AN: This entry is meant to be a novella exploring the very early days of the relationship between Fenris and Danal Hawke, a rogue. The story starts on the island of Seheron where Fenris made his run for freedom. It relates those events through the eyes of Danarius and a young magister tasked as his 'assistant.' Mostly, because I wanted to do something a bit different on point of view and to explore, just a little, the mindset of Tevinter mages. Enjoy!
Danarius rubbed his eyes, raw and burning from squinting at tiny, crabbed script by the dim light of a swinging lantern. Fortunately, he had the stomach for sea travel, though his gorge still rose at the thought of abandoning his most precious possession on the island of Seheron. He hadn't been the only one forced to leave valuable property behind in the form of skilled slaves. Not enough food to feed them all for the journey home the captain had claimed, since their handful of ships had been forced to take the long way around the island to avoid tangling with the Qunari fleet.
He flipped the law book shut and leaned back in his chair. Bolted to the deck, he couldn't push it back from the table –also bolted down. One minor annoyance piled atop a larger. According to this tome on maritime law, even a Senator couldn't countermand a sea captain's orders once a ship left port. And the woman had actually threatened to throw him overboard if the magister didn't desist in 'pestering' her to retrieve his bodyguard. Besides, he could always get another one. 'Not like a good blade is hard to come by in the slave markets,' the woman had dared to say. Prudence dictated he abide by her orders since she was his only chance of getting back to Minrathous in one piece.
The air crackled around Danarius as a rare surge of temper loosened his controls. He hadn't achieved his current rank and status by giving in to fits of temper, but the Maker alone knew when he would be able to mount a retrieval mission to recover his property. It was going to take several months of bribery and skilled flattery just to settle the government officials who'd sanctioned and paid for this expedition to establish another base on the island. Of course, if they'd followed his initial advice and properly funded this mission, they wouldn't be in this mess now, would they? Danarius allowed himself a rare moment of self-indulgent temper, then shoved his irritations aside to focus on how he would retrieve his property.
A soft knock on his cabin door interrupted his thoughts.
The grizzled sailor tasked with serving Danarius and the newly appointed magister he'd been forced to share this tiny cabin with entered and set a small tray on the table. Danarius grimaced at the rations of boiled beans, weevil-ridden hard tack, and stale water. Three days of this already, Maker, he would be glad to get back to Minrathous.
The sailor sketched a bow, then turned to leave.
"How soon till we make port?" Danarius asked.
"Cap'n thinks maybe three or four days if the wind holds in our favor. If it don't, more like a week, m'lord." He inclined his head. "If you not be needin' anything further, I got watch comin' up in a bit."
Danarius waved him off. A few moments after he left, Laris, smelling of sea wind and elfroot potions sauntered in and plopped down in the only other chair. The young magister grinned and waved a ringed hand at the tray.
"Well, I see dinner's arrived." He twisted around and shoved the door closed with his foot, tucking a long strand of dark hair behind one ear.
"Slave rations," Danarius said as he flipped open his book, then pretended to read.
"Well, if you're not hungry..." Laris reached for both bowls.
He froze when Danarius' hand clamped down on his wrist.
"I was making an observation, not extending an invitation."
"Ah, forgiveness, Senator. You look a little pale. I thought, perhaps, the seas weren't agreeing with you."
The fool probably meant it. Laris had no ambitions beyond filling his belly and having a warm body in his bed. But the Arch-Mage, fond of her great-nephew, had sent him along on this military expedition to 'temper him to the realities of a magister's life', whatever that meant. No mage who survived to achieve the rank of magister was ignorant of what that life entailed.
"My stomach is quite well, thank you." Danarius retrieved his bowl and picked up a spoon. "How are the rest of the wounded coming along?"
Laris paused in wolfing down his portion. "The rest of them should recover. The two soldiers who died today had lost a great deal of blood. Difficult to heal that." He frowned, gazing at his spoon. "If there were someway to replace lost blood we might have had a better chance of saving them."
Danarius glanced up from his book, his voice sharp. "Are you looking to be made tranquil?"
