A gust of wind bowed the trees of a great sweeping plain. Before him lay many a body. Human, Dwarf, Elf. Each body had fallen to its knees and begun to worship. Pride knew true pleasure at the sight. "I love the sight of humans on their knees." He said with a toothy grin, as he became aware of a small, soft presence behind him. He looked over his shoulder and smiled wider, "Why, Bethy. How do you do this fine evening?"
"Well enough, Pride. Where is my sister?"
"Nowhere to be found, I'm afraid." He purred, returning his eyes to his own now-not-so-private fantasy. "Isn't it beautiful?" He asked rhetorically.
"For the first and hopefully last time, no. I don't find the sight of a thousand-"
"Million." It corrected. "I counted."
"Million people bowing to a demon at all pleasing. Excuse me." She said moving away cautiously.
"Well, Bethy… that was rude."
"I'm not generally in the habit of being kind to demons." She said over her shoulder as she walked away."
"Perhaps you should reconsider that practice, little Mage." He quipped, suddenly before her. Bethany gasped a bit and stood stock-still. "Not every demon is as forgiving as Pride."
"Forgiving?" Another voice sounded, along with very pointed footsteps. "Of course Pride forgives. Especially considering the fact that you value my conversation. If you harmed my baby sister, Pride, I can assure you, I would not be as forgiving as Pride… wait! You're not my usual Pride demon!" Li'rae said indignantly, stepping from wakefulness as from her bedroom into the foyer. "I suppose we'll need to fight now." She said rolling up her sleeves, and bracing herself, dramatically. "Oh wait, I'm a mage." She pulled fire from the air and pointed a finger, "Go away, Lady Pride."
"Oh, but I have a proposition for you, lady Hawke."
"I can assure you, I will not have any deals. I'm rather stubborn that way."
"Yes, Pride does say that, about you." The large melty-skinned female turned to Bethany. "And you? Would you be so stubborn if you knew that one word from you could bring your father back?"
"As a creepy pride corpse. No thanks." Bethany said.
"See. The Hawke girls will have no deals."
"And what of your swarthy skinned warrior?"
Hawke smiled, "He probably hates you more than I do."
"But if I offered the power to destroy-"
"I'd kill you." Li'rae said seriously. "And Pride would be cross with me for destroying his lady friend so utterly. Does that sound like a profitable arrangement?"
"I heard someone speaking about me…" Pride said, striding toward them confidently. "Ah, my dear Hawke."
"Hello Pride. Your lady friend here seems not to understand the finer points of 'leave me alone'. I think she might be related to Desire."
Pride snorted, then looked at his female counterpart, "I can assure you, she has little skill in the area of lust." A glance at the female pride would reveal nothing more of a reaction than the slight tightening of the gooy looking skin about her eyes.
"Apparently the area of Pride as well. She's been tempting us with power, and returning my Father from the dead."
"Ooh… I appreciate you not killing her."
"You're welcome." Hawke said flatly. "Now, you may wish to tutor her on the finer points of how to interact with a Hawke."
The male demon bowed then turned to oblige, "Rule one: Family is off limits. Rule two: Never try the same thing more than…. Three times. Rule three: No means leave." He then moved toward his female quicker than a breath, and hit her. "Rule four: I have been cultivating a relationship with Li'rae Hawke for twenty years. If anyone is going to deal with a Hawke, it will be me." She stumbled back several steps, wincing in pain. "Rule five: My warnings apply to you just as much as desire, anger and sloth.." He growled.
"Are you so certain?" She glowered.
The female smoldered for a moment, before turning away, and disappearing. "Adieu, Hawkes. I have a contract to reaffirm."
"Of course, Pride. Enjoy your evening."
"I shall try." He winked… well, she thought he did. She couldn't really see his other eye, so he might have simply blinked. With that, however, he bowed and vanished.
"I'm alright." She said quietly, shrugging off the intense feeling of anxiety. "Anyway, sister…" Her eyes wandered, then drooped. "Why am I so…" She staggered, looking around, "You feel that?" She asked slowly.
"Languor is the name…" Spoke the slow gravely voice of a demon, "Sloth is the game."
"That's new." Hawke mused, feeling her body tire.
"I know you're tired, Li'rae… so very tired of carrying-"
"Demon, one more word and you will feel the brunt of my blade." Languor stiffened as an unexpected party joined them. Fenris.
"Tired of running, aren't you?" He tried his luck.
