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Of Miracles and Heroes

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Chapter 1. The End of the Beginning

 

There was an eerie silence. The only sound Fenris could hear was the crackle and popping of the charred skeleton in front of him, the heavy breathing of Carver on his right, and the blood rushing in his ears. The sight in front of him and his companions had shocked them and every templar surrounding them into profound quiet as they observed the twisted figured of the former Knight Commander.

“Is she...is she lyrium?” Merrill, the blood mage, asked. He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. There was blood dripping from her palm into the cobblestones. Her eyes were as wide as saucers. She was looking at the back of Hawke’s head. Hawke hadn’t moved. Her fingers were still gripped so tightly on her staff that her knuckles were white. A breeze caught the strands dark hair that had come loose during the battle. Fenris could smell the smoke on the wind. The city was burning while they stood here. They had to move, they had to go now.

“Hawke.” He called quietly. She looked over her shoulder at him immediately, as she always did when he called. Her lyrium blue eyes were weary. He hadn’t noticed prior, but her other arm was pressed to a wound just above her ribs. That wound was dangerously close to her heart and whatever weapon had caused it had cut through the chainmail she wore. It was still bleeding through her fingers, but slowly. It wouldn’t be fatal then and she’d probably already begun to heal it. He had to check though, he couldn’t lose her. Not after all this, not now.

His first step toward Hawke broke whatever spell had held all the templars still. His second step brought a woman in armor running toward the Knight Commander’s skeleton. His third step brought him close enough to touch Hawke, to run his fingers through the fur at her neck and feel the blood matted there from a scratch on her neck. He peeled away her hand as she winced. Her eyes jumped from him to the glowing skeleton, then back to him as her checked the wound. “Venhedis.” Fenris swore. The stab wound was deeper than he thought.

“Ah, for a moment I thought you’d never swear at me again.” Hawke whispered, her lips quirking just a bit.

“Heal it.” Fenris commanded. Hawke shook her head.

“I’ve done what I can for now. I’m out of mana, I’m out of lyrium. It won’t kill me before you do.”

Fenris swore again and turned to the blood mage. She shook her head. “I used my last lyrium potion.”

“Here.” Carver was beside his sister now. Fenris noted that his shining Warden armor was streaked with soot and dented in several locations. He popped the cork on a healing potion, pressing it into Hawke’s hand. Hawke took it with shaky fingers, downing it in one swallow.

The templar who had been kneeling in front of the former Knight Commander, or the monster she had turned into, looked up at the Knight Captain. There was something hopeless in that glance. Hawke let out a hiss, her eyes flicking around them. They were surrounded by templars, most likely what was left of the templar order. They were exhausted, out of supplies, and out of options. At the very best, they had stopped a madwoman with two apostates in their group. At the very worst, they had led an armed insurrection by siding with these mages.

“They’ll make her tranquil.” Anders had taunted during one trip to the Wounded Coast. Isabella and Hawke had been up ahead. Their heads had been pressed almost together, occasionally Fenris could hear giggling. Fenris was trying desperately not to show how much he adored that sound, Hawke’s laughter ringing on the cliffs. He couldn’t stop himself from being mesmerized by the sway of Hawke’s hips in her leathers.

“There is no reason to make her tranquil. Hawke is not a danger.” Fenris replied as evenly as possible. Hawke would be upset if he fought with the abomination. He did leave the words “unlike you” unsaid. They hung in the air like fog.

“You will betray her. You will turn her over to the templars. They’ll make her tranquil and she’ll never laugh again. You’ll have no one but yourself to blame.” Anders had a patronizing tone that made Fenris want to turn and plunge his fist into his chest. He let out a low growl of warning.

“Fenris!” Hawke yelled back to them. He looked up and his heart caught in his throat at the sight of her milk and honey skin, flushed pink with delight. She was wearing a wide grin the way lesser women wore diamonds. She was a vision. “You’ll never guess what Bela is trying to get me to tell her about you!”

He couldn’t help himself or the low chuckle that escaped his mouth as he picked up his pace to leave the abomination behind. “I’m sure it has something to do with my smallclothes.” He answered easily. Isabela cackled and Hawke continued to grin. As he caught up to the two women, he let his gauntleted hand pass slowly over Hawke’s hip. Just a casual touch, common between two lovers. Isabela didn’t even common on it, she continued on her mission to determine the color of what Fenris wore under his armor. Hawke’s eyes took on a molten heat as she looked up at him, before tearing her eyes away and focusing back on Isabela.

Fenris spared a glance over his shoulder at the sullen figure in his new black robes. Anders was glaring at the gauntlet on Fenris’s left hand like it had called his mother a whore. Amber eyes flicked up to meet his own. Fenris glared back cooly. This mage wanted what Fenris had, that was all. But Hawke didn’t laugh for Anders, he wasn’t able to touch her heart, and Anders had never heard her moan his name while buried inside her. Anders had tried to crawl into Fenris’s place multiple times, but had never been able to. So Fenris simply turned away from the abomination and enjoyed the freedom of the day with Hawke on his left, where she belonged.

If Fenris had known then what Anders would do, he’d have turned back to the mage and ripped his heart out of his chest and spat on it. Fenris knew that the mage was dangerous, he should have stopped him. Why hadn’t he stopped him? Now Hawke, his Hawke, was surrounded by templars. If anything happened to her, the blood would be on Anders’s hands as surely as the hundred of dead littering the Gallows and Kirkwall’s streets.

Knight Captain Cullen was looking at Hawke. Hawke was staring back at him. Around them, swords were drawn. Despite his exhaustion, Fenris felt his marking burn weakly as he shifted into a defensive stance. His sword hovered in front of Hawke, a dare to any who would approach him. Hawke’s hand reached out, fingers still covered in her wet, warm blood. Her small fingers closed around his arm tightly, but she was still looking at Cullen.

“Cullen, not them.” She whispered. “Me if you have to, but not them. Please.”

Fenris’s marks glowed brighter, a flash of fury and power. How like her, he thought. Before he could say anything, another voice cut in.

“No!” Varric half shouted. Fenris heard him shift Bianca and felt a rush of affection for his friend, his diamondback partner. Cullen took a breath, the whole world seemed to tilt precariously on its axis. Fenris realized for the first time, he had never actually told Hawke he loved her. She knew, she had to know, but Fenris had never formed the words with his mouth even though she had many times.

Cullen sheathed his sword. There was another terrible moment no longer than a heartbeat when he stepped back and none of the other templars did that Fenris thought they would disobey the signal. Finally, he heard the rattling of swords being slid into scabbards. Hawke released a breath he hadn’t realized she had been holding. “Go.” Cullen said, turning to the skeleton glowing brightly red. “Maker’s breath. Go.”

Fenris didn’t have to be told twice. Hawke swayed with uncertainty, but he had twisted to grab her arm now. He didn’t put away his sword, although if he had to drag her it would certainly hinder him to fight one handed. Varric backed out slowly, Bianca only slightly lowered. Isabela dashed ahead. Merrill was limping, putting as much of her weight as possible on her staff. Carver shouldered past Hawke and Fenris, sweeping the blood mage up in his arms as she sputtered ineffectively in gratitude. Aveline brought up the rear, shield and sword still out and eyes darting warily.

Isabela’s hands were like lighting as she began to ready the small dingy they’d stolen to get to the Gallows in the first place. Fenris shifted to help Hawke into the boat, she was short even for a woman. He tossed her staff in after her, then swung himself in as well. Aveline wasn’t even settled in before Isabela was shoving off, adjusting the sails.

“So sweetness.” Isabela began. “Do you know how I was waiting for something really exciting to happen before I left Kirkwall? I think I’m over it.”

Varric snorted. “Honestly Rivaini, I’m willing to bet Kirkwall is over us.”

“Where will you go?” Hawke asked, kneeling beside Merrill and Carver and gently taking Merrill’s leg. She sighed as she looked at it, shaking her head.

“Is it very bad Hawke?” Merrill asked.

“No Merrill. But I’m afraid I can’t do anything now. I’m sorry.” Hawke paused, swallowing hard. “I’m so sorry about everything.” She said again.

“Yes, it was your idea to blow up the chantry. I forgot about that.” Fenris commented.

“Well now, sweetness.” Isabela cut in. “I’ve been thinking I need some additional crew members. We’ll figure out where to go next, but I think this is the time for a proper escape. For all of us.”

“Sister, you can’t stay here.” Carver interrupted. “There will be more templars. They will be out for revenge.”

“Don’t forget choir-boy.” Varric’s lips were pressed together in a thin line of displeasure. “He wasn’t happy. I don’t think he was lying Hawke, at the very least you need to disappear until he has a chance to reconsider.”

Hawke slowly looked around her companions. This motley group made up of misfits and pariahs. She bit her lip, releasing a deep sigh. “Aveline, I thought I said I’d never flee a burning city again.”

Aveline smiled sadly. “This time I won’t be going with you Hawke. I must stay here, with Donnic. We have a duty to the people here to keep them safe. When the templars come… I’ll throw them off your trail. I swear.”

Hawke hadn’t cried. Tears sprung to her eyes now, although she didn’t let them fall. “Besides Carver, you’re the only one left. The only one who remembers Bethany, the only one who knows about Lothering.”

“And you two are all I have left of Wesley.” Aveline replied simply, reaching for Hawke’s hand and squeezing. “You will come home someday Hawke, I believe in you. I always have.”

Hawke took a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them, the tears were gone. Her blue eyes were determined. “Well. I suppose we’re fugitives then.”

“I have had practice at least.” Fenris responded wryly. Hawke sighed and put her head in her hands as Varric let out a low laugh.

“The Wardens will want me back soon, but I can help you get out of the city.” Carver offered glumly. “You can drop me somewhere and I’ll make my way back after.”

“They’ll be angry with you, won’t they?” Merrill inquired.

“Maybe.” Carver shrugged, his eyes on the Gallows as it receded and Kirkwall’s harbor came into view. “But some things are more important.”

Isabela swore that she could round up her crew and what remaining supplies she needed in an hour. She brought them to the ship, then vanished with Varric in tow. Varric stated he needed to see what could be salvaged from his suite at the Hanged Man.

“Orana is in the estate all alone.” Hawke stated. “People could break in. She could be in danger.”

“Fasta vass.” Fenris swore. “You’re right. I’ll go. Stay here.”

“Wait! No! I’m coming with you.” Hawke contradicted.

“No you are not.” Fenris argued, pushing his hands through his hair. “The city is a powder keg. If riots haven’t started yet, they will. The people will be hunting mages, and there is a very large chance they will turn on their champion and forget all the good you’ve done for this city.”

Hawke opened her mouth to continue arguing, then shut it. Her hand went unconsciously to her abdomen, to where the Arishok’s sword had impaled her. Her eyes traveled to where the chantry once loomed above the city, then back to Fenris. “You won’t come back. I’ve made you a fugitive again and you won’t come back. I wouldn’t blame you, not really.” She tried to crack a smile. “I wouldn’t come back to me either.”  

Fenris had left her once. He flinched at the memory, she’d looked the same then. Vulnerable and alone. “Reyna.” He whispered. Her eyes closed and he took her cheek gently, careful with his gauntlets on her sensitive skin. “Reyna Hawke. Nothing in this world or the fade could keep me from your side now.” He lowered his voice, tipping her chin up and kissing her softly. “I love you.” He whispered against her lips.

She jumped like she had been electrocuted, blue eyes flying open. He couldn’t help the small smile. “I will return. Keep the ship safe for us.”

“I will stay with you.” Aveline volunteered. “Until you leave. I’ll try to keep order here.”

“Merrill has potions and supplies in the alienage.” Carver stated, her arm around his neck now. “We’ll go get them, then meet back here. In an hour.”

Fenris was only looking at Hawke as he nodded in agreement. “One hour.”

The situation in the city was deteriorating by the moment. Halfway through Lowtown, he had to cut his way through the first mob looting the merchant stalls. He was unable to take his normal route into hightown because it was clogged with debris. Carta members were industriously making off with anything that wasn’t nailed down.

The Hawke estate hadn’t been touched yet. He opened the door, then slammed it shut behind him. It was a blessing that Bodahn and Sandal had left last week. If only Orana would have left with them.

“Messere Fenris!” Orana called from the balcony. “Where is Messere Hawke? Is she hurt? Will she be okay?” Orana was scurrying down the steps, eyes wide and frightened. She had to be badly shaken to be running towards Fenris, typically he made her as anxious as blood magic made him.

“The abomination blew up the chantry.” Fenris tried to remain calm, to not growl, to not startle her. He kept his hands where she could see them, putting away his weapon. Orana’s eyes grew even wider. “Hawke is okay. We have to leave, Orana. People will be hunting her.”

“Slavers?” Orana squeaked, bringing her hands up to her mouth.

“In a manner of speaking.” Fenris was too exhausted to explain. “They could come to the estate looking for us. You’re in danger. We need to go.”

“Go where?” She asked. Fenris was startled by this question, and more startled that he hadn’t thought of it. Vehendis, where would she go? They couldn’t ask her to go on the run with them. Orana was an admirable cook, a great housekeeper, and utterly devoted to Hawke. She wasn’t a fighter.

“Where do you want to go?” Fenris asked, feeling more stupid when she looked confused. She’d been free for three years, but he’d been free for much longer and sometimes he still felt the chains. He took a deep breath.

“You can come with us, but it will be hard. We don’t know where we will go or who will follow. We will probably have to fight our way out of the Free Marches. You can stay in the city, but not here. I can give you money, you can pack a bag, and I can take you to the alienage. Many don’t know you and you won’t be in danger if you’re not here. Aveline is staying in the city and she will look out for you.”

Orana still looked puzzled. He took his gauntleted hand and slowly, lightly put it on her shoulder. She didn’t flinch. “Pack a bag and think about what you want to do. I need to gather supplies. I will escort you safely wherever you wish, but we must hurry.”

Orana nodded, scurrying away. Fenris took the steps as quickly as he could. There was a supply pack under the bed, they took it to Sundermont or the Wounded Coast sometimes. He grabbed his few belongings first, although he still had clothes at the dilapidated mansion he was still stubbornly staying at three nights a week, there would be no going there for them. He grabbed the clothes he had available, the the Book of Shartan (besides the Blade of Mercy, his most prized possession), and his weapon polish. Then he grabbed some of Hawke’s tunics, breeches, a few skirts and blouses, a dress. From the casket near her bed he pulled out the most prized things, her parents’ wedding rings and a pendant that had belonged to Bethany, plus a dagger with a hilt the same color of her eyes (this had been his first Satinalia gift to anyone, the first gift he’d ever given her). There was some elfroot wrapped in paper and three small bottles of a lyrium potion that always buzzed uncomfortably in his hand. He filled his coin purse up as much as he could, then filled another. Gold meant nothing to Hawke, but they may need it, and Orana would too.

She had been quick, which he approved of. She had a cloak on and one thrown over her arm. This one was Hawke’s, he recognized the white fur lining the hood. There was a pack over her shoulder and a basket slung over her arm. She was stroking the fur nervously as she waited.

“I cannot fight Messere. I would not help if I went, would I?” She asked, trembling with emotion. Fenris wouldn’t lie to her, he shook his head. She let out a breath. “Then I will go to the alienage, but you must take care of her. You must promise!” She demanded, clutching the basket even tighter.

“I will Orana. I promise.” He swore solemnly. She nodded, accepting, as he led the way to the door.

He had Orana by the elbow, guiding her around the worst of the riots that had begun to break out. Windows were being smashed, chants were rising up. Fenris heard “Death to all mages!” from a drunken dwarf and felt a chill up his spine. Orana stiffened next to him.

He hadn’t needed to fight his way back through to Lowtown, it seemed most of the flow of traffic was going towards Hightown. Arriving at the alienage though, he was confronted with a desperate looking Carver. “Fenris!” He called.

“What are you still doing here?” Fenris hissed, letting go of Orana.

“They won’t let humans in.” Carver confessed, glaring at the gate. “Merrill went in alone, but she hasn’t come out. I can’t get in, what if she is hurt too badly to come back?” Carver questioned.

“I will get the blood mage.” He growled, cursing his luck. “Go back to the boat, the rioting is getting worse in Hightown. I pray the docks are not as bad.” Carver hesitated just long enough to irritate Fenris. Fenris let loose a stream of Tevinter cussing that made Orana’s ears go pink. “I will not leave her, get to your sister you great oaf!”

Carver backed away, then spun on his heel, taking off to the docks and Fenris pounded on the alienage gates. An elf appeared, then cracked the gate. “Fehendis!” The elf swore. “Get in here!”

Fenris took Orana’s elbow once more and guided her past the vhenadahl tree. “You can stay in Merrill’s home.” Fenris said gently. “You’ll be safe there for now.”

He didn’t bother knocking, opening the door. The first room was quiet, an abandoned pack laying on the table. “Make yourself at home.” Fenris said, disappearing around the corner.

Merrill was staring at her mirror, as he knew she would be. His marks flashed in irritation again and their reflection in the mirror caught the blood mage’s attention. “Fenris! By the dread wolf! How long have I been standing here?”

“Too long.” Fenris growled, avoiding looking at the mirror. “Are you coming or staying? We have to go.”

“I can’t believe he did that. All those people. Banal nadas.” Merrill sniffed. “But he was the monster he always said he would become.”

“Yes.” Fenris could say nothing else. “He was." 

“I will not be that!” Merrill was vehement, reaching out to touch the eluvian. “I will not become a monster.”

“We cannot take that thing with us.” Fenris scowled at the back of Merrill’s head.

“No, we cannot. And we should not.” Merrill closed her eyes. “I am going to do something I should have done a long time ago.”

Fenris didn’t expect what came next. Merrill pulled her hand away from the mirror, raising her fingers up, then snapped them. Cracks formed in the mirror, then it shattered, the pieces falling to dust at her feet. A broken sob escaped her as she keeled almost forward. Fenris swore again under his breath and rushed forward, grabbing her around her waist.

“That was most likely the wisest thing you have ever done.” It was the most praise he had ever given the blood mage, and she knew it. She looked up at him, wide eyed. “Carver is waiting for you.”

Merrill nodded, she was still limping, but not as badly. Fenris saw a discarded potion bottle on the ground, she must have had a health potion stashed here. She paused momentarily when she saw Orana, but then nodded in understanding. “Ir abelas, for the mess.” She said shyly.

“Here.” Fenris pulled out the second coin purse, pressing it into Orana’s hand. “This is yours. And when it is safe, feel free to take Aveline back to the estate and take whatever you require.”

“Thank you messere.” Orana said softly. “Vitae benefaria, Fenris.”

“Vitae benefaria, Orana.” He inclined his head, in a small bow. Then he pushed Merrill out the door.

There must have been a hundred people at the docks. Were they all trying to flee? What if the ship had sailed? His mouth went dry at the thought of Hawke, adrift without him. But they were going down the steps, halfway down now, and there was the ship. Isabela was at the helm, her crew scurrying over riggings. Aveline was handing boxes up to Carver, who was slinging them behind him. Hawke was at the rigging, a perfect job for her small size, untangling the lines. He kept Merrill in front of him, but Fenris knew he stood out in a crowd. If Hawke were to turn and look, she would see them.

Varric saw them first, his hand raising in greeting. They were not far now, Fenris could swear he heard Isabela yelling. Varric turned, to tell Hawke they were coming he was sure, but then froze. His eyes were fixed on something, someone behind him. Fenris felt a cold shiver up his spine. He turned, gripping his sword tightly. Merrill whirled with him.

Anders was several steps above them. His eyes were glowing, fade blue. Fenris felt red clouding his vision. Blood lust for the abomination. He could kill him, rip out his heart, present it to Hawke on a silver platter for all the pain, for the betrayal. Except, except… Hawke had his life in her hands and had chosen to send him away rather than sully her hands with his blood.  

“May the dread wolf take you!” Merrill yelled.

“Go to the ship.” Fenris commanded, pushing Merrill back behind him.

“Not without you.” Merrill persisted stubbornly.

“She sided with the mages. Despite your undue influence, she sided with the mages.” Anders mouth curved into a smirk.

 Fenris lost his fragile control, charging. Anders didn’t stop him. This gave him pause as he brought his sword up to the abominations neck, his hand phasing through the mage’s ribcage, clutching around the still beating heart. Enough to hurt...but not to kill.

“You did this.” Fenris growled. “You almost killed her.”

“So end me.” Anders coughed, grinning up at him. A trickle of blood escaped from the corner of his mouth. “Show her what a wild dog does.”

This was what he wanted. Was Hawke watching? Had she jumped from the rigging, racing to his side to stop him? Would she be too late? Merrill tugged on his gauntlet. “No Fenris. Not now. Not like this.”

Fenris spat on the mage, allowing Merrill to pull him back. “Your life was hers to give or take today. Next time I see you, it will be mine. Do not come near us again, or I swear you will beg for your death.”

Fenris let go of Ander’s heart. Anders doubled over, coughing. Merrill pulled him, quickly through the crowd, until he lost sight of the mage. He looked back toward the boat. Hawke wasn’t watching, but Varric, Carver, and Aveline were. They all wore mixed expressions. As Carver grabbed for Merrill, he looked at Fenris.

“You should have done it.” He said. “I would have.”

“Perhaps.” Fenris answered.

“You’re here! Cut the line, Aveline!” Isabela yelled. Aveline met Hawke’s eyes, smiling softly. Hawke jumped from the rigging, landing rather too hard, and raced to Fenris’s side, leaning over the edge of the ship.

“Goodbye my friends.” Aveline said, swinging her sword through the rope with one swoop. Fenris allowed his arms to curl around Hawke’s waist as the ship began to move.

“Andraste’s tits, they’re raising the chains.” Varric pointed to the gears on either side of the harbor. There were people there, struggling with the heavy machinery.

“Those nug humpers!” Isabela roared. “Men, let’s move!”

“Fenris, did you grab the lyrium potions? From my room?” Hawke asked, her eyes clear. Fenris opened the bag, and she dived for the glowing blue vial. She uncorked it and tossed it back placing the cork back in the bottle. “Isabela! Prepare for a strong wind!” She yelled.

Isabela didn’t ask questions, she raced toward the sails. She yanked and pulled, until they were right where she wanted them. Hawke took a deep breath, Fenris felt the pull of her magic, and when she let out her breath, a gust of wind blew past them, straight into the sails. Isabela let out a throaty whoop as they raced past the chains, out into the open water.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: The Immoral City

 

Isabela unrolled the map with a flourish and invited Fenris to hold down one corner while she peered at it skeptically. She tapped her fingers on Kirkwall, tracing the coast to the east and west. Her eyes wandered across Thedas and she leaned closer to the map, displaying her ample cleavage. Fenris sighed.

“Do you have a plan?” He finally asked when the silence became unbearable.

“Oh, I always have a plan.” She purred, wiggling an eyebrow suggestively. “It usually involves whipped cream and handcuffs.”

“That sounds very messy Isabela.” Merrill commented from her perch on the arm of Isabela’s chair.

“It is the best kind of messy, kitten.” Isabela winked.

“This map is quite expensive looking.” Hawke remarked from the other side of the table, where she was holding down the opposite corner. “I swear I’ve seen it before. Where did it walk out of?”

“Ah, well, I picked it up on my way out of the holding cells in the Viscount’s Keep.” Isabela admitted. “Aveline threw me in there one night to sober up. Big girl is going to be so mad when she finds out.”

Hawke’s lips twitched and she shook her head. They’d been sailing for nearly 48 hours, long enough for everyone to recover from the battle. Hawke had her hair braided and it fell neatly down her back. Varric was in a chair by the door, quill scratching as he wrote. He’d been insistent someone had to write down what had happened and had been scribbling nearly every waking hour.

“I think our first stop should be Llomerryn. It’s far enough away that nobody should be looking for us there yet, but it is close enough that we’ll be able to learn some news.” Isabela looked as satisfied as a cat that had eaten the canary. “Besides, there’s always plenty of fun to be had in Llomerryn and it has been far too long.”

“What kind of fun?” Merrill asked, voice sugar sweet.

“I’m sure Carver would be willing to show you what kind of fun there is to be had…” Isabela trailed off. Carver had been dozing off on the floor, the only one who had refused to sleep since the ship left Kirkwall. He jerked awake at the sound of his name, sitting up.

“What’s that?” He asked with a yawn. Hawke groaned and caught Fenris’s eye, inclining her head towards the door. Fenris let go of the map, ignoring Merrill’s clueless questions and Isabela’s laughter. He followed Hawke’s swaying hips out onto the deck. She leaned on the rail, her pert posterior positioned just right…

Fenris knew that if he pressed against her, leaned forward and captured the lobe of her ear in his teeth, she would gasp in delight. He could pull her hips close to his, feel the curve of her ass against his erection, and let his fingers drift towards her hot center. If he whispered in her ear what he wanted, she would acquiesce immediately. It was enough to make his heart race and his manhood swell. Whenever Hawke was involved, it was too easy to get lost in vulgar thoughts.

“Llomeryn.” Hawke tested the word on her lips, biting the bottom one as she mused. Fenris moved to stand beside her, angling his hips to hide the traitorous bulge in his pants. She released her bottom lip with an audible pop. Fenris almost groaned. “What would my mother think about me ending up in the most immoral city in Thedas? And dragging precious Carver with me?”

“She would undoubtedly blame Varric’s sinister influence.” Fenris reminded her of her mother’s distrustful stance on their dwarven companion. Hawke let out a huff of hair that blew her bangs from her face. They lapsed into comfortable silence, staring out over the ocean.

“Her ashes are in Kirkwall.” Hawke said softly. “We spread them on the wounded coast.”

“I remember.” Fenris did remember that day, the black urn in Hawke’s shaking hands and the pale faces of all their companions. It had been the most gentle he’d ever seen Isabela as she helped Hawke lift the lid of the urn.

“Do you think we’ll ever go back home?” Hawke asked.

“I am home as long as I am with you, Reyna.” Fenris answered immediately, from the heart. Hawke’s answering smile was like the sun coming from behind the clouds.

“How will anyone take you seriously when they learn what an insufferable romantic you are?” She questioned, voice laced with laughter.

“I have a large sword.” Fenris shrugged, smirking.

“Oh don’t I know.” Hawke purred, nudging her hip with his own, before breaking out into laughter as clear as chantry bells. Fenris allowed her teasing to hear her laugh and knew that there was a Maker - there must be a Maker because Hawke was his miracle. He leaned in and Hawke tipped her head up.

“Maker!” Carver banged out of the cabin, red creeping up his neck and followed by raucous laughter. “A man can’t have any peace.”

“Or privacy.” Fenris growled, pulling away.

“Hey!” Carver scowled, jabbing his finger into the air. “That’s my sister you’re leering over.”

“Willing to admit I’m your sister?” Hawke gasped playfully, putting a hand to her chest and widening her blue eyes. “You must be exhausted, Carver.”

“How the lot of you are sleeping is beyond me. Can’t stop looking over my shoulder since we made it out of the harbor. Your apostate friend murdered a grand cleric, a whole battalion of templars saw Merrill use blood magic and you killed a Knight Commander. This is a disaster.” Carver made a disgusted noise and ran his hand through his black hair.

“Well to be fair, Junior, the Knight Commander did try to kill her first.” Varric commented, swaggering onto the deck.

“It does sound quite dire, doesn’t it.” Merrill worried.

“Don’t worry, kitten.” Isabela drawled. “Sounds like you have a big, handsome Warden at your feet.”

“Carver is standing and we left Anders standing on the docks. Well, maybe not standing…” Merrill trailed off.

“What?” Hawke’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Fenris ducked his head as everyone fell awkwardly quiet. He could almost hear Hawke replaying the events of those few hours.

“He approached Broody and Daisy.” Varric cut in smoothly. “On the steps, coming towards the docks. Before you ask, as far as I could tell Blondie still had his heart in his chest when they walked away.”

“It was a close thing.” Merrill said earnestly. “But Fenris listened to me.”

“Vehendis, woman!” Fenris snarled. “Shut your mouth or I will shut it for you!”

“Now that I don’t believe.” Varric smirked. “Broody listening to anyone besides Hawke? Perish the thought.”

“The abomination was behind us.” Fenris refused to meet Hawke’s glare. “Varric saw him first. He wanted to die, he wanted me to kill him. I did not, this time.”

“What did he say?” Hawke demanded, out of the corner of his eye Fenris could see her hands curling into fists. There were several heartbeats while she waited for Fenris to answer. He didn’t.

“He said you sided with him despite Fenris.” Merrill answered, finally. “And called him a wild dog.”

Hawke cursed, but Fenris didn’t want to hear this. He pushed from the railing, scowling as he made his way past Hawke’s merry band of misfits. The abomination was in their past, with all the other horrors. Leandra Hawke’s mismatched body, Danarius, Hadriana, the Deep Roads, Varania, Lothering… He was ready to be free from this darkness that hung over them. But Carver, Carver felt like there was a knife pointed between his shoulder blades. Yes, the situation in Kirkwall had been awful. Cullen had let them leave, though. Surely, nobody cared that much what happened in Kirkwall. The abomination had gotten what he wanted, it was over. They could lay low until this all blew over.

Fenris couldn’t stop the thought that rose up, ugly as a demon. Did Anders truly get what he wanted?

Hawke found him in their bunk hours later, glaring a hole in the side of the Siren’s Revenge. She placed her hands on her hips and tipped her head in an inquiring manner. “Were you ever going to tell me?”

“Possibly.” Fenris answered honestly. “Fasta vass, what does it matter?”

“That son of a bitch.” Hawke dropped onto the bunk. “I saved his damn life and what does he do?”

“He wants you.” Hawke frowned and opened her mouth. Fenris shook his head before she could start. “He always has.”

“Well, if he hasn’t gotten the message after eight years I can’t be held responsible for his delusion.” Hawke explained patiently. “He was my friend Fenris. Maybe not...lately. But he was a good man. I know you could never see it.”

“You’re right.” Fenris growled. “I would never say he was a good man.”

“He changed. Maybe…maybe that wasn’t Anders anymore. I couldn’t take his life and have his blood on my hands.”

“He didn’t deserve your mercy or kindness. He won’t receive mine should we meet again. I informed him of that.”

Hawke processed that for a moment, before slumping in defeat. “I suppose that I must live with that.”

 

It was a nearly another week before they spotted the coast of Llomeryn. Hawke had been so excited to see land she had let out a whoop of delight from her place on the rigging, sliding down the ropes carelessly with Merrill. Fenris and Carver had taken to sparring on deck, and they turned to the two women in mid-swing, frozen by their exclamations. Fenris winced as Hawke landed on the deck, scurrying to the railing. Isabela breezed out of her cabin, placing an obnoxiously large hat on her dark waves. She slung her tanned arm over Hawke’s shoulder. Merrill leaned precariously over the railing, causing Carver to curse and drop his sword as he reached out to grab her tunic.

“Will there be more pirates there, Isabela?” Merrill chirped as Fenris put his sword away.

“Oh most definitely, kitten. Some of them may even have parrots and hooks.” Isabela winked before sauntering away, calling orders to the sailors.

“I know you haven’t thought about it Hawke, but it may still be a good idea to not draw attention to yourself. Keep a low profile.” Varric advised as he approached.

“You’ll help me of course, since you’re an expert on lying low.” Hawke smirked. Fenris couldn’t help chuckling. Varric looked wounded.

“And you wonder why Bianca is my only one. She never sinks to jokes about my height.” Varric patted the crossbow affectionately. Hawke burst into laughter.

“She is the silent and deadly type, isn’t she?”

“I know exactly where we should go.” Isabela beamed as she passed them. “Clean beds, hot baths, and I think they even have dwarven serving girls to steal your heart, Varric!”

Hawke released a wistful sigh, meeting Fenris’s eyes. “I would kill for a bath and a real bed.”

 

Upon docking, it was discovered the place Isabela had talked up was in fact, a brothel. This surprised no one except Merrill, who was covering her eyes with her long, scarred fingers. Fenris wasn’t fooled, he’d seen her peek curiously at several men and women in various states of undress. Varric coughed into his hand as he watched a busty dwarf lead a Qunari man through doors on the opposite side of the hall. “I suppose they won’t look for the Champion of Kirkwall in a whorehouse.”

“Usually they just expect to find my brother there.” Hawke mumurred, glaring at a woman whose eyes had lingered too long on Fenris. She had the hood of her cloak pulled up and was wearing a simple blouse and cotton skirt.  

“Ah, here we are.” Isabela approached with a handful of keys. “The mistress owes me a favor, so the baths are on the house. I’m having them bring tubs up to the room.” She passed a key to Hawke, then another to Varric. The last one she gave to Carver.

“Where will I sleep?” Merrill asked innocently.

“With me, kitten! I’ve got entertainment all lined up.” She drawled, letting her gaze linger on the barely clothes form of a man reclining on a couch.

“Oh, that seems…”

“You can stay with me.” Carver jumped in, quickly, glaring at Isabela. “I’ll get them to bring up a cot.”

“Does this look like the type of establishment that supplies cots?” Fenris asked dryly. Isabela’s eyes sparkled with glee.

“Well, I think I’d still rather share with you.” Merrill commented brightly. “Isabela will be up late, and noisy. You will be much more considerate.”

“Oh I bet he will.” Isabela giggled. Hawke made a gagging noise. Carver’s face had begun to flush from the neck up.

“Did I miss something dirty?” Merrill asked.

“On that note…” Varric winked, taking a step back.

“We’re right behind you, dwarf.” Fenris grasped Hawke’s wrist gently with his gauntlets, pulling her away from the sputtering and laughter. Their rooms were directly across from each other, and Hawke burst into theirs gleefully. There was a bed, a real bed. Hawke jumped onto it in a fit of joy. Fenris shook his head, smirking as he shut the door. He appreciated the bed, but the cot on the ship was quite serviceable. Fenris knew better than to complain, there had been far too many times he’d slept on a cold floor in chains. Hawke, glorious Hawke, had never been in chains. She would never be in chains.

“Join me?” Hawke asked, reaching up one smooth, soft hand. Her simple cotton skirt had bunched around her legs. She placed her staff beside the bed, stretching luxuriously. Her back arched off the bed and she made a small noise of pleasure. Fenris was there in a moment, feeling an unbearable heat in his loins. It had been so long since it was just the two of them, alone.

“Always.” Fenris sunk down next to her, quickly unlatching one of his gauntlets and dropping it. His bare fingers traced up her bare arm, pausing at the place where the cloak was tied at her neck to tug it free. Hawke giggled, rising up to cup his cheek and pull his mouth to hers greedily. Her lips were so soft, so unlike all the hard things from his past. She yielded easily to his tongue, shivered lightly in his arms when he nipped her bottom lip. Her eyes were dark with desire. Fenris felt his self control begin to unravel.

The knock at the door startled him enough to ignite his marks briefly. Hawke’s delicate mouth was full of new and inventive curses she’d learned on their trip. “If it’s them tell them to shove it right up their arse, I swear Fenris. I need you.”

Fenris struggled even more to reign in the monster he always became when Hawke was near and begging for his touch. Several deep breaths and another knock was enough to drag him from the bed. He undid his other gauntlet as he walked.

“What?” He growled at the older woman on the other side of the door. She looked him up and down, put one hand on her hip and jutted forward.

“Did ya ask for a bath or wot?” She demanded. Fenris struggled momentarily with her accent.

“Yes, a bath.” He repeated, moving out of the way as the woman rolled in a large tub. She rolled up her shirt sleeves as the steam rose from the water already filling it.

“The captain ordered the bath, but she ain’t say which girly you wanted.” The woman eyed Fenris hungrily. “I’ll take ye if ye haven’t decided which of ‘em can tickle your pickle.”

“That’s...quite unnecessary.” Fenris stumbled awkwardly. Hawke was completely still on the bed, loathe to betray her presence. Probably enjoying the show, Fenris thought wryly. “I shall endeavor to go downstairs, later. After the, er, bath.” He gestured uselessly to the tub.

“Have it yer way.” The older woman shrugged with a saucy wink, making her way out of the room.

Fenris slammed the door shut and locked it. Hawke finally moved, her eyes sparkling with humor. “You could have made your presence known.” He swore as he began to undo the straps for his breastplate.

“But then I would have missed your delightful reaction.” Hawke was smirking now, off the bed and investigating the tub. “Do you think we’ll both fit?”

“I believe there have probably been many times where two people have fit in that tub.”

Hawke’s nose wrinkled. “I hope the clean it.”

Fenris chuckled, stripping off his leathers now. Hawke pulled the blouse over her head. His eyes roamed her skin greedily, drinking in her creamy Ferelden complexion. The skirt pooled on the floor, leaving her in smallclothes only. They joined the pile quickly enough and she stretched, smirking over her shoulder. Fenris was rapt as she reached her hands up to undo the long braid.

“Stop.” He commanded, voice hoarse. Hawke’s hand froze and she smiled widely. “Let me do that.”

She shrugged her small shoulders, eyes sparkling as Fenris approached. He gathered the braid up in his hands, twisting it around his fingers. It was tied with a red ribbon, a match for the one he wore tied around his gauntlet. He’d taken that from her bed stand after their first night. He’d been unable to stay, but he’d been unable to leave without a reminder that what had happened was real and not a fantasy.

“You’re a tease, Reyna.” Fenris leaned in to kiss the lobe of her ear again.

“You love it.” She answered, breathless. Fenris gave a sharp yank on the braid wrapped around his fist. Hawke’s head drew back, taut and helpless. He could see her pulse thrumming under the soft, supple skin. She whimpered and Fenris fought the urge to bend her over the tub and take her then.

“I can tease too.” He threatened, undoing the red ribbon and slowly running his hands through her braid, loosening the strands. He dropped his lips to her shoulder, leaving a gentle kiss on her skin. He could feel her skin flushing, warmth cascading off of her.

“Bath first, please?” She asked, breathless.

“Of course, amata.” Fenris took a step back, offering an arm to steady Hawke as she climbed into the steaming water. She let out a small hiss as she sunk slowly beneath the surface, disappearing completely with just a trail of bubbles.

Fenris took the opportunity to unlace his trousers, pulling them off smoothly. Hawke broke the surface of the water with a splash and pushed her soaking hair from her face. “This tub is magnificent. I wish I’d have had one this large at the estate. We could have filled it with wine.”

Fenris was offended by the thought of that much wine going to waste. He scoffed and she laughed. He climbed easily into the tub, loving the way the warm water lapped soothingly at his marks. Hawke had spread her legs, so Fenris was able to stretch out in the center, his feet caressing her inner thighs.

She leaned back, tipping her head over the side of the tub, fingers drifting idly over the water. There was a tray of oils, washcloths, and soaps attached cleverly to the tub. Fenris picked up one of the small bottles, taking great pleasure in reading the label. He put it back and picked up the next one, labeled orange blossoms. He uncorked it and sniffed suspiciously. It smelt delightful, citrus and floral all at once. He tipped a few drops into the water and swirled it in.

“That’s heavenly.” Hawke took a deep breath, eyes closing. “What was it?”

“Orange blossom. I believe there were orange trees in Minrathous. I don’t remember them smelling like this, however.” He picked up one of the small soap cakes, shaped like a seashell. It did not smell as nice, he wrinkled his nose and tossed it unceremoniously onto the floor. The next one was shaped like a star. It smelled like almonds and vanilla, much better. He used it to lather up one of the cloths then began vigorously scrubbing his arms, careful not to apply too much pressure to the lyrium lines.

“All we need is a duck.” Hawke hummed happily. Fenris paused, confused.

“I assume you do not mean a live duck.” He clarified.

“Maker, no!” She laughed, sinking further into the water. “A toy duck. Father used to whittle little toys for us. One of the most clever was a duck that floated in our baths. Bethany named him Puddles.”

Fenris wondered if he had a favorite toy as a child, a small cheap thing he had named and taken everywhere as children were likely to do. He tried, not for the first time, to rattle the empty corners of his mind hoping for something to fall out.

“What would you name a toy duck?” Hawke asked, picking up a cloth of her own and another bar of soap.

“I...I don’t know.” Fenris admitted. He felt momentarily ashamed of his lack of experience, how could a broken creature like him have ever named children’s toys?

“I’d have named it Quakers.” Hawke ran the cloth down her chest, over her perfect breasts.

“I shall endeavor to think of something equally clever.” Fenris promised.

The only sound for a few moments was water sloshing as they cleaned up, but when Fenris moved up to his hair, Hawke stopped him with a touch, leaning forward. “May I?”

“Wash my hair?” Fenris questioned cautiously. She was biting her lip again, nodding almost shyly.

“It’s degrading.” Fenris spat the words out immediately. Hawke didn’t flinch.

“To me or you?” She asked softly.

“You. You’re not a slave, I’m not going to demand you wash my hair.”

“You didn’t demand.” She was soft and gentle now, her hands on the edge of the tub, close but not touching him anymore than she had to in the narrow tub. “I offered. I want to. I love your hair, I love you. Can I show you?”

Fenris took a deep breath and eyed Hawke warily. “You want to?”

Hawke nodded and Fenris tried to relax his shoulders. He gritted his teeth and nodded, just once. This was how Hawke was, always pushing boundaries he didn’t know he had. She would be gentle, she would be patient. She gently took the soap from his hand and smiled triumphantly.

“Can you get your hair wet, please?” She asked sweetly, working the soap into a lather between her fingers. She was kneeling over him now, Fenris was able to slink beneath the water and come back up, water dripping into his eyes.

Hawke leaned close, hesitating for a moment with her lips a hair's breadth from his. She was giving him time to pull away, but he leaned in, meeting her sweet lips. He closed his eyes as she moved away, gripping the edge of the tub tightly with both hands.

“I’m going to start now, okay?” She asked. Fenris nodded. How ridiculous, he thought to himself. He was acting like she was going to torture him. If he was less broken, more a man than a wild animal, this would be nothing. Her touch was light, but sure. This wasn’t the first time she had washed someone’s hair. Had she done this for Bethany or Carver when they were small? Her fingers rubbed in small circles, creating a rich lather. It actually… felt nice.

Fenris opened his eyes hesitantly and was greeted with a marvelous sight, Hawke’s breasts were right in front of his eyes. They were the perfect size to fit in his hands, and her nipples so sensitive that they were already pebbled and hard. Water ran in rivulets down the valley between her breasts, over the slight curve of her stomach, back into the water covering her waist. If he got to enjoy this view, having his hair washed was something he could get used to very quickly. He leaned forward to let his tongue catch a drop of water. Hawke jumped in surprise. “Maker’s arsehole, Fenris!”

He didn’t feel particularly guilty for startling her, but he tried his best to look contrite. He lifted his hands from the rim of the tub and gripped her waist. “Is there anything I can do help?” He asked as he used his tongue to flick one hard nipple. His erection was back with a vengeance, pressing into Hawke’s thigh.

“Let me finish!” She squeaked. There was certainly something satisfying about making Hawke fumble with the soap and squeak. He moved to the other nipple to do it again. She swore and Fenris let one hand creep up to grasp the other breast.

“Yes, we’re done.” Hawke declared, throwing the soap into the water. “Rinse it out, and take me to bed.” She demanded with a pout.

“For you, anything.” Fenris growled. He ducked beneath the water as quickly as he could, shaking out his hair as he surfaced, standing and pulling Hawke up with him. She giggled as he scooped her up into his arms, stepping out of the tub and tossing her gently onto the bed. He was on top of her in a moment, her flushed and wet body sliding against his.

“Tell me what you want, Reyna.” He commanded, holding himself above her with one arm as his other skimmed her side lightly. Her fingers tangled in his wet hair and she arched her hips toward his.

“You know what I want.” She purred, rolling her hips. Fenris grabbed her wrist, then the other and pinned her to the bed.

“Say it.” He commanded. Hawke’s lips pressed into a thin line and Fenris couldn’t help but grin. He loved when she was difficult, loved when she made him torment her. His hand dipped down between her thighs, tracing around her scalding hot center. She wriggled under him, breath coming in gasps. He paused, looking down at her and raising one eyebrow, nudging her legs apart with his knee. She stubbornly remained silent. He traced one finger down her inviting slit, feeling her shudder under him.

He took one nipple in his mouth as he slid a finger into Hawke. She moaned, loudly. “Damnit, Fenris.” She swore.

He ignored her, letting his tongue tease her hard nipple while his finger slowly pumped in and out. “Kaffas, Reyna.” He growled as he pulled back. “You’re soaked.”

Hawke blushed, the perfect peach color on her pale skin. He bent back down, using his teeth to nip at the perfect bud. Her sheath tightened on his finger. He laughed darkly, pulling his finger from her and working his way to the small bundle of nerves. His first touch made her stiffen. The second made her squeak again.

He alternated his tongue and teeth on her nipples, moving from one to the other. He circled her clit slowly, brushing against it gently. Then he would speed up, only to pull back when she began to moan and squirm. She was panting now, flushed and wanting and so needy. He began moving his fingers quickly again, letting go of her breast to lean back and watch her as she writhed. He plunged two fingers into her wetness.

“Yes! Fenris!” She called out, back arching off the bed. He pushed her mercilessly, until she was right there. Her eyes were shut, bottom lip in her teeth again, legs spread lewdly… then he pulled away again just before she could explode. She made a sound that was almost a sob of desperation.

“Fenris please!” She yelled. “Maker, I need you Fenris!”

“What do you want, Reyna?” He asked, one last time, slowly circling her clit with his thumb.

“You!” She moaned. “I need your cock. Please Fenris!”

If he hadn’t been stuck on a ship in close quarters with no privacy for over a week, he would have made her beg longer. But he needed her as badly as she needed him. He let go of her wrists and pulled her legs up over his shoulders, guiding his hard manhood into her sopping wet center. She clutched at the sheets, mewling as he stretched her.

“Like this?” He asked, sinking into her.

“Fenris! Maker!” She moaned incoherently. Words left Fenris as well as her muscles clamped down on him. He rubbed her clit as he began to slide in and out of her. Her name was falling from his lips like the Chant, along with every endearment in Tevene he could think of. She was calling for him, his name constant as well as oaths and pleas to the Maker. She tensed suddenly, letting out a primal sound that he stole with a kiss, leaning over her and swallowing her moans as she climaxed and his thrusts became uneven, the rhythm off, before he followed her and he just remembered to roll over before he collapsed on top of her. They lay, side by side, breathing ragged.

“ENCORE!” He heard Isabela cheer loudly from outside the room. Applause started and Hawke groaned. Fenris, for his part, wasn’t shamed.

Chapter Text

Varric had seen his share of awful and weird since meeting Hawke. First, there was the disastrous Deep Roads expedition. Bartrand’s betrayal had caused Hawke to spiral into a frenzy of anger. She’d shot three fireballs at the heavy Dwarven door before Fenris had grabbed her arms and yelled that she was insane and going to set them all on fire. Anders had then threatened Fenris for daring to touch Hawke, Fenris had threatened to rip Ander’s heart out, and it was left to Hawke and Varric to figure out a plan. He had briefly wished only Hawke and Carver had accompanied the expedition, until Carver started coughing and Anders came to the rescue, much to Fenris’s displeasure.
He’d had to help pick Hawke up off the ground as she begged Anders to save the thing that had been Leandra Hawke. He’d never heard a shriek of grief like that before and he never wanted to again.
Then, the Qunari attacked because Isabela had never learned to respect basic property rights. That ended with a duel to the death in front of a headless Viscount and all the nobility in Kirkwall. He had been sure the whole story was over the moment the blade sank through Hawke’s abdomen. Maker, the bastard had lifted the sword up with Hawke on it. He’d felt frozen with fear and it was entirely Daisy and Aveline that had restrained Blondie and Broody from flinging themselves in after Hawke. Anders had given Daisy a bloody nose for her trouble. Apparently, the Arishok had never learned that a mage’s staff wasn’t necessarily needed to perform magic, and Hawke’s flaming palm to his face had been enough for him to drop the sword and for Hawke to slide off. The little woman had picked up the Arishok’s huge sword and slayed him with it, plunging it into his throat as he promised to return. It had been glorious, even though he always left off the part where Hawke fainted dead away as soon as the Knight Commander declared her Champion.
There was an Orlesian party turned assassination attempt with an elf turned Qunari. A magister in the Hanged Man (that had been exactly the last place he’d ever expected that to happen), a high dragon in the Bone Pit (slightly more expected, and he’d told Hawke the mine was a terrible idea), and a haunted mansion where he’d killed his brother.
Hawke unsealed a darkspawn that talked and claimed to have started the blights, then they killed him. Shit, he still wasn’t entirely sure himself that one had really happened. Maybe that should be the title of his book - shit you can’t believe by Varric Tethras. He’d always managed to write all about it to Bianca. She still claimed to love his stories, even though she was convinced they were half fairy tales. Bianca used to say you couldn’t bullshit another compulsive liar. Maker’s tits, he missed her.
This time, he was having a harder time beginning. He’d been turning the words over in his head for days, anticipating a quiet moment to sit and write to her. Remember Blondie? Well funny story…
She’d hear about it soon, if she hadn’t already, and she’d be worried. He needed to get this done. He could at least end with the happy news that she didn’t need to worry, everyone was still alive including Blondie. He couldn’t decide if that made it better or worse. He tapped the edge of the quill against the paper, thinking. He was startled by a loud moan, close. Andraste’s arse, was a whore plying her trade right outside his door? Leave it to Isabela to…
“Damnit, Fenris!” He heard Hawke dissolving into a torrent of profanities. Ah, well, this was supremely awkward. Maybe they’d quiet down, he thought wistfully. He wasn’t sure if they were usually loud or not, but Fenris was the strong silent type…
There was another loud, breathy moan and a giggle. Fenris may be, Varric thought, but Hawke most definitely wasn’t. He couldn’t sit here and listen to this, as good as the material may be if he ever decided to finish his romance serial. That was Hawke, and she was like the little sister he’d never particularly wanted. His letter to Bianca would have to wait. He grabbed his coat and crossbow and opened the door. Down the hall, he could just catch a glimpse of Carver ushering Daisy around the corner.
“Are you certain we shouldn’t check on them? I’ve never heard Hawke sound like that.” Daisy asked, concern coloring her voice. Varric couldn’t help but laugh.
“Damn! Is that them?” Isabela poked her head from another door, looking as delighted as he’d ever seen her.
“So it seems.” He could hear Hawke beginning to chant Fenris’s name and he was feeling very uncomfortable. “You coming, Rivaini?”
“And miss this?” She asked incredulously as Fenris finally let out a moan to match Hawke’s. “That’s my girl.” There was a hint of unmistake pride in Isabela’s voice.
Varric shook his head and moved quickly down the hallway, catching up to Carver and Daisy as they made their way to the brother’s front door. “Room for a third?”
Carver’s face was as red as a tomato and he was hiding his eyes behind his hand. Merrill had looped her arm through his elbow and smiled brilliantly at Varric. “Varric! Of course you can tag along. Did you take a bath? I did, but Carver didn’t get a chance. He said he needed some air first.”
“And where was Junior while you were bathing, Daisy?” Varric asked slyly.
“Maker, stop.” Carver begged.
“The woman who brought the tub said it was big enough for two, but Carver said his legs were too long.” Merrill continued blithely. “He sat on the bed with his eyes closed, he said he had a headache. I think that’s why we needed to come outside.”
“You know, Junior, Daisy makes a great headache remedy. Tastes like shit, but does the trick.”
“Oh, yes!” Merrill exclaimed. “I’m sure I can find the herbs here! I’ll make it for you tonight.”
“Thank you, Varric. You’re so thoughtful.” Carver spoke forcefully through gritted teeth. Varric smirked.
“Oh, you know me. I’m a giver.”
“Varric is very generous!” Merrill tipped her head to look up at Carver. “I used to go to the gardens in Hightown and pick flowers, and I suppose I made some people angry. Varric paid them all for their flowers though, so I could go in whenever I wanted and pick whatever I wanted. Then Hawke let me plant the seeds in her garden.” Merrill reached up and tucked a braid behind her ear. “But all that hard work is gone now, isn’t it?”
“I’m sorry, Merrill.” Carver placed his hand on her in the crook of his elbow. “Maybe...someday we’ll find you a garden of your own.”
“Oh! That would be lovely, wouldn’t it?”
“Anything for you, Daisy.” Varric winked. “Let’s go see if we can find those herbs and some news from Kirkwall.”
The market was easy enough to find, and on such a pretty afternoon it was packed. “Keep your coin purses close.” Varric warned as they pushed through the crowd. He could smell roasting meat and spices. His stomach grumbled.
“Oooo, look!” Merrill pointed, tugging Carver along in her wake. Varric shook his head as he made a right turn, following his nose. There was a babble of different languages and laughter. He found himself in front of a tavern that felt so familiar, his throat grew tight. All it needed was a swinging sign featuring an upside down man.
Varric entered jauntily, a little whistle on his lip. A beautiful dark skinned girl with dark bouncing curls smiled brightly at him and gave a signal that she’d be right over as he settled at a small table near the window. He pulled out his journal and his traveling pens from his coat pocket.
“What can I get for you Ser?” The girl was beside him now, white teeth flashing in a grin. Well, there was an improvement from surly Nora.
“I’ll take whatever smells so delicious and a mug of the best dwarven ale you have on stock.” Varric dug into his purse and pulled out three silvers. “Will this do?”
“That’s mama’s stew.” The girl scooped the coins up as quick as Isabela was prone to. “I’ll bring you a bowl and bread, and that fine ale.” She giggled, dancing away quick as a songbird.
Varric chided himself for getting soft and spending too much coin on a simple meal because a pretty girl gave him a smile. Hawke had teased him often that Varric never could resist a pretty face, although he always had to ignore the long legs of humans to appreciate any of their pretty faces. Varric often responded that was why he’d pulled her and her tit of a brother out of the gutter.
He looked at the simple, neat lines he’d been scribbling away at for weeks. This was the first draft of...something. He hadn’t meant to start writing a book when he’d scribbled down what happened at the Gallows. He had meant to write it down because no one was going to believe him. He hated to face it, but there was a fear that there was potentially more danger to Hawke and their merry band now than there ever had been before.
Now, he thought there was a book there. He’d started to lay out the plot, the characters. He didn’t have a title, mostly because he was shit at titles, but maybe Isabela could come up with something. That would require admitting he was writing Hawke’s biography and that wasn’t something he particularly wanted to do at the moment.
The stew was served with a saucy wink and a show of cleavage. Varric let it cool as he sipped his ale, sighing in contentment. Maker, it was grand to get off that damn boat.
“Have you heard about that Marcher business?” Varric heard a man ask another. He sat his ale down and made a great show of reading the lines scribbled in his journal.
“Heard a madman massacred an entire chantry full of faithful Andrastians, then let the whole damn city burn around his ears.”
“Come off it.” The other man said. “One man couldn’t do all that.”
“The say he was possessed by a rage demon. Y’know, they’re made of fire.”
“I heard it was the Champion of Kirkwall.” Varric felt his blood turn to ice. “A merchant on the docks said she helped him slaughter all the templars in Kirkwall and she turned all the mages into abominations. She’s a mage too, y’know.”
“Maker’s balls. Turned on by their own Champion? Serves those Marchers right.” The man guffawed, clinking glasses with the other. “Beaten by a woman. Only a Marcher.”
“Mum says she’s no ordinary woman.” The pretty serving girl joined in, gathering up pint glasses at an empty table. “She defeated the biggest and baddest of those Qunari! She must be eight feet tall! And Mum says she got her name because she used to climb up trees and pull hawks right out of their nests to eat their eggs.”
Varric couldn’t help the smile on his lips. He was going to have to remember that rather inventive lie for one of his stories. It would make Hawke laugh until she snorted for air and begged him to stop.
“What’s so special about hawks’ eggs for all the trouble?” One of the men asked.
The girl smiled slyly. “Why they’re aphrodisiacs, of course.”
Oh, Varric was definitely writing this down.

Varric spent the afternoon listening to the gossip around his ears and editing his draft while enjoying the delicious stew and ale. Occasionally, he would catch a glimpse of Merrill and Carver. Merrill could spend all day wandering a market, he knew that from experience and the twine crisscrossed around the Lowtown Bazaar when she’d first arrived. They looked like they were having a ball, and far be it for Varric to interfere in Isabela’s matchmaking scheme.
Some of the gossip was concerning, such as the rumor that the templars had conscripted half the young men in the city for recruits. Others were more ludicrous, that the Knight Commander had turned into a dragon for example. The most important thing, it seemed, was nobody had launched a search yet for anyone. Maker, Blondie had better take advantage of the delay.
Maker, Blondie had better be thanking his lucky stars every day his heart was still in his chest. What had he been thinking, cornering Fenris on those steps? Varric had been convinced that he was about to see one of his friends kill the other. He’d only prayed helplessly that Hawke didn’t look behind her and see what was about to happen.
Fenris had let him go, though. The same man that had to be persuaded not to murder his sister, no matter how much she deserved it, had let the man who nearly got them all killed go. The fact that the man was Anders had to have made it even harder to walk away, because Anders had always wanted Hawke’s heart. Unfortunately for Blondie, that heart had always belonged to someone else. Varric couldn’t be that upset on Blondie’s behalf. Fenris had fucked up a fair few times, but Fenris loved Hawke the way she deserved, the way Anders with his causes never could.
Varric had spent the prior night making amends to Corff and Nora and paying random loiterers to clean the blood off the floors in the Hanged Man. Varric had finally thought he’d made amends and spread enough coin to make everyone forget a dead magister, several dead slavers, half a dozen busted chairs, and scorch marks that were never coming out of the floor boards.
Thought being the key word. He was still enjoying his lunch when he heard Nora going off her head downstairs.
“Always something with you lot! If it isn’t the Dalish elf picking my herbs or the Rivaini whore…”
“I live here!”
“Knifing her lovers, then it’s…”
Varric was already at his door, peering down the steps. Who in the Maker’s name was stupid enough to return to the Hanged Man so soon after their latest escapade? He was betting it was Hawke, but as he ambled down the stairs he was surprised to see Fenris, looking surprisingly chastened.
“Damn slavers and Tevinters throwing fireballs and summoning demons, because that’s exactly what this place needs!” Nora screeched.
“I apologize.” Fenris muttered, looking at the scorch mark on the floor. “I had...hoped to assist with the clean up.”
“I already handled it, Broody. You can reimburse me costs later.” Varric was already counting out silvers. He handed a bunch to Nora. “Go get yourself something to drink, I’ll handle this one.” He jerked his head toward Fenris.
Nora glowered for another moment before snatching the coins out of Varric’s hand and stomping off. Varric looked up at Fenris. “Andraste’s tits, Broody! You don’t have any other way to celebrate today other than causing a scene?”
“To be honest, I find myself unsure what to do.” He answered with a grim shrug.
“I can give you some ideas.” Isabela suggested wickedly from her seat at the bar. “Hawke has been waiting long enough for you to…”
“Enough.” Fenris cut in with an edge of desperation. Varric took pity on the elf.
“I’d be honored to be the first dwarf to take all your coin as a non-fugitive. Let’s have a game of diamondback.”
Fenris followed Varric upstairs, settling in his usual spot. Harris dug out the cards and handed them to the elf to shuffle as he poured out two measures of his good Starkhaven whiskey. He handed one glass to Fenris and held his up in a silent toast.
“To freedom.” Fenris offered, sipping his whiskey after clicking the glass to Varric’s. He then dealt the cards out with a unique and determined focus only Fenris was capable of. Varric immediately discarded, shaking his head with a sigh.
“Really no plans, Broody? I thought you'd been planning this for awhile.”
“I have not often thought of what happens next.” He admitted. “There is… someone I must speak to soon. I should have done so before.”
Varric snorted, fanning out his cards and giving Fenris a look that said the evasiveness wasn't working at all. He allowed his eyes to point to the red ribbon tied around Fenris’s gauntlet. “Better late than never, I suppose.”
Fenris dropped his eyes, shifting his cards. That usually was a tell that Fenris had a shut hand, but it could have been the conversation. Fenris discarded in silence as Varric patiently waited. He didn't have to wait long. “Hawke is… everything. Varric, how do I…?” Fenris trailed off.
“Broody, I recommend starting just like that. Begging forgiveness may also be warranted.” Varric smirked. “Luckily, she's as mad for you as she was three years ago.”
“I have nothing to offer, still. I’m little better off than I was then.” Fenris glowered at the table. “She would be mad to accept…”
There was a commotion at the door as Hawke appeared, carrying a large basket. “Varric! Fenris!” She chirped. “Orana made peace offerings for everyone here, those delicious little pastries with the...oh, are you leaving?”
Fenris had stood, his hand on the back of his chair. “No.” He said after a moment. “No, do you need me to take that?” A small smile tugged at his lips as he held his hands out for the large basket and Varric reclined back in his chair. They’d be alright, he thought. And if Fenris messed up again, well, Bianca had already stayed her hand once.
Varric stepped out of the tavern, raising his hand to signal to Carver and Merrill across the emptying square. “Are you lovebirds ready to head back?”
“We’re not lovebirds!” Carver protested.
“No, lovebirds are much smaller and brightly colored.” Merrill added. Varric couldn’t help grinning. “I got the herbs we needed, and some other things! Do you think Fenris will like a scarf? I got yarn, I need to thank him for making sure I was okay in the alienage.”
“I’m sure he’ll love it, Daisy.” And Varric was sure Hawke would force him to wear it at least once, which Varric needed to see. “Hear any news?”
“Nothing reliable.” Carver huffed, steering Daisy clear of a suspicious puddle. “I’m sure my sister will want to hear it anyway.”
“If we can drag her out of bed.” Varric added wickedly.
“Oh no, you don’t think she’s unwell from the boat do you?” Merrill inquired. “I was ill for weeks when we came from Ferelden, but the trip was much better this time I thought.”
“I’m sure Fenris is taking good care of her.” Varric grinned as Carver made a gagging sound.

As it turns out, Fenris was outside the brothel when they arrived. He glared, crossing his arms over his chest as they approached. “Hawke was concerned, I’ve been trying to prevent her from taking off after you for near an hour now.”
“Sorry.” Carver grumbled. “Didn’t know how long you two would keep going like rabbits for.”
Fenris’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly and a faint red began to creep up his neck.
“Oh! She isn’t very worried, is she?” Merrill fretted. “Is she upstairs?”
“There is a private room in the back of the tavern, we have commandeered it for supper.” Fenris directed with an incline of his head. Merrill ducked past Fenris and Carver elbowed his way in after her, leaving Varric and Fenris.
“Did you hear any news?” Fenris asked.
“Andraste’s arse, there’s news everywhere and none of it is worth a copper.” Varric admitted. “I heard that the Maker exploded the chantry, that the mages are slaughtering babes in the street, that Meredith was murdered by darkspawn, that the whole thing began because the templars made the Champion tranquil…” Fenris stiffened and clutched his gauntlets into a fist. “Things we all know aren’t true, Broody. Nobody seems to have a clue what in the Maker’s name is happening in Kirkwall.”
“No one is searching for her?” Fenris scanned the crowd passing by warily.
“Not yet at least. Maybe not ever.” Varric finished hopefully.
“We are never that lucky, dwarf.” Fenris sighed. Varric had to admit, Broody had a point.

Hawke was holding court much the same as she always had, her legs stretched out before her and resting on the edge of the table. Isabela was patiently explaining a dirty joke to Merrill and Carver was rolling his eyes as he whittled away at a block of wood with his penknife. When Fenris and Varric entered, Hawke’s eyes went immediately to the door. Her shoulders relaxed by a degree and she smiled warmly. “I thought you’d both abandoned me.”
“You wound me!” Varric cried, placing his hand over his heart. “I may drink too much…”
“And lie.” Fenris supplied helpfully as he placed his sword by the door.
“But I’d never abandon as fair a lady as yourself. Particularly one that can light me on fire with a twitch of an eyebrow.” Varric finished. Hawke laughed and Fenris’s eyes flicked helplessly to the source of the sound, his small smile back.
“Well, Ser Dwarf.” She replied mockingly. “Will I be able to leave this brothel tomorrow, or should I sign up to work?”
Carver swore and nearly cut his finger open. Fenris rolled his green eyes. “At least I know you’d be suitable to this line of employment after what I heard this afternoon…” Varric wiggled his eyebrows.
Hawke groaned, tilting her head back over her chair. “See sweetness!” Isabela crowed. “I told you would could make a fair bit of coin if we allowed you to provide some lessons to the girls…”
Fenris settled in the chair next to Hawke. “No.” He said simply.
“Anyway…” Carver cut in before Isabela could continue to be inappropriate.
“It seems that nobody has any idea what is happening in Kirkwall.” Varric lowered his voice, coming close to the table. “It also seems no one is looking for us, yet. I think we’re safe enough here for now.”
“Do you think we can return?” Hawke asked hopefully. Varric shook his head immediately.
“No. I think we should stay here, for the time being. I can have one of my...many cousins from the Merchant’s Guild...” Varric smiled. “Rent a home in the city. We can blend in, and we’ll be close enough to hear news from Kirkwall as soon as anyone.”
Hawke nodded, considering. She chewed on her bottom lip and stared into the fire. “I think it’s a fine idea.” Isabela added. “I’ll need to run some short jobs for the crew and coin, but I’ll be able to keep Llomeryn as our home port and stay near. I’ll never be more than a day or two away, and in port often between.”
“The market is lovely, Hawke!” Merrill beamed. “And Varric’s cousin can get us a house with a garden. No one here even called me a knife-ear today!”
Varric didn’t say anything, but he was pretty sure that was the influence of the imposing Grey Warden who had been over Merrill’s shoulder all day. “I’ll need to go back to the Free Marches, sister. Back to the Wardens.” Carver’s eyes burned as he stared into the fire as well. “But at the first sign of danger to you or yours, I’ll be able to be here in a week.”
“Fenris?” Hawke asked, her eyes slipping to him.
“I will remain by your side.” He answered simply, green eyes meeting her blue ones. Varric’s fingers itched to grab his quill and write this down. “As always.”
Hawke smiled, shrugging her small shoulders. “Well, tomorrow I want to explore our new home. Merrill can show me the market. And hopefully we can find somewhere that isn’t a brothel to sleep.”
“It will be my first job.” Varric bowed playfully.
“Well, I may stay here.” Isabela pouted. “They know how to have fun.”
“Rivaini, if we stay here we may find out where you learned all your tricks.” Varric comforted, settling himself.
“Hardly likely.” Isabela grinned. “You’d have to do a tour of all the brothels in Thedas to learn that.”
“How many brothels are in Thedas?” Merrill asked. Isabela began to launch into a descriptive verbal tour of her favorites. Hawke leaned close to Varric and whispered into his ear. “Any word of Anders?”
Varric leaned back, not allowing his expression to falter. Hawke had chosen her moment well, all eyes were on Isabela as she mimed a particularly large breasted woman. Varric knew Broody wouldn’t like this question, though, and he was in no mood to spoil the night. He shook his head and Hawke sighed, whether in relief or exasperation Varric couldn’t tell.

Chapter Text

Reyna was sitting in front of the fire at the Amell estate. Her long black hair hung loose, cascading down her back like silk. Fenris felt his heart lift as he saw her, something uncoiling in his stomach.
“Where have you been?” He asked as he approached. “Fasta vass, I’ve looked everywhere…”
“The Knight Commander commanded my presence in the Gallows.” She said, politely. “I am sorry my absence troubled you.”
Something gripped Fenris’s heart like ice. He now saw Anders melt out of the shadows in the corner, blue sparks crackling in his skin in a way that made the lyrium engraved in Fenris’s skin burn. “We told you what would happen.” Justice’s voice boomed.
“Reyna.” Fenris called helplessly.
The thing that used to be Hawke looked up, a polite smile fixed on Hawke’s face that didn’t reach her blank eyes. Those eyes had used to glimmer and spark with amusement and wit. “Can I assist you?” It asked with Hawke’s mouth. An angry red sunburst was branded onto her pale forehead.
“What have they done to you?” He fell to his knees in anguish.
“Have I caused you pain?” Not Hawke asked, standing. She reached for the sash on her robe. “You used to enjoy taking pleasure with my body. Would you like to do so again?”
Fenris screamed.

He did not wake up screaming. That was thanks to years of practice as a slave. He did wake up clutching at the sheets, his heart hammering. Fenris opened his eyes and stared at the canopy above him, taking deep ragged breaths. When he reached next to him, the space was empty and cold but the whole room still smelled of citrus and vanilla, like Hawke. He shoved himself up, looking around. “Reyna.” He croaked. There was no answer, so he got up from the bed. He swayed for a moment, before reach for a pair of loose cotton breeches and tugging them up over his hips.
Varric had been good on his word, finding them a townhouse not far from the market. It was, as Hawke said upon first seeing it, a “fixer-upper”, but they’d spent three months cleaning and decorating. It almost felt as if they’d lived there for years. There was a chilly breeze coming from the window, cooling the water in the basin considerably. Fenris splashed some on his face then closed and latched the window.
He shrugged on a tunic, emerging from the room he shared with Hawke. It led out onto a gallery that overlooked the great hall. He could see Varric standing below him, a stack of letters in his hand and Hawke beside him. She was in another simple cotton skirt, her hair coiled and piled on her head. A bodice cinched in her waist and emphasized her perfect breasts. There was a brush of white on her face and her skirt. Was it flour? Hawke was holding a small package and two letters in her hand.
“Still nothing from Bianca?” Hawke asked softly. Fenris doubted he would have heard at all if his ears weren’t so sensitive. She laid a hand gently on Varric’s arm.
“Nothing.” Varric said, shaking his head. “Well, it was good while it lasted, right?” He tried to grin and Fenris could see how much it cost him.
“I can’t say I’ll miss foiling the occasional assassination attempts.” Hawke joked weakly. “Are you certain she’s gotten your letters? Maybe something has happened..”
“A contact says she has and that she is fine.” Varric shrugged. “It was selfish to attempt to make her life more complicated. It was bad enough having an affair with a sort-of criminal. I think I actually am now.”
“Varric, I’m sorry.” Varric looked up at her, sadly smiling.
“Don’t worry about it, Hawke. You’re worth it, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I just need some air.” He sighed, dropping his head and shaking it. He handed her the stack of letters and made his way outside. Fenris waited until the thick door banged shut before making his way down the stairs.
Hawke’s eyes flicked up. “Happy First Day, Fenris.” She smiled brightly, tossing the letters and package onto the table in the hall. She reached for him and he obliged easily, pulling her close. “I suppose you heard all of that.”
“I heard nothing I will mention later.” Fenris promised. “It is not your fault, she is a fool to throw him away just because his fortunes may have changed.” It felt better to have Hawke in his arms, breathing and so very alive. He reached one hand up to brush her hair off her forehead, rejoicing in the unblemished skin. He dropped a small kiss there, then pulled back with an accusing glare. “You weren’t in bed.”
“Well, you can’t keep me there all the time.” Hawke wrinkled her nose. “Especially on a holiday.”
“I forgot it was First Day.” Fenris admitted. “Is that why you are covered in...whatever this is?”
“Flour.” Hawke laughed as Fenris ran his thumb over the smudge on her cheek. “I left Merrill unsupervised in the kitchen.”
“You should probably accept that whatever you were creating is now a lost cause.”
“It was probably a lost cause before we started, I seem to have forgotten all of Orana’s lessons.” Hawke retorted.
Fenris dropped his forehead to Hawke’s, leaning against her. She stilled, allowing her hands to tangle in his shirt. “Are you alright?” She asked.
“I am well.” He answered. He didn’t want to put the nightmares that had been plaguing him into words, there was a fear that it would cause them to be real. How many had there been in the last month? At least twice a week, all involving Hawke.
“Hawke!” Merrill yelled from the kitchen, he felt Hawke sigh.
“Save me?” She asked sweetly. Fenris chuckled.
“Perhaps later.”

There was a letter for him, which pleased him immeasurably. It was from Donnic, short and almost as dry as a guardsman’s report but the thought counted very much. The rest of the letters were to Hawke and Varric, with one letter and the package for Merrill. Fenris was fairly certain that he recognized Carver’s scrawl, so different from Hawke’s neat print. Fenris then worked his way to the kitchen, which was almost unrecognizable it was such a mess. There was flour everywhere and in the middle, Hawke and Merrill laughing. Despite the disaster, something smelled delicious.
“They won’t be pretty, but they will be edible.” Hawke pronounced, throwing the dish towel on the counter.
“And will the kitchen recover?” Fenris couldn’t believe it, how in the Maker’s name had they gotten flour on the ceiling.
“It may be a loss.” Hawke was trying to keep a straight face, but was struggling.
“Have you informed Merrill of her package?” Fenris asked.
“No!” Merrill exclaimed. “Who sent me a package?”
“My brother, I suppose.” Hawke mumbled.
Merrill made a sharp noise of excitement and clambered past Fenris. Fenris turned to watch her go, only to feel a soft impact on the side of his face as Merrill raced down the hall. Hawke dissolved into giggles as he reached up, brushing white powder off his face. “I now see how the kitchen was destroyed.”
“I think it’s an improvement.” Hawke responded wickedly, scooping up more flour. She tossed it again, but Fenris was prepared this time. He dodged most of the flour, scooping up his own handful and tossing it. Hawke herself missed most of it, twisting out of the way just at the last second. Fenris crossed the kitchen rapidly, pinning her hands down at her side. Hawke was breathless with laughter. “You should see your face!” Hawke was gleeful, eyes dancing in merriment.
This was Hawke, the real Hawke. He pushed her back against the counter, seeking her mouth with his. Her lips were soft, parting under his. He nipped her bottom lip with his teeth and she gasped. “You’re as wanton as a demon.” He growled.
“You’re the one pinning me to the counter.” Hawke countered. Fenris let go of her arms and wrapped his arms around her waist instead, pulling her closer. His throbbing erection brushed across her stomach as he swore and sought her lips again.
“The door.” Hawke almost moaned, uselessly gesturing to it as she wrapped her legs around his waist, her skirt fell up her long legs. Fenris shifted his hands, grabbing her tight arse. She pressed against him, needy and desperate as her carried her, slamming his shoulder into the door to close it. He then pushed her against the opposite side, mouth trailing down to feel her pulse thrumming in her neck.
Hawke was pushing at her skirt, jerking the fabric up to her hips. “Fenris…” She hissed as he nipped above her collar bone, her spine arching to press her breasts up toward him. They were still covered, and there was no way he’d be able to this material off the way they were. He couldn’t help admiring her cleavage, leaving a trail of kisses down the tops of her breasts. Hawke grabbed hold of his shoulders and he release on hold on her ass to trail a hand up her legs. What he found shocked him enough to make him stop cold. Hawke laughed low in her throat.
“Maker, woman.” He growled, running his fingers across her slit. “You’re not wearing smalls.”
“We need to do laundry.” Hawke admitted with a happy humming noise as he circled her clit. She was already wet, the perfect picture of desire between him and the door.
“Festis bei umo canavarum.” Fenris snarled.
“The death of you, I know, I know.” Hawke moaned as Fenris slipped a finger into her wet folds. “I want you. Please.” She whimpered.
Fenris snatched his hand back and fumbled with his breeches as Hawke whined at the loss of contact. His cock was free in a moment and he guided himself into Hawke slowly. She stretched to accept him, her hands grasping at his hair. He paused a moment to catch his breath in her shoulder, moving his hands to her thighs.
“Fenris.” She imitated his growl in his ear, pulling him closer. He thrust up into her deeply, yanking a moan from her.
“Say my name again.” He commanded, his lips at her delicate, fluttering pulse. He could feel her tightening on him.
“Fenris…” She moaned, her hands moving back to his shoulders, using the leverage to lift herself up, then let herself fall against him. He smirked, pulling back and thrusting again. “Faster, please, Fenris…”
It was all the permission he needed as he began to fuck her, cock delving deep inside and pulling almost the whole way out before sliding in again. Hawke’s moans were breathless and needy as Fenris took her. He adjusted to reach a finger between them and circle her clit. She almost screamed in pleasure, eyes rolling up.
“I’m almost there.” He panted. “Wait, look at me.”
It was a struggle, but her lyrium blue gaze met his. His hips jerked as he let the waves come over him. “Now.” He snarled rubbing her clit furiously. She bent like a bow, strong and taut,her sheath squeezing him like a vice as she cried out. He continued to pump into her until he was spent and she was limp in his arms. He leaned back away from the door, pulling her off his cock and close to his chest.
“Amata.” He whispered to the top of her head.
“Are you my amata as well?” She asked drowsily as they sank to the floor.
“Amatus.” He corrected. “Because I am a man.”
She snorted softly. “Don’t I know it.” Fenris smirked.
“Wicked.” He murmured.
“Amatus.” Hawke sighed softly. Fenris pulled her closer as his heart swelled. “Can I ask a favor?”
“Anything.” Fenris responded warmly.
“Help me clean this mess?”
The laugh escaped him and surprised them both. Hawke smiled up at him, kissing his chin lightly. “In a moment.” He whispered.

It took nearly two hours, but when Merrill and Varric both reappeared, the kitchen was spotless and the sweet rolls were cooling. Fenris and Hawke had even had a few moments to clean themselves up as well. This left Fenris reading quietly in front of the fireplace while remaining preparations were made. There was a growing sound of revelry outside, bawdy songs and drunken cheers as night fell.
“Reminds me of First Day in Kirkwall.” Hawke sighed as she finally sat. She had changed into tight leather leggings that curved up her legs and a loose tunic. She held out a sweet roll to Fenris and he took it from her, inhaling the sweet sugar and butter scent. “Isabela says we can join in when she gets here.”
“I hate to remind you that you may be a wanted woman.” Fenris cautioned. Hawke waved his concern away.
“Rumors say Cullen has the city mostly under control now. And nobody is coming after me on First Day, Fenris.” She responded airily.
Fenris refrained from saying it was exactly the time he would choose to go after someone. He would, of course, go out with them to keep watch for danger. Merrill sighed from the armchair, causing Varric to raise an eyebrow. She had a pile of discarded knitting on her lap.
“Do you remember First Day in Ferelden, Hawke? There was always snow on the ground.” She asked wistfully.
“It always snowed on First Day, without fail.” Hawke confirmed. “Big fluffy flakes.”
“I’ve never seen the fascination with snow.” Varric commented. “Wet, cold, and dangerous? All of my least favorite things.”
“It’s so pretty!” Merrill protested.
“I can make it snow.” Hawke said absently, twirling her hair around her fingers. “I missed it so much our first few years in Kirkwall, I taught myself how to make snow instead of ice.”
“Oh! Hawke, you are so brilliant!” Merrill exclaimed. “Can you do it now?”
Hawke shot Fenris a brief look from under her eyelashes. “I don’t think so Merrill.”
“Oh, please!” Merrill begged. “It isn’t First Day without the snow!”
“Merrill…” Hawke started.
“I have never seen the snow.” Fenris cut in. “It doesn’t snow in Seheron. I don’t know if it snows anywhere in Tevinter. The snow that occured in Kirkwall was mostly rain.” He stopped, looking at Hawke’s flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes. “I wouldn’t mind seeing it.”
Merrill cheered and Varric groaned. “You’re certain, Fenris?” Hawke asked, leaning close.
“I trust you.” He responded. She grinned.
“You may regret that.” She teased. “After you see how cold snow is.”
He shook his head and tilted his head to watch as she held out her small hand, palm toward the ceiling. There was a pull he felt in his lyrium markings as she called to her mana, it wasn’t unpleasant necessary but it always pulled at painful memories unless he was deep in battle. He shoved them down as a soft white glow appeared in Hawke’s hand. She allowed it to gather and grow. It lifted from her hand, forming into a small blizzard contained in an orb. He could see bits of white tossed in an internal tempest. Hawke was concentrating on it hard as it rose in the air.
It occurred to him, not for the first time, that Hawke’s magic was beautiful. It was controlled and elegant, unlike Merrill’s which was as wild as a tempest, and the complete opposite of the oppressive and aggressive style favored by Anders. She took a deep breath in, her fingers coming together in her hand. Then she snapped her fingers.
The orb unfurled into a cloud, the first dusting of flurries scattering in a circle around them as a soft, steady snow began to fall from the ceiling. Merrill jumped up, her hands out to either side. Varric was swearing, quickly gathering up his papers and quills. Hawke was smiling softly, her head tipped up as the snow fell into her dark hair and caught in her long eyelashes. Fenris lifted his hand up, palm up as the cool flakes landed. He examined their delicate patterns with fascination.
“What do you think?” Hawke asked, looking at him with pursed lips.
“Beautiful.” He breathed softly, brushing the flakes from Hawke’s hair.
The front door banged open and Isabella swaggered into the room, looking up in bewilderment. “I don’t know how they do it where you’re from, but we don’t do snow on First Day in Llomeryn.” She scolded. “Turn it off, kitten.”
“It wasn’t me!” Merrill twirled, a long chain falling out of her blouse. Isabela grabbed onto it, quick as a pickpocket.
“What is this?” Isabela cooed. “What a pretty Griffon pendant. Now where did you get such a thing, kitten?”
“Carver sent it to me!” Merrill sounded delighted. “He named it Feathers.”
“Did he?” Isabela sounded equally delighted. “I’m surprised he didn’t call it little Carver. Granted, that’s probably what he calls his…”
“Stop!” Hawke pleaded. “I don’t need to talk about this. Ever.”
“Is it time to go now, Isabela?” Merrill asked.
“I’ve come to collect you, yes.” Isabela doffed her hat and bowed. “Now, no staffs or huge ass swords.” She glared pointedly at Fenris.
“You cannot possibly expect us to go unarmed.” Fenris protested.
“You may borrow a dagger.” Isabela declared, pulling one on a sheath from her waist. “I call this one Suzanne after a girl in Antiva.” She caressed the dagger lovingly.
“I’ve never fought with a dagger.” Fenris grumbled.
“I’ll give you a hint, this is the pointy side. Slash at ‘em with it.” Isabela sighed at Fenris’s expression.
“Handsome, you most likely won’t need to fight with a dagger tonight. Going out armed to the teeth is begging for trouble though.”
“C’mon Broody, it’s not like you need the sword.” Varric persuaded.
“Right! Magic fisting to the rescue.” Isabella grinned. Fenris shook his head and strapped the dagger around his waist. Isabela took Merrill’s arm, entwining their elbows together.
“So...did Carver say anything else?” She asked slyly.
“He won’t be able to come for First Day, but he hopes to get away soon. He says he’d rather be here.”
“Of course he did, kitten.” Isabela purred.
“He also said he’s heard a rumor the College of Enchanters is going to vote on independence.” Merrill whispered. “At their meeting next month. That would mean no more circles.”
“Oh, I doubt it would be that easy, Kitten.” Isabela frowned. “But let’s not talk about that tonight.”
Fenris offered his arm to Hawke, who took it with a saucy wink. “Are you chaperoning me tonight, Ser?”
“I’m chaperoning both of you.” Varric piped up. “Now, after you.”
Varric locked the door to the townhouse as they joined the crowd. There was music coming from the square, and when they emerged he saw a band and a space cleared out for dancing where over a dozen couples twirled. Isabela and Merrill were already there, out of control like a tornado as they swaggered across the floor. There were torches up high and garland strung between columns. Hawke was humming along with the music. Varric made a loud coughing noise and looked pointedly at Fenris, then Hawke, before melting into the crowd.
“I think Varric wants me to ask you to dance.” He leaned down to whisper in her ear.
“Honestly, Fenris, I don’t know how to dance.” Hawke admitted shyly. “After getting the estate back, mother tried to teach me but I couldn’t be bothered.”
“I don’t know if I know how.” Fenris responded. “I may remember a bit, if we try.” Sometimes, his memory worked like that. He had always known how to hold a greatsword, even when he woke with his markings. He also knew how to peel a pomegranate, polish his sword, have sex, and braid hair. He imagined these were skills from that great void known as before. Perhaps they were things he’d done so often that they were ingrained in his muscle memory.
“We certainly can’t be worse than those two.” Hawke inclined her head toward Merrill and Isabela.
“A high bar you set for us, Lady Hawke.” Fenris breathed, offering his hand. She placed hers in his and he lifted it to his lips, smirking as he kissed the back of the hand that had conjured snow.
“Well, Lord Fenris.” She teased as he pulled her towards the dancers. “I do like to set reasonable expectations.”
Fenris shook his head and set his hand on Hawke’s waist. She placed her hand on his shoulder and entwined her other fingers with his. She hesitated a beat, nervous. “We can still change our mind.”
“Is the Champion of Kirkwall afraid of a dance?” He teased softly.
“At least no one here will know it’s me if I make a fool of myself.” She groaned.
“Ready, Reyna?” He asked, waiting for her nod before steering her into the dancers. He took a step forward and she took one back. This did seem...tentatively familiar. He tightened his grip on her waist and stepped to the side, she followed. He nodded as if to confirm something. “Will you follow my lead?”
“As always.” She answered with a smile. He leaned forward and briefly brushed his lips against hers before moving again, picking up the pattern and rhythm. He saw Varric out of the corner of his eye, nodding approvingly. Hawke’s cheeks were flushed delectably pink.
“Where did you learn to dance?” Isabela was beside them now with Merrill, gawking. Fenris shrugged and Isabela shook her head in wander.
“Don’t hog her!” Merrill reached out for Hawke. Reluctantly Hawke let go of Fenris, allowing Merrill to awkward pull her into a stance and whirl her into a spin.
“That means you get me, handsome.” Isabela purred.
“Hands where I can see them.” Fenris demanded as he took Isabela’s waist. Isabela cackled and pressed her bosom against him.
“Varric and I have a bet, you know. He’s trying to win.” Isabela began. Fenris bit back a groan.
“Kaffas.” He swore. “What now?”
“When you’ll make an honest woman of our dear Hawke.” Isabela replied with wide, falsely innocent eyes. Fenris missed a step.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Well, when a man and a woman love each other very much and get along spectacularly in the sack…” Isabela began.
“Marriage.” Fenris interrupted. “Is that what Hawke wants?”
“Every little girl dreams of getting married, Fenris! Well, except me.” She winked.
“She hasn’t mentioned it to you?” Fenris pressed.
“No, she hasn’t.” Isabela admitted. “Which is why I took the longer bet.”
Fenris was silent. “Slaves don’t get married.” he finally allowed his mouth to form the words.
“Luckily, you’re not a slave.” Isabela countered. “Think about it, sweetness. Preferably in about eight months. I’ll split the profits with you.”
Fenris was going to respond, although he didn’t know what he was going to say. When he looked over Isabela’s shoulder into the crowd though, he could have swore he saw a flash of glowing blue eyes and blonde hair.
“Fenris?” Isabela asked as they stopped. He pushed her to the side, diving into the crowd. As he pushed through, he looked into every face.
“Fenris!” Isabela called, gripping his sleeve. He noticed she was careful to not touch his skin through the fabric and he appreciated it. “What in the Maker’s name…”
“I thought…” Fenris was staring at a brick wall. The music and party sounded far away. “I thought I saw him, the abomination. I could have sworn.”
“Here?” Isabela questioned. “Oh sweetness, that can’t be.”
He turned, diving back into the crowd. His heart was hammering in fear. He’d been a fool, leaving the dance floor and Hawke unaware. When he emerged back again, Hawke was right in front of him with a frown on her face.
“What happened?” She asked. “I saw you take off, I was worried…”
“Nothing.” Isabela said cheerfully. “I grabbed his ass and made him angry.”
“Isabela!” Hawke scolded. Fenris continued to look over his shoulder, feeling the pointed glance of a dagger between his shoulder blades again.

Chapter Text

Isabela and Fenris had an argument that night. Fenris had wanted to tell Hawke what he was so sure he’d seen. Isabela wasn’t as convinced that he’d seen anything of note at all. Their argument was muted to prevent the other two women and Varric from hearing them over the crowd of revelers.

“She deserves to know he may be here. We need to be vigilant, we know now what he is capable of.”

“Sweet thing, it couldn’t have been him. How would he have found us?”

“Your constant descriptions of Llomeryn probably would have given him a decent idea of where to start.” Fenris’s voice dripped acid.

“And even if he were here, what good would lurking in a crowd do? He’d have come to me or Varric.” Isabela soothed. “Maker knows he never had two coppers to rub together.”

“There is something wrong.” Fenris protested.

“Fine.” Isabela had drawn herself up to her full height, folding her arms under her impressive bosom. “You can tell Hawke, if you can honestly say no to one question.”

“And what is that question?” Fenris snapped.

“Did you ever think you saw Danarius when he wasn’t there those six years in Kirkwall.” Isabela asked, her eyes flashing. Fenris didn’t know what made him more angry, that she dared to bring him up or that she was right.

So he didn’t tell Hawke and the rest of First Day had passed without incident. So did the next, and the next. Winter’s cold winds faded and spring warmed the air. The month of Drakonis rolled in with not much change. Rumbles of the gathering of the College of Enchanters was all anyone would talk about, but it would be days before they heard what had happened. The only thing that changed were his nightmares. They progressively seemed to be getting more common and worse.

Fenris could hear screaming as he raced down hallways, a maze that reminded him vaguely of that damned trip to Orlais. The screaming seemed to be right next to him, but he couldn’t find the source. He knew those screams. They sounded exactly the same as the cry she’d made when the Arishok had lifted her off the ground on his sword and her body had slid down the cold steel. Fenris would never forget that sound and he knew what it meant. Hawke was dying, they were killing Hawke.

“Let her go!” He screamed into the hallway. “Take me, let her go!”

The walls were cracking, blue light coming through the stone. He swore he could hear a booming laugh that sounded unworldly.

Fenris woke in their bed the same way he had gotten used to doing so, the dawn still hours away and Hawke sleeping peacefully next to his rigid form. He turned his head, trying to still his racing heart and take calm, deep breaths. He was afraid it sounded like he’d been sobbing.

Hawke was awake, she had been the last few times he woke. Her blue eyes were troubled and her hand hovered over his arm, uncertain. “Fenris?” She whispered.

“Reyna.” He answered, pulling her hand to his heart, beating beneath his ribcage like he’d run from Kirkwall to Minrathous. He closed his eyes, inhaling her scent, listening to the sleeping city outside.

“Are you ever going to tell me what’s wrong?” She asked, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him to her. Her fingers found his hair and smoothed it gently.

“I...it is weakness.” He sputtered, her heart was beating in her chest as well. He could feel it, soothing and real.

“I know you aren’t weak Fenris.” She sounded exasperated. “Tell me.”

“I have...nightmares.” He responded, closing his eyes so he didn’t see the way she would most certainly look at him like he was less. “They involve you.”

“What about me?” She probed.

He didn’t want to say. He couldn’t say the words, that he had found her lifeless and bloody more than once. The times he had been making love to her, only to notice the brand on her forehead when she didn’t respond to his touch. Then there were the horrid screams where he could never even find her. He pressed his lips together and shook his head. “I can’t.”

She seemed to know what he was thinking, even though he didn’t say. “That bad, huh?” She tried to smile, touching his cheek lightly. He turned to kiss her fingertips. “How long has this been happening?”

“Months.” He answered. “It started after we moved into this house, but before the end of winter.”

“Oh, Fenris…” She sighed. “Look at me, amatus.”

He couldn’t refuse her, his eyes opened and he gazed at her. She was beautiful, whole. He would keep her that way. “I am safe, we are safe.” She comforted him.

“I know, I just don’t know…” He struggled, his fists clenching. She reached for them and smoothed his palm open.

“You needn’t suffer. You shouldn’t.” She offered. “There are some herbs. No magic, just a simple tonic that helps chase away all dreams. You’re better to us all rested. I can get what we need in the morning.”

He nodded weakly. He felt small and ashamed. Hawke made a shushing noise, leaning in close to him. “I see where you’re going Fenris, don’t think that. You are a man, a warrior, but you’re only mortal. It’s okay to fear for those you love.”

“I do. Love you.” He responded quietly. “I don’t tell you that enough.”

“I know.” She hummed, kissing his temple. “You don’t need to say it for me to know.”

There were silent for some time as she ran her fingers through his hair, quietly comforting him. “Are you still tired?” She asked.

“I don’t want to return…” She nodded at his response.

“I can help, if you want.” She offered cautiously. “But it is magic I’ll be using on you. I imagine it will feel like healing, but I’m not sure.”

“I trust you.” The response, as always, was immediate. She nodded, settling them both down on the bed. He felt the familiar pull, but no fear this time as he looked into her eyes. She continued to fluff his hair with her fingers, he could see a soft glow there from the corner of his eyes.

“Sleep, love.” She whispered, leaning down to brush her lips against his. His eyes closed, and he was gone.

They were laying in a green field of the softest grass he’d ever felt. All he could hear were birds chirping and, far away, children laughing. Hawke lay beside him, her hand clasping his.

“Where are we?” He asked, looking up at the clear blue sky. Clouds drifted slowly past.

“Technically, the Fade.” Hawke responded. “Less technically, you’re in my dream. Which is set in Lothering.”

“Is this what you always dream?” He asked.

“No.” She grinned wickedly. “I have a lot of very naughty dreams we certainly don’t need to go into now.”

