A/N: This is it, lovies. The final chapter. I have only incorporated a few of the final talks and I've put a lot of work into this final bit; it's been a long time coming, though I am proud of myself for finishing the series in a matter of months. I want to thank everyone for their continued support; this, by far, has been my most successful Dragon Age piece and I hope to see you all again when I start my next one. Thank you so much for all your reviews, favorites, alerts; they have meant so much through this process, motivating me every step of the way. Thank you so much for sharing Hawke/Fenris/Anders' story with me!
A Wolf and Mage's Uneasy Path
Chapter Twenty - Final
Her world was on fire. The pain was unimaginable. Everything reeled around her, out of control. This had been her home; these had been her friends; one of them had been her lover. Now – now – it was all falling to pieces, one bit at a time. And they expected her to carry this weight, to keep trudging on, one foot at a time, to do her duty and protect the life of every single mage in the circle from Meredith's cruel injustice and her Templar army. Not even an hour ago, she'd stabbed her ex lover in the back and watched him die; she was not allowed a moment to mourn him, or time to at least give him a proper burial. She'd had to steel herself, stomp down the pain, and walk on with her chin held high like they demanded of her.
She had never hated her role in Kirkwall more than she did this day.
They were almost to the Gallows, the boat creaking through the water as her eyes took in the devastation. Already she could see flames licking across the stones. Could feel the mana swirling in the air as the mages defended what they had come to call their prison. She had no choice but to get there, to save them, but now more than ever, she ached to be selfish, to have Fenris' arms around her while she wailed out her pain.
Hadn't this adult life taken enough from her? Her father, her baby sister, her mother, Anders, and quite possibly her baby brother – her Templar brother.
That fear that he would stand with the crazed Knight-Commander had always been there, buried beneath optimism and plain good old fashioned denial; but that fear, now, was more alive than it had ever been. Maker, after everything that she was forced to endure, standing against her brother – being forced to kill him like her enemies – was not something she desired. Her baby brother's blood on her hands would be the final push of the breakdown that had been a long time coming.
The boat came ashore and Hawke reigned in her pain, locked it up tight, and threw away the key; she couldn't be weak, she couldn't be selfish. This was bigger than her, and she had to see it that way. A piece upon the board, sent in to do its function. This was her's.
She could not weep, as she ached to do. She could not bury Anders, like she needed to do. She couldn't leave the city to its fate and run with Fenris, as she wanted to do.
This was bigger than her. It had to be. There was no choice in that now.
She waved her companions to follow her as she forced one foot in front of the other and ran down the docks toward the stairs that led into the Gallows. They rushed up them as fast as their legs could carry them. Already the battle had broken out, mages defending themselves against invading Templars. Already bodies of both were strewn about the cobble stone without so much as a care to what became of them. More tallies to add on the score board, in Meredith's opinion no doubt.
The mages were falling back at Orsino's behest. "Quickly, quickly!" He shouted, as he backed slowly up the stairs that led into the circle, two Templar soldiers encroaching on him as he went. Once he reached the top, he gathered his mana and let it loose, fire consuming the two men before the blast sent one of them flying across the court yard to land at Hawke's feet.
"Orsino!" Her cry caught his attention.
"Champion! You've survived! Thank the Maker, we must - "
A rush of pounding footsteps had Hawke snapping around. "And here you are!" Meredith cried with what Hawke could only describe as sadistic pleasure, as if she had finally cornered her prey. The Knight-Captain was with her, as was Carver, her baby brother. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments before he broke the gaze, instead opting to glare at his boots.
"Let us speak, Meredith, before this battle destroys the city you claim to protect!" Orsino spoke up as he descended the stairs, a few mages following behind, to meet Meredith and her men at the base. Pushing Hawke to stand at the sidelines, right in the middle of them.
"I will entertain a surrender, nothing more," Meredith offered with her lips curling distaste. "Speak, if you have something to say."
"Revoke the Rite of Annulment, Meredith, before this goes too far," Orsino pleaded, a plea that Hawke could feel echo within her. She wanted this to stop before the line between friend and foe became too indistinct to recognize. Fenris had opted to trust her, even over his hatred of mages, but how long would it last? How long would any of this – their friendships, their love, their feelings – failed to make a difference?
How long before Aveline's sense of duty overwhelmed her? How long before Fenris decided she wasn't worth this, allying with the one creature in existence he despised more than any other? How long before Sebastian turned on her, believing Meredith's solution best? How long before she was forced to kill her own brother? How long.
"Imprison us if you must," Orsino conceded. "Search the tower if you must. I will even help you. But do not kill us all for an act we did not commit!"
"The Grand Cleric is dead, killed – no, murdered – by a mage. The people, they will demand retribution." She narrowed her eyes, her meaning clear as crystal. "I will give it to them. Although...your offer is commendable, Orsino, it comes too late."
Hawke sighed, dragged her hand across her face. "I was hoping this could be settled peacefully."
"I doubt we'll be seeing that," Orsino sighed in return.
