A small group went aboard a small boat that was docked at the Gallows. Fenris' eyes went over the tired faces. Everyone was exhausted after the many long and brutal fights they had fought, and nobody had come out of it unscathed. Isabela had a couple of ugly cuts on her bare arms, Aveline was bleeding from a shallow head wound, Varric was limping because an arrow had hit him in his left foot, Merrill looked pale after abundant use of blood magic but seemed otherwise unharmed, and one of Carver Hawke's eyes was swollen so much that he could no longer peek through the eyelids. Fenris' body was aching all over from the burns, the attempts of blood magic to let his blood boil within his veins, and the blows from blades, maces and daggers, but he paid no attention to it. The relief that they had made it out alive was stronger than the complaints of his tormented nerves. Rebelling against the entire Templar Order... surely even for Damian Hawke that must be the limit. Perhaps the Champion of Kirkwall could retire now that he had done the most insane thing possible.
"Who needs healing?"
Fenris looked up from his wooden bench. His stomach tightened at the sight of Hawke standing tall in the boat. His braid had not survived the chaos of the battle, so his hair spilled in a disheveled mess over his shoulders. His robes were torn and burned at some places. Fenris felt his mouth curl in amusement. Hawke hated it when his robes were damaged beyond repair, something that - considering how Hawke tended to spend his time - happened regularly. But except for the state of his hair and clothing, Hawke appeared to be alright. He was alive. That was all that mattered to Fenris. When they had plunged themselves in the abyss of outright war with the templars, he had almost been certain they would not make it out alive. Yet here they all were, alive and well. Well... not all... Mabs, Hawke's mabari, had not survived the last battle. Meredith had pierced the hound while everyone was busy taking down the statues that had magically come to life. Both an archer and a possessed mage were missing from their group as well.
"It can wait, Hawke," Aveline said. "Nobody is severely wounded."
"But you're bleeding," Hawke objected. Fenris noticed Hawke was swaying on his legs. It could be due to the movements of the boat on the waves of the sea, but Hawke's coordination did not match those.
"Sit down, Hawke. You'll rock the boat," Isabela pointed out. Even on this tiny thing she considered herself the captain.
"You're drained, Hawke. I can see it. How do you want to cast a spell?" Merrill added.
"Hawke, sit." Orders from the Captain of the Guard. With a grumble Hawke took his place between Carver and Fenris. For a moment Hawke placed his hand on Fenris' arm. Though the gesture itself was subtle, Fenris was fairly certain the others could see his markings light up in the night. Not that he minded. He had had worse things to worry about.
"You don't look well," he said softly to Hawke.
Hawke waved his concern away. "I'm just tired, like Merrill said. It's been a long day. My magic will recover within a few hours."
"So..." Varric began. "What are we going to do now?"
All eyes turned to Hawke, who sighed at that. "We need to get away from Kirkwall, that's for sure. But I don't know where we should go. Ferelden would be the obvious choice, but if the templars decide to hunt me... I think Cullen will let us go, but Sister Nightingale said the Divine is keeping a close eye on Kirkwall. She'll take action soon enough, and that means she will order the templars to arrest us. And then Ferelden is the first place they'll look for me."
Merrill blinked in surprise. "Aren't you friends with the king of Ferelden? He was really nice to you. I'm sure he will help you when you go back."
Hawke gave her a tired smile. "I don't think I can call myself a friend of the king. Those few minutes in the Keep was the only time I've met him. And somehow I doubt he'll be pleased to see me again after what happened here today." He sighed again. "I just want to go somewhere without crazy people who suddenly decide to... to blow things up and kill everyone in their sight. Maybe a beach. One that's not the Wounded Coast."
"I can recommend a few if you like." Isabela winked.
"If I had my ship, we could have gone anywhere," she added, a little bitter.
"Yeah, and then we could have joined Castillion in the slave trade! I'm sure we would have made excellent partners," Hawke retorted sarcastically.
"Hey, that's not fair!"
"I don't regret killing that ruthless slaver. I don't make deals with that kind of people." Hawke glanced at Fenris from the corner of his eye. "Anyway, maybe I can purchase a ship... It's the fastest way to get out of Kirkwall. Then we'll see where we're going. Not that you all have to come with me. I mean, you can all decide for yourself. You didn't ask to become fugitives, with the Chantry hunting you..."
