The Weakest Part
She always spoke of them as an unbreakable bond. Their weaknesses didn't matter as long as they combined their strengths. Their fears could be bested as long as they had the others to rely on. She might have been the one that brought them together, the one they followed into every hell, but she herself said, without them, she was nothing.
In the end it seemed that was also true the other way around. A chain is always just as strong as her weakest part. And when she fell she took them with her.
Hawke's death was nothing like her life had been. One moment she was the Champion of Kirkwall, their fearless leader, shouting orders. The next she was lying on the ground, choking on the blood that was slowly filling her lungs.
They hadn't wanted this fight. All they were looking for was a day off, away from Kirkwall's crowded streets, its peoples and their never ceasing load of problems. But trouble followed here wherever she went and fate needed only the few seconds she concentrated on Fenris' wounded shoulder to strike her down.
There was nothing any of them could do. Not Anders with his healing spells, not Merril with her blood magic, not Fenris with his foreign curses and pleading eyes, not Aveline with her commanding words to not leave them, not Isabela with her seaman tricks, not Varric with old dwarven recipes.
Hawke laughed as they removed the dagger, knowing her time was running short, feeling the poison already spreading in her body. She laughed at their desperate faces, saying that they'd get over it, that they'd stick together and be as strong as before. And knowing their thoughts she made them promise to go on and not to dwell on her death, as unnecessary as it was, for she'd always been the weakest part in their bond. She held their hands, kissed Fenris' unshed tears away and thanked them for the best time of her life. At last, she died smiling.
Fenris was devastated. He lost himself in the darkness her sudden death had left behind. His nights were spent in the Hanged Man, drinking, trying to reach oblivion, longing for the few seconds every morning when she'd still be alive, when he'd think to feel her weight next to him, her warmth against his skin. But of course she was never there, what made waking up so painful, so futile.
It was his fault, she concentrated on him, let her defenses down to look after him, made herself vulnerable. And he didn't even saw it coming, couldn't do anything but catching her, when she was falling, trusting the others to finish of the remaining bandits.
She smiled and said she loved him, and that everything's going to be alright. Even dying she tried to keep him safe.
He couldn't bring himself to leave her, tried to hold on to her hands even when they were long cold and dead. His companions brought him back to his mansion but his mind stayed with her, focused on her eyes and words and smiles, pretended all of this was just a nightmare he'd soon wake up from. But he didn't wake. She was gone and it was his fault.
He threw all his strength into the search for his old master, not really knowing whose death he was looking for: Danarius' or his own. He found him eventually and without telling anyone of his companions he went out to meet him.
He could have won, could have ended that monster's life. He chose not to. There was nothing left to live for and as he told that insufferable mage years ago, he couldn't kill himself, not if that sin would prevent him from seeing Hawke ever again. So he surrendered.
He didn't fight when the guards made him feel his master's displeasure about him running away. He didn't fight when they finally brought him before Danarius. He knew they wouldn't kill him, knew he'd be a slave once again, too precious to be wasted. He couldn't bring himself to care, for soon he wouldn't remember what freedom felt like, how Hawke's love had filled him.
He embraced oblivion without fear, a last smile on his face. He wouldn't know how far he'd fallen.
Aveline was overwhelmed with guilt. It was her job to keep Kirkwall and its coast safe, to prevent things like this from happening. Had she done her duty, Hawke would be alive, Fenris wouldn't have been taken from Danarius again, her companions wouldn't fall to pieces little by little. Had she secured the area before they decided to take a day off. Had she at least sent a few more guards in this area. Had she – but it was futile. She hadn't done any of these things, so it was her fault.
She knew Donnic waited for her to come to him, ready to help in every possible way. But she never came. What if she had focused more on her task than on her love? What if she had spent her free time with more useful things than enjoying Donnic's company? It wasn't his fault, but she couldn't turn to him. It would feel like betrayal, like ignoring Hawke's death by simply returning to her life. She couldn't let anything like this ever happen again.
She drove herself mercilessly. Patrolling the streets, scheduling even more training for her guards, recruiting more men. She was everywhere, watched everyone, controlled everything. She avoided her home, knowing she couldn't rest, couldn't close her eyes, for then she'd relive it all again, her insufficiency, her failure.
They had built a simple grave for Hawke at the Wounded Coast, a place to remember her, a place only her true friends knew. She felt herself drawn there more often for it was only there she allowed herself to let her guard down. No use to lie to the dead, to pretend she was still strong and in control.
When the bandits came she almost laughed. Was it coincidence that she was about to die where she let her friends down? But she wasn't afraid. She stood up to them, like the fighter she always was, determined to take as many of them with her as she could. It wasn't a fair fight, outnumbered as she was, tired and somehow broken, but she lasted longer than they had thought. And when she went down she fixed her gaze at Hawke's grave. With her last breath she whispered: "I'm sorry." She never knew for whom it was, but it wasn't important anymore, she had done her part.
Isabela felt like trapped in a never-ending storm. She wasn't one to depend on other people or to mourn those who died. But this was different, this had been more. Again she had lost her crew, only that this time she could have done something, it wasn't a storm that ripped them apart, but bandits she could have stopped. She called herself a duelist, proud of besting anyone who'd dare to challenge her. Except this time she didn't win.
Her first impulse was getting on the next ship to return to her beloved ocean. But somehow, she couldn't. Going back to her life as a pirate just didn't seem right. She hadn't become moral, but it seemed to insult Hawke's memory, who'd always helped people, no matter that she might have something else to do. Who had always been there for everyone, reassuring, selfless. It was too soon to turn her back on this.