"I suppose I should have expected no less from you, Champion." Meredith turned her cold blue gaze on her. "So be it, you shall join the circle's fate. Fitting, I think, since you are a mage."
"So what then?" Hawke snapped.
"What is to be, Meredith?" Orsino spoke up, stepping forward. "Do we fight here?"
"Go," Meredith waved her hand. "Prepare your people. The rest of the Order is already crossing the harbor."
"This isn't over!" Orsino promised her vehemently, then turned to retreat inside. Hawke's companions moved to do the same, but Hawke found herself rooted to the ground, her eyes seeking out her brother where he stood behind the Knight-Commander.
"Carver," she supplied his name cautiously. "Please don't do this."
"Your brother has nothing to say to you, Champion. Now go, before I decide not to be so lenient."
Hawke turned her gaze to Meredith, openly glaring at the witch. "I wasn't speaking to you, Meredith. I was speaking to my brother. He may be of your order, but he is my family. Do not think to stand between us!" The Knight-Commander narrowed her gaze, lips thinning, but made no move to instigate her. Hawke swung her gaze back to her brother, who's expression was unreadable to her for the first time in all their years together as siblings. "Carver - "
"You cannot defend these mages, sister," Carver finally said, though his eyes wavered, belying his words; he, more than anyone, knew what Hawke was capable of – if she wanted something done, nothing would stop her.
"I am one of these mages, brother. Meredith would turn on me if I helped her for that reason alone. She would not have hesitated to slaughter poor, sweet Bethany – your twin, our sister. She was a mage too, remember?" Hawke sighed softly. "Meredith is going too far. The innocents here – innocents like Bethany – are not responsible for what Anders did. The man responsible has already been punished," her voice cracked with pain, but she stubbornly stomped it down. "We cannot let her do this. Stand with me, Carver, please – we are family, all that's left."
"Bethany," he sighed their sister's name, sadness etched into his features.
"Yes, Bethany – would she have wanted this?"
"That is enough!" Meredith snapped impatiently. "The Order dictates. The mages will die. If you go with your sister, you too will fall. I will not hesitate."
Carver's eyes turned to the Knight-Commander, studied her for a hard, long moment, before he shook his head. "My sister is right – you are reaching for any excuse you can. I will not take part in mindless slaughter." He fell out of file with the other Templars and walked toward Hawke, giving her a stern nod, before he too walked the steps into the circle. Hawke's heart swelled with pride; despite their differences, their struggles, he had enough faith to stand with her in the end.
Meredith's glare was nothing but ice. "This isn't over," she snapped. Hawke didn't doubt it even for a moment.
"It's hard not to look at these apostates and not see Anders," Sebastian confessed as he stepped up beside her where she stood in the central chamber of the circle; this is where they had gathered themselves, rallying together before the final battle. His words cut her deep, but she held herself strong, lifted her chin, and nodded.
"I'm sorry about Elthina," Hawke said softly; she wasn't the only one in pain, she knew. "But there is so much more at stake here, Sebastian."
"She was a mother to me, to every brother and sister in the chantry. He never took a moment to get to know her," he paused a moment, taking stock of her torn expression, "but not every mage is Anders. I know." She nodded. "I don't know if we can win this, Hawke, or even if we should, but I will not turn from you now. You have been a good friend to me."
"As you have to me, Sebastian."
He smiled, even if it was faint. "It will be my honor to fight at your side, Hawke." Sebastian was quiet for a very long moment, very long. And even though he was torn, and tormented over the words, he said them, softly, "I'm sorry about Anders."
Her eyes burned, an threat of impending tears; why had she even doubted him? "Thank you," she said, her voice breaking over the two little words. She took that step that separated them, wrapping her arms around his neck to pull him into a tight hug. He stiffened, hesitated a moment, but then his arms wrapped around her waist to return the affectionate gesture. They broke apart and nodded, before Sebastian moved away to go speak with Varric.
She'd always had a friend in him. What kind of friend was she that she had doubted his loyalty to her? Tears rolled from her eyes and she had to stifle a sob; she couldn't breakdown here.
Get it together, Hawke. This isn't the time or place. You're strong. You can do this.
"Are you alright, Hawke?" Fenris asked softly as he came to stand behind her. She didn't even have to hear him speak to know that he was there; she could feel him there, almost as if he were an extension of her own being. How did he feel being here, she wondered. Was he really willing to go through with this, just because of what they had, knowing it defied everything he stood for?
She turned to him with a soft smile, though the anxiety she knew must be written all over her face. "Are you sure you want to be here, Fenris?"
His lips curled up slightly. "Here I am, about to defend these mages in a hopeless battle. You lead me to strange places, Hawke."
"It's not hopeless," she sighed with a shake of her head. "When did we all become such pessimists? But don't you worry, I'll take you to stranger places than this, just watch."
He chuckled. "A tempting offer." He glanced off to the side as if he were debating his next words.
"What is it Fenris?"
