Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

The Walk Home

The storm moved on, rolling northward across the Vimmark Mountains toward Starkhaven. It left the stone cobble streets of Hightown wet with puddles that reflected the newly revealed full moon, which cast heavy shadows across the quite streets. Fenris was thankful the storm had passed, allowing the walk home to be relatively dry as he and Hawke climbed the steps into the Hightown market.

"I think I'm going to help with patrols again this week, if you want to join us," Hawke offered.

"You know I am very busy, Hawke," Fenris teased, "Being a man of faith now and all." The joke earned him a laugh. The moment slowed and he let himself bask in it. Her quirky closed-mouth smile that came up at one corner, the strands of hair that flew loose around her face, the way her eyes glowed as they caught the moonlight that reflected off the wet street. Fenris had come clean with Hawke about his discussions with Sebastian and recent time spent at the Chantry. It felt good to be open with her, and his honesty was rewarded with her full support, maybe even a bit of admiration. Her faith had been tested, quite exhaustively, in the last five years and she had also craved a way to keep her character in check.

"Hawke," Fenris started. He had begun this sentiment many times, but was never able to find the words. No time like the present? He looked to her and she smiled, waiting for him to continue.

"I never got a chance to tell you how truly sorry I am about your mother. And I want you to know that if you need to talk, I'm here."

"Thanks, Fenris," Hawke said sincerely, then reverted, "You live, by far, the closest to me, so I appreciate the convenience. Having to travel all the way down to Darktown just to chat with Anders, pfff. And I don't think they even let people into the Chantry at night." She smiled at her own joke, looking at Fenris expectantly. Fenris set his jaw but couldn't keep the smile off his face. By now it seemed Hawke had caught on to his insecurities about her feelings towards the other men in her life, namely Anders and Sebastian. Though his feelings for her had not yet been vocalized, Fenris felt strongly they were reciprocated.

"Fenris!" Hawke suddenly screamed. As Hawke began to step in front of him, time slowed. He saw the apostates, two of them, one standing in front of the other, red cloaks billowing behind them as they stepped from the shadows. The one in the front, a woman, had red markings on her face, tattoos or paint, he couldn't tell as her cloaked face was obscured in shadow. She glared at them with furious vehemence. Her hand was outstretched, and she held something in the other, a vial? It was then Hawke eclipsed his view, and all he could see was the blood-red glow of magic slowly intensify, silhouetting her body as she thrust herself between him and the apostates. There was an explosion of light, and then only darkness.

He had seen Hawke injured before, badly at times, but it wasn't like this. As he watched Hawke fall to the ground, legs crumpling lifelessly beneath her, he could feel the essence of her vanish. Completely removed from existence, only a void left in its place. He didn't see it happen, but he realized what he did as he pulled his fist out of the mage's chest. The other apostate looked on in shock, long enough for Fenris to swing his blade and end her life.

He turned back to Hawke and dropped to his knees at her side. She was splayed out in front of him, but it wasn't like sleep or death. It wasn't like anything. Like she was a husk. He scrambled to dig beneath her leather gorget to find her pulse. He cursed her heavy armor, for all the protection it promised, it hadn't done her any good. As his fingers found the spot, he had to fight away the panic, to be able to stay still long enough to sense it. And as he waited to feel it, that precious thrum of life, a million lifetimes passed. He found himself beseeching the Maker, for everything that had happened to Fenris, none of it seemed bad compared to this moment.

Would the Maker really allow this to happen? Could this be seen as justice through any eyes? His emotions were fluid, one moment he found himself overpowered with anger at Hawke for jumping in front of him, the next he was immobilized with despair, the next plotting revenge on the Maker himself. He could feel his trapped memories; they pounded at the surface of his mind. They begged release, and promised to hold within their ranks moments of his life that would overshadow this tragedy. Anything to make this seem less disastrous. But he didn't believe them.

It had been mere seconds. He knew he had to act quickly, though he didn't know why. His consciousness seemed to dispel from his body, rushing upwards toward the stars to gaze down upon the scene. He could barely hear this Fenris as he screamed for the guard. This Fenris demanded they bring Aveline to the Hawke estate at once. This Fenris instructed another guard to find Anders in Darktown. This Fenris insisted they bring Varric to him immediately. This Fenris was frantic.

When suddenly something caused him to go rushing back into himself. He waited to feel it again. It was so weak, so distant; it could have been an errant rumbling within the earth itself. But it was there, Hawke's heartbeat.


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