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Chapter 1- One Cold Night
"It seems we're both delightfully difficult to kill."
Hawke could not feel her fingers.
She stood in the cold thicket, her toes numbed, her knees quaking. The field spanning between the wood and the cabin seemed both vast and foreboding. There was no cover, no underbrush to hide in or buildings to dart behind- just a vast, seemingly endless expanse of white snow. Her deep red robes would act as a flare for any observers the moment she stepped into the clearing regardless of the oppressive darkness that enshrouded her. Even though the crimson cloth acted as a beacon in the snow, it offered her the best protection and the most warmth in this frigid weather. For hours, she'd held this position, looking for movement or betrayal- frantically searching for any excuse to steal back into the woods and abandon this ridiculous quest.
She was alone, a lone scarlet-cloaked messenger cowering on the edge of the dead night. She'd already convinced many Templars to join the rebellion. It always took a healthy amount of explanation but many were willing to join her once she made her case. But this wasn't an ordinary Templar, and the consequences would be dire should she fail to convert to joining the cause. These times were too desperate and she had to act before the world fell further apart at the seams.
The cabin was isolated with no other houses in visible proximity. The path leading to the stables had only one four-footed trail, a horse, leading to two retreating feet making their way to the front entrance of the building. There was only one horse in the stable. Hawke no longer traveled with one, despite the much-needed speed. Steeds needed food, stables and tack and Hawke had none of these things; she would not run an animal to death to further her cause. She was not Anders.
Anders… the thought of him brought a small seizure in her heart. She swallowed hard and shoved it down. Now was not the time- if there could ever even be a time…
She evened out her breathing to fight back the sorrow, her numb fingers rubbing the worn corner of the letter than had drawn her from hiding to this small cabin. A missive from a Starkhaven Templar Captain had bid her here. He wanted to discuss options for clemency between the mages and the Templars, some way to stop the senseless fighting and killing on both sides. The rebellion already had several Templars within it, men and women who wanted to protect mages. But never once had one of the Templar superiors made any effort to talk. It was the first inkling of the compromise Anders insisted couldn't be. She couldn't let the opportunity to stop the bloodshed slip through her fingers…
… or the opportunity to speak with someone who might explain her actions to Sebastian.
Two mages, Amaya and Deidrich, had succumbed to demons last week and she'd had to execute them… and they'd done it in the presence of a Templar she'd been trying to recruit, which had resulted in the man being drugged and left in the woods near a small village where he would certainly be found and returned to his Order- an utter waste of their limited time and resources. Hawke couldn't kill him, though, even knowing that he'd return to his brethren with stories of blood mages and abominations. That wasn't what her side of the revolution was about.
Then she'd had to listen to the wails of the other apostates in the camp- that it was hopeless, that they couldn't win, that they would have stayed in the Circle if the Rite of Annulment hadn't been broadcast throughout the Circles of Thedas. She wished above all else that they could have stayed but to even attempt to return to any Circle was a death sentence. The Grand Divine in Orlais had demanded a culling and approaching a Templar, even for amnesty, was pure suicide. It was not the lot the mages had chosen, it was the fate assigned to them by a villainous third party- one with no affiliation or love for their objectification or protection or victimization…
Damned Anders. He hadn't just killed the Grand Cleric and everyone in the Chantry. He'd murdered them all.
But still, Hawke crept along the edge of the wood, sticking behind trees and into the shadows and watched for any sign of foul play. It would be so easy, she thought, to call that malicious shadow an ambush and turn tail to run… but it wasn't a trap- it was a haystack- and that sort of paranoia would help no one. She'd made her peace with the inanimate object and dared further forward. Everyone knew the risks. If she could not return, someone would take her place and the rebellion would continue. It was the sick, sad work of war. It was her task as the leader of her mages. She relished in it far more than she did in her other leadership tasks- planning, burial, reprimands- because rather than supervising her herd, she was actively fighting for a chance at peace. And even if she were struck down, she knew she'd be a martyr for the cause… and that her cause had been to stop the senseless fighting.
Her mages desperately needed a Circle, she knew that when she took their side at the Gallows. Most of them struggled horribly without anyone or any sort of boundary to hold them accountable for their actions beyond the Fade. The finest Circles in the best of places were nothing but a weight around the mages' necks as they had been, a heavy burden but somewhat bearable. That did not speak for Circles like the one in Kirkwall where rape, threats of Tranquility and torture were condoned as tests for the inherently wicked. But when Anders' gauntlet had been thrown her mages could no longer live in the Circle as it was- not for their own dissatisfaction with the Chantry's system but for their immediate ejection from it. They needed a new Circle- one that worked. The Templars that had seen fit to join them agreed readily, the others were unceremoniously dumped close to their camps, left behind as another weapon in the massive machine her enemies built to destroy her.
Anders would have scoffed at the idea of peace. Perhaps that was the primary reason why she decided to meet with the Knight-Captain tonight. She found herself doing lots of things to spite Anders. The former Grey Warden had been a great friend to her until the end, when he forfeited the lives of strangers as surely as he placed the crown of the rebellion upon her forehead. That tiara was now a cowl she wore as she stole into the night, shrouding her from the nourishing daylight as she trekked from camp to camp alone, uniting small bands of mages and Templars together so they could better survive in this unprecedented desolate winter. It would change soon; they'd have to join the small magical villages as a full force if the fighting continued the way it had been.