“It’s beautiful. I thought Ferelden was full of mud and dogs.” Fenris teased. Hawke’s laugh was bright and clear.

“Only most of Ferelden.” She answered. “We can rest now, Fenris.”

He knew she was right, he could feel the warm sun on his skin and smell fresh hay. He closed his eyes and smiled.

“I used to bring Bethany here, when nightmares woke her or demons plagued her. It is our safe space. Sometimes, I still think I may find her here.”  She admitted. “It seems right that you’re here now.”

Someday, Fenris thought, she could bring a child here with green eyes and dark hair who could conjure snow and create this haven. A child with magic as elegant and beautiful as Hawke’s.

 

They woke refreshed and dressed lazily. Hawke picked up her staff and Fenris his sword before leaving the room. Varric was in front of the fire, enjoying a cup of a rather bitter brew he’d discovered. He said it was from Antiva and tasted amazing, although Hawke and Fenris were rather more doubtful.

“Merrill is still asleep.” Varric said as they descended the stairs. “I think I’m almost ready to send this to my publisher, you sure you don’t want to read it?” He gestured to the manuscript in front of him.

“Absolutely not.” Hawke muttered. “I’ve given you permission to write my biography, but I have no intention of ever reading it and seeing which parts you’ve exaggerated. I can’t believe anyone would be interested in reading my tragic life story.”

Fenris could see how it would make fascinating reading, but he kept that thought to himself. “Have you come up with a title?” He asked politely.

“The Tale of the Champion!” Varric exclaimed. “What do you think?”

Hawke rolled her eyes and huffed away. Fenris smiled after her. “I wouldn’t mind a copy when it’s published.”

“It shall be done, my Broody friend. Where are you off to?”

“The market.” Fenris stated, vaguely. “For some herbs.”

“Better be quick, before Merrill wakes or you’ll be there all day. Do you think you can get more ink?” He asked hopefully.

“Last time I bought you ink, you complained about the shoddy quality.” Hawke had appeared again with her cloak and a small basket, her hand on her hip.

“That’s why I’m asking Broody, not you.” Varric pointed out reasonably. Hawke scoffed.

Hawke tied her cloak around her to ward off the slight chill of the morning. It was scarlet wool, his favorite color against her skin. She didn’t say anything, but inclined her head in a small gesture. It asked him if he was ready to go. He responded by tilting his head as well, another small gesture indicating she could take the lead.

The market was not as busy as it would be. He, personally, was grateful. It may have been his training as a bodyguard for a magister, but he hated navigating crowds. He could see the bookseller still setting up, they would have the ink Varric required. Perhaps the next volume of Orlesian history he was looking for…

“Go ahead.” Hawke invited, inclining her head to the bookseller. “The herbs are across the square, I’ll come browse with you when I’m finished.”

“I should stay by your side.” Fenris replied. Hawke lifted an eyebrow, folding her arms across her chest.

“I can’t be trusted to shop for herbs by myself? Will I swoon if I catch sight of a pickpocket?” She asked. Fenris pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head.

“Fine.” He bit the word out. “Try to stay out of trouble.”

Hawke smirked, leaning forward with a wink. “Trouble is my middle name.”

“It’s actually…” He began but Hawke put her hand over his mouth, laughing.

“Don’t say it! I yield!” She smirked, kissing the back of her hand over his mouth. “Don’t buy too many books.”

“I make no promises.” He responded as she took her hand away and bounded off towards the herbs. Thank the Maker she’d worn the scarlet cloak, she stuck out in the crowd even more than usual. He’d have no trouble watching her discreetly from anywhere.

The bookseller knew him by now and his tastes. As soon as the plump, small man saw Fenris approach, a broad smile stretched his face. “Ser elf!” the man greeted warmly. “I haven’t tracked down that Orlesian history yet, but I’ve a fine encyclopedia of monsters encountered in the Hissing Wastes. It would be a perfect tome for a well-read man such as yourself.”

How could Fenris resist that compliment? “I’ll take a look at it.” He responded with one of his rare smiles. “A bottle of Antivan black ink, as well.”

“And your lady is with you?” The bookseller asked as he arranged his wares, looking at the spines as he searched for the encyclopedia. “I know her taste is a bit more...common. The newest Randy Dowager is in stock as well.”

Fenris chuckled at the man’s obvious distaste for his most popular product. “I’m sure she’ll be interested.” He looked over his shoulder and saw Hawke bending low over a basket of oddly shaped yellow flowers. He shook his head in exasperation as he counted out the coins for the ink and stuffed it in his belt pouch.

Something happened.

Fenris felt his marks flicker through no will of his own, dulling then glowing bright. He felt like a candle that had just survived a strong gust. Fenris’s muscles tenses in response, a familiar ache spreading from them. It took a moment, but he had felt something similar to this in fights with Templars in Kirkwall. They had tried to use their abilities to cancel out magic from Hawke, Merrill, and Anders. It was called a silence, and it sucked all the mana right out of a mage. Hawke had explained a talented and powerful mage could redirect or avoid the ability if they were prepared. Luckily, it wasn’t that difficult to see templars coming.

Fenris lurched around, scanning for a flash of red at the opposite side of the market. His stomach dropped as he saw nothing, no Hawke. He tamped down the urge to yell for her, creeping forward quickly. There was an alley entrance near the basket of odd yellow flowers, and…

There it was, Hawke’s discarded basket and staff. He ignored it, silently readying his blade as he ducked into the narrow alley. It didn’t take his eyes any time to adjust to the gloom, the alley left untouched by the sun most of the day he guessed. The two men in armor weren’t far in, their heads angled to look at something or someone on the ground.

“Thought you’d be harder to get to, apostate.” One of them laughed bitterly.

“It’s like she was waiting to get caught. I think they all are.” The other answered. He was twirling a dagger in his hand. “Always wanted to see if we could cut the magic outta one, what’d you think, Champion?”

“Fuck you.” Hawke’s voice was still strong, clear, but coming from the ground. Fenris shifted into his stance, waiting for his moment.

The templar on the right knelt down, reaching out his hand to grab Hawke’s hair. He heard Hawke gasp as the man’s other arm snapped back and slapped her across the face. “Be careful what you wish for.” The man growled.

Fenris didn’t think anymore, he moved. His marks lit up the whole alley as he plunged his hand through the back of the man hovering over Hawke with his fist in her hair. The man let go of Hawke immediately, looking down at his chest just in time for Fenris’s hand to burst from his breastplate, clutching the man’s heart which Fenris dropped like an offering at Hawke’s feet.

The other man jumped back, dropping his dagger and going for his sword. Hawke was already moving as Fenris pulled back from the other Templar, her fingers nimbly finding the small dagger sheathed under her shirt. With perfect aim, she threw the dagger and the edge embedded itself into the remaining templar’s eye. He shrieked, but before it could grow into a scream, Fenris was there, swinging his sword toward the unguarded portion between helm and breastplate. His sword cleaved almost the whole way through the man’s neck and cut off the man’s dying sounds. Before he hit the ground, Fenris was grabbing Hawke’s arms.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt?” He asked, fighting back panic. There was blood on her face, running down from a wound above her temple. His fingers touched it gently and she winced. She was paler than normal, her eyes glassy.

“I’ve had better days.” She responded. “Were there more?”

“I don’t know, I don’t think so.” He gripped her waist and pulled her to her feet. She swayed and clutched onto his pauldrons, groaning.

“I didn’t know they were there, I didn’t see them.” She groaned. “They silenced me and pushed me in here, I tried to yell for you and the one hit me with the hilt of his sword. I think my skull is cracked.” She brought her own hand up to her temple, the blood coloring her fingers red and she winced again. “Exactly what I needed, another head wound.”

“Stay here.” He propped her up on the brick wall and went back to the alley entrance, eyes darting around the crowd. There was no other shining armor. He grabbed the staff and basket, returning to Hawke’s side as she leaned against the building. He handed both to her and wound his arm around her waist again. “Lean on me, I think I know a shorter way to the house.”

He wasn’t sure it was actually shorter, he thought as he half dragged Hawke down alleys. It did have the benefit of being off the main roads, which was good because they were both splattered in blood. The same thought occured to Hawke and she looked up, smirking.

“Blood spatters are wholly inappropriate in the morning.”

“Vehendis, you’re right, the head wound was completely unnecessary. Your sense of humor was already atrocious.” Fenris groaned in effort, making the final turn. He froze, reaching for his sword immediately at the sight of more shining armor in front of the townhouse. It took a moment to recognize Carver watching the main road.

“Carver!” Hawke called, sighing in relief. Carver wrenched his eyes from the main road to them and immediately blanched at the sight.

“Maker!” He raced toward them. “Tell me that isn’t all your blood.”

“Fenris got me a gift. The heart of one of my enemies. It’s not even my birthday.” Hawke offered this nonsensical explanation. Carver shook his head, looking at Fenris.

“Templars.” Fenris spat the word out in fury.

“Dead?” Carver asked, taking his sister’s staff and basket so Fenris could sweep her up in his arms.

“Of course.” Fenris answered. Carver nodded, following the two of them into the house. Varric, Merrill, and Isabela were waiting. Isabela swore at the sight of them, running into the kitchen. Varric cleared off the main dining table so Fenris could put Hawke on it while Merrill hovered uselessly.

“I heard… I tried to make it here first.” Carver explained as he peeled his sister’s hair away from the wound. “The College of Enchanters held a vote for independence, but it was defeated. The mages voted to stay in their circles. You’d think everyone could leave well enough alone, but the Divine disbanded the college. The mages don’t even have a voice in their treatment anymore.”

“Why does that have anything to do with Templars here, Junior?” Varric asked as Isabela returned with warm water and towels.

“If everyone just waits, my mana will come back and I’ll heal it.” Hawke responded testily.

“Shut up.” Fenris growled as he took one of towels and gently began to clean the wound. Hawke took a ragged breath.

“They voted on you and Anders too.” Carver said quietly. “They...judged Anders as a criminal and demanded he present himself to one of the circles for punishment.”

“Death, they mean.” Hawke protested. “Or worse. They have to know he won’t do that. He’d risk death, but never Tranquility.”

“I’m sure they aren’t seriously expecting it to have an impact. They were...more divided on you.” Carver admitted. “Some of the mages that escaped Kirkwall presented themselves to other circles and weren’t immediately killed on sight. They testified that you’d protested to protect innocent lives and had tried to steer a course that would have protected everyone. They didn’t have proof you didn’t help Anders explode the damn Chantry, but they testified it didn’t seem to be in your character.”

“So are they expecting me to present myself at the circle of my choice?” Hawke asked dryly.

“Oh Hawke, you couldn’t.” Merrill whispered, horrified.

“No - they didn’t find you innocent or guilty. They said they couldn’t decide without your testimony.” Carver said. “There were templars who had come from Kirkwall to testify and they were...furious. There were about a dozen and they swore they wouldn’t return to Kirkwall until they’d made you and Anders pay. They split off into groups and set off to find you, ignoring Cullen’s orders.” Carver took a deep breath. “I don’t think they knew where you were, but there were two I heard were coming here to look. Dumb luck.”

“Wonderful.” Varric shook his head. “Could it get any worse?”

“Unfortunately, yes.” Carver frowned. “On my way here, I heard some of the Kirkwall mages who testified took some of the Liberatarians from the other circles and headed back to Kirkwall to liberate the Gallows. The Divine is considering an Exalted March, fueled by rumors that the rebels are meeting up with you.”

“I’m not in Kirkwall!” Hawke protested.

“Unfortunately, sweetness, they’re going to figure out where you are now. Two templars head to Llomeryn, and none leave? That’s a good indication of where to find a powerful apostate.” Isabela shrugged her shoulders as nonchalantly as she could.

“Which may not be a bad thing, for Kirkwall.” Varric added hastily at Fenris’s glare. The water in the bowl was pink now and Fenris took a poultice from Merrill and placed it gently on Hawke’s temple.

“I can’t go back to Kirkwall.” Hawke stated. “I can’t stay here.”

“I have an idea.” Carver started, tapping his shoulders on his blade. “I’m not sure you’ll like it, but Isabela and I discussed it before we came here and it could work.”

“Do you remember Zevran?” Isabela asked.

“The Antivan Crow?” Fenris looked up. “You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, please continue. I have to hear where this is going.” Hawke waved her hand at Isabela to continue.

“Funniest thing about Zevran, the elf never turned down a tumble. I mean, never .” Isabela grinned. “This one time…”

“Rivaini, to the point.” Varric prodded.

“Fine, spoilsport.” Isabela grumbled. “So I caught up to him after we took down Nuncio and offered him a place to sleep for the night. He says he’ll join me for a drink, but his heart is no longer his own, blah blah, all romantic.” Isabela rolled her eyes. “I find myself wondering from time to time, who in the Maker’s holy arse could make Zevran give up casual sex? Well, then I started hearing rumors in Alamar that the Warden Commander, Hero of Ferelden, has an Elven lover!”

Isabela’s eyes glowed. “Do you know, the last time I had a taste of Antivan crow, the lady Warden joined us? I don’t see why I didn’t see it before!”

“You’re making that up.” Varric accused. “You didn’t sleep with the Hero of Ferelden and the famed Antivan Assassin.”

“Sugar, have you ever known me to lie about my conquests?” Isabela pouted. Varric paused, uncertain.

“Regardless!” Carver interrupted. “This assassin owes you a favor. And the Warden Commander is a cousin, or second-cousin, on mother’s side. I think you should use that favor to arrange a meeting.”

“I don’t know if that is wise.” Fenris offered. “It seems very risky to depend on the goodwill of strangers.”

“It could work.” Varric mulled over the idea. “King Alistair gave the Grey Wardens Amaranthine, so she’s not just the Warden Commander, but an Arlessa. She’s got full control over that city. She’s a mage too, and she was in the circle before joining the Grey Wardens. From what I’ve heard, she almost got herself made tranquil before joining the Wardens. Although I suppose she could just be angry that you managed to avoid the circle altogether.”

“I’ve always been curious about our cousin.” Hawke mused. “Do you think she’ll sign a copy of History of the Fifth Blight for Fenris?”

Fenris groaned, seeing the flash in her eyes. Isabela saw it to and grinned in triumph. “I’ll arrange a job that will take me and my crew to Amaranthine. You can all tag along. I’ll send a letter ahead of us to Zevran - if I’m right he’ll be in Amaranthine as well.”

“I’ll write directly to the Warden Commander and ask for an audience as a Warden.” Carver offered. “It’ll be good to see Ferelden again.”

“Yes.” Hawke looked up at Fenris and smiled. “It is beautiful this time of year, promise.”

Chapter Text

Varric never thought he’d be glad to see Ferelden. The early spring seas hadn’t been kind to sail on. Isabela had just laughed and said it was taming a dragon. Varric and Merrill both thought it was more like being eaten by one. Of course, Carver, Hawke, and Fenris had managed well. It wouldn’t do for the heroes to get seasick, that only happened to trusty and loyal companions. Varric glared at their backs as they leaned against the rail and spoke quietly among each other. Fenris even had the nerve to look more rested than he had in Llomeryn the last few weeks. Varric cheerfully considered pushing them all overboard.

It had taken three days for them to leave Llomeryn. It was a much less rushed operation than leaving Kirkwall, but Varric still couldn’t be happy about leaving solid ground. At least he’d been able to send off his manuscript, and a short note to Bianca if she ever deigned to write him again. It had been half a year and his contacts had seen her. She’d had plenty of opportunities to pass letters, but he’d heard nothing.

Varric was trying very hard to ignore how badly that hurt. It felt like a wound he kept picking the scab off.

He was not built for life on the run. He was built for warm fires and a tavern where he was known on sight. Despite that, he’d do this for Hawke. When she was safe, they’d go back to Kirkwall. Her and Broody could settle down and have a whole house of broody babies and he’d be a proud uncle. That should be enough for anyone, whether or not he ever heard from Bianca again.  

Isabela was waiting patiently for someone to come and check her manifest. The staff at the dock had apologetically said it was the Arlessa’s explicit orders to check every manifest against cargo. It cut down on smuggling and the threat of slavers. Fenris had nodded in approval of this. If Varric ever had a say in how Kirkwall ran, he’d institute the same policy. He could certainly appreciate the lively but certainly not criminal crowd on the docks.

“Ah! Isabela!” A figure called from the dock. Varric made his way closer to the docks to see a tanned, blonde elf waving towards the bow of the ship.” Isabela flashed a flirtatious grin.

“Zevran! You must have received my letter. Did you like the illustrations?” She called.

“Immeasurably.” Zevran grinned, waving over a port staff person. “These are guests of the Arlessa. Surely, their ship can be checked now, si?”

“Right away Ser!” The young woman squeaked, flushing at Zevran’s toothy grin as she walked up the gangplank.

“Surely this isn’t necessary for and old friend.” Isabela pouted. Zevran shrugged.

“Rules are the rules. I would never abide by them myself, but they have proven useful.” He admitted. The port staff person nodded, taking Isabela’s manifest and scurrying to the hold with a crew member.

“It took me three days to find a legitimate job to bring me to Amaranthine.” Isabela accused. “A bloody waste of time.”

“Being on the straight and narrow is dull for you?” Zevran teased. He then caught sight of Hawke and he bounded over with grace, grasping her hand and bringing it to his lips with a sultry glance. Varric was delighted to see Fenris just about snatch Hawke’s hand out of the other elf’s grasp.

“Champion! Your beauty is too great a treat for the city of Amaranthine. I knew you couldn’t resist the famous conqueror of hearts.”

Hawke’s lips twitched. “I’m afraid I haven’t been going by that title much lately.”

“It was a title that didn’t do you justice.” Zevran declared theatrically. “Champion of Kirkwall. More like Beauty of Kirkwall. Perhaps Goddess of Kirkwall?” He suggested.

“I think that’s enough.” Fenris cut in.

“Never!” Zevran protested as Hawke began to giggle. “Unobtainable Siren of Kirkwall?”

“Everything is in order, Ser.” The girl was back again, giving Isabela a copy of the paperwork. “Welcome to Amaranthine on behalf of Arlessa Amell.”

“Ah! Welcome indeed!” Zevran smiled. “Let’s get you to the keep. The Warden Commander says she’ll have supper with you tonight.”

The entire trip to Vigil’s Keep was spent anticipating when, exactly, Fenris would kill Zevran. The elf was flirting incorrigibly with Hawke to the exclusion of Isabela and Merrill. Well, Varric could understand not flirting with Merrill. The poor thing was still green and leaning heavily on Carver. Zevran had taken Hawke’s arm and tugged her along with the pretense of showing her the sights. As far as Varric could tell (and he was pretty certain he was right, since Zevran still had his arm), the elf hadn’t done anything remotely inappropriate. It didn’t stop Fenris from following close behind and glaring holes into Zevran’s head.

“He must really be enjoying teasing.” Isabela snickered and tipped her head towards Fenris. “I’ve never seen lover boy look so down and out.”

“Oh, I have.” Varric smirked. “Remember that one time she complimented Anders’s hair?”

“Or that time Sebastian said she was beautiful.” Isabela offered.

“I’m honestly a bit put out.” Isabela pouted as they entered the keep. “Nobody ever compliments me.”

“What about that guy with the bad poetry?” Varric asked. “Oh Isabela, dusky Goddess of the Hanged Man, let me sing an ode to your delectable, overripe melons.”

Isabela cackled as Zevran, Hawke, and Fenris turned to stare.

 

The rooms in the keep were luxurious. Varric appreciated the large writing desk and window overlooking the city. There was a large fireplace and a comfortable, large bed. Varric cleaned up from the journey and decided to look around the keep. It would never hurt to get an idea of possible escape routes. Maybe there were some locks needing picked.

He wandered down the hallway, pausing to appreciate the thick stone walls that would keep any untoward activities of his companions private. He’d heard far more of Hawke and Fenris over the past months than he really wanted to. His next chapter of Swords and Shields would benefit, unfortunately. He climbed down the steps and emerged outside the corridor into a courtyard blazing with herbs and flowers. Poor Daisy had been so sick, she’d barely looked twice. Carver could take her out tomorrow to see them, she’d like that. That courtyard led into a large hall full of tables and wardens chatting. Zevran had skirted them around this building for “discretion”, but Varric didn’t feel the need to hide. A dwarf with an air of smug self-confidence could go anywhere.

“Come on, Howe’s beating the Commander by 12 points.” A warden stated. “Pay up now.”
“It’s not over until the Commander doesn’t light the targets on fire.” The other warden staunchly defended. Varric turned to look out the window into an archery target yard. He wandered easily over into the other door and stepped back out into the fading light. There was a small crowd watching two figures with bows. A tall man with long, dark hair struck a bullseye on a target and the crowd cheered. The small woman behind him, her dark caught up in a high ponytail, sighed and readied her bow.

“If you miss, Commander, drinks are on you tomorrow night.” The man with the long hair teased.

“I don’t remember making that bet before we started, Howe.” The woman answered. Varric’s stomach lurched. It wasn’t Hawke, it couldn’t be, but Maker did it sound a bit like her. This woman’s voice was a bit sultrier, her hair fell in loose waves. So, this was Warden Commander Amell. Perhaps the family resemblance was stronger than he thought it’d be.

“Don’t worry, Commander, I’ll find a witness that says you did.” He teased. The crowd cheered again and the Commander laughed. She pulled the bowstring back and took a deep breath before letting her arrow fly. It stuck in the bullseye of the opposing target and the men burst into applause.

“I believe that means drinks are on you, Howe.” The woman turned now and Varric could breathe a bit easier. There was definitely a strong resemblance, but the Commander’s face was softer, her eyes a dark brown instead of a stunning blue.

“I still won!” Howe protested as the men cheered. The woman laughed, reaching up to pat the man’s shoulder fondly before turning and heading back toward the tower where he’d come from, taking the roundabout way Zevran had shown them earlier. The other Wardens dissipated and left the archer alone, shaking his head. He turned to the targets and began retrieving arrows.

“I think you look familiar, Warden.” Varric drawled, watching as the man turned. “Didn’t we pull your arse out of the deep roads earlier this year?”

“Maker’s name!” Nathaniel smiled. “Aren’t you lot supposed to be lying low? Do I need to explain what that means?”

“Ah, so you knew we were here. That makes this reveal a bit disappointing.” Varric hated having his theatrics thwarted.

“Sorry.” Nathaniel Howe had the courtesy to look properly chastened. “We can do it again and I can act properly surprised.”

“It’s over now. The thrill is gone.” Varric shook his head. “I see you made it back to Amaranthine.”

“Course I did!” Nathaniel pulled the rest of the arrows free. “I see you made it out of Kirkwall. What a shithole.”

“Well, you caught us at a bad time in Kirkwall. Sometimes, it was less of a shithole.”

“Is it true?” Nathaniel asked. “What they say, about Anders?”

“I’m afraid it is. I don’t know… I’m not sure that’s Anders anymore.” Varric admitted. Nathaniel sighed, his shoulders bowing forward.

“I used to get so annoyed with him. Honestly, felt like I wasted half my time with him. I could tell he wasn’t the same. It’s my fault, you know. I gave Justice and Anders the idea. I didn’t mean to, I was just talking. Maker, I never thought they would. I ruined them both.” Nathaniel was silent, staring at the arrows in his hand.

“It’s not your fault.” Varric offered. “You didn’t force them to join up.”

“I miss him.” Nathaniel sighed. “Maybe...someday he’ll show up here again. We can figure out a way to seperate them. It’ll go back to normal.”

“Maybe.” Varric agreed, although privately he thought nugs were more likely to fly. “What’s your Warden Commander like?”

“Funny, she asked me the same thing today about your Champion.” Nathaniel considered. “She was only seventeen when she joined the Grey Wardens, you know. I think a lot of the time, she still feels like the girl everyone keeps placing demands on. She can be quiet, sometimes I think she’s shy. She’s more at home here than anywhere else, training with her wardens. They’d all die for her in an instant.”

“Must be a family trait, inspiring loyalty.” Varric commented sourly. Nathaniel laughed.

“Maybe, but she has the whole city eating out of her hand. She sacrificed the keep to save the town. Took five bloody years to rebuild it. Thought for sure Anders and I weren’t going to make it.” Nathaniel scratched at his beard. “Damned darkspawn.”

“And what did you tell the Warden Commander about Hawke?” Varric questioned.

“Told her Zevran’s spent more time with her, to be honest. They took down that assassin together, didn’t they? Course she said she had asked Zevran, and he just started on about how she was a vision almost as lovely as our Commander. Typical, really.” Nathaniel snorted. “So I said she seemed to have the same sense of humor Anders used to have. I’m not sure if she was pleased or exasperated. I think she’s a bit nervous, to tell the truth. She had the guest quarters all fixed up in preparation.”

“I certainly appreciate it.” Varric gave a little bow.

“You certainly should! I’m pretty sure I’ve been asking for the same hole in my roof to be patched for months.” Nathaniel added sourly. “Come along, dwarf. I’ll show you around.”

 

Nathaniel Howe was a great tour guide, with stories that were nearly as good as Anders, but that name hung in distant look in Nathaniel’s eyes and the frown that almost always overtook the smile. Varric wanted to offer some comfort or reassurance, but almost everything he could think of sounded terrible. When Nathaniel Howe left Varric at the bottom of the tower, he climbed up with a heavy heart. He was directed by a serving girl into a private dining room with a round table, set for eight. Isabela, Merrill, and Carver were already present.

“You’re looking much better, Daisy.” Varric took the chair on her left. “Much less green.”

“It’s much better to be on the ground.” Merrill agreed. Varric’s sharp eyes noticed she was still clutching onto Carver’s hand.

“I’ve never been much for boats myself, and you’ve come a long way.” A soft voice came from the door. They all turned and Carver jumped up quickly into a salute. The rest of their group stood in reverence.

The woman in the door looked young, still. Varric did the math quickly, she’d been eighteen when the blight ended. That made her just about twenty-five, a year younger than Hawke. Her hair fell in gentle waves to her shoulders and her eyes were what Varric would describe as “doe-eyes” in a sappy romance novel. He was right that her face was softer than Hawke’s, more full. They shared the same fine build, petite and curvy. The Warden may have been an inch taller, but that could have been her soft Antivan leather boots. She winced as they all rose, holding her hands up in a gesture that pleaded with them to stop as she stepped into the room.

“Please don’t get up.” She asked with an apologetic smile. “Stop saluting...Carver, is it? May I call you cousin?” She asked gently.

“If… if you’d like, Commander.” Carver stuttered. “Maker’s breath… you look just like…”

“Bethany.” Hawke’s voice seemed to break on the name as she arrived, floating around the periphery of the room. Fenris stopped in the door anxiously. “Down to her nose, I never thought I’d see it again.” Hawke finished.

“I’m sorry, she was your sister. I heard the darkspawn…” Carver and Hawke both looked stricken and the Warden Commander looked on the edge of panic. “I didn’t mean to dredge up… I passed through Lothering before the horde. We had nothing, but if I’d have known your family was so close, I’d have stopped and made sure you were safe. I promise.”

“We would never have left without Carver, that’s why we waited. For news.” Hawke shook her head as if to clear it. “We’re lucky he didn’t die at Ostagar, or we’d have been waiting until the darkspawn knocked on our door.”

“Darkspawn don’t knock though, do they?” Merrill asked, confused. It was enough to break the news as all three looked at Merrill.

“Not in my experience.” The Commander stated with a small smile. “Ser, can you close the door please? Zevran will be by in a moment. He’s seeing to another guest I was expecting, although if he hasn’t arrived yet he probably won’t be coming until tomorrow.”

Fenris did as directed and shut the door before slinking into a seat next to Hawke. Much to his surprise, the Commander didn’t sit down right away, but went to Isabela and placed a chaste kiss on the pirate’s cheek.

“Miss me, Warden?” Isabela asked with a wink.

“Oh, always, Isabela.” The girl laughed. “Are you still cheating at cards?”

“I never cheat!” Isabela protested. “Am I still your first and only?”

The Warden blushed and Isabela sniggered. “Ah, so the pretty little circle mage has been completely corrupted by our assassin friend. Good to know!”

Well, Maker be damned. He supposed Isabela hadn’t been making it up after all. The same shocked looks were in evidence all across the table, except for Merrill, who was oblivious.

“My name is Chantal Amell-Arainai.” The commander introduced herself. “My people call me Commander, but you’re welcome to call me Chantal.”

“Arainai? You convinced him to marry you?” Isabela sounded incredulous.

“I convinced her to marry me.” Zevran had appeared silently at the door and shut it behind it. “Although, we don’t often advertise the fact. Politics, si? They’re so...unfortunate.” He bent to kiss Chantal’s head as he passed. “Mi amor, he hasn’t arrived. I’m sure he’ll be camping somewhere, or at an inn. If he’s not here tomorrow, I’ll go looking for the great oaf.”
“Thank you, Zevran.” Chantal smiled sweetly as Zevran sat down. As if waiting for the cue, servants appeared and began serving bread and vegetables with a savory roasted meat. Chantal smiled at each one and thanked them by name. When glasses were filled with wine, they disappeared with smiles at the Commander.

“Have introductions been completed then, mi amor? No?” He asked as she shook her head. “I, as you all are aware, am the famous and handsome Antivan Assassin…”

“Former Antivan Assassin.” Chantal corrected.

“Former Antivan Assassin known as Zevran Arainai, but I’m best known as the companion and lover of the Hero of Ferelden.” He shot a small, proud smile at his wife. “Who single handedly stopped the blights…”

“I did not!”

“Saved the city of Redcliffe…”

“At the very least, you were there too.” Chantal protested, laughing.

“And defeated the darkspawn besieging Amaranthine.” Zevran finished. “Among her many more obvious qualifications.”

“Which are?” Isabela asked.

“Of all the beauties here, she shines the brightest.” Zevran gave a small shrug of his shoulders. Fenris let out a small snort and Hawke elbowed him in the ribs.

“You should do all the introductions.” Varric insisted. “I’d be hard pressed to beat that one.”

“Of course I should! Now, you’ve met your cousins, mi amor?” Zevran asked. “Warden Carver Hawke, slayer of darkspawn and ensnarer of elven girls’ hearts, or so it is rumored.”

“What?” Carver sputtered as Merrill flushed a pretty pink. Good to see that project of Isabela’s was working nicely.

“And Reyna Hawke, defender of innocent mages, champion of Kirkwall, and explorer of the deep roads. I confess, I had to dig a bit to learn her first name.” Zevran smiled brilliantly at Chantal. “It seems she is never called so.”

“Do you prefer Hawke?” Chantal asked. “Or may I call you cousin?”

Hawke shrugged. “Honestly, whatever you like. Very few people call me Reyna.”

Varric had to confess he couldn’t even remember the last time he’d heard Carver call her that. The only time he’d heard it in the last year or so was whispers from Fenris when he thought the two of them were alone or unobserved.

“Then we have her paramour, Fenris. His chief flaw seems to be that he is impervious to my charms. Beyond that, he is notable for escaping slavery in Tevinter, killing at least two magisters, and a fine appreciation for wine. I picked this one tonight out especially for you. It’s an Antivan red from one of the best years.” Zevran raised his glass to Fenris and waited for the elf to slowly do the same before sipping it. “Ah, delicious.”

“Fenris is also quite good at brooding intensely.” Varric offered as he sipped the wine. It was particularly delicious, and Varric didn’t even like wine. He watched Fenris out of the corner of his eye struggle with the appropriate reaction. He could tell Fenris was torn between tossing the wine at the other elf or continuing to appreciate it.

“We all have our talents.” Chantal slipped in diplomatically. “Please continue, Zevran.”

“This is Merrill, formerly of clan Sabrae, also formerly of Ferelden before they went to the Free Marches during the blight.”

“We call her Daisy.” Varric added.

“She is a beautiful wildflower, no Warden Hawke?” Zevran grinned wolfishly. “And a skilled mage! I think she’d get along quite well with us, mi amor.”

“I do try to be friendly.” Merrill leaned forward eagerly. Carver rolled his eyes.

“Kitten is very friendly.” Isabela purred.

“You remember the tempting and delectable Isabela?” Zevran asked. Chantal nodded, flushing pink again. “Ah good, perhaps we can get acquainted again.” Zevran winked. “Which leaves you, Ser Dwarf.”

“Varric Tethras, wayward head of House Tethras and member of the Dwarven Merchant’s Guild of Kirkwall. It’s an honor to meet you, your Greyness.” Varric gave a mock bow from his seat.

“You’re a writer as well, correct?” Chantal asked. “You are that Varric Tethras?”

“Are you a fan?” Varric asked shrewdly.

“Hard in Hightown is my favorite. I know Brother Genetivi, you know. He told me recently your trash has outsold his Travels of a Chantry Scholar. He’s crushed.”

“You’re kidding!” Varric didn’t have to feign his delight. “My publisher will be thrilled.”

“Are you working on a sequel? Would I be able to get a sneak peak?” Ah, there it was, the small smirk that Hawke shared when she was angling to get something. Varric laughed.

“I never give away spoilers. Right now, I’ve just given something new to my publisher. A biography of the Champion of Kirkwall.” He heard Hawke groan and sink down in her chair.

“Now we must have a taste of that!” Chantal persisted. “Zevran can tell you one of our stories from the Blight in exchange.”

“Well if you insist…” Varric began. “What would you like to learn about our dear Champion?”

 

The evening devolved into a drinking competition. Varric had to admit, he was impressed with the way the small woman held her wine and ale. She wasn’t even swaying, but Merrill and Isabela were practically on the floor. “I think it may be time to put them to bed.” Varric observed wryly.

“I’ll take Merrill.” Carver sighed. “Come on, Daisy.”

“Carver!” Merrill squealed as Carver picked her up. “You are so very...musclely.” She mused as the back of Carver’s neck colored.

“Fenris, can you…?” Hawke asked sweetly.

“No.” Fenris said immediately.

“I can’t carry her!” Hawke protested as Isabela began to sing a drunken pirate shanty.

“The last time I carried her somewhere when she was this drunk, she attempted to take advantage.” Fenris reasoned.

“I’ll duel her for your honor tomorrow.” Hawke promised, laughing as Fenris reached down to yank Isabela to her feet.

“Hello sailor!” Isabela giggled as Fenris led her from the room. She tripped over the threshold and fell into him, leaving Fenris cursing.

“Thank you, again.” Hawke turned to Chantal. “I know you didn’t have to invite us in.”

“Course I did!” She poured the last of the wine in Hawke’s goblet and her own. “I couldn’t leave my own cousin stranded. “I barely remember my mother, her name was Revka.”

“My mother mentioned her once. She said she cried when her eldest child was taken to Kirkwall’s circle. He died of a fever after being seperated from the family, and Revka left Kirkwall.”

“I’m the third child. My youngest sibling died as a babe and my older sister didn’t pass her harrowing in Ostwick. They say Revka died when they took me to the circle, it broke her heart.” Chantal looked out the window at the sleeping city, biting her lip uncertainly.

“If you’re going to ask about him, do it now. That’s the real reason I asked Fenris to take Isabela.” Hawke offered. “You won’t want to do this in front of him.”

“It’s my fault, what happened to him and Justice.” Varric bit his tongue from interrupting to say that was the second time he’d heard that sentiment today. Zevran stood to ensure the door was closed. “I just can’t believe...but it is true, isn’t it?”

“When I met him, he’d just left the Wardens I think. He said you all made him get rid of his cat.” Chantal barked out a rough laugh, shaking her head. “He...was still him then I think. Looking back…”

“He was less himself every year.” Varric added. “At first, Justice just made an occasional appearance. Eventually, it was Anders that was making the occasional appearances.”

“Do you know how I met him?” Chantal smiled brightly. “Here at the keep during a darkspawn attack. He was surrounded by dead darkspawn and templars. His first words were ‘I didn’t do it’, immediately followed by stating he wasn’t particularly sorry they were dead.”

“Did you believe him?” Varric asked. “Seems a likely story.”

“I remembered him from the Tower. Irving always said he was reckless, but not dangerous. I don’t think he killed them, it looked like darkspawn’s work to me. I’m sure he wasn’t breaking his heart over trying to help them either.” Chantal shrugged. “The templars wanted to take him back to the Tower and hang him. I thought he was mostly innocent, and I needed warden recruits.”

“My wife has always had a knack for picking companions that are deranged and deadly. It’s a talent.” Zevran winked.

“Must run in the family.” Varric grumbled.

“You found me, Varric, remember?” Hawke challenged. “I still don’t know how much coin you paid that pickpocket to set you up for that entrance.”

“Coin well spent.” Varric was still satisfied he’d gotten the best of that deal.

“Justice was possessing the corpse of a dead Warden. He seemed...odd, but harmless. Infinitely helpful. Somehow he’d gotten stuck on this side of the veil.” Chantal sighed, shaking her head. “I was trying to save Amaranthine, Anders and Justice were both here. We found the headless corpse Justice had been possessing, but no Justice.”

“And then what happened?” Hawke asked. “Why did Anders leave?”

“I never wanted to tie Anders down to this place, I knew he hated the idea. So I let him come and go as he pleased for the most part. I had asked him to stay here and take charge of the keep during a mission, but he turned me down. He said he didn’t want to be in charge. I took Oghren with me, and Howe was going to the deep roads to map out some old tunnels. I should have followed my gut and left Anders in charge anyway, but I didn’t.”

“Mi amor, you couldn’t have known…” Zevran soothed.

“You would have pointed out the flaw in my plan, if you’d have been here Zev. I put a former templar in charge. It shouldn’t have mattered, everything that happened before the wardens is supposed to go away as soon as you join. I explain that to every new recruit. I thought Rolan had been used to being in charge of a standing garrison, he was best suited, but he remembered Anders from the circle and decided to make his life miserable. I wish he’d have written to one of us, but he didn’t. He...joined up with Justice again, somehow. Rolan called him an abomination and tried to kill him.”

“Didn’t work, did it?” Hawke asked.

“I sent wardens out after them as soon as I’d heard what had happened, but I was too late. We found a clearing full of charred tree stumps and dismembered templars and wardens. Next thing I heard, Anders was in Kirkwall. I wrote, I sent letters. I told him I was sorry, he was free to come back and we’d work together to fix it. He never answered. Was he...very angry at me?”

Hawke hesitated just long enough that the lie was evident before she told it. Chantal sighed. “I thought so.”

“He may not have come back because he fancied himself in love with me.” Hawke said softly. “It may not have just been anger.”

“In love with you? Anders?” Chantal grinned. “Never! I can picture him fusing with Justice and blowing up the chantry… that seems like just another few bad decisions. But love? Anders would never fall in love, and if he did it would have been…” She trailed off, never finishing her thought.

“Will you help him, if he comes to you?” Hawke asked.

“I don’t know if I can.” She answered glumly. “But I’d try. I owe him that.”

“Don’t tell Fenris. It isn’t worth the argument.” Varric advised. Chantal nodded, standing and stretching.

“My other guest should be here tomorrow, he’ll be able to help you as well. He doesn’t know you’re here yet, but I’ve asked him to bring some things so we can get you hidden, cousin. I think I may ask for your brother to be transferred to our garrison, temporarily. I’ll invent a need for him. It may be safer, politically, here than in the Free Marches.”

“Thank you, Chantal.” Hawke said tentatively.

“You’re welcome, Reyna. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

There had been no nightmares since they had left Llomeryn. It was as if the very act of moving, of doing something to combat the threat had banished them. Fenris almost hated the thought of being stuck in one place again. The room was comfortable enough, with a large bed and a table for Fenris to stack his growing collection of books. He was reading one by the light of a candle when Hawke finally slipped in the door. He looked up from the page, moving his finger to mark the spot he had stopped as she crossed the room to their folded clothes.

“What do you think of her?” Hawke asked. “I thought she’d be taller, to be honest.”

That, Fenris thought, was a complicated question. When he’d first seen the Warden Commander, he’d experienced a rush of disorientation. He had sworn that there were two of his Hawke, like he’d fallen asleep and was having a crazy dream. Then he’d been able to appreciate the differences, the shorter hair on the Warden and the chocolate colored eyes as well as a general softness. Then...he’d unfortunately thought of what they’d both look like naked, together. He was still extremely ashamed of this wayward fantasy and had crushed it immediately. He had to say, he felt slightly more understanding of Zevran’s overt and rather annoying attentions.

“People always say they expect you to be taller as well.” Fenris pointed out reasonably, eyes glued to Hawke’s hands as she lifted the flimsy cotton over head and dumped it on the ground. She perched on the edge of the table and began to unlace her boots.

“They say that because Varric makes it sound like the Arishok was as tall as a house.” She paused, head tipped to the side as she yanked off her boot and started unlacing the other. “Although I suppose he couldn’t have fit in Gamlen’s hovel, could he?”

 

The Arishok was surprisingly fast as he darted around the room, chasing Hawke’s small form. Her hair had fallen from her braid in ragged strands that were glued to her pale face with sweat. She only stopped running to turn and cast, before sprinting away again. A fireball caught the Arishok’s arm and he growled, spinning away. There was a large, blistering burn on his skin. Hawke took the opportunity to reach into her belt and uncork a lyrium potion with her teeth, but her hand shook. It slowed her down just enough for the Arishok to be on her, his sword slicing through fabric, leather, and chainmail.

The blade sunk through her pale, soft skin. Fenris had touched that skin, once. He’d ran her hands over her curves and thought himself blessed instead of cursed as he trailed kisses over her breasts and she arched into his touch. Then he’d left and she didn’t know. She didn’t know he still dreamed of that moment, every second burned into his memory with a clarity he thought reserved for memories of pain and torture. He could still hear her whispering his name, he was haunted by her blue eyes. When the blade sunk into her abdomen and emerged from her back, only one coherent thought was in his head.

He’d never get the chance to tell her.

Then the giant had smirked and lifted his sword and Hawke had screamed. Fenris could still hear that scream echoing in the silent chamber. She was so small and her form was sliding down that giant sword and Maker she was screaming, he had to stop it. Aveline was holding him back and he was screaming to, just one word torn from his mouth.

“No!”

A plea, a command, a prayer. Fenris didn’t know. Then there was flame and Hawke’s palm and the sword was on the ground still covered in her blood. She was hefting it up with the last strength in her body and plunging it into the Arishok’s throat.

Disjointed moments as she held her hand over the wound and Meredith declared her champion and Aveline was still holding him back and he could smell blood in the air. Then he was free and he was cradling her head and whispering her name, her real name. Anders’ hands were shaking and he was glowing blue.

“Save her.” His voice sounded broken to his own ears as he looked at the mage. He would have given anything, done anything.

“I will, I will.” Anders’ had promised. Their hands were both red from blood and people were still screaming but the wound wasn’t gushing blood anymore and Fenris allowed himself to hope, just for a moment.  

 

Hawke was still talking as Fenris tried to pry himself from the memory. She was pulling a shift over her head now and he could see the scar from the Arishok’s blade marring her perfect skin. Anders had almost died that day too, Aveline had told him later. Fenris couldn’t remember, he’d been too focused on Hawke, but the mage had poured everything into that wound. Merrill had apparently forced health potions and lyrium down his throat until the mage was breathing steadily again. Hawke had lived.

“Fenris?” Hawke finally caught sight of the  expression on his face. “What is it?”

“The Arishok was the size of a house.” He responded somberly. “I hate to think of it… of that day. I thought you were lost.”

“To be completely honest,” Hawke’s one was annoyingly breezy “So did I. He was probably still less imposing than an archdemon, however.”

“It’s not a competition, Reyna.” Fenris scolded.

“Of course it is!” Hawke protested in mock indignation as she crawled onto the bed. “What do you think I’ve done that’s on that scale? The crazy darkspawn Magister in the deep roads?”

Fenris smirked. “He still wasn’t an Archdemon, although I thought it was impressive.”

“High dragon at the Bone Pit?” She asked hopefully.

“An archdemon is a dragon, corrupted by the blight, so I’m afraid she still wins.”

“Well, I’ll just have to find something bigger and badder than an Archdemon.” Hawke shrugged, her shift had slipped down, revealing the gentle curve of his shoulder. Fenris let out a ragged breath, closing his eyes.

“Please don’t.” He begged. “I couldn’t bear living in a world without you. There’s no reason to throw yourself into danger anymore.”

“Fenris, you’re not proposing retirement are you? I’m not that old.” Hawke scoffed.

“No, I suppose not. Just...enemies that are smaller than houses.”

“I’ll try.” She promised, leaning her head on his shoulder. “What are you reading?”

“The Emperors or Orlais by Brother Harlon Ascari.” Fenris answered.

“Why don’t you ever read anything with steamy bits?” Hawke asked petulantly. Fenris chuckled.

“I’ll read it to you regardless, if you would like.” There was a pride in that, he could read to her. He did often and he never tired of it.

“I would listen to you read sermons if it meant I got to hear your voice.” She sighed happily. “You could make the chant sound absolutely sinful.”

Fenris adjusted, bringing the candle closer to them as she rested securely against him. Then he began to read.

 

The dawn carried a gloom and rainy mist that clung to everything. It also brought the Warden Commander to their door with a piece of parchment, looking particularly sheepish. “I’m sorry to trouble you.” She whispered to Fenris as Hawke slumbered peacefully behind him. “Zevran was so insistent he needed you to meet him first thing.”

“What is this about?” Fenris questioned impatiently.

“Maker only knows. Zevran doesn’t always tell me what he’s doing or why. He went out after supper last night and came back several hours later. When he left again this morning he said it was vital that I wake you up and send you after him.” She sounded exasperated. It didn’t do much to instill faith in the assassin.

“Me, alone.” Fenris found it hard to ignore instincts screaming that this was almost certainly a trap.

“I trust Zevran, implicitly. Whatever he wants to tell you alone is most certainly important and probably illegal, since he doesn’t want me knowing.” Her forehead wrinkled and she folded her arms over her chest. “He’d never cause you any harm, however. Whatever it is, you should go.”

Fenris finally nodded, looking over his shoulder at the sleeping form.

“I will need to write a note. I don’t wish to wake her.”

“Of course, here.” She held out a torn piece of paper. “Zevran said you should give this to a waitress named Sorcha. The inn is called ‘The Crown and Lion.’ It’s near the chantry.”

Fenris looked at the torn paper, all that was on it were some indecipherable symbols. Chantal sighed. He looked up, confused and hesitant. “I can’t read it either. It’s a code he uses with his contacts, but he switches up the symbols pretty often. I’m pretty sure that bit on the end means elf, so it may be talking about you.” She shrugged. “He always used to go on about how awful it was that we kept finding secret plans in our enemies’ small clothes and wanted to ensure it didn’t happen to him I suppose.”

“Comforting.” Fenris quipped, “when Hawke wakes…”

“I was hoping I could convince her to put on a cloak and let me take her on the tour.” Chantal offered easily. “I can’t have everyone knowing she’s here, but I don’t want her to feel like a prisoner.”

“She’ll like that. Thank you.” Fenris inclined his head slightly.

The Commander inclined her head as well, then turned and strode away. Fenris shut the door and leaned his forehead against it for a brief moment before turning to the writing desk. He carefully moved his quill over a creamy white sheet of paper, cautiously forming the letters. When he was satisfied, he began to tug on his armor. He left off the Amell shield, as had become his unfortunate custom. He couldn’t take the chance of the heraldry being recognized, but he tied the red ribbon carefully around the gauntlet before slipping out of the room.

The city was already bustling and Fenris had to navigate a fair few crowds.

Finding the inn wasn’t a problem, but his old habits hadn’t quite died. He circled the building and eyed the doors in the back and all the windows. He then settled against an opposing building and waited for a half hour, looking for signs of suspicious activity. He saw a milk delivery and a traveling merchant loading his cart, but nothing further. Finally, he steeled himself and entered the inn.

It was remarkably clean and  well kept, Fenris had been expecting something closer to the Hanged Man. He scanned the common area, eyes lighting on an older woman with her graying hair tucked up into a severe bun. He gripped the torn parchment in his hand and approached her slowly.

“Can I help you?” She asked, surprisingly warmly. “Don’t be shy dear, we serve elves as long as their coins good.”

“I’m not here for a room.” He answered roughly. “Are you Sorcha?”

“Aye.” She answered levelly. Fenris opened his gauntlet and offered the paper to her. She took it, smoothing the parchment and then laughing softly as she read it before sweeping her eyes back to his face.

“This note instructs me not to waste time flirting with the handsome elf and to take you directly.” She giggled like a much younger girl and Fenris felt heat creeping up his neck. “Shame, if I were a bit younger…”

Fenris was on the verge of storming out and assuming this was a joke when she turned and waved for him to follow. She walked up a set of stairs and down a hall, opening the farthest door to the left. She indicated Fenris should go in and shut the door quietly behind him.

Zevran was reclining in an armchair in the corner. There were two small shapes in a bed at the end of the room. Zevran stood, smiling. “My friend.” he greeted. “Or should I call you cousin too, no?”

Fenris was not sure he was quite ready for either of those, but his head tilted curiously to the bed instead of saying anything. Zevran indicated for Fenris to be quiet and offered him the other arm chair.

“I am sorry to get you up so early, I know you had a long journey and could use your rest. I hated to be absent when they woke, though. These are two children I have recently smuggled into the city, a brother and sister in fact.” He explained quietly. “I didn’t want them to wake up alone in this strange place. They only arrived last night.”

“Why in the Maker’s name are you smuggling children?” Fenris asked, trying to keep his voice neutral as his gauntlets clenched into a fist.

“To protect them, of course.” Zevran explained innocently. “The last you saw me I was being hunted by Crows for killing a substantial number of their assassins and leaders. I suppose I am on a personal mission of revenge, you see. I was sold to the Crows as a boy, at the age of seven.” Fenris’s gauntleted hands relaxed and he felt a swell of relief rush through him. Zevran noticed and nodded, approvingly. “I thought you would see my point of view. Of the eighteen children purchased by the Crows that year, only two survived. Myself and one other. It is...a brutal initiation into a brutal world. Quick, clever children were beaten, starved, and turned against one another. We learned to endure torture, and if we didn’t learn quick enough or well enough, we were punished as an example to the other children.”

“And these children were to be purchased by the Crows?” Fenris asked.

“They had already been purchased. After you and the Champion assisted me, I went to Antiva to make a point, a very sharp one, you see? There were eight children at the Crow’s base that I infiltrated. I killed the Crows and directed some friends of mine in Antiva to return the children to their families. It turns out most of them had been stolen, not sold. However…” Zevran indicated the two bodies in the bed. “These two have no family. I’ve brought children here before and Sorcha is always willing to keep them until we have a home for them. I’d take them to the keep, but it is technically illegal to smuggle children into Amaranthine. I just have to find a place for them to go, but I’d like to ask them for their thoughts. There is a tapestry weaver here, a widow who would take two children and apprentice them to her. If their fingers are clever enough it could be a good life. She’d teach them the skill and they could help her when she is old. Affection could even grow, she’s kind enough.”

“This is a good thing you have done.” Fenris admitted. “I may have misjudged you earlier.”

“Well, I have been flirting outrageously with your Champion, but can you truly blame me? They’re nearly twins, no? I suppose you wouldn’t approve of a group effort.” He sighed when Fenris felt his face turn fairly murderous. “No, no of course.”

Fenris let the silence fall and Zevran sunk further back into the armchair. “Chantal cannot have children. The ritual they partake of robs them of that ability.” Hawke was told that she couldn’t have children as well, but Fenris didn’t say that. It was a secret, not a common fact of an order that everyone knew. Anders had told her the Arishok’s blade had done too much damage to make pregnancy an option. Hawke had told him this, but said no more about it. “It also took most of her lifespan.” Zevran continued bitterly. “When she was eighteen, she was told she would be lucky to get thirty years. She has, what, ten years left? Fifteen? She will go to the deep roads and die among the darkspawn.”

There was nothing to say. Fenris’s stomach churned unpleasantly as he pictured a woman who looked so much like Hawke, overwhelmed with the stench of blight, bleeding from fatal wounds, fighting desperately against darkspawn that would take her in the end. Fenris shut his eyes and shuddered. “You will go with her?” He asked Zevran. The other elf chuckled humorlessly.

“Ah, yes. We are similar you and I, no? I will follow her, to the ends of the world or the Deep Roads, into the very Void gladly.” Zevran looked haunted, drawn and older now. “Until then, I do the good I can and she does what she can. Perhaps, she and I will leave the world a bit better than we found it. I’m sorry, this is very maudlin and tragic. I asked you to come here for a reason.”

“I know my sympathy does nothing…” Fenris offered.

“You are only mostly correct. It does little practically, but I appreciate the sentiment.” Zevran waved away his concern. “Now, before they wake, I wanted to tell you what these little birds mentioned last night. They asked me if it were true that elves here glowed blue and could rip a man’s heart from his ribs.”

Fenris felt his own heart drop and growled. “Fasta vass.”

“I told them it was a talent I had never heard of and asked them to explain. They told me a man had come from far away to the Crows and asked for a contract to be placed on an elf with your unusual abilities. I assume there are no others of your kind?”

“Not that I’m aware of.” Fenris responded darkly.

“I suspected as much.” Zevran replied easily. “Apparently word of your abilities has spread. The Crows wanted to charge a ridiculously high price, this man could not pay it. I anticipate no Crow would take the contract regardless, with your history of lethality.”

“These children didn’t happen to learn something useful, like a name?” Fenris asked.

“Unfortunately, names are not commonly used in the Crows. They are certain it was a man, that the man was not from Antiva, and that this person was a mage. I thought, perhaps, you have left someone who wants revenge for your old master’s death?”

“He was little loved.” Fenris pondered. “Although I suppose it is possible.”

“Regardless, I always want to hear if someone is attempting to purchase a contract on me. I like to take advance measures.” Zevran mused.

“But you wanted to speak to me alone.” Fenris pointed out. Zevran smirked.

“Some things my dear Warden is happier not knowing about. She worries and I prefer to cause her less worry than more. This is your affair, and you are not currently in danger, I believe. It should be your decision to share the information.”

“Thank you.” Fenris responded sincerely. “I believe I am already in hiding again by default, but I shall keep an eye for enemies of mine as well as Hawke’s.”

“You are most welcome, cousin.” Zevran said slyly. Fenris coughed a bit in surprise. “If you don’t mind, I’d prefer you leave before the little ones wake up. Your appearance is delightful, but also a bit intimidating for the young.”

Fenris left the room to Zevran’s chuckling. He stopped in the market outside the chantry, looking at the brightly colored stalls as he drifted aimlessly. Who in the Maker’s name would be wanting to take a contract out on him? He’d place bets the foreigner was most likely from Tevinter, it would be just like a Magister to hire someone to do their dirty work then balk at the price. Slave labor was so much more economical than paying for a job. He wondered when this had occurred. Had it been Danarius, before his letter had reached his traitorous sister and the man had seen a cheaper opportunity? Perhaps another one of his apprentices, out for revenge and to make a name for him or herself? Was he truly safe? Was Hawke in more danger from him and his past? Should he tell her?

The questions whirled in his brain as he browsed the stalls. There wasn’t a bookseller here, but there was a jeweler. The man was a dwarf and was explaining his methods to a well dressed woman and her chaperone, an older woman with a nose like a birds. Fenris smirked at the uncharitable thought and dropped his eyes.

They landed directly on the rings in the stall and his eyes was drawn to one in particular. He was breathless at the perfection of it - a wolf’s face fashioned out of gleaming gold with it’s jaws closed over a ruby set into a dainty band, the gem gleaming the perfect red color of fresh blood. All he could think of was Hawke joking about Fenris presenting the heart of the templar who had slapped her, dropping it at her feet. At a distance, the moment had been amusing, even if he hadn’t been able to see it at the time.

“Ah, I designed that one.” A younger dwarf approached Fenris. “My father doesn’t care for the design much. Says it’s too elfy and elves never have coin. Please don’t prove him right.”
“How much?” Fenris asked. The younger dwarf smirked. “Forty sovereigns.”

The money in his pouch was Hawke’s, but they had coin purses full of sovereigns. Varric had mentioned that he had money stashed in Amaranthine, part of his and Hawke’s rainy day fund. Varric had admitted he’d always anticipated Aveline would eventually be forced to attempt to arrest them and they’d need to go on the run. Still, he should try to barter…

“Thirty-five.” Fenris whispered. The dwarf shrugged.

“I can’t go lower than thirty-eight.”

Varric would have driven a better bargain, but Fenris wasn’t Varric. “Deal.”

Chapter Text

Varric had to say, the Grey Wardens had a knack for food. He’d just finished what must have been a shining example of Ferelden breakfast, complete with sausage, eggs, fluffy muffins, and generous servings of bacon. Varric lingered over his meal, picking the brains of each Warden who happened to sit next to him. Finally, all the wardens began to filter out with the exception of Merrill and Carver, who had arrived together and very, very late.

“Thank the Maker there’s still food left. In the Marches, I’d have had to go hungry until lunch.” Carver murmured appreciatively.

“It isn’t like you to miss breakfast.” Varric observed casually.

“It’s my fault.” Merrill admitted. “I didn’t think the writing desk would fit out the window, but then I couldn’t get it back in. Carver had to help me.”

“Wait, what?” Varric sputtered.

“She’s serious, had half the damn desk out the window.” Carver couldn’t help his amazed smile. It must take a serious crush to make getting a desk out of a window seem exciting. Of course, he had helped Bianca clean up her errors pretty regularly.

“Daisy, do I even want to know how the desk ended up out the window?” Varric asked.

“Poor Isabela.” Merrill sighed. “After we got her off the roof, she said she was going to get a drink.”

Varric couldn’t help the near hysterical laughter that bubbled up in his throat. Maker’s teeth, he hoped he eventually got the whole story. He could just picture Isabela out on the roof this morning, shivering in the fog like a wet cat.

“Varric!” Fenris was at his side, looking just about panicked. Carver immediately began to stand up.

“Is it Reyna?” Carver asked.

“What?” Fenris stopped, looking at Merrill and Carver, then back at Varric. “No. I mean, yes. She is fine, though. She likes to sleep late, I left her in bed. I had errands to run. I need Varric, however.”

“Errands?” Merrill asked, perplexed. “But you never run errands. Hawke has been buying your groceries for years.”

“You also don’t have any money, Hawke has been paying for your groceries and gambling for years as well.” Carver added.

“Venhedis, Varric!” Fenris implored. The elf was looking a bit green and Varric stood.

“C’mon, Broody. It can’t be that bad.” Varric soothed.

Varric led the elf back up into the guest wing, sneaking past the room where Hawke still slept soundly and opening the door to his room. Varric sat on the edge of the bed so Fenris could take the chair, but Fenris seemed to have no use for chairs. He was pacing like a caged animal.

“I have spent an outrageous amount of money.” Fenris started, bringing his hand up to his white hair. Varric was as shocked by this statement as he would have been if they declared Isabela the next Grand Cleric of Kirkwall. Fenris never had money, that was true, but unlike Anders he had never looked it. Fenris was known to loot the occasional corpse and the money he took was enough to keep Fenris in sword polish and wine. It wasn’t like anyone was trying to collect rent on that eyesore in Hightown. Any extra coin went to card games with Varric, Isabela, Hawke, and Donnic. Fenris wasn’t the best card player, but he hardly ever lost heavily. There had been several occasions where he’d had to wheedle some coin from Hawke for these gambling debts when he’d gotten too cocky or too drunk to make better decisions. Fenris didn’t look drunk now.

“Broody, you never spend money. Hawke’s been after you to buy new armor for six years.” Varric shook his head, grinning. “What in the Maker’s name did you spend so much coin on?”

Fenris turned a shade greener, spinning on his heel and pulling a small, wooden box. He pushed it into Varric’s hand and walked away, his hands going back to his hair. Varric sighed, running his hand over the polished wood and feeling the weight in his calloused hands. He couldn’t help the small, wistful smile as he opened it.

“Well, Broody, I’m not sure it will fit on your finger.” He joked, running his hand over the wolf’s head, the ruby held between the golden jaws.

“Don’t taunt me, dwarf.” Fenris mumbled.

“It’s good quality. The gem is real, so you didn’t get ripped off.” Varric offered helpfully. “But if you’re looking for permission, you need to be talking to Junior, not me.”

“Is… is that what I am supposed to do?” Fenris asked, hesitating just a moment. Ah, that’s what the panic was. He’d made a decision based on rules he didn’t quite understand. Did slaves in Tevinter get married? If they did, Varric was certain it was nothing like the marriages here between free people in the south.

“Traditionally, yes.” Varric explained. “In practice, no, you shouldn’t. It’s tradition to ask the woman’s closest male relative for permission, but since that relative is Junior, I think Hawke would prefer you didn’t give him that power. The bigger issue is going to be…”

“That I’m an elf and she’s a human. A noblewoman.” Fenris interrupted. “I am a fool. I know.”

“No.” Varric interrupted gently. “Fenris, that isn’t the problem. Well, I’m sure some people would count it a problem, but not Hawke, and not the people that care about her or you.”

Fenris stopped his pacing, his green eyes staring intently at Varric. Varric suddenly wished he wasn’t the one who was telling the elf this. Honestly, he was shocked Blondie had never used it as a tool to beat Fenris with. “Broody...Fenris.” Varric began, awkwardly. “It is illegal for Hawke to marry. It is illegal for her to marry anyone in Ferelden, the Marches, and Orlais. I think Rivain allows it, possibly the Dalish let their mages bond although I think that may be different from marriage. I imagine it is the complete opposite in Tevinter.”

Whatever Fenris had expected, it wasn’t this. “Hawke’s parents, Zevran and the Warden...”

“Were probably never legally married. They may have found a sympathetic chantry mother, but it is entirely more likely they did a ceremony themselves in the Maker’s eyes and called it done or lied to some poor daft woman to get the ceremony completed.” Varric closed the lid of the box, sighing. “Broody, there was never going to be a big marriage ceremony for the Champion of Kirkwall. It’s probably why the Warden only uses her name officially. If you do this, I’ll consider it valid, as will our friends and Hawke’s family. The rest of the world will not.”

“It’s cruel.” Fenris whispered hoarsely, his eyes on the floor. “She gives everything to protect strangers and she is not permitted to marry because of what she is. It’s no better than…” Fenris trailed off, but Varric had a pretty good idea the next word was going to be a reference to slavery.

“You told her once that there was nothing magic had touched that it hadn’t ruined.” Varric tried to keep all the judgement out of his voice and found it wasn’t that hard. This man wasn’t the same angry creature that had shouted those words, but he flinched all the same. “I’m not reminding you of that to be spiteful. I just want you to think, Broody. You can’t feel that way and tie yourself to her for life. If you still do…”

“I don’t.” Fenris interrupted. “I didn’t mean it, even then. I was hurt and furious. I wasn’t think, I hurt her. It was unforgivable.” Fenris’s shoulders slumped. “She is made better by her magic, I’m not sure many are, but she has been.”  

Varric held the box back out to Fenris and the elf took it slowly, reverently. “On another note, I once came down to the bar at the Hanged Man and found her drunk at noon, crying into Isabela’s generous bosom.” Varric’s voice was menacingly light. “I never did get the full story, but I heard enough to know that Bianca owed you a visit. I stayed my hand once and gave you the benefit of the doubt that you were trying to figure things out. I won’t do it again, elf.”

“Noted.” Fenris responded dryly. “I wouldn’t expect you to.”

“Isabela will do it. She’s from Rivain, it’s common there. And she’s a real ships captain. At least your marriage will be semi-legal.” Varric offered. Fenris smiled, that small wistful smile he used more and more often.

“How will I ask her?”

“That is up to you, my Broody friend. I recommend you do what feels right, you seem to be the only man who can do wrong.”

“And you.” Fenris snorted, placing the box safely back in his pocket.

“I’m not a man, I’m a dwarf.” Varric grinned. “You’ll think of something.”

Fenris and Varric went to the Merchant’s Guild in the city and Varric arranged to have some of Hawke’s kept gold taken out to refill the purse. “She’ll never even know.” Varric winked. “She has no idea how much money she has at any given time. You and her will get along greatly with the stuff in your packs and your wits and this gold will just collect interest in the dozen or so cities I’ve got it stashed in.”

“Perhaps someday she’ll want another house.” Fenris shrugged. Varric scoffed.

“We are talking about the same woman, correct? I’m not sure she wanted the house she went to the damned Deep Roads to get.”

“Every time you talk about the deep roads, you act more and more like it wasn’t your idea.”

“If I say it enough times, it may be true.” Varric sighed. He wanted to enjoy this bickering more, but there had been no letters waiting for him at the Guild in Amaranthine. Varric wasn’t entirely sure he’d expected there to be, but it was disheartening regardless.

“There you are!” Hawke’s clear voice cut across the crowd. Fenris looked up immediately and was met by two women dressed in long cloaks with their hoods pulled forward. Varric could see under the fabric and smiled brightly.

“Why are you both incognito?” He asked the figured in the scarlet cloak. Hawke laughed and Chantal shook her head inside the blue one.

“I can’t go anywhere without being bothered.” Chantal complained. “When I first came here I used to be able to just go have a pint. To do that now, I’d have to go to the Free Marches.”

“We wouldn’t recommend doing that just now.” Fenris advised.

“Bit of a shithole, honestly.” Hawke agreed. “Particularly Kirkwall.”

“It was my shithole, though.” Varric sighed and hawke leaned her elbow on his shoulder.

“You know it isn’t the same without me. It’s probably been a boring few months. No blood magic, abominations, crazy qunari…” Hawke listed.

“It’s Kirkwall, I’m sure there’s some new threat. Probably the whole city is dealing with homicidal nugs.” Varric smirked.

“Oh! Or a herd of Druffalo that’s taken over Lowtown and refuses to move.” Hawke laughed.

“Is this the type of trouble that follows you often, cousin?” Chantal asked, looping her arm with Hawke’s.

“Only on Tuesdays.” Fenris grumbled, falling into step behind the two women. Varric rolled his eyes.

“Y’know, one of my Warden Recruits on  guard last night said there was one of those big writing desks and a woman on the roof with her tits out. I put him on dish duty for lying but now I think you may have something to do with it.”

“I did not!” Hawke protested.

“It was Daisy, Rivaini, and Junior. And despite being desperate to know, I haven’t figured out what they were doing yet.” Varric let the ladies guide them into the market.

“I should put them on dish duty.” Chantal grumbled.

“Only if you’re not attached to your current dishes.” Fenris remarked wryly.

 

When they made it back to the keep several hours later, Zevran was waiting. “Mi amor!” He called, reaching out for Chantal. She pulled her hood down and ran into his arms. He picked her up and kissed her passionately, his hands hooking under the woman’s shapely thighs and wandering up to her pert bottom. Fenris looked away quickly and Hawke giggled. Varric coughed.

“You are more beautiful now than you were this morning, how do you do that?” Zevran asked as he pulled away.

“My secret.” Chantal purred, releasing her hold on the elf and turning back to her guests, eyes sparkling. She mouthed the word sorry at Hawke and Hawke shrugged her shoulders, bemused.

“Your other guest has arrived, ransacked the kitchen for all your cheese, and taken over your study.” Zevran informed her. “My offer to assassinate him still stands, mi amor.” Chantal lightly hit his shoulder, giggling.

“Come on.” She insisted, inclining her head. “He’s here for you, not me.”

“I disagree.” Zevran pouted. “I think he shows up here to eat you out of house and home.” Chantal continued to laugh as she entered her tower, climbing up to the floor just below their guest rooms and opening the door.

The man was a giant, particularly among the decor that was much more suited to the small woman. He was reclining on a sofa that his legs hung off the edge of, papers and a massive plate of half eaten crackers and cheeses displaced delicate glass sculptures and fresh flowers. A mug of ale perched precariously on the edge of the sofa. Chantal placed her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow.

“I am not your maid.” She was trying hard to sound angry, but even Varric could hear the giggles underneath. The man looked up and tried his damndest to look boyishly innocent. It was a look the face beneath the dust could pull off remarkably well. His hair was probably blonde, but looked as if it had been combed through with some herb to give it a darker tint. He’d done that before on a tryst with Bianca. There was a scruffy, ill-kempt beard clinging to his face that made him look older.

“I was hungry and tired. It’s a long way from Denerim.” The man protested. “I’ll clean up, little witch, I promise.”

Chantal’s giggles bubbled over and she threw herself at the man, who caught her small frame up in a bone-cracking hug. She kissed his cheek and laughed at the dust there. “Ali, you’re filthy.”

“It’s a disguise!” The man protested, but Varric had just felt the other shoe drop. By the looks on their faces, so had Hawke and Fenris.

“Should we...should we kneel?” Hawke asked.

“Please don’t, his head doesn’t need to be any larger. It already doesn’t match his body.” Zevran had already begun to tidy up, shaking his head in disgust and putting the small objects back precisely in their place.

“No, no!” Alistair laughed, setting the small Warden back on her feet. “King Alistair never comes here, he’s a bit of a prick. I’m Warden Duncan,” Alistair winked, extending his hand to take Hawke’s hand and bent low to kiss it politely. “Pleasure to meet you for exactly the first time, Champion.”

“The King of Ferelden leaves his country unattended to play Grey Warden?” Varric asked. There was a story in there somewhere, he’d have to clean the names up and possibly make it a romance.

“It’s not unattended! I’m in bed with the flu, or a whore. I can’t remember what I told my uncle. He’ll take care of things until he goes to find me and discovers I’ve slipped his noose, again.” Alistair sighed. “Then he’ll pretend I’m still there and business is as usual to forestall panic while he frantically tries to find me. I show up a few days later and nobody is wiser.”

“And you did this to see Hawke?” Fenris asked.

“Well, I like to see Chantal and Zevran, even if he doesn’t like to see me.”

“I like to see the back of you, leaving.” Zevran sniffed disdainfully.

“But this trip is mostly for you, Lady Hawke.” Alistair smiled, genuinely. “I’m...sorry about your circumstances.”

“Not sorry enough to pay an official visit.” Varric warned Hawke.

“Pay an official visit to a wanted apostate? That would kill Teagan, and if he dies then nobody is there to watch the country when I decide to take off for a few days.” Alistair shrugged apologetically. “Politics.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers, Varric.” Hawke said smoothly, sitting in one of the armchairs across from Alistair. Approvingly, Varric noted that Fenris didn’t sit down but stood behind Hawke’s chair with a raised and challenging eyebrow.

“I have brought news.” Alistair said apologetically, moving his legs so Chantal could sit beside him. “Your friend, Sebastian Vael? He’s well on his way to taking back Starkhaven. His cousin, Goran Vael, is as stupid as a nug dropped on its head. I don’t know if Sebastian is much better, I’ve always had a thing against raving fanatics.” Alistair shrugged. “Regardless, I’ve heard his threats to attack Kirkwall and root out Anders and everyone that ever helped him. He won’t be in a position to do that for years.”

Hawke nodded, running her hands through her own hair. “That doesn’t surprise me. He seemed quite determined.”

“Well, he’s also begun to reinstate the Templar order in Starkhaven. And he has...ordered your capture and return to the Free Marches. He stated he prefers you taken alive, but would accept your death if you resisted. He’s given a rather good description of you and sent it out to every major chantry in every country. I have...intercepted the ones meant for Ferelden.”

Fenris hissed and Varric swore, but Hawke remained composed, though pale. “That was kind of you.”

“I’m not about to start taking orders from a Chantry welp calling himself a prince.” Alistair snorted. “It was about the most heavy handed thing I’ve ever seen, and I fought an Archdemon.”

“He’s hurting.” Hawke said simply.

“He is trying to get you killed.” Fenris growled. Hawke sighed.

“I’ve been watching for Anders as well, I thought there would be a chance he may come to Ferelden and that one I’m not willing to stick my neck out for, but unless he slipped past my agents he’s not come. Last we heard, he was heading north.” Alistair said. “Hopefully he goes to Tevinter and bloody stays there.”

Varric was inclined to agree. “Wynne wrote me after that disastrous council meeting. Did she write you?” Alistair asked Chantal. Chantal smiled sadly and shook her head.

“Wynne loves me, but she knew I’d never support her efforts to keep the status quo. Something needs to change in the Circle, Alistair. I’m not in favor of blowing up chantries, but it can’t stay the same.”

“Well, she said the general feeling among the mages right now is that Hawke is a hero. The templars are bit more unsure, but you have an admirer in Knight Commander Cullen Rutherford.”

“Knight Commander?” Varric asked, with a whistle.

“I’m not sure he had much of a choice.” Alistair shrugged. “I remember him, wasn’t he a bit in love with you, Chantal?’

“Everyone is a bit in love with her, she can’t help it.” Zevran protested.

“Uldred and his demons tortured him. When I last saw him, he wasn’t the boy I remembered. I hardly think I’d know the man he is now.” She smiled sadly at Hawke. “But I heard he let you go, and that’s a start.”

“And of course, Kirkwall is still up to its neck in shit. Guard Captain Aveline is doing a good job taking care of civilians, but the templars are at all out war with mages that came back swinging from the college of Enchanters. I suppose Cullen is trying to broker some sort of peace.”

“The news from Starkhaven is particularly bad, cousin.” Chantal sighed. “Some templars are angry and they will take your capture as a challenge.”

“I do have an offer for you.” Chantal looked up, raising her eyebrow and opening her mouth.

“Don’t be concerned.” Alistair put a finger to her lips. “I won’t take advantage of your cousin. It would be far too much like taking advantage of you...which would be just like taking advantage of a sister.” Alistair shuddered.

“Your offer?” Hawke asked. Alistair grinned, boyish again.

“Stay, in Ferelden. Come home.” He offered genuinely. “I’ve got a fair amount of control over the chantry here, and I can guarantee the crown won’t put any resources into finding you. I can’t bring you to court, but I can leave you unmolested in the countryside as long as you stay out of trouble. I even have a job you may be interested in.” He handed Hawke a piece of paper and continued speaking. “I have a slaver problem, and I don’t quite have the resources I need to root them out. Loghain invited them into our alienage to make some coin back during the blight, and since then they managed to spread into the countryside like cancer. They’re quick and clever, taking a few of the most vulnerable people at a time from small villages bordering the wilderness. I think they’re mostly shipping slaves out of Gwaren or through an unmarked pass out of the Frostbacks and into Orlais. I’d be thrilled if someone were to take care of it.”

“Slavers. It’s always slavers.” Fenris growled.

“It could work, staying in Ferelden.” Chantal thought aloud, pulling out a map from Alistair’s papers. “Ali, I have Warden safehouses throughout Ferelden when we were trying to clean up after the blight. Mainly, my Wardens just use them if they’re close and don’t want to sleep outdoors. I can take a few off my official lists and say they were sold. You could move between them.”

“I’d pay you, for your work with the slavers. I could have an agent drop off coin at one or more of the houses on a regular basis.” Alistair offered generously.

Hawke chewed on her lip thoughtfully, before looking up at Fenris. Varric could see the gears working in the elf’s head. “I don’t think you should decide here, now. We can take one more night, yes?” Fenris phrased it like a question, but there was no mistaking the demand.

Ah, Danarius, Varric thought. You bastard, you created the strongest man I know and let him lose to destroy you. May you drown in the void.

“Fair enough.” Alistair said cheerfully, popping a piece of cheese in his mouth. “I’ve got at least three days before someone comes looking for me.”

Varric thought he heard shouting and saw Fenris look over his shoulder towards the door, shoulders tense. Chantal rose, eying the door suspiciously. “You sure?” She asked brightly.

The door burst open, but it wasn’t an angry Arl looking for his king. It was Carver Hawke, his skin flushed red in anger and eyes blazing. He pointed at Hawke, glaring. “This is your fault. We should never have come here.”

“What? What did I do?” Hawke demanded, standing and tossing her head back. Varric automatically moved to in between them.

“Kitten, stop.” Isabela called as Merrill slipped in as well. Her eyes were rimmed in red and wet with tears. Hawke noticed immediately and moved towards her.

“Merrill, what happened?” She asked sweetly. “Do I need to beat up Carver? Please tell me I need to hit him.”

“No. I want to be a Grey Warden.” Merrill rushed out. “But Carver…”

“Absolutely not!” Carver growled. “I won’t allow it.”

“Carver!” Merrill called out.

“It is out of the question!” Carver yelled.

Fenris must have felt the magic in his marks first, because he pulled Hawke away from the lighting that burst from the ceiling just a moment before it did. Of course, the bolt didn’t hit anyone, but it did cause the hair on Varric’s chest to stand straight up.

“Maker’s breath!” Varric took a step back himself, looking at the smoking carpet.

“Warden Hawke.” Chantal seethed quietly, stepping forward. She looked ten feet taller now with her staff in her hand. She didn’t need to raise her voice, this was the woman who’d slain an archdemon. It was a completely different face from the giggling girl. “I seem to recall that you are here as a guest, not to shout orders.”

For a moment, Carver looked like he might fight back, but he backed down. Thank Goodness, because Varric would have hated to scrape him off the ground. Carver turned around and shoved out of the room, past Isabela. Merrill’s shoulders shook and Hawke reached forward, tugging her into a warm embrace.

“I still get all tingly inside when you give orders.” Alistair commented, popping another piece of cheese in his mouth.

“It is not my insides that tingle.” Zevran’s grin was wolfish and he wiggled his eyebrows at Chantal, who broke into giggles again.

Chapter Text

Merrill burst into sobs when Carver stormed out and was folded into Hawke’s arms, Isabela coming behind the two small women and wrapping them up in her arms as well. “There, there kitten.” Isabela crooned, playing with one of Merrill’s braids. “Sometimes men just feel the need to shout.”

“Maker, Merrill. A Grey Warden, to stay and put up with Carver? What awful thing are you trying to make up for?” Hawke tried to tease with a small smile.

“But Hawke, I think he loves me.” Merrill looked up with green eyes shining with wetness.

“Course he does, Kitten. You’re very lovable.” Isabela soothed.

“But it isn’t up to him! It’s up to you.” Merrill wiped her face with the back of her hand and broke away from both Hawke and Isabela, tossing her head back with fierce defiance and making eye contact with the Warden Commander. Chantal very studiously avoided looking up at Merrill, eying the smoking carpet instead.

“I’m sure Warden Hawke explained all the reasons you shouldn’t do this.” She said quietly, peeking up through her brown waves. Fenris caught sight of Zevran’s shoulders slump just for a moment, heard Alistair’s sigh.

“But it isn’t just that, is it?” Merrill challenged. “You saved the world! You keep people safe, you have a clan here. It’s… vhenas. Home.”

“She has a point there, Chantal.” Alistair agreed happily.

“I disagree. I have drank many things in my life, but darkspawn blood is not one I choose to imbibe. You could die, my pretty elf friend, sooner rather than later.” Zevran pointed out darkly.

“But it is my choice.” Merrill protested. “Lethallan, tell them it is my choice.” Merrill directed her pleading gaze to Hawke.

“She’s right. It is is her choice. But there’s no need to rush this, Merrill.” Chantal said gently. “I’d have you take a night’s rest and truly consider everything Carver has told you. If this is still what you want tomorrow morning, of course I’ll help you.”

“Ma serannas.” Merrill gave a small half-curtsy, holding her hands out to her side. She nodded, holding her jaw tightly before nimbly spinning away and heading out the door.

“I don’t think she’ll change her mind.” Fenris observed. “That’s the same expression she had when she smashed that damned mirror.”

“Perhaps, but I’ll rest easier knowing she’s slept on it.” Chantal remarked.

“I’d rest easier if someone announced their intentions before raining lighting bolts from the ceiling.” Fenris challenged, raising an eyebrow at the small woman. She burst into laughter.

“It loses the effect if you announce it, but I am sorry for frightening you. Here!” She turned to the cabinet by her desk and pulled it open, selecting a dark red bottle and holding it out sheepishly.

“I was not frightened! It is merely irritating.” Fenris eyed the label on the bottle, before taking the gift.

“You knew it would happen before it did.” Alistair mused, eying Fenris with a warrior’s appreciation. “I mean, so did I, but I’ve fought with Chantal. She always scrunches up her eyes when she summons lighting.”

“I do not.” Chantal protested.

“She twitches her nose for a fireball. It is remarkably endearing.” Zevran smirked, kissing the Grey Warden’s cheek as she blushed.

“Maker, I will make you two bunk together!” She threatened.

Alistair had least had the grace to look properly chastened. Zevran just continued to smirk suggestively. “I meant, that it was impressive.” Alistair muttered darkly.

“Thank you.” Fenris tried  to keep the annoyance from his voice.

“Would be very helpful fighting slavers.” Alistair remarked and Chantal groaned. Fenris turned and eyed Hawke, hoping he was providing the appropriate signal with his eyes that it was time to go. Hawke picked up the message, standing and stretching.

“We’ll consider what you said.” Hawke promised.

“Do it over that wine, Chantal always has the best.” Alistair sounded quite appreciative.

“Let them go, Ali.” Chantal chided. “I’ll open a bottle for you too, we want to catch up with you and we have some things to talk about…”

“A less precious bottle, mi amor.” Fenris heard Zevran begin as their group began to depart. “We don’t waste the good stuff, si?”

“Funny, that’s what I told Chantal when she married you.” Alistair griped as Varric shut the door.

“Maker, those three.” Varric shook his head. “They sound like us.”

“Someone has to go talk to Carver and Merrill.” Isabela sighed. “We need to talk Kitten out of this or talk little Hawke into it.”

“Well, you’re an expert at talking people out of things, Rivaini.”

“I’m an expert at talking people out of their pants, Varric. But, I can try. Hawke, can you try with your brother?”

Hawke snorted. “I’m the worst person to talk to him, Isabela. He still disagrees with anything I suggest on principle.”

“I’ll handle Junior.” Varric offered. “Guess that leaves you two on your own.” He cast a meaningful gaze at Fenris.

“Don’t act like we’ve gotten off easy.” Hawke teased, pointing to the bottle of wine Fenris was holding. “Someone has to drink this, we’ve valiantly volunteered.”

“Lucky bitch, you have a handsome elf, bottle of wine, bed big enough for three…” Isabela trailed off suggestively.

“No.” Fenris interjected immediately. Isabela sighed theatrically and sauntered off, Varric behind her smirking. .

“Varric seemed very invested in giving us alone time.” Hawke remarked carefully. “What were you two up to this morning?”

Fenris felt his stomach tighten in anticipation as he took her arm, guiding her down the stairs from the Warden’s fine apartments and back to their guest quarters. “I will tell you, but not here.” He answered evasively.

“Mysterious.” Hawke commented lightly, her voice teasing. “Is it naughty too? Those are my favorite kind of secrets.”

Fenris smirked and opened their bedroom door, holding it gallantly for Hawke as she untied her cloak. Fenris opened one of the desk drawers, looking for something to open the wine bottle. Hawke settled herself near the fireplace and added new logs to the grate. When she’d stacked them nicely, she dragged her finger down the logs and they caught fire with a cheerful crackling. Hawke had a tiny, self satisfied smile as she jumped on the edge of the bed, unlacing her boots.

Fenris found a corkscrew and opened the bottle with a flourish, sniffing the wine and savoring the heady aroma.

“We didn’t get glasses.” Fenris frowned, looking around the room.

“That hasn’t ever stopped us before, has it? It’ll be just like old times.” Hawke patted the bed beside her and Fenris smiled, sitting down and leaning against the headboard in the center of the bed. He stretched his legs out, feeling the warmth from the fire slowly seeping into the room. Hawke clambered up the bed, pausing silently on her knees before him and angling her head in a silent question. Fenris nodded and she straddled his lap, facing him with a grin.

She was fully clothed, but when she was like this Fenris had to stop his mind from wandering to the thought of peeling off her leather breeches and having her naked, wanton body on top of him for his admiration. He would do that, later, but first…

He took a steadying sip from the bottle, enjoying the flavor of dark chocolate and some sort of citrus. Hawke watched, patiently. “How is it?” She asked as Fenris took a second sip and held the bottle out to her.

“It is quite delicious. I believe that Zevran has remarkably good taste.” He conceded.

“Quite a compliment coming from you!” Hawke’s face turned playfully shocked before she took her own sip of the wine. “Mmmm… I like this more than anything we found in your old cellar.”

“You prefer Antivan wine over the Tevinter vintages.” Fenris remarked. “The Antivan tends to be sweeter.”

“Don’t let Zevran hear you say that.” Hawke teased. Fenris couldn’t help but let his hand reach up to the edge of her lips where a drop of wine lingered. He brushed it away and Hawke’s lips opened under his touch. Fenris shoved down his immediate, animalistic reaction.

“You are so very beautiful.” Her murmured, tracing his fingers down her swan’s neck, over the linen shirt covering her tempting breasts. “The most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I thought that the first night I saw you.”

“You did a very good job of hiding it.” Hawke remarked wryly, handing the bottle back to him. Fenris took another, larger sip.

“I was… confused by the intensity of the feelings you stirred up. I was so immediately attracted to you, and you were a mage. I hated you, as well, but I owed you a debt. Then...I paid it, but by then…” Fenris sighed, letting his hand rest on her waist. “I had begun watching you so I’d be ready to strike when you became a threat. Then the debt was paid and I was convinced you were no threat, but I couldn’t stop watching you.”

There was the truth of it, plain and clear. He remembered the fear the first time he realized he was watching her because he wanted to see that long braid brush across her shoulders, or the special smile she reserved for her brother when he was on her nerves. He wanted to hear her laugh and kiss the soft curver of her lips. While he’d been watching for danger, his heart and soul had been lost to the tiny mage with the heart of gold and wicked sense of humor.

“I thought you’d never see me, only my magic.” Hawke admitted, her own fingers brushing over his linen shirt. She looked up at him through her eyelashes. “I hated that you hated me.”

“I see you now. All of you.” He whispered. He saw the scars from battles barely won, the way she made everything better with a joke and a smile. Her magic was a part of her, a beautiful part. “I may never feel comfortable in the company of mages, but I trust you amata. If you are good, then other mages must be as well.”

“Fenris!” Hawke giggled, her face a delightful shade of pink. She took the bottle from him and sipped it herself. “This must be some wine.”

Fenris chuckled, sitting up and pulling her closer. He placed his forehead against hers and took the bottle from her hand, placing it on the nightstand. “I did something this morning that you may find foolish.” He admitted sheepishly.

“I don’t know if I could ever find anything you’ve done foolish.” Hawke pondered, brushing her lips over his. “I will admit you’re fanning my curiosity.”

Fenris reached to his hip, to the pouch hanging from his belt and opened it. He kept his eyes locked on hers as he pulled out the wooden box. “I’ve bought you a ring.” There was a lump in his throat now, an irrational fear scratching wildly in his mind.

This, this is where she would finally laugh at him. He had no fortune, no name, no skills beyond killing. Hawke, who was skilled at so much and more beautiful than Andraste herself, could find better. She had a noble name, a fortune of her own. She couldn’t squander it on him, her elven lover. She would toss the box into the flames and rip out Fenris’s heart as surely as if she had reached into his chest.

“Fenris…” She whispered, awed, leaning away from him to look at the wooden box between them.

“I know I have no name. I have nothing beyond myself and my sword.” He whispered back. “But I will follow you into the void itself. I will remain at your side, always. I will have this future for us and make you happy, Reyna, I swear it.”

“It isn’t allowed.” Hawke’s hands were shaking and there were tears in her eyes as her fingers traced tentatively over the box. “I’m not allowed, Fenris, I’m a mage and an apostate. You’d be tying yourself to a criminal. If they found out, you’d have committed a crime as well.”

“Fasta vass, I’m already committing a crime by staying with you, aren’t I?” Fenris growled. “I’ve been committing this crime for six years.”

Hawke laughed, but it wasn’t the cruel sound his mind had supplied (honestly, he’d never heard Hawke’s laughter turn cruel like Danarius’s had). It sounded like it was choked with sobs, but it was bright and clear. She met his eyes and there were tears there.

“May I see it?” She asked. Fenris nodded, flipping over the lid of the box. Nestled inside on silk fabric was the ring, golden and perfect. Hawke reached out, tracing her hands over the wolf’s head and smiling softly.

“Are you saying yes?” Fenris asked desperately, he needed to hear it. If he didn’t hear it, this could be a dream. He could be misunderstanding this ritual.

“You haven’t asked properly. You have to ask the question.” She pressed, smiling. “Then you have to put the ring on my hand when I say yes.”

“Which finger?” He asked, taking Hawke’s small hand in his own. She wiggled the finger nearest her pinky on her left hand and Fenris brought the hand up to his lips, brushing a kiss over her knuckles.

“Reyna Hawke, will you marry me?” He asked softly, he could hear his own heart pounding in his chest, feel her pulse under his hands. Her blue eyes burned brightly and Reyna leaned into him, her lips against his.

“Yes.” She whispered against his mouth. “Yes, my love.”

Fenris pulled back to slip the band over her knuckle, onto her finger. It fit perfectly and she smiled, delighted. Fenris admired the gold and red on her delicate hand. She giggled. “How much did this cost? Is that why Varric had to run off with you this morning? Carver and Merrill were so confused.”

“I was concerned about how much coin I spent.” He admitted. “But Varric was pleased with it.”

“Oh, I’m sure. He wins the bet now with just shy of two weeks left. He promised me half if he won.” Hawke grinned.

“Isabela promised me half is she won, so we were fine either way.” Hawke’s cheerful laugh was contagious and he chuckled as well, before she grasped his face in her hands, gently and softly stroking his cheekbones. She leaned in and kissed him again, full of longing and promise. Fenris wrapped his arms around her, his Hawke.

“You can have my name.” Hawke was tugging off her linen shirt, revealing her stomach and breasts bound by the stiff bustier. He tugged at the laces behind  her back, desperate to see her, hold her.

“I’d wear it with honor.” He gasped as her hips rolled, rubbing against his hardening length through their pants. She was wearing entirely too much clothing and he couldn’t bear it. He finally caught the laces and pulled them free slowly, watching as her breasts were freed like unwrapping a long awaited gift. He tossed the offending garment on the ground as she tugged on his own cotton tunic. He disentangled himself from her long enough to allow her to pull it off before he was on her lips again, biting her bottom lip and making her cry out in delicious, pure need. Her hips wriggled under his hands as he pulled down the thin leather and her small until they got stuck on her spread thighs. She obligingly assisted, lifting one leg, then the other, for him to continue removing the garment. Then she was as gloriously naked as he’d wanted her. His hands cupped her pert ass and pulled her, skin to skin, to him. His lyrium marks tingled as they touched her, feeling her mana and reacting in a way that made him almost dizzy with pleasure. Once, there had only been pain, but now there was Hawke and her hands only healed his broken, jagged pieces.

“I love you.” She whispered against his lips, her hands gripping his shoulders tightly. “Maker, Fenris, I love you.”

“Stay with me.” Fenris pleaded as she rubbed against his aching need. “Forever. Stay with me.”

“Always.” She whispered, her hands gently pushing him back. He allowed himself to settle on the pillows as she rose above him like a goddess, one of the Elven creators made flesh. She tugged impatiently at his pants and he assisted, raising his hips so she could pull them down and off. Her small hand wrapped around his cock and Fenris hissed his head falling back.

She let her fingers trail up and down his length gently, teasing, watching his reaction. Unbidden, his hips thrust into her fingers, groaning at the feel of her soft skin. She leaned down and placed a soft kiss on the head of his manhood and Fenris couldn’t help his lips from forming her name.

“Do you want this?” She asked, continuing to stroke languidly. Maker, he shouldn't. How dare he force this goddess to kneel at his feet? But the thought of staring down into Hawke’s beautiful blue eyes as his cock glided in and out of her mouth made all the nerves in his body light up. A stream of Tevene fell from his lips and Hawke waited patiently, continuing to stroke until Fenris could take it no longer. He swung up, positioning himself on the edge of the bed. Hawke grabbed a pillow and settled herself, kneeling, between his feet.

The sight alone was enough to make his cock jerk. She kissed in between the lyrium lines dancing up his thighs, looking up at him again through her thick lashes. “You’ll stop me, if you need to?” She asked. Fenris nodded, breathless, watching as her lips crept closer to his aching cock.

When she finally reached him and licked from his base the whole way down his shaft, Fenris nearly jumped. He groaned, his hands clutching the edge of the mattress. She raised her hand, the one with his ring, to rest on his thigh as she opened her mouth. Fenris was enraptured, watching his cock slide into her warm, waiting mouth. The feeling was indescribable, hot, wet, her tongue sliding around him. Then she hollowed out her cheeks and he felt suction and pressure. His hips jerked into her in response and Fenris froze. “Maker, Reyna, I’m sorry.” He whispered hoarsely. Reyna looked up at him wickedly, all blue eyes and pale skin and a small smattering of freckles over her nose, before pushing closer to him and letting his length slide further into her throat.

Fenris wouldn’t be surprised if the whole keep heard him chanting her name as she began to bob up and down his length. His hands moved to her hair, tangling in the dark strands as she took his hard cock. Her breasts bounced, the hard nipples scraping deliciously against his legs and she hummed happily. Fenris could feel himself tightening, his breath labored. “Reyna, if you don’t stop…” He sounded needy, desperate to his own ears. Instead of stopping, Reyna pulled his cock almost the whole way from her mouth before working him back in with a wicked gleam in her eye. Fenris was moving her head now, his grip in her hair tightening as he struggled not to take over, not to pound into her, but he was lost and his orgasm was building and he could feel her blue eyes on him as his seed began to spill into her mouth and she sucked it down greedily.

