“Scout ahead, boy, and be quick about it or you will not be fed tonight. I shall wait here with the cargo until I hear word from you.”
“Of course, Master.”
Fenris dutifully crept up behind some nearby bushes and sped up on his way to the shoreline. The assorted stones and twigs hidden in the grass were hurting the bottoms of his feet, but he knew better than to presume to ask for anything to protect them. Even though it was only the Dalish who opted to forgo footwear, Danarius was of the belief that no elves should be allowed the luxury of boots, regardless of their upbringing. It was hardly Fenris’ place to complain about such things.
Every once in a while, a rare, sympathetic magister would discreetly ask Fenris why he didn’t just attempt to escape. Why did he not just attempt to kill Danarius in the dead of night so that he could flee from Tevinter unchallenged? Did he not hate Danarius for enslaving him, mutilating him, robbing him of his past and subjecting him to all manners of humiliation? Fenris would then respond with the same answer every single time — ‘It is all I have ever known.’
As far back as he can remember Fenris had lived to serve, to kill. Does he hate Danarius? Hate would not do it justice. Fenris loathes the man with every fibre of his being. However, it’s the same brand of hatred that a man might harbour for the inevitability of death. You can bemoan it and cry and curse all you like, but at the end of the day there is nothing you can do about it. Danarius is a force of nature, something that simply cannot be surmounted without divine intervention.
So, Fenris obeys.
He continues to creep through the dense forestry, using the power from his lyrium-infused markings to zip quickly between the cover of tree trunks. Fenris knows that he’s getting close to the sea because he can smell the salt in the air, and he allows himself a brief moment of relaxation to enjoy the way the cool breeze tousles his snowy white hair.
His peace is interrupted when he hears the sound of men hollering and swords clashing up ahead. He crouches down low to the earth and stalks closer in order to assess the urgency of the situation. He peeks over the edge of a nearby boulder and is greeted with the sight of a bloody skirmish between a band of Qunari and various swordsmen donned in pale white armour from the local group of freedom fighters known as the ‘Fog Warriors’.
Fenris had heard tales of these men before. Their name was spoken in hushed tones from the other slaves in Danarius’ manor. Apparently, they fought for a liberated Seheron, a Seheron free from Qunari or Imperium rule. In another life, Fenris may have joined them. He might have been able to make a nice life for himself on this island. Instead, he was here to help his master transport a fresh shipment of slaves onto his ship — to damn a group of strangers to the very same life of slavery that he himself detested so greatly.
Thankfully, the brawl between the two groups was a fair distance away from the spot near the beach where their ship was docked. If they were discreet about it, Danarius and the slaves could slip by unnoticed, as the others would be too distracted by their ongoing battle to spot them.
Fenris’ markings flared bright blue and he began sprinting back to Danarius to relay his findings to him. He skidded to a stop a few paces away from the group and straightened his posture before reporting to his superior.
“Master, there is a—“
Fenris is interrupted by the back of Danarius’ hand smacking against the side of his face. The force of the strike angles his head towards the group of slaves he’d guiltily been avoiding looking at. They’re all shackled at the ankles, with a long chain connecting all of their legs together. One of the slaves, a young blonde girl at the very end of the chain, is shaking with blood pouring from her mouth. All of the others look stricken and some are making a noticeable effort not to weep openly.
“You took far too long, little wolf. You should know better than to dilly-dally when time is clearly of the essence. You were gone for such a long time that the runt of the group worked up the nerve to mouth off to me,” Danarius scolded. He then pulled what appeared to be a severed tongue from the breast pocket of his robes and held it up to Fenris’ face. The bleeding girl, who the tongue presumably belonged to, let out a muted shriek at the sight of it.
Danarius responded by throwing her tongue back at her, which forcefully hit her in the chest and fell to the dirt.
“Shut your mouth, whelp. Should you remain silent for the remainder of our voyage I will consider reattaching it. If you continue to be a nuisance, however, I will instead slice off your lips as well,” Danarius hissed through his teeth.
The slave picked up the dirtied organ and held it close to her chest with shaking hands, sobbing silently. Fenris used all of his willpower to swallow his rising anger and indignation, opting instead to swallow his pride and ignore the numb, swelling sensation on his cheekbone.
“…I apologize, Master. I will be mindful to act more efficiently in the future,” Fenris responded.
