Hawke picked up the latter atop his desk, well, Gamlen’s desk, but Hawke used it much more than his uncle did, other than for piling up bills he would never pay. Hawke had taken the habit of enchanting his letters so Gamlen would not be able to open them. Growing up with nosy twin siblings taught him many useful tricks.
He delicately ripped the envelope and took the letter out. Although his year of service to Meeran was over, the mercenary would still send him contracts from time to time. Not that Hawke minded, with that Deep Roads expedition coming, he needed all the money he could get. He brushed a lock of hair away as he read the letter.
A dwarf named Anso contacted the Red Iron looking for contract work. Wish I could take him up on it, but we've pressing business, so I recommended you. The dwarf pays well, so don't be a fool and miss out. Look for Anso in the Lowtown Bazaar at night if you're interested.
Hawke felt more than saw Carver hover behind him, trying to catch a glimpse of what the letter was saying. He sighed and handed his brother the letter.
“You want to come along?” Hawke asked.
“Well, yeah!” Carver eagerly answered. He missed having a reason to go outside, stretch his legs and—more often than not—killing people. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
“I know,” Hawke simply replied with half a grin. It was enough for him to get a playful smack on the arm. “Pack your things. We’re getting Varric and Anders, then we’ll go.”
“Ugh, we’re really going with that guy?” Carver protested.
“I’ll tell Varric you said that about him,” Hawke said as he walked into their shared room and saw his staff, given to him by his father so many years ago. He reached out, his fingers brushing the polished wood. He knew it was impossible to carry it in Kirkwall. It was already hard enough with Templars everywhere, having a staff on his back would notify them immediately, and the last thing he wanted was to end up in the Gallows. Instead, he took the smaller weapon that Meeran had bought for him not long after he started working for the Red Iron. The glaive’s weight was familiar, but maybe heavier on one end because of the blade. It looked like an ordinary glaive, but it had been crafted like a staff. Hawke could use it for amplifying his magic, as well as cut down his foes with the blade. He just had to be careful when swirling it around.
Hawke put on his light armour, fastened the glaive on his back and soon enough, he and Carver were out the door to meet this Anso.
“Is it really wise to help a lyrium smuggler?” Anders asked.
“Probably not,” Hawke replied. “But I need the coin for the expedition, and he offered a lot. Hopefully this works out.”
“And hopefully you’re not caught by Templars,” Carver bitterly added. Hawke shushed him. They had reached the alienage, where the abandoned house was. Hawke felt uncomfortable. His footsteps resonated too loudly in the night. He noticed every sound that his armour made, every clink of the metal rings that held the leather pieces together. He felt like his breath would give his presence away.
“It’s a little quiet here tonight. Too quiet,” Varric said, making Hawke jump. That was it. There was absolutely no noise in the alienage. Nonetheless, the small band kept going. Hawke put his hand on the door of the abandoned house, glaive in hand, signaling the others to get ready. He was not even surprised when he heard the war cry that greeted them in the house. He quickly summoned spikes of ice to push their foes back, and stepped aside to let Carver run in. Carver, as usual, would distract the bandits while Hawke, Anders and Varric stayed further back. None of them were made for close combat. The small house quickly had no more corners for slavers to hide. Carver finished off the last, then Hawke found the chest that Anso had mentioned.
“It’s empty,” he said after opening it.
“Great,” Carver added.
“Maybe there’s more to this. We should get back to him,” Hawke suggested, ignoring his brother. As soon as they walked out of the house, a battalion of slavers awaited them. Hawke was glad he had not put his staff away.
“That’s not the elf,” a woman shouted. “Who is that?”
“It doesn’t matter! We were told to kill whoever enters the house!” one of her men answered, just as loudly. It was enough to dissipate the others’ doubts. In seconds, they had their swords out and charged in their direction. Carver met them first while Hawke prepared a spell. There were a lot more than in the house, so Hawke had to take a few lyrium potions to replenish his energy. He still disliked having to take some, but he needed the assistance. When they were all defeated, a heavily armoured man walked down the stairs. Hawke tightened the grip on his staff.
“I don’t know who you are, friend, but you made a serious mistake coming here,” he said. His accent did not sound familiar to Hawke. “Lieutenant! I want everyone in the clearing! Now!”
Only one man answered his call. A soldier, bleeding, a hole punched through his chest walked forward. “Captain,” he wheezed before falling to the ground. Behind him, an elf with a head of white hair and silvery markings on his skin appeared.
“Your men are dead.” His voice was low and determined. “And your trap has failed. I suggest running back to your master while you can.”
He walked past the Captain, stopping to take a look at Hawke. Green eyes met his. The elf gave him a quick nod. The Captain put a hand on the elf’s shoulder.
“You’re going nowhere, slave,” he said. The elf’s markings lit up, startling Hawke, turned around with incredible speed and shoved a hand through the Captain’s chest, presumably doing the same thing he did to that soldier, and ripped out his heart.
“I am not a slave,” he only said as he turned back to Hawke.
Hawke blinked a few times, trying to understand what had transpired in front of him.
“I apologize. When I asked Anso to provide a distraction for the hunters, I had no idea they’d be so…numerous,” the elf told him.
“It appears we’re unscathed,” Hawke replied.
That brought a small smile to Hawke’s lips. “I believe we did not have proper introductions. My name is Frederic Hawke. This is my brother, Carver, and my friends, Varric Tethras and Anders.”
“My name is Fenris,” the elf said. “These men were Imperial bounty hunters seeking to recover a Magister’s lost property, namely myself. They were trying to lure me into the open. Crude as their methods were, I could not face them alone. Thankfully, Anso chose wisely.”
“That seems like a lot of effort to find one slave,” Carver remarked.
“It is,” Fenris answered.
“Does this have something to do with those markings?” Hawke asked.
“Yes, I imagine I must look strange to you,” Fenris said. Strange? Not at all, Hawke thought. Fenris’ small chuckle made him smile. “I did not receive those markings by choice. Even so, they have served me well. Without them, I would still be a slave.”
The smile disappeared from Hawke’s face. “I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he sympathized. Fenris rubbed a hand to the back of his neck. “Why face them at all? Why not just run?”
