Chapter 1: Don’t Turn Over the Page
Well, this is something that is happening now. I haven't been able to get the thought of Fenris as Inquisitor out of my head for awhile now, and I wanted to take a stab at how it could go down. After a bit of non-sensing over on the Lyrium Touch discord server, I was feeling inspired enough to put it down on paper.
- I'm thinking it doesn't need to be said, but since this is about DA2 characters in the Inquisition world, I figured I'll just say, SPOILERS for Inquisition, and DA2.
- While this is technically a FenHawke story, there will be a decent amount of the story that simply focuses on Fenris and his predicament.
- The first few chapters will take place prior to the Conclave, setting in motion events that will lead to Fenris even needing to be there in the first place. It's all pretty simple, but was something I wanted to explore instead of just *clap-boom* hey here's a grumpy elf with a green mark on his hand and he is none-too-pleased.
- I am stupidly inspired by music, thus every chapter title will likely come from some song. Just like the main title did. I am unoriginal, what can I say. Title comes from Nara, by Alt-J and I highly recommend you listen to the entire album because it's freaking phenomenal.
- I'm tweaking their romantic timeline just a smidge and stealing a few lines from the ending where I saw fit. As written: Hadriana happens, Fenris spends the night, two years go by as he looks for his sister and Kirkwall shenanigans go down, Arishok happens and then they get back together. Varania happens at about 2.5 years after Fen first learns of her. Not important to the larger story, but felt like mentioning.
- I'm sure I've gotten something, somewhere, wrong. Tell me, it's cool.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
1. Don’t Turn Over the Page
Show me joy, flower through disarray
Let's destroy, each mistake that we made
Then restore the color back to the grey
There's no pride in sharing scars to prove it
—Fake It, Bastille
Unlike most mornings, where Fenris is pulled from sleep by either the unsettling feeling of being watched (he isn’t) or a small animal digging through the detritus he refuses to clean up (usually a pigeon that flew in through the broken windows or one of the many, many disease-ridden rats), this morning he is awoken by barking. Incessant barking.
The likelihood of one of these perfumed nobles owning a mabari is quite improbable...
It’s a deep sound; distant but somewhere in the fog of his consciousness can tell it’s close by. His brow puckered as he tried to fight the sound off and curl deeper into the warmth and comfort of sleep, ignoring the threads of reason that tried to weave together and pull him to reality.
It’s not the barking that made Fenris shoot up in the bed, though. It’s the strong arm that pulled him close—comforting and soft, part of his mind says—decidedly not his normal wake up routine in the derelict mansion. In shooting up with a gasp, eyes wide as the other part of his mind raced to catch up, his elbow jabbed back into something soft behind him.
His skin flushed and a faint smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as the night came back to him. Cards and drinks at the Hanged Man, stumbling home in the full moon, pushing Nolan away as he tried to steal chaste, ale-soured pecks to wine-ruddied cheeks, more than one failed attempt to get into the Hawke estate (one attempt was at the wrong door, the other two were the wrong key), tripping over the sleeping dog just inside the door (so much for being a guard dog), passionate kisses on the floor, straddling his waist, dog slobber, stumbling to the bedroom, collapsing on the bed together and then…
“We need to work on your wake-up call, Fen,” Hawke interrupted, his voice husky from sleep. Hot breath tickled his ear before a kiss was pressed to his neck.
“I’d suggest starting with that dog of yours.” He eyed the closed door, noticing the animal had conveniently quieted. Oranna must have saw to him, perhaps Bodahn or Sandal. Fenris turned around to look Nolan over, tilting his head as he examined the human’s reddening nose. His thumb brushed the ridge gently. “Apologies.”
“What sort of Champion would I be if I couldn’t take an elbow or two now and then?”
Fenris snorted but whatever retort was on his tongue was silenced as a big hand grasped his chin gently. Hawke’s yellow-brown eyes, heavily lidded with sleep, and a bit of something else, watched him intently for a moment before a smirk blossomed under the dark hair of his beard as the distance between them was closed.
“Apology accepted,” he spoke against Fenris’s lips, as his hand slid to cup his cheek.
The first brush of rough facial hair always caused Fenris to wriggle his nose as it tickled his face but he had learned to lean into it, quite literally, as he turned and moved to straddle his lover. Grasping the tangle of long dark hair that brushed Hawke’s broad shoulders, Fenris pushed his body flush against him, eager and ready.
“I.. mm..” Hawke smirked against his mouth as his hands traveled down Fenris’s sides. “I amend my previous—” He let out a small hiss as Fenris nipped at his lip, a hand clutching his thigh in response. “I—Maker, Fenris—Good morning, to you too.”
“Indeed,” Fenris growled as his hand snaked between their bodies, grinning as Hawke gasped; a gasp that he devoured immediately with a lip-bruising kiss as the elf pushed his lover back onto the bed to give him a proper ‘good morning.’
Fenris couldn’t quite say what had come over him that morning. Perhaps it had been the realization that for the last three nights he had awoken to this very situation and, despite some initial confusion regarding his location, was always more than pleasantly surprised to realize where he was. Maybe, and more likely on this particular morning, it had to do with the woman he’d be meeting this afternoon at the Hanged Man.
Learning that he’d had family that yet lived had been confusing; he didn’t remember them, didn’t know if they wanted him, or if he’d like their company… During the two years it had taken to track Varania down, Fenris had come to think of Nolan, Varric, Isabela and even Sebastian as family (he could do without the witch or the abomination, and Aveline was scarcely present given her duties as Guard Captain). Or as close to one as a fugitive Tevinter slave could have.
It was the slave in him that could not settle, though. A dark feeling he couldn’t shake, like things were falling a bit too perfectly into place; complacency in the arms of a lover (a mage, no less), a city that gave him a wide, trusting berth despite his ears and unusual markings, a crew of misfits he’d grown fond of and who seemed to care for his well-being, and now a sister—true family—waiting for him like it was any other Tuesday.
He would look back on this day and realize that shit always blew up on Tuesdays. Varric had warned him: it was always a fucking Tuesday.
Walking up to the Hanged Man at high noon almost seemed sacrilegious. Fenris could count the number of times he’d been here before the evening meal on one hand, and they’d always been at the behest of Hawke in need of Varric’s services.
Yet here they were, warrior and his mage-lover, ready to face his only family. Fenris did his best to shove aside the churn in his stomach, the anxiousness of the impending meeting, but it must have been apparent on his face.
“Are you certain you want to do this? We still have time, we can leave,” Nolan offered quietly, a softness to his voice that seemed reserved for their more private moments. Fenris turned to meet his amber gaze, worry lines etched around the human’s eyes that he couldn’t help but want to brush away. When had he become so soft?
“I must do this,” he steeled himself, rolling his shoulders back.
“Then I’m with you,” Hawke said resolutely. “Always.”
“For all the strange places we’ve been, somehow this is, to me, the strangest,” Fenris smirked, eyeing the door to the Hanged Man from across the street. Isabela and Varric would be waiting for them inside, just in case.
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll go to far stranger places than this, just you wait,” Hawke replied, catching Fenris’s gaze and giving him a wink.
He’d like that. Very much, he thought. There was still the matter of Danarius, but whatever came, having Hawke at his side made it all seem so… easy.
“A tempting offer. Though I am certain there is more to this meeting than it seems; it is far too simple.” Fenris glanced at the Hanged Man once more, before stepping into the alley, away from the attention of passersby. Hawke followed, watching intently as Fenris stared at his feet, chewing on his lip. After a moment, the elf looked up at him with worried green eyes between the thick white hair that hid his face. “Whatever happens, promise me you won’t do anything rash. I can’t bare the thought of living without you.”
“Seems a bit excessive for a family reunion, don’t you think?”
“Perhaps I have not made my reservations clear. Varania has not seen me in years, yet suddenly she has agreed to come to Kirkwall, ready to meet. And alone, no less? She has lived in Minrathous for who knows how long now, the idea that my former master would leave her alone is too simple an explanation. I do not trust the situation,” Fenris paused, glancing at the shock of red at his wrist with a frown before looking back up.
“Just... promise me, Hawke,” Fenris’s voice almost croaked as the words came out, a gauntleted hand caressing his bearded cheek tenderly before he stepped back. Knit deep in worry and anticipation of the coming meeting, his brow hung low over dark eyes as he watched his lover.
“I don’t make that promise unless you do,” Nolan said softly, clasping the wrist that held the red favor.
“Nothing is going to keep me from you,” Fenris growled as he pressed up against Hawke, up onto his toes, their lips finding each other’s in a passionate embrace.
Metal whined against the stone of the building as Hawke allowed himself to be pushed against it. He was taller than Fenris, broader too by a decent bit, but there was something exciting and intoxicating to knowing that he could overcome the larger man easily if he wanted. That he could protect him. That he willingly allowed Hawke to see past his defenses. Something he had not thought ever to happen.
Things had not been easy for them in the years since they had met. Hawke had made it difficult with his kindness and closeness. His unquestioning acceptance. For the first few months of knowing each other, Fenris shied to the back of their outings, watching with calculated glances as the apostate went about his business. In those months he learned much about Nolan Hawke, everything from the way he interacted with authority, his (unfortunate but unsurprising) stance on the Chantry and the mages in particular, his uncalculated way of handling problems that managed to solve them yet create more, and his relaxed ease at tackling that new wave of issues. It was maddening, and Fenris couldn’t help but be drawn in. Hawke’s easy smile, cunning wit and passing flirtations did not help matters either.
Funny enough, it was learning of his sister from Hadriana that finally pushed them over the edge. Well, pushed him over the edge. They had gotten close in the time between the excursion to the Deep Roads and Hadriana’s attempts at retrieving him; spending time together outside of trying to keep Kirkwall from imploding on itself: reading lessons, discussing Hawke’s life in Fereldan, even sharing a few not-so-innocent touches when Nolan would heal him to the best of his ability (because Anders was not getting anywhere near him with that demon inside of him, no matter if he was the better healer). And then Fenris ruined it all by cursing magic and all mages, and in turn, Hawke himself.
He’d walked back to Kirkwall alone, with the image of those hurt yellow-brown eyes seared into his mind. It was a look he found himself never wanting to be on the receiving end of, and wanted to make sure no one ever caused Hawke to look that way again. That had been a revelation of its own and by the time he’d gotten back to Hightown, he knew he needed to confront Hawke; to apologize, explain himself and set things right. He would never hurt Nolan Hawke.
But he was still worked up from Hadriana, and when Hawke grabbed his arm as he tried to leave, instinct took over and Fenris almost did the very thing he had just vowed not to do.
Then Nolan kissed him.
And like a coward, like the fleeing piece of garbage he was, he had left after what had been an unexpected but most pleasant night spent in Hawke’s bed, in Hawke’s arms. Pleasant save for the missing memories that had tried to return, only to disappear once more. It was then that he realized that whatever happiness he may have wanted, thought he could have with Nolan, could not be, not while he was still so broken. He would not subject Hawke to that; his pain was his own.
Nolan hadn’t given up on him though. He gave Fenris his space, helped in whatever way he could, and they had taken things slowly. They continued their lessons, eventually went back to having casual conversations and the looks and chaste touches soon followed. It was like their were inseparable, drawn to one another no matter the circumstance.
Watching Hawke duel the Arishok had rattled something loose in Fenris’s head; he had watched the man he cared about more than almost anything fight to the death for one of his friends. The realization of the depths of his feelings for the mage struck him, just as the qunari ran Hawke through with his large blade. Somehow, barely, Nolan Hawke had defeated the Arishok but Fenris could see the man was barely holding it together as Meredith stormed the Keep. He’d collapsed shortly there after.
Fenris had sat sentry at Hawke’s bedside while he healed, much to the chagrin of Anders. When finally Nolan woke, Fenris was overcome with the need to express his relief and kissed him. And Hawke had kissed him back.
Nothing could be worse than the thought of living without you, Fenris had told him as soon as he could, as soon as they broke the kiss. And Hawke had understood why he left, because of course he did. Hawke was just like that; patient, caring, empathetic. It had taken Fenris years to realize that he wanted that in his life; and if he were to begin healing from his past, he had to learn that he was worthy of good things. At least that’s what Varric had told him. Hawke just happened to be the best thing.
Even now, in Hawke’s arms, hidden behind stacks of crates in the shadows of a Lowtown alley, pressed against him like nothing else mattered, Fenris knew his healing was a process that had only just begun, despite it being years in the making. That process included confronting a part of his past he could not remember, with what he hoped was a part of his future beside him. Reluctantly, he pressed a final kiss to Nolan’s lips and stepped back.
“We should keep moving,” he sighed, wetting his kiss-swollen lips and adjusting the red favor at his wrist more out of habit than necessity.
Nolan bit his lip and hooked a finger into Fenris’s belt, pulling him closer as his brow puckered. Fenris knew that look: Hawke was weighing his words carefully.
“Whatever happens in there, I.. I’m proud of you, Fenris. We’ll tackle whatever comes together, I’ll always have your back.” Hawke’s big hand slid around his waist as the other cupped his cheek. His eyes were bright, shimmering in the dim light. Fenris couldn’t help the flush that warmed his cheeks as he rested his hands on Nolan’s broad chest, leaning into the hand on his cheek.
“Always is a long time, Hawke.”
“When you love someone, then it’s not long enough.”
Before Fenris could respond, Nolan was kissing him again; deep and soft at the same time, different somehow from all the kisses they’d shared before and it was all Fenris could do to not fall into that kiss forever; always. Because right now, there were other things; things keeping him from existing outside of his own head, the trauma he’d endured. Was he capable of loving? He wasn’t even sure.
Fenris stammered as the kiss broke, but Hawke pressed his forehead to the elf’s with sincerity. “You don’t have to say anything. I just wanted you to know, no matter what happens in there, you have family. You have someone who loves you very much.”
His eyes stung and his throat felt dry. He wanted to say it, but he wasn’t sure if he could live up to the expectations of such words. I am yours, Fenris wanted to shout with the look he gave Hawke; and that was so much more than he’d ever offered anyone willingly. Once this was all done, and he had a moment to clear his head and sift through these feelings, find the right words after the modicum of peace that his sister would hopefully offer; perhaps then he’d be able to voice what he wanted to be able to say.
Gently, with a gauntleted hand, he cusped Nolan’s face, green eyes gazing into amber for a long moment, remembering it, writing it to his conscious as another instance where Hawke was exactly what he needed, when he needed it.
Clearing his throat, he stepped back at last, eyes going to the sunny street some ten paces away. Life moved around them, loud merchants, dogs barking, a child crying to its mother, pleasant smells and unfortunate odors mixing, distant yelling from the docks, birds cawing—yet here, in this dark, dirty alley, he felt at peace.
“We should not keep Varric and Isabela waiting any longer,” Fenris said almost reluctantly.
“A few rounds on my tab and they’ll forget they ever had to wait,” Hawke smirked as he followed the elf out of the alley.
“Careful, Hawke, people will start taking advantage of the Champion’s charity. And his purse.”
“Lucky for me, I’ve someone with a great big sword to protect me,” he grinned. His hand found Fenris’s and gave it a squeeze as they stopped in front of the door. “Shall we?”
Fenris looked down at their hands, then at the door. Squeezing back, he sighed, “We shall.”
It hadn’t taken long for chaos to erupt. A few unsavory words, an offer any lesser man may have taken (the Imperium at one’s service was no offer to bat an eye at, especially a mage such as Hawke), and a jab at Fenris’s talents, as vaguely as Danarius had put it, and he was ripping hearts from slavers, left and right.
Danarius was powerful on his own, and Fenris suspected was using more than a few dead slaves to enhance his powers with blood magic. In the slow motion of the fight, he watched vividly as blood dripped down the steps from where his former master stood, devilish grin plastered beneath his grey beard as they battled shades and rage demons. Dead slavers he’d just cut down were brought back to life, clamoring towards him, and Hawke…
Hawke was struggling. They all were.
Fasta vass, he cursed to himself. Why hadn’t they brought the witch or the abomination? Hawke alone was no match for Danarius’s magic. He should have realized this was all a trap. You fool!
Isabela fell first, thrown behind the bar like a rag doll. Varric was next, as three shades grabbed him from behind, ripping Bianca from his hands and clattering over a table in the corner. Now, only he and Nolan stood, opposite sides of the room, panting out their exhaustion as another round of demons spawned from the floor. Fenris could see it in Hawke’s eyes—the fatigue and the fight, both battling out. He couldn’t heal his friends, what little healing magic he was capable of was being used to keep up his own faltering barriers now. This wasn’t looking good.
Cold gripped Fenris as he moved to swing his great sword into an approaching rage demon, freezing him into place at the same time as the demon erupted into shards of ice. He couldn’t move. The sound of Danarius’s footsteps down the stairs echoed loudly in the hush of the battle. The magister’s hand went up, wrinkled fingers twisting in the air as Hawke was lifted from the ground. Hawke’s eyes met his, equally fearful as he watched helplessly as Danarius’s other hand extended towards Fenris, wrist twisting as he pulled at the lyrium in his skin.
Fenris fell to his knees with a crack, unfrozen but in agony, writhing on the floor as the lyrium was manipulated by the magister. It felt like metal being ripped through his body, pulled through his bones, his muscles, every nerve on fire as he gritted his teeth. It hurt, like nothing else had ever hurt. Nothing except when the markings were put on his body, he recalled, the memory battling his hazy mind as he clawed at his own skin. He would not plead. Not with this monster.
