Chapter 4 : Too Soon


Fenris stared rather blankly at the female figure in front of him. His mind racing to make sense of what was happening.

She smiled sweetly and tried to explain again, "To save Hawke, Fenris. I need you but, it's too soon. He's not ready..."

Something in Fenris snapped, "What have you done? Why are you keeping him here?"

"I'm keeping him safe, Fenris," she said, her tone soft and lyrical.

Fenris wanted to believe her but, he had to remember that this was the Fade, she could be any manner of demon still. Sloth came to mind but her light and movement did not fit with the descriptions he had heard. He was trying very very hard to be angry but there was something about this place, something about her. He felt the strangest sense of calm. Still, he refused to let himself go quite so easily. "How do you know me?" he said, his tone dry and somewhat accusing.

She smiled and raised her left hand to pluck one of the orbs draped across her right side. She held it up, shimmering gold and silver. Fenris saw an image within the orb itself and heard a voice. A figure stepping from the shadows. He saw himself in the vision, then heard his own voice. ''Your men are dead. And your trap has failed...' Fenris recalled this. The night he first met Hawke in the Kirkwall alienage. But, he was seeing his own reflection; the perspective was strange. The image shuttered and appeared to jump forward in time, 'My name is Fenris,' he heard himself echo the words from the small image of himself inside the orb.

The orb hung in the air in front of him, repeating the same two scenes over and over. Fascinated he reached out to touch it just as a second, larger orb was lifted up by her delicate hand. Again, Fenris' image, sitting this time, waiting. He heard Hawke's voice, 'Fenris?' and he pulled back but couldn't look away. He knew this one as well and it broke his heart all over again. 'I have been thinking of you...' he heard his own voice and watched himself step forward as he had on that night. This orb too began to loop and Fenris shied his eyes away, silently begging for it to stop.

The woman reached up and tapped the orbs gently with the tips of her fingers. They floated back to her and nestled in amongst the seemingly endless mantle of similar spheres that draped over her shoulder. Fenris examined them closely and saw they all held a moving picture of some kind, each looping again and again. There were places he recognised, faces too. "What..."

She smiled and reached out to touch Fenris' cheek, "I am Memoria," she said. "Surely you know me from your Tevinter lore?"

"Hmm. Stories, perhaps," said Fenris. He had stood guard and served at many of Danarius' banquets where details of philosophy, magic lore and ancient gods were debated. While he did not pretend to understand it all, her presence, her name and the visions she carried were familar to him. He shook the recall from his mind, he had no time for these games. "Explain why I should care? Where is Hawke?"

Not really waiting for an answer, Fenris tried to walk towards the cottage but was stopped by Memoria. "I told you, he is not ready yet," she said.

"Why? Not ready for what?"

"He is too be judged," she said, holding her hand up in defence. "But not just by me."

Whispers. They were still present even in this calm place. Fenris held one hand to his head to steady himself and looked around for their source. The golden dome barrier had dissolved when Memoria shifted forms. The cottage stood exposed under the dim sky and the black creature was still shifting, beating under his feet. There was no sign of Hawke, or the young boy that was called by his name before. The whispers surrounded him and seemed to come all directions.

Memoria looked up and around, calling out to the air around her, "Leave him be. He does not understand." The whispers persisted and the ground shifted. "Let me speak!" she demanded, and the whispers ceased as suddenly as they had started.

Fenris collapsed with the abrupt silence and Memoria knelt in front of him. The exertions on his mind, body and life force were catching up to him. "Fenris?" she said, worried. He only shook his head in response. The lyrium under his skin was throbbing. Thoughts of what Anders was doing to him, to Hawke, back in the real world tugged at the side of his mind. He dismissed it, knowing that what happened here was more important than anything else. But still, he could feel himself growing weaker the longer he stayed in this place.

"Fenris," she tried again, "please. Forget about Hawke for a moment-"

"No."

Memoria smiled, "I mean only for you to focus," she said. "Think for a moment, you know of me. Know who I am and you will know why I cannot bring him to you yet."