“There comes a time when you must stop running and face the tiger,” Fenris answered.
“That’s fair, I suppose,” Varric added.
“Everything Anso said was a lie, then?” Carver asked, still a hint of anger in his voice.
“Not everything. Your employer was simply not who you believed.”
“If they were really trying to recapture you, then I’m happy I helped,” Hawke said, sincere.
“I have met few in my travels who have sought anything more than personal gain,” Fenris looked down at his feet, which Hawke noticed were bare. He could see the markings there, too. “I—if I may ask: What was in the chest? The one they kept in the house?”
“It was empty,” Hawke answered.
“I suppose it was too much to hope for. Even so, I had to know.”
“You were expecting something else?”
“I was, but I shouldn’t have. It was bait, nothing more.” Fenris’ voice was laced with disappointment and felt slightly harder than it was before.
“You didn’t have to lie to get my help,” Hawke said, softly.
“That remains to be seen.” Before Hawke could say anything else, Fenris walked away from him, clearly ending the conversation. He knelt next to the body of the Captain, searching for something. “It’s as I thought. My former master accompanied them to the city. I know you have questions, but I must confront him before he flees. I will need your help.”
“It seems like you want to do more than just talk,” Anders commented. Fenris glared at him and held his stare.
“Danarius wants to strip the flesh from my bones and has sent so many hunters that I have lost count. And before that, he kept me on a leash like a Qunari mage, a personal pet to mock Qunari custom.”
“Ouch,” Anders whispered. His eyes were cast down, but Fenris refused to let him off the hook, he did not stop looking at him.
“So yes, I intend to do more than just talk.” A shiver ran down Hawke’s spine. Fenris could be terrifying if he wanted to be.
“If it means fighting more slavers, I’ll help you,” Hawke declared.
“I will find a way to repay you, I swear it.”
Fenris told him the address, then disappeared in the shadows. Hawke took a moment to breathe, replenish on supplies, then made his way to Hightown. On the way, Anders was approached by someone who recognized him from his work at the clinic. With apologies, Anders returned to Darktown to take care of his patients. Evidently, Hawke let him go. With only Varric and Carver behind him, perhaps the way to the mansion would be quicker. Fenris did tell them to hurry.
The sun still had a way to go when Hawke arrived in Hightown. Fenris was already waiting for them at the door. He seemed tense.
“No one has left the mansion, but I’ve heard nothing within. Danarius may know we’re here. I wouldn’t put it past him,” Fenris said.
“I could stand to know a little more about this Danarius,” Hawke added.
“He is a Magister of the Tevinter Imperium.”
“Oh, is that all? Nothing to worry about, then,” Varric joked. Fenris ignored his comment.
“There, he is a wealthy mage with great influence. Here, he is but a man who sweats like any other when death comes for him.”
“He may have prepared magical defenses,” Hawke warned.
“They will not keep me from him,” Fenris said with finality. He opened the door and walked in, Hawke just behind. The place was just as silent as when they were outside. Fenris remained still for a few seconds, looking around him in the entrance.
“Danarius!” he shouted. “Show yourself!”
“That’s maybe not the wisest—” Hawke elbowed Varric in the ribs before he could finish that sentence. Hawke could sense that Fenris was trying to work up the courage to face his former master. Mocking him would do no good. Unsurprisingly, the mansion was littered with traps and shades, which attacked them on sight. They made quick work of each room, Varric disarming traps, Carver and Fenris attacking, and Hawke staying behind, occasionally healing, but mostly helping in the fight as well. He was careful not to target Fenris or Carver, always careful with the intent of his spells.
“He sends spirits to do his fighting for him,” Fenris said, anger in his voice. “Danarius! Can you hear me? Your pets cannot stop us!”
Hawke had to keep up Fenris’ fast pace. When they finally reached the main room of the mansion, they found it swarming with demons. Mostly shades, but beasts of fire as well; rage demons. Fenris was the first to run forward. Once the fight was over, Hawke was short on lyrium potions. Fenris went up the stairs, skipping two at the time, and Hawke followed. He opened the door to the main bedroom but found it empty. Hawke saw Fenris’ shoulders sag in disappointment.
“Come on,” Hawke said. “Let’s get out of here.”
When they were leaving the room, abominations were waiting for them. Hawke sighed, getting ready for yet another fight.
Fenris put his sword on his back with difficulty. His arms hurt from all the fighting, made exponentially worse by the dread that filled him upon finding the mansion empty. He was sure he had been right, this time. Danarius was supposed to be in the mansion, tonight was when he was supposed to get his revenge and be able to live free.
“Gone,” Fenris told Hawke. “I had hoped…no, it doesn’t matter any longer. I assume Danarius left some valuables behind. Take them if you wish. I…need some air.”
Without waiting for Hawke’s response, Fenris walked out. His mind was spinning. He could not believe how long it took him to realize that Hawke, the man who helped him, was a mage. His magic, however, did not affect him like what he was used to. It was like the spikes of ice carefully avoided him, the fire could not touch him. It was strange not to be the target of a mage’s attacks. Fenris pushed the side door open and took a deep breath of the cold night air. He leaned against a wall and waited for the others outside the empty mansion. He let his head fall against the brick and sighed. Soon enough, he heard the man he knew was Hawke walk in his direction.
“Carver, damn it, you got hurt, let me deal with it!” Hawke argued.
“It’s nothing, I don’t need your stupid magic,” Carver spat. The small group eventually reached Fenris, and the two brothers were still arguing. Even though Fenris had only met them a handful of moments ago, the striking resemblance between Hawke and Carver did not escape him; it was impossible not to notice that they were related. Hawke’s nose was slightly longer and straighter than Carver’s, which was more up-turned, and Hawke’s hair differed from his brother’s in length. Fenris saw that Hawke kept brushing a certain lock behind his ear during combat. The first time he had noticed was when he looked back at the man, and in turn discovered that he was a mage.
“Do you really want to explain this to Mother? And listen to uncle Gamlen moan about how you’re putting blood all over?” Hawke insisted. Carver stared.
“Fine.” He reluctantly surrendered and gave his arm to Hawke, whose hands almost immediately lit up over the deep gash that Carver had earned during the final push in the mansion. In minutes, it was over. Darkness returned and Fenris made his presence known.
