Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

The Ritual

She was remembering now, with much detail, the first time she saw Fenris. His long white hair swung charmingly in his face as he strolled down the steps of the alienage, the humidity creating a white haze off his mystically glowing markings. And yet what had always intrigued her most about the elf was never the bizarre lyrium tattoos that veined his body, but his depth of character. He was resolute in his opinions, but was also unerringly capable of compassion. He sometimes lacked subtlety in his approach, but in the end he was a proponent of doing what was right. What she lacked in fortitude, he made up for in vigor, and it made them a great team. She remembered now where she was, what had happened. Why was she remembering this now?

And so it seemed, the Maker had a grand sense of humor. Fenris knew what Sebastian would say, that this was the Maker testing his faith. And an untested faith was no faith at all. Frankly he'd had enough of it.

They sat in silence, exchanging a look here or there, but mostly they all had the same thought. Of course they were going to do it. Merrill seemed to take the silence for consent.

"I'll need a few things," Merrill said, "But I'm not a healer, Anders will have to do it." Fenris looked to the man, who looked ashamed, but in no way reluctant. He was her only hope after all, and he would have to use blood magic to do it. Feeling pity for Anders twice in one day, this really was a terrible situation, Fenris thought.

"I'll get what you need," Varric volunteered.

"I'll help," Sebastian offered, and Merrill walked over to tell the two of them what to bring. Aveline listened on, and as the men left she instructed Bodahn to boil more water and tear up some clean cloths. Anders began to remove the rest of Hawke's armor, and Fenris stood up to help. The discomfort was great between the two men as they carefully unbuckled the pieces and set them aside. Fenris wondered the kind of resolve the mage was going to need to stay in control, with Justice inside, clawing at the surface.

"Thank you," Fenris said, thinking he'd never sounded so sincere, "For agreeing to do this."

"Of course," Anders managed, seeming like his thoughts were elsewhere.

"You know, Hawke likely saved your life, Fenris. Your markings… with this kind of magic? I think they'd have acted as an accelerant. You'd have died outright," Anders said, there was coldness in his tone.

"I doubt Hawke knew that when she did it," Fenris said.

"No," Anders said blankly.

"Are you blaming me?" Fenris asked.

"Couldn't you have done something?" Anders accused, helpless anger in his voice.

Aveline interrupted, and it was good, Fenris thought, as he didn't want to murder Hawke's only chance at survival.

"Now boys, let's not get into throwing blame, please," she said diplomatically.

"I know I owe Hawke my life, for more reasons than just this," Fenris said, but Anders didn't look up. Fenris knew Hawke didn't know that it would kill him. She couldn't possibly have had that thought fast enough. Her reaction was gut instinct, to put her own life below Fenris's. He was furious with her for that. He thought that if he ever got to speak to her again, he would be sure to make it clear whose life was worth more.

They finished with Hawke's armor and Fenris suddenly found Anders standing close to him, taking him by the arm.

"I need you to promise me something, Fenris," he said, a look of deadly intensity on his face. Fenris could only nod.

"I need you to promise me that you'll kill me. If it goes wrong."

Fenris shook his head, "It won't go wrong, mage."

"It very much could. I don't even know what will happen with Justice," he had a far off look, as if imagining the destruction it might cause, "It could go very, very wrong. Just promise me."

It wasn't up for debate, not that Fenris cared to argue. If Anders became an abomination, again, he would have to kill him. Fenris nodded, "I will."

An hour passed, or two or three, he had no good sense of time anymore. Anders slept, waking occasionally to consume more lyrium. Eventually, the dwarf and prince returned with the items Merrill needed, and this seemed to cause everyone to stop breathing.

"So," Merrill announced, "This is going to be very dangerous, It's also going to be quite gruesome, I'm afraid, so if you'd like to step out…"

Everyone just stared at her.

"Very well," she piped, and the elf began to set up, instructing Anders as she went.

"I think we'll need to use the vials too," Merrill said to him, "To augment your power."

"I'm walking a fine line here with Justice, Merrill. I want to be able to stay in control," the mage said.

"I understand, but we need to do everything we can to increase our chances. I don't think we have more than one shot at this," she tried to say the last part under her breath, but they could all hear. Anders nodded, the burden seeming a palpable weight on his shoulders.

"Which… reminds me…" Merrill said, as if just thinking of something, though she was a bad liar, "Speaking of increasing our chances – we should really use the most powerful blood we can."

"What makes someone's blood more powerful?" Aveline asked, having never heard of such a thing. Even Anders looked to her questioningly, apparently not in on whatever this plan was.

"A few things, great innocence for one… or… great… tragedy," Merrill said meekly, trying not to catch Fenris's eye. It made perfect sense, Fenris thought. If there was a list of how this situation could get any more ironic, that would be sitting right at the top of it.

After a few awkward moments of silence, Fenris said, "Let's do it then, what are we waiting for?"

"You have to understand, Fenris," Anders was being deadly serious, "This could kill you."

"I know that, mage," Fenris scowled, "Would you not give your life for Hawke's, if you could? Would you all not?" He turned, looking around the room. They all knew they would.

"It's as good as done," he said simply and held his arm out towards Anders. The mage looked up at him, and Fenris set his jaw, resolute. Anders looked him in the eye and gave him an almost imperceptible nod, but it said a lot. It said… thank you. It said, good man. It said, after all this is done, and we have our Hawke back, I'm buying you a drink.

And then he cut deeply into Fenris's forearm.

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