His hand fell uselessly from her air and he took great, shuddering gasps of air. She looked like the cat that had just gotten into the cream, preening and self satisfied. He reached for her, gathering her into his arms as she giggled softly, her hands tangling in his hair. He could feel her own hot wetness against him. “And how was that, my dear future husband?” She teased, nipping at his ear.

“A moment, and I’ll show you.” He promised and she laughed, pressing her lips to his. Fenris could taste himself on them, something metallic, possibly the lyrium. Then there was salt, a hint of the spindleweed he used to make sword polish. Beneath that, was Hawke. She was elfroot and honey and sweet rolls. And she was his.

 

They didn’t make it to supper, but nobody came looking for them. Fenris suspected that was Varric’s doing. They made love, then slept, then woke and made love again for falling back into sleep. He was awoken by Hawke’s stomach growling late at night.

“We missed dinner.” She complained fitfully.

“I offered to get you something, but you wouldn’t let me leave the bed.” Fenris assumed a haughty tone and Hawke rolled her eyes, smirking.

“I didn’t hear you complaining then.” She trailed her fingers down his chest. “Do you think we could sneak into the kitchens and get some cheese and bread from the pantry?”

“I’ll do it, you stay here.” Fenris pushed her back into the pillows. “I’d like to come back to you naked and waiting.”

“As my Lord Husband commands.” Hawke purred sultrily, burying under the sheet. Fenris couldn’t help the bright smile that lit his features and Hawke sighed, smiling up at him.

“You look years younger tonight.” She commented.

“I am very happy.” Fenris admitted, holding her hand for a moment to his heart. “Happier than I ever dreamed.”

“I hope I always make you this happy.” Her stomach rumbled again and she laughed. “If I don’t starve to death first.”

“I’ll be back soon, I promise.” He let go of her hand and reached for his trousers on the ground and the linen shirt. Pulling them on, he made his way to the door and eased into the hallway. He had just reached the stairs when he paused, bewildered. There was a noise above him that he couldn’t quite place, then a shrill cry. There was a pull of mana that he felt in his lyrium markings, then something shattered and something else slammed into the ground. Instead of going down, into the kitchens, Fenris started up. He made it up two steps before he heard Zevran.

“Wardens! To your Commander!”

Swearing, Fenris took the rest of the steps two at a time, racing to the next floor. There was the door to the dining area, another to Chantal’s study, and two other doors. The first was locked, but the second was opening before Fenris even made it there. A woman was trying to escape, but there was a very athletic, very naked elf on top of her. He was holding a dagger in his hand, pushing her down into the floor as they toppled out the door. The dagger was at the woman’s throat immediately, nicking into soft skin.

“Mi amor! Chantal!” Zevran called, before catching sight of Fenris. “This assassin attacked the Warden Commander. She has been injured. I need a healer.”

“Zevran, I’m fine, I…” The voice inside the door was a bit weaker than it should have been and descended into a worrisome hacking cough. Fenris turned, prepared to race down the steps, but Hawke was already there, clutching the sheet around her like a dress.

“Fenris, thank the Maker.” She reached for him, biting her lip with worry. Her staff was in her other hand, emitting a faint white glow in the darkened hallway.

“Your cousin.” Fenris indicated the room behind him and she pushed past both elves, brightening her staff to look at the destruction. There was ice clinging to many of the surfaces and shards of it sticking out from the carpet. The sheets were ripped off the bed, as if the occupants had fled from it in seconds. There was a large pool of blackness on the left side, glinting in the light of Hawke’s staff. Hawke swore, ducking down beside the bed to the small, nude figure there as well. The blood was pouring from a stab wound in the woman’s rib cage, just below her heart.

“Glad to see you.” Chantal said weakly, then coughed again. Bright blood stained her lips.

“Don’t talk.” Hawke ordered. “Fenris, help me get her onto the bed.”

Hawke seemed to have forgotten her cousin was naked, but perhaps this wasn’t the correct time to bring it up. Fenris reached down, as gently as possible cradling the womans form as Hawke hovered. She winched and Fenris could feel labored breathing, but she didn’t cry out in pain. She was a tough as Hawke.

“Maker’s breath, Zevran.” Was that the King? Fenris couldn’t tell, but thought so. “What in Andraste’s flaming knickers is this?”

“Watch the assassin, let Zevran in here.” Hawke called, handing her staff to Fenris apologetically. “Amatus, I need my hands and I need the light. Can you please…?”

Fenris nodded, taking a step back and holding the staff over Chantal. Hawke examined the injury critically. Zevran was at her shoulder quickly, reaching out to take Chantal’s hand.

“Mi amor, it isn't so bad, no?” Zevran’s voice was light, but his knuckles were white and there were tight lines around his eyes. “You've come through worse.”

“Good news, you'll come through this.” Hawke started, her hands beginning to glow warm and blue as she started to knit together the wound. “Zevran, do you know where the weapon is? I can smell deathroot in her blood, I think it was poisoned.”

“I will find it. You can heal her?” Zevran asked, his tone sharp.

“Course I can.” Hawke said confidently. “I got the lung almost fixed, breathing easier, cousin?” She asked easily.

Chantal nodded, pale but calm. Zevran’s posture eased a bit as he broke his vigil to locate the assassin’s weapon. “I can beat the name of the poison out of the assassin.” Alistair offered cheerfully. The assassin spat onto his armor and laughed hoarsely.

“Mage whore.” The female assassin sneered. “Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him. Foul and corrupt are they who have taken His gift and turned it against His children. They shall be named Maleficar, accursed ones. They shall find no rest in this world or beyond.” Fenris recognized that Chant and rolled his eyes.

“Ah, a fanatic. My favorite kind of crazy.” Alistair remarked, digging his elbow into the woman’s stomach and wiping her spit onto her own tunic.

“No need, my friend. We will save the beating for later.” Zevran remarked darkly, returning with the blade. “It is certainly deathroot. I have an antidote, will she do well to take it now?”

“Sooner the better, it shouldn’t be a lethal dose, but the antidote will ease the pain.” Hawke explained. “Almost done.” She soothed Chantal, brushing the woman’s hair back gently. Fenris eyed the wicked looking dagger, examining the hilt.  

“That looks Orlesian.” He remarked.
“It’s always the Orlesians. Can’t trust them as far as you can throw them.” Alistair grumbled, leaning close to the assassin. “Don’t suppose you’ll make it easy and just tell us who you are?”

“I am one of the most faithful, called to great service.” The woman rasped.

“Course you are.” Alistair rolled his eyes, getting up off the floor and dragging the woman with him. “Chantal, any opinions on dealing with this?”

“I will handle it.” Zevran interrupted immediately.

“No.” Chantal broke in. “Take her to Warden on watch outside, Ali.” Chantal coughed, but no blood stained her lips. She took a deep breath as the wound began to grow smaller and smaller and she took the proffered vial from Zevran. She downed it.

“Mi amor, she tried to kill you in our bed.” Zevran’s eyes narrowed. “That is a grave mistake, an example should be made.”

“Obviously we were in our bed, we’re both naked as the day we were born.” Chantal croaked.

“I wasn’t going to mention it.” Hawke said diplomatically. “But if we’re going to talk about it now, I want you to know that I only peeked a little.”

Fenris just about choked on his own tongue and quickly grabbed the blanket, throwing it at Zevran. The other elf caught it, amused.

“Warden on watch duty gets the prisoner. I’m assuming prisoner gets searched and thrown in the dungeon, correct?” Alistair repeated, his hand over his eyes. “Any other instructions?”

“I want a full search.” Zevran demanded and Chantal acquiesced with a roll of her shoulders. Hawke stepped back, admiring her handiwork. Chantal blushed softly.

“I believe I have a tunic somewhere…” She reached toward the armoire. Zevran was there in a moment, pulling out something blue and embroidered and draping it over her.

“Maleficarum!” The woman screeched. “Blood mage! You have blood on your hands! The corpses at Soldier’s Peak rise screaming your name!”

“That’s enough from you.” Alistair growled, his cheerful demeanor falling. “Out.”

“Are you a blood mage?” Fenris asked warily. Chantal smiled wanly.

“It’s not something they teach in the tower, so no.” She shook her head. “The wardens were doing blood magic at Soldier’s Peak, however. Long before my time, ages ago. We killed the person responsible during the blight. How does she know that?” Chantal tipped her head up to look at Zevran, but Zevran was eying the blood on the bed.

“You scared me, mi amor.” He whispered. “I should have been more careful.”

“Zevran…” She called softly. “You can’t be awake forever.”

“Ah, but it is my job to sniff out these threats before they climb through our window, no?” Zevran asked bitterly. “If there was no healer here, you could have drowned in your own blood.”

“I didn’t.” Color was rising to Chantal’s face.

“I must check and make sure nothing else is suspicious. I will send servants to clean up. Would you please stay with her while she recovers?” Zevran asked, all politeness towards Hawke. Hawke nodded and Zevran backed out of the room gracefully, melting into the shadows.

“Oh Maker, he’s going to be impossible for the next few weeks.” Chantal whispered, shaking her head. “The Wardens need to know what is going on. Nathaniel Howe is my second in command here, can you please find him? He sleeps in the barracks.”

Fenris was reluctant to leave Hawke, but she looked wide awake and furious. Hawke nodded and angled her head to the doorway. “Send Carver up if you’re nervous, he’s got a big sword and he likes to use it.”

Fenris nodded, handing the staff back to Hawke and disappearing down the steps.

Chapter Text

Varric hated missing out on a good story, and an assassination attempt on the heroic savior of Ferelden had to be one of the best stories he’d had the misfortune to sleep through. The brave hero, cowardly run through in her own bed, saved only by the quick thinking of her handsome lover and cousin she had sheltered from cruel injustice. Of course, he had made Hawke repeat the whole story to him three times, despite the fact she’d barely slept.

“Bullshit.” Varric called as she got to the part about Zevran melting into the shadows again, clad only in a blanket Fenris had thrown at him. “I keep waiting for you to fuck it up and tell me the truth there.”

“I swear to the Maker and Andraste’s holy tits, Varric.” Hawke held up her right hand solemnly. “We had a nice chat waiting for him to come back, it was nearly dawn. Fenris fell asleep in her chair holding his damned sword.”

“And did that chat have anything to do about that lovely ring on your finger?” Varric finally asked, delighting in the flush creeping up Hawke’s face as she held her hand out.

“You’re still good to pay up half your winnings?” Hawke asked, watching the light pass over the stone.

“I’ll apply it to Broody’s gambling debts.” Varric teased, kicking Hawke’s shin under the table. “I am pleased, I figured when you didn’t show up to dinner.”

“We talked more about Alistair’s offer.” Hawke dropped her voice low. It was early in the barrack’s kitchen and the Grey Wardens were mercifully pretty occupied with their own security problems. “I can’t help but think, me being here caused this.”

“That crazy bitch didn’t even know you were here.” Varric protested. “She was after Chantal.”

“I’m the one who stirred all this up, Varric.” Hawke brought her slender hand up to her head. “It would do everyone good if I could just disappear into the Ferelden countryside for a bit. It’d give everyone a chance to calm down.”

Varric mulled this over, staring into his coffee. He wanted to fight with Hawke, tell her this most certainly was not her fault. It was Anders and his agenda and Meredith and her agenda and Hawke caught in the middle. Hawke, however, was excellent at shouldering the burdens of others, and she wouldn’t listen. “I thought you were done with indentured servitude.” He grumbled instead.

“I’ll be getting paid this time, which is an improvement.”

“You don’t want me to come.” Varric said flatly, Hawke winced.

“You’re my best friend.” She reached out, wrapping her hand around his upper arm. “The situation in Kirkwall isn’t getting any better, though, and you could help. Aveline needs you. Besides, Fenris and I will draw enough attention on our own.”

“I will endeavor to be more inconspicuous.” Fenris remarked dryly as he sat opposite them, a plate of eggs and sausage in his hands.

“And you’re on board with this, Broody?” Varric asked. Fenris rolled his shoulders and sighed.

“There are worse things than killing slavers for coin. I’ve been doing it for free. My alternative suggestions…”

“Which included going to Antiva, Rivain, or Maker damned Tevinter itself.” Hawke pointed out in between forkfuls of eggs.

“Were dismissed as being unreasonably far from the Free Marches.” Fenris finished.

“Well, Varric.” Isabela had appeared out of nowhere and nearly deposited herself in Varric’s lap, causing a general disruption. “I sincerely hope you had more luck with little Hawke, because kitten is convinced. We’d have to tie her down and flee. Not that I’m directly opposed to that, mind you, I’m always up for playing with ropes.”

Hawke sighed, standing. “I’ll try, where is she?”

“I’m right here, and I’ve already spoken to the Warden Commander.” Merrill’s voice was clear, unafraid. Varric sighed, dropping his head to look at the table, scratching at the marred surface.

“Merrill, sweetheart.” Hawke said kindly, taking Merrill’s scarred hand in hers. “You don’t have to do this. You could die, we…” Hawke stopped, biting her lip. “I’ve lost so many people, Merrill.”

“But you will be okay, we all die Hawke.” Merrill soothed, patting Hawke’s head. “Lethallan, I won’t die today.” She promised.

Varric stood, shaking his head. “Daisy, if you’re doing this… Junior will want to see you before you go. Let me go get him.”

Merrill frowned, considering. Her eyes grew distant and serious and her hand clenched on the staff she was carrying before she nodded swiftly. “I’ll wait and have breakfast first. Chantal said she needed to find a Warden to go with me.”

Varric walked with dread eating away at his insides. He didn’t have to look far for Carver, the man was saddling a horse in the inner courtyard looking absolutely wretched.

“You’re not leaving, are you Junior?” Varric tried to keep his voice light, but the frown in Carver’s face only deepened into a scowl. He tugged at the horse’s harness and refused to meet Varric’s eyes.

“The Warden Commander has already been to see me.” Carver explained. “She told me that Merrill is set on this and I had three choices, I either stay and let it happen, get on a ship and go back to the Free Marches, or I go and help. A Warden has to go and help with the Joining. She’s sending Howe, but I’m allowed to join.”

“So, you’re going with her? She’ll appreciate that, Junior.”

“If she dies out there, I’ll be there to bury her body.” Carver gripped the edge of saddle tightly, hanging his head. “Maker, Varric, if she dies out there…”

Nathaniel Howe led another horse over, patting Carver’s shoulder. “Don’t get your knickers all twisted, Warden. She’s young, healthy, and powerful. She’s a great candidate, the Commander only accepts those most likely to survive the Joining.”

“How long does this take?” Varric asked Howe, his eyes narrowing. “When will we know if this went well?”

“If all goes well, we should be back by tomorrow evening. We must venture into the Deep Roads, but there’s an entrance not far.” Howe answered solemnly. “There’s no guarantees for a Grey Warden, and there’s a chance we may all die any time we go into the Deep Roads, but I’m feeling reasonably confident.”

“Great.” Varric sighed.

“Here they come.” Howe jerked his head back into the barracks behind Varric and he turned toward the subdued group led by Chantal, all except Merrill who was wearing a bright smile. The small elf launched herself at Carver, wrapping her arms around his neck.

“You’re coming!” She trilled. “I never thought you would. You said you’d never speak to me again if I did this, but I knew this was the best way to make sure we could be together.” Merrill babbled.

“Together?” Carver repeated, surprised. Merrill blushed and Howe coughed loudly.

“Commander, I’m always happy to supervise a Joining, but are you sure this is the best day to do this? You could use your second, right?” Howe asked tentatively. Chantal rolled her big brown doe eyes.

“Maker’s holy arse, with Zevran on the warpath I don’t think I’ve been safer in years. He’s determined to get the bottom of it, Howe. Don’t worry your pretty head about me.”

“Why, Commander.” Howe teased, swinging himself up onto his horse. “I didn’t know you thought I was pretty.”

Chantal shot an exasperated expression at Hawke, who simply shrugged her delicate shoulders in an understanding answer. Chantal then fixed her eyes on Merrill, sighing softly. “Last chance, Merrill. You don’t have to do this.”

“Ma serannas, Commander. This is what I want.” Merrill answered calmly, smiling sweetly back.

“May your creators go with you, then. And I’ll ask Andraste and the Maker to watch over you as well.” Chantal backed away, indicating Hawke and Isabela. Both women stepped forward, grasping Merrill to their chests.

“Come back safe to us, kitten.” Isabela whispered. “If any Darkspawn come after you, remember to throw Carver at them.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Merrill.” Hawke kissed the elf’s cheek, then looked up at her brother.

“Carver…” Hawke began.

“Yeah, I know. Bring her back safe.” Carver glared at his gauntlets.

“Andraste’s tits, stop being an ass. That’s not what I was going to say.” Hawke pulled away from Merrill, placing her hand on her brother’s gauntlet. “I want to tell you…” Hawke’s voice dropped lower “Whatever happens, Carver, it isn’t your fault. This is what she wants.”

Carver was silent, looking down at his sister. He said nothing, finally placing his other gauntleted hand over hers. Hawke nodded, taking a step back.

“We’ll have a game of diamondback when you get back Daisy.” Varric plastered on a grin, letting the elf kiss him on his stubbled cheek.

“I don’t remember the rules, but I’ll try for you Varric.” She giggled, then turned to Fenris. “Ah, you won’t want a hug, will you?”

“No, thank you.” Fenris shifted awkwardly before holding his hand and grasping Merrill’s briefly, shaking it up and down before dropping it quickly. “I believe this will be good for you, ma...Merrill.”

“Thank you! That’s the nicest  you’ve ever been.” Merrill grinned and turned to Carver. “Will I be riding one of these? They’re much larger than halla, I’m not sure I know how.”

“Here, you’ll ride with me.” Carver offered her a boost up onto the large horse, then swung up after her, settling behind her. Carver took the reins and saluted the Warden Commander, who returned the gesture with a smile. They then rode out the open gates, Merrill’s giggles coming back to them on the wind.

“C’mon Hawke.” Varric took the woman’s arm, guiding her away as Isabela stared forlornly at the retreating figures. “Let’s get a drink and discuss how we can improve on this offer of his majesty’s.”

 

In the end, Hawke only wanted one thing from Alistair that he hadn’t offered and she was immovable. She crossed her arms over her chest, leaning against the window seat in the Commander’s study and staring down the King of Ferelden the same way she’d stared down Meredith and Orsino. Alistair looked decidedly uncomfortable as he shifted on the delicate sofa, eyes flicking helplessly to the door as if waiting for someone to come in and rescue him. Fenris was smirking and avoiding eye contact, tracing his fingers over a parchment map of the Breccilian forest.

“I believe you heard the Champion.” Varric said smoothly, setting his cup of coffee back on the delicate white saucer. “In exchange for entering your Majesty’s service, she is asking for the sanction of the king to marry.”

“I could hire someone with much less political risk.” Alistair edged. “Maker’s breath, if the Chantry finds out I performed a marriage ceremony for an apostate who sheltered the crazy Warden who started this whole damn mess.”

“You could.” Hawke smirked. “But they wouldn’t be as good as Fenris and me.”

“You’re asking me to break my own laws. I may not agree, mind you. I love apostates, would’ve made a damn terrible templar.” Alistair shook his head. “But this law has been on the books for ages.”

“I think in extraordinary circumstances, a king may make exceptions to his laws for someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty.” Varric said smoothly. “For example, someone offering to risk their safety to perform clandestine and dangerous operations for said king.”

“Void take you, I’m already offering to turn a blind eye and keep the chantry off your tail in my borders.” Alistair growled.

“For which we are very grateful, but other countries are available with fewer ties to the Chantry overall. Rivain, for example.” Fenris cut in smoothly, his eyes still glued to the map.

“You’re not even my subject.” Alistair pointed at Fenris.

“No, but I am, unless I renounced my Ferelden citizenship while I wasn’t looking.” Hawke’s voice was sugar sweet. “Perhaps you should ask Arl Teagan to clarify the rules. I’m sure Chantal can send a fast rider.”

“Oh I’m sure.” Alistair snorted, standing from the sofa and pacing over to the bookcase. The door to the study opened and the Commander herself slipped in with Zevran shadowing her steps. Alistair glared at her and Chantal froze before gently smiling at him.

“Whatever it was, Ali, I didn’t do it.”

“I may have done it.” Zevran remarked, although his voice was flat and Varric noted the former assassin looked absolutely exhausted.  

“I’m sure you’ve had nothing to do with this! Do you know what they want? A king’s sanction to break the law and marry!” Alistair fumed. “And I’m sure the idea came to her on her own and had nothing to do with the last person who asked me for this favor.”

“You’re getting married!” Chantal exclaimed, delighted, clapping her hands together. “That’s wonderful news! Did he get you a ring? Let me see!”

Varric chuckled as he watched the small mage coo over the jewelry on Hawke’s finger. He lifted a challenging eyebrow at Alistair as the king deflated.

“Ah, no, that wasn’t us.” Zevran smirked. “Our clandestine marriage was very much between the three of us until this moment. Of course, I’m unsurprised that they had the same idea to force you to do it, they are cousins.”

“For the love of the Maker, you do realize it still won’t be legal in Orlais or the Free Marches? And if someone finally does manage to kill me, I can’t guarantee the next person to get this blasted job is going to look kindly on my bad decisions.” Alistair moaned, flopping down onto the sofa again. The furniture groaned under his weight.

“You already did it once, your highness.” Varric grinned.

“He drew up the declaration and signed it himself. It was the sweetest thing he’d ever done for us.” Chantal giggled. “We keep it in the safe, just in case.”

“You can’t tell anyone I did this, not with the whole mage business about to burn down around our ears.” Alistair raised his finger. “And I barely know the marriage ceremony, so don’t expect it to be pretty.”

“Shall I get you a piece of parchment and a quill to draw up the declaration?” Fenris offered, looking far more pleased than Varric had ever seen him. Alistair grumbled and nodded, rubbing his palm across his face.

“When will we do this?” Alistair asked. “Sooner the better, before I have a chance to consider how bad of a decision this is.”

“Tomorrow evening will be best.” Varric drawled as Fenris unfolded himself from the window seat. “When Merrill and Carver are back.”

 

“A party!” Isabela squeals in delight when she is told about the upcoming nuptials. “To celebrate your last night of freedom from the ball and chain!” Isabela has been down and out all day and mostly drinking, but she holds her alcohol well.

“Am I the ball and chain?” Fenris asked, his brow wrinkling.

“Isabela…” Hawke groans, but Chantal looks equally excited.

“Oh, I know the perfect place. We’ll sneak out.” She lowered her voice conspiratorially.

“After you survived an assassination attempt, mi amor?” Zevran questioned nonchalantly. Chantal pouted, then brightened.

“We’ll take some of the female wardens.” She answered his concerns. “The only reason the assassination attempt got so far was because we were sleeping, and you said there’s no trace of other assassins in Amaranthine.”

“Simply...be careful.” Zevran asked, then smiled broadly. “As careful as you can be, no?”

“Always!” Chantal kissed the elf’s cheek before her and Isabela manhandled Hawke between them.

“Don’t wait up for us, boys.” Isabela blew a kiss to Varric.

“Wait, I’m not sure…” Hawke protested, laughing as they led her away. Fenris shook his head before turning to Zevran.

“It will be safe?” He asked quietly.

“The assassin has been interrogated...thoroughly.” Zevran swirled his whiskey in his glass. “It appears that she is part of a fringe cult operating from Orlais. They believe that eliminating all mages will solve their problems.”

“Orlesians.” Alistair made the word sound like a curse, Varric approved and topped off the other man’s whiskey.

“There may be links to minor Orlesian nobles, but I’ve investigated every Orlesian in Amaranthine. I believe they are reasonably safe, for now.”

“And the assassin?” Alistair questioned. Zevran’s smirk turned hard.

“Unfortunately, didn’t survive her interrogation.” The elf answered, raising his glass to Alistair. Alistair returned the smirk with a brittle grin of his own, clinking his glass with Zevran’s.

“Does she know?” Varric asked, shuffling cards as he observed the other three men.

“She knows that the assassin is dead and that I am to blame. She was a bit angry, but she never can stay angry for long.” Zevran shrugged. “She is cute when she is angry, no? Have I ever told you how we met?”

Alistair snorted. “You’re right, if it had been up to her we’d have the assassin joining the Grey Wardens, or worse.”

“Worse?” Zevran’s eyes widened in mock shock. “You wound me, my large and smelly friend.”

“I have to hear this story. I’ll tell you how Fenris and Hawke met.” Varric offered as he started to deal.

“Unnecessary, dwarf.” Fenris growled.

“Oh you must!” Zevran protested. “Well, I took a contract on the last Grey Wardens in Ferelden…”

 

Varric woke up to an unholy amount of giggling outside his door at two in the morning. He lifted himself from the bed with one arm as the other reached for the candle. Before he could fumble for it, the door creaked open and three women crashed onto his floor in a tangled pile of limbs. Varric sighed and sat up. The laughter from the floor intensified.

“Andraste’s ass, are you all drunk?” Varric asked. “I’m getting a candle, hold on.”

“Oh! I can light it!” A burst of flame shot up from a pale hand, spinning and solidifying in the air. This was exactly what Varric needed more of in his life, he thought ruefully, drunk mages.

“Hawke, quit it.”

“I’m not Hawke!” The mage responded with mock outrage and the fire burned brighter. The two other women giggled more and Varric groaned. “And it is my keep!”

“Listen, giggles.” Varric responded and Isabela hooted.

“A real nickname, Warden! He must like you.” Isabela winked and the fire went out as Chantal burst into a fit of giggles again. Varric burnt himself on the matches he was using to light the candle, but finally got it lit as he slipped from the bed.

“Don’t you girls have your own rooms?” He questioned as he leaned down and reached for what he thought was Hawke’s arm. He pulled up the Warden commander instead who clutched to his shoulders.

“Maker, Isabela wasn’t lying!” The Warden said, her light fingers brushing against Varric’s arm. “How do you fit those muscles in that jacket?” She asked curiously.

“It’s a public service.” Varric groaned, steadying the first figure and steering her toward the edge of the bed before reaching for the other pale arm and bringing Hawke up.

“If he let them lose in Kirkwall, it’d be a rampage of desperate women.” Hawke grinned, kissing Varric on the forehead. “They told me I can’t sleep in my bed, Varric. They already told Fenris.”

“It’s bad luck!” Isabela declared from the floor. “We have to leave her with a trustworthy person instead to protect her virtue, if she has any left after all the Elven…”

“Isabela!” Hawke shrieked with laughter, collapsing beside her cousin.

“Well, I guess that rules you out Rivaini. Any leftover virtue would be gone come morning.” Varric muttered, pouring water from a jug into a glass and pushing it into Hawke’s hands.

“I’m taking Isabela upstairs as a surprise.” Chantal used a sing song voice then giggled again. “Zevran will be so pleased and he’s worked so hard.”

Varric felt himself blushing as he tried to erase that spectacular image from his brain. “But Hawke will be safe here, with you and Bianca.” Chantal stretched leisurely out, smiling.

“Bianca and I are always up to it for our favorite mage, despite the unholy hour.” Varric agreed, patting Hawke’s head.

“Bianca…” Chantal repeated as Isabela lifted herself from the floor, her eyes far away. “Y’know, Ali calls his shield Morrigan.”

“Pretty name, unusual.” Varric muttered. Chantal nodded, allowing Isabela to lead her from the room. Varric shut and locked the door behind them and returned to Hawke’s side.

“I’ve had entirely too much to drink, Varric. I’m sorry, for everything.” Hawke’s wide blue eyes were catching the candlelight. She looked too young suddenly, lost and small. “I never meant for any of this…”

“Don’t get morose on me, Hawke.” Varric said, unfastening the cloak she was wearing and throwing it over the chair. “Get your boots off and we’ll have one last night passed out in my bed before you get married tomorrow. Just like at the Hanged Man.”

“Maker’s ass.” Hawke grinned, bemused. “Can you believe he’s marrying me?”

“Always thought he would, Hawke.” Varric took the glass from her as she bent over her boots.

“Do you think Carver and Merrilll…” Hawke began.

“They’ll be back in time tomorrow, don’t you worry. We’ll wait for them.” Varric interrupted.

“Course they will.” Hawke nodded, dropping one boot to the floor and gazing wearily up at Varric. “Oh, I’ll miss you.”

“Not for long.” Varric ignored the tightness in his throat as he stood before Hawke, with her sitting she was just the perfect height for him to fold her into a hug. “You’ll be back in Kirkwall soon and your trusty dwarf will be waiting for you. I promise.”

“You can’t promise that.” Hawke’s arms tightened around his. “Maker, I’ll get you all killed.” Her voice was dangerously close to a sob as Varric rocked her back and forth. “I already ruined...with Bianca, oh Varric I know it’s my fault…”

“It’s not your fault.” Varric dropped a chaste kiss on her dark hair. “Not your fault Hawke, you’ve done nothing wrong. Being your friend has been worth every minute of this mess.”

“You’re my best friend, Varric.” Hawke sniffled.

“You’re mine too.” Varric promised, brushing her hair off her face. “C’mon, boots off and bed.”

 

Chapter Text

Fenris could hear liquid dripping, slowly and irregularly. He was in Danarius’s mansion and it was unbelievably quiet. There were no vendors outside or gossiping housewives. He couldn’t hear the city guards’ armor or the bells of the chantry. All he could hear was his own breathing and the irregular dripping magnified by silence to the sound of a drum.

He gripped his sword in his hand as he followed the noise through the rooms, through the great hall, into the kitchen full of moldy food and corpses littering the ground. There was a trap door which led to a root cellar, it was open and he could hear the dripping sound. Fenris swung through the opening, landing gracefully with his sword ready for an attack that never came. His eyes took a moment to adjust to the gloom, a tunnel leading out of the root cellar, framed by flickering green torches.

There was no tunnel leading out of the root cellar, his mind argued. Here it was, though, incontrovertible evidence. Perhaps it had been revealed through magic? Fenris moved through the cellar warily, his heart racing. The lyrium in his body flickered as he approached the tunnel. Don’t look, his mind whispers traitorously. Fenris can’t help himself as he peers past the green torches.

The body he loves is almost unrecognizable, flesh carved away in graceful patterns that would be beautiful, if this wasn’t horrific. He can see muscle and bone. Her hands are chained above her head, fingers bloody. Her long dark hair hangs limply, matted with blood and Maker knows what else. There is a sword buried in her abdomen up to the hilt right where the Arishok’s blade had pierced her. The dripping noise he heard was her blood dripping into an overfilled basin of blood underneath her. She doesn’t move, she doesn’t take a breath.

“A fitting end for a maleficarum?” Meredith is there, in the shadows, her eyes aren’t red like they were before she died, they’re burning blue like the hottest kind of fire. “She’s all ready to practice blood magic now.”

 

Fenris woke up choking on the air in his lungs, his first slamming into the bed beside him. The empty bed, Maker. He flung himself from the mattress and was almost at the door with his sword in his hand before he remembered Hawke’s giggles from the door of Varric’s room down the hall, Isabela’s finger pointing into his chest as she reminded him it was unlucky to see his bride. His bride. The thought calmed enough to make him drop his sword and dash a hand through his hair before looking around their chamber. Dawn must have just broken outside, he could hear the first early risers of the keep moving in the courtyard. He was getting married this evening. His love was dead in the root cellar.

Fenris shuddered in silent horror as he moved to the door again. Perhaps he was mad, but he had to check. He slipped from their chamber and into the hallway, making his way to Varric’s door. It was locked, good sign. Fenris knocked as loudly as he dared. He waited the space of two heartbeats then knocked again slightly louder.

“Nug shit, I’m coming.” He heard Varric grumble and the creak of the bed. Fenris counted the dwarf’s steps then took a step back himself as the door opened. Varric looked him up and down and shrugged. “Sorry Broody, I’ve got orders. You’re not to see her until tonight.”

Fenris wanted to tell Varric where he could shove his traditions, but thought better of it. They could really use all the luck they could get. “But she is well?”

“She’ll be a bit hungover when she wakes up, got a bit maudlin when they brought her in. You know how she gets when she’s had too much to drink.” Varric waved his hand in the air, brushing off the concerns. “I’ll get some food and water into her and she’ll be good as new.”

Fenris let out a sigh of relief and nodded, jaw tightening. “What about you?” Varric asked, examining him critically.

“It is nothing.” Fenris said immediately, backing away from the door.

“You think I don’t know about those nightmares, you’d be wrong.” Varric stepped out into the hallway after him, closing the door behind him. “They’d been better on the ship though.”

“Did Hawke tell you?” Fenris couldn’t quite hide his irritation at the thought of Hawke telling Varric something so personal. Varric snorted.

“Of course she didn’t. I regret to inform you the walls of that house in Llomeryn weren’t nearly as sound proof as you two seemed to think. I’ve had to have many awkward conversations with Daisy regarding your bedroom activities.” Fenris shrunk back even further, embarrassed. “But what really bothered me were all those whispered conversations when you woke in the middle of the night. I’m your friend too, elf. Let me help.”

“What can a dwarf know of nightmares?” Fenris asked, irritated.

“I know a lot about fear.” Varric answered. The two men stopped and stared at each other.

“I can’t talk about it.” Fenris felt his throat swelling in panic. Varric held his hands up, a gesture of supplication.

“Alright. I’m here if you need me. Go take a walk or something.” Fenris nodded, eying the door until Varric sighed theatrically. “You used to go days sulking in that trash heap in Hightown and now you’re acting like spending a few hours away will kill you.”

The door on the far side of the hall opened and both Varric and Fenris turned to look at Isabela as she sauntered down the hall. “Thank Andraste’s sweet tits you’re both awake, we have problems. A scout just woke Commander Magic Fingers and informed her a half dozen templars entered Amaranthine this morning.”

“What? From where?” Fenris challenged, bristling.

“The White Spire, which has to be even worse than any backward circle in the Free Marches. These ones are coming right from the Divine’s knickers.” Fenris bit back a curse. The White Spire was in Val Royeaux, the heart of the Orlesian empire. Varric, though, was grinning.

“Well, if I know one thing about Fereldens, they love to be completely unhelpful to Orlesians. At least we have that working for us.” He explained when he caught sight of Fenris’s glare. “Nobody in this city will give them the time of day, particularly if they start asking questions about Giggles. You may not have noticed, but Fereldens everywhere would fall on their swords for her in a second.”

“That’s what she’s counting on, but she’s asking us to all stay put right now until she finds out what they want. The problem is Merrill and Carver are out there and should be getting ready to come back now if…” Isabela paused, a flash of hurt on her face before she choked it down and covered it up. “If all went well. They’ll be walking into a viper’s nest and they don’t know. We have to stop them and tell them to sneak directly up to the keep.”

“I’ll come with you.” Fenris’s thoughts immediately went to chatting, talkative Merrill being interrogated by Templars. Every templar in Thedas would know everything in two hours, especially if Merrill was trying to keep it secret. They very well couldn’t have that happen. Isabela’s face shown with relief.

“Tell Hawke we are still getting married tonight if I have to kill six templars myself.” Fenris growled, turning on his heel and stalking back to their chamber.  

“And some people think romance is dead.” Varric sighed.

 

Fenris and Isabela left the city on foot, tracking to a grove Chantal had mentioned overlooking the main road into Amaranthine. The city was hidden behind gently rolling hills to their north. The sun crept up into the sky as the two of them sat facing the meandering road. Fenris put his idle fingers to work, pulling a whetstone from his pack and using it to further sharpen his sword’s edge. Isabela flopped on the green grass beside him, eyes closed and chest rising and falling slowly.

“You don’t have to work for the king, you know. I’d marry you on my ship and you could stay with my crew.” Isabela offered. “We could all be raiders together! Wouldn’t it be fun?”

“Your definition of fun and my definition of fun have always widely differed.” Fenris eyes Isabela speculatively, trying to hide that slight twitch of his lips that could give into a smile so easily. “I suppose this is your way of saying you’ll miss our company?”

“Of course I will! Seven years of following Hawke...I’ll certainly miss the view.” Isabela smirked at the disgusted noise Fenris made before opening one eye and staring at him.

“I let down Hawke once. I never intended to do so again. She is a good friend, a better one than I have deserved. You, on the other hand, are probably exactly the kind of friend I deserve but I’ll miss you regardless.”

“As I will miss you, Isabela.” Fenris responded quietly. “It has been an experience to have gained a friend like you. I believe we will meet again.”

Isabela’s smile softened for a moment into something soft as she stretched like a cat in the grass. Fenris picked up his stone again and proceeded to wait. Isabela’s breathing had just drifted off into snores when Fenris picked our riders coming from the east. “Isabela!” He hissed, prodding her with his gauntlet. “I believe that is them.”

Isabela grumbled as Fenris stood, hanging back in the shadows at the riders drew closer. They were riding at an easy pace, leisurely as the two men spoke. Isabela was up beside him now, peering into the distance. “Do you see her? Is she with them?” Isabela asked Fenris, her worry evident in every line of her face.

Fenris opened his mouth to answer, but Merrill’s bright twinkling laughter across the hills answered for him. Isabela’s face shone with pure relief as she ran full kilter down from the trees, her arms spread wide. Fenris put away his sword and followed, shaking his head in bemusement. Isabela stopped beside the road and raised her hand up in the air, gesturing wildly with gold jewelry glinting magnificently in the road. “Kitten!” She shouted, laughter ringing in the air.

“Isabela!” Merrill’s voice shouted back. Carver barely managed to stop the horse before Merrill was sliding from behind him like quicksilver, running as quickly down the road before launching herself into Isabela’s waiting arms. Isabela kissed both of Merrill’s cheeks before pulling back and examining her critically. Fenris let his glance slip over the elf as well, she certainly didn’t appear different.

“Well, did they grey your warden?” Isabela drawled saucily.

“Well, yes. I’m afraid it wasn’t a very nice experience.” Merrill drooped for a moment before perking up when she saw Fenris hanging back beside Isabela. “I can’t believe you are here too, lethallin. Where’s Hawke?”

“At the keep.” Fenris answered as Isabela sighed, squeezing Merrill’s shoulders one last time before letting go.

“We have a bit of a good news, bad news situation I’m afraid.” Isabela explained as the two men on their horses drew up to them. Carver slid from the horse’s back with a scowl that seemed to have lost just an edge of ferocity.

“Course we do. Sister wouldn’t let her pet elf out alone without a situation brewing.” Carver crossed his arms over his chest, armor clanking threateningly. Fenris ignored the jibe and looked at the other Grey Warden.

“Your Commander was informed a half dozen templars arrived in Amaranthine this morning.” Fenris advised.

“Well, that’s certainly ominous.” Howe mused, stroking his chin. “I suppose they weren’t looking to join the Wardens? That would make it too easy.”

Carver swore, hand drifting to his sword automatically as he scanned the surrounding countryside. “We won’t be able to enter through the city, but we need to get back to the keep.”

“Oh, that’s easy.” Howe grinned. “We’ll drop these horses off at a farm just outside the keep and make our way up through the caves. It’s a bit of a rougher trip, but nobody knows those caves are there except Grey Wardens.”

“But what’s the good news?” Merrill asked, reaching up to pet the horse’s muzzle. Isabela laughed again, eying Fenris with a contented smirk.

“We have a wedding to get back in time for.” Isabela commented. Carver glared at Fenris and Fenris returned it with a small smile.

“But who is getting married? One of the Wardens?” Merrill persisted.

“Fenris decided to take the big old plunge off the gangplank, kitten.” Isabela nudged the elf gently. “He’s going to make an honest woman out of Hawke.”  

Carver muttered something under his breath, but it was lost in Merrill’s squeal of delight. “We will need to gather flowers on our way back!” She declared, eyes sparkling at Fenris. “You can give them to her!”

“Should have asked me first.” Carver growled as the group began moving, following Howe away from the main road and back up to the trees.

“Carver, I didn’t know you felt that way.” Fenris nearly laughed at loud at the disgusted noise Carver made. Merrill looked at him slyly with those green eyes that had observed entirely too much.

“It’s good to see you both happy. And joking! Creators, I thought I’d never see it.” She smiled, racing to the side to pull up several large embrium flowers, returning with them and handing one to Fenris.

 

The cave entrance took them right into the armory, which is where Chantal was sitting, waiting. She let out a shrill cry when they emerged, embracing Nathaniel quickly. “Oh Maker! I know they’d went after you but I was still terrified.”

“For me?” Nathaniel asked, puzzled as he pulled away from his Commander. Chantal sighed, running her hands through her hair.

“They came here to interrogate and most likely arrest you.” She explained, pale and exhausted looking. “They know about you and Anders somehow, I don’t know how. And they’re saying people have seen Anders here, but that’s ridiculous. He’d never come back to Amaranthine.”

Howe froze and Fenris did as well, looking at the archer curiously. The man grabbed his bow tightly then let go slowly. “Anders and I were over a very long time ago.” He murmured between gritted teeth.

“I know, Nathaniel. I won’t let them take you, I promise.”

“Are they using you to draw out the abomination?” Fenris asked tentatively. “If they think he may care for you.”

“He didn’t care for me.” Nathaniel spat. Chantal winced and nodded briskly.

“Just...don’t leave the keep okay? Please? I’ll handle them.” She pleaded.

“I won’t let you shield me, Commander. I won’t hide behind your skirts.” Howe growled. Chantal sighed, rubbing her forehead.

“Fine, but they’re not taking you. If they want to talk to you, they will do it here.” She looked up at the archer and Fenris could swear he saw lighting bolts crashing in the small woman’s eyes.

“Chantal.” Zevran called from the door. “They are at the main gate demanding an audience. What do you wish me to do?”

Chantal bit her lip in a maddingly familiar gesture. She looked at their small party, eyes settling on Merrill with a small smile. “Will you help me lie to some templars, Warden?” She asked gently.

“Don’t put her in danger.” Carver demanded, placing a hand on Merrill’s shoulder.

“I’m a Warden now.” Merrill straightened. “For the good of the order, right?” She asked, looking up at Carver.

“For the good of our friends as well, I think.” Chantal mused, eying Zevran speculatively.

“We’ll be using plan A, then?” Zevran asked. “Subterfuge and deceit?”

“Course we will, love.” Chantal answered brightly. “Tell the other Wardens to bring the Templars to me here. It’ll keep them out of the way. Then I went the best fighters I have in the courtyard, lazing around and polishing weapons. Just in case I need them.”

“And us?” Fenris asked, gripping his sword tightly.

“You’re going up to go up to my study and Ali is going to marry you to my cousin. Varric and her have been packing up, you should be ready to go. Then, hopefully, everyone who isn’t a Warden is going to sneak out of here tonight. You’ll be leaving with Ali and a map of my safehouses. Varric and Isabela will get back on her ship and sail as soon as she assembles her crew.”

“You really don’t let guests overstay their welcome, do you?” Carver asked bitingly. Chantal smiled sadly, shrugging her shoulders.

“I can’t protect them, they aren’t Wardens. It’s not my jurisdiction. I can only protect you, Merrill, and Nathaniel. I wish I could do more, but someday soon I’ll be leaving this place and I won’t even be able to do that.” She sighed, shaking her head.

“I understand, thank you.” Fenris whispered, inclining his head.

“It may not be much of a wedding night, but I can at least give you a wedding.” She swore.

 

Fenris would be married in his armor, the armor made for him by Danarius. It was the armor he’d worn when he slaughtered the fog warriors, the only thing he’d taken with him when he fled Tevinter. He had been wearing it the first moment he saw Hawke and had sat cleaning it with her after many of their misadventures. He’d put it back on when he fled Hawke’s bed the first time, then left it lay on his own floor when she returned and he was ready for her.

Hawke wore his favorite scarlet cloak over leathers, breeches tucked into her tall boots. She left her dark hair tumbling lose over her shoulders, crowned with a wreath of embrium blooms Merrill had twisted together. They were all carrying their weapons, including the King marrying them.

“Right, right.” Alistair began. “Let’s get the formalities out of the way, first. Anyone know of any reason these two people shouldn’t be tying the knot?”

“It’s a damn shame to sentence these two to monogamy, that’s why.” Isabela whispered.

“Isabela!” Merrill shushed her loudly. Alistair sighed in resignation, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling.

“Right, good. Guess we’re doing this then. We’re all gathered together in the Maker’s sight to join this woman and man together in the sight of the Maker and Andraste or the Creators, really who knows.”

Hawke giggled and Fenris couldn’t help but smile at the sound. Alistair scowled at them, clearing his throat as they tried to straighten their faces. “Vows next. Fenris, will you take this woman to be your wedded wife? Will you love, honor, comfort, and keep her, in sickness and in health and forsaking all others for the rest of your lives?”

“I will.” Fenris answered, his voice was so sure. He reached out his left hand, taking Hawke’s and squeezing it gently with his gauntlets.

“Reyna Hawke, do you take this man to be your wedded husband? Will you love, honor, comfort, and keep him, in sickness and in health…”

“Yes!” Reyna cut in, grinning as she leaned forward. “I will, forsaking all others and the rest of my life.”

“Good. Excellent. Ah, shit. I don’t have a ribbon.” Alistair looked around desperately.

“I do.” Fenris let go of Hawke’s hand, untying the red ribbon from his gauntlet and handing it to the King. Alistair smiled as the two joined hands again and Fenris watched as the King wrapped the ribbon over their joined hands, once, twice, then tied it gently.

“This is a symbol of the lives you have chosen to lead together. Up until this moment, you have been separate in thought, word, and action. As your hands are bound together by this ribbon, so too, will your lives be bound as one. May you forever be one in the Maker’s sight, sharing in all things, in love and loyalty for all time to come.” Alistair stepped back, nodding to himself then looked up at Fenris and Hawke.

“You may kiss the bride, and I highly recommend doing so quickly so we can get out of this mess.”

Hawke reached for him, but Fenris was quicker. His lips crashed into hers with a mad possessive urge, his unbound hand going to her hip and pulling her closer as their friend applauded. When he pulled back, Hawke was flushed and unsteady. “My wife.” He growled into her ear.

Their marriage contract lay on the Warden Commander’s desk. Fenris had signed his name, Hawke signed hers. Carver signed as his sister’s witness and Varric signed as his. Nobody’s hands trembled. Finally, the king pressed his ring into sealing wax and left the Ferelden coat of arms as proof of their legally sanctioned union. “Well, here’s that. We better head out.” Varric squeezed Hawke’s elbow sadly.

Zevran was waiting anxiously at the bottom of the tower. “Congratulations my friends. I wish you all the happiness we have had.” Zevran gave a small bow. “And thank you for graciously taking Alistair off my hands.”

“Any time, Zevran. We live to please.” Hawke was beaming, her hand still resting on Fenris’s forearm.

“The templars are with Chantal.” Zevran began. “I’m afraid it is as we feared, they are that the Siren’s Revenge is docked here as well. Chantal is claiming she is unsure of where you are, Isabela, but that you were doing a favor for a friend and bringing Warden Hawke and his lady friend to Amaranthine.”

“Lady friend?” Merrill queried. “Oh, that’s me. Right.” She answered herself nervously.

“We have admitted that Merrill, formerly of the Kirkwall Alienage, is indeed the lady friend in question. They immediately began clambering to take you into custody, my dear, but Chantal has informed them of your Joining. You are now her responsibility. They are not taking it well, but I don’t believe they are insane enough to try to pull you or Nathaniel out of here.”

“We should go to her then, so they can ask us questions like they want to ask Nathaniel.” Merrill said. “Yes? And we lie about Hawke.”

“And me too, please.” Alistair asked hoarsely.

“Us as well, Daisy. You haven’t seen anyone in months except Isabela. You and Carver here have been in Ferelden the whole time. You don’t know where Isabela went after she dropped anchor.” Varric coached. “Maker, just don’t let them get you out of this keep.”

“We’ll distract them.” Carver answered. “About time I saved you, right Sister?”

“You’re a good man, Carver. Except for being a bit of a tit.” Hawke answered with a wry smile, opening her arms wide. Carver embraced her quickly, Merrill lingering to whisper in Hawke’s ears before they both disappeared with Zevran.

“We’ll go straight for the docks.” Isabela explained. “I can round up most of my crew and we’ll slip out by moonlight.”

“Be good.” Hawke ordered, laughing. Isabela kissed Hawke full on the lips, grinning lavisciously and pulling away from Fenris’s grip before he could catch her.

“Always, sweetness.” She smacked her lips and swaggered back. Varric and Hawke were both looking at the ground.

“I won’t say goodbye.” Hawke began stubbornly.

“I won’t either. Let’s just say… Later, Hawke.” Varric smiled. Hawke dropped to her knees, throwing her arms around Varric’s neck.

“Later Varric. In Kirkwall, I promise.” She whispered, kissing his cheek before standing suddenly, rocking back against Fenris, nodding blindly through the tears in her eyes. Varric turned quickly, shoulders hunched as he disappeared behind Isabela.

“Well, it’s not a real wedding unless there are tears anyway.” Alistair attempted to joke. Hawke groaned, shaking her head. “What, too soon?”

“I’m sorry, you deserved better.” Fenris said as they followed Alistair through the Warden’s maze of outbuildings, past the main gate.

“I’ll miss them, but I’d rather be by your side then anywhere in the world.” Hawke answered, eyes flicking to his. “Let’s be honest, anyway, that’s probably as normal as we could have expected our wedding to be.”

Fenris wished he could protest, state that he didn’t deserve her as they fled another city on their wedding night. Instead, he pulled her cloaked figure closer and inhaled her scent, felt her sweet warmth under his hand. “I agree.” He answered instead.

Chapter Text

 

Varric and Isabela said nothing when the ship pulled out of port because, really, what was there to say? Varric was on his way home, but not home, because Hawke wouldn’t be roaming the street with her wicked wit and cocky grin. Merrill wouldn’t be stealing flowers from gardens and Varric wouldn’t be paying off gardeners to keep her out of the dungeons. Anders wouldn’t be healing the poor in Darktown and venting about injustice. Isabela wouldn’t be leaning on the Hanged Man’s bar, downing whiskey like water. Fenris would never darken the doorstep of that dilapidated manor he called home ever again. Varric would never wake to them pounding at his door or picking his lock. Perhaps Bianca would never send another letter ever again.

Void take Blondie. If he saw him again, Varric may throttle him.

Isabela’s ship docks just long enough to let Varric off. Their goodbye is brief, but the sadness buries in his heart nevertheless as he watches Isabela’s sails catch the wind and she sails out of

Kirkwall’s harbor for perhaps the very last time. Hawke was the glue that held them together and if she never returns, the Siren’s Revenge will never sail past the Gallows again. Varric stops that thought, wrestles it back to the dark recesses of his mind. Hawke will come home someday, he has to remember that.

He goes to the Alienage first and is unsurprised that it is the least damaged place in Kirkwall, but pleasantly pleased to see the outside of what used to be Merrill’s home freshly painted with plants in a window box and new shutters on the window. It is hard even for Varric to be sad with the sun shining and the cheerful pink blooms dancing in an ocean breeze. When he knocks at the door, Orana opens it and cries out in delight, dropping to her knees and hugging him tightly. Varric smiles at her greeting, but it drops when the first question out of his mouth is about Hawke. He pats her arm gently and shakes his head while he answers her question and Orana’s smile flattens, but she nods her head kindly and invites him in. The home is cleaner than Merrill ever left it, her ever present mirror gone into a trash dump somewhere. There is a chalkboard against one wall and Orana explains she has started a school for the children in the alienage, she’s even taken some humans from the Lowtown slums. She’s using the skills Hawke taught her to teach others, and he knows that would make Hawke proud. When he tells her so, she beams. She says Aveline comes to visit, sometimes Donnic as well. This reminds Varric of where he must go next and he graciously apologizes to Orana. She shoves a basket full of baked goods on him regardless. As he leaves, he decides if any of his contacts are still alive, he’ll have some watch out for her. It’s the least he could do for Hawke.

The streets are scarred with evidence of fights that are still sometimes ongoing. People don’t mill outside as they used to, but hurry down the streets clutching baskets and packs closely to themselves. He sees guard patrols, but recognizes noone until he climbs to the Viscount’s Keep and sees Aveline hurrying down the steps. She almost walks past him in her hurry, but stops just in time to gawk at him. Varric smiles halfheartedly and Aveline laughs just a little, holding out her hand. Varric takes it as she whispers that it is good to see him, truly. She confides that it has been horrible, that the city is barely holding together, that she doesn’t know what will happen next but she believes it has to get better. There is no other option and she’ll make it happen. Varric says he’ll help as much as he can, and finally Aveline asks if it is only him that has returned. She both dreads and hopes for the answer and when he says yes, she can’t help just the tiniest flicker of disappointment. She knows Hawke can’t come back yet, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t wish just a bit the same way Varric does.

 

-

 

Denerim looms up over them when they say goodbye to their King, or at least Fenris supposes that this is their King now. He is not a bad man, Fenris has decided as they trailed across the countryside. He confides to them that he only is King because he didn’t want his opponent to be queen, he felt she was untrustworthy, but he never wanted to take her life. She still lingers, refusing to acknowledge his rule, in some luxurious prison somewhere. He cares deeply for his people, that Fenris can see in the way he counts livestock in the fields and examines freshly planted rows of crops. When he see children that appear to be a bit too skinny, he pauses to ask if there is famine in the area while Hawke hands them some of their rations.

Before the King leaves, he enters the city alone and returns, clutching a bundle in his arms. He hands the bundle to Fenris with a wink at Hawke. The bundle wriggles in his arms and when Fenris pulls back the rough cotton, a wet nose and big brown eyes look up at him. The King introduces the dog as a Mabari bred from the same line the Warden Commander’s mabari founded before he passed a few years prior. Hawke squeals in delight as the puppy presses his nose against Fenris’s neck. She carries it as the leave Denerim behind them, heading towards the first safehouse marked on their map. She talks about the Mabari she had when she came to Kirkwall, the one who passed peacefully in his sleep at the Hawke estate after the Qunari had passed. Tears gleam in her eyes still as she talks, but Fenris can’t help but think of how beautiful she is. They try out names between the two of them, but finally they agree on a name Fenris has chosen. Lucia means light, Fenris explains, and Hawke repeats the name over and over to the puppy as she scratches its ears.

Their first night in the small log cabin with the Griffon scratched above the door is the first where Fenris spends a night alone with his wife. He keeps repeating the words in his head, nearly breathless with happiness at the way they sound. He is a husband and he has a wife. She is on the floor with a bit of dried meat, teaching the dog to sit and stay and lay down. Fenris peels off his armor and sits in the chair watching her, admiring her pale skin and blue eyes. They are together and they are safe with each other. Hawke, who has never been in shackles, doesn’t know what a gift she has given him but he will spend the rest of their lives showing her. The sun sets and he takes her to their bed and allows himself to hope and dream of things slaves should not have, things that are beyond his broken, jagged heart. But he is not a slave anymore and she wears his ring on her finger and the shackles they’ve bound themselves with are made by their hands and hearts. They do not hurt, they heal.

They spend four days in that cabin, long enough to hear news from Denerim. Fenris passes his markings off as Dalish from the Free Marches and the peasants don’t seem to know better. The dog has taken to following him where he goes and this speaks more for him with the Fereldens than anything Fenris could actually do or say. In return, Fenris sneaks extra bits of meat to Lucia whenever Hawke isn’t looking and takes great pleasure in doing so. He has never had anything to spoil like this that he remembers and he loves the feel of the wet nose bumping against his hand. When he returns with firewood to the cabin, Hawke is back from the closest village. She sits, hands clasped tightly in her lap as she tells him that all the talk is of Amaranthine and the templars that attempted to drag three Grey Wardens out of Vigil’s Keep. Their Hero of Ferelden, they always call her that here in the countryside, stopped them and sent the Templars packing with bruises asses and bruised egos. The Fereldens are incensed and convinced the Templars have tried to clasp their Hero in irons and drag her back to the Circle, in Orlais. They are proud that King Alistair has already sent a missive to the Divine demanding an explanation and reiterating the Hero’s service to Ferelden.

Hawke’s eyes look shadowed, but Fenris smooths them with gentle words as he kneels before her, unclasping her hands from each other. Her brother and Merrill are safe, Isabela and Varric are safe, Chantal and Zevran and Alistair are safe, they are safe. The tension relaxes from her shoulders and she smiles slowly, like the sun coming out after a storm. Fenris basks in the glory of it, of knowing he has caused it. They pack up and spend one last night in that cabin before moving on.

 

-

 

It has been three months and the summer heat is unbearable in Kirkwall. Varric sleeps at the Viscount’s Keep with Aveline, although it isn’t home. During the day, he goes out  with her to try to negotiate peace between all the warring factions. The Carta is trying to take advantage of the chaos, the Coterie is fighting with the Carta, there are still rebellious mages hiding in Darktown, Knight Commander Cullen is barely holding the Templars together, and Slavers are preying on the vulnerable with only the guards standing against them. Varric thinks he is a poor replacement for Hawke, these nug lickers would listen to her. So far, all they have is a stalemate. The only good news is that the Tale of the Champion had passed his editor’s scrutiny. In fact, she’d said that although it probably wouldn’t sell as well as Hard in Hightown, it was probably his best work. Varric couldn’t help but be flattered by this, and Maker do they need to get their side of the story out. The week he receives his copy of the book, he hears seven different versions of what actually happened that last week in Kirkwall.

When he isn’t in meetings with Aveline or trying to reestablish his network of contacts, he spends time at Hawke’s estate. It was trashed completely in the chaos after the circle fell, rioters had broken in and looted much of the valuable things Leandra Hawke had bought to furnish her family home. The fanciest gowns Hawke only wore once or twice are gone, although Varric doubts she’ll even notice. Luckily, her library remained intact. Mobs aren’t usually interested in the acquisition of knowledge and must not have had time to burn it. Varric takes some of the most suitable books to Orana for her little school and brings others up to the Keep. He hires laborers to begin cleaning up and when it’s suitable, he moves himself into the guest room. It isn’t the Hanged Man, but it is better than the Viscount’s Keep.

When two figures show up on his doorstep, his heart freezes in hope for just a moment before he realizes the silhouettes are all wrong, the man is too broad and tall and the woman is too willowy and slim. They pull their hoods down and all Varric sees at first is the Griffon on their armor and the blue and white cloth. Then he laughs, out of breath with relief as Merrill and Carver grace Hawke’s estate once more. They both look tired, but Varric can’t help but notice that they lean towards each other like trees whose roots have grown together. Carver protests they can’t stay long, they need to get back to Ferelden on a ship the next morning, but they have a letter. The parchment they hand him is full of Hawke’s looping, rushed script and he reads her words with a lightened heart. He plies Junior and Daisy with ale and whiskey and they fall asleep after talking almost all night in Varric’s bed. Varric stays in his armchair by the fire and writes his reply, looking up every so often to take in the two figures twined together in his bed and feel a sharp pang of jealousy and a warmth of happiness spread through him. He can’t begrudge them their happiness, even if he can’t have it for himself. Daisy’s head rests on Carver’s chest, her fingers twined into his tunic. Carver’s arms curve around her, holding her tightly to him even as they sleep. When dawn breaks, they both stir and Varric feeds them breakfast before they rush back to the docks. They leave Varric with the list of safe houses, drawn up in an unfamiliar slanting hand that reminds him of chantry scholars. He memorizes it over the course of two days, then burns it. But now he knows where to send his letters, and he sends the dozen he’s already written and couldn’t send. The couriers will hand them off three times and even he won’t know who eventually delivers them, and that’s the safest way to do it.

 

-

 

Fenris wipes the blood from his arm, examining the bleeding gash with distaste. When Hawke had asked if he was injured, he had said no because he honestly hadn’t realized that some of the blood he was covered in was his own. She would accuse him of being needlessly stubborn, but perhaps he was. She is attempting to use the lockpicks Isabela gifted her to open the bars, behind which sit ten humans and elves in shock. Fenris kicks over another dead Tevinter slaver and digs through his pockets, finally coming up with a ring of keys. He brings them to Hawke and dangles them in front of her face and she laughs, taking them from him with a kiss on his bloody cheek. Five slavers dead, ten people rescued, one kiss. Fenris files them all away in his head as he moves from the bars to examine the rest of the hideout, searching for instructions or maps as Hawke heals and soothes the prisoners that are no longer prisoners. It is what she does best, after all. Since they have been married, his nightmares have ceased and his fears fallen away.

On their way back to the shack they’re currently staying in, just outside the forest, Hawke notices his bleeding and makes them stop why she heals it. She scolds him while her gentle fingers glow warmly and set the lyrium in his skin buzzing pleasantly. The gash heals beautifully, there won’t even be a scar to remember this by. Five slavers dead, ten people rescued, no scars, and the second kiss takes place as she finishes and brushes her lips softly over his. In a hollow of a tree not far from their shack, she finds another letter addressed to her from Carver and she opens it as they walk, reading avidly. This leaves Fenris to retrieve the rabbit that has been caught in their trap. It’s large and juicy and he can skin it for Hawke for dinner tonight. They’ll have plenty, even if their other traps are empty. He’s thinking only of this and doesn’t realize for a moment that Hawke has frozen, her hand on her lips and her face draining of blood and color. The first time Fenris asks what is wrong, she doesn’t answer. The second time, she holds the letter out to him mutely. He struggles with Carver’s scrawl, but is eventually able to decipher just enough.

The Hero of Ferelden and Zevran Arainai have vanished without a trace. The rumor is that she has left on her Calling, but Carver protests that she is too young. Some say that she has been taken by the Templars finally, in revenge for thwarting them multiple times, but why take Zevran? Fenris knows the answer to that question in his very bones, that if Chantal has been taken against her will that Zevran is dead already. Finally, Carver writes that their King has done nothing. This eases the knot in his stomach and Fenris shakes his head to clear the doubt. Chantal’s words the last time he saw her ring in his head and he repeats them for Hawke, that she had said she would leave soon. Perhaps it is Grey Warden business or perhaps more personal. He argues in favor of this until the color returns back to Hawke’s face, but she doesn’t smile the rest of the night, even when Lucia brings them another, smaller rabbit for their dinner with a pride reserved for taking down an ogre.

 

-

 

In the winter, Varric receives word a mage has tried to assassinate the Divine. Varric immediately wanders if it was Blondie, but assumes that if it was that would be mentioned. The Divine had survived thanks to a templar bodyguard named Evangeline. Varric notes the name for later, it would be excellent in a romance novel. It’s too Orlesian for his typical audience, however. Letters about Hawke, though, come in every day from every corner of Thedas. Some ask him if the book is really true. Others beg for what happened next. Some of them are even threats against his life and Hawke’s, which is hilarious. Despite Varric writing the, mostly true, story Hawke is still as controversial as she was.

The last letter he received had come from Fenris, not Hawke. She’d written a greeting cheerfully in the corner, but Varric didn’t believe it. Fenris’s writing was always spare and perfectly thought out, much the same way Broody spoke, but Varric was an expert at reading between the lines. Fenris wasn’t saying a lot about Hawke, but what he did say recalled Varric sitting in silence with her for three months after they pulled the mangled body of Leandra Hawke out of Lowtown. It had taken all of them to dig Hawke out of that hole, how could Fenris manage it on his own when he too was so prone to these episodes of loathing and guilt? Perhaps he should go himself, the minimal impact he was making on the state of Kirkwall wasn’t worth more than Hawke.

 

-

 

Fenris will have to tell her and he doesn’t want to. She withdraws further and further into herself each time he brings her news. Lucia pads alongside him up the road, her head lowered in introspection as well. Hawke said Mabari picked one warrior and would fight with them until death took them both, and that it was clear who Lucia preferred. Fenris thought it was more akin to wolf knowing wolf, the two bound together by similar natures and a fine appreciation of the woman waiting for both of them.

The mabari nudges Hawke’s hand as he enter the cozy farmstead outside Gwaren. Hawke absently pets her, scratching her nose with the edge of the quill she holds and leaving a smudge of ink on her face. Fenris feels a sudden drop in the temperature of the room and despair settle over him. Maker, if he lost her… but he won’t. He steels himself as she turns to him with one of her rarer and rarer smiles. He cups her cheek in his hand and kisses her forehead, closing his eyes against the dread rising in his stomach. He decides he will do it quickly, in the hope that sudden pain will be better than a drawn out wound. He tells her the White Spire has fallen, that the Enchanters have fled, the Lord Seeker is dead and the new Lord Seeker has rejected the reign of the Chantry and declared war on the mages. The mages are held up in a stronghold in Orlais and have voted on independence. Horror grows on Hawke’s face and she finally buries her head in her hands and sobs that it is her fault. Lucia whines from her spot before the fire, her head tilting in confusion and Fenris feels much the same way. It is not Hawke’s fault, he knows that, but he can’t make her see it. He wishes helplessly for Aveline, Isabela, and Varric, even Merrill. They could make her see what he cannot. He lifts her from her chair instead, letter and quill forgotten and takes her to the bed, cradling her in his lap and letting his fingers tangle in her thick dark hair as he whispers to her in the darkening room.

His heart is too bruised, bloody, and broken to heal hers. It is the heart of a slave, born in shackles, and can do nothing to ease her burdens.  

 

-

 

The Seeker is outside Hawke’s estate and she expects him to leave with her. Varric can’t believe he’s gotten himself into this mess, but he can’t quite figure out how to extradite himself from it. She’d phrased it as an invitation to meet with the Divine, but her glower had left no room to decline it. Aveline stares at him across his desk as he writes last minute instructions for his contacts, rattles off things for Aveline. She offers to boost him out a window in the back, but he knows he won’t make it far. Aveline knows too, but she is finding it hard to allow this Seeker to cart him off. It is better that it is him instead of Hawke, he knows this. If they made it to Hawke, Fenris would die before letting them take her, and death would be the kinder option for her than life as a tranquil or life without Fenris. There are few people who know where Hawke could be and they are all untouchable, Grey Wardens or Heroes or Kings. Let them take him, then. He will not give her to them, they have done enough to her.

He promises Aveline he will be back soon, hoists his pack onto his shoulder the same way he used to when Hawke was leading them down the Wounded Coast or up Sundermont. Maker, he’s gotten old when he wasn’t paying attention. The cocky twenty-four year old who impressed a scrape grace nineteen year old and her tit of a brother in the Hightown Market years ago was gone. It had been ten years and he could never get those people back, no matter how hard he tried. The Seeker is waiting for him outside and walks beside him to the docks. The Knight Commander is there as well, but when Varric greets him he shakes his head at the title and tells him not anymore with a sad smile. They board the ship together and Varric watches Kirkwall recede into the distance once more.

 

-

 

The final letter from Varric breaks her and Fenris can do nothing. It is a quick note, nothing more. Scrawled in a moment of freedom before he was taken, given to the courier by Aveline most likely. It is only a three sentences.

 

Waffles,

 

They’re taking me to Haven. Don’t follow. You know I’ll talk my way out of it.

-V

 

Hawke screams when she sees it and falls into the grass beside the stump with the hollowed out rock beside it where the message was hidden. Lucia growls, spinning to look for danger but there is none that they can fight here. They have Varric, but it isn’t Hawke and for that he is glad even if it makes him a wretched friend. She immediately makes plans to go, to turn herself in, and Fenris has to pin her wrists to her sides to stop her and she screams at him but it doesn’t matter because he is not allowing that to happen. He silences her with a fierce kiss. There have been seventy-five prisoners freed, forty-eight slavers killed, and an innumerable number of kisses, but this one is desperate.

“No.” He orders as he tastes the tears falling down her cheeks. “He will want us to wait and see what he does. We’ll move closer and watch.”

Chapter Text

“Who puts a village in the Frostback Mountains?” Varric asked tersely. There was snow everywhere. Snow up to his damn ass. Snow in his boots. Snow on Bianca. It was absolutely unbearable and he seemed to be the only one in their little merry band who was struggling up the damn path. Cullen smiled tightly and offered a hand which Varric brushed aside. Damned if he let himself be led up this path like a child. He glared holes into Cassandra’s back.

Cullen stifled a chuckle and matched his pace to the dwarf’s. Varric couldn’t decide if he was pleased by the company or irritated by Cullen’s fond gaze lingering on the snow covered trees and shrubs. They trudged on in silence broken only by Varric’s swearing every time his foot found a particularly deep pile of snow and he sunk hip deep. Cassandra’s noises of disgust kept getting more and more frequent.

“We’re almost at the village.” She finally said, indicating what may have been town walls up ahead. “The Divine will be at the Temple, we will go straight there.”

“We will most certainly not.” Varric sputtered indignantly. “You keep trekking up this damned mountain Seeker, but I need a pint of ale and a fire.”

“Dwarf, you do not seem to understand the gravity of the situation.” Cassandra growled, fingering her sword. Cullen coughed, drawing the Seeker’s gaze away from Varric.

“Seeker Pentaghast, I understand the need for haste. It is drawing close to supper, however. Perhaps it would be wise to allow the Divine a moment to eat before introducing ourselves?” Cassandra sighed, her breath condensing and hanging in the air. A light snowfall was beginning to fall and it reminded Varric poignantly of Llomeryn and the flakes dotting his parchment as his friends laughed.

“Perhaps you are right.” The Seeker grumbled, continuing to trudge ahead. Cullen shrugged his shoulders and flashed another of his hesitant smiles. Varric sighed in gratitude, clapping the other man’s elbow in appreciation as they made their way to the town. Varric scanned the crowd around them, mages and templars mostly but others as well. There was even a Qunari mercenary lazing outside the gate. A trio of dwarves were huddled together by a fire in front of the chantry, grumbling softly. Varric recognized their armor and swore under his breath. Cullen looked down and Varric inclined his head toward the dwarves.

“Recognize them? They’re Carta.” Cullen shook his head and Varric grinned. “C’mon Curly, don’t tell me how dwarves look the same to you.”

“Those dwarves certainly seem of the suspicious sort.” Cullen narrowed his eyes as he took in the leathers and steel.

Varric looked around but was unable to see anyone beyond those three. They were pure muscle, picked out for protection of someone more vulnerable but most likely much smarter. That person was nowhere to be seen. Varric’s mind began to supply reasons the Carta would be keeping tabs on the Conclave. Lyrium smuggling in jeopardy, perhaps? Were they supplying weapons to one or both sides?

These were the last normal thoughts Varric had before an explosion louder than anything he had ever heard, louder than the day Anders blew up the chantry, although it brought that memory rushing back first as he stumbled backwards. Bianca was in his arms right away, the heft of the weapon reassuring as the world crumbled around him. He was pointing it up at the sky, where a roiling mass of green seethed in the gray sky. Debris had become to fall, ash mixed in with the snow. People began to scream and the doors to the Chantry burst open, a redheaded figure striding out and turning to look up above them.

“Leliana!” Cassandra snapped. “The Divine!”

“Gather troops, anyone able and willing with a sword.” Cullen’s sword was out and he was fastening the bindings of his shield to his arm. The Carta dwarves had begun to move and they ran past Cullen, up the mountain path shouting something. Varric couldn’t hear them, but supposed his question of where their leader had been was answered. Poor bastards, he hoped it wasn’t anyone the Carta would miss that they were supposed to be guarding because there was no way anyone had survived that. Varric had been forgotten in the chaos, but he followed Cullen regardless.

“You’ll need all the help you can get Curly.” He responded to the questioning gaze. Cullen nodded, his mouth tightening as troops began to gather.

 

Halfway up the mountain path, Varric found the corpses of the Carta dwarves surrounded by shades and a crouching terror demon. His thoughts strayed to fights in Kirkwall and he silently thanked the Maker for granting him such valuable and wholly unwelcome experience before Bianca fired her first six shots. “They’re coming from there! It’s a rift in the world!” A mage shrieked as she ran past them back to the village. Varric watched as the rift spewed another green tendril and a rage demon appeared.

“Push forward!” Cassandra called. “For the Divine!” The troops divided around her as she rushed forward, throwing her weight behind her shield as the rage demon reared back and prepared to spew fire. The next bolt Varric fired lodged in the creature’s eye. It fell forward into itself as Cassandra’s blade pierced it. As he reloaded the crossbow, Varric began to hum under his breath. Cassandra’s shield pushed the creature back and Varric’s next shot caused it to explode into fragments of green mist. Cassandra gave him a look far more courteous than those he had seen from her so far, almost appreciative. Varric couldn’t help the small bow and the little flourish that goes with it and smirked when she made that disgusted sound once more.

The soldiers pushed up the mountain, but Varric never made it to the top with them. Soldiers raced back down to the rear guard where Cassandra is with a woman on a makeshift stretcher.

Her eyes are closed and Varric isn’t sure at first if she is breathing. She is battered and bruised and there are suspicious cuts in the fabric of her coat. Her eyes twitched rapidly and her whole body shook, but even Varric can’t help but note she’s not bad to look at. She’s got a black Carta tattoo of a fancy geometric design under her right eye that disappears behind red hair just a shade darker than Nightingale’s. Her face seemed soft and innocent in unconsciousness and her pink lips are parted just slightly. She looked well fed and healthy besides the color suspiciously absent from her face.

“Who is this?” Cassandra asked the soldiers. They stared at her mutely, then at each other as if trying to decide what so say. Cassandra doesn’t wait and makes a noise that is almost a growl. It scares one of the soldiers into action.

“She fell out of the rift all the demons are coming through in the temple. It closed up behind her, but there was a woman with her. She was in the rift, Ser, I saw it. I think Andraste pushed her through the veil.” He explained fervently. Varric snorteds. Cassandra’s lips twisted and she looked to Varric, indicating the woman.

“Do you know her, dwarf?” She asked. Varric took the chance to approach, and sees the hand opposite from him is glowing and pulsing with the same crazy green energy in the sky. This shit is too weird for one of his stories.

“I don’t ask you if you know every human, why should I know every dwarf?” Varric grumbled. “She’s definitely Carta, probably the last of that group of fine upstanding citizens we passed on the way here. Dwarves don’t stumbled out of glowing magical portals though, Seeker.”

“But she is a criminal.” Cassandra said flatly, nodding to the soldiers. “Take her to the village and put her in shackles.”

“You think she did this?” Varric asked, amazed. “Seeker, that’s beyond anything I’ve seen anyone do.”

“Someone did it. She is the only suspect.” Cassandra confirmed and her tones leaves no room for argument.

 

He followed the Seeker and Sister Nightingale back to Haven. They said he isn’t a prisoner, but Varric isn’t quite as sure. What would happen if he tried to walk out the front gate? Eventually, Leliana approached him with a small pendant on an expensive gold chain. She asked him if he recognizes the crest on the pendant. Varric examined it closely, running his thumb over the interlocking hexagons and smiles.  

“It’s House Cadash’s crest.” He answered. “They’re a big Carta family, and that’s only including blood and not the dwarves they bring in to help run their operation. Best damn lyrium smugglers in Thedas, I used to use them from time to time in Kirkwall when I needed supplies for…” He trailed off, not willing to say Hawke’s name or even Merrill or Ander’s.

“But you don’t recognize her?” Lelilana snapped in irritation. Ah, she’s slipping, Varric thought at the same moment he recognizes the thought slip across Leliana’s face. She hid it immediately, but Varric takes pity.

“No. See this chain? It’s solid gold, Nightingale. Good quality stuff. The crest itself is gold, too. She’s Cadash blood, that’s the only way she’d have a crest, but the quality of it says she’s not some cousin in the low ranks. She’s too important to them  to be running a smuggling ring in Kirkwall, no matter how lucrative it is. She was probably sent to spy on the conclave, the Lyrium black market is booming with this war and they’ll have a vested interest in what happens next. She’s no ordinary thug.” Varric shrugged as he pulled the chain through his calloused fingers, feeling the heavy weight of it. Leliana crossed her arms over her chest.

“A spy?” She questioned flatly.

“But not a murderer.” Varric defended, although he’s not quite sure why. That hole in the sky is bigger than him, void take it, bigger than that dwarf struggling not to die and chained up in a cabin with Cassandra glaring at her. “Listen, I don’t know what happened, but I’m telling you no ordinary person did that.”

“Perhaps.” Leliana answered vaguely. “The Divine is most certainly dead as is everyone at the Conclave. Peace is lost and we are staring into the void.”

“I wish I could argue with you.” Varric replied, staring into the breach above. “Is she awake?”

“An Elven apostate who counts himself an expert in the fade has presented himself to us. He is examining the mark on her hand now. His initial diagnosis is that it is killing her.” Leliana responded. “I must go. The situation in the valley is dire.”

Varric sighed and swore under his breath. Leliana was so distracted she didn’t ask for the chain and pendant back, so Varric pocketed it and turned toward the cabin to meet this Elven apostate.

 

On the third day, the elf emerged from the cabin looking exhausted and disappointed. Varric was waiting, considering the hole in the sky. “No good, chuckles?” He asked.

“I have told Seeker Pentaghast that if she wakes, the mark on her hand could be the best chance we have to shut the rifts. However, she doesn’t wake. The magic she experienced may have been too much, she may never wake.” Solas replied solemnly. “So the Seeker has threatened me with death.”

“Well, don’t take that personally. I’ve been threatened a few times as well.” Varric shook his head, eying the gate. “We need to leave.”

“We?” Solas asked, raising an eyebrow to his bald head.

“Why not, Chuckles? Better chance of getting out of here together and I’m used to working with elves and apostates. I don’t think they’ll let us out the front gate, but I’m thinking we go up the valley path like we’re heading to help fight, then climb down the mountain.”

“You are assuming, dwarf, that there is a way to get down the mountain up there.” Solas observed dryly.

“It’s a mountain, there’s a way down everywhere. We just need to find a safe one.” Varric reasoned. “I’ve got friends. I’m surprised they’re not already here dragging me off this mountain. I won’t let them risk coming here if I can help it, so I’ve got to get to them. We’re not helping here, Chuckles.”

“You are right.” Solas nodded, gripping his staff. “After you, dwarf.”

Varric felt his stomach unclench in relief. It was still a long shot, but he’d faced worse odds. They passed the sentries up the mountain top with little comment, but they were demons almost right outside the gates. Varric was suddenly very glad for his companion as ice froze a rage demon to the ground long enough for Bianca’s bolt to shatter it to a million pieces. Varric grinned. “I love the sound they make when they shatter.” He confessed.

“One of your friends is a mage?” Solas asked as they trudged up the path.

“Chuckles, you need to read a book. Do you seriously not know the story?”

“Should I?” Solas asked. Varric shook his head in disbelief.

“Honestly, it’s a bit of a relief that one person hasn’t. Would you believe me if I told you it all started with a pickpocket?” He asked.

“Serah!” A messenger ran towards Haven and stopped just a moment in front of them. “There’s a rift at the head of the path. Demons are coming from it as well, Maker help us!” Varric took in the messenger, a boy really. Varric doubted he even had to shave yet. There’s no Maker kid, he thought sadly. This is how the world ends. “We’ve lost contact with the Valley.”

“Ser Elf!” Another messenger yelled from behind them. Varric tensed, swearing. Had they been reported missing already? He gripped Bianca tighter and turned with Solas to stare at the other messenger.

“The prisoner has woken! Sister Leliana wants to test your theory. How would it be done?” The messenger saluted and waited. Solas sagged against his staff and the relief on his face stirred hope in Varric. Something in Elvish passed Solas’s lips, an intonation of thanks perhaps. Solas then turned to Varric and the dwarf read a plea in those eyes.

“If it can be fixed, Chuckles, I’m all in.” Varric answered. “Bianca and I love shooting demons, don’t we Bianca?”

“Tell the Seeker and Sister Leliana to bring her to the rift at the head of this path. We will try the mark on a smaller rift before attempting the main one. Master Tethras and I will meet them there.”

“Master Tethras now, Chuckles?” Varric asked as the messengers ran back to Haven.

“I suggest not getting used to it.” Solas advised and Varric laughed.

“I’m trying not to get used to anything except my own inevitable mortality, thank you. Do you think this will work?”
“Perhaps. It is certainly the best chance.”

 

Varric thought there was no end. He cut down a shade only for three more to take its place. This is it, he  thought. He’d never get to have final angry words with Bianca, never see Kirkwall again, never hear Merrill giggle or drink with Hawke or collect that damn four sovereigns Broody owed him. He would die up here, drowning in the snow and demons. He rolled under a clawed talon that he swore took some of his chest hair before he heard Cassandra’s yell from behind them. Finally, he thought. At least if he died, the Seeker could bite it right here with him and it served her right for dragging him into this void forsaken hole.

“Dwarf, move!” Another voice shouted, regal with command and calmer than it had any right to be. Varric had to appreciate the warning though, even in Kirkwall he’d almost ended up with Merrill’s vines strangling him instead of a bandit too many times. Varic launched to his side, missing a blast of ice from a wraith across the battlefield. An arrow soared with a whistle over his head, followed by two others quickly. The wraith melted into green energy and Varric was able to send a bolt into a terror demon menacing Solas. This gave Cassandra the opening to gracefully lop it’s head off. Solas was already turning to the other voice.

She clambered down the rocks gracefully, the gravel slipping beneath her feet and depositing her beside Cassandra. Her red hair was loose, just brushing her shoulders. She was still shades too pale, but that could have been the sickly green light cast by her hand and the rift. It was sparking and crackling with energy. She was just a bit shorter than him, but taller than Bianca, certainly. She clutched her bow with her right hand and Solas grabbed her left, dragging her closer to the rift.

“Quickly!” He shouted. “Before more come through!” Varric watched as she tried to flinch away from Solas, but he’d insistently dragged her hand toward the sky. The light between her hand and rift connected and she made a small sound of shock, or was it pain? Varric couldn’t be sure. The rift imploded in on itself and left unscarred air in front of them. Varric fought the urge to applaud and cheer.

“It worked!” Cassandra sounded breathless. “Will it work on the breach itself?”

“Perhaps. It seems our friend here may hold the key to our salvation.” Solas smiled kindly at her but she was frowning and rubbing at her hand. So, it was pain then.

“I didn’t do that.” She protested. “This thing did that.” She indicated helplessly to her arm.

“It matters not. We are taking you to the breach.” Cassandra interrupted.

“I thought we’d be ass deep in demons forever. Glad to see I was wrong.” Varric tugged his gloves back into place and met the woman’s gaze as she swung it to him. It was...piercing. Her eyes were slate gray, the color of the sky before a storm. She was older than he’d initially thought, she looked younger when she was sleeping. Was she about thirty? She narrowed those unique eyes as she took in his apparel, then her lips twitched in a small smile at the deep neckline of his shirt. She raised an eyebrow.

“Forgive me if I’m wrong, but the two of you certainly don’t seem like Chantry.” Solas chuckled and answered her.

“I’m Solas, an elven apostate who had been observing the conclave. I thought to come and offer my assistance when the breach occurred.”

“Brave or foolish. There’s a thin line between those.” The woman observed wryly. Solas laughed aloud.

“You’re correct.” He responded. “This is…”

“Varric Tethras, rogue, storyteller, occasionally…” Varric paused to wink at Cassandra. “Unwelcome tagalong. Technically, I’m a prisoner like you are.”

“You are free to go.” Cassandra grimaced. “Your services are no longer necessary.”

“I’m seeing this through, Seeker. If you intend on making your way to the Breach, you’ll need all the help you can get. Your people are dying in the Valley.” Cassandra grunted disagreeably and turned her back on Varric.

“And you are?” Solas inquired.

“Terrifically unlucky.” The woman replied immediately. Varric had to quickly stifle his laugh before Cassandra could punch him.

“We have been calling her Cadash. So far, she refuses to provide her name.” Cassandra sniffed dismissively.

“When you ask nicely, I’d be glad to.” Cadash argued. Cassandra grabbed the dwarf’s arm and began dragging her away. There was a short scuffle as Cadash pulled her arm free with a glare and two women stared at each other. Then the breach in the sky pulsed and grew larger. Cadash was almost knocked to her knees, clutching at her hand and letting out a quiet hiss of pain. Slower, gentler, Cassandra approached again and helped the woman straighten out.

“That mark is killing you.” Solas explained. “But if we stabilize the breach, it may stop.”

“May.” Cadash repeated darkly, shaking out her hand and gripping her bow firmly. “Well, what are we waiting for.”

Cassandra led the way with Solas while Varric fell into step besides Cadash. He reached into his pocket and clutched the gold chain, withdrawing it and offering it to her. “Here, they had me look at this and forgot to take it back. I think it is yours.”

She smiled, a real smile. One corner quirked up further than the other, leaving it just a bit crooked and she had a chipped tooth that rendered it endearing. She reached out and took it, running her finger over the pendant with a sigh. “I thought they’d found it, but I didn’t expect to get it back. It’s real gold, you fool. You could have sold it.”

“You can owe me the coin later. I accept pints as well. Or you can tell me what in the Maker’s holy ass cheeks happened up there.”

The woman scowled at Cassandra’s back as she slipped the chain over her red hair, tucking it in her coat. “I wish I knew. I don’t remember. I certainly had no reason to murder the bloody Divine.”

“Not knowing will get you everytime. Should’ve made up a story.” Varric advised.

“That’s what you would have done, dwarf.” Cassandra shouted back.

“It doesn’t seem to have done you much good either.” Cadash pointed out reasonably. “I know who you are. Hard in Hightown was pure trash.”

“Everyone’s a critic!” Varric readied Bianca as they climbed to the top of a hill and spotted wraiths below. Cassandra ran forward and Cadash shot two arrows. One veered wildly off and she swore. Varric laughed and she glared.

“It’s this damned thing on my hand.” She readied another arrow and it flew true. “Anyway, the Dasher’s Men and Darktown’s Deal were much better written. The characters stood for something.”

“How many books have you written, Varric?” Solas inquired. Varric stared at the woman with the glowing hand, smirking.

“She hasn’t just read some of my books. You’re a fan.” He accused.

“The Tale of The Champion is your best so far.” She continued, unphased as she swerved off to dodge a blast of green energy. “It’s a masterpiece.”

“Have you read them all?” Varric asked as they trudged after Cassandra, the wraiths cleared from their past.

“Maker, no. I don’t think you could pay me to read Swords and Shields. I’m personally disappointed in you for writing such a failure.” She teased.

 

Some bastard in a ridiculous chantry hat tried to arrest her when they got to the forward camp. Varric had to admire her response, which was to cooly cross her arms over her chest and stare him down with those storm-tossed eyes. The author in Varric kept applying adjectives to her. She was definitely regal, used to being in charge. That had to be partially to blame for her clashes with Cassandra. She was determined, perhaps to survive more than anything else, but he had to admire that. Then Varric found himself climbing up a ladder after her to sneak through a mountain pass and he found himself struggling not to apply adjectives to her posterior. Adjectives like delicious, firm, sweet…

Andraste’s tits, they were most likely going to die. How much harm could it possibly cause if Varric let his imagination run away a bit? Maybe this was actually the Maker’s last blessing to him, the wiggling bottom above his face.

“Eyes front, Tethras.” Cadash said slyly and Varric turned the same shade as his shirt. She simply laughed and Maker, that laugh was full of secret promises and sultry invitations. She knew what she was doing, he decided, and she was doing it on purpose. That didn’t stop him from following her up the next ladder despite Cassandra trying to elbow in. Last day alive, he repeated to himself, he may as well enjoy it.

“Why did you choose this path?” Solas asked as they entered the old mine. She shrugged nonchalantly.

“I thought the Seeker would want to get her people out. I wouldn’t let my people up here.” She whispered, although definitely loudly enough for Cassandra to hear. Varric could almost hear Cassandra’s teeth grinding together. A thought shadowed his mind and he winced.

“Did you come with three dwarves? Muscle types?” He asked. Her brow furrowed and her jaw tightened as she nodded. “Sorry. They rushed up the mountain right after. I think they were coming to find you.”

“Maker’s asshole.” She murmured. “Probably were. Damnit.”

“Seems unusual behavior for a criminal organization to risk so much to save one of their own.” Solas commented.

“You worked for a lot of criminal organizations?” She asked. Solas admitted that he did not and Cadash growled out her next words. “Maybe don’t judge, then.”

They found the missing scouts and saved them, but Cassandra surprisingly directed their thanks to the dwarf beside him. She looked just as shocked as he felt. “Huh,” She mused “Maybe you aren’t a piece of nug shit, Seeker.”

“Charming.” Cassandra answered. “I will reserve changing my opinion on you.”

But Cassandra did change her opinion. Varric watched Cassandra observe the odd disembodied voices in the charred ruins of the temple. She was looking at Cadash with something approaching grudging respect. “The Most Holy called out to you. For help.”

“I already told you, I don’t know.” Cadash sounded frustrated and was beginning to look a bit disturbed. Varric felt the same way when he saw the red lyrium. He pointed it out and warned everyone to stay away from it.

“Isn’t that what drove your Kirkwall’s Knight Commander nuts?” Cadash asked as she skirted a wide distance around it.

“Unfortunately. What is it doing here?” He lamented. Cadash shrugged hopelessly.

“I don’t know. All this shit is weird. We were bringing regular lyrium here, I swear. All normal everyday smuggling and spying.”

“This is the rift that started it all. It’s sealed improperly now, if we open it and reseal it completely, we can possibly stop the breach.” Solas explained. “But something may come through.”

“Great. Wonderful.” Cadash shook her head. Cassandra was positioning archers and Solas was examining the rift. Varric examined her from the corner of his eye as she clenched and unclenched her hand, gritting her teeth. “Maria.” She finally said. “My name is Maria Cadash. If I die here, do you think you can get word…”

“Wait, what?” Varric asked, taking a step back. “You’re Maria Cadash? Shave my back and call me a nug. You’re Carta royalty.”

“That’s exaggerating.” She smirked.

“Your grandmother is running the Cadash family. She named you as her heir. You’re a damned heiress. Shit.” Varric laughed.

“A Carta heiress is not the same thing as royalty. Listen, just get word to her, okay? If you make it out and I don’t. Nanna will need a new heir. If you have a moment, tell her not to make it cousin Dwyka. I hate that nug humper. Tell her those were my last words.”

“You call Zarra Cadash your Nanna. I can’t decide if that is adorable or terrifying.” Varric rubbed his forehead with his hand.

“Shut it, Tethras. It’s not like I can expect Seeker Hates-My-Guts to do it.”

“Fine.” He answered as Cassandra beckoned them over. “But you’ll make it and I won’t have to, Princess.”

 

The biggest pride demon Varric had ever seen came through the rift, followed by shades and wraiths. On top the rubble, Varric shot bolts and ducked lighting and fire. He would catch sight of red hair twisting into the shadows, reappearing to pull an inquisition soldier from harm and loosing arrows furiously, distracting the demon from Solas, at Cassandra’s back picking off wraiths that were closing in. Finally, the demon fell and Solas shouted. “Now!”

She was all alone at the edge of the battlefield, almost right under the rift. She dropped the bow and threw back her hair with a toss of her head, raising her head to the rift. The energy screamed and sparked and the rift slammed shut with a blast that knocked her to the ground. Solas rushed to the side, yelling Cadash over and over again. Varric was beside him in a moment, swinging Bianca onto his back. She was pale and her mark was sparking, but Solas claimed she was breathing as he pushed magic into her. Oh Hawke, Varric thought, wait until you hear about this one.

Chapter Text

Kirkwall was burning. Ash floated down like snow, turning Fenris’s hair dusty gray. Flames licked up the sign of the Hanged Man. Inhuman screams of suffering assaulted his ears and blood was smeared all over the cobblestones. Fenris took one small step forwards, then teetered backwards. Something was missing, something was wrong. He tried to probe the empty corners of his memories desperately seeking the thing that was on the tip of his tongue. Why was he here? What dragged him to the Hanged Man?

“Serah Elf! Help!” A man in full templar regalia yelled. “An apostate is coming! She’s dangerous!”

Dangerous. Yes, mages were dangerous. Was that what he was forgetting? Fenris turned toward the templar, who was rushing a small figure in leathers with her hood covering her face. This was a foe, he decided.

No, his mind whispered traitorously. Stop this, this is not right.

Instincts kicked in as the mage summoned a spear of ice and tossed it through the first templar, whipping dangerously (no, beautifully, his mind whispered) to the templar hiding in the shadows and twirling her staff in the air, slamming it on the ground and summoning a flash of flame and heat from underneath the man, who roasted in his own armor.

She didn’t attack him, and that was her mistake. His sword slipped through her flimsy leather armor like it was water and she screamed. Something about that scream made him stop, her whole small body impaled on his sword. His hand was already at her chest, ready to plunge through and grab her heart, crush it, punish this mage for what she was. What she had done, what had been done to Fenris. He stopped when her hand came to his, gently, laying over top of his, fingers splayed. There was a ring on her finger, a wolf holding a ruby in its jaws. His fingers shook as he reached up, pushing the hood from her face. He revealed beautiful blue eyes that looked more shocked than in pain, pale skin he had traced kisses over and over again, her dark hair loose the way he loved.

He loved.

