A/N: This is meant to be set somewhere in early Act III, taking the place of Fenris' companion quest, Alone. In one of my husband's play-throughs, his mage chick romanced Fenris, but didn't manage to have any luck until Act III, so I decided to write this as if Hawke epicfailed her chance to romance our favorite broody elf in Act II. Also, I totally wanted to see Isabela's ship.
I have not fully canvassed all the DAII fanfic, so if any of this seems eerily similar to something you've already read or written yourself, know it was not intentional. Any familiar dialogue, characters, locations, etc., belong to the peeps over at Bioware.
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory
– Prometheus Unbound, Percy Bysshe Shelley
Bang, bang, bang!
Marian Hawke made a number of loud, disparaging remarks about the much maligned state of Andraste's underclothes as fresh ink splattered across her carefully worded reply to the unexpected summons from Knight-Commander Meredith's office. As she blotted ineffectually at the stationary with an old handkerchief, her concentration was further disrupted by Riley as he raced to the door, barking loudly.
"I'll get that, Messere!" said Bohdan, trotting out of the library towards the door as the ill-timed visitor banged again.
Hawke sighed heavily, looked up at the front hall clock, and frowned. Who would looking for her at this hour? Anyone she knew should be at The Hanged Man getting ready for the first Wicked Grace game of the weekend – or at evening prayers at the Chantry. Hawke slid back her chair and stood up, giving her ruined letter a last mournful look before following Bodahn to the door. As she crossed the entrance hall, Bodahn opened the door and stepped back to reveal a familiar but unexpected face.
"Isabela!" said Hawke, eyebrows shooting up in surprise as she tried to reign in her excited Mabari. "I didn't think you were still in the city."
Riley jumped up, trying very hard to land a lick or two on Isabela's face. Once upon a time, this might have startled or irritated her, but Isabela was used to the big war dog by now, and merely sidestepped his advances.
"Hey now!" said Hawke, patting Riley on the head. "You go back with Bodahn and maybe Sandal will run around in the garden with you."
The mabari whined, clearly torn between fully investigating the new arrival, and the appeal of a romp in the garden. Riley glanced into the hall and then turned back to Isabela, now sniffing interestedly at one of the pockets in her tunic.
"Found me out, have you?" asked Isabela, reaching into the pocket.
She produced a dried pig's ear, one of Riley's favorite chew treats, and threw it to him with a small flick of her wrist. Riley caught it easily, gave a whuff of delight, and ran back into the estate, heading for the back door and the garden.
"Excuse me, Messeres," said Bodahn. He gave them a friendly smile as he went back into the front hall. They could hear him encouraging Sandal to follow Riley into the garden.
"I know, I know," said Isabela dramatically as Hawke raised an eyebrow at her. "I should be halfway to Antiva by now, wind in my sails, bound for adventure on the high seas..."
"Instead you're here, hammering away at my front door, and bringing treats to my dog, who you insist on pretending you dislike," said Hawke. "Not that I'm not glad to see you, but I thought you were Void-bound on getting out of Kirkwall."
Isabela leaned against the doorway, apparently suddenly very interested in her fingernails. "Yes, well," she said, "I've found Kirkwall to be somewhat lacking in potential crew members."
"Really?" said Hawke doubtfully. "I would have thought you'd have a horde of desperate men falling all over themselves at the prospect of having you as their captain."
"Desperate being the key word there," said Isabela, "That's the problem. Desperate men can only be trusted so far. I'm happy to have desperate men swabbing the decks and mending the sails, but," she looked up at Hawke with poorly disguised hope, "I need a first mate I can trust."
"Isabela..." Hawke started uncertainly,
"Join my crew," said Isabela boldly. "Kirkwall is a disaster waiting to happen and you know it."
"You know I can't," said Hawke. "I have –"
"A sexy, glowering elf with a troubled past?" Isabela interjected. She shrugged. "Bring him along. Maker knows I wouldn't mind having him around all the time."
Hawke felt her cheeks growing hot. "That's not what I was going to say..."
"Just think of it," Isabela continued over her, "Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, limited space to hide in... eventually he'd have to remove that armor."
Hawke blushed even deeper and Isabela smirked.
"Well, if it isn't Fenris, then what lure does Kirkwall hold that's better than the wind in your hair and an unexplored horizon?"
"Maybe you haven't heard," said Hawke in a lofty tone, "But I'm rather well known around the city. Surely you remember that scuffle with the Qunari a few years back? Some business involving the Arishok, a promiscuous thief, and a very attractive and talented rogue..."
"I have a vague memory, yes," said Isabela wryly.
"Then you know I can't just up and leave," said Hawke. "How would it look if The Champion of Kirkwall suddenly abandoned everything, and ran away with the afore-mentioned promiscuous thief?"
"That sounds like the promising start to a very steamy romance," said Isabela, leaning against the doorframe, and batting her eyelashes in an exaggerated manner.
Hawke rolled her eyes.
"Fine," Isabela pouted, "Stay here and be boring. See if I care." She crossed her arms suddenly and narrowed her eyes. "Are you're sure this has nothing to do with the elf?"
"It's really not like that, Isabela."
"Oh come on, Hawke," Isabela said with a smirk. "The sexual tension between you two is so thick I could stick a peg in it and hang a hat. You've been dancing around each other for six years, and you're telling me in all that time you haven't once had your dirty little way with him?"
A noblewoman passing by gave them a reproachful look at Isabela's words, and Hawke wondered if her face might not just catch on fire.
"Don't say things like that out here!" she hissed, grabbing Isabela by the upper arm and yanking her inside.
"Don't change the subject," said Isabela, a grin spreading over her face as Hawke hurriedly shut the door. "Have you, or have you not, made wild and glowy -"
Hawke slapped a hand over Isabela's mouth to keep her from finishing the question as Bodahn came out of the study and headed up the stairs.
"No, all right?" said Hawke when the dwarf had gone out of earshot again. "I haven't."
Isabela sighed. "Well that's disappointing," she said, "I was so sure I was going to win that bet."
"Bet?" Hawke squeaked.
"Oh sure," said Isabela, waving a casual hand. "We've had a pool going since before all that mess with the Qunari."
"We who?" asked Hawke, her voice dropping dangerously.
Isabela ignored the ominous tone. "Oh you know, me and Varric of course -"
"I'll kill him," said Hawke.
Hawke groaned and hid her face in her hands.
"Even that guardsman she just married, Donny or Donnis..."
"Donnic," Hawke supplied dully.
"That's the one. He added five sovereigns a week ago."
"What was this bet exactly?" Hawke asked, her voice muffled by her fingers.
"That you and a certain Tevinter fugitive of our mutual acquaintance were having angry, passionate, possibly dangerous, and very exciting sex."
"Maker preserve me," Hawke moaned into her hands. "Isabela," she looked up at the other woman, "If you were ever my friend, please kill me now."
Isabela laughed. "Calm down, Hawke. The elf doesn't know about it. Besides, that was only part of the bet."
"There's more?" Hawke asked, aghast.
"Of course there's more," said Isabela, rolling her eyes. "Varric bet that you would be the one to initiate, Merrill put down fifty silvers that he'd bring you flowers and sweep you off your feet," Isabela snorted loudly. "Poor thing. She wanted to put down more, but we wouldn't let her."
Hawke laughed despite her humiliation.
"Let's see," Isabela continued, tapping a finger against her chin. "Aveline laid five sovereigns down that you and Fenris had an ill-fated tryst several years ago, Donnic added his gold to Aveline's bet, and Anders -"
"No!" Hawke said, grabbing one of Isabela's hands. "Please tell me you didn't involve poor Anders in this!"
"He found out about a year ago," said Isabela, "I wasn't around obviously, but Varric tells me he bet that you and Fenris had never touched each other and never would."
Hawke threw her hands up into the air and went over to collapse into the chair in front of the writing desk. "You do realize," she said morosely, "That I can never show my face outside this estate again, right?"
"Don't be ridiculous," said Isabela, "I'm taking you to The Hanged Man right now. We're playing Wicked Grace tonight."
"You can't be serious," said Hawke.
"Oh, lighten up," said Isabela, "Don't you want to know what my part of the bet was?"
"Not really," said Hawke, "But I'm sure you'll tell me anyways."
"You know me so well," said Isabela, "I bet that one of you would throw the other against a wall in a fit of pique and things would go from there."
"Andraste give me strength..." said Hawke, burying her head in her arms.
"Come on," cajoled Isabela, "Tell me at least one of those things happened."
"I'm not telling you anything," mumbled Hawke.
"You have to give me something," said Isabela, "I'm literally dying to know. There's a lot of coin on the line here!"
Hawke pursed her lips. "If I tell you anything – and I'm not saying there's anything to tell – I better not go for a drink next week and hear about it in Varric's latest story. You'd have to swear secrecy."
"Hmmm..." Isabela mulled it over. "I get to find out what happened – if anything happened, but I can't tell anyone, thus making me unable to collect on the bet if I win. How about you tell me, and if I win, I'll split the pot with you?"
"Take it or leave it," said Hawke, crossing her arms.
"Oh fine!" said Isabela. "I'm too curious to pass up this opportunity so just tell me, and I'll keep my mouth shut."
"There's a first time for everything."
"You were half right," said Hawke reluctantly.
"Which half?" asked Isabela, grinning again.
"The part about the wall," said Hawke. She looked down at her hands.
"Out with it," ordered Isabela. "There's a story and I want to hear it."
Hawke sighed. "There's not much to tell. We had words, he was... upset, things got a little heated, and I ended up against a wall."
"That's it?" Isabela asked incredulously. "No rage-fueled kissing? No angry sex against the wall?" Her face darkened. "He didn't hurt you did he?"
"What? No!" Hawke said quickly. "No, it wasn't like that, he -" she stopped, gathering her thoughts. "I thought maybe... the way he looked at me... but he left and... it doesn't matter. It was a long time ago."
Hawke felt very melancholy all of sudden.
Isabela noticed the shift in the mood. "Ah well," she said, nudging Hawke's shoulder, "There's always Anders."
Hawke managed a weak chuckle.
"Now, let's go down to Lowtown and cheat the hell out of some Wicked Grace," Isabela said, tugging Hawke up and out of her chair.
"All right, but I'm changing first," said Hawke.
"Fair enough," said Isabela, "Only an idiot would go to Lowtown at night without a full array of weaponry. Let me know if you need any help hiding your daggers," she added with a leer.
"You stay here," said Hawke, sternly. "I'd like to keep what little dignity I have left, also, my valuables."
"I'm a pirate," said Isabela, "I'm supposed to loot fancy mansions."
"I have all the silver candlesticks counted," Hawke said in a warning tone as she ascended the stairs to the upper floor.
"Hey Hawke!" Isabela shouted.
"What?" Hawke asked, leaning back over the balcony.
"Did he at least glow and smolder a bit when he shoved you up against the wall?"
"Shut up, Isabela," snapped Hawke, turning to go to her room."
Isabela's amused voice floated up after her. "That's a yes then?"
Hawke came back down the stairs fifteen minutes later in full leather, daggers strapped to her back.
