Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

Forcing Friendship

"I think you need to spend some time with Anders," Hawke said as she entered the bedroom. Fenris just gaped up at her from the edge of the bed as he finished strapping his pauldron on. As appealing as armored Hawke was, Fenris thought, Hawke in just a tunic was downright alluring, and he found himself just staring at her as she rubbed her wet hair with a towel. She's done this on purpose, he thought.

"I know you're serious, but I'm going to say this anyway. Are you serious?" Fenris asserted.

"I am," she said definitively and plopped down next to him on the edge of the bed, "It's important to me that you two… get along. Or… tolerate one another at least. Destroying this creature is going to be… difficult, and we need to be at the top of our game. Air all our grievances. It's been a few days, I'm sure he's feeling more himself. Just go see if he wants to… hang out."

"I just want to clarify, you want me to go ask Anders on a date?" Fenris asked, pulling his other pauldron on.

"Sure, if calling it that makes you feel better," Hawke quipped, "I know you guys aren't going to agree on everything, that's not what this is about. Just, try to see things from his perspective."

"And what of him? Should he not see things from my perspective as well?" Fenris stood, which prompted Hawke to also. She took his hands and faced him.

"I think it's called… being the better man. Or something like that," she said, planting a light kiss on his cheek.

"If it pleases you," Fenris agreed, though reluctant. Was this truly about them working well together as a team, or did Hawke just want her best friend and… whatever he was… to get along? Hawke just looked at him expectantly, and he tilted his head at her. Now, it seemed.

"I'll be going, then," he said, and she smiled.

"Thank you," Hawke said, granting him another kiss and turning toward the wardrobe. He'd rather stay and watch her dress… he thought, but decided it best to do her bidding. He didn't mind it, his primary life focus was now Hawke's happiness, and if spending a day with the silly mage would content her, then it would be so.

And so he found himself face to face with the apostate, Darktowners looking on as if they thought there was about to be a brawl.

"I'm assuming this is Hawke's doing?" Anders accused.

"Can't a barefoot, lyrium-imbued elf just want to spend some time with his renegade apostate friend?" Fenris growled, repeating a phrase the mage had used to describe the pair.

"Your memory is impeccable," Anders observed.

"Slaves don't forget things," Fenris rumbled.

Anders looked like he was considering the proposal for a few moments, then said, "If it pleases her."

Fenris inclined his head. They continued to stare at one another.

"What are we doing, then?" Anders asked. Fenris made a faint shrugging gesture.

"You invited me, Broody, you're supposed to have the plan," he accused.

"I have no plan," Fenris said simply.

"Well great," Anders said. They continued their face-off.

"We should air our grievances," Fenris said finally.

"Oh – those. Great idea, I don't think we've argued enough about magic lately," Anders retorted, "Ok – let's start with how you think Knight-Commander Meredith is doing her job well."

Fenris set his jaw, trying to control his anger and think of a peaceable answer, "I think Aveline would agree with me."

"Well maybe we should just take a poll," Anders retorted snarkily. After a few moments, however, Fenris raised an eyebrow and looked up at the mage, who had done the same.

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"Aren't you supposed to be having some quality time?" Aveline asked, sorting through the papers that sat on the desk of her office.

"How is this not quality time?" Fenris insisted.

"We're settling our arguments. Via poll," Anders clarified, as if it was perfectly obvious that this justified it.

"So you want me to tell you whether or not I think mages or templars will win?" she questioned, seeming very suspicious.

"Yes. Or who you think is right," Anders said.

"Those are two different questions," she pointed out.

"Ok, how about, who's better for Hawke?" Fenris suggested, gaining a glare from the mage.

"Alright, I am a high ranking government official of Kirkwall, I do not answer questions like this, you two are being utterly ridiculous, get out of my office."

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Sebastian thought long and hard, standing with his arms crossed, staring off into the distance. Brothers and Sisters of the Chantry passed quietly behind him as Fenris and Anders looked on, awaiting his response.

"Anders for the first one, Fenris for the second one…. And Fenris again for the third," he said finally.

