Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

Waking Up

She knew why she was remembering Fenris. He was the shining example of perseverance in her life. All he'd been through, to still be whole? It was impressive. So she had to fight. Her waning body required that her mind not become complacent. It needed her to want to live. Something or someone needed her to live. Maybe it was Fenris, or maybe he was just representative of those who did need her, of all the injustices in the world. Who was she anyway, to bow out into the night like this? Was she not the Champion of Kirkwall? Did those people not need someone to fight for them? To banish the injustices of the world?

Fenris felt very, very weak. In every way - physically, emotionally, spiritually. Blood really was the essence of life, and he was now missing a lot of it. Anders sat down with immense exhaustion, resting his head and arms on the edge of Hawke's table, Fenris's blood covering his hands. He breathed heavily for a few moments, then looked up to the group who looked on in fear.

"That's it, that's all I can do. The rest is on her," he said wearily. Merrill nodded, concern creasing her face. Fenris watched her wavering form walk over to him. He thought she began to wrap his arms with something. The world tipped on it's side, and Fenris thought maybe he'd rest his head for a bit.

"Will he be alright?" a red-headed woman asked.

"I think so," a tiny elf lady replied.

"Blondie, can't you heal him?" – that was a dwarf.

"I'm out, Varric," the bloody, feathered man responded, "I'm completely out of magic, I couldn't begin to."

He felt contented when he saw a tall, dashing man in white armor kneeling in prayer by the fire. He didn't know how, but he knew that the man was praying for him. Probably this woman, too, Fenris thought as he looked at the beautiful human female that lay in front of him. She looked like she needed a prayer too.

And then Fenris let sleep take him.

When he woke, he was much cleaner, and hungrier than he ever remembered being. Cheese and bread sat on a table nearby, and he consumed it quickly. The situation came rushing back to him, and he looked to where Hawke lay. She was completely still, but no one was panicking or crying, so he could assume all was well.

"How are you feeling?" Aveline asked, and he found her sitting on a chair next to the lounge he occupied.

"Fine," Fenris said, sitting up, though his head spun with the effort, "Is she alright?"

"Fine," Aveline repeated him, "No change, it's been a few hours."

Fenris looked at the others spread around the room, all completely quite. Anders sat in a chair a near the kitchen door, picking solemnly at a loaf of bread, looking like he would fall asleep any second, though he fought it. Varric and Merrill sat at the table piled with tomes. Merrill was reading one intently as Varric idly flipped a coin. Sebastian sat by the fire, staring into it deeply. What would happen to them all if Hawke left them? Would they simply murder each other like it seemed they always wanted to? Or would they stay together, gaining strength from a common loss? Or, and Fenris thought this the most likely, would they drift apart slowly, running out of excuses to see one another over time?

Fenris stood and pulled a chair across the room to sit next to her. He looked at her lifeless face, resting gently on Aveline's piled cloak. Had pinkness returned to her cheeks? Wishful thinking, he was sure. He would rather remember her full of life, smiling, joking. Or even aggressive Hawke, bent on justice and full of determination. Every other Hawke was better than this Hawke, better than the images that plagued him of her lifeless body falling to the stone street. Maybe Anders was right, maybe he could have done something. Reacted quicker, if he'd have been less distracted by her beauty, by her strength. Was his compassion making him weak? If it was, he thought, he was happy to be the weaker man. He wouldn't trade what he had with Hawke for any amount of security.

He folded her cold fingers into her palm, then cupped her hand in both of his, wearily pressing it to his forehead, closing his eyes. And then it was the two of them, just Fenris and Aralynn. If this was it, he thought, then he had something to say to her.

From the time when his memories of his life began, Fenris had been a negative person. He often wondered if he was the same before he lost his memories. If given a chance to start over, would a person end up the same person? If given infinite chances to start over, would a person always end up the same? Was who he was then better than who he was now? Could he ever really know one way or the other?

He knew what Hawke would say, that those experiences shaped him, good or ill, into the man he was. They defined him. The person he was before was irrelevant to who he was now, in this life, to his new friends. To his new family. This… compassion he now knew, he could feel her pulling it out of him. He was a different man around Hawke. He was a better man because of Hawke, and he was thankful for that.

So he quietly thanked her, and it was all he could do to keep it together enough to just sit there. He wanted nothing more than to stalk the streets of all the cities in Thedas until every maleficar was destroyed. He wanted to fly up into the heavens and drag the Maker back down with him, so he would have to face Fenris like a man. Is this where the story ends? He couldn't believe it for a second. Everything that had happened up until this point, it wasn't culminating to this. He wasn't ready to give up on her.