"You weren't kidding," said Isabela, looking up from where she'd been rifling through Hawke's unopened letters.
"I learned my lesson last week," said Hawke. "If those nutters turn up again, I'll be ready this time."
"Kirkwall does seem to have more than its fair share of crazies," said Isabela. "What was all that nonsense they were screaming about "She."
"Who knows," Hawke shrugged. "I'm ready when you are," she said and headed for the front door.
"We have to make one stop on our way," said Isabela as they stepped outside into the early evening.
"The vendors will have all packed up by this time," said Hawke distractedly as she locked the door behind her.
"I'm not talking about steal – er, buying anything," said Isabela. "I have implicit instructions from Varric to make sure Fenris hauls his lanky backside down to The Hanged Man tonight. He still owes Varric five sovereigns."
"Oh," said Hawke, warily. "All right."
"Don't worry," said Isabela as she started to walk. "I'll behave myself. Mostly."
"I should have handed you over to the Arishok," said Hawke, falling into step beside her. "You're nothing but trouble."
"But then Varric wouldn't be able to tell his epic tale of your heroic duel."
"Heroic my ass," said Hawke, "That big bastard speared me twice before I managed to kill him. I was lucky."
"Lucky you had four extra daggers stashed all over your body?" asked Isabela.
"Two in the boots and one between the breasts," said Hawke. "Every good rogue knows that."
"Yes," agreed Isabela, patting her own front. "But not every rogue has a handsome elf worried enough about her safety to make sure she has a fourth hidden dagger strapped around her stomach." Isabela stopped suddenly and snaked a hand underneath the front of Hawke's tunic.
"Still there, I see," said Isabela, removing her hand and throwing Hawke a sly look. "Did he give that to you before or after he threw you up against a wall?"
Hawke glared at her for a moment. "After," she said and stomped onwards. "What's your point?"
"Nothing!" said Isabela in an innocent tone that Hawke didn't buy for a second. "There's no point. I'm just saying..."
Hawke continued towards Fenris' mansion in needled silence, setting a pace that suggested she was on her own personal Exalted March. Isabela followed in her wake, and even though Hawke didn't look at her, she could feel Isabela's smirk on the back of her neck. The sun had started to set. Most of the merchants had packed up for the day, and Hightown's residents were home eating their evening meals, leaving the streets mostly empty. Glowering darkly, Hawke marched on, not really paying attention to her surroundings until Isabela reached out a hand to stop her.
"Wait," she said, her voice uncharacteristically tense. "Something's not right."
The door to Fenris' usurped estate was wide open, and Hawke frowned. Fenris might not be as worried about security as most of Hightown's denizens, but Hawke couldn't imagine he would just leave his door wide open to any and all that happened to pass by. Isabela already had her daggers in her hands, and Hawke followed suit as they cautiously approached the open door. The entrance hall was dark and Hawke squinted, her eyes slowly acclimating to the lower light as she and Isabela stepped over the threshold.
"Shit!" hissed Isabela as she slipped in a puddle of something on the floor and nearly lost her balance. "Blood," she said, grabbing Hawke's shoulder to right herself. "There's blood all over the floor."
The blood trail went from the door, through the entrance hall, and continued up the stairs. A few bootprints were discernible around the sides of the main swatch of red.
"They were dragging something," said Isabela.
"Fenris!" Hawke yelled into the cavernous entry way. "Fenris, are you here?"
"Andraste's ass, Hawke!" Isabela exclaimed, covering her ears as Hawke's voice echoed loudly. "There could still be intruders in here!"
Hawke didn't give a nug's rear end if she had just alerted an entire ambush to their presence. She ran up the stairs, following the bloody footprints into the back room where Fenris spent most of his time when he was home. She stopped abruptly in the doorway and Isabela slammed into her back.
"Give a girl some warning!" said Isabela.
Hawke ignored her, staring at the mess before her. The room had never been particularly neat; Fenris didn't seem to have much interest in housekeeping, but now it was completely in shambles. The table was overturned, smashed chairs littered the floor, a bottle of wine lay discarded next to the fireplace, and in the middle of the room lay two bodies. A man lay face down in a pool of blood, his hand still clutched around a mages staff. Next to him lay a young female elf, a blackened hole punched through the middle of her chest.
"He's dead," said Isabela, crouching down and feeling the neck of the man for a pulse. "But only recently; the body is still warm."
Hawke pressed her lips together in confusion.
"I don't recognize either of them," she said. "They don't look like they're from Kirkwall. Look at their clothes."
"Definitely not Free Marchers," agreed Isabela. "No, I've seen robes like these before." She gave Hawke a grim look. "This is a Tevinter mage."
"What?" Hawke breathed.
"Look here," said Isabela. She turned the corpse over and pointed to the symbol of a mage staff with two circles embroidered into the front of the robes. "I made port in Miranthous once, and I saw crests like these sewn on all the robes of the magisters and the lower mages. The number of circles around the staff indicates how high up our friend here was. Magisters have five circles, so this guy was probably just a lackey."
"Tevinter slave hunters," Hawke growled.
Isabela nodded, obviously coming to the same conclusion. "But who's the elf girl?"
"I have no idea," said Hawke.
The dead elf was dressed more like a servant than a mage, and Hawke couldn't fathom why Fenris had seen fit to kill her too.
"We need to find him," said Hawke, quickly moving to a side room that she was fairly certain Fenris slept in. "All that blood, he could be hurt."
Her eyes swiftly moved over the unmade bed and usual bedroom furniture, finally coming to rest on a chair in one corner that held the familiar armor. Fenris' sword lay propped against one side. Panic descended swift and hot. Fenris never went anywhere without his armor and weapon.
"Oh, Maker," choked out Hawke, "Danarius." She turned back to face Isabela. "Danarius came back for him!"
"The docks," Isabela said quickly. "If they're heading for Tevinter, they'll go by ship."
They ran from the room, darting around the cooling corpses, and flying down the stairs. As they flashed out of the open front door, Hawke saw the bloody footprints continuing out of the door and wondered how they had missed them on the way in. They sprinted across Hightown and down into Lowtown. As they ran, Hawke cursed Kirkwall and the people that so easily turned a blind eye to violence in the streets.
"How will we find the right pier?" Hawke yelled, jumping an errant chicken as they entered the docks.
"You there!" Isabela shouted at a grubby man loading crates onto a wagon.
The man turned and eyed their weapons in alarm. "These crates are empty, I swear!" he shouting, holding up his hands as they approached.
"I don't give a damn about your bloody crates!" panted Isabela. "I want to know if there's a ship bound for Tevinter leaving from these docks."
"Sure," shrugged the man, "I helped load supplies not long ago on a big vessel bound for Miranthous, but it won't be much help to you. It was a private ship. They weren't taking passengers."
"We don't need passage to Tevinter!" said Hawke. "Just tell us where the ship is!"
He turned and pointed at the black cliffs where Hawke could see the sails of a large outbound ship billowing in the wind.
"Fenris," whispered Hawke dully.
They were too late. Hawke stared after the departing ship, numbness creeping up her limbs.
A few moments passed then:
Hawke jerked as Isabela's open palm connected with the side of her face.
"Wake up, Hawke!" Isabela shouted. "This is no time for a bloody breakdown! We have to hurry if you want to catch them!"
Raising a hand to her stinging cheek, Hawke gasped. She had stopped breathing the moment she spotted the Tevinter ship already leaving port.
"Catch them," Hawke echoed, then more forcefully, "We have to catch them!"
"That's what I just sai – Hawke! Where are you going?"
"We've got to charter a ship!" Hawke yelled, eyes moving from vessel to vessel, trying to decide which one looked the fastest and the most likely to be willing to leave immediately for the right coin.
"Have you gone completely mad?" Isabela shouted at her retreating back. "We already have a damn ship!"
Hawke stopped short and turned back around to face Isabela. The other woman was staring after her, looking incredulous.
"What?" Hawke asked.
Her brain felt fuzzy, like she'd drank too much of The Hanged Man's house ale. All thought seemed to have halted except for the one word that kept screaming in her head over and over – gone, gone, gone. Fenris was gone and she had to bring him back somehow.
"Did you or did you not just help me get a ship less than a week ago?" Isabela asked, a hand on her hip, her expression turning worried at the evaporation of Hawke's usual calm and cool leadership.
There was a beat, then Hawke's eyes widened as Isabela's question finally registered.
"Oh!" said Hawke. "OH! What do you need?" she asked immediately.
"People," said Isabela at once. "I've got a few men lined up, enough to sail bare bones, but they won't be of any use if we're going to attack a ship full of Tevinter mages."
"Go to The Hanged Man and get the others," said Hawke, her shock finally wearing off enough to form a coherent plan of action. "I'm going to the Chantry."
Isabela nodded. "Hurry Hawke, we've got a very narrow window of time." She took off running, heading for Lowtown and The Hanged Man.
Refusing to acknowledge her aching legs and lungs, Hawke raced back towards Hightown.
Evening canticle had just finished when Hawke arrived at the doors of the Chantry, out of breath and clutching her side. The departing faithful gave her a mixture of concerned and disapproving glances as she bolted down the hallway towards the raised platform in the middle of the main hall.
"Maker above, child!" said Elthina as Hawke skidded around the corner and up the stairs. "What on this earth...?"
"Sebastian," Hawke managed to get out between heaving gasps. "I... need... Sebastian."
"I'm here," said Sebastian.
He moved towards them quickly, winding his way between the pews. Hawke had run right past him in her haste.
"What is it?" he asked as he came up the stairs to join them. "What has happened?"
His look of concern was so genuine that it wiped away any doubts Hawke had been harboring that he might refuse to help. She did not know Sebastian as well as she knew the others that Isabela was now gathering at The Hanged Man, but he was kind and he seemed to get along well enough with Fenris, which was an achievement in and of itself.
"Fenris," she wheezed, doubling over as she tried to catch her breath. "They took Fenris."
"What?" Sebastian exchanged a look with the Grand Cleric. "Breath Hawke and tell me what this is about."
"Here, child," said Elthina. "Sit down." She grasped Hawke's upper arm and lead her over to a bench.
"Danarius came back for him," she finally managed to get out. "There was blood everywhere at his mansion... chairs smashed... a fight... and he's gone!" She barely stopped herself from wailing the last word.
Sebastian's brow furrowed. "Danarius? The Tevinter magister Fenris escaped from?"
"Yes! They are on a ship bound for Tevinter this very minute!" said Hawke. "Isabela has her ship, but we need all the help we can get. Please, Sebastian. Please come with us!"
"Andraste knows I would not see Fenris as a slave again, but if they've already gone..."
"Isabela says we might be able to overtake them if we hurry," said Hawke. "Her ship is smaller and faster."
Sebastian laughed softly. "There may be hope for that vulgar woman yet," he said.
"Go on, Sebastian," said Elthina. "It is the right thing to do."
Hawke was visited by a strong urge to hug the Grand Cleric.
"Of course," said Sebastian. "Of course I will help you. Wait here a moment."
He disappeared from the main hall, presumably to fetch his bow and quiver. Hawke leaned back, not really caring if her casual demeanor was proper for her current surroundings, but the Grand Cleric seemed not to mind. She lowered herself onto the bench next to Hawke and patted her knee.