"I think everyone has made their choice when they joined you in battle," Aveline replied.
Merrill nodded enthusiastically. "You did the right thing, Hawke. We won't abandon you."
Hawke rubbed his temples. "I'm not so sure. But thanks. All of you."
It was not long before they reached the docks. It was decided everyone would quickly pack their belongings and then meet back there to try to get a ship.
When the others had left, Carver and Damian Hawke were still standing awkwardly in front of each other. Fenris waited for Hawke a few feet away to give the brothers some privacy. However, with the chaos in the city greatly reduced now that most rogue mages, abominations, demons and blood mages had been taken care of, their voices travelled far in the cool night air.
"I had not expected to see you again so soon," Hawke eventually said. "And definitely not in a war to defend mages."
Carver shrugged. "I was not here for the mages," he said brusquely. "At least not for those in the Circle."
"I know. It is good to have you on my side, Carver. I'm glad that's still the case."
Carver now looked even more awkward. Apparently he did not know what else to say to his rival brother.
"Are you coming with us?" Hawke asked.
"No." Carver shook his head. "A small group of Wardens is waiting for me outside the city. We happened to be in the area when the explosion hit." He smiled mockingly. "Somehow I knew you were involved."
Hawke seemed concerned. "Don't you think it's better to get out of the Free Marches now?"
"I'm a Warden. Wardens stand above the law. Besides, you were the leader in the whole thing. I doubt people will remember my part in the battle. That's how it always goes, after all."
For once, he did not sound begrudging when he said this. Carver appeared more... at peace. Of course that could be accounted to the fact that his older brother was left with the responsibility for what had happened today, while he could walk away, back to the Grey Wardens.
"I... guess I won't see you in a while then."
"I guess. Have you decided where you're going? Will you go back to Ferelden?"
"I honestly don't know yet. I'll write you once things have calmed down a bit."
"Okay... Goodbye then."
Hawke's teeth flickered in the dark as he grinned. "Another awkward goodbye within a few weeks? Come on, Carver. I don't know when I will see you again."
Hawke spread his arms. Carver looked at the open invitation with strong suspicion, but then he yielded and the two brothers embraced each other.
"Would you believe me if I said that I miss you? Sometimes, that is."
Fenris heard Hawke laugh, muffled against Carver's armor. "I love you, you secret softie. I will miss you too."
After a few more seconds Carver carefully began to pull himself away. "I have to go."
Hawke nodded. "Goodbye." He watched his brother disappear around the corner. Fenris came closer once the sound of Carver's footsteps had died away. Once again he was uncertain how to act, what to say. So much had happened today, and so much was still to happen. It was difficult enough to sort out for himself how he felt about everything.
Hawke looked around, searching. "Where's..." he started. "Oh. Right. Never mind." He began to walk. Fenris followed.
"Were you... looking for Mabs?"
He could barely see Hawke nodding. "For a moment I forgot... Oh, fuck, I hate this day." Hawke's step length and frequency increased. It was more running than walking what they were doing now.
Fenris knew a mabari could not be compared to someone's poodle. They were intelligent hounds, and extremely loyal to the person they chose as their master. A mabari hound was a true companion. Plus Mabs was part of Hawke's old life... when he had still had a complete family and lived in some quiet town, without blood mages, betrayal, fighting and constant death. Another part of that life lost. Not much was left of it. Only a younger brother, and the memories Hawke carried with him. Ghosts, looking over his shoulder.
They went to Hawke's estate, both lost in their own thoughts.
"Why didn't you kill him?" Fenris asked while Hawke opened the door.
"Do we have to talk about this now?"
"He betrayed you. He used you to destroy the Chantry. Surely your friendship does not extend that far."
With a deep sigh Hawke turned to look at Fenris. "You're right," he whispered. "I did not spare him out of friendship."
"Why then? He deserved his fate. He is an abomination and a terrorist. The man even wanted to die!"