“I escaped a land of dark magic only to have it hunt me at every turn. It is a plague burned into my flesh and my soul. And now, I find myself in the company of yet another mage,” Fenris said, turning to Hawke. “I saw you casting spells inside. I should have realized sooner what you really were. Tell me, then, what manner of mage are you? What is it that you seek?”
“I just want to protect my family and survive,” Hawke answered, on the defensive. Fenris noticed.
“I have seen many crimes done in the name of survival.” Fenris paused, thoughtful. “I imagine I appear ungrateful. If so, I apologize, for nothing could be further from the truth. I did not find Danarius, but I still owe you a debt. Here is all the coin I have, as Anso promised.”
Fenris took out a small pouch and handed it to Hawke, who made no move to retrieve it. “Fenris, I can’t accept that.”
“Anso promised you a reward, I’m giving it to you,” he argued.
“You need it more than me,” Hawke replied, briefly putting his hand atop Fenris’ to push the purse back to him. “I can find other ways to make coin.”
“Very well…” he surrendered. “Should you find yourself in need of assistance, I would gladly render it.”
“You didn’t seem all too thrilled with me a moment ago,” Hawke questioned.
“You are not Danarius. Whether you are anything like him remains to be seen,” Fenris explained.
“Your old master must want something more than just a runaway slave.”
“He does not want me at all, just the markings on my skin. They are lyrium, burned into my flesh to provide the power that Danarius required of his pet. And now, he wishes his precious investment returned, even if he must rip it from my corpse.”
“Seems like a waste of a perfectly handsome elf,” Hawke said seductively. Fenris was momentarily taken aback. He could feel a blush creep upon his cheeks. A nervous chuckle escaped his lips. He coughed, trying to cover it up. He did not miss the sound of disgust that Hawke’s brother uttered. Fenris got back on track.
“The truth is I know nothing of the ritual that placed these markings on me. It was Danarius’ choice, one he now regrets.”
Hawke asked him more questions about his former master, and how he got away. He was reluctant to answer him, but if ever he needed help again, he needed these people to trust him. He gave away as much as he was comfortable with. Hawke asked him the extent of his powers was, but even he was not certain.
“I’m planning an expedition soon, I might need the help,” Hawke said, finally.
“Fair enough. Should you…have ever need of me, I will be here. If Danarius wishes his mansion back, he is free to return and claim it. Good night Hawke, thank you for your help,” Fenris said, entering the mansion once again, closing the door behind him.
Hawke found himself standing in front of Fenris’ stolen home the next night. His hand hovered on the door, debating whether to knock or not. Him being a mage may cause trouble with Fenris, but he was told that he could go to him if ever he needed help, and Hawke wanted to get to know him better if he was to accompany him on his journeys. He knocked three times and waited for an answer. He heard some shuffling, then the groan of the door’s hinges. Fenris’ eyebrows went up when he saw Hawke.
“I thought I’d come by,” Hawke said with a small smile. Fenris did not quite return it.
“Come in,” Fenris replied, stepping aside to let the man in. As he led Hawke through to the main room, Hawke noticed that nothing inside had changed. There were still corpses lying around, blood staining the walls and drying in pools on the floor. In Fenris’ room, the bed was still made, undisturbed. Hawke noticed a small blanket laid out on the floor. They sat at a small table by a fireplace and Fenris snatched an open bottle of wine. In the firelight, Fenris’ skin looked golden.
“Agreggio Pavali. There are six bottles in the cellar.” Fenris started. “Danarius used to have me pour it for his guests. My appearance intimidated them, he said, which he enjoyed.”
“I can’t imagine why they would be put off,” Hawke flirted.
“You say what’s on your mind, I’ll give you that.” Fenris took a sip, looked at the bottle and threw it against the wall. The glass flew in shatters and the wine dripped down to the floor. “It’s good that I can still take pleasure in small things.”
“You could have offered me a glass first, you know,” Hawke teased.
“There’s more, if you’re really interested,” Fenris shrugged.
“Perish the thought. How else would you redecorate the walls?” That got Fenris a laugh. Hawke smiled. They exchanged a look, Fenris turned his eyes away first.
“I’ve wanted to leave my past behind me, but it won’t stay there.” Fenris sat on a chair next to Hawke. “Tell me, have you never wanted to return to Ferelden?”
“I grew up there. It will always be my home, but…it’s gone now. My life is here. Even if I wanted to go back, I would only find ruins.”
“The Blight is over. You could rebuild what you lost. Do you truly not want to?”
Hawke closed his eyes. He could see the Lothering sun setting over the fields. He shook his head. “No, my home is here. My family has a new life. Besides, my mother is from Kirkwall. She wants to petition our rights to the mansion her parents owned.”
“Having a place where you can put down roots. I understand. Still, to have the option must be…gratifying.”
“Do you intend to keep living here?”
“I haven’t decided. For now, it’s as good as any other place. I would return to Seheron if I could, but there is no life for me there.”
“Is that where you’re from?”
“So I’ve been told.”
He did not remember? Maybe it was like Carver and Bethany who had no memories of their first homes. “Were you very young when you left, then?”
“Perhaps.” Fenris’ answer was hard. Hawke did not push it further.
“You could track your former master down, I assume.”
“I imagine he returned to Minrathous, though I dare not go to the city while he is alive. No, it is better to wait for him to leave his fortress. Fight from a fortified position. I do not expect your help when the day comes, but I would not turn it aside.”
“I helped you deal with your hunters, didn’t I? It would be only fair if I lend a hand when Danarius shows up.”
“Ah—thank you. I have been on the run for three years, and not many people have offered me their help for nothing in exchange. Danarius has a way of finding me—perhaps it is the markings? Whatever the means, it never takes him long to follow. This is the first time I’ve given him reason to pause. I suppose there are advantages in numbers.”
“Haven’t you sought help before?”
“Hirelings, when I could steal the coin. Never anyone of substance—until you. Danarius will not give up, however. I await his return.”
“What if he does give up? What then?”
“Then I go to him. I will not live with a wolf at my back.”
“I suppose I understand. I would rather not live with the constant fear of getting caught.”
