The steady pulse of village life became increasingly familiar to Hawke as life moved on.
Now that she was away from Minrathous, with its innumerable residents and fast-paced rhythms, she finally realized that she missed Lothering; she missed the steady pace, the hard work, the people, even the mud, and this little makeshift village in the heart of the jungle recalled her homeland more than anywhere in the Imperium.
Not that all things were the same. Indeed, most things were different. Everything was close and crowded, and the people were much... not exactly friendlier, that wasn't the word. But closer. Every show of emotion had more urgency than other places, more rawness. Arguments were sudden and quick, affection was more freely shared. (A bit too freely shared, in some cases. Hawke would have appreciated an ounce of discretion here and there, but she was a guest and could not exactly complain. At most she could blush and turn away.)
And Fenris seemed to flourish here. He would often be gone all day, doing this and that, but he would return in the evenings and tell her everything. Not out of any obligation, but merely because he was so enthused by everything and wished to share his new knowledge with the woman he loved.
Hawke found her own small purposes in the village. She offered healing where she could, and that was the only magic that others would begrudgingly accept from her. But she also mounted a campaign to win the trust of the two Saarebas. A male and a female kossith, they were rarely in the same place at the same time. They seemed to be avoiding each other as well as Hawke, which the latter assumed was because of some lingering Qunari indoctrination.
Perhaps approaching them would cause them undue distress, she thought at one point. She even asked Fenris his thoughts on the subject.
"Darnasaad says we cannot live our lives in fear of ourselves," he replied. 'Darnasaad says' was a predominant theme in their conversations lately, causing Hawke not a small pang of jealousy. But she could hardly say a word against any of what Darnasaad said, when there was sense in his words.
"So you think they're afraid of themselves," Hawke said instead. "Or Darnasaad thinks so, which is the same at any rate."
"I'm given to understand it was how they were educated," Fenris shrugged, then gave Hawke a strange look. "Hawke, is something wrong?"
Hawke briefly considered putting on a pout like some scorned Orlesian lady of fine breeding, but at the end of the day, she was Fereldan.
"Fenris, don't let Darnasaad take over you," she said instead.
"Is that what you fear?"
"Bluntly put, yes."
"Darnasaad is not trying to enslave me."
"I never said that. But you can't let one person dictate how you think about everything."
"Yes, that's what Darnasaad also says," Fenris replied.
Hawke turned to look at him, and his deadpan expression.
"Are you attempting humor, Fenris?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Was that humorous?"
"Not even a little bit," Hawke sighed, but kissed him anyway.
"If this is to be my punishment for bad jokes, I don't see what incentive I have to improve," he rumbled afterward.
"Well, well, that was a good one. Here, let me give you that incentive..."
But the matter was not so easily put to rest. Two nights later, Fenris came with a book in hand.
He gave it to Hawke, who opened it curiously. She was vaguely familiar with how Qunari looked when it was written down, but she couldn't make much of the script.
"Is this the Qun?" she asked, surprised. "Have you just handed me the Qun?"
"Darnasaad told me I should consider reading it, to have a fuller picture of what the struggle entails," Fenris explained. "He offered to teach me to read Qunari."
Hawke flipped the pages. The lines and dots and strange empty spaces did not speak to her. Had she not known it was a language, she could just as easily thought it was a decorative scrawl.
She could not teach Fenris to read this. She would have been unreasonable if she also disapproved of Darnasaad teaching him, yet this seemed to be exactly the option Fenris was presenting her with.
She took in a breath and pushed it out evenly. Not a sigh, exactly, but close enough.
She handed the book back to Fenris.
"This is important, and not something I can teach you," she said. "You should accept Darnasaad's offer."
Fenris nodded, eyes solemn. "I will go to him, then."
But instead of leaving, he leaned towards Hawke, cupped the side of her face, and kissed her deeply. Hawke made a surprised sound in her throat, but opened herself to him and reciprocated. They ended up kissing for a long time, the book jammed uncomfortably between them.
"What was that for?" she asked.
"So you'll know I intend to come back," Fenris replied.
It was only after he'd departed again that Hawke thought to consider the possibility that she'd just passed some sort of test.
Later in the day, Hawke came across Darnasaad. Or perhaps more accurately, Darnasaad came across her; she'd gone for quite a stretch without seeing the man's face, and she didn't think his appearance now was a coincidence.
He wordlessly beckoned her towards the jungle, and she followed, too fascinated by this turn of events to refuse.
She followed him down a path towards a small stream, where he sat himself down on a boulder like a judge in his chair, and regarded Hawke in silence until she also found a seat on a log.
"Fenris holds you in high esteem," he said.
A perturbing opening statement, in Hawke's opinion.
"He holds you in high esteem as well," she replied.
"I dislike it," Hawke replied.
"I disapproved of you, as well," Darnasaad nodded. "Less so now, but still... you are a magister. You held Fenris and many others in bondage. If you so desired, you could have powers at your fingertips which could bring all of us to our knees."
"Then I suppose it is pointless to tell you that I do not desire it, because as a magister, I might also easily lie?" Hawke sighed.
"No, it is not pointless," Darnasaad shook his head. "I can see the truth of it in your eyes."
"You are too trusting," Hawke retorted.
"I am as trusting as I think is required of me."
"So you no longer disapprove of me?" Hawke blinked.
"The two Saarebas," Darnasaad said, changing the subject so abruptly that Hawke's head nearly spun.
"They are fearful," Darnasaad continued. "You are not. Teach them how."
"Are you only giving me this task now because you're sure I won't undermine your authority?" Hawke asked. He wasn't the only one who could play at this game.
Darnasaad remained silent for a long time.
"I have responsibilities which I must take in consideration," he said after some time. "And information which helps me excel at my chosen task."
"So basically, you know best?" Hawke surmised.
"As hard as that may be for you to accept, yes."
Hawke didn't know enough to contradict him. She shrugged.
That night, Fenris came in late, and curled himself around Hawke's back. He was exhausted, but gave such a contented sigh against Hawke's ear, that she couldn't help but feel her heart swell in affection.
"How long are we staying here?" Fenris asked in a tired mumble.
"As long as you wish," Hawke said. "As long as you need."
He drifted to sleep while nodding, with a small smile curled in the corner of his lips.
Author's note: OH MYYYYY GOOOD, it literally took me years to update this fic again. But this is it. It's done. Y'all know what's going to happen to this village, I don't need to go into that. I am never updating this thing again. Never, ever. It's done. Finito. Thank you all for the support! Thank you for the completely unreasonably high number of views on this old fic, and all the occasional reviews long after it became apparent that this fic was kind of abandoned. You guys are great, but I've moved on to another fandom now, so until the next game comes out, you're not going to see any more DA fics out of me. If you're into Homestuck, though, I'm going to put up the fics I was busy writing this whole time I wasn't updating HotH, so... there's that.
But yes, thank you again! You are wonderful people.