Varric massaged his temple as he brought his quill to the parchment rolled out in front of him. This was, without a doubt, going to be the hardest thing he'd ever write.
No. No, he couldn't start there. If he didn't start the letter with "Elf" or "Broody," it'd be too obvious that something was wrong. Maybe he could tear the parchment and start over...
But no, he couldn't start the letter on a humorous note. That wouldn't be right either.
Varric let out a long breath. This was even more difficult than he'd thought it would be.
Where to start? He couldn't just come out and say the bad news - that'd be too jarring. But how best to ease into it?
Maybe take a step back from Hawke's death... look at the events leading up to it...
I'm guessing news hasn't yet reached you of the battle at Adamant. The Grey Wardens went crazy and were using blood magic in an attempt to prevent future Blights. The poor fools were too desperate to realize they were actually forcing themselves into the service of Corypheus.
Yes, that wasn't too bad. He could live with that. He just needed to not think about it and keep going.
The Inquisition fought hard and overtook the fortress, but Corypheus had an archdemon that collapsed a tower. Hawke and the Inquisitor and the others were on that tower. The Inquisitor was able to open a rift to the Fade, saving everyone's lives. We'd thought at first we'd lost everyone, but then they started to appear again out of the rift. Hawke volunteered to cover the exit as everyone escaped. By the time the rift closed, she hadn't made it out.
Varric took another breath.
I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, and you know how much I wish I wasn't writing it.
Varric put down his quill to massage both temples. He knew this would break Fenris, and he didn't know the right words to say that could help. At length, he returned to the parchment.
Please don't do anything stupid. Hawke wouldn't want you to put yourself in danger, and I don't want to have to write another one of these any time soon. Just try to stay safe. I mean it. Look after yourself. If you need anything, you know where to find me.
Varric ran a hand over his face, trying to think of how to end it... Nothing inspiring came to mind, so he signed.
I'm so sorry.
He sighed and held the parchment in front of him, reading over the letter. It wasn't his finest work, not by a long shot, but it would have to do.
Fenris' hands shook as he read. His eyes took in the lines over and over, but he was having trouble believing them. It couldn't be...
She had promised. They had both promised.
With a cry of rage, Fenris crumpled the letter and threw it from him.
He never should have left her side, never should have let her talk him into it. She'd been worried he'd volunteer his life to keep her safe. And she'd been right. He would have. It should have been him who'd been lost to the Fade.
He'd only agreed to separate from her if she promised to stay alive. And she had done so.
She'd lied to him. She'd abandoned him.
Fenris let out another cry and drove his fist into the nearest tree. The lyrium marks on his skin let his hand slide into the wood as though it was air. And then, with power from those same markings, he let his rage flow down his arm and into his hand. He opened his fist, releasing his anger, and the tree exploded, splinters flying.
If there were slavers in the area, they'd hear him, and he'd slaughter them all.
He was lost after dealing with the slavers. Exhaustion eventually took him and he fell asleep amongst the bloody mess to images of Hawke wandering a green and twisted landscape. He awoke shaking his head, trying to rid his mind of the dream. He'd been in the Fade once, and it hadn't been a pleasant experience. He didn't want to think about what Hawke's final moments in there might have been. He didn't want to think about Hawke's final moments at all.
His limbs hung heavy from his body as he managed to his feet and surveyed the destruction he'd wrought. He'd had a purpose here, dealing with slavers who sought to take advantage of the chaos brought on by the mage-templar war and later by the Breach.
The Breach was still open. Chaos still reigned. He could still have a purpose here...
But he couldn't see it. His head and his heart were no longer in it.
He let his feet direct him – his head in too thick a fog of grief to think straight. He arrived in Kirkwall before he knew it was his destination. How many days it took him to get there… he would never be sure.
The city had seen better days, and he might even list the time the Qunari invaded as one of them. In a strange way, he found the crumbling streets and destitute citizens reflective of his pain. Their grieved faces were his emotions. The battered structures were his own limbs. He was worn and tired when he reached Hawke's doorstep. Or at least, what had been her doorstep. He had no idea who owned it now, if anyone, since Hawke had left.
He tried the door and found it open.