Castillon found her eventually. She could have run, could have avoided a fight. She didn't. And it wasn't for her own sake. She thought of Fenris, how he spoke of his former life, of Hawke, how fierce she was in fighting slavers. She couldn't let him go.
She should have expected, that he'd have a whole bunch of men with him, but that didn't stop her from her plan. Castillion accepted the exchange of her freedom and his ship against the documents. He never saw the dagger coming that ended his life as he turned to leave.
Isabela didn't wait to watch the looks of surprise spread on his followers' faces. She launched at the one nearest to her and started the fight. There were far too many against her, still she enjoyed her last battle. How else could she have wanted to die? She danced with death, laughing at the thought that Hawke had finally managed to turn her into some kind of good person. She guessed she had to do some damage repair when she finally rejoined her. She had a reputation to lose, after all.
Varric stopped drinking. He didn't want to remember Hawke, but the alcohol didn't undo what happened. He tried to drink himself to oblivion, but waking up and realizing that nothing has changed, was worse than knowing all the time. So he could at least try to get his mind off her death, but the small glimpses of hope drinking promised shattered him more than he would have imagined.
He knew it wasn't his fault, how could he have known they'd be attacked? But it was him who suggested they'd take a day off. Maybe, if he hadn't been so persistent on having fun once in a while, she might still be with them.
He also stopped telling stories. He couldn't stand it anymore, those stories of selfless heroes who made the world a better place, who always found their own happily-ever-after. That wasn't the truth. He knew the true end of it. It wasn't one he wanted to be reminded of.
He wasn't interested in gossip anymore, not knowing how he could've wasted so much time with other people's dirty secrets. A storyteller is a passive element. He was passive one time too often, leaving his leader death and the small bond of companions broken. It was time to do something.
He knew he shouldn't have gone alone to Bartrand's mansion. Not that he was afraid, but there was bound to be trouble after his brother's doings. But he didn't want to endanger anyone else, not that there were many of his one-time friends left, so he didn't mind. What he hadn't expected was standing up to a golem. He knew he didn't have a chance, but he wouldn't back down, he still had Bianca at his side, and she'd be there until the end.
That end came much faster than he'd anticipated but arrows and a dwarf were no real opponent to a creature so brute. Despite the pain as his body was broken, he smirked. That was probably the only story Bartrand would enjoy: how he finally bested his brother. Maybe he'd tell him, when they met again.
Merril lost track of time. She stopped going out, telling herself she was just too afraid she wouldn't find her way back, now that there was no one left to guide her home, but in truth, she couldn't bring her eyes to leave the Eluvian. She was so determined to get rid of it after Hawke had died, realizing she wouldn't be able to resist it forever, not without her friend looking out for her, giving her strength. She wanted to send word to her people, asking for permission to finally come home. She didn't.
It felt like betrayal of Hawke's friendship, but, then again, she had already betrayed her when she couldn't save her. She had so many times been insulted for being a blood mage, but she didn't care for she knew she could do good things with it. Now, every time she looked at her scarred wrists, she felt nausea rolling over her. She remembered all the blood Hawke had lost, the crimson red that covered her. And she couldn't do anything. What use was there in taking new powers if it couldn't save a friend?
Unable to sleep or eat or move, she sat in front of the mirror, feeling her blood calling out for it. Sometimes she thought to see shadows in it, reaching for her, trying to grasp for her soul. The weaker she grew, the less she resisted, and when the shadows became her friends, she stopped fighting. She smiled as she heard Varric's voice, calling her Daisy, and Isabela teasing her, she saw Aveline's supporting nod and Hawke's outstretched hand, even Fenris' presence was calming and suddenly it was so easy. Every muscle in her body protested when she got up, after days and days of not moving, but she didn't notice it. She reached out for her companions behind the glass and stepped through it without a glance back. She didn't hear the demon's laugh as he finally won their fight or her own screaming as her body fell, broken and dying.
She didn't care, for finally she was coming home.
Anders was losing himself. With Hawke's death he finally stopped fighting Justice. Wasn't he right after all? In a world where people killed their best, especially in such a way, how could he fight a spirit whose goal was to end all the injustice. He couldn't differ Justice from Vengeance anymore, but he didn't care.
He was a healer, yet he couldn't help her in the least, had to watch her slowly fading away, even though she was a much better person than he could ever be. He tried to start a war to reform their world, she simply did so with her smile and words and willingness to help.
He tried to continue his work in the clinic, but he couldn't. Every patient wore her face, spoke with her voice. He couldn't stand it, seeing her die over and over again. And suddenly he knew what he had to do.
It wasn't hard to plant that bomb. No one was surprised to see him at the Chantry. Every one of his long-gone companions had been here at some point, trying to find answers on the questions they didn't dare to ask out loud, asking for forgiveness, because they couldn't save her, looking for guidance on how to go on, now that their souls were ripped apart. Of course it didn't help. And now he was the last one and he'd make sure, they wouldn't be forgotten.
When his time had come he stepped in front of Kirkwall's people, calmer than ever before. He hadn't wanted to say anything, but now he felt he had to.
"She could have saved you." Someday they would understand.
He smiled as the explosions shook the city. He burned for his cause, for the friends he'd seen die. May the flames take those too blind to see what sacrifices they brought for a city that wasn't theirs. May the burned out corpse of the Chantry be their memorial, their last message to a world that didn't care.
They had once sworn to follow her, not with words, but simply with being there whenever she needed them. And when she was gone, they fell into the darkness her death had left in their souls, for it was her light that guided then, her strength that held them upright, her heart that gave them purpose. Without her, they were lost.