Fenris nodded at him in acknowledgement. “If it comes to that. I doubt it will.”
“If you’re looking to start a life, you could stay. I can help you.”
“I can see myself staying, for the right reasons.” Hawke saw the ghost of a smile on Fenris’ lips. “I…should thank you again for helping me against the hunters. Had I known Anso would find me a man so capable, I might have asked him to look sooner.”
“Maybe I should be thanking Anso.” Hawke could not stop the smile creeping on his face.
“Maybe you should.” There was amusement in Fenris’ voice. “Perhaps I’ll practice my flattery for your next visit? With any luck, I’ll become better at it.”
Fenris walked Hawke back to the door, Hawke with the promise that he would be coming back in the morning so Fenris could come along on a mission Varric recently informed him of. Fenris thanked him. Back in his bed in Gamlen’s house, he hid his face in his hands. He could not get Fenris’ smile out of his thoughts.
The elven alienage was much more welcoming during the day. With Varric, Anders and Fenris, Hawke went to meet Arianni, an elven woman who requested help. At first it was only a rumour, but Varric finally had enough leads to confirm them. Something about her missing mage son, Feynriel. Fenris was obviously not thrilled at the idea of helping a mage, but he was in Hawke’s debt. They spent most of the day travelling in the city, asking people questions. Hawke noticed Fenris’ eyes wander around when they were in the Gallows.
“I’ve…heard about the Circle of Magi outside the Imperium, but I’ve never been in one.” His eyes lingered on a copper statue, then went to Hawke, to the glaive strapped to his back. “Are you certain it’s wise for you to be here?”
“Maybe not,” Hawke truthfully answered. “But I’ll be cautious.”
“This seems more like a prison. I wonder if it’s more effective than the Circle I know.”
“How is the Imperial Circle of Magi different?” Hawke was curious, but he was careful with what he was asking. Already Anders was boiling with anger.
“Once upon a time, it was as it is here. The Chantry watched the Magisters closely for any sign of corruption or weakness. Then it changed. The Magisters were permitted to watch over their own, and Templars only kept to enforce the law.”
“As it should be,” Anders objected. Fenris ignored him.
“What happened next was inevitable. The Magisters rule again, as powerful as they ever were.” There was disdain in Fenris’ voice. Almost disgust.
“You’re saying the same thing could happen here?” Hawke asked in bewilderment.
“If the mages were permitted to be their own watchers? Of course. It is too easy for a mage to resort to blood magic if they feel the need is great enough.”
“As easy as it is to resort to a sword! You were created as a living weapon. Should you not be trusted with your own freedom?” Anders argued.
“My powers are not controlled by a demon,” Fenris snapped. “A mage can desire power, justice, revenge, protection…any cause will do, and then they are lost.”
“You can’t say all mages are corrupt,” Hawke tried to reason.
“All I’m saying is the Imperium offers no answer. All that Andraste did long ago to end the tyranny of magic has been undone.”
“She ended the tyranny of magic and replaced it with an entirely new one,” Anders maintained.
“Considering all that magic has done to my homeland and my race, I weep for your predicament.” Hawke could see fire between Fenris and Anders. He quickly understood that they would most likely never get along. Fenris kept going, this time looking at Hawke. “Power corrupts, as they say, and mages have power enough already.”
“There must be some other way to deal with this. The Circle should be a place of learning. You said yourself that it looked like a prison,” Hawke said. “If they are always living in fear of being made Tranquil, or even being killed, of course the mages will be more tempted to turn to blood magic.”
“Hm. I may not agree with your stance, but at least you know how to make a point,” Fenris’ eyes darted to Anders. “But enough of this. We came here for something, we should move on.”
Ser Thrask did not provide much information about where Feynriel could be, but he did give them the name of someone who might know. Samson, a supposedly retired Templar helping mages hide. Night fell when they left the Gallows. Hawke lead the way to Darktown. No one uttered a word of the conversation that occurred just before.
“Samson? I was told you could help me find a mage, his name is Feynriel,” Hawke said. Samson turned to him and the smell of bile, sweat and thunder reached his nose.
“Heh. Ol’ Vincento said someone might come sniffing around. As for the boy, there’s not much I can do for you.”
“Is it true you’re helping apostate escaping from Templars?” Anders asked.
“The mages I help, they’re no more than children, newly discovered their magic, and terrified. Barely left their mothers’ skirts and now we’re saying they got to be locked away for their own good. That demons are hunting them. Do you wonder they run?”
“Not at all, actually,” Hawke replied. He got back on track. “What can you tell us about Feynriel? Did you meet him?”
“Afraid so. Blighter was dead broke though, not a silver on him. I help one mageling for free and I’ll never get paid again.”
“But you said you were helping children!” Hawke argued. “How are they supposed to pay a fee?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Samson interrupted. “I pointed him to a ship captain I know. Reiner. Sometimes, he’ll take on runaways. Took another apostate last week—girl I sent him. Might’ve gone wrong, though. I heard rumours he took the both of them captive instead.”
Hawke’s heart sank. “Please tell me it’s not too late to save him.”
“Rumour has it Reiner had the pair locked in a quays warehouse. Somewhere close to the dockside. You want to go looking, you might find the lad before he gets ransomed to the Templars. Or worse.”
“Right. Thank you.” He walked away from Samson until he was far enough to talk to his friends. “I know it’s late, but we can’t risk losing him. His life is in danger, I’m afraid he’ll be dead if we wait too long.”
“Lead the way, Hawke,” Varric said.
“This boy may be a mage, but I would not see him become a slave,” Fenris added. “I am ready when you are.”
The four of them made their way to the docks.
They reached Arthuris' private dock without harm. It was another story when they entered. Hawke did not notice the trap right in front of the door, and his leg got caught in metal claws, making him shout in pain. The others had no time to help. A group of heavily armed marines was just waiting for them to arrive and they unsheathed their swords at the sight of them. Caught in his trap, Hawke could not do much. Fenris rushed forward with his great sword, assuming Carver’s usual role. Varric was too busy with other archers that he did not have the time to free Hawke from the trap. Anders managed to slip through the room and attacked from a distance. Hawke swirled his staff, cringing with every move. He could feel blood dripping down his ankle and flooding his boot—a new pair on top of that. When the fight was over, Varric ran to him first. He fiddled with the mechanism until it snapped open and freed Hawke’s leg. He sighed in relief. Anders insisted to heal him, but Hawke did not want him to waste his magic over that. Fenris eyed him with concern. Hawke took the lead again, limping just slightly. Pain shot up his leg with every step, but he did not let it show. He walked up the stairs and heard the commotion.
