This should not have happened, he thinks grimly as he comes to. The dungeon is dark, claustrophobic, but he feels at home here. He's comfortable among damp and derelict things.
It's the shackles around his wrists that give him cause for alarm. The panic swells and bubbles up his throat, but he pushes it down. He thinks distantly of the Fade, of spirits and spiders, and the strange energies clashing inside of him and thinks: This should not have happened. A woman asks him a question, but he gives no response. His mind is reeling, putting together the pieces when there are none. He tries to grasp for the memories but they slip away, leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.
He has no patience for magic, for arcane rituals, for whatever has brought him here, and his fear turns sharp like a blade. They cannot make him forget. Not again.
This is, somehow, definitely, the Tevinters' fault. He just has to remember how.
“Tell us what happened at the Conclave!” The words barely register, but they pull him out of his mind and into the present. He narrows his eyes, looks at the cuffs, and tries to phase his arms out of them.
It should be easy. Instead it feels like trying to swim against a current. He doesn’t know of what, he just knows something else tethers him, and the mark on his hand aches and swells. Were he a better elf he would curse the Dread Wolf. Instead, he curses the Imperium, he curses the Magisters, and then finally he curses himself. He swallows around his dry tongue, and begins, “I cannot remember.” He offers no more than that.
“What is that mark?” the Nevarran asks him, accusing.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” he says grimly, studying it. It hurts the same way his markings hurt, only the burn is constant. His lyrium markings seem positively dull in comparison. He tries to phase again, and the Mark reacts instead, green energy flaring out at all in the room, licking tendrils on the walls, making his blood and his body sing before furling inwards once more.
All in the room have their swords drawn, pointed at him. It is only when the Orlesian, quiet until now, speaks that the tension eases a little.
“We need him, Cassandra. That mark may be our only salvation.”
Fenris thinks derisively that he’s not interested in salvation. Cassandra, the Nevarran, approaches him, wary, but there is recognition in her face as well. She knows him. How?
“Varric spoke of an elf with lyrium etched into his skin. Are you Fenris?” He tenses. Varric, a familiar name, but not necessarily a friend. Varric makes him think of Isabela makes him think of Hawke and a thousand things gone wrong and an empty mansion in Hightown where bottles and bodies lay strewn about the floor.
He never knew what homesick felt like until just then. Instead he nods.
“I would… appreciate it, if you removed these chains.” He forces his voice steady, sure. He knows weakness is not tolerated among strangers, even acquaintances-of-acquaintances. (He can’t say friends, he doesn’t have any friends. Even six years in Kirkwall hadn’t managed to avail him of the unfortunate affliction of his personality.)
She doesn’t remove the chains, not yet, not until the Orlesian reminds her of the urgency of what they must do and she reluctantly obeys. Fenris tries not to slump his shoulders or show any visible signs of relief. He’s sure Hawke would have noticed if Hawke were here, but Hawke is gone and he is alone.
Par for the course, then. He gets to his feet and Cassandra steps back.
“I have been informed of your part in Kirkwall, Elf. If you still survive when this is done…” Cassandra trails off.
“I will not submit myself to your judgment,” he warns. He has things to do, slavers to hunt. He has no intention of giving up now, nor apologize for however many hearts he ripped out of however many chests.
“No, I do not mean-“ She sighs, and shakes her head. “I seek only answers. The dwarf…”
Varric. Fenris knows. Varric likes to lie. The few times he’d played Wicked Grace in the Hanged Man had told him that. He was only pleased that he had no money, and thus nothing for Varric to swindle from him.
“First, the Breach,” says the Orlesian. He casts about for his sword and does not see it, and ignores the sense of loss. A gift from Hawke. If he believed in fate, he would believe that it was cruel. Instead he presses his bare feet to the cold stone, feels tremors above, and allows Cassandra to lead him out into the world.
The first thing he thinks when he sees the Breach is that the sky has broken. Beside him, Cassandra sounds sad.