“Reyna.” He choked on her name, the memories flooding back as he pulled his sword back from her abdomen. She swayed and collapsed, her hand on the wound. Fenris dropped the sword she had given him. Blood was gurgling up from between her fingers and her eyes were glassy.

“Fenris.” She whispered. “Why?”

“I didn’t...I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He begged as he reached for her. She flinched away from his touch the same way he had flinched from so many others. Her precious blood was joining the stains on the cobblestones. Her eyes rolled up in her head and she slumped lifeless. Fenris moved closer, gathering her up in his arms. Scalding tears tracked down his face and his arms shook. When he looked up for help, the abomination was there, staring them down with his glowing blue eyes and cracks of fade energy rippling off of him.

“Save her.” Fenris pleaded.

“I’m trying.” The abomination answered solemnly.

 

He awoke in the dark, staring up at a million stars. He drank in their blinding brilliance like water after walking through the desert. His fingers twitched to his side and felt the empty bed roll on the grass. A soft woof from his left made him turn, just in time to see Lucia and Reyna emerge from the thick clump of trees. He could just make out their identical worried expressions.

“The fire needed more wood. I told Lucia to stay with you, but she came and got me. Are you alright?” She asked, dumping an armload of fallen timber onto the ground. He couldn’t even look at her in his shame, staring at the ground in front of him. Lucia whimpered. “Fenris?” She asked.

It was too much like his dream, her questioning tone. He felt bile in his throat like he was going to be sick. She reached for his arm and he pulled away from her quickly.

“Don’t touch me.” He rasped out quickly. Hawke wasn’t quick enough to hide the pain on her face and it only made him feel worse.

“If it’s a nightmare Fenris, it is only that thing.” She waved her hand above them in the vague direction of the hole in the sky they were traveling towards. “It’s amplifying...everything. I can feel it in my magic. The closer we get, the more I feel it.” She explained patiently, like with a child. “It’s nothing, Fenris.”

“It is not nothing .” He growled at her, standing suddenly. She didn’t flinch, but she didn’t know what he was capable of. She trusted. She’d trust him right up until he crushed her heart. His thoughts raced and roiled, panicking. She sighed, her shoulders slumping. He felt his heart spasm and fought the urge to grab her with his murderous hands and pull her close. He wanted to tell her, to explain that he was a monster.

He couldn’t bear the way she’d look at him.

He turned, silently, and stalked away through the woods. Lucia made an attempt to follow, but a quick gesture stilled her and she sat beside Hawke. The last thing he saw were their eyes, dark in the night, following him silently.

 

He returned shortly before dawn to find them both still awake, although Hawke was tucked in her bed roll. Her dark hair shone in the dying firelight and she was still as if she’d been turned to stone. His anger had receded, leaving a dark aching hole. Lucia’s tail hit the ground once, twice in greeting. Hawke didn’t move. Fenris stared at the tight line of her back, wanting to say something, anything. Hawke did so first.

“Every time you do that, I think you won’t come back. Maybe it’d be best.” She had been crying, Fenris could hear it underneath the hard brittleness of her voice. He had to open his mouth twice before the words came out.

“Is that what you wish? For me to leave?” He asked. What would he do if she said yes? Throw herself at his feet and beg her, he supposed.

“No, but you should leave. Before I get you killed too.” She said harshly.

“Varric isn’t dead.” Fenris responded, gently lowering himself beside her, picking her shining dark hair off the ground and spreading it over his thighs. “We’ll find him, I swear to you.” He promised.

“When you sound so convinced, I can almost believe you.” She couldn’t quite keep the tears from her voice this time. Fenris allowed his fingers to run from her scalp down to the end of the silky stands, then back up.

“Go to sleep, amata. I’ll wake you when it is time to move.” Hawke nodded, the movement of her head barely discernible, before allowing the silence to overtake them. Fenris looked up at the stars above them, fading into the bright light of a new day. Hawke’s shoulders and back eventually relaxed and even the dog began to lightly snore. Fenris stopped stroking Hawke’s hair and rose silently, tending to the fire.

 

When Hawke awoke, he had some tea made and their small breakfast of dried jerky and berries laid out. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and immediately looked at the hole in the sky. Her eyes narrowed and she tapped her fingers on the cold ground. Fenris brought her tea in a tin cup before she could ask for it and settled across from her. “I don’t think it’s getting bigger anymore.” She pointed out. “The last two days, I think it’s been the same size.”

“It bothers you?” Fenris asked quietly. Hawke sighed.

“It makes me...uneasy.” She admitted. “I feel like my magic is coming so much quicker, with so little effort. Instead of opening the door, it’s crashing through every time I call it. I’m still in control.” She added hastily.

“I had no doubt.” Fenris responded sincerely.

“I also feel… more powerful.” She added, biting her lip. “Like any fireball I cast would be twice as big, my frost would be twice as cold. It isn’t pleasant, though. I was taught that much power comes with a cost. I wonder what someone paid to do that.” She jerked her head toward the sky. “I find it hard to believe any mortal could do that.”

“Because you have no experience with Magisters.” Fenris said sourly. “When they investigate, they will find Tevinter behind it. I have no doubt.”

“We’ll take the main roads today. Perhaps someone will have news from Haven.” Hawke decided, sipping on her tea. She didn’t have to say ‘news of Varric’, because Fenris knew that’s what she was hoping for.  

“Eat first.” Fenris ordered, pushing her hair back from her cheek and tucking it behind her ear with a kiss on her forehead. “You’re no good to him dead of exhaustion.” She rolled her eyes, taking the jerky from him and biting into a piece. Fenris fed some to Lucia as Hawke chewed.

 

Hawke used her staff as a walking stick and Fenris prayed that it was enough to disguise the weapon from other travelers. Everyone looked at them warily and Fenris couldn’t blame them. The closer they got to Haven, the worse the countryside looked. Outside of Redcliffe had been the worst, templars and mages involved in active fighting. That’s when they’d made the decision to vanish into the woods, skirting the whole area. It added to their journey and Hawke had argued against it, but Fenris was adamant that it was too dangerous. What had finally won him the argument was him asking what would happen if rumors of the Champion of Kirkwall being in the area spread. He’d asked how much worse the fighting would get, who would be caught in the middle. It had caused Hawke to reel back like he’d struck her, but she’d acquiesced to him.

They were following the Imperial Highway again, trying their best to look like refugees themselves. The first hour passed uneventfully, there were few about and all were content to keep their face on the ground as they passed.

“They’re afraid you’re going to stab them with that sword.” Hawke hissed as another caravan driver refused to make eye contact with them. Fenris scoffed.

“Your staff scares them more than my sword.”

“It’s a walking stick!” Hawke protested. Fenris stopped, shaking his head in irritation.

“Perhaps that was enough of a cover before, but these people have seen the mages and templars fighting. They know what a staff is.”

“I can’t go unarmed, Fenris.” Hawke seethed.

“I agree, but perhaps we should go back to the woods.” Fenris beseeched. Hawke jutted her jaw out stubbornly.

“Not until I get news.” She answered, crossing her arms over her bosom. Fenris sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Vehendis. Fine.” He indicated for her to go ahead and she took the lead confidently. Fenris shared an exasperated look with Lucia. They had the road to themselves for a mile, perhaps longer. Finally, they came across a stopped caravan. The mules pulling it looked half dead. Fenris slowed and Hawke fell back with him, eyes wary. Fenris could hear sobbing.

“Stop yer blathering.” A man’s gruff voice said. “Ain’t helpin’ nuthin.”

Fenris emerged slowly from the side of the caravan, Hawke behind him. A woman, covered in so much mud and dirt it was hard to make out her features, was wailing as she held the body of a small child. He was flushed red with fever and there was a nasty red burn covering most of the child’s naked body. The man turned, suspicious. “We ain’t got nuthin worth takin’ if yer bandits.”

“We are not bandits.” Fenris answered, continuing to angle his body in front of Hawke. “Your son is injured. What happened?”

“He’s dying!” The woman wailed, clutching her son even tighter. “Yer Dalish? You must have healing herbs!” The woman rubbed her eyes and looked imploring at Fenris, mistaking the Lyrium as this countryside was so prone to do. Hawke pushed past Fenris’s arm.

“I can help.” She said. “I’m a healer.”

Fenris almost wasn’t fast enough. The woman screamed when she caught sight of Hawke’s staff and the man swung a short sword back as if he’d attack. Fenris caught the blow easily with his own sword and turned the force of momentum back onto the man, causing him to stumble. “Stop.” Fenris ordered as the man gathered himself for a second attack. “This is not a fight you’ll win.”

Fenris could see the man considering those words as he watched Hawke apprehensively. She laid down her staff, hands out at her side. Lucia was growling at her heels but was quieted by a snap of Hawke’s fingers.

“Witch!” The woman yelled. “Git away from us! Git out of here!”

“I’m a mage, you’re right, but I can help. I want to help.” Hawke pleaded. “There’s still time to save him.”

“Was yer lot  that did this!” The man spat, gripping his sword tightly. “Mages that shoulda been drowned as babes! Attacking like rabid dogs, don’t care who they kill!”

Hawke winced. “Please, it wasn’t me or him. We’re just trying to get to my friend. Let me help you.”

“Void take you! I hope the Templars make you suffer b’fore they cut yer throat!” The woman yelled, clinging desperately to the dying child. Hawke looked like she would argue more, but Fenris fell back, grabbing her arm.

“We’re going.” Fenris said, tugging Hawke back behind him as they backed away.

“Fenris, he’s going to die if nobody does anything.” Hawke sounded absolutely horrified. “We have to do something.”

“You cannot.” Fenris pushed her back behind the caravan again, turning to grip her waist as the couple vanished from view. He stared into her blue eyes, tears threatening to spill over onto her pale cheeks. “You cannot save everyone. You cannot save those who would rather not be. I won’t have you in danger for their sakes.”

He guided her back into the woods and they disappeared from the main road. They made it deep into the trees  before Hawke sat on a fallen log and placed her head in her hands and began to weep.



Varric had resigned himself to the thought he’d have to send the letter he wrote right after the rift was closed. The breach didn’t get bigger, but it certainly wasn’t going anywhere. It made his head hurt to look at it. Varric wondered if this was what Bartrand had experienced upon seeing the sky. Varric fingered the folded parchment, folded and sealed with his father’s signet ring. It was terribly official, more official than anything Varric usually did. But if Maria Cadash had sacrificed herself to stop that damn thing from consuming the world, formality was appropriate. He kept her name to himself, the same way he’d kept all his own secrets from Cassandra.

But she woke up, three days after the breach was closed. The author in Varric appreciated the symmetry as he watched her exit the cabin she’d been recovering in. She’d been unconscious for three days prior to sealing the breach, three days after. In those six days, she’d went from Carta Heiress to most wanted criminal and most hated woman in Thedas, to the woman Andraste had sent to save them all. It was enough to make Varric laugh, and yet…

She emerged into daylight for the first time to the road between the cabin and chantry packed with well wishers. Every villager she’d saved had come to see their Herald of Andraste. She hid the shock on her face so quickly even Varric doubted that it had ever been there. He did notice her bracing herself, taking a deep breath before emerging from the cabin door with a genuine smile that made her eyes sparkle. She met the eyes of just about everyone looking at her as she walked slowly. She was still too pale, but it was hardly noticeable under her smile. She caught sight of Varric and her smile transformed into wicked grin that felt like it was just for him.

He elbowed two humans and an elf out of his way, crossing his arms over his chest. “You made it out in one piece, again.”  

“Survival is a talent.” She admitted. “What is...umm, going on?” She indicated her little parade route. Varric felt his own grin broaden. He was going to enjoy watching this.

“They didn’t tell you? You’re the Herald of Andraste, Princess. The chosen of the Maker’s chosen or something like that.” Maria’s smile froze, staying in place for the crowd but there was panic in her gray eyes.

“What?” She asked, dumbfounded. “You can’t be serious.”

“Maybe you should have told the Seeker your name before they decided to give you some other title.” Varric was barely resisting cackling. Barely. “Follow your parade route, Herald. The Seeker will be all too glad to discuss it with you.”

“Lovely.” Maria turned and continued her walk as Varric shook his head behind her. Herald of Andraste, a dwarf? Andraste’s flaming tits, humans would believe anything. And yet… he stole another glance at her red hair as she walked away, head high and pace measured. His thoughts flashed back to her, alone, under that rift as the pride demon toppled and her mark flared and green energy spun. Maybe the Maker had a sense of humor after all.

 

He saw her hours later. She’d managed to twist her hair back into a bun at the nape of her neck, which made her just a bit harder to catch in the crowd of Haven’s main thoroughfare. She’d also changed out of the unflattering pajamas someone had stuffed her in back into the coat and trousers she’d been wearing, a scarf wrapped tightly around her neck and her hands shoved into her pockets. Her face was still up, despite the cold, eyes everywhere and a smile for everyone.

“How’d it go, Princess?” Varric asked as she approached, warming his hands over his own crackling fire.

“How long am I going to have to put up with being called that?” She asked. Her voice was like warm brown sugar.

“Would you prefer Herald? I can make adjustments.” He offered cheekily. She sighed and rolled her shoulders dramatically.

“I guess I’ll accept my lot.”

“So, now that Cassandra’s out of earshot…” Varric began. “Are you holding up alright?” Maria’s head tilted to the side thoughtfully. “I mean you go from being the most wanted criminal in Thedas to joining the armies of the faithful. Most people would have spread that out over more than a week.”

“I’ve always been an overachiever.” She teased. “Honestly, I’m mostly hungry.”

“Hungry?” Varric asked, confused.

“Can’t remember the last thing I ate. I was told the grumpy apothecary dumped some broth down my throat while I was out. I’m sure he loved that.” She remarked, stretching. He shirt slipped up her figure just enough to show a line of tanned skin. “I figured you’d know where to get food.”

“Nobody’s fed you?” Varric asked incredulously.

“Maybe Heralds aren’t supposed to eat?” She mused. “Nobody has given me a rule book yet.”

“Maker’s ass. Sit down.” He gestured to a low bench at the fire. “I’ll get you something.”

“I can get it!” She protested, laughing. “I need to learn where everything is. And I’m supposed to go to the Blacksmith’s and I should thank the cranky alchemist.”

“How you’re still on your feet is the true miracle.” Varric commented. “Stay here.”

Without turning back to see if she’d truly stay, he turned toward the tavern. He brusquely informed Flissa he needed a meal for the Herald. She immediately exclaimed she hadn’t anything ready, so Varric made do with a tray of cold  meats, bread, and little pots of jam and mustard. Flissa followed him back to the campfire with a pitcher of ale and two glasses. He would have felt stupid if Maria had not still been sitting there, staring up at the whirling green mass in the sky.

“Your worship.” Flissa greeted cheerfully. “I’m sorry I didn’t have anything better for you.”

“No, no, this is great.” Maria rose to take the pitcher, gray eyes searching out Flissa’s. “It is nice to meet you…?”

“Flissa! Your worship.” Flissa smiled brightly. “I own that tavern. You just come in any time and I’ll make sure we have something for you, Herald.” Flissa gave an awkward curtsey and backed away. Maria looked bemused.

“Do you always have that effect on people?” Varric asked.

“Lately, it certainly seems like it. Thank you for this.” She indicated the tray with a smile. She picked up a piece of bread and looked back up at the sky. “What do you think?” She asked.

“I think we’d need a miracle to close that thing.” Varric admitted honestly. Maria smirked, looking at him from under her eyelashes.

“You do know they’ve asked me to stay and make a second go of it, right? With some mages or templars or somebody tall in skirts, anyway.”

“Maybe you should head back to the Free Marches.” Varric advised. “I’ve seen some big problems, but that...that won’t end well.”

“All this magic shite gives me a headache.” Maria complained, assembling a sandwich with some of the materials. He watched as she took a big bite and made a tiny noise of appreciation. It was like a tiny breathy moan. Varric could stand to hear more of those sounds in less innocent applications. His mind conjured her on the ladder again, her rear wiggling delightfully above him.

He didn’t know how far into that thought he would have gotten if the Seeker hadn’t have shown up, glowering at the two of them. “Cassandra!” Maria said brightly. “Want a sandwich?”

“Solas is ready, as am I.” Cassandra answered instead. “You are ruining your supper.”

“Andraste’s asscheeks, Seeker. She just sat down.” Varric protested, but Maria was shaking her head, shoving the last bite of food in her mouth and standing.

“No, no. I’m ready. It’s not far. Wanna come?” She asked Varric. Varric found himself nodding, agreeing without being sure why.

“The Inquisition is in need of lyrium. Some templars and mages stayed after the breach to help. They need supplies, but we have few of our own.” Cassandra briefed Varric. “The Herald says she had brought lyrium to Haven for...commercial purposes.”

“I can already tell I’ll love the allusions to my family and line of work. I look forward to hearing more of them.” Maria was holding the tray in her hand, gesturing to a lad who couldn’t have been more than sixteen in his scout’s armor. Boy probably couldn’t even shave yet. “Come here.” She ordered when the lad paused, looking around as if confused by catching the Herald’s attention. “I’ve got to go, but this food shouldn’t go to waste. You look like you need feeding.”

“Th..thank you my lady Herald.” The boy said, reaching out to take the tray.

“Make sure you share what you don’t eat.” She instructed, swinging her bow onto her back. Varric winked at the boy as his eyes drifted to the inquisitors posterior as she bent over and gathered her quiver and the arrows that were leaning precariously out of it. The lad blushed crimson and Cassandra made a disgusted noise, waving him away dismissively.

“Herald. You look well.” Solas greeted as he came up behind them. Varric tightened Bianca’s harness as the group began to trudge out.

“We hid the lyrium before heading into town. Buyer was supposed to meet us later that evening. Probably dead now, poor sod.” She shook her head as they veered from the road into the woods. She paused as they entered the tree cover near the lake, examining several trees critically before lighting on one with a bit of bark missing in a shape similar to a hexagon. She stepped deeper into the forest.

“Who was your buyer?” Cassandra asked, almost casually. Maria snorted in laughter.

“You don’t actually expect me to answer, do you?” She asked. “Besides, you’re not much better. You’re dealing with the lyrium smugglers now.”

“For the greater good.” Cassandra protested.

“How many have said that, Cassandra?” Solas asked. Maria couldn’t quite keep from smiling and shot a look to her side that caught Varric’s sly glance. Solas and Cassandra continued to bicker as Maria dodged tree branches and sank into the snow. Finally, she stopped at a pile of fallen logs and leaves. She moved them gently, uncovering crates.

“Careful.” Maria advised. “They’re in special crates, but sometimes raw lyrium still just...explodes. It isn’t pretty.”

“We’ll take one crate with us and send templars back for the rest. They know how to handle it.” Cassandra paused, looking down at Cadash thoughtfully. “If that is what you deem best, it is your lyrium after all.”

“It’s your inquisition’s lyrium now.” Maria shrugged. “Although if you send payment to Zarra Cadash, she’d be more than willing to supply the inquisition. I need to write to her as well. I can extend the offer.”

“We will pay for the goods we take, we’re not savages.” Cassandra agreed. “And this...Zarra is your grandmother?” She asked.

“Nanna.” Maria corrected, walking up to a short stubby tree close to the stash.

“Finally told them, Princess?” Varric asked, following as she squinted into the tree.

“Course I did. I need them to take letters back home, after all. Give me a boost, muscles?” She asked, indicating the tree.

“I believe the Seeker would be able to do that easier.” Varric chuckled, but offered his cupped hands for her to step in.

“I did this with dwarves, remember?” She asked. Varric waited for her, then lifted her up. Maria grabbed onto one of the low tree branches, swinging her shapely legs into the trunk and standing in the crook of the tree. She reached up on her tiptoes to the branch above her, knocking snow and leaves on the trio below.

“What in the Maker’s name are you doing?” Cassandra asked, just before a large pack fell from the tree with a bow and another quiver of arrows.

“It’s my stuff!” Maria said gleefully, leaping gracefully down, rolling and coming to a stop just by her pack. “My real armor, my real bow, my ledger, my letters and…” Maria dug through her back, pulling out a large book and presenting  it to Varric. He recognized the cover, his name scrawled across the bottom in bold block letters.

“The Tale of the Champion.” Solas read. “The book of Varric’s?”

“Of course.” Cassandra grumbled. Varric noted this copy was heavily read, pages dull with use, dog eared and the cover scuffed. He beamed.

“Well, now you have to sign it.” She tucked it back into her pack, hoisting the whole thing up over her shoulder. “Back to Haven, yes? I have errands.”

Chapter Text

The Inquisition learned one thing about Maria Cadash very quickly. She was nowhere and everywhere all at once. Varric would catch her out of the corner of his eye going into the Tavern, but then he’d see her on top of a roof two minutes later, scribbling a quick letter and tying it to a raven’s leg. If you tried to track her down, they’d say she was just with Commander Cullen, but someone else swore she was looking for some herbs for Adan by the lake just a moment ago. When Cassandra searched there, somebody else would say she was discussing armor with the blacksmith. Varric would look there, only to be told that Solas and her had walked off toward the chantry.

She was impossible, Cassandra would fume. How did one dwarf move so quickly? Varric eventually gave up. It was much easier to wait for her to find him and one hundred percent less exhausting. She was like quicksilver or chain lightning. Oh, that was a good description, Varric thought. He needed to write that down. Later, after he found her. Cassandra had showed up to his campfire, sputtering and tossing reports to him. “Leliana says she must read them but Maker only knows where she is! Find her!” She’d ordered before stalking back to her dummy to knock it around a bit more.

He finally did find her at a row of Archery targets on the opposite side of Haven’s town gates, away from all the soldiers. She had her bow in her hand and had lined up the targets relatively far away. Varric thought even Choir Boy would have approved of the shots she was making, but the Herald of Andraste looked frustrated. She shook out her left hand as she stomped towards the targets, pulling arrows out of them.

“Cassandra is looking for you.” Varric said loudly from behind her. “Or, actually, Cassandra has given up on looking for you and sent me instead. Nightingale says you need to read these.”

“Maker’s ass.” She gestured to a pile by her pack. “Can you put them with the other ones? No, not those other ones.” She stopped him as he went to lay them on one pile, gesturing with the arrow she held in her first to another pile.

“What is all this?” He asked, bemused.

“Reports from my Carta contacts. Some leads on what some rivals are doing. A couple letters from family, including two from my sister and I really do need to answer her.” Maria headed back to where Varric was, aiming her bow. “Then we have all the Inquisition paperwork, which includes recruitment reports from Cullen, Cassandra is trying to teach me Chantry history, and whatever Leliana just sent which I’m sure are probably more interesting.” The arrow flew from her bow and hit shut left of center. Maria swore. “I need to be able to shoot as well as I did before I ended up with this damn glowing hand. Especially if we’re heading into the Hinterlands tomorrow.”

“I think you’ve made a lot of progress. The good news is that demons aren’t exactly small targets, Princess. A finger width one way or the other isn’t going to cause a massive failure.” Varric smoothed the sheets of paper, trying desperately not to read them. Not for his eyes, he repeated over and over again.

“I used to be able to make these shots perfectly before.” She argued, pushing back lose strands of hair.

“You’re running a Carta cell, figure heading a religious organization, and attempting to be the perfect archer while trying to figure out how to close a giant hole in the sky.” Varric replied dryly. “Are you and Curly in a race to see who can work themselves to death first?”

“It wouldn’t be a fair race, his legs are atrociously long.” Maria countered, stringing the next arrow. The feathers just brushed her cheek. “You could help me multitask and read some of those to me.”

“The Carta reports?” Varric tried not to sound eager. Maria lowered the arrow just enough to slyly grin at him.

“Can I have the cipher for the Merchant’s guild? The one from this month?” She asked sweetly. Varric laughed and shook his head. “No then.” She huffed. “But start with Leliana’s stuff, I’ll save Cullen and Cassandra’s for when I’m trying to go to sleep.”

“Ah, this is on Mother Giselle, the cleric we’re supposed to help. So it turn out she’s best known for being Revered Mother of the Chantry in Jader. Do you know where Jader is? If you do I can skip this paragraph.”

“It’s as close to Ferelden you can get without leaving Orlais, right? I heard they got hit harder than Kirkwall by refugees from Ferelden during the blight.” Her arrow fired and landed just off center again. She swore. Varric shook his head in exasperation and skimmed down.

“Ah, turns out when Val Royeaux didn’t act quickly enough to send aid to those refugees, Mother Giselle led the clerics in hunger strike and distributed their food stores to the poor.” Varric snickered. “Bet that didn’t win her many friends.”

“What happened next? I’m assuming the Divine didn’t let her clerics starve to death.” Maria asked, smiling as well.

“No, they didn’t. When Val Royeaux sent aid though, they instructed Mother Giselle to distribute it to the Clerics, then to Orlesians, anything left was to go to Fereldens and then any scraps they left was to go to the elves.”

“Lovely. How Orlesian.” Maria rolled her gray eyes, narrowing them at the target. “And human, too. I bet whoever put that hole in the sky was human.”

“I’d agree, Princess. Mother Giselle thought it was nug shit too, it seems. Distributed the food to the most needy and probably saved thousands of lives. She’s infinitely popular in that region of Ferelden and Orlais and is often sent to poor, troubled areas. However, the other clerics and the nobility kind of hate her. I don’t know how good of an ally she is politically.”

“At least we’d know our back is safe with her.”  She grinned and shrugged. “Maybe not our food though.”

“Your Nanna doesn’t let you handle politics, does she?” Varric teased, stuffing the report on the end of the pile.

“She tried. It ended up with a skirmish, two shaved goats, and a small kitchen fire. Don’t ask.” She added immediately.

Varric was about to demand that story, it sounded better than anything he’d heard since Isabela departed. Besides, her gray eyes were sparkling in delight and she was smiling wholeheartedly. Her arrow hit the center of the target she was aiming at and she tilted back on her heels, smirking. She brushed her hands against the leather bustier clinging to her hips and let the bow drop to her side as she approached the targets. But something was moving towards them out of the woods and Varric spotted it at the same time she did. He cocked Bianca and she raised her bow. He couldn’t get a good look at it, but then…

“A dog!” Maria let her relief sag through her shoulders as she dropped her bow. “Here boy!” She called.

The dog was still running towards them, it certainly didn’t need called. Varric scowled and moved closer to Maria, looking over his shoulder. Around this corner, the soldiers couldn’t see them. Would Cassandra and Cullen hear if they yelled? “Princess, just because it’s a dog doesn’t mean it’s friendly. That’s a damn Mabari.”

The dog had slowed to a walk, nose in the air as it approached them. It’s tail wagged slightly as it waited. “How do you know it’s a mabari? I’ve never seen one.” Maria asked curiously, holding her hand out. Maker, the dog was as big as they were and it was shoving it’s whole snout into Maria’s palm. She raised an eyebrow at Varric as the dog pushed it’s head into her shoulder, angling for her hand to scratch behind its ears. Maria obliged. “Don’t worry Tethras, I’ll protect you from the big scary dog.”

“Hawke had one when she came from Ferelden. I taught it to play Diamondback.” He explained, eying the beast cautiously. Maria laughed out loud, shaking her head.

“Bullshit!”

“They’re very smart.” Varric was beginning to relax and even reached a hand for the dog’s ear as well. “He was a terrible card player though. His tail wagged whenever he had a good hand.”

Maria was laughing so hard her shoulders shook with mirth. The dog turned it’s nose to Varric and it’s jaw bit down on Varric’s coat arm, tugging gently.

“It wants to play with you!” She exclaimed as Varric swore and tried to pull his coat free.

“Not funny, mutt. This is from Nevarra and expensive.” Varric growled.

“Oh look, it’s wearing a ribbon.” Maria said, pulling the red ends of it from the dog’s fur. “Must be a girl, huh?”

Varric’s stomach did a somersault. Oh, he knew that red ribbon. He knew that ribbon the way he knew the way the Hanged Man smelled and how many gold coins were on Isabela’s necklace. His mouth felt very dry as he touched an end of it, then looked back down at the dog. When he looked at Maria, she was staring at him. “Want me to draw you a picture?” He asked, immediately, at a loss for anything else. Her smile became sultry instantly.

“Is that an offer, Tethras?” She practically purred, leaning over the dog’s head between their chests. Damn that voice, damn it to the void. She sounded like someone had just dragged her out of their bedroom and that she’d be quite happy enough to fall back into bed. His mind raced, grabbing at words. “Ah, tonight I have to oil Bianca’s springs. You know how it is.”

“I never said tonight.” She winked, tipping her head towards her paperwork. “I’ve got homework. Honestly, I need to get a start on it. See you tomorrow?” She asked, taking a step back and bending over to gather her things. It was unfair, her displaying that perfect rear in those tight leggings. Especially after she was talking to him using that tone with that voice.

“Some other time, then.” He answered. Flirting, just flirting. Flirting with the blasted Herald of Andraste. She carelessly waved at him as she took off, disappearing around the corner. Varric waited, counting steps. She could come back, he reasoned. But she wouldn’t. She knew, she’d seen.

She didn’t know what she knew, did she? She knew he’d recognized something, the ribbon or the dog. She wouldn’t put together the ribbon with the book, would she? He was a blasted idiot for writing about this damned ribbon around Fenris’s wrist. The perfect romantic gesture, he’d thought at the time. The champion’s favor worn by her beloved. He was a fucking idiot. If she knew, would she say anything?

No, she wouldn’t. Varric believed that. Secrets came as naturally to her as they came to him, to Leliana. He looked into the dog’s big brown eyes, sighing. “Well, lead the way.”

The dog let go of the jacket and stepped back, turning towards the woods. Varric followed and the dog seemed sure enough that Varric would. They slipped through the trees and scrambled up roots. It was only a moment or two before the dog stopped proudly in front of a slim figure in a hooded cloak with a soft bark. A tanned hand with graceful white lines tracing over his skin reached out and touched the dog’s head affectionately.

“Broody, what part of ‘don’t come to Haven’ did the two of you not get?” Varric asked, trying to hide his pleasure. “And what in the void is this thing?”

“A mabari, a noble and proud beast. We call her Lucia. She’s from the royal kennels of Ferelden.” Fenris answered, pausing for just a moment before continuing. “Hawke was...devastated when we received word you had been taken. She has not been herself. The last few months have been difficult.”

Shit, Varric thought. “Where is she?” Varric asked, all business. Fenris inclined his head further into the woods and the dog leaped into action, taking off in front of them. Varric fell into an easy gait beside Fenris. “Risky, sending the dog to get my attention while I was with someone.”

“Calculated risk. She didn't look like Chantry. They usually don’t take dwarves. Did she suspect?” Fenris asked.

“No.” Varric lied. Maria Cadash certainly didn’t need a homicidal glowing elf showing up to threaten her. Varric would handle it if he needed to. They entered a clearing and Varric’s eyes were drawn immediately to the woman staring up at the damned hole in the sky, her hood down, hair loose and flowing over her small shoulders. Lucia was sitting at her heels. He couldn’t help but grin. “Well, Maker be damned.”

“Varric!” She almost shouted, grinning and spinning on her heel. Despite the beaming and wicked grin, she looked exhausted. There were dark circles under her eyes and her face was shadowed. She looked pale and skinny, the same way she’d looked in the Deep Roads that first time when they were all certain they were going to die.

“Waffles!” Varric exclaimed back, opening his arms wide. Hawke was on her knees, arms thrown around his neck and face buried in his coat. The mabari danced around them, tail wagging excitedly. Varric hummed a bit and stroked Hawke’s hair back away from her face in a way that made him feel oddly paternal.

“Maker, I’ve missed you.” Hawke mumbled into his coat, pulling away only reluctantly. “Did anyone see you?” She asked Fenris, twisting her fingers into the lapels of Varric’s coat.

“Only another dwarf, and not me, I sent Lucia.” Fenris answered concisely. Hawke spared a smile for him, but it didn’t quite meet her eyes.

“Varric, I’m so sorry. We can get you out and back to Kirkwall. We can go now.” Hawke stumbled over the words in her rush to get them out. Varric shook his head, covering Hawke’s hands with his own.

“This wasn’t your fault, Hawke.” Varric said sternly. “And besides, I’m not even here against my own will anymore. I’ve joined the Inquisition, apparently.” He shrugged apologetically. Hawke laughed softly.

“You’re mixing with crazy chantry folk? Maker, they must have hit you on your head when they dragged you out of Kirkwall.” She joked weakly.

“I’ll give you the short version, Hawke. We made it here just in time for the Temple of Sacred Ashes to explode and put that...thing in the sky. They call it the Breach. I call it weird. I was supposed to be interrogated by the Divine, but she died along with just about all the senior clergy. Only one person survived an explosion that leveled a mountain top.” Hawke’s hands dropped from his coat and she sat back on her heels, amused. Fenris came to her side and offered her his hand to pull her back up to standing.

“And who was this lucky bastard?” Hawke asked.

“A dwarf. I can’t even make this shit up, Hawke. A dwarf with a glowing mark on her hand that can close these rifts like they were never there.”

“That.” Fenris pointed up. “Is very much still there, Varric.”

“Well, yes, but that’s the biggest one.” Varric excused. “She managed to stop it from getting bigger. Fought our way up there to try and close it. At least demons aren’t falling out of it anymore and they’re going to try another attempt with help from the mages or the templars. Whoever meets with them first, I guess.”

“They think enough magic poured into it will close it.” Hawke guessed. “Or that enough Templars can suppress it enough to do the same thing.”

“Exactly.” Varric grinned. “It’ll make a great story. I’ve got to see how it ends.”

“Is this the dwarf you were with?” Fenris asked.

“You saw her? What does she look like?” Some life had returned to Hawke’s features, curiosity shining in her features.

“A dwarf.” Fenris answered with a smirk. “Short.” Hawke whacked his shoulder lightly.

“She must be pretty if she convinced Varric to stay.” Hawke’s tone was suggestive and sly. Varric rolled his eyes and patted his crossbow.

“Careful Hawke, you’ll make Bianca jealous. Anyway, they’re calling her the Herald of Andraste now and only part of the Chantry is trying to kill her.”

“Maybe she can give me pointers.” Hawke sighed. “Varric, this isn’t your mess. After this is over, who’s to say what they do next?”

“That’s the thing… I need your help. Since you’re here.” Varric shuffled back and forth. “There was red lyrium at the temple. It shouldn’t have been there, but it was.”

“You’re shitting me.” Hawke accused. Fenris swore. “But Varric, the thaig is the whole way back in Kirkwall. There’s no way…”

“I need to find out, for sure. If it wasn’t our accidental discovery that caused this, then fine. But if it was me…”

“Us.” Hawke corrected.

“If the red lyrium came from Kirkwall, it is my mess.” Varric finished. “Hawke, you know what it does. You and Broody could look into it.” And get out of this area, Varric finished. The last thing he needed was Hawke in the middle of the mage and templar war.

“You’ll be okay?” Hawke asked suspiciously.

“I swear. And you’ll be too. That’s an order, Hawke. Maker, you look like shit.” Varric scowled. Hawke laughed.

“You know how to compliment a girl, don’t you?” She asked.

 

The next morning dawned cold and clear. Varric took his time leisurely dressing and readying his pack. Hawke and Fenris had melted back into the shadows, hopefully with Hawke’s conscience resting a bit easier. Fenris had sworn to get Hawke far away from the Breach and the Inquisition. Varric could only hope that was enough to keep both of them safe.

Their small group was waiting at the gates of Haven, following the initial scouting party down into the Hinterlands. Maria was sitting uneasily on a small rugged pony as Cullen stood beside her, instructing her on the protocols of riding. Varric paused, trying to contain his amusement. He supposed it was unlikely a Carta dwarf learned to ride. It was the first time he’d seen Maria Cadash look even a bit uncertain of herself.

“Never learned?” Varric asked as he approached his own pony, patting it affectionately.

“They wanted to put me on something twice my size.” Maria groused as Cullen smiled softly.

“A mistake, we didn’t realize you hadn’t learned. We shouldn’t have assumed.” He answered. “She’ll carry you safely, though. She’s a calm thing.” Cullen paused, eyes flicking up in question. “There is no need to travel is such a small group, Herald.”

“Maria.” She corrected immediately.

“I can spare some troops.” Cullen finished.

“No you can’t, I read your reports.” Maria argued. “You’re stretched thin, Cullen. Besides, I like groups of four. I’m used to them.”

“As you wish, Herald.” Cullen inclined his head toward Varric and stepped back. “Take the reins like I showed you.”

Maria took a deep breath, catching the reins in her hands. Cullen nodded. “Now, give her a nudge with your heel. Yes, like that.” The pony responded immediately, walking forward. “And make her go left...that’s it.” Cullen nodded, approvingly.

“You’re much nicer to me than the recruits, Cullen.” Maria teased. “Shouldn’t you be telling me there are reins in my hand, use them?”

“You’re much better looking than the recruits.” Varric grinned as he clambered up his own pony. Cullen’s faced went immediately red and he sputtered, ducking his head.

“That isn’t... I didn’t… but you…” Cullen grasped for words and Maria smirked, turning to Varric.

“You broke him.” She accused. “Now who’s going to teach me how to ride?”

“I didn’t know the reaction would be this good.” Varric grinned. “Cat got your tongue, Curly?”

“Ignore him, Cullen.” Maria tried to be stern but her eyes were dancing with merriment. “I think I’ll make it down the mountain without breaking my neck. Give the recruits my best wishes.”

Cullen escaped faster than Varric would have bet he could. Varric chuckled. “I’ll be damned, I didn’t think he had a thing for dwarves.”

“I’m sure he doesn’t, Tethras. I think the Chantry sisters just never taught him how to talk to women.” She observed, tugging on her gloves. “Glad to know someone has noticed how absolutely attractive I am, though.”

Varric tried to ignore the implications despite the lurch in his stomach. Maker, did she have to be so damn attractive? It was a crime. “Wasn’t sure I’d see you this morning, though.” She commented, face neutral as she looked over at him with a raised eyebrow and those piercing eyes.

“You wound me, Princess. I’m as good as my word.” Varric swore, wide eyed and innocent. Maria smiled down at her glove.

“Good to have such a loyal friend in my group. Maybe I can earn that too.” She said quietly, satisfied. Varric was momentarily at a loss for words. She knew, which wasn’t that surprising. He’d had a hundred different tales ready for when she confronted him about it. He had explanations, excuses, denials, really anything he needed. In the face of unquestioning acceptance he felt… well, truly shocked. “Since you scared off my instructor, I trust you’ll be riding beside me as I try not to fall off this thing?”

“First rule of riding.” Varric began, pulling his pony up alongside hers. “Don’t fall off.”

“Ah, and the second?” She asked, bemused as she waved toward Solas.

“Ride in good company, preferably with a charming and handsome storyteller.” Varric winked.

“If you’re quite finished.” Cassandra scoffed, swinging onto her large mount. Solas was removing the saddle from his with evident distaste at the contraption.

“Oh, I’m never finished, Seeker. Let me tell you about this regular from the Hanged Man. He was a big guy, nearly as big as those Qunari, but he smelled twice as bad as the Kirkwall docks on it’s worst day…”

Chapter Text

They headed east, away from the mountains, following the main road but sticking to the trees and shadows. Fenris won’t consent for them to return to the king’s road until they approached West Hill. One of their many bolt holes was nearby and they found their way to it. It’s not more than a shack with a griffon scratched onto the window sill. Fenris still searched every nook before he was able to sit beside Hawke in front of the hearth. “The stores we left here last are gone.” He remarked. Hawke shrugged.

“Probably starving refugees. Or maybe a Warden. They’re welcome to it.” Her hair was wet from sleet falling outside and she had it fanned across her shoulder, attempting to dry it. Her appetite had been lacking, but Fenris was determined that he’d get some good meals into her before they left this place. Tomorrow, they would check the closest drop for letters from Carver or Merrill and come up with a plan. This evening, they can get some sleep with a roof over their head.

“I’ve been awful, haven’t I?” Hawke asked, idly playing with a lock of her hair as she stared into the fire. Fenris stared into the flames as well and sighed. He tapped his fingers on the hearthstone, making a conscious effort not to look at Hawke.

“You have not been well.” He admitted. “Varric would say you were brooding.”

“Maybe I learned it from you.” Her lips quirked into a small half smile but it vanished quickly into the flickering firelight. Fenris turned, bringing his hand up to cup her cheek. He brushed the pad of his thumb across her cheekbone, under her blue eyes.

“I have also been unbearable.” Fenris responded. “The nightmares are getting worse.”

Hawke brought her hand up to rest over his and tilted her cheek into his palm. She sighed, deflating slowly. She then turned and placed a kiss on his open palm. Fenris could feel that brief touch scalding his skin in the best way. Hawke’s touch was always like that, burning and good.

“You die.” Fenris continued, unable to stop now. “Every night since that explosion I watch you die. I have held you as you bleed to death. I have murdered you with my own hands. Templars have..defiled you and cut your throat. I can’t bear it.” Fenris squeezed his eyes shut, fighting to keep the tremor from his voice.

“I’m right here.” She soothed. “Amatus, feel.” Hawke took his hand and moved it slowly, over her swan’s neck, down the dip in her skin bordered by her collarbones, resting his palm over her breast where he could feel the bright steady beat of her heart.

“Sometimes I feel as if you wish to die. You wish to sacrifice yourself.” Fenris waited for an answer, but Hawke didn’t say anything. When Fenris opened his eyes, hers were fixed on him with a mixture of despair and longing. “I am right, then?” He questioned.

“Fenris, if I had died instead of Bethany…” She began.

“Fasta vass.” Fenris growled. “And where would I be, Reyna? If you had died in Lothering, what would have happened to me?”

“You wouldn’t be on the run, again.” Hawke fought. With surprising suddenness, Fenris was on her, picking her up and carrying her to the small bed, depositing her silently.

“I’d have never stopped running.” He pressed kisses to her neck, her shoulders, his hands tugging her tunic from where it was tucked into her pants. He heard fabric rip as he yanked the blouse over her head, pressing his mouth hungrily down the globes of her breasts. He pulled back to let his hands run under her back, tugging the laces of her bustier. Hawke’s cheeks were pink. Good, he thought.

“I’d be dead off the roadside.” He continued as the offending bit of stiff fabric came loose and his hands brushed across her sensitive nipples. She made a small mewing noise and Fenris did it again for the pleasure of hearing it again. Her back arched up off the bed and Fenris took the opportunity to pull down her breeches, smalls and hall, slowly letting his fingers linger on the creamy skin of her thighs until he pulled them off completely. His goddess was on the bed, unclothed before him, writhing under him. He ran his hands down her sides, over her waist, the curve of her hips.

“Fenris…” She whined. He leaned it to capture her lips and her hands bunched in his own tunic, slipped underneath it to run up his taut stomach. Fenris felt his cock swell in anticipation, but he wasn’t done.

“Or worse. Back in Minrathous, Reyna, leashed and bound. Is that what you’d want for me in this world without you?” He asked. The words were harsher than he meant them and she flinched, eyes wide.

“Fenris, stop, I don’t want to think… not now.” She pleaded.

“Then you must stop.” He ordered, gripping her wrists in his hands, holding them still. “You must stop this. I cannot bear it. I cannot bear life without you. Kaffas, don’t you see you’d sacrifice us both?” He pressed. Reyna trembled beneath him. In the light of the fire, Fenris could see tears spilling from her eyes.  

“I will try.” She answered.

That was better than nothing. Fenris dropped her wrists and Hawke wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him to her nude body and burying her face in his neck. Fenris embraced her tightly, pressing his lips to her ear. “I love you. Only you. Always you.” He promised.

 

Thick chains bound his wrists to the wall behind him. They had rubbed his skin raw until they bled and yet he still pulled at them, swearing and screaming at the effort. Before him, his lover’s body was stretched on an altar. Blood ran down the stone in rivulets, joining older rust colored stains. Her own limbs were manacled to the altar and her struggles were becoming weaker as her life’s essence dripped away.

Danarius stood above her with a knife that he used like a quill to draw exquisite designs on flesh. He was smiling down at her and he brushed her hair back from her face like a lover would, leaning down to kiss her lips before smirking at Fenris. He would throw up, right here. “I will kill you.” Fenris swore, ripping the manacles against his flesh once more.

Danarius’s grin stretched his face, turning him more into beast than man. His hand traveled down Hawke’s naked flesh, tracing the lines of blood. “What would you give me, little wolf, if I stopped?”

“No.” Hawke’s voice was weak, a moan more than anything. Danarius chuckled, gesturing behind him.

“You will regret that, little hawk.” Danarius promised. “I will break those wings. Bring the lyrium.” He ordered his apprentice. They poured the dust into Hawke’s wounds and all Fenris could hear were her agonized screams.

 

He woke up cradled in her arms, she was stroking his hair and humming a disjointed lullaby. He wrapped his arms around her, hands exploring smooth and unmarked flesh. “I’m here.” She whispered. “You were yelling, but it is only a dream.”

“He had you.” Fenris breathed in her scent, willing his racing heart to stop. It is a testament to their shared history that Hawke doesn’t need to ask who he was speaking of.

“He’s dead. I was there, I saw him fall. He can’t touch us.” She reassured. “I’ll find those herbs today.”

“Not yet.” Fenris croaked, pulling her tighter. He can see watery sunlight through the oil papered windows. Hawke continued to stroke his hair until the sun was high in the sky and Lucia was whining to be let out. They dressed and Hawke braided her hair. “I’ll fetch water.” Fenris offered as he snapped his breastplate into place.

“That leaves me to check the drop and see if I can find the herbs I need. Meet back here in two hours?”

“Take Lucia if you’ll be wandering the forest.” Fenris held up one finger as she opened her mouth to argue. “Don’t. Either Lucia goes or I do.”

“Lucia would be terrible at hauling water.” Hawke conceded with a smile. “Alright, mother. But be safe, alright? C’mon girl. Let’s see if you can get us a rabbit too.” Hawke whistled and Lucia ran to her side from the open door, covered in grass and mud. Fenris groaned and shook his head. Hawke took a basket and Fenris took the buckets.

There was a clear stream and a small pond. Fenris filled the buckets in the steam and then paused to splash the cool water on his face. He settled himself on the shore, examining his reflection in the calm waters of the pond. There were fish in there. He could cook them and eat them. He could also live several days without sinking that low. There were roots too at the edge of the lake, what did Merrill call them? Regardless, they were good to eat if cooked properly. They’d go well with rabbit if Lucia managed to get one. Fenris grabbed a handful and pulled, tossing them into a pile behind him. He got up, leaving his sword with the buckets as he moved around the edge of the pond. There was something soothing in this work, something that reminded him of something…

He was jarred from his thoughts by the sound of heavy footsteps and branches snapping, birds fleeing. He lifted his head as if he could scent the air as truly as his namesake. Perhaps not danger, it was unlikely in this area there’d be anything worth fighting. Better safe than sorry, he reminded himself as he made his way back to the lake. He was nearly at his buckets and sword before the branches parted and three figures stumbled out of the woods.

They were all too skinny, cheekbones pronounced in hollow faces. The woman was wearing heavy armor, her hair short and cropped close and a short sword in her hand, a wooden shield tied to her wrist. The man behind her was taller, clutching a bow and dressed in dirty leathers with his long hair caught in a ponytail. Behind both of them was a small figure dressed in dirty robes that pooled around his feet. They seemed shocked to see him, the man raising his bow immediately and pointing an arrow at Fenris. Fenris froze, waiting.

“Is this...this is the elf?” The man asked the woman with the sword. “Here?”

“The lyrium markings are distinctive.” The monotone voice said from behind them. “The odds of another having similar are low.”

“You, what is your name?” The woman demanded harshly. Fenris didn’t answer, raising an eyebrow instead. The silence stretched on. His sword was just out of distance on his right, a dive for it would see it in his hand. Dangerous to do so with the arrow ready to fly. As soon as the arrow flew, he could dodge and grab the blade. Then these fools would be gone.

“Perhaps you should inquire after the location of the Champion?” The girl suggested again, tone devoid of excitement or nervousness. Fenris spared a look at her, could just make out the edge of a sunburst brand under her bangs. He tried to let nothing show on his face, tried to imagine the word Champion meant nothing,

“We will free her from you, elf. It is a righteous cause.” The woman with the sword promised. This did get a reaction from Fenris, his eyes meeting hers, seeing the fiery zeal behind them. Freed? What in the Maker’s name were they on about. “We have been warned of you. Our friends spread stories of your hatred, your prejudice and bloodlust.” The woman continued, spitting the words out viciously.

“Who are you?” Fenris asked, curiosity getting the better of common sense. When the arrow flew, he would dodge. If the archer was slow enough, he’d have it in his hand to deflect the second arrow. If the archer was quicker...well, as Hawke would say, his vital bits were covered up with the armor.

“The Breakers.” The man said without hesitation. “Now, you knife ear. Where’s the Champion? Is she still alive?”

“You want to remedy that, I assume?” Fenris’s fingers flexed as he stared. “I won’t allow it.”

“You have stolen her!” The woman shrieked and brandished her sword, running down the gentle slope towards the pond. The archer fired. Fenris dodged just as he’d hoped he would and his fingers gripped the handle of his blade, deftly raising it in plenty of time to take the blow from the short sword, parrying it back. Another arrow flew towards him and the point buried into his upper arm. The pain was barely noticeable under the adrenaline pulsing through him. The lyrium lining his skin lit up and he let out a feral scream, charging on his own, strength and grace and muscle memory behind the swing of his blade.

The woman’s armor was cheap, poorly made. His blade didn’t pierce straight through, but the flimsy metal dented and he heard the satisfying crack of broken ribs. The woman gasped, doubling over long enough for Fenris to deflect the third arrow. Then there was a long, loud howl and a booming bark. The archer went down, bow with him as nearly two hundred pounds of dog bowled him over. “Lucia, to Fenris!” Hawke yelled and the hound bolted from the archer just in time for flames to rain down from the sky. Fenris heard screams and the smelt the sickening stench of burned flesh wafting down to him.

The woman let out a scream of primal fury, her blade swinging wildly. Fenris countered with another perry and swung for her unguarded throat. Blood spurted from her arteries, covering his armor. Then she was gone, her head rolling into the murky water of the pond. Hawke was in front of the smaller woman, her staff pointed at her threateningly. “Fenris?” She called, the unspoken question in the air as Lucia sniffed him.

“Mostly unharmed.” He answered, reaching up to rip out the arrow in his flesh. The barbed tip ripped his skin and caused him to hiss softly as he dropped it, examining the wound.

“It is good to see you alive, Champion.” The woman said, politely enough, as a blue bottle dropped from her hand. “I am sorry we are unable to complete the rescue. Perhaps the next time.”

“What?” Hawke snapped. “What in Andraste’s ass are you talking about?”

“Apparently you need rescued from me.” Fenris interjected dryly. Hawke’s brow wrinkled in confusion.

“I was to give you a message if I saw you, Champion. I’m afraid I don’t have much time left. I was not to allow myself to be captured by hostile forces. I was instructed that if my siblings fell I was to drink the poison. It is from Tevinter, called Aconitum…”

Fenris swore as Hawke bent to pick up the blue bottle. He was at her side instantly, grabbing her hand back. “Don’t risk it.” He growled. “It can be absorbed through the skin as well.”

“What is the message?” Hawke demanded.

“When you choose to jump into the abyss, he will wait for you. There can be no compromise.” The tranquil repeated, her skin was growing pale. She swayed, then collapsed, eyes meeting Hawke’s horrified expression. “Love is not an emotion I understand, but these are my siblings and they loved me. Yet I upset them because I am not prey to emotions as they were. They told me about before I was tranquil. I admit, much of it was illogical. As was taking me with them.” The tranquil woman’s mouth opened and closed a few times and her eyes rolled up in her head. Hawke covered her mouth as the woman dropped fully, head hitting the ground. Her body was wracked with spasms for a moment, then mercifully was still.

“Fenris.” Hawke gasped. “What was that stuff?”

“It’s also known as wolf’s bane.” Fenris explained, using his boot to crush the bottle and shove it into the soft soil. “Less popular than magical assassinations in Tevinter, but only marginally so.”

“Did you hear? Did you hear what she said?” Hawke demanded. Fenris only barely managed to restrain himself from responding that of course he had.

“Maker Fenris, nobody knows.” She cursed several times, then began again, pulling from his side and pushing her hair back from her face. “Who knows about what Flemeth told me? About what Anders said right before he blew up the damned chantry? Who knows all that, Fenris?”

“Perhaps many people.” Fenris said levelly. “Varric did write a book.”

Hawke’s laughter was tinged with hysteria. She whirled back to him, braid flying out behind her. “Do you honestly believe that?” She asked. “Some crazy people who read Varric’s damned book?”

“No.” Fenris admitted. The abomination did what abominations did - covet. “He has gathered a group of dangerous people together and told them that I have stolen you. As if you could be stolen.” Fenris scowled. “They called themselves Breakers.”

“You don’t seem particularly upset by this situation, Fenris.” Hawke gestured uselessly to the bodies around him. “Maker, what if I wouldn’t have been coming to find you?”

“I think I’m quite capable of of handling one tranquil mage, a rogue, and a shoddy swordswoman.” Fenris tried not to sound like he was suffering from injured pride. Tried. “I would rather fight for my life than have you fight for yours.” Fenris admitted.

“That’s encouraging.” Hawke grumbled, crossing her arms across her chest. Fenris was staring at the broken vial, connections swirling in his head.

“I believe your abomination has wanted me dead for quite a while. Perhaps since we left Kirkwall. Zevran informed me a mage had attempted to take a contract on my life with the crows but had balked at the cost. I assumed it was related to the death of Danarius. Perhaps he made it to Antiva.” Fenris mused.

“When were you going to tell me?” Hawke demanded, color rising in her face.

“You had too many cares already. Your enemies were at our heels.”

“My enemies.” She repeated acidly. Fenris indicated the corpses on the ground.

“They certainly believed I was not a friend.” He pointed out.

“Fenris, you are my husband!” Hawke exploded. “Till death or trained assassins come! To have and hold and fight against crazed mages and templars both!”

“I don’t recall those being the exact vows.” He couldn’t help the twitch in his mouth into an indulgent smile. She was still fuming.

“You lied to me! By omission Fenris! Even if it had been some Tevinter arsehole I needed to know!” She challenged. “Now look what has happened!”

“This would have happened if you had known or not. Nothing would have changed.” Fenris reasoned.

“Maybe we would have gone hunting him instead of slavers! Maybe I wouldn’t have waited for someone to attack you!”

“Venhedis, listen to yourself!” Fenris challenged. “Maybes and perhaps and shoulds. You live in a world where you regret everything.” Hawke’s eyes hardened and she pulled a crumpled letter into his face from her belt. Fenris caught it, unrumpling it.

“Aveline wrote. Carver and Merrill were there, stopping through, when they started to hear voices. Aveline is refusing to let them leave the keep. They say they’re dying.” She turned as coldly as she’d thrown the letter, storming back off into the trees.

“Reyna.” Fenris called after her. She didn’t turn and look back but continued to plow heedlessly through the branches. Fenris sighed and looked down at his buckets and Lucia who whined pitifully.

 

When Fenris returned to the cabin, Hawke was not there. He cleaned the blood from his armor and waited, listening for every snapping twig, every bird scared enough to take flight. When that was done, he paced the floor in front of the hearth while Lucia watched from the bed. Night fell, and still Hawke did not return. Fenris wished violently for wine, perhaps to drink, but surely to throw the bottles against the walls and listen to the satisfying shatter of glass.

He had made up his mind to take Lucia and look for her and was reaching for his breastplate when she came back, shivering from the cold, fingers and lips tinged blue. Without a word he pulled her to the fire and draped his cloak over her shoulders. “I went into West Hill.” She offered, even though Fenris had decided not to press. “To learn more about those three.”

“I would have gone with you.” Fenris took the time to examine Hawke closely. Her eyes were weary, sad. She drew her knees up to her chin as she stared into the flames.

“They’re trying to kill you. It’s better you didn’t.” She responded stubbornly. Fenris used a poker to stoke the flames, waiting. “They passed through town briefly, but I managed to track them back to an abandoned barn not more than a mile from here. They’d been there a few days, had probably been using the pond for their water too. I found some letters of a personal nature regarding them. They were siblings, the tranquil was the youngest. She’d been forced to undergo the rite after she reported that a Knight Captain had raped her shortly before the rebellion.” Hawke’s voice was hard, bitter. “Makes you think Anders was right, doesn’t it?”

“Perhaps it would never had happened if the abomination hadn’t done anything.” Fenris snapped out. Hawke laughed without humor.

“Maybe it had been happening all along.” Hawke whispered. “But I don’t want to fight. That’s not all I found.” She reached into her pack and pulled out pages stitched together with thread to form a cheap book. Fenris could see lines of small, cramped writing stretching endlessly over the pages. He knew that writing, he’d been finding copies of that blasted thing all over Kirkwall for ages. She held it out to him and Fenris took it like he was handling a venomous snake.

“Ah, the manifesto.” Fenris remarked.

“I believe it is now more a treatise. It’s too long to be a manifesto now. I read it, that’s what took so long.” She shook her head in resignation. “You’re mentioned by name as a viper in the bosom of the revolution. A shining example of the worst of intolerance and prejudice.”

“How exactly does he explain my standing beside three mages for seven years?” Fenris questioned, bewildered.

“Oh, you’re obsessed with subjugating me as a representation of the Magisters from Tevinter. It’s all there, I’m not going to continue to repeat this trash Fenris.” She waved her hand carelessly to the pages. Fenris snorted.

“As if you could be subjugated.” He said softly, his fingers reaching for her gleaming dark hair and tucking in behind her ear gently. He felt his countenance soften and Hawke’s shoulders released some of their tension. “You’re incorrigible.”

“You love it.” She smiled weakly. “There’s worse, Fenris. Anders...he’s advocating that breaking the circles is no longer enough, that freedom isn’t enough. He wants… he wants every templar and every family member of every templar made to answer for the treatment of mages. He wants to wipe out anyone who has ever known or loved a templar.”

“Vengeance.” Fenris stated softly. Hawke leaned into his hand, repeating the word bitterly.

“I should have killed him. Another mistake on top of all the others I’ve made.” She bemoaned.

“A mistake made out of goodness, not malice.” Fenris replied.

“Perhaps they should write that on my tombstone. ‘She tried.’” Hawke closed her eyes, her tone falsely light. “Maker, I’m tired.”

“We will handle it.” Fenris assured her.

“Red lyrium and Varric first, then we’ll take care of Anders.” Hawke swore, lyrium blue eyes fastening on his. “And you won’t go after him alone.”

“I will not.” Fenris promised. “I will go at your side.”

Chapter Text

Varric Tethras had a running list of things he hated and it had grown exponentially since he’d first set off from Haven. True, braised nug with elfroot was still very near the top, but now he could add on saddle sores, those damned bugs that stung and bit and loved to swarm up in clouds the instant you stepped off a path, and the clerics of Val Royeaux. He sighed as his pony climbed up the path, eyes lingering on the walls of Haven that still seemed quite a distance uphill.

“This is it, yeah?” Their newest recruit, a scraggly blonde elf with the worst Denerim accent Varric had ever heard asked. “I mean, nice enough I guess. Thought it’d be...bigger.”

“Sorry to disappoint.” Maria responded dryly. “Next time, I’ll make sure the sky blows up over a fortress.”

“And somewhere warmer.” Varric grumbled. “I’ve heard Tevinter is lovely this time of year.”

“Tevinter is exactly where a big ass hole in the sky should go, if you ask me.” Maria retorted with a snort.

“What’s up their bits?” Sera asked Cassandra, who gave a long suffering sigh.

“Apparently, dwarves are not meant to spend so much time in a saddle. And they continue to tell us this. Repeatedly.” Cassandra gripped her reins tighter in her hands, looking almost wistfully at Haven as well.

Warden Blackwall chuckled easily from Maria’s left. “Takes any ass some time to get used to the saddle. You’ve done quite well my lady.”

“She rides like she’s accompanying a cart to market.” Vivienne sniffed. “Of course, my dear, we can work on it.” Maria rolled her eyes.

“My ass just wants out of the saddle. Maybe into a bath, Maker, that’d be nice.” She tucked a piece of red hair behind her ear. Varric couldn’t help but notice the way she clenched and unclenched her left hand. It was one of the many small things he’d begun to notice about her as they’d spent two weeks wandering the countryside. Her hand ached, and he wasn’t the only one who had noticed. Cassandra had taken to wrapping it when they made camp with a poultice without Maria ever having asked for the assistance. She’d laughed and called Cassandra a doting fool. It seemed to be worse when she was exhausted or right after she closed a rift. Chuckles had no answers for them as to why.

There were other things to notice too. She took time to talk to everyone and promised what help she could to ordinary people. It reminded him, endearingly, of Hawke when she had held up an elven wedding band she’d found on a dead templar and remarked that they’d double back when they returned to camp and give it to the widow. She found supplies for the sick and ailing refugees, helped hunt rams, and in general charmed the socks off whoever she met with as much skill and finesse as a seasoned diplomat. She didn’t complain about the bugs or the lack of fine cuisine. In fact, she only joined him in complaining about the constant hours or horseback riding when pressed to do so.

She had stolen the hearts of the people in the Hinterlands. The Herald, they whispered when she approached. Children gave her pretty flower bouquets, which she then laid at the graves of the fallen. Refugees became recruits in droves. Not complaining and always smiling were conscious efforts, he was sure. Sometimes, just briefly, he could see weariness in between those moments. The caring though...that was genuine and came from somewhere deep under her skin. There was steel under that too, though. He’d seen that when she’d stared down the Lord Seeker after he had slapped an old woman. The man was nearly three times her height and covered head to toe in grand armor, but Maria Cadash was a princess who bowed to no man. She had asked, coldly, if that display had been meant to impress her. When the Lord Seeker had vanished with his templars, she had pressed a poultice to the head of the woman who had denounced her and Varric saw doubt on the clerics faces.

Maybe she was the damned Herald of Andraste. Of course, she didn’t think so. But then, that was a big part of being sent from the Maker, right? You weren’t supposed to actually think yourself sent from the Maker. That was the fine line between heroic and fanatic.

Cullen was waiting at the gates, beaming. “You’ve returned!” He greeted.

“Don’t be too happy, Cullen. It wasn’t a roaring success.” She groaned, stretching her back. Cullen offered his hand to help her dismount, swinging the small woman to the ground easily. Varric had to slide off on his own, of course.

“Perhaps not all of it. Leliana’s people made it back before you, so we know about the situation in Val Royeaux.” Cullen’s face darkened, but then he jerked his chin to the recruits sparring. “Recruitment has doubled, though. You’re all people can talk about.”

“I’m going to be honest, Cullen.” She began with a soft curve to her lips. “I’d rather them be talking about getting rid of that.” She jerked her hand up over her head. “Or getting rid of this damned thing on my hand.”

“Boss!” The large Qunari trotted up, towering over Maria. “Heard I should have gone straight to Val Royeaux instead of bringing the boys here. Some muscle may have made those iron skirts think twice.”

“Maker, Iron skirts…” Cullen repeated, aghast. Maria laughed.

“Next time, Bull, I promise.” She said with that wicked little smile.

“In good time. Oh! And you have a visitor. A young woman claiming to be a relative of yours from the Free Marches. She’s been...a bit unwilling to give any other information.” Cullen reported.

Varric raised an eyebrow, turning to Maria but she was frowning herself. “Where is she?”

“I’m right here.” A clear voice cut in from the steps. Varric looked up and saw another dwarf, younger than Maria by several years. She was tapping her foot impatiently and had two knives strapped to her back. Her eyes were that same piercing gray, but this woman had chocolate brown curls pulled away from her face.

“Bea.” Maria sighed, sounding resigned.

“One line.” The young woman scowled, crossing her arms over her chest. “That’s all I get. One line saying you’re alive. Which is more than Nanna got, of course. She’s still waiting for her note. Our miners got more of an explanation from you and they bloody well never even see you.”

Maria looked helplessly at the fuming woman, then back at Cullen. She even turned imploringly to Varric, who stepped back quickly. He had not lived this long to not know one didn’t get between two women fighting. “Perhaps this is better done in private.” Cassandra offered stiffly.

“Oh, I’m not allowed to embarass you in front of your new friends?” The woman wrinkled her nose in distaste as her eyes swept across the crowd.

“Pretty, that one.” Sera remarked. “Like ‘em feisty. And smooshy, right?”

“Stop it.” Maria ordered, stomping up the steps and grabbing the woman’s arm. She dragged the other woman away in a huff toward the cabin she used.

“Who do you think that was?” Blackwall broke the silence.

“Sister.” Varric and Cassandra said together. Varric chuckled as Cassandra rolled her eyes. “Nobody fights like that, Hero, unless they’re siblings.” He finished, watching the two dwarven women disappear into the cabin.

 

Varric didn’t see Maria until the next day as she made her way to the chantry with the young woman trailing in her wake, her hands flailing in agitation. With a roll of her eyes, Maria altered her course just enough to deposit the two of them squarely in front of Varric. Maria was using her most charming smile and alarm bells were ringing. “Varric.” She almost purred his name. “I didn’t get a chance to introduce my baby sister, this is Beatrix.”

“Charmed.” Varric offered his hand to the younger dwarf. She glared at him suspiciously and ignored the proffered appendage as if he’d offered her shit on a plate. Bea’s gray eyes swung back to Maria immediately.

“I was sent here to bring you home. I’m not leaving until I do.” There was a stubborn set in her jaw, tenseness radiating from her posture. Maria sighed.

“Bea, I don’t have time for this right now.” She folded her own arms over her chest and glared. “I am late to a very important meeting. We can keep arguing after. Varric, can you do...something with her.”

Maria looked absolutely lost for words and her sister was bristling in indignation. Varric grimaced as Maria’s hand wrapped tightly around his forearm, meeting his gaze apologetically. “I’ll owe you one.”

“I’ll try.” Varric answered doubtfully. Maria beamed, one strong arm pushing Bea into him as she slipped quickly away and practically ran up to the chantry.

“Ugh!” The woman righted herself, pushing away from Varric in disgust and stomping a few steps away. Her eyes were flashing quite dangerously. “I’ll kill her myself!”

“Now c’mon.” Varric tried grinning. “There’s worse company to be stuck with, right?”

“Where is she going?” Beatrix demanded. Varric’s eyes were drawn to those wicked daggers and he sighed, shaking his head.

“Listen, they’re in the chantry. But the door is guarded and they’re not going to let you in. Maker’s ass, the walls are so thick in there even if you shouted yourself hoarse she’s not going to hear you. You can spend a couple hours pacing back and forth in there pissing off the sisters, or you can go to the tavern with me. Your choice.” Varric challenged. He watched the war playing over her stubborn features. She wavered for a few moments before she let out a gust of breath.

“Fine!” She snapped. “But I’m not wasting coin on this piss they call ale.”

Sera saw them coming and managed to clear out a whole table and get three mugs of ale put on Varric’s tab before they could make it across the room. She cackled brilliantly as she sat the overflowing mugs in front of them, splashing ale across the table.

“You’re babysitting!” Sera crowed. “I love when noble shites get put in their places. You! You’re the herald’s pretty sister?”

“He isn’t babysitting me.” Beatrix protested with a face like thunder.

“I’d do a better job. With the sitting, specially.” Sera’s eyebrows wiggled.

For a moment, Varric wasn’t sure if Beatrix was going to slug her or storm off. Something more remarkable happened instead and the dwarf giggled. “You know, they typically say Maria is the prettier one.”

“Pft! If you like your laces straight and narrow! Plus she’s got that whole… herald thing going on, isn’t it? Glowing hands and what not. I don’t need it glowing all night.” Sera leaned closer, pushing the ale closer. Varric was beginning to hope this would be easier than anticipated.

“It does!” Beatrix picked up the ale and took a swig. “Maker! All night! I made her put a glove on.”

“I didn’t think anyone from the Carta would come looking for her.” Varric mused.

“Piss off!” Beatrix exclaimed. “What, the merchant’s guild is such a standard for good behavior?”

“Ah, shit. I meant, she seemed to still be doing a lot of work.” Varric tried to placate the glaring woman. Sera giggled, placing her head on her interlocked hands.

“All she does is work.” Beatrix sulked, “Maria wasn’t even supposed to be here, y’know. Nanna...had somebody she wanted her to meet, back in Ostwick. This was my job, but…” she struggled for the words as she took another gulp of ale.

“Something happened?” Varric prodded.

“Someone happened.” Beatrix winced. “I was doing another run out near Starkhaven, but well it got complicated because there was a really attractive mercenary, I mean, legs for days. Turns out she was working for an opposing smuggling ring. It got messy and Nanna had to send reinforcements. Maria came here instead.”

Varric snorted, raising his glass to hide his grin. To think, the fate of the inquisition depended on one dwarf who was almost not present because a younger sibling couldn’t keep their breeches on. Varric couldn’t make this shit up. Sera was howling with laughter. “It isn’t funny! When I first heard… I thought she was dead and it was all my fault.”

“She didn’t die, though. That’s not how the best stories start.” Varric offered. Searching gray eyes, so much like her sister’s, swept over him.

“I know who you are, Varric Tethras.” She said his name slowly, rolling the syllables in her mouth. “What’s an author and a deshyr doing here?”

“What’s a deshyr? Sounds dirty.” Sera sniffed and Beatrix’s smile quirked up at the corners.

“Merchant prince. All full of themselves and important like their shit doesn’t stink.” She said, smooth and satisfied. Sera grabbed her mug and downed the last of the ale, pulling on Beatrix’s arm.

“C’mon, blow this shite. I know how to do a real party.” Sera challenged. “And my legs go on and on too, see!”

The two disappeared like a whirlwind, leaving Varric with his own ale, a spilled mug, and and Sera’s empty. He shook his head, bewildered. He needed to tell the Seeker how lucky she was they had the right Cadash.

 

“Fuck.” Maria’s voice was strained as she stopped beside Varric. “I knew she’d ditch you first chance. Any idea what kind of trouble she planned on causing?”

“The best kind, I’m sure, by the looks she was shooting Sera.” Varric responded easily, setting down his quill and ledger.

“I wish I could say I was surprised. Do you have any idea how many beds I’ve pulled her out of? It’s a nightmare.” Maria sank down on the bench beside him, her thigh brushing his.

“It’s one of the benefits of being the younger sibling. The oldest gets the glory, the youngest gets to make regrettable decisions.” He allowed her a few moments to swear and huff before he asked. “What did you miss is Ostwick?”

She started as if he had burned her and his curiosity burned to life like one of Hawke’s fires. “Nothing important.” She answered vaguely. “I didn’t want to go anyway. Didn’t want to be here particularly, either. I’d have rather gone to Starkhaven and kicked Bea’s ass but Nanna was insistent that it had to be one of the immediate family and I was the one with the least pressing business.”

“And that was?” Varric asked again, grinning.

“We were looking at hiring nugs as our newest smugglers. Much less expensive than dwarves, you know.” She tried to make her eyes wide and innocent. Varric laughed.

“I’d hire bogfishers instead. They can carry more.” Varric advised. Maria smirked and shook her head.

“They smell terrible, worse than some of the dwarves I’ve worked with.” She shuddered with disgust.

“So no lover awaiting you in Ostwick with baited breath and eager anticipation?” Varric asked smoothly. Maria let out a noise of disgust that rivaled Cassandra’s shaking her head.

“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” She inquired, amazed.

“Author’s curiosity.” Varric shrugged with that explanation.

“Oh? And here I was thinking it was personal, Tethras.” She teased, a small smile on her rose colored lips. It fell as he waited expectantly. She looked at the ground, scuffing the dirt with her boot. “No. No lover waiting in Ostwick. I prefer to allow the romantic shenanigans to concern Bea. I’ve terrible luck.”

“There’s a story there.” Varric commented lightly.

“A tragedy, more like.” Maria’s face was dark now, like thunderclouds passing over the sky. “There was someone once. He’s dead. Died during the blight.”

Varric winced. “Shit. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Probably not.” She answered, tone clipped as she stood. “We’re heading back to Redcliffe tomorrow. I’ve received an invitation from the Tevinter magister holed up there to negotiate for the mages. I’m to come alone.”

“Right… because that isn’t a set up at all.” Varric groaned, rubbing his face with his hand. Maker, he was an idiot and she was furious and he didn’t know what to say.

“It almost certainly is, but we have a clever plan. Granted, I had a clever plan to spy on the conclave too and look what happened there.” She shrugged. Her face was distant and Varric reached out, catching her wrist.

“I’ll go with you. Let me make up for being an ass.” He said gently. Her wrist was solid, warm under his gloved fingers.

“You were going anyway.” She responded immediately. “Ass or no, I need someone who can shoot. Now, I’ve got to find my sister and tell her. Maybe this will all be over soon and we can go back to our lives.”

She sounded remarkably wistful. Varric didn’t have the heart to tell her he couldn’t see that happening anytime soon. He squeezed his fingers gently around her wrist and loosened his grip. “I’m sorry.” He apologized again.

“I’ll forgive you if you prevent me from getting killed by a Tevinter asshole.” She promised with a smile playing about her lips as she backed away. He watched her as she turned, then continued to stare after her as her red hair disappeared into the crowd. An image had formed in his mind of her, throat slit and bleeding out on marble floors. It felt like ice clawing around his heart.

“No Princess.” He muttered to himself. “That’s not how the story ends.”

 

“Boss, it’s a good plan.” Iron Bull said as they stopped at the closest Inquisition Camp to Redcliffe.

“Sensing a but in there, Bull.” Maria was glaring at the crude plans Leliana had drawn up.

“There’s a lot of moving parts. Agents going through those tunnels might run into magical traps.”

“They’re going with Dorian, if there is magic, he’s confident he can dispel it.” Maria reasoned. “We’re sending Sera and Blackwall with them. Sera says she can disarm anything with a spring or teeth and Blackwall can be there muscle, if they need him.”

“And if we’re overwhelmed…” Bull began.

“Cassandra is waiting here with your chargers and Vivienne. They’ll get word back to the crossroads and to Haven, but they won’t be able to help us. That’s why you’re going with Varric, and me, Bull.” She winked. “You said a tiny dwarf needs a big shield.”

Bull shook his head, scratching his chin. “It’s easier when you just rush in swinging. Cleaner.”

“I have a feeling there will be plenty of swinging Tiny, just aim over our heads.” Varric grinned.

“And I am to wait outside the castle and sound the alarm if things appear to have gone badly?” Solas asked.

“Yes, you’ve probably got the best chance of making it back here to camp through the wilderness.” Maria mused.

“Because I am an elf?” Solas questioned. Maria looked up with a startled laugh.

“I was thinking it’s because you’ve been an apostate sleeping in weird places all your life, but if you want to make it an elf thing…” She trailed off wickedly. Solas looked rightfully shamed. Varric couldn’t help but grin at the look on Chuckle’s face.

“Right, let’s shoot some baddies and back to Haven for drinks, yeah?” Sera asked.

“You’re not rushing to get back to Boss’s sister, are you Sera?” Iron Bull chuckled.

“She’s got tattoos all up her…”

“That’s enough of this conversation.” Maria slammed her palm on the table loudly. “Any other questions?”

“The Tevinter mage is a large part of this plan, Herald.” Cassandra pointed out.

“Ah, that sounded like a criticism. I was asking for questions.” Maria looked up at Cassandra from her place leaning over the map. “I’m the bait, I decide acceptable risk. When we use you as bait, you can complain.”

“Who’d take that bait?” Sera asked with a giggle. Cassandra threw her hands up in the air and stalked off.

“There’s a lot of ways this can go south. If it does, I recommend getting out if you can.” Varric broke in reasonably.

“I wouldn’t leave you all behind.” Maria said stubbornly.

“You’ve got the mark on your hand that has any chance of solving this mess. That makes you more valuable…” Iron Bull began.

“Everyone is valuable. We start assigning value to people, we’re not better than the Magisters .” She had to crane her neck to look at Bull. He obligingly lowered his head. “I’ve never left a man behind during a job. I won’t start now just because my hand fucking glows.”

“Right, well, hope it doesn’t come to it, Princess.” Varric sighed. “Bianca and I are ready when you are.”

“Varric, wait.” She said suddenly. “Bull...can you give me a moment? Tell everyone to get ready.” Varric watched as Bull gave a mock salute, winking at him as he sauntered back to start shouting orders.

“All ears, Princess. Well, and chest hair.” He said smugly.

“I’ve been thinking, back in Haven. I shouldn’t… I didn’t want to talk about it, but you don’t have to feel like shit about it. You don’t have to be sorry.” She was still staring at the map, gray eyes tracing the ink on the parchment.

“Does that mean you’ve forgiven me? Without even letting me heroically redeem myself?” Varric teased, leaning over the table beside her, brushing her shoulder with his. “You’re alright. I shouldn’t have pried. It’s a bad habit.”

“When he died, I promised he’d be my first and last. It was my penance for living. Melodramatic, I know, but I could never resist the grand gesture.” Her thumb drifted over the outline of the castle’s courtyard. “But...my grandmother wants me to marry, create an alliance with another Carta family. Have lots of little dwarves running around in her old age so she can meet the Maker knowing the future is secure. That’s what I was supposed to be doing in Ostwick, picking a suitor.”

“That’s not shocking, isn’t that how dwarves work? Honestly, I’m surprised she’s given you a choice. Most of the times parents just make the match without a thought to feelings.” Varric pointed out, his own fingers twitching nervously. Her eyes went to them, immediately, like she’d caught a tell in a game of cards.

“I’ve been avoiding it successfully for ten years. She wore me down and then the whole world has to explode. Bea says she’s furious.” She couldn’t prevent the smirk on her lips. “I bet she is, tearing her damned hair out probably.”

Varric couldn’t help his own strained chuckle. “Well, I appreciate the warning. I’ll try not to start any rumors about your lack of virtue.”

“I didn’t want you to hear it from someone else, not really.” She leaned into him with a brief nudge and a playful smile. “I like...this. It’s fun, right? You gawk at my amazing body, I give coy glances at your chest hair, we flirt and get on Cassandra’s nerves. It’s a good thing. And we don’t break our promises, do we?” She asked, gaze flicking to the crossbow slung over his shoulder and back to him with a knowing look.

I don’t have a promise anymore, Varric almost said. And hers was dust in the wind for ten years with the man she’d made it to. Maker, who was keeping track of all the lies and promises anymore? He thought with a jealous pang of a red ribbon tying a tanned warrior’s hand to a pale mage’s or two bodies that weren’t him clinging together in his bed. He thought of the smell of Bianca’s forge and her small hands on the gears as she laughed at him.

He could forget all of that now, if he leaned in and brushed his lips over hers. He wondered what she tasted like, if she’d cling to him desperately and wrap her legs around his waist. “Of course.” He said instead with a brilliant grin. “Anything to annoy Cassandra.”

She relaxed muscles he hadn’t even realized were tensed and nodded. “Right. Let’s go fishing for cultists, then?”

Chapter Text

Varric fully expected the whole plan to go to shit as he Maria’s swaying hips into Redcliffe castle. The brown-nosed shit who tried to stop them and insist Maria go all alone had Bianca twitchy. But she’d smiled charmingly and introduced them as her attaches and insisted they were needed. He could see the calculating glances swinging between the three of them and could just imagine them calculating how a fight would go with them outnumbered slightly less. Varric thought the Iron Bull could take out six of these Tevinter bastards easily.

Finally, they waved all three of them through. “Hope you know what you’re doing, boss.” Iron Bull whispered.

“Me too.” Maria whispered back through teeth clenched in a false smile. Yep, Varric thought. They were definitely going to die here. They were presented to the Magister sitting prominently in the Arl of Redcliffe’s throne. Oh, Varric was willing to bet that the Arl wouldn’t be able to get the smell of Tevinter ass out of his cushions for weeks.

“Ah, the Herald of Andraste!” The Magister greeted gleefully. “An honor. I’m sure we can work out an arrangement that in equitable to all parties.”

“The mages have not agreed to this arrangement!” Grand Enchanter Fiona squawked. “We have children, elderly…”

“The mages will be dispensed as we see fit.” The Magister overruled with a wave of his hand. “If the inquisition has anything of value.”

“We have lots of value.” Maria took one step forward, then another. Varric watched warily. “In particular, our current location has the market cornered on snow and ice. I hear Tevinter is quite warm, perhaps we’ll ship some over?”

The Magister’s false hospitality chipped and his smile dropped just an inch. “I assume that was a jest.”

“Hardly!” Maria exclaimed. “But if you’re not interested, I believe we have an abundance of nug shit as well. It doesn’t smell pretty, but it is excellent fertilizer.” She offered tantalizingly.

“Herald, your games are…” The Magister was rising from his seat. Maria held up her hand, palm out in a gesture to tell him to remain seated. Like this was her castle, like it was her throne.

“Fine then. Let’s trade secrets.” She said quietly. “I know a few.”

“Father, she knows everything.” Felix appeared from behind the throne, the Magister’s kid looked even worse than he had last time they say him. The Magister’s face fell as he looked at his son.

“Felix, what have you done?” He asked.

“This has gone on long enough.” Felix protested, but the Magister was out of his chair now and storming towards Maria. She didn’t flinch, she didn’t back away. She raised her head higher, red hair spilling over her shoulders.

“You! You parade in here with your stolen mark and your disgraceful companions and you have the nerve to think you can outmaneuver your betters! You have already lost!” Spittle flew from his mouth.

“I don’t think I have.” Maria countered calmly, eyes flashing like a falcon’s.

“Venatori, seize them!” The magister yelled.

The only movement were soldiers crashing to the floors, throats slit. Sera was giggling and the sound was jarring against the arrow she was pointing at the Magister.

“Villainous cliches are so overdone.” Dorian came up behind them, sharing a triumphant look with Maria as he stood beside her. Varric felt the knot in his stomach loosen just a bit. Everything had...worked. It was unheard of. “It’s over, Alexius.”

“No.” Alexius protested, stepping back. His fist was glowing green, a different color than Maria’s mark, but similar. He was clutching a necklace. “I must fix the mistake made at the Temple. I must.”

“Alexius, no!” Dorian shouted, racing forward with his staff.

 

Two things happened, but Varric wasn’t sure which was real because they both couldn’t be. Maria’s face darkened as the green energy surrounded her and Dorian. She reached for her bow, but then she was gone. She was gone, glowing hand and red hair and gray eyes, gone. Bianca was in his hands, bolts firing as the Magister deflected and there was chaos from behind him, but it was too late, because Maria Cadash and Dorian were both gone. His head was aching like someone had just split his skull with an axe and the Herald of Andraste was gone...

 

But she wasn’t. The energy obscured them for only a moment and she was there, but her bow was in her hand and it shouldn’t be. Her eyes were shadowed and hard and her jaw was clenched. She was covered in blood and gore, there were bits of something in her hair, and there was a bleeding gash on her arm where a broadsword had been too quick or she’d been too slow. Dorian was gripping onto her with white, trembling fingers. She dropped the bow and Dorian let go of her arm as the amulet the Magister had shattered on the tiles.

Then she lunged forward and punched the magister in the face so hard he fell backwards and cracked his head off the tiles in front of the Arl’s throne.

“Well, that was…” Dorian began, bravado gone.

“Boss!” Iron Bull called and Maria turned to them. He saw now that the gleam in her eyes wasn’t just hatred and pain, but tears that were caught in her eyelashes. Maker, her lip was swollen too. Varric stepped forward, letting Bianca fall to his side.

“Varric!” She exclaimed with something that almost sounded like a sob as she wrapped his arms around his neck and buried her face in his neck. She was trembling, badly. “I’m sorry.” She whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

“What in Maker’s name just happened?” Blackwall demanded, staring at them from his position flanking Sera.

“Cuff the Magister or something, Bull.” Varric pointed his chin towards the prone figure as his son checked for a pulse. “C’mon Princess, it can’t be that bad.” Varric soothed, rubbing a small circle on her back.

“It… it can.” Dorian answered, looking several shades too pale. “Trust me, my friend, it can.”

“I’ll be alright.” Maria mumbled, pulling back and scrubbing her face with the back of her hand. “Maker, it is good to see you.” Her eyes roamed around the room, lighting on everyone once. “All of you, in one piece.”

“You punched that arsehole right in his arsehole.” Sera was gleeful. “It was sexy! Do it again!”

“I’ll see Fenris again, y’know. Someday.” Varric said softly as he grinned. “Wait until I tell him. He may deign to shake your hand. He may even write to Orzammar and demand they make you a Paragon. Punching a magister. It was glorious.”

“Leave out the tears if you write about it, okay?” She asked, smiling. “And the chunks of demon I have stuck in my hair.”

“The chunks of demon in your hair make you relatable.” Varric protested. This got a laugh, a real one, but it didn’t quite erase the shadows in her eyes.

“Your worship! We have company!” An agent called, just seconds before soldiers marched in, followed by a tall man with blonde hair and…

“Shit.” Varric mumbled, quickly brushing his hand through her long locks and dislodging a bit of slime. “That’s the King.” He whispered.

“Grand Enchanter!” Alistair called. “Imagine my surprise when I found out you’d given Redcliffe castle to a Tevinter Magister. It was particularly alarming concerning I checked my records and Redcliffe Castle definitely belongs to Arl Teagan.”

“Your Majesty, we did not intend…” Fiona approached, wringing her hands.

“I know what you intended. I wanted to help you, but you’ve made it impossible.” Alistair glared at her coldly, before looking around. His eyes met Varric’s and Alistair groaned. “Please don’t tell me she’s involved in this.”

“Ah, no. Nowhere near it.” Varric grinned. “May I introduce the Herald of Andraste, Maria Cadash? Heiress to the Cadash family business, closer of rifts, and puncher of said Tevinter Magisters?”

Alistair’s expression brightened as he looked to the Qunari tying up the magister with curtain sashes. “You punched him? Wonderful. I’ve always appreciated a woman who could throw a good punch.”

“Thank you, your Majesty.” Maria dropped into a small, awkward curtsy.

“Your Majesty, we have hundreds who need protection. Where will we go?” Fiona pleaded. Maria coughed a bit into her fist.

“I did come here for mages. There’s still a hole in the sky and a glowing mark on my hand. I’d like them both gone.” She held out her palm in explanation.

“On what terms are these?” Fiona demanded shrilly.

“Hopefully better terms than what Alexius offered. The inquisition is better than that, no?” Dorian pondered.

“Better terms or not, you’ll take them.” Alistair menaced. “And leave Ferelden.”

Everyone was looking at Maria, waiting for her to make a decision. And it was completely illogical, a month ago she’d been in chains, before that simply running a criminal organization. Varric couldn’t think of anyone better to make this decision, though. “I’ve known mages. They’ve been my friends. They’re good people, prone to life ruining mistakes like all other people, but they deserve a chance.” Varric said gently. Hawke, he thought, facing down the Arishok. Daisy standing in front of a mirror. Anders looking so angry as he scribbled over his manifesto. All of them and Fenris, Aveline, Isabela, Sebastian clustered around his table, cards and cups everywhere. Laughter ringing through the air as Hawke shimmied out of her tunic with her losing hand spread before her. Fenris and Anders tried not to stare and Daisy conjured flowers to cover her naked skin. Isabela complained that it was cheating.

“I read your book.” It was so quiet he almost didn’t hear her, couldn’t be sure she’d said it all, because she was looking at Fiona now and smiling brilliantly. “An alliance, between the Inquisition and the mages to close the breach and make Thedas safe.”

“Will the inquisition honor it?” Fiona asked skeptically. Maria took a deep breath.

“Yes.” She answered simply, eyes burning. “They will.”

 

Maria had steeled herself for a fight with Cassandra that never came. The most dissent came from Vivienne, who haughtily complained for thirty minutes that allowing a dwarf of all things to solve the problem was outrageous. “After what she went through, I very well think she’s the best to make a decision about dangerous magic.” Dorian had interrupted the tirade defensively.

That had led to a description of what the two of them had actually went through, an apocalyptic future filled with red lyrium, demons, blood magic, and death.

“What happened to us, yeah?” Sera asked, crossing her skinny arms over her chest. “I bet I shot ‘em full of arrows.”

Dorian and Maria paused, looking at each other uncertainly. “I’m sorry Sera.” Maria began. “You...died to give us a chance to get out. We had to leave you behind.”

“It wasn’t real though, right?” Sera said cheerfully. “Not really real.”

“Seemed real enough.” Maria said glumly, standing. “I need to wash out...this demon shit out of my hair.”

“I’ll accompany you.” Cassandra offered. Maria didn’t fight her as she led the way to the nearby stream, pausing only to grab a bag full of soap and all that sweet smelling junk women couldn’t live without.

“Shall I come too?” Dorian asked, eyes glimmering brightly. “I can scrub your back.”

Cassandra scoffed, but Maria just smiled wearily.

“Some other time.” She said, patting his shoulder affectionately as she passed. Varric’s eyes lingered on her fingers, then trailed to her figure as she walked away just a second too long because when he tore them away he met Iron Bull’s knowing smirk.

“Redheads, right?” Bull chuckled appreciatively.

They spent the night in camp with watch duty divided by the Bull’s Chargers. Slowly, members of the inquisition returned to their bed rolls as the fire died down. Conversations slowly ended, except for the hushed small talk between the chargers. Cassandra’s breathing was steady on his left, asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. On his right, Maria was buried into the blankets, only the top of her head barely visible in the dying firelight. Beside her, Solas was stretched out quietly.

Varric fell in and out of sleep, as he usually did when camped in this spectacularly awful thing called nature. There was almost certainly a rock digging into his arse and he swore he could see bears foraging in the woods nearby. Not to mention the noise of thousands of crickets so loud he could barely hear himself sleep. He stared miserably up at the stars, longingly thinking of his bed back in Kirkwall. It hadn’t been perfect, and he’d spent many a night in his armchair as a drunk human or elf slept it off under his watchful eye, but it’d been home.

He almost didn’t hear the whimper or the choked gasp. He propped himself up on one elbow when he did, letting the blanket fall from his bare chest and trying to pinpoint the sound. It took a moment for him to realize, shockingly, the noise was coming from Maria’s blankets. The only thing more surprising would have been it coming from Cassandra’s. He reached his hand out, tentatively, toward the bed roll. “Maria.” He whispered.

“She is dreaming.” Solas answered, scaring the piss out of Varric. “A side effect of the mark, I’m afraid. The first dwarf to walk the fade.”

“This isn’t a dream, Chuckles.” Varric responded bitterly. He knew nightmares, despite not having them himself. He’d watched Hawke tangle herself up in her sheets after her mother’s murder, he’d heard Fenris pacing and swearing late at night.

“Nightmares can teach us much if we let them.” Solas advised. No they can’t, Varric thought. They were only preventing her from getting the rest she deserved. Varric gripped Maria’s shoulder gently, shaking her.

Her knew she’d woken when she froze, stiff as a board. He could feel her pulse hammering through her soft, warm skin and the flush of heat radiating from her. “It’s alright, Princess.” He soothed. Her muscles loosened and she rolled toward him, her arms circling his neck. Varric moved instinctively, sitting up and pulling her to him as she buried her face into his neck. Andraste’s knickers, he could smell her and she smelled perfect. Her damp hair smelled like lavender and citrus and was so soft and cool against his shoulder. She trembled with emotion in his arms and Varric could feel her breasts pressing against his bare chest, the curve of her hip against his… and he couldn’t think about that anymore or he was going to make things very, very awkward. Instead, he pushed her hair from her face with one hand, stroking up and down the line of her spine with the other. Just one piece of thin cotton between his hand and her creamy skin…

“You died.” She whispered. “You died, they all died, my sister died, and I couldn’t stop it. I let you all die for me.”

“Just a dream, Princess.” Varric murmured into her hair, feeling it against his chin as he ducked his head. “We’re all here, promise.”

“But it was real. I saw it.” Her fingers gripped into his bare arm. “I was there.”

“Now you’re not.” Varric replied just as adamantly, his eyes flicking to Solas, who was sitting as well staring mournfully at Maria’s back. “Can’t you do something?” Varric demanded.

“I’m afraid you are already doing the best thing we can do.” Solas answered cryptically as Varric continued to run his fingers up and down Maria’s back. “My friend, it was only a trick of the fade. You are awake now.”

Solas’s voice pulled her back and he could feel her putting the pieces of herself back together, reassembling the face she showed to the inquisition. Her fingers squeezed his arm again, just a moment. “Maker.” She laughed, throatily and only half-joking. “Your muscles have muscles. That crossbow must be heavier than it looks.”

Varric chuckled as well and allowed her to pull back, feeling the empty cold night air against his skin. “Just don’t make me start carrying logs now that you know my secret.”

“No promises, Tethras.” Maria murmured as she collapsed back into her blankets. The bed roll was even closer to him now, so close he could still smell her hair. She settled back down, eyes fixed on the stars. “Thank you, both of you.”

“Anything to help, Herald.” Solas responded politely. His breathing settled back to sleep quickly, but Varric and Maria both stayed awake and silent, watching the stars fade and pink creep into  the sky.