Through his agony, he could see—and hear, oh how he could hear—Hawke howling as Danarius turned his attentions back to the human, tossing him effortlessly to the ground. Tears stung his eyes as he watched Nolan, equally in agony, back arching off the floor, hands grasping helplessly at the bloody wooden planks. Hawke managed a look his way, caught his eye and as Fenris watched tears run down bloodied cheeks into his beard, he knew he had failed the one person who loved him.
I am so sorry.
Hawke’s large body seized for a moment, and then, went painfully, utterly still. It was all over so quickly, it almost seemed like a dream. Shadows consumed Fenris’s vision as the world went dark around him.
No, no, no! It couldn’t end like this, he wouldn’t let it! Fenris grit his teeth but he had no strength to fight. It was over, and Hawke was gone, because of him.
“So, my pet. Shall we return to Minrathous, then?” He could hear Danarius taunting as he eased up on the painful magic wracking his exhausted body, but he still could not see a thing.
Nothing except those yellow-brown eyes, etched in his memory.
How even does lyrium work? I feel like Danarius would have figured out a way to control it, after all this time. That's what we're going with here, at any rate. *shrug*
Chapter 2: Tremble a Prayer
Fenris adjusts to life in Tevinter, spending more time than he'd like with the magisters of the Imperium. One particular evening leaves him with new pain and many questions. (3786 words)
TW: for magical torture
2. Tremble a Prayer
Light, like the flutter of wings, feel your hollow voice rushing into me
As you're longing to sing
So I, I will paint you in silver, I will wrap you in cold
I will lift up your voice as I sink
Your sins into me
Oh, my beautiful one, now
Your sins into me
As a rapturous voice escapes, I will tremble a prayer
And I'll beg for forgiveness
(Your sins into me) Your sins into me
Sunlight seared his eyes as a young elven woman pushed open the doorway to the dark corridor he’d been led down. She’d kept her head down the entire time, bright red hair covering her eyes but not the grim line of her thin lips as the mid-day sun caught her pale cheek. Every once in a rare while, Fenris would be overcome with a feeling of remembrance like the one he felt now, twisting his gut and pulling at his thoughts to connect the pieces. This woman reminded him of someone he swore he knew, but all he knew was fighting, servitude, and his master.
She was simply another slave. And he had nothing to remember except a similar life.
“Come now, Fenris, the sun, while warm, will not bite,” a syrupy voice prodded from behind him.
Straightening his back, Fenris stepped forward into the brightness, the first he could recall seeing in a long time. It was pleasantly warm on his skin, a welcome change to the searing heat of veilfire lanterns or the cold, damp darkness of his cramped quarters. Fruit trees on either side of the pathway rustled in the warm sea breeze as they crossed the courtyard, the sweet smell tantalizing and mouthwatering. Beneath him, the small pebbles of the pathway crunched underfoot and above him seabirds cawed loudly as they floated on invisible waves.
He could not recall a time where he wasn’t inside, either in his quarters, a training hall, Danarius’s solar, or the room at the end of the long hall where he went when he forgot his place and needed to be reeducated. His skin tingled painfully at the thought. Fenris had spent many a dark day there over the course of what he later learned was his first few months, to the point where he welcomed the cold, locked room he was returned to after endless hours of agony. He deserved it all, though, did he not? His master had said he had committed a crime that was punishable by death, so he should count his blessings that pain was his only punishment. Fenris knew he was lucky, though he wished he could remember what he had done to avoid such punishment again.
Eventually, when his reeducation had been deemed sufficient enough for reentry into duty, he was put to service as Danarius’s bodyguard, which he was told was what he’d done before his reeducation and his terrible act against his master. He could not recall knowing the man, but his master seemed well aware of his abilities, and quite fond of his skills in battle. It was his master who had gifted him the markings on his skin, he was told, the one responsible for giving him the strength to make the human proud, and Fenris did everything he could to prove his worth. He would never admit it aloud, but deep inside a part of him was growing bored with the prospect of always acting as sentinel and show piece. A very small part that he continually pushed away. That could lead to more punishment.
Today, his task was easy enough: stand guard beside his master while he met with a magister by the name of Erasthenes. Fenris was not privy to the details of this meeting beforehand, only knowing that the man was well versed in the history of the Old Gods, which was enough to set the hairs on the back of his neck on end. The inexplicable urge to distance himself from anything to do with these ancient magisters confused him, as he was but an uneducated slave and had no reason to fear them. None the less, he couldn’t shake the twinge in his gut as they entered the grand hall on the opposite end of the courtyard, a massive room of which Fenris had never been.
The room was gilded from floor to ceiling with golden etchings of various serpent-like creatures on columns three times his width, between large windows that overlooked the cliffs of the Nocen Sea. His eyes lingered on the crash of the waves, a longing to sink into its warm waters almost overpowering, before remembering his place and continuing to scan the room. Opulent silks in deep reds and blues draped the windows, while tables of varying sizes were scattered in organized chaos with parchment stacks, inkwells and an odd assortment of ephemera that Fenris had never seen before. There were only two doors; the one they had entered from the courtyard through, and the main door that led to the private dock.
This was Danarius’s hidden estate, far from prying eyes, so there were no threats, but knowing of one’s surroundings and visitors before his master settled was imperative. The small man sitting in the high-backed chair near a cove of bookcases did not look dangerous, but the warrior beside him did. Save that this guard was a human, he mirrored Fenris’s attentions; cautious, alert, fingers twitching to grab a blade in service to his master. Fenris doubted the human had lyrium etched into his skin to enhance his abilities, however, and that, he knew, gave him the advantage should it come to it. A chance to prove himself, perhaps.
Pleasantries aside, Fenris and the other bodyguard stood still and quiet beside their respective magisters, staring ahead like stone statues as the men talked.
“Truly, what has occured in Kirkwall is astounding,” the old man muttered as he sipped his tea. “This mage rebellion, while it could mean great things for Tevinter, is also an opportunity for cultists and extremists to come out of the woodwork, sullying the name of magic in their own bid for power.”
Danarius had not touched his refreshments. He never did. “Is that not what it all is about, magister? Do you mean to suggest that one should not further their lot through any means at their disposal, such as magic?”
“One should not overstep their bounds. Knowledge and power must be wielded with great care and balance, else you end up with a situation like Kirkwall.”
Danarius caught Fenris’s gaze for a long moment, smirking to himself; for what reason Fenris did not know. “I’m sure you would get along just splendidly with the Champion of Kirkwall, had the coward not gotten himself killed.”
“The Champion of Kirkwall is a prime example of needing to keep out of business that does not concern oneself, magister.”
Danarius hummed in thought, stroking his beard as he crossed his leg over his knee. “More true than you may realize.”
“Whispers of a group of Tevinter-nationalists grow louder with each passing day. They have come seeking my aid, my knowledge, in their bid for power.”
“And you have refused, no doubt,” the annoyance dripped from Danarius’s voice like oil as he absently picked at his sleeve.
“I have indeed! As a scholar, I will not associate myself and further the agenda of such a group!”
“Do you not wish to see your homeland brought back to its former glory, magister?”
“Coming from the man who has hidden himself from the world; why in the Void you’ve holed up in this corner of Tevinter, I don’t understand.”
Fenris shifted his weight and drew his eyes back to the large windows where two birds floated on the breeze. Tuning out the inane back and forth between the two magisters, he allowed himself a moment of wonder—what would it be like to fly, to go where ever you wanted, where the wind took you? He supposed he was the bird and his master the wind; a storm of chaos and control, pleasant smiles and foul tempers.
He was lucky, he reminded himself. Not all slaves were given such a prestigious place at the side of their master, displayed as a point of pride. Fenris straightened his back and returned his gaze to the marble floor, staring at the half space between it and himself, and let his mind go silent as the conversation droned on.
“You have such lovely hair, Fenris. Has master ever told you? I’m certain he has, oh, he must have! He takes such pride in beautiful things!”
Long, delicate fingers ran through his white locks, scratching at his scalp and causing him to shiver despite the bath water’s heat. Warm rivulets ran over the suds in his hair, washing them down his tattooed back and into the tub where he sat, arms crossed on his knees, as the slave boy bathed him.
“I remember when your hair was much shorter, just about here,” the boy mused, mostly to himself, poking gently at the nape of Fenris’s neck to indicate his hair’s length. “Maker, that was over two years ago!” Wringing out the water, the boy gathered the hair that now went almost halfway down his back and laid it gently over his shoulder before grabbing the sea sponge and soap to scrub his back.
When the bath was done, he was dried quickly and oiled, then fed while his hair was plaited. He’d even been given a goblet of wine; though it tasted sour, he wrote it off as his limited palette for such things.
As a slave, Fenris should not be treated in such a manner, he knew that. Yet Danarius had insisted that he be properly cleaned and groomed on special occasions. These were rare occasions (he could only recall three as far back as his memory would allow) when Fenris’s duty was more as a prize bird, flouting his lyrium feathers so to speak, rather than the soldier he was made to be. It bored him, but more than that, the attention—the touching, poking, prodding—from strange magisters for hours on end was almost unbearable.
This evening turned out to be no different, at least at the start. Danarius’s audience was small, consisting of five men who wore pointed red hoods (and looked utterly ridiculous as a result, Fenris noted dully) and seemed very eager to understand how the lyrium affected the elf’s body. Fenris tried to distract himself from the way he was presented—arms turned to show off the delicate whoorls around his lean muscles, oiled chest stroked as the magister discussed the mechanics of how the lyrium was used—by focusing on the moon light on the cresting waves outside the large window behind the men who listened intently to his master.
He’d heard it all before, both in these presentations where he was placed in the spotlight, and in casual conversations over tea in the library, and as a result had tuned it out long ago. The knowledge of what happened to him and how it all worked went far over his head, and even if he could steal away five minutes to learn more, he knew not how to read to make use of the hundreds of books and parchment rolls that laid about. Danarius also seemed keen on keeping him from getting too close to any of the reading materials, but Fenris didn’t think anything of it.
What was different from evening’s past, was when Danarius gestured to the other side of the room where two slave boys pushed the heavy velvet curtains back, revealing a stone table atop a tiered dias. As he was led to the platform in silence, cursing himself for not paying attention to what his master had spoken of, he noticed intricate rune-like channels carved into the top of the concave surface of the table. His eyes scanned over them, trying to make sense of the patterns and understand their familiarity.
Fenris hesitated as recognition dawned on him. Though stylized, they were the same as the markings he himself bore. Well, save that there were more, continued, markings on the table. They were like channels, ready to accept a substance, he noted. He stifled a yawn that caught up to him suddenly, fear gripping him over so blatantly disrespecting his master in front of his guests.
Eyes flickering from the table to his master and back to the table again, Fenris felt a distantly familiar sense of dread come over him that quickly replaced his fear of embarrassing his master. Studying the leather straps (one for each arm, each leg, his head and his waist), he could feel a ghosting burn on his skin where he knew those straps would soon rest.
“Do be a good pet and lie on the table,” Danarius cooed from beside him. Why did he sound so far away?
Kaffas, the wine.
The other men had gathered on the opposite side of the table, evil eagerness glinting in their eyes in the dim candle light. Suddenly the room felt cold, dark, too small—suffocating, even. Fenris turned to his master, green eyes wide as they searched the cool grey gaze that was quickly growing impatient with him. He could get out of this, he was stronger than them, right? His eyes darted to the men again, then behind them where several armed slaves stood silent. How had he missed them?
Shivering, his knees almost buckled out from under him, causing him to grab the edge of the stone table. His nails dug helplessly at the hard surface. Fenris grit his teeth and blinked slowly, trying to pull himself together.
“Come, now, Fenris.” Danarius snapped his fingers impatiently and two men came from behind, grabbing his elbows with large calloused hands and maneuvered him to the table. He wanted to yank his arms from the men, pull his legs from their grasp as they lifted him as though he weighed nothing, but his body felt foreign. It was as though he was watching the men lay him on the table from beside his master, who mumbled a “gently, now” to the men as they situated his limbs for the bindings.
“Master, I’m sorry,” he repeated in confusion over and over on a numb tongue as the leather bit into his skin. The room around him was dark, void of anything except himself. He could not see Danarius, or the other magisters, nor the armed men who had just manhandled him like a sack of rice.
Through the hazy fog of whatever had been in his wine, he could hear Danarius muttering in Tevene somewhere in the darkness around him. Familiar, it was too familiar—why was it familiar? Before Fenris could place where he knew those words from—he almost knew, it was just on the tip of his tongue—he heard a crackle in the air and a cold light flicker to life over his stomach.
A pair of hairy, stubby hands came from the darkness to one side of him—a dwarf?—holding a chiseled red and blue blade in offering. It was a devilish looking tool, curved and sharp as sin, with red twisting around it like corruption. The light of the magic Danarius was casting moved towards the blade, crackling as it disappeared inside the instrument. Fenris could feel the lyrium in his skin pulling towards the dagger, as though it were drawn to it.
“As you can see, my fellow magisters, the lyrium embedded here is capable of being controlled if the appropriate magic is used. Now for the next phase; expansion. The blade, please.”
Fenris pulled at the tight leather bindings, tried to activate the lyrium markings in his skin and found nothing—there was no song humming from them, no call, and no answer to his plea despite the glow on his stomach where the blade hovered in dwarven hands before being picked up by the gloved hand of his master.
“Please…” he grit through the haze, as the blade was drug slowly, shallowly over his ribs. He could feel the burn of blade, something worse than fire as the red crystals slid over his skin.
“Hush, pet, and show these men you can be strong; that you are worthy of such an honor, or I cannot promise it will go smoothly,” Danarius’s grey eyes were dark, blown out as they flickered from where the blade had caught on a rib to the panicked green eyes watching him.
Fenris closed his eyes and tried to think of something other than the burning pain as the blade was trailed over his skin. He wasn’t sure blood was even being drawn, but it hurt—Maker, did it hurt. Fenris grit his teeth and wanted to scream into the Void. There was no Maker; no god would allow his children to suffer like this, like so many others had and would. He was alone in this, like he was alone in everything, as he’d always been.
‘Nothing is going to keep me from you.’
A red favor. Broken crates and a crying child.
The lyrium in his skin flickered to life under Danarius’s spell and Fenris arched his back off the table as best he could as he writhed in pain. Something crawled over his ribs, searing through his skin, the muscle, the bone—it felt like it was inside him, burning him from the inside out. His eyes shot open as the pain pulled him from whatever images had been flashing before him; was that his voice? It sounded so sure and… free. Who was he talking to? It felt real, but—no no, it couldn’t be, he had been here, a slave, his whole life. It consumed him again.
Shadows against stone walls. Screeching metal and heavy sighs. Amber eyes and long black hair. A beard, not like Danarius’s; soft, full, a welcome sensation against his skin. His nose crinkles as lips brush together.
‘We’ll tackle whatever comes together, I’ll always have your back.’
‘Always is a long time, Hawke.’
‘When you love someone, then it’s not long enough.’
The blade sank partially into his skin and Fenris’s eyes went wide as a rasping yell escaped his throat. He could feel—and hear, how can he hear?—the blood as it ran down his side, and dripped down onto the table and into the rune-like channels beneath him.
The name rang familiar in his mind, but with the pain he could not figure out who this Hawke was. Fenris succumbed as the visions and sounds took over again, grateful to be pulled from the agony at the hands of his master.
A decrepit room; large, at one time opulently appointed with large, expensive paintings, rich wooden furniture and crystal chandeliers. Now it stands empty, destroyed and cold save for the small fire in the massive fireplace. A slender figure paces back and forth in front of it, wringing a gauntlet in his hands. It’s… him?
Fenris turns at a sound and sees the same man from before. Hawke. Hesitantly, the man moves towards him and his face becomes clear. His amber eyes are like fire in the glow of the hearth, he licks his lips nervously as his brows pucker. He’s measuring his words, Fenris knows. How does he know this?
‘I should have known you’d be here.’
Fenris notices he’s clutching his side, leaning slightly as though nursing a wound.
‘You shouldn’t be out of bed, yet.’
‘I needed to see you. You left, again. I… I want to help.’
‘You help too much, Champion .’
Hawke groans and scratches the back of his neck. A wry smile hides under his scruffy beard as he watches Fenris from a few paces away.
‘I was simply taking care of a few matters while you slept. I’ll come back.’
‘I don’t want to push you. If you need time—’
Fisting his tunic tightly, Fenris pulls Hawke’s lips to his, pressing up on his toes to meet him in an unexpected kiss. Despite the hiss of pain, Hawke slides his arm around Fenris’s waist and deepens their embrace eagerly. Hawke’s skin is soft under Fenris’s bare hand as he reaches up to caress his bearded cheek.
‘I’ve had time, I want you,’ Fenris murmurs when they finally part.
Everything hurt, and his back was wet and sticky. The leggings he’d been wearing had been cut off at some point, leaving him bare to the room as the Tevene muttering came to a finish. The coolness of the air was drying whatever had ran down his skin; his stomach, thighs, chest. Where the pain was.