When Fenris frowned, not understanding, Hawke went on: "Thanks to Anders Carver is still alive. If he had not been with us in the Deep Roads, my brother would have died. The taint would have destroyed him. I would have been forced to watch him die, unable to help him, unable to heal him. Because of Anders we managed to find the Grey Wardens and convince them to let Carver join them. Thanks to Anders I did not have to return home to tell Mother I had let my other sibling die as well. Anders saved me from another failure. And because of that, I couldn't kill him. I owed him the life of my brother. If Sebastian wanted to kill Anders, I wouldn't have stopped him. But it's not fair to ask it of me. I can't kill the person who gave my brother a chance to survive. I can't. So I didn't. Now we're even. I have no kindness left for Anders. I never want to see him again. I just hope he won't hurt anyone..."
You mean anyone else. He already killed the Grand Cleric and all the priests and sisters. Why would he stop now when Hawke has given him the chance to continue to fight for his cursed cause?
Fenris did not reveal his thoughts to Hawke. It would not help to do so. All these years he had never understood why Hawke still put up with the abomination's company, why he had refused to take action even though it became more and more clear that the man had turned into a monster. Now he finally knew why. He should have known it had something to do with Hawke's family. The weight of the relatives he had lost bore heavily on Hawke's conscience, Fenris knew that. But with Carver far away and Hawke rarely speaking of his brother, Fenris tended to forget about the other Hawke. Perhaps there was a little more truth to the junior Hawke's complaints than he had thought.
Hawke went up the stairs to his bedroom, quickly opened the doors of the wardrobe and started pulling out random pieces of clothing.
"Wouldn't it be wiser for you to purchase some new clothing?" Fenris suggested.
Hawke looked over his shoulder. "Why?"
"In robes everyone can spot you as a mage from a mile away."
"Oh, right. I had gotten so used to wearing them that I hadn't considered... But it's back to being on the run again. Well, I also can't wear this anymore, so I'll get changed anyway for now and buy something else later." With that Hawke pulled his ruined robes over his head.
"On the run again?" Fenris repeated. "I can see how that applies to me, but when have you been on the run? You mean with the Blight?"
Hawke slowly shook his head while he tried to decide what he would put on. "I'm an apostate, Fenris. Father was an apostate, and my little sister was one too. Ferelden is not Tevinter. You think we never had to move to escape the templars?"
"Oh. Of course." During the years he had spent with him, Hawke had never made much of a secret of his magical abilities. And over time Hawke had become so powerful that magic simply radiated from him. When Fenris had walked into Danarius' trap, he had had no idea that his former master was hiding upstairs. With Hawke next to him, even the Tevinter magister's presence had been overshadowed. All in all it seemed so obvious to him that Hawke was a mage, that he had difficulty imagining Hawke effectively hiding it from people.
Meanwhile, Hawke had finally picked a robe to put on. Once dressed he bent over the bed and lifted the mattress. When he stood straight again he was holding a large purse that was jingling with coin. Fenris raised an eyebrow at him.
Hawke gave an apologizing grin in return. "I'm afraid I'm not always that original." His smile faded. "Don't you want to pack some things?"
Fenris shrugged. "What should I take? I have nothing of value. All I need I have on me."
"Are you mad?"
"Me of course, you dork. For having to flee Kirkwall now that you're finally free. You have a home here."
Fenris could not hold back a barking laugh. "A home? Danarius' old mansion? It was a roof over my head, but I cannot say I will miss the place. I could have left it anytime without looking back." He paused for a moment. "What about you? I imagine you find it harder to leave. I remember you saying Kirkwall is your home now."
Hawke scratched his beard. "Huh, when did I say that?"
Fenris' eyes darted from one corner of the room to the other before they returned to Hawke's face. That he remembered something Hawke had told him so long ago and that Hawke himself had already forgotten... it felt like he had gotten caught on something. Caught on caring. Strange how long it took to get used to no longer having to hide his feelings and force them away. "I think it was... when you first visited me."
Hawke's face lit up when he remembered. "Ah, yes. You got angry when I said that and accused me of my sister's death meaning nothing to me."
"I... I should not have said that, back then. It was just..."