 

“There will be abominations.” Cullen threatened, indicating the mages that had spread evenly all over Haven. “We don’t have the manpower…”

“Cullen, I’m taking you seriously, I promise, but don’t abominations look a bit like abominations?” Maria questioned, eyes glinting with humor. “I think we’ll all notice them.”

“Not always.” Cullen shot a glare at Varric that Varric refused to acknowledge.

“I’ll keep you safe, Commander.” Maria’s voice was laced with giggles. Beatrix looked up from her blades, grinning wickedly.

“I’ll be his bodyguard. I’m sure it’s a hard job but…” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. Both women descended into laughter as Cullen tried to master his reddening face.

“Cadash, this is not a laughing matter!” Cullen protested.

“Oh, you must be angry if I’m Cadash now instead of Herald. How angry do I have to make you before you use my first name?” Maria asked in mock seriousness. Cullen’s shoulders collapsed in resignation.

“Fine. I will do my best to ensure vigilance.” Cullen grumbled.

“Please don’t antagonize them until after we close the hole in the sky.” Maria requested sincerely, gray eyes widening.

“Then we best close the hole in the sky sooner than later.” Cullen responded, fingers tightening on his sword hilt. “I will escort the chosen mages to the temple, Herald.”

Maria inclined her head in gratitude as Cullen stormed off. “You shouldn’t antagonize Curly.” Varric admonished.

“He makes it far too easy.” Beatrix admitted as her eyes followed the retreating commander. “Especially when it’s such a pleasure to see him storm off.”

“You’re going to kill him, Mittens.” Varric advised. Bea rolled her eyes and shrugged, stretching out her legs.

“I’m going with you.” Bea demanded petulantly as Maria sat up. “Last time you abandoned me here…”

“It can hardly be called abandonment, I couldn’t find you because you were holed up with some scout.” Maria interrupted reasonably.

“You came back with this crazy bullshit story about time travel.” Bea finished with a haughty glare. “I want to see the real story this time.”

“You’ll listen to Cassandra and Cullen, then.” Maria advised, holding up a hand as Bea began to argue. “I mean it Bea, or I’m having the Iron Bull tie you up.”

“Fine.” The woman huffed. “Here, take this before we go.” Bea was undoing the sheath at her waist, a match for the one her sister wore.

“I have the same exact dagger already, Bea. Remember?” Maria said sadly as she watched Bea’s quick fingers undo the knots holding the belt on. “It’s a matching set.”

“I’m only letting you borrow mine.” Bea remarked. “For luck, right?” The deft fingers reached around Maria’s waist, attaching the belt so it lay against Maria’s other hip from the dagger she usually wore. “I’ll want it back, after.” She said sternly.

“Of course.” Maria leaned forward to press her lips against her younger sister’s cheek. “Let’s go.”

The hike back to the temple ruins was a much better experience than the last time they’d fought their way up. First off, no demons raining from the sky. Iron Bull grumbled about the lost opportunity, but Varric could detect an edge of relief as they trudged up the path. Maria laughed at something Dorian said, her head tipped toward him while his hands gestured wildly. Beatrix walked beside her, twirling her brown curls around gloved fingers and examining their ends with a wry smile.

“You are...close to her, yes?” Cassandra asked Varric awkwardly. “The Herald considers you a friend.”  

“It’s because of my charming and irresistible personality.” Varric quipped, hiding his smile as Cassandra sighed in disgust.

“Has she confided what she will do after?” Cassandra pressed. “Her sister is demanding she return to the Free Marches, but she may have been called to something greater.”

“Shit, seeker. Divine callings are beyond my purview.” Varric admitted. “You’d do better to ask her yourself.”

“She does not always appreciate my interference.” Cassandra offered. It was Varric’s turn to snort.

“Seeker, let’s just close the sky first and worry about the future tomorrow.” Varric met Cassandra’s gaze and she nodded, setting her jaw.

Cullen and the Grand Enchanter had the mages settled in a semi-circle facing the breach. Their group grew quiet as they filtered into the temple. “Herald.” Cullen greeted tightly. “The mages await your command.”

“Right, no pressure.” Maria joked weakly, removing her glove. The glowing green mark was revealed and pulsed brightly in response to the breach above them.

“Is this safe?” Bea asked, touching Maria’s elbow.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of your sister.” Cullen reassured kindly. Bea looked anything but reassured as Cassandra rested a gauntlet on the woman’s shoulder and Maria was led forward like an offering to be sacrificed. Her strides were confident, assured.

“I don’t like this, Seeker.” Varric muttered, hefting Bianca into his hands. “Last time we messed with this thing we ended up with a huge ass pride demon.”

“It is in the Maker’s hands.” Cassandra replied.

“Reassuring.” Bea answered, frowning. “Maker, it’s huge this close up.”

Varric watched as Maria approached, holding her hand out. There was tense silence as the grand enchanter and Cullen barked orders. Maria’s hand began to spark and she spared one look over her shoulder for them. Well, perhaps it was for all of them, but to Varric in that moment, it felt like it was just for him as she grinned reassuringly and the energy began to flow.

And then the breach was gone with a sound like thunder and Maria was lowering her hand, flushed and pleased. Cheers went up around them and Bea launched herself out of Cassandra’s grip with a whoop of excitement, landing firmly in Maria’s grasp as Cassandra let out a great sigh of relief. Maria’s arms squeezed her sister, and when she looked back at their group, Varric knew that her small, satisfied smile was just for him.

 

Someone had brought out a fiddle and the music floated headily around the fire accompanied by the sounds of clinking glasses and off key singing. All Varric could smell was woodsmoke and ale. He was leaning against the tavern and observing the dancers, one more than the others if he was being completely honest. Bea had braided Maria’s hair up into small buns on each side of her head and someone had bestowed a wreath of daisies that had been scavenged from Maker knows where to sit on her cockeyed on top her head. She still wore her leathers, but she’d returned the borrowed dagger to her sister and her bow was forgotten near Varric.

Maria twisted in time with the rhythm, her hands clasped tightly in her sister’s as they pulled apart and came together, laughing in abandon with their heads tipped back. Maria’s gray eyes caught the flickering light of the fire and reflected them back at the assembled members of the inquisition as the music stopped and they came to a rest, catching their breath. People clapped and stomped their feet as the dancers bowed. Bea leaned close, whispering something in Maria’s ear before she disappeared into the crowd.

Before anyone else could descend to claim the Herald, Varric was there. He held out his hand with a little bow. “My turn, Princess?” He asked with a quirk of his eyebrow and a wicked grin of his own. Maria’s eyes sparkled as she took his hand when the music started again, allowing him to pull her close.

“I imagine this is a very different dancing than the Merchant’s Guild does.” Maria drawled. “Think you can keep up, Tethras?”

“Company’s better too.” Varric grinned. “Much less…”

“Priggish? Pompous? Stuffy?” Maria supplied helpfully as Varric twirled her away from him and then tugged her back again, her hand resting over the silk shirt, dangerously near bare skin. His own hand dropped to her waist, right where her hip flared out.

“Whereas current company is positively scandalous and disreputable for a religious figure.” Varric teased. She swatted at his chest lightly as she laughed, positively melting into his arms.

“Maybe you should tell everyone else.” She pressed against him, tipping her head up just enough to peer at him from beneath her thick eyelashes. “I’ll need some way to escape this religious movement I accidentally started.”

“Kirkwall is always looking for additional notorious residents.” Varric offered as they spun, his hand trailing even lower down her hip. “I know a pirate captain who loves trouble and wouldn’t mind smuggling you out if we get to a port.”

Something seared in her beautiful eyes and it lit something on fire in Varric. She slowed, tipping her head up more. Varric leaned in, grip tightening on her waist.

“Am I interupting?” Bea asked cheerfully, a grin as wicked as her sister’s on her face. “Sorry, I’m back with that ale if you still want some.”

Varric and Maria both pulled back quickly, hastily turning to Beatrix. Without thinking, Varric rubbed his face with the back of his hand and Maria reached out for the mug Bea was holding. Bea pulled it back with a smirk and inclined her head up toward the chantry. “First, you should go see that gloomy Seeker. She’s looking for you.”

“Fine.” Maria snapped impatiently, taking the mug and disappearing up the stairs without touching it.

“Is that dancing only reserved for my sister?” Bea asked idly, pulling a wicked blade from the sheath at her back and examining the gleaming edge dispassionately.

“I’d be more than willing to dance with the Herald’s charming and deadly younger sister.” Varric offered gamely.

“As long as you remember the deadly part, it’ll all be good.” Bea threatened, fixing her hair in the metal’s reflection before looking up cooly. “I know all about you Tethras. The whole Carta knows all about you and your reputation. If you get my sister caught up in Guild...bullshit, I’ll be very angry.”

“Noted.” Varric answered wryly. “Would you like to dance?”

“I thought you’d never ask.” Bea sheathed her dagger, offering her hands. “Try not to fall onto my face too.”

They’d barely been dancing, he’d barely had a chance to muse on the fact that Bea felt different from her sister in his grasp. Then there were alarm bells and the music fell abruptly silent. Cassandra and Maria raced down the steps, Maria pausing only long enough to grab her bow and toss her quiver over her shoulder.

“Fuck.” Bea swore, pulling away. “Fuck it all.”

Chapter Text

 

Hawke was using a pestle to grind elfroot down at the broad table, swearing cheerfully as she did so. Fenris had a cipher out and the letter from Warden Stroud, but he hadn’t made too much progress on translating it. He was far more fascinated by watching Hawke work, her small clever fingers breaking leaves from stems, mixing ingredients, and squeezing berries. Her fingers were stained blue from her efforts. She had learned, she said, from her father. Despite living in a farming community, the Hawkes weren’t farmers. Leandra had tended a small vegetable patch and herb garden and they’d owned a goat and a few chickens, but their main trade had been medicine. Hawke’s father had been wise in this regard, acting as a village doctor. Hawke had claimed impatience with the whole process, but Fenris had never seen her purchase remedies from elsewhere.

“You’re staring at me.” She accused with a sly grin. “Do I have berries on my nose?”

“Yes.” Fenris answered honestly. “And your cheek.”

Hawke laughed brightly. They were still in the same cabin, waiting for word from Carver, waiting for this response from Stroud. They couldn’t risk moving and missing an important missive. “Have you made any progress?” She indicated the parchment and Fenris nodded.

“A bit. It seems Stroud fears for corruption in the Wardens. I’ve yet to see if he describes the specifics or if he has any information regarding red lyrium.” Fenris answered, raising his fingers to brush at a blue smudge on Hawke’s cheek. “It is difficult to concentrate with all the noise you are making.”

“Well, if you think you can do it quieter…” Hawke began tartly, but stopped suddenly, eyes drawn to the front door. Fenris tensed, standing as Hawke did so. She strode to the doorway and flung it open, staring into the sky and then laughing again, louder. “Fenris, look.”

Fenris joined her, tension easing as her warm smile spread over her face and Lucia ran out from behind her into the yard with a joyful bark.

“It is gone.” He observed. “Perhaps Varric’s inquisition was successful?”

“I’m sure Varric would love to hear it described as his inquisition.” Hawke commented dryly. “I should write to him, congratulate them. He’ll want to tell the story.”

Fenris wrapped his arms around Hawke’s waist from behind her, holding her close to his chest. “Will the nightmares be gone?” He asked quietly.

“They won’t be as bad, no.” Hawke reasoned, reaching her hand up to cup his cheek. “We can try letting you sleep tonight without those herbs and see what happens. Maybe we can all get back to normal now, hm? The villagers said the Inquisitor recruited the rebel mages to do this work. Maybe I’m not a wanted woman now.”

“We can always hope.” Fenris replied, kissing her temple. “You would still return to Kirkwall?”

“It was home, wasn’t it?” Hawke asked, smiling softly.

“You are my home.” The words were immediate and Hawke melted in his arms as he said them, turning to face him and wrapping her arms around his neck. Her fingers, tinged blue, tangled in the hair at the nape of his neck and tugged him down to kiss her gently.

“Now how can I resist you when you’re like this?” Hawke asked, gently coaxing him back inside.

“We still need to read this letter from Stroud.” Fenris protested, a chuckle in his throat as Hawke pushed him gently into his chair. She was in his lap immediately, hands running up his sides, fingertips coasting along the lyrium in his skin.

“Later.” She whispered into his ear with a kiss on his pointed lobe that made him shudder. “I think we should celebrate the return to normal, yes?”

Fenris groaned, letting his head drop onto her shoulder as her tongue played up his ear and she pushed his shirt over his head.

“Later.” He repeated against her heated skin, kissing down her sloping shoulder as his hands wandered to her skirt and found their way underneath the material. “Much later.”

It was Hawke’s turn to laugh as she pulled her own shirt off and Fenris lifted himself off the chair, tightening his grip around her waist and carrying her to the bed where they fell in a tangle of pale limbs and tanned flesh and Fenris kissed his way down her body, removing the offending skirt. Hawke’s body arched toward him off the sheets with an impatient whimper as he traced his fingers back up her sides, up to the breasts she’d left unbound this morning and their hard nipples, aching and wanting.

“I want to see you...” Fenris began, then stopped unsure.

“See me?” Hawke asked, breathless and flushed already.

“See you...touch yourself. Your own breasts.” Fenris admitted. Hawke smirked that maddeningly little tip of her lips.

“Fenris… what else have you been thinking of?” She asked, but her hands were already complying, cupping her full breasts for him, brushing her fingers against her stiff nipples. Fenris’s eyes couldn’t stray from those clever, deft fingers (stained blue, of course) as they rubbed and pinched lightly, causing Hawke to moan louder. Fenris leaned down and kissed her pale, creamy thigh in encouragement. He could feel himself straining as Hawke mewed her need.

“You are beautiful.” He admired her, the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, the flush of her skin and her black hair spread against the white sheets. His fingers traced up her slit, already wet for him and she pressed back against him. Fenris brought his fingers back to his lips and licked her taste from them. She tasted of honey and vanilla, Maker, she was delicious. She looked at him through hooded eyes, breath coming quicker as he tasted before he grinned and lowered his head to her womanhood, letting his breath warm her before he let his tongue flick out and collect the moisture gather there.

“Fenris…” Hawke called out, needy and desperate as he ran the flat of tongue against her folds once, twice, before parting them with his fingers and delving deeper, causing her hips to levitate off the bed. Fenris moaned as well, bringing his lips to that sensitive bundle of nerves and dancing along it, causing her to twist up before he dipped back to her dripping core. Hawke’s fist pounded helplessly on the bed and he reached up to catch it, entwining their fingers together. I love you, he thought as helpless as she felt as he drove her to pleasure. As it crested, Hawke squeezed his fingers and moaned, panting and crying out his name. As she finished, Fenris slid up her body. Her other hand grasped his cheek, pushing his hair from his eyes.

“I love you.” She whispered as he pulled his trousers down. “Fenris, I love you.”

“I love you.” He whispered back as he slid into her velvet sheath, entwining their fingers again. “I love you.” He took her slowly, leisurely, allowing their pleasure to build. And then they shattered apart together, in each other’s arms.

 

They dozed the rest of the afternoon until hunger convinced Fenris to move. He shifted Hawke’s weight as she complained sleepily and stood, throwing his trousers back on and opening the door. Lucia was outside, chewing on a bone and looked up with a wag of her tail. He allowed her back in and she settled on the bed with Hawke as he took stock of their food stocks, pulling out some cured meat and potatoes.

“Stew?” Hawke asked, opening her eyes and pinning him with her gaze.

“Stew.” Fenris confirmed. “Are you hungry, amata?”

“Starving.” Hawke stretched like a cat, the sheet falling away from her body. She sat up with a yawn, reaching for her blouse. As she shrugged it on, Lucia stood and tipped her head inquisitively, listening.

“What is it, girl?” Hawke asked, stroking the silky nose of the mabari. “Rabbits? Pigeons?”

Slowly, the mabari sank into a crouch, her hackles raising as a low growl rumbled in her throat. Hawke pulled her hand back quickly and shot a worried look to Fenris. Fenris threw the food down, reaching for his sword. “Get dressed.” Fenris ordered as he slipped silently to the door, opening it a crack and straining his ears. He could hear, distantly, the clank of metal and marching feet. Soldiers?

“An army.” Fenris explained for Hawke’s benefit as she pulled on her skirt. “Why not use the main roads? Why march through the woods?”

“They don’t want to be seen?” Hawke guessed. “How close?”

“Too close, but perhaps they will pass by.” Fenris mused. Hawke snapped her fingers and the fire in the grate was doused. With a gesture, Lucia fell silent as they waited, breaths held. Fenris counted the seconds, then the minutes. It was like a never ending parade without any of the joy. Finally, the marching became less loud as the tail end of the group passed, then descended into stragglers. Fenris allowed himself a breath of relief before he heard voices and his head shot up. Hawke heard them as well and was reaching for her staff as the door shuddered violently in front of Fenris, a gauntleted hand thumping it loudly. Fenris held up a hand to still Reyna before slowly pulling open the door, his sword hidden in his other hand.

“A knife-ear in the woods!” The man exclaimed, in heavy armor. Templar armor. There were four others behind him with the same armor, but something was...wrong. Very wrong. They seemed to be glowing...red. His lyrium markings were itching all over and his shoulders tensed at the slur.

“Can I help you?” Fenris asked, moving his body to occupy the door fully and block the darkened interior from view.

“We need food.” Another templar jeered. “We’ll take whatever you have.”

“A moment, then.” Fenris acquiesced, feeling slightly sickened. “I will bring it outside.”

“Oy, what ya hidin’ in there, knife-ear?” Another templar asked with a loud laugh that echoed wrongly in the air. “A woman? We’ll take her too.”

“Wait! This knife-ear is familiar… what’s the name of that one in the book about the apostate whore?” The last templar asked. Damn Varric to the void, Fenris thought as he took a step back, swinging the sword out in front of him and plunging it into the waiting neck of the first templar before the others could react. Blood gushed onto the door jamb and he felt the pull of Hawke’s mana and ducked to avoid the blast of flame that launched over his head into the face of the second. He slammed out the door into the open air where he was able to move. Lucia was on his heels, then on the templar who was clutching his melting helmet. Her jaws closed around his arm as he reached for his sword and Fenris heard a ripping sound. Fenris swung his blade around, catching another templar in the breastplate and sending him staggering, just in time for frost to spring up around his ankles and anchor him in place. “Lucia!” She called and the dog turned to the new target, lunging with enough force to break the man’s frozen ankles. Three down, two to…

There was the fourth and fifth, the fifth cranking a crossbow and the fourth lunging at him, but not with a blade. To his dawning horror, Fenris realized the man was lunging toward him with his arm, or what had been his arm. Whatever this had been, was now glowing, poisonous, and wicked sharp red lyrium. The other templar was aiming his crossbow at the door of their cabin where Reyna stood, channeling flames into the templar who was trying to stick his sword into Lucia’s side after he’d fallen. “Hawke!” Fenris called desperately, but she wouldn’t be fast enough to dodge. Fenris knew this. If he had been wearing his plate, if he had been prepared this wouldn’t have mattered. As it was, he only had one choice. He weaved past the swinging templar, felt the sickly red lyrium graze over his bare ribs. Just a gash, Fenris thought as the pain struck him violently. Hawke would fix it easily. His hand struck through the other templar’s breast plate and grasped his heart, the diseased, fevered thing falling quickly to his strength. The templar he had left behind him screamed and Fenris could see an inferno raging out of the corner of his eye as he pulled back from the corpse, letting it fall in front of him. His hand went to his ribs immediately, feeling the warm blood squishing through his fingers.

Maker, his side was on fire. It was getting worse, causing his vision to blur. He felt the lyrium lines in his skin thrumming, vibrating as if they’d rip themselves out of his flesh. He felt the scream leave his throat as he fell to the ground himself, shaking. A dog was howling and…

Danarius was pouring the lyrium into his oozing cuts and he was manacled to a table and begging for it to stop.

“Fenris!” He heard someone scream, but it felt so far away. The pain was too much, too great. “You’ll be alright.” He heard someone mumble, panicked. “It’ll be alright, amatus.” the voice was so quiet, and he screamed again, before the darkness took him.

 

He couldn’t tell time anymore, couldn’t count days. Everything was pain, like his bones had all been shattered one by one with a mallet. He didn’t know where he was, only that he was desperately thirsty and that he was slowly, painfully dying.

Sometimes, he thought he was back in the blue room of Danarius’s mansion. That room with its intricate carved woodwork, the constellations painted in gold on the ceiling, and the blood stained table in the middle of the floor, over a drain for easy clean up. Such a beautiful room to die in, he’d thought several times as Danarius perfected his marks. And he’d prayed to the Maker for death, to spare him. But the Maker doesn’t listen to slaves, his only hope had been to beg his Master. And he did, begged for the pain to stop. He begged now, his vision blurry and whole body trembling. He felt cool liquid poured down his throat and he sipped it, grateful for the small courtesy. His cracked, useless lips tumbled praises for his master’s mercy and hot splashes of salty liquid fell on his face, brushed away quickly.

“You are not a slave.” A voice whispered. The words were familiar, the voice was familiar. It reminded him of soft things, red covers over a large bed, wine on his tongue and his stomach full of good things. Cards on a table, laughter tinkling like bells and a smile like sin. The most beautiful blue eyes Fenris had ever seen. But no - those things were not  real. A fever dream, he thought desperately, the last hopes and wishes of a dying slave. Then thoughts were gone as the pain redoubled and he shook and screamed until he was hoarse.

He thought when he awoke he was chained in Hadriana’s room and she stood above him with a cruel smirk. “Stop.” He pleaded, the manacles digging into his skin. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because I can.” She answered, then sent magic spiraling through his markings, lighting them on fire. This was her favorite torment, with no marks for Danarius to complain about. She laughed, the sound harsh and unnaturally loud in the small space. Her hand fisted in his hair and held his eyes to hers as the pain subsided. “Next time you’ll be faster, yes?” Then the agony began again, building slowly and redoubling as he begged for mercy.

“Fenris…” Her eyes were suddenly sad then, and the brightest blue in Hadriana’s face. Fenris shook his head desperately, the pain was too great without this added torture. He squeezed his eyes shut and he endured.

There were lash marks bleeding down his back and Fenris could not reach to take care of them. He could feel the blood oozing and the pain of his torn flesh sent tremors down his flesh. He tried to be still, to stop the pain from spreading as someone approached. He wasn’t afraid, he knew those steps. She drew in a gasp, then let it all out, but her voice shook as she came closer. “Oh, Leto…” She said softly as she came into view, her red hair braided and falling over her shoulder as she knelt before him, tears in her big green eyes when she gently took his hands. “You should not have…”

“I will bear it.” His voice answered, terse with pain. “We’ll clean it up before mother sees.”

“Yes.” Varania said softly, his unmarked skin tan against hers. Her fingers were glowing, the lightest blue. “Let me do what I can.”

“Leave the marks or they’ll know and it will be for nothing.” He ordered. Varania swallowed tightly and nodded, a tear falling down her cheek that Fenris (no, Leto) brushed away. “I’ll protect you, Varania.” He swore.

 

Weak sunlight streamed through the paper covered windows. Fenris stirred, feeling weak as a newborn kitten. His whole body felt stiff and tender, like he’d been beaten for days straight. He tried to move his arms, but they felt like lead, clumsy and heavy. He turned his head instead, taking in his surroundings. At first he didn’t know this place, but then he did. It was a fishing hut they’d used twice that was on the shore of Lake Calenhad. Hawke didn’t like it because she could see the empty circle tower jutting out miles from shore. Her parents would never have liked being so close to it, she’d explained. How did he get here? Where was…

There she was, looking absolutely exhausted and eyes glaze over as she stared at the table, lost in thought, picking dirt from under her nails. There were dark shadows under her eyes and her hair was twisted up in a bun with bedraggled strands falling lose. Something heavy shifted at the bottom of the bed and Fenris looked down at a pair of bright brown eyes that were looking at him mournfully. Fenris attempted to shift up, but the movement brought a stab of pain to his side and he gasped in surprise, breath drawn into a low hiss.

“Stop!” Hawke ordered, standing suddenly, blue eyes boring into him. “You’ll rip it back open, again.”

Fenris froze, sinking back into the bed and catching his breath. Hawke stood where she was, eyes glimmering faintly with hope. “Are you...are you really awake? Do you know who I am this time?”

This time? Fenris repeated her words in his head, puzzled. The expression on his face caused her eyes to dim sadly and Fenris rushed out the words. “Hawke. Reyna Hawke.” He answered quickly. “Reyna.” He repeated softly as she covered her mouth with a shaking hand. “What happened?” He asked.

“It’s been four days.” Hawke’s voice shook into her hand. “You’ve been almost dead for four days. Maker, you didn’t even know… you thought…” Tears sprung into Hawke’s eyes and Fenris struggled to sit up, slowly this time. She was at his side in a moment, holding him down. She shouldn’t have been able to, he was much stronger, but he felt so weak… “You thought you were back in Tevinter. Shit, you thought I them and I was hurting you. I had to hurt you. Maker, I thought I was going to kill you trying to save you.” Tears were falling down her face now and she wiped them away with the back of her hand.

“It wasn’t that bad, it was only a gash.” Fenris repeated, thinking to the blow he’d taken to stop the crossbow. “I remember.”

“It was poison!” Hawke exclaimed. “Fenris, it poisoned you, it tried to corrupt all this damn lyrium.” She gestured at his skin, frustrated. “I couldn’t heal it… I kept pouring energy into it and it kept trying to spread. I had to… I had to cut some of the lyrium out, what had touched the red stuff. In the middle of a battlefield, and I still thought I was too late…” She broke down into sobs then, sinking to her knees by the bed. “I nearly lost you.” She whispered, burying her head into the sheets near his arm.

“You cut them out?” Fenris repeated, dumbfounded. “The lyrium?” He moved his fingers, slowly, down his ribs until he felt gauze stretched over his ribs, a patch larger than his palm.

“I had to, the red stuff was spreading.” She explained through her sobs. Lucia gently padded off the bed and onto the floor, placing her large head on Hawke’s shoulder. “I didn’t know what I was doing… when I started, I had to fight against whatever the fuck blood magic Danarius used to make it stick. I had to keep healing you. You spiked a fever and you were still in so much pain… I thought maybe the magic he used was finally killing you. I’ve been trying to keep you alive ever since. Yesterday evening was the first day I thought… I thought you may make it. I was convinced you were dying.”

“I am alive, Reyna.” Fenris said gently, covering her hand with his own. “I am well.”

“Barely.” Hawke sobbed.

“How did we get here?” Fenris prodded. Hawke choked down a hysterical laugh.

“I couldn’t risk… the red templars coming back when I’d poured all my mana and exhausted all our lyrium and healing potions. I stole a cart and a horse from the village and came straight here. It took two days, but I couldn’t think of anywhere closer but Haven and…”

“The Seekers are at Haven.” Fenris said. Hawke laughed harshly, eyes dimming again.

“No, void take the seekers. I’d have gone there if I could, I was going to. To save you, let them take me. Anything.” She responded. “But...that’s where the army was going. I heard...yesterday from a fisher that it’s gone. Haven’s gone. An avalanche took the town, all of its inhabitants, and most of the templar army.”

Fenris felt a lump rise in his throat as he whispered one word. “Varric?”

Hawke burst into tears again as an answer, shoulders heaving as she clutched Fenris’s hand. She continued to sob as Fenris closed his eyes, feeling the burn in his throat.

Chapter Text

 

Then the Maker said:
To you, My second-born, I grant this gift:
In your heart shall burn
An unquenchable flame

 

By the time they were at the gate, Maria was talking to a lad who was panicked, indicating the corpses of templars on the ground and blathering about an elder one. “Easy…” Maria soothed, as the boy pointed above them at a creature that looked...disturbingly familiar flanked by a templar that also looked quite familiar.

“The elder one?” Cullen repeated as they stared up at the advancing army.

“He’s very angry you took his mages.” The boy said. “Very angry.”  

It couldn’t be...Hawke had killed him. Hell, Broody himself had stabbed the corpse through the heart just to be sure.

“Cullen, please tell me you have a plan.” Maria pleaded.

“Haven is no fortress. If we are to withstand this assault, we must control the battle. Hit them with everything we have.” He indicated the trebuchets then turned to shout orders. “Mages! You have sanction to engage them! That is Samson, he will not make it easy. Inquisition, with the Herald! For our lives, for all of us!”

“Sister!” Bea called, rushing to her side. “I’m with you.”

“The trebuchets must remain clear.” Cassandra readied her shield and sword. “We must help the soldiers.”

Gathering around them now was Vivienne, Solas, Dorian, Sera, Blackwall, and Iron Bull. All of the allies that had been painstakingly recruited over weeks. “Bull, your chargers and you can keep one clear. Sera, Blackwall, and Solas can go with the main inquisition forces. The rest, with me.” Maria swept her hand as Bea, Cassandra, and Vivienne followed.

Bea was at her sister’s back, knives flashing in a deadly dance Varric had the feeling was well rehearsed. A spinning blade sunk into a templar’s eye as an arrow flew over it’s head. Cassandra’s shield caught pure red lyrium blasted from men turned into monsters. And Varric kept shooting as Vivienne’s flames licked past his face.

“Herald!” A group of soldiers screamed, overwhelmed. She was there in an instant, felling three men before Varric could turn, melting into the shadows as her sister surged forward. The trebuchet behind them fired to life, letting projectiles fire as they loaded it again, and yet the templars kept coming.

“I think I’m reconsidering religion.” Bea wiped blood from her face as she sunk her blade in between a man’s rib cage. “Seems a damn bloody business.”

“If Nanna could see us now.” Maria growled as she strung two arrows into her bow at once, letting them both fly. “Cassandra, cover!” She shouted as she ducked behind the trebuchet and Cassandra’s shield took the blow from a templar.

“One more shot on that mountain!” Varric called. “It can’t take much more, and…” Bianca let lose another bolt, imbedding itself in the grating of a man’s helmet. The trebuchet fired again, hitting the mountain as they finished the last of the attacking templars. The snow fell down in a mighty wave, burying men alive under tons of rock and snow. Maria cheered and it was joined by all the soldiers around them.

It was cut short by an unholy screech that made all the hairs on Varric’s neck stand up straight. “Shit.” He swore as a great, large beast soared above them. “Shit. Shit.

The dragon had to be larger than the whole damn village, and when it opened its mouth flame spewed at one of the trebuchets, Bull and his chargers jumping away just in time as it exploded into shrapnel and flaming bits. Beatrix screamed next to him as several inquisition soldiers burst into flame. Maria pulled her back quickly, her voice rising above the fray. “Fall back!” She ordered. “Fall back!”

The dragon made another pass, fire falling from the sky as they ran. Varric pushed soldiers ahead of him into the gates, Maria shooting at red templars as the troops retreated. Varric gripped on Maria’s arm, pulling her back. “Come on!” He yelled. “This isn’t the time for damn heroics!”

Cullen was waiting to close the gates, shouting at them to move as Vivienne and Cassandra rushed in and Varric arrived with the two dwarves on either side. “We need everyone back at the chantry! It’s the only building that may stand against that monster!” He yelled to the troops.

“Cullen, what can we…” Maria began, but stopped at the dreadful look on Cullen’s face, the bleak drawn face of despair. Varric felt his heart sink to his knees.

“At this point, just make them work for it.” Cullen said softly as he ran off with the soldiers. Maria stood, swaying and turned to Beatrix.

“You shouldn’t have come here.” She reached out, her fingers digging into her sisters forearm. “You shouldn’t be here. You were safe.

“Too late now.” Beatrix pressed her lips into a thin line, wiping her bloody daggers on her leathers. “Let’s make them work for it.”

Maria straightened, nodding. Their small group began making their way up to the chantry, stopping to fight templars, to pull villagers from burning victories. Everytime, Maria’s eyes grew a bit brighter and Varric felt hope sparking. They could save Sigrun and Flissa, they could save Adan and Minaeve. They could save Threnn and they could save Haven, somehow. If anyone could…

The kid who had arrived with the dire warning was carrying the cleric who kept trying to arrest Maria. “He tried to stop a red templar.” The kid explained softly as he carried the man. “The blade went deep, he’s going to die.”

“What a nice young man.” The cleric coughed, hacking up bright blood as Maria barred the door to the chantry behind them, Beatrix and Cassandra by her side. Vivienne looked a mess, sweaty and covered in ash.

“Herald!” Cullen called. “Our position is not good. That dragon stole back any time you may have bought us.”

“An archdemon.” The kid said. “An archdemon looks like that.”

“Archdemon or no, they’ll kill everyone in Haven.” Cullen finished, shoulders slumping. Maria bit her lip, looking at the door.

“The elder one doesn’t care about Haven or the people. He only wants to kill the Herald.” The kid said, cradling Chancellor Roderick as he lowered the old man to a chair.

“Me?” Maria said, shocked. “Andraste’s ass, Cole, why me?”

“Because you are too bright? I don’t know. He’s too loud.” Cole, the kid, answered.

“Too loud.. For the love of. Herald, we can only do one thing. Another hit to the mountain and we can bury the force.” Cullen argued.

“We’re overrun. We’d bury Haven.” Maria pointed out.

“Herald…” Cullen began, then stopped. “Maria, we’re dying. Most people don’t get to choose how.”

Shocked silence fell and Maria ran her bloody, scraped hands through her hair. The braids that had been tucked so cleverly up when he danced with her earlier had fallen, strands coming loose and sticking up in a rather unattractive way. He should have kissed her, Varric thought, even though they’d been interrupted. It would have been a good way to end, and damn the consequences.

“Yes, that will work.” Cole said suddenly, relief in his voice. “Chancellor Roderick knows a way.”

“The summer pilgrimage...it must be the Maker’s will.” The old man groaned. “I am probably...the only one who didn’t perish at the conclave who knows the way. It’ll take us into the mountains. We can get there from the back of the Chantry.”

“There’s a way.” Maria repeated, eyes lighting up. “Cullen, we can make it out.”

“Perhaps...perhaps we can evacuate everyone into the mountains while the force is distracted. Someone will need to stay...to fire the trebuchet.” Cullen and Maria’s eyes locked and Maria nodded, steel set in her jaw.

“It’s me this elder one wants. He won’t follow if I stay.” Maria said.

“There won’t be enough time, the trebuchet…” Cullen stopped, studying Maria’s face then sighing. “Maker, maybe you’ll surprise it. Find a way. We’ll send a flare when we’re away, Herald.”

Maria nodded, clasping Cullen’s arm with a wry smile before turning back towards the door, shoulders straight. “I’m coming with you!” Beatrix yelled, knives ready.

“Bea…” Maria began.

“No! I know a way. I just need some rope and a lantern and enough time to rig it.” Bea spoke excitedly, eyes flashing. “We’ll set it to fire and give ourselves time to run.”

“Enough time?” Maria asked skeptically, but Cassandra was already picking up a lantern and Varric was uncoiling rope from beside the chantry doors.

“We’re coming too, Princess.” Varric started.

“After all, a proper mage would ensure a chance of success.” Vivienne sniffed as she approached the door. “I will keep them off of you while you work, my dear.” Maria smiled softly.

“I’d argue more, but Maker, I’d hate to do this alone.” She whispered, unbarring the door. “Let’s go.”

One working trebuchet, that was all they had left, but that was all they needed. Beatrix knelt in the snow, examining the gears of the siege equipment as red templars approached. “Bea… I’m not sure how much time we can give you.” Maria began, cocking her bow.

“Enough. I just need enough.” She huffed, pulling the rope from Varric. “Help her!” She pushed him away, eyes so dark in her panic he could hardly see the gray in them. Vivienne held the lantern aloft and loomed over the dwarf while Cassandra rushed the opposing forces. Varric took his position next to Maria, readying Bianca. “Ready?” She asked.

“Ready.” He answered, and then the arrows flew. Waves of arrows, but they kept coming. Maria was scavenging her own fletched arrows from the corpses of templars as they ran circles around the trebuchet and was forced to use her bow to whack a templar across the face before driving that dagger at her waist into his throat.

“It’s done!” Beatrix shouted from behind him. He turned to see Vivienne, nearly overwhelmed, ice spinning and cracking. “I can set it…”

“Not yet!” Maria screamed as she grabbed two arrows. “We have to wait for the flare!”

“Herald!” Cassandra yelled, warning Maria of the arrival of a behemoth behind her. She ducked quickly out of the way and it headed for Vivienne and Beatrix. Vivienne’s spells did nothing and the beast continued. Cassandra tried to push through the templars surrounding her, Varric fired off three bolts that bounced harmlessly off. Maria landed an arrow in the creatures eye and it roared, throwing it’s massive fist of red lyrium down into the snow, between Vivienne and Beatrix. Vivienne fell with a cry, but Beatrix jumped, clinging onto the creature’s arm.

Varric felt like the world was caught in slow motion as it reared her up and slammed it’s fist back down, Beatrix barely hanging on. Her knives flashed and he heard Maria scream as Maria stabbed her knives through a chink in the lyrium and the creature screeched in pain, tossing the dwarf off with a roar. Beatrix soared through the air, her head bouncing off the trebuchet before she landed, still in the snow.

“NO!” Maria yelled as Cassandra finally broke free, bashing the creature down with her shield and stabbing through the things mottled, ruined body. Maria was on her knees next to her sister, head cradled in her head as Vivienne stood, shakily, leaning on her staff as she limped to the dwarves.

“She is alive, my dear.” Vivienne said, leaning close. “She was foolish, and very brave.”

“I know.” Maria sounded choked, her eyes looking up and sparkling. “She’s breathing. Her head is bleeding.”

“Head wounds bleed like a stuck nug.” Varric reminded Maria gently. “We’ll get her out of here.”

“Take her.” Maria was looking up at him, tears shining in her eyes. “I’ll set the lantern to burn through the rope when the flare goes. You’ll have to carry her, Cassandra will have to help Vivienne. You’ll need a head start.”

“No. We don’t leave people behind, remember?” Varric asked, kneeling down. “You said that.”

“You’re not leaving me behind. I’ll be right behind you, I promise. Please, please take her. I’ll never forgive myself if…” Maria trailed off, leaning down to brush her lips over Bea’s forehead.

Varric was transported back to the deep roads, Hawke bending over Carver’s fevered face and pouring water down his throat as Anders rushed them through the tunnels searching for the gray wardens. She had kissed his forehead the same way, and Varric couldn’t remember anyone ever doing that to him. That, he thought grimly, was love. And sometimes, love demanded doing whatever it took to save someone. Varric finally nodded reluctantly, looking up at Cassandra. Cassandra looked out over the, momentarily, quiet battlefield. The screech of the dragon was getting louder again, if it took out the trebuchet.

“Go.” Maria pleaded, standing. Varric stooped down, hefting the dwarf’s weight into his arms. Maria brushed back hair from her sister’s face tenderly, looking up at him, at Cassandra and Vivienne. “Right behind you.”

Cassandra turned, hooking Vivienne’s spare arm over her shoulders as the woman limped. Varric hesitated, just a moment, to take in the sight of Maria against the trebuchet, Haven burning around her. “I’ll see you in the mountains, Princess.” He said softly.

Maria’s wet eyes reflected the fire burning around them as she leaned in, over her sister, her hand gripping his shirt sleeve. Her warm, dry lips brushed against his cheek and she shoved him away. “Go.” She demanded again, turning her back to him and pulling her bow free to face any more templars that came, alone.

It was a mad dash through the abandoned chantry, stumbling onto the mountain path and following the trail tread through the snow by all the refugees and pilgrims. “Varric, do you need me to carry her?” Cassandra asked.

“I’ve got her, Seeker. Rather you keep that sword arm free.” Varric shifted Beatrix warm weight, comforting among the smell of ash and smoke. She smelled a bit like her sister, the citrus was the same underneath the smell of blood. They must have used the same soap.

The ground trembled and Varric almost stumbled forward as they both looked down the hill, towards the Chantry. “It is the dragon. It must have landed.” Vivienne observed.

“Do you think she’s set the lantern?” Cassandra asked. Varric swore.

“No, she fucking didn’t, seeker. There hasn’t been a flare.” Varric watched, pinned in place.

“We must continue on.” Cassandra said, lips thin. “It is what she wanted.”

“She’s going to die! She can’t survive a dragon!” Varric protested.

“Or she is already dead.” Cassandra dropped her eyes to the ground, the only indication of grief the tight line of her jaw and her clenched fist. “And you carry the thing she most wanted to save.”

Varric tightened his hold on his burden, staring back at Haven as Cassandra and Vivienne continued to stagger, before her reluctantly began to follow them again, trudging through the snow. It wasn’t too late, her footsteps would ring out from behind them and she’d race past him with her wicked smile, bow slung over her back. She didn’t come. He could hear voices ahead of them, the stragglers of the Haven refugees? Then a flare soared into the sky over their heads and all three of them turned to watch what happened in the valley below. There was a heartbeat where it seemed nothing would, but then the groan of trebuchet could be heard. The heavy stone projectile soared through the air, into the mountain and the dragon soared upwards as the snow began to fall, gathering speed and debris.

Now, he would surely hear her coming up the path, laughing. Varric waited with Cassandra and Vivienne, waited as the red templars were crushed, waited as Haven disappeared in snow, fires went out. He even waited as an eerie quiet fell over the whole scene and the roar of the dragon grew faint, but nothing happened. “She is gone.” Vivienne said, swaying. “Maker take her to his side.”

“No.” Varric responded harshly, feeling the breath catch in his throat. “What the fuck is the point in a Maker who gives you a herald, then takes her like that?”

“I do not know.” Cassandra answered sadly.

 

A healer took Beatrix from him as they caught up to the main body of the inquisition, but Varric stayed by her side in the makeshift tent. Dawn was lighting the sky and Cullen and Cassandra were talking in low tones. Cullen looked unbearably forlorn as he looked back the way they came. The woman beside him groaned as she stirred, hand going to her head. “Fuck… feel like a horse ran me over.”

“Basically.” Varric tried to smile as he looked at her, her grey eyes cracking open just a bit to take him in. “Giant red lyrium monster, horse, same thing.”

“Where’s Maria?” She asked. Varric had prepared, he knew what he needed to say, but the words stuck in his throat as he stared helplessly into those eyes that were perfect matches for her sister’s. She’d never be able to look in a mirror again without seeing that, he thought. His mouth opened and closed a few times.

“Shit…” Varric mumbled.

“Where. Is. Maria.” The woman asked again, pushing herself up too fast. She swayed dangerously and Varric reached out to steady her.

“Saying it makes it real and he is afraid to hurt you, though he has to.” Cole began from where he sat, perched next to the dying Chancellor. “Brave and bold, red hair shining. Pleading to take you and go. Said she’d be there, but wasn’t and we waited. I wanted her to be alive. She was beautiful and heroic and shouldn’t have died alone.”

“What?” Beatrix asked, her voice breaking on the one syllable. “Varric, what is he…”

“I’m sorry. She asked us to go. She said she’d be right behind us, but…” Varric took a deep breath as all the color Beatrix had regained drained from her face again. “She buried Haven, but she didn’t get out in time. She saved us.”

“No.” Bea shook her head, bringing her fist up to her lips, the word skating over her shaking knuckles. “No, no. ” The second no was louder, causing Cassandra and Cullen to stop and look, their faces dropping immediately.

“The Herald…” Vivienne began, kindly enough.

“Fuck your Herald!” Beatrix screamed, bringing her fist up to connect weakly against Varric’s arm, his chest. “She was my sister! My sister ! You left her! How could you!”

“Ma’am, your stitches.” A healer said, concerned, kneeling beside Beatrix. Sobs broke free of the woman’s chest as she curled in on herself, wrapping her arms around her knees and letting out a keening wail.

“Child, your sister saved hundreds of people, including you.” Vivienne persisted, but not unkindly as she limped gracefully over and sat next to the battered woman. “She is worth grieving, but do not diminish her sacrifice.”

“Not a sacrifice. Paper dolls on the floor of nanna’s kitchen, Maria’s hands in my hair while she’s trying to tame the curls. Laughing when they tumble free. Sacrifices are for chess, not people.” Cole mumbled.

“Lovely, take it away, will you?” Vivienne asked as she stroked Beatrix’s hair. Varric stood.

“C’mon kid, lets take a walk.” Varric gestured, pulling the boy from the tent.

“I want to help, but I don’t know how yet.” Cole reasoned.

“Some things can’t be helped, kid.” Varric answered.

“Should’ve gone back, shouldn’t have left. Should’ve kissed her. Red hair shining in the flames as she pulls her bow. The Maker was supposed to keep her safe.” Cole responded, looking down at his hands.

“Things like that kid.” Varric sighed, patting the lad’s elbow. “Things like that can’t be helped.”

“Vivienne thinks I’m a demon, but you think I’m a kid. She thought I was a kid.” Cole remarked.

“Shit, I don’t know. Do you want to be a kid?” Varric asked.

“Maybe?” Cole answered, tilting his head to the side. “Do kids help?”

“Sure, why not.” Varric answered with a shrug.

“She thought you were very handsome when you danced, even your broken nose.” Cole paused, drumming his fingers nervously against his skinny thigh. “Does that help?”

Varric couldn’t help the wistful smile. “Maybe.”

 

They trudged through the snow the best they could with frequent stops, although Varric suspected they were hopelessly lost. Some carts had been salvaged from Haven and they carried their meager supplies and their injured. Most of their inquisition continued to look over their shoulders as the day passed, waiting for the templars or the dragon to appear and finish the job. They got further and further and further from Haven, but nobody seemed relieved. Maker, Varric wished he had a better coat as the wind whipped through his jacket. He couldn’t feel his feet either.

Would Hawke hear what happened? He’d have to figure out how to get word to them, warn them that templars were even more dangerous than usual and break the good news of his survival. But these thoughts, these fleeting temporary thoughts were distractions. If he closed his eyes during one of their rests and tried hard enough to block out everyone else, he could feel Maria’s waist under his palm, her body pressed against his chest as she leaned up. Warmth, happiness…

Red hair gleaming in the firelight. He sighed, rubbing his forehead as their moving caravan ground to their last stop, the sky darkening quickly. “What is that thing?” Beatrix asked from behind him, scaring the pants just about off him. She was eying Cole uncertainly from the corner of her eye as he helped Chancellor Roderick.

“Maker knows.” Varric sighed.

“He’s in my head.” Beatrix answered shortly. “He’s in your head.”

Varric didn’t see the point in denying it, he just nodded glumly. Beatrix swallowed. “Everyone keeps talking like she was fucking Andraste. But she wasn’t, you knew that too. You wanted to see her naked, yeah, but you knew she was a person.”

“Honestly, wouldn’t stop Andraste from showing me her tits if she was so inclined.” Varric answered wryly. Beatrix tried to laugh, but couldn’t quite make it work. She was keeping her gray eyes pointed at the ground and Varric was secretly thankful. He couldn’t bear them in someone else’s face. “C’mon Mittens, let’s see if we can eat something.”

“Why Mittens?” She asked dully.

“You remind me of a cat that used to hang around Kirkwall. Was always chasing the other cats tails but once clawed a dog so badly that the poor bastard developed a lifelong fear of cats.” Varric explained and was rewarded by a small smile.

“Yeah, that sounds just like me.” She agreed.

Night fell, and they spent most of it not talking. Cassandra and Cullen wanted to look for stragglers, but hadn’t set out yet. Varric wanted to go, but he knew he wouldn’t find the face he was looking for out in the cold night.

“Dark, dark.” Cole muttered. “Embers, warm. Close?”

“Cole…” Beatrix started, tone warning.

“Warm thoughts, sun on the waking sea. Blanket we wrapped the kittens up in when they were born. Flask of whiskey in my sister’s belt, his hand on my waist when he spun me and pulled me close, stubble under my lips when I told him to go… Maker, just a bit father. To the next tree, and I’ll rest.”

Beatrix was staring, aghast at Cole, but Varric was already up. “Where?” He demanded.

“There. She’s so cold.” Cole pointed over the rise and Varric ran, forgetting the cold, plowing through the snow. Beatrix was behind him as they crashed forward, searching the darkness.

“Maria!” Beatrix called. “Maria!”

Something moved out of the corner of his eye and Varric was there, pulling up a figure more frozen than not, smoothing red hair away from her pale face as she stared up at him. Her teeth chattered together as she tried to talk. “You’re alive. You survived.” Varric was dumbfounded, a grin almost feeling foreign on his face. “You survived.”

“It’s a talent.” She was almost incomprehensible as she spoke, her voice a harsh whisper.

“Maria!” Beatrix was there, pulling her frozen form into her arms. Maria winced as her sister grabbed her and Bea froze. “You’re hurt.”

“A bit.” Maria admitted, voice broken. Then her eyes rolled until Varric could see nothing but white and she pitched forward. Varric rushed forward, catching her in his arms. He could feel something warm and sticky seeping into his tunic.

“Run back and get help.” Varric ordered as he swung her frozen limbs into his arm. She was like ice against his chest, her head lolling bonelessly against his shoulder. Beatrix didn’t need told twice, taking off as fast as her legs could take her, clambering up the rocky slope. Varric followed, slower, trying not to jostle her more than necessary and running his hands briskly along her limbs. Her breath was faint against his neck. He made it to the top of the slope just in time to see Cullen and Cassandra, looking amazed and faintly hopeful.

“It is her. Maker be praised.” Cassandra gasped. “Is she…”

“She’s hurt.” Varric explained. Cullen met him, bending down to lift Maria’s form from his arms. Varric had to fight the urge to pull her closer, to argue. Cullen lifted her as gently as a child, and she looked almost childlike in his arms, swallowed up by the much bigger human. His arms felt empty and his heart ached as they rushed away. He followed on their heels, watching as the survivors of Haven grew quiet, awed at the sight of their Herald’s red hair splayed over Cullen’s armor.

Adan was waiting with Beatrix as Cullen laid her gently on a cot. “She’s freezing.” Cullen explained. Adan ordered a fire to be built up closer to them as he began to undo her leathers, cutting away what he couldn’t unlace.

“Varric…” Maria’s voice mumbled as he worked. Her eyes weren’t open, but he could see her head moving slightly to the side. Varric almost elbowed Cullen aside in his rush to be next to her.

“Right here, Princess.” He said, reaching forward to work her glove from frozen flesh.

“Thank you...for Bea.” She mumbled listlessly.

“Take it easy, Herald.” Adan advised as he revealed as he cut away the cotton shirt beneath her leather armor. “Looks like you fell on something, but we’ll get it out. May be a shit healer, but I’ll do it for you.”

“Wish Hawke was here.” Varric said gently as he cupped her frozen fingers with his own. He’d revealed the hand with the mark glowing faintly in her palm and he could feel it tingling and pulsing through his gloves. Her sister held the other with both her hands. “Not a decent healer in this inquisition, she’d have you up and about in seconds.”

Adan hissed and Varric looked down, wincing at the canvas of black and blue flesh stretching over Maria’s pale skin. The alchemist’s fingers touched her ribs lightly and Maria’s breath caught. “Broken.” Adan observed. “Lucky you didn’t puncture a lung.”

“That’s me.” Maria joked. Her body was starting to shiver.

“Cullen, a blanket…” Cassandra began. There were no blankets, Varric thought grimly. Cullen knew this, so instead of fruitlessly searching he tore off his coat with the warm fur at the collar and draped it over her chest so the fur circled her face.

“This is the bigger problem. What’d you land on?” Adan asked.

“Mine shaft. Piece of wood. Had to break it off, didn’t want to pull it out.” Maria muttered. Adan was looking at a shaft of wood protruding about an inch from Maria’s abdomen.

“Would have bled out if you did.” Adan commented cheerfully. “Maybe you’re smarter than I thought. It’ll have to come out now.”

“Just like when Dwyka fell on that sword rack, right Bea?” Maria asked, eyes closed. Beatrix cracked a tiny smile.

“Hawke almost bled out the same way after the Arishok. Would have if she hadn’t started stitching herself together.” Varric babbled nervously as Adan sponged something smelling strongly of alcohol around the wound.

“That’s not in the book.” Maria accused. It was Cassandra’s turn to smile.

“Yeah, well, that’s the shit part of the story. Much better to think the hero emerges unscathed.” Varric defended.

Maria was about to say something else, but Adan had gripped the wooden shaft and was pulling. Her face turned ashen and she bit her lip, squeezing her eyes shut. The shaft came out covered in blood and Adan dashed the wound in more alcohol. “It’ll be alright, Herald.” He soothed, handing Beatrix a red potion. “Have her drink this.”

“C’mon then.” Varric moved to hold Maria’s head as Beatrix tipped the vial into her mouth.

“The dragon… it landed before you fired the trebuchet.” Cassandra pressed.

“With it’s ugly master. Said his name was Corypheus.” Varric winced as Maria’s lips formed around the word and Cassandra’s back went straight as a rod as she turned to Varric.

“Dwarf. Outside.” She demanded. Varric sighed, squeezing Maria’s fingers just a moment and gazing down at her pale face.

“Be right back, Princess. Don’t go anywhere.” He said gently. Cullen laid a reassuring hand on Varric’s shoulder and squeezed.

“I’ll watch over her for now.” He offered. Varric nodded in agreement as Cassandra stood scowling outside the tent. She grabbed his tunic almost as soon as he was through the door.

“You said he was dead. You said the Champion…”

“She did!” Varric would swear to it. “I was there Seeker! We left a corpse there, nothing else.”

“If you are lying, dwarf…” Cassandra began to threaten.

“I’m not!” Varric protested. Not about that, anyway. But even as he protested his innocence and recounted the whole sorry episode from Carta assasination attempt to Broody stabbing the corpse, Varric was planning. He needed to get word to Hawke, they needed her. Hawke’s blood had been the key to releasing Corypheus, if he was still alive then maybe it could be the key to boxing him back up or killing him for good. As soon as he could, he’d write and send the letters to all the safehouses. Guilt rose up inside him as he thought of Hawke, returning to danger at his beckoning. But then he looked over at the still figure of the Herald laying in the tent and sighed.

She’d almost died and he wasn’t about to allow that to happen again, and if he needed Hawke to do it… so be it. He just hoped Hawke would understand.

Chapter Text

Varric couldn’t believe an abandoned fortress was just lying abandoned in the Frostback mountains, waiting for their sorry asses to stagger in. But they’d stumbled through the rotted portcullis like drunkards making their way home for their night, laughing and cheering. In the lead, as she had been since that night she’d tumbled out of death itself back into his arms, was Maria Cadash. Idolized, adored, celebrated.

He hadn’t been able to get her alone for a minute. She was always with Cullen or Cassandra and the troops, scouting out the path ahead of them with Solas, making rations stretch with Josephine. She squeezed in time to teach Beatrix to ride a horse. All he could do was watch her from a distance...and write.

It began the same way he’d started the Tale of the Champion, scribbling madly to tell everyone what had really happened. Voices clambered over each other in his head and spilled in hurried ink into his journal. Sera laughed at him when he smudged ink on his nose, but Varric felt haunted by the words. When the story of Haven was out, the hero emerging from the snowy wastes as surely as the readers knew she would, he started at the beginning. Then...there was something else. The letter.

 

Dear Maria,

You’re with Master Dennet, soothing scared horses. I saw you when I walked past and I wanted to tell you that you do the same thing with every living creature here. Human, elf, dwarf, horse, shit, if there are nugs in the inquisition they’re big fans too.

You’re busy, I know that. Being the Herald of Andraste is time consuming, even Mittens keeps complaining you’re neglecting her. Sure it’s worth it, Princess? Running back to the Free Marches is still an option. I’d go with you.

Our last moment was interrupted by your sister, an army of crazed templars, and an archdemon. Wonder what will happen next time?

Yours,

Varric

 

He’d written it and meant to slip it into her tent that night, but hadn’t. It remained, it’s own page in his journal. Doubts plagued him as the memory of the night grew fuzzy as he heard the story of that night repeated around him. Had there been a moment? Certainly there had, if there hadn’t been his pulse wouldn’t leap at the thought of her under his hands again.

As if summoned by his thoughts, she stood before him now, spinning in an empty great hall. “It’s very grand.” She commented, looking up at the ceiling beams.

“Only the best for our Princess.” Varric responded, running his gloved hands over solid stonework.

“Skyhold.” Solas said, nodding. Maria repeated the word, smiling and placing her hands on the curve of her hips. Beside him, Beatrix crossed her arms over her chest thoughtfully as she examined her sibling. He could see the woman chewing on the inside of her cheek, but his attention was caught by the beams of light falling from the cracked windows onto Maria’s red hair, lighting her on fire. When he looked back at Beatrix, she was smiling at him and quirked an eyebrow in a question.

“How will we supply it?” Josephine worried, scribbling on her little board.

“Oh, I think we can.” Maria said confidently, shrugging in her ill fitted leathers and glancing back at her sister. “What do you think?”

Beatrix laughed, shaking her head. “You want the Cadash smuggling ring to get you supplies for a holy army?” She asked, amazed.

“Think of it as a business expansion. We’re still going to need the lyrium, no?” Maria shot a glance at Cullen who nodded grimly.

“And who is going to organize this expansion?” Beatrix asked, but Maria was smiling wickedly. Bea shook her head, continuing to laugh. “Me? You have to be joking. You must have hit your head on an archdemon.”

“You’re fully capable, no matter how much you deny it.” Maria stated reasonably, shrugging her shoulders.

“Surely, non-criminal channels…” Josephine began.

“You said yourself, Josie. Traditional methods won’t get us the supplies we need quickly enough. Taking advantage of the networks we have seems prudent.” Leliana answered.

“We’ll get you a list of what we need, Bea. And we’ll send coin to back it up. Anything else you can use Cadash credit to secure, then send the bills here.” Varric chuckled as Bea’s jaw dropped.

“Any other stupid decisions you’d like me to make on your behalf?” Bea asked, rubbing her temple. Varric could see a headache forming. “Maybe we should ask our rivals for donations? Go into the dragon wrangling business? Invest in Griffon saddles?”

“Tell Nanna it was my doing if you’re scared.” Maria offered gamely.

“She’s going to murder you, Maker…” Beatrix swallowed heavily and looked around. “I need to sit down. A fainting couch maybe. I bet that Vivienne has one stashed in our luggage.”

 

Two days later, Varric watched Beatrix packing up saddle bags and ordering around her own small convoy of Inquisition troops. A slender elf darted away with her orders nervously as Bea checked the cart she’d procured. “They’re surprising her with a big ass sword in a couple minutes.” Varric thumbed his finger over his shoulder. “Declaring her the head of this little organization. You’ll stay to watch, won’t you?”

“Can’t leave without saying goodbye, can I?” Bea chirped. “Can she actually lift the sword? Has anyone checked?”

“She’ll be fine. Or she’ll accidentally take off Nightingale's ear. Either way, it’s worth watching.” Varric grinned, fingering the letters in his hands. “I need a favor.”

“Of course you do, cause my job wasn’t gonna be hard enough.” The woman complained, turning to him. He handed the letters to her.

“I need these to go to a courier at the Lake Callenhad docks, shady looking human by the name of Simon. Tell him one for each drop and give him this.” Varric hefted a purse full of coins in his hand. “As payment.”

“That’s a lot of coin for a letter, dwarf.” Bea fingered the parchment thoughtfully. “Where are they going?”

“Does that matter?” Varric asked casually.

“Val Firmin?” Bea said sweetly, too sweetly, and Varric didn’t quite hide his shock. Bianca’s forge was in Val Firmin. Bianca and her husband were in Val Firmin. Bea’s eyes narrowed like a predator going in for the kill. “What’s her name again? Vasca?”

“Not anymore.” Varric sighed. “Don’t tell me her family used the Cadash’s to put a hit on me once.”

“Her family has tried to put a hit out on you with every Carta family, but that’s not the point. The point is…” Bea raised one gloved finger, shoving it hard into his chest. “If these are going to Val Firmin and you spend every spare moment flirting with my sister, we’re going to have a problem Tethras.”

“I don’t spend every spare moment flirting with your sister. Sometimes I annoy Cassandra.” Bea made an impatient noise and her hand dropped to dangerously caress the dagger at her waist. Varric reached for her wrist and caught it. “It’s not for her. It’s for a friend, an old friend, asking for help. I haven’t heard from her in,,, damn, four years now.”

Beatrix relaxed, smile softening sadly. “She can’t say his name either still and it’s been a decade. The baggage you two carry.”

“It’s easier to not carry any?” Varric asked wryly.

“Do I seem like I mind my absence of personal tragedy?” Bea asked, tapping her pink lips thoughtfully. “I’ll see to your letters, anyway.”

Varric nodded, offering his elbow. “I’ll escort you over to this shindig, if you’ll excuse all my baggage.”

“I’ll try.” Bea let out a long suffering sigh, sticking the letters in the pouch at her hip and taking Varric’s elbow. “Maker knows I have practice.”

They steered through the courtyard of Haven, Bea using her rather sharp elbows to knock the crowd out of their way until they stood in the front. Maria was climbing the stairs with Cassandra, hips swaying and red hair braided and draped over her shoulder. Somebody had finally gotten her clothes that fit and she swaggered in a leather corset that cinched her waist in, blouse left roguishly untied just enough to tease a glimpse of her cleavage and soft leather leggings emphasizing her shapely legs and boots laced up to her knees. Leliana was holding the massive sword out to her with a small smile.

Maria hesitated only a moment as Josephine read her declaration as Inquisitor and Cullen led the troops in a cheer. Her eyes roamed the crowd until it fell on them and Varric gave a smart, cocky salute. Maria’s smile twisted up, eyes flashing as she turned to Leliana and gripped the massive sword. She hefted it over her head and turned to the army. They descended into cheers and whoops of joy and pride. The sun caught Maria’s hair, wreathing her in fire.

“Make sure she eats.” Bea said softly, frowning as she observed. “And sleeps. She’ll work herself to death if you let her.”

“I’ll take care of her, Mittens.” Varric promised. “You take care of yourself out there.”

“Don’t worry.” Bea said breezily as the crowd dispersed and Maria handed the sword back to Leliana. “I’ve never managed to stumble into religion, archdemons, or darkspawn.”

“I can hear you!” Maria complained as she ambled down the steps. “I’ll have you know, there was no stumbling involved.”

“Inquisitor Cadash.” Beatrix repeated, shaking her head. “I bet the Guild and Orzammar are dying, all dwarven kind represented by a Carta rat.”

“They’ll have to get used to it.” Maria grinned, tossing her braid back.

Varric walked the two sisters back to the stable, hanging back as they said their goodbyes. Beatrix vaulted herself into the saddle and set off with a cheerful wave with her inquisition scouts. “Do you think she’ll be alright?” Maria asked, wrapping her arms around herself.

“Mittens? She’ll have a blast.” Varric reassured. “C’mon, let’s go get an ale, Inquisitor.”

“Inquisitor!” Cassandra yelled from behind them. Maria smirked. “We must talk about the demon that joined us in Haven…”

“Later, I promise.” She said, turning on her heel jauntily and hooking her thumbs into belt as she met Cassandra’s thunderous glare with a small, pleased smile.

 

One week later, a caravan full of fruits, vegetables, chickens, beans, cheeses, and salted meat arrived in the courtyard with a letters for Maria and one for Varric. Maria read hers aloud, choking on laughter in the tavern.

“Upon arriving at port, I was informed a local raider Admiral had engaged in a skirmish with a Tevinter fleet and emerged victorious. Instead of finding gold and valuables, they found foodstuffs meant for the great magisters if Minrathous and were desperate to get rid of them. I arranged a meeting with this admiral, but letting slip that I was working with your fucking Inquisition turned out to be a bit of a mistake. The Admiral is apparently quite concerned about the apparent captivity of one bastard dwarf named Tethras and challenged me to a duel. I accepted, but resolved to cheat and bring blackout powder. Apparently, she had the same thought.” Maria read, stifling her laughter. Iron Bull laughed heartily, pounding his fist on the table.

“Never trust Raiders or Carta to play fair.” He observed, downing his mug.

“What happened next?” Sera pressed, leaning forward to attempt to read over Maria’s shoulder. Maria batted her away and continued.

“We both stumbled around swearing at each other in pitch blackness until I ended up with my face pressed up in her tits. At the same time, her hand ended up on my ass. I know you have always rejected my attempts at diplomacy, but not only did the duel end without bloodshed, but she has agreed to work for your holy cause.” It was Varric’s turn to pound his fist on the table, near choking on his ale.

“Typical Isabela. She could have been fucking my assassin for all she knew.” Varric shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“This is the foodstuffs she stole from the Tevinters. She is asking for payment to be sent via messenger at your convenience and for a letter from Tetras to ensure he is held captive by nothing more…” Maria trailed off, attempting to fold the letter hurriedly. Sera was not having it, plucking it from her hands quickly and holding it up above Maria’s head.

“Nothing more than your own fine tits and smouldering grey eyes.” Sera finished, cackling brightly.

“They are quite nice.” Iron Bull said with a wolfish grin. “Your tits, of course. I’ve yet to see these smouldering eyes.”

Maria rolled her eyes and shot a wink at Varric before molding her face into her best seductive pout and batting her long lashes at Bull. Dorian pretended to swoon, sinking into Blackwall, who promptly moved to allow the mage to drop to the floor. This got a smile even from Solas. The rest of the ground descended into raucous laughter, including Maria.Varric watched the flush move up her cheeks as she tucked her hair behind her ear.

“Nothing on those puppy eyes, though, Dwarf.” Bull mumbled with a sly smirk, his one eye catching Varric’s.

“Me?” He asked innocently. “No idea what you’re talking about.”

In his journal that night, he wrote another brief note that he didn’t send.

 

Dear Maria,

You’re beautiful when you laugh.  I could make you laugh every day. 

Yours,

Varric

 

“Do you think I’m actually the Herald of Andraste?” She asked, bewildered as they sat in front of the fireplace writing letters, balancing ledgers.

“You don’t?” He asked, scratching his chin.

“I have no idea what’s going on.” She admitted with a shrug. “But I’m used to making decisions and running a crew. I just keep trying to think like that, except...larger.”

“Well, you walked out of a hole in the sky.” Varric began, leaning back in his chair. “Traveled through time. Closed said hole in the sky. Fought off an archdemon. Survived an avalanche that buried an army. Either you’re the Herald of Andraste or you have the worst luck.”

“So I’m divine based on my divinely bad luck?” She asked, wrinkling her nose in amusement.

“I have no idea what’s going on either.” Varric smirked. “But I believe in you.”

“I thought you’d take the opportunity to tell me I was divinely beautiful.” She joked.

“You already know you are.” The words were out of his mouth before he could consider them and her smile became softer. Her lips parted and her tongue darted out to wet the bottom one. “Maria…” He began, closing his ledger.

“Inquisitor!” Curly was striding up quickly, eyes glued to the parchment in front of his face. “There have been some interesting reports from the scouts that we need to go over.”

“I think you just did that yesterday.” Varric protested, but Maria was already standing, tucking her papers away hurriedly.

“Sorry, Cullen. I lost track of time.” She said apologetically. “Varric...later?” She asked. Was there a note of hope in that voice, or was he imagining it? Varric smiled and nodded and Maria made to follow Cullen out. Before she could drift away with him, her fingers dropped to his shoulder as she passed and traced a short line. Then she was gone.

Varric almost shuddered visibly, struggling to master himself. Her touch felt like fire, even through the silk shirt. He wanted to go after her, pull her away from Cullen, drag her to his room and finish what they had nearly started in Haven. It was damn impossible to get her alone long enough to work up to this, and Varric wasn’t used to rushing the chase. He was too old for this shit.

“Messere Tethras.” A girl bobbed in front of him with an awkward curtsy.

“Yes?” He snapped, rubbing his face. The girl shrunk back and Varric sighed, softening his voice. “Sorry, what do you need?”

“There’s a woman here for you, ser.” She squeaked. “She asked to be shown to your rooms and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“Alone?” Varric asked. “Just one woman, no one else?”

“Yes ser. I didn’t see anyone else.” The girl answered before bowing hastily and rushing away. Varric gathered up his paperwork thoughtfully and cast a surreptitious gaze around him as he exited the hall and wandered to his room overlooking the courtyard. No sign of Cassandra or Leliana, but that didn’t mean that Nightingale didn’t already know. She probably wouldn’t want to be the one to tell Cassandra, however.

He didn’t knock on his own door, but opened it slowly and slipped in. The room was gloomy without candlelight and with the door shut behind him, but he could clearly make out the woman that jumped from his bed and threw herself on him. “I thought you were dead!” She whispered furiously, pressing her lips against his forehead. “Don’t ever do that again, you hear me! I will go into the void myself and drag you out.”

“Let me light a lantern first, Maker’s tits Hawke, I’m fine.” He patted her lower back awkwardly. She let go of him and turned to his lantern, snapping her fingers and lighting the two lanterns. Varric grinned. “Ah, handy as ever.”

“What happened? Your letter didn’t tell me anything.” Hawke scowled, pushing her messy hair behind her ear. “On the way up here I heard your dwarf friend came back from the dead.”

“Just about, Hawke.” Varric sighed. “Where’s Broody? I’d rather tell it once.”

Hawke’s face turned dark and she looked away from him, staring out his window into the courtyard. Varric could see the sharp angles of her face highlighted in bright light. “He’s not coming.” She bit out.

“Not coming?” Varric repeated hollowly. “Not coming? Broody doesn’t not come with you.”

“I can’t Varric.” The words tumbled from Hawke’s lips and her eyes were strangely haunted. “I nearly lost him and you. I can’t do it again. He’s safe where he is. He’s not coming into danger for me again.”

“Does he know where you are?” Varric asked. Hawke bit her lip and lowered her eyes. Varric swore. “Hawke… you need to write. He’ll be…”

“Varric, he almost died in my arms saving me.” Hawke’s voice cracked.

“Tell me what happened, Hawke. And I’ll tell you what happened here.” He promised, sitting her on the edge of his bed. Hawke did, through tears and stony cold silences. And when she finished Varric rubbed his chin thoughtfully and began his tale while Hawke listened.

 

Fenris woke up, groggy, right as sun was setting. Lucia was sitting at the door, looking mournfully at it. With a great deal of energy, far too much, Fenris forced himself up from the bed. Hawke had finally removed the bandage, declaring him safe from infection the night before. Now, Fenris could run his hands over the scarred, knotted flesh, feel the disruption of his lyrium markings, the new flesh that Hawke had coaxed into creation which was pink and tender.

“Reyna.” He called. Lucia looked at him instead and whimpered, looking pointedly back at the door. Gone then. She’d left several times over the last two weeks as Fenris tried to regain his strength. He’d insisted on trying to go with her twice, the first time he’d barely made it to the door. The second time, he’d made it almost to the bottom of the path leading to their shack. He’d had to rest for three hours before he could return. Hawke complained about him pushing himself relentlessly, but all he was right now was a liability. If those creatures came back, it would just be Hawke and Lucia to fight them and that was unacceptable.

Fenris struggled to get out of bed, cursing his weakness as his bare feet hit the cold floor and he shoved himself up. His side twinged in pain but he endured it, it got less each day. Soon, he would be back to his full strength and they could move on. Soon. The tunic she’d been attempting to mend was discarded on the table, stitches clumsily finished. There was food set out, enough for more than dinner tonight. Fenris counted the fruits and cheeses, calculating. Maker, why would Hawke leave out enough food for days? How long did she think it would take her to do whatever she was doing?

Lucia whimpered again, bright eyes on the door. There was something sad there and Fenris was beginning to feel dread building in his stomach. Fenris made his way, feeling like an old man as he moved, toward the table with the food piled on it. Buckets of fresh water lined underneath. There was a scrap of parchment with Hawke’s words scrawled across it. She had smudged the ink with a drop of water, and this was the first detail Fenris latched onto desperately, tracing the smudge. Then he read, stomach dropping and fist clenching onto the table.

 

Amatus,

I cannot risk losing you. If I don’t come back, know that I love you desperately and the only thing I regret is the sacrifices you’ve made for me. Be happy. Be safe.

-R.

Chapter Text

Hawke slept in his bed that evening while Varric spent the night awake and restless in an armchair. Finally, shortly before dawn, he crept out of the room and shut the door. He locked it behind him, knowing that it wouldn’t keep Sera out if she was still prowling. He’d just have to trust she was in bed herself. He made his way into the main keep and up the circling stairs into the rotunda, listening to the soft cawing of ravens.

Sister Nightingale was awake - as far as Varric was aware she never slept. She was smirking as he made his way up the final stairs, leaning against the rough stone and eying him curiously.
“Well, well.” She said quietly. “I didn’t think you’d need another bird with one in your bed.”

“She’s shit at delivering messages.” Varric explained with a shrug.

“You are lucky I thought to check myself before sending agents to investigate the strange mage intimidating the servants. Maker, what if I’d sent Cassandra?” Leliana giggled. “She is quite bad at subtlety, no?”

“Thank you for sparing us.” Varric answered sarcastically. “I need a favor, for her.”

“First, one question. And be honest.” Leliana warned, leaning forward. Varric put his hand over his heart sincerely and waited, eyebrow raised.

“My friend… the hero of Ferelden is missing. She is your Hawke’s cousin, and I know they’ve met. Chantal didn’t tell me, wouldn’t tell me and risk dividing my loyalties… but the Siren’s Revenge docked in Amaranthine several years ago. I’d be a fool to not know who was on that ship.” Leliana paused, allowing Varric a chance to deny it.

“We were, at the invitation of the Warden Commander herself, through unofficial channels of course.” Varric responded easily.

“Unofficial channels. Zevran, of course.” Leliana shook her head, but her affection was evident in her soft tone. “She… my companions, my friends, are among the few I truly trust. The fact that Chantal is missing is troublesome, more troublesome than the absence of all the Grey Wardens together. Your Hawke, does she know where her cousin is?”

“They’ve been in contact, on and off, since they met, but Hawke hasn’t heard from her since before the conclave.” Leliana’s face dropped, the shining hope disappearing. “I’m sorry.”

“It was a lot too hope.” Leliana answered briskly. “I was foolish to think…”

“There is a Grey Warden that Hawke has been talking too. Well, three, but the two in Kirkwall have no idea what’s going on. The  third is cryptic, but asked Hawke to meet. She wants to take the Inquisitor. Perhaps he will know…” It was a long shot, Varric knew. If Chantal wanted to disappear, she had Zevran with her to make it happen, but perhaps…

“It is better than nothing. Thank you. Now what do you need?” Leliana asked, all business.

“A messenger to deliver a letter. I will warn you, the recipient is likely to be… agitated.” Varric shrugged apologetically. Leliana held out her hand and Varric placed the message in her glove. “To our Broody friend, to let him know Hawke has arrived safe. He’s in a shack near Lake Calenhad. Across from the circle tower.”

“We’ll find it.” Leliana reassured. “Now, I must return to work.” She turned her back to him coldly and Varric shook his head before retreating back down the stairs. Varric couldn’t ignore the knot in his stomach, the sick burn of betrayal. Hawke had asked him not to, ordered him not to, and if it had been anyone else he’d have listened. If she didn’t want Carver or Isabela or Merrill to know, fine, but Fenris…

Oh it was a shit situation, but Broody would show up looking either way, Varric reasoned. It’d be better to be on the right side of that anger when it occurred. Besides, Hawke needed her Broody elf, you’d be blind to miss the signs. She had spent most of the night tossing and turning, reaching empty hands to an empty space on the bed. When she’d been awake, she’d twisted the ring on her finger around and around without seeming to notice she was doing it. Varric had better things to do than deal with a broken heart that didn’t need to be broken.

He detoured to the kitchen to get food for Hawke, but was sidetracked by the sound of singing and laughter in the store rooms. Dawn was just streaming through the windows above, catching dust motes in the air. He crept forward than almost laughed out loud at the impossible, improbable sight.

Cole was sitting on the table where herbs are cut and dried, legs crossed and broad brimmed hat abandoned beside him. His lank blonde hair fell to his shoulder and a shy, quiet smile danced on his lips. Beside him, her own legs crossed and red hair falling in waves to her shoulders, sat Maria. She was wearing a crown of blue, yellow, and white flowers. She was singing a bawdy drinking song, out of tune and laughing at her own badness in between every verse as she reached forward and helped Cole twist stems together. The boy has his own almost finished crown of flowers in his hands. As Varric watched, she tucked a loose flower between Cole’s ear with a tenderness he would have thought reserved for baby animals and children.

“Reaching, always upward toward the sun. Home in the fire on your head.” Cole murmured, picking his own flower up and tucking it behind Maria’s ear.

“There’s no fire on my head, sweetheart.” She corrected with a smile.

“Sweet, like sugar on pastries or honey in tea. I don’t know what my heart tastes like.” Cole shook his head and Maria laughed again, shaking her head and patting the boy’s cheek softly.

“What am I going to do with you, Cole?” She asked gently.

“Looks like you have a good handle on it.” Varric answered for her, grinning as she jumped and turned, flower crown sliding crooked as she flushed. Varric laughed at the sight, the great Inquisitor blushing.

“Would you believe me if I told you this isn’t what it looks like?” Maria asked desperately, trying to pull the flowers from her hair, but they’d become tangled. She winced at the pain and dropped the crown back into place as Varric approached.

“Of all the compromising positions I could find you in.” Varric teased. “Here, bend down and I’ll try and get it out.”

“But they look nice. You think so too.” Cole protested, looking at Varric. “You just want to see her in flowers and nothing…”

Maria laughed wickedly and Varric shook his head quickly. “Some thoughts, kid, we don’t repeat in polite company.”

“She wants to know how far down your chest hair goes.” Cole commented. “Is my crown done?”

Maria had been leaning into him, but snapped back as Cole spoke and tore her eyes from his face and back to the kid with a bit of a scowl. At the sight of Cole’s shining, hopeful eyes and the proffered crown, she softened.

“Yes.” She answered. “It’s perfect. Come here.” Her deft fingers took the flowers and twisted them just a bit tighter before gently placing it over Cole’s head. Cole touched it gently and smiled at Varric.

“Will Sera like it?” He asked. Varric cringed inwardly.

“Maybe.” Varric answered. “But you shouldn’t…”

Cole was off the table in an instant, running through the door. Sera was almost certainly going to wake up to Cole hovering over her in her room and her screaming would have the whole keep awake. He saw the resignation at the idea cloud over Maria’s face and she muttered quietly. “Balls, I’m going to have to deal with that today, won’t I?”

“I’ll handle it.” Varric offered gallantly. “Now, if you can keep from ogling the chest hair, I can get that thing off your head.”

“I can’t make any promises.” She winked as she slipped from the table and ducked her head for him. Varric began to untangle the stems from her red hair. He tried not to focus on her breath on his chest, the smell of citrus and lavender wafting from her soft, silky hair…

“So, do I even want to know how this happened?” He asked, as much to distract himself as to satisfy his curiosity.

“I couldn't sleep. I’m not sure Cole does sleep. I was hungry, but while I was looking for a snack he showed up with flowers for me.” She shrugged with a small smile. “One thing led to another…”

“And the next thing we know, you’re making illicit flower crowns in the store rooms. Exactly the corrupting influence Vivienne worried Cole would have, I’m sure.” Varric remarked dryly. Maria snorted as he freed the last flower from her hair and lifted the crown, placing it on the table behind her. He started to step back, but her hand wrapped around his forearm and held him still. Varric, for the first time, seriously considered the position they’d found themselves in. Their bodies were so close, almost touching, and she was leaning back on the table. One move on his part and he’d pin her between him and it’s surface.

“What are you doing down here so early?” She asked idly, pulling a loose flower from the table and twisting it through the buttonhole in Varric’s shirt. He could feel her calloused fingertips like fire on his bare skin. She was observing her work with rapt fascination, avoiding his eyes.

“About that…” He began, but her hardly recognized his own voice. She had picked up another flower, placing it in the buttonhole under the first. Maker, if she made her way down the whole shirt he’d be lost. “I have a surprise for you.”

“I like surprises.” She purred, finally looking up from under her eyelashes. Varric’s tenuous control snapped and he grasped her wrists pushing her backward and closing the space between their two bodies until he could feel her warmth cutting through him. He released her wrists and placed his palms on each side of her back, palms on the smooth wood. He lowered his head, resting his forehead on hers and inhaled her scent greedily before exhaling slowly.

“I haven’t been...entirely honest about things that occurred prior to me joining the inquisition.” He said slowly. She laughed throatily, her fingertips grabbing the edge of his shirt.

“I’m aware of your tendency towards outrageous lies.” She pointed out.

“I kept lying, after. You know that.” Maria hummed her agreement in her throat and Varric felt the fourth button of his shirt come undone. He swore and tried to pull back, but she held him fast with a small laugh. “Stop it, this is serious.”

She did stop, but she wasn’t taking it seriously. She raised an eyebrow and continued to hold onto his shirt. “I wasn’t in charge then. You should thank your lucky stars, of course. I’d have had the information I wanted.”

“One way or another, of course.” Varric joked. “But… I’m offering it now. The whole truth. All the help I can offer. And part of it is upstairs. Sleeping. Or awake and starving, but most likely sleeping.”

This caused her smile to drop and awareness to dawn on her face. She dropped his shirt and Varric mourned the loss of contact. “You’re... She’s here? You brought her here?” Maria asked, astonished.

“I figured it’s safe here for her, with you in charge. She fought Corphyeus. She’s been investigating red lyrium. She wants to help.” Varric argued.

“Cassandra is going to kill you.” She whispered, closing her eyes and rubbing her temple. “Maker, she’s going to be furious.”

“I can ask her to go…” Varric teased lightly. Maria whacked him lightly in the chest.

“Don’t you dare!” She scolded. “I won’t miss the chance to meet her. What should I wear?” Maria asked earnestly.

“The flower crown. Nothing else.” Varric answered immediately. Maria laughed, but then her face turned solemn as she tilted her head to the side as if she was thinking.

“Why bring her here now?” She asked gently. Varric sighed, pushing away from the table and straightening. He lifted his hand and slowly, so slowly, ran a thumb over Maria’s cheek. He followed his thumb with a light kiss. Not quite friendly, he admitted as he felt her breath hitch. Still not enough, either.

“We almost lost you.” He answered honestly. “I’ll send word when she’s awake.”

“Varric…” Maria began, hesitant. He watched the emotions war in her eyes before she swallowed, hard. She pushed off the table, throwing her arms around him briefly. “Thank you.” She whispered in his ear before pushing past him and taking off up the stairs. He couldn’t tell until she was gone how...palpable her absence in the room was. He looked after her and felt...forlorn.

Shit, he thought desperately. This has escalated rather quickly from flirtation, respect, friendship to...something. Something he dared not name.

 

Hawke was still asleep when he returned with steaming hot coffee, cheese, bread, and mostly ripe strawberries. Varric had several of the ripest himself while he waited, humming under his breath. He meant to start writing, but he didn’t. Instead he leaned back in his chair, letting his fingers tap a rhythm out on the desk as he put his feet up on the windowsill and looked out at Skyhold slowly waking. While he waited, he thought about Maria and waited to see if he could see the flash of her red hair in the courtyard, hear her laugh. He only stopped humming when he caught a mumbled curse word coming from the bed.

“Morning, Waffles.” He said, overly loudly and far too cheerful. Hawke groaned and peeked from beneath the blanket. Her hair was askew and her eyes were narrowed.

“What in the Maker’s asshole are you humming this early?” Hawke snapped.

“Bianca’s song, you know it.” Varric said easily.

“I fucking know Bianca’s song. That wasn’t it.” Hawke snorted, sitting up the whole way and pushing her hair from her face. “Any why the fuck are you in such a good mood?”

He had been humming Bianca’s song, hadn’t he? He stopped, thoughtfully, but Hawke was in no mood for his introspection. She tossed a pillow which he snatched out of the air before it could crash into the tray of breakfast.

“I never noticed how cranky you are in the morning, Hawke.” Varric lied smoothy. “Broody must have been making it seem less extreme in comparison.”

“Shut it.” Hawke groaned, flopping back down.

“C’mon, I brought you breakfast. There are strawberries, your favorite.” He swept the bowl of red fruit in front of her enticingly. Hawke finally opened her eyes widely and rubbed the sleep from them. Her eyes fixed on him for a moment and an expression of delight crossed her face.

“Andraste’s knickers, what happened to you?” She asked, sitting up straight.

“What are you talking about?” Varric asked warily, but Hawke was already crouching on the bed, blanket discarded, and reaching for him with her long arms. She pulled a blue flower from his buttonhole with a devious smirk. That’s when Varric realized he hadn’t buttoned up his shirt and he certainly hadn’t removed the flowers. He pulled away, looking down and beginning to do up the buttons, flowers dropping to the floor. “Fuck…” He swore.

“Yes. That’s exactly what it looks like.” Hawke looked as pleased as he’d ever seen her, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively enough to put Isabela to shame as she tucked the blue flower behind her own ear. “I’d be humming too, I guess. And here I was feeling guilty for stealing your bed.”

“I ate the ripest strawberries already. Because you’re an ass.” He glared disapprovingly at the humane girl, but she was simply beaming.

“But you missed me anyway.” She said sweetly. Varric hated to admit it, but her smile was infectious.

“Hardly at all.” He said, all mock seriousness. “I’ve taken up flower arranging in my free time now. Much safer hobby than following you.”

“Oh Varric, if it feels safe, Isabela would say you’re doing it all wrong.” Hawke teased. “Who’s the lucky lady who decked you in flowers and practically undressed you? Do I get to meet her? Do I need to defend your honor?”

“Please don’t.” Varric groaned.

“Is it the pretty Herald of Andraste?” Hawke asked. The lie didn’t come to Varric quite quick enough to get past Hawke and her eyes lit up. “Ooooooh, that explains your sudden fascination with religion.”

“She’s the Inquisitor now. And I have done nothing but engage in chivalrous and gentlemanly flirting.” Varric eyed Hawke from the corner of his eye as he turned and retrieved the coffee, pouring it into two mugs and passing one to Hawke.

“I know I’m the worst to give advice, but if she’s about ripping your clothes off, it may be worth it to be less gentlemanly.” Hawke observed astutely, sniffing the dark liquid suspiciously before taking a sip and making a face at the bitterness.

“It’s...complicated.” Varric said. Hawke sighed in disappointment.

“When isn’t it?” She asked. “Don’t tell me, she’s engaged.”

“No.” Varric couldn’t help but smile sadly. “Not this time.”

“Well, I’ll meet her first and see if she’s worth it.” Hawke declared imperiously, sitting the coffee as far away from her as humanly possible before standing and stretching. She fetched her rucksack from the floor and opened it, pulling out armor Varric hadn’t seen in years. Her hands ruffled the feathers along the neck gently with a wry smile.

“I’ve missed this set.” She admitted. “But it was so distinctive, Fenris worried…”

“He’s probably worried now.” Varric commented. She ignored him pointedly as she pulled out the chainmail and gauntlets, setting all the pieces out and observing them together, the way they used to hang in her home after Orana cleaned them. Varric felt the tightness in his throat when their eyes met.

“Almost like coming home, isn’t it?” She asked quietly.

“Just missing the gang.” Varric replied. “I’ll go get Maria. Meet me on top of the battlements above us when you’re ready.”

“Maria, hmm?” Hawke said softly. Varric shook his head and threw up his hands, backing out of the room slowly. Hawke’s laugh followed him out.

 

Maria was waiting in his usual spot in the great hall, feigning casual disinterest as she talked to Dorian. The Tevinter mage was gesturing wildly with a book in his right hand and Varric could hear something about how many times a certain Divine had taken a shit. Dorian hadn’t seemed to realize that Maria’s eyes kept swinging to the door and as soon as she saw Varric she carefully disentangled herself with some soothing words, guiding the mage back into the rotunda.

“What in the Maker’s name was that?” Varric asked.

“Apparently I need to find a rebellious archivist. Don’t ask for details. Is it time?” She asked eagerly.

“She’s as excited to meet you as you are to meet her.” Varric answered.

“Inquisitor, Lady Montilyet asked you to review these as your first convenience.” A woman pressed a folder into Maria’s hands and she nodded, opening it as they walked. Varric took her elbow and steered her around obstacles as she tutted.

“Don’t you ever stop?” He asked finally as they climbed the stairs and one of Leliana’s people presented her with a rolled message.

“Iron Bull put me in regular soldier’s armor and walked me around to meet people. It was the least amount of hassle I’d had getting from point A to B in weeks.” Maria answered with a smile as Varric guided her onto the battlement. “I could walk around in stealth, I suppose, but it seems a bit unfair.” She was unrolling the message, peering at it in the sunlight. Varric shook his head in resignation and looked up.

Hawke was on top of the stairs furthest from them, wearing the armor she’d been given as Kirkwall’s champion. Her head was tilted introspectively, hair braided smoothly over her shoulder as she stared at the Inquisitor. Varric felt oddly nervous as he turned to Maria, taking the folder and message from her hands and laying them on the barrel nearby.

“Inquisitor, may I present Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall?” He asked, indicating Hawke as she began to move gracefully down the stairs. Gray eyes and blue eyes met and Hawke smiled, tentatively.

“I don’t use that title much, anymore.” She admitted.

“Hawke, meet Inquisitor Cadash.” Varric said smoothly. “Please feel free to offer any advice on Corypheus.”

Hawke chuckled, moving past them to lean on the battlements, looking out over the courtwall. She looked over her shoulder at Maria, beckoning her to her side with a jut of her chin. “You already dropped half a mountain on the bastard. I’m sure anything I can tell you pales in comparison.”

“We can find some use for you. You did stop a horde of rampaging qunari after all.” Maria said. Varric snorted and unscrewed the top off a suspicious looking bottle from one of the crates, sniffing it.

“Is there a horde of rampaging qunari now that I don’t know about?” Hawke asked incredulously. Maria smiled, shaking her head fondly.

“Just one, although he may qualify as a horde all by himself. He’s on our side.” She explained. “Varric says you thought you killed Corypheus?”

“I know I did. We weren’t amateurs at dealing with weird shit, even then. We left a corpse, I swear it.” Hawke protested. “He was being kept in a prison by the Grey Wardens, they’d used my father’s blood to hold him and came after Carver and me to release him. Maybe the Wardens had imprisoned because he couldn’t be killed, like his tie to the Blight made him immortal. He could control the Wardens, fucked with their minds…”

“Turned them against each other.” Varric interjected.

“So, you’re telling me Corypheus has this… Tevinter cult, Templars corrupted by red lyrium, and Wardens?” Maria asked levelly. “Lovely.”

“I would never just bring bad news to a dear friend of Varric’s.” Hawke began, cheerfully. “I have a contact in the Grey Wardens, I received a letter from him asking me to meet him in Crestwood. He has news about what is going on with them. He’s worried about corruption in the order.”

“Your brother?” Maria asked. Hawke looked startled, turning to Varric.

“She read the book. She’s a big fan.” Varric explained, taking an experimental sip of the liquor in the bottle. It burned on the way down.

“My brother is in Kirkwall, with Aveline.” Hawke explained cautiously. “He’s too junior in the order to know anything interesting, I’m afraid.”

“And…your, um…” Maria struggled, turned to Varric at a loss. Varric raised an eyebrow and Maria turned back to Hawke with a huff. “I’ve got a Tevinter mage here. Is it going to be a problem?”

Hawke coughed, turning to glare at Varric. “A Magister?” Hawke said flatly.

“No, apparently there’s a difference. Don’t ask me to explain it, but he saved my life in Redcliffe. I won’t send him away when he wishes to help.” Maria lifted her chin defiantly and Hawke crossed her arms over her chest. There was a tense silence before Hawke sighed, deflated.

“I can’t judge choice of companions, I suppose. I’ll keep peace and Fenris isn’t with me. He’d die for me and I don’t intend to give him the chance.” She said darkly. Maria nodded in agreement, leaning her back against the battlements beside Hawke, who was eying her from the corner of her eye.

“Did you really defeat the Arishok in single combat for Isabela?” Maria finally asked. Hawke laughed.

“Yes, I did. Did you really collapse a mountain on top of yourself and walk away?” Hawke asked.

“To be honest, it was more like limping away.” Maria admitted.

“Can I see it? The mark on your hand?” Hawke inquired. Maria gently peeled off her glove and offered her hand with glowing palm. Hawke removed her own gauntlets, letting them fall carelessly and taking Maria’s hand gently, running a finger along the mark. “It must hurt.” Hawke commented.

“Only when I laugh.” Maria teased, winking at Varric. Hawke looked up just in time to see it and smiled, satisfied.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like I can...feel the veil around it rippling. It’s amazing. No idea how it happened?” Hawke asked.

“The going theory is Andraste pushed my dwarven ass out of the fade with it.” Maria rolled her grey eyes and Hawke smirked.

“I’ve been wondering how Varric got into organized religion…” Hawke started. “But I’m guessing it’s more to do with very physical temptations.”

This conversation was about to be very, very dangerous. “Choir Boy would be absolutely wounded, Hawke, at you impugning my sincere piety.” Varric protested, but Maria shushed him with a laughing wave, standing on tiptoe to whisper something into Hawke’s ear. Hawke  laughed and Varric groaned apprehensively.