His eyes fluttered at the darkness around him, and Fenris found himself grasping at the vision he had just had, trying desperately to hold onto it. Was his imagination that vivid? Where was he? And who was Hawke?
“See that he is prepared to continue tomorrow,” a man’s voice ordered dismissively. Danarius, he realized in his fog.
Fenris turned his head as the leather straps were loosened and he was hefted off the table somewhat unceremoniously. He let out a grunt as his feet hit the cold stone floor, and looked down to see blood trickling from a menagerie of new marks on his body. The men pulled him along as he stumbled, his legs giving out from under him.
Shivering from the dampness on his naked skin, Fenris blinked hazily at the darkness of the corridor and let himself be dragged along. After a forceful elfroot potion down his throat that he almost choked on, he was pushed inside and left alone in the dark. Cold, still in pain, naked, and confused by so many things.
Weakly he staggered to the hard cot, hands grasping at the darkness and collapsed onto his side with a low whine. It had only been minutes since he’d been pulled from that other world, where touches were welcome and comforting, where his name was a prayer on another’s lips and not a curse, where he…
It was all gone.
Snuffed out like a candle, Fenris was left in the dark, the memories gone and only the quiet of his damp, hard cot to keep him grounded. Whatever had been, no longer was, and this was very much his reality, not the mind-tricks his magister had tried to play on him as he wielded that cursed knife against his skin.
In the distance, muffled by the thick stone walls, Fenris could hear the sound of the waves crashing endlessly against the cliff side. It was like a lullaby, pulling him from the pain and into what would be a fitful sleep.
That night he dreamt of red silk sheets, cool and liquid against his skin as another swam through them to be at his side. Just like the visions before, they felt all too real, as though the touch were truly upon his skin, like each large, calloused finger had been made for the sole purpose of caressing him gently. He welcomed the touch and lost himself in the whisper of his name on Hawke’s lips.
Chapter 3: Monsters
The lyrium ritual continues, throwing Fenris deeper into lost memories. Danarius makes a decision. (3469 words)
Paralyzed by my own emotion
Out of my mind, looking for a way out of here, out of here
Terrified and my feet are frozen
Something inside got me wondering is this real?
— Monsters, Seafret
The days wore on. How many, he’d never be certain. Had it been a week? Three? Perhaps months had gone by. In the end, it didn’t really matter, did it?
Fenris was kept in an increasingly catatonic state as his master wielded his dark magic, always with a rotating audience of magisters to impress and inform. Some of the faces felt familiar, others felt foreign, all were evil and laid their eyes upon him as though he were both a feast and an abomination of the worst kind.
Venatori. Red lyrium. The Black City. Old gods. Hushed whispers as the rituals went on, but they were all nonsense to him.
Answers were never given to a slave, so Fenris kept on, gritting his teeth until he passed out from the pain, waking with new, bloody marks that (in Danarius’s eyes) complimented the old markings and mimicked the cold stone table he spent his days on.
Sustenance was provided through a series of potions and herbal mixtures that tasted horrible but kept his body just barely functioning. He welcomed the taste as the only connection he had to something that wasn’t pure pain, betrayal at his master’s hands, his own screams, and endlessly confusing visions and dreams that he both recognized and had never witnessed before.
Another wave of magic coursed through his markings, causing him to clench his eyes shut again at the sensation that was somehow freezing and hot at the same time, like the icy mountain water of Sundermount and Deep Roads lava all at once.
Wait. Sundermount? The Deep Roads?
They both felt like familiar places, yet Fenris had no idea where they were or if they were even truly real. Had he glanced at a map? That wouldn’t have mattered; he could not read the words on them anyway. All he knew was Danarius, this life of servitude and more recently, pain. He was drawn to the idea of the Deep Roads though, and when his conscience settled on it, he felt the song that had been building inside him grow louder, closer to the surface. The song with no words, as noticeable as a whisper on a rocky shore, that thrummed somewhere inside him, new and wrong and evil just like everything else in his life.
The Deep Roads.
The Deep Roads was shaping up to be a long trek; tiring, dirty, humid but cold. He is asked for the third time in the last few hours if he wouldn’t be more comfortable with shoes on. Despite saying he is fine, Fenris still notices the concerned amber gaze out of the corner of his eye. Even now, Hawke worries about him.
They have known each other, worked side by side, fought elbow to elbow, for months now. Fenris has learned Hawke’s body language, and Nolan chuckles when he catches the supposedly hidden eye roll as Fenris turns back to the path in front of them. It’s a natural rhythm, one Fenris did not expect to develop with anyone, let alone someone who put themselves in the middle of so many things—and a mage, at that. Yet here he is, unaware that he is in the middle of a courting dance with the Ferelden apostate hundreds of feet underground.
Behind him, Hawke goes back to discussing kill counts with Varric, arguing over their final numbers in the latest spat with a nest of giant, poisonous spiders. Fenris doesn’t interject, but he knows Hawke won that one. Nolan lets Varric have the victory, however. Ever charitable, he is.
Beside him, Anders walks with sure footsteps that rattle Fenris’s very being. Despite the mage’s work to help those in need, his deal with the spirit that resides in him had been an instant no-go as far as opening any lines of communication. Anders is just another example of a weak mage and Fenris looks forward to the day that he can point at the disaster and say, ‘I told you so.’
“Do you even know where you are going?” It’s a snide comment, nasal and clipped.
“Forward,” Fenris replies, his eyes not leaving the crumbling dwarven halls in front of him. It’s dark, with only the faint glow of lava from the channels that peek through the rubble to guide them. Torches in a darkspawn infested cavern would be a bad idea.
“I have a map, you know. We could stop and look at it,” Anders suggests.
“There is one way to go, currently, mage. Perhaps you’d prefer to go the opposite way. Quietly.” Fenris shoots him a dark look before cutting the corner of the corridor sharply and causing Anders to jolt to a halt. He hears the mage scoff, affronted, a few paces back but Fenris keeps his eyes forward as they near a large hall.
“I don’t know why you insist on bringing that heathen along, Hawke. He has fewer manners than that mabari of yours,” Anders grumbles.
“Hey, Sugar has plenty of manners, just don’t set the bacon so close to the table’s edge. I’d do the same if I were in her… shoes.”
“He has, in fact,” Varric chimes in.
“Baseless,” Hawke shoots back.
“Shall we discuss that time Merrill invited everyone over to her place for breakfast?”
“No, we really don’t—”
“Shh!” Fenris halts, shooting a hand up to motion for them to all stop.
“See?” Anders balks loudly as he throws his hands wide in exasperation.
“So help me, mage, shut your trap, or I will sew it shut and throw you at the Arishok,” Fenris hisses as his narrow eyes move back towards what caused him to stop in the first place.
“Fenris?” Hawke is quiet, but Fenris can already feel the lyrium in his skin pulling towards the weak barrier Hawke intends to cast towards him as he steps closer.
“Save your energy; let Anders handle barriers,” Fenris mumbles as Hawke comes to kneel beside him, hunching down to the elf’s level as he follows his gaze into the chamber beyond the towering, ornate doors in front of them.
“I always cast your barriers,” Hawke points out. “You don’t trust Anders’s magic.”
Fenris pauses, blinking at the man beside him. Did he trust Hawke’s? As odd as it feels to say, yes, he does trust Hawke, and thus, Hawke’s magic. He lets a dark grin slip across his lips as he turns back to the noise ahead of them.
“Explains why I’m always injured after a fight.”
“Oh, I see. Blame the mage; this game again. Has nothing to do with your light show acrobatics,” Hawke smirks, nudging him ever so slightly with his shoulder before turning his attention back to the issue at hand. “So, what do you think it is?”
Trying not to let the most innocent of touches distract him, Fenris clears his throat and squints into the dim room ahead. “Sounds like dragonlings? Surprising that they would be in such a place, though if they are, they know this place far better than us, which means there has to be a way out of here.”
“Great. So, we just fend off a few dragonlings, and poof! We’re home.” Hawke shrugs.
“You make it sound so easy.”
“Maybe if you didn’t take the brunt of the fight, it wouldn’t be,” Hawke winks at him.
“You do your fair share, battle mage,” Fenris offers lightly.
“Aww, Fenris, you noticed,” Hawke clutches at his chest, earning him a scoff, an eye roll and a shove back onto his ass as the warrior leaves his crouched position. He doesn’t see Nolan’s soft smile, or the light in his eyes. But then again, Nolan doesn’t see his.
It seems easy enough: a small nest of dragonlings, about six of them, mostly asleep and prime for ambush. Two are fighting over what looks to be darkspawn innards. Appetizing.
With a white-knuckled grip on his great sword, Fenris moves past the doors as Hawke casts a protective barrier around him. The magic is warm, soft, and melds gently with the lyrium in his skin, taking the persistent sting from the markings.
What it seems, and what it is, are two different things, Fenris quickly finds out. Swarms of dragonlings emerge from the tunnels, attacking on all sides, splitting their group up. Somehow, Fenris finds himself staring down a high dragon, while Anders, Varric and Hawke deal with the very angry offspring. In hindsight, charging it may not be the wisest decision, but he holds his own. For a time.
Jumping some twenty feet in the air—thanks lyrium—with his great sword high over his head, Fenris watches in slow motion as the dragon’s giant tail whips from the corner of his vision right towards him. At the same time, just beyond the spiked mass hurtling towards his glowing body, he hears Hawke yell something indistinct and the tail connects, quite painfully, with his ribs.
His vision flashes bright before going dark. He curses to himself as he slams into a column so hard it crumbles around him. If only he’d just waited, or actually thought through the fact that he was trying to go one on one with a fucking dragon. But it doesn’t matter anymore. There is nothing. No sound, no pain, only darkness.
Fenris cannot think; he simply isn’t, at all, any more.
And then he’s sputtering, groaning, wincing and everything is still dark. Dark, and musky; sharp and warm; loud and—is that heavy breathing? It’s warm against his neck, and itches, and there’s a voice calling him.
“Fenris? Fenris, you’re okay—thank the Maker!”
Hawke…? Why? What?
Fenris blinks and groans, trying to shift while his slow-moving, likely-concussed head is being pressed to Nolan’s shoulder as the larger man holds him like a child.
The mage is rocking slightly on his knees, and it hurts as he’s moved, but it also doesn’t? It’s the first time Fenris has allowed himself to be touched, nevertheless held, by anyone since… who? His mother, perhaps? Willingly?
“Hawke,” he manages to mumble into the dirty fur on Nolan’s shoulders. It gets in his mouth and it does not taste good. “Hawke, I’m fine—”
“Like the Void you are,” Nolan sits back on his heels, holding Fenris’s face between two big, calloused hands. They are warm. Fenris’s eyes flutter closed for a moment and he’s pretty sure he just sighed.
“I’m alive, aren’t I?” He blinks, meeting the worried amber gaze of the man who is still holding onto him. Warm.
“I saw you die,” Hawke mutters under his breath, gaze shifting down to the rubble around them.
His own gaze flickers over to the dead dragon on the other side of the large hall. Honestly? He’s impressed two mages and an archer were able to take it down, but he’s also still mildly (read: very) distracted by the fact that Hawke has not let go of his face. It takes his eyes a moment to refocus when he turns his attention back to the man in front of him, but those glowing golden eyes are watching him, relieved but dark beneath the grime and blood on his worried face.
Before Fenris realizes what he’s doing—again, concussed—his still-gauntleted hand is reaching out to touch Hawke’s bearded jawline. “I’m here, now.”
Those eyes are now slightly wider, and his lips—chapped and bloodied—part as Hawke sucks in a small breath at the touch.
“I uh… I’m glad,” the mage manages softly, blinking rapidly. He licks his lips, Fenris watches intently, then makes a sour face at the taste. “Really glad.”
“Hate to break up this touching moment, but the elf could likely use some real medical attention. And I don’t think you holding his face and staring at him is going to heal him, unless you somehow know a trick I don’t. Which is highly unlikely given your healing prowess.”
They both drop their hands quickly and Hawke stumbles to his feet.
“I’ll have no part in your demon healing, mage,” Fenris sneers as he tries to get up. Anders rolls his eyes and turns back to help Varric, muttering something about it being his own funeral under his breath.
Ow, nope, not getting up. His vision spots in front of him and he winces.
The wince must have been obvious because Hawke is down by his side once more.
“You know, if that mage doesn’t heal you, this one’ll have to,” Nolan points out, blowing a stray lock of dark, matted hair from his eyes. Fenris follows it with a slow gaze, fixated.
“I’ll take the one I trust,” is all Fenris says before pointedly turning his attention back to the dead dragon. It’s a massive beast, larger than anything he’s killed before. Though, he supposes, he didn’t kill this one. He clears his throat. “Good job, by the way. Impressive.”
“Oh? That? That was nothing.”
“Nothing?” Fenris raises a skeptical brow; even that is starting to hurt.
“Well, I mean, if it wasn’t for the valiant elf fending it off all by his lonesome, it never would have been weakened enough for little ol’ me to take down.”
“Ah, so you took it down yourself?”
Hawke bristles, but smirks. “Absolutely; you see those two? Useless, I tell you. Now lay back and let me take a look at your side.”
His hands are warm, just as his magic is. Fenris won’t say he’s comforted by the feeling of the healing spell, of the magic intruding his body, but it’s not unpleasant. He wonders if that’s the big hands pressed against the skin of his abdomen though. Clearing his throat, he shifts under the touch, catching Hawke’s worried gaze.
“Am I hurting you? Maker’s balls, healing spells aren’t supposed to hurt, Hawke,” Nolan chastises himself.
Fenris allows himself a small chuckle, which softens Hawke’s features. That just makes him warmer and makes him shift again. “No, no, you’re doing fine. T-thank you.”
“What would you do without me?”
“Based on my limited experience, I’d say I’d die,” his lips pull into a slight grin as he watches Hawke’s fingers run over the scars where wounds once seeped. It sends a hot shiver through him.
Satisfied with his work, Nolan settles down beside him and watches as Fenris attempts to put his tattered tunic back together. His features are still soft, and his gaze is distant. A wistful smile hides beneath his ragged beard.
“Let’s keep those experiences to a minimum, then. The dying ones, that is. Not…” Hawke scratches the back of his neck and looks towards where Anders and Varric are chatting by a small fire. They’ve decided to stay in the large hall for the night; assuming it is night. In here, who knows. “Not the… uh…”
“Not the ones without you?”
“Yeah, I’d like to have more of those.”
“I as well.”
Hawke smiles to himself a little wider as he digs through his pack. “Perhaps a few less dragons and darkspawn, but I’m not much of a complainer.”
“Now that I have experience with, and you are most definitely a complainer, Hawke.”
“You wound me.”
“Your healing magic isn’t totally useless, mage. You can heal yourself, no?”
Nolan smirks and passes him an elfroot potion. “I can. But I’d rather save that for you.”
With a war cry, Fenris charged forward, ignoring the sharp pain of the lyrium as it flickered to life. He lit up from foot to scalp, shoving off the dirt courtyard and effortlessly soaring into the sky, high above his opponent’s head.
The large warrior on the ground blinked up at him with a stupid look upon his scarred face and brought his sword up to meet Fenris’s swing. With a sharp clang, their blades met and Fenris jumped back like a cat ready to pounce, lunging forward with a growl before the other man could follow through with his next swing. Using the unnatural speed granted to him thanks to his master, Fenris slid between the man’s legs, flipped and, pulling a dagger from his hip, slid it cleanly into the warrior’s back, right between the plate mail meant to protect him.
A sharp, cut-off gasp escaped the man’s throat as Fenris pulled the blade out, dropping it and the greatsword in his other hand to the ground. Before the man could take another breath, long, olive, tattoo-marked fingers wrapped around his jaw on either side and twisted quickly, finishing the man off.
Fenris’s brow twitched in disinterest as another opponent fell at his dirty feet, watching as the blood seeped from the dead man’s back, across the sand and towards his toes. The blood was warm and sticky as it touched his skin, and so, so red.
Red like silk. Red like corruption.
A loud, hollow clap, slow and measured, echoed off the hard walls of the courtyard as Danarius rose from his place in the shade, pulling Fenris from whatever was trying to call to him.
“I believed you to be damaged goods after…” Danarius cleared his throat. “Well, what we dealt with. But you have proven yourself as capable as ever, my pet.”
Quickly, Fenris dropped to one knee, bowing his head as his master approached. The tie in his hair had come loose during the fighting, sending cascading waves of bloody white hair over his eyes. “I owe everything I am to you, master.”
“That you do,” Danarius agreed, as he absently patted the top of Fenris’s head.
Fenris stayed where he was, kneeling in the bloody dirt, waiting for his next order. He had fought opponents since before the sun was high in the sky, and now it’s low, kissing the cliffs that overlook the sea. Sea birds call and Fenris takes a deep breath through his nostrils, trying to smell the salt air over the tang of blood around him.
“It is time, Fenris,” Danarius called, already stepping back towards the shade.
Fenris came to his feet, squinting at the setting sun, losing sight of his master in the glow for a moment. Grabbing his blades, he stepped over his most recent opponent, not sparing a second glance, and made his way to Danarius’s side. He wanted to ask what time it was, what his master had planned next, but he knows better than to pry. A slave must know his place.