"I...may not have a chance to say this again. I will just say it. Meeting you, Hawke...it was the most important thing that ever happened to me." He stepped toward her, his hand lifting slowly until he cupped her cheek in his gauntlet; what she wouldn't give to feel the flesh of his hand on her face, to have the simple gesture strengthen her resolve. "Promise me you won't die, Hawke," his voice cracked ever so slightly. "I can't bear the thought of living without you. Not after all this, everything we have been through to get here."
"I know, love, I know, but I will not make that promise unless you do," she said brokenly as he stepped back; to even think of losing him now, of losing any of her friends now, on the heel of Anders' death, she couldn't take it. They were going to make it through this, there was no other choice for them.
His expression turned fierce, eyes intense. She wanted to shudder at the wealth of emotion she saw in them. Maker, how had she come to love this man so fiercely. "Nothing is going to keep me from you. Not anymore," he growled as he stepped forward to pull her into his arms. Even in front of all their friends, in front of Orsino, in front of the circle mages, she went into them willing and pliant. His lips came down on hers, not soft and gentle, but hard and fierce. It was a kiss that spoke of the desperation that both of them felt. One that spoke of love that had come through, despite everything.
She may have been a fool to have run to Anders but she couldn't regret it, even now as she gave herself willing into Fenris' embrace. Anders had needed her, had needed some happiness, and she was at least glad she could have given it to him for a little while before he died.
They broke apart after a long moment of indulgence and she had to push back the tears as they threatened to free their chains all over again. She cupped his face in her hands, her eyes desperate as they gazed into his; she wanted to play the optimist, to stay strong, but if there was even a slim chance that they could fail, she had to make sure he knew, knew that she had loved him, still loved him, more than anyone who had come before him.
"I love you," she whispered, though the words were as strong as the mightiest blade.
He placed his gauntlet-clad hands over hers and turned his head to place a soft kiss on one palm, then the other. "And I love you, Hawke. I will forever remain at your side."
It was those words that kept her alive. Even as things went from bad to worse. It kept her going when Orsino betrayed them by turning to blood magic – the very same magic he'd learned of from the man who'd killed her mother – and became an abomination. It kept her going when Meredith ordered her arrest and when her men, Cullen in particular, refused her order and helped stand against her as the woman went mad. When the woman pulled the lyrium infused blade from her back and opted to just kill them all, for the Maker, believing their deaths to be in his glory. It had driven her insane as it had done Varric's brother, but the Knight-Commander was so far gone she thought she was perfectly sane. Fenris' words kept her going when the statues came to life and tried – and very nearly succeeded – to kill them all.
Maybe it was those words that enabled her to find the strength to deliver the final blow on Meredith and not fall beneath her onslaught. She turned to ash before their very eyes but she couldn't find the strength to be glad, to be happy that it was over because in her heart, she knew, she knew without a doubt, that it wasn't over. What Anders had done was going to set the world on fire; when others in circles around the world heard of Anders, of what he'd done, what he'd died for, they were going to rise up, like a phoenix from the ashes to strive for their freedom – hell, even their revenge.
They had to spend days recovering, each of them. Without Anders there they had to resort to Hawke's healing magic, which was weak as best even with the substantial amount of lyrium potions they stocked. Fenris never left her side, unless it was absolutely necessary. Weeks passed and things in Kirkwall began to return to some sort of normalcy; things were far from perfect, however. The suspicions of the mages became worse, so much so that even Hawke was regarded with double edged looks wherever she went in town. The newly appointed Knight-Commander Cullen knew her to be trust-worthy but Hawke knew that she couldn't stay. Not any longer.
When all was said and done, she, Fenris, and Sebastian decided to go to Starkhaven. She and Fenris helped him regain his throne and he welcomed them into his home. The world began to fall to pieces around them, and they knew the peace wouldn't last here, but they were determined to make the best of it.
It was nine months after reclaiming Starkhaven that Hawke gave birth to a half-elven child. It was a hard labor, one that had nearly claimed her life, but when she laid in that bed, weak, tired, a tiny little babe in her arms, she felt she had done good. That for this one brief moment, with Fenris' arms around her, their child in her arms, she was allowed to be selfish.
"What is his name?" The mid-wife asked.
Hawke turned her head to Fenris and met his gentle, loving kiss. When they parted, she whispered, "his name is Fenrir. Little Fenrir Anders Hawke."
He had known the pain she carried with her when she had put that dagger in Anders' back, known what his death had done to her; she still had nightmares. He'd been understanding and supportive, even now he remained as such; when she named that child, after both him and Anders, he understood. And he supported it, all the way.
It hadn't been an easy path for them, since day one. The pain, heartache, all of it had been worth this simple moment and she knew that the good in Anders, it lived on with them, in her and Fenris' child. She would tell him stories of his uncle Anders, of the good things he'd done and the thing he, and all of them believed in – freedom. And she was free at last, from that uneasy path they'd walked, to walk on a new one. One they had created together. And it was those words - I will forever remain at your side - that kept her walking it, with her chin held high and heart filled.