“Who is that spectacularly unhappy woman climbing up here?” Hawke asked, indicating a menacing figure coming up the steps. Maria leaned over the battlements and swore.

“So, Varric…” Maria began lightly.

“It’s Cassandra, isn’t it?” Varric asked.

“Take Hawke on a tour, hm?” Maria spun Hawke around. “Or to the war room, to mark on the map where we need to go. And then just...stay there for a while.”

“As you say, your Inquisitorialness.” Varric saluted and tugged Hawke with him. Hawke was laughing and cheerfully saluted as Varric broke into a run.

They didn’t stop until they were on almost the whole other side of Skyhold, Hawke holding her side and taking deep breaths between gales of laughter. “Well?” Varric asked, doubled over, catching his own breath.

“Maker, her tits are fantastic.” Hawke began, then dissolved into laughter again.

Chapter Text

 

Fenris has one immediate, visceral reaction. He gripped the ceramic plate nearest to him, felt it’s reassuring heft in his hand. Then he whipped it as hard as he could at the opposing wall, watched with a sort of detached curiosity as it shattered into hundred of pieces with a satisfying crash. He reached for the next plate, but was stopped by a very accusatory woof from the door. Instead, Fenris crashed his fist down onto the kitchen table, feeling the very real physical pain radiating from his knuckles, calming the storm raging in his head.

Hawke was gone and Hawke couldn’t be gone. Hawke wasn’t thinking (Hawke never thought, he cursed internally). He picked up the note again, scanned it scornfully and wrinkled it into a ball. Sacrificed? Fenris had sacrificed nothing. Fenris regretted many things. He regretted following orders without question for his Master. He regretted obtaining pleasure from acts that had been forced upon him. He regretted the shame of his memories, he regretted leaving Hawke that first night. He regretted nothing that had come after...

 

Hawke in his mansion. Finally, his mansion. It was not Danarius’s, not any longer, because Danarius was dead. Hawke who had stood, covered in blood and gore, and promised him that he wasn’t alone as he’d watched his sister retreat after her betrayal. Hawke who was always there, and Fenris was...free.

She played with her braid as she curled up in a chair by the fire, asking if he was reminiscing about  the good old days of being hunted. And Fenris laughed at that, truly laughed. Her whole face brightened when he laughed and she looked up, blue eyes shining bright. The whole world outside was crumbling to ash, the city descending into chaos, but all Fenris could think was that she was beautiful, she’d always been beautiful. He leaned against the fireplace and studied her. Free men had futures, possibilities. He had nothing to offer now, but he could.

“Perhaps it is time to move forward.” He ventured. “I’m just...not sure where that leads. Do you?”

“Wherever it leads…” Hawke ducked her head down, refusing to meet his eyes. “I hope it means we stay together.”

Fenris allowed himself to hope. Perhaps… perhaps he hadn’t ruined this. Perhaps happiness was still in his grasp. He clutched the ribbon around his gauntlet as he had so many times in the last three years. She saw it and stared at his hands, unmoving.

“That is my hope as well. We have never discussed…” Fenris began.

“You didn’t want to talk about it.” Hawke interrupted, eyes flicking up to his face. “I didn’t want to force you to do anything.”

Only Hawke, he thought ruefully. Only Hawke would worry that he’d broken her heart and that she’d force something unpleasant on him. “I felt like a fool. I thought it better if you hated me. I deserve no less.” Fenris slipped from the wall, leaning over her in the chair, hand on both of the armrests. “But it isn’t better.”

“I could never hate you, Fenris.” She said softly. “Strangle you sometimes, yes, but hate you? Absolutely never.” Her eyes were steady on his, the glass of wine forgotten in her fingertips. She was smiling, always so quick with a smile.

“That night… I remember your touch as if it were yesterday.” Fenris admitted. “I should have asked your forgiveness long ago. I hope you can forgive me now.”

“But why?” Hawke asked, tipping her head to the side. “I need to understand why you left, Fenris. I felt...so used. So worthless.” Her voice was harsh with unshed tears. Fenris griped the arms of the chair until his fingers ached.

“I never meant to use you. You are not...you are worth more than anything. Gold, diamonds, kingdoms are nothing compared to you.” Fenris declared. “I’ve thought about why I left a thousand times. The pain...the memories it brought up. It was too much. I was a coward. If I could go back, I would stay. Tell you.” He swallowed, ripping away from the chair in agony and pacing back to the fireplace, leaving Hawke staring at his back. “Tell you how I felt.”

“What would you say?” Hawke asked so quietly it was almost lost to the echoes of the hall. He turned to look at her, longingly. Helpless in the face of her, her heart, her goodness, her awful jokes, her knack for healing broken people. And her eyes were shining with hope. Hope, after all this time.

“That nothing could be worse than the thought of living without you.” He answered. The glass finally slipped from Hawke’s fingers, crashing and breaking on his dirty floor. She covered her mouth instead of reaching for the shards. Fenris did not know what to do, could not fathom what to do.

“Please don’t do this to me again, Fenris.” She whispered, tears escaping her blue eyes. “I could hardly bear it the last time… I have wanted you every day and told myself I could never have you. Don’t lie to me again.”

“If you will have me, I am yours. Heart and soul and whatever worldly possessions you see fit to salvage from this place. He crossed the space between them, kneeling before her. She jerked and tried to raise him up immediately, but he resisted. “I am a man kneeling before the woman I love. A free man, a slave no longer, and free to kneel and present present my heart to the woman who has won it. I am free of him Hawke. I am free of my past.” He captured her wrists in his hands, gently, tenderly and brought her knuckles to his lips. “If there is a future to be had, I will walk into it gladly at your side.”

She finally ripped her hands free of his and threw them around his neck until they were both kneeling on crunched, broken glass in front of the chair. His lips found hers and he pulled her closer, memories of her touch, taste, pale imitations of the real thing. She was all heat and fire that warmed but never burned. His fingers clutched in her robes as he pulled her up, pulled away from her reluctantly. “Am I forgiven?” He asked, desperation making his voice rougher.

“I don’t know.” Her smile was lazy, wicked. His favorite of her smiles. “This could be fun to hold over you just a while longer.”

He laughed, swinging her into his arms with a heart that felt like it could fly freely from his chest. Her fingers cupped his cheek and she stared into his eyes breathlessly. “I love you.”

Love. Fenris was loved. Fenris wasn’t alone. The most beautiful, brilliant, compassionate woman in Thedas loved him. He was speechless, burying his face into her warm shoulder, inhaling her sweet scent as her fingers tangled in his hair. “Yours.” He whispered to her skin. “All yours.”

 

Nothing was worse than the thought of living without her. Nothing. He pushed away from the table, ignoring the broken plate and reaching for his armor. His fingers were thick, clumsy with disuse as he began to strap it on. He roughly snapped a clasp close and attempted to twist to clasp another, but the gesture left him dizzy. He grabbed onto the edge of the bedpost, sinking down into covers that still smelled like her and cursing steadily in Tevine.

He didn’t manage to do that clasp, so he left it lose. It would be a problem if someone stabbed him in the back, but he would just stop them before that happened. Lucia watched skeptically as Fenris staggered across the room, packing a rucksack. He was out of breath before he’d managed to pack more than his sword polish. “Vehendis.” He growled, leaning heavily on a chair. He could almost hear Hawke berating him, that he’d undo all her careful work healing him. He could feel his side throbbing and when he touched it, it felt warm.

He would never make it to her. The thought choked him, enraged him. It had taken him weeks to progress this far, how long would it take for the rest of his recovery? Could he even carry his sword? Fenris clenched his fists tightly, fighting a scream. She had left him because he was weak, vulnerable. He couldn’t protect himself, let alone her. With a sound that was almost a sob, Fenris dropped his head between his knees and twisted his hands through his hair. With a whimper, Lucia was there, head on his knee and mournful brown eyes looking up at him. He dropped one hand to pat her large head and she nudged him gently.

Eventually, he moves and begins to eat, despite his lack of appetite. Then he begins to pace. Twenty-three steps across the room, twenty-three steps back. He does this until his side hurts too badly to continue, then does one more set. The pain felt better than the unbearable silence, felt better than his heart bleeding out in his chest. How could she, he thought as he fell to the bed, panting. When the pain stops, he gets up again.

Three days passed before he left the shack with Lucia, flinching from the bright light. His muscles were less stiff than they had been, he made it almost to the shore of the lake before the pain became excruciating. He still dragged himself to the shore, sitting on a log almost in the water and gasping for breath. It would be harder going when he returned uphill, he reminded himself. Hawke had four days headstart now to wherever she had went. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on the sounds around him, crickets, the wind in the trees. But all he could do was repeat the note over and over again, in her voice. If I don’t come back…

He impatiently brushed the burning water from his eyes and stood, staggering back up the hill until the pain was enough to tear a scream from his mouth and he was forced to his knees in the thick, muddy soil.

Four days later, he could walk to the lake without agony (soreness was ever present and irrelevant). His sword felt foreign in his hand and the weight unmanageable. He took his blade to a tree beside the shack, furious at the lack of strength in his own blows. He threw the blade down in disgust and fell to the ground, rubbing at his side in aggravation. He had waited long enough. Hawke had over a week on him now and he was counting on her being, as typical, shit at hiding. He’d had no news from the outside world.

No use hurrying to kill yourself, he heard Hawke’s voice chiding him. He cursed at her voice in his head and Lucia raised her head at his aggravation, a bright dandelion sticking from the side of her mouth. Despite himself, Fenris felt his lips twitch. “A wardog and a foolish elf can get very far together, yes?”

Lucia barked her agreement, tail wagging. Fenris stood and picked up the sword, centering himself. He had been created to be the perfect warrior, and would be again. Wryly, he thought he could thank Danarius for Fenris’s determination to make it through his brutal training regime.

The forms returned quickly, even though the strength would take longer. Fenris rolled his exhausted shoulder when he entered the shack, feeding Lucia and himself before collapsing into the bed that still smelled of Hawke.

 

His dream was no longer his own. He couldn’t remember what had come before, but he knew this place was not of his making. The grass beneath his bare feet was the softest he’d ever felt, he could smell honeysuckle and lavender. There were birds singing brightly, flying across the blue sky. A light breeze brought the sound of children laughing from a distant cottage. And between him and it…

She was the red cloak thrown over muddy breeches and a blouse that was a bit too big on her small frame. She was seated in the grass, smiling brightly and hopefully at him. She raised her arms immediately, beckoning him. “Amatus! Fenris!” She called. “I’ve missed you!”

This was real, and it wasn’t. It wasn’t real because there was no pain and there’d been near constant pain for weeks, even if he suspected it was getting better. It was real because his memory wasn’t good enough to supply the details of Hawke’s face, including details he didn’t know, like a healing scratch on her cheek and palms scraped red.

“Hawke.” He said stiffly. Her smile faded and her arms dropped. “You brought me here.”

“I wasn’t sure I could… I didn’t think I’d be able to find you.” She admitted, plucking a strand of grass from the ground and twisting it. “I wanted to see you. I’ve been worried about you.”

“Worried about me.” Fenris repeated with a sneer. Hawke flinched. “You left, Hawke. Without a word, without a proper goodbye. Left me like I had become inconvenient.” He accused.

“That isn’t it, and you know it!” She argued, standing. The wind gusted now, blowing her hair from her face as she steeled her hands on her hips. “I couldn’t risk…”

“It is not your decision to make.” Fenris growled. “Where are you?”

“Somewhere safe.” Hawke replied stubbornly, jutting her chin out in defiance. “Now how are you feeling?”

“Fine.” Fenris retorted. They stared at each other for a tense moment before Hawke said something that sounded rather suspiciously like ‘fuck it’ and threw herself into his arms, her lips melding with his. And this… it wasn’t real, he reminded himself, because it felt real when he pulled her closer, wrapping her braid around his fingers.

“Tell me where you are.” He demanded in between her kisses.

“No. You need to stay safe.” She whispered against his skin, hand going to his side automatically, as if she could check his injuries through the fade. “You’re in much greater danger.”

“I cannot live without you. If something happens to you and I am not there…” Fenris trailed off. Hawke’s fists tangled in his shirt.

“I won’t let you die for me.” She swore, eyes fiery in determination.

“I’m coming after you.” He promised. “And we will have words, Reyna. Words like we have never had.”

Hawke simply laughed, stroking his cheek. “I look forward to it, but where I’m going...you’ll never find me love. Just stay put. Please.”

He wanted to stay, to pull her back to him again, shake her maybe. Something was happening though, the edges of the world were shimmering, fading away. The last thing he saw was Hawke’s blue eyes staring up at him.

 

Lucia was growling at the door, hackles raised. Fenris rose quietly, grabbing his sword. Someone knocked again, unperturbed by the growling. Fenris crossed the room and opened the door just a crack. There was a skinny, long limbed elf in front of the door. “That’s a mabari there, ain’t it? Heard ‘em all the time in Denerim.”

“Who are you?” Fenris asked. The elf held up her hands showing she was weaponless, although Fenris had already spotted two daggers on her back and a third strapped to her thigh.

“Ivy.” She answered. “Ivy of the Inquisition, I guess. Listen, bird just said to stop on my way back from Denerim and give you this letter. I spent the last four hours walking around this lake looking for this blighted shack.”

“Inquisition?” Fenris asked, opening the door wider. The girl didn’t move, but Lucia did. She barrelled past Fenris and shoved her nose into the stranger at the door. The girl laughed, scratching the dog’s ears. In the moonlight, Fenris could make out scars on the girls face. She saw him staring and smirked.

“Venatori cultist!” She said proudly. “Bastard shot lighting at me, but I was too quick. Threw my knife at him and down her went. The Herald herself saw and said it was a good shot!”

“Venatori?” Fenris repeated. That was a Tevinter word, something familiar.

“Maker’s tits, you’ve been sleeping in this shack?” The elf girl asked, shaking her head. “Listen, the Venatori  attacked Haven with a darkspawn Magister, a dragon, and an army of templars infected with red lyrium. The Herald of Andraste fought them off single handedly and dropped a bloody mountain on ‘em then came back from the dead. She’s got a fortress in the Frostbacks now, and I’m workin’ for her spymaster to kick this Magister right back into the void.” She tapped her foot impatiently, crossing her arms over her chest. “And I need to get back to it, if ya don’t mind. I’m supposed to give this letter to an angry, glowing elf in a shack by Lake Calenhad. Is that you?”

“Yes.” Fenris answered, holding out his hand. She cheerfully plopped the letter in his hand and sunk to her heels to coo at Lucia. Fenris ripped the seal off and his heart lightened at the familiar scrawl. Then he read the rest of the letter and felt himself smirk.

“Good news then?” The girl asked.

“Are you returning? To this…” He read the name on the letter. “Skyhold?”

“Just for a minute, get a good drink and new orders.” She offered easily.

“I’ll be joining the Inquisition myself. May I accompany you?” The girl looked at him suspiciously, then down at Lucia.

“Only if the dog comes.” She stated emphatically. Fenris nodded his assent, turning to collect his gear.

Ivy is from Denerim, Fenris learned, a city elf born and bred. She talked almost as much as Merrill, but the topics were more similar to those favored by Isabela. Through her, Fenris is able to learn much more about the so-called Inquisitor. “Cutter thinks she’s got a thing going on with that author, Tethras. He’s mooning after her all the time, but so is half the Inquisition. Course, they say Andraste was enough to turn the Maker’s eye so I guess she couldn’t send us an ugly Herald, right?”

Fenris snorted. Well, that would explain why Varric wouldn’t leave. He clutched his side, feeling the pain building. “What’s a matter with you?” The girl asked, crossing her arms. “I can feel you slowin’ down here.”

“I was injured. It is nothing.” Fenris pushed on, but only a few moments later, the woman was insisting the moonlight was no longer enough to travel by and flopping onto the ground.

“I can still see.” Fenris protested. The woman smirked she she shut her eyes, wrapping herself in her cloak.

“Well, go on then. I’ll catch up in the morning.” She yawned, loudly. And before Fenris could protest more, she was snoring.

“Lovely.” Fenris muttered, laying down in the grass. Lucia laid down beside him, resting her head on his chest. “Soon, girl.” He whispered. “We’ll find her soon.”

Lucia licked his chin gently and her tail thumped on the ground twice. Fenris allowed himself to drift off.

Chapter Text

“I have mud in places it is certainly not supposed to be.” Hawke complained as her boot sunk into the mud, again.

“At least you don’t keep hitting your head on these damn ceilings. Vashedan…” Bull grumbled, ducking his horns again. Varric sighed and shook his head. It should have been a simple enough thing, really, and Maria was thrilled to have something to do besides paperwork. They’d taken off chasing Hawke’s lead the day after her arrival and arrived in Crestwood the next day. Unfortunately, they found a lake crawling with undead and a spiraling rift between them and the Warden. Hawke had simply sighed and shook her head. Maria crossed her arms and had glared at the damn thing. Ideas were tossed about for closing it before the Mayor rather reluctantly admitted there were dam controls that had been destroyed by Darkspawn, causing the whole village to be flooded.

What a damn sorry way to go, Varric thought. Maria had paled considerably at the thought, but they trudged up to Caer Bronach and cleared out the bandits, then found a room full of remarkably pristine dam controls. “Suspicious.” Bull had commented. Maria’s lips had thinned into a rather severe line that continued to get thinner when she found a rather suspicious letter in the Mayor’s old house.

Now, she was striding determinedly into Dwarven ruins trying to find their way back to the surface, mud sticking to her boots and not even bothering to comment on the complaining and bickering going on behind them. Something was very wrong, and Varric had a sinking suspicion she’d come to the same conclusion he had. Someone had drowned the poor sods to prevent the blight from spreading, killing everyone. Something like that had happened somewhere else during the blight, but Varric couldn’t remember where…

“This door’s locked.” Hawke said, shoving uselessly against it.

“Perhaps you should try charming it.” Dorian offered. Varric winced, he’d told Maria that it was a mistake bringing Dorian and Hawke, but she’d shrugged and said it was best to get it out of their systems right away. Varric saw no sign of the vitriol leaving anyone’s system anytime soon.

“Excellent idea, if that doesn’t work you can enslave it.” Hawke scowled over her shoulder. Bull absolutely didn’t help the situation by snickering.

At the beginning of this little misadventure, Maria had broken it up quite handily. But instead, she knelt in front of the door, ignoring Dorian when he offered blood magic sarcastically as another solution. Hawke replied it would be his blood they were using.

“Children.” Varric sighed, watching Maria’s hands shake as she attempted to pick the lock. “Princess, I think your picks are blunted. Let me.” Varric offered, kneeling beside her.

“I can do it.” Maria gritted her teeth and he laid a warm hand on her cold, mud spattered shoulder.

“I know.” He answered. “But you don’t have to. Let me.”

She dropped her arms with a huff and Varric deftly inserted his own picks into the lock, waiting to hear the satisfying click as the latch fell open. He shoved it open with his shoulder and bowed, waving Maria in. That did get a smile, a small one. “I can feel a draft.” She observed. She was right, Varric felt it too. They set off, shoulder to shoulder, as Hawke and Dorian’s snarking got lost in the background. One family of nugs and three ladders later, they were outside staring at the sun.

“Thank the Maker, I may finally dry out.” Hawke groused, rubbing her skinned palms on her leggings.

Dorian opened his mouth to say something, but Varric glared daggers at him as Maria took off at a brisk walk. “I think the cave is the other way!” Hawke yelled from behind them, scurrying to catch up.

“I have something I need to clear up first.” Maria answered, voice flat and calm. Varric could see her fist clenched tightly around her bow, the fire flashing in her eyes. She stormed towards the village while they stared at her back.

“Any idea what’s going on here, Varric?” Bull asked, tone falsely light. Varric shrugged hopelessly.

“No damn idea, but she’s on the warpath.” Varric observed. “We should probably try to contain the damage, for Ruffles sake.”

The group exchanged glances before picking their way down the hillside. They only managed to catch up to Maria thanks to her short stride. They followed quietly as Maria ignored the cheerful, exultant crowd showering praise on their Herald, their Inquisitor. Josephine would be devastated at the missed opportunity for good will, particularly when Maria was typically so good at garnering it.

She didn’t stop when she reached the Mayor’s cottage. Her hands flew to the knob and wrenched it open. Varric wouldn’t have been terribly surprised if she ripped the whole thing off of it’s hinges. She stormed in, eyes scanning every nook and cranny. “He’s gone, boss.” Bull observed. “Look at the state of the place, he left in a hurry.”

Maria made her way to the bed, picking things up off the nightstand. “I want him found.” She muttered, darkly. With a shrug, the rest of the group spread out to search the cottage. It was Hawke who found the note, perching on the edge of the desk as she began to read it aloud. Hawke’s voice grew steadily more angry, but it was nothing to the color draining slowly from Maria’s face. Varric watched her as she seemed to shrink in on herself.

“That bastard.” Hawke finally cursed, throwing the paper down. “All those people… he should be…”

“Get out.” Maria said, suddenly, coldly. Four sets of eyes swivelled to her.

“Vishante kaffas, are you alright?” Dorian asked, stepping forward. Maria stepped backward, shaking her head.

“Out.” she replied emphatically. “Get out.”

“Right.” Hawke pushed away from the desk, grabbing the other mage by the back of his collar. “You heard the lady. Leave her be.”

“Get your filthy…” Dorian began to struggle as Hawke shoved him from the cabin. Iron Bull followed slowly, ducking out the door and leaving the two dwarves alone.

“Maria…” Varric said slowly, hands out like he was approaching a wounded animal.

“Get out Varric, don’t touch me.” She drew back. Varric stilled, leaving his hands where they were as she turned her back to him, staring at the shelves in front of her. She reached out suddenly, pushing books and assorted carved figures onto the floor, glass shattering from a vase.

“I’m very good at destroying property if you want help.” Varric offered lightly.

“All those people! He didn’t...couldn’t even know that they were all sick. And even if they were… to drown them like that when they needed care. How can people be so cruel?” She asked, sinking to her knees and cradling her head in her hands. Sobs wracked her body and she swore, rubbing tears from her face. Varric sank down beside her, hands still open and empty despite a fresh longing to pull her close and make that heartwrenching sound stop.

“What happened, Princess?” Varric asked. “During the blight, you lost someone. Seems this brought it all back.”

“I can’t. I can’t talk about it.” She sobbed. “I’m sorry, I can’t.” Varric nodded.

“That’s alright. I just needed to know I was on the right track.” He said softly. “It’s over, Princess. You can’t save those people, but you saved this whole damn village. We’ll have your people track down that bastard and we’ll cart him off to Skyhold for you. You can lock him up, cut off his head, send him down to the Deep Roads, whatever you want, whatever you think will give those poor sods justice.”

“It won’t bring them back though.” Maria whispered, staring down at her own gloved hands. “They’re gone. He murdered them, and they’re gone.”

“No.” Varric agreed. “It won’t.” Maria’s sobbing began again and Varric sighed. He held out his hand in invitation until she took it and he ran his thumb over her knuckles soothingly. “C’mon, Princess. Let’s trash this place. It’ll make you feel better.”

She chuckled, rubbing the back of her hand across her eyes fiercely before standing and grabbing a poker from the fireplace, tossing it to him as she hefted a woodcutter’s ax with a vicious smile.

“Five sovereigns says I can break down this desk before you can shred the comforter.” She swung the ax experimentally twice and Varric laughed.

“I’ll take that bet, Princess.” He winked. “I’ve always been good at anything involving a bed.”

 

A half hour later, they emerged rather more cheerfully from the Mayor’s cottage. Remarkably, it was still standing despite Maria taking the ax to the walls more than once. He was five sovereigns poorer, but he couldn’t quite regret it. Emerging into the light, Varric quickly spotted Hawke, Dorian, and Bull uphill. Hawke was sitting cross legged on the ground, cards fanned out in her hand. Across from her, Bull was picking up a card and adding it to his hand. Dorian was leaning against a stone wall, watching them. When Hawke looked up and saw them she smiled and waved cheerfully.

“Now, what did we always tell you about gambling with the Qunari?” Varric asked Hawke.

“Varric, you know I don’t listen to a thing you say.” Hawke said with an eyebrow lifted. “Dorian thought you were managing our Inquisitor’s stress in inventful and erotic ways.”

Varric laughed and Maria crossed her arms over her chest, challenging Dorian with a playful glare. Dorian shrugged. “So...that would be a no then?” He asked.

Maria rolled her eyes and Dorian swore, reaching into his pocket and pulling out several silver coins. He passed them to Hawke and she pocketed them happily.

“You bet against me?” Varric asked, aghast.

“I bet that you were a gentleman.” Hawke smiled sweetly. “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a cut.”

“You better.” Varric grumbled as Iron Bull swept up the cards.

They skirted around the rest of the village as they searched for the cave. The first cave they entered was full of spiders, which had both Hawke and Maria screaming, then laughing together as Hawke lit them on fire.

“I hate them.” Hawke confessed.

“So much.” Maria agreed fervently, brushing her red hair from her eyes. Dorian was making retching sounds as he pulled burning spider from his robes.

“Savages!” He cried out, heading for the water. Maria followed, laughing and catching his elbow soothingly. Hawke smirked.

“You didn’t have to aim for him.” Varric chided. Hawke’s smirk turned into a full fledged grin.

“I would never do such a thing.” Hawke protested. “Besides, I’d rather talk about whatever happened in the village.”

“She lost someone to the Blight. That’s all I know.” Varric shrugged, watching as the dwarf leaned down and splashed water towards Dorian.

“Well, I can understand that.” Hawke said softly. “She’s as good with her bow as Sebastian, but she’s much more fun.”

“Hawke, I can think of loads more fun things than Choir Boy.” Varric remarked. Hawke giggled, watching as the Inquisitor rounded Dorian back up and brought him back to the cave.

“Well, let’s try to get one without spiders next time, yes?” Maria asked.

“We have to be close.” Hawke agreed, following after her. Varric watched as they joined at the hip and Hawke leaned down to whisper something in Maria’s ear. Maria laughed and looked slyly over her shoulder.

“That looks like trouble.” Iron Bull observed. “Some of the best kind, but still, trouble.”

“Women and spiders.” Dorian sputtered. “She’ll shoot a demon in the eye but a spider comes out and she’s up on the nearest rock letting that beast shoot flaming spider bits all over my robes.”

“I’m not sure who was squealing louder, you over your robes or her over the bugs.” Iron Bull laughed. Varric joined in and the women both shook their heads in exasperation in front of them.

Maria and Hawke found another cave and entered it much more cautiously. There wasn’t enough room for Maria’s bow to be much use, practically, so she had her dagger out. There was a fire burning in the center of the room, so Varric just had time to make out the shadow materializing on her flank. Bianca was already in his hands when he heard the metallic scratch of a sword being drawn from a scabbard. The noise made Maria turn, dagger in hand, but the sword was already pointing at her throat.

“Stop! It’s just us.” Hawke yelled from the left, rushing forward. “I brought the Inquisitor.”

The sword dropped immediately, the shadow stepping forward. “The Inquisitor? I am sorry, my lady.” Varric recognized the mustache immediately.

“Stroud! How’ve you been?” He asked.

“Better days are in my past, my friend.” Stroud replied, exhausted.

“Don’t worry, I’d have nicked that mustache first before you got my throat.” Maria replied cheekily, sliding her dagger away. “Hawke said you’d asked her to meet you here. She feared it could have something to do with Corypheus.”

“Corypheus.” Stroud said darkly, slipping his sword back into its scabbard. “Yes. When my friend, Hawke, slayed Corypheus the Grey Wardens at Weisshaupt considered the matter closed. I, however, was not so easily convinced.” Stroud paced back and forth, running his hand through his mustache.

“I started my own investigation and had revealed clues that indicated Corypheus was more archdemon than darkspawn. Before I could continue, every Grey Warden in Orlais began to hear the Calling.”

“Maker!” Hawke exclaimed, going pale. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“My first thought was to find Warden Amell, your cousin. However, when I arrived in Ferelden all the Grey Wardens there had vanished. The rumor is Nathaniel Howe, acting commander in Ferelden, received orders from Weisshaupt he refused to obey but I couldn’t find him to verify it.” Stroud shook his head.

“Every Grey Warden thinks they’re dying...and Corypheus put this calling in their head?” Hawke asked.

“Is the Calling they’re healing real, or is it something Corypheus put there?” Maria asked sharply.

“It matters not, the Wardens believe it is real. They will act accordingly.” Stroud said.

“There’s nothing more dangerous than a powerful animal that is trapped, scared, and desperate. Is that was Corypheus wants?” Maria mused.

“There is something occuring in the Western Approach. A gathering. Whatever the Wardens plan, they will do it there.” Stroud offered.

“Oh, good.” Dorian began. “Sand.”

“We have to get to the Wardens.” Hawke pleaded. “If we don’t stop them, they’ll play right into Corypheus’s hands. I set him loose, I can’t let anyone else get hurt for my mistake.”

“We set him loose.” Varric corrected gravely.

“Right. Back to Skyhold then.” Maria sighed.

“Boss, wait…” Iron Bull said, eyes gleaming. “People in the village said there was a dragon stealing cattle and threatening farmers. We can’t in good conscience leave it to prey on these people.”

“A dragon?” Maria deadpanned. Bull nodded emphatically.

“Yeah, a real fucking dragon! We gotta kill it.” He said, like a child pleading for a present or a later bedtime.

“We do not need to kill it.” Dorian pointed out.

“Well...if it is threatening the village, we kind of do.” Maria answered with a shrug. “I’ve never fought a dragon before.”

“I have!” Hawke volunteered, eyes shining brightly.

“Yes.” Varric ground his teeth together and fought back the rising migraine. “And your Broody elf was extremely upset about it.”

“What he doesn’t know.” Hawke said airily. “Stroud, will you join us?”

“In such wonderful company, how could I decline the sport?” He said with a wry smile.

 

The two women were scared of spiders, but neither of them flinched from a dragon. Hawke was absolutely gleeful, casting spells that bounced off the dragon’s hide and whooping in exhilaration every time she rolled out from under its tail. There was a bleeding scratch on her cheek and she had rubbed the blood over her nose, just like she had right before she took on the damned Arishok. Big damn heroes, Varric grumbled. In front of him, Iron Bull battered away at the creature’s legs with the same excitement while Dorian cast barrier after barrier over him, barely getting time in for his own magic to shoot out and attack. Stroud was much smarter, dodging and weaving. He’d lost track of Maria temporarily, but he could see her now climbing up the old ruins overlooking the lake. Her leather armor was ripped on the right side, but she wasn’t bleeding. She pulled an arrow from her quiver, a different one than she usually used and drew the bowstring taut.

The dragon roared and swiped at Iron Bull, knocking him back. It reared it’s ugly head and made to pounce, but Varric’s bolt drew it’s attention. Unfortunately, Varric appeared to have gotten himself trapped between it and the cliff edge.

Here lies Varric Tethras, he eulogized internally, sucker for pretty eyes and a fine figure. He reloaded Bianca quickly, shooting another rather ineffectual bolt as the dragon opened it’s maw, lightning sparking in between yellowed teeth.

A flask of Antivan fire landed rather uselessly against the dragon’s scales, but it was enough to drag the dragon’s attention from him. It turned quickly, leaving the tail to lash out viciously behind it. Varric attempted to dodge, but he didn’t have enough room. The only blessing was that it swept him further away from the cliff, knocking him to the ground so hard he heard a sharp snap and felt shooting pain in his right arm. He groaned and sat up quickly. He could barely see past the dragon, only a flash of red hair really. The dragon was moving towards her, and it occurred to him she’d thrown the flash. Now she waited, unflinching, as the dragon rolled towards her.

His heart caught in his throat and time slowed. Then it exploded, literally. An arrow flew into the open maw of the dragon and whatever explosive mechanism was on it caused it to burst, causing the dragon’s head to fall from it’s burst throat, jaw still sparking with electricity. Iron Bull cheered, hefting his axe over his own bleeding skull. “YEAH BOSS!” He cried as the dragon’s body fell.

Stroud was beside him, offering a hand. Varric gently tossed Bianca over his shoulder and pulled himself up with the arm that wasn’t on fire and twisted at an impossible angle. “I’m afraid it may be broken, my friend.” Stroud observed.

“Yeah.” Varric said through gritted teeth. “Definitely something wrong with it.”

Bull was at the ruin now, offering his arms to help Maria down. Her feet were no sooner on the ground than she was running to him. Hawke was ambling, much less concerned, cracking jokes with Dorian as they approached. If she didn’t fucking hurry, Varric was going to take her damn staff and crack her over the head with it.

“Are you hurt?” Maria asked, concern coloring her voice. “Is it your arm?”

“Yes, shit shit.” Maria was undoing his own armor, pulling his jacket open. Iron Bull whistled and Hawke burst into laughter. “Gentle, Princess. It does hurt.”

“Maybe she can kiss it better.” Hawke teased as she bent to examine it with a smirk. “I can leave it broken if you’d like to play the martyr.”

“Does it always take you this long to heal injuries?” Maria asked incredulously. Hawke laughed, rolling up her sleeves.

“Please, he’s gotten worse than this tromping through Darktown.” She said, winking at Varric as she knelt and examined the arm. “Gotta pop this back together Varric, ready?”

“Get it over with, Hawke.” Varric groaned.

“Right.” Hawke nodded. Maria was watching Hawke’s hands, worrying her own bow in her hands as Hawke worked. She moved his broken bones and Varric clenched his teeth shut with an audible click. Then the soothing warmth of healing magic slipped into his muscles and he was able to relax, watch Maria watching Hawke, see the blue light of magic reflected in her gray eyes. She was biting at her bottom lip, waiting anxiously. Varric could feel aches he didn’t even realize he had fading. One thing he could say about Hawke, she was always quite thorough.

He looked over at Hawke and found her watching him, wistfully. Varric knew he’d been caught out, that Hawke who had always seen through him had seen more than he meant her to. She smiled softly as the light around her fingers dimmed, pulling back. “There, anything else broken?”

“Don’t think so.” Varric didn’t meet her gaze as he flexed his fingers, testing.

“Good.” Hawke said, satisfied. He had a feeling they weren’t talking about his arm anymore.

“Boss, can we take the head back to Skyhold?” Iron Bull asked, excitedly. “I want all the Chargers to see.”

 

Cullen was less than amused when they rolled into Skyhold two days later trailing a dragon head behind them. He spent nearly forty-five minutes lecturing Maria, who took it with an amused grace, about proper protocols and safe dragon hunting. Finally, she pinched his cheek and told him he was such a mother hen. Then she ordered him to find the Mayor of Crestwood and took off to check on Cole and Sera who were both still recovering from the infamous flower crown incident.

Leliana had secrets, blackmail, and murder to discuss. Josephine had alliances, marriages, and parties to plan. They stole Maria as soon as they were back, leaving Hawke to deal with the banter that had sprung up between Dorian and Hawke. Their attitude was much improved since the dragon, something about mutually admiring their complicated fade shit. Dorian’s barriers were so flexible, Hawke’s flames were so elegant. Of course, every other word was still an insult, but they were both insufferably vain and ate up the compliments.

He was sadly almost grateful when Cassandra finally managed to get him alone, despite the fact that her first move was to shove him against the banister in the armory.

“You knew where Hawke was all along!” Cassandra accused.

“You’re damned right I did!” Varric said, pushing her away.

“You conniving little...shit!” Cassandra threw a punch and Varric ducked under her. Cassandra’s eyes flashed brilliantly, dangerously.

“You kidnapped me! You interrogated me! What did you expect?” Varric asked.

“Hey! Enough!” He hadn’t heard her come in, maybe she had started sneaking around in stealth. Maria was standing at the stairs like she’d heard everything, chin raised imperiously.

“You’re taking his side?!” Cassandra exclaimed.

“I said, enough!” Maria said, tossing down the chainmail in her hand.

“We needed someone to lead this inquisition. We looked for the Hero of Ferelden, but she’d vanished. Then we looked for Hawke, but she was gone too. We thought it all connected, but no, it was you. You kept her from us!”

“Hawke, lead the Inquisition?” Maria asked dubiously. Varric had to admit she had that one pegged.

“The Inquisition has a leader, and a damned fine one.” Varric indicated Maria.

“Hawke would have been at the conclave, if anyone could have saved the Most Holy…” Cassandra wasn’t paying attention, didn’t see Maria’s face fall just a bit.

“I hardly think Varric’s responsible for the Conclave explosion, Cassandra. Hawke may not have even made it in time, even if he did tell you.” She said gently. “I understand you’re still grieving, but…”

“Varric is a liar, Inquisitor. A snake! Even after the conclave, when we needed Hawke most, Varric kept her a secret.” Cassandra accused.

“She’s here now! We’re all on the same side.” Varric lifted his hands, exasperated.

“We all know whose side you’re on Varric. It will never be the Inquisition’s.” Cassandra growled, turning away.

“I think Varric has earned his right to be here, Cassandra.” Maria said, a little cooler.

“Thank you!” Varric exclaimed. Cassandra made a disgusted noise in her throat.

“You would say that.” Cassandra said, leaning over the banister. Maria sighed.

“Perhaps you should go, Varric.” Maria said with a shake of her head.

“I’m on your side.” Varric swore, more passionately now. “I brought Hawke here because…”

“I know.” Maria said, patting his shoulder and gently steering him away. “Trust me.”

“You know what I think?” Varric said, turning back to Cassandra. “If Hawke had been at that temple… she’d be dead too. You people with your holy wars and higher causes...you’ve done enough to her.”

“Varric…” Maria cajoled, bringing him to the steps.

“They’ll do it to you.” Varric predicted, shoulders slumping, pushing his hand through his hair. “They’ll do it to you too.”

“Maybe.” She said quietly, with a smile. “But I’m a Carta princess, remember? Now go.”

Outside, Hawke was waiting, arms crossed. “I heard it get heated. I couldn’t decide if it was better to interrupt or leave it up to her.”

“She’ll handle it.” Varric said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “We’d better lay low though, just in case Cassandra feels like punching something.”

“I like her. Quite a lot, actually.” Hawke said.

“Cassandra?” Varric asked but Hawke simply smiled.

“Don’t play dumb with me, you know I won’t believe it. She told me we’re off to the Western Approach in two days. You’ll be accompanying us?” Hawke asked, scratching her boot in the dirt.

“Wouldn’t miss it, Waffles.” Varric said with a sigh. “Crazed wardens, darkspawn, maybe a red templar or two. Sounds like a perfect Tuesday.”

 

Varric didn’t see Cassandra or Maria the rest of the day. In fact, he didn’t feel like it was safe to venture out of his room with Hawke until it was dark. Hawke was insistent on getting a drink, and Varric never could say no. That’s when they literally ran into Sera very awkwardly supporting Maria as they stumbled through the door.

“Oh good!” Sera said, untangling herself from Maria’s arms. “Tag, you’re it.”

“Wait, what happened?” Varric asked, amused as the normally very graceful woman stumbled and latched onto Hawke’s proffered arm.

“Quizzy is drunker than a beggar on a feast day, she is. That’s what she gets for drinkin’ with a qunari, ain’t it?” Sera explained with a shrug. “I’m gonna go back to drinkin’, ain’t carryin’ her up all those stairs.”

“What were you drinking?” Hawke asked, laughing.

“To dragons!” Maria laughed, swinging her arms around Hawke’s waist. “I am a fan, y’know. Very big fan. Read your book a dozen times. Love the part where you tried to help Aveline flirt with that guardsman.”

“I’m sure Aveline is thrilled that made it into the book.” Hawke commented.

“Can Isabela really do that thing with her tongue?” Maria asked.

“So I’ve heard.” Hawke replied easily.

“You know, Tiny is much bigger than you.” Varric said. “Not to mention I’m pretty sure whatever he drinks could light a person on fire.”

“Varric!” Maria chimed brightly, letting go of Hawke and tottering back almost into Sera. She giggled and she sounded...young. Sera pushed her away playfully, straight into Varric. Maria’s arms went around his neck, her body pressed up against his.

“Brilliant. You take care of the fearless leader, I’ll get to know this rather interesting elf better.” Hawke was smirking from ear to ear.

“Pft, you’re all mage fingers, aren’t ya? You keep that away from me, even if you are pretty.” Sera eyed Hawke narrowly, but Hawke was as charming as ever.

“Very pretty.” Hawke said. “And very capable of not lighting anything on fire while drunk. I’ll tell you embarrassing stories about Varric.” She finished, wheedling. That was all it took, Sera was dragging her into the tavern and Varric and Maria was alone.

“C’mon Princess, let’s see if we can’t sneak you up to your room.” Varric said, placing an arm snugly around her waist.

“We can go back to yours.” Maria offered, pressing her nose against his bare neck. Varric laughed, even as desire stirred very traitorously in his stomach.

“Bad idea.” He said, nudging her gently toward the main keep. “Hawke’s sleeping there too and she kicks in her sleep.”

“We didn’t give her a room of her own?” Maria asked incredulously. “I’ll fix it. Tomorrow.”

“Not jealous?” Varric asked lightly. Bianca had been a bit jealous of Hawke, so much so Varric had tried to avoid mentioning her in letters when possible. It didn’t help their one and only meeting had gotten off to a very rough start when the two of them had run into Hawke’s estate with Carta assassins on their tails. Maria only huffed and threw her red hair over her shoulder with a sultry smile.

“Her legs are far too long. Humans and their outrageous limbs, how do they manage?” Varric chuckled shaking his head.

They were making their way, mostly silent, through the main hall. Blessedly, it was empty besides some of Cullen’s soldiers. They’d almost made it to the door before Maria spoke again, turning to nuzzle back into his neck. “Besides, you’re not mine to claim, are you?” Maria asked, tone falsely light.

Varric fumbled the doorknob and the sound seemed unnaturally loud. Cursing, he pulled it open and pushed her inside before slinking in after her. Compared to the hall, her stairway was shadowed and dark. He couldn’t see her face, but he could feel her warmth, her breath stirring across his chin. He reached for her blindly, hands finding her hip. “What if I was?” He asked, fingers reaching up, tucking a silky strand of hair behind her ear.

She lurched forward, hands capturing his face and pulling his lips to hers. He tried to resist only for a moment before her taste overwhelmed him. She tasted like whatever burning alcohol Bull had been pouring down her throat, but also like honey and something else that caused all his muscles to tighten with desire. Her fingers were on his chin, rubbing against his stubble with their calloused fingertips. One hand travelled back to his hair, gripping the tie and pulling it loose, letting his hair fall free around his face. A little moan formed in her mouth, and Varric stole it greedily, pulling her against him, fingers digging into the curve of her hips. She shivered in anticipation and Varric felt his control fraying. He pulled away, desperately.

“Maria…” He whispered.

“That was exactly as good as I thought it’d be.” Maria whispered back, her hands still tangled in his hair. She swayed against him, pressing hard.

“You’re drunk. I can’t…” Varric groaned as she rubbed against him, he caught a glimpse of her teeth in a broad grin. “Damnit.” He swore, tugging her up the steps.

It was even more difficult now, her hands were wandering with every unsteady step and she was laughing, kissing exposed skin on his neck, clever hands undoing every button she could reach. By the time Varric had her up in her plush room, Varric could have sworn she was a desire demon. He settled her to the bed and she tried to pull him down with her. She almost succeeded, Varric just caught himself on the headboard.

“I want you.” She whispered against his bare chest, lips trailing down his chest hair. “Please.”

“Not like this. Not drunk.” Varric pulled away leaving his skin cold where had touched it. He hoped she would remember this, how hard it was to wrench himself away from her. He deserved a fucking commendation, a knighthood. “When you’re in your right mind. When the world isn’t fucking falling apart.”

She was pouting, gray eyes burning seductively as she reached out. Varric took her hand in his, bending down to kiss the back of it. “You know heroes don’t get happy endings.” Maria observed. “Let me have this.”

“You will.” Varric promised, chastely and quickly kissing her forehead. “You will, I promise Princess.”

He backed out of the room without another word, nearly stumbled down the steps and paused at the bottom, head resting on the heavy wooden door. He remembered to do up the buttons, to pull his hair back, but nothing could disguise his thumping heart, the erection straining in his trousers. He debated taking himself in hand and finishing right here to the thoughts of her pliant curves, her warm lips and clever tongue. Instead he waited, struggling to master himself. When finally he felt composed enough, he exited the Inquisitor’s room. The cold air was bracing as he slipped across the courtyard, back to the tavern. Sera and Hawke were throwing knives at a target on the far side of the wall, but they both turned when the door opened. Sera shook her head in disbelief, throwing coins at Hawke’s feet before storming off.

“You bet against me, again?” Varric asked incredulously as Hawke bent to pick up the silver coins.

“I’m making a small fortune on it, yes.” Hawke replied with a careless shrug and a quick smile. “Don’t act all high and mighty, I know about you and Isabela betting on Fenris and me. Besides, I was betting on you being a gentleman. You’re welcome.”

Varric crossed his arms and held out his hand. Cheerfully, Hawke dumped half the coins into his hand. “Looking a bit flushed though.” She observed. “Maybe I should find a different room tonight?”

“I will find Curly and tell him that it was you who kept sending all those rotten eggs to the Gallows.” Varric threatened. Hawke smirked and rolled her eyes, sauntering to the bar. Varric shook his head, exhaling. Maker’s balls, these women would be the death of him.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Fenris and Ivy packed up and continued their trip. When Fenris asked how long the trip would take, she shrugged cheerfully and stopped whistling long enough to grin at him. “Long as it takes! First, there’s a boat near here somewhere. Saw it on my way to find your cranky ass. Then we row across the lake and take Gherlen’s Pass. There’s a road that shoots off and takes you right to Skyhold. Should be cleaned up well enough now to get there in two days if the weather isn’t shite in the mountains. Course, that’s if you can keep up old man.”

“Vishante Kaffas.” Fenris growled at her. She laughed.

“Perite!” She responded with a wink. This silenced Fenris for a moment.

“You...you speak Tevene?” He asked respectfully. She sniggered.

“Mostly the curses and the ass kissing parts. Yes master, no master, that shite.” She said, turning to face him and walking backward over the ground.

“You weren’t born there. Your accent is atrocious.” Fenris observed.

“Thank the bloody maker or creators or our Lady Herald, whoever. No, I was twelve in Denerim during the Blight and Teyrn Loghain...” She sneered his name. “Decided to sell off some elves and fund his civil war. You know how it is, nobody misses a couple of knife ears from the alienage. I heard the Hero of Ferelden came and put a stop to it, but it was too late for me and two dozen other bastards. We were halfway to Tevinter and nobody had time to send a damn rescue party with darkspawn knockin’ on the door.”

“I’m sorry.” Fenris apologized. She stiffened, turning quickly on her heel.

“Don’t feel sorry for me.” She sniffed. “ I got out. Six years later when the Master got handsy, I took my chances. Didn’t stop running till I reached Denerim again. If you gotta pity someone, feel bad for all the fucks who can’t get out.”

Fenris had to admit she had a point. Slowly, her paces shortened and she matched his. Fenris could tell she was staring at him from the corner of her eye. It wasn’t something he was unused to, the markings were distinctive, but it still made him uncomfortable. “Can I help you?” He said, turning his own glare to her.

“They talk about you, y’know. It’s why Nightingale sent me to deliver that letter from the dwarf. She didn’t think I’d be scared of you.” Ivy remarked.

“Who talks about me?” Fenris snapped. Ivy, irritatingly, giggled.

“Everyone in Tevinter! The slaves can’t believe you killed two Magisters and all the hunters they sent after you. You’re almost a myth! And the Magisters absolutely forbid anyone talking about you, of course that doesn’t stop anyone, but I did see someone get their tongue ripped out for it once.” She exclaimed. “You’re as famous in the north as your mage-lady is down here. She’s your sidekick in all the stories, the southern apostate swooning helplessly at the heels of the freed slave, love conquering magic, blah blah…” Ivy did a fair impression of a swooning damsel. Hawke would be utterly enjoying this demonstration if she were here.

“You cannot be serious.” Fenris stated.

“I am!” Ivy’s eyes widened. “Escapes started happening twice as often. Executions too, of course. I don’t know if I’d have tried it if I hadn’t heard about you.”

This hit Fenris profoundly enough to stop him. Luckily, Ivy thought he’d spotted the boat, hidden in brambles and reeds by the shore. Fenris stared after the girl as she slipped down the gentle slope. She’d been eighteen when Kirkwall exploded, so that would make her... twenty-one? A child still, but older than Hawke when she went into the Deep Roads. Fenris was unsure of his own age.

“Do they… say anything about who I was, before?” He asked, hesitant, hopeful, wary. Ivy’s eyes flashed up and he saw them full of sympathy.

“No.” She answered simply. “You really don’t know who you were?”

“I do not.” Fenris answered, joining her as she uncovered the boat.

“That’s… sad.” Ivy said softly.

“Don’t pity me.” Fenris warned. Ivy’s lips twitched upward easily.

“Never dream of it, grandpa. Need help getting in the boat? Can your hip stand it?” She asked, faux sincerity dripping from every syllable.

“I’ll have you know I took this wound fighting five templars with no armor.” Fenris bristled as they guided the vessel into the lake.

“Only five?” She asked. “I expected better, honestly.”

Fenris didn’t dignify that with a response, whistling Lucia into the boat before climbing in himself. He hated to admit it, but it felt good to sit. He rubbed his side surreptitiously before the other elf joined him, handing him an oar. There was barely enough room for them, even with Lucia making herself as small as possible. The rowing was hard work, and the sun had decided to appear from behind the clouds. By the time they reached the opposite side, Fenris’s arms  were twitching with the strain from muscles that had been too long in disuse. They pulled the boat out and hid it just as carefully before climbing up the slope.

“Good place to rest.” Ivy said, falling to the grass. Fenris, despite his impatience, didn’t fight it.

“Tell me of what has happened. Were you there, at the beginning? When the breach opened?” Fenris asked.

“I was, working for Nightingale. She found me pickpocketing in Denerim, when she found out I’d been in Tevinter she pumped me for everything I knew. Which was quite a lot, to be honest. I was good at eavesdropping. Then she hired me. I’m not particularly religious, but she pays well and she’s good to her people.” Ivy pulled two shining apples from her pack and handed one to Fenris. When he bit into it, it tasted like spring and juice dribbled down his fingers. “I was there, when it opened. Thought we’d all die, but then she came.”

Ivy rubbed the apple against her tunic thoughtfully before taking a bite of it. “I’m not religious… but it was a miracle. She’s a damned miracle, Lady Cadash. I know they say she was a criminal and a dwarf, but why does that disqualify her? I know people who saw her walk out of the Fade, they saw Andraste behind her.”

“How did they know it was Andraste?” Fenris asked skeptically. Ivy scoffed.

“Well who else would it be? Andraste sent her to close that breach, and she did. Then when Corpyheus…” Fenris interupted quickly.

“Corphyeus? That is the name of the Darkspawn magister?” He asked.

“Yep. Told our Lady Herald himself. Tried to take Andraste’s mark from her hand. Then, while we evacuated, she faced him by herself with a damned archdemon about to eat her. She caused an avalanche that buried the red templars and herself. No one could have survived it, but she did. I saw your dwarf friend carrying her up the mountain with her sister cryin’ behind her. Thought she was dead at first, but the next day she was up and leadin’ us through the mountain.” Ivy shook her head, smiling broadly. “I don’t know much ‘bout Andraste or the Maker, but I know she’s special. I’d follow her to the death. Gladly.”

Fenris felt a sudden, desperate urgency to get to Hawke. If it was Corypheus… kaffas, then it was their fault. And Hawke was known to carry the whole weight of the world on her shoulders. “And the Venatori?” He asked.

“Tevinter cultists. Trying to restore the glory of the Imperium by setting up Corypheus as a new god.” She snorted. “Typical Imperium bullshit. I’ve told Nightingale I think most of their warriors are slaves, but there’s not much you can do about it when you’ve got their sword at your throat and a mage shooting fire out their ass. There was an infestation of them in Denerim, but we rooted them out. I got to meet the King himself.”

“He’s a fair man.” Fenris said. Ivy rolled her eyes.

“Course, you met him.” She complained. “He can still swing a sword at least. Said it was the most fun he’d had in years. Apologized that he’d been unable to come after the elves that had been shipped off during the blight. It doesn’t change anything, but it was nice of him.”

 

After their rest, they marched off toward the pass. Much to Fenris’s annoyance, Ivy insisted on stopping every time she noticed Fenris slowing, which was entirely more than he wanted to admit. “Venhedis, woman.” He exploded as she insisted for stopping for the night right when they arrived at the pass. “Stop coddling me!”

“I’ll never forgive myself if I’m the one to get you killed after everything. We’ll be there tomorrow, with luck your lady mage will be there to coddle you in a much more satisfying way.” Ivy remarked nonchalantly, setting up her bedroll in a spot hidden behind an outcropping. “I will continue without you.” Fenris threatened.

“You will get lost and end up in Orzammar, their ale is shite and you know you don’t want that.” Ivy said. “Listen, I’m in just as much a hurry as you. I got a solider up there I hardly ever get to see runnin’ around like I do. But slow is better than dead.”

Fenris wanted to retort that slow was as good as dead, but he could tell it would do no good. He stalked off to gather firewood instead, Lucia padding happily at his heels. He returned with an armload of wood, but Ivy was standing ramrod straight, knives in her hands. She looked over her shoulder as he approached and made a shushing gesture. Lucia sank into a crouch and Fenris slowly laid the wood down, unsheathing his blade quietly as he approached. He could hear voices speaking softly, in Tevene.

Fenris peered around the outcropping and saw the mage with the two swordsmen. There was a wicked, dangerous gleam in Ivy’s eyes as she listened. Venatori, she mouthed. Spies, Fenris thought, most likely headed for Orzammar or Skyhold itself. They were getting closer, continuing to walk in the dusk. Ivy disappeared from view, going into stealth smoothly. Fenris waited, counting footsteps. Then...a gurgle, a clatter, and Fenris stepped into view long enough to see the Mage collapse into the path of the dust and the two swordsmen turn to the rogue. Before Ivy could move, Fenris was behind them, plunging his sword through the cheap breastplate of the one of the left, then smoothly reaching with his gauntlet for the heart of the one on the right. He clutched but did not crush, not yet. Pain laced up his left side, but bearable, he had endured far worse. It was similar to how the markings had felt at first, when they were new.

“Would you like him alive?” Fenris asked, allowing the one on the left to fall from his blade.

“Oh, Nightingale will love you.” Ivy remarked, eyes wide. “Hold on, got some rope somewhere.”

Fenris pulled his arm from the man’s chest and sent a heavy blow across his skull instead, letting him land squarely in the dust. Ivy was there in an instant, trussing him like a pig. She smirked up at Fenris, the mage’s blood still dripping down her cheeks. “Maybe just a short rest, and we’ll push on up to Skyhold.”

“Suddenly I am not so old.” Fenris remarked wryly. The girl giggled.

 

They made it to Skyhold with their captive shortly after dawn the next day and Fenris felt like collapsing in relief. Hawke was there, somewhere. It had been over a week, the longest he had went without sight of her in years. His heart ached to throw itself at her feet. His mind screamed that they were not through. They crossed the bridge and the portcullis started to rise. A soldier ran out before they were halfway across and Ivy dropped the rope that bound their prisoner, tossing it to Fenris before running forwards and jumping into the waiting arms of the soldier halfway across the gap.

“Maker I’ve missed you.” The lad said, nuzzling his nose into the elven girl’s neck. She giggled, pushing him away and nipping lightly at his chin.

“I’m probably gonna get a promotion soon. You’re gonna have to salute and everything.” She teased, waving behind her. “This is Ser Fenris, you’ve heard about him, and a Venatori spy we found in the pass.”

“Welcome, Serah.” The soldier saluted. Fenris didn’t know quite what to do, so nodded stiffly in return. Ivy took the prisoner and handed him off to other soldiers as they emerged. “It’ll be good to have a warrior of your renown in the Inquisition.”

Fenris hadn’t meant to join the Inquisition, but he supposed if Hawke had, he may as well. He nodded, trying not to lean his weight from his bad side. “I was told my wife would be here.” He said, as diplomatically as possible.

“Ah, your… wife. Serah Hawke? The Champion?” The boy said, nervously. Fenris nodded, curtly. “Congratulations. I had not… I was not aware. Unfortunately, Serah Hawke and the Inquisitor left with a retinue to the Western Approach. Just two days ago. They’ll be halfway across Orlais by now.”

Fenris was going to scream. Or hit something. He grit his teeth together, turning on his heel. Trust Hawke to make him drag himself across the whole damned continent. He was going to…

“Fenris! Wait!” Ivy shouted, racing to his side. “You can’t, you’re still not well. And you’ve been going all night.” She argued, putting herself squarely in his way.

“I will be fine.” Fenris glared, shoving past her. Ivy sighed and shrugged her shoulders in a gentle rolling motion.

“You could have taken the easy way.” She said agreeably, before her elbow lashed out and connected with the wound that had been aching for hours. It wasn’t half as hard as she probably could have hit him, but it was enough. The pain was agony and his marks flared, drawing the last of his strength. He lashed out, but she had already danced away. There were now two of her, swimming on the edges of her vision. Then there was nothing.

 

Fenris awoke what felt like hours later, parched and confused. The bed smelled of clean grass, sugar cookies, Hawke. He knew it as well as he knew anything and his eyes searched desperately for her. Instead, they landed on two men deep in conference. One bowed and went out the door, the other turned to him with a peaceful smile. “Ah, you’re awake.”

The name took a moment, there was...something different. Maybe it was the hair, or the lack of Templar armor. That scar on his lip was definitely not there before. “Knight Captain.” Fenris greeted warily, shifting his weak body upwards. His side shrieked in pain, again, like he’d undone all his week’s worth of healing.

“Not anymore. You can call me Commander, if you wish.” Cullen said agreeably, sitting down in  a chair by the bed. “Maker’s breath, what happened to you?”

“Your agent…” Fenris growled. Cullen chuckled softly.

“You’re telling me that girl brought one of the fiercest warriors I’ve ever seen to his knees with an elbow jab all by herself? Maker, I should steal her from Leliana then.” Cullen said patiently, leaning back. “Your dog almost got her, by the way.” He inclined his head to Lucia on the floor who lifted her head and wagged her tail happily.

“Where is Hawke?” Fenris asked instead. “Or my armor.” He added, realizing he was bare from the waist up.

“Your wife, congratulations are in order I hear, left with the Inquisitor and her companions to the Western Approach two days ago. Last I heard, they were somewhere near Verchiel.” Cullen answered. “I had one of our physicians take a look at you. That wound seems small to be causing you such problems.”

“Not a mage, I hope.” Fenris stated. Cullen sighed.

“The mages we have are no healers, none hold a candle to Hawke on her worst days. We can stop bleeding and mend broken bones, but that’s it. Most of the healers that were in the circles never bothered to learn combat magic. When the war came, they were among the first to be cut down. I don’t know if there are many healers left in southern Thedas at all. You’ll have to make do with our surgeons.”

“Hawke did all she could.” Fenris said. “Have you seen her? Is she well?”

“From a distance. I was under the impression she was studiously avoiding me.” Cullen remarked. “She appeared well, tired, but well. I heard she was conning much of the Inquisition out of their coin with inappropriate gambling.”

“That does sound like her.” Fenris said. “And my armor?”

“That girl you arrived with sent it to be cleaned. Also, I suspect, to keep you from leaving as soon as you woke. She said she feared you pushed yourself too hard to make it here.” Cullen replied.

“I was attacked, by templars infected with red lyrium.” Fenris explained. “We both were, but Hawke was uninjured. I was not so fortunate. Apparently, these markings near the wound become infected with the red lyrium somehow to cause a grave injury.”

“Maker’s breath, you’re lucky to be alive. We’ve seen red lyrium infection, it’s fatal.” Cullen sat back, stunned. “Hawke may be an even greater healer than I thought. I was under the impression that the...other one was the better healer.”

“The abomination spent more time on it, yes.” Fenris gritted his teeth. “But Hawke’s father was a healer. He made sure she learned.”

“Regardless, I’d love to know how Hawke did it. Perhaps her technique could save others if we find them in time.” Cullen mused, standing. “This is her room, where she slept the night before they left. I figured you would prefer to be placed here as well.”

“Thank you.” Fenris said stiffly. “I will not be staying long.”

Cullen chuckled, shaking his head. “Stay for a few days, get your strength back. We get word from the Inquisitor everyday by raven and we can track them for you. I strongly suspect we’ll be sending a larger force after them in a week, perhaps less. If you would like, you’d be welcome to travel with them.”

“Why do you suspect that?” Fenris asked. Cullen frowned thoughtfully.

“The man you brought back from the pass. He stated that there is a plan to raise an army in the approach and take Orlais for Corypheus. The Inquisition forces will have to stop it. Hopefully, the Inquisitor can learn more.”

“Commander Cullen, news Ser.” Another soldier was at the door. Cullen stood, inclining his head in farewell as he left Fenris. Exhausted, Fenris allowed himself to settle back in the bed. Lucia was beside him, sniffing the sheets and pressing her cold nose to his cheek.

“Very close, but not quite.” Fenris explained, scratching the dogs head. Then he fell asleep.

 

He awoke to Lucia’s growling, fierce and determined, and Ivy in the doorway with his armor in pieces. “Oh shut it.” She told the dog with a roll of her eyes. “Woulda been dead in a week if he left in that condition.”

“I should let her attack.” Fenris said, keeping his eyes closed. “It is an underhanded thing, to turn on your ally.”

“Sorry, Serah, that I wasn’t in a hurry to let you kill yourself. Call the mabari off or I’m dumping all your armor here in a heap.” Ivy threatened. Fenris whistled softly and Lucia retreated, still placing herself rather protectively between the two elves.

“I’m heading west myself, with a small scouting party. Won’t be headin’ the whole way to the approach, but I may be able to pass on a letter if you like.” Ivy offered as she set his armor neatly down on a chest.

“No.” Fenris answered. “A letter isn’t sufficient.”

“Have it your way.” Ivy shrugged. “I know you’re angry for me taking you down like a sack of potatoes…”

“Unfairly.” Fenris defended. Ivy smirked.

“But it was an honor to meet you.” She finished.

Unsure what to do, Fenris sat up slightly, swinging his legs experimentally from the bed. They felt stable enough to support him, and the pain was less when he stood. He offered his hand to the young woman, who took it briskly, shook it once, then turned away.

“May your Maker, the Creators, or your Herald be with you.” Fenris said softly. The girl smiled.

“Oh, I think they will be.” She answered easily, before vanishing.

Two days later, Fenris was able to make it down the stairs by himself thanks to the overbearing attention of a rather grumpy alchemist and servants who seemed intent on feeding him to death. Two days after that, he felt as well as he did the day he’d left Lake Calenhad. He’d decided to back all his items and leave the next day, assuming he could obtain a mount to make the journey much easier. Cullen interrupted his efforts, letter clutched in hand.

“The Inquisitor has called for the army. We leave at first light tomorrow to Griffon Wing Keep. It’ll be a hard march, but I’d appreciate your sword.” He said.

“What has happened?” Fenris asked, hands stilled on his packing.

“Blood magic and demons, what else is new.” Cullen swore under his breath, storming off. Fenris growled himself, throwing his pack onto the ground in distaste. He stormed to the window, looking out over the chaotic courtyard. Then he moved to the small desk in the room, opening the drawers to search for ink and paper. He should have written before, he cursed himself. Blood magic and demons, and Hawke in the thick of it, with no word from him because of his damned pride. Perhaps the letter could still make it before them on one of Leliana’s ravens…

There was paper in the top drawer, letters folded in half. The top one spelled his name in elegant, looped letters. Hawke’s handwriting, he knew. He pulled it out, then the others beneath it. One for Merrill, Carver, Isabela, Varric, even Sebastian. Fenris opened the one addressed to him and felt his mouth go dry. He could only read the first sentence, over and over again, trying to make sense of it.

 

Fenris - if you’re reading this, I’m gone and I won’t be coming back from the west.

Chapter Text

 

The next morning, Varric waited in the great hall. Maria was always an early riser, and she didn’t disappoint when she emerged before breakfast was even served. Her red hair was a bit messy, pulled into a knot at the base of her neck and she was a bit pale. Varric chuckled to himself, dropping his gaze back to his book while monitoring her from the corner of his eye. He saw her pause when she saw him, saw her course alter to take her directly to him instead. He turned a page, attempting to appear rather absorbed.

“You’re waiting for me.” Maria accused, stopping in front of him. Her voice was delectably husky and sent a shiver down his spine. Varric looked up, widening his eyes in faux innocence.

“Me? I was just enjoying my book.” He protested as Maria took it from his hands and examined it with a smirk. She slipped a piece of paper in between the pages he was reading and shut it with a snap, handing it back to him. Varric brushed his fingertips against hers as he took it back, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, enjoy.” She said breezily, turning her back and swaggering out of the hall. She was walking like that on purpose, he was sure. He still couldn’t wrench his eyes away from her swaying hips as she disappeared into the morning light, despite the footsteps approaching from behind him.

“Why, what a view.” Dorian commented, brushing past Varric and shaking his head as he headed toward the courtyard. “Although some are certainly more enraptured than others.”

“It would be a sin to not admire that.” Varric said softly, shaking his head and opening his book, unfolding the scrap of paper she’d shoved in there. He opened it, smiling at the hastily scrawled note. It instructed him to meet at the north tower during sparring practice, at the very end was a stylized M intersecting an equally fancy C. Varric grinned broadly and tucked the note into his pocket, fighting the urge to whistle as he opened the book again and relaxed in his cozy chair.

His worry was ditching Hawke, but it turned out to be a bit easier than he’d hoped. Fiona, leader of the rebel mages, had intercepted Hawke as she left her room and had asked if she could help teach battlefield healing to some assembled apprentices. Hawke, never one to shrink off an opportunity to show off, had went happily enough. Varric was left to while away time on his own until he climbed up the tower. He cursed the amount of stairs as he hurried, climbing up the last ladder to emerge into the bright blue sky. He pulled himself up over the last rung and swung his eyes behind him.

She was sitting on the cold stone, her legs crossed and a book open on her lap while she leaned against the battlements. The  sun lit her hair on fire and the wind pulled strands free from the knot at her neck. She was playing idly with the cold chain around her neck, but she stopped when she saw him, letting the gold crest drop back beneath the thin cotton of her shirt. “I wasn’t sure you’d get away.” She said, smiling brilliantly.

“Lots harder for you to sneak away than me.” Varric commented, drinking her in. Maria laughed, shutting the book and turning it so Varric could see the cover. Maria grinned wickedly. Varric groaned.

“Maker’s ass cheeks, where did you get that?” Varric asked, staring mournfully at his terrible romance serial.

“Oh, I’m the inquisitor. I just ask for things, and they appear.” Maria continued to grin, opening it back up. “Leliana found this copy for me, the first in your series I believe.”

“You said I’d have to pay you to read it.” Varric reasoned, reaching forward to grab it. Maria leaped up and danced away, ducking out of his reach and beginning to read aloud.

“Caught in wave after wave of gloriously exultant pleasure…” Maria began. Varric swore, covering his eyes with his palm and rubbing his chin roughly.

“Stop!” He pleaded.

Maria laughed, delighted, but didn’t stop. “She could only cling to the solidness of his muscular frame as their bodies molded…”

“I’m leaving!” Varric threatened, turning back to the ladder. Maria dropped the book, grabbing his arm in both of hers and pulling him back. Varric turned, quickly, pushing her back into the corner of the battlements, hidden from anyone who happened to look up by the high stone. Maria’s breath caught, a sound Varric found ridiculously attractive. He placed his palms on the sun warmed stone on either side of her head, Maria’s hands rested on his shoulders.

“How much of last night do you remember?” He asked. Maria’s smile became softer, almost shy.

“All of it.” She admitted. “Should I apologize?”

Varric laughed, letting his hands drift from the stone and skimming down her sides until he gripped her waist and pulled her closer to his chest, fingers digging into her firm, warm flesh. “Do you regret it?” He asked, leaning closer.

She pressed against him, arching her back and tracing her hands down his arms, squeezing experimentally with a smirk. She looked up, gray eyes dancing with mischief and desire. “Maker take me, but no, I don’t.”

Varric captured her lips softly in his, pushing her back against the stone and capturing her between his body and the wall. Her lips were soft, sweet, all honey and cinnamon. Varric dared a nip to her lower lip and she gasped in surprise, causing Varric to chuckle. Both her hands traveled across the planes of his chest, slipping beneath silk to caress and tease. Varric pulled back for a moment, a curse on his lips as he reached up to pull her hair from the knot at the back of her head, pins scattering to the stones as he ran his fingers through the red waves before capturing her lips again.

Varric could feel his pulse pounding, desire overriding good sense as he pulled the cotton shirt from where it was tucked into her breeches, slipping a hand up the back onto her warm, soft skin. She stretched like a cat into his hands, breath coming quick and hard as they broke away from each other. Her eyes were blown dark and stormy with passion, lips swollen from their kisses. Varric took his hand from her hair and traced it along the cupid’s bow of her lips gently.

“Better than last night?” He asked. She smiled and gave a teasing nip at his thumb, tipping her head back and exposing the line of her throat and jaw to Varric’s teasing fingers.

“I’ll need to check again, just to be thorough.” She said, leaning back into his embrace. Varric tightened his grip on her, losing himself in the taste of her.

The loud, annoyed coughing was his first clue that they weren’t alone. Maria heard it at the same time and they both pulled away, dizzy and drunk with each other to stare at the intruder. Of course, it was Cassandra, her hair slicked with sweat from the sparring ring, eyes icy. Her arms were crossed over her chest and she was glaring straight through Varric. If looks could kill, he thought glumly as he loosened his grip on Maria. Surprisingly, Maria didn’t loosen her grip on him. She looked equally annoyed and arched an eyebrow at Cassandra. “Can I help you?” She asked.

“There is a matter of urgent importance, Inquisitor. I didn't mean to interrupt this...display.” She made a noise of disgust in her throat and Maria’s eyebrow arched even further up. Cassandra soldiered on, heedless. “The Inquisition is judged by your actions. What if someone had seen?” Cassandra asked.

“I suppose they’d have seen two dwarves kissing.” Maria answered tartly. Cassandra glowered at the smaller woman.

“The Inquisition is judged by your actions.” Cassandra answered, shrugging her shoulders and going to turn away. Maria slipped from Varric’s arms, releasing him to the cool breeze as she stormed after Cassandra, grabbing the other woman’s elbow.

“Your Inquisition has taken my entire life!” She declared. “Every waking moment, I’m consumed with how to survive, how to keep these people alive, how to defeat an evil magister, how to stop a civil war in Orlais, Maker’s tits, how to keep my companions from strangling each other!”

“The Maker…” Cassandra began, wrenching her arm out of Maria’s grip.

“Oh, fuck the Maker!” Maria spat out, bitterly. “Fuck Andraste! I didn’t sign up for this, Cassandra! I don’t even know why I’m here! You’d have rather had anyone else!”

The silence was heavy, Cassandra looking torn between concern and apoplectic anger at the blasphemy from the Inquisitor. Maria wasn’t crying, not quite, but she rubbed at her eyes furiously.

“Who else would have done it half as well as you have?” Varric asked. “Princess, it had to be you.”

“It could have been any fool.” Maria said, shoulders slumping. “Excuse me…”

“I believe you are sent by the Maker.” Cassandra said, suddenly. “I believe you are chosen of Andraste.”

“Cassandra…” Maria sighed.

“Beyond that, I believe only that you are capable of anything. Sometimes, it frightens me. More often, it gives me hope.” Cassandra sighed herself, running her fingers through her short hair and staring at the ground. “If this is what makes you happy, then far be it for me to interfere with any joy you can snatch out of this chaos.”

“Thank you.” Maria said stiffly. “Is there really something urgent?”

“Yes. Josephine needs you to meet with a noble who has appeared as a surprise. A mess, I’m afraid, but he has loyal soldiers. I will…” Cassandra paused, uncertain.

“Let Josephine know I’ll be there soon, please.” Maria asked, running her fingers through her hair and twisting it back neatly, bending down to grab some of the scattered pins. With a nod, Cassandra slid back down the ladder. Varric picked up a pin in front of him and handed it sheepishly to Maria.

“Do you think I’m a woman or a herald?” Maria asked, slipping the pins back into her hair.

“You can’t be both?” Varric asked lightly. Maria’s frown deepened and Varric rushed to explain. “When they talk about you, you’re divine, miraculous even. Infinitely too good to be true, but  here…” Varric tugged her back to him and she came with a small smile as he kissed the corner of her lips. “When it’s just me and you, or just four or five of us drinking and playing cards, I know who you are, Maria.”

“I could get used to you saying my name.” She commented, turning her lips to meet his.

 

The Western Approach ended up being exactly as shitty as Varric thought it would be. It was made even worse by the corpses of Grey Wardens littering the ritual tower in front of him and the smears of blood all over the ancient stone. Maria was sitting on the stone steps, out of breath and clutching her sparking hand cursing vehemently.

“Let me look at it.” Hawke demanded, shrugging off her gauntlets.

“Are you an expert at rift magic now?” Solas asked Hawke, setting aside his staff to kneel in front of Maria. “My friend, are you hurt?”

“Rift magic is not going to heal her!” Hawke countered passionately.

“Will you two whip out your staffs and measure them somewhere else?” Maria asked through gritted teeth. “It’ll be fine, in a moment. Corypheus did this as well, when Haven…”

Varric easily shouldered both mages out of his way, winding his arm around Maria’s waist and hoisting her up. Cassandra and Stroud were making the rounds of the Grey Warden mages, executing those that still drew breath. Maria gripped onto Varric’s coat for a moment before letting go and straightening. “Maybe we should have brought the rest of the team, Cassandra.” She admitted gravely.

“Perhaps, but we may not have been able to get so close without drawing the notice of that Magister.” Cassandra answered. Hawke was sourly putting her gauntlets back on, shooting daggers at Solas from under her long eyelashes.

“Do you think we’ll be able to track him?” Maria asked, turning in the direction the Magister had disappeared.

“We do not have to.” Stroud answered. “I know where the Wardens are. If they mean to complete this ritual, there is only one place to do so. Adamant Fortress is a Grey Warden stronghold, not far from here.”

“Blood magic.” Hawke grumbled. “It’s always blood magic.”

“Maker, an army of demons.” Cassandra sighed. “It is exactly as we feared.”

“Well Seeker, we have an army of our own, right? We just need to get them out here.” Varric answered cheerily.

“Where will we encamp this army?” Solas asked critically. Varric could feel a migraine starting and hours of endless, circular bickering. He turned to Maria, but she was rubbing her hand absently and staring off into the distance.

“Didn’t Harding say there was Venatori staked out in an old keep over that way?” She asked.

“Are you suggesting we take a keep?” Varric asked, reaching up to touch her head. “Did you crack your skull?”

“I did not!” She protested. “They’ll never expect us to attack a keep with just the dozen of us. It’ll be a complete surprise.”

“It’ll be a surprise if we don’t all get killed.” Varric huffed. Maria grinned in challenge.

“Well, if you’re scared…” She began. Hawke snorted and Varric rolled his eyes. Cassandra looked far away, calculating odds in her head before she nodded, determined.

“If the keep is as old as she said, there will be more than one entrance. It could work.” She answered. “But we must discuss it with the others.”

“Excellent!” Hawke said, bouncing past Solas with a twitch of her braid. The elf looked vaguely annoyed at the human mage. “Let’s go then.”

As the group began to filter out of the tower, Varric lingered. Maria brushed her hand against him and he took it, opening it to look at the glowing green mark. The sparks and light lingered.

“Did I scare you?” She asked, tipping her head to the side inquisitively.

“Only for a second. Did you see his face when you snapped that rift back towards him?” Varric chuckled, rubbing her fingers gently. “It’ll take more than a bastard magister to take you down, Princess.”

“Hey!” Hawke yelled, fists on her hips and grinning from ear to ear. “Are you two coming, or do you need some privacy?”

Maria laughed, pulling away from Varric and following Hawke who swung an arm companionably around her shoulders. Varric was left shaking his head and following them. Solas fell into step beside him.

“The Inquisitor and you..?” Solas asked delicately.

“Not one to kiss and tell, Chuckles.” Varric deflected. Solas smiled wanly.

“I am glad for both of you, then.” Solas answered, clapping his hand companionably on Varric’s shoulder.

 

The plan to retake Griffon Wing Keep was met quite enthusiastically by the rest of their motley group at camp. As dusk approached, Varric moved silently with Cole, Hawke, and Stroud. Preliminary scouting by Sera and Scout Harding had revealed several possible entry points and perhaps forty Venatori guarding the keep. Unfortunately, the plan had called for a distraction, and Maria had vetoed all distraction possibilities that didn’t include her.

“Her bow will fire, it always does.” Cole said behind him. “The string won’t snap, she’ll be quick enough to dodge their attacks.”

“Thank you, kid.” Varric answered easily.

“Maker, you’ve got it bad.” Hawke teased as she stretched. “What would Isabela say?”

“Isabela bedded her sister.” Varric answered gamely. “So I imagine she’d probably congratulate me.”

“Until she found out you hadn’t quite sealed the deal yet.” Hawke smirked.

“There are more romantic places than the desert with poison swamps and crazy cultists.” Varric rolled his eyes.

“Romantic like the cabin with all the candles and the wine bartered from the Dalish. Anniversary of a wedding night we didn’t have, always running. Tan skin and white lines and his voice is smooth and rough like whiskey.” Cole muttered. Hawke’s face instantly went white and she turned away, masking the sudden pain rising in her blue eyes.

“I’m sorry, I made it worse.” Cole said. “Let me try again.”

“That’s enough, kid.” Varric said softly.

“But she doesn’t need to miss him.” Cole began.

“Enough.” Hawke said harshly. Cole flinched back and Stroud caught the lad with a heavy arm, patting him on the shoulder. Varric smiled gently and apologetically, following Hawke.

“You scared him.” He accused.

“He’s a spirit. He’s scary on his own.” Hawke bristled as they slipped around the fortress. “Is this the spot Sera was talking about?”

Varric looked up and spotted the red “X” scratched just above his head. “Yep. She said we could hook a rope over that ledge and climb right up. Ready?”

“Always.” Hawke sighed as Varric uncoiled the rope around his arm, tossing the hook over the ledge and pausing breathlessly before giving it several sharp tugs.

“After you.” He said with a sweeping bow. Hawke scrambled up, followed by Stroud.

“But he’s coming.” Cole protested, looking at Varric from under his broad brimmed hat. “Dust from the road, in his mouth, he is tired and he’s hurt, but he’s coming.”

“Thank the Maker for that.” Varric said with a grin. “But let’s leave it as a surprise.”

Cole nodded, hoisting his lanky frame up the rope before Varric followed. He paused at the edge of the ledge, craning to see the front of the fort.

“Bull and Cassandra are with her, aren’t they?” Hawke asked, pulling him back by his collar. “Let’s go.”

“I hate you.” Varric said cheerfully as he pulled the rope up after them.

“No you don’t.” She answered sweetly, gripping her staff tightly. “Bet I get more than you.”

“You’re on.” Varric grinned, cocking his crossbow.

 

They waited patiently for the signal, and it was impossible to miss. Bull’s shout was enough to wake up a dragon as his heavy axe crashed into the heavy wooden gate. His laughter rang out as Venatori ran forward, spells beginning to sizzle in the air. “Death to the Inquisitor!” A man yelled as he raced past. With barely a glance, Varric shot a bolt through his skull. Hawke lifted an eyebrow.

“One.” He said simply, reloading. Hawke jumped from the ledge with a relish, spinning her staff with reckless abandon and cracking one skull with it. Stroud joined her immediately while Cole slipped into the shadows. Maria was on Bull’s shoulders, thighs locked around his neck as he barged through the assembled warriors easily, Cassandra following with Solas. From the opposite ledge, a flask of something that smelled like ass dropped and spewed a vile green cloud. Sera let out a shriek of glee and he heard Dorian retch in disgust. Then Blackwall and Vivienne were pressing in from behind the Venatori, steel and spells flashing dangerously.  

A strong blow to his side caused Bull to crumple and Maria latched onto a ledge above her, swinging from his shoulders and onto it as she spun, firing arrows. Fire launched over Cassandra’s head and she had to duck to avoid it, laughing as she pulled more arrows from her quiver. Bull was already back up, swinging his axe in a broad circle that Cole had to leap away from.

It was madness, chaos. Varric could barely keep up with the onslaught as he loaded and reloaded. And then it was over, as suddenly as it began, and Varric was watching Maria as she tripped over corpses and pulled the Venatori flag down to shouts and cheers from their assembled compatriots. She tossed it to Dorian, who scorched it to ash between his fingers.

“We need our own flag!” Sera yelled, pulling the sash Cassandra wore along her waist. Cassandra nimbly untied the knot and handed it to Maria, who tied it quickly and sent it flying over them with a laugh. There was a bleeding gash in her right arm and Varric was nursing his own bruised ribs, but they were alive and victorious. In that moment, Varric could believe she always would win, good would triumph over evil, the dwarf gets his woman…

As if she could hear his thoughts, Maria turned and beamed at him, standing tall with pride and surrounded by her loyal companions. She was as imperious and regal as any queen or empress, but warm, soft at the edges. Varric loved that about her.

His own thoughts froze in a panic, every other synapse in his brain shutting down as Iron Bull lifted Maria clean off her feet, again. Shit, Varric thought. Shit. Hawke was finishing up patching a broken wrist on Blackwall and turned to look at him, concern clouding her face immediately.

“You alright there, Varric? You didn’t take a blow to the head, did you?” Hawke asked, her brow wrinkling.

No, Varric thought. He was most certainly not alright. When the fuck had that happened? He was setting himself up for heartbreak. He knew he was incapable of keeping it casual, but love . Love had caused Varric nothing but problems.

“I’m alright, Hawke.” Varric said, shrugging with a wry smile. “Just imagining the clean up we have to do.”

 

Luckily, they didn’t have to do it alone. Leliana had people situated throughout the approach and they congregated at the keep as soon as they received word that it’d been taken. The next day, it was something he was infinitely glad for the first time they looked in the well and found it full of corpses drained of blood. “Fuck.” Hawke swore. “We’re going to have to get in there and clean it out.”

Maria looked a bit pale, but her gray eyes were steady when she pinned Dorian with them. “What is this?” She asked.

“Blood magic.” He explained with a scowl. “Victims of blood magic, most likely slaves they brought for this purpose.”

“I’m gonna be sick.” Sera said, pushing away from the lip of the well. “Not dealin’ with it.”

Maria looked like she was about to agree, but instead she pulled her hair back from where it was sticking to her neck in the fading evening sun and tied it up with a piece of cloth. “Right. I think someone said there was an entrance from the outside into it. Let’s get those poor sods out of there and give them a decent funeral.”

“Princess, you haven’t slept yet.” Varric said, gently.

“After this.” Maria stated definitively. Varric rubbed the bridge of his nose, knowing that ‘after this’ she’d find something else that needed done. He looked hopelessly after her as she strode off. Hawke was still looking down into the well, face twisted in a grimace.

“I could use a nap.” She said grimly. “And a drink.”

“Tell me about it.” Varric sighed.

They joined her in the underground portion of the well, pulling bodies that luckily hadn’t started to rot. Dorian joined them as well as Cassandra, and when the bodies were laid on a large pyre Cassandra spoke some words over them and Hawke and Dorian started the fire. “How many were there?” Maria asked.

“Twenty-three.” Cassandra answered, shaking her head. “Maker take them to his side.”

“Inquisitor!” A scout yelled from behind them, waving a rolled parchment. Maria turned, looking weary, back to the fort. With a sigh, Varric followed. Hawke, Dorian, and Cassandra stayed to watch the burning pyre.

Maria was reading the missive, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand. “Cullen sends word he’s on his way. They’ll be here within the week.” She commented, brushing sticky strands of hair away from her brow. Varric took her elbow, leading her gently back into the fort.

“You need a break.” Varric observed. “C’mon.”

“Varric, I can’t…” She protested.

“You’re going to fall over or I’m going to snap and put a bolt in the next person who says Inquisitor.” He replied easily. “They set you up a tent hours ago, and you’re going to use it. I’ll get someone to bring you something to eat and I’m going to tell them to hold all your messages.”

“Water to wash up too.” Maria sighed, absently clenching and unclenching the fist with the mark in it.

“Anything for you, Princess.” Varric said with a small smirk as he drew up the silk flap to her tent. It was a hundred times nicer than the sad sack of canvas he’d gotten stuck with, but he didn’t begrudge her it.

“Varric…” She said again, softer this time. Her eyes were searching his face, looking for something. Whatever it was, and whether or not she found it, he didn’t know. “Thank you.”

He quickly let his lips rest on her dusty cheek. “Anything for you.” He repeated, pulling away with a grin. “Wicked grace later?”

She smiled, rolling her eyes as she entered the tent. Varric was left, heart aching with hope, outside the flaps. He fought the temptation to follow her inside and turned to find clean water and food instead.

In his journal that night, he wrote another letter to her and didn’t send it.

Dear Maria,

I fell in love with you while I wasn’t paying attention. I’m a glutton for punishment, it seems. This type of romance never ends well and I’m afraid we’re stuck in a tragedy.

Cassandra believes you are capable of anything, but I know the story. Hero miraculously saves the world at the cost of her own life, sacrificing herself for the greater good.

Don’t do that. I couldn’t bear it.

Yours,

Varric

 

Finally, something settled over the keep that approached routine. Work was completed in the early morning and evening, when the heat was bearable.  In the afternoon, everyone took to finding whatever shade they could and chasing sleep. That afternoon, Varric and Maria were engaged in a rather cutthroat game of Wicked Grace. Hawke and Cole had both been playing, but Cole was more interested in observing the face cards and Hawke had lost so badly she’d quit two rounds in and had retreated to the corner with Maria’s copy of Tale of the Champion.

“This isn’t true, Varric.” She complained, turning a page. “I didn’t actually push Carver off the docks when he got into that fight with me about templars while we were trying to scrape coin together.”

“You thought about it.” Varric shrugged, trying to lift two cards from the deck instead of one without catching Maria’s attention. She immediately scoffed and Varric sheepishly drew only one.

“The good part is in the next chapter.” Maria chimed in, deftly discarding a card and laying her hand out. Three pairs, shit. Varric threw his own cards down in disgust and Maria handily swept his coin towards her growing pile of winnings.

“What’s the next chapter?” Hawke asked, flipping ahead a bit to look.

“You have to break into the brothel to save the Seneschal from an irate ex-lover.” Maria offered.

“Ah, well that really happened. Did you include the bit where I found Bran in lady’s underthings?” Hawke asked.

“Course I did.” Varric muttered. “Damn it, Cadash, where are you hiding all those cards?”

Maria winked at him as he shuffled.

“Inquisitor!” A scout was huffing up the steps, mopping her brow with her sleeve. “The first outriders are approaching from the army. We spotted them, no more than ten minutes out.”

“Excellent.” Maria said, stretching. Varric admired the hint of her exposed abdomen when her shirt rode up enticingly. Hawke laughed and shook her head, hiding her head behind the book before Varric could properly glare at her. “I’ll go greet them.”

“Anger, hurt, regret, burning in his throat like words he choked on so long ago. Hope and unease. He doesn’t know what to expect and that scares him.” Cole mumbled.

“Cole, we’ve already told you to stop talking to the face cards six times.” Hawke complained.

“C’mon Cole, leave cranky Hawke alone.” Maria offered her hand and Cole took it with a small, hopeful smile.

“He’s afraid of how the story ends, but you’re more scared of how it began. I don’t know how to help, but I want to.” Cole said softly.

“You help plenty, Cole.” Maria encouraged.

“You both have quiet old songs around you. I like it.” His smile broadened even farther. Maria rolled her eyes fondly, tugging Cole away. Varric gathered up the cards and coins, dumping them in Maria’s pack before joining Hawke, looking out the narrow window at the front gates.

“We’ll be storming the fortress soon, then.” Hawke said softly. “Sure to be dangerous.”

“You love danger.” Varric accused. Hawke laughed, leaning her head against the stone.

“A bit.” She admitted. “But listen… if something happens, Varric…”

“Nothing is going to happen to you.” Varric responded automatically, watching the dust kicked up by the approaching riders in the distance.

“If something does…” Hawke turned the page in the book idly. “I left letters in Skyhold, for Fenris and Carver and our friends. You’ll see that they’re delivered?”

“You think they’d be satisfied with a letter?” Varric asked, incredulous. “Hawke, they’ll kill me if you don’t make it back. And I’d never leave you behind.”

“Your lady friend isn’t going to let you die. I’m glad I’ve finally found good hands to leave you in.” Hawke smiled gently. “Just… say you’ll do that for me. Please?”

“Fine.” Varric said, as much to end the conversation as anything. “About Maria...”

“Your princess?” Hawke teased. “Oh Varric, I never thought I’d see the day when you were putty in someone’s hand.”

“Besides yours, you mean.” Varric rubbed his temple again as the riders began to clarify into single figures on their horses.

“Besides mine.” Hawke shut the book, cracking her fingers as she thought. “Does Bianca know about her?”

“Why should she?” Varric asked bitterly.

“I’m sure she’ll have something to say about it.” Hawke remarked sagely. “You wait for it. Nothing will make her crazier than the thought of you moving on.”

“Bianca doesn’t give a damn.” Varric said immediately. “And I don’t give a damn what she thinks.”

“As long as you’re sure.” Hawke shrugged nonchalantly. Varric let her lapse into silence, her eyes falling closed as she leaned back. Varric could swear...the rider approaching the gate looked familiar. The movements reminding him of…

It hit him at the same time he caught his first glimpse of white hair. Broody had finally tracked them down. Varric jumped up and Hawke opened one eye suspiciously.

“Just remembered, Cassandra’s patrol will take her over here and I’m still on her shit list. See you later, Hawke.” He said, saluting as he backed away. Hawke sighed, closing her eyes again as Varric raced down the steps and made his way quickly to the gate where Maria stood.

“Princess, I think we’re about to have an old friend of mine joining us.” He said quickly.

“Who…” Maria began, tearing her eyes from the report she was reading to look up. The riders were pulling up and the leader slipped from his horse immediately, greatsword strapped securely on his back, only in half armor because of the heat and his lyrium brands gleaming in the sun. Fenris tossed his hair impatiently from his eyes as he approached, a quick nod in Varric’s direction.

“Broody, good to see you.” Varric said cheerfully. “Allow me to introduce Inquisitor Cadash.”

“A pleasure.” Fenris said dryly. “I’m here for my wife.”

“Right.” Maria said, startled out of whatever shock she’d found herself in. She jerked a thumb behind her. “Up the steps, first left and hiding behind some columns.”

“Thank you.” Fenris said stiffly, barely pausing as he made his way into the keep. Maria stared after him for a moment, then swung her eyes back to Varric.

“He’s better looking than I thought he’d be.” She admitted. Varric sighed.

“Not you too.” He bemoaned. “Everywhere we take him. It’s infuriating.”

“Jealousy is quite becoming on you.” Maria teased with a laugh. “I have to go find Dorian before your friend does.”

“Good idea.” Varric sighed, looking up to where he knew Hawke was resting. “And when the shouting starts, please feel free to ignore it.”

“Will there be much shouting?” Maria asked apprehensively.

“Oh, I’m sure.” Varric smirked. “But they come through it in the end, always do.”

Chapter Text

 

Fenris -

If you’re reading this, I’m gone and I won’t be coming back from the west. When I arrived at Skyhold, I learned that Corypheus had returned with an army of templars infected with red lyrium. Varric almost died when they took Haven. There’s a dwarf, Maria Cadash, who managed to nearly bury the bastard under a mountain. He escaped before she could, unfortunately.

You were as disappointed as I was when we learned my father had resorted to blood magic to keep my family safe. The last desperate attempt of a desperate man. I promised you I wouldn’t resort to it, no matter what. I didn’t realize right away that I had lied, but I have.

When you were hurt, I heard demons whispering to me that they could give me the power to save you. I thought you were dying and I wanted to listen to them, Fenris. I would have given anything to save you, my soul, every ounce of blood in my body, the lives of hundreds of people I’d never met. They don’t matter if I can’t keep you safe. I managed to save you on my own this time, but next time I may not. You would hate me and I couldn’t bear it.

I’m sorry for being the weak mage you always feared. I’m sorry I couldn’t be strong enough for you. I’m sorry I’ve forced you into hiding again and I’m sorry I almost cost you your life. I’m not worth it. I was never worth you.

I couldn’t save Bethany or Mother from my curse. I only gave Carver a temporary reprieve from the darkspawn. Now I have to fix my mistake before Varric or his last chance for happiness succumbs to it. I should never have let Corypheus loose. I should never have been selfish enough to take you for my own. Maybe you can still escape, amatus. I hope you can.