“We are going on a trip, leaving Minrathous for a time,” Danarius finally offered, sipping from a sweating goblet. Fenris can hear the clink of ice in the cup and he swallowed the dry lump in his throat. “It is a dangerous trip, but I am certain you are capable of handling the task of guarding my back. Isn’t that right?”
“Of course, master.”
“I’d hate a repeat of the last big trip we took,” the magister frowned. Fenris doesn’t know what exactly he’s talking about, but knows that it ended with his reeducation some three years ago.
“I will make you proud, master,” Fenris lowered his head, but straightened his back. Strong but submissive. How his master wanted him.
“Come, Fenris,” Danarius pointed at the ground beside his feet where he sits. Fenris hesitated only briefly, eyeing his still dirty weapons. “Leave them, I will not punish you for not promptly cleaning them. I am feeling generous, so you have earned a moment of reprieve.”
Fenris gently sat the weapons down and hastily made his way to the magister’s side, kneeling on the ground beside him, waiting. A sweating goblet is placed in front of his face and he eyed it longingly.
“You may take it. Drink. It is a hot day and you have worked hard for me.”
“Thank you, master,” Fenris said lowly as he gingerly took the goblet from his master’s hands, eyeing the ice wine suspiciously, but taking a deep drink nonetheless. It was deliciously sweet on his tongue, like the apples on the trees of the southern courtyard.
“This is where you belong, my little Fenris,” Danarius sighed, looking out over the bloody yard as slaves clean up the fallen. “By my side, protecting me, making me look good in front of those who might oppose me. Good things are coming to me Fenris, and you will play a role in that.”
Fenris can’t help the longing he feels for something other than this life, but what, he does not know. Monsters tease the back of his mind, feelings for people he doesn’t know and emotions of places he’s never been tap him on his shoulder, but when he turns to greet them, nothing is there. His place is here, at his master’s side, but perhaps—just maybe—he can find answers outside the estate’s walls. It’s his only hope for peace.
And, dare he think, hope for a future other than this.
Chapter 4: Two Birds
Between memories lost and found, Fenris finds a familiar face. (4315 words)
4. Two Birds
I remember the day, between the past and the pain
We were never afraid of places unknown
There was nothing to fear, there was faith in the air
We will never be scared of letting go
What happened to the world I used to know?
Ferelden was nothing like Tevinter. The food was different, the people were different and the weather—the weather was miserably cold, especially this time of year. Along the mountainside, snow piled high along the pathways and despite the bright sun, the journey had been a grueling one.
Thankfully, Fenris was inside now, where large hearths burned hot with as much wood as they could hold. The Temple of Sacred Ashes was a peculiar place, vast but empty save for the devout on most days (so told to him by a rather chatty elf he’d met his first night scouting the halls for his master), yet now was overrun with mages and Templars. People were still filing into the temple in a never ending queue and it had been two days since he had arrived.
It made his skin crawl. Bundled tightly in a Ferelden foot soldier's uniform, he stood guard outside a set of ornate double doors, trying his best to look nonchalant. Inside, the Divine was speaking with a group of Grey Wardens who had come for the peace talks. Her voice was kind and soft, and he wondered if the Black Divine was as kind as this woman seemingly was. Likely not, he surmised.
He shifted on his feet, growing increasingly uncomfortable with the shoes that trapped him, keeping him from the ground, from truly knowing where he stood. But it’s necessary, his master had said, so that he blends in with the other men and women in attendance. A Tevinter slave would no doubt stand out. Even his chin is covered with a thick scarf—which also conveniently hid the heavy metal collar about his long neck.
There’s a shuffle behind the door that catches his attention and makes his ears twitch back to listen closer. A bevy of footsteps where once there was silence thud across the floor, in what sounds like a circular fashion. Then a tense silence.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, and the quiet hum inside him from the lyrium grew a little louder. Magic was being used. Powerful, dark magic.
Something isn’t right.
Fenris turned towards the door, listening closer. He knows he should just stand here, doing his job of guarding the door and not question anything, but this feels wrong. If something happens to the Divine…
“Now is the hour of our victory,” he heard a deep voice command from inside.
A jolt of powerful magic yanks at him and he looks around at the other people milling about. No one seems concerned, but this isn’t right.
“Why are you doing this?” The Divine. “You, of all people?”
“Keep the sacrifice still.”
Sacrifice? Fenris thought back to all of Danarius’s conversations with other magisters and that group of nationalists, the Venatori. Many dark rituals had been performed at the hidden estate, including on him. Was Danarius preparing him for something bigger? The new markings on his skin tingled under the cover of the heavy uniform.
They burned painful as another jolt of magic twisted through the air. Why wasn’t anyone concerned?
“Someone, help me!”
Fenhedis, Fenris grit his teeth. Something was not right, and the Divine was in trouble. He kept to himself, knew his place, but there was always something locked away that knew right from wrong and this was very, very wrong. He had to act. Turning towards the door, he shoved it open with a grunt.
“What’s going on in here?” He barked before taking in the scene in front of him.
Grey Wardens surrounded the floating form of the Divine and a tall figure stood on the other side of the room, wielding a glowing orb. The man—creature, maybe, Fenris wasn’t sure—stared at him wide eyed and behind him stood a line of magisters, including Danarius.
“What are you doing in here, Fenris? You are disrupting the ritual—an important moment!” Danarius seethed, but did not move from his place, save for a twitching hand.
“Slay the elf,” the creature ordered.
Fenris could feel his body tense as his master tried to subdue him, but the Divine reached out and slapped the glowing orb out of the creature’s hand. He watched as it bounced across the floor, rolling towards him. Danarius’s magic wavered and Fenris reached out, grabbing the orb and instantly regretting it as it seared through his hand, up his arm and through his markings.
“No!” came the bellowed yell from the creature.
Everything went white.
“Ughh…” Fenris groaned as he pushed himself to his feet. His hands stuck in the muck around him, oily and green.
With a wince, he took in his surroundings, shivering at the cold, humid air. Around him the world was green and jagged, a sickly haze floating slowly by. Black water poured from a hole in the sky, and rocks teetered in the air as though on a turning pedestal. This was not like anything he had seen before.
...Before. There was no before. Wracking his mind for something, anything, Fenris found there was just… a blank slate.
A pull. A call, like a song he knew.
The lyrium trailing down his arms flickered in response, casting a bluish tint on the green haze and he knew he had to follow that pull. But where was it coming from? He looked around, oddly calm despite the hundreds of questions buzzing through his head.
In the distance, high on a hill, something glowed brighter than anything else in the greenish hellscape. Yet Fenris felt drawn in the opposite direction. Wherever he was, the light was the most likely source of escape, but the pull was strong and deep; something lost that had been found at last.
So he turned, away from the light, and towards the shattered cliffs and black water oozing from the green-orange sky. As he walked, the scenery became familiar—Kirkwall. Specifically, Hightown. His memories of the place slowly began coming back, filling the emptiness with visions and feelings he’d long lost: hiding in his former master’s mansion, drinking expensive wine that had been left behind, reading lessons with Nolan and Diamondback games with Donnic and Varric. He may not remember where he was minutes ago, but he knew he had once been in Kirkwall. His heart began beating harder with each step he took.
Fenris followed the pathways past that familiar door, down steps and through a winding corridor to another courtyard. Past the now-decrepit archways in the center where roses once decorated the lattice, he saw another familiar doorway and two crests on either side.
It took everything in him to not rush towards the door as the memory of this place came back to him. He shoved the door aside, pulled off its hinges long ago and stepped over broken debris and dilapidated furniture to make his way up the steps to the one room in the estate he knew best. The pull grew stronger, almost overwhelming and then he stopped. His breath caught in his throat and the marks on his skin flickered again.
On the other side of the threshold to the master bedroom was a figure; broad shouldered and dark-haired, with his back to him. Relief and lost memories came flooding back, making him stagger and step on a busted picture frame. The figure turned at the sound.
Oh, the relief to hear that voice, the completeness he suddenly felt. His knees felt weak and his heart lurched. Those golden eyes, that long dark hair—it was longer than he remembered (but he remembered!)—that smile beneath his thick beard. Tears stung his eyes, hot and threatening to fall. He did not care.
“...Hawke?” The name sounded so foreign and yet so right on his tongue.
“Maker, is that really you? It can’t be,” the man shook his head, frowning. “Blasted desire demons, I thought I’d shook them off years ago.”
“I’m here. I’m not sure how, but… I am here.”
Fenris took a hesitant, unsteady step into the room; a room filled with so many memories, good and bad but all theirs. It felt like vast miles between them, and yet it was the closest they’d been since…
The memories were rushing back to him in a frantic pace; everything that had happened before he had been taken back to Tevinter. Everything that transpired that day, what happened before. It had all been real and Hawke was real and he was standing in front of him. Fenris still didn’t know where exactly here was, perhaps this all was just a dream, but it felt real. So real and perfect in its chaos.
Fenris lurched forward suddenly, grasping the front of his lover’s shirt so tightly it threatened to rip, but before he could press himself close, his knees buckled under him. Hawke caught him as they collapsed to the floor together. Fenris buried his face in Nolan’s chest and took a deep breath as his fingers grasped tightly at the other man’s collar. He smelled the way Fenris remembered; spicy, like leather and embrium, with just a hint of lyrium to cool the scent to a crispness.
Kaffas, he missed that smell. Somehow he knew it had always lingered in his mind, but he was at a loss for where those feelings were. This was all so overwhelming and confusing, his old memories surging back into the void left by his more recent days. What had happened to him?
“Nolan,” Fenris let out a ragged sob into Hawke’s chest as they sat there on the floor, his arms tight around his neck now, afraid he’d disappear. The tears tracked down his cheeks at last. His head shook frantically, at a loss for an explanation. He couldn’t remember where he was before this moment, where he’d been since the Hanged Man. “I don’t…”
“Shh,” Hawke kissed the top of his head, his fingers carding through the long locks of white hair. “You have nothing to be sorry for. Maker, you’re real. You’re here. How are you here? Where have you been? I’m so sorry, Fen, I should have kept looking for you. You were out there, and I just...”
It was Nolan’s turn to let out a choked sob as his big arms pulled Fenris even closer. Fenris could hardly breathe but he didn’t care—Hawke was here! The niggling notion that here wasn’t right lingered. Fenris pushed it away, for just a moment, to finally have some piece of the puzzle put back together, even if other pieces scattered across the board.
He looked up, intent on remembering this moment however real or not it was and ran a hand over Nolan’s bearded chin, fingering the side of his jaw as he sought to retrace the details. Freckles hidden under dark hair, that dusted over his cheeks from years on a farm before they met. The crook in his nose where he’d taken a nasty hit during a coterie ambush. Those amber eyes that always seemed to glow and sparkle with a warmth he wasn’t deserving of. They were wet now, and wide with awe, likely mirroring the look of utter joy and disbelief on his own face.
There were new scars, too, and he traced those: one under his eye, one on the bottom of each cheek, disappearing into the beard he’d so missed. Nolan leaned into the touch, smiling as his eyes closed languidly, cupping his own hand over Fenris’s.
“Your hair is longer,” Fenris said, lamely, at a loss for anything else.
“Time tends to do that,” Nolan smiled softly, running his other hand through white locks. “Yours is too. I like it, very striking.”
Fenris scowled back at the disheveled plait; he’d lost the tie for it and it slowly had come undone. Distaste lingered on the edges of his mind, but the reason evaded him. He’d never been particular about his hair before, why did it anger him so much now?
Hawke sensed his disgust. “In that case, it’s terrible; I hate it.” Fenris snorted. The mage turned around and yanked at the sheets of the bed, handing Fenris a sliver of red silk.
“I lost it,” he remembered, taking the fabric in his hands, fingering it gently as he recalled the favor ever present at his wrist.
“It was at the Hanged Man, left behind in the fight, I suppose,” Hawke offered, watching with a smile as Fenris tied his hair back out of his face. “I have it with me; I’ll return it when I find you.”
Fenris pressed his head to Nolan’s chest, listening to his heart, overwhelmed with a sense of hope, a feeling he knew he had long since lost. “Are you real? Is this just another dream I’ll forget?”
“Depends on how you look at it I suppose,” he said almost lazily as he ran his hand along Fenris’s back. “Technically, I am dreaming, but… you know, magey stuff; I’m here, and I’ll remember you and us when I wake. Do you not remember your dreams, Fenris?”
Fenris sighed, sitting back and shaking his head. “I… cannot recall anything, dreams or otherwise. There are feelings, a sense of something, but nothing tangible is there. Memories that I have now had been lost to me since we parted, I know that much. The last thing I remember...” He frowned. “I thought you were dead. You were dead! Lifeless on the floor of the Hanged Man, there was blood everywhere, and Varric and Isabela, and I… I couldn’t—”
“Fen,” Nolan placed his hands on either side of his face, easing him.
Fenris blinked at him, his spiraling thoughts ceased as he focused on the warmth of those amber eyes.
“May I kiss you?” His voice was low, his eyes lidded as he watched the elf’s lips.
Would it count? Fenris had no idea where he was, where they were, if any of it was real or not—and right now, he didn’t care. It felt real enough, and the hole where his desire for the man in front of him once was, was aching for anything. He nodded silently.
Nolan leaned down, pressing his lips gently to Fenris’s, savoring the moment, the feel, the taste. Fenris froze at first, somehow still caught off guard at the sensation, but then the memory of sharing so many of these moments in the past came crashing down and he melted into the touch like a lazy day spent between the sheets. His nose wrinkled at the brush of coarse hair along his upper lip and he chuckled into the kiss as he fondly remembered that he always did that, before meeting Nolan’s tongue for the first time in ages. The lyrium in his skin flickered in response, surging and singing as his arms wrapped around Hawke’s neck, deepening the kiss. Those arms around his waist, pressing him up and closer; Maker, did he miss that.
Emotions are a weird thing though, particularly when your memory is playing games on you, and the next moment he shoved Nolan away, lips swollen, face flushed and brow hung low. A sense of betrayal hit him, angry and raw as he caught his breath. This shouldn’t even be happening. Fenris clamored to his feet, cursing the bulky shoes.
“Where have you been?” He growled at the man before him.
Hawke’s face was white as he stood, but he was calm. “Fen, we looked everywhere—”
“Lies! If you had looked everywhere, you would have found me!” The anger bubbled inside him, sudden and venomous. “You said, ‘always’. Always , Hawke. Where have you been?!”
Nolan’s face was dark and hung low, and he was silent for a time. Around them the sticky air crackled, the ground groaned. Just when Fenris’s patience was about to wear out, Hawke spoke.
“You know I used to find you in your dreams? Before you left—were taken, rather. I couldn’t get enough of you,” he laughed to himself, sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck. “Sure, you may have been by my side all day, even sleeping next to me at night on occasion, but it wasn’t enough. I had to have you close by, know you were safe and content. Even after you left our first night, I was distraught, upset and even a bit angry at first, but I wanted to make sure you were okay. I never bothered you when you slept, only watched from afar. You know what I saw?”
“Nolan, this isn’t—”
“You, alone,” he continued, ignoring Fenris’s grunt of agitation. “You’d be sitting on a cliff’s edge, watching the waves crash against the rocky shore below. At first, that worried me; I thought you meant to kill yourself, to cause yourself harm in the waking world. Silly of me, I know; but I truly did worry about you when you left me after that night. It was always the same, though: you would just sit there, watching the waves, crash and crash and crash. Doesn’t that get boring, I wondered. And then, one night, it was different. I almost didn’t catch it at first, but there were birds suddenly. Two of them, flying low over the water, together, on invisible waves of air and your distant look had turned into a smile.”
Hawke paused, smiling to himself as he stared at the oily ground. Fenris couldn’t recall that dream, but something about it felt familiar. Warmth bloomed inside him, knowing Nolan was looking out for him. But if he always watched his dreams, why hadn’t he sought him out after the Hanged Man?
“That doesn’t tell me why you never came. Where you were,” Fenris pressed, his voice a whisper as he took a step towards Hawke.
Nolan sighed, looking around the dilapidated room. He poked at the bedframe, his nose curling as a viscous substance stuck to his finger. “You know, this is how the estate looks now? Well, not so green and oily, not sure what that’s all about, but it’s in ruins.”
“Hawke,” Fenris growled but smiled despite himself at how natural it rolled off his tongue.
“Anders did this.”
Fenris tensed. “Why am I not surprised?”
“After what happened at the Hanged Man, I was out of commission for months—Varric and Isabela faired better, fortunately. During that time, I slept a lot, but I couldn’t find you. You just… you weren’t there, Fenris. You were gone.” Nolan shook his head, his fists white-knuckled. He turned away. “I thought you were dead; if I couldn’t find you, you must’ve been dead. Varric sent people looking for you, combing Tevinter, but we found nothing. By the time I had enough strength to get out of bed, things in Kirkwall went tits up—the Knight Commander lost her shit, had it out for the Grand Enchanter and the rest of the mages, Anders used me and ended up blowing up the Chantry—”
Hawke turned back to him, now over at his writing desk. Or, where his writing desk would be, in the real world. Which, Fenris was remembering, this was not.
“This is where you tell me, ‘I told you so’,” Nolan flashed him a knowing look, picking up the stack of papers—what would have been Anders’s manifesto—and tearing it to bits. His eyes were sad as he watched the pieces fall to the sticky ground. Fenris may have never gotten along with the other apostate, but he knew Nolan had once called him a friend.