Just then a great flash of light muddled the shadowy consistency of the shade, right about where a heart might be a person. The creature dropped away in a whisp, and before them stood Fenris, a great scowl upon his face. He did not say anything for a moment… then he looked to the sisters. "Rae. Bethy."
Bethany grinned, "That was quite an entrance."
"I do like to make an impression."
Li'rae smiled tentatively. This would be the first time meeting in the fade since she'd… well, since she'd mussed everything up.
"Oh, look at me, here, a third wheel. Now I know how Carver feels." Bethany chuckled. "I think I'll just go over there…" She said as she ambled off, imagining into existence large bushy privacy hedges, and a pair of ear muffs.
Fenris coughed then moved nervously from foot to foot, flicking from his eyes, a strand of dark hair. "It seems she believes we will have a dramatic encounter." He observed.
"Well, Bethy always thinks our encounters awkward, so…" She took a step forward, to bridge the distance between them. "Did I say," She coughed, "How sorry I am…?"
"You did not."
"I am. I'm sorry." She said, "I made a huge mistake."
"Indeed. But I believe I have already forgiven you."
Rae took another step forward, then reached out toward his face, stopping short of touching. She stopped because she was unsure of herself. No need to wonder why. He coughed and looked around, "You have been popular of late." He observed, "Perhaps your pet- your… acquaintance Pride has lost the intimidating edge he had before." After a moment, she withdrew the proffered touch and looked around.
She smirked, "Might be." She then formed a rather familiar beach. The same one they'd played on before. She changed her attire carefully, then set her staff aside- it fell into dust, ready and waiting to be reformed at a moment's notice. "Care for a stroll?" She looked up and took note of the black city. It was so far that definition was impossible to discern, but close enough that one might see the spires of the tallest towers. "The Chantry in Tevinter… what do they say about the Golden city?"
"I wouldn't know. Slaves are not invited to mass."
"You meant no offense." Fenris said cordially, closing the distance when he realized that she would not. He touched her shoulder tentatively, "I wouldn't put much stock in the Tevene chantry in any case, as it is run exclusively by Magisters."
"Of course." She said, "I was just curious about how they justified forcing the taint upon the world."
He shrugged, "They are magisters. They don't believe they need to justify themselves to anyone."
Li'rae nodded, "I was just remembering… the Blight."
Fenris stiffened as he remembered that she had lost much to the blight. An entire life. "I… am sorry for you. I cannot imagine what it must be like."
"It's over." She shrugged, trying to get rid of the memories. "Doesn't matter anyway."
Fenris frowned, trying to recall something of the Tevinter version of the Chant, "I do not know what the Black Divine's version of the chant actually says, but perhaps it goes like this; 'And lo, the greatest of magisters ventured into the Maker's city. To reward them for their courage, He created the darkspawn; a scourge against their enemies, and anyone who might stand against their might.'"
"Indeed." Fenris replied as he moved his hand from her shoulder to her hair. The mage had beautiful hair. With some trepidation, he cast away the armor on his hands, and arms, with a thought. He then took hold of a lock and allowed it to lay in his hand. "Lovely…" He murmured. "Li'rae, I think we…" His voice stilled in his throat, but his intention hadn't been much of talk anyway. He let the hair fall, then turned her face with his hand, he leaned in, noticing that she was hardly breathing, he backed away a step, took her hand, and kissed her knuckles. "That walk you spoke of…?"
Hawke let out a short breath, then nodded and started walking, her hand still clutched in his, "We have a quest tomorrow, Fenris. Something about bringing in a convicted criminal."
"Oh? You wish me to come?"
"Of course! You're my favorite broadsword carrying elf!"
"I believe I am the only one you know."
"I also believe you promised me the title of 'favorite broadsword wielder ever' as I'd recently deposed your brother."
"I did say that, didn't I?"
He chuckled, "You did."
"Well then, all the more reason for you to come."
He inclined his head, "You will likely need to remind me in the morning."
"Oh don't worry. I will."
"Why does that statement strike me as ominous?"
Rae woke bleary eyed but with a silly smile plastered over her face. She looked out the window- or rather, large unpatched holes in the walls. It was still dark. What woke me? She wondered, quickly, silently getting to her feet and sneaking through the hovel, careful to avoid this broken board or that one. She slipped through her family's bedroom door, and into the main room. Gamlen was sprawled in that sweat and ale-soaked chair of his, before the fire. Whomever it was, was not yet inside. She went back and grabbed her staff, calling forth an illumination globe. As soon as the dim light came forth in the room, she noticed Tarian's absence, and the fact that the door was closed awkwardly. She had to admire the creature's consideration to detail. Li'rae crept toward the door, and opened it carefully. Once she did she could hear the low growl of her Mabari, and the frantic stammering of a very well rounded voice. "Now I wouldn't do that if- where is your mistress? By the Maker, I know you understand me, Mabari! I am a Templar!"