Danarius tightened his hands on his staff and paused before nodding, satisfied. “See that you do. Now tell me, were there any disturbances on the path to the ship?”
“Yes, Master. The Qunari and some stray Fog Warriors appear to be warring for territory. I believe that they are far enough away that we could board the ship and depart before they became aware of our presence.”
Danarius moved closer, his sour breath warming Fenris’ forehead. “You believe? Or you know?”
Fenris swallowed nervously, before gathering his resolve and replying. “I know,” he said, decisively.
For what seemed like an eternity, his master just stared into his eyes, seeing if Fenris would falter. When Fenris stood his ground and stared back, Danarius smiled and patted him on the head condescendingly. “Good boy. You will lead the way. I’ll stay back and herd the cattle onto the ship once we arrive. As usual, you are to keep an eye out for any threats to my person.”
Danarius wrapped the slaves’ chain around the head of his staff, sharply tugging them along with him as they departed. He also warned the slaves that he would use his staff to electrocute their chain if they misbehaved, attempted to escape or spoke out of turn, but Fenris knew that it was an empty threat. Danarius rarely killed his slaves outside of necessary blood magic rituals that demanded death. Otherwise, he saw their deaths as a waste of resources, like a petulant child whose toy broke before he got to play with it.
Their little group trudged along the same route Fenris had taken on his scouting run, with the sound of the slaves’ chains softly rattling in the background. The sun had almost set when they arrived, casting the entire beach in an eerie red glow which reflected off of the wet sand like trillions of tiny rubies. Dozens of bodies: human, elven and Qunari alike were littered around the shore like discarded dolls, and the coppery stench of blood hung in the air like a bad omen. Those who weren’t already dead or dying were still clashing weapons nearby, with their shouts and battle-cries echoing throughout the area. Then, there were the drifting clouds of smoke flowing in and out of the various battles, presumably from the grenades that the Fog Warriors were famous for crafting.
It was like walking into a living nightmare.
Fenris startled when a wrinkled hand firmly clasped his shoulder from behind, and he turned to see a contented grin spread across his master’s face, almost as if he were looking upon a field of flowers. “It truly is a wondrous sight, isn’t it?” Danarius whispered.
Fenris felt bile rise in the back of his throat. “Y-Yes. Beautiful, master.”
Fenris wanted nothing more than to get this mission over with, so he began leading the chain-gang of elves towards the ship, with Danarius taking up the rear like a megalomaniacal shepherd watching over his flock. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, with only around one hundred metres between them and the ship. However, as they neared the edge of the shore, Fenris heard the low groan of wooden planks creaking and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up on end.
It felt like something horrible was coming.
The Qunari and Fog Warrior combatants also seemed to hear the noise, as they simultaneously disengaged from their respective battles and took up defensive stances. They also became aware of Fenris and Danarius’ presence, which made Fenris curse internally because now it was looking more and more likely that they would need to fight their way onto their ship.
For now though, all thoughts of fighting were abandoned by everyone on the beach, in favour of looking on in mixed reactions of fear and awe as a massive ship sailed up and laid anchor near the edge of the coast.
Fenris immediately recognized the ship as a Qunari dreadnaught, but it looked as if it had been heavily modified, which was bizarre seeing as the Qunari appreciated keeping things uniform.
The Qunari ship, which would normally only have a rowing deck to propel it forward, instead had massive black sails with what looked to be a white design of a bird’s skull decorating them. There was also a dark oak statue of a hawk with its wings spread affixed to the prow. Fenris also noted that there were two words engraved into the side of the ship, presumably its name, but naturally he was unable to read them, despite his curiosity.
For a moment, everything was silent, but the collective shock of the strange ship’s appearance was broken by one of the Qunari warriors.
“It’s the Hawk,” he growled.
Immediately, the rest of the Qunari bristled and began marching over to the ship, with fury in their eyes. Fenris moved to stand between the Qunari and his master, as was expected of him.
Just as the Qunari made to board the ship, lightning cracked in the background and illuminated the silhouette of a lone figure standing on the railing of the deck up above.
“I wouldn’t try that, if I were you,” the man warned.
After the mysterious invader said that, dozens of broadside cannons took aim at the squad of Qunari, and a legion of men emerged at the top of the ship, all wielding crossbows and pointing them at everyone else on the beach.