“Get a hold of her!” a man shouted.
“Please, help me—anyone!” the girl Samson talked about pleaded.
“Get the hands! I hear they can’t do no spells without hands!”
Hawke ran forward, but it was too late. Already, he felt a demon come through to the mortal realm and possess the poor girl. She rose to her feet, an abomination, and attacked her captors. “You know nothing of magic!” she yelled.
The fight was short. The abomination killed most of the men, so there was only her left. Hawke did not want to kill her, but he knew that there was no way back from that. Fenris was the one who gave the final blow. Her body returned to normal, the demon having no reason to stay. On her body, Hawke found a letter.
“That poor girl,” Anders said. “Who do you suppose she was?”
“Ser Thrask’s daughter. Her name was Olivia.” Hawke passed his hand over Olivia’s eyes to close them. He would inform Ser Thrask of the location of her body so he could retrieve it if he wished. Varric pulled him out of his thoughts.
“I found something!” he shouted. “In that chest, accounts of what Reiner did with his ‘cargo’. Feynriel was sold to a certain Danzig. I suggest we pay him a visit.”
“Hawke, just let me take care of your leg, please? Maker knows how long it’ll be before we find the boy.”
Hawke shook his head. “I’ll just take a potion, it’ll be fine. Hand me one?”
Anders sighed, took out a vial and handed it to Hawke, who quickly drank it. His walk did not improve. They exited the warehouse and were on their way, once again to Darktown. Hawke distanced himself from the others, but Fenris caught up to him.
“Your men are tired—you are tired. We should take a break. Two hours at most, until sunrise,” Fenris suggested.
“But we have to keep going—”
“I doubt this Danzig will show himself in the middle of the night.” Hawke stared at him, then gave in. He stopped in his tracks and asked Anders if they could rest in his clinic. It was the nearest place they could stay. Anders agreed. They pulled crates to use as seats. Hawke did not miss Varric’s sigh of relief when he sat down. He finally admitted to himself that he was quite tired. Sleeping was however out of the question. Feynriel was their priority.
Hawke removed his shredded boot to assess the damage done by the bear trap. There were deep incisions going around his shin. The potion stopped the bleeding but did nothing for the possible broken bone. While Varric and Fenris talked and Anders was busy with patients, Hawke quickly crafted a makeshift splint for his leg and put his boot back over it. He anxiously glanced outside, waiting for the first rays of the sun. As soon as they showed, Hawke gathered his party and they were on the move. It took them only minutes to find Danzig, who was surrounded by slavers.
“Why, look here, boys. Volunteers! Clap ‘em up in irons, and let’s see what the Tevinters will pay for them,” the vile man said. Hawke saw Fenris tense up. He gave him a nod.
“Can you make him talk?” Hawke asked.
“I’d love to,” Fenris answered, his markings lighting up as he shoved a hand through Danzig’s chest. He removed it quickly, but the pain was enough to have Danzig fall to his knees in agony.
“Andraste’s great flaming ass! How did you do that?” he shouted. “N—never mind. I’ve stashed the boy in a cave. A smuggler hideout on the Wounded Coast. Tevinters will be by to finish the deal today. Now, c—can I go?”
“I let you live, and I condemn countless innocents to slavery,” Hawke answered. With only a nod from Hawke, Fenris finished the job and killed him. The others immediately attacked. There seemed to be slavers everywhere. When Hawke thought they were done, more ran down the stairs to overwhelm them. He was exhausted once it was over.
“We have no time to lose, let’s go to the Wounded Coast,” Hawke declared.
The holding caves were filled with giant spiders and smugglers. This time, Varric was in front to make sure that no one would get injured in a trap. They made quick work of their foes, finally arriving at the end of the cave.
“Take one more step, or the boy dies!” the leader yelled. He had a knife at Feynriel’s throat.
“Varric, tell this man who we are,” Hawke said. His eyes remained on Feynriel.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t be threatening the Viscount’s son,” Varric warned. Hawke smiled.
“What?” the man whispered.
“Oh, I suppose you got a tip from a slaver that he was selling mage-flesh cheap. You never thought to ask where he got it? You never wondered if you were buying the Viscount’s well-known love child from his elven mistress, the boy he swore to protect even if it meant razing the entire Free Marches?”
The smuggler hesitated. “I seek no war with the Free Marches. Take the lad to his father.”
“Fine, but you won’t walk out of here alive.”
“Damnation! Get down you, you’re no good to me as a corpse!”
Hawke really needed to stop his habit of getting into fights constantly. His leg was pulsing with pain as he casted spells and stabbed people who walked too close to him. The leader was the hardest to defeat. He kept vanishing into thin air and Hawke was worried he would use it at his advantage to take Feynriel away. Hawke never stopped searching the room and tried to predict where he would come up again. He saw him appear behind Fenris, his daggers drawn, and Hawke barely had time to freeze him in place. Fenris quickly turned and ran his sword through him. It was over. Hawke ran to Feynriel.
“You would have let him kill me!” Feynriel accused, clearly irritated. “He had a sword at my throat and you just…I mean, thank you, but… What if you were wrong?”
“You were too valuable for him to kill,” Hawke answered.
“Is that my choice? Prisoner or slave?” Feynriel took a breath to calm down. “Who are you? Are you working for the Templars?”
“Your mother sent me.”
“Huh. Hardly a difference. I can’t believe her! My whole life, it was all promises that she would love and protect me forever. Then, I have some bad dreams and it’s off to the Templars!”
“I’m here to help you, Feynriel.”
“Why? You don’t even know me!”
Hawke answered by summoning a small beacon of light in his palm. Feynriel’s eyes widened. “I’m just like you. I would not let one of my own go to the Circle.”