She'd been waiting at the edge of the cold woods for hours, observing the small farmhouse where they were to meet. A small chimney spouted out happy puffs of smoke, beckoning her to the warmth inside. She shivered against the invitation, stubbornly waiting for the even the slightest sign of betrayal. The Captain's note had promised that they would meet alone but, well, it wouldn't have been the first time a Templar lied to a mage. Fingers numb, she clutched her staff closer and sat in silence until the sun fell and the moon rose as the snow lay silent and uninterrupted on the ground.
Still ill at ease, she listened to the command her instinct delivered and rose- after all, instinct had gotten her this far. She heard a rustle behind her and looked back briefly, relieved to see only a deer that had apparently missed her presence for all her stillness and fled to safety. If only she had the luxury of such simplemindedness. Bowing her head, she darted through the moonlight, hoping the darkness would provide adequate cover of her cloak over the white as she sprinted to the cabin.
The darker side of the cabin remained her target, the dimmer shadows giving her an ounce of cover, especially whilst veiled in crimson. When she reached it, breath heaving and legs quaking, she breathed a long, heavy sigh of relief, letting the frigid air cool and sting her lungs. While her footprints would lead any hunter straight to her, none seemed to give chase to her at the moment. A full hour passed before she dared to move again. She passed the time watching her shallow breath freeze and fall to the bitter cold earth and scrutinizing the dim silhouettes- all the while reciting meaningless rhymes silently. The muscles of her thighs were screaming in pain as she held her crouched position. She recited more poetry, her multiplication tables, songs her father had sung to her… anything to pass the time as minute by agonizing minute passed her by.
They say that a girl of Orlais
Will harry her wardrobe for play
But the girls of Ferelden
Let men forge 'em and weld 'em
And welcome their leering as pay.
Deciding finally that an ambush would not find her in the thick snow, she took a deep breath and inched along the front edge of the cabin. She approached the entrance, wincing as each fall of her boots sounded out a harsh crunch against the silent night as the frozen water shifted and compressed. The door opened with a ceremonial creak and Hawke was nearly knocked backward by the sudden blast of warmth that escaped the cabin. She'd entered some sort of den area; the building was deceptively larger inside than it had appeared.
The great room was nearly devoid of furniture. There was a small table and two comfortable looking chairs. A swinging door that probably led to a kitchen rested next to another that based on the exterior layout was likely a closet. A hallway spanned off to her right past the fireplace, she deduced that bedrooms were constructed down there as the house seemed too small to hold offices or a basement. There were three large bay windows two facing north and one facing south; the curtains were drawn over them.
She saw a Templar broadsword resting against the wood wall and her heart gave a familiar ache as she recalled her former companion. Fenris. She understood why he'd refused to stand with the mages… but to fight against her after everything they'd been through? Her head drooped against the weight of the heavy blade on her mind; why did it have to end that way? Why couldn't he just run? Too many good men lay dead and her throat still quaked closed whenever she thought of his body laying amongst all the others at her feet.
Maker, give me a love who is good
A lover who wants what I should
Give me love true and pure
From a woman demure
And Maker if you have mercy you'll throw that bitch I married under a carriage
Fereldens… say what you will- they understood the importance of rhyme schemes. Born poets, they were, because her countrymen understood that rules were meant to be broken.
It was when she refused to kill Anders, she thought, that Fenris had decided to turn on her along with Sebastian. She cursed Sebastian for not taking Fenris with him, for not cudgeling the stupid elf over the head and dragging him away. After the bloody battle in the Gallows, they'd escaped the city of chains in a flurry of panic. Once they'd finally gotten far enough away, she'd beckoned Anders out of camp. He'd followed her, looking joyous as well as empty and tired.
"I can't believe you let me live," he'd said, hazel eyes sparkling partly in madness and partly relief. "We'll fight this war together. We'll free our people from this tyranny, Hawke, you'll see."
Sometimes she wondered in passing what would have happened if she had just followed him- if she had let Anders forge the path and merely walked along it beside him. If she had allowed him be a savior or a martyr- permitted him to fight with her or simply struck him down in front of the scorched Chantry... what would have happened then? Would she be an apostate princess sitting upon Anders' throne, worshipped by a man whose very life had come to disgust her, or would she be here again- mourning over cold steel and changing the world, mothering a brood of mages and barely managing to keep ahead of her pursuers while Anders' brought the axe of his rage down across Thedas… she did not know. This isolation, the desolate solitude that had become the signet of her existence threatened to suffocate her and she doubted any changes she could have made if given the opportunity to redo the past would alter that.
Footsteps sounded through the empty building so she took her staff and stood by the fireplace, wanting to appear calm despite the turmoil wracking her ceaselessly. Her finger curled around the crook of wood, caressing the familiar knots creeping along the ironbark and forcing her mind to quiet. The footsteps lacked the deep thud of boots and she hadn't seen boots by the sword. The Knight-Captain was either wandering around without shoes or he was an elf, which was unusual but certainly not unheard of. She'd seen more elven initiates in the recent months than she'd seen in all her years before. The Chantry no longer had the luxury of exclusivity or racism, which accounted for how the rebellion had managed to procure so many of their swords- the new initiates lacked the blind faith that had been a pre-requisite before Kirkwall.