A cold dread settled in Fenris’ stomach as he surveyed the overwhelming force of the ship and its crew. He would be expected to fight these men in order to protect Danarius, and there was no way he could walk away from said confrontation intact.
Fenris was going to die today. Perhaps the only thing more distressing than that knowledge was that he wasn’t nearly as sad as he should be about that fact.
The sun had set by now, and the entire beach was bathed in moonlight, which allowed Fenris to get his first good look at the man who must be the captain of the pirate ship.
He was a muscular, human man with pale skin and messy, dark brown hair hidden underneath a red-plumed tricorn hat. As all pirates evidently do, he sported a well-groomed beard and appeared to have smeared some sort of crimson war paint across the bridge of his nose. The man wore a dark red frock coat which reached halfway down his legs, and he wielded two cutlasses; one sheathed on either of his hips. Fenris might have considered him roguishly handsome if he weren’t about to kill him.
“Goodness, we appear to have interrupted quite the tea party, lads. Qunari, Fog Warriors and Magisters, oh my,” the man remarked, earning a few jeers from his men.
The man casually unsheathed one of his swords and waved it around as he continued to speak. “Would you all like to know what we were going to do? Well, we happened to be sailing along, minding our own business, when we came upon the lot of you all roughhousing with each other.
Now, I thought we would just wait until you all offed one another, then we would stroll by and nick whatever you had on your corpses… but then I noticed them,” the captain drawled, pointing his sword towards the group of slaves who were all huddled together in fear.
“Don’t get me wrong; Maker knows I’m no saint myself, but slavers?” the man clicked his tongue. “I REALLY cannot abide by that. So, who is the naughty boy who took these people from their homes?” the captain inquired.
Before anyone else could respond, the leader of the Qunari interrupted, seemingly unperturbed by the cannons pointed at him and his soldiers.
“Forget the bas, Hawke. There are more pressing matters to attend to. Namely, the fact that you must pay for your transgressions against the Qun,” the Qunari intoned.
The captain, who Fenris now assumed was named Hawke, adopted a quizzical expression. “Transgressions? Such as? Oh, wait; don’t tell me that I happened to have bedded your brother or something? Wouldn’t put it past a horny bunch like you,” Hawke said, holding his index fingers up against his temples to mimic the Qunari’s horns.
“Do not play the fool with me, bas! You will not dare to feign ignorance of your myriad crimes against us! You took the recipe to make our Gaatlok — a treasured secret that is meant to remain exclusively within the Qun. Furthermore, you stole and vandalized one of our naval vessels!” the Qunari bellowed.
“Oi! You will not talk about ‘Andraste’s Lament’ like that! She is a beautiful ship and you didn’t deserve her,” Hawke replied, before giving the railing of the ship a kiss and patting it affectionately. “It’s okay, sweetie. The mean old brute didn’t mean it.”
“You will cease this nonsense and return the ship to us at once!”
Hawke cocked his head to the side. “Technically, I didn’t steal it. My quartermaster did.”
The Qunari scoffed. “Ahh. Yes, the Tal-Vashoth traitor. Why don’t you bring him out as well, so that you can all pay for your crimes together?”
Hawke merely leveled an unimpressed look at the Qunari, but ultimately shrugged and called out to someone on the deck. “Groggy! Someone’s asking after you,” the captain shouted.
Fenris’ jaw nearly dropped when the largest Qunari he had ever seen marched up to the edge of the ship. The captain was not a small man, yet even he was completely dwarfed beside his grey-skinned behemoth of a comrade.
‘Groggy’, as Hawke referred to him, looked to be at least nine feet tall, and had one of the ship’s broadside cannons strapped to his bicep. He had a large burlap sack on his back, which Fenris assumed was filled with ammunition for said cannon. Similar to his captain, he had red war paint on his face, but his was arranged in two vertical stripes over his lips.
The most curious thing about the Qunari, however, was that one of his eyes was missing and had apparently been replaced by a bright purple amethyst gemstone.
At this point, Fenris truly wasn’t sure whether or not this all wasn’t just some strange fever dream he was having.
Groggy stumbled forward and hiccupped. “Ehh? Whuzzat? Some-hic-somebody come ta’ say ‘ello?” he slurred. Good lord… The man was completely smashed. Fenris swore he could smell the man, even from this distance.