“It was chaos after that, Fenris. We were on the run, technically I still am.”
“Where are you now?”
“Starkhaven, under Sebastian’s protection. It’s rather dull, hiding, but Varric tells me a particularly tenacious Seeker has been trying to find me, thought I was responsible for all this nonsense. I want mage rights as much as the next guy with sparks shooting from his fingertips, but this… I would never do this.”
“Slowly and not so systematically undermining authority seems more your speed,” Fenris agreed with a smirk.
Nolan chuckled, and came back to stand in front of the elf. His eyes were warm, his expression soft. “Where are you?”
Where was he? Danarius had taken him to… Fenris shook his head. “I cannot remember… anything. Nothing is coming to me, since I was taken. It’s all gone.”
It was like his memories had gone haywire. All he could remember was Kirkwall, and the years he had spent running from Danarius before then, but when he tried to think of anything that happened after he watched Hawke’s eyes go dull on the tavern floor, he was at a loss.
“Hey,” Nolan’s hand cupped his jaw, tipping his chin up to meet his eyes. Fenris leaned into like a cat stretching to be pet, unconscious of the small smile that crept across his lips.
“It’s okay. What matters is you’re alive. Fenris, I’m so sorry I didn’t keep looking. I thought you were dead, we all did. It’s been years and—” His voice cut off in a shuddered exhale, as he took Fenris’s face in both of his hands again.
Leaning his head against the elf’s, he whispered, “Wherever you are, I’ll find you.”
Fenris closed his eyes, grasping Hawke’s hands as he let out a deep breath of his own. Their breath mingled in the small space, warm and something like home. Home. Fenris missed home.
His lips found Hawke’s and it was gentle, searching—like finding home. Wherever he was, whatever was happening to him, he would find Hawke and they would go home together. Perhaps not to Kirkwall, perhaps somewhere by the sea, where the waves crashed and the seabirds glided freely over the water. He’d like that, and he thought Nolan probably would too.
Something skittered in the shadows, a terrible sound chattering around them.
Fenris pulled back, looking around the dilapidated bedroom, only now realizing that the walls were gone, giving way to the endless expanse of green-orange sky and terrible, black jagged rocks.
“Did you hear that?” His hand twitched at his side for a weapon, but there was nothing there. Kaffas.
“You need to get out of here,” Nolan said, eyes searching the horizon.
“What? I will not leave you Hawke.”
“I will find you, Fenris, I promise. But it’s time. You must leave.”
“What do you mean, ‘it’s time’? Hawke?”
“Go, Fenris!” The skittering got closer, louder.
He wasn’t going to leave Hawke here to defend himself against whatever crawled at the edges of the shadows. They would fight it together, like they always had.
“Fenris,” Hawke pleaded, but he stood there, weaponless. No stave, no building magic, not even a barrier.
The ground around them rumbled and rocks began crumbling at the edges of the room, falling away to nothingness. Fenris took a step back, and Hawke’s hand was on his lower back. He turned into the embrace, looking up at the man he’d lost, searching his face. He didn’t want to give this up, no matter how unreal it was. It was here, now and that was all that matter in this moment. What would happen when he left?
“Go towards the light,” Hawke offered, pressing his lips to Fenris’s forehead.
“It could be a trap,” Fenris said stubbornly.
“I just know,” he smirked, looking down at him. A finger traced his jawline, running down and along the tattoos at his chin, tipping it up. “It’s a dream, things don’t have to make sense.”
At the edges of his vision, he could see great, dark shapes emerging from the shadows. Spiders. He hated spiders. And so did Hawke. This was no dream, it was a nightmare. Hundreds of tiny legs clattered over the rocks, sending gooseflesh up his back despite Nolan’s warm hand pressed there.
Hawke kissed him then, desperately and to the point where it reminded him of their first kiss in the foyer of his estate so many years ago. Fenris pressed into the kiss, a needy sound escaping his throat as he pushed up on his toes. No, no, no. He would not leave Hawke to defend himself alone against this, dream, nightmare, or otherwise.
“I love you, Fenris, and I will find you,” Nolan said calmly as he broke the kiss, a hand on the elf’s chest.
Then he was pushed back and lost his balance, tumbling over a ledge. His eyes went wide as he fell, reaching out to grasp at the nothingness between them.
Fenris landed with a thud, but it didn’t hurt. All he could see was black rock, shimmering with that disgusting oily substance. Hawke was gone. He heard the skittering of the spiders in the shadows around him. There were so many; there was no way he could fight them off weaponless.
This way, a voice called.
The bright light in the distance glimmered. Fenris looked once more up at the cliffside and heard nothing, saw nothing. If this was a dream, he hoped Hawke had woken up, for now, he had to deal with the horde of spiders that approached.
With a resigned sigh, Fenris clamoured over the rocks, feet slipping in the muck as he made his way towards the light. The cliffside was steep, but the rocks were jagged enough that he could pull himself up. Not quick enough though, he worried, looking back over his shoulder at the approaching arachnids. They were moving too fast, and he, too slow. Something warm bloomed on the side of his face and he turned back to look up at steep incline.
A woman, golden and glowing, reached out for him. She looked a vision, like Andraste herself, sent from the Maker in his time of need. If he still believed in such things. But she felt right and good, safe and honest, in this chaotic frenzy of a nightmare.
Take my hand.
With nowhere else to go, Fenris took her hand.
Chapter 5: Prologue
Fenris wakes and finds he's not the only one with questions. (4500 words)
Get it? Prologue? Cause that's the first chapter of DA:I? Right.
It took a bit longer to get this chapter out. Please excuse some of the in-game lines I lifted to fill in the story—I tried to keep them to a minimum, or put the necessary spin on them.
I'm paranoid and sick of this
World's misconception of things I did
My language poured across this wrist
In a metaphoric disaster
My guess, I'm missing out the punch line
Unless this hanging noose is fitted to be all mine
Fenris slept, existing in a red, cracked world that welcomed him and made him uneasy with its familiarity. A faint tinge of ozone bit at his nostrils but there was something comforting and almost soothing about it, like the smell of the fruit trees in the courtyard back in Tevinter. He longed to return; where it was warm, with a gentle sea breeze teasing the sweat on the back of his neck as he trained in the yard, the seabirds calling to each other in the blue sky overhead.
This was not what he saw as he slept, though. His mind swam, a cold haze that held him in place, flashing piecemeal visions before him. These too felt familiar, though Fenris could not grasp them, could not figure out why his heart lurched as they passed before his mind.
There were rooms, some well decorated and kept, others with furniture strewn about. Some had tall ceilings with ornate chandeliers, others were dim and brown but felt equally familiar. Laughter echoed off the walls, muffled in the red haze that surrounded him, and figures moved about, their faces shadowed. Arms slung around his shoulders, and Fenris could feel them, swear he could smell the person beside him but when he turned to see who it was, the vision warped and went black before he was seeing something else.
Red surrounded Fenris once more, but it was softer than the haze, almost tangible and comforting in its warmth. It wrapped gently around his wrist and a shadowed figure looked up at him, only an achingly familiar smile illuminated beneath a dark beard and an otherwise dark face. His heart swelled but he didn’t know why; it thumped rapidly in his chest, flickering between absolute bliss and sheer panic.
The soft silk warped into a hot, malicious red, glowing evil as it seared his skin, digging into the lyrium brands. A song that always hummed in the back of his mind grew louder, almost screaming and flooding out everything else as the world around him shook violently. Flashes of worried amber eyes twisted with malevolent grey eyes and his name resonated from another’s lips even over the din of the lyrium’s odious song.
The world around him became a blur of black and green, then went silent and cold. How long he drifted in that dark, cold silence, Fenris was not sure. Eventually words drifted through his mind, murmurs he couldn't understand from voices he didn't know. Occasionally there was a prick of pain that grew increasingly real and eventually he sucked in a short breath of damp, cold air.
There was a shuffle around him, as the realization that he was waking came to him. Cold metal pressed against his wrists, but not against his collarbone. His left hand twinged with something he couldn't describe, and his eyes fluttered open to darkness.
“You think ‘e’s one of them savages, the Dalish?”
“Course ‘e is, look at them markings on his face. Question is, how can one of them do all that?”
“Savage magic, I’m telling ya. Can’t trust a knife ear as far as you can throw ‘im. Though ‘e’s pretty scrawny, probably throw him far enough.”
“Hey, shush up, he’s stirrin’. Go let the Nightingale know.”
The conversation wafted in like a fog over a harbor, slow and hazy until it blanketed everything and nothing else existed. It rattled his head, bouncing around the empty shell as his eyes focused.
Fenris groaned, shifting in the uncomfortable position they had him in as he tried to wake his legs up. The room was damp and dim, sword points giving way to wary men in uniform who surrounded him. This was not the conclave.
He went rigid as two thoughts ran through his mind simultaneously: Where was he, if not the conclave? And how much trouble was he going to get into with his master? Fenris looked down at the shackles around his wrists with a frown; he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Bound, as always.
A buzz of energy trickled through the markings on his left hand and sparked to life out of his palm, green and angry, sending fire up his arm. Fenris let out a pained, surprised yelp at the unexpected magic from his hand, unconsciously trying to distance himself from the offending appendage.
Just then the door swung open with a rattling slam and a woman stood silhouetted in the torch light. Despite the noise, Fenris relaxed ever so slightly, seeing that it wasn’t Danarius. That meant, hopefully, he would not be punished, at least for a few more waking moments. He shuddered at the inevitability.
Another woman joined the first and together they prowled around him like wolves after a stray sheep. Any relaxing Fenris had done promptly left, as his whole body went stiff as hot breath tickled his neck.
“Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now,” she barked, her accent not dissimilar to some of the slaves he’d worked with. Nevarran, if he knew his accents well; and with Danarius’s revolving door of private visitors, he’d heard plenty. “The conclave is destroyed. Everyone in attendance is dead. Except for you.”
Sharp features stared him down in the dim light, awaiting an explanation. An explanation to what, he had no idea. Something terrible had happened, that much was clear given his present circumstances. And everyone had died. That meant… Fenris’s lip twitched. Danarius. His master had not survived.
“Do you find this amusing, elf?” She snapped, shoving his shoulder so that he’d look up at her.
“You think I’m responsible?” Fenris gaped at her. He may not have wanted to be a slave, but to kill his master, to apparently kill everyone, that was a step too far.
“Explain this,” the woman yanked his hand from his lap and he watched in disbelief as his hand lit up again with that sickly green light.
“I—I can’t,” he stammered, biting back the urge to wince at the pain that traveled up his nerves and through the lyrium carved into his skin.
“What do you mean, you can’t?!”
“I don’t know what that is, or how it got there,” Fenris said, his eyes going wide as she got in his face.
“We need him, Cassandra,” the hooded woman who had hovered in the shadows spoke evenly in a thick Orlesian accent, gently pushing the other woman back.
“I don’t understand…” His mind was a jumble. His master was dead, yet here he knelt, chained once more.
“Do you remember what happened? How this began?”
Enslaved. Built to fight. Sent to watch. But then there was a gap, and when Fenris tried to press into it, to understand why there was nothingness in his mind, it was like he was pushed away by something he couldn’t see. The lyrium threatened to flicker as panic washed over him but he took a deep breath, willing himself to calm. Last thing he needed was to have to explain that on top of whatever had happened to his hand.
“I remember running,” he finally said, as he wracked his brain for the details. Something had pushed him, something else had chased him. “Things were chasing me… And then… a woman?” Who was she?
“She reached out to me, but then…” Fenris trailed off. It wasn’t wrong, but it didn’t feel right either. There had been another touch, what had pushed him? He worried at his lower lip.
“Go to the forward camp, Leliana,” Cassandra ordered after a pregnant moment of silence. “I’ll take him to the rift.”
Fenris watched as Leliana was ushered out of the room, a question on her tongue, a flicker of hope in her eyes, even in the dim light.
“What did happen?” Answers. He needed answers as badly as they did.
“It… will be easier to show you,” she sighed as she knelt in front of him to undo the heavy iron shackles.
The breach was massive, filling the sky with pale green light that yanked painfully at the mark in his hand whenever it flared to life. Fenris quickly learned that whenever the hole in the sky did that, more demons were coming through.
He wasn’t sure what was worse, a never ending onslaught of demons or a magical mark in his hand that meant he might be the only thing to stop them. Likely the later, he determined as they trudged through the frozen hills towards a small rift that had been watched closely as a place to test the theory that the mark in his hand could close them.
Fenris didn’t relish the thought of magic pouring out of his hand; it made him no better than the mages he’d been poked and prodded by, but in his current situation, he had little choice in method or thought.
A set of daggers had been procured early on in their journey towards the small rift, but Fenris hesitated to show his true abilities to the warrior who reluctantly let him fight alongside her. While a greatsword was once his weapon of choice, the effects of the additional work his master had done on him lended itself perfectly to the speed and precision of a rogue. Silent, quick, more deadly than before. The lyrium itched and Fenris had difficulty keeping it under control in his weakened state. Instead, he fought at a disadvantage, though still on equal footing to the Seeker who led him.
They made their way up a steep set of steps that felt familiar, towards the sound of fighting. His breath clouded in front of him in the cold, whisked away by a gust of chilling wind that blew his white locks over his face. Reluctant to give up the modicum of warmth it provided his otherwise exposed neck, Fenris pulled out the small length of red fabric he’d pocketed after their last fight and studied it.
Where had he picked it up? It was not the same as the finely tooled leather Danarius had requested he use to finish off the once-neat braid. Something about this scrap of fabric resonated with him, but what exactly he couldn’t put a finger on.
“We are getting close to the rift, you can hear the fighting,” Cassandra called, pulling him from a trance. She paused several steps ahead of him, turning to look down the path to where he stood, an eyebrow cocked his way.
Fenris eyed the fabric once more with a frown before tying his hair back out of his face. He immediately regretted it as another gust lashed cold across the back of his neck, sending gooseflesh down his spine. “Who’s fighting?”
“You’ll see soon,” she turned and continued up the stairs. “We must help them.”
There were more demons than the previous few fights, but there was also a crackling slit in the air just above their heads, where more continued to clamored out. Arrows whizzed by his head, shocks of static magic and the cool brush of a barrier spell, before his arm was yanked from his side and his dagger clattered to the frozen ground.
“Quickly, before more come through!”
The elven mage he’d been fighting beside gripped his wrist tightly, but before Fenris could utter a complaint the sharp sting of the anchor electrified his forearm and connected with the glowing green rift some ten feet above his head. It was a most unpleasant sensation, clawing at some deep hatred he couldn’t put a finger on, as he was manhandled by a mage, his power foreign to him and controlled by another.
That same electricity ran up the lines of his markings like fire, lighting them up not blue but a sickly green that mirrored the mark and the rift that was closing above him. Fenris grabbed his arm back as the rift snapped shut, pulling it close to his chest and willing the markings to calm down.
“And here I thought we’d be ass-deep in dem— Andraste’s tits ,” he heard from behind him and for a brief, unexplained moment he felt his heart lurch at the phrase.
Fenris turned to the voice, expecting… what was he expecting? Not the dwarf who gaped at him from the other side of three dead demons as he hooked the elaborate crossbow contraption to his back. There was something off about this dwarf, Fenris quickly surmised. Weren’t dwarves supposed to have beards? No, that was odd, but it wasn’t what twisted his insides.
“Fenris? You… you’re alive ?”
“How do you know my name?” Fenris eyed him warily. There was something peculiar about this dwarf, but he couldn’t put his green-sparking finger on it. His eyes narrowed.
“Maybe that light show shook a few marbles loose, Broody, but I know more than just your name,” the dwarf scoffed with unusual familiarity.
“Explain, dwarf,” Cassandra growled as she sheathed her sword and stepped closer.
“Now, Seeker, I’m wounded. We spent all that time together, I figured you would have remembered an oddly tattooed, glowing elf amongst my tales.”
Cassandra turned to Fenris, who just blinked in confusion, still reeling from the rift-closing experience just moments prior. The woman stepped closer, into his personal space, and yanked up the sleeve of his arm, eyeing the swirl of white that decorated his olive skin. Fenris pulled his hand from her, but not before the dwarf had seen the markings. He looked surprised, perhaps he didn’t know Fenris after all, and just mistook him for yet another Dalish, like everyone else had. But he knew his name...
“You,” was all she managed to get out.
“Me? Now what have I done?” Fenris looked between the two of them warily. As if the day could get anymore confusing.
“Elf—Fenris. Where have you been?” The dwarf interrupted, pushing Cassandra aside much to her chagrin. “What happened to you?” He made to reach for Fenris’s hand, but hesitated, shooting the elf a mournful look instead.
“I do not know who you think I am,” Fenris took a step back. “But just because you know my name, does not mean you have a right to question me.” His master was dead, which meant he was free as far as this strange part of Thedas was concerned, and he no longer had to answer to anyone.
The dwarf chuckled, raising his hands in concession. “I suppose you’ve gotten plenty of questions from the Seeker, here. I know all about that. But, Maker, Fenris, you have no idea how glad I am to see you alive, after all these years,” he sighed. “We’ll have time to catch up in the valley, on the way to camp.”