“Is there any way you can bring me to the Dalish? That’s where I was trying to go. I’m as much Dalish as I am human.”
“We can try, but I have to warn you that you will be alone among the Dalish. Even more than a Dalish would be here.”
“Compared to being held prisoner? Or being made Tranquil? I’ll risk being lonely. Look, I know it’s different in other kingdoms, but here? No one helps Circle mages. Anything the Templars don’t like, you get the brand.”
“He’s right on that count,” Anders said.
“But the Dalish,” Feynriel continued. “They’ve had magic forever. They could teach me! I won’t be a danger, I swear.”
“The Keeper trains him, keeps him safe from demons, no one gets locked up. Sounds like a winning plan!” Anders approved.
“Because no Dalish mage ever went astray,” Fenris mused.
“Is it true you’re plagued by nightmares already?” Hawke asked.
“I think so… I’ve had dreams, voices, telling me to bring them to this world, give them shape…” Feynriel was lost in his thoughts. “But the Dalish Keeper is wise! If anyone can help, she can.”
“I know the Keeper. I’ll make sure she takes you in,” Hawke declared. There was no way he was sending this boy in the Circle.
“Then…she does not hate humans? Oh, you don’t know what a relief that is. I knew she could help me! Thank the Creators you were the one my mother hired to help me. I will forever be in your debt, friend.”
“Come on,” Hawke said. “We’ll take you there.”
On the way to Sundermount, Feynriel would not stop asking Hawke questions. About his magic, how he was not in a Circle, what spells he liked to cast better, how to deal with the nightmares, how to resist the voices’ temptations. Hawke answered all of them. Feynriel then moved on to questions about the Dalish. His mother told him so much about them, but he never got to see them in real life. Exhausted, Hawke smiled and let Varric do the talking. Fenris joined Hawke moments later.
“Was it wise to let him go to the Dalish? What if he becomes an abomination?” Fenris sounded angry. “Mages should stay in Circles.”
“I fear for what would happen to him if he were to be in the Gallows,” Hawke answered, looking at the clouds.
“You will have to live with the consequences if something goes wrong,” Fenris warned.
“I think we can trust the Keeper. We already know she disapproves of blood magic. She will not encourage Feynriel down that path. She will watch out for him.”
“If you say so…”
Hawke finally caught a glimpse of the clan’s aravels, with their orange sails floating in the wind. Hawke glanced at Fenris, who seemed as impressed as Feynriel. The boy ran ahead of them, but Hawke quickly caught his sleeve.
“It would be better if I were to do the talking,” he said to Feynriel. They walked together until they found the Keeper. She eyed the boy, then looked to Hawke, frowning. “This boy’s mother is Arianni, one of your own. Her son is in need of help. I promise I would do anything to get him somewhere safe, and I could not accept that he was to be sent to the Circle.”
“What is your name, child?” the Keeper asked.
“Feynriel. My mother told me a lot about you,” he answered, smiling.
“I’m sure she did,” Marethari said. “I can take you with us. However, the others might not be so welcoming. You see, you may be half elf, but you still…”
The Keeper turned to leave, with Feynriel in tow. She gave Hawke a small nod, then went on with her explanations. Hawke made his way outside the camp, closely followed by Fenris, Varric and Anders. Finally, he would be able to return home and sleep. His leg would appreciate it. At the gates of the city, Fenris and Anders went in different directions with quick farewells. Fenris thanked Hawke for letting him come along. Hawke promised he would see him again soon.
Hawke and Varric walked to Lowtown together. It was well in the evening, and Hawke was exhausted. Varric tried to convince him to get some drinks, but he politely declined. Varric gave him a look, half-suspicion and half-worry.
“Keep me updated about that leg of yours,” he said before opening the door of the Hanged Man.
“Of course,” Hawke smiled. Varric returned it, but it did not quite reach his eyes. He knew something was up. Hawke started walking and Varric closed the door. When Hawke finally arrived home, he pressed a kiss on his mother’s head, then went to take a bath to wash the grime of the last few days away. He lifted his injured leg out of the water. Healing it seemed pointless. In any case, he did not feel like he deserved having it healed. He wanted to keep the memento of the scars circling his leg, just above his ankle. He leaned his head against the back of the tub and sighed. For one day, he would like not to have to be anyone. He wished he was still in Lothering.
The next days were hectic. Completing task after task, collecting coin until it no longer fit in Hawke’s purse. He had to find a hiding place to make sure that Gamlen would not put his hands on it. He enchanted the bag, too, to further assure that no one but him could open it. On the streets, he lost count of how many people wanted to kill him. After he refused to kill a noble who was helping out Ferelden refugees, Meeran said he would regret it. Hawke paid that price with unexpected daggers grazing his skin and an ambush. Thankfully, he had help to defeat him. He got out of the fight with new scars on his back.
One day, after getting rid of a group of pirates, as well as discovering a government conspiracy, Hawke counted the gold coins he had in his purse and was astonished to discover he had enough for the expedition. He hid the money again, then left the house to go visit Fenris. In his arms, he brought a large basket with food and blankets. He had suggested that he would help his friend settle in the house. He would not even be surprised to know that bodies still littered the hallways. He pressed the basket against his hip to free one of his hands and knock with the other. Fenris opened the door seconds later.
“I’ve brought supplies,” Hawke said, smiling.
“You really did not have to do that,” Fenris replied.
“Please,” Hawke walked in the mansion. “I know you must be freezing in there.”
Fenris rolled his eyes, tried to hide the small smile he could not repress and let Hawke set the basket down in his room, which was definitely the cleanest space in the house. Hawke pulled his hair back and tied it with a thin leather strap to keep it away from his face. He rolled his sleeves up, put his hands on his hips and glanced at Fenris.
“Let’s get to work, shall we?”
They spent the next hours scouting every room of the vast mansion, scrubbing floors and walls, Hawke intentionally avoiding using magic to help. Fenris was grateful, although he did not voice it. He hoped the small smiles were enough. Sometimes however, magic was necessary. When they stumbled upon a dead body, which happened a lot more often then Hawke wanted, Hawke would levitate the body off the floor and put it outside, where it could be safely…disposed of. Room after room, they cleaned, moved bodies away, threw out broken furniture, put books back on the shelves, swept the floors and straightened paintings and portraits until their stomachs rumbled with hunger. They took a small break, eating bread, cheese and apples on the floor of the room they were currently working on.