The Qunari warrior below was clearly repulsed by this display. “‘Groggy’? It wasn’t enough to be a filthy turncoat, you had to disgrace the Qun further by referring to yourself as ‘Groggy’ of all things?”
“Uhh, well, when I met ‘Awke, ‘e said, whuz yer name, bruv? An’ I said that I din’ have one, ‘cause of the Qun and all. Then-Then ‘e said, well, ya’ need a name if yer gunna be on my ship. So, I says to ‘im; ‘Dun really know what to name meself.’ So, ‘Awke asks me ta’ name meself after somefink I like. So, I named meself Grogrum. On account of, I likes grog an’ I likes Rum — Grogrum! My mates call me Groggy though.” Grogrum paused for a moment before letting loose an earthshaking belch, and then sniffed lightly before continuing. “I’d rather you call me Grogrum though, ‘cause yer’ a bit of a prick an’ all.”
At this point, the Qunari below was visibly fuming. “You stowed away on our ship and acted as a spy! Then, in the dead of night you slaughtered the majority of our men while they slept, like the coward that you are. That is the only reason that idiotic bas and his men were able to steal our ship and the gaatlok. You are just as responsible as he is, if not more so! Disgusting, pathetic tal-vashoth!”
“It’s a bit hypocritical to bitch about spies when your nation has an entire division of men solely dedicated to spying on folks. What were they called again? Ben’s Ass Wrath?” Captain Hawke interjected.
The Qunari’s eye twitched and he drew his great-axe. “They are known as Ben-Hassrath, and they are renowned worldwide for their skill in espionage. You will show them the respect they deserve,” the Qunari whispered, barely concealed rage plain on his face.
Hawke merely snorted and gave a half-shrug of his shoulders. “Hate to be the one to break it to you, mate, but if your spies are famous that means they aren’t doing their job right.”
This seemed to be the breaking point for the Qunari’s patience. “KILL THE HAWK!”
His men eagerly obliged him and all of the Qunari began to rush towards the ship.
Captain Hawke tensed and gestured for those wielding the cannons to take aim. “Not one step further! I don’t want to have to kill you! Everyone can walk away from this unscathed!”
The Qunari paid no regard to his words and increased their speed towards the ship. “THE QUN DEMANDS YOUR BLOOD, BAS!”
Suddenly, there was a series of loud explosions, followed by a dull ringing in Fenris’ pointed ears. He noted absently that there were wet pieces of…someone splattered across his face and torso, having shielded Danarius from the debris in the process.
When Fenris turned to the spot where he last saw the Qunari, in their place was a bloody, smoking crater and little else.
The Fog Warriors and the slaves looked horrified by the brutality of the cannon-fire, but the pirate crew all seemed to be having a good laugh about the whole thing. That is, until it was made apparent by the murderous look on their captain’s face that he was far from amused.
“Shit! What did I say? Do you see? Do you see what happens when you don’t listen to people?” Hawke yelled, pacing back and forth whilst he tugged on the brim of his hat. He then turned to face the surviving men on the ground with a crazed look in his eyes, and Fenris wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the light, but it looked as if his eyes were glowing bright red in that moment. “So help me, Maker. If any of the rest of you so much as THINK about drawing your goddamned weapons, I will have a lute strung with strings fashioned from your innards, which I will then use to sing and dance a merry bloody jig atop your mass fucking grave at your miserable cunting funerals!” Hawke bellowed.
He surprised Fenris once more by jumping off the edge of the ship and falling all the way down to the beach below. Fenris wasn’t sure how his legs didn’t break on impact but then, something just seemed…unnatural about the man. Grogrum also hopped to the ground, sending a large shockwave of dust outwards as his heavy form crashed downwards.
Hawke had his eyes shut tight, and he was pinching the bridge of his nose, smudging his face paint in the process. He appeared to be taking calming breaths, and it must have worked well enough, because when he looked back up, he had the same easy-going look on his face as he did before his violent outburst.
“I apologize for my behaviour. You see, I have a bit of a medical condition, and when the right amount of frustration sets in and the smell of blood hits my nostrils… Well, no need to sugarcoat it — I had a bit of a tantrum, like the big old baby that I am. I want to let you all know that I would very much like to avoid any further violence, but you all need to cooperate with us for that to happen,” Hawke said, before strutting over towards the Fog Warriors. “Would you please tell me what started all of this?”
