Isabela's Ship

Fenris was back in his cabin, at the small table beside his bunk, drinking his fourth bottle of Antivan wine. They had all agreed that their best chance for a rescue would be before Danarius disembarked in Minrathous – if they could catch up with him. Danarius had two days on them and they'd seen no sign of his ship on the horizon. Two days. Isabella and more than a few of their crew were skilled at sailing and the ship was fast. They might be able to cut into that lead. Perhaps Danarius would be delayed. Two days.

Fenris could not shake the feeling that they should be there by now. He tried to recall conversations about slave ships returning from the Free Marches, but the details eluded him. There had been no reason to pay attention to men so far below Danarius, men who would never offer his master any threat. Fenris didn't think Danarius would do anything to Hawke while they were at sea. He would want to bring Hawke back to his lair in Minrathous. They had to get Hawke out of there before that. The thought of Danarius hurting Hawke…

Fenris fought the urge to fling the wine bottle against the wall. He had no desire to draw more attention to himself. He didn't realize how tightly he was gripping the bottle until it shattered in his hand. Red wine splashed across his gauntlet, reminding him of the blood that more frequently covered it. The wine ran off, like water; it did not cling to him like blood, did not stain him.

There was a knock at his door. Fenris told them to go away, or thought he did, maybe it came out in Tevene, for the next moment, the door opened and Zevran stepped in. Fenris shoved the broken bottle across the table toward the blond elf. The pieces skittered over the edge, each making a small chinkle as it dropped to the wood floor. "What do you want?"

"Quite the charmer, aren't you?"

"I'm not interested."

Zevran chuckled. "Presumptuous too. My friend, have you seen yourself lately?"

For some reason, Isabela's comments on him came to mind and Fenris decided to throw these at the other elf. "I'm told I'm lanky and have beautiful eyes."

"Ha! More like gaunt with bloodshot eyes. When was the last time you slept?"

"Can anyone sleep with the noise you two make?"

Zevran only grinned at that.

"Why are you even here, on this ship?"

"This again?"

"Don't tell me about your Crows. There are many ships going places less dangerous than Minrathous I'm sure."

Zevran sat on a stool across from Fenris. "A fair question I suppose." He was silent a moment before continuing. "I miss… I miss Lorynn."

"The Hero of Ferelden? Surely she is not in Tevinter..."

"That is not my meaning. Travelling with her, being a part of something… saving the world is a fine business, yes, but… there was more… something that drew others to her… Isabela tells me that Hawke is also such a one."

"He is mine." Fenris surprised both of them with his declaration. He glared at the empty bottles he'd lined up beside his chair. Perhaps Antivan wine was stronger than Agregio.

Zevran started to say something and then laughed. "Well, I would usually make some lewd joke here, but your expression drives from me such thoughts."

"Good."

"Do not trouble yourself on that account, my friend. I have been found between many things, but never love."

Fenris was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the direction of this conversation. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"I know…" Zevran's gaze dropped to the row of empty wine bottles. "We are not so different, you and I."

"Do all elves outside Tevinter think we are the same? You and I are nothing alike. Do not begin to think that we are."

"I was a slave, sold to the Crows as a boy, trained by them to kill."

"You know nothing of being a slave."

Zevran glared at him. "It is still a cage, even if a gilded one." His gaze returned to the bottles. "Regret has sent me into the arms of oblivion, even to flirt with that final mistress, Death."

"I doubt you regret killing Antivan aristocrats." When Zevran didn't comment, Fenris leaned across the table and waited until the elf's brown eyes met his green. He would tell the elf just what he had done and he didn't want to miss his reaction. "When I became separated from Danarius on Seheron, a band of rebels took me in, nursed me back to health. It was the first true kindness I can remember. But when Danarius came, I killed them, all of them, at his command. Anyone I care about dies… because of me."

Zevran did not look away, but instead leaning closer, his expression cold. "I killed the woman I loved, spat in her face and called her traitor, even as she told me she loved me. Though I am hypocrite to say it, you cannot blame yourself, especially not for Hawke." Fenris could think of nothing to say. Zevran stood and sighed. All the swagger gone, he seemed like an entirely different man. "Take care of yourself. You're no good to Hawke like this." He left then, closing the door softly behind him.


Tevinter – Minrathous

His bare feet silent against the dirt, Azrin jogged through the dark back alleyways. It was strange. He could not recall ever being outside of Danarius's tower and yet he knew exactly where to go. He turned left and twisted sideways to squeeze between two brick walls, leapt over a sleeping form, and then resumed his pace. Had he navigated these passages before? Or had Danarius somehow instilled in him the knowledge?

His green markings glowed faintly, but no one else would see them. He had shrouded himself in illusion and was now little more than a furtive shadow but even that was unnecessary. Lit only by a narrow band of night sky from high above, anyone could have gone unseen in these back alleys. Unseen except by him. Lyrium hummed through his senses and he saw better than he would have even in daylight, for he perceived everything as what it Was. The bricks told him where they had been made and how long they had stood in these walls. The dirt underfoot told him who had passed this way hours ago, days ago. Life especially stood out to him, practically singing in his vision.

