I've trailed her since she left Kirkwall. Bodhan had been very helpful with his information once I assured him that his lady would not hear of it from me. She intends to grieve for her mother alone, and I will not deny her that. I only follow to insure her safety and judging by the ease with which I shadow her, she is in no mental state to fend off would-be attackers.
I had thought that this would be an easy task; I have stood guard in one way or another for as long as I can remember. Yet standing on this dune watching Hawke surrender to her grief I have to struggle against a foreign desire rising in me. Something from within is screaming at me to close the distance between us, calling for me to do something, anything, to ease the pain of my friend. It is almost uncomfortable in its intensity but I fight the compulsion. She has not asked for aid in this and I will not offend her sensibilities.
I watch as she turns out and walks into the sea, holding what I can only assume are her mother's ashes against her chest. The wind carries some of her words back to me, something about rivers of silence and dust returning. I blink and feel my brow furrow in confusion. Her mother was already given funeral rites but these words sound nothing like the Chantry's service. At this point I realize that Hawke has never given any indication that she herself is Andrastian and I can't help the spike of curiosity this revelation brings. My need to know this woman is less surprising after three years at her side, yet I doubt that I will ever truly understand it.
Her movement catches my eye and I curse inwardly as she turns back to land. The shoreline offers precious few places for concealment and I am nothing but conspicuous in my armor. I hold my breath and pray to the Maker that somehow she will not notice me. I exhale only after she trudges out of the water and... collapses next to her equipment, sand caking on her boots. The earlier craving to make my presence known returns ten-fold as Hawke slowly draws in on herself, shoulders shaking from weeping. Venhedis. Before I can think my feet carry me across the sand, my hands reaching for the sword strapped across my back. I lay my weapon beside her daggers and a sidelong glance assures me she is still ignorant of my trespass. I reach for her cloak and move to stand beside her, my hands wringing the dark material. Uncertainty races through me. Now what. The nameless force that propelled me across the dunes is gone in a rush and for a brief instant I consider turning on my heel and running.
Until Hawke turns her head to look up at me, her skin pale and wan in the half-light. Tear tracks are plain on her face and her eyes are bright. She looks utterly defeated and for some reason I feel as though I should be protecting her. From what, I can't imagine, but the feeling rises in me all the same. I watch as her expression changes from shocked to worried and then finally settles on guilty. My confusion is only momentary as I realize she probably expects me to berate her for this expedition. And perhaps I will, for it is foolish to travel alone, but she is no longer alone and now is not the time. I shake my head as she opens her mouth to speak. You have no need to defend yourself to me. I try to make my intentions clear by my expression since I cannot trust my voice to rise past the tightness in my chest. She seems to understand and closes her eyes, resting her head on her knees again. She is not angry with me for following her and I feel relief flood through me. Emboldened by this knowledge I kneel beside her and carefully pull her cloak around her small form. She murmurs her thanks and shifts underneath the material, allowing it to settle on her shoulders. I simply nod an acknowledgment and sit in the sand next to her, the scent of her soap still tingling in my nose.
A memory rises in my mind of Hawke's mother explaining that the smell was evergreen, some form of tree native to Ferelden. Apparently these trees remained hale even through the harsh southern winters. I had voiced an opinion then that the scent suited her daughter well; it was sharp and clean. Mistress Amell had laughed and nodded. 'My daughter,' she had said 'is so very much like those trees. So very much like her father.' Her expression then had been somehow both sad and joyful. I feel my own pang of loss as the memory passes. She had been a good woman, and now she was gone. I take a breath to clear my thoughts and try to find the right words. Honesty is usually best.
"I… don't know what to say, so I will say very little. I am sorry. I cannot imagine what you must be feeling, but I am here."
Hawke turns her head again and I can tell she's trying to smile although the result is fragile and broken.
"That's all I ask. Grief is a private thing, but it is an easier burden when shared..." Her voice is thin and it tightens as she trails off. I can see in her eyes that her words have brought up some piece of the past. Her expression buckles and she ducks her head again, dark hair sliding over her face, desperate to hide her tears. Some part of me warns that she is better left alone, whispers that I am useless to her. I banish those thoughts as quickly as they come. Somehow I know that she needs me in this place and I will not turn from her, my own demons be damned.
The same compulsion that drove me to her side returns as I lay a hand on her shoulder. After years of avoiding contact the sensation of heat through her cloak is strange but not painful, as I had expected. I can see her eyes on me through splits in her curtain of hair. I'm unsure of how to comfort her with my limited experience but something in her eyes guides me. I reach for her and she moves towards me and suddenly she's pressed against my side, my arms around her with her head tucked under my chin. She wriggles a little, trying to find a comfortable place against my armor and I almost regret wearing it. Two thundering heart beats and she settles against me, seeming satisfied with her position. I nearly forget to breathe as the situation finally starts to register: the texture of her hair beneath my chin, the heat of her forehead against my neck, the pressure of another body against mine.
I can feel her draw in a shuddering breath; the oddity of it sets my head spinning. Her voice is still thin, her usual bright undertones completely absent. "Thank you, Fenris. I… You don't know how much this means to me." Her last words are halting, as though she's trying to fight against another fit of grief. I move one of my hands up and down the side of her arm in what I hope is a soothing gesture. Just as the witch had warned her the time for her regrets had come. If she will not allow herself to grieve… Set your arms down, Marian. Do not let this consume you. My relief is almost palpable when she draws in another breath and finally lets herself break.
And so I sit in the sand, comforting this woman who has altered my stars beyond reckoning, my own mind a powerful mix of confusion and sympathy and… hope. Festis bei umo canavarum.