The frontmost soldier nodded frantically and made an effort to explain the situation. “W-We were only here today to bury some of our dead, Messere Hawke. We were just finishing up digging the graves when that rotten bunch of Qunari ambushed us. Those things have no honour, I swear.”
The pirate captain looked around and spotted the aforementioned graves that the Fog Warriors claimed to have dug out. He seemed to be satisfied with the explanation and nodded to the other man. “Take your dead and come back to bury them tomorrow. For now, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
The Fog Warriors looked immensely relieved and began to retreat immediately, not bothering with farewells.
Just as Fenris was beginning to hope that this entire catastrophe could potentially be resolved amicably, Hawke turned back around to level a cold glare at Danarius and made to approach while he unsheathed his cutlasses. Fenris gulped, but drew his sword and stood between the two regardless.
Thankfully, Danarius was unfazed and also seemed keen to make an attempt at diplomacy.
“Now, now, Serah Hawke. Did you not just claim that everyone could leave this island unscathed? Besides, seeing as you are pirates, am I not able to invoke my right to parlay?” Danarius asked.
“Parlay? Maker, you read too many bloody adventure novels. And I’ll have you know that the term ‘pirate’ is extremely offensive. We prefer to be called privateers, thank you very much. As far as me saying you could leave unharmed…well, to be frank, I lied. Can’t let a blood mage slaver run free, can I? I’ll consider your death my good deed for the day, how does that sound?” Hawke snarked, as he attempted to move past Fenris, only to be bodily pushed backwards by the flat side of Fenris’ greatsword.
The worst thing was that instead of attacking Fenris, Hawke allowed himself to be shoved back and looked at Fenris with pity in his eyes, as if he understood completely. Fenris was unable to deal with the odd intimacy of such a gesture and avoided looking the captain in his face, choosing instead to stare blankly past his shoulder.
“What do you intend to do then? Are you and all of your men going to corner me like wolves and tear me down without giving me a fair chance? That is awfully pathetic behaviour for a supposedly bloodthirsty pirate captain. Well, I’ll warn you right now; should you attempt to strike me down, with my very last breath I will summon a rage demon smack dab in the middle of those worthless little slaves you’re so eager to save. They’ll be devoured in an instant and the blame will rest solely on your shoulders. If you don’t enjoy the sound of that, then I’d like to propose a different solution to our present impasse,” Danarius drawled as he tapped his spindly fingers against his staff.
“And what, pray tell, would that be?” Hawke inquired.
Fenris’ fears were confirmed when Danarius locked eyes with him and flashed a crooked grin back at Hawke. “Fight my precious wolf, Fenris, in one on one combat to the death. If you win, you may dispose of me however you wish, and if my Fenris defeats you, then your men allow us to leave peacefully,” Danarius offered, with a malevolent glint dancing in his eyes.
Fenris almost hoped that the man would refuse, because though he was far from arrogant, Fenris knew that Hawke would not be able to best him in singles combat. And for reasons mostly unbeknownst to him, Fenris felt…disinclined to kill the larger male. He had an odd charm to him, and made quite the impression in such a short amount of time. Fenris had never seen a human go so far out of their own way to help a random bunch of slaves without any promise of personal gain.
His heart sank when the man nodded and agreed to Danarius’ terms. For the first time, Fenris forced himself to stare directly into Hawke’s eyes and did his best to convey a silent apology through his expression. Fenris then firmly grasped the hilt of his sword with both hands and assumed a defensive stance, allowing Hawke to make the first move, or to hopefully bow out of the fight instead.
Much to his confusion, Hawke merely offered a soft smile, winked and mouthed the words ‘Don’t hold back. Trust me,’ before charging at Fenris with both swords drawn and taking a low swipe at his midsection.
Fenris easily dodged the strike and parried one of Hawke’s swords out of his hand. He seized the opportunity to lunge forward with his sword, aiming to pierce the larger man’s midsection. Unorthodox even in combat, the man kicked upwards and knocked Fenris’ sword away, before tucking forwards and rolling out of harm’s way once again.
They traded blows for several minutes, and Hawke, being much bigger than Fenris, looked as if his stamina was running low. Danarius must have also noticed the pirate slowing down, because he recognized the man was vulnerable and ordered Fenris to finish him off.
