Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

Stress Cleaning

After a much needed nap in his own bed, a good meal, some wine, a warm bath, some more wine, buffing his sword, more wine, making some minor repairs to his armor, and more wine, Fenris was out of things to do. He decided to resort to his default activity: cleaning the mansion. He didn't have much to fill his days with, and the mansion was quite large. By the time he finished cleaning, the other end was dusty again.

He started in the study, emptying the ashes from the fireplace, scrubbing it clean, and putting in new wood. As he swept the stone floor, his mind wandered to his visits to the Chantry over the last couple weeks. Sebastian often irritated him with his overly intense virtue, however he seemed wise beyond his years, which Fenris respected. After seeing the atrocities committed at the cave on the Wounded Coast, Fenris was brought back to a time in his life that had become more and more easy to forget. The acts had stirred a part of him that he was trying to push out, reminders of things Danarius had done or made Fenris do. Being impetuous was one thing - that was who he was. But the ruthless, pitiless murderer Danarius had forced him to be was not.

He had asked the prince what kind of direction the Chantry could offer in way of becoming a better person, or at least making sure you stayed the way you were. Were goals required, or was a desire for stability acceptable? How could he make sure the past stayed in the past? He knew that how he actually formed the questions were not nearly so concise. It had been a difficult thing for Fenris to admit to the man, and he did a great deal of 'I have a friend who', and glowering, and almost leaving before he got to the point. To the prince's credit, he was quite patient with him. Sebastian's advice was simple: even if he didn't want to pray, something which Fenris made perfectly clear multiple times and in multiple ways, to try to just spend some time in the Chantry. Reflect on things without the distraction of life impeding your ability to do so. Let your thoughts flow freely, and the Maker will guide them.

And it seemed to work. If the Chantry offered him anything, it was the opportunity to sit in solitude, uninterrupted, and give himself a chance at remembering who it was he wasn't, so that he could focus his energies on who he was. So it seemed, what had initially prompted him to seek Sebastian's insight resulted in the elf finding the need to return every few days. The place was… peaceful, he enjoyed the ambiance of it. And the people that flocked there, they were good souls, more often than not. It felt like he was able to heal and recharge there, simply by proximity. Or maybe it was just the ample daylight, he thought pessimistically.

He thought about Sebastian's implications that his initial inquiry into Andrastianism was about Hawke. What did Sebastian think his plan was, to fully convert himself so that he'd be worthy of courting a Lady of Kirkwall? He never thought of Hawke as a particularly devoted follower of the Maker. He knew she believed in the religion, had faith maybe even, but never that it was of particular importance to her. Did Sebastian know something he didn't? Now that he thought about it, maybe the prince was right. They encountered horrific things all the time over the last four years, and yes this was worse than most, but certainly no worse than some of the things he'd seen in Tevinter. Why was it important now for him to stay ahead of his demons?

He finished the study and moved on to the kitchen. The fireplace was particularly bad here, he must have skipped it the last time he made the rounds, and he found himself practically covered in soot by the time he was done. He headed up to draw himself a bath when he heard a knock on the door. He opened it, revealing Hawke. No armor or weapon, so no news of a grave injustice.

"Nice," Hawke said, wiping a finger down his cheek and turning it toward him to show its blackness.

"I know, human," he grumbled, "I was about to clean up." He stepped aside to let her pass and shut the door.

"You actually clean this place?" Hawke asked.

"Yes, Hawke. You think dust just disappears because there's no legitimate owner?" She smirked and set her jaw.

"Well, I wouldn't know where dust goes, due to all my servants, right?" she asked, poking fun at his unintentional insult from a few weeks back.

"That's right," Fenris replied, then took her hand, bent into a deep bow and kissed it lightly in the fashion of nobility, "What can a lowly elven squatter do for such a fine Lady of Kirkwall?"

Hawke looked perturbed and shook the loose soot off her hand, "My request is two-fold. One – make sure you're alive and well, which it appears you are due to your extreme hilariousness. Two – Anders came by. It seems our favorite prophet has decided on a change of scenery."