Fenris was dusting off a dresser when he froze. His eyes had wandered up the wall, to the portrait hung above the wooden piece of furniture. A likeness of Danarius, and it was so accurate and realistic that it was like standing in front of him once again. Hawke’s humming stopped. Fenris heard footsteps behind him, felt a new warmth at his side. His eyes would not leave the painting.
“Danarius?” Hawke asked. Fenris nodded. Hawke moved, reaching up to grab both sides of the frame and Fenris almost stopped him by force of habit, a twitch in his arms, his fingers curling over nothing, backing away when he realized what his body was doing without his head controlling his limbs. Hawke plucked the picture off the wall and walked outside, Fenris on his heels. He set the painting down on the gravel.
“Do you want me to do it?” Hawke asked, a small flame in his palm. Fenris shook his head. He ran back in, found his sword and brought it outside, where Hawke was waiting. With a nod, Hawke lifted the painting off the ground and held it in the air with magic. Fenris slashed though it with a scream. He felt his markings light up, the pain worsening. The two broken pieces floated still, so Fenris kept going. He cut again and again and again until the painting appeared to be more like dust than a frame, wood, and a canvas.
“Stand back,” Hawke warned. Fenris listened and Hawke snapped his fingers. Whatever was left of that likeness was burned away in seconds. They walked back in the mansion side by side. Fenris did not look back at the pile of ashes.
Night had fallen when all the rooms had finally been ordered. Fenris could finally breathe and smell clean air instead of decaying bodies and dried blood. He made a mental note to thank Hawke later for helping. Without him, he doubted he would have done much in the house. They retreated back to Fenris’ room, although now he could use any he wanted, and sat at the table by the fireplace. Fenris brought a bottle of wine and two glasses.
“Would you like some?” he asked Hawke.
“Please,” Hawke courteously agreed. “I never had the chance to drink Tevinter wine.”
“I hate to bring your hopes up, but it tastes like despair and tears of slaves,” Fenris deadpanned. He could not hide the smile on his lips when Hawke laughed.
“You actually made a joke! I can’t believe it!”
They drank together, glass after glass, but not so much to get themselves completely drunk. The tips of Fenris’ ears felt warmer than usual.
“Your magic…It doesn’t feel like the one the Magisters use,” Fenris said, softly. Hawke smiled at him.
“I was always better at healing. Besides, my father did not want me and Bethany to use flashy fire spells, or anything dangerous. I used my magic to make scraped knees disappear, help out on the farm, or solve little issues in the village,” Hawke replied.
“Were you not scared of the Templars?”
“Of course I was. We used to move around a lot to avoid them. But, in Lothering, we didn’t want to leave. We had a lot of friends there, and me and Bethany were older. My parents were not as afraid that there would be accidents. So, we stayed. Until, well.” Hawke’s eyes left Fenris’ and stared at the floor instead. Hawke never pried when Fenris did not want to talk about something, so he dropped it.
“Why—how does your magic feel so gentle?” Fenris asked, changing the subject. Hawke immediately lightened up.
“I’m a healer,” he simply replied.
“I’ve seen your eyes glow sometimes. Are you like that abomination?”
“No! No, not exactly. I do call on the help of spirits, but I’m not possessed, not permanently anyway.” Fenris flinched ever so slightly, just enough for Hawke to notice. “When we came to Kirkwall, we came across a hoard of darkspawn. There was an ogre among them. Bethany ran forward—I still don’t understand why she did that, she never really used close-combat magic… She ran forward, and the ogre caught her in its hand,” Hawke’s voice was barely a whisper. He closed his eyes. Fenris’ hand twitched, so close to Hawke’s.
“It crushed her,” he continued. “Carver killed the beast when I went to her side. I tried to do something, but I wasn’t powerful enough. I felt—something, through the Fade. Calling to me, offering help. I accepted. My magic had never been so strong before. We worked together, but…it was too late. The spirit told me to let her go, and I had to. It left me, but it’s always close, ready to help if ever I need it.”
“I’m—” Fenris did not quite know how to reply to Hawke’s confession. “I am sorry for your loss, Hawke.”
“Thank you.” Hawke’s smile was sincere. “I hope I didn’t scare you off, with that spirit business.”
“Hardly,” Fenris replied, taking a sip of his wine. “You’re not like the other mages I’ve met.”
“Much more good looking, right?” Hawke asked with a humorous tone.
“Don’t push your luck.”
Shorter chapter this time, sorry about that!
Hawke met Varric in the Lowtown market by morning. With the extra money, he thought he would try to update his and Carver’s gear for the expedition. Maybe better armour, or new boots. After getting caught in that bear trap, Hawke really needed new boots. Hawke had not specifically asked Varric to come with him, it was rather a joyful coincidence that they both occurred to be in the market. Hawke used this to his advantage, as Varric was a much more skilled negotiator than he.
“Should you be spending that coin?” Varric asked as Hawke gave Gamlen’s house address for the plate armour to be delivered. “You have an expedition to finance.”
“Don’t worry, I set some aside. Besides, I’ve got more than I need,” Hawke replied. Varric stared at him.
“You got the fifty sovereigns.” It was more a statement than a question.
“I do,” Hawke laughed.
“How?” Varric was clearly in shock. “I mean, I know you’ve been working your ass off these past days, but fifty sovereigns? In that amount of time? You’re not human. Or you can make gold appear from nothing. That must be it.”
“Aren’t you a storyteller? I’m sure you’ll find the tale of how ‘Hawke got rich overnight’.”
Varric stepped on his toes for that one. Hawke only laughed more. “Since you’ve got some more coin you can use, maybe we should organize something, with all the others!”
“So, you tell me not to spend my money and now you’re encouraging that I risk losing it all in Wicked Grace? I’m not sure I follow, Varric.”
“Aw come on, you’re not that bad…” Varric pleaded.
“Did you forget that time you only left me a glove and I had to walk all the way back to Gamlen’s house completely naked?”
“I had to terrorize you at least once, I won’t let that happen again. You can trust me!”
