"Anders, that girl is a mage, we saved her from becoming Tranquil!"
"She is theirs! I can feel their hold on her!"
"She's the reason you're fighting, Anders. Don't turn on her now."
"Please, messere . . . "
"We're just a monster. Same as any other abomination."
Anders had been quiet.
Not that Fenris exactly minded at first. The apostate was absolutely insufferable, making Fenris want to punch him every time he opened his damned mouth and spewed some pro-mage propaganda - and of course he couldn't help himself when the man was always baiting him, always luring him into snapping and getting into long arguments. Hawke always found it amusing, if a little ridiculous, when they went on like that. They all ended the same; one or both would simply give up, tired of the circles, and refuse to even acknowledge the other existed for several hours.
It was childish. Fenris hated it. It was stupid. And yet, standing here in slightly-too-warm Kirkwall in a fancy building with a disheartening lack of cool air, waiting for Hawke to finish inside the Viscount's office after at least an hour of talking and blatantly ignoring Merrill's cheerful humming and idle babbling to herself, Fenris found he would have welcomed the banter, no matter how angry it usually made him. Anything but this horribly awkward quiet, guards staring as they passed, Merrill occasionally stopping a guard to ask the time until Fenris had memorized the dialogue by heart.
Excuse me, serah! What time is it? Insert time here. Thank you! Have a lovely afternoon! Every. Time. Normal, right? Yet mind-numbing when he heard it every half hour, nearly on the dot.
He hated Anders, but he hated this atmosphere so much more.
The mage in question was shifting from foot to foot, getting understandably antsy after they had been waiting so long, but Fenris leapt on the opportunity like a parched man that had come across an oasis. "Worried the guards will recognize you and call the templars, mage?"
I have a name! Mind your own business! I'd like to see them try! Any of those heated retorts would have worked. Maker, anything, or Fenris was going to lose his damn mind. But Anders only glanced his way, eyes narrowing with mild contempt, before his gaze slid back over to the window.
"I suppose they might," he said simply, and Fenris nearly forgot not to stare in astonishment.
What the hell was that? Where was the anger? Where was the attitude? Where was Justice's rage, tearing him a new asshole? What had happened to the Anders he knew, who would take any bait at the drop of a hat? Who would spend hours fussing and whining to anyone who would listen and fight Fenris for an eternity over their opposing views?
"Until next time, Marlowe!"
Hawke's chipper voice, the way she showed such thinly veiled casual disrespect, the distasteful murmurs that followed - all beautifully welcoming sounds to Fenris' ears. Hawke came into view from Viscount Dumar's office, whistling an upbeat tune and heading for the stairs, and the rest of the party needed no verbal cue to follow her down. They hit up Aveline in her quarters, Hawke having much too long a discussion with her as well, before they finally left.
On second thought, Fenris would have been honored to continue standing outside the Viscount's office for another several hours. Or several days. Or really, the rest of the summer, because summer in Kirkwall was miserable. The bad weather had caught on quickly and sporadically, fooling Fenris every few days with a disorientingly lovely forecast, and then coming back the next with heat that made him sweat like he never had before. The stone of Hightown absorbed heat and radiated it like some kind of giant oven.
"Goodness," Merrill panted next to him. "It was so deceptively cloudy this morning! I wish I had put on my sleeveless tunic. I'm absolutely melting!" A pause. "Oh, what a horrid thought. I don't imagine people melting is much of a pleasant sight."
"It never got this hot in Ferelden," Hawke grumbled. "Maker, I'm sweating buckets!"
Fenris expected Anders to say something as well, at least adding to Hawke's complaint as he was also from Ferelden, but the mage remained silent.
They made their way down the stairs and through the streets of Hightown. Merchants were notably less boisterous in the heat, and the market had gone from a buzzing hive of activity to a desolate wasteland. Hawke stopped by a few stalls before they headed towards Lowtown. Merrill and Hawke chattered brightly, and Fenris was coaxed out of his staring at Anders to tune into their conversation.
"I just don't know how you do it. They dry up my savings faster than I can say aneth ara!"
"You've got to be mean, Merrill! Take what you want and don't take no for an answer."
"Be mean? Oh, Hawke, they're just trying to live."
"And they need every coin in your pocket to survive?"