That thought reminded her of Fenris again. She turned away from the door, not wanting the Knight to see her weakness. It opened almost silently, the faint ease of smooth hinges accompanied only by the soft whoosh of air as the door displaced it. Hawke looked at the fire, taking a moment to compose herself before she dealt with the Knight.
"It certainly took you long enough, Hawke. I was beginning to think you'd never leave the thicket."
That dark timbre, the slight accent that accompanied a voice that growled her name like even its mere acknowledgement of her was an accusation. Her head dropped and she knew without even looking whom the voice belonged to. Tears of relief threatened to well up in her eyes. Even though she knew the man was likely prepared to kill her, she really would rather it be he than anyone else. She briefly considered falling to her knees before him, beckoning him to reach into her chest and crush her heart literally this time instead of breaking it into pieces as he had in the Gallows. He'd said that he made a mistake in letting her get too close… she wondered to whom that mistake really belonged. It was the first rule of survival, he'd claimed, but that was really all she'd been doing since she'd fled the city and his still body.
He'd turned on her in the end, mere days after they'd begun quietly rebuilding their relationship, trying to take things slowly. His simple declaration of wanting to walk into the future by her side crushed under the realization that there was apparently no future to be had. What killed her was that she couldn't really even blame him- not with his past. The elf had raised his sword against her and she, helpless given the situation, dispatched him accordingly or so she had thought. She'd tried to run, she truly had, tried to escape Meredith and the Chantry's ashes but the Knight-Commander threatened to strike her down on the spot, backing the mage into a corner. It was doubtful that he felt she was as blameless in the situation, considering he'd been the one to lose the battle.
She turned, facing the elf she had not seen since that horrific night in Kirkwall. "Fenris," she said his name lowly, like she was afraid any sudden movement would spark a battle. Words failed her. Dumbly, she said, "You're alive," needing some kind of affirmation that he was really there and not some mirage or fever dream.
He was leaning against the doorjamb; his lithesome frame bearing no obvious scars from where she'd cut him down with her magic, although she imagined there were some mental wounds that hadn't quite healed. "And yet you don't seem surprised in the least," he mockingly sneered as he regarded her. Her crest and scarf were absent from his armor. He'd apparently absolved himself of his affection for her. It surprised her how much such a fatuous thing bothered her even after all this time.
"Not really," she admitted with false confidence, leaning back against the wall next to the fireplace in a halfhearted attempt to look nearly a quarter as indignantly nonchalant as he. Fenris looked more or less the same as he had in Kirkwall, his armor was a little darker from time but he still bore a resemblance to a willowy, angry porcupine. The smile she gave him was genuine, although she could only imagine it looked contemptuous to him. "It seems we're both delightfully difficult to kill," she finished with the sarcasm she knew he both detested and expected.
"Not for any lack of effort," he retorted with a bitter laugh, crossing his arms over his chest. The quiet elegance of his movement drew her focus, each flex of his muscles as graceful as they were deliberate- Fenris typically conserved his movements and was disinclined to pacing or fidgeting, preferring to be still if movement would not accomplish anything. She remembered running her fingers over his arms while he kissed her neck and murmured his affection into her hair.
"Certainly not." The words felt sticky in her throat. It felt wholly unnatural to be standing before her former lover and speaking him these terribly casual words, pretending that everything was all right between them… especially the way he kept stealing glances at his sword in the corner- mainly because the last time she'd seen him, she'd struck him down. "So you're a Templar now," she finished carelessly, regarding the amulet around the elf's neck.
His hand came up to fiddle with the flaming sword pendant that he wore to signify his position rather than the typical Templar armor. That made sense to her; Fenris' armor had been specially crafted to work with his abilities- it would be madness to put the elf into the standard uniform- she suspected he would have quit training on the sole basis of not wanting to wear the ridiculous skirt. "Starkhaven's Circle fell before this whole blighted mess began," he offered flatly. "Sebastian had the former Knight-Commander tutor me personally after I recovered from my injuries. It seems these markings are good for many things."
A sincere smile stole again across her face. She was happy that the elf had not been alone all this time, that he allowed himself to trust another and built a life for himself, albeit without her. "Carver always wondered about that," she sighed whimsically. "He meant to ask you."
"How is your brother by the way?" His question was deceptively casual, like this meeting was intended as a friendly catch up.
"Good. I mean, well enough for him," she corrected herself with a small laugh. "Still the same sour disposition but he's really matured since we saw you last. How is Sebastian?"
"Fine," he replied with a relaxed shrug. "He took back Starkhaven with minimal fuss. He's been looking for a wife to produce an heir."
"I'd heard as much. It's a shame, he was so happy in the Chantry."
"Surprisingly, having his home and everyone he loved blown up by your fucking abomination put him onto a military track." He sighed heavily and regarded her warily, running a hand over his suddenly tired face. "I must say, Marian, when I wrote you I never thought in a thousand years that you'd actually be stupid enough to come yourself."
So here was the conversation that had been looming in the corners. The instinct to deflect with some witty comment or sarcastic barb failed her completely, which was fortunate considering Fenris likely wouldn't have appreciated her effort to infuse humor into the dialogue. She pushed her dark hair away from her face and met his furious green eyes. "That's saying quite a bit, considering your opinion of what I did in Kirkwall," she said as she eschewed all the pretenses that kept them lying to one another with their platitudes.
