I scan the streets, watching and waiting. Nothing moves so I continue my journey to the Hanged Man. I walk silently, sticking to the shadows. The streets aren't safe at this hour, especially for someone walking alone. I can smell the place before I can see it, the stench of piss and ale overpowering the usual smell of trash that permeates Lowtown. I round a corner and it comes into view, looking as dirty as ever. I doubt anyone really cleans it. I push open the door to the inn and walk in, no longer phased by the smell. I've gotten used to it.
As I walk inside I keep my head down. I don't want Isabela or Varric to know I'm here. I scan the room quickly but don't see either one. I take a moment to thank the Maker for my luck before heading up the stairs and down the hall. I step into a side room near the end of the hall and close the door behind me.
"You're late." I hear the scratchy voice of my contact and turn to face him, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.
"Look, I have the money. Take it and go." I pull out a sack of coins and I see his eyes light up. I try to keep the disgusted look off my face as he reaches for it, and I pull it back just in time. I draw a knife with my other hand and press it to his throat. He freezes, his eyes locked on mine.
"Make sure this gets to your boss. One more slip up and your business is done. Permanently. Understand?" The greasy man licks his lips and nods slowly. I put the knife away and he snatches the coins from my hand.
"Of course, Serah." He darts from the room and I pray the coin makes it. Last time a few gold pieces were missing, and if it happens again I'll kill him. I can't risk missing a payment, even if I have to meet with the leader of the Coterie myself.
I give him a few minutes to leave before I poke my head out the door. The hallway is empty and I quickly make my way to door, sticking to the shadows. Getting caught sneaking out of the Hanged Man would not look good for me. Everyone knows that some shady business happens here, and it wouldn't be long before people started asking questions. I finally make it out and breathe a sigh of relief.
"Hawke, what are you doing here?" I tense up before turning towards the speaker. I am greeted by the sight of Anders and relax.
"I was just leaving." I say smoothly, the lie falling easily from my lips. It's been too easy to lie to people as of late, and I really wish I didn't have to. It's only a half-lie I suppose. I really was leaving.
"Do you want me to walk you back to your estate?" Anders asks kindly. I try not to wince at the pain that comes with lying to him. He has been nothing but kind to me and I have repaid that kindness with a web of lies. Some friend I am.
"No, it's fine. I'd like to spend some time alone if you don't mind." I say honestly. It's true, I just want to be alone. He nods.
"Alright Hawke. Be safe." He says before walking inside. I wince as he walks in, leaning against the wall for a minute. I shut my eyes tight, trying to get a grip. I can't afford to be weak. Not now. With that thought in mind I straighten and start the long walk home. The deal has been made, now I just have to hope that the messenger carries out his end of the bargain.
It's close to midnight by the time I get home, and Leandra is waiting for me. I groan in aggravation, not wanting to deal with her right now. She paces by the fire and when she sees me she rushes to stand in the doorway. Her arms cross and she scowls angrily at me.
"And just where have you been?" She demands.
"Out." I say. I try and push past her but to no avail. She stands her ground and my dog whines from the next room. Farsi hates it when Leandra and I argue. I feel bad for the poor dog, but there isn't much I can do.
"Selene Hawke, you answer me right now. Where were you?" Her eyes narrow and I step back a bit. I face her down, my expression just as fierce as hers.
"I am a grown woman and I go where I please, Leandra. You can't stop me anymore." She moves for a second as she prepares to reprimand me and I slip by before going up the stairs.
"It is just this kind of behavior that got Carver killed! If you weren't so stubborn he might be alive!" I stop walking and turn to look at her.
"That wasn't my fault." I say quietly. Ever since my father's death I have been pushing her away. He and I were close, and shared everything. When he died I shut everyone out to try and deal with it, but my mother hated seeing me so upset and be unable to help. When Carver died she blamed me for it, and to this day I don't know why she did it, or why she still does it. When Bethany was taken to the Circle she blamed me for not taking her with me and keeping her safe. She blames me for everything, and I think that she is doing it just so she doesn't have to deal with it herself.
