"Hawke no," Aveline's voice betrayed her, fear coloured her tone, "please, just wait for reinforcements. I'll find more men. Or the Templars. Something. You don't have to do this!"
Hawke shook his head no, "it won't mean anything. The Arishok has made it clear, this is about testing our strength. And honour, I think."
Fenris interjected, "regardless of what the Arishok says, the prize is truly Kirkwall, not Isabela." His voice was surprisingly calm but very firm, "Kirkwall's submission here will not inspire mercy within the Qun. We are Kabethari. If they are allowed to walk away, the Qun will see it as a cry for assimilation," he paused and looked directly to Hawke, "dominance must be established here and now."
Hawke gave a resolute nod to Fenris then turned his gaze towards Isabela standing in the corner. Hawke's features softened, he smirked and gave her a playful wink. But Isabela was unconventionally shy and huddled within herself under crossed arms. She turned her face away from him. Everyone in Hawke's entourage knew that this really was as much for her as for Kirkwall. Hawke was a man who would stand up for any of them, even if it meant the possibility of a few broken ribs or even a broken heart.
Hawke's mabari scratched at ground in front of them, whining in protest. Hawke knelt down to comfort his pet, "easy now boy. You're going to have to stay out of this as well." The mabari flattened his ears and tried as hard as he could to guilt Hawke with is sad-puppy face. Hawke managed to laugh a little, "not this time you don't. You stay here with Fenris, he'll keep you safe," he said.
Hawke stood and took a step closer towards Fenris. Smiling now, Hawke kept his gaze clearly fixed on his mabari and spoke cheerfully, "I expect you to come bounding in for a daring last minute rescue should this all go horribly wrong." The dog gave a happy bark with a wag of his tail and moved to stand stoically beside Fenris. Hawke laughed and scratched the mabari behind the ear.
Fenris had flinched at Hawke's words and found himself bracing as though they were meant for him, maybe they were. Regardless, Fenris had no intention of losing Hawke this day; if the battle did prove too much, he would intervene - Kirkwall, Qunari and honour be damned.
Hawke now stood, rather close to Fenris, on the steps of the hall's main staircase. Hawke preferred standing on the lower step, looking up at Fenris whenever he could. Fenris was unable to hide his eyes from the taller man when standing like this, a trick Hawke had learned to use years ago. Years as friends, as equals and still it frustrated Hawke that the elf often kept his head down, averting his gaze. But even after Fenris had walked away that night, Hawke couldn't stop searching for something from him; Hawke would steal any moment he could for just a glimpse of what might be left between them. Hawke couldn't possibly know that this was the very thing that Fenris was hiding from now. It was that continued kindness and devotion in Hawke's eyes that made Fenris look away; he could never be worthy of this man's love but, he would not let him go either, he couldn't.
"Fenris, I..." Hawke spoke but was interrupted.
"The Arishok is getting impatient," said Fenris. He unclasped the amulet from his own neck and moved to place it around Hawke's. "Take this. For... protection."
"But this is..."
"Yes. And I expect you to hand it back to me afterwards." Fenris fastened the chain at the back of Hawke's neck. As he drew his hands away from the finished task Fenris dared to trail his fingers along Hawke's neck, caressing the warrior's strong jaw line.
Fenris rested his hands on Hawke's shoulders and found the courage to look into his eyes for just a moment before it was shattered by the Arishok's booming command, "Parshaara! This ends today Hawke."
Hawke took a final deep breath and pulled himself away from his love, from his faithful mabari, from his companions, and from all the eyes fixed on him in horror and hope. Shutting them out, Hawke drew his greatsword. Yes, this had to end today, and he knew it wouldn't end well.