground, sending Anders scrabbling out of the way so that he could crouch before Hawke again, taking her shoulders into the near painful grip of his armored hands. "You didn't know before you came here. Tell me that you didn't know."
"I didn't," she repeated, "I promise you. I just learned today. Anders told me he found it while healing me."
The silver head before her dropped and for a moment he simply held her there at arm's reach; his face obscured behind the drapings of his hair. The silence stretched on and Hawke felt her trepidation at what reaction she would receive grow until at last he drew her to his chest; his arms wrapping around her gently. For a moment he only held her, and in that silence her mind ran wild.
He would not reject her. He would stand beside her. But...
But there was no proof the cure would work. Nothing beyond the hearsay word of a blood mage. If it didn't work she might not necessarily die, but the child...
Not even one day known to her and she was already mourning its loss. It was a part of her, after all, and a part of him. She had feared that she would fail it, but to do so this quickly tore at her heart. Her body quaked once as she choked back a lone sob in silence, and the arms around her tightened in response.
"We will find the cure," he said quietly, "and it will work." His breath was hot against her neck, and his body trembled slightly against hers. Without thought she returned his embrace; disturbed when his breath shuddered as he exhaled.
"We will save you both, Raina," his voice was nearly a whisper and, after all of these years, Hawke recognized - without question - the fear that was now present in its velvet timbre. "I swear it."
Hawke wakes from her injuries to find that her lover has returned to her side. Yet the joy of their reunion is disrupted when the former Champion finds her world turned on its end. Revelations come to light, and in their presence Hawke cannot even turn to her stalwart lover for aid.