I walk into my room and close the door. I hear Leandra following me and lock it before heading to the window. She starts yelling at me through the door and I open the window. She starts trying to open the door and I climb out onto the ledge before working my way down. The first time I did this it was much harder. I'm used to it now. I reach the ground and start walking, heading towards the closest place I can stay. Fenris's mansion.
I slink through the streets, and hear shuffling off to my left. I draw my swords and turn to look, adrenaline beginning to kick in. I see a few members of the Coterie and sigh, sheathing my blades. I keep walking and soon I hear the catcalls.
"What's wrong little Hawke? Lost your way?" The ruffians don't bother to chase me, but they tease me for as long as they can. Their rude shouts chase me down the street, making me wish desperately that I could put an end to them. That's another part of the deal I made. I can't attack members of the Coterie unless they attack first. They are holding a lot over me right now, and are blackmailing me every way they can. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it.
I finally make it to Fenris's estate and let myself in. He's probably asleep at this point and I would rather not wake him. He gets grouchy when woken up. I close and lock the door behind me and make my way to his couch. It isn't great but it's better than the floor. I set my blades down and take my armour off. I dart upstairs and snag one of Fenris's shirts, which falls to my upper thigh. I head back downstairs before collapsing onto the couch, my mind a million miles away. Sleep finally claims me and I descend into dreams.
"They'll find him eventually. No one is going to refuse that kind of coin Hawke." The thug stares me down, but I don't back down an inch. The Coterie have footholds everywhere, and were the most likely to catch wind of the bounty. I set up a meeting with the Coterie leader to make sure they didn't take it.
"It buys me time, and is profitable to you as long as you uphold your end of the bargain." I reply. The big man thinks it over before extending his hand.
"You have yourself a deal, Hawke. You'll meet the contact every other Tuesday in the second to last room at the Hanged Man at 10:00 sharp with the gold. If you miss a payment..." He trails off.
"I won't." I take his hand, shaking it to seal the deal.
"I don't believe you, Hawke." He says, shoving me back.
"Hawke!" He says as he hits me again.
"Hawke! Wake up!" My eyes snap open and I sit up, breathing heavily. Fenris stops nudging me and steps back, surprised by my behavior.
"Are you alright Hawke?" He asks, his deep voice soothing me. He's already wearing his full armour, which is a real shame. I sigh and set my feet down on the floor, turning to face him. I lean back and try to look relaxed. I have had that dream since I made the deal, and it plagues my sleep on an almost nightly basis. Up until the end, the dream was accurate. Fenris trying to wake me up morphed it.
"Yeah, I'm fine." I reply. Another lie. I'm getting good at them it seems.
"With that out of the way, why are you here? And why are you wearing my shirt?" His eyes narrow as he looks down at me and I shrug casually as though it were nothing out of the ordinary.
"Leandra wouldn't leave me alone last night and your estate was by far the closest so I climbed out of my window and came here. As for your shirt... I didn't want to sleep in my armour or have you come down here and find me mostly naked so I figured I'd borrow your shirt. I can take it off if you want..." I let the suggestion hang, a teasing smile on my face. I'm kidding and he knows it. Fenris shakes his head at my antics and tries to hide his amused chuckle. I make a conscious effort to not lean forward to try and hear it better, barely resisting the urge. He really does have a very sexy laugh.
"Don't you have places to be Hawke?" He asks, knowing full well that I do. I remember with sudden clarity that the Arishok requested my presence and my eyes widen.
"Shit!" I say before grabbing my armour and pushing him out of the room. I change quickly and strap my twin blades to my back. Fenris walks into the room once more, on the way to the door. His massive sword is strapped to his back and I can tell he is trying not to laugh at me.
"Come on Hawke." He says, and I can hear the mirth in his voice. I sigh and follow him before beginning the long walk to the Arishok. It's only around ten so I have plenty of time. Fenris and I walk in comfortable silence until my stomach growls loudly. He stops and looks over at me with one eyebrow raised and I shrug.