Li'rae sighed looking down at herself. Undergarments. She'd worn her nighty for the first time in months, and what did she get for her trouble? A templar. Tarian could handle the brute for a moment while she slipped into something a mite more modest. "Templars. Bah." She mumbled as she reached the door. "Tarian, who is- oh." She stepped outside feigning ignorance and surprise. "Tarian, calm yourself, this is a Templar knight!" The mabari looked at her sideways and huffed. She'd known exactly what the man was, and that was the reason for her snarling. "We have nothing to fear."
The Mabari barked, showing her teeth to the Knight, before backing up and sitting at her mistress' side. "May I help you, Ser Knight?" She touched her hair lightly, faking a blush. "I hope nothing is… wrong."
"No, of course nothing's wrong, Serrah. It's just… I'm afraid I'm a bit lost. I was tracking a young man, someone I believe very dangerous…" He looked pointedly at Hawke, "but I'm afraid I'm not accustomed to this area of the city and I'm a bit lost." His accent was unmistakably Fereldan, and slightly familiar.
"Oh!" She said, "I've been living here for quite some time. I may be able to point you in the right direction."
"I would be… Are you a Fereldan?"
Hawke laughed nervously, "Yes. Been here since just after the incident with the king… my brother survived the battle."
The templar chuckled, "I believe we are acquainted, messer."
Momentary panic flooded her veins, and she wished she hadn't left her staff inside the door. Tarian picked up on her feelings and began to growl again. "I- we are?"
The Templar removed his helmet, and brushed back well groomed blond hair. "Yes."
Li'rae stepped back in surprise, almost tripping over Tarian- who did not appreciate the moment at all- "Dean."
"I'm glad I'm not forgotten." He said quietly, almost urgently. "How are you? Your family?"
"I- we're alright. Well enough. But you! I thought you'd been lost… in Lothering."
"It will take more than a few Darkspawn to fell the children of the Maker."
Li'rae smiled, sincerely glad that out of all that was destroyed, this one good man was not. "It is good to see you."
He chuckled, "And you. But why are you here? In Kirkwall! It… isn't safe."
"I-my mother. She has some family here. We thought that family was much wealthier than they are. I'm working on that." She brushed back her hair nervously. "There's an expedition."
"Ohh? You always were resourceful. Oh… your father. Did he make it?"
"He died two days before we left."
"My sympathy. I hope someone commended his soul to the Maker?"
"A good man." Dean said, "He now serves in the chantry in hightown."
"Does he? I haven't had much occasion to go. The walk is so hard for Mother."
"Of course. Perhaps… you would accompany me to a service? A small one?"
Li'rae's face heated up, her thoughts going back to Fenris. "I am… seeing someone."
"I wasn't implying-"
"Of course not." She coughed. "This is a bit awkward. I'm sorry. Yes, I'll go to a service with you. Today I have a task to perform for a local Magistrate, however. I'll be out on the Wounded Coast."
"Dangerous area, that." Dean said, "Promise you'll take care of yourself."
"Always." She grinned, "Of course, I will."
"Ah… and I do still need directions." He smiled shyly. "Imagine running into a friendly face just as I need it most." He laughed, "The Maker does fulfill our needs, and then some, doesn't he?"
"He does at that." Li'rae said. "Where would you like to go?"
"The Gallows? The apostate was long gone before I stumbled upon your step. I'm lucky no brigands set upon me."
"Ah Luck. Funny how that's just another word for a woman who doesn't tolerate thieves at her door." She grinned at him.
"My lovely lady Luck." He took her hand and kissed its back. "May you always shine for me when I need your light."
Li'rae blushed in earnest now. The templar was very… charming. "Ah, your way back to the docks." She pointed him toward around the corner, then down the stairs toward the Bazaar. Then the first staircase you see on your left will lead you down to the docks. After that-"
"I believe I know my way from there, Lady Luck."
"Thank you." He kissed her hand once more, then stepped back and put his helmet back on. "And farewell."
Li'rae was on Fenris' doorstep before the morning had fully dawned. She noticed that the door was open, so she let herself in. "Li'rae!" Fenris called, "I saw you coming."
That explained the open door.