"This friend you are going to retrieve," asked Elthina after a moment, "Is he that elf lad with the distinctive markings?"
"Yes," Hawke said, surprised. "You know him?"
"I have seen him here with you occasionally," said Elthina. "And he came to pray once."
Hawke was utterly bewildered. "Fenris? Fenris came here by himself? To pray?" She wondered if it was possible that there was another elf with strange tattoos running around Kirkwall that she didn't know about.
"Well, he said he was here to return something to Sebastian," said Elthina, smiling slightly, "but I know a head bowed in prayer when I see it. I am something of an expert on the subject, after all."
"How long ago was this?" Hawke asked curiously.
"Oh, lets see," said the Grand Cleric, leaning back and thinking. "Perhaps three years ago? It was late at night, and he was rather surprised when I stopped to speak to him. I think he was trying not to be seen, but he was here all right, sitting stiffly in a back pew and twisting a red handkerchief in his hands."
"How strange," said Hawke, "Fenris has always seemed... disinterested in the ways of the Chantry."
"Even the most hardened disbeliever will sometimes feel compelled to seek solace and guidance when greatly troubled," said Elthina, "and he did look upset that evening."
"Has he been back?" Hawke wanted to know.
"Other than on an errand with you?" said Elthina. "I cannot say. I have not laid eyes upon him here since that night, but contrary to what a certain archer prone to over worry might say, I don't spend every waking hour on this platform."
Elthina patted Hawke on the knee again and stood as Sebastian came back into the hall with his bow and quiver slung over a shoulder.
"The Maker knows your troubles, Marian Hawke," said the Grand Cleric. "May He guide you and keep your friend safe. Now go."
Isabela was shouting orders and cursing at the top of her lungs in Rivainian when Hawke and Sebastian arrived back at the docks.
"Finally!" she shouted as they ran up the gangplank of the The Slaver's Downfall. "Move it!"
The deck was a flurry of activity. Several strange men, the beginnings of Isabela's crew, ran back and forth, unknotting some ropes and tying off others.
"Haul up that gangplank!" shouted Isabela from behind the wheel, obviously in her element.
She turned and saw Varric, Aveline, and Donnic running across the deck to meet her. Varric looked the same as ever, but Aveline and Donnic looked slightly strange without the Kirkwall guard armor she was used to seeing them in.
"Aveline! What are you doing here?" Hawke asked.
"Preventing a citizen of Kirkwall from being pressed into slavery, I hear," Aveline said with a small smile.
"But you're the Guard Captain, your duties..."
"This is my free weekend," said Aveline. "And Donnic's," she nodded fondly to her husband. "Our time is yours... and Fenris's."
"We couldn't let our favorite broody elf get packed back off to Tevinter," said Varric. "Those mages will wish they'd never come looking for him when I introduce them to Bianca." He reached back and patted his crossbow.
"Where are Merrill and Anders?" Hawke asked, noticing their own distinct lack of mages.
"Daisy fancies herself a pirate," Varric said and pointed a finger up at the crow's nest.
Hawke looked up and Merrill waved at her.
"Isabela was right!" she called excitedly. "Being up here is much better than being in the hold! Look what I found in her cabin!" She pointed to a large, very piratey-looking hat on her head.
"Only been on a ship once before, but she scampered up the rigging like she'd been a deck hand all her life," said Varric, shaking his head. "We're not even moving yet and I'm already seasick."
"Anders?" Hawke prompted.
"Ah, yeah," said Varric, avoiding her eyes now, "About Blondie..."
"He's not coming," Hawke said flatly.
"No," said Varric.
"You know how he feels about Fenris," said Aveline. "And you," she added. "I think this was just more than he could give."
It wasn't a shock, really. Anders and Fenris had always hated each other, and if their roles had been reversed, Hawke was fairly certain Fenris would be more than content to leave Anders to his fate.
"Nothing we can do about it now," said Hawke, brushing aside her disappointment and slight sense of betrayal. "You're all here. We'll do all right."
The Slaver's Downfall started to glide forward and Hawke watched as Isabela kept a firm grip on the wheel while she continued to shout orders.
"Are you all deaf?" she yelled at them. "Pull up that gangplank or I'll attach you to the anchor and let you drag behind us the whole way!"
"I can already tell this is going to be fun," said Aveline dryly as she and Donnic moved forward to carry out Isabela's order.
"Wait!" someone yelled. "Wait!"
Anders was running full tilt across the docks towards the departing ship.
"Anders, you complete ass!" shrieked Isabela. "Get your useless hide on board!"
He ran up the gangplank and onto the ship, breathing heavily.
"Andraste's underskirts!" he said, collapsing against the railing. "I didn't think it was possible to get to the docks that quickly."
Hawke couldn't help herself. She was so glad he'd come after all that she flung her arms around his neck.
"Ooof!" said Anders, nearly sliding to the deck. "Marian, what the-?"
"Sorry," said Hawke releasing him quickly. "I just... thank you."
He looked away, nervously fiddling with the satchel he had slung over one shoulder. "I'm not doing it for him," he said darkly. "I'm doing it for you."
"I know," said Hawke, "I know."
"That and Aveline threatened to render me permanently unconscious when she got back if I didn't help," said Anders.
"Glad you saved me the trouble," said Aveline.
"Aw, we knew you couldn't stay away, Blondie," said Varric, elbowing him in the ribs.
"Yes, yes!" shouted Isabela from the helm, "We're all thrilled that Anders pulled his head out of his ass! Now make yourselves useful!"
"Aye, aye, Cap'n!" Varric mock saluted her, then said in a lower voice, "Is she turning anyone else on?"
"Choir Boy! Untie that rope!" Isabela was still shouting. "The rest of you make sure all loose equipment and supplies are secure! I want to be clear of the cliffs before that sun dips below the horizon!" She looked up to the crow's nest. "You all right up there, Kitten?"
Merrill was watching everything around her with a rapt expression. "This is fantastic!" she cheered, the huge hat slipping a little off her head.
"Here," Isabela took a practiced aim and lobbed a spyglass at the crow's nest. "You're our lookout, Kitten. Keep an eye out for that Tevinter ship!"
The Downfall picked up speed as Isabela evened her out between the cliffs.
"Do we still have a chance?" Hawke asked as she climbed the stairs up to the helm.
"I'll know for sure when we clear the channel," said Isabela, keeping her eyes forward. "If Merrill can spot them, and we get lucky with the wind, and everyone crosses their fingers and toes, we might catch them by morning."
Hawke took a deep breath and nodded.
"Chin up, Hawke," said Isabela, sparing a sideways glance, "If this ship is as fast as I think it is, we'll do all right."
"If we don't," said Hawke, "I want you to bring us back to Kirkwall. I can't ask anyone to follow them all the way to Tevinter with me."
"Are you sure?" asked Isabela. "We could make port, take on enough supplies to get us to –"
"Aveline and Donnic have responsibilities," said Hawke. "If Danarius gets back to Tevinter with Fenris, it could take weeks or months to pull off a rescue. I can't ask anyone to do that. If we can't overtake Danarius's ship by morning, we'll come back to Kirkwall and I'll board the first ship bound for Miranthous – alone."
Isabela shook her head. "That elf is a complete idiot," she grumbled. "If he doesn't jump your bones the minute we get him back, I'll take him straight to Tevinter myself."
"There something else you should know," said Hawke, "Something I haven't mentioned to the others."
Isabela raised an eyebrow. "You haven't stolen a Qunari artifact have you?"
Hawke passed over the question and continued. "Fenris once told me that if Danarius ever managed to get him back to Tevinter, Fenris' memories would be wiped again."
"So he won't remember you – or any of us – at all if we can't catch up to that ship," said Isabela, understanding at once.
Hawke nodded, throat suddenly too tight to speak.
"We'll catch them," said Isabela firmly. She looked up to the crow's nest again. "Merrill! That ship will be headed due East; get ready to look for them!"
"Aye, Captain Isabela!" Merrill called back cheerfully and promptly smacked herself in the eye as she tried to execute a salute with the hand holding the scope.
"Ready for the fun part?" Isabela asked, turning to Hawke with a grin.
"Get ready to hoist the main sails!" Isabela bellowed. "Sebastian! Untie that rope on my mark! And for the love of Andraste, someone fetch Varric a bucket before he spews all over my deck!"
Hawke grimaced in sympathy at Varric's green face. She'd been seasick more than once on the voyage to Kirkwall and it wasn't an experience she hoped to repeat.
"Hang on to something," Isabela said, smirking as they finally cleared the last of the cliffs. "Now!" she shouted and the main sails unfurled.
Hawke gripped the railing and Isabela laughed joyously as the sails fully caught the wind and the ship shot forward. Merrill gave a squeal of surprise and disappeared as she sat down hard in the crow's nest, Varric finally lost his dinner, and Aveline and Donnic were thrown sideways onto the deck as Isabela spun the wheel hard to port. Only Sebastian and Isabela's small crew seemed to have stayed on their feet. Anders was nowhere to be seen, and Hawke suspected he'd retreated below deck.
"Moment of truth, Merrill!" Isabela called up to the crow's nest. "What do you see?"
Merrill held up the telescope and searched the horizon. For a long moment she was silent, and a hard knot began to form in the pit of Hawke's stomach, but then Merrill pointed excitedly.
"I see it! I see it!" she called. "Or at least I think I see it. It could be a spot of grease on the glass..." She turned the scope around and eyed it. "No, it's definitely a ship!"
"That's it," said Isabela. "As long as this wind holds out, they won't get away from us."
As the red and orange of the sunset behind them gave way to indigo blue, Isabela cautioned them against lighting the kerosene lamps. In the dark, even a small light could carry a long way, and they wanted to stay unnoticed as long as possible. Even so, the nearly full moon was so bright that Varric soon had a couple of Wicked Grace games going. Anders had fished a seasickness draft out of his satchel and since then, Varric's attitude towards the ship and sailing in general had improved rather a lot.
Too tense and distracted to join the card games, Hawke stayed by the wheel, keeping Isabela company.
"Nothing to do but wait and hope our luck doesn't run out," said Isabela.
Hawke nodded silently and watched as Isabela twitched the wheel every now and again to keep them on course.
An outburst of raucous laughter and Varric's cursing directed their attention down to the deck.
"Oh look," said Isabela, "Sebastian won again."
"I think Varric has met his match," said Hawke, "That's the third game in a row."
Sebastian leaned over to the dwarf and said something.
"Oh my," said Isabela, in a mock scandalized tone, "He didn't learn that kind of language in the Chantry."
"Watch it, Choir boy," Varric said testily, "That might get you a righteous smiting."
"Mmmmm..." said Isabela. "I wish he'd righteously smite me."
Hawke choked on a laugh.
"A man that looks like that taking a vow of chastity," Isabela shook her head. "Such a waste."
Hawke coughed noncommittally.
"Not your type though, is he?" asked Isabela slyly. "You like them surly and lanky – not that I blame you. Elves are so... flexible."
"I'm sure you would know," said Hawke, glad for the darkness so Isabela couldn't see how red her face must be. Again.