“Fenris is awfully good at cards, maybe he’ll win my money,” Hawke argued.
“Bah, you’ll just have to make him sweet eyes and he’ll give it back.”
Hawke playfully pushed Varric aside and they walked to the Hanged Man together, the dwarf’s laughter echoing in the streets. In the tavern, Varric quickly wrote letters to inform the others of tonight’s plan: a great night partying before their departure in the Deep Roads. Hawke thought little that it would maybe be the last time he would see them all. Many who ventured the Deep Roads did not get out alive. He stayed with Varric until night came and their friends joined them. Isabela was already at the tavern, so she only walked to their table. Merrill was second to arrive, followed by Anders, Aveline and finally Fenris. Varric pushed Hawke so he could greet him. Hawke barely had enough time to calm his heartbeat and let his face cool.
“Hey Fenris,” Hawke said, rubbing the back of his head. “I’m happy to see you here.”
“I wasn’t sure about it, but seeing you’re leaving soon, I thought it would be nice to spend time with you—and the others,” Fenris replied. They both stood a bit too far from each other, not knowing what to do.
“Well,” Hawke coughed, “we have a table already, come on!”
When they sat, Varric was in a tale about how Hawke hoarded gold in his uncle’s house and slept on it like a dragon. Hawke listened, waiting until Varric finished. His story had attracted a few listeners around the table who were eager to meet the fabled man, but Varric chased them away when he was done. He winked at Hawke, who rolled his eyes and took the cards that were handed to him. He looked at Fenris just in time to see him chuckle at Varric’s nonsensical tale. Hawke glanced at his cards and sighed; it was not looking good for him.
“Come on, Hawke, Varric keeps telling us stories, but what about you? There must be something you can share,” Isabela suggested.
“Something that wasn’t exaggerated by Varric, too,” Anders insisted.
Hawke set his mug of ale down. He looked at Aveline, hoping to be able to avoid it, but she was no help. The grin on his face was definitely not a friendly, sympathetic one. Sighing, he kept his cards close to him and tried to quickly find an amusing tale they had not heard yet. Something Varric would not know.
“How about,” he started, “that time Carver broke my nose when we had just arrived in Lothering?” The cheers around him were a good indicator that the memory he had chosen would be appreciated. He continued, his brother was not there to stop him from sharing this embarrassing story. “Carver, Bethany and I were always outside, climbing trees, lifting rocks to find worms and salamanders. I was just fifteen, the twins around eight. We were out on the field while our parents were clearing the rocks and roots to see if we could grow crops. Since I was the oldest, I was always the one lifting rubble and the twins would look under.”
“That’s nice, Hawke,” Merrill said.
“I think it’s just being an older sibling,” Anders pointed out.
“Well Bartrand never did that for me,” Varric argued.
“I don’t think Bartrand is a shining example of an older brother, Varric,” Hawke said.
“Go back to the story!” Isabela shouted.
“Fine,” Hawke sighed. “While I was putting a rock back down, Carver and Bethany had run off further out in the field. After I was done, I walked over to them, but I probably didn’t make enough noise for them to notice me. Carver was trying to lift up a rock on his own, but it took him a lot of effort. I was right behind him when he managed. He got it out of the soil and he flung in it the air, hitting me square in the face.” His audience cringed. Hawke swore he heard Isabela whisper a discreet ‘nice’. “My nose cracked, I obviously screamed, Bethany started crying since I was covered in blood, and Carver was just frozen in place. I think he knew he would be in trouble. When the pain faded, I told him not to worry about it. We got back home, he got grounded, but Mother was not pleased with me, either. Anyway, Father set my nose so it would heal right.”
“He didn’t do a great job…” Anders teased.
“Excuse you! My nose is perfect the way it is,” Hawke laughed. He looked to the side and found Fenris staring at his nose, no doubt trying to find where it broke. He hid his blush in his cards. The game resumed.
Isabela ended up passed out underneath the table while Aveline stood upon it and sang traditional Ferelden songs. Most patrons of the Hanged Man were too drunk to scowl at her, rather listening, cheering and offering to get her more drinks. Varric had been forbidden to keep playing after they all noticed that he was cheating. Hawke did lose all the coin he put aside for the game to Fenris, as he had predicted. Fenris had the suit of Songs, four cards of the same set, when the Angel of Death was dealt in. Hawke, with his three Angels, thought he would do fine, but Fenris’ bluff was his downfall. Before too much attention was on him because of Aveline, Hawke walked out of the tavern, followed by Fenris. Varric caught them, exchanging a glare with Hawke and winking at him. Hawke quickly looked away.
Outside, the air cooled his warm skin. The Hanged Man was crowded, and it eventually became too much for Hawke—the people, the noise, the smells, everything. He noticed that Fenris was equally relieved to be away from that space. They stood closer this time, just at arm’s length. Fenris’ hair looked so soft, almost glowing in the moonlight. Hawke cleared his throat.
“I, uh, I hope you had fun!”
“Your friends are…interesting, to say the least,” Fenris replied. Hawke smiled at him. “I should probably give you your coin back, now that we are alone. I should not take your money, especially when you’re heading in the Deep Roads soon.”
“No, please, keep it. I let Varric bring me into this because I had money to spare. You don’t.”
“Then let me come along.”
“I was lucky I could even bring Carver and Anders with me… I’m sorry Fenris,” Hawke said. He avoided Fenris’ eyes.
“You’re bringing the abomination with you?” Fenris sounded almost angry. Outraged, probably.
“He used to be a Grey Warden, he can sense the darkspawn, he can help if something goes wrong,” Hawke argued. “I would bring you instead of Carver, but he’s so excited about this, I don’t think he’d forgive me if I left him in Kirkwall.”
Fenris stepped closer to Hawke. “Then just—” Fenris started. “Be careful.” He offered Hawke his hand. Hawke took it and shook it. He held it longer than he should have. He gave Fenris a nod, knowing better than to make a joke, then left the side alley they were in and quickly returned home.
“Glad to see you fully clothed this time,” Carver loudly said as Hawke walked in.
“Isn’t it late for you to still be awake, Carver? We leave to the Deep Roads tomorrow,” Hawke teased back.