"Oh did you? I really need to work on my stealth."
"No need to worry. If you were a rogue there might be cause for concern."
"Silly elf thinks he's a comedian." She muttered trotting up the stairs.
"What was that?"
"Oh…" She said as she entered the room to find him oiling the breastplate of his spiky black armor. Which meant he had yet to put a shirt on. Which meant that she was staring.
He looked up at her curious as to why she'd stopped, then seemed to remember himself. "I apologize." He said. "I know I must look…" He made a face, "grotesque."
"No." She said softly, "No, you look…"
"It's alright." Fenris placed the cloth he had been using down, and went to grab a tunic. "I am accustomed to my appearance."
"No, Fenris. You really…" She crossed the cluttered room, and stopped him from reaching for his shirt, "Are not grotesque. I promise. That isn't why…"
He waited a moment before deeming her incapable of finishing speaking. "You seem to be having trouble getting a full sentence out. I assume it is because you are distracted."
"Well…" She eyed his chest, scarred though it was by lyrium and the work of the magisters. "Fenris… I like the way you look. I was-" She took a breath, "You're an extremely handsome elf. Head to toe." She smirked playfully.
"I… Thank you." He coughed, looking away from her, absurdly pleased with her reaction.
She nodded slowly, then seemed to jolt, before she came back to herself. "So, you ready for today?"
"Of course. You woke early, this morning."
"Yeah." She flushed, "Tarian went outside to guard Gamlen's house against a passing Templar…"
Alarmed, he straightened a bit, surprised that he was so put-off by the idea of any mage hunter capturing 'his mages'. "A Templar? I hope everything is alright."
"Yeah…" She hesitated, "It's just… I knew this Templar."
"Knew him? From where?"
"Well, we sort of… grew up together. In Lothering."
"You grew up with a Templar."
"Well he wasn't always a- never mind. Yes. Thing is… He knows about me."
"And now he knows where you live." Fenris growled. "Perhaps you should take more care to expose less." He snapped.
Li'rae pursed her lips, "I didn't know it was him at the time. He recognized me."
"Foolish." He muttered. "Very foolish."
"It's alright. Dean won't sell me out, and he doesn't know about Beth."
"That does not sound 'alright'. He could change his mind at any time."
"I disagree." Li'rae said stubbornly. "Dean is a good man."
"If you think that you r secret will come before his pay, you are wrong. I advise you to stay away from him."
Li'rae huffed, "I'm going to the chantry for a service. Already promised."
"Break that promise if you value your continued freedom." He said. "Any more contact than necessary will only end poorly for your family. Do not go."
"Maker's breath, Fenris. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were jealous." She brushed back some of the hair that'd fallen into her face. "I'm not interested in one of those creepy Templar-mage love stories. That's not what this is about."
"Of course not, it's about a mage hater and a mage. Henris and Fawke." He snapped. "Your Dwarf…" He shook his head in disgust, or something that highly resembled it. Perhaps extreme embarrassment.
"By the Maker has everyone in Kirkwall heard that?" She groaned, "I told him to stop production!"
"Because you are embarrassed by the thought of someone believing you would bed an escaped slave and an elf."
"Maker's breath, man! Wh- I-that is not true. My mother is embarrassed-"
"That is my name."
"Mother is embarrassed because she has a noble woman's sensibilities about…intimacy." She said exasperated, "And I told him to stop because my uncle found a copy somewhere and decided to read selections at the damned dinner table."
"I see." He said doubtfully.
"Believe me, I have no qualms about the implication that Fawke wants Henris. I don't blame her in the least. I have similar feelings." That sounded better in her head. "Fenris. I didn't tell Varric to write that. I told him to stop for my mother's sake." She sighed, "Would you like to come to dinner to hear selections from 'Siege Harder', as read by Gamlen Amell?"
"Dinner… with your family?"
She blushed, "Well… yes. We could catch him at the Blooming Rose, probably, but I'd prefer not to eat anything they're serving."
He seemed to be considering the idea for a moment, before he said aloud, "Is that something you would want, or were you being facetious."
"Well, I was being facetious, about the reading… but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like that." She said quickly. "I'll even make cookies."
He snorted, "Are you certain you'd want me…" He hesitated thinking of adding 'and not your Templar', but decided against it. He believed in her sincerity. What reason had she to lie? 'The templar?' He wondered. Then he thought how he was behaving. She was a mage. He was a slave. Fenris began to sulk.