"Oh, I do know," said Isabela with relish.
They was a moment of quiet as Isabela stared off dreamily into space. Hawke suspected she was recalling some past exploit involving elf flexibility.
"You know, Hawke," said Isabela, coming back to herself, "You keep company with the most interesting and attractive men."
"That's the real reason you've stayed around so long, isn't it?" Hawke asked with a smile.
Isabela laughed. "It's one of the reasons, anyways. Who could resist hanging around when there are specimens like Choir Boy close at hand? Too bad he's so hung up on that vow of his."
"If he wasn't, mother probably would have tried to marry me off to him," said Hawke.
"Afraid you'd end up an old spinster?"
"Something like that," said Hawke. "She kept trying to get Seneschal Bran and his son around for dinner."
Isabela made a face.
"That was my reaction too," said Hawke, smiling a little at the memory. "Poor Mother. She eventually gave up on that idea when I kept having urgent business at The Hanged Man every time she suggested a potential dinner date."
"Probably noticed you making puppy eyes at Fenris," commented Isabela.
"I do not make puppy eyes!" said Hawke indignantly.
"Yes you do," came Merrill's voice from above them.
"Damn elves and their enhanced hearing," muttered Hawke.
"Don't worry, Hawke," said Merrill, her silhouette visible as she hung her head and shoulders over the side of the crow's nest. "Fenris makes them back at you when he thinks no one is looking."
"Have another look in the scope, Kitten," Isabela called up to her. "Are we making progress?"
"I think so," said Merrill after a second or two. "It's a bit hard to tell. I think the lights look nearer than before."
"That's what we want to hear," said Isabela.
"Are the stars always like this?" asked Merrill. "They look so close, like I could reach up and pluck them out of the sky. I've been in the alienage so long that I forgot how bright they can get."
Isabela took a deep, contented breath. "They are," she said. "Unless there's cloud cover, of course."
"Is that how you tell what direction to go?" asked Merrill.
"On a night like tonight," said Isabela, "the stars are better than any map. But I still keep a few of those around along with a compass. Be prepared, that's my motto."
"That's your motto?" Hawke asked.
"Well, that and 'Never pass up a good piece of ass,'" said Isabela, grinning.
"I've never tasted donkey," Merrill's voice floated down to them, "Is it good?"
Isabela pinched the bridge of her nose while Hawke bit down on a finger to keep from laughing.
"Glad to see you ladies are bearing up well under the circumstances," said Varric as he climbed up the stairs towards them.
"Did Sebastian finally clean you out?" asked Isabela.
"I let him win," said Varric. "It's my new strategy – lull him into a false sense of security. Next time I'll really let him have it. Besides, I can't play Wicked Grace with my usual verve if you won't let me break into the rum supplies."
"Rescue first, rum later," said Isabela. "You can get drunk on the return trip."
"That better be a promise," said Varric. "I don't want to be sober enough to hear the noises coming from below decks when Hawke gets her elf back."
Isabela snorted loudly.
"Oh, shut up the pair of you," said Hawke, covering her face with her hands. "I hate you both."
"No you don't," said Varric, patting her on the back. "Now," he rubbed his hands together, "do we have a plan for taking over that big boat full of mages or are we just going to wing it?"
"We'll have to get close enough to board," said Isabela. "It shouldn't be too difficult even if they do spot us. Pirates aren't common until closer to Antiva, and it isn't unusual to see other supply and passenger vessels through here. They won't have any reason to see us as a threat until we're on them."
Varric looked up at The Downfall's sails. "I bet Daisy and Blondie could take out that Tevinter ship's sails pretty quickly. They're both handy with a fireball."
"As long as the Tevinters don't return the favor," said Hawke.
Isabela growled. "We won't give them the chance. I'll have one of the crew move The Downfall out of range as soon as we're on the other ship. We'll be stuck on board the Tevinter ship after that. I hope you all can swim."
"All or nothing," said Varric. "Sounds like business as usual for us, eh?"
"Won't the Tevinter ship have emergency boats or something?" Hawke asked.
"Probably," said Isabela, "But we don't exactly have a history of leaving enemy property intact, do we?"
"Can your crew be trusted not to run off with the ship once you're not on board?" Hawke asked Isabela.
"If they're being paid well enough," she said meaningfully.
"Good thing being Champion of Kirkwall keeps you so well funded," said Varric wryly.
"Whatever it takes," said Hawke quietly.
Varric patted her back again. "So what were you ladies discussing before that had you so amused," he asked.
"We were trying to decide who was the manliest of our current crew," said Isabela without losing a beat. "So far it's a tie between you and Aveline."
"I can hear you down here, whore," said Aveline from her spot on the deck.
"I should win on account of my having more luxurious chest hair," said Varric, petting his chest with a grin.
"Have you checked Aveline's chest?" asked Isabela. "You can't know for sure unless you've looked."
"Uh," said Varric as Aveline's low growl reached their ears.
"Or we could ask Donnic," said Isabela.
Aveline started up the stairs, her expression menacing.
"I jest, Big Girl," said Isabela, waving her hand at the angry redhead. "Unknot those knickers."
"You can't kill her, Aveline," said Hawke, helpfully. "We need her to steer the ship."
"Sit back down, Love," said Donnic, a teasing note in his voice. "You must face the truth: your chest hair will never rival Varric's."
Aveline dashed back down the stairs, looking intent on pummeling her turncoat husband while everyone else broke into laughter. Isabela slumped over the wheel, tears of mirth running down her cheeks, Varric slapped his knee, Hawke slid to the floor, and they could hear Merrill's giggling above them. Donnic caught his incensed wife as she rushed at him and Aveline forgot her irritation as he pulled her in for a kiss instead.
"Get used to the docks, Dearest," they heard Aveline say, "Because you're going to be patrolling the stretch with the fishing warehouses from now until the next Blight."
As the night wore on, some of the others found a spot on the deck or the hold to catch an hour or two of rest here and there. Hawke tried, but found herself plagued by dreams where she found Fenris alive, but unable to remember her, or worse, killed her on Danarius' command. After jerking awake in terror for the third time, Hawke gave it up as a bad job and went back up to the helm.
Isabela stayed at the wheel through the night, seemingly impervious to fatigue, not trusting anyone else to keep them on a steady course. It was still pitch black when Hawke was able to really tell how much they were gaining on the Tevinter ship.
"We're getting close, Hawke," said Isabela. "Time to make the rounds and tell everyone no more unnecessary noise – and I mean nothing. I don't want to hear a sneeze or a cough. If someone farts, they're going overboard."
"You got it," said Hawke.
"Should I come down now?" Merrill asked timidly from the crow's nest.
"Yes, Kitten," said Isabela, "We'll need you for the boarding party."
Merrill climbed out of the crow's nest and scurried down the rigging as Hawke set about the ship to pass along Isabela's warning. Quite a few of the crew were sleeping quietly below decks. Varric, however, was leaned up against the mast with Bianca cradled in his arms, sound asleep and snoring like an ox with a bad head cold.
"You woke me up to tell me we have to be quiet?" Varric groused when Hawke roused him.
"You'll give us away sawing logs like that!" Hawke hissed at him as she moved away.
Aveline sat a short ways away with Donnic, her head propped on his shoulder.
"We're close?" Donnic asked as Hawke approached.
Hawke nodded as she crouched down next to them. "We have to keep quiet now so we don't give the Tevinters a heads up."
"We're here for you, Hawke," whispered Aveline and she reached over to squeeze Hawke's hand reassuringly.
"I know," said Hawke, smiling gratefully and squeezing back.
Sebastian had already worked out what Hawke was doing and threw her a silent nod as she passed. Hawke returned the gesture and moved below decks where she found Anders carefully stowing his satchel full of various healing drafts. The metal buckle on his pack glinted in the strip of moonlight from the porthole as he snapped it shut and carefully laid it inside a sturdy-looking empty crate.
"They'll just get smashed if I take them with me," he said. "At least this way they'll survive even if I don't."
"No one is going to die," said Hawke, "I won't let that happen."
Anders looked grim. "You're planning to assault a ship full of blood mages. If we all survive this, it will be a miracle."
Hawke let out a breath and slumped down on a crate. "Thanks for the pep talk, Anders."
"I'm serious, Marian," he said. "This could go very badly for us. We could all be killed for the sake of one man who I'm not convinced won't turn on us like a rabid dog the minute we let him out of whatever kennel they've got him locked up in."
"Don't say that!" Hawke said angrily. "He's not like that, no matter what you think of him. I'm not an idiot, Anders! I know how dangerous this is, but it's about doing what's right. I would do the same for any of you!"
"Would you?" Anders asked just as heatedly. "You're honestly telling me that if I'd been taken by the templars, you'd be storming The Gallows right now and he'd be helping you?"
Hawke rubbed at her temples. "Maker! Not everything is about you and the bloody templars, Anders!"
"Just answer the question," he said fiercely.
"Is that what you need to hear?" Hawke asked, trying not to shout. "That I would risk everything to save you from The Circle? Fine. Yes, Anders, I would. Do you really think so little of me? Have I not shown time and time again where I stand when it comes to the imprisonment of mages and the Rite of Tranquility? Do you think I would allow them take you if I could possibly help it? For Andraste's sake Anders, I worked day and night to keep Bethany safe until she died in the Deep Roads! And you aren't the only one who could be locked away. Merrill is an apostate too, and a blood mage on top of that! Aveline and Donnic could both be stripped of their rank if the right people knew just how much they let slide on our account. All of us are lucky we aren't behind bars awaiting a hangman's noose!"
Something warm and wet dripped off her chin, and Hawke realized that somewhere in her tirade, she had started to cry.
"Marian, I -" Anders started, a hand outstretched to her, an apology on his lips.
"No!" Hawke jumped off the crate and out of his reach. "Don't, just don't!"
There were footsteps on the stairs and Varric appeared. "Everything okay down here?" he asked, taking in Anders' anguished expression and Hawke's hurried efforts to swipe away her tears.
"It's fine, Varric," said Hawke. "I was just seeing to the rest of the crew."
"Right," said Varric, not sounding very convinced. "I'll go back up and tell the angry pirate wench at the wheel that both you and Blondie banged your shins at the same time in the dark." They heard the stairs creaking as he went back up and left them in the semi-darkness.
"I should go back up too," said Hawke.
"Marian, I'm sorry," said Anders.
His own voice sounded close to breaking. Hawke was glad she had turned away and couldn't see the expression. She felt angry and bitter and she wanted to cling to it. Anything was better than the fear and anxiety that had been eating away at her since she and Isabela had found Fenris' open door hours before.
"It's time to decide Anders," she said. "Are you with us, really with us no matter what, or just when we further your cause?"
"Are you sure about him, Marian?" Anders asked at last. "Is he worth it?"
"Yes," she responded without hesitation.
"Then I'm with you," he said, his voice cracking at last. "Whatever you need."
She hugged him in the dark and felt his tears on her cheek as well as her own. They broke apart quickly and Hawke went back up the stairs.
"What part of quiet did you not understand?" Isabela asked exasperatedly as Hawke joined her at the wheel again.
