The lyrium glowed a dull white, but against his skin it was as hot as a bright flame, and he had to look down at his chest to see the skin was still intact. Another lyrium needleprick and he could not stop himself from crying out. The magister's deliberate hands had no mercy, his eyes were cold and detached. The master watched, curious, as though he were staring at a strange creature exhibiting some interesting new behavior.
He begged them to stop, tears rolling down his cheeks. He thrashed against the bounds that held him securely to the table. The magister was angry at the disruption of his work.
"His eyes," said the master, from his corner of the room.
The magister nodded, lifting the burning flask of lyrium above his face, the searing droplets dripping from the lip of the glass container.
Fenris awoke to screaming, and it took him a while to realize the cries were his own. He shuddered, remembering both the dream and the reality on which it was based. He sat up in the dark room and pulled his knees to his chest, hands shaking.
Moonlight fell through the window opposite him, glowing white like the cursed lyrium. It splashed on the floor and lit up the whole room in a dim, ghastly glow. The room was orderly, if a bit dusty, a pile of books stacked on the bedside table, the bed made and adorned with heavy pillows.
Fenris slept on the floor, near the door, positioned so that if someone entered the room, they would not immediately see him. He did not mind the floor, and it was safer to sleep where no one expected you to. He had never really slept in a bed, not that he could remember, anyway. And it seemed particularly repulsive to sleep in a bed his former master had once occupied.
He moved quietly through the house, footsteps soft and deliberate on the thick, luxurious carpet—a horrid shade of maroon. He stirred the coals in the fireplace until he had a small blaze to sit by, a warm yellow glow to banish the darkness.
It had been a strange evening. Fenris had hired swords before, whenever he could afford it, but never with as much secrecy as this time. He was unsure of Anso's ability to discern which mercenaries could stand up to the skilled slavers Danarius had sent, mages among them, and when he saw their number, he feared he'd sent his hires to their death.
But they'd survived, better than survived, they had felled at least a dozen slavers with little more than a few scratches to the four of them.
They were undoubtedly the strangest band of mercenaries he'd ever seen. The dwarf carried the largest crossbow he'd ever seen, and the young man wielded a greatsword the equal of his own. The obvious leader had soft, lovely features, dark eyes and hair cut short and shaggy. She looked too sweet for mercenary work, but the long, gleaming daggers on her back were covered in blood.
She didn't flinch when he ripped the heart out of the slaver's leader, just watched the man stagger and fall, and then turned to him with curious eyes.
"Nice trick," said the dwarf, a grin on his face.
"I am Fenris," he said. "I apologize for the secrecy, but the slavers were trying to lure me out into the open. I needed to hire help without alerting them. A crude trap, but it might have been effective if not for your aid."
"Sarah Hawke," she said, extending a hand. "Those men were slavers?"
"Yes. They were after me. My former master undoubtedly sent them to recapture me."
She smiled at him. "Well, if it means we killed slavers, I'm glad we helped."
He nodded, never taking his gaze from her face.
"You know, you don't have to lie to me to get my help," she said.
"We shall see," he replied. She tilted her head to the side and looked at him, again with the wide curious eyes. "My former master may be in town," he said. "I will need your help to confront him."
There was a hint of a gleam in her eye, a sign that perhaps, for all her sweet words, she was not too opposed to violence after all.
They were attacked three times on the way to the residential section of Hightown. Hawke and her crew fought as a single unit, deadly and precise, and he took some pleasure in watching them in action. Most mercenaries were sloppy and uncoordinated, but she moved with a disciplined grace that was surprising in a Kirkwall street rat.
Fenris kicked open the door to the mansion. "Danarius," he yelled. "I am coming for you."
Hawke gave him a curt nod just as three shades emerged from the shadowy corners of the room. He hefted his greatsword, the familiar weight reassuring him that he was in control. Small tendrils of fear curled through the anger in his chest, but he pushed them away. He had to be in control. This could be his chance.
The mansion was empty, except for the army of shades and demons that had given them a fight in every room. Fenris felt like a deflated balloon, his anger slipping away, disappointment taking its place.
"I'm sorry," said Hawke.
"It…does not matter any longer," he said. He left them there to loot the valuables the previous owner had left behind, and left the house. He leaned against the wall of the house, watching the empty street. He tried to think ahead, to formulate a plan, a new place to run to…but it seemed hollow. There was no point to it, no purpose any more. He would run for the rest of his life, or he would die at the magisters' hands, and at the moment, he was not sure which fate was worse.
"It is no use," he said, as Hawke walked out the door and stood facing him in the street. Again she tilted her head, as if to say whatever do you mean?
And something compelled him to explain it to her, or at least to try.
"I left a land of dark magic just to have it hunt me at every turn. " he said.
"That's a lot of work to recapture a single slave," she said. The way she said it made it a question.
"Danarius does not want me," he explained. "Only the markings on my skin. They are lyrium, meant to provide the power he needed in his pet." He spat the final word, it tasted foul on his tongue. "He'll almost certainly kill me once he finds me, because he only needs my skin."
"Seems like a waste of a perfectly handsome elf," said Hawke, and he looked up at her, trying to see mockery in her face, but there was none. Her eyes were dark and sincere. He chuckled, cleared his throat, both awkward and pleased.
"If you're staying in Kirkwall," she said, "come work with me. I'm planning an expedition into the deep roads." She gave him a wry smile. "It will make us all rich."
He nodded. "If you have need of me, I would be happy to join you."
"Good," she said, and grinned, this time a wide, genuine smile. "We meet up at the Hanged Man, late morning. I'll see you then."