“Absolutely, not. Your help has been appreciated, Varric, but—”
“Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker? Your soldiers aren’t in control anymore. You need me,” Varric grinned, looking a bit too happy with the prospect for Fenris’s comfort.
Cassandra let out an exasperated sigh and raised her hands in defeat, turning away from them.
“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions,” came the collected, almost-warm voice from behind him. Fenris turned to see the elf who had grabbed him earlier, bald and unassuming. “I am pleased to see you still live.”
“What he means is, ‘I kept that mark from spreading and killing you’,” Varric said.
Fenris looked down at his hand, where the tingle of foreign magic still throbbed with a dull ache. He could feel it in the lyrium brands, stronger now that he had used it with such force just moments ago.
“Then I owe you my thanks,” Fenris said. “I think.”
“Thank me when we manage to close the breach,” Solas corrected, a prospect Fenris was not looking forward to. “Cassandra, you should know. The magic here is unlike anything I have seen. Your prisoner is no mage. Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine any mage with such power…”
“Understood,” she sighed, turning to look up the mountain path that awaited them. “We should move. Leliana is awaiting us at the forward camp.”
Demons fell from the sky as they went. In fact, it seemed every corner they turned, from the frozen streams to the burnt-out Temple, was filled with the angry creatures. The dwarf, Varric, had made a point to trail alongside Fenris as much as possible, stepping in an almost familiar way. Fenris wracked his brain, trying to remember such a dwarf, but the only one that came to mind was the one that had assisted his master with the rituals, and that was a face Fenris would never forget. Other than the occasional off-hand comment about their predicament, however, Varric was silent despite his notions to the contrary and not as good at hiding his prying glances as he may have thought.
It made Fenris’s skin crawl, having that gaze on him, as though this dwarf knew him. When he did speak, it was in such a relaxed way that Fenris was starting to think perhaps he had actually gone crazy.
Exhaustion pulled at his every fiber; from walking the treacherous mountain pass, to keeping the lyrium at bay every time the breach flickered to life, causing the mark in his hand to glow, and even from trying to piece together the puzzle that was this plight. All Fenris wanted to do was sleep, but even that would not bring him relief. He only awoke from his dreams with confusion, even before everything that had happened in the last few days. It seemed as though the waking world and the dreaming world were merging into one, and Fenris was not a fan of the prospect.
The breach was high, crackling and angry. Being so close to it felt like a storm running through him as the green energy pulsed like lightning, licking the charred remains of the Temple and the mountain around them.
A voice called out as they made their way down to the base of the rift, the words like deja vu, inescapable but foreign. Fenris’s skin crawled as the voice boomed overhead. He glanced down and saw the lyrium brands flicker just as Varric spoke up.
“You know that stuff’s red lyrium, Seeker.”
“I see, Varric,” the warrior sighed.
Fenris eyed the red crystals glowing evil against the black, burnt cliffside as they walked past. He knew what this was, and not just from the ritual he’d endured. Deep down, he knew he’d seen this somewhere else, and it was clear Varric had too. A wordless song thrummed through the lyrium brands in his skin, urging him closer, a pull which he found difficult to ignore.
“But what’s it doing here?”
“Magic could have drawn on lyrium beneath the temple and corrupted it,” the elven mage posited, seeming more interested in studying it than any of the rest of them.
“It’s evil,” the dwarf growled. “Whatever you do, don’t get near it.”
Fenris didn’t have to be warned twice. As they continued onward, he made a point to distance himself as much as possible.
They jumped down to the base level of the destroyed Temple and stared up at the rift as it cracked and warped the air with frantic green crystals. The tingle from before came back, different than the red lyrium, as Fenris approached the rift. More voices called out. Cassandra accused him of lying once more. Solas reiterated their goal, and warned of demons. Fenris was not pleased they had to open the rift in order to seal it.
He was even less pleased when the monstrous pride demon emerged, rattling the valley with its roar. Arrows deflected off the beast’s thick hide as it whipped electricity towards them. Cassandra had run into the thick of the fight the moment it emerged, and Fenris was close on her heels.
Lighting up the lyrium in his skin, ignoring both the hot pain shooting through his nerves and the look of surprise from Cassandra, Fenris flitted in and out of battle, through their enemies as he worked to close the rift. Demons of all sizes came at him as he honed in on the fight. The enemy and the mark upon his hand may have been foreign to him, but the motions of battle were as natural as breathing.
The dwarf had fallen at some point during the fight, as had many of the soldiers Leliana had brought. Fenris thought he was tired before the pride demon emerged from the rift, but the exhaustion he felt the moment the rift closed was so intense that he collapsed to the cheers of the men and women around him.
A black, floating abyss—a nothingness—extended forever in all directions around him. It wafted past his bare arms, tingling and cool and somehow alive. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
‘Be a good pet, Fenris,’ he heard, but it wasn’t his master’s voice. It was warbled, distant despite ringing in his head. ‘Always.’
Upon his wrist was the scrap of red he’d tied his hair back with, and he watched as it grew, twisting around his forearm like a serpent, burning the brands red as it moved. It wrapped tightly around his arm, twisting around his back and along his side, wrapping him in a silken embrace before gently slithering down his other arm.
His palm flickered with that sickly green light, but the red engulfed it too, like a handshake. The brands beneath the red silk were glowing red now, burning hot and singing their song so loudly it echoed in his mind. It wasn’t the song he knew, that he had learned to ignore with years of practice. It was an evil song, maddening and foul but soothing all the same.
‘Always, Fenris,’ the honeyed voice called out and a lazy smile slipped onto Fenris’s lips. He knew the voice, somewhere inside him he knew it and felt at ease in its presence.
As his shoulders went lax despite the red glow, the snake-like fabric began to tighten, pulling his arms to his side like a hug. But it didn’t stop, growing tighter as it hovered in front of him, almost assessing his wide eyed look before it slowly slipped around his neck, slid up his ears and over his eyes, tightening still.
His breath was pulled from him as it squeezed but when he tried to call out, no sound came. It tightened, vice-like as the mantra repeated in his head, ‘Always. Always. Always.’
With a shuddered gasp, Fenris’s eyes shot open and the dream was lost. He lay in place for a moment, wracking his mind as the tendrils of familiarity disappeared from his reach. With a defeated sigh, he blinked and shifted up onto his elbows.
Once more he awoke in an unfamiliar place, but it was becoming so commonplace, he hardly thought of it. At least this time he wasn’t shackled. In fact, he was in a comfortable bed in a warm hut.
His surroundings were rustic but warm. A raven squawked quietly in the corner as it preened in its cage. A fire crackled hot, too hot, in the soot-covered hearth. Furs decorated the worn wooden slat walls. He was definitely still in Ferelden. Unoiled hinges creaked loudly and Fenris sat up, much to the shock of one very surprised elf.
She called him ‘my lord’. Along with a bunch of other stammering explanations, sure, but it was the ‘my lord’ that stuck with him as the door to the hut slammed closed behind her as she ran to inform Cassandra that he’d awoken.
He was no lord; not worthy of any such thing. Though perhaps, with his master gone, it was time he made a name for himself. Here he stood in the middle of a Ferelden hut with no chains bounding him, no master to run after. Only his name and his actions to guide him. A free man perhaps he was not, but no longer did he seem to be a prisoner, no longer was he shackled like a slave.
There was still the matter of the trial with the Chantry. Would they really persecute someone who had just saved so many lives? Fenris frowned. Of course they would, if they still suspected him of killing the Divine. He had been forced to close the rift, after all.
Briefly he entertained the thought of sneaking out of wherever he was and disappearing into the mountains, but a chill reached his bare feet and he realized his likelihood of survival in such a place was low. Given his peculiar look, Fenris knew he would not get far before Chantry forces accosted him if the cold didn’t take him first.
Rolling his shoulders in resignation for the time being, Fenris eyed the hut for further inspection. The shelves were lined with bottles and jars of various sizes and colors, some looking like wine and liquor, others like potions and poultices. Along with the furs on the walls, piles of hides laid in a corner, for what purpose his warm-blooded mind couldn’t figure out. There was a desk as well, with a stack of papers beside a few empty bottles. Sniffing them revealed they had once been elfroot potions.
Fenris ran his fingers over the scrawled notes, picking one up at random and was more than a little surprised to notice he could make out the letters. He squinted as he made out the letters, formed the words and realized they were about him.
Mark. Magic. Mumbled something about too many eyes and a red bird? Wish we could station a templar in here, just in case.
Calloused fingers ran over the words, as he processed them. They made little sense to him other than what they said, which was enough to give him pause to begin with. Since when could he read? Fenris sifted through the yellowed parchment, searching for answers as though there would be any. How would a healer know if he’d been given the ability to read after whatever had happened to him?
The low thrum of mumbled conversation pulled Fenris from his thoughts and he looked to the door warily. Answers were what he needed and he’d get none by staring at someone else’s notes. The girl had said the Seeker was in the Chantry. Fenris had no idea where that was but he wasn’t going to find it in here.
Reluctantly he slid his feet into the stiff boots at the foot of the bed and pulled on the fur lined coat that had been laid out. The clothing was heavy and rough, smelled of fire, but was warm. The fur collar tickled his cheek and Fenris paused as he reached for the doorknob as the same sense of familiarity he’d awoken with washed over him again.
Shoving aside the abstract sense of longing, Fenris pulled open the hut’s door, the rush of cold air invigorating as he laid eyes on the sea of people before him. Whatever he had lost, whatever questions he sought, his quest to find them began at the Chantry.
Chapter 6: Starkhaven
Hawke wakes up after his dream and finds that's not the only surprise of the day. Varric tries to connect with Fenris. (4700 words)
'Cause fear in itself
Will reel you in and spit you out
Over and over again
Believe in yourself
And you will walk
And now fear in itself
Will use you up and break you down
Like you were never enough
Yeah, I used to fall, now I get back up
Tap. Tap-tap-thud-tap. Tap-thud-tap. Tap. Thud.
Hawke’s thoughts raced as fast as his heart as his fingers drummed erratically on the window sill. Isabela would have yelled at him to stop long ago. Somehow, Merrill would have been humming a tune in time with the racket he made. Anders would have been too absorbed in an argument with Sebastian over his issues with the Chantry. Varric would be sitting idly by, likely weaving a tale in his mind over what Kirkwall’s (now former, as far as he was concerned) Champion was thinking. Aveline would have been too busy with the City Guard to be sitting around with the rest of them. And Fenris…
Well, Fenris was why he couldn’t sit still.
Nolan Hawke had awoken in a cold sweat, disoriented and panicked as the dreams rushed back to him. It was clear as day, though: Fenris in his arms, that anger, fear, and the unmistaken love in those green eyes he’d missed so much. He’d laid in bed, collecting his breath and reliving the dream as best he could, still in shock that it had actually happened.
His love was still out there.
His dreams had been vacant for the last few years, only haunting memories of dead family and loved ones to keep him company. Sebastian had offered to have the Vael family healer provide him with something to soothe his mind since arriving at the estate, but Nolan had to remember those visions. If he forgot them, if he left them in the dark, who would remember Bethany, or mother and father? Even Carver, though he wasn’t dead, felt like a distant memory to him, along with all of his friends.
Hawke would never allow himself to forget Fenris.
With last night’s dream, he was more grateful than ever that he’d never taken Sebastian up on his offer. Who knew if he’d have seen Fenris after all this time. How the Fade worked, he couldn’t quite explain (or bring himself to investigate in the large library at the Amell estate or the one in the Vael castle), but what he’d seen had not simply been a normal dream.
Fenris had been real.
He’d been physical and present. There had been tears and smiles. Fear and anger. Joy and longing. Warmth in his touch. Wherever he was, Hawke would find him, even if he had to sleep for weeks to seek him out.
Dawn had hardly broken over the mountains surrounding Starkhaven as he pushed away from the window and made his way down from his quarters. He felt like a princess in one of those old Fereldan tales of knights who saved fair ladies in towers, trapped as he was from the outside world. Except under normal circumstances, Hawke was the bumbling knight and he only begrudgingly killed dragons when absolutely necessary (like failed business ventures or when his best friend’s brother trapped them in the Deep Roads). It was in the interest of his own safety that he stayed here though, for he’d be killed or made tranquil if anyone could find him.
He shuddered at the thought.
Sebastian may have insisted he stay confined to the quietest part of the castle for his own safety, but fortunately for Nolan, the small sanctuary where his friend could often be found was not but a few steps from the bottom of his staircase.
Hawke wasn’t sure he considered himself a religious man any longer. At one point, long ago, back in Ferelden, when his family was happy and relatively safe, they had gone to the Chantry often for prayer, community events and other such gatherings. Yet the Maker’s name had almost turned into a joke upon his tongue, vile ash that reminded him of all he lost rather than what he may have to look forward to.
But for the first time in as long as he could recall, Nolan found himself hopeful, and thought that perhaps prayer or at least a moment’s peace in the eyes of the Maker might do him good.
Mostly, however, he was certain it would be where Sebastian was, and he needed to talk to him immediately.
True to form, Sebastian was kneeling in front of an intricate statue of Andraste, head bowed, hands folded and eyes closed as his lips moved in silent prayer. He did not stir as Hawke made his way down the deep red carpet that divided the rows of mahogany pews, polished to a shimmering luster in the early morning sun that bled through the colorful stained glass window on the eastern wall.
Nolan stopped at the end of the row, and looked up at the stone carving with unease.
“Does the Maker know I’ve been absent for a time? How about Andraste?” he mused as he rubbed his thick beard.
“The Maker is always ready to listen to his children, Hawke, whether it has been minutes or years,” Sebastian said softly from his place on the floor, patting the kneeling bench beside him gently.
After a moment’s hesitation, Hawke stepped forward and knelt beside his friend, at a loss for what to do next. Sebastian had not looked up, and once Hawke had moved forward, he returned his hands to their folded position beneath his chin as he continued his prayers.
“Fenris is alive,” Hawke blurted, unable to keep it to himself any longer.
Sebastian turned to him, bright blue eyes wide as he searched Hawke’s face, looking for signs of… well, probably signs that he’d gone insane, and Hawke didn’t blame him one bit; it was quite the thing to throw out there.
“I know that sounds crazy,” he raised his hands, “but he is. Where, I’m still not sure, but I saw him in my dreams, Seb, and I know he’s out there.”
Nolan felt foolish despite his conviction and bowed his head. He stared at the scrap of red that had adorned his wrist since he’d awoke from the fight at the Hanged Man and felt tears well up in his eyes. Saying it out loud, even to someone he trusted, felt like too much, like it would be ripped from his grasp at any moment, proven a lie, or worse yet, a cruel joke. His hand tightened around the favor.
“What do you mean, ‘he’s alive’?” came Sebastian’s even lilt.
Hawke groaned, pressing back on his heels and coming to his feet. He paced the red carpet of the chancel, ignoring Sebastian’s pleading gaze.
“We spoke,” he said at last.
If the question had come from anyone else, Hawke would have assumed they were making fun of him, but that wasn’t Sebastian’s way. In fact, it was why he’d ended up in Starkhaven. Sebastian had a way of easing Nolan when he was on edge, of calming him and helping him see things clearly. It was why he’d sought him out after the uprising in Kirkwall, and it was why he was here now, talking about his long-lost lover whom he saw in a dream.
“I can’t explain it,” he grumbled, running a hand through his tangled hair. Had he really not even pulled it back before descending from his quarters? He rummaged through his trousers for something to wrangle it with and finding nothing, untied Fenris’s favor from his wrist. His heart lurched.
“Can you at least try, for my sake?” Sebastian had come to his feet and was watching in slight amusement as Hawke attempted to soothe his hair.
“It’s easier if I start back in Kirkwall,” he mumbled through clenched teeth that held the red strip of fabric.
“Perhaps over some tea?” The prince offered, noticing Hawke’s distant gaze as he finished tying his hair back. Nolan nodded.
Sebastian led them to his private hall where a hot kettle awaited them. As he prepared the cups, Nolan paced in front of the window overlooking the courtyard.
“As a mage, I have a deeper connection to the Fade—I remember my dreams, am almost actually there—father never did a good job of explaining it—” He cut himself off, frustrated at his limited understanding of his own abilities. Here he was, some thirty-five years on this mortal plane, and he didn’t understand the gift he’d had since he was seven.
“I do have a library that might offer some answers,” Sebastian suggested, handing him a cup.
“Perhaps another time; there are more important things to deal with now,” Hawke waved the offer off with a grunt, but accepted the tea all the same. “When Fenris and I began getting close, long before we... uh... were together, I would see him in my dreams. It was always the same every time I sought him out, until everything that happened at the Hanged Man. Then he disappeared. None of us who were there saw Fen leave, and when I couldn’t find him in my dreams and Varric’s contacts couldn’t locate him anywhere, I assumed he was dead.”
“Not that you gave up for some time.”
“No, but eventually I did, and I hate myself for it, knowing now that he’s been alive all this time.”
“How do you know he’s alive though, Hawke?” Sebastian pressed before blowing gently on the hot tea.
“Because we talked,” Hawke’s brows furrowed. He watched the birds out the window, sipping his tea. “I touched him, held him, kissed him. Wiped the tears from his eyes. Sebastian, he was there—he shouldn’t have been, not like that, but it was even more real than any dream I’ve ever had. Something happened to him, something that allowed me to have that moment with him, and I need to find him. He could be in danger.”