Fenris's eyebrows raised, "Oh really?"

"That's what his contacts heard, yes."

"Where to?" Fenris asked, grabbing a cloth off the table and trying to wipe some of the soot off his face and hands.

"You're making it worse," Hawke informed him then continued, "Not sure, yet, I told him to keep an ear out, though he seemed pretty adamant that we shouldn't follow the trail out of Kirkwall."

"Yeah, the mage wouldn't," Fenris grumbled, then turned and walked back toward the kitchen. Hawke followed.

"Be fair, Fenris, you know Anders despises blood magic," Hawke defended.

"Yes, the abomination that despises blood magic, I get what he is, Hawke," Fenris said begrudgingly and dipped the cloth in a bowl of water to keep working at the soot. In all his contemplation over the last few weeks, he hadn't managed to find a way to like mages. Hawke seemed keen to let the point go.

"His argument seems reasonable. We can't expect to travel, unchallenged, from city to city fighting injustice," Hawke said.

"Sounds like you're trying to convince yourself," Fenris said. Hawke crossed her arms and leaned against the counter, gazing into the fire.

"You're right, I want to go," she said finally.

"There's my little Hawke," Fenris quipped, wringing the cloth out for another go at it.

"I can't see it working though. I can't fight them myself, you guys have lives, I get that. Aveline obviously couldn't come," Hawke said as she hopped up to sit on the counter.

"She is the only one of us with a job," Fenris interjected.

"Varric always has something or another going on, Sebastian wouldn't feel comfortable leaving the Chantry for that long, and it sounds like Anders wouldn't support it," she said.

"Well, regardless Hawke, no matter where you go, what I said this morning endures. I remain at your side. Say the word," he didn't realize until he'd said it how the words may have sounded to her. Not that he didn't mean them that way, but he was beginning to realize why the others seemed to see his feelings for Hawke before he did. Not wanting to meet her gaze right away, Fenris cupped water in his hands and splashed his face a few times. He used a new cloth to pat his face dry and looked over to Hawke.

"Still making it worse," she said, "Now it just looks like your eye makeup ran really badly."

"My eye makeup?" Fenris questioned, a little disturbed.

"Thank you, Fenris," Hawke reverted, "I appreciate that you support my decisions." He gave her a small, but sincere nod.

"Hey you two," Varric poked his head in the kitchen door.

"Seriously, Dwarf, are you aware of doors?" Fenris growled.

"As far as I know, you're the only one that can phase through them, Angsty," Varric said, "Nice look, by the way. I know we all had quite a go at it last night, but we're getting together again tomorrow night at the Hanged Man to have a going away party for the prophet. I'd invite her, but she's notoriously difficult to get a hold of."

"Oh Varric, I don't know," Hawke replied. Fenris actually saw color flush into Hawke's face. He could not say he had ever seen her embarrassed.

"Oh don't worry, Hawke. The Tuesday crowd is a completely different lot," Varric smiled, "Come on, it'll be good for morale."

She sighed, "Fine, but only if you don't make me drink."

"You said fine first, so I disregard the rest of your sentence," Varric said and ducked out of the kitchen before Hawke could argue. "Be there at dusk!" he called back and they heard the front door shut. Hawke sighed.

"Was it really that funny?" she asked.

"Yes," Fenris said definitively, wiping his hands off in the now black bowl of water.

"Alright," she said, sliding down off the counter, "I guess I'll see you tomorrow night."

"He didn't say I had to come," Fenris said, and Hawke gave him a level look.

"You're filthy, you should take care of that," she said as she left the kitchen. Fenris smiled and sighed, wringing the dirty cloth out one last time. As entertaining as it was to see Hawke let loose a little, the previous night had worried him. He hadn't seen Hawke 'drink to drown the pain' before, that was something he did. And he didn't want Hawke to be anything like him.


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