I fully expect to not return from the Western Approach. I know the danger I’ve gone into, and no one has asked me to do so. Varric and his Inquisitor are not at fault and neither are you. You’re all free of me. I want you to be happy. Please don’t grieve me. Know that you are the last thing I was scared to lose.

Love,

Reyna

 

Fenris did not need to read the letter anymore, he knew it by heart. Every word was scarred into him as surely as the lyrium branding his skin. Each letter on the page was a fresh wound, one she had given him twice because if she had never taken the damned time to teach him he would never have this cursed knowledge. Hawke had decided to die. Fenris would not allow it.

He rode with Cullen most of the grueling march and he ignored the pain when it flared up. He pushed with the forces as hard as he could, then harder. He felt like he was racing a ticking clock, driven by the nightmare he would be too late and only a corpse would be waiting for him in these blighted lands.

Then he saw Varric, and he knew he was not too late. Varric was smiling, and Varric wouldn’t smile with Hawke freshly gone. Fenris knew that, because Fenris had been at the Gallows and had heard Varric shout when Hawke had offered herself to free them. He followed the female dwarf’s instructions almost blindly, exhausted and sore as he strode purposefully past the bustling garrison. He took the first left and saw the columns in front of him. Several more strides and he was passed them, stopping cold and staring.

She was more beautiful than he remembered. Her long dark braid was coiled beside her in the nook she rested in, a book on her chest that  rose and fell peacefully. Her face was sunburnt, the faint freckles standing out starkly. Her eyes were closed as if she slept. Fenris was reminded, suddenly and painfully, of a fairy story. The prince finds the maiden sleeping in a tower, safe from all danger.

Fenris was not a prince, but the sudden relief he felt allowed him to be fanciful. He crept closer as silently as he could and Hawke didn’t stir. She wasn’t wearing gloves and Fenris could see his ring still on her finger. Her ribbon was still wound around his wrist. The gauntlets had been cumbersome while riding, so he’d traded them for thin leather gloves. He took another step closer, then another, and he was directly over her. His shadow fell across her face and she stirred, opening her lyrium blue eyes slowly, lashes fluttering against her cheeks.

Fenris couldn’t decide whether to kiss her or strangle her. Confusion clouded her features, then a sudden and violent recognition as she sat up, swinging her legs off the nook. Her palms pressed against his breastplate hesitantly, as if making sure he was real. “Damnit Fenris!” She swore, pushing him away. “Damnit! What are you doing here?”

“I received your letter.” Fenris said, watching the expressions playing over her face. Hawke was horrible at hiding her emotions and he could clearly see longing, agony, fury, hope, and relief battling for dominance.

“And what part of ‘I cannot risk losing you’ did you not understand?!” She asked, volume rising as her color did. Then her slim white arms were circling around his neck and she was kissing him, tears beginning to fall down her face as she slammed her fist against his breastplate again. She tasted exactly like he remembered, elfroot and sugar. It had been far too long since he’d felt her, since he’d tasted her. He suddenly felt like a starving man presented with a royal buffet. He grabbed the hand on his breastplate, holding her wrist in his hand.

“You left.” He growled. “Fasta vass, you left! You snuck out while I was injured, leaving me like an inconvenient tryst. I am your husband!”

“You almost died!” Hawke shouted. Tears were running down her red cheeks, catching like pearls on her eyelashes. “You almost died and I…”

“Almost turned to blood magic, apparently.” Fenris interrupted, wrenching away from her and pulling the other letter from where it lay folded near his heart, throwing it at her. She didn’t dodge, allowing the often read letter to bounced off her chest. Her eyes were wide, frightened. “I read your suicide note as well. A bit early, I’m afraid, since you’re still very much alive.”

“Then why have you come?” Hawke whispered, bitterly, closing her eyes.

“Because I love you.” Fenris admitted. “Because I refuse to allow you to make the mistake I did and throw us away.”

“You’re lying!” Hawke protested, choking on a sob and burying her face in her hands as she sunk to her knees. She looked like a child’s doll, unbearably small. Fenris finally saw the title of the book on the ground. Tale of the Champion, how ironic. Cursing, Fenris sunk down beside her. His knees ached in protest, but he ignored them.

“You did not do it.” Fenris said softly. “You were tempted, but you resisted.”

“I would have!” Hawke protested, continuing to hide. “Don’t defend me! I’m everything you hate . We pulled twenty-three corpses out of this place, slaves that had been massacred for power and I would have done that! I’d have done anything to save you!”

Fenris pulled Hawke up, pushing her into an open door he saw in the periphery of his vision and shutting it behind him. With the stone walls blocking noise, he felt much less exposed, and better yet Hawke was much less vulnerable to prying eyes and ears. She pulled away from him again, pacing to the furthest corner of the small room that was full of crates and sacks. She bent over a crate, trying to catch her breath. The effort caused her to break into sobs again, noisy things that she tried to bury in her arm. “You shouldn’t have come.” She choked out.

Fenris latched the door closed behind him then leaned his pounding head against it. He closed his eyes against his own tears, willing them not to come. “I thought I would be too late. That you would willing bow to your death and think I despised you for weakness, for desperation. I, who have been weak and desperate as long as I know.” He laughed without humor. “The truth is, after I have tortured myself on a damned horse for a week replaying that letter over and over in my mind, I know now it doesn't matter. I would have loved you still, I would have followed you still, even if you had succumbed to blood magic and demons. I could not harm you if you became an abomination and attacked me anymore than I could rip out my own heart. My last words would be that I love you, that I always have, and that I always will.” Fenris sighed and looked over his shoulder. Hawke had turned and was staring at him, blue eyes wide and full of tears.

“Maker, I’ve ruined you.” She said finally as the silence dragged on.

“Perhaps.” Fenris answered. “I find I don’t care about that either.”

“I can’t let you die for me.” She persisted, taking a tentative step forward. “Fenris, I can’t. You’re in so much danger. You have to leave, you must go.” She argued.

“Then tell me!” Fenris shouted, turning to her fully. “Tell me that you don’t love me, that you have never loved me. Make me believe it and I will go.” He crossed to the room, grabbing her chin and pulling her eyes to his. “But if you are lying, Reyna, I will know. And I will not leave your side, I will not allow you to throw yourself on your sword and martyr yourself to ease your guilt.”

Hawke’s mouth opened, then closed. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth again, only one word falling from her red lips. “Fenris…”

“So I thought. I will not lose you to your fear the way you lost me to mine. Three years I went without you, torturing myself with thoughts of you, and you wish us to repeat it?” Fenris asked harshly. “You’re a fool.”

“Perhaps.” Hawke admitted, lips trembling. Fenris cursed again and suddenly he was in front of her, pulling her into his arms.

“Festis bei umo canavarum.” He growled, crushing her to his breastplate. “I don’t know whether to shake you or…”

Instead of finishing, he decided a demonstration was appropriate. He assaulted her lips, feeling them swell and bruise under his frantic touch. He lifted her small form, lighter than he even remembered and packed her against the nearest crate, settling her on it. Desire was quickly overtaking common sense, the feel of her flesh yielding to him, the small noises she made in her throat as she tugged on the long strands of his hair that brushed his neck. He pulled back, trying to reign in, to regain control. “No.” Hawke breathed, pulling him back with her hands hooking in his breastplate. “Please, I need you.”

It was all the permission he needed as he wrapped himself around her, her trembling fingers pulling at the laces of his breeches. He didn’t bother attempting to unlace hers, pulling them down roughly. His erection was free, her sinfully soft fingers encircling him and he moaned her name into her hair, before fisting his hand in that long dark braid and pulling her head back. He reached between them and felt the wetness already coating her slit. He felt a red cloud of lust settle over him as he lurched forward, impaling her in one smooth motion. She cried out, loudly, as he pulled back and thrust again.

“Never again.” He whispered as her sheath clenched around him. “Promise me.”

“Fenris…” She moaned again and he tugged her hair roughly.

“Reyna…” He growled. “Promise.”

“I promise.” She whimpered, the pace of his thrusts speeding and becoming erratic. She was barely hanging onto his breastplate, her moans becoming loud enough for him to put his leather gloved hand over her mouth just before she clenched over him, her whole body going rigid and Fenris emptied inside her. He left himself cradled in her as he wrapped her in his arms, kissing and nuzzling her neck.

“I love you.” There were still tears in Reyna’s throat. Fenris knew what she was feeling, could feel it himself. A raw feeling where he’d been scraped clean on the inside, vulnerable and naked.

“I know.” He answered. “Do not make me cross half of this blighted continent again to reach you.”

 

When they emerged from the supply closet, Hawke took one look at at the area where she had been sitting and sighed in resignation. “What is it?” Fenris asked as he closed the door behind them.

“Do you think the Inquisitor came and got her stuff or Varric? And do you think we were still fighting with each other or…” She trailed off.

“Does it matter?” Fenris asked. “I expect we will be the joke regardless.”

“At least with the Inquisitor, it’s far less likely to end up in a book.” Hawke griped.

Fenris rubbed his side experimentally. Hawke zeroed in on it immediately, eyes narrowing in concern. “It hurts still?”

“At times.” Fenris admitted. “It was a long march. The Commander and the rest of the troops will be here within an hour.”

“Did you meet Maria?” Hawke asked. “You’d better do it now, before she’s too busy to do it properly.”

“The rumors about her and Varric…” Fenris asked. Hawke actually laughed, shaking her head in astonishment.

“Completely true, I’m afraid. He’s rather smitten. I’ve been merciless about it, in revenge.” She explained happily enough. “They’ll want us to go to Adamant. With them.” She began casually.

“If you are going, I will be there.” Fenris said immediately. Hawke’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “This discussion is over.”

“So you think.” Hawke muttered under her breath. Fenris chose to act as if he hadn’t heard. They trailed up the bustling keep, dodging frantic scouts and soldiers. At the top of the keep, in a hive of chaos, stood the dwarf he’d barely glanced at before. He was right, her eyes were distinctive. Her hair was twisted into a bun at the nape of her neck, a deep red color very similar to blood. Beyond that, he supposed what set her apart most was the noble profile of her nose and chin as she stared up at a soldier in a way that made it seem like he was staring up at her despite the glaring height difference.

“Bandits have taken over the ritual tower, Ser. Now that there is no Grey Warden presence to discourage them. They have attacked our supply caravans twice.” The soldier continued on. The dwarf nodded thoughtfully.

“I’ll have Blackwall, Sera, and Solas take care of it. Sera’s been cooped up here far too long. Anything else?” She asked. The soldier shook his head, saluting.

“Thank you, how’s that boy you were looking after in Skyhold? Any news about his parents?” The dwarf asked. The soldier smiled, shyly.

“None, your worship, but he seems content enough. He’s learning his letters and he’s quite clever. His older sister has started working in the kitchens.” The man answered. “He’ll be thrilled you asked about him.”

“Hopefully we can get back and see them sooner than later.” The Inquisitor answered with a friendly, but pointed nod. The soldier saluted again as Maria continued past to a table littered with maps and scrawled notes.

“Inquisitor!” Hawke called enthusiastically. The woman looked up and smiled, waving them over. Fenris let his eyes trail across the map of the approach she’d been studying, a marker placed over an old fortress farther to the west. “Allow me to introduce my husband, Fenris.”

“We met, briefly. He seemed quite determined to find you.” Her eyes sparkled with mischief and her lips twitched at the corners, hiding a grin. “Shall I call you Fenris, then? Or Ser Hawke?”

“Fenris will be adequate.” He stated. “And should I call you…?”

“Oh, whatever you like I expect.” She answered breezily. “The soldiers call me Inquisitor, my friends call me Maria when they’re not calling me boss, quizzy, or Cadash.”

“Varric calls her Princess.” Hawke whispered theatrically, loudly enough to carry to Maria, who rolled her eyes.

“That I’d discourage, I’m not entirely sure why I let him get away with it.” She replied evenly.

“The chest hair, I’d wager.” Hawke waggled her eyebrows.

“I made sure to instruct someone to move your tent into a more secluded area over by the eastern corner. Just in case you need a repeat performance of the storage room.” Maria said easily, picking up some of the papers on  the desk and moving past them with a wink. “If you’ll excuse me, some of us have work to do.”

“Damnit.” Hawke swore, watching her go.

 

When Cullen arrived, a scout summoned Hawke from their tent rather nervously. Fenris followed her back to the table with the map. Varric was beside the Inquisitor as she leaned over the map and he smirked at Fenris as they approached. The rest of the companions were a motley group, from an elf wearing brightly colored plaid leggings and fletching arrows to a young man with a broad brimmed hat nervously twisting his tunic in his hands on Maria’s other side. There were astonishingly gaudily dressed mages lounging in the corner and a severe looking woman studying the map, a qunari nearly as large as the Arishok himself, and a gruff looking man that was sharpening his blade.

“It’ll be a bloody business, Inquisitor. There’s nothing to be done about that. Adamant Fortress has stood for ages.” Cullen said. “But it was built before modern siege equipment. We can bring down those walls.”

“Did you bring siege equipment, Cullen? You’re a gem.” The Inquisitor said, tapping her fingers against the map lightly. “We’ll still expect losses?”

“They are Grey Wardens, my lady. They won’t make it easy.” The gruff man said. Maria sighed.

“I don’t want to take out Wardens if I can help it. They’ve been mislead.” She answered.

“Standing orders to not engage with Wardens who are not attacking, perhaps?” The severe woman asked. Hawke slipped into place next to Varric. Suddenly, all eyes were on Fenris and Hawke.

“Who in Andraste’s tits is the shiny elf?” The elf fletching arrows asked.

“This is the Champion’s husband, Serah Fenris. He’s quite skilled himself with a blade.” Cullen introduced. Fenris inclined his head stiffly.

“Will you be joining us for the assault on Adamant?” Maria asked.

“No.” Hawke answered at the same time Fenris said “Yes.” Fenris made a rather exasperated sound in his throat and glared into Hawke’s blue eyes.

“Right. I’m not getting involved in that.” Maria said immediately. “Would you all like to introduce yourself, or should I do it?”

“I’m doing it.” Varric said easily. “We’ve got Sera in the rather flashy leggings. She’s an archer like our Inquisitor, but not quite as good.”

“Shove it in your face.” Sera sneered.

Varric ignored her and continued. “Warden Blackwall, who is honestly quite boring. The Iron Bull, who I expect you’ll like quite a lot, Broody…”

“You heft around that big sword all by yourself?” Bull asked.

“Typically.” Fenris answered. Bull chuckled.

“Oh that I have to see.” He observed.

“Continuing… we have Cole. You two should probably just stay away from each other. Then there’s the Seeker…”

“Cassandra Pentaghast.” The woman interrupted. “A pleasure to meet a skilled warrior such as yourself.”

“She’s the one who kidnapped Varric.” Hawke whispered slyly.

“Punishment enough in itself, I imagine, unless she gagged him.” Fenris observed. Cassandra looked incredibly self-satisfied.

“Then we have our mages. Solas is a cheerfully optimistic apostate who decided to help crazy Chantry people fix a hole in the sky then stayed.” Fenris glanced at the silent elf in the corner who was staring a bit too hard at the markings. Fenris fought the glare rising and looked away to the other two mages.
“Vivienne goes by Madame de Fer and is frankly a bit terrifying.”

“I thought Varric was… exaggerating the lyrium branded into your skin, my dear. I am… terribly sorry about the price you have paid for reckless magic. I cannot imagine the suffering they have caused.” The woman said, carefully, but sincerely. Fenris did not know what to say and swept his eyes back to Hawke. She had stiffened nervously.

“Last, we have our friend Dorian Pavus he is…” Varric began.

“If you say Magister, I swear I’m leaving.” The tanned man said. “Barbarians, the lot of you.”

Fenris felt something he’d forgotten clutch at his heart, icy fear of being dragged back to Tevinter in chains. The man was reclining, at ease apparently, no staff in sight. Mages didn’t need staffs, though, he knew that. Fenris turned, furious, to the dwarf who was appraising him.

“You count among your friends a Tevinter altus?” He asked, voice strained.

“There’s that word we can never remember.” Varric joked weakly.

“Yes.” Maria answered. “He left his country, risked his life to save mine, became a pariah, and has been unswervingly loyal. I’m proud to call him my friend.” Her eyes were steady, the gray catching the fading light and Fenris knew why Varric was so enamoured. She saw entirely too much with those eyes too, all the cracks and flaws everyone kept hidden.

“I’m also an impressive physical specimen and quite charming.” Dorian added. “If we’re listing my virtues.”

Fenris was searching his mind now, rattling all the forgotten information he knew about the Pavus family. Closer to the Archon than Danarius, voices of anti-corruption, but slaveholders and magisters nevertheless. Fenris pushed away from the table, disgusted.

“Fenris…” Hawke said quietly.

“Do not.” Fenris growled as he stalked away to the battlements, away from the dwarf with the eyes that could look through you and see your secrets. Hawke let him go, staring after him until he heard her sigh, resigned.

“What’s the plan, then?” She asked, falsely bright.

 

Hours passed, night fell on the dessert. Tents were lined up, orderly as soldiers on the ground below him. He sat on the battlements and watched the men move like ants, listened to bawdy laughter and someone singing. His thoughts chased themselves like dogs. He’d been tempted to pack up Hawke and drag her kicking and screaming from this place. The only thing that had stopped him was the thought that he probably couldn’t actually move Hawke from this place if she had no intention of going. He’d also been tempted to go and take care of their Tevinter altus problem himself, but that would have been a stupid thing to do with the man surrounded by friends.

So he waited. Varric would call it brooding. He waited until he heard steps coming towards him, slow but deliberate. At first he thought it was Hawke or Varric, but the stride was too long. He turned instead to see the altus stopped, a safe distance back, a bottle of wine in his hand.

“You’re a fool to put yourself in my grasp.” Fenris threatened.

“Funny, that’s exactly what our Inquisitor said.” The mage began, holding the bottle of wine out. “I know you absolutely loathe me, but can I remark that it’s so very nice to hear a proper accent. The Fereldens are the worst, every word Sera says is like a knife to the eardrum.”

“Leave now.” Fenris growled.

“I brought this wine we found when we took the keep. Maria wanted to throw it away, but I’m tired of that ale they keep forcing on me. It’s atrocious. I’ve got three bottles of my own. I hoped that as a countryman, you may appreciate this one.” Dorian continued obliviously.

Fenris said nothing, continuing to glare. With a bow, Dorian placed the bottle on the stones in front of himself. “I never met you, wasn’t allowed at Danarius’s parties I’m afraid. But I’ve heard the stories. I have to say, the man got exactly what he deserved. Intellectual curiosity is all well and good, but Danarius represented everything I detest about my homeland. Regardless, it is my homeland, and I have benefited from the system that treated you as little more than an animal.”

“And done nothing to stop it.” Fenris added. Dorian flinched at the venom in his voice.

“You are correct. I thought very little about it until I came south. I took the Imperium for granted, I thought slavery made sense. My family treats our slaves quite well, I thought treating slaves badly was a personal and moral failing. I ignored how rife the abuse was, it mattered little to me. Perhaps that makes me as bad as Danarius in my own way.” Dorian paused, shifting uncomfortably. “Regardless, I am  here now on my own merits. I’ve grown fond of this ragtag group of misfits and burnt many bridges that would take me home. I only ask for assurance that you won’t murder me in my sleep.”

“Your tent is situated astonishingly close to that large Qunari and the Inquisitor’s, so it would be impossible to kill you there.” Fenris answered.

“Reassuring.” Dorian said dryly. “Well, I’ve done what I can then to prevent other murder attempts. If, at any time, you need a favor, I would be glad to oblige.”

“I don’t need favors from your ilk.” Fenris said.

He heard Hawke sigh before he saw her, shaking her head and waving Dorian away as she picked up the bottle. Dorian retreated as Hawke approached, setting the bottle beside him. “It’s a good vintage, I believe. At the very least, you can smash it against the stone for a satisfying crack.”

“You knew.” Fenris accused.

“I did. I’ve been nothing but impolite to him, but… he has grown on me despite my best efforts.” Hawke shrugged. “Perhaps he is a good man.”

“Perhaps.” Fenris repeated scornfully.

“We march on Adamant the morning after next.” Hawke said softly. “Stay here, amatus. Stay safe, I’m begging you.”

“I will not leave you.” Fenris said stubbornly as Hawke’s palm rested over his. “If you must do this, then we do it together.”

Hawke sighed, dropping her head against his. “Stubborn ass.” She grumbled.

Instead of arguing, he dropped his lips to hers. “I have missed you.” He admitted.

“And I you.” She answered.

Chapter Text

Here lies the abyss, the well of all souls.
From these emerald waters doth life begin anew.
Come to me, child, and I shall embrace you.
In my arms lies Eternity.
Canticle of Andraste 14:11

Adamant fortress loomed perhaps a mile ahead as the army marched, banners drooping in the heat. The troops were growing silent now, restless as they stared at the high walls. Soon, they’d be in distance for arrows to begin raining down on them. Fenris observed the thin line of the Inquisitor’s mouth as Cullen repeated the chant under his breath.

“Princess, care to explain to me, again, why I’m getting ready to storm a castle for you?” Varric asked, brushing the dust from his sleeve.

Dorian burst in from her other side before she could answer. “Because she’s rather pretty and you’re rather foolish. What do you think the odds are for our success here, Varric?”

“You’re not asking me to give odds on our beloved Inquisitor’s success?” Varric asked, all mock innocence. Maria lips moved into a small smile.

“What would that look like? Three to one?” Dorian laughed.

“In her favor?” Varric asked. This caused Maria’s smile to grow even larger.

“Besotted fool. After Corypheus pulled an archdemon from his ass? You must be joking.”

“I’ll take those odds.” Maria said evenly, stroking her bow.

“This is why we adore you so.” Dorian said, winking lavaciously.

“I’ll go fifty crowns on the Inquisitor.” Varric raised an eyebrow challengingly. Maria laughed and Hawke snorted in amusement.

“I’ll take it.” Dorian said gleefully. “Let’s see if I can drum up any other takers.”

With that, the mage disappeared to the back of their group. “Feeling confident, Varric?” Hawke asked.

“Always. Besides, he’ll be dead if I lose anyway. It’ll make collecting a right bitch.” Varric chuckled.

“He’s currently penniless, you know.” Maria scolded lightly. “I’ve tried to pay him and he refused it.”

“Hey! Why am I not gettin’ paid?” Sera asked touchily.

“I’m turning a blind eye to your extracurricular activities.” Maria answered simply.

“He’s going to inherit that estate in Minrathous whether or not his family likes it. I’ll collect then.” Varric answered with a grin.

Fenris grunted in exasperation at the same time Cassandra did. Hawke and Varric shared an amused and beleaguered look.

“I’ll follow the siege equipment and Cullen and go in the front.” Maria finally said. “It seems the best option.”

“Then I will go with you as your shield.” Cassandra stated with steely determination. Maria nodded absently, playing with the chain around her neck.

“We’ll take Dorian and Stroud as well, and…” Maria looked back at Varric, an eyebrow raised. “Unless you’re having second thoughts, you as well.”

“Never.” Varric said, patting Bianca. “We’re ready to go, Princess.”

“And the rest of us?” Fenris asked.

“We’ll take the western wall.” Hawke offered gamely. “Help the soldiers get a foothold.”

“And send a group to the east wall too. Sera, Bull, and Vivienne will do well there.” Maria said, tapping her fingers against her lips. “Have Solas, Blackwall, and Cole stick with Cullen. I’m making a beeline to the Warden Commander and stopping this madness as quick as I can.”

“Understood.” Cassandra nodded, falling back to inform the rest of the group. Maria tugged her braided hair and turned to look at Hawke.

“When this is over, do you think you can sign my book?” She asked. “Both of you?”

“Tale of the Champion?” Hawke asked, laughing. “Sure, why not. I saw Varric already did.”

“If I’m lucky, maybe I can get all of you.” Maria smirked.

“I will consider it.” Fenris said gravely. “Varric, shout if you’re in trouble.”

“Like if we’re ambushed and killed by crazed Grey Wardens?” Varric asked.

“I suppose that would be trouble.” Hawke replied blithely, dropping a kiss on his cheek. “See you later.”

Hawke moved to join the western group with a cheerful wave and nod, falling into step beside the mules pulling a trebuchet. She appeared blissfully unaware of the stares and whispers they attracted as she counted the potions in her belt.

“See them…” A soldier whispered. “That’s the Champion of Kirkwall and her lover.”

“Heard she fought off seventy templars on her own! Maker, she’s shorter than I thought she’d be.”

“I met the Hero of Ferelden, when I served in King Alistair’s army. They’re cousins. Fancy our Inquisitor is related to them too?”

“Her husband kills blood mages for sport. I heard it myself from someone from the Marches.”

Fenris snorted and looked over at Hawke, who was grinning and shaking her head. “After this, I think we should disappear again.” He said quietly.

“We still have to find Anders, remember? He’s advocating your murder.” Hawke said somberly.

“Let him come, apparently I slay maleficar for fun.” Hawke actually giggled, hiding her face in the soft ruff of fur at her collar.

“I don’t want to disappear. I want to go back to Kirkwall. I want to see Carver and Merrill, Isabela. I’m tired of moving around and running, aren’t you?” She asked.

“There will be time to discuss our plans. After.” Fenris promised. She reached out, her gauntlets cool on his skin.

“Promise me, no unnecessary risks.” She challenged.

“I promise.” He answered. “I am not as reckless as you are.”

Hawke didn’t quite look as if she believed him, and her eyes dropped to his waist, where the Amell crest hung proudly once again. She straightened it tenderly, then nodded as if pleased before catching him with those beautiful blue eyes. “Yes you are.” She said gently.

 

The ladders went up against the walls, the trebuchets fired from overhead. Fenris could hear nothing over the arrows pelting uselessly against Hawke’s barrier, the stones and debris being thrown from overhead and crashing on the men. He was already covered in blood not his own as the first soldier began up the ladder. A swordsman nearly decapitated him as he reached the top and the body came crashing down. “Damnit!” Fenris swore.

“I’m taking the barrier down.” Hawke warned, the energy zipping back into her quickly as she lifted her hand, flames burning in her palm. With calculated elegance, she tossed the fire up, the ball of flames growing as it flew over the wall. Fenris heard someone scream, smelt burned flesh. “Go!” Hawke yelled.

Fenris was on the ladder in a second, clambering up it as quickly as he could. His sword was in his hand before he was even off the rung, plunging into the chest of a shade that had been converging on the ladder. A second burst of flame from Hawke as she clambered off the ladder after him took a group of Wardens on the right. He reached behind him to pull Hawke safely onto the stone as additional demons converged on them.

Hawke’s staff blade cut through one Warden mage before she launched another spell over his head. Fenris felt the lyrium blazing fully, like he hadn’t since that night with the templars. Hawke was watching him warily and he could feel her mana pulsing, checking…

“Venhedis!” He cursed. A boulder flew over the heads, collapsing part of a tower. “I am fine, Hawke! Fight your own battles!”

“You should still be recovering!” Hawke yelled as she froze a rage demon, then shattered it into hundreds of pieces.

“I am as recovered as I need be!” Fenris shouted back, his blade cleaving a swordsman almost in half. Blood gushed warmly over his gauntlets.

“And yet, I’m the reckless one!” She argued, pounding her staff down onto the ground, lighting sparking in the air.

Fenris growled several oathes at her as he ducked and weaved, finally cutting down the last mage in front of Hawke. He pulled her to him, pressing his lips against hers quickly before pulling back.

“You’ll be the death of me!” Hawke protested, shrugging free but unable to stop her smile. She handed him a yellow vial and took a swig of a blue one herself before taking off to the next ladder and scattering demons and Grey Wardens in every direction. Fenris followed grimly.

He heard the call from the wardens to pull back when the door fell to their siege equipment, but was unable to stop long enough to celebrate. Pausing to down even a small stamina potion or allow Hawke a moment to rest her mana was becomming impossible as the battle grew to a fever pitch. He could tell who was responsible, for all he knew it could have been Hawke, but everything wood was beginning to burn. Sweat and blood ran down his skin in equal measure. Hawke’s battlefield healing was beginning to be inadequate, he could feel at least one cracked rib from a mace he’d been too slow to dodge. Hawke had a long gash down her bare arm from a demon’s claws and the blood she’d swiped over her nose was beginning to smear across her entire face.

Then the mage she was fighting summoned a monstrous demon, larger than any Fenris had the dubious pleasure of seeing. Fenris swore as Hawke jumped back, barely dodging the creatures sparking claws. She fell to the stone as it stomped menacingly forward. Fenris tried to push past the swordsman in front of him, but the man moved and pushed forward with his shield. Hawke was tired, faltering, as she stood too slowly.

“REYNA!” He yelled, phasing his arm through the man’s throat, pulling at the spinal cord. The man gave a strangled gasp and groaned, but Fenris was already pushing him away, sword ready as he ran forward.

Flames were swirling around Hawke and she launched them forward, desperately. The creature batted them away as if they were nothing. Fenris was nearly there and Hawke was rolling from the creatures talons. Then he felt something, not mana, but… a powerful force nevertheless pulsing from behind him. It soared past him as he pulled Hawke up, centering on the beast. It roared as green tendrils of energy surrounded it, falling to its knees and dissipating into sparks. Fenris looked behind him and was met by a rather bloody and bruised Inquisitor, her hand held outwards and sparking madly. She hissed as she pulled it back, pressing it against her other hand.

“You alright, Hawke?” Varric yelled, uncorking a potion and tossing it to the Inquisitor as he hoisted Bianca.

“Well, I’m alive and that seems like cause enough to celebrate.” Hawke responded. “What was that?”

“I have no idea, to be honest, but it’s helpful sometimes.” The Inquisitor admitted. “Up you get. We’ve got an inner keep to breach.”

“Quite a spectacular showing, for a hedge mage with little real training.” Dorian sniffed in mock indignation.

“I’m quite satisfied she skipped the Tevinter school of blood magic.” Fenris replied immediately. Hawke looked absolutely delighted and Varric’s mouth dropped.

“Broody...are you defending Hawke’s magic? I need to sit down.” Varric said, mock fanning himself with his hand.

“The banter will have to wait.” Cassandra said, readying her shield. “More demons approaching!”

They fought well as a unit and it was hard to be unimpressed with their skill. He stayed far from Dorian’s magic, but the man was obviously quite aware of his companions, and he’d felt a barrier spring up around him more than once that was quite different from Hawke’s. Cassandra plowed ahead with a determination that reminded him, nostalgically, of Aveline. Warden Stroud cut through with icy precision, protesting to his fellow Grey Wardens to stop, to desist. /The greatest surprise, however, was Varric and the Inquisitor.

Fenris had been complimented on how he fought at Hawke’s side more than once. It was a rhythm they’d always fallen into. At first, he’d credited it to Hawke’s experience fighting at her brother’s side. One greatsword was similar enough to another and Carver had a great amount of skill. It had taken time, but suddenly he had realized that he simply knew where Hawke would be, what she would be doing, and who she’d be aiming at. He need not guess, he was always correct. He was as aware of her as a pond was aware of ripples on its surface. She had admitted once, after too much wine, that she felt the same.

Now, he had the opportunity to observe another team that worked seamlessly. Maria and Varric moved seemingly without thought, but always aware. If Maria stopped to pick up her own arrows, she grabbed Varric’s without thinking and tossed them to him. He caught them with barely a glance. They never aimed at the same target, but were always firing seamlessly like a never ending stream. He could see why Maria had wanted them to work together, their impact was easily tripled by working together. He wondered if they had even realized it.

They were passing through an archway, Fenris waiting as he waved through the rest of the group. Hawke was up ahead, peering around a corner. The world slowed down for a moment as he turned to follow the last of the soldiers through the archway. He heard the incoming projectile before he consciously registered it and his body reacted automatically, throwing himself down and to the side. The boulder crashed into the stone, bringing the archway and everything above it down, blocking the passage.

Reyna. His first thought as he staggered to his feet, staring blankly at the stone in front of him, the ruined and blocked passage. He listened, breathless with alarm.

“Fenris!” He heard her yell, desperate, keening. The same sound she’d made when she’d seen her mother in Quentin’s clutches. Fenris rushed to the rubble, pressing his gauntlets into it and moving some of the stone.

“Reyna!” He called back. He heard a sob catch in her throat. “Are you alright? Are you hurt?” He asked.

“No!” Hawke yelled back. “We have to go forward, we can’t come back. If we move this…”

“It’ll bring down the whole blasted thing on our heads.” Dorian finished.

“Keep going.” Fenris said, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to block out the battle around him. “I’ll find a way around.”

“Fenris…” Hawke called his name. He could picture her, head against the rubble like his was, fingers clenched tightly. He felt something tighten in his throat. “Be safe.” She was so quiet he barely heard her.

“And you.” He replied.

“We have to go, I’m sorry.” He could hear the inquisitor, her sympathy, Varric’s comforting noises. Fenris pushed back as the sounds grew fainter, looking behind him and doubling back. It was harder going on his own, forced to engage demons and wardens in close combat. But he would get to Hawke, he would see her again. He saw the Commander below him, his lion’s helm distinctive as he roared at his troops and they pushed forward…

“Commander!” Fenris yelled. Cullen looked up as Fenris jumped down, rolling in the dust before straightening.

“The Inquisitor…” Cullen began.

“With Hawke, they pushed ahead but a collapse separated me. They were almost at the inner keep. We must…” Before Fenris could finish, he heard something that he couldn’t immediately place. A shrill screech, enough to set his teeth on edge.

“Maker help us.” Cullen whispered. Then Fenris saw it, wings beating black against the sky as it circled, red energy crackling out from it’s mouth, crashing into a building as its tail whipped a tower into ash. An archdemon, Fenris thought. The archdemon who had burned Haven.

“The Inquisitor!” Solas yelled. “It’ll be going after the Inquisitor!”

Hawke. Fenris thought desperately. He launched into the fray, pushing demons back. It seemed the Grey Wardens were now flocking to their side, swords clanging. But not fast enough, he thought as the dragon launched itself into the inner keep. He could hear it’s deafening roar even louder now. Someone had shot lighting at it. Maker, not Hawke he hoped fervently. The dragon was spinning upwards now, circling the highest tower, it’s broken edge jutting over the abyssal rift.

Suddenly they were in the inner keep. “The Inquisitor! Where is she!” Cullen roared at the Grey Wardens.

“Chasing that Magister and the Warden Commander up the tower, Ser.” An inquisition soldier reported. “Look, there!”

The dragon had landed on the tower. He could see it slowly, menacingly, approaching small figures on the bridge. And then...something happened from underneath the dragon. Another burst of lighting. The beast screamed in pain, writhing it’s large body to the side. Stones were falling.

“Maker, no.”  Blackwall said in horror. The bridge was going to collapse, but Fenris couldn’t…

There she was, running from the edge. He could see her braid trailing out behind her. A man, Stroud perhaps, nearly fell from the edge. But the Inquisitor, distinctive for her lack of height and a mark that seemed to be glowing even brighter from a distance had run back for him, grabbing him and pulling him up, pushing him ahead of her. The stones fell faster into the tumbling chasm. Fenris felt something hard in the pit of his stomach as he pushed forward, too late. Too late as the whole thing began to collapse. The Inquisitor went first, free falling into the abyss. Stroud joined her a moment later, then Varric.

Hawke slowed, reacting to screams he couldn’t hear. The cracks were beneath her feet and the stone was toppling, tossing her into the air. His hand raised itself, uselessly, red ribbon hanging as a taunt as he watched. There was no magic that could save Hawke, nothing she could do to turn the air solid, to make herself fly like the bird she had reminded him of so often.

Something happened, something impossible. The Inquisitors hand was sparking and a gaping green tear opened beneath them. The Inquisitor passed through it, then the others, before it snapped shut behind them. They were gone. Hawke, gone. Impossible for him to still be here and breathing, alive when his heart was gone.

There was a strange silent stillness among the soldiers. Then a cry. “Keep pushing the demons back!” It was Solas. “The Inquisitor opened a rift! She can still come through!”

Cullen snapped out his trance, instantly in command again as he shouted orders. Fenris looked at them as if they were mad. Had they not seen? Did they not feel the pain he felt?

“They are only gone, not lost.” The boy who he’d been warned away from said. “Not lost, not yet.”

“Are you mad!” Fenris hissed.

“No.” Solas turned, eyes blazing. “He is not. The Inquisitor has managed to pass safely through the veil once. She opened a rift and took them through it as they fell. Perhaps, they all passed through safely. If they did, the logical choice would be for them to emerge back through this rift.”

Solas jabbed his staff at the whirling green tear above him. “Emerge?” Fenris repeated. “Alive? All of them?”

“Maria Cadash has yet to disappoint me, Serah.” Solas said. “And your Champion is known for defying the odds, yes?”

Something unknotted in Fenris’s chest. “Take me through this one.” He didn’t know if he was pleading or ordering. Solas shook his head.

“I cannot. Only the Inquisitor can do so. We must wait.” Solas said. “I am sorry, but we must wait.”

Chapter Text

Before the host of the faithful and all of the Imperium,
The servants of the Archon assembled a great dais at the feet of the Juggernauts
And there built a pyre twice the height of a man,
The Prophet in chains placed on a stake in the center.
Chant of Light, Apotheosis 2:3

Varric was roughly sure they’d died. The bridge had given out under their feet, sending them spiraling into the abyssal rift. When he wrote this, and he was quite sure now that if he survived he would have to, he’d make sure to say his last thoughts were noble and despairing. He needed more time, he wasn’t done with this battle yet, all that bullshit. Instead, the thoughts Varric had as he was free falling into the void were a jumbled panic of curses. Much less romantic.

But if he was dead, this was a shitty afterlife. No dwarven maidens, no endless ale, not even Andraste’s bosom. Instead, he’d passed through a cold green mist and had ended up standing upright here… wherever here was. All he could see was suspiciously murky water, green mist, and jagged rocks.

Someone screamed and that snapped him from his reverie, because he knew that voice. He twisted to look behind him and saw Maria on her knees, her sparking hand clenched painfully tight in front of her as tremors wracked her body. Varric was at her side in a second, arm around her shaking shoulders and his own hand covering her fist. Light crept through their fingers and Varric could feel it pulsing in her skin. Maria’s other hand was covering her mouth, stifling painful whimpers.

Cassandra was on her other side, looking remarkably unruffled after falling off a bridge. She had an uncorked potion in her hand and she was pulling Maria’s hand from her mouth with her gauntlet, forcing the glass to her lips and pouring it down. “Seeker, the mark…” Varric said, hopeless.

“She opened a rift. A fade rift. I…” Cassandra swallowed hard, her hand lightly (dare he say tenderly?) resting on Maria’s hair. “I saw what you did. I’m sure it was very painful, but we are alive because of it.”

The tremors were subsiding and Varric could feel the tension easing in Maria’s hand. She looked up at Cassandra, her voice hoarse, tears glimmering unshed in her eyes. “The others?” she asked.

“I am unsure.” Cassandra said, straightening. “Varric, stay with her. If… if we fell through the rift, then we are physically in the fade. Maker knows the danger.”

Varric nodded, pulling Bianca from her harness as Cassandra began to walk forward. He rubbed a small, soothing circle on Maria’s back as she tried to catch her grasp, shooting pain still causing her occasionally to shudder under him. “Right mess I’ve got us into, huh?” She asked in between the shaking.

“Well, I’ve had better days.” Varric admitted. When the pain started again he pulled her close and pressed his lips against her cheekbone, tangling his hand into her braid. She pressed her face into his chest and waited, quietly.

Cassandra’s footsteps echoed loudly as she raced back, followed by Stroud, Dorian, and Hawke. “Thank the Maker for you, you brilliant woman.” Dorian said, kneeling down beside Maria. “A rift to stop us from plunging to our deaths! Brilliant!”

“Hawke, she’s hurt.” Varric called. Hawke was by his side immediately,  removing Maria’s glove gently and rolling up her sleeve, hissing.

“Look, it’s spread.” She said, shaking her head. “It wasn’t this far up your wrist before, right?”

“No.” Maria answered. Varric steeled himself and looked down at what Hawke was seeing, the green light flickering up like it was Maria’s blood in her veins. Hawke sighed, pulling a lyrium potion from her pouch and emptying it in one swallow before throwing the flash behind her and tracing her hand up Maria’s skin.

“I don’t think it’s growing now… whatever you did to get us here, don’t do it again.” Hawke advised glumly. “It’s burning the nerves it’s touching. I’m going to have to… do some rearranging. This may hurt just as badly, but  then it will be better.”

“Better be quick then.” Maria answered. Hawke sighed jerked her chin to Dorian.

“Help him hold her.” She ordered. Maria bit off another scream as Hawke’s fingertips lit blue. Varric winced and tightened his grip as Hawke worked, quickly and efficiently. When she sat back, Maria was panting but the shuddering had stopped. “Better?” Hawke asked.

Maria nodded, breathlessly. Hawke stood, looking around and whistling low. “Oh this is extremely not good.”

“We are physically in the fade! Think of the research opportunities!” Dorian said cheerfully.

“Look.” Hawke pointed, frowning. Far in the distance Varric could just barely make out black spires. “That’s what happened the last time somebody got the bright idea to do this.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly try to do this. I just...really didn’t want to die.” Maria admitted.

“Perhaps we should focus on finding a way out.” Cassandra said, pointing to a glaring green hole in the distance. “Was there not another rift in the inner keep?”

“So we go out that one? The one they were trying to summon a large demon through?” Varric asked.

“Do you have a better plan?” Hawke asked. Varric sighed, standing and offering his arm to Maria. She pulled herself up as well, swaying slightly. He steadied her with a hand to her waist and smiled.

“Well, we’re not dead yet at least.” He offered wryly.

“Yet.” Maria repeated, shaking her head. “Let’s get out of this weird fade shit before we change that.”

Varric heartily agreed as they moved forward. Hawke and Dorian took stock of their potions as they moved forward, shaking their heads in distress. Between all of them, they had three healing potions, two stamina draughts, a vial of deathroot poison, and and two lyrium potions.

That’s when they ran into the soul of Divine Justinia. Or… something wearing her face anyway. He felt his as nauseous as Maria looked as they spoke, debating the realness of the vision in front of them.

“How hard is it to answer one question!” Hawke fumed. “I’m human, you’re…”

The Divine ignored Hawke’s temper tantrum, and Varric couldn’t particularly blame her regardless of whether she was a demon or not. Instead, she focused on Maria and began speaking of lost memories… and a demon called the nightmare waiting for them ahead.

“Well, shit.” Maria muttered.

“Be wary, Inquisitor. It knows not of your presence, but it will soon. You will face trials, the greatest nightmares of you and your companions. It will save you for last, I fear. And when you fail, it will consume you. But if you succeed, you will regain what you have lost.” The Divine said, before fading in a flash of light.

“That sounds...wonderful.” Hawke said. “Does everyone know what their worst nightmare is? Want to share before we get close to it?”

“You first.” Maria said, rubbing at her eyes. “Maker, I just want to go home.”

And where is that, Inquisitor? Isn’t that what they call you, for now?

The voice came from nowhere, and everywhere. Maria straightened, eyes widening. “Please tell me everyone heard that.”

“Yes.” Cassandra hissed between clenched teeth.

“Guess it found us.” Dorian commented. “This will be great fun.”

Herald of Andraste… They burned the prophet, perhaps they will burn you too when they tire of you. It would be a fitting end, wouldn’t it?

“Ignore it.” Cassandra ordered. “A fear demon will know where to hurt you. It’s words mean nothing.”

“Out.” Hawke said firmly. “We’re getting out, now.”

“I wouldn’t let them.” Varric said, squeezing Maria’s arm. “You’re alright, Princess. We’ve got you.”

Maria’s smile didn’t quite reach her gray eyes as they began to move. Dorian was muttering about taking samples as Stroud and Cassandra scowled bleakly ahead. Hawke was trying to hum a bit under her breath, but it sounded wrong, echoing too loud. Then suddenly…

The scene had shifted so suddenly, Varric couldn’t remember it happening at all. There was snow falling softly from the sky, sticking to his shirt. It looked exactly as it had when Hawke had summoned a blizzard that last First Day. He looked up into clear gray sky, puzzled. Maria lifted her bare hand and caught some of the flakes on her skin.

Perhaps I should be afraid. Facing the most powerful members of the Inquisition… Isn’t that right, Cassandra?

“Seeker…” Varric mumbled. “It’s coming for you.”

Cassandra reached for her sword, fingers tightening around the hilt. “The Maker will guide us.”

Your inquisitor is a fraud, Cassandra. Yet more evidence there is no Maker, that all your faith has been for naught.

“Die in the void, demon!” Cassandra spat. The field in front of them stirred, an icy wind carrying snow past them.

“It’s not real.” Hawke shouted above the cry of the wind. “It’s only the fade. Nothing is real here!”

But this was real, wasn’t it Cassandra?

A man was running towards him, his dark eyes flashing. He was tall, well-built, and in armor that probably cost as much as a house. A rider was gaining on him, a wicked scythe gleaming in the light.

“Anthony.” Cassandra breathed. “ Anthony!

The Seeker wasn’t there...but she was. When Varric blinked, a young girl stood in Cassandra’s place in a white dress, horrified. The scythe caught the man’s neck, blood gushing as it separated from his shoulders and the girl that was (would be?) Cassandra screamed.

Things burst from the ground, fresh corpses with their skin rotting off. The young girl was collapsed in the middle of them, hiding her head as one approached her. The creatures long, grasping fingers reached out hungrily…

An arrow landed in its forehead, sending it to the floor. Maria had her bow in her hand and an expression of grim disgust. “Cassandra!” She yelled.

Varric pulled Bianca and began firing at the corpses as they stumbled forward. Hawke set the nearest one on fire and still Cassandra remained, immobile, regressed to a cowering child. Varric would never have believed it.

How does it feel to be helpless again, Cassandra?

The nightmare was laughing, it’s dark humor rumbling in Varric’s chest. “Seeker!” Varric yelled. “You have your sword, use it!”

The girl looked up at him, uncomprehending as he dodged the swipe of a creatures claws. Stroud had to launch himself between Cassandra and another of the things, taking a stinging blow to his ribs.

“CASSANDRA!” Maria yelled. “If you don’t use your sword, I WILL!”

Hawke was beside Cassandra now, magic sparking in her open hand. “I’m with you, you’re not helpless.” Hawke said. “Come on now, where’s your sword?”

As if she was talking to a child, Varric shook his head in disbelief. But whatever it was, it worked, because when Cassandra looked down the sword was in her hand. Then when Varric blinked again, Cassandra (fully grown, thank the Maker) was thrusting her blade into a corpse beside Hawke.

It was over as quickly as it started, the illusion crumbling around them in a whirl of green, leaving them back on the path to the rift in one piece, but shaken. Cassandra screamed in fury, throwing her shield from her arm.

“Well, that was...interesting.” Dorian said.

“I failed!” Cassandra stormed.

“No you didn’t. Notice the distinct lack of taunting right now?” Hawke grinned, nudging Cassandra’s ribs. “Come on, you did fine.”

“You don’t think we’ll all become children, do you?” Varric asked nervously.

“Maker, I hope not. I’d never be able to look at you with a straight face again.” Hawke responded.

“Onward.” Cassandra demanded, turning her blazing eyes on Maria. “I will not fail you again, Inquisitor.”

“You never have.” Maria answered immediately.

They moved forward, even more wary and subdued. Maria’s eyes swung back and forth, searching for traps.

Greetings, Dorian. It is...Dorian, isn’t it? I almost mistook you for your father.

“Rather uncalled for.” Dorian chirped.

Maria coughed at the sudden pungent scent of heavy incense, drawing her scarf up over her nose. “What in the Maker’s ass…”

There was a man in front of them now, an older copy of Dorian. His hair was graying at the temples, but he looked radiantly happy. He was holding a blade out, hilt first to Dorian. “My son, welcome home.”

“Well, Minrathous has certainly gone to shit if this is home.” Dorian said. “Begone, fiend.”

“You could come home, Dorian.” The man said adamantly. “Come home...we’ll find a nice young man to introduce you to. We could work together again, Dorian, to make the Imperium truly great. I have missed you.”

As the man spoke, Dorian’s eyes began to glaze. The fade was shifting around them, solidifying into a comfortable country home. Varric could see fruit trees from open doors, a breeze blew in and brought the smell of honeysuckle.

“I only need one thing, Dorian. The Inquisitor is destroying what is left of our reputation. For Tevinter to be safe, she must go. For your family to be safe, Dorian, I am counting on you.” The man pled passionately. Slowly, haltingly, Dorian’s hand reached out and took the hilt of the knife.

“Traitor!” Cassandra yelled.

“Cassandra, stop!” Maria ordered, holding her hand up and watching the horrified expression on Dorian’s face. The illusion was continuing to solidify. Maria moved forward slowly, to Dorian’s side.

“It’s alright.” She soothed softly like she was approaching a frightened animal.

“Maria…” Varric cautioned.

“It’s a nightmare.” She said simply, taking Dorian’s hand. It shook as she pulled his hand forward, bringing the blade up to her throat. “It’s just a nightmare Dorian.”

Varric could feel his own pulse thundering as he leveled Bianca at Dorian’s chest, waiting. Dorian was staring down at Maria, eyes far away. She continued to stand, calm and still.

“Maker I hope she knows what she’s doing.” Hawke said softly.

“Fasta vass!” Dorian swore finally, eyes clearing as he drew his hand away and flung the blade at the ghostly vision of his father. Both knife and man disappeared, the fade slowly reemerging. “You’re insane!”

“You wouldn’t do it.” Maria cracked a smile. “I know you Dorian.”

“He just didn’t offer the right thing.” Dorian said wearily. “Half a dozen nude soldiers? Your throat would have been slit quicker than Varric could have shot me.”

“I’m pretty quick.” Varric sighed in relief, before glaring at the back of Maria’s head in frustration.

“We can’t leave the nightmare until the person overcomes it.” Hawke muttered. “If he never overcame his fear, we could never move on.”

“So it seems.” Cassandra said dryly. “Although I suppose the Inquisitor’s death would also have prevented it.”

“Luckily, I didn’t die.” Maria patted Dorian’s shoulder fondly.

“This time.” Cassandra predicted sourly.

They continued to trudge along, dreading whatever came next. The voice of the nightmare demon was alarmingly silent. Varric didn’t think he’d grow to miss the taunting, but at least it was a change of pace from weird water and jagged rocks. That was, until he turned the corner and nearly ran into Hawke.

“It’s the Gallows.” She said. “Mine or yours, Varric?”

“We’d better find out.” He replied sourly. “Bianca hopes there’s more shooting involved and less mind games, to be honest.”

They walked down the steps and into the Gallows courtyard. They were almost halfway through when a small voice called out from behind them.

“Sister?”

Hawke didn’t turn, but Varric did. Hawke had squeezed her eyes shut and he could see her lips moving, repeating the words ‘only the fade’ over and over. There was a young woman behind them, her white tunic splattered with blood, skull caved in on the right side. “Why did you leave?” She asked petulantly. One eye socket was empty, the other eye was filled with tears. “You promised Father you’d protect me.”

“Hawke...you have to look or we can’t go through.” Maria said softly. “We’re right here, it isn’t real.”

“Is it Bethany?” Hawke whispered.

“Yes, Waffles.” Varric said gently. “I think so.”

Hawke’s eyes flew open and she turned, staring her sister down. She flinched back at her appearance, taking a step backwards. “You’re dead. I’m sorry, but this isn’t real.” Hawke’s voice was strained.

“Sister!” Another voice, and when Varric turned he saw Carver, slumped on the ground. The man dissolved into coughing, his whole frame wracked as bright red blood appeared on his lips. “Why did you take me?” He asked. “I would have been safe . I could have kept Mother safe!”

And before them, on the stones, he saw Leandra’s body as he’d last seen her. She was a stitched together monstrosity, and this is what caused Hawke to cry out and stumble towards her. The word mother pulled from her lips as she sank to her knees. Varric was beside her in an instant, pulling her up. “Come on, Hawke.” He mumbled. “We gotta keep going.”

“It is your fault.” Leandra’s corpse muttered. “You promised, and we’re all dead.”

“Carver is not.” Cassandra said immediately, on Hawke’s other side. “Your brother is not dead, Champion.”

Reyna Hawke… did you think anything you ever did mattered? You couldn’t even save your city. How could you expect to strike down a God?

Suddenly, the courtyard was full of corpses in templar armor and mage coats, elven commoners, fine nobles in fancy dress, children. Varric could smell smoke, and when he looked over his shoulder he could see Kirkwall burning in the distance. Before them, he could hear shouting. When he looked up…

Anders was coming down the steps to meet them as he’d been when they first met. Robes grimy, a bit of dirt on his cheek, smiling winningly at Hawke as he approached. He was dragging something behind him, something heavy. “Hawke!” He called cheerfully.

Maria shifted uneasily, glancing up at Hawke who had gone still as a statue. “It’s over now, sweetheart. Everything I started, finished!”

“Don’t call me that.” Hawke growled, breaking free of Varric’s grip and swirling her staff forward. “Do not…”

With a flourish, Anders produced the sword he had been dragging behind him, tossing it down the remaining steps. The metal clattered on stone as it toppled, spinning to a stop at their feet. Fenris’s sword, with a red ribbon tied around the hilt like a gruesome present.

Varric felt time stop for a moment, then Hawke was out of his grip and rushing forward, past the thing that wasn’t Anders. Cursing, Varric followed.

Fenris is going to die just like your family, and everyone you ever cared about. The only life you ever saved will be your biggest mistake. All this blood is on your hands, Champion.

Fenris was laying in a pool of his own blood, eyes staring lifelessly at the gray sky above them and Hawke was sobbing, screaming his name, staff clattering to the stones in her rush to get to him. She was on the ground next to him, pulling his limp form into her arms, magic glowing on her skin. “No.” She whispered. “No, no, no no…”

“Hawke!” Varric yelled, pulling her shoulder back. Her skin was smouldering and when she looked up, he could see flames in her blue eyes.

That’s it, Champion. Show us that rage.

“Hawke!” His fingers gripped her harder. “Listen to me! He’s alive, Hawke! Carver is alive! Isabela, Merrill, Aveline, me! We’re still here, don’t give in!”

For a moment, Varric was sure he hadn’t gotten through. He thought for sure his skin would ignite with the heat she was throwing off. One tear steamed right off her skin and then she reached for him, her hands on his shoulders, sobbing into his chest. The gallows disappeared in a swirl of ashes, the bodies, Fenris, gone. All that was left was Hawke’s sobbing, her shoulders heaving.

“I’ve got you.” Varric whispered as Maria approached with Hawke’s discarded staff. “We’ll get you back to him, Waffles. I promise.”

“We can stop, rest a bit.” Maria offered softly. Hawke stopped, pulling back and wiping her face against her arm.

“No.” She said. “We have to keep going. Maker knows what’s happening in the real world.”

“You must love him very much.” Cassandra said gently. “It speaks well, to both of you.”

“Thank you.” Hawke sniffled, standing slowly. “Let’s go.”

“Just me, you, and Stroud.” Varric said.

“The Nightmare will not target me.” Stroud said. “My greatest fear has already come true, the Wardens have fallen and I have dedicated my life to a cause that may fail. It has nothing left to frighten me with.”

“Right, just us then.” Varric said dryly. Maria sighed in resignation.

They’d just started moving again when Varric head the demon begin to chuckle darkly again.

Once again, Hawke is in danger because of you, Varric. Better yet, your precious Inquisitor is caught in the mix as well! You found the red lyrium, you brought Hawke to Corpyheus, you hid an abomination who murdered hundreds, perhaps thousands. Did you do it for the right reasons, Varric? Or was it greed all along?

“Just keep talking smiley.” Varric muttered. The thing laughed and it felt like it’s laughter was taking physical shape. Dark clouds formed arching ceilings, exquisitely tiled floors. In front of him, Bartrand was leaning over a sturdy, gaudy table and his eyes were gleaming.

“We’ll be rich!” He crowed. “Think of it, little brother! We’ll be able to buy our place back in Orzammar!”

Someone laughed behind him, but before Varric could turn the man was walking through him and Varric did a double take. It was himself and most definitely not him. The man was stroking a rather impressive beard, chuckling darkly in a way that almost reminded him of...something. Varric was finding it hard to concentrate as he watched the other man lean over Bartrand.

“Finding that apostate was a stroke of luck, locking them down there was an even better deal. Never split a cut if you don’t have to.” Not Varric said.

“Exactly!” Bartrand crowed. “Glad to see you learned something from dad after all.”

A small voice, female, whispered beside his ear but he couldn’t catch the words and when he turned he saw no one.

“No one will miss them anyway.” He watched himself say. “Maybe we can finally buy ourselves some lovely brides, hm?”

Bartrand laughed and someone cursed far away. He could feel a flare of heat from his left, then…

There was someone warm pressing up against his chest, someone’s hand in his hair and lips against his that were demanding. His eyes closed, and when he opened he saw Maria pulling away from him. “Varric, a little help here?” She asked.

Varric looked up, and saw the spiders clambering over the table, both dwarves were looking at him now with wide mouths full of too many teeth. “Shit.” Varric stumbled back, caught by a pale arm and pushed upright.

“Shoot them!” Hawke ordered, another burst of flame igniting the spiders. Maria moved out of the way and the reassuring weight of his crossbow was in his hands as he pulled the trigger several times in rapid succession until the dwarves with too many teeth and greedy eyes fell.

“Interesting.” Dorian said calmly as the room faded, leaving only the burned corpses of spiders. “I think you should keep the beardless look, personally. If you’re taking opinions.”

“Glad you think so.” Varric answered, trying to ignore the shaking in his hands. “Thanks.”

“Oh anytime.” Hawke answered, nudging Varric closer to Maria. “Or at least, anytime we have the Inquisitor around to take the initiative.”

Cassandra scoffed, eyes on the ground and a fierce red blush on her cheeks. “Seeker! Are you blushing?” Varric asked.

“Let’s continue, before I am stuck here forever with you.” Cassandra said, pushing past.

“There are worse fates, surely.” Maria said, hesitating. “We’re so close. Perhaps...there won’t be a nightmare for me.”

“There almost certainly will be.” Cassandra said, concern etched on her face. “Do you know what we will face?”

It would have taken a blind man to miss the fear in Maria’s face. She nodded mutely and Cassandra placed her hand on her shoulder. “Stay with me, Inquisitor. We will see you through.”

Everyone nodded and Maria took a deep breath, casting her eyes to the rift before taking her first determined step, then the second. Eventually, Varric quit counting as they walked, but something was happening. Varric could hear screaming, distant but coming closer. He could smell something burning and he saw the color slowly draining from Maria’s face. Then Varric saw palatial walls soaring over them, and felt the heat against his skin. In addition to wood smoke, he smelled something sickeningly like human flesh burning.

“I know this place, it is…” Cassandra began.

“Hercinia.” Maria finished quietly staring up at the walls blankly. Hawke hissed in shock, reeling back. Something was dancing on the edges of Varric’s memory, but he couldn’t quite make the connection.

“During the blight, Varric said you lost someone.” Hawke began. “Hercinia...a bunch of Ferelden refugees fleeing from Amaranthine ended up there. Some of them were sick, very sick, with the blight. It began to spread at the docks…”

“Maker, no.” Dorian gasped. “They didn't.”

“They locked the gates and set the docks on fire.” Varric finished, finally making the connection. “Rather than risk letting the blight spread. Everyone inside… shit, Maria…”

“They didn’t all have the blight. Not even all the refugees.” Maria said softly. Her fingers shook as she took a step forward, pressing her palm to the wall and staring up at the smoke rising above it.

The mighty Inquisitor, Herald of Andraste, trembling. How delicious. I have fed well on your fear, girl.

“We’ll go around.” Varric began. “There has to be a way…”

“We have to go through.” Cassandra interrupted. “The only way is through it. You must face this, Inquisitor.”

Maria’s face was growing softer, younger as they watched. Even her gray eyes lost their determined edge, shining fearfully out of the face of a woman a decade gone. Her hair was longer, braided cleverly in two rows that hung down past her neck with shining ribbons intertwined in them. She wasn’t in her leather armor, but in a blue blouse embroidered with yellow daisies and cream colored breeches. The type of outfit a young woman would wear when meeting her sweetheart. Varric’s stomach was somewhere around his knees but the girl nodded at Cassandra’s words, pushing her braids back from her shoulders and clutching not a bow, but the dagger she always wore at her waist instead.

Cassandra led them along the wall, looking for a way over the high stones. Finally, they found a stack of crates stacked like a staircase. Varric looked at them dubiously, but Hawke marched ahead. She scrambled over the crates and to the top of the wall, looking down and not quite hiding the horror on her expression.

What was his name, Herald? The boy who burned to death waiting for you? Fynn, wasn’t it?

“This isn’t going to be easy.” Hawke shouted down.

“When is it ever.” Varric said under his breath.

“My lady, we must go.” Stroud said, taking Maria’s arm. She was far too pale, staring up at Hawke above them.

“I can’t do this.” She whispered. “I can’t.”

“Yes you can.” Varric said, taking her hand. It felt small in his. “Just hang onto me, got it?”

He had to help her up onto the crates, her limbs moving stiffly. She began to notice small things happening, a rip in her cream pants that shouldn’t have been there, the shoulder of her blouse hanging loosely off her shoulder, braids coming undone. A swollen lip, a long gash on her forehead that had stopped bleeding already. When she pushed her sleeves up in annoyance, he saw rope burns on her wrists. What the hell had happened? He looked helplessly at Hawke, who had noticed the same changes. She frowned.

“It’s a memory and a nightmare. The more she thinks about it, the more accurate it gets.” Hawke explained.

“I suppose asking her to stop thinking about it would be useless, yes?” Dorian asked, staring with a deep sorrow at Maria. Varric looked out over the scene from the very void before him, houses and warehouses going up like dry timber. People were running towards the boats in the harbor to their east, desperately trying to make their escape. Varric remembered that’s where they’d began the fire, lighting the boats. The sorry bastards never stood a chance. He saw one figure wreathed in flames drop to its knees, a small bundle of fabric wriggling in its arms and a chubby fist waving.

“Maria.” Varric called as the woman made her way to the edge of the wall. She didn’t react, she didn’t even appear to hear him. “Maria!” He called again, louder.

“Maria!” Another voice cut in and a younger dwarf was holding onto Maria’s elbow. Beatrix was heartbreakingly young in this vision, her face still retaining some traces of baby fat on her cheeks. “We’re too late, I’m sorry we have to go…”

“No.” Maria whispered, and there was rope in her hands now that trailed down the wall. She was tying it to a pole supporting a fluttering banner.

“I’m not going with you!” Beatrix yelled, fear straining her child’s features. “If you’re going to kill yourself, you do it!”

“Fine then!” Maria yelled back. The rope was in her hands and she was rappelling down the wall before any of them could stop her. For the first time, Varric was sure he heard Cassandra cursing.

“What now?” Stroud asked grimly.

“We follow, what else?” Varric asked, taking the rope in his own hands. He shared a grim look with Hawke before rappelling down the wall as well. The heat was unbearable and he coughed at the smoke. Maria was already taking off, running forward unheedingly into the flames.

You’ve never escaped these flames, Maria Cadash. They’ve been waiting to consume you.

Varric sincerely hoped, before this was all over, he’d get a chance to shoot this nightmare demon right in it’s damned mouth. Without waiting, Varric rushed after her. It’s only the fade, he thought as the flames pressed closer and burned hotter, Hawke said it wasn’t real. It certainly felt like his chest hair was burning right off, though.

“Fynn!” Maria yelled, desperate and terrified. He could hear her calling even if he couldn’t see her from the smoke and flame. A small part of his heart rebelled, jealousy rearing dangerously. This isn’t real, he repeated, it was the fade. Just the damned Fade. Varric hated it.

She was coughing now, the smoke choking her. “Varric!” Hawke yelled from behind him, equally desperate. Varric almost answered, but then he caught sight of Maria, kneeling on the ground and coughing into her sleeve. There was a figure emerging from the wall of flames in front of her, as if he was made from the fire. About Varric’s height, but the rest of the features were gone, scorched away by flames as he opened his mouth in an agonized scream before toppling to the ground in front of Maria, crawling towards her.

You will burn Herald. The world will burn. You have already failed, you will always fail.

“Maria!” Varric shouted, fingers digging into her shoulder as he pulled her back from the grasping hands of the burning dwarf.

“Let me go!” She struggled, pushing him away. “Let me go!”

You should have died here, Herald.

“No!” Varric shouted. “You don’t die here. You don’t die at the conclave, you don’t die at Haven, and you are certainly not dying in the asscrack of a nightmare demon.” Varric wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him. She shook in his arms like a leaf. “It isn’t real. It’s only a nightmare. You just have to wake up.” He whispered.

“Varric.” She muttered. He pulled back, just enough to see her steely gray eyes staring into him, her red hair shorter now, fancy clothes replaced by her leather armor, dagger sheathed at her waist and bow in her hand. “You have to let go.”

Varric wanted to argue, but her jaw was set in a line he knew too well. I love you, he thought desperately. Instead, his fingers loosened and she pulled away, turning to the wall of flames in front of them. “Through.” She whispered. “We have to go through it.”

She moved slowly, deliberately, past the corpse on the ground and into the flames. The inferno intensified, a whirlwind of flames, heat, ashes and smoke. Maria was alone, wreathed in flames like a holy vision and then there was nothing but the fire, which dissolved into the temple of Sacred Ashes and the Divine held by Grey Wardens, an orb knocked into the air, Maria’s hand catching it and the explosion that had rocked the world. Maria and the Divine running, spiders, and then…

Maria knelt in front of him, palms flat on the stone of the fade and tears running silently down her face. Flames flickered around her red hair, then they were gone as well. It was painfully quiet. In front of her were lines of tombstones inscribed with their names and a few words under each. Cassandra, helplessness. Dorian, temptation. Solas, dying alone. Iron Bull, madness. Vivienne, irrelevance. Varric, becoming his parents. Blackwall, himself. Sera, the nothing. Cole, despair. Stroud, destruction. Hawke, death. The last, and largest, had the full title. Maria Cadash, Inquisitor, Herald of Andraste. Underneath was only two words, the flames. Varric looked behind him and saw only shocked and horrified faces as Maria stood slowly. The figure that was the Divine, or very likely wasn’t, stood in front of them shimmering with a sad smile on her face.

“You must pass through flame to be forged anew.” She said softly. “Quickly, now. You have weakened it by facing the fear, but only for a moment. Now is your chance.”

“Good.” Maria said, stomping forward past the gravestones. “I’m sick of this place.”

“Here, here.” Hawke chimed in, following her with just a passing squeeze to Varric’s shoulder. Almost there, he thought looking up the stairs and at the rift just beyond their reach. Hold on, he thought, just a bit longer Princess.

Chapter Text

 

If Fenris ever saw another demon, it would be entirely too soon. He found himself fighting with Cullen on his right, the mage called Solas on his left and the lad they called Cole (something was wrong with the young man, something...but Fenris could not determine what) dancing between them. Before him, the grand enchanter Vivienne had lost her outrageous henin and she struck out with ice in fury. Beside her, the Iron Bull charged through several shades with several curses in Qunlat. Fenris ignited his marks and phased through a rage demon, leaving Solas to freeze it so he could turn and shatter it.

“Nice!” He heard the Iron Bull shout in appreciation. “Love it when they shatter.”

Fenris barely heard it, barely acknowledged it. It had been how long since Hawke fell? Ten minutes? Fifteen? As his blade sunk into a Grey Warden mage, Fenris heard Solas shout from behind him and felt the wild, untamed magic of the rift swirl around them.

“Something is coming through! Look alert!” Cullen shouted. Fenris turned, shoving past the elven mage.

“Wait!” Solas commanded. “It could be more demons!”

“It could be my wife!” Fenris growled, approaching the rift, slicing through another shade that attempted to bar his path. The rift began to glow, brighter, wilder, and then…

Cassandra appeared, the Tevinter altus beside her and blood staining his shoulder as he ripped his robe open to look at the long, deep gash. Cassandra’s sword was at the ready as she surveyed the scene, the only evidence of their time in the fade an unsightly gash on her face. “Commander!” Cassandra called.

“Where is the Inquisitor?” Cullen called out. Fuck the inquisitor, Fenris thought, reaching his hand toward the altus and catching his robes in his hand.

“Where is Hawke?” Fenris asked menacingly.

“Kaffas, unhand me!” Dorian protested. “She was right behind us…”

The rift glowed again and Fenris released the mage, straightening. He could see...just barely two figures through the mist of the rift. Pale shadows of people, and too short to be Hawke. They weren’t looking through the rift, but over their shoulders at something. The one shadow went to raise a crossbow…

The other shadow was faster, jamming an elbow into the second shadow’s ribs and shoving. Varric was tumbling out of the green rift and to his knees, blood streaking through his blonde hair and over his forehead and into his eyes. The shadow behind him in the rift vanished like smoke as Varric sputtered and swore, pushing himself up quickly.

“Varric! What has happened?” Cassandra asked.

“Hawke and Stroud, damnit, Maria!” He yelled, pushing forward to make his way back to the rift. The altus swore again, reaching for Varric with his uninjured limb. Cassandra took Varric’s other arm, pulling the struggling man back as he yelled for the dwarven inquisitor and Hawke… his Hawke. Varric’s eyes looked around wildly, landing on Fenris and his mouth formed one word.

Go! ” He shouted, his fist connecting with Dorian’s cheek. Fenris didn’t need to be told twice, rushing past both warriors before they could think to let go of the struggling dwarf towards the rift. He could feel the magic sliding sickeningly over his skin in an evil parody of a lover and then he was pushing through the hole in the veil and stumbling into the fade itself.

It was exactly as horrible as he thought it would be, but nothing could have prepared him for the spider as tall as the grandest buildings in Minrathous, with thousands of eyes that gleamed green as the mist swirling around him. Someone, a man, was screaming and then his eyes locked on two figures making their way between the spider’s many legs.

The taller figure was unsteady and leaning on the shorter, her dark braid unraveled and eyes unfocused, limping on one leg. Hawke’s other leg had a piece of bone broken through her pale skin and the cloth of her pants. The dazed expression spoke of a head wound, he’d seen it often enough. The smaller woman had Hawke’s arm around her shoulders and a quiver swung over her back, but no bow. One arm was wrapped around Hawke’s waist, the other hung uselessly at her side at a twisted angle. Both stopped short at the sight of him and Hawke sobbed, swaying dangerously.

“Not real.” Hawke muttered, deliriously. “Not real.”

“Reyna.” The word wasn’t just her name, but a prayer of thanks to the very Maker as he rushed forward. The spider screeched in the background and he heard a man’s voice shout. Maria looked over her shoulder, horrified. Fenris was taking Hawke, swinging her arm over his shoulder and wrapping his arm around her waist. Tears were running down her cheeks as she reached out a trembling hand to touch his face.

“I’m real, amata. I promise.” He swore.

“Get out.” Maria ordered, turning back to the spider. Fenris could see Stroud now, dodging the spider’s pincers. His stomach lurched at the sight of the man’s left arm, shield gone, hanging only by exposed and cracked bone to his shoulder. “Stroud!” She called as she began to head back.

“Venhedis!” Fenris swore, using all his strength to clutch onto Hawke. If the Inquisitor died here, they would never be able to close this rift. He looked back toward Stroud, who was looking back fiercely. Understanding passed between him and the man and Stroud nodded, setting his jaw in determination.

“Inquisitor! It has been an honor!” Stroud shouted, burying his sword in the creature’s underbelly. “For the Wardens!”

Maria stopped short, unbroken arm clenching her hand into a fist as she looked helplessly at Stroud, then back at Fenris and Hawke. Fenris thought, for a moment, he would have to grab her as well and pull her through the rift. Instead, she darted to Hawke’s other side and took Hawke’s other arm around her neck. Between the two of them, they dragged Hawke forward. Then they were stumbling from the rift, into the real world, bright air surrounding them and Maria’s hand sparking as she stood in stunned silence, looking at the rift behind her that was already closing with blank, empty eyes. Around him, the rest of the demons were dissolving into green sparks and flying back towards the rift. And the rift was becoming smaller, smaller, and then with a great noise it was gone and the troops erupted into cheers around them.

Hawke was clutching his neck as if she was drowning and she was crying, painful angry and silent tears that scalded as he knelt gently, laying her on the bloody stone. “You’re real.” She whispered. “Real.”

Fenris felt a lump in his throat as he kissed her temple. He could feel the solid bump on her head now, an angry knot where he guessed her head had been bashed into the rock of that blighted place. “Your leg.” He whispered.

“Maria!” Varric had finally twisted himself free of the mage and seeker and was staring at the Inquisitor with the same naked relief Fenris felt. Then it was replaced by fury. “What in Andraste’s ass were you thinking going back, alone!”

Fenris would have loved to hear that answer, but Cullen was grabbing the Inquisitor’s shoulder. “You’re alive, Maker’s breath, you’re alive. ” Cullen said with a beaming smile.

“Never any doubt, boss.” Iron Bull said, critically examing Dorian’s wound with his one eye.

“The warden mages are free of Corypheus’s control, although…” Solas began.

“Nightmare demon was doing it.” Hawke muttered, still dazed. “Rift closed, Nightmare demon weakened, Stroud…”

“Hawke.” Fenris said loudly, drawing her eyes back to his. “We need to get you taken care of…”

“Allow me.” Solas said. “I lack her skill, but I can start the process. She will be able to finish when she has rested.”

“Where is Warden Stroud?” Cullen asked. Maria’s face froze, fell and she pulled back from her group. She stared at the place where the rift had been, shoulders falling. Cullen bowed his head in a short, silent moment of prayer.

“The Wardens...they want to know what will be done.” Cullen began.

“They’ve killed enough people, tell them to get out.” Maria said, turning and stumbling away.

“Inquisitor!” Cullen called. The troops and remaining Wardens backed away, some dropping to their knees as she passed. She looked blindly straight ahead, disappearing into her troops.

“What happened?” Solas asked, his hands glowing green as he looked at Hawke. Hawke closed her eyes and tears began again, shaking her head.

“I can’t.” Hawke whispered. “I can’t.”

 

Hawke slept most of the trip back to Griffon Wing Keep in a cart. Varric had vanished to try and find the Inquisitor, but had returned looking troubled an hour later. Fenris had raised an eyebrow at the dwarf, who had shrugged.

“She’s avoiding me.” He answered the unanswered question. “And trying to nail her down when she doesn’t want to be found is like catching quicksilver.”

“She pushed you through the rift. I saw, from the other side.” Fenris answered.

“Cassandra and Dorian went through first, to test that it was safe. We were supposed to go next, but the Nightmare demon wasn’t as done as we thought it was. Damn thing lashed out and knocked Stroud and Hawke into a boulder. Hawke hit first and hit hardest, leg and head. She didn’t get up right away and I thought…” Varric shook his head, flinging the vision away. “Then she was up with flames in her palm and telling Stroud to run and we were going back for them. Or, at least I thought we were doing it together.”

“She saved you.” Fenris observed. “And would have done so at the cost of her own life and Hawke’s and Stroud’s.”

“And how angry does that make you? Just so I know to warn her when I eventually manage to track her down.” Varric asked casually. Fenris leaned over and brushed some dried blood from Hawke’s hair.

“I find I am so relieved she is alive, I care not how it happened. And I can’t begrudge someone for caring about you. Although what the fascination is…” Fenris trailed off.

“Sometimes I wonder too.” Varric said, the honesty so disarming that Fenris thought at first he had misheard. He eyed the dwarf suspiciously as the man stretched his fingers thoughtfully in his leather gloves.

“I confess, I did not think Hawke was correct until now.” Fenris said quietly. “I have never known you to be infatuated.”

“Is that what this is?” Varric asked.

“Is it?” Fenris replied. Varric didn’t answer. Fenris had decided not to pry and ride on in companionable silence when Hawke’s scream pierced the air. Varric shouted at the driver to stop  the cart, but Fenris didn’t wait. His body moved immediately, leaping into the cart and wrapping his arms around Hawke as she stared at him with momentarily unseeing blue eyes.

“Maker’s hairy…” Varric began but Hawke’s eyes had focused on him and she was crying, arms tangling around his neck and pulling him closer.

“Anders has your sword and I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have let him go, I can’t, I couldn’t…” Hawke cried into his shoulder.

“What?” Fenris asked, bewildered. Anders had his sword? Varric sighed and shook his head.

“Yeah, we’re all going to have to talk about that eventually, Waffles.” Varric said wryly. “What happened in the fade shouldn’t stay in the fade.”

Not real, he thought. Hawke had been convinced he wasn’t real. “Was I there?” Fenris asked, stroking Hawke’s matted hair.

“Dead.” Hawke’s voice cracked. “He killed you.”

Fenris looked questioningly at Varric, who nodded slowly. “It showed us our fears, our nightmares. Blondie murdered you in hers.” Hawke shuddered as Varric spoke and tightened her grip on Fenris’s breastplate.

“I would not fall to the likes of him.” Fenris reassured. “Sleep, amata.” Hawke pressed more firmly into him, shaking her head stubbornly. Fenris looked over at Varric who shrugged and instructed the cart to begin moving again before swinging up onto the back himself.

“Beats walking.” He said cheerfully as they continued their slow pace through the desert.

 

At the keep, Varric was able to procure clean water for them to wash up in and it felt good to rid himself of the stink of the battlefield. It felt better to clean the blood and muck from Hawke’s lovely pale skin and see the evidence of healing on her injuries. “I’ll be able to finish them in a bit.” She muttered groggily as he ran a comb down her damp hair. Lucia had been at the keep to welcome them back and she laid in front of the tent protectively.

“Don’t rush yourself.” Fenris said gently, resting his head against the back of hers. They were both shirtless and Fenris could count the freckles dotting her shoulders. “I thought…” Fenris paused uncertain, kissing her shoulder gently. “I feared I had lost you when you fell. I saw it.”

“Oh Fenris…” Hawke muttered softly. “I had hoped you hadn’t seen.”

“Then I feared you would never emerge from the fade.” Fenris continued.

“I thought I wouldn’t either.” Hawke admitted in a whisper. “And… I couldn’t bear the thought that I’d never see you again. I didn’t want to leave you alone, Fenris.”

“Finally, she realizes her death would destroy me.” Fenris muttered under his breath. Hawke weakly tried to slap away his hands as his arms circled her waist, pulling her back to his chest.

“I saw Bethany, the way she looked that day the ogre...and I saw Carver dying in the deep roads.” Fenris tried to shush her, but Hawke continued, shaking head head. “I need… I need to talk about it. I saw mother the way that monster made her. And I saw Anders dragging your sword to me and tossing it at my feet like a trophy. I saw all those people that died for me, all those people caught up in the shithole that was Kirkwall those last days, but when I saw your sword all I could think of was you and how much I couldn’t bear…”

Hawke choked on her words. Fenris brought his mouth back to her shoulder and pulled her tighter. “If I let him go and he hurts you Fenris… I could never forgive myself.”

“Then he will not.” Fenris said simply. “I am not afraid of him.”

He could sense Hawke’s smile, even though he couldn’t see it. “Of course you’re not.” Hawke said softly. “My brave husband, rushing in through a damned rift in the veil to drag my ass out.”

Finally, Fenris tipped Hawke’s head to the side and captured her sweet, yielding lips with his. Alive, he thought deliriously, alive.

 

Hawke fell asleep, and Fenris did as well. The next morning, Hawke finished healing her broken bones and demanded they find Varric and tell him what they had discovered about Anders. Her argument was sound, Varric had seen what Hawke had. Varric knew something was going on, it was best to know what.  

Hawke stormed into Varric’s tent the same way she had to his suite at the Hanged Man and Varric simply sighed, whipping off the reading glasses perched on his nose immediately. Fenris took in Varric’s appearance, unusually heavy with crumbled pieces of paper littering the ground of his tent behind him. Varric snapped his journal shut immediately and plastered on a smile that Fenris was frankly not fooled by. Neither was Hawke by the calculating look on her face as she tallied up the picture before her.

“Where’s Maria?” Hawke asked simply. “I should thank her.”

“Oh, doing something important I’m sure.” Varric said vaguely, waving his hand over his head. “She’ll turn up. How can I help the two of you?”

Hawke looked for a moment like she would say something else, but instead she shrugged and held out Ander’s treatise. “We found something not so long ago. Actually, the people carrying it tried to kill Fenris not too long ago.” She said.

“When is someone not trying to kill one of you?” Varric asked, but held out his hand while settling his glasses back on his nose. Hawke collapsed on the ground and Fenris settled himself beside her while Varric read quickly, skimming over parts, then slowing to closely examine others. As they watched, Varric’s smile dropped. Then he began swearing, shaking his head in disbelief. Finally, he got to the part about Fenris. They could tell by the noise of pure disgust Varric made and the very enthusiastic oath about which part of a nug Ander’s should be sucking.

Fenris was strangely touched by the dwarf’s outrage. “Has Blondie gone completely mad?” Varric asked, slamming the thing back down. “Fanatics, that’s the problem.”

“I should have killed him.” Hawke said coldly. Varric sighed, removing his glasses again and rubbing his eyes.

None of them expected the sudden intruder who ducked through the tent flap, her red hair lose and arm in a sling. As she entered, she was saying Varric’s name, but she stopped as soon as she saw the three of them.

“Your arm!” Hawke said suddenly, standing as much as she could in the small tent. “Maker’s ass, I forgot. I’m sure there’s lots that needs healed. I can start with you.”

“No, no.” Maria smiled, holding up her good hand, it was the one with the sparking mark. “I’ll be alright in a day or two, they’re pouring poultices into me. I won’t deny some of the troops could use a good healer, though. I’m sure they’ve got something for Fenris to do as well.”

They were being summarily dismissed in what was perhaps the most effortless way Fenris had ever seen. He shrewdly examined the Inquisitor as Hawke debated internally.

“Let Hawke do it, Princess.” Varric said softly. “I need to show you something, if you two don’t mind?” Fenris shrugged his shoulders and Hawke shook her head, moving closer and lighting her fingers blue with healing magic. Maria sighed in defeat and allowed Hawke to gently trace her hand over her arm. Varric stood as well, the top of his head just brushing the tent’s canvas as he approached and handed the treatise to Maria. “It’s…”

“Oh, this shit.” Maria said, awkwardly opening the cheap binding with one hand and letting her eyes drift over the page. “I don’t know if anyone has ever seen the whole thing before, Leliana’s people have just found pamphlets.”

Varric coughed to hide his surprise. Maria flashed a wicked grin. “She is a rather good spymaster, you know. She’ll be disappointed you thought less of her.”

“How much of it is the Inquisition aware of?” Hawke asked, staring straight at Maria’s eyes.

“It’s the mage who blew up Kirkwall’s chantry, right? I guess he was a suspect when the conclave blew up because they found part of this there, probably one of the mages in attendance had it. Since then, they’ve found bits everywhere. His grand plan is to take vengeance on all the templars and their families. Leliana has a list somewhere of templars that were to be targeted. Cullen’s family was on it, we sent guards. Sweet Andraste, if I remember correctly the King of Ferelden was on it and he never even finished his templar training.”

“Was I on it?” Fenris asked thoughtfully. Maria’s brow wrinkled in confusion as Hawke resumed her healing.

“No, only templars.” Maria answered. “I would have remembered you on it. We sent scouts to the people we could find. The old Knight Commander from Ferelden was on it and he died ages ago, but  he had nephews and nieces. Their whole families were slaughtered by mages. There were children.” Maria’s tone had turned hard, when she looked down at the book again, she sighed.

“Whoever belongs to this group of his, they call themselves the Breakers. They’re no better than wild animals. Inquisition troops and scouts have standing orders to apprehend or kill whoever they find who belong to this group, including Anders.” Maria finished, shrugging. “If I can keep this whole thing, I’m sure Leliana would love to have it.”

“I’m featured heavily in this one. As is Fenris.” Hawke explained, unknotting the sling and moving Maria’s arm experimentally.

“Good things, I hope?” Maria asked breezily.

Fenris nearly rolled his eyes. “They are not. Have you put any resources toward capturing this group?”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve had larger problems.” Maria pointed out. “The last reported sighting we have of Anders is that he was in Tevinter doing some rabble rousing and trying to recruit their mages to come here and fight. Josephine seems to think that he won’t get far, Tevinter can’t set its sights on the south while fighting the Qunari. Regardless, he’s out of our reach at the moment.”

“You always said he’d love Tevinter.” Hawke said with a weary sigh.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Varric asked. Maria shrugged, dropping her eyes to the floor of the tent.

“I wasn’t honestly sure you didn’t know.” Varric’s face darkened and Maria continued on hastily. “I didn’t think you agreed, but I didn’t want to ask you to turn in…”

“A man who’s advocating the slaughter of children?” Varric asked quietly.

“Someone who used to be your friend.” Maria declared, tossing her red hair back. “I didn’t want…”

“To let Leliana question me? Or Cassandra?” Varric prodded.

“Maker’s ass, I didn’t want to make you lie to me!” Maria burst out.

“You thought I would have?” Varric demanded, crossing his arms over his chest. “I thought you trusted me.”

“Because you’ve never lied to anyone here before. And you’ve definitely never lied to me. Especially about your friends.” Maria responded sarcastically. Hawke released the woman’s arm and she stepped back toward the flap of the tent.

“Maria…” Varric began, but the woman held up her hand to stop him with fierce, cold eyes.

“I shouldn’t have bothered you.” She said stiffly, then inclined her head to Hawke. “I’ll take this to Leliana. Thank you, for the healing.”

With that, the Inquisitor disappeared. Varric let out a torrent of swear words and Hawke turned and raised up an eyebrow.

“Varric, I know we’re in no position to talk about romance, but after what she just went through this was hardly the time or the place.” Hawke chided.

“And you do lie, quite a lot.” Fenris added reasonably.

“You two need to go list someone else’s failings, thank you.” Varric said, exiting the tent quickly after Maria. Hawke and Fenris let their eyes meet and they both shook their heads as if they could read each other’s thoughts.

“Poor Varric.” Hawke mused as they stepped back out into the sunshine.

“I think we do quite well now.” Fenris defended. Hawke snorted. “For the most part.” He amended.

Hawke’s bright, cheerful laughter rang off the stones surrounding them.

Chapter Text

Two days after the siege of Adamant, the Inquisitor decided to leave Griffon Wing Keep and return to Skyhold. Varric was informed of this the same way most of the inner circle was, Maria’s brief appearance at breakfast where she refused to look at him. Say what you would about Maria Cadash (and people said a lot of things), but she was excellent at avoiding a situation. She was the most infuriatingly busy person he’d ever met, but she’d still spared a few moments of solitary attention for every one of her companions save Varric.

Even worse, Blackwall had stayed after the other Grey Wardens left and Varric had a notion that a certain pair of gray eyes had something to do with it. The warden had comfortably slipped into the constant presence Varric had been and Varric was trying very hard not to choke on it. That morning at breakfast, Varric couldn’t help swearing under his breath as Blackwall left to follow Maria, his own breakfast half eaten.

“One word.” Hawke said softly. “And I’ll set his beard on fire.”

Varric smirked but shook his head. It didn’t matter, he told himself firmly. There was something between him and the Inquisitor that simply wasn’t there between Maria and Blackwall. Varric knew it, or at the very least, thought he did.

Fenris and Hawke had decided to follow the exiled Grey Wardens to the Anderfels. For two reasons, Hawke had argued. The first was that someone had to make sure the wardens got there then tell the commanding officers what had happened, and the second was that she was wondering if there was any word about her cousin. The third and fourth reasons Hawke only disclosed to him. There was a lack of red lyrium north of Orlais and an apostate with murder on his mind. After these reasons were voiced, Hawke said nothing more and neither did Varric.

In fact, nothing was said until the day the Inner Circle mounted to leave and Maria breezed past them, stopping short as she watched Varric climb onto his mount. “Inquisitor!” Hawke called, waving her over. “We promised to sign your book before you left.”

He could see Maria’s instinct to flee, but she forced herself forward instead with a smile that could have fooled almost anyone except him. “You’ll be heading north then?” She asked as she opened her saddle bag and pulled out two copies of Tale of the Champion. One had a hole in the front cover that gave Fenris pause. Varric laughed.

“Why did someone stab this book?” Fenris asked, personally offended.

“The Seeker did it.” Varric explained with glee. “Did she ask you to get it signed for her, Princess?”

“Well, sign around it.” Hawke said, scribbling her own name with a flourish. Maria wasn’t watching the two of them, but had swept her eyes over him. Varric could feel a ripple of gooseflesh from where her gaze scalded and soothed.

“I thought you’d be going with them.” She said casually.

“And leave you?” Varric asked, making his voice as light as possible. “I promised your sister I’d make sure you ate. I’d rather not wake up one morning to her dagger because I’d abandoned you to race north.”

Maria pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear impatiently. “I’m not going to force you to stay.”

“I won’t put a story down when it’s half finished.” Varric shrugged as Hawke and Fenris handed the books back to Maria. She shrugged disdainfully and turned on her heel, walking back to the rather more impressive mount Cullen had insisted she ride. It took Cassandra’s help to get her up into the saddle.

“You sure, Varric? We’d take you with us in a heartbeat.” Hawke offered, voice tantalizing. Varric chuckled ruefully.

“Don’t worry, Waffles. I’ve got a plan.” Varric said with a wink.

“You don’t need much of one.” Fenris observed as he turned to Hawke. “She still looks at you when you’re not watching.”

“I have the utmost faith in you.” Hawke said, crossing her arms over her chest with a big grin. “Try not to get yourself killed, alright? We’ll have a pint after this is all over. Where do you have tabs at?”

Varric laughed and returned Hawke’s enthusiastic hug and shook Fenris’s hand. Then he mounted his own pony and trotted off after the group into the dessert. He fiddled with his reigns and cursed before glancing up and catching just a glimpse of gray eyes before Maria turned quickly.

 

Several hours later, the group stopped to water the horses. When Maria dismounted with Dorian’s assistance, she stretched her arms out and gently pulled off her gloves, settling them on her stirrup. Suddenly, Sera darted past, whooping, chased by a rather annoyed looking Cassandra.

“What in the…” Maria started as Dorian pulled her roughly out of Cassandra’s way. Then there was a series of small popping sounds from Cassandra’s bags. With a weary sigh, Maria took off after Sera as the rest of the group scurried towards Cassandra’s pack to examine what exactly was going on.

Varric knew an opportunity when he had one, and he wasn’t one to miss it. He chucked to himself as he took Maria’s glove, the leather butter soft under his hands. Opening it, he slipped a rolled piece of parchment into it, then settled it back over her stirrup before wandering leisurely over to where the group had all of Cassandra’s items scattered over the rocks. He could hear Cassandra’s shouting and Sera’s hysterical laughter in the distance.

“Glad to know Cassandra had decent taste in underthings, at least.” Vivienne sniffed.

Thirty minutes later, Maria had forced Sera to the back of the caravan and had soothingly smoothed Cassandra’s ruffled feathers. The two women were at the front now and Varric watched as Maria went to pull on her gloves, stopping for just a moment and pulling her hand back out with the rolled paper inside.

“What is that?” Cassandra asked.

“A note.” Maria said dryly. To Varric’s horror, Cassandra leaned over the Inquisitor’s shoulder.

“This is about to go very badly for you, dwarf.” Iron Bull observed. Of course, the Qunari spy had been paying attention to who used the chaos for their own means. “Or very, very well.”

The two women read in silence for several seconds before Cassandra’s face turned red and she took several quick steps back. “Inquisitor, I’m sorry, I should not have…”

Varric turned to fiddle with his own saddle, deliberately ignoring the two women while straining to hear what was said. There was a soft laugh and then Maria’s voice, laced with humor. “Well, you may as well finish reading, Cass. I know you want to.”

There was silence for a few more seconds and Iron Bull chuckled, shaking his head. Varric spared the Qunari a glance. “Keep writing whatever was in that note, Varric. The two of them that color is a gift to all of us.”

“Poetry.” Varric explained simply with a rather cocky shrug. “If you ever need help, Tiny…”

“Bah, who needs words when you’re the Iron Bull.” Bull stomped away, continuing to laugh at himself. Varric spared a quick glance at the two women, heads close together and a delicious pink color spreading up Maria’s ears.

 

The second poem focused solely on the fierceness and loveliness of her eyes. he slipped in her tent when they stopped for the evening and was pleased at the naked curiosity in Cassandra’s eyes when she saw him at breakfast the next morning. When he put the third one under her saddle blanket (this one talking about her flaming red hair and passionate heart), he caught Vivienne appraising him several hours later from where she had joined Cassandra and Maria.

“Fasta vass.” Dorian cursed, staring at the women as they laughed together. “What are they all laughing about?”

“Where beauty and passion meet, Thedas itself trembles. Hands that topple nations steady children, hands that hold a man’s heart sweep demons into the abyss.” Cole said softly. “They’re just words on a page, but they’re so much more than that.”