“You can’t just leave, Hawke. You don’t know who is still looking for you—”
“I don’t care if someone is looking for me. Fenris is alive, I have to find him,” Nolan snapped, setting his cup down with a bit more of a clatter than he intended.
“Precisely,” Sebastian sighed. “You have no idea where he is. You must think about this rationally, my friend.”
Hawke paced the room once more, snapping his fingers absently as he thought. “Rationally,” he agreed at last, turning towards Sebastian. “It’s likely that Danarius took him back to Tevinter after everything that happened. When I spoke to him, he couldn’t remember anything about the last few years, but he wasn’t wearing anything I’d associate with Tevinter. He was almost in rags—I doubt Danarius would keep him like that. No, he looked a lot like he…”
Nolan trailed off, smiling to himself like a fool.
“What is it?”
Sebastian blinked. “...is an awfully big place, Hawke.”
“His clothing looked a lot like what you’d see back home—no frills, thick and warm.”
“And based on that alone, you believe he’s in Ferelden?”
“I don’t have much else to go off of,” Hawke shrugged.
“As I said, Ferelden is an awfully big place.”
“No lies there, but how many fully tattooed elves do you think are wandering about?”
“Honestly, Hawke? Probably a fair share. The Dalish clans are thick in those areas.”
“Shit, you’re right,” Nolan groaned as he ran a hand down his face. He had a habit of believing everything would be easier than it ended up being. Despite his many experiences to the contrary, he hadn’t learned his lesson yet.
“Look, I can put a word out, send some men to start asking questions. I implore you to think this through and not act rashly.”
“When have I been known to do that?” he grinned crookedly.
Sebastian sighed. “Believe me, old friend, I know. Which is precisely why you are holed up here in the first place.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“I will concede it was not your hand that ignited the Chantry. But as much as I enjoy your company, I’m loathe to remind you that if you had stayed out of the affairs of the city, perhaps you would not need to hide.”
“Well, what does your Maker say about those in need? You know you wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Nolan crossed his arms and looked out over the castle walls.
“I most certainly would have had it a different way,” Sebastian frowned when he caught sight of the messenger waiting patiently by the doorway. He waved the boy over. “Alas, arguing over this is nothing new for us and leads to a dead end.”
Sebastian turned his attention to the messenger, nodding to coax the words from the timid youth. Black eyes darted to the broad man who stood over at the window, seemingly unaware of his presence, before turning back to his prince.
“Your grace, apologies for the interruption; you have a visitor.”
“A visitor? At this hour?” Sebastian’s brow creased as he met Hawke’s questioning glance from across the room.
“They requested to speak with you immediately, along with Serah Hawke, by name.”
Both men’s faces grew dark. Only a select few people knew of Hawke’s long-term stay at the Vael estate. They had done everything they could to keep that name from the lips of those outside the castle.
“Who?” Sebastian was ridged.
“A Grey Warden, your grace. We’ve taken his blades from him; he awaits you in the main hall.”
“Carver?” Nolan had inched closer as the messenger had talked, and without waiting for Sebastian, made his way hastily to where the visitor waited.
“Nolan! You need to keep a low profile,” Sebastian groaned as he moved past the perplexed messenger. “Thank you, that will be all,” he managed gracefully before he too exited the room with haste.
It had been years since he had seen his brother. In the flurry of escaping, the Grey Wardens had been left to deal with their own problems and Hawke found himself on Isabela’s ship, heading as far from Kirkwall as he could get. Months had passed before he was able to get word to Carver, and many more months still until he received a response.
So Hawke didn’t feel the slightest bit of remorse at crushing his little brother in the tightest bear-hug he could manage. In fact, Nolan was certain if Carver hadn’t been wearing his armor, the boy may have ended up with a broken rib. That was how excited he was to see him.
“Little brother! What in blazes are you doing here of all places?”
Carver squirmed free of his older brother’s hold, making a show of adjusting his leathers and breast plate. “I wasn’t miserable enough in the Anderfels, brother, I had to see you.”
“You flatter me.”
“As is clearly always my intention,” Carver rolled his eyes before turning to nod at their host. “Sebastian.”
“Carver,” he smiled warmly. “We’re pleased to have you. Had I known of your arrival, I would have arranged for breakfast.”
“No need,” Carver raised his hand politely. “I’ve come on business, actually.”
“What do the Grey Wardens need of the Hawkes now?” Nolan groaned.
“You remember when we dealt with Corypheus?”
“How could I ever forget? Up there in my top five least favorite trips ever,” he rolled his eyes.
“The stories we heard—the Grey Wardens had been acting odd, almost possessed by something unnatural, and it had turned out to be Corypheus. I know we killed him, but it’s happening again. We’re hearing the calling.”
“Maker’s balls. Is there another Blight on the way?”
“To be honest, I’m not sure. Nolan,” Carver stepped closer, his blue eyes void of anything except grave seriousness. “We’ve all started hearing the calling. All of us. Clarel has someone in her ear convincing her that we all need to head into the Deep Roads and kill all of the archdemons before they rise, else all of Thedas will be doomed… When Stroud spoke up about it, he was ostracized. They believe he’s corrupt, but I’m not so sure he’s wrong, and I wanted you to come speak with him. They have search parties looking for him and I’ve been assigned to Ferelden. I don’t know what’s happening to them, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay away from it. Brother, I…”
“Carver Hawke, don’t get sentimental on me,” Hawke grinned, leaning in slyly.
“I am not getting sentimental,” Carver grumbled, shoving his brothers shoulder.
“You most definitely are. Sebastian?”
“Staying out of it,” Sebastian raised his hands in mock defense.
“Knock off the act for one bloody minute, will you?” Carver snapped at him. “This is important.”
“Well, it’s your lucky day, brother,” Nolan ignored his brother’s protests and puffed out his chest triumphantly, setting his hands on his hips.
“And just why is that?” his brother sighed.
“I’ve just gotten word that I too have business in Ferelden.”
“Hawke, I’m not sure a bizarre dream counts as ‘business’,” Sebastian interjected.
Hawke made a face, deflating slightly. “I thought you were staying out of this?”
“A dream?” Carver looked unimpressed. “The Grey Wardens are facing serious corruption and you want to talk about a dream?”
Nolan sighed, crossing his big arms almost protectively over his broad chest. Of all the people to give him hell for such a thing, Carver was at the top of that list.
“It’s Fenris. He’s alive.”
“And a dream told you this?” Somehow he managed to look even more unimpressed.
“Well, I mean, it’s not that simple, obviously,” Hawke rubbed the back of his neck. “But… yes.”
Carver sighed and opened his mouth to utter what Nolan could only assume was a berating remark on mages and magic and the Fade and how he never took anything seriously. But before a word could leave his lips, the whole castle shuddered and the hairs on Hawke’s neck and forearms stood on end.
Immediately the sky darkened where once it shone in brightly and the three men rushed to the window to see what had happened. Another crack rattled the stone walls in harmony with the shouting of servants and guards as they ran past the great hall doors.
Terrible growling came from outside; a screeching that ran down one’s back like a nail on a slate tablet. Peering over the window’s edge, they saw what Nolan had feared the moment his hairs stood on end.
The air rippled like torn silk just above the ground of the courtyard, pouring demons by the dozen that immediately began tearing into the nearest creature be it dog, soldier or servant. People scattered, blood began spilling.
“What in Maker’s name is that?” Carver exclaimed from over his brother’s shoulder.
“A rip in the Veil, it would seem,” Hawke stated matter-of-factly, wondering if this day could get any more peculiar.
“Andraste, guide us,” Sebastian prayed aloud as he turned from the window. “Come, we must help fend off the demons.”
“Come on, brother! Those demons need a little Hawke brother TLC!” Nolan grinned as he stalked out the door after Sebastian. Carver clanked just a step behind him, muttering something about his poor luck.
Little did the Hawke brothers know that their travels to Ferelden would continue to be plagued with demons.
Cold was not something that Fenris recalled ever growing accustomed to. Winter nights in Tevinter, as the breeze blew in from the sea were the coldest he knew, and even then he was able to comfortably stand at his master’s side for hours on end during gatherings outdoors, shoeless and bare-armed.
Haven however, was a different story. In front of him, his breath clouded in mocking wisps, disappearing just as quickly as they came. His boots creaked as he tried to stretch his toes inside their leathery confinement. At least they were warm, wrapped in wool socks and pushed towards the fire in front of him.
It was quiet in the early evening hour, only the soft din of worried Chantry-folk and the clang of a final round of training in session. It’s where he should have been, but the concept of his situation was still new and bizarre, and Fenris wanted every private moment he could get to just process what had happened.
Above him the breach twisted angrily; a distant growl that seemed aimed at him as it creaked and pulsed in the sky just over the mountains. The snow was cast in a sickly green tinge that encroached the fire he sat at, almost as though it wanted to ooze over and poison this one small respite from chaos he had found.
It was a constant reminder of the burden he found himself with. One moment his life was controlled by another, a mage with all the power in the land, and the next he was the one wielding magic, controlling the outcome of the land. It was nerve-wracking and overwhelming; he had to ignore the steady, unpleasant palpitation of his heart as he moved about the small mountain town, painfully aware of the eyes on him.
Leliana and Cassandra had declared the Inquisition a force to close the breach and get to the bottom of who was responsible for the explosion at the conclave. Fenris was glad he was no longer suspect amongst those in Haven, but was not as thrilled with the title of Herald being thrust upon him despite his remarks to the contrary. A Tevinter slave, memory hazy in more ways than one, being praised as a divine tool of the Maker’s bride was more than he could handle.
He wasn’t alone in his confusion. Commander Cullen regarded him with a look similar to the dwarf, familiar and knowing, and it frustrated him. The last few days, prior to waking in shackles, weren’t the only memories he lost, it would seem. Fenris wracked his brain to the point of a nagging headache, trying to recall the Commander’s face, as well as the dwarf’s, to no avail. They were strangers to him, but he was no stranger to them.
Or at least that was what they’d have him believe. Fenris watched his back, eyeing everyone with suspicion, an oddly familiar feeling he couldn’t place. He had a lot of those feelings as of late, of distant familiarity, but he had to be on his guard.
The crunch of snowy footsteps made his ear twitch and he turned to see the oddly-friendly dwarf approaching.
“Keeping to yourself, as always, I see,” Varric said warmly as he sat opposite Fenris, across the fire.
Fenris pressed his hands closer to the heat, his gaze on Varric just as hot as the fire. His brow twitched, but he did not say anything. Let the dwarf speak and condemn himself.
Taking a moment to look upon the breach, twisting and groaning high in the sky over the mountains not far from them, Varric then turned his attention back to the elf.
“Look, Broody,” Varric stopped, closing his eyes and running a hand over his face. He sighed and his shoulders sagged, a weary expression upon his features when he removed his stubby hand. “Fenris. I don’t know what happened to you, but I can see that right now, you might be a bit overwhelmed with this whole situation. A magical hand is definitely not helping matters. But I want you to know that you can trust me. I know that’s not easy for you, it never was. But at one point you did.”
“You keep saying that, yet I have no proof this is the case,” he replied coldly.
Varric scoffed. “Yes, it’s my intention to swindle you, that’s why I got Curly and the Seeker—who you may recall isn’t exactly my biggest fan—involved in my charade.” He rummaged in the pack at his feet, muttering to himself as he dug through it. “Here. Can you still read?”
“It would seem,” Fenris looked at the book in Varric’s hand as though it might bite him.
“Well that’s one drop in the hat for normalcy, at least. I don’t know if this will help, or if it’ll make matters worse, but you’re in this, and if you can read it, it might shed some light on at least a few of those lost memories. And someone who was once quite important to you. I know he’d want to know you’re still alive and relatively safe.”
“‘He’? Was he my master before Danarius?”
“Maker, no! He was… You know what,” Varric raised his hands. “I said I wouldn’t overwhelm you. Read this, and assuming I did my job as an author, it’ll become clear. At least to a certain extent.”
Varric came to his feet and stepped closer, holding out the worn book with a pacifying smile. Fenris’s eyes flicked from the book to his face and back again before hesitantly taking it. He ran his hands over it’s cover, making out the letters and then the words.
“‘Tale of the… Champion’?” Fenris looked up, feeling nothing as a result of the words he’d read.
Varric grinned, practically beamed as he nodded once. “One of my best works, if I do say so myself.”
“So this is what? Just stories? That I somehow happen to be involved in?” That alone made little sense to him.
“Bah—it’s more than ‘stories’. I mean sure, if you want to sell anything in this climate, you’ve got to add a bit of flourish and punch, but the truth is in there. Though, spoiler alert—the battle with the Arishok was not quite as flowery as I detail, but he’s my best friend, so I’m inclined to a bit of hyperbole now and again on his behalf.”
Fenris snorted despite himself and opened the book, scanning the first few words.
The tale of the Champion is an important one to Kirkwall’s history,
given the events that transpired during his time in the
City of Chains which ultimately led to the beginning of the mage rebellion…
“Kirkwall…” he mumbled, running a finger over the word.
“Do you remember it?” Varric tried not to look too excited.
“Yes,” Fenris said softly, his brow knit as he recalled the city. “The Chantry there was destroyed by rebel mages. This Champion—I believe I remember him as well…”
“Well I’ll be a nug’s uncle! You do?”
“He’s dead.” Fenris looked up from the book with a shrug. “Was responsible for what happened there.” The dwarf slumped.
“Let me guess,” Varric rolled his eyes, “your master tell you that?”
“He did. I had no reason to believe otherwise. Why would my master lie to me? He trusted me with his life, and I trusted him with mine. Especially in regards to a matter so trivial to my daily life—”
“‘Why would your master lie to’—” Varric groaned. “Danarius was a deceiver and a terrible person, Fenris, you’ve got to know that. Same goes for any person who enslaves another, no matter how much better their circumstance is made. You were a tool, a possession, and nothing more. I don’t want to get all deep with you, but you believed this once—you had ran from him, became your own person. No one owned you, no one could.”
Fenris looked down at the book in his lap with a frown. How could he have possibly been connected to this man, when he was in Danarius’s possession his whole life?
Possession. A heated prickle ran up his spine and his lip curled at the thought. No more. Whatever may come of his time in Ferelden, he would not be a slave any longer. Circumstances being as they were, Fenris had been given a chance, a clean start to forge his own path forward, free of the bonds that held him down his whole life.
“You are right.”
“I am?” The dwarf blinked at him.
“Many things that I do not understand have transpired but one truth that lies amongst them is that no one shall own me again. I may yet end up shackled in a cell for the death of the Divine, but I am no longer a slave.”
Varric gave him a warm smile and turned his head towards the sky, but not in the direction of the breach. North, Fenris thought. Odd.
“I am glad to hear it,” his voice was distant and after a moment, he turned back to Fenris. “Between dealing with your new diplomatic duties as Herald, find time to read that. I’m here for you, Fenris, if you’ll have me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get a bird to Starkhaven.”
Chapter 7: Learning to Trust
Varric's mother hen instincts show as the group makes their way through the Hinterlands. Fenris deals with his first rift since the Temple. (4230 words)
well.. the holidays sort of got in the way, didnt they? :)
7. Learning to Trust
The word came slow from his pencil, unpracticed and cautious, lines painfully straight as he finished off the last letter. Fenris stared at it quizzically, tilting his head as he examined the letters. It didn’t look right, but he didn’t know how to fix it. Spelling did not come well to him, and he had yet to see the word in print in his reading around Haven’s chantry, so Fenris did his best.
He’d never admit it, but the dwarf’s book had inspired him to begin keeping track of his day to day, and the questions that arose from the haze in his mind.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, amidst the seemingly impenetrable fog, there was something familiar about Starkhaven. Ever since Varric had spoken of it, Fenris could not let it go. He couldn’t recall any mention of it while in Tevinter, but it ate at him constantly. So he wrote it down. Slowly.
Each morning he would write, as quickly as he could, yet still too slow for the racing jumble of thoughts that came to him when he awoke. Sometimes it was only a word or two, sometimes a crude drawing and sometimes it would be a frustratingly blank page, when he pushed and pushed on the fog to no avail and the memory just wouldn’t come back.
There were times when he’d stop in the middle of the day to write down a word as a reminder to himself for the evening’s recount of the day, but mostly his time was not his own in his new role as Herald of Andraste.
Cassandra, Varric and Solas allowed him his silence for the most part as they traveled, whether out of understanding or pity. They were a half day’s walk from where they were to meet Mother Giselle in the Hinterlands, and Fenris had been stuck in his own head since they left Haven. In the week since he’d closed the large rift at the base of the mountains near the now-ruined Temple of Sacred Ashes, his mind had been occupied by new tasks: improving his now-remembered reading skills, gaining a better understanding of who his advisors were and the insurmountable responsibility thrust in his lap, trying to comprehend what the mark on his hand was and unfortunately, getting little sleep.
Fenris never thought himself a vain person, and perhaps it was simply a symptom of Danarius’s rigorous grooming requirements of him, but he was starting to get worried about how he looked around the rest of them. His long, silver-white hair was a tangled mess at the nape of his neck, the new clothes he’d been gifted were askew where he hadn’t bothered to straighten them as they packed up camp in the morning, and he didn’t want to imagine how dark his eyes had grown from nights spent tossing and turning in his tent. The anchor ached, his markings ached, and he was tired. So tired.