Merrill sighed wistfully. "You're right. I'm hopeless."
"Maybe not," Hawke said, and stopped so suddenly that Fenris nearly ran into her. Anders, of course, proceeded to run into him, and he offered the apostate a harsh scowl. Anders only responded with a glare. Hawke was quick to interrupt them before things went downhill. "Fenris!"
Surprised at being addressed, Fenris only dumbly responded, "Yes, Hawke?"
Hawke placed one hand on her hip and poked at Fenris' chest plate with the other, a devious smile crossing her face. "You're going to accompany Merrill to the market tomorrow."
Thanks for asking, Fenris wanted to say, but he bit back the irritated retort. He liked Hawke, however they may disagree, despite how much he did not want to spend any time with that filthy blood mage. Especially not alone. "Pardon?"
"Oh, no! You don't have to!" Merrill scrambled, and Fenris was, for once, welcoming of her opinion. "It's so silly of me. I'll be quite alright, both of you."
"Nonsense!" Hawke declared, straightening up and crossing her arms. "Merrill here is terrible at bartering. You're going to help her."
"I am not the best at bartering, myself," Fenris said honestly, a little baffled. Why did he have to do it? Why not Varric? Isabela? Hawke herself? Come to think of it, weren't rogues the best at that sort of thing? Convenience, probably, he answered himself; Hawke didn't feel like tracking them down, and had her own things to attest to, and turned to Fenris as he was right there. Then again, so was Anders, so why . . . ?
Hawke waved her hand dismissively. "I know you're no haggler," she said, "but you know what you are good at? Looking scary." Fenris stared at her. Hawke clapped her hands in delight. "Good! Just like that!"
Fenris had to say it - this was not clearing things up at all. "I fail to see how that's relevant," he replied slowly. Hawke rolled her eyes.
"Can I make it any more obvious? You're going to go with Merrill here - " At this she threw an arm around the Dalish elf's shoulders, " - to the market, and she's going to try for some sweet bargains. And if anyone tells her no, you're going to mean mug them until they say yes, or piss their pants. Whichever comes first. With you staring them down, it's sort of a gamble."
"That sounds mean," Merrill piped up, sounding guilty. Hawke waggled a finger in her face.
"What's mean is their price gouging!"
He supposed there was no helping it. Fenris would have to comply, or Hawke would talk them in circles until he inevitably said yes. She had a funny way of doing that, of convincing anyone to do just about anything, whether it was the lowest street urchin, the highest ranking noble, or Varric, the master of manipulation himself. Usually, Fenris admired it, and on occasion even found it amusing. Today, he loathed it.
"I will do it," he relented, and as Hawke looked on smugly and Merrill thanked him profusely, he mentally prepared himself for something horribly wrong to happen the next day. Traveling alone with a blood mage? Nothing good could come of it.
"Good luck with that one," Anders muttered, a startling lack of any real emotion behind it. Fenris whipped his head around, wanting to give some snarky response, but he was too surprised at him finally opening his mouth to come up with anything clever.
"So nice of you to finally join us, Anders," Hawke said cheerfully, but he only shrugged in response.
They made their way into Darktown, and despite all the filth about, Fenris relished in how much cooler the air was.
It was hot once more in Kirkwall. The stones burned Fenris' feet, perhaps not as badly as a human's, but still remarkably considering the resistance he had built up. If it got much worse, he might have to start wearing his boots. He hated wearing his boots. Thankfully, it was not nearly as hot as Tevinter got sometimes, so he did not think he would have to wear them anytime soon.
He made his way out of his little corner of Hightown, down to the market, and into Lowtown. The small market there was a tad livelier than the one in Hightown, as it was a little cooler here, the location providing more shade and cooling the stones. A few residents gave brief, polite greetings as they went on their way, and he always responded with a silent nod, unsure what to say. That place might have been considered the slums, but the residents were far friendlier than any of the higher class citizens.
The Alienage was not far, and greetings rang out from all over, friendly faces recognizing him as one of Merrill's friends. Fenris did not have the heart to tell them he wanted nothing to do with her. He made his way to her home.