“The people still mourn. We have lost our Divine and so many others…” She turns to him, face hardened. “Did you do this? I know Varric said you hated mages-“ Fenris wants to laugh. It was an understatement and a lie all at once. He doesn’t hate mages, he despises mages, he loves Hawke, he thinks of a halfbreed Somniari and feels pity and wants to kill him as a mercy- “Could you- Would
you-“ She finds it hard to finish the sentence.
“I played no part in this, Seeker. This… this was done to me.” He doesn’t manage to hide the venom in his voice, and his fingertips twitch with the urge to kill. The lyrium markings are still dormant, however, not even the familiar flare of power.
Cassandra doesn’t look like she believes, but she starts walking again. People stare, but Fenris is used to this. They are afraid of him, and he’s used to that too.
“Besides,” he adds as they cross a bridge and go out into the valley, “I stood with Hawke once. I would not betray that trust.”
“Hatred makes us capable of anything,” she replies. “They say you walked out of the Fade.” Fenris sees nothing wrong with this.
“You are aware of my abilities, Seeker.”
“This… this was different.”
“I fail to see how.”
She sighs in frustration, and he thinks maybe she feels a little more sympathy towards Hawke now. If she does, she does not voice it.
“There was a woman behind you,” she says instead. Fenris racks his brain for the memory but can come up with nothing. He shakes his head, fights the bubbling anger, the urge to scream. He wants to pace and drink a lot of wine but neither of them are good ideas and neither of them are available to him right now. Instead he walks forward and the bridge falls out under their feet in an explosion he should be more used to by now. He regains his balance quickly, faster even than Cassandra can, and faces off against a ghoul. It’s weak, he knows. If he had his sword he could dispatch it in one swing. If he had his lyrium markings, he could rend it in two. Instead he grabs the nearest weapon- a bow, useless, if only Sebastian were here- and hits the ghoul over the head with it.
The monster shrieks, and then dissipates into shadow, Cassandra’s sword stuck through its gut.
She stares speechless at Fenris and the broken bow in his hands. He shrugs carelessly and drops it to the ground. He sees, a few feet away, a proper greatsword. A better man might feel foolish for the mistake. Fenris simply steps over some rubble and picks it up as if he meant to do it all along.
“Drop the weapon,” Cassandra warns. Fenris looks at her with disinterest.
“I do not wish to leave myself vulnerable to attack, Seeker.”
She looks ready to argue, but something about the set of her shoulders changes, softens, and she nods. “Perhaps I was… rash. But if you make any move I don’t approve of, I will cut you down.” Once he would have laughed at that. Now, cut off from his markings, he thinks she probably could.
They fight their way through the valley in silence. They are both warriors, and warriors communicate with body language. Fenris thinks they work quite well together. He also thinks he misses the soft whoosh of magic in the air beside him.
He never thought he would miss the sound of Bianca until a bolt flies over his head and a demon shrieks behind him, and there he is.
Varric. Familiarity, so far from Kirkwall. He almost wants to smile.
“Broody! You’re awake! I told you, Chuckles, our boy’s resilient.”
Fenris scowls at the nickname he most assuredly did not miss, and the familiarity with which Varric says ‘our boy’. The expression just makes Varric laugh, before the fight draws them back.
A few frenzied bolts, heavy swings, and familiar spells later, the other elf grabs his hand and forces it to the rift. He feels a pull, he feels his blood sing, he feels gears shifting into place, and then the tear closes and the power releases him.
He drops to his knees, shaking. The elf looks down at him with interest, and then says calmly, “I’m Solas.” He places a hand on Fenris’s shoulder, leaning down to speak to him quietly, and says, “You need not kneel anymore.”
The cryptic words hardly register, but they do give him back his strength. He nods, rising to his feet, and leans on his sword.
“You alright, Broody? You were out for a few days… That thing on your hand almost killed you.”