"Don't worry," Hawke said friendly. "It was a long time ago. And to answer your question: actually Kirkwall has no more been a home to me than Lothering has." He sat down on the edge of his bed. "Like I said, our family mostly consisted of apostates. We never knew how long we could stay in the next place. There was always the chance we would be discovered... so it was better not to get attached to a town and a house. I remember one time... it was just me, Father and Mother then. Mother was pregnant with the twins. We lived in a quiet town, as usual, and my parents were planning to stay until the babies were born. I was... six or seven then." Fenris took place next to Hawke to listen to his story. Hawke did not often speak of his youth, of his time before Kirkwall, when he had still been part of a family. Just like Fenris did not speak much of his own past, as Danarius' slave. With Fenris next to him, Hawke continued: "Father had forbidden me to talk to the other children as long as I had no full control over my magic. It takes years of practice to hold it in at times your emotions overwhelm you. So the only people I knew were my parents. I tended to stay inside, to study and to avoid contact with others so that I wouldn't betray us. But one day it was warm and sunny, and I went outside and sat in front of our house to read while Mother was at the market and Father at work. Actually, I think I was reading the book I let you practice with during your first reading lesson. Anyway, my attention was on the book, and I didn't notice a group of children approaching. I was a an awkward kid at the time, not used to other people, pale and a bit chubby of always being inside..." Hawke laughed softly. "Glad that's changed. So, odd little boy none of them had ever seen before: that sparked interest. I don't think they meant any harm in the beginning; they were just curious. But I was surprised by their presence and knew I should not talk to others, so I did not respond when they asked my name. Instead I tried to hide behind my book. The other children then decided I was weird and wanted to get a reaction from me. One of them picked up some things and started throwing them at me: twigs, small stones, hands of dirt. At first I tried to ignore that too, but others joined in and they began to throw harder. Eventually I got sick of it, and... I snapped."
"What did you do?" Fenris asked, curiosity and a bit of pity for this young, lonely Hawke he knew nothing about mixing in his stomach.
"I... uh... I froze the leader of the group. Turned him into a huge ice cube. He could not even wiggle a finger. Very impressive actually; it took me months to get that spell right again after that. But the rest of the town was not pleased. The children fled from me, screaming loudly that there was a witch in their midst." Hawke grumbled at that offending title. "We immediately had to flee. Luckily the village was so small there was no Chantry and thus no templars, so it took the villagers some time to get to the nearest place with representatives of the Order. Still, we had no time to bring anything with us and had to run into the woods and hide under bushes while they chased us. My eight months pregnant mother was exhausted and wept in distress and misery. Father was furious and deeply disappointed. It was then that I vowed I would never make a mistake like that again. Even when I could easily control my magic, I kept my distance from other people. And when Mother and Father said they were planning to stay in Lothering for good, I did not truly believe it. Something could always go wrong. One of us could make a mistake. Carver could get drunk in the local tavern and in his foul mood complain to one of the pretty girls about his apostate ass of a brother. Bethany could decide to heal someone who was in pain, after which that person would alarm the templars... Even when a few years had passed, I always took into account the next day could be the day we had to leave. And in some way I was right... we had to flee eventually. But from the darkspawn, not the templars."
Hawke stared at his hands. Silence filled the air between them. After he had thought about Hawke's words, Fenris spoke. "That doesn't sound like the man I know. You did not seem to keep your distance from me or the other people you were with... And you certainly did not try very hard to hide your magic."
Hawke chuckled. "True. I've... changed. I think it happened after Father died and I was supposed to lead the family. For some reason I was a little bit less afraid. And then I lost Bethany... while we were on our way to a city filled with templars. I thought I would be extra careful then. In Kirkwall I did try, especially during the first year. But Gamlen had already told people that I'm a mage to get them to hire me so that I could pay off his debt... and gradually I got more in touch with people. The jobs for Athenril required connections, and I realized I liked interacting with others. I enjoyed not being locked up in my own home, which is basically a disappointing alternative for the Circle. And then I had to fund a Deep Roads expedition to earn enough coin to get us out of Gamlen's hovel. And for some crazy reason I ended up as the leader of a group of extraordinary people. So maybe in that regard Kirkwall has been more of a home to me than Lothering. But living here has cost me too much... I've lost my sister, indirectly my brother, and eventually my mother." Hawke turned his head to the side, to Fenris. "At least I met the most extraordinary person too."