Laris started. "What? No, of course not. I'm not talking about blood magic. Just replacing blood that's been lost. If we could do that-"
"Put it from your mind, boy. The Chantry does not look favorably on dabbling with blood."
"But-" Laris' jaw snapped shut at the magister's glower. "You're probably right, Senator," he said softly, dropping his eyes back to his scanty meal.
There was probably some merit to the lad's observation, Danarius thought, moistening his hard tack with a bit of water. Laris might retreat from even the hint of challenge, but he was clever and talented. His skill with creation magic had kept their losses to a minimum.
Danarius glanced at the young magister, who seemed absorbed by this pitiful excuse for a meal. His warning had been for formality's sake. Laws against blood magic were cheerfully broken whenever it suited a magister's whim. Laris, however lacking in ambition he seemed to be, was too clever not to be aware of that. But he had never, according to a source Danarius trusted, used blood magic in any form. Just as well, perhaps, since a lazy, indolent nature made one more susceptible to demonic enticement.
The magister turned back to his meal, dismissing the boy from his concerns. There were more important matters to tend to, not least, the retrieval of a valuable piece of property; a third of his fortune had gone into creating the formidable weapon Fenris had become.
After what passed for dinner, Laris murmured something about turning in for the night. Danarius, feeling restless, left him settled in the top bunk, still in his robes, curled on his side with his back to the door.
Stars peppered the sky, and a brisk wind filled the sails. Behind the ship, light from the twin lanterns on the port and starboard sides of the two ships following reassured him their small fleet was still intact.
His hand curled around the railing, Danarius gazed out over the moonlit sea as he thought about who owed him favors, and who could be coerced, blackmailed, or bribed into giving him the aid he needed to return to Seheron after the fluster from this mission had settled. By the time the moon rode high in the night, he'd worked out a plan. Barring any unexpected twists he should be able to come back in about six months. He didn't like the notion of leaving Fenris on his own that long. He didn't doubt his little wolf would survive; after all, Fenris was well trained. But with no one around to keep the willful side of his nature in check, there was no telling what mischief he might get up to...or what foolish notions would take root in his skull. Still, it couldn't be helped. Danarius knew he would just have to ensure he brought his pet to heel as quickly as possible when he returned.
Laris choked down the bile rising up his throat for the third time. Andraste's tits, he could have gone three lifetimes without witnessing the slaughter that had just taken place. He sank onto his knees on the coarse sand, heedless of the gore staining the lower half of his fine silk robe. Power pulsed all around him, beckoning. He shoved it aside, sickened by the thought of using it. Beyond the blood, he sensed rage demons, searching for a point in the Veil weak enough for them to break through.
In the middle of the carnage, Fenris stood, sides heaving, while blood dripped off his sword and his hair. Beneath the gore, the lyrium lines twining over his skin pulsed blue and white in erratic patterns. Above him, scavenger birds wheeled, waiting for their feast. Danarius hovered only a few feet away, smiling, as if his 'pet' had just performed a clever trick to please its master.
The young magister's hands clenched his thighs as he stared at the Senator. He's mad. He has to be...to order...this...His gaze swept over the dead Fog Warriors littering the beach... in a place where the Veil is so thin.
"Ah, my little wolf, I'm pleased to see you've lost none of your skill while I was gone."
Laris started. Is that what this was? A test!
Fenris moss green eyes widened, brilliant in their intensity, then magic flared along the lyrium lines, burning bright as the sky on a hot summer day through the blood. The elf growled deep in his throat and his grip tightened on that massive broadsword.
Despite the heat, Laris shivered. No wonder he's named after a wolf.
"Now, now, my pet, remember what Hadriana taught you about self-control. I'd hate to see those lessons...wasted."
Laris swallowed, reading the promise of punishment in the magister's tones if his 'pet' disobeyed.