“Our friend Varric has taken the old fashioned approach to wooing.” Iron Bull explained. “I’m not sure it’s working, but the women are certainly talking.”

“I want to see!” Dorian demanded immediately. Varric shrugged nonchalantly.

“No can do, Sparkler.” He said.

“You are a sky of autumn’s color, pale and rose. Erasing all the sea of sadness in my blood.” Cole muttered.

“Cole…” Varric warned. “We’ve talked about this, an author needs his privacy.”

“Is that the next one? Do continue!” Dorian exclaimed.

“It’s gone now. I’m sorry.” Cole said. Dorian cursed.

“Well, I’m going to go talk her into showing me then.” Dorian said, his nose pointed upwards towards the sky as he urged his horse forward, nudging between the Inquisitor and Cassandra. Bull chuckled, shaking his head.

“I may need to take you up on that offer after all, Varric.” Iron Bull said.

“The flames come at night still. Worse than they were before since the nightmare. You were there once instead of him and it scares her. She wanted to tell you, but then she didn’t.” Cole said, twisting the reins in his hands. “I don’t understand, but I want to help like she does. Like you do. Quiet, soothing, calming. An old song and a sky too bright to count birds against.”

 

The next day, another poem left on her pillow and Sera sauntered up to him. “Honey-tongue you, right?” She winked, walking past into the woods while whistling. Blackwall was glaring into the fire.

“My dear.” Vivienne purred as she sat next the to Inquisitor. “If we push, we can make it to Val Royeaux tonight. I can arrange some business and gather up some tailors. If we’re to attend the Masquerade in a few months, we must begin working on something decent for you to wear.”

“Vivienne, I’ll be attempting to stop an assassination.” Maria commented, affixing feathers to the arrows in her lap.

“You do need a new bow, Boss. The one you’re using now is meant for a foot soldier and you know it.” Iron Bull commented.

“A city, with real beds.” Dorian commented wistfully.

“Besides, there’s nothing like several new gowns to inspire new verses of admiration.” Vivienne wheedeled. Varric nearly dropped his coffee, but Maria was laughing.

“Fine!” She said, standing. “Let me go tell Sera.” Varric looked up and was surprised to find her still smiling, but at him, bemused. Varric returned her grin and she retreated into the woods after Sera.

“I’ll go ready the mounts.” Blackwall said stiffly, standing.

“Poor thing.” Vivienne drawled at Blackwall’s retreating figure.

They were on the road in minutes, following the imperial highway. The enticement of Val Royeaux was enough to keep everyone moving with minimal complaints and they entered the city shortly before dusk. One of Leliana’s people met them with a hearty stack of paperwork for Maria and rooms already rented at one of the best inns in the city. A bribe to the right serving maid ensured that the dinner Maria had delivered to her had another poem tied prettily with silk served alongside it.

Which is why he was less than surprised that Cassandra was waiting outside his room, scowling as he exited in search of his own supper. “The Inquisitor is having supper in her rooms to catch up on reports.” Cassandra said stiffly.

“I’m aware, Seeker.” Varric answered. Cassandra fidgeted awkwardly in front of him, then pushed Varric back into his room and swung the door shut behind him. Varric stared up at the blushing woman questioningly.

“I have...read the poetry you wrote her.” Cassandra began. “I must ask you about your...intentions.”

“You have got to be shitting me.” Varric groaned. “Seeker, this is none of your damned business.”

“I did not expect… I was not…” Cassandra stopped, gathering herself. “You once said I had no friends, but that is untrue. I have come to respect and care deeply about the Inquisitor. She is a strong woman, proud and true. I am lucky to be able to count her as my friend. After what I saw...what we saw in the Fade…”

Cassandra sighed wearily, hanging her head. “She has not spoken of it, and I have not pressed. But it is obvious the lost of that young man affected her quite deeply. I do not wish to see her experience that heartbreak yet again.”

“Seeker, she’d be touched.” Varric said lightly. “Less enthusiastic about you shoving me back into a room, again, but touched by your concern.”

“I refuse to let you leave without a serious answer.” Cassandra said, crossing her arms over her chest. “I insist that you tell me. If your intentions are not honorable, she deserves better.”

Varric swore, turning back from Cassandra and reaching for the pitcher of water, pouring a glass and swallowing it. “You wouldn’t believe me anyway.” Varric said bitterly.

“Perhaps. Or perhaps I have been wrong as well.” Cassandra shifted. “After meeting Hawke...seeing her fear in the fade, I find I understand your decisions a bit better even if I do not agree.”

There was an uncomfortable silence as Varric thought, before he turned back to Cassandra. He met her dark eyes with his own and shrugged, opening his palms. “She’s beautiful, I can’t deny that I’m not going to honor her maidenly virtue if she’s on board. So if that’s dishonorable, then yes, so am I. But, I’d follow her to the ends of Thedas, back into the fade itself if she wanted me to and I fucking hated that little trip, Seeker.”

“You do care.” Cassandra relaxed slightly, nodding her head. “That is...good to know. If you pursue this, if she pursues this… she should be happy. Maker knows where we will be at the end of this or what lies before us.”

“Thank you for the advice, may I leave now?” Varric asked, raising an eyebrow. Cassandra blushed, moving aside. As Varric pushed open the door, he saw Dorian coming up the steps, smirking mischievously.

“Ah, Varric, and the Seeker! It would be scandalous, if we didn’t know what we know about our resident poet.” Dorian wiggled his eyebrows and Cassandra sighed in resignation.

“What do you want, Dorian?” She asked.

“Did Maria find you?” Dorian asked. “She had a question about some Nevarran custom or another.”

“She did not, I will find her.” Cassandra said, turning back to the steps and making her way up to the next level where the women had taken rooms. Dorian snickered, brushing Varric’s shoulder in encouragement.

“Well, you’re still alive. A good sign.” Dorian remarked. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must find Bull.”

 

The food was much better than anything they could cook up on the road and Varric found himself buoyant despite the distinct absence of a certain red headed dwarf. He even managed to start a card game and win enough to cover his tab from Bull and Dorian, who had kept playing even after he excused himself. Red flags didn’t go up until he reached for the handle to his room and found it yielding to him too easily, despite the fact that it had been locked. He glared at it suspiciously, wondering what Sera had been messing with, before pushing it open.

The lamp was lit on his bedside table and Maria was perched on the edge of his bed. Her hair was loose, waves falling onto her shoulders. She was wearing a clean crisp white tunic and dark pants, her tall boots laced up to her knees. The silk ribbon he’d used to tie the last poem was laced between her fingers as she glanced up, gray eyes disarmingly vulnerable.

“Thank the Maker, I thought Sera got in here.” Varric said, easing the door shut behind him. “You’re a much better surprise.”

“I don’t know.” Maria smiled. “Sera leaves me quite excellent surprises. Baked goods, mostly.”

“I’ve missed you.” Varric said simply. “You holding up okay?”

“I’ve been avoiding you for a week and you’re asking how I’m holding up?” Maria said, shaking her head. “You’re unbelievable.”

“In the best way, I hope.” Varric approached cautiously, sinking down on the bed beside Maria as she continued to lace the ribbon between her fingers. She sighed, shoulders hitching up. Varric reached out, lacing his fingers through hers. His thumb pressed on her pulse and he could feel it racing. “I shouldn’t have picked a fight over Blondie. I did lie to you and the Inquisition.”

“It doesn’t matter. I should have told you as soon as I knew. I just… I didn’t want you to feel responsible.” Maria shrugged.

“So when are you going to stop protecting people from themselves?” Varric asked, tracing her knuckles with his other thumb.

“I don’t think I’m going to, honestly. I’m pretty sure that’s how I got this job.” Maria laughed softly at herself, her free hand tucking her hair behind her ear again. “We need to talk.”

“You women do know that it’s terrifying when you say that, right?” Varric asked. Maria smirked a bit more, then dropped her eyes back to their hands before gently pulling away, standing.

“You hardly know me, or anything about me really.” Maria began. “Before I was inquisitor…”

“Maria Cadash, one of the most respected names in the Carta. Your parents died in a mining accident when you were a girl…” Varric began. Maria held up her hand, stopping him.

“My parents were abandoned in a mining tunnel when I was a girl. A job went bad, as they do on occasion, and half their crew abandoned them in a collapsed tunnel. My parents suffocated to death down there waiting for help that never came.” Maria’s voice had turned harsh. “My grandmother killed the other half of the crew in revenge and took in her two favorite granddaughters. My father should have been her heir, you know. I hardly remember them and Beatrix was only a baby. Nanna spread the story about the accident after.”

Varric winced, but Maria continued. “I actually had a pretty happy childhood, considering. When I was sixteen, I started taking jobs and I was good at it. Nanna was thrilled. She named me her heir when I turned eighteen, youngest Cadash heir ever named. It may sound awful, but I’m still a bit proud of that.”

“That’s the bit I heard. That if you wanted something done, between Zarra and her granddaughter, it’d get done. I used to purchase from your little organization rather exclusively. We went through quite a bit of lyrium in Kirkwall.” Varric offered.

“Kirkwall was such a good market.” Maria sighed. “You know, I saw you and the Champion once. Maker, must have been right after the Qunari rampaged through the city. I was trying to reestablish our supply lines and take stock of how bad our inventory had been damaged, but I took a break to stroll through Hightown. She was browsing through enchanted rings and all the shopkeepers were tripping over themselves to serve her. You and her elf were lingering behind her like guard dogs.”

Varric laughed, shaking his head. “That was the first day we let her out of bed, and only because she threatened to abscond if we didn’t let her.”

“I was impressed. She was joking and laughing and I’d seen those Qunari, I knew how damn big they were.” Maria shook her head in disbelief. “But that was after…”

“After Hercinia.” Varric answered for her. “You don’t have to…”

“I do.” Maria said firmly, fists clenching. “I met Fynn a year before that. Nanna had decided to branch out our weapons business and we needed suppliers. His family owned a blacksmithing operation in Markham. They weren’t smiths, they were merchants who had bought out the shop, but Fynn had a knack for it himself. I didn’t realize he was the oldest son of the owner for two weeks while I was sitting there evaluating their work and dithering on prices. He made me my daggers. Beatrix has the other one now, but they were a matching set.”

Varric followed Maria’s hand as it dropped to her waist, where the dagger usually hung. It was too easy for Varric to see the scene, the young Carta heiress flirting shamelessly with the blacksmith over his forge. Varric swallowed his own sadness. “I’m sure his family had a better match lined up for him with someone else.”

“They were certainly trying, but Fynn was stubborn. I don’t know if he’d have ever took one of the girls they pushed on him, honestly. He was also infuriatingly honest to a fault. He detested dealing with the Carta. We hated each other at first, but then… well, we were young and he was quite good looking.” Maria shrugged.

“I certainly can’t fault him for his exquisite taste in women.” Varric said lightly. Maria frowned, turning and beginning to pace the room.

“I was the worst mistake he ever made. He could have stayed and gotten fat and married some silly stupid merchant’s guild girl. He’d have been safe.” She argued. “Instead, he flaunted me in his father’s face. The Carta rat stealing his precious firstborn. The bastard couldn’t stand it. Finally, he tried to take out a contract on me.”

Varric groaned and Maria nodded. “Yeah, exactly. So we made a plan. I had my own gold, lots of it honestly. We thought it’d be enough to get away and start over. He asked me to leave the Carta and we’d set up a smithing shop of our own and find something legal for me to do instead. I said yes, of course I said yes. I was crazy about him by then and he spent so much time talking about how I could use my talents for so many more important things.”

“But things went wrong?” Varric asked. Maria sighed.

“Wrong is an understatement. We’d heard about the blight in Ferelden, so we made plans to head to Antiva. But, I wanted to let Beatrix know, Maker’s ass I wanted Beatrix to come with us. She was only sixteen and my baby sister.” Maria sighed. “So I went back to Ostwick and told her. We fought because she thought I was crazy to throw everything away for Fynn, but she promised not to tell Nanna. I left her one of my daggers and went to meet Fynn in Hercinia to take ship to Antiva. We were supposed to leave two days before they burned the docks.”

“You didn’t make it.” Varric observed. “Beatrix told your grandmother?”

“No.” Maria scoffed. “One of Nanna’s rivals took the contract on me. Luckily, instead of killing me, they decided to ransom me back to the Cadash family. I was halfway to Hercinia when I was ambushed by a dozen armed Carta members and shoved into a cage. When Nanna found out, she was furious. She sent half of our muscle and Beatrix to get me back, even if she didn’t quite understand why I’d been taken in the first place.”

“But they got you out?” Varric asked. Maria stopped her pacing, collapsing on the bed beside Varric again.

“Beatrix begged me to go back to Ostwick, but I was determined to make it to Hercinia. We ditched Nanna’s people and slipped out, she said she’d see me there so I didn’t get kidnapped again, but when we got there… we were too late. Fynn… he’d have been waiting two days with no idea where I was. He probably thought I’d abandoned him. I tried to save him, we climbed over the walls and…”

“I saw that, in the fade. Beatrix said she wouldn’t follow you.” Varric said. Maria covered her face with her hands and nodded.

“She said that, yes, but after ten minutes of waiting for me to come to my senses, she chased me down. I’d passed out from the smoke. She dragged me back to the wall, tied me to the rope we used, and dragged me back up the wall all by herself. She could have died. I never found him, Fynn. He died waiting for me.” Maria took her hands from her face, twisting her fingers together in her lap instead and refusing to meet Varric’s eyes. “He burned alive, with all the rest of those people, because he was waiting for me.”

“He burned alive because his father took out a contract on your life.” Varric protested, grabbing her hands. “Maria, that wasn’t your fault.”

“He killed himself, Fynn’s father. I was glad.” Maria said spitefully. “I was so glad he was gone. He didn’t deserve to still be alive when Fynn was dead.”

Varric closed his eyes and he could see the girl he’d seen in the fade, wearing the clothes she’d planned on eloping in, bruised and scraped and terrified. “Now, I can’t ever get away from it. I have nightmares, have had them since this damn thing started. Then right after the fade, it wasn’t Fynn in the flames. It was you.”

“I’m right here, Princess.” Varric said softly. Tears ran down her cheeks, catching in her eyelashes.

“I heard what you said to Cassandra, I was outside the door. I’ve read all your poems a hundred times. But you don’t understand, in the fade you saw what happens when I fail. You have to know how dangerous it is to… to want…” Maria’s hand was shaking and Varric cursed, pulling her to him and whispering into her ear.

“I once waited at the docks for a girl when I was twenty, but she never came.” He said softly. “I waited two weeks until I got the letter that said she’d married someone else. I would rather have died knowing she was on her way.”

“Varric…” Maria began but he pressed his finger to her lips.

“He knew you were coming, Maria. Nobody who knows you could doubt you for a moment. And having that would be worth the threat of death. Besides, I’m used to my friends being as dangerous as my enemies. I’m a grown man, don’t worry about me.” Varric said, his thumb moving across her soft lips. They popped open almost immediately and he groaned, hunger flooding him as he took her face in his hands, pressing his mouth desperately against hers. The ribbon slipped from her fingers and she clutched at his shirt.

“Please don’t die.” Maria whispered.

“I promise.” Varric answered, pulling back. “Maria…”

“Can I stay?” She whispered. “Just to sleep, for now.”

She was straining his self control, but Varric reminded himself he wasn’t an untrained youth. He moved chivalrously away, waving his hand to the room. “My ridiculously overpriced room is your ridiculously overpriced room.”

She laughed as he sat and tugged down the blankets, slipping off her boots and sliding beneath the covers. Varric removed his own boots and his shirt and listened, rather proudly, to her sharp intake of breath. He looked over his shoulder with a smirk at her form curled up in bed.

“Like what you see?” He asked with a slow grin. “Remember, you’re just here to sleep.”

“Maker, that crossbow must weigh a ton. Look at you.” Maria shook her head, reaching out one hand to brush lightly over his shoulders and down his upper arm. She made a small noise almost like a purr that caused his cock to swell before withdrawing sheepishly.

“Goodnight.” She said softly. Varric, grumbling, extinguished the lantern and rolled onto his side, pulling her a bit closer although keeping his hips angled away. He dropped a kiss on her forehead and felt her smile against his chest.

Chapter Text

It took two weeks to get to Weisshaupt. After leaving the Western Approach, Fenris found himself slugging through the foulest bog he’d ever had the misfortune to encounter, so foul in fact that they walked more often than risk riding the mounts the Inquisitor had provided. Hawke had squinted at her map and called it the Nahashin Marshes when they arrived. Three days in, Fenris had several other names for it, none pleasant. The only decent thing was the night, when it got too dark and they stopped to pitch their lone tent. Hawke would sing Ferelden lullabies while scratching Lucia’s ears and they watched swarms of bugs that glowed like pinpricks of sunlight or faraway stars close enough to touch. Then they’d make love with the tiny lights flickering around their tent before falling asleep in each other’s arms.

Exiting the swamp, they found themselves stumbling into Ghislain. Much to Hawke’s delight, scrawny little Orlesian children lined the main road to down and stumbled upright when they entered the city gates with sly smiles and greedy hands. Hawke explained it was Orlesian tradition for children to beg for “petit alms” from passing travelers. He opened their purse, bemused, as coppers and silvers dripped from Hawke’s elegant fingers into the children’s palms.

A letter of introduction from Enchanter Vivienne saw them put up in an elegant white and gold mansion, where they promptly scandalized the hostess by announcing their marriage and insisting on being roomed together. Hawke did deign to wear the provided finery, creamy layers of silk so dark blue it was almost black, to dinner. Fenris most certainly did not wear his matching ensemble, but delighted in Hawke’s skin glowing like pearls in the candlelight all evening until they snuck back to their provided room and he took her in front of the ridiculously ornate mirror on the wall.

Their hosts couldn’t hide the relief when they left the next day, Hawke continuing to hum under her breath and snack on candied fruits astride her horse. There was another smaller town before they left Orlain, then several villages right on the Nevarran border. Finally, the choice lay before them rather to continue along the border with Tevinter or head west into Anderfels, then continue north to Weisshaupt. Hawke had shrugged fearlessly when the choice appeared, but Fenris was not so eager to put themselves at risk needlessly. So they turned from the road, embarking into an increasingly blighted and wasted landscape.

The people they did see lived in small, harsh little farms where little more than sparse barley seemed to grow. Fenris was honestly surprised the soil yielded even that little bit. Children looked at them, hollow eyed and surly. When Hawke attempted to tempt a small gaggle with bits of brightly colored candy, they scattered like leaves.

“This land has been through much, Reyna.” Fenris counseled after her third attempt to engage with the locals had been met with an old woman shouting something most definitely not polite in a language neither of them understood. “They are naturally suspicious.”

“So I gather.” She snipped, patting Lucia before remounting smoothly. “Maker, it can’t be much farther, can it?”

Unfortunately, it was several more days before they approached a giant white figure of Andraste carved into the rockface and a fortress set some distance away. The thought of finally being able to rest drove them forward much faster, nearly galloping through the small village at the base of the fortress and back up the mountain, finally slowing at they approached a great chasm. Fenris and Hawke both slowed as their horses approached the drawbridge spanning the gigantic crack. There was a sentry waiting who saluted with his hand to his chest as they approached and said something in that rough tongue of the country.

Hawke dismounted with a charming smile and Fenris followed her lead. “I’m sorry, we’re strangers in the land.” Hawke said slowly and clearly. “Do you speak the common tongue?”

“Yes, my lady.” The sentry said, his steely eyes taking in their mounts, the mabari at Fenris’s heels, the sword strapped to Fenris’s back and finally lingering on the staff tied to Hawke’s saddle. “What is your business?”

Hawke launched into a rather rambling but coherent account of how they had come to embark on their journey. The sentry relaxed as she spoke animatedly and Fenris allowed his attention to wonder up the stone face of the fortress, taking in the few lone figures on the battlements. A bird fluttered from one of the windows, landing on the rope spanning the drawbridge elegantly and cocking its head at them with an expression that was eerily human, ruffling it’s black feathers. It let out a soft caw that traveled easily over the chasm, causing the sentry to look up in annoyance.

“Damn raven has been here all day and the day before. Shoo! Geh raus!” The man shouted. The bird cawed again almost as if it were arguing.

“It’s a crow, not a raven.” Hawke corrected. “Smaller, and ravens don’t caw. They croak.”

Fenris wasn’t quite sure about that, he thought. Crows typically traveled in great clouds of dozens of birds, not alone. But before he could contribute, the sentry was waving him down the bridge to the next man and Hawke was leading her horse gingerly across the broad expanse. As they passed under the bird, it cawed again and both Hawke and Fenris looked up. The bird’s dark eyes followed them as they passed, and when Fenris looked over his shoulder he saw it studying him.

“Bird makes me damn nervous.” The man on the other side of the bridge said. He didn’t have the rough accent of the first, but rather sounded like he was from Nevarra. “My grandfather was mortalitassi and used to say crows guided souls to the Maker.”

Hawke gave this man a rather more succinct version of their tale and the man escorted them into the keep, directing their mounts to the care of a young lad with brisk instructions. “We stopped the other wardens before they could reach Weisshaupt, the Commander wanted assurances we weren’t allowing abominations in. Once they pass muster, we’ll bring them here. Rather high handed of your Inquisitor to banish an entire order on a whim.” The man said jovially.

“I don’t believe it was a whim.” Fenris remarked. “It was more likely the blood magic.”

Hawke’s lips twitched before she could school her features and the man scowled. “The Grey Wardens are all that stand before the world and a blight. We take the risks no one else can.”

“A discussion I’d love to have with your commander.” Hawke said sweetly. The man abandoned them in a great hall that was much too dark. Hawke immediately began to nose around the tables while Fenris examined the wood paneling and the banners hanging above them. It was deathly quiet, and when Fenris ran his fingers against the wall, his fingertips were smeared with a sticky grey dust.

The fortress was still as an ancient tomb and the light coming in through the narrow slits in the walls seemed too little and too watery to combat the darkness. There was a smell of sulfur and something rotten that made Fenris scrunch his nose, and when he called Hawke’s name and she turned he knew with a sick feeling in his stomach that she felt it too. He could see his anxiety reflected back in her blue orbs and the wry twist of her smile.

“Yes, something is off here.” She answered his unspoken question, lifting her nose like Lucia when she scented the air. “There’s a remnant of magic here, but not recent. It feels old and… primal.”

“Comforting.” Fenris commented.

Another, larger man entered the room. His eyes were narrowed on Hawke in something like distaste. “Lady Amell.” The man growled.

“Hawke.” Fenris corrected before Hawke could do so, moving to her side.

“There’s been no Lady Amell for quite some time.” Hawke answered, narrowing her own eyes. “There is a Warden Commander Amell.”

“Last I heard, Warden Amell abandoned her post.” The man answered gruffly. “Although Grey Warden business is none of your concern.”

“Are you the First Warden?” Hawke asked, shifting her weight into a stance Fenris recognized well. Deceptively casual, but that would allow her to swing her staff around her back and lash out within seconds.

“I am the High Constable of the Wardens. You may address me as Constable Lange.” The man said icily. “The First Warden is on business.”

“Well, you may call me Champion Hawke, and this is my husband, Ser Fenris Hawke.” She introduced. “We are here to request an audience with the First Warden on behalf of the Inquisiton. We have a personal report of happenings in Orlais from the Inquisitor herself.”

“A heretic.” The constable said, waving his hand. “Grey Wardens have no time for this nonsense and we are not bound to any authority. She had no right to banish the Grey Wardens.”

“The wardens were under the influence of a powerful darkspawn and using blood magic to bind themselves to demons. I believe there were quite a few good reasons to intervene.” Hawke said dryly.

“Constable Lange!” Another dry, reedy voice called out. “Have you offered to make our guests comfortable? They have come quite far.”

A man drifted from the opposite side of the room through an archway. He was perhaps the oldest Grey Warden Fenris had ever seen. His hands were knotted and pale with dark brown spots going up them and his hair was gray and sparse. His eyes, however, were a piercing dark blue and when he grinned his teeth were sharp. “Allow me to introduce myself, Champion. I am the Chamberlain of the Grey. A paper pusher, merely, but we leave the fighting to the young ones. You may call me Chamberlain Bohm, or Martin if you prefer.”

The man’s eyes lingered on Hawke, tracing a path down her pale skin in a way that frankly made the hair on the back of Fenris’s neck stand on end. Then the man’s eyes swept to him with a covetous gaze on the lyrium lining his flesh that Fenris knew entirely too well. “Constable Lange is distraught over the wardens of Orlais, we all are. The First Warden will be back within a few days with the remnants of the Orlesian wardens. Until then, let me show you to your rooms.”

A part of Fenris wanted to toss Hawke right over his shoulder and storm out of this castle. Instead, the two of them shared a look and Fenris whistled for Lucia to follow as the man seemed to float ahead of them into dark, twisted corridors while the Constable glared after them. The smell seemed to waft up from underneath the castle and was worst around a door that had stairs appearing to disappear down. Mercifully, they headed up instead while the Chamberlain talked incessantly of the fortress, pausing at the archer’s windows to point out features of the fortress. There was a tense line to Hawke’s shoulders and jaws as she tried to inquire about the Grey Wardens at the fortress, the First Commander, the situation in Orlais. The man carefully sidestepped each inquiry with vague assurances and false pleasantries. By the time the man showed them to their room and invited them to dinner promptly at six, Fenris was glaring holes into Hawke’s head.

The heavy door shut behind them and Hawke turned to survey the simple furniture and uncovered arrowslit that served as a window. Lucia sniffed experimentally at the thin blankets and woofed in displeasure. Fenris felt the same way, crossing his arms over his chest as Hawke threw her pack on the ground.

“Would you like to be reminded of the last time I felt so certain we had just walked into a trap?” Fenris asked.

“Not particularly.” Hawke sighed. Fenris continued, undeterred.

“That Orlesian wyvern hunting party where we ended up mixed up in an assassination attempt and the Qunari. I told you when we walked in there…”

“You were just mad Tallis was flirting with me.” Hawke interrupted.

“That you were going to get us all killed.” Fenris finished.

“We survived, didn’t we?” Hawke replied brightly. Fenris sighed in frustration and swore in Tevene several times. Hawke sat on the provided storage chest and put her head in her palm, tapping her fingers against her chin. “So… guests or prisoners?”

“Prisoners, I suspect.” Fenris answered.

“I was afraid you’d say that.” Hawke said. “So, the question is, escape now or wait to find out what in the Maker’s name they’re up to.”

“I strongly suspect we will be staying despite my vote.” Fenris growled, sitting on the bed.

“As always, you’re free to leave.” Hawke replied tartly. The room was so small Fenris could reach for her from the bed and pull her to him until her weight was in his lap and he could bury his nose into the hollow of her throat and inhale her scent.

“Freedom was interesting while it lasted.” He said with a small smile against her skin. “The places you take me, Reyna.”

A soft caw broke the moment and both of them looked up, startled, at the bird on the ledge of the arrowslit. With a flurry of feathers it flew across the room and landed on the chest where Hawke had been sitting, head cocked and looking at him with almost human eyes. Lucia growled low in her throat, sinking into a crouch and looking at the bird.

“Is that the same crow?” Hawke asked, shifting from Fenris’s lap and standing. The bird shook out it’s feathers again and then…

Fenris didn’t believe it at first, but the bird was growing larger, feathers shifting and then retreating into skin that was pale, face rearranging into a human’s with only the dark eyes remaining unchanged. Talons shifted into booted feet and the plumage became a black tunic with simple silver embroidery over white pants. Hair cascaded over sloped shoulders in two tight braids and a staff appeared over  the woman’s shoulder. Hawke swore an oath, taking a step back and Fenris pulled her behind him as they stared down Warden Chantal Amell-Arainai standing in the middle of a scattering of shed crow’s feathers.

“What kind of magic is this?” Fenris demanded, but Chantal was spreading her arms peacefully looking at Hawke over his shoulder.

“I’m going to learn it.” Hawke responded, determined.  

“Sweet Andraste.” Chantal said with a weak smile. On second look, Fenris noted she looked exhausted and there were thin lines at the corner of her eyes. “I’m so glad to see you.”

With a cheerful noise, Hawke shoved past Fenris with her arms opened as well and the two women fell into each other’s arms. Chantal closed her eyes and swallowed, hard, but couldn’t stop the single tear falling down her cheek onto Hawke’s shoulder. Hawke felt it and pulled back, rubbing her palm gently over Chantal’s cheek.

“Maker, what happened to you? You vanished without a trace! I was worried!” Hawke accused.

“I’m afraid the details will have to wait, cousin.” Chantal said softly. “I’m in a bit of trouble. I should never have come here.”

With that, Hawke wrapped  an arm companionably around Chantal’s slim shoulders and sat her on the bed, kneeling in front of her. “Tell me what’s wrong. I’ll help.”

 

The picture Chantal painted was not pleasant. Chantal was on a personal quest to cure herself and the King of Ferelden of the Darkspawn taint. The thought of such a thing being possible was shattering, the lives it would save immeasurable. They’d started their search in Ferelden deep in the wilds, but had traveled across most of Orlais and eventually into Tevinter itself. While in Tevinter, Chantal had received a lead that clues to her search had been in Weisshaupt’s archives. As a Grey Warden herself, Chantal had thought obtaining admittance would be easy.

In fact, her companions and herself had been welcomed to Weisshaupt rather warmly initially. They’d been invited to a private supper with the Constable, The First Warden, and Chamberlain. Then, and this is where Chantal’s clear voice faltered, her magic had vanished. The food and drink she’d eaten laced with magebane. Then, charges ranging from treachery to abandonment of her post had been laid before her and a sentence of execution pronounced without any others present.

They’d been attacked then, overwhelmed with Grey Warden reinforcements, and Chantal had been mostly helpless. She was drained of mana and strength and reliant on her companions. Then Chantal stopped, covering her face with her hands and bursting into furious scalding tears.

“You escaped, but not everyone did.” Hawke said gently.

“Shale and I… we made it out. Zevran and Oghren covered our escape, but didn’t make it themselves.” She admitted between tears. “I told Shale to go back, I ordered her, but…”

“She didn’t.” Hawke finished with a sigh. “She saved you, instead.”

“They are still alive.” Chantal grasped Hawke’s wrist tightly, looking up with eyes full of burning fury. “I know they are. I would know if Zevran was gone. It’s been three days, but they’re alive.”

“I know.” Hawke soothed, brushing her fingers tenderly through Chantal’s hair. Fenris was a bit more uncertain. “We’ll find him. We’ll find them both.”

“You do realize.” Fenris said. “That we are expected at a private dinner with the Chamberlain and Constable at six?”

“But where it the First Warden?” Hawke asked. Chantal grinned viciously and victoriously.

“Dead.” She said simply. “He tried to clap me in irons and Zevran objected. Strongly.”

“Are all the Wardens involved?” Fenris asked.

“No.” Chantal shook her head. “I don’t think so. There’s something strange going on here, but I don’t think all the Wardens are involved.”

“We saw a door leading downwards, perhaps to dungeons? That’s where I’d keep prisoners.” Hawke thought, narrowing her eyes and staring at the arrowslit.

“We passed it as well.” Chantal said. “But I’m nowhere as good at sneaking through a keep as Zevran. There are no windows there.”

“But we’re guests.” Hawke said gamely. “Can you or your Shale cause a distraction before dinner?”

“Shale most certainly can. I’m coming with you.” Chantal jutted her chin out stubbornly in a gesture that was so similar to Hawke’s that Fenris rolled his eyes.

“Come back when your distraction is ready.” Hawke directed with a gleam in her eyes.

“It’s that Orlesian chateau all over again.” Fenris sighed.

 

On the pretense of stretching their legs, Fenris and Hawke wandered the fortress with Lucia on their heels. Most of the Wardens they met as they walked were courteous enough, if bored looking. Some, however, kept their distance and glared at them. Fenris noted these were the ones who were older, likely in charge. Hawke continued to saunter, casually, until they were back in the corridor with the stairs leading downwards. Quicker than a flash of light, Hawke and Fenris were going down the steps. At the bottom, a strong wooden door stood barred before them. The smell was worse down here, and Fenris knew what it was now. Corpses and death.

On her tiptoes, Hawke peered through the grating and shook her head. “I can’t see much.” She whispered. “Is that a rack?”

Fenris looked through the grating and nodded, biting back an oath. “There is fresh blood on it.”

“She would know if it was Zevran.” Hawke said softly. “I would know if it was you.”

“Don’t be foolish.” Fenris chided as they backed away from the door. Hawke smiled tightly.

“I would have said I  was foolish as well, but that was before you.” She answered.

When they arrived back in their room, Chantal was waiting as still as a statue. She turned, the question of whether they had found Zevran written plainly all over her features without her having to say a thing. Hawke shook her head and Chantal deflated. “Down the stairs, there is definitely a dungeon. Stocked with what I’m sure are all the torture classics.” Hawke said, then hesitated for a moment. “They may be in bad shape, Chantal.”

A cloud passed over the woman’s face, turning it dark and thunderous. “If they are, someone will pay for it.”

“Your distraction, how will we know when it begins?” Fenris asked.

“You won’t miss it, don’t worry. Shale isn’t known for subtlety.” Chantal said levely. “It won’t be long now.”

Hawke picked up her staff and straightened her armor, the Champion’s armor that Meredith had delivered to the estate after the Arishok. Fenris put his own gauntlets on and readied his blade. Seconds stretched into minutes, then there was a rumble of something quite large hitting stone heavily enough to cause a small tremor. Then another.

“That’s Shale.” Chantal said, standing from the bed. “We must hurry. She won’t be able to hold them off forever.”

“A moment.” Hawke said, putting her ear to the door then cracking it open. Far away, Fenris could hear the distant running of footsteps going in the opposite direction, toward the front gate. Hawke slipped out and Fenris followed with Chantal on his right and Lucia on his left. They made their way down the hallway, down the first set of steps. Where it emptied into another hallway, Hawke and Fenris both pressed back to hide Chantal as three Wardens dashed down the hallway and into another stairwell. A horn was blowing from the entrance, summoning.

Hawke swore and lashed out with ice, freezing the three Wardens and rushing past them. Fenris followed with Chantal on his heels. Another Grey Warden, young, was knocked unconscious by Hawke’s staff. Then an older man barreled into the hallway, eyes wild when he caught sight of Chantal.

“Traitor!” The man shouted. “Traitorous whore, a stain upon the Grey!”

Chantal moved so quickly it was as if her entire shape blurred. Then she was wrenching the man’s sword arm back and lighting was dancing on the tips of her fingers. “Where is my husband?” She demanded.

“Singing for Kraus.” The man spat. “Like a good little crow. You’ll join him soon enough.”

“Not very likely.” Chantal replied evenly, shoving her staff blade through the man’s boot and reaching for his face with lighting that arched down his body, setting his hair smoking before he fell. Fenris couldn’t help but admire the sheer technical proficiency as she ripped the blade from the man’s boot and left him crumpled. Hawke whistled low as Chantal pushed past them, taking the lead.

“Let’s try not to piss her off.” Hawke whispered.

Fenris privately agreed, but instead gestured Hawke forward as Chantal rushed through the mostly empty hallways, Hawke’s ice freezing lone Wardens here or there. Then they were rushing down the dungeon steps and at the barred door.

“Can either of you pick a lock?” Chantal asked. Hawke scoffed, reaching around her and touching her fingers to the lock. White hot flames coated them, melting the metal, charring the wood around it. Then Hawke shoved and the door opened on the narrow room with the rack they’d seen. Then there was a booming laugh from their right.

“Warden! Knew you’d come and bring the soddin’ calvary!” Fenris turned and observed the dwarf laying in a cage, one eye just about swollen shut and grin almost obscured by a matted red beard. Then the dwarf looked between Hawke and Chantal rapidly. “Wait, I need a drink. There ain’t two of ya, right?”

“My cousin, Hawke.” Chantal said, making her way to the cage. “Glad to see you, Oghren.”

“Knew ya would miss me.” The dwarf said smugly. “Keys are over there.”

Fenris followed the dwarf’s gesture and scooped up the key ring, eyes running apprehensively over several bloody strips of leather. Chantal was already asking where Zevran was and Oghren’s face softened just a bit.

“Ah...he’s still alive, quit your moonin’. Right before they all ran out, I heard them talkin’ about how to wake the damned elf up.” Oghren mouth moved it what may have been a comforting smile.

“Where?” Chantal asked as Fenris slipped the key into the lock and turned it, letting the door swing open. Oghren shuffled out, stretching, then jerked his head toward the back of the dungeon.

“Round the corner, Warden.” Oghren said and Chantal was off. Hawke lingered beside the dwarf.

“I can...help with that. I’m a healer.” She said, choking on the stench that surrounded the dwarf. Oghren shook his head, smile dropping and mouth thinning.

“Save yourself, woman. The elf will need it more.” Oghren said, grunting. “Besides, how else will I impress you with my manly prowess if I don’t fight through my wounds?”

Hawke coughed to hide her smile and Fenris made a noise in his throat as Oghren sauntered off. Then a choked off cry of alarm sounded and Hawke sprinted forward. Fenris rushed after her, turning the corner and staring in horror at the sight before them.  

Chantal’s hands  where shaking as she tried to unknot a rope hanging from the ceiling, before she eventually just gave up and burned through it, allowing the figure that had been hanging to collapse silently and bonelessly into her. She collapsed, slowly and gently under his weight to the hard stones.

 

Zevran was still wearing his boots and pants, but was bare from the waist up. Every inch of that bare skin, however, had been beaten. Some of the lash marks were sticky with old blood, scabbed over. Bruises formed over his ribs. The man’s arms had been wrenched up above his head and tied together, leaving his swollen face exposed. What was even worse were the sharp poles that were still impaled in the sides of his abdomen with blood slowly trickling down. The man’s chest rose and fell still, just barely, and there was an odd rattle in the inhale. Chantal brushed his blonde hair, matted with blood, from his face gently and looked up at Hawke.

“Please.” She whispered, but Hawke was already kneeling down, blue light surrounding her hands.

“Better to pull these out while he’s unconscious. Hold him steady, cousin.” Hawke ordered. Chantal nodded, determined, and tightened her grip on Zevran as Hawke quickly pulled the steel poles and dropped them behind her. “Fenris, can you get my lyrium ready?”

His fingers already clutched one of the glowing blue bottles because he knew, this was damage that would need more than Hawke’s mana to repair. He felt her dip into her mana and begin, starting with the worst of the damage, the bleeding wounds and what he assumed were broken ribs and a puncture in the lung.

Zevran coughed, flinching and trying to roll into himself. “Mi amor.” Chantal said softly, her hands smoothing his hair back again. “It is only me, mi amor. Siempre te amare, Zevran” She whispered. Zevran’s eyes flickered open and a ghost of a smile danced on his lips.

“Ah.” Zevran said. “Mi amor, what lovely eyes you have.”

“See, the elf’s fine, Warden.” Oghren said. Chantal shook her head, silently brushing a tear from her eyes. Zevran made a noise of protest and attempted to sit up, only for Hawke and Chantal to hold him down.

“Stop it.” Hawke ordered. “I’m still working, unless you want these ribs crooked.”

“Why?” Chantal asked. “Why did they do this?”

Zevran’s expression darkened, but it was Oghren that answered. “They wanted him to talk.” The dwarf said simply. “And for a man who won’t shut up, he was awfully silent.”

“Third rate torture at best, mi amor.” Zevran assured. “Barely tickled.”

Lucia began to growl, turning and looking back at the entrance. Hawke stopped and looked up.

“How much time do you need to get him up?” Fenris asked, tossing her the blue bottle of lyrium.

“At least fifteen minutes to get him decent.” She answered. “Fenris, it won’t do any good if you get hurt too.”

“Ah, I’ve been waitin’ to get those backstabbing bastards.” Oghren grunted. “Come on, pretty boy. Let’s see if you can swing that big sword.”

Chapter Text

Of course, they didn’t  make it back to Skyhold in a timely fashion. A pair of rather urgent missives from Josephine and Leliana sent them to the Exalted Plains to meet up with a rather strained unit of Inquisition soldiers who were dealing with two Orlesian armies. Then, of course, somebody had added undead. “As if the Orlesians weren’t enough.” Varric had grumbled as Maria took the unit commander’s report. Maria actually had to stop the woman mid-report because she’d started laughing and everyone had at least cracked a smile, even Blackwall who spent most of the time brooding and the rest glaring holes in between Varric’s shoulder blades.

As they were clearing out the last barracks, Varric paused to reload and playfully glared at Maria. “You never take me anywhere nice.”

“That’s not true!” Maria protested, with a grin. “The spider infested caves on the Storm Coast had a certain charm.”

“I didn’t like them. They were very hungry.” Cole said. “Sera’s singing a song but only I can hear it.”

“Shite! Go away!” Sera yelled as she jumped backwards.

“She likes to dance, but can’t. She hates to sing, but can. You shouldn’t let Sera paint. It would be very bad if you did.” Cole said, sinking his blade into the collapsing form of a corpse.

“What are you singing, Sera?” Maria asked, twisting quickly to the side to dodge an arrow before launching two of her own. “Is it a dirty song? I love those.”

“The sister a poor example, she saves fallen women from sin. She’ll save you a wench for five coppers. Maker, the money rolls in.” Cole repeated, tipping his head to the side. Varric chuckled and Cassandra made a noise of immense disgust, but Maria only hummed a few bars herself.

“Now my grandma makes cheap prophylactics, she punctures the head with a pin. While mother gets rich selling second hand gin to new mothers, Maker the money rolls in…” Maria finished, horribly off key, with a mischievous glance at Cassandra under her long eyelashes.

“Inquisitor! It is not appropriate…” Cassandra sputtered. Sera cackled as she raced past with a flask of something that was sparking flames.

“I know I can’t sing, Cassandra, but I thought you’d appreciate the effort!” Maria said, all wide feigned innocent eyes and a lip that trembled suspiciously with either false tears or suppressed laughter.

“That’s right about enough of that noise! Like a howling cat!” Sera shouted.

Maria gave a faux bow from her perch on the ramparts. “If I didn’t have some flaws, Sera, I wouldn’t be able to carry my ego around.” She shot a wink at Varric then ducked out of view towards the sound of Bull’s shouting.

“Wishing, wondering. Bubbles on her tongue like champagne. Stone shapes words that sing and she sings along, but she liked the blue flowers better than the pink ones.” Cole shrugged apologetically.

“I believe, my dear dwarf, spirit assisted courtship is cheating.” Dorian scowled at a dismembered arm hanging from a flag post, still burning from the tornado of flames he’d summoned. “Shouldn’t you be agonizing about whether she likes the flowers? Does her heart skip a beat when your eyes meet, or only yours? You know, that nonsense.”

“I’m helping!” Cole protested.

“You’re doing quite nicely, kid.” Varric said with a smirk. “Blue flowers it is.”
“Dorian!” Bull yelled, appearing on the upper ramparts above him. “Boss has got a pit of dead bodies reeking of blood magic and told me to tell you to hike up your skirt and get up here.”

“I’m not wearing a skirt and Maria did not say that.” Dorian snipped.

“You trip on that bustling whatever, don’t come crying to me!” Bull shouted back.

 

The days stretched on as they rid the countryside of the remaining undead and the Free Men who’d caused it, sealing rifts and helping the Dalish roaming the plains. He found his thoughts lingering on Merrill, then Carver, and then Hawke and Fenris in short order. It was a relief when Vivienne received a letter from Ghislain stating they’d been there and utterly scandalized all assembled Orlesian nobility before moving on. Someday, he thought, they’d stop trying to squeeze Hawke into a shape she didn’t fit into.

Before they left, Solas received an impassioned call for help from… something. A friend, he called it. Vivienne said it was a demon and Dorian said spirit, but Maria simply shrugged and said she’d help, because of course she would. So, off he went with Maria, Solas, and Blackwall. Unfortunately, they were far too late. Varric couldn’t say he understood any of this shit, but he knew grief and fury, they all did. So no one stopped Solas from killing the blood mages, and when he stormed off Maria simply sighed, shaking her head and declaring they’d go back to camp and wait for him to calm down and return. Two days passed while they finished tracking the rifts across the plains, and on the second night Maria began to worry.

“I can go.” Cole offered out of the quiet. “Anger, he was so angry. Roads aren’t safe for an elf on his own. I can look, I can hear him.”

Maria looked up from where she stared at the fire, rubbing absently at her palm. “I’ll go with you.” She said as she stood.

“You shouldn’t.” Cole said. “Fingers cramp, stabbing, knife through the palm. Maybe fire. Pain pounding, pulsing. You should not have sealed so many rifts.”

“Is it that bad?” Varric asked, but Dorian was already grasping Maria’s wrist, pulling her glove free. Even Varric could see the angry red color around the glowing green mark. Dorian swore, shaking his head.

“Solas should see this. Damn him for going off when he did.” Dorian said. “The veil is warped around the marking and I can feel it snapping back and forth. How long has it been like this?”

“It’s fine, Dorian.” Maria said, trying to pull back.

“It is not, kaffas!” Dorian swore. “What will you do if it gets bigger than it is now? You know it could, it happened in the fade.”

“The mark makes you more. The stone, still there, but magic pours through. Solas worries. Ir abelas, lethallan. Fearing failure, fearing magic eroding the stone.” Cole muttered.

“Cheery.” Maria said.

“I’ll go with the lad.” Blackwall offered. “We’ll be back by first light.”

Maria looked like she might argue, but Blackwall gripped Cole’s shoulder and hauled him up and into the night. Maria sighed and Dorian began digging through their supplies. “I’m putting this salve on, and you’re going to bed if I have to have Bull tie you up.” Dorian threatened.

“Know a lot about that, do you?” Maria asked. Cassandra groaned, but when Varric turned to look at her he saw the worry clouding her face.

He retreated to his own tent shortly after Dorian put Maria in hers, knowing what would happen next. He hung a lantern from the tent pole and waited. Within fifteen minutes, she had slipped in as silently as a shadow, grinning at him apologetically.

“Sorry.” She whispered. “I didn’t mean to make you go to bed so early.”

“Can I see?” Varric asked, holding his hand out. With a weary sigh, Maria stretched out her hand and placed it in his. Dorian had wrapped it with a clean bandage so only the faintest glow escaped, but he could feel the heat from it along with that tingle of magic. Varric shook his head in resignation. “You should have told us it’d gotten this bad.”

“Rifts needed sealed, Varric. They need sealed whether it hurts or not.” Maria explained patiently. “Besides, who else would you all fuss over?”

“You secretly love it.” Varric accused, pulling her waist closer and pressing his lips against her neck. “I can’t wait until we’re back at Skyhold in another real bed.”

“Oh, is that all you can’t wait for?” Maria teased, straddling his lap with a throaty laugh. “Not to be away from prying ears?”

“I’ve almost gotten used to your teasing.” Varric mumbled, but swore when she rolled her hips experimentally against him and he had to adjust to hide his straining erection as best he could. “Almost.”

“Mmmhmm.” She huffed, winding her arms around his neck and tugging his hair lose so she could run her fingers through it, eyes tracing the strands that gleamed in the lantern light. Varric let his hands rest simply on the thin cotton covering her waist.

“You need to rest.” Varric ordered. “If you’re too tired to stop everyone from bickering, we’ll never make it back to Skyhold.”

“You’d carry on without me.” Maria said automatically, and that’s when Varric noticed the deep sorrow caught in the shadows of her face. “Someday, you all might have to anyway.”

“Don’t talk like that.” Varric said, pulling her closer until he could hear the rhythm of her heartbeat, slow and steady in the small space, smell the spiced wine she’d been sipping around the fire on her lips. “Here, I’ve been working on the next Swords and Shields for Cassandra. I can’t believe you talked me into this.”

“I didn’t have to try very hard.” Maria reminded with a small smile. “You should have seen her face when I caught her reading the last one in the stables at Val Royeaux. I swear, if you don’t finish it soon I’m going to just for the joy of seeing it again.”

“I’m not sure this isn’t an elaborate prank Sera dreamed up.” Varric remarked. “But, hey, might as well.”

“Read some to me?” Maria asked with her sweetest smile. Varric raised an eyebrow.

“So you can laugh your fine dwarven ass off before I ever get a chance to see it?” He questioned. “I don’t think so, Princess.”

 

When Cole and Blackwall returned the next morning with no trace of Solas, Maria simply sighed and took the messages from the scouts that had come in overnight. She put aside the first and second, then her brow creased as she looked at the third before she unrolled it. Varric watched with mounting concern as horror crept into her face before she stood, nearly knocking Sera over.

“We need to go.” Maria rushed out. “Now, five minutes ago if it were possible. Solas will just have to fend for himself.”

“Inquisitor?” Cassandra asked nervously. “What is it? Is it Corypheus?”

“Worse.” Maria said, tossing the message into the flames. “My grandmother is at Skyhold.”

 

They rushed back to Skyhold, but the day they were due to arrive found Maria uncharacteristically slowing down the whole caravan with unexpected stops to check on scouts, an unnecessary search for Cole, and extra breaks for the whole group. The last time, Dorian barely hid his laughter as Maria stood by her mount, nervously twisting the hem of her tunic.

“Problem, Princess?” Varric asked smoothly.

“Oh, no. I’m sure it’s fine.” Maria answered. “I only managed to take over a religious organization, almost get Bea and myself killed again, and then rather high-handedly took over a significant portion of Carta resources and put them to work for the Inquisition. Exactly what Nanna expected, I’m sure.”

“And does she know about...us?” Varric asked, almost tripping over the last word. Maria’s eyes remained distantly focused on Skyhold and she either ignored the significance or took it for granted. Varric was frankly uncertain which he preferred.

“Safe to say she’s had people spying. She’s certainly been reading the letters I’ve sent to Bea.” Maria said casually. “Although how much of our code my grandmother has figured out has always been a mystery.”

“Well, best to get it over with then.” Varric said. “The author in me can’t stand the anticipation anymore.”

Maria sighed and brushed back her long red hair before straightening. Varric saw the steel forming in her eyes as she nodded as imperiously as an empress. “You’re right. Let’s go.”

The most annoying part of meeting Zarra Cadash had to be where exactly he was told he’d meet her at. Josephine appeared rather unrattled when she met them at the stables, ticking off the elder Cadash like it was just another item of business.

“She hasn’t been too much, has she?” Maria asked.

“Oh, no!” Josephine protested. “She is quite a fascinating lady. She even offered some rather accurate advice regarding the proclivities of one of the Marcher nobles that assisted with gaining an audience. She has made herself quite at home, of course, but then it is her granddaughter’s fortress. One would expect no less from any dowager.”

“Did she take over my rooms?” Maria asked with a sigh.

“No, Inquisitor. She rather said the stairs were far too much for her bones. She took a modest room off the courtyard, but she has taken over the space by the hearth for her… business purposes.” Josephine said diplomatically. Bull began laughing immediately, voice booming.

“Oh, this I’ve gotta see.” The qunari grinned from ear to ear.

Varric ignored the urge to protest strongly that she’d taken his space. “I’ve been meaning to spend more time in the tavern, anyway.”

“Ah, she seems remarkably similar to my grandmother. Always managing to be just the right amount of irritating.” Dorian sighed.

Without another word, Maria made her way to the door leading to the kitchens and slipped inside. Varric followed wordlessly as well.

“You don’t have to come.” She offered.

“That may be true, but I do need to get to my room. And I can’t see any way to do so except by going past her.” Varric offered gamely.

“There’s a trellis in the courtyard.” Maria said immediately. “Up and over, through the window, and you end up in your room.”

“Inquisitor!” Varric faked shock. “You’ve been eying how to surreptitiously enter my room? My virtue won’t recover.”

Maria laughed, despite the anxiety, kissing him just out of view of the kitchen before turning and making her way up the stairs. Varric appreciated the taste of her on his lips and her swaying hips for just one moment before following after her.

Zarra Cadash was rather smaller than he expected. Her hair was white as snow, piled carefully on top of her head in braided spirals with rather tastefully gold embellishments looped in. She wore a long green dress and soft calfskin boots and had glasses perched on her nose. The woman’s wrinkled fingers twisted a gold pendant, but those gray eyes when they flashed up were as sharp as her granddaughter’s and the wry smirk was comfortingly familiar when she examined Maria. Then the woman looked at Varric and frowned, severely.

Not good, he thought as Zarra pushed a piece of paper at the hooded dwarf beside her. The older woman stood easily, pushing the chair back and raising an eyebrow at her granddaughter. “Do you know what a trek up this mountain is like with my bones, girl? I should be at home, knitting and complaining about my grandchildren not writing enough.”

“I have answered your letters, Nanna. You didn’t need to come.” Maria said cautiously. Zarra waved away the comment like an annoying fly.

“And leave you to...whatever mess you’ve thrown yourself into this time, oh I don’t think so. Crazy chantry folk, a damned hole in the sky, an archdemon, and your sister running your operations. The whole damned world is falling apart and... oh, I’ve missed you.” The woman suddenly beamed, her whole face lighting up at Maria’s growing skeptical demeanor. “You can’t blame an old woman for that, surely.”

“I think Bea’s actually doing quite a lovely job.” Maria replied flippantly and Zarra laughed, reaching out to fondly pat Maria’s cheek.

“Yes, that’s exactly my point. The world upside down. Now…” Zarra turned to look at Varric as skeptical as Maria was. “Let’s talk about this. First off, where’s his beard.”

“Nanna…” Maria sighed.

“No, no, I’m all for foolish fashions. I didn’t say a damned word when Beatrix pierced her navel. But this… do all your shirts only have three buttons?” Zarra asked.

Varric offered a courtly bow. “I’m Varric Tethras, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, lady Cadash.”

“Lady!” Zarra scoffed. “Maker’s ass. Where did you find him? Can you not put him back?” Zarra scrunched up her nose. Maria raised her hand to her forehead and rubbed it. “Move along, boy. I have things to discuss with my granddaughter.” Zarra commanded, voice hard as steel.

“Nanna, this is where Varric was working.” Maria began. Zarra snorted.

“Working? Ah, yes, one of the soldiers said there was a beardless dwarf loafing around before I settled in. When he wasn’t chasing you or some other dwarven skirt, of course.” Zarra had perfected the faux innocent tone Maria used to her advantage so well. On closer examination, Varric could see far more similarities than differences. Both had the kind of posture born for leading, straight as steel. There was the matching eyes (softer somehow, in Maria’s face, but just as striking) and the elegant, clever fingers.

“Nanna, stop it.” Maria commanded. “If you’re only here to complain, I suggest…”

Zarra let out a long suffering sigh and something flashed in those grey eyes too briefly for Varric to capture it, but if he’d been able to guess he would have said it was sorrow, regret. Zarra held up one hand, palm out, to stop Maria and shook her head.

“I am here because I am worried, child.” Zarra said. “That is all, and it is enough. They’re saying you fell into the fade itself, Maria. Strong, brave Maria. I should never have sent you to the Conclave.”

“You didn’t know.” Maria said immediately, but Zarra simply shook her head sadly and opened her arms. Maria hesitated only a moment before stepping into them and allowing Zarra to fold them around her.

As soon as she’d encircled Maria, Zarra’s eyes snapped back to him over the Inquisitor’s shoulder. For the first time, Varric felt his stomach drop like a stone, because Zarra’s eyes were burning now with fury and locked onto his as she stroked Maria’s red hair gently.

“Perhaps your friend should attend to his business in his room, for now? And we can talk, my girl.” Zarra’s tone didn’t change, despite the anger there, and when Maria pulled away the expression was hidden behind concern and mild annoyance. Maria turned over her shoulder and shrugged.

“Would you mind? Just for a moment.” Maria said.

“Of course not.” Varric said smoothly, hoping desperately that whatever business Zarra wanted him to attend to in his room wasn’t assassins. Thank the Maker he still had Bianca slung over his shoulder. “I’ll see you for supper?”

“Of course you will.” Zarra said smoothly. “We’ll have much to discuss, won’t we?” And with that, the elderly woman’s arm was around Maria’s waist, twisting her skillfully to the table and directing her attention to something. Varric was left to make his exit as silently as he could, making his way up the stairs and into the hallway where he had his room. He paused, listening, but he certainly couldn’t hear any assassins waiting for him.

Hawke would be distraught, he thought ruefully. Another woman steeped in forbidden attraction where assassinations were just part of the courtship. That is, if he survived this one. With sudden determination, he hefted Bianca and wrenched open the door to his bedroom, allowing the afternoon light to fall on his bed and the small figure there.

“Maker.” The woman giggled, pushing her hood back and revealing her blonde hair and sparkling turquoise eyes. “I hope you haven’t started greeting all of your guests like that.”

“Bianca?” Varric breathed and the woman smiled, sultry and perfect, just as he remembered.

“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out.” She practically purred, patting the bed beside her. “Don’t just stand there like you’ve seen a ghost, come in and relax.”

Shit, Varric thought. He’d have preferred the assassins.

Chapter Text

 

Fenris staggered into the slick cave wall, sword clattering noisily to the ground beside him. The last giant spider rolled onto its back, engulfed in flame and legs twitching as Isabela approached him, daggers sheathed. “Little nick, sweet thing? Let ‘Bela kiss it better.”

“Venhedis, stay away…” Fenris said, but when he pushed away from the wall the whole damned cave spun and he felt the urge to spill his guts all over the floor. He staggered into Isabela and suddenly the playful spark in her eyes was gone and Varric was gripping his breastplate, lowering him to the floor.

“Hawke!” The dwarf yelled, and then she was there. There was a small gash on her cheek, just below those brilliant blue eyes, and she wasn’t smiling. Fenris noted that he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen her look so grim, even that first night he’d met when he’d berated her for being a mage.

“Where is it?” Hawke asked, blue eyes looking on his. When he didn’t answer she made an impatient noise in her throat. “You’re bleeding out somewhere, where?”

“Leg.” Fenris answered. That was all the direction Hawke needed as she knelt, eyes sweeping his skin until she found the deep gash and she hissed.

“Cut an artery. You’ll bleed out if we don’t fix it.” Hawke said matter-of-factly, but her voice was growing faint, ringing strangely. Her skin was beautiful in the faint torchlight, luminescent as pearls. Too beautiful for a mage, he thought desperately, too beautiful.

“How long do you need, Hawke?” Varric asked. With an elegant roll of her shoulders, Hawke answered.

“Ten, fifteen at most?” She said, opening her pouch and bringing out little bottles of potions, handing them to Isabela.

“I’ll scout our way out then, be right back.” Varric said cheerfully, vanishing from Fenris’s blurry vision.

“Hey, listen to me.” Hawke said, and Fenris could see her hands were clenched over her patched, tattered pants where he could see them. “You need healing.”

“No.” Fenris said immediately. “Do not touch me, mage.” he spat venomously.  

“It’d be a shame to leave such a fine corpse.” Isabela commented. Hawke shushed her.

“Fenris, if I don’t do this, you’re going to bleed out down here. It’s your choice, healing or death.” Hawke said grimly. “I won’t force it on you.”

Damn her, Fenris thought groggily. Damn her to the void and back, asking this as if she had no idea of the pain it would bring. Damn her and every mage and her especially for bringing him down her to pay his debt. Her eyes were sharp on his face and so… so very blue. “I’d rather die than feel…” He began. Hawke’s face softened and she bit her lip, eyes roaming his markings so quickly he couldn’t even yell at her to cease her ogling.

“Magic hurts.” She said softly. “Of course. I’m sorry. Healing shouldn’t hurt, I’ll try not to make it hurt. Have you been healed before?”

If he had, he could not remember. He was almost certain he must have, he had sustained wounds he could not have survived without healing. However, it would have been while he was unconscious. He didn’t know how to tell her this, couldn’t bear to see any more pity in those glowing blue eyes. “I do not recall.” He said instead. Hawke sighed, shoulders slumping.

“Please.” She was...pleading, and there was something heavy in her tone. Something he had never heard before. “Don’t die when I can save you. Trust me, just this once.”

Fenris didn’t know what to do, but the world was going fuzzy, and this was Hawke who was strong and laughed in the face of danger sounding as if she would cry over him. He raised one gauntleted hand, pressing it against her chest weakly. “Do it, but one false move mage…” He growled.

And Hawke laughed, in relief, instructing Isabela to wait, then pour the potion down his throat on her signal to help rebuild his lost blood. Then something was pulsing, churning, a warmth spreading from his leg and up his abdomen like the bottles of Agregio he’d been drinking from Danarius’s cellar. At Hawke’s signal, Isabela poured the potion down his throat and Fenris coughed, sputtered, but the warmth was still growing. And the lyrium lines were starting to glow too, flickering in the dim cavern, casting quick bursts of light across Hawke’s face as she worked.

His gauntleted hand against her chest was beginning to feel a bit silly, and he made to drop it, but with a quirk of her lips, Hawke caught it and brought it back. His bare palm pressed against her heart, the steady thrum through her skin and into his like another source of warmth. She laughed. “May as well keep it there, in case I make a sudden effort to summon a demon or turn to blood magic.”

“Are you intending to do so?” Fenris’s head was clearing and yet at the same time...not. She was so close he could smell elfroot on her and something sweet, like what wafted from the bakeries in the morning. Her heart thrummed under his fingertips, too soft for the pointed fingers of his gauntlets pressing against her. Her magic was singing with his lyrium, humming almost pleasurably inside his skin. It was too much and yet it wasn’t even near to enough. For the first time, although it would be far from the last time, he imagined the noise she’d make if his gauntlets caught her hair and pulled her cherry red lips to his.

“No.” She admitted. “But if it makes you feel more comfortable knowing you could rip my heart out, by all means. I used to do finger puppets and silly voices when Bethany and Carver hurt themselves, so this is much better.”

When the glow dimmed… Fenris could honestly say he missed the warmth. He pushed himself up immediately, ignoring Hawke’s pleas to stay put and rest. He nearly pushed Varric over as he pushed past the dwarf, trying to conceal his growing alarm and distress. How could he hand himself over so easily, he thought as he exited the cave. With all he knew of what mages were capable of, how could he be so foolish?

But when she showed up at his mansion the next afternoon, dressed not for a job as she’d been every other time, but in a simple violet tunic and her torn, patched breeches (because this was before the softer things, when her cheeks were still too hollow from not enough food and she was still taking every job and every copper that came her way for an estate she did not want) Fenris allowed her in. And she sat perched on the edge of one of the cleaner chairs, pushing her long dark hair from her face as she asked if he was alright.

“I am in your debt. Again.” Fenris admitted ruefully. Hawke simply smiled, shaking her head.

“What are friends for if not patching you up after a fight with a giant spider?” Hawke asked, tilting her head to one side.

“Is that we are then, mage? Friends?” Fenris asked, uncertain, staring into a grate that was cold and empty (before Hawke had money to make sure he was constantly stocked on firewood and good things to eat.)

“My friends call me Hawke, you know.” She answered, ducking her head and refusing to meet his eyes, becoming very fixated on a frayed patch on her pants.

“I don’t understand why you are Hawke and Carver is Carver.” Fenris pondered. Hawke simply shrugged, standing and stretching so that the tunic exposed a sliver of creamy pale skin and something snapped hungrily inside Fenris. He stood as well, although he wasn’t sure why. A thought, half-formed and ludicrous, made him picture pushing her against the cold fireplace and tangling his naked fingers in her long locks.

“Because I’m older.” Hawke said simply. “I’m glad it didn’t hurt, the healing, and I’m glad you’re alright. Maybe you can come to the Hanged Man tonight and show everyone else you didn’t bleed out on the way home?”

“Perhaps.” Fenris said, but when she sighed and turned away, making for the door, something made him turn as well.

“Hawke.” He called and the name echoed in the empty hall and caused her to stop, turning incredulously to him. “I will join you tonight, if the invitation stands.”

Hawke beamed so brightly it was as if there was a fire in the grate and the sun had come out from behind the clouds, so brightly it almost took his breath away.

“Right, see you there.” Hawke said, jamming her hands into her pockets and strolling out, humming a bit under her breath. Fenris watched her go, both apprehensive and longing, wanting and wishing and disgusted at himself for it.

You can’t trust a mage, he reminded himself. A small, traitorous voice in the back of his mind answered like a fresh breeze.

Yes, but she is Hawke.

“She’ll get him up?” Oghren asked, looking back over his shoulder nervously.  

“Hawke always does.” Fenris said confidently. “Can you fight?” He asked the dwarf.

“Can I fight ?” Oghren repeated, aghast. “Get me a sword and I’ll show you, you pointy-eared…”

“Where is your sword?” Fenris asked impatiently. Oghren pointed at a chest near his open cage.

“Elf’s been teachin’ me how to...” Oghren trailed off as Fenris’s hand glowed blue, punching through the lock, lyrium phasing through wood and metal before he ripped it back out, lock falling from his fingers as he opened the chest. The dwarf laughed joyously. “Oh yes, this will be fun!” he yelled, pulling the greatsword from the chest.

Just in time for three Wardens to burst into the dungeon, wild eyed and ferocious. Oghren charged, sword above his head. Fenris moved to the left, flanking…

Then he felt the pull of mana and cursed, dodging a fireball from the fourth Warden. A mage, of course. And fighting a mage in an enclosed space like this could be disastrous. Decisively, he rolled forward and straightened with a swift whistle and a jerk of his head that sent Lucia into the fray next to Oghren. Fenris raced to flank the mage,  who twisted nimbly in his robes with a high pitched laugh. Fenris smelt the sharp metallic tang of magic ice below his heels before he felt it and rolled just in time, the ground where he stood bursting into sharp shards of ice.

“Move!” And the voice was like Hawke’s, but not. Still, instincts caused him to flatten himself against the ground and he felt a pull, heard the other mage gasp for breath. He couldn’t see it, but he could feel the mage behind him, Chantal, pulling mana from the other Warden, then releasing it in a howling storm of lighting that incapacitated two of the Warden warriors.

“Ferelden bitch!” The mage screamed, his barrier pulsing under Chantal’s onslaught. “We should have killed your pets here!”

Fenris felt the blast that shattered the mage’s barrier, throwing him against the open door. Crossing the room, Fenris sank his blade into the bared armpit of a man who was about to bring his sword down on Lucia. The mage was laughing, hysterically, and something red was spinning in the room.

“Warden!” Oghren yelled.

“Get back!” Chantal answered, slamming her staff into the ground, magic welling so forcefully the stones beneath her cracked with lighting. Deadly, dangerous energy whirled between the two mages then met in a mist that crackled the very ozone, lifting all the hair on Fenris’s neck. Fenris spared a look at the Warden mage as he used the hilt of his greatsword to knock the last warrior into Oghren’s blade. The man had rivulets of blood racing down his arms, the cloying form of blood magic lingering like oil in water.

“I heard you refuse this power, Hero.” The other mage said mockingly. “Shall I show you?”

“Feel free.” Chantal said icily. “I don’t need it.”

The mage laughed and the power of his blood exploded, reaching and arching towards Chantal, who waited with staff gripped in her hand. She waited so long Fenris began to dread the inevitable bursting of her eyes, blood running down her face. But when the power reached her...she was gone, bursting into thousands of tiny insects, buzzing and swirling, descending like a cloud on the mage who screamed in shock and horror, falling backwards. His screams died down as he gripped his swelling throat and Fenris had to look away.

He didn’t look back until Chantal breezed past him, human and her face as hard as nails. When he turned, the blood mage had no eyes.

Hawke was pulling Zevran to his feet carefully and he was looking artfully amused until he saw Chantal. The other elf’s face pulled into a broad grin as he opened his arms wide. “Mi amor! And you’ve brought gifts!”

Chantal handed the items she’d retrieved in the chest to him with a soft and pensive smile. “Your shirt’s gone, but the rest is there, including…”

“The books!” Zevran said gleefully. “I suppose now we are officially purloining them instead of borrowing, yes?”

Chantal laughed, shaking her head. “I suppose we are. Thieves, exiles, hunted traitors, Maker, it’s like the damned blight all over again.”

“Of course, and you still look just as young as that fresh faced girl outside the tower for the first time. I shall have to endeavor to look out for charming and clever assassins who fall in love instead of completing the job.” Zevran grinned as he adjusted the daggers over his bare shoulders. Oghren groaned.

“Blighted decade it’s been.” The dwarf swore. “Could push ‘em both in a lake.”

“As much as I hate to disrupt this charming display…” Fenris began as something else hit the walls above them, making the keep shudder.

“Escape!” Zevran said, grinning. “Last time, I broke you out of Fort Drakon, yes?” Zevran said as they marched forward, stopping to affectionately pat Lucia and moving nonchalantly past the Grey Warden bodies until he got to the stairs and laughed humorlessly.

“I see you found Kraus, mi amor?” Zevran asked. Chantal didn’t look down as she stepped over the body, although Hawke did and looked up at Fenris with an arched brow. He simply shook his head.

“Good, I was hoping that was who that was.” Chantal sniffed.

 

Fenris thought he’d run out of surprises, but he hadn’t. When they emerged from the darkness of the fort, they were confronted by something he never thought he’d see. A golem, was before the draw bridge, spells bouncing off it’s stone and crystals glowing furiously. “Shale!” Chantal called. The golem looked up and over the assembled wardens at the six of them.

“The Warden has returned, finally! And she brings the painted elf and drunken dwarf.” The golem said, it’s stone fist smashing several wardens out of the way. “Perhaps she is content to leave now before the situation deteriorates further?”

“You have a golem.” Hawke said in awe, jaw hanging open. “A real golem. You travel with a golem.”

“Her name is Shale.” Zevran said flippantly. “You must have seen them in Tevinter?”

“From a distance.” Fenris admitted. The golem roared and sent an archer flying.

“Across the bridge!” Chantal ordered, lighting sparking from her staff. “Cousin, help me?”

“At least you’re not boring!” Hawke said cheerfully, flames leaping into her own palm as their elements cleared the remaining wardens away, leaving them free to run. Halfway across, Fenris saw Hawke’s flames burn the ropes to pull the bridge back up and then he heard the mages and golem running behind them, magic flaring from their staffs and fingertips as they retreated.

“And they’re following us.” Hawke groaned. “What a surprise.”

“Got it covered.” Chantal said fiercely, her braids swinging. “No bridge, no problem.” Hawke smirked, leaned over and whispered something into Chantal’s ear that caused her to burst into bright peals of laughter, joined by Hawke’s.

Hawke’s laughter echoed as they continued to push back, until they were almost across and then Chantal and Hawke both slammed their staff’s down in perfect sync, cracks spreading, stones crumbling. The few Wardens that were brave enough to attempt to follow retreated hastily as the bridge began to fall into the abyss and the two women stumbled backwards, Fenris catching Hawke and Zevran swooping to grasp Chantal’s elbow. Then they turned and laughing, stumbling, drunk on the adventure the two women ran past both Ogrhen and Shale, Lucia nipping at their heels happily as their dark hair streamed out behind them. Fenris shook his head in disbelief as he hurried after them, finally catching them at the bottom of the path where they were doubled over laughing.

“Is this hysteria?” Fenris asked. “You do realize, in addition to regular templars, red templars, and venatori, we’ve just made an enemy of the Grey Wardens.”

“Why are the Grey Wardens always up to mischief?” Hawke asked in between giggles.

“This? This is the joke you were making on the bridge?” Fenris asked skeptically.

“It’s in their blood!” Chantal burst in, beginning to giggle again. Zevran shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. “Get it! Because of the taint! Maker…”

“Were you drinking the stuff in my flask?” Oghren asked suspiciously.

“Ah, poorly timed humor.” The golem said. “It’s never a near death escape without it.”

 

There was a small camp two miles off which they rapidly packed up while Zevran and Oghren tended to their recovered gear. Hawke and Fenris had all their own items except for the tents which had been in the saddlebags for their horses. Luckily, Chantal had one spare they’d never even bothered to set up. No horses, however, which was a damn shame as they began a long march away from Weisshaupt with all speed. Chantal was relatively confident it would take them at least a day or two to work around the bridge, but there was no reason to dawdle. Fenris watched Chantal’s back warily, thinking of that swarm of insects attacking the other mage with unease. Shale finally broke the silence.

“The mage came from the Inquisition? Did it meet a dwarf calling herself Cadash?” Shale asked.

“Is that me? Am I the mage? Isn’t she also a mage?” Hawke asked, jerking her thumb at Chantal. Chantal only smiled and rolled her eyes.

“It is the flippant mage.” Shale responded. “She is the Warden and it did not answer my question.”

“I’m still the painted elf and it’s been a decade.” Zevran explained with a shrug.

“The Inquisitor is Maria Cadash, she is a dwarf.” Fenris answered.

“The glowing elf is infinitely more helpful than the flippant mage. I think I prefer it’s company.” Shale fell back to Fenris, looking down and opening its mouth, but Oghren interrupted.  

“Ah, those Cadash girls.” Oghren said dreamily. “Saw a couple of ‘em at a tavern near Lake Callenhad years back.”

“They tied you up and robbed you.” Chantal said with a grin. “Then you got arrested for public indecency. I had to come and stand surety for your good behavior.”

“Ah, but the tits on ‘em.” Oghren said fondly.

“I suppose this Inquisitor is squishy and soft like so many dwarves?” Shale finally asked. “A pity.”

“She is soft and squishy, sad but true.” Hawke responded, winking at Fenris.  

“The flippant mage had its chance to answer questions.” Shale pointed out, returning to Fenris.  “But this Inquisitor commands armies? And smites its enemies?” Shale prompted.

“The smiting never stops with the Inquisition.” Hawke offered with a grin. Fenris coughed to hide his own laughter. Shale paused, eyes flashing at it looked at Hawke.

“Perfect. As if it wasn’t hard enough that the painted elf never is quiet. I think I should return to Orlais.” The golem finally said.

“You’d miss us.” Chantal said simply, with a kind smile directed at the golem. “Or, at least, you’d miss me.”

“Besides, you can’t complain we’re no better than Orlesians.” Zevran asked, feigning shock. “ Orlesians , Shale.”

Chantal laughed, and as she was distracted, Zevran pressed a hand to his abdomen. Fenris shared a quick glance with Hawke to make sure she’d seen it. Her blue eyes were focused intently on the gesture.

“We should stop, rest for a bit.” Hawke declared. “We’re pushing hard for your injuries, maybe I can touch up my work a bit.”

“Ah, we must make haste though.” Zevran protested. Chantal’s laugh died immediately and she turned to Zevran with wide worried eyes.

“Are you still hurt?” She asked.

“Only sore.” Zevran protested as Hawke moved closer to him, pushing him onto a nearby boulder firmly.

“He’ll be fine, just a rest.” Hawke said breezily, fingers glowing blue. “I can touch up Oghren’s eye too.”

“You don’t need to.” Zevran said with a chuckle. “It’s fine now, it always looks like that.”

“I’ll break your kneecaps, elf.” Oghren threatened.

While Zevran and Oghren bickered and Hawke healed, Fenris moved beside Chantal. “That...magic you used. It was disturbing.” He remarked.

“The bird thing? Oh that’s great .” Hawke gushed. “Do you think you could be a dragon? If you tried really hard?”

“I prefer the insects to the bird, if anyone cares for my opinion.” Shale said dryly.

“It’s forbidden for circle mages, actually the Chantry claimed it was impossible.” Chantal shrugged. “I imagine they just discouraged it because it made it easier for mages to escape. I’ve tried to teach it to several mages. Some were able to do so...others not so much.”

“But it is not demons or blood magic?” Fenris asked suspiciously. Chantal smiled.

“No. I’ve never used blood magic myself. It’s old hedge magic, the chasind still use it. I was taught it by a friend during the blight.” Chantal explained.

“That, mi amor, is exactly the friend that the Wardens wanted to know about.” Zevran interrupted. “Specifically, what happened. Although they knew nothing, only that something must have.”

Chantal let out a long, weary sigh. “Of course.” She said. “If I ever see Morrigan again, the first thing I’m going to do is punch her.”

“Why do the Wardens want to know about this friend?” Fenris questioned. Chantal didn’t look at him, only continued to glare at Hawke’s fingers on Zevran’s skin as she continued her battlefield mending.

“I lived and I should not have.” Her bitterness surprised him. “The death of an eighteen year old martyr would have served the Wardens much better than my continued existence. I’m...inconvenient. I suspect Alistair very much is as well.”

Hawke looked puzzled, but Chantal continued. “It’s such a good story, no one ever stops to ask how the fuck it happened. Two children… and we were children, don’t mistake it for a second. I wasn’t even eighteen at Ostagar and Alistair was barely old enough to grow a decent beard, rescued by the witch of the wild and tasked with saving Ferelden.”

“It is my favorite story.” Zevran soothed patiently, as if he’d heard this a hundred times. It occured to Fenris he probably had.

“Then we’re...thrust into politics of all things. Warden, choose a king, Warden, find a paragon, Warden, decide the fate of our clan. It was outrageous, like the whole blighted world lost its damn mind for a year. And finally, finally, we’re told we have to die. That we’re supposed to die. And Alistair was going to be king and I…” Chantal broke off, pleading with her warm brown eyes. “I didn’t want to die. I’d only just begun… I’d only started seeing the world outside the circle. I had friends, I fell asleep with the stars above me, I was in love. So I said no. I decided we wouldn’t die.”

“What did you do?” Hawke asked quietly, the light dying on her fingertips. And for a brief second, Fenris didn’t see the Hero of Ferelden, the Warden Commander, the woman who had stared down a fortress full of wardens and destroyed a man utterly as a swarm of insects. He saw Chantal as she had been, a slip of a girl only a little younger than Hawke was when they met.

“I’m still not entirely sure.” Chantal admitted. “But I’d do it again in a second.”

Hawke opened her mouth to ask questions, demand answers Fenris assumed, but Chantal simply held up her own hand to stop her. “No.” The woman said, exhaustion coloring every syllable. “It’s between four people, what happened. I’ll take it to my grave rather than risk hurting my friends, rather than risk hurting you because you know.”

 

When they made camp, Oghren unrolled a map and squinted at it before handing it to Chantal. She sighed, shaking her head before looking up at the assembled group. “We’ve been heading east, yes? Well, if we’ve covered as much ground as I think we have, we’ll be at Vol Dorma tomorrow.”

“That sounds like it’s Tevinter.” Hawke observed, looking up and catching Fenris’s scowl before sighing. “It is Tevinter. Of course it’s Tevinter.”

“I assumed that’s where you were going.” Chantal said. “We just came from there, you know. I assumed you were chasing the rumors.”

“That the abomination is trying to raise an army to attack the templars in the south?” Fenris asked bitterly. “Yes, that is something we must solve.”

Chantal looked..surprised and then uncomfortable, sharing a tight glance with Zevran. Before she could say, though, Oghren burst in. He was comfortably drunk, as Chantal assured them was usual, reclining by the fire.

“Ah! Yer the one they were talkin’ bout.” Oghren said sagely. “Any idea who that nuglicker is lookin’ for? We tried to find out, but somebody…” And at this, Zevran sent a pointed glance at Chantal. “Is awful at bein’ undercover. Pretend to be a magister, we said. Simple enough, isn’t it? But noooooo… one public whipping and our Warden is defending the helpless and challenging magisters to duels.”

“We had to leave Tevinter in quite a hurry.” Zevran added casually.

“What?” Hawke asked, turning to look at Chantal. “Looking for who?”

“Okay, before you get mad, I was certain that’s why you were here.” Chantal began.

“Mad about what?” Fenris asked, feeling his tone turning dangerous.

“Anders.” Chantal said quickly. “I’d heard he was in Minrathous. Tried to find him while I was there, but couldn’t. I was following a lead on what happened during the first blight, trying to find the cure for the taint. I ended up leaving the city to chase down some knowledge in Marnus Pell, and while I was there, I heard…”

“A duel of some sort in the Minrathous.” Zevran said smoothly. “But not between two magisters, that would have been common, no? In the slums of the city, and one a foreigner. It ended with a dead bystander and a path of destruction through the market. The other duelist, an elven women, escaped through the maze of slums in Minrathous. I admit, I got quite turned around in them myself a few times. They would be impossible for a foreigner to navigate.”

“I did some digging about it while I was in Marnus Pell. I’m almost certain the foreigner was Anders and that he was looking for someone, the duel grew out of an argument where Anders demanded the woman turn over someone else. When we went back to Minrathous, I couldn’t find a trace of Anders or this woman.” Chantal finished. “I was looking, I swear, but then...well, a magister decided to publicly whip a woman to death for stealing a loaf of bread from his kitchen and I couldn’t stand by and allow it.”

“Then we had to flee.” Zevran finished. “Right out of the pot and into the fire, as it appears.”

Hawke swore but Fenris pushed himself up, turning to the barren scrubby country surrounding them. “But you know nothing else?” He asked tightly.

“No. I’m sorry. I thought… I thought that’s why you had come.” Chantal whispered. “Hawke, I am sorry.”

“I know.” Hawke said, but Fenris barely heard her. He was stalking into the darkness, swearing himself and feeling something sick in his stomach. Of all the people the abomination could track down, why Varania? What was the point?

Anders had been there, had seen him nearly murder his own sister. He would have, if not for Hawke throwing herself between the two of them. He’d cast her out, hated her for a traitor, hated her even more for the bitter words she’d left in her wake. He cared not what happened to Varania, he thought bitterly. She deserved no worse. But something else was needling in his mind, a dark unpleasant thought swirling around him. Who else? Who else was out there, and what was their connection to Varania? What was their connection to him?

Hawke approached him quietly, stopping behind him just close enough that he could reach out and touch her. “I cannot.” Fenris said. “I cannot...I cannot take you into Minrathous. It is the very heart and stomach of the imperium. I could take you nowhere more dangerous.”

“Oh, Fenris…” Hawke sighed. “Did I not just take you battle a demon army? I think you’re owed a free pass to drag me into danger at your whim.”

“We know...we know nothing of value.” Fenris argued. “We know nothing about what the abomination wanted or why.”

“But it could be another family member. Someone Varania hid from you.” Hawke said gently. “Fenris, it could be your family, you may still have someone worth saving.”

“I already have you.” Fenris said, turning and grabbing her arm. “I need no one else.”

“Fenris… nobody needs their family when they’re grown.” Hawke teased softly, kissing his chin in between the lyrium lines. “Do you want them?” She asked.

“Yes.” Fenris admitted, something uncurling in his stomach like hope tinged with fear. And for the first time, Fenris allowed himself to think of others, perhaps like him, with green eyes and tanned skin. “I must know.”

“Then Minrathous it is, then.” Hawke said cheerfully.

Chapter Text

“Varric, it’s over. It’s time for you to leave this… disaster in the trash heap where it soddin’ belongs.” Bartand said from inside the door, arms crossed disapprovingly over his chest. “Two of you have caused enough damage. She’s been nothing but trouble.”

Varric barely heard him, because he was holding a letter in his hands and rereading words over and over he didn’t quite believe. Certain phrases jumped out at him. We’d have never lasted through the guild’s wrath. My parents hired more assassins. Couldn’t live with myself if you died for me. I married him yesterday.

I married him yesterday. Bianca wasn’t coming, Bianca would never be coming. He’d thought… he would have sworn she wouldn’t falter. He’d seen her heart and he’d known he had it, he’d been so damned sure.

“I’ve negotiated with her family through the guild and we can come to some agreement. Since we’ve almost started a bleedin’ war, it’s going to involve the two of you never setting eyes on each other again. Guild’s gonna enforce it. Not that it should matter, she’ll be too damned busy popping out Vasca babies.” Bartrand continued and Varric felt something twist and shatter in his heart.

“Bartrand.” He growled. “Get out or I shoot you, you great ass. Your choice.”

“Better get used to it, little brother. She’s not yours and she never was.” Bartrand said with that infuriatingly smug sense of superiority. “Story is over.”

Oh, but it wasn’t. Because Bianca had someone smuggle a letter to him three weeks later, and it said she’d always love him and Varric was one thing if he was nothing else: stubborn.

 

The letters continued as the years passed. Twice, they even managed to arrange clandestine meetings right under the damn guild’s nose. Twice in four years, not nearly enough. That what he was thinking when Bartrand groused about a smuggler taking out one of his caravan’s out of nowhere.

“Aren’t you bleedin’ well in charge of this not happening? Or do you just sit on your ass and drink all day?” Bartrand asked.

“I play an astonishing amount of cards as well.” Varric answered.

“You’re a useless layabout.” Bartrand accused.

“We can’t all be upstanding paragons of Dwarven virtue.” Varric muttered, then soothingly smoothed Bartrand’s ruffled feathers by assuring he’d get to the bottom of it. And he did - although he ended up having to pay off the smugglers after the thought of taking them head on had been dissipated in rumors of one woman’s fighting prowess.

 

There were two names that controlled his life after that day, although he still thought it was only Bianca at that time. But the name Hawke was on his tongue, on everyone’s tongue. The first time he caught sight of her, basically dressed in rags and looking like she barely ate enough to keep going, he’d thought the rumors were exaggerated.

The Carta members who tried to jump her and her brother in Lowtown one night never were found though, burned to ashes in the street they said. And Varric filed the name away in between his letters to Bianca.

Bartrand said the Deep Roads expedition could change their lives, and Varric had to agree. He didn’t tell Bianca, but the plan was almost formed. Enough money, enough wealth and influence, and they could still make it out. Who the fuck cared about marriage, he didn’t need it, and it would serve her family right to have to explain the scandal. The problem was, he needed muscle and money. But if his sources were right, he knew where to find them. Unfortunately, they found Bartrand first, and Varric had to shake his head at the sheer stupidity of his brother as he examined the woman’s lively blue eyes, missing nothing as the pickpocket stole her purse. Bartrand was as dumb as a boiled nug and always would be, but he wouldn’t miss this chance.

“Alright, I’ll admit it.” Varric said one night, two weeks into their new...partnership. Hawke’s long human legs were stretched out in front of his fireplace and she was braiding her long dark hair. “I’ve never heard you called anything but Hawke. Hell, I’m not sure you have a first name.”

“Surely, you must have heard Carver say it?” Hawke asked.

“All I’ve ever heard Junior call you is Sister and some very not nice words.” Varric said. “Come on, Hawke. Is it Gertrude? I bet it’s Gertrude.”

“I think Gertrude Hawke has a lovely ring to it.” She grinned mischievously, reminding him very suddenly of how very young she was, despite her deadly abilities. “Alas, no. It isn’t Gertrude.”

“Mirabelle?” Varric guessed again. Hawke shook her head, laughing. “Well you need to give me somewhere to start.” Varric groused.

“Why is your crossbow called Bianca?” Hawke asked, tipping her own head quizzically to the side.  

“Ah, you want the story behind Bianca and you’re willing to trade your name for it?” Varric asked, sitting back. “Interesting proposition, but I’m willing to bet I can get it out of Aveline or Junior.”

Hawke smirked, wrinkling her nose and stretching like a cat. “Oh, you can try dwarf.”

 

It turned out to be much harder than he thought. Aveline had no clue what Hawke’s given name was and didn’t seem very interested in it. Carver had been brought into the game by Hawke herself and refused to give it up (although he admitted he was very much enjoying calling his sister names freely since he was instructed not to use hers).  In the mean time, Hawke managed to collect a motley group of misfits that centered more and more on his suite in the Hanged Man. And yet…

“Portia.” Varric guessed as he played diamondback with the whole crew shoved around his table so close their elbows banged against each other. 

“Nope.” Hawke said, grinning. “Not Portia.”

“Oh! I know it!” Merrill beamed. “It’s so very pretty. Much prettier than Portia.”

Varric coughed, glaring at Hawke who looked back innocently. “Daisy knows, but I don’t?”

“We all know.” Anders winked, looking remarkably relaxed for a change on Hawke’s left, his arm curled around the back of Hawke’s chair loosely. 

“I still don’t know or care.” Aveline grumbled, looking at her cards. “Maker’s ass, I’m going to lose again.”

“You can’t all know.” Varric said, but Hawke simply laughed brightly.

“Yes they do. Even Fenris knows.” Hawke jerked her head towards the silent, brooding presence in the corner sipping directly from a bottle of wine. The elf simply raised an eyebrow as Varric turned to look at him.

“You told Broody?” Varric said. “Broody-who-hates-mages knows your name, but I don’t.”

“For someone who hates mages, he sure spends an awful lot of time staring at one.” Carver mumbled under his breath.

“You know the cost.” Hawke said, smiling as she laid down her winning hand and pulled her winnings toward her.

 

They were running out of food, left with their meager supplies they’d been carrying when Bartrand abandoned them. So, if the darkspawn or demons or rock wraiths didn’t kill them, starvation certainly would. Oh, Varric was going to find Bartrand and disembowel him. Slowly.

They all looked bad, although Varric had to say today Junior looked worst. Hawke had noticed too, he’d seen her slip her own rations into Carver’s allotment and had skipped her meal altogether. Then she’d offered to take first watch with her empty stomach while the rest of them got some rest. Although whether or not it was day or night, Varric wasn’t even sure. He fucking hated the deep roads. He hated this expedition. He hated that he’d never see Bianca again, and she’d probably never even know what happened to him.

He couldn’t sleep, so he stood and made his way to Hawke, sitting beside her with his crossbow on his knees. “Hey.” He said softly. “You holdin’ up okay?”

“Of course I am.” Hawke answered brightly. “This is the best vacation I’ve ever had. We should sell tickets. Near death tours of the deep roads.”

Varric chuckled ruefully, letting the silence stretch between them comfortably until Hawke said one word, hanging like music in the air. “Reyna.” She paused, letting her voice fade before she continued. “Reyna Hawke. If I die, you should know that. You can put it in your stories.”

Unsure of what to say, Varric turned to his old standby. “I think I liked Gertrude better. You should consider changing it.”

Hawke giggled softly, rubbing her face tiredly. “I’ll take it under consideration.”

“Bianca and I… it’s complicated.” Varric said, haltingly. He’d told no one, couldn’t bear the words or telling the story.

“You don’t have to tell me.” Hawke assured. “Game over, I give in. You win.”

“No, I want to. If I die down here, you can write her a letter. Her family forced her to marry another dwarf in Orlais. She’s...brilliant. Fantastic. The best smith I’ve ever met, beautiful, passionate…” Varric trailed off, fighting off the dark edge to his voice. “But when we tried to run away together, she didn’t come. She said she was frightened her family would have me killed, that it was hopeless. So, she married the other dwarf. I thought...this expedition would finally give me enough to convince her to start over with me.”

“Maker, Varric, that’s tragic.” Hawke said. “And after all this time, and her husband, you’re still...together?”

“Letters mostly.” He admitted. “We’ve seen each other twice.”

Hawke sighed, shaking her head in the dark. “I’m sorry, Varric.”

“Don’t be. I’m the one that used you to get here, then got us all stuck down here.” Varric swore under his breath. “I’m sorry Hawke. You’re...you’re a good friend. I didn’t want this to happen to us, to you.”

“You should be apologizing.” Hawke teased. “Getting me stuck down here with Carver, Anders, and Fenris? I’ll never forgive you.”

“I’ll accept blame for Junior, but the other two were your doing. Why you thought it was a good idea to bring the two who want to jump your bones down here, I’ll never figure out.” Varric shook his head and Hawke continued to laugh.

“At least it isn’t boring.” She said with a small smile.

 

Varric was snapped immediately back to the present by Bianca getting off the bed, striding across the room to grab his shirt with a small laugh, leaning up towards his lips. “I’ve missed you.” She purred.

No, he thought, stepping back and into the door. His fingers covered hers, pulling them from the fabric before words came tumbling from his lips in a torrent. “Maker’s ass , Bianca. What are you doing here?”

“That’s it?” She asked, something flashing across her eyes too quickly for Varric to capture and name it. “No proper hello?”

“I haven’t heard from you in four years!” Varric exploded. “Four damn years, Bianca, and four of the hardest years of my life.”

“Well, that’s hardly my fault.” Bianca answered reasonably enough, her hands on her hips. “I didn’t drag you into a war. I didn’t almost get you killed a dozen times, that was all Hawke. As it usually is.”

She might as well have, he thought as he remembered the cold winter in Llomeryn when the letters never came. Bianca continued, plowing through his pain like a force of nature. “I got your letters while you were on the run, but I couldn’t risk sending my own. You know that. What if someone had intercepted them? Or they fell into the wrong hands?” She asked.

“I went back to Kirkwall.” Varric clenched his jaw so tightly he could feel a vein pulsing. He spoke through gritted teeth. “I went back to Kirkwall and you knew where I was.”

“You didn’t write when you were back in Kirkwall.” Bianca shrugged carelessly. “I waited, but you didn’t write.”

“Bullshit.” He growled. “Bullshit. Don’t lie to me.”

“Fine.” Bianca’s face and eyes grew hard. “You put your life, your reputation, your house… all on the line for an ungrateful apostate. I was furious with you!”

“Don’t talk about Hawke like that.” Varric couldn’t quite keep the menacing tone from his voice. Bianca rolled her beautiful turquoise eyes and threw her hands up in exasperation.

“Of course. Maker forbid we tell the truth about your great Champion. I’m sure she tried her hardest not to destroy the city with all the great t