"Sorry," said Hawke shortly.
"I'd ask what that was all about," said Isabela, "But you were loud enough for everyone to get the general idea. Nicely done, by the way. Might I suggest trying the same tactic on the elf next time he forgets that he isn't the only one who's ever been oppressed?"
Hawke gave a watery laugh. "I did once," she said. "He shouted at me in Tevinter for a full five minutes. I didn't understand a word of it, which is just as well; I doubt any of it was flattering."
"This doesn't have anything to do with The Wall Incident, does it?" asked Isabela.
"Maybe," said Hawke unhelpfully.
And here I thought you meant something else entirely when you said things 'got a little heated,'" said Isabela.
"There was some of that too," Hawke said a little more quietly.
She remembered it only too well – the sudden glow as the lyrium flared shockingly blue – the jolt as her back met stone – his face scant centimeters from hers, angry at first and then melting into something else entirely. He'd backed away then, his eyes wide and full of equal parts confusion and longing. Reaching out slowly, Hawke had cupped his cheek in one hand and he had leaned into her touch, covering her hand with his own. Then she whispered his name and something in him snapped. He'd jerked back, looking fearful, and fled from the courtyard without another word or a backward glance.
"We're either very complicated or very broken," said Hawke, "or both," she added.
"Or," said Isabela, "You both just really need to get laid."
Morning was swiftly approaching, and as the horizon lightened, the Tevinter ship loomed ahead of them, large and foreboding. The sea had grown rough and choppy, making The Downfall sway side to side vigorously and causing a rush for Anders' satchel in the hold.
"They'll have seen us by now," said Isabela. "Time to gather the troops."
They grouped together on the deck below the helm, everyone looking tired and grim, but determined. The few men that Isabela had gathered together were to stay on The Slaver's Downfall. Most of them were fishermen or refugees with minimal experience at sea, and were only hired on as stopgap measure until Isabela could make port in Antiva or Rivain to recruit a real crew. None of them had ever wielded a sword in battle and would be easy targets. They would steer the ship far enough away to be out of spell range until Hawke and her companions had finished their mission.
"Hawke," Isabela said to her after the plan had been laid out and instructions given. "There's some extra weapons in my cabin if you want to take a spare with you."
Hawke picked through the various daggers and swords, trying to decide which one Fenris might pick if he was given the choice. When she'd found something satisfactory, Aveline helped Hawke strap it to her back underneath her own large daggers as The Downfall pitched and rolled. It wasn't a big two-hander like Fenris was partial to, but at least it was something.
The main deck of the Tevinter ship was full of people now, and Isabela hailed them cheerily as The Downfall slid up next to them.
"Hi there," she called, winking cheekily, "Nice day for a morning, isn't it?"
Aveline shot her a filthy look.
A line of wary-looking men and woman formed along the rail of the Tevinter ship, mostly mages, but a few deckhands mixed in. Above them, on a small overhanging balcony that looked like it was attached to a large private cabin, stood a man somewhere on the far side of middle-age. He too, wore mage robes and looked extremely angry. Hawke knew with absolute certainty that this was Danarius; she could feel his malevolent aura of power and cruelty even at a distance.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded. "Can you not see that I and my people are quite capable of dealing with pirates?"
Some of the mages along the rail moved into a defensive stance at his words.
"We're not pirates!" Hawke shouted at him.
"I am," said Isabela, raising her hand.
"And I think that guy might be," said Varric, jerking his thumb at one of the scruffier members of Isabela's crew who had an eyepatch.
"Not helping, Varric," Aveline said out of the corner of her mouth.
"Right, sorry," said Varric.
Hawke closed her eyes for a second, and then tried again. "Most of us aren't pirates," she amended.
"Then what business do you have with us?" Danarius asked angrily. "Be gone if you wish to keep yourselves and your ship in one piece."
"Danarius of the Tevinter Imperium," Aveline said in her most commanding Guard Captain voice, "You have taken a citizen of Kirkwall aboard your ship without his consent, and you will hand him over to us or face the consequences."
"A citizen of –" Danarius broke off and laughed. "All this for a slave?" he asked.
"Fenris is not a slave!" Hawke cried furiously.
"And who are you, girl? His new mistress?" taunted Danarius. "I don't blame you for seeking to keep him. The lad is rather skilled, is he not?"
"No wonder the elf hates this guy so much," said Varric under his breath.
"Can we please kill him?" asked Isabela.
"I vote yes," said Varric.
"Motion carried," Hawke growled. "Anders, Merrill! Now!"
At her word, Anders and Merrill each released a torrent of fire at the Tevinter ship's sails and there was immediate chaos. Shouts filled the air as bits of charred and burning sail fell to the deck.
"Kill them!" Danarius screamed. "Kill them all and burn their ship!"
"Oh, no you don't!" shouted Varric as the Tevinter mages started to return fire at The Slaver's Downfall.
There was the click of Bianca's firing mechanism and three of the mages went down, all with crossbow bolts protruding from their foreheads. The twang of a bowstring came immediately after and another mage fell, an arrow through his heart. Anders and Merrill flung spell after spell in rapid succession, keeping the Tevinters on the defensive instead of allowing them to cripple The Downfall in return.
"Go, go, go!" Isabela screamed, leaving the wheel to one of the crew and running down the stairs to untie a rope from the rail along the deck. She backed across to the far side, waited a moment to time the pitching of the ship, and then sprinted forward. As The Downfall rolled to the side towards the Tevinter ship, Isabela swung out over the gap between the decks and landed spectacularly between two mages. There was a flash of daggers, and blood spouted from both mages' necks before they knew what had happened.
"Holy Shit!" shouted Varric. "Nice moves, Ravaini!"
"Come on!" Hawke yelled, and she grabbed the abandoned rope as it swung back over The Downfall.
"We've got your back, Hawke," Varric shouted as he, Sebastian, Merrill, and Anders continued to lay down cover fire while Hawke concentrated on copying Isabela's departure off The Downfall.
Hawke did her best to time her run with the rolling of the ship, and prayed that the high-pitched, rather girly scream that she loosed as she flew over the gap would be left out of Varric's retelling of the story. She just made it, her toes touching down on the Tevinter ship's railing. She flailed for balance, nearly toppling backwards before Isabela grabbed her arm and yanked her forward.
Sebastian came next. As The Slaver's Downfall tipped sideways, he used the downward angle to gather momentum as he sprinted across the deck. The ship rolled back up and he planted a foot on the railing. Hawke had to roll to one side to avoid being landed on as Sebastian leapt across the gap. She came up on one knee and thrust both daggers upward, killing one of the mages as he lifted his hands to blast Sebastian.
"I need a better vantage point," he shouted to her.
"The crow's nest, Choir Boy!" Isabela cried. "Hawke, help me cut a path!"
Hawke spared a quick glance back over her shoulder just in time to see Aveline and Donnic picking up a protesting Varric by his duster. They took several practice swings and then heaved him towards the Tevinter ship.
"Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!" he yelled as he hit the side and hung on to the railing for dear life.
Hawke slashed a dagger across the throat of the man in front of her and lunged back to grab at Varric, pulling him onto the ship.
"If we survive this, I'll shoot them both!" he yelled as he pulled Bianca over his shoulder and whipped the crossbow across the face of an advancing mage.
Merrill came next, also courtesy of Aveline and Donnic. She was taller than Varric, but thinner and lighter on her feet. She landed easily, somersaulted, and came up casting lightning at everything in range. Aveline and Donnic followed, using the ropes as Isabela and Hawke had, and then turned, waiting to catch Anders as he swung across.
As they cut a bloody swath across the deck, Hawke looked for an entrance into the ship's hold, thinking that any prisoners would most likely be confined down there.
"Keep them distracted out here," Hawke yelled to her group, "I'll find Fenris!"
"Then get going!" Isabela shouted at her.
As the group of them reached the main mast, Hawke grabbed the arm of the first comrade in reach. "You're with me!" she shouted in Merrill's ear.
They left the rest of the boarding party, and began to fight their way around the side, slipping and sliding across the blood-coated deck, battling both mages and the roll of the ship. Danarius was still on his balcony, simultaneously sending out powerful blasts of magic while shielding himself from oncoming arrows and spells. As they rounded the side of the ship, Hawke spotted a set of stairs leading down.
"There!" she pointed it out to Merrill.
The first display of blood magic came as Hawke and Merrill reached the stairs and all but tumbled down them, propelled by the motion of the ship. A mage on his way up to join the fighting flicked a small knife over his own wrist, and the wave of blood magic swirled up, forming into the fiery hulk of a rage demon. The demon went for Hawke first, and soon they were trading blows in the narrow passageway.
"Merrill, can you freeze it?" Hawke yelled, ducking as the rage demon swung a burning fist.
Within seconds, the rage demon had turned from a glowing reddish-orange to blue as Merrill blasted it with cold. Hawke slammed her weapons down and it shattered. She advanced to deal with the blood mage, but Merrill was already ahead of her. She turned the mage's own blood against him. He screamed in agony as his veins boiled, then burst from the inside out. Gore splattered the walls, and Hawke and Merrill turned to avoid being sprayed in the face.
"I hate doing that," said Merrill, sounding faintly nauseous.
"He didn't leave us a choice," Hawke said firmly, striding forward.
They began opening doors, checking the contents of the rooms, but instead of Fenris, they found three more blood mages, a desire demon, and a room stocked full of potatoes.
"Where in the Void is he?" Hawke asked as they burst through another door and found themselves in the galley.
A dozen elven workers were huddled in a corner, looking terrified.
"Don't hurt us!" wailed a young girl.
"Are you going to attack us?" asked Hawke, keeping her distance.
"No!" she said, "Please! We're of no value to you!"
"More slaves," said Merrill, pity coloring her voice. "Hawke, we have to help them."
"But will they let us help them?" Hawke wondered aloud. She stowed her weapons and raised her palms in a non-threatening manner. "Danarius has taken a friend of mine," she said. "He was a slave once, but he escaped to lead his own life. We can offer you the same if you want it."
"Leave the master?" a boy asked. Hawke guessed his age was somewhere around thirteen or fourteen.
"Yes," Hawke answered. "Leave Danarius. Come back with us to Kirkwall and be free."
"Free?" questioned the girl. She said the word like it was a foreign concept. "But who will take care of us?"
"You'll take care of yourselves," said Hawke. "We'll teach you how."
"You can be my neighbors!" Merrill added in a cheery voice.
"We won't force you to come with us," said Hawke, "But I can't promise there will be anything left of this ship once we find what we came for."
"Come with us," Merrill advised.
When the little group still looked uncertain, Hawke decided it was time to move on.
"Look," she said, "If you decide to come with us, our ship is waiting. All of you are welcome as long as you don't take up arms against us."
They left the galley and kept moving through the ship, checking more rooms and storage holds, but finding nothing.
"He must be in one of the private rooms," Merrill said at last when they had searched every room and closet.
"Let's go back up," Hawke agreed.
They climbed up another set of stairs to the main deck. The fighting had become even more intense while they had been running around below. It looked like all the mages had finally resorted to blood magic. There were shades raging around everywhere and someone, Hawke suspected Danarius, had summoned an enormous abomination. It came lumbering around the corner, roaring mindlessly as it spotted Hawke and Merrill. The ship listed to the the side as the weight shifted with the abomination.