Fenris' gaze shifted to the bodies strewn at his feet. The light died in his eyes and the lines of his body softened, his sword tip lowering to the ground. Danarius smiled, looking satisfied, one hand curled around his ebony staff. But where the magister had probably read obedience, Laris read despair...and something else, though at the moment he was still too shaken from the elf's demonstration of 'skill' to discern it.
"Come now, it's time to return home." The magister's smile deepened, taking on a possessive, hungry edge. "Time to become re-"
Fenris' head jerked up. "No."
Barely more than a whisper, that single word hung between them in challenge and defiance. And in the late afternoon sun Fenris' eyes blazed.
Danarius' smile vanished. "What did you say?"
Fenris didn't answer, just turned and bolted for the forest, a loping run that ate up distance with blinding speed. For a moment, the magister just stood there, staring at the place where Fenris had disappeared into the thick jungle forest. Then Danarius' face contorted in anger as his other hand slapped against his staff and he raised it above his head, a chant Laris didn't recognize spewing from his lips.
The Veil twisted, thinning to wispy shreds as a rage demon pulled by the magister's anger and the bright magic he gathered clawed at the edges of this world's reality.
"Demons!" Laris cried out, inwardly cursing Danarius as he brought his own staff to bear, then turned to face whatever came through the breach.
Danarius might be an arrogant prick, but he was also a highly disciplined one. In the space of a breath, he dropped his chant and turned to face the demon, his personal guards fanning out to either side of him.
"Get behind me, boy, and focus on keeping the guards alive," the magister said, his eyes never leaving the demon that had almost freed itself.
Laris didn't argue. He knew his own strengths. Besides, he'd seen rage demons hovering behind the one that was almost free of the Fade. With a cry of triumph, it wrenched through, skittering over the sand straight towards Danarius, its black claws reaching for his throat.
A few words from the magister, and Laris felt the chill of winter on his neck. The rage demon shattered, but five more boiled out of the breach behind it.
"Contain them," Danarius shouted at his guards, then pointed his staff at the breach.
Laris laid a repulsion sigil on the ground in front of them, then focused on the guards. He 'felt' the slice of claws down his thigh, and poured energy into the wound, repairing the severed artery. Ignoring scratches, bruises, and minor wounds he focused on healing ripped stomachs and gouged backs, though he could do nothing for the man whose head was ripped from his shoulders. Distracted by its kill, the demon never saw the guard coming from behind to take its head.
Laris dropped to his hands and knees, gasping, his skin prickling as Danarius' power swirled around them, keeping the demons off the young mage's back as the magister slowly repaired the breach his anger had helped create.
Pouring energy into six guards, enhancing their reflexes and recovery as well as healing them, Laris was only dimly aware of the battle raging around him. The battle cries of the guards, the shrieks of dying demons, and even Danarius chanting just above him - all skittered at the edge of hearing, as if the sounds came from far away.
The coppery smell of blood filled his nose as a demon tore another guard apart. Despite the energy he poured into them, he felt the other guards starting to weaken, their strikes slowing, their blows getting weaker.
Six guards left and four demons. We won't survive this. His eyes focused on the blood stained sand beneath his hand. The demons...their drawing power from this. Even Danarius was, though he was focused on closing the breach and blocking any more demons from slipping through the rent in the Veil.
Power lay all around him. I can't use- Laris felt another guard die. He shoved the vow he'd made to himself aside. Shit...I'm not going to die on this Maker forsaken island because of one man's pride.
He reached out and gathered up every scrap of power he could find. It poured into him, sleek and hot, carrying a whisper from something greater beyond the Veil, an offer heavy with the promise of power. All he had to do was let the owner of that voice inside his skin...just for a little while. Just long enough to taste the mortal world. Surely, as a fellow scholar, he could understand the spirit's curiosity about the world outside the Fade?
Laris shook his head, his jaw clenching. Shove it up your ass, demon. Then he focused on the guards, pouring new-found strength into heard a shout of triumph and the stench of demon ichor as one, then another died. The remaining guards quickly finished off the last two demons before collapsing on the sand.
The breach in the Veil was now a thin sliver of gray against the brilliant green of the jungle behind it. Danarius wavered on his feet, his arms starting to shake, but his chanting never faltered.