His eyes narrowed, her answer clearly rankling him. "Those Templars were good men and women trying to stop a bad situation from deteriorating- a bad situation that you allowed to happen because of your blind faith in an abomination! Their deaths are a direct result of your ignorance, Marian, as are the deaths of the people in the Chantry, as is Marethari's death. You chose ignorance over the advice of myself and Sebastian and even Aveline," he snarled, letting his anger slip through that infuriatingly calm veneer he'd been wearing. "Let us also not forget that you tried to murder me, Hawke. Stupid is the best I can think of you. Evil is beginning to feel more and more appropriate."
She sighed, hoping the exhale would relieve the headache beginning to creep at her temples. "Those mages were just as much Anders' victims," she asserted. "The Circle had nothing to do with his actions. Meredith forced my hand, Fenris; she wouldn't let me run. Regardless of whatever you think about me, I am a mage. I had no choice. You did. You didn't have to fight me."
"You think I had a choice- that I wanted to fight you?" he snapped. "My options were to fight you, help you free the mages or run while you build a new Imperium- a new paradise for your brothers to make themselves magisters and bring your reign of terror across Thedas. You know where I came from, Marian- that was no choice."
Her weariness suddenly gave way to anger. It always came down to this with Fenris- the same fear and indignation he'd had when she met him all those years ago. Those same stigmas he never managed to grow out of; the ones that she suspected helped drive him from from her bed and her from his heart all that time ago. "Blah, blah, magisters, blah, blah, Tevinter," she spat, uncaring of the deadly flash across his eyes. "If you were ever curious about the rise of the Imperium, wolf, this is it. The blanket executions and tranquilizations your people are meting out are pushing good people into senseless violence. Your Templar order is driving Thedas to chaos. You must listen to me, Fenris- neither side can win outright. There's too much at stake."
An elegant eyebrow arched as he coolly replied, "I see no problem with a Templar victory."
She rolled her eyes and icily retorted, "If you see no problem with a totalitarian theocracy then why did you help me fight the Arishok?"
He cursed at her in Arcanum- she barely managed to conceal her smile at the warm familiarity the words brought her. "A… valid point, I'll admit." He heaved himself away from the door and paced closer, the cloying fire casting amber over his features as he asked the flames, "Where is Anders, Marian?" he asked quietly.
Her eyes closed, not wanting to think about everything that had happened with Anders since she'd seen Fenris last. "I don't know," were the only words she offered. She'd come here to talk, specifically about the abomination and the rebellion, but with Fenris regarding her so angrily, the words just dried up in her mouth.
It was peculiar that she'd been prepared to speak candidly with a stranger but was unsure if she could trust a man she'd once considered one of her most trusted confidantes- a man whose opinion mattered so deeply to her that she deliberately took him on jobs where she suspected they would clash on the outcome. They had stayed up late together, drinking wine and arguing semantics until she returned home to her lonely bed and he to his. But there had been things that Fenris had refused to discuss, Marethari's sacrifice being one, the release of the apostate Emile de Launcet being just one more out of many. She had appreciated the elf levying his simplistic opinion at whatever magic-related task came to hand.
"You owe me more than your lies," he snarled at the fire, pulling her back from her inattention as he leaned against the wall next to the fireplace.
"I'm not lying," she asserted with an exasperated groan. "I do not know."
"You know I have ways to make you talk, to turn the hawk into a songbird." As he spoke the words, he was so monotone she wondered for a moment if he truly meant it. She looked up and saw him standing there, looking morose and lost.
"As lovely as that metaphor was, I still have nothing to tell you. If all you came here for was to ascertain Anders' location, I'm sorry to say that I cannot help you."
The flames set against his eyes like a forest fire as he contemplated the embers. "No, I also came to bring you back to the Starkhaven Circle to account for what you've done."
She bowed her head again and leaned the slightest bit more against the wall, silently willing the stubborn elf to look at her. "I'm not going with you, Fenris," she stated quietly, waiting for the inevitable storm to erupt.
He sighed heavily, like the air in his lungs was too heavy to hold any longer. "I'm not giving you a choice, Hawke. Come with me or we'll rematch here. I think you'll find my recent training has rendered me into a much better opponent for you." He didn't sound threatening or forceful; his words felt sad, like some terrible dolor had fallen over him in the span of the simple sentences he spoke.
She reached out and touched her fingers to his arm- a pale mimicry of the very act that had seen them both tumbling into bed all those years ago. He growled at her, pulling his arm away as he withdrew from her. She tried to make eye contact with him but he steadily regarded the fire. "Don't do this again, Fenris," she murmured. "I truly don't think I could bear it."
He bowed his head and whispered, "Then you've made your choice."
His hand reached out lightning fast and punched her squarely in the chest, the impact sent her reeling back and knocked the wind from her. He advanced quickly upon her, looking ill as he raised his fist to her again. Anticipating his next move, which was actually rather easy considering he was practically broadcasting it, she ducked and landed a solid strike against the elf's shoulder, using a bit of telekinesis to heighten the severity of the blow and compensate for her inadequate physical strength. The only options she had were to kill him or escape… preferably the latter. But while she knew she may be willing to pull her punches, the elf likely was not. He'd only need to hit her once more to have her at a severe disadvantage, twice and she could go down entirely. She had to incapacitate him as quickly as possible if she wanted him to live.