Where once dreamless sleep took him, he found his dreams now haunted by what he knew were chilling visions, but when he awoke in a cold sweat with the sheets tangled about his legs, he remembered nothing. The dream was gone immediately, with not even the slightest hint of what it was other than a sour sensation, an aching hand, and a dimming blue on the tent walls where his markings had lit while he slept.
“Do your dreams plague you?”
A warm voice broke through his musing and Fenris turned to see the apostate elf walking beside him. Solas was taller than him by half a head at least, shoulders broad and unlike those of the elves he was used to seeing.
“My apologies for disturbing you,” Solas smiled, looking forward to where Cassandra and Varric had stopped along the mountain ridge. “You must have a lot on your mind.”
“Merely grappling with a new found responsibility and a decided lack of memories.” Fenris toed a pebble on the path, thankful for the feel of the dirt beneath his feet now that they’d reached a warmer climate.
“Hmm,” Solas hummed in thought. “It is indeed perplexing that you cannot seem to remember what occurred. Perhaps it is a coping mechanism for the trauma you endured.”
“That is a possibility,” Fenris agreed distantly as he surveyed the Hinterlands. “It does not explain everything though.”
“Do you speak of your supposed connection to the dwarf and our Commander? Perhaps,” Solas eyed him clinically, “the coping mechanism is still in play.”
Fenris grunted noncommittally and regarded his fellow elf with clear curiosity as they came to a stop along the path so Solas could pick a few herbs. A camaraderie had definitely not formed between them, though most would assume so given their shared ear length. No, Solas was distant and seemed resentful of elves, particularly the clans. The few Dalish that moved about camp muttered to themselves about his presence, but it was his odd fascination with the Fade that kept Fenris on edge.
It was as though Solas knew more about what was going on with the mark in his hand than he would let on. This random elf, who’d kept to himself his whole life if his words were to be trusted, was surprisingly well versed in many forms of magic, and just as knowledgeable about other things as well. Like everyone else, Fenris kept him at a distance. No good came from a mage with such power and knowledge, even if he was supposedly on the same side.
“I know you are uneasy around magic,” Solas said, as though he read his thoughts, “but perhaps I could offer my skills. Fade walking is something I do often; I could seek you out and determine what the cause of your sleepless nights.”
A mage in his dreams? No, thank you. The very notion made his lip curl but he did his best to shove the reaction aside and instead snapped, “I shall take my chances with dreamless sleep, mage.”
Solas stuffed the green leaves in a small pouch at his hip as he chuckled to himself. “I was only offering my help. I had no intentions of foul play.”
“As I said, I will take my chances,” Fenris repeated.
The mage looked him over for a moment, his brow twisted in thought. Fenris’s skin crawled under the gaze.
“We have not had much of a chance to speak. You are not Dalish, I presume?” Solas asked, changing the topic. “You have neither waxed poetic about the supposed old ways, nor do I recognize the tattoos on your skin. I find it curious that they are lyrium, not the traditional bloodwriting.” He paused, rubbing his cleft chin. “Very curious indeed.”
“I am not Dalish, nor are they tattoos. They are brands,” Fenris spat, “put here against my will in a time I can no longer remember. More were added a few years ago.”
“There are those who would take advantage of the special powers you wield, much like the one who placed them there. Were I in your place, I might consider limiting the use of those talents.”
“And why is that? With this thing on my hand,” Fenris paused to sneer at his hand for effect, “how am I any different than a free roaming mage?”
“Use caution, is all I’m suggesting, Herald.”
“I am a former Tevinter slave, believe me when I say that caution has been beaten into me. Quite literally at times,” Fenris growled.
Solas frowned. “My apologies. I should not have intruded.”
“No, you should not have.”
Despite the peculiar twinkle in his grey-violet eyes, Solas bowed his head and moved to join the rest of their party at the overlook. Fenris glared at the mage’s back as he walked away. Who was this elf to suggest infiltration into his dreams, and to tell him how to use the tools at his disposal? The hair on the back of his neck raised, like hackles on a wolf, as Fenris watched the rest of his party members warily.
The Hinterlands were a sprawling mess of valleys and treacherous cliff sides, dotted with ruins and huts and more rams than Fenris had ever seen. Clear, cold water tinkled down a stream near where they had stopped to rest, a delightful noise that almost drowned out the roar of fighting going on in the valley below them.
There had been increasing signs of distress as they neared Redcliffe and it’s surrounding villages, where mage and Templar alike fought with little regard for the townsfolk caught in the middle. It was clear to see that the issue needed to be resolved, and the death of the Divine was not making it any easier. Still, Fenris was unsure why this was his problem, other than the continuing drone of his new title as Herald.
He wanted to help the innocents caught in the middle, truly, and perhaps had he not been cursed with the magical mark upon his hand after the explosion, he would have been out here aiding those who could not defend themselves against the lawless rebels on both sides. As it were, it seemed there were larger concerns, such as actually closing the breach in the sky and preventing demons from continually pouring out of rifts all over the countryside.
“It is a shame what these rebels are doing,” Cassandra noted with disdain as she approached him on the overlook.
Fenris watched as another hut went up in flames in the distance. “They are taking advantage of the chaos this breach has caused.”
“I believe they would be causing just as much destruction on their own, without the aid of these demons. Which is precisely why we must seek out Mother Gisele to understand the issue on the ground better.”
“Here I thought that was the point of Leliana’s people. Is it really necessary for me to meet with her?”
“Whether you believe you are Chosen or not, you have been put in a position of great power and responsibility,” Cassandra spoke with conviction. “Speaking with those in the church, especially someone like Mother Gisele, will be immensely helpful to our larger cause. I urge you to go in with an open mind.”
Fenris made a face but did not look away from the fighting below. “Losing my memories has left me with some room to spare.”
Beside him, Cassandra let out a bemused huff before turning to leave him be once more. They would be arriving at an Inquisition outpost just outside of the Crossroads by day’s end. For now, he would take a few minutes of quiet reprieve while he could.
“You have not taken your eyes off of him in over an hour,” Solas pointed out as they walked along the mountainous pass through the Hinterlands. “Even as volleys of arrows and fire came your way, your eye stayed trained.”
“It’s important he stays alive,” Varric shrugged, distracted as he watched Fenris, who was walking by himself some twenty yards ahead.
“Indeed. He is the answer to a lot of our problems at the moment, it would seem.”
“More like, I’ll have one big problem by the name of Hawke if I let anything happen to him.”
“I do not mean to pry, but I have overheard you tell the Seeker you do not know where he is,” Solas’s gaze settled on him, his lip twitching ever so slightly.
“Just because I don’t know where he is, doesn’t mean he won’t be angry if I let something happen to the elf while he’s in my care,” Varric twisted, confident he’d caught his slip up. Damn this nosy bastard.
“I see,” was all Solas said as they journeyed further through the mountains.
Varric let out a sigh, muttering under his breath. He really did need to be more careful with his words. The last thing he needed was for Hawke to get caught in this mess, but at the same time, he needed to know about Fenris. Maker only knew when the message would arrive in Hawke’s hands, and where they’d be when it came time to meet up.
Plus, there was the whole lost memories thing and Varric was pretty sure some bad shit had happened to Fenris at the hands of his master if he’d forgotten all about his time in Kirkwall. His skin prickled at the idea of the elf going through all that pain and torment again. While Fenris had been recluse as much as he could, Varric had noticed the new brands lining his skin whenever he had to patch his gear or bathe. They looked angry, darker than the old ones, but just as intricate, as though they continued a pattern from long before.
Could he help the elf get his memory back before Hawke found them? Varric wasn’t so sure. Not being able to access the Fade or dream made it a bit difficult for him to wrap his head around the issue. But perhaps…
“Hey, Chuckles,” Varric called over to the elven mage as he twisted an herb in his fingers, smelling it before making a face and tossing it aside. Solas raised his brow in answer.
Varric moved closer, watching Fenris much as he’d been doing, except now he kept his voice low so he was certain he wouldn’t be heard.
“Can you help Broody get his memories back?”
Solas sighed. “I am afraid I have offered my aide to no avail. The Herald does not wish for me to tamper. He has a strong distrust of magic.”
Varric let out a bark of laughter, briefly catching a glare from Cassandra up ahead. “That’s an understatement.”
Solas nodded solemnly. “I understand his concerns. Were I at the hands of a magister who had enslaved me to his bidding, branding me to take further control, I too would be wary. While it would be helpful for us to understand what happened to him during the explosion, I shall not risk our already tenuous standing by circumventing his wishes for your comfort.”
“Andraste’s tits, I wasn’t suggest you do that!” Varric waved his hands defensively. “I just wanted to know if it were an option, is all. Perhaps a bit of gentle prodding will go a long way to convincing him it’s for the best. Maker knows he’s already been thrust outside what he’s comfortable with, what with that mark in his hand.”
“Yes,” Solas pondered for a moment. His brows drawn tight as he studied Fenris, before softening reluctantly. “I worry about how the anchor is affecting the lyrium brands, and how the lyrium is interacting with the anchor. We must, as you said, do our best to keep him alive and stable, as he is perhaps our only hope of survival from the Breach.”
“And whatever caused it,” Varric muttered in agreement.
Mother Gisele had been easy enough to find, once they’d managed to clear the Crossroads of the mages and templars who’d turned it into a battlefield. She’d been taking care of the wounded, urging them to seek aide at the hands of mages when he’d found her, a curious position for a Chantry mother to take.
Finding Dennett had been their next job, in order to secure horses for the Inquisition while they were in the Hinterlands. Getting to his farm had proved difficult with the rebels on either side destroying the valley in battle, but they’d eventually made it through.
“Someone care to explain to me why scouting locations for watch towers falls on us? Shouldn’t we be trying to tackle, I don’t know, bigger problems than this?” The dwarf groused as they made their way along the wooded path outside the farm.
“The Inquisition needs mounts, and as Scout Harding said, his are the best this side of the Frostbacks,” Cassandra said, her voice weary.
“That’s all well and good, but seems to me that Scout Harding and her crew should be scouting for locations,” Varric mumbled.
Cassandra opened her mouth to fire back a retort, when a crackling through the trees cut her short. Almost immediately Fenris let out a low hiss as he held his left hand out.
“Broody, you okay?” Varric moved closer, hand poised for Fenris’s shoulder as the elf grit his teeth. His knees shook beneath him and the lyrium markings pulsed erratically.
“R-rift,” he managed, eyes watery as he looked through the trees. It took an effort he almost felt incapable of mustering to straighten his shoulders, pulling blades from their place and stalking into the foliage.
Varric looked on wide eyed, meeting Cassandra and Solas’s quizzical looks before hefting Bianca from his back and following after Fenris. “Well, guess we’ve some demons to kill.”
The Terror swiped viciously at him as it howled, an ear shattering sound that hurt almost as much as the claw that skimmed over his forearm as he tried to dodge it’s sudden appearance. It was an angry thing, tall and gangly with the ability to tear through the veil to disappear and pop up near an unsuspecting victim.
Fenris wanted to phase away from it, to activate his lyrium and get out of harm’s way, but it hurt. His whole body felt like it was on fire as he forced his blades into the air and down into the creature’s boney hide. With a shrill scream, the Terror dissolved, particles moving towards the rift across the battlefield.
He had to close the rift.
Wide eyes darted around the clearing to assess the situation. Varric was positioned up on a boulder, skillfully aiming and taking shots from a distance. Solas too kept himself to a distance, hurling fireballs and lightning bolts at the demons around Cassandra, who bashed her shield into the other Terror with the fury and strength of a whole army.
The rift itself was between him and Cassandra, crackling and twisting like a flag in a rain storm. It pulled him, called him, bled him as he stepped towards it, slowly lifting his marked hand to the sky. The lyrium in his skin stung, lighting up blue despite his efforts to keep it at bay. Sickly green spread down the lines along his forearm, from palm to elbow as the anchor awoke, drawn to the energy of the rift.
“Hnnnghh,” Fenris grunted as he forced his hand to the sky, delirious as the lyrium reacted to the anchor and the anchor reacted to the lyrium.
It was dizzying, numbing and red hot all at once. His fingers curled as though he were holding a ball of energy as the anchor dispelled from his palm and yanked on the rift above him. He could feel it in his teeth, an electric jolt unlike any mage’s spell that had ever hit him.
As the rift reacted to the magic of the anchor, his whole body lit up in searing pain and everything went white and then red.
Red like comfort and something long-missing but familiar. Red like evil and disease, corruption and slow, crazed death.
A hand glided over his, wrapping red around his wrist as another hand dug it’s nails into his skin, pouring red into his veins. He writhed in the nothingness, wanting to flee the heat and bury himself in its warmth all at once.
Then the hands gripped tighter and shook, gently, calling his name again and again. No… not his name. It was familiar. And then it wasn’t.
“Broody! Broody! Andraste’s tits, Elf, you can’t die on me this easily, I’ll never hear the end of it!”
Fenris gasped, cool mountain air filling his lungs. The smell of pine needles and ozone overwhelmed his senses and he began sputtering, trying to sit up but it hurt, Maker did it hurt.
“Easy there, now,” the same voice cooed. A thick hand sat on his forearm, another at his back, holding him gently as his vision slowly came back from the red nothingness that had taken him over.
“I… what happened?” He groaned. His vision swam around him as the dwarf came into view.
“It would appear that your markings are being negatively affected by the mark on your hand as well as the other way around. The last time you dispelled a rift, you immediately passed out. We have not had a chance to test its true strength since,” Solas explained from his other side.
The elven mage was eyeing him curiously, like a test subject, and his hand sat gently on his shoulder. Fenris couldn’t help but tense, even in his semi-delirious state.
“Perhaps I might look at your markings more closely, see if there is a way to… alter them to make things easier; to allow your abilities and the anchor to coexist in a less painful way,” Solas offered.
Fenris yanked away from the mage’s light grasp, grunting in pain as he did so.
“Easy there, Broody, he just wants to help,” Varric soothed.
“I am used to pain. Danarius put me through worse,” Fenris snapped, pulling free from the gentle hold Varric had him in.
“Maker,” the dwarf let out an exasperated sigh. “I know you aren’t a fan of magic, but Solas is not Danarius. He’s not trying to hurt you, he wants to help!”
“I don’t need help!” He spat, raising his voice and clenching his fists. The markings flickered to life beneath his armor and he groaned, wrapping his arms around himself reflexively.
“Elf,” Varric said softly. “Please. You aren’t weak, you aren’t being coddled, and you aren’t being forced to do anything against your will. If you wanted to walk away right now, leave Ferelden behind and start a new life, none of us would stop you. You are the only one who decides your fate. But that fate...” Varric sighed.
“That fate comes with choices. We all have to make choices and sometimes they aren’t the ones we want to make. Maker knows I’ve had my share of unfortunate circumstances to deal with, you were even there for some—” he paused, looking away for a moment. Composing himself.
“You can leave. You can stay,” the dwarf shrugged half-heartedly. “But regardless of that, there are people here, right now, that want to help you. Even if you decide to tuck and run in the middle of the night, I’ll be damned if you leave in pain. Let the mage help, will ya?”
Varric’s golden eyes implored him and Fenris couldn’t help but be moved. It was his choice. Even if that choice meant he left, should he so choose, he would not have to go with the burden he carried left unchecked. He looked at Solas whose face was impassive as always, then to where Cassandra stood at the edge of the clearing.
“And what say you, Seeker?” Fenris called to her.
Cassandra stiffened before turning towards the three men with her arms crossed. “Under most circumstances, I am loathe to agree with Varric. However, I believe it is important to the Inquisition’s goals to insure you know you are not a slave or prisoner. Should you wish to go, we will not stop you nor follow you, but I would be remiss if I did not remind you of what is at stake.”
Fenris looked down at his hands in his lap. The old lines of lyrium ran along the backs, dotting at the knuckles then over the fingers and were mirrored on his palms. These were old scars, old stories that he needed to remember again, but more importantly, he needed to handle the story being written in front of him now. Despite his unease, his distance, Fenris had no reason not to trust the dwarf. In fact, Varric had gone beyond what he expected to help him remember his past and if they truly had known one another, perhaps it was time Fenris trusted the dwarf now as well.
A dull ache throbbed in his left hand where the anchor lay dormant. Whether it was the lyrium or the anchor itself, Fenris did not know, but Solas seemed confident in his abilities to help. There was no denying his unease at being handled by a mage again, but it was of his own free will. He wasn’t being forced, there were no prying eyes, no dark rooms or odd instruments waiting to prod his skin. It was a lowly apostate who’d helped calm it once before and if Fenris was going to write his own story, he had to be able to walk more than twenty feet before collapsing to do it.
Fenris clenched his fingers into a fist, feeling the dormant magic beneath his skin. It felt almost as if it were its own gateway to the Fade, as though there were a whole other world inside his palm. Would he be able to find himself in that world? What about the one he was in now? Danarius no longer held his leash; Fenris was a free man, free to define what that meant for himself and he couldn’t do it in pain or with half his life ripped from his consciousness. This was his choice.
“Very well,” he spoke at last, clenching his fist one more time before looking up at the human, elf and dwarf watching him. “I will give you a chance.”