With mages everywhere and nowhere to run, Hawke held her daggers and readied herself. The abomination lunged, one huge, grotesque arm batting Merrill away, back down the stairs. Hawke dove under it and tried to bury her weapons in the thing's underbelly, but the hide was so thick, she may as well have poked it with a blunt stick. All Hawke succeeded in doing was enraging it further. The abomination wheeled around, lifted her up, and hurled her through a large window on the side of Danarius' large private cabin.
She smashed through the glass, landing painfully on her back and skidding across the floor in a shower of debris. She lay stunned for a moment, trying to force air back into her lungs.
"Son of a bitch, that hurt!" she groaned, sitting up slowly, trying to see where her daggers had ended up.
She turned and there was Fenris, sitting against the far wall in the black leggings and shirt he usually wore under his armor, his wrists shackled above his head, his face registering nothing but disbelief.
"Fenris!" Hawke scrambled across the floor to his side.
"Hawke?" he said again, shock still heavy in his voice.
"Of course it's me," said Hawke, her voice suddenly croaky. "Who else would make this much noise and cause this much damage to personal property?"
A smirk flitted across his face and Hawke felt a disproportionate amount of relief at that one small expression.
"Come on," she said, "Let's get out of here before Danarius gets bored of summoning abominations and decides to check on you."
"Bastard," Fenris spat, glancing at the closed door to the balcony.
Hawke stifled a gasp as she caught a good look at the mass of bruises that was the right side of his face. The skin was broken and bleeding in several places around his temple and cheekbone, the imprint of a ring obvious. It looked like someone had repeatedly backhanded him.
"Maker, Fenris," Hawke said, "What did he do to you?"
Fenris turned back to her. "I am not as compliant as Danarius remembered me," he said, his voice hard.
"I'd say lets do evens or odds to see which of us gets to kill him," said Hawke, "But I think you've earned the right."
"Free me from these shackles," he said, "And I'll consider allowing you to help."
"How are these even holding you?" Hawke asked, leaning up to examine them. "Can't you just phase through them?"
"Blood magic," Fenris said, hate dripping from every syllable. "It was the only way Danarius could bind me."
"Hawke? Hawke!" came Merrill's worried voice from outside the broken window. A second later, her head popped into view. "There you are!" she exclaimed as she climbed in the window, carefully avoiding the glass shards. "I was afraid that big abomination had thrown you overboard and – Oh! You found him!"
"You brought the witch with you?" Fenris asked darkly, eyeing Merrill with dislike.
"I brought everyone with me," said Hawke. "Merrill, these shackles are sealed with blood magic. Can you undo it?"
"I think so," she said, moving closer, and pulling out a small silver dagger.
"Get away from me, witch!" Fenris growled at her.
Merrill recoiled, fumbling the dagger so it slipped and sliced a line across her palm.
"Fenris!" said Hawke. "Let her help you!"
"I've had my fill of blood mages today," Fenris shot back, his angry gaze still leveled on Merrill. "Keep her away from me!"
"Fenris!" Hawke said again, a little louder and his eyes swiveled to meet hers. "Please," she said. "We haven't got time to argue this! Trust me and let her help!"
For a moment, Hawke thought he was going to tell them both to go to the Void, but then he looked away and said, "Be quick about it."
Merrill looked to Hawke for reassurance then inched forward again when Hawke nodded encouragingly. She reached up over Fenris to hold her bloody palm over one of the shackles. As she worked, Fenris glared angrily at the floor, a muscle jumping in his jaw.
"Okay, that should do it," said Merrill pulling her hands away from the second shackle.
Danarius's stateroom filled with a soft blue light as Fenris' markings lit up and his wrists slid through the shackles.
"You look very pretty when you glow like that," said Merrill.
"Here," Hawke said, turning to show him the extra sword strapped to her back. "I brought you a present."
"You are... amazing, Hawke," said Fenris slowly.
"See, Hawke," said Merrill, "I told you he makes puppy eyes too."
Hawke was extremely glad she was turned away so Fenris couldn't see her embarrassment as he tugged the weapon free.
"Merrill," she said through gritted teeth, "Do you see my daggers anywhere? I lost my grip on them when that thing flung me through the window."
"Um," said Merrill, glancing around the room. "There's one of them," she said and moved across the room to retrieve it.
"And here is the other," said Fenris, pressing the hilt of Hawke's other dagger into her hand.
"Thanks," said Hawke, nearly smacking her face into his as she turned her head.
They were barely a centimeter apart, kneeling next to each other in Danarius' stateroom while the battle raged on outside, and all Hawke could think was his eyes are so green.
"We should move on," he said, still holding her gaze.
"What? Oh!" Hawke blinked and stood up. "Right. Blood mages, Danarius, leaving now..." she babbled, feeling extremely idiotic. She took her other dagger from Merrill, grateful for the reason to look elsewhere. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and then strode towards the door.
The sound of people fighting and dying roared around them as they stumbled out onto the little balcony. The cabin had obviously been build to keep noise inside to a minimum. Danarius had disappeared, and the three of them stood in his place on the balcony, taking in the battle from their higher vantage point.
"By the Dread Wolf!" Merrill exclaimed.
Fenris let loose a string of expletives in Tevinter.
The deck was awash with blood, and Hawke looked frantically for her friends. Most of Danarius' mages had been slain, but their corpses were still attacking, risen by the remaining blood mages. Isabela was backed into a corner, daggers slashing at the walking dead as a group of them closed in on her. A long, bloody gash ran up from her right thigh and disappeared under the tatters of her white tunic. Anders was trying to get to her, but was being waylaid by more corpses. He whirled his staff around, blasting them back with spells, all the while trying to avoid getting smashed flat by the huge abomination as it raged around the deck, randomly charging whoever caught its attention.
Hawke ducked, barely missing a fireball from one of the Tevinter mages. A second enemy mage, his eyes glowing slightly red, joined the first in attacking the small group on the balcony. Hawke screamed in sudden agony as her blood heated in her veins. Capillaries burst, her ears rang, and she began to curl into a ball, gasping. Next to her, Fenris had his hands on either side of his head, his face the same mask of pain as hers. Merrill fell to her knees next to them, blood trickling from both nostrils.
"No!" Merrill cried, throwing out her arms.
The pressure and heat released at once as Merrill threw up a shield. Her eyes flashed red once, and the spell was turned back on the Tevinter blood mage, who fell to the deck, twitching and bleeding from his eyes, ears, and noses. The first mage that had thrown the fireball went down a split second later with an arrow buried in one eye socket. Hawke glanced up and saw Sebastian in the crow's nest, surrounded by the charred remains of the sails, pulling another arrow out of his quiver. He took aim and the next arrow took down one of many shades that were circling Aveline and Donnic.
"I think I need a rescue!" shouted Varric, backpedaling across the deck as the abomination abandoned Anders and moved to attack the dwarf instead.
"Varric!" shouted Merrill, darting forward.
The silver dagger flashed as she drug it unflinchingly across her wrist and a cloud of red shot forward from her outstretched hands to catch the abominated square in the chest. It fell back and slammed into the mast, splintering the wood.
"Sebastian!" yelled Aveline as the mast slowly listed to the side.
There was an earsplitting crack as the wood snapped, and the whole ship rocked violently as the mast crashed down across the deck, smashing corpses and the railing. Anders dove out of the way and Sebastian cried out in fear and surprise as he was flung out of the crow's nest and over the side. Hawke fell to her knees and slid into Fenris as he grabbed at the balcony railing. Merrill smashed into them next as the ship angled up. For a moment everyone hung on as the heavy mast tipped the ship like a set of scales overloaded on one side. Then Anders blew apart the mast where it slanted down into the water. Severed from the heavy load dragging it down, the ship popped back up like a cork.
"Andraste's ass, Daisy!" Varric bellowed, looking up at the balcony as the ship righted itself.
"Oh! Oh, no!" Merrill cried, scrambling up, looking out over the water. "Sebastian! Is
"He's all right, Merrill," said Hawke as Sebastian surfaced a short way from the ship.
There was no way for him to climb back up and rejoin the fight, and he started swimming in the direction of The Slaver's Downfall.
The abomination was back on its feet and had caught sight of Varric again. Hawke wasted no more time, launching herself over the balcony railing and towards the abomination. Fenris was right behind her, lyrium tattoos bursting into a sudden bright blue, a battle cry on his lips as they charged forward. Together, they laid waste to the circle of shades closing in around Aveline and Donnic.
"I need a leg up!" Hawke shouted, pointing to the back of the abomination.
Aveline and Donnic crouched, their hands linked between them to form a foothold. Hawke stepped up, braced herself on their shoulders."
"This is a really stupid idea, Hawke," said Aveline.
"Don't I know it," Hawke muttered.
They heaved up, and Hawke flew towards the back of the abomination as it closed in on Varric. She landed with her weight on her daggers and they punched through the tough hide at last. The abomination roared in pain and fury, Hawke barely managing to cling to the hilts of her buried weapons as it reared back. Her feet scrabbled and caught hold in a roll of its fleshy back. She pushed up, yanked a dagger free, and slammed it back down into the creature's neck. Hauling herself further up the thing's back, Hawke peered over a hulking shoulder only to duck back down behind it again to avoid getting impaled by a crossbow bolt.
"Shit!" shouted Varric. "Sorry, Hawke!"
The abomination roared again, twisting violently from side to side. Hawke looked down and saw Fenris darting around the thing's trunk-like legs, slashing and cutting with his borrowed blade. Hawke took advantage of the abomination's distraction, and pulled her other dagger out of its back, burying it in the thick neck next to the first. Enraged, the abomination reached back a massive arm, and Hawke couldn't move quickly enough to avoid its grasp.
A huge fist closed around her neck, lifting her up. She dangled feet above the deck, choking and beating her fists ineffectually against the hand holding her. Black spots formed in front of her eyes as the abomination tightened its grip. A sound like rushing water filled her ears. Vaguely, she heard the screams of her companions, muffled and far away.
Fenris' voice cut above the rest, hoarse and terrified. "No! No, I will not allow it!"
Seconds ticked by as she strangled, the world slowly fading away, silence swallowing the cries of her friends and the sounds of battle. Her arms began to feel very heavy so she stopped trying to lift them. Miraculously, the pressure around her neck finally released, and Hawke fell to the deck. She drifted in darkness, but there were arms around her, and someone was crying out brokenly in her ear.
"No! Maker, no! Please don't be dead!" Anders pleaded as he cradled her. "Marian, wake up!"
Healing magic washed over her, strong and fierce, and Hawke jolted suddenly upright as her sight and hearing rushed back in one. Fenris, Varric, Merrill, Aveline, and Donnic were keeping the abomination at bay while Anders healed her. Isabela had managed to dispatch the corpses attacking her, but fell against the rail, unable to make her injured leg support her any longer.
"I'm fine!" Hawke said, trying to get to her feet. "Anders, I'm all right!"