"Pastries?" I suggest, and it's his turn to shrug. He never really cares what we eat for breakfast when he isn't making it. Once or twice when I ended up sleeping on his couch I awoke to a Tevinter breakfast. Fenris is a surprisingly good cook, and I found myself really enjoying the spices and flavours of the food he prepared. I don't actually know where he got the stuff to make it, but it was good.
We walk through the market in Hightown until I find the pastry shop I tend to visit when I'm hungry. The smell of fresh bread wafts out through the open windows and I sigh in contentment. I walk in and greet the baker before spending a few silver on breakfast for Fenris and myself. He and I sit and munch contentedly on scones while sipping a sweet Ferelden tea. It tastes of berries and has a very unique flavour that I happen to like a lot. It reminds me of home.
"What do you think he'll say? The Arishok I mean. With so many people conspiring against him, hostilities will undoubtedly grow. There could be an open war." I let my nerves get the better of me and ask the questions that have been really bothering me. Fenris finishes chewing his scone before responding thoughtfully.
"The Arishok won't openly declare war unless he thinks he can take the city. If they attack, he will defend accordingly. What I am more curious about is why he is still here. I would have thought he would have sent some of his men to gather more forces and storm the Viscount's keep. He is obviously irritated by the chaos and squalor within the city, and he probably wants to convert all of Kirkwall. If you want to stay in his good graces you should probably agree on the sorry state of the city, though make sure he knows you don't want to convert to the Qun." I consider his words carefully as I bite into a slice of sweet bread.
"How do you know so much about the Qunari?" I ask, tilting my head slightly. Fenris tenses for a moment so brief that nearly anyone else would have missed it. I must have hit a sensitive topic. Probably has to do with Denarius... He takes another bite of a scone and a silence forms.
"Doesn't matter. Anyways, we should probably move on. Don't want the Arishok getting impatient." I stand and stretch before looking at him. He stands and tidies up our table a bit before opening the door for me. I leave the building and the two of us continue our walk towards the Qunari compound. Fenris is kinder than people give him credit for being. He broods a lot, but he really does have a reason to. His hatred of mages is not exaggerated though, and is a spot of constant debate between us. I agree that mages can be a danger and should remain in the Circle, but I think everyone should be given more freedom than what they have.
"I'm glad you didn't take the Abomination this time." Fenris says after awhile. I sigh, loath to start this argument. It never changes. I defend Anders and Fenris insults him.
"He has a name, you know. Would it kill you to use it?" I look over at him and he scowls.
"Why take the chance?" I sigh and keep walking, giving up on the argument before it begins.
We continue the walk to the compound in silence, and I try and return to my previous mindset. I think on what Fenris said before, though I can't help but feel tired. I hate arguing with him. We finally reach the compound and I pause before entering it. Fenris stands by my side and I sigh heavily. I normally bring Anders with me, though he told me he was busy today. Aveline was going on a patrol with her guards and Varric admitted he would rather not go. Merrill is unnerved by the Qunari, so I no longer ask her and Isabela... She simply refuses to enter the compound. Which leaves only Fenris. Not that I take him as a last resort. He is the most experienced and knowledgeable about the Qunari, and a good fighter if we run into trouble. He was the first person I asked to accompany me, in fact.
"Are you ready, Hawke?" Fenris asks, letting me have my moment. He knows how much stress the tension between the Viscount and the Arishok is putting on me, and has been helping me deal with the Arishok.
"Yeah, I'm ready." I lie, forcing the words out. I don't want to deal with the Arishok right now but I have to. I promised the Viscount I would do what I could for the city. That apparently included dealing with Kirkwall's "guests".
Fenris and I enter the compound side by side, and I try my best to conceal the crushing amount of guilt I feel. He too is caught up in my web of lies, but it's all to protect him. I only hope he doesn't hate me for it in the end.