Fenris stumbled back and glowered maliciously at her as she quickly cast a barrier on herself to stave off the worst effects of his fists. They squared off against one another and she brought her staff forward just in time to block another of Fenris' brutal strikes. The blow to the ironbark quaked her grip and slid her feet back on the floor infinitesimally. She placed herself between Fenris and his deadly sword, suspecting dismally that if he were to wield it, she would have no chance at winning. Elegantly stretching a long arm out, he touched his fingers to hers. She was struck for a moment by the beauty of his movement before he crushed her hand against her staff as he activated the lyrium.
It felt like the Fade was being pried out of her, wrested violently from that spot in the center of her mind where she depended on it. In the span of seconds, Fenris had managed to drain a majority of her mana, leaving her feeling drunk and disoriented by the time she could break away. The staff in her hand was snatched from her grip and she dimly heard it hit the floor. Her hand darted out to slap him, dragging her nails hard across his face when he approached. Then she was being held against him, an awkward embrace fixing her hands to her sides. Her head was spinning and it was everything she could do not to retch the contents of her stomach onto the elf before her.
"Why did you come, Hawke?" he rumbled into her ear.
She groaned, trying to force her mind to work properly in the absence of the Fade. She latched her mouth onto his neck and sank her teeth in, gagging a bit when the twang of his blood hit her tongue. His hands fell away from her and she collapsed to the floor or perhaps he shoved her. She looked up shakily to regard his amused smirk. "We cannot keep hacking each other to death." She mentally cursed at how weak she sounded in her own ears. "We have bigger enemies. If this keeps up, there won't be a holy order any longer and the only surviving mages will be abominations and blood mages."
He blotted the blood away from her bite and crossed his arms in a smug manner that made her want to slap the expression clear from his face. "So your ranks are weakening from the inside. I told you they'd turn."
"And you pushed them to do it," she whimpered as she tried to rise but couldn't get her unsteady feet to cooperate. "Maker, it's instinct to survive, Fenris. Did you really think Meredith's Rite of Annulment was going to be carried out without a fight? Did you expect us to fall to our knees and present you our necks?"
He reached down and grabbed her bicep and yanked her to her feet before yelling "You were never among them! You were never in danger, Marian! Meredith was willing to spare you!"
"Spare me if I helped her murder every mage in the Circle! That's not salvation; that's blackmail!" she fired back, pulling her arm from Fenris' grip, stumbling for a moment as she found her feet again. She narrowed her eyes at him and scowled, "I suppose you heard about her end. The woman was utterly mad."
"And Orsino helped murder your mother." The statement brazed into her soul and she was momentarily overwhelmed by the desire to fight against those words, regardless of how true they had been.
She swung at him, knowing the moment her fist moved that it was a mistake. His hand intercepted her wrist easily, popping her quickly across her mouth with a loose fist. Even with the mystical armor, she felt a bruise well up. Still reeling, her body was spun backward as he dragged her frame against his, pinning her arms against her with a strong grip around her waist. She struggled, feeling the sparks starting to return to her fingertips and willing them to shock him away. Her mana was filtering back, albeit more slowly than she'd like. The lyrium rendered Fenris into a Templar of exquisite abilities and his effect on her link to the Fade lingered unlike any others'.
He adjusted his grip, holding her with one arm while the other turned her head to face him. "So what do you do when they betray themselves?"
"I kill them."
And he kissed her. It wasn't delicate or sweet. It wasn't loving or kind. It was a brutal punishment. It was a celebration of her fallen comrades. But almost as quickly as it had started, it shifted into something sweeter. His hands spread over the fabric of her robes and dragged her closer and she gasped. The elf used the opportunity to sweep his tongue over hers, invading her mouth with a low, breathy sound. His fingers tangled into her soft hair while their mouths caressed one another and she sighed contentedly against him, quickly forgetting why they'd been fighting in the first place.
It was painfully familiar and she wanted nothing more than to give in to it. She almost lost herself to it entirely before a twinge in her jaw shocked her back into reality. The pain brought her back to herself- they were fighting and Fenris was using her affection for him as a weapon against her. The thought, however true or false it may have been, snapped her from the stupor his mouth had brought her to and she stomped her foot against his instep, collapsing the structure of his ankle beneath her unforgiving foot. The embrace of his arms fell away and he stumbled back; she took the advantage, swinging her leg up and over to connect with his face- a move Isabela had taught her. The former slave toppled to the ground; almost surprising her at the easy fall… but perhaps she'd landed an extremely lucky shot against the seasoned warrior.
He glared bloody murder at her as he wiped an errant trail of saliva and blood from his lips with the white pad of his thumb. "It appears I am not the only one who has acquired some new skills."
"If you wanted to talk, you should have offered tea in the parlor," she sneered at her downed foe.
She was pleased to see he was less steady on his feet than he had been before taking the blow to the skull as he rose to his feet and squared off with her once again. "I did not come here to talk."
"No," she acknowledged with a small pang of sadness as she raised her arms to fight him again, "you didn't."
He closed his eyes painfully for a moment and started to say something. She took the opportunity to land another blow, summoning flames from her dwindling connection to the Fade to course down her arm and fan over him on impact. He yelped in surprise before the fire suddenly dissipated, the flaming sword pendant glowing a peaceful blue before dulling back into shining steel, sucking the deadly fire within it. Shit. He'd had it charmed against fire, which he knew to be one of her strongest talents; Maker only knew what else he'd enchanted it with. Unharmed from her sneak attack, the elf glowered at her.