For a moment, he worried he would walk in on some happy family. His dread melted away when he found the mansion housed a band of thugs too used to the solace the disorder provided to post guards or keep the building locked.
Fenris' wariness left him as the lyrium burned against his skill. He'd take joy in ridding Hawke's home of these pests.
Hawke's bed was still intact, and he collapsed upon it once he'd finished disposing of the bodies. There was still a mess to clean, but that would come later... when he felt up to it.
Her scent was still on the pillow as if the thugs had never used this room, as if they'd left it blissfully undisturbed. Or maybe it was his imagination. Maybe he wanted to be with her so badly, his senses were playing tricks on him. Maybe he didn't care which was true.
He fell into a deep sleep, filled with images of the Fade and Hawke reaching out to him.
He would become a wraith – that was his decision. Just as he had once haunted Denarious' mansion, he would now haunt Hawke's. His life's mission would become keeping it clean of any intruders. At night, he'd sleep in her bed and dream of her. And in the day, he'd numb his pain with whatever alcohol he could find and whatever violence he needed to enact to keep her home free of intruders.
He'd never stayed at her house when she'd wanted him to, when they'd been together and he'd had the chance to experience living under the same roof as her. It was only fitting he'd make up for it now.
It wasn't the prefect plan, but he was content with it... until the day she appeared.
Fenris heard the front door open – slowly, as though the entrant wasn't sure they should be there. He left Hawke's room to investigate and found Aveline standing in the living area below.
"A little late, don't you think?" Fenris asked from the balcony.
Aveline looked up at him, her face unchanging as though she had expected him to be there. "I heard there was a disturbance in this area. I had hoped it wasn't you."
"Well, it is." Fenris bowed to her in mockery. Then raised a bottle to his lips, taking a drink. "I did your job for you, Captain. You should be grateful."
Aveline sighed and rubbed her forehead, as she often did when holding back a comment. At last, she spoke. "This isn't the way, Fenris."
He drank again from the bottle. "You weren't too concerned with the rabble that filled this place, so I took care of it." He considered the bottle for a moment, judging its worth, then threw it at her. He missed, the bottle flying over her head and shattering on the far wall. She didn't move from her spot, seemingly unfazed by his outburst. No matter, his point had been made. "It's my pain." He told her, turning away. "Who has the right to tell me how to deal with it?"
He wanted her to go so he could return to Hawke's bed and the alcohol and his plan to waste away in peace. But he heard her footsteps as she moved toward the stairs. "Hawke wouldn't want this for you."
Anger flared inside him and he spun around. "If Hawke didn't want this, she wouldn't have gone off and died!" he spat. "She promised! We both promised. And what good was it?" His voice broke, and he continued yelling in an attempt to cover it up. "She died and left me here. Well, to the Fade with it! To the Fade with her!"
The words didn't hit him till they were out of his mouth. To the Fade with her? His knees gave out and he leaned against the balcony railing to hold himself up. He didn't mean it. Maker, he didn't mean it.
"Oh, Fenris..." said Aveline, frozen on the stairs below.
He raised a shaking hand to his eyes. He was tired – tired of feeling angry, tired of feeling like someone had scooped out his insides and left him raw and bleeding. "I don't want your sympathy."
"Well, you have it," said Aveline. Her footsteps started again as she continued up the stairs.
"Just go away." He turned from the balcony, heading instead for Hawke's room, hoping that if he could reach it, he could shut the rest of the world out.
But Aveline wouldn't settle for it. "I'm your friend, Fenris." She was on the landing now, coming toward him. "I just want to help."
"You can't help." He waved her off, but her gloved hand wrapped around his forearm.
The lyrium in his skin glowed white and hot. "I don't want to hurt you, Aveline." She was pushing his buttons and he was irritable, but the last thing he wanted was to treat her as he'd done the bandits.
She studied him, her eyes sweeping up and down his body in one swift motion. "I think you're too drunk to try."
Enough was enough. He pulled his arm from her grasp, staggering back a few steps from the effort. Before he could focus his energy, Aveline's swung her fist. He felt the full force of it as it knocked the air out of him.
A merciful darkness took him in which there were no dreams.