"I... I can't..."

Memoria lifted her hand and light stretched out from her palm to Fenris's chest. Slowly, golden orbs emerged and hovered in front of him. Fenris gasped as he felt his heart tug at his own essence being pulled so gently from his being. "Let me help you," she said.

The orbs flickered and the images they offered made Fenris's stomach twist in knots. Walking through a Tevinter garden ... Following behind a group of magisters ... Keeping guard over his master ... Pretending not to listen to Danarius as he lectured his guests ... 'Phronesis. Prudence is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason.' The image flickered, jumping to another point in time on that same day. Standing beside a stone archway at the garden wall ... Magisters being poured wine and fed berries by slaves ... Danarius sitting in his garden throne... 'Auriga virtutum. Prudence,as a god, is the father of all virtues. And his daughters will judge our excellence by the power and might of our magic.' ... An apprentice dares to speak ... 'But how do we know which is virtue and which is vice?' ... Danrius is amused, 'We are magisters.' He laughs, 'We hold spiritual authority as granted to us by the gods. The sisters of virtue grant us the keys to perfection, the keys to becoming gods ourselves.'

Fenris was shaking now. Danrius' philosophy had always made him shudder with fear. As a slave he believed that he was bound to this cruelty by the Maker. He knew no other life. Still, his master's moral righteousness and lust for power always made him ill at ease and he wanted to believe there was a better way. Now, after finding that better way, through his escape and through Hawke, reliving these lessons was almost more than Fenris could handle.

Memoria sighed and waved her hand to disperse the orbs, clearly annoyed. "That one does not understand us or our father. His knowing is true but what slips from his tongue is not knowledge." Fenris was on the verge of tears; his body weak, fear of losing Hawke tearing at his heart, sickness over the lucid vision of Danrius and, his own struggle to simply understand a single damned thing that was happening. "I'm sorry. This was the only way to make you understand."

"I don't understand," he said. Phronesis ... Remember ... Memoria ... Sisters of Virtue... "What does this have to do with Hawke? What judgement?"

"Hawke was granted protection from death. Here in this place. I can keep him safe. For now." Memoria grazed her hand over the black mass beneath their feet, still beating, a forlorn look on her face. "Our father has become a dark and twisted thing by those who would desire his power. He rests, for now."

"An old god worshipped as a dragon."

Memoria nodded in agreement, "As you mortals are fools to do. The dragon's blood was taken in by Hawke. The allowance was given but a price must be paid."

The horror of watching Hawke swallow the contents of the black vial still haunted Fenris. He hung his head and took a deep breath, "What can I..."

Memoria placed her hand on Fenris' chest and pulled forth several more orbs. "I can see clearly who a man is and who he believes himself to be. If his memories are true then I judge him worthy."

"And your price?" he said with a sneer.

"I do not steal, Fenris, I rejoice. You were witness earlier," she said, brushing her hand through her mantle of memories. They shimmered and danced all around her as she made a wide sweeping arc with her hand. In the midst of this display Fenris could see that she had only one arm. The mantle of orbs on her right side was an illusion. Much like the rest of her he surmised. "I can live through them, the memories. The joy of life, a gift that the Maker did not grant us," she said.

Fenris slowly rose to his feet and she stood with him. Looking back to the cottage, he could see the black ivy and vines creeping around the yard, encroaching now that the barrier had been removed. "And your sisters?" he said.

"They will listen to me. I can show them and they can be satiated, that is their price."

"But, you expected me? Called me here?"

"Yes."

"Too soon?"

"Through judgement, if a man's memories are greater than his existence... he may not wish to leave. I do not-"

Fenris held up a hand to silence Memoria. Some movement at the side of his vision had caught his attention. He shook his head and turned back to Memoria, "Please."

"It has happened before," she said. "I know you could take him home. I ... I care for this one," she said, averting her eyes with guilt over her own selfishness. "I would not like to see my father devour him."