With her adversary advancing on her again, she focused quickly on her connection to the Fade, feeling her vision snap into monochrome as she conducted the energy through her body. She saw his endurance coming from him in vibrant yellow waves, and she summoned it from him, calling on the Fade to reach for him and sucking the stamina from his body. Fenris faltered as he was drained, moaning as she drew away his strength, but with a startling blast of fortitude, he lunged forward and backhanded her. The impact from the metal cut her cheek as it sent her tumbling to the oaken floor and ended her siphon, her psychic armor only taking a fraction of the sting away.
A flash of blue and Hawke noticed the sudden rush of frost over her skin and a fleeting lack of all sound- but even as the sensation ended and the hum of noise returned to the world, she knew the effects were far from over. It was the Templar's Silence and she knew attempting to cast anything would result in failure so long as she felt the acrid tingle in he air. He stood over her, his hand tangling into the front of her robes and wrenching her partially from the ground. "Where is he, Hawke?" he spat, his heavy gauntlet connecting with her face again and sent her ears ringing but he was severely weakened, she could tell.
"So now you want to talk?" she whispered, struggling to keep conscious. She reached back and felt her fingers connect with her staff. Then she spit, the saliva and blood landing directly in his eye. He winced and reeled back, dropping her heavily on her bottom. Swinging her staff low, she smashed the blunt edge of the crook into his knee, sending him crashing to the floor. She turned, stumbling to her feet and pounding down the hallway as she dashed through the swinging door to the kitchen. Escape was her only option, Fenris was too strong to subdue while the Silence held. The air still tingled around her and she wondered in dim panic how long Fenris' Silence would hold. Numbed fingers reached for the lock on the door when a heavy weight tackled her from behind, compressing her body painfully against the wood.
The furious elf hissed, "Where is he?" His frame was heavy against her back and he held her pinned to the door by his sheer weight. Deciding to use his body against him she sighed and relaxed, arching her back to press herself against his groin and moaning softly. Fenris exhaled painfully and she felt him stiffen against her body so she arched again, teasing him, letting the line of her buttocks cradle his erection. The next sound she heard was that of his gauntlets falling to the floor. He hauled her away from the door, pinning her hips against the counter and letting his naked hands unfasten the clasps on her robes with rugged efficiency, exposing half her torso, grinding his hips against her the entire time.
He pressed his lips against her neck, suckling and biting before he cupped her breast in his hand. She didn't have to fake the deep shudder that rang through her as he teased her nipples, plucking them into tautness. He groaned and whispered hotly in her ear, "You were never a whore before. What else has he been teaching you?"
She didn't need to think of any sort of indignant response as she noticed the air had ceased prickling at her skin. Her goal had been accomplished. The Silence he'd covered the Fade with had lifted and she heard it singing to her once more, so she took full advantage of it before he realized and readied another attack. She clapped a telekinetic fist upon him, knocking him clear away from her. He looked dazed for a moment, clearly not anticipating her move. A snarl had just taken his face when she launched a fireball, then lightning, then a cone of ice in rapid succession, deciding to go for the shock and awe combination that had done so well for her in the past. She smirked at him, she'd managed to pin him in a corner with the ice shards. Fenris howled at her and she backed away.
She should go. She didn't want to fight him and she couldn't win unless she wanted to kill.
A brilliant flash of blue flashed against the walls and she instinctively grasped her staff and swung it behind her. He grunted when the blunt end caught his cheek, snarling as he spat his blood onto the floor between them. Summoning her connection to the Fade, she forged a glyph between her hands and cast it before him, darting forward to deliver her own silencing technique, a single punch to the throat immediately followed with a sharp jab to his face. The noise of his choking hid the sound of him nullifying the glyph and he was on her again before she had a chance to react.
He made as if to dart toward his sword and she immediately moved to block him. The feint worked as he quickly changed angles, grabbing her staff and using her momentum to fling her bodily against the wall, knocking several paintings to the ground. Wrenching the weapon from her hands, he jabbed her once in the stomach, causing her organs to shift painfully. She screwed up her focus again, and smirked knowingly at him. The elf faltered for a moment as she activated a new talent she'd picked up. His eyes widened as he lost the ability to focus on her as she darted forward, landing a series of blows to the Templar's torso. In what had to have been the luckiest shot of the evening, he managed to grab hold of her fist after it collided into his bruised face and with a snarl, nullified her cloaking spell.
With her staff knocked away, he pinned her hands at her side. He was physically stronger than she and mere resistance wouldn't grant her escape. "You're holding back," he panted in her ear.
"So are you," she whispered back before pulling away and head butting him as hard as she could. The impact of their collision sent bright lights scattering through her vision. The world exploded in color. His arms tightened against her and he staggered and lost his balance before sinking to his knees, still holding her captive as she fought to kick away from him. He shifted her legs to straddle him to keep her from making painful contact with his groin. She groaned, sagging against him for a moment before pulling back to slam their skulls together again.
This time, he anticipated the attack and ducked his head to the side and her head thudded harmlessly against his neck. They weakly struggled against one another, Hawke too weak to break away and Fenris too exhausted to do any damage, just clutching her bodily against him while he fought to hold her still. They were for the moment at a stalemate.