Regretfully, Fenris called upon the strength of his markings and impaled his arm through Hawke’s chest. The pirate fell to his knees and began coughing up blood. Disturbingly, the captain’s own men almost seemed amused by their leader’s death. It made Fenris want to cry for this strange man that he never got the opportunity to truly know.
“Ha…Would—Would you believe the cheek on this one, boys? He hasn’t even bought me dinner yet and he’s already been inside of me,” Hawke sputtered, causing a fresh wave of laughter to erupt from up above.
Fenris flinched when one of Hawke’s bloodied hands shot up and grabbed the arm currently embedded in his torso. He looked up at Fenris with an unreadable expression on his face. “You know…where I’m from…when you meet a stranger for the first time, it’s customary to shake their hand, not their lungs.”
“Even in the face of death, you still continue to carry on like a court jester? Just let go while you still have some dignity left, Ferelden dog,” Danarius commented, and for once, Fenris was inclined to agree with him.
With a shocking amount of strength that a dying man shouldn’t possess, Hawke pulled Fenris towards him, forcing his arm all the way through his body in the process. Fenris listened with wide eyes as the pirate whispered in his ear. “I have a collar in my right breast pocket. I swiped it from one of those dead Qunari. It’s a magic inhibitor; they use them to control the ability of their mages. Take it, then back away. I’ll distract the old sod, so that you can get it on him.”
Fenris’ heart was beating wildly in his chest, and he almost didn’t dare to hope that Hawke was telling the truth. He discreetly reached into the man’s pocket and his eyes grew even wider when he felt a cold metal band inside of it. He quickly pocketed it, pulled his arm free from Hawke’s chest and then backed away.
Naturally, just as Hawke anticipated, Danarius couldn’t resist gloating over the dying man’s body. He strode forward and knelt down so that he was nose to nose with the maimed brigand.
“Tell me, pirate. How does it feel to have been so utterly defeated?”
Hawke leaned ever closer to Danarius and responded. “You tell me.”
Before his master could finish his sentence, Fenris phased behind him and clasped the collar around his neck. Even if the plan didn’t work, Fenris still appreciated the sweet irony that he had collared his master.
Danarius grabbed at the collar in confusion, before glaring at Fenris and removing a ritual dagger from his sash.
“Oh, you will pay dearly for that, little wolf,” Danarius growled, running the blade of the dagger along his forearm and performing a series of intricate movements with his staff.
Fenris instinctively braced himself for the familiar, searing pain of blood magic and shut his eyes tightly in fearful anticipation. After a moment’s hesitation he opened his eyes to the satisfying sight of Danarius’ face contorting in both confusion and abject terror.
“Wh-what have you done to me? My demons! Why won’t they answer my call?” Danarius cried
“Dear, oh dear. It’s a sobering sight, isn’t it? When you strip the hocus pocus away from the high and mighty blood mage, you find that all that you’re left with as a result is a frail old man,” a raspy voice stated from somewhere behind Fenris.
Fenris whirled around and was baffled by what he saw. Nearby blood from the Qunari and Fog Warriors was travelling along the sands of the beach, towards the prone form of Captain Hawke. The blood then flowed up the man’s body and into his gaping chest wound. Then, to Fenris’ amazement, the flesh began to knit together until it was as good as new. It didn’t even leave a scar! But Fenris could tell that the pirate wasn’t a mage, he’d developed the ability to easily spot them during his years in the Imperium, so he had no idea how Hawke managed to perform this strange healing ritual. Just what was this man?
His ponderings were cut short when the newly invigorated Hawke surged forward with murder written in his eyes, and grabbed Danarius roughly by his long grey ponytail. Fenris’ instinctual duty to defend his master internally warred with his desire to see the man suffer, causing him to freeze in place. He could only look on with a slack jaw as Hawke bodily pulled the man by his hair along the ground as Danarius kicked, screamed and pleaded for his life.
“Wh-where are you taking me? Please, stop it! You can take the slaves! Take the ship, take everything, just please release me!” Danarius begged, not a single trace of his usual arrogance left on his face.
The shrieking only increased in volume when Danarius saw that Hawke was dragging him over to one of the open graves that the Fog Warriors left behind. Hawke didn’t deign to respond to his pleas as he forced him inside a haphazardly assembled pine box and shoved it into the hole in the ground.