Fenris nods, too nauseous for words, and straightens a little more. He appraises the newest companion warily, noting the staff, the ears, the total lack of hair, and the way he feels off. Flickers of red, but Fenris cannot get a good read on his mana, not any better than he can connect to his own markings at the moment. It frustrates him, not to immediately know a mage’s weaknesses, but he thinks of Hawke and resigns himself to allowing this Solas by his side.
At least for the moment. Varric relaxes, and slaps Fenris gently on the shoulder, perhaps remembering a time when Fenris might have reached into his chest at the slightest touch. After six years the touches became more familiar, and with Varric there was no immediate danger.
“We must keep moving,” Solas urges. “The breach will not close itself.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I was kind of hoping we’d just saunter up to it and ask nicely. What do you think, Broody?” Varric grins and slings Bianca over his shoulder, glancing at Fenris.
“I think the end of the world has done nothing to improve your jokes, dwarf,” Fenris says, and is a little surprised that it sounds fond. Last he checked he wasn’t fond of anyone.
Cassandra, who has been eerily quiet, clears her throat and takes the lead. “The Breach is further down. The road ahead is blocked, we must take another path.” Fenris falls into the calm routine of following. Together they fight like a well-oiled machine. Solas’s spells are different but familiar and make the air taste like sorrow. Varric cheerfully calls out what he thinks are witty remarks, and Cassandra shares Fenris’s silence.
He knows the only way to earn a warrior’s trust is in combat. He would have it no other way. They fight to the next checkpoint, where the Orlesian woman greets them, a Chantry Chancellor at her side, angry and red faced.
“Seeker! Put this elf in chains and prepare to send him to Val Royeaux.” Fenris is reaching for his sword before he can think, but it’s Varric who steps in between them, hands up.
“That might not be the best thing to say to the angry ex-slave, Chancellor. Call me crazy, but I think you’d better back off.”
The Chancellor sputters and steps back, looking about wildly for someone to defend him. No one steps forward.
“I don’t believe you have the authority to order me anywhere, Chancellor,” says Cassandra, eyes narrowed. “Leliana?”
The Orlesian smiles sadly. “It’s true. With the Most Holy dead…”
“We have to elect a new Divine and let her pass judgment!”
Fenris remembers meeting with Sebastian at the Kirkwall Chantry. He remembers Sebastian visiting him in the mansion, and remembers stories the man used to tell. Fenris doesn’t believe in anything, but he did, once, when his name was Leto.
“What matters is the Breach,” he says instead. He’s positive it’s some manner of magic, because mages like to ruin everything they touch. He’d come to the Conclave to… hunt Tevinters, he remembered now. Slavers. He wouldn’t be surprised to know they were involved.
Beside him, Varric smiles. “Can’t argue with that, Broody.”
They decide on a plan of attack. Fenris has little patience for mountain paths and demon attacks, though he pauses for a moment when they ask him for his opinion. He isn’t used to leading. He’s used to being a tool. Hawke pointed who to stab, and Fenris cut their heads off. It had worked for him.
He decides that they go through the valley, slaying every creature in their path, until the remnants of the Temple of Sacred Ashes looms above them. Red lyrium reaches for the sky like the spires of Minrathous, and he exchanges a look with Varric.
“This shouldn’t be here,” says Varric. Fenris has to agree, but they’ve little time for discussion. A man approaches them, bloodied but familiar. As he gets closer, Fenris recognizes him.
“You’re awake then,” he says in greeting. Fenris nods his head.
“My men are holding position, but not for long,” he tells Cassandra. “You have to seal the Breach.” He looks back at Fenris.
“We’ll talk later.” Fenris is racking up quite the queue of conversations when this is over. So many familiar faces, though he doubts he can do much to put them all at ease. He stalks forward, gripping his sword, and leads them to the Breach.
The battle is long and hard fought. Fenris had faced an Ogre once, Hawke by his side as they hunted for ironbark. This demon was bigger, deadlier, with electric whips because of course it did. When it finally falls, he reaches out towards the Rift, and his vision fills with green.
The last words he hears before he drops to his knees and everything goes dark are, “It’s not enough…”