"Watch it!" Isabela shouted, and Hawke saw a fresh surge of shades moving to surround the spot where she and Anders crouched.
Fenris turned and ran back as the demons approached, but Hawke had lost her weapons. The remaining mages had been slain, but they were still outnumbered as someone unseen continually summoned shades.
"No!" said a deep voice at her back, and Hawke spun around as Anders' eye glowed blue."You will not have her!" he screamed.
And then he was gone, leaving Justice in his place. Hawke's hair stood on end as the spirit gathered power. Fenris was at her side, and they fell flat against the deck together as a massive flux of white blue flames burst from Anders' body, flashing out in a circle above them. The shades were immolated on contact. Through the haze of bluish fire, Hawke saw the rest of her friends scrambling desperately for the sides of the ship, trying to make the safety of the water before they met the same fate as the dispatched demons. The abomination was aflame. It shrieked and staggered before finally slumping to the deck, its flesh melting into a puddle under the intensity of the heat.
As Hawke and Fenris got back to their feet, Justice turned on them. "This is your doing!" he boomed at Hawke. "You do nothing but distract him, human! His regard for you eats away at him like a wasting sickness! While you live, he cannot focus on what must be done."
Fenris brandished his sword as Justice moved towards Hawke. "You will not touch her!" he growled.
"Do not threaten me, elf," Justice warned. "I will cut you down where you stand."
"Fenris, no!" Hawke put herself between them, hands outstretched placatingly. She turned to face the thing that inhabited Anders' body. "Anders!" she shouted. "Anders you must stop this!"
"He cannot hear you, human," said Justice. "He is buried too deeply. You deal with me now."
"No!" Hawke refused to believe it. "Anders! I know you can hear me! Please, Anders!"
Fenris jerked her back as Justice roared and pressed his hands to the sides of his head, body shaking.
"This abomination has been allowed to exist for far too long," Fenris snarled, bringing the sword up. "It ends now!"
Hawke pressed her palms to his chest, trying to hold him back while Justice thrashed behind her, terrified that one of them would kill the other.
"Anders!" she screamed again. "You are stronger than this!"
The spirit bellowed long and loud one last time, and then the blue receded and Anders was blinking back at them, looking shaken and horrified.
"He is no better than the abomination that nearly killed you!" Fenris spat at Hawke. "Tell me again why we don't slaughter him and be done with it!"
"This wouldn't have happened if she hadn't been so determined to save you!" Anders snapped back.
"Stop it!" Hawke shouted. "We don't have time for this!"
The flames that Justice had loosed in his wrath were quickly consuming the ship.
"We have to go now," said Hawke, "Before the fire kills us all!"
"No," said Fenris, still glaring at Anders. "Danarius is still here, somewhere."
"Fine," Hawke said, clenching her jaw. "Anders, you go. Get off the ship."
"We'll be right behind you!" said Hawke. "Go!"
Anders hesitated then ran towards the side, using his magic to part the flames as he went. When he had disappeared over the side, Hawke turned back to Fenris.
"How are we going to find Danarius in this?" she asked, gesturing a hand and the surrounding flames. "He could be dead already or have abandoned ship long ago."
"He's here," Fenris growled, turning his back on her to check the balcony. "And he will not escape his fate this time."
"And neither will you, my little wolf."
Hawke gasped as arms snaked around from behind her, one around her chest and arms, the other pressing the blade of a knife against her throat. Danarius had reappeared at last.
"Danarius!" Fenris snarled, wheeling around. "Let her go! This concerns you and me!"
"I think not," said Danarius. "She has destroyed my ship and slaughtered my people. In return, I will have her blood."
"No!" said Fenris, dropping his blade to the deck. "Let her go and you can have me."
Danarius tightened his grip on the knife, digging the point into Hawke's flesh. "It is too late for that, Fenris. I have invested much time and coin attempting to recover you, and it has come to nothing. Since you are so intent on being free of me, I will grant you your wish. I will bind you with her blood and watch you burn with this ship. Freedom in death, my little Fenris. That is your only option now."
As the flames licked across the deck, driving Fenris towards his former master, Hawke frantically catalogued her hidden weapons. There was no way to reach the daggers in her boots, and Danarius' arm was pressed across the one between her breasts. Slowly, deliberately, Hawke slid a hand to her belly, lifting the front of her leather tunic. Fenris saw the motion and his eyes widened slightly as she revealed the dagger strapped around her stomach – the dagger he had gifted her shortly before her duel with the Arishok – the dagger that she had used to sever the Arishok's jugular before passing out from the gaping gut wound he had dealt her with his spear. Her fingers closed around the handle.
"Hawke, no!" Fenris yelled, but Hawke had already pulled the dagger free.
She buried the blade deep into Danarius' thigh. The magister screamed in pain, his grip slackening slightly, and Hawke threw herself to the side, wincing as his blade cut a shallow slit across her throat. In an instant, Fenris stepped forward. The lyrium lit up and his hand shot out, clamping around Danarius' throat and lifting him up. With a snarl and a look that far surpassed hatred, Fenris snapped Danarius' spine and flung him away. The magister landed in a heap on the deck, unmoving, no longer anyone's master.
Fenris stood over Danarius' body, his lyrium markings still alight, fists clenched, face now blank and unreadable.
"Fenris," Hawke called his name gently as she got to her feet.
He didn't seem to hear her and Hawke took a tentative step towards him.
"Fenris," she said again slowly reaching out to him.
His head ratcheted towards her as she touched him hesitantly on the shoulder. She quickly backed away as he leveled her with his disturbingly blank gaze. For a second he looked on her without recognition, but then the blue glow faded and he blinked.
"Hawke," he rasped, eyes traveling over her face and throat. "Hawke," he said again, looking away as his face twisted.
He looked suddenly lost and broken, and Hawke didn't know how to fix it. She reached out to him again, this time threading her fingers through his. He looked down at their connected hands.
Then the fire blasted out the remaining windows of Danarius' cabin.
"We need to go!" Hawke shouted as glass and bits of wood rained down around them.
But there was nowhere to go; they were surrounded by the fires.
"The sail!" Fenris coughed, pointing to a large remnant of the sails that lay in a puddle of sea water and blood.
They grabbed it, dragging it away before the flames could consume it too, and ran to the burning rail. It slapped wetly against the wood as they threw it over the fire, and together they climbed over and dropped into the chilly sea. At once, the leather armor began to drag Hawke down as it gathered weight from the water. She fought to keep her head above the waves, first kicking off her boots, then working to undo the buckles around her tunic and at the waist of her leggings. The trousers slid off without much resistance, but the tunic was more difficult. In the end, Fenris reached for the dagger between her breasts, and used it to cut through the last straps around her middle. Left in only her thin cotton shorts and undershirt, Hawke was finally able to tread water.
Hawke and Fenris had to swim halfway around the burning Tevinter ship before they laid eyes on The Slaver's Downfall. Arms and legs burning with fatigue, they swam towards Isabela's ship, fighting the waves, and coughing as seawater kept filling their mouths, too tired to even speak. As they neared The Downfall, Hawke could make out several tense and worried faces staring out at the burning Tevinter ship and scanning the ocean.
"There they are!" Merrill's elated voice carried over the water as she jumped up and down.
A cheer rose up from the small gathering.
"Get a rope!" shouted Aveline. "We'll pull them in."
Sebastian appeared next to her, whirling a rope with a weight tied to the end. He flung it out over the water and it landed between them. They grabbed it and clung on as Sebastian and Donnic pulled hand over hand until they were at the side of the boat. A rope ladder rolled down, and Hawke wearily began to drag herself up. When she was close enough for them to reach, Sebastian and Donnic grabbed her arms and dragged her onto the deck where she lay on her back, coughing and gasping. Fenris slumped next to her a moment later, his white hair plastered to his face, breathing heavily.
"Must you always do everything the hard way?" asked Aveline as she squatted down next to Hawke, both relief and amusement in her voice.
Hawke managed to summon the energy to make a rude hand gesture at her.
"Well, at least we know her fingers aren't broken," said Varric, laughing. "You really had us going there for awhile, Hawke."
"We stopped to have a chat with Danarius," said Hawke.
"Is he –" Aveline started.
"He is dead," said Fenris shortly.
"Where's Isabela?" asked Hawke.
"Over there, teaching Blondie some new vocabulary words," Varric said, nodding his head.
Hawke looked across the deck and saw Anders bent over Isabela, trying to hold the gash in her leg together long enough to heal it. Isabela was shouting a very loud and colorful description of his family history as he worked.
"Andastre's ass, I can't believe we pulled that off," Varric said, glancing back at the burning Tevinter ship. "You really get things done, Hawke."
"Not by myself, I don't," said Hawke, smiling tiredly around at them.
She wanted to lay her head down and go to sleep right there on the deck. There wasn't an inch of her that didn't feel bruised and battered. Her throat still ached from the abomination's grip and the shallow slash across it stung sharply. Hawke shivered with wet and exhaustion despite the hot sun above and the warmth of the wood beneath her. Someone wrapped a blanket around her shoulders, and Merrill moved from behind her to hand a second blanket to Fenris, holding it out to him at arms length, looking unsure. He hesitated and then accepted it from her with a curt nod of thanks.
"Here," said Varric as he handed Hawke and Fenris each a tin cup, "This'll warm you up and put hair on your chest."
She sniffed at the contents – some of Isabela's rum if the smell was any indicator. A small sip, and the following warmth down the back of her throat and in her belly, confirmed her suspicions. She noticed that they all held similar cups and that everyone looked just as damp and tired as she. Only Sebastian had been out of the water long enough to have dried out at all. He stood, head bowed, murmuring a prayer for the lost souls of the fallen Tevinters. The rest of them stood around, all clutching blankets except Varric, who had removed his sodden duster and seemed to be warming himself nicely with the rum instead.
"This is truly awful," commented Fenris, wrinkling his nose as he took a gulp of the rum. "Smells like fish."
"Nice to see you too, Elf," said Varric with a grin, raising his own tin cup in salute.
Fenris suddenly looked very awkward, searching for something to say.
"I –" he started and stopped. "Thank you," he said simply, glancing around at all of them, his eyes lingering in particular on Hawke.
Isabela called weakly to him across the deck, "I finally got to see you out of all that armor, so I say it was worth it."
She made an attempt at a sultry leer, but her face was still drawn and pale, her skin a little too waxy. There was a fair amount of blood on the deck underneath her and the side of her tunic had turned a reddish brown. Anders had finally managed to seal the gash in her thigh, and was now binding it with strips of cloth. She looked unnaturally small, laying flat on the deck, hair stringing about her damp face, pain and fatigue sapping her of her usual energy.
"Not much fun, is it?" Hawke asked with a small smile as she went to kneel next to Isabela. "I see you managed to stay conscious though."
Isabela took a small vial that Anders handed her, and knocked back the contents like a shot of whiskey.
"If only that were true," said Aveline as she joined them. "She passed out right after hitting the water, and I had to keep her afloat all the way back."
"Unconscious and wet?" said Hawke, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes, but for far different reasons than usual," said Isabela, propping herself up on her elbows. "But enough about me. The crew tells me we have a few freeloaders on board thanks to you, Hawke." She said it with a smile.