Hawke picked up a spade that had been discarded near the upturned mound of dirt and began to fill the grave back up, effectively burying Fenris’ master alive.
Just before the last of the earth was shoveled in, Danarius made a last ditch effort to escape by appealing to Fenris. “You need to help me, Fenris! Think of all the blessings I’ve bestowed upon you! The raw power I imbued you with! You owe me everything! You will get me out of here right this instant or I will make you suffer as you have never suffered before! I MADE YOU.”
Cocking an eyebrow at him, Hawke shrugged and offered the spade to Fenris, leaving his master’s fate entirely up to him.
Fenris thought long and hard about his relationship with Danarius over the years and eventually came to his decision. He walked up to Hawke, took the spade from him and shoved it into the ground. Hawke let out a sigh; disappointed that Fenris would seemingly choose to save his oppressor.
However, Fenris almost immediately stopped digging and tossed the shovel to the ground, satisfied beyond belief. Hawke looked at him confused, so Fenris explained his actions. “I wasn’t digging him up. I merely made an air hole for him, so that he may survive for a few extra days and think long and hard about the life decisions that brought him to this point.”
Understanding lit up Hawke’s face and he let out a breathy chuckle. “And I thought I was bad. Remind me not to get on your bad side, Mr. Fenris.”
“After what you’ve done for me today, I doubt very much you could ever get on my bad side. Truly, I…I cannot thank you enough for doing this…And I apologize for impaling you earlier,” Fenris grimaced. Hardly a good way to show your gratitude to someone.
Hawke simply laughed it off and waved his hand in a shooing motion. “Think nothing of it, I barely feel it anymore. I find myself getting impaled more often than you’d think.”
Fenris’ eyebrows rose at the man’s words and he smirked in response. “Don’t you think that’s a little too much information to share with someone you just met?”
Hawke frowned in confusion before his eyes widened and Fenris was amused to see a blush rise on the pirate’s cheeks. “Oh, no, no. I meant I get impaled as in, er, literally? People stab me is what I’m saying. I was not alluding to…to amorous activities.”
A deep laugh emerged from Fenris’ throat before he could stop himself. It seemed as if Hawke was used to flirting with people to amuse them, but had no idea what to do with himself when his flirtations were reciprocated.
When he heard Fenris’ laughter, Hawke’s cheeks grew darker still and he quickly retreated from their conversation and headed back towards his ship. He gestured for his men to disembark and they all complied quickly, with Grogrum leading the band of them.
“Now that all the undesirables have been duly dispatched, I want you all to scour the bodies for anything that might prove valuable to us. We’ll be out at sea for a few more months still, so look for fruits to fend off sickness. We’re also running low on charcoal so keep an eye out for that as well. I especially need the charcoal to keep my teeth clean, as my winning smile and boyish good looks are a big part of my appeal as the Free Marches’ deadliest pirate captain. We’ll need to set sail in the next hour to catch the wind, so be quick about it,” Hawke ordered.
The pirate crew all began working without complaint, but Fenris noticed that their behaviour was much different than cowed slaves following orders. Rather, it was clear to see that these men held a great deal of respect for their captain.
Still, Fenris couldn’t help but feel nervous as Hawke made to approach the shackled group of slaves. From what he’d seen so far, it wouldn’t be in character for Hawke to harm them or hold them captive, but Fenris still sneaked closer so that he could hear what Hawke was saying to them.
“My crew and I will be spending the next two or three months setting sail back to Ferelden. If any of you would like to tag along, you’re more than welcome to join us, as long as you don’t object to our more, ahem, questionable behaviour. For those of you who would rather not travel with us, the way I see it, your options are to make lives for yourselves here on Seheron, or you can take your former slaver’s ship and set sail for a destination of your own choosing. Take some time to talk it over amongst yourselves. We’ll be leaving in an hour, so you have a while to discuss it,” Hawke informed them.
The slaves all thanked him profusely, with some of the more enthusiastic ones clapping him on the shoulder or taking him into an embrace. Fenris couldn’t help but smile fondly as the awkward pirate patted them on the back in response.
When Hawke eventually disengaged from the conversation with the slaves, he looked surprised to see that Fenris had been listening in.
“I don’t suppose that offer happens to extend to me?” Fenris asked, inwardly wincing at the barely concealed hope in his voice.