"If I wanted the Imperium, I'd have gone to Tevinter," she asserted in a whisper. "I just couldn't slaughter a bunch of innocent Circle mages. I never wanted to hurt you."
"No," he answered viciously, "you just didn't care if you did." He bit her hard then and she didn't have the strength to push him off nor did she really want to. Maybe it was energy from the fight, maybe it was because she cared so deeply for him- she wasn't sure- but when she felt his teeth break the skin on her shoulder Hawke didn't scream.
She moaned, shuddering hard against him, shocked by her own reaction to him. "I did," she whimpered. "I did care."
His breathing went hard as she felt him stiffening between her legs. He shifted his mouth, tenderly dragging his lips over the wound he'd inflicted before pressing painful teeth back against it, as if testing her reaction. The result was the same, his teeth sending a hard throb lower in her body and she moaned again, sighing when his hands moved from holding her wrists to weaving his fingers with hers. The low sound of his groan crashing around her as he suckled the wound, then kissed a slow path across her neck to her other shoulder and repeated the treatment. She gripped his fingers and arched against his erection as his teeth sunk into her skin, tilting her head to give him better access, dimly wondering what the Void was wrong with her and equally not caring. It was Fenris and it felt good; so she writhed against him shaking and gasping while the wolf feasted on her neck and shoulders, grinding between her legs to push her higher.
She pulled her fingers from his, ignoring his snarl and began pulling his armor off, vaguely recalling how to unfasten the buckles from their one night together nearly four years ago. His torso bare, she scratched her fingers deeply into his skin, reveling in his quick gasp at the rough treatment. The air slammed out of her lungs when he threw her roughly onto her back. Strong hands tugged the fabric of her robes over her shoulders and down her body, catching her smallclothes with them while she struggled to catch her breath.
He let out a string of Arcanum curses that shot straight through her before pulled away. "If you want this, you need to tell me," he groaned into her ear, leaning over her. He gripped her hair hard and directed her gaze to his his face. His eyes were hot and deadly serious. "If you don't want it, it stops. You are free to go. I won't follow. I will not use sex as a weapon against you."
She closed her eyes, actually thinking it sweet that her consent was important to him considering they'd been beating the Blight out of each other for nearly a half hour without such niceties as permission. But Fenris was a man of ambiguous principles, and knowing that it almost made complete sense to her that while killing her may fall into his entirely acceptable mores, raping her certainly did not. The offer to let her run, so her options weren't simply sex or more fighting, was a thoughtful addition. He needed to know she wanted him, even as rough as they were with each other, and that she didn't want to escape.
He needed to know that for whatever would happen next, she wanted what was happening now.
"I want it," she mewled her reassurance, arching toward him. Before she could say more, he'd dragged his mouth back to hers and began hastily freeing himself from his pants, softly snarling when her hands tangled with his to help but only made the task more difficult.
"You let me know if you change your mind." He closed his eyes and began massaging her scalp. She stuttered out a groan for just a moment before he flipped her onto her stomach and pulled her to her knees. A stuttered giggle escaped her at the thought of being taken to the floor for a bit of rough and tumble, although in the current situation the 'tumble' part could be a bit of a double entendre.
She found at the moment she didn't terribly mind that prospect.
They hadn't even moved to a proper bed, she mused when her mind finally came back to itself.
He bowed over her back, kissing the length of her spine and stroking the lines of her body while their breathing returned to normal. She felt residual twitching fire through her body, like it didn't want the sex to be over. His gasp sounded in her ear and she guessed he was having a similar realization himself. She'd never had such… rough sex before but given the boneless heap she felt like now and the pleasant fog that glazed over her mind and the overt affection Fenris was showering on her, she just might have to consider fighting him more often.
"What does this mean?" he murmured between kisses, his hand caressing the ink he'd observed on her shoulder blade, behind her heart. It was a handful of symbols from an old text dating from the Nevarran Circle that several apostates at a particular camp had printed onto their bodies; that when she'd heard the transcription, she, too, asked that the symbols be inked into her skin by the resident tattooist. She started seeing others take the mark in other camps as well once she explained it to them- the Warriors and lapsed Templars more inclined to do so as an outward show of unanimity than the mages were, feeling a physical marking to be too similar to the Tranquil brand.
"I could tell you," she answered quietly before capturing his head in her hand, "but I'd have to kill you," she finished, turning to pull him into a kiss, which he met eagerly.
He pulled himself from her body and rolled her over, stroking over her face gently. He lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her properly, although she could taste his blood from where she'd hit and kicked him. Their fingers soothed over the wounds they'd put on each other, she felt him smirk when she winced at the burn the rug had inflicted on her face.
His dark chuckled rumbled against her neck, "Heavy words." He kissed his bite on her shoulder again, "I prefer these markings on you myself."
"Blighted wolf," she whispered but the words were loving. His eyes, his huge green eyes, warmed as they regarded her. She smoothed her fingers over the shallow bridge of his nose, his bruised cheek, up his sharp ears.
He twitched bodily when she caressed the tip of his ear and returned the favor by stroking the line of her throat with his thumb. "Rotten bitch," he murmured back with an earnest and affectionate smile before he rose to kiss her again; the sweetness in his kiss completely belied the words he'd spoken.
