Emily Hawke awoke suddenly, shaken from the visions which haunted her dreams. Strings of perspiration-dampened, dark hair clung to her cheeks and brow. It had been a little more than six months since she and her companions fled Kirkwall, yet the recollections of that decisive day still lingered fresh in her mind.
A loud, raspy croup broke the silence. "Another nightmare?" Fenris croaked from the opposite side of the flame.
Emily surveyed her comrade in the firelight. Flickers of orange and red danced throughout the silvery mane hanging low over hollow, moss green eyes. His natural bronze skin had become ashen and mottled with dark undertones. Even the lines of lyrium etched over his body seemed to have transmuted into a dull shade of ecru.
"Fenris, you should be resting. How will you ever recover if you don't?" she asked with concern.
The white-haired elf heaved a resounding sigh before succumbing to another bout of coughing. Emily promptly uncorked her waterskin and held it while Fenris drank.
"Thank you." he managed.
"It's getting worse."
"I will be fine, Hawke" he lied, endeavoring to assuage her fears.
She replaced the bota's stopper before depositing it next to her right leg. "You shouldn't be up," she scolded.
He shrugged. "The fire went out."
Emily castigated herself for nodding off. She swore to look after the elf, but the trek to return him to civilization was beginning to take its toll on them both. Over the preceding weeks, Fenris's affliction had diminished a strong, capable warrior into a fragile shell of a man. To exacerbate matters, she alone carried the burden of saving him.
Her entire family was dead. Other than Fenris, everyone she ever loved or cared about was gone. Aveline was the first to leave her side. The Guard Captain chose to remain in Kirkwall to restore order to the city in the aftermath of the Chantry's decimation and the ensuing battle.
Two weeks later, Isabela and Merrill left the company. While procuring some supplies at a small mountain village, the pirate received word that the ship she acquired from Castillon had been spotted in Ostwick. Although Isabela protested, Emily convinced her friend to go. The mage realized the raider would never be happy until she returned to her ship and the open sea. She was also less than surprised when Merrill volunteered to travel with Isabela. The elf said it was so she could hunt for elven relics, but Emily knew it was because the two women had become intimate since departing Kirkwall.
For the next month the remaining three companions continued migrating east toward Rivain. A few miles north of Markham, they encountered a band of templars and had no choice but to fight their way out. Unfortunately one of the soldiers managed to escape, and the trio knew he would return with others from the order. They needed to locate a safe place to hide, at least for a short time.
Varric told Emily and Fenris about some old business contacts in the city who owed him a few favors. So, against Emily's better judgement, she allowed the dwarf to travel into Markham alone. She and Fenris waited days for their comrade to return, but there was no sign of him.
On the fourth day, Fenris crept into the city under the cover of darkness, only to learn that Varric had been captured by the Seekers and taken back to Kirkwall. Fenris had to physically restrain Emily from pursuing the dwarf until he finally convinced her that doing so would get all three of them killed.
The following morning, Fenris and Emily began making their way back to the deepest part of the mountains. The mage trusted Varric not to reveal their plans to the Seekers, even under torture. At the same time, the Chantry had unlimited resources and were capable of employing methods of a magical nature to extract the truth from the dwarf. If that somehow managed to happen, she wanted to be as far away from Rivain as possible. She knew that, with winter setting in, the safest place for them to hide would be the peaks of the Vinmarks. Those mountains were unforgiving during the cold season, and the Chantry would not hazard sending its soldiers there until the spring thaw.
For nearly five months, Emily and Fenris lived off the land, seeking shelter in unoccupied caves when they could find them. Several times, they considered settling in when they discovered a particularly inviting hollow, yet they never remained in any one place too long. They knew they needed to continue moving in the event that anyone hunting them dared to brave the frigid peaks.
It was the end of Drakonis when Fenris fell ill. At first, both he and Emily assumed it was nothing more than a simple cold, but after a week, they began to realize it was something far more serious. Emily did everything she could to treat his ailment, but all her efforts were in vain. Unlike her younger sister, Bethany, she never inherited her father's gift for Creation magic or alchemy. And so, she did the only thing she could think to do. She became Fenris's crutch, someone he could lean on when the burden of his own weight was too great to carry. Somehow, she had to get him back to the lowlands, and to a healer who could save his life.