Hawke stirred. The group stared in shock for a moment, briefly wondering if they'd imagined it. She coughed. Merrill gasped; Anders immediately stood and walked toward her to stand opposite Fenris, who also rose to his feet. Aveline, Varric and Sebastian approached the table cautiously, staying a few steps back.

"Hawke?" Fenris said quietly.

She coughed again. She shifted her shoulders slightly. She was silent for a few moments, and Fenris found himself holding his breath. She stirred again, then suddenly bolted upright, gasping for air, and looking intent to find somewhere safe to take cover. Anders and Fenris held her arms until her panic subsided a moment later. After taking in her surroundings, she looked to Fenris, who could only stare on in shock. The men let go of her arms, as it seemed she had calmed, though she still looked alarmed.

Hawke looked down for a few long moments. She then reached forward toward Fenris's hand that rested gently on the tabletop. She started to run her fingers along the top of his hand. She was delicate, and he was relieved, as pressure on his markings could be very uncomfortable. She traced the tattoos lightly with her fingers, along the tops of his knuckles, up his wrist and arm. She stopped just below his elbow where his tunic sleeve fell. Where the bandage from where Anders cut his arm laid. Had she lost her memory? Did she even know who they were?

Suddenly, Hawke grabbed ahold of Fenris by the front of his tunic and pulled him into a deep kiss. He couldn't breath, partially due to the shock of it, but also because he'd never felt anything like it. They separated, he was sure, due to lack of oxygen. Hawke looked a bit shocked by what she had done, as did six other pairs of eyes.

She seemed to have trouble finding her voice as she said, "Sorry, that seemed somehow… relevant." She lowered her eyes, looking a little confused.

Fenris took a moment, still dazed. Brash, he thought. Then scooped her up by the neck and pulled her into him again, taking more time to enjoy it this time. The others looked on, beyond confused. He didn't worry about them, however, because this was right. Hawke and Fenris together was right, and all the time before was completely incorrect. But he couldn't curse himself for having been slow to act, because now was all that mattered. Every future moment where he was with her, which would be every one, was all that mattered.

Varric spoke first, "What's a… going on here, guys?"

"Just… catching up," Hawke said, smiling. This caused Fenris's heart to lurch in his chest. His mouth pulled into a weak smile that only threatened to release the wetness that had been building in the corners of his eyes. He returned the smile, though he was perplexed. How was she making jokes?

Hawke swung her legs over the side of table, Anders and Fenris stabilizing her as she didn't quite realize her own unsteadiness. As Hawke moved, Fenris caught his first good glimpse at Anders. Other than looking deathly pale and tired beyond all reason, he also looked… devastated. Hawke regained her poise and then looked around at them all.

"I'm assuming you all… saved me?" she asked, only receiving a general 'I guess' vibe from the crowd as an answer.

"Aveline, are you crying?" she asked, concerned, and opened her arms to the warrior. Aveline approached her and took the hug gratefully, patting Hawke on the back cautiously as she wept lightly onto her shoulder.

"Just happy to see you… not dead, Hawke," Varric clarified, also sounding a little choked up.

"Oh, was I dead?" she asked, "That's quite bad…"

"Do you remember what happened, Hawke?" Sebastian asked.

"It was the prophet, right? What happened to her?"

"I… took care of her, Hawke. She's dead," Fenris said.

"But I called dibs," she joked again. Aveline let out a bark of laughter and the others chuckled, relieved that Hawke was, quite obviously, feeling herself. Fenris couldn't believe it. It was like the happy, playful Hawke that she had been right before the filthy maleficar had cursed her had just come right back and started up again. She hadn't been there, though, he realized. The blood had been cleaned up, the empty potion bottles discarded, all evidence cleared. She didn't know what they'd done. It was going to ruin her.

Aveline stepped aside and let Sebastian and Varric in for hugs. The crowd had cleared enough that Hawke now had a view of Merrill who still sat at the table, looking almost guilty.

"Merrill?" she asked, looking to the others.

"Merrill saved you, Hawke. Well, along with Blondie… and with an assist from your uh… suitor?" Varric sounded quite confused.

"Ok…" Hawke said, sounding like she wasn't sure she was ready for the full explanation.

"Thank you, Merrill," she said sincerely. The elf nodded and rose to stand with the rest of the group.

"And Anders," she said turning to him. He smiled gently, though he looked like he might to pass out at any moment.

"And Fenris," she said, but looked directly to his bandaged arms. Concern crossed her face. Not the kind brought on by confusion or ignorance, but the kind brought on by panic and guilt.

And she asked, "What did you guys do?"

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