It was glorious using magic. He felt alive and vitally connected to the world around him. It made every other moment of his limited existence seem like a hazy dream, or more accurately, a nightmare. He only had magic when Danarius Commanded it. And then Azrin had no choice but to obey his Command. He could not even think of any reason why he should wish to do otherwise, any more than he would wish to stop breathing.

Azrin slowed when he came to a large stone wall. It was tall and proud, the stones well cut and fitted snugly together. Although it had stood for some time, it had not been allowed to fall into disrepair. It was both a symbol for and the protection of the one who had built it. Azrin walked forward, phasing into a quasi-spirit being. The wall was meaningless against him.

He moved effortlessly through the empty space that comprises most of the material world. The wall was thick, but he was soon through it, only to be stopped by a magical barrier. Azrin placed his hands against it, feeling the weave of the magic. It was well made, probably by the magister himself, but it too was meaningless against him. The barrier was made from several spells woven together and he cut each one, like snipping threads in a tapestry. All at once, it unraveled. Azrin stepped out of the wall. He found himself in the middle of an empty stone hallway and phased back into his solid form. Cloaking himself in shadow, he crouched, held still, and listened. One of the weaves had recoiled as he had dispelled it, like it was anchored elsewhere. It had to be an alarm.

Pounding boots announced the coming of guards and confirmed Azrin's suspicion. He stretched out his arms, and waited. The warm glow of life filled his peripheral vision. Opening his hands, he released two fireballs. Life was consumed in a wild screaming blaze of red, then darkness, silence. Azrin stood. He had to move quickly before the magister escaped, but for the first time tonight, he was uncertain which way to go. The charred remains of three guards lay down the hall to his right, five to the left. Left then. He broke into a run.

More guards. Cone of cold, shift to stone, crash through. Shatter. Crystals filled the air, fragments that once held life, tinkling to the floor. He ran through them, felt them sting his skin like sleet. He was a shade – quiet, deadly, inexorable. A larger corridor led off of this one and he took it. He ran through halls that looked lived in – servants' quarters. He knew he must be getting closer to his target and was surprised to see neither servants nor more guards. He started to turn down another hall and stopped. The wall before him looked innocent, but Azrin could feel it was hiding the heart of the manor. He phased through it.

"You!" Azrin turned to see a young man wearing a magister's robe running at him and brandishing a staff. "Danarius sent you to kill Magister Daxus, didn't he? Well, here I am. Send me to the Void and be gone, demon!"

Azrin looked the boy up and down, from his disheveled ginger hair to the bare foot poking out from beneath the too large robe. He was obviously not his target, but Danarius's instructions had been clear. "Bring me the head of Magister Daxus. Kill anyone you come across in his estate. No one who sees you can live." Azrin raised his hand. The boy did not flinch, but met Azrin's gaze bravely. Something in him paused. Then the compulsion lashed against his mind and he wondered why he had hesitated. He unleashed a fireball as someone rammed into the back of his knees, knocking him backward onto his assailant and sending the fireball against the ceiling. Azrin redirected his magic to form a barrier, protecting himself from the fiery explosion.

A deep voice shouted from under him. "Get out of here, Alex! Run!" Azrin sprung up into a crouch and saw the edge of a blue robe disappear around a corner. The boy was gone, the staff left lying in the hallway. A powerful blast of dispellation magic hit him. Releasing the shadow illusion, Azrin let the other mage's magic tear it to pieces as he directed all his magic to maintaining his barrier. Turning to face his assailant, he saw a silver-haired man wearing a simple robe over a nightshirt. Azrin took in the man's features and more importantly, Saw the man's power through his lyrium. This was his target, the Magister Daxus. The man watched him as if he expected that spell to have changed him. "I can free you from Danarius. You don't-"

Azrin laughed as he slammed a crushing spell on the man. "I am his creation." The sword hissed as he drew it. He stood and walked around the magister, now writhing under his magic. As he brought the blade to the man's throat, the mage suddenly twisted free, grabbed Azrin's arm and redirected the sword toward the floor. Azrin gasped as the mage sent pain ripping through his markings. He could tell by the magister's surprised expression that he'd expected it to be disabling. All at once he understood why Danarius had put him through so much worse. It was not sadism or punishment, but meant to strengthen him, to teach him to endure. He yanked the sword back, gashing the man's throat in a spray of blood. The magister collapsed. His mouth moved as if to speak, but no sound came forth. Azrin lifted the sword and slashed it down hard to finish the job.

He did not rise immediately, but knelt there, covered in the magister's blood, and tried to slow his breathing. Something felt very wrong with him, and for a moment, he wondered if there had been more to the spell. That wasn't it. It was the part of him that had paused when he should have killed the boy; that part was reviled by what he had done. Closing his eyes, he waited for the compulsion to bring his world back into focus. The Command pounded through his mind. He breathed deep, held it, felt every other thought smothered into oblivion until only the desire to obey was left. He exhaled and opened his eyes. He needed to take this head back to Danarius.