"Yes, I imagine you haven't met many people with lyrium in their skin," Fenris replied dryly.
Hawke snorted, effectively breaking the sense of loss and sadness that threatened to settle between them. "Indeed I haven't." He got up. "We should probably go. The others will be waiting."
When they passed the closed door of the room that used to be Leandra's bedroom, Hawke halted. Slowly he raised a hand and placed it against the wood. Then he pressed his forehead against it. "Farewell, Mother," he whispered, his eyes closed. Fenris looked away. This was Hawke's way to say goodbye to the place that had been his home for three years, despite what he might say. He expected Hawke would continue to stand like that for some time, but after a few seconds Hawke's eyes went open and he ran off the stairs as if he had not stopped on his way down to caress a door at all.
Downstairs Hawke quickly shot into the library. He returned with a book in his hand, which he put in a linen back he hoisted over his shoulder, ignoring the quizzical look Fenris gave him.
As if they were summoned demons, both the dwarf and the elf hastened to meet their employer. Sandal came to see what was going on as well.
Hawke spoke to Orana first. "Orana, I have to leave and I'm afraid I won't come back. You have been an excellent servant, but you'll have to find a new place to work. Here," he pressed a few gold pieces in her frail hands. "This should be enough. I advise you - if you can - to go to another city. It doesn't have to be far away. But get out of Kirkwall if that's possible. I don't think the templars will question you about me, but I can't be sure and I don't want you to get hurt."
Orana blinked rapidly. She obviously did not completely understand what was going on. "Have I displeased you, master?"
Fenris clenched his fists. How often had he not spoken similar words? To hear it directed at Hawke was... sickening. He knew Orana was not Hawke's slave, that he royally paid her every month, that he had tried to convince her to stop calling him master, but to hear it anyway... it was not something he could get used to.
"No, no, of course not. Like I said, you have been an excellent servant. But unfortunately I have to leave. Now. And you can't go with me. So will you promise me to take care of yourself? Don't work for someone if they don't pay you. You're a free woman. You can decide over your own life."
She bowed for him. "I promise. Thank you. You have been the best master I could wish for."
Hawke smiled at her, took her hand for a moment and squeezed it before he turned to Bodahn.
"Bodahn, good man. It's been an honor to have had you as my servant. Never have I heard a complaint about all the bloody footprints you had to clean..."
Bodahn chuckled and wiped away a tear at the same time. The rest of Hawke's speech did not reach Fenris' ears. He was distracted by Sandal, who was blatantly staring at him with his round, light blue eyes. He could almost feel the dwarf's gaze travel over the markings visible on his neck, arms and feet. While Hawke paid Bodahn for his services and shook hands with him, Sandal shuffled closer to Fenris, his eyes not blinking and constantly focused on different areas covered with markings. Fenris tried to hide his unease, but that got more difficult as the dwarf came closer and closer. This fascination with the lyrium in his body he had seen often enough, and he did not appreciate it.
Once Sandal was only a few inches away, the dwarf surprised him by abruptly pressing a broad thumb against one of the many lines on his left arm.
The sensation of Sandal's touch was something he had never experienced before. The dwarf clearly had no magic, and yet a mysterious tingle spread through the markings. It was not the touch of a mage, nor that of an ordinary person. Fenris jumped back to create a distance between himself and Sandal.
"I am not an enchantment," he growled, holding his hand over the spot Sandal had touched. It felt irritated, almost like an insect had stung him.
The simple dwarf looked confused. "Enchantment?"
They had drawn the attention of Hawke and Bodahn.
"I hope he is not bothering you, serah!" Bodahn exclaimed.
Hawke looked strangely interested. "Did he just call you an enchantment?" he asked, his eyes drifting over the markings on the arm Fenris was holding.
"He calls everything an enchantment," Fenris snapped back. "Don't you think we should leave?"
"Yes..." Hawke said slowly, as if his thoughts were suddenly somewhere else. "Yes, we have to go."
With a last farewell to Bodahn, Orana and Sandal, Hawke and Fenris left the estate. Fenris noticed that Hawke did not look back once, like an experienced fugitive. He wondered if Hawke truly had closed off the part of his life he had spent in Kirkwall so easily, the city in which they apparently both had found their freedom.