Laris dragged himself to his feet, then stumbled over to the remaining guards, two of them now prone on the gore-soaked beach. Fortunately, none of their injuries seemed fatal, but demon inflicted wounds had a greater chance of putrifying. After pouring the last of his stolen power into them, he collapsed on his backside, his head starting to throb. Dimly, he sensed demons pushing at what remained of the tear, trying to force it open. A final surge of power from Danarius, and it snapped shut. Then the magister folded to the sand, his eyes rolling up in his head.
"Master!" one of the less injured guards called out, then hurried over to him, gently turning the magister over onto his back.
Laris gazed at them, more than a little tempted to leave the man here to rot. He shook his head. Danarius' guards would slit his throat for even hinting at that.
"My lord, he needs your skills...now," the guard tending Danarius said to the young mage.
Laris suppressed a sigh and crawled over to them.
Under the baleful eye of the guard, he examined the magister. Danarius was fine. Nothing a little sleep wouldn't set right. In fact, Laris thought, while checking several of the magister's pulse points, it probably would do no harm if he spent most of the next few days sleeping. Laris could always claim he'd been concerned that the man had dangerously exhausted himself while fighting to close the rent and he just wanted to ensure a full recovery. Healer obligations, and all that. Besides, he'd always detested the notion of slavery. And if Fenris had found the strength to snatch at an opportunity for freedom...well, let him take it. Blame it on my Rivaini grandparents, I guess.
"Get him to the ship. He needs rest...a lot of it, but he'll be fine."
The guard only nodded, then motioned to another to help him carry Danarius back to the ship.
Later, after he'd seen the magister settled in his bunk, Laris slipped out to the deck, a flask of fine Antivan brandy tucked into his pant's pocket. With his 'superior' sound asleep, he dressed to suit his own comfort and not for show.
Leaning on the railing near the stern, he gazed down into the blue-green water sliding past the hull. After the stench of death on the beach, the clean open smell of the sea was welcome.
The Captain had decided to weigh anchor the moment they'd boarded, claiming that after what had happened on the beach, the Fog Warriors would return in greater numbers and he'd been paid only to transport the magisters here, not face rebels in battle. Laris, privately agreeing with his assessment, had seen no reason to argue with the man.
None of Danarius' guards had escaped injury. Exhausted and bloody, they hadn't made even a token protest on their master's behalf when the Captain ordered his crew to set sail. They lay scattered around the deck at the moment, eating and drinking, not saying much, and keeping their voices low when they did exchange a few words with one another.
Laris took out his flask, and savored a sip of brandy, tempted to get roaring drunk, if nothing else to blur the memory of Fenris savaging the surprised Fog Warriors. A tiny part of him argued that they shouldn't have denied Danarius his 'property.' The magister would have let them be if they'd just handed Fenris over to him.
Maybe. But he probably would have ordered their deaths anyway, just to prove Fenris was still 'his,' to the elf, if no one else. Laris took another sip of brandy. Andraste's tits, that man is twisted, even for a magister.
It was still early afternoon, but as a friend had once remarked, it was evening somewhere in Thedas. He took another sip, then re-capped the flask with a sigh. Better to keep a clear head, he was going to need all his wits when he finally had to let Danrius wake up. The man wasn't going to be happy they'd abandoned Seheron without his 'pet.'
He really thought it was going to be that easy. That all he had to do was show up and Fenris would follow behind like a well-trained dog. How could he have been so blind?
Laris shook his head. Even on the first trip over here, he'd seen the hints of defiance, bright brief flashes of anger in the elf's eyes whenever Danarius mentioned his apprentice, Hadriana. A lifetime of watching others to keep his own skin and mind intact had taught Laris how to read all the subtle cues the elf gave. Cues Fenris had been adept at hiding from his 'master.'
Laris took out the flask again and uncapped it. He raised it to the sun sinking low in the west. Good luck, elf. At least one of us has a chance at freedom. Then he turned and headed back to his cabin.