"Of course I am!" She sighed, "Maker's breath man, do you doubt me that much?" She sat down heavily at his table, her back to the fire. "If it means so much to you, I'll tell Dean I would rather not go."
"Do as you will." He grumbled.
She threw up her hands. "Fenris help me out here. What are you angry about?"
He remained silent. "If I've done something to offend you, let's get it out in the open. I need to know we're alright. If either of us is distracted, going into a fight-"
"I would not allow something so trivial to affect me."
Li'rae took a deep breath, and placed her hands on the table. "You're sulking."
He remained as he was.
"I don't know what you're upset about. If it's still the magic- I thought you'd forgiven me for that. I told you in the fade that I'm sorry, but-"
"That's a bit like hearing about it second hand, Li'rae. I have few memories from the fade."
"Well then, I am sorry. Truly."
"You sound less apologetic than angry."
"Perhaps it's because I feel like I know two different men who claim the same name, past and persona. Maybe because I must have every conversation twice, and half the time, nothing I say matters, unless it be negative." She snapped. "Maybe because what feels more real to me is less than a dream for you."
He scowled, "Mages."
"Oh, I forgot. You hate my kind as well. I would have to fancy a man who could never love me." She growled. "Know what? I think I can handle the man hunt without you." She stood up and started to walk away, her hands clenching and unclenching as she steamed, furious. "I'll have Carver along instead."
"As you wish." The words came late, but weighed heavily. He considered going after her as she stormed away, but the slave in him was stronger than the man. 'How could she care for you? The Templar would be better suited, it is clear she cared for him.' A thousand seemingly sound reasons he should let her go cloying in his ear, held him still as he heard the door to 'his mansion' slam shut. Then, after she was gone, the chains burst and the heavy calm shattered.
The lyrium in his skin flared and his hands shook. He lowered his face into his hands and growled. When growling was not enough, he stood and smacked a cup from the table, watching in satisfaction as it shattered against the wall. "Better alone than in the power of a mage." He told himself. His skin burned, a constant reminder of what he was, and what she might do to him if he let her- and oh… he would. A part of him, the slave, lusted after her commands, her direction. If she wished it, he would grovel at her feet, however… he would hate her. The slave in him hated her already. It drew parallels between Li'rae and Hadrianna. Li'rae and Danarius. There were many qualities they shared, it said.
In the face of an enemy, she was ruthless. Her spells shattered bone and boiled blood. She demanded so much from him. Asked him to be someone he didn't recall. She expected him to guard her back even when she exposed it to her enemy. She used him to frighten her adversaries! By the time he was done recounting the ways they were alike, he was seething, seeing more of Hadrianna in her than Li'rae. He hated her. Then for one intense moment, he remembered. His body was lit up like a crystal in sunlight, and the lyrium burned him, but it allowed him a glimpse- just this once- into his half-remembered dream-life. He remembered the beach. The soft material she'd worn as a swim suit. The touches. The careful way she had treated him, always allowing enough room for him to retreat if he so chose. He remembered the thunderstorm metaphor, and he thought, with the tide of soon to be faded moments nearly drowning him, that this must be something like the way she felt every day. Only, rather than being a well cultivated piece of land, he was a canyon flooded to the brim.
He remembered kissing and cuddling. He remembered the soft texture of her skin- and ached to feel it in his waking hours- and the fondness he felt. Then he realized something he should have known, yet somehow managed to lose. He had run for her. To her. Not at her behest, or because she had commanded him, but because he wanted to be near her. This was not the decision of a slave, but that of a man. Miles and miles, he had come, without knowing why. But she had known. She'd known him from the moment she saw him, and he had never questioned clearly, the reason why. She had known that he would come. Come for her. And he had just allowed the slave in him to chase her away.
As his skin cooled, he found himself on his knees. "I am a fool." He said aloud, gradually coming to his feet. He realized his knees ached as he stood and they creaked. The fire had burned down to embers. How long had he existed in-between realms? Moments, hours? Fenris looked out toward the door, wishing she would be there. Wishing he hadn't let her go angry. "A damned fool." He put his armor on, his sword into its place on his back, and then he rushed toward the doors to follow, only stopping at the exit, upon realizing, "I… cannot follow because I do not know where she went." The Wounded Coast was large, and scarred. As he stood there, hand upon the door, the memories faded, like water through clasped fingers. He knew them better than before, but they were once again mere impressions of events. "I cannot even hold onto these memories." Bitterness welled once more, but not directed at Li'rae. At Danarius. The magister who stole his life, burned his memories along with his skin, and cursed his soul.