They stumbled to their feet and he lifted her against him, kissing her as he maneuvered them to a tiny bedroom and sunk them both onto the bed. He was gentle as he moved over her, murmuring endearments of his affection into her ear as he took her, leaving her a whimpering heap when she unraveled once more. But they were far from done, they kept pulling each other back, attacking each other with tenderness with the same tenacity they'd used to attack each other with violence; against the headboard, above him, facing away, in his lap, on her back, both of them trying to postpone the rest of the world and their obligations waiting outside the bed.
She made love to him, knowing each time could be the last. Perhaps he did, too, and that's why it took sheer exhaustion to conclude their intimacy, when he collapsed on top of her, unwilling to separate himself from her body. He murmured to her in drowsy Arcanum between kisses he smoothed over her neck and mouth as he drifted off into the Fade, his forehead pressing against her skin, his length no longer stretching her as tightly.
Hawke, unfortunately, found no such sanctuary in his arms.
The mindlessness of pleasure concluded, she laid awake as reality filtered back in, the feeling of his arms around her becoming a prison rather than an embrace. His body, warm from their mutual exertions, felt like liquid fire against her skin. She couldn't breathe under the oppressive pressure of his weight- suffocating beneath the uncertainty of what would come next. Would he leave? Were more Templars coming? She remembered the last time she'd been with him, when she'd awoke and all his apparent affection had evaporated in the span of a single lonely dream. A solitary thought kept dashing across her mind like a marathon runner laced on a tether-
Anxiety overcame her, the memories of him walking away, beseeching her for forgiveness. He'd used her, then turned her affection for him on its head to guilt her into thinking he was the one who had been used, and every word he'd uttered while they joined together was seemingly forgotten. Then he had killed Danarius and his first act of his newfound freedom had been to declare his affection for her… which lasted all of three days. She'd begged him to join her in defending the innocent- while they were still innocent- but his hatred was too strong for him to overcome; he hated mages more than he could ever care for her. He expressed a desire to rid himself of his hatred and she foolishly believed him. The tragic part was that she couldn't even blame him when she saw his anger flash over his beautiful eyes as he sneered at her. Fenris loved his hatred, he relished in the sickness he'd been infected with… and she should have known the moment Meredith had forced her hand that her path would unleash that feral animal again.
Suddenly, his arms loosely enfolding her may as well have been his fingers wrapped around her neck, squeezing the fight out of her… and Hawke had to fight. Maker help her, she had to stop this madness. She had to stop Anders before he killed anyone else. Fenris would turn her in. He'd sit her in front of the Grand Divine and let her be made Tranquil. She'd be a disembodied woman for the rest of her life, subject to rapes and abuses she couldn't even acknowledge- would he want to be with her then? She'd nearly killed him, she finally realized, but he had tried to kill her, too. He simply had not been as good at it. And ever the fool, she tumbled back into bed with him even after they'd beaten each other bloody because he'd always had the singular ability to turn her world on its ear.
She slammed her eyes shut against the mental command. Varric had already been interrogated by the Chantry, he'd communicated that much to her through a blind contact in Denerim. They were furiously searching for her. This could be an awfully cruel ruse to lure her into complacency- but she didn't know for sure. Fenris might not turn her in to the Chantry. He may want to be with her again. Their brawl may have been resolved by sex. He may be ready to listen to her. Pigs may, indeed, soar high in the skies where mere mortals cannot see them.
She untangled her body from his, shuddering at his withdrawal from her. He rolled contentedly onto his side and continued his light snoring. She crept out of bed, feeling it a small miracle that he did not stir. The urge to cast a sleeping spell on him nearly overwhelmed her but she resisted. Perhaps she could have used it on someone else, but she couldn't have done it to the sleeping wolf. She would not use her magic as a crutch around him; she would creep silently if only to prove to him that she did not rely on magic for everything.
The floorboards creaked as the mage stole from the bedroom. Whose room had it been, she wondered, where they'd spent the last hours pawing at each other? The elf remained asleep as she eased the door closed. Frantically, she searched for her clothing, finding her underclothes, robes and boots on opposite sides of the living space. Her body protested her garbing in shockingly intimate ways, her sex ached, her nipples stung, the scratches on her back burned and the bites he'd left on her throbbed. Her clothing donned delicately, she grabbed her staff. In a moment of impulsiveness, she reached for his sword and heaved it handle-first into the fire. Let it be too hot to hold… let her have a little more time to escape lest he come after her unarmed.
The small cabin had been for the last hours a safe haven but it couldn't last, she knew. Paradise wasn't meant for the living, that's what the Chantry taught. Mortals suffered in Thedas in order to be worthy of the world to come… Maker help her when she learned what suffering would come from her night here. She opened the door into the cold night air, the snow and frost beseeching that she run back inside to the warm man and the fireplace she'd absconded from. But Marian Hawke stood her ground, surveying the frozen tundra that meant not only her freedom but also her continued isolation. The battle would have to be fought alone. She'd found no ally here.
It wasn't love, she told herself. It couldn't be love.
But it was love… and she knew it.
And so she did, taking a final look back before she escaped, sprinting wildly into the cold night.
Author's notes- Figured I'd get that M rating out of the way. This was originally a one shot that I couldn't leave alone. Let me know if you think I should leave it here… all other comments would be appreciated.