When knocking heralded nothing, he hesitantly opened the door and allowed himself inside. The place was small, a dirty little hovel, but Merrill was doing her best to make it seem lively. Despite the squeaking of mice in the background, he could admire her other efforts - the paintings she had purchased to place on the walls, the nicer furniture she had finally invested in, the small bookcase in the corner. Some part of it elicited an odd sort of embarrassment in Fenris; maybe it was time for him to renovate, too.
Voices from the bedroom had Fenris tensing. Had he walked in on something private? He moved back to the door, trying to exit as quietly as possible so nobody would know his shame, but his ears caught the words and he froze in place.
"I'm so excited!" Merrill was saying. "Let's see . . . no, no good. Here, how about this one? It's very sharp. You can hardly feel it!"
"It's familiar," came Anders' voice. Anders?
"Oh, yes, it would be, it's my favorite. I use it all the time!"
"If it's your favorite, I couldn't . . . "
"Don't be ridiculous," Merrill told him, and there was the sound of a blade being removed from a sheath.
"Sharper than Hawke's tongue," Anders said. Merrill burst into a sweet little chortle. "Are you sure about giving this one to me? Any will do."
"It's nothing! I can always get another. I'm just so excited you're finally seeing things my way!"
Knives. Fenris' hands closed into fists, the tips of his clawed gauntlets digging into his palms. It was plain as day what they were talking about. He should have known! Of all the preaching Anders did, despite all the times he scolded Merrill and implored to Fenris, all the times he preached against blood magic, here he was, borrowing knives from the blood mage herself. For what? Cutting cheese? No, Fenris knew exactly what this was about.
He had to tell Hawke.
Just as he was reaching for the door handle, Anders and Merrill came out of the room. They all stopped and stared at one another, tension crackling in the air. A small, sheathed knife with an ornate handle was tucked into his belt, and Fenris' eyes narrowed dangerously at the sight. Anders himself looked like a deer in headlights, scratching at the back of his neck self consciously and avoiding eye contact.
"Fenris!" Merrill finally spoke up, her voice chipper as ever, though she fidgeted as she spoke. "How long have you been here? I didn't mean to keep you waiting, I'm so sorry!"
Fenris swallowed thickly. This could be dangerous territory. He had seen what Merrill could do in the field. If there were two of them . . .
"I just arrived," he said, moving away from the door. "It is no trouble." Anders seemed to immediately relax, walking towards the exit.
"I was just leaving," Anders said, raising a hand in farewell. As he opened through the door, he addressed the other mage in the house. "Thanks for everything, Merrill. I appreciate it."
"No problem! Tell me how it - " The door swung shut behind him, and Merrill faltered, looking disappointed. " - goes."
They stood there in silence, neither talking, staring, calculating. If anything, this extended exchange confirmed what they both knew: that Fenris had been standing there quite a while, and that he knew Merrill and Anders were doing more than simply catching up. Finally, Merrill shook her head, grabbed her staff from her room, and slung it over her back, then grabbed a bag of coins off the table. She smiled innocently at Fenris.
"Shall we be off? I've got a lot of learning to do today!" She was chipper, eyes gone from inquisitive and suspicious to bright and cheerful once more.
It was then that Fenris noticed the lack of chainmail and scarf, and he took in the short sleeved tunic and light leggings she had swapped it for, as well as the black little sandals she swapped to. He was vaguely jealous. He should have thought to dress lighter in this heat, though he did not really own much. He was going to suffer horribly during their little adventure.
There were more pressing matters. When Merrill placed her hand on the door knob, Fenris darted forward and grasped her wrist, effectively stopping her from moving. A startled little gasp left her lips as Fenris hovered over her, intimidatingly close, his markings faintly glowing a light blue.
"What were you two doing?"
Merrill's eyes went impossibly wide, a little terrified, and then narrowed. In an astonishingly brave display for the usually shy little elf, she jerked her hand away and opened the door, then placing her hands on her hips and glaring down Fenris. It was the first time he had seen her anything akin to mad and he was more shocked than angry that she resisted him.
"It's none of your business, Fenris," she said flatly, scolding him like a mother would a nosy child. "And quite frankly, it's not mine, either, so I'm not going to gossip behind his back."
"Mage - "
"We have shopping to do!" And suddenly she was back to her merry self, taking hold of Fenris' hand and dragging him out the door with surprising strength. "Come on, messere Grumpy Pants. You've got merchants to scowl at."
The threat had passed. He would have to tell Hawke later.