She is gone. Lost, stolen, ripped from our happy life.
And I thought slavery had been bad. Now, I would gladly trade my freedom, for the knowledge she was okay. Alive. To be able to tell my daughter that she would come home soon, happy and healthy.
I know Artemis has nightmares, her memory of the day her mother was forcibly taken from us, to join in a war, whose blame had been falsely placed on her shoulders. It is painful to look upon our daughters face, and see the blame she places on herself, and on me. She would ask why we hadn't gone on a quest to find her and bring her home, like her Uncle Varric's stories about mine and Hawke's youth. She would say that we should have gone as soon as her letters stopped coming, because we had known something was wrong. She would cry in my arms, sobbing until her face grew purple, until she could not breathe and I would have to remind her to take a breath. She should have been faster, like her mother taught her, she would cry, then the soldier wouldn't have gotten a knife to her throat and mother wouldn't of had to give up in order to save her life.
The worst part was knowing that I couldn't go after her, not even after five years could I go after her. Artemis was only 11, she could not defend herself, and I could not save Hawke and keep Artemis safe. And despite my wishes, she had made me swear that I would not go after her, not while Artemis was still a child. I would keep that promise.
The soldiers had come again. This time they wanted my blade, for who better to represent the missing Champion then her husband? Someone who had been with her the night the war began?
I told them that I had a daughter, and they would not take her father from her as well. The man behind my door could not have taken me, not even with the seven men behind him, and he knew this.
"She can stay with you, she can help on the field with morale, with the chanters." I knew from the way his gaze slid over her that his words were false. I told them to give me the night to pack our things, and to retrieve us at noon the next day. He nodded, truly he believed I was going with them. I watched with a smirk as they filed away from our tiny home in Lothering, why would we move when Hawke could return any time? But now the choice was not ours. I told Artemis to gather as many things as she could, and I retrieved mementos of mine and Hawke's, along with the deed to the land she had bought and any other important paperwork. I wrapped up many bags of food that were not perishable, and we left by midnight for Gwaren.
I idly thought how hard it must have been for Hawke all those years ago, to travel this huge distance in a blight.
I sent out five letters next, announcing my return to Kirkwall, nearly 12 years after the destruction of the Chantry. Varric, Isabella, and Sebastian would receive them first, as I knew of their locations. The other two letters were less extensive, one to Aveline simply two lines saying Hawke was gone and I, on my way to the Hawke estate. The last to our lovable grey warden mage Bethany who despite all my attempts to hate her never gave me any reason to do anything but feel as though she were my sister as well.
We arrived in Kirkwall a month and a half later, to what appeared to be half welcoming party, and half funeral. All our old friends were there, even Merrill whom I had pointedly not sent a letter to. All had grim looks on their faces.
Hawke was gone, and there was nothing any of us could do about it.
It brought me happiness to see the amazement at the Hawke estate, which Varric and Orana had kept in good condition. There was simply too much to do in this huge mansion, and so many secret compartments and passages to all places in the house. Our little rouge couldn't get enough.
Another year goes by and life seems to have fallen into a tolerably normal state. There were parties and events that daughter of the champion, who looked nothing but human had to attend, and even though she was a tomboy at heart, she liked the chance to outsmart many of the nobles who couldn't get enough of themselves. She considered it worth it to dress up and visit these balls, with her father as an escort of course.
But she was her mothers daughter and I soon caught her brewing potions and poisons from her mothers once-hidden notebook. Next I caught her with twin daggers that Varric- whom got quite the thrashing afterwards- had gifted to her without my knowledge. I should have know she would be a natural.
But My pride would not allow me to live entirely off my wife's money and I began taking mercenary jobs again, but I was sure not to take them if the were longer than a day.
not after last time.
I had come home from a job that had ended with us on the wrong side of a cave in, while our employer died I was able to lead the other mercenaries out of a different exit, with stories of how we had survived the deep roads, and a simply Saundermount cave would not end me. Either way it had taken me a week to get home, and when I did Artemis burst into tears, screaming at me to never leave like that again, and said something that broke my heart all over again.
"I thought you weren't going to come back, like mama."
I gathered her in my arms and didn't let go until she fell asleep several hours later.
Bethany had yet to come home after the wardens demanded her return, and Isabella had been missing since a month before then. Soon after that Sebastian was called back to his throne where some riot had broken out at his cities circle. None of use worried, we knew they would return just as they always have, and it just evened out the playing field for wicked grace.
We sat around Varric's still unchanged table, I could still see the scorch marks from Danarius on the left front leg of it, and began to play. Artemis watched closely as I cheated and played as well as the others at our table and she even surprised me by slyly slipping a winning card into my hand while the others were distracted by a story Artemis had asked about.
I heard the front of the Hanged man open and close again as more patrons flowed in for the night. Varric looked up then, and greeted Isabella "Riviani! Long time no see. You find our precious cargo?"
I looked at Varric then, confusion written along my features. I played my hand, and after the string of curses died down I gathered my winnings. counting the money I asked "Precious cargo?"
"Cost me a lot of money to get it up and going, only to have someone steal it. I wasn't going to let my best asset go now was I?" He grinned broadly, as Bethany walked toward him with a small money pouch.
"There is your change, Varric. The wardens send their regards." In the corner of my eye I saw Artemis turn towards the door, probably seeing whomever else Varric had hired to retrieve his missing item.
"what is it, that you required the help of the Wardens?" I asked incredulously.
Varric's grin grew larger than before and he said "why don't you look for yourself?"
He said that at the same time I heard Artemis whisper softly, "Mommy?" and then louder "Mommy!"
I spun in my chair, eyes wider than I thought physically possible, and I stood in shock.
There, right in front of me, stood Hawke, tears streaming down her face as she looked at our daughter. She crouched, swooping Artemis up and holding her tightly, an iron grip im sure not even the Maker himself could remove.
I felt it then, the slight drip, drip off of the tip of my chin, my burning eyes. I felt the sudden rock in my throat as I let out a rasping "Hawke". I felt my knees give out then, and I shamelessly fell to the ground, and I began what I hadn't done for Artemis' sake. I mourned. I sobbed and shook, and the fear I had kept held back to keep our daughter strong all rushed to me. All the loneliness, and helplessness, every heartbeat and breath without her all shot through me like an explosive arrow.
She kneeled to the ground next to me with our still sobbing daughter in her arms and of their own accord my hands touched her face. I scanned every inch of her face then, I took note of the scar from just below her ear, leading into her hairline, and of a missing piece of cartilage on the tip of her right ear. Her hair, once blonde, had been died a dead looking black, and cut from the once waist length to just above her shoulders.
"Are you really here?" I whispered "Tell me you are not dead, that I am not dead"
"I am alive Fenris. I am here. I will never have to leave again." She placed her own hand on my cheek and I couldn't help myself, and again I began to sob. I kissed her and held both Artemis and Hawke to me.
"Where did you go, mama?" Artemis whispered.
"I was captured." she said simply, "and when I got out, I found our base camp obliterated. I had to go into hiding until not but a month ago. But I'm home now, sweetling, and I will never leave again."
"Welcome home, Hawke." I heard Varric say behind us, "Welcome home."