"What?" Hawke said, confused.
"The elves we found on the Tevinter ship," said Merrill happily, squatting down next to Hawke. "They came with us!"
"All of them?" asked Hawke, incredulously.
Merrill nodded excitedly.
"Marian Hawke, saviour of the world's oppressed," said Anders.
"I – I can't believe it," said Hawke. "I didn't think any of them were going to take my offer seriously."
"You do tend to make an impression, Hawke," said Aveline.
"Also, we burned their ship," Merrill pointed out.
"I'll have to see about finding them homes in the alienage," said Hawke, "and foster families for the younger ones."
"You'll have plenty of time to think about it," said Isabela. "We're stuck here until the wind changes." She looked across the deck. "Speaking of elves, I think yours has snuck off somewhere, Hawke."
"Probably went to below deck to escape being ogled by you," said Aveline.
"I should check on him," Hawke said, feeling a bit awkward.
"Marian," Anders said as she made to leave. "Here," he held up a hand and she felt the cut on her throat seal up.
She smiled gratefully at him and he handed her a small vial of pink liquid.
"For small cuts and abrasions," he said.
His eyes were soft and sad, and for a moment, she could see the guilt of Justice nearly having killed her crushing him. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.
"You're a good man, Anders," she said firmly. "And don't think for a second that I'll let you forget it."
He managed a smile before bending back over Isabela's leg. Anxious to find Fenris, and not wanting to add any more to Anders' heartache, Hawke went to search the ship's hold. The elven refugees were grouped together in the crew quarters. Hawke stuck her head inside to speak to them briefly, but moved on when Merrill appeared. They seemed to find Merrill, with her sweet enthusiasm, less intimidating.
Hawke found Fenris in the storage hold, sitting on a crate, leaning back against the bulkhead with his eyes closed. He looked asleep and, loath to disturb him, Hawke gathered her blanket around her shoulders and turned to go.
"Hawke," his voice stalled her.
"Fenris," she said, turning back. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
"I was not asleep," he said, "Merely... thinking." He opened his eyes to look at her. "I have been focused on Danarius for so long that I have allowed my hatred to consume me."
"You had good reason to hate him, Fenris," said Hawke. "He did unspeakable things to you, stole your memories, branded you..."
"I asked for it," Fenris said quietly.
"How can you say-"
"I found my sister," he cut her off, and Hawke stopped, confused at this sudden change in the conversation.
"You found... what?" she asked.
"My sister," said Fenris. "I didn't tell you, but I followed up on Hadriana's information. Everything she said was true."
"But that's wonderful," said Hawke, walking across the small hold to stand next to him. "Isn't it?"
He grimaced, looking extremely bitter, and furthering Hawke's confusion.
"I kept it quiet," he continued, "Sent her enough coin for the journey to Kirkwall, and a room in The Hanged Man. I was going to ask you to come with me to meet her; I've been on the run too long not to be wary of a trap, but she found me first."
Hawke remembered the body of the elf girl that she and Isabela had found in Fenris' mansion, and the implication was almost to awful to contemplate.
"Oh, Fenris..." she started.
"Varania found me in Hightown," he continued. "I thought she was alone at first. We talked. I remembered... things. I used to play with her in our master's garden while our mother worked, and she called me..." he swallowed. "Leto," he whispered after a moment. "My name was Leto."
He paused again and Hawke kept her silence, not wanting to push him.
"But I should have known," Fenris spat, clenching his fists. "She was a mage. My own sister was a mage, and she traded me to Danarius for a chance at becoming a magister herself!"
Hawke simply stared at him, horrified.
"There were too many for me to fight alone," he said. "I managed to kill one of them, and I put my fist through her chest before they could subdue me. But before they took me, before I killed her, Varania told me something else. She said that I wanted these markings," he held his arms out in front of him, looking at the lines of lyrium, "That I competed for them and when I won, I used the money to have her and our mother freed. She said that freedom was no boon, and that I received the better end of the bargain."
Fenris exhaled deeply and turned away, baring the bruised and beaten side of his face to her.
"I thought that discovering my past would bring a sense of belonging," he said in a weary, defeated tone, "But I was wrong. Magic has tainted that too. There is nothing to reclaim, and all I am left with is this lingering hatred. It has been a part of me for so long that it has stained my very soul, and I don't know if I can ever let it go. You almost died today because of it. If I hadn't been so blinded by hate, Danarius wouldn't have had the chance to..." he broke off.
"I'm glad we stayed on that ship," Hawke said earnestly. "And I wish we could resurrect Danarius so I could have the pleasure of killing him again," she added darkly.
He turned his head to look at her, his green eyes very bright despite the dimness of the ship's interior.
"You are an amazing woman, Hawke," he said.
"So, I've been told," said Hawke, uncorking the small vial that Anders had given her.
She poured a small amount onto her fingers and lifted them up in silent question. In answer, Fenris tilted his head slightly, and Hawke gently smeared the liquid over his bruises and the spots where Danarius' rings had split the skin. His eyes never left her face the entire time she touched him.
"You came for me," he said as she worked, still sounding like he couldn't quite believe it.
"Of course I came for you," said Hawke. "I would've stormed Danarius' gates in Miranthous if I had to."
"He would have wiped my memories by that time," said Fenris.
"Well," said Hawke slowly. "At least you wouldn't be able to remember that time I got really drunk at The Hanged Man and vomited all over your feet."
He stared at her for a moment, then broke out in a tired chuckle.
"And you saved me today, Fenris," she said quietly. "That was your dagger I had strapped to my stomach. It's saved my life twice now – too bad I left it in Danarius' leg."
"I get you another one," said Fenris. "It's the least I can do for you, Hawke. You've given me much that I didn't think I would ever have. I am honored to call you my friend."
"Only a friend?" Hawke breathed, her mouth suddenly very dry.
His eyes widened slightly.
"Hawke..." he said, lifting a hand to brush her cheek with his fingertips. "I-"
He jerked his hand back as the stairs creaked and Isabela limped into the room, looking far better that she had when Hawke had first gotten back on board The Slaver's Downfall.
"They're going to go through my entire supply of rum," she grumbled, hoisting a small cask from the floor. She glanced at Hawke and Fenris and rolled her eyes. "Varric, you bloody coward!" she shouted back towards the stairs. "I told you it was safe!" She shifted the cask so it was balanced on one hip and sighed heavily. "Fenris, for the love of Andraste, bend her over a barrel and have done with it so I don't have to keep going up and down those stairs on this leg every time someone wants something but is too afraid to come down here!"
She limped back out of the room, leaving a ringing silence. Hawke stared after her in complete and utter mortification, wishing the floorboards would part and allow her to drop into the ocean below. She couldn't look at Fenris, didn't want to see the expression on his face. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but all that came out was a pitiful sort of squeak.
"I'll kill her," Hawke finally croaked, and started for the stairs.
She made it three steps before a hand around her wrist stopped her. Another instant and she found herself against the bulkhead, being very thoroughly, if somewhat clumsily, kissed. A second of shock, and then Hawke's arms were around him, hands tangled in his damp shirt as she pulled him tightly against her, her blanket fluttering to the floor, forgotten. Fenris pressed her even more firmly against the wall, one hand braced by her head, the other cupping her face. Through the thinness of their clothes, Hawke could feel his muscles tense and shudder as his mouth moved over hers. He was everything at once, soft and hard, gentle and rough, dark and light, and she wanted nothing more in that moment than for the world to disappear forever and leave her with nothing but more of this, more of him.
Hawke unfurled her fingers from his shirt and slid her hands down to his lower back, pulling his hips forward to grind against hers, feeling him between her legs. Heat pooled in her belly as he groaned into her mouth, and they broke apart, both breathing heavily. Fenris pulled away, taking a step back. At the look on his face, Hawke flashed back three years, and her heart clenched in her chest as remembered how he had fled from her courtyard with the same expression of fear an uncertainty. She was suddenly terrified that he would run now too, that they would get back to Kirkwall and she would have to go on as if nothing had happened.
"To the Void with that!" thought Hawke.
She leapt forward before Fenris could take another step away from her, and wrapped her arms back around him, pulling his mouth back down to hers. His whole body tensed briefly in hesitation, and then he was returning her kiss so enthusiastically that Hawke thought they might be in danger of falling over. There was a second of imbalance as they tilted back and forth with the motion of the ship before she swung him around, and it was Fenris who was being pushed up against the wall. She kissed his mouth, his cheek, his ear. She trailed kisses down the side of his jaw, and slid her hands under the front of his shirt to graze his stomach lightly with her nails. When she began to trace the lyrium lines of his neck with her tongue, his breath hitched and he slid several inches down the wall. Fenris pulled her hips even more snugly against his own and Hawke arched her back, wondering just how far down his body the lyrium lines went, and how long it might take to travel all of them with her tongue.
Then the ship pitched particularly violently, and Hawke toppled backwards, dragging Fenris with her. She gave a squeak of surprise that quickly turned to a groan of pain that was echoed by Fenris as they crashed to the floor. The sudden, flaring pain of landing on already much-abused muscles was like a bucket of cold water on the growing flame of her arousal.
"Ow," said Hawke as she rubbed first at a banged elbow, and then at the knot forming where she and Fenris had clunked heads as they literally hit the deck.
"Perhaps," said Fenris, sounding extremely reluctant even as he rubbed at the bump on his own head, "It would be advisable to postpone this until we are somewhere more stationary... and secluded."
As much as Hawke hated to admit it, he was right. They were tired and dirty, and not exactly in the most private of places. Activities such as the ones she was currently planning in her head had no business being conducted where they could be easily interrupted by one of her friends – or overheard by an already skittish group of newly-freed slaves.
She sighed and then shot him a shy smile.
"It occurs to me that I have a rather large and comfortable bed back at my estate," said Hawke.
Fenris brushed her cheek again with his fingertips. "Hawke," he said, the familiar smirk creeping back onto his face, "If you still wish to continue this when we arrive back in Kirkwall, I swear to you, no surface will be safe."
"Hmmmm... I do have courtyard wall that I am particularly fond of," said Hawke.
She laughed and was rewarded by the sound of his own, deeper chuckle before his expression turned serious again.
"I was a fool to leave you that night," said Fenris. "I wanted to turn and go back to you the moment I was out of your sight, but I couldn't. I was... afraid of what it would mean to let someone close to me. I was afraid of hurting you, of being hurt myself. So many nights I found myself halfway to your door only to convince myself that it was the wrong thing to do."
Hawke found herself both pleased and immeasurably sad knowing that he had longed for her just as much as she had longed for him.
"Do you know what the worst part of being taken by Danarius was?" he asked.
Hawke shook her head.
"It was the absolute certainty that I would never see you again, and that once we were back in Miranthous, I wouldn't even have my memories of you," he said. "I would rather have these markings burned into my flesh again than forget one second spent with you, Marian Hawke."
Hawke didn't trust herself to speak. Instead, she placed her hands around his face, and gently pulled him towards hers.
He came unresistingly, pausing only briefly to say, "Excepting perhaps the memory of the foot vomit."
And she laughed as he leaned in the rest of the way and kissed her.