Fenris’ heart sank a bit when he noticed that Hawke looked visibly uncomfortable with his question, but he pressed on, regardless. “I know that I attacked you by my mas—by Danarius’ command, and there’s no excuse for that. It’s just that—“
Hawke was quick to put those feelings of insecurity to rest. “No! No, no. I understand that you were just following orders. I don’t blame you. I’m not at all opposed to having you aboard my ship, in theory.”
“Then…why do you appear so reluctant, if you don’t mind me asking? If you aren’t sure that I would be able to pull my weight, you don’t have to worry about that. I often tended to various duties aboard my master’s ship and you saw for yourself that I can handle myself in battle. I just…now that he’s gone I don’t know what to do with myself,” Fenris sheepishly admitted.
“That’s what I’m worried about, mate. Forgive me if I offend you by saying this, but with your master gone, don’t you think it’d be unhealthy to immediately work under someone like me? I just…I’m a captain, not a slaver. If you fell into old habits and started viewing me as your new master or something that’d make me feel rotten,” Hawke trailed off, wary of Fenris’ response.
Fenris felt another surge of affection swell inside him as the man continued to voice concerns about him. Hawke wasn’t wrong to assume that Fenris was looking for a replacement, and maybe he was even partially correct, but Fenris was determined to convince him of his worth nonetheless.
“Today, you gave me something that I never even dared to dream I might have. I’m…a free man, so to speak. And I would like to repay that kindness by joining you and helping you in your endeavors, at least for the time being. Not because I have to, but because I want to,” Fenris said.
Hawke’s posture was still closed off, but it looked as if his resolve was wavering, so Fenris made an attempt at one last earnest gesture.
“I don’t want to join you as your slave, I’d like to join you as an acquaintance of sorts. Perhaps eventually we might even one day become…friends?” Fenris took a deep breath and extended his hand forward, spiked gauntlet and all.
A slow grin crept up on Hawke’s face and he took Fenris’ hand in his much larger palm, giving it a few firm shakes in agreement. “Maybe we could even be more than friends someday, hmm?” Hawke asked as he waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Fenris decided to call him out on his bluff once more and replied, “If that is truly what you want, I’m sure I might be amiable to such an arrangement.”
Just as Fenris expected, Hawke’s eyes widened slightly and he could feel his palm start to sweat. However, Hawke made an admirable effort to maintain eye contact, despite his rapidly reddening face and then attempted to respond with a quip of his own.
“It would be a shame if I didn’t let you tag along, wouldn’t it? Seems like a handsome waste of a perfectly good…Wait, hold on. It seems like a waste of a handsomely perfect—SHIT. Wait, okay. It seems like perfectly handsome elf waste. BUGGERFUCKING — IT SEEMS LIKE THAT WOULD BE A WASTE OF A PERFECTLY HANDSOME ELF!” Hawke eventually managed to complete his horrible pickup line, despite looking completely mortified.
It’s a good thing that Hawke was avoiding looking at him, because Fenris was barely able to hold in his laughter at that horrific display.
Then Hawke realized that he still had Fenris’ hand in a death grip and released it as if he were burned. “Just—Just please don’t tell anyone about that,” Hawke murmured before abruptly turning and hastily retreating to the safety of his ship.
Once he was out of sight Fenris gave up on holding it in and chuckled softly into his hand, to avoid drawing anyone else’s attention. His amusement was only dampened when he caught sight of Danarius’ grave not twenty feet away from him. He briefly considered walking up to the grave so that he could dig up his former master and kill him properly right then and there. He considered standing atop that mound of dirt and spitting and cursing and taunting Danarius for all the years of torment he had subjected him to.
But no, Fenris decided that he wasn’t worth his anger or his tears. Not anymore.
Instead, he pushed all thoughts of Danarius out of his mind, picked up a sack of charcoal that someone had set aside to be loaded onto the ship, propped it up onto his shoulders and officially began his new life as a pirate.
As he climbed up onto the deck of the ship and set the bag down side with the others, he looked to the night sky and felt contended for perhaps the first time in his life. The future was uncertain, and that terrified part of him.
Mostly though, he was excited to finally have the opportunity to discover himself as his own individual.
And if he also happened to unravel the mystery of a handsome, eccentric pirate captain along the way, well, he wasn’t going to complain.