“Ah, my little Fenris. Predictable as always.”
Fenris watched Danarius come down the stairs in shock. No. No! This wasn’t happening, not again. He couldn’t…he couldn’t let this be a repeat of Seheron. He pushed away the instinctive urge to cower and obey that even after all this time was still there.
“I’m sorry it came to this, Leto.”
Looking away, he focused on Varania, letting his rage toward her help burn the desire to kneel and beg away. “You led him here.”
“Now, now, Fenris. Don’t blame your sister. She did what any good Imperial citizen should.” How familiar was that voice, that tone that scolded him so gently, as if he were too stupid to understand the people and situations around him?
No, he would not let this happen again. He would not go back to being a thing, a possession. He would die first. And he would take Danarius with him.
“I never wanted these filthy markings, Danarius! But I won’t let you kill me to get them.”
Danarius laughed, and Fenris shuddered at the sound. How many times had he heard that, curled at his master’s feet, kneeling by his side, laying on his back while Danarius infected tortured both physical and mental? “Oh, how little you know, my pet.”
He turned his attention to Nerys. “And this is your new mistress, then? The Champion of Kirkwall? Quite lovely.”
Nerys frowned, her brows pulling together. “Fenris doesn’t belong to anyone.”
“Do I detect a note of jealousy?” Danarius smirked and chuckled. “It’s not surprising. The lad is rather skilled, isn’t he?”
No! The inflection on the words was disgusting, but he was not going to let the magister spill his secrets here, in front of the few people who respected him and the woman he—
“Shut your mouth, Danarius!”
Danarius glared, breathing out an angry huff of air. “The word is ‘master.’”
In years past, that tone would have heralded agony beyond measuring, but Fenris was no longer afraid of it. He saw the soldiers moving down to surround their master and sensed Nerys and the others freeing their weapons. Today, one way or another, he would end this.
He surged forward, even as Danarius threw his magic up in a glittering shield around himself. Behind him, he could hear Nerys, Isabela and Varric join in the fray, but he pushed the distraction from his mind as he engaged the first slavers to rush him.
The fight dragged on, far too long, and Fenris was keenly aware of the fact that they had no mages to fight with them. Though he didn’t like them, he knew Anders’s healing and Merrill’s Dalish magic oft aided them greatly in battle, and the more they struggled against Danarius’s forces, the more keenly he felt their absence. Now, there were no sudden surges of magic to refresh them and heal wounds, no destructive elemental magic to weaken their opponents so that they could be easily cut down by blade and bow.
And Danarius did not fight fair, not that Fenris expected him to. Along with the armed guards he’d brought, he also brought a couple of apprentices—not very talented mages, but with enough ability to summon shades while Danarius himself called forth demons of rage. Combined, it took a significant toll on them. Even so, Fenris thought they could still win, that they still had a chance.
It wasn’t until he’d just slain a rage demon that he heard the scream. High and piercing, it cut through his battle focused mind like a hot knife through butter, and he turned to find its source as the remains of the demon pooled in a puddle of ash and sulfur at his feet.
Danarius had descended the stairs, dropping his protective barrier. Blood ran freely from cuts on his arms, and at his feet was Nerys, writhing in the grip of a blood magic spell. A strong leap, perhaps two and his greatsword could be slicing through Danarius’s skinny ribcage. He just needed time, a distraction….
Fenris glanced up quickly, seeking his allies. Varric was bleeding profusely from a head wound, leaning heavily against a table. But Bianca was still held firmly in his grip, the crossbow trained on an archer who had an arrow nocked in his direction. Isabela was currently in a standoff against another slaver, but she favored her right leg and her left arm hung uselessly at her side, her tunic now more red than white. As for Danarius’s men…. There were too many. He might make it to Danarius, but not before one least one of them was taken down.
The realization hit him and he felt his gut clench and churn. There was still a slim chance—a very slim chance—that they could come through, but he knew they wouldn’t all survive it. And with Nerys already in his grip, Fenris seriously doubted that he could kill the magister before Danarius killed her.
“A simple choice, my pet,” Danarius said softly, malice coating every word. “Your life for hers. You come with me, willingly, and I shall spare her and the others.”
For a moment, Fenris didn’t move, didn’t say anything. Then Danarius flexed his hand and Nerys cried out again. Fenris closed his eyes, as if that could block out the sound and his decision was made. His freedom wasn’t worth her life. He wasn’t worth her life. He would go and she would live, and finally be free of this strange hold they had on each other.
His sword lowered, the tip touching the stained floorboards and it was jerked out of his hands. Fenris opened his eyes again to see his master step over Nerys. “Wise decision,” he murmured. “Come, my pet.”
Danarius led them out of the Hanged Man, Varania a step behind him, the guards forming a tight ring around them as a precaution. Fenris followed silently, head bowed, ignoring the disbelieving cries of Varric and Isabela behind him. They wouldn’t follow though, they weren’t stupid. Their priority would be Nerys, and getting her to Anders before it was too late.
The trip to Danarius’s lavish ship was silent and swift. Once aboard, Danarius snapped orders to the captain, who in turn snapped them to his crew. The tide was with them, and within minutes, the crew was setting the rigging and easing out of the harbor. Fenris was roughly pushed below decks after Danarius went down, stripped of his armor piece by piece, until he was clad only in his leather breeches and tunic. These, too, the guards pulled that, and Fenris shed the last of his clothing.
It occurred to him that in these tight confines, he could probably kill all of the guards easily. But he doubted he could take an entire ship by himself, so that only left throwing himself overboard. And then what? Even if he didn’t drown, Danarius would never stop. He’d known that, always known that. He’d known Danarius would never let him be, not until Fenris was dead or his worth stripped from his skin. For a little while, he’d had freedom—beautiful and heady and terrifying—and for an even briefer time, he’d had love.
A lump stuck in his throat. He loved Nerys, he had for years, and he’d never told her, not even during the one fateful night they’d shared. He’d wanted to, felt the words on the tip of his tongue, yearning to spill forth countless times. But each time, fear would stop him, prevent him for taking that last step. And now it was too late, and the regret was bitter and heavy.
Now, at least, she was free. And she would live. He could give her that much. She’d been the best part of his last seven years of freedom, but that was over with now. Fenris carefully, reverently, tucked away his memories of her, laying them next to the dreams that would never be realized—like home and peace—and put them to rest. Like so many other things, like a sense of self and worth, he walled them away, keeping them safe from the stain of what he really was. And when the guards shoved him back into the hallway and into Danarius’s large cabin, he was his master’s pet once more.