"Oh come on, man!" Anders proclaimed, earning some curious looks with his outburst.

"The Chantry boy can't lie," Fenris goaded the mage with his victory.

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"Is this whole poll thing really helping you guys bond?" Merrill piped, wiping some dust out of her hair. She'd didn't really look like she'd slept or bathed for days. She must really be getting into her research, Fenris thought.

"I'm not sure this is what Hawke meant," she said reservedly.

"We may be taking some liberties," Anders admitted. Fenris could only smile.

"Are you guys drunk?" she asked suddenly.

"Not yet," Fenris growled, thinking it sounded like an excellent idea.

"So, what's the verdict?" Anders asked.

Merrill flushed a little bit, "I don't know… but, I like beards. Sorry, Fenris."

"Ha!" Anders boasted and Fenris gave him a level look.

"You thought you were going to win that one, didn't you, elf?" Anders then turned to Merrill and gave her a faux salacious look, which she returned with a disgusted grimace and turned to go back to her books.

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"Hmm," Varric said, stroking his chin as if he didn't lack the beard most dwarves sported, "Hmmmmm…"

"Come on, Varric," Anders said, and Fenris swore he saw the man puff out his chest.

"That's a tough one guys, Fenris is quite strapping, but Anders could be scrappy… and quite volatile, with that whole abomination thing going on."

"Oh come on, I can phase through things," Fenris contended.

"And yet you never do unless it's to rip someone's heart out," Anders retorted.

"We never defined the rules," Fenris affirmed.

"I'm pretty sure the rules behind who would win in a fist fight, are FISTS, Fenris," Anders said. Fenris just shrugged.

"I know!" Varric said suddenly, looking pleased, "A trial run, just try it out, see what happens. Then you'll have your answer."

The thought was tempting, Fenris had to admit. What better way to air your grievances than to punch each other senseless? However he felt like this would get him in trouble with Hawke, but also… he didn't actually want to punch the mage. He wanted to shake the man until the all the mage parts fell out. Then he thought he'd have a pretty decent guy left over.

And then a thought struck him that somehow never had before. Anders didn't choose to be a mage. He didn't select it, not like Fenris had picked a greatsword, or Sebastian his bow. He was his own weapon, and with that came responsibilities and consequences that other fighters did not have. And as he looked up past the laughing Varric, he saw Anders, looking back at him as if he had come to much the same conclusion about Fenris. He didn't choose to be a slave with a sordid past and tattoos that gave him unnatural powers. Those things were done to him. They were more alike than either of them realized.

Which meant, it seemed, that it was time to enact Merrill's plan. After out-drinking the dwarf, who had a significant head start on them, they sat side by side at the bar. Fenris was more used to drinking wine and thus was not aware of how many ales it would take to become intoxicated. This many, minus like, eight, Fenris thought, his head spinning despite no real effort.

"So, she left me there with Justice to defend the Keep, we were highly successful, the men challenged me to a drinking contest, and I lost. And that was the last time I was this drunk," Anders finished his story, "Yours was better."

Fenris shrugged and said apologetically, "It's hard to beat pirates."

"Yeah," Anders consented, "Any story involving pirates basically wins."

The two laughed at themselves and finished off their drinks.

"I am… happy, for you and Hawke," Anders announced suddenly. This sobered Fenris a bit and he turned to look at the man.

"I should clarify, I'm happy that Hawke is happy," he said, and Fenris smiled.

"Thank you," Fenris said.

"I informed Hawke of this, but, I guess we're pals now so you should know too," Anders said, "But if you hurt her, I'm going to kill you."

"I know that, mage," Fenris laughed, though he knew the mage's sentiment was quite likely not a joke.

"Also, if you die, I'm going after her," Anders said with determination, and Fenris could only laugh again, "But like right away, I will not wait an appropriate amount of time to allow for grieving."

The stupid mage was quite funny, at least. Fenris realized that, despite how different they were, they did have one thing in common. They both loved Hawke. Maybe it would be enough.


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