Fenris nodded, having no other choice but to trust her words, for now. Their moment was broken however, a flurry of movement, flashes of blue lighting and the onslaught of whispers as Justice reappeared, storming towards them. Justice walked with purpose, sword drawn, prepared for a battle. Memoria gasped and took a step to hide behind Fenris. The ground heaved under his feet, throwing him off balance.

"Vengeance is blind Fenris," she shouted about the noise in his head. "Don't let him rip Hawke from this place. Please!"

Fenris' calm control finally broke. "Justice, hold!" His command was unheeded and ghostly warrior continued to charge.

In his weakened state Fenris was not prepared for a fight. He tried to gather the Fade energy but it overwhelmed him. He screamed; his tattoos were burning, his vision clouded and his body writhing in pain. He struggled against himself and remained upright but disoriented.

Fenris managed to catch Justice by the waist as he charged past. He pushed the ghost backwards and flares of white hot rage emanated from Justice, attacking the lyrium under his skin. He lost his grip on Justice and was tossed to the side. Fenris heard Memoria scream. Calling every last ounce of fierce strength he had left, charged valiantly to throw himself between her and Justice just as the ghostly blade was thrust forward for Memoria's heart. The blade cut through Fenris' chest instead and Justice halted his attack, bewildered for a moment at the sight. Fenris roared and his eyes turned into dark-red pools as they had done in the real world. Justice thrust his sword further in and up. Fenris wrapped his hands around the blade and used it as a conduit to channel an energy attack of his own spiritual force. He heard Justice cry out and felt the blade slip from his body. His vision was gone and he felt himself falling, drained. His knees hit the ground and the thunder of jarred bones rattled through his body. Fenris felt the words 'Hawke, forgive me' cross his lips but, no sound came out.

There was a sharp, high pitched scream inside his head and a wave of sudden coldness over his entire body, Fenris awoke in the real world with a jolt.

Fenris' eyes flew open and he violently gasped for air. Orana, who had been kneeling beside him, jumped at Fenris' sudden return to consciousness. He had been placed, sitting in one of the library arm chairs and almost tumbled forward as he awoke. Orana reached out to steady his chest with the palm of one hand and and tightly gripped his wrist with the other. Fenris slapped his bare hand down on top of Orana's wrist out of instinct. Still not thinking clearly, he tried to flare the lyrium lines across his palms but little happened. Instead, the attempt made him ill and he coughed violently for a moment. Drained. He knew this sick feeling from his past life with Danarius, it would pass in a while.

"Please Master Fenris," Orana said, her voice meek and trembling slightly. "You're hurting me."

"Forgive me," was all that Fenris could groan out as his senses returned to him. He let go of her wrist but, she did not let go of his. Looking down, he saw her return to the task she was attending before he awoke. She was fastening the red silk favour, that had tied been around his gauntlet, to his now bare wrist. She tied a delicate knot to hold it loosely in place. It was cool and damp against his skin, cleaned of the blood that had saturated it while carrying Hawke to the estate. Fenris caressed the smooth fabric and his breath audibly hitched as emotion took hold of him for a moment.

"I though you would want it close when you woke up," Orana said. Fenris had no idea if she knew what it was but, he supposed she had never really known him to be without it. Orana had proven to be a very observant and quick minded girl, despite her timid demeanour. The gesture was kind but there were more pressing matters.

"Where is he?" Fenris' head was dizzy and he held a hand to his forehead, covering his eyes from the light of the fireplace. He wanted to leap from the chair and run to Hawke's side but, he knew he would collapse if he tried.

"Please don't move Master Fen-"

Fenris snapped his head around to look at her and hissed at what she had called him for a second time, "Stop-"

"I'm sorry!" she said tersely, bowing her head in apology. She knew full well of her offence to him. "They took him to his bed chamber. He's still..." tears began to well in her eyes and she choked on the last words.

"Alive?"

Orana nodded fervently 'yes', drawing a sharp breath, trying to regain her composure.

"Who is with him now?"

"His mabari is standing guard," she said, with a smile. "I asked the others to go home for the night."

"Night?" Fenris was confused, "How long was I..."

"It will be morning soon Ma-" she stopped herself from saying it. "The mage, Anders, he said he'd done all he could but, Master Hawke has to wake up on his own. They stayed a while but I've since told them to go. I...I couldn't sleep."

Fenris slumped in his chair and groaned. He wondered how just a brief time in the Fade had been so long here in the real world. Perhaps the whole ordeal had just been a dream after all.

Orana placed the back of her hand against Fenris' forehead, feeling for a fever, "I'll get you something to drink, some water," she said. "Please let me do this?" Fenris just nodded and Orana left the room to attend her task.

Fenris leaned forward in the chair holding his head in his hands. His throat was dry, his skin hot, and his eyes tired. He gave a sigh, thinking on what had happened in the Fade. Was it just a delusion? A consequence of Anders' magic interacting with the lyrium and the chaos of his own conflicted emotions? His bitterness towards magic and mages began to well up inside him again. He clenched his jaw, his face buried in his hands, he closed his eyes.

Whispers.

Fenris jerked his head up and his eyes wide open and the whispers were gone. He blinked twice, his mouth open with disbelief. He dipped his chin and closed his eyes again. The whispers returned, loud and angry. He forced his eyes tightly closed and could hear Memoria calling out to him. It hadn't been a dream and he hadn't finished what he'd started. Either that or, the thought crossed his mind, he was truly going insane.

Fenris opened his eyes and looked around the room wildly. He had no idea what do to, how to fix this. "Anders," he said, snarling. He had to find the mage, get him to send him back somehow. This was his fault! Fenris felt himself being filled with a driving rage.

Fenris lurched forward out of the chair and nearly fell head long into the fireplace. He caught the mantel of the fireplace and righted himself. Orana returned to the library at the same moment, nearly dropping the tray she carried at the sight of Fenris staggering about. He pushed passed her with a blinding determination. He was deaf to her pleas to stop. Out in the foyer he saw faint traces of blood across the floor where Orana had started to clean the mess up. Bits of Hawke's armour, still not picked up, had been kicked to the walls, out of the way. He was looking for his own armour in this strewn about mess but, he was still too dazed to make out anything of certainty. He found his sword, or maybe it was Hawke's, he didn't care. He could barely lift it in his condition. He grabbed a black cloak that had been tossed on a table and haphazardly wrapped himself in the heavy wool.

Fenris headed for the estate's front entrance but stopped abruptly. The door to the vault was still ajar. A memory suddenly came to Fenris with a flash of golden light in his mind... Hawke's story of how Bethany and he had broken in the vault years ago, through an underground passage and the Amell estate cellar. Of course, it made sense to him now too how Merrill had been able to bring Anders up from Darktown so quickly. Fenris changed his direction and took the stairs down to the vault, his greatsword clattering against the wall with his less than graceful decent. Reaching the bottom he struggled with the latch on the cellar door and as he wrestled it open he heard Orana coming down the stairs, calling him.

He grumbled, nothing she could say would stop him. This couldn't wait. Fenris got the door open and...

"Master Fenris!" she shouted while standing almost beside him.

His raw emotions got the better of him and he whipped around and grabbed the girl by her shoulder and shoved her against the stairs. She shrieked and Fenris came to his senses, letting her go and stepping back, his hand trembling, "I..."

"You couldn't hear me," she said. "I said it to make you turn around." She stepped closer to Fenris, holding up one of Sandal's enchanted lanterns. The blue flame cast strange shadows in the small room, "It's not your fault."

"I have to save him," said Fenris, it wasn't meant for Orana, it just slipped out.

"I just wanted you to take this," Orana motioned forward with the lantern. Fenris took it from her and he felt the shame of his action flush across his face. Orana stepped into him and wrapped her arms around his waist, burying her face in his shoulder. "He can't lose you," she said, her voice muffled as she spoke into the heavy wool of the cloak. "I can't lose either of you. Please be careful."

Fenris gently pulled himself away from her and, with the lantern in hand, pushed through the cellar door. His mind was focused on finding Anders and returning to the Fade, there was nothing more he could say.