When Fenris's legs finally gave way completely, Emily fashioned a litter from deerskin, several large branches and some rope they procured from an abandoned hut north of Ostwick. Although Emily was not weak by any stretch of the imagination, lack of sleep from worry and skipping meals so Fenris would have more food had sapped her strength. Hauling the elf up and down the mountains would have been difficult in the best of circumstances, but the task was becoming insurmountable. The only thing keeping her going was her sheer determination to ensure she would lose no one else to the Void.
Emily observed Fenris shudder. She extracted the blanket from around her own shoulders and draped it over his. He flashed a halfhearted smile, grateful for the gesture, and patted her hand. His skin felt as if it was on fire, which deepened her regret.
"I am so sorry I fell asleep and let the fire die, Fenris," she apologized.
Fenris hacked again and spat a sizable chunk of blood upon the ground.
"That was the first time I have seen you sleep in days, Hawke." he gurgled. He cleared his throat before continuing. "You are only human. You cannot continue to push yourself like this or neither of us will make it."
She sighed. "I suppose you're right," she conceded after a lengthy pause.
Another stridulent cough added to the pool of crimson growing on the cavern floor. He was deteriorating by the day, and it was tearing Emily apart.
I wish Anders were here, she lamented.
Anders was the most gifted healer Emily had ever known, surpassing even her father. If he were still with them, Fenris would have overcome his illness weeks ago.
Emily closed her eyes, recalling Anders' face. His warm amber eyes twinkled as his lips curved into a smile of adoration. She missed him so much. For nearly four years, her entire world had revolved around him. Even after he moved back into his clinic, even when he dismissed her, she refused to give up hope that he would return someday. Unfortunately, in the end, it made little difference.Emily pulled a silver talisman from under her shirt. She gazed at it for a long moment, awakening the memory of the day she gave the Tevinter Chantry amulet to Anders. When he told her he would have to wear it under his clothes, she smirked and said if that was the case, she could hardly wait to see it on him. His face turned a lovely shade of carmine as he stammered a quiet, "I don't know what to say to that." To which Emily responded with a kiss...their first.
The sonance of Fenris choking on more blood delivered Emily from her introspection. She offered her waterskin to him again, but he declined.
"You should try to get some more sleep, Fenris" she urged. "We have another long day ahead of us tomorrow."
Fenris answered with a solemn, weary nod before reclining onto his bedroll. "How long do you think it will be before we are out of these mountains?" he asked in a hoarse voice."I don't know. Hopefully, no more than a day...two at the most."
Emily's heart ached to see the elf in such a state. While there was dissidence between them over the years, they had learned to appreciate each other. It was a respect born of adversity, and one few others would ever know. That consideration was threatened only once.
Before Emily and Anders became lovers, she and Fenris shared a bed once. She had loved him then. Time and again, she tried to win his heart, but he always retained his distance. Then, one evening, she arrived home to find him waiting for her, and he confessed that he was unable to think of little else but her. Moments later, he kissed her, as if his very existence depended on her lips against his.
They made love that night, and she fell asleep blissfully in his arms. She awoke some time later, only to find him on his way out the door. He told her it had been a mistake, that it should have never happened. He walked out on her, taking both her innocence and her broken heart.
For the next several days, he avoided her like the plague, which only intensified her pain. As if that were not bad enough, when they at last saw one another again, he behaved as though none of it had happened. Despite the fact that it hurt to do so, Emily followed Fenris's lead and neither ever spoke a word about that night to anyone.
There were times over the years, Emily found herself wanting to ask him why. That had been especially true over the preceding months when it had been just the two of them traveling together. Apprehension always overruled curiosity, partially because she was reluctant to incur Fenris's ire, but mainly because she feared his answer.
Emily watched her friend pull the blankets closer around his neck and espied the red cloth band around his wrist. He had worn it since that night, and she knew it was the ribbon he had untied from her hair just before they made love. She always wondered why he wore it, what that meant, but their relationship had developed into a friendship. One she valued above all others. Nothing was worth destroying that.
The mage kept watch over Fenris and listened to his labored breathing as he endeavored to fall asleep. Eventually, it evened, and she knew his body had finally given way to his need for rest. She sat there for a long while, staring into the fire, watching the flames devour the wood within them.
At some point, she had drifted off again, returning to her own personal hell within the Fade. It wasn't until she felt someone shaking her arm